The Ideal Gentleman
A SHORT NOVEL,
TO BE PUBLISHED
IN TWO PARTS, BY
THE AUTHOR OF
"YOU CAN'T GET
AWAY FROM YOUR
LETTERS OF A JAPAN-
ESE SCHOOLBOY," ETC.
GEORGE O. BAKER
THIS is why Henry Brown, valet, abruptly quit the service of Ronald Hild, actor, for whom he had slaved for nine long years.
Henry, tall, lean, sallow, by race some fashion of cockneyized Latin, came late one night to the great man's dressing-room and revealed the cause of his irritating delay: his wife had brought forth a child a week ahead of expectations. Henry was nervously elated—something different from the doglike servitor Hild had patronized these many seasons.
"We're all in the lap of the gods," said the pompous actor as he penciled his lashes. "Didn't know you were married."
"Oh, yes sir," answered Henry, doing homage at his master's bootlaces. "She was Miss Leclaire, sir—you know—she danced in the nautch-girl scene, sir, before the 'ouse of the Sultan!"
"Oh!" Hild vaguely remembered a plainish little English person who had faded from view less than a year ago. "And what shall we name the heir apparent—Ronald Hild Brown, perhaps?"
"Oh no, begging your pardon, sir. I want to name him after a gentleman, sir."
Hild turned from his mirror and cast rebuking eyes at Henry.
"A good name come to me this arfternoon, Mr. 'Ild," the valet went on. "Sam, the program boy, gave it to me with some flowers to take to the 'ospital. Sam says, says he, '’Enry, it's too bad you'll be away to-night.' he says; 'it's going to he a great 'ouse. All the swells will be there. Because why? Because Mr. Norris J. Vanderhuyden, from Newport, will be occupying Box A, with 'is party.' Then the name come to me like a flash. Norris Vanderhuyden Brown—that's the proper title for my boy."
"Poor babe!" The actor made comic moan. "Blighted in infancy!"
"He needn't use it all at once, perhaps," Henry qualified. "He could just sign it 'Norris V.,' short-like, American style. But I'm very particular he should be named for Mr. Vanderhuyden, because that's the ideal gentleman I see him growing up to be—used to horses, yachts, 'ighbred ladies, everything that goes with the part. The boy mayn't have the means to do all that, Mr. Hild, but I want him to start with a name to admire. And he aint going to be raised a servant."
There was an embarrassed stiffness in the valet's manner as he eased his master into his waistcoat. "There's something else, sir, if you don't mind."
"Say on, my boy," responded Hild. He was growing a trifle wearied by Henry's confidences and preferred to keep his mind on himself.
"I wanted to ask if you'd take it unkind if I resigned my situation?"
"Going to quit me?" Hild was plainly astounded.
"It's not my own initiative, sir. You see, when I first began making up to Miss Leclaire that was, she took me for an actor, because you was so good as to let me come on the stage wearing a turban and say "Allah! Allah!' with the mob in the big Oriental scene. Yes sir, I was vain-like and let her think I was an actor."
"And she was disappointed to learn her husband was a valet?"
"Something awful! But it aint her so much I mind." The man's pose was drooping and awkward. "It's the baby. When I first looked at the little nipper lying there all bald and pink, something struck me hard, and I says: "No child of mine is ever going to be a servant or the son of a servant.' Maybe you'll understand, sir."
"Hand me my hat!" commanded Ronald Hild. "But what are you going to do, Henry?"
"I could start very small, indeed I could. Maybe you would be so kind as to find me a clerical situation, in the box-office counting tickets, perhaps?"
Hild was plainly indignant. He was going to lose a precious slave that the world might gain a human being. Also the pathetic appeal in Henry's voice incensed him as something unsuitable to the wooden life of a valet.
"Henry," he said, and his voice was not encouraging. "I've looked after you for quite a while, and I think its my duty to tell you the plain truth about yourself. Don't harbor any foolish delusions about life. Do your job and do it well; that's all God or man can ask of you. As a servant you're a dignified, human item; as something else, you'd be a cipher. Sometimes I'm tired to death of being an actor, but I refuse to take up law or portrait-painting, simply because I'm trained for another field. Think over your talents, Henry. You can make the greatest servant in the world, but you'll never be anything else, because the word servitude is blown in the glass of your character."
"You mean you can't help me, sir?" Henry Brown's face was very white, his lips pressed together, his eyes lowered.
"Don't be absurd, my boy," said Hild in a more kindly tone
"Then I fear I must give you two weeks' notice, sir."
"Oh, go at once if you like." The eminent actor extended his hand toward the doorknob, but his slave was there as usual to bow him out.
THE door with the scratched panels, overlooking the third dusty flight in Mrs. Macey's theatrical establishment, had closed upon many despairs and opened to many revelations. It was nearly two months now since Henry Brown had resigned his valetry. The wiry Mrs. Brown, counting the birth of her child as a mere incident in her life of trial and effort, had returned weeks ago to her nautch-girl allurements in Mr. Hild's romantic production. Seasoned to music-hall society, inured to hard knocks, she saw no reason in the world why she should not turn the care of her baby over to Lyla Moore, an unemployed dancer partner who occupied the room next the Browns at Mrs. Macey's. Meanwhile Henry's career as a business man had added nothing to his pride or hers. A friend had helped him to a chore-boy's job in the offices of a gas company—where he had worked two days, and found himself at last confusedly facing the traffic of Fourteenth Street, the insults of an angry superintendent ringing in his ears. He had applied for work as a subway guard, had stumbled through a misty day as supernumerary in a moving-picture rehearsal—and as a last disastrous adventure had bought a gross of electric-economy-flatirons, of which he had sold two and smuggled the rest under his white enameled bed in Mrs. Macey's boarding-house.
On a moist depressing night in early June he returned late. As he grasped the knob of the door with the scratched panel, he could hear the feeble, irritating cries of his child in the next room, coming brainlessly, with the squawk of a mechanical toy. Martha, his wife, was sitting in a sky-blue kimono at the foot of the bed. She was a very disagreeable woman, it struck him at that moment, her scant, stringy peroxide hair frowsled down her back. The valet in him, which admired aristocracy, saw instantaneously the pinched cruelty of her face, the coarseness of her complexion, her violence and fury. He said nothing at first, but hung his overcoat on the closet door.
"Well," she drawled, after an interval of provoking silence, "back again!" Her round china-blue eyes regarded him scornfully as she spoke.
"Who's minding the baby?" he asked sharply.
"Lyla Moore. She's just stepped out."
"What price that!" he growled, harking back to the water-front of Liverpool.
"Don't come the fatherly on me, Henry Brown," shrilled the woman "I don't see you providing much for care and comfort. Who's earning the bread and butter in this little home? If you want a fancy nurse for the baby, do it yourself. You ought to know, being a valet by trade."
Without a reply Henry Brown strode into the next room, where he found the plaintive Norris V. lying uncovered on Miss Moore's three-quarters bed. He lifted the child carefully in his arms, and the crying ceased. Thus burdened, he opened the door with the scratched panel and confronted his wife, the veins in the baby's white forehead showed blue, he could see, and there was something precociously apelike in the sickly face which puckered under the gaslight.
"Looks scrawny!" commented the husband:
"Takes after his father," drawled the wife.
"He's going to be a heap better than the old man," answered Henry doggedly as he pressed his burden tighter. "He'll have a chance, he will."
"What chance? What chance?" She turned her chair suddenly and faced him with all the splenetic fury of a thwarted cat. "When I married you, I thought you was an actor—a ham actor, perhaps, but something better than a valet."
"I aint a valet any more," replied Henry quietly. "I'm doing the best I can," he defended himself.
"Best you can! Why don't you swallow your servant's pride and go back to Mr. Hild? He's willing to take you—he knows what you're good for—a valet, a flunky."
"I wont do that." Henry Brown's servile face looked suddenly strong as he stood there defiantly holding his child. "I told him I wouldn't be a valet no more, and so I wont. I am proud, as you say."
"Run for Mayor of New York, if it does you any good!"
"I've got a good situation offered me. It aint what you or I wanted, perhaps, but there's good wages in it and a chance to make more, and I can rub up against important people and look around for something better."
"The Duke of Norfolk speaks." She arose from her chair, stiff and slovenly with the fatigue of her night's work. "You can't fool me, Henry Brown. I'm onto you, boots and wig. I saw what you brought into this room, so sly and quiet last night."
"Now, Martha!" protested Henry. He was white, and like a man preparing for a personal encounter, he laid his sleeping child carefully on the bed. With one indignant bound, the wife rushed to the closet. Too agile for Henry's obstructing hands, she reached into the depths and dragged forth a pasteboard box which she threw so violently into the room that it burst its cover, and its contents were scattered across the floor. It was a rumpled dress suit which lay at Henry's feet.
"You're going to be a waiter!" she screamed. "You're going to be a waiter!"
Henry Brown backed against the wall and regarded her for a long time with his pathetic, intelligent brown eyes.
"What if I am?" he said at last. "It's the swellest restaurant in New York—only temporary, just as I told you."
"Once a flunky, always a flunky," quoth Mrs. Henry Brown, slamming the closet door. "Meanwhile you're broke, and I'm being both father and mother to your precious child. We wont worry you and your high ambition much longer. Me and Lyla has signed a contract with the Alhambra, London, twelve pounds a week, split."
"Who takes care of our baby?" asked Henry, relaxing.
"Can you?" inquired his wife with rasping sarcasm. "No! You can fuss and rant all you please about his fine education, but when it comes to supplying the grub, it's me that does it. Go your way with those fancy dreams, Henry Brown! Work your way as high as you please by dint of your wonderful brain. Meanwhile I'm paying the rent and I'm boss; and I say git out—that's what I say."
The woman had worked herself up to a passion; her scrawny hair was straggling, her fair complexion violet with rage. Without a word, Henry Brown began drawing on his faded, greenish-blue overcoat. His hands trembling, his dark eyes swimming, he bent for a moment over the baby on the bed.
"Martha," he said at last, "you're a good sort when you aint crusty. Take good care of Norris V., old girl, and when I'm up in the world I'll come over with all that's needed and make a gentleman out of him."
Mrs. Henry Brown, whose features were set to a look of stony hate as she stood before the mirror, making a show of fixing her hair for the night, volunteered no comment.
"And Martha," he pleaded timidly as he laid a hand lightly on her arm, "don't you ever tell him—don't you ever let him know his father's been a servant."
"No fear," she drawled without looking around. "I wouldn't shame him with it."
MANY seasons ago Henry Brown's wife, raging querulously in a sordid boarding-house, had said to him: "Once a flunky. always a flunky." She was not an educated woman, but certainly she was a practical scholar of life; for eight round years after her scornful prophecy, her ambitious spouse was found, more carefully dress-suited now, and polished to the uses of his trade, standing in a group of waiter-captains just inside the gilt-emboweled dining-room of Tanquay's, New York's most favored restaurant.
Perhaps you were sufficiently prodigal to engage a table with magenta lights under a Flemish tapestry at Tanquay's during that period. If so, you would have encountered Henry Brown, but not by that name, for the public now addressed him as "Pierre." It was getting to be rather the thing to call for Pierre at Tanquay's; he was never officious and bustling as many captains of waiters are. He had a kind and modest way of adjusting himself to your appetite, and although he abhorred the artless feeders who insisted on onions with their venison, yet even here he made his distinctions in diplomatic shadings. For eight years Pierre had arisen at Tanquay's, steadily, easily, from 'bus-boy to captain, displaying always so perfect a feeling for his art that Alphonse, the famous head waiter, had twice recommended him to Mr. Tanquay himself.
Upon Pierre's rare absences from post, the most important diners at Tanquay's were getting into the habit of asking after his health. Fame can go little further. But had you observed the human unofficial, under-the-skin Pierre one November night as, in his public manner, he stood talking bad French to a group of servants just inside the florid door of Tanquay's dining-room, you would have seen that he was neither a contented nor a successful man. His deep-lined, homely face, more settled and worldly than of old, held the look of one who is mysteriously ashamed. In fact, Pierre, the waiter, was all very well; but Henry T. Brown, father of Norris Vanderhuyden Brown, had for these eight years been making weak excuses to his conscience.
To-night, as upon almost every night since his service at Tanquay's, Pierre was obliged to look the shameful fact between the eyes. He was unworthy to be the father of his son. Fate had poured him into a canal from which there was no divergent stream—and he was making good money unworthily in an atmosphere he detested.
It was rather before the dinner hour when Pierre stood thus in review of his regrets. Tablecloths were being adjusted, final touches being added to Tanquay's excellent dinner service. The staff of captains near the door and a few favored waiters gossiped and planned and quarreled. Alphonse the celebrated was not yet there to marshal his forces, and to this absence might be attributed the general laxity of discipline which caused 'bus-boys to slouch in corners, joking in Swiss German, and even the starchiest captains to indulge in sly confidences.
Suddenly there loomed in the doorway a Presence. All along the line there was a magic, psychological stiffening into discipline as though a kaiser had unexpectedly ridden upon a trench and found his soldiers shirking duty. The man at the door was short, stout, florid of complexion and attired in a suit of pin-check pattern. Mr. Tanquay seldom appeared in his dining-room, and his visits were epochal. His small gray eyes swept the space before him and settled finally upon the form of Pierre, standing with a correctly servile droop at his station beside the door. The proprietor crooked a fat finger, and the hosts of servitors quailed within as the one-time Henry Brown stepped forward and faced the man who owned his destiny.
"Pierre," said Mr. Tanquay in a quiet voice. "Alphonse is no longer with us."
"Yes sir." The proprietor eyed his employee critically for a look of unwaiterlike surprise.
"Hereafter you will take charge of the dining-room."
"Very good, sir."
Again the kingly eye of Mr. Tanquay swept his demesne, and without another word he turned on his heel, having thus lightly conferred upon Pierre a title which meant nobility in waiterdom.
Pierre stepped back into the dining-room and assumed his new leadership with modest efficiency. He realized that the head waiter whose successor he had so suddenly become had earned as much as thirty thousand a year in tips and perquisites—the eminence of his position had made him famous in two continents and a man to be envied.
" GOOD evening, Captain Annister!" A neat, slender, evening-clad figure, somewhat under middle age, stood in the doorway, and to this apparition Pierre bowed—if not lower, at least with more admiration than was his wont. Captain Cedric Annister, R. N. (retired with merit), cast his clear, gray, rather arrogant eyes over the dining-room and barely touched one tip of the well-twisted blond mustache which effectively divided his high-bridged, spirited nose from his small, sensitive mouth.
"Good evening, Pierre. A bit higher up, I see," Captain Annister said, smiling slightly; and Pierre knew that the Englishman, instinctive to all the arts of good living, had immediately sensed his promotion.
"Yes, Captain." Pierre in turn smiled discreetly and showed this favorite patron over to his regular table directly beneath the wounded knight in the Gothic tapestry. A gilt chair was pushed respectfully under Captain Annister's well-clad knees. Almost reverentially a menu-card was proffered to this epicure who, although he had frequented Tanquay's only for a matter of six months, had already established his prestige. Pierre's admiration for the man almost rivaled his idealization of that prince of gentlemen, Mr. Norris J. Vanderhuyden, after whom he had named his son and whose brilliant social career he had followed eagerly in newspapers and restaurant gossip. What won the heights of the waiter's regard for Captain Annister was his absolute taste in food and drink. His palate was attuned to the highest achievement in the culinary art—a fine cut or a rare bird cooked with loving regard for its natural flavor and served without the dishonorable mask of spiced sauces.
"The Southdown lamb is ready to-night, Captain Annister," Pierre announced as soon as the Captain was seated. "Of course, it's not on the card."
Annister looked at Pierre a moment, fixedly, coolly, after the manner of an officer inspecting the rank and file.
"I knew it was due—you see I am here to meet it," he replied at last, never moving his clear, fine eyes.
"You've been quite a stranger lately, sir. The place has missed you," Pierre was so bold as to venture.
"No doubt." There was no revealment in the Englishman's manner of reply. "Benoit did the lamb rather well last February when you had it here before. You might serve it with potatoes the way I fancy them, and also French peas as I have told you to do them—you know—cooked under glass."
"Mr. Tanquay has been very much impressed by the peas, Captain. He has had them named for you and put on the bill—petits pois Annister."
"Thank him for me." He turned (illegible text) that was (illegible text)
"Pierre, what sort of a cook do you think I would make?"
"Excellent!" replied Pierre solemnly. "But then a gentleman—"
"Wouldn't do that sort of thing?" Annister supplied by a query. "There have been more dishonorable professions. And Pierre, I'll have a pint of my usual brand." The wine thus lightly mentioned was from a private stock of claret opened only for a few of Tanquay's best patrons. "And mind you don't boil it as you did last time."
Pierre went about the business of gratifying the Captain's wishes to-night with especial gusto. In his new capacity as head waiter he felt a sense of increased responsibility toward the whims of this polished worldling to whom his waiter-soul ever paid tribute. His gentle, unobtrusive skill at snubbing subordinates without waste of words, his correct manner of requesting service, his air of breeding and the impression he so effortlessly conveyed of expending the interest from a substantial fortune without the braggadocio of extravagance—these were the merits which caused Pierre to sigh adoringly: "Ah, there's a gentleman!" And as he sighed, he thought of his son.
THE Captain's dinner was short, after the correct tradition of a gentleman about to go to the opera. When coffee was at last drawn from percolator to cup, the head waiter stood by the Captain's chair in an attitude which conveyed something beyond mere professional solicitude. The epicure set down his cup and granted the man at his side a look of approval.
"Excellent!" he said. "The lamb was very good—you might tell Bénoit."
"Thank you, sir," replied Pierre, more gratefully, perhaps, than the compliment required. "I appreciate that from you sir—and—" He advanced a nervous step nearer, for his important patron had paid his check and was making a movement as if to depart. "And, Captain Annister, if I might not seem to take advantage—"
"Yes, Pierre?" Two fine eyebrows were arched upward.
"Would it be taking too much of your valuable time if I told you something about myself? It would be only a minute, sir." He stood dazzled by his own temerity, realizing how serious the consequences might be for him should this exalted being choose to interpret this plea as an impertinence.
"I have a few minutes, Pierre. What is it?" Annister smiled.
"Alphonse is gone, as you noticed, sir, and I've been raised to head waiter here." He leaned somewhat closer and spoke rapidly, but with quite respect. "The rise is important to me, because I'll be rich, in a way, and I've got a son."
"That's fortunate for the little fellow, isn't it?" replied the Captain sympathetically.
"It should be, but I'm puzzled. You see, sir, my whole heart and soul was for that boy—but my wife took him away from me eight years ago and I promised her I'd never shame him by seeing him and letting him know I was a servant until I got out of this. His mother died last fall, and he's now in charge of an actress living in Paris. I'm still a servant, Captain—a successful one, if I might say so, but still a servant. And my kiddie must never know."
Had Captain Annister looked around, he would have beheld the story of all human misery in the man's face.
"I see," replied Annister without revealing any emotion.
"But I want him to be brought up proper. I want him to have the right clothes and manner. I want him to have class, to see everything and travel with the best people like he had a family to do him proud."
Captain Annister looked quizzically at the head waiter, who had lapsed into embarrassed silence.
"You're in a bit of a tangle, I take it," said the latter at last. "But then, it's jolly good luck you're making enough wages to support the little nipper."
"It's just that point which is bothering me, sir," Pierre resumed.
"Oh?" A slight turning in the chair indicated to the professional waiter that his customer was impatient to go. At the risk of committing a brash indecorum, Pierre went on:
"If it wouldn't be presuming, sir, I should like to ask some advice in regards to my boy."
"But what could I do?" asked the Englishman, looking away. He was obviously becoming annoyed.
"It's only a hint I'm asking, and I wouldn't bother you, except it's the sort of thing you'd know better than anybody. You see this sudden rise in—wages—makes it so I can do a lot more, just as you say, sir. And I was wondering if you didn't know, sir—I was wondering if you couldn't call to mind some gentleman out of funds who would undertake, for a good salary, to go over to Europe and make a gentleman out of my boy?"
Pierre's eyes were lowered, and he was making a fussy show of arranging the table. His request had been horribly disrespectful—that he sensed; and he should never have spoken so, had he not been desperate with the great sacrificial passion of his life. His suspicion was justified by the way in which Captain Annister took it.
"That's rather a queer thing to ask me!" he drawled, rising slowly and meting out just fee from the tray of small change on the table. Pierre, as he followed him out, bowing, saw a vision of sudden disgrace in this calamitous performance. This influential customer, annoyed by his unwaiterlike conduct, would report him to the management.
"Captain Annister, sir, I'm sorry," he managed to say.
"You needn't apologize," replied Annister stiffly, and strode out. Pierre stood among his subordinates, utterly forgetting the responsibilities of his position as forlornly he watched the black-clad figure of the man he reverenced as a superior being disappear into the lobby. So deep was Pierre's despondent abstraction that he was not aware of his surroundings until a Swiss captain of waiters addressed him deferentially in guttural French.
"Captain Annister wishes to see you outside."
"He has already reported me," thought Pierre gloomily as he followed his guide. "Mr. Tanquay will probably be waiting there too, and I'll get the pink ticket before everybody."
Somewhat to his relief, he discerned Captain Annister, swaddled in his fur-lined overcoat, standing alone on the strip of red carpet near the flower-stand. His expression, however, looked to be one of dignified severity.
"Pierre," he said loftily, as soon as the other had approached with proper respect, "that was a peculiar request, now, wasn't it—coming from a head waiter on duty?"
"Yes sir, I realize that, sir, and I apologize again." He spoke now without any professional reserve, and tears were plainly in his eyes. "I want you to see it the way I do, Captain. The boy's the only living thing in the world I ever loved or belonged to."
"As a matter of fact, Pierre," drawled Captain Annister with his usual lofty expression. "I've been considering the case very carefully—" There was a terrifying pause as though doom impended for the unrighteous. "I've been thinking your case over," he repeated, "and I've come to the conclusion that I can find the man you want."
"Oh, thank you, Captain!" mumbled Pierre, giddy with the joyful surprise of it.
"You want a gentleman temporarily embarrassed for funds, as you say. One who is used to the world, good living and spending money well, and all that sort of thing." Annister still spoke in that oddly constrained voice.
"Yes sir," replied Pierre eagerly. "He should teach my son how to get on with tiptop families. He should have (illegible text)
"Could you find the gentleman soon, sir?" Pierre pleaded.
"You can regard him as hired on the spot," Annister replied enigmatically.
"But Captain, perhaps he might not like the arrangement. If I might say so, who is the gentleman you suggest I employ to tutor my son?"
The Englishman fixed Pierre with his clear, condescending gaze; and his answer, when it came, was of such a nature as to shatter all Pierre's preconceived notions of the law of gravitation.
"The gentleman I have in mind," said Captain Annister, "is myself."
THE month was December, and four years had elapsed since Annister's peculiar reply. On the veranda of the Grand Hotel, overlooking the bay of Naples, sat Captain Annister this afternoon, attired in a riding suit. He was tired to-day, owing to several months of hard campaigning; and inwardly he wished that the boy, Norris Vanderhuyden Brown, might continue his jaunt with desirable companions an hour or so longer and thus leave him peace.
Casting indolent glances over the blue waters below. Annister permitted himself a feeling of pride. True, this wasn't the sort of work a gentleman would choose as a vocation, but he had fulfilled his office in the highest spirit of honor. He had worked four years with the boy, had used the nobly impoverished name of Annister in order to introduce Norris into the best of English schools, had employed Pierre's lavish allowances honestly in the places where it would do the most good, had taught the waiter's son to avoid base associates while shunning snobbish ideals.
This course had cost Pierre about three thousand pounds a year; and Annister, his eyes fixed upon sleepy Southern waters, wondered if the head waiter had not received more than his money's worth. For example, the Englishman had gone to no end of pains this week to introduce Norris to little Lord Thornkyl, through the Earl of Kraik, his father, whom the Captain had known at Harrow. "Not included in the contract," mused Annister with more than usual cynicism, as he called a waiter and decided that a dash of brandy would add consolation to the watery glass before him. The sacrifices he had made of his family name were indeed a heavy toll to pay for his good living. Yet the boy Brown, irrespective of origin, had won his way to the Captain's heart. Norris was growing up and learning to think for himself—to ask questions. Questions! How much longer could Annister continue with the sophistries he had chronically employed to ward off the evil hour? At any rate, Norris must never see his Esther, must never know himself as the son of a servant. …
A small boy in an Eton jacket and broad collar appeared through an obscure door and gazed eagerly about the veranda. He was a good-looking lad, with his father's Southern eyes and his mother's English complexion. He bore himself well, confidently, but without a swagger, and when he spoke, his words were accented in the London manner.
"Hello, Uncle Ced!"
"Ah, Norris! Sit down, my boy. Here's a letter for you—they've been holding it with our mail at Amalfi." The Captain handed a white square to the boy.
"It's from Father," said Norris. These epistles came at six-monthly intervals and were usually brief. Norris read this letter quietly and passed it over to his instructor. The stationery was of correct white bond, with the line "Henry T. Brown, New York," embossed at the head. The handwriting was of a too businesslike correctness, and ran:
My dearest son:
Are you well and attending to studies? Write me a lot more than you do, because you must remember your poor old daddy's lonesome away off from you and wants to know you're thinking about him as he's thinking about you all the time. I want you to mind Captain Annister and do everything he says. He is the finest gentleman I know, and can teach you all sorts of things which will make me proud of you.
I want your life to be full of happiness, dear boy—not the wrong kind of happiness which will bring you into bad company and low ideas, but the kind that makes you grow straight and not the servant of any man. Take plenty of exercise out of doors, the way the best people do. Learn how to be good to dependents under you without giving in too much. Keep your eyes always on the finest thoughts and deeds and appearances there are in the world. Let people instruct you, but don't let them boss you, and if you love me, my dearest son, never forget and always write to
Your affectionate father,
"Your father loves you a great deal," said Annister suddenly, regarding the boy.
"Then why doesn't he want to see me?" asked young Brown.
He was casting moody glances over the sea.
"Well, laddie, been jaunting about with Bobbie?" Annister inquired lightly, evasively. The Bobby referred to was the young Lord Thornkyl.
"Yes, Uncle Ced," replied the boy briefly.
"Hitting it off a bit well?"
"Rather a good sort," announced Norris. "Bobby travels about with his father quite a bit every year." His tone was again sinking to the minor key. "They're no end good pals. We've been talking about fathers."
"Bobby and you?" Annister pretended a vast serenity. The boy nodded.
"Bobby knows all about his father. He was Colonel in the Black Watch, and was promoted to Major General after the battle of Mafeking. They made him an Earl in nineteen hundred when his brother Clarence died, and—"
"My word! What have we here? The Almanach de Gotha?" chuckled Annister, but somewhat uncomfortably.
"Then Bobby began asking me about my father. I tried to think of something—something to say. Uncle Ced, I couldn't fib now, could I? So I just told him Father was a bit of a top-holer in the States."
"Right, my boy!" said the Captain.
"But he wasn't satisfied with just that. He said Americans made money in bally queer ways, and he wanted to know how Father got his. Bobby's a bit of a cad, I say!" the boy blurted out with sudden petulance.
"Tut! Tut!" the Captain admonished.
"And then he wanted to know—he wanted to know—" Norris V. was making manful effort to suppress ungentlemanly tears.
"Out with it, sonny!" Annister urged in a kindly tone.
"Oh, Uncle Ced—Father isn't in trade, is he?" The question came in a horrified half-whisper.
"In trade! Ha! Rather not!" The Captain leaned over and laid a gentle hand on the boy's shoulder.
"He holds a very high position—er—office in the States." Annister was as glib as possible. "I don't think it would be going too far to say that he is one of the most important men in New York. It's a bit hard to explain."
"Is he Lord Mayor of New York?" Norris asked hopefully.
"Well, not that, just." Annister stalled for a moment; then he added as by inspiration: "But he often entertains the Lord Mayor—mayor they call 'em over there—at his table. Your father's entertainments are famous, Norris. The President of the United States, the Duke of Connaught, great statesmen and celebrities—everybody that is anybody, I dare say, has dined with your father first and last."
"I'm glad you told me that, Uncle Ced." The boy thanked his tutor with his expressive eyes. Then suddenly:
"I say, Uncle Ced—Father hasn't done anything—wrong—has he?"
"Have a care, sonny!" Annister's tone was genuinely severe. "That sort of a thing isn't asked, you know."
"I'm sorry," said Norris, but he looked no less moodily out to sea.
The Captain, mindful of the sacrifices which father had made for son, turned again to his young ward, this time sternly.
"Of all honorable men I know, Pierre is—" he began, and clipped short his words. The boy's keen eyes were upon Annister's face.
"Pierre!" Norris caught up abruptly. The Captain averted his glance.
"Pierre!" repeated the boy more questioningly. Annister could not meet the searching gaze.
"Pierre—Pierre—ugh! Who's Pierre? You said that oddly. Pierre! That sounds like a head waiter. Half the head waiters in the world are Pierres." For a moment Norris paused. There was a heavy silence before the boy shot out: "Is my father known as Pierre, Uncle Ced?"
"Only to his intimates, lad," declared Annister, regaining himself.
A little longer those eyes lingered on the Captain's face; then Norris got up.
"Pierre," he repeated once more quietly, and walked away.
Annister remained seated by his glass as the boyish form disappeared through the small door. Annister wondered if he had not, in his honest, blundering English way, let out the secret which he had guarded for years.
Like some genie, respondent to his thoughts, a servant appeared through the same small door which had just swallowed up the boy. The servant laid a cablegram envelope on the table beside the Captain, who broke the seal and read:
Come back with Norris immediately.
So Henry Brown had chosen to break the wall of silence between himself and his son. Why?
[ Part II—from the August 1916 issue ]
MR. TANQUAY, a trifle more toadlike of figure, a carat more expensive of scarfpin than upon the day when first he tapped Pierre for knighthood in head-waiterdom, occupied broadly, patiently, the chintz-covered rocker which he had filled this long half-hour since the figure the door itself opened slowly at last, of Pierre, stooped, attenuated, bald-headed, had followed an attendant nurse behind the secretive mahogany door of Dr. Bendorp, fashionable specialist.
Mr. Tanquay pulled his mustache. He was conscience-stricken to reflect how he had overworked this important cog to his restaurant-machine. … He hoped Pierre wasn't going to be seriously ill, right in the midst of the big season.
Leaning against the bookshelves near the door, Mr. Tanquay permitted the leaves of Irving's "Sketch Book" to flutter through his fingers. Certainly the doctor was taking his time to it in there. There were long silences, and once he heard Pierre's voice speaking at length in what sounded like a pathetic monologue. Now came the squeak of casters rolling across the floor; again there was the subaqueous clatter of some instrument being sozzled in water, then more droning talk.
Pierre had done enormously well, reflected Mr. Tanquay; he had been an invaluable commercial asset, and this thought added a glow of warmth to his musings. His faithful head-waiter had cleaned up enormously in gratuities these four years. Sly old dog! What was he doing with his coin?
The voice of the physician behind the door rose to a stronger, more authoritative key; the click of steel against glass, too, became more insistent. Then the door itself opened slowly at last, and Pierre, followed by certain rumbling instructions from the dictator within, came forth into the reception-room.
"Anything serious?" inquired Mr. Tanquay, solicitously taking his friend's arm.
"Doctor's talk" grinned Pierre. "Nothing really wrong. Thinks I ought to take these." He waved a sheaf of prescription-blanks.
"It's ten-thirty," answered the restaurateur. "I've got a taxi outside and we can get in and spin around the Park."
Such a diversion was a novelty to the hard grind of Tanquay's, and Pierre wondered vaguely what the proprietor was scheming now. It was not until their vehicle had rounded the turn up Fifth Avenue that the subject was ventured.
"Brown—" said Mr. Tanquay, using Pierre's genuine name, as he always did, and laying a fat palm on his friend's lank knee.
"In the first place, Brown, I want to say it plain and simple—you're an exceptional man. That's why I picked you out."
"It's very obliging of you to speak that way," Pierre acknowledged, but without servility, because he never forgot that Tanquay had himself been a waiter.
"There's one thing has kept me puzzled about you for years." Tanquay stuck a black cigar under his mustache. "You're a riddle, Brown. Nearly all head-waiters get stuck on themselves sooner or later. In some of them it's a charm; in others it gets to be a positive nuisance. In your case I think it would add a lot to your manner—pride in your profession, Brown. The biggest actors have it; the leaders of society eat and drink—why, look at that doctor who just soaked you ninety dollars for a fifty-cent prescription. He's oozing with it. Now, why haven't you got any of it, Brown?"
"I'm only a servant, Tanquay." His voice was tired and sad.
"Only a servant! Why, man alive, don't you know you're the greatest servant in America? Traveling dukes and steel kings and theatrical managers ask for you and wont accept a substitute. In a year, Brown, I don't mind saying it now—there's a chance for you in the partnership."
"In a year?" echoed Pierre, and his voice seemed miles removed.
"In a money way, you've cleaned up a great deal more than I have, during the past season. The biggest swells in the land think it the compliment of their social career to have you bow to 'em and call 'em by name. Servant! Why, Brown, you're an ambassador."
"That's one way of looking at it," mused Pierre.
"I'm not criticising your style," Mr. Tanquay persisted. "But I'm just suggesting that something might get under your skin and make a lot more money for you, and me. You're a famous man, Brown. You're being watched and copied by head-waiters in the big European restaurants. You have done more to make Tanquay's the—the vogue than Bénoit's cooking or Burline Mahoney's roof-dancing."
Bright spots of color suddenly stood out from the pallor of the other man's cheeks.
"And that's what I'm getting at," Tanquay resumed. "This is booked to be the biggest season Tanquay's has ever known. Not only are we pulling most of the official banquets away from the other fellows, but society is tagging us for all the swell private dinners—d' you see? Christmas is coming pretty soon, and Santa Claus will have a big bag of tips for you, Brown—more than you ever made in your life. You're not in the game for your health, are you, Brown?"
"I'm educating my son," replied Pierre, coughing feebly. "I want to be able to put aside enough so he can live like a gentleman on the interest. I think I can retire next spring—" He checked himself suddenly. "That is, I hoped to quit that way."
Mr. Tanquay smiled a soft smile.
"We've got a prize-package of important dinners coming in the next two weeks—the very finest we've ever known." He held up five short, fat fingers and marked off with his thumb: "There's George L. Piper's dinner to the Secretary of the Treasury on Tuesday, Mrs. Anglis Ward's dinner-dance Wednesday; the Brooks and Lonrihans have engaged accommodations for the latter part of the week—every night of the week to come taken by something big."
"Very important," agreed Pierre, rubbing his hands and assuming an attitude of respectful attention.
"Ah, Brown, my boy!" The fat proprietor chuckled heartily and slapped Pierre across his hollow chest, "you wont call that important when I tell you what we've got for you a week from Friday!"
"The Democratic Club's banquet falls about—"
"Democratic Club!" jeered Tanquay. "Plutocratic Club, you'd better say. I'll give you two guesses."
"Never mind," was Pierre's short reply. "Who is it?"
"Norris J. Vanderhuyden—dinner for twenty."
It was as though a bomb had fallen through the window and burst in Pierre's lap. His model aristocrat, his Ideal Gentleman, the personage whom his son was named, would accept his offices at the most important dinner of the year!
"He asked for you especially," Tanquay went on. "He said, 'I must have Pierre serve it. There's only one Pierre!'"
"But he doesn't know me. I never served him." Pierre's speech was short and gasping.
"Everybody knows Pierre," laughed Tanquay. "And Brown, to have Mr. Vanderhuyden come like this to our place and order a dinner for twenty is the greatest compliment you or I ever had. He's entertaining the Duchess of Orncaster. And you know what it means to have Mr. Vanderhuyden give a dinner at a public restaurant."
"I remember once he told a reporter that a gentleman never dined more than six people at a public place. I'm very much obliged to him," murmured Pierre.
"There's only one Pierre," repeated Tanquay slowly, "and I want you to see what it means. I want this to be the big event of your life."
"Yes. It will be." Pierre was himself again, and something strangely more than himself.
The car was now warping toward the curb in front of Tanquay's. The proprietor took the headwaiter by an arm and helped him down.
"Working up a little pride now, Brown?" smiled Tanquay as they were parting near the elevator.
"You'd be surprised to know how much I have," replied Pierre, and took the lift to his office on the second floor
In this businesslike sanctum, with its rows of letter-files, its roll-top desk and clicking typewriter, Pierre might have assumed the dignity of a prosperous lawyer. Miss Gilfoyle, his stenographer, was copying menu cards, and on his desk were many opened letters.
Pierre, as he sat himself down to plan the day, looked upon his office and his desk and his mail through the eyes of a new philosophy. The letters before him were addressed simply: "Pierre, Tanquay's"—and he realized the sufficiency of it, for his was a great name. Had not that god of his idolatry, Mr, Vanderhuyden, said, "There is only one Pierre?" Yes. He made those, two syllables famous, like a trademark, his trademark, which he could capitalize for over forty thousand dollars a year. Even Vanderhuyden had to say "Pierre" to get service worthy his taste—everybody had to say it.
"And I am Pierre," thought the head-waiter suddenly, pride like a great flame illuminating that inner temple which was his ego.
"Miss Gilfoyle," he said feebly to his stenographer, "give these to a messenger and have them filled at once." Vaguely he presented the prescriptions which the doctor had written. "And, Miss Gilfoyle, before you go, take this cablegram and have it sent to Captain Cedric Annister, Grand Hotel, Naples:
"Come back with Norris immediately."
"Sign it 'Pierre,'" he added, and turned weakly to his desk.
CAPTAIN ANNISTER engaged rooms for himself and his pupil, and almost immediately thereafter took a taxicab for Tanquay's. He found Pierre, quite naturally, standing at his usual place just inside the gilt-embowered doorway, for it was now past the luncheon hour and there was little to do. True to caste, Pierre gave the Captain his customary bow of servile respect.
"How are you, Pierre?" asked the Englishman, looking around the dining-room, not a glance less arrogantly than of old.
"Good afternoon, sir. You've been a long time away," was Pierre's typical rejoinder.
"You've redecorated the room," Annister observed.
"Yes sir. Two years ago. Tanquay fancies red panelings, sir. Will you have your usual table, Captain?"
Captain Annister regarded Pierre. His cheeks were drawn and careworn, his hollow eyes eager; yet not a word had he broached about his family affairs which had brought Annister and the boy all the way from Europe.
"No, thank you," he said a bit more brusquely. "When can I talk to you?"
"In my office, Captain Annister, if you don't mind. I'll be free in five minutes."
Annister found the office empty, the stenographer gone. He stood inspecting the businesslike place when Pierre, in much less than the promised five minutes, entered upon this inspection.
"Where's my boy?" he asked breathlessly.
"I've brought him," said Annister. "We're registered at the Hotel Susquehanna."
"Is he well? Is he growing up?" came in a volley.
"He's an exceptionally fine lad, Pierre."
"Have you made a gentleman out of him?" The deep eyes glowed hungrily.
"He shows form, you might say."
"I'll tell you why I've sent for you." Pierre plunged into explanation. "Something's happened to me—going to happen—which makes it so I've got to see him soon or—maybe never."
"Health, you mean?" inquired Annister anxiously.
Pierre nodded his grayish head.
"Heart," he explained, sitting down and laying a clenched fit on his left side. "I've had two or three spells, and they took me to a big specialist last week. A man can't be sick as I am and be all right. He said I'd broken myself with hard work. Said that with a rest I might hang on a year or so, but that I couldn't keep on at this pace. It might strike me at any time, do you see? To-night or to-morrow or in a week."
"Man alive, you're going to rest!" exclaimed Annister.
"How?" he asked. "Who's able to take my place?"
"There's only one Pierre."
Something almost majestic in the way the man took the compliment astounded Annister.
"Pierre has become a name—capitalized, you might say," the head-waiter agreed quietly. "And I couldn't lay off this week or this month, because they're relying on me to arrange the Norris Vanderhuyden dinner. It will be the greatest job of my life."
"I saw in the papers it was coming." Annister looked curiously at Pierre. "And about your son?" he inquired.
"I'll tell you. All these years I've kept him away because I was ashamed of my—profession. But the time has come when he's got to know his father. And I've chosen to-night to break it to him. The dinner will be in the Peacock Room on the third floor. There's an alcove at one end with big curtains. I want you to take my boy up there, where he can't be seen, but can watch the affair. Don't you see?"
"Rather—not exactly," said Annister in a tone of puzzlement.
"I think you can understand, Captain Annister," Pierre replied a trifle testily. "You must know what my life-work means to me. I've come up from nothing to where I am. I want my son to see it that way, to see me at my best, managing the best dinner in New York for the finest gentleman in America. This will be the top-notch of my life-work, Captain, and I want my son to realize how big it is—to see his father at the climax of his career and be proud of him." Pierre's eyes were shining now with the enthusiasm of his dream.
"Very good—excellent!" was the Englishman's rather dry comment.
"Come in at the carriage entrance at eight o'clock. You'll find a page-boy waiting for you there. Tell him you're Captain Annister and he'll show you up."
"We'll be there on time, Pierre," Annister assured him, rising to go, for Pierre had turned toward his desk and was already going over the business of checking off orders to the florist for the great Vanderhuyden dinner.
"And Captain, please!" there was a touch of the old servility in Pierre's voice as he looked around, a pathetic yearning in his gaze. "Don't forget to keep my boy's attention on me."
IT was eight o'clock.
Sitting in semi-darkness behind the heavy curtains of deep blue velours, Annister and his pupil peeped forth into the exotic splendors of the high, vaulted Peacock Room Norris had, at first, quite properly objected to such a spying method of seeing American society: but the Captain, whose judgment he revered, had explained to him that this was a necessary detail in his social education. Before them, under the blaze of light-dripping chandeliers, they could see the great oval table, showing a greenish silk undercloth beneath a covering of Spanish lace; and on this ground arrayed, there glittered the diamond brightness of Tanquay's celebrated crystal. The boy's eyes, as he sat beside his tutor in the semi-darkness, were bulging with excitement to behold this luxurious picture, thrilling even to his sophisticated senses. The brilliant vault before the observers seemed galvanised with the magnitude of the event impending. Subordinates passed rapidly here and there, casting keen professional glances at each golden plate; a troupe of florists leaned carefully across the chairs, massing a great bank of remarkable lilies of a species only to be found in the Vanderhuyden greenhouses.
"When are they coming, Uncle Ced?" asked Norris in an awed whisper.
"Hush! They'll be here soon," came the reply of the man beside him in the dim light.
A moment later they beheld a tall, gaunt man in a dress suit at the door. Glancing once, eagerly, at the long blue curtains, he turned his master mind to the business of the evening, causing the assembled army of flunkies to stand at nervous attention while he gave sharp instructions. partly in English, partly in bad French.
"Who is he?" asked the boy behind the curtain.
"Why—er—he is the gentleman who is giving the dinner," said Annister.
"Oh, Uncle Ced, you're ragging me," laughed the boy. "He isn't a gentleman. He's a head-waiter. He's got on the wrong sort of cravat, for a gentleman."
"Well, he's giving the dinner, in a manner of speaking," Annister hedged, "I want you to watch him closely. He's the most famous head-waiter in America."
"That will he amusing, wont it, Uncle Ced?" The boy's eyes were glued on the door, for all the waiters in the room whipped napkins over forearms like a comic-opera chorus awaiting the rise of the curtain. Pierre at the floor was gazing down the hall, and his watchers could see how the movement of his eyes presaged the coming event. Laughter could he heard afar, outside the great door at the opposite end of the room; then a company of evening-clad people brightened the Peacock Room. It was at this moment that Captain Annister, from his point of ambush, was amazed to see the contrast between the feeble, ailing Pierre of the afternoon and the keen-eyed, efficient, affable director of to-night. Like a corps of intelligent automata, his waiters had sprung to chair-backs; and Pierre himself, his careful pose suggesting capability in a great man's service, stood easing a chair under the knees of the handsome, red-faced, dissipated-looking man who sat at the head of the table. It was easy tn read irritation in the pleasure-softened features of the host. As he turned to give his first instruction to the head-waiter at his elbow, the watchers behind the curtain could catch a querulous note. The man's mood seemed to communicate itself to his guests, and there was an air of restraint around the table.
"What's wrong, Uncle Ced?" asked the boy. "That chap doesn't know how to treat a servant."
"But the servant knows how to treat that chap," put in the Captain. Pierre's manner in the situation was that of a trained ambassador soothing the mood of a petulant prince.
A sudden fear filled Annister's mind that this affair, almost deliberately designed to he the show-event of Pierre's life, was in danger of becoming a wretched fiasco before the eyes of the person whose esteem he most valued.
"Who is the tall lady with the pearls?" asked Norris.
"The Duchess of Orncaster. But look, my boy. The headwaiter is serving the soup. He's no end good form at that."
Although Pierre stood impressively, gracefully at the sideboard, sweeping his commands with broad gestures of his lean hands as his little army advanced with the precious liquid which Annister knew, must have cost the host something over two dollars a plate, the boy in hiding persisted in studying the gay oval of jeweled coiffures and white shirt-bosoms. In a sudden rush of sympathy, Annister noted how flat-footed Pierre had become through continued years of standing while the gentry dined, but his manner of spinning toe and heel, right about face, to render new attention to the head of the table and his guests, was a classic for all head-waiters to copy.
"What's his name?" asked Norris finally.
"Pierre," responded Annister.
"Pierre!" The boy shot one of his searching glances at his guardian, and then for a moment was silent.
"Who is the gentleman who is giving the dinner?" he asked presently.
"He's a Mr. Vanderhuyden," replied Annister shortly.
"Oh, Uncle Ced. That's my middle name. He's in a beastly funk, isn't he?"
The dinner went on stiffly for several courses, Pierre serving with the precision of an automaton but rewarded by scant courtesy from the head of the table. Matters were certainly not improving when a bungling assistant dropped a goblet directly behind Vanderhuyden's chair. The magnificent one did not deign a glance around, but even Pierre's arch diplomacy could not mask the pervading horror as the fragments were being swept away.
"Poor old duffer," said the boy behind the curtain. Annister merely grunted a reply.
"Hush," he said a moment later, for it was apparent by an atmosphere of impending drama that one of the great ceremonials in the ritual of digestion was about to take place. Waiters were already arranging themselves at the sideboard. Through the service door, two uniformed boys reverentially propelled a silvered wagon with an enormous domelike cover.
If Pierre's professional poise had been in any way disturbed by the earlier catastrophes of the evening, it was now completely restored; for with the flourish of a field marshal, Pierre ordered his assistants to roll the silver wagon beside Vanderhuyden's omnipotent place. No hands but Pierre's were to lift that domelike cover. Pierre stepped to the high ceremony, leaned devotedly and rolled back the heavy lid, every one of his ten fingers expressing extreme devotion. Meanwhile his eyes were focused upon Vanderhuyden's face with a solicitude that was technically perfect.
Vanderhuyden. looking down, regarded the dish critically, coldly, arrogantly. Something in the wrinkle of his rather disagreeably formed nose caused a flush to mount to the jowls of the Englishman observing him from behind the curtain.
"See, Pierre is serving the roast," he whispered to Norris.
Annister could see the boy's glance rove for for a moment to the black-clad man at the sideboard who, never descending from his pose as a public functionary, yet laid the knife on the tender meat with all the inevitable science of a practiced surgeon. Noiselessly, swiftly, he permitted the slices to fall to their proper plates; nimble hands were there to bear away each savory portion. Momentary vivacity seemed to thrill through the room as the Lucullan luxury was served to the accompanying sparkle of champagne. Annister's eyes followed the movements of Pierre, who with extra skill bore a portion to Vanderhuyden 's place.
Everything within the well-bred Englishman had naturally revolted at the gaucherie of this man whom he had heard so broadly advertised as a model for the American haut monde. But Vanderhuyden's conduct now raised the Captain's blood to boiling point. Without taking the trouble to lift knife or fork, the great man sat staring at the Southdown lamb as if the slaughtered animal itself had done him a personal insult. The guests were chaffing idly among themselves. The Duchess of Orncaster was flirting with the man to her right. Waiters were passing sauces around the table. Suddenly out of the polite orderliness of the room, a high, petulant whine arose in a half falsetto.
"Oh, dear me, Pierre!"
"Yes sir!" Pierre was standing at Vanderhuyden's elbow. His pose was technically correct, but Annister could not overlook the suggestion of an added droop to his already sloping shoulders.
"Pierre," began Vanderhuyden in a voice so strident that not even his most polite guest could escape overhearing. "Pierre, what does this mean?" He held up his plate.
"Isn't it as you like it, sir?" asked Pierre, taking one edge of the plate with gingerly fingers.
"No," he said abruptly said turning to the Duchess: "I must apologize for Pierre to-night."
The woman turned compassionate eyes upon the head-waiter, who seemed suddenly to have grown fifteen years older. "I think everything is beautifully done," she replied, addressing Pierre, "—excellently served."
Pierre moved his lips, but no words came. "I wish you'd tell Tanquay," pursued Vanderhuyden, wriggling around in his chair to face Pierre, "what I've just said. I've taken great pains to raise this mutton for my table. This is the second time there's been some kind of a substitution."
"I beg pardon, sir," interrupted Pierre humbly, "I saw it arrive myself Tuesday, It was on the Baltic under your own seal."
The boy's eyes and Annister's were fastened upon Pierre. At that moment his whole frame seemed to weaken as under an insidious blow. Norris' hand pressed on the Captain's sleeve: "I think he's ill, Uncle Ced," he whispered. "Can't we—"
"Hush!" said Annister, patting the boy's shoulder.
Vanderhuyden's rasping voice reached the pitch of self-satisfied egotism. "Pierre," he went on, "I want you to understand you can't foist this sort of thing upon discriminative people. Remove the plates, please."
"I think I can get you a better cut," persisted Pierre, and not to be daunted in the pride of his profession and in his pride for Tanquay's, he turned soldier-like upon his heel toward the silver wagon. Assistants had supplied another plate. Poising his knife with the most delicate precision, Pierre selected two morsels of the precious meat, laid them upon the plate, surrendered his carving tools majestically to subordinates; and it was a momentarily revitalized Pierre who began a stately progress toward his patron.
He had gone five steps. A few yards from Vanderhuyden's elbow, he was seen to flag, pause, half totter—
"What's up?" breathed Annister behind the curtain. The boy's clutch tightened. Pierre was the vision of a stricken man. His thin knees gave; his body quivered, every muscle tense and tortured as though by a high electric voltage. The plate crashed from his hand, and his body after it.
AS if by magic, the room had been cleared of its guests. A knot of waiters, the house physician, Tanquay himself, were gathered around the long and prostrate form upon the floor. Behind the curtain the boy was struggling against Annister's restraining arm with all the ferocity of a little wild animal.
"I want to go to him, I want to go to him," he was shrieking. "I want to go to my father."
The Captain, as he held a big gentle hand on Norris' shoulder, looked into the boy's agonized face and suddenly realized that the fostered lie of many years was a failure. The truth was out.
"Go ahead!" he said gruffly. And the words were scarcely out before the boy had bounded into the center of the great room and wedging himself in through the tangled group surrounding the fallen man, had thrown himself at his father's side.
"Pierre! Pierre!" he sobbed. "I know—I know; this is Norris!"
The eyes of the old man—for he was an old man now—opened. He looked upon his son.
"You know?" he repeated feebly. His chest heaved to abnormal proportions in his fight for air. His lips were blue and damp. His somber eyes searched wildly. "You know?" he asked again. "And did I do my work—well?"
"Wonderfully, Father—wonderfully!" said the boy brokenly.
A look of joy and peace relaxed the dying man's features as vainly he sought to raise a hand to his son's shoulder.
"Captain Annister—finest man I ever knew—-did he make a gentleman out of you?"
"I hope so, Father."
The ghostly shadow of a smile passed over Pierre's face. "A gentleman—like Mr. Vanderhuyden?"
"No, Father, no!"
There was inquiry in Pierre's eyes, although his lips moved helplessly. Norris read the look. He leaned close to his father's ear.
"No, not like that," he said. "Like you."
"Thank God, you said it," whispered Annister as he led the boy away.
Copyrighted, 1916, by The Story-Press Corporation. All rights reserved.