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The Consequences
by [?]

The young man sipped his soda and shook his head as he replied:

“Oh, I couldn’t get a chop, either. I know only flashy people, of course.” He looked up at his host with such a grave and candid expression that Eastman decided there couldn’t be anything very crooked about the fellow. His smooth cheeks were positively cherubic.

“Well, what’s the matter with them? Aren’t they flashing to-night?”

“Only the very new ones seem to flash on New Year’s eve. The older ones fade away. Maybe they are hunting a chop, too.”

“Well”–Eastman sat down–“holidays do dash one. I was just about to write a letter to a pair of maiden aunts in my old home town, up-state; old coasting hill, snow-covered pines, lights in the church windows. That’s what you’ve saved me from.”

Cavenaugh shook himself. “Oh, I’m sure that wouldn’t have been good for you. Pardon me,” he rose and took a photograph from the bookcase, a handsome man in shooting clothes. “Dudley, isn’t it? Did you know him well?”

“Yes. An old friend. Terrible thing, wasn’t it? I haven’t got over the jolt yet.”

“His suicide? Yes, terrible! Did you know his wife?”

“Slightly. Well enough to admire her very much. She must be terribly broken up. I wonder Dudley didn’t think of that.”

Cavenaugh replaced the photograph carefully, lit a cigarette, and standing before the fire began to smoke. “Would you mind telling me about him? I never met him, but of course I’d read a lot about him, and I can’t help feeling interested. It was a queer thing.”

Eastman took out his cigar case and leaned back in his deep chair. “In the days when I knew him best he hadn’t any story, like the happy nations. Everything was properly arranged for him before he was born. He came into the world happy, healthy, clever, straight, with the right sort of connections and the right kind of fortune, neither too large nor too small. He helped to make the world an agreeable place to live in until he was twenty-six. Then he married as he should have married. His wife was a Californian, educated abroad. Beautiful. You have seen her picture?”

Cavenaugh nodded. “Oh, many of them.”

“She was interesting, too. Though she was distinctly a person of the world, she had retained something, just enough of the large Western manner. She had the habit of authority, of calling out a special train if she needed it, of using all our ingenious mechanical contrivances lightly and easily, without over-rating them. She and Dudley knew how to live better than most people. Their house was the most charming one I have ever known in New York. You felt freedom there, and a zest of life, and safety–absolute sanctuary–from everything sordid or petty. A whole society like that would justify the creation of man and would make our planet shine with a soft, peculiar radiance among the constellations. You think I’m putting it on thick?”

The young man sighed gently. “Oh, no! One has always felt there must be people like that. I’ve never known any.”

“They had two children, beautiful ones. After they had been married for eight years, Rosina met this Spaniard. He must have amounted to something. She wasn’t a flighty woman. She came home and told Dudley how matters stood. He persuaded her to stay at home for six months and try to pull up. They were both fair-minded people, and I’m as sure as if I were the Almighty, that she did try. But at the end of the time, Rosina went quietly off to Spain, and Dudley went to hunt in the Canadian Rockies. I met his party out there. I didn’t know his wife had left him and talked about her a good deal. I noticed that he never drank anything, and his light used to shine through the log chinks of his room until all hours, even after a hard day’s hunting. When I got back to New York, rumors were creeping about. Dudley did not come back. He bought a ranch in Wyoming, built a big log house and kept splendid dogs and horses. One of his sisters went out to keep house for him, and the children were there when they were not in school. He had a great many visitors, and everyone who came back talked about how well Dudley kept things going.