Every proverb, every slang phrase and colloquialism, is what one might call a petrified inspiration. Once upon a time it was a living thing, a lightning flash in some man's soul; and now it glides off our tongue without our ever thinking of its meaning. So, when the event transpired which marks the beginning of my story, the newspapers one and all remarked that Robert van Rensselaer was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Into the particular circumstances of the event it is not necessary to go, furthermore than to say that the arrival occasioned considerable discomfort, to the annoyance of my hero's mother, who had never experienced any discomfort before. His father, Mr. Chauncey van Rensselaer, was a respected member of our metropolitan high society, combining the major and minor desiderata of wealth and good-breeding, and residing in a twentieth-century palace at number four thousand eleven hundred and forty-four Fifth Avenue.