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- Gaut Gurley - 3/59 -
"No, sir, I didn't," replied the fashionable _pro tempore_ lackey. "And if I had, my orders has always been on sech occasions not to admit any but the invited, who won't send in their names, or tell their business. And I generally calculate to go by Gunter, and do the thing up genteel."
"Well, well," said Elwood, impatiently cutting short the other in the defence of his professional character, and leading the way to the door, "well, well, we had better see who he is, perhaps."
When they reached the front entrance, they caught, by means of the reflected light of the entry and chambers, an imperfect view of the object of their proposed scrutiny, walking up and down the bricked pathway leading to the house. But, not being able to identify the new-comer with any one of his acquaintances, at that distance, Elwood walked down and confronted him; when, after a momentary pause, he siezed the supposed intruder by the hand, and, in a surprised and agitated tone, exclaimed:
"My brother Arthur! How came you here?"
"By steam and stage."
"Not what I meant: but no matter. We were not expecting you; and I fear the waiters have made a sad mistake."
"As bad an one as I did, perhaps, in declining to be catechized at my brother's door."
"No, _you_ were right enough; but the waiters, being only here for the extra occasion,--the bit of flare-up you see we have here to-night,--and not knowing you, thought they must do as others do at such times. So overlook the blunder, if you will, and walk in."
Mark Elwood, much chagrined and discomposed at the discovery of such an untoward first reception of his brother, now ushered him into the brilliantly-lighted hall, where the two stood in such singular contrast that no stranger would have ever taken them for brothers,--Mark being, as we have before described him, a good-sized, and, in the main, a good-looking man; while the other, whom we have introduced as Arthur Elwood, was of a diminutive size, with commonplace features, and a severe, forbidding countenance, made so, perhaps, by intense application to business, together with the unfavorable effect caused by a blemished and sightless eye.
"Well, brother," said Mark, after a hesitating and awkward pause, "shall I look you up a private room, or will you go in among the company,--that is, if you consider yourself in trim to join them?"
"Your rooms must all be in use, and I should make less trouble to go in and be lost in the crowd. My trim will not kill anybody, probably," was the dry reply to the indirect hint of the other.
In all this Mark's better judgment coincided; but he had no moral courage, and, fearing the cut and color of his somewhat outre-looking brother's garments might excite the remarks of his fashionable guests, he would have gladly disposed of him in some private manner till the company had departed. Finding him, however, totally insensible to all such considerations, he concluded to make the best of it, and accordingly at once led the way into the guest-crowded apartments.
Here, contrary to his doubting brother's expectation, Arthur Elwood, whose character appeared to be known to several of the wealthier guests, was soon treated with much respect, for, in addition to what a previous knowledge of him secured, Mrs. Elwood had promptly come forward to greet him, and be cordially greeted in return, and, unlike her husband, had not hesitated to bestow on him publicly the most marked attentions. As soon, however, as she had thus testified her sense of the superiority of worth over outward appearance, and thus, by her delicate tact, given him the consideration with the company which she thought belonged to the brother of her husband, she gracefully relinquished him to the latter; when the two, by tacit mutual consent, sought a secluded corner, and seated themselves for a private conversation.
"As I said, I did not expect you, Arthur," commenced Mark Elwood, in the unsteady and hesitating tone of one about to broach a matter in which he felt a deep interest. "I was not looking for you here at all, these days; but presumed, when I wrote you, that, if you concluded to grant the favor I asked, you would transact the business through the mail."
"Loans of money are not always favors, Mark," responded the other, thoughtfully; "and when I make them, I like to know whether they promise any real benefit. I could, as you say, have transacted the business through the mail, but I confess, Mark, I have lately had some misgivings and doubts whether your commercial fabric here in Boston was not too big and broad for the foundation; and I thought I would come, see, and judge for myself."
"But I only asked for the loan of a few thousands," said Mark, meekly. "The fact is, Arthur, that, owing to some bad luck and disappointments in money matters, I am, just now, a little embarrassed about meeting some of my engagements; and I trust you will not refuse to give me a lift. What say you, Arthur?"
"I don't say, but will see and decide," replied the other. "But, Mark," he added, after a pause, "Mark, what will this useless parade here to-night cost you?"
"O, a mere trifle,--a few hundreds, perhaps."
"And you think hundreds well spent, when you are wanting thousands to pay your debts, do you?"
"O, you know, Arthur, a man, to keep up his credit, must _display_ a little once in a while."
"No, I did not know that, Mark. I did not know that the throwing away of hundreds would help a man's credit in thousands, especially with those whose opinion would be of any use to him. But go," added the speaker, rising, "go and see to your company: I can take care of myself."
The brothers, rising from an interview in which they had felt, perhaps, nearly an equal degree of secret embarrassment,--the one believing that his last hope hung on the result, and the other feeling conscious of entering on a most ungracious duty,--now separated, and mingled with the gay throng, who, swaying hither and thither, and, seemingly without end or aim, moving round and round their limited range of apartments, like the froth in the circling eddies of a whirlpool, continued to laugh, flirt, and chatter on, till the advent of the last act of the social farce,--the throwing open of a suit of hitherto sealed apartments, and the welcome disclosure of the varied and costly delicacies of the loaded refreshment tables, which the company, by their strong and simultaneous rush thitherward, the rattling of knives and forks, spoons and glasses, the rapid popping of champagne corks, and the low, eager hum of gratified voices that followed, evidently deemed the best, as well as the closing, act of the evening's entertainment.
While this scene was in progress, Gaut Gurley, who had been for some time in vain watching the opportunity, caught Mark Elwood unoccupied in one of the vacated apartments, and abruptly approached and confronted him.
"Well, what now, Gaut?" exclaimed Elwood, with an assumed air of pettishness, after finding there was no further chance of escaping an interview which he had evidently been trying to avoid; "what would you have now?"
"I would just know whether you intend to keep your engagement," replied Gurley, fixing his black, quivering eyes keenly on the other.
"To give me a chance to win back that money."
"Which you demand when you have taken from me an hundred to one!"
"And who had a better right? Through whose means did you make your fortune? Besides this, haven't I always given you a fair chance to win back all you could?"
"I want no more of such chances,"
"But you promised; and I want to know whether you mean to keep that promise or not."
"Supposing I do, you would not have me leave home to-night, would you?"
"But my brother, as you have already discovered, I presume, has just arrived on a visit; and you know I can't decently leave him."
"And what do _I_ care for that? Say whether you will meet me at the old room, or not, as soon as your company have cleared out?"
"You are unreasonable, cruel, Gaut."
"Then say you will _not_ go, and see what will come of it, Mark Elwood!"
"I must go--I _will_ go, Gaut," replied Elwood, turning pale at the last intimation. "As soon as I get rid of the company, I will start directly for the place."
"Well, just as you can afford," said Gaut, doggedly, as he turned on his heel, and made his way out of the house.
Mark Elwood drew a long breath as he was thus relieved of the other's presence, and was leaving the room, when Mrs. Elwood, who had felt much disturbed at discovering among her guests one of whose questionable character and connection with her husband she was already apprised, and who, from an adjoining apartment, had caught a slight glimpse of the meeting just described, and enough of the conversation to enable her to guess at its import, hurriedly came forward, and, in a voice tremulous from suppressed emotion, said:
"You surely are not going out to-night, Mr. Elwood?"
"No--that is--only for a short time," he said, hesitating, and a little confused at the discovery of his design, which a second thought told him she had made; "only for a short time. But don't stop me to talk now; you see the company are retiring. I must see the gentlemen off."
"Mr. Elwood, I must be heard," persisted the troubled and anxious wife. "I cannot bear to have you go off, and leave your only brother, whom you have not seen for years, and for such company! O Mr. Elwood, how can you let that bad man--"
"Hush! don't get into such a stew. I shall soon be back," interrupted the other. "You can excuse my absence. There, I hear them inquiring for me. I must go," he added, abruptly breaking away, and leaving his grieved companion to hide her emotions as she best could from the guests who were now seen approaching for their parting salutations.
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