The Fifth String

by John Philip Sousa

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Chapter IX

OLD SANDERS as boy and man had been in the employ of the banking and brokerage firm of Wallace Brothers for two generations. The firm gradually had advanced his position until now he was confidential adviser and general manager, besides having an interest in the profits of the business.

He enjoyed the friendship of Mr. Wallace, and had been a constant visitor at his house from the first days of that gentleman's married life. He himself was alone in the world, a confirmed bachelor. He had seen Mildred creep from babyhood into childhood, and bud from girlhood to womanhood. To Mildred he was one of that numerous army of brevet relations known as "granpop," "pop," or "uncle." To her he was Uncle Sanders.

If the old man had one touch of human nature in him it was a solicitude for Mildred's future—an authority arrogated to himself—to see that she married the right man; but even that was directed to her material gain in this world's goods, and not to any sentimental consideration for her happiness. He flattered himself that by timely suggestion he had "stumped" at least half a dozen would-be candidates for Mildred's hand. He pooh-poohed love as a necessity for marital felicity, and would enforce his argument by quoting from the bard:

"All lovers swear more performance than they are able, and yet reserve an ability that they never perform: vowing more than the perfection of ten, and discharging less than the tenth part of one."

"You can get at a man's income," he would say, "but not at his heart. Love without money won't travel as far as money without love," and many married people whose bills were overdue wondered if the old fellow was not right.

He was cold-blooded and generally disliked by the men under him. The more evil-minded gossips in the bank said he was in league with "Old Nick." That, of course, was absurd, for it does not necessarily follow, because a man suggests a means looking to an end, disreputable though it be, that he has Mephistopheles for a silent partner. The conservative element among the employees would not openly venture so far, but rather thought if his satanic majesty and old Sanders ran a race, the former would come in a bad second, if he were not distanced altogether.

The old man always reached the office at nine. Mr. Wallace usually arrived a half hour later, seldom earlier, which was so well understood by Sanders that he was greatly surprised when he walked into the president's office, the morning after that gentleman had attended Diotti's concert, to find the head of the firm already there and apparently waiting for him.

"Sanders," said the banker, "I want your advice on a matter of great importance and concern to me."

Sanders came across the room and stood beside the desk.

"Briefly as possible, I am much exercised about my daughter."

The old man moved up a chair and buried himself in it. Pressing his elbows tightly against his sides, he drew his neck in, and with the tips of his right hand fingers consorted and coquetted with their like on the opposite hand; then he simply asked, "Who is the man?"

"He is the violinist who has created such a sensation here, Angelo Diotti."

"Yes, I've seen the name in print," returned the old man.

"He has bewitched Mildred. I never have seen her show the least interest in a man before. She never has appeared to me as an impressionable girl or one that could easily be won."

"That is very true," ejaculated Sanders; "she always seemed tractable and open to reason in all questions of love and courting. I can recall several instances where I have set her right by my estimation of men, and invariably she has accepted my views."

"And mine until now," said the father, and then he recounted his experience of the night before. "I had hoped she would not fall in love, but be a prop and comfort to me now that I am alone. I am dismayed at the prospect before me."

Then the old man mused: "In the chrysalis state of girlhood, a parent arranges all the details of his daughter's future; when and whom she shall marry. 'I shall not allow her to fall in love until she is twenty-three,' says the fond parent. 'I shall not allow her to marry until she is twenty-six,' says the fond parent. 'The man she marries will be the one I approve of,' and then she will live happy ever after, concludes the fond parent."

Deluded parent! false prophet! The anarchist, Love, steps in and disdains all laws, rules and regulations. When finally the father confronts the defying daughter, she calmly says, "Well, what are you going to do about it?" And then tears, forgiveness, complete capitulation, and, sometimes, she and her husband live happily ever afterwards.

"We must find some means to end this attachment. A union between a musician and my daughter would be most mortifying to me. Some plan must be devised to separate them, but she must not know of it, for she is impatient of restraint and will not brook opposition."

"Are you confident she really loves this violinist?"

"She confessed as much to me," said the perturbed banker.

Old Sanders tapped with both hands on his shining cranium and asked, "Are you confident he loves her?"

"No. Even if he does not, he no doubt makes the pretense, and she believes him. A man who fiddles for money is not likely to ignore an opportunity to angle for the same commodity," and the banker, with a look of scorn on his face, threw himself back into the chair.

"Does she know that you do not approve of this man?"

"I told her that I desired the musician's visits to cease."

"And her answer?"

"She said she would obey me if I could name one reasonable objection to the man, and then, with an air of absolute confidence in the impossibility of such a contingency, added, 'But you can not.'"

"Yes, but you must," said Sanders. "Mildred is strangely constituted. If she loves this man, her love can be more deadly to the choice of her heart than her hate to one she abhors. The impatience of restraint you speak of and her very inability to brook opposition can be turned to good account now." And old Sanders again tapped in the rhythm of a dirge on his parchment-bound cranium.

"Your plan?" eagerly asked the father, whose confidence in his secretary was absolute.

"I would like to study them together. Your position will be stronger with Mildred if you show no open opposition to the man or his aspirations; bring us together at your house some evening, and if I can not enter a wedge of discontent, then they are not as others."


Mildred was delighted when her father told her on his return in the evening that he was anxious to meet Signor Diotti, and suggested a dinner party within a few days. He said he would invite Mr. Sanders, as that gentleman, no doubt, would consider it a great privilege to meet the famous musician. Mildred immediately sent an invitation to Diotti, adding a request that he bring his violin and play for Uncle Sanders, as the latter had found it impossible to attend his concerts during the season, yet was fond of music, especially violin music.

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