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Left thus to himself, Robert continued to thinkfor himself. The same faculties that had servedJohn a generation earlier now served Robert.John had forgotten that when a young man he hadnever let anybody think for him, and the energythat had once made John, also made his younger nephew.
The shrewdness that had once overcomecompetition by war now united with competitors toovercome the public by peace. The real objectof industrial endeavor being to make money, awhite-winged and benevolent peace, as Nelsontermed it, should be the policy of all interestsconcerned. And after many hard words, peace witheighty per cent. of the business was usually achievedby the united Kimberlys.
It had cost something to reach this situation; and now that the West had come into the sugarworld it became a Kimberly problem to determinehow the new interests should be taken care of.
On the morning that Charles called he foundUncle John in his chair. They sent for Robert, and pending his appearance opened the conference.At the end of a quarter of an hour Robert hadnot appeared. Charles looked impatiently at hiswatch and despatched a second servant to summonhis brother. After twenty-five minutes a third callwas sent.
During this time, in the sunniest corner of thesouth garden, sheltered by a high stone wallcrested with English ivy and overgrown withclimbing roses, sat Robert Kimberly indolentlywatching Brother Francis and a diminutive Skyeterrier named Sugar.
Sugar was one of Kimberly's dogs, but Francishad nursed Sugar through an attack after thekennel keepers had given him up. And the littledog although very sick and frowsy had finallypulled through. The intimacy thus establishedbetween Sugar and Francis was never afterwardbroken but by death.
In this sunny corner, Kimberly, in a loose, brownsuit of tweed, his eyes shaded by a straw hat, satin a hickory chair near a table. It was thecorner of the garden in which Francis when off dutycould oftenest be found. A sheltered walk ledto the pergola along which he paced for exercise.Near the corner of the wall stood an oak. And abench, some chairs and a table made the spotattractive. Sugar loved the bench, and, curled upon it, usually kept watch while Francis walked.On cold days the dog lay with one hair-curtainedeye on the coming and going black habit. Onwarm days, cocking one ear for the measured step,he dozed.
Francis, when Sugar had got quite well, expressed himself as scandalized that the poor doghad never been taught anything. He possessed, his new master declared, neither manners noraccomplishments, and Francis amid other dutieshad undertaken, in his own words, to make aman of the little fellow.
Robert, sitting lazily by, instead of attendingthe conference call, and apparently thinking ofnothing-though no one could divine just whatmight be going on under his black-bandedhat-was watching Francis put Sugar through some ofthe hard paces he had laid out for him.
"That dog is naturally stupid, Francis-all mydogs are.They continually cheat me on dogs,"said Kimberly presently. "You don't think so?Very well, I will bet you this bank-note," he tookone from his waistcoat as he spoke, "that youcannot stop him this time on 'two'."
"I have no money to bet you, Robert."
"I will give you odds."
"You well know I do not bet-is it not so?"
"You are always wanting money; now I willbet you the bank-note against one dollar, Francis, that you cannot stop him on 'two'."
Francis threw an eye at the money in Kimberly'shand. "How much is the bank-note, Robert?"
"One hundred dollars."
Francis put the temptation behind him. "Youwould lose your money. Sugar knows how tostop. In any case, I have no dollar."
"I will bet the money against ten cents."
"I have not even ten cents."
"I am sorry, Francis, to see a man receiving aslarge a salary as you do, waste it in dissipationand luxury. However, if you have no money, Iwill bet against your habit."
"If I should lose my habit, what would I do?"
"You could wear a shawl," argued Kimberly.
"All would laugh at me. In any case, to betthe clothes off my back would be a sin."
"I am so sure I am right, I will bet the moneyagainst your snuff-box, Francis," persisted Kimberly.
"My snuff-box I cannot bet, since CardinalSantopaolo gave it to me."
"Francis, think of what you could do for yourgood-for-nothing boys with one hundred dollars."
Francis lifted his dark eyes and shook his head.
"I will bet this," continued the tempter, "againstthe snuff in your box, that you can't stop him thistime on 'two'."
"Sugar will stop on 'two'," declared Francis, now wrought up.
"Dare you bet?"
"Enough! I bet! It is the snuff against themoney. May my poor boys win!"
The sunny corner became active. Kimberlystraightened up, and Francis began to talk toSugar.
"Now tell me again," said Kimberly, "what thisverse is."
"I say to him," explained Francis, "that thegood soldier goes to war-"
"I understand; then you say, 'One, two, three!'"
"When you say 'three,' he gets the lump?"
"But the first time you say the verse you stopat 'two.' Then you repeat the verse. If the dogtakes the lump before you reach the end thesecond time and say 'three'-"
"You get the snuff!" Francis laid the box onthe table beside Kimberly's bank-note.
"Sugar! Guarda!" The Skye terrier sat uprighton his haunches and lifted his paws. Francisgave him a preliminary admonition, took from amysterious pocket a lump of sugar, laid it on thetip of the dog's nose, and holding up his finger, began in a slow and clearly measured tone:
But here Sugar, to Francis's horror, snappedthe lump into his mouth and swallowed it.
"You lose," announced Kimberly.
Francis threw up his hands. "My poor boys!"
"This is the time, Francis, your poor boys don'tget my money. I get your snuff."
"Ah, Sugar, Sugar! You ruin us." The littleSkye sitting fast, looked innocently and affectionatelyup at his distressed master. "Why," demandedthe crestfallen Francis, "could you notwait for the lump one little instant?"
"Sugar is like me," suggested Kimberly lazily,"he wants what he wants when he wants it."
Alice, this morning, had been deeply in histhoughts. From the moment he woke he had beentoying indolently with her image-setting it upbefore his imagination as a picture, then puttingit away, then tempting his lethargy again with thepleasure of recalling it.
He drew a cigar-case from his pocket and carefullyemptied the snuff out of the box into it."When do you get more snuff, Francis?"
"This is Tuesday. The box is nearly full. Itlooks like good stuff." He paused between eachsentence. "But you would bet."
Francis without looking busied himself withhis little pupil.
"I have emptied the box," announced Kimberly.There was no answer. "Do you want anyof it back?"
Francis waved the offer aside.
"A few pinches, Francis?"
"That dog," continued Kimberly, rapping thebox to get every grain out and perceiving theimpossibility of harrying Francis in any other way,"is good for nothing anyway. He wasn't worthsaving."
"That dog," returned Francis earnestly, "isa marvel of intelligence and patience. He has sosweet a temper, and he is so quick, Robert, tocomprehend."
"I fail to see it."
"You will see it. The fault is in me."
"I don't see that either."
Francis looked at Kimberly appealingly andpointed benevolently at Sugar. "I ask too muchof that little dog. He will learn. 'Patience,Francis,' he says to me, 'patience; I will learn.'"
Summoning his philosophy to bridge over thedisappointment, Francis, as he stood up, absent-mindedly felt in his deep pocket for his snuff-box.It was in difficulties such as this that recourse toa frugal pinch steadied him. He recollectedinstantly that the snuff was gone, and with somehaste and stepping about, he drew out hishandkerchief instead-glancing toward Kimberly as herubbed his nose vigorously to see if his slip hadbeen detected.
Needless to say it had been-less than thatwould not have escaped Kimberly, and he wasalready enjoying the momentary discomfiture.Sugar at that moment saw a squirrel runningdown the walk and tore after him.
Francis with simple dignity took the emptysnuff-box from the table and put it back in hispocket. His composure was restored and theincident to him was closed.
Kimberly understood him so well that it was nothard to turn the talk to a congenial subject. "Idrove past the college the other day. I see yourpeople are doing some building."
Francis shrugged his shoulders. "A laundry, Robert."
"Not a big building, is it?"
"We must go slow."
"It is over toward where you said the academyought to go."
"My poor academy! They do not think itwill ever come."
"You have more buildings now than you havestudents. What do you want with more buildings?"
"No, no. We have three hundred students-threehundred now." Francis looked at hisquestioner with eyes fiercely eager. "That isthe college, Robert. The academy is somethingelse-for what I told you."
"What did you tell me?" Kimberly lighteda cigar and Francis began again to explain.
"This is it: Our Sisters in the city take nowsixteen hundred boys from seven to eight yearsold. These boys they pick up from the orphancourts, from the streets, from the poor parents.When these boys are twelve the Sisters cannotkeep them longer, they must let them go and takein others.
"Here we have our college and these boys areready for it when they are sixteen. But, betweenare four fatal years-from twelve to sixteen. Ifwe had a school for such boys, think what wecould do. They would be always in hand; now, they drift away. They must go to work in thecity filth and wickedness. Ah, they need theprotection we could give them in those terriblefour years, Robert. They need the training inthose years to make of them mechanics andartisans-to give them a chance, to help them to domore than drift without compass or rudder-doyou not see?
"Those boys that are bright, that we find readyto go further, they are ready at sixteen for ourcollege; we keep and educate them. But theothers-the greater part-at sixteen would leaveus, but trained to earn. And strengthenedduring those four critical years against evil. Ah!"
Francis paused. He spoke fast and with anintensity that absorbed him.
Kimberly, leaning comfortably back, sat withone foot resting on his knee. He knocked theash of his cigar upon the heel of his shoe ashe listened-sometimes hearing Francis's words, sometimes not. He had heard all of them beforeat one time or another; the plea was not new tohim, but he liked the fervor of it.
"Ah! It is not for myself that I beg." BrotherFrancis's hands fell resignedly on his knees. "Itis for those poor boys, to keep them, Robert, fromgoing to hell-from hell in this world and in thenext. To think of it makes me always sorrowful-itmakes a beggar of me-a willing beggar."
Kimberly moved his cigar between his lips.
"But where shall I get so much money?"exclaimed Francis, helplessly. "It will take amillion dollars to do what we ought to do. You area great man, Robert; tell me, how shall I find it?"
"I can't tell you how to find it; I can tell youhow to make it."
"Go into the sugar business."
"Then I must leave God's business."
"Francis, if you will pardon me, I think for aclever man you are in some respects a great fool.I am not joking. What I have often said aboutyour going into the sugar business, I repeat. Youwould be worth ten thousand dollars a year to me, and I will pay you that much any day."
Francis looked at Kimberly as if he were amadman, but contented himself with moving his headslowly from side to side in protest. "I cannotleave God's business, Robert. I must work forhim and pray to him for the money. Sometimeit will come."
"Then tell Uncle John to raise your wages,"suggested Kimberly, relapsing into indifference.
"Robert, will you not sometime give me a letterto introduce me to the great banker who comeshere, Hamilton?"
"He will not give you anything."
"He has so much money; how can he possiblyneed it all?"
"You forget, Francis, that nobody needs moneyso much as those that have it."
"Hamilton may have no more money than Ihave, and you don't ask me for a million dollars."
"It is not necessary to ask you. You know Ineed it. If you could give it to me, you would."
"If I gave you a million dollars how should Iever get it back?"
Francis spoke with all seriousness. "God willpay you back."
"Yes, but when? That is a good deal of moneyto lend to God."
"It is a good deal."
"When do I get it back, and how?"
"He will surely pay you, Robert; God pays over there."
"That won't do-over there. It isn't honest."
Francis started. "Not honest?"
"You are offering deferred dividends, Francis.What would my stockholders say if I tried thatkind of business? Gad, they would drag me intocourt."
"Ah, yes! But, Robert; you pay for to-day: he pays for eternity."
Kimberly smoked a moment. "In a propositionof that kind, Francis, it seems to me the questionof guarantees is exceedingly important. You goodmen are safe enough; but where would the badmen come in on your eternal dividends?"
"You are not with the bad men, Robert. Yourheart is not bad. You are, perhaps, cruel-"
"But generous. Sometime God will give youa chance."
"You mean, sometime I will give God a chance."
"No, Robert, what I say I mean-sometime,God will give you a chance."
Charles Kimberly's impatient voice was heardfrom the pergola.
"Robert! We've been waiting thirty minutes,"he stormed.
"I am just coming."
That afternoon MacBirney played golf withCharles Kimberly. Toward five o'clock,Alice in one of the De Castro cars drove around toThe Hickories after him. When he came in, shewas sitting on the porch with a group of women, among them Fritzie Venable and Lottie Nelson.
"I must be very displeasing to Mrs. Nelson,"Alice said to her husband as they drove away."It upsets me completely to meet that woman."
"Why, what's the matter with her?" askedMacBirney, in a tone which professing friendlysurprise really implied that the grievance mightafter all be one of imagination.
"I haven't an idea," declared Alice a littleresentfully. "I am not conscious of having done athing to offend her."
"You are oversensitive."
"But, Walter, I can tell when people mean to be rude."
"What did Mrs. Nelson do that was rude?"asked her husband in his customary vein ofscepticism.
"She never does anything beyond ignoringme," returned Alice. "It must be, I think, thatshe and I instinctively detest each other. Theywere talking about a dinner and musicaleThursday night that Mr. Robert Kimberly is giving atThe Towers. Miss Venable said she supposedwe were going, and I had to say I really didn'tknow. We haven't been asked, have we?"
"Not that I know of."
"Mrs. Nelson looked at me when Fritzie spoke;I think it is the first time that she ever has lookedat me, except when she had to say 'good-morning'or 'good-evening.' I was confused a littlewhen I answered, I suppose; at any rate, sheenjoyed it. Mr. Kimberly would not leave us out, would he?"
"I don't think so. He was playing golf thisafternoon with Cready Hamilton, and he stoppedto offer me his yacht for the week of the cup races."
"Why, how delightful! How came he ever todo that?"
"And I think he has made up his mind what heis going to do about placing me on the board,"continued MacBirney, resuming his hard, thinmanner and his eager tone of business. "I wishI knew just what is coming."
Alice had scarcely reached her room when shefound the dinner invitation. She felt a little thrillof triumph as she read it. Her maid explainedthat the note had been laid in the morning withMrs. De Castro's letters.
Late in the evening Kimberly came over withhis sister-in-law, Imogene. The De Castros wereat the seashore overnight and the visitors' cardswere sent up to the MacBirneys. It was warmand the party sat on the south veranda.Kimberly talked with Alice and she told him theyhoped to be present at his dinner.
"You are sure to be, aren't you?" he asked."The evening is given for you."
"No, not for 'us,' but for you," he saiddistinctly. "Mr. MacBirney has said he is fondof the water-you like music; and I am tryingsomething for each of you. I should have askedyou about your engagements before the cardswent out. If there is any conflict the date caneasily be recalled."
"Oh, no. That would be a pity."
"Not at all. I change my arrangements whennecessary every ten minutes."
"But there isn't any conflict, and I shall bedelighted to come. Pray, how do you know I likemusic?"
"I heard you say so once to Arthur De Castro.Tell me what you are amused about?"
"Have I betrayed any amusement?"
"For just about the hundredth part of a second,in your eyes."
They were looking at each other and his gazethough within restraint was undeniably alive.Alice knew not whether she could quite ignore itor whether her eyes would drop in an annoyingadmission of self-consciousness. She avoided thelatter by confessing. "I am sure I don't know atall what you are talking about-"
"I am sure you do, but you are privileged notto tell if you don't want to."
"Then-our dinner card was mislaid and untilto-night we didn't know whether-"
"There was going to be any dinner."
"Oh, I knew that. I was at the Casino thisafternoon-"
"I saw you."
"And when I was asked whether I was goingto the dinner at The Towers I couldn't, of course, say."
"Who asked you, Mrs. Nelson?"
"No, indeed. What made you think it was she?"
"Because she asked me if you were to be there.When I said you were, she laughed in such a wayI grew suspicious. I thought, perhaps, for somereason you could not come, and now I amconfessing-I ran over to-night expressly to find out."
"Rather ridiculous of me not to know before-hand."
"I don't mean that-just queer little complications."
"A mislaid dinner-card might be answerablefor more than that."
"It was Miss Venable who asked, quite innocently.And had I known all I know now, I couldhave taken a chance, perhaps, and said yes."
"You would have been taking no chance wheremy hospitality is concerned."
"Thank you, Mr. Kimberly, for my husbandand myself."
"And you might have added in this instancethat if you did not go there would be no dinner."
Alice concealed an embarrassment under a littlelaugh. "My husband told me of your kindness inplacing your yacht at our disposal for the races."
"At his disposal."
"Oh, wasn't I included in that?"
"Certainly, if you would like to be. But tastesdiffer, and you and Mr. MacBirney being two-"
"Oh, no, Mr. Kimberly; my husband and I are one."
" – and possibly of different tastes," continuedKimberly, "I thought only of him. I hope itwasn't ungracious, but some women, you know, hate the water. And I had no means of knowingwhether you liked it. If you do-"
"And you are not going to the races, yourself?"
"If you do, I shall know better the next timehow to arrange."
"And you are not going to the races?"
"Probably not. Do you like the water?"
"To be quite frank, I don't know."
"I like the ocean immensely, but I don't knowhow good a sailor I should be on a yacht."
Imogene was ready to go home. Kimberlyrose. "I understand," he said, in the frank andreassuring manner that was convincing becausequite natural. "We will try you some time, upthe coast," he suggested, extending his hand."Good-night, Mrs. MacBirney."
"I believe Kimberly is coming to our side,"declared MacBirney after he had gone upstairswith Alice.
Annie had been dismissed and Alice was braidingher hair. "I hope so; I begin to feel like aconspirator."
MacBirney was in high spirits. "You don'tlook like one. You look just now likeMarguerite." He put his hands around her shoulders, and bending over her chair, kissed her. Thecaress left her cold.
"Poor Marguerite," she said softly.
"When is the dinner to be?"
"A week from Thursday. Mr. Kimberly saysthe yacht is for you, but the dinner is for me,"continued Alice as she lifted her eyes toward herhusband.
"Good for you."
"He is the oddest combination," she musedwith a smile, and lingering for an instant onthe adjective. "Blunt, and seemingly kind-hearted-"
"Not kind-hearted," MacBirney echoed, incredulously. "Why, even Nelson, and he'ssupposed to think the world and all of him, calls himas cold as the grave when he wants anything."
Alice stuck to her verdict. "I can't help whatNelson says; and I don't pretend to know howMr. Kimberly would act when he wants anything.A kind-hearted man is kind to those he likes, anda cold-blooded man is just the same to those helikes and those he doesn't like. There is alwayssomething that stands between a cold-bloodedman and real consideration for those he likes-andthat something is himself."
Alice was quite willing her husband should applyher words as he pleased. She thought he hadgiven her ample reason for her reflection on thesubject.
But MacBirney was too self-satisfied to perceivewhat her words meant and too pleased with thesituation to argue. "Whatever he is," heresponded, "he is the wheel-horse in thiscombination-everybody agrees on that-and the friendshipof these people is an asset the world over. Ifwe can get it and keep it, we are the gainers."
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