That thought led to another. When they were married, there would have to be a beginning in a new field. Chiawassee was gone, and the Farley fortune with it; and the new field would be a bald necessity. Tom decided that not even Ardea’s pride and fortitude could face the looks askance of the Mountain View Avenue folk.
He measured the country colonists justly. They might have forgiven the moral lapse, though that was not the side they had turned toward him. Yet he fancied that when the business failure should be super-added, the Farley sins would become too multitudinous for the broadest mantle of charity to cover.
“Which brings on more talk,” he mused, pulling thoughtfully at the pipe. “They can’t start in the new diggings without money. Anyway, Vincent’s no moneymaker; and if the look on a man’s face counts for anything, old Colonel Duxbury has made his last flight from the promoting perch. O Lord!”—rising with a cavernous yawn and a mighty stretching of his arms overhead,—“I reckon it’s up to me to go on doing all the things I don’t want to do; that I didn’t in the least mean to do. Somebody ought to write a book and call it Saints Inveterate. It would have simplified things a whole lot if I could have left him to be cremated after all.”
* * * * *
Mr. Vancourt Henniker was not greatly surprised when Tom Gordon asked for a private interview on the morning following the final closing down of all the industries at Gordonia.
Without being in Gordon’s confidence, or in that of American Aqueduct, the banker had been shrewdly putting two and two together and applying the result as a healing plaster to the stock he had taken as security for the final loan to Colonel Duxbury.
“I thought, perhaps, you might wish to buy this stock, Mr. Gordon,” he said, when Tom had stated his business. “Of course, it can be arranged, with Mr. Farley’s consent to our anticipating the maturity of his notes. But”—with a genial smile and a glance over his eye-glasses—“I’m not sure that we care to part with it. Perhaps some of us would like to hold it and bid it in.”
Tom’s smile matched the genial expansiveness of the president’s.
“I reckon you don’t want it, Mr. Henniker. You’ll understand that it isn’t worth the paper it is printed on when I tell you that I have sold my pipe-pit patents to American Aqueduct.”
“Heavens and earth! Then the plant doesn’t carry the patents? You’ve kept this mighty quiet, among you!”
“Haven’t we!” said Tom fatuously. “I know just how you feel—like a man who has been looking over the edge of the bottomless pit without knowing it. You’ll let me have the stock for the face of the loan, won’t you?”
But the president was already pressing the button of the electric bell that summoned the cashier. There was no time like the present when the fate of a considerable bank asset hung on the notion of a smiling young man whose mind might change in the winking of an eye.