“Peter!” Jack seized the secretary’s hands and swung them back and forth.
“You’ve got a grip of iron! And tanned—my, how you’re tanned! You did it, Jack, you did it! It hardly seems credible, when I think of the last time I saw you.”
It was then that the secretary had seen a Jack with his eyes moist; a Jack pasty-faced, hollow-cheeked; and, in what was a revolutionary outburst for a unit in the offices, Peter Mortimer had put his arm around the boy in a cry for the success of the Odyssey for health which the heir was about to begin. And Mortimer’s words were sweet, while the words of the farewell from the other side of the glass-paneled door marked “Private” were acrid with the disappointed hopes of the speaker.
“You have always been a weakling, Jack, and I have had little to say about your rearing. Go out to the desert and stay—stay till you are strong!” declared the voice of strength, as if glad to be freed of the sight of weakness in its own image.
“Father did not come to meet me?” Jack observed questioningly now to Mortimer.
“He was very busy—he did not feel certain about the nature of your telegram—he—” and Mortimer’s impulses withdrew into the shell of the professional private secretary.
“I wired that he should see for himself if I were well. So he shall!” said Jack, turning toward the door.
“Yes—that will be all right—yes, there is no one with him!”
Mortimer, in the very instinct of long practice, was about to go in to announce the visitor, but paused. As Jack entered, whatever else may have been in his eyes, there was no moisture.
IN THE CITADEL OF THE MILLIONS
John Wingfield, Sr. sat at a mahogany table without a single drawer, in the centre of a large room with bare, green-tinted walls. His oculist had said that green was the best color for the eyes. Beside the green blotting-pad in front of him was a pile of papers. These would either be disposed of in the course of the day or, if any waited on the morrow’s decision, would be taken away by Peter Mortimer overnight. When he rose to go home it was always with a clear desk; a habit, a belief of his singularly well-ordered mind in the mastery of the teeming detail that throbbed under the thin soles of his soft kid shoes. On the other side of the pad was the telephone, and beyond it the supreme implements of his will, a row of pearl-topped push-buttons.
The story of John Wingfield, Sr.’s rise and career, as the lieutenants of the offices and the battalions of the shopping floors knew it, was not the story, perhaps, as Dr. Bennington or Peter Mortimer knew it; but, then, doctors and private secretaries are supposed to hold their secrets. There was little out of the commonplace in the world’s accepted version. You may hear its like from the moneyed host at his dinner table in New York or as he shows you over the acres of his country estate, enthusing with a personal narrative of conquest which is to him unique. John Wingfield, Sr. makes history for us in the type of woman whom he married and the type of son she bore him.