Mr. Twist reappeared, followed by the brisk steward with a tray of tea and cake, and their corner became very like a cheerful picnic.
Mr. Twist was most pleasant and polite. Anna-Rose had told him quite soon after he began to talk to her, in order, as she said, to clear his mind of misconceptions, that she and Anna-Felicitas, though their clothes at that moment, and the pigtails in which their flair was done, might be misleading, were no longer children, but quite the contrary; that they were, in fact, persons who were almost ripe for going to dances, and certainly in another year would be perfectly ripe for dances supposing there were any.
Mr. Twist listened attentively, and begged her to tell him any other little thing she might think of as useful to him in his capacity of friend and attendant,—both of which, said Mr. Twist, he intended to be till he had seen them safely landed in New York.
"I hope you don't think we need anybody," said Anna-Rose. "We shall like being friends with you very much, but only on terms of perfect equality."
"Sure," said Mr. Twist, who was an American.
She hesitated a moment.
"You thought?" encouraged Mr. Twist politely.
"I thought at Liverpool you looked as if you were being sorry for us."
"Sorry?" said Mr. Twist, in the tone of one who repudiates.
"Yes. When we were waving good-bye to—to our friends."
"Sorry?" repeated Mr. Twist.
"Which was great waste of your time."
"I should think so," said Mr. Twist with heartiness.
Anna-Rose, having cleared the ground of misunderstandings, an activity in which at all times she took pleasure, accepted Mr. Twist's attentions in the spirit in which they were offered, which was, as he said, one of mutual friendliness and esteem. As he was never sea-sick, he could move about and do things for them that might be difficult to do for themselves; as he knew a great deal about stewardesses, he could tell them what sort of tip theirs expected; as he was American, he could illuminate them about that country. He had been doing Red Cross work with an American ambulance in France for ten months, and was going home for a short visit to see how his mother, who, Anna-Rose gathered, was ancient and widowed, was getting on. His mother, he said, lived in seclusion in a New England village with his sister, who had not married.
"Then she's got it all before her," said Anna-Rose.
"Like us," said Anna-Felicitas.
"I shouldn't think she'd got as much of it before her as you," said Mr. Twist, "because she's considerably more grown up—I mean," he added hastily, as Anna-Rose's mouth opened, "she's less—well, less completely young."
"We're not completely young," said Anna-Rose with dignity. "People are completely young the day they're born, and ever after that they spend their time becoming less so."
"Exactly. And my sister has been becoming less so longer than you have. I assure you that's all I meant. She's less so even than I am."
"Then," said Anna-Rose, glancing at that part of Mr. Twist's head where it appeared to be coming through his hair, "she must have got to the stage when one is called a maiden lady."
"And if she were a German," said Anna-Felicitas suddenly, who hadn't till then said anything to Mr. Twist but only smiled widely at him whenever he happened to look her way, "she wouldn't be either a lady or a maiden, but just an It. It's very rude of Germans, I think," went on Anna-Felicitas, abstractedly smiling at the cake Mr. Twist was offering her, "never to let us be anything but Its till we've taken on some men."
Mr. Twist expressed surprise at this way of describing marriage, and inquired of Anna-Felicitas what she knew about Germans.
"The moment you leave off being sea-sick, Anna-F.," said Anna-Rose, turning to her severely, "you start being indiscreet. Well, I suppose," she added with a sigh to Mr. Twist, "you'd have had to know sooner or later. Our name is Twinkler."
She watched him to see the effect of this, and Mr. Twist, perceiving he was expected to say something, said that he didn't mind that anyhow, and that he could bear something worse in the way of revelations.
"Does it convey nothing to you?" asked Anna-Rose, astonished, for in Germany the name of Twinkler was a mighty name, and even in England it was well known.
Mr. Twist shook his head. "Only that it sounds cheerful," he said.
Anna-Rose watched his face. "It isn't only Twinkler," she said, speaking very distinctly. "It's von Twinkler."
"That's German," said Mr. Twist; but his face remained serene.
"Yes. And so are we. That is, we would be if it didn't happen that we weren't."
"I don't think I quite follow," said Mr. Twist.
"It is very difficult," agreed Anna-Rose. "You see, we used to have a German father."
"But only because our mother married him," explained Anna-Felicitas. "Else we wouldn't have."
"And though she only did it once," said Anna-Rose, "ages ago, it has dogged our footsteps ever since."
"It's very surprising," mused Anna-Felicitas, "what marrying anybody does. You go into a church, and before you know where you are, you're all tangled up with posterity."
"And much worse than that," said Anna-Rose, staring wide-eyed at her own past experiences, "posterity's all tangled up with you. It's really simply awful sometimes for posterity. Look at us."
"If there hadn't been a war we'd have been all right," said Anna-Felicitas. "But directly there's a war, whoever it is you've married, if it isn't one of your own countrymen, rises up against you, just as if he were too many meringues you'd had for dinner."
"Living or dead," said Anna-Rose, nodding, "he rises up against you."
"Till the war we never thought at all about it," said Anna-Felicitas.
"Either one way or the other," said Anna-Rose.
"We never used to bother about what we were," said Anna-Felicitas. "We were just human beings, and so was everybody else just human beings."
"We didn't mind a bit about being Germans, or about other people not being Germans."
"But you mustn't think we mind now either," said Anna-Felicitas, "because, you see, we're not."
Mr. Twist looked at them in turn. His ears were a little prominent and pointed, and they gave him rather the air, when he put his head on one side and looked at them, of an attentive fox-terrier. "I don't think I quite follow," he said again.
"It is very difficult," agreed Anna-Rose.
"It's because you've got into your head that we're German because of our father," said Anna-Felicitas. "But what's a father, when all's said and done?"
"Well," said Mr. Twist, "one has to have him."
"But having got him he isn't anything like as important as a mother," said Anna-Rose.
"One hardly sees one's father," said Anna-Felicitas. "He's always busy. He's always thinking of something else."
"Except when he looks at one and tells one to sit up straight," said Anna-Rose pointedly to Anna-Felicitas, whose habit of drooping still persisted in spite of her father's admonishments.
"Of course he's very kind and benevolent when he happens to remember that one is there," said Anna-Felicitas, sitting up beautifully for a moment, "but that's about everything."
"And of course," said Anna-Rose, "one's father's intentions are perfectly sound and good, but his attention seems to wander. Whereas one's mother—"
"Yes," said Anna-Felicitas, "one's mother—"
They broke off and looked straight in front of them. It didn't bear speaking of. It didn't bear thinking of.
Suddenly Anna-Felicitas, weak from excessive sea-sickness, began to cry. The tears just slopped over as though no resistance of any sort were possible.
Anna-Rose stared at her a moment horror-struck. "Look here, Anna-F.," she exclaimed, wrath in her voice, "I won't have you be sentimental—I won't have you be sentimental...."
And then she too began to cry.
Well, once having hopelessly disgraced and exposed themselves, there was nothing for it but to take Mr. Twist into their uttermost confidence. It was dreadful. It was awful. Before that strange man. A person they hardly knew. Other strangers passing. Exposing their feelings. Showing their innermost miserable places.
They writhed and struggled in their efforts to stop, to pretend they weren't crying, that it was really nothing but just tears,—odd ones left over from last time, which was years and years ago,—"But really years and years ago," sobbed Anna-Rose, anxiously explaining,—"the years one falls down on garden paths in, and cuts one's knees, and one's mother—one's mother—c-c-c-comforts one—"
"See here," said Mr. Twist, interrupting these incoherences, and pulling out a beautiful clean pocket-handkerchief which hadn't even been unfolded yet, "you've got to tell me all about it right away."
And he shook out the handkerchief, and with the first-aid promptness his Red Cross experience had taught him, started competently wiping up their faces.
There was that about Mr. Twist which, once one had begun them, encouraged confidences; something kind about his eyes, something not too determined about his chin. He bore no resemblance to those pictures of efficient Americans in advertisements with which Europe is familiar,—eagle-faced gentlemen with intimidatingly firm mouths and chins, wiry creatures, physically and mentally perfect, offering in capital letters to make you Just Like Them. Mr. Twist was the reverse of eagle-faced. He was also the reverse of good-looking; that is, he would have been very handsome indeed, as Anna-Rose remarked several days later to Anna-Felicitas, when the friendship had become a settled thing,—which indeed it did as soon as Mr. Twist had finished wiping their eyes and noses that first afternoon, it being impossible, they discovered, to have one's eyes and noses wiped by somebody without being friends afterwards (for such an activity, said Anna-Felicitas, belonged to the same order of events as rescue from fire, lions, or drowning, after which in books you married him; but this having only been wiping, said Anna-Rose, the case was adequately met by friendship)—he would have been very handsome indeed if he hadn't had a face.
"But you have to have a face," said Anna-Felicitas, who didn't think it much mattered what sort it was so long as you could eat with it and see out of it.
"And as long as one is as kind as Mr. Twist," said Anna-Rose; but secretly she thought that having been begun so successfully at his feet, and carried upwards with such grace of long limbs and happy proportions, he might as well have gone on equally felicitously for the last little bit.
"I expect God got tired of him over that last bit," she mused, "and just put on any sort of head."
"Yes—that happened to be lying about," agreed Anna-Felicitas. "In a hurry to get done with him."
"Anyway he's very kind," said Anna-Rose, a slight touch of defiance in her voice.
"Oh, very kind," agreed Anna-Felicitas.
"And it doesn't matter about faces for being kind," said Anna-Rose.
"Not in the least," agreed Anna-Felicitas.
"And if it hadn't been for the submarine we shouldn't have got to know him. So you see," said Anna-Rose,—and again produced her favourite remark about good coming out of evil.
Those were the days in mid-Atlantic when England was lost in its own peculiar mists, and the sunshine of America was stretching out towards them. The sea was getting calmer and bluer every hour, and submarines more and more unlikely. If a ship could be pleasant, which Anna-Felicitas doubted, for she still found difficulty in dressing and undressing without being sea-sick and was unpopular in the cabin, this ship was pleasant. You lay in a deck-chair all day long, staring at the blue sky and blue sea that enclosed you as if you were living in the middle of a jewel, and tried not to remember—oh, there were heaps of things it was best not to remember; and when the rail of the ship moved up across the horizon too far into the sky, or moved down across it and showed too much water, you just shut your eyes and then it didn't matter; and the sun shone warm and steady on your face, and the wind tickled the tassel on the top of your German-knitted cap, and Mr. Twist came and read aloud to you, which sent you to sleep quicker than anything you had ever known.
The book he read out of and carried about with him his pocket was called "Masterpieces You Must Master," and was an American collection of English poetry, professing in its preface to be a Short Cut to Culture; and he would read with what at that time, it being new to them, seemed to the twins a strange exotic pronunciation, Wordsworth's "Ode to Dooty," and the effect was as if someone should dig a majestic Gregorian psalm in its ribs, and make it leap and giggle.
Anna-Rose, who had no reason to shut her eyes, for she didn't mind what the ship's rail did with the horizon, opened them very round when first Mr. Twist started on his Masterpieces. She was used to hearing them read by her mother in the adorable husky voice that sent such thrills through one, but she listened with the courtesy and final gratitude due to the efforts to entertain her of so amiable a friend, and only the roundness of her eyes showed her astonishment at this waltzing round, as it appeared to her, of Mr. Twist with the Stern Daughter of the Voice of God. He also read "Lycidas" to her, that same "Lycidas" Uncle Arthur took for a Derby winner, and only Anna-Rose's politeness enabled her to refrain from stopping up her ears. As it was, she fidgeted to the point of having to explain, on Mr. Twist's pausing to gaze at her questioningly through the smoke-coloured spectacles he wore on deck, which made him look so like a gigantic dragon-fly, that it was because her deck-chair was so very much harder than she was.
Anna-Felicitas, who considered that, if these things were short-cuts to anywhere, seeing she knew them all by heart she must have long ago got there, snoozed complacently. Sometimes for a few moments she would drop off really to sleep, and then her mouth would fall open, which worried Anna-Rose, who couldn't bear her to look even for a moment less beautiful than she knew she was, so that she fidgeted more than ever, unable, pinned down by politeness and the culture being administered, to make her shut her mouth and look beautiful again by taking and shaking her. Also Anna-Felicitas had a trick of waking up suddenly and forgetting to be polite, as one does when first one wakes up and hasn't had time to remember one is a lady. "To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures noo," Mr. Twist would finish, for instance, with a sort of gulp of satisfaction at having swallowed yet another solid slab of culture; and Anna-Felicitas, returning suddenly to consciousness, would murmur, with her eyes still shut and her head lolling limply, things like, "After all, it does rhyme with blue. I wonder why, then, one still doesn't like it."
Then Mr. Twist would turn his spectacles towards her in mild inquiry, and Anna-Rose, as always, would rush in and elaborately explain what Anna-Felicitas meant, which was so remote from anything resembling what she had said that Mr. Twist looked more mildly inquiring than ever.
Usually Anna-Felicitas didn't contradict Anna-Rose, being too sleepy or too lazy, but sometimes she did, and then Anna-Rose got angry, and would get what the Germans call a red head and look at Anna-Felicitas very severely and say things, and Mr. Twist would close his book and watch with that alert, cocked-up-ear look of a sympathetic and highly interested terrier; but sooner or later the ship would always give a roll, and Anna-Felicitas would shut her eyes and fade to paleness and become the helpless bundle of sickness that nobody could possibly go on being severe with.
The passengers in the second class were more generally friendly than those in the first class. The first class sorted itself out into little groups, and whispered about each other, as Anna-Rose observed, watching their movements across the rope that separated her from them. The second class remained to the end one big group, frayed out just a little at the edge in one or two places.
The chief fraying out was where the Twinkler kids, as the second-class young men, who knew no better, dared to call them, interrupted the circle by talking apart with Mr. Twist. Mr. Twist had no business there. He was a plutocrat of the first class; but in spite of the regulations which cut off the classes from communicating, with a view apparently to the continued sanitariness of the first class, the implication being that the second class was easily infectious and probably overrun, there he was every day and several times in every day. He must have heavily squared the officials, the second-class young men thought until the day when Mr. Twist let it somehow be understood that he had known the Twinkler young ladies for years, dandled them in their not very remote infancy on his already full-grown knee, and had been specially appointed to look after them on this journey.
Mr. Twist did not specify who had appointed him, except to the Twinkler young ladies themselves, and to them he announced that it was no less a thing, being, or creature, than Providence. The second-class young men, therefore, in spite of their rising spirits as danger lay further behind, and their increasing tendency, peculiar to those who go on ships, to become affectionate, found themselves no further on in acquaintance with the Misses Twinkler the last day of the voyage than they had been the first. Not that, under any other conditions, they would have so much as noticed the existence of the Twinkler kids. In their blue caps, pulled down tight to their eyebrows and hiding every trace of hair, they looked like bald babies. They never came to meals; their assiduous guardian, or whatever he was, feeding them on deck with the care of a mother-bird for its fledglings, so that nobody except the two German ladies in their cabin had seen them without the caps. The young men put them down as half-grown only, somewhere about fourteen they thought, and nothing but what, if they were boys instead of girls, would have been called louts.
Still, a ship is a ship, and it is wonderful what can be managed in the way of dalliance if one is shut up on one long enough; and the Misses Twinkler, in spite of their loutishness, their apparent baldness, and their constant round-eyed solemnity, would no doubt have been the objects of advances before New York was reached if it hadn't been for Mr. Twist. There wasn't a girl under forty in the second class on that voyage, the young men resentfully pointed out to each other, except these two kids who were too much under it, and a young lady of thirty who sat manicuring her nails most of the day with her back supported by a life-boat, and polishing them with red stuff till they flashed rosily in the sun. This young lady was avoided for the first two days, while the young men still remembered their mothers, because of what she looked like; but was greatly loved for the rest of the voyage precisely for that reason.
Still, every one couldn't get near her. She was only one; and there were at least a dozen active, cooped-up young men taking lithe, imprisoned exercise in long, swift steps up and down the deck, ready for any sort of enterprise, bursting with energy and sea-air and spirits. So that at last the left-overs, those of the young men the lady of the rosy nails was less kind to, actually in their despair attempted ghastly flirtations with the two German ladies. They approached them with a kind of angry amorousness. They tucked them up roughly in rugs. They brought them cushions as though they were curses. And it was through this rapprochement, in the icy warmth of which the German ladies expanded like bulky flowers and grew at least ten years younger, the ten years they shed being their most respectable ones, that the ship became aware of the nationality of the Misses Twinkler.
The German ladies were not really German, as they explained directly there were no more submarines about, for a good woman, they said, becomes automatically merged into her husband, and they, therefore, were merged into Americans, both of them, and as loyal as you could find, but the Twinklers were the real thing, they said,—real, unadulterated, arrogant Junkers, which is why they wouldn't talk to anybody; for no Junker, said the German ladies, thinks anybody good enough to be talked to except another Junker. The German ladies themselves had by sheer luck not been born Junkers. They had missed it very narrowly, but they had missed it, for which they were very thankful seeing what believers they were, under the affectionate manipulation of their husbands, in democracy; but they came from the part of Germany where Junkers most abound, and knew the sort of thing well.
It seemed to Mr. Twist, who caught scraps of conversation as he came and went, that in the cabin the Twinklers must have alienated sympathy. They had. They had done more; they had got themselves actively disliked.
From the first moment when Anna-Rose had dared to peep into their shrouded bunks the ladies had been prejudiced, and this prejudice had later flared up into a great and justified dislike. The ladies, to begin with, hadn't known that they were von Twinklers, but had supposed them mere Twinklers, and the von, as every German knows, makes all the difference, especially in the case of Twinklers, who, without it, were a race, the ladies knew, of small shopkeepers, laundresses and postmen in the Westphalian district, but with it were one of the oldest families in Prussia; known to all Germans; possessed of a name ensuring subservience wherever it went.
In this stage of preliminary ignorance the ladies had treated the two apparently ordinary Twinklers with the severity their conduct, age, and obvious want of means deserved; and when, goaded by their questionings, the smaller and more active Twinkler had let out her von at them much as one lets loose a dog when one is alone and weak against the attacks of an enemy, instead of falling in harmoniously with the natural change of attitude of the ladies, which became immediately perfectly polite and conciliatory, as well as motherly in its interest and curiosity, the two young Junkers went dumb. They would have nothing to do with the most motherly questioning. And just in proportion as the German ladies found themselves full of eager milk of kindness, only asking to be permitted to nourish, so did they find themselves subsequently, after a day or two of such uncloaked repugnance to it, left with quantities of it useless on their hands and all going sour.
From first to last the Twinklers annoyed them. As plain Twinklers they had been tiresome in a hundred ways in the cabin, and as von Twinklers they were intolerable in their high-nosed indifference.
It had naturally been expected by the elder ladies at the beginning of the journey, that two obscure Twinklers of such manifest youth should rise politely and considerately each morning very early, and get themselves dressed and out of the way in at the most ten minutes, leaving the cabin clear for the slow and careful putting together bit by bit of that which ultimately emerged a perfect specimen of a lady of riper years, but the weedy Twinkler insisted on lying in her berth so late that if the ladies wished to be in time for the best parts of breakfast, which they naturally and passionately did wish, they were forced to dress in her presence, which was most annoying and awkward.
It is true she lay with closed eyes, apparently apathetic, but you never know with persons of that age. Experience teaches not to trust them. They shut their eyes, and yet seem, later on, to have seen; they apparently sleep, and afterwards are heard asking their spectacled American friend what people do on a ship, a place of so much gustiness, if their hair gets blown off into the sea. Also the weedy one had a most tiresome trick of being sick instantly every time Odol was used, or a little brandy was drunk. Odol is most refreshing; it has a lovely smell, without which no German bedroom is complete. And the brandy was not common schnaps, but an old expensive brandy that, regarded as a smell, was a credit to anybody's cabin.
The German ladies would have persisted, and indeed did persist in using Odol and drinking a little brandy, indifferent to the feeble prayer from the upper berth which floated down entreating them not to, but in their own interests they were forced to give it up. The objectionable child did not pray a second time; she passed immediately from prayer to performance. Of two disagreeables wise women choose the lesser, but they remain resentful.
The other Twinkler, the small active one, did get up early and take herself off, but she frequently mixed up her own articles of toilet with those belonging to the ladies, and would pin up her hair, preparatory to washing her face, with their hairpins.
When they discovered this they hid them, and she, not finding any, having come to the end of her own, lost no time in irresolution but picked up their nail-scissors and pinned up her pigtails with that.
It was a particularly sacred pair of nail-scissors that almost everything blunted. To use them for anything but nails was an outrage, but the grossest outrage was to touch them at all. When they told her sharply that the scissors were very delicate and she was instantly to take them out of her hair, she tugged them out in a silence that was itself impertinent, and pinned up her pigtails with their buttonhook instead.
Then they raised themselves on their elbows in their berths and asked her what sort of a bringing up she could have had, and they raised their voices as well, for though they were grateful, as they later on declared, for not having been born Junkers, they had nevertheless acquired by practice in imitation some of the more salient Junker characteristics.
"You are salop," said the upper berth lady,—which is untranslatable, not on grounds of propriety but of idiom. It is not, however, a term of praise.
"Yes, that is what you are—salop," echoed the lower berth lady. "And your sister is salop too—lying in bed till all hours."
"It is shameful for girls to be salop," said the upper berth.
"I didn't know it was your buttonhook. I thought it was ours," said Anna-Rose, pulling this out too with vehemence.
"That is because you are salop," said the lower berth.
"And I didn't know it wasn't our scissors either."
"Salop, salop," said the lower berth, beating her hand on the wooden edge of her bunk.
"And—and I'm sorry."
Anna-Rose's face was very red. She didn't look sorry, she looked angry. And so she was; but it was with herself, for having failed in discernment and grown-upness. She ought to have noticed that the scissors and buttonhook were not hers. She had pounced on them with the ill-considered haste of twelve years old. She hadn't been a lady,—she whose business it was to be an example and mainstay to Anna-Felicitas, in all things going first, showing her the way.
She picked up the sponge and plunged it into the water, and was just going to plunge her annoyed and heated face in after it when the upper berth lady said: "Your mother should be ashamed of herself to have brought you up so badly."
"And send you off like this before she has taught you even the ABC of manners," said the lower berth.
"Evidently," said the upper berth, "she can have none herself."
"Evidently," said the lower berth, "she is herself salop."
The sponge, dripping with water, came quickly out of the basin in Anna-Rose's clenched fist. For one awful instant she stood there in her nightgown, like some bird of judgment poised for dreadful flight, her eyes flaming, her knotted pigtails bristling on the top of her head.
The wet sponge twitched in her hand. The ladies did not realize the significance of that twitching, and continued to offer large angry faces as a target. One of the faces would certainly have received the sponge and Anna-Rose have been disgraced for ever, if it hadn't been for the prompt and skilful intervention of Anna-Felicitas.
For Anna-Felicitas, roused from her morning languor by the unusual loudness of the German ladies' voices, and smitten into attention and opening of her eyes, heard the awful things they were saying and saw the sponge. Instantly she knew, seeing it was Anna-Rose who held it, where it would be in another second, and hastily putting out a shaking little hand from her top berth, caught hold feebly but obstinately of the upright ends of Anna-Rose's knotted pigtails.
"I'm going to be sick," she announced with great presence of mind and entire absence of candour.
She knew, however, that she only had to sit up in order to be sick, and the excellent child—das gute Kind, as her father used to call her because she, so conveniently from the parental point of view, invariably never wanted to be or do anything particularly—without hesitation sacrificed herself in order to save her sister's honour, and sat up and immediately was.
By the time Anna-Rose had done attending to her, all fury had died out. She never could see Anna Felicitas lying back pale and exhausted after one of these attacks without forgiving her and everybody else everything.
She climbed up on the wooden steps to smoothe her pillow and tuck her blanket round her, and when Anna-Felicitas, her eyes shut, murmured, "Christopher—don't mind them—" and she suddenly realized, for they never called each other by those names except in great moments of emotion when it was necessary to cheer and encourage, what Anna-Felicitas had saved her from, and that it had been done deliberately, she could only whisper back, because she was so afraid of crying, "No, no, Columbus dear—of course—who really cares about them—" and came down off the steps with no fight left in her.
Also the wrath of the ladies was considerably assuaged. They had retreated behind their curtains until the so terribly unsettled Twinkler should be quiet again, and when once more they drew them a crack apart in order to keep an eye on what the other one might be going to do next and saw her doing nothing except, with meekness, getting dressed, they merely inquired what part of Westphalia she came from, and only in the tone they asked it did they convey that whatever part it was, it was anyhow a contemptible one.
"We don't come from Westphalia," said Anna-Rose, bristling a little, in spite of herself, at their persistent baiting.
Anna-Felicitas listened in cold anxiousness. She didn't want to have to be sick again. She doubted whether she could bear it.
"You must come from somewhere," said the lower berth, "and being a Twinkler it must be Westphalia."
"We don't really," said Anna-Rose, mindful of Anna-Felicitas's words and making a great effort to speak politely. "We come from England."
"England!" cried the lower berth, annoyed by this quibbling. "You were born in Westphalia. All Twinklers are born in Westphalia."
"Invariably they are," said the upper berth. "The only circumstance that stops them is if their mothers happen to be temporarily absent."
"But we weren't, really," said Anna-Rose, continuing her efforts to remain bland.
"Are you pretending—pretending to us," said the lower berth lady, again beating her hand on the edge of her bunk, "that you are not German?"
"Our father was German," said Anna-Rose, driven into a corner, "but I don't suppose he is now. I shouldn't think he'd want to go on being one directly he got to a really neutral place."
"Has he fled his country?" inquired the lower berth sternly, scenting what she had from the first suspected, something sinister in the Twinkler background.
"I suppose one might call it that," said Anna-Rose after a pause of consideration, tying her shoe-laces.
"Do you mean to say," said the ladies with one voice, feeling themselves now on the very edge of a scandal, "he was forced to fly from Westphalia?"
"I suppose one might put it that way," said Anna-Rose, again considering.
She took her cap off its hook and adjusted it over her hair with a deliberation intended to assure Anna-Felicitas that she was remaining calm. "Except that it wasn't from Westphalia he flew, but Prussia," she said.
"Prussia?" cried the ladies as one woman, again rising themselves on their elbows.
"That's where our father lived," said Anna-Rose, staring at them in her surprise at their surprise. "So of course, as he lived there, when he died he did that there too."
"Prussia?" cried the ladies again. "He died? You said your father fled his country."
"No. You said that," said Anna-Rose.
She gave her cap a final tug down over her ears and turned to the door. She felt as if she quite soon again in spite of Anna-Felicitas, might not be able to be a lady.
"After all, it is what you do when you go to heaven," she said as she opened the door, unable to resist, according to her custom, having the last word.
"But Prussia?" they still cried, still button-holing her, as it were, from afar. "Then—you were born in Prussia?"
"Yes, but we couldn't help it," said Anna-Rose; and shut the door quickly behind her.
Mr. Twist, who was never able to be anything but kind—he had the most amiable mouth and chin in the world, and his name was Edward—took a lively interest in the plans and probable future of the two Annas. He also took a lively and solicitous interest in their present, and a profoundly sympathetic one in their past. In fact, their three tenses interested him to the exclusion of almost everything else, and his chief desire was to see them safely through any shoals there might be waiting them in the shape of Uncle Arthur's friends—he distrusted Uncle Arthur, and therefore his friends—into the safe and pleasant waters of real American hospitality and kindliness.
He knew that such waters abounded for those who could find the tap. He reminded himself of that which he had been taught since childhood, of the mighty heart of America which, once touched, would take persons like the twins right in and never let them out again. But it had to be touched. It had, as it were, to be put in connection with them by means of advertisement. America, he reflected, was a little deaf. She had to be shouted to. But once she heard, once she thoroughly grasped ...
He cogitated much in his cabin—one with a private bathroom, for Mr. Twist had what Aunt Alice called ample means—on these two defenceless children. If they had been Belgians now, or Serbians, or any persons plainly in need of relief! As it was, America would be likely, he feared, to consider that either Germany or England ought to be looking after them, and might conceivably remain chilly and uninterested.
Uncle Arthur, it appeared, hadn't many friends in America, and those he had didn't like him. At least that was what Mr. Twist gathered from the conversation of Anna-Rose. She didn't positively assert but she very candidly conjectured, and Mr. Twist could quite believe that Uncle Arthur's friends wouldn't be warm ones. Their hospitality he could imagine fleeting and perfunctory. They would pass on the Twinklers as soon as possible, as indeed why should they not? And presently some dreary small job would be found for them, some job as pupil-teacher or girls' companion in the sterile atmosphere of a young ladies' school.
As much as a man of habitually generous impulses could dislike, Mr. Twist disliked Uncle Arthur. Patriotism was nothing at any time to Mr. Twist compared to humanity, and Uncle Arthur's particular kind of patriotism was very odious to him. To wreak it on these two poor aliens! Mr. Twist had no words for it. They had been cut adrift at a tender age, an age Mr. Twist, as a disciplined American son and brother, was unable to regard unmoved, and packed off over the sea indifferent to what might happen to them so long as Uncle Arthur knew nothing about it. Having flung these kittens into the water to swim or drown, so long as he didn't have to listen to their cries while they were doing it, Uncle Arthur apparently cared nothing.
All Mr. Twist's chivalry, of which there was a great deal, rose up within him at the thought of Uncle Arthur. He wanted to go and ask him what he meant by such conduct, and earnestly inquire of him whether he called himself a man; but as he knew he couldn't do this, being on a ship heading for New York, he made up for it by taking as much care of the ejected nieces as if he were an uncle himself,—but the right sort of uncle, the sort you have in America, the sort that regards you as a sacred and precious charge.
In his mind's eye Mr. Twist saw Uncle Arthur as a typical bullying, red-necked Briton, with short side-whiskers. He pictured him under-sized and heavy-footed, trudging home from golf through the soppy green fields of England to his trembling household. He was quite disconcerted one day to discover from something Anna-Rose said that he was a tall man, and not fat at all, except in one place.
"Indeed," said Mr. Twist, hastily rearranging his mind's-eye view of Uncle Arthur.
"He goes fat suddenly," said Anna-Felicitas, waking from one of her dozes. "As though he had swallowed a bomb, and it had stuck when it got to his waistcoat."
"If you can imagine it," added Anna-Rose politely, ready to explain and describe further if required.
But Mr. Twist could imagine it. He readjusted his picture of Uncle Arthur, and this time got him right,—the tall, not bad-looking man, clean-shaven and with more hair a great deal than he, Mr. Twist, had. He had thought of him as an old ruffian; he now perceived that he could be hardly more than middle-aged and that Aunt Alice, a lady for whom he felt an almost painful sympathy, had a lot more of Uncle Arthur to get through before she was done.
"Yes," said Anna-Rose, accepting the word middle-aged as correct. "Neither of his ends looks much older than yours do. He's aged in the middle. That's the only place. Where the bomb is."
"I suppose that's why it's called middle-aged," said Anna-Felicitas dreamily. "One middle-ages first, and from there it just spreads. It must be queer," she added pensively, "to watch oneself gradually rotting."
These were the sorts of observations, Mr. Twist felt, that might prejudice his mother against the twins If they could be induced not to say most of the things they did say when in her presence, he felt that his house, of all houses in America, should be offered them as a refuge whenever they were in need of one. But his mother was not, he feared, very adaptable. In her house—it was legally his, but it never felt as if it were—people adapted themselves to her. He doubted whether the twins could or would. Their leading characteristic, he had observed, was candour. They had no savoir faire. They seemed incapable of anything but naturalness, and their particular type of naturalness was not one, he was afraid, that his mother would understand.
She had not been out of her New England village, a place called briefly, with American economy of time, Clark, for many years, and her ideal of youthful femininity was still that which she had been herself. She had, if unconsciously, tried to mould Mr. Twist also on these lines, in spite of his being a boy, and owing to his extreme considerateness had not yet discovered her want of success. For years, indeed, she had been completely successful, and Mr. Twist arrived at and embarked on adolescence with the manners and ways of thinking of a perfect lady.
Till he was nineteen he was educated at home, as it were at his mother's knee, at any rate within reach of that sacred limb, and she had taught him to reverence women; the reason given, or rather conveyed, being that he had had and still was having a mother. Which he was never to forget. In hours of temptation. In hours of danger. Mr. Twist, with his virginal white mind, used to wonder when the hours of temptation and of danger would begin, and rather wish, in the elegant leisure of his half-holidays, that they soon would so that he might show how determined he was to avoid them.
For the ten years from his father's death till he went to Harvard, he lived with his mother and sister and was their assiduous attendant. His mother took the loss of his father badly. She didn't get over it, as widows sometimes do, and grow suddenly ten years younger. The sight of her, so black and broken, of so daily recurring a patience, of such frequent deliberate brightening for the sake of her children, kept Mr. Twist, as he grew up, from those thoughts which sometimes occur to young men and have to do with curves and dimples. He was too much absorbed by his mother to think on such lines. He was flooded with reverence and pity. Through her, all women were holy to him. They were all mothers, either actual or to be—after, of course, the proper ceremonies. They were all people for whom one leapt up and opened doors, placed chairs out of draughts, and fetched black shawls. On warm spring days, when he was about eighteen, he told himself earnestly that it would be a profanity, a terrible secret sinning, to think amorously—yes, he supposed the word was amorously—while there under his eyes, pervading his days from breakfast to bedtime, was that mourning womanhood, that lopped life, that example of brave doing without any hope or expectation except what might be expected or hoped from heaven. His mother was wonderful the way she bore things. There she was, with nothing left to look forward to in the way of pleasures except the resurrection, yet she did not complain.
But after he had been at Harvard a year a change came over Mr. Twist. Not that he did not remain dutiful and affectionate, but he perceived that it was possible to peep round the corners of his mother, the rock-like corners that had so long jutted out between him and the view, and on the other side there seemed to be quite a lot of interesting things going on. He continued, however, only to eye most of them from afar, and the nearest he got to temptation while at Harvard was to read "Madame Bovary."
After Harvard he was put into an engineering firm, for the Twists only had what would in English money be five thousand pounds a year, and belonged therefore, taking dollars as the measure of standing instead of birth, to the middle classes. Aunt Alice would have described such an income as ample means; Mrs. Twist called it straitened circumstances, and lived accordingly in a condition of perpetual self-sacrifice and doings without. She had a car, but it was only a car, not a Pierce-Arrow; and there was a bathroom to every bedroom, but there were only six bedrooms; and the house stood on a hill and looked over the most beautiful woods, but they were somebody else's woods. She felt, as she beheld the lives of those of her neighbours she let her eyes rest on, who were the millionaires dotted round about the charming environs of Clark, that she was indeed a typical widow,—remote, unfriended, melancholy, poor.
Mrs. Twist might feel poor, but she was certainly comfortable. It was her daughter Edith's aim in life to secure for her the comfort and leisure necessary for any grief that wishes to be thorough. The house was run beautifully by Edith. There were three servants, of whom Edith was one. She was the lady's maid, the head cook, and the family butler. And Mr. Twist, till he went to Harvard, might be described as the page-boy, and afterwards in his vacations as the odd man about the house. Everything centred round their mother. She made a good deal of work, because of being so anxious not to give trouble. She wouldn't get out of the way of evil, but bleakly accepted it. She wouldn't get out of a draught, but sat in it till one or other of her children remembered they hadn't shut the door. When the inevitable cold was upon her and she was lamentably coughing, she would mention the door for the first time, and quietly say she hadn't liked to trouble them to shut it, they had seemed so busy with their own affairs.
But after he had been in the engineering firm a little while, a further change came over Mr. Twist. He was there to make money, more money, for his mother. The first duty of an American male had descended on him. He wished earnestly to fulfil it creditably, in spite of his own tastes being so simple that his income of L5000—it was his, not his mother's, but it didn't feel as if it were—would have been more than sufficient for him. Out of engineering, then, was he to wrest all the things that might comfort his mother. He embarked on his career with as determined an expression on his mouth as so soft and friendly a mouth could be made to take, and he hadn't been in it long before he passed out altogether beyond the line of thinking his mother had laid down for him, and definitely grew up.
The office was in New York, far enough away from Clark for him to be at home only for the Sundays. His mother put him to board with her brother Charles, a clergyman, the rector of the Church of Angelic Refreshment at the back of Tenth Street, and the teapot out of which Uncle Charles poured his tea at his hurried and uncomfortable meals—for he practised the austerities and had no wife—dribbled at its spout. Hold it as carefully as one might it dribbled at its spout, and added to the confused appearance of the table by staining the cloth afresh every time it was used.
Mr. Twist, who below the nose was nothing but kindliness and generosity, his slightly weak chin, his lavishly-lipped mouth, being all amiability and affection, above the nose was quite different. In the middle came his nose, a nose that led him to improve himself, to read and meditate the poets, to be tenacious in following after the noble; and above were eyes in which simplicity sat side by side with appreciation; and above these was the forehead like a dome; and behind this forehead were inventions.
He had not been definitely aware that he was inventive till he came into daily contact with Uncle Charles's teapot. In his boyhood he had often fixed up little things for Edith,—she was three years older than he, and was even then canning and preserving and ironing,—little simplifications and alleviations of her labour; but they had been just toys, things that had amused him to put together and that he forgot as soon as they were done. But the teapot revealed to him clearly what his forehead was there for. He would not and could not continue, being the soul of considerateness, to spill tea on Uncle Charles's table-cloth at every meal—they had tea at breakfast, and at luncheon, and at supper—and if he were thirsty he spilled it several times at every meal. For a long time he coaxed the teapot. He was thoughtful with it. He handled it with the most delicate precision. He gave it time. He never hurried it. He never filled it more than half full. And yet at the end of every pouring, out came the same devastating dribble on to the cloth.
Then he went out and bought another teapot, one of a different pattern, with a curved spout instead of a straight one.
The same thing happened.
Then he went to Wanamaker's, and spent an hour in the teapot section trying one pattern after the other, patiently pouring water, provided by a tipped but languid and supercilious assistant, out of each different make of teapot into cups.
They all dribbled.
Then Mr. Twist went home and sat down and thought. He thought and thought, with his dome-like forehead resting on his long thin hand; and what came out of his forehead at last, sprang out of it as complete in every detail as Pallas Athene when she very similarly sprang, was that now well-known object on every breakfast table, Twist's Non-Trickler Teapot.
In five years Mr. Twist made a fortune out of the teapot. His mother passed from her straitened circumstances to what she still would only call a modest competence, but what in England would have been regarded as wallowing in money. She left off being middle-class, and was received into the lower upper-class, the upper part of this upper-class being reserved for great names like Astor, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. With these Mrs. Twist could not compete. She would no doubt some day, for Edward was only thirty and there were still coffee-pots; but what he was able to add to the family income helped her for a time to bear the loss of the elder Twist with less of bleakness in her resignation. It was as though an east wind veered round for a brief space a little to the south.
Being naturally, however, inclined to deprecation, when every other reason for it was finally removed by her assiduous son she once more sought out and firmly laid hold of the departed Twist, and hung her cherished unhappiness up on him again as if he were a peg. When the novelty of having a great many bedrooms instead of six, and a great deal of food not to eat but to throw away, and ten times of everything else instead of only once, began to wear off, Mrs. Twist drooped again, and pulled the departed Twist out of the decent forgetfulness of the past, and he once more came to dinner in the form of his favourite dishes, and assisted in the family conversations by means of copious quotations from his alleged utterances.
Mr. Twist's income was anything between sixty and seventy thousand pounds a year by the time the war broke out. Having invented and patented the simple device that kept the table-cloths of America, and indeed of Europe, spotless, all he had to do was to receive his percentages; sit still, in fact, and grow richer. But so much had he changed since his adolescence that he preferred to stick to his engineering and his office in New York rather than go home and be happy with his mother.
She could not understand this behaviour in Edward. She understood his behaviour still less when he went off to France in 1915, himself equipping and giving the ambulance he drove.
For a year his absence, and the dangers he was running, divided Mrs. Twist's sorrows into halves. Her position as a widow with an only son in danger touched the imagination of Clark, and she was never so much called upon as during this year. Now Edward was coming home for a rest, and there was a subdued flutter about her, rather like the stirring of the funeral plumes on the heads of hearse-horses.
While he was crossing the Atlantic and Red-Crossing the Twinklers—this was one of Anna-Felicitas's epigrams and she tried Anna-Rose's patience severely by asking her not once but several times whether she didn't think it funny, whereas Anna-Rose disliked it from the first because of the suggestion it contained that Mr. Twist regarded what he did for them as works of mercy—while Mr. Twist was engaged in these activities, at his home in Clark all the things Edith could think of that he used most to like to eat were being got ready. There was an immense slaughtering of chickens, and baking and churning. Edith, who being now the head servant of many instead of three was more than double as hard-worked as she used to be, was on her feet those last few days without stopping. And she had to go and meet Edward in New York as well. Whether Mrs. Twist feared that he might not come straight home or whether it was what she said it was, that dear Edward must not be the only person on the boat who had no one to meet him, is not certain; what is certain is that when it came to the point, and Edith had to start, Mrs. Twist had difficulty in maintaining her usual brightness.
Edith would be a whole day away, and perhaps a night if the St. Luke got in late, for Clark is five hours' train journey from New York, and during all that time Mrs. Twist would be uncared for. She thought Edith surprisingly thoughtless to be so much pleased to go. She examined her flat and sinewy form with disapproval when she came in hatted and booted to say good-bye. No wonder nobody married Edith. And the money wouldn't help her either now—she was too old. She had missed her chances, poor thing.
Mrs. Twist forgot the young man there had been once, years before, when Edward was still in the school room, who had almost married Edith. He was a lusty and enterprising young man, who had come to Clark to stay with a neighbour, and he had had nothing to do through a long vacation, and had taken to dropping in at all hours and interrupting Edith in her housekeeping; and Edith, even then completely flat but of a healthy young uprightness and bright of eyes and hair, had gone silly and forgotten how to cook, and had given her mother, who surely had enough sorrows already, an attack of indigestion.
Mrs. Twist, however, had headed the young man off. Edith was too necessary to her at that time. She could not possibly lose Edith. And besides, the only way to avoid being a widow is not to marry. She told herself that she could not bear the thought of poor Edith's running the risk of an affliction similar to her own. If one hasn't a husband one cannot lose him, Mrs. Twist clearly saw. If Edith married she would certainly lose him unless he lost her. Marriage had only two solutions, she explained to her silent daughter,—she would not, of course, discuss with her that third one which America has so often flown to for solace and relief,—only two, said Mrs. Twist, and they were that either one died oneself, which wasn't exactly a happy thing, or the other one did. It was only a question of time before one of the married was left alone to mourn. Marriage began rosily no doubt, but it always ended black. "And think of my having to see you like this" she said, with a gesture indicating her sad dress.
Edith was intimidated; and the young man presently went away whistling. He was the only one. Mrs. Twist had no more trouble. He passed entirely from her mind; and as she looked at Edith dressed for going to meet Edward in the clothes she went to church in on Sundays, she unconsciously felt a faint contempt for a woman who had had so much time to get married in and yet had never achieved it. She herself had been married at twenty; and her hair even now, after all she had gone through, was hardly more gray than Edith's.
"Your hat's crooked," she said, when Edith straightened herself after bending down to kiss her good-bye; and then, after all unable to bear the idea of being left alone while Edith, with that pleased face, went off to New York to see Edward before she did, she asked her, if she still had a minute to spare, to help her to the sofa, because she felt faint.
"I expect the excitement has been too much for me," she murmured, lying down and shutting her eyes; and Edith, disciplined in affection and attentiveness, immediately took off her hat and settled down to getting her mother well again in time for Edward.
Which is why nobody met Mr. Twist on his arrival in New York, and he accordingly did things, as will be seen, which he mightn't otherwise have done.
When the St. Luke was so near its journey's end that people were packing up, and the word Nantucket was frequent in the scraps of talk the twins heard, they woke up from the unworried condition of mind Mr. Twist's kindness and the dreamy monotony of the days had produced in them, and began to consider their prospects with more attention. This attention soon resulted in anxiety. Anna-Rose showed hers by being irritable. Anna-Felicitas didn't show hers at all.
It was all very well, so long as they were far away from America and never quite sure that a submarine mightn't settle their future for them once and for all, to feel big, vague, heroic things about a new life and a new world and they two Twinklers going to conquer it; but when the new world was really upon them, and the new life, with all the multitudinous details that would have to be tackled, going to begin in a few hours, their hearts became uneasy and sank within them. England hadn't liked them. Suppose America didn't like them either? Uncle Arthur hadn't liked them. Suppose Uncle Arthur's friends didn't like them either? Their hearts sank to, and remained in, their boots.
Round Anna-Rose's waist, safely concealed beneath her skirt from what Anna-Felicitas called the predatory instincts of their fellow-passengers, was a chamois-leather bag containing their passports, a letter to the bank where their L200 was, a letter to those friends of Uncle Arthur's who were to be tried first, a letter to those other friends of his who were to be the second line of defence supposing the first one failed, and ten pounds in two L5 notes.
Uncle Arthur, grievously grumbling, and having previously used in bed most of those vulgar words that made Aunt Alice so miserable, had given Anna-Rose one of the L5 notes for the extra expenses of the journey till, in New York, she should be able to draw on the L200, though what expenses there could be for a couple of girls whose passage was paid Uncle Arthur was damned, he alleged, if he knew; and Aunt Alice had secretly added the other. This was all Anna-Rose's ready money, and it would have to be changed into dollars before reaching New York so as to be ready for emergencies on arrival. She judged from the growing restlessness of the passengers that it would soon be time to go and change it. How many dollars ought she to get?
Mr. Twist was absent, packing his things. She ought to have asked him long ago, but they seemed so suddenly to have reached the end of their journey. Only yesterday there was the same old limitless sea everywhere, the same old feeling that they were never going to arrive. Now the waves had all gone, and one could actually see land. The New World. The place all their happiness or unhappiness would depend on.
She laid hold of Anna-Felicitas, who was walking about just as if she had never been prostrate on a deck-chair in her life, and was going to say something appropriate and encouraging on the Christopher and Columbus lines; but Anna-Felicitas, who had been pondering the L5 notes problem, wouldn't listen.
"A dollar," said Anna-Felicitas, worrying it out, "isn't like a shilling or a mark, but on the other hand neither is it like a pound."
"No," said Anna-Rose, brought back to her immediate business.
"It's four times more than one, and five times less than the other," said Anna-Felicitas. "That's how you've got to count. That's what Aunt Alice said."
"Yes. And then there's the exchange," said Anna-Rose, frowning. "As if it wasn't complicated enough already, there's the exchange. Uncle Arthur said we weren't to forget that."
Anna-Felicitas wanted to know what was meant by the exchange, and Anna-Rose, unwilling to admit ignorance to Anna-Felicitas, who had to be kept in her proper place, especially when one was just getting to America and she might easily become above herself, said that it was something that varied. ("The exchange, you know, varies," Uncle Arthur had said when he gave her the L5 note. "You must keep your eye on the variations." Anna-Rose was all eagerness to keep her eye on them, if only she had known what and where they were. But one never asked questions of Uncle Arthur. His answers, if one did, were confined to expressions of anger and amazement that one didn't, at one's age, already know.)
"Oh," said Anna-Felicitas, for a moment glancing at Anna-Rose out of the corner of her eye, considerately not pressing her further.
"I wish Mr. Twist would come," said Anna-Rose uneasily, looking in the direction he usually appeared from.
"We won't always have him" remarked Anna-Felicitas.
"I never said we would," said Anna-Rose shortly.
The young lady of the nails appeared at that moment in a hat so gorgeous that the twins stopped dead to stare. She had a veil on and white gloves, and looked as if she were going for a walk in Fifth Avenue the very next minute.
"Perhaps we ought to be getting ready too," said Anna-Felicitas.
"Yes. I wish Mr. Twist would come—"
"Perhaps we'd better begin and practise not having Mr. Twist," said Anna-Felicitas, as one who addresses nobody specially and means nothing in particular.
"If anybody's got to practise that, it'll be you," said Anna-Rose. "There'll be no one to roll you up in rugs now, remember. I won't."
"But I don't want to be rolled up in rugs," said Anna-Felicitas mildly. "I shall be walking about New York."
"Oh, you'll see," said Anna-Rose irritably.
She was worried about the dollars. She was worried about the tipping, and the luggage, and the arrival, and Uncle Arthur's friends, whose names were Mr. and Mrs. Clouston K. Sack; so naturally she was irritable. One is. And nobody knew and understood this better than Anna-Felicitas.
"Let's go and put on our hats and get ready," she said, after a moment's pause during which she wondered whether, in the interests of Anna-Rose's restoration to calm, she mightn't have to be sick again. She did hope she wouldn't have to. She had supposed she had done with that. It is true there were now no waves, but she knew she had only to go near the engines and smell the oil. "Let's go and put on our hats," she suggested, slipping her hand through Anna-Rose's arm.
Anna-Rose let herself be led away, and they went to their cabin; and when they came out of it half an hour later, no longer with that bald look their caps had given them, the sun catching the little rings of pale gold hair that showed for the first time, and clad, instead of in the disreputable jerseys that they loved, in neat black coats and skirts—for they still wore mourning when properly dressed—with everything exactly as Aunt Alice had directed for their arrival, the young men of the second class could hardly believe their eyes.
"You'll excuse me saying so," said one of them to Anna-Felicitas as she passed him, "but you're looking very well to-day."
"I expect that's because I am well," said Anna-Felicitas amiably.
Mr. Twist, when he saw them, threw up his hands and ejaculated "My!"
"Yes," said Anna-Felicitas, who was herself puzzled by the difference the clothes had made in Anna-Rose after ten solid days of cap and jersey, "I think it's our hats. They do somehow seem very splendid."
"Splendid?" echoed Mr. Twist. "Why, they'd make the very angels jealous, and get pulling off their haloes and kicking them over the edge of heaven."
"What is so wonderful is that Aunt Alice should ever have squeezed them out of Uncle Arthur," said Anna-Rose, gazing lost in admiration at Anna-Felicitas. "He didn't disgorge nice hats easily at all."
And one of the German ladies muttered to the other, as her eye fell on Anna-Felicitas, "Ja, ja, die hat Rasse."
And it was only because it was the other German lady's hair that spent the night in a different part of the cabin from her head and had been seen doing it by Anna-Felicitas, that she cavilled and was grudging. "Gewiss," she muttered back, "bis auf der Nase. Die Nase aber entfremdet mich. Die ist keine echte Junkernase."
So that the Twinklers had quite a success, and their hearts came a little way out of their boots; only a little way, though, for there were the Clouston K. Sacks looming bigger into their lives every minute now.
Really it was a beautiful day, and, as Aunt Alice used to say, that does make such a difference. A clear pale loveliness of light lay over New York, and there was a funny sprightliness in the air, a delicate dry crispness. The trees on the shore, when they got close, were delicate too—delicate pale gold, and green, and brown, and they seemed so composed and calm, the twins thought, standing there quietly after the upheavals and fidgetiness of the Atlantic. New York was well into the Fall, the time of year when it gets nearest to beauty. The beauty was entirely in the atmosphere, and the lights and shadows it made. It was like an exquisite veil flung over an ugly woman, hiding, softening, encouraging hopes.
Everybody on the ship was crowding eagerly to the sides. Everybody was exhilarated, and excited, and ready to be friendly and talkative. They all waved whenever another boat passed. Those who knew America pointed out the landmarks to those who didn't. Mr. Twist pointed them out to the twins, and so did the young man who had remarked favourably on Anna-Felicitas's looks, and as they did it simultaneously and there was so much to look at and so many boats to wave to, it wasn't till they had actually got to the statue of Liberty that Anna-Rose remembered her L10 and the dollars.
The young man was saying how much the statue of Liberty had cost, and the word dollars made Anna-Rose turn with a jump to Mr. Twist.
"Oh," she exclaimed, clutching at her chamois leather bag where it very visibly bulged out beneath her waistband, "I forgot—I must get change. And how much do you think we ought to tip the stewardess? I've never tipped anybody yet ever, and I wish—I wish I hadn't to."
She got quite red. It seemed to her dreadful to offer money to someone so much older than herself and who till almost that very morning had treated her and Anna-Felicitas like the naughtiest of tiresome children. Surely she would be most offended at being tipped by people such years younger than herself?
Mr. Twist thought not.
"A dollar," said the young man. "One dollar. That's the figure. Not a cent more, or you girls'll get inflating prices and Wall Street'll bust up."
Anna-Rose, not heeding him and clutching nervously the place where her bag was, told Mr. Twist that the stewardess hadn't seemed to mind them quite so much last night, and still less that morning, and perhaps some little memento—something that wasn't money—
"Give her those caps of yours," said the young man, bursting into hilarity; but indeed it wasn't his fault that he was a low young man.
Mr. Twist, shutting him out of the conversation by interposing a shoulder, told Anna-Rose he had noticed stewardesses, and also stewards, softened when journeys drew near their end, but that it didn't mean they wanted mementos. They wanted money; and he would do the tipping for her if she liked.
Anna-Rose jumped at it. This tipping of the stewardess had haunted her at intervals throughout the journey whenever she woke up at night. She felt that, not having yet in her life tipped anybody, it was very hard that she couldn't begin with somebody more her own size.
"Then if you don't mind coming behind the funnel," she said, "I can give you my L5 notes, and perhaps you would get them changed for me and deduct what you think the stewardess ought to have."
Mr. Twist, and also Anna-Felicitas, who wasn't allowed to stay behind with the exuberant young man though she was quite unconscious of his presence, went with Anna-Rose behind the funnel, where after a great deal of private fumbling, her back turned to them, she produced the two much-crumpled L5 notes.
"The steward ought to have something too," said Mr. Twist.
"Oh, I'd be glad if you'd do him as well," said Anna-Rose eagerly. "I don't think I could offer him a tip. He has been so fatherly to us. And imagine offering to tip one's father."
Mr. Twist laughed, and said she would get over this feeling in time. He promised to do what was right, and to make it clear that the tips he bestowed were Twinkler tips; and presently he came back with messages of thanks from the tipped—such polite ones from the stewardess that the twins were astonished—and gave Anna-Rose a packet of very dirty-looking slices of green paper, which were dollar bills, he said, besides a variety of strange coins which he spread out on a ledge and explained to her.
"The exchange was favourable to you to-day," said Mr. Twist, counting out the money.
"How nice of it," said Anna-Rose politely. "Did you keep your eye on its variations?" she added a little loudly, with a view to rousing respect in Anna-Felicitas who was lounging against a seat and showing a total absence of every kind of appropriate emotion.
"Certainly," said Mr. Twist after a slight pause. "I kept both my eyes on all of them."
Mr. Twist had, it appeared, presented the steward and stewardess each with a dollar on behalf of the Misses Twinkler, but because the exchange was so favourable this had made no difference to the L5 notes. Reducing each L5 note into German marks, which was the way the Twinklers, in spite of a year in England, still dealt in their heads with money before they could get a clear idea of it, there would have been two hundred marks; and as it took, roughly, four marks to make a dollar, the two hundred marks would have to be divided by four; which, leaving aside that extra complication of variations in the exchange, and regarding the exchange for a moment and for purposes of simplification as keeping quiet for a bit and resting, should produce, also roughly, said Anna-Rose a little out of breath as she got to the end of her calculation, fifty dollars.
"Correct," said Mr. Twist, who had listened with respectful attention. "Here they are."
"I said roughly," said Anna-Rose. "It can't be exactly fifty dollars. The tips anyhow would alter that."
"Yes, but you forget the exchange."
Anna-Rose was silent. She didn't want to go into that before Anna-Felicitas. Of the two, she was supposed to be the least bad at sums. Their mother had put it that way, refusing to say, as Anna-Rose industriously tried to trap her into saying, that she was the better of the two. But even so, the difference entitled her to authority on the subject with Anna-Felicitas, and by dint of doing all her calculations roughly, as she was careful to describe her method, she allowed room for withdrawal and escape where otherwise the inflexibility of figures might have caught her tight and held her down while Anna-Felicitas looked on and was unable to respect her.
Evidently the exchange was something beneficent. She decided to rejoice in it in silence, accept whatever it did, and refrain from asking questions.
"So I did. Of course. The exchange," she said, after a little.
She gathered up the dollar bills and began packing them into her bag. They wouldn't all go in, and she had to put the rest into her pocket, for which also there were too many; but she refused Anna-Felicitas's offer to put some of them in hers on the ground that sooner or later she would be sure to forget they weren't her handkerchief and would blow her nose with them.
"Thank you very much for being so kind," she said to Mr. Twist, as she stuffed her pocket full and tried by vigorous patting to get it to look inconspicuous. "We're never going to forget you, Anna-F. and me. We'll write to you often, and we'll come and see you as often as you like."
"Yes," said Anna-Felicitas dreamily, as she watched the shore of Long Island sliding past. "Of course you've got your relations, but relations soon pall, and you may be quite glad after a while of a little fresh blood."
Mr. Twist thought this very likely, and agreed with several other things Anna-Felicitas, generalizing from Uncle Arthur, said about relations, again with that air of addressing nobody specially and meaning nothing in particular, while Anna-Rose wrestled with the obesity of her pocket.
"Whether you come to see me or not," said Mr. Twist, whose misgivings as to the effect of the Twinklers on his mother grew rather than subsided, "I shall certainly come to see you."
"Perhaps Mr. Sack won't allow followers," said Anna-Felicitas, her eyes far away. "Uncle Arthur didn't. He wouldn't let the maids have any, so they had to go out and do the following themselves. We had a follower once, didn't we, Anna-R.?" she continued her voice pensive and reminiscent. "He was a friend of Uncle Arthur's. Quite old. At least thirty or forty. I shouldn't have thought he could follow. But he did. And he used to come home to tea with Uncle Arthur and produce boxes of chocolate for us out of his pockets when Uncle Arthur wasn't looking. We ate them and felt perfectly well disposed toward him till one day he tried to kiss one of us—I forget which. And that, combined with the chocolates, revealed him in his true colours as a follower, and we told him they weren't allowed in that house and urged him to go to some place where they were, or he would certainly be overtaken by Uncle Arthur's vengeance, and we said how surprised we were, because he was so old and we didn't know followers were as old as that ever."
"It seemed a very shady thing," said Anna-Rose, having subdued the swollenness of her pocket, "to eat his chocolates and then not want to kiss him, but we don't hold with kissing, Anna-F. and me. Still, we were full of his chocolates; there was no getting away from that. So we talked it over after he had gone, and decided that next day when he came we'd tell him he might kiss one of us if he still wanted to, and we drew lots which it was to be, and it was me, and I filled myself to the brim with chocolates so as to feel grateful enough to bear it, but he didn't come."
"No," said Anna-Felicitas. "He didn't come again for a long while, and when he did there was no follow left in him. Quite the contrary."
Mr. Twist listened with the more interest to this story because it was the first time Anna-Felicitas had talked since he knew her. He was used to the inspiriting and voluble conversation of Anna-Rose who had looked upon him as her best friend since the day he had wiped up her tears; but Anna-Felicitas had been too unwell to talk. She had uttered languid and brief observations from time to time with her eyes shut and her head lolling loosely on her neck, but this was the first time she had been, as it were, an ordinary human being, standing upright on her feet, walking about, looking intelligently if pensively at the scenery, and in a condition of affable readiness, it appeared, to converse.
Mr. Twist was a born mother. The more trouble he was given the more attached he became. He had rolled Anna-Felicitas up in rugs so often that to be not going to roll her up any more was depressing to him. He was beginning to perceive this motherliness in him himself, and he gazed through his spectacles at Anna-Felicitas while she sketched the rise and fall of the follower, and wondered with an almost painful solicitude what her fate would be in the hands of the Clouston Sacks.
Equally he wondered as to the other one's fate; for he could not think of one Twinkler without thinking of the other. They were inextricably mixed together in the impression they had produced on him, and they dwelt together in his thoughts as one person called, generally, Twinklers. He stood gazing at them, his motherly instincts uppermost, his hearty yearning over them now that the hour of parting was so near and his carefully tended chickens were going to be torn from beneath his wing. Mr. Twist was domestic. He was affectionate. He would have loved, though he had never known it, the sensation of pattering feet about his house, and small hands clinging to the apron he would never wear. And it was entirely characteristic of him that his invention, the invention that brought him his fortune, should have had to do with a teapot.
But if his heart was uneasy within him at the prospect of parting from his charges their hearts were equally uneasy, though not in the same way. The very name of Clouston K. Sack was repugnant to Anna-Rose; and Anna-Felicitas, less quick at disliking, turned it over cautiously in her mind as one who turns over an unknown and distasteful object with the nose of his umbrella. Even she couldn't quite believe that any good thing could come out of a name like that, especially when it had got into their lives through Uncle Arthur. Mr. Twist had never heard of the Clouston Sacks, which made Anna-Rose still more distrustful. She wasn't in the least encouraged when he explained the bigness of America and that nobody in it ever knew everybody—she just said that everybody had heard of Mr. Roosevelt, and her heart was too doubtful within her even to mind being told, as he did immediately tell her within ear-shot of Anna-Felicitas, that her reply was unreasonable.
Just at the end, as they were all three straining their eyes, no one with more anxiety than Mr. Twist, to try and guess which of the crowd on the landing-stage were the Clouston Sacks, they passed on their other side the Vaterland, the great interned German liner at its moorings, and the young man who had previously been so very familiar, as Anna-Rose said, but who was only, Mr. Twist explained, being American, came hurrying boldly up.
"You mustn't miss this," he said to Anna-Felicitas, actually seizing her by the arm. "Here's something that'll make you feel home-like right away."
And he led her off, and would have dragged her off but for Anna-Felicitas's perfect non-resistance.
"He is being familiar," said Anna-Rose to Mr. Twist, turning very red and following quickly after him. "That's not just being American. Everybody decent knows that if there's any laying hold of people's arms to be done one begins with the eldest sister."
"Perhaps he doesn't realize that you are the elder," said Mr. Twist. "Strangers judge, roughly, by size."
"I'm afraid I'm going to have trouble with her," said Anna-Rose, not heeding his consolations. "It isn't a sinecure, I assure you, being left sole guardian and protector of somebody as pretty as all that. And the worst of it is she's going on getting prettier. She hasn't nearly come to the end of what she can do in that direction. I see it growing on her. Every Sunday she's inches prettier than she was the Sunday before. And wherever I take her to live, and however out of the way it is, I'm sure the path to our front door is going to be black with suitors."
This dreadful picture so much perturbed her, and she looked up at Mr. Twist with such worried eyes, that he couldn't refrain from patting her on her shoulder.
"There, there," said Mr. Twist, and he begged her to be sure to let him know directly she was in the least difficulty, or even perplexity,—"about the suitors, for instance, or anything else. You must let me be of some use in the world, you know," he said.
"But we shouldn't like it at all if we thought you were practising being useful on us," said Anna-Rose "It's wholly foreign to our natures to enjoy being the objects of anybody's philanthropy."
"Now I just wonder where you get all your long words from," said Mr. Twist soothingly; and Anna-Rose laughed, and there was only one dimple in the Twinkler family and Anna-Rose had got it.
"What do you want to get looking at that for?" she asked Anna-Felicitas, when she had edged through the crowd staring at the Vaterland, and got to where Anna-Felicitas stood listening abstractedly to the fireworks of American slang the young man was treating her to,—that terse, surprising, swift hitting-of-the-nail-on-the-head form of speech which she was hearing in such abundance for the first time.
The American passengers appeared one and all to be rejoicing over the impotence of the great ship. Every one of them seemed to be violently pro-Ally, derisively conjecturing the feelings of the Vaterland as every day under her very nose British ships arrived and departed and presently arrived again,—the same ships she had seen depart coming back unharmed, unhindered by her country's submarines. Only the two German ladies, once more ignoring their American allegiance, looked angry. It was incredible to them, simply unfassbar as they said in their thoughts, that any nation should dare inconvenience Germans, should dare lay a finger, even the merest friendliest detaining one, on anything belonging to the mighty, the inviolable Empire. Well, these Americans, these dollar-grubbing Yankees, would soon get taught a sharp, deserved lesson—but at this point they suddenly remembered they were Americans themselves, and pulled up their thoughts violently, as it were, on their haunches.
They turned, however, bitterly to the Twinkler girl as she pushed her way through to her sister,—those renegade Junkers, those contemptible little apostates—and asked her, after hearing her question to Anna-Felicitas, with an extraordinary breaking out of pent-up emotion where she, then, supposed she would have been at that moment if it hadn't been for Germany.
"Not here I think," said Anna-Rose, instantly and fatally ready as she always was to answer back and attempt what she called reasoned conversation. "There wouldn't have been a war, so of course I wouldn't have been here."
"Why, you wouldn't so much as have been born without Germany," said the lady whose hair came off, with difficulty controlling a desire to shake this insolent and perverted Junker who could repeat the infamous English lie as to who began the war. "You owe your very existence to Germany. You should be giving thanks to her on your knees for her gift to you of life, instead of jeering at this representative—" she flung a finger out toward the Vaterland—"this patient and dignified-in -temporary-misfortune representative, of her power."
"I wasn't jeering," said Anna-Rose, defending herself and clutching at Anna-Felicitas's sleeve to pull her away.
"You wouldn't have had a father at all but for Germany," said the other lady, the one whose hair grew.
"And perhaps you will tell me," said the first one, "where you would have been then."
"I don't believe," said Anna-Rose, her nose in the air, "I don't believe I'd have ever been at a loss for a father."
The ladies, left speechless a moment by the arrogance as well as several other things about this answer gave Anna-Rose an opportunity for further reasoning with them, which she was unable to resist. "There are lots of fathers," she said, "in England, who would I'm sure have been delighted to take me on if Germany had failed me."
"Take you on!"
"An English father for you? For a subject of the King of Prussia?"
"I—I'm afraid I—I'm going to be sick," gasped Anna-Felicitas suddenly.
"You're never going to be sick in this bit of bathwater, Miss Twinkler?" exclaimed the young man, with the instant ungrudging admiration of one who is confronted by real talent. "My, what a gift!"
Anna-Rose darted at Anna-Felicitas's drooping head, that which she had been going to say back to the German ladies dissolving on her tongue. "Oh no—no—" she wailed. "Oh no—not in your best hat, Columbus darling—you can't—it's not done—and your hat'll shake off into the water, and then there'll only be one between us and we shall never be able to go out paying calls and things at the same time—come away and sit down—Mr. Twist—Mr. Twist—oh, please come—"
Anna-Felicitas allowed herself to be led away, just in time as she murmured, and sat down on the nearest seat and shut her eyes. She was thankful Anna-Rose's attention had been diverted to her so instantly, for it would have been very difficult to be sick with the ship as quiet as one's own bedroom. Nothing short of the engine-room could have made her sick now. She sat keeping her eyes shut and Anna-Rose's attention riveted, wondering what she would do when there was no ship and Anna-Rose was on the verge of hasty and unfortunate argument. Would she have to learn to faint? But that would terrify poor Christopher so dreadfully.
Anna-Felicitas pondered, her eyes shut, on this situation. Up to now in her life she had always found that situations solved themselves. Given time. And sometimes a little assistance. So, no doubt, would this one. Anna-Rose would ripen and mellow. The German ladies would depart hence and be no more seen; and it was unlikely she and Anna-Rose would meet at such close quarters as a ship's cabin any persons so peculiarly and unusually afflicting again. All situations solved themselves; or, if they showed signs of not going to, one adopted the gentle methods that helped them to get solved. Early in life she had discovered that objects which cannot be removed or climbed over can be walked round. A little deviousness, and the thing was done. She herself had in the most masterly manner when she was four escaped church-going for several years by a simple method, that seemed to her looking back very like an inspiration, of getting round it. She had never objected to going, had never put into words the powerful if vague dislike with which it filled her when Sunday after Sunday she had to go and dangle her legs helplessly for two hours from the chair she was put on in the enclosed pew reserved for the hohe graefliche Herrschaften from the Slosh.
Her father, a strict observer of the correct and a pious believer in God for other people, attended Divine Service as regularly as he wound the clocks and paid the accounts. He repraesentierte, as the German phrase went; and his wife and children were expected to repraesentieren too. Which they did uncomplainingly; for when one has to do with determined husbands and fathers it is quickest not to complain. But the pins and needles that patient child endured, Anna-Felicitas remembered, looking back through the years at the bunched-up figure on the chair as at a stranger, were something awful. The edge of the chair just caught her legs in the pins and needles place. If she had been a little bigger or a little smaller it wouldn't have happened; as it was, St. Paul wrestling with beasts at Ephesus wasn't more heroic than Anna-Felicitas perceived that distant child to have been, silently Sunday after Sunday bearing her legs. Then one Sunday something snapped inside her, and she heard her own voice floating out into the void above the heads of the mumbling worshippers, and it said with a terrible distinctness in a sort of monotonous wail: "I only had a cold potato for breakfast,"—and a second time, in the breathless suspension of mumbling that followed upon this: "I only had a cold potato for breakfast,"—and a third time she opened her mouth to repeat the outrageous statement, regardless of her mother's startled hand laid on her arm, and of Anna-Rose's petrified stare, and of the lifted faces of the congregation, and of the bent, scandalized brows of the pastor,—impelled by something that possessed her, unable to do anything but obey it; but her father, a man of deeds, rose up in his place, took her in his arms, and carried her down the stairs and out of the church. And the minute she found herself really rescued, and out where the sun and wind, her well-known friends, were larking about among the tombstones, she laid her cheek as affectionately against her father's head as if she were a daughter to be proud of, and would have purred if she had had had a purr as loudly as the most satisfied and virtuous of cats.
"Mein Kind," said her father, standing her up on a convenient tomb so that her eyes were level with his, "is it then true about the cold potato?"
"No," said Anna-Felicitas patting his face, pleased at what her legs were feeling like again.
"Mein Kind," said her father, "do you not know it is wrong to lie?"
"No," said Anna-Felicitas placidly, the heavenly blue of her eyes, gazing straight into his, exactly like the mild sky above the trees.
"No?" echoed her father, staring at her. "But, Kind, you know what a lie is?"
"No," said Anna-Felicitas, gazing at him tenderly in her satisfaction at being restored to a decent pair of legs; and as he still stood staring at her she put her hands one on each of his cheeks and squeezed his face together and murmured, "Oh, I do love you."
Lost in the contemplation of a distant past Anna-Felicitas sat with her eyes shut long after she needn't have.
She had forgotten about the German ladies, and America, and the future so instantly pressing on her, and was away on the shores of the Baltic again, where bits of amber where washed up after a storm, and the pale rushes grew in shallow sunny water that was hardly salt, and the air seemed for ever sweet with lilac. All the cottage gardens in the little village that clustered round a clearing in the trees had lilac bushes in them, for there was something in the soil that made lilacs be more wonderful there than anywhere else in the world, and in May the whole forest as far as one could walk was soaked with the smell of it. After rain on a May evening, what a wonder it was; what a wonder, that running down the black, oozing forest paths between wet pine stems, out on to the shore to look at the sun setting below the great sullen clouds of the afternoon over on one's left where Denmark was, and that lifting of one's face to the exquisite mingling of the delicate sea smell and the lilac. And then there was home to come back to when the forest began to look too dark and its deep silence made one's flesh creep—home, and a light in the window where ones mother was. Incredible the security of those days, the safe warmth of them, the careless roominess....
"You know if you could manage to feel a little better, Anna-F.," said Anna-Rose's voice entreatingly in her ear, "it's time we began to get off this ship."
Anna-Felicitas opened her eyes, and got up all confused and self-reproachful. Everybody had melted away from that part of the deck except herself and Anna-Rose. The ship was lying quiet at last alongside the wharf. She had over-done being ill this time. She was ashamed of herself for having wandered off so easily and comfortably into the past, and left poor Christopher alone in the difficult present.
"I'm so sorry," she said smiling apologetically, and giving her hat a tug of determination symbolic of her being ready for anything, especially America. "I think I must have gone to sleep. Have you—" she hesitated and dropped her voice. "Are they—are the Clouston Sacks visible yet?"
"I thought I saw them," said Anna-Rose, dropping her voice too, and looking round uneasily over her shoulder. "I'd have come here sooner to see how you were getting on, but I thought I saw them, and they looked so like what I think they will look like that I went into our cabin again for a few minutes. But it wasn't them. They've found the people they were after, and have gone."
"There's a great crowd waiting," said Mr. Twist, coming up, "and I think we ought to go and look for your friends. As you don't know what they're like and they don't know what you're like it may be difficult. Heaven forbid," he continued, "that I should hurry you, but I have to catch a train if I'm to get home to-night, and I don't intend to catch it until I've handed you over safely to the Sacks."
"Those Sacks—" began Anna-Rose; and then she finished irrelevantly by remarking that it was the details of life that were discouraging,—from which Anna Felicitas knew that Christopher's heart was once more in her boots.
"Come along," said Mr. Twist, urging them to wards the gangway. "Anything you've got to say about life I shall be glad to hear, but at some time when we're more at leisure."
It had never occurred to either of the twins that the Clouston Sacks would not meet them. They had taken it for granted from the beginning that some form of Sack, either male or female, or at least their plenipotentiary, would be on the wharf to take them away to the Sack lair, as Anna-Felicitas alluded to the family mansion. It was, they knew, in Boston, but Boston conveyed nothing to them. Only Mr. Twist knew how far away it was. He had always supposed the Sacks would meet their young charges, stay that night in New York, and continue on to Boston next day. The twins were so certain they would be met that Mr. Twist was certain too. He had concluded, with a growingly empty feeling in his heart as the time of separation drew near, that all that now remained for him to do on behalf of the Twinklers was to hand them over to the Sacks. And then leave them. And then go home to that mother he loved but had for some time known he didn't like,—go home a bereft and lonely man.
But out of the crowd on the pier, any of whom might have been Sacks for all the Twinklers, eagerly scanning faces, knew, nobody in fact seemed to be Sacks. At least, nobody came forward and said, "Are you the Twinklers?" Other people fell into each other's arms; the air was full of the noise of kissing, the loud legitimate kissing of relations; but nobody took any notice of the twins. For a long while they stood waiting. Their luggage was examined, and Mr. Twist's luggage—only his was baggage—was examined, and the kissing and exclaiming crowd swayed hither and thither, and broke up into groups, and was shot through by interviewers, and got packed off into taxis, and grew thinner and thinner, and at last was so thin that the concealment of the Sacks in it was no longer possible.
There were no Sacks.
To the last few groups of people left in the great glass-roofed hall piled with bags of wool and sulphur, Mr. Twist went up boldly and asked if they were intending to meet some young ladies called Twinkler. His tone, owing to perturbation, was rather more than one of inquiry, it almost sounded menacing; and the answers he got were cold. He wandered about uncertainly from group to group, his soft felt hat on the back of his head and his brow getting more and more puckered; and Anna-Rose, anxiously looking on from afar, became impatient at last of these refusals of everybody to be Sacks, and thought that perhaps Mr. Twist wasn't making himself clear.
Impetuous by nature and little given to calm waiting, she approached a group on her own account and asked them, enunciating her words very clearly, whether they were by any chance Mr. and Mrs. Clouston Sack.
The group, which was entirely female, stared round and down at her in astonished silence, and shook its heads; and as she saw Mr. Twist being turned away for the fifth time in the distance a wave of red despair came over her, and she said, reproach in her voice and tears in her eyes, "But somebody's got to be the Sacks."
Upon which the group she was addressing stared at her in a more astonished silence than ever.
Mr. Twist came up mopping his brow and took he arm and led her back to Anna-Felicitas, who was taking care of the luggage and had sat down philosophically to await developments on a bag of sulphur. She didn't yet know what sulphur looked like on one's clothes after one has sat on it, and smiled cheerfully and encouragingly at Anna-Rose as she came towards her.
"There are no Sacks," said Anna-Rose, facing the truth.
"It's exactly like that Uncle Arthur of yours," said Mr. Twist, mopping his forehead and speaking almost vindictively. "Exactly like him. A man like that would have the sort of friends that don't meet one."
"Well, we must do without the Sacks," said Anna-Felicitas, rising from the sulphur bag with the look of serene courage that can only dwell on the face of one who is free from care as to what has happened to him behind. "And it isn't," she added sweetly to Mr. Twist, "as if we hadn't got you."
"Yes," said Anna-Rose, suddenly seeing daylight. "Of course. What do Sacks really matter? I mean, for a day or two? You'll take us somewhere where we can wait till we've found them."
"Yes," said Anna-Felicitas. "Some nice quiet old-fashioned coffee-house sort of place, like the one the Brontes went to in St. Paul's Churchyard the first time they were launched into the world."
"Yes. Some inexpensive place."
"Suited to the frugal."
"Because although we've got L200, even that will need watching or it will go."
During this conversation Mr. Twist stood mopping his forehead. As often as he mopped it it broke out afresh and had to be mopped again. They were the only passengers left now, and had become very conspicuous. He couldn't but perceive that a group of officials with grim, locked-up-looking mouths were eyeing him and the Twinklers attentively.