CHAPTER I. SALLY GIVES A PARTY
Sally looked contentedly down the long table. She felt happy at last. Everybody was talking and laughing now, and her party, rallying after an uncertain start, was plainly the success she had hoped it would be. The first atmosphere of uncomfortable restraint, caused, she was only too well aware, by her brother Fillmore's white evening waistcoat, had worn off; and the male and female patrons of Mrs. Meecher's select boarding-house (transient and residential) were themselves again.
At her end of the table the conversation had turned once more to the great vital topic of Sally's legacy and what she ought to do with it. The next best thing to having money of one's own, is to dictate the spending of somebody else's, and Sally's guests were finding a good deal of satisfaction in arranging a Budget for her. Rumour having put the sum at their disposal at a high figure, their suggestions had certain spaciousness.
"Let me tell you," said Augustus Bartlett, briskly, "what I'd do, if I were you." Augustus Bartlett, who occupied an intensely subordinate position in the firm of Kahn, Morris and Brown, the Wall Street brokers, always affected a brisk, incisive style of speech, as befitted a man in close touch with the great ones of Finance. "I'd sink a couple of hundred thousand in some good, safe bond-issuewe've just put one out which you would do well to considerand play about with the rest. When I say play about, I mean have a flutter in anything good that crops up. Multiple Steel's worth looking at. They tell me it'll be up to a hundred and fifty before next Saturday."
Elsa Doland, the pretty girl with the big eyes who sat on Mr. Bartlett's left, had other views.
"Buy a theatre. Sally, and put on good stuff."
"And lose every bean you've got," said a mild young man, with a deep voice across the table. "If I had a few hundred thousand," said the mild young man, "I'd put every cent of it on Benny Whistler for the heavyweight championship. I've private information that Battling Tuke has been got at and means to lie down in the seventh..."
"Say, listen," interrupted another voice, "lemme tell you what I'd do with four hundred thousand..."
"If I had four hundred thousand," said Elsa Doland, "I know what would be the first thing I'd do."
"What's that?" asked Sally.
"Pay my bill for last week, due this morning."
Sally got up quickly, and flitting down the table, put her arm round her friend's shoulder and whispered in her ear:
"Elsa darling, are you really broke? If you are, you know, I'll..."
Elsa Doland laughed.
"You're an angel, Sally. There's no one like you. You'd give your last cent to anyone. Of course I'm not broke. I've just come back from the road, and I've saved a fortune. I only said that to draw you."
Sally returned to her seat, relieved, and found that the company had now divided itself into two schools of thought. The conservative and prudent element, led by Augustus Bartlett, had definitely decided on three hundred thousand in Liberty Bonds and the rest in some safe real estate; while the smaller, more sporting section, impressed by the mild young man's inside information, had already placed Sally's money on Benny Whistler, doling it out cautiously in small sums so as not to spoil the market. And so solid, it seemed, was Mr. Tuke's reputation with those in the inner circle of knowledge that the mild young man was confident that, if you went about the matter cannily and without precipitation, three to one might be obtained. It seemed to Sally that the time had come to correct certain misapprehensions.
"I don't know where you get your figures," she said, "but I'm afraid they're wrong. I've just twenty-five thousand dollars."