Bab: A Sub-Deb
Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 2 out of 6
and to the taxicab without being seen.
Oh, I was very cheerful. When I think of it--but I might have
known, all along. Nothing went right with me that week.
Just before we got to the house he said:
"Goodnight and goodbye, little Barbara. I'll never forget you and this
evening. And save me a dance at your coming-out party. I'll be there."
I held out my hand, and he took it and kissed it. It was all
perfectly thrilling. And then we drew up in front of the house and
he helped me out, and my entire Familey had just got out of the
motor and was lined up on the pavment staring at us!
"All right, are you?" he said, as coolly as if they had not been
anywhere in sight. "Well, good night and good luck!" And he got
into the taxicab and drove away, leaving me in the hands of the Enemy.
The next morning I was sent back to school. They never gave me a
chance to explain, for mother went into hysterics, after accusing
me of having men dangling around waiting at every corner. They had
to have a doctor, and things were awful.
The only person who said anything was Sis. She came to my room that
night when I was in bed, and stood looking down at me. She was very
angry, but there was a sort of awe in her eyes.
"My hat's off to you, Barbara," she said. "Where in the world do you
pick them all up? Things must have changed at school since I was there."
"I'm sick to death of the Other Sex," I replied languidley. "It's no
punishment to send me away. I need a little piece and quiet." And I did.
All this holaday week, while the girls are away, I have been
writing this Theme, for Literature class. To-day is New Years and
I am putting in the finishing touches. I intend to have it tiped in
the village and to send a copy to father, who I think will
understand, and another copy, but with a few lines cut, to Mr.
Grosvenor. The nice one. There were some things he did not quite
understand, and this will explain.
I shall also send a copy to Carter Brooks, who came out handsomly
with an apoligy this morning in a letter and a ten pound box of Candy.
His letter explains everything. H. is a real person and did not
come out of a Cabinet. Carter recognized the photograph as being
one of a Mr. Grosvenor he went to college with, who had gone on the
stage and was playing in a stock company at home. Only they were
not playing Xmas week, as business, he says, is rotten then. When
he saw me writing the letter he felt that it was all a bluff,
especialy as he had seen me sending myself the violets at the florists.
So he got Mr. Grosvenor, the blonde one, to pretend he was Harold
Valentine. Only things slipped up. I quote from Carter's letter:
"He's a bully chap, Bab, and he went into it for a lark, roses and
poems and all. But when he saw that you took it rather hard, he
felt it wasn't square. He went to your father to explain and
apologized, but your father seemed to think you needed a lesson.
He's a pretty good Sport, your father. And he said to let it go on
for a day or two. A little worry wouldn't hurt you."
However, I do not call it being a good sport to see one's daughter
perfectly wreched and do nothing to help. And more than that, to
willfully permit one's child to suffer, and enjoy it.
But it was father, after all, who got the Jolt, I think, when he
saw me get out of the taxicab.
Therefore I will not explain, for a time. A little worry will not
hurt him either.
I will not send him his copy for a week.
Perhaps, after all, I will give him somthing to worry about
eventually. For I have recieved a box of roses, with no card, but
a pen and ink drawing of a Gentleman in evening clothes crawling
onto a fire-escape through an open window. He has dropped his
Heart, and it is two floors below.
My narative has now come to a conclusion, and I will close with a
few reflections drawin from my own sad and tradgic Experience. I
trust the Girls of this School will ponder and reflect.
Deception is a very sad thing. It starts very easy, and without
Warning, and everything seems to be going all right, and No Rocks
ahead. When suddenly the Breakers loom up, and your frail Vessel sinks,
with you on board, and maybe your dear Ones, dragged down with you.
Oh, what a tangeled Web we wieve,
When first we practice to decieve.
Sir Walter Scott.
THEME: THE CELEBRITY
WE have been requested to write, during this vacation, a true and
varacious account of a meeting with any Celebrity we happened to
meet during the summer. If no Celebrity, any interesting character
would do, excepting one's own Familey.
But as one's own Familey is neither celebrated nor interesting,
there is no temptation to write about it.
As I met Mr. Reginald Beecher this summer, I have chosen
him as my Subject.
Brief history of the Subject: He was born in 1890 at Woodbury, N.
J. Attended public and High Schools, and in 1910 graduated from
Following year produced first Play in New York, called Her Soul.
Followed this by the Soul Mate, and this by The Divorce.
Description of Subject. Mr. Beecher is tall and slender, and wears
a very small dark Mustache. Although but twenty-six years of age,
his hair on close inspection reveals here and there a Silver
Thread. His teeth are good, and his eyes amber, with small flecks
of brown in them. He has been vacinated twice.
It has alwavs been one of my chief ambitions to meet a Celebrity.
On one or two occasions we have had them at school, but they never
sit at the Junior's table. Also, they are seldom connected with
either the Drama or The Movies (a slang term but aparently taking
a place in our Literature).
It was my intention, on being given this subject for my midsummer
theme, to seek out Mrs. Bainbridge, a lady Author who has a cottage
across the bay from ours, and to ask the privelege of sitting at
her feet for a few hours, basking in the sunshine of her presence,
and learning from her own lips her favorite Flower, her favorite
Poem and the favorite child of her Brain.
Of all those arts in which the wise excel,
Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well.
Duke of Buckingham
I had meant to write my Theme on her, but I learned in time that
she was forty years of age. Her work is therefore done. She has
passed her active years, and I consider that it is not the past of
American Letters which is at stake, but the future. Besides, I was
more interested in the Drama than in Literature.
Posibly it is owing to the fact that the girls think I resemhle
Julia Marlowe, that from my earliest years my mind has been turned
toward the Stage. I am very determined and fixed in my ways, and
with me to decide to do a thing is to decide to do it. I am not of
a romantic Nature, however, and as I learned of the dangers of the
theater, I drew back. Even a strong nature, such as mine is, on
occassions, can be influenced. I therefore decided to change my
plans, and to write Plays instead of acting in them.
At first I meant to write Comedies, but as I realized the graveity
of life, and its bitterness and disapointments, I turned naturaly
to Tradgedy. Surely, as dear Shakspeare says:
The world is a stage
Where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.
This explains my sinsere interest in Mr. Beecher. His Works were
all realistic and sad. I remember that I saw the first one three
years ago, when a mere Child, and became violently ill from crying
and had to be taken home.
The school will recall that last year I wrote a Play, patterned on
The Divorce, and that only a certain narowness of view on the part
of the faculty prevented it being the Class Play. If I may be
permited to express an opinion, we of the class of 1917 are not
children, and should not be treated as such.
Encouraged by the Aplause of my class-mates, and feeling that I was
of a more serious turn of mind than most of them, who seem to think
of pleasure only, I decided to write a play during the summer. I
would thus be improving my Vacation hours, and, I considered,
keeping out of mischeif. It was pure idleness which had caused my
Trouble during the last Christmas holidays. How true it is that the
Devil finds work for idle Hands!
With a Play and this Theme I beleived that the Devil would give me
up as a totle loss, and go elsewhere.
How little we can read the Future!
I now proceed to an account of my meeting and acquaintence with Mr.
Beecher. It is my intention to conceal nothing. I can only comfort
myself with the thought that my Motives were inocent, and that I
was obeying orders and secureing material for a theme. I consider
that the atitude of my Familey is wrong and cruel, and that my
sister Leila, being only 2O months older, although out in Society,
has no need to write me the sort of letters she has been writing.
Twenty months is twenty months, and not two years, although she
seems to think it is.
I returned home full of happy plans for my vacation. When I look
back it seems strange that the gay and inocent young girl of the
train can have heen I. So much that is tradgic has since happened.
If I had not had a cinder in my eye things would have been
diferent. But why repine? Fate frequently hangs thus on a single
hair--an eye-lash, as one may say.
Father met me at the train. I had got the aformentioned cinder in
my eye, and a very nice young man had taken it out for me. I still
cannot see what harm there was in our chating together after that,
especialy as we said nothing to object to. But father looked very
disagreeable about it, and the young man went away in a hurry. But
it started us off wrong, although I got him--father--to promise not
to tell mother.
"I do wish you would be more careful, Bab," he said with a sort of sigh.
"Careful!" I said. "Then it's not doing Things, but being found
out, that matters!"
"Careful in your conduct, Bab."
"He was a beautiful young man, father," I observed, sliping my arm
"Barbara, Barbara! Your poor mother----"
"Now look here, father" I said. "If it was mother who was
interested in him it might be troublesome. But it is only me. And
I warn you, here and now, that I expect to be thrilled at the sight
of a Nice Young Man right along. It goes up my back and out the
roots of my hair."
Well, my father is a real Person, so he told me to talk sense, and
gave me twenty dollars, and agreed to say nothing about the young
man to mother, if I would root for Canada against the Adirondacks
for the summer, because of the Fishing.
Mother was waiting in the hall for me, but she held me off with
"Not until you have bathed and changed your clothing, Barbara," she
said. "I have never had it."
She meant the whooping cough. The school will recall the epademic
which ravaged us last June, and changed us from a peaceful
institution to what sounded like a dog show.
Well, I got the same old room, not much fixed up, but they had put
up diferent curtains anyhow, thank goodness. I had been hinting all
spring for new Furnature, but my Familey does not take a hint
unless it is cloroformed first, and I found the same old stuff there.
They beleive in waiting until a girl makes her Debut before giving
her anything but the necessarys of life.
Sis was off for a week-end, but Hannah was there, and I kissed her.
Not that I'm so fond of her, but I had to kiss sombody.
"Well, Miss Barbara!" she said. "How you've grown!"
That made me rather sore, because I am not a child any longer, but they
all talk to me as if I were but six years old, and small for my age.
"I've stopped growing, Hannah," I said, with dignaty." At least,
almost. But I see I still draw the nursery."
Hannah was opening my suitcase, and she looked up and said: "I
tried to get you the Blue room, Miss Bab. But Miss Leila said she
needed it for house Parties."
"Never mind," I said. "I don't care anything about Furnature. I
have other things to think about, Hannah; I want the school room
Desk up here."
"Desk!" she said, with her jaw drooping.
"I am writing now," I said. "I need a lot of ink, and paper, and a
good Lamp. Let them keep the Blue room, Hannah, for their selfish
purposes. I shall be happy in my work. I need nothing more."
"Writing!" said Hannah. "Is it a book you're writing?"
"Listen to the child! A Play!"
I sat on the edge of the bed.
"Listen, Hannah," I said. "It is not what is outside of us that
matters. It is what is inside. It is what we are, not what we eat,
or look like, or wear. I have given up everything, Hannah, to my Career."
"You're young yet," said Hannah. "You used to be fond enough of the Boys."
Hannah has been with us for years, so she gets rather talkey at
times, and has to be sat upon.
"I care nothing whatever for the Other Sex," I replied hautily.
She was opening my suitcase at the time, and I was surveying the chamber
which was to be the seen of my Literary Life, at least for some time.
"Now and then," I said to Hannah, "I shall read you parts of it.
Only you mustn't run and tell mother."
"Why not?" said she, pearing into the Suitcase.
"Because I intend to deal with Life," I said. "I shall deal with
real Things, and not the way we think them. I am young, but I have
thought a great deal. I shall minse nothing."
"Look here, Miss Barbara," Hannah said, all at once, "what are you
doing with this whiskey Flask? And these socks? And--you come right
here, and tell me where you got the things in this Suitcase." I stocked
over to the bed, and my blood frose in my vains. IT WAS NOT MINE.
Words cannot fully express how I felt. While fully convinsed that
there had been a mistake, I knew not when or how. Hannah was
staring at me with cold and accusing eyes.
"You're a very young Lady, Miss Barbara," she said, with her eyes
full of Suspicion, "to be carrying a Flask about with you." I was as
puzzled as she was, but I remained calm and to all apearances Spartan.
"I am young in years," I remarked. "But I have seen Life, Hannah."
Now I meant nothing by this at the time. But it was getting on my
nerves to be put in the infant class all the time. The Xmas before
they had done it, and I had had my revenge. Although it had hurt me
more than it hurt them, and if I gave them a fright I gave myself
a worse one. As I said at that time:
Oh, what a tangeled web we weive,
When first we practice to decieve.
Sir Walter Scott.
Hannah gave me a horrafied Glare, and dipped into the Suitcase
again. She brought up a tin box of Cigarettes, and I thought she
was going to have delerium tremens at once.
Well, at first I thought the girls at school had played a Trick on
me, and a low down mean Trick at that. There are always those who
think it is funny to do that sort of thing, but they are the first
to squeel when anything is done to them. Once I put a small garter
Snake in a girl's muff, and it went up her sleave, which is nothing
to some of the things she had done to me. And you would have
thought the School was on fire.
Anyhow, I said to myself that some Smarty was trying to get me into
trouble, and Hannah would run to the Familey, and they'd never
beleive me. All at once I saw all my cherished plans for the summer
gone, and me in the Country somewhere with Mademoiselle, and
walking through the pasture with a botany in one hand and a folding
Cup in the other, in case we found a spring a cow had not stepped
in. Mademoiselle was once my Governess, but has retired to private
life, except in cases of emergency.
I am naturaly very quick in mind. The Archibalds are all like that,
and when once we decide on a Course we stick to it through thick
and thin. But we do not lie. It is rediculous for Hannah to say I
said the cigarettes were mine. All I said was:
"I suppose you are going to tell the Familey. You'd better run, or
"Oh, Miss Barbara, Miss Barbara!" she said." And you so young to be
This was unjust, and I am one to resent injustice. I had returned
home with my mind fixed on serious Things, and now I was being told
I was wild.
"If I tell your mother she'll have a fit," Hannah said, evadently
drawn hither and thither by emotion. "Now see here, Miss Bab,
you've just come Home, and there was trouble at your last vacation
that I'm like to remember to my dieing day. You tell me how those
things got there, like a good girl, and I'll say nothing about them."
I am naturaly sweet in disposition, but to call me a good girl and
remind me of last Xmas holadays was too much. My natural firmness
came to the front.
"Certainly NOT," I said.
"You needn't stick your lip out at me, Miss Bab, that was only
giving you a chance, and forgetting my Duty to help you, not to
mention probably losing my place when the Familey finds out."
"Finds out what?"
"What you've been up to, the stage, and writing plays, and now
liquor and tobacco!"
Now I may be at fault in the Narative that follows. But I ask the
school if this was fair treatment. I had returned to my home full
of high Ideals, only to see them crushed beneath the heal of
Necessity is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.
How true are these immortal words.
It was with a firm countenance but a sinking heart that I saw
Hannah leave the room. I had come home inspired with lofty Ambition,
and it had ended thus. Heart-broken, I wandered to the bedside, and
let my eyes fall on the Suitcase, the container of all my woe.
Well, I was surprised, all right. It was not and never had been
mine. Instead of my blue serge sailor suit and my ROBE DE NUIT and
kimona etc., it contained a checked gentleman's suit, a mussed
shirt and a cap. At first I was merely astonished. Then a sense of
loss overpowered me. I suffered. I was prostrated with grief. Not
that I cared a Rap for the clothes I'd lost, being most of them to
small and patched here and there. But I had lost the plot of my
Play. My Career was gone.
I was undone.
It may be asked what has this Recitle to do with the account of
meeting a Celebrity. I reply that it has a great deal to do with
it. A bare recitle of a meeting may be News, but it is not Art.
A theme consists of Introduction, Body and Conclusion.
This is still the Introduction.
When I was at last revived enough to think I knew what had
happened. The young man who took the Cinder out of my eye had come
to sit beside me, which I consider was merely kindness on his part
and nothing like Flirting, and he had brought his Suitcase over,
and they had got mixed up. But I knew the Familey would call it
Flirting, and not listen to a word I said.
A madness siezed me. Now that everything is over, I realize that it
was madness. But "there is a divinity that shapes our ends etc." It
was to be. It was Karma, or Kismet, or whatever the word is. It was
written in the Book of Fate that I was to go ahead, and wreck my
life, and generaly ruin everything.
I locked the door behind Hannah, and stood with tradgic feet,
"where the brook and river meet." What was I to do? How hide this
evadence of my (presumed) duplicaty? I was inocent, but I looked
gilty. This, as everyone knows, is worse than gilt.
I unpacked the Suitcase as fast as I could, therfore, and being
just about destracted, I bundled the things up and put them all
together in the toy Closet, where all Sis's dolls and mine are,
mine being mostly pretty badly gone, as I was always hard on dolls.
How far removed were those Inocent Years when I played with dolls!
Well, I knew Hannah pretty well, and therfore was not surprised
when, having hidden the trowsers under a doll buggy, I heard
mother's voice at the door.
"Let me in, Barbara," she said.
I closed the closet door, and said: "What is it, mother?"
"Let me in."
So I let her in, and pretended I expected her to kiss me, which she
had not yet, on account of the whooping cough. But she seemed to
have forgotten that. Also the Kiss.
"Barbara," she said, in the meanest voice, "how long
have you been smoking?"
Now I must pause to explain this. Had mother aproached me in a
sweet and maternal manner, I would have been softened, and would
have told the Whole Story. But she did not. She was, as you might
say, steeming with Rage. And seeing that I was misunderstood, I
hardened. I can be as hard as adamant when necessary.
"What do you mean, mother?"
"Don't anser one question with another."
"How can I anser when I don't understand you?"
She simply twiched with fury.
"You--a mere Child!" she raved. "And I can hardly bring myself to
mention it--the idea of your owning a Flask, and bringing it into
this house--it is--it is----"
Well, I was growing cold and more hauty every moment, so I said: "I
don't see why the mere mention of a Flask upsets you so. It isn't
because you aren't used to one, especialy when traveling. And since
I was a mere baby I have been acustomed to intoxicants."
"Barbara!" she intergected, in the most dreadful tone.
"I mean, in the Familey," I said. "I have seen wine on our table
ever since I can remember. I knew to put salt on a claret stain
before I could talk."
Well, you know how it is to see an Enemy on the run, and although
I regret to refer to my dear mother as an Enemy, still at that
moment she was such and no less. And she was beating it. It was the
referance to my youth that had aroused me, and I was like a wounded
lion. Besides, I knew well enough that if they refused to see that
I was practicaly grown up, if not entirely, I would get a lot of
Sis's clothes, fixed up with new ribbons. Faded old things! I'd had
them for years.
Better to be considered a bad woman than an unformed child.
"However, mother," I finished, "if it is any comfort to you, I did
not buy that Flask. And I am not a confirmed alcoholic. By no means."
"This settles it," she said, in a melancoly tone. "When I think of
the comfort Leila has been to me, and the anxiety you have caused,
I wonder where you get your--your DEVILTRY from. I am posatively faint."
I was alarmed, for she did look queer, with her face all white
around the Rouge. So I reached for the Flask.
"I'll give you a swig of this," I said. "It will pull you
around in no time."
But she held me off feircely.
"Never!" she said. "Never again. I shall emty the wine cellar.
There will be nothing to drink in this house from now on. I do not
know what we are coming to."
She walked into the bathroom, and I heard her emptying the Flask
down the drain pipe. It was a very handsome Flask, silver with gold
stripes, and all at once I knew the young man would want it back.
So I said:
"Mother, please leave the Flask here anyhow."
"It's not mine, mother."
"Whose is it?"
"It--a friend of mine loned it to me."
"I can't tell you."
"You can't TELL me! Barbara, I am utterly bewildered. I sent you
away a simple child, and you return to me--what?"
Well, we had about an hour's fight over it, and we ended in a
compromise. I gave up the Flask, and promised not to smoke and so
forth, and I was to have some new dresses and a silk Sweater, and
to be allowed to stay up until ten o'clock, and to have a desk in
my room for my work.
"Work!" mother said. "Career! What next? Why can't you be like
Leila, and settle down to haveing a good time?"
"Leila and I are diferent," I said loftily, for I resented her
tone. "Leila is a child of the moment. Life for her is one grand,
sweet Song. For me it is a serious matter. `Life is real, life is
earnest, and the Grave is not its goal,'" I quoted in impasioned tones.
(Because that is the way I feel. How can the Grave be its goal?
THERE MUST BE SOMETHING BEYOND. I have thought it all out, and I
beleive in a world beyond, but not in a hell. Hell, I beleive, is
the state of mind one gets into in this world as a result of one's
wicked Acts or one's wicked Thoughts, and is in one's self.)
As I have said, the other side of the Compromise was that I was not
to carry Flasks with me, or drink any punch at parties if it had a
stick in it, and you can generally find out by the taste. For if it
is what Carter Brooks calls "loaded" it stings your tongue. Or if
it tastes like cider it's probably Champane. And I was not to smoke
Mother was holding out on the Sweater at that time, saying that Sis
had a perfectly good one from Miami, and why not wear that? So I
put up a strong protest about the cigarettes, although I have never
smoked but once as I think the School knows, and that only half
through, owing to getting dizzy. I said that Sis smoked now and
then, because she thought it looked smart; but that, if I was to
have a Career, I felt that the sootheing influence of tobaco would
help a lot.
So I got the new Sweater, and everything looked smooth again, and
mother kissed me on the way out, and said she had not meant to be
harsch, but that my great uncle Putnam had been a notorious
drunkard, and I looked like him, although of a more refined tipe.
There was a dreadful row that night, however, when father came
home. We were all dressed for dinner, and waiting in the drawing
room, and Leila was complaining about me, as usual.
"She looks older than I do now, mother," she said. "If she goes to
the seashore with us I'll have her always taging at my heals. I
don't see why I can't have my first summer in peace." Oh, yes, we
were going to the shore, after all. Sis wanted it, and everybody
does what she wants, regardless of what they prefer, even Fishing.
"First summer!" I exclaimed. "One would think you were a teething baby!"
"I was speaking to mother, Barbara. Everyone knows that a Debutante
only has one year nowadays, and if she doesn't go off in that year
she's swept away by the flood of new Girls the next fall. We might
as well be frank. And while Barbara's not a beauty, as soon as the
bones in her neck get a little flesh on them she won't be hopeless,
and she has a flipant manner that Men like."
"I intend to keep Barbara under my eyes this summer," mother said
firmly. "After last Xmas's happenings, and our Discovery today, I
shall keep her with me. She need not, however, interfere with you,
Leila. Her Hours are mostly diferent, and I will see that her
friends are the younger boys."
I said nothing, but I knew perfectly well she had in mind Eddie
Perkins and Willie Graham, and a lot of other little kids that hang
around the fruit Punch at parties, and throw the peas from the
Croquettes at each other when the footmen are not near, and pretend
they are allowed to smoke, but have sworn off for the summer.
I was naturaly indignant at Sis's words, which were not filial, to
my mind, but I replied as sweetly as possable:
"I shall not be in your way, Leila. I ask nothing but Food and
Shelter, and that perhaps not for long."
"Why? Do you intend to die?" she demanded.
"I intend to work," I said. "It's more interesting than dieing, and
will be a novelty in this House."
Father came in just then, and he said:
"I'll not wait to dress, Clara. Hello, children. I'll just change
my coller while you ring for the Cocktails."
Mother got up and faced him with Magesty.
"We are not going to have, any" she said.
"Any what?" said father from the doorway.
"I have had some fruit juice prepared with a dash of bitters. It is
quite nice. And I'll ask you, James, not to explode before the
servants. I will explain later."
Father has a very nice disposition but I could see that mother's
manner got on his Nerves, as it got on mine. Anyhow there was a
terific fuss, with Sis playing the Piano so that the servants would
not hear, and in the end father had a Cocktail. Mother waited until
he had had it, and was quieter, and then she told him about me, and
my having a Flask in my Suitcase. Of course I could have explained,
but if they persisted in mis-understanding me, why not let them do
so, and be miserable?
"It's a very strange thing, Bab," he said, looking at me, "that
everything in this House is quiet until you come home, and then we
get as lively as kittens in a frying pan. We'll have to marry you
off pretty soon, to save our piece of mind."
"James!" said my mother. "Remember last winter, please."
There was no Claret or anything with dinner, and father ordered
mineral water, and criticised the food, and fussed about Sis's
dressmaker's bill. And the second man gave notice immediately after
we left the dining room. When mother reported that, as we were
having coffee in the drawing room, father said:
"Humph! Well, what can you expect? Those fellows have been getting
the best half of a bottle of Claret every night since they've been
here, and now it's cut off. Damed if I wouldn't like to leave myself."
From that time on I knew that I was watched. It made little or no
diference to me. I had my Work, and it filled my life. There were
times when my Soul was so filled with joy that I could hardly bare
it. I had one act done in two days. I wrote out the Love seens in
full, because I wanted to be sure of what they would say to each
other. How I thrilled as each marvelous burst of Fantacy flowed
from my pen! But the dialogue of less interesting parts I left for
the actors to fill in themselves. I consider this the best way, as
it gives them a chance to be original, and not to have to say the
same thing over and over.
Jane Raleigh came over to see me the day after I came home, and I
read her some of the Love seens. She posatively wept with excitement.
"Bab," she said, "if any man, no matter who, ever said those things
to me, I'd go straight into his arms. I couldn't help it. Whose
going to act in it?"
"I think I'll have Robert Edeson, or Richard Mansfield."
"Mansfield's dead," said Jane.
"Honest he is. Why don't you get some of these moveing picture actors?
They never have a chance in the Movies, only acting and not talking."
Well, that sounded logicle. And then I read her the place where the
cruel first husband comes back and finds her married again and
happy, and takes the Children out to drown them, only he can't
because they can swim, and they pull him in instead. The curtain
goes down on nothing but a few bubbles rising to mark his watery Grave.
Jane was crying.
"It is too touching for words, Bab!" she said. "It has broken my
heart. I can just close my eyes aud see the Theater dark, and the
stage almost dark, and just those bubbles coming up and breaking.
Would you have to have a tank?"
"I darsay," I replied dreamily. "Let the other people worry about
that. I can only give them the material, and hope that they have
intellagence enough to grasp it."
I think Sis must have told Carter Brooks something about the
trouble I was in, for he brought me a box of Candy one afternoon,
and winked at me when mother was not looking.
"Don't open it here," he whispered.
So I was forced to controll my impatience, though passionately fond
of Candy. And when I got to my room later, the box was full of
cigarettes. I could have screamed. It just gave me one more thing
to hide, as if a man's suit and shirt and so on was not suficient.
But Carter paid more attention to me than he ever had before, and
at a tea dance sombody had at the Country Club he took me to one
side and gave me a good talking to.
"You're being rather a bad child, aren't you?" he said.
"Well, not bad, but--er--naughty. Now see here, Bab, I'm fond of
you, and you're growing into a mightey pretty girl. But your whole
Social Life is at stake. For heaven's sake, at least until you're
married, cut out the cigarettes and booze."
That cut me to the heart, but what could I say?
Well, July came, and we had rented a house at Little Hampton and
everywhere one went one fell over an open trunk or a barrell
containing Silver or Linen.
Mother went around with her lips moving as if in prayer, but she
was realy repeating lists, such as sowing basket, table candles,
headache tablets, black silk stockings and tennis rackets.
Sis got some lovely Clothes, mostly imported, but they had a woman
come in and sow for me. Hannah and she used to interupt my most
precious Moments at my desk by running a tape measure around me, or
pinning a paper pattern to me. The sowing woman always had her
mouth full of Pins, and once, owing to my remarking that I wished
I had been illagitimate, so I could go away and live my own life,
she swallowed one. It caused a grate deal of excitement, with
Hannah blaming me and giving her vinigar to swallow to soften the
pin. Well, it turned out all right, for she kept on living, but she
pretended to have sharp pains all over her here and there, and if
the pin had been as lively as a tadpole and wriggled from spot to
spot, it could not have hurt in so many Places.
Of course they blamed me, and I shut myself up more and more in my
Sanctuery. There I lived with the creatures of my dreams, and
forgot for a while that I was only a Sub-Deb, and that Leila's last
year's tennis clothes were being fixed over for me.
But how true what dear Shakspeare says:
Which are the children of an idle brain.
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy.
I loved my dreams, but alas, they were not enough. After a tortured
hour or two at my desk, living in myself the agonies of my
characters, suffering the pangs of the wife with two husbands and
both living, struggling in the water with the children, fruit of
the first union, dying with number two and blowing my last Bubbles
heavenward--after all these emotions, I was done out.
Jane came in one day and found me prostrate on my couch, with a
light of sufering in my eyes.
"Dearest!" cried Jane, and gliding to my side, fell on her knees.
"What is it? You are ill?"
I could hardly more than whisper. In a low tone I said:
"He is dead."
At first she thought I meant a member of my Familey. But when she
understood she looked serious.
"You are too intence, Bab," she said solemly. "You suffer too much.
You are wearing yourself out."
"There is no other way," I replied in broken tones.
Jane went to the Mirror and looked at herself. Then she
turned to me.
"Others don't do it."
"I must work out my own Salvation, Jane," I observed firmly. But
she had roused me from my apathy, and I went into Sis's room,
returning with a box of candy some one had sent her. "I must feel,
Jane, or I cannot write."
"Pooh! Loads of writers get fat on it. Why don't you try Comedy?
It pays well."
"Oh--MONEY!" I said, in a disgusted tone.
"Your FORTE, of course, is Love," she said. "Probably that's
because you've had so much experience." Owing to certain reasons it
is generaly supposed that I have experienced the gentle Passion.
But not so, alas! "Bab," Jane said, suddenly, "I have been your
friend for a long time. I have never betrayed you. You can trust me
with your Life. Why don't you tell me?"
"Tell you what?"
"Somthing has happened. I see it in your eyes. No girl who is happy
and has not a tradgic story stays at home shut up at a messy desk
when everyone is out at the Club playing tennis. Don't talk to me
about a Career. A girl's Career is a man and nothing else. And
especialy after last winter, Bab. Is--is it the same one?"
Here I made my fatal error. I should have said at once that there
was no one, just as there had been no one last Winter. But she
looked so intence, sitting there, and after all, why should I not
have an amorus experience? I am not ugly, and can dance well,
although inclined to lead because of dansing with other girls all
winter at school. So I lay back on my pillow and stared at the ceiling.
"No. It is not the same man."
"What is he like? Bab, I'm so excited I can't sit still."
"It--it hurts to talk about him," I observed faintly.
Now I intended to let it go at that, and should have, had not Jane
kept on asking Questions. Because I had had a good lesson the
winter before, and did not intend to decieve again. And this I will
say--I realy told Jane Raleigh nothing. She jumped to her own
conclusions. And as for her people saying she cannot chum with me
any more, I will only say this: If Jane Raleigh smokes she did not
learn it from me.
Well, I had gone as far as I meant to. I was not realy in love with
anyone, although I liked Carter Brooks, and would posibly have
loved him with all the depth of my Nature if Sis had not kept an
eye on me most of the time. However----
Jane seemed to be expecting somthing, and I tried to think of some
way to satisfy her and not make any trouble. And then I thought of
the Suitcase. So I locked the door and made her promise not to
tell, and got the whole thing out of the Toy Closet.
"Wha--what is it?" asked Jane.
I said nothing, but opened it all up. The Flask was gone, but the
rest was there, and Carter's box too. Jane leaned down and lifted
the trowsers. and poked around somewhat. Then she straitened and said:
"You have run away and got married, Bab."
She looked at me peircingly.
"Don't lie to me," she said accusingly. "Or else what are you doing
with a man's whole Outfit, including his dirty coller? Bab, I just
can't bare it."
Well, I saw that I had gone to far, and was about to tell Jane the
truth when I heard the sowing Woman in the hall. I had all I could
do to get the things put away, and with Jane looking like death I
had to stand there and be fitted for one of Sis's chiffon frocks,
with the low neck filled in with net.
"You must remember, Miss Bab," said the human Pin cushon, "that you
are still a very young girl, and not out yet."
Jane got up off the bed suddenly.
"I--I guess I'll go, Bab," she said. "I don't feel very well."
As she went out she stopped in the Doorway and crossed her Heart,
meaning that she would die before she would tell anything. But I
was not comfortable. It is not a pleasant thought that your best
friend considers you married and gone beyond recall, when in truth
you are not, or even thinking about it, except in idle moments.
The seen now changes. Life is nothing but such changes. No sooner
do we alight on one Branch, and begin to sip the honey from it, but
we are taken up and carried elsewhere, perhaps to the Mountains or
to the Sea-shore, and there left to make new friends and find new
methods of Enjoyment.
The flight--or journey--was in itself an anxious time. For on my
otherwise clear conscience rested the weight of that strange
Suitcase. Fortunately Hannah was so busy that I was left to pack my
belongings myself, and thus for a time my gilty secret was safe. I
put my things in on top of the masculine articles, not daring to
leave any of them in the closet, owing to house-cleaning, which is
always done before our return in the fall.
On the train I had a very unpleasant experience, due to Sis opening
my Suitcase to look for a magazine, and drawing out a soiled
gentleman's coller. She gave me a very peircing Glance, but said
nothing and at the next opportunity I threw it out of a window,
concealed in a newspaper.
We now approach the Catastrofe. My book on playwriting divides
plays into Introduction, Development, Crisis, Denouement and
Catastrofe. And so one may devide life. In my case the Cinder
proved the Introduction, as there was none other. I consider that
the Suitcase was the Development, my showing it to Jane Raleigh was
the Crisis, and the Denouement or Catastrofe occured later on.
Let us then procede to the Catastrofe.
Jane Raleigh came to see me off at the train. Her Familey was
coming the next day. And instead of Flowers, she put a small bundel
into my hands. "Keep it hiden, Bab," she said, "and tear up the card."
I looked when I got a chance, and she had crocheted me a wash
cloth, with a pink edge. "For your linen Chest," the card said,
"and I'm doing a bath towle to match."
I tore up the Card, but I put the wash cloth with the other things
I was trying to hide, because it is bad luck to throw a Gift away.
But I hoped, as I seemed to be getting more things to conceal all
the time, that she would make me a small bath towle, and not the
sort as big as a bed spread.
Father went with us to get us settled, and we had a long talk while
mother and Sis made out lists for Dinners and so forth.
"Look here, Bab," he said, "somthing's wrong with you. I seem to
have lost my only boy, and have got instead a sort of tear-y young
person I don't recognize."
"I'm growing up, father" I said. I did not mean to rebuke him, but
ye gods! Was I the only one to see that I was no longer a Child?
"Somtimes I think you are not very happy with us."
"Happy?" I pondered. "Well, after all, what is happiness?"
He took a spell of coughing then, and when it was over he put his
arms around me and was quite afectionate.
"What a queer little rat it is!" he said.
I only repeat this to show how even my father, with all his
afection and good qualities, did not understand and never would
understand. My Heart was full of a longing to be understood. I
wanted to tell him my yearnings for better things, my aspirations
to make my life a great and glorious thing. AND HE DID NOT UNDERSTAND.
He gave me five dollars instead. Think of the Tradgedy of it!
As we went along, and he pulled my ear and finaly went asleep with
a hand on my shoulder, the bareness of my Life came to me. I shook
with sobs. And outside somewhere Sis and mother made Dinner lists.
Then and there I made up my mind to work hard and acheive, to
become great and powerful, to write things that would ring the
Hearts of men--and women, to, of course--and to come back to them
some day, famous and beautiful, and when they sued for my love, to
be kind and hauty, but cold. I felt that I would always be cold,
I decided then to be a writer of plays first, and then later on to
act in them. I would thus be able to say what came into my head, as
it was my own play. Also to arrange the seens so as to wear a
variety of gowns, including evening things. I spent the rest of the
afternoon manacuring my nails in our state room.
Well, we got there at last. It was a large house, but everything was
to thin about it. The School will understand this, the same being the
condition of the new Freshman dormitory. The walls were to thin, and
so were the floors. The Doors shivered in the wind, and palpatated
if you slamed them. Also you could hear every Sound everywhere.
I looked around me in dispair. Where, oh where, was I to find my
cherished solatude? Where?
On account of Hannah hating a new place, and considering the house
an insult to the Servants, especialy only one bathroom for the lot
of them, she let me unpack alone, and so far I was safe. But where
was I to work? Fate settled that for me however.
There is no armour against fate;
Death lays his icy hand on Kings.
J. Shirley; Dirge.
Previously, however, mother and I had had a talk. She sailed into
my room one evening, dressed for dinner, and found me in my ROBE DE
NUIT, curled up in the window seat admiring the view of the ocean.
"Well!" she said. "Is this the way you intend going to dinner?"
"I do not care for any dinner," I replied. Then, seeing she did not
understand, I said coldly. "How can I care for food, mother, when
the Sea looks like a dying ople?"
"Dying pussycat!" mother said, in a very nasty way. "I don't know
what has come over you, Barbara. You used to be a normle Child, and
there was some accounting for what you were going to do. But now!
Take off that nightgown, and I'll have Tanney hold off dinner for
half an hour."
Tanney was the butler who had taken Patrick's place.
"If you insist," I said coldly. "But I shall not eat."
"You wouldn't understand, mother."
"Oh, I wouldn't? Well, suppose I try," she said, and sat down. "I
am not very intellagent, but if you put it clearly I may grasp it.
Perhaps you'd better speak slowly, also."
So, sitting there in my room, while the sea throbed in tireless
beats against the shore, while the light faded and the stars
issued, one by one, like a rash on the Face of the sky, I told
mother of my dreams. I intended, I said, to write Life as it realy
is, and not as supposed to be.
"It may in places be, ugly" I said, "but Truth is my banner. The
Truth is never ugly, because it is real. It is, for instance, not
ugly if a man is in love with the wife of another, if it is real
love, and not the passing fansy of a moment."
Mother opened her mouth, but did not say anything.
"There was a time," I said, "when I longed for things that now have
no value whatever to me. I cared for clothes and even for the
attentions of the Other Sex. But that has passed away, mother. I
have now no thought but for my Career."
I watched her face, and soon the dreadfull understanding came to
me. She, to, did not understand. My literary Aspirations were as
nothing to her!
Oh, the bitterness of that moment. My mother, who had cared for me
as a child, and obeyed my slightest wish, no longer understood me.
And sadest of all, there was no way out. None. Once, in my Youth,
I had beleived that I was not the child of my parents at all, but
an adopted one--perhaps of rank and kept out of my inheritance by
those who had selfish motives. But now I knew that I had no rank or
Inheritance, save what I should carve out for myself. There was no
way out. None.
Mother rose slowly, stareing at me with perfectly fixed and glassy
"I am absolutely sure," she said, "that you are on the edge of
somthing. It may be tiphoid, or it may be an elopement. But one
thing is certain. You are not normle."
With this she left me to my Thoughts. But she did not neglect me.
Sis came up after Dinner, and I saw mother's fine hand in that.
Although not hungry in the usual sense of the word, I had begun to
grow rather empty, and was nibling out of a box of Chocolates when
She got very little out of me. To one with softness and tenderness
I would have told all, but Sis is not that sort. And at last she
showed her clause.
"Don't fool yourself for a minute," she said. "This literary pose
has not fooled anybody. Either you're doing it to apear Interesting,
or you've done somthing you're scared about. Which is it?"
I refused to reply.
"Because if it's the first, and you're trying to look literary, you
are going about it wrong," she said. "Real Literary People don't go
round mooning and talking about the ople sea."
I saw mother had been talking, and I drew myself up.
"They look and act like other people," said Leila, going to the
bureau and spilling Powder all over the place. "Look at Beecher."
"Beecher!" I cried, with a thrill that started inside my elbows. (I
have read this to one or two of the girls, and they say there is no
such thrill. But not all people act alike under the influence of
emotion, and mine is in my Arms, as stated.)
"The playwright," Sis said. "He's staying next door. And if he does
any languishing it is not by himself."
There may be some who have for a long time had an Ideal, but
without hoping ever to meet him, and then suddenly learning that he
is nearby, with indeed but a wall or two between, can be calm and
cool. But I am not like that. Although long supression has taught
me to disemble at times, where my Heart is concerned I am powerless.
For it was at last my heart that was touched. I, who had scorned
the Other Sex and felt that I was born cold and always would be
cold, that day I discovered the truth. Reginald Beecher was my ideal.
I had never spoken to him, nor indeed seen him, except for his
pictures. But the very mention of his name brought a lump to my Throat.
Feeling better imediately, I got Sis out of the room and coaxed
Hannah to bring me some dinner. While she was sneaking it out of
the Pantrey I was dressing, and soon, as a new being, I was out on
the stone bench at the foot of the lawn, gazing with wrapt
eyes at the sea.
But Fate was against me. Eddie Perkins saw me there and came over.
He had but recently been put in long trowsers, and those not his
best ones but only white flannels. He was never sure of his
garters, and was always looking to see if his socks were coming
down. Well, he came over just as I was sure I saw Reginald Beecher
next door on the veranda, and made himself a nusance right away,
trying all sorts of kid tricks, such as snaping a rubber Band at
me, and pulling out Hairpins.
But I felt that I must talk to somone. So I said:
"Eddie, if you had your choice of love or a Career, which would it be?"
"Why not both," he said, hiching the rubber band onto one of his
front teeth and playing on it. "Niether ought to take up all a
fellow's time. Say, listen to this! Talk about a eukelele!"
"A woman can never have both."
He played a while, struming with one finger until the hand sliped
off and stung him on the lip.
"Once," I said, "I dreamed of a Career. But I beleive love's the
Well, I shall pass lightly over what followed. Why is it that a
girl cannot speak of Love without every member of the Other Sex
present, no matter how young, thinking it is he? And as for mother
maintaining that I kissed that wreched Child, and they saw me from
the drawing-room, it is not true and never was true. It was but one
more Misunderstanding which convinced the Familey that I was
carrying on all manner of afairs.
Carter Brooks had arrived that day, and was staying at the Perkins'
cottage. I got rid of the Perkins' baby, as his Nose was
bleeding--but I had not slaped him hard at all, and felt little or
no compunction--when I heard Carter coming down the walk. He had
called to see Leila, but she had gone to a beech dance and left him
alone. He never paid any attention to me when she was around, and
I recieved him cooly.
"Hello!" he said.
"Well?" I replied.
"Is that the way you greet me, Bab?"
"It's the way I would greet most any Left-over," I said. "I eat
hash at school, but I don't have to pretend to like it."
"I came to see YOU."
"How youthfull of you!" I replied, in stinging tones.
He sat down on a Bench and stared at me.
"What's got into you lately?" he said. "Just as you're geting to be
the prettiest girl around, and I'm strong for you, you--you turn
into a regular Rattlesnake."
The kindness of his tone upset me considerably, to who so few kind
Words had come recently. I am compeled to confess that I wept,
although I had not expected to, and indeed shed few tears, although
How could I posibly know that the chaste Salute of Eddie Perkins
and my head on Carter Brooks' shoulder were both plainly visable
against the rising moon? But this was the Case, especialy from the
house next door.
But I digress.
Suddenly Carter held me off and shook me somewhat.
"Sit up here and tell me about it," he said. "I'm geting more
scared every minute. You are such an impulsive little Beast, and
you turn the fellows' heads so--look here, is Jane Raleigh lying,
or did you run away and get married to somone?"
I am aware that I should have said, then and there, No. But it
seemed a shame to spoil Things just as they were geting
interesting. So I said, through my tears:
"Nobody understands me. Nobody. And I'm so lonely."
"And of course you haven't run away with anyone, have you?"
"Bless you, Bab!" he said. And I might as well say that he kissed
me, because he did, although unexpectedly. Sombody just then moved
a Chair on the porch next door and coughed rather loudly, so Carter
drew a long breath and got up.
"There's somthing about you lately, Bab, that I don't understand,"
he said. "You--you're mysterious. That's the word. In a couple of
Years you'll be the real thing."
"Come and see me then," I said in a demure manner. And he went away.
So I sat on my Bench and looked at the sea and dreamed. It seemed
to me that Centuries must have passed since I was a light-hearted
girl, running up and down that beech, paddling, and so forth, with
no thought of the future farther away than my next meal.
Once I lived to eat. Now I merely ate to live, and hardly that. The
fires of Genius must be fed, but no more.
Sitting there, I suddenly made a discovery. The boat house was near
me, and I realize that upstairs, above the Bath-houses, et cetera,
there must be a room or two. The very thought intriged me (a new
word for interest, but coming into use, and sounding well).
Solatude--how I craved it for my work. And here it was, or would be
when I had got the Place fixed up. True, the next door boat-house
was close, but a boat-house is a quiet place, generaly, and I knew
that nowhere, aside from the dessert, is there perfect Silence.
I investagated at once, but found the place locked and the boatman
gone. However, there was a latice, and I climbed up that and got
in. I had a Fright there, as it seemed to be full of people, but I
soon saw it was only the Familey bathing suits hung up to dry.
Aside from the odor of drying things it was a fine study, and I
decided to take a small table there, and the various tools of my
Climbing down, however, I had a surprise. For a man was just below,
and I nearly put my foot on his shoulder in the darkness.
"Hello!" he said. "So it's YOU."
I was quite speachless. It was Mr. Beecher himself, in his dinner
clothes and bareheaded.
Oh flutering Heart, be still. Oh Pen, move steadily. OH TEMPORA O MORES!
"Let me down," I said. I was still hanging to the latice.
"In a moment," he said. "I have an idea that the instant I do
you'll vanish. And I have somthing to tell you."
I could hardly beleive my ears.
"You see," he went on, "I think you must move that Bench."
"You seem to be so very popular," he Said." And of course I'm only
a transient and don't matter. But some evening one of the admirers
may be on the Patten's porch, while another is with you on the
bench. And--the Moon rises beyond it."
I was silent with horor. So that was what he thought of me. Like
all the others, he, to, did not understand. He considered me a Flirt,
when my only Thoughts were serious ones, of imortality and so on.
"You'd better come down now," he said. "I was afraid to warn you
until I saw you climbing the latice. Then I knew you were still
young enough to take a friendly word of Advise."
I got down then and stood before him. He was magnifacent. Is there
anything more beautiful than a tall man with a gleaming expance of
dress shirt? I think not.
But he was staring at me.
"Look here," he said. "I'm afraid I've made a mistake after all. I
thought you were a little girl."
"That needn't worry you. Everybody does," I replied. "I'm
seventeen, but I shall be a mere Child until I come out."
"Oh!" he said.
"One day I am a Child in the nursery," I said. "And the next I'm
grown up and ready to be sold to the highest Bider."
"I beg your pardon, I----"
"But I am as grown up now as I will ever be," I said. "And indeed
more so. I think a great deal now, because I have plenty of Time.
But my sister never thinks at all. She is to busy."
"Suppose we sit on the Bench. The moon is to high to be a menace,
and besides, I am not dangerous. Now, what do you think about?"
"About Life, mostly. But of course there is Death, which is
beautiful but cold. And--one always thinks of Love, doesn't one?"
"Does one?" he asked. I could see he was much interested. As for
me, I dared not consider whom it was who sat beside me, almost
touching. That way lay madness.
"Don't you ever," he said, "reflect on just ordinary things, like
Clothes and so forth?"
I shruged my shoulders.
"I don't get enough new clothes to worry about. Mostly I think
of my Work."
"I am a writer" I said in a low, ernest tone.
"No! How--how amazing. What do you write?"
"I'm on a play now."
"No. A Tradgedy. How can I write a Comedy when a play must always
end in a catastrofe? The book says all plays end in Crisis,
Denouement and Catastrofe."
"I can't beleive it," he said. "But, to tell you a Secret, I never
read any books about Plays."
"We are not all gifted from berth, as you are," I observed, not to
merely please him, but because I considered it the simple Truth.
He pulled out his watch and looked at it in the moonlight.
"All this reminds me," he said, "that I have promised to go to work
tonight. But this is so--er--thrilling that I guess the work can
wait. Well--now go on."
Oh, the Joy of that night! How can I describe it? To be at last in
the company of one who understood, who--as he himself had said in
"Her Soul"--spoke my own languidge! Except for the occasional
mosquitoe, there was no sound save the turgescent sea and his Voice.
Often since that time I have sat and listened to conversation. How
flat it sounds to listen to father prozing about Gold, or Sis about
Clothes, or even to the young men who come to call, and always talk
We were at last interupted in a strange manner. Mr. Patten came
down their walk and crossed to us, walking very fast. He stopped
right in front of us and said:
"Look here, Reg, this is about all I can stand."
"Oh, go away, and sing, or do somthing," said Mr. Beecher sharply.
"You gave me your word of Honor" said the Patten man. "I can only
remind you of that. Also of the expence I'm incuring, and all the
rest of it. I've shown all sorts of patience, but this is the limit."
He turned on his Heal, but came back for a last word or two.
"Now see here," he said, "we have everything fixed the way you said
You wanted it. And I'll give you ten minutes. That's all."
He stocked away, and Mr. Beecher looked at me.
"Ten minutes of Heaven," he said, "and then perdetion with that
bunch. Look here," he said, "I--I'm awfully interested in what you
are telling me. Let's cut off up the beech and talk."
Oh night of Nights! Oh moon of Moons!
Our talk was strictly business. He asked me my Plot, and although
I had been warned not to do so, even to David Belasco, I gave it to
him fully. And even now, when all is over, I am not sorry. Let him
use it if he will. I can think of plenty of Plots.
The real tradgedy is that we met father. He had been ordered to
give up smoking, and I considered had done so, mother feeling that
I should be encouraged in leaving off cigarettes. So when I saw the
cigar I was sure it was not father. It proved to be, however, and
although he passed with nothing worse than a Glare, I knew I was in
At last we reached the Bench again, and I said good night. Our
relations continued business-like to the last. He said:
"Good night, little authoress, and let's have some more talks."
"I'm afraid I've board you," I said.
"Board me!" he said. "I haven't spent such an evening for years!"
The Familey acted perfectly absurd about it. Seeing that they were
going to make a fuss, I refused to say with whom I had been
walking. You'd have thought I had committed a crime.
"It has come to this, Barbara," mother said, pacing the floor. "You
cannot be trusted out of our sight. Where do you meet all these men?
If this is how things are now, what will it be when given your Liberty?"
Well, it is to painful to record. I was told not to leave the place
for three days, although allowed the boat-house. And of course Sis
had to chime in that she'd heard a roomer I had run away and got
married, and although of course she knew it wasn't true, owing to
no time to do so, still where there was Smoke there was Fire.
But I felt that their confidence in me was going, and that night, after
all were in the Land of Dreams, I took that wreched suit of clothes and
so on to the boathouse, and hid them in the rafters upstairs.
I come now to the strange Event of the next day, and its sequel.
The Patten place and ours are close together, and no other house
near. Mother had been very cool about the Pattens, owing to nobody
knowing them that we knew. Although I must say they had the most
interesting people all the time, and Sis was crazy to call and meet
some of them.
Jane came that day to visit her aunt, and she ran down to see me
"Come and have a ride," she said. "I've got the Runabout, and after
that we'll bathe and have a real time."
But I shook my head.
"I'm a prisoner, Jane," I said.
"Honestly! Is it the Play, or somthing else?"
"Somthing else, Jane," I said. "I can tell you nothing more. I am
simply in trouble, as usual."
"But why make you a prisoner, unless----" She stopped suddenly and
stared at me.
"He has claimed you!" she said. "He is here, somwhere about this
Place, and now, having had time to think it over, you do not Want
to go to him. Don't deny it. I see it in your face. Oh, Bab, my
heart aches for you."
It sounded so like a play that I kept it up. Alas, with what results!
"What else can I do, Jane?" I said.
"You can refuse, if you do not love him. Oh Bab, I did not say it
before, thinking you loved him. But no man who wears clothes like
those could ever win my heart. At least, not permanently."
Well, she did most of the talking. She had finished the bath towle,
which was a large size, after all, and monogramed, and she made me
promise never to let my husband use it. When she went away she left
it with me, and I carried it out and put it on the rafters, with
the other things--I seemed to be getting more to hide every day.
Things went all wrong the next day. Sis was in a bad temper, and as
much as said I was flirting with Carter Brooks, although she never
intends to marry him herself, owing to his not having money and
never having asked her.
I spent the morning in fixing up a Studio in the boat-house, and
felt better by noon. I took two boards on trestles and made a desk,
and brought a Dictionery and some pens and ink out. I use a
Dictionery because now and then I am uncertain how to spell a word.
Events now moved swiftly and terrably. I did not do much work,
being exhausted by my efforts to fix up the studio, and besides,
feeling that nothing much was worth while when one's Familey did
not and never would understand. At eleven o'clock Sis and Carter
and Jane and some others went in bathing from our dock. Jane called
up to me, but I pretended not to hear. They had a good time judging
by the noise, although I should think Jane would cover her arms and
neck in the water, being very thin. Legs one can do nothing with,
although I should think stripes going around would help. But arms
can have sleaves.
However--the people next door went in to, and I thrilled to the
core when Mr. Beecher left the bath-house and went down to the
beech. What a physic! What shoulders, all brown and muscular! And
to think that, strong as they were, they wrote the tender Love
seens of his plays. Strong and tender--what descriptive words they
are! It was then that I saw he had been vacinated twice.
To resume. All the Pattens went in, and a new girl with them, in a
One-peace Suit. I do not deny that she was pretty. I only say that she
was not modest, and that the way she stood on the Patten's dock and
pozed for Mr. Beecher's benafit was unecessary and well, not respectable.
She was nothing to me, nor I to her. But I watched her closely. I
confess that I was interested in Mr. Beecher. Why not? He was a
Public Character, and entitled to respect. Nay, even to love. But
I maintain and will to my dying day, that such love is diferent from
that ordinaraly born to the Other Sex, and a thing to be proud of.
Well, I was seeing a drama and did not even know it. After the rest
had gone, Mr. Patten came to the door into Mr. Beecher's room in
the bath-house--they are all in a row, with doors opening on the
sand--and he had a box in his hand. He looked around, and no one
was looking except me, and he did not see me. He looked very Feirce
and Glum, and shortly after he carried in a chair and a folding card
table. I thought this was very strange, but imagine how I felt when he
came out carrying Mr. Beecher's clothes! He brought them all, going
on his tiptoes and watching every minute. I felt like screaming.
However, I considered that it was a practicle Joke, and I am no
spoil sport. So I sat still and waited. They staid in the water a
long time, and the girl with the Figure was always crawling out on
the dock and then diving in to show off. Leila and the rest got
sick of her actions and came in to Lunch. They called up to me, but
I said I was not hungry.
"I don't know what's come over Bab," I heard Sis say to Carter
Brooks. "She's crazy, I think."
"She's seventeen," he said. "That's all. They get over it mostly,
but she has it hard."
I lothed him.
Pretty soon the other crowd came up, and I could see every one knew
the joke but Mr. Beecher. They all scuttled into their doorways,
and Mr. Patten waited till Mr. Beecher was inside and had thrown out
the shirt of his bathing Suit. Then he locked the door from the outside.
There was a silence for a minute. Then Mr. Beecher said in a
"So that's the Game, is it?"
"Now listen, Reg," Mr. Patten said, in a soothing voice. "I've
tried everything but Force, and now I'm driven to that. I've got to
have that third Act. The company's got the first two acts well
under way, and I'm getting wires about every hour. I've got to have
"You go to Hell!" said Mr. Beecher. You could hear him plainly
through the window, high up in the wall. And although I do not
approve of an oath, there are times when it eases the tortured Soul.
"Now be reasonable, Reg," Mr. Patten pleaded. "I've put a fortune
in this thing, and you're lying down on the job. You could do it in
four hours if you'd put your mind to it."
There was no anser to this. And he went on:
"I'll send out food or anything. But nothing to drink. There's
Champane on the ice for you when you've finished, however. And
you'll find pens and ink and paper on the table."
The anser to this was Mr. Beecher's full weight against the door.
But it held, even against the full force of his fine physic.
"Even if you do break it open," Mr. Patten said, "you can't go very
far the way you are. Now be a good fellow, and let's get this thing done.
It's for your good as well as mine. You'll make a Fortune out of it."
Then he went into his own door, and soon came out, looking like a
gentleman, unless one knew, as I did, that he was a Whited Sepulcher.
How long I sat there, paralized with emotion, I do not know. Hannah
came out and roused me from my Trance of grief. She is a kindly
soul, although to afraid of mother to be helpful.
"Come in like a good girl, Miss Bab," she said. "There's that fruit
salad that cook prides herself on, and I'll ask her to brown a bit
of sweetbread for you."
"Hannah," I said in a low voice, "there is a Crime being committed
in this neighborhood, and you talk to me of food."
"Good gracious, Miss Bab!"
"I cannot tell you any more than that, Hannah," I said gently,
"because it is only being done now, and I cannot make up my Mind
about it. But of course I do not want any food."
As I say, I was perfectly gentle with her, and I do not understand
why she burst into tears and went away.
I sat and thought it all over. I could not leave, under the
circumstances. But yet, what was I to do? It was hardly a Police
matter, being between friends, as one may say, and yet I simply
could not bare to leave my Ideal there in that damp bath-house
without either food or, as one may say, raiment.
About the middle of the afternoon it occurred to me to try to find
a key for the lock of the bath-house. I therfore left my Studio and
proceded to the house. I passed close by the fatal building, but
there was no sound from it.
I found a number of trunk-keys in a drawer in the library, and was
about to escape with them, when father came in. He gave me a long
look, and said:
"Bee still buzzing?"
I had hoped for some understanding from him, but my Spirits fell at
"I am still working, father," I said, in a firm if nervous tone. "I
am not doing as good work as I would if things were diferent,
but--I am at least content, if not happy."
He stared at me, and then came over to me.
"Put out your tongue," he said.
Even against this crowning infamey I was silent.
"That's all right," he said. "Now see here, Chicken, get into your
riding togs and we'll order the horses. I don't intend to let this
play-acting upset your health."
But I refused. "Unless, of course, you insist," I finished. He only
shook his head, however, and left the room. I felt that I had lost
my Last Friend.
I did not try the keys myself, but instead stood off a short
distance and through them through the window. I learned later that
they struck Mr. Beecher on the head. Not knowing, of course, that
I had flung them, and that my reason was pure Friendliness and
Idealizm, he through them out again with a violent exclamation.
They fell at my feet, and lay there, useless, regected, tradgic.
At last I summoned courage to speak.
"Can't I do somthing to help?" I said, in a quaking voice, to the window.
There was no anser, but I could hear a pen scraching on paper.
"I do so want to help you," I said, in a louder tone.
"Go, away" said his voice, rather abstracted than angry.
"May I try the keys?" I asked. Be still, my Heart! For the
scraching had ceased.
"Who's that?" asked the beloved voice. I say `beloved' because an
Ideal is always beloved. The voice was beloved, but sharp.
I heard him mutter somthing, and I think he came to the Door.
"Look here," he said. "Go away. Do you understand? I want to work.
And don't come near here again until seven o'clock."
"Very well," I said faintly.
"And then come without fail," he said.
"Yes, Mr. Beecher," I replied. How commanding he was! Strong but tender!
"And if anyone comes around making a noise, before that, you shoot
them for me, will you?"
"Drive them off, or use a Bean-shooter. Anything. But don't yell at
them. It distracts me."
It was a Sacred trust. I, and only I, stood between him and his MAGNUM
OPUM. I sat down on the steps of our bath-house, and took up my vigel.
It was about five o'clock when I heard Jane approaching. I knew it
was Jane, because she always wears tight shoes, and limps when
unobserved. Although having the reputation of the smallest foot of
any girl in our set in the city, I prefer Comfort and Ease,
unhampered by heals--French or otherwise. No man will ever marry a
girl because she wears a small shoe, and catches her heals in holes
in the Boardwalk, and has to soak her feet at night before she can
Jane came on, and found me croutched on the doorstep, in a lowly
attatude, and holding my finger to my lips.
She stopped and stared at me.
"Hello," she said. "What do you think you are? A Statue?"
"Hush, Jane," I said, in a low tone. "I can only ask you to be
quiet and speak in Whispers. I cannot give the reason."
"Good heavens!" she whispered. "What has happened, Bab?"
"It is happening now, but I cannot explain."
"WHAT is happening?"
"Jane," I whispered, ernestly, "you have known me a long time and
I have always been Trustworthy, have I not?"
She nodded. She is never exactly pretty, and now she had opened her
mouth and forgot to close it.
"Then ask No Questions. Trust me, as I am trusting you." It seemed
to me that Mr. Beecher through his pen at the door, and began to
pace the bath-house. Owing of course to his being in his bare feet,
I was not certain. Jane heard somthing, to, for she clutched my arm.
"Bab," she said, in intence tones, "if you don't explain I shall
lose my mind. I feel now that I am going to shreik."
She looked at me searchingly.
"Sombody is a Prisoner. That's all."
It was the truth, was it not? And was there any reasons for Jane
Raleigh to jump to conclusions as she did, and even to repeat later
in Public that I had told her that my lover had come for me, and
that father had locked him up to prevent my running away with him,
imuring him in the Patten's bath-house? Certainly not.
Just then I saw the boatman coming who looks after our motor boat,
and I tiptoed to him and asked him to go away, and not to come back
unless he had quieter boats and would not whistel. He acted very
ugly about it, I must say, but he went.
When I came back, Jane was sitting thinking, with her forhead
"What I don't understand, Bab," she said, "is, why no noise?"
"Because he is writing," I explained. "Although his clothing has
been taken away, he is writing. I don't think I told you, Jane, but
that is his business. He is a Writer. And if I tell you his name
you will faint with surprise."
She looked at me searchingly.
"Locked up--and writing, and his clothing gone! What's he writing,
Bab? His Will?"
"He is doing his duty to the end, Jane," I said softly. "He is
writing the last Act of a Play. The Company is rehearsing the first
two Acts, and he has to get this one ready, though the Heavens fall."
But to my surprise, she got up and said to me, in a firm voice:
"Either you are crazy, Barbara Archibald, or you think I am. You've
been stuffing me for about a week, and I don't beleive a Word of
it. And you'll apologize to me or I'll never speak to you again."
She said this loudly, and then went away, And Mr. Beecher said,
through the door.
"What the Devil's the row about?"
Perhaps my nerves were going, or possably it was no luncheon and
probably no dinner. But I said, just as if he had been an ordinary
"Go on and write and get through. I can't stew on these steps all day."
"I thought you were an amiable Child."
"I'm not amiable and I'm not a Child."
"Don't spoil your pretty face with frowns."
"It's MY face. And you can't see it anyhow," I replied, venting in
femanine fashion, my anger at Jane on the nearest object.
"Look here," he said, through the door, "you've been my good Angel.
I'm doing more work than I've done in two months, although it was
a dirty, low-down way to make me do it. You're not going back on me
now, are you?"
Well, I was mollafied, as who would not be? So I said:
"What did Patten do with my clothes?"
"He took them with him." He was silent, except for a muttered word.
"You might throw those Keys back again," he said. "Let me know
first, however. You're the most acurate Thrower I've ever seen."
So I through them through the window and I beleive hit the ink
bottle. But no matter. And he tried them, but none availed.
So he gave up, and went back to Work, having saved enough ink to
finish with. But a few minutes later he called to me again, and I
moved to the Doorstep, where I sat listening, while aparently
admiring the sea. He explained that having been thus forced, he had
almost finished the last Act, and it was a corker. And he said if
he had his clothes and some money, and a key to get out, he'd go
right back to Town with it and put it in rehearsle. And at the same
time he would give the Pattens something to worry about over night.
Because, play or no play, it was a Rotten thing to lock a man in a
bath-house and take his clothes away.
"But of course I can't get my clothes," he said. "They'll take
cussed good care of that. And there's the Key too. We're up against
it, Little Sister."
Although excited by his calling me thus, I retained my faculties,
"I have a suit of Clothes you can have."
"Thanks awfully," he said. "But from the slight acquaintance we
have had, I don't beleive they would fit me."
"Gentleman's Clothes," I said fridgidly.
"In my Studio," I said. "I can bring them, if you like. They look
quite good, although Creased."
"You know" he said, after a moment's silence, "I can't quite
beleive this is realy happening to me! Go and bring the suit of
clothes, and--you don't happen to have a cigar, I suppose,?"
"I have a large box of Cigarettes."
"It is true," I heard him say through the door. "It is all true. I
am here, locked in. The Play is almost done. And a very young lady
on the doorstep is offering me a suit of Clothes and Tobaco. I
pinch myself. I am awake."
Alas! Mingled with my joy at serving my Ideal there was also greif.
My idle had feet of clay. He was a slave, like the rest of us, to
his body. He required clothes and tobaco. I felt that, before long,
he might even ask for an apple, or something to stay the pangs of
hunger. This I felt I could not bare.
Perhaps I would better pass over quickly the events of the next
hour. I got the suit and the cigarettes, and even Jane's bath
towle, and through them in to him. Also I beleive he took a shower,
as I heard the water running, At about seven o'clock he said he had
finished the play. He put on the Clothes which he observed almost
fitted him, although gayer than he usually wore, and said that if
I would give him a hair pin he thought he could pick the Lock. But
he did not succeed.
Being now dressed, however, he drew a chair to the window and we
talked together. It seemed like a dream that I should be there, on
such intimate terms with a great Playwright, who had just, even if
under compulsion, finished a last Act, I bared my very soul to him,
such as about resembling Julia Marlowe, and no one understanding my
craveing to acheive a Place in the World of Art. We were once
interupted by Hannah looking for me for dinner. But I hid in a
bath-house, and she went away.
What was Food to me compared with such a Conversation?
When Hannah had disappeared, he said suddenly:
"It's rather unusual, isn't it, your having a suit of clothes and
everything in your--er--studio?"
But I did not explain fully, merely saving that it was a painful story.
At half past seven I saw mother on the veranda looking for me, and
I ducked out of sight, I was by this time very hungry, although I
did not like to mention the fact, But Mr. Beecher made a
suggestion, which was this: that the Pattens were evadently going
to let him starve until he got through work, and that he would see
them in perdetion before he would be the Butt for their funny
remarks when they freed him. He therfore tried to escape out the
window, but stuck fast, and finaly gave it up.
At last he said:
"Look here, you're a curious child, but a nervy one. How'd you like
to see if you can get the Key? If you do we'll go to a hotel and
have a real meal, and we can talk about your Career."
Although quivering with Terror, I consented. How could I do
otherwise, with such a prospect? For now I began to see that all
other Emotions previously felt were as nothing to this one. I
confess, without shame, that I felt the stiring of the Tender
Passion in my breast. Ah me, that it should have died ere it had
"Where is the key?" I asked, in a wrapt but anxious tone.
He thought a while.
"Generaly," he said, "it hangs on a nail at the back entry. But the
chances are that Patten took it up to his room this time, for
safety, You'd know it if you saw it. It has some buttons off
sombody's batheing suit tied to it."
Here it was necessary to hide again, as father came stocking out,
calling me in an angry tone. But shortly afterwards I was on my way
to the Patten's house, on shaking Knees. It was by now twilight,
that beautiful period of Romanse, although the dinner hour also.
Through the dusk I sped, toward what? I knew not.
The Pattens and the one-peace lady were at dinner, and having a
very good time, in spite of having locked a Guest in the
bath-house. Being used to servants and prowling around, since at
one time when younger I had a habit of taking things from the
pantrey, I was quickly able to see that the Key was not in the
entry. I therfore went around to the front Door and went in, being
prepared, if discovered, to say that somone was in their bath-house
and they ought to know it. But I was not heard among their sounds
of revelry, and was able to proceed upstairs, which I did.
But not having asked which was Mr. Patten's room, I was at a loss
and almost discovered by a maid who was turning down the beds--much
to early, also, and not allowed in the best houses until
nine-thirty, since otherwise the rooms look undressed and informle.
I had but Time to duck into another chamber, and from there to a closet.
I REMAINED IN THAT CLOSET ALL NIGHT.
I will explain. No sooner had the maid gone than a Woman came into
the room and closed the door. I heard her moving around and I
suddenly felt that she was going to bed, and might get her ROBE DE
NUIT out of the closet. I was petrafied. But it seems, while she
really WAS undressing at that early hour, the maid had laid her
night clothes out, and I was saved.
Very soon a knock came to the door, and somhody came in, like Mrs.
Patten's voice and said: "You're not going to bed, surely!"
"I'm going to pretend to have a sick headache," said the other
Person, and I knew it was the One-peace Lady. "He's going to come
back in a frenzey, and he'll take it out on me, unless I'm
"Poor Reggie!" said Mrs. Patten, "To think of him locked in there
alone, and no Clothes or anything. It's too funny for words."
"You're not married to him."
My heart stopped beating. Was SHE married to him? She was indeed.
My dream was over. And the worst part of it was that for a married
man I had done without Food or exercise and now stood in a hot
closet in danger of a terrable fuss.
"No, thank Heaven!" said Mrs. Patten. "But it was the only way to
make him work. He is a lazy dog. But don't worry. We'll feed him
before he sees you. He's always rather tractible after he's fed."
Were ALL my dreams to go? Would they leave nothing to my shattered
ilusions? Alas, no.
"Jolly him a little, to," said----can I write it?--Mrs. Beecher.
"Tell him he's the greatest thing in the World. That will help
some. He's vain, you know, awfully vain. I expect he's written a
lot of piffle."
Had they listened they would have heard a low, dry sob, wrung from
my tortured heart. But Mrs. Beecher had started a vibrater, and my
anguished cry was lost.
"Well," said Mrs. Patten, "Will has gone down to let him out, I
expect he'll attack him. He's got a vile Temper. I'll sit with you
till he comes back, if you don't mind. I'm feeling nervous."
It was indeed painful to recall the next half hour. I must tell the
truth however. They discussed us, especialy mother, who had not
called. They said that we thought we were the whole summer Colony,
although every one was afraid of mother's tongue, and nobody would
marry Leila, except Carter Brooks, and he was poor and no
prospects. And that I was an incorrigable, and carried on somthing
gastly, and was going to be put in a convent. I became justly
furious and was about to step out and tell them a few plain Facts,
when sombody hammered at the door and then came in. It was Mr.
"He's gone!" he said.
"Well, he won't go far, in bathing trunks," said Mrs. Beecher.
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