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THE FASHIONABLE ADVENTURES OF JOSHUA CRAIG

A NOVEL

BY DAVID GRAHAM PHILLIPS




CONTENTS


I. - MR. CRAIG ARRAYS HIMSELF
II. - IN THE BEST SOCIETY
III. - A DESPERATE YOUNG WOMAN
IV. - "HE ISN'T LIKE US"
V. - ALMOST HOOKED
VI. - MR. CRAIG IN SWEET DANGER
VII. - MRS. SEVERENCE IS ROUSED
VIII. - MR. CRAIG CONFIDES
IX. - SOMEWHAT CYCLONIC
X. - A BELATED PROPOSAL
XI. - MADAM BOWKER HEARS THE NEWS
XII. - PUTTING DOWN A MUTINY
XIII. - A MEMORABLE MEETING
XIV. - MAGGIE AND JOSH
XV. - THE EMBASSY GARDEN PARTY
XVI. - A FIGHT AND A FINISH
XVII. - A NIGHT MARCH
XVIII. - PEACE AT ANY PRICE
XIX. - MADAM BOWKER'S BLESSING
XX. - MR. CRAIG KISSES THE IDOL'S FOOT
XXI. - A SWOOP AND A SCRATCH
XXII. - GETTING ACQUAINTED
XXIII. - WHAT THE MOON SAW AND DID
XXIV. - "OUR HOUSE IS AFIRE"
XXV. - MRS. JOSHUA CRAIG





THE FASHIONABLE ADVENTURES OF JOSHUA CRAIG




CHAPTER I

MR. CRAIG ARRAYS HIMSELF


It was one of the top-floor-rear flats in the Wyandotte, not merely
biggest of Washington's apartment hotels, but also "most
exclusive" - which is the elegant way of saying most expensive. The
Wyandotte had gone up before landlords grasped the obvious truth that in
a fire-proof structure locations farthest from noise and dust should and
could command highest prices; so Joshua Craig's flat was the cheapest in
the house. The ninety dollars a month loomed large in his eyes, focused
to little-town ideas of values; it was, in fact, small for shelter in
"the DE LUXE district of the de luxe quarter," to quote Mrs. Senator
Mulvey, that simple, far-Western soul, who, finding snobbishness to be
the chief distinguishing mark of the Eastern upper classes, assumed it
was a virtue, acquired it laboriously, and practiced it as openly and
proudly as a preacher does piety. Craig's chief splendor was a
sitting-room, called a parlor and bedecked in the red plush and
Nottingham that represent hotel men's probably shrewd guess at the
traveling public's notion of interior opulence. Next the sitting-room,
and with the same dreary outlook, or, rather, downlook, upon disheveled
and squalid back yards, was a dingy box of a bedroom. Like the parlor,
it was outfitted with furniture that had degenerated upward, floor by
floor, from the spacious and luxurious first-floor suites. Between the
two rooms, in dark mustiness, lay a bathroom with suspicious-looking,
wood-inclosed plumbing; the rusted iron of the tub peered through scuffs
and seams in the age-grayed porcelain.

Arkwright glanced from the parlor where he was sitting into the gloom of
the open bathroom and back again. His cynical brown-green eyes paused
upon a scatter of clothing, half-hiding the badly-rubbed red plush of
the sofa - a mussy flannel nightshirt with mothholes here and there;
kneed trousers, uncannily reminiscent of a rough and strenuous wearer; a
smoking-jacket that, after a youth of cheap gayety, was now a frayed and
tattered wreck, like an old tramp, whose "better days" were none too
good. On the radiator stood a pair of wrinkled shoes that had never
known trees; their soles were curved like rockers. An old pipe clamored
at his nostrils, though it was on the table near the window, the full
length of the room from him. Papers and books were strewn about
everywhere. It was difficult to believe these unkempt and uncouth
surroundings, and the personality that had created them, were actually
being harbored behind the walls of the Wyandotte.

"What a hole!" grumbled Arkwright. He was in evening clothes, so correct
in their care and in their carelessness that even a woman would have
noted and admired. "What a mess! What a hole!"

"How's that?" came from the bedroom in an aggressive voice, so
penetrating that it seemed loud, though it was not, and much roughened
by open-air speaking. "What are you growling about?"

Arkwright raised his tone: "Filthy hole!" said he. "Filthy mess!"

Now appeared in the bedroom door a tall young man of unusual strength
and nearly perfect proportions. The fine head was carried commandingly;
with its crop of dark, matted hair it suggested the rude, fierce
figure-head of a Viking galley; the huge, aggressively-masculine
features proclaimed ambition, energy, intelligence. To see Josh Craig
was to have instant sense of the presence of a personality. The contrast
between him standing half-dressed in the doorway and the man seated in
fashionable and cynically-critical superciliousness was more than a
matter of exteriors. Arkwright, with features carved, not hewn as were
Craig's, handsome in civilization's over-trained, overbred extreme, had
an intelligent, superior look also. But it was the look of expertness in
things hardly worth the trouble of learning; it was aristocracy's
highly-prized air of the dog that leads in the bench show and tails in
the field. He was like a firearm polished and incrusted with gems and
hanging in a connoisseur's wall-case; Josh was like a battle-tested
rifle in the sinewy hands of an Indian in full war-paint. Arkwright
showed that he had physical strength, too; but it was of the kind got at
the gymnasium and at gentlemanly sport - the kind that wins only where
the rules are carefully refined and amateurized. Craig's figure had the
solidity, the tough fiber of things grown in the open air, in the cold,
wet hardship of the wilderness.

Arkwright's first glance of admiration for this figure of the forest and
the teepee changed to a mingling of amusement and irritation. The
barbarian was not clad in the skins of wild beasts, which would have set
him off superbly, but was trying to get himself arrayed for a
fashionable ball. He had on evening trousers, pumps, black cotton socks
with just enough silk woven in to give them the shabby, shamed air of
having been caught in a snobbish pretense at being silk. He was
buttoning a shirt torn straight down the left side of the bosom from
collar-band to end of tail; and the bosom had the stiff, glassy glaze
that advertises the cheap laundry.

"Didn't you write me I must get an apartment in this house?" demanded
he.

"Not in the attic," rejoined Arkwright.

"I can't afford anything better."

"You can't afford anything so bad."

"Bad!"

Craig looked round as pleased as a Hottentot with a string of colored
glass beads. "Why, I've got a private sitting-room AND a private bath! I
never was so well-off before in my life. I tell you, Grant, I'm not
surprised any more that you Easterners get effete and worthless. I begin
to like this lolling in luxury, and I keep the bell-boys on the jump.
Won't you have something to drink?"

Arkwright pointed his slim cane at the rent in the shirt. "What are you
going to do with that?" said he.

"This? Oh!" - Josh thrust his thick backwoods-man's hand in the
tear - "Very simple. A safety-pin or so from the lining of the
vest - excuse me, waistcoat - into the edge of the bosom."

"Splendid!" ejaculated Arkwright. "Superb!"

Craig, with no scent for sarcasm so delicate, pushed on with enthusiasm:
"The safety-pin's the mainstay of bachelor life," said he rhetorically.
"It's his badge of freedom. Why, I can even repair socks with it!"

"Throw that shirt away," said Arkwright, with a contemptuous switch of
his cane. "Put on another. You're not dressing for a shindy in a shack."

"But it's the only one of my half-dozen that has a bang-up bosom."

"Bang-up? That sheet of mottled mica?"

Craig surveyed the shiny surface ruefully. "What's the matter with
this?" he demanded.

"Oh, nothing," replied Arkwright, in disgust. "Only, it looks more like
something to roof a house with than like linen for a civilized man."

Craig reared. "But, damn it, Grant, I'm not civilized. I'm a wild man,
and I'm going to stay wild. I belong to the common people, and it's my
game - and my preference, too - to stick to them. I'm willing to make
concessions; I'm not a fool. I know there was a certain amount of truth
in those letters you took the trouble to write me from Europe. I know
that to play the game here in Washington I've got to do something in
society. But" - here Josh's eyes flashed, and he bent on his friend a
look that was impressive - "I'm still going to be myself. I'll make 'em
accept me as I am. Dealing with men as individuals, I make them do what
_I_ want, make 'em like me as I am."

"Every game has its own rules," said Arkwright. "You'll get on
better - quicker - go further - here if you'll learn a few elementary
things. I don't see that wearing a whole shirt decently done up is going
to compromise any principles. Surely you can do that and still be as
common as you like. The people look up to the fellow that's just a
little better dressed than they."

Josh eyed Arkwright in the way that always made him wonder whether he
was in full possession of the secret of this strenuous young Westerner.
"But," said he, "they love and trust the man who will have nothing which
all may not have. The shirt will do for this evening." And he turned
back into the bedroom.

Arkwright reflected somewhat uncomfortably. He felt that he himself was
right; yet he could not deny that "Josh's cheap demagoguery" sounded
fine and true. He soon forgot the argument in the study of his
surroundings. "You're living like a wild beast here, Josh," he presently
called out. "You must get a valet."

A loud laugh was the reply.

"Or a wife," continued Arkwright. Then, in the voice of one announcing
an inspiration, "Yes - that's it! A wife!"

Craig reappeared. He had on his waistcoat and coat now, and his hair was
brushed. Arkwright could not but admit that the personality took the
edge off the clothes; even the "mottled mica" - the rent was completely
hid - seemed to have lost the worst of its glaze and stiffness. "You'll
do, Josh," said he. "I spoke too quickly. If I hadn't accidentally been
thrust into the innermost secrets of your toilet I'd never have
suspected." He looked the Westerner over with gentle, friendly
patronage. "Yes, you'll do. You look fairly well at a glance - and a
man's clothes rarely get more than that."

Craig released his laugh upon his fastidious friend's judicial
seriousness. "The trouble with you, Grant, is you've never lived a human
life. You've always been sheltered and pampered, lifted in and out of
bed by valets, had a suit of clothes for every hour in the day. I don't
see how it is I happen to like you." And in Craig's face and voice there
was frankly the condescension of superior to undoubted inferior.

Arkwright seemed to be wavering between resentment and amused disdain.
Then he remembered the circumstances of their first acquaintance - those
frightful days in the Arizona desert, without food, with almost no
water, and how this man had been absolute ruler of the party of lost and
dying men; how he had forced them to march on and on, with entreaties,
with curses, with blows finally; how he had brought them to safety - all
as a matter of course, without any vanity or boasting - had been leader
by divine right of strength of body and soul. Grant turned his eyes from
Craig, for there were tears in them. "I don't see why you like me,
either, Josh," said he. "But you do - and - damn it all, I'd die for you."

"I guess you'll come pretty near dying of shame before this evening's
over," laughed Craig. "This is the first time in my life I ever was in a
fashionable company."

"There's nothing to be frightened about," Grant assured him.

"Frightened!" Josh laughed boisterously - Arkwright could have wished he
would temper that laugh. "I - frightened by a bunch of popinjays? You
see, it's not really in the least important whether they like me or
not - at least, not to me. I'll get there, anyhow. And when I do, I'll
deal with them according to their deserts. So they'd better hustle to
get solid with me."

In the two years since he had seen Craig, Arkwright had almost forgotten
his habit of bragging and blowing about himself - what he had done, what
he was going to do. The newspapers, the clippings Josh sent him, had
kept him informed of the young Minnesotan's steady, rapid rise in
politics; and whenever he recalled the absurd boasting that had made him
feel Craig would never come to anything, he assumed it was a weakness of
youth and inexperience which had, no doubt, been conquered. But, no;
here was the same old, conceited Josh, as crudely and vulgarly
self-confident as when he was twenty-five and just starting at the law
in a country town. Yet Arkwright could not but admit there had been more
than a grain of truth in Craig's former self-laudations, that there was
in victories won a certain excuse for his confidence about the future.
This young man, not much beyond thirty, with a personality so positive
and so rough that he made enemies right and left, rousing the envy of
men to fear that here was an ambition which must be downed or it would
become a tyranny over them - this young man, by skill at politics and by
sympathetic power with people in the mass, had already compelled a
President who didn't like him to appoint him to the chief post under an
Attorney-General who detested him.

"How are you getting on with the Attorney-General?" asked Arkwright, as
they set out in his electric brougham.

"He's getting on with me much better," replied Craig, "now that he has
learned not to trifle with me."

"Stillwater is said to be a pretty big man," said Arkwright warningly.

"The bigger the man, the easier to frighten," replied Josh carelessly,
"because the more he's got to lose. But it's a waste of time to talk
politics to you. Grant, old man, I'm sick and worn out, and how
lonesome! I'm successful. But what of that, since I'm miserable? If it
wasn't for my sense of duty, by Heaven, I sometimes think I'd drop it
all and go back to Wayne."

"Don't do that, Josh!" exclaimed Arkwright. "Don't let the country go
rolling off to ruin!"

"Like all small creatures," said Craig, "you take serious matters
lightly, and light matters seriously. You were right a moment ago when
you said I needed a wife."

"That's all settled," said Grant. "I'm going to get you one."

"A woman doesn't need a man - if she isn't too lazy to earn a living,"
pursued Craig. "But what's a man without a woman about?"

"You want a wife, and you want her quick," said Arkwright.

"You saw what a condition my clothes are in. Then, I need somebody to
talk with."

"To talk to," corrected Grant.

"I can't have you round all the time to talk to."

"Heaven forbid!" cried Arkwright. "You never talk about anything but
yourself."

"Some day, my boy," said Josh, with his grave good humor of the great
man tolerating the antics of a mountebank, "you'll appreciate it wasn't
the subject that was dull, but the ears. For the day'll come when
everybody'll be thinking and talking about me most of the time."

Arkwright grinned. "It's lucky you don't let go before everybody like
that."

"Yes, but I do," rejoined Craig. "And why not? They can't stop my going
ahead. Besides, it's not a bad idea" - he nodded, with that shrewdness
which was the great, deep-lying vein in his nature - "not at all a bad
idea, to have people think you a frank, loose-mouthed, damn fool - IF you
ain't. Ambition's a war. And it's a tremendous advantage to lead your
enemies to underestimate you. That's one reason why I ALWAYS win ... So
you're going TO TRY to get me a wife?"

"I'm going to get you one - one of the sort you need. You need a woman
who'll tame you down and lick you into shape."

Craig smiled scornfully.

"One who'll know how to smooth the enemies you make with your
rough-and-tumble manners; one who'll win friends for you socially - "

Josh made a vehement gesture of dissent. "Not on your life!" cried he.
"Of course, my wife must be a lady, and interested in my career. But
none of your meddling politicians in petticoats for me! I'll do my own
political maneuvering. I want a woman, not a bad imitation of a man."

"Well, let that go," said Arkwright. "Also, she ought to be able to
supply you with funds for your political machinery."

Josh sat up as if this were what he had been listening for.

"That's right!" cried he. "Politics is hell for a poor man, nowadays.
The people are such thoughtless, short-sighted fools - " He checked
himself, and in a different tone went on: "However, I don't mean exactly
that - "

"You needn't hedge, Josh, with me."

"I don't want you to be thinking I'm looking for a rich woman."

"Not at all - not at all," laughed his friend.

"If she had too much money it'd be worse for my career than if she had
none at all."

"I understand," said Arkwright.

"Enough money to make me independent - if I should get in a tight place,"
continued Josh. "Yes, I must marry. The people are suspicious of a
bachelor. The married men resent his freedom - even the happily married
ones. And all the women, married and single, resent his not
surrendering."

"I never suspected you of cynicism."

"Yes," continued Craig, in an instantly and radically changed tone, "the
people like a married man, a man with children. It looks respectable,
settled. It makes 'em feel he's got a stake in the country - a home and
property to defend. Yes, I want a wife."

"I don't see why you've neglected it so long."

"Too busy."

"And too - ambitious," suggested Arkwright.

"What do you mean?" demanded Josh, bristling.

"You thought you'd wait to marry until you were nearer your final place
in the world. Being cut out for a king, you know - why, you thought you'd
like a queen - one of those fine, delicate ladies you'd read about."

Craig's laugh might have been confession, it might have been mere
amusement. "I want a wife that suits me," said he. "And I'll get her."

It was Arkwright's turn to be amused. "There's one game you don't in the
least understand," said he.

"What game is that?"

"The woman game."

Craig shrugged contemptuously. "Marbles! Jacks!" Then he added: "Now
that I'm about ready to marry, I'll look the offerings over." He clapped
his friend on the shoulder. "And you can bet your last cent I'll take
what I want."

"Don't be too sure," jeered Arkwright.

The brougham was passing a street lamp that for an instant illuminated
Craig's face. Again Arkwright saw the expression that made him feel
extremely uncertain of the accuracy of his estimates of the "wild man's"
character.

"Yes, I'll get her," said Josh, "and for a reason that never occurs to
you shallow people. I get what I want because what I want wants me - for
the same reason that the magnet gets the steel."

Arkwright looked admiringly at his friend's strong, aggressive face.

"You're a queer one, Josh," said he. "Nothing ordinary about you."

"I should hope not!" exclaimed Craig. "Now for the plunge."




CHAPTER II

IN THE BEST SOCIETY


Grant's electric had swung in at the end of the long line of carriages
of all kinds, from coach of ambassador and costly limousine of
multi-millionaire to humble herdic wherein poor, official grandee's wife
and daughter were feeling almost as common as if they had come in a
street car or afoot. Josh Craig, leaning from the open window, could see
the grand entrance under the wide and lofty porte-cochère - the women,
swathed in silk and fur, descending from the carriages and entering the
wide-flung doors of the vestibule; liveries, flowers, lights, sounds of
stringed instruments, intoxicating glimpses of magnificence at windows,
high and low. And now the electric was at the door. He and Arkwright
sprang out, hastened up the broad steps. His expression amused
Arkwright; it was intensely self-conscious, resolutely indifferent - the
kind of look that betrays tempestuous inward perturbations and
misgivings. "Josh is a good deal of a snob, for all his brave talk,"
thought he. "But," he went on to reflect, "that's only human. We're all
impressed by externals, no matter what we may pretend to ourselves and
to others. I've been used to this sort of thing all my life and I know
how little there is in it, yet I'm in much the same state of
bedazzlement as Josh."

Josh had a way of answering people's thoughts direct which Arkwright
sometimes suspected was not altogether accidental. He now said: "But
there's a difference between your point of view and mine. You take this
seriously through and through. I laugh at it in the bottom of my heart,
and size it up at its true value. I'm like a child that don't really
believe in goblins, yet likes the shivery effects of goblin stories."

"I don't believe in goblins, either," said Arkwright.

"You don't believe in anything else," said Josh.

Arkwright steered him through the throng, and up to the hostess - Mrs.
Burke, stout, honest, with sympathy in her eyes and humor in the lines
round her sweet mouth. "Well, Josh," she said in a slow, pleasant
monotone, "you HAVE done a lot of growing since I saw you. I always knew
you'd come to some bad end. And here you are - in politics and in
society. Gus!"

A tall, haughty-looking young woman, standing next her, turned and fixed
upon Craig a pair of deep, deep eyes that somehow flustered him. Mrs.
Burke presented him, and he discovered that it was her daughter-in-law.
While she was talking with Arkwright, he examined her toilette. He
thought it startling - audacious in its display of shoulders and
back - until he got over his dazed, dazzled feeling, and noted the other
women about. Wild horses could not have dragged it from him, but he felt
that this physical display was extremely immodest; and at the same time
that he eagerly looked his face burned. "If I do pick one of these,"
said he to himself, "I'm jiggered if I let her appear in public dressed
this way. Why, out home women have been white-capped for less."

Arkwright had drifted away from him; he let the crowd gently push him
toward the wall, into the shelter of a clump of palms and ferns. There,
with his hands in his pockets, and upon his face what he thought an
excellent imitation of Arkwright's easy, bored expression of
thinly-veiled cynicism, he surveyed the scene and tried to judge it from
the standpoint of the "common people." His verdict was that it was vain,
frivolous, unworthy, beneath the serious consideration of a man of
affairs such as he. But he felt that he was not quite frank, in fact was
dishonest, with himself in this lofty disdain. It represented what he
ought to feel, not what he actually was feeling. "At least," said he to
himself, "I'll never confess to any one that I'm weak enough to be
impressed by this sort of thing. Anyhow, to confess a weakness is to
encourage it ... No wonder society is able to suck in and destroy so
many fellows of my sort! If _I_ am tempted what must it mean to the
ordinary man?" He noted with angry shame that he felt a swelling of
pride because he, of so lowly an origin, born no better than the
machine-like lackeys, had been able to push himself in upon - yes, up
among - these people on terms of equality. And it was, for the moment, in
vain that he reminded himself that most of them were of full as lowly
origin as he; that few indeed could claim to be more than one generation
removed from jack-boots and jeans; that the most elegant had more
relations among the "vulgar herd" than they had among the "high folks."

"What are you looking so glum and sour about?" asked Arkwright.

He startled guiltily. So, his mean and vulgar thoughts had been
reflected in his face. "I was thinking of the case I have to try before
the Supreme Court next week," said he.

"Well, I'll introduce you to one of the Justices - old Towler. He comes
of the 'common people,' like you. But he dearly loves fashionable
society - makes himself ridiculous going to balls and trying to flirt.
It'll do you no end of good to meet these people socially. You'll be
surprised to see how respectful and eager they'll all be if you become a
recognized social favorite. For real snobbishness give me your friends,
the common people, when they get up where they can afford to put on
airs. Why, even the President has a sneaking hankering after fashionable
people. I tell you, in Washington EVERYTHING goes by social favor, just
as it does in London - and would in Paris if fashionable society would
deign to notice the Republic."

"Introduce me to old Towler," said Craig, curt and bitter. He was
beginning to feel that Arkwright was at least in part right; and it
angered him for the sake of the people from whom he had sprung, and to
whom he had pledged his public career. "Then," he went on, "I'm going
home. And you'll see me among these butterflies and hoptoads no more."


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Online LibraryDavid Graham PhillipsThe Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig; a Novel → online text (page 1 of 17)