BLTC Press Titles

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The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Vanity Fair

William Thackery

The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

Light-fingered gentry

by David Graham Phillips


And the best it certainly was, even for New York with its profuse ideas as to dispensing the rivers of other people's money that flood in upon it from the whole country. The big banquet hall was walled with flowers; there were great towering palms rising from among the tables and so close together that their leaves intermingled in a roof. Each table was an attempt at a work of art; the table of honor was strewn and festooned with orchids at a dollar and a half apiece; there was music, of course, and it the costliest; there were souvenirs—they alone absorbed upward of ten thousand dollars. As for the dinner itself, the markets of the East and the South and of the Pacific Coast had been searched; the fish had come from France; the fruit from English hothouses; four kinds of wine, but those who preferred it could have champagne straight through. The cigars cost a dollar apiece, the boutonnieres another dollar, the cigarettes were as expensive as are the cigars of many men who are particular as to their tobacco. Lucullus may have spent more on some of his banquets, but he could have got no such results. In fact, it was a " seventy-five a plate " dinner, though Fosdick was not boasting it, as he would have liked; he was mindful of the recent exposures of the prodigality of managers of corporations with the investments of "the widow and the orphan and the thrifty poor."

Fosdick, presiding, with Shotwell on his right and Armstrong on his left, swelled with pride in his own generosity and taste as he gazed round. True, the O. A. D. was to pay the bill; true, he had known nothing about the arrangements for the banquet until he came to preside at it. But was he not the enchanter who evoked it all? He hadn't a doubt that his was the glory, all the glory—just as, when he bought for a large sum a picture with a famous name to it, he showed himself to be greater than the painter. He prided himself upon his good taste—did he not select the man who selected the costly things for him; did he not sign the checks? But most of all he prided himself on his big heart. He loved to give—to his children, to his friends, to servants—not high wages indeed, for that would have been bad business, but tips and presents which made a dazzling showing and flooded his heart with the warm milk of human kindness, whereas a small increase of wages would be insignificant, without pleasurable sensation, and a permanent drain. Of all the men who devote their lives to what some people call finance—and others call reaping where another has sown—he was the most generous. "A great, big, beating human heart," was what you heard about Fosdick everywhere. "A hard, wily fighter in finance, but a man full of red blood, for all that."

Having surveyed the magic scene his necromancy and his generosity had created, he shifted his glance patronizingly to the man at his right—the man for whom he had done this generous act, the retiring president of the O. A. D., to whom this dinner was a testimonial. As Fosdick looked at Shotwell, his face darkened. "The damned old ingrate," he muttered. "He doesn't appreciate what I've done for him." And there was no denying it. The old man was looking a sickly, forlorn seventy-five, at least, though he was only sixtyfive, only two years older than Fosdick. He was humped down in a sort of stupor, his big flat chin on his crushed shirt bosom, his feeble, age-mottled hand fumbling with his napkin, with his wineglass, with the knives, forks, and spoons.

"The boys are giving you a great send off," said Fosdick. As Shotwell knew who alone was responsible for the "magnificent and touching testimonial," Fosdick risked nothing in this modesty.

Shotwell, startled, wiped his mouth with his napkin.

"Yes, yes," he said; " it's very nice."

Nice! And if Fosdick had chosen he could have had Shotwell flung down and out in disgrace from the exalted presidency of the O. A. D., instead of retiring him thus gloriously. Nice! Fosdick almost wished he had—almost. He would have quite wished it, if retiring Shotwell in disgrace would not have injured the great company, so absolutely dependent upon popular confidence. Nice! Fosdick turned away in disgust. He remembered how, when he had closed his trap upon Shotwell—a superb stroke of business, that!—not a soul had suspected until the jaws snapped and the O. A. D. was his—he remembered how Shotwell had met his demand for immediate resignation or immediate disgrace, with shrieks of hate and cursing. "I suppose he can't get over it," reflected Fosdick. "Men blind themselves completely to the truth where vanity and self-interest are concerned. He probably still hates me, and can't see that I was foolishly generous with him. Where's there another man in the financial district who'd have allowed him a pension of half his salary for life?"

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