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Lady Betty Across the Water
by Charles Norris Williamson and Alice Muriel Williamson
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Vic has been to Aldershot, and even to Malta and Gib. But I never have, and I never saw any officers' quarters at home, so I don't know how they compare with American ones. Potter's and his friend's are exactly like a doll's house turned into a museum. The rooms are tiny, and most of the furniture is made to fold up; but Stan would be green with envy if he could see their Persian rugs, and their silver things, and their dozens of Meerschaums, and their curiosities from all over the world.

I asked Potter what he would do when he was ordered away.

"That depends on where I'm ordered," said he. "If I don't like the place, I'll resign, and be a mere cit. It would be easy to get back again into the Army if there were any fun going."

"What kind of fun?" I wanted to know.

"A war with somebody, of course," said he. Men have the most extraordinary ideas of fun. But they seem to be alike about that in England and America. They are never so happy as when they are killing something or in danger of being killed themselves. I can't imagine how it would feel to be like that; but I know if they were different we should hate them. And Potter looked so nice in his soldier clothes (which he got into while we were making ourselves pretty for lunch) that I couldn't help thinking it would be a pity for him to leave the army.

His friend was invited to lunch with us, to make up for sacrificing his house. He is nicer than Potter, or even Mr. Doremus; but not half so handsome or brave looking, or with such a charming voice as poor Jim Brett—who is not, I suppose, a gentleman except by nature; otherwise he couldn't have been in the steerage.

I thought it was silly to have wire nettings in all the doors and windows, just to keep away a few innocent midges, until we sat out after lunch. There is a pleasant balcony with an upstairs and a downstairs, which Potter and Captain Collingwood call the "piazza," and it would have been delightful sitting there while the men smoked, if appalling little animals with a ridiculous number of thin, stick-out legs hadn't come buzzing round us. They were saucy-looking things, got up in loud suits of black and grey stripes, not in the least like our quiet, respectable midges at home; and they weren't even honourable enough to wait until sunset before attacking you. They pricked horribly, like pins your maid has stuck in the wrong places; and they had a horrid penchant for your ankles. I was sorry I had on clocked stockings! And I apologised heartily to Potter for poking fun at his wire nettings.

Though it was so hot, the air was delicious. It smelt of new-mown grass and lilies, with a sharp little spicy tang of the thick Virginia creepers, which made a shadowy green room of the "piazza." Birds were simply roaring with joy in the trees that overhung the house, and Potter and I almost quarrelled because he would insist that some huge creatures hopping about on the grass were robins. They would have made three of ours, and were much more like quails that had spilt strawberry juice on their breasts.

By and by Captain Collingwood asked if "Lady Betty didn't want to go and see things."

"She's booked to me for Flirtation Walk," said Potter, before I could answer. "Three's a crowd there, old chap." On which I regret to state Captain Collingwood suggested that Potter should teach his own grandmother something about nourishing herself with an egg diet.

"Anyhow, I suppose you don't object to a rearguard for inspection of camp, and other features of public interest," he went on; and after some hesitation Potter decided that this would be admissible.

Mrs. Ess Kay and Sally both wanted to lie down (it's strange the fondness American women have for putting themselves in a horizontal position in the daytime!) so Mrs. Ess Kay said that she would commission her brother as chaperon; I needn't be anxious, she assured me, it was quite comme il faut. As if I would have worried about a thing like that!

I was delighted to go, because the most interesting groups had been passing the house, and it was difficult to see all you wanted to through the veil of creepers, without continually craning your neck. Tall, brown-faced boys, got up much like glorified Buttons, were sauntering about, holding sunshades over the heads of girls so young that they would have been in short frocks with their hair down their backs, in England. The girls were in white muslin or pale colours, with charming, floppy Leghorn hats trimmed with flowers; and they looked like the daintiest, prettiest of French dolls. But I was a great deal more interested in the youths, who were the cadets—first classmen, Potter said, and would be second lieutenants next year.

I never could take much interest in Eton boys, the few I have seen, for they look such children that one would be positively ashamed to bother with them; but the West Point cadets (though one couldn't exactly take them seriously like regularly grown-up men, perhaps), fascinated me from the very first glance through Potter's Virginia creeper. They looked as if they thought a lot of themselves, and the girls they were with had the air of encouraging them to think it. I wondered what kind of things they said to girls and secretly longed to find out.

It seems that in summer the cadets leave their barracks and go into camp, which is a time of year that the girls who visit West Point and those whose fathers are stationed there, like very much. We had a glimpse of the tents from the long street of the officers' quarters; and after we had visited a few technical things in which I was too polite to show that I was hardly interested, we strolled over to where we could see the little white pyramids gleaming under the Stars and Stripes.

I had been afraid that all the cadets would have gone away to Flirtation Walk, with girls, but to my joy there were plenty left in camp. On chairs under the trees near by two or three ladies were sitting with some white-butterfly girls; and a crowd of cadets were talking to them.

"There's a great pal of mine, Mrs. Laurence," said Captain Collingwood. "She would love to know you, Lady Betty. Do you mind if I introduce you to each other?"

"See here, that means we shall be hitched up with all that lot of cadets," Potter objected, quite crossly. "What's the good of wasting time?"

I hurried to say that I shouldn't consider it a waste of time, that I should be delighted to meet Mrs. Laurence, and also a few sample cadets, if any could be provided for the consumption of an enquiring British tourist.

Captain Collingwood thought that one or two might be found who would not object to the sacrifice; and five minutes later I was having more fun than I had ever had before in my life.

Mrs. Laurence was sweet, and so tactful. She scarcely talked to me at all, except to ask me how I liked America, and a few of the things people are obliged to get off their minds when they meet a foreigner; and then she introduced five cadets.

I was terrified for a minute, because until I left home my whole (youthful) male experience consisted of one brother, three cousins, and two curates, dealt with separately and with long sleepy intervals between. I began to wonder how I could possibly manage five tall youths at once, and to rack my brains for the right kind of conversation; but before I should have had time to say "knife" to a curate, I found myself chatting away with those cadets as if I had grown up with them. I never once stopped to think what I should say next, and neither did they.

Some girls were introduced to me, too, but luckily they didn't seem to expect me to talk to them much, so I didn't. More and more cadets kept coming over from camp, and joining our group, and being introduced in agreeable droves, until I gave up even trying to remember their names.

There was one, though, in the first batch of five, whose name was easy to get hold of and keep in mind, because it was Smith. Besides, he was the best looking of all, which made classifying him a real pleasure.

The girls who spoke to Mr. Smith called him "Captain," perhaps jokingly, and I asked how he could be a captain and yet a cadet, unless it meant cricket. Then he explained that the cadets had all the different grades of officers, from Adjutant and Captain down to Sergeant, and wanted to know if there were any other questions I would care to ask. I said that there were, lots, but I wasn't sure if I might.

"I give you a permit," said he, in a military way.

So I began with the buttons. "I should like to know why you have so many—all those rows on your jackets; and it's only the middle row you seem to use for anything."

"We use the others to give away to girls, to remember us by," answered my cadet. "It's forbidden, but that's a detail. Or rather it's why the girls like to have them."

I stared. "None of yours are missing."

"Most of 'em are pinned on at present. It's that way with all of us. Our Plebs sew 'em on for us at night, and use the door for a thimble."

"Oh, what are Plebs, if you please? Are you allowed valets?"

"I guess they call 'em fags in your country. There are a lot of them lying around. Shall I have some caught and dragged here? They might squirm a bit, as they aren't used to ladies' society, but——"

I hastily protested against such a cruel exhibition, and went on with my questions. I asked what they did in winter, and how long they had to be cadets, and whether they were in a hurry to be officers.

"Not as long as the girls can put up with us as we are," said my cadet. "Some of them even pretend they like us better."

"I can quite understand that!" I exclaimed. And then they all laughed, and some of them applauded.

"The really important question is," said Captain or Mr. Smith, "whether you are going to be an officers' or a cadets' lady."

I hadn't an idea what he meant, but I remembered Vic's saying that in the lower middle classes they sometimes call a man's wife his "lady." Perhaps, I thought, the expression had been brought over to the nicest people in America, in the Mayflower, which they all talk so much about; for certainly some of the people in her must have been cooks or in the steerage; there are too many descendants for the first class passengers alone. After considering for a minute I said in rather an embarrassed way that I wasn't "quite sure yet whether I would be either."

"You must be one or the other, you know, or you'll be like the bat in the fable who was neither bird nor beast, and so was out of all the fun on both sides. I may be prejudiced, but I advise you to be a cadets' lady. And you'd better decide now on account of to-night."

"To-night?" I repeated, puzzled.

"Yes, on account of making out your card. Say, Lady Betty, if you are going in with us, can I make out your card?"

Then arose a clamour. It appeared that they all wanted to make out the card—whatever it was. I asked if I couldn't have one from each, but it appeared that you couldn't do that. My cadet had spoken first, so he said that he would do it; but the others could give me bell-buttons and chevrons, and decorate fans for me instead.

"Do you like hops, Lady Betty?" enquired a perfect pet of a cadet, who looked like a cherub in uniform.

"Hops?" I wondered why he should ask me such an irrelevant question, but I answered as intelligently as I could. "I don't know much about them. I think they're graceful, but I don't like the smell."

He looked petrified. "The smell?"

"Yes. It makes one sleepy."

"I guess we won't give you much chance to be sleepy to-night," said he, "at our hop."

Then I understood. But what a funny thing to call a ball; a "hop!"

They explained, too, when they saw how stupid I was, that you were an "officers' lady" if you danced with them, and walked with them, and flirted with them, and didn't bother with cadets; or vice versa. Then I decided at once that I would be a cadets' lady, though I was sorry I had only one night to be it in. They were sorry, too, and showed their sorrow in so many nice ways that I enjoyed myself immensely, and quite saw how nice it must feel to be out, if you are a success. They wanted to draw lots for which cadet should take me to Flirtation Walk, but I said I had to go with Mr. Parker.

He must have been listening from a distance, (though he ought to have been talking with a pretty girl who had no hat,) for he came up to me at once, and announced that it was time to go now. He rather put on airs of having a right to tell me what I must do, and I didn't like it much, especially before those dear cadets, but it would have been childish to make a fuss. Besides, I was his guest.

I went, like a disagreeable lamb sulking on its way to the slaughter; but, thank goodness, I was engaged already for nearly all the dances, and most of them had to be split in two; there were so many cadets for them. (I think, by the by, I shall try to get Stan to take me to Sandhurst some day, to see if it is at all like West Point, and whether they have hops.)

Potter made fun of the cadets, and called them "white meat," and "little things that got in the way"; but when I asked a straight question he had to confess that he had been one himself only six years ago. "I was twenty-two when I graduated," he said. "One of the youngest men in my class." Which was the same as telling me that he is twenty-eight now. Ten years older than I am! It makes him seem quite old.

Somehow, although he is so nice to me in most ways, he stirs me up to feel antagonistic, as though I wanted to contradict him, and not like things that he likes; and I believe it is the same with him about me, for I make his eyes look angry very often. I felt he was disappointed because I admired the cadets so much, and had promised so many dances, and I was in a mood to tease him. But I fancy he isn't the kind who would take teasing well; and the scenery he was showing me was so beautiful that presently I resolved to be good.

We saw Kosciusko's monument, and I would insist upon his telling me things about Kosciusko himself, though Potter didn't seem to think him important; and then we began winding our way along a most exquisite path overhanging the river, always shadowed by trees. Sometimes it was cut through a green arbour, with a light like liquid emeralds; sometimes it ran high on the rocks; sometimes it dipped down close to the water; but invariably there was just enough room for two, and no more, to walk side by side.

We met several couples—cadets and girls; young officers and girls;—sauntering or sitting down close together in out of the way places. But by and by we seemed to have passed beyond the inhabited zone. Then Potter asked me if I were not tired from so much walking, and if I wouldn't like to rest. I said no, and he promptly pretended to be done up, which I thought very silly; but of course I had to sit down by him on a rock with a green, moss-velvet cushion.

"This is what I've been longing for all day," said he.

I hadn't; and I was thinking about the cadets. But I agreed that it was beautiful.

"Yes, it is," he answered, looking at me. "I never saw anything so pretty. Say, Lady Betty, you're an awful flirt."

I did open my eyes at that. "A flirt!" I exclaimed. "I never had a chance to try being it."

"I guess you don't need to try. There's some things girls like you are born knowing. I've been miserable all the afternoon. Couldn't you see my agony?"

"I didn't notice," said I.

"Ah, that's the trouble. You weren't thinking of me. Of course, I oughtn't to have cared for those little boys," (some of them were inches taller than he) "but I couldn't help it. I kept saying inside, 'This is a foretaste of what I've got to suffer when she's staying with Katherine at The Moorings.' I don't know when I've been so unpopular with myself. I don't see how I'm going to get along unless you'll be nice to me; right now."

"I am nice to you," I said. "As nice as I know how to be."

"I could teach you to be a lot nicer. Say, Lady Betty, let me, won't you?"

His eyes, though they are such a pale blue, had that silly, melting look in them that my cousin Loveland's have when he talks to me. "Let you do what?" I asked, almost snappishly, for a person sitting in such a lovely place.

"Teach you to like me. I fell all over myself in love with you the first minute I saw you."

"Day before yesterday!" I exclaimed. "What nonsense. You're poking fun at me. I don't believe in love at first sight—at least, I don't think I do. Anyhow, nobody could fall in love with me in that way."

"Couldn't they, though? That's all you know about it, then. All Americans will fall in love with you like that, and it's just what I want to guard against. I want you to be engaged to me before you go to Newport. Then I shall feel kind of safe."

"Dear me, are you really proposing, and it isn't in joke?" I asked. "I do wish you wouldn't."

"Would I propose to Lady Betty Bulkeley in joke?" he reproached me.

"The idea of proposing to any girl when you've only seen her three times!"

"What did I tell you about my friend in San Francisco? I was working slowly up to this, even then."

"Slowly!"

"Yes, very slowly. I think I've shown a great deal of patience. American girls—the beauties, I mean—are quite hurt if a fellow doesn't propose somewhere along in the first day or two. They think he can't appreciate their real worth, and that he deserves what he gets if some other chap walks away with them. Now, I'm not going to sit still on my perch and see anything else walking off with you."

I couldn't help laughing. "I'll call for help if I think there's any danger," said I; "but I can't promise more than that. I didn't come over to America to pick up a husband."

He looked at me rather queerly when I said that, almost as if he thought I had come for that express purpose, and was trying to conceal it. But, of course, he couldn't be so horrid as to suppose such a thing really, and I must have imagined the strange expression. If he only knew, I came away so that another girl might be sure to get a husband, and I'm not allowed to go back until he has been got.

"They're just growing around on blackberry bushes and in strawberry patches for you to pick and choose," said Potter, "and that's what worries me. I'm a wildly jealous fellow. I've got two month's leave so as to be with you at Newport, and I tell you I shall see a bright, beautiful crimson, if too many dudes come fooling around the shanty. Say, won't you just play we're engaged, anyhow, and see how you like it?"

But now I was really cross, and wouldn't hear a word more of such nonsense, so I jumped up, and he had to scramble up, too.

"If you've really proposed—which I doubt—" said I, "you must please understand that you've been formally refused. But I forgive you because I believe you must have been chaffing, and because it's my first proposal; so at all events I can't die without having had at least one. Now, do be sensible and take me back, or I shall have to find my way alone,—or else ask a strange cadet to pilot me."

That threat found a vulnerable spot; and he was not half bad on the way home—perhaps no worse than the name of the Walk allowed.

I was a good deal excited about the ball, as it was my very first. Sally Woodburn had looked at my things, and told me what to bring. Not that it was a hard choice, for I have only four frocks with me, in which I could go to a dance. The one Sally wanted me to wear at West Point is a little white thing, of embroidered India muslin. Thompson made it after one of Vic's, and it is a rag compared to Sally's and Mrs. Ess Kay's gorgeous things. But when Sally had done my hair in a new way, (they had left Louise behind, as there was no room for her), and fastened round my throat a lovely string of pearls she brought on purpose, I looked quite nice.

The "hop" was in a great big room which the cadets use for something or other, I forget what; and it was decorated with quantities of American flags. There were lots of girls—the youngest things! hardly any of them could have been out—but there were even more men; counting officers and cadets, at least two for each girl.

The card which my particular cadet had talked about making for me, was a programme, with all the dances and the men's names, and illuminations which he had put on himself. It was beautiful, and I told him that I would always keep it. I danced every dance, with two partners for each, and there was a cotillion afterwards with favours to remind the girls who got them, of West Point; little flags, and buttons, and bits of gold lace; but I was very lucky, for some of the friends I had made in camp had smuggled me special things, and I shall have quite a collection of sergeant's stripes and corporal's chevrons, belt buckles and beautiful bright bell-buttons with initials scratched on them.

I don't believe Vic had half so much fun at her first ball as I had at mine, although hers is so many seasons ago now that I can't remember what she said about it. I was only a little girl then, and she wasn't in the habit of telling me things, as she is now.

Although I didn't get to bed till after two, I was up early next morning, because I had promised my best cadets that I would be at morning parade, or whatever they call it, to say good-bye. Sally went with me, and it was quite an affecting parting. I shall never forget those dear boys if I live to be a hundred, though I can't remember any of their names, as after all I lost the card I meant to keep always.



VI

ABOUT THE PARK AND LOVE STORIES

All the preparations that Mrs. Ess Kay had to make for Newport kept us two more days in New York; and it was terribly hot, but I was not sorry to stay, because we did so many amusing things.

Mr. Doremus was detained too—by his tailor, he said—so we saw a good deal of him, as Mrs. Van der Windt had left for her Newport cottage. We did go to a roof garden entertainment, after all, and it was most fascinating, but quite without the feeling that you might fall off, which I had expected to have. I saw the moon coming up, and gilding thousands of roofs, and I couldn't help wondering which was the roof of that club where poor, handsome Jim Brett was employed; though of course it was impossible to speak of him to anyone except Vivace.

We lunched one day at an enormous and very fashionable red brick hotel called the Waldorf-Astoria, and went into a Turkish Room, and had delicious things to eat in a beautiful restaurant, which had not at all an out-of-season air, though Mrs. Ess Kay said that most of the well-groomed looking people whom I suspected of being leaders of the Four Hundred were only "trippers." I do wonder, by the way, why one always has an innate sense of contempt for trippers, and longs to be sniffy and show one's own superiority? We must all be trippers somewhere and sometimes, or we would never see anything of the world; indeed I suppose I am by way of being a tripper now. But one never seems to regard one's self in such a light, or imagine that anybody else could be so undiscerning.

I hadn't known that a hotel could be as big as the Waldorf-Astoria, though Mrs. Ess Kay says there are several just about as large in New York, and she has heard there are one or two in Chicago, but she thanks Heaven she doesn't know anything personally about that. When she made this remark I remembered what Sally had told me in confidence about Mrs. Ess Kay's life before she began to qualify for the Four Hundred. But of course I did not make any allusion to the subject, for fear it was a skeleton in her closet. And Sally says that well-regulated Chicago people think New York a one-horse place compared to their town, which is really wonderful and most interesting, as I shall find out if I see it. I wish I could, but I suppose I shan't, as I came over to visit Mrs. Ess Kay, not to do sight-seeing.

The second day after we came back from West Point, as I went downstairs the first thing in the morning, I heard Mrs. Ess Kay at the telephone, which is in a little room, along a corridor off the fountain court.

She was having a long conversation with someone, laughing and chatting just as if she were talking to a visitor; and presently my name came in. "Yes, Lady Betty Bu——, no, not pronounced that way, my child. As if it were spelt B-U-C-K-, yes, that's right. Such a pretty girl, a perfect dear. I expect the men will be wild about her at Newport. Potter raves over her. Ha, ha, ha! Do you think so? Well, perhaps. I've known stranger things to happen. No, it's not her father, but her brother, who's the Duke; awfully good-looking. I wish he could have come too. But you see Sally wouldn't—you know what Sally is. No, she's never got over that old affair. Southern women are so romantic. Yes, I'll bring dear little Betty with me if it won't tire you. She——"

Then I began to think I ought to let her know I was there, for one hates to eavesdrop. So I yelled at the top of my lungs that I was in the hall, waiting to go to breakfast, and couldn't help hearing every word she said. However, she didn't mind a bit, and called to me to come into the telephone room.

"I'm talking to a friend of mine who has just been moved back to her own apartment after getting over appendicitis," she explained. "Poor thing, she's such an indefatigable society woman, and she does so hate being stuck in the city at this season. I've just been promising to run in and see her this afternoon, and I'd like to take you if you'll go. She'd love to see you. I'll introduce you now by 'phone."

With that, she began to chat into the thing again, in a chummy sort of way which seemed quite uncanny, as I have always looked upon a telephone as an official kind of machine which you prepared for with fasting and prayer, and only had recourse to when strictly necessary for important business. "Here's Lady Betty," said Mrs. Ess Kay. "I'm going to introduce you. Now, Betty, take hold of the——"

"Oh, I can't. I don't know how. I never did," I objected, feeling as if she were going to force me into taking gas against my will.

She would have me try, so I did, as it's very difficult to oppose Mrs. Ess Kay even in the smallest thing. But I couldn't hear a word, only a horrid buzzing, so she had to let me off, and just tell me that the lady we were to call on was Mrs. Harvey Richmount Taylour.

"If you're going to stay long in America, you'll have to get used to the 'phone," said she. "We do half our shopping, and some of our calling, and make about all our appointments that way. If we didn't, there'd be more cases of nervous prostration than there are, and goodness knows there are enough now, even since Blue Rays have come in. Many love affairs are carried on practically entirely by 'phone, and I've heard that in case of necessity, marriage ceremonies can be performed by it."

"How about divorces?" I asked. And I was quite serious, but Mrs. Ess Kay didn't seem to think the question worth an answer. So she switched off her friend, and rang up two or three tradespeople of whom she ordered scent, and chocolates, and some new books, and told a manicure to call. Then we went in to breakfast.

It appears that the manicure person is a great catch, and you are very lucky to get him without making an appointment long beforehand. He does things to your feet, too, though I dared not ask what; and Mrs. Ess Kay intended to stop in for him all the morning.

While she was talking about this, Sally was glancing over letters, and there was one in which she seemed particularly interested. She looked up from it suddenly, when Mrs. Ess Kay said she was not going out, and exclaimed, "Oh, then I may have Betty. How nice, I do so want to show her the Park."

"I'll go with you," Potter broke in quickly, but Sally shook her head.

"No, I want her to myself, thank you—just for this once."

Potter looked cross, but said no more, and it was arranged that Sally and I should start in about an hour. Mrs. Ess Kay thought we ought to get off at once, as it would be cooler; but for some reason Sally did not like that idea. Meanwhile, she ran out herself on an errand, but did not offer to take me.

Even people who have absolutely nothing to do except to amuse themselves appear to like waking up and having breakfast much earlier than we do. This morning, as usual, we had finished breakfast by half past nine, and by a quarter past ten Sally had come back to fetch Vivace and me for our walk.

I hadn't yet been shown Central Park. Mrs. Ess Kay said it was horrid out of season; but Sally didn't agree with her; and I thought it lovely, more like the Bois de Boulogne than our Park, and yet with an extraordinary individuality of its own. There were only a few people of our sort, riding or driving, but lots of children were playing about, and it was wonderful that the trees and grass and flowers could have kept so fresh through such tremendous heat. I'm sure if we had weather like that in England the whole vegetable kingdom would go on strike.

Whether it was the beauty of the Park, or whether it was something in herself, I don't know, but Sally Woodburn was in a sentimental mood. She is generally full of fun, in her soft, quiet little way; but this morning she was all poetry and romance. She quoted Tennyson, and several modern American poets, whose names I was ashamed to say I didn't even know, as their verses seemed charming; and when she had found a certain narrow, shady path which she had been looking for, suddenly she said, "Let's talk about love. What do you think about love, Betty?"

"I don't know anything about it yet, except from books," said I. "Mother doesn't like my reading modern novels much, and we haven't many in the library, for Vic reads French ones and hides them. But there are other books besides novels that tell about love—some heavenly ones."

"I should think there were," said Sally. "But I didn't ask you what you knew; I asked what you thought. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be in love?"

"Yes," I had to admit, shamefacedly, for as she is not a man, luckily it wasn't necessary to tell a fib. "Have you?"

"I know, once for all," said Sally, in a changed voice. "That is why I wanted to talk about it to you, before you really begin life over here. Perhaps—it depends on your opinions of love—I'll tell you my little story. I don't tell it to people. But maybe I will to you, this morning. We shall see."

"Is it a sad story, dear?" I asked.

"Yes. It's sad."

"Perhaps it may end well yet, though," I tried to comfort her.

Sally shook her head. "It can't, in this world. And the saddest part of all is that it was my own fault. But I didn't understand the relative value of things when I lost the one thing in the world that can make real happiness for a woman. I should like you to understand them while you still have time."

"And I should love to hear your story, if it won't make you too sad thinking of it," I said.

"Oh, I am always thinking of it. It's never really out of my mind for a minute. It's there, you know, like an undertone; just as when you live near the sea, there's always the sound of the waves underlying every other sound, though you mayn't be listening for it."

"Then tell me," I said.

"Not yet. I haven't asked you the questions yet, which will show me when you answer them, whether you need to hear the story or not. Could you imagine yourself marrying without first being in love?"

"No-o," I said thoughtfully. "Not when it really came to it. But Vic says that's all nonsense; that no woman, no matter how much she thinks herself in love, ever stops in love with her husband. The thing is to marry a man who will let you do as you like; and of course he must be rich."

Sally sighed. "Well, dear, she's your sister, and I'm just nothing to you at all, but I'd like to tell you to forget about her advice, and not care whether a man is rich or poor, or even well born, if only he's made himself a gentleman, body and heart and soul, and is strong and clever enough to take care of you."

The minute she said that, the image of Jim Brett rose up before my eyes. I think, though he is poor, and perhaps of humble birth, that the girl he marries will be happy—and well taken care of.

"You'll hear a lot of talk about money at Newport," she went on, "too much. Among some of the people you'll be with, money's of more importance than anything else. Two or three rich young men are certain to ask you to marry them—very nice fellows they may be, and they will show you heaps of attention—all those that Cousin Katherine will let come near you—and as you're so young and inexperienced, you may lose your head a little bit. But do remember that losing your head and being flattered and amused, isn't falling in love. A man must be able to make you love him for himself, and that self must be worth loving; for nothing else is any good in the end. And now I'll tell you my story—just in a few words—because it will give you something to think about.

"I'm thirty-two now. When I was nineteen—a year older than you—I cared for a man, and he for me. We cared for each other—terribly. But he was poor; and not only that, he came from people whom mine looked down upon. We loved each other so much, though, that I would have married him in spite of all; but my relations thought it would ruin my life, and they advised, and persuaded, and implored and insisted, until I was weak enough to give the man up. They took me to Europe, and because I had some money an Italian prince we met in Rome wanted to marry me. They almost argued me into consenting, and though they didn't quite, the news went home to Kentucky that I was engaged. The man I really loved—loved dearly all the time, though I was trying to forget him—believed it. Why shouldn't he, since I'd given him up for the reasons I had? He was Catholic, and he went into a monastery we have in Kentucky, and became a monk. No one ever wrote to me about it. All my friends thought the less I heard of him the better. And two years later, when I went back home—not engaged, and thinking in my heart that there was, and always would be, only one man for me in the world—it was to learn that that man had taken the final vows which would separate him from earthly love for ever.

"Oh, Betty, you don't know what I suffered. I'd been saying to myself that when I saw him again—as I meant to—I would know by his eyes at the first glance whether he still cared as much as ever, and if he did, I would ask him to marry me. But I never saw him again, except with the eyes of my heart; and I always see him so. Not an hour passes that I don't see him so."

"You poor darling!" I exclaimed. And there was a note in her voice that made my eyelids sting. "How little I guessed. And you seem so cheerful and even merry."

"One isn't in the world to be a wet blanket," said Sally. "Besides, one isn't actively miserable every minute, for years, because one has thrown away one's chance of real happiness. One gets along contentedly enough, except in the bad hours, when, instead of being a mild grey, the world is ink-black. But I haven't told you this to get sympathy, dear. It hasn't been quite easy telling, for I don't talk much about the deep-down things in myself. I've told you in the hope that you'll remember me, and my wasted years, if your chance comes to be happy—even if it should be a chance which you think, in a worldly way, wouldn't be prudent, or what your people would like. People have no right to try and order our lives, no matter how near they may be to us. It's we who have to live our lives, not they."

For a minute we were both silent; and then Sally said quietly, as if she were glad to speak, "Here comes someone we've seen before. Do you recognise him? And shall you bow?"

Vivace gave such a leap that his leash, which I'd been holding carelessly, was jerked out of my hand. It was my brown man who was coming—Jim Brett.

My face did feel red! Vivace was making such a fuss over him, that Sally could hardly help guessing whose the dog had been before he was mine. But I made the best of it. "Of course I recognise him, and of course I shall bow," said I. "He was very kind to me on the dock, when I was at letter B."

Sally didn't make any remark about Vivace's capers, though by this time he was wagging all over with joy at his master's feet, and jumping up to his knees. I was grateful to her.

In another moment we three had met, in the shady path, far away from everybody else, and Vivace began running back and forth between his master and me, as if he wanted to make us good friends, and not hurt either of our feelings.

"How do you do?" said I, holding out my hand. "What a coincidence, meeting you here. And my dear little dog that somebody sent me, does seem to take an extraordinary fancy to you, doesn't he?"

Mr. Jim Brett laughed, and kept his hat off, which made him look very nice with the dappling green and gold light waving over his thick, short black hair, and his forehead, which is whiter than the rest of his face.

He had on better clothes than he had worn on shipboard, but they were blue serge, with the air of having been bought ready made at a cheap shop. In spite of them, however, he looked very handsome, and every inch of him a gentleman. I don't think many men, even in Stan's set, could wear those badly-cut things and look as he did in them, though he does have to travel in the steerage.

I asked Sally if I might introduce Mr. Brett to her, and she said yes, and smiled up so sweetly that I was delighted, because, for all her talk about Nature's noblemen, I felt I didn't know her well enough to be quite sure how she would take it. But she talked to him charmingly, and complimented him upon his bravery on shipboard. "Every one of us admired you for it," she said, "and I'm very glad to meet you this morning."

Mr. Brett thanked her, and of course said how pleased he was, too. "I am taking a holiday," he added, looking at me. I was glad to hear that, because, seeing him out at this time, the thought had occurred to me that he might have lost his employment at the club. But I only answered that it was a lovely day for a holiday, and that I didn't believe he could find a better place to spend part of it than in Central Park.

"Have you fed the squirrels yet?" he asked.

"Oh, no, can one do that?" I exclaimed. "I should love it."

"May I go and get some peanuts?" he said to Sally.

"Do," she said, in her pleasant, friendly way, which was just as nice for him as it had been for Stan, or nicer. "We will go on to the wistaria arbour and wait for you. There are always lots of squirrels there."

Vivace broke away from me again and followed him, but still Sally seemed to take no notice. "That's certainly a very handsome fellow," she said, "and we can be sure that he's worthy to be trusted, because the wrong sort of men don't jump overboard at sea to save the lives of children they don't know. That is why I feel perfectly safe in being nice to him, and letting you be nice. I reckon he is a Southern man."

"How can you tell?" I asked.

"Oh, a little by that good-looking brown face of his, perhaps, but more by his way of speaking. You English people lump us all together, for our 'American accent,' but we can tell whether a person is from Massachusetts, or New York, or Illinois, or Kentucky, and so on, just as you know Devonshire from Lancashire."

The wistaria arbour, which we soon reached, was like a fairy bower hung with thousands of amethyst lamps, burning perfume instead of oil; and the moment we sat down a troop of the fairy residents, cleverly disguised as grey squirrels, with adorable little faces, began excitedly to talk us over. With heads on one side, they criticised our features, our dresses, our hats, and finally approved of them so far as to decide that we were creatures they might know. They stole nearer, by twos, by fours, then raced away again, grey and soft as undyed ostrich feathers, blown by the sweet-smelling breeze, when they saw my brown man coming back with Vivace.

I was afraid that Vivace would make a dash and frighten them, but he evidently knows how to treat squirrels as equals, not as edibles, for he behaved himself like the little brindled gentleman that he is. Gravely he looked on as Mr. Brett produced six small, brown paper bags, crammed full of the most extraordinary objects. They looked something like wood carvings of unripe bean pods, but it appeared that they were peanuts. They smelt good, rather like freshly-roasted coffee, and when you shelled them out of their woody pods, they were large, fat beads, covered with a thin brown skin. I couldn't help feeling as if I had known Mr. Brett for a long time, as he sat by us on the bench under the wistaria, helping Sally and me feed the squirrels, and shelling peanuts for us to eat, too. I do believe there must be something special about peanuts, which gives you a homey sort of feeling, if you share them with people. They form a sort of bond of good fellowship, and I can't fancy ever being prim with a man, after you had eaten peanuts with him.

Mr. Brett didn't tell us much about himself, but from the few things he did tell, I gathered the impression that he has led an open-air, adventurous sort of life. He showed that he knows a great deal about horses, and I rather hope he has been a cowboy, like "The Virginian," in a delightful book I have found in Mrs. Ess Kay's library; indeed, I imagine the hero of that story must have looked like Jim Brett. It is a splendid type.

Sally and he talked about books; he spoke about some college in the West where he had been, and I was glad that he was a University man; though why I should care I don't know. Anyway, Stan would be at sea, and floundering, in the subjects which my brown man of the steerage and Sally Woodburn discussed while the squirrels frisked about their shoulders. But then, Stan doesn't care to talk for too long about anything except hunting, or shooting, or polo, or motoring;—not even bridge, at which Vic says he loses a great deal of money.

We stopped in the wistaria arbour for more than an hour, as I knew by my bracelet watch, when Sally said suddenly we must go—though I hadn't dreamed till then that we had been half as long. I shook hands with Mr. Brett for good-bye, and so did Sally; but nobody spoke about our meeting again, as perhaps we should if he were in Mrs. Ess Kay's set. It seemed very sad, and irrevocable, somehow, and I had a heavy sort of feeling that life can be full of hard things.

His eyes looked wistful, and I said what I couldn't have said to a man of my own rank. "I've kept those roses you sent me by that dear, funny little black boy, all this time in water, and they are fresh still, though a lot of others I have had since are faded," I told him; and in that mood I didn't care whether Sally heard or not.

The brown man's face flushed up, and the wistful look in his eyes brightened into something which I felt was gratitude for my rather silly speech. "I think those roses will hate to die," he said.

"Perhaps I shall press them in a book," I answered, "to remind me of my first hours in America."

Then we parted, and there was a fuss with Vivace, who had to be taken up in my arms, or he would have choked himself with his collar, in his desperate struggles to get free. He whimpered even then for a few minutes, but soon he was comforted, and visibly made an effort to content himself with the fact that he was my dog.

I set him down on the ground, and Sally and I walked on together without speaking. But at last she said, "Penny for your thoughts, deah?"

"I was wondering about—class distinctions in America?" I answered. "I think—oh, I do think it's very silly of you to have any at all. I always supposed, till I knew you and Mrs. Stuyvesant-Knox, that one person was considered just as good as another in America. And it ought to be like that, in a new country, where you haven't an aristocracy."

"We have two aristocracies," said she. "We go one better than you, for you have only one. We have our Old Families (maybe they wouldn't seem very old to you) and we have Wealth. They both think as much of themselves as your aristocracy does—and mighty little of each other."

"I could understand an aristocracy of brains, in a land like America," I went on, quite fiercely, "but it's no good breaking off from the old country at all if you're to hamper yourselves with anything else. Now if I hadn't heard Mrs. Stuyvesant-Knox and Mrs. Van der Windt talking, I should have supposed that in America a man like Mr. Brett, for instance, could be received anywhere. As it is, I suppose—no, nobody could despise him. For myself, I'm proud to know such a brave man. But—but of course we're not likely to meet him again, are we?"

"In Society?" laughed Sally. "Poor fellow, it doesn't look much like it now, does it? Though I believe he's a man in a thousand, and worth six of any of those that Cousin Katherine will let you know—counting Potter, though he is my relative."

"It seems a pity," I said, with a sigh for the mistakes of the whole world—or something.

"What's a pity?"

"Oh, I hardly know. Everything. Isn't it?"

"Yes. And I'm sure that's what our poor, handsome friend is thinking."

"Do you suppose he—minds?"

"I reckon he would like to go on being acquainted with you, Betty, and have the chances of other men. You're not an unattractive girl, you know—or maybe you don't know. And he's human. I have a sort of idea he'll try and make some change in his way of life, so that it may be possible to meet you again."

When Sally said this, I had the oddest sensation, like a prickling in all my veins. I longed to ask her if she were joking, or if she really did think that Jim Brett was enough interested in me to take so much trouble. But the words came only as far as the tip of my tongue, and stuck to it as if they had been glued there.



VII

ABOUT SKY-SCRAPERS AND BEAUTIFUL LADIES

In the afternoon Mrs. Ess Kay and I in our thinnest muslins went out in the motor. We whizzed up Fifth Avenue for several "blocks" (as she called them), turned into an expensive-looking side street and stopped before one of the most enormous buildings I ever saw in my life. It seemed only half finished, for the steel columns of its skeleton were still visible around the ground floor and the street before it was still cluttered with bricks and boards and rubbish. In the hallway men were working like active animals in an immense cage. Suddenly from amongst them I saw emerge a beautifully dressed little girl foaming with lace frills, led by a trained nurse in a grey and white uniform. They were actually being let out of the lift, which had swooped down with appalling swiftness, by a man in livery.

"Good Heavens," I exclaimed, "what a queer place for a child and its nurse to be in."

"My dear girl, they live there," said Mrs. Ess Kay rather scornfully. "That is Mrs. Harvey Richmount Taylour's little Rosemary with her nurse."

"People live on top of those poles like Jack in a beanstalk!" I exclaimed. "How appalling."

As I looked through the hallway up sprang the lift once more, fierce and swift as one of the rockets which I used as a child to be afraid might strike the angels. A minute of suspense and it swooped down again with two girls in it. I felt as if it were a thing I oughtn't to be seeing somehow; it was so much like spying on the digestive apparatus of a skeleton.

"You see," explained Mrs. Ess Kay, "the Taylours and other people were frightfully anxious to get in. The rest of the building will be finished soon, and this is going to be one of the swellest apartment houses in New York."

"This an apartment house!" cried I, thinking of the dull streets in London, where almost every door has "Apartments" printed over it in gilt letters, or else hanging crooked and dejected on a card. "But, oh—perhaps you mean it's flats."

"For goodness sake, don't say 'flats' to Margaret Taylour," exclaimed Mrs. Ess Kay, marshalling me into the mammoth skeleton. "Over here, only common people live in flats; our sort have 'apartments.'"

"It's just the other way round with us," I explained. "Those who have flats would be furious if you said they lived in apartments."

"You English are so quaint in some ways," remarked Mrs. Ess Kay, and though I didn't answer, I was surprised. It's all well enough for us to think Americans odd, and we are accustomed to that, for everybody says they are; but that they should think our ways comic does seem extraordinary, almost improper.

By this time we were in the lift, which shut upon us with a vicious snap, and then tossed us up towards the roof of the world. I do hope one doesn't experience the same sensation in dying; though in that case it would be worse going down than up.

Before I had time to do more than gasp, we were at the top; and as we waited for an instant outside Mrs. Harvey Richmount Taylour's door, I should have liked to pinch my cheeks lest my fright had left me pale.

Vic has a friend who lives in a flat near the Park for the Season, and once I was taken there. I thought it quite beautiful, but though the friend's a Countess and very rich, the flat is poor compared with this topheavy nest of Mrs. Taylour's.

In a white drawing-room where the only spots of colour were the roses—masses of pink roses in gold bowls—a Madonna-like being was reclining in a green and white billow of a lace tea gown, on a white sofa. She held out both hands to Mrs. Ess Kay, and looked at me, apologising for not getting up.

When you come to examine her, the only thing really Madonna-like about Mrs. Harvey Richmount Taylour is her way of doing her hair. It's parted in the middle, and folds softly down in brown wings on either side of rather a high forehead, white enough to match her drawing-room. She has gently curved eyebrows, too; but under them her dark eyes are as bright and sharp as a fox-terrier's. She has pale skin, red lips, and thin features, with a stick-out chin, cut on the same pattern as Mrs. Ess Kay's though it isn't as square yet, because she is years younger—perhaps not more than twenty-eight.

Mrs. Ess Kay introduced us, in a more precise way than we have at home, and Mrs. Taylour said that she was very happy to meet me, which I should have thought particularly kind, if I hadn't found out that it's a sort of formula which Americans think it polite to use.

She talked to me a good deal, and wanted to know how I liked America, of course; I was sure she would do that.

Then Mrs. Ess Kay explained that I was interested in her apartment being up so high, and thought her plucky to live in it before the house was finished. This amused Mrs. Taylour very much.

"We are just thankful to be in it," she said. "I was tired out with housekeeping, the servant question is too awful."

"I see you've a trained nurse-maid for Rosemary," said Mrs. Ess Kay. "We met them going out."

"Isn't Rosemary a pet?" Mrs. Taylour asked me, as if she were speaking of somebody else's little girl.

"Sweet," I said. "Has she been ill?"

"No. Do you think she looks delicate?"

"It was the hospital nurse——" I began; but Mrs. Taylour laughed.

"Oh, I suppose that would strike you as funny. But we often have them for our children. We poor New York women have so much to do socially, we have to be relieved of all feeling of responsibility, if we don't want to come down with nervous prostration. I shall hang onto this same nurse for years if she'll stay; she's so good, and only ten dollars a week. When Rosemary grows up and comes out, she will be her maid, you know, Lady Betty. Do you ever have trained nurse-maids in England?"

"No," I said. "Fancy!"

"Oh, it's a splendid thing for a girl—nothing like it. You see the woman looks after her like a maid and a nurse both; makes sure her bath's the right temperature, takes care of her if she gets the grippe; sits up and gives her beef tea or chocolate after balls, massages her, and things like that. I used to have one myself, but a woman after she's married is different from a Bud. She must have a French woman for her hair if she respects herself."

I said meekly that I supposed so; and then Mrs. Taylour left me to myself for a few minutes, while she talked to Mrs. Ess Kay. They compared notes about appendicitis, which they called the fashionable complaint, and Mrs. Taylour suddenly exclaimed:

"Oh, my dear, I have had just the smartest idea. As soon as Doctor Pearson will let me go to Blue Bay I tell you I mean to wake them up there. What I'll do, is to have an appendicitis lunch. It'll be rather conducive, won't it?"

"You are the most original thing!" exclaimed Mrs. Ess Kay. "How are you going to manage?"

"Oh, nobody shall be invited except those who have had it; and the great feature will be the decorations; operating instruments, you know, and hospital nurses, and—oh, I don't know what all yet, but I'm thinking it out. It was Cora Pitchley's Cat Lunch that put it in my head." She turned to me. "In America we give Women's lunches," she said. "Only women are asked, or a Cat Lunch couldn't be worked. Is it so with you, too?"

"I'm afraid our women would think it a bore if there were no men," I answered. "Anyway, there always are some, I believe. I'm not out yet. Do tell about the Cat Lunch."

"Oh, it was only a pretty smart trick of my friend, Mrs. Pitchley's. She was a rich young widow from the West, with millions, and very pretty and lively, so some of the old cats snubbed her and tried to keep her out of New York society, when I was introducing her around. But she got her foot in at last, so tight they couldn't help themselves, for the Van Tortens took her up, and she was made. So what did she do but give a big lunch, inviting all the women who had been the meanest to her, and not another soul. The whole table decoration consisted of cats; vases made of cats; flower-arrangements shaped like cats; and a little gold cat with emerald eyes for each woman to take away with her, so she wouldn't forget the lunch in a hurry. And would you believe it, not one of them saw the joke till Smart Sayings got hold of it, and published an account of the function next week."

"What did the women do?" I asked.

"Nothing, but feel cattier than before. She's richer than ever now, for she's married a man worth twenty millions, and the first thing he did was to give orders to Celeste, her dressmaker, to turn out two new dresses for his wife, every week of the year without fail, not one of them to cost less than two hundred and fifty dollars. It was such a strain on Celeste, thinking of new ideas, that she had to give it up after the first year, though it nearly broke her heart."

"I should have thought it would be a strain having the dresses to wear," said I. "Fancy getting passionately attached to one frock, but never being able to wear it more than once or twice, on account of your duty to the new ones always coming towards you in a long, relentless procession, down the years. I should hate it."

"I wouldn't," said Mrs. Taylour. "I can't have too many new things, and I always change each scrap of furniture and decoration in my own rooms every year, so that Mr. Taylour won't get tired of them. He's such a nervous man. But you'll meet Cora Pitchley at Newport. Her house is there. She's a type of an American woman, just as bright as she can be. Her second husband was a wholesale dry goods man years ago, but most people have forgotten that, now he's worth his millions, and he's got the most gorgeous place, quite like one of your old castles. The worst of it is, his mother lives with them, and when she was showing the bride—Cora—over the house (which was decorated pretty weirdly for the first wife,) the old lady kept explaining: 'This is the Louis Seize room; this is the Queen Anne room.' Cora just looked at the things, and said: 'What makes you think so?' Smart, wasn't it? But Cora's changed everything inside the house now. She loves change. She's even changed her birthday, so as to have it in leap year; and as for her mind, she changes it entirely at least six times a day; says that's why women have nicer minds than men; they change them oftener. But I've gossiped enough about a person you don't know, Lady Betty. Let's talk about England. I run over to Paris for a month or two most years, but I've only been twice to England. I did all the sights, though, didn't miss anything. I gave four days to London alone. Candidly, I don't think your women dress nearly as well as we do, or hold themselves as well, but perhaps you're more feminine looking, take you all in all. I don't mean anything personal, of course. But I do think your men are lovely. I met a perfectly charming Member of Parliament, and he invited me to tea on the terrace. Such strawberries and cream. But I'm afraid I hurt his feelings. I said I couldn't help thinking 'House of Commons' a most insulting name, and if we called our Senate anything like that we couldn't get an American man who respected himself to go into it. But English people are so queer. They don't seem to mind admitting that there is a class above theirs."

"Betty doesn't need to know anything about that," said Mrs. Ess Kay. "She is on the highest pinnacle."

"Oh, dear no," said I. "There are the Royalties."

"Don't you think you are just as good?" asked Mrs. Taylour.

"I never thought about it in that way," I answered, stupidly. For of course I hadn't.

"Surely you don't bob to them?"

"Indeed we do," I protested.

"Well then, I wouldn't," said Mrs. Taylour, firmly. "I'd have my head cut off first, especially before I'd curtsey to a Man."

Quite a colour flew into her face as she asserted her independence, and Mrs. Ess Kay must have seen that the invalid was getting excited, for she rose quickly to go.

"Come, Betty," said she, and I came.

The lift plunged us down through the inner workings of the skeleton. I had the sensation that it was dropping away from under my feet, and that as I dangled above it like a wobbly little balloon my head had been left behind somewhere near the top. But I didn't leave my heart behind in Mrs. Taylour's flat.



VIII

ABOUT NEWPORT AND GORGEOUSNESS

I was anxious to travel in an American train, so Mrs. Ess Kay said we might go by rail to Newport, instead of by boat as she had intended.

I know it was very wrong in principle, but when we got to the Grand Central Station, (or Depot, as perhaps I ought to call it,) I did wish that slavery existed again, so that I could have bought two or three of those delightful cafe-au-lait-coloured porters in grey livery and red caps. There were several I would have given anything to have to take home with me, and make pets of; but I suppose even if they had been for sale, they would have come too expensive and I should have had to give them up; for their eyes alone, to say nothing of their pleasant white grins, would have been worth pounds and pounds. As for their voices, they were the sweetest I'd heard in America, soft, and a little throaty, with a peculiar quality, quite different from the voice of a person who hasn't been dipped in cafe au lait. With their vivid red caps, their brilliant eyes, and their lightning-flash smiles, they looked to me more like great wonderful, tropical birds than human beings, and they seemed so honey-luscious in their good nature that I'm sure all the things that serious and learned people say in England about the "dangers of the increasing coloured population in America" must be nonsense. Serious and learned people do make such mistakes, through never seeing the fun in anything; and every few years they find out that they have been quite wrong in what they have taught with so much trouble, about comets and microbes and men, and other progressive things.

We had a number of these tropical birds that have been tamed to serve the railway, to help us with our bags and things getting into the train, although there were Louise and a couple of Mrs. Ess Kay's footmen as well. I looked at their brown hands, and they were quite pink inside, as pink as mine. I don't know why this gave me a shock, but it did. Perhaps one had the feeling that the nice creatures were only painted to play their parts, or that their white souls—just like ours—were striking through their skins.

It was a beautiful train. Even the engine was different from our kind, much fiercer, and reared its head higher, like a wild stag compared to a stout but reliable ox. Our carriage had no compartments in it, but was just one long wide, moving corridor, all plate glass windows and mirrors, and painted panels, and velvet arm chairs dotted about, rather like a hotel drawing-room on wheels.

There were a good many people in it when we got in, which annoyed Mrs. Ess Kay so much that she wished she had borrowed a private car from a friend who would have loved lending it. But I was glad she hadn't, for the people were part of the fun. Mrs. Ess Kay was sure they were nobodies, because she didn't happen to know any of their faces; but perhaps they were thinking the same thing about her.

Anyway, they were mostly women and all pretty and perfectly dressed, as even quite common people appear to be in America. I haven't caught sight of a dowdy woman since I came. None of their frocks hitch up in front and dip down behind, as you see people's doing if you are taken to a shop in Oxford Street or even sometimes in Bond Street; and their belts always point beautifully down at the waist, although it isn't the Season in New York.

The train was a fast one, and simply hurled itself and us through space, as if we had got onto the tail of a comet by mistake; but it hardly waggled at all, so that we could have studied the scenery nicely if we had been able to see it behind the advertisements.

Passing the outskirts of New York, it seemed as if every villa, even the quite smart ones, did their own washing. The gardens—which Sally told me to call back yards—were just as full of clean clothes as the meadows were of advertisement hoardings, and I rather wondered why some enterprising agents didn't go round and offer the people big prices for painting Uneeda Biscuit on their petticoats and shirts.

We tore through such charming places with fascinating houses built of wood, among parks of feathery green trees, that I was sure Newport could be no prettier; but Mrs. Ess Kay spoiled the most picturesque one for me by saying that it was practically settled by retired butchers and tailors. According to Mrs. Ess Kay and her brother, all you have to do to be sure of being rich in America, is to decide to be either a tailor or a butcher, so it seems quite simple, and I'm surprised that everybody doesn't do it. Only if you do, it appears there is no use in your going to Newport until you've lived it down; which, of course, must be a drawback.

Just as I had got rather giddy from looking out of the window, a boy (exactly like the boys in melodrama who begin by selling papers and end by saving the heroine from the villain) came into the car, piled up to his head with novels and magazines. He scattered a lot over us, like manna, without asking us to pay, but just as I had got passionately interested in a short story he came back and began to gather everything up. Seeing that I clung to my lot, Potter bought them all for me, before I could stop him.

There were two books and four magazines, with superlatively good-looking, well-groomed young men and divinely lovely girls for the heroes and heroines. The story I was most interested in had a hero like Mr. Brett; but it was disappointing in the end, because he married a short plump girl with black eyes, and somehow it spoiled the realism, as I couldn't fancy he would really have cared so dreadfully for a girl like that. Anyway, it put me out of the mood for reading any more stories and I began glancing over the advertisements. At least, I glanced at first, but soon I was absorbed; for they were wonderful.

I had never dreamed that there were such kind, thoughtful men in business as the ones who advertised in those fat American magazines,—and so clever, too; they seemed to have spent their whole past lives simply in studying things, so that eventually they could make you happy and save you trouble.

They lived only for that, those incredibly nice men. There were photographs of some of them with their advertisements, so that you could know what they were really like, and have even more confidence in them than you would if you hadn't seen their style of features. There were two or three whose profiles I could never get to feel at home with, even if I had been born with one of them; but the majority were brave, energetic,—oh! terribly energetic-looking men, as indeed they would need to be, if they were really to accomplish all the things they promised, not only for you but for the hundreds of thousands of other people who might be inclined to put them to the test.

There were things like this in the magazines,—all the magazines:

* * * * *

"Listen to me, Miss (or Madam). I have something to say which will interest You. Do you want a Perfect Complexion? Don't move. Sit still in your chair. Cut out this Coupon. Slip it into a stamped envelope, and we will give You what You want by return of post."

"Why Suffer? You have Headache. We have the Cure. We ask nothing better than to take away the One and give you the Other."

"Let us lend you a Beautiful Diamond Ring to wear till you are tired of it. When you are, we will take it back, and return you all but five per cent. of your money."

"Don't come to Us. Let us come to You, and bring You Something. You have always Wanted Health, Wealth, Wisdom."

"We would like to give You some Friendly Advice. We don't want a Red Cent for it."

"You are going to have a Party, and you are worried. Don't worry. Just 'phone to us, and we will arrange Everything for you better than you could yourself, with no trouble to you and your servants."

* * * * *

There were so many splendid things to have, to wear, and to eat, advertised in the same kind, fatherly way, that I felt as if I had unconsciously yearned for each one of them more than for anything else in my life, and now it had been put into my head in all its fatal fascination, I couldn't possible exist another day without sending for it, to one in that procession of noble, self-sacrificing, American advertisers. I felt, too, that if anything disagreeable should happen to me, like a railway or motor car accident, I could spend the rest of my existence lying down, and still the splendid things would come running to me, if I just 'phoned or flung a stamp into space.

I mentioned something of the sort to Sally. "I wonder they don't offer to choose you a husband," said I. "I didn't know advertisements could be so interesting."

"What about your own?" she asked. "They're a hundred times quainter."

I thought hard about the Morning Post and The Queen, but couldn't remember anything extraordinary in the advertising line, and said so.

"Perhaps you, being English, don't see anything extraordinary about a clergyman's wife offering to exchange a canary bird for six months' subscription to Punch; or the widow of an officer earnestly desiring an idiot lady to board with her; or a decayed gentlewoman inviting the public to give her five pounds; but we, being American, do," replied Sally. "Why, I'd rather read the advertisements in some of your morning papers and ladies' weeklies than I would eat."

"Talking of eating, it's lunch-time," said Potter. "There'll be a big menagerie feeding in the dining-car, but there's no good waiting for it to finish, as then there'll be no food left."

So we took his suggestion; and there was a crowd, but he had secured a table for four, and we squeezed ourselves into the places.

I have travelled abroad with Mother and Vic, where there were Americans in the dining-car, and they have been cross because they didn't get served quickly and they have said things. But in this car going to Newport, you forgot what you had had last before the next course came, yet nobody seemed to mind. They were as patient as lambs, and simply took what was given them when they could get it, although they looked as if they were used to everything very nice at home. I suppose it must have been because they were all Americans together, eating American things, with American waiters to wait upon them and no foreigners who ought to know they wouldn't stand that sort of nonsense, hanged if they would.

Some of Mrs. Ess Kay's servants had gone on before us, and some were in our train. Exactly how it was managed, I don't know; but things that would worry us into grey-haired graves don't seem to bother Americans at all; and there was the motor waiting when we arrived at the end of our journey, with a private motor omnibus for the servants and luggage.

Sometimes it is rather a pretty sight at the station where you have to get out for Battlemead, or for the village, when one of the best trains from Town comes in, especially if Mother or anyone at other big places in the neighbourhood should be having a house party. There are several rather good victorias with nice sleek horses, a handsome brougham or two, a motor car or two, to say nothing of dog carts and phaetons. But it is a poor show compared to the scene at Newport. I felt suddenly as if I were at the theatre, and the curtain had just gone up on a brilliant new act.

There was a crowd of gorgeous carriages; and jet-black varnish, gold and silver harness, and horses' brown and chestnut backs all glittered blindingly in the sun. But there were even more motors than carriages, it seemed; or else they were more conspicuous; and many were being driven by beautiful girls in muslins such as we would wear to a garden party, with nothing on their pretty heads except their splendid hair, dressed everlastingly in the same way.

Now, I saw Mrs. Ess Kay and Potter in their element. There was no suggestion that the people were not good enough for them, here. Mrs. Ess Kay radiated smiles, bowing cordially right and left, sometimes even more cordially than her friends bowed in return. Potter was taking off his straw hat and waving it. There were evidently no nobodies here. They were delighted to see everybody, for Everybody was Somebody, and some, but not all, of the Everybodies were delighted to see them. Sally alone remained unmoved; and I was glad to have her to keep me in countenance, in this new act, where I knew none of the players or what part I should be called upon to take by and by.

I had heard so much that was dazzling about Newport, which I had imagined a great white city by the sea, that the part I saw first after leaving the railway station was distinctly a blow. "This quiet, half-asleep village the greatest watering place of America, perhaps of the world!" I said to myself, almost scornfully; but when we had bowled into Bellevue Avenue, where Mrs. Ess Kay said that her cottage was, I began to understand.

I wasn't sure at first sight what I did think of the great splendid houses, with mere pocket-handkerchief lawns such as people would have for suburban villas at home; but they gave me a tremendous impression of concentrated wealth. This seemed a place where everybody was rich, where millions were at a discount, and I thought—whatever else I did think—that it would be a place to stop away from unless you were happy—happy and strong and gay.

But there was one thing I was very sure of. The Avenue itself was more full than our Park in the topmost height of the Season.

People don't look happy, driving in the Park, not even the pretty people. I have found that, whenever I have been, and though that isn't so very often yet, Vic says it is really and truly always the same.

The great beauties look bored, and some of them have their faces painted and the air of wearing transformations; but not one of the charming women driving up and down Bellevue Avenue that afternoon looked bored, and hardly any were painted. I never saw people appear to be so delighted with life, and so thoroughly alive, as if the glorious sea air were frothing in their veins, like champagne.

In the Park you don't see people laughing and talking to each other in carriages. They simply lean back on the cushions with an expression that seems to say, "This is the only thing I can think of to do, so I'm doing it just to kill time." Probably they don't really feel like that, but they look it. And as for the people who sit and watch, or stand and wait, they've usually a strained expression in their eyes, as if they were afraid of missing somebody or something of importance.

But here in Bellevue Avenue everybody was smiling and chatting; and I noticed that the men weren't so preternaturally alert as the men in New York. Some had actually taken time to get fat, which, so far I'd had reason to suppose, was a thing that never happened to American men.

And somehow the young girls had the air of being a great deal more important than we are at home. You could tell from the very way they sat and held up their heads in the motor cars and dog carts and other things, that they thought the world was theirs, and they were the people to know in it. One was driving a tandem, and she didn't look more than seventeen. I was glad when she bowed to Mrs. Ess Kay, because she was pretty and I made up my mind that I should like to know her.

"That's Cora Pitchley's step-daughter, Carolyn," said Mrs. Ess Kay. "Do you remember Margaret Taylour telling anecdotes of Cora? She doesn't bother much with the girl. People are talking about them both rather a lot this year, they say."

"Carolyn," I repeated. "What a pretty name, and how American-sounding, somehow. Fancy her driving tandem, with only that tiny groom if anything should happen. She must be plucky. How old is she?"

"Eighteen. She was one of last October's buds."

"October's buds," I repeated. "It sounds poetical—but unseasonable."

Potter answered with a laugh.

"Yes, we like things out of season in America, so we bring out most of our buds in October. Then they have the whole winter to bloom in, you know, before they're grafted on another stalk."

"Here comes Cora herself, now, in Tom Doremus's Electra," said Mrs. Ess Kay. "It must make Mrs. Van der Windt wild, his going so much with the Pitchley lot, as she can't stand them, and would keep Cora and Carolyn out of everything in Newport if she could."

I didn't wonder at Mr. Doremus, though, as I bowed to him and found time to know exactly how Mrs. Pitchley looked and what she wore, in the half second before our two motors flashed apart. I thought her splendidly handsome, and I liked the gleam in her dark grey eyes, which promised fun. But just then our chauffeur slowed down before a house which seemed to cover about a quarter of a mile of ground.

"Welcome to my little cottage, dear Betty," said Mrs. Ess Kay.

If this is her idea of a cottage, I don't know what her conception of a castle must be! And yet, when you come to analyse it, there really is something about the place which suggests a kind of glorified, Titanic cottage, rather too grand for a king, unless he were a fairy king, but possibly suited to an Emperor. But I do believe rich Americans think that what is good enough for a king is only just good enough for them at a pinch;—and I've heard Mrs. Ess Kay call Windsor dreadfully shabby.

Her "cottage" looks as it were built of grey satinwood, but it is really shingles; and shingles can be the loveliest material imaginable, it seems, for the covering of a house, especially with a foundation of granite sparkling with mica. They are soft and shimmery in their tints, these shingles, as a dove's breast; some are dark, some light, but all are feathery in effect; and altogether The Moorings, with its gables, and porches, and bow windows, and balconies and wide verandahs, gives the effect of a huge, ruffly and motherly grey bird with her wings spread wide to shelter her birdlings.

I felt quite content to be one of the birdlings as I went in. I am sorry to say I'm not a bit fonder of Mrs. Ess Kay than I was in the ship; but the "cottage" looked so hospitable and jolly, and the air and the sunshine sparkled so, that I couldn't help feeling that it was pleasant to be young, and alive, and on the threshold of amusing new adventures. I was happy, and I would have liked to sing. I wanted to be very good friends with everybody, including Potter; and I fell in love with the house, the minute I set foot on the front verandah.

The great gorgeous palace in New York is far grander, of course, and must have cost four or five times as much; still, only very rich people could have built and furnished The Moorings, or afford to live in it.

There is a big square hall, not to be compared to ours at Battlemead, of course, though the Persian rugs and the pictures are fine; but the staircase is peculiarly charming. It looks a staircase made for sitting out dances with men you like, and evidently it knows its value as a flirting place and lives up to it, for there are fat, bright-coloured silk and satin cushions resting invitingly against the wall, on each one of the shallow steps. Most of the rooms are enormous, and consist half of quaint leaded windows, with seats underneath. But better than anything else is the verandah, which runs all round the house, and is not only as wide as a good-sized room, but is fitted up like a succession of rooms. The delicate bead curtains that glitter like a rain of green and white and rose-coloured jewels give you a feeling of privacy, for you can see through them without being seen. The satiny grey floor is half covered with exquisite rugs; and everywhere there are Oriental tables and chairs, and cushiony sofas and green hammocks with frilly pink pillows, and screens, and bowers of palms and bright azaleas. I should like to live on that verandah swinging slowly in a hammock, and looking through the cascade of glittering beads at the sea and sky. I spoke this thought out aloud, but Potter said I would soon learn that there wasn't much time in Newport for looking at the sea and sky.

"Why, isn't that partly what you come to Newport for?" I asked.

They all laughed. "You just wait and find out," answered Potter. "And we'll work you pretty hard doing it."

Mrs. Ess Kay and Sally took me up to show me my room and theirs, and Potter said that he would go round and look in at the Casino, but he would come back and have tea with us, as soon as he had seen "what there was doing."

Each bedroom is done in a colour, and mine is the "white room." It was almost too heavy-sweet with some powerful flower fragrance, when we went in. For an instant I could not think what it was; but in another moment I had seen on tables and cabinets and window shelves, great bowls of water lilies, rising out of their dark leaves like moons out of cloud banks.

"From Potter," said Mrs. Ess Kay. "He telegraphed for them to be here, and sent word to the servants just how he wanted them arranged. I must say he does think of rather pretty things when he cares to please. And he does care to please you, Betty. But you know that without my telling you, don't you, my Lady Witch?"

It was hard-hearted of me, but all my pleasure in the gleaming white beauties went out, like a bursting bubble. It gets on my nerves to be grateful to Potter three or four times a day!

Nevertheless, when he came back (which he did after we had dressed, and were having tea behind the rain of glittering glass) I had to thank him prettily. He was pleased, but was evidently thinking about something else.

"I didn't get to the Casino, after all," said he. "I met Mrs. Pitchley going out to make a call (she was on her way home, it seems, when we met her) and she offered to turn back if I'd go with her, so I did."

"Now, see here, Potter Parker," broke in Mrs. Ess Kay, "I don't wish you to set up as another of Cora Pitchley's champions. It's all very well for Margaret Taylour to be forever quoting her; and she is fun, but she goes around being original in the wrong way, that nobody admires. That is, she does what she wants and not what other people want her to do. Margaret spends her summers at Blue Bay, and I spend mine at Newport, and I'm not going to have Mrs. Van der Windt down on me, or on my brother, either, if I can help it."

"Thanks for good advice," replied Potter airily. "But may be, when you hear what Mrs. Pitchley had to say to me, you'll change your tune."

Mrs. Ess Kay raised her eyebrows, but her eyes would look curious. "What could Cora Pitchley say that would have any particular effect on me?" she asked.

"She knows for a fact that she isn't to be asked to the Pink Ball on the twenty-third, and that Mrs. Van der Windt herself scratched your name off the list before she sailed for Europe."

Mrs. Ess Kay's face went a dull, ugly red, and she laughed a loud laugh which sounded as if it would be the same colour. "As for Cora, I can quite understand; but I don't believe the woman would have dared to try to exclude me," she said in a quivery voice.

"Why shouldn't she have dared, when you come to think of it?"

"Well, anyhow—she don't dare now."

"No, naturally, she won't dare now. You're as smart as they make 'em, Kath."

Then, for some reason, they both turned and gazed at me with a "thank-goodness-here's-a-floating-spar" sort of look, while Sally examined the grounds in her tea-cup, with that funny little three-cornered smile of hers.

"Was that the thing you thought would change me toward Cora Pitchley?" asked Mrs. Ess Kay.

"Yes, I thought it would give you a sort of fellow feeling."

"It doesn't," said she, shortly, "and nobody but a man could have thought it would. It makes me feel all the more that I don't want to be mixed up with her, for—for Betty's sake."

Potter whistled, with one thumb in a breast pocket. "For the che-ild's sake," he remarked dramatically; and Mrs. Ess Kay looked angry.

"I shan't invite the Pitchleys to my big affair," said she; "the affair I'm going to have for Betty."

"Oh, but you must please not put yourself out for me!" I exclaimed. "I should be so sorry to have you do that."

Potter laughed "Don't you try to rob her of her dearest triumph, Lady Daisy. You're the big gem for the middle of the setting. You're the Kohinoor."

"Potter! You ought to be ashamed of yourself, talking to her like that," said Mrs. Ess Kay. "But all he means, Betty, is that I shall be very glad to do anything I can to make your visit pleasant; and it will be no trouble at all for me to give an entertainment, you may be quite sure."

She said this as the Queen might say that it didn't matter to her whether there were seventy-five people or seventy-six asked to a garden party; and I realised that I was snubbed; so I said no more.



IX

ABOUT BATHING, A DRESS, AND AN EARL

Mrs. Ess Kay had a headache next morning, and stopped in bed. She couldn't speak or be spoken to, and so we couldn't possibly ask her advice about going to Bailey's Beach for a dip in the sea. Potter—whose proposal it was—said that this was perhaps Providential, as she was almost certain to want me to stay in till I could be taken out officially. "But you don't need to know that," he added.

I looked at Sally, and she laughed; so I knew that I was to go.

"Oh, but what about bathing clothes!" I exclaimed, on a sudden thought. "How stupid of me not to have remembered that I would want them, before I left home, or in New York!"

"I reckon it would have been stupid of us if we hadn't remembered," said Sally. Then she went on,—irrelevantly, it seemed at first: "What day of the month is to-morrow?"

"The twenty-ninth of July," said Potter, promptly, while I was resigning myself, after a slight struggle, to the fact that I had lost track of dates.

"Seem's to me that's somebody's birthday, isn't it?" Sally appeared to address her remark to the ceiling.

"How did you know?" I exclaimed.

"A little bird told me; the kind that builds in birthday books. It lives on a table in Lady Victoria's 'den'."

"Fancy your keeping the date in your head all this time!"

"I've a weakness for remembering birthdays—when I'm fond of the people who own them. You see, everybody thinks about Christmas, and I don't want to be confused with everybody, in the minds of just those special people. Now, the truth is, I've got a little birthday present upstairs, which I didn't mean you should see until tomorrow, but as part of it may come in rather handy this morning, perhaps we might run up and have a look at it."

"Oh, Sally, you dear!" I exclaimed.

"Oh, Sally, you wretch, to have kept that birthday to yourself; I want to be on in this act," grumbled Potter. But I hardly heard him, I was so excited about what I was going to find upstairs.

We went to my room, Sally and I; and she rang for Louise, who was told to fetch from what Sally called her "closet" a certain black "trunk" of whose existence Louise was evidently already aware.

It was a good-sized box, big enough to hold two or three dresses; and when it was opened by Sally after Louise had gone, it proved to contain three and a half.

One of the three was a blue gauze ball gown, embroidered with patterns of thistles in tiny sparkling things that looked like diamonds; the second was pink tulle, with garlands of tiny roses; the third was a white linen, made as only Americans know how to make up linens; and the half was—well, I was not quite sure what it was at first, though I could see that it was pretty. It was pale green and there were two parts of it. The bigger of the two (it was not very big) was of soft silk, and extremely fluffy. It had a low-necked and short-sleeved bodice, and attached to that was a skirt—or something that would have been a skirt if it had had more time to grow. The second part was silk, too, but more difficult to describe. Perhaps I'd do best to say that it was like long stockings, only it was in one piece and evidently meant to fasten round the waist.

"There's also a pair of sandals and a really sweet cap, deah," Sally explained.

"Is it a fancy dress for a little girl?" I asked puzzled.

"For a little girl about your size. Why, you funny child, it's your bathing dress. I had to get it and all the other things ready made, for there wasn't time for anything more than having them altered to your measurement if they were to be ready for your birthday."

"Oh, Sally, are they all for me?"

"Well, they're for nobody else. It's your birthday."

Of course I told her she was an angel, and so she was, quite an exceptional kind of an angel; and I kissed her, and was saying a great many things, when she stopped me. "So glad you like them, deah. But now we must be moving if we're to have our bath this morning. Louise can't leave Katherine, but we'll have one of the other maids come with our things. It's getting late."

I felt frightfully. "It is late, isn't it?" said I, hopefully, looking at my watch. "Perhaps it's too late to go this morning, after all."

"Not a bit of it," said Sally. "Come along."

"I'm not sure but that I'd better stop in, if Mr. Parker thinks Mrs. Stuyvesant-Knox would want me to," I floundered on.

"She won't mind—not much, anyway, if we don't take you to the Casino without her," Sally tried to reassure me. But her eyes had begun to twinkle.

"Don't you think she might? There are a lot of letters I ought——"

"Now child, out with it. Don't you like the bathing dress?"

"Oh, I admire it immensely," I stammered. "It's like a—a picture. But—I can't see myself wearing it. That is, I can't bear to think of anyone else seeing me wear it."

Sally went off into a fit of musical Southern laughter. "You poor baby. I forgot the shock it might be to you, if you're accustomed only to English bathing clothes. They certainly are the limit! Have you never been to Trouville or Ostend?"

I shook my head, sad at having to seem ungrateful. But how could I help it?

"Well, they have this kind there, and so they do here. Everybody has it. My prettiest one is much like yours, only it's poppy-coloured. Katherine's is cornflower blue this year, and she's got a black one and a lilac one. When you see all the others prancing about in the same sort of things, you won't feel a bit funny."

I was far from sure that I should attain to such a peaceful state of mind as not to "feel funny"; but Sally had called me a baby, and I had to redeem myself from that aspersion at any price. So I tried to compose my countenance over a beating heart, and think about other things on the way to the beach, as you do if you are going to the dentist's.

Potter went with us, though I supposed that when we came to the end, he would bid us good-bye, and trot off to the place where the men bathed, wherever that might be. Our things had been taken on ahead by a servant or two, and we walked, as the day was perfect, and I was thankful to get a little exercise.

We met a great many people whom Sally and Potter knew, and just as Potter had said, "Here we are at Bailey's Beach," that handsome Mrs. Pitchley and her stepdaughter, with Mr. Doremus came up. They called to us, so we stopped to speak, and I was pleased because I'd been wanting to know them. We were introduced, and I was wondering what Mrs. Ess Kay would do if she could see us chatting with the Pitchleys in sight of all Newport, when a little thin man, looking perfectly furious, with a striped bathing suit rolled up under his arm, came hopping along towards us, as if he were a cricket ball that somebody had batted off the beach.

His panama hat was on the back of his head; his single eyeglass on its chain was flying out behind him in the breeze, and my first thought was how comical he looked. My second, as he came nearer, was something quite different.

"Why, Mohunsleigh!" I cried.

He stopped hopping so abruptly that he stumbled, and nearly fell down.

"Hullo, Betty," he growled, hauling off his hat as if he hated the bother of doing it. "Where did you spring from?"

"Home. Where on earth did you spring from?" I echoed.

"They've sprung me off their beastly beach," said he, glaring, and sticking in his eyeglass. Then he almost waved his hideous little bathing suit at me. "Wouldn't let me bathe, the bounders."

"Wouldn't let you bathe?"

"No. Said, 'You can't get in here. This beach is for millionaires.' I'm blest if I don't shake the sand off my feet as soon as I can pack up and get out."

"No, no, don't do that," I begged. "There's some mistake, perhaps."

"No, there isn't," said he. "I'm not a millionaire; but I did think I looked as if I could afford a bathe."

"Sally dear, do let me introduce my cousin, Lord Mohunsleigh," I said in a great hurry.

Potter opened his eyes at the thin little man, and Mrs. and Miss Pitchley looked at him with interest.

"Do introduce us all," laughed Mrs. Pitchley, "and then we can sympathise with Lord—Lord—oh, but I can never learn to pronounce him."

I introduced him to the mother and stepdaughter then, though I hadn't thought of its being necessary, and explained that my cousin, though spelled very elaborately, was pronounced Moonslee.

He had evidently abandoned all intention of immediate flight now, and his rage was visibly cooling. He was looking at Mrs. Pitchley with quite as much interest as she showed in him, and with even more at the girl, although he talked to Potter Parker, and answered his questions quite civilly. He explained that he had actually been ordered away from the beach, bathing suit and all, by some "impertinent ass of an official."

Potter was hospitably distressed, but Mrs. Pitchley was moved to laughter.

"Ha, ha, won't the man be sick when he sees you coming back with us, and hears us call you Lord Mohunsleigh?—for if you'll point him out in time, that's what I shall call you, right under his nose. You see, this is a private beach. We all subscribe for our bath houses; but you'll be our guest, of course, and I'll put Mr. Pitchley's box at your service. He's gone off fishing for a few days. Only to think of the Earl of Mohunsleigh being turned back. Delicious!"

"Can't say I thought of it that way till now," said Mohunsleigh, pulling his wiry moustache, and condescending to grin slightly at last. "But it's true, I'm not a millionaire, you know."

"You're an earl, you can't say you're not, for I read in The Flashlight only the other day that the Earl of Mohunsleigh had sailed for America, though it couldn't be ascertained on what ship."

"Didn't know there was any particular reason why it should be ascertained," said Mohunsleigh. "I've run over, to visit a chap in California,—dashed nice chap, too, but thought I'd have a shot at New York first, and blest if I could stand it; never could stand being grilled since a sunstroke I got when I was serving in India."

"Dear me, who and what does a lord serve?" broke in Miss Pitchley; which surprised Mohunsleigh and me both so much that he stared, and I blushed. But she didn't, though no girl under Vic's age at least would think of cutting in like that with a stranger, at home. Mohunsleigh was delighted to be spoken to by her, though, one could see. His eyes brightened up, and he smiled, looking straight at her, as if she were a new and absolutely desirable kind of rifle. I say rifle, because Mohunsleigh is a great shot, and would rather spend his money (what he has of it) on a new invention by way of a gun than anything else.

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