Wanted: A Husband / A Novel
Wanted: A Husband / A Novel
A T its best, the old Remsen house on West Twelfth Street, wore its ancestral respectability cloaked with gloom. Home though it was to Jacob of that name and possession, he regarded it with distinct distaste as he approached the dull, brown steps leading to the massive door. All that could reasonably be done to furbish it up against the young master's return, old Connor, Jacob's inherited man, had faithfully attempted: the house's face was at least washed, and its linen, so to speak, fresh and clean. But a home long unused becomes musty to a sense deeper than the physical. Entering, young Mr. Remsen felt a chill descend upon his blithe spirit. A basso profondo clock within struck a hollow five.
"Hark from the tomb!" observed young Mr. Remsen. "I think I'll move to the club." Slow footsteps, sounding from below, dissipated that intention.
"No; I can't do that. I've got to stay here and be looked after by old Connor, or forever wound his feelings. That's the worst of family responsibilities."
The footsteps mounted the basement stairs unevenly and with a suggestion of a stagger in them.
"What! Connor taken to drink?" thought Jacob with sinful amusement. "Wonder where he found it. There is hope, still!"
The old servitor puffed into sight half carrying, half dragging a huge clothes-basket. "What's that?" demanded Jacob':
"Your mail, sir."
"Is that all?" asked the other, with a sardonicism which was lost upon Connor's matter-of-fact mind.
"No, sir. There's another half-basket downstairs."
"Good Lord! What'll do with it?"
"If I may suggest, sir, it ought to be read."
"Sound idea! You read it, Connor."
"Certainly. I don't feel up to it. I'm tired. Strain of travel and all that sort of thing. Besides"-he cast a glance of repulsion upon the white heap-"this suggests work. And you know my principles regarding work."
"Yes, sir." Connor rubbed his ear painfully. Of course the master was joking. Always a great one for his joke, he was. But-
"There's a special delivery quite at the top, sir, marked 'Immediate.' Don't you think that perhaps-"
"Oh, all right: all right! If I've got to begin I may as well go through."
Having, like some thousands of other young Americans, departed from his native land and normal routine of life for a long period on important business of a muddy, sanguinary, and profoundly wearisome nature, concerning which he had but the one wish, namely, to forget the whole ugly but necessary affair as swiftly and comprehensively as possible, Mr Jacob Remsen had deemed it wise to cut loose from home considerations as far as feasible; but he now reflected that he had perhaps made a mistake in having no mail forwarded. Well, there was nothing for it but to make up for arrears. He took off his coat and plunged in. The "immediate" special he set aside, to teach it, as he stated to the acquiescent Connor, not to be so infernally assertive and insistent, while he ran through a few scores of communications, mainly devoted to inviting him to dinners and dances which had passed into the shades anywhere from a year to eighteen months previously.
"Now, I'll attend to you," said he severely to the special. "Only, don't brag about your superior importance, next time."
He opened it and glanced at the heading. "Connor," said he, "this is from Mr. Bentley."
"Yes, Mr. Jacob."
"He says it is necessary for him to see me without delay."
"Do you believe, Connor, that it is really as necessary as he pretends for Mr. Bentley to see me without delay?"
"Mr. Bentley is your lawyer, sir," pointed out Connor firmly. "If he says so, sir, I think it would be so."
"You're wrong, Connor; you're wrong! This letter is dated just seven weeks ago. As I haven't seen Mr. Bentley yet, and am still in good health