Frank turned white at the words, but the Irishman had disappeared in an elevator, and any immediate action seemed impossible and theatric. In the short time he had spent in New York he had learned many things, and the narrow, tiled halls of an office building twenty-three stories high, in Wall Street, did not seem the fitting background for a personal encounter to which the hills of North Carolina might have lent themselves with picturesqueness.
He sat thinking the matter over in the club that night with two things fixed in his mind. First, that he would go to see Katrine in Paris immediately; of the outcome of such a meeting he took no thought whatever. Second, that he would put this railroad scheme through; already the feeling of power, of the consciousness of unsystematized ability, was stirring within him.
The affair with McDermott rankled, however, and it was with drawn brows and tightened lips that he answered a telephone call—a call which changed both of the plans which he had so carefully arranged.
His mother’s doctor at Bar Harbor had rung him up to say Mrs. Ravenel was seriously ill and wanted him to come to her at once. He started at midnight, to find his mother in a high fever, unconscious of his arrival, and facing an operation, as the only chance to save her life.
He had been to her always, as she herself put it, “a perfect son,” and for the next three months, which made the time well into December, he proved the words true, living by her bedside, and allowing himself scant sleep from the watching and service. It was when she was far toward the recovery of her health and her old-time beauty that he spoke to her of his newly formed intentions with characteristic unwordiness.
“I am going into business, mother,” he said, “with Philip de Peyster.”
She was knitting at the time, counting stitches on large needles, and she went placidly on with the counting until the set was finished, when she looked up pleasantly. “You think it will amuse you?” she asked, with the kind interest which she might have shown concerning a polo game in which he was to play.
“I am beginning to think a man should have some fixed duties in life,” Frank explained.
“Yes, certainly,” Mrs. Ravenel answered. “The Bible says something like that, I believe. What are you thinking of doing?”
“Buying and selling things, like railroads and mines,” he answered, smiling at her indifference.
“I’m glad it’s Phil de Peyster you are going to buy and sell things with,” Mrs. Ravenel said. “His mother was maid of honor at my wedding, and a charming girl, Patty Beauregarde, of Charleston. And I am delighted at anything you do to make you happy, Frank. I have thought you have not been very gay of late. There is, perhaps, a trouble—”
“What an idea!” he answered.
“Will you have offices and things?” Mrs. Ravenel inquired, vaguely. “I have always had ideas for office furnishings, you know.”