As Mr. Smith drew near Mrs. Grey’s Murray Hill residence his face had melted to a cynical smile. After all why should he care? He had tried independence and philanthropy and failed. Why should he not be as other men? He had seen many others that very day swallow the golden bait and promise everything. They were gentlemen. Why should he pose as better than his fellows? There was young Cresswell. Did his aristocratic air prevent his succumbing to the lure of millions and promising the influence of his father and the whole Farmer’s League to the new project? Mr. Smith snapped his fingers and rang the bell. The door opened softly. The dark woodwork of the old English wainscoting glowed with the crimson flaming of logs in the wide fireplace. There was just the touch of early autumn chill in the air without, that made both the fire and the table with its soft linen, gold and silver plate, and twinkling glasses a warming, satisfying sight.
Mrs. Grey was a portly woman, inclined to think much of her dinner and her clothes, both of which were always rich and costly. She was not herself a notably intelligent woman; she greatly admired intelligence or whatever looked to her like intelligence in others. Her money, too, was to her an ever worrying mystery and surprise, which she found herself always scheming to husband shrewdly and spend philanthropically—a difficult combination.
As she awaited her guests she surveyed the table with both satisfaction and disquietude, for her social functions were few, tonight there were—she checked them off on her fingers—Sir James Creighton, the rich English manufacturer, and Lady Creighton, Mr. and Mrs. Vanderpool, Mr. Harry Cresswell and his sister, John Taylor and his sister, and Mr. Charles Smith, whom the evening papers mentioned as likely to be United States Senator from New Jersey—a selection of guests that had been determined, unknown to the hostess, by the meeting of cotton interests earlier in the day.
Mrs. Grey’s chef was high-priced and efficient, and her butler was the envy of many; consequently, she knew the dinner would be good. To her intense satisfaction, it was far more than this. It was a most agreeable couple of hours; all save perhaps Mr. Smith unbent, the Englishman especially, and the Vanderpools were most gracious; but if the general pleasure was owing to any one person particularly it was to Mr. Harry Cresswell. Mrs. Grey had met Southerners before, but not intimately, and she always had in mind vividly their cruelty to “poor Negroes,” a subject she made a point of introducing forthwith. She was therefore most agreeably surprised to hear Mr. Cresswell express himself so cordially as approving of Negro education.