BY HARRIET PRESCOTT SPOTTFORD
REALLY, it was not the partiality of a young mother and father that pronounced little Jolly an enchanting baby. He was an enchanting baby. His face of the soft bloom of a rose petal, his eyes like forget-me-nots turned into stars, his hair in tendrils of gold, his dimpling smile, his cooing and gurgling, his exquisite feet that were a perpetual wonder both to him and to every one else, his cries of delight, his sobs of sorrow, his loving embraces, his eager little ecstasies, made him. so perfect a piece of flesh and blood that it seemed as if he must, after all, be only spirit. In fact, he was a miracle of excelling nature. We have his father's and his mother's word for it; and certainly they ought to know—he was their baby.
"His name is Joliffe," said his mother, in all but the first words spoken after his arrival.
"No, indeed," said Mr. Harrison. "He is to take your family name. I suffered enough from this name of mine when I was a boy, and so did my father before me. This fine fellow sha'n't—"
His name," said his mother, firmly if faintly, "is Jolifle Harrison." And as it was no time to dispute the matter, the father withdrew, taking with him the godfathership of his heroes—Watt, Fulton, Tesla, Bell, and the others. Joliffe was his own name; and he had been called Jolly Harrison, and Jolly Harry, and Jolly Boy, till the sound had teased him like the buzz of a hornet. But, when all was said, it was an honorable name, worn by several generations of honorable men. And it is due to little Jolly's charm to say that, after he assumed the name, it seemed a strain of music.
The point being settled, Mr. Harrison went back to the intricate design and the springs and wheels of the model of his machine that was going to upset one branch of the work that moves the world, and in which, before he knew and married Louie Leslie, he had been wholly wrapped. The machine had been neglected of late, but now its ideas must be wrought out, for the boy must be justified in his choice of a father. And then Louie had been very patient, sparing, going without, believing;—that must not go for nothing. Why, they had economized to such an extent that it had even been a question if they could allow themselves the luxury of keeping Dane,—Dane with the appetite and nearly the size of a tiger. But Dane had determined the point by coming back repeatedly after being given away, and making every footstep of Louie's his especial concern. There had been a good deal of fear of Dane's jealousy of the baby; and when little Jolly was lying across the nurse's knees, Dane, who had been very uneasy outside, was brought in, Mr. Harrison's grasp on his collar, Mrs. Murray and the nurse on guard, and Bridget in the door. Just then Jolly gave a little colicky cry; Dane looked him over carefully, glanced up in his master's face, and as, in the disorder of the blankets at the cry, one little foot was exposed, he put out his tongue and lapped the foot, then turned his great pathetic eyes on Louie, telling her plainly he knew all about it, and lay down at the nurse's feet, the baby's special constable from that day. And Jolly, as soon as he was able to put his arms round Dane's neck, lavished kisses on his nose, and later was apt to be found asleep between the great protecting paws.
One night when Mr. Harrison came in softly, Louie sat, the baby in her arms, with the flames of the low fire playing over her face and throwing floating shadows on the wall behind her; and he stopped in the door, his somewhat sensitive spirit struck with a rapture of the moment. What a change in the whole outlook on the world, on time and eternity, a year had made! His wife seemed to him something holy, as he gazed; the symbol of all motherhood, the eternal Mother and Child, he did not know that he had paused in a sort of awe, till she looked up and smiled and beckoned. "I wonder," he said, "if every one else feels as I do,—as if this thing had never happened before?" And then the fire snapped and threw out a great blaze, and Dane got up and stretched himself, and the young father laughed, and Louie laughed with him. Yet he had a dim notion that the laugh was a profanity.
"Do you know," he said, "there's something odd about the way this little chap makes me feel near all the other little chaps. I stopped to put his roller-skates on Murray's little Pete—by George! I hardly knew there was a little Pete. I had half a mind to go and buy a pair for Jolly."
"Oh no!" whispered Louie. "Something might happen. He—he might not live to wear them."
"Don't say such a thing, Louie!" he cried, sharply.
"You dear goose!" said Louie.
"Strange,—a man always wants a son, to carry on his race," said Mr. Harrison presently. "And the boy doesn't. He has his mother's traits, and carries on his mother's race—with modifications, of course. And there you are. It's left to the daughter to take the father's traits, as he took his mother's. Don't you see?"
"Joliffe Harrison!" said Louie. "Just look up there!" Up there was a queer old portrait of an early Harrison, their only heirloom.
"And now look here," said Louie. And here was the tiny wizened face of the baby stamped with the seal of that same countenance.
"You're right," said the father. "Joliffe Harrison, as I'm a sinner. Lord! if I hadn't been so much of a sinner, how much happier I should be to-day!"
"You couldn't be happier," said his wife over her shoulder, reaching up her hand caressingly.
"Well, I've got to do the best I can with the material now, anyway," he said, taking her hand and passing it across his lips. "And if the little beggar's only as good as that old Jolifie— We must try for it—"
"If he's as good as you are, he'll do very well!" cried his wife.
"If he's as good as you, you mean."
"I!" exclaimed the mother, sharply, like the cry of one suddenly convicted of sin.
As the months sped by, the universe, for Mr. and Mrs. Harrison, seemed ordained and kept in order solely with reference to little Jolly. Sooth to say, the father did not work with so much absorption as once. In the hours when he had been scheming and devising he had to indulge himself in sport with Jolly, he being the first to degrade the name of the laughing baby, always ready for a frolic. Or it might be that Louie wished him to see the perfect thing the child was in his sleep; or they both hung over him, joyous in his joy, as he lay and cooed to the shadows of the leaves of the window vine dancing over his crib curtains. Or it must be decided if that first uncertain murmur meant a word or not; and if that sunbeam in his glance showed that he really knew them and knew that he belonged to them; in short, to determine all the other mysteries and enjoy all the other delights of this soul they had called out of the vasty deep of souls.
In the mean time, Mr. Harrison had to pursue the routine of his business; he was head clerk in a banking-house. When he came home in the afternoon, he worked in the small garden, while his wife sat there with the child; and in other hours not given up to the worship of little Jolly he wrought towards the perfection of the model of his machine. Lie never allowed himself to think of it a moment while at his desk.
It would have been difficult to find a man more content with fate than Joliffe Harrison was the day he saw his machine finished in all its potentiality. Various people—his neighbors and friends—had long been interested in its progress, and were forming a company to put it on the market. They were not wealthy people, most of them being clerks like himself, but feeling so sure of the work the thing could do and the fortunes it was bound to make, they were willing to invest in its manufacture and introduction a good part of their small savings. Once they had brought Mr. Devoy, the vice-president of the bank and a big railroad man, to see it; and he was so vividly impressed by it that their own belief was redoubled.
As the machine had approached perfection these friends had been by way of dropping in by door or window at all moments.
"It's a miracle!" said Murray, who lived the nearest of all, when on one occasion he had watched the tiny model at work.
"And you are a marvel!" said Denny.
"For my part," said John Carter, almost grazing his nose on a whirring wheel, "the man that can do such a piece of work as that is more a miracle and marvel to me than the machine itself. Harrison, it makes me proud to know you!"
"Thank you, Carter! Thank you, boys! It makes me proud to think my friends have such confidence in me. There's money in it," he said, running his fingers through his hair, that stood up like a brush. "There's money in it. There's a fortune for every son of us.—Down, Dane, down!"
"And fame for you, Jolly Harry!"
"Yes, I think maybe there is—in a way," he answered, with a modest hesitation. "I hardly know why I care—except for Jolly. I hope my little Jolly 'll have reason to be proud of his father He'll do something in the same line himself, I think. Why, yesterday I saw him take two straws and—"
"By King!" exclaimed John Carter. "I haven't fully allowed it before, but now I see myself sailing away to Spain with Sarah Carter on my first receipts! I've always had castles there. I'll go over to put in the underpinning. And I never should but for you, Jolly."
"You're flying high, John," said Mr. Green.
"Why, I don't know. 'Twon't cost more than a couple of thousand."
"Well, I'll be content," said Murray, "if I can give my wife a bank account, so that she'll never have to ask me for five dollars again,—and I without a dime to spare and hating to say No."
"Well, since we're spending our money," said the founder of these fortunes, "what I want is to salt down enough for my wife, and give Jolly a fair start. I don't want to leave Jolly a big capital. A man can't do his son a worse turn than to leave him a fortune. Just put in trust enough to keep him from want, and then let him build his own future, and develop his own talents, and live his own life. He'll make money enough. He'll pass me. But I hope he'll grow up to use his money for the good of those that haven't any. Have another cigar, Green. Wait a minute, Carter; there's a fresh siphon in the refrigerator."
"Come, come, Jolly, you're not a millionaire yet!"
"Going to be," said Jolly. "All of us. Well, perhaps not quite that. But this machine means perpetual income at a comfortable little figure, I'm sure, if I'm sure of anything! Well,—let me see—this is Monday. You'll be back from up-country by Wednesday, Denny? The papers are all drawn up. Then we'll sign Thursday, put the money in the bank, and begin to manufacture as soon as may be. Mr. Devoy has given me some ideas about exploiting the machine. Going? Well, Thursday evening, then."
"Guess we'll all have pleasant dreams," said John Carter, as they went down the walk. "I shall have a good waking one when I tell my wife."
"Haven't you told your wife yet!"
"No; I put it off for fear Harrison might find some of the rich bank men ready to go in at Devoy's advice, and so cut us out."
"No. He isn't the man to go back on his friends. Why, I remember his taking a feruling at school rather than tell the other boy's name. The boy's name was Murray. Used to make fly-traps then."
"No. He isn't the man. Good stock, good old stock."
"So it is. And Louie Leslie's done well for herself. Let's see,—you introduced them, didn't you, John?—Well, this doesn't look much like garden weather, Denny. And here we are close on April!"
"April weather's sure to come," said Denny, gazing up wistfully. "And all the buds with it. Big ones on the lilacs now. I brought home a lot of seed and flower catalogues to-day,—don't know but I have about as much fun with them as I should with a garden. By the bye, here's your paper, Murray."
"All right. Pete 'll come for the Weekly when you've done with it." And full of the cheer of hope and of comparative youth, they went in at their respective doors where the bright windows gave welcome; and Dane, who had seen them all safely on their way, turned to his own affairs.
"Good fellows!" said Joliffe Harrison, as he sat toasting his feet. "And not a word of all the self-denials they've undergone so that they could trust their money in my hands. I knew Murray was saving up when he wore that seedy overcoat. And there's Denny, fond of his garden, and never buying a new shrub! I'd have given him some cuttings of my damask roses if I'd thought. Bad thing, this not thinking. Well, he can have a whole greenhouseful in a year or two."
Then he put out the lights and went up-stairs in his stocking feet, pausing stealthily to look at little Jolly's deep and dewy dream. The crib was at his mother's side, and, as she slept, one arm lay over the little coverlet, protecting the boy even in unconsciousness. How beautiful the mother seemed in the dim glow of the night-light, with her long braid on the pillow, and the dark lashes resting on her cheek, and the smile on her sweet lips! And oh, how beautiful the boy, the little gold curls clustering moistly round his forehead, a smile chasing across his face like the sun across a flower, an aura of innocence about him fair as the reflection of some heavenly light! He could never cease wondering at the child. How good had fate been to him! What had he done to deserve these blessings? What could he do to deserve them? As he stood there he saw in swift flashes of thought, almost as vivid as pictures, the boy growing—the rosy swimmer in the pool; the eager curly head at school speaking "The stag at eve had drunk his fill"; the young college athlete, nothing less than a full-back; the valedictorian of his class, on fire to enter the lists of life; plunged in business, proud of his father's name, and making his own way with it. His father's name—yes, yes, little Jolly should always have reason to be glad he wore that name! And a silent prayer for the boy, for his wife, for himself, went up from the man's heart before he was asleep.
It was the next afternoon, as the bank closed, that the president in his private room sent for Mr. Harrison, and began his conversation abruptly.
"Mr. Harrison," said the president, "I have heard of your very remarkable invention. You were showing it the other day to our Mr. Devoy; and from what he tells me it is going to revolutionize the—I mean, cheapen all the processes immensely—that is, if you get it properly financed."
"Why, I thank you and Mr. Devoy for thinking so, Mr. Mauleverer," said Mr. Harrison, blushing. "I—I think so myself. I mean, I hope so."
"That," said Mr. Mauleverer, with a smile, "is to be expected. Put Mr. Devoy is very much interested in the model—so much so, I may say he is enthusiastic. And he is so level-headed a man that his enthusiasm moves me to say I would like to see it myself."
"I am sure," was the flattered reply, "I would be delighted, Mr. Mauleverer. And at any time you say."
"Suppose I say to-morrow, then; at this hour. I will bring a party of our directors. And if the thing is all right,—if, I say,—we will form a company at once and proceed to make and advertise the machine."
"I—I beg your pardon, Mr. Maideverer. But the company is already formed."
"What! Already formed? Incredible! And by whom? Who constitute it?" demanded the president, authoritatively.
"A few of my friends and neighbors are willing to put their savings into it."
"Are willing? Then they haven't done so yet?"
"The contracts are drawn up, ready to sign."
"Mr. Harrison, don't you think this is very unfriendly, very unkind?" said the president, in a gentler tone. "Don't you think it was very short-sighted, too, knowing the directors and myself were capable of taking up the affair in a large way? Poor business! I won't speak of ingratitude. But it certainly shows a singular want of confidence." The president was plainly touched by this want of confidence, as he leaned his head on his hand and looked down.
Poor Jolly's heart was shaking; he wouldn't have hurt the president's feelings for all the money in the bank. "Not at all! Oh, not at all!" he cried, eagerly. "I shouldn't have ventured—I shouldn't have presumed. My friends and neighbors have known about it from the beginning. They have been with me all through; they know the parts by name; it means almost as much to them as it does to me. They have their savings, and they believe in it so that they are willing to risk them."
"Their savings! A parcel of cheap Jacks! Absurd! Trifling, too trifling! Why, from Devoy's account there may be millions in it, properly handled. You can't handle it. You have no initiative. Come, come, we mustn't think of any such waste of time and money! The contract isn't signed, you say?"
"But my word has been given, sir."
"Your word! What inventor ever kept his word! It isn't expected."
"Now, look here! If this is just a conspiracy to make me buy you out at a big price—"
Even Mr. Maideverer hesitated before the sudden blue lightning of those eyes.
"Well, well," said the president. "Of course, of course. But look at it sensibly. With those men in the affair you may have some small penny-pocket returns. But with the directors and myself, why, you will pass out of all acquaintance with such people in a couple of years. Or, in fact, you will be in a position to benefit them if you wish,—to make them every one comfortable. Think it over. You shall have generous treatment—just one share less than the majority of the stock; because, as the business end, we must have our way. We find all the money, and go to work on a scale that will make things hum. No creeping on little savings, but flying on big money! Yes, think it over, Harrison. I won't ask you to make up your mind to-night. Take a day or two. And I won't ask to have the directors see the machine till after you manifest your willingness to accept our offer, if we find things then as we hope. Devoy has a mechanical turn himself and knows what he is about. He went into it thoroughly, and is perfectly satisfied. Our visit would be merely a formality," said the president, rising and pacing ponderously up and down. "Now, Harrison, if you think well of my proposal, when you have had time to look at it in all its bearings, report here day after to-morrow. If not,—well, I doubt if in that case it would be very agreeable for you at a desk here. You will be too busy with your invention. I don't wish to be unpleasant, though, Harrison," he continued, throwing himself into his chair. "I am speaking, as you must see, for your own good, as well as for ourselves. I am only urging you, rather against your first idea, to become a millionaire."
Mr. Harrison was waiting with his mouth open, trying vainly to oppose his stammer to the president's urgency.
"Not a word," said Mr. Mauleverer, holding up his fat white hand, palm outward. "Not a word. Nothing hasty. Take till day after to-morrow. Well, I think that's all. Good afternoon."
Mr. Harrison may or may not have given the president a military salute; he did not know or think. But he went out of the office with the step of a grenadier. He accede to that proposition! Not by all that's good! He betray his friends in that fashion! No, sir! He wouldn't even tell them of the offer. Murray and Denny and Green and Carter and the others had stood by him, and had built their hopes on his, and he was not going to play them false now. He would be a scoundrel. And there had never been a scoundrel of his name yet. Good-by, then, to this portion of his life, this period of simple drudgery, and the freedom from anxiety that a salary gives. He would be his own man at last. And it was true; there would be plenty to do with establishing his invention.
He thought he would walk home. It was only a few miles to their small suburb. He did not want to talk in the trolley-cars; he was quite too excited. He felt the need of oxygen, and his legs wanted stretching. He strode off sturdily, with his head in the air. There was enough in the machine for all of them; he had figured it out many a time. Their wants were modest, dear fellows.
He had never been an envious man. He had seen other men at the windows of their luxurious clubs, and had never wished to be one of them; he had never coveted high-stepping four-in-hands of other men, or their racers, or their thousand-dollar terriers, or anything that was theirs.
But by the turn of the last mile Mr. Harrison was somewhat tired with walking, and when a young fellow driving a tandem flashed past him, and he was conscious of an ache in his weary feet, it occurred to him that it would be extremely pleasant to be met after office hours by such a team as that. And when a huge motor-car, offensively red, shot along like a comet, the low sun shining on its burnished brasses and its fiery varnish, then the swiftness and ease of motion, the sense of luxury and power, struck a chord of which he had never been conscious, and the condition of those who could command such things suddenly rose before him like an angel with a flaming sword. "Oh, well," he said, "I could be driving one, too, if I chose. I don't choose."
But by this time the hot blood with which he had left the bank had begun to cool, and it occurred to him to ask why he didn't choose. Was it—was he—could it be—that possibly he was making a mistake? Might it not, after all, be better—he was not saying it would be better—but if it could have been arranged honorably in the first place, might it not have been a wiser policy to have his invention taken up by rich men than by men with hardly enough savings, indeed, to start it even in a small way? Let alone advertising it and forcing markets for it! Of course there could be no doubt that that would have been superior business and sharper foresight. Pity. Almost too bad he had given his word to those others! Very likely they would let him off if he explained. But they would be terribly disappointed. Oh no, it wasn't to be thought of! He had been too precipitate—that was it—in too much of a hurry. Why, in the name of common sense, hadn't he waited and told Mauleverer about it first? Mauleverer—yes, he was calling him by his surname, quite on terms of equality, as he would be doing if he had accepted the president's proposal. Yes, by George! if he had accepted, he wouldn't be coming home to this seven-by-nine shelter; he would be driving up the avenue of an estate. A boy on roller-skates wheeled into him and sent him staggering and scrambling—one of Murray's—Murray indulged his kids out of all reason! Why in the world, he was saying, as he regained the balance that little Pete had endangered, should he sacrifice himself and his future and his boy's future to these men who were nothing but his neighbors!
To be sure, when he should be pulling in money in Mauleverer's company he could make a point, as the president had said, of giving every one of these men all that they had ever expected from the machine. The trouble was, they wouldn't take it. "Dash it all!" said Mr. Harrison, as he wiped his feet lingeringly on the door-mat. "I've been a blamed fool! When I gave my word I didn't know what I was about. I was an idiot. A man isn't obliged to keep a promise he made when he didn't know what he was about. If there was any way to be out of it! By George! I don't know—with only twenty-four hours. Denny 'll be back Wednesday. Rather a rough trip, that of his. If anything happened to him—" He caught himself back, pushing off the welcoming dog, suddenly fearing those great soft eyes. What in the name of Heaven had he been thinking? Was he going to be accessory in his thoughts to a railroad massacre? What in the name of Heaven—or the other place—was he coming to! He finished wiping his shoes and went in. But it seemed to him, as he closed the door, that he had just lost a great deal of money.
Little Jolly, in his mother's arms, was waiting to spring from behind the door with shrieks of laughter. They had been watching for him at the window—the precious two in the red firelight. And there was a great romp with the boy, whose cheeks were burning like deep roses. And then all was quiet, and whether his mind was in tune or not, he and Louie were teaching the broken speech of the little fellow to murmur his "Now I lay me."
Mr. Harrison sat looking into the coals moodily a while after he came down-stairs. When Louie joined him he was figuring on sheets of paper, and then throwing them angrily into the fire. Through dinner he was silent and far away in thought; and he went to his work-room early. He had no sooner turned on the light there than the machine looked at him like some little demon, capable of coining money for which he had sold his soul, till he felt cold chills running up his back. But money was money; it meant power, pleasure, the kingdoms of the earth. "By all that's good!" he exclaimed aloud before he left the room, "I won't be made a fool of! I'll accept Mauleverer's terms! And I'll see what can be done for the fellows afterward." And if he slept soundly it was because contending emotions had tired his soul, and because he did not hear Dane howling to the moon.
It was hours later that, in the dead waste and middle of the night, Mr. Harrison and his wife found themselves sitting up in bed, waked by a horrible sound that echoed through the house like the loud sucking of the sea in a cave. It was little Jolly's labored breathing in the croup.
To run for the doctor, asking a neighbor's wife—Mrs. Murray—to be with Louie while he was gone, seemed the work of an hour, although it was, perhaps, three minutes. Back again, having the child breathe the steam of alcohol, putting teaspoonfuls of nauseous stuff into the dear little mouth, torturing him and themselves too, through what eternities the agonized hours of the night and day were dragged! And in the intervals, when there was nothing to do but to wait dreadfully, while the dear child struggled for his breath, the man was either kneeling by the mother's side, his arm across the bent neck and his head on her shoulder, sobbing under his breath, "Oh, my poor wife, my dear Louie!" or hurrying up and down the room with half-articulate beseechings, now challenging Heaven, now offering his life for little Jolly's life. His neighbors were in and out, wishing to relieve the watch, bringing food and drink, keeping up the fires, walking the floor beside him, trying to divert his thoughts, encouraging, consoling, soothing, helping in every way they could, showing they felt his trouble as their own—Dane walking up and down with them. Their interest in little Jolly was like that they might have had in some rare bird alighting among them,—perhaps because they had something of the same feeling for Jolly's father.
The gray despairing dawn, the long day with its pitiless blue unfeeling sky, wheeled into the indifferent dusk before Jolly's father breathed freely once more, the child himself breathing freely. Then, as he stooped, the little boy had put up his arms and clasped them round his father's neck and had hidden his face there in the way he had when afraid, and had fallen into deep sweet sleep, and the house grew chill as death itself. It was a long time before his father laid Jolly down at last, and kissed his weary wife, and went away to his workshop, crying then like a child himself—Dane following and lifting up his voice with him.
Mr. Harrison had not time to hide his tears, when two or three of his friends came in by the outer door.
"You needn't be ashamed of it, boy," said Murray. "I've been there myself. When Pete—"
"And in my case I didn't know," said Carter, "but the happiness at last was worth the misery."
"I never had the happiness," said Green, in a lower tone than usual. Mr. Harrison reached over and wrung Green's hand.
By and by they went away—Dane going too. But Jolly's father hardly knew it. He sat there and listened to the stillness of the night till the morning star looked in like a great summoning spirit. It seemed to him—his head was perhaps so light from fatigue—as if he had been journeying through space by infinite distances, and all the affairs of life had other relations. Only one thing remained a fixed quantity—Jolly. What if Jolly had died, and looking for his father, had found what he was on Tuesday night! A creature who had bartered his right to heaven for the pride of the eye and the lust of the flesh—a sordid knave! But now he had passed through fire. God grant it had burned away the base metal! The boy was going to live; he must find his father at the end all he had believed him to be in the beginning. No price could pay for the constant knowledge that his boy's belief in him was belief in another and different being, for the fear that at some time the boy might know he had betrayed his friends for thirty pieces of silver. Those kind good friends of his! Men across whose minds could never come a dream of the possibility that he had so lately escaped, who had denied themselves so much, whose wives had helped them do it, that they might prove their faith in him. To whom, indeed, through the way in which their confidence, their companionship, and encouragement had held up his hands, the machine belonged almost as much as it did to him, the dear fellows!
He crept in, after the sun was up and busy, to look at the sweet sleep of mother and child, a great beam of purple light slanting over them, and he felt no painter ever drew lines or dreamed colors diviner than theirs. And then he drew the curtain, and went and took his bath, and, shoes in hand, crept down-stairs, drank his coffee standing, and hurried into town and to the bank. He would be back presently, of course; and he would bring Louie an armful of white roses if it took every cent he had. Then he sent Dane back to his mistress; for the dog had tried to follow him. Perhaps Dane was not quite sure that he could trust him. Only a few of the clerks had come in. Mr. Harrison quickly gathered some private papers from his desk and secured a slender parcel that had storage in the safe—three or four bonds and his life-insurance policy He was just putting them into an inner pocket, and looking round the familiar place with a sort of yearning farewell, when the president hurried in breezily, as he was wont, and, as he passed, he asked Mr. Harrison to follow him.
"Glad to see you, Harrison," said Mr. Mauleverer. "I suppose, by your being here, that you accept my proposition. Very well—"
"No, Mr. Mauleverer," said the other, standing very straight, but his blue eyes shining with a glad light. "It was tempting. I admit I nearly fell to it. But the—the keeping of my word, sir!—I—I cannot change my previous arrangement."
"What! Do I understand you—"
"Certainly, sir." Although Mr. Harrison was a fair-faced young man, of a certain regular contour of feature, and although he did not look exactly like St. Michael slaying the dragon, on Raphael's or on Guide's canvas, yet he felt as that angel did.
"Come, come," said the president, getting out of his greatcoat and hunting through all his pockets for his keys. "This is preposterous! I must talk with you. You can't be quite decided."
"Absolutely, Mr. Mauleverer."
"Now, look here! I can't submit to see you stand so in your own light."
"It is really idle—I—I beg your pardon," stammering and blushing after his old custom. "I am absolutely decided, sir."
"Joliffe Harrison," said the president, throwing himself into his chair and rubbing his head till it shone, his face beaming rubicund pleasure, "we have been looking for an honest man with a lantern, looking for an honest man to take a position of serious trust in connection with the work of the bank. And I believe we've found him! I don't want your little machine, though we'd have taken it if you had consented, very like. We'll let you have all the credit you want to start it with, anyway. But you won't want much. You'll be in the way of a very pretty pot of money yourself in your regular business after this—big salary, big opportunities. By mighty! an honest man's worth any money! Now," said the president, "to get down to details."
"Mr. Mauleverer," said the other, "if you please, this is enough for one day. I must—must go home—and tell Louie. My boy—" But he could say no more. And the president pushed him out of the office; and he went home with his arms full of roses.
And that night his wife, innocent of all the coil, was surprised as if he had told her, as a new discovery, that the sky was blue on pleasant days, when leaning over him on one elbow she heard him murmuring in his sleep, "Thank God that Jolly's father is an honest man!" while Dane, outside the door, growled as if some one had doubted it.