Frank Richard Stockton.

The novels and stories of Frank R. Stockton . (Volume 4) online

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Copyright, 1886, 1887, 1899, by





IN one of the liveliest portions of a very lively met
ropolitan street was situated the popular resort
known as Vatoldi's. It was a restaurant which owed
its extensive patronage to the inducements it offered
to persons of refined tastes and moderate purses. It
was in a shopping district, and from early break
fast-time until a very late supper hour, Vatoldi's
seemed never to be without customers, and John
People seemed always to be behind the little desk
near the entrance of the long and handsome room.
In fact, he was not always there, for his manifold
duties required his presence in a great many places ;
but if a customer looked up from his meal and did not
see John at his ordinary post, he would be very likely
to see him there the next time he looked up, and thus
an impression was produced on the minds of patrons
similar to the impression given by the juggler who
makes one believe that because an object has been in
one place a great many times it is always there.

John People was a young man of vigorous and ro
tund figure, with a slightly upturned nose, very light-
brown hair brushed smoothly on his well-rounded



head, and a general expression of sad good humor
combined with sleepless perspicacity. Dutiful resig
nation to his lot raised his eyebrows and slightly
wrinkled his forehead, but his wide-open eyes gazed
steadily on the business in hand as if they had nothing
to do with the future or with retrospection, no matter
how the brow might choose to occupy itself.

There was about John an air of strong independence,
associated with a kindly willingness, which made it a
pleasant thing to watch him as he attended to his
varied duties. He was the chief man and manager at
Vatoldf s, and although the cooks cooked, the waiters
waited, and the little boy opened the door for the
ladies, as they had been taught to cook, wait, and open,
they all appeared to act under John's personal direc
tion, as if they had been an orchestra moved by a
conductor's baton. He was not the owner of the
establishment, and yet he was the only visible head.
Early in the morning he went to the markets and
selected the most desirable meats and vegetables. He
personally inspected the commodities of grocers and
fruiterers, and he brought a keen investigation to bear
upon the necessary supplies of wines and malt liquors.
All expenditures were made by him, and all receipts
went into his money-drawer, and were daily deposited
by him in a neighboring bank. But although he thus
stood at the head of affairs, there seemed to be nothing
which John was unwilling to do. If a truck arrived
with some heavy merchandise, John would put his
hat upon his smoothly brushed locks, and, with a
slightly rolling yet energetic step, would proceed to
the sidewalk and give what directions might be needed,
even sometimes lending a very strong hand to a piece



of difficult lifting or lowering. The moment this duty
was done he would step vigorously back to his post,
hang up his hat, leaving his locks as smoothly brushed
as ever, and be ready again to receive the money of
his customers. There was a young man who acted as
cashier during his superior's occasional absences from
the desk, but nearly all the money that went into the
till passed directly through John People's hands.

Vatoldi's was a remarkably well-ordered establish
ment ; its viands, its service, and its general equipment
were all of the best, and yet its prices were extremely
reasonable. To combine the advantages of the two
classes of restaurants generally found in American
cities seemed to be the moving principle of John
People's mind. To dine or lunch well at Vatoldi's,
one did not need to bring a friend with him to share
the expense and help eat a supply of food overabun
dant for one person. Instead of that, one had enough,
paid not too much, and went away with pocket and
stomach equally well satisfied. There was nothing, how
ever, in the aspect of Vatoldi's to suggest the ordinary
cheap American restaurant. There were no shelves
filled with tin cans and bottles, no tables spread with
pies and cakes. Everything was in tasteful order, and
placards of any kind were totally tabooed. Even on
the outer front, one read but the words, above the
plate-glass door :


Yet there was not a total absence of display of
viands. After the fashion common to English hostel-
ries, a large round table stood near the centre of the



room, on which were set out huge cold joints, poultry,
and game, in order that such persons who knew, or
supposed they knew, exactly what they liked to eat,
could say to the waiter, "Cut me a slice from here, or
there," or, "Let me have the liver wing of that fowl."
It was surprising with what faithfulness the clear eyes
of John People, looking out from under his resigned
brow, kept themselves upon these details.

It was toward the end of May, the weather was
getting to be very pleasant for outdoor life, and it
was about one o'clock in the day, an hour at which
the thought of Vatoldi's began to be very pleasant to
a great many people, when there walked into the
already well-filled room a tall gentleman, who took
his seat at a small table at the extreme upper end of
the room. As he walked slowly up the whole extent
of the apartment, his glossy hat held carefully in one
hand, while the other carried his silver-mounted cane,
most of the people seated at the tables looked upon
him as he passed ; and he, in turn, gazed from side to
side with such particularity that his eyes fell upon
every person in the room, to many of whom he bowed,
or rather nodded, with a certain stiffened gracious-
ness that was peculiarly a manner of his own. This
gentleman was a regular habitue of Vatoldi's, and was
a personage so very well known in the metropolis that
he seldom entered an assembly of any size in which
he did not meet some one with whom he was ac
quainted. His name was Mr. Stull, or, as signed by
himself, J. Weatherby Stull. He was not only tall,
but large, bony, and heavy. His clothes were of a
costly quality, and had the appearance of being quite
new. He had a good deal of watch-chain, and wore



several heavy rings. His manner was grave and even
solemn, but, when occasion required it, he would en
deavor to produce upon the minds of his inferiors the
impression that there were moments when they need
not look up to J. Weatherby Stull. This was a con
cession which he deemed due from himself to mankind.

Mr. Stull was a very rich man, and his business
operations were of various kinds. He was president
of a bank ; he was a large owner and improver of real
estate, and it was generally understood that he had
money invested in several important enterprises. He
lived with his family, in a handsome house, in a fash
ionable quarter of the city, and his household affairs
were conducted with as much state as he considered
compatible with republican institutions.

In addition to his other occupations, Mr. Stull was
the proprietor of Vatoldi's, but this fact was known to
no one in the world but himself and John People.

This establishment, which he had owned for many
years, had been placed, upon the death of the former
manager, in the charge of John People. John was a
young man to hold such a responsible position, but
Mr. Stull had known him from a boy and felt that he
could trust him. Mr. Stull was a very good judge of
the quality of subordinates, especially in a business of
this kind. Those who gave John People credit for
keeping such an excellent restaurant, and even those
who supposed that the never-to-be-seen Vatoldi might
sometimes help him with advice, gave the young man
entirely too much credit. He was capable, quick-
sighted, willing, and honest, but he seldom did any
thing of importance which had not been planned and
ordered by Mr. Stull.



This gentleman was, in fact, one of the best restau
rant-keepers in the world. His habits of thought, his
qualities of mind, all combined to make him nearly
perfect in his vocation. Every day, after John had
made his deposit at Mr. StulFs bank, he went into the
president's private room and had a talk with him. If
anybody noticed his entrance, it was supposed that the
young man was consulting with Mr. Stull in regard to
the investment of his profits. But nothing of this kind
ever took place. John had no share in the business,
and no profits, and the conversation turned entirely
upon beef, lamb, mutton, early shad, and vegetables,
and the most minute details of the management of
Vatoldi's kitchen and dining and breakfast rooms.
Every afternoon John received careful directions as
to what he was to buy, what dishes he was to have
prepared, and, in general, what he was to do on the
following day. On the following day he did all this,
and Vatoldi's was the most popular resort of its kind
in the city.

But notwithstanding the fact that in the manage
ment of his restaurant Mr. Stull showed a talent of
the highest order, and notwithstanding the fact that
his present wealth was founded on the profits of this
establishment, and that its continued success was the
source of higher pride and satisfaction than the suc
cess of any other of his enterprises, he would not, on
any account, have it known that he was the proprietor
of Vatoldi's. His sense of personal dignity, and the
position of himself and family in society, positively
forbade that the world should know that J. Weatherby
Stull was the keeper of a restaurant. He had thought,
at times, of cutting loose from this dangerous secret



and selling Vatoldi's ; but there were many objections
to this plan. He did not wish to lose the steady in
come the business gave him, an income that could
always be depended upon, no matter what the condi
tion of stocks and real estate ; he did not wish to give
up the positive pleasure which the management of the
establishment afforded him ; and he felt that it would
be a hazardous thing to attempt to sell the business
without betraying his connection with it.

So Vatoldi's went on, and Mr. Stull's position went
up, and John People's honor and vigilance, the rock
on which they both rested, was always to be depended

Mr. Stull always took his luncheon at Vatoldi's, and
he believed that the fact of his being a constant patron
of the establishment was one cause of its popularity.
If a man in his high position took his meals there,
other people of fashion and position would be likely
to do the same.

"I like Vatoldi's," he would say to his friends, "be
cause you can get as good a meal there as at any of
the high-priced, fancy places, without having to pay
for any nonsense and frippery. Of course the extra
cost of taking my meals at one of these fashionable
restaurants would make very little difference to me
now, but I should never have reached the position in
which I at present find myself if I had not always
made it a point to get the worth of my money. And
besides, it's a sensible place. They give you steel
knives for your meats, and keep the silvered ones for
fish and fruit, just as it's done in high-toned English
society. And you are waited on by men who look
like clean waiters, and not like dirty gentlemen."



As on this fine May afternoon Mr, Stull sat at his
meal, which was the best the place afforded, for in
every way he liked to set a good example to those
around him, his eyes continually traversed the length
and breadth of the room ; and had there been anything
out of the way John People would have heard of it
that afternoon when he came to the bank. While he
was thus engaged, a coupe, drawn by a pair of small
sorrel horses with tails trimmed in English fashion,
stopped before Vatoldi's, and a handsomely dressed
young lady got out and entered the restaurant. Mr.
StulFs eyes brightened a little at this incident, and he
looked about to see if other people had noticed the
entrance of the newcomer. The young lady was his
oldest daughter, and he had always encouraged his
family to come to Yatoldi's whenever they happened
to be shopping at lunch-time. He did not think it
wise to say so, but he liked them to come in a car
riage. Whenever bad weather gave him an excuse,
he always came in a carriage himself. Nothing would
have pleased him better than to have the street in
front of Vatoldi's blocked by waiting carriages.

The entrance of Miss Stull had not been more
quickly and earnestly noticed by her father than by
John People. The eyes of that young man were fixed
upon her from the moment she leaned forward to open
the carriage door until she had been conducted to an
advantageous vacant table. This was not near the
one occupied by her father, for the young lady did
not care to walk so far into the room as that.

In a refrigerator, near his little desk, John kept,
under his own charge, certain cuts of choice meats
which he handed out to be cooked for those customers



who had specific tastes in regard to such things. In
one corner of this refrigerator John kept a little plate
on which always reposed a brace of especially tender
lamb chops, a remarkably fine sweetbread, or some
other dainty of the kind. When Miss Stull happened
to come in, the waiter was always immediately in
structed to say they had that day some very nice
chops or sweetbread, as the case might be ; and the
young lady, being easily guided in matters of taste of
this kind, generally ordered the viand which John had
kept in reserve for her. Sometimes, when she did not
come for several days, John was obliged to give to
some one else the delicacy he had reserved for her,
but he always did this with a sigh which deepened
the lines of dutiful resignation on his brow.

Miss Stull was a young lady of rather small dimen
sions, quite pretty, of a bright mind and affable dis
position, and entirely ignorant that there was a man
in the world who for three days would keep for her a
brace of lamb chops in a corner of a refrigerator.
John's secret was as carefully kept as that of his em
ployer, but the conduct of Vatoldi's was no greater
pleasure to Mr. Stull than were the visits to that
establishment of Mr. Stull's daughter to John People.

When Mr. Stull had finished his meal, he walked
slowly down the room, and stopped at the table where
his daughter still sat. That young lady thereupon
offered to finish her meal instantly, and take her
fathen to the bank in the coupe.

"No, my dear," said Mr. Stull, "there is no occasion
for that. Never hurry while you eat, and be sure to
eat all you want. Do you continue to like Va-



"Oh, yes, papa/ 7 said Miss Stull, "everything is very
nice here, and I am sure the place is respectable."

"It is more than respectable," said Mr. Stull, a little
warmly. Then, toning down his voice, he continued :
"If it were not everything it ought to be, I should
not come here myself, nor recommend you and your
mother to do so. I always find it well filled with the
best class of people, many of them ladies. By-by
until dinner-time."

Then he walked to the desk and paid the amount
of his bill to John People, with never a word, a gesture,
or a look which could indicate to the most acute ob
server that he was putting the money into his own

Mr. Stull had scarcely creaked himself out of Va-
toldi's when there entered an elderly man dressed in
a suit of farmer's Sunday clothes. His trousers were
gray and very wide, his black frock-coat was very
long, and his felt hat, also black, had a very extensive
brim. Deep set in his smooth-shaven face were a
pair of keen gray eyes which twinkled with pleasure
as, with outstretched hand, he walked straight up to
the desk behind which John People stood. John
cordially grasped the hand which was offered him,
and the two men expressed their satisfaction at see
ing each other in tones much louder than would
have been thought proper by Mr. Stull, had he been

"I am glad to see you, Uncle Enoch," said John.
"How did you leave mother?"

"She's as lively and chipper as ever," said the
other. "But I didn't come here only to see you. I
came to get somethin' to eat. I want my dinner now,



and I'll stop in in the afternoon, when people have
thinned out, and have a talk with you."

As he said this, Mr. Enoch Bullripple moved toward
the only vacant place he saw, which happened to
be on the opposite side of the little table at which
Miss Stull still sat, slowly eating an ice. At first John
seemed about to protest against his uncle's seating him
self at this sacred table, although, indeed, it afforded
abundance of room for two persons ; but then it shot
into his mind that it would be a sort of bond of union
between himself and the young lady to have his uncle
sit at the same table with her. This was not much of
a bond, but it was the only thing of the kind that
had ever come between Miss Stull and himself.

When Mr. Bullripple had taken his seat, and had
ordered an abundant dinner of meat and vegetables,
he pushed aside the bill of fare, and his eyes fell upon
Miss Stull, who sat opposite to him. After a steady
gaze of a few moments, he said : "How d'ye do ? "

Miss Stull, who had thrown two or three glances of
interest at her opposite neighbor, which were due to
his air of countrified spruceness, now gave him a quick
look of surprise, but made no answer.

"Isn't this Matilda Stull ? " said the old man. "I'm
Enoch Bullripple, and, if I'm not a good deal mistaken,
your father had a farm that he used to come out to in
summer-time that is pretty nigh where I live, which
is a couple of miles from Cherry Bridge."

Miss Stull, who at first had been a little shocked at
being addressed by a stranger, now smiled and an
swered : "Oh, yes ; I remember you very well, although
I never saw you before dressed in this way. You
always wore a straw hat, and went about in your



shirt sleeves. And you would never let us walk
across your big grass field."

"It wasn't on account of your hurtin' the grass,"
said Mr. Bullripple, "for you couldn't do that ; but I
don't like to see young gals in pastur' fields where
there's ugly cattle. I hope you don't bear me no
grudge for keepin' you out of danger."

"Oh, no," said Miss Stull. "In fact, I'm much
obliged to you."

When John People looked over the desk and saw
his uncle talking to Miss Stull, he turned pale. This
was a bond of union he had not imagined possible.
He felt that his duty called upon him to protest. But
when he saw the young lady entering into the con
versation with apparent willingness he made no
motion to interfere, but stood staring at the two with
such wide-eyed earnestness that a gentleman coming
up to pay his bill had to rap twice on the desk before
he gained John's attention.

"How's your father?" said Mr. Bullripple.

Miss Stull replied that he was quite well, and the
other continued : "That's my sister's son over there,
behind the desk. He pretty much runs this place, as
far as I can make out, for whenever I come here I
never see nothin' of Vatoldi, who must do his work in
the kitchen, if he does any. John's mother used to
have the farm your father owned afterward, and
he was born there. But I guess you don't know
nothin' about all that."

"Was that young man born at our farm ? " said Miss
Stull, looking over toward John with the first glance
of interest she had ever bestowed upon him.

"Yes, that's where he was born," said Mr. Bull-


ripple j "but lie lived with me when you was out
there, and his mother, too, which she does yet ; and I
wish John could get a chance to come out there some
times for a little country air. But Vatoldi keeps him
screwed tight to his work, and it's only now and then of
a Sunday that we get sight of him, unless we come to
town ourselves."

"That is very mean of Vatoldi," said Miss Stull,
rising, "for I am sure everybody ought to have a
holiday now and then. Good morning, Mr. Bull-

As Miss Stull advanced toward the desk John
People knew that she was going to speak to him.
He felt this knowledge coming hot up into his cheeks,
tingling among the resignation lines on his brow, and
running like threads of electricity down his back and
into his very knees, which did not seem to give him
their usual stout and unyielding support. Whether
it was from the manner of her walk, or the steady
gaze of her eyes, or the expression of her mouth, that
this knowledge came to him, it came correctly, for
she had no sooner reached the desk and laid her
money and her bill upon it than she said :

"Your uncle tells me, sir, that you were born on
the farm where we used to live, near Cherry Bridge."

"Yes, miss," said John, "I was born there."

"Of course there is no reason why this should not
have been so," said Miss Stull, pushing her money
toward John, "but, somehow or other, it seems odd
to me. What is your name, please f "

John told her, and as she slowly dropped her change
into her pocket-book Miss Stull began to think. Had
her father been there, he would not have been slow to



take her aside and inform her that for a young lady
in her position, with a coupe and pair waiting at the
door, it was highly improper to stand and think by
the desk in a restaurant, with a person like John
People behind it. But Miss Stull was a young woman
of a very independent turn of mind. She placed a
good value on fashion and form and all that sort of
thing, but she did not allow her social position to
interfere too much with her own ideas of what was
good for her.

"There was an old lady," she said presently,
"whom I used to see very often, and her name was
Mrs. People. I liked her better than your uncle.
Was she your mother?"

"Yes," said John, "she is my mother."

"That is very nice," remarked Miss Stull, and with
a little nod she said, "Good morning, Mr. People," and
went out to her coupe.

John smoothed out the bank-note which she had
given him, and on the back of it he wrote "M. S.,"
and put the day of the month and the year beneath
it. He left a space between the two initials so he
could put in the middle one when he found out what
it was. Then he took a note of the same value from
his pocket, and put it in the money-drawer, and fold
ing carefully the one he had received from Miss Stull,
he placed it tenderly in an inner receptacle of his



ME. BULLRIPPLE returned to Vatoldi's about the
middle of the afternoon to have a talk with his
nephew, but the young man who had charge of the
desk during this period of comparative inactivity
told him that Mr. People had gone to the bank.

Mr. Bullripple reflected for a moment.

"Well, then/' said he, "I would like to see Mr.

The young man behind the desk laughed.

"There isn't any such person," said he. "That's
only the name of the place."

Mr. Bullripple looked at him fixedly. "I'd like to
know, then," he said, "who is at the head of this estab

"Mr. People is. If you want to sell anything, or if
you have got a bill to collect, you must go to him."

Mr. Bullripple was about to whistle, but he re
strained himself, his eyes sparkling as he put on his
mental brakes. "Well, then," he said, "I suppose I
must wait till I can see Mr. People." And, without
further words, he left the place.

"I suppose I might have waited," said Enoch Bull
ripple, as he slowly strode up the street, "but, on the



whole, I'd as lief not see John jes now. No Vatoldi^
eh ? That's a piece of news, I must say ! "

Mr. Bullripple did not try again to see his nephew
that day. He spent the rest of the afternoon in at
tending to the business that brought him to the city ;
and, about eight o'clock, he found himself in one of the
up-town cross-streets, walking slowly, with a visiting-
card in his hand, looking for a number that was printed
thereon. He discovered it before long, but stopped,

"It looks like a hotel," he said. "But eighty-two

Online LibraryFrank Richard StocktonThe novels and stories of Frank R. Stockton . (Volume 4) → online text (page 1 of 27)