‘Our adversary,’ said my father.
I protested I would not sit at table with him. But he assured me he believed his advocate and his adversary to be one and the same, and referred me to the collated sentences.
’The man must earn his bread, Richie, boy! To tell truth, it is the advocate I wish to rebuke, and to praise the adversary. It will confound him.’
‘It does me,’ said DeWitt.
’You perceive, Jorian, a policy in dining these men of the Press now and occasionally, considering their growing power, do you not?’
’Ay, ay! it’s a great gossiping machine, mon Roy. I prefer to let it spout.’
’I crave your permission to invite him in complimentary terms, cousin Jorian. He is in the town; remember, it is for the good of the nation that he and his like should have the opportunity of studying good society. As to myself personally, I give him carte blanche to fire his shots at me.’
Near the fashionable hour of the afternoon my father took my arm, Captain DeWitt a stick, and we walked into the throng and buzz.
’Whenever you are, to quote our advocate, the theme of tea-tables, Richie,’ said my father, ’walk through the crowd: it will wash you. It is doing us the honour to observe us. We in turn discover an interest in its general countenance.’
He was received, as we passed, with much staring; here and there a lifting of hats, and some blunt nodding that incensed me, but he, feeling me bristle, squeezed my hand and talked of the scene, and ever and anon gathered a line of heads and shed an indulgent bow along them-; so on to the Casino. Not once did he offend my taste and make my acute sense of self-respect shiver by appearing grateful for a recognition, or anxious to court it, though the curtest salute met his acknowledgement.
The interior of the Casino seemed more hostile. I remarked it to him. ‘A trifle more eye-glassy,’ he murmured. He was quite at his easy there.
‘We walk up and down, my son,’ he said, in answer to a question of mine, ’because there are very few who can; even walking is an art; and if nobody does, the place is dull.’
‘The place is pretty well supplied with newspapers,’ said Captain DeWitt.
’And dowagers, friend Jorian. They are cousins. ’Tis the fashion to have our tattle done by machinery. They have their opportunity to compare the portrait with the original. Come, invent some scandal for us; let us make this place our social Exchange. I warrant a good bold piece of invention will fit them, too, some of them. Madam,’—my father bowed low to the beckoning of a fan, ’I trust your ladyship did not chance to overhear that last remark I made?’
The lady replied: ’I should have shut my eyes if I had. I called you to tell me, who is the young man?’
‘For twenty years I have lived in the proud belief that he is my son!’
‘I would not disturb it for the world.’ She did me the honour to inspect me from the lowest waistcoat button to the eyebrows. ’Bring him to me to-night. Captain DeWitt, you have forsaken my whist-tables.’