List Of Contents | Contents of The Golden House, by Charles Dudley Warner
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favorite of fortune, but the idea of his own importance in the financial
world increased enormously, much to the amusement of Mavick, when he was
occasionally in the city, to whom he talked somewhat largely of his
operations, and who knew that he had no more comprehension of the sweep
of Henderson's schemes than a baby has of the stock exchange when he
claps his hands with delight at the click of the ticker.

His prosperity was visible.  It showed in the increase of his accounts
at the Union, in his indifference to limits in the game of poker, in a
handsome pair of horses which he insisted on Edith's accepting for her
own use, in an increased scale of living at home, in the hundred ways
that a man of fashion can squander money in a luxurious city.  If he did
not haunt the second-hand book-shops or the stalls of dealers in
engravings, or bring home as much bric-a-brac as he once had done, it was
because his mind was otherwise engaged; his tailor's bills were longer,
and there were more expensive lunches at the clubs, at which there was a
great deal of sage talk about stocks and combinations, and much wisdom
exhibited in regard to wines; and then there were the little suppers at
Wherry's after the theatres, which a bird could have eaten and a fish
have drunken, and only a spendthrift have paid for.

"It is absurd," Edith had said one night after their return.  "It makes
us ridiculous in the eyes of anybody but fools."  And Jack had flared up
about it, and declared that he knew what he could afford, and she had
retorted that as for her she would not countenance it.  And Jack had
attempted to pass it off lightly, at last, by saying, "Very well then,
dear, if you won't back me, I shall have to rely upon my bankers."
At any rate, neither Carmen nor Miss Tavish took him to task.  They
complimented him on his taste, and Carmen made him feel that she
appreciated his independence and his courage in living the life that
suited him.  She knew, indeed, how much he made in his speculations, how
much he lost at cards; she knew through him the gossip of the clubs, and
venturing herself not too far at sea, liked to watch the undertow of
fashionable life.  And she liked Jack, and was not incapable of throwing
him a rope when the hour came that he was likely to be swept away by that

It was remarked at the Union, and by the men in the Street who knew him,
that Jack was getting rapid.  But no one thought the less of him for his
pace--that is, no one appeared to, for this sort of estimate of a man is
only tested by his misfortunes, when the day comes that he must seek
financial backing.  In these days he was generally in an expansive mood,
and his free hand and good-humor increased his popularity.  There were
those who said that there were millions of family money back of Jack, and
that he had recently come in for something handsome.

But this story did not deceive Major Fairfax, whose business it was to
know to a dot the standing of everybody in society, in which he was a
sort of oracle and privileged favorite.  No one could tell exactly how
the Major lived; no one knew the rigid economy that he practiced; no one
had ever seen his small dingy chamber in a cheap lodging-house.  The name
of Fairfax was as good as a letter of introduction in the metropolis, and
the Major had lived on it for years, on that and a carefully nursed
little income--an habitue of the club, and a methodical cultivator of the
art of dining out.  A most agreeable man, and perhaps the wisest man in
his generation in those things about which it would be as well not to
know anything.

Seated one afternoon in his favorite corner for street observation, by
the open window, with the evening paper in his hand, in the attitude of
one expecting the usual five o'clock cocktail, he hailed Jack, who was
just coming down-stairs from a protracted lunch.

"I say, Delancy, what's this I hear?"

"About what?" said Jack, sauntering along to a seat opposite the Major,
and touching a bell on the little table as he sat down.  Jack's face was
flushed, but he talked with unusual slowness and distinctness.  "What
have you heard, Major?"

"That you have bought Benham's yacht."

"No, I haven't; but I was turning the thing over in my mind," Jack
replied, with the air of a man declining an appointment in the Cabinet.
"He offers it cheap."

"My dear boy, there is no such thing as a cheap yacht, any more than
there is a cheap elephant."

"It's better to buy than build," Jack insisted.  "A man's got to have
some recreation."

"Recreation!  Why don't you charter a Fifth Avenue stage and take your
friends on a voyage to the Battery?  That'll make 'em sick enough."  It
was a misery of the Major's life that, in order to keep in with necessary
friends, he had to accept invitations for cruises on yachts, and pretend
he liked it.  Though he had the gout, he vowed he would rather walk to
Newport than go round Point Judith in one of those tipping tubs.  He had
tried it, and, as he said afterwards, "The devil of it was that Mrs.
Henderson and Miss Tavish sympathized with me.  Gad! it takes away a
person's manhood, that sort of thing."

The Major sipped his bitters, and then added: "Or I'll tell you what; if
you must do something, start a newspaper--the drama, society, and
letters, that sort of thing, with pictures.  I heard Miss Tavish say she
wished she had a newspaper."

"But," said Jack, with gravity, "I'm not buying a yacht for Miss Tavish."

"I didn't suppose you were.  Devilish fine girl, though.  I don't care
who you buy it for if you don't buy it for yourself.  Why don't you buy
it for Henderson?  He can afford it."

"I'd like to know what you mean, Major Fairfax!" cried Jack.  "What

"There!" exclaimed the Major, sinking back in his chair, with a softened
expression in his society beaten face.  "It's no use of nonsense, Jack.
I'm an average old sinner, and I'm not old enough yet to like a milksop.
But I've known you since you were so high, and I knew your father; he
used to stay weeks on my plantation when we were both younger.  And your
mother--that was a woman!--did me a kindness once when I was in a d---d
tight place, and I never forgot it.  See here, Jack, if I had money
enough I'd buy a yacht and put Carmen and Miss Tavish on it, and send
them off on the longest voyage there is."

"Who's been talking?" exclaimed Jack, touched a little, but very much

"The town, Jack.  Don't mind the talk.  People always talk.  I suppose
people talk about me: At your age I should have been angry too at a hint
even from an old friend.  But I've learned.  It doesn't pay.  I don't get
angry any more.  Now there's Henderson--"

"What have you got against Henderson?"

"Nothing.  He is a very good fellow, for that sort of man.  But, Lord!
Henderson is a big machine.  You might as well try to stand in with a
combination of gang-saws, or to make friends with the Department of the
Interior.  Look at the men who have gone in with Henderson from time to
time.  The ground is strewn with them.  He's got no more feeling in
business than a reaper-and-binder."

"I don't know what Henderson's got to do with my having a yacht."

"I beg your pardon, Jack; it's none of my business.  Only I do not put my
investments"--Jack smiled faintly, as if the conversation were taking a
humorous turn--"at the mercy of Henderson's schemes.  If I did, I
wouldn't try to run a yacht at the same time.  I should be afraid that
some day when I got to sea I should find myself out of coal.  You know,
my boy, that the good book says you cannot serve two masters."

"Nobody ever accused you of that, Major," retorted Jack, with a laugh.
"But what two have you in mind?"

"Oh, I don't mean anything personal.  I just use names as typical.  Say
Henderson and Carmen."  And the Major leaned back and tapped his fingers
together, as if he were putting a general proposition.

Jack flushed, and then thought a moment--it would be ridiculous to get
angry with old Fairfax--and then said: "Major, if I were you, I wouldn't
have anything to do with either of them.  You'll spoil your digestion."

"Umph!" the Major grunted, as he rose from his chair.  "This is an age of
impudence.  There's no more respect for gray hair than if it were dyed.
I cannot waste any more time on you.  I've got an early dinner.  Devilish
uphill work trying to encourage people who dine at seven.  But, my boy,
think on these things, as the saint says."

And the old fellow limped away.  There was one good thing about the
Major.  He stood up in church every Sunday and read his prayers, like a
faithful old sinner as he was.

Jack, sobered by the talk, walked home in a very irritated mood, blaming
everybody except himself.  For old Fairfax's opinion he didn't care, but
evidently the old fellow represented a lot of gossip.  He wished people
would mind their own business.  His irritation was a little appeased by
Edith's gay and loving greeting; but she, who knew every shade of his
face, saw it.

"Have you had a worrying day?"

"No; not specially.  I've had an hour of old Fairfax, who hasn't any
business of his own to attend to."

"Oh, nobody minds the Major," Edith said, as she gave him a shake and
another kiss; but a sharp pang went through her heart, for she guessed
what had happened, since she had had a visit that afternoon from another
plain-speaking person.

They were staying late in town.  Edith, who did not care to travel far,
was going presently to a little cottage by the sea, and Mrs. Schuyler
Blunt had looked in for a moment to say good-by before she went up to her
Lenox house.

"It's only an old farmhouse made over," Mrs. Blunt was saying; "hardly
smart enough to ask anybody to, but we hope to have you and Jack there
some time."

"That would be very nice.  I hear Lenox is more beautiful than ever."

"Yes, it is, and about as difficult to get into as the kingdom of heaven.
It's being spoiled for moderate people.  The Hendersons and the Van Dams
and that sort are in a race to see who shall build houses with the

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