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The Purple Parasol   By: (1866-1928)

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Young Rossiter did not like the task. The more he thought of it as he whirled northward on the Empire State Express the more distasteful it seemed to grow.

"Hang it all," he thought, throwing down his magazine in disgust, "it's like police work. And heaven knows I haven't wanted to be a cop since we lived in Newark twenty years ago. Why the dickens did old Wharton marry her? He's an old ass, and he's getting just what he might have expected. She's twenty five and beautiful; he's seventy and a sight. I've a notion to chuck the whole affair and go back to the simple but virtuous Tenderloin. It's not my sort, that's all, and I was an idiot for mixing in it. The firm served me a shabby trick when it sent me out to work up this case for Wharton. It's a regular Peeping Tom Job, and I don't like it."

It will require but few words to explain Sam Rossiter's presence in the north bound Empire Express, but it would take volumes to express his feelings on the subject in general. Back in New York there lived Godfrey Wharton, millionaire and septuagenarian. For two years he had been husband to one of the prettiest, gayest young women in the city, and in the latter days of this responsibility he was not a happy man. His wife had fallen desperately, even conspicuously, in love with Everett Havens, the new leading man at one of the fashionable playhouses. The affair had been going on for weeks, and it had at last become the talk of the town. By "the town" is meant that vague, expansive thing known as the "Four Hundred." Sam Rossiter, two years out of Yale, was an attachment to, but not a component part of, the Four Hundred. The Whartons were of the inner circle.

Young Rossiter was ambitious. He was, besides, keen, aggressive, and determined to make well for himself. Entering the great law offices of Grover & Dickhut immediately after leaving college, he devoted himself assiduously to the career in prospect. He began by making its foundation as substantial as brains and energy would permit. So earnest, so successful was he that Grover & Dickhut regarded him as the most promising young man in New York. They predicted a great future for him, no small part of which was the ultimate alteration of an office shingle, the name of Rossiter going up in gilt, after that of Dickhut. And, above all, Rossiter was a handsome, likable chap. Tall, fair, sunny hearted, well groomed, he was a fellow that both sexes liked without much effort.

The Wharton trouble was bound to prove startling any way one looked at it. The prominence of the family, the baldness of its skeleton, and the gleeful eagerness with which it danced into full view left but little for meddlers to covet. A crash was inevitable; it was the clash that Grover & Dickhut were trying to avert. Old Wharton, worn to a slimmer frazzle than he had ever been before his luckless marriage, was determined to divorce his insolent younger half. It was to be done with as little noise as possible, more for his own sake than for hers. Wharton was proud in, not of, his weakness.

It became necessary to "shadow" the fair d├ębutante into matrimony. After weeks of indecision Mr. Wharton finally arose and swore in accents terrible that she was going too far to be called back. He determined to push, not to pull, on the reins. Grover & Dickhut were commanded to get the "evidence"; he would pay. When he burst in upon them and cried in his cracked treble that "the devil's to pay," he did not mean to cast any aspersion upon the profession in general or particular. He was annoyed.

"She's going away next week," he exclaimed, as if the lawyers were to blame for it.

"Well, and what of it?" asked Mr. Grover blandly.

"Up into the mountains," went on Mr. Wharton triumphantly.

"Is it against the law?" smiled the old lawyer.

"Confound the law! I don't object to her going up into the mountains for a rest, but "

"It's much too hot in town for her, I fancy... Continue reading book >>

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