Instead of one check, he handed me a sheaf of them, each stamped in divers places by divers banks. I flipped the ends and looked them over a bit, because I saw that was what he expected of me; but the truth is, checks don’t interest me much after they’ve been messed up with red and green stamps. They’re about as enticing as a last year’s popular song.
Dad crossed his legs, matched his finger-tips together, and looked at me over his glasses. Many a man knows that attitude and that look, and so many a man has been as uncomfortable as I began to be, and has felt as keen a sense of impending trouble. I began immediately searching my memory for some especial brand of devilment that I’d been sampling, but there was nothing doing. I had been losing some at poker lately, and I’d been away to the bad out at Ingleside; still, I looked him innocently in the eye and wondered what was coming.
“That last check is worthy of particular attention,” he said dryly. “The others are remarkable only for their size and continuity of numbers; but that last one should be framed and hung upon the wall at the foot of your bed, though you would not see it often. I consider it a diploma of your qualification as Master Jackanapes.” (Dad’s vocabulary, when he is angry, contains some rather strengthy words of the old-fashioned type.)
I looked at the check and began to see light. I had been a bit rollicky that time. It wasn’t drawn for very much, that check; I’ve lost more on one jack-pot, many a time, and thought nothing of it. And, though the events leading up to it were a bit rapid and undignified, perhaps, I couldn’t see anything to get excited over, as I could see dad plainly was.
“For a young man twenty-five years old and with brains enough—supposedly—to keep out of the feeble-minded class, it strikes me you indulge in some damned poor pastimes,” went on dad disagreeably. “Cracking champagne-bottles in front of the Cliff House—on a Sunday at that—may be diverting to the bystanders, but it can hardly be called dignified, and I fail to see how it is going to fit a man for any useful business.”
Business? Lord! dad never had mentioned a useful business to me before. I felt my eyelids fly up; this was springing birthday surprises with a vengeance.
“Driving an automobile on forbidden roads, being arrested and fined—on Sunday, at that—”
“Now, look here, dad,” I cut in, getting a bit hot under the collar myself, “by all the laws of nature, there must have been a time when you were twenty-five years old and cut a little swath of your own. And, seeing you’re as big as your offspring—six-foot-one, and you can’t deny it—and fairly husky for a man of your age, I’ll bet all you dare that said swath was not of the narrow-gage variety. I’ve never heard of your teaching a class in any Sunday-school, and if you never drove your machine beyond the dead-line and cracked champagne-bottles on the wheels in front of the Cliff House, it’s because automobiles weren’t invented and Cliff House wasn’t built. Begging your pardon, dad—I’ll bet you were a pretty rollicky young blade, yourself.”