And he pulled out from somewhere a big roll of bills. It was more money than Jurgis had ever seen in his life before, and he stared at it with startled eyes.
"Looks like a lot, hey?" said Master Freddie, fumbling with it. "Fool you, though, ole chappie — they're all little ones! I'll be busted in one week more, sure thing — word of honor. An' not a cent more till the first — hic — guv'ner's orders — hic — not a cent, by Harry! Nuff to set a feller crazy, it is. I sent him a cable, this af'noon — thass one reason more why I'm goin' home. 'Hangin' on the verge of starvation,' I says — 'for the honor of the family — hic — sen' me some bread. Hunger will compel me to join you — Freddie.' Thass what I wired him, by Harry, an' I mean it — I'll run away from school, b'God, if he don't sen' me some."
After this fashion the young gentleman continued to prattle on — and meantime Jurgis was trembling with excitement. He might grab that wad of bills and be out of sight in the darkness before the other could collect his wits. Should he do it? What better had he to hope for, if he waited longer? But Jurgis had never committed a crime in his life, and now he hesitated half a second too long. "Freddie" got one bill loose, and then stuffed the rest back into his trousers' pocket.
"Here, ole man," he said, "you take it." He held it out fluttering. They were in front of a saloon; and by the light of the window Jurgis saw that it was a hundred-dollar bill! "You take it," the other repeated. "Pay the cabbie an' keep the change — I've got — hic — no head for business! Guv'ner says so hisself, an' the guv'ner knows — the guv'ner's got a head for business, you bet! 'All right, guv'ner,' I told him, 'you run the show, and I'll take the tickets!' An' so he set Aunt Polly to watch me — hic — an' now Polly's off in the hospital havin' twins, an' me out raisin' Cain! Hello, there! Hey! Call him!"
A cab was driving by; and Jurgis sprang and called, and it swung round to the curb. Master Freddie clambered in with some difficulty, and Jurgis had started to follow, when the driver shouted: "Hi, there! Get out — you!"
Jurgis hesitated, and was half obeying; but his companion broke out: "Whuzzat? Whuzzamatter wiz you, hey?"
And the cabbie subsided, and Jurgis climbed in. Then Freddie gave a number on the Lake Shore Drive, and the carriage started away. The youngster leaned back and snuggled up to Jurgis, murmuring contentedly; in half a minute he was sound asleep, Jurgis sat shivering, speculating as to whether he might not still be able to get hold of the roll of bills. He was afraid to try to go through his companion's pockets, however; and besides the cabbie might be on the watch. He had the hundred safe, and he would have to be content with that.
At the end of half an hour or so the cab stopped. They were out on the waterfront, and from the east a freezing gale was blowing off the ice-bound lake. "Here we are," called the cabbie, and Jurgis awakened his companion.
Master Freddie sat up with a start.
"Hello!" he said. "Where are we? Whuzzis? Who are you, hey? Oh, yes, sure nuff! Mos' forgot you — hic — ole chappie! Home, are we? Lessee! Br-r-r — it's cold! Yes — come 'long — we're home — it ever so — hic — humble!"
Before them there loomed an enormous granite pile, set far back from the street, and occupying a whole block. By the light of the driveway lamps Jurgis could see that it had towers and huge gables, like a medieval castle. He thought that the young fellow must have made a mistake — it was inconceivable to him that any person could have a home like a hotel or the city hall. But he followed in silence, and they went up the long flight of steps, arm in arm.
"There's a button here, ole sport," said Master Freddie. "Hole my arm while I find her! Steady, now — oh, yes, here she is! Saved!"
A bell rang, and in a few seconds the door was opened. A man in blue livery stood holding it, and gazing before him, silent as a statue.
They stood for a moment blinking in the light. Then Jurgis felt his companion pulling, and he stepped in, and the blue automaton closed the door. Jurgis's heart was beating wildly; it was a bold thing for him to do — into what strange unearthly place he was venturing he had no idea. Aladdin entering his cave could not have been more excited.
The place where he stood was dimly lighted; but he could see a vast hall, with pillars fading into the darkness above, and a great staircase opening at the far end of it. The floor was of tesselated marble, smooth as glass, and from the walls strange shapes loomed out, woven into huge portieres in rich, harmonious colors, or gleaming from paintings, wonderful and mysterious-looking in the half-light, purple and red and golden, like sunset glimmers in a shadowy forest.
The man in livery had moved silently toward them; Master Freddie took off his hat and handed it to him, and then, letting go of Jurgis' arm, tried to get out of his overcoat. After two or three attempts he accomplished this, with the lackey's help, and meantime a second man had approached, a tall and portly personage, solemn as an executioner. He bore straight down upon Jurgis, who shrank away nervously; he seized him by the arm without a word, and started toward the door with him. Then suddenly came Master Freddie's voice, "Hamilton! My fren' will remain wiz me."
The man paused and half released Jurgis. "Come 'long ole chappie," said the other, and Jurgis started toward him.
"Master Frederick!" exclaimed the man.
"See that the cabbie — hic — is paid," was the other's response; and he linked his arm in Jurgis'. Jurgis was about to say, "I have the money for him," but he restrained himself. The stout man in uniform signaled to the other, who went out to the cab, while he followed Jurgis and his young master.
They went down the great hall, and then turned. Before them were two huge doors.
"Hamilton," said Master Freddie.
"Well, sir?" said the other.
"Whuzzamatter wizze dinin'-room doors?"
"Nothing is the matter, sir."
"Then why dontcha openum?"
The man rolled them back; another vista lost itself in the darkness. "Lights," commanded Master Freddie; and the butler pressed a button, and a flood of brilliant incandescence streamed from above, half-blinding Jurgis. He stared; and little by little he made out the great apartment, with a domed ceiling from which the light poured, and walls that were one enormous painting — nymphs and dryads dancing in a flower-strewn glade — Diana with her hounds and horses, dashing headlong through a mountain streamlet — a group of maidens bathing in a forest pool — all life-size, and so real that Jurgis thought that it was some work of enchantment, that he was in a dream palace. Then his eye passed to the long table in the center of the hall, a table black as ebony, and gleaming with wrought silver and gold. In the center of it was a huge carven bowl, with the glistening gleam of ferns and the red and purple of rare orchids, glowing from a light hidden somewhere in their midst.
"This's the dinin' room," observed Master Freddie. "How you like it, hey, ole sport?"
He always insisted on having an answer to his remarks, leaning over Jurgis and smiling into his face. Jurgis liked it.
"Rummy ole place to feed in all 'lone, though," was Freddie's comment — "rummy's hell! Whuzya think, hey?" Then another idea occurred to him and he went on, without waiting: "Maybe you never saw anythin — hic — like this 'fore? Hey, ole chappie?"
"No," said Jurgis.
"Come from country, maybe — hey?"