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- Many Kingdoms - 34/34 -
these small disappointments in an otherwise inspiring onward career. "He's learned to dress like a gentleman, speak like a gentleman, and look like a gentleman, and he has also learned that there have been a few active minds in the world before his came. Give him time. He'll do something big yet."
Harrington promptly verified this prediction by falling in love, which he did on a scale and with an abandon unprecedented in the history of Park Row. It was a tempestuous upheaval for the emotional Southerner, and every other interest in his life retired to the remotest background and remained there, unseen and unsuspected. His choice fell on a woman reporter of the _Searchlight_, a quiet, refined young girl, whose journalistic activities were confined to reports of meetings of women's clubs and the descriptions of other social events. For her Bart Harrington commanded the morning stars to sing together, and dared the dazzled sun to look upon her like. To him she was Laura, Beatrice, Juliet, Francesca--the essence of all the loves of all the ages in one perfect form. During their brief engagement he called for her in a cab each morning, and drove her to her home each night. He would have laid a carpet of flowers for her from the office to the curb had it been practicable. Also, he discovered Keats and Shelley and Byron and Swinburne, and quoted them until the office boys, who alone remained to listen to him, demanded that increase of salary justly attached to increased nervous strain. Swinburne, Harrington promptly decided, he did not like. There was an earthiness in his verse, he explained to Maxwell, a material side, wholly lacking in the love of the right man for the right woman--in other words, in his own love for Miss Evans. He wrote a column about this kind of love in his Mars department, and a hundred thousand men read it with gurgles of warm appreciation and quoted it at dinner the next night. Then he married Miss Evans and became interested in the price of coal and other household supplies. His absorption in these topics was almost feverish. He talked about them morning, noon, and night. His interest in literature flickered and died out. To Maxwell, his first and still his best friend, he finally confided his dilemma.
"You see, old man," he began, one morning about six months after the wedding, "we've discovered, Clara and I, that the least we can live on in New York is fifty dollahs a week. And you see I'm only getting forty. It's serious, isn't it? But Clara says that if we buy all ouah canned goods at Lacy's---"
Maxwell stopped him with a gesture of desperation.
"Harrington, if you say another word I shall go crazy," he announced, with the calmness of despair. "We'll give you fifty dollars a week. Now consider that settled, and for God's sake get your mind off it. If you don't look out you'll be writing about coal and canned goods in your Mars column. What are you going to write this week, anyhow?" he demanded, with sudden suspicion.
Harrington looked guilty.
"I thought I'd say something about how prices have advanced," he faltered. "Clara says that two yeahs ago--" But Maxwell had taken him by the shoulders.
"No, you don't!" he shouted, fiercely. "You'll keep on writing about literature and life and lily-pads and love--that's what you'll do. If you don't, you'll lose your job. Don't you dare to introduce a single- dollar sign or canned tomato into those columns," he added, warningly, as he returned to his work.
Harrington's look of reproach as he went out haunted him for days--so long, in fact, that he bore with extraordinary patience a confidence that gentleman favored him with several months later. He came to the office one morning wearing an expression oddly combined of pride and shame, in which first one and then the other predominated. For a long time he discussed apartments and janitors and domestic supplies, and Maxwell humored him. Then he said:
"I've been an awful ass, Maxwell, but that's no reason why I should keep on being one, is it? I've got to tell you something impo'tant, and I'm going to do it now. I can't write any more about literatuah of the past and lily-pads of the present, as you would say. Who ca'es about 'em? _I_ don't. The wo'ld to-day is interested in the life of to-day. Men think about theah wo'k and theah incomes and theah homes and theah wives and theah children, and that's _all_ they think about. And women think about men, and that's all _they_ think about. And heah I'm writing all the time about literatuah--literatuah." He turned the word over in his mouth and ejected it with supreme contempt.
As once before, Maxwell was silent in the presence of simple truth. He rallied, however, and voiced a protest.
"I suppose you haven't lost interest in earning your living," he suggested, ironically. "How do you intend to do that if you give up this job?"
Harrington flushed a little, and cleared his throat nervously before he spoke. Then he drew a paper from his pocket, and as his fingers touched it his face cleared and happy pride beamed from him.
"I've got something else," he said, simply. "I waited to see how it would tu'n out befoah I told you. It's quite a story. You see," he went on expansively, settling back in his chair, and swinging his foot with the characteristic swing of the boy of two years before--"you see, Clara needed a hat-pin, the kind that would stay in and keep a hat _on_. None of them do, Clara said. So I made one foh huh, and Clara's brothah saw it and thought it was a good thing. He's a lawyer, you know. He showed it to some man with money, and they took it up and we patented it, and now we've got a facto'y and we're selling it. It's--it's making lots of money." He turned an apologetic eye on his friend and continued, more firmly: "They gave me twenty thousand dollahs down and twenty pe' cent, of the stock, and a block of stock foh you, because I insisted on that. I want you in on my luck. Heah it is. E.W. Hubbard is the chief backah, and he says this is wuth ten thousand dollahs. He says every woman in Ame'ica will be wearing one of ouah hat-pins this time next yeah."
He laid the certificate on the table as he spoke, and for a moment Maxwell sat staring at it, speechless. He knew Hubbard--a rich, shrewd financier, and no leader of forlorn-hopes. If Hubbard was in the thing the thing was all right. But a _hat-pin_! Maxwell looked at the certificate and thought of the hat-pin, and reviewed the Harrington of the past two years, and felt a horrible desire to laugh and to cry. Then he pushed the paper toward the inventor.
"It's awfully good of you, old man," he said, huskily. "But of course I can't take this. There's no reason why you should give me ten thousand dollars, you know."
Harrington laughed--a queer little laugh.
"Ain't they a reason?" he asked, lapsing in his earnestness into the careless grammar he had almost overcome. "Well, I guess I know moah than any one else 'bout _that_. Do you remembah the fifteen dollahs you lent me the day I came heah? Well, suh, I was sta'ving. I hadn't eaten fo' two days, an' I couldn't get wo'k, an' I couldn't beg. That's why I meant to kill myself. That money saved me. Now heah's this thing. It ain't money. It's an _idea_. It's an idea out of my haid, an' that haid wouldn't be heah at all if it wasn't fo' you. You've given me mah chance. What I've done ain't much, but it's brought results, and results ah the things that count. So we'll just call it interest, if you don't mind. I think it's goin' to be wuth while. An' you know," he added, almost timidly, "we ah friends--ahn't we, you and I?"
Maxwell wrung his hand. Then he picked up the certificate, folded it, and put it carefully into his pocket.
"Thanks, old man," he said, quietly. "It's the biggest thing that's ever come my way, and I'll take it--from my friend."
Later, when Harrington had taken his jubilant departure, Maxwell related the incident to his chief. Wilson listened with flattering attention. At the end he nodded sympathetically.
"He's all right," he said, "and you needn't worry about him. He's got one quality left that sets him far enough apart from the rabble of to- day." He looked keenly at the young man as he added, suddenly: "Of all the fellows you've ever helped, Maxwell--and I know you've helped a lot in one way or another--has any one of them before to-day ever shown you any gratitude?"
Maxwell shook his head. "Don't remember any," he admitted. "But I didn't expect any, and don't want any."
"And you don't get it," ended the older man, with a sigh. "It's the rarest thing in life. So make the most of it this time, my boy. One doesn't often meet a visitor from Mars!"
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