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List Of Contents | Contents of The Golden House, by Charles Dudley Warner
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battery; everything was done that science could suggest.  But all was of
no avail.  There was no sign of life.  He must have been dead half an
hour, said the doctor.  It was evidently heart-failure.

Before the doctor had pronounced his verdict there was a whisper in the
Stock Exchange.

"Henderson is dead!"

"It is not possible," said one.

"I saw him only yesterday," said another.

"I was in his office this morning," said a third.  "I never saw him
looking in better health."

The whisper was confirmed.  There was no doubt of it.  Henderson's
private secretary had admitted it.  Yet it seemed incredible.  No
provision had been made for it.  Speculation had not discounted it.
A panic set in.  No one knew what to do, for no one knew well the state
of Henderson's affairs.  In the first thirty minutes there was a
tremendous drop in Henderson stocks.  Then some of them rallied, but
before the partial recovery hundreds of men had been ruined.  It was a
wild hour in the Exchange.  Certain stocks were hopelessly smashed for
the time, and some combinations were destroyed; among them was one that
Uncle Jerry had kept out of; and Jack Delancy was hopelessly ruined.

The event was flashed over the wires of the continent; it was bulletined;
it was cried in the streets; it was the all-absorbing talk of the town.
Already, before the dead man was removed to his own house, people were
beginning to moralize about him and his career.  Perhaps the truest thing
was said by the old broker in the board whose reputation for piety was
only equaled by his reputation of always having money to loan at
exorbitant rates in a time of distress.  He said to a group of downcast
operators, "In the midst of life we are in death."




XX

The place that Rodney Henderson occupied in the mind of the public was
shown by the attention the newspapers paid to his death.  All the great
newspapers in all the cities of importance published long and minute
biographies of him, with pictorial illustrations, and day after day
characteristic anecdotes of his remarkable career.  Nor was there, it is
believed, a newspaper in the United States, secular, religious, or
special, that did not comment upon his life.  This was the more
remarkable in that he was not a public man in the common use of the word:
he had never interested himself in politics, or in public affairs,
municipal or State or national; he had devoted himself entirely to
building up his private fortune.  If this is the duty of a citizen, he
had discharged it with singleness of purpose; but no other duty of the
citizen had he undertaken, if we except his private charities.  And yet
no public man of his day excited more popular interest or was the subject
of more newspaper comment.

And these comments were nearly all respectful, and most of them kindly.
There was some justice in this, for Henderson had been doing what
everybody else was trying to do, usually without his good-fortune.
If he was more successful than others in trying to get rich, surely a
great deal of admiration was mingled with the envy of his career.  To be
sure, some journals were very severe upon his methods, and some revived
the old stories of his unscrupulousness in transactions which had laid
him open to criminal prosecution, from the effects of which he was only
saved by uncommon adroitness and, some said, by legal technicalities.
His career also was denounced by some as wholly vicious in its effect
upon the youth of the republic, and as lowering the tone of public
morals.  And yet it was remembered that he had been a frank, open-hearted
friend, kind to his family, and generous in contrast with some of his
close-fisted contemporaries.  There was nothing mean about him; even his
rascalities, if you chose to call his transactions by that name, were on
a grand scale.  To be sure, he would let nothing stand between him and
the consummation of his schemes--he was like Napoleon in that--but those
who knew him personally liked him.  The building up of his colossal
fortune--which the newspapers were saying was the largest that had been
accumulated in one lifetime in America--had ruined thousands of people,
and carried disaster into many peaceful houses, and his sudden death had
been a cyclone of destruction for an hour.  But it was hardly fair, one
journal pointed out, to hold Henderson responsible for his untimely
death.

Even Jack Delancy, when the crushing news was brought him at the club,
where he sat talking with Major Fairfax, although he saw his own ruin in
a flash, said, "It wouldn't have happened if Henderson had lived."

"Not so soon," replied the Major, hesitatingly.

"Do you mean to say that Henderson and Mavick and Mrs. Henderson would
have thrown me over?"

"Why, no, not exactly; but a big machine grinds on regardless, and when
the crash comes everybody looks out for himself."

"I think I'll telegraph to Mavick."

"That wouldn't do any good now.  He couldn't have stopped the panic.
I tell you what, you'd better go down to your brokers and see just how
matters stand."

And the two went down to Wall Street.  It was after hours, but the
brokers' office was full of excitement.  No one knew what was left from
the storm, nor what to expect.  It was some time before Jack could get
speech with one of the young men of the firm.

"How is it?" he asked.

"It's been a ---- of a time."

"And Henderson?"

"Oh, his estate is all right, so far as we know.  He was well out of the
Missouris."

"And the Missouri?"

"Bottom dropped out; temporarily, anyway."

"And my account?"

"Wiped out, I am sorry to say.  Might come up by-and-by, if you've got a
lot of money to put up, and wait."

"Then it's all up," said Jack, turning to the Major.  He was very pale.
He knew now that his fortune was gone absolutely--house, everything.

Few words were exchanged as they made their way back to the club.  And
here the Major did a most unusual thing for him.  He ordered the drinks.
But he did this delicately, apologetically.

"I don't know as you care for anything, but Wall Street has made me
thirsty.  Eh?"

"I don't mind if I do," Jack replied.

And they sat down.

The conversation was not cheerful; it was mainly ejaculatory.  After a
second glass, Jack said, "I don't suppose it would do any good, but I
should like to see Mavick."  And then, showing the drift of his thoughts,
"I wonder what Carmen will do?"

"I should say that will depend upon the will," replied the Major.

"She is a good-hearted woman," and Jack's tone was one of inquiry.

"She hasn't any, Jack.  Not the least bit of a heart.  And I believe
Henderson found it out.  I shall be surprised if his will doesn't show
that he knew it."

A servant came to the corner where they were sitting and handed Jack a
telegram.

"What's this?  Mavick?  "He tore it open.  "No; Edith."  He read it with
something like a groan, and passed it over to the Major.

What he read was this: "Don't be cast down, Jack.  The boy and I are
well.  Come.  Edith."

"That is splendid; that is just like her," cried the Major.  "I'd be out
of this by the first train."

"It is no use," replied Jack gloomily.  "I couldn't 'face Edith now.
I couldn't do it.  I wonder how she knew?"

He called back the servant, and penned as reassuring a message as he
could, but said that it was impossible to leave town.  She must not worry
about him.  This despatched, they fell again into a talk about the
situation.  After another glass Jack was firm in his resolution to stay
and watch things.  It seemed not impossible that something might turn up.

On the third day after, both the Major and Jack attended the funeral at
the house.  Carmen was not visible.  The interment was private.  The day
following, Jack left his card of condolence at the door; but one day
passed, and another and another, and no word of acknowledgment came from
the stricken widow.  Jack said to himself that it was not natural to
expect it.  But he did expect it, and without reason, for he should have
known that Carmen was not only overwhelmed with the sudden shock of her
calamity, but that she would necessarily be busy with affairs that even
grief would not permit her to neglect.  Jack heard that Mavick had been
in the city, and that he went to the Henderson house, but he had not
called at the club, and the visit must have been a flying one.

A week passed, and Jack received no message from Carmen.  His note
offering his services if she needed the services of any one had not been
answered.

Carmen was indeed occupied.  It could not be otherwise.  The state of
Henderson's affairs could not wait upon conventionalities.  The day after
the funeral Mr. Henderson's private secretary came to the house, and had
a long interview with Mrs. Henderson.  He explained to her that the
affairs should be immediately investigated, the will proved, and the
estate put into the hands of the executors.  It would be best for Mrs.
Henderson herself to bring his keys down to the office, and to see the
opening of his desk and boxes.  Meantime it would be well for her to see
if there were any papers of importance in the house; probably everything
was in the office safe.

The next morning Carmen nerved herself to the task.  With his keys in
hand she went alone into the library and opened his writing-desk.
Everything was in perfect order; letters and papers filed and labeled,
and neatly arranged in drawers and pigeonholes.  There lay his letter-
book as he had last used it, and there lay fresh memoranda of his
projects and engagements.  She found in one of the drawers some letters
of her own, mostly notes, and most of them written before her marriage.
In another drawer were some bundles of letters, a little yellow with age,
endorsed with the name of "Margaret."  She shut the drawer without
looking at them.  She continued to draw papers from the pigeon-holes and
glance at them.  Most of them related to closed transactions.  At length
she drew out one that instantly fixed her attention.  It was endorsed,
"Last Will and Testament."  She looked first at the date at the end--it

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