Only the earliest birds of the hostelry roost were about the big house at that hour. The new arrivals dodged scrub-women and sweepers in the office and on the stairs, and went to their rooms. The Duke, leaving his grandson at his bedroom door, suggested a bit stiffly that he would “call around about eight o’clock and open the den and lead him down to a little raw meat, unless he smoothed up his manners and his appetite in the mean time.”
THE DUKE’S DOUBLE CAMPAIGN
Presson came in with the Duke at eight o’clock, bringing cordial morning greetings to Harlan’s room.
The old man found his grandson much improved, both in spirits and garb. In his fresh, cool, summer gray, erect, stalwart, and clear-eyed, he won a grunt of approval from his mentor.
“There’s nothing like being young, Luke! I was just telling you that the boy was getting into the dumps—bound to study all the seams before he put the coat on. But the world looks better now, doesn’t it, son?”
“It’s the fit of the coat that counts in politics,” observed the chairman, sagely. “And the one that was built last night fits like the paper on the wall. Don’t bother with the seams, Harlan. The lining covers ’em.”
“Presson likes the frame-up, Harlan,” said the Duke, smiling broadly. “He isn’t even jealous because I thought of it first.”
“Who else could have pulled it off as you have, Thelismer? It would take more than straight politics to get Vard Waymouth out of his den. And I could have offered only politics.”
With an arm about each he pushed them to the door, saying that his wife and daughter were waiting below. When Harlan turned from his respectful greeting of the mother, whom he knew, he found Miss Presson looking at him with frank and smiling interest. He had heard vague reports that Madeleine Presson had blossomed into beautiful womanhood since he had seen her. He had been prepared to meet a rather vain and pampered young lady, conscious of her charms and attainments. He assumed a bit of reserve as armor for his sensitiveness. But this attitude responded so ill to her good-humored ease in renewing their acquaintanceship that he was momentarily embarrassed, remembering what he had said to his grandfather a few hours before.
“I think I have a most distinct recollection of Mr. Harlan Thornton. When I was ten years old you brought me some lumps of spruce-gum in a birch-bark box and I declined it, saying that young ladies did not chew gum. But I took it when you looked so sad, and I carried it away to boarding-school, and I found out that young ladies do chew gum—when no one is watching them. That gift made me very popular, sir, and now I thank you. I fear I did not thank you then.”
“It’s worth waiting all this time to hear you say that. I’m glad the gift found appreciation, for I culled the winter pickings of a whole logging crew for those red nuggets. I’ve been so distrustful of my good taste ever since that I’ve never dared to give anything to a young lady.”