Woodbury - Westfall Polo Club - then golf, tennis, trap shooting - "
"Enough!" groaned the victim. "Now look here, Bantry, you have me dead
to rights - got me with the goods, so to speak, haven't you?"
"It was a great bit of work; ought to make a first-page story."
And the other groaned again. "I know - son of millionaire rides unbroken
horse in Wild West show - and all that sort of thing. But, good Lord,
man, think what it will mean to me?"
"Nothing to be ashamed of, is it? Your father'll be proud of you."
Woodbury looked at him sharply.
"How do you know that?"
"Any man would be."
"But the notoriety, man! It would kill me with a lot of people as
thoroughly as if I'd put the muzzle of a gun in my mouth and pulled the
"H-m!" muttered the reporter, "sort of social suicide, all right. But
it's news, Mr. Woodbury, and the editor - "
"Expects you to write as much as the rest of the papers print - and none
of the other reporters know me."
"One or two of them might have."
"But my dear fellow - won't you take a chance?"
Bantry made a wry face.
"Madison Square Garden," went on Woodbury bitterly. "Ten thousand people
looking on - gad, man, it's awful."
"Why'd you do it, then?"
"Couldn't help it, Bantry. By Jove, when that wicked devil of a horse
came at my box and I caught a glimpse of the red demon in his eyes - why,
man, I simply had to get down and try my luck. Ever play football?"
"Yes, quite a while ago."
"Then you know how it is when you're in the bleachers and the whistle
blows for the game to begin. That's the way it was with me. I wanted to
climb down into the field - and I did. Once started, I couldn't stop
until I'd made a complete ass of myself in the most spectacular style.
Now, Bantry, I appeal to you for the sake of your old football days,
don't show me up - keep my name quiet."
"I'd like to - damned if I wouldn't - but - a scoop - "
Anthony Woodbury considered his companion with a strange yearning. It
might have been to take him by the throat; it might have been some
gentler motive, but his hand stole at last toward an inner coat pocket.
He said: "I know times are a bit lean now and then in your game, Bantry.
I wonder if you could use a bit of the long green? Just now I'm very
flush, and - "
He produced a thickly stuffed bill-fold, but Bantry smiled and touched
"Couldn't possibly, you know."
He considered a moment and then, with a smile: "It's a bit awkward for
both of us, isn't it? Suppose I keep your name under my hat and you give
me a few little inside tips now and then on polo news, and that sort of
"Here's my hand on it. You've no idea what a load you take off my mind."
"We've circled about and are pretty close to the Garden again. Could you
let me out here?"
The car rolled to an easy stop and the reporter stepped out.
"I'll forget everything you wish, Mr. Woodbury."
"It's an honour to have met you, sir. Use me whenever you can.
To the chauffeur he said: "Home, and make it fast."
They passed up Lexington with Maclaren "making it fast," so that the big
car was continually nosing its way around the machines in front with
much honking of the horn. At Fifty-Ninth Street they turned across to
the bridge and hummed softly across the black, shimmering waters of the
East River; by the time they reached Brooklyn a fine mist was beginning
to fall, blurring the wind-shield, and Maclaren slowed up perceptibly,
so that before they passed the heart of the city, Woodbury leaned
forward and said: "What's the matter, Maclaren?"
"Wet streets - no chains - this wind-shield is pretty hard to see
"Stop her, then. I'll take the wheel the rest of the way. Want to travel
a bit to-night."
The chauffeur, as if this exchange were something he had been expecting,
made no demur, and a moment later, with Woodbury at the wheel, the motor
began to hum again in a gradually increasing crescendo. Two or three
motor-police glanced after the car as it snapped about corners with an
ominous skid and straightened out, whining, on the new street; but in
each case, having made a comfortable number of arrests that day, they
had little heart for the pursuit of the grey monster through that chill
Past Brooklyn, with a country road before them, Woodbury cut out the
muffler and the car sprang forward with a roar. A gust of increasing
wind whipped back to Maclaren, for the wind-shield had been opened so
that the driver need not look through the dripping glass and mingling
with the wet gale were snatches of singing.
The chauffeur, partly in understanding and partly from anxiety,
apparently, caught the side of the seat in a firm grip and leaned
forward to break the jar when they struck rough places. Around an elbow
turn they went with one warning scream of the Klaxon, skidded horribly
at the sharp angle of the curve, and missed by inches a car from the
They swept on with the startled yell of the other party ringing after
them, drowned at once by the crackling of the exhaust. Maclaren raised a
furtive hand to wipe from his forehead a moisture which was not
altogether rain, but immediately grasped the side of the seat again.
Straight ahead the road swung up to meet a bridge and dropped sharply
away from it on the further side. Maclaren groaned but the sound was
lost in the increasing roar of the exhaust.
They barely touched that bridge and shot off into space on the other
side like a hurdler clearing an obstacle. With a creak and a thud the
big car landed, reeled drunkenly, and straightened out in earnest,
Maclaren craned his head to see the speedometer, but had not the heart
to look; he began to curse softly, steadily.
When the muffler went on again and the motor was reduced to a loud,
angry humming, Woodbury caught a few phrases of those solemn
imprecations. He grinned into the black heart of the night, streaked
with lines of grey where therein entered the halo of the headlights, and
then swung the car through an open, iron gate. The motor fell to a
drowsily contented murmur that blended with the cool swishing of the
tires on wet gravel.
"Maclaren," said the other, as he stopped in front of the garage, "if
everyone was as good a passenger as you I'd enjoy motoring; but after
all, a car can't act up like a horse." He concluded gloomily: "There's
no fight in it."
And he started toward the house, but Maclaren, staring after the
departing figure, muttered: "There's only one sort that's worse than a
damn fool, and that's a young one."
It was through a door opening off the veranda that Anthony entered the
house, stealthily as a burglar, and with the same nervous apprehension.
Before him stretched a wide hall, dimly illumined by a single light
which splashed on the Italian table and went glimmering across the
floor. Across the hall was his destination - the broad balustraded
staircase, which swept grandly up to the second floor. Toward this he
tiptoed steadying himself with one hand against the wall. Almost to his
goal, he heard a muffled footfall and shrank against the wall with a
catlike agility, but, though the shadow fell steep and gloomy there,
luck was against him.
A middle-aged servant of solemn port, serene with the twofold dignity of
double chin and bald head, paused at the table in his progress across
the room, and swept the apartment with the judicial eye of one who knows
that everything is as it should be but will not trust even the silence
of night. So that bland blue eye struck first on the faintly shining
top hat of Anthony, ran down his overcoat, and lingered in gloomy dismay
on the telltale streak of white where the trouser leg should have been.
What he thought not even another Oedipus could have conjectured. The
young master very obviously did not wish to be observed, and in such
times Peters at could be blinder than the bat noon-day and more secret
than the River Styx. He turned away, unhurried, the fold of that double
chin a little more pronounced over the severe correctness of his collar.
A very sibilant whisper pursued him. He stopped again, still without
haste, and turned not directly toward Anthony, but at a discreet angle,
with his eyes fixed firmly upon the ceiling.
A SESSION OF CHAT
The whisper grew distinct in words.
"Peters, you old numskull, come here!"
The approach of Peters was something like the sidewise waddle of a very
aged crab. He looked to the north, but his feet carried him to the east.
That he was much moved was attested by the colour which had mounted even
to the gleaming expanse of that nobly bald head.
"Yes, Master Anthony - I mean Mr. Anthony?"
He set his teeth at the _faux pas_.
"Peters, look at me. Confound it, I haven't murdered any one. Are you
It required whole seconds for the eyes to wheel round upon Anthony, and
they were immediately debased from the telltale white of that leg to the
"Then come up with me and help me change. Quick!"
He turned and fled noiselessly up the great stairs, with Peters panting
behind. Anthony's overcoat was off before he had fairly entered his room
and his coat and vest flopped through the air as Peters shut the door.
Whatever the old servant lacked in agility he made up in certain
knowledge; as he laid out a fresh tuxedo, Anthony changed with the speed
of one pursued. The conversation was spasmodic to a degree.
"Where's father? Waiting in the library?"
"Yes. Reading, sir."
"Had a mix-up - bully time, though - damn this collar! Peters, I wish
you'd been there - where's those trousers? Rub some of the crease out of
'em - they must look a _little_ worn."
He stood at last completely dressed while Peters looked on with a
shining eye and a smile which in a younger man would have suggested many
"How is it? Will I pass father this way?"
"I hope so, sir."
"But you don't think so?"
"It's hard to deceive him."
"Confound it! Don't I know? Well, here's for a try. Soft-foot it down
stairs. I'll go after you and bang the door. Then you say good-evening
in a loud voice and I'll go into the library. How's that?"
"Very good - your coat over your arm - so! Just ruffle your hair a bit,
sir - now you should do very nicely."
At the door: "Go first, Peters - first, man, and hurry, but watch those
big feet of yours. If you make a noise on the stairs I'm done with you."
The noiselessness of the descending feet was safe enough, but not so
safe was the chuckling of Peters for, though he fought against the
threatening explosion, it rumbled like the roll of approaching thunder.
In the hall below, Anthony opened and slammed the door.
"Good-evening, Mr. Anthony," said Peters loudly, too loudly.
"Evening, Peters. Where's father?"
"In the library, sir. Shall I take your coat?"
"I'll carry it up to my room when I go. That's all."
He opened the door to the library and entered with a hope that his
father would not be facing him, but he found that John Woodbury was not
even reading. He sat by the big fire-place smoking a pipe which he now
removed slowly from his teeth.
He rose to shake hands with his son: they might have been friends
meeting after a separation so long that they were compelled to be
formal, and as Anthony turned to lay down his hat and coat he knew that
the keen grey eyes studied him carefully from head to foot.
"Take this chair."
"Why, sir, wouldn't dream of disturbing you."
"Not a bit. I want you to try it; just a trifle too narrow for me."
John Woodbury rose and gestured his son to the chair he had been
occupying. Anthony hesitated, but then, like one who obeys first and
thinks afterward, seated himself as directed.
"Mighty comfortable, sir."
The big man stood with his hands clasped behind him, peering down under
shaggy, iron-grey brows.
"I thought it would be. I designed it myself for you and I had a pretty
bad time getting it made."
He stepped to one side.
"Hits you pretty well under the knees, doesn't it? Yes, it's deeper than
"A perfect fit, father, and mighty thoughtful of you."
"H-m," rumbled John Woodbury, and looked about like one who has
forgotten something. "What about a glass of Scotch?"
"Nothing, thank you - I - in fact I'm not very strong for the stuff."
The rough brows rose a trifle and fell.
"No? But isn't it usual? Better have a go."
Once more there was that slight touch of hesitancy, as if the son were
not quite sure of the father and wished to make every concession.
"Certainly, if it'll make you easier."
There was an instant softening of the hard lines of the elder Woodbury's
face, as though some favour of import had been done him. He touched a
bell-cord and lowered himself with a little grunt of relaxation into a
chair. The chair was stoutly built, but it groaned a little under the
weight of the mighty frame it received. He leaned back and in his face
was a light which came not altogether from the comfortable glow of the
And when the servant appeared the big man ordered: "Scotch and seltzer
and one glass with a pitcher of ice."
"Aren't you taking anything, sir?" asked Anthony.
"Who, me? Yes, yes, of course. Why, let me see - bring me a pitcher of
beer." He added as the servant disappeared: "Never could get a taste for
Scotch, and rye doesn't seem to be - er - good form. Eh, Anthony?"
"Nonsense," frowned the son, "haven't you a right to be comfortable in
your own house?"
"Come, come!" rumbled John Woodbury. "A young fellow in your position
can't have a boor for a father, eh?"
It was apparently an old argument between them, for Anthony stared
gloomily at the fire, making no attempt to reply; and he glanced up in
relief when the servant entered with the liquor. John Woodbury, however,
returned to the charge as soon as they were left alone again, saying:
"As a matter of fact, I'm about to set you up in an establishment of
your own in New York." He made a vastly inclusive gesture. "Everything
done up brown - old house - high-class interior decorator, to get you
started with a splash."
"Are you tired of Long Island?"
"_I'm_ not going to the city, but you will."
"And my work?"
"A gentleman of the class you'll be in can't callous his hands with
work. I spent my life making money; you can use your life throwing it
away - like a gentleman. But" - he reached out at this point and smashed a
burly fist into a palm hardly less hard - "but I'll be damned, Anthony,
if I'll let you stay here in Long Island wasting your time riding the
wildest horses you can get and practising with an infernal revolver.
What the devil do you mean by it?"
"I don't know," said the other, musing. "Of course the days of revolvers
are past, but I love the feel of the butt against my palm - I love the
kick of the barrel tossing up - I love the balance; and when I have a
six-shooter in my hand, sir, I feel as if I had six lives. Odd, isn't
it?" He grew excited as he talked, his eyes gleaming with dancing points
of fire. "And I'll tell you this, sir: I'd rather be out in the country
where men still wear guns, where the sky isn't stained with filthy coal
smoke, where there's an horizon wide enough to breathe in, where there's
man-talk instead of this damned chatter over tea-cups - "
"Stop!" cried John Woodbury, and leaned forward, "no matter what fool
ideas you get into your head - you're going to be a _gentleman_!"
The swaying forward of that mighty body, the outward thrust of the jaws,
the ring of the voice, was like the crashing of an ax when armoured men
meet in battle. The flicker in the eyes of Anthony was the rapier which
swerves from the ax and then leaps at the heart. For a critical second
their glances crossed and then the habit of obedience conquered.
"I suppose you know, sir."
The father stared gloomily at the floor.
"You're sort of mad, Anthony?"
Perhaps there was nothing more typical of Anthony than that he never
frowned, no matter how angered he might be. Now the cold light passed
from his eyes. He rose and passed behind the chair of the elder man,
dropping a hand upon those massive shoulders.
"Angry with myself, sir, that I should so nearly fall out with the
finest father that walks the earth."
The eyes of the grey man half closed and a semblance of a smile touched
those stiff, stern lips; one of the great work-broken hands went up and
rested on the fingers of his son.
"And there'll be no more of this infernal Western nonsense that you're
always reverting to? No more of this horse-and-gun-and-hell-bent-away
"I suppose not," said Anthony heavily.
"Well, Anthony, sit down and tell me about tonight."
The son obeyed, and finally said, with difficulty: "I didn't go to the
A sudden cloud of white rose from the bowl of Woodbury's pipe.
"But I thought - "
"That it was a big event? It was - a fine thing for me to get a bid to;
but I went to the Wild West show instead. Sir, I know it was childish,
but - I couldn't help it! I saw the posters; I thought of the
horse-breaking, the guns, the swing and snap and dash of galloping men,
the taint of sweating horses - and by God, sir, I _couldn't_ stay away!
Are you angry?"
It was more than anger; it was almost fear that widened the eye of
Woodbury as he stared at his son. He said at last, controlling himself:
"But I have your word; you've given up the thought of this Western
"Yes," answered Anthony, with a touch of despair, "I have given it up, I
suppose. But, oh, sir - " He stopped, hopeless.
"And what else happened?"
"Nothing to speak of."
"After you come home you don't usually change your clothes merely for
the pleasure of sitting with me here."
"Nothing escapes you, does it?" muttered Anthony.
"In your set, Anthony, that's what they'd call an improper question."
"I could ask you any number of questions, sir, for that matter."
"That room over there, for instance, which you always keep locked. Am I
never to have a look at it?"
He indicated a door which opened from the library.
"I hope not."
"You say that with a good deal of feeling. But there's one thing more
that I have a right to hear about. My mother! Why do you never tell me
The big man stirred and the chair groaned beneath him.
"Because it tortures me to speak of her, Anthony," said the husky voice.
"Tortures me, lad!"
"I let the locked room go," said Anthony firmly, "but my mother - she is
different. Why, sir, I don't even know how she looked! Dad, it's my
"Is it? By God, you have a right to know exactly what I choose to tell
you - no more!"
He rose, strode across the room with ponderous steps, drew aside the
curtains which covered the view of the garden below, and stared for a
time into the night. When he turned he found that Anthony had risen - a
slender, erect figure. His voice was as quiet as his anger, but an
inward quality made it as thrilling as the hoarse boom of his father.
"On that point I stick. I must know something about her."
"In spite of your anger. That locked room is yours; this house and
everything in it is yours; but my mother - she was as much mine as yours,
and I'll hear more about her - who she was, what she looked like, where
she lived - "
The sharply indrawn breath of John Woodbury cut him short.
"She died in giving birth to you, Anthony."
"Dear God! She died for me?"
And in the silence which came over the two men it seemed as if another
presence were in the room. John Woodbury stood at the fire-place with
bowed head, and Anthony shaded his eyes and stared at the floor until he
caught a glimpse of the other and went gently to him.
He said: "I'm sorrier than a lot of words could tell you. Will you sit
down, sir, and let me tell you how I came to press home the question?"
"If you want to have it that way."
They resumed their chairs.
ANTHONY IS LEFT IN THE DARK
"It will explain why I changed my clothes after I came home. You see,
toward the end of the show a lot of the cowboys rode in. The ringmaster
was announcing that they could ride anything that walked on four feet
and wore a skin, when up jumped an oldish fellow in a box opposite mine
and shouted that he had a horse which none of them could mount. He
offered five hundred dollars to the man who could back him; and made it
good by going out of the building and coming back inside of five minutes
with two men leading a great stallion, the ugliest piece of horseflesh
I've ever seen.
"As they worked the brute down the arena, it caught sight of my white
shirt, I suppose, for it made a dive at me, reared up, and smashed its
forehoofs against the barrier. By Jove, a regular maneater! Brought my
heart into my mouth to see the big devil raging, and I began to yearn to
get astride him and to - well, just fight to see which of us would come
out on top. You know?"
The big man moistened his lips; he was strangely excited.
"So you climbed into the arena and rode the horse?"
"Exactly! I knew you'd understand! After I'd ridden the horse to a
standstill and climbed off, a good many people gathered around me. One
of them was a big man, about your size. In fact, now that I look back at
it, he was a good deal like you in more ways than one; looked as if time
had hardened him without making him brittle. He came to me and said:
'Excuse me, son, but you look sort of familiar to me. Mind telling me
who your mother was?' What could I answer to a - "
A shadow fell across Anthony from the rising height of his father. As he
looked up he saw John Woodbury glance sharply, first toward the French
windows and then at the door of the secret room.
"Was that all, Anthony?"
"Yes, about all."
"I want to be alone."
The habit of automatic obedience made Anthony rise in spite of the
questions which were storming at his lips.
"Good-night, my boy."
At the door the harsh voice of his father overtook him.
"Before you leave the house again, see me, Anthony."
He closed the door softly, as one deep in thought, and stood for a time
without moving. Because a man had asked him who his mother was, he was
under orders not to leave the house. While he stood, he heard a faint
click of a snapping lock within the library and knew that John Woodbury
had entered the secret room.
In his own bedroom he undressed slowly and afterward stood for a long
time under the shower, rubbing himself down with the care of an athlete,
thumbing the soreness of the wild ride out of the lean, sinewy muscles,
for his was a made strength built up in the gymnasium and used on the
wrestling mat, the cinder path, and the football field. Drying himself
with a rough towel that whipped the pink into his skin, he looked down
over his corded, slender limbs, remembered the thick arms and Herculean
torso of John Woodbury, and wondered.
He sat on the edge of his bed, wrapped in a bathrobe, and pondered.
Stroke by stroke he built the picture of that dead mother, like a
painter who jots down the first sketch of a large composition. John
Woodbury, vast, blond, grey-eyed, had given him few of his physical
traits. But then he had often heard that the son usually resembled the
mother. She must have been dark, slender, a frail wife for such a giant;
but perhaps she had a strength of spirit which made her his mate.
As the picture drew out more clearly in the mind of Anthony, he turned
from the lighted room, threw open a window, and leaned out to breathe
the calm, damp air of night.
It was infinitely cool, infinitely fresh. To his left a row of young
trees darted their slender tops at the sky like shadowy spearheads. The
smell of wet leaves and the wet grass beneath rose up to him. To the
right, for his own room stood in a wing of the mansion, the house
shouldered its way into the gloom, a solemn, grey shadow, netted in a
black tracery of climbing vine. In all the stretch of wall only two
windows were lighted, and those yellow squares, he knew, belonged to his
father. He had left the secret room, therefore.
As he watched, a shadow brushed slowly across one of the drawn shades,
swept the second, and returned at once in the opposite direction. Back
and forth, back and forth, that shadow moved, and as his eye grew
accustomed to watching, he caught quite clearly the curve of the
shoulders and the forward droop of the head.
It was not until then that the first alarm came to Anthony, for he knew
that the footsteps of the big grey man were dogged by fear. He could no