Doctor Selig was an adventurer. He did not look it, certainly.
He was an amiable young bachelor with thin hair. He was instructor
in history and economics in Erasmus College, and he had to sit on a
foolish little platform and try to coax some fifty young men and
women, who were interested only in cuddling and four-door sedans,
to become hysterical about the law of diminishing returns.
But at night, in his decorous boarding house, he sometimes
smoked a pipe, which was viewed as obscene in the religious shades
of Erasmus, and he was boldly writing a book which was to make him
Of course everyone is writing a book. But Selig’s was
different. It was profound. How good it was can be seen from the
fact that with only three quarters of it done, it already had
fifteen hundred footnotes—such lively comments as “Vid.
J. A. S. H. S. VIII, 234 et seq.” A real book, nothing
flippant or commercialized.
It was called The Influence of American Diplomacy on the
Internal Policies of Paneuropa.
“Paneuropa,” Selig felt, was a nice and scholarly
way of saying “Europe.”
It would really have been an interesting book if Doctor Selig
had not believed that all literature is excellent in proportion as
it is hard to read. He had touched a world romantic and little
known. Hidden in old documents, like discovering in a desert an
oasis where girls laugh and fountains chatter and the market place
is noisy, he found the story of Franklin, who in his mousy fur cap
was the Don Juan of Paris, of Adams fighting the British Government
to prevent their recognizing the Confederacy, of Benjamin Thompson,
the Massachusetts Yankee who in 1791 was chief counselor of
Bavaria, with the title of Count Rumford.
Selig was moved by these men who made the young America more
admired than she is today. And he was moved and, in a most
unscholarly way, he became a little angry as he reviewed the story
of Senator Ryder.
He knew, of course, that Lafayette Ryder had prevented war
between England and America in the first reign of Grover Cleveland;
he knew that Ryder had been Secretary of State, and Ambassador to
France, courted by Paris for his wisdom, his manners, his wit; that
as Senator he had fathered (and mothered and wet-nursed) the
Ryder–Hanklin Bill, which had saved our wheat markets; and
that his two books, Possibilities of Disarmament and The
Anglo–American Empire, were not merely glib propaganda for
peace, but such inspired documents as would have prevented the Boer
War, the Spanish–American War, the Great War, if there had
been in his Victorian world a dozen men with minds like his. This
Selig knew, but he could not remember when Ryder had died.
Then he discovered with aghast astonishment that Senator Ryder
was not dead, but still alive at ninety-two, forgotten by the
country he had helped to build.
Yes, Selig felt bitterly, we honor our great men in
America— sometimes for as much as two months after the
particular act of greatness that tickles us. But this is a
democracy. We mustn’t let anyone suppose that because we have
given him an (undesired) parade up Broadway and a (furiously
resented) soaking of publicity on March first, he may expect to be
taken seriously on May second.
The Admiral Dewey whom the press for a week labeled as a
combination of Nelson, Napoleon, and Chevalier Bayard, they later
nagged to his grave. If a dramatist has a success one season, then
may the gods help him, because for the rest of his life everyone
will attend his plays only in the hope that he will fail.
But sometimes the great glad-hearted hordes of boosters do not
drag down the idol in the hope of finding clay feet, but just
forget him with the vast, contemptuous, heavy indifference of a
hundred and twenty million people.
So felt Doctor Selig, angrily, and he planned for the end of his
book a passionate resurrection of Senator Ryder. He had a shy hope
that his book would appear before the Senator’s death, to
make him happy.
Reading the Senator’s speeches, studying his pictures in
magazine files, he felt that he knew him intimately. He could see,
as though the Senator were in the room, that tall ease, the
contrast of long thin nose, gay eyes, and vast globular brow that
made Ryder seem a combination of Puritan, clown, and benevolent
Selig longed to write to him and ask—oh, a thousand things
that only he could explain; the proposals of Lionel
Sackville–West regarding Colombia; what Queen Victoria really
had said in that famous but unpublished letter to President
Harrison about the Newfoundland fisheries. Why couldn’t he
write to him?
No! The man was ninety-two, and Selig had too much reverence to
disturb him, along with a wholesome suspicion that his letter would
be kicked out by the man who had once told Gladstone to go to the
So forgotten was the Senator that Selig could not, at first,
find where he lived. Who’s Who gave no address. Selig’s
superior, Professor Munk, who was believed to know everything in
the world except the whereabouts of his last-season’s straw
hat, bleated, “My dear chap, Ryder is dwelling in some
cemetery! He passed beyond, if I remember, in 1901.”
The mild Doctor Selig almost did homicide upon a venerable
At last, in a bulletin issued by the Anti–Prohibition
League, Selig found among the list of directors: “Lafayette
Ryder (form. U. S. Sen., Sec’y State), West Wickley,
Vermont.” Though the Senator’s residence could make no
difference to him, that night Selig was so excited that he smoked
an extra pipe of tobacco.
He was planning his coming summer vacation, during which he
hoped to finish his book. The presence of the Senator drew him
toward Vermont, and in an educational magazine he found the
advertisement: “Sky Peaks, near Wickley, Vt., woodland nook
with peace and a library—congenial and intellectual company
and writers—tennis, handball, riding—nightly Sing round
Old-time Bonfire—fur. bung. low rates.”
That was what he wanted: a nook and a library and lots of low
rates, along with nearness to his idol. He booked a fur. bung. for
the summer, and he carried his suitcase to the station on the
beautiful day when the young fiends who through the year had
tormented him with unanswerable questions streaked off to all parts
of the world and for three tremendous months permitted him to be a
private human being.
When he reached Vermont, Selig found Sky Peaks an old farm,
redecorated in a distressingly tea-roomy fashion. His single
bungalow, formerly an honest corncrib, was now painted
robin’s-egg blue with yellow trimmings and christened
“Shelley.” But the camp was on an upland, and air sweet
from hayfield and spruce grove healed his lungs, spotted with
At his first dinner at Sky Peaks, he demanded of the host, one
Mr. Iddle, “Doesn’t Senator Ryder live somewhere near
“Oh, yes, up on the mountain, about four miles
“Hope I catch a glimpse of him some day.”
“I’ll run you over to see him any time you’d
“Oh, I couldn’t do that! Couldn’t
“Nonsense! Of course he’s old, but he takes quite an
interest in the countryside. Fact, I bought this place from him
and—Don’t forget the Sing tonight.”
At eight that evening Iddle came to drag Selig from the security
of his corncrib just as he was getting the relations of the Locarno
Pact and the Versailles Treaty beautifully coordinated.
It was that kind of Sing. “The Long, Long Trail,”
and “All God’s Chillun Got Shoes.” (God’s
Chillun also possessed coats, pants, vests, flivvers, and
watermelons, interminably.) Beside Selig at the campfire sat a
young woman with eyes, a nose, a sweater, and an athletic skirt,
none of them very good or particularly bad. He would not have
noticed her, but she picked on him:
“They tell me you’re in Erasmus, Doctor
“Real attention to character. And after all, what benefit
is there in developing the intellect if the character isn’t
developed to keep pace with it? You see, I’m in educational
work myself—oh, of course nothing like being on a college
faculty, but I teach history in the Lincoln High School at
Schenectady—my name is Selma Swanson. We must have some good
talks about teaching history, mustn’t we!”
“Um!” said Selig, and escaped, though it was not
till he was safely in his corncrib that he said aloud, “We
For three months he was not going to be a teacher, or heed the
horrors of character-building. He was going to be a great scholar.
Even Senator Ryder might be excited to know how powerful an
intellect was soothing itself to sleep in a corncrib four miles
He was grinding hard next afternoon when his host, Iddle,
stormed in with: “I’ve got to run in to Wickley Center.
Go right near old Ryder’s. Come on. I’ll introduce you
“Oh, no, honestly!”
“Don’t be silly: I imagine he’s lonely. Come
Before Selig could make up his mind to get out of Iddle’s
tempestuous flivver and walk back, they were driving up a mountain
road and past marble gateposts into an estate. Through a damp grove
of birches and maples they came out on meadows dominated by an old
brick house with a huge porch facing the checkered valley. They
stopped with a dash at the porch, and on it Selig saw an old man
sunk in a canvas deck chair and covered with a shawl. In the shadow
the light seemed to concentrate on his bald head, like a sphere of
polished vellum, and on long bloodless hands lying as in death on
shawl-draped knees. In his eyes there was no life nor desire for
Iddle leaped out, bellowing, “Afternoon, Senator! Lovely
day, isn’t it? I’ve brought a man to call on you. This
is Mr. Selig of—uh—one of our colleges. I’ll be
back in an hour.”
He seized Selig’s arm—he was abominably
strong—and almost pulled him out of the car. Selig’s
mind was one wretched puddle of confusion. Before he could dredge
any definite thought out of it, Iddle had rattled away, and Selig
stood below the porch, hypnotized by the stare of Senator
Ryder—too old for hate or anger, but not too old for slow
Not one word Ryder said.
Selig cried, like a schoolboy unjustly accused:
“Honestly, Senator, the last thing I wanted to do was to
intrude on you. I thought Iddle would just introduce us and take me
away. I suppose he meant well. And perhaps subconsciously I did
want to intrude! I know your Possibilities of Disarmament and
Anglo–American Empire so well—”
The Senator stirred like an antediluvian owl awakening at
twilight. His eyes came to life. One expected him to croak, like a
cynical old bird, but his still voice was fastidious:
“I didn’t suppose anyone had looked into my books
since 1910.” Painful yet gracious was the gesture with which
he waved Selig to a chair. “You are a teacher?”
“Instructor in a small Ohio college. Economics and
history. I’m writing a monograph on our diplomacy, and
naturally—There are so many things that only you could
“Because I’m so old?”
“No! Because you’ve had so much knowledge and
courage—perhaps they’re the same thing! Every day,
literally, in working on my book I’ve wished I could consult
you. For instance—Tell me, sir, didn’t Secretary of
State Olney really want war with England over Venezuela?
Wasn’t he trying to be a tin hero?”
“No!” The old man threw off his shawl. It was
somehow a little shocking to find him not in an ancient robe laced
with gold, but in a crisp linen summer suit with a smart bow tie.
He sat up, alert, his voice harsher. “No! He was a patriot.
Sturdy. Honest. Willing to be conciliatory but not flinching. Miss
At the Senator’s cry, out of the wide fanlighted door of
the house slid a trained nurse. Her uniform was so starched that it
almost clattered, but she was a peony sort of young woman, the sort
who would insist on brightly mothering any male, of any age,
whether or not he desired to be mothered. She glared at the
intruding Selig; she shook her finger at Senator Ryder, and
“Now I do hope you aren’t tiring yourself, else I
shall have to be ever so stern and make you go to bed. The doctor
“Damn the doctor! Tell Mrs. Tinkham to bring me down the
file of letters from Richard Olney, Washington, for
1895—O-l-n-e-y—and hustle it!”
Miss Tully gone, the Senator growled, “Got no more use for
a nurse than a cat for two tails! It’s that mutton-headed
doctor, the old fool! He’s seventy-five years old, and he
hasn’t had a thought since 1888. Doctors!”
He delivered an address on the art of medicine with such
vigorous blasphemy that Selig shrank in horrified admiration. And
the Senator didn’t abate the blazing crimson of his oration
at the entrance of his secretary, Mrs. Tinkham, a small, narrow,
bleached, virginal widow.
Selig expected her to leap off the porch and commit suicide in
terror. She didn’t. She waited, she yawned gently, she handed
the Senator a manila envelope, and gently she vanished.
The Senator grinned. “She’ll pray at me tonight! She
daren’t while you’re here. There! I feel better. Good
cussing is a therapeutic agent that has been forgotten in these
degenerate days. I could teach you more about cussing than about
diplomacy—to which cussing is a most valuable aid. Now here
is a letter that Secretary Olney wrote me about the significance of
his correspondence with England.”
It was a page of history. Selig handled it with more reverence
than he had given to any material object in his life.
He exclaimed, “Oh, yes, you used—of course
I’ve never seen the rest of this letter, and I can’t
tell you, sir, how excited I am to see it. But didn’t you use
this first paragraph—it must be about on page 276 of your
“I believe I did. It’s not my favorite
“You know, of course, that it was reprinted from your book
in the Journal of the American Society of Historical Sources last
“Was it?” The old man seemed vastly pleased. He
beamed at Selig as at a young but tested friend. He chuckled,
“Well, I suppose I appreciate now how King Tut felt when they
remembered him and dug him up. . . . Miss Tully! Hey! Miss Tully,
will you be so good as to tell Martens to bring us whisky and soda,
with two glasses? Eh? Now you look here, young woman; we’ll
fight out the whole question of my senile viciousness after our
guest has gone. Two glasses, I said! . . . Now about Secretary
Olney. The fact of the case was . . .”
Two hours later, Senator Ryder was still talking and in that two
hours he had given Selig such unrecorded information as the
researcher could not have found in two years of study.
Selig had for two hours walked with presidents and ambassadors;
he had the dinner conversation of foreign ministers, conversations
so private, so world-affecting, that they never had been set down,
even in letters. The Senator had revealed his friendship with King
Edward, and the predictions about the future World War the King had
made over a glass of mineral water.
The mild college instructor, who till this afternoon had never
spoken to anyone more important than the president of a prairie
college, was exalted with a feeling that he had become the
confidant of kings and field marshals, of Anatole France and Lord
Haldane, of Sarah Bernhardt and George Meredith.
He had always known but till now he had never understood that in
private these great personages were plain human beings, like Doctor
Wilbur Selig of Erasmus. It made him feel close to King Edward to
hear (though the Senator may have exaggerated) that the King could
not pronounce his own name without a German accent; it made him
feel a man of the world to learn the details of a certain not very
elevating party at which an English duke and a German prince and a
Portuguese king, accompanied by questionable ladies, had in
bibulous intimacy sung to Senator Ryder’s leadership the
lyric, “How Dry I Am.”
During that two hours, there had been ten minutes when he had
been entirely off in a Conan Doyle spirit world. His notion of
prodigious alcoholic dissipation was a bottle of home-brewed beer
once a month. He had tried to mix himself a light whisky and
soda— he noted, with some anxiety about the proper
drinking-manners in diplomatic society, that he took approximately
one third as much whisky as the Senator.
But while the old man rolled his drink in his mouth and shook
his bald head rapturously and showed no effect, Selig was suddenly
lifted six million miles above the earth, through pink-gray clouds
shot with lightning, and at that altitude he floated dizzily while
below him the Senator discoursed on the relations of Cuban sugar to
And once Iddle blatted into sight, in his dirty flivver,
suggested taking him away, and was blessedly dismissed by the
Senator’s curt, “Doctor Selig is staying here for
dinner. I’ll send him back in my car.”
Dinner . . . Selig, though he rarely read fiction, had read in
some novel about “candle-flames, stilled in the twilight and
reflected in the long stretch of waxed mahogany as in a clouded
mirror—candles and roses and old silver.” He had read,
too, about stag horns and heraldic shields and the swords of old
Now, actually, the Senator’s dining room had neither stag
horn nor heraldic shield nor sword, and if there were still
candle-flames, there was no mahogany to reflect them, but instead a
silver stretch of damask. It was a long room, simple, with old
portraits against white panels. Yet Selig felt that he was
transported into all the romance he had ever read.
The dinner was countrylike. By now, Selig expected
peacocks’ tongues and caviar; he got steak and cantaloupe and
corn pudding. But there were four glasses at each plate, and along
with water, which was the familiar drink at Erasmus, he had, and
timidly, tasted sherry, Burgundy, and champagne.
If Wilbur Selig of Iowa and Erasmus had known anything, it was
that champagne was peculiarly wicked, associated with light ladies,
lewd talk, and losses at roulette invariably terminating in
suicide. Yet it was just as he was nibbling at his very first glass
of champagne that Senator Ryder began to talk of his delight in the
rise of Anglo–Catholicism.
No. It was none of it real.
If he was exhilarated that he had been kept for dinner, he was
ecstatic when the Senator said, “Would you care to come for
dinner again day after tomorrow? Good. I’ll send Martens for
you at seven-thirty. Don’t dress.”
In a dream phantasmagoria he started home, driven by Martens,
the Senator’s chauffeur-butler, with unnumbered things that
had puzzled him in writing his book made clear.
When he arrived at the Sky Peaks camp, the guests were still
sitting about the dull campfire.
“My!” said Miss Selma Swanson, teacher of history.
“Mr. Iddle says you’ve spent the whole evening with
Senator Ryder. Mr. Iddle says he’s a grand person—used
to be a great politician.”
“Oh, he was kind enough to help me about some confused
problems,” murmured Selig.
But as he went to bed—in a reformed corncrib—he
exulted, “I bet I could become quite a good friend of the
Senator! Wouldn’t that be wonderful!”
Lafayette Ryder, when his visitor—a man named Selig or
Selim—was gone, sat at the long dining table with a cigarette
and a distressingly empty cognac glass. He was meditating,
“Nice eager young chap. Provincial. But mannerly. I wonder if
there really are a few people who know that Lafe Ryder once
He rang, and the crisply coy Miss Tully, the nurse, waltzed into
the dining room, bubbling, “So we’re all ready to go to
bed now, Senator!”
“We are not! I didn’t ring for you; I rang for
“He’s driving your guest.”
“Humph! Send in cook. I want some more brandy.”
“Oh, now, Daddy Ryder! You aren’t going to be
naughty, are you?”
“I am! And who the deuce ever told you to call me
“You did. Last year.”
“I don’t—this year. Bring me the brandy
“If I do, will you go to bed then?”
“I will not!”
“But the doctor—”
“The doctor is a misbegotten hound with a face like a
fish. And other things. I feel cheerful tonight. I shall sit up
late. Till All Hours.”
They compromised on eleven-thirty instead of All Hours, and one
glass of brandy instead of the bottle. But, vexed at having thus
compromised—as so often, in ninety-odd years, he had been
vexed at having compromised with Empires—the Senator was
(said Miss Tully) very naughty in his bath.
“I swear,” said Miss Tully afterward, to Mrs.
Tinkham, the secretary, “if he didn’t pay so well,
I’d leave that horrid old man tomorrow. Just because he was a
politician or something, once, to think he can sass a trained
“You would not!” said Mrs. Tinkham. “But he IS
And they did not know that, supposedly safe in his four-poster
bed, the old man was lying awake, smoking a cigarette and
“The gods have always been much better to me than I have
deserved. Just when I thought I was submerged in a flood of women
and doctors, along comes a man for companion, a young man who seems
to be a potential scholar, and who might preserve for the world
what I tried to do. Oh, stop pitying yourself, Lafe Ryder! . . . I
wish I could sleep.”
Senator Ryder reflected, the next morning, that he had probably
counted too much on young Selig. But when Selig came again for
dinner, the Senator was gratified to see how quickly he was already
fitting into a house probably more elaborate than any he had known.
And quite easily he told of what the Senator accounted his
uncivilized farm boyhood, his life in a state university.
“So much the better that he is naïve, not one of these
third-secretary cubs who think they’re cosmopolitan because
they went to Groton,” considered the Senator. “I must
do something for him.”
Again he lay awake that night, and suddenly he had what seemed
to him an inspired idea.
“I’ll give young Selig a lift. All this money and no
one but hang-jawed relatives to give it to! Give him a year of
freedom. Pay him—he probably earns twenty-five hundred a
year; pay him five thousand and expenses to arrange my files. If he
makes good, I’d let him publish my papers after I pass out.
The letters from John Hay, from Blaine, from Choate! No set of
unpublished documents like it in America! It would MAKE the
“Mrs. Tinkham would object. Be jealous. She might quit.
Splendid! Lafe, you arrant old coward, you’ve been trying to
get rid of that woman without hurting her feelings for three years!
At that, she’ll probably marry you on your dying
He chuckled, a wicked, low, delighted sound, the old man alone
“Yes, and if he shows the quality I think he has, leave
him a little money to carry on with while he edits the letters.
Leave him—let’s see.”
It was supposed among Senator Ryder’s lip-licking
relatives and necessitous hangers-on that he had left of the Ryder
fortune perhaps two hundred thousand dollars. Only his broker and
he knew that he had by secret investment increased it to a million,
these ten years of dark, invalid life.
He lay planning a new will. The present one left half his
fortune to his university, a quarter to the town of Wickley for a
community center, the rest to nephews and nieces, with ten thousand
each for the Tully, the Tinkham, Martens, and the much-badgered
doctor, with a grave proviso that the doctor should never again
dictate to any patient how much he should smoke.
Now to Doctor Selig, asleep and not even dream-warned in his
absurd corncrib, was presented the sum of twenty-five thousand
dollars, the blessings of an old man, and a store of historical
documents which could not be priced in coin.
In the morning, with a headache, and very strong with Miss Tully
about the taste of the aspirin—he suggested that she had
dipped it in arsenic—the Senator reduced Selig to five
thousand, but that night it went back to twenty-five.
How pleased the young man would be.
Doctor Wilbur Selig, on the first night when he had unexpectedly
been bidden to stay for dinner with Senator Ryder, was as stirred
as by—What WOULD most stir Doctor Wilbur Selig? A great play?
A raise in salary? An Erasmus football victory?
At the second dinner, with the house and the hero less novel to
him, he was calmly happy, and zealous about getting information.
The third dinner, a week after, was agreeable enough, but he paid
rather more attention to the squab in casserole than to the
Senator’s revelations about the Baring panic, and he was a
little annoyed that the Senator insisted (so selfishly) on his
staying till midnight, instead of going home to bed at a reasonable
hour like ten—with, perhaps, before retiring, a few minutes
of chat with that awfully nice bright girl, Miss Selma Swanson.
And through that third dinner he found himself reluctantly
critical of the Senator’s morals.
Hang it, here was a man of good family, who had had a chance to
see all that was noblest and best in the world and why did he feel
he had to use such bad language, why did he drink so much? Selig
wasn’t (he proudly reminded himself) the least bit
narrow-minded. But an old man like this ought to be thinking of
making his peace; ought to be ashamed of cursing like a
He reproved himself next morning, “He’s been mighty
nice to me. He’s a good old coot—at heart. And of
course a great statesman.”
But he snapped back to irritation when he had a telephone call
from Martens, the chauffeur: “Senator Ryder would like you to
come over for tea this afternoon. He has something to show
“All right, I’ll be over.”
Selig was curt about it, and he raged, “Now, by thunder,
of all the thoughtless, selfish old codgers! As if I didn’t
have anything to do but dance attendance on him and amuse him! And
here I’d planned to finish a chapter this afternoon!
‘Course he does give me some inside information, but
still—as if I needed all the tittle-tattle of embassies for
my book! Got all the stuff I need now. And how am I to get over
there? The selfish old hound never thinks of that! Does he suppose
I can afford a car to go over? I’ll have to walk! Got half a
mind not to go!”
The sulkiness with which he came to tea softened when the
Senator began to talk about the Queen Victoria letter.
Historians knew that during the presidency of Benjamin Harrison,
when there was hostility between America and Britain over the
seizure by both sides of fishing boats, Queen Victoria had written
in her own hand to President Harrison. It was believed that she
deplored her royal inability to appeal directly to Parliament, and
suggested his first taking the difficulty up with Congress. But
precisely what was in this unofficial letter, apparently no one
This afternoon Senator Ryder said placidly, “I happen to
have the original of the letter in my possession.”
“Perhaps some day I’ll give you a glimpse of it. I
think I have the right to let you quote it.”
Selig was electrified. It would be a sensation—HE would be
a sensation! He could see his book, and himself, on the front
pages. But the Senator passed on to a trivial, quite improper
anecdote about a certain Brazilian ambassador and a Washington
milliner, and Selig was irritable again. Darn it, it was indecent
for a man of over ninety to think of such things! And why the deuce
was he so skittish and secretive about his old letter? If he was
going to show it, why not do it?
So perhaps Doctor Selig of Erasmus was not quite so gracious as
a Doctor Selig of Erasmus should have been when, at parting, the
old man drew from under his shawl a worn blue-gray pamphlet, and
“I’m going to give you this, if you’d like it.
There’s only six copies left in the world, I believe.
It’s the third one of my books—privately printed and
not ordinarily listed with the others. It has, I imagine, a few
things in it the historians don’t know; the real story of the
“Oh, thanks,” Selig said brusquely and, to himself,
in the Senator’s car, he pointed out that it showed what an
egotistic old codger Ryder was to suppose that just because
he’d written something, it must be a blooming treasure!
He glanced into the book. It seemed to have information. But he
wasn’t stirred, for it was out of line with what he had
decided were the subjects of value to Doctor Selig and, therefore,
of general interest.
After tea, now, it was too late for work before dinner and he
had Ryder’s chauffeur set him down at Tredwell’s
General Store, which had become for members of the Sky Peaks camp a
combination of department store, post office and café, where they
drank wild toasts in lemon pop.
Miss Selma Swanson was there, and Selig laughingly treated her
to chewing gum, Attaboy Peanut Candy Rolls, and seven fishhooks.
They had such a lively time discussing that funny Miss Elkington up
at the camp.
When he started off, with Miss Swanson, he left the
Senator’s book behind him in the store. He did not miss it
till he had gone to bed.
Two days afterward, the Senator’s chauffeur again
telephoned an invitation to tea for that afternoon, but this time
Selig snapped, “Sorry! Tell the Senator I unfortunately
shan’t be able to come!”
“Just a moment, please,” said the chauffeur.
“The Senator wishes to know if you care to come to dinner
tomorrow evening—eight— he’ll send for
“Well—Yes, tell him I’ll be glad to
After all, dinner here at Sky Peaks was pretty bad, and
he’d get away early in the evening.
He rejoiced in having his afternoon free for work. But the
confounded insistence of the Senator had so bothered him that he
banged a book on his table and strolled outside.
The members of the camp were playing One Old Cat, with Selma
Swanson, very jolly in knickerbockers, as cheer leader. They yelped
at Selig to join them and, after a stately refusal or two, he did.
He had a good time. Afterward he pretended to wrestle with Miss
Swanson—she had the supplest waist and, seen close up, the
moistest eyes. So he was glad that he had not wasted his afternoon
listening to that old bore.
The next afternoon, at six, a splendid chapter done, he went off
for a climb up Mount Poverty with Miss Swanson. The late sun was so
rich on pasture, pine clumps, and distant meadows, and Miss Swanson
was so lively in tweed skirt and brogues—but the stockings
were silk—that he regretted having promised to be at the
Senator’s at eight.
“But of course I always keep my promises,” he
They sat on a flat rock perched above the valley, and he
observed in rather a classroom tone, “How remarkable that
light is—the way it picks out that farmhouse roof, and then
the shadow of those maples on the grass. Did you ever realize that
it’s less the shape of things than the light that gives a
“No, I don’t think I ever did. That’s so.
It’s the light! My, how observant you are!”
“Oh, no, I’m not. I’m afraid I’m just a
“Oh, you are not! Of course you’re tremendously
scholarly—my, I’ve learned so much about study from
you—but then, you’re so active—you were just a
circus playing One Old Cat yesterday. I do admire an all-round
At seven-thirty, holding her firm hand, he was saying,
“But really, there’s so much that I lack that—But
you do think I’m right about it’s being so much manlier
not to drink like that old man? By the way, we must start
At a quarter to eight, after he had kissed her and apologized
and kissed her, he remarked, “Still, he can wait a
while—won’t make any difference.”
At eight: “Golly, it’s so late! Had no idea. Well, I
better not go at all now. I’ll just phone him this evening
and say I got balled up on the date. Look! Let’s go down to
the lake and dine on the wharf at the boathouse, just you and
“Oh, that would be grand!” said Miss Selma
Lafayette Ryder sat on the porch that, along with his dining
room and bedroom, had become his entire world, and waited for the
kind young friend who was giving back to him the world he had once
known. His lawyer was coming from New York in three days, and there
was the matter of the codicil to his will. But—the Senator
stirred impatiently—this money matter was grubby; he had for
Selig something rarer than money—a gift for a scholar.
He looked at it and smiled. It was a double sheet of thick bond,
with “Windsor Castle” engraved at the top. Above this
address was written in a thin hand: “To my friend L. Ryder,
to use if he ever sees fit. Benj. Harrison.”
The letter began, “To His Excellency, the
President,” and it was signed, “Victoria R.” In a
few lines between inscription and signature there was a new history
of the great Victoria and of the Nineteenth Century. . . . Dynamite
does not come in large packages.
The old man tucked the letter into a pocket down beneath the
rosy shawl that reached up to his gray face.
Miss Tully rustled out, to beg, “Daddy, you won’t
take more than one cocktail tonight? The doctor says it’s so
bad for you!”
“Heh! Maybe I will and maybe I won’t! What time is
“A quarter to eight.”
“Doctor Selig will be here at eight. If Martens
doesn’t have the cocktails out on the porch three minutes
after he gets back, I’ll skin him. And you needn’t go
looking for the cigarettes in my room, either! I’ve hidden
them in a brand-new place, and I’ll probably sit up and smoke
till dawn. Fact; doubt if I shall go to bed at all. Doubt if
I’ll take my bath.”
He chuckled as Miss Tully wailed, “You’re so
The Senator need not have asked the time. He had groped down
under the shawl and looked at his watch every five minutes since
seven. He inwardly glared at himself for his foolishness in
anticipating his young friend, but—all the old ones were
That was the devilishness of living so many years. Gone, so
long. People wrote idiotic letters to him, still, begging for his
autograph, for money, but who save this fine young Selig had come
to him? . . . So long now!
At eight, he stirred, not this time like a drowsy old owl, but
like an eagle, its lean head thrusting forth from its pile of
hunched feathers, ready to soar. He listened for the car.
At ten minutes past, he swore, competently. Confound that
At twenty past, the car swept up the driveway. Out of it stepped
only Martens, touching his cap, murmuring, “Very sorry, sir.
Mr. Selig was not at the camp.”
“Then why the devil didn’t you wait?”
“I did, sir, as long as I dared.”
“Poor fellow! He may have been lost on the mountain. We
must start a search!”
“Very sorry, sir, but if I may say so, as I was driving
back past the foot of the Mount Poverty trail, I saw Mr. Selig with
a young woman, sir, and they were talking and laughing and going
away from the camp, sir. I’m afraid—”
“Very well. That will do.”
“I’ll serve dinner at once, sir. Do you wish your
cocktail out here?”
“I won’t have one. Send Miss Tully.”
When the nurse had fluttered to him, she cried out with alarm.
Senator Ryder was sunk down into his shawl. She bent over him to
hear his whisper:
“If it doesn’t keep you from your dinner, my dear, I
think I’d like to be helped up to bed. I don’t care for
anything to eat. I feel tired.”
While she was anxiously stripping the shawl from him he looked
long, as one seeing it for the last time, at the darkening valley.
But as she helped him up, he suddenly became active. He snatched
from his pocket a stiff double sheet of paper and tore it into
fragments which he fiercely scattered over the porch with one sweep
of his long arm.
Then he collapsed over her shoulder.