The Ancient Grudge/Chapter 7
DIVERSIONS OF A WORKINGMAN
Colonel Halket had proposed Floyd's name at the Avalon Club soon after his birth, in fact, the day after his christening, and as a consequence of this wise forethought Floyd had found himself, after graduating from college, on the active list of membership. His grandfather had taken him to lunch at the club once or twice in the early summer, and had introduced him to one after another of the lawyers and business men, all of whom had a friendly enough greeting for young Halket. But Floyd had been too much oppressed by the dignity of the place and the age of its members to venture there very often alone, even had he had the opportunity. One Sunday morning in September, however, a craving for a view of more complex civilization than that which was his daily portion seized him; he remembered with an uncommon zest that the chef at the Avalon Club was the most distinguished of his profession; and, having scrubbed and scoured his hands and put on a new suit of clothes, he took a trolley car for the city.
The club was an old house on one of the downtown streets, hemmed in now among stores and office buildings, but retaining the dignity that had made it twenty years before the first "mansion" of Avalon. It was a red brick house with a large bay window swelling out on each side of the wide entrance, and with wrought-iron grills curving up to the middle sashes on each of the six lowest windows; between these the passer-by might have a glimpse, at almost any hour, of gentlemen reading newspapers and smoking cigars or looking idly out upon the street. Floyd, approaching, caught sight of two such venerable heads, and for a moment his heart failed him. Then he walked briskly up the steps. The flunky at the door bowed and said,—
"Good-morning, Mr. Halket; walk in, sir."
Floyd had a mild pleasure and pride at finding that the servants already knew him.
He was standing at the long table in the reading-room, turning the pages of a periodical and trying to make up his mind to go over and speak to the two gentlemen in the window, who were eyeing him lazily through the smoke of their cigarettes. Some one came into the room and stepping up behind him, cried,—
"Hello, Floyd, my boy; how are you?"
And turning round, Floyd saw Mr. Dunbar, Lydia's father, holding out bis hand.
"Why," said Floyd, "I thought you were at Chester, Mr. Dunbar."
"The rest of the family are there, but I had to come back and work. You're lunching with me, Floyd?"
"Thank you; with pleasure. But"—Floyd laughed—"not at your expense, if you please. I'll tell you why. I came here to get all the things that you don't get in a New Rome boarding-house; I have my mind made up on terrapin or canvas-back or whatever is the most expensive and preposterous thing they provide, and—"
"All right," declared Mr. Dunbar, taking his arm. "I'll eat the same,—the most expensive and preposterous thing they've got. I've been bored to death ever since I've been here—even with my food."
As they went into the dining-room, he told Floyd that he and Lydia had said good-by at the steamer the week before to Stewart, who was sailing to take up his two years' studies abroad.
"Two years?" Floyd asked.
"Yes; that's what they think now. Perhaps he'll become impatient and hurry home after a year, but I hope he'll stick it out. Of course it's pretty hard on Lydia,—it's been a long engagement, but I objected to her getting married while Stewart was just a student at Technology. Perhaps now she'll go over next spring and be married in Paris—though of course I'd rather have her wait till Stewart is settled down in this country."
"Lydia's still at Chester?"
"Yes, she'll be home in less than a month now. I think she'll be ready to come. Now that Stewart's gone, the summer is n't quite the same for her."
He was a genial, brisk little man, very neat in his frock coat and large blue Ascot tie, with his gray mustache closely clipped and pointed, and his small blunt boots brightly polished; he carried himself with a kindly pompousness toward the young, and an aggressive dignity—demanded by his minuteness—toward men of his own age. Above his shrewd blue eyes towered the benevolent dome of his bald head, to a height of which he was secretly proud and which led him to pay clandestine visits to phrenologists; he preserved the records of these sittings, and sometimes he and Mrs. Dunbar took them out and fondly brooded over them. Had he not achieved success as a manufacturer, distinction had been his in literature; he had a master mind for statesmanship; he possessed mechanical genius which, properly developed, had been prolific in invention. "Never mind, George dear," Mrs. Dunbar had once said to him when with rueful pride he had shown her the most gratifying of all the charts; "if three great men were spoiled in making one good one, I don't begrudge them a bit." And she had bent down over the superb bald head and kissed the three cranial bumps containing the vast undeveloped possibilities, exclaiming as she did so, "There, Poet!" "There, Statesman!" "There, Inventor!" And then she kissed him on the lips, and said, "There, George!" The unfolding to himself of his many-sidedness had perhaps aided in preserving the little man's fresh springiness of step, but with his wife's help he was a sensible and modest soul who hoped humbly that, if he might succeed to Colonel Halket's place in the community, he should not sink much below the stature of that splendid figure. Indeed, he aspired to this eminence not without reason, for he was public-spirited, a director in various boards of which Colonel Halket was president, a liberal contributor to all worthy charities, a man interested in good works, and a willing disciple of the Colonel's in the art of oratory. He was sure that he would receive Colonel Halket's indorsement,—so far, that is, as Colonel Halket might have the privilege of indicating a successor. There was no other man in Avalon for whom Mr. Dunbar had so ardent an admiration; and Colonel Halket for his part was humanly susceptible to loyalty of this kind.
Mr. Dunbar had a friendly interest in Floyd's life at New Rome.
"It's a splendid education for a young fellow, if he has the grit to stay at it; and it will give you a sympathy and understanding of the workmen's point of view. Sympathy and understanding,—it's because they lack it that so many managements of good business go to pieces. Why, take my own case,"—he sat closer to the table, folding his short arms upon it confidentially and puffing hard upon his cigar as if to supply himself for a protracted conversational entr'acte—"it's just because my superintendent lacked those qualities that I'm here. He's a first-class man, but arbitrary beyond what's reasonable—got the drillmaster's point of view ingrained in him—and the drillmaster's good for small squads, but he loses himself when he tries to swing anything big.—Not, you understand, that our works are big as yours are—it's the difference between making small castings and steel construction beams; ours is small potatoes, comparatively,—but we have three hundred men on the pay-roll. Well, lately, this new thing, the Affiliated Iron Workers, has been getting after our men—we've always run non-union—and our superintendent sticks up signs all over the works: 'No Union Men Allowed on these Premises.' Next thing a strike was threatened—even the fellows that had n't joined the Affiliated resented the move as tyranny; the superintendent wouldn't budge. I had to come on."
"Have you settled the trouble?" Floyd asked.
"Oh, I'm smoothing it down. The union men came to me; well, I thought they had a real grievance; I told 'em as much; I said it was n't my intention to discriminate against the union,—all I stipulated for was free play for everybody. Then I explained that while I was privately willing to go as far as that I could n't consent to withdraw my support from the superintendent publicly—would n't force him to make a public acknowledgment of defeat, you understand, and take down the offensive signs. But I'd talk the matter over with him and explain my views, and meanwhile it would be understood that if any signs were—accidentally destroyed, they would n't be replaced. So I'm getting the men into a better spirit, the superintendent is kicking, but I'm smoothing him down, too—and it's wonderful how many accidents are happening to those signs."
"The men are joining the union out at New Rome," said Floyd.
"Yes, we've all got to come to it, I suppose. But up there at New Rome, where there's such a strong family feeling on the part of the workmen for the mills, and where they're in a measure isolated, the union can never get quite such a grip as it's bound to have here."
"I don't know," Floyd said. "When it becomes fashionable to join a thing, a man does n't like to stay out. That's the way it's working with a good many of our people, who don't see any other real advantage in joining.
"That's all right; it's almost as much of a safeguard to have a big discontented element in the union as a big non-union element. And where you have several mills, can't you play 'em off against one another—keep the fashion in some of 'em non-union?"
"That's Mr. Gregg's idea," Floyd answered. "The open-hearth mill, where I'm working now, has a good deal of union spirit; the rod-mill, that I go to next, is almost entirely free from it. And that's the way it is at present; the feeling varies a good deal."
"Some day," Mr. Dunbar laughed at the jocose idea, "we'll have to form an Employers' Union to equalize matters."
They sat talking together for some time, until Mr. Dunbar, looking at his watch, announced that he must go to keep an appointment. "But why should n't you dine with me here to-night?" he said. "You have nothing to do, have you?"
"Nothing except get back to New Rome," Floyd answered, and he accepted the invitation cheerfully.
The more he was with Mr. Dunbar, the more curiously did he find himself reminded of Lydia. No one could have been less like her in appearance than her father, with his large head and pompous little figure, yet every now and then some tone of his voice, or some turn of expression that he used came to recall the girl enchantingly. And remote from her as he was in personal appearance, there was in his presence that honest sturdiness which Floyd instinctively attributed to her character. Floyd was enough of a sentimentalist to be moved by these similarities; once or twice he caught himself almost accepting the little man as an impersonation of Lydia, grotesque yet not unsympathetic. Melancholy descended upon him during the ride back to New Rome that evening. Perhaps while he had been abroad and since the beginning of his apprenticeship he had not exercised himself much with thoughts of her; there was little enough opportunity among the pits and cranes of the open-hearth mill, or even in his tiny room at night, for then, when he was not occupied with letters or reading, he went at once to bed in weariness. But on this Sunday evening the melancholy which possessed him after leaving Mr. Dunbar settled into depression. He recalled the dull pang with which he had, on the May afternoon more than a year before, heard the announcement from Stewart's lips,—the dull pang that had persisted even through his happiness for his friend. But even then he had not understood how utterly he had been robbed that day of some hope that must long have been dormant in him, or how incapable he must be of finding a substitute for that which he had lost. On this night his pain and his understanding became acute.
The next Sunday he went to Avalon and lunched alone at the club; and afterwards walked out a mile beyond his grandfather's to the Dunbar house. It was closed, as he had expected to find it; under two maple-trees by the side entrance the caretaker sat in a hammock reading, and a small fox terrier frisked about her with a ball. Floyd strolled slowly along the sidewalk to which stretched the generous, unfenced lawn; it was odd, he thought, that well as he knew Lydia, or felt he knew her, he had never been inside her house. And yet, he remembered, he had seen her not very many times. It was a pretty, graceful house, with the feminine quality that suited her,—a low, rambling cottage, half brick, half wood, with ivy climbing up the walls and framing the small, diamond-paned windows. When he had reached the fence that separated the Dunbar place from its next neighbor, he turned and went back to the club, and he could not tell himself just what had impelled him to take that walk; he had passed the house often before, and it had never had quite so particular an interest for him.
He thought he should probably be less lonely and melancholy when it was opened again and he could come in occasionally and see Lydia; he was sure that would put him in better spirits.
Letty Bell gave her musical party. Only a few of the neighbors were invited—Mr. and Mrs. Tustin, who lived next door, Mr. Tibbs, with his two daughters, Miss Lally Gorham, who was Letty's most intimate friend, Hugh Farrell, and Mr. and Mrs. Don McDonald, with their nine-year-old twins, Gertie and Greta, who could not be left at home, and who came in hopes of cake. Floyd felt that his presence was making the affair solemn, but on the arrival and introduction of Mr. and Mrs. Tustin, there ceased to be the necessity for any such impression. Mrs. Tustin, a narrow-eyed, low-browed, dark woman, with a large cleft chin, closed with him at once, and the other guests breathed easier and began to talk.
"Well, I've seen you many's the time going up and down the hill with your lunch-bucket under your arm," Mrs. Tustin said,—and Floyd recognized her voice as that to which he had listened one Saturday evening with so much disgust,—"and I never could believe 't was you, Mr. Halket, lookin' so much like everybody else. But you do now, I declare, and dressed up, too."
"It's queer you should ever have seen me," said Floyd. "This is the first time I've had the pleasure, Mrs. Tuskim."
"Tustin, not Tuskim. Mrs. Bell's never spoke quite clear since she had in false teeth. I can see she's awful thankful you didn't put on more style; of course the Bells live very plain. Must be kind of hard after what you're accustomed to. Ain't a bass viol a ridiculous lookin' instrument!"
Floyd agreed that it was.
"Hugh Farrell and Letty they do everlastingly like to play before a crowd. Some says Hugh is quite a good performer on the bass viol, and I don't know but what he is, only I can't rid my mind of the clumsy way he has of drawin' the bow back and forth. You see if it ain't the clumsiest you ever saw. There now!"
Farrell was producing a few preliminary booms on his instrument.
"'Listen to the Mocking Bird,'" he announced; Letty struck the opening chords, and Hugh sawed away with a pained and anxious face. At the end of the selection there was an embarrassed murmur of applause, but Floyd began to clap his hands heartily, and the others followed his example. "It's great," he cried to the performers; "I don't see how you jiggle out those little notes so fast."
"You kept together splendid," Mrs. Tustin declared.
"It is perfectly won—derful," proclaimed Miss Lally Gorham in a languishing, refined voice, and Floyd observed Mrs. Tustin's glare of scorn. Miss Lally sat under the large red shade of the piano-lamp, fanning herself with what looked like a flattened and enlarged powder-puff; she fanned not more than fifteen strokes to the minute. Her gaze wandered over the rest of the company until she was addressing Floyd absently, as a sympathetic soul. "The rhythm is so delightful."
"Such airs!" breathed Mrs. Tustin to herself, yet so that Floyd heard; Farrell and Letty began turning over their music, and there was subdued conversation among the audience. "We was speaking of the Bells," Mrs. Tustin confided in Floyd's ear. "As I was sayin', they've been unfortunate and have to live plain. If you find things ain't comfortable, we'd be glad to have you try our house; there's just Tustin and me, and we keep a girl. Maybe we could make it more homelike for you."
"Thank you, I'm very comfortable here," Floyd answered.
"Well, just in case you ain't.—I think I'll have to send over one of my squarsh pies for you to try; Mrs. Bell tells me I have the knack."
"The next will be a religious piece; 'The Ninety and Nine,' by Ira D. Sankey," Hugh Farrell proclaimed, standing with his bass viol at attention. Mrs. Tustin cleared her throat and after the first bar, to Floyd's astonishment, broke into pious song:
There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold.
She trilled the words with an eager gusto, closing her eyes; the upper part of her thin face took on a singular look of repose, while the lower part, always emphatic, with its large cleft chin, seemed more than ever masterful and active. The McDonald family followed her lead, and soon her husband, a big, grim-looking man with a square beard, raised a sulky bass—as if under compulsion. At the end of the first stanza she opened her eyes and said to Floyd:
"Don't you know the words?"
"No," Floyd answered. "And I don't sing."
"That's too bad," she said compassionately. "But how you must enjoy listenin'!—
There were ninety and nine—"
and her eyes had closed again.
Floyd had at first thought that Mrs. Tustin's sudden outburst must disconcert the musicians, but both Farrell and Letty were now singing with complete heartiness. When the last stanza had been finished, Mrs. Tustin turned again to Floyd.
"It always does me good to sing a hymn," she said. "After that I feel ready for anything."
"Oh, it's sweet." Miss Lally Gorham's voice emerged tranquil, deep, and final from among the mutterings, and to Floyd, glancing up, it appeared that, just as before, she was speaking directly to him.
"Oh yes, your turn 'll come," murmured Mrs. Tustin with deep hostility.
"Who is she?" Floyd asked.
"Lally Gorham, and she's had these outlandish airs since she began taking of an elocutionist. She'll speak a piece to-night; you can't stop her. She's planning to be an actress.—I was just thinking; Tustin and me could accommodate you in our regular spare-room—it's got a nice set of yellow ash furniture, new only this spring—and a good bit roomier than anything in this house—"
"'The Blue Danube,' by Strauss," proclaimed Farrell.
And while he came booming in, "One—two—three," "One—two—three," to Letty's glib tinkle, Mrs. Tustin continued to urge her claims in Floyd's ear. Wearied by the importunate woman, he sat stolid, seeming not to hear a word that she said; and finally with a malicious glance at him she desisted. She was so angry that in the next intermission she did not converse with him at all, but contented herself with crying out,—
"Letty dear, you have the most elegant touch."
Miss Lally Gorham's contralto thrilled across the room,—"It is the most won—derful waltz;"—and Floyd felt transfixed by those hypnotic eyes. He turned from them coldly.
"Are n't you going to sing something for us to-night, Mrs. Tuslim?" he asked.
She was mollified by the compliment. "Oh, I ain't a singer," she replied, and then she laughed. "You do have a time with my name, don't you? Tustin, not Tuslim. No, I'm modest about it; I've got no gifts, except for housekeepin'. That I do pride myself on."
"Well, that's certainly the most important for a woman," Floyd observed with cheerful platitude.
"It seems so to me. Now I would n't trade what I know about squarsh pies and other things for all that Letty knows about that instrument. My knowledge ain't showy and it don't entertain for the moment, like her playin' does—but you stop in one house for a week and then in the other, and you'll find where cookin' and comfort is,—if I do say it."
"The 'Misereer' from Verdy's Trovator," announced Hugh Farrell; and while he scraped his strings once or twice to reassure himself for this supreme effort, Mrs. Tustin hastily concluded her remarks to Floyd—"And Tustin often says to me there ain't a better fed nor a comfortabler man in all New Rome."
The Prison Prayer was wailed and thundered passionately; Floyd watched with a certain admiration Letty's strong white hands as they pounced about among the keys while her figure swayed and her cheeks flushed, whether with the heat of the exercise or with emotion, he did not know. Standing behind her, Hugh Farrell, with streaming face and with limp locks of yellow hair hanging over his forehead, contributed a solid, trustworthy accompaniment, a background of gloomy sound against which contrasted Letty's more colored and expressive performance. When in a last gorgeous burst the selection was finished, the audience clapped loudly; and through the open window came the sound of applause from a house on the opposite side of the street. Letty and Farrell responded to the encore, and then Miss Lally Gorham rose from her seat under the piano-lamp and putting her arm about Letty's neck, kissed her, and then stood embracing her with affectionate admiration.
"Always shovin' herself forward, the blarneyin' thing," commented Mrs. Tustin. "Besides bein' next door to an idiot. Asked me once if Letty's hair did n't resemble an oriole. I told her if she thought that she must be color-blind; the only orioles I ever seen were yellow, not red. Letty," and she raised her all-powerful voice, "it don't seem possible, but how you have improved!"
Floyd stepped forward to congratulate Letty upon her playing; "I don't know much about music, but you put a lot of go into it, and that's what I like," he said.
She laughed with honest pleasure at the compliment. "I get really worked up when I play," she answered. "But my fingers are too clumsy; it makes me wild sometimes, the way they seem to hold me back."
"But, Letty," broke in her friend Miss Gorham, with her deep voice, "your technique is grand. Did n't you think it was quite won—derful, Mr. Halket?"
She had a way of booming out this adjective with a profound expressiveness.
"Now, Lally, hush, or he'll think you're silly," Miss Bell admonished her. "Mother's provided some light refreshments, and if you'll excuse me, I ought to be helping her. Hugh,"—she summoned him from an airy flirtation with the elder Miss Tibbs,—"you come along."
"Is n't she beautiful?" exclaimed Miss Gorham to Floyd, when Letty had gone. "Did you ever see such superb hair! Is n't it just like an aureole?"
"Why," said Floyd gravely, "an oriole's yellow, is n't it, not red?"
"Oh, not that kind; spelled a-u, I mean."
"I don't believe I've ever seen the a-u kind," Floyd said.
"But you've read about it surely, Mr. Halket?"
"I think I should recognize the word."
"And can't you just imagine what it would be—and would n't it be like her hair? But I suppose I'm a too imaginative temperament."
"You act, I think I have heard."
"I love it, I adore it; it's my life."
"I wish you might be persuaded to do something to-night."
"Oh, before you I should n't dare."
"Oh, you have seen so much, all the great actors, Booth, and Louis James, and everybody. You would be so critical.—Did you ever see King John?"
"Never," said Floyd.
"I do Constance before the French King sometimes," remarked Miss Gorham. "If you've never seen anybody in it to compare me with—"
"Of course you must do it," declared Floyd.
"Well, maybe I will if they ask me. I doubt if they will, though; most of those here would not appreciate it. There's Mrs. Tustin and the Tibbs girls; I suppose they never heard of Shakespeare. Letty is so good-natured she asks in anybody. I expect you find this quite a queer crowd, Mr. Halket."
"No, not at all. People are pretty much the same, don't you think, Miss Gorham, wherever you find them?"
"Yes, I suppose they are. At least if you say so; you have had such wide experience. But personally I have no sympathy with those who cannot appreciate the great works of literature. Especially Shakespeare. What a master mind he had, Mr. Halket!"
"I am so glad you love him. Then, if you really want me to, I'll do Constance before the French King—that is, if you feel like asking for it. But here comes the lemonade; I guess we'd better wait till after that."
Floyd had an opportunity to make himself useful in passing the sponge-cake and so to escape from Miss Gorham and sit down with Tibbs and his two daughters. Tibbs was a man of sixty, with small white side-whiskers and apple-red cheeks, broad of face and broad-shouldered; wearing an amiable, silent smile; his daughters, though not pretty, had a sort of buxom, blowsy bloom, and wore frizzed and flaxen hair. Floyd asked him what mill he worked in, and then how long he had been in New Rome; "Twenty years, sir, ever since I left Devonshire with them two—little misses they were then."
"Land, Pa! you ought n't to tell a lady's age," sniggered one daughter, while the other giggled and said, "We was young enough anyway not to pick up that awful English accent, was n't we, Sadie?"
"That troubles them quite a bit, sir," Tibbs explained to Floyd. "But Hi tell them Hi'm glad to 'ave something to remind me of the old 'ome."
"I like the Devonshire accent," Floyd said. "Do you or your sister sing, Miss Tibbs?"
"Oh no, sir, not worth mentionin'. Not in public."
"Yes," observed Mr. Tibbs irrelevantly, and in an absent voice, "twenty year 'ave I worked for your grandfather, Mr. 'Alket. And he's a grand man, a grand man."
"It's a pleasure to find that his workmen feel so," Floyd said, "for I'm one, and it's the way I feel.—Miss Tibbs, let me take your glass."
Letty had been consulting with Miss Lally Gorham in a corner. Now she stepped forward and said—
"Lally is going to do a scene from Shakespeare. Constance before the French King—from King John."
Floyd began to clap his hands, and led the applause. But Miss Lally's face had already assumed a tragic aspect and did not relax.
"Letty, you will have to help me with my hair," she said, drawing out hairpins as she spoke. When all the sustaining articles had been removed, and the hair had tumbled abundantly down over her shoulders, she said, "I must ask you all to move a little farther back; I need more room.—King John has defeated the French King in battle and taken Constance's son, young Arthur, prisoner; Constance, grief-stricken, enters to the French King."
Miss Gorham paused a moment; then, with uplifted shaking arms, started forward, crying violently,—
No, I defy all counsul, all redress,
But that which ends all counsul, true redress.
Death, death.—O emiable, lovely death!—etc.
She stopped her agitated pacing and addressed with absent deliberation the following lines to Mrs. Tustin,—
And I will kiss thy detestabul bones.
And put my eyeballs in thy vaulty brows,
And ring these fingurs with thy household wor-r-ms.
In the pause she made here, Mrs. Tustin inserted a brief, contemptuous, and defiant laugh; Miss Gorham, without altering the direction or intensity of her gaze, continued,—
And stop this gap of breath with fulsome dust,
And be a carrion monster like thyself.
Mrs. Tustin whispered to her husband with a great air of bravado and derision, but looked relieved when Miss Gorham turned and took a step or two away from her. The elocutionist not only acted the part of Lady Constance; when necessary, she would step to the opposite side of the room, remark "King Philip" or "Pandulph," and drop her voice a couple of octaves for the speech; then back again to the position of Constance, and shrilling loudly,—
"I am not mad," she cried; "this hair I tear is mine," and she drew her unbound locks in front of her face and pulled them hand over hand. When she had finished Constance's last despairing cry, she staggered back against the wall and leaned there, panting as if exhausted, during the applause.
"Ain't that great!" exclaimed Hugh Farrell. "But say, Lally, you're wrong in one thing; I'll bet that old girl was red-headed. Where there's that much fire, there's got to be smoke; eh, Let?"
Miss Gorham came up to Floyd, coiling her hair on her head as she approached.
"What a splendid scene that is! Thank you very much," Floyd said cautiously. "It must use you up to do it."
"Yes, I throw myself into it so," she explained. "When once I begin I lose myself entirely; I actually become the person of the play. I just can't help it. I suppose you noticed that?"
"I suppose," Floyd said, evading an answer, "that makes it all the more exhausting."
"Oh my, yes! But that's what it is to have a temperament,—as of course you know, Mr. Halket."
"No, I'm afraid I have n't it."
"Oh, I'm sure you must have. I can always tell by a person's eyes. Your eyes show temperament."
"I guess it's time, then, for me to be taking to glasses, or they'll get me into trouble," he said flippantly.
Miss Gorham smiled with gentle indulgence for such levity. "Oh, if I could only persuade you to go in for acting!" she breathed in her low tones. "With your temperament—those eyes—I am sure you would be quite won-derful."
Letty came up to them smiling, and her cheerful blue eyes were dancing mischievously. "You see, we nearly all show off here, Mr. Halket," she said. "I'm sure you do something—and we'd appreciate it so if you only would."
"I'm sorry," Floyd answered. "I can't sing or dance or speak a piece. Why, excuse me just a moment, Miss Bell; what is this just coming out of your sleeve? It's caught there, is n't it?" And he reached out, and after three or four gentle tugs drew forth a twenty-five cent piece.
"Oh," cried Letty, clapping her hands, "he's a juggler, he's a juggler! Look here, children," and she pushed the McDonald twins forward. "Watch him do tricks."
So Floyd went through his limited performance: he even brought a silk handkerchief down from his room, showed successfully the magic of the vanishing egg and of the disappearing ring, and then with a pack of cards mystified and delighted his audience.
Only Tustin, who seemed to be a grudging sort of man, looked on with a crooked, contemptuous smile. Floyd had been both interested and repelled by the man's strong and disagreeable face. Now the crooked smile that seemed to deride his own small efforts to entertain the company jarred upon his nerves, and Floyd found himself disliking Tustin even more than his wife. The only time during the evening when Tustin had opened his lips had been to join in the singing of the Sankey hymn, and that had seemed to be under angry protest. But not until Floyd began his sleight-of-hand did Tustin's mouth slant into its crooked smile of scorn.
"Sorehead'! thought Floyd. "Sorehead, all right."
The others, however, were sufficiently appreciative. As for the young ladies, they had no words with which to express their admiration—except Miss Gorham, who ejaculated from time to time "Sorcerer!" or "How won-derful!" When the party came to an end, it was evident that Floyd's contribution was more highly regarded than any other feature of the entertainment.
Floyd had enough simplicity and vanity to enjoy such a little triumph, and he was willing always to display his one accomplishment before the unsophisticated audiences that sometimes gathered in Mrs. Bell's parlor. His fame was spread widely by Letty's friends; often in the evenings visitors came in the hope of meeting the distinguished boarder and of seeing him do some of his conjuring. He himself was unconscious or at least thoughtless of the fact that by his geniality and willingness he was winning friends among these humble people—friends whose influence spread out and reached even those who never entered the circle of Mrs. Bell's acquaintances, who never spoke to him or touched his hand.