“Neither have I.”
“But I have,” laughed her father. “I eat Englishmen for breakfast; fe-fo-fum style.”
How democratic indeed these kindly, unpretentious people were! thought Thomas. A multimillionaire as amiable as a clerk; a daughter who would have graced any court in Europe with her charm and elfin beauty. Up to a month ago he had held all Americans in tolerant contempt.
It was as Kitty said: the real Englishman and the real American seldom met.
He did not realize as yet that his position in this house was unique. In England all great merchants and statesmen and nobles had one or more private secretaries about. He believed it to be a matter of course that Americans followed the same custom. He would have been wonderfully astonished to learn that in all this mighty throbbing city of millions—people and money—there might be less than a baker’s dozen who occupied simultaneously the positions of private secretary and friend of the family. Mr. Killigrew had his private secretary, but this gentleman rarely saw the inside of the Killigrew home; it wasn’t at all necessary that he should. Killigrew was a sensible man; his business hours began when he left home and ended when he entered it.
“Do you know any earls or dukes?” asked Killigrew, folding his napkin.
“Really, no. I have moved in a very different orbit. I know many of them by sight, however.” He did not think it vital to add that he had often sold them collars and suspenders.
The butler and the second man pulled back the ladies’ chairs. Killigrew hurried away to his offices; Kitty and her mother went up-stairs; and Thomas returned to his desk in the library. He was being watched by Kitty; nothing overt, nothing tangible, yet he sensed it: from the first day he had entered this house. It oppressed him, like a presage of disaster. Back of his chair was a fireplace, above this, a mirror. Once—it was but yesterday—while with his back to his desk, day-dreaming, he had seen her in the mirror. She stood in the doorway, a hand resting lightly against the portiere. There was no smile on her face. The moment he stirred, she vanished.
The home-bureau of charities was a success from the start; but beyond the fact that it served to establish Thomas Webb as private secretary in the Killigrew family, I was not deeply interested. I know that Thomas ran about a good deal, delving into tenements and pedigrees, judging candidates, passing or condemning, and that he earned his salary, munificent as it appeared to him. Forbes told me that he wouldn’t have done the work for a thousand a week; and Forbes, like Panurge, had ten ways of making money and twelve ways of spending it.