“Oh, yes, you do, old boy. Harry Bohm, of Bohm & Cohn. Everybody knows Bohm, and we’ll all be knowing Cohn by next year. Gazza has sold him a lot of furniture, too. Bohm’s from Pittsfield, or South Lee, or East Canaan, or West Stockbridge, or some of those other back-country cider presses that squirt some of the hardest propositions into Wall Street. He’s just back from buying a railroad, and four or five mines in Mexico. Bohm represents Christianity in the firm. At Newport they call him the military attache to Jerusalem. He’s the big chap that sat behind me in the car. He’ll marry Kitty as soon as she can get her divorce. Bohm’s a jolly old sort—and I tell you, you old sourbelly, you’re letting this Southern moss grow over you a bit. Hey? What? Yellow rich isn’t half bad, and I’ll say it myself, and pretend it’s mine; but hang it, old man, their children won’t be worse than lemon-colored, and the grandchildren will be white!”
“Just in time,” I exclaimed, “to take a back seat with their evaporated fortunes!”
Beverly chuckled. “Well, if they do evaporate, there will be new ones. Now don’t walk along making Mayflower eyes at me. I’m no Puritan, and my people have had a front seat since pretty early in the game, which I’m holding on to, you know. And by Jove, old man, I tell you, if you wish to hold on nowadays, you can’t be drawing lines! If you don’t want to see yourself jolly well replaced, you must fall in with the replacers. Our blooming old republic is merely the quickest process of endless replacing yet discovered, and you take my tip, and back the replacers! That’s where Miss Rieppe, for all her Kings Port traditions, shows sense.”
I turned square on him. “Then she has broken it?”
“Her engagement to John Mayrant. You mean to say that you didn’t—?”
“See here, old man. Seriously. The fire-eater?”
I was so very much bewildered that I merely stared at Beverly Rodgers. Of course, I might have known that Miss Rieppe would not feel the need of announcing to her rich Northern friends an engagement which she had fallen into the habit of postponing.
But Beverly had a better right to be taken aback. “I suppose you must have some reason for your remark,” he said.
“You don’t mean that you’re engaged to her?” I shot out.
“Me? With my poor little fifteen thousand a year? Consider, dear boy! Oh, no, we’re merely playing at it, she and I. She’s a good player. But Charley—”
“He is?” I shouted.
“I don’t know, old man, and I don’t think he knows—yet.”
“Beverly,” said I, “let me tell you.” And I told him.
After he had got himself adjusted to the novelty of it he began to take it with a series of thoughtful chuckles.
Into these I dropped with: “Where’s her father, anyhow?” I began to feel, fantastically, that she mightn’t have a father.