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The Quest of the Silver Fleece

Thirteen: Mrs. Grey Gives A Dinner
The Hon. Charles Smith, Miss Sarah's brother, was walking swiftly uptown from Mr.
Easterly's Wall Street office and his face was pale. At last the Cotton Combine was to all
appearances an assured fact and he was slated for the Senate. The price he had paid was
high: he was to represent the interests of the new trust and sundry favorable measures
were already drafted and reposing in the safe of the combine's legal department. Among
others was one relating to child labor, another that would effect certain changes in the
tariff, and a proposed law providing for a cotton bale of a shape and dimensions different
from the customary—the last constituting a particularly clever artifice which, under the
guise of convenience in handling, would necessitate the installation of entirely new gin
and compress machinery, to be supplied, of course, by the trust.
As Mr. Smith drew near Mrs. Grey's Murray Hill residence his face had melted to a
cynical smile. After all why should he care? He had tried independence and philanthropy
and failed. Why should he not be as other men? He had seen many others that very day
swallow the golden bait and promise everything. They were gentlemen. Why should he
pose as better than his fellows? There was young Cresswell. Did his aristocratic air
prevent his succumbing to the lure of millions and promising the influence of his father
and the whole Farmer's League to the new project? Mr. Smith snapped his fingers and
rang the bell. The door opened softly. The dark woodwork of the old English wainscoting
glowed with the crimson flaming of logs in the wide fireplace. There was just the touch
of early autumn chill in the air without, that made both the fire and the table with its soft
linen, gold and silver plate, and twinkling glasses a warming, satisfying sight.
Mrs. Grey was a portly woman, inclined to think much of her dinner and her clothes, both
of which were always rich and costly. She was not herself a notably intelligent woman;
she greatly admired intelligence or whatever looked to her like intelligence in others. Her
money, too, was to her an ever worrying mystery and surprise, which she found herself
always scheming to husband shrewdly and spend philanthropically—a difficult
combination.
As she awaited her guests she surveyed the table with both satisfaction and disquietude,
for her social functions were few, tonight there were—she checked them off on her
fingers—Sir James Creighton, the rich English manufacturer, and Lady Creighton, Mr.
and Mrs. Vanderpool, Mr. Harry Cresswell and his sister, John Taylor and his sister, and
Mr. Charles Smith, whom the evening papers mentioned as likely to be United States
Senator from New Jersey—a selection of guests that had been determined, unknown to
the hostess, by the meeting of cotton interests earlier in the day.
Mrs. Grey's chef was high-priced and efficient, and her butler was the envy of many;
consequently, she knew the dinner would be good. To her intense satisfaction, it was far
more than this. It was a most agreeable couple of hours; all save perhaps Mr. Smith
unbent, the Englishman especially, and the Vanderpools were most gracious; but if the
 
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