LUCIUS seemed to know the city very well, and to have a list of its principal citizens in his memory. He knew the best places to shop and the selectest places to eat, and Bertha soon came to ask his advice about other and more intimate affairs. She showed him Mrs. Brent's card, and explained that they were going out there to dinner.
"I know the locality," he said, much impressed, "and I think I know the house. It's likely to be quietly swell, and you'd better wear your best gown."
"The black dress," said Haney, who was a deeply concerned witness. "I like that."
Lucius was respectful, but firm. "You are very well in that, Mrs. Haney. But if I were you I'd have a new gown; you'll need it. I know just the saleslady to fit you out."
"But I've only worn the black dress once!" she exclaimed, in dismay.
Lucius explained that people who went out much in the city made a point of not wearing the same gown in the same circle a second time. "And as you only have two presentable evening gowns, you certainly need another."
Haney joined in, emphatically. "Sure thing! What's the good of money if you don't use it to buy things ?"
Tremulous with the excitement of it, she went with the Captain to several of the largest and most sumptuous establishments on State Street. And Lucius, who accompanied them, ostensibly to be of service to his master, was of the greatest service to his mistress, he was so quiet, so unobtrusive, so thoroughly the footman in appearance, so helpful, and so masterful, in fact; a faint shake of his head, a nod, a gesture decided momentous questions.
The girl, sitting there surrounded by scurrying clerks and saleswomen, had a return of her bewilderment and doubt. "Can it be true that I can buy any of these cloaks and hats?" she asked herself. What was the magic that had made her lightest wish realizable? When a splendid cloak fell round her shoulders, and she looked in the glass at the tall figure there, she glowed with pride.
"Madam carries a cloak beautifully," the saleswoman said, with sincerity. "This is our smartest model— perfectly exclusive and new. Only such a figure as the madam's properly sets it off."
While the women were making measurements for some slight alterations, Lucius said: "It would be nice if you decided on that automobile, and took Mrs. Haney to the dinner in it."
Haney's face lighted up. "I will! Sh! not a word. We'll surprise her."
"If you don't mind I'll hustle up a footman's livery."
"So do. Anything goes—for her, Lucius."
Bertha thought she had already rubbed the side of her wonderful lamp to a polish. But under the almost hypnotic spell of her West-Indian attendant she bought shoes, hats, hosiery, and toilet articles till her room looked "like Christmas morning," as Haney said, and yet there was little that could be called foolish or tawdry. She wore little jewelry, having resisted Haney's attempt to load her with rings and necklaces. Miss Franklin had impressed upon her the need of being "simple." When she put on her dinner-dress and faced him, Mart Haney was humbled to earth. "Sure, ye're beautiful as an angel!" he exulted, as if addressing a saint. And as she swept before the tall glass and saw her radiant self therein, she thought of Ben, and her face flamed with lovely color. "I wish he could see me now!" she inwardly exclaimed.
Miss Franklin, in writing to her friend, Mrs. Brent, had said: "In a sense, the Haneys are 'impossible'— he is an ex-gambler, and she is the daughter of a woman who kept a miner's boarding-house in the mountains. But this sounds worse than it really is. I like the Captain. Whatever he was in the days before his accident I don't know—they say he was a terror. But when I entered the family he was as he is now—a pathetic figure. He isn't really old; but he's horribly crippled, and takes it very hard. He is kindness itself to his wife and to every one round him, and will be grateful for anything you do for him. Bertha is young but maturing very rapidly, and there's no telling where she will stop. She's been studying with me, and I've told her you will advise her while she's in Chicago. You needn't go far with her if you don't want to. The Hallidays and Voughts won't mind the back pages of the Haney history, and you needn't say anything about the Captain's career if you don't want to. He's a big mine-owner now, and is out of the gambling and saloon business altogether. Bertha is perfectly eligible in herself. And as many of us started on farms or poor little villages, we can't afford to take on any airs over her. She's of good parentage, and as true as steel. She likes the Captain, and is devoted to him."
Dr. Brent was not connected with the university, but his wife's brother had been a student there, and was now an instructor in one of the scientific departments. And Mrs. Brent's charm of manner and the Doctor's easy-going hospitality made their fine little Kenwood home the centre of a certain intellectual Bohemia on the borders of the institution, and the "artistic gang" occasionally met and genially interfused with the professors round the big Brent fireplace. Being rich in his own right, Brent took his practice in such moderation as to be of the highest effectiveness when he consented to operate, and was in demand for difficult surgical cases. He was slender, blond, and languid of movement—not in the least suggestive of the Western hustle of Chicago, and yet he was born within twenty miles of the court-house. Indeed, it was the spread of the city which had enriched his father's estate, and which now permitted him to work when he felt like it, and to assemble round his hearthstone—an actual stone, by the way — the people he liked best. The amount of hickory wood he burned was stupendous.
Mrs. Brent was known as "the audacious hostess," because she was not afraid to invite anybody who interested her. "You take your reputation in your hand," her friends often said to those about to make their first call. "You may meet an actor from New York or a stone-mason from the West Side—one never knows." Their house was an adaptation of the "mission style" of California and possessed one big room on the first floor which their friends called Congress Hall.