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His Gratitude
by [?]


“But surely you do not realize, Robert Garrett, that when you foreclose this mortgage you leave us virtually penniless;” and the large dark eyes of the suppliant were blinded by an agony of tears.

“Really, madam, I regret to seem hard;” and the polished courtesy of the cold, harsh voice fell with heavy weight upon her strained senses. “Your husband has had more time now than any law allows, human or divine.”

“Oh, how gladly he would have paid the debt;” she moaned; “it was his kindness and forbearance to others–kindness that seemed imperative. He could not take the law against his crippled brother, his mother’s dying legacy to him. You know all this–you know, too, that if you will only grant a little longer respite he can settle the claim, or the greater part of it. How then can you be so cruel as to drive us out of doors! You who need nothing of this world’s goods!”

The man of business stirred a little, crossed his well-clad legs in still greater comfort, and audibly repressed a yawn. Then as if unwillingly forced to say something he did it as ungraciously as possible.

“Again I say I grieve to proceed to harsh measures, but”–then as she was about to interpose he broke out irritably, “God bless my soul, Mrs. Blaine, how can you expect anything else! I am obliged to be accurate in my matters, otherwise there would be no end to imposition from shiftless men who are always going to pay but—-never do.”

“This, then, is your ultimatum, sir? You will turn me and my children out wanderers from the old home where I was born–where I had hoped to die? Can you do this? Even you, whom the world calls rich and prosperous and—-charitable!” As she spoke she bent upon him in fine scorn her brilliant eyes dark and piercing.

“Painful things occur every day, my dear madam, in this transitory life. And once in a while the tables turn. I think I remember a time when I pleaded with perhaps not so much eloquence, but quite as much earnestness, for a boon at the hands of pretty Mildred Deering. I didn’t get it, and I have survived, you see. We are apt to magnify our misfortunes;” and a mocking smile told wherein lay the animus that was her undoing.

Then she drew her graceful figure to its full height, and with the contempt of an outraged wife and mother, her words came in tones of concentrated vehemence:

“So! Robert Garrett, this is your vaunted Christianity! You, the immaculate pillar of the church–the friend of the outcast–the chief among philanthropists! Grant your boon? Was there was ever a moment in her sheltered life when Mildred Deering would have consorted with the hypocrite you are? Never! Better a thousand times poverty with nobility and truth in the man she loves. Better an age of privation with Herbert Blaine than a single instant in the presence of such as you. Do your worst! And may God mete out to you and yours the mercy you have shown us!”

Clasping the hand of her little girl who had clung to her mother’s skirts, gazing with wide-open, awestruck eyes at the great man, she was gone in a moment.

“Ah!” uttered Robert Garrett in a long-drawn-out syllable, reaching for the evening paper.

There had been another silent witness of this scene in the person of a lad who stood within the door he had entered just as Mrs. Blaine had appeared in the opposite way. He was a rather ill-favored schoolboy, but his thoughts as he came forward with the lanky awkwardness of youth and took a chair in chimney corner, were not of himself or his looks.

“Father,” he said after some minutes had passed, the rattle of the newspaper and the measured ticking of the clock being the only disturbing sounds, “Father,” he repeated, this time with a falling inflection.