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Lady Betty Across the Water
by Charles Norris Williamson and Alice Muriel Williamson
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"Shall I call you Lady Betty then?" asked the man, patting his nose with his handkerchief, which luckily for my nerves had already a pattern of pink dots on it.

"I don't see why you should call me anything," said I.

With that, he produced a card, with a whole string of words printed on it, and poked it under my eyes. "I was just going to introduce myself," he said. "I represent The New York Flashlight, and I've been sent by my paper to get something from you, if you'll oblige me."

"Something from me?" I repeated, bewildered. "Is it anything to do with the Customs? I've nothing to declare."

"Just tell me, please, something about your family. Your brother's the Duke of Stanforth, isn't he?" (He pronounced it "Dook.")

"Yes, but——"

"Thanks. Young and unmarried, isn't he?"

"Yes. But——"

"Ever been on this side?"

"No. But——"

"He'll come some day, won't he? Most unmarried Dukes do."

"I don't know, I'm sure. Really, I think——"

"Excuse me. You're going to stay with Mrs. Stuyvesant-Knox, I believe. Will you make a lengthy visit?"

"I don't——"

"You must have met one or two of our smartest young men on board. What do you think of them as compared with Englishmen?"

Long before this I had made up my mind that he couldn't have anything to do with the Customs, or if he did, that it was no wonder Mrs. Ess Kay had been driven to swearing in the saloon. I was glad now that his nose was bleeding, and I turned my back upon him, because it was the most emphatic gesture I could think of. But as I faced round the other way, wondering if my luggage would ever come, another man pushed through the "B's" who had got their boxes, and almost bounded into a foot of unoccupied space in front of me.

"Lady Bulkeley?" he shot at me, like history repeating itself; only he pronounced me as if my name were founded on my size and weight.

This time I didn't answer. I simply stood at bay, and stared, trying to look as much like Mother as possible. But the new man didn't seem to mind this in the least, so apparently my effort was not a success.

"I'm The Evening Bat," he remarked hurriedly, with an air of valuing his time at so much a second.

I was sorry he was a bat, for I've always been fond of bats, they are such soft, grey, velvet things; and I should have liked to tell him that he was much more like a chicken hawk, only that would have been vulgar; and, besides, I didn't intend to pose as chicken to his hawk. By way of not letting myself be gobbled up, I remained silent; but I couldn't help starting when a voice behind me exclaimed: "Ah, there, my chappie. You're welcome to the milk. I've skimmed off the cream. Ta, ta."

It was the Flashlight flashing at the Evening Bat.

The creature was not blinded, however. He seemed difficult to disconcert. The only response he made was to grin, and push his hat a little farther back on his head. An inch more, and it must have slid down over his collar—which was so low in the neck in front that it gave me the creeps.

"There's plenty of milk and roses, too, I guess," said he, staring in such a way that I blushed, and was vexed with myself for blushing. I peered anxiously about, hoping to see a face I knew, even ever so slightly, which might be summoned to the rescue. But all the "B's" were passionately minding their own business, and while I was wishing that Mr. Doremus began with a "B" instead of a "D," I caught the eyes of a man looking straight at me. The very nicest eyes, and with an expression in them that filled me with joy!

They said: "Do let me come and get rid of that fellow for you," and mine said: "Yes—yes—yes. Please come at once."

So the Eyes came, without waiting for more; and it was the Hero of the steerage who brought them. That was the reason I'd telegraphed "yes, yes"; for I thought: "He saved a little boy, why shouldn't I trust him, without an introduction, to save me?"

"Look here," said the bronze man to the Evening Bat, "I've got just five minutes to spare. You can have them if you like."

The Evening Bat looked at him, crossly at first; then his sharp little face seemed turning into a point of admiration. "By Jehosaphat!" he ejaculated. "Home-made goods will get the preference over British this time, duty or no duty."

I couldn't think what either of them meant, though at first I was afraid my man intended the other to understand that the five minutes would be devoted to knocking him down, or something else violent, as a punishment for impertinence to a defenceless foreigner. But my mind was almost instantly relieved, for the two men walked off together quite amicably, and stood talking at a distance.

A moment later, one of my boxes went by, looking very fat and friendly, on the shoulders of a porter, who apparently had no head. I rushed out, and seized it—not the head, but the box; so there was something encouraging; but I had two pieces of luggage to wait for still.

Most of the other "B's" were more fortunate about getting their things; nevertheless, they seemed far from easy in their minds, and though they protested almost tearfully that they'd nothing whatever to declare, stern persons in uniform stirred up their boxes as I used to do with the nursery pudding, when all the plums had sunk to the bottom.

I was very tired and very hot, hotter than I'd supposed people could be, except in a Turkish bath; and I was beginning to be hungry too, for I'd lunched principally off the Statue of Liberty and Sky-scrapers, which were more filling than lasting, as a meal.

I fanned myself with my handkerchief as well as I could, and felt sure I was slowly getting appendicitis; because whenever Americans feel uncomfortable in any way, it seems almost certain to turn eventually into that, probably on account of the climate. Would my other boxes never come? I thought. Most of the "B's" were going home. They had homes, lucky people, and if they liked, they could presently have tea.

"World without tea, Ah me!"

When I was small, and my nurse talked on Sundays about heaven and hell, making the one sound incredibly dull, the other incredibly painful, I used to think that I'd rather go to neither, but just be stuffed, like Mother's Blenheim, Beau Brummel, whose soul I fancied had leave to stop in his body so long as moth and rust did not corrupt. He seemed rather out of things, though, poor dear, standing forever in the same position in a glass case, with one paw up begging for something which nobody gave, while the years dragged on; and I'd begun to feel as if I were falling into his state, when I was roused from a stupid dream by the man of the steerage suddenly looming over me.

"I beg your pardon," said he, taking off his hat, and speaking in a nice American voice, as nice for a man as Sally Woodburn's is for a woman. "Please don't suppose I mean to be rude or intrusive, but I wanted to tell you that I think you won't be annoyed again; and—just one thing more. May I thank you for your goodness on shipboard? It brightened what would otherwise have been a grim experience."

Blind Mrs. Ess Kay to pronounce this man not a gentleman, just because some strange circumstances had forced him to travel in the steerage! I did wish that, without his knowing it, I could have slipped into his pocket my thirty pounds!

"Oh, I did nothing," I answered. "It was the other people who did everything—the little that was done. It's I who have to thank you, for taking that person away. He and the other, who came just before, were so rude."

"They didn't mean to be rude," he said. "They wanted you to tell them something which they could put into their papers, and they live by doing that kind of thing. I did the best I could with them, but I wish I could have saved you from being annoyed in the beginning. I hesitated at first, for fear you might misunderstand, and think me as bad as they were; but I wish I hadn't now."

"After what I saw you do, at sea, I couldn't possibly have misunderstood," I said.

"Thank you for saying that," he returned, "though for what I did then, I don't deserve any praise. It was done on the impulse; and I'm used to salt water. As a child, I lived close to it for a time, in California, and swimming came almost as natural as walking. But I'm not here to talk about myself. It was only to tell you how grateful I was, and am, and shall continue to be, for your kindness on the ship. I couldn't go without speaking of this; and there's something now I'd like to ask. You won't be offended?"

"If it's something you want to tell me, I know it isn't the sort of thing which could offend," I said; but I didn't say it as calmly as it looks when written. I stammered a little, and got the words tangled up; and I felt my face growing hotter than ever.

"I thank you again. It's only this. If, while you're over on this side the water, there's ever any way in which a man—a man who'd be as respectful as your footman, and loyal as your friend—could possibly serve you—I wish you would let me be that man. I know it seems now as if such a thing couldn't happen; but nothing's quite impossible in this queer world, and—and anyhow I shall always be ready. You could trust me——"

"I know that!" I couldn't resist breaking in.

"I'm—employed for the present at a club in New York. If you'd send word to Jim Brett, at the Manhattan Club, there's nothing under the sun that Jim Brett wouldn't do for you, from finding a lost dog, to taking a message across the world."

"First I must catch my dog before I can lose him," I answered, laughing. "But if I do, or—or there's anything else, I shan't forget."

"That's a true promise, then; and I have to thank you for the third time. Now, I'm not going to trouble you any longer. Good-bye."

Without stopping to think who he was, or who I was, I held out my hand, and his good-looking brown face grew red. He took the hand, pressed it hard, once; dropped it abruptly; turned on his heel and walked away, without looking back.

I was so interested in going over the conversation in my mind, that I forgot to feel like Beau Brummel with one paw up in his glass case; and though I daresay ten minutes had passed, it hardly seemed two, when a wonderful little black image in the shape of a boy came sidling up to me, all rolling white eyes, and red grin, like a nice Newfoundland puppy. He had some newspapers tucked under his arm, but in his hand was a small basket of peaches almost too beautiful to be real. But then, weren't they—and wasn't he—part of my dream?

He grinned so much more that I was afraid his round black face would break into two separate halves, and looking at me with his woolly head on one side, he thrust out the basket.

"Fur you, missy," said he, with a funny little accent, for all the world like Sally Woodburn's.

"They can't be for me. There must be a mistake," said I, wishing there wasn't, for the peaches did look delicious; and there were two rosebuds lying on top of the basket; one pink, the other white. "I don't know anyone who could have sent them."

"The gent knows you, you bet, missy," replied the image. "He guv me a quarter and axed if I know'd my alphabet 'nuf to find letter 'B,' an' tote dese yere to the prettiest young lady I'd ever seed. Most wite ladies, dey looks all jes' alike, to me, but you's different, missy; an' I reckon de tings must be fur you."

I had a horrible vision of this compliment proceeding from The Flashlight or The Evening Bat. "What was the gentleman like?" I asked.

"Like mos' any gent, missy, 'cept that he was powerful tall, an' I reckon if he keeps right on like he's doin' now, he'll get mos' as brown as me some day."

Then I knew that I was safe in taking the present; so I did, and gave the comical black image two or three little round white metal things I'd got from the purser when I changed some English money. I didn't know how much they were, and they looked ridiculously small, but he seemed pleased.

When he had run off, I turned my attention to the peaches. They were so big that there was room only for four in the basket, and they seemed dreadfully pathetic considering from whom they had come.

That poor fellow must be almost penniless or he wouldn't have been in the steerage; yet he had bought peaches for me, and given a "quarter"—whatever that was—to his quaint black doll of a messenger. I could have cried; nevertheless, I ate two of the peaches, and reluctantly presented the other two, which I couldn't possibly eat, to a gloomy "B" child, sitting on a shawl-strap.

As if for a reward of virtue, just as I had disposed of my leavings, and stuck the roses into my belt, the last of the luggage arrived. There were two Custom House men near to choose from, and as I've heard, in choosing between two evils it's better to choose the less, I smiled beseechingly at the smaller man who had just crammed a pile of lace blouses into the box of a lady with nervous prostration.

Whether he was sated with cruelty, or whether he was naturally of an angelic disposition, I shall probably never know now; but the fact remains that, instead of turning out the Fiend I'd been led to expect, he was one of the most considerate men I've ever met. He wouldn't even let me unlock my own boxes, but took the keys and opened them for me himself. (Didn't an executioner braid the hair of some queen whose head he was going to chop off? I must look the incident up, when I have time.) Anyway, I thought of it when the Custom House man was being so polite; but the analogy didn't go any farther, for my head never came off at all, and two of the boxes remained unopened.

"You're English, aren't you?" he asked, and when I said yes, and that I was only on a short visit, he treated my belongings as if they were sacred. If he disturbed anything, he laid it back nicely, keeping up a running conversation as he went on. I told him that Englishwomen might bring home all the pretty clothes they liked from other countries, and that I considered it most ungallant in such a chivalrous nation as America to deny ladies a few Paris dresses.

"Do you happen to know, miss, what's the income-tax in your country?" he asked, tenderly putting back some yellow hairpins which had fallen out of a box of mine.

"Dear me, no," I exclaimed. "But I think it's sometimes more than a shilling in the pound; I've heard my brother say so; and as for the death duties, it's more than your life's worth to die."

"A-ah!" said the nice man. "We haven't got any income-tax on this side, and folks can die in peace, whenever they please. I guess that kind of evens things up, don't it?"

I didn't know what to answer, so I thanked him for his kindness, and we parted the best of friends.

Mrs. Ess Kay appeared so quickly afterwards, that it almost seemed as if she must have been lying in wait. She was looking pale and shattered, and Louise, following close behind, was positively haggard. Only Sally had weathered the storm without being outwardly the worse for wear; but even she didn't look as good-natured as usual.

"How have you got along, you poor, deserted darling?" affectionately enquired Mrs. Ess Kay, undismayed by a fixed gaze from Sally, which apparently signified reproach.

"It wasn't very bad, and I've quite enjoyed myself," I replied, forgetting some tedious moments in the light of others not tedious, and hoping that the roses in my belt might pass unnoticed.

Fortunately they did, otherwise I should have been in a difficulty; for I should have hated to vulgarise the little episode by putting it into story form for Mrs. Ess Kay; and presumably roses have not been taught to grow wild on the New York docks, although they say Americans are so very luxurious in their tastes one would hardly be surprised at anything.

A beautiful electric carriage, bigger than a brougham, was waiting for us, and we left Louise, with a butler or some other man servant out of livery, to wrestle with the luggage, and bring it in cabs (which they called "hacks"), up to Mrs. Ess Kay's house in New York, where I knew she meant to stop for a few days before going on to Newport.

The minute we drove away from the Docks I began to notice dozens of things which made me tremendously conscious that I was in a foreign country. One would think, as so many of these people were English, or anyway, British, before they were Americans, that their buildings and everything else would be enough like to remind one of home. But each street we turned into showed me that this isn't at all true in New York. There are bits like Paris—at least you think so, on a superficial glance—but nothing in the faintest degree like London.

Something in the air too, made me feel excited, as it does in Paris. Sparks of electricity snapped in my veins, and I had a presentiment of interesting things that must surely happen.

I've always been very sensitive to smells, which can make me joyful or miserable, just as music does. Vic says I oughtn't to tell people this, as it signifies I'm still in close touch with brute creation. But I don't much mind if I am, for so many animals are nicer than we are; dogs and horses, for instance; and then one has to acknowledge, whether one likes or not, that a monkey is a kind of poor relation. Each place I've ever visited has its own smell for me, and even houses and people. I would know the smell of Battlemead towers, if I were taken there by winding ways, with my eyes blindfolded. It's the smell of old oak, and potpourri, and books and chintz, and autumn leaves and pine trees, mixed together. Mother smells like a tea rose, and Vic like a wax doll. London has a rich, heavy scent, which makes you feel as if you had a great deal of money and wanted to spend it, but not in a hurry. The smell of Paris makes you want to laugh, and clap your hands and go to the theatre. The smell of Rome makes you feel as if you wished to be very beautiful, and move to the slow accompaniment of a magnificent church organ, with the Vox Humana stop drawn out. But New York—the smell of New York! How shall I describe the sensation it gave me, as Mrs. Ess Kay's electric carriage smoothly spun me up town? The heavy feeling of homesickness which I had had on the ship for the last few days was gone; and instead I felt a wild sense of exhilaration, as if I'd come dashing home after a glorious run with the hounds, and plunged into a cold bath with two bottles of Eau de Cologne poured into the water.

It was amazingly hot, but the breeze gave a hint of the sea, and every shop and house we passed seemed to keep spices stored away, for the breeze to blow over.

Even the old-fashioned houses, no higher than those in London, were as different from ours as possible; and it was extraordinary to see people—nicely dressed women, and pretty girls—perched on the front steps under awnings, without so much as a pocket-handkerchief lawn between them and the street. Persons of that class at home would be far too shy to lounge about and be stared at, not only by the neighbours, but by twenty strangers a minute; yet here they sat on rugs, and read, or did embroidery, or swung back and forth in chairs that rocked like cradles, paying no more attention to the passers than if they had been flies.

By and by we came out of the quiet streets walled in with monotonous rows of red brick or brown stone houses, into a scene of terror. It was a street, too; but what a street! I thought that I'd grown accustomed to motoring through traffic, for once Stan took me in his Panhard, all the way from Battlemead to Pall Mall, where he stood me a very jolly luncheon at the Carlton Hotel, but that experience was nothing to this. I felt a little jumpy with Stan when we shot between omnibuses in a space which looked twice too narrow, and once when I thought a frightfully tall horse was going to bite off my hat; but I soon got used to it.

If I were driven every day of my life for a year, through this terrible street in New York, though, I should be no more used to it on the last day than on the first. The only change in me at the end of that time would be in my hair, which would have turned snow white, and be standing up permanently all over my head like Struempel-Peter's, only worse.

London roars—a monotonous, cannon-balls-in-the-cellar roar, with just a light tinkle of hansom cabs sprinkled over the top of the solid sound; but that great straight street into which we suddenly flashed had no solid sound. It shrieked in short, sharp yells, made up of a dozen distinct noises, each one louder and more insistent than the other.

There were trams and tram bells, and motors and carriages, and over all an appalling thunder of trains rushing to and fro above our heads, on lines roofing the entire street, built upon iron stilts. Every minute they swooped by, running north and south, and I trembled lest they should leap their tracks and crush us into powder.

"It's only the Elevated, deah," said Sally, pitying my agitation, "and it's never fallen down yet, so I don't believe it will to-day. You shall take a ride with me if Cousin Katherine will let you, which she probably won't. You can't think what fun it is shooting past the windows of the houses; just like glancing into an exciting story book you know you'll never have a chance to finish. You do get a peep into tragedies and comedies, sometimes."

"My goodness!" I exclaimed. "I'm thankful I don't have to live in one of those houses. It must be impossible ever to take a bath, or to get engaged, properly."

Fortunately for my peace of mind, we didn't stop very long in that fierce street, but cut across again, and came out in Fifth Avenue, of which one seems to be born knowing a little more than of other streets in America. Just as almost everyone in English novels lives in Park Lane, so all the New Yorkers you read of live in Fifth Avenue; and I should have been disappointed if Mrs. Ess Kay hadn't, because in that case I should eventually have to go home without studying home life in the States from the right standpoint.

At first, I didn't see where the grand houses I'd heard of, kept themselves, for everywhere were smart shops, and public buildings, and—so close now that we could put down our sunshades—mountainous "sky-scrapers." The shops were beautiful, though Mrs. Ess Kay apologised for them by saying that it was out of season, and I'd never seen so much brilliance of colour or variety in a street. I tried to search for the cause of this effect, but I couldn't define it. Perhaps it was partly the clearness of the atmosphere, but there was a great deal more than that. Everything you passed seemed to be pink, or pale green or gold, or ivory white, or ultramarine blue; yet when you really thought it out detail by detail, it wasn't. And though I'd considered the sky-scrapers awful, from a distance, spinning along at their feet I couldn't deny them a fantastic kind of attractiveness.

At our rate of speed, I hadn't to wait many minutes for the grand Fifth Avenue houses; and oh, poor London—poor, dear London! I wanted to fly back and tear down Buckingham Palace.

Mrs. Ess Kay had always talked about her "New York home," which made it sound rather small and modest, so I was surprised when we stopped before a huge, square pile, built of rich-looking, rough brown stones, so nearly the colour of a Christmas plum pudding that it made me hungrier than ever to look at it. The house is trimmed with three wide bands of carving, made of the same kind of stone; and there are carved bronze railings and lamps on the porch; and the front door is carved, too, like the door of a cathedral.

We were let into a vestibule, all coloured mosaic and things; and that opened into a big, square, glassed-over garden, with a great marble fountain playing in the middle. I never saw such a wonderful place in my life, but until I got used to it, I couldn't help feeling that it was more like a splendid foreign hotel, than a mere house. The garden isn't a real garden, when you come to examine it, for it's paved with rare stones of different colours, like the jewels in Aladdin's Cave; but all round the fountain beautiful flowers are growing, and pink and white water lilies float in the marble basin. There are orange trees in pots, and a forest of tall palms, all of which are reflected and repeated over and over again in the mirrors of which the walls are made; and on the little tables standing about here and there among groups of inlaid chairs are bowls overflowing with roses. The roof is a skylight, over which creepers have been trained, so that the light which filters through is a lovely green. No doors are visible at first glance, but when you are initiated, all you have to do is to walk up to the mirror-wall, find a gold button, press it, and a door opens into a room as marvellous as the fountain court, round which, it seems, all the rest of the house is built.

"We'll have something to drink here," said Mrs. Ess Kay, "before we take off our things." So we all sat down, among the palms and orange blossoms, and a delicious sense of peace after storm stole over us with the coolness and the green dusk, and the perfume of flowers.

I supposed that "something to drink" at this time of day meant tea; but almost immediately a footman came through the glass wall, carrying a tray with nothing on it except tall tumblers. There were straws sticking out of the tumblers, and as the man moved, I could hear a faint tinkle of ice.

For a minute, I was bitterly disappointed, because the thought of tea had supported me for hours. But when I tasted the stuff in my glass I wasn't disappointed any longer. It had two or three strawberries, some bits of pineapple, and a white grape bobbing about on top, and it was full of chopped ice. I don't know what it was, for nobody mentioned it's name, and I was ashamed to ask, lest it might seem too ignorant; but it was good, and tasted as if it might have a little wine in it, mixed with fizzy water and other things. When I had drunk mine, I felt a different girl; quite merry, and so friendly towards Mrs. Ess Kay. I had never thought her such a nice woman. I laughed at almost everything that she and Sally said, and I said some rather funny things myself. Still, I'm not sure that as a regular thing, I wouldn't rather have tea.

We sat resting for some time, though I wasn't tired at all now. I could have run a mile, but suddenly I felt a little sleepy, and I was glad when Mrs. Ess Kay proposed to go to our rooms. Leaving the fountain court, we came into a hall, hung with tapestry; and from it a wide stairway led us up to a gallery, lighted from the top, which runs all round the house, with the doors of the bedrooms opening off from it.

Mine is so gorgeous that I haven't known one thoroughly comfy moment in it, since I came, except at night when I'm asleep.

One would think, as Battlemead is ranked among the finest old Tudor places in England, and people come on Thursdays and give shillings to see it (a very good thing for us, though it's extremely inconvenient, as it pays for all the gardens and all the servants' wages) that it would be grander than quite a new house, in a country like America. But Battlemead, in its palmiest days, must have been shabby beside Mrs. Ess Kay's "home" in New York.

Our grandest bedroom,—the one where Queen Elizabeth slept—is quite a dull old hole compared to Mrs. Ess Kay's splendid room. Mine, at home, has all the furniture covered with faded chintz, and the curtains are made of plain white dimity. But I love the deep window seats where I can curl up among cushions, with a cataract of roses veiling the picture of the terrace with its ivy-covered stone balustrade, the sun-dial, the two white peacocks, and far away, the park with a blue mist among the trees. And I haven't learned yet to love my beautiful room at Mrs. Ess Kay's, though I admire it immensely—admire to the verge of awe.

It's pink and white and silver. The carpet is pink, and feels like moss, as you step. The wall is covered with pink and silver brocade, except where there are panels with Watteau-like pictures. The curtains are foamy lace, with the pink and silver brocade falling over them. The furniture looks as if it were made of ivory; there's a mirror in three parts, reaching from the floor half way to the ceiling, so that you see yourself in front, and two profiles, like astral bodies, things which I've always wanted to cultivate, as they would be so nice for trying on dresses, or making calls on dull people. On the dressing-table is another mirror, an oval one, framed with pink roses, each of which has an electric light hidden in its heart; and the bedspread is of pink and silver brocade to match the hangings, with a large, hard roll like an ossified bolster, at the top.

I believe it's that bed more than anything else, which makes me feel that it's always Sunday in my room at Mrs. Ess Kay's. I'm used to old-fashioned, ruffly pillows and a plain white coverlet smelling of lavender, on which I can flop down whenever I like, to read a novel or to have a nice little "weep." But there's no flopping on this gorgeous pink and silver expanse, and it's small consolation to know that no queen of England ever had one as handsome.

Mrs. Ess Kay and Sally escorted me to my room, when I came to it first. After I'd admired everything enough to satisfy them, I was taken to see the bathroom adjoining, and then a kind of wardrobe room opening out of that. I was almost prostrated by the magnificence of both, which pleased Mrs. Ess Kay very much; and in the grand wardrobe room, smelling deliciously, though faintly, of cedar, my poor boxes—already arrived—looked mean and insignificant. Mrs. Ess Kay's and Sally's huge "Innovations" would have been much more appropriate than my dress-baskets, which had been squashed into lop-sided deformity under heavier things, in the hold.

Louise was on the scene armed with my keys and Mrs. Ess Kay wouldn't hear of letting me do anything myself. "Now, I'll explain why I had to desert you on the dock," she said. "Or perhaps I needn't explain. If you watch Louise unpacking for a few minutes, you'll see for yourself. And I do hope, sweet child, that you'll excuse my taking a liberty."

This made me curious. Louise opened one of my boxes which had been labelled "Not Wanted," and I could hardly believe my eyes when she lifted out an exquisite poppy-coloured chiffon, embroidered with sprays of golden holly and berries made of some gleaming red jewel.

"Why, there's been some extraordinary mistake!" I exclaimed. "That can't be my box. I've no such dress."

"I know, love, but I have," said Mrs. Ess Kay, "and thanks to you, I've got it, and several others, through without paying duty. I thought you wouldn't mind, you're such a dear pet, and it's been such an accommodation. Not that I care about the money, but I do love to get the best of those Fiends at the Custom House, and I have, for once. You see, it was like this. When Louise went to the baggage room to get out some things for you, I had them put in my trunks, afterwards, and some of my dresses changed into yours, as your frocks had all been worn and mine hadn't. I told Louise to put my things down at the bottom, some in each of your trunks, and I was pretty sure the man wouldn't touch them, as you're a British subject. I trusted to luck that you'd be too 'cute to say anything and give me away, if you saw the dresses while your trunks were being examined, but I just hoped he wouldn't dig down to them. I dared not tell you what was going on, as Sally said I ought to, because if I had you might have refused, or else spoiled everything by being self-conscious. If you'd been with me, the Fiends might have caught on to our little game, they're so suspicious; but where you were, they never suspected any connection between us. You're just a Dear."

I had been a Dear in spite of myself, but there was no use in making a fuss now the Dearness was all over, whatever I might have done if I'd known beforehand that I was to be a cat's-paw. Perhaps, if I hadn't been given the iced stuff with the strawberries, I might have been crosser; but fortified by that, I lived up to my reputation as a Dear, during the half hour of the unpacking.

When my frocks all hung in a row like Bluebeard's wives, in the cedar wardrobe, and I was left alone with them at last, my first thought was to plunge my imprisoned roses in water; my second, to do the same with myself.

The hope of tea (which hadn't been fulfilled) and a bath had kept me alive through those two hot hours on the dock; and now I could choose between several kinds of bath, each one more luxurious than any I had ever known. At home there's either the big bath, in the bathroom, or there's a tub in your bedroom, so it doesn't take you long to make up your mind which you will have. But here there were so many things I could do, that I grew quite confused among them.

There was the big bath, so big that two of our big ones at Battlemead could have gone into it; and instead of climbing ignominiously in, in the ordinary way, you walked down several glittering white marble steps. It was very alluring, but as the marble tank was so vast, I feared I might have to spend all the rest of the afternoon in getting it full of water. It seemed impertinent to make a convenience of such a splendid, early Roman sort of receptacle for a mere five minutes' splash; a bath of such magnificence ought, I felt, to be what Americans call a "function"; a ceremony for which you would prepare with perfumed ointments and ambergris, and protract for half a day, at least, not to be wasteful. Then there was the vapour bath, which you took in a kind of box, with a hole for your head to stick out; a porcelain sitz bath; and a mysterious shower bath into which you secretively retired behind canvas curtains, shaped like a sentry box.

I dared not try the vapour, for fear I should be steamed, like a potato; the sitz seemed as inadequate as a thwarted ambition; and to turn on the shower without knowing how much it could do, or how soon it could be stopped, appeared a desperate adventure. After all, I thought, it was less worrying with us. Here, whichever thing you chose, you would probably wish you had had the other, whereas at home you did what you could, and were perfectly satisfied.

I decided that I would toss up a coin; heads, the big marble tank; tails, the shower. It came tails, and I had a dreadful qualm, but noblesse oblige; one must be sporting. So I was; only the hot water wouldn't come, and apparently there was ice in the cold, which wouldn't stop coming, and it was very violent. I screamed once, and Mrs. Ess Kay and Sally and Louise ran to the door, which was embarrassing; but fortunately, I'd locked it, and they told me how to stop the iced water. When it was all over, I felt like a marble statue for hours.

Dinner was at half past seven, which seemed odd in such a grand palace of a house, because, of course, at home, for some extraordinary reason unless you are in the middle classes, you never have an appetite before eight, at the very earliest. If you're in France, or other countries on the Continent, you can be hungry sooner, and evidently it is the same in America. Perhaps, if I were scientific, I should be able to classify these differences as natural phenomena.

I had dressed myself early, and was ready a little after seven, because I thought it would be nice to sit in the fountain court; but just as I was going down Louise knocked at the door.

"I have come to help Miladi, and to bring her these flowers," said she. "They are with mille compliments from Monsieur the Lieutenant Parker, the brother of Madame."

"But I have never met him," I said, gazing with wonder upon a group (bunch is too mean a word) of mammoth pink roses, with thickly leaved stems, longer than walking sticks. There were at least a dozen of these splendid creatures, loosely held together by trails of pink satin ribbon, wide enough for a sash. I had never dreamed of such roses. I almost expected them to speak.

"Miladi and the Lieutenant will meet at dinner," explained Louise. "It is an American custom that the Messieurs send always flowers to the ladies. Madame, and Mademoiselle Woodburn have received bouquets also, but these roses for Miladi are the most beautiful. Is it Miladi's wish that I untie the ribbon, and take out one or two for her to carry?"

I was on the point of saying "yes," because the flowers were so lovely, and because it would please Mrs. Ess Kay; but on second thoughts, I said "no," thanking Louise, and asking her to put the creatures' feet in water. Perhaps it would be as well, I reminded myself, to see this brother of Mrs. Ess Kay's (of whose existence I'd never heard) before I went about armed with his roses. I had already tucked the white bud, which had come to me on the dock like a dove with an olive branch, into the low neck of my frilly white muslin frock, and I gave it no rivals.

"Has Madame gone down?" I asked; for it occurred to me that it would be awkward to find myself alone for nearly half an hour with a strange man.

"I think Madame will be in the hall," said Louise, and satisfied, I descended in a stately way suited to the house, into the fountain court. Nobody was there, however, except a young man in evening dress, who jumped up from a chair, and set down a small glass out of which he had been drinking.

"Allow me to introduce myself," said he. "I know you must be Lady Betty Bulkeley. My name is Potter Parker."

I couldn't help wondering whether his friends called him "Pot," for short, and the thought made me smile more than I would have smiled at a stranger if it hadn't popped into my head. This seemed to encourage him, which I regretted; because you can see at once by his face that he isn't the kind who needs encouragement. It is something like Mrs. Ess Kay's face, only younger, with her square chin, and bold blue eyes as pale as hers. The likeness is all the stronger because Mr. Parker wears no moustache or beard, and his dark hair, which falls in two straight, thick blocks over his forehead, is parted in the middle. You would know, if you saw him riding a white bear at the North Pole, that he was an American young man. Why, or how, I'm not experienced enough in Americans to tell, but I'm beginning to think that all American men, and all American women, have a dim sort of family likeness to each other. With the girls, it's their chins and the way they do their hair; but with the men it's more mysterious. They look less lazy and more feverish than our men, yet at the same time more humorous; and their clothes seem always to be new.

Mrs. Ess Kay's nose turns down, and her brother's turns up, which is the principal difference in their features, and his makes him look very impudent, though rather clever and amusing.

"My sister wrote me about your dimples, Lady Betty," said he, when I smiled; and I screwed my mouth into prunes and prisms as quickly as I could.

"I should have thought such things were hardly worth writing about," said I.

"My impression is that they're worth about a million dollars an eighth of an inch," he replied, "and I bet they'd fetch that in a bear market."

I began to wish that Mrs. Ess Kay or Sally would come, for I'm not used to having persons who have just introduced themselves make remarks on my dimples or other features.

"Don't be mad with me," he went on, "or I shall think I've estimated them too low. On mature consideration, as we soldier chaps say at a court-martial, I should be inclined to set them higher. If you'll just show them again——"

"I think, if you don't mind," said I, "that I'd rather speak of the weather."

"I'm afraid you're not used to Americans," said he.

"I've met several, crossing, but none of them talked to me about—such things," I replied, rather primly.

"If they had, I should have challenged them," he retorted. "While you're staying with my sister, I consider myself a sort of guardian of yours, and part of my duty will be to keep off men—other men—with a stick, you see."

"No, I don't see," said I. "Not that there will be the least necessity for you to do anything of the sort."

"Oh, won't there? Well, you just wait till you get to Newport, and you'll find out differently. I've applied for leave on purpose to help Kath protect you, and I expect to put on a suit of chain armour under my clothes. But first, you're coming to visit me, at West Point."

"I don't think I am," I said.

"Oh, but you are. It's a promise of Kath's. And shan't I be proud to show you around? You shall see Flirtation Walk the first thing. It's what the ladies admire the most, at the Point. Perhaps you've heard of it?"

"No," said I. "And I never heard of West Point. Is it a suburb of New York?"

"Not much. It's our American Sandhurst. But you English people don't know anything about this side. I guess, now, you think that Florida is in South America?"

"I haven't thought about it yet," I replied.

"That's right. I don't ask anything better than to teach you the geography of the United States. We'll begin with Flirtation Walk. But see here, Lady Betty, that rose you've got on isn't a good sample of what we can grow over here. Didn't that maid of my sister's take you something a little better from me?"

"Something much bigger and grander," I said, feeling loyal to my poor white bud. "I was meaning to thank you."

"Don't do that; the things aren't worth it. I only wanted to know whether that French female had played me false or not. But here comes my sister. I wish she'd taken longer to do up her back hair. Now, I'll give you your wish, and talk about the weather. Mighty hot day, isn't it? Won't you have a cocktail? I'd just finished mine when you came down."

"Of course Betty will have a cocktail; we all do before dinner," said Mrs. Ess Kay, sailing towards us in a trailing white film of lace.

But Betty didn't have one, though at this moment several little glasses appeared on a tray. I was sure that Mother would not approve of cocktails for me, as it sounds so fast for a young girl who isn't yet out. When I excused myself, Mrs. Ess Kay laughed, and said, "Then what about that sherry cobbler?"

While I was trying to think what she meant, Sally came into the hall, and immediately after I was surprised by a kind of musical moaning which began suddenly and kept on for a long time.

"That's the Japanese gong," said Mrs. Ess Kay, when I looked round to see where the sound came from. "It's for dinner. Potter, give Betty your arm."

I was glad she didn't use that nickname I'd been thinking of, for if she had, I should certainly have laughed.

We began dinner by eating pinky-yellow melons cut in half and filled with chopped ice. I thought at first that it must be a mistake, and they ought to have come in at dessert, but everybody else ate theirs without appearing disconcerted, so I did mine, and it was good. So were all the other things that followed in a long procession, though they were very strange and some of them I shouldn't have known how to eat if Mr. Parker, whose place was next to mine, hadn't told me.

We had bouillon partly frozen, instead of soup; and then came the most extraordinary little fried animals which quite startled me, they were so like exaggerated brown spiders, done in egg and breadcrumbs. "Soft shell crabs, dear child," said Mrs. Ess Kay, "and you eat every bit, down to the tippiest end of his claw."

I should never have managed the green corn, which grows like lots of pearls set close together in rows on a fat stick, if Mr. Parker hadn't scraped all the pearls off for me, with a fork, and put butter and salt on them. I liked him a little better after that, for he did the thing with great skill. When I had got so far, nothing could surprise me, and I didn't turn a hair when I found that I was expected to eat pears cut up with salad oil. But they were alligator pears, and when you tasted them, it appeared that they had nothing whatever to do with the fruit kingdom. Best of all, I liked the watermelon which came at the end, cut in little balls, looking like strawberry water ice, and soaked in champagne. I hope that all the things to eat in America won't be so nice, or I may grow stout before I go back; and Vic says it is better for a girl to hang herself.

It was very trying, too, to find that I was keeping every course waiting. I've never been accused of greediness at home, though I've often been made to feel guilty of most other sins in the calendar, but I did feel queer when I began to realise that everybody else had finished what was on their plates, when I'd just about discovered what the thing was. It made me so uncomfortable to see them all leaning back waiting for me, after their plates had been whisked away, that I took to bolting the rest of my food, and by the time we'd got rid of nine courses in about half an hour I felt qualified to write the autobiography of an anaconda.

As for the iced water, I had intended to refuse it at any cost, because Vic and Mother both solemnly warned me that it made all the difference between a complexion and mere skin. But the minute I landed, I began thinking hard about iced water, and I soon discovered that when you are in America a comparatively small consideration like a complexion would never keep you from drinking it. In fact, nothing would. You feel as if you must drink iced water, pints of iced water, in rapid succession, if not only your complexion, but your whole face were to be swept away in the deluge. Once you have got the taste nothing can quench it but iced water, more iced water, and still more iced water!

After dinner, while we were having heavenly Turkish coffee in the fountain court, who should come but Mr. Doremus. It seemed to me a funny time to call, but apparently the others didn't think it out of the way. He wanted us to go to some theatre on a roof, and I should have loved it, especially when Mrs. Ess Kay said you didn't get smudges on your nose as you would if you sat on a roof in London—a thing which I never heard of anybody except cats doing. But she was tired, and I suppose it would have been ladylike for me to be, only I was much too excited. So Mr. Doremus stayed, and he and Mr. Parker talked more slang in an hour than I think I ever heard in my whole life, though I have always considered Stan talented in that way.

But Stan's slang, and Vic's, are quite different from American slang. In America, you build up your whole conversation out of it, and it's wonderful. I longed for a notebook while those two men were talking, to put everything down, and I felt, if people were often going to be as funny as that, I should need to go home soon to rest my features. I'm not sure whether Americans really think funnier things than English people do, but their funny ideas are startlingly unlike ours. Somehow they seem younger and more bubbling. When I go home, I shall probably have collected so much slang in my pores that I shall talk about putting on my "glad rags" when I'm going to dress for dinner; my life will be my "natural"; I shall call Stan's motor car the Blue Assassin or the Homicide Wagon; I shall say my best frocks are "mighty conducive"; I shall get bored by poor Mr. Duckworth, our newest curate, and tell him he's "the limit"; I may even take to abbreviating my affirmatives and negatives by saying "Yep" and "Nope" when I'm in a hurry; but if I do fall into these ways, I tremble to think what may be the effect on Mother.



IV

ABOUT SHOPPING AND MEN

"Why, Betty, you never told me you were interviewed on the dock." These were the first words Mrs. Ess Kay said to me as I walked in to breakfast, a little late because of a wrestle I had had with a different and even more exciting kind of bath.

"I wasn't," said I, on the defensive; though I couldn't be perfectly sure what connection, if any, interviewing had with the Customs. "You told me not to declare anything, and I didn't."

Mr. Parker, looking as if he had been melted, poured into his clothes, and then cooled off with iced water, burst out laughing.

"You're a daisy, Lady Betty," said he.

"Is it invidious to be a daisy?" I asked.

"I guess I must look in the dictionary for 'invidious'; but a daisy's a flower that has budded in the green fields of England, where there aren't any newspaper reporters or other strange bugs."

"Potter!" exclaimed Mrs. Ess Kay, "don't tease her; and when you've been in the green fields of England you'll say insects, not—er—what you did say, if you don't want ladies to faint all around you on the floor." Then she turned to me. "He means you're very innocent, because you don't know what it is to be interviewed. But you must have been it, all the same, for see here, in this dreadful Flashlight." And she handed me a newspaper, with one page folded over, and huge headings dotted about at the tops of paragraphs, like the lines of big print that oculists keep to make you try your eyesight. In the middle column I saw my name, but I couldn't believe it was really there, in an American paper. I began to think I wasn't awake yet, and that this must be part of the dream I was dreaming all yesterday.

"BONNY—BETTY—BULKELEY," I read out aloud. "A Duke's Daughter on the Dock. Call Her by Her Front Name, Please. What Lady Betty Thinks of Our Boys."

There was more, but when I had got so far, I simply gasped.

"How dare they?"

"There isn't much they don't dare, except to go back without a 'story'," said Mr. Parker, laughing. But I didn't laugh. I was too angry.

"If my brother were here, he'd kill them," I said.

"Then he hasn't got a sense of humour," replied Mr. Parker; "I don't see how a Duke could have, and be a Duke nowadays; but I guess I wouldn't mind swopping my sense of humour for a dukedom, all the same. See here, Lady Betty, you'll get to like our newspapers before you've been over here a month. They sort of grow on you. They're as interesting as novels, and almost as true to life."

"This isn't true to my life, anyway," I said, not knowing whether I wanted most to laugh or cry. "Oh, Sally, Sally Woodburn, will anybody believe I said such things as these?"

"Give the Flashlight to me and let me look," she said. And when she'd taken the paper, she began to read the stuff that came under the big headings, out aloud, in her pretty, soft voice.

"Yesterday was a blazer, but though it was hot enough on the docks to roast a coon, when the Big Willie steamed in, that beautiful young visitor to our shores, Lady Betty Bulkeley, managed to look like the Duke's daughter and Duke's sister she is, and so far as a mere man could tell, without the help of patent hair curlers, or other artificial aids to personal pulchritude.

"A daughter of the gods, divinely tall and most divinely fair, she sat on a throne of ducal luggage, looking queenly in an elegant white shirt waist, built mostly of holes and eminently suited to her style of beauty as well as the weather. She also had on a picture hat, which was superfluous as she would have been a picture without it, and below the waist she was tailor made."

"I think it's most insulting!" I broke in. "And I was made at home, all the way down."

But Sally went on: "I soon found [writes the representative of The Flashlight] that the sister of the Duke of Stanforth, one of Britain's eligibles, preferred to be addressed by her Front name of Lady Betty. 'I feel more at home,' said she, with a sweet voice, but a pronounced English accent, 'when I am called Lady Betty. And I want to feel at home in America, because I expect to be some time with my friend, Mrs. Stuyvesant-Knox, who will show me society over on this side. I have heard so much about Newport, don't you know? I fancy it will be too utterly deevy.'"

"What's deevy?" I demanded with scorn.

"Oh, that's supposed to be what smart Englishwomen say for divine."

"I never heard it," I sneered, "much less said it. I'm sure Mother would consider it quite profane."

"Well, do be quiet, child, and listen to what The Flashlight says you said." "'What opinion have you formed of our society women and clubmen, on board the Willie?' was the next question.

"'I think your ladies are better dressed than ours, and the gentlemen are just lovely. They don't sit around and wait while we girls amuse them, they hustle to give us a good time, and they know how to do it. I shouldn't wonder if I should hate to go home and associate with lords after being a summer girl in Newport. I don't see now why American girls go out of their own country to marry.'

"'I suppose we shall be seeing your brother, the Duke, over here before long?'

"'His Grace may come to fetch me back,' replied her ladyship. 'He has never been to America, but it is one of the desires of his life to come, and your American beauties had better look out, for he is a gay young bachelor, and I shouldn't be surprised if he took a fancy to carry home a Duchess. Mrs. Stuyvesant-Knox will entertain him also, and maybe he will paint some of America red.'"

"That's all about you, I see," Sally finished up. "The rest is about Cousin Katherine and me. It says we've come back with a touch of the Piccadilly accent; and it criticises my nose, and the way Cousin Katherine puts on her hat. It describes this house all wrong, and says the Newport cottage 'knocks spots' out of Mrs. Van der Windt's cottage. It also mentions Cousin Potter, and calls him 'one of our Army Dudes.' But we don't mind, and you mustn't. Everybody reads The Flashlight, for the sake of the shocks, but nobody believes its flashes."

"Still, you must have said something to the man," remarked Mrs. Ess Kay.

"I only said 'No, but—' or 'Yes, but—,'" I insisted. "Truly and truly nothing else. And oh, there was a Bat, too, who tried to talk to me."

"Great Scott! the Evening Bat," chortled Mr. Parker. "Look out for something rich to-night."

"Can't he be stopped?" I asked.

"Might as well try to stop Niagara—with a tin can; the less you said, the more the Bat will say. But it doesn't matter. Nobody'll care. Reporters are paid by the yard for imagination; information's gone out, though I do hear you use it still on your side."

I was just going to defend information (British) at the expense of imagination (American), when I remembered that the "Army Dude"—which sounds rather like something you might buy at the Stores—had sent me up an enormous bouquet of violets as big as a breakfast plate, and that I'd forgotten to thank him. I did so at once, but it seemed that I had blundered.

"Violets?" he echoed. "Must have been some other fellow. I sent you gardenias."

"Oh, then the cards got mixed," I said. "I thought the gardenias were from Mr. Doremus. How kind of you both. I was so surprised to receive such lovely flowers."

"Our American buds are surprised when they don't get them. They would think it a cold day when they didn't have a slight morning haul of flowers—must be out of season ones, or they're no use—new novels, or candy. What do men over on your side of the water do to convince you girls that they think you're as beautiful as you really are?"

I thought for a minute, and then I said that perhaps we weren't as hard to convince as American girls. I don't know whether this was a proper answer or not, but, anyway, Mr. Parker laughed, and then began to plan what we should do for the day.

"Say, let's run her over to Coney Island," he said.

"Oh, my dear boy!" exclaimed Mrs. Ess Kay. "Not for anything. The Duchess would have a fi—I mean, she would be horrified."

But when I heard that Coney Island was like a kind of glorified Margate (which I've never been to, but only heard about) with switchbacks and all sorts of shows, I said that Mother would consider it a chapter in the liberal education of a respectable British tourist; and it was decided that we should dine there. Mrs. Ess Kay had to do a lot of things before she could go on to Newport, so we were to shop all the morning, lunch at Sherry's, rest in the afternoon, and spend the evening at Coney Island. Next day we were to go to West Point, where Mr. Parker is stationed and stay there all night for a cadet ball.

Just as we had got this programme settled, and were making up our minds to go out early, "while it was cool" (we should all have been lying about with wet handkerchiefs on our foreheads at home, and there would have been special prayers in church, if it had ever been what New Yorkers seem to think cool) the butler came in leading by a leash a perfect angel of a dog, a little French bull, with skin satiny as a ripe chestnut, and eyes like rosettes of brown velvet, with diamonds shining through them. He had on a spikey silver collar, fringed on each edge with white horsehair, and he came trotting into the room with a high action of his paws, dainty and proud, like a horse that knows he's on show; and his tiny head was cocked on one side as if he were asking us to please admire him and be his friends.

I supposed that the little fellow belonged to Mrs. Ess Kay, and that he was being brought in to bid his mistress good morning, but she said quite sharply, "What dog is that?"

"He's a parcel, ma'am," said the butler, "addressed to Lady Betty Bulkeley. He was left at the door by a messenger boy, and the label's on his collar."

In another instant that little live, warm bundle of brindled satin sewed on to steel wires was in my lap, and it did seem as if he knew that he was mine. The queerest thing was that he had no note with him. On the label—just a luggage label tied on his collar—was my name, in a strange, but very interesting looking hand, and these words besides: "The Dog is now found. His name is Vivace."

"Who has sent it to you, Betty?" asked Mrs. Ess Kay; and I could see by her eyes that she was very curious.

I had just answered, "I don't know from Adam," when some words of my own jumped into my head. I could hear myself saying, "I must first find the dog," and then I knew that the giver of Vivace wasn't Adam. But luckily I hadn't thought before I spoke, so it was no harm to let it rest at that; and I just sat and played with my new toy while Mrs. Ess Kay and her brother jabbered about him excitedly.

"It must be Tom Doremus," said she. "He's the only man I let you know well enough on board to take such a liberty."

I thought of another man she hadn't wanted to let me know; but I rubbed my chin on Vivace's ear, which felt like a wall-flower, and kept quiet.

"Cheek of Doremus," remarked Mr. Parker. "He's a Josher from wayback. How does he know Lady Betty likes dogs? I should send the little brute off to the Dogs' Home."

"If Mrs. Stuyvesant-Knox makes me do that, I shall have to go with him—and stop with him, too," said I. And I almost hated Mr. Parker for a minute in spite of the walking-stick roses and the snowstorm of gardenias upstairs.

"Of course, you shall keep the dog, if you want to," said Mrs. Ess Kay, "unless we find out that he's been sent by someone undesirable, and then of course the Duchess would expect me to see that you gave him back."

"I feel somehow that we shall never find out," I said, and I hugged Vivace so hard, without meaning to, that he gave a tiny grunt. But he didn't mind a bit, and licked my hand with a tongue that was like a sweet little sample of pink plush.

I was suddenly so happy with my surprise-present that I forgave America for having imaginative reporters, and wasn't homesick for the pony or for Berengaria and her puppies, or anything.

Vivace went out with us in the electric carriage, and even Mrs. Ess Kay had to admire him as he sat straight up in my lap, like a bronze statue of a dog. "He's a thoroughbred, anyhow," she remarked. "He can't have cost a penny less than five hundred dollars, so whoever the anonymous giver is, he must be a rich man."

I'm rather hazy about dollars, still, but when I heard that, I felt myself go red. I knew well enough that the giver—who wasn't Adam—was very far from being a rich man, and I couldn't bear to think that he had perhaps squandered some hard-earned savings on buying such an extravagant present for me. But the more I thought of it—which I did all the way down to the shops—the more I thought it impossible that a man who had been obliged to cross the Atlantic in the steerage would even have a hundred pounds in the world. Somebody had perhaps given him the dog from a good kennel, when it was a wee puppy, I said to myself; but this, though it eased my mind in one way, made the gift seem all the more pathetic;—that that poor, handsome Jim Brett should part with something he must have loved (for who could have Vivace and not love him?) to please me. I should have liked to write a note to the Manhattan Club, where he had told me he was employed, to thank him. But he had sent the present anonymously, and I felt somehow as if he hadn't meant or wished me to acknowledge it.

While I was wondering what I should do, the brougham stopped before a shop even larger than Harrod's or the Army and Navy Stores. There were lovely things in the windows, things that looked like American women, and not like English or even French ones, though I couldn't define the difference if I were ordered to with a revolver at my head.

The petticoats and stockings and belts and lace things and parasols, and especially blouses, were so perfectly thrilling that my heart began to beat quite fast at sight of them. I felt as if I must have some immediately; and when Mrs. Ess Kay said that this was "quite a cheap store," I said to myself that I would do something more interesting than watch her shopping.

She had to buy handkerchiefs to begin with, for most of hers had disappeared in the wash at foreign hotels; and Sally wanted veiling. Those were not interesting to me, because they are necessary; and necessaries, like your daily bread and such things, are so dull. I said that I would just wander about a little, as they thought they would be some time, and we made an appointment to meet in half an hour at what they called the notion counter. I hadn't an idea what it was, and didn't like to ask, because I had asked so many questions already; but I knew that I could get someone to take me there when the half hour was up.

When you want everything you see, but aren't sure which things you want enough to buy and how many you can afford, it's less confusing to prowl alone. Besides, there was an exciting feeling of independence in strolling about unchaperoned in a shop as big as a village, in a strange foreign city.

I really did need a sunshade to go with a blue dress of mine, because my only light one (if I don't count rather a common white thing) is pink. I saw some beauties, and I wanted to ask the price; but the attendants,—who were girls, with lovely figures and their hair done in exactly the same flop over their foreheads,—were so interested in talking about a young man they all knew, that it seemed cruel to interrupt them, especially as I mightn't buy the sunshade in the end. However, I did venture to speak, in quite a humble voice, by and by, but the girl couldn't understand a word until I'd repeated everything twice. "A sunshade? Oh, you mean one of these parasawls," she said then. "Excuse me, it's your English accent I didn't quite catch at first. That one's ten dollars and forty-nine cents, and this is eight dollars, eighty-nine."

While we were busy doing the dollars into pounds and shillings, we got quite friendly, for she was a very obliging girl, and didn't bear me any grudge for interrupting, though her friends were going on with their conversation and telling such exciting things about the young man that she must have been dying to listen.

However, my girl hardly paid any attention to them at all, except just to get mixed up in her answers to me once or twice. She said it was very difficult to understand English people on account of their not opening their mouths much when they spoke, and their accent being so strong. I found this odd, because we always feel as if, the English language having been started by us, it is Americans who have an accent; but it seems that a great many people in the States dislike the way we talk, very much, and consider it extremely affected.

After all the trouble she had taken, I felt dreadfully not to buy anything of her, but the sunshades were too expensive, though she said they were marked down. I took a Japanese fan instead, which pops out at you like a Jack-in-the-box, from a fat red stick; and even that was a dollar and twenty-five cents when I thought it would be sixpence. On the way to meet Mrs. Ess Kay and Sally at the notion counter, I enquired the price of a good many other superlatively beautiful things, but they were all superlatively high, as well; and by the time a very dashing young man, who said he was a "floor-walker," had steered me to the notions, I felt as if I were the only cheap thing in the whole shop. To be sure, there were some embroidered collars and American flag-headed hat-pins, and flowered muslin wrappers which I could have had without ruining myself, if I had wanted them. But I didn't; and what I should like to know is, what does a girl do, if she's poor and has to live in New York? Mrs. Ess Kay had said the shop was a cheap shop, so there must be others where even the flowered wrappers and collars and hatpins are more. And besides, a girl couldn't go through life dressed entirely in such things. However, judging from the girls I have seen so far, they are all very rich, except the lower classes; and of course, it's much simpler to do without things if you can just be poor and give up to it comfortably, without thinking of appearances, like us.

As soon as I saw the Notion Counter, I knew why they had named it that; only it would be still more expressive if it were called the Imagination counter. It was lovely, and looked like thousands of little Christmas presents spread out for everyone.

There were a great many pretty people buying things at it, and in most of the other departments where I went with Mrs. Ess Kay and Sally; but when I admired them, and the sweet blouses they wore, and the way they carried their shoulders and hips, Mrs. Ess Kay sniffed, and said there was nobody in New York, now,—nobody at all who was worth looking at, and wouldn't be till October, except those who were just in the city for a day or two of shopping, like us. When I suggested that these charming beings in white muslins and summer silks might be here in that way, she did not think it at all probable.

"How can you tell?" I asked. "They look just as nice as we do."

Indeed, I thought some of them looked nicer, but I've been much too well brought up to make such remarks as that.

"I can tell, because I don't know their Faces," said Mrs. Ess Kay, decidedly, in a tone that gave a capital letter to her last word, and yet intimated that the poor, unknown (by her) Things couldn't possibly be worth a glance.

Now, Mother and Aunt Sophy are rather like that. It's almost terrible when they say "Who Is she?" But I shouldn't have expected it to be the same in America, if Sally hadn't warned me. I suppose it's quite easy to remember just Four Hundred faces, as you're sure there will never be any more, even if they have children, because they're being cut down instead of going up in number.

When we had been for about an hour and a half in the big shop, we'd finished all we had to do there, and must motor to another farther up, before meeting Mr. Parker, who was to give us lunch at a place called Sherry's, at one o'clock. On the way, Sally suddenly exclaimed, "Oh, Cousin Katherine, we must initiate this dear child into the mysteries of ice cream soda water; and I'm just yearning for some myself, anyhow."

"Huyler's," said Mrs. Ess Kay to her mecanicien, a very young man with eyes that looked positively ill with intelligence, and a way of snapping out "all right" when she spoke to him that would make Stan sit up with surprise if his chauffeur did it.

Sally said that the nicest oasis in the desert of London was an American place where you can get ice cream soda water; but I had never had any, and in the burning heat of the New York morning—which flung itself into the shop like a great wave in spite of fierce electric fans—I could have purred in pure delight over the piled up, ice-cold froth in that tall glass. It tasted like frozen velvet flavoured with strawberries, and I should have loved to be an ostrich or an anaconda so that the sensation might have lasted longer.

There were no men in the shop, only women, and so pretty that you wondered if there were a notice posted up over the door forbidding plain ladies to enter. Two or three had yellow hair, yellower than mine, and Mrs. Ess Kay said they were actresses who always came back to New York in summer to wait for Things to turn up, just as chickens come home to roost; and that they were supposed to be Resting.

I had always thought that a banana made you feel more as if you had eaten a large, elaborate dinner than any other one thing possibly could; but I found that an ice cream soda is even more so; and it was lucky for us that we had another hour's shopping to do (Mrs. Ess Kay made it an hour and a half because Potter is only her brother) before luncheon.

The next shop was even more wonderful than the first, and would have been a great deal more solemn and dignified, and even conventional, if the same kind of wooden balls hadn't gone tearing round like mad squirrels in wire cages over the counters, with people's money shut up inside them. There were very young youths sitting in tall pulpit things, who caught the balls on the fly in a sporting way, and did something to them, but I never could see what, and afterwards sent them back, with the greenback bills inside turned miraculously into silver and pretty miniature pennies.

When we got to Sherry's Potter was waiting for us, and looking cross. I think persons with turned up noses show crossness more easily than the other kind, and Potter had the expression in his eyes that Vic has when her shoes are tight and Mother is in a trying mood at the same time. I shouldn't be surprised if he has a horrid temper, although he thinks of so many funny things. And though he is so nice to me, he can't help saying things sometimes which show that he has a prejudice against England. That seems extraordinary, and shows one how conceited we English really are; for one is quite accustomed to the idea that there may be people who don't care for Americans, but it is odd that Americans may not like us. I suppose it's on a par with the sentiments in our National Anthem, which when one comes to analyse them, don't exactly suggest a sense of give and take—or, for that matter, a sense of humour.

"Confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks," but naturally bless everything in which We are concerned, as We are certain to be above reproach. I'm afraid that's quite of a piece with the calm confidence we have in our own superiority, although I daresay I should never have realised it if it weren't for Mr. Potter Parker and his perky nose.

It began to be less perky when we were all settled at a table in a perfectly charming restaurant, the most restful place to eat in that I ever saw. I can't imagine even a fiend being ill-tempered in it for long; and it was deliciously cool, as if we had come into a shadowy green wood after the blazing, brassy glare of the streets.

The big room really was rather like a wood, so the simile isn't far-fetched;—an open space in a wood, ringed round with tall trees bending their branches low over a still pool. The soothing brown of the wainscoted walls gave the tree-trunk effect; the great hanging baskets of ferns and moss that swung from the ceiling were the tree-branches; and the many round, snow-white tables, with green velvet chairs grouped closely round them on the polished floor were the water-lilies with green pads floating on the surface of the pond.

Nearly everything we had for lunch was in a more or less advanced state of frozenness, from the bouillon, ever so far along to the ices in the shape of different-coloured fruits, toward the end. Nevertheless, all of us, except Potter, drank iced water instead of wine whenever we stopped eating for an instant, or couldn't think of anything particular to say; and the more we had the more we seemed to want. There was a kind of iced-water curse upon us.

It has never occurred to Vic or me to lie down in the afternoon, though she tries to sleep a little sometimes if she's going to a ball. But when we got home, Mrs. Ess Kay and Sally took it quite as a matter of course that we would lie down before going to Coney Island to dine and see fireworks and other things. They were surprised when I didn't want to, but Mrs. Ess Kay said in that case Potter would entertain me while they rested. I told her it wasn't necessary, but Potter wanted me to bet my sweet life that it was just the one Proposition on earth for him, so he and Vivace and I sat in the fountain court while Mrs. Ess Kay and Sally went upstairs.

Potter was suddenly a changed man, as soon as he and I were alone together, becoming exactly what he had been yesterday when I first ran downstairs, and he introduced himself.

He didn't chaff me about my country, and make fun of our government, or hint that American men were the only men living who knew how to treat women, as he seemed to delight in doing when his sister and cousin were with us. He began by offering to teach me some of his best slang; but as the lesson went on, it turned out to be rather more like a lesson in flirtation.

I would have been even more startled than I was, if I hadn't already had a little experience on board ship, with Mr. Doremus. At home I've often thought it must be very pleasant to be out, and able to flirt; but I never had a chance, because, as Vic said, it was her turn first, and the only young man, not a relation, that I ever talked with alone was the curate, who would as soon have tried to flirt with a Bishopess as with one of Mother's daughters.

But I like Mr. Doremus' kind of flirtation almost better than Mr. Parker's. Mr. Doremus makes you feel as if you were a beautiful young heroine in a play, and you are almost sorry there is no audience to applaud the witty things he says, and the smart answers he inspires you to think of, just as if he were giving you a clue.

Potter is different, and instead of an audience you want a kind of perpetual chaperon, not a Briareus creature with lots of hands to applaud.

It is silly, I know, to blush and simper; but I couldn't think of anything else to do, Potter was so alarming; and I wouldn't allow him to tell my fortune by my hand, for it was much too hot. Even if it hadn't been I shouldn't have wanted my hand held, for I do hate being touched by anyone I'm not fond of. When I told him that, he said it was very simple; what I had to do was to get fond of him, and then it would be all right.

"I shan't have time," I said. "There'll be too much for me to think about; and then I shall be going home."

"How long does it take an English girl to get fond of a man?" said he.

I told him I didn't know anything about that, as I wasn't out; but I supposed it depended on the kind of girl.

"I guess it depends more on the man, in your climate, doesn't it?" asked Potter. "But over here it's sometimes a question of hours, for both sides. Why, a chum of mine went out to San Francisco on business which was going to keep him just one day. He met a girl at dinner, fell in love with her while she was eating her soup, and told her so before dessert came along. She vacillated over the ice cream, but said yes with the peaches and pears. Next day they got married and he brought her back East for a wedding trip."

"What did they do about the Banns?"

"Oh, Americans have done away with Banns since the Revolution, I guess. When we fellows fall in love we're in a hurry."

"Marry in haste, repent at leisure," I quoted primly.

"We don't repent. We just get a divorce. It saves worry. Incompatibility of the affections, or fatty degeneration of the temper, or something like that. But I don't need to talk of such things to you. Nobody who got a prize-package like Lady Betty Bulkeley would part with it while he had a button left on his coat."

"I don't see what buttons would have to do with it," I said, but as I had always been sent out of the room at home directly anyone began even to mention divorce, I thought I had better go upstairs and dress for dinner at Coney Island. Mr. Parker begged me not, but I would; and Vivace barked as if he were under the impression that he was a watch dog; so thanks to him I got away without trouble.



V

ABOUT WEST POINT AND PROPOSALS

I could hardly have supposed that there were as many people in the whole world put together, as at Coney Island; and most of them were in pairs, like the animals on their way to the ark. They all seemed to be engaged to each other, and delighted with each other's society, or else married and dreadfully tired of it. Or else they had dyspepsia. Or else they had brought too many of their children; for they had droves of very small ones, who bellowed louder than any English children I ever saw, and tyrannised over their parents in the most unbridled way.

But Coney Island was fun, and I felt more than ever that I was dreaming; a long, long dream of sands, and huge hotels, and queer little booths.

For dinner we ate nothing but fish, of so many different kinds and some of them so strange, that I almost feared the dream might turn into a nightmare afterwards. I found the clams rather like olives; you hate the first, but when you have had three you feel you would like three dozen; and they are not at all easy to forget.

We went down Under the Sea, and were introduced to horrific monsters, sailed up and down on switchbacks, which made Mrs. Ess Kay ill, but she nobly refused to desert me in such surroundings—a state of mind which made her chin look incredibly square. Eventually, after many adventures by the way, we arrived at the Moon, and not only got into the middle of it, but made acquaintance with the inhabitants, none of whom appeared to be over two feet high, or to have anything to speak of between their chins and their toes. After that experience, minstrel shows and concerts, and persons who told your fortunes with snakes, or ate glass, were rather an anticlimax; still, I enjoyed them all so much that I was incapable of extreme annoyance when we discovered that The Evening Bat had an "impressionist sketch" of me which made me look like an elderly murderess.

We got back to New York almost indecently late, but in the meaner parts through which we had to pass on the way to our gorgeousness the streets swarmed with poor creatures, pallid with heat, evidently preparing to camp out of doors till morning. It was a strange and interesting sight, but made me feel guilty when I recalled it afterwards in my great cool bedroom, with my five different kinds of baths.

Next morning I was waked early to find more presents of flowers in huge stacks, and to get ready for West Point. I was a little tired from yesterday, and the dry heat gave me rather the sensation of being a scientist's field mouse in a vacuum, so that I should have dreaded even a short journey if we hadn't been making it by water.

It was even better than if we had been ordinary tourists on one of the big Hudson River boats I had heard about, for we were to travel luxuriously in a little steam yacht of Potter's, which he calls "The Poached Egg" because it can't be beaten. It is not a vulgar yacht, as one might have thought from the name, but a dainty thing that ought to have been "The Butterfly," "Ye White Ladye," or something of that sort. When I said so, Mr. Parker insisted that he would at once re-christen her "Lady Betty," which would have a prettier meaning than anything else; and then I was sorry I'd spoken.

I had expected to be disappointed in the river, because nearly everybody I met on board ship tried to impress upon me that we had nothing half so good in England; while as for the Rhine, it wasn't a patch on the Hudson. I even wanted to be disappointed, out of patriotism or spite, which are much the same thing sometimes; but I couldn't. I found the Hudson too grand for petty jealousy. It seemed to me like a great, noble poem, rolling on and on in splendid cadences; and I have heard some music of Wagner's that it reminded me of, somehow.

The hills or mountains—I'm not sure which to call them—even the Palisades which have been so dinned into my ears—were not high enough to satisfy me at a first glance; but soon I saw that it was their grouping and their perfect proportion in relation to each other which made them so exquisite. As we steamed on, along the green and golden flood, between banks that appeared to fall back in admiration, I began to love the Hudson so much that I could have shrieked with rage at the great staring advertisements on hoardings. What can the scenery have done to Americans, that they should do their best to spoil it? No wonder most of them come over to see ours, which we have the sense to let alone, even if it crumbles.

Sally and Mr. Parker laughed at my fury, but I didn't see how they could take it so calmly. "It isn't my scenery, so I don't trouble myself," said Potter, when I asked why he didn't get up a secret night expedition to burn or chop down all the hoardings. But I'm sure English people aren't careless like that. Each person thinks the good of the whole country is his business; at least one would suppose so by the way everybody who comes to Battlemead talks politics and affairs of public interest, morning, noon and night. It seems, though, in America only policemen and people who live in Washington care about politics really, except to get benefits for themselves; and it isn't good form to be too much interested in such things.

Victoria would like this rule, for she has confessed to me that political questions bore her, and she would much rather be talked to about love or motoring, or even bridge; but she always reads the newspapers hard for fifteen minutes while Thompson does her hair, if she's going out to a big lunch or dinner, so that she will be up in everything and able to talk brilliantly to members of Parliament, or stuffy old things in the House of Lords.

I calmed down somewhat after I'd recovered from the first shock of seeing several islands entirely devoted to insisting that Uneeda Biscuit, or a Cigar, or some other extraneous thing which you're sure you don't need in the least, and wouldn't buy even if you did when it had been forced on you like that. There was so much to admire that it seemed a shame to fret. Besides, it was soothing to sit on the yacht's deck under a pale green awning, drinking what I call a lemon squash, and Potter and Sally obstinately believe to be lemonade. While Mrs. Ess Kay angrily read nasty paragraphs about herself, and hilariously about her friends, in a regular highwayman of a paper, Smart Sayings, Sally Woodburn told me charming legends of the Hudson; dear old Dutch things, most of them, which had been made into plays and poems; and I was sorry when we came to West Point at last.

But I wasn't sorry for long. The minute we got on shore at a quaint little landing shoved incongruously in among beautiful wooded hills, the most exquisite scents of ferns and trees, and sweet, moist earth came hurrying down to welcome us. Eton is not more beautiful than West Point; and as we drove up the hill under an arbour of trees, I saw that the buildings cleverly contrived to look old and grey and picturesque, like ours. The elms in a big green square past the top of the hill had a venerable air, too, so they must have been precocious about growing, for it doesn't stand to reason that West Point can be as ancient as Oxford or Eton. But anyway, the elms were there, making an effect that England couldn't improve on, and there were some grey stone barracks, and a long line of officers' quarters built of wood and brick. I was glad that we were to stop with Potter, instead of going to an hotel, for I did want to see thoroughly what garrison life is like. Potter has only half a house, though I suppose he's rich enough to buy up all West Point if it were for sale; but he had got a chum of his, who lives in the other half, to clear out of his part and give it to us for the day and night.

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