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First, however, this: I do not intend to magnify the Academy and its stairway. The Academy did very well in its day, and it happened to be within easy distance of James Prince's residence. If its big green doors were flanked on one side by a grocery and on the other by a laundry, and if its stairway was worn untidily by other feet than those of Dr. Grant's boys, I shall simply point out that this was all in the day of small things and that Fastidiousness was still upon her way. Should this not satisfy you, I will state that, in the year following, the Academy moved into other quarters: it lodged itself in a near-by private residence whose owner, in real estate, sensed down-heeled Decadence stealing that way a few years before any of his neighbors felt it, and who made his shifts accordingly. If even this does not satisfy you, I might sketch the entrance and stairway, somewhere in Massachusetts, which are to know the footfalls of Lawrence D. McComas, aged ten, grandson of Johnny; but such a step would perhaps take us too far afield as well as slightly into the future. One does not pass a lad through that gateway on the spur of the moment.
Nor ought I to magnify, on the other hand, the marble stairway of the Mid-Continent. This was not one of the town's greater banks; and the stairway was at the disposal not only of the bank's clientèle, but at that of sixteen tiers of tenants. However, it represented some advanced architect's ideal of grandeur, and it served to make the bank's president seem haughty when in truth he was only preoccupied.
As you may now surmise, this story, even at its highest, will not throw millions on the habituated and indifferent air; nor, at its most distended, will it push the pride of life too far. That has been done already in sufficing measure by many others. Let us ride here an even keel and keep well within rule and reason.
I am simply to tell you how, as the years moved on, John McComas climbed the stairs of life from the bottom to the top--or so, at least, he was commonly considered to have done; and how, through the same years, Raymond Prince passed slowly and reluctantly along the same stairs from top to bottom--or so his critics usually regarded his course. Nor without some color of justice, I presume that they will pass each other somewhere near the middle of my volume.
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