Read CHAPTER XXVI of The Wall Street Girl , free online book, by Frederick Orin Bartlett, on ReadCentral.com.

ONE STUYVESANT

That evening, before Frances left Don alone in the study, she bent over him and kissed him. Then she heard her father’s footsteps and ran. Don was remarkably cool. So was Stuyvesant; but there was nothing remarkable about that. When his daughter told him that Don was waiting to see him, his eyes narrowed the least bit and he glanced at his watch. He had a bridge engagement at the club in half an hour. Then he placed both hands on his daughter’s shoulders and studied her eyes.

“What’s the matter, girlie?” he asked.

“Nothing, Dad,” she answered. “Only I’m very happy.”

“Good,” he nodded. “And that is what I want you to be every minute of your life.”

Entering his study, Stuyvesant sat down in a big chair to the right of the open fire and waved his hand to another opposite him.

“Frances said you wished to talk over something with me,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” answered Don. He did not sit down. He could think better on his feet. “It’s about our marriage.”

Stuyvesant did not answer. He never answered until the other man was through. Then he knew where he stood.

“I don’t know whether or not you know the sort of will father left,” began Don.

Stuyvesant did know, but he gave no indication of the fact. He had been waiting a year for something of this sort.

“Anyhow,” Don went on, “he took a notion to tie up most of the estate. Except for the house well, he left me pretty nearly strapped. Before that, he’d been letting me draw on him for anything I wanted. When I asked you for Frances I expected things would go on as they were.

“When the change came, I had a talk with Frances, and we agreed that the thing to do was for me to go out and earn about the same sum Dad had been handing to me. Ten thousand a year seemed at the time what we needed. She said that was what her allowance had been.”

Again Don paused, in the hope that Stuyvesant might wish to contribute something to the conversation. But Stuyvesant waited for him to continue.

“So I went out to earn it. Barton found a position for me with Carter, Rand & Seagraves, and I started in. It’s a fact I expected to get that ten thousand inside of a year.”

Don lighted a cigarette. The further he went, the less interest he was taking in this explanation. Stuyvesant’s apparent indifference irritated him.

“That was a year ago,” Don resumed. “To-day I’m drawing the same salary I started with twelve hundred. I expect a raise soon perhaps to twenty-five hundred. But the point is this: I figure that it’s going to take me some five years to get that ten thousand. I don’t want to wait that long before marrying Frances. Another point is this: I don’t think any longer that it’s necessary. I figure that we can live on what I’m earning now. So I’ve put it up to her.”

Don had hurried his argument a little, but, as far as he was concerned, he was through. The whole situation was distasteful to him. The longer he stayed here, the less it seemed to be any of Stuyvesant’s business.

“You mean you’ve asked my daughter to marry you on that salary?” inquired Stuyvesant.

“I asked her this afternoon,” nodded Don. “I suggested that we get married to-morrow or next day. You see, I’m on my vacation, and I have only two weeks.”

Stuyvesant flicked the ashes from his cigar. “What was her reply?”

“She wanted me to put the proposition before you. That’s why I’m here.”

“I see. And just what do you expect of me?”

“I suppose she wants your consent,” answered Don. “Anyhow, it seemed only decent to let you know.”

Stuyvesant was beginning to chew the end of his cigar a bit of nervousness he had not been guilty of for twenty years. “At least, it would have been rather indecent not to have informed me,” he answered. “But, of course, you don’t expect my consent to such an act of idiocy.”

It was Don’s turn to remain silent.

“I’ve no objection to you personally,” Stuyvesant began. “When you came to me and asked for my daughter’s hand, and I found that she wanted to marry you, I gave my consent. I knew your blood, Pendleton, and I’d seen enough of you to believe you clean and straight. At that time also I had every reason to believe that you were to have a sufficient income to support the girl properly. If she had wanted to marry you within the next month, I wouldn’t have said a word at that time. When I learned that conditions had been changed by the terms of your father’s will, I waited to see what you would do. And I’ll tell you frankly, I like the way you’ve handled the situation up to now.”

“I don’t get that last,” Don answered quietly.

“Then let me help you,” Stuyvesant resumed grimly. “In the first place, get that love-in-a-cottage idea out of your head. It’s a pretty enough conceit for those who are forced to make the best of their personal misfortunes, but that is as far as it goes. Don’t for a moment think it’s a desirable lot.”

“In a way, that’s just what I am thinking,” answered Don.

“Then it’s because you don’t know any better. It’s nonsense. A woman wants money and wants the things she can buy with money. She’s entitled to those things. If she can’t have them, then it’s her misfortune. If the man she looks to to supply them can’t give them to her, then it’s his misfortune. But it’s nothing for him to boast about. If he places her in such a situation deliberately, it’s something for him to be ashamed of.”

“I can see that, sir,” answered Don, “when it’s carried too far. But you understand that I’m provided with a good home and a salary large enough for the ordinary decent things of life.”

“That isn’t the point,” broke in Stuyvesant. “We’ll admit the girl won’t have to go hungry, but she’ll go without a lot of other things that she’s been brought up to have, and, as long as I can supply them, things she’s entitled to have. On that salary you won’t supply her with many cars, you won’t supply her with the kind of clothes she is accustomed to, you won’t supply her with all the money she wants to spend. What if she does throw it away? That’s her privilege now. I’ve worked twenty-five years to get enough so that she can do just that. There’s not a whim in the world she can’t satisfy. And the man who marries her must give her every single thing I’m able to give her and then something more.”

“In money?” asked Don.

“The something more not in money.”

He rose and stood before Don.

“I’ve been frank with you, Pendleton, and I’ll say I think the girl cares for you. But I know Frances better than you, and I know that, even if she made up her mind to do without all these things, it would mean a sacrifice. As far as I know, she’s never had to make a sacrifice since she was born. It isn’t necessary. Get that point, Pendleton. It isn’t necessary, and I’ll not allow any man to make it necessary if I can help it.”

He paused as if expecting an outburst from Don. The latter remained silent.

“I’ve trusted you with the girl,” Stuyvesant concluded. “Up to now I’ve no fault to find with you. You’ve lost your head for a minute, but you’ll get a grip on yourself. Go ahead and make your fortune, and come to me again. In the mean while, I’m willing to trust you further.”

“If that means not asking Frances to marry me to-morrow, you can’t, sir.”

“You you wouldn’t ask her to go against my wishes in the matter?”

“I would, sir.”

“And you expect her to do so?”

“I hope she will.”

“Well, she won’t,” Stuyvesant answered. He was chewing his cigar again.

“You spoke of the something more, sir,” said Don. “I think I know what that means, and it’s a whole lot more than anything your ten thousand can give. When I found myself stony broke, I was dazed for a while, and thought a good deal as you think. Then this summer I found the something more. I wouldn’t swap back.”

“Then stay where you are,” snapped Stuyvesant. “Don’t try to drag in Frances.”

Don prepared to leave.

“It’s a pity you aren’t stony broke too,” he observed.

“Thanks,” answered Stuyvesant. “But I’m not, and I don’t intend to have my daughter put in that position.”

“You haven’t forgotten that I have a house and twelve hundred?”

“I haven’t forgotten that is all you have.”

“You haven’t forgotten the something more?”

Stuyvesant looked at his watch.

“I must be excused now, Pendleton,” he concluded. “I think, on the whole, it will be better if you don’t call here after this.”

“As you wish,” answered Pendleton. “But I hope you’ll come and see us?”

“Damn you, Pendleton!” he exploded.

Then he turned quickly and left the room. So, after all, it was he in the end who lost his temper.