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A Maecenas Of The Pacific Slope
by [?]


As Mr. Robert Rushbrook, known to an imaginative press as the “Maecenas of the Pacific Slope,” drove up to his country seat, equally referred to as a “palatial villa,” he cast a quick but practical look at the pillared pretensions of that enormous shell of wood and paint and plaster. The statement, also a reportorial one, that its site, the Canyon of Los Osos, “some three years ago was disturbed only by the passing tread of bear and wild-cat,” had lost some of its freshness as a picturesque apology, and already successive improvements on the original building seemingly cast the older part of the structure back to a hoary antiquity. To many it stood as a symbol of everything Robert Rushbrook did or had done–an improvement of all previous performances; it was like his own life–an exciting though irritating state of transition to something better. Yet the visible architectural result, as here shown, was scarcely harmonious; indeed, some of his friends–and Maecenas had many–professed to classify the various improvements by the successive fortunate ventures in their owner’s financial career, which had led to new additions, under the names, of “The Comstock Lode Period,” “The Union Pacific Renaissance,” “The Great Wheat Corner,” and “Water Front Gable Style,” a humorous trifling that did not, however, prevent a few who were artists from accepting Maecenas’s liberal compensation for their services in giving shape to those ideas.

Relinquishing to a groom his fast-trotting team, the second relay in his two hours’ drive from San Francisco, he leaped to the ground to meet the architect, already awaiting his orders in the courtyard. With his eyes still fixed upon the irregular building before him, he mingled his greeting and his directions.

“Look here, Barker, we’ll have a wing thrown out here, and a hundred-foot ballroom. Something to hold a crowd; something that can be used for music–sabe?–a concert, or a show.”

“Have you thought of any style, Mr. Rushbrook?” suggested the architect.

“No,” said Rushbrook; “I’ve been thinking of the time–thirty days, and everything to be in. You’ll stop to dinner. I’ll have you sit near Jack Somers. You can talk style to him. Say I told you.”

“You wish it completed in thirty days?” repeated the architect, dubiously.

“Well, I shouldn’t mind if it were less. You can begin at once. There’s a telegraph in the house. Patrick will take any message, and you can send up to San Francisco and fix things before dinner.”

Before the man could reply, Rushbrook was already giving a hurried interview to the gardener and others on his way to the front porch. In another moment he had entered his own hall,–a wonderful temple of white and silver plaster, formal, yet friable like the sugared erection of a wedding cake,–where his major-domo awaited him.

“Well, who’s here?” asked Rushbrook, still advancing towards his apartments.

“Dinner is set for thirty, sir,” said the functionary, keeping step demurely with his master, “but Mr. Appleby takes ten over to San Mateo, and some may sleep there. The char-a-banc is still out and five saddle-horses, to a picnic in Green Canyon, and I can’t positively say, but I should think you might count on seeing about forty-five guests before you go to town to-morrow. The opera troupe seem to have not exactly understood the invitation, sir.”

“How? I gave it myself.”

“The chorus and supernumeraries thought themselves invited too, sir, and have come, I believe, sir. At least Signora Pegrelli and Madame Denise said so, and that they would speak to you about it, but that meantime I could put them up anywhere.”

“And you made no distinction, of course?”

“No, sir, I put them in the corresponding rooms opposite, sir. I don’t think the prima donnas like it.”


“Yes, sir.”

Whatever was in their minds, the two men never changed their steady, practical gravity of manner. The major-domo’s appeared to be a subdued imitation of his master’s, worn, as he might have worn his master’s clothes, had he accepted, or Mr. Rushbrook permitted, such a degradation. By this time they had reached the door of Mr. Rushbrook’s room, and the man paused. “I didn’t include some guests of Mr. Leyton’s, sir, that he brought over here to show around the place, but he told me to tell you he would take them away again, or leave them, as you liked. They’re some Eastern strangers stopping with him.”