I began this letter with a partial promise to abide by your advice; but if you harshly tell me it's too late to change things, I'm afraid I shall go full speed ahead just the same. I won't, however, decide till I hear from you—not because I'm patient, but because the girl mustn't be "rushed" in any case. Besides, I shall very likely not see her to-day. I dropped the party at the door of Kidd's Pines in the dead middle of the night (forgot to tell you Caspian didn't come with us, but turned tail and went to New York: another sign!), garaged the Grayles-Grice, and biked to the village. I'll now try to sleep for an hour or two—less because I'm tired than because I want to dream myself back in the path of the moon, where walks Romance to greet me. My bed here, by the by, usually reminds me of a rack out of commission. But to-day I don't care. I shall find it a bed of roses.
Write as soon as you've thought things over, please. Or, better still, wire: "Advise yes," or—but I won't think of the alternative.
Either way, however, I'll still be yours loyally,
P.S. Can't sleep, can't dream. Something tells me all isn't well at Kidd's Pines. I had forebodings before we started that there'd be ructions when we got back, but I'd mislaid them under a thousand other thoughts. Seems a long time ago! But while I was trying to sleep just now, this came into my mind as if a voice spoke it: "Bridge the gulf that parts you from your wish, and you can walk across." I wish it were your voice said that, old man!
P.P.S. Talk of women with their postscripts! They're not in it with me. I keep leaping off the gridiron—I mean out of bed—again and again to add a word that threatens to burst my brain if bottled up. This time shall be the last! I only want to assure you that I'm not brooding over any coup of revenge against Caspian. My personal dislike of him has nothing to do with my attitude, except that the more I see of the worm the more I see what a worm he is. Not only is he unworthy to crawl in the same atmosphere with Miss Moore (don't smile sarcastically at that expression. I like it!) but he's more fitted for underground conditions than any caterpillar I ever met. Caterpillars change to butterflies. Worms, as far as my knowledge goes, are changeless. I don't feel revengeful against him. But I don't feel conscientious and dutiful for a cent!
PATRICIA MOORE TO ADRIENNE DE MONCOURT
I have not the heart or the time for a long letter, but I must quickly tell you that our Marcel has a son. I asked P. S. But he seems not to think your new cousin can be the same. Soon, surely, he will himself say everything to you, and open his heart wide. Ah, how I wish you all there is of happiness, the more because I am not to have it myself.
The critics knew better about life than I, you see, Mignonne. Yet I am going to be brave. I have got myself engaged with Mr. Caspian already, since I wrote from the beautiful house. You will think that strange, but it came to happen in a simple way. It was at the dance at the Piping Rock Club. That sounds romantic, is it not? But it was not romantic at all. I just had to do it. Then, after a little while, I was very sorry. I thought perhaps I need not have made myself this misery. I was not nice to him the rest of that night, and the next day I would not let him take a snapshot of me in the wonderful garden. I said I had a copyright of my own face, if we were engaged! And I hoped that would make him break, but it did not. He was only in the sulks. And he does not look nice in the sulks. I was glad he had to go to New York and not motor home with us in the Grayles-Grice, and I could not be interested when he said in hints that his business in town had something to do with me—something I should like! I'm sure I cannot like it. And oh, cherie, he has such slept on looking ears, I dare not think of them: too flat, and crinkly at the top like inside lettuce leaves!
I was making up my mind all the way home in heavenly moonlight that it had been a mistake and I must jump out of it. This made me almost happy again—this, and watching Peter Storm drive, which I do like to see, he does it so well, so strongly, it seems to give you strength being near him.
But now I am at home and everything is changed, worse than when Larry was bankrupted. I found him almost engaged to Mrs. Shuster. He was doing it because of being poor, and to save me from the sacrifice. That was what he explained. So of course I told him I had promised to marry Mr. Caspian, and all would be right for us. He is going to get out of it with Mrs. Shuster if he can in honour. If he cannot I must try to dig him out. Larry matters so much more than I do! I wish I were being engaged in France instead of here, because there I think les jeunes filles do not have to kiss. Here, one says they do. But I will not!
I wish again thy happiness, dear one. Mine is lost. Would it do good if you prayed to Saint Anthony of Padua to find it for me again?
Nobody knows yet except Larry. I shall not tell Angele. She would be pleased, and I should want to slap her!
Your poor PATRICE.
MOLLY WINSTON TO MERCEDES LANE
Awepesha, Long Island, Wednesday.
DEAREST OLD GIRL:
I shouldn't call you that if you weren't young and beautiful!
Jack and I have just sent you a cheap, enthusiastic cable containing the one word "Hurrah!" You will understand that our cheers ring across the Atlantic because Monty is mending well. Your letter came this morning with the good news. Biarritz will be a jolly place for his convalescence. I shall never forget when Jack and I were there together before we were engaged. Oh, with Aunt Mary Kedison, of course! And in Jack's car, my poor old Horror of accursed memory being burnt long before. Jack was "Brown" then, and my "Lightning Conductor" as he still is and ever shall be; though just at present when we motor I have to sit behind the scenes and make the lightning work. His wounds have left him stiff in the left arm and leg, but the doctors say he will really and truly be himself again in a few months: six or seven at most. I wish you the same luck with Monty, or better if possible.
By the way, we shall meet Aunt Mary again soon. She has been to the Bahamas for the winter, with a family of retired missionaries (I think they retired after one of them was eaten), but has come back to a house she owns in New England. We shall have to stop and say, "How do you do and good-bye" on our way somewhere else. I confess I dread it, for though Aunt Mary is as good as gold, or, anyhow, silver, she's one of those creatures who begin: "You know I'm a very truthful woman," whenever they have a disagreeable personal remark to make. You've met the type! They're mostly women; and they dissolve in tears and think you cruel as dozens of graves if you retort in kind. I expect Aunt Mary's (almost) first words to Jack will be, "Well, Mr. Winston—(oh, Captain is it, Molly?)—I'm glad to see that my niece and you continue to get along fairly. You're aware I never could approve on principle of these international matches, or mismatches; American women ought to marry men of their own country, if they must marry at all." (She's never forgiven me for snubbing her pet, Jimmy Payne, now a terribly respectable husband and Poopa.) "Still, there can be exceptions, and evidently you don't bully my niece, as it's established that most Englishmen do their wives, for she's looking well considering her age. Let me see, she was born in the year——" But at this point I shall interrupt Aunt Mary by a bright remark about the weather, or a bludgeon if the weather won't work!
I thank our lucky stars (Jack and I have a skyful) that we're going to do another trip before we start for New England. Of course I want my ewe-lion (I've named him that behind his back since he turned warrior) to see all of my dear country he can before we have to sail again; but it's too bad such a lovely part as New England should be infested by aunts, isn't it? It's called the "Ideal Tour," I believe—through the White Mountains and some green and blue ones, etc.—but for Jack and me it will have a drawback. People used to be torn to death by wild horses. That's not done in the best circles now; but it's perfectly admissible, alas, to be talked to death by wild aunts.
I'm charmed that you're so interested in Patsey Moore and Peter Storm. The latter, as I wrote, has developed into her "Lightning Conductor." Indeed, in some ways Jack and he are alike: for you know Jack "Brown-ed" himself in order to conduct me; and I can't help thinking that our Stormy Petrel isn't as Stormy as he's painted. Now I know him so well, I don't let my mind dwell on the possibility of his being less worthy of our intense interest than he seems. If there's anything hidden, it's "buried treasure," such as we hope against hope may exist at Kidd's Pines.
It's not very long, as the crow flies—I mean the post—since I wrote you last; but I do think more things can happen in America to the square minute than anywhere else in the world. Especially at Kidd's Pines! It's like living in a "movie" when they are running the reels off fast. Why, our reels go so quickly you hardly know what's happened to the "walking men and women", and it's even difficult to tell the hero from the villain.
That sounds frivolous, but it's serious really. I should be very sad if I weren't hoping that Jack and Peter Storm and I may be able to combine together and stop things from going all to bits.
At present everything to do with "heart interest" is horrid—except some things that are funny. And the people they're happening to can't see the fun in them as the outsiders—Jack and I—can. Naturally there would be heaps of heart interest, all over the place, wherever Patty was; and that would be all right if Larry weren't simply followed around by it too, the way actor-managers are by the spotlight. When we were doing our delicious motor run around Long Island, getting acquainted with the old whalers, and Indian chieftains, and golfers and millionairesses, it was sweet to see how Pat was unconsciously taming our Stormy Petrel to eat out of her hand. Even Jack saw it happening, so it must have been pretty obvious, because men never can see other people's love stories going on under their noses. I knew as well as if he'd told me, that Peter Storm would rather be torpedoed again than fall in love and settle down. Besides though none but the brave deserve the fair, few but the rich ever get them. And I suppose the Stormy One can't be rich, whatever else he may be. Perhaps he was once, and lost all his money; for he certainly has the look of a banished prince, and the long-distance manner of one, if he doesn't like anybody or is bored. But strong as he may be in many ways, he could not resist Pat when he was in a motor car with her day after day. Jack and I would have bet (if that hadn't been callous) as to whether he'd cave in far enough to propose; and if I had bet I should have lost. But it wouldn't have been my fault. It would have been Ed Caspian's. Jimmy Payne at his worst wasn't a patch on him.
How the man managed it I can't conceive (as Pat is of an almost exaggerated and clamlike loyalty), but she arrived at Kidd's Pines at the end of that short trip engaged to Caspian!
I didn't know till the next day; didn't know that, or the rest. You see, we finished up with a moonlight run from the gorgeous house I wrote you a postcard about. We were late, for the Faust-cry in our hearts was communicated to our speed: "Linger awhile: thou art so fair!" Jack and I didn't stop at Kidd's Pines at all, though they asked us in to have night-blooming sandwiches and such things. We went straight on to Awepesha and slept the sleep of the moderately just. Pat had promised to 'phone in the morning, and did. She merely asked how we were, and said she was well; but I could tell from her voice that something dreadful was the matter. I dashed over in the car before Jack was dressed, ready with an excuse about a book I wished to borrow, and was so early that I found myself colliding—nay, telescoping—with the breakfast brigade of the "hotel."
Pat doesn't break her fast with the paying guest, however: she's an early bird, though her pet aversion is a worm. I sent a message to her room (the smallest in the house) and was invited to go up. There was a cloud of cigar smoke in the air, and as Pat doesn't smoke, I deduced a miraculously matinal call from Larry. That alone was an omen of catastrophe, for Larry is either up all night or not before 10 A. M. And Pat's face was worse than an omen. I could see behind her poor little smile of greeting, right into her mind, as if her head had been a watch with nothing but glass over the works.
"Good gracious, darling, whatever is it?" I gasped.
"Nothing," said she, "except—except that Tom has toothache, and I'm sorry for him."
"That boy has got a regular rush of teeth to the head!" I snapped. "Never mind him. It's you I'm interested in. Dear baby, your nosebud is quite pink. You've been crying—not for Tom's tooth."
"Maybe I got sunburned motoring," she paltered with me.
"Nonsense! You've a sunproof complexion, as well as waterproof hair. Out with it, darling!"
"You talk like a dentist," Pat put off the evil moment.
"I hope your dentist doesn't call you 'darling.' Mine wouldn't twice. Seriously, my child, I don't want to intrude; but we're friends, aren't we? and I'm older than you (worse luck!), so you might let me help. Is it anything to do with housekeeping worries? Has the cook fainted on the breakfast bacon—or——"
With that—perhaps the picture was too awful!—she burst into tears. "Oh, Larry has promised Mrs. Shuster he'd marry her, and I must save him," she sobbed.
My dear Mercedes, you could have knocked me down with a dandelion seed! Positively my feet felt wobbly under me, like standing on poached eggs. Instantly I realized why the Dove of Peace hadn't wanted to go motoring with us happy, innocent mortals, and why Larry—hypnotized by Mrs. Shuster's money or his own fatal good nature—had pretended that he must stop at home to look after his guests. I wished I were as common as mud, and could have gasped out "Gosh!"
I've told you a good deal about Mrs. Shuster, haven't I? She's not a bad sort in her way—but for Larry, unthinkable! Yet I might have guessed. She's been doing her hair a new way lately, and powdering her face. For Larry to have to kiss it now would be exactly like kissing a marshmallow. She's so awkward, too: the least obstacle attracts her like a magnet to stumble over it, and Larry hates awkwardness. Then her clothes! She could force a fashion to change, simply by following it far enough; and she's taken to wearing such bright colours it would be more comfortable to look at her through smoked glasses. Oh, yes, I ought to have guessed!
"Save him?" I echoed. "We'll all save him."
"He says it's too late to back out, now, in honour," wailed Pat. "The Moores have always been ter-r-ibly honourable."
I thought from what I'd heard of some, not excepting Larry himself, that "terribly" was the word. I bit my heart and was silent, however, and Patsey went on: "I've done my very best. I've told him it wasn't necessary. I feel sure (though of course he's too chivalrous to say so of poor Mrs. Shuster) that he would nevaire marry her except for my good. Oh, dear, how I wish money were extinct!"
"It is almost, in lots of pockets and other places," I said. "You mean, you think Mr. Moore—er—chose this way of giving you a dot?"
"What else could it be? And the cruel part is, I have already the dot. I have dotted myself. I am engaged to Mr. Caspian."
"The devil you are!" I coarsely exclaimed. But it seemed to comfort Pat somehow. She gave herself to my arms, and cried into my neck the hottest tears I ever felt. They might have boiled out of a Yellowstone geyser, as a sample.
I soothed the child as well as I could. "Don't cry, dear," I begged. "You didn't on the dock, you know, when you got the bad news."
"Oh, but we were only ruined then!" she choked. "Now we're both of us nearly married. And if Larry'd only known about me in time, he needn't have spoiled himself."
I was tempted to assure her that Larry would hardly have taken such a step for any one's sake except his own. But I knew she'd never quite forgive me for mentioning clay in connection with her idol's feet. Instead, I repeated that Larry should be rescued; that I'd talk it over with Jack, and surely, surely we'd think of a plan. Within my heart I vowed, and with far more earnestness, to rescue Larry's daughter also. The very fact that Pat didn't confess to sacrificing herself, however, warned me from indiscretion. I repeated that I would consult Jack; and a little snake of an idea wriggled into my head at the same instant. I let it curl up and get warm. It was not a viper!
Jack said even worse than I had said. He said "Damn!" But when he says it, my dear, it sounds the most satisfactory word! I was pleased he took it that way, instead of reminding me it wasn't our business! I felt encouraged to mention my idea, which was to send a note with our car, and ask Mr. Storm to lunch at Awepesha. "Three heads are better than two," said I, "though it mayn't be so with hearts."
"But Storm's still supposed to be Mrs. Shuster's secretary," said Jack. "If they had any differences after the affair of the telegrams, they've swallowed the hatchet—I mean, buried it. You remember, Storm stayed at home a whole day doing proofs, in the middle of the trip——"
"Yes, the day Pat also stayed at home—the same home—to write letters!"
"Well, what I was coming to is this: while he remains in Mrs. Shuster's service, whatever his motive for doing so may be, he's more or less at her beck and call. It suited her to have Storm's back, and all our backs, turned for a bit; now the ground is safe again under the lady's feet. She'll want our congratulations, and Storm's stylo, to send out the glad tidings. Ten to one by this time she's got hold of him, and he's heard the worst——"
"Meaning, not about her and Larry, but Pat and Caspian," I finished Jack's sentence.
"Storm will be at Kidd's Pines for lunch," went on my fellow-conspirator (I took it for granted he would be that!), "eating Dead Sea Apples."
"I don't believe it!" I contradicted. "Pat would hardly be equal to meeting him, with that nosebud and those eyes. He'll have escaped into the wilderness—his own backyard, probably. It's the safest and most retired place there is to have a Berserker rage in. I'll word my note so that he'll understand we're on the salvage dodge. Then he'll come like an arrow shot from the bow."
"Car permitting!" said Jack; but he was really sympathetic of course, or he wouldn't have been Jack.
Peter did come, and it was more complicated than I had thought, leading up to the subject, because as I've told you, P. S. is as reserved as a Leyden drop—if that's the name for it: don't you know, it falls into a jar full of something or other and instantly hardens on the outside, which sets up a great strain, and you have to be careful in touching it for fear it flies to bits? However, I began with Larry and Mrs. Shuster. He hadn't heard about them, for he had been advised in a note from his employeress that he needn't come over till she sent for him (I suppose that was to please Caspian and keep the hated rival out of the way till the creature could rush back). Peter didn't laugh at all, except just at first when I got off my mot about the marshmallow kiss. He seemed to think, not about the funny part of such an entanglement for Larry, but about the horrid part of it for Pat. And then, when I had got him quite melted and human, I blurted out: "The worst of it is, poor little Patsey has sacrificed herself to save her father, because she thought he'd sacrificed himself to save her, or something of that sort."
"What do you mean?" asked Peter, not able to wait till I had finished swallowing heavily.
"She's promised to marry a man she doesn't even like," I said. "Mr. Caspian."
You ought to have seen his face! His lips tightened, and his eyes simply blazed. I almost thought in another second my Leyden drop would fly to bits! But Peter isn't really that sort of badly regulated drop.
"Caspian's cursed money," he remarked, when he felt able to speak.
"Yes," I replied. "The poor girl said that she wished money were extinct. I wish his were, anyhow!"
"Stranger things have happened," returned Peter.
"I promised Pat that we'd save Larry, and I promised myself that we'd save her," I went on. "Jack and I have an exalted idea of your cleverness about conducting cars and affairs in general, so we decided to ask you to help us conspire. It was really you who made the success of the venture at Kidd's Pines, by your marvellous conjuring trick of getting Marcel Moncourt to come. We felt, if you could do a thing like that you could do anything. But my gracious, you look as if you'd resort to murder! We don't want you to go as far as that."
"I would if necessary," Peter said, "but I think it won't be necessary. We'll scotch our snake, not kill him."
"The snake doesn't love you," I ventured. "I've sometimes thought he'd do all he could to hurt you. But—but I suppose he couldn't do anything very troublesome, could he, even if you envenomed him a little more?"
"He might be able to upset some of my arrangements," said Peter, "but in upsetting them, his own would be under the avalanche."
I saw by his look that this wasn't just a joke. The Stormy Petrel meant something in particular, something he didn't intend to explain to Jack or me; and all my old feeling about his mysteriousness came back. "I should feel guilty," I said, "if by asking you to plot with us, I'd induced you to mix yourself up in a business which might be annoying."
"However it turns out, it won't be annoying," Peter answered. "Things have gone far beyond that. If I choose, Mrs. Winston, I can put Caspian out of the running to-morrow. Money has given him power to use this situation for his own advantage. If he lost it——"
"Heavens, man, if he lost it, don't you see that Patricia Moore's the sort of girl to feel she owed him allegiance?" broke in Jack, who had so far confined himself to listening. "Any one who could take Caspian's money away would be giving him the girl."
As I heard this, I realized how very clever Jack is, for neither Peter Storm nor I had thought of that, though it was absolutely true. He and I would have rushed wildly ahead and broken every bank Caspian had a cent in, if we could. But we both had the wisdom to realize instantly that Jack was right about Pat.
"We mustn't do anything serious to begin with," I said. "Let's see if we can't think of something silly, like the mouse gnawing the net that had caught the lion. Another lion trying to do that would only have tangled up his teeth. Can you condescend to think of a thoroughly silly and frivolous trick?"
"I've thought of one," said Peter, "without condescending at all. As you say, we won't begin by tearing the net; we'll unravel it. What do you think would have happened to you, Mrs. Winston, before you were married, if you'd had to travel day after day in a motor car with a man you already disliked?"
"I know what would have happened. It did happen!" Jack and I tossed each other a smile across the memory of Jimmy Payne. "I got to loathe him. I see what's in your head—don't I?"
"You do. But one of us conspirators would have to be in the car to see how things worked, and when they'd gone far enough."
"Of course!" I caught him up. "And that one would have to be you. I must stick to my poor wounded man on our next trip, as on the last."
"Very well, let it be me," said Peter.
I don't think he wanted his eyes to meet mine at that moment, for he hadn't time to push his soul back behind the glass doors and lock it in. Somehow he couldn't help it, though; and I knew that he knew that I knew what was in his heart for Patricia Moore. Whatever the wild streak in his nature was, which had made him vow not to marry and settle down, the flame of love had burst out with such terrific force the streak was simply melted.
Truly, I hadn't begun this scene with the deliberate intention of being a matchmaker. But I saw that if the man hadn't loved to desperation, he would never have given in at all. Perhaps if this unpleasant tangle hadn't arrived he might have taken himself out of Patsey Moore's life without quite knowing what his had missed—until it was too late.
We went on developing our plan, with occasional suggestions from Jack; and we thought we might as well try to kill another bird with the same stone, by throwing it in the direction of Larry and Mrs. S.
Think what it will be for Larry to be engaged to Mrs. Shuster day after day in a motor car, especially if there's a better looking and younger woman on board!
You see how things are shaping themselves. I hope it makes you look forward a little, little bit, to my next letter, dear girl!
Your affectionate, anxious, but optimistic
PETER STORM TO JAMES STRICKLAND
The Day before the Battle.
Many thanks for your letter, my dear fellow. It's less pessimistic than I expected, and gives me the impression that I may regard you as a Prop. I shall follow your advice rigidly, though I must juggle some of the details, as Caspian has taken advantage of the poor little girl's love for her father, and practically (from what I understand) blackmailed her into promising to marry him. Mrs. Winston is in her confidence, though both she and I think there are unexplored depths. Patricia confesses that, rather than Larry should give her Mrs. Shuster for a step-mamma, she took the line of least resistance to obtain money. But I have a horrible instinctive idea that the trouble began at Piping Rock, and that she really sacrificed herself to shield me. This makes me feel positively hydrophobic toward Caspian; but all the same I'll remember what you say, and not be "precipitate"—one of your favourite words: follows you about like a dog!
Before doing anything drastic, I'm hoping that my dear girl may see for herself that Caspian is impossible. Or, if her devotion to Larry is like the Rock of Gibraltar on which waves of contrary emotions dash themselves in vain, it may be that Larry will do a little mining and sapping on his own account. Captain and Mrs. Winston and I have formed an alliance offensive and defensive, particularly the former, against the coalesced forces of Caspian and Shuster. There has been no talk of my private feelings—bien entendu—but the small nations are to be protected by our united diplomacy. We're starting off on another expedition planned with a certain bold audacity. Moore and his fat fiancee are to travel together in Caspian's Wilmot, conducted by his chauffeur, accompanied by the prettiest, most coquettish Miss Goodrich, and one of Mrs. Shuster's Peace League Confreres, ex-Senator Collinge, a violently intelligent man who looks (Mrs. Winston says) like a moth-eaten lion with false teeth.
We hope and expect that Mrs. Shuster will get on Larry's sensitive nerves when at such close quarters; that desperation combined with natural inclination will drive him to flirt with Idonia Goodrich, who will enthusiastically respond; that Mrs. Shuster's mortification may drive her to such vulgar vengeance as will disgust Larry beyond repair; that the lion may not be too moth-eaten to seize his chance and the lady, and that Pat may then scramble down from the pyre of self-sacrifice.
This seems a good deal to expect from a three or four days' motoring trip, doesn't it? But almost anything can happen in automobiles. And I haven't told you yet the rest of our programme.
"Tom, Dick, and Harry" don't count. They're simply "on in the scene," and like the poor, always with us! They pound through the landscape as before, with their Hippopotamus; and Captain and Mrs. Winston, who are to be of the party, will take our bride and bridegroom again, a very appropriate arrangement. But everything hangs upon the Grayles-Grice. After a council of war with the Winstons, I advised Miss Moore that it would be comparatively safe to have Caspian conduct. You see, the two engagements are announced (Caspian and Mrs. Shuster saw to that, without letting a blade of grass grow under their feet!), and so it was easy for me to take it for granted that Patricia would wish to give the wheel of her car to C. "Of course you'll want to sit in front," I said humbly. "But if you would still care to have any help I can give, I'd gladly offer my services. I can perch on one of the fold-up chairs," I went on, "which will leave plenty of room for any others you like to take, no matter how large (I thought of the Goodriches). I've had more experience as a mechanic than Mr. Caspian, perhaps, and I might be useful in emergencies——"
"Oh you would!" broke in the darling, with adorable alacrity. And as far as she was concerned, the matter was settled. You would have thought, however, that Caspian would be the rock I'd split on, now that he has a "say" in the affairs of Patricia. But the Winstons and I hadn't forgotten this chance in our calculations. We expected C. to take a fiendish joy in the prospect of kicking me when I was down: "putting me into my place" and making love to Miss Moore before my starting eyes—a great triumph for him after the very different Long Island trip in the same car with some of the same passengers. Well, we were as right as rain. The yellow dog snapped at the attractive morsel, which we hope we have poisoned. How will she stand the situation he is exulting in?
Next time I write I shall know how our strategy works out. I talk of it lightly, but honestly, Strickland, I'm not laughing on the right side of my mouth. And if it weren't for your advice, and Molly Winston's conviction that Pat would stick to C. if he were ruined, I shouldn't be playing about with any such piffling policy as I've just outlined. There'd be a cataclysm for somebody! I might get involved in it myself—but I'd risk that. It may have to come, anyhow, of course, so hold yourself prepared, as I do. And meanwhile we mustn't forget where the two Marcels come in.
Yours ever, THE STORMY PETREL.
(That's what they named me on shipboard, and, by Jingo, it's appropriate now!)
MOLLY WINSTON TO MERCEDES LANE
Just Back at Awepesha.
Jack says he would be having the time of his life lightning conducting over here (I'm not sure he expressed it as Americanly as that) if only people would be sensible enough to do what we want them to do. They do seem so obstinate when they won't! Even dear Patsey, not to speak of Larry and the Two Unspeakables—but no, I won't let myself go on that subject now: I might say too much. I'll cool my feelings by telling you about the lovely—or ought-to-have-been-lovely—trip we have just had. Scenery is far more restful than human nature—other people's human nature I mean, not Jack's and mine. And Jack says that American country scenery is the most restful in the world, just as the cities are the most exciting. Clever adjustment of the Law of Contrast! I'm not sure he isn't right, are you? Surely there aren't such exquisite, laughing, dryad-haunted woods in Europe, so young and gay and unspoiled looking, as if you had just discovered them yourself, and nobody else had ever seen them before. I'm falling in love with my own country all over again, and appreciating it proudly because my much-travelled Jack is so ingenuously astonished every minute at its striking individuality, its difference from any other part of the globe he has ever "infested" (his own word!).
Oh yes, every prospect pleases, and only Ed Caspian is vile—though Mrs. Shuster is a good second, and Pat—but I said I wouldn't mention them, anyhow at first. I'm sure Jack and I were never so irritating, except perhaps to Aunt Mary. But she was different. One somehow wanted to irritate her. She was born to be irritated.
Dearest, I'm going to write you a straightforward account of three divine days which would have been all spotless brightness if it hadn't been for—but no matter!
We (quite a large party in four cars: the Grayles-Grice, the Wilmot, ours, and the Hippopotamus) started early on a warm morning, not from Long Island but from a New York hotel. We'd been invited by Mrs. Shuster to a roof-garden dinner in (or on) it the night before, where we'd been dazzled by an incredible assemblage of gunpowder pearls and dynamite diamonds on the bosoms of the Ammunition Aristocracy—a wondrous new class of Americans sprung up since the war. Not one of us wore a jewel, I must tell you, except Mrs. Shuster, who flaunted an ancestral ring she'd cozened out of poor Larry. (Pat had "forgotten" her searchlight which Caspian made a special expedition to New York to buy her as a badge of slavery.)
Jack was quite excited about beginning the Hudson River trip in this way, because he's been so busy discovering Long Island, and it's been so warm, that he kept New York up his sleeve (sleeves are worn large) until later. He hadn't even seen Riverside Drive I'd boasted of so much; but he wouldn't be Jack Winston if he didn't know rather more about it than the average American, including me.
If it were any other Englishman, I couldn't stand his airs of historic erudition about my native land, but Jack is so human and boyish in his joy of "fagging up things," and so broad-mindedly pleased that we beat his wrong-headed ancestors in our Revolution, that I don't grudge him the crumbs he's gathered. Of course, I pretend to have crumbs in my cupboard, too, even when it's really bare as bone. I say, "Oh, yes, now I remember!" and intelligent-sounding things like that.
Did you, for instance, ever know that the source of the Hudson—the most important source—is a little lake in Essex County, with an Indian name which translates into "Tear of the Clouds?" I didn't, and I'm not certain people ought to probe rivers' pasts any more than they ought women's. It's their own fault if they find out insignificant beginnings. Fancy saying, "Who was she?" about a beautiful body of water like the Hudson! Jack is naturally glad that Henry Hudson was English, not Dutch, as so many people think from his being spelt Hendrik as a rule. I suppose the Dutch hoped that would be thought, from their tacking on the "k," for they were so jealous of each other, the Hollanders and the Puritans, in the days of the early un-settlers.
Frightfully geologic things seem to have happened and subsided under the Hudson, making it navigable all the way; otherwise New York City wouldn't be the greatest on the American continent. Jack was talking to me about this all along Riverside Drive, not that it would have mattered much, because New Yorkers could have said it was the greatest to Chicago people just the same. I didn't dare make this remark to Jack, however, because he was being thrilled with thoughts of the Revolution and I wanted to encourage him in those. I hoped he wouldn't know about Fort Washington being the place of the fight that caused General Washington to give up Manhattan Island to his—Jack's—horrid ancestors; but he did know, and about the sloops and brigs and other things which we foxy little Americans had sunk there to keep the British ships from getting farther up the river. You can get tremendously excited about this Revolution business when you're on the spot, you see, though you and I have lived so much in England where most people treat it as a "brush" less important than the Boer War. And when you are here, surrounded with all the noisy progress and skyscraping greatness of our country, it is wonderful to think how a few brave men, determined to have their rights, in spite of desperate odds, made this vast difference in the world.
I was secretly longing to know what Jack would think of the dear Palisades, which seem so wonderful to us, and give us more of a feeling, somehow, than the highest mountains of Europe, Africa, or Asia. But he was most satisfactory about them. He didn't say much. He just gazed, which was better; and they were looking their grandest that day, like the walls of castles turned into mountains. And there were strange lights and shadows in the water which gave a magical, enchanted effect. There were thunderous violet clouds in the sky, with shafts of sunshine pouring through; and Jack and I discovered, deep down in the river, marvellous treasures of the enchanted castles: white marble seats and statues, and golden vases, and drowned peacocks, with spread purple tails floating under the crystal roof which we call the surface of the river.
It does annoy me when Europeans patronize us about being a new country, doesn't it you? The Palisades, it seems, boiled up and took shape as a wall of cliff thirty million years ago, or maybe more, in the Triassic period. What can you get anywhere older than that? And Europe would give a cathedral or two out of her jewel-box to look young as long as America does!
We've got a queer old manuscript at Awepesha, which Jack has ferreted out of obscurity, telling the Indian legends of the Hudson River. They are as beautiful as anything from the ancient Sanscrit, and the Indians who lived on the Palisades' green tops, or along the shores beneath—the Hackensack, and Tappan Indians and others who have given their names to river places—had some of the best legends of all. I love the Woman of the Mountains (young and lovely, not old, as some people say) who had done noble service for the Great Spirit: as reward she had the privilege of cutting out a new silver moon every month with her magic shears, and when it was shrinking into uselessness, to snip what was left into little stars—as Juliet wanted done with Romeo! She lived in a wonderful purple cave, not in the Palisades, but hidden in the Catskills; and from its door, which no one could find, she sent forth Day and Night alternately. Also, in immense jars of porphyry and gold, she kept sunshine and storm, to let out when she thought best. Perhaps those purple splashes and golden gleams we saw under the water were her storm and sun jars, which floated out of the cave and buried themselves in the sand poured down by Sandy Hook!
To jump from the Indian legends to the Dutch, I do trust the story of Spuyten Duyvil is true. It must be, because it's too good not to be true. Do you remember it's told in dear Washington Irving's "Knickerbocker History of New York?"—the most amusing history book ever written, I should think. The man—one of Peter Stuyvesant's men, I fancy—was hurrying to warn the farmers that the Beastly British were coming, and when there was no bridge by which he could cross the stream he vowed he'd do the trick "in spuyt den duyvil." The history says he was drowned in the fierce waters, but I can't believe that part. I think his jealous rival—of course he had one—put that tale about. Of course he got across and warned the farmers, as he deserved to do for defying the devil.
I remember when I used to be at boarding-school in New York, and in spring we were taken little Saturday trips when we were good, the very name of "Yonkers" meant deadly suburban dullness to me. I only wanted to get past the place. But to motor through with Jack makes all the difference, even though by the time we reached there I was bristling with rage at sight of the doings of Caspian in the Grayles-Grice. We were trailing in the rear, so the troublous events and turbid emotions of the cars ahead were visible to us, as if they had been uncovered saucepans boiling over on a redhot stove. Fancy that Caspian creature practically ordering Storm out to buy newspapers, as if he were a chauffeur! But Jack consoled me: "Before you explode, stop and think what would have been the effect on you if Jimmy Payne had done that with poor old Brown."
Of course, I should have ached to box Jimmy's ears, and all my loyalty would have flowed out in waves to Brown; so perhaps Pat—but to go back to Yonkers. It makes the name sound less unsympathetic and like a frog's croak to recall that it was given when the Yonk Heer Vredryck Flypse, or Philipse (he who called New York "a barren island"), the richest and most important man of his day, from New York to Tarrytown, built one of his manor houses there. It's still there, by the way, and lots of other historic things, if one bothers to stop and dig them up, instead of dashing through with an admiring glance at the jolly modern houses, more conspicuous than the old.
We had a full day before us, what with worshipping at Washington Irving's shrine, and sighing over Sing Sing, and arriving at West Point in time for dress parade and to hear the sunset gun. So we flew fast through lovely Hastings-on-Hudson, and Irvington, over a silk-smooth surface, under an adorable avenue of trees which perhaps remembered the Revolution; past exquisite places where only exquisite people ought to live, to Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. It seems sacrilege to arrive in autos and a hurry at a town with a name so deliciously lazy, to say nothing of its associations. But one can't help being modern!
I wonder if the comfortable Dutch settlers who pottered along this old Albany Post Road ever dreamed nightmare dreams of creatures like us, tearing in strange machines over surfaces magnificently bricked or oiled, and covering in one day distances to which they would prayerfully have devoted weeks? Probably they would have pitied and despised rather than envied us; and maybe they'd have been right: for does the extra ozone and the thrill of speed quite make up for things missed or half seen? Still, impressions are wonderful; and I shan't forget the bluebell colour of distant hills, the silver-gray of rocks, and the diamond-dazzle of water glimpsed between feathery tree branches, or the jewelled gleam of wild flowers scattered by the roadside, and the pale flame of mulleins straight and tall as lighted candles in the grass.
Isn't it a sweet thing for the world that there should have been men who loved making the rock-bound fields of history blossom with delicate flowers, just as monks of ancient days illumined quite dull texts?—men like Washington Irving, for instance.
I always loved Washington Irving, and so I'm glad to say did Jack; but he came back to life and actually walked with us that day. Perhaps it sounds impudent and conceited to say this, but I don't mean it so, and if he knew how humble and happy we felt as we came under his spell, I do think he wouldn't have snubbed us. No, he would never have snubbed any one! He was much too human, and understanding. He wouldn't scornfully have called us "tourists," but would have realized that we were worshippers at a shrine. Of course I don't include Ed Caspian or Mrs. Shuster! C., when the time came to leave our cars outside the with-difficulty-found gates of Sunnyside, put on the airs of a grand seigneur who knows all that is to be known already. He said (so Peter told us later): "It's not much of a place; quite a small house, not worth getting out for." And he actually proposed that Patty should sit in the car with him while the others explored! Pat wasn't "taking any." She jumped out, and rather than see her walk away with Peter, C. had to follow. As for Mrs. Shuster, she can't bear to walk if there's a chance of sitting still, especially since she's taken to these fearfully tall-heeled, new-fashioned, high-necked boots which make our feet look like the hoofs of rather chic cows: incredible heels like the Venetian beauties used to wear. She, like Caspian, reminded her beloved of the blessing for those who only stand (sit!) and wait. But Larry said he'd something important to tell Pat; then strolled with Idonia Goodrich and never went near his daughter. Mrs. Shuster was reduced to her peace partner; and, oh, you can't think what she looks like when she pouts!
We had to thank Larry for an open sesame to the doors of Sunnyside, however; for he has some distant acquaintance with the grand-nephew of Washington Irving who has inherited the quaint, delightful house with its red gables and extraordinarily intelligent-looking windows. Anybody is allowed to peep inside the gates of the old place, but of course the house is only for friends or acquaintances, or it would be overrun and the family would have to take to the cellar. Pat had somehow forced Larry to write and ask permission, for he never puts pen to paper if he can help it!
Sometimes it's a blow to see where your favourite authors lived, but Washington Irving's dear old Dutch house is just right. It is like a beautiful living body with his memory for its soul: yes, a charming body with all his quaintnesses and unexpectednesses and dainty mysteries. It looks at least as old as the seventeenth century, but only a nucleus of the rambling, many-windowed, creeper-clad mansion is really old. There's a romance about that part, by the way, but perhaps you know it better than I do.
Once upon a time, when Washington Irving was very young, he visited the Pauldings in a house swept away now. He used to take a boat and row all alone, to think thoughts and dream dreams under the willow trees that even then roofed the brook in Sunnyside glen. He could see a tiny house called "Wolfert's Roost," and said to himself, "If I could live here and have that for mine I should be perfectly happy."
It didn't seem then as if his wish could possibly come true, but he always kept it in his heart, and years later, after he had lived in London and been American Minister in Madrid, he came back to his first love, with money he had been saving up, to make it his own. He added and added again to the house, but contrived to give it the lovely look of having just grown up anyhow, as trees and flowers grow. That's partly because of its cloaks and muffs and boas of trumpet-creeper and ivy. It has the look, too, even now, of being miles from anywhere—except the river and the creek, which sing the same song they sang long ago, under the trees. The trees of Sunnyside are somehow curiously individual, Jack and I thought, as if they knew the historic reputation they had to live up to, and were gently proud of it. There are trees graceful as ladies dancing a minuet, spreading out their green brocade skirts for a deep curtsey; trees as spicily perfumed as the pouncet boxes of those same ladies; thoughtful trees whose one mission in life is to give deep shade under showering branches, and gay trees like sieves for sunshine. Jack and I wandered among them and then gazed out upon them, as Washington Irving must often have gazed (in search of new inspiration), through the small square panes of his study windows.
His descendants have changed nothing there, in that dear little modest nest for a genius! It's close to the front door, as you go in from the deep porch, at the right-hand side of a fascinating corridor. Looking down that corridor you see a vista of rooms, delightful as rooms in dreams. They are furnished, but not crowded, with old and exquisite things—things which must have been intimate friends of the family for generations; and, oh, how much more attractive are the rooms than any royal suites I've seen in palaces!
In the study (I feel sure he called it that, not library) the master of long ago might have walked a moment ago, out into the garden, so entirely does the room seem impressed with his personality. There are his books, his manuscripts, his pens; his desk, and his writing-chair drawn up to it; his little table; the charming old prints he loved, given to him and signed by friends whose names are famous; pictures of the house when it was "Wolfert's Roost," and when it had grown larger. The green and golden light streaming through the windows, front and side, seems just the sort of light that Washington Irving would have loved to write in. He made it greener and more inspiring by bringing from Melrose Abbey slips of the ivy which now curtains the windows; and in the green-gold light he wrote his "Life of Washington" and many other things which we all love.
Coming out of the study when we were ready to go away, I looked through the open door of a beautiful room across the corridor, straight into an old-fashioned mirror. Never was a mirror so becoming. I felt as if I were seeing my own portrait painted by Romney; and behind me for an instant I seemed to catch a fleeting glimpse of another face, as though a man stood on the study threshold, smiling to me a kind good-bye. I adore my own imagination. After Jack, it is my best and dearest chum!
I think even if one didn't know that thrilling things had happened in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow (heavenly names!) in old days, one would somehow feel it. What's the use of one's subconscious self if it doesn't nudge one's subjective self and whisper that it was born knowing? Why, I could see Sir Vredryck Flypse and his family streaming out of the old Dutch church, as gorgeous in their Sunday best as the church was simple; the ladies' stomachers embroidered with silver and seed pearls, their short, stiff brocade skirts swinging to show their silk stockings and high-heeled shoes, much as ours do now; the men taking a sly pinch of snuff, and brushing it hastily off their blue or gray coats; tie-wigs, silver buttons, and knee breeches glittering in the sunshine of such a day as this, away back in sixteen hundred and something. I can see neat, consciously aristocratic and good Dominie Mutzelius or Dominie Ritzema in irreproachable black, with a touch of white, going as guest to Sunday dinner at Philipsburg Manor, after the "great people" had listened to his eloquence, seated in their cushioned "boxes" in the seven-windowed church. There are only six windows now; but in those days you had to keep your window and weather eye open, even during the dominie's discourse, for Indians might take a fancy to scalp the congregation if it could be taken unawares. Luckily the lord of the manor, and his friends, and the sturdy farmers with their families, were not to be caught napping, even if the sermon were dull and the weather hot. Besides, in case of emergency, they could turn their church into a fort at a few minutes' notice. The walls were nearly three feet thick; the seven windows were barred with iron, and so high up that, if the Indians wanted to peep, they had to climb on each other's shoulders. As for the doors, they could hardly be knocked in with a battering ram; so you had no excuse to stop at home on Sunday, even in "Indian Summer." Of course we went to see the grave where all that is mortal of Washington Irving lies in the Sleepy Hollow cemetery; and the famous bridge—or, rather, the new edition of it built by William Rockefeller.
Do you remember that Major Andre was taken on the Albany Post Road at Tarrytown on his way to New York, with dispatches from the traitor Benedict Arnold hidden in his stockings? I've always had a sneaking sympathy with Andre, because he was gallant and young and good looking, but Tarrytown isn't the place, I find, in which to express any such sentimental feeling. He is still the villain of the piece there, a mere spy, travelling in disguise, a treacherous wretch who long and stealthily worked to corrupt a hitherto honourable general. He is the villain, and David Williams, John Paulding, and Isaac Van Waart, the scouting militiamen who took and searched him, are the heroes of that drama of 1780. Tarrytown people are delighted to this day that Andre was hanged, and they love the monument to his captors who wouldn't be bribed by horse, or watch, or money. I suppose if Andre hadn't offered those bribes, or said he belonged to the "Southern party," they might never have thought of his stockings, he would have got safely to the waiting ship, and on to New York; and Benedict Arnold would have surrendered West Point to the British!
Heaps of other exciting things helped to make Tarrytown historic: an Indian massacre, a big battle in the Revolution, Major Hunt's "bag of British soldiers at Van Tassel's Tavern when he won fame by his shout, 'Gentlemen, clubs are trumps!'" and so on. But we took even more interest in the old legends of Spook Rock, and Andre's ghost and Cuffy's Prophecy and the Flying Dutchman, who of course tacks back and forth across the Tappan Zee. Such things are so much more real than facts! Besides, we had to "get on—get on!" that war cry of motoring men.
We did get on, along the smooth brick road to Ossining, which is really Sing Sing, you know (or ought to, if you don't), only Ossining is the old Indian name, so they took it back to escape the blight. It's such a pretty town that it would have been a shame to associate it only with the state prison, whose high gray walls are the only grim thing in the landscape. It was for the sake of staring at them, though, and shivering down our spines that we took the detour to Ossining. When we had shivered enough we turned back to Tarrytown and drove our motors like docile cattle on board a steam ferryboat which took us across the river to Nyack, the dearest, quaintest of little Dutch towns. It looks as lazy as, and more obstinately old-fashioned than, Tarrytown, though Tarrytown is far more important and impressive.
There's a colony of frame houses in Nyack which makes you feel you've suddenly tripped and stumbled out of the twentieth century back into the early nineteenth; and we lunched in a charming little hotel that gave us things to eat equal to any restaurant in New York.
We had a divine run from Nyack, through a fairy forest, with Hook Mountain in sight and the Ramapo Hills on the horizon. Hook Mountain glowed a bright rose colour wherever its green cloak was torn; and when we came into sudden sight of the river there was a magical effect: a veil of silver mist, with boats big and little moving behind it, like white swans. We had woods all the way to Rockland Lake, where the great icehouses loomed like queer castles, until we ran down to lake-level and lost the illusion. Then we turned in the direction of Haverstraw, going through the nice old-fashioned village of Congers. The hills and tiny valleys were as gay and pretty as the summer day! We could hardly realize that we weren't very far from New York, it all seemed such lovely lost country, private and purposely hidden, as if strangers had no right to be there.
Soon the gay little hills were playing they were mountains, and almost making us believe that they really were. The roadsides were like rock gardens, spangled pink and gold and blue. Far below lay the river, but it looked vast enough to be a wide lake; and always the "surface" was so perfect we had the sensations of flying. At Haverstraw we were by the river, and even the brick-fields contrived to take on a gorgeous, glittering colour in the afternoon sun. Stony Point, a high rocky promontory just above, is the place where "Mad Anthony Wayne" stormed the fortress thought to be impregnable. The British called it "Little Gibraltar." Jack had been looking out for that and the ruins of the old fort, because daredevil Wayne is quite one of his heroes. The whole peninsula here is a public park, so no wonder everything is beautifully kept!
I think we got lost after this, owing to Ed Caspian, who led the procession and was sure he knew the way. However, we reached West Point somehow, after two or three wrong but delicious detours, returning on our own tracks each time. Jack and I didn't care, but we could see the back of Mrs. Shuster's head sulking itself almost off, and Patsey's hat looking careworn and sad. It must have been wretched for her, seeing all these heavenly things with nobody except Ed Caspian to say "Oh!" to: flowery meadows, weeping willows like waving fountains of silver, cedars stalking among them like tall black monks, dark bulks of near mountains, blue ghosts of far ones; ferns and wild flowers sprouting from every rock; here and there a shining streak of waterfall. What matter if we did go wrong, and risk missing West Point to reach Tuxedo, instead of saving the latter till next day? We spared ourselves that mistake, and came back to the right road after twice passing a glorified log cabin of an inn all balconies and rich brown wood on a stone foundation. Mountains seemed to reach toward each other across the shining river, and then to open out into a long corridor, dark walled and paved with silver. There was a lake with an island and a pavilion: Iona Island—too beautiful to pass as we did pass; a bridge over a steep rocky gorge, and a river-glimpse mysterious as the backgrounds of old Italian pictures. But we turned away from it into woods—deep forests of cedars fragrant as smoking incense, and at last—rather late because of side wanderings—we came to Highland Falls.
I remember your telling me that your first love was a West Point cadet, who proposed to you on your sixteenth birthday in "Flirtation Walk." Lucky you! But this was my first glimpse of the place as we drove through gates from Highland Falls into the Government Reservation. We meant to arrive, shed the dust at our hotel, and then saunter forth for dress parade, but instead of that we had to see the great sight of the day sitting in our motors. The poor Hippopotamus did look antediluvian among all the smart cars and carriages assembled! But the rest of us weren't so bad, even after a day's run, and, anyhow, we had no time to think of ourselves, there was too much else to think of.
I wonder if the place has changed much since that sixteenth birthday of my Mercedes? Of course it's only a very few years ago! Not being Aunt Mary, I won't make any remark about the number. But if you haven't quite forgotten that first love, doesn't it make your heart beat to think of those great terraced, castellated buildings of gray stone massed against the cliffsides above the sparkling river, almost Walhalla-like in grandeur, of the gracious elms and the prim soldierly barracks draped with ivy, of the vast parade ground and the wonderful grouping of mountains whose shapes lie reflected far down under the crystal water, Cro' Nest, haunted by the "Culprit Fay," and Storm King; and little Constitution Island which tried its best to stop the British ships.
I wish a cadet had fallen in love with me! I wish one would do it now! I adored them all as I sat in the motor watching the ranks of white-clad figures moving to music and looking, in the late sunshine against their green background, like hundreds of marble statues come alive. When they stood to "attention" they were like snow men. Oh, and what music it was, to which they moved! Jack said there couldn't be a scene of its kind half so fine and picturesque anywhere else in the world. I felt quite proud to have been born an American as I looked at it, and so, judging from their expressions, did crowds of pretty girls who gazed adoringly at all those soldiers in the making. It worried me a little, just when the music was at its noblest, that a man in a motor char-a-bancs or something huge and touristy should be telling his victims how West Point had been "the key to the Hudson," and what a fatal blow would have been dealt to hopes of independence if Benedict Arnold could have handed it over to the British. I thought he glared at Jack as he delivered this lecture, guessing perhaps by the shape of his particularly nice nose that he's a Britisher. But just then the sunset gun was fired, echoing again and again among the mountains. All the female victims squeaked and stopped their ears, and the man jumped, so that Jack was saved.
You, who have happy memories of Flirtation Walk, will pity Pat when I tell you that her sensitive conscience made her consent to walk there with Ed Caspian after dinner, Jack and Peter Storm and I following at a respectful distance. Peter could hardly bear it. I suppose the moonlight on the water glinting far under the high cliff walk and the bitter-sweet scent of the ferns went to his head. He forgot that we'd all planned together this way of disgusting Pat with what she thought her duty—throwing her so constantly with Caspian that she'd find out all his faults. But when Peter was leading up to some excuse for joining the pair in front, Jack reminded him that if ever the medicine could be beneficial to the poor little patient it would be in such a scene, and on such a night made for love and happiness.
Mrs. Shuster and Larry and Idonia were walking, too. I believe Larry had intended to take Idonia alone, having advised Lily to rest, but Lily passionately refused to rest. Fancy her on Flirtation Walk!
West Point is a witching place to spend a night in, even though a dance—or a "hop," or whatever they call it—is going on, and you're not invited!
Next morning, after lingering again at Battle Point to drink in as lovely a view as the world can give, we dashed off once more. It was just the hour of "Guard mount," and the cadets looked too fascinating. The girls gazed at them as if they were the heroes of a hundred battles, and so, in a way, they were and are: at least, as West Pointers they're heirs to those who fought a hundred battles. Jack read in some book that out of sixty battles in the Civil War fifty-six had for commanders men from West Point—and not all on one side! Of course, they fought in the old Mexican War as well, for West Point has been a training school ever since 1794. That seems a long time in America!
We had a gorgeous run to Tuxedo—a road that might make Europe jealous—among mountains of the Catskill family, too important and beautiful, I thought, to dismiss as foothills. What a pity Rip Van Winkle spent all his twenty years asleep in one place! I should have walked in my sleep, and changed my bed from mountain to mountain every night or so. Oh, I forgot to tell you, at West Point I heard a new legend of the Catskills. At least, it's so old that it's as good as new. Once when the Indians were just comfortably beginning to feel at home after one of those interrupting Ice Ages, there lived a fearful giant with a wife and children as terrible as himself. The only things they cared to eat were Indian babies; and after this horrid family had been vainly admonished for their ways by the Great Spirit they were suddenly, in the midst of a meal, turned into stone. Being so big, they became mountains, and as some tried to run away and escape the others' fate, they grouped themselves in a chain along the riverside. I don't quite believe this story, though! I'd rather think that a good family of giants asked the Great Spirit to let them become beautiful mountains when they died, and so be remembered lovingly forever, while the world lasts.
The Ramapo Valley is a dream of loveliness all the way, with its lakes like wide-open blue eyes of dryads, and its laced silver ribbon of river. Larry has a friend at court—I mean Tuxedo Park; so he was again useful as well as ornamental—a rare thing for him! We sailed in at the queer gates as confidently as if we owned a hundred acres of land and a lake inside the magic circle. Only the Hippopotamus balked. He had tire trouble just inside the entrance to Paradise; but I think he could have crawled in if Tom, Dick, and Harry had urged him a little. They, poor boys, are under a cloud since Pat's engagement was announced, and are only going on as a sort of mute protest against its irrevocability. If it were any one else except Caspian—Peter Storm, for instance—they would bravely retire from the field with congratulations for the victor, but they have a vague idea in their nice heads that Pat isn't happy and may have to be rescued when the time comes, but they must have felt that nothing so violent could happen in a place as "exclusive" as Tuxedo Park. By the way, don't you hate the expression "exclusive" in connection with society? I do think it quite naively snobbish, not to say un-Christian! How much more heart-warming to speak of an inclusive place or entertainment! However, we humans haven't mounted to that height yet; and "exclusive" being not only the word but the feeling at Tuxedo, the Boys felt themselves and the Hippopotamus unsuited to the occasion. Consequently they broke down outside the sacred precincts, and we glided past the gray-stone, red-gabled portals while they grouped round a tire to hide the fact that it was flat.
We spent the morning with Larry's friend for our guide, seeing one grand private place after another. His own is almost the grandest of all, and is on a lake fringed with feathery trees which weave a gold-green network across the blue. The golf course is perfectly beautiful, and made me for the first time want to learn. I never have, because it seems to me a middle-aged, pottering game; and I've always so hated staying at country houses with golf lovers who talk of nothing else. Anyhow, I don't want to have a golf complexion until I'm forced to be over twenty-six.
The gardens of the Tuxedo Park dwellers are really bits of Eden, although you would have to bite a bit out of the apple before you could be sophisticated enough to make them grow like that. We lunched with Larry's friend, and should have enjoyed the feast immensely if Ed Caspian hadn't put on multimillionaire airs, and snubbed Peter Storm at the table. Pat turned crimson, and I hoped that good might come out of evil—that she might break off with the rude wretch as a punishment. Peter behaved so well that he deserved such a reward. Jack and I were proud of him! But the engagement survived the earthquake, as an ugly house of "reinforced" cement will stand when medieval castles fall. I found out afterward why, and I'll tell you presently. As for Mrs. Shuster, I was rather sorry for her. She sat opposite Larry and beside her incarnate Peace Tract, Larry being at his hostess's left hand with Idonia Goodrich on his other side. The hostess is a beauty, so is Idonia, so you may well imagine that Larry would have forgotten Lily's existence if she hadn't frequently reminded him of it by screaming his Christian name across banks of pansies and orchids. J. and I hoped that jerry-built betrothal might crumble in consequence, as Larry's fastidiousness is his most prominent feature. But no! it also stood; and I will tell you the reason when I tell you about Pat.
Things were going on normally—and hatefully—when we bade Tuxedo Park farewell, and found the Boys eating sausages and drinking ginger-beer. We sailed about seeing scenery for part of the afternoon—scenery of the Ramapo Valley and round Suffern, I mean—and falling more and more in love with the Ramapo River. It has cataracts and wide-open spaces; secret, hidden mysteries; Revolution history, and enough beauty and charm of every sort to suffice three rivers instead of one. But we'd set our hearts on spending the night at the Delaware Water Gap, so we had to rush on in that irritating way which becomes a habit hard to break. It's an obsession with even the least offensive motorists—like Jack and me!
There can't be sweeter country anywhere than this, which I'm trying to lure you to come and see when you and Monty can take your second honeymoon, as we are doing; but it has no look of being undiscovered like some we saw the day before. Rich people, but luckily people of taste, know all about that cup of crystal, Pompton Lake, the sweet singing Wanaqua River, and lovely Pequannock Park. They have made homes for themselves, quite wonderful in beauty, and never pretentious; never a staring house or grotesquely expensive gates to shock the dear little childlike mountains and shady river. Along the winding roads, where trees trailed shadows like dragging masses of torn Spanish lace, there were fine stone walls draped with woodbine, and among the folding hills were orchards like great flower-beds, surrounding the most lovable and livable houses. Every five minutes we would come to a picture which might have been "composed" by an artist: a pond reflecting a quaint little church with two guardian grandfather trees, and a funny old "gig" with a yellow horse, waiting for some one we should never see; an ancient white house born to make a background for cedars far more ancient; a lake with shining surface half hidden under red water-weeds like coral necklaces broken and scattered on a silver salver. Oh, and I mustn't forget the funny fire-alarms in front of isolated houses! A big thing like a split iron ring with a hammer to strike it. The ring vibrates better if it's split; and you could see nothing quainter in Holland. There was a very odd monument, too, which I loved. I think it was in the nice, wide-streeted village of Pompton. It might have been a Titan helmet smashed by a bomb, and I should have loved to stay and find out all about it!
We'd come into northern New Jersey at Oakland, so no wonder we saw splendid cedars, for New Jersey has lots of cedars and heaps of history, and is proud of both. I hadn't realized that it would be such a beautiful state of forest-clad hills, lakes and rivers that mingle so you can't tell where they begin or end, and villages walled by woods and tied together by silver ribbons of river or brook. This is the northern part I'm talking about; the south is flat, where it becomes seacoast.
Along bowery roads to Stockholm, Franklin, Lafayette we passed (later in the year the goldenrod must be like a sunburst there!), and motors, big and little, weave their way democratically among lazy-looking, old-fashioned chaises and slender "buggies." The "going" was always good, and there was some delicious "coasting" down one long, long hill almost like a mountainside. How Jack loved the cozy farmhouses and red barns which were so becoming to the black and white cattle grazing in the valleys; and the slender waving corn like fairy dancers in jewelled head-dresses! Some of the barns were so big, the houses they belonged to reminded him of little mothers who had produced giant children. The homelike effect of all these gentle hills and flowery valleys and floating blue mist wreaths appealed curiously to the heart, like minor music; yet there were grand things, too: here and there a noble limestone cliff; a gloomy wood of hemlocks where it seemed anything might happen; a mossy dark ravine, as at Branchville; and all the large lakes or "ponds," so unexpected each time when you come in sight of them.
After a dear little town called Layton (with a river singing it to sleep) we turned off to the right for Dingman's Ferry, and then felt we were really on the way to the Delaware Water Gap. We had come to the Delaware River! From the top of a very high hill we saw it—the river, I mean; and, oh, but it looked worthy of its guardian mountains! Winding and wonderful it was in beauty as we dropped into its deep, intimate valley, down the tremendous slope. We were so excited we hardly knew the road was bad! And after all there was no old ferry answering to the name of "Dingman," but a wide bridge in its place. On the other side was Pennsylvania, with a barred gate to keep you out of it until you had handed over forty cents to a wee boy who "held us up" and firmly said, "You've got to pay!" He lived in a pet of a house, where I should love to live, myself (with Jack), and the entrance to the neighbour state was so fine as to seem dramatic.
The smooth tarred road was a relief, too, after a few hard bumps: a lovely tree-shadowed road past a big yellow-painted hotel; past a delightful village high above the river bed, where a great forest made a dark, perfumed screen between our eyes and the bright glitter of water. So we dipped down by and by to a house with a garden full of flowers, and a forest of its own with the river sparkling through it. The hemlocks gave out a perfume as if a box of spices had been newly opened; and when we saw that the house was a hotel and restaurant we simply had to stop for tea. To our surprise and joy we found that the man who kept the place was a Frenchman—an Alsatian named Schanno; and everything he gave us was so delicious we might have been at Ciro's, in Paris or Monte Carlo!
Almost, it would have been a relief, said Jack, to find the scenery less beautiful, so as to have a diminuendo and a crescendo—the crescendo to be our goal of that day, the Water Gap. But it would keep on being so lovely, we could scarcely say when it was just good, when better, or when best. We had a gray road, glossy as a beaver's back, to travel on toward the Gap; a valley road with small mountains lifting curly dark heads in every direction to gaze down on us out of their glistening, perfumed foot-bath of evening mist. The villages we passed had pretty, sophisticated-looking new houses for "summer people"; here and there was a charming country inn with the air of being famous. At Bushkill (nice name!) the brown river forked, in a coquettish, laughing way shaking hands with itself and parting in the woods. Nearby was a glorious waterfall among charming hills which seemed to have been roused by the music of the cataract, and sat up with their hair standing all on end.
Four or five miles from the great Water Gap we began to see the formation which gives that name. The mountains seem cleft in twain. It's a marvellous effect—startling! It took my breath away, as if I had seen a great window suddenly flung wide open in the sky. Truly, that's not an exaggeration of the sunset-wonder of the Delaware Water Gap! The hills were a deep, almost sullen purple that evening, the purple of darkest hyacinths. They made a high wall for the valley; then, in an instant, the wall was gone, as if hewed down with a firm, straight stroke, and there was that immense open window of golden light. Why, it was worth crossing the ocean to see as we saw it then! And we had come through such winding ways of hill and valley that it felt as if this were the end of the earth, the jumping-off place into a sea of jewelled colour. Yet they say it's only three or four hours in a fast train from New York! I don't want to believe that, and I shall never know by experience, for I shan't be so sacrilegious as to take a train while motors run on roads and aeroplanes skim through clouds.
The town where the hotels and cottages are is as gay a little fairyland among the mountains as I used to think Baden-Baden or Carlsbad; just such maddeningly attractive little shops and bright gardens and beautifully grouped trees. We went on to a hotel in the woods, a hotel which seemed all veranda and view—a view our spirits drank in, in deep, unforgettable draughts: I mean, Jack's and mine drank. They were the only well-regulated, calm spirits in the whole procession, except the Goodriches, who are "always merry and bright."
When darkness fell in a shimmering blue curtain shot with silver, we found that the hotel had other things besides those two "Vs" which were all we had thought of at first: very nice, pleasant things, and Jack and I decided that it wouldn't be wrong or selfish to the war, or each other, to let ourselves feel perfectly happy for a few serene hours. But it wasn't to be! Far from it—Fate has such a rude way of ignoring my plans and substituting her own, which are seldom a patch on mine!
I "got myself up to kill" for dinner, and thought Pat intended to do the same. Being made in the Creator's image, I like to look as nice as I can, to do Him credit, even when travelling, especially in large hotels full of other women. But Pat didn't appear. Neither did Larry. My eyes and Jack's conspired across the table. "Good!" we thought. "The Plot works!"
We couldn't tell by what process it worked, but that it did work we were sure, until Peter shook his head at the signal of our raised eyebrows. "Nothing has happened in the Grayles-Grice," his expression said; so the only hope left was the Wilmot. Anything that might take place there was of secondary importance, still, indirectly, a break there might bring relief to the other forces engaged. Instead of stopping downstairs to let the world admire my Paris frock, and listen to the music (not just nice little music for nice little minds, but something really good and suited to the scenery), I bolted my dinner and dashed up to Patsey's room.
A knock brought no answer, but when I called, "May I come in?" Patsey unlocked the door. You know how, when I want to get things out of people, I disguise myself with a spaniel smile and spaniel eyes? Well, I did that with Pat. There was just enough light in the room for her to see my spanielness, for she'd done away with all but one small reading-lamp, with a depressing green shade. She was in her kimono, with her hair down, looking an ideal Ophelia. Not that Ophelia sported a kimono; but you know the effect I mean, all masses of wavy tresses round a small white face, and eyes very big and wistful. She wasn't going to tell me a thing, but my spanielhood melted her.
It was perfectly true, as Peter had warned me: nothing had happened in the car; but the night before in Flirtation Walk Caspian had tried to kiss the girl! He had wanted to before, when he gave her the ring; she had refused, explaining that the Marquise had told her she was not to be kissed before marriage. He hadn't persisted then, but last night he had been horrid. She would not have gone for the walk if he hadn't asked her before Larry, and Larry had seemed to want her to go. Perhaps it was only that she might be near, and protect him from Mrs. Shuster; but Idonia could have done that. Anyhow, Pat and "Mr. Caspian" (she would not call him "Ed") had got separated from the others. She had struggled, but he had succeeded in kissing her ear, and she had boxed his! "It can't be exactly wicked to marry for money," sighed Pat. "It's too disagreeable. And wicked things are always nice—in books. Oh, Molly, it will be awful to marry him. Already he tries to make me do what he likes. He puts himself in front of me and all r-round me like a bar-rbed wire fence. I don't know how to bear it. I am a broken girl!"
I said Nonsense—she wasn't broken; but the engagement had much better be. "Give him back his ring," I went on. "Or perhaps you have given it? I see you haven't worn it since the first day."
"It was too big, not suitable for motoring. And now—it is pawned," she announced.
"Pawned?" I gasped.
"Yes. I cannot tell you the rest. But—it makes it so that I must go on being engaged, in honour. I cannot now give the ring back."
I asked no more questions, but I guessed. Larry had had some big bill presented to him. Pat did not wish to wear the ring. What good was it to any one, then? Why should it not be "up the spout," instead of in a jewel-box? Larry would have argued.
While I was having my talk with Pat, Larry was confiding in Jack. He told him about the ring. I had guessed right. He had "acted impulsively." Mrs. Shuster was a more trying proposition than he had imagined, but he would have to "stick to it now," or he should never have money enough to redeem Pat's ring. Jack offered to lend the sum, but Larry wouldn't hear of that—was quite hurt; had only wanted sympathy. He has the quaintest code of honour! We had both to promise not to tell, and so we can't pass the news on to Peter. But sufficient to yesterday is the evil thereof!
I don't suppose Pat had slept; but luckily faces are being worn small and white this year, with eyes too big for them, and she looked as young next morning as if she had spent her night in paradise instead of far below that level. I felt horribly worried, because the plot wasn't working a bit, and I couldn't eat my breakfast (if this keeps up, I shall get so thin my veils won't fit!), but all the same I couldn't help enjoying the day. It was so nice, in spite of all, proving to Jack that you can never exhaust the beauties of my country: there are always more to come! He had prophesied that after the Water Gap the rest of the trip would be an anticlimax. But he needn't have feared. The first stage of the way beyond gave us a new sensation. It seems the road is known to be one of the most exquisite in America; and indeed it was as well worth coming from Europe for as the Water Gap itself—worth even the risk of being torpedoed. Our procession seemed to pass through a painted and tapestried corridor, so pink and purple and azure and gold were the rocks that lined our way, with millions of delicate wild flowers. And oh, the retrospect view! It was wonderful, too, crossing by ferry, and looking back. Albertson's ferry we chose, and one car at a time rolled sedately on to a flatboat to be rowed to the opposite side of the river by a very young Charon in a very large straw hat.
We had groves to drive through, and little leafy roads like Surrey lanes, that looked innocent enough to lead nowhere, but somehow we managed to skip from valley to valley with a sensation almost of flying; and if the roads were like Surrey, the colour of the earth—when a bare place showed in a meadow—was rose-pink as Devon. Goldenrod, not yet in bloom, might have been planted purposely, in borders, mixed with sumach. The red barns were bigger and "homier" than those of the day before, and the little stone farmhouses most inviting. It was quite a shock to find ourselves suddenly in "Vienna." (What if Jack should be interned!) But it was a miniature Vienna. Next came Hackettstown, a charming place, and then the famous Schooley's Mountain, which dropped us down, down into German Valley. At Morristown we lunched, and afterward went to Washington's Headquarters, an adorable old yellow house almost as fine as Kidd's Pines. So by Persippany and Pine Brook to Jersey City and into New York: beauty and interest of one sort or other all the way, but our great object not accomplished. Everything worse than ever, and Pat and Larry each obstinately determined to be sacrificed. Oh, that Caspian man! I wish I had the formula for becoming a werewolf, and I would devour him!
Your every loving, MOLLY.
ANGELE, PATRICIAS MAID, TO THE MARQUISE DE MONCOURT
I take again the liberty of communicating with Madame la Marquise, having as always her interests at heart.
Matters develop after a manner somewhat serious since my last letter. The engagement of this poor charming gentleman to the altogether undesirable Madame Shuster touches a sharp crisis. I had the highest hopes that constant association of some days in an automobile might force a crash, as it was but the spirit of laissez faire and the pressing need of money which led Monsieur into the ambush, as Madame la Marquise already knows. I am not carried on these frequent and sudden excursions which have become a family custom with us; for I was obliged firmly to make Mademoiselle comprehend that I could not in self-respect run myself off my feet to wait upon the numberless ladies stuffed in fashion of sardines into these conveyances. To be the slave of half a dozen bourgeoises does not comport with the dignity of one who for years served Madame la Marquise and indeed indirectly serves her still. I was not therefore acquainted with the events of the tour which followed the two betrothals, until after the return of the expedition; and it was a great disillusion for me to find that the unfortunate gentleman and the less than lady were still in the same relation.
As for Mademoiselle and the millionaire, they also return as they went; but that is not of importance to Madame la Marquise, who wishes only the future high position of her friend's daughter. That will be assured through this marriage. The one danger is that both engagements are bound up together by a singular entanglement. I will explain to Madame la Marquise.
I informed myself of the situation through overhearing (by accident, of course) a talk between Monsieur Moore and Mademoiselle. I knew already that a ring of great magnificence brought back after a special journey to New York by Monsieur Caspian did not please Mademoiselle. In fact she wore it only for a few hours, and on retiring to her room that night threw it so roughly on the table de toilette that it fell on the floor and rolled under the bed. Having engaged herself, she could not in ordinary circumstances refuse to wear the gage d'amour of her rich fiance, even though three wild young boys, who stay here spending money for love of her, choose to laugh at the size of the diamond and compare it to the headlight of a locomotive. I heard them pretend to suffer pain in the eyes from its intense brilliance, and they even went so far as to manufacture for themselves green shades to tie over the forehead, which gave them a ridiculous appearance and set all the world laughing. No! Mademoiselle was obliged to have a more reasonable excuse for taking from her finger the sign of her betrothal. But she found one without difficulty. Myself, I heard her plead to Monsieur Caspian that for the risks of these tours in automobile a jewel of this value was unsuitable. She requested him to keep the ring in safety not only for a few days but some weeks, as there was question of a longer expedition through several eastern states.
This Monsieur Caspian wisely refused to do, realizing no doubt that if the jewel returned to his possession a further pretext might be found why it should remain there. There was a lively discussion outside the door of Mademoiselle where Monsieur had pursued her, I being stationed inside. Finally it was agreed that Monsieur Moore should place the ring in a safe. And from this discussion all the trouble in ridding himself of Madame Shuster has resulted.
Now I arrive at the conversation overheard by me, after the short tour of three days from which I had hoped much for the unselfish interests of Madame la Marquise. I was in the wardrobe of Mademoiselle on the night of the return—one of the strange wardrobes which in this country they dig into the wall instead of placing against it. I was engaged in hanging up the dresses which Mademoiselle had taken with her (shockingly wrinkled!) when she came—I might say bounced like a young panther—into the room with Monsieur her father. The wardrobe door was open, but rather than interrupt them at such a crisis, by showing myself, I very discreetly and without sound closed it to a certain extent.
This poor Monsieur was in great trouble. Money is for him but something to be exchanged for pleasures of one kind or another. He is not a man to study mean economies, and it is for that he is of an attraction so great for all the world, especially for women. What more could be asked of him for the good of his child than to consent that so beautiful an old property should be vulgarized as an hotel? Money comes in, much money, I believe, but there are great debts. Monsieur had become bankrupt. A percentage must, in honour, be paid to those who trusted him. Alas! however, that was not quite all. Madame la Marquise will remember the last visit of Monsieur Moore to France, and how he persuaded her by telegram to go with friends and see him win great sums at Monte Carlo. Unfortunately after she obeyed, the winnings ceased, and there was nothing agreeable to see. On the contrary! Well, it appears that in New York there are several of these establishments. Monsieur had very good luck before our arrival from France. He tested it too often, however. At these places are men who watch the tables and lend money to players. They demand outrageous interest, and they must be paid soon, or there are anxieties. Knowing the good income from the scheme of the hotel, one of these birds of prey took advantage of Monsieur Moore's impulsive nature. The results were disastrous.