Phyllis Ladd lost her mother at twelve; and this bereavement, especially terrible to an only child, brought with it two consequences that had a far-reaching effect on her character. An ardent, high-strung nature, acquainted so early with a poignant sorrow, gets an outlook on the world that is so just and true as to constitute a misfortune in itself. A child ought not to think; ought not to suffer; ought not to understand. Individuality, sympathy, sensibility awaken--qualities that go to make a charming human being--but which have to be paid for in the incessant balance of our complex existence. Phyllis' school-fellows were no longer the same to her; she felt herself a person apart; though she played as gaily as any of them, and chattered her head off, and tripped blithely along Chestnut Avenue entwined in the arms of her companions, she was aware, down in her secret heart, that she was "different."
At twelve, then, her path diverged from the commonplace, in which, as we all have to admit, however reluctantly, the chances for a happy life are best.
The second consequence of her mother's death was to bring her into contact with a scarcely known individual--her father. This grave, handsome man, who sat behind a newspaper at breakfast, and who was not seen again till dinner time; who drove away every morning behind a liveried coachman and a pair of shining bays to a region called "the office"; whose smile and voice were always a shy delight to her--this demigod, admired, unknown, from whom there emanated a delicious sense of security and strength, now suddenly drew her to his heart, and became her world, her all.
Robert T. R. Ladd was the president of the K. B. and O. Railway. Rich himself, and the son of a rich man, his interests in Carthage were varied and many, engaging his activities far beyond the great road that was associated with his name. Carthage was an old-fashioned city; and the boys who had grown up together and succeeded their fathers were clannish to a degree little known in the newer parts of this country. Joe, who was prominent in electricity and gas, might want to consolidate a number of scattered plants, and to that end would seek the assistance of Tom and Harry and Bob. George, perhaps, in forecasting the growth of Carthage a little too generously, was in temporary straits with his land-scheme--well, he would ask Tom and Bob to tide him over, making a company of himself, and taking them in. Frank and his brother, in converting their private bank into the Fifth National--induced as much as anything by the vanity of seeing their own names on their own greenbacks--would feel the need of a strong local man on the new directorate. Would Bob oblige them? "Why, with pleasure, though if somebody else would do as well--" "Oh, we must have you, old fellow."
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