Mrs. Dan turned to “Subway” Smith, who was at her right—the latest addition to her menagerie. “What is this friend of yours?” she asked. “I have never seen such complex simplicity. This new plaything has no real charm for him. He is breaking it to find out what it is made of. And something will happen when he discovers the sawdust.”
“Oh, don’t worry about him,” said “Subway,” easily; “Monty’s at least a good sportsman. He won’t complain, whatever happens. He’ll accept the reckoning and pay the piper.”
It was only toward the end of the evening that Monty found his reward in a moment with Barbara Drew. He stood before her, squaring his shoulders belligerently to keep away intruders, and she smiled up at him in that bewildering fashion of hers. But it was only for an instant, and then came a terrifying din from the dining-room, followed by the clamor of crashing glass. The guests tried for a moment to be courteously oblivious, but the noise was so startling that such politeness became farcical. The host, with a little laugh, went down the hall. It was the beautiful screen near the ceiling that had fallen. A thousand pieces of shattered glass covered the place. The table was a sickening heap of crushed orchids and sputtering candles. Frightened servants rushed into the room from one side just as Brewster entered from the other. Stupefaction halted them. After the first pulseless moment of horror, exclamations of dismay went up on all sides. For Monty Brewster the first sensation of regret was followed by a diabolical sense of joy.
“Thank the Lord!” he said softly in the hush.
The look of surprise he encountered in the faces of his guests brought him up with a jerk.
“That it didn’t happen while we were dining,” he added with serene thankfulness. And his nonchalance scored for him in the idle game he was playing.
A LESSON IN TACT
Mr. Brewster’s butler was surprised and annoyed. For the first time in his official career he had unbent so far as to manifest a personal interest in the welfare of his master. He was on the verge of assuming a responsibility which makes any servant intolerable. But after his interview he resolved that he would never again overstep his position. He made sure that it should be the last offense. The day following the dinner Rawles appeared before young Mr. Brewster and indicated by his manner that the call was an important one. Brewster was seated at his writing-table, deep in thought. The exclamation that followed Rawles’s cough of announcement was so sharp and so unmistakably fierce that all other evidence paled into insignificance. The butler’s interruption came at a moment when Monty’s mental arithmetic was pulling itself out of a very bad rut, and the cough drove it back into chaos.
“What is it,” he demanded, irritably. Rawles had upset his calculations to the extent of seven or eight hundred dollars.