Craig drew himself up, bowed coldly and haughtily, made his exit in excellent style; no prince of the blood, bred to throne rooms, no teacher of etiquette in a fashionable boarding-school could have done better.
MAGGIE AND JOSH
Wrath is a baseless flame in the intelligent aged; also, Margaret’s grandmother was something more than a mere expert in social craft, would have been woman of the world had not circumstances compressed her to its petty department of fashionable society. Before Craig had cleared the front door she was respecting him, even as she raged against him. Insolent, impudent, coarsely insulting—yes, all these. But very much a man, a masculine force; with weaknesses, it was true, and his full measure of the low-sprung’s obsequious snobbishness; but, for all that, strong, persistent, concentrated, one who knew the master-art of making his weaknesses serve as pitfalls into which his enemies were lured, to fall victim to his strength.
“Yes, he will arrive,” reflected Madam Bowker. “Branch will yet have to serve him. Poor Branch! What a misery for a man to be born with a master’s mind but with the lack of will and courage that keeps a man a servant. Yes, Craig will arrive! ... What a pity he has no money.”
But, on second thought, that seemed less a disadvantage. If she should let him marry Margaret they would be dependent upon her; she could control them—him—through holding the purse strings. And when that remote time came at which it would please God to call her from her earthly labors to their eternal reward, she could transfer the control to Margaret. “Men of his origin are always weak on the social side,” she reflected. “And it wouldn’t be in nature for a person as grasping of power as he is not to be eager about money also.”
With the advent of plutocratic fashion respect for official position had dwindled at Washington. In Rome in the days when the imperators became mere creatures of the army, the seat of fashion and of power was transferred to the old and rich families aloof from the government and buying peace and privilege from it. So Washington’s fashionable society has come to realize, even more clearly than does the rest of the country, that, despite spasmodic struggles and apparent spurts of reaction, power has passed to the plutocracy, and that officialdom is, as a rule, servant verging toward slave. Still, form is a delusion of tenacious hold upon the human mind. The old lady’s discoveries of Craig’s political prospects did not warm her toward him as would news that he was in the way of being vastly rich; but she retained enough of the fading respect for high-titled office to feel that he was not the quite impossibility she had fancied, but was fit to be an aspirant for an aristocratic alliance.
“If Margaret doesn’t fall in love with him after she marries him,” reflected she, “all may be well. Of course, if she does she’ll probably ruin him and herself, too. But I think she’ll have enough sense of her position, of how to maintain it for herself, and for him and her children, not to be a fool.”