I. The B-Flat Trombone
Three men sat in the Cosmic Club discussing the question: "What's the matter with
Jones?" Waldemar, the oldest of the conferees, was the owner, and at times the
operator, of an important and decent newspaper. His heavy face wore the expression of
good-humored power, characteristic of the experienced and successful journalist.
Beside him sat Robert Bertram, the club idler, slender and languidly elegant. The third
member of the conference was Jones himself.
Average Jones had come by his nickname inevitably. His parents had foredoomed him
to it when they furnished him with the initials A. V. R. E. as preface to his birthright of J
for Jones. His character apparently justified the chance concomitance. He was, so to
speak, a composite photograph of any thousand well-conditioned, clean-living
Americans between the ages of twenty-five and thirty. Happily, his otherwise
commonplace face was relieved by the one unfailing characteristic of composite
photographs, large, deep-set and thoughtful eyes. Otherwise he would have passed in
any crowd, and nobody would have noticed him pass. Now, at twenty-seven, he looked
back over the five years since his graduation from college and wondered what he had
done with them; and at the four previous years of undergraduate life and wondered how
he had done so well with those and why he had not in some manner justified the parting
words of his favorite professor.
"You have one rare faculty, Jones. You can, when you choose, sharpen the pencil of
your mind to a very fine point. Specialize, my boy, specialize."
If the recipient of this admonition had specialized in anything, it was in life. Having
twenty-five thousand a year of his own he might have continued in that path indefinitely,
but for two influences. One was an irruptive craving within him to take some part in the
dynamic activities of the surrounding world. The other was the "freak" will of his late and
little-lamented uncle, from whom he had his present income, and his future expectations
of some ten millions. Adrian Van Reypen Egerton had, as Waldemar once put it, "--one
into the mayor's chair with a good name and come out with a block of ice stock." In a
will whose cynical humor was the topic of its day, Mr. Egerton jeered posthumously at
the public which he had despoiled, and promised restitution, of a sort, through his heir.
"Therefore," he had written, "I give and bequeath to the said Adrian Van Reypen
Egerton Jones, the residue of my property, the principal to be taken over by him at such
time as he shall have completed five years of continuous residence in New York City.
After such time the virus of the metropolis will have worked through his entire being. He
will squander his unearned and undeserved fortune, thus completing the vicious circle,
and returning the millions acquired by my political activities, in a poisoned shower upon
the city, for which, having bossed, bullied and looted it, I feel no sentiment other than