A Gentleman's Gentleman
by F. Hopkinson Smith
A GENTLEMAN'S GENTLEMAN
By F. Hopkinson Smith
I had left Sandy MacWhirter crooning over his smouldering wood fire
the day Boggs blew in with news of the sale of Mac's two pictures at
the Academy, and his reply to my inquiry regarding his future plans
(vaguely connected with a certain girl in a steamer chair), By the
next steamer, my boy, still rang in my ears, but my surprise was none
the less genuine when I looked up from my easel, two months later, at
Sonning-on-the-Thames and caught sight of the dear fellow, with
Lonnegan by his side, striding down the tow-path in search of me.
By the Great Horn Spoon! came the cry. And the next minute his big
arms were about my shoulders, his cheery laugh filling the summer air.
Lonnegan's greeting was equally hearty and spontaneous, but it came
with less noise.
He's been roaring that way ever since we left London, said the
architect. Ever since we landed, really, and he nodded at Mac.
Awfully glad to see you, old man!
The next moment the three of us were flat on the grass telling our
experiences, the silver sheen of the river flashing between the
low-branched trees lining the banks.
Lonnegan's story ran thus:
Mac had disappeared the morning after their arrival; had remained
away two weeks, reappearing again with a grin on his face that had
frozen stiff and had never relaxed its grip. You can still see it;
turn your head, Mac, and let the gentleman see your smile. Since that
time he had spent his nights writing letters, and his days poring aver
the morning's mail. Got his pocket full of them now, and is so happy
he's no sort of use to anybody. Mac now got his innings:
Lonnegan's airs had been insufferable and his ignorance colossal.
What time he could spare from his English tailorand you just ought
to see his clothes, and especially his checkerboard waistcoatshad
been spent in abusing everything in English art that wasn't three
hundred years old, and going into raptures over Lincoln Cathedral. The
more he saw of Lonnegan the more he was convinced that he had missed
his calling. He might succeed as a floorwalker in a department store,
where his airs and his tailor-made upholstery would impress the
hayseeds from the country, but, as for trying to beThe rest was lost
in a gurgle of smothered laughter, Lonnegan's thin, white fingers
having by this time closed over the painter's windpipe.
My turn came now:
I had been at work a month; had my present quarters at the White
Hart Inn, within a stone's throw of where we lay sprawled with our
faces to the sunthe loveliest inn, by the way, on the Thames, and
that was saying a lotwith hand-polished tables, sleeve and
trouser-polished arm-chairs, Chippendale furniture, barmaids, pewter
mugs, old and new ale, tough bread, tender mutton, tartsgooseberry
and otherwise; strawberriestwo would fill a teacupand roses!
Millions of roses! Well, you fellows just step up and look at 'em.
And not a place to put your head, said Mac.
How do you know?
Been there, replied Lonnegan. The only decent rooms are reserved
for a bloated American millionaire who arrives to-dayeverything else
chock-a-block except two bunks under the roof, full of spiders.
Mac drew up one of his fat legs, stretched his arms, pushed his
slouch hat from his foreheadhe was still on his back drinking in the
sunshineand with a yawn cried:
They ought to be exterminated.
The spiders? grumbled Lonnegan.
No, millionaires. They throw their money away like water; they
crowd the hotels. Nothing good enough for them. Prices all doubled,
everything slimed up by the trail of their dirty dollars. And the
saddest thing in it all to me is that you generally find one or two
able-bodied American citizens kotowing to them like wooden Chinese
mandarins when the great men take the air.
Who, for instance? I asked. No millionaires with any such outfit
had thus far come my way.
Lonnegan, for one, answered Mac.
The architect raised his head and shot a long, horizontal glance at
the prostrate form of the painter.
Yes, Lonnegan, I am sorry to say, continued Mac, his eyes fixed on
the yellow greens in the swaying tree-tops.
I was only polite, protested the architect. Lambert is a client
of mine; building a stable for him. Very level-headed man is Mr. Samuel
Lambert; no frills and no swelled head. It was Tommy Wing who was doing
the mandarin act 32 the other day at the Carltonnot me. Got dead
intimate with him on the voyage over and has stuck to him like a
plaster ever since. Calls him 'Sam' alreadydid to me.
Behind his back or to his face? spluttered Mac, tugging at his
Give it up, said Lonnegan, pulling his hat over his face to shield
his eyes from the sun.
Mac raised himself to a sitting posture, as if to reply, fumbled in
his watch-pocket for a match, instead; shook the ashes from his
brier-wood, filled the bowl with some tobacco from his rubber pouch,
drew the lucifer across his shoe, waited until the blue smoke mounted
skyward and resumed his former position. He was too happy mentallythe
girl in the steamer chair was responsibleand too lazy physically to
argue with anybody. Lonnegan rolled over on his elbows, and feasted his
eyes on the sweep of the sleepy river, dotted with punts and wherries,
its background of foliage in silhouette against the morning sky. The
Thames was very lovely that June, and the trained eye of the
distinguished architect missed none of its beauty and charm. I picked
up my brushes and continued work. The spirit of perfect camaraderie
makes such silences not only possible but enjoyable. It is the restless
chatterer that tires.
Lonnegan's outbreak had set me to thinking. Lambert I knew only by
reputation-as half the world knew hima man of the people: lumber
boss, mill owner, proprietor of countless acres of virgin forest; many
times a millionaire. Then came New York and the ice-cream palace with
the rock-candy columns on the Avenue, and The Samuel Lamberts in the
society journals. This was all the wife's doings. Poor Maria! She had
forgotten the day when she washed his red flannel shirts and hung them
on a line stretched from the door of their log cabin to a giant white
pineone of the founders of their fortune. If Tommy Wing called him
Sam it was because old Saw Logs, as he was often called, was
lonely, and Tommy amused him.
Tommy WingThomas Bowditch Wing, his card ranI had known for
years. He was basking on the topmost branches now, stretched out in the
sunshine of social success, swaying to every movement made by his
padrones. He was a little country squirrel when I first came across
him, frisking about the root of the tree and glad enough to scamper
close to the ground. He had climbed a long way since then. All the
blossoms and tender little buds were at the top, and Tommy was fond of
buds, especially when they bloomed out into yachts and four-in-hands,
country houses, winters in Egypt (Tommy an invited guest), house
parties on Long Island or at Tuxedo, or gala nights at the opera with
seats in a first tier.
In the ascent he had forgotten his beginningsnot an unnatural
thing with Tommies: Son of a wine merchanta most respectable man,
too; then Importer (Tommy altered the sign); elected member of an
athletic club; always well dressed, always polite;invited to a
member's house to dine; was unobtrusive and careful not to make a
break. Asked again to fill a place at the table at the last
moment-accepted gracefully, not offendednever offended at anything.
Was willing to see that the young son caught the train, or would meet
the daughter at the ferry and escort her safely to school. So
obliging, so trustworthy, the mother said. Soon got to be among those
present at the Sherry and Delmonico balls. Then came little squibs in
the society columns regarding the movements of Thomas Bowditch Wing,
Esquire. He knew the squibber, and often gave her half a column. Was
invited to a seat in the coaching parade, saw his photograph the next
morning in the papers, he sitting next to the beautiful Miss Carnevelt.
He was pretty near to the top now; only a little farther to where the
choicest buds were bursting into flower; too far up, though, ever to
recognize the little fellows he had left frisking below. There was no
time now to escort school-girls or fill unexpectedly empty seats unless
they were exclusive ones. His excuse was that he had accepted an
invitation to the branch above him. The mother of the school-girl now,
strange to say, instead of being miffed, liked him the better, and, for
the first time, began to wonder whether she hadn't made too free with
so important a personage. As a silent apology she begged an invitation
for a friend to the Bachelor Ball, Tommy being a subscriber and
entitled to the distribution of a certain number of tickets. Being
single and available, few outings were given without himnot only
week-ends (Weak Odds-and-Ends, Mac always called them), but trips to
Washington, even to Montreal in the winter. Then came the excursions
abroadCapri, Tangier, Cairo.
It was on one of these jaunts that he met Saw Logs, who, after
sizing him up for a day, promptly called him Tommy, an abbreviation
instantly adopted by Mariaso fine, you know, to call a fellow Tommy
who knew everybody and went everywhere. Sometimes she shrieked his name
the length of the deck. On reaching London it was either the Carlton or
the Ritz for Lambert. Tommy, however, made a faint demur. Oh, hang the
expense, Tommy, you are my guest for the summer, broke out Lambert.
What a prime minister you would have made, Tommy, in some kitchen
There were no blossoms now out of his reach. Our little squirrel had
gained the top! To dazzle the wife and daughter with the priceless
value of his social position and then compel plain, honest,
good-natured Samuel Lambert to pay his bills, and to pay those bills,
too, in such a way, by Heavens, sir, as not to wound a gentleman's
pride: that, indeed, was an accomplishment. Had any other bushy tail
of his acquaintance ever climbed so high or accomplished so much?
A movement on my right cut short my revery.
MacWhirter had lifted his big arms above his head, and was now
twisting his broad back as if for a better fulcrum.
Lonny he cried, bringing his body once more to a sitting
In that humiliating and servile interview which you had a short
time ago with your other genuflector, the landlord of the White Hart
Inn, did you in any way gain the impression that every ounce of grub in
his shebang was reserved for the special use of his highness, Count
Kerosene, or the Earl of Asphalt, or the Duke of Sausage, or whatever
the brute calls himself?or do you think he can be induced to
Yes, I think so.
Think what, you obtuse duffer?
That he can be induced.
Well, then, grab that easel and let us go to luncheon.
I had not exaggerated the charm of the White Hart Innnobody can. I
know most of the hostelries up and down this part of the riverthe
Ferry at Cookham, the French Horn across the Backwater, one or two
at Henley, and a lovely old bungalow of a tavern at Maidenhead; but
this garden of roses at Sonning has never lost its fascination for me.
For the White Hart is like none of these. It fronts the river, of
course, as they all doyou can almost fish out of the coffee-room
window of the Ferry at Cookhamand all the life of the boat-houses,
the punts and wherries, with their sprawling cushions and bunches of
jack-straw oars, and tows, back and forth, of empty boats, goes on just
as it does at the other boat-landings, up and down the river; but, at
the White Hart, it is the rose garden that counts! Planted in rows,
like corn, their stalks straight as walking-sticks and as big; then a
flare of smaller stalks like umbrella ribs, the circle covered with
Prince Alberts, Cloth-of-Golds, Teas, Saffrons, Red Ramblers (the old
gardener knows their names; I don't). And the perfume that sweeps
toward you and the way it sinks into your soul! Bury your face in a
bunch of them, if you don't believe it.
Then the bridge! That mouldy old mass of red brick that makes three
clumsy jumps before it clears the river, the green rushes growing about
its feet. And the glory of the bend below, with the fluff of elm, birch
and maple melting into the morning haze!
Inside it is none the less delightful. Awnings, fronting the garden,
stretch over the flowerbeds; vines twist their necks, the blossoms
peeping curiously as you take your coffee.
There is a coffee-room, of course, with stags' heads and hunting
prints, and small tables with old-fashioned flowers in tiny vases, as
well as a long serving board the width of the room, where everything
that can be boiled, baked or stewed and then served cold awaits the
It was at this long board that we three brought up, and it was not
long before Lonnegan and Mac were filling their plates, and with their
own hands, too, with thin cuts of cold roast beef, chicken and slivers
of ham, picking out the particular bread or toast or muffin they liked
best, bringing the whole out under the low awning with its screen of
roses, the swinging blossoms brushing their cheekssome of them almost
in their plates.
From where we sat over our boiled and bakedprincipally boiledwe
could see not only the suite of rooms reserved for the great man and
his partyone end of the inn, really, with a separate entrancebut we
could see, too, part of the tap-room, with its rows of bottles, and
could hear the laughter and raillery of the barmaid as she served the
droppers-in and loungers-about. We caught, as well, the small square
hall, flanked by the black-oak counter, behind which were banked
bottles of various shapes and sizes, rows of pewter tankards and the
like, the whole made comfortable with chairs cushioned in Turkey red,
and never emptythe chairs, I mean; the tankards always were, or about
This tap-room, I must tell you, is not a bar in the American sense,
nor is the girl a barkeeper in any sense. It is the open club of the
village, where everybody is welcome who is decent and agreeable. Even
the curate drops innot for his toddy, perhaps (although You can't
generally sometimes almost always tell, as Mac said), but for a word
with anybody who happens to be about. And so does the big man of the
village who owns the mill, and the gardener from Lord So-and-So's
estate, and the lord himself, for that matter, the groom taking his
bitter from the side window, with one eye on his high stepper
polished to a piano finish. All have a word or a good-morning or a joke
with the barmaid. She isn't at all the kind of a girl you think she is.
Try it some day and you'll discover your mistake. It's Miss Nance, or
Miss Ellen, or whatever else her parents fancied; or Miss Figgins, or
Connors, or Pugbybut it is never Nance or Nell.
Our luncheon over, we joined the circle, the curate making room for
Lonnegan, Mac stretching his big frame half over a settle.
From the States, gentlemen, I should judge, said the curate in a
cheery tonean athletic and Oxford-looking curate, his high white
collar and high black waistcoat gripping a throat and chest that showed
oars and cricket bats in every muscle. Young, toonot over forty.
I returned the courtesy by pleading guilty, and in extenuation,
presented my comrades to the entire room, Lonnegan's graceful body
straightening to a present-arms posture as he grasped the outstretched
hand of a brother athlete, and Mac's heartiness capturing every one
present, including the barmaid.
Then some compounded extracts were passed over the counter and the
talk drifted as usual (I have never known it otherwise) into
comparisons between the two Hands Across the Sea people. That an
Englishman will ever really warm to a Frenchman or a German nobody who
knows his race will believe, but he can be entirely comfortable (and
the well-bred Englishman is the shyest man living) with the well-bred
Lonnegan as chief spokesman, in answer to an inquiry, and with an
assurance born of mastery of his subject instantly recognized by the
listeners, enlarged on the last architectural horror, the skyscraper,
its cost, and on the occupations of the myriads of human bees who were
hived between its floors, all so different from the more modest office
structures around the Bank of England: adding that he had the plans of
two on his drawing table at home, a statement which confirmed the good
opinions they had formed of his familiarity with the subject.
I floated in with some comparisons touching upon the technic of the
two schools of water-color painting, and, finding that the curate had a
brother who was an R.A., backed out again and rested on my oars.
Mac, more or less concerned over the expected arrival, and anxious
that his listeners should not consider the magnate as a fair example of
his countrymen, launched out upon the absence of all class distinctions
at home-one man as good as anothermaking Presidents out of farmers,
Senators out of cellar diggers, every man a kingthat sort of thing.
When Mac had finishedand these Englishmen let you finish
the mill-owner, a heavy, red-faced man (out-of-doors exercise, not
Burgundy), with a gray whisker dabbed high up on each cheek, and a pair
of keen, merry eyes, threw back the lapels of his velveteen coat
(riding-trousers to match), and answered slowly:
You'll excuse me, sir, but I stopped a while in the States, and I
can't agree with you. We take off our caps here to a lord because he is
part of our national system, but we never bow down to the shillings he
keeps in his strong box. You do.
The lists were open now. Mac fought valiantly, the curate helping
him once in a while; Lonnegan putting in a word for the several
professions as being always exemptbrains, not money, counting in
their caseMac winning the first round with:
Not all of us, my dear sir; not by a long shot. When any of our
people turn sycophants, it is you English who have coached them. A lord
with you is a man who doesn't have to work. So, when any of us come
over here to playand that's what we generally come foreverybody, to
our surprise, kotows to us, and we acknowledge the attention by giving
a shilling to whoever holds out his hand. Now, nobody ever kotows to us
at home. We'd get suspicious right away if they did and shift our
wallets to the other pocket; not that we are not generous, but we don't
like that sort of thing. We do herethat is, some of us do, because it
marks the difference in rank, and we all, being kings, are tickled to
death that your flunkies recognize that fact the moment they clap eyes
Lonnegan looked at Mac curiously. The dear fellow must be talking
through his hat.
Now, I got a sudden shock on the steamer on my way home last fall,
and from an American gentleman, tooone of the best, if he was
in tarpaulinsand I didn't get over it for a week. No kotow about him,
I tell you. I wanted a newspaper the worst way, and was the first man
to strike the Sandy Hook pilot as he threw his sea-drenched leg over
the rail. 'Got a morning paper?' I asked. 'Yes, in my bag.' And he
dumped the contents on the deck and handed me a paper. I had been away
from home a year, mostly in England, and hadn't seen anybody, from a
curator in a museum to the manager of an estate, who wouldn't take a
shilling when it was offered him, and so from sheer force of habit I
dropped a trade dollar into his hand. You ought to have seen his face.
'What's this for?' he asked. 'No use to me.' And he handed it back. I
wanted to go out and kick myself full of holes, I was so ashamed. And,
after all, it wasn't my fault. I learned that from you Englishmen.
The toot-toot of an automobile cut short the discussion.
The American millionaire had arrived!
Everybody now started on the run: landlord, two maids in blue
dresses with white cap strings flying, three hostlers, two garage men,
four dogs, all bowing and scrapingall except the dogs.
What did I tell you? laughed Mac, tapping the curate's broad chest
with the end of his plump finger. That's the way you all do. With us a
porter would help him out, a hotel clerk assign him a room, and that
would end it. The next morning the only man to do him reverence would
be the waiter behind his chair figuring for the extra tip. Look at
them. Same old kotow. No wonder he thinks himself a duke.
The party had disembarked now and were nearing the door of the
private entrance, the two women in Mother Hubbard veils, the two men in
steamer-caps and gogglesthe valet and maid carrying the coats and
parasols. The larger of the two men shed his goggles, changed his
steamer-cap for a slouch hat which his valet handed him, and
disappeared inside, followed by the landlord. The smaller man, his
hands and arms laden with shawls and wraps, gesticulated for an instant
as if giving orders to the two chauffeurs, waited until both machines
had backed away, and entered the open door.
Who do you think the big man is, Mac? Lonnegan asked.
Don't know, and don't want to know.
What! Saw Logs?
The same, andyesby Jove! That little fellow with the wraps is
A moment later Tommy reappeared and made straight for the barmaid.
Get me some crushed ice and vermouth, he said. We carry our
Hollands with us. Why, Mr. MacWhirter! and Mr. Lonnegan! and (I was
the andbut he seemed to have forgotten my name.) Well, this is
a surprise! Neither the mill-owner nor the curate came within range of
Where have I been? Well, I'll have to think. We did London for a
weekSavoy for supperPrince's for luncheontheatre every
nightthat sort of thing. Picked up a couple of Gainsboroughs at
Agnew's and some tapestries belonging to Lordforget his namehad a
letter. (Here Tommy fumbled in his pocket.) No, I remember now, I
gave it to Sam. Then we motored to Ravenstocklooked over the Duke's
stablesspent the night with a very decent chap Sam met in the Rockies
last year-son of Lord Wingfall, and
The ice was ready now (it was hived in a keg and hidden in the
cellar, and took time to get at), and so was the vermouth and the
glasses, all on a tray.
No, I'll carry it. This to the barmaid, who wanted to call a
waiter. I never let anybody attend to this for Sam but myselfthis
to us. I'll be back in a minute.
In a few moments he returned, picking up the thread of his discourse
with: Where was I? Oh, yes, at Lord Wingfall's son's. Well, that's
about all. We are on our way now to spend a few days with Here he
glanced at the curate and the mill-owner, who were absorbing every word
that fell from his lips. Some of the gentry in the next countycan't
think of their namesfriends of Sam. It became evident now that
neither Mac nor Lonnegan intended introducing him to either of the
The barmaid pushed a second tray over the counter, and Tommy drew up
a chair and waved us into three others. Sam is so helpless, you know,
he chatted on. I can't leave him, really, for an hour. Depends on me
for everything. Funny, isn't it, that a man worthwell, anywhere from
forty to fifty millions of dollars, and made it all himselfshould be
that way? But it's a fact. Very simple man, too, in his tastes, when
you know him. Mrs. Lambert and Rosie (Mac stole a look at Lonnegan at
the familiar use of the last name, but Tommy flowed on) got tired of
the Cynthiashe's a hundred and ninety feet over all, sixteen
knots, and cost a quarter of a millionand wanted Sam to get something
bigger. But the old man held out; wanted to know what I thought of it,
and, of course, I had to say she was all right, and that settled it.
Just the same way with that new house on the Avenueyou know it, Mr.
Lonneganafter he'd spent one hundred and fifty thousand dollars
decorating the music-roomthat's the one facing the Avenueshe
thought she'd change it to Louis-Seize. Of course Sam didn't care for
the money, but it was the dirt and plaster and discomfort of it all. By
the way, after dinner, suppose you and Mr. Lonnegan, and you,
toothis to mecome in and have a cigar with Sam. We've got some
good Reina Victorias especially made for himglad to have you know
Mac gazed out of the open door and shut his teeth tight. Lonnegan
looked down into the custard-pie face of the speaker, but made no
reply. Tommy laid a coin on the counter, shot out his cuffs, said: See
you later, and sauntered out.
No! There were no buds or blossomsnothing of any kind, for that
matterout of Tommy's reach!
The mill-owner rose to his feet, straightened his square shoulders,
made a movement as if to speak, altered his mind, shook Mac's hand
warmly, and with a bow to the tap-room, and a special nod to the
barmaid, mounted his horse and rode off. The curate looked up and
smiled, his gaze riveted on Mac.
One of your American gentlemen, sir? he asked. The tone was most
respectfulnot a trace of sarcasm, not a line visible about the
corners of his mouth; only the gray eyes twinkled.
No, answered Mac grimly; a gentleman's gentleman.
The next morning at sunrise Mac burst into our room roaring with
laughter, slapping his pajama-incased knee with his fat hand, the tears
streaming from his eyes.
They've gone! he cried. Scooted! Saw Logs, Mrs. Saw, the piece of
kindling and her maid in the first car, and
He was doubled up like a jack-knife.
And left Tommy behind! we both cried.
Behind! Mac was verging on apoplexy now. Behind! Not much. He was
tucked away in the other car with the valet!