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THE NEW TENDERFOOT
Brewster was comparatively well and strong when he returned to New York in March. His illness had interfered extensively with his plan of campaign and it was imperative that he redouble his efforts, notwithstanding the manifest dismay of his friends. His first act was to call upon Grant & Ripley, from whom he hoped to learn what Swearengen Jones thought of his methods. The lawyers had heard no complaint from Montana, and advised him to continue as he had begun, assuring him, as far as they could, that Jones would not prove unreasonable.
An exchange of telegrams just before his operation had renewed Monty's dread of his eccentric mentor.
New York, Jan. 6, 19--
How about having my life insured? Would it violate conditions?
TO MONTGOMERY BREWSTER,
Seems to me your life would become an asset in that case. Can you dispose of it before September 23d?
TO SWEARENGEN JONES.
On the contrary I think life will be a debt by that time.
TO MONTGOMERY BREWSTER.
If you feel that way about it, I advise you to take out a $500 policy.
TO SWEARENGEN JONES,
you think that amount would cover funeral expenses?
To MONTGOMERY BREWSTER,
You won't be caring about expenses if it comes to that.
The invitations for the second ball had been out for some time and the preparations were nearly complete when Brewster arrived upon the scene of festivity. It did not surprise him that several old-time friends should hunt him up and protest vigorously against the course he was pursuing. Nor did it surprise him when he found that his presence was not as essential to the success of some other affair as it had once been. He was not greeted as cordially as before, and he grimly wondered how many of his friends would stand true to the end. The uncertainty made him turn more and more often to the unquestioned loyalty of Peggy Gray, and her little library saw him more frequently than for months.
Much as he had dreaded the pretentious and resplendent ball, it was useful to him in one way at least. The "profit" side of his ledger account was enlarged and in that there was room for secret satisfaction. The Viennese orchestra straggled into New York, headed by Elon Gardner, a physical wreck, in time to make a harmonious farewell appearance behind Brewster's palms, which caused his guests to wonder why the American public could not appreciate the real thing. A careful summing up of the expenses and receipts proved that the tour had been a bonanza for Brewster. The net loss was a trifle more than $56,000. When this story became known about town, everybody laughed pityingly, and poor Gardner was almost in tears when he tried to explain the disaster to the man who lost the money. But Monty's sense of humor, singularly enough, did not desert him on this trying occasion.
Æsthetically the ball proved to be the talk of more than one season. Pettingill had justified his desire for authority and made a name which would last. He had taken matters into his own hands while Brewster was in Florida, and changed the period from the Spain of Velasquez to France and Louis Quinze. After the cards were out he remembered, to his consternation, that the favors purchased for the Spanish ball would be entirely inappropriate for the French one. He wired Brewster at once of this misfortune, and was astonished at the nonchalance of his reply. "But then Monty always was a good sort," he thought, with a glow of affection. The new plan was more costly than the old, for it was no simple matter to build a Versailles suite at Sherry's. Pettingill was no imitator, but he created an effect which was superbly in keeping with the period he had chosen. Against it the rich costumes, with their accompaniment of wigs and powdered hair, shone out resplendent. With great difficulty the artist had secured for Monty a costume in white satin and gold brocade, which might once have adorned the person of Louis himself. It made him feel like a popinjay, and it was with infinite relief that he took it off an hour or so after dawn. He knew that things had gone well, that even Mrs. Dan was satisfied; but the whole affair made him heartsick. Behind the compliments lavished upon him he detected a note of irony, which revealed the laughter that went on behind his back. He had not realized how much it would hurt. "For two cents," he thought, "I'd give up the game and be satisfied with what's left." But he reflected that such a course would offer no chance to redeem himself. Once again he took up the challenge and determined to win out. "Then," he thought exultantly, "I'll make them feel this a bit."
He longed for the time when he could take his few friends with him and sail away to the Mediterranean to escape the eyes and tongues of New York. Impatiently he urged Harrison to complete the arrangements, so that they could start at once. But Harrison's face was not untroubled when he made his report. All the preliminary details had been perfected. He had taken the "Flitter" for four months, and it was being overhauled and put into condition for the voyage. It had been Brown's special pride, but at his death it went to heirs who were ready and eager to rent it to the highest bidder. It would not have been easy to find a handsomer yacht in New York waters. A picked crew of fifty men were under command of Captain Abner Perry. The steward was a famous manager and could be relied upon to stock the larder in princely fashion. The boat would be in readiness to sail by the tenth of April.
"I think you are going in too heavily, Monty," protested Harrison, twisting his fingers nervously. "I can't for my life figure how you can get out for less than a fortune, if we do everything you have in mind. Wouldn't it be better to pull up a bit? This looks like sheer madness. You won't have a dollar, Monty — honestly you won't."
"It's not in me to save money, Nopper, but if you can pull out a few dollars for yourself I shall not object."
"You told me that once before, Monty," said Harrison, as he walked to the window. When he resolutely turned back again to Brewster his face was white, but, there was a look of determination around the mouth.
"Monty, I've got to give up this job," he said, huskily. Brewster looked up quickly.
"What do you mean, Nopper?"
"I've got to leave, that's all," said Harrison, standing stiff and straight and looking over Brewster's head
"Good Lord, Nopper, I can't have that. You must not desert the ship. What's the matter, old chap? You're as white as a ghost. What is it?" Monty was standing now and his hands were on Harrison's shoulders, but before the intensity of his look, his friend's eyes fell helplessly.
"The truth is, Monty, I've taken some of your money and I've lost it. That's the reason I — I can't stay on. I have betrayed your confidence."
"Tell me about it," and Monty was perhaps more uncomfortable than his friend. "I don't understand."
"You believed too much in me, Monty. You see, I thought I was doing you a favor. You were spending so much and getting nothing in return, and I thought I saw a chance to help you out. It went wrong, that's all, and before I could let go of the stock sixty thousand dollars of your money had gone. I can't replace it yet. But God knows I didn't mean to steal."
"It's all right, Nopper. I see that you thought you were helping me. The money's gone and that ends it. Don't take it so hard, old boy."
"I knew you'd act this way, but it doesn't help matters. Some day I may be able to pay back the money I took, and I'm going to work until I do."
Brewster protested that he had no use for the money and begged him to retain the position of trust he had held. But Harrison had too much self-respect to care to be confronted daily with the man he had wronged. Gradually Monty realized that "Nopper" was pursuing the most manly course open to him, and gave up the effort to dissuade him. He insisted upon leaving New York, as there was no opportunity to redeem himself in the metropolis.
"I've made up my mind, Monty, to go out west, up in the mountains perhaps. There's no telling, I may stumble on a gold mine up there — and — well, that seems to be the only chance I have to restore what I have taken from you."
"By Jove, Nopper, I have it!" cried Monty. "If you must go, I'll stake you in the hunt for gold."
In the end "Nopper" consented to follow Brewster's advice, and it was agreed that they should share equally all that resulted from his prospecting tour. Brewster "grub-staked" him for a year, and before the end of the week a new tenderfoot was on his way to the Rocky Mountains.