THE MAN GIFT
Vincent Liewellyn Hughes
JOHN and, signaling A. MASON the pushed butler, away watched, his half-eaten absently, the dessert deft substitution of fruit and finger bowl, first for his daughter Jocelyn, opposite, then for himself. Outside the north wind drenched rain against the dining-room windows. There could be no doubt that the streets would be horrible with a mixture of slush and early October snow. This contemplation did not disturb Mason, however. He leaned back in his chair, happy and comfortable; environment, wine, the darkened room with its soft candle light completely satisfying him.
Jocelyn, an arm extended on the table, fingers twisting the stem of her wine glass, appeared utterly absorbed.
John A. Mason felt a fine solidity here. It was so determinate, this big house in Rosedale, overlooking the Ravine. Just the sort of retreat for a man of his importance; the very place in which to segregate a mind controlling the policy of huge concerns, shaping the behavior and salaries of hundreds of people. Here after his daily labors he found contentment; here he could forget the constant irritation of office 'ritual, the tiresomeness of everlastingly signing his name; here he could free his mind of all responsibilities.
Responsibilities! He lifted his head sharply. Jocelyn was immovable, her shoulders gleaming like satin, the candlelight scintillating in her dark hair. Responsibility! Well, perhaps he exaggerated there. And as though she felt his sudden consideration in her favor Jocelyn, looking up, came dangerously near spilling her wine, and, in righting it, actually did so.
Her father laughed, and leniently indulged in a humorous remark to lessen her embarrassment.
Partly hidden by the roses, silent, tensely introspective, she made a charming picture and on her, his one and only child, his eyes rested with pleasant content. She was, he pondered reminiscently, very like her mother, only the eyes differed :
Jocelyn’s were set wider apart, eyelashes heavier, the eyes themselves longer and more beautiful.
He dwelt upon such details with deep interest because he didn’t understand them. Why Flo, so generous with her physical attributes, had robbed him by not passing on a larger share of her bright, incessant animation was a thing that many times held and puzzled him. In truth, Jocelyn was more like her grandmother; a lovely Florentine, dark, passionate, alluring, dangerous. But then women had always mystified him; even Flo hadn’t been entirely innocent in respect of that. He was, he freely admitted, absolutely ata loss to understand their moods, their underlying motives. He recalled a time, long ago, when Jocelyn had remained obdurate in the face of his sympathy; then, when Flo appeared, he had watched her fly into her arms and sob unrestrainedly against her breast.
It was not that she preferred her mother, he was reasonably sure of that, but something. ... Yes,
Flo’s death had placed a heavy responsibility on his shoulders and one he was never quite sure he had the proper balance of. . . .
“AA/TLL you have your coffee ’ ' in the drawing room, Sir?” He was about to reply that that would decidedly coincide with his pleasure when Jocelyn spoke for him:
John Mason was plainly disappointed. “What, no music?” he said in a tone of injured merriment. “Now, Jocelyn, come.” “Well, if you really want, daddy; but I......” She relapsed
Strange child! He grimaced playfully, lifted / a finger at the butler, then once again turned a searching eye in the direction of his daughter.
It was then more than at any moment hitherto that he realised how abstracted she had been all
through dinner. One thing be had been at some pains to remember: it was a week, exactly, to her birthday, and' that night she had promised to tell him what it was that she wanted most. Yes, twenty-four years ago next Thursday she had been born. He remembered it as if it were yesterday. It would soon make him, he reminded himself, sixty-three. Sixty-three! Ah, that was going on for old age, by George! He must transcend his attention this evening; remind her of his love and devotion.
He ventured an inquiry as to her preoccupied mood; but she replied that nothing was wrong. She was glad they had planned a quiet evening at home, and not made arrangements to take in the theatre. “It’s beastly outside,” she said, listening to the rain on the windows.
He watched her rise and walk round to the divan set in front of the fire, and he nodded approvingly. He gulped down his wine hurriedly and joined her. He was surprised to find her hand startlingly cold. "Jocelyn, dear child, there’s something, troubling you, isn’t there? Now tell me what it is?”
“It’s really nothing,” she answered, “just my silliness, I suppose. But I was thinking I’d suddenly grown very tired of things, daddy—all except you, I mean.” She smiled at him, covering her mistake. “I was going to ask you for something to-night—something very important; but—”
“I hadn’t forgotten,” he interrupted.
“But it’s over, now. It’s not important any more—no, I don’t mean that; I mean yoú couldn’t grant it now. And, anyhow, I don’t think you would have liked it.” She regarded him with pained eyes, and it was with a pang of anxiety that he noted the dark shadows beneath them.
A shadow of remorse flitted across his face as his conscience pricked him. Had he been entirely fair to her? He knew he had not. He had wanted her for himself; his was the attitude of a selfish old man. He knew perfectly
well how he had often equivocated to her, and schemed to keep her from meeting several eligible men to whom she might have become attached.
“Jocelyn, I wonder if you have any idea just how much your love means to me?” He spoke his thoughts.
She replied that she was sure it meant everything.
“It’s a great relief to come back here after the bustle of the city. It has an intensity of comfort slightly difficult for me to explain: just you and I. Of course now that Flo’s gone. .. well, you’ll understand. But I sometimes think I’m very selfish with you. I ought to seek ways to entertain you instead of expecting you to entertain me. I might, I know, fill the house with young people. I suppose I should have done that.”
JOCELYN linked her arm in his. “IPs wonderful to think of the love you bore mother,” she said, quietly, “and taking her place has been a consolation I’d have allowed no one. Darling mother.”
This gave him courage to go on: “Then since when, Jocelyn, have you grown tired of things? At your age especially that’s an expression hardly fitting in with the universe. What is it? Would you like to go away? Or have you been reading some pessimistic jargon not worth the paper it’s printed on?” This in reference to Tolstoi, one of whose books he had seen open on her writing desk.
“It’s the monotony of my day to day life, Daddy,” she made answer; “so stupid. I often wish you would take me into your office. There, at least, I’d have something to occupy my mind.”
“You have a free hand,” he told her, “and you are perfectly at liberty to do as you like. Being tired of things rather proves that you are not taking advantage of your position here, surely?” He paused to consider. “What is there you can’t do?”
“Well,you wouldn’t like me to— leave you, would you?”
That instantly held him to silence.
“Besides I have no desire to be anywhere without you,” she went on, restoring his pulse. “I simply wouldn’t think of it; I’d be too miserable. But it isn’t that. Only I do feel a little tired, sometimes. It’s a sort of loneliness, ache.” He was quick to notice her hand go, unconsciously, to her heart. “Perhaps you’ll laugh at me, daddy, but I sometimes feel I’m getting old.”
John Mason didn’t laugh; he remained very quiet. Then Jocelyn stirred, and he found her head near his own.
“I haven’t hurt you?” she asked him.
But he knew that she was holding some secret from him, the telling of which would affect him acutely. Remembering the several pointed hints of the past week he asked gently:
“What was this secret you were to tell me this evening? Something you wanted most for your birthday, as I understood it. You say I mightn’t have approved. Well, now, I might have; you never know your luck. At least give me a fighting chance.”
She regarded him solemnly, intent, he felt sure, on discovering from his facial expression whether or not she dare tell him. To meet this he tried, earnestly, to compose his eyes favorably; but it was not to be.
Suddenly she suggested music, and without reminding her of the contradiction he nodded. He was glad just then of any diversion from the Nemesis of his own
But her playing lacked something, which, during the Chopin nocturne, engaged his attention far more than the actual melody. The solution of this, he surmised, might give him the key to the other, and he deliberately focused his attention on her interpretation. Finally he reasoned it out. Her playing, he decided, lacked thé charm of whole-heartedness. Under his breath he gave the word the starkness of pronunciation—and then he knew.
Whole-heartedness! Yes, by George! that was what had happened. There was a man here! the inevitable man! What a fool he had been not to think of that before.
Rapidly John Mason ran over in his mind the names of the men with whom he knew Jocelyn to be even slightly acquainted. Mallows, De Lacy, Turner-Smith, Molson, Lord Wingo, the young noble at the Spanish, embassy, whatever his name was—not one of them satisfied him. Lord Wingo, collared in conceit, obviously after her fortune; Mallows had nothing to back him other than that he had kicked winning goals at Harvard; Turner-Smith, De Lacy—pah! Still, he concluded, all were gentlemen— and there was scant need for secretiveness. - If Jocelyn had set her heart on any one of them he was the last to stand in the way of her heart’s desire.
TOCELYN abandoned the piano. “I don’t feel like playing, somehow,” she said. “And, anyway, the piano’s horribly out of tune. I simply couldn’t sing.” She sank into a spacious chair, and curling her feet up under her gazed intently at the logs.
“I thought it had been tuned last week,” Mason managed to say. In that case, she retaliated, the man had merely toyed with the tuning.
Again a silence, which, time emphasising it, gradually convinced him that his theory was correct.
He was more concerned with this than in the snatches of conversation which followed; a new play, the weather, plans for the spring, the proposed trip to Italy; and then domestic difficulties. Jocelyn, since her mother’s death, had been mistress of the three bouses; the one here, the one at Algonquin Park, and the villa in Muskoka His chauffeur was leaving that evening, and Jocelyn particularly asked about the new man.
He came to see me this morning,” he replied disinterestedly.
Capable man I suppose,” and he was returning to his more fervid thought when the annoyance brought about by this domestic contretemps gave his checked feelings an outlet for expansion.
His forehead wrinkled and he crossed his legs, peevishly. “What’s the matter with Grosvenor?” he asked impatiently. “He had everything he wanted here, good salary, not much to do.” He halted his temper, pulling up a precipitant outburst. “What’s the matter with these young fellows?” he substituted.
“By George! if it wasn’t for the fact of their wearing trousers they’d pass for women with their delicate hands—gloves!”
Jocelyn asked him if he was sorry to see Grosvenor go, and he answered that he was sorry in so far that he was losing a reliable chauffeur.
Then, às a certain incident came back to him, he added: “I owe the fellow something more than a month’s salary.”
His daughter continued to gaze at the fire.
Taking in a deeper breath he found her hand and imprisoned it.
“I must never forget one debt of gratitude I owe him,” And he added: “Had it not been for Grosvenor, I might have been a very lonely old man, Jocelyn.” She agreed with him, her voice barely audible. But Mason shrugged his shoulders. “Well, that’s the way these young fellows are,” he said. “Brave as' lions one minute, restless and shifty the next. He’ll wander up and down the country, 1 suppose, and end up without a penny to his name—most likely without a solitary friend.”
Jocelyn was on her feet. Her headache was slightlj worse, she said, and the dull day had affected her. Shs wanted to know if he would mind if she left him for the quietness of her own room? He was surprised that she intended leaving him so early; it was only half-past nine But as he perceived the fever in her eyes he gave in at once and accompanied her to the foot of the stairs.
There, from the second step— she bent and kissed his gray head. “Good-night, daddy, dear."
“And you won’t tell me?” he asked.
She shook her head, sadly. “There’s nothing to tell— now.”
Suddenly, her eyes filled with tears; and without hesitatingshecame down to him and flung herself into his arms. ■“Oh daddy,” she said, “I’m so dreadfully miserable.’ And before he realised what was happening she had vanished up the stairs, and he heard the closing of her door.
He went slowly to the library and dropped into his chair. Jocelyn’s unhappiness greatly disturbed him, and her impulsive speech had left a wound. He tried to dismiss his perturbation by thinking of his business, to-morrow’s conference—anything rather than that which gnawed at
his heart strings. But that was impossible, and his thoughts clung to Jocelyn.
Methodically he retraced their stilted conversation until it had arrived at the reference to her present safety, due to Grosvenor’s bravery and presence of mind. That had happened latç last summer, Lord! what an escape that haa been; and escape for him, John Mason, for it had almost robbed him of all he held dear, his one child. Grosvenor had been in his employ just three months then, coming, so he had said, from England. Mason’s thoughts quickly revived a cinema of what he had been told had happened. Jocelyn was out riding; the horse, an expensive hunter, had taken fright and was on a mad tear for the cliff just in front of the house, Grosvenor happened to be trying out a new car, saw them, and immediately opened the throttle. Driving alongside, he managed to bracket them between himself and a small cottage not a hundred feet from the cliffs. Closing in, he sprang from the wheel straight to the mare’s bridle—dragging the animal to a standstill as the car plunged where it willed. By George! it had been a plucky piece of work! Luckily, Jocelyn suffered no more than a severe shock, but Grosvenor had been badly cut about the head and arms; the career of both horse and car, however, had come to an end. The car had cannoned up against the stone wall surrounding the cottage and had knocked down a little child playing there. And Jocelyn had told him that Grosvenor, forgetting his injuries, went to the little chap at once, and his comforting words, his re-assurance--
A KNOCK on the door interrupted Mason. Clearing his throat, which had become dry, he called out an invitation apd the door opened. Turning his head he saw Grosvenor standing there. He had come to get his wages, doubtless.
“Come in, Grosvenor.”
The late chauffeur closed the door deferentially, and
then took one slow, awkward step into the room. As becomes a servant his hat was in his hand, but the uniform had been discarded and he now wore a neat suit of tweeds of English cut and quality, linen collar, and regimental tie. His face was pale, accentuating the evenness of his profile. Mason, looking at him, conceded something to his looks and noted that the tweeds lent a gentlemanly appearance to his head and shoulders. In fact he looked rather well.
“So you’re leaving us?” the millionaire began, slightly irritated, although he didn’t know why. “Yes, Mr. Mason.”
“Well I won’t waste your—” Mason accented the pronoun—“time in telling you what a fool you are. I was prepared to do all I could for you, but you’ll have your own way 1 suppose; pilla’to post. You're doing a jr stupid thing, you know.”
Grosvenor said nothing. His cap revolved in his hands, turning this way and that, and his eyes were fixed on a bit of wool which his fingers tried to put back in place.
“Don’t stand there by the door,” genially admonished Mason. “Here’s a chair. Sit down.” The chauffeur obeyed. Then came one of John Mason’s sudden, haphazard questions: “What’s
your age, Grosvenor?” “Twenty-nine, sir.”
The employer lifted his eyebrows. “Um, I shouldn’t have thought that, ” he said. “You seem younger.” He opened a drawer in the table in front of him and found a type-written envelope. “Here’s your money. I’ve added something for your services; pleasure to admit they’ve been excellent. There’s an enclosed letter saying as much—more.” He looked up. “And there’s an extra cheque for one thousand dollars—for what you did last summer.”
“One thousand dollars?” The employer reiterated his statement. “I can’t accept that, Mr. Mason.” “Can’t accept—?”
“Not for doing something which was a plain duty, sir. What little I did—”
“What little you did?” repeated Mason, lifting his voice. “Little? By George! you saved the life of the most precious thing I own, and I can never adequately repayyou for it. But a thousand dollars may set you on your road— whichever one it is you intend tramping. And if you ever come to the devil’s crossroads—well, you know the way back here.” He had a feeling of patronising magnanimity, so he stopped. “Here, take it,” he said pitching the letter into the chauffeur’s lap.
“Thank you, Mr. Mason, but I can’t accept the cheque. I’ll take only what you owe me.” His voice was quiet and refined. “I can hardly walk away with whatever sum you believe to be the equivalent of your daughter’s life.”
John Mason sat upright in his chair, his face coloring. “Now look here, young man; it seems to me you’re being a little careless with a healthy sum of money. It’s no use being proud when, in your profession in particular, you must, depend on your employer’s liberality. And that’s about all I have against you. You’re a trifle ‘up-stage’; a trouble, I fancy, with most of your countrymen. Pride, my lad, is somewhat of a mill-stone in Canada if you want to get on, and you may as well throw it into the Atlantic on your way over here,”
Grosvenor, however, had nothing to say to this, and Mason wondered if his judgment had been too harsh.
“Well, is there anything else?” he asked. “Anything I can substitute for the cheque?”
“Nothing at all, Mr. Mason.”
“Very well,” he concluded. "There’s the letter. If you don’t want the cheque you can tear it up.”
Grosvenor rose, and taking up the envelope he opened it and deposited the cheque on the table. “Goodnight, Mr. Mason, and thank you.”
He was at the door when Mason called him back.
LONG after, John Mason wondered what it was that made him interrupt the chauffeur’s [exit, interfered, most likely, with his going out of his life for ever. He conjectured that it was a sense of annoyance at having his money thrust so indifferently under his nose.
“What, exactly, is the matter, Grosvenor?” he asked the man. “Here you are quitting a good job, going away without a word of explanation. Now, what, in Heaven’s name, is the matter?”
Grosvenor remained absolutely still. “It’s just as you say, Mr. Mason. I long to be off-the open mad anywhere. I’d like to see something of the country, end well, I want to get away.”
It then struck Mason that here was a sil tint ton amazingly like one other, a more potent one, which some minutes earlier had been enacted in the drawing room and at the foot of the stairs. Jocelyn, too, had something she was keeping from him. If it wasn't for the lad that Grosvenor
was a common servant--Great God! His fists slowly clenched, the nails biting into the flesh, and before lie knew it he was on his feet, rigid.
“Has this got anything to do with—with my daughter?” Mason asked not hearing what he was saying. “By heavens, if I thought that, I’d smash you where you stand.” Then, in a second’s awful dejection he inquired: “Have
I—have I got—it—right?” “I’m afraid so—yes.”
“That you have the audacity to tell me that you are in love with my daughter?” and something forced him on to chokingly add:— “and that she is—”
But he was saved this. Grosvenor interrupted him: “I am going away because your objection to such a thing is just what my common-sense told me it would be. You needn’t tell me that I’m presumptuous and impertinent; I know it. I saw, too, what you have just told me, that before you could think of such a thing you would want to kill me. I can readily understand that; I think I’d feel the same if our positions were reversed. And as for proof— well, I needn’t have left your employ if I hadn’t thought it was the right thing to do.”
“I don’t quite know how it started,” Grosvenor went on as though thinking that he should explain further. “I suppose—last summer. God knows I tried my best to avoid it; but I failed in that. I loved her more and more each day until I thought I’d surely go mad.”
Mason, hardly able to control himself, strode up and down the room, stopping, finally, at the window, from which place, swinging round, he said: “Why, you insect, there’s all the distance from hell to heaven between you and my daughter.”
Grosvenor flushed. “I’ll make it farther,” he said in a low voice. “I know I’m not good enough for her; I know there is an impossible distance between us.” His eyes burned, remaining absolutely steady. “And I was about to say that I’m sorry it ever happened, but I’m not —I’m glad. Wherever I go and whatever luck or misfortune comes to me I’ll carry the memory of her till my dying day.”
Mason asked: “Does —does she care for you?”
The chauffeur couldn’t answer that; the reply might have been offensive but for the open expression which accompanied the words.
But John Mason knew that she did. That, then, was the explanation of the shadows under her eyes; that the reason for her silence, her abstraction.
All at once he wondered if Jocelyn herself had not had a hand in Grosvenor’s manner of coming to see him, and in his eventual admission. He admitted, lifting his eyes, that the fellow cut a rather heroic figure, and—all right; he would be very careful how he put this to a test.
O ETURNING to his chair he sat down and clasped his hands in such a way as to suggest a quieter consideration. “A short while ago,” he began, studying the chauffeur’s face for the least expression which would strengthen his suspicions, “I had a distressful talk w[ith Jocelyn. She was, so she told me, dreadfully miserable, and I now have little doubt that it was because you were going away. I am to assume then that you are leaving my employ in order to put many miles between yourself and an impossibility?”
“And my daughter, of course, is to be left high and ^-y in her misery, is sh. /”
There was no reply.
“Well, if there’s one thing more than another for which I’d martyr myself,” continued Mason, “it would be to bring contentment and happiness into Jocelyn’s heart. To accomplish that I need hardly tell you that I’d allow nothing to stand in the way. If you have been perfectly truthful with me and I find out—”
Mason raised a hand.
“I was about to say that if you really love her and I find out that she cares for you more than for anyone else I shall make it my duty to force myself to overlook obstacles which may—”
But Grosvenor stopped him. “Pardon me,
Mr. Mason. I’m going
away because I wouldn’t care to ask you to overlook the obstacles. I’m thinking of her, not of you. That’s just why I’m leaving. If I’d have been able to offer her anything at all things wouldn’t seem so bad. But I can’t; I haven’t a dollar.”
“Perhaps the money part of it might be arranged,” suggested Mason quietly. This, he felt sure, would draw the chauffeur into the open. He was considerably surprised at the result.
“I’m not a fortune hunter,” Grosvenor retaliated. “You surely don’t think that if I’d been able to offer her even an approximately decent home even something remotely taking the place of what she’s been accustomed to receive,— that I’d have permitted my situation or even your refusal tq interfere? If so I’m afraid you’ve underestimated the sacrifice I’m making.
“No, Mr. Mason, there’s no way out but the way I’m taking. Your daughter has been brought up like a beautifully cultured flower; under any other roof she’d fade and die. J know what happened to my own sister in England when, some years ago, the family fortunes broke and she was forced, like all of us, to earn her own living.” Here, John Mason regarded him anew. “I wouldn’t have accepted your refusal if I’d have been a rich man; I’d have taken her against an army of machine guns, ” he stated defiantly. “It’s because I wouldn’t touch anything that wasn’t rightly mine that I’m going away from her. And accepting your money merely because your daughter hairpens to care forme would stifle me all the days of my life.”
“And now, ” said Mason warily, fully satisfied, “if you please, the Amen.” The whole affair pained him, and he wanted only to be alone, to end this torture somehow— anyhow. “And now—” *
“Very well, Mr. Mason.”
Grosvenor’s voice was choked as he said goodnight, and Mason made no response to it. He heard the door open and close and knew he was alone.
TUT OW long he stayed there he had no idea, but it couldn’t have been late because Jocelyn had not yet gone to bed. His arm shook with excitement as he knocked upon her door. There was a faint inquiry from inside and he hardly recognised his own voice when he said he must see her immediately. She came to the door and opened it, an elfish vision in loose silk and shimmering hose.
“May I come into your room?”
“I’ve just been talking with Grosvenor,” he said laboredly. “Of course I know everything. I’m afraid I was pretty severe with him.”
Her little cry of anguish penetrated him, and he glanced up in time to see both her hands go to her breast. In a dull, half-alive manner he felt as though he had struck her
“Jocelyn! this is so utterly beyond me that I don’t even know what it means.”
She made no stir, and, getting to his feet, he crossed the intervening space and stood beside her.
“Now, please, Jocelyn, come to your senses. Won’t you tell me everything from the very beginning?”
Her only answer was to put out her hand, gropingly, for
“How long?” he insisted, caressing her.
“A long time.”
“Since the time he saved your life, undoubtedly,” he said. “But don’t you see the impossibility of it? I could have paid him for that, given him anything he asked for in the way of money. But no, that wouldn’t do, would it? He must want you, the most valuable of all my possessions.” He struggled, almost physically, against the discussion of such a thing. “Surely, Jocelyn—surely you don’t really love this man, do you?”
“I do, father; I do. With all my heart.”
Her passionate admission chilled him; he could think of nothing but her deliberate intention of hurting him.
“But don’t you see the sheer absurdity of it,” he almost shouted. “Good Lord! You—and a chauffeur; why, it’s unthinkable. Even Grosvenor, himself, admitted that downstairs in the library.”
He stopped, urging to his brain what he could say in Grosvenor’s disfavor. He was surprised to find a difficulty here, but his bitterness, enmity, stimulating his imagination, helped him out. “It was a fine stroke of business to save your life and then get you to fall in love with him,” he fumbled. This, he knew well, was pure fiction, but he kept it up hoping to intrigue her interest and so, in time, gain the admission from her that she would be willing to endeavour to forget him.
Jocelyn lifted her head. When she spoke her voice was infinitely tender in its quiet emphasis. “Do you think I wouldn’t have known if what you suggest had any truth?” she asked him. “Why, daddy, there isn’t a woman who wouldn’t know once such a love came to her. And sooner than remain single I might, I know, choke my real love and marry one of the men you choose for me. Yes, I could do that; marry and settle down and have children and drop into that awful existence of wedded, moral righteousness which you’ll find in so many pretending houses. But don’t think I’m making a mistake about Mr. Grosvenor. I’m not. He’s the one man I want; of them all he’s my choice. Married to any other I’d be living a life of hypocrisy, without honor, without love.” She stopped, and he heard the little clock ticking on her dressing table, like a tattoo on his eardrums. “Don’t you understand, daddy?”
He cowed before her poignant question. No, he didn’t understand, he couldn’t understand. Itwas beyond every* trick of reason for him to try to understand.
SuddenlyJocelyn begged him to leave her. "I want,” she said, “to be alone.”
For a moment he hesitated, involved in her tragedy, thenhe turned and walked away. She closed the door softly behind him.
Outside he remained with his back tó'thé door listening for a sound. Then, after a straggle with his softer nature, he continuëd down the corridor—only ’ to retrace his steps back to her room. She was reclining on her bed now, her face buried in the pillow.
“No, father. Please —don’t say anything.” Impulsively he went to her and, on his knees, laid his head against the dark hair. Quietly he told her how sorry he was for her in her trouble. They would go away, he said, as soon as she was willing; tomorrow if she cared. All young girls had these romantic love affairs now and then, but Grosvenor had gone now and she must take courage and forget she had ever known him.
But it wasn’t that that troubled her, she
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said, her voice coming from the depths of her pillow. She had been prepared for his going away. “It was the terrible fact that, loving him as I did, he went away without telling me that he cared for me in return. I can’t—I can’t—I simply can’t bear that,” she wept, each sob a jagged tear at Mason’s heart-strings.
He gasped in surprise. “D’you mean he didn’t tell you that he loved you? That he said nothing?”
“I told him,” Jocelyn confessed. “Why should I have let him pass by without telling him what he meant to me? Unwomanly? No, daddy, it’s more unwomanly to be subservient to a thing called society and marry one of its marionettes. I at least was honest with myself.”
So Grosvenor had acted honorably, after all? And real! Yes, that wasa concession that John Mason now had little hesitáney in granting him. Besides he had gone away so emphatically, without leaving a trace of his footsteps.
She had no idea where Grosvenor had gone, and questioning her further he gained nothing but the information that he had long had plans for taking a small motor repair shop, and starting a business of his own. “At first he told me that he would find it in Toronto,” she said. “But now—” “Well,” she sighed, a moment later, “it s no use wearing ourselves out, is it?” She smiled sadly at him. “You look awfully tired, daddy—and worn. I can’t blame you. And I’m wretchedly tired myself. But now you know what it was I wanted most for my birthday; with your consent. It’s over now, and, as I told you, you couldn’t buy it for me, could you? You probably found that out in the library.” She waited a moment before continuing: “And you won’t think I’ve disregarded your feelings, will you? He was not quite so ordinary as you think. His people—he once told me about them—were rather nice—well-known, I mean, and I believe he said he had attended Harrow. There was no mistake about his being a gentleman. And when all is said and done I think that being a good chauffeur is about as great a success as any in this world.” Again she smiled, and, on the instant, he thought her very wise; wiser than ever she had been.
She kissed him good-night and he blessed her. Outside he waited for the click of he key before going back to his chair in the library.
Harrow, eh? Taking a motor-repair shop? And next Thursday would be Jocelyn’s twenty-fourth birthday. He squared his shoulders. Well, by George! he had exactly seven clear days in which to get busy.
'T'HE next morning he breakfasted alone, then went down-town without disturbing her. The office routine was a monstrous triviality; business, the thought of it, absolutely ridiculous. Later in the day he engaged two passages on a boat sailing for Naples. With the remembrance of Jocelyn’s abject misery so persistently before him something not unlike confusion began to reign in his private room. A score of letters lay unsigned on his desk, and there were strict orders that under no condition was he to be disturbed. But at length he felt he had to do something, speak to somebody, and he was immeasurably glad when the ringing of his telephone gave him the opportunity.
It was his old friend Peter Atkinson. The object of the call, it was explained, was to find out if he, Mason, would care for a game of golf. “The links,” came the invitation, “are not so dusty for October.” John Mason was in no mood for golf, but he urged Peter to meet him at his club immediately; he had something very important to say to him. Peter acquiesced.
Peter Atkinson was a clean-shaven, bald, and elongated bachelor who, as he so often stated, hadsafely travelled through seventy years without having been snared by a
Îietticoat. In the lounge room of the club, istening to John Mason’s story, he preferred a persistent chuckle when he was not rubbing his thin, very bony hands.
“By Gad! that’s a good one,” he commented jerkily when Mason had come to an end. “Yes, sir, I’m hanged if that doesn’t take the biscuit—pretty nearly two biscuits.”
"But what’s to be done?” saked Mason miserably.
“Done?” Peter laughed mirthlessly. “Done? Why you’ve got to corral this car-driving colt and get him hitched up to a post. Otherwise, Jocelyn will be leaving you like a hat in a gale of wind.”
“That’s just what I feared,” quavered Mason. “But he’s vanished—as I’ve explained to you he’s gone.”
Peter indulged in another dry laugh. “Gone? Yes, he’s gone like Sunday only to come round again. If you threw a net any night from the top of your house you couldn’t fail to land him.”
But although that might appeal to Mason’s sporting instincts, old Peter said, he knew a better plan. The alternative proposal was that since Grosvenor was on the look-out for a small motor-repair shop John Mason should go and purchase one, and then advertise in every newspaper that it was for rent. “Make it cheap,” he advised; “and you’ll get him. Five dollars a week or something.” But then, he warned, he must be sure to keep hisidentity dark, and someone should act as a go-between; but the idea was to ensnare Grosvenor so that the lion in him would turn to mutton. “Cold mutton,” said Peter, “Well, will you handle the job?” asked Mason, all intent and serious.
“Provided,” returned the old beau, “you’ll inveigle Jocelyn into accepting my sole company for the theatre some night. Some evening before this lad gets a strangle hold on her, if you, fond parent, can possibly understand what I mean.”
John Mason accepted the bargain.
ON SATURDAY afternoon, just as he was about to leave his office Mason was glad to see Peter Atkinson poke his face in at the door. “Take off your shawl, John,” was his greeting. “I’ve something
Peter had a mischievous gleam in his eye and his intermittent chuckle was strongly in evidence. He had, that morning, so he said, received a letter from young Grosvenor in regard to the rental of a certain motor-repair shop on King Street, East. “There’s the letter,” he said; "read it for yourself.”
“But what’s more to the point,” Atkinson went on, “I saw the young fellow this morning, closed the deal, and gave him the lease. He’s in there now, for all I know. He’s in there to work too, and I wouldn’t be so far wrong if I said he’d make good. But it’s plain what he’s up to.”
Mason asked him what he meant, and received the reply that that wasn’t worth talking about. “But what often puzzles me is this,” said Peter. “How is it possible for a young, intelligent man to be so hopelessly blinded by love as to seriously think he can make a fortune out of a few old nuts and tires? He’ll slave there—like a beaver—for years.”
“We must send him as much help as wé can, Peter,” said John Mason hurriedly. “He’s a good mechanic, and you ahd I should be able to arrange that he has plenty of work to do.”
Peter Atkinson snorted.
“Nonsense,” he said. “Now look here, John—” he prodded him with his sharppointed boot— “let me put a straight question to you. Do you want him to make Jocelyn happy and marry her?” '
To the twinkling eyes Mason adopted a defiant attitude. “Yes,” he shouted.
“Then get him back into your house by hook, crook, or firehose and tie him to a chair.” He grinned. “If a man has any sense at all,” he said, “nothing short of being trussed up like a fowl would compel him to marry. Threaten him, beat him into a pulp, force him to the altar by the scruff of his neck.” .John Mason looked at him with incredulous eyes. “I’ll tell you, John, that’s the only way they’d havegot me to bind myself to one, single, solitary woman.” Then he jumped to his legs and began to caper about the office. “Send him work,” he repeated. “Ha! Ha!”
“I need hardly remind you, Peter, that you’re acting very much like a lunatic,” said Mason.
“Undoubtedly correct,” agreed Peter. “Now then instead of sending him work, this is my scheme. It’s no use having a son-in-law if you don’t make use of him. Into this office he goes, neck, crop, and high collar, and when you are ready to push up the daisies, John, he’ll take your place here.” Mason gasped for breath. “Now the way to go about it is this; I’ve got it all arrangedfiin neat little packages of poison. Ü , ^i JErS
“To-morrow—no, Monday, I’ll send a man with a proposition so full of the sun, moon, and stars that it’ll dazzle and blind him so he can’t see the colorjofthis shirt. This scheme will be one whereby he goes into partnership with someone else to get bold of «* large.garage just round the corner—the brazen fraud of which you’ll cleverly point out to him later, when he comes to see vou; don’t forget that.
“For this proposition he’ll need exactly one thousand berries: not a cent less, not a penny m ire just a round, neat, darling little thousand.” He paused for more wind. .“When he comes to you for this sweet and desirable thousand which he so carelessly, spiritlessly, absent-mindedly, let us say, ignored last Thursday—lock the doors and brain him!”
John Mason burst out laughing. It was the first time he had laughed in days and it immeasurably relieved him inside.
“Peter,” he said, “you’re a tonic. But you can take it from me that Grosvenor will need a great deal of persuading.h”
HOW Peter Atkinson was managing all this during the early part of the week, Mason had no idea; and being in constant touch with Jocelyn gradually sharpened his anxiety again. The day of her anniversary found him more perceptibly unhappy thanMocelyn herself.
Dinner over, Mason was called to the library ¡where Peter Atkinson was waiting.
“He’ll be here in fifteen minutes,” were his first words.
Masonexperienced a strange beating of his heart, and he begged his friend to at least take off his hat and sit down.
Peter admitted he wanted little invitation to do that. “At my age,” he said, “this rushing round won’t do. I’ll eat here.”
Grosvenor, when he came in, Mason saw, was paler than usual, a little more drawn, noticeably about the mouth and eyes; but his back was as straight as ever.
“Perhaps,” began Grosvenor, looking from one to the other, “perhaps Mr. Atkinson will help me to explain?”
“Jump right into it,” urged Peter, between mouthfuls. “I’llstand by you whatever it is. Didn’t know you and Mason were acquainted. Very pleasant.”
Grosvenor then explained. There was a man named Stephenson, he said, who had made a pretty decent proposal to him about taking a garage away down town. They had looked into the matter very carefully and had found that they could have the rental of it for the low sum of two thousand dollars cash down, and a small additional sum every six months. “It’s a wonderful proposition, ” he went on eagerly, “and I think Stephenson and I were the first in on it. Stephenson says he’s a first rate mechanic and knows a car from top to bottom.”
Up to now his tone had been free from nervousness or embarrassment, but as he continued, his courage began to desert him and he was inclined to stammer his,words. “Stephenson has, a thousand dollars of his own,” he explained; “and—and the opportunity seems too good to lose, so I—” “You mean, ” said Mason, “that you’ve pocketed your pride and now you want to do the same thing with that thousand I once offered you?”
“I—yes—that is, you see—”
“Nothing,” cut in Mason, “could be easier.” He opened the same drawer and took out the same cheque. “Here’s the money just where you left it.” Grosvenor took it and folded it into a neat oblong.
“Thank you, Mr. Mason. I—I feel, in some way, I owe you an apology for: this, but—” Here a hurst of laughter from the guests in some part of the house caused him to lift his head. Both men, watching him, easily saw how it affected him.
“Don’t apologise,” said Mason. “It’s a pleasure.”
“Thank you, Mr. Mason. Good-night.” Grosvenor turned to go.
“This property you’re contemplating,” called Mason, as Peter Atkinson signaled an important wink; “where is it situated?” “It’s the old Foster factory.”
“Surely not that garage on Sherbourne street?”
“Why, yes; that’s it.”
Mason and Atkinson exchanged serious glances. “Good heavens, man, don’t put your money into that place. It’s a trap, a worthless affair, uncovered by fire-protection, the building itself in danger of falling down. Why it’s been vacant for years, my boy; not worth a nickel.”
“Good Lord! no,” supplemented Peter I glibly. “Put Minerva’s wings on both your tootsies and step out of that swindling mess in high gear.” He again consulted with Mason across the table. “Looks as though this Stephenson ought to be locked up. Know his telephone number?” he asked of Grosvenor.
“Call him up.”
Grosvenor did so, and his face fell when there was no answer to the call. “He promised to be there for certain,” he told them, rising to his feet. “I was to tell him if I’d got the’money.”
Peter excused himself and jogged away to the party. “I promised I’d dance with Jocelyn,” he said. “Ha! Think of it; seventy and twenty-four!”
“My daughter’s birthday,” Mason explained when they were alone.
r^ROSVENOR stood by the table wonNJ dering, the millionaire felt sure, what he had now better do with the cheque in his pocket. Mason, sensing what was in his mind, could almost feel the painful tightening in his breast, and he was loath to keep up the pretence any longer.
“Will you work for me?” he asked.
The young man looked up, absently. “Well?”
“Come back here, you mean?”
“No, no. I’ll give you a job in my office; under-manager of the sales department; salary, two hundred and fifty a week —if you make good.’
A light came to Grosvenor’s eyes, and then vanished again. “What does that mean, Mr. Mason?”
“It means,” was the reply, “that you’ll need to work very hard, for one thing. Don’t say you can’t do that.”
“Then you’ll accept?”
Here John Mason paused; then, taking a firmer hold of his driving reins, he went on:
“But by George! Grosvenor, in the last week I’ve aged years; all because of your confounded pride. Now here’s my hand; and if you don’t take it and cease keeping your nose up in the air I’ll take a club and brain you.” He subsided into his armchair, obviously winded and out.
“If that’s, the way you feel about it, Mr. Mason,” said Grosvenor, hardly able to prevent a smile though his heart was pounding his ribs, “I have no alternative. But I would again remind you of my late position and of my particular relation to the rest of the servants.” Mason here decided t hat he would fire everyone of them the next day. “Andasfor taking your money—well, if I don’t earn it—”
“Stop!” said Mason.
He looked at his watch and saw that it was close upon ten o’clock. Jocelyn’s birthday would soon be coming to an end, but she had two hours of it in which to enjoy this latest gift. He shook hands with Grosvenor, wincing at the tight pressure brought to bear on his fingers, then went to the door and peeped out.
“Stay in here,” he whispered; “and don’t move.”
He found Jocelyn in the midst of a crowd of elders, and putting his arm around her he led her away to a quiet corner.
“Now is there anything your old daddy can’t get for you?” he asked. “Once upon a time, in fact, last Thursday, you said I could not—”
Catching at her breath she seized his arm in astonishingly strong fingers.
“Oh. . .please. . please tell me.”
“He’s in the library," he said simply, ^‘waiting for you.”
“Did—did you say it was your gift, daddy?”
“Partly mine. That is I’ve withdrawn all my objections. Peter Atkinson thinks you have drawn a prize.” There was a little silence. “Well now, what are you going to say? The pearls were more fully mine, but I suppose that Grosvenor is—?” She lowered her eyes, and her face slowly crimsoned. “I’m afraid so . ... ”
“Then for God’s sake don’t keep him waiting,” interrupted Peter, who had just come up and heard the last question. “He’s liable to get away for good this time. What are you lingering here for?”
Jocelyn laughed and slipped away, and Mason, linking his arm in Peter's, piloted Turn into the billiard room.
“I’d like to celebrate, somehow,” he ■said, a little sadly, a little shakily. “Let’s punish a whiskey—neat.”
“Let’s punish one thousand whiskeys,” said Peter.