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Brewster made a good story of the "holdup" at the club, but he did not relate all the details. One of the listeners was a new public commissioner who was aggressive in his efforts at reform. Accordingly, Brewster was summoned to headquarters the next morning for the purpose of looking over the "suspects" that had been brought in. Almost the first man that he espied was a rough-looking fellow whose identity could not be mistaken. It was Bill.
"Hello, Bill," called Monty, gaily. Bill ground his teeth for a second, but his eyes had such an appeal in them that Monty relented.
"You know this fellow, Mr. Brewster?" demanded the captain, quickly. Bill looked utterly helpless.
"Know Bill?" questioned Monty in surprise. "Of course I do, Captain."
"He was picked up late last night and detained, because he would give no account of his actions."
"Was it as bad as that, Bill?" asked Brewster, with a smile. Bill mumbled something and assumed a look of defiance. Monty's attitude puzzled him sorely. He hardly breathed for an instant, and gulped perceptibly.
"Pass Bill, Captain. He was with me last night just before my money was taken, and he couldn't possibly have robbed me without my knowledge. Wait for me outside, Bill. I want to talk to you. I'm quite sure neither of the thieves is here, Captain," concluded Brewster, after Bill had obeyed the order to step out of the line.
Outside the door the puzzled crook met Brewster, who shook him warmly by the hand.
"You're a peach," whispered Bill, gratefully. "What did you do it for, mister?"
"Because you were kind enough not to cut my shirt."
"Say, you're all right, that's what. Would you mind havin' a drink with me? It's your money, but the drink won't be any the worse for that. We blowed most of it already, but here's what's left." Bill handed Monty a roll of bills.
"I'd a kept it if you'd made a fight," he continued, "but it ain't square to keep it now."
Brewster refused the money, but took back his watch.
"Keep it, Bill," he said, "you need it more than I do. It's enough to set you up in some other trade. Why not try it?"
"I will try, boss," and Bill was so profuse in his thanks that Monty had difficulty in getting away. As he climbed into a cab he heard Bill say, "I will try, boss, and say, if ever I can do anything for you, jes' put me nex'. I'm nex' you all de time."
He gave the driver the name of his club, but as he was passing the Waldorf he remembered that he had several things to say to Mrs. Dan. The order was changed, and a few moments later he was received in Mrs. Dan's very special den. She wore something soft and graceful in lavender, something that was light and wavy and evanescent, and made you watch its changing shadows. Monty looked down at her with the feeling that she made a very effective picture.
"You are looking pretty fit this morning, my lady," he said by way of preamble. "How well everything plays up to you."
"And you are unusually courtly, Monty," she smiled. "Has the world treated you so generously of late?"
"It is treating me generously enough just now to make up for anything," and he looked at her. "Do you know, Mrs. Dan, that it is borne in upon me now and then that there are things that are quite worth while?"
"Oh, if you come to that," she answered, lightly, "everything is worth while. For you, Monty, life is certainly not slow. You can dominate; you can make things go your way. Aren't they going your way now, Monty" — this more seriously — "What's wrong? Is the pace too fast?"
His mood increased upon him with her sympathy. "Oh, no," he said, "it isn't that. You are good — and I'm a selfish beast. Things are perverse and people are desperately obstinate sometimes. And here I'm taking it out on you. You are not perverse. You are not obstinate. You are a ripper, Mrs. Dan, and you are going to help me out in more ways than one."
"Well, to pay for all these gallantries, Monty. I ought to do much. I'm your friend through thick and thin. You have only to command me."
"It was precisely to get your help that I came in. I'm tired of those confounded dinners. You know yourself that they are all alike — the same people, the same flowers, the same things to eat, and the same inane twaddle in the shape of talk. Who cares about them anyway?"
"Well, I like that," she interrupted. "After all the thought I put into those dinners, after all the variety I so carefully secured! My dear boy, you are frightfully ungrateful."
"Oh, you know what I mean. And you know quite as well as I do that it is perfectly true. The dinners were a beastly bore, which proves that they were a loud success. Your work was not done in vain. But now I want something else. We must push along this ball we've been talking of. And the yachting cruise — that can't wait very much longer."
"The ball first," she decreed. "I'll see to the cards at once, and in a day or two I'll have a list ready for your gracious approval. And what have you done?"
"Pettingill has some great ideas for doing over Sherry's. Harrison is in communication with the manager of that Hungarian orchestra you spoke of, and he finds the men quite ready for a little jaunt across the water. We have that military band — I've forgotten the number of its regiment — for the promenade music, and the new Paris sensation, the contralto, is coming over with her primo tenore for some special numbers."
"You were certainly cut out for an executive, Monty," said Mrs. Dan. "But with the music and the decorations arranged, you've only begun. The favors are the real thing, and if you say the word, we'll surprise them a little. Don't worry about it, Monty. It's a go already. We'll pull it off together."
"You are a thoroughbred, Mrs. Dan," he exclaimed. "You do help a fellow at a pinch."
"That's all right, Monty," she answered; "give me until after Christmas and I'll have the finest favors ever seen. Other people may have their paper hats and pink ribbons but you can show them how the thing ought to be done.
Her reference to Christmas haunted Brewster, as he drove down Fifth Avenue, with the dread of a new disaster. Never before had he looked upon presents as a calamity; but this year it was different. Immediately he began to plan a bombardment of his friends with costly trinkets, when he grew suddenly doubtful of the opinion of his uncle's executor upon this move. But in response to a telegram, Swearengen Jones, with pleasing irascibility, informed him that "anyone with a drop of human kindness in his body would consider it his duty to give Christmas presents to those who deserved them." Monty's way was now clear. If his friends meant to handicap him with gifts, he knew a way to get even. For two weeks his mornings were spent at Tiffany's, and the afternoons brought joy to the heart of every dealer in antiquities in Fourth and Fifth Avenues. He gave much thought to the matter in the effort to secure many small articles which elaborately concealed their value. And he had taste. The result of his endeavor was that many friends who would not have thought of remembering Monty with even a card were pleasantly surprised on Christmas Eve.
As it turned out, he fared very well in the matter of gifts, and for some days much of his time was spent in reading notes of profuse thanks, which were yet vaguely apologetic. The Grays and Mrs. Dan had remembered him with an agreeable lack of ostentation, and some of the "Little Sons of the Rich," who had kept one evening a fortnight open for the purpose of "using up their meal-tickets" at Monty's, were only too generously grateful. Miss Drew had forgotten him, and when they met after the holiday her recognition was of the coldest. He had thought that, under the circumstances, he could send her a gift of value, but the beautiful pearls with which he asked for a reconciliation were returned with "Miss Drew's thanks." He loved Barbara sincerely, and it cut. Peggy Gray was taken into his confidence and he was comforted by her encouragement. It was a bit difficult for her to advise him to try again, but his happiness was a thing she had at heart.
"It's beastly unfair, Peggy," he said. "I've really been white to her. I believe I'll chuck the whole business and leave New York."
"You're going away?" and there was just a suggestion of a catch in her breath.
'"I'm going to charter a yacht and sail away from this place for three or four months." Peggy fairly gasped. "What do you think of the scheme?" he added, noticing the alarm and incredulity in her eyes.
"I think you'll end in the poor-house, Montgomery Brewster," she said, with a laugh.