Two or three days after this Montague met Jim Hegan at a directors' meeting. He watched him closely, but Hegan gave no sign of constraint. He was courteous and serene as ever. "By the way, Mr. Montague," he said, "I mentioned that railroad matter to a friend who is interested. You may hear from him in a few days."
"I am obliged to you," said the other, and that was all.
The next day was Sunday, and Montague came to take Lucy to church, and told her of this remark. He did not tell her about the episode with Colonel Cole, for he thought there was no use disturbing her.
She, for her part, had other matters to talk about. "By the way, Allan," she said, "I presume you know that the coaching parade is to-morrow."
"Yes," said he.
"Mr. Ryder has offered me a seat on his coach," said Lucy.--"I suppose you are going to be angry with me," she added quickly, seeing his frown.
"You said you would go?" he asked.
"Yes," said Lucy. "I did not think it would be any harm. It is such a public matter--"
"A public matter!" exclaimed Montague. "I should think so! To sit up on top of a coach for the crowds to stare at, and for thirty or forty newspaper reporters to take snap-shots of! And to have yourself blazoned as the fascinating young widow from Mississippi who was one of Stanley Ryder's party, and then to have all Society looking at the picture and winking and making remarks about it!"
"You take such a cynical view of everything," protested Lucy. "How can people help it if the crowds will stare, and if the newspapers will take pictures? Surely one cannot give up the pleasure of going for a drive--"
"Oh, pshaw, Lucy!" said Montague. "You have too much sense to talk like that. If you want to drive, go ahead and drive. But when a lot of people get together and pay ten or twenty thousand dollars apiece for fancy coaches and horses, and then appoint a day and send out notice to the whole city, and dress themselves up in fancy costumes and go out and make a public parade of themselves, they have no right to talk about driving for pleasure."
"Well," said she, dubiously, "it's nice to be noticed."
"It is for those who like it," said he; "and if a woman chooses to set out on a publicity campaign, and run a press bureau, and make herself a public character, why, that's her privilege. But for heaven's sake let her drop the sickly pretence that she is only driving beautiful horses, or listening to music, or entertaining her friends. I suppose a Society woman has as much right to advertise her personality as a politician or a manufacturer of pills; all I object to is the sham of it, the everlasting twaddle about her love of privacy. Take Mrs. Winnie Duval, for instance. You would think to hear her that her one ideal in life was to be a simple shepherdess and to raise flowers; but, as a matter of fact, she keeps a scrap-album, and if a week passes that the newspapers do not have some paragraphs about her doings, she begins to get restless."
Lucy broke into a laugh. "I was at Mrs. Robbie Walling's last night," she said. "She was talking about the crowds at the opera, and she said she was going to withdraw to some place where she wouldn't have to see such mobs of ugly people."
"Yes," said he. "But you can't tell me anything about Mrs. Robbie Walling. I have been there. There's nothing that lady does from the time she opens her eyes in the morning until the time she goes to bed the next morning that she would ever care to do if it were not for the mobs of ugly people looking on."
--"You seem to be going everywhere," said Montague, after a pause.
"Oh, I guess I'm a success," said Lucy. "I am certainly having a gorgeous time. I never saw so many beautiful houses or such dazzling costumes in my life."
"It's very fine," said Montague. "But take it slowly and make it last. When one has got used to it, the life seems rather dull and grey."
"I am invited to the Wymans' to-night," said Lucy,--"to play bridge. Fancy giving a bridge party on Sunday night!"
Montague shrugged his shoulders. "_Cosí fan tutti_," he said.
"What do you make of Betty Wyman?" asked the other.
"She is having a good time," said he. "I don't think she has much conscience about it."
"Is she very much in love with Ollie?" she asked.
"I don't know," he said. "I can't make them out. It doesn't seem to trouble them very much."
This was after church while they were strolling down the Avenue, gazing at the procession of new spring costumes.--"Who is that stately creature you just bowed to?" inquired Lucy.
"That?" said Montague. "That is Miss Hegan--Jim Hegan's daughter."
"Oh!" said Lucy. "I remember--Betty Wyman told me about her."
"Nothing very good, I imagine," said Montague, with a smile.
"It was interesting," said Lucy. "Fancy having a father with a hundred millions, and talking about going in for settlement work!"
"Well," he answered, "I told you one could get tired of the splurge."
Lucy looked at him quizzically. "I should think that kind of a girl would rather appeal to you," she said.
"I would like to know her very much," said he, "but she didn't seem to like me."
"Not like you!" cried the other. "Why, how perfectly outrageous!"
"It was not her fault," said Montague, smiling; "I am afraid I got myself a bad reputation."
"Oh, you mean about Mrs. Winnie!" exclaimed Lucy.
"Yes," said he, "that's it."
"I wish you would tell me about it," said she.
"There is nothing much to tell. Mrs. Winnie proceeded to take me up and make a social success of me, and I was fool enough to come when she invited me. Then the first thing I knew, all the gossips were wagging their tongues."
"That didn't do you any harm, did it?" asked Lucy.
"Not particularly," said he, shrugging his shoulders. "Only here is a woman whom I would have liked to know, and I don't know her. That's all."
Lucy gave him a sly glance. "You need a sister," she said, smiling. "Somebody to fight for you!"
* * *
According to Jim Hegan's prediction, it was not long before Montague received an offer. It came from a firm of lawyers of whom he had never heard. "We understand," ran the letter, "that you have a block of five thousand shares of the stock of the Northern Mississippi Railroad. We have a client on whose behalf we are authorised to offer you fifty thousand dollars cash for these shares. Will you kindly consult with your client, and advise us at your earliest convenience?"
He called up Lucy on the 'phone and told her that the offer had come.
"How much?" she asked eagerly.
"It is not satisfactory," he said. "But I would rather not discuss the matter over the 'phone. How can I arrange to see you?"
"Can't you send me up the letter by a messenger?" she asked.
"I could," said Montague, "but I would like to talk with you about it; and also I have that mortgage, and the other papers for you to sign. There are some things to be explained about these, also. Couldn't you come to my office this morning?"
"I would, Allan," she said, "but I have just made a most important engagement, and I don't know what to do about it."
"Couldn't it be postponed?" he asked.
"No," she said. "It's an invitation to join a party on Mr. Waterman's new yacht."
"The _Brünnhilde_!" exclaimed Montague. "You don't say so!"
"Yes, and I hate to miss it," said she.
"How long shall you be gone?" he asked.
"I shall be back sometime this evening," she answered. "We are going up the Sound. The yacht has just been put into commission, you know."
"Where is she lying?"
"Off the Battery. I am to be on board in an hour, and I was just about to start. Couldn't you possibly meet me there?"
"Yes," said Montague. "I will come over. I suppose they will wait a few minutes."
"I am half dying to know about the offer," said Lucy.
Montague had a couple of callers, which delayed him somewhat; finally he jumped into a cab and drove to the Battery.
Here, in the neighbourhood of Castle Garden, was a sheltered place popularly known as the "Millionaires' Basin," being the favourite anchorage of the private yachts of the "Wall Street flotilla." At this time of the year most of the great men had already moved out to their country places, and those of them who lived on the Hudson or up the Sound would come to their offices in vessels of every size, from racing motor-boats to huge private steamships. They would have their breakfasts served on board, and would have their secretaries and their mail.
Many of these yachts were floating palaces of incredible magnificence; one, upon which Montague had been a guest, had a glass-domed library extending entirely around its upper deck. This one was the property of the Lester Todds, and the main purpose it served was to carry them upon their various hunting trips; its equipment included such luxuries as a French laundry, a model dairy and poultry-yard, an ice-machine and a shooting-gallery.
And here lay the _Brünnhilde_, the wonderful new toy of old Waterman. Montague knew all about her, for she had just been completed that spring, and not a newspaper in the Metropolis but had had her picture, and full particulars about her cost. Waterman had purchased her from the King of Belgium, who had thought she was everything the soul of a monarch could desire. Great had been his consternation when he learned that the new owner had given orders to strip her down to the bare steel hull and refit and refurnish her. The saloon was now done with Louis Quinze decorations, said the newspapers. Its walls were panelled in satinwood and inlaid walnut, and under foot were velvet carpets twelve feet wide and woven without seam. Its closets were automatically lighted, and opened at the touch of a button; even the drawers of its bureaus were upon ball-bearings. The owner's private bedroom measured the entire width of the vessel, twenty-eight feet, and opened upon a Roman bath of white marble.
Such was the _Brünnhilde_, Montague looked about him for one of the yacht's launches, but he could not find any, so he hailed a boatman and had himself rowed out. A man in uniform met him at the steps. "Is Mrs. Taylor on board?" he asked.
"She is," the other answered. "Is this Mr. Montague? She left word for you."
Montague had begun to ascend; but a half a second later he stopped short in consternation.
Through one of the portholes of the vessel he heard distinctly a muffled cry,--
And he recognised the voice. It was Lucy's!