Thus ran the tale in its completeness. The end of the ancestor’s career had been in keeping with its character and course. He had been spared the slow decay of faculties in armchair reminiscence. He had gone down in his ship without striking his colors, fighting the Spaniards one to three. When Jack closed the cover on the last page tenderly and in enraptured understanding, it was past midnight.
The spaciousness of the sea under clouds of battle smoke had melted into the spaciousness of the desert under the Eternal Painter’s canopy. Then four walls of a bedroom in Madison Avenue materialized, shutting out the horizon; a carpet in place of sand formed the floor; and in place of a blanket roll was a canopied bed upon which a servant had laid out a suit of pajamas. In the impulse of a desire to look into the face of the first John Wingfield in the light of all he now knew, Jack went downstairs, and in the silence of the house drank in the portrait again.
“You splendid old devil, you!” he breathed, understandingly. “How should you like to start out delivering goods with me in the morning?”
JACK GETS A RAISE
The next morning Jack went down town with his father in the limousine. About an hour later, after he had been introduced to the head of the delivery division, he was on his way up town beside a driver of one of the wagons on the Harlem route. He was in the uniform of the Wingfield light cavalry, having obtained a cap with embroidered initials on the front. The driver was like to burst from inward mirth, and Jack was regarding the prospect with veritable juvenile zest.
At dinner that evening John Wingfield, Jr. narrated his experiences of the day to John Wingfield, Sr. with the simplicity and verisimilitude that always make for both realism and true comedy.
“But, Jack, you took me too literally! It is hardly in keeping with your position! You—”
“Why, I thought that the only way to know the whole business was to play every part. Didn’t you ever deliver packages in person in your early days?”
“I can’t say that I did!” the father admitted wryly.
“Then it seems to me that you missed one of the most entertaining and instructive features,” Jack continued. “You cannot imagine the majestic feminine disdain with which you may be informed that a five-cent bar of soap should be delivered at the back door instead of the front door. The most indignant example was a red-haired woman who was doing her own work in a flat. She fairly blazed. She wanted to know if I didn’t know what dumb-waiters were for.”
“And what did you say?” the father asked wearily; for the ninth John Wingfield had a limited sense of humor.
“Oh, I try, however irritating the circumstances, to be most courtly, for the honor of the store,” said Jack. “I told her that I was very sorry and I would speak to you in person about the mistake.”