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man said, being entirely unprejudiced, that he thought not. It was
cheaper, he said, to get a good thing at the start. It lasted longer.
And cheap pipes bite your tongue. This seemed to Van Bibber most
excellent reasoning. Some Oxford-Cambridge mixture attracted Van
Bibber on account of its name. This cost one dollar more. As he left
the shop he saw a lot of pipes, brier and corn-cob and Sallie
Michaels, in the window marked, "Any of these for a quarter." This
made him feel badly, and he was conscious he was not making a success
of his economy. He started back to the club, but it was so hot that he
thought he would faint before he got there; so he called a hansom, on
the principle that it was cheaper to ride and keep well than to walk
and have a sunstroke.

He saw some people that he knew going by in a cab with a pile of
trunks on the top of it, and that reminded him that they had asked him
to come down and see them off when the steamer left that afternoon. So
he waved his hand when they passed, and bowed to them, and cried, "See
you later," before he counted the consequences. He did not wish to
arrive empty-handed, so he stopped in at a florist's and got a big
basket of flowers and another of fruit, and piled them into the
hansom.

When be came to pay the driver he found the trip from Thirty-fifth
Street to the foot of Liberty was two dollars and a half, and the
fruit and flowers came to twenty-two dollars. He was greatly
distressed over this, and could not see how it had happened. He rode
back in the elevated for five cents and felt much better. Then some
men just back from a yachting trip joined him at the club and ordered
a great many things to drink, and of course he had to do the same, and
seven dollars were added to his economy fund. He argued that this did
not matter, because he signed a check for it, and that he would not
have to pay for it until the end of the month, when the necessity of
economizing would be over.

Still, his conscience did not seem convinced, and he grew very
desperate. He felt he was not doing it at all properly, and he
determined that he would spend next to nothing on his dinner. He
remembered with a shudder the place he had taken the tramp to dinner,
and he vowed that before he would economize as rigidly as that he
would starve; but he had heard of the _table d'hôte_ places on Sixth
Avenue, so he went there and wandered along the street until he found
one that looked clean and nice. He began with a heavy soup, shoved a
rich, fat, fried fish over his plate, and followed it with a queer
_entrée_ of spaghetti with a tomato dressing that satisfied his hunger
and killed his appetite as if with the blow of a lead pipe. But he
went through with the rest of it, for he felt it was the truest
economy to get his money's worth, and the limp salad in bad oil and
the ice-cream of sour milk made him feel that eating was a positive
pain rather than a pleasure; and in this state of mind and body,
drugged and disgusted, he lighted his pipe and walked slowly towards
the club along Twenty-sixth Street.

He looked in at the _café_ at Delmonico's with envy and disgust, and,
going disheartenedly on, passed the dining-room windows that were wide
open and showed the heavy white linen, the silver, and the women
coolly dressed and everybody happy.

And then there was a wild waving of arms inside, and white hands
beckoning him, and he saw with mingled feelings of regret that the
whole party of the Fourth of July were inside and motioning to him.
They made room for him, and the captain's daughter helped him to
olives, and the chaperon told how they had come into town for the day,
and had been telegraphing for him and Edgar and Fred and "dear Bill,"
and the rest said they were so glad to see him because they knew he
could appreciate a good dinner if any one could.

But Van Bibber only groaned, and the awful memories of the lead-like
spaghetti and the bad oil and the queer cheese made him shudder, and
turned things before him into a Tantalus feast of rare cruelty. There
were Little Neck clams, delicious cold consommé, and white fish, and
French chops with a dressing of truffles, and Roman punch and woodcock
to follow, and crisp lettuce and toasted crackers-and-cheese, with a
most remarkable combination of fruits and ices; and Van Bibber could
eat nothing, and sat unhappily looking at his plate and shaking his
head when the waiter urged him gently. "Economy!" he said, with
disgusted solemnity. "It's all tommy rot. It wouldn't have cost me a
cent to have eaten this dinner, and yet I've paid half a dollar to
make myself ill so that I can't. If you know how to economize, it may
be all right; but if you don't understand it, you must leave it alone.
It's dangerous. I'll economize no more."

And he accordingly broke his vow by taking the whole party up to see
the lady who would not be photographed in tights, and put them in a
box where they were gagged by the comedian, and where the soubrette
smiled on them and all went well.




MR. TRAVERS'S FIRST HUNT


Young Travers, who had been engaged to a girl down on Long Island for
the last three months, only met her father and brother a few weeks
before the day set for the wedding. The brother is a master of hounds
near Southampton, and shared the expense of importing a pack from
England with Van Bibber. The father and son talked horse all day and
until one in the morning; for they owned fast thoroughbreds, and
entered them at the Sheepshead Bay and other race-tracks. Old Mr.
Paddock, the father of the girl to whom Travers was engaged, had often
said that when a young man asked him for his daughter's hand he would
ask him in return, not if he had lived straight, but if he could ride
straight. And on his answering this question in the affirmative
depended his gaining her parent's consent. Travers had met Miss
Paddock and her mother in Europe, while the men of the family were at
home. He was invited to their place in the fall when the hunting
season opened, and spent the evening most pleasantly and
satisfactorily with his _fiancée_ in a corner of the drawing-room.
But as soon as the women had gone, young Paddock joined him and said,
"You ride, of course?" Travers had never ridden; but he had been
prompted how to answer by Miss Paddock, and so said there was nothing
he liked better. As he expressed it, he would rather ride than sleep.

"That's good," said Paddock. "I'll give you a mount on Satan to-morrow
morning at the meet. He is a bit nasty at the start of the season; and
ever since he killed Wallis, the second groom, last year, none of us
care much to ride him. But you can manage him, no doubt. He'll just
carry your weight."

Mr. Travers dreamed that night of taking large, desperate leaps into
space on a wild horse that snorted forth flames, and that rose at
solid stone walls as though they were hayricks.

He was tempted to say he was ill in the morning - which was,
considering his state of mind, more or less true - but concluded that,
as he would have to ride sooner or later during his visit, and that if
he did break his neck it would be in a good cause, he determined to do
his best. He did not want to ride at all, for two excellent
reasons - first, because he wanted to live for Miss Paddock's sake,
and, second, because he wanted to live for his own.

The next morning was a most forbidding and doleful-looking morning,
and young Travers had great hopes that the meet would be declared off;
but, just as he lay in doubt, the servant knocked at his door with
his riding things and his hot water.

He came down-stairs looking very miserable indeed. Satan had been
taken to the place where they were to meet, and Travers viewed him on
his arrival there with a sickening sense of fear as he saw him pulling
three grooms off their feet.

Travers decided that he would stay with his feet on solid earth just
as long as he could, and when the hounds were thrown off and the rest
had started at a gallop he waited, under the pretence of adjusting his
gaiters, until they were all well away. Then he clenched his teeth,
crammed his hat down over his ears, and scrambled up on to the saddle.
His feet fell quite by accident into the stirrups, and the next
instant he was off after the others, with an indistinct feeling that
he was on a locomotive that was jumping the ties. Satan was in among
and had passed the other horses in less than five minutes, and was so
close on the hounds that the whippers-in gave a cry of warning. But
Travers could as soon have pulled a boat back from going over the
Niagara Falls as Satan, and it was only because the hounds were well
ahead that saved them from having Satan ride them down. Travers had
taken hold of the saddle with his left hand to keep himself down, and
sawed and swayed on the reins with his right. He shut his eyes
whenever Satan jumped, and never knew how he happened to stick on; but
he did stick on, and was so far ahead that no one could see in the
misty morning just how badly he rode. As it was, for daring and speed
he led the field, and not even young Paddock was near him from the
start. There was a broad stream in front of him, and a hill just on
its other side. No one had ever tried to take this at a jump. It was
considered more of a swim than anything else, and the hunters always
crossed it by the bridge, towards the left. Travers saw the bridge and
tried to jerk Satan's head in that direction; but Satan kept right on
as straight as an express train over the prairie. Fences and trees and
furrows passed by and under Travers like a panorama run by
electricity, and he only breathed by accident. They went on at the
stream and the hill beyond as though they were riding at a stretch of
turf, and, though the whole field set up a shout of warning and
dismay, Travers could only gasp and shut his eyes. He remembered the
fate of the second groom and shivered. Then the horse rose like a
rocket, lifting Travers so high in the air that he thought Satan would
never come down again; but he did come down, with his feet bunched, on
the opposite side of the stream. The next instant he was up and over
the hill, and had stopped panting in the very centre of the pack that
were snarling and snapping around the fox. And then Travers showed
that he was a thoroughbred, even though he could not ride, for he
hastily fumbled for his cigar-case, and when the field came pounding
up over the bridge and around the hill, they saw him seated
nonchalantly on his saddle, puffing critically at a cigar and giving
Satan patronizing pats on the head.

"My dear girl," said old Mr. Paddock to his daughter as they rode
back, "if you love that young man of yours and want to keep him, make
him promise to give up riding. A more reckless and more brilliant
horseman I have never seen. He took that double jump at the gate and
that stream like a centaur. But he will break his neck sooner or
later, and he ought to be stopped." Young Paddock was so delighted
with his prospective brother-in-law's great riding that that night in
the smoking-room he made him a present of Satan before all the men.

"No," said Travers, gloomily, "I can't take him. Your sister has asked
me to give up what is dearer to me than anything next to herself, and
that is my riding. You see, she is absurdly anxious for my safety, and
she has asked me to promise never to ride again, and I have given my
word."

A chorus of sympathetic remonstrance rose from the men.

"Yes, I know," said Travers to her brother, "it is rough, but it just
shows what sacrifices a man will make for the woman he loves."




LOVE ME, LOVE MY DOG


Young Van Bibber had been staying with some people at Southampton,
L.I., where, the fall before, his friend Travers made his reputation
as a cross-country rider. He did this, it may be remembered, by
shutting his eyes and holding on by the horse's mane and letting the
horse go as it pleased. His recklessness and courage are still spoken
of with awe; and the place where he cleared the water jump that every
one else avoided is pointed out as Travers's Leap to visiting
horsemen, who look at it gloomily and shake their heads. Miss Arnett,
whose mother was giving the house-party, was an attractive young
woman, with an admiring retinue of youths who gave attention without
intention, and for none of whom Miss Arnett showed particular
preference. Her whole interest, indeed, was centred in a dog, a Scotch
collie called Duncan. She allowed this dog every liberty, and made a
decided nuisance of him for every one around her. He always went with
her when she walked, or trotted beside her horse when she rode. He
stretched himself before the fire in the dining-room, and startled
people at table by placing his cold nose against their hands or
putting his paws on their gowns. He was generally voted a most
annoying adjunct to the Arnett household; but no one dared hint so to
Miss Arnett, as she only loved those who loved the dog, or pretended
to do it. On the morning of the afternoon on which Van Bibber and his
bag arrived, the dog disappeared and could not be recovered. Van
Bibber found the household in a state of much excitement in
consequence, and his welcome was necessarily brief. The arriving guest
was not to be considered at all with the departed dog. The men told
Van Bibber, in confidence, that the general relief among the guests
was something ecstatic, but this was marred later by the gloom of Miss
Arnett and her inability to think of anything else but the finding of
the lost collie. Things became so feverish that for the sake of rest
and peace the house-party proposed to contribute to a joint purse for
the return of the dog, as even, nuisance as it was, it was not so bad
as having their visit spoiled by Miss Arnett's abandonment to grief
and crossness.

"I think," said the young woman, after luncheon, "that some of you men
might be civil enough to offer to look for him. I'm sure he can't have
gone far, or, if he has been stolen, the men who took him couldn't
have gone very far away either. Now which of you will volunteer? I'm
sure you'll do it to please me. Mr. Van Bibber, now: you say you're so
clever. We're all the time hearing of your adventures. Why don't you
show how full of expedients you are and rise to the occasion?" The
suggestion of scorn in this speech nettled Van Bibber.

"I'm sure I never posed as being clever," he said, "and finding a lost
dog with all Long Island to pick and choose from isn't a particularly
easy thing to pull off successfully, I should think."

"I didn't suppose you'd take a dare like that, Van Bibber," said one
of the men. "Why, it's just the sort of thing you do so well."

"Yes," said another, "I'll back you to find him if you try."

"Thanks," said Van Bibber, dryly. "There seems to be a disposition on
the part of the young men present to turn me into a dog-catcher. I
doubt whether this is altogether unselfish. I do not say that they
would rather remain indoors and teach the girls how to play billiards,
but I quite appreciate their reasons for not wishing to roam about in
the snow and whistle for a dog. However, to oblige the despondent
mistress of this valuable member of the household, I will risk
pneumonia, and I will, at the same time, in order to make the event
interesting to all concerned, back myself to bring that dog back by
eight o'clock. Now, then, if any of you unselfish youths have any
sporting blood, you will just name the sum."

They named one hundred dollars, and arranged that Van Bibber was to
have the dog back by eight o'clock, or just in time for dinner; for
Van Bibber said he wouldn't miss his dinner for all the dogs in the
two hemispheres, unless the dogs happened to be his own.

Van Bibber put on his great-coat and told the man to bring around the
dog-cart; then he filled his pockets with cigars and placed a flask of
brandy under the seat, and wrapped the robes around his knees.

"I feel just like a relief expedition to the North Pole. I think I
ought to have some lieutenants," he suggested.

"Well," cried one of the men, "suppose we make a pool and each chip in
fifty dollars, and the man who brings the dog back in time gets the
whole of it?"

"That bet of mine stands, doesn't it?" asked Van Bibber.

The men said it did, and went off to put on their riding things, and
four horses were saddled and brought around from the stable. Each of
the four explorers was furnished with a long rope to tie to Duncan's
collar, and with which he was to be led back if they found him. They
were cheered ironically by the maidens they had deserted on
compulsion, and were smiled upon severally by Miss Arnett. Then they
separated and took different roads. It was snowing gently, and was
very cold. Van Bibber drove aimlessly ahead, looking to the right and
left and scanning each back yard and side street. Every now and then
he hailed some passing farm wagon and asked the driver if he had seen
a stray collie dog, but the answer was invariably in the negative. He
soon left the village in the rear, and plunged out over the downs. The
wind was bitter cold, and swept from the water with a chill that cut
through his clothes.

"Oh, this is great," said Van Bibber to the patient horse in front of
him; "this _is_ sport, this is. The next time I come to this part of
the world I'll be dragged here with a rope. Nice, hospitable people
those Arnetts, aren't they? Ask you to make yourself at home chasing
dogs over an ice fjord. Don't know when I've enjoyed myself so much."
Every now and then he stood up and looked all over the hills and
valleys to see if he could not distinguish a black object running over
the white surface of the snow, but he saw nothing like a dog, not even
the track of one.

Twice he came across one of the other men, shivering and swearing from
his saddle, and with teeth chattering.

"Well," said one of them, shuddering, "you haven't found that dog yet,
I see."

"No," said Van Bibber. "Oh, no. I've given up looking for the dog. I'm
just driving around enjoying myself. The air's so invigorating, and I
like to feel the snow settling between my collar and the back of my
neck."

At four o'clock Van Bibber was about as nearly frozen as a man could
be after he had swallowed half a bottle of brandy. It was so cold that
the ice formed on his cigar when he took it from his lips, and his
feet and the dashboard seemed to have become stuck together.

"I think I'll give it up," he said, finally, as he turned the horse's
head towards Southampton. "I hate to lose three hundred and fifty
dollars as much as any man; but I love my fair young life, and I'm not
going to turn into an equestrian statue in ice for anybody's collie
dog."

He drove the cart to the stable and unharnessed the horse himself, as
all the grooms were out scouring the country, and then went upstairs
unobserved and locked himself in his room, for he did not care to have
the others know that he had given out so early in the chase. There was
a big open fire in his room, and he put on his warm things and
stretched out before it in a great easy-chair, and smoked and sipped
the brandy and chuckled with delight as he thought of the four other
men racing around in the snow.

"They may have more nerve than I," he soliloquized, "and I don't say
they have not; but they can have all the credit and rewards they want,
and I'll be satisfied to stay just where I am."

At seven he saw the four riders coming back dejectedly, and without
the dog. As they passed his room he heard one of the men ask if Van
Bibber had got back yet, and another say yes, he had, as he had left
the cart in the stable, but that one of the servants had said that he
had started out again on foot.

"He has, has he?" said the voice. "Well, he's got sporting blood, and
he'll need to keep it at fever heat if he expects to live. I'm frozen
so that I can't bend my fingers."

Van Bibber smiled, and moved comfortably in the big chair; he had
dozed a little, and was feeling very contented. At half-past seven he
began to dress, and at five minutes to eight he was ready for dinner
and stood looking out of the window at the moonlight on the white lawn
below. The snow had stopped falling, and everything lay quiet and
still as though it were cut in marble. And then suddenly, across the
lawn, came a black, bedraggled object on four legs, limping painfully,
and lifting its feet as though there were lead on them.

"Great heavens!" cried Van Bibber, "it's the dog!" He was out of the
room in a moment and down into the hall. He heard the murmur of voices
in the drawing-room, and the sympathetic tones of the women who were
pitying the men. Van Bibber pulled on his overshoes and a great-coat
that covered him from his ears to his ankles, and dashed out into the
snow. The dog had just enough spirit left to try and dodge him, and
with a leap to one side went off again across the lawn. It was, as Van
Bibber knew, but three minutes to eight o'clock, and have the dog he
must and would. The collie sprang first to one side and then to the
other, and snarled and snapped; but Van Bibber was keen with the
excitement of the chase, so he plunged forward recklessly and tackled
the dog around the body, and they both rolled over and over together.
Then Van Bibber scrambled to his feet and dashed up the steps and into
the drawing-room just as the people were in line for dinner, and while
the minute-hand stood at a minute to eight o'clock.

"How is this?" shouted Van Bibber, holding up one hand and clasping
the dog under his other arm.

Miss Arnett flew at the collie and embraced it, wet as it was, and
ruined her gown, and all the men glanced instinctively at the clock
and said:

"You've won, Van."

"But you must be frozen to death," said Miss Arnett, looking up at him
with gratitude in her eyes.

"Yes, yes," said Van Bibber, beginning to shiver. "I've had a terrible
long walk, and I had to carry him all the way. If you'll excuse me,
I'll go change my things."

He reappeared again in a suspiciously short time for one who had to
change outright, and the men admired his endurance and paid up the
bet.

"Where did you find him, Van?" one of them asked.

"Oh, yes," they all chorused. "Where was he?"

"That," said Mr. Van Bibber, "is a thing known to only two beings,
Duncan and myself. Duncan can't tell, and I won't. If I did, you'd say
I was trying to make myself out clever, and I never boast about the
things I do."




ELEANORE CUYLER


Miss Eleanore Cuyler had dined alone with her mother that night, and
she was now sitting in the drawing-room, near the open fire, with her
gloves and fan on the divan beside her, for she was going out later to
a dance.

She was reading a somewhat weighty German review, and the contrast
which the smartness of her gown presented to the seriousness of her
occupation made her smile slightly as she paused for a moment to cut
the leaves.

And when the bell sounded in the hall she put the book away from her
altogether, and wondered who it might be.

It might be young Wainwright, with the proof-sheets of the new story
he had promised to let her see, or flowers for the dance from
Bruce-Brice, of the English Legation at Washington, who for the time
being was practising diplomatic moves in New York, or some of her
working-girls with a new perplexity for her to unravel, or only one of
the men from the stable to tell her how her hunter was getting on
after his fall. It might be any of these and more. The possibilities
were diverse and all of interest, and she acknowledged this to
herself, with a little sigh of content that it was so. For she found
her pleasure in doing many things, and in the fact that there were so
many. She rejoiced daily that she was free, and her own mistress in
everything; free to do these many things denied to other young women,
and that she had the health and position and cleverness to carry them
on and through to success. She did them all, and equally well and
gracefully, whether it was the rejection of a too ambitious devotee
who dared to want to have her all to himself, or the planning of a
woman's luncheon, or the pushing of a bill to provide kindergartens in
the public schools. But it was rather a relief when the man opened the
curtains and said, "Mr. Wainwright," and Wainwright walked quickly
towards her, tugging at his glove.

"You are very good to see me so late," he said, speaking as he
entered, "but I had to see you to-night, and I wasn't asked to that
dance. I'm going away," he went on, taking his place by the fire, with
his arm resting on the mantel. He had a trick of standing there when


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Online LibraryRichard Harding DavisVan Bibber and Others → online text (page 4 of 12)