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"Vanity, Vanity," Saith the Preacher
 We visited the stables, the garage, an artesian well newly driven, a drive that was to skirt the sea, a sunken garden some distance from the house and away from the sea.  
Next spring I came once more—several times, in fact. The rose garden was then in bloom, the drives finished, the pictures hung. Although this was not a world in which society as yet to move, it was conceivable that at a later period it might, and betimes it was crowded with people smart enough and more agreeable in the main than the , strident members of the so-called really inner circles. There were artists, writers, , singers, actresses, and some nondescript figures of the ultra-social world—young men principally who seemed to come here in connection with beautiful young women, models and other girls whose beauty was their only recommendation to consideration.
The scene was not without . A butler and numerous flunkeys fluttered to and fro. Guests were received at the door by a footman. A and various severe-looking maids governed in the matter of cleaning. One could play golf, tennis, bridge, motor, fish, swim, drink in a free and even disconcerting manner or read quietly in one angle or another of the grounds. There were affairs, much and , suspicious wanderings to and fro at night—no questions asked as to who came or whether one was married, so long as a reasonable amount of decorum was maintained. It was the same on other occasions, only the house and grounds were full to with guests and passing friends, whose machines barked in the drives. I saw as many gay and fascinating costumes and heard as much clever and at times talk here as anywhere I have been.
During this fall and winter I was engaged in work which kept me very much to myself. During the period I read much of X——, banks he was combining, new ventures he was . Yet all at once one winter's day, and out of a clear sky, the papers were full of an enormous financial crash of which he was the center. According to the newspapers, the first and foremost of a chain of banks of which he was the head, to say nothing of a bonding and realty company and some street-railway project on Long Island, were all involved in the crash. , although no derogatory mention had been made of him, the articles and editorials were now most . Their was especially noticeable. He was a get-rich-quick of the stripe; he had been a bank, a trust company, an insurance company and a land and street-railway scheme as one would glass balls. The money wherewith he gambled was not his. He had robbed the poor, deceived them. Yet among all this and in the huge articles which appeared the very first day, I one paragraph which stuck in my mind, for I was naturally interested in all this and in him. It read:
"Wall Street heard yesterday that H——got his first information concerning the state in which X——'s affairs were from quarters where may have been cherished because of his activity in the Long Island field. This is one of the Street's 'clover patches' and the success which the newcomer seemed to be meeting did not provoke great pleasure."
Another item read:
"A in a deal that was to have transferred the South Shore to the New York and Queens County System, owned by the Long Island Railroad, at a profit of almost $2,000,000 to X——, was the cause of all the trouble. Very active displeasure on the part of certain powers in Wall Street blocked, it is said, the closing of the deal for the railroad. They did not want him in this field, and were powerful enough to prevent it. At the same time pressure from other directions was brought to bear on him. The clearing-house refused to clear for his banks. X—— was in need of cash, but still insisting on a high rate of remuneration for the road which he had developed to an important point. Their influences entered and blocked the transfer until it was no longer possible for him to hold out."
Along with these two items was a vast mass of data, really pages, showing how, when, where he had done thus and so, " accounts" between one bank and another, all of which he controlled however, and most of which he owned, drew out large sums and put in their place mortgages on, or securities in, new companies which he was organizing—tricks which were the ordinary routine of Wall Street and hence rather ridiculous as the sub-stone of so vast a and cry.
I was puzzled and, more than that, moved by the drama of the man's sudden end, for I understood a little of finance and its ways, also of what place and power had plainly come to mean to him. It must be dreadful. Yet how could it be, I asked myself, if he really owned fifty-one per cent or more in so many companies that he could be such a dark villain? After all, ownership is ownership, and control, control. On the face of the reports themselves his schemes did not look so black. I read everything in connection with him with care.
As the days passed various other things happened. For one thing, he tried to commit suicide by jumping out of a window of his studio in New York; for another, he tried to take poison. Now of a sudden a bachelor sister, of whom I had never heard in all the time I had known him, put in an appearance as his nearest of —a woman whose name was not his own but a variation of it, an "-ovitch" having suddenly been onto it. She took him to a sanitarium, from which he was eventually turned out as a criminal, then to a hospital, until finally he surrendered himself to the police. The names of great lawyers and other bankers began to enter the case. Alienists of repute, those fine of the legal world, were employed who swore first that he was insane, then that he was not. His sister, who was a physician and scientist of repute, asked the transfer of all his property to her on the ground that he was and that she was his next of kin. To this she swore, giving as her reasons for believing him insane that he had "illusions of " and that he believed himself " by financiers," things which more of than anything else to me. At the same time he and she, as time rather indicated, had arranged this in part in the hope of saving something out of the great . There were other curious features: Certain eminent men in politics and finance who from revelations made by the books of the various banks were in close financial if not personal relations with X—— denied this completely. Curiously, the great cry on the part of these was that he was insane, must be, and that he was all alone in his schemes. His life on Broadway, on Long Island, in his studio in New York, were for details. Enough could not be made of his gay, , spendthrift life. No one else, of course, had ever been either gay or shameful before—especially not the eminent and hounding financiers.
Then from somewhere appeared a new element. In a staggeringly low region in Brooklyn was discovered somehow or other a very old man and woman, most unsatisfactory as relatives of such people, who insisted that they were his parents, that years before because he and his sister were exceedingly restless and ambitious, they had left them and had only returned occasionally to borrow money, finally ceasing to come at all. In proof of this, letters, witnesses, old photos, were produced. It really did appear as if he and his sister, although they had long vigorously denied it, really were the son and daughter of the two who had been petty in Brooklyn, laying up a little of their own. I never knew who "dug" them up, but the reason why was plain enough. The sister was laying claim to the property as the next of kin. If this could be , even though X—— were insane, the property would at once be thrown into the hands of the various and sold under a forced sale, of course—in other words, for a song—for their benefit. Naturally it was of interest to those who wished to have his affairs wound up to have the old people produced. But the great financier had been spreading the report all along that he was from Russia, that his parents, or pseudo-parents, were still there, but that really he was the illegitimate son of the Czar of Russia, boarded out originally with a poor family. Now, however, the old people were brought from Brooklyn and compelled to confront him. It was never really proved that he and his sister had neglected them or had done anything to seriously injure them, but rather that as they had grown in place and station they had become more or less and so ignored them, having changed their names and soared in a world little dreamed of by their parents. Also a charge was made against the sister which effectually prevented her from controlling his estate, a lease long enough to give the financiers time for their work. Naturally there was a great hue and cry over her, the scandal, the shame, that they should thus publicly refuse to recognize their parents as they did or had when confronted by them. Horrible! There were most heavily and tearful Sunday articles, all with pictures of his house and studio, his banks, cars, yacht, groups of guests, while the of those who produced the parents were overlooked. The pictures of the parents confronting X—— and his sister very old and feeble people, and were rather moving. They insisted that they were his parents and wept brokenly in their hands. But why? And he denying it! His sister, who resented all this bitterly and who stood by him , , for his sake of course, his and her so-called parents and friends.
I never saw such a running to cover of "friends" in all my life. Of all those I had seen about his place and in his company, scores on scores of people reasonably well known in the arts, the stage, the worlds of finance and music, all eating his dinners, riding in his cars, drinking his wines, there was scarcely any one now who knew him anything more than "" or "slightly"—oh, so slightly! When as to the midnight suppers, the Bacchic dancing, the parties to his great country place and the spirited frolics which occurred there began to get abroad, there was no one whom I knew who had ever been there or knew anything about him or them. For instance, of all the p............
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