The tripping, finely-clad women, human flower of all the maelstrom of urban toil, in their detachment seemed only to bring up a visualized picture of Mary. What would he not like to do for her! He wished that he could pick up the Waldorf and set it on the other side of the street as a proof of the overmastering desire that possessed him whenever she was in his mind.
And the Doge! He was the wisest man in the world. With a nod of well-considered and easy generosity Jack presented him with the new Public Library. And then all the people on the sidewalks vanished and the buildings melted away into sunswept levels, and the Avenue was a trail down which Mary came on her pony in the resplendent sufficiency of his dreams.
“Great heavens!” he warned himself. “And I am to take my first lesson in running the business this evening! What perfect lunacy comes from mistaking the top of a Fifth Avenue stage for a howdah!”
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
How thankful he was that the old brick corner mansion in Madison Avenue, with age alone to recommend its architecture of the seventies—let it stand for what it was—had not been replaced by one of stone freshly polished each year! The butler who opened the door was new and stiffer than the one of the old days; but he saw that the broad hall, with the stairs running across the rear in their second flight, was little more changed than the exterior.
Five years since he had left that hall! He was in the thrall of anticipation incident to seeing old associations with the eyes of manhood. The butler made to take his hat, but Jack, oblivious of the attention, went on to the doorway of the drawing-room, his look centering on a portrait that faced the door. In this place of honor he saw a Gainsborough. He uttered a note of pained surprise.
“There used to be another portrait here. Where is it?” he demanded.
The butler, who had heard that the son of the house was an invalid, had not recovered from his astonishment at the appearance of health of the returned prodigal.
“Upstairs, sir,” he answered. “When Mr. Wingfield got this prize last year, sir—”
Though the butler had spoken hardly a dozen words, he became conscious of something atmospheric that made him stop in the confusion of one who finds that he has been garrulous with an explanation that does not explain.
“Please take this upstairs and bring back the other,” said Jack.
“Yes, sir. You will be going to your room, sir, and while—” The butler had a feeling of a troublesome future between two masters.
“Now, please!” said Jack, settling into a chair to wait.