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- The Lion and the Mouse - 6/50 -
the Supreme Court, he had rendered an important decision, but what was worse, he had accepted from that company a valuable gift--that is, $50,000 worth of stock--for which he had given absolutely nothing in return unless, as some claimed, the weight of his influence on the bench. These facts were very ugly and so unanswerable that Judge Rossmore did not attempt to answer them, and the important news which he, the chairman, had to announce to his fellow-directors that afternoon, was that Judge Rossmore's conduct would be made the subject of an inquiry by Congress.
This was the spark that was needed to ignite the electrically charged air. A wild cry of triumph went up from this band of jackals only too willing to fatten their bellies at the cost of another man's ruin, and one director, in his enthusiasm, rose excitedly from his chair and demanded a vote of thanks for John Ryder.
Ryder coldly opposed the motion. No thanks were due to him, he said deprecatingly, nor did he think the occasion called for congratulations of any kind. It was surely a sad spectacle to see this honoured judge, this devoted father, this blameless citizen threatened with ruin and disgrace on account of one false step. Let them rather sympathize with him and his family in their misfortune. He had little more to tell. The Congressional inquiry would take place immediately, and in all probability a demand would be made upon the Senate for Judge Rossmore's impeachment. It was, he added, almost unnecessary for him to remind the Board that, in the event of impeachment, the adverse decision in the Auburndale case would be annulled and the road would be entitled to a new trial.
Ryder sat down, and pandemonium broke loose, the delighted directors tumbling over each other in their eagerness to shake hands with the man who had saved them. Ryder had given no hint that he had been a factor in the working up of this case against their common enemy, in fact he had appeared to sympathise with him, but the directors knew well that he and he alone had been the master mind which had brought about the happy result.
On a motion to adjourn, the meeting broke up, and everyone began to troop towards the elevators. Outside the rain was now coming down in torrents and the lights that everywhere dotted the great city only paled when every few moments a vivid flash of lightning rent the enveloping gloom.
Ryder and Senator Roberts went down in the elevator together. When they reached the street the senator inquired in a low tone:
"Do you think they really believed Rossmore was influenced in his decision?"
Ryder glanced from the lowering clouds overhead to his electric brougham which awaited him at the curb and replied indifferently:
"Not they. They don't care. All they want to believe is that he is to be impeached. The man was dangerous and had to be removed--no matter by what means. He is our enemy--my enemy--and I never give quarter to my enemies!"
As he spoke his prognathous jaw snapped to with a click-like sound, and in his eyes now coal-black were glints of fire. At the same instant there was a blinding flash, accompanied by a terrific crash, and the splinters of the flag-pole on the building opposite, which had been struck by a bolt, fell at their feet.
"A good or a bad omen?" asked the senator with a nervous laugh. He was secretly afraid of lightning but was ashamed to admit it.
"A bad omen for Judge Rossmore!" rejoined Ryder coolly, as he slammed to the door of the cab, and the two men drove rapidly off in the direction of Fifth Avenue.
Of all the spots on this fair, broad earth where the jaded globe wanderer, surfeited with hackneyed sight-seeing, may sit in perfect peace and watch the world go by, there is none more fascinating nor one presenting a more brilliant panorama of cosmopolitan life than that famous corner on the Paris boulevards, formed by the angle of the Boulevard des Capucines and the Place de l'Opera. Here, on the "terrace" of the Cafe de la Paix, with its white and gold facade and long French windows, and its innumerable little marble-topped tables and rattan chairs, one may sit for hours at the trifling expense of a few sous, undisturbed even by the tip-seeking garcon, and, if one happens to be a student of human nature, find keen enjoyment in observing the world-types, representing every race and nationality under the sun, that pass and re-pass in a steady, never ceasing, exhaustless stream. The crowd surges to and fro, past the little tables, occasionally toppling over a chair or two in the crush, moving up or down the great boulevards, one procession going to the right, in the direction of the Church of the Madeleine, the other to the left heading toward the historic Bastille, both really going nowhere in particular, but ambling gently and good humouredly along enjoying the sights--and life!
Paris, queen of cities! Light-hearted, joyous, radiant Paris--the playground of the nations, the Mecca of the pleasure-seekers, the city beautiful! Paris--the siren, frankly immoral, always seductive, ever caressing! City of a thousand political convulsions, city of a million crimes--her streets have run with human blood, horrors unspeakable have stained her history, civil strife has scarred her monuments, the German conqueror insolently has bivouaced within her walls. Yet, like a virgin undefiled, she shows no sign of storm and stress, she offers her dimpled cheek to the rising sun, and when fall the shadows of night and a billion electric bulbs flash in the siren's crown, her resplendent, matchless beauty dazzles the world!
As the supreme reward of virtue, the good American is promised a visit to Paris when he dies. Those, however, of our sagacious fellow countrymen who can afford to make the trip, usually manage to see Lutetia before crossing the river Styx. Most Americans like Paris--some like it so well that they have made it their permanent home--although it must be added that in their admiration they rarely include the Frenchman. For that matter, we are not as a nation particularly fond of any foreigner, largely because we do not understand him, while the foreigner for his part is quite willing to return the compliment. He gives the Yankee credit for commercial smartness, which has built up America's great material prosperity; but he has the utmost contempt for our acquaintance with art, and no profound respect for us as scientists.
Is it not indeed fortunate that every nation finds itself superior to its neighbour? If this were not so each would be jealous of the other, and would cry with envy like a spoiled child who cannot have the moon to play with. Happily, therefore, for the harmony of the world, each nation cordially detests the other and the much exploited "brotherhood of man" is only a figure of speech. The Englishman, confident that he is the last word of creation, despises the Frenchman, who, in turn, laughs at the German, who shows open contempt for the Italian, while the American, conscious of his superiority to the whole family of nations, secretly pities them all.
The most serious fault which the American--whose one god is Mammon and chief characteristic hustle--has to find with his French brother is that he enjoys life too much, is never in a hurry and, what to the Yankee mind is hardly respectable, has a habit of playing dominoes during business hours. The Frenchman retorts that his American brother, clever person though he be, has one or two things still to learn. He has, he declares, no philosophy of life. It is true that he has learned the trick of making money, but in the things which go to satisfy the soul he is still strangely lacking. He thinks he is enjoying life, when really he is ignorant of what life is. He admits it is not the American's fault, for he has never been taught how to enjoy life. One must be educated to that as everything else. All the American is taught is to be in a perpetual hurry and to make money no matter how. In this mad daily race for wealth, he bolts his food, not stopping to masticate it properly, and consequently suffers all his life from dyspepsia. So he rushes from the cradle to the grave, and what's the good, since he must one day die like all the rest?
And what, asks the foreigner, has the American hustler accomplished that his slower-going Continental brother has not done as well? Are finer cities to be found in America than in Europe, do Americans paint more beautiful pictures, or write more learned or more entertaining books, has America made greater progress in science? Is it not a fact that the greatest inventors and scientists of our time--Marconi, who gave to the world wireless telegraphy, Professor Curie, who discovered radium, Pasteur, who found a cure for rabies, Santos-Dumont, who has almost succeeded in navigating the air, Professor Rontgen who discovered the X-ray--are not all these immortals Europeans? And those two greatest mechanical inventions of our day, the automobile and the submarine boat, were they not first introduced and perfected in France before we in America woke up to appreciate their use? Is it, therefore, not possible to take life easily and still achieve?
The logic of these arguments, set forth in Le Soir in an article on the New World, appealed strongly to Jefferson Ryder as he sat in front of the Cafe de la Paix, sipping a sugared Vermouth. It was five o'clock, the magic hour of the aperitif, when the glutton taxes his wits to deceive his stomach and work up an appetite for renewed gorging. The little tables were all occupied with the usual before-dinner crowd. There were a good many foreigners, mostly English and Americans and a few Frenchmen, obviously from the provinces, with only a sprinkling of real Parisians.
Jefferson's acquaintance with the French language was none too profound, and he had to guess at half the words in the article, but he understood enough to follow the writer's arguments. Yes, it was quite true, he thought, the American idea of life was all wrong. What was the sense of slaving all one's life, piling up a mass of money one cannot possibly spend, when there is only one life to live? How much saner the man who is content with enough and enjoys life while he is able to. These Frenchmen, and indeed all the Continental nations, had solved the problem. The gaiety of their cities, and this exuberant joy of life they communicated to all about them, were sufficient proofs of it.
Fascinated by the gay scene around him Jefferson laid the newspaper aside. To the young American, fresh from prosaic money- mad New York, the City of Pleasure presented indeed a novel and
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