The Twenty-Fourth of June by Grace S. Richmond
Chapter II. Richard Changes His Plans
The next time Richard Kendrick went to the Gray home was a fortnight later, when old Matthew Kendrick was sending some material for which Judge Gray had written to ask him--books and pamphlets, and a set of maps. This time he would have sent a servant, but his grandson Richard heard him giving directions and came into the affair with a careless suggestion that he was driving that way and might as well take the stuff if Mr. Kendrick wished it. The old man glanced curiously at him across the table where the two sat at luncheon.
"Glad to have you, of course," he commented, "but you made so many objections when I asked you before I thought I wouldn't interfere with your time again. Did you meet any of the family when you went?"
"Only Judge Gray and two of his nephews," responded Richard, truthfully enough.
So he went with the big package. This time, it being a fine, sunny, summerlike day almost as warm as September, he went clad in careful dress with only a light motoring coat on over all to preserve the integrity of his attire. He left this in the car when he leaped out of it, and appeared upon the doorstep looking not at all like his own chauffeur, but quite his comely self.
The door-lock was in full working order now, and he was admitted by the same little maid whom he remembered seeing before. Upon his inquiry for Judge Gray he was told that that gentleman was receiving another caller and had asked to be undisturbed for a short time, but if he could wait--
Now there was no reason in the world for his waiting, since the package of books, pamphlets, and maps was under his arm and he had only to bestow it upon the maid and give her the accompanying directions. But, at this precise moment, Richard caught sight of a figure running down the staircase; concluded in one glance, as he had concluded in one glance before, that if a personality could be expressed by a speaking voice, a laugh, and a rose-hued scarf, this must be the one they expressed; and decided in the twinkling of an eye to wait. The maid conducted him toward the room on the right of the hall and he followed her, passing as he did so the person who had reached the foot of the stairs and who went by him in such haste that he had only time to give her one short but--it must be described as--concentrated look straight in the eyes. She in turn bestowed upon him the one glance necessary to inform her whether she knew him and so must stay long enough in her rapid progress to greet him. Their eyes therefore met at rather close range, lingered for the space of two running seconds, and parted.
Richard Kendrick accepted the chair offered him and sat upon it for the space of some eighteen-odd minutes; they might have been hours or seconds, he could not have told which. He could hardly have described the room to which he had been shown, unless to say that it was a square, old-fashioned reception room, a little formal, decidedly quaint, and dignified, and clearly not used by the family as other rooms were used. Certainly the piano, from which he had heard the Schumann music on his former visit, was not here, and certainly there were no rose-hued scarfs flung carelessly about. It was undoubtedly a place kept for the use of strange callers like himself, and had small part in the life of the household.
At length he was summoned to Judge Gray's library. He was met with the same pleasant courtesy as before, delivered his parcel, and lingered as long as might be, listening politely to his host's remarks, and looking, looking--for a chance to make a reason to come again. Quite unexpectedly it was offered him by the Judge himself.
"I wonder if you could recommend to me," said Judge Gray as Richard was about to take his leave, "a capable young man--college-bred, of course--to come here daily or weekly as I might need him, to assist me in the work of preparing my book. My eyes, as you see, will not allow me to use them for much more than the reading of a paragraph, and while my family are very ready to help whenever they have the time, mine is so serious a task, likely to continue for so long a period, that I shall need continuous and prolonged assistance. Do you happen to know--?"
Well, it can hardly be explained. This was a rich man's heir and the grandson of millions more, in need--according to his own point of view--of no further education along the lines of work, and he had a voyage to the Far East in prospect. Certainly, a fortnight earlier the thing furthest from his thoughts would have been the engaging of himself as amanuensis and general literary assistant to an ex-judge upon so prosaic a task as the history of the Supreme Court of the State. To say that a rose-hued scarf, a laugh, and an alluring speaking voice explain it seems absurd, even when you add to these that which the young man saw during that moment of time when he looked into the face of their owner. Rather would I declare that it was the subtle atmosphere of that which in all his travels he had never really seen before--a home. At all events a new force of some sort had taken hold upon him, and was leading him whither he had never thought to go.
If Judge Gray was surprised that the grandson of his old friend Matthew Kendrick should thus offer himself for the obscure and comparatively unremunerative post of secretary, he gave no evidence of it. Possibly it did not seem strange to him that this young man should show interest in the work the Judge himself had laid out with an absorbing enthusiasm. Therefore a trial arrangement was soon made, and Richard Kendrick agreed to present himself in Judge Gray's library on the following morning at ten o'clock. The only stipulation he made was that if, for any reason, he should decide suddenly to go upon a journey he had had some time in contemplation, he should be allowed to provide a substitute. He had not yet so completely surrendered to his impulse that he was not careful to leave himself a loophole of escape.
The young man laughed to himself all the way down the avenue. What would his grandfather say? What would his friends say? His friends should not know--confound them!--it was none of their business. He would have his evenings; he would appear at his clubs as usual. If comments were made upon his absence at other hours he would quietly inform the observing ones that he had gone to work, but would refuse to say where. It certainly was a joke, his going to work; not that his grandfather had not often and strenuously recommended it, saying that the boy would never know happiness until he shook hands with labour; not that he himself had not fully intended some day to go into the training necessary to the assuming of the cares incident to the handling of a great fortune. But thus far--well, he had never been ready to begin. One journey more, one more long voyage--
Her eyes--had they been blue or black? Blue, he was quite sure, although the masses of her hair had been like night for dusky splendour, and her cheeks of that rich bloom which denotes young vigour and radiant health. He could hear her voice now, quoting a serious poet to fit a madcap mood--and quoting him in such a voice! What were the words? He remembered her mockingly exaggerated inflection:
"'O, it is excellent To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous To use it like a giant!'"
Well, from his flash-fire observation of her he should say that a man might need a giant's strength to overcome her, if she chose to oppose him, in any situation whatever. What a glorious task--to overcome her--to teach that lovely, teasing voice gentler words--
He laughed again. Since he had left college he had not been so interested in what was coming next--not even on the day he met Amelie Penstoff in St. Petersburg--nor on the day, in Japan, when his friend Rogers made an appointment with him to meet that little slant-eyed girl, half Japanese, half French, and whole minx--the beauty!--he could not even recall her name at this moment--with whom he had had an absorbing experience he should be quite unwilling to repeat. And now, here was a girl--a very different sort of girl--who interested him more than any of them. He wondered what was her name. Whatever it was, he would know it soon--call her by it--soon.
He went home. He did not tell his grandfather that night. There was not much use in putting it off, but--somehow--he preferred to wait till morning. Business sounds more like business--in the morning.
* * * * *
The first result of his telling his grandfather in the morning was a note from old Matthew Kendrick to old Judge Gray. The note, which almost chuckled aloud, was as follows:
MY DEAR CALVIN GRAY: Work him--work the rascal hard! He's a lazy chap with a way with him which plays the deuce with my foolish old heart. I could make my own son work, and did; but this son of his--that seems to be another matter. Yet I know well enough the dangers of idleness--know them so well that I'm tickled to death at the mere thought of his putting in his time at any useful task. He did well enough in college; there are brains there unquestionably. I didn't object seriously to his travelling--for a time--after his graduation; but that sort of life has gone on long enough, and when I talk to him of settling down at some steady job it's always "after one more voyage." I don't yet understand what has given him the impulse--whim--caprice--I don't venture to give it any stronger name--to accept this literary task from you. He vows he's not met the women of your household, or I should think that might explain it. I hope he will meet them--all of them; they'll be good for him--and so will you, Cal. Do your best by the boy for my sake, and believe me, now as always,
Gratefully your old friend,
"Eleanor, have you five minutes to spare for me?" Judge Gray, his old friend's note in hand, hailed his brother's wife as she passed the open door of his library. She came in at once, and, though she was in the midst of household affairs, sat down with that delightful air of having all the time in the world to spare for one who needed her, which was one of her endearing characteristics.
When she had heard the note she nodded her head thoughtfully. "I think the grandfather may well congratulate himself that the grandson has fallen into your hands, Calvin," said she. "The work you give him may not be to him the interesting task it would be to some men, but it will undoubtedly do him good to be harnessed to any labour which means a bit of drudgery. By all means do as Mr. Kendrick bids you--'work him hard.'" She smiled. "I wonder what the boy would think of Louis's work."
"He would take to his heels, probably, if it were offered him. It's plain that Matthew's pleased enough at having him tackle a gentleman's task like this, and hopes to make it a stepping-stone to something more muscular. I shall do my best by Richard, as he asks. You note that he wants the young man to meet us all. Are you willing to invite him to dinner some time--perhaps next week--as a special favour to me?"
"Certainly, Calvin, if you consider young Mr. Kendrick in every way fit to know our young people."
Her fine eyes met his penetratingly, and he smiled in his turn. "That's like you, Eleanor," said he, "to think first of the boy's character and last of his wealth."
"A fig for his wealth!" she retorted with spirit. "I have two daughters."
"I have made inquiries," said he with dignity, "of Louis, who knows young Kendrick as one young man knows another, which is to the full. He considers him to be more or less of an idler, and as much of a spendthrift as a fellow in possession of a large income is likely to be in spite of the cautions of a prudent grandfather. He has a passion for travel and is correspondingly restless at home. But Louis thinks him to be a young man of sufficiently worthy tastes and standards to have escaped the worst contaminations, and he says he has never heard anything to his discredit. That is considerable to say of a young man in his position, Eleanor, and I hope it may constitute enough of a passport to your favour to permit of your at least inviting him to dinner. Besides--let me remind you--your daughters have standards of their own which you have given them. Ruth is a girl yet, of course, but a mighty discerning one for sixteen. As for Roberta, I'll wager no young millionaire is any more likely to get past her defences than any young mechanic--unless he proves himself fit."
"I am confident of that," she agreed, and with her charming gray head held high went on about her household affairs.