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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 342 pages of information about The Ne'er-Do-Well.

XXX

DARWIN K. ANTHONY

About noon on Monday, Edith Cortlandt received a caller.  The name she read on the card her maid handed her gave her a start of surprise, and set her wits whirling in speculation.

“Show him into the drawing-room,” she said, at length.  “I’ll be right down.”

As she descended, a few moments later, she was greeted by a gigantic old man with a rumbling voice, who, instead of seating himself in the drawing-room as he had been requested, had flung open the carefully closed shutters to admit more light, then kicked aside whatever articles of furniture happened to be in his way.  He was now pacing back and forth with the restlessness of a polar bear.

“How do you do, Mrs. Cortlandt?” he began, at sight of her, his big voice flooding the room.  “I’m sorry to disturb you under the circumstances.”

“You are Mr. Anthony?”

“Yes, madam.  You’ll pardon my intrusion.  I knew your husband slightly, and I’ve heard about you.  I extend my sympathy.”

She bowed.  “When did you arrive?”

“Just now; came across in one of those damned joy-wagons—­fifty miles an hour.  We hit a nigger on the way, but we didn’t stop.  I know everything, madam.  What I didn’t know before I landed, I learned on the way across the Isthmus, so don’t let’s waste time.  Hell of a position for you to be in—­I understand and all that—­ and I’m sorry for you.  Now let’s get down to business, for I must get back to New York.”

It was impossible not to feel Darwin K. Anthony’s force; it spoke in his every tone and action.  It looked out from his harsh-lined features, and showed in his energetic movements.  He was a great granite block of a man, powerful in physique, in mind, and in determination.  He had Kirk’s eyes, Mrs. Cortlandt noted, except that they were deeper set, more fierce and eager.

She was not used to being overridden, and his masterful air offended her.

“In what way may I be of service to you?” she inquired, coldly.

“I want my boy,” he said, simply, and she began to see that underneath his cold and domineering exterior his heart was torn by a great distress.

“You know all the circumstances, of course?”

“I do.  That’s why I came straight to you.  I know you’re the keystone of the whole affair, so I didn’t waste time with these other people.  Kirk’s a damned idiot, and always has been; he isn’t worth the powder to blow him to—­excuse me—­I mean he’s just a ne’er-do-well; but I suppose I’ll have to do my duty by him.”

“I understand that has always been your attitude.”

“Exactly!  I got sick of his performances and cut him off; couldn’t stand for him any longer.  I tried my best to make a man out of him, but he wouldn’t have it, so we severed our connections absolutely.  I just kicked him out.  Sorry I didn’t do it sooner.”

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