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The Tragedy Of A Snob
by [?]


The first twenty-three years of Andrew Webb’s life were passed in that tranquillity of mind and body induced by regular work, love of exercise, and a good digestion. He lived in a little flat in Harlem, with his widowed mother and a younger sister who was ambitious to become an instructor of the young and to prove that woman may be financially independent of man. At that time Andrew’s salary of thirty dollars a week, earned in a large savings-bank of which he was one of many book-keepers, covered the family’s needs. Mr. Webb had died when his son was sixteen, leaving something under two thousand dollars and a furnished flat in Harlem. For a time the outlook was gloomy. Andrew left school and went to work. Good at figures, stoically steady, he rose by degrees to command a fair remuneration. A brother of Mrs. Webb, currently known as “Uncle Sandy Armstrong,” lived in miserly fashion on the old homestead in New Jersey. Occasionally he sent his sister a ten-dollar bill. Mrs. Webb, believing him to be as straitened as herself, albeit without a family, never applied to him for assistance. Twice a year she dutifully visited him and put his house in order. Her children rarely could be induced to accompany her. They detested their fat garrulous unkempt uncle, and only treated him civilly out of the goodness of their hearts and respect for their mother. On Christmas Day he invariably dined with them, and his meagre presents by no means atoned for his atrocious table-manners.

The family in the flat was a happy one, despite the old carpets, the faded rep furniture, the general air of rigid economy, and the inevitable visits of Uncle Sandy. Mrs. Webb was sweet of temper, firm of character, sound of health. Her cheeks and eyes were faded, her black dress was always rusty, her general air that of a middle-class gentlewoman who bore her reverses bravely. Polly was a plump bright-eyed girl, with a fresh complexion and her mother’s evenness of temper. In spite of her small allowance, she managed to dress in the prevailing style. She had barely emerged from short frocks when she took a course of lessons in dress-making, she knew how to bargain, and spent the summer months replenishing her own and her mother’s wardrobe. Mrs. Webb did the work of the flat, assisted by an Irish maiden who came in by the day: there was no place in the flat for her to sleep.

Andrew was the idol of the family. He supported them, and he was a thoroughly good fellow; he had no bad habits, and they had never seen him angry. His neighbors were regularly made acquainted with the proud fact that he walked home from his office in lower Broadway every afternoon in the year, “except Sundays and during his vacation,” as his mother would add. She was a conscientious woman. Moreover, they thought him very handsome. He was five feet ten, lean, and athletic in appearance. It is true that his head was narrow and his face cast in a heavy mould; but there was no superfluous flesh in his cheeks, and his thick skin was clean. Like his sister, he managed to dress well. He was obliged to buy his clothes ready-made, but he had the gift of selection.

When the subtle change came, his mother and sister uneasily confided to each other the fear that he was in love. As the years passed, however, and he brought them no new demand upon their affections and resources, they ceased to worry, and finally to wonder. Andrew was not the old Andrew; but, if he did not choose to confide the reason, his reserve must be respected. And at least it had affected neither his generosity nor his good temper. He still spent his evenings at home, listened to his mother or Polly read aloud, and never missed the little supper of beer and crackers and cheese before retiring.