The Ralstonsby Francis Marion Crawford
ALEXANDER LAUDERDALE JUNIOR was very much exercised in spirit concerning the welfare of his two daughters, of whom the elder was Charlotte and the younger was Katharine. Charlotte had been married, nearly two years before the opening of this tale, to Benjamin Slayback, the well-known member of Congress from Nevada, and lived in Washington. Katharine was still at home, living with her father and mother and grandfather, in the old house in Clinton Place, in the city of New York.
Mr. Lauderdale, the son of the still living philanthropist, and the nephew of the latter's younger brother, the great millionaire, Robert Lauderdale, sat in his carefully swept, garnished and polished office on a Saturday morning early in April. In outward appearance, as well as in inward sympathy, he was in perfect harmony with his surroundings. He resembled a magnificent piece of mechanism exhibited in a splendid show-case-a spare man, extremely well proportioned, with a severe cast of face, hard grey eyes, and a look all over him which recalled a well-kept locomotive. He sat facing the bright light which fell through the clear plate glass. One of his hands, cool, smooth, lean, lay perfectly still, spread out upon the broad sheet of a type-written letter on the table; the other, equally motionless, hung idly over his knee. They were grasping hands, with long, curved nails, naturally highly polished. It was not probable that the great Trust Company, in which Alexander Junior held such an important position, should ever lose the fraction of a fractional interest through any oversight of his.
So far as his own fortune was concerned, he often said that he was poor. He lived in an old house which had been his grandfather's and father's in turn, but which, although his father was alive and continued to live in it, had become his own property some years previous to the beginning of this story. For Alexander Lauderdale Senior was a philanthropist; and although his brother, the rich Robert, gave liberally toward the support of the institutions in which he was interested, Alexander had little by little turned everything he possessed into money, applying it chiefly to the education of idiots. The consequence was that he depended, almost unconsciously, upon his only son for the actual necessities of life. The old house was situated on the north side of Clinton Place, which had never been a fashionable street, though it lay in what had once been a most fashionable neighbourhood. No one need be surprised if the near relatives of such a very rich man as Robert Lauderdale lived very quietly, so far as expenditure was concerned. He was a very generous man, and would have done much more for his nephew and the latter's family if he had believed that they wished or expected it. But in his sensible view, they had all they needed,-a good house, a sufficient amount of luxury, and a very prominent position in society. He knew, moreover, that, however much he might give, the money would either find its way into the vast charities in which his brother was interested, or would disappear, as other sums and bits of property had disappeared before now, to some place-presumably one of safety-of which his nephew never spoke. For he suspected that Alexander Junior was not nearly so poor as he represented himself to be, and he was not exactly pleased with the fact that he himself was the only person before whom Alexander Junior bowed down and offered incense.
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