“Mr. Dyke,” rejoined MacGentle, dignifiedly, lifting his chin high above his stock, “I have myself seen the little girl, then in her third year, pulling her brother’s hair on the nursery floor. She was dark-eyed,—a very lovely child. As to the burning, I now recollect that when the house in Brooklyn took fire, the child was in danger, but was rescued by her nurse, who herself received very severe injuries.”
Mr. Dyke heaved a long, deliberate sigh, and allowed his eyes to wander slowly round the room, before replying.
“You are not a family man, Mr. MacGentle, sir! Don’t blame you, sir! Your memory, perhaps—But no matter! The nurse who stole the child was, I presume, the same who rescued her from the fire?”
Mr. Dyke perhaps intended to give a delicately ironical emphasis to this question, but his irony was apt to be a rather unwieldy and unmistakable affair. The truth was, he was a little staggered by the President’s circumstantial statement; whence his deliberation, and his not entirely pertinent rejoinder about “a family man.”
“And why not the same, sir? I ask you, why not the same?” demanded Mr. MacGentle, with slender imperiousness.
But, by this time, Mr. Dyke had thought of a new argument.
“The little girl, I understood you to say, was dark? Since she was the twin-sister of one of Mr. Balder Helwyse’s complexion, that is odd, Mr. MacGentle,—odd, sir.” And the solid family man fixed his sharp brown eyes full upon the unsubstantial bachelor. The latter’s delicate nostrils expanded, and a pink flush rose to his faded cheeks. He was now as haughty and superb as a paladin.
“I will discuss business subjects with my subordinates, Mr. Dyke; not other subjects, if you please! This dispute was not begun by me. Let it be carried no further, sir! Twins are not necessarily, nor invariably, of the same complexion. Let nothing more be said, Mr. Dyke. I trust the little girl may yet be found and restored to her family—to—to her brother! I trust she may yet be found, sir!” And he glared at Mr. Dyke aggressively.
“I trust you may live to see it, Mr. MacGentle, sir!” said the confidential clerk, shifting his ground in a truly masterly manner; and before the President could recover, he had bowed and gone out. Ten minutes afterwards MacGentle opened the door, and lo! Dyke himself on the threshold.
“Mr. MacGentle!” in the same breath.
“I—Mr. Dyke, let me apologize for my asperity,—for my rudeness,” says MacGentle, stepping forward and holding out his thin white hand, his eyebrows more raised than ever, the corners of his mouth more depressed. “I am sincerely sorry that—that—”
“O sir!” cries the square clerk, grasping the thin hand in both his square palms; “O sir! O sir! No, no!—no, no! I was just coming to beg you—My fault,—my fault, Mr. MacGentle, sir! No, no!”
Thus incoherently ended the quarrel between these two old friends, the dispute being left undecided. But the important point was established that Balder Helwyse was insured a practice in Boston, in case his uncle Glyphic’s fortune failed to enrich him.