"I never saw such a fellow. I begin to think you've got a good deal of imagination. With you, the idlest-fancy freezes into a reality at a breath. Why, you looked, then, as if it wouldn't astonish you if you did tumble into an earldom."
Tracy blushed. Barrow added: "Earldom! Oh, yes, take it, if it offers; but meantime we'll go on looking around, in a modest way, and if you get a chance to superintend a sausage-stuffer at six or eight dollars a week, you just trade off the earldom for a last year's almanac and stick to the sausage-stuffing,"
Tracy went to bed happy once more, at rest in his mind once more. He had started out on a high emprise--that was to his credit, he argued; he had fought the best fight he could, considering the odds against him--that was to his credit; he had been defeated--certainly there was nothing discreditable in that. Being defeated, he had a right to retire with the honors of war and go back without prejudice to the position in the world's society to which he had been born. Why not? even the rabid republican chair-maker would do that. Yes, his conscience was comfortable once more.
He woke refreshed, happy, and eager for his cablegram. He had been born an aristocrat, he had been a democrat for a time, he was now an aristocrat again. He marveled to find that this final change was not merely intellectual, it had invaded his feeling; and he also marveled to note that this feeling seemed a good deal less artificial than any he had entertained in his system for a long time. He could also have noted, if he had thought of it, that his bearing had stiffened, over night, and that his chin had lifted itself a shade. Arrived in the basement, he was about to enter the breakfast room when he saw old Marsh in the dim light of a corner of the hall, beckoning him with his finger to approach. The blood welled slowly up in Tracy's cheek, and he said with a grade of injured dignity almost ducal:
"Is that for me?"
"What is the purpose of it?"
"I want to speak to you-in private."
"This spot is private enough for me."
Marsh was surprised; and not particularly pleased. He approached and said:
"Oh, in public, then, if you prefer. Though it hasn't been my way."
The boarders gathered to the spot, interested.
"Speak out," said Tracy. "What is it you want?"
"Well, haven't you--er--forgot something?"
"I? I'm not aware of it."
"Oh, you're not? Now you stop and think, a minute."
"I refuse to stop and think. It doesn't interest me. If it interests you, speak out."
"Well, then," said Marsh, raising his voice to a slightly angry pitch," You forgot to pay your board yesterday--if you're bound to have it public."
Oh, yes, this heir to an annual million or so had been dreaming and soaring, and had forgotten that pitiful three or four dollars. For penalty he must have it coarsely flung in his face in the presence of these people--people in whose countenances was already beginning to dawn an uncharitable enjoyment of the situation.
"Is that all! Take your money and give your terrors a rest."
Tracy's hand went down into his pocket with angry decision. But-it didn't come out. The color began to ebb out of his face. The countenances about him showed a growing interest; and some of them a heightened satisfaction. There was an uncomfortable pause--then he forced out, with difficulty, the words:
Old Marsh's eyes flamed up with Spanish fire, and he exclaimed:
"Robbed, is it? That's your tune? It's too old--been played in this house too often; everybody plays it that can't get work when he wants it, and won't work when he can get it. Trot out Mr. Allen, somebody, and let him take a toot at it. It's his turn next, he forgot, too, last night. I'm laying for him."
One of the negro women came scrambling down stairs as pale as a sorrel horse with consternation and excitement:
"Misto Marsh, Misto Allen's skipped out!"
"Yes-sah, and cleaned out his room clean; tuck bofe towels en de soap!"
"You lie, you hussy!"
"It's jes' so, jes' as I tells you--en Misto Summer's socks is gone, en Misto Naylor's yuther shirt."