“You are all I have, General”—his hand traveled softly up and down the length of the dog’s back—“and somewhere you must wait for me. I’ve got to stay on and play the game, and it’s to be played straight, but when it’s called I sha’n’t be sorry.”
From a box on a table close to him he took a cigar, lighted it, and watched its spirals of smoke curl upward. Life and the smoke that vanisheth had much in common. On the whole, he had no grievance against life. If it was proving a rather wearisome affair it was doubtless his own fault, and yet this finding of himself alone at forty was hardly what he had intended. There was something actually comic about it. That for which he had striven had been secured, but for what? Success unshared is of all things ironic, and soon not even General would be here to greet him when the day’s work was done. He blew out a thin thread of smoke and followed its curvings with half-shut eyes. He had made money, made it honestly, and it had brought him that which it brought others, but if this were all life had to give—He threw his cigar away, and as General’s soft breathing reached him he clasped his hands at the back of his head and stared up at the ceiling.
Why didn’t he love his work as he used to? He had played fair, but to play fair was to play against the odds, and there were times when he hated the thing which made men fight as fiercely to-day as in the days of the jungle, though they no longer sprang at each other’s throats. On the whole, he preferred the cavemen’s method of attack. They at least fought face to face. As for women—
He got up, stooped down, and patted General softly. “I’m sorry to leave you, old man, but you’ll sleep and I won’t be long. Why Hope didn’t telephone what she wanted me to do, instead of beseeching me to come to her that she might tell me, is beyond male understanding. But we don’t try to understand women, do we, General?”
The big brown eyes of the collie looked up in his master’s face and in them was beseeching adoration. With painful effort he laid first one paw and then the other on Laine’s hand, and as the latter stroked them he barked feebly.
For a moment there was silence, the silence of understanding comrades, then Laine turned away and began to dress.
Hands in his pockets and back to the fire, Mr. Winthrop Laine looked around the room which his sister, Mrs. Channing Warrick, believed was a library, and again wondered why she had sent for him instead of telephoning what she wanted. He wasn’t going to do it. That is, if it were one of the old pleadings that he would come to her parties or go to some one else’s he would decline to do it, and usually the important matter on which she must see him proved something of that sort. Five years ago he had cut out things of this kind and—