Liberty, July 7, 1928
SOME half a mile from Curzon Street, on the fringe of the Soho district, there stands a smaller and humbler hotel named the Belvidere. In a bedroom on the second floor of this, at about the moment when Pat and Hugo had entered the lobby of the Lincoln, Dolly Molloy sat before a mirror, cold-creaming her attractive face.
She was interrupted in this task by the arrival of the senatorial Thomas G.
“Hello, sweetie pie,” said Miss Molloy. “There you are.”
“Yes,” replied Mr. Molloy. “Here I am.”
Although his demeanor lacked the high tragedy which had made strong men quail in the presence of Pat Wyvern, this man was plainly ruffled. His fine features were overcast and his frank gray eyes looked somber.
“Gee! If there’s one thing in this world I hate,” he said, “it’s having to talk to policemen.”
“Oh, I gave my name and address. A name and address, that is to say. But I haven’t got over yet the jar it gave me, seeing so many cops all gathered together in a small room. And that’s not all,” went on Mr. Molloy, ventilating another grievance. “Why did you make me tell those folks you were my daughter?”
“Well, sweetie, it sort of cramps my style, having people know we’re married.”
“What do you mean, cramps your style?”
“Oh, just cramps my style.”
“But, darn it,” complained Mr. Molloy, going to the heart of the matter, “it makes me out so old, folks thinking I’m your father.”
The rather pronounced gap in years between himself and his young bride was a subject on which Soapy Molloy was always inclined to be sensitive.
“I’m only forty-two.”
“And you don’t seem that, not till you look at you close,” said Dolly, with womanly tact. “The whole thing is, sweetie, being so dignified, you can call yourself anybody’s father and get away with it.”
Mr. Molloy, somewhat soothed, examined himself, not without approval, in the mirror.
“I do look dignified,” he admitted.
“Like a professor or something.”
“That isn’t a bald spot coming there, is it?”
“Sure it’s not. It’s just the way the light falls.”
Mr. Molloy resumed his examination with growing content.
“Yes,” he said complacently; “that’s a face which for business purposes is a face. I may not be the world’s sweetheart, but nobody can say I haven’t got a map that inspires confidence. I suppose I’ve sold more bum oil stock to suckers with it than anyone in the profession. And that reminds me, honey—what do you think?”
“What?” asked Mrs. Molloy, removing cream with a towel.
“We’re sitting in the biggest kind of luck. You know how I’ve been wanting all this time to get hold of a really good prospect—some guy with money to spend who might be interested in a little oil deal? Well, that Carmody fellow we met tonight has invited us to go and visit at his country home.”
“You don’t say!”
“I do say!”
“Well, isn’t that the greatest thing! Is he rich?”
“He’s got an uncle that must be, or he couldn’t be living in a place like he was telling me. It’s one of those stately homes of England you read about.”
Mrs. Molloy mused. The soft smile on her face showed that her daydreams were pleasant ones.
“I’ll have to get me some new frocks—and hats—and shoes—and stockings—and—”
“Now, now, now!” said her husband, with that anxious alarm which husbands exhibit on these occasions. “Be yourself, baby! You aren’t going to stay at Buckingham Palace.”
“But a country house party with swell people—”
“It isn’t a country house party. There’s only the uncle besides those two boys we met tonight. But I’ll tell you what. If I can plant a good block of those Silver River shares on the old man, you can go shopping all you want.”
“Oh, Soapy! Do you think you can?”
“Do I think I can?” echoed Mr. Molloy scornfully. “I don’t say I’ve ever sold Central Park or Brooklyn Bridge to anybody, but if I can’t get rid of a parcel of homemade oil stock to a guy that lives in the country I’m losing my grip and ought to retire. Sure, I’ll sell him those Silver Rivers, honey. These fellows that own these big estates in England are only glorified farmers, when you come right down to it; and a farmer will buy anything you offer him, just so long as it’s nicely engraved and shines when you slant the light on it.”
“I’ve been thinking. Listen, Soapy. A home like this one where we’re going is sure to have all sorts of things in it, isn’t it? Pictures, I mean, and silver and antiques and all like that. Well, why can’t we, once we’re in the place, get away with them and make a nice clean-up?”
Mr. Molloy, though conceding that this was the right spirit, was obliged to discourage his wife’s pretty enthusiasm.
“Where could you sell that sort of stuff?”
“Anywhere, once you got over to the other side. New York’s full of rich millionaires who’ll buy anything and ask no questions, just so long as it’s antiques.”
Mr. Molloy shook his head.
“Too dangerous, baby. If all that stuff left the house same time as we did, we’d have the bulls after us in ten minutes. Besides, it’s not my line. I’ve got my line, and I like to stick to it. Nobody ever got anywhere in the long run by going outside of his line.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“Sure I’m right. A nice, conservative business, that’s what I aim at.”
“But suppose, when we get to this joint, it looks dead easy?”
“Ah! Well, then, I’m not saying. All I’m against is risks. If something’s handed to you on a plate, naturally no one wouldn’t ever want to let it get past them.”
And with this eminently sound commercial maxim Mr. Molloy reached for his pajamas and prepared for bed. Something attempted, something done, had earned, he felt, a night’s repose.
SOME years before the date of the events narrated in this story, at the time when there was all that trouble between the aristocratic householders of Riverside Row and the humbler dwellers in Budd Street (arising, if you remember, from the practice of the latter of washing their more intimate articles of underclothing and hanging them to dry in back gardens into which their exclusive neighbors were compelled to gaze every time they looked out of the window), the Vicar of the parish, the Rev. Alistair Pond-Pond, always a happy phrase maker, wound up his address at the annual village sports of Rudge with an impressive appeal to the good feeling of those concerned.
“We must not,” said the Rev. Alistair, “consider ourselves as belonging to this section of Rudge-in-the-Vale or to that section of Rudge-in-the-Vale. Let us get together. Let us recollect that we are all fellow members of one united community. Rudge must be looked on as a whole. And what a whole it is!”
With the concluding words of this peroration Pat Wyvern, by the time she had been home a little under a week, found herself in hearty agreement. Walking with her father along the High Street on the sixth morning, she had to confess herself disappointed with Rudge.
There are times in everyone’s experience when life, after running merrily for a while through pleasant places, seems suddenly to strike a dull and depressing patch of road; and this was what was happening now to Pat.
THE sense, which had come to her so strongly in the lobby of the Lincoln Hotel in Curzon Street, of being in a world unworthy of her—a world cold and unsympathetic and full of an inferior grade of human being—had deepened. Her homecoming, she had now definitely decided, was not a success.
Elderly men with a grievance are seldom entertaining companions for the young, and five days of the undiluted society of Colonel Wyvern had left Pat with the feeling that, much as she loved her father, she wished he would sometimes change the subject of his conversation. Had she been present in person, she could not have had a fuller grasp of the facts of that dynamite outrage than she now possessed.
But this was not all. After Mr. Carmody’s thuglike behavior on that fatal day, she was given to understand, the Hall and its grounds were as much forbidden territory to her as the piazza of the town house of the Capulets would have been to a young Montague. And though, being a modern girl, she did not as a rule respond with any great alacrity to parental mandates, she had her share of clan loyalty and realized that she must conform to the rules of the game.
Accordingly, she had not been within half a mile of the Hall since her arrival—and, having been accustomed for fourteen years to treat the place and its grounds as her private property, found Rudge, with a dead line drawn across the boundaries of Mr. Carmody’s park, a poor sort of place.
UNLOVABLE character though Mr. Carmody was in many respects, she had always been fond of him, and she missed seeing him. She also missed seeing Hugo. And as for John, not seeing him was the heaviest blow of all.
From the days of her childhood, John had always been her stand-by. Men might come and men might go, but John went on forever. He had never been too old, like Mr. Carmody, or too lazy, like Hugo, to give her all the time and attention she required; and she did think that, even though there was this absurd feud going on, he might have had the enterprise to make an opportunity of meeting her.
As day followed day, her resentment grew, until now she had reached the stage when she was telling herself that this was simply what, from a knowledge of his character, she might have expected.
John—she had to face it—was a jellyfish. And if a man is a jellyfish he will behave like a jellyfish, and it is at times of crisis that his jellyfishiness will be most noticeable.
It was conscience that had brought Pat to the High Street this morning. Her father had welcomed her with such a pathetic eagerness and had been so plainly pleased to see her back that she was ashamed of herself for not feeling happier.
And it was in a spirit of remorse that now, though she would have preferred to stay in the garden with a book, she had come with him to watch him buy another bottle of Brophy’s Paramount Elixir from Chas. Bywater, Chemist.
Brophy, it should be mentioned, had proved a sensational success. His Elixir was making the local gnats feel perfect fools. They would bite Colonel Wyvern on the face and stand back, all ready to laugh, and he would just smear Brophy on himself and be as good as new. It was simply sickening, if you were a gnat—but fine, of course, if you were Colonel Wyvern.
And that just man, always ready to give praise where praise was due, said as much to Chas. Bywater.
“That stuff,” said Colonel Wyvern, “is good. I wish I’d heard of it before. Give me another bottle.”
Mr. Bywater was delighted—not merely at this rush of trade, but because, good, kindly soul, he enjoyed ameliorating the lot of others.
“I thought you would find it capital, Colonel. I get a great many requests for it. I sold a bottle yesterday to Mr. Carmody senior.”
Colonel Wyvern’s sunniness vanished as if someone had turned it off with a tap.
“Don’t talk to me about Mr. Carmody,” he said gruffly.
“Quite,” said Chas. Bywater.
Pat bridged a painful silence.
“Is Mr. Carmody back, then?” she asked. “I heard he was at some sort of health place.”
“Healthward Ho, miss, just outside Lowick.”
“He ought to be in prison,” said Colonel Wyvern.
Mr. Bywater stopped himself in the nick of time from saying “Quite,” which would have been a deviation from his firm policy of never taking sides between customers.
“He returned the day before yesterday, miss, and was immediately bitten on the nose by a mosquito.”
“Thank God!” said Colonel Wyvern.
“But I sold him one of the three-and-sixpenny size of the Elixir,” said Chas. Bywater, with quiet pride, “and a single application completely eased the pain.”
COLONEL WYVERN said he was sorry to hear it; and there is no doubt that conversation would once more have become difficult had there not at this moment made itself heard from the other side of the door a loud and penetrating sniff.
A fatherly smile lit up Chas. Bywater’s face.
“That’s Mr. John’s dog,” he said, reaching for the cough drops.
Pat opened the door and the statement proved correct. With a short wooffle, partly of annoyance at having been kept waiting and partly of happy anticipation, Emily entered, and, seating herself by the counter, gazed expectantly at the chemist.
“Hullo, Emily,” said Pat.
Emily gave her a brief look in which there was no pleased recognition but only the annoyance of a dog interrupted during an important conference. She then returned her gaze to Mr. Bywater.
“What do you say, doggy?” said Mr. Bywater, more paternal than ever, poising a cough drop.
“Oh, hell! Snap into it!” replied Emily curtly, impatient at this foolery.
“Hear her speak for it?” said Mr. Bywater. “Almost human, that dog is.”
Colonel Wyvern, whom he had addressed, did not seem to share his lively satisfaction. He muttered to himself. He regarded Emily sourly and his right foot twitched a little.
“Just like a human being, isn’t she, miss?” said Chas. Bywater, damped but persevering.
“Quite,” said Pat absently.
Mr. Bywater, startled by this infringement of copyright, dropped the cough lozenge and Emily snapped it up.
Pat, still distrait, was watching the door. She was surprised to find that her breath was coming rather quickly and that her heart had begun to beat with more than its usual rapidity.
She was amazed at herself. Just because John Carroll would shortly appear in that doorway, must she stand fluttering, for all the world as though poor old Johnny, an admitted jellyfish, were something that really mattered? It was too silly, and she tried to bully herself into composure.
She failed. Her heart, she was compelled to realize, was now simply racing.
A step sounded outside, a shadow fell on the sunlit pavement, and Dolly Molloy walked into the shop.
It is curious, when one reflects, to think how many different impressions a single individual can make simultaneously on a number of his or her fellow creatures. At the present moment it was almost as though four separate and distinct Dolly Molloys had entered the establishment of Chas. Bywater.
The Dolly whom Colonel Wyvern beheld was a beautiful woman with just that hint of diablerie in her bearing which makes elderly widowers feel there is life in the old dog yet.
Colonel Wyvern was no longer the dashing hussar who in the ’90s had made his presence felt in many a dim sitting-out place and in many a punt beneath the willows of the Thames, but there still lingered in him a trace of the old barrack-room fire.
Drawing himself up, he automatically twirled his mustache. To Colonel Wyvern Dolly represented beauty.
TO Chas. Bywater, with his more practical and worldly outlook, she represented wealth. He saw in Dolly not so much a beautiful woman as a rich looking woman.
Although Soapy had contrived with subtle reasoning to head her off from the extensive purchases which she had contemplated making in preparation for her visit to Rudge, Dolly undoubtedly took the eye. She was, as she would have put it herself, a snappy dresser, and in Chas. Bywater’s mind she awoke roseate visions of large orders for face creams, imported scents, and expensive bath salts.
Emily, it was evident, regarded Mrs. Molloy as perfection.
A dog who, as a rule, kept herself to herself and looked on the world with a cool and rather sardonic eye, she had conceived for Dolly the moment they met one of those capricious adorations which come occasionally to the most hard-boiled Welsh terriers. Hastily swallowing her cough drop, she bounded at Dolly and fawned on her.
So far, the reactions caused by the newcomer’s entrance have been unmixedly favorable. It is only when we come to Pat that we find disapproval rearing its ugly head.
Disapproval, indeed, is a mild and inadequate word. Loathing would be more correct. Where Colonel Wyvern beheld beauty and Mr. Bywater opulence, Pat saw only flashiness, vulgarity, and general horribleness.
Piercing with woman’s intuitive eye through an outer crust which to vapid and irreflective males might possibly seem attractive, she saw Dolly as a vampire and a menace—the sort of woman who goes about the place ensnaring miserable, fat-headed, innocent young men who have lived all their lives in the country and so lack the experience to see through females of her type. For beyond a question, felt Pat, this girl must have come to Rudge in brazen pursuit of poor old Johnny.
The fact that she took her walks abroad accompanied by Emily showed that she was staying at the Hall; and what reason could she have had for getting herself invited to the Hall if not that she wished to continue the acquaintance begun at the Mustard Spoon?
This, then, was the explanation of John’s failure to come and pass the time of day with an old friend. What she had assumed to be jellyfishiness was in reality base treachery. Like Emily, whom, slavering over Mrs. Molloy’s shoes, she could gladly have kicked, he had been hypnotized by this woman’s specious glamour and had forsaken old allegiances.
PAT, eying Dolly coldly, was filled with a sisterly desire to save John from one who could never make him happy.
Dolly was all friendliness.
“Why, hello,” she said, removing a shapely foot from Emily’s mouth. “I was wondering when I was going to run into you. I heard you lived in these parts.”
“Yes?” said Pat frigidly.
“I’m staying at the Hall.”
“What a wonderful old place it is!”
“All those pictures and tapestries and things.”
“Is this your father?”
“Yes. This is Miss Molloy, father. We met in London.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said Dolly.
“Charmed,” said Colonel Wyvern.
He gave another twirl of his mustache. Chas. Bywater hovered beamingly. Emily, still ecstatic, continued to gnaw one of Dolly’s shoes. The whole spectacle was so utterly revolting that Pat turned to the door.
“I’ll be going along, father,” she said. “I want to buy some stamps.”
“I can sell you stamps, miss,” said Chas. Bywater affably.
“Thank you, I will go to the post office,” said Pat.
Her manner suggested that you got a superior brand of stamp there.
She walked out. Rudge, as she looked upon it, seemed a more depressing place than ever. Sunshine flooded the High Street. Sunshine fell on the Carmody Arms, the Village Hall, the Plow and Chickens, the Bunch of Grapes, the Wagoner’s Rest, and the Jubilee Watering Trough.
But there was no sunshine in the heart of Pat Wyvern.
CURIOUSLY enough, at this very moment up at the Hall, the same experience was happening to Mr. Lester Carmody. Staring out of his study window, he gazed upon a world bathed in a golden glow; but his heart was cold and heavy.
He had just had a visit from the Rev. Alistair Pond-Pond, and the Rev. Alistair had touched him for five shillings.
Many men in Mr. Carmody’s place would have considered that they had got off lightly. The vicar had come seeking subscriptions to the Church Organ Fund, the Mothers’ Pleasant Sunday Evenings, the Distressed Cottagers Aid Society, the Stipend of the Additional Curate, and the Rudge Lads’ Annual Summer Outing; and there had been moments of mad optimism when he had hoped for as much as a ten-pound note.
The actual bag, as he totted it up while riding pensively away on his motor bicycle, was the above-mentioned five shillings and a promise that the squire’s nephew Hugo and his friend Mr. Fish should perform at the village concert next week.
And, even so, Mr. Carmody was looking on him as a robber. Five shillings had gone—just like that; and every moment now he was expecting his nephew John to walk in and increase his expenditure. For just after breakfast John had asked if he could have a word with him later on in the morning—and Mr. Carmody knew what that meant.
John ran the Hall’s dairy farm, and he was always coming to Mr. Carmody for money to buy exotic machinery which could not, the latter considered, be really necessary.
To Mr. Carmody a dairy farm was a straight issue between man and cow. You backed the cow up against a wall, secured its milk, and there you were. John always seemed to want to make the thing so complicated and difficult; and only the fact that he also made it pay induced his uncle ever to accede to his monstrous demands.
Nor was this all that was poisoning a perfect summer day for Mr. Carmody. There was, in addition, the soul-searing behavior of Dr. Alexander Twist of Healthward Ho.
When Dr. Twist had undertaken the contract of making a new Lester Carmody out of the old Lester Carmody, he had cannily stipulated for cash down in advance—this to cover a course of three weeks. But at the end of the second week Mr. Carmody, learning from his nephew Hugo that an American millionaire was arriving at the Hall, had naturally felt compelled to forgo the final stages of the treatment and return home.
Equally naturally, he had invited Dr. Twist to refund one-third of the fee. This the eminent physician and physical culture expert had resolutely declined to do, and Mr. Carmody, rereading the man’s letter, thought he had never set eyes upon a baser document.
HE was shuddering at the depths of depravity which it revealed, when the door opened and John came in. Mr. Carmody beheld him and shuddered. John—he could tell it by his eye—was planning another bad dent in the budget.
“Oh, Uncle Lester,” said John.
“Well?” said Mr. Carmody hopelessly.
“I think we ought to have some new alpha separators.”
“We need them.”
“The old ones are past their work.”
“What,” inquired Mr. Carmody, “is an alpha separator?”
John said it was an alpha separator.
There was a pause. John, who appeared to have something on his mind these days, stared gloomily at the carpet. Mr. Carmody shifted in his chair.
“Very well,” he said.
“And new tractors,” said John. “And we could do with a few harrows.”
“Why do you want harrows?”
Even Mr. Carmody, anxious though he was to find flaws in the other’s reasoning, could see that this might well be so. Try harrowing without harrows, and you are handicapped from the start.
But why harrow at all? That was what seemed to him superfluous and wasteful. Still, he supposed it was unavoidable. After all, John had been carefully trained at an agricultural college after leaving Oxford and presumably knew.
“Very well,” he said.
“All right,” said John.
He went out, and Mr. Carmody experienced a little relief at the thought that he had now heard all this morning’s bad news.
But dairy farmers have second thoughts. The door opened again.
“I was forgetting,” said John, poking his head in.
Mr. Carmody uttered a low moan.
“We want some Thomas tap cinders.”
“Thomas tap cinders?”
“Thomas tap cinders.”
Mr. Carmody swallowed unhappily. He knew it was no use asking what these mysterious implements were, for his nephew would simply reply that they were Thomas tap cinders, or that they were something invented by a Mr. Thomas for the purpose of cinder tapping, leaving his brain in the same addled condition in which it was at present.
If John wished to tap cinders, he supposed he must humor him.
“Very well,” he said dully.
He held his breath for a few moments after the door had closed once more; then, gathering at length that the assault on his purse was over, expelled it in a long sigh and gave himself up to bleak meditation.
The lot of the English landed proprietor, felt Mr. Carmody, is not what it used to be in the good old times.
When the first Carmody settled in Rudge, he had found little to view with alarm. He was sitting pretty, and he admitted it. Those were the days when churls were churls, and a scurvy knave was quite content to work twelve hours a day, Saturdays included, in return for a little black bread and an occasional nod of approval from his overlord.
But in this twentieth century England’s peasantry has degenerated. They expect coddling. Their roofs leak, and you have to mend them; their walls fall down, and you have to build them up; their lanes develop holes, and you have to restore the surface. And all this runs into money.
THE way things were shaping, felt Mr. Carmody, in a few years a landlord would be expected to pay for the repairs of his tenants’ wireless sets.
He wandered to the window and looked out at the sunlit garden. And, as he did so, there came into his range of vision the sturdy figure of his guest, Mr. Molloy; and, for the first time that morning, Lester Carmody seemed to hear, beating faintly in the distance, the wings of the bluebird.
In a world containing anybody as rich looking as Thomas G. Molloy there was surely still hope.
Ronald Fish’s prediction that Hugo’s uncle would appreciate a visit from so solid a citizen of the United States as Mr. Molloy had been fulfilled to the letter. Mr. Carmody had welcomed his guest with open arms. The more rich men he could gather about him, the better he was pleased; for he was a man of vision and had quite a number of schemes in his mind for which he was anxious to obtain financial support.
He decided to go and have a chat with Mr. Molloy.
On a morning like this, with all nature smiling, an American millionaire might well feel just in the mood to put up a few hundred thousand dollars for something. For July had come in on golden wings, and the weather now was the kind of weather to make a poet sing, a lover love, and a Scotch business man subscribe largely to companies formed for the purpose of manufacturing diamonds out of coal tar.
On such a morning, felt Mr. Carmody, anybody ought to be willing to put up any sum for anything.
NATURE continued to smile for about another three and a quarter minutes; and then, as far as Mr. Carmody was concerned, the sun went out. With a genial heartiness which gashed him like a knife, the plutocratic Mr. Molloy declined to invest even a portion of his millions in a new golf course, a cinema de luxe to be established in Rudge High Street, or any of the other four schemes which his host presented to his notice.
“No, sir,” said Mr. Molloy; “I’m mighty sorry I can’t meet you in any way, but the fact is I’m all fixed up in Oil. Oil’s my dish. I began in Oil and I’ll end in Oil. I wouldn’t be happy outside of Oil.”
“Oh?” said Mr. Carmody, regarding this human sardine with as little open hostility and dislike as he could manage on the spur of the moment.
“Yes, sir,” proceeded Mr. Molloy, still in lyrical vein. “I put my first thousand into Oil and I’ll put my last thousand into Oil. Oil’s been a good friend to me. There’s money in Oil.”
“There is money,” urged Mr. Carmody, “in a cinema in Rudge High Street.”
“Not the money there is in Oil.”
“You are a stranger here,” went on Mr. Carmody patiently, “so you have no doubt got a mistaken idea of the potentialities of Rudge. Rudge, you must remember, is a center. Small though it is, never forget that it lies just off the main road in the heart of a prosperous county. Worcester is only seven miles away, Birmingham only eighteen. People would come in their motors—”
“I’m not stopping them,” said Mr. Molloy generously. “All I’m saying is that my money stays in little old Oil.”
“Or take golf,” said Mr. Carmody, side-stepping and attacking from another angle. “The only good golf course in Worcestershire at present is at Stourbridge. Worcestershire needs more golf courses. You know how popular golf is nowadays.”
“Not so popular as Oil. Oil,” said Mr. Molloy, with the air of one making an epigram, “is Oil.”
Mr. Carmody stopped himself just in time from saying what he thought of Oil. To relieve his feelings, he ground his heel into the soft gravel of the path, and had but one regret—that Mr. Molloy’s most sensitive toe was not under it.
Half turning in the process of making this bitter gesture, he perceived that Providence, since the days of Job always curious to know just how much a good man can bear, had sent Ronald Overbury Fish to add to his troubles.
YOUNG Mr. Fish was sauntering up behind his customary eleven inches of cigarette holder, his pink face wearing that expression of good-natured superiority which, ever since their first meeting, had afflicted Mr. Carmody sorely.
From the list of Mr. Carmody’s troubles, recently tabulated, Ronnie Fish was inadvertently omitted.
Although to Lady Julia Fish, his mother, this young gentleman, no doubt, was all the world, Lester Carmody had found him nothing but a pain in the neck.
Apart from the hideous expense of entertaining a man who took twice of nearly everything and helped himself unblushingly to more port, he chafed beneath his quest’s curiously patronizing manner. He objected to being treated as a junior—and, what was more, as a half-witted junior—by solemn young men with pink faces.
“What’s the argument?” asked Ronnie Fish, anchoring self and cigarette holder at Mr. Carmody’s side.
Mr. Molloy smiled genially.
“No argument, brother,” he replied, with that bluff heartiness which Lester Carmody had come to dislike so much. “I was merely telling our good friend and host, here, that the best investment under the broad blue canopy of God’s sky is Oil.”
“Quite right,” said Ronnie Fish. “He’s perfectly correct, my dear Carmody.”
“Our good host was trying to interest me in golf courses.”
“Don’t touch ’em,” said Mr. Fish.
“I won’t,” said Mr. Molloy. “Give me Oil. Oil’s Oil. First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of its countrymen—that’s what Oil is. The Universal Fuel of the Future.”
“Absolutely,” said Ronnie Fish. “What did Gladstone say in ’88? You can fuel some of the people all the time, and you can fuel all the people some of the time, but you can’t fuel all the people all the time. He was forgetting about Oil. Probably he meant coal.”
“Coal?” Mr. Molloy laughed satirically. You could see he despised the stuff. “Don’t talk to me about coal.”
This was another disappointment for Mr. Carmody. Cinemas de luxe and golf courses having failed, coal was just what he had been intending to talk about.
He suspected its presence beneath the turf of the park, and would have been glad to verify his suspicions with the aid of someone else’s capital.
“You listen to this bird, Carmody,” said Mr. Fish, patting his host on the back. “He’s talking sense. Oil’s the stuff. Dig some of the savings out of the old sock, my dear Carmody, and wade in. You’ll never regret it.”
And, having delivered himself of this advice with a fatherly kindliness which sent his host’s temperature up several degrees, Ronnie Fish strolled on.
Mr. Molloy watched him disappear with benevolent approval.
He said to Mr. Carmody that that young man had his head screwed on the right way, and seemed not to notice a certain lack of responsive enthusiasm on the other’s part. Ronnie Fish’s head was not one of Mr. Carmody’s favorite subjects at the moment.
“YES, sir,” said Mr. Molloy, resuming. “Any man that goes into Oil is going into a good thing. Oil’s all right. You don’t see John D. Rockefeller running round asking for handouts from his friends, do you? No, sir! John’s got his modest little competence, same as me, and he got it, like I did, out of Oil.
“Say, listen, Mr. Carmody. It isn’t often I give up any of my holdings. But you’ve been mighty nice to me, inviting me to your home and all, and I’d like to do something for you in return. What do you say to a good, solid block of Silver River stock at just the price it cost me?
“And let me tell you, I’m offering you something that half the big men on our side would give their eyeteeth for. Only a couple of days before I sailed, I was in Charley Schwab’s office, and he said to me, ‘Tom,’ said Charley, ‘right up till now I’ve stuck to steel and I’ve done well. Understand,’ he said, ‘I’m not knocking steel. But Oil’s the stuff, and if you want to part with any of that Silver River of yours, Tom,’ he said, ‘pass it across this desk and write your own ticket.’
“That’ll show you.”
Mr. Molloy’s oily eloquence was the prelude to the hatching of a scheme so audacious that it staggered even its originator. Watch it unfold in next week’s Liberty.