Episodes In Van Bibber's Life
by Richard Harding Davis
Van Bibber's Man
The Hungry Man
Love Me, Love My
Her First Appearance
It was at the end of the first act of the first night of "The
Sultana," and every member of the Lester Comic Opera Company, from
Lester himself down to the wardrobe woman's son, who would have had to
work if his mother lost her place, was sick with anxiety.
There is perhaps only one other place as feverish as it is behind
the scenes on the first night of a comic opera, and that is a
newspaper office on the last night of a Presidential campaign, when
the returns are being flashed on the canvas outside, and the mob is
howling, and the editor-in-chief is expecting to go to the Court of
St. James if the election comes his way, and the office-boy is betting
his wages that it won't.
Such nights as these try men's souls; but Van Bibber passed the
stage-door man with as calmly polite a nod as though the piece had
been running a hundred nights, and the manager was thinking up
souvenirs for the one hundred and fiftieth, and the prima donna had,
as usual, begun to hint for a new set of costumes. The stage-door
keeper hesitated and was lost, and Van Bibber stepped into the
unsuppressed excitement of the place with a pleased sniff at the
familiar smell of paint and burning gas, and the dusty odor that came
from the scene-lofts above.
For a moment he hesitated in the cross-lights and confusion about
him, failing to recognize in their new costumes his old acquaintances
of the company; but he saw Kripps, the stage-manager, in the centre of
the stage, perspiring and in his shirt-sleeves as always, wildly
waving an arm to some one in the flies, and beckoning with the other
to the gasman in the front entrance. The stage hands were striking
the scene for the first act, and fighting with the set for the second,
and dragging out a canvas floor of tessellated marble, and running a
throne and a practical pair of steps over it, and aiming the high
quaking walls of a palace and abuse at whoever came in their way.
"Now then, Van Bibber," shouted Kripps, with a wild glance of
recognition, as the white-and-black figure came towards him, "you know
you're the only man in New York who gets behind here to-night. But
you can't stay. Lower it, lower it, can't you?" This to the man in
the flies. "Any other night goes, but not this night. I can't have
it. I--Where is the backing for the centre entrance? Didn't I tell
Van Bibber dodged two stage hands who were steering a scene at
him, stepped over the carpet as it unrolled, and brushed through a
group of anxious, whispering chorus people into the quiet of the
The star saw him in the long mirror before which he sat, while his
dresser tugged at his boots, and threw up his hands desperately.
"Well," he cried, in mock resignation, "are we in it or are we
not? Are they in their seats still or have they fled?"
"How are you, John?" said Van Bibber to the dresser. Then he
dropped into a big arm-chair in the corner, and got up again with a
protesting sigh to light his cigar between the wires around the
gas-burner. "Oh, it's going very well. I wouldn't have come around
if it wasn't. If the rest of it is as good as the first act, you
Van Bibber's unchallenged freedom behind the scenes had been a
source of much comment and perplexity to the members of the Lester
Comic Opera Company. He had made his first appearance there during
one hot night of the long run of the previous summer, and had
continued to be an almost nightly visitor for several weeks. At first
it was supposed that he was backing the piece, that he was the
"Angel," as those weak and wealthy individuals are called who allow
themselves to be led into supplying the finances for theatrical
experiments. But as he never peered through the curtain-hole to count
the house, nor made frequent trips to the front of it to look at the
box sheet, but was, on the contrary, just as undisturbed on a rainy
night as on those when the "standing room only" sign blocked the front
entrance, this supposition was discarded as untenable. Nor did he
show the least interest in the prima donna, or in any of the other
pretty women of the company; he did not know them, nor did he make any
effort to know them, and it was not until they inquired concerning him
outside of the theatre that they learned what a figure in the social
life of the city he really was. He spent most of his time in Lester's
dressing-room smoking, listening to the reminiscences of Lester's
dresser when Lester was on the stage; and this seclusion and his
clerical attire of evening dress led the second comedian to call him
Lester's father confessor, and to suggest that he came to the theatre
only to take the star to task for his sins. And in this the second
comedian was unknowingly not so very far wrong. Lester, the
comedian, and young Van Bibber had known each other at the
university, when Lester's voice and gift of mimicry had made him the
leader in the college theatricals; and later, when he had gone upon
the stage, and had been cut off by his family even after he had become
famous, or on account of it, Van Bibber had gone to visit him, and had
found him as simple and sincere and boyish as he had been in the days
of his Hasty- Pudding successes. And Lester, for his part, had found
Van Bibber as likable as did every one else, and welcomed his quiet
voice and youthful knowledge of the world as a grateful relief to the
boisterous camaraderie of his professional acquaintances. And he
allowed Van Bibber to scold him, and to remind him of what he owed to
himself, and to touch, even whether it hurt or not, upon his better
side. And in time he admitted to finding his friend's occasional
comments on stage matters of value as coming from the point of view of
those who look on at the game; and even Kripps, the veteran, regarded
him with respect after he had told him that he could turn a set of
purple costumes black by throwing a red light on them. To the company,
after he came to know them, he was gravely polite, and, to those who
knew him if they had overheard, amusingly commonplace in his
conversation. He understood them better than they did themselves, and
made no mistakes. The women smiled on him, but the men were
suspicious and shy of him until they saw that he was quite as shy of
the women; and then they made him a confidant, and told him all their
woes and troubles, and exhibited all their little jealousies and
ambitions, in the innocent hope that he would repeat what they said
to Lester. They were simple, unconventional, light- hearted folk, and
Van Bibber found them vastly more entertaining and preferable to the
silence of the deserted club, where the matting was down, and from
whence the regular habitues had departed to the other side or to
Newport. He liked the swing of the light, bright music as it came to
him through the open door of the dressing-room, and the glimpse he
got of the chorus people crowding and pushing for a quick charge up
the iron stairway, and the feverish smell of oxygen in the air, and
the picturesque disorder of Lester's wardrobe, and the wigs and
swords, and the mysterious articles of make- up, all mixed together on
a tray with half-finished cigars and autograph books and newspaper
And he often wished he was clever enough to be an artist with the
talent to paint the unconsciously graceful groups in the sharply
divided light and shadow of the wings as he saw them. The brilliantly
colored, fantastically clothed girls leaning against the bare brick
wall of the theatre, or whispering together in circles, with their
arms close about one another, or reading apart and solitary, or
working at some piece of fancy-work as soberly as though they were in
a rocking-chair in their own flat, and not leaning against a scene
brace, with the glare of the stage and the applause of the house just
behind them. He liked to watch them coquetting with the big fireman
detailed from the precinct engine-house, and clinging desperately to
the curtain wire, or with one of the chorus men on the stairs, or
teasing the phlegmatic scene- shifters as they tried to catch a
minute's sleep on a pile of canvas. He even forgave the prima donna's
smiling at him from the stage, as he stood watching her from the
wings, and smiled back at her with polite cynicism, as though he did
not know and she did not know that her smiles were not for him, but to
disturb some more interested one in the front row. And so, in time,
the company became so well accustomed to him that he moved in and
about as unnoticed as the stage-manager himself, who prowled around
hissing "hush" on principle, even though he was the only person who
could fairly be said to be making a noise.
The second act was on, and Lester came off the stage and ran to
the dressing-room and beckoned violently. "Come here," he said; "you
ought to see this; the children are doing their turn. You want to
hear them. They're great!"
Van Bibber put his cigar into a tumbler and stepped out into the
wings. They were crowded on both sides of the stage with the members
of the company; the girls were tiptoeing, with their hands on the
shoulders of the men, and making futile little leaps into the air to
get a better view, and others were resting on one knee that those
behind might see over their shoulders. There were over a dozen
children before the footlights, with the prima donna in the centre.
She was singing the verses of a song, and they were following her
movements, and joining in the chorus with high piping voices. They
seemed entirely too much at home and too self-conscious: to please Van
Bibber; but there was one exception. The one exception was the
smallest of them, a very, very little girl, with long auburn hair and
black eyes; such a very little girl that every one in the house looked
at her first, and then looked at no one else. She was apparently as
unconcerned to all about her, excepting the pretty prima donna, as
though she were by a piano at home practising a singing lesson. She
seemed to think it was some new sort of a game. When the prima donna
raised her arms, the child raised hers; when the prima donna
courtesied, she stumbled into one, and straightened herself just in
time to get the curls out of her eyes, and to see that the prima donna
was laughing at her, and to smile cheerfully back as if to say, "WE
are doing our best anyway, aren't we?" She had big, gentle eyes and
two wonderful dimples, and in the excitement of the dancing and the
singing her eyes laughed and flashed, and the dimples deepened and
disappeared and reappeared again. She was as happy and innocent
looking as though it were nine in the morning and she were playing
school at a kindergarten. From all over the house the women were
murmuring their delight, and the men were laughing and pulling their
mustaches and nudging each other to "look at the littlest one."
The girls in the wings were rapturous in their enthusiasm, and
were calling her absurdly extravagant titles of endearment, and making
so much noise that Kripps stopped grinning at her from the entrance,
and looked back over his shoulder as he looked when he threatened
fines and calls for early rehearsal. And when she had finished
finally, and the prima donna and the children ran off together, there
was a roar from the house that went to Lester's head like wine, and
seemed to leap clear across the footlights and drag the children back
"That settles it!" cried Lester, in a suppressed roar of triumph.
"I knew that child would catch them."
There were four encores, and then the children and Elise
Broughten, the pretty prima donna, came off jubilant and happy, with
the Littlest Girl's arms full of flowers, which the management had
with kindly forethought prepared for the prima donna, but which that
delightful young person and the delighted leader of the orchestra had
passed over to the little girl.
"Well," gasped Miss Broughten, as she came up to Van Bibber
laughing, and with one hand on her side and breathing very quickly,
"will you kindly tell me who is the leading woman now? Am I the prima
donna, or am I not? I wasn't in it, was I?"
"You were not," said Van Bibber.
He turned from the pretty prima donna and hunted up the wardrobe
woman, and told her he wanted to meet the Littlest Girl. And the
wardrobe woman, who was fluttering wildly about, and as delighted as
though they were all her own children, told him to come into the
property-room, where the children were, and which had been changed
into a dressing-room that they might be by themselves. The six little
girls were in six different states of dishabille, but they were too
little to mind that, and Van Bibber was too polite to observe it.
"This is the little girl, sir," said the wardrobe woman,
excitedly, proud at being the means of bringing together two such
prominent people. "Her name is Madeline. Speak to the gentleman,
Madeline; he wants to tell you what a great big hit youse made."
The little girl was seated on one of the cushions of a double
throne so high from the ground that the young woman who was pulling
off the child's silk stockings and putting woollen ones on in their
place did so without stooping. The young woman looked at Van Bibber
and nodded somewhat doubtfully and ungraciously, and Van Bibber turned
to the little girl in preference. The young woman's face was one of a
type that was too familiar to be pleasant.
He took the Littlest Girl's small hand in his and shook it
solemnly, and said, "I am very glad to know you. Can I sit up here
beside you, or do you rule alone?"
"Yes, ma'am--yes, sir," answered the little girl.
Van Bibber put his hands on the arms of the throne and vaulted up
beside the girl, and pulled out the flower in his button-hole and gave
it to her.
"Now," prompted the wardrobe woman, "what do you say to the
"Thank you, sir," stammered the little girl.
"She is not much used to gentlemen's society," explained the woman
who was pulling on the stockings.
"I see," said Van Bibber. He did not know exactly what to say
next. And yet he wanted to talk to the child very much, so much more
than he generally wanted to talk to most young women, who showed no
hesitation in talking to him. With them he had no difficulty
whatsoever. There was a doll lying on the top of a chest near them,
and he picked this up and surveyed it critically. "Is this your
doll?" he asked.
"No," said Madeline, pointing to one of the children, who was much
taller than herself; " it's 'at 'ittle durl's. My doll he's dead."
"Dear me!" said Van Bibber. He made a mental note to get a live
one in the morning, and then he said: "That's very sad. But dead
dolls do come to life."
The little girl looked up at him, and surveyed him intently and
critically, and then smiled, with the dimples showing, as much as to
say that she understood him and approved of him entirely. Van Bibber
answered this sign language by taking Madeline's hand in his and
asking her how she liked being a great actress, and how soon she would
begin to storm because THAT photographer hadn't sent the proofs. The
young woman understood this, and deigned to smile at it, but Madeline
yawned a very polite and sleepy yawn, and closed her eyes. Van Bibber
moved up closer, and she leaned over until her bare shoulder touched
his arm, and while the woman buttoned on her absurdly small shoes, she
let her curly head fall on his elbow and rest there. Any number of
people had shown confidence in Van Bibber--not in that form exactly,
but in the same spirit--and though he was used to being trusted, he
felt a sharp thrill of pleasure at the touch of the child's head on
his arm, and in the warm clasp of her fingers around his. And he was
conscious of a keen sense of pity and sorrow for her rising in him,
which he crushed by thinking that it was entirely wasted, and that the
child was probably perfectly and ignorantly happy.
"Look at that, now," said the wardrobe woman, catching sight of
the child's closed eyelids; "just look at the rest of the little
dears, all that excited they can't stand still to get their hats on,
and she just as unconcerned as you please, and after making the hit of
the piece, too."
"She's not used to it, you see," said the young woman, knowingly;
"she don't know what it means. It's just that much play to her."
This last was said with a questioning glance at Van Bibber, in
whom she still feared to find the disguised agent of a Children's Aid
Society. Van Bibber only nodded in reply, and did not answer her,
because he found he could not very well, for he was looking a long way
ahead at what the future was to bring to the confiding little being at
his side, and thinking of the evil knowledge and temptations that
would mar the beauty of her quaintly sweet face, and its strange mark
of gentleness and refinement. Outside he could hear his friend
Lester shouting the refrain of his new topical song, and the laughter
and the hand-clapping came in through the wings and open door, broken
"Does she come of professional people?" Van Bibber asked, dropping
into the vernacular. He spoke softly, not so much that he might not
disturb the child, but that she might not understand what he said.
"Yes," the woman answered, shortly, and bent her head to smooth
out the child's stage dress across her knees.
Van Bibber touched the little girl's head with his hand and found
that she was asleep, and so let his hand rest there, with the curls
between his fingers. "Are--are you her mother?" he asked, with a
slight inclination of his head. He felt quite confident she was not;
at least, he hoped not.
The woman shook her head. "No," she said.
"Who is her mother?"
The woman looked at the sleeping child and then up at him almost
defiantly. "Ida Clare was her mother," she said.
Van Bibber's protecting hand left the child as suddenly as though
something had burned it, and he drew back so quickly that her head
slipped from his arm, and she awoke and raised her eyes and looked up
at him questioningly. He looked back at her with a glance of the
strangest concern and of the deepest pity. Then he stooped and drew
her towards him very tenderly, put her head back in the corner of his
arm, and watched her in silence while she smiled drowsily and went to
"And who takes care of her now?" he asked.
The woman straightened herself and seemed relieved. She saw that
the stranger had recognized the child's pedigree and knew her story,
and that he was not going to comment on it. "I do," she said. "After
the divorce Ida came to me," she said, speaking more freely. "I used
to be in her company when she was doing `Aladdin,' and then when I
left the stage and started to keep an actors' boarding-house, she came
to me. She lived on with us a year, until she died, and she made me
the guardian of the child. I train children for the stage, you know,
me and my sister, Ada Dyer; you've heard of her, I guess. The courts
pay us for her keep, but it isn't much, and I'm expecting to get what
I spent on her from what she makes on the stage. Two of them other
children are my pupils; but they can't touch Madie. She is a better
dancer an' singer than any of them. If it hadn't been for the Society
keeping her back, she would have been on the stage two years ago.
She's great, she is. She'll be just as good as her mother was." Van
Bibber gave a little start, and winced visibly, but turned it off into
a cough. "And her father," he said hesitatingly, "does he--"
"Her father," said the woman, tossing back her head, "he looks
after himself, he does. We don't ask no favors of HIM. She'll get
along without him or his folks, thank you. Call him a gentleman?
Nice gentleman he is!" Then she stopped abruptly. "I guess,
though, you know him," she added. Perhaps he's a friend of yourn?"
"I just know him," said Van Bibber, wearily.
He sat with the child asleep beside him while the woman turned to
the others and dressed them for the third act. She explained that
Madie would not appear in the last act, only the two larger girls, so
she let her sleep, with the cape of Van Bibber's cloak around her.
Van Bibber sat there for several long minutes thinking, and then
looked up quickly, and dropped his eyes again as quickly, and said,
with an effort to speak quietly and unconcernedly: "If the little
girl is not on in this act, would you mind if I took her home? I have
a cab at the stage door, and she's so sleepy it seems a pity to keep
her up. The sister you spoke of or some one could put her to bed."
"Yes," the woman said, doubtfully, "Ada's home. Yes, you can take
her around, if you want to."
She gave him the address, and he sprang down to the floor, and
gathered the child up in his arms and stepped out on the stage. The
prima donna had the centre of it to herself at that moment, and all
the rest of the company were waiting to go on; but when they saw the
little girl in Van Bibber's arms they made a rush at her, and the
girls leaned over and kissed her with a great show of rapture and with
many gasps of delight.
"Don't," said Van Bibber, he could not tell just why. "Don't."
"Why not?" asked one of the girls, looking up at him sharply.
"She was asleep; you've wakened her," he said, gently.
But he knew that was not the reason. He stepped into the cab at
the stage entrance, and put the child carefully down in one corner.
Then he looked back over his shoulder to see that there was no one
near enough to hear him, and said to the driver, "To the Berkeley
Flats, on Fifth Avenue." He picked the child up gently in his arms as
the carriage started, and sat looking out thoughtfully and anxiously
as they flashed past the lighted shop-windows on Broadway. He was far
from certain of this errand, and nervous with doubt, but he reassured
himself that he was acting on impulse, and that his impulses were so
often good. The hall-boy at the Berkeley said, yes, Mr. Caruthers was
in, and Van Bibber gave a quick sigh of relief. He took this as an
omen that his impulse was a good one. The young English servant who
opened the hall door to Mr. Caruthers's apartment suppressed his
surprise with an effort, and watched Van Bibber with alarm as he laid
the child on the divan in the hall, and pulled a covert coat from the
rack to throw over her.
"Just say Mr. Van Bibber would like to see him," he said, "and you
need not speak of the little girl having come with me."
She was still sleeping, and Van Bibber turned down the light in
the hall, and stood looking down at her gravely while the servant went
to speak to his master.
"Will you come this way, please, sir?" he said.
"You had better stay out here," said Van Bibber, "and come and
tell me if she wakes."
Mr. Caruthers was standing by the mantel over the empty fireplace,
wrapped in a long, loose dressing-gown which he was tying around him
as Van Bibber entered. He was partly undressed, and had been just on
the point of getting into bed. Mr. Caruthers was a tall, handsome man,
with dark reddish hair, turning below the temples into gray; his
mustache was quite white, and his eyes and face showed the signs of
either dissipation or of great trouble, or of both. But even in the
formless dressing-gown he had the look and the confident bearing of a
gentleman, or, at least, of the man of the world. The room was very
rich-looking, and was filled with the medley of a man's choice of good
paintings and fine china, and papered with irregular rows of original
drawings and signed etchings. The windows were open, and the lights
were turned very low, so that Van Bibber could see the many gas lamps
and the dark roofs of Broadway and the Avenue where they crossed a
few blocks off, and the bunches of light on the Madison Square Garden,
and to the lights on the boats of the East River. From below in the
streets came the rattle of hurrying omnibuses and the rush of the
hansom cabs. If Mr. Caruthers was surprised at this late visit, he
hid it, and came forward to receive his caller as if his presence were
"Excuse my costume, will you?" he said. "I turned in rather early
to-night, it was so hot." He pointed to a decanter and some soda
bottles on the table and a bowl of ice, and asked, "Will you have some
of this?" And while he opened one of the bottles, he watched Van
Bibber's face as though he were curious to have him explain the object
of his visit. "No, I think not, thank you," said the younger man. He
touched his forehead with his handkerchief nervously. "Yes, it is
hot," he said.
Mr. Caruthers filled a glass with ice and brandy and soda, and
walked back to his place by the mantel, on which he rested his arm,
while he clinked the ice in the glass and looked down into it.
"I was at the first night of `The Sultana' this evening," said Van
Bibber, slowly and uncertainly.
"Oh, yes," assented the elder man, politely, and tasting his
drink. "Lester's new piece. Was it any good?"
"I don't know," said Van Bibber. "Yes, I think it was. I didn't
see it from the front. There were a lot of children in it--little
ones; they danced and sang, and made a great hit. One of them had
never been on the stage before. It was her first appearance."
He was turning one of the glasses around between his fingers as he
spoke. He stopped, and poured out some of the soda, and drank it down
in a gulp, and then continued turning the empty glass between the tips
of his fingers.
"It seems to me," he said, "that it is a great pity." He looked
up interrogatively at the other, but Mr. Caruthers met his glance
without any returning show of interest. "I say," repeated Van
Bibber--"I say it seems a pity that a child like that should be
allowed to go on in that business. A grown woman can go into it with
her eyes open, or a girl who has had decent training can too. But
it's different with a child. She has no choice in the matter; they
don't ask her permission; and she isn't old enough to know what it
means; and she gets used to it and fond of it before she grows to
know what the danger is. And then it's too late. It seemed to me
that if there was any one who had a right to stop it, it would be a
very good thing to let that person know about her--about this child, I
mean; the one who made the hit--before it was too late. It seems to
me a responsibility I wouldn't care to take myself. I wouldn't care
to think that I had the chance to stop it, and had let the chance go
by. You know what the life is, and what the temptation a woman--" Van
Bibber stopped with a gasp of concern, and added, hurriedly, "I mean
we all know--every man knows."
Mr. Caruthers was looking at him with his lips pressed closely
together, and his eyebrows drawn into the shape of the letter V. He
leaned forward, and looked at Van Bibber intently.
"What is all this about?" he asked. "Did you come here, Mr. Van
Bibber, simply to tell me this? What have you to do with it? What
have I to do with it? Why did you come?"
"Because of the child."
"Your child," said Van Bibber.
Young Van Bibber was quite prepared for an outbreak of some sort,
and mentally braced himself to receive it. He rapidly assured himself
that this man had every reason to be angry, and that he, if he meant
to accomplish anything, had every reason to be considerate and
patient. So he faced Mr. Caruthers with shoulders squared, as though
it were a physical shock he had to stand against, and in consequence
he was quite unprepared for what followed. For Mr. Caruthers raised
his face without a trace of feeling in it, and, with his eyes still
fixed on the glass in his hand, set it carefully down on the mantel
beside him, and girded himself about with the rope of his robe. When
he spoke, it was in a tone of quiet politeness.
"Mr. Van Bibber," he began, "you are a very brave young man. You
have dared to say to me what those who are my best friends--what even
my own family--would not care to say. They are afraid it might hurt
me, I suppose. They have some absurd regard for my feelings; they
hesitate to touch upon a subject which in no way concerns them, and
which they know must be very painful to me. But you have the courage
of your convictions; you have no compunctions about tearing open old
wounds; and you come here, unasked and uninvited, to let me know what
you think of my conduct, to let me understand that it does not agree
with your own ideas of what I ought to do, and to tell me how I, who
am old enough to be your father, should behave. You have rushed in
where angels fear to tread, Mr. Van Bibber, to show me the error of my
ways. I suppose I ought to thank you for it; but I have always said
that it is not the wicked people who are to be feared in this world,
or who do the most harm. We know them; we can prepare for them, and
checkmate them. It is the well-meaning fool who makes all the
trouble. For no one knows him until he discloses himself, and the
mischief is done before he can be stopped. I think, if you will allow
me to say so, that you have demonstrated my theory pretty thoroughly,
and have done about as much needless harm for one evening as you can
possibly wish. And so, if you will excuse me," he continued, sternly,
and moving from his place, "I will ask to say good-night, and will
request of you that you grow older and wiser and much more considerate
before you come to see me again."
Van Bibber had flushed at Mr. Caruthers's first words, and had
then grown somewhat pale, and straightened himself visibly. He did
not move when the elder man had finished, but cleared his throat, and
then spoke with some little difficulty. "It is very easy to call a
man a fool," he said, slowly, "but it is much harder to be called a
fool and not to throw the other man out of the window. But that, you
see, would not do any good, and I have something to say to you first.
I am quite clear in my own mind as to my position, and I am not going
to allow anything you have said or can say to annoy me much until I am
through. There will be time enough to resent it then. I am quite
well aware that I did an unconventional thing in coming here--a bold
thing or a foolish thing, as you choose--but the situation is pretty
bad, and I did as I would have wished to be done by if I had had a
child going to the devil and didn't know it. I should have been glad
to learn of it even from a stranger. However," he said, smiling
grimly, and pulling his cape about him, "there are other kindly
disposed people in the world besides fathers. There is an aunt,
perhaps, or an uncle or two; and sometimes, even to-day, there is the
Van Bibber picked up his high hat from the table, looked into it
critically, and settled it on his head. "Good-night," he said, and
walked slowly towards the door. He had his hand on the knob, when Mr.
Caruthers raised his head.
"Wait just one minute, please, Mr. Van Bibber?" asked Mr.
Van Bibber stopped with a prompt obedience which would have led
one to conclude that he might have put on his hat only to precipitate
"Before you go," said Mr. Caruthers, grudgingly, "I want to say--I
want you to understand my position."
"Oh, that's all right," said Van Bibber, lightly, opening the
"No, it is not all right. One moment, please. I do not intend
that you shall go away from here with the idea that you have tried to
do me a service, and that I have been unable to appreciate it, and
that you are a much-abused and much- misunderstood young man. Since
you have done me the honor to make my affairs your business, I would
prefer that you should understand them fully. I do not care to have
you discuss my conduct at clubs and afternoon teas with young women
Van Bibber drew in his breath sharply, with a peculiar whistling
sound, and opened and shut his hands. "Oh, I wouldn't say that if I
were you," he said, simply.
"I beg your pardon," the older man said, quickly. "That was a
mistake. I was wrong. I beg your pardon. But you have tried me very
sorely. You have intruded upon a private trouble that you ought to
know must be very painful to me. But I believe you meant well. I know
you to be a gentleman, and I am willing to think you acted on impulse,
and that you will see to-morrow what a mistake you have made. It is
not a thing I talk about; I do not speak of it to my friends, and
they are far too considerate to speak of it to me. But you have put
me on the defensive. You have made me out more or less of a brute,
and I don't intend to be so far misunderstood. There are two sides to
every story, and there is something to be said about this, even for
He walked back to his place beside the mantel, and put his
shoulders against it, and faced Van Bibber, with his fingers twisted
in the cord around his waist.
"When I married," said Mr. Caruthers, "I did so against the wishes
of my people and the advice of all my friends. You know all about
that. God help us! who doesn't?" he added, bitterly. "It was very
rich, rare reading for you and for every one else who saw the daily
papers, and we gave them all they wanted of it. I took her out of
that life and married her because I believed she was as good a woman
as any of those who had never had to work for their living, and I was
bound that my friends and your friends should recognize her and
respect her as my wife had a right to be respected; and I took her
abroad that I might give all you sensitive, fine people a chance to
get used to the idea of being polite to a woman who had once been a
burlesque actress. It began over there in Paris. What I went through
then no one knows; but when I came back--and I would never have come
back if she had not made me--it was my friends I had to consider, and
not her. It was in the blood; it was in the life she had led, and in
the life men like you and me had taught her to live. And it had to
The muscles of Mr. Caruthers's face were moving, and beyond his
control; but Van Bibber did not see this, for he was looking intently
out of the window, over the roofs of the city.
"She had every chance when she married me that a woman ever had,"
continued the older man. "It only depended on herself. I didn't try
to make a housewife of her or a drudge. She had all the healthy
excitement and all the money she wanted, and she had a home here ready
for her whenever she was tired of travelling about and wished to
settle down. And I was--and a husband that loved her as--she had
everything--everything that a man's whole thought and love and money
could bring to her. And you know what she did."
He looked at Van Bibber, but Van Bibber's eyes were still turned
towards the open window and the night.
"And after the divorce--and she was free to go where she pleased,
and to live as she pleased and with whom she pleased, without bringing
disgrace on a husband who honestly loved her- -I swore to my God that
I would never see her nor her child again. And I never saw her again,
not even when she died. I loved the mother, and she deceived me and
disgraced me and broke my heart, and I only wish she had killed me;
and I was beginning to love her child, and I vowed she should not live
to trick me too. I had suffered as no man I know had suffered; in a
way a boy like you cannot understand, and that no one can understand
who has not gone to hell and been forced to live after it. And was I
to go through that again? Was I to love and care for and worship this
child, and have her grow up with all her mother's vanity and animal
nature, and have her turn on me some day and show me that what is bred
in the bone must tell, and that I was a fool again--a pitiful fond
fool? I could not trust her. I can never trust any woman or child
again, and least of all that woman's child. She is as dead to me as
though she were buried with her mother, and it is nothing to me what
she is or what her life is. I know in time what it will be. She has
begun earlier than I had supposed, that is all; but she is nothing to
me." The man stopped and turned his back to Van Bibber, and hid his
head in his hands, with his elbows on the mantelpiece. "I care too
much," he said. "I cannot let it mean anything to me; when I do
care, it means so much more to me than to other men. They may pretend
to laugh and to forget and to outgrow it, but it is not so with me.
It means too much." He took a quick stride towards one of the
arm-chairs, and threw himself into it. "Why, man," he cried, "I loved
that child's mother to the day of her death. I loved that woman then,
and, God help me! I love that woman still."
He covered his face with his hands, and sat leaning forward and
breathing heavily as he rocked himself to and fro. Van Bibber still
stood looking gravely out at the lights that picketed the black
surface of the city. He was to all appearances as unmoved by the
outburst of feeling into which the older man had been surprised as
though it had been something in a play. There was an unbroken silence
for a moment, and then it was Van Bibber who was the first to speak.
"I came here, as you say, on impulse," he said; "but I am glad I
came, for I have your decisive answer now about the little girl. I
have been thinking," he continued, slowly, "since you have been
speaking, and before, when I first saw her dancing in front of the
footlights, when I did not know who she was, that I could give up a
horse or two, if necessary, and support this child instead. Children
are worth more than horses, and a man who saves a soul, as it
says"--he flushed slightly, and looked up with a hesitating,
deprecatory smile--"somewhere, wipes out a multitude of sins. And it
may be I'd like to try and get rid of some of mine. I know just
where to send her; I know the very place. It's down in Evergreen
Bay, on Long Island. They are tenants of mine there, and very nice
farm sort of people, who will be very good to her. They wouldn't know
anything about her, and she'd forget what little she knows of this
present life very soon, and grow up with the other children to be one
of them; and then, when she gets older and becomes a young lady, she
could go to some school--but that's a bit too far ahead to plan for
the present; but that's what I am going to do, though," said the
young man, confidently, and as though speaking to himself. "That
theatrical boarding-house person could be bought off easily enough,"
he went on, quickly, "and Lester won't mind letting her go if I ask
it,--and--and that's what I'll do. As you say, it's a good deal of an
experiment, but I think I'll run the risk."
He walked quickly to the door and disappeared in the hall, and
then came back, kicking the door open as he returned, and holding the
child in his arms.
"This is she," he said, quietly. He did not look at or notice the
father, but stood, with the child asleep in the bend of his left arm,
gazing down at her. "This is she," he repeated; "this is your child."
There was something cold and satisfied in Van Bibber's tone and
manner, as though he were congratulating himself upon the engaging of
a new groom; something that placed the father entirely outside of it.
He might have been a disinterested looker-on.
"She will need to be fed a bit," Van Bibber ran on, cheerfully.
"They did not treat her very well, I fancy. She is thin and peaked
and tired-looking." He drew up the loose sleeve of her jacket, and
showed the bare forearm to the light. He put his thumb and little
finger about it, and closed them on it gently. "It is very thin," he
said. "And under her eyes, if it were not for the paint," he went on,
mercilessly, "you could see how deep the lines are. This red spot on
her cheek, he said, gravely, "is where Mary Vane kissed her to-night,
and this is where Alma Stantley kissed her, and that Lee girl. You
have heard of them, perhaps. They will never kiss her again. She is
going to grow up a sweet, fine, beautiful woman--are you not?" he
said, gently drawing the child higher up on his shoulder, until her
face touched his, and still keeping his eyes from the face of the
older man. "She does not look like her mother," he said; "she has
her father's auburn hair and straight nose and finer-cut lips and
chin. She looks very much like her father. It seems a pity," he
added, abruptly. "She will grow up," he went on, "without knowing
him, or who he is--or was, if he should die. She will never speak with
him, or see him, or take his hand. She may pass him some day on the
street and will not know him, and he will not know her, but she will
grow to be very fond and to be very grateful to the simple,
kindhearted old people who will have cared for her when she was a
The child in his arms stirred, shivered slightly, and awoke. The
two men watched her breathlessly, with silent intentness. She raised
her head and stared around the unfamiliar room doubtfully, then turned
to where her father stood, looking at him a moment, and passed him by;
and then, looking up into Van Bibber's face, recognized him, and gave
a gentle, sleepy smile, and, with a sigh of content and confidence,
drew her arm up closer around his neck, and let her head fall back
upon his breast.
The father sprang to his feet with a quick, jealous gasp of pain.
"Give her to me!" he said, fiercely, under his breath, snatching her
out of Van Bibber's arms. "She is mine; give her to me!"
Van Bibber closed the door gently behind him, and went jumping
down the winding stairs of the Berkeley three steps at a time.
And an hour later, when the English servant came to his master's
door, he found him still awake and sitting in the dark by the open
window, holding something in his arms and looking out over the
"James," he said, "you can make up a place for me here on the
lounge. Miss Caruthers, my daughter, will sleep in my room to-night."
Van Bibber's Man Servant
Van Bibber's man Walters was the envy and admiration of his
friends. He was English, of course, and he had been trained in the
household of the Marquis Bendinot, and had travelled, in his younger
days, as the valet of young Lord Upton. He was now rather well on in
years, although it would have been impossible to say just how old he
was. Walters had a dignified and repellent air about him, and he
brushed his hair in such a way as to conceal his baldness.
And when a smirking, slavish youth with red checks and awkward
gestures turned up in Van Bibber's livery, his friends were naturally
surprised, and asked how he had come to lose Walters. Van Bibber
could not say exactly, at least he could not rightly tell whether he
had dismissed Walters or Walters had dismissed himself. The facts of
the unfortunate separation were like this:
Van Bibber gave a great many dinners during the course of the
season at Delmonico's, dinners hardly formal enough to require a
private room, and yet too important to allow of his running the risk
of keeping his guests standing in the hall waiting for a vacant table.
So he conceived the idea of sending Walters over about half-past six
to keep a table for him. As everybody knows, you can hold a table
yourself at Delmonico's for any length of time until the other guests
arrive, but the rule is very strict about servants. Because, as the
head waiter will tell you, if servants were allowed to reserve a
table during the big rush at seven o'clock, why not messenger boys?
And it would certainly never do to have half a dozen large tables
securely held by minute messengers while the hungry and impatient
waited their turn at the door.
But Walters looked as much like a gentleman as did many of the
diners; and when he seated himself at the largest table and told the
waiter to serve for a party of eight or ten, he did it with such an
air that the head waiter came over himself and took the orders.
Walters knew quite as much about ordering a dinner as did his master;
and when Van Bibber was too tired to make out the menu, Walters would
look over the card himself and order the proper wines and side dishes;
and with such a carelessly severe air and in such a masterly manner
did he discharge this high function that the waiters looked upon him
with much respect.
But respect even from your equals and the satisfaction of having
your fellow-servants mistake you for a member of the Few Hundred are
not enough. Walters wanted more. He wanted the further satisfaction
of enjoying the delicious dishes he had ordered; of sitting as a
coequal with the people for whom he had kept a place; of completing
the deception he practised only up to the point where it became most
It certainly was trying to have to rise with a subservient and
unobtrusive bow and glide out unnoticed by the real guests when they
arrived; to have to relinquish the feast just when the feast should
begin. It would not be pleasant, certainly, to sit for an hour at a
big empty table, ordering dishes fit only for epicures, and then, just
as the waiters bore down with the Little Neck clams, so nicely iced
and so cool and bitter-looking, to have to rise and go out into the
street to a table d'hote around the corner.
This was Walters's state of mind when Mr. Van Bibber told him for
the hundredth time to keep a table for him for three at Delmonico's.
Walters wrapped his severe figure in a frock- coat and brushed his
hair, and allowed himself the dignity of a walking-stick. He would
have liked to act as a substitute in an evening dress-suit, but Van
Bibber would not have allowed it. So Walters walked over to
Delmonico's and took a table near a window, and said that the other
gentlemen would arrive later. Then he looked at his watch and ordered
the dinner. It was just the sort of dinner he would have ordered had
he ordered it for himself at some one else's expense. He suggested
Little Neck clams first, with Chablis, and pea-soup, and caviare on
toast, before the oyster crabs, with Johannisberger Cabinet; then an
entree of calves' brains and rice; then no roast, but a bird, cold
asparagus with French dressing, Camembert cheese, and Turkish coffee.
As there were to be no women, he omitted the sweets and added three
other wines to follow the white wine. It struck him as a
particularly well-chosen dinner, and the longer he sat and thought
about it the more he wished he were to test its excellence. And then
the people all around him were so bright and happy, and seemed to be
enjoying what they had ordered with such a refinement of zest that he
felt he would give a great deal could he just sit there as one of them
for a brief hour.
At that moment the servant deferentially handed him a note which a
messenger boy had brought. It said:
"Dinner off called out town send clothes and things after me to
Walters rose involuntarily, and then sat still to think about it.
He would have to countermand the dinner which he had ordered over
half an hour before, and he would have to explain who he was to those
other servants who had always regarded him as such a great gentleman.
It was very hard.
And then Walters was tempted. He was a very good servant, and he
knew his place as only an English servant can, and he had always
accepted it, but to-night he was tempted--and he fell. He met the
waiter's anxious look with a grave smile.
"The other gentlemen will not be with me to-night, "he said,
glancing at the note. "But I will dine here as I intended. You can
serve for one. "
That was perhaps the proudest night in the history of Walters. He
had always felt that he was born out of his proper sphere, and
to-night he was assured of it. He was a little nervous at first, lest
some of Van Bibber's friends should come in and recognize him; but as
the dinner progressed and the warm odor of the dishes touched his
sense, and the rich wines ran through his veins, and the women around
him smiled and bent and moved like beautiful birds of beautiful
plumage, he became content, grandly content; and he half closed his
eyes and imagined he was giving a dinner to everybody in the place.
Vain and idle thoughts came to him and went again, and he eyed the
others about him calmly and with polite courtesy, as they did him, and
he felt that if he must later pay for this moment it was worth the
Then he gave the waiter a couple of dollars out of his own pocket
and wrote Van Bibber's name on the check, and walked in state into the
cafe, where he ordered a green mint and a heavy, black, and expensive
cigar, and seated himself at the window, where he felt that he should
always have sat if the fates had been just. The smoke hung in light
clouds about him, and the lights shone and glistened on the white
cloths and the broad shirt-fronts of the smart young men and
distinguished foreign-looking older men at the surrounding tables.
And then, in the midst of his dreamings, he heard the soft,
careless drawl of his master, which sounded at that time and in that
place like the awful voice of a condemning judge. Van Bibber pulled
out a chair and dropped into it. His side was towards Walters, so
that he did not see him. He had some men with him, and he was
explaining how he had missed his train and had come back to find that
one of the party had eaten the dinner without him, and he wondered who
it could be; and then turning easily in his seat he saw Walters with
the green mint and the cigar, trembling behind a copy of the London
"Walters!" said Van Bibber, "what are you doing here?"
Walters looked his guilt and rose stiffly. He began with a feeble
"If you please, sir--"
"Go back to my rooms and wait for me there," said Van Bibber, who
was too decent a fellow to scold a servant in public.
Walters rose and left the half-finished cigar and the mint with
the ice melting in it on the table. His one evening of sublimity was
over, and he walked away, bending before the glance of his young
master and the smiles of his master's friends.
When Van Bibber came back he found on his dressing-table a note
from Walters stating that he could not, of course, expect to remain
longer in his service, and that he left behind him the twenty-eight
dollars which the dinner had cost.
"If he had only gone off with all my waistcoats and scarf-pins,
I'd have liked it better," said Van Bibber, "than his leaving me cash
for infernal dinner. Why, a servant like Walters is worth
twenty-eight-dollar dinners--twice a day."
The Hungry Man was Fed
Young Van Bibber broke one of his rules of life one day and came
down-town. This unusual journey into the marts of trade and finance
was in response to a call from his lawyer, who wanted his signature to
some papers. It was five years since Van Bibber had been south of the
north side of Washington Square, except as a transient traveller to
the ferries on the elevated road. And as he walked through the City
Hall Square he looked about him at the new buildings in the air, and
the bustle and confusion of the streets, with as much interest as a
lately arrived immigrant.
He rather enjoyed the novelty of the situation, and after he had
completed his business at the lawyer's office he tried to stroll along
lower Broadway as he did on the Avenue.
But people bumped against him, and carts and drays tried to run
him down when he crossed the side streets, and those young men whom he
knew seemed to be in a great hurry, and expressed such amused surprise
at seeing him that he felt very much out of place indeed. And so he
decided to get back to his club window and its quiet as soon as
"Hello, Van Bibber," said one of the young men who were speeding
by, "what brings you here? Have you lost your way?"
"I think I have," said Van Bibber. "If you'll kindly tell me how
I can get back to civilization again, be obliged to you."
"Take the elevated from Park Place," said his friend from over his
shoulder, as he nodded and dived into the crowd.
The visitor from up-town had not a very distinct idea as to where
Park Place was, but he struck off Broadway and followed the line of
the elevated road along Church Street. It was at the corner of Vesey
Street that a miserable-looking, dirty, and red-eyed object stood
still in his tracks and begged Van Bibber for a few cents to buy food.
"I've come all the way from Chicago," said the Object, "and I haven't
tasted food for twenty-four hours."
Van Bibber drew away as though the Object had a contagious disease
in his rags, and handed him a quarter without waiting to receive the
"Poor devil!" said Van Bibber. "Fancy going without dinner all
day!" He could not fancy this, though he tried, and the impossibility
of it impressed him so much that he amiably determined to go back and
hunt up the Object and give him more money. Van Bibber's ideas of a
dinner were rather exalted. He did not know of places where a quarter
was good for a "square meal," including "one roast, three vegetables,
and pie." He hardly considered a quarter a sufficiently large tip
for the waiter who served the dinner, and decidedly not enough for the
dinner itself. He did not see his man at first, and when he did the
man did not see him. Van Bibber watched him stop three gentlemen, two
of whom gave him some money, and then the Object approached Van Bibber
and repeated his sad tale in a monotone. He evidently did not
recognize Van Bibber, and the clubman gave him a half-dollar and
walked away, feeling that the man must surely have enough by this
time with which to get something to eat, if only a luncheon.
This retracing of his footsteps had confused Van Bibber, and he
made a complete circuit of the block before he discovered that he had
lost his bearings. He was standing just where he had started, and
gazing along the line of the elevated road, looking for a station,
when the familiar accents of the Object again saluted him.
When Van Bibber faced him the beggar looked uneasy. He was not
sure whether or not he had approached this particular gentleman
before, but Van Bibber conceived an idea of much subtlety, and
deceived the Object by again putting his hand in his pocket.
"Nothing to eat for twenty-four hours! Dear me!" drawled the
clubman, sympathetically. "Haven't you any money, either?"
"Not a cent," groaned the Object, "an' I'm just faint for food,
sir. S' help me. I hate to beg, sir. It isn't the money I want,
it's jest food. I'm starvin', sir."
"Well," said Van Bibber, suddenly, "if it is just something to eat
you want, come in here with me and I'll give you your breakfast." But
the man held back and began to whine and complain that they wouldn't
let the likes of him in such a fine place.
"Oh, yes, they will," said Van Bibber, glancing at the bill of
fare in front of the place. "It seems to be extremely cheap.
Beefsteak fifteen cents, for instance. Go in, he added, and there
was something in his tone which made the Object move ungraciously into
It was a very queer place, Van Bibber thought, and the people
stared very hard at him and his gloves and the gardenia in his coat
and at the tramp accompanying him.
"You ain't going to eat two breakfasts, are yer?" asked one of the
very tough-looking waiters of the Object. The Object looked uneasy,
and Van Bibber, who stood beside his chair, smiled in triumph.
"You're mistaken," he said to the waiter. "This gentleman is
starving; he has not tasted food for twenty-four hours. Give him
whatever he asks for!"
The Object scowled and the waiter grinned behind his tin tray, and
had the impudence to wink at Van Bibber, who recovered from this in
time to give the man a half-dollar and so to make of him a friend for
life. The Object ordered milk, but Van Bibber protested and ordered
two beefsteaks and fried potatoes, hot rolls and two omelettes,
coffee, and ham with bacon.
"Holy smoke! watcher think I am?" yelled the Object, in
"Hungry," said Van Bibber, very gently. "Or else an impostor.
And, you know, if you should happen to be the latter, I should have
to hand you over to the police."
Van Bibber leaned easily against the wall and read the signs about
him, and kept one eye on a policeman across the street. The Object
was choking and cursing through his breakfast. It did not seem to
agree with him. Whenever he stopped Van Bibber would point with his
stick to a still unfinished dish, and the Object, after a husky
protest, would attack it as though it were poison. The people sitting
about were laughing, and the proprietor behind the desk smiling
"There, darn ye!" said the Object at last. "I've eat all I can
eat for a year. You think you're mighty smart, don't ye? But if you
choose to pay that high for your fun, I s'pose you can afford it.
Only don't let me catch you around these streets after dark, that's
And the Object started off, shaking his fist.
"Wait a minute," said Van Bibber. "You haven't paid them for your
"Haven't what? shouted the Object. "Paid 'em! How could I pay
him? Youse asked me to come in here and eat. I didn't want no
breakfast, did I? Youse'll have to pay for your fun yerself, or
they'll throw yer out. Don't try to be too smart."
"I gave you," said Van Bibber, slowly, "seventy-five cents with
which to buy a breakfast. This check calls for eighty-five cents, and
extremely cheap it is," he added, with a bow to the fat proprietor.
"Several other gentlemen, on your representation that you were
starving, gave you other sums to be expended on a breakfast. You have
the money with you now. So pay what you owe at once, or I'll call
that officer across the street and tell him what I know, and have you
put where you belong."
"I'll see you blowed first!" gasped the Object.
Van Bibber turned to the waiter.
"Kindly beckon to that officer," said he.
The waiter ran to the door and the Object ran too, but the tough
waiter grabbed him by the back of his neck and held him.
"Lemme go!" yelled the Object. "Lemme go an' I'll pay you."
Everybody in the place came up now and formed a circle around the
group and watched the Object count out eighty-five cents into the
waiter's hand, which left him just one dime to himself.
"You have forgotten the waiter who served you," said Van Bibber,
severely pointing with his stick at the dime.
"No, you don't," groaned the Object.
"Oh, yes," said Van Bibber, "do the decent thing now, or I'll--"
The Object dropped the dime in the waiter's hand, and Van Bibber,
smiling and easy, made his way through the admiring crowd and out into
"I suspect," said Mr. Van Bibber later in the day, when recounting
his adventure to a fellow-clubman, "that, after I left, fellow tried
to get tip back from waiter, for I saw him come out of place very
suddenly, you see, and without touching pavement till he lit on back
of his head in gutter. He was most remarkable waiter."
Love Me, Love My Dog
Young Van Bibber had been staying with some people at Southampton,
L. I., where, the fall before, his friend Travers made his reputation
as a cross-country rider. He did this, it may be remembered, by
shutting his eyes and holding on by the horse's mane and letting the
horse go as it pleased. His recklessness and courage are still spoken
of with awe; and the place where he cleared the water jump that every
one else avoided is pointed out as Travers's Leap to visiting
horsemen, who look at it gloomily and shake their heads. Miss Arnett,
whose mother was giving the house-party, was an attractive young
woman, with an admiring retinue of youths who gave attention without
intention, and for none of whom Miss Arnett showed particular
preference. Her whole interest, indeed, was centred in a dog, a
Scotch collie called Duncan. She allowed this dog every liberty, and
made a decided nuisance of him for every one, around her. He always
went with her when she walked, or trotted beside her horse when she
rode. He stretched himself before the fire in the dining-room, and
startled people at table by placing his cold nose against their hands
or putting his paws on their gowns. He was generally voted a most
annoying adjunct to the Arnett household; but no one, dared hint so to
Miss Arnett, as she only loved those who loved the dog or pretended to
do it. On the morning of the afternoon on which Van Bibber and his
bag arrived, the dog disappeared and could not be recovered. Van
Bibber found the household in a state of much excitement in
consequence, and his welcome was necessarily brief. The arriving
guest was not to be considered at all with the departed dog. The men
told Van Bibber, in confidence, that the general relief among the
guests was something ecstatic, but this was marred later by the gloom
of Miss Arnett and her inability to think of anything else but the
finding of the lost collie. Things became so feverish that for the
sake of rest and peace the house-party proposed to contribute to a
joint purse for the return of the dog, as even, nuisance as it was,
it was not so bad as having their visit spoiled by Miss Arnett's
abandonment to grief and crossness.
"I think," said the young woman, after luncheon, "that some of you
men might be civil enough to offer to look for him. I'm sure he can't
have gone far, or, if he has been stolen, the men who took him
couldn't have gone very far away either. Now which of you will
volunteer? I'm sure you'll do it to please me. Mr. Van Bibber, now:
you say you're so clever. We're all the time hearing of your
adventures. Why don't you show how full of expedients you are and
rise to the occasion?" The suggestion of scorn in this speech nettled
"I'm sure I never posed as being clever," he said, "and finding a
lost dog with all Long Island to pick and choose from isn't a
particularly easy thing to pull off successfully, I should think."
"I didn't suppose you'd take a dare like that, Van Bibber," said
one of the men. "Why, it's just the sort of thing you do so well."
"Yes," said another, "I'll back you to find him if you try."
"Thanks," said Van Bibber, dryly. "There seems to be a
disposition on the part of the young men present to turn me into a
dog-catcher. I doubt whether this is altogether unselfish. I do not
say that they would rather remain indoors and teach the girls how to
play billiards, but I quite appreciate their reasons for not wishing
to roam about in the snow and whistle for a dog. However, to oblige
the despondent mistress of this valuable member of the household, I
will risk pneumonia, and I will, at the same time, in order to make
the event interesting to all concerned, back myself to bring that dog
back by eight o'clock. Now, then, if any of you unselfish youths have
any sporting blood, you will just name the sum."
They named one hundred dollars, and arranged that Van Bibber was
to have the dog back by eight o'clock, or just in time for dinner; for
Van Bibber said he wouldn't miss his dinner for all the dogs in the
two hemispheres, unless the dogs happened to be his own.
Van Bibber put on his great-coat and told the man to bring around
the dog-cart; then he filled his pockets with cigars and placed a
flask of brandy under the seat, and wrapped the robes around his
"I feel just like a relief expedition to the North Pole. I think I
ought to have some lieutenants," he suggested.
"Well," cried one of the men, "suppose we make a pool and each
chip in fifty dollars, and the man who brings the dog back in time
gets the whole of it?"
"That bet of mine stands, doesn't it?" asked Van Bibber.
The men said it did, and went off to put on their riding things,
and four horses were saddled and brought around from the stable. Each
of the four explorers was furnished with a long rope to tie to
Duncan's collar, and with which he was to be led back if they found
him. They were cheered ironically by the maidens they had deserted on
compulsion, and were smiled upon severally by Miss Arnett. Then they
separated and took different roads. It was snowing gently, and was
very cold. Van Bibber drove aimlessly ahead, looking to the right
and left and scanning each back yard and side street. Every now and
then he hailed some passing farm wagon and asked the driver if he had
seen a stray collie dog, but the answer was invariably in the
negative. He soon left the village in the rear, and plunged out over
the downs. The wind was bitter cold, and swept from the water with a
chill that cut through his clothes.
"Oh, this is great," said Van Bibber to the patient horse in front
of him; "this IS sport, this is. The next time I come to this part of
the world I'll be dragged here with a rope. Nice, hospitable people
those Arnetts, aren't they? Ask you to make yourself at home chasing
dogs over an ice fjord. Don't know when I've enjoyed myself so much."
Every now and then he stood up and looked all over the hills and
valleys to see if he could not distinguish a black object running
over the white surface of the snow, but he saw nothing like a dog, not
even the track of one.
Twice he came across one of the other men, shivering and swearing
from his saddle, and with teeth chattering. "Well," said one of them,
shuddering, "you haven't found that dog yet, I see."
"No," said Van Bibber. "Oh, no. I've given up looking for the
dog. I'm just driving around enjoying myself. The air's so
invigorating, and I like to feel the snow settling between my collar
and the back of my neck."
At four o'clock Van Bibber was about as nearly frozen as a man
could be after he had swallowed half a bottle of brandy. It was so
cold that the ice formed on his cigar when he took it from his lips,
and his feet and the dashboard seemed to have become stuck together.
"I think I'll give it up," he said, finally, as he turned the
horse's head towards Southampton. "I hate to lose three hundred and
fifty dollars as much as any man; but I love my fair young life, and
I'm not going to turn into an equestrian statue in ice for anybody's
He drove the cart to the stable and unharnessed the horse himself,
as all the grooms were out scouring the country, and then went
upstairs unobserved and locked himself in his room, for he did not
care to have the others know that he had given out so early in the
chase. There was a big open fire in his room, and he put on his warm
things and stretched out before it in a great easy-chair, and smoked
and sipped the brandy and chuckled with delight as he thought of the
four other men racing around in the snow.
"They may have more nerve than I," he soliloquized, "and I don't
say they have not; but they can have all the credit and rewards they
want, and I'll be satisfied to stay just where I am."
At seven he saw the four riders coming back dejectedly, and
without the dog. As they passed his room he heard one of the men ask
if Van Bibber had got back yet, and another say yes, he had, as he had
left the cart in the stable, but that one of the servants had said
that he had started out again on foot.
"He has, has he?" said the voice. "Well, he's got sporting blood,
and he'll need to keep it at fever heat if he expects to live. I'm
frozen so that I can't bend my fingers."
Van Bibber smiled, and moved comfortably in the big chair; he had
dozed a little, and was feeling very contented. At half-past seven he
began to dress, and at five minutes to eight he was ready for dinner
and stood looking out of the window at the moonlight on the white lawn
below. The snow had stopped falling, and everything lay quiet and
still as though it were cut in marble. And then suddenly across the
lawn, came a black, bedraggled object on four legs, limping
painfully, and lifting its feet as though there were lead on them.
"Great heavens! cried Van Bibber, "it 's the dog! He was out of
the room in a moment and down into the hall. He heard the murmur of
voices in the drawing-room, and the sympathetic tones of the women who
were pitying the men. Van Bibber pulled on his overshoes and a
great-coat that covered him from his ears to his ankles, and dashed
out into the snow. The dog had just enough spirit left to try and
dodge him, and with a leap to one side went off again across the lawn.
It was, as Van Bibber knew, but three minutes to eight o'clock, and
have the dog he must and would. The collie sprang first to one side
and then to the other, and snarled and snapped; but Van Bibber was
keen with the excitement of the chase, so he plunged forward
recklessly and tackled the dog around the body, and they both rolled
over and over together. Then Van Bibber scrambled to his feet and
dashed up the steps and into the drawing-room just as the people were
in line for dinner, and while the minute-hand stood at a minute to
"How is this?" shouted Van Bibber, holding up one hand and
clasping the dog under his other arm.
Miss Arnett flew at the collie and embraced it, wet as it was, and
ruined her gown, and all the men glanced instinctively at the clock
"You've won, Van."
"But you must be frozen to death," said Miss Arnett, looking up at
him with gratitude in her eyes.
"Yes, yes," said Van Bibber, beginning to shiver. "I've had a
terrible long walk, and I had to carry him all the way. If you'll
excuse me, I'll go change my things."
He reappeared again in a suspiciously short time for one who had
to change outright, and the men admired his endurance and paid up the
"Where did you find him, Van?" one of them asked.
"Oh, yes," they all chorused. "Where was he?"
"That," said Mr. Van Bibber, "is a thing known to only two beings,
Duncan and myself. Duncan can't tell, and I won't. If I did, you'd
say I was trying to make myself out clever, and I never boast about
the things I do."