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The Flaming Cross
by [?]


It was already midnight when Orville, Thornton and Callovan arose from a table of the club dining-room and came down in the elevator for their hats and coats. They had spent an evening together, delightful to all three. This dinner and chat had become an annual affair, to give the old chums of St. Wilbur’s a chance to live over college days, and keep a fine friendship bright and lasting. Not one of them was old enough to feel much change from the spirit of youth. St. Wilbur’s was a fresh memory and a pleasant one; and no friends of business or society had grown half so precious for any one of these three men as were the other two, whom the old college had introduced and had bound to him.

The difference in the appearance of the friends was very marked. Thornton had kept his promise of growing up as he had started: short, fat and jovial. Baldness was beginning to show at thirty-five. His stubby mustache was as unmanageable as the masters of St. Wilbur’s had found its owner to be. He had never affected anything, for he had always been openly whatever he allowed himself to drift into. Neither of his friends liked many of his actions, nor the stories told of him; but they liked him personally and were inclined to be silently sorry for him, but not to sit in judgment upon him. Both Orville and Callovan waited and hoped for “old Thornton”; but the wait had been long and the hope very much deferred.

Callovan was frankly Irish. The curly black hair of the Milesian spoke for him as clearly as the blue-gray eye. He shaved clean and he looked clean. An ancestry of hard workers left limbs that lifted him to almost six feet of strong manhood. His skin was ruddy and fresh. Two years younger than Thornton, he yet looked younger by five. And Callovan, like Thornton, was inwardly what the outward signs promised.

Orville was tall and straight. The ghost of a black mustache was on his lip. His hair was scanty, and was parted carefully. His dress showed taste, but not fastidiousness. He was handsome, well groomed and particular, without obtrusiveness in any one of the points. He was just a little taller than Callovan; but he was grayer and a great deal more thoughtful. He was a hard book to read, even for an intimate; but the print was large, if the text was puzzling. He looked to be “in” the world, but who could say if he were “of” it?

All three of these friends were very rich. Thornton had made his money within five years–a lucky mining strike, a quick sale, a move to the city, speculation, politics were mixed up in a sort of rapid-fire story that the other friends never cared to hear the details of. Callovan inherited his wealth from his hard-fisted old father, who had died but a year before. Orville was the richest of the three. He had always been rich. His father had died a month before he was born. His mother paid for her only child with her life. Orville’s guardian had, as soon as possible, placed him in St. Wilbur’s Preparatory School and then in the College; but he was a careful and wise man, this guardian, so, though plenty of money was allowed him, yet the college authorities had charge of it. They doled it out to the growing boy and youth in amounts that could neither spoil nor starve him. It was good for Orville that the guardian had been thus wise and the college authorities thus prudent. He himself was generous and kind-hearted; by nature a spendthrift, but by training just a bit of a miser. He had learned a little about values during these school and college days.