Tommy and Thomas by Octave Thanet
IT was while Harry Lossing was at the High School that Mrs. Carriswood
first saw Tommy Fitzmaurice. He was not much to see, a long lad of sixteen
who had outgrown his jackets and was not yet grown to his ears.
At this period Mrs. Fitzmaurice was his barber, and she, having been too
rash with the shears in one place, had snipped off the rest of his curly
black locks "to match;" until he showed a perfect convict's poll, giving
his ears all the better chance, and bringing out the rather square contour
of his jaws to advantage. He had the true Irish-Norman face; a skin of
fine texture, fair and freckled, high cheekbones, straight nose, and wide
blue eyes that looked to be drawn with ink, because of their sharply
pencilled brows and long, thick, black lashes. But the feature that Mrs.
Carriswood noticed was Tommy's mouth, a flexible and delicately cut mouth,
of which the lips moved lightly in speaking and seldom were quite in
"The genuine Irish orator's mouth," thought Mrs. Carriswood.
Tommy, however, was not a finished orator, and Mrs. Carriswood herself
deigned to help him with his graduating oration; Tommy delivering the
aforesaid oration from memory, on the stage of the Grand Opera House, to a
warm-hearted and perspiring audience of his towns-people, amid tremendous
applause and not the slightest prod-dings of conscience.
Really the speech deserved the applause; Mrs. Carriswood, who had heard
half the eloquence of the world, spent three evenings on it; and she has a
Her part in the affair always amused her; though, in fact, it came to pass
easily. She had the great fortune of the family. Being a widow with no
children, and the time not being come when philanthropy beckons on the
right hand and on the left to free-handed women, Mrs. Carriswood
travelled. As she expressed it, she was searching the globe for a perfect
climate. "Not that I in the least expect to find it," said she,
cheerfully, "but I like to vary my disappointments; when I get worn out
being frozen, winters, I go somewhere to be soaked." She was on her way to
California this time, with her English maid, who gave the Lossing
domestics many a jolly moment by her inextinguishable panic about red
Indians. Mrs. Derry supposed these savages to be lurking on the prairie
outside every Western town; and almost fainted when she did chance to turn
the corner upon three Kickapoo Indians, splendid in paint and feathers,
and peacefully vending the "Famous Kickapoo Sagwa." She had others of the
artless notions of the travelling English, and I fear that they were
encouraged not only by the cook, the "second girl," and the
man-of-all-work, but by Harry and his chum, Tommy; I know she used to tell
how she saw tame buffalo "roosting" on the streets, "w'ich they do look
that like common cows a body couldn't tell 'em hapart!"
She had a great opinion of Tommy, a mystery to her mistress for a long
time, until one day it leaked out that Tommy "and Master Harry, too," had
told her that Tommy's great-grandfather was a lord in the old country.
"The family seem to have sunk in the world since, Derry," was Mrs.
Carriswood's single remark, as she smiled to herself. After Derry was
dismissed she picked up a letter, written that day to a friend of hers,
and read some passages about Harry and Tommy, smiling again.
"Harry"—one may look over her pretty shoulder without impertinence,
in a story—"Harry," she wrote, "is a boy that I long to steal. Just
the kind of boy we have both wanted, Sarah—frank, happy,
affectionate. I must tell you something about him. It came out by
accident. He has the Western business instincts, and what do you suppose
he did? He actually started a wee shop of his own in the corner of the
yard (really it is a surprisingly pretty place, and they are quite
civilized in the house, gas, hot water, steam heat, all most comfortable),
and sold 'pop' and candy and cakes to the boys. He made so much money that
he proposed a partnership to the cook and the setting up a little booth in
the 'county fair,' which is like our rural cattle shows, you know. The
cook (a superior person who borrows books from Mrs. Lossing, but seems
very decent and respectful notwithstanding, and broils game to perfection.
And SUCH game as we have here, Sarah!)—well, the cook made him
cream-cakes, sandwiches, tarts, and candy, and Harry honorably bought all
the provisions with his profits from the first venture. You will open your
eyes at his father permitting such a thing, but Henry Lossing is a
thorough Westerner in some ways, and he looks on it all as a joke. 'Might
show the boy how to do business,' he says.
"Well, they had a ravishing display, so Alma, the cook, and William, the
man, assured me—per Derry. All the sadder its fate; for alas! a gang
of rowdy boys fell upon Harry, and while he was busy fighting half of them—he
is as plucky as his uncle, the general—the other half looted the
beautiful stock in trade! They would have despoiled our poor little
merchant entirely but for the opportune arrival of a schoolmate who is
mightily respected by the rowdies. He knocked one of them down and shouted
after the others that he would give every one of them a good thrashing if
they did not bring the plunder back; and as he is known to be a lad of his
word for good or evil, actually the scamps did return most of the booty,
which the two boys brushed off and sold, as far as it went (!) The
consequence of the fray has been that Harry is unboundedly grateful to
this Tommy Fitzmaurice, and is at present coaching him on his graduating
oration. Fitzmaurice has studied hard and won honors, and wants to make a
show with his oration, to please his father. 'You see,' says Harry,
'Tommy's father has saved money and is spending it all on Tommy, so's he
can be educated. He needs Tommy in the business real bad, but he won't let
him come in; he keeps him at school, and he thinks everything of his
getting the valedictory, and Tommy, he worked nights studying to get it.'
When I asked what was the father's business, Harry grew a bit confused.
'Well, he kept a saloon; but'—Harry hastened to explain—'it
was a very nice saloon, never any trouble with the police there; why,
Tommy knew every man on the force. And they keep good liquors, too,' said
Harry, earnestly; 'throw away all the beer left in the glasses.' 'What
else would they do with it?' asked innocent I. 'Why, keep it in a bucket,'
said Harry, solemnly, 'and then slip the glass under the counter and half
fill out of the bucket, then hold it under the keg LOW, so's the foam will
come; that's a trick of the trade, you know. Tommy says his father would
SCORN that!' There is a vista opened, isn't there? I was rather shocked at
such associates for Harry, and told his mother. Did she think it a good
idea to have such a boy coming to the house? a saloon-keeper's son? She
did not laugh, as I half expected, but answered quite seriously that she
had been looking up Tommy, that he was very much attached to Harry, and
that she did not think he would teach him anything bad. He has, I find
myself, notions of honor, though they are rather the code of the street.
And he picks up things quickly. Once he came to tea. It was amusing to see
how he glued his eyes on Harry and kept time with his motions. He used his
fork quite properly, only as Harry is a left-handed little fellow, the
right-handed Thomas had the more difficulty.
"He is taking such vast pains with his 'oration' that I felt moved to help
him. The subject is 'The Triumph of Democracy,' and Tommy civilly
explained that 'democracy' did not mean the Democratic party, but 'just
only a government where all the poor folks can get their rights and can
"The oration was the kind of spread-eagle thing you might expect; I can
see that Tommy has formed himself on the orators of his father's
respectable saloon. What he said in comment interested me more. 'Sure, I
guess it is the best government, ma'am, though, of course, I got to make
it out that way, anyhow. But we come from Ireland, and there they got the
other kind, and me granny, she starved in the famine time, she did that—with
the fever. Me father walked twenty mile to the Sackville's place, where
they gave him some meal, though he wasn't one of their tenants; yes, and
the lady told him how he would be cooking it. I never will forget that
"I saw a dramatic opportunity: would Tommy be willing to tell that story
in his speech? He looked at me with an odd look—or so I imagined it!
'Why not?' says he; 'I'd as soon as not tell it to anyone of them, and why
not to them all together?' Well, why not, when you come to think of it? So
we have got it into the speech; and I, I myself, Sarah, am drilling young
Demos-thenes, and he is so apt a scholar that I find myself rather
pleasantly employed." Having read her letter, Mrs. Carriswood hesitated a
second and then added Derry's information at the bottom of the page. "I
suppose the lordly ancestor was one of King James's creation—see
Macaulay, somewhere in the second volume. I dare say there is a drop or
two of good blood in the boy. He has the manners of a gentleman—but
I don't know that I ever saw an Irishman, no matter how low in the social
scale, who hadn't."
Thus it happened that Tommy's valedictory scored a success that is a
tradition of the High School, and came to be printed in both the city
papers; copies of which journals Tommy's mother has preserved sacredly to
this day; and I have no doubt, could one find them, they would be found
wrapped around a yellow photograph of the "A Class" of 1870: eight pretty
girls in white, smiling among five solemn boys in black, and Tommy
himself, as the valedictorian, occupying the centre of the picture in his
new suit of broadcloth, with a rose in his buttonhole and his hair cut by
a professional barber for the occasion.
It was the story of the famine that really captured the audience; and
Tommy told it well, with the true Irish fire, in a beautiful voice.
In the front seat of the parquette a little old man in a wrinkled black
broadcloth, with a bald head and a fringe of whisker under his long chin,
and a meek little woman, in a red Paisley shawl, wept and laughed by
turns. They had taken the deepest interest in every essay and every
speech. The old man clapped his large hands (which were encased in loose,
black kid gloves) with unflagging vigor. He wore a pair of heavy boots,
the soles of which made a noble thud on the floor.
"Ain't it wonderful the like of them young craters can talk like that!" he
cried; "shure, Molly, that young lady who'd the essay—where is it?"—a
huge black forefinger travelled down the page—"'Music, The
Turkish Patrol,' No—though that's grand, that piece; I'll be
spakin' wid Professor Von Keinmitz to bring it when we've the opening.
Here 'tis, Molly: 'Tin, Essay. The Darkest Night Brings Out the Stars,
Miss Mamie Odenheimer.' Thrue for you, mavourneen! And the sintiments,
wasn't they illigant? and the lan-gwidge was as foine as Pat Ronan's
speeches or Father—whist! will ye look at the flowers that shlip of
a gyirl's gitting! Count 'em, will ye?"
"Fourteen bouquets and wan basket," says the little woman, "and Mamie
Odenheimer, she got seventeen bouquets and two baskets and a sign. Well,"
she looked anxious, but smiled, "I know of siven bouquets Tommy will git
for sure. And that's not countin' what Harry Lossing will do for him.
Hiven bless the good heart of him!"
"Well, I kin count four for him on wan seat," says the man, with a nod of
his head toward the gay heap in the woman's lap, "barrin' I ain't
on-vaygled into flinging some of thim to the young ladies!"
Harry Lossing, in the seat behind with his mother and Mrs. Carriswood,
giggled at this and whispered in the latter lady's ear, "That's Tommy's
father and mother. My, aren't they excited, though! And Tommy's white's a
sheet—for fear he'll disappoint them, you know. He has said his
piece over twice to me, to-day, he's so scared lest he'll forget. I've got
it in my pocket, and I'm going behind when it's his turn, to prompt him.
Did you see me winking at him? it sort of cheers him up."
He was almost as keen over the floral procession as the Fitzmaurices
themselves. The Lossing garden had been stripped to the last bud, and
levies made on the asparagus-bed, into the bargain, and Mrs. Lossing and
Alma and Mrs. Carriswood and Derry and Susy Lossing had made bouquets and
baskets and wreaths, and Harry had distributed them among friends in
different parts of the house. I say Harry, but, complimented by Mrs.
Carriswood, he admitted ingenuously that it was Tommy's idea.
"Tommy thought they would make more show that way," says Harry, "and they
are all on the middle aisle, so his father and mother can see them; Tim
O'Halloran has got one for him, too, and Mrs. Macillarney, and she's got
some splendid pinies. Picked every last one. They'll make a show!"
But Harry knew nothing of the most magnificent of his friend's trophies
until it undulated gloriously down the aisle, above the heads of two men,
white satin ribbons flying, tinfoil shining—an enormous horseshoe of
roses and mignonette!
The parents were both on their feet to crane their necks after it, as it
passed them amid the plaudits.
"Oh, it was YOU, Cousin Margaret; I know it was you," cried Harry.
He took the ladies over to the Fitzmaurices the minute that the diplomas
were given; and, directly, Tommy joined them, attended by two admiring
followers laden with the trophies. Mrs. O'Halloran and Mrs. Macillarney
and divers of the friends, both male and female, joined the circle. Tommy
held quite a little court. He shook hands with all the ladies, beginning
with Mrs. Carriswood (who certainly never had found herself before in such
a company, jammed between Alderman McGinnis's resplendent new tweeds and
Mrs. Macillarney's calico); he affectionately embraced his mother, and he
allowed himself to be embraced by Mrs. Macillarney and Mrs. O'Halloran,
while Patrick Fitzmaurice shook hands with the alderman.
"Here's the lady that helped me on me piece, father; she's the lady that
sent me the horseshoe, mother. Like to make you acquainted with me father
and me mother. Mr. and Mrs. Fitzmaurice, Mrs. Carriswood."
In these words, Tommy, blushing and happy, presented his happy parents.
"Sure, I'm proud to meet you, ma'am," said Fitzmaurice, bowing, while his
wife courtesied and wiped her eyes.
They were very grateful, but they were more grateful for the flowers than
for the oratorical drilling. No doubt they thought that their Tommy could
have done as well in any case; but the splendid horseshoe was another
Ten years passed before Mrs. Carriswood saw her pupil again. During those
years the town had increased and prospered; so had the Lossing Art
Furniture Works. It was after Harry Lossing had disappointed his father.
This is not saying that he had done anything out of the way; he had simply
declined to be the fourth Harry Lossing on the rolls of Harvard College.
Instead, he proposed to enter the business and to begin by learning his
own trade. He was so industrious, he kept at it with such energy that his
first convert was his father—no, I am wrong, Mrs. Carriswood was the
first; Mrs. Lossing was not a convert, SHE had believed in Harry from the
beginning. But all this was years before Mrs. Carriswood's visit.
Another of Master Harry's notions was his belief in the necessity of his
"meddling"—so his father put it—in the affairs of the town,
the state, and the nation, as well as those of the Lossing furniture
company. But, though he was pleased to make rather cynical fun of his
son's political enthusiasm, esteeming it in a sense a diverting and
therefore reprehensible pursuit for a business man, the elder Lossing had
a sneaking pride in it, all the same. He liked to bring out Harry's
"Fancy, Margaret," says he, "whom do you think Harry has brought over to
our side now? The shrewdest ward politician in the town—why, you saw
him when he was a boy—Tommy Fitzmaurice."
Then Mrs. Carriswood remembered; she asked, amused, how was Tommy and
where was he?
"Tommy? Oh, he went to the State university; the old man was bound to send
him, and he was more dutiful than some sons. He was graduated with honors,
and came back to a large, ready-made justice court's practice. Of course
he drifted into criminal practice; but he has made a fine income out of
that, and is the shrewdest, some folks say the least scrupulous, political
manager in the county. And so, Harry, you have persuaded him to cast in
his lot with the party of principle, have you? and he is packing the
"I see nothing dishonest in our trying to get our friends out to vote at
the primaries, sir."
"Of course not, but he may not stop there. However, I want Bailey elected,
and I am glad he will work for us; what's his price?"
Harry blushed a little. "I believe he would like to be city attorney,
sir," said he; and Mr. Lossing laughed.
"Would he make a bad one?" asked Mrs. Carriswood.
"He would make the best kind of a one," replied Harry, with youthful
fervor; "he's a ward politician and all that, I know; but he has it in him
to be an uncommon deal more! And I say, sir, do you know that he and the
old man will take twenty-five thousand of the stock at par if we turn
ourselves into a corporation?"
"How about this new license measure? won't that bear a little bit hard on
the old man?" This from Mr. Lossing, who was biting his cigar in deep
"That will not prevent his doing his duty; why, the old man for very pride
will be the first to obey the law. You'll SEE!"
Six months later they did see, since it was mostly due to Fitzmaurice's
efforts that the reform candidate was elected; as a consequence, Tommy
became prosecuting attorney; and, to the amazement of the critics, made
the best prosecuting attorney that the city had ever known.
It was during the campaign that Mrs. Carriswood met him. Her goddaughter,
daughter of the friend to whom years ago she described Tommy, was with
her. This time Mrs. Carriswood had recently added Florida to her
disappointments in climates, and was back, as she told Mrs. Lossing, "with
a real sense of relief in a climate that was too bad to make any
She had brought Miss Van Harlem to see the shops. It may be that she would
not have been averse to Harry Lossing's growing interested in young
Margaret. She had seen a great deal of Harry while he was East at school,
and he remained her first favorite, while Margaret was as good as she was
pretty, and had half a million of dollars in her own right. They had seen
Harry, and he was showing them through the different buildings or "shops,"
when a man entered who greeted him cordially, and whom he presented to
Mrs. Carriswood. It was Tommy Fitzmaurice, grown into a handsome young
man. He brought his heels together and made the ladies a solemn bow.
"Pleased to meet you, ladies; how do you like the West?" said Tommy.
His black locks curled about his ears, which seemed rather small now; he
had a good nose and a mobile, clean-shaven face. His hands were very white
and soft, and the rim of linen above them was dazzling. His black
frock-coat was buttoned snugly about his slim waist. He brushed his face
with a fine silk handkerchief, and thereby diffused the fragrance of the
best imported cologne among the odors of wood and turpentine. A diamond
pin sparkled from his neckscarf. The truth is, he knew that the visitors
were coming and had made a state toilet. "He looks half like an actor and
half like a clergyman, and he IS all a politician," thought Mrs.
Carriswood; "I don't think I shall like him any more." While she thought,
she was inclining her slender neck toward him, and the gentlest interest
and pleasure beamed out of her beautiful, dark eyes.
"We like the West, but I have liked it for ten years; this is not
my first visit," said Mrs. Carriswood.
"I have reason to be glad for that, madam. I never made another speech so
He had remembered her; she laughed. "I had thought that you would forget."
"How could I, when you have not changed at all?"
"But you have," says Mrs. Carriswood, hardly knowing whether to show the
young man his place or not.
"Yes, ma'am, naturally. But I have not learned how to make a speech yet."
"Ah, but you make very good ones, Harry tells me."
"Much obliged, Harry. No, ma'am, Harry is a nice boy; but he doesn't know.
I know there is a lot to learn, and I guess a lot to unlearn; and I feel
all outside; I don't even know how to get at it. I have wished a thousand
times that I could talk with the lady who taught me to speak in the first
place." He walked on by her side, talking eagerly. "You don't know how
many times I have felt I would give most anything for the opportunity of
just seeing you and talking with you; those things you said to me I always
remembered." He had a hundred questions evidently stinging his tongue. And
some of them seemed to Mrs. Carriswood very apposite.
"I'm on the outside of such a lot of things," says he. "When I first began
to suspect that I was on the outside was when I went to the High School,
and sometimes I was invited to Harry's; that was my first acquaintance
with cultivated society. You can't learn manners from books, ma'am. I
learned them at Harry's. That is,"—he colored and laughed,—"I
learned SOME. There's plenty left, I know. Then, I went to the University.
Some of the boys came from homes like Harry's, and some of the professors
there used to ask us to their houses; and I saw engravings and oil
paintings, and heard the conversation of persons of culture. All this only
makes me know enough to KNOW I am outside. I can see the same thing with
the lawyers, too. There is a set of them that are after another kind of
things; that think themselves above me and my sort of fellows. You know
all the talk about this being a free and equal country. That's the tallest
kind of humbug, madam! It is that. There are sets, one above another,
everywhere; big bugs and little bugs, if you will excuse the expression.
And you can't influence the big ones without knowing how they feel. A
fellow can't be poking in the dark in a speech or anywhere else. Now,
these fellows here, they go into politics, sometimes; and there, I tell
you, we come the nearest to a fair field and no favor! It is the best
fellow gets the prize there—the sharpest-witted, the nerviest, and
stanchest. Oh, talk of machine politics! all the soft chaps who ain't
willing to get up early in the morning, or to go out in the wet, THEY howl
about the primaries and corruption; let them get up and clean the
primaries instead of holding their noses! Those fellows, I'm not nice
enough for them, but I can beat them every time. They make a monstrous
racket in the newspapers, but when election comes on they can't touch
side, edge, or bottom!"
Discoursing in this fashion, with digressions to Harry in regard to the
machines, the furniture, and the sales, that showed Mrs. Carriswood that
he meant to keep an eye on his twenty odd thousand dollars, he strolled at
her side. To Miss Van Harlem he scarcely said three words. In fact, he
said exactly three words, uttered as Miss Margaret's silken skirts swung
too near a pot of varnish. They were "Look out, miss!" and at the same
second, Tommy (who was in advance, with really no call to know of the
danger), turned on his heel and whisked the skirts away, turning back to
pick up the sentence he had dropped.
Tommy told Harry that Miss Van Harlem was a very handsome lady, but
haughty-looking. Then he talked for half an hour about the cleverness of
"I am inclined to think Tommy will rise." (Mrs. Carriswood was describing
the interview to her cousin, the next day.) "What do you think he said to
me last of all? 'How,' said he, 'does a man, a gentleman'—it had a
touch of the pathetic, don't you know, the little hesitation he made on
the word—'how does he show his gratitude to a lady who has done him
a great service?' 'Young or old?' I said. 'Oh, a married lady,' he said,
'very much admired, who has been everywhere.' Wasn't that clever of him? I
told him that a man usually sent a few flowers. You saw the basket to-day—evidently
regardless of expense. And fancy, there was a card, a card with a gilt
edge and his name written on it."
"The card was his mother's. She has visiting cards, now, and pays visits
once a year in a livery carriage. Poor Mrs. Fitzmaurice, she is always so
scared; and she is such a good soul! Tommy is very good to her."
"How about the father? Does he still keep that 'nice' saloon?"
"Yes; but he talks of retiring. They are not poor at all, and Tommy is
their only child; the others died. It is hard on the old man to retire,
for he isn't so very old in fact, but if he once is convinced that his
calling stands in the way of Tommy's career, he won't hesitate a second."
"Poor people," said Mrs. Carriswood; "do you know, Grace, I can see
Tommy's future; he will grow to be a boss, a political boss. He will
become rich by keeping your streets always being cleaned—which means
never clean—and giving you the worst fire department and police to
be obtained for money; and, by and by, a grateful machine will make him
mayor, or send him to the Legislature, very likely to Congress, where he
will misrepresent the honest State of Iowa. Then he will bloom out in a
social way, and marry a gentlewoman, and they will snub the old people who
are so proud of him."
"Well, we shall see," said Mrs. Lossing; "I think better things of Tommy.
So does Harry."
Part of the prophecy was to be speedily fulfilled. Two years later, the
Honorable Thomas Fitzmaurice was elected mayor of his city, elected by the
reform party, on account of his eminent services—and because he was
the only man in sight who had the ghost of a chance of winning. Harry's
version was: "Tommy jests at his new principles, but that is simply
because he doesn't comprehend what they are. He laughs at reform in the
abstract; but every concrete, practical reform he is as anxious as I or
anybody to bring about. And he will get them here, too."
He was as good as his word; he gave the city an admirable administration,
with neither fear nor favor. Some of the "boys" still clung to him; these,
according to Harry, were the better "boys," who had the seeds of good in
them and only needed opportunity and a leader. Tommy did not flag in zeal;
rather, as the time went on and he soared out of the criminal courts into
big civil cases involving property, he grew up to the level of his
admirers' praises. "Tommy," wrote Mr. Lossing, presently, "is beginning to
take himself seriously. He has been told so often that he is a young lion
of reform, that he begins to study the role in dead earnest. I don't talk
this way to Harry, who believes in him and is training him for the
representative for our district. What harm? Verily, his is the faith that
will move mountains. Besides, Tommy is now rich; he must be worth a
hundred thousand dollars, which makes a man of wealth in these parts. It
is time for him to be respectable."
Notwithstanding this preparation, Mrs. Carriswood (then giving Washington
the benefit of her doubts of climate) was surprised one day to receive a
perfectly correct visiting card whereon was engraved, "Mr. Thomas
Sackville Fitzmaurice, M.C."
The young lady who was with her lifted her brilliant hazel eyes and half
smiled. "Is it the droll young man we met once at Mrs. Lossing's? Pray see
him, Aunt Margaret," said Miss Van Harlem.
Mrs. Carriswood shrugged her shoulders and ordered the man to show him up.
There entered, in the wake of the butler, a distinguished-looking
personage who held out his hand with a perfect copy of the bow that she
saw forty times a day. "He is taking himself very seriously," she sighed;
"he is precisely like anybody else!" And she felt her interest snuffed out
by Tommy's correctness. But, directly, she changed her mind; the unfailing
charm of his race asserted itself in Tommy; she decided that he was a
delightful, original young man, and in ten minutes they were talking in
the same odd confidence that had always marked their relation.
"How perfectly you are gotten up! Are you INSIDE, now?"
"Ah, do you remember that?" said he; "that's awfully good of you. Which is
so fortunate as to please you, my clothes or my deportment?"
"Both. They are very good. Where did you get them, Tommy? I shall take the
privilege of my age and call you Tommy."
"Thank you. The clothes? Oh, I asked Harry for the proper thing, and he
recommended a tailor. I think Harry gave me the manners, too."
"And your new principles?" She could not resist this little fling.
"I owe a great deal in that way to Harry, also," answered he, with
Gone were the days of sarcastic ridicule, of visionary politics. Tommy
talked of the civil service in the tone of Harry himself. He was actually
"Why, Aunt Margaret, he is a remarkable young man," exclaimed Miss Van
Harlem; "his honesty and enthusiasm are refreshing in this pessimist
place. I hope he will come again. Did you notice what lovely eyes he has?"
Before long it was not pure good-nature that caused Mrs. Carriswood to ask
Fitzmaurice to her house. He was known as a rising young man, One met him
at the best houses; yet he was a prodigious worker, and had made his mark
in committees, before the celebrated speech that sent him into all the
newspaper columns, or that stubborn and infinitely versatile fight against
odds which inspired the artist of PUCK.
Tommy bore the cartoon to Mrs. Carriswood, beaming. She had not seen that
light in his face since the memorable June afternoon in the Opera-house.
He sent the paper to his mother, who vowed the picture "did not favor
Tommy at all, at all. Sure Tommy never had such a red nose!" The old man,
however, went to his ex-saloon, and sat in state all the morning, showing
Tommy's funny picture.
It was about this time that Mrs. Carriswood observed something that took
her breath away: Tommy Fitzmaurice had the presumption to be attentive to
my lady's goddaughter, Miss Van Harlem. Nor was this the worst; there were
indications that Miss Van Harlem, who had refused the noble names and
titles of two or three continental nobles, and the noble name
unaccompanied by a title of the younger son of an English earl, without
mentioning the half-dozen "nice" American claimants—Miss Van Harlem
was not angry.
The day this staggering blow fell on her, Mrs. Carriswood was in her
dressing-room, peacefully watching Derry unpack a box from Paris, in
anticipation of a state dinner. And Miss Van Harlem, in a bewitching
wrapper, sat on the lounge and admired. Upon this scene of feminine peace
and happiness enter the Destroyer, in the shape of a note from Tommy
Fitzmaurice! Were they going on Beatoun's little excursion to Alexandria?
If they were, he would move heaven and earth to put off a committee
meeting, in order to join them. By the way, he was to get the floor for
his speech that afternoon. Wouldn't Mrs. Carriswood come to inspire him?
Perhaps Miss Van Harlem would not be bored by a little of it.
It was a well-worded note; as Mrs. Carriswood read it she realized for the
first time how completely Tommy was acclimated in society. She remembered
his plaint years ago, and his awe of "oil paintings" and "people of
culture;" and she laughed half-sadly as she passed the note over to Miss
"I presume it is the Alexandria excursion that the Beatouns were talking
about yesterday," she said, languidly. "He wants to show that young
Irishman that we have a mild flavor of antiquity, ourselves. We are to see
Alexandria and have a real old Virginian dinner, including one of the
famous Beatoun hams and some of the '69 Chateau Yquem and the sacred '47
port. I suppose he will have the four-in-hand buckboard. 'A small party '—that
will mean the Honorable Basil Sackville, Mrs. Beatoun, Lilly Denning,
probably one of the Cabinet girls, Colonel Turner, and that young Russian
Beatoun is so fond of, Tommy Fitzmaurice———"
"Why do you always call Mr. Fitzmaurice Tommy?"—this interruption
comes with a slight rise of color from young Margaret.
"Everybody calls him Tommy in his own town; a politician as popular as he
with the boys is naturally Tommy or Jerry or Billy. They slap him on the
back or sit with an arm around his neck and concoct the ways to rule us."
"I don't think anyone slaps Mr. Fitzmaurice on the back and calls him
Tommy, NOW," says Margaret, with a little access of dignity.
"I dare say his poor old father and mother don't venture on that liberty;
I wish you had seen them——"
"He has told me about them," says Margaret.
And Mrs. Carriswood's dismay was such that for a second she simply gasped.
Were things so far along that such confessions were made? Tommy must be
very confident to venture; it was shrewd, very shrewd, to forestall Mrs.
Carriswood's sure revelations—oh, Tommy was not a politician for
"Besides," Margaret went on, with the same note of repressed feeling in
her voice, "his is a good family, if they have decayed; his ancestor was
Lord Fitzmaurice in King James's time."
"She takes HIM seriously too!" thought Mrs. Carriswood, with inexpressible
consternation; "what SHALL I say to her mother?"
Strange to say, perhaps, considering that she was so frankly a woman of
the world, her stub-bornest objection to Tommy was not an objection of
expediency. She had insensibly grown to take his success for granted, like
the rest of the Washington world; he would be a governor, a senator, he
might be—anything! And he was perfectly presentable, now; no, it
would be on the whole an investment in the future that would pay well
enough; his parents would be awkward, but they were old people, not likely
to be too much en evidence.
Mrs. Carriswood, while not overjoyed, would not feel crushed by such a
match, but she did view what she regarded as Tommy's moral instability,
with a dubious and fearful eye. He was earnest enough for his new
principles now; but what warrant was there of his sincerity? Margaret and
her mother were high-minded women. It was the gallant knight of her party
and her political faith that the girl admired, the valiant fight, not the
triumph! No mere soldier of fortune, no matter how successful or how
brilliant, could win her; if Tommy were the mercenary, not the knight, no
worldly glory could compensate his wife.
Wherefore, after a bad quarter of an hour reflecting on these things, Mrs.
Carriswood went to the Capitol, resolved to take her goddaughter away. She
would not withdraw her acceptance of the Beatouns' invitation, no; let the
Iowa congressman have every opportunity to display his social shortcomings
in contrast with the accomplished Russian, and Jack Turner, the most
elegant man in the army; the next day would be time enough for a telegram
and a sudden flitting. Yet in the midst of her plans for Tommy's
discomfiture she was assailed by a queer regret and reluctance. Tommy's
fascination had affected even a professional critic of life; he had been
so amusing, so willing, so trusting, so useful, that her chill interest
had warmed into liking. She felt a moving of the heart as the handsome
black head arose, and the first notes of that resonant, thrilling voice
swelled above the din on the floor.
It was the day of his great speech, the speech that made him, it was said.
As Mrs. Carriswood sank back, turning a little in an instinctive effort to
repulse her own sympathy, she was aware of the presence near her of an
elderly man and woman. The old man wore a shining silk hat and shining new
black clothes. His expansive shirt-bosom was very white, but not glossy,
and rumpled in places; and his collar was of the spiked and antique
pattern known as a "dickey." His wrinkled, red face was edged by a white
fringe of whisker. He wore large gold-bowed spectacles, and his jaws
The woman was a little, mild, wrinkled creature, with an anxious blue eye
and snowy hair, smoothed down over her ears, under her fine bonnet. She
was richly dressed, but her silks and velvets ill suited the season. Had
she seen them anywhere else, Mrs. Carriswood might not have recognized
them; but there, with Tommy before them, both of them feverishly absorbed
in Tommy, she recognized them at a glance. She had a twinge of pity,
watching the old faces pale and kindle. With the first rustle of applause,
she saw the old father slip his hand into the old mother's. They sat well
behind a pillar; and however excited they became, they never so lost
themselves as to lean in front of their shield. This, also, she noticed.
The speech over, the woman wiped her eyes. The old man joined in the
tumult of applause that swept over the galleries, but the old woman pulled
his arm, evidently feeling that it was not decent for them to applaud. She
sat rigid, with red cheeks and her eyes brimming; he was swaying and
clapping and laughing in a roar of delight. But it was he that drew her
away, finally, while she fain would have lingered to look at Tommy
receiving congratulations below.
"Poor things," said Mrs. Carriswood, "I do believe they haven't let him
know that they are here." And she remembered how she had pitied them for
this very possibility of humiliation years before. But she did not pursue
the adventure, and some obscure motive prevented her speaking of it to
Miss Van Harlem.
Did Tommy's parents tell Tommy? If they did, Tommy made no sign. The
morning found him with the others, in a beautiful white flannel suit, with
a silk shirt and a red silk sash, looking handsomer than any man of the
party. He took the congratulations of the company modestly. Either he was
not much puffed up, or he had the art of concealment.
They saw Alexandria in a conscientious fashion, for the benefit of the
guest of the day. He was a modest young fellow with a nose rather too
large for his face, a long upper lip, and frank blue eyes. He made himself
agreeable to one of the Cabinet girls, on the front seat, while Tommy,
just behind him, had Miss Van Harlem and bliss for his portion.
The old streets, the toppling roofs, the musty warehouses, the uneven
pavement, all pleased the young creatures out in the sunshine. They made
merry over the ancient ball-room, where Washington had asked a far-away
ancestress of Beatoun to dance; and they decorously walked through the old
IT happened in the church. Mrs. Carriswood was behind the others; so she
saw them come in, the same little old couple of the Capitol.
In the chancel, Beatoun was explaining; beside Beatoun shone a curly black
head that they knew.
Mrs. Carriswood sat in one of the high old pews. Through a crack she could
look into the next pew; and there they stood. She heard the old man:
"Whist, Molly, let's be getting out of this! HE is here with all his grand
friends. Don't let us be interrupting him."
The old woman's voice was so like Tommy's that it made Mrs. Carriswood
start. Very softly she spoke: "I only want to look at him a minute, Pat,
jest a minute. I ain't seen him for so long."
"And is it any longer for you than for me?" retorted the husband. "Ye know
what ye promised if I'd be taking you here, unbeknownst. Don't look his
way! Look like ye was a stranger to him. Don't let us be mortifying him
wid our country ways. Like as not 'tis the prisidint, himself, he is
colloguein' wid, this blessed minute. Shtep back and be a stranger to him,
A stranger to him, his own mother! But she stepped back; she turned her
patient face. Then—Tommy saw her.
A wave of red flushed all over his face. He took two steps down the aisle,
and caught the little figure in his arms.
"Why, mother?" he cried, "why, mother, where did you drop from?"
And before Mrs. Carriswood could speak she saw him step back and push
young Sackville forward, crying, "This is my father, this is the boy that
knew your grandmother."
He did it so easily; he was so entirely unaffected, so perfectly
unconscious, that there was nothing at all embarrassing for anyone. Even
the Cabinet girl, with a grandmother in very humble life, who must be kept
in the background, could not feel disconcerted.
For this happy result Mrs. Carriswood owns a share of the credit. She
advanced on the first pause, and claimed acquaintanceship with the
Fitzmaurices. The story of their last meeting and Tommy's first triumph in
oratory came, of course; the famous horseshoe received due mention; and
Tommy described with much humor his terror of the stage. From the speech
to its most effective passage was a natural transition; equally natural
the transition to Tommy's grandmother, the Irish famine, and the
benevolence of Lady Sackville.
Everybody was interested, and it was Sackville himself, who brought the
Fitzmaurices' noble ancestors, the apocryphal Viscounts Fitzmaurice of
King James's creation, on to the carpet.
He was entirely serious. "My grandmother told me of your
great-grandfather, Lord Fitzmaurice; she saw him ride to hounds once, when
she was a little girl. They say he was the boldest rider in Ireland, and a
renowned duellist too. King James gave the title to his grandfather,
didn't he? and the countryside kept it, if it was given rather too late in
the day to be useful. I am glad you have restored the family fortunes, Mr.
The Cabinet girl looked on Tommy with respect, and Miss Van Harlem blushed
like an angel.
"All is lost," said Mrs. Carriswood to herself; yet she smiled. Going
home, she found a word for Tommy's ear. The old Virginian dinner had been
most successful. The Fitzmaurices (who had been almost forced into the
banquet by Beatoun's imperious hospitality) were not a wet blanket in the
least. Patrick Fitzmaurice, brogue and all, was an Irish gentleman without
a flaw. He blossomed out into a modest wag; and told two or three comic
stories as acceptably as he was used to tell them to a very different
circle—only, carrying a fresher flavor of wit to this circle,
perhaps, it enjoyed them more. Mrs. Fitzmaurice looked scared and ate
almost nothing, with the greatest propriety, and her fork in her left
hand. Yet even she thawed under Miss Van Harlem's attentions and gentle
Mrs. Beatoun's tact, and the winning ways of the last Beatoun baby. She
took this absent cherub to her heart with such undissembled warmth that
its mother ever since has called her "a sweet, funny little old lady."
They were both (Patrick and his wife) quite unassuming and retiring, and
no urging could dissuade them from parting with the company at the tavern
"My word, Tommy, your mother and I can git home by ourselves," whispered
honest Patrick; "we've not exceeded—if the wines WERE good. I never
exceeded in my life, God take the glory!"
But he embraced Tommy so affectionately in parting that I confess Mrs.
Carriswood had suspicions. Yet, surely, it is more likely that his brain
was—let us not say TURNED, but just a wee bit TILTED, by the joy and
triumph of the occasion rather than by Beatoun's port or champagne.
But Mrs. Carriswood's word had nothing to do with Tommy's parents,
ostensibly, though, in truth, it had everything to do. She said: "Will you
dine with us to-morrow, quite en famille, Thomas?"
"I ought to tell you, I suppose, that I find your house a pretty dangerous
paradise, Mrs. Carriswood," says Tommy.
"And I find you a most dangerous angel, Thomas; but—you see I ask
"Thank you," answers Tommy, in a different tone; "you've always been an
angel to me. What I owe to you and Harry Lossing—well, I can't talk
about it. But see here, Mrs. Carriswood, you always have called me Tommy;
now you say Thomas; why this state?"
"I think you have won your brevet, Thomas."
He looked puzzled, and she liked him the better that he should not make
enough of his conduct to understand her; but, though she has called him
Tommy often since, he keeps the brevet in her thoughts. In fact, Mrs.
Carriswood is beginning to take the Honorable Thomas Fitzmaurice and his
place in the world seriously, herself.