AUTHOR OF "LITTLE CITIZENS" "WARDS OF LIBERTY" "THE ISLE OF DREAMS" "ROSNAH" "THE GOLDEN SEASON" "LITTLE ALIENS"
CHARLES F. NEAGLE
G.W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
Copyright, 1910, By G.W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY
"Oh give me new faces, new faces, new faces I have seen those about me a fortnight or more. Some people grow weary of names or of places But faces to me are a much greater bore."
THE PLAY'S THE THING 17 THERE'S DANGER IN NUMBERS 57 MISERY LOVES COMPANY 83 THE CHRISTMAS GUEST 115 WHO IS SYLVIA? 147 THE SPIRIT OF CECELIA ANNE 187 THEODORA, GIFT OF GOD 219 GREAT OAKS FROM LITTLE ACORNS 263
"There's no question about it," he retorted. "She knows that I shall marry her."
Burgess gained an interest and an occupation more absorbing than he had found for many years
Uncle Richard's face, as he met John's eyes, was a study
She swooped under the large center table, dragging Patty with her
The changeless smile and the drooping plumes made three complete revolutions, and nestled confidingly upon the shoulder of the law
Celia Anne shut her eyes tightly and fired the rifle into the air
"THE PLAY'S THE THING"
A business meeting of the Lady Hyacinths Shirt-Waist Club was in progress. The roll had been called. The twenty members were all present and the Secretary had read the minutes of the last meeting. These formalities had consumed only a few moments and the club was ready to fall upon its shirt waists. The sewing-machines were oiled and uncovered, the cutting-table was cleared, every Hyacinth had her box of sewing paraphernalia in her lap; and Miss Masters who had been half cajoled and half forced into the management of this branch of the St. Martha's Settlement Mission was congratulating herself upon the ease and expedition with which her charges were learning to transact their affairs, when the President drew a pencil from her pompadour and rapped professionally on the table. In her daytime capacity of saleslady in a Grand Street shoe store she would have called "cash," but as President of the Lady Hyacinths her speech was:
"If none of you goils ain't got no more business to lay before the meetin' a movement to adjoin is in order."
"I move we adjoin an git to woik," said Mamie Kidansky promptly. Only three buttonholes and the whalebones which would keep the collar well up behind the ears lay between her and the triumphant rearing of her shirt waist. Hence her zeal.
Susie Meyer was preparing to second the motion. As secretary she disapproved of much discussion. She was always threatening to resign her portfolio vowing, with some show of reason, "I never would 'a' joined your old Hyacinths Shirt-Waists if I'd a' known I was goin' to have to write down all the foolish talk you goils felt like givin' up."
It seemed therefore that the business meeting was closed, when a voice from the opposite side of the table broke in with:
"Say, Rosie, why can't us goils give a play?"
"Ah Jennie, you make me tired," protested the Secretary.
"An' you're out of order anyway," was the President's dictum.
"Where?" cried Jennie wildly, clutching her pompadour with one hand and the back of her belt with the other, "where, what's the matter with me?"
"Go 'way back an' sit down," was the Secretary's advice, "Rosie meant you're out of parliamentry order. We got a motion on the table an' it's too late for you to butt in on it. This meetin' is goin' to adjoin."
But Jennie was the spokesman of a newly-born party and her supporters were not going to allow her to be silenced. Even those Lady Hyacinths who had not been admitted to earlier consultations took kindly to the suggestion when they heard it.
"I don't care whether she's out of order or not," one ambitious Hyacinth declared, "I think it would be just too lovely for anything to have a play. They have 'em all the time over to Rivington Street an' down to the Educational Alliance."
"Rebecca Einstein," said the Secretary darkly, "if you're goin' to fire off your face about plays an' the Educational Alliances you can keep your own minnits, that's all! Do ye think I'm goin' to write down your foolishness? Well, I ain't."
Again the President plied her gavel. "Goils," she remonstrated, "this ain't no way to act. Say, Miss Masters," she went on, "I guess the whole lot of us is out of order now. What would you do about it if you was me?"
"I should suggest," Miss Masters answered, "that the motion to adjourn be carried and that the whole club go into committee on the question raised by Miss Meyer."
"I move that we take our woik into committee with us," cried Miss Kidansky, not to be deflected from her buttonholes. And from such humble beginnings the production of Hamlet by the Lady Hyacinths sprang.
Hamlet was not their first choice. It was not even their tenth and to the end it was not the unanimous choice. During the preliminary stages of the dramatic fever Miss Masters preserved that strict neutrality which marks the successful Settlement worker. She would help—oh, surely she would help—the Hyacinths, but she would not lead them. She had never questioned their taste in the shape and color of their shirt waists. Some horrid garments had resulted but to her they represented "self expression," and as such gave her more pleasure than any servile following of her advice could have done. She soon discovered that the latitude in the shirt waist field is far exceeded by that in the dramatic and she discovered too, that the Lady Hyacinths, though they seldom visited the theatre had strong digestions where plays were concerned.
"East Lynne" was warmly advocated until some one discovered a grandmother who had seen it in her youth. Then:
"Ah gee!" remarked the Lady Hyacinths, "we ain't no grave snatchers. We ain't goin' to dig up no dead ones. Say Miss Masters, ain't there no new plays we could give?"
Miss Masters referred them to the public library, but not many plays are obtainable in book form, and the next two meetings were devoted to the plays of Ibsen, Bernard Shaw, Vaughan Moody. When Miss Masters descried this literature in the hands of the now openly mutinous Secretary she felt the time had come to interfere with the "self activity" of her charges. She promptly confiscated the second volume of "G.B.S." "For," she explained "we don't want to do anything unpleasant and the writer of these plays himself describes them as that."
"Guess we don't," the President agreed. "We got to live up to our name, ain't we? An' what could be pleasanter than a Hyacinth?"
"Nothing, of course," agreed Miss Masters unsteadily.
"There's one in this Ibsen book might do," Jennie suggested. "It's called 'A Dolls' House,' that's a real sweet name."
"I am afraid it wouldn't do," said Miss Masters hastily.
"What's the matter with it?" demanded Susie Meyer.
"Well, in the first place, there are children in it—"
"Cut it! 'Nough said," pronounced the President. "Them plays wid kids in 'em is all out of style. We giv' 'East Lynne' the turn down an' there was only one kid in that. What else have you got in that Gibson book? Have you got the play with the Gibson goils in it? We could do that all right, all right. Ain't most of us got Gibson pleats in our shirt waists?"
"I don't see nothin' about goils," the Secretary made answer, "but there's one here about ghosts. How would that do?"
"Not at all," said Miss Masters firmly.
"What's the matter with it?" asked one of the girls abandoning her sewing-machine and coming over to the table. "I seen posters of it last year. They are givin' it in Broadway. The costoomes would be real easy, just a sheet you know and your hair hanging down."
"It's not about that kind of ghost," Miss Masters explained, "and I don't think it would do for us as there are very few people in the cast and one of them is a minister."
"Cut it," said the President briefly, "we ain't goin' to have no hymn singin' in ours. We couldn't, you know," she explained to Miss Masters, "the most of us is Jewesses."
"Katie McGuire ain't no Jewess," asserted the Secretary. "She could be the minister if that's all you've got against this Gibson play. I wish we could give it. It's about the only up-to-date Broadway success we can find. The librarian says you can't never buy copies of Julia Marlowe's an' Ethel Barrymore's an' Maude Adams' plays. I guess they're just scared somebody like us will come along an' do 'em better than they do an' bust their market. Actresses," she went on, "is all jest et up with jealousy of one another. Is there anythin' except the minister the matter with 'Ghosts?'"
"Everything else is the matter with it," said Miss Masters. "To begin with, I might as well tell you, it never was a Broadway success. It's a play that is read oftener than it's acted and last year, Jennie, when you saw the posters, it only ran for a week."
"Cut it," said the President. "We ain't huntin' frosts."
The brows of the Hyacinths grew furrowed and their eyes haggard in the search. Everyone could tell them of plays but no one knew where they could be found in printed form and whenever the librarian found something which might be suitable Miss Masters was sure to know of something to its disadvantage.
And then the real stage, the legitimate Broadway stage intervened. Albert Marsden produced Hamlet and the Lady Hyacinths determined to follow suit.
"It's kind of old," the President admitted, "but there must be some style left to it. They're playin' it on Broadway right now. An' we'll give it on East Broadway just as soon as we can git ready. Me and Mamie went round to the library last night an' got it out. It's got a dandy lot of parts in it: more than this club will ever need. An' it's got lots of murders an' scraps, an' court ladies an' soldiers an' kings. It's our play all right!"
The sea of troubles into which the Lady Hyacinths plunged with so much enthusiasm swallowed them so completely that Miss Masters could only stand on its shore, looking across to Denmark and wringing her hands over the awful things that were happening in that unhappy land. Fortunately she had a friend to whom she could appeal for succour for the lost but still valiant Hyacinths. He was the sort of person to whom appeals came as naturally as honors come to some men and, since he had nothing to do and ample time and money with which to do it, he was generally helpful and resourceful. That he had once loved Miss Masters has nothing to do with this story. She was now engaged to be married to a poorer and busier man, but it was to Jack Burgess that she appealed.
"Of course I know," said he when he had responded to her message and she had anchored him with a tea-cup and disarmed him with a smile, "of course I know what you want to say to me. Every girl who has refused me has said it sooner or later. You are saying it later—much later—than they generally do, but it always comes. 'You have found a wife for me.'"
"I have done much better than that," she answered, "I have found work for you." And she sketched the distress of the Hyacinths in Denmark and urged him to go to their assistance.
"But, my dear Margaret," he remonstrated, "What can I do? You have always known that 'something is rotten in the state of Denmark,' and yet you have let these poor innocents stir it up. I have often thought that poor Shakespeare added that line after the first performance. I intend to write that hint to Furniss one of these days."
"You will write it," said Margaret Masters, "with more conviction after you have seen my Denmark."
"Very well," said he, "I'll visit Elsinore to-night, but I insist upon a return ticket."
"You will be begging for a season ticket," she laughed. "They have reduced me to such a condition that I don't know whether they are amusing me or breaking my heart. Tell me, come, which is it? Did you ever hear blank verse recited with tense and reverent earnestness and a Bowery accent?"
"I never did," said he.
* * * * *
"Shakespeare was right," whispered Burgess to Miss Masters. "There is something rotten in Denmark. I've located it. It's the Prince." They were sitting together in a corner of the kindergarten room of the settlement: a large and spacious room all decked and bright with the paper and cardboard masterpieces of the babies who played and learned there in the mornings. Casts and pictures and green growing things added to its charm and the Lady Hyacinths so trim and neat and earnest did not detract from it.
The sewing-machines and the cutting-table had been cast into corners and well in the glare of the electric light the President was exclaiming in a voice which would have disgraced an early phonograph, "Oh that this too too solid flesh would melt."
It was not a dress rehearsal but the too solid Prince wore his hair low on his neck and a golden fillet bound his brows. Silent, he was noble. His walk as he came in at the end of a procession of court ladies and gentlemen was magnificent—slow, dejected, imperious, aloof. But Wittenberg had a great deal to answer for, if he had contracted his accent there.
Gertrude, Queen of Denmark, was a Hyacinth who worked daily at hooks and buttonholes for an East Broadway tailor. On this night she wore none of her regalia save her crown and the King had done nothing at all to differentiate himself from Susie Lacov who officiated as waitress in a Jewish lunchroom.
The Hyacinths had wisely decided to edit Hamlet. In this they followed an almost universal principle and their method was also time-honored. All the scenes in which unimportant members of the club or cast "came out strong," were eliminated. So far the Hyacinths were orthodox, but Rosie Rosenbaum, Prince, President and Censor, went a step further.
"Git busy. Mix her up, why don't you!" she commanded later from the wings. The other players were laboriously wading through persiflage and conversation. "You folks ain't done nothin' the last ten minutes only stand there and gas. Is that actin'? Maybe it's wrote in the book. What I want to know is—is it actin'?" Burgess sat suddenly erect and his eyes glowed. Miss Masters half rose to assume authority but he restrained her.
"You shut up and leave me be," Polonius cried. "Ain't I got a right to say good-bye to my son?"
"You can say good-bye all right," Rosie reminded her, "without puttin' up that game of talk. Give him a 'I'll be a sister to you' on the cheek an' git through sometime before to-morrow. Cut it, I tell you."
This "off with his head" attitude on the President's part delighted Burgess. But the caste enjoyed it less and when the ghost was docked of a whole scene it grew rebellious.
"If you give me any more of your lip," said the princely stage manager, "I'll trow you out altogether. There's lots of people wouldn't believe in ghosts anyway. Me grandfather seen this play in Chermany and he told me they didn't use the ghost at all. Nothin' but a green light with a voice comin' out of it."
"Well, I could be the voice, couldn't I?" the ghost argued; and it was at this point that Miss Masters took charge of the meeting and introduced Mr. Burgess.
"Who has offered," she went on in spite of his energetic pantomime of disclaimer, "to help us with our play."
"That's real sweet of you, Mr. Burgess," said the President graciously.
"Not at all—not at all," he answered. "It will be a pleasure, I assure you."
"You'll excuse me, I'm sure," the Secretary broke in, "if we go right on with our woik while you're here. We're makin' our own costoomes, as much as we can. That was one reason us young ladies chose Hamlet. It's a play what everyone wears skoits in. It's easier for us and it ain't so embarrassing, and I guess our folks will like it better. You have to think of your folks sometimes. Even if they are old-fashioned. Miss Masters got us pictures of Mr. Marsden's production an' every last one of the characters has skoits on. Hamlet's ain't no longer than a bathin' suit, but anyway it's there. I don't think it's real refined, myself, for young ladies to wear gents' suits on the stage."
"And of course," a gentle-eyed little girl looked up from her sewing to remark,—"of course this club ain't formed just for makin' shirt waists. We've got a culture-an'-refinement clause in the club constitution, so we wouldn't want to do nothin' that wasn't real refined."
"I understand," said Burgess more at a loss than a conversation had ever found him, "And what may I ask, is your part of the play?"
"Mamie Conners is too nervous," the lady President explained "to come right out and act. She's 'A flourish of trumpets within an' a voice without an' a lady of the court an' a soldier an' a choir boy at the funeral.'"
"Ah, Miss Conners," Burgess assured this timid but versatile Hyacinth, "that's only stage fright, all great actresses suffer from it at one time or another."
* * * * *
During the weeks that followed, order gradually gained sway in Denmark and Burgess gained an interest and an occupation more absorbing than he had found for many years.
"My dear Margaret," he was wont to assure Miss Masters, when she remonstrated with him upon his generosity, "Why shouldn't I order supper to be sent in for them? and why shouldn't I ask them up to the house for rehearsals? There's the big music room going to waste and those lazy beggars of servants with nothing to do, and you saw yourself how it brightened up poor old Aunt Priscilla. She likes it—they like it—I like it—you ought to like it. And you certainly can't object to my having taken them en masse to see Marsden in the play. By George! I'll drag him to theirs. We'll show him an Ophelia! that Mary Conners is a little genius."
"She is wonderful," agreed Miss Masters. "The grace of her! The dignity! What she herself would call the culture-an'-refinement!"
"All my discovery. That tyrant of a Rosie Rosenbaum had cast her as a quick change, general utility woman. And in the day-time you tell me she's a miserable little shop-girl in a Grand Street rookery!"
"That is what she used to be. But I went to the shop a day or two ago to ask her to come up to my house to rehearse with the new Hamlet. I watched her for a few moments before she noticed me. She was Ophelia to the life. She conversed in blank verse. She walked about with that little queenly air you have taught her. She was delicious, adorable. At first she said that she could not rehearse that night, but I told her you wished it and she came like a lamb. I often wonder if I did a wise thing in introducing them to you. Your sort of culture-an'-refinement' may rather upset them when the play is over and we all settle back to the humdrum."
"You did a great kindness to me," said he, "and the best stroke of missionary work you'll do in a dog's age. I'm going to work."
"You are not," she laughed.
"I am. Shamed into it by the Lady Hyacinths."
"Then perhaps the balance will be maintained. If you turn them against labor they will have turned you toward it."
But Miss Masters' fears were groundless: the Lady Hyacinths though dedicated to a flower of spring were old and wise in social distinctions. The story of King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid would have drawn only a contemptuous "cut it out" from the lady President. Every Hyacinth of them knew her exact place in nature's garden—all except Mary Conners—now Ophelia—and she knew herself to be a foundling with no place at all. The lonely woman who had adopted her was now dead and Mary was quite alone in her little two-room tenement, free to dream and play Ophelia to her heart's content and to an imaginary Hamlet who was always Burgess. To her he was indeed, "The expectancy and rose of the fair state." "The glass of fashion and the mould of form." He was "her honoured lord"—"her most dear lord." But in Monroe Street she never deceived him. Never handed his letters over to interfering relatives. She could quite easily go mad and tuneful when she knew that each rehearsal—each lesson taught by him and so quickly learned by her—brought the days when she would never see him so close that she could almost feel their emptiness.
It was well that she played to an idealized Hamlet for the real Hamlets came and went bewilderingly. One of Burgess's first triumphs of tact had been to pry the part away from the lady President and give it to the sturdy Secretary. There followed two other claimants to the throne in quick succession and then the lot fell to Rebecca Einstein and stayed there. Each change in the principal role necessitated readjustment throughout the cast and at every change the lady President was persuaded not to over exert herself.
And still Burgess in the seclusion of the homeward bound hansom railed and swore.
"I tell you, Margaret, that girl will ruin us. All the rest are funny. Overwhelmingly, incredibly funny! And pathetic! Could anything be more pathetic! But that awful President strikes a wrong note: Vulgarity. Take her out of it and we'll have a thing the like of which New York had never seen, for Ophelia is a genius or I miss my guess and all the rest are darlings."
"But we can't throw out the President of the club. She must have a part. You have moved her down from Hamlet to Laertes—to the King—"
"I did," groaned Burgess. "Will you ever forget her rendering of the line, "Now I could do it, Pat," and then her storming up to me to know "Who Pat was anyway?""
"I do," laughed Margaret, "and then how you moved her on to Guildenstern and now you have got her down to Bernardo with all her part cut out and nothing except that opening line, "Who's there?" and the other: "'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed, Francisco.""
"Yes, and she ruins them. I've drilled her and drilled her till my throat is sore and still she says it straight through her nose just as though she were delivering an order of 'ham and' at her hash battery. Just the same truculent 'Don't you dare to answer back' attitude. She's impossible. She must be removed."
Meanwhile the Lady Hyacinths scattering to their different homes discussed their mentor. Ophelia and Horatio and Hamlet were going through Clinton Street together. Ophelia was still at Elsinore but Horatio was approaching common ground again.
"I suppose he's Miss Masters' steady," said he to Hamlet. "He wouldn't come down here every other night just to help us goils out."
But Ophelia was better informed. She knew Miss Masters to be engaged to quite another person.
"Then I know," cried Horatio triumphantly. "He's stuck on Rosie Rosenbaum. It's her brings him."
Ophelia said nothing, and Horatio having experienced an inspiration, set about strengthening it with proof.
"It's Rosie sure enough. Ain't he learned her about every part in the play? Don't he keep takin' her off in corners an' goin' 'Who's there, 'Tis now struck twelve' for about an hour every night? I wouldn't have nothin' to do with a feller that kept company that way, but I s'pose it's the style on Fifth Avenue. You know how I tell you, Ham, in the play that there's lots of things goin' on what you ain't on to. Well it's so. None of you was on to Rosie an' his nibs. You didn't ever guess it did you 'Pheleir?"
"No," admitted Ophelia. "No, I never did."
"Well it's so. You watch 'em. The style in wives is changin'. Actresses is goin' out an' the 'poor but honest workin' goil' is comin' in. One of our salesladies has a book about it. "The Bowery Bride" its name is. All about a shop goil what married a rich fellow and used to come back to the store and take her old friends carriage ridin'. If Rosie Rosenbaum tries it on me, I'll break her face. If she comes round me," cried the Prince's fellow student: "with carriages and a benevolent smile, I'll claw the smile off of her if I have to take the skin with it!"
When Horatio and Hamlet left her, she wandered disconsolate, down to the river. But no willow grows aslant that brook, no flowers were there with which to weave fantastic garlands.
"I've gone crazy all right," said poor Ophelia as she watched the lights of the great bridge, "but I don't drown myself until Scene VII. And I'm goin' up to his house to-morrow night to learn to act crazy. I guess I don't need much learning."
* * * * *
The performance of Hamlet by the Lady Hyacinths is still remembered by those who saw it as the most bewildering entertainment of their theatrical experience. The play had been cut down to its absolute essentials and the players, though drilled and coached in their lines and business, had been left quite free in the matters of interpretation and accent. The result was so unique that the daily press fell upon it with whoops of joy and published portraits of and interviews with the leading characters. People who had thought that only ferries and docks lay south of Twenty-third Street penetrated to the heart of the great East Side and went home again full of an altruism which lasted three days. And on the last night of the "run" of three nights, Jack Burgess brought Albert Marsden to witness it. Other spectators had always emerged dumb or inarticulate from the ordeal but the great actor was not one of them. He was blusterous and garrulous and, to Burgess' amazement, not at all amused.
"Who is that girl who played Ophelia? Is she an East Side working girl or one of the mission people?"
"She's a shop-girl," answered Burgess. "There's no good in your asking me to introduce you to her for I won't. That's been one of our rules from the beginning. We don't want the children to be upset and patronized."
"Who taught her to act?"
"Well, I coached them all as you know, but she never seemed to require any special teaching. Pretty good, isn't she?"
"Pretty good! She is a genius—a wonder. This is all rot about my not meeting her. I am going to meet her and train her. I suppose you have noticed that she is a beauty too."
"But she's only a child," Burgess urged. "She's only eighteen. She couldn't stand the life and the work and she couldn't stand the people. You have no idea what high ideals these girls have, and Mary Conners—that's the girl's name—seems to be exceptional even amongst them."
"Too good for us, eh?" asked the actor.
"Entirely too good," answered Burgess steadily.
"And do you feel justified in deciding her future for her! In condemning her to an obscure life in the slums instead of a successful career on the stage?"
"I do not," answered Burgess, "she must decide that for herself. I'll ask her and let you know."
To this end he sought Miss Masters. "I want you," said he, "to ask Mary Conners to tea with you to-morrow afternoon. It will be Sunday so she can manage. And then I want you to leave us alone. I have something very serious to say to her."
Margaret looked at him and laughed. "Then you were right," said she, "and I was wrong; I had found a wife for you."
"For absolute inane, insensate romanticism," said he, "I recommend you to the recently engaged. You used to have some sense. You were clever enough to refuse me and now you go and forever ruin my opinion of you by making a remark like that."
"It is not romanticism at all," she maintained. "It is the best of common sense. You will never be satisfied with anyone you haven't trained and formed to suit your own ideals. And you will never find such a 'quick study' as Mary."
It was the earliest peep of spring and Burgess stopped on his way to Miss Masters' house and bought a sheaf of white hyacinths and pale maiden hair for the little Lady Hyacinth who was waiting for him.
As soon as he was alone with her he managed to distract her attention from her flowers and to make her listen to Marsden's message. He set the case before her plainly. Without exaggeration and without extenuation.
"And we don't expect you," he ended, "to make up your mind at once. You must consult your relatives and friends."
"I have no relatives," she answered.
"Your friends then."
"I don't think I have many. Some of the girls in the club perhaps. The old book-keeper in the store where I work, perhaps Miss Masters."
"And you have me," he interrupted. But she smiled at him and shook her head. "You were real kind about the play," said she, "but the play's all over now. I guess you'd better tell your friend that I'll take the position. I have been getting pretty tired of work in the store and I'd like to try this if he don't mind."
"Oh, but you mustn't go into it like that," Burgess protested, "just for the want of something better. Acting is an art—a great art—you must be glad and proud."
"I'll try it," she said without enthusiasm. "If you feel that way about it I'll try it. It can't be worse than the store. The store is just horrible. Oh! Mr. Burgess you can't think what it is to be Ophelia in the evening with princes loving you and then to be a cashier in the day-time that any fresh customer thinks he can get gay with. Maybe if I was an actress I could be Ophelia oftener. I'd do anything, Mr. Burgess, to get away from the store."
Burgess did not answer immediately. Her earnestness had rather overcome her and he waited silently while she walked to the window, surreptitiously pressed her handkerchief against her eyes and conquered the sobs that threatened to choke her. Burgess watched her. The trimness of her figure, the absolute neatness and propriety of her dress, the poise and restraint of her manner. Then she turned and he rose to meet her.
"Mary," said he, "you never in all the time I've known you have failed to do what I asked you. Will you do something for me now?"
"Yes, sir," she answered simply.
"Then sit down in that chair and take this watch of mine in your hand and don't say one single, solitary, lonely word for five minutes. No matter what happens: no matter what anyone says or does. Will you promise?"
"Yes, sir," she answered again.
"Well then," he began, "I know another man who wants you—this stage idea is not the only way out of the store. Remember you're not to speak—this other man wants to marry you."
A scarlet flush sprang to Mary's face and slowly ebbed away again leaving her deadly pale. She kept her word in letter but hardly in spirit for she looked at him through tear-filled eyes, and shook her head.
"Of course you can't be expected to take to the idea just at first," said he, as if she had spoken, "but I want you to think it over. The man is a well-off, gentlemanly sort of chap. Miles too old for you of course—for you're not twenty and he's nearly forty—but I think he would make you happy. I know he'd try with all the strength that's in him."
Blank incredulity was on Mary's face. She glanced at the watch and up at him and again she shook her head.
"This man," Burgess went on, "is a friend of Miss Masters and it was through her that he first heard of the Lady Hyacinths. He was an idler then. A shiftless, worthless loafer, but the Lady Hyacinths made a man of him and he's gone out and got a job."
Comprehension overwhelming, overmastering, flashed into Mary's eyes. But her promise held her silent and in her chair. Again it was as though she had spoken.
"Yes, I see you understand—you probably think of me as an old man past the time of love and yet I love you."
"Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love."
"That's all I have to offer you, sweetheart. Just love and my life," and he in turn went to the window and looked out into the gathering dusk.
Mary sat absolutely still. She knew now that she was dreaming. Just so the dream had always run and when the five minutes were past, she rose and went to him: a true Ophelia, her arms all full of hyacinths.
"My honored Lord," said she. He turned, and the dream held.
THERE'S DANGER IN NUMBERS
The Pennsylvania Limited was approaching Jersey City and the afternoon was approaching three o'clock when Mr. John Blake turned to Mrs. John Blake, nee Marjorie Underwood, a bride of about three hours, and precipitated the first discussion of their hitherto happy married life.
"Your Uncle Richard Underwood," said he—the earlier discussions in the wedded state are usually founded upon relations—"is as stupid as he is kind. It was very good of him to arrange that I should meet old Nicholson. Any young fellow in the country would give his eyes for the chance. But to make an appointment for a fellow at four o'clock in the afternoon of his wedding day is a thing of which no one, except your Uncle Richard, would be capable. He might have known that I couldn't go."
"But you must go," urged the bride, "it's the chance of a lifetime. Besides which," she added with a pretty little air of practicality, "we can't afford to throw away an opportunity like this. We may never get another one, and if you don't go how are you to explain it to Uncle Richard when we dine there to-morrow night?—you know we promised to, when he was last at West Hills."
"But what," suggested her husband—"what if, in grasping at the shadow, I lose the reality? I'd rather lose twenty opportunities than my only wife, and what's to become of you while I go down to Broad Street? Do you propose to sit in the station?"
"I propose nothing of the kind," she laughed. "I shall go straight to the Ruissillard and wait for you. Dick and Gladys may be there already."
Although Mr. John Blake received this suggestion with elaborate disfavor and disclaimer it was clear to the pretty eyes of Mrs. John Blake that he hailed it with delight, and she was full of theories upon marital co-operation and of eagerness to put them into practice. None of her husband's objections could daunt her, and before he had adjusted himself to the situation he had packed his wife into a hansom, given the cabman careful instructions and a careless tip, and was standing on the step admonishing his bride:
"Be sure to tell them that we must have out-side rooms. Have the baggage sent up, but don't touch it. If you open a trunk or lift a tray before I arrive I shall instantly send you home to your mother as incorrigible."
"Very well," she agreed; "I'll be good."
"And then, if Gladys is there—it's only an off-chance that they come before to-morrow—get her to sit with you. But don't go wandering about the hotel by yourself. And, above all, don't go out."
"Goosie," said she, "of course I shan't go out. Where should I go?"
"And you're sure, sure, sure that you don't mind?" he asked for the dozenth time.
"Goosie," said she again, "I am quite, quite sure of it. Now go or you will surely miss your appointment and disappoint your uncle."
After two or three more questions of his and assurances of hers the cab was allowed to swing out into the current. John had given the driver careful navigation orders, and Marjorie leaned back contentedly enough and watched the busy people, all hot and haggard, as New York's people sometimes are in the first warm days of May. Her collection of illustrated post-cards had prepared her to identify many of the places she passed, but once or twice she felt, a little ruefully the difference between this, her actual first glimpse of New York and the same first glimpse as she and John had planned it before the benign, but hardly felicitous, interference of Uncle Richard. This feeling of loneliness was strongly in the ascendent when the cab stopped under an ornate portico and two large male creatures, in powdered wigs and white silk stockings, emerged before her astonished eyes. Open flew her little door, down jumped the cabman, out rushed other menials and laid hands upon her baggage. Horses fretted, pedestrians risked their lives, motors snorted and newsboys clamored as an enormous police-appearing person assisted her to alight. He had such an air of having been expecting and longing for her arrival that she wondered innocently whether John had telephoned about her. This thought persisted with her until she and her following of baggage-laden pages drew up before the desk, but it fell from her with a crash when she encountered the aloof, impersonal, world-weary regard of the presiding clerk. In all Marjorie's happy life she had never met anything but welcome. The belle of a fast-growing town is rather a sheltered person, and not even the most confiding of ingenues could detect a spark of greeting in the lackadaisical regard of this highly-manicured young man.
Marjorie began her story, began to recite her lesson: "Outside rooms, not lower than the fourth nor higher than the eighth floor; the Fifth Avenue side if possible—and was Mrs. Robert Blake in?"
The lackadaisical young man consulted the register with a disparaging eye.
"Not staying here," Marjorie understood him to remark.
"Oh, it doesn't matter—but about the rooms?"
"Front!" drawled the young man, and several blue-clad bellboys ceased from lolling on a bench and approached the desk.
"Register here," commanded the clerk, twirling the big book on its turn-table toward Marjorie so suddenly that she jumped, and laying his pink-tinted finger on its first blank line.
"No, thank you," she stammered, "I was not to register until my husband—" and her heart cried out within her for that she was saying these new, dear words for the first time to so unresponsive a stranger—"told me not to register until he should come and see that the rooms were satisfactory. He will be here presently."
"We have no unsatisfactory rooms," was the answer, followed by: "Front 625 and 6," and fresh pages and bellboys fell upon the yellow baggage, and Marjorie, in a hot confusion of counting her property and wondering how to resent the young man's impertinence, turned to follow them.
"One moment, madam," the clerk murmured; "name and address, please." The pages were escaping with the bags, and Mrs. Blake hardly turned as she answered, according to the habit of her lifetime:
"Underwood, West Hills, N.J.," and flew to the elevator, which had already swallowed her baggage and the boys. Up to suite Number 625 and 6 she was conducted by her blue-clad attendants, who opened the windows, pushed the furniture about—then waited; who fetched ice water, drew down shades—and waited; who closed the windows, drew up the shades, shifted the baggage from sofa to armchair, unbuckled the straps of a suitcase, indicated the telephone—and waited; who put the bags on the bed, opened the windows, pushed the furniture back against the wall—and waited. Marjorie viewed all these manoeuvres with amused but unsophisticated eyes. She smiled serenely at the smiling bellboys—while they waited. She thanked them prettily for their assistance—and they waited. She dismissed them still prettily, and it is to be regretted that, in the privacy of the hall, they swore.
She then took possession of her little domain. The clerk, however unbearably, had spoken the truth, and the rooms were charming. There could be no question, she decided, of going farther. She spread her pretty wedding silver on the dressing-table, she hung her negligee with her hat and coat in the closet. She went down on her knees and investigated the slide which was to lead shoes to the bootblack; she tested, with her bridal glove-stretcher, the electrical device in the bathroom for the heating of curling irons. She studied all the pictures, drew out all the drawers, examined the furniture and bric-a-brac, and then she looked at her watch. Only half an hour was gone.
She went to the window and watched the hats of the passing multitude, noting how short and fore-shortened all the figures seemed and how queerly the horses passed along beneath her, without visible legs to move them. Still an hour before John could be expected.
And then their trunks, hers large and his small, made their thumping entrance. The porter crossed to the window and raised the shade, crossed to her trunk and undid its straps, dried his moistened brow—and waited. Marjorie thanked him and smiled. He smiled and waited, drying his brow industriously the while. No village black-smith ever had so damp a brow as he. She sympathized with him in the matter of the heat; he agreed—and waited. He undid the straps of John's trunk; he moved her trunk into greater proximity to the window and the light; he carried John's trunk into the sitting-room; he performed innumerable feats of prowess before her. But she only smiled and commended in an unfinancial way. Finally he laid violent hands upon his truck and retreated into the hall, swearing, as became his age, more luridly than the bellboys.
Once more Marjorie looked out into the street for a while and began to plan the exact form of greeting with which she should meet John. It already seemed an eternity since she had parted with him. She drew the pretty evening dress which she had chosen for this and most important evening from its tissue-paper nest in the upper tray of her trunk. Its daintiness comforted and cheered her, as a friend's face might have done, and under its impetus she found calm enough to rearrange her hair, and, with many a shy recoil and shy caress, to lay out John's evening things for him, as she had often laid out her father's. How surprised, she smiled, he would be. How delighted, when he came, to find everything so comfy and domestic. Surely it was time for him to come. Presently it was late, and yet he did not come. She evolved another form of greeting: he did not deserve comfort and domesticity when he did not set more store on them than on a stupid interview in a stuffy office. He should see that an appointment with old Nicholson could not be allowed to interfere with their home life; that, simply because they were married now, he could not neglect her with impunity.
She practised the detached, casual sort of smile with which she would greet him, and the patient, uninterested silence with which she would listen to his apologies. Then, realizing that these histrionics would be somewhat marred by a pink negligee, she struggled into her dinner dress.
It was then seven o'clock and time to practise some more vehement reception for the laggard. It went well—very well. Any man would have been annihilated by it, but there was still no man when half-past seven came.
Quite suddenly she fell into a panic. John was dead! She had heard and read of the perils of New York. She had seen a hundred potential accidents on her drive from the ferry. Trolley, anarchist, elevated railroad, collapsed buildings, frightened horses, runaway automobiles. Her dear John! Her mangled husband! Passing out of the world, even while she, his widowed bride, was dressing in hideous colors, and thinking so falsely of him!
He must be brought to her. Some one should go and say something to somebody! Telephone Uncle Richard! She flew to the directory, which had interested her so little when the polite bellboy of the itching palm had pointed it out to her, and presently she had startled a respectable old stockbroker, so thoroughly and so hastily that he burst into his wife's presence with the news that John Blake had met with a frightful accident and was being carried to the hotel in the automobile of some rich gentleman from Paterson, New Jersey.
"Hurry down there at once," commanded Aunt Richard, who was as staid and practical as the wife of a stockbroker ought to be, "and bring the two poor lambs here in your car. Take the big one. They'll want plenty of room to lay him flat. I'll have the nurse and the doctor here and a room ready. Get there if possible before he does, so as not to move him about too often."
Meanwhile Mrs. John Blake, bride now of nearly eight hours, lay in a stricken heap upon the bed, bedewing with hot tears the shirt she had so dutifully laid ready for Mr. John Blake, and which now he was never more to wear. And Mr. John Blake, in a hurricane of fear, exasperation and bewilderment, a taxicab, and the swift-falling darkness, fared from hotel to hotel and demanded speech with Mrs. John Blake, a young lady in blue with several handbags and some heavy luggage, who had arrived at some hotel early that afternoon.
His interview with old Nicholson had been short and satisfactory, and at about five-thirty o'clock he was at the Ruissillard inquiring for Mrs. J. Blake's number and floor with a confidence he was soon to lose. There was no such person. No such name. Then could the clerk tell him whether, and why, she had gone elsewhere. A slim and tall young lady in blue.
The clerk really couldn't say. He had been on duty for only half an hour. There was no person of the name of Blake in the hotel. Sometimes guests who failed to find just the accommodation they wanted went over to the Blinheim, just across the avenue. So the bridegroom set out upon his quest and the clerk, less world-weary than his predecessor, turned back to the telephone-girl.
Presently there approached the desk a brisk, business-like person who asked a few business-like questions and then registered in a bold and flowing hand, "Mr. and Mrs. Robert Blake, Boston."
"My husband," she announced, "will be here presently."
"He was here ten minutes ago," said the clerk, and added particulars.
"Oh, that's all right," replied the slightly-puzzled but quite unexcited lady; "he'll be back." And then, accompanied by bags and suitcases, she vanished aloft.
"Missed connections, somehow," commented the clerk to the stenographer, and gave himself to the contemplation of "Past Performances" in the Evening Telegram, and to ordinary routine of a hotel office for an hour or so, when, to prove the wisdom of the lady's calm, the excited Mr. John Blake returned.
"There must be some mistake," he began darkly, "I've been to every hotel—"
"Lady came ten minutes after you left," said the genial clerk. "Front, show the gentleman to 450." And, presently, John was explaining his dilemma to Gladys, the pretty wife of his cousin Bob. "She is somewhere in this hotel," he fumed, "and I'll find her if I have to search it room by room."
The office was hardly quiet after the appearance and disappearance of Mr. John Blake, when the clerk and the telephone-girl were again interrupted by an excited gentleman. His white whiskers framed an anxious, kindly face, his white waistcoat bound a true and tender heart.
"Has Mr. Blake arrived?" he demanded with some haste.
"Just a minute ago," the clerk replied, and was surprised at the disappointment his answer caused.
"I must see him," cried the old gentleman. "You needn't announce me. I'll go right up. I'm his wife's uncle, and she telephoned me to come."
"Front!" called the clerk. "This gentleman to 450."
At the door of 450 he dismissed his guide with suitable largesse, and softly entered the room. It was brightly illuminated, and Uncle Richard was able clearly to contemplate his nephew of eight hours in animated converse with a handsome woman in evening dress.
"I think, sir," said the woman, "that there is some mistake."
"I agree with you, madam," said Uncle Richard, "and I'm sorry for it."
"But you are exactly the man to help us," cried the nephew; "we are in an awful state."
"I agree with you, sir," repeated Uncle Richard.
"You must know how to help us," urged the nephew. "I've lost Marjorie."
"So I should have inferred. But she had already thrown herself away."
"She's lost!" stormed the bridegroom. "Don't you understand? Lost, lost, lost!"
"I rather think he misunderstands," the handsome woman interrupted. "You've not told him, John, who I am."
"You are mistaken," replied Uncle Richard with a horrible suavity; "I understand enough. That poor child telephoned to me not twenty minutes ago that her husband was injured, perhaps mortally, and implored my help. I left my dinner to come to his assistance and I find him—here—and thus."
"Twenty minutes ago?" yelled John, leaping upon his new relative and quite disregarding that gentleman's last words. "Where was she? Did she tell you where to look for her?"
"So, sir," stormed Uncle Richard, "the poor, deluded child has left you and turned to her faithful old uncle! Allow me to say that you're a blackguard, sir, and to wish you good-bye."
"If you dare to move," stormed John Blake, "until you tell me where my wife is, I'll strangle you. Now listen to me. This is Mrs. Bob Blake, wife of my cousin Robert. She's an old friend of Marjorie's. We had a half engagement to meet here this week. Bob is due any minute, but Marjorie is lost. There is only one record of a Blake in to-day's register and that's this room and this lady—when Marjorie left me at the ferry she was coming here, straight. I've been to all the possible hotels. She is nowhere. You say she telephoned to you. From where?"
"She didn't say," answered Uncle Richard, shame-facedly, and added still more dejectedly, "I didn't ask. She said in a letter her aunt received this morning that she was coming here. So I inferred that she was here."
"Then she is here," cried Gladys. "It's some stupid mistake in the office."
"I'll go down to that chap," John threatened, "and if he doesn't instantly produce Marjorie I'll shoot him."
"You'll do nothing of the sort," his uncle contradicted, "the child appealed to me and I am the one to rescue her. I shall interview the manager. I know him. You may come with me if you like."
Down at the desk they accosted the still-courteous clerk. Uncle Richard produced his card, and, before he could ask for the manager the clerk flicked a memorandum out of one pigeon-hole, a key out of another, and twirled the register on its turn-table almost into the midst of the white waistcoat.
"The lady has been expecting you for hours, Mr. Underwood," said he. "Looked for you quite early in the afternoon, so the maid says. Register here, please. Quite hysterical, she is, they tell me, and the maid was asking for the doctor—Front! 625!"
Uncle Richard's face, as he met John's eyes, was a study. The telephone-girl disentangled the receiver from her pompadour so that she might hear without hindrance the speech which was bursting through the swelling buttons of the white waistcoat and making the white whiskers quiver.
"I know nothing whatever about any lady in any of your rooms," he roared, greatly to the delight of the bellboys. "I know nothing about your Underwood woman, with her doctors and her hysterics. I want to see the manager."
"If," said the telephone maiden, adjusting her skirt at the hips and shaking her figure into greater conformity with the ideal she had set before it—"If this gentleman is 2525 Gram., then the lady in 625 rang him up at seven-thirty and held the wire seven minutes talkin' to him and cryin' to beat Sousa's band. All about her uncle she was talkin'. I guess it was him, all right, all right. His voice sounds sort of familiar to me when he talks mad."
But John had neither eyes nor ears for Uncle Richard's wrath. He snatched the key and the paper upon which the supercilious clerk had inscribed, at Marjorie's embarrassed dictation, "Mrs. Underwood, West Hills, N.J. (husband to arrive later), 625 and 6," and, since love is keen, he jumped to the right conclusion and the open elevator without further delay.
An hour or so later the attention of the clerk and the telephone-girl was again drawn to the complicated Blakes. A party of four sauntered out of the dining-room and approached the desk.
"I'll register now, I think," said John. And when he had finished he turned to the star-eyed girl behind him.
"Look carefully at this, Marjorie," he admonished. "Mr. and Mrs. John Blake. You are Mrs. John Blake. Do you think you can remember that?"
"Don't laugh at me," she pleaded, "Gladys says it was a most natural mistake, and so does Bob. Don't you, Gladys and Bob?"
"An almost inevitable mistake," they chorused mendaciously, "but," added Bob, "a rather disastrous mistake for your uncle to explain to his wife, the doctor and the nurse. He'll be able for it, though; I never saw so game an old chap."
"And I'll never do it again," she promised. People never do when they've been married a long, long time, and I feel as though I had been married thousands and thousands of years."
"Poor, tired little girl," said John, "you have had a rather indifferent time of it. Say good-night to Dick and Gladys. Come, my dear."
MISERY LOVES COMPANY.
"But, Win," remonstrated the bride-elect, "I really don't think we could. Wouldn't it look awfully strange? I don't think I ever heard of its being done."
"Neither did I," he agreed. "And yet I want you to do it. Look at it from my point of view. I persuade John Mead to stop wandering around the world and to take an apartment with me here in New York. Then I meet you. The inevitable happens and in less than a year John is to be left desolate. You know how eccentric he is, and how hard it will be for him to get on with any other companion—"
"I know," said Patty, "that he never will find any one—but you—to put up with his eccentricities."
"And then, as if abandoning him were not bad enough, I go and maim the poor beggar: blind him temporarily—permanently, if he is not taken care of—and disfigure him beyond all description. Honestly, Patty, you never saw anything like him."
"I know," said she, "I know. A pair of black eyes."
"Black!" he cried, "why, they're all the colors of the rainbow and two more beside, as the story-book says. All the way from his hair to his mustache he is one lurid sunset. I don't want to minimize this thing. It has only one redeeming feature: he will be a complete disguise. No amount of rice or ribbon could counteract his sinister companionship. No bridal suspicions could live in the light of it. Doesn't that thought help?".
The conversation wandered into personalities and back again, as a conversation may three days before a wedding, but Patty was not entirely won over to Hawley's view of his responsibility for having with unprecedented dexterity and precision planted a smashing "right" on the bridge of his friend's nose in the course of an amicable "bout."
"And the oculist chap says," Winthrop urged, "that he simply must not be allowed to use his eyes. I'm the only one who takes any interest in him or has any control over him, and to abandon him now would be an awful responsibility. Can't you see that, dear? If we stay at home to take care of him he will understand why we're doing it, and he'd vanish. Do let me put him into a motor mask and attach him to the procession."
"Well, of course, Win," Patty answered, "of course we must have him if you feel so strongly about it. It's a pity," she ended mischievously, "that he dislikes me so much."
"That's because you dislike him. But just wait till you know one another."
"I will," she answered with a spirit which promised well for the future. "I'll wait."
And Winthrop was so touched and gratified by her complaisance that he had no alternative, save to duplicate it, when the following evening brought him this communication:
"Kate Perry and I were playing golf this morning. And, oh! Win, it seems just too dreadful! I banged her between the eyes with my driver. I can't think how I ever did it. She's not fit to be seen. Awful! worse than Mr. Mead can possibly be. She can't stay here and she can't go home to Washington.
"So, now, if you will consent, we shall be four instead of three. Let me take poor Kate. She can wear a thick veil and sit in behind with Mr. Mead, in his goggles, and leave the front seats for us. They'll be company for one another."
Winthrop questioned this final sentence. A supercilious, spoiled beauty—a beauty now doubly spoiled and presumedly bad tempered—was hardly an ideal companion for the misanthropic Mead.
* * * * *
The wedding took place in the morning and the beginning of the honeymoon was prosaic enough. Winthrop and Patty sat in the front seat of the throbbing touring car, while hysterical bridesmaids and vengeful groomsmen showered the requisite quantities of rice, confetti and old slippers upon them.
It was at the New York side of the ferry that a shrouded female joined them, and it was at the Hoboken side of the river that a be-goggled young man was added unto her. The bride rushed through the formula of introduction: a readjustment of dress-suit cases and miniature trunks was effected, and the disguise which the bridegroom had predicted was complete. The most romantic onlooker would not have suspected them of concealing a honeymoon about them.
It was nearly six o'clock when at last they reached their destination, the little town of Rapidan, in New Jersey, and stopped before the Empress Hotel. Hawley had visited Rapidan once before, as a member of his college glee club, and he had recalled it instantly when Mead's disfigurement made sequestration imperative.
The motor sobbed itself to a standstill: several children and dogs gathered to inspect it, and then finding more interest and novelty in Mead's mask turned their attention to him.
The Empress had evidently been dethroned for some years, and the hospitality she afforded her guests was of an impoverished sort. Hawley, approaching the desk to make enquiries, was met by a clerk incredibly arrayed, and the intelligence that the whole house was theirs to choose, except for two small rooms on the third floor occupied by two gentlemen who "traveled" respectively in sarsaparilla and molasses.
Hawley returned to his friends and repeated this information.
"How perfectly sweet of them," cried the irresponsible bride. "Oh! Win, we must stay here and see them. Isn't it the dearest sleepy hollow of a place?"
Attended by the impressed and impressive clerk, they made an inspection of the house. Mr. and Mrs. Hawley settled upon a suite just over the main entrance. Mead was established across the hall. But Kate found a wonderful panorama which could only be seen from the rooms on the third floor, and there, down a dreary length of oil-clothed hall, she bestowed herself and her belongings.
"For I must," she explained to Patty, "I simply must get out of this veil and breathe, and I shouldn't dare to do it within reach of that horribly supercilious friend of Winthrop's. I'm going to plead headache or something, and have my dinner sent up here."
Mead, meanwhile, was unfolding similar plans to Hawley. "I should have joined you," said he, "if your wife's friend had been a little less self-sufficient and unsympathetic. Of course, I don't require any sympathy; but I don't want ridicule either. So, while she is of the party I'll have my meals in my room. I can't act the 'Man in the Iron Mask' forever. You just leave the ladies together after dinner and come up here for a pipe with me."
And when Mr. and Mrs. Hawley next encountered one another and reported the wishes of their friends, he suggested and she rapturously agreed, that they should dine in their horse-hair-covered sitting-room.
"I have a reason, dear," she told him, "for not wishing to go to the dining-room for our first meal together. I'll explain later."
"Your wishing it is enough," he answered before the conversation sank to banalities.
And when these several intentions were made clear to the conscientious clerk, he sent for the police force of the town—it consisted of a mild, little old man in a uniform and helmet which might have belonged to some mountainous member of the Broadway Squad in its prime—and implored him to spend the evening in the hall.
"They're beginning to act up funny already," the clerk imparted. "This eatin' all over the house don't seem just right to me. What do they think the dining-room's for anyway? Sam was up with the bag belonging to the single fellow, and he says he's got the worst looking pair of black eyes he ever saw. Here, Sam, you come and tell Jimmie what he looks like."
Sam, a middle-aged combination of porter, bellboy, furnace-man, office assistant and emergency barkeeper was but newly launched upon his description of Mead's face, when the chambermaid, who was also the waitress and housekeeper, broke in upon them with the intelligence that never in all her born days or nights had she seen anything like the face of the young lady on the third floor.
"What's the matter with her," said the clerk suspiciously, with a look which warned Jimmie to be at once a Bingham and a Sherlock Holmes.
"Why, Horace," she answered tragically, "that girl has two of the most awful black eyes. The whites of them is red and then comes purple and green and yellow. I guess they was meant to be blue."
This chromatic scale was too much for Jimmie. He reeled where he sat and then, the postman opportunely arriving, sent word to Mrs. Jimmie that duty would keep him from her all the night.
"Tell her," he huskily charged his messenger, "that there is suspicious circumstances going on in this house."
"You bet there is," the clerk agreed. "It looks like a case of attempted murder to me."
"Divorce, more likely," was Jimmie's professional opinion, but he had scant time to enlarge upon it before the waitress, outraged to the point of tears, broke out of her domain. She brought with her an atmosphere of long-dead beefsteak, chops and onions, and she shrilled for an answer to her question.
"What's the matter with 'em anyway? Ain't the dining-room good enough for 'em to eat in? It done all right for Judge Campbell's funeral this afternoon, and I found a real sweet wreath on that there whatnot in the corner. The candles wasn't all burnt up neither, an' I set out four of 'em on the four corners. It looks elegant, an' them tube-roses smells grand. An' when I told that young lady what's got the use of her eyes how glad I was they happened in when we was so well fixed for decorations, she looked awful funny. Most like she was cross-eyed."
"They all seem to have eye-trouble," Jimmie commented. "Do you suppose they're running away from one of these here blind asylums."
"Lunatic asylum, most likely," the cheerful clerk contributed.
When the other two guests ceased from traveling in molasses and sarsaparilla and returned to their quiet hostelry, all these surmises had hardened into certainties, and were imparted to them with a new maze of suspicion, more dense, more deadly, and more strictly in accordance with the principles laid down in "Dandy Dick, the Boy Detective."
Madeline, the waitress, reported further particulars as she ministered to the creature-comforts of the traveling gentlemen dining alone among the funeral-baked meats. So interested and excited did these gentlemen become that they determined to interview, or at least to see, their mysterious fellow guests.
When their elaborate supper had reached its apotheosis of stewed prunes and blue-boiled rice, Hawley and Mead had gone out for a meditative and tobacco-shrouded stroll. They passed through the hall and inspiration awoke in Jimmie.
"By gum," said he, "I know them now. I suspicioned them from the first by what Horace told me. But now I've got them sure. You mind that time I was down to New York and was showed over Police Headquarters, by professional etiquette?"
"Sure," they all agreed. It was indeed a reminiscence, the details of which had been playing havoc with Rapidan's nerves for the past fifteen years. They felt that they could not bear it now.
"Well," continued Jimmie, gathering his auditors close about him by the husky whisper he now adopted, "I see them two fellers then. Mebbe 'twas in the Rogue's Gallery and mebbe it was in the cells. I ain't worked it down that fine yet, but I'll think and pray on it and let you know when I get light."
When the staff and the commercial guests of the Empress Hotel were waiting to see illumination burst through the blue-shrouded protector, the bridal party was veering momentarily further from the normal. For the deserted bride, alone in the desolate best sitting-room, laid her head upon her arms and laughed and laughed. She had made one cautious descent to the ground floor in search of diversion, and meeting Jimmie, she found it. After a conversation strictly categorical upon his side and widely misleading upon hers, she had gone up stairs again and halted in the upper hall just long enough to hear Jimmie's triumphant:
"Well, we know her name anyway."
"What is it?" hissed Horace, while the porter relieved himself of a quid of tobacco so that nothing should interfere with his hearing and attention.
"Huh!" ejaculated Jimmie, "you bin a hotel clerk two years and sold seegars all that time (when you could) and you don't know Ruby Mandeville when she stands before you."
A box of the "Flor de" that gifted songstress, was soon produced and pried open, and the effulgent charms of its godmother compared with the less effulgent, but no less charming figure which had just trailed away.
"It's her, sure as you're born," cried the gentleman who traveled in molasses, absent-mindedly abstracting three cigars and conveying them surreptitiously to his coat pocket.
"She's fallen off some in flesh," commented Horace, as with careful presence of mind he drew out his daybook and entered a charge for those three cigars.
"But she don't fool me," said Jimmie, "she can put flesh on or she can take it off—"
"My, how you talk!" shrilled the chambermaid-bellboy, "you'd think you was talkin' about clothes."
"It ain't no different to them," Jimmie maintained. "That's one of the things us detekitives has got to watch out for."
"What do you s'pose she's doing here?" asked the porter.
"Gettin' married again most likely. That's about all she does nowadays."
Patty was still chuckling and choking over these remarks, when the door of the sitting-room opened cautiously and Kate Perry, swathed in her motor veil, looked in.
"Are we alone?" she demanded with proper melodramatic accent.
"We are," the bride answered, "Winthrop and Mr. Mead have gone out for a smoke."
"Then I want you to tell me if I'm fading at all. I've been looking at it upstairs, in a little two-by-three mirror, and taken that way, by inches, it looks awful. Tell me what you think?" She removed the veil and presented her damaged face for her friend's inspection. There was not much improvement to report, but the always optimistic Patty did what she could with it.
"The left cheek," she pronounced, "is really better, less swollen, less—Oh! Kate, here they come."
Miss Perry began to readjust her charitable gray chiffon veil. It was one of those which are built around a circular aperture, and as the steps in the hall came ever closer she, in one last frantic effort succeeded in framing the most lurid of her eyes in this opening. Casting one last look into the mirror, she swooped under the large center-table, dragging Patty with her, and disposing their various frills and ribbons under the long-hanging tablecover.
"If they don't find either of us," she whispered, "they'll go away to look for us."
She had no time to say more, and Patty had no time to say anything before the door opened and presented to their limited range of vision, two utterly strange pairs of shoes and the hems of alien trousers.
"I hope you will excuse me, Miss," began the molasses gentleman, so full of his entrance speech that he said the first part of it before he noticed that the room was empty. And then turned to rend his fellow adventurer, who was laughing at him.
"Didn't Horace tell us," he stormed, "that she was here, and wasn't you going to say how you had saw her in the original 'Black Crook?'"
"I seen her all right," said his more grammatical friend, with heavy emphasis.
"Do you see her now?" demanded the irate molasses traveler.
"I do not, but I'll set here 'til she comes."
They both sat. Not indeed until the arrival of Ruby Mandeville, but until Hawley and Mead made their appearance, and made it, too, very plain that they had not expected and did not enjoy the society of the travelers.
"Where are the ladies?" asked Hawley.
"Search us," responded the travelers.
"They must have gone to their rooms," said the bridegroom. "If these gentlemen don't object to our waiting here," he went on with a fine and wasted sarcasm.
"Set right down," said the genial sarsaparilla man, and to further promote good feeling he tendered his remaining "Ruby Mandeville" cigar.
"Your friend," said he affably, "does he always wear them goggles?"
"Always," answered Hawley. "Eats in them, sleeps in them."
"Born in them," supplemented Mead savagely.
They sat and waited for yet a few moments, and though Mead did not add geniality to the conversation, he certainly contributed interest to it. For his views on honeymoon etiquette being strong within him, and an audience made to his hand, he went on to amplify some of the theories with which he had been trying to undermine Winthrop's loyalty.
"I am persuaded that most of the disappointments of married life are due to the impossible standards set up at the beginning. Look at it this way. You know the fuss most wives make about the hours a husband keeps. Well! suppose Mr. Hawley comes out in the car with me to-night. I know some fellows who have a summer studio near here. We'll run over and make a night of it."
"Say," the molasses gentleman broke in, "be you married, mister?"
"No!" said Mead.
"Sounds like it," said the molasses gentleman. "Marriage will sort of straighten you out on these here subjects."
"Oh, leave 'em be," admonished the sarsaparilla man. "If I had 'a met up with him thirty years ago, mebbee I wouldn't be in the traveling line now. He's got a fine idee."
Hawley, meanwhile, was wrestling with his manners and the "Ruby Mandeville," until the lady, as was her custom, triumphed.
He hurriedly and incompletely extinguished the cigar, and attracted by the same opportunity for concealment which had appealed to Kate and Patty, he lifted a corner of the heavy-fringed tablecover and sent Ruby to join the other ladies.
Now, a lighted cigar applied suddenly to the ear of an excited and half-hysterical conspirator, will generally produce results. In this case it produced a scream, the bride, and after an interval, the shrouded confidential friend.
"See where amazement on your mother sits," the ghost remarks in Hamlet, but amazement never sat so hard on the wicked Gertrude of Denmark as it did upon the four men who saw the tablecloth give up its ghosts.
At first there was silence. One of those throbbing, abominable silences whose every second makes a situation worse and explanation more impossible.
The "Black Crook" speech of welcome and appreciation died in the heart of the molasses traveler. It did not somehow seem the safest answer to Hawley's threatening—
"I think you gentlemen had better explain how you happen to be in my private sitting-room. Perhaps we had better step out into the hall."
They did, and the echoes of their conversation brought Jimmie, that trusty sleuth, upon the scene. With him he brought Horace as witness. Also, he carried his dark lantern. He directed its glare fitfully at the two strangers until Mead, catching a beam in his eye, turned and drove Jimmie and his cohorts from the scene. They retreated in exceedingly bad order to the bar, and then Jimmie announced in sepulchral whispers that he had further identification to impart. He required much liquid refreshment to nerve him to speech, and his audience required to be similarly strengthened to hear.
"I've got 'em," he began, "I know 'em now. Horace, this is the biggest thing you'll ever be anywhere near." And, as his hearers drew close about him, he whispered "counterfeiters. The hull kit and bilin' of 'em."
* * * * *
Meanwhile, Kate and Patty wrestled afresh with the automobile veil, and had succeeded in getting it tied in a limp string around the bridesmaid's neck, leaving all her head and face uncovered. And when the groom and the groomsman returned she, with a muffled gurgle, dived back into the seclusion of the tablecover.
"We've got rid of those bounders," Hawley announced, and—
"Hello!" cried Mead, "Miss Perry gone already?"
"She was very tired," said Patty veraciously, but evasively.
"Awfully jolly girl, isn't she Mead?" said Hawley, with the expansiveness of the newly-wed. "Handsome, too?"
"Perhaps she is, but so long as she dresses like a veiled prophet it is hard to tell."
"If you two can get on without me," said Patty, disregarding a muffled protest from under the table, "I'll go up and fetch," she made these comforting words very clear, "my green motor veil."
Instantly, when he closed the door after her, Mead turned to Hawley.
"There's something wrong with this confounded mask," said he. "This strap-thing that goes round my head must be too tight. I've been mad with it the last half hour. How do I look?" he asked genially as he took it off, and proceeded to tamper with the buckles and elastic. "Howling Jupiter!" he cried a moment later, "I've busted it."
As the two friends stood and stared at one another aghast, they heard the click of Patty's returning heels, and Mead, abandoning dignity, courage—everything except the broken mask—dived into Miss Perry's maiden bower.
Mrs. Hawley watched this procedure with wide and fascinated eyes. No ripple shook the walls of the bower. No sound proceeded from it as the moments flew. Then Patty fell away into helpless laughter and wept tears of shocked and sudden mirth into the now useless motor veil.
"Patty!" remonstrated her husband, but she laughed helplessly on. "At least come out into the hall and laugh there," he urged, "the poor chap will hear you." And when he had followed her and listened to her shaken whisper, he broke into such a shout as forced the indignant and outraged Kate into a shudder of protest and disgust.
Instantly Mead threw an arm past the table's single central support and grasped a handful of silk chiffon and two fingers.
He, being of an acquisitive turn, retained the fingers. She being of a dictatorial turn, rebuked him.
"Finding is keeping," he shamelessly remarked. "Even in infancy I was taught that."
Now, a certain pomp of scene and circumstance is necessary to the sort of dignified snubbing with which Miss Perry was accustomed to treat possible admirers. Also, a serene consciousness of superlative good looks. But Kate Perry disfigured, cramped into a ridiculous hiding place, and suffering untold miseries of headache and throbbing eyes, was a very different creature.
And Mead, flippant, hard, and misanthropic in the state of nature, softened wonderfully as he sat in the gloom of the tablecover, in silent possession of those two slim fingers.
His words grew gentle, his manner kind, and her answers were calculated to petrify her long-suffering family if they could have overheard them.
"Mr. Mead," she said at last, "will you be so very kind as to stay here quietly under the table while I scramble out and go up to my room?"
No tongue of angel could have made a more welcome suggestion. Mead uttered feeble and polite proffers of escort, and silently called down blessings upon the head he had never seen. He had just allowed himself to be dissuaded from knight errantry, when the door opened and Jimmie flashed his dark lantern about the brightly lighted room. He then beckoned mysteriously to the still vigilant Horace, who lurked in the hall.
"Have you found them?" whispered that youth.
"Not a trace of them," answered Jimmie triumphantly. "They ain't gone out. They ain't in their rooms, and I'm studyin' how I can round 'em up. They're the most suspicious characters I ever see, Horace, and this night's work may cost us our lives."
This disposition of his existence did not seem to cheer Horace.
"Counterfeiters," Jimmie went on, "is the desperatest kind of criminals there is. Still we got to git 'em. I'll look round this room just so as nothing won't escape us, and then we'll go up to the next floor. It's good we got two of them located in the bridal suite."
Jimmie, with his prying dark lantern and his prodding nightstick, soon reached the space under the table, and the counterfeiters secreted there.
"I got 'em," he cried delightedly. "Hi, you. Come out of there and show yourselves."
They came. There was nothing else to do.
"Moses's holy aunt," cried Jimmie, falling back upon Horace, who promptly fell back upon the sofa.
"Here, you," said Mead. "You get out of this, both of you. Don't you know this is a private sitting-room?"
"No settin'-room," said Jimmie, recovering somewhat, "is private to them as sets under tables blackening one another's eyes."
"You ridiculous idiot," snorted Mead. "Do you dare to think that I hurt this lady?"
"Lady? Ain't she your wife?"
"She is not," snapped Kate.
"Then why did you hit her?" demanded Jimmie. "If she ain't your wife what did you want to hit her for? An' anyway, she'd ought to be. That's all I got to say."
* * * * *
The same idea occurred to Mr. and Mrs. Hawley, crouched guiltily against their door to hear their victims pass, for their amazed ears caught these words—the first were Kate's:
"You must let me give you some of my lotion."
And then came Mead's:
"I shall be most grateful. It must be hot stuff. You know you're hardly disfigured at all."
"The saints forgive him," Patty gurgled.
Later on in the darkness, Jimmie's idea visited Mead and was received with some cordiality. And at some time later still, it must have been presented to Miss Perry, for the misanthropic Mead—no longer misanthropic—now boasts a massive and handsome wife whom he calls his Little Kitty. But the idea was originally Jimmie's.
THE CHRISTMAS GUEST
On the day before Christmas eve John Sedyard closed his desk, dismissed his two clerks and his stenographer two hours earlier than usual, and set out in quest of adventure and a present for his sister Edith. John Sedyard had a habit of succeeding in all he set forth to do but the complete and surprising success which attended him in this quest was a notch above even his high average.
Earlier in the month, his stenographer had secured the annual pledges of his affection for all the relatives, friends and dependants to whom he was in the habit of giving presents: all except his mother, his unmarried sister, Edith, who still lived at home, and his fiancee, Mary Van Plank. The gifts for these three, he had decided, must be of his own choice and purchase. He had provided for his mother and for Mary earlier in the week. Neither excitement nor adventure had attended upon the purchase of their gifts. Something for the house or the table was always the trick for elderly ladies who presided over large establishments and gave their whole souls to the managing of them. He bought for his mother a set of colonial silver candlesticks. For Mary, he bought a comb of gold—all gold, like her own lovely hair. The dark tortoise shell of the one she wore always seemed an incongruous note in her fair crown. But Edith was as yet unpresented, and it was on her account that Mr. Sedyard deserted his office and delighted his subordinates at three o'clock in the afternoon.
Edith was much more difficult than the other two had been. She was strong-minded, much given to churchwork and committees. Neither the home, as represented by the candlesticks, nor self-adornment as typified by the golden comb could be expected to appeal to her communistic, altruistic nature. And Sedyard, having experienced two inspirations, could think of nothing but combs and candlesticks. So he threw himself into the current, which swept along Broadway, trusting that some accident would suggest a suitable offering. Meanwhile, he revelled in the crowd, good-humored, holiday-making, holly-decked, which carried him uptown, past Wanamaker's and Grace Church, swirled him across old "dead man's curve," and down the Fourteenth Street side of Union Square. Here the shops were smaller, not so overwhelming, and here he was stopped by seeing a red auction flag. Looking in over the heads of the assembled crowd, he saw that the auctioneer was holding up a feather-crowned hat and addressing his audience after the manner of his kind:
"Buy a hat for your wife. A waste-paper basket by night and a hat by day. Genuine ostrich feathers growing on it. Becoming to all styles of feminine beauty. What am I bid on this sure tickler of the feminine palate? Three dollars? Why, ladies and gents, the dooty on it alone was twelve. It's a Paris hat, ladies. Your sister, your mother, your maiden aunt—"
Sedyard hearkened, but absently, to the fellow's words, but his problem was solved. He would buy Edith something to look pretty in. She was a pretty girl and in danger of forgetting it. And she had been decent, John reflected, awfully decent about Mary. He knew that the entente cordiale which existed between Mary and his mother was largely due to Edith, and he knew, too, that Edith, an authority on modern-housing and model-living, surely but silently disapproved of Mary's living alone in a three-roomed studio and devoting her days to painting, when there was so much rescue work to be done in the world.
"I get my uplift," Mary would explain when Edith urged these things upon her, "from the elevator. Living on the eighth floor, dear, I cannot but help seeing the world from a very different angle."
Yes, John reflected as he chuckled in retrospect over such conversations, Edith had certainly been awfully decent.
During these meditations several articles of feminine apparel had come and gone under the hammer. The crowd had decreased somewhat and his position now commanded a clear view of the auctioneer's platform, and he realized that the fierce light of the arc lamps beat down upon as charming a costume as he had seen for many a day. All of corn-flower blue it was, a chiffon gown, a big chiffon muff and a plumed hat. Oh! if he had been allowed to do such shopping for Mary! how quickly he would have entered into the lists of bidders! Mary's eyes were just that heavenly shade of blue, but Mary's pride was as great as her poverty, and the time when he could shower his now useless wealth upon her was not yet. And then his loyal memory told him that Edith was blue-eyed like all the Sedyards and he knew that his sister's Christmas gifts stood before him. He failed, however, to discern in the bland presence of the lay figure, upon which they were disposed to such advantage, the companion of one of the most varied adventures in his long career.
The chiffon finery was rather too much for the Fourteenth Street audience. The bidding languished. The auctioneer's pleadings fell upon deaf ears. In vain his assistant, a deft-fingered man with a beard, twirled the waxen-faced figure to show the "semi-princesse back" and the "near-Empire front." Corn-blue chiffon and panne velvet are not much worn in Fourteenth Street. The auctioneer grew desperate. "Twenty-five dollars," he repeated with such scorn that the timid woman who had made the bid wished herself at home and in bed. "Twenty-five dollars!"
"Throw in the girl, why don't you?" suggested a facetious youth, chiefly remarkable for a nose, a necktie and a diamond ring. "She's a peach all right, all right. She's got a smile that won't come off."
"All right, I'll throw her in," cried the desperate auctioneer. "What am I bid for this here afternoon costume complete with lady."
"Twenty-seven fifty," said a woman whom three years of banting would still have left too fat to get into it.
"Twenty-eight," whispered the first bidder.
"Thirty," said John Sedyard.
There was some other desultory bidding but in a few moments Sedyard found himself minus fifty-four dollars and plus a chiffon gown and muff, a hat all drooping plumes and a graceful female form, golden-haired, bewitching, with a smile sweetly blended of surprise, incipient idiocy and allure.
"She's a queen all right, all right," the sophisticated youth cheered him. "Git onto them lovely wax-like hands. Say, you know honest, on the level, she's worth the whole price of admission."
John, still chaperoned by this sagacious and helpful youth, made his way to the clerk's desk and proceeded to give his name and address and request that his purchases should be delivered in the morning.
"Deliver nothin'," said the clerk pleasantly. "Do you suppose we'd 'a let you have the goods at that price if we could 'a stored 'em overnight? Our lease is up," he continued consulting his Ingersoll watch, "in just fifteen minutes. In a quarter of an hour we hand over the keys and what's left of the fixtures to the landlord. He's let the store for to-morrow to a Christmas-tree ornaments merchant."
"Then I suppose I'll have to get an expressman. Where is the nearest, do you know?"
"Expressman!" exclaimed the sharp youth. "Well, I guess the nearest would be about Three Hundred and Fifty-second Street and then he'd have a load and a jag. No, sir, it's the faithful cab for yours. There's a row of cabs just on the edge of the square. I could go over and get you a hansom."
"Thank you," said John, "I wish you would." But a glance at his languishing companion made him add, "I guess you had better make it a four-wheeler. Hansom-riding would be pretty cold for a lady without a coat."
"All right," said the sharp youth. "You bring her out on the sidewalk and I'll get the hurry-up wagon. Say!" he halted to suggest, "you know what you'll look like, don't you?—riding around with that smile. When the lights flush you, you'll look just like a bridal party from Hoboken."
Leaving this word of comfort behind him, he proceeded to imperil his life among trolley cars and traffic, while John engaged the lady and urged her to motion.
He discovered that, supported at the waistline, she could be wheeled very nicely. He forced the muff over her upraised right hand, so that it somewhat concealed her face, and through an aisle respectfully cleared by the onlookers he led her to the open air. There he propped her against the show-window and turned in search of the cab and his new friend. In doing so he came face to face with an old one.
"Why, hello John!" said Frederick Trevor, a man who had an office in his building and an interest in his sister. "Who would have thought of meeting you here?"
"Or you," retorted John. "But since you are here, you can help me in a little difficulty."
"Not now, old chap," said Frederick, "I'm in a bit of a hurry. See you about it to-morrow. Well, so long. Don't let me keep you from your friend."
"Friend!" stormed John and then following the directions of Trevor's eyes, he descried a blue-clad, golden-haired young lady lolling against the window, trying with a giant chiffon muff to smother a fit of hilarious laughter. One arched and smiling eye showed above the muff and the whole figure was instinct with Bacchanalian mirth. "Why that's," he began to explain, but young Trevor had vanished into the crowd.
Presently the cab with the smart youth inside drew up to the curb and Sedyard, with a new self-consciousness, put his arm around the blue figure and trundled her across the sidewalk. The cabman threw his rug across his horse's quarters and lumbered down to assist at the embarkation of so fair a passenger. The smart youth held the door encouragingly open and John proceeded, with much more strength than he had expected to use, to heave the passenger aboard.
Even these preliminaries had attracted the nucleus of a crowd and the smart youth grew restive.
"Aw, say Maudie," he urged when the lady stuck rigid catty-cornerwise across the cab with her blue feathers pressed against the roof in one corner, and her bird-cage skirt arrangement protruding beyond the door-sill. "Aw, say Maudie, set down, why don't you, and take your Trilbys in. This gent is going to take you carriage riding."
"What's the matter with her anyway," demanded the cabman. "Don't she know how to set in a carriage?"
"No, she doesn't, she's only a wax figure," said John, "but I bought her and now I'm determined to take her home. She'd better go up on the box with you."
"What! her?" demanded the outraged Jehu. "Say, what do you take me for anyway? Do you suppose I ain't got no friends just 'cause I drive a cab? Why! I wouldn't drive up Broadway with them goo-goo eyes settin' beside me, not for nothing you could offer, I wouldn't."
By this time the crowd had reached very respectable proportions although there was nothing to see except the end of a blue gown hanging out of the cab's open door. The sharp youth, the cabman and John took turns in trying to adjust the lady to her environment. The rigidity and fragility of her arms and head made this very difficult, and presently there rolled upon the scene a policeman, large, Irish and chivalrous. It took Patrolman McDonogh but a second, but one glance at the tableaux and one whisper from the crowd to understand that a kidnapping atrocity was in progress.
With wrath in his eye, he shouldered aside Sedyard and the cabman, grabbed the smart youth, whose turn at persuasion was then on, and threw him into the face of the crowd.
"Oh! but you're the villyans," he admonished them, and then addressed the captive maid in reassuring tones.
"You're all right, Miss, now. You're no longer defenceless in this wicked city. The arrum of the law is around you," he cried, encircling her waist with that substantial member. "You're safe at last, come here to me out of that."
"Oh! noble, noble man," cried an emotional woman in the crowd. "If all officers were like you!"
Heartened by these words the noble, noble man exerted the arm of the law and plucked the maiden out of the cab amid great excitement and applause. But above the general murmur the shrill voice of the sharp youth rent the air:
"Fathead," he cried, "you've broke her neck. Can't you see how her head's goin' round and round?"
At this the emotional woman dropped to the sidewalk. "Lady fainted here, officer," cried a gentleman. But the noble, noble officer had no time for faints, and the lady was obliged to revive with only the assistance of the cold stones and curiosity.
For the shrill voice had spoken truth. Something had given away in Maudie's mysterious anatomy; the fair head, the changeless smile and the drooping plumes made three complete revolutions and nestled confidingly upon the shoulder of the Law.
"Here, none o' that," yelled Patrolman McDonogh quite reversing his earlier diagnosis of the situation. "None of your flim-flams, if you please. You go quiet and paceable with this gentleman. A little ride in the air is what you need."
"That's right, officer," Sedyard interrupted. "That's how to talk to her. I can't do a thing with her."
"Brute!" cried the emotional woman now happily restored. "It's officers like him that disgraces the force."
Patrolman McDonogh turned to identify this blasphemer and Maudie's head, deprived of its support, made another revolution and then dropped coyly to her left shoulder. She looked so unspeakable in that attitude that the cabman felt called upon to offer a little professional advice:
"She needs a checkrein," he declared, "an' she needs it bad," a remark which so incensed Patrolman McDonogh that Sedyard decided to explain:
"Just disperse those people, will you," said he, "I want to talk to you."
The sharp youth relieved the officer of law of his fair burden and posed her in a natural attitude of waiting beside the cab. McDonogh cleared the sidewalk and hearkened to Sedyard's tale.
"So you see," said John in conclusion, "what I'm up against. I really didn't want the dummy when I bought it and you can bet I'm tired of it now. What I wanted was the clothes, and I guess the thing for me to do is just to take them in the cab and leave the figure here."
"What!" thundered McDonogh. "You're going to leave a dummy without her clothes here on my beat? Not if I see ye first, ye ain't, and if ye try it on I'll run ye in."
"Say! I'll tell you what you want," piped up the still buoyant, smart youth. "You need one of them open taxicabs.
"He needs a hearse," corrected the disgruntled cabman. "Somethin' she can lay down in comfortable an' take in the sights through the windows."
"Now, he needs a taxi. He can leave her stand in the back all right, but I guess," he warned John, "you'll have to sit in with her and hold her head on."
And thus it was that Maudie left the scene. She left, too, the smart youth, the cabman and the noble, noble officer. And as the taxi bumped over the trolley tracks she, despite all Sedyard's efforts, turned her head and smiled out at them straight over her near-princesse back.
"Gee!" said the smart youth, "ain't she the friendliest bunch of calico."
"This case," said the noble Patrolman McDonogh with unpunctual inspiration, "had ought to be looked into by rights."
"Chauffeur," said John Sedyard to the shadowy form before him, "just pick out the darkest streets, will you?"
"Yes, sir," answered the chauffeur looking up into the bland smile and the outstretched hand above him. "I'll make it if I can but if we get stopped, don't blame me."
A year later, or so it seemed to John Sedyard, the taxicab, panting with indignation at the insults and interferences to which it had been subjected, turned into Sedyard's eminently respectable block and drew up before his eminently handsome house.
He paid and propitiated the chauffeur, took his lovely burden in his arms and staggered up the steps with the half regretful feeling of one who steps out of the country of adventure back to prosaic things. He found his latchkey, opened his door and drew Maudie into the hall. And on the landing half-way up the stairs stood his sister Edith, evidently the bearer of some pleasant tidings.