The conversation which so accidentally reached me could not have been the first on the subject. At least one other I had missed, or I should not have neglected reporting to Madame la Marquise. In speaking the father and daughter referred to matters not only already discussed but arranged. I learned that in desperation, through these ignoble creditors, Monsieur Moore had placed the ring not in the safe but in the Mont de Piete, which here is called the pawnbroker, or uncle. Mademoiselle had evidently regretted it, fearing that the procedure was not honest, but Monsieur had convinced her that, as the jewel was her property, she had a legal right to dispose of it. And indeed, for all I can tell to the contrary, the thing had been done before she was consulted.
No doubt Monsieur was right in his assertion about legality, if the engagement continued. But I learned as I hung up the dresses that both Mademoiselle and her father had reached the point of high exasperation with the fiance and fiancee. They both wished to break. Yet what was to be done? Mademoiselle could not give back the ring to Monsieur Caspian. Monsieur Moore, who had still other debts not yet settled by the uncle, could not burst the bond which—being known to outsiders—procures him a certain indulgence. Madame Shuster is rich!
They now all start off once more in automobiles; but short of murder or suicide I do not see how Monsieur Moore is to escape his ennuis. I do not venture to suggest any action to Madame la Marquise, but I have again faithfully represented to her the situation of her friend. And I am as always her devoted servant,
PETER STORM TO JAMES STRICKLAND
These few hasty lines in answer to your question, which, if I'd had my wits about me, I should not have waited for you to ask. No apology do I make, however, as you know as well as I do that my wits are not wool but rose gathering.
I inquired of Moncourt before starting off again whether he had heard anything lately from young Marcel. It was rather a delicate subject to open with him, as you can readily believe, it having been dropped between us by common agreement. He's extremely sensitive, and highly nervous like all great artists such as he is, but I was as tactful as possible, and finally got out of him that he had no tidings whatever for nearly a year. "No news was good news," he had tried to persuade himself, and the last thing he'd heard, Marcel was doing pretty well in the Argentine. When I'd worked up to mentioning the brilliant comet calling itself de Moncourt which has suddenly appeared in French skies, the old boy reflected, then gave it as his opinion that it can hardly be our Marcel who has lanced himself upon this adventure. Unless, of course, Marcel Junior felt it his duty—or his pleasure—to give up his personal interests and join the French Army! That suggestion (mine) struck and rather pleased Moncourt. But in spite of it, we both agree that, considering all things, Marcel wouldn't dare tempt Providence by taking the bold line ascribed to the "rich new American cousin" of the Marquise de Moncourt and her family. Besides, if he were in the army, and on leave, Miss Moore's friend wouldn't speak of him as an American, would she? However, write circumspectly to the man you mention in Paris and try to make sure, as that will be best for all concerned.
As for my affairs, they go vilely. Having sown dragon's teeth all my life I now expect to reap strawberries and cream, so I suppose I can't complain if I don't get them.
Yours ever, P. S.
MOLLY WINSTON TO LORD AND LADY LANE
I nearly said "dear people," but Aunt Mary used to impress upon me when I was small that two could not be called "people." "People" must mean a "company or crowd"; and I used to addle my infantine brain wondering how it could be that "two was a company," if two couldn't be a crowd, yet a company and a crowd were the same thing. Two must be spoken of as "persons" according to Aunt M., and I can't address you as "Dear Persons," can I?
You will judge from this prelude that I have come into Aunt Mary-zone again. Well, I have: we have not visited her yet; but she has been to New York on business and I know just how old I am, how many freckles I have on my nose, that my hair is shades darker than it used to be, and that I must have gained at least an inch round my waist since we saw each other last. As for Jack, she wonders I let him tear about the country the way we are doing. Her opinion is that he would be better off in bed, though she's glad to see him of course. If only I could retaliate in kind, couldn't I be cattish? But noblesse oblige!
Jack and I are as proud as Punch (and Judy) that the travel letters make you both want to come and do likewise. Ah, if you could! But we'll do as you ask: go on as we've begun, and so if possible carry you with us in spirit. I say "we," because, though I do the writing, Jack has been keeping rough, joggly notes taken down en automobile for me to incorporate in my letters to you. We were at Awepesha only a few days after I wrote you last, because Sir George Bingham and his wife, who are distant cousins of Jack's, arrived in New York after exciting adventures in the East, and as they couldn't leave town we went to visit them at their hotel. Just for the first day it was quite a relief to have something new to think of, and not worry my gray matter constantly over Patricia Moore's affairs, but the second day I was dying to know how things were going at Kidd's Pines; and when the time came to join the party (as we had promised) for the New England trip, I was all joy and excitement at the thought of plunging into the vortex again—in spite of the visit to Aunt Mary looming ahead. And then, I'm always happy to be in a car. Not that I love all cars indiscriminately—I don't. I love the one I'm in, and tolerate those that others are in when the weather's fine. In dust and mud I loathe all except my own, and feel they have no right to exist. Indeed, none have quite the individuality they used to have when they were a new breed of beasts; don't you find it so? Nothing ever happens to the good ones. They never break down and sob by the roadside and have to be petted and comforted by their mothers and fathers, as in the dear dead days of long ago. Of course we hated to have them break down then, and longed for the time when they should be improved beyond that stage, but I do find them a little too eugenic now.
Well, to go back to the creatures who haven't improved—ourselves and others.
Jack and I had our auto in New York, so we started from there, as before, and this time met the procession at Rye. Only think, on the way, after crossing the Bronx River we paused a few minutes to gaze at a cottage where Edgar Allan Poe once lived. It didn't look a bit like him, or as if he could have lived there, but we were glad to have seen it. As for New Rochelle, it's as pretty and fresh and fashionable as a summer bride. I always pretend to myself when I read Mrs. Cutting's stories about those dear, human young married couples or engaged girls and boys of hers, that they live in New Rochelle, outside the "smart" circle which only the most ambitious ones can ever hope to enter.
We loved coming on to the old Post Road between Boston and New York, but I've told you already how Jack and I feel about Post Roads, and wouldn't dream of writing the words without capitals. It may be conceited (or isn't it conceit to boast of one's husband?), but I don't believe most of the automobilious travellers we met, evidently native-grown Americans, knew or cared half as much about the history of every mile as did my English Jack. You can guess pretty well by people's faces whether they're saying to themselves, "How long will it take me to get there?" or "This used to be an Indian trail before it was a Post Road"; or "Paul Revere rode this way"; or "Fenimore Cooper once lived at Heathcote Hill and wrote 'The Spy'" (delicious book!); "Here, close by Mamaroneck, is a chimney of the old house where the hero of the story was hidden; here at Christchurch, in charming little Rye, Fenimore Cooper's eyes have gazed on the silver chalice presented by Queen Anne." Fancy the difference travelling with a person whose visage expresses that wild, road-pig desire to get on at any price, and one like Jack, who has the "I want to see and know all that's beautiful" face!
Talking of faces, I wish you could see Ed Caspian's when he motors. He's so anxious to look as if he had done it all before, in a better car if possible, that he's like an image of Buddha reflected in a convex mirror. His cap is quite wrong, too. He thinks it's heather mixture, but it's the purple of a bruise. Peter's is exactly right. As for Pat's—well, a girl's hat should be her crowning glory, shouldn't it? Hers is; and it is becoming to Pat to be sad and puzzled about life. But all this is an "aside." I, too, must "get on!" And to get on, we go through Portchester, which is like melting a map of Poland and a map of Italy, and mixing them together, because there are so many Poles and Italians there. We came to Portchester along a lovely, shady road, and it's really an old place, though it looks new. We had a river to cross named after an Indian village jokingly called "Bay Rum," but they've decorously altered it to Byram; and on its other side we were in Connecticut, which Jack pronounces precisely as it's spelled! These English!
Greenwich was our first Connecticut town, a charming introduction to a new state: highroad and streets thickly tree-lined, and once, when we lost ourselves at a turning, we passed exquisite houses in lovely gardens. There was a divine smell of ozone-haunted seaweed in the air, for Greenwich is on Long Island Sound, with gold-green sedgy shores, and everybody is rich or richish. Surely, though, the people are not "exclusive" in that selfish way I hate, for in this part of the world they can prowl all over each other's lawns; they have hardly any fences. It seems, however, that things are very difficult politically. You can't do your hair in a new way without asking permission! I simply would, wouldn't you? and do it so prettily they couldn't fuss. Yet the really exciting thing about Greenwich is not the way you do your hair or moustache. It is the cottage where (apropos of moustaches) General Israel Putnam was shaving off his when British soldiers rudely surprised him. The cottage is on the road, a beautiful road, and it's a still more beautiful stone cottage, with a flag and two cannons on the lawn. Certain horrid people say he lived at another house, but probably that's because they wanted to get the cottage cheap for themselves! You have only to look at it, to feel that General Putnam must have lived there. As for the creatures who insist that he took a mere cowpath for his great escape, and didn't ride down the old stone steps on the face of the cliff, why, they wouldn't dare repeat it in front of his monument in Putnam Hill Park, I'm sure!
When you get out of a town or village here, in a minute you might be a hundred miles from anywhere, and living a hundred years ago—except for motors; and you can pretend they are insects, if you like. There are sweet, mysterious byways which it breaks your heart not to see the end of, and ponds like the Long Island ponds, which is to say, like broken blue panes dropped from the windows of Heaven.
We took a detour after Coscob (an Indian-named village) because the road was being mended; and there was a little summer settlement called Sound Beach which I should love to have to play dolls in. It would be just right for that.
The big event of our morning, however, was seeing the famous Marks place. Every one is allowed to drive through, so we were not fortune's favourites, yet it was a favour of fortune to have such a vision. There's a romance about the ownership—rather a sacred and beautiful romance of love, and perhaps that partly accounts for the extraordinarily romantic effect of the place itself. Only a man inspired by love could have planned those mysterious flowery openings in the forest of hemlock which borders the lake as forests edge the lakes in the Trossachs. Only a man so inspired could have known just how to use his backgrounds of rock and cliff, or group his irises along the brookside, and mass his rhododendrons in the sunlight, where they blaze like the rose-flames of driftwood. I should hardly have been surprised if the swans floating like great lilies on the shining lake had all begun to sing some wonderful Wagnerian song in chorus.
We were in a dream as we sailed slowly out (yes, slowly, my dear, because motoring folk are kindly asked, "Hold ye speed to two and half leagues an hour") on to the Post Road again, under an arch of elms characteristic of New England, and of pure architectural value.
I could tell you things about each place we glided or tore through—treesy, yet important and city-like, like Stamford, where they make the Yale locks that burglars all over the world have cause to curse; elm-bowered Darien; Norwalk, once a great shipping port for reluctantly banished oysters, managing still to be picturesque because of its pretty common where cattle have a legal right to graze; sweet old Westport, on an inlet of the Sound, dim with elm-shadow; Fairfield, with its beautiful old and new houses, its "village green," and its romance of John Hancock, who risked being caught by the British in order to meet and hastily marry Dorothy Quincy; but then, if I told you all that Jack and I told each other, there would be no room to tell you of ourselves. Besides, the whole thing is like a connected, serial story, in which the Post Road itself plays a leading part. One ought to begin with the early settlers, making the road which is so perfect now; then the Continental armies marching along it in the days when it was (luckily for the fighting Americans) still rough and difficult to travel. In spite of the neat prosperity nowadays, and the sign-posts which tell you everything you can possibly want to know about directions, it is easy to read the faded print of that long serial romance of generations. Old houses tell it, old trees tell it, old names tell it, and the very modernness of the new things emphasizes the heroic drama of the past. Think, for instance, of the boulder monument at Fairfield, commemorating its birth in 1639 and its burning by the British in 1779!
We crossed the river at Westport, and found the scenery even prettier than before. Then, after Fairfield, we came out on the Post Road again, though it called itself "Fairfield Avenue," and presently we were in a turmoil of life at Bridgeport. There was as much noise as in New York, but a hundred thousand people can make themselves heard in the world, especially if they're Americans! Haven't we read in the papers about immense buildings blowing up at Bridgeport since the war began? But we couldn't see anything that looked blown up, or sensational, except the heroes on posters of "movie" theatres—oh, more movie theatres than I thought there were in the world! We tried to listen through the roar and rumble of a big town for gorgeous distant yells of lions and trumpetings of elephants, but perhaps the dear beasts were off on "tour." Bridgeport is only the winter quarters of Barnum, and now we are on the way to summer. By the by, Bridgeport people ought to enjoy themselves in summer, judging from all the yachts and pleasure boats we saw dancing in their sleep on the water.
After Stratford (a most lovable old town, of charming gray-shingle houses, which, to escape loneliness, crowded close to the edge of the elm-shaded road) we crossed the Housatonic. The shores stretched away into mystery, so broad was the river; and the moment we were out of a town, in the country, the scene was like a dream of Indian days, just interrupted by waking now and then at sight of some houses grouped round a common. There was Milford, for instance, which looked as if nothing could happen in its pretty peacefulness, yet it was the hiding-place of a regicide judge who ran away to America after the head of Charles the First was off!
At New Haven, the "City of Elms," we could have turned toward Boston along a fine road by way of Springfield, but we preferred to keep to the charming coast road, and it goes without saying that we stopped to prowl about among the college buildings; also we lunched. "A village of learning and light" the place is called, but of course its village days are outgrown, though the learning and light will remain forever, while Yale lasts. Washington reviewed the Yale students on the Green, which is the historic centre of New Haven, just as the college is its ever-pulsing heart. (I wonder if the dear boys had already invented that lovely Yale yell, and gave it in Washington's honour?) Benedict Arnold helped also to write the romance of the Green by drawing up his company there. The great elms which look down on it now must have seen him and perhaps read his treacherous mind, for they say the elms of New Haven are the most intelligent and learned anywhere in New England except at Harvard itself; and you know that knot-holes are trees' eyes. They don't tell this to any one save their most intimate friends, but Jack and I know tree language. At home in the park we put our ears against their trunks and listen in the spring, when they are most talkative and don't mind telling their best secrets.
The brown and red Yale buildings, restful and interesting, Jack and I loved, and we insisted on lingering to look at them, though every one was impatient with us except Pat, Peter, and the three dear bareheaded Boys. Peter thought the beautiful white library and its surroundings "like a vista of Washington seen through a diminishing glass"; so evidently he has been to Washington in his mysterious past!
If some of us hadn't suffered from motoritis and speeditis rather badly we should have pottered about half the day, but ours is a hard procession to manage. Besides, Ed Caspian hates to have Pat interested in things, because then he's obliged to get out and look at them with her, or risk her in Peter's society. This danger he runs only when he can't run himself. He is so proud of his well-shaped feet that he has his boots made too small, and if the weather is warm it's a real penance for him to walk far. There's really something pathetic about this, or would be were Caspian only a little less bumptious than he is, for if gossip tells the truth, the millionaire of to-day was once one of those sterling socialists who began their career to fame walking the king's highway with bare feet and their spare clothes tied up in their one handkerchief. (How awkward if they had a cold in the head!)
After all the fuss he made about "wasted time," we arrived early at New London, where we planned to spend the night. Something happened there, but I haven't come to that yet. First, I must tell you just a little about the dazzling beauty of the way! I should like to tell you a lot, and force you to stop at every place en route. Easthaven, with trees and a church steeple which almost succeed in reaching heaven; Branford, where Yale College was founded, and where there are the very nicest seventeenth century houses you ever saw—fighting houses with overhanging upper stories where you could look down through holes in the floor and pot at Indians trying to break in; Guilford, prettiest of all the villages on Jack's list of places where he'd like to live (we almost envied Fitz Greene Halleck, the poet, for being born there); Clinton, with its parklike common which reminded us of the Lichtenthal Allee at Baden-Baden; old Saybrook, worthy of its name, and thrilling for its antique shops; old Lyme, the haunt of artists, glimmering white in a grove of elms; Flanders village—East Lyme—where all the flowers on earth were jumbled sweetly together like happy families in every garden. But if I did delay you thus, your poor mind would become like one of these jumbled gardens, full of sweet things impossible to sort. Mine is like that already; but, after all, it doesn't matter so much for me, because Jack has promised to bring me this way once again before we go back home. Then, if I've mixed one village with another in a kind of mental earthquake, I can rearrange my tout ensemble. Impressions of the country, however, I shall never lose or blur disastrously with those of any other part: it is too individual, and makes too clear a picture.
Much of our way was like a private park bigger than any king or emperor in Europe ever owned. Then, after miles of trees with blue, misty vistas hanging between, like painted gauze curtains, we flashed suddenly out to open spaces purple-red with fireweed, and vast, flat stretches of tawny marshland swept with tides of colour, rainbow streaks of amethyst and rose-topaz. The Sound was within sight and smell. Salt perfume of ocean mingled with spicy fragrance from the sunburnt bayberry flung in thick ruglike masses upon bare gray rock, and azure veinings of the sea, stray among the marshes, made strong-growing water plants give out a tang that was tonic to our nostrils.
You may think that such a picture could be sketched in colour along the coastline of almost any country, but if so, you will be mistaken, for all this as we saw it was extraordinarily individual and American. Why, exactly, I can't define, but you will understand, if Monty doesn't. Though you say you haven't been much in New England you know what the soul of America is. Well, this soul, whose first (remembered) spark came from the Indians, was brightened to living fire by the Puritans from over the sea who called the world they found New England. Somehow, the combination is unique, and the same curious sense of personality runs through everything, linking all together as a golden thread might link many different coloured beads. The cedars crowning the hills could be only American cedars. "Joe Pye weed" (whose Indian name is lost, but whose pinky purple colour is ever present) is so patriotic a plant that it would perish rather than grow in foreign parts. The ponds crusted with water-lily pads and ringed round with young trees like children dancing hand in hand seem to sing "We are of New England!" And even the apple trees—immense domed tents of green and pink brocade—are like colonial ladies dressed in their hoop-skirted best.
New London, on the contrary—when we came to it at last—struck us as being like some town of England, or of Scotland. That was only a first impression, however, and a superficial likeness. We soon began to find out the differences, for New London was our night stop, and we had hours before dark to criticise and admire. It hadn't been a long run, as runs go, from New York, and at New Haven we heard motor fiends at luncheon near us in the hotel talk of "pushing on to Boston." Just such a fiend would Caspian be if he could, because he so hates the stops devoted to sight-seeing; but Jack and Peter are, after all, powers behind the throne, or, rather, behind the engines. They don't drive, yet unostentatiously they direct less determined or less firmly concentrated minds. Nobody except your Molly realized that we were to spend an afternoon and night at New London because Jack Winston and Peter Storm wished it, but so, indeed, it was. Nobody but your Molly guessed that a sight-seeing plot was hatching against Caspian and—incidentally—against Mrs. Shuster. Idonia Goodrich had been carefully incited to keen interest in New London because of the Yale and Harvard boat races, and though nothing was going on, she wanted to see the place where such things did go on. Where Idonia goes, the fickle Larry likes to go just now, for when a good-looking girl flags him with the signal, "I'm ready to flirt if you are!" he simply can't resist, which means that where Idonia and Larry go, thither goeth Lily also. As for Pat, she knows that actively seeing sights is her one hope (if any) of escape from Caspian. Consequently she had listened with almost unnatural interest to Jack's talk, before starting, of the principal "features" to be sought out at our first night's stopping place.
Were it not for Caspian's feet, I'm afraid dear Pat wouldn't have cared a whalebone to go and stare at the harbour because New London had been a big whaling centre. She wouldn't have bothered with John Winthrop's historic mill, which has never been out of use from his day to ours. She wouldn't have rushed from Nathan Hale's schoolhouse to gape at the Perkins Mansion, where Washington and Lafayette stayed; or if she had she would have consented to go in the car. As it was, however, that girl's energy was frenzied, and her exertions were rewarded at last by the dropping out of Caspian from her train. He limped back to the hotel, furious, leaving Pat with me and Jack, Peter, Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Pat was a new person when she had shed him, and we ended up our excursion with a wild, weird "movie." It was fun! I never laughed so much; and Peter Storm was like a boy. A cloud fell upon us, however, and damped our spirits as we returned to the hotel to dress for dinner. We knew that Caspian would be in the sulks, and that somehow Pat would be made to pay for her pleasure.
There he sat in the big hall, where he could see us as we filed guiltily in, very late. As a protest, he was already dressed, and looked like one of those neat little sugar men with yellow hair, red lips, and black coat that you see on lower middle-class wedding cakes. He held a book in his hand, but had been talking, or trying to talk, to a big, dark, handsome man who lolled in a neighbouring chair. In a flashing glance we gained the impression that the big fellow was bored by Caspian and had sought refuge from him behind a newspaper. But at sight of us Caspian hastily stiffened into an attitude of martyred waiting, and at the same instant the tall man jumped up with a queer exclamation. His paper dropped. He looked as if he saw a ghost, and—that ghost was Peter Storm!
"Mon Dieu!" or words to that effect I saw, rather than heard, him say. Then Peter got to him in two or three gigantic strides, as if in seven-leagued boots, and thrust his face close to that other astonished face. What Peter said I could not catch, because he spoke in a whisper and very fast. What the big man (bigger than Peter) said in return could not have been caught by the ear of a fox, for he said nothing at all—except with his eyes.
They, at first, expressed something like horror. Then they softened, or dulled, I couldn't tell which, and suddenly it occurred to me to flash a glance to Caspian. He was almost ill with curiosity. Pat had turned to stare at him, too, knowing already, through the bitter experience which had made him her fiance, that C. wanted only a weapon with which to do Peter harm.
Certainly it did look as if Peter were desperately anxious to choke the man into silence. He had the air of wanting to stop some irrevocable word from being said, of urging, explaining, almost entreating. "What can it mean?" I asked myself, determined, however, to keep my faith in the Stormy Petrel at any price.
As I thought of all sorts of things, I heard Pat say, "I'm not going to dress. It's too late, and I'm too tired. I'll go in to dinner just as I am, if you will, Molly."
Instantly I guessed what was in her mind. The bright child was rallying round Peter. If I hadn't been sure before that she'd fallen in love with him, I should have been sure then! It was love that made her think quickly and find the best way to defend him—as she had found a way before, by sacrificing herself. She knew that, if he were left alone, Ed Caspian would try to get hold of the stranger (whom he evidently knew) the instant Peter and he parted. He would pump him if possible, and Peter's secret, whatever it was, would be at the enemy's mercy.
I rose to the occasion, or, rather, I sat down on it. I subsided into the chair close to Caspian which the man had jumped up from like a Jack-in-a-box. Pat followed my example by plumping into a seat on Ed's other side, and in common decency he could not bolt. "Why, yes," I said, "I should like nothing better than an excuse to dine as I am. Mr. Caspian is so smart, he must bear off the honours for us all."
Jack, of course, saw what we were up to, for he had seen the whole drama—tragedy, comedy, whatever it was! British though he is, it never takes him longer than a lightning (conductor) flash to seize any situation in which I am concerned. But I don't need to tell you that! You, too, have married a Britisher, and know just how much that dear old American joke about English slowness of comprehension amounts to—unless the creature is putting on airs!
"We'll none of us dress," said he, with a wicked gleam in his eye; the Boys joined him; and the dapper wedding-cake figure was surrounded and swallowed up by a wave of untidy tourists. We didn't leave him alone for a minute, until Peter Storm and the stranger were seen returning from their confab, and going toward the restaurant door together, without a backward glance for us.
Things were thus safe for the time being. I announced that I was rested, and would like to dine at once. Pat said that she was famished! We went to dinner therefore—picture it!—without even washing our hands.
Peter and the stranger sat at a little table at the farthest corner of the room. Caspian looked ready to burst with rage at being "circumvented," and to sink into the floor with shame of his unsuitably clad companions. As for me, I smiled at Jack a sardonic smile which would have made a grand "close up" in the "movie" we had just seen. The most experienced villain couldn't have improved on it.
"Say, who is that chap feeding over there with Storm?" inquired the innocent Tom.
"That," said Caspian, "is the military attache of the Russian Embassy in Washington. He is here on business. His name is Captain Ipanoff. He is also a Prince."
His being "also a Prince" explained to me why Ed, our prize snob, should have tried to lure him from his newspaper with honeyed conversation. But it didn't explain why his eyes should start out of his head at sight of Peter Storm.
Up to date, the thing hasn't been explained; for now, as I write to you, it is the same night, and so far as I know, P. S. and his Prince are still together. I don't want—at least, I don't want to want—to know anything about Peter Storm that he doesn't wish known. But Ed Caspian will know if possible. I do wonder what the mystery can be, don't you? I shall write again almost at once, whether I have any more to tell on this subject or not. I can't stop long in the middle of the secret—I mean the trip!
Your very affectionate
P. S. Jack says curiosity is a misunderstood virtue. Without it the world would not have progressed. He's forgotten Pandora. But no, perhaps not. Hope was at the bottom of her box, and we should have missed it if she hadn't let the winged Troubles out.
PATRICIA MOORE TO ADRIENNE DE MONCOURT
Moon Pond, Newport, R. I.
I have found waiting here a letter from my Adrienne. It has been forwarded from Kidd's Pines. What can have happened to this poor letter I do not know, but it has been a long time on the way. I see it is written just after the last one, which I have had—it is two weeks now; so it brings me not much of news except that you like the American cousin more even than before, and a crisis draws near. All my love and good wishes go to you, cherie. Already it must be that things are settling themselves for you and your Marcel (I am sure he is your Marcel!), and the wishes will arrive late. Perhaps you will send me a cable; and it may come at any time, for you will be at home with dear Madame your mother and not with the Sisters. But I shall not really expect the message by telegram, for in France one does not send cables as one does in America. One thinks twice. It is an important decision to take.
As for me, all remains as when I wrote you last. I thought at first that I could not go on being engaged, but would have to break. Now I find it too difficult to do this, though I have not saved my poor Larry from his sacrifice. He bears up well, but that is because we are en automobile, and there are changes of scene, and nice people to make him forget. He is wonderful about forgetting, but I fear he may collapse when by and by he must look reality in the face. It is not always a pretty face!
I sometimes forget, too, for a while, but it is more difficult, for a girl cannot choose her own companions as a man can. I lie awake at night thinking of the future, because if I am to help Larry in a big, useful way I must marry—not just go on being engaged. Much money is to be settled on me, and I will give all to Larry. I feel as if I should not like to take any for myself. You and I used to say we should not let ourselves be married off to men we could not love, as so many of the old girls at school have done. But circumstances can be very strong. With me, there are complications. It will not be fair to dear Larry to speak of them. I do not see how they can arrange themselves without my marrying. Still, I try to think of the present and not of the future. I have this tour before me. It is not perfect, but at least I cannot be a Mrs. till it is over!
Here at Newport we visit friends of Larry's, all of us except the nice Tom, Dick, and Harry I told you of; a Senator Collinge, Mrs. Shuster's friend; the Goodrich family, who are so large and handsome, and a family of two who are a bride and bridegroom, and Mr. Storm. He is not at Newport at all, though the others who are not at Moon Pond stay in a pretty little hotel almost like a private house. It seems odd, they do not have big hotels in this wonderful place. The rich people who have made the new part so wonderful do not like to have tourists come and stay if they can help it. They want Newport to belong to them, and so it does, except the old town, which Molly Winston and her husband and I like best of all.
Do you not think "Moon Pond" a fascinating name for a place? The pond is in the garden of these friends where we spend two days and nights; and in front of the large lawn, with its great clumps of blue hydrangea, rolls the Atlantic Ocean. It would be lovely to stay here, for it is a beautiful place (a very big house built of gray shingles, soft gray like the feathers on a mother bird's breast, and not looking too big in a showy way, because it is rambling, with many verandas and unexpected nooks), but they will give us a dinner in celebration of being engaged. That spoils everything. I am glad Mr. Storm will not be at the dinner. I should not like to see his eyes. Mr. Caspian is not nice to him, but he is better than at first, because I was very angry at some things he did. I said I would not be engaged to a man who could be rude to another poorer in money than himself.
Yes, I think Peter Storm must be very poor in money, or he would not go on in this situation with Mrs. Shuster, who has Mr. Caspian for one of her best friends, yet lets him behave as he likes to her secretary. Mr. Storm is a proud man and of a high temper. One can see that when his eyes look like topaz fire, and his face turns red. Yet he shuts his mouth and makes fists of his hands, and says nothing instead of hitting or answering back. I am so sorry for him! He is the most interesting man you could meet. But I suppose you never will meet, for he will be gone out of my life long before you and I see each other once more—if we ever do.
He does not like to be in a fashionable place, and Newport is perhaps the most fashionable in this country. He came with us for the tour, as far as New London, a big, nice town which has a river called the Thames, like real London. Then he met a man he knew, and said he would join us again after Newport, at Fall River, on the way to Boston, which will be our next stop. The friend he met was rather mysterious. Or no, the way of meeting was mysterious. It was a great surprise to them both, and Mr. Storm took the man—a Russian Prince—off to a distance and never let him come near us for a minute. Mr. Caspian knew the Prince to speak to, and he would have asked him about Mr. Storm if he could, but Molly Winston and I would not let him. If Mr. Storm has something he wishes to keep a secret, it is his affair. But there is one thing I worry about a little. I do not see why I may not tell you that!
Before I made my promise to him, Mr. Caspian was so silly as to be jealous of Mr. Storm. He thought, like all of us, that there was some mystery, but unlike us, he believed it was a bad one. He wished to do Mr. Storm some harm. He even threatened to hire a detective to watch always what he did. But after we were engaged Mr. Caspian did not feel the same. I suppose he said to himself that he was more safe. He did not want Mr. Storm to go away, because he enjoyed being a tyrant to him, and showing his power over me.
It was like that till New London. I was rather silly there, I am afraid, but I was so tired of being with Mr. Caspian every minute. He seems to squeeze out my vitality like water from a sponge! I took a revenge by making him tired—in his feet, not his head. We all left him to go home and rest and be very cross while we enjoyed ourselves. But it is not me he would punish for that. It is poor Peter Storm! He begins to be jealous again as before, and I am afraid he may do the horrid thing he has threatened to do. A word he dropped made me think of it. I wish I could give Mr. Storm some hint to be careful. But even when I see him again (it won't be till day after to-morrow) I shall not dare. Perhaps I can get Molly to speak.
I can't help missing Mr. Storm when we go about seeing beautiful things. I told you long ago I liked seeing things with him. But I keep with Molly and Jack Winston as much as I can when we are out of doors, here at Newport. Larry's friends are very good. They let us go about as we like and come in when we like. Now that Mr. Storm is away, Mr. Caspian does not worry to be with me every minute. He knows some fearfully rich people at Newport. It is strange, isn't it, that he likes rich people much better than poor (except Larry and me), though he used to be a socialist and give lectures against capital? Peter Storm says that to be a true socialist is the finest thing in the world, and can save the world from itself; but I do not think Mr. Caspian can have been that kind, as he does not even like to talk of socialism now.
His friends here, the Hodges, live in a house which Jack Winston says could swallow up and digest Buckingham Palace. He has made me meet them, and they are very pleasant, but not so restful as the Langworthys, where we stay. When the Hodges find I want to see sights, they are surprised and laugh. It is not the fashion with people who live at Newport to see sights. They have seen everything in the whole world, and care only for seeing each other—the ones they know. Nobody else is worth knowing. Mr. Caspian tries to be like that, but it seems an imitation. With the real ones it is true, and not for effect.
It seems that our family must be very old, because everybody, even these grandest ones, are kind to us, and think it is great fun that we keep a hotel. Molly and Jack they like of course, because M. and J. are "great swells."
Now, cherie, I must stop, and go for a walk with them. Molly calls it a "potter." But you will not know what that word means!
A hundred wishes and loves! Your
NIGHT LETTER TELEGRAM FROM PETER STORM TO JAMES STRICKLAND
Just missed getting into scrape here. Saved by presence of mind. You have heard me speak of Ipanoff. Met him accidentally. He has relatives seeing America, awaiting them New London; found me instead. Shall stay to-morrow, letting my party go on. Meet Fall River by train. Couldn't stand Newport. Writing you on business.
MOLLY WINSTON TO MERCEDES LANE
A Gorgeous Hotel in dear old Boston.
I am thrilled with New England! It has got into my blood, which is of the south. Why do we—you and I and the rest of us—dash over to Europe before we're old enough to see much of and appreciate our own country? Still, I'm thankful we did, or we shouldn't have met Jack or Monty.
Are you tired of travelling with me and my Lightning Conductor? You said you couldn't, wouldn't, shouldn't be; so if you've changed your mind, you've brought this on yourself.
I didn't quite realize, even with my first warm glow of admiration, all that New England meant, in a concrete way. I realized the beauty, the individual charm, the historic interest, but now I'm beginning to put them together in a bouquet where one flower sets off another. Oh, dear, I wish that not quite so many things had happened before our day! It would have been easier to sort them about a hundred and fifty years ago. Yet, a hundred and fifty years ago there wouldn't have been an Emerson, a Thoreau, a Hawthorne, a Longfellow, a Whittier, a Bryant, a Lowell, or an Oliver Wendell Holmes, to say nothing of half a dozen others I'm too excited to recall at the moment. It would have been sad to come here before they lived and embroidered the tapestry of life with their lovely thoughts—almost the difference between travelling on a gray day and in clear sunshine. For New England belongs to these philosophers and poets just as much as it belongs to the Indians and Puritans and Soldiers of the Revolution.
Now you see what my mood is! I think Jack has inspired it, for he can quote most of the New England writers, if not by the yard at least by the inch. He says he used to learn their wit and wisdom to repeat "at his mother's knee." I shouldn't have supposed Lady Brightelmston's knee capable of it; but one never knows!
The last time I wrote you was at New London. I posted the letter at Groton, I remember, because I was thinking so hard of "The Peter Storm Mystery" that everything else went out of my head. My dear, he stayed behind, with his Russian friend, leaving Pat to the mercy of Caspian!
You have to cross by ferry to get to Groton—old Fort Griswold—and the New London side is too amusing. Practically all the boy population of America seemed to be there to see us off. They had come on purpose to tell motorists what to do and whither to proceed, thus extracting dimes in gratitude or blackmail. Good gracious! If we tried to do half the things they advised, nay, insisted on, we'd be as busy as bees the rest of our lives or else go mad! I can tell you we were thankful to escape on to the charming, peaceful road we found after the ferry had shed us on the other side. Soon we turned off on to a rough short cut; but it was fascinating, too, and would have been like scenery on the Crinan Canal if it hadn't been still more like itself. The hydrangeas growing in the gardens were marvellous, great trees of them, with different shaped flowers from ordinary human hydrangeas, flowers like huge bunches of white grapes seen from a distance. The flat blue and pink kind prefer to grow close by the shore. There was another darling tree—one on every lawn nearly—Rose of Sharon. Do you know it? The name alone makes Jack glad he came to America. And then, the colour of the marshes!—crimson and orange-gold, with streaks of emerald. Where there weren't marshes, the meadows were white with Queen Anne's lace. She must have sent a lot of it to America! Tiger lilies grew wild, dazzling colonies of them, and from gray rocks ferns spurted and showered. Isn't it charming that a river called the Mystic should run, or, rather, gently dawdle, through a world like this? Its mother is the Sound; and perhaps because it's very historic, it justified its dignity by leading us out of this flowery fairyland, past stern, faded farmhouses to a wide country of rolling downs, bathed in silver light—downs whose sides were spread with forests like dark tracts of shadow.
We passed through Westerly of the granite quarries, and suddenly we realized that we were in Rhode Island. Don't you like the name "Watch Hill?" I do. And I liked the place, which "summer people" love. But all the neighbourhood is enchanting. It doesn't matter where you stay! I never saw so many flowers, wild and tame: tame hydrangeas, wild grapes, wild spirea and bayberry, half-tamed, worried-looking sunflowers, with so much sun they don't know which way to turn. All this within sight of the Sound, with islands and necks of blue-green land like a door ajar to the ocean.
It was a fine drive, after Wakefield, along the Narragansett front, the most countrylike road imaginable, with wild shrubbery on either side, and then the most ultra-civilized hotels, an army of them on parade, with the sea for their drill sergeant.
At Saunderstown we took ferry for Newport—a double ferry, but neither journey was long. A mist floated over the water like the ghost of the Queen Anne lace we had passed; but we had glimpses of Fort Greble and Fort Adams. Oh, there's heaps to see at Newport besides the haunts of the Four Hundred! We landed at last in a dear old town with quaint but rich-looking houses of retired sea captains and other comfortable folk who simply don't exist for the eyes of Society, though they no doubt have a background crowded with brave ancestors. Jack and I meant to stop at a nice little hotel which exists apologetically; but friends of Larry's insisted on our staying with them. We should have thought up some excuse to refuse (not that we'd fib: but it's fair to economize truth at times!) if Pat hadn't begged us to accept. You see, Ed Caspian was invited as her fiance, and Mrs. Shuster as Larry's, and there was to be a dinner in honour of the two couples. The poor child, a lamb led to the slaughter, seemed to think that the altar of sacrifice would be more tolerable if we were present to scatter rosemary and rue upon it. We consented, of course. But I felt quite hard toward Peter Storm, who had, in a way, been appointed by Jack and himself as her unofficial guardian in the Grayles-Grice, and had apparently failed her by stopping behind with his Russian.
We were able to relieve the strain a little by taking the girl out for walks in the old town, a part of Newport most interesting to us, least interesting to Caspian. Dear Father brought me once to Newport to visit people in a house which called itself a cottage and looked like a castle, but that was when I was seventeen, in a summer holiday in the midst of school life. I had the intense ambition of a flapper to be a debutante; and because I envied girls who were "out" I did all I could to usurp their prerogatives by flirting and "dressing up." I didn't care a rap for anything or anybody over thirty. The Casino, the Yacht Club, Bellevue Avenue for shopping or driving, Bailey's Beach, that haven for any modern Venus to rise from the foam if she has a lovely bathing dress, the twelve-mile Ocean Drive in all its luxury and millionairish beauty—these represented Newport for me; and I bet they'd have meant the same for you in your salad days! They're still great fun, and perfectly delightful and almost unique, it is true, but now I feel, with Jack, the "call of the past." The Old Stone Mill, with its contradictory histories, is more fascinating than the Casino. I could get quite hot and angry arguing with any one who disputes the fact—fact, I say!—that this extraordinary gray-stone tower draped with creepers and backed with trees is the memorial of a Viking's wife. Longfellow's "The Skeleton in Armour" was one of those poems which Lady Brighthelmston's knee taught to Jack. "Speak, speak, thou fearful guest!" I had forgotten, I'm ashamed to say, but Jack has reminded me about the figure in "rude armour drest" which appeared when they took away a wall. I just won't have my Viking Tower torn out of the eleventh century and stuck into the seventeenth. So there! I don't see why it isn't right to believe the nicest things in the past of a country instead of the worst, as you must do with a woman, if you're not a cat!
Pat and I are going to read Fenimore Cooper's "Red Rover" because the scenes are laid in this neighbourhood; at least I am going to read it, and Pat will if Caspian gives her a chance to do anything intelligent in future. He won't if he can help it, I'm sure! You ought to have seen the boiled codfish look in his eyes when Pat, arriving at Moon Pond after an excursion with us, tried to entertain him by talking of Matthew Perry building the first steam vessel in the American Navy and arranging a treaty that opened the door of Japan to the west! There's a monument to him in the park, and we'd been looking at it.
Well, in spite of Fate, I think the child enjoyed her Newport days, if not her Newport evenings, and indeed, she seemed to have the feeling that they were snatched from the jaws of the said ruthless lady. We mooned about among the entirely charming and more or less famous houses, in what ought to be called Oldport, a very, very important place for more than a hundred years before a tidal wave of fashion swept over it about the middle of the eighteenth century: great families coming in their own schooners, with their servants and horses, from Charleston and Savannah. You can't think of the exciting, historic things we found out in our "moonings": history on the sea, even before Captain Kidd's privateers were being chased along the shore, for Rhode Island always "loved to fight if she could fight on the sea"; history on land, from the time that the inhabitants were abandoning their houses in fear of Sir Henry Clinton and the British fleet, up to these brilliant days of Astors and Belmonts and Vanderbilts. Jack and I got so resigned to visiting Larry's pleasant friends that we should have been sorry to leave if it hadn't been for our curiosity to see "what would happen next" in the Peter affair.
The last thing we did was to get up with the sun and start out for an excursion to the Forty Steps. But, after all, Jack was too lame to manage them. He was very cut up, but his sense of humour came to the rescue as usual, and he was showing a brave face again when we started off in the motor once more, for Fall River—and beyond. Then, if not before, we should have realized what a marvellous frame Newport has. I suppose in some ways no other spot is equal to it. Even Jack says that, and there are few of the great show places of the world he hasn't seen. As a send-off, we gave ourselves a detour and said good-bye to the Ocean Drive. The fleet, which had been visiting for several days, was steaming off to sea. We looked across walls of blue hydrangeas and "rosa rugosa" hung with berries like lumps of coral, out to the gray ships speeding fast through cataracts of sapphire spray. It was a wonderful sight and a wonderful day! The morning sun seemed to paint the rocks purple and turn the high spurting surf to fountains of diamonds. It lit the young gold of maple trees, and the delicate crysophrase green of weeping beeches that sweep the lawns along the twelve-mile drive (consoled Niobes weeping only happy tears!) and threw ladders of light down to the marshes. You will think I am always writing you about marshes. But these are super-marshes. If there are marshes by the Sea of Glass they must be like these. They are so full of faded rainbows that their colour seems to drain into the crystal veins of water which wind into them from inlets of the sea, and turn the crystal into deep-dyed amethysts.
As we went on along the shore, the tiny waves ruffled under our eyes like frills of lace on a baby's baptismal dress. The sea became a wide river with dreamland visioned on the other side. Oh, what a contrast to all the beauty of the "Peaceful Isle" and its surroundings to dash into Fall River! Here and there is a house, or a charming name of a street, to tell that it was once a pleasant old village like other New England villages, but Commerce has sacked it of all that is beautiful—or, if it has left anything by mistake, we didn't see it. The ugly, work-marred town smote us like a blow in the face, and yet we saw that it has its own fierce, flaunting interest. I shall never again think of a Fall River boat as a restful thing. A Fall River boat was all I knew of Fall River before, except that a big Revolutionary battle was fought there. Now a battle between Labour and Capital is ceaselessly going on. It was a joy—a selfish joy, perhaps—to spin out of the town limits and come into Devonshire. Really, it was Devonshire—Devonshire in look and in the names of places. What of Taunton, for instance? So we flew on to Boston, through a series of exquisite parks such as surely no other city in the world can have for a frame.
There was just one attractive feature about Fall River for us: not the Picture Palaces, of which there must be about a million; not the coloured posters of the Azores, put up to please the homesick Portuguese labourers, but the reappearance of Peter Storm. Frankly, dearest, I had been afraid in my inmost heart that the Mystery was going to close round Peter like a dark cloud, hiding him from our sight forever. Caspian had perhaps hoped that this might be the case. But Peter had said that he would be found standing at the corner of Elm Street (there wasn't an elm in it, or any other tree), and there he was, though we were early at the rendezvous rather than late.
I forgot to tell you that Pat started out from Newport in our car, the bride and bridegroom squeezing into the Grayles-Grice. I'd accused the girl of not looking well—a stupidity of which I should never be capable if I hadn't an object to gain—and she had owned to a slight headache. I said that I had some wonderful pillules that I could give her; but I must administer them myself, and they must be taken every half-hour. Of course there was nothing for it but she must come to us; and she brightened visibly with every mile, though whether owing to the pillules or the increasing nearness of Fall River, I can't say, and wouldn't if I could.
Having disposed of the honeymooners, there was room in our car for Peter. Jack and I had manoeuvred (by taking a short cut Jack found on a map) to reach Elm Street first; so we did a sort of Sabine business reversed: snatched up Peter and dashed on. I could almost hear Ed Caspian gnashing his teeth in the G.-G. just behind. It was a sound like something wrong with the gear.
Boston you perhaps know more about than I do, at any rate from books. But you would like to see Jack here—and Monty with him, of course: two wounded heroes enjoying a well-earned repose, as many a wounded hero has enjoyed in other days. He—Jack—wonders if the famous Tea is lying at the bottom of the harbour still, in hermetically sealed tins, and whether it improves with age.
I broke it to you with the top of my letter that we're in a perfectly gorgeous hotel. Jack and I have a suite which would be good enough for a king and queen. He was determined that we'd "do ourselves well," as we are to stay several days, running out to Plymouth and so on, and running back. We've been here now only one night and a morning, but already our sitting-room looks, in some ways, as if we'd taken it for life. Flowers, of course! Jack always buys me flowers; and books—books—books: Longfellow, Hawthorne, Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and some glorified guides in volume form. I said, "Are we to carry all these in the car? We shall be boiling over with books, swamped with books, buried under books as Tarpeia was under the shields and bracelets!" But Jack had made his plans. They will be sent home to Awepesha by the hotel people when we go, and we are to have the comfort of them here. As nobody else will have any books, they'll offer Pat an excuse to drop in on us—Peter, too. Jack ought to give "penny readings," I think!
I haven't, by the way, got any satisfaction out of Peter. We are partners in the Caspian-Shuster plot, but his plot he keeps to himself. I wonder what, from all I have told you, Mercedes, you think of him?
In spite of everything, Jack and I believe that he's all right, and vaguely we look for a Great Surprise, though of what nature we cannot say. I wish it would come before we get into Aunt Mary-land. I begin to need something to brace me up!
Love! Ever your MOLLY.
MOLLY WINSTON TO MERCEDES LANE
I was wishing for a surprise, and it came. But it hasn't explained anything. It has only thickened the plot—thickened it like porridge made of Boston beans.
I didn't mean to inflict another letter upon you quite so soon; but I'm so full of the surprise—and "beans," too—heavenly Boston ones, very brown, and crisp on top—that I can't wait.
My last night's budget was posted to you only this morning early, when Jack and I were going out to discover what every (other) man and woman knows about the Hub of the Universe. All day long we were so busy seeing and doing things in this delightful, intimate personality that I lost my Stormy Petrel emotion in a crowd of other emotions. Usually when we stop anywhere, and are not in the car most of the day, Mrs. Shuster finds work for Peter to do. She and ex-Senator Collinge give him sheafs of notes to elaborate into letters or articles for the papers which propagate their ideas. I think—and have thought from the first—that this plan of campaign is more to please the Ally (Caspian) than from any pressing need for such work to be done en route. Mrs. Shuster impulsively engaged Storm before Caspian met him, and very likely made some sort of contract to which he can hold her if he chooses. Besides, she admires him as much as ever, though she admires Larry more, and in her silly, blundering way, she plays a double game. All sweetness and light to Storm when she's with him, and immense pride in him as an employe—the pride a small, dull comet might feel in attracting attention to itself by trailing a disproportionately brilliant tail across the sky. All specious promises and excuses to Caspian when she's with him and not with Peter. Caspian, you remember, used to be a protege of hers when he was a rising young socialist, and she was the widow of a quaint genius who'd made a fortune in some weird patent to keep your hair from decaying, or your teeth from falling out. Now, he's a rising young millionaire, accepted by People Who Matter; and he can do more for her than she for him, socially. So she has to be nice to him, no matter how she feels, and "keep him sweet," anyhow until she's quite sure of Larry and his ancestors to back her up. That's the way I account for Peter's being kept on, though of course there's the fact that Caspian enjoys bullying him now that he's down.
Anyhow, that's the situation on the surface. When we motor, the Stormy Petrel submits himself for the present to the boot of the tyrant in the Grayles-Grice. When we leave the motor, Peter is left, too, and chained to his duties. But, so long as he gets through his tasks at the appointed time, no questions can be asked as to how he spends the extra hours. And the speed with which he does get through those tasks is miraculous as that of Psyche sorting the grains of wheat at the order of mother-in-law Venus! Psyche had all the kingdom of ants to help her. But who helps Peter? One can't suppose that he's rich enough to fling all his salary to an understudy while he gads. Yet I've seen him going to his room with a sheaf of papers which would keep the nose of a common secretary at the grindstone for six or seven hours, whereas P. S. is free to do as he pleases in less than half that time.
This long preamble explains why Peter Storm didn't start out with us this morning, though we picked him up at Fall River and brought him on to Boston, as I told you, and why he was nevertheless able to appear casually in Cambridge. We came across him in the college yard, just as we were "processing" through the big gateway, guided by the Boys, proud, happy Boys, showing off their Alma Mater to their Best Girl and her satellites!
"If I'd had an education, here's where I should like to have got it," Peter remarked, calmly joining our forces, unabashed by Caspian's stare.
"You haven't finished all that stuff the Senator and I gave you!" gasped Lily, knowing that the eye of Ed had travelled reproachfully to her.
"That's all right, Mrs. Shuster," was Peter's airy reply. "When you get home, you'll find that everything has been duly posted."
There was nothing more to be said on the subject. And though Peter referred to himself as a person of no education, he seemed to know more about Cambridge than the Boys themselves—quite as much as Jack, who has been studying up the place as if for an exam!
It really is charming, that college yard, you know, Mercedes—just as charming in its way, Jack admits, as bits of Oxford, or the old Cambridge for which this darling place was named. Once it was called Newton, but after the great event in 1636—the granting by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay of four hundred pounds "towards a schoole or colledge"—they decided that it ought to be called Cambridge. Nearly all the buildings contrive to look rather venerable (they cloak themselves with creepers), but some, like Massachusetts Hall and Harvard Hall, and several houses, are really old. Tom, Dick, and Harry put on the air of graybeards returning, after a half-century of adventure, to their childhood's home, though they left college only last year to go abroad. It was funny to see the patronizing looks they cast on the undergrads we saw; but they were the life of the place for us, all the same, and we felt truly in it, chaperoned by them. Outside college bounds, however, they lost interest. It was Jack who had to tell us about "Brattle." As far as the Boys were concerned, it might have been any ordinary street, instead of the street of the world, as it is to true hearts of Cambridge. In Cambridge the smart thing is to be rather dowdy, just as it is at Oxford, and in Cambridge of England; and so, as we had got ourselves up to dazzle Boston (a difficult task, I must say!), we were conspicuously, ignominiously tourists as we gazed in reverence at Washington's Elm, at Longfellow's exquisite old primrose yellow house, and the other historic incarnations of Cambridge's past. Only the Boys were not subject to the pitying scorn of Society. They didn't have on their worst clothes, because they have neither best nor worst, but what they had on was it. And possessing no hats was greatly in their favour. By the way, did you know that Cambridge is the first place where a printing press was set up in America? I didn't. It remained for my English Jack to inform me of the fact.
This Cambridge expedition was in the afternoon I neglected to mention. Our morning (while Peter doubtless toiled) had been spent in the wonderful Public Library of Boston itself. We'd meant to do more and other things, but one could stay a week in that library, which I believe started with just ten thousand books! Everything is beautiful about it, from the pale-pink granites and brown Spanish tiles without to the St. Gauden lions who guard the great marble staircase within. Sargent's "Religions of the World" is a noble decoration, and Abbey's frieze of the Holy Grail is beautiful, but the panel paintings of Puvis de Chavannes—"The Muses Greeting the Genius of Enlightenment"—are worth while coming from London or Paris to Boston to see.
After we motored back from Cambridge we wandered about here and there, seeing the "Cradle of American Liberty," the "Sanctuary of Freedom," and the place "where Independence was born." Unless you have the key, you won't be able to unlock this saying, so I'll do it for you. Why, they call Faneuil Hall the "Cradle of Liberty" because they used to hold all the town meetings there to discuss whether they should revolt against British rule or no; so Liberty must have rocked to and fro a lot! The Old South Meeting House is the "Sanctuary of Freedom," for there it was prayed for and blessed. And of course Independence was born in the Old State House. I wonder if anything half as epoch-making will ever come to pass under the great gold dome of the new one? It's very fine, but it can never be quite so thrilling, I think. And it wasn't built where the pillory and scaffold used to stand! Jack would see the Bunker Hill Monument, too, though I think monuments, even the finest, seem to chill your glorious visions of what really happened on the spot.
Jack, and Pat, and Peter, and I then made a secret pact that we'd devote part of to-morrow to Hawthorne's Boston; that we'd pretend to find the house of "The Blythedale Romance" in Tremont Street; that we'd poke about for the lost site of Hester Prynne's lonely hut on the Back Bay (huts there are neither cheap nor lonely now), and search for various other story landmarks. With this happy prospect before us, and having slyly shaken off all other companions, we went unsuspectingly back to the hotel, not dreaming of a guet-apens, as the French so expressively say.
Peter doesn't live at our hotel, not being able to afford gorgeousness. Marble-walled, gilded-ceilinged rotundas and restaurants are not for humble secretaries, alas, even if they do look like banished princes! We invited him, however (also Pat), to have tea with us in our own sitting-room, and he accepted.
If we could, we should have sneaked in; but the magnificent entrance-hall of our palatial hotel is not adapted to sneaking purposes. I'll be hanged if there's a single trapdoor under a conveniently placed Persian rug, or so much as a secret sliding panel, unless you count the elevators as such! However, we were doing our best to look invisible en masse, when up sprang Edward Caspian and crossed our path as we ought to have expected the villain of the piece to do.
He was not alone. With him was a man, not young, yet not looking middle-aged. He had a head rather like Shakespeare's, and eyes like aquamarines with a light burning behind them.
"Jove!" I heard the Stormy Petrel mutter. "Camera-eyed Dick!"
I knew instantly that Caspian had been as good as his word, and had sent for a detective. The name "Camera-eyed Dick" was too terribly expressive, and so was the way Peter pronounced it, even though he spoke under his breath—to himself, not to me. I felt that here was a man with a fearsome specialty—a man called "camera-eyed," because his eyes photographed on his brain stuff a permanent picture of every face he saw. And Caspian had brought him here, no doubt at large expense, to recognize the face of Peter Storm, alias Some One Else.
Oh, it was an awful moment, and made worse because I felt this stroke was partly our fault. If we hadn't done everything we could to aggravate Caspian and make him more jealous than ever of Storm, just as his jealousy had been simmering down, probably he wouldn't have bothered to carry out his old threat. I thought I should faint, I was so frightened for Peter, and so sick at the idea of having him arrested or something.
"Is there anything I can do?" I stammered out, before I could stop myself from making a bad faux pas and showing that I suspected his danger.
Peter (he and I were walking ahead, Jack and Patsey behind) didn't make the faintest pretense of not understanding. He gave me a glance—I wasn't sure whether it was just bold or whether there was a sense of drama in it—and said in a quiet voice: "No, thank you; nothing at all."
The one way of escaping the encounter would have been to run for it, which would, of course, only have made matters worse; so we marched straight on into the jaws of detection. I would have given much to know whether Jack and Pat had heard Peter's exclamation, and if they guessed in the least what a scene we might be in for. (No, not a scene! I couldn't, even then, associate Peter with a "scene" in public; despite his temper, he is always so cool in every emergency, and has such a peculiar way of carrying things off!)
Much as I wanted to know, however, I dared not turn. Does a mouse turn to the mice behind it and say, "Here is Mr. Camera-eyed Cat?" No! We walked along, my knees feeling like pats of butter, and presently Ed Caspian and his companion blocked our way, filling the whole horizon. "I want to introduce my friend Mr. Moyle, Mrs. Winston," said Ed. "And Mr. Moyle, this is Mr. Peter Storm."
Beads of perspiration came out on my nose, which Aunt Mary always used to tell me was most unladylike and ought never to happen. My heart and I just stood still together!
Murmuring something more like a hiccup than a "How do you do?" I saw Peter use his eyes like grappling irons on the camera-eyes of Mr. Moyle. Then his magnetism, like a band of pirates, swarmed aboard of the other's mentality. He put out his hand and shook the hand of the man, whether Camera eyed Dick wished to shake hands or not, and with that shake, the lamp seemed suddenly to be snatched away from behind the aquamarines.
"How do you do, Mr. Moyle? Pleased to meet you," Peter said slowly.
"Pleased to meet you," echoed Mr. Moyle. His Shakespearean forehead had turned red, and there was a slight gasp in his voice, a tone sliding up instead of down. His queer eyes (rather bald-looking because his light lashes curl right up and away from them, leaving them very wide open) turned off their lights, as I said. But though they were vacant compared to what they had been when professionally on the alert, they had a curious effect as if they would burst if he couldn't laugh. This may have been produced by the lashes turning up so much. I couldn't make it out at all, anyhow. And the whole affair is past my making out. Now, what should you say Peter did to quell Camera-eyed Dick? Was it the look, or was it the way he shook hands?
For he was quelled. There's no doubt—or very little doubt—about that. He was friendly with Peter Storm. He and Peter and Caspian talked together, and it was Camera-eyes who went away first. Ed was ready to cry, I'm sure.
I asked Jack afterward (of course I breathed not a word to Pat), and he said that she and he had guessed nothing of what was going on under the surface of the introduction. They hadn't heard Peter's give-away words; and without that clue there was no reason to suspect.
I shan't sleep to-night because of that "misunderstood virtue" of mine. In other words, Curiosity is gnawing my vitals.
Your modern Pandora, alias
PETER STORM TO JAMES STRICKLAND
Caspian has "let loose the dogs of war" on me, or, rather, the first dog is loose. There will no doubt be others yapping on my track. You'll grin when I tell you the first of the breed was your old henchman, Camera-eyed Dick!
Hotel halls seem to be fatal to me lately. I shall get jumpy going into one. Caspian was lying in wait for me to appear with Miss Moore and the Winstons, we having "lost" the others and gone for a walk. Camera-eyes was with him, and I thought it was touch and go for me. However, I turned the tables by doing the camera-eye act myself. Also, I gave Dick's hand a friendly grip. You remember that he's a Mason? Going away, he contrived to palm me a card with a scrawled address: a small hotel where he was spending the night.
Late in the evening I walked round there, taking it for granted that Dick would be in, and that he had recognized me with certainty despite the lapse of time. I counted on his not giving me away to his employer, so I didn't hurry to pay my respects. And I hadn't trusted the old chap in vain. He was loyal to Caspian, so far as not betraying any instructions he may have had; but he did not mind admitting that he'd come from New York to Boston on receipt of a telegram. I felt I owed him the reward of an explanation, so gave a somewhat garbled one, in which Dick was intensely interested. He confessed that he was "flabbergasted" at sight of "the gentleman he'd come to be introduced to" (me) and for once was disinclined to believe his eyes. He promised silence, refused a reward, as near the V.C. as I'm able to bestow, and I told him to call on you. You're sure to hear from him soon.
This is the second narrow escape I've had within a week. I oughtn't to take these risks till I'm ready to face the consequences, whatever they may be. But I'd do more to be in sight of Patricia Moore's profile which is about all I see of her in the car these days when (in every sense of the word) I'm obliged to take "a back seat." Do, for heaven's sake, finish up your end of the business and give me a free hand, since you yourself say I may in honour take it. I probably should take it even if you said the opposite—that I tell you frankly, as I believe I've told you before. But it's good to have your backing.
I've been to Plymouth to-day, thanks to a chap I've hired to do my work for me, and have returned to Boston, which we shall leave to-morrow for good and all. Caspian had an accident just before starting time—had been out in a taxi on a hurried errand to some shop, and the chauffeur, trying to be helpful, banged the door with C.'s finger in it. The finger was in a glove, or the hurt would have been more serious, but even as it was, when he tried to take the wheel of the G.-G. he found the pain unbearable. I was called—like a male Cinderella—from the ashes (those of a cigarette) and ordered to drive. In an instant the secretary had become the chauffeur. I can do these fairy godmother trick-acts like lightning; and as Miss Moore didn't think it necessary to change her seat, I knew that Fate was going, anyhow, to give me one good day.
I had never been by road from Boston to Plymouth, and as I'd not expected to drive, I hadn't looked up the route. Caspian probably had, but I didn't want help from him, and I determined to die rather than look at a map. You, a Harvard man, no doubt know the way well, though a motor car was a rare if not unknown species of animal when you were an undergrad.
In the beginning it was easy enough. We simply went out of Boston along the road by which we'd come in: past the Arnold Arboretum of which you Harvard fellows are so proud; Forest Hill, parklike Morton Street, and across the Neponset River, where my dear little seat-mate (who couldn't have guessed how I felt to be by her side again) was enraptured with the view of Boston Harbour. She was gayer than I had seen her since that moonlight night when I came to myself—too late, as it turned out; yet I don't feel somehow that it's irrevocably too late. I can't! It was good to hear her laugh again. "Do look," she said, "at the funny little porches on the funny little houses! They put hammocks on ones that are so narrow people have to fall off the porch when they want to get out! Yet see how happy the women look! They must have husbands they love."
Caspian heard, and leaned forward to suppress her. "Patricia, I wouldn't talk so much to the chauffeur if I were you, while he's driving. He doesn't know the way, and he'd better give his attention to the sign-posts."
Of course I could say nothing. But I reminded myself that snubs generally come home to roost. I hoped he'd "get his," as you say, and I hadn't long to wait before poetical justice fell. The man kept up a running fire of information, which he had doubtless culled from a guide-book to impress his fiancee, having no personal interest in history except that it has led up to him. The landscape left him cold; the seas of wild blue chicory and forget-me-not didn't suggest to him the colour of a certain girl's eyes as it did to another chap who had no right to make the comparison. He didn't care for the "Golden Wedding House," or any of the other pretty old houses so beautifully fitted to the pretty old ladies rocking on their "piazzas" under the shade of giant trees. The facts with which he had primed himself, like pocketsful of dry cracknels, were such as "Here" (at East Milton) "was built the first railway in the country. It was horse drawn, and over it was carried" (I think he used the word "transported," which proved the guide-book) "stone from the quarries of Quincy to construct the Bunker Hill Monument." "Here" (at Quincy) "in the middle of the city stands the Stone Temple where are buried the two Presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams."
It was then that the snub flew home, with a strong impetus from the exasperated Pat.
"I don't want to know about Bunker Hill Monument being built," she turned round to snap. "I want to think it built itself. And I don't want to know where Presidents are buried. I only want to know where they had their golden weddings, and where they lived happily. Besides, it gives me a crick in my neck to be always listening to some one behind. If I can't talk to Mr. Stor-r-rm for fear of upsetting him, I won't talk to anybody, please!"
There was one in the eye for Caspian; and it gave me my opportunity to murmur with mere perfunctory politeness (?) that it didn't "upset" me in the least to talk or be talked to while I "chauffed."
After that we did converse a little, about Captain John Smith and Miles Standish, without Caspian venturing to butt in; but I must say he got revenge through my losing myself in Hingham. You remember that wonderful street of lawns and trees with a perfect specimen of an old church? I believe it's the oldest church, still in use, in the United States, but I dared not state this lest C. should seize the chance to snap me up and say I was mistaken. Well, anyhow, I shared so recklessly in Pat's admiration of the said church and the quaint, pleasant houses with flag-staffs sticking out over their doors, that I fulfilled Caspian's prophecy and got lost. The first thing I knew we were bumping over an appalling road, and had to turn back.
"I told you so!" I heard C. muttering like distant thunder, and asked him mildly if he preferred to take the wheel; but his finger was even more painful than his temper. I felt his glare like a gimlet in the back; but Pat more loudly than needful expressed her delight in seeing Hingham a second time. "It is exactly like Cranford," she said. "New England seems to be full of Cranfords, but Hingham is the most Cranfordy of all. And I don't believe even the Old England Cranford could have such elms in such a wonderful street. They are like tall, transparent green wine glasses set for a dinner party of Titans."
"You get these exaggerated ideas from Mrs. Winston," came another mutter from behind, but no reply was vouchsafed. Speaking of Mrs. Winston, I'd happened to hear her talking with her husband last night, about the day's run to Plymouth, and a word here and there had caught my attention. I remembered that a "sky pilot" named Hobart had come from Hingham in England, and somehow got the new place named after the old. I remembered, too, a romantic story they spoke of: the hiding of "The Nameless Nobleman" between the floors of a South Hingham house, and his marrying the girl who saved him, Molly Wilder. (Jack Winston thinks that all the nicest women since the Christian era have been named Mary.) I hurried to tell Pat about these things, and a few others which I either recalled or made up on the spot. While I talked, in defiance of orders, I somehow contrived to get onto a splendid road to Cohasset: woods for miles and miles; and an idea came into my head—which I passed on—that Abraham Lincoln's ancestors flourished in this region. So, to Scituate, though over a wrong road again (Pat called it "a dear little wrong road"), to Marshfield, where Daniel Webster died and was laid to rest. On the way we "guessed" that a detestable yellow house we saw, with a well and a bucket, were the house, well and bucket of Samuel Woodworth himself, the "Old Oaken Bucket" man. Caspian was sure it wasn't the house, and this seemed to make the darling Pat equally sure it was. (Don't you think from what I tell you that the signs and omens are good?)
I dared to believe that the girl wasn't sorry to have me beside her again. Once in a while I threw a glance at her face as we spun over the perfect road through woods which might never have been touched by the hand of man, and there was a rapt look on it, the sweetest look you ever saw—sweeter than you ever saw, because you haven't seen her yet. But you will—you will!—when you've finished your work and I've finished mine.
Fortunately for me I have a good memory, and luckily I'd kept my ears open while Molly and Jack Winston discussed the route, for I know nothing of this country, which, by the way, I find so beautiful. I reproach myself for thinking too little of my own land, and seeking adventure in others. In Duxbury, you know probably, Miles Standish and John Alden both had houses. John's second house is still standing, and Pat insisted on stopping to see it; though I take courage from her confession that she likes the bold rough Standish best. Queer to remember, in a sleepy little place like Duxbury, that a man who chose to build there had in his mind memories of fierce, wild fighting against the Duke of Alva!
Past a nice-smelling tarry rope factory we sailed into Plymouth and joined forces with the other cars. It's a fine entrance into the old Pilgrim town, isn't it? Bowers of trees, and some of the noblest elms on earth.
"How do things go?" Molly Winston whispered to me, when we had all crowded hungrily into that jolly old-fashioned yellow-painted hotel you're sure to remember, even though you didn't lunch in it with a Patricia Moore.
I knew what she meant, because we three (she, her husband, and I) started out with a secret pact against the firm of Caspian and Shuster. And it gave me a good warm feeling to be asked the question, because the fair Molly hasn't been quite as gracious since I voluntarily fell out of ranks at Boston. I hope I shall be able to explain that defection to her some day. Meanwhile, I was glad of a sign of trust and friendship, and replied that I had an idea "things" were looking up for us. "The little lady is ready to bite his head off," I added. Molly shuddered. "He uses the wrong sort of brilliantine," she mentioned. "But even honey and flowers wouldn't make it a pleasant act."
While Caspian (I could almost have pitied him) saw a doctor about his damaged digit, the rest of us, even my reluctant employeress, wandered about looking at the ancient landmarks and watermarks we pretended to have come to see. Perhaps some of us really had come for the purpose—Jack Winston, for instance, who's as keen as mustard on linking New World with Old World history. But, then, he doesn't have to make excuses to snatch a little of his best girl's society, as I, Tom, Dick, and Harry do. As for Moore, it's the opposite. He spends his time making excuses to get away from his fair lady; and most of those excuses are found in the society of Another! I could almost pity Mrs. Shuster, too, she is so ingenuously miserable. But I harden my heart. Neither of the pair is worthy of a pang. And few neglected loveresses have senators to fall back upon. (She's done that literally, once or twice, and heavily, because she's a champion stumbler.)
None of us feel drawn toward monuments, though we may approve of them on principle, but if ever a monument was called for, at any place in the world, that place is Plymouth. All the same, I'm not sure, if I'd had a voice in the matter, that I shouldn't have let the Rock, with its date, tell the story in its own simple way without any further emphasis. What with that, and the welcoming beauty of the Harbour which no Pilgrim with his eyes open could resist, and the Museum, and the ancient houses, I think Plymouth could have held her own.
Somehow or other that witch of a Molly Winston contrived to gather the clan together round her and Jack, and give me a chance to play guide to Pat. To be sure, Mrs. Shuster, loyal to her absent partner, tried to form a hollow square around us. But she couldn't spare more than half an eye from Larry; and half one of Mrs. Shuster's eyes isn't dangerous.
There are quite a lot of things to be "done" in Plymouth, you know, and if they are being done in couples or trios you can always go and gaze at the old Common House while the others are revering Forefathers' Rock. You can bow and smile as you meet them hurrying to the Museum, and search industriously for the Town Brook which decided the Pilgrims to settle at Plymouth. You can make your companion look up into your eyes by telling her what you know or pretend to know about Priscilla, and pretend that the Puritan maid gathered cowslips for her cowslip wine on the shores of the said "very sweet brook." This, and more chat of the same order, will suffice to hold the dear one's attention until you are pretty sure that if you say, "Shall we walk along to Pilgrim Hall and see the relics?" you and she will be astonished to meet the rest of the party just coming away.
Apropos of Pilgrim Hall, my only failure was there. We did meet the party issuing from the Doric doorway. I'd managed that all right, but Mrs. Shuster turned on the threshold, kindly volunteering to remain and point out objects best worth seeing. I wished her in Halifax, or almost any other place which could be catalogued under the same letter, but short of telling her to go there, I saw no escape.
Whether it was an infliction for Pat or not, I couldn't be sure. I never knew much or wanted to know much, until just lately, about the workings of girls' minds. But I will tell you what she did: she said, "Oh, that is so good of you, Mrs. Shuster! Do come with us. It's nice to have some one really interested to go about with. Now Larry, much as I love him, is a worry in a place like this. He and Idonia will just go comfortably back to the hotel and have tea in some nice nook and wait for you, so we shall know where to find them much better than if they loved sight-seeing as the others do!"
There are lilies and lilies. This Lily of ours looked suddenly like a tiger lily, rather a faded one, badly in need of water, as Pat took hold of her arm and affectionately pulled her into the marble vestibule. She did not break away with a roar and a bound, as I half expected her to do, but meekly let the cruel child lead her on. I knew then, however, that it was a question only of moments. You've seen a cat, caught up against its will into a lap, feign contentment, while with muscles braced it waits its opportunity to take the lap unawares and spring. That is about what happened with Mrs. Shuster. She pointed us out a painting of the "Mayflower on Her First Morning at Sea," all couleur de rose; she indicated the chairs of Elder Brewster and Governor Carroll which were wobbling about on the Mayflower that very morning no doubt; and having brought us to a stand before the Damascus blade of Miles Standish, she considered her duty done.
"I'm tireder than I thought I was," she said. "I believe I shall have to go back to the hotel myself, and rest a bit before we start for Boston. I wouldn't stay long here if I were you. If Mr. Storm buys a guide-book at the hotel, or some postcards, you'll have pictures of everything without standing on your feet."
Pat replied meekly that she would return to the hotel the minute she felt tired, but did want to see John Adams' Bible and a few things like that. Mrs. Shuster mustn't at all mind leaving her.
Mrs. Shuster did mind, but she went nevertheless. I longed to catch Pat's eye, and smile; but she didn't appear to have a smile in her. Such innocent gravity you never saw, and when Mrs. S. had left us, the girl made no reference to the episode.
I did buy some picture postcards, but not until we'd seen everything they represented. I bought also, at the same shop, a pretty little box containing three green candles made of bayberry wax. Both cards and candles I offered to Miss Moore, and she accepted them, sniffing with childlike ecstasy at the candles, which are supposed to give forth, in burning, the perfume which the bayberries pour out in the heat of the sun. Afterward I was told by Molly Winston the sentimental superstition about bayberry candles. I wonder if Miss Moore knew it, and if she thought I knew.
I haven't, as you see, given up hope that the forced association of this motor trip may make the child realize how impossible for her would be a permanent association with that worm C. If she breaks her engagement before anything happens, so much the better; but the thing, in one form or other, will now have to happen, of course.
A letter from you could reach me at Bretton Woods, and I should be glad to hear there just when you think affairs might be settled.
I'm hideously impatient, but I'm not unhappy.
Yours as ever, and a little more,
We came back from Plymouth to-night, along the short road, Caspian patched up but sulky as an owl. Luckily I didn't lose the way once.
EDWARD CASPIAN TO RICHARD MOYLE, KNOWN PROFESSIONALLY AS "CAMERA-EYED DICK"
Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
DEAR MR. MOYLE:
The more I think of it, the more I feel that you are keeping back something from me. You say that the face of this man Storm "recalls nothing and nobody" to you. I must accept your word. Yet I got the impression that at least he reminded you of some one. I was watching your face at the moment you met.
Since you left me, refusing to interest yourself further in the affair, I have thought of it unceasingly. A sudden and extremely interesting idea has come into my head. I cannot afford to waste it, though without the aid of a competent detective like yourself I may not be able to put it to good use. If you will not change your mind and take up the matter again on new lines, I shall be glad if you can send me a smart man from your agency, a person in whose discretion as well as intelligence you have implicit confidence.
Kindly wire me to the post-office, Ogunquit, Me.
(Telegram from Richard Moyle to Edward Caspian, Post-office, Ogunquit, Maine):
Sorry have no one can recommend for job mentioned. Nothing in it. Advise you leave it alone.
(Richard Moyle to Peter Storm, Ogunquit, Maine. Try all hotels):
Excuse liberty, but look out for E. C. May make you trouble.
(Peter Storm to Richard Moyle, at New York):