Well, to make a long story less long, Mrs. Shuster and Mr. Caspian had put their heads together over the hotel idea. Both had taken advantage of Peter Storm's brief absence to forget that it had originated in his brain. They spoke of "our plan," and for the moment he claimed no credit, as I should have been tempted to do. It was only when they began to develop the said plan upon lines evidently different from those agreed upon with him that he roused himself.
"In thinking it over," Ed Caspian explained to Larry, "Mrs. Shuster and I have decided that the simplest thing would be for me to advance any capital necessary to start the hotel enterprise: advertising and a lot of things like that. All in a business way of course. Miss Moore can give me a mortgage——"
"I beg your pardon," the S. M. cut him off in a voice quite low but keen as a knife. "The hotel suggestion was mine, wasn't it, Miss Moore?"
"Yes," Pat assented, "it certainly was." She looked from one man to the other, puzzled and interested.
"I shouldn't have made the suggestion if I weren't more or less of an expert in such matters." Storm said this with almost aggressive self-confidence. One had to believe that he knew what he was talking about; that his apparently mysterious past included the management of hotels, and this instinctive if reluctant credence was a tribute to the man's magnetic power. He did look the last person on earth to be a hotel-keeper! Believing that he might have been one ought to have destroyed the romance attached to him, but somehow it made the flame of curiosity burn brighter.
"Don't you all think," he went on, "that the suggestor ought to have a voice in the working out of the scheme—that is, if he has anything to say worth hearing?"
"Seems to me this is a case for acts, not arguments," remarked Caspian. "It isn't good advice but money that's needed at this stage."
"Exactly," said Storm. "The question is, how is it to be obtained? I think it would be more advantageous to Mr. Moore and his daughter for a small syndicate to be formed than for them to get the capital on a mortgage. They are amateurs. They don't know how to run a hotel. They might make a failure, and the mortgage could be called in——"
"I wouldn't do such a thing!" Caspian angrily cut him short. "That's why I came forward—so they could have a friend rather than a business man——"
"It turns out awkwardly sometimes, doing business with friends," said Storm, giving the other a level look straight from eye to eye. So may a cat look at a king. So may a steerage passenger look at a millionaire if he isn't afraid. And apparently this one wasn't afraid, having only other people's axes to grind, not his own. "Forming a company or syndicate, Mr. and Miss Moore would have shares in the business, given them for what they could put into it: their historic place and beautiful house. Mrs. Shuster would take up a large group of shares, and would, I understand, become one of the first guests of the hotel, to show her confidence in the scheme. Isn't that the case, Mrs. Shuster?"
"Oh, yes!" she agreed. All the man's magnetic influence—temporarily dimmed by her old friend Ed in the motor car—seemed to rush over her again in a warm wave.
"Mr. Caspian is of course free to join the syndicate," continued the S. M. "But he, too, is an amateur. He may know how to live well in hotels, he doesn't know how to run them well."
"I'm not a hotel-keeper, thank heaven, if that's what you mean!" said Caspian. "But I happen to have money."
"Yes, you happen to have money," thoughtfully repeated Storm.
"Which—I suppose we may take for granted—you haven't."
"You may take that for granted, Mr. Caspian."
It was now quite evidently a duel between the two men, strangers to each other and as far apart as one pole from another, yet for some reason (perhaps unknown, only felt, by themselves) instinctively antagonistic. Jack and I were lost in joy of the encounter, and a glance at Pat showed me that, schoolgirl as she is, she caught the electric thrill in the atmosphere. Larry, too, was visibly interested. He'd opened a box of games on the table where rested his elbow, and taking out some packs of cards he had mechanically begun to play "Patience"—a characteristic protest of the spirit against dull discussions of business, even his own. He would like things to be nicely arranged for him, I suspected, but he couldn't be bothered with petty details. He seemed just to take it happily for granted that people ought to be glad to straighten matters out for a charming "play-boy" like him. The tone of the two men, however, had suddenly snatched his attention from the intricacies of Patience (a fascinating new Patience, I noticed). He was captured, but not, I felt, because of any personal concern he had in the battle. I did wonder what was passing behind the bright hazel eyes which moved from Storm's face to Caspian's, and back again.
"Well, then, if I'm to take it for granted that you've no money, where do you come in?" the late socialist was sharply demanding while my thoughts wandered.
"I don't come in," said Storm. "I act as Mrs. Shuster's secretary, and her spokesman. It seems she has no business manager, so my duties may carry me occasionally in that direction, I begin to see. If she's to have interests in this affair, I must protect them according to my judgment. My judgment tells me that they could best be protected by having an expert for a large shareholder—perhaps the largest. Such a man would have every incentive to work for the scheme's success. And I know the right man."
"You do?" Contemptuous incredulity rang in Caspian's emphasis. "Name him!" This was a challenge.
Ed Caspian laughed a short, hard laugh.
"Marcel Moncourt! Why, that man wouldn't give up his ease to manage a gilt-edged boarding-house in the country—no, not to please an emperor!"
"Maybe not," said Storm coolly. "There aren't many emperors just now a Frenchman wants to please."
"You think he'd give the preference to you!"
"Not to me. But to Mr. and Miss Moore. And"—the man glanced at his employer—"Mrs. Shuster." She flushed at the immense, the inconceivable compliment, for Marcel Moncourt, I suppose (don't you?), is as grand a chef as there is in the world, almost a classic figure of his kind, and a gentleman by birth, they say. Even Mrs. Shuster, who doesn't know much outside her own immediate circle of interests, had managed to catch some vague echo of the great Moncourt's fame. As for Larry, he became suddenly alert as a schoolboy who learns that the best "tuck box" ever packed is destined for him.
"Good lord!" he exclaimed. "You don't mean you can get the one and only Marcel to take charge at Kidd's Pines?"
"I know—or used to know—a person who can certainly persuade him to do so, and on very short notice," said the S. M.
"That settles it, then!" cried Larry. "Can you guess what I was doing? 'Ruling passion strong in death'—and that sort of thing! I was betting with myself which of you two would come out ahead in the argument and gain his point over the other. I thought—I must say—the odds were with Mr. Caspian, for gold weighs down the scales. But Marcel is worth his weight in gold. Put him in the balance, and the argument's ended. I didn't mean to take a hand in the game! I felt so confident it would work out all right either way. But with Marcel and Mr. Storm on one side, and Mr. Caspian with a gold-mine on the other, we choose Marcel—don't we, girlie?"
"Who is Marcel?" inquired girlie, thus appealed to.
Larry laughed. "She's just out of a convent," he apologized for his child's abysmal ignorance. "Marcel Moncourt, my dear," he enlightened her, "was the making of a millionaire, who would never have been anybody without him. Once upon a time there was an old man named Stanislaws, not particularly interesting nor intelligent except as a money grubber—oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Caspian, I forgot he was related to you!—but he was lucky, and the best bit of luck he ever had was getting hold of this Marcel as chef and general manager of his establishment. No one had bothered about Mr. Stanislaws before, rich as he was, but with Marcel at the helm, he could have any one he liked as his guest, from a foreign prince or an American President to a Pierpont Morgan. Of course they all tried to get Marcel away; but he was like iron to the magnet—none of us could ever understand why. It looked almost like a mystery! When there were no more Stanislaws on earth, then, and not till then, Marcel considered himself free. He had the world to choose from; and he chose to rest. He is now a gentleman of leisure. Any one starting a hotel who could secure Marcel would be made—made! But I should have said no hope, short of a Fifth Avenue palace, if that. No more hope for us than of getting the Angel Gabriel to stand blowing his trumpet in front of the door."
"There is no hope. I'd stake my life on that," said Caspian emphatically. "When I came into my cousin's money, after the poor old man's murder and all the other tragedies, I offered Marcel a salary of fifteen thousand dollars a year to come to me. By Jove, I'd have built a house to fit him. But he wouldn't listen. Tired of work was his only excuse."
"Tired of making millionaires popular, perhaps," murmured Mr. Storm to a picture of Cousin John Randolph Payton on the wall.
Caspian's heavenly blue eyes snapped with another kind of blue fire. "I should say that no power except that of blackmail could induce Marcel Moncourt to take any interest, active or financial, in our scheme down here. Perhaps that is your secret?"
If I hadn't seen the steerage passenger smile when Mrs. Shuster accused him of being a gentleman and offered him cast-off clothes, I should have expected violence. He smiled much in the same way now, to Pat's relief and Larry's disappointment. "Perhaps it is," he said. "I've always thought it must be exciting to be a blackmailer. Anyhow, it is my secret. If I can get—or, rather, if my friend can get—Marcel to put money and gray matter into Kidd's Pines as a hotel, Mr. Moore—Miss Moore, will you have him—and the Syndicate?"
"We would have him and the devil!" cried Larry.
Ed Caspian looked as if he suspected that having Marcel and Peter Storm might turn out much the same thing. But he was the only "No," and the "Ayes" had it.
Afterward Mrs. Shuster told me that Ed Caspian vowed to find out all about our Ship's Mystery if it took his last penny. So we may "see some fun," as Larry says.
But perhaps you've had enough of our scheme and schemers for the moment, Mercedes mia!
Ever your loving MOLLY.
P. S. I suppose he can't be a blackmailer? He might be anything!
PATRICIA MOORE TO ADRIENNE DE MONCOURT, HER BEST FRIEND IN THE CONVENT SCHOOL AT NEUILLY
Kidd's Pines, Long Island, April 3d.
J'ai beaucoup de choses a dire—oh no, I forgot—you asked me to write in English, because it would help your spelling. That was a large compliment, mon petit choux, but do look up the most difficult words in the dictionary. It would be more safe. I am trying to think in English, but I find I think faster in French still; and I need to think extremely fast now, as fast as heat lightning. Aussi I dream in French, about American people, which mixes me up; and one laughs when I don't get my sentences right. You must not take me for a model, though I will do all my possible, and improve as the time passes on.
As I promised, I begin a letter to you on the ship, but I cannot finish, for too many things happening and the times—I mean the weather—being so bad. Perhaps it is better I did not, for everything is different now from what we thought. Darling Larry has lost all his money, and we are in the soup. But it is a superb soup, because we have a chef the most famous of the world. I have almost fear to tell you his name! It is the same as yours, only that naturally he has not the "de," though he has the grand air and is richer than we when we were rich. It will look strange to you, this, that we should have an employe so wonderful when we are in ruins. But he is not an employe like others. We are as his servants. And we have him because he helps us make our house a hotel for the high world. He is not alone in helping us, my father and me. There is, besides, a band who helps. Not a band that plays music, you comprehend, but a ring—a circle of people. I have made their acquaintance on the ship, all but one who came on the quai when we arrived, and broke the truth of Larry. I did not cry, though I saw all my happy days we have talked of so much, you and me, fly away in smoke. I thought not of them, but of Larry, which was worse, for I had a cold fear in my heart like the lumps of raspberry ice we sometimes swallowed too large and fast on the fete days. I feared he might have suffered too much and made himself die. I can speak of that now when I know he is saved. But he did not even wish to be dead. He is brave and wonderful and has earned some of the money back at roulette. I hoped he would earn more like that, it was so easy, beginning only with a few dollars and waiting till they mounted up, and he hoped so, too. But he has had to put himself in the hands of the band who advise us, and they do not approve the roulette. It is too often raided by the police; and then you do not win quite always.
Larry is too much the charmer for a good man of affairs, and I do not know what would have become of us two if it had not been for this band. It was they who thought of the hotel. At least, it was one—a man. I cannot tell you all about him now, it would take too long a time. And, besides, what can you tell of a man when you know nothing of him unless that he makes every one march as he chooses either with some word or some look of the eyes, though he is the poorest of all and has taken work as secretary? He is named Storm. For a man he is young, though for you and me it would be an age—thirty or thirty-two, Mrs. Winston thinks. Captain and Mrs. Winston are of the band. He is Captain the Honourable. That is the way the English put their titles with the soldier part in the front. They spell it "Honble" on letters or the lists of passengers, but you do not call them by it at all, which is odd; because if not, what is its use? Mrs. Shuster (that is another of the band) says Captain Winston will be a lord some day. He is wounded and very handsome, and his wife is a beauty and a darling. I have to call her Molly and she has made of me a "Patsey." What do you think she has done, when it burst out that Larry and I were poor as the mice of churches? She paid the douane for my dresses, those sweet things Madame la Marquise, your dear mother, troubled herself to choose for me. Then Molly bought them as I believed for herself, as we are much of the same form, though she is grander by some centimetres in front and at the waist. It was only on my birthday that I find they are for me! I said, "But, dear, dear cabbage, I can never wear all these when I am keeping a hotel!" She said: "Yes, you can, my cabbagette, for this hotel will be different. You and Larry are high swells and it will be a favour that people are let into your beautiful home. They will be glad of the luck to know you and they will pay for the privilege. The better you dress and the more proud you act the more will they be content and think they have the money's worth. Only the richest ones can afford to come."
That is well, perhaps, because we have not enough rooms for a grand crowd. We have twenty-five chambres, counting great with small, and with haste two beds are being installed in some. Each person, if you will believe me, is forced to pay at the least thirty dollars (a hundred and fifty francs) a day. It is crushing! I have thought no one would come. But they do already, though we are not yet in a state of reception. The first day when the announcement showed in the journals of New York and all other grand cities the rush began. That same night we had what Molly Winston calls sholes (or is it shoals?) of telegrams. I thought shoals were of fish only. I will copy a little of the avis au public. Le voila!
"Monsieur Marcel Moncourt has the honour to announce that from April 1st the historic mansion of Kidd's Pines, near Huntersford, Long Island, will open under his direction as a hotel de luxe."
There was quite a lot more, explaining how Lafayette and Jerome Bonaparte, and King Edward VII when Prince of Wales had been entertained by ancestors of the present owner, Mr. Laurence Moore, who would now act as host; and that there were baths to all but five of the bed chambers. Was it not good chance that Larry had them put in? They are not paid for yet, and the plumber, with some others, has been very unkind, making Larry a bankroot—no, a bankrupt. We shall soon be rich again with all these thirties and forties and fifties and hundreds of dollars a day (we can take forty people to say nothing of servants if some of them will sleep ensemble), and then we can pay every one. Aussi the announcement spoke of the pines which have given to our place its name. There was a pirate captain named Kidd who buried gold under these trees or near, and though each of our generations since has dug hard whenever it felt poor, nobody has ever found anything, so the treasure is still there—wherever it is. Larry wanted to advertise that all might dig, male or female. Monsieur Moncourt would not permit, however. He said his name was enough, and further advertising would waste the money of the syndicat. He is part of the syndicat, and has more in it than the others. He would not come if it could not be that way, Mr. Storm told Larry. Mr. Storm has a friend who is a friend of Monsieur Moncourt's, a great friend he must be, because Monsieur M. will do anything to please him. Monsieur M. takes his salary of manager in shares. Mr. Storm does not have shares, because he, too, like us, is poor as mice who go to church—which it seems they are allowed to do in America, though I do not think we should let them in much in France. Mrs. Shuster, who has Mr. Storm for her secretary, is of the syndicat, and so is Mr. Edward Caspian, the man who broke the bad news for me. He is about as young as Mr. Storm, yet looks more young on account of being small and blond, with curly hair like Larry's. But he is not like Larry in other ways. Molly says he looks a combination of Lord Fauntleroy and Don Juan. I have read Lord Fauntleroy when I was a child, but not Don Juan, so I cannot judge. Do you know, cherie, I think he is in love with me, and Angele thinks the same. She says it will be a good work to marry him, as he has one of the most gross fortunes of America, besides being rather beau, and bon garcon. Angele was not nice for a time when we had no servants at Kidd's Pines, and I asked her to wash a dish. She had the air of one ready to burst. But we stayed a few days at the Winstons' place, which has been left in a will to them, and Angele became more happy. She says Madame la Marquise often took counsel with her and sacrificed her to me that I might have some one of experience to advise me in things of life greater than the dressing of hair. She has fallen into a devotion for Larry, and it is for his sake she wishes me to say yes if I am asked by Mr. Caspian. Well! I have not to decide till by and by, because he has not asked. For the moment I do not like him so very strongly, I cannot know why. Every one else seems to, except Mr. Storm, and a darling dog we have here, a golden collie, belonging to Larry, but like the baths, not paid for. It jumped against Mr. Caspian and frightened him so much that he wished it to be tied in a chain. We did not do it, though. I don't love men to have fear of dogs.
Mr. Caspian has come to live with us—in our hotel, I mean. Though he has the shares, if you will believe me he pays three hundred and fifty francs a day. So does Mrs. Shuster. She has a suite of bedroom and sitting-room. A good many of our rooms are like that, with curtains between. It was Larry's idea when Mamma and he were married and invited many guests.
Mr. Storm would not come to stay, though Mrs. S. wished to pay for him. She is a very rich bourgeoise who drops something off herself whenever she moves, if it is only a hairpin; but many time it is a worse thing. And she composes tracts about peace. She asked Mr. Storm to help her write some, but he said he knew nothing of peace, he had never had any. So you see he does what he likes, though a secretary. He has the most wonderful eyes ever seen. They haunt you as if they had looked deep into strange, sad things. You think of them at night before you go to sleep, and wonder about them, whether you have seen them long ago—and what they mean—for everybody thinks something different of him and his past, some good, some bad. He is not afraid of the collie, but pats it when he passes. And he lights up when he laughs! He has taken a room in the village near, in a little house, which he considers more suitable to him than this. Mr. Caspian, who was a socialist once, but is not now, says Mr. Storm dresses like an anarchist. He does not wish Mrs. Shuster to employ Mr. Storm, and this pleases her, because she thinks Mr. Caspian is "jealous." But figure to yourself! An old woman of forty and more!
I forgot to tell you the rest about Monsieur Moncourt. He directs the kitchen as well as the whole house, but you would not have to be ashamed of him even if you were parents. He does not come to our dining-room to eat, but has a little one of his own. He has gray hair, a sorrowful, dreamy face like a great artist who has lost an idea; but I suppose it is only that he is always thinking of some marvellous new plat to invent. He spends five days a week on Long Island and two in New York, for he has a house there of his own. I should love to go one day and see what it is like! Perhaps I shall go, with Molly.
I forgot aussi to tell you of the automobile you said you so much envied me. Captain Winston attended to the douane, and it is settled for us to keep the car as an "investment." I do not quite know who arranged this, because it was like the baths and the collie, not paid. But some one did arrange, and will be paid of course when we are making profits. I know it was Mr. Storm who said, in the conseil de guerre we had about the hotel, that there must be at least one motor to take guests on tour, and the smarter the car the better. But he could not have been the one to pay as he is the poorest of us all. Oh, I am so glad it is my duty to keep this darling car which was to have been my birthday present from Larry! I shall learn to drive it myself. Captain Winston will teach me. He knows how to drive all cars of every breed. Molly calls him her "Lightning Conductor." I could not wait till the chauffeur arrives.
By the way, we have a Russian count and his wife, an Austrian count and his, already all old, here. Mrs. Shuster is thrilled, and says their titles are a "draw." The trouble is the counts quarrel on politics and make snorty sounds at each other, so they have to be kept from colliding. It is I who must do this the most often, and it tears my nerves.
My pigeon, I will write again one of these days soon, when I have settled. Now I am still on my head!
Your upside down friend, PATRICE.
P. S. Larry has read this letter and says it is very bad English—shocking! But I cannot write it all over again. You will see, I shall do better next time.
PETER STORM TO JAMES STRICKLAND, A NEW YORK LAWYER CELEBRATED FOR HIS BRILLIANT DEFENCE OF CERTAIN FAMOUS CRIMINALS
Huntersford, Long Island, April Something or Other. (Why be a slave to dates?)
Yours full of reproaches for changing my plans and upsetting yours is "duly to hand," as you'd probably phrase it yourself. What are you for, my dear man, except to take trouble off the shoulders of others on to your own? I ask you that! You like it. You thrive on it. With your uncanny talent for character reading, you should never have expected anything of me but the unexpected. And the whole embroglio is your fault, if you come to look at it between the eyes. I ought never to have come back from Siberia four years ago. You hauled me back. What did I do in the West and in the South? You know only too well. Yet here I am again, at your call.
You'll say you didn't call me to do what I'm doing now, but something widely different. I meant to answer the call in your way, it's true (if at all), but for reasons which have cropped up I prefer to do it in my own. You ought to be pleased at this, because I've now definitely determined to answer the call. I hadn't at first. I'd made up my mind no farther than to come and look into the matter you spoke of. I'm looking into it all right where I am, I assure you, though from a different angle than that proposed by you.
I don't know why you "deduce" that there's a woman in the case, for there never has been one before. There were sometimes several, I admit. But never One. Trust you to see the distinction! Have you been pumping Marcel? You may as well admit it if you have, for I shall ask him when I see him next at one of our secret meetings, and he will confess. There's nothing he can refuse me, as you have cause to know—and you know why.
I inquire as to this more from curiosity than anxiety, because I should rather like to know what is in Marcel's mind about me. I never knew he had the qualities of a detective among his many gifts. He has plenty of others! But what does it matter what he thinks, or you screw out of him? I don't mind telling you frankly that your suspicions are justified—to a certain extent. It's not a woman who is in the case. It's a girl. Is that worse or better, think you?
I'm not in love with her, but Edward Caspian is, and I am dog in the manger enough not to want him to get her. My future fate—as I expect it to be—lies thousands of hard miles away from this exquisite American child, just unfolded from the pink cotton of a French convent. I am human, however. I'm not a stone, but a man. I saw the girl on the ship, and before I heard her name something stirred in my memory. You know already what the name is, if you know anything from Marcel, or if you've put two and two together—a favourite occupation of yours, and then skilfully demonstrating that they're five!
She didn't remember me—how could she?—though she did once say something about my eyes "looking familiar." Naturally I was interested in her. And though I thoroughly enjoyed the patronage of Mrs. Shuster and some others who condescended to visit us third-class animals, I could but appreciate the delicate discrimination of Miss Moore and her friend Mrs. Winston.
I've never thought of myself as a chivalrous person. On the contrary, I'm what my life has made of me, something of the brute. But such dregs of chivalry as had settled at the bottom of my soul's cup were stirred by the news of Laurence Moore's trouble and its immediate effect upon his daughter. I heard on the dock, and the child heard on the dock—from Caspian, who had come to meet my present employer, Mrs. Shuster. It was easy to see (knowing what we know of him now) that Caspian had decided at first sight to go for the girl, who has grown astonishingly pretty and attractive. I'm here to block his game. That's why I took on this idiotic job with Madam Shuster. It's enough to make a Libyan lion laugh! But I saw no other way of keeping near, to do the watchdog act—not being a gentleman or a millionaire like Caspian, able to live at leisure anywhere preferred.
This blooming hotel business was started to prevent Caspian getting his entering wedge into the crack of the family fortunes. He was all generosity. Wanted to lend money on a mortgage, just the sort of thing a lazy, happy-go-lucky chap like Moore would snap at. And the child couldn't be expected to look farther ahead than her father looked. Marcel was my next inspiration—a bait to decide Moore that I was not to be despised as an adviser. Now, I am the power behind the throne—very much behind, it's true, not in the palace of the king at all, but prodding at the throne with a thin stick through an all but invisible hole in the wall. If it's visible to any one, that one is Caspian himself, who probably realized in the hour of battle between us that I'd guessed what he was up to.
I am a type he would dislike and distrust in any case, as I think small men are apt to dislike bigger ones capable of reducing them by superior brute force if necessary. As it is, he hates me. I suppose he thinks I have designs on Miss Moore myself: "the pauper adventurer who has already taken advantage of his influence over an older woman to gain access to the heroine." Sounds like a moving picture "cut in," doesn't it? Not only does he (the self-cast hero of the picture) intend to punish the villain's impudent interference with him, but to unmask the wretch in order to thwart his designs upon the heroine. To do this, the said hero has put a detective agency on to me.
I can hear you ask sharply, "How do you know this?"
The answer is, "I don't know. I feel it." And the life I've led has taught me to trust my feelings. I have been like a stag in the forest who scents the unseen hunters when still very far off. If the villain, Peter Storm, is "unmasked"—well, so much the worse for him, but others will fall with his fall, we know. And the danger for me (it is a danger, I admit) only adds to the—fun.
Probably you'll mention the word "damn" or some other analogous one when you read that. "Fun!" you'll sneer. But my dear fellow, it expresses my point of view. I am having fun. I'm having the time of my life. Afterward—"let come what come may, I shall have had my day." And I'm going to fight it out on these lines if it takes all summer—unless Caspian undermines me and blows up my trenches.
The latter, by the way, are of a homely character. I lurk in lodgings at the village dressmaker's. I have one room at the back of the house, its dormer window looking over a grass plot and a chicken coop. Fortunately the cock is as morose and reserved an individual as I am myself, without my sense of humour—or else he's henpecked. He never opens his head till it's necessary to salute the sunrise; and the hens consider it bad form to boast loudly because a mere egg has been given to the world. For this accommodation I pay four dollars a week, and ten cents a day for having a rubber bath filled. Breakfast of bread, butter, and coffee is brought to my room by a timid fawn of a dressmaker's daughter who does me the honour of fearing and admiring me, I surmise. I pay twenty cents for her attendance and admiration. Mine is the simple life, but luxurious compared with many of my experiences. As to clothes, I am always Hyde, never Jekyll. It's safer. My hat is the worst thing in hats you ever beheld, though I have at times surpassed it.
You would think I ought to have plenty of leisure on my hands for the work I brought from Siberia, but I confess the girl has got between me and it. Don't waste a smile. No girl born could tempt me to what I should have to give up for her. Besides, there are a thousand other obstacles between me and love. If she wastes a few thoughts on me—as perhaps she does sometimes—it's only curiosity concerning the "Ship's Mystery." That's what they all called me on board, I heard. But there is the past, a faded yet beautiful background of early youth—one of the few really beautiful things in my life. And there is the girl, a radiant figure in the foreground.
I'm in the house at Kidd's Pines often enough, doing my secretarial work (a howl of laughter here, please!), to see pretty well all that goes on, and the demoniac joy I feel in acting as deus ex machina I can't express to you, because I don't entirely understand it myself. But I wouldn't be out of this for anything.
Miss Moore has been learning to drive her car. (You know about that car!) Captain Winston began to give her lessons, but cracked up, as his wounds aren't thoroughly mended yet. I had half a mind to offer my services, but thought it would add too much fuel to the fire of curiosity, so held my peace until—well, several things happened first. Among them was the coming of Castnet, the chauffeur engaged by Marcel himself—a Frenchman, too young to be mobilized, but supposed to understand a Grayles-Grice. He looked a smart fellow, and a lesson or two went off well, according to what I heard in Mrs. Shuster's room. Miss Moore sometimes comes in when I am there, with news from the front, so to speak: what new guests have arrived, what they are like, how they get on together—or don't get on; for Kidd's Pines as a hotel is already a going concern.
Three days after Castnet's arrival Miss Moore gave up having her lesson in order to give Count von Falm and his wife a spin. They happened to be the only guests—except my boss—without a car of their own, and von Falm pointedly alluded to an advertisement promising an automobile for the service of visitors. Thereupon the bomb exploded. Young Castnet, like a sprat defying a sturgeon, refused to drive an enemy of his country. The sturgeon demanded the sprat's discharge. Miss Moore sought her father. "Larry" was teaching the Russian Countess tennis, and gaily gave his daughter carte blanche. She, overwhelmed by responsibility, temporized. France, you see, is her second home! The Austrian was in no mood to stand half measures, and gave notice of departure. Meanwhile, Castnet departed without this ceremony, unaware that Providence was at work in his behalf. Behold Kidd's Pines with its best room empty and minus a chauffeur! But Miss Moore was undaunted. At any moment somebody else might clamour for the car. She determined to be her own chauffeur, and on the strength of her half-dozen lessons, set out alone to experiment with the forty horsepower Grayles-Grice.
That was when I met her on her second excursion, I think. I was taking a walk, and she was stranded in the middle of the "king's highway," about two miles from Huntersford. Another car equally large and powerful was drawn up almost nose to nose with the Grayles-Grice, and the road was becoming congested with vehicles of various sorts. The Grayles-Grice blocked the way. It was impossible for anything else wider than a bicycle or a skeleton to proceed in either direction; consequently you would have supposed that a big reception or an automobile race was taking place in the neighbourhood.
You can imagine what language would ordinarily, in such circumstances, have belched from the serried ranks of fiery Pierce Arrows, dashing Cadillacs, and even from peace-loving Fords; but what should you say was happening in the present instance? If you refuse to commit yourself to an opinion, it's only because you've never seen Miss Patricia Moore.
I will tell you what was happening!
All the men were out of all the cars, either helping, advising, or trying to get near enough to do one or both. The chauffeuse herself was sitting behind her wheel with the manner of a youthful queen on a throne receiving homage from courtiers. The Grayles-Grice is gray, and she was dressed in gray to match, a light pearl gray I should say it would be called. She has a complexion also like pearl, but not gray pearl. Excitement had given her a bright rosy colour. Her black hair—I don't know whether excitement makes a girl's hair curl—but anyhow hers was doing it, in little rings and spirals which fluttered in the breeze and blew across her cheeks and eyes. By the way, she has the bluest eyes I ever saw in human head. She was thanking her courtiers charmingly whenever they came within speaking distance, rolling her "r's" in a fascinating French fashion she has, and whenever a heated red man would lift his head from the open bonnet or pop up from under the car she would remark how kind he was, or how sad she felt that he should be having all this trouble for her! Then other men for whom there was not room at the bonnet or under the capacious Grayles-Grice envied the hot red ones, and intimated (in order to get hot and red and awake sympathy themselves) that they and they alone could find out what was the matter. I should estimate that at least a dozen men had enlisted under the voluntary system, while others on the outer ring only waited their turn.
As for the stranded autos (whose number increased as the minutes went on), ladies young and old who sat desiring the return of their cavaliers looked as pleased as the wives of Circe's admirers must have looked while their male belongings were transformed into beasts.
"Why doesn't somebody roll the old thing out of the way and let us go on?" shrieked one of a carful of school teachers deserted by their chauffeur. He, from a distance, explained not too patiently that the trouble was, the thing wouldn't roll. I am pretty sure that not one of the men engaged was in a hurry for it to budge; for you know as well as I that all men are deeply romantic at heart, the oldest boys as well as the youngest boys—or more so. This girl looked like Romance incarnate—the face that we see in the sunrise and in our dreams—and it couldn't be often that most of these good commonplace chaps came in for such an adventure.
"Oh, Mr. Storm!" exclaimed Miss Moore when I added myself to the rank of recruits. Everybody stared at me. I felt I was not liked. "You see I've br-roken down!" she explained with the smile of a child. "The poor car won't move without ter-r-rible danger, and no one can find out what the mystery is—though they're so good to me!"
Perhaps she wildly hoped there might be a bond between the man of mystery and all other mysteries. It didn't seem likely that where so many men had failed I should succeed; still, I'd driven a Grayles-Grice (you remember, don't you?) and perhaps they hadn't.
"I suppose you don't know things about cars?" she questioned anxiously, as I drew nearer.
"I know some things," I admitted with due modesty. And suddenly I wanted to succeed where these others had failed. Because, though I had done some small favours for her, she hadn't known about them, so she had never thanked me except in the most casual way. I thought it would be rather nice to be thanked by her. I gazed at the Grayles-Grice, which also gazed at me from under her bonnet, and seemed to wink with her carburetor.
"How do you know she won't move?" I inquired of every one in general and no one in particular.
"The young lady begged us not to try, as it had been tried already by two gentlemen on motor bikes, who had to go on before this lot came," the school teachers' chauffeur defended the crowd's intelligence and his own. "I thought it might be a ball broken in the bearings had jammed a rear wheel, but it ain't that; so we took a squint at the differential, but it ain't that either."
"Shall we try again to give her a shove?" I suggested. "The traffic can't be held up here all night. Pretty soon it will be solid between here and New York."
"Oh, don't try till you find out what's the matter!" cried Miss Moore. "There was the most hor-r-r-rible noise when those two other men tried. We might be killed!"
I made her get down, and then, with a couple of bold volunteers, risked the mystic peril that lurked behind the "hor-r-rible noise," by attempting to push the car to the edge of the road.
If you will believe me, the Grayles-Grice rolled silently and smoothly as if she were on skates. In a moment she was out of the way, and the coast clear for the crowd. But no man near enough to have seen Miss Moore stirred until I had made a further discovery. The deep-rooted trouble which had defied the gray matter of all explorers proved to be nothing more or less than complete lack of gasoline. No one had thought of that, because the search had been for something serious and esoteric.
"Gas" was offered on all hands, and the G.-G., having drunk long and deep, was once more refreshed as a giant to run her course.
"Shall I drive, or will you?" I mildly asked Miss Moore.
"Can you?" she inquired.
"I don't think I've forgotten how. I drove a Grayles-Grice once for a year when I was down on my luck."
(You'll let that statement go unchallenged, won't you? It was the most beastly year of my life.)
We were about to start on a return journey to Kidd's Pines, with me at the helm, and quite an audience looking on, when two policemen came bumping along in a short-nosed car. They bawled out a question: Had any of us "folks" seen two fellows on motor bikes?
Miss Moore was the only one of the "folks" who had. "Do tell them I saw the men," she appealed to me. And then before I could open my lips she had (characteristically of woman) plunged into the recital herself. Her car had come to a standstill, she explained, in the middle of the road. She couldn't make it start. Two motor bicycle riders had appeared and would have passed, but she signalled them to stop. She begged the pair to push her car out of the way. At first she thought they meant to hurry on. They went past her, one on each side. But they muttered something to each other, stopped suddenly, and jumped off their machines. They were laughing together as they came running back. They said, "All right, Miss," and took hold of the Grayles-Grice as if to wheel her to the edge of the road. But then there followed a fear-r-ful bang, like a pistol shot, and Miss Moore noticed a queer smell—a little like the Fourth of July when you were a child. She was frightened, and so were the men. One of them cried out, "Something wrong here! This'll take an expert!" And the other warned her, whatever she did, not to let anybody who didn't understand that make of motor try to budge the wheels an inch. Then the two were obliged to go in haste because they had a ferryboat to catch. Not long after autos and autos began to stream along from both directions, and were held up because she warned every one not to move the car.
Clever dodge, wasn't it? The pair had robbed a jewellery shop window, and bagged a whole trayful of suburban engagement rings. As it happened, the police had taken up a wrong scent before they got on the right one. But had the watchdogs come along a few minutes earlier they would have found their way blocked effectively. One of the thieves had fired a torpedo in the road just behind the G.-G. to scare the chauffeuse (one of those big, fat torpedoes motorists and bicyclists sometimes use to frighten dogs) and so had secured a clear road to the nearest ferry. The policemen found the fragments of the torpedo in the dust—after I had suggested their looking for it.
That is the way I entered Miss Moore's service as temporary chauffeur, combining the duties as best I may with secretarial work for Mrs. Shuster. I'm not sure yet how the two parts are to be doubled successfully, but I'm sure of one thing: I don't mean to throw either part up at present, so there's no use in your grumbling or preaching.
Some new people have come to stay in the hotel, a jolly family of boys and girls, and a few days' motor trip is suggested, with me at the helm. The party will consist of the jolly Family, about whom more later; Miss Moore as conductress; and Captain and Mrs. Winston accompanying in their own car, as chaperons. For some extraordinary reason, which puzzles me, Mrs. S. is not going. Apropos of this excursion, I warn you, my dear friend, that you needn't fash yourself to answer my letter in a hurry. You may take time to think. Mrs. Shuster is not only willing, but anxious, for me to drive for the party. I can't imagine why. But I shall certainly know why, and perhaps to my sorrow, when I get back. If I hadn't taken on the job, Caspian would. He spent two days away from Kidd's Pines, and Moncourt (just back from a trip to town as I finish writing) saw him in N. Y. in a Grayles-Grice, apparently taking a lesson how to drive. (His own car is a Wilmot.) When he returned, it was without the Wilmot. Said he'd had an accident, and his auto would be laid up for a week; he hoped Miss Moore would let him avail himself of her G.-G. when necessary. He was too late, however, for this particular occasion. All arrangements had been made in his absence. I've nobly refused an extra salary; but I expect to have heaven knows how much extra fun. I bet Caspian's car will be mended unexpectedly soon, as another is booked to drive the G.-G. this time.
Yours, P. S.
The Wilmot has arrived from New York, and doubtless will follow us like a tame dog. If my hand has not forgotten its cunning, the said dog will find itself often outdistanced.
THE HONBLE MRS. WINSTON TO THE COUNTESS OF LANE
Easthampton, Long Island. The loveliest moonlight April night.
We're just beginning a short motor trip, pausing here all night because it's beautiful, and because there's a dance which Pat and a large family of girls, appropriately named Goodrich, wish to sample. To tell the truth, I shouldn't mind dancing, myself! They're going to have a quaint new thing dedicated by its inventor to Long Island. It's called the Gull Glide. But Jack did too much last week, teaching Patsey to drive her giant Grayles-Grice, and he says if he danced anything it would have to be the Shamblers' Shake. I wouldn't put my nose inside the ballroom without him; vowed I'd be bored stiff. The Goodrich girls' mother is chaperoning her brood and Pat. I made Jack "seek his bed," as the French say, but I'm on the balcony of our private sitting-room, in the moonlight, writing by an electric lamp whose shade looks like an illuminated red rose seen through silver mist. The music, which throbs up to me like heart-beats, mingles with the undertone of the sea and makes me thankful that Jack's so nice and loves me so much. Not to be loved in such music and such moonlight would make one feel one wasn't a woman!
The dance has just begun and will last hours. I've no intention of trying to sleep till it's over, because I'm sure Pat will have things to tell which really can't wait till morning. Things like that never can! Meanwhile I shall have time for a long letter to you—the kind you say you like to get.
This is really for Monty also, since you are now with him, helping him to get well, "Somewhere in France." Jack wanted to write a few lines to-night, to put with mine, but his arm is very lame. He said, "Tell Monty this is like old times, when he was recuperating in Davos, and I was 'Lightning Conductor' for Molly Randolph."
Good gracious, what a lot of water has run past mills and under wheels of motors since then! But luckily (since you ask us to chronicle our adventures, as Jack did for Monty in those days) we can still mix the honey of love with the lubricating oil of the machine. It will most likely be Pat's and somebody else's love, not ours, although our stock never runs dry. But you're interested in Pat's affairs, and really they do get more complicated and exciting every day. I shan't tell you much about them just now, but will save that part of the narrative for by and by, in case there's anything to add at half-past midnight. There generally is news from the front about that time.
Meanwhile, Monty (who is as ignorant of this country as Jack was only the other day) clamours for J.'s "impressions of America." Since Jack can't put them on paper, I will. I know all his most topographical thoughts, because he's trying them—not "on a dog" but on me, while I drive the car to save his good right arm. "The Lightning Conductor Discovering America" I call him, as everything surprises and interests him so hugely, you would think he was an "O Pioneer!" Long Island isn't your "pitch," Mercedes dear, and you don't know much about it from the inside, so to speak. You may imagine, therefore, that it's a small, sophisticated spot on the map for us to discover. But there's where you're wrong, my dear! It's not small and it's not sophisticated. It may look tiny on paper, but it feels far from tiny when you set forth to motor over it. It feels about the size I used to picture England before I went abroad.
Jack fancied (he dared not say so to me till he could add "I made a big mistake") that America was new and indigestible, like freshly baked bread. As for Long Island, he visioned it as a seaside suburb of New York. Now, he's so fascinated with Awepesha and its environment that he's simply bolting history by the yard! You know, he always was keen on that sort of thing when he travelled; but like most Britishers he flattered himself that he had been born knowing all that was worth knowing in the history of the United States: a little about the Revolution and the Civil War, and "—er—well really, what else was there, you know, if you'd read Cooper and 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' when you were a boy?"
Now, he browses in Cousin John Randolph Payton's respectable library, where every book is bound like every other book in "half calf," and he sees that things began to wake up over here several hundreds of years ago. He has even discovered that an ancestor of his was one of the first important settlers of Long Island, apparently a perfect pig of a man who was horrid to innocent Indians—charming Indians who believed that Europeans meant what they said. I can't reconcile it with Jack to have had a pig for an ancestor, but he certainly had, at least one. Luckily the tendency has run out in the family ages ago.
But to turn from ancestral pigs to our Island!
Jack says the history of Long Island is the history of the whole country in miniature, like "the world seen through the little eye of a sparrow," as Emerson would have said. In fact, it's Some island, as Emerson would not have said; and of course we think our part the loveliest and historicalest of all. There's more variety in history as well as scenery on this island than in many entire states. You simply take your choice. You say to yourself, "Do I prefer Indian history and names? Or do I prefer the Dutch? Or does my taste run in the direction of the English? Do I want to visit the sites of Indian massacres or Revolutionary battles? Does pirate treasure lure me? Am I thrilled by the adventures of whaling-ships and their brave captains?" When you've chosen, you point your auto's nose in the direction desired. The only thing you couldn't find in the Island's thousand miles of glorious roads—(yes, my child, a thousand miles, to say nothing of the not so glorious ones!)—the only thing, I repeat, would be something completely modern.
That proud statement doesn't sound true, but it is. You could find plenty of new houses, the newest of the new: palaces of millionaires, middle-sized houses of middle-class people who are happier than the happiest millionaires; fantastic cottages for summer folk; cozy cottages of "commuters"; queer colonies of Italians, and even of darkies; but there isn't a foot of Long Island ground on which these palaces and houses and cottages and colonies have sprung up that isn't as historic as European soil. It's enthralling to see how intimately and neatly history here links itself with history on the other side: history of England, France, and Holland; noble names and great events. That's what delights Jack, picking up these links, and fitting them together like bits of jigsaw puzzles. He's absolutely thrilled, and wants to stop the car whenever we come to one of the curiously deformed old trees which still, on country roads, mark the direction of ancient Indian trails. This fad of Jack's leads to awkwardness during our present excursion, as we're part of a weird cavalcade which I'll describe to you later. But just now I can't let you off those trees!
The Indians of different tribes had a way of bending one of the lower boughs of a young oak chosen for the sacrifice, bending it so that it grew horizontally, pointing the way along the trail for the initiated. They would have trees done like that at regular intervals; but if you were a silly European you wouldn't know without being told what the trees meant by sticking out their elbows in that significant way; and so you would stupidly proceed to get yourself lost.
Think what those old trees could tell, if by laying your ear against their trunks you could understand the murmurous whisper inside, like secret voices behind a thick closed door! They look extraordinarily intelligent, thrusting out their long arms and crooking up their elbows, as I said. It's just as if you asked them, "How do I get to the sea?" and they, with Indian reticence, answered with a gesture instead of speech. Some of these arms have grown to such a length and thickness that they look like the bodies of animals. You can imagine little girls and boys riding on them, playing they are on horses. Or you can picture a fair maid and a man sitting side by side on one of those big, low-growing branches, as if it were a comfortable sofa. It would be a lovely place to be proposed to on a summer's day!
Does your respect for Long Island begin to grow? I haven't told you yet a quarter of the things that give it interest.
Our part of the Island, the eastern part, used to be harassed by British cruisers in the Revolution. Also it is the Captain Kidd part. I suppose even Monty knows about Captain Kidd? It seems that he used to be Jack's favourite pirate. When I was at the pirate-loving age I didn't care for Kidd as much as for others, because he had such respectable beginnings. Think, a Scotsman from Greenock of all places! And then he became a pirate not for the fun of flying the black flag like storybook pirates, or because he was disappointed in love, but because he cannily decided that he could gain more by turning pirate than by chasing pirates, which Lord Bellomont, the Governor of New York, had sent him out to do. Worst of all, when he was caught Kidd put the blame on his crew, and vowed that they'd forced him into evil courses. Now that we've a house on Long Island, however, I've taken Captain Kidd to my heart. He belongs more to the Moores of Kidd's Pines than to us, of course, but I value and vaunt him as a neighbouring ghost of distinction.
Both our place and Kidd's Pines are not a great distance from Shelter Island, where one lovely umbrella pine exists, under which the pirate is said to have buried his treasure in 1669. He may have emptied his pockets there one day, but that's nothing to what he seems to have done at Kidd's Pines. Gardiner's Island—very aristocratic and historic—isn't far off, and it was from there Captain Kidd sent word of his arrival to Lord Bellomont, whose famous syndicate he'd betrayed and made a laughing-stock by turning pirate. He had his six-gunned sloop Antonio in harbour there, hoping to "make good" with the authorities; but he must have guessed that there wasn't much chance for him. He must have expected the very thing to happen that did happen: to be arrested with his whole pirate crew, and sent to England in a man-o'-war. If he foresaw that event, he'd not have been silly enough to bury his treasure on Gardiner's Island, where everybody would rush to search for it the minute his back was turned, would he? No, he'd take a few of his most trusty men and make secret night expeditions in boats from Gardiner's Island to some part of the shore far enough away not to come under suspicion. Then he would have to mark the place where the treasure was buried (oh, but a treasure rich and rare, for he'd brought everything away with him when he left his stolen ship, The Quedah Merchant, at San Domingo!), mark it in a way not too conspicuous, but permanent, in case he had the luck ever to get free and come back. No good marking with stones, because some one might build; but what a smart idea to plant trees so valuable that nobody to whom that land was granted would want to destroy them! This is what the canny man of Greenock is supposed to have done. He'd brought the tree-slips from the south when he risked his spying expedition into northern waters. He meant to make a present of them to Lord Bellomont if the Governor were lenient: but the Governor's heart was flinty, and Captain Kidd found softer soil for the planting of his trees.
It makes a nice story anyhow, doesn't it? And Kidd's Pines as a hotel can put on five dollars a day extra at least because of the romance and glamour of that hidden hoard. By the way, it's "going some," that hotel inspiration of ours. What with history in general, buried treasure in particular, Marcel Moncourt's fame, Larry's charm and connections, and Pat's fatal fascinations, people flock to lay their money on the shrine. They're not all the right sort of people yet, but their money's good—and you can't think how amusing some of the poor pets are!
This Goodrich family I mentioned—a father, a mother, and three girls (who look as if they ought to be what I used to call "thrins")—are real darlings. They're so rich they can have everything they want, but they don't know what to want. They've always lived in Colorado close to the Garden of the Gods, and the only trips they ever took before were to the Yellowstone Park and the Grand Canyon. Consequently the scenery of the East looks to their eyes the height of miniature Japanese landscapes where you can step over the tops of the highest trees. They are built on the Garden of the Gods scale themselves, and take up so much room in a motor car that they ought to pay extra. (I do hope the girls may find men tall enough and brave enough to dance with them to-night!) When Peter Storm first saw the family, he quoted the blind man in the Bible who received his sight by a miracle: "I see men as trees, walking!"
The Goodrichs aren't, however, the latest addition to the circle at Kidd's Pines. Two days before we were due to start on this little jaunt three youths we'd met on the ship turned up. They'd been "doing" the battlefields of France they told us then, seeing the "backs of the fronts"—nice boys, just out of college—and they'd hardly the price of a meal left among them, they joyously said, when we landed. Of course they were in love with Pat in a nice, young, hopeless way. They bade her good-bye forever; but when they heard of the family crash, and read that the previously Unattainable One had become chatelaine of a hotel, they begged, borrowed, or stole (or more likely pawned) things which enabled them to rally round her as clients. They could "run" only to one room for the trio, and that the cheapest in the house; but you never saw three such radiant faces, till this motor expedition happened to be mentioned.
Fancy their feelings! Boats and bridges burnt at vast expense, and nothing to show for the holocaust! The adored one gliding away from under three disconsolate noses next day in an automobile full of Other People! Tom, Dick, and Harry (according to us; Jim, Charlie, and Frank according to their sponsors in baptism) simply couldn't bear it. They went out; and four hours later came back with a car (Lord made it, so let it pass for a car!) which they had bought somewhere, second or third hand, for a song. Even a song of sixpence would be dear for the great-grandmother of the whole progeny of Lords! The thing must be eight years old if it's a day, but the boys are as pleased as Punch with their bargain. The oldest of them (Tom) thinks he has learned to manage the poor old lady; and on the strength of his knowledge and cheek they have hitched themselves to us as the tail end of our procession. They announce their intention of going also to the Hudson River country, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New England with us later, when we make those trips according to plan. My heart bleeds for the poor lambs, but Jack says they're perfectly happy, and those who don't fall by the wayside will draw lots in the end who is to propose to Pat.
They have no money, and no hats (at least I've never seen them wear any), and every one ignores their real names; but in their way they are unique, and it will add to the gaiety of nations to have them along if they're not killed before our eyes.
Speaking of the cavalcade, which I may as well describe since I'm on the subject, Peter Storm is driving Pat's Grayles-Grice, as Papa Goodrich says he would "as soon hire a canary bird to tame a mad bull as let that little slim Miss Moore pilot his family in a man-sized motor car." It seems that our soldier of fortune, P. S., was a chauffeur once for a year. He seems to have been most things, and I'm less than ever able to classify him. But whatever he is or may have been, if I hadn't fallen in love with Jack once and for all, I might have fallen in love with Peter Storm. There's something very queer about his past, that's evident; and only his conscience or bump of prudence prevents him from letting himself go on the tide of love for Pat. I see him looking at her now and then—an extraordinary look! But all his looks are extraordinary. I'd give anything almost if he'd confide in me. Perhaps he will. Lots of people do.
Meanwhile, Pat sits by him in the seat next the chauffeur's seat, and watches what he does and asks questions. He has persuaded Papa Goodrich to consent to her driving in easy places. But there are few easy places, because there are too many people enjoying this beautiful island, and just missing you by a miracle at corners. So I suppose it will be the same on future trips, and if Mrs. Shuster doesn't "kick," her secretary will continue to fill the bill as chauffeur till a professional one is engaged—a Neutral one, who neither yearns for the blood of Britishers nor the eyes of Austrians. Strange that Mrs. Shuster didn't want to come with us! The back of the Grayles-Grice is fairly full of Goodriches, but there's generous capacity for two more fattish passengers.
Mrs. S. said she would stop at home and help Mr. Moore receive guests, in case others came in his daughter's absence. But there's nothing in that excuse, really. Even Larry could have come away if he liked. Marcel Moncourt is equal to every emergency.
In our car we have offered to take a honeymoon couple named Morley with whom we feel sympathetic; and Mr. Caspian, the ex-socialist, in a roomy Wilmot, takes—himself.
Please look carefully at the map of Long Island which I send, and agree with me that though graceful in shape it's a long-bodied, short-legged island. Jack says it isn't. He says that I ought to see it's a lobster, and that what I call its legs are its claws. We live on the southern edge of its top, or northeast leg—or claw. If leg, it is kicking Shelter Island, the biggest of the baby islands swimming gaily about within reach. If claw, it is engaged with the aid of its southern mate in trying to grab the morsel. And a dainty morsel, too!—as I have seen for myself to-day by crossing over to the little island for the first time. I've been so busy getting settled I couldn't do any sight-seeing even in the neighbourhood, unless one counts running back and forth between Awepesha and Kidd's Pines.
We started out to-day on one of those pale opal mornings for which it seems Long Island is famous in spring and autumn. Literally, sky and water were one vast cream-white opal, shot with pink, and that wonderful flaming blue which rum has when it's set on fire. Our two places aren't very far from Greenport, as I've mentioned on postcards; and it's at Greenport that you take the nice red ferryboat across lovely, lakelike Peconic Bay, going to Shelter Island.
Things and thoughts are on such a large scale in America, even in the East (though the Goodriches don't see it!), that nobody seems astonished at the bigness of the said nice red ferryboat. To my British Jack, however, it loomed enormous for the smallness of its "job"—just running between the mother island and her baby islet! But when he realized just what the job in question was, he changed his mind about its being a small one. Our cavalcade was only an insignificant unit (as they say in war) among the force of motors which mobilized as the moment for the boat's departure came. There was a regular regiment at last; also lots of horses drawing old-fashioned gigs and quite smart "buggies," and capacious carts; crowds of passengers on foot, women and children, young men and girls—so pretty, some of the shopgirls on holiday pointed out to us by the man we bought tickets of. They might have been princesses by their exactly right clothes (right at first glance, anyhow) and their proud air, if you hadn't seen them chewing gum and heard them saying "Huh?" to their young men. By the way, that ticket man was the dearest old thing, who very likely had never seen New York. He grew his beard under his chin like a kind of muffler, and said broad-mindedly while we were waiting that he didn't care "what people's religion was, so long as they went to their church twice every Sunday, rain or shine." We tried to look as if we did, because we liked him so much. He'd been a sailor in his day, and was proud of Greenport for its past—a fascinating, whaling past.
In spite of the crowd (bigger I'm sure than aboard the Ark, packed though it was to supply a new world with living creatures) there was room for us all, and there was room in the bay for our hugeness, among the flight of snow-white butterflies pretending to be sailboats.
Six minutes getting across; and then we touched at a gay little landing-place as different from that of serious, serene Greenport as the ex-sailor's own church would be from a the dansant. I suppose when other sea-going men of old made money and grew just a little, little bit frivolous, they thought no more of whales, but moved across that bright stretch of water and spent their riches building pretty houses for their children to enjoy. "Shelter Island" is a charming name for a place to rest in after a strenuous life, don't you think? And the homes to forget whales in are peaceful as days of Indian Summer after storms. The finest, and perhaps the newest ones, which have nothing to do with memories of adventure with grand old monsters of the deep, are on Shelter Island Heights. But I should rather live lower down in some house yellow as a pat of butter, under great drooping trees. By the way, Shelter Island's maiden name was Ahaquatuwamuck. No wonder she changed it. She had to! Incidentally an Indian chief, Yokee, delivered "unto Capitanie Nathaniel Sylvester and Ensigne John Booth one turfe with a twige in their hands," which meant giving the English possession according to a custom very cannily established by the British. Then poor dear "Yokee and all his Indians did freely and willingly depart." I don't believe a word of the willingly! They were just hypnotized!
We meant to have only a look round, and go on by another ferry to Sag Harbor, thence to arrive at Easthampton. But what do you think happened? Tom, Dick, and Harry's preposterous Hippopotamus broke out in an eruption of flame at the very moment when our procession was passing in review before a large beflagged hotel which faces the Bay. Of course it had never occurred to the boys to bring one of those patent extinguishers which all thoughtful automobiles wear now as a matter of course. And I suppose that (at best) they would have done the Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego act if Peter Storm hadn't heard yells and dashed back with paraphernalia from Pat's car. Jack dashed also, but Peter (I call him so behind his back) was nearer, and hadn't been wounded. In three minutes the Hippopotamus was grinning with her mouth wide open, and the fire out, but looking exactly like one of those uncouth beasts you see in frescoes of the Inferno, in ancient monasteries abroad.
All the people in the world were on the wide veranda of that immense hotel, gazing at the free show, and we'd have sold ourselves bag and baggage for about thirty cents. It is a gray-shingled hotel trimmed with white, and battalions of rocking-chairs, mobilized in soldierly ranks, were all left rocking wildly at the top of their voices, their occupants had sprung up so suddenly. It did give a ghostly effect, as if the spirits of vanished guests had seized the chairs and begun visibly to use them the instant their rivals in the flesh were out!
If you fancy that we were able to escape from the eyes and the rocking-chairs without further pain, that shows how little you know the Hippopotamus. Being on fire had given it heart-failure or something. There it stood in front of the hotel, preventing any one else from driving up, till the animal's blushing keepers had pushed it to one side, and we were too noble to pretend we weren't acquainted with it, or even to go on and let it follow. We'd started in the morning, though we had practically no run to make, because we wanted nearly all of one day to potter about Easthampton, seeing sights. But it ended in our having lunch at Shelter Island. The dining-room of that hotel was big enough to hold nearly every one in New York, and most of the inhabitants of that and other large cities seemed to be there. I never saw so many "types" in my life, as one haughtily says in the Casino at Monte Carlo. Most of the girls were pretty, but there were people of all sorts of shapes and sizes; and you can't conceive how the pretty, just right ones, back in rocking-chairs on the veranda after luncheon, looked at the plain, just wrong ones who ventured to amble past them in humble quest of other chairs. Good gracious me! I wouldn't have run that gauntlet for any prize less than winning Jack's love, unless I simply adored my own clothes and features!
Toward two o'clock we got away, still feeling as if we'd been pawed over and rejected in a bargain sale. But though eyes stared coldly, flags waved over the hotel as if in our honour, music played, and breezes blew. All the same we were quite glad to get to a peaceful, countrylike ferry which would take us from the island of humiliation to a harbour where no one would know what had happened—namely, Sag Harbor on the right or lower claw, according to Jack, or the left leg, according to me.
There's a perfect flotilla of miniature islands in between the claws, and people live on them or spend summers on them. I should like to buy them all, because I couldn't be sure which I should like best, and whichever I had, I should know the ones I hadn't were nicer.
This was a wee ferryboat, almost as wee as the things you cross lochs in, in the Highlands of Scotland, but it hadn't so much the air of that being its day to tip over—which was a comfort. As for Sag Harbor, don't make the mistake of supposing that it sagged in any untidy way at the edges, or anything dull like that. Could you call a place dull which was first heard of historically in connection with a reward for killing wolves? There's a dear old town not far from the ferry. In its sedate middle-age it was a great whaling place, and is still crammed full of sea captains' descendants who are, in their turn, crammed full of fascinating stories of old days of great adventure, just as their serene-looking, aged houses are crammed full of shells and coral and other ocean-borne treasures from the far corners of the world. Any of these people (we met some) can tell you that "Sagg" Harbor or the "Harbor of Sagg" (it's dropped the "g," as lots of smart people do in England!) came from the word Sagma, or chief. Jack likes to believe that, just as he likes to find a romantic connection between Sagma, chief, or great man, and saga, or great song. But there are other less picturesque suggestions. If you'd seen what a fine old place Sag Harbor is, you'd hate to think it owed its name to a mere ground-nut the Indians called "Sagabon," or, still worse, "sagga," "thick-growing," which these ground-nuts were: "tubers big as eggs and good as potatoes, 40 on a string, not two inches underground."
Poor Jack simply stubbed his brain against the hardest of these Indian words at first, but now he has developed an almost inconvenient passion for them. When he looks at me steadily, and I think he is about to exclaim a sonnet to my eyebrow, he bursts out: "Tomahawk comes from 'tumetah-who-uf,' he who cuts off with a blow"; or, "Syosset sounds Indian, but is Dutch in origin. It came from 'Schouts'—'sheriff'"; and so on. I never know when I'm safe, but I'm as pleased as he is with the old Long Island place-names, English as well as Indian. Lots of them seem to tell as much about their meanings in a few syllables as an intimate chapter of history; Forge River, Sachem's House, Canoe Place, Baiting Hollow, Execution Rocks, Harbor Hill, South Manor, Bethpage, and a whole pink and green mapful of others. Of course Jamesport was named after horrid old King James the Second, when the Island was under English rule; and every governor and grandee must have a place named after himself! But those names I've jotted down do call up pictures of life in the first settlers' days, don't they?
I suppose while people are alive, they never realize how romantic their own times are! They always look back. What kind of creature will sigh for the far-off quaintness of our days and make fun of our spelling? Those colonists who came in droves from France and Holland and England, to chase away Indians as dawn chases away the shadows of night, would have been surprised if they'd heard their times called romantic, yet how thrilling they seem to Jack and me, as we repeat the old names they gave, and see the "havens" which welcomed them in the New World!
If we hadn't felt already that Long Island was one big haven, we should have begun to feel it at Easthampton. When I say "haven," I mean a sort of hearth and home for weary voyagers, you know, for this Island does give you the impression of having more heart than most places. Perhaps this is because (despite all the Indian fighting and battles of the Revolution) it was from the beginning of its civilization the bourne of homemakers. And, anyhow, when people did horrid things here in the past they prayed about them devoutly; they didn't build their dining-halls over the dungeons, and comfortably feast while their prisoners starved!
But about Easthampton. There's absolutely nothing like it on the other side of the water, not even in Devonshire or Dorset, where the seashore villages are so lovely. Perhaps he will change his mind to-morrow, but to-day Jack says Easthampton is the prettiest place he ever saw.
I wonder if I can make you see what it's like? Perhaps you may see with your mind's eye, but I'm afraid for Monty it's hopeless, as he's never been to America, where everything is so completely different from other countries. Easthampton could be described in several ways by several people, and they would all be right. A history lover would see dignified ghosts of Indian chiefs treating with prim Puritans driven from New England by grim religious dissensions. He would see the best whaling-boats of the New World being made. He would people the oldest shingled houses with families whose possessions are now stored in the picturesque museum. "This place of dreams belongs to the past," he would say, feeling pleasantly sad as he stood by the Great Pond, gazing at irresponsible, intensely modern ducks. Artists would find a paradise of queer, cozy gables, and corners of gardens crowded with old-fashioned flowers that matter more than all the ancient books in the museum library. They would remember Easthampton for the green velvet moss and golden lichen on its ancient roofs, the faint rainbow tints in the old, old glass of its tiny window-panes; for the pink hollyhocks painted against backgrounds of dove-gray shingles; for its sky of peculiar hyacinth blue like a vast cup inverted over wide-stretching golden sands. They would remember gray windmills striding along those sands like a procession of tall monks with arms lifted in benediction; whereas the summer girls and their summer young men would think of the charming, glorified cottages with their awnings and verandas and lovely lawns and masses of blue and pink hydrangeas; also of the big and jolly hotel where we are staying to-night. (The Hamptons wouldn't have done for them in old days when men and maids—"persons of the younger sort"—were hauled up before the courts if they were out after nine o'clock!) While the picture for children would be of a shining beach smooth as silk, and immense lengths of white waves, marching rank after rank in an endless army, with deep rolling music of unseen drums.
You may take your choice of these Hamptons, or like me you may say, "I'll have them all, please!"
Anyhow, you enter beside the Great Pond I told you of, which is so charming in itself and in its flat frame of village green that it deserves the capital G and P it's always spelt with. I do believe if you dared begin it with little letters you'd be driven out of town, and not with "'Fruites,' and corn, and coates," as the Indians were invited to leave in their day. They had a nice well, in a green plain, perhaps where the Great Pond is now, for all I know. There's an old Indian Bible which tells about it, when the Montauks—a fine brave tribe who sold out dirt cheap to the Puritans—lived in their village, which is still commemorated by the name Amagansett. (By the way, I promised Jack to tell Monty that "sett" means meeting-place, which explains why "sett" is the tag end of so many village names here.)
As I said, you come to the Great Pond, and you feel ashamed of being in a motor car, though hundreds of other people are equally guilty. It's all so green and sweet and peaceful, that speed seems a crime. The street, if you can call it a street, is as broad as a generous mind. Never was an English village-green as perfect as this, I suppose because the self-banished English folk who created it worked from an idealized picture treasured in their hearts. And there are old gray and white houses as beautiful as houses in dreams, and pretty new houses which carefully contrive not to look out of keeping with the old ones. Also there are windmills, sketched on clear open backgrounds—windmills which the English settlers didn't mind copying from the Dutch on the other side of the Island.
Now can you fancy what Easthampton is like? But even if you can, you'll never, never smell (unless you pack up and come here) the wonderful fragrance of salt sea and sweet flowers which I shall always have in my mind's nostrils (why can't one have nostrils as well as eyes in one's mind?) when I think of this place. And oh, I nearly forgot to tell you about that great feature, the museum and library, though we spent two hours browsing in it, and "musing" (appropriate word for Easthampton!) by the fountain in its garden. They've made the building look as Elizabethan as though it had been shipped from Surrey; and its books and pictures and relics are fascinating. So are the girls who are the guardians of the place. They are the only young things there.
Luckily it was the one day of the week when people are allowed to go inside the quaintest of the houses in the village (I hate calling it a town, though perhaps I ought to), the wee bit hoosie where John Howard Payne lived. If you don't know that he wrote "Home, Sweet Home," you ought to. It's the dearest little gray nest you can imagine, and I envy the people who own it. No wonder J. H. P. was able to write such a song! But how surprised he'd have been, all the same, if any one had told him that a hundred years or so later crowds of pilgrims would come to worship at that humble shrine!
We had time, after the Payne house, to undertake an adventure. Not that we knew it was going to be an adventure when we started. Jack was responsible for it, he having inflamed his mind by reading overmuch about Montauk Indians and their virtues. Their great stronghold used to be at Montauk Point, a kind of peninsula at the far eastern end of the Island, and Jack wanted to see it. The people at the hotel told us we should find a bad road for motors, but what was that to us, who call ourselves pioneers in the motor world? Bad roads were not in the bright lexicon of our youth, and of course the rest of the party wouldn't back out when that was our attitude. Besides, Mr. Goodrich, the Garden of the Gods giant, put money in an enterprise which expects that ocean liners will some day dock at Montauk Point and so save many hours. He was as keen in his way as Jack was in his, though he cared not that brave Montauk Indians had built their places of refuge there in palisaded inclosures.
Well, we set forth gaily, none of us knowing what we were in for, unless it was Peter Storm. I began to think, after certain events, that he must have pushed his inquiries farther than we did, or else, in that lurid past of his, one of the purplest patches was a secret expedition to the end of Montauk Point. I thought at first it was remarkable of him not only to consent but to applaud the idea that Ed Caspian should lead the way. Earlier, he had seemed to do all he could to spurn and outdistance the Wilmot with the Grayles-Grice. Mr. Caspian is very proud of the Wilmot (though I hear a rumour that he's been taking mysterious lessons how to drive a G.-G.), so proud that he suspected nothing when, without dissent from any quarter, he was allowed to head our procession.
At the start everything was beautiful. Jack was quite entertaining and instructive to the honeymooners and me about the meaning and derivation of the word Montauk which used to be spelled in any old way you liked, from Meantauket (which meant "fortified town") to Muttaag (pillar or ensign), or Manatuck (high land). It seemed that one of the Indians' inclosures, called the New Fort, was still standing in 1662, when Long Island was beginning to think itself quite smart and civilized. That was nice to learn, practically on the spot. We were chatting about the few Indians who exist to this day on Long Island (rather mixed up with negroes) and admiring the gorgeous golden dunes, and gorgeouser goldener gorse when suddenly bump! bump! The moderately bad road became immoderately awful. At this spot some disillusioned motorist had revengefully printed on a proud sign-post the classic words: "Damn Bad Road." We were forced to believe him. And at that instant, as if to emphasize the description, millions of mosquitoes the size of humming-birds attacked us. How the Indians stood them, goodness knows, but perhaps they put up with the pests because they helped keep off the enemy.
All the females of our party uttered uncensored cries, demanding retreat at any price; but Ed Caspian, hearing these wails, turned upon us with taunts. Close behind him came the Grayles-Grice, Peter Storm at the wheel. "Let the ladies come into my car, Mr. Storm," said he, "and they won't notice the jolts."
"Certainly, if they like," Peter consented.
"We don't like, thanks!" replied all the Goodrich giantesses as one. Pat didn't answer, but had the air of a captain intending to sink with the ship.
"Oh, very well, I shall see this through," remarked our noble leader. "One can go anywhere with a Wilmot, even to—the devil!"
That wasn't the way he meant to end his sentence, bien entendu. But just then he plumped into a rut like the back door to China or—to the home of that over-painted gentleman inadvertently mentioned.
We've all learned in Latin how easy is the descent to the second abode, but if we hadn't had it sufficiently impressed on our young minds how difficult it is to get out again, we should have had an object lesson watching the Wilmot. Will-not would have been a better name, if you don't mind a pun, for it simply wouldn't and—didn't. There it was, stuck in ruts of sand worse than Jack and I ever said bad words about in the Sahara. Ed Caspian and his chauffeur did what the German Kaiser used to say he'd do to win a Cowes yacht race—his damnedest. The engine groaned and snorted. You could almost see sweat starting from every valve. Nothing doing but noise! Naturally we were all delighted, because pride and falls go so well together when they're other people's; while as for the poor Hippopotamus, it looked weeks younger, in a minute!
Finally, in the midst of a roar that would have turned an elephant green with envy, the Wilmot's teeth were torn from their sockets—I mean the gears were stripped. That was the end; and all our men, looking hypercritically helpful, ran to the rescue. But there wasn't any rescue. When everything good had been tried and everything bad said, we had to leave. The Wilmot was left to the mercy of the mosquitoes. Ed Caspian was taken aboard the good ship Grayles-Grice, and Jack and I adopted the chauffeur. Our cars backed out of the worst ruts, and it was a long time before we could turn. There, on the way to Montauk Point, the Wilmot remains to this hour, for it was too late to do anything when we got home to the hotel. I wouldn't "put it past" those mosquitoes to suck off all the paint in the night!
Just here in my budget I was interrupted. Pat tiptoed into the sitting-room, spying my rose-light on the balcony, and whispering my name like a password.
I told you, didn't I, that there was pretty sure to be news at half-past midnight? There is—such funny news, entirely different from what I expected!
Peter Storm and Ed Caspian both got telegrams. Peter Storm couldn't understand his. It said, "Can't recall him immediately, but will day after to-morrow. Most inconvenient to have him here now. This will give you one clear day to try your hand on other car."
The mysterious message was signed "L. Shuster," and it was given to Peter as he was about to dance with Pat (it seems he can dance), and seeing him look puzzled she asked politely if anything were wrong. He said he didn't know, and showed her the telegram. She could make no more of it than he could. Then Mr. Caspian appeared with a telegram in his hand. "Have you a wire from Mrs. Shuster?" he wanted to know. Peter didn't deny the soft impeachment. "I'm just wondering," blundered Ed, "if by any chance the lady was absent-minded and mixed the messages? Some one talking to her while she wrote, perhaps. Will you let me have a look at yours?"