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- Jane Cable - 20/52 -
"I only know your financial valour," said Elias drily.
"That's all you're expected to know, sir."
"Then, we won't quarrel about it," said the other with his sweetest grin.
"Umph! Well, pleasantries aside, we must look ourselves over carefully before we see our New York friend. He must not find us with unclean linen. Elias, I'm worried, I'll confess, but I'm not afraid. Is there anything that we have bungled?"
"I have always been afraid of the chorus-girl business. I don't like chorus girls." Bansemer, at another time, would have smiled.
It was past midnight when the two left the stall and started in separate ways for their North Side homes. The master felt more secure than when he left the home of David Cable earlier in the night. Elias Droom said at parting:
"I don't like your attitude toward Mrs. C. It's not very manly to make war on a woman."
"My good Elias," said Bansemer, complacently surveying himself in the small mirror across the stall, "all men make war on women, one way or another."
He did not see Droom's ugly scowl as he preceded that worthy through the doorway.
The next morning Bansemer walked down the Drive. It was a bright, crisp day and the snow had been swept from the sidewalks. He felt that a visit from Harbert during the day was not unlikely and he wanted to be fresh and clear-headed. Halfway down he met Jane Cable coming from the home of a friend. He never had seen her looking so beautiful, so full of the joy of living. Her friendly, sparkling smile sent a momentary pang of shame into his calloused heart, but it passed with the buoyant justification of his decision to do nothing in the end that might mar his son's happiness.
She was walking to town and assured him that she rejoiced in his distinguished company. They discussed the play and the supper party.
"Now that I'm engaged to Graydon, I'm positively beginning to grow sick of people," Miss Cable declared and as they all declare at that age and stage.
"Well, you'll soon recover," he smiled. "Marriage is the convalescence of a love affair, you know."
"Oh, but most of the men one meets are so hopelessly silly-tiresome," she went on. "It's strange, too. Nearly all of them have gone to college-Yale, or Harvard."
"My dear Jane, they are the unfortunate sons of the rich. You can't blame them. All Yale and Harvard men are not tiresome. You should not forget that a large sprinkling of the young men you meet at the pink teas were sent to Yale or Harvard for the sole purpose of becoming Yale and Harvard men-nothing more. Their mothers never expected them to be anything else. The poor man sends his son to be educated; the rich man usually does it to get the boy away from home, so that he won't have to look at him all the time. I'm happy to say that I was quite poor when Graydon got his diploma."
"Oh, Graydon isn't at all like the others. He is a man," cried Jane, her eyes dancing.
"I don't mean to say that all rich men's sons are failures. Some of them are really worth while. Give credit unlimited to the rich man's son who goes to college and succeeds in life in spite of his environment. I must not forget that Graydon's chief ambition at one time was to hunt Indians."
"He couldn't have got that from his mother," said she accusingly. Bansemer looked at her sharply. He had half expected, on meeting her, to observe the first sign that the Cable family had discussed him well but not favourably. Her very brightness convinced him that she, at least, had not been, taken into the consultation.
"I am afraid it came from his horrid father. But Graydon is a good boy. He couldn't long follow the impulses of his father. I dare say he could be a sinner if he tried, too. I' hate an imbecile. An imbecile to my mind is the fellow without the capacity to err intentionally. God takes care of the fellow who errs ignorantly. Give me the fellow who is bright enough to do the bad things which might admit him to purgatory in good standing, and I'll trust him to do the good things that will let him into heaven. I often wonder where these chaps go after they die--I mean the Yale and Harvard chaps who bore you. It takes a clever chap to have any standing at all in purgatory. Where do they go, Jane? You are wise for your years and sex. There surely must be a place for the plain asses?"
"Oh," said she, "I suppose they have a separate heaven, just as the dogs have."
"No doubt you're right," he agreed, smiling, "but think how bright the dogs are as a rule."
"Bobby Rigby says a dog is worth more than his master. People will steal a dog, he says."
"I saw him at your house last night. Did you meet Mr. Harbert?"
"No. Mother said he came in with Bobby."
"How is Mrs. Cable this morning? I think she--er--complained of a sick headache last night?"
"She has such a frightful headache that she couldn't get up this morning."
"Indeed? Will you carry my respects and sympathy to her?"
"Thank you, yes. But why don't you come in and see us, Mr. Bansemer?"
"In a day or so, gladly."
Bansemer was not approached by Harbert that day nor the next--nor any other day soon, in fact. It was not until after the third day had expired that he heard from Mrs. Cable. Her silence was gratifying and significant; it meant that she was struggling with herself--that she had taken no one as yet into her confidence. He was too wary to feel secure in his position, however. He abandoned every case that could not be tried in the cleanest light and he destroyed his footprints in those of the past more completely than ever. David Cable was disposed to be agreeable when they met, and Rigby's manner had lost the touch of aloofness. Altogether the situation did not look so dark as it had on the night of the blizzard.
He guessed at Mrs. Cable's frame of mind during the three days just past by the tenor of her message over the telephone. She did no more than to ask him to drop in before five for a cup of tea; but he saw beyond the depth of her invitation.
He went and had a few minutes alone with her because he was shrewd enough to drop in before five. No one else came until after that hour had struck. He was studiously reserved and considerate. There was nothing in his manner to indicate that he was there as anything more than the most casual sipper of the beverage that society brews. It was left for her to make the advances.
"We must come to an understanding," she said abruptly. "I cannot endure the suspense, the uncertainty--"
Bansemer raised his brows with grave condescension.
"Then you have not confessed to Mr. Cable?" he asked, with perfect unconcern. "Do you know, I was rather hoping that you would have saved me the trouble of doing so."
"It means so much to--"
"Ah, I see you find it hard to lose the ground you have gained socially." He stirred his tea steadily.
"It isn't that--I don't care for that. It's for Jane and David. I can only offer to buy your silence; nothing more," she said with hurried words. "I own shares in the railroad; they're worth twenty thousand dollars. Will you take them?"
"My dear," he said, leaning quite close to her, "I am not seeking to blackmail you as you seem to imagine. I have only tried to tell you that I love you."
"Oh," she exclaimed, with a shudder of disgust. His face was quite close to hers; she could feel his warm breath on her cheek and she drew away quickly. His hand hovered close to hers as it lay in her lap.
There was an eye-witness to this single picture in the brief scene. Jane had started downstairs. From the upper steps she could look into the drawing-room below. She could not help seeing Bansemer's fervent attitude; she heard nothing that he said. The girl paused in surprise; a feeling as of dread--she could not explain--crept over her. A chill struck into her heart.
It was as if she had awakened from a sweet sleep to look out upon a bleak, horrid morning.
Involuntarily she shrank back, quite beyond the actual vision but not free from it. She stood straight and tense and silent at the top of the stairs, her hand clasping the rail. She could hear her heart throbs plainly. There was no mistaking the picture as it had burst upon her unsuspecting eyes. With a quavering smile she tried to throw it from her. But cold and damning there arose to support her apprehensions the horrid stories of Mrs. Blanckton and her affair with Rellick. With her own eyes she had seen Rellick talking to Mrs. Blanckton just as Bansemer was talking to her mother in the dim doom below. The Blanckton scandal, as everyone knew, was one of the most infamous the city had known. Jane, with other girls, had been shocked by the boldness of the intrigue; she had loathed Rellick for his unprincipled love-making; she had despised and denounced Mrs. Blanckton. Here now was her own mother listening just as Mrs. Blanckton had listened; here was James Bansemer talking just as Rellick had talked. A great fear, a dark uncertainty, welled up in her heart.
It was not until the butler admitted other callers that she found the courage to turn her eyes toward the drawing-room. She was never
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