“There you are, Jack!—te-he! Oh, yes, there you are, you young dog!—all a-drip with rain for the love o’ the ladies, eh, Jack? Te-he—one’s been here to see you—a little white doll in chinchillas, and scared to death at my civilities—as though she knew the Dysarts—te-he! Oh, yes, the Dysarts, Jack. But it was monstrous imprudent, my son—and a good thing that your wife remains at Lenox so late this season—te-he! A lucky thing, you young dog! And what the devil do you mean by it—eh? What d’ye mean, I say!”
Leering, peering, his painted lips pursed up, the little old man seated himself, gazing with dim, restless eyes at the shadowy blur which represented to him his handsome son—a Dysart all through, elegant, debonair, resistless, and, married or single, fatal to feminine peace of mind. Generations ago Dysarts had been shot very conventionally at ten paces owing to this same debonair resistlessness; Dysarts had slipped into and out of all sorts of unsavoury messes on account of this fatal family failing; some had been neatly winged, some thrust through; some, in a more sordid age, permitted counsel of ability to explain to a jury how guiltless a careless gentleman could be under the most unfortunate and extenuating appearances.
The son stood in his wet clothes, haggard, lined, ghastly in contrast to the startling red of his lips, looking at his smirking father: then he leaned over and touched a bell.
“Who was it who called on Mrs. Dysart?” he asked, as a servant appeared.
“Miss Quest, sir,” said the man, accepting the cue with stolid philosophy.
“Did Miss Quest leave any message?”
“Yes, sir: Miss Quest desired Mrs. Dysart to telephone her on Mrs. Dysart’s return from—the country, sir—it being a matter of very great importance.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The servant withdrew; the son stood gazing into the hallway. Behind him his father mumbled and muttered and chuckled to himself in his easy-chair by the fire!
“Te-he! They are all alike, the Dysarts—oh, yes, all alike! And now it’s that young dog—Jack!—te-he!—yes, it’s Jack, now! But he’s a good son, my boy Jack; he’s a good son to me and he’s all Dysart, all Dysart; bon chien chasse de race!—te-he! Oui, ma fois!—bon chien chasse de race.”
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
By the first of January it became plain that there was not very much left of Colonel Mallett’s fortune, less of his business reputation, and even less of his wife’s health. But she was now able to travel, and toward the middle of the month she sailed with Naida and one maid for Naples, leaving her son to gather up and straighten out what little of value still remained in the wreckage of the house of Mallett. What he cared most about was to straighten out his father’s personal reputation; and this was possible only as far as it concerned Colonel Mallett’s individual honesty. But the rehabilitation was accomplished at the expense of his father’s reputation for business intelligence; and New York never really excuses such things.