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GEORGE BARR McCUTCHEON
Author of "Graustark," "Beverly of Graustark," "Castle Craneycrow," etc.
I. A Birthday Dinner II. Shades of Aladdin III. Mrs. and Miss Gray IV. A Second Will V. The Message from Jones VI. Monty Cristo VII. A Lesson in Tact VIII. The Forelock of Time IX. Love and a Prize-fight X. The Napoleon of Finance XI. Coals of Fire XII. Christmas Despair XIII. A Friend in Need XIV. Mrs. DeMille Entertains XV. The Cut Direct XVI. In the Sunny South XVII. The New Tenderfoot XVIII. The Prodigal at Sea XIX. One Hero and Another XX. Le Roi S'Amuse XXI. Fairyland XXII. Prince and Peasants XXIII. An Offer of Marriage XXIV. The Sheik's Strategy XXV. The Rescue of Peggy XXVI. The Mutiny XXVII. A Fair Traitor XXVIII. A Catastrophe XXIX. The Prodigal's Return XXX. The Promise of Thrift XXXI. How the Million Disappeared XXXII. The Night Before XXXIII. The Flight of Jones XXXIV. The Last Word
A BIRTHDAY DINNER
"The Little Sons of the Rich" were gathered about the long table inPettingill's studio. There were nine of them present, besides Brewster.They were all young, more or less enterprising, hopeful, and reasonablysure of better things to come. Most of them bore names that meantsomething in the story of New York. Indeed, one of them had remarked,"A man is known by the street that's named after him," and as he was anew member, they called him "Subway."
The most popular man in the company was young "Monty" Brewster. He wastall and straight and smooth-shaven. People called him "clean-looking."Older women were interested in him because his father and mother hadmade a romantic runaway match, which was the talk of the town in theseventies, and had never been forgiven. Worldly women were interestedin him because he was the only grandson of Edwin Peter Brewster, whowas many times a millionaire, and Monty was fairly certain to be hisheir--barring an absent-minded gift to charity. Younger women wereinterested for a much more obvious and simple reason: they liked him.Men also took to Monty because he was a good sportsman, a man amongmen, because he had a decent respect for himself and no great aversionto work.
His father and mother had both died while he was still a child, and, asif to make up for his long relentlessness, the grandfather had takenthe boy to his own house and had cared for him with what he calledaffection. After college and some months on the continent, however,Monty had preferred to be independent. Old Mr. Brewster had found him aplace in the bank, but beyond this and occasional dinners, Monty askedfor and received no favors. It was a question of work, and hard work,and small pay. He lived on his salary because he had to, but he did notresent his grandfather's attitude. He was better satisfied to spend his"weakly salary," as he called it, in his own way than to earn more bydining seven nights a week with an old man who had forgotten he wasever young. It was less wearing, he said.
Among the "Little Sons of the Rich," birthdays were always occasionsfor feasting. The table was covered with dishes sent up from the Frenchrestaurant in the basement. The chairs were pushed back, cigaretteswere lighted, men had their knees crossed. Then Pettingill got up.
"Gentlemen," he began, "we are here to celebrate the twenty-fifthbirthday of Mr. Montgomery Brewster. I ask you all to join me indrinking to his long life and happiness."
"No heel taps!" some one shouted. "Brewster! Brewster!" all called atonce.
"For he's a jolly good fellow, For he's a jolly good fellow!"
The sudden ringing of an electric bell cut off this flow of sentiment,and so unusual was the interruption that the ten members straightenedup as if jerked into position by a string.
"The police!" some one suggested. All faces were turned toward thedoor. A waiter stood there, uncertain whether to turn the knob or pushthe bolt.
"Damned nuisance!" said Richard Van Winkle. "I want to hear Brewster'sspeech."
"Speech! Speech!" echoed everywhere. Men settled into their places.
"Mr. Montgomery Brewster," Pettingill introduced.
Again the bell rang--long and loud.
"Reinforcements. I'll bet there's a patrol in the street," remarkedOliver Harrison.
"If it's only the police, let them in," said Pettingill. "I thought itwas a creditor."
The waiter opened the door.
"Some one to see Mr. Brewster, sir," he announced.
"Is she pretty, waiter?" called McCloud.
"He says he is Ellis, from your grandfather's, sir!"
"My compliments to Ellis, and ask him to inform my grandfather thatit's after banking hours. I'll see him in the morning," said Mr.Brewster, who had reddened under the jests of his companions.
"Grandpa doesn't want his Monty to stay out after dark," chuckledSubway Smith.
"It was most thoughtful of the old gentleman to have the man call foryou with the perambulator," shouted Pettingill above the laughter."Tell him you've already had your bottle," added McCloud.
"Waiter, tell Ellis I'm too busy to be seen," commanded Brewster, andas Ellis went down in the elevator a roar followed him.
"Now, for Brewster's speech!--Brewster!"
"Gentlemen, you seem to have forgotten for the moment that I amtwenty-five years old this day, and that your remarks have beenchildish and wholly unbecoming the dignity of my age. That I havearrived at a period of discretion is evident from my choice of friends;that I am entitled to your respect is evident from my grandfather'snotorious wealth. You have done me the honor to drink my health and toreassure me as to the inoffensiveness of approaching senility. Now Iask you all to rise and drink to 'The Little Sons of the Rich.' May theLord love us!"
An hour later "Rip" Van Winkle and Subway Smith were singing "Tell Me,Pretty Maiden," to the uncertain accompaniment of Pettingill's violin,when the electric bell again disturbed the company.
"For Heaven's sake!" shouted Harrison, who had been singing "With AllThy Faults I Love Thee Still," to Pettingill's lay figure.
"Come home with me, grandson, come home with me now," suggested SubwaySmith.
"Tell Ellis to go to Halifax," commanded Montgomery, and again Ellistook the elevator downward. His usually impassive face now wore a lookof anxiety, and twice he started to return to the top floor, shakinghis head dubiously. At last he climbed into a hansom and reluctantlyleft the revelers behind. He knew it was a birthday celebration, and itwas only half-past twelve in the morning.
At three o'clock the elevator made another trip to the top floor andEllis rushed over to the unfriendly doorbell. This time there wasstubborn determination in his face. The singing ceased and a roar oflaughter followed the hush of a moment or two.
"Come in!" called a hearty voice, and Ellis strode firmly into thestudio.
"You are just in time for a 'night-cap,' Ellis," cried Harrison,rushing to the footman's side. Ellis, stolidly facing the young man,lifted his hand.
"No, thank you, sir," he said, respectfully. "Mr. Montgomery, if you'llexcuse me for breaking in, I'd like to give you three messages I'vebrought here to-night."
"You're a faithful old chap," said Subway Smith, thickly. "Hanged ifI'd do A.D.T. work till three A.M. for anybody."
"I came at ten, Mr. Montgomery, with a message from Mr. Brewster,wishing you many happy returns of the day, and with a check from himfor one thousand dollars. Here's the check, sir. I'll give my messagesin the order I received them, sir, if you please. At twelve-thirtyo'clock, I came with a message from Dr. Gower, sir, who had been calledin--"
"Called in?" gasped Montgomery, turning white.
"This time I bring a message from Rawles, the butler, asking you tocome to Mr. Brewster's house at once--if you can, sir--I mean, if youwill, sir," Ellis interjected apologetically. Then, with his gazedirected steadily over the heads of the subdued "Sons," he added,impressively:
"Mr. Brewster is dead, sir."