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- The Lion and the Mouse - 50/50 -

father is to be restored to you, you'll marry the man you love?"

"I'm so happy!" murmured Shirley. "I don't deserve it. I had no faith."

Ryder released her and took out his watch.

"I leave in fifteen minutes for Washington," he said. "Will you trust me to go alone?"

"I trust you gladly," she answered smiling at him. "I shall always be grateful to you for letting me convert you."

"You won me over last night," he rejoined, "when you put up that fight for your father. I made up my mind that a girl so loyal to her father would be loyal to her husband. You think," he went on, "that I do not love my son--you are mistaken. I do love him and I want him to be happy. I am capable of more affection than people think. It is Wall Street," he added bitterly, "that has crushed all sentiment out of me."

Shirley laughed nervously, almost hysterically.

"I want to laugh and I feel like crying," she cried. "What will Jefferson say--how happy he will be!"

"How are you going to tell him?" inquired Ryder uneasily.

"I shall tell him that his dear, good father has relented and--"

"No, my dear," he interrupted, "you will say nothing of the sort. I draw the line at the dear, good father act. I don't want him to think that it comes from me at all."

"But," said Shirley puzzled, "I shall have to tell him that you--"

"What?" exclaimed Ryder, "acknowledge to my son that I was in the wrong, that I've seen the error of my ways and wish to repent? Excuse me," he added grimly, "it's got to come from him. He must see the error of HIS ways."

"But the error of his way," laughed the girl, "was falling in love with me. I can never prove to him that that was wrong!"

The financier refused to be convinced. He shook his head and said stubbornly:

"Well, he must be put in the wrong somehow or other! Why, my dear child," he went on, "that boy has been waiting all his life for an opportunity to say to me: 'Father, I knew I was in the right, and I knew you were wrong.' Can't you see," he asked, "what a false position it places me in? Just picture his triumph!"

"He'll be too happy to triumph," objected Shirley.

Feeling a little ashamed of his attitude, he said:

"I suppose you think I'm very obstinate." Then, as she made no reply, he added: "I wish I didn't care what you thought."

Shirley looked at him gravely for a moment and then she replied seriously:

"Mr. Ryder, you're a great man--you're a genius--your life is full of action, energy, achievement. But it appears to be only the good, the noble and the true that you are ashamed of. When your money triumphs over principle, when your political power defeats the ends of justice, you glory in your victory. But when you do a kindly, generous, fatherly act, when you win a grand and noble victory over yourself, you are ashamed of it. It was a kind, generous impulse that has prompted you to save my father and take your son and myself to your heart. Why are you ashamed to let him see it? Are you afraid he will love you? Are you afraid I shall love you? Open your heart wide to us--let us love you."

Ryder, completely vanquished, opened his arms and Shirley sprang forward and embraced him as she would have embraced her own father. A solitary tear coursed down the financier's cheek. In thirty years he had not felt, or been touched by, the emotion of human affection.

The door suddenly opened and Jefferson entered. He started on seeing Shirley in his father's arms.

"Jeff, my boy," said the financier, releasing Shirley and putting her hand in his son's, "I've done something you couldn't do--I've convinced Miss Green--I mean Miss Rossmore--that we are not so bad after all!"

Jefferson, beaming, grasped his father's hand.

"Father!" he exclaimed.

"That's what I say--father!" echoed Shirley.

They both embraced the financier until, overcome with emotion, Ryder, Sr., struggled to free himself and made his escape from the room crying:

"Good-bye, children--I'm off for Washington!"


The Lion and the Mouse - 50/50

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