Davis' Short Stories Vol. 3
A Wasted Day
When its turn came, the private secretary, somewhat apologetically, laid the letter in front
of the Wisest Man in Wall Street.
"From Mrs. Austin, probation officer, Court of General Sessions," he explained. "Wants a
letter about Spear. He's been convicted of theft. Comes up for sentence Tuesday."
"Spear?" repeated Arnold Thorndike.
"Young fellow, stenographer, used to do your letters last summer going in and out on the
The great man nodded. "I remember. What about him?"
The habitual gloom of the private secretary was lightened by a grin.
"Went on the loose; had with him about five hundred dollars belonging to the firm; he's
with Isaacs & Sons now, shoe people on Sixth Avenue. Met a woman, and woke up
without the money. The next morning he offered to make good, but Isaacs called in a
policeman. When they looked into it, they found the boy had been drunk. They tried to
withdraw the charge, but he'd been committed. Now, the probation officer is trying to get
the judge to suspend sentence. A letter from you, sir, would--"
It was evident the mind of the great man was elsewhere. Young men who, drunk or sober,
spent the firm's money on women who disappeared before sunrise did not appeal to him.
Another letter submitted that morning had come from his art agent in Europe. In Florence
he had discovered the Correggio he had been sent to find. It was undoubtedly genuine,
and he asked to be instructed by cable. The price was forty thousand dollars. With one
eye closed, and the other keenly regarding the inkstand, Mr. Thorndike decided to pay the
price; and with the facility of long practice dismissed the Correggio, and snapped his
mind back to the present.
"Spear had a letter from us when he left, didn't he?" he asked. "What he has developed
into, SINCE he left us--" he shrugged his shoulders. The secretary withdrew the letter,
and slipped another in its place.
"Homer Firth, the landscape man," he chanted, "wants permission to use blue flint on the
new road, with turf gutters, and to plant silver firs each side. Says it will run to about five
thousand dollars a mile."
"No!" protested the great man firmly, "blue flint makes a country place look like a
cemetery. Mine looks too much like a cemetery now. Landscape gardeners!" he
exclaimed impatiently. "Their only idea is to insult nature. The place was better the day I
bought it, when it was running wild; you could pick flowers all the way to the gates."