Ruggles of Red Gap
Harry Leon Wilson
Part 4 out of 6
As we sipped our tea in companionable silence, I busy with my new and
disturbing thoughts, a long shout came to us from the outer distance.
Cousin Egbert brightened.
"I'm darned if that ain't Ma Pettengill!" he exclaimed. "She's rid
over from the Arrowhead."
We rushed to the door, and in the distance, riding down upon us at
terrific speed, I indeed beheld the Mixer. A moment later she reigned
in her horse before us and hoarsely rumbled her greetings. I had last
seen her at a formal dinner where she was rather formidably done out
in black velvet and diamonds. Now she appeared in a startling tenue of
khaki riding-breeches and flannel shirt, with one of the wide-brimmed
cow-person hats. Even at the moment of greeting her I could not but
reflect how shocked our dear Queen would be at the sight of this
She dismounted with hearty explanations of how she had left her
"round-up" and ridden over to visit, having heard from the Tuttle
person that we were here. Cousin Egbert took her horse and she entered
the hut, where to my utter amazement she at once did a feminine thing.
Though from her garb one at a little distance might have thought her a
man, a portly, florid, carelessly attired man, she made at once for
the wrinkled mirror where, after anxiously scanning her burned face
for an instant, she produced powder and puff from a pocket of her
shirt and daintily powdered her generous blob of a nose. Having
achieved this to her apparent satisfaction, she unrolled a bundle she
had carried at her saddle and donned a riding skirt, buttoning it
about the waist and smoothing down its folds--before I could retire.
"There, now," she boomed, as if some satisfying finality had been
brought about. Such was the Mixer. That sort of thing would never do
with us, and yet I suddenly saw that she, like Cousin Egbert, was
strangely commendable and worthy. I mean to say, I no longer felt it
was my part to set her right in any of the social niceties. Some
curious change had come upon me. I knew then that I should no longer
With a curious friendly glow upon me I set about helping Cousin Egbert
in the preparation of our evening meal, a work from which, owing to
the number and apparent difficulty of my suggestions, he presently
withdrew, leaving me in entire charge. It is quite true that I have
pronounced views as to the preparation and serving of food, and I dare
say I embarrassed the worthy fellow without at all meaning to do so,
for too many of his culinary efforts betray the fumbling touch of the
amateur. And as I worked over the open fire, doing the trout to a
turn, stirring the beans, and perfecting the stew with deft touches of
seasoning, I worded to myself for the first time a most severe
indictment against the North American cookery, based upon my
observations across the continent and my experience as a diner-out in
I saw that it would never do with us, and that it ought, as a matter
of fact, to be uplifted. Even then, while our guest chattered gossip
of the town over her brown paper cigarettes, I felt the stirring of an
impulse to teach Americans how to do themselves better at table. For
the moment, of course, I was hampered by lack of equipment (there was
not even a fish slice in the establishment), but even so I brewed
proper tea and was able to impart to the simple viands a touch of
distinction which they had lacked under Cousin Egbert's
As I served the repast Cousin Egbert produced a bottle of the brown
American whiskey at which we pegged a bit before sitting to table.
"Three rousing cheers!" said he, and the Mixer responded with "Happy
As on that former occasion, the draught of spirits flooded my being
with a vast consciousness of personal worth and of good feeling toward
my companions. With a true insight I suddenly perceived that one might
belong to the great lower middle-class in America and still matter in
the truest, correctest sense of the term.
As we fell hungrily to the food, the Mixer did not fail to praise my
cooking of the trout, and she and Cousin Egbert were presently
lamenting the difficulty of obtaining a well-cooked meal in Red Gap.
At this I boldly spoke up, declaring that American cookery lacked
constructive imagination, making only the barest use of its
magnificent opportunities, following certain beaten and
all-too-familiar roads with a slavish stupidity.
"We nearly had a good restaurant," said the Mixer. "A Frenchman came
and showed us a little flash of form, but he only lasted a month
because he got homesick. He had half the people in town going there
for dinner, too, to get away from their Chinamen--and after I spent a
lot of money fixing the place up for him, too."
I recalled the establishment, on the main street, though I had not
known that our guest was its owner. Vacant it was now, and looking
quite as if the bailiffs had been in.
"He couldn't cook ham and eggs proper," suggested Cousin Egbert. "I
tried him three times, and every time he done something French to 'em
that nobody had ought to do to ham and eggs."
Hereupon I ventured to assert that a too-intense nationalism would
prove the ruin of any chef outside his own country; there must be a
certain breadth of treatment, a blending of the best features of
different schools. One must know English and French methods and yet be
a slave to neither; one must even know American cookery and be
prepared to adapt its half-dozen or so undoubted excellencies. From
this I ventured further into a general criticism of the dinners I had
eaten at Red Gap's smartest houses. Too profuse they were, I said, and
too little satisfying in any one feature; too many courses,
constructed, as I had observed, after photographs printed in the back
pages of women's magazines; doubtless they possessed a certain
artistic value as sights for the eye, but considered as food they were
devoid of any inner meaning.
"Bill's right," said Cousin Egbert warmly. "Mrs. Effie, she gets up
about nine of them pictures, with nuts and grated eggs and scrambled
tomatoes all over 'em, and nobody knowing what's what, and even when
you strike one that tastes good they's only a dab of it and you
mustn't ask for any more. When I go out to dinner, what I want is to
have 'em say, 'Pass up your plate, Mr. Floud, for another piece of the
steak and some potatoes, and have some more squash and help yourself
to the quince jelly.' That's how it had ought to be, but I keep eatin'
these here little plates of cut-up things and waiting for the real
stuff, and first thing I know I get a spoonful of coffee in something
like you put eye medicine into, and I know it's all over. Last time I
was out I hid up a dish of these here salted almuns under a fern and
et the whole lot from time to time, kind of absent like. It helped
some, but it wasn't dinner."
"Same here," put in the Mixer, saturating half a slice of bread in the
sauce of the stew. "I can't afford to act otherwise than like I am a
lady at one of them dinners, but the minute I'm home I beat it for the
icebox. I suppose it's all right to be socially elegant, but we hadn't
ought to let it contaminate our food none. And even at that New York
hotel this summer you had to make trouble to get fed proper. I wanted
strawberry shortcake, and what do you reckon they dealt me? A thing
looking like a marble palace--sponge cake and whipped cream with a few
red spots in between. Well, long as we're friends here together, I may
say that I raised hell until I had the chef himself up and told him
exactly what to do; biscuit dough baked and prized apart and buttered,
strawberries with sugar on 'em in between and on top, and plenty of
regular cream. Well, after three days' trying he finally managed to
get simple--he just couldn't believe I meant it at first, and kept
building on the whipped cream--and the thing cost eight dollars, but
you can bet he had me, even then; the bonehead smarty had sweetened
the cream and grated nutmeg into it. I give up.
"And if you can't get right food in New York, how can you expect to
here? And Jackson, the idiot, has just fired the only real cook in Red
Gap. Yes, sir; he's let the coons go. It come out that Waterman had
sneaked out that suit of his golf clothes that Kate Kenner wore in the
minstrel show, so he fired them both, and now I got to support 'em,
because, as long as we're friends here, I don't mind telling you I
egged the coon on to do it."
I saw that she was referring to the black and his wife whom I had met
at the New York camp, though it seemed quaint to me that they should
be called "coons," which is, I take it, a diminutive for "raccoon," a
species of ground game to be found in America.
Truth to tell, I enjoyed myself immensely at this simple but
satisfying meal, feeling myself one with these homely people, and I
was sorry when we had finished.
"That was some little dinner itself," said the Mixer as she rolled a
cigarette; "and now you boys set still while I do up the dishes." Nor
would she allow either of us to assist her in this work. When she had
done, Cousin Egbert proceeded to mix hot toddies from the whiskey, and
we gathered about the table before the open fire.
"Now we'll have a nice home evening," said the Mixer, and to my great
embarrassment she began at once to speak to myself.
"A strong man like him has got no business becoming a social
butterfly," she remarked to Cousin Egbert.
"Oh, Bill's all right," insisted the latter, as he had done so many
"He's all right so far, but let him go on for a year or so and he
won't be a darned bit better than what Jackson is, mark my words. Just
a social butterfly, wearing funny clothes and attending afternoon
"Well, I don't say you ain't right," said Cousin Egbert thoughtfully;
"that's one reason I got him out here where everything is nice. What
with speaking pieces like an actor, I was afraid they'd have him
making more kinds of a fool of himself than what Jackson does, him
being a foreigner, and his mind kind o' running on what clothes a man
had ought to wear."
Hereupon, so flushed was I with the good feeling of the occasion, I
told them straight that I had resolved to quit being Colonel Ruggles
of the British army and associate of the nobility; that I had
determined to forget all class distinctions and to become one of
themselves, plain, simple, and unpretentious. It is true that I had
consumed two of the hot grogs, but my mind was clear enough, and both
my companions applauded this resolution.
"If he can just get his mind off clothes for a bit he might amount to
something," said Cousin Egbert, and it will scarcely be credited, but
at the moment I felt actually grateful to him for this admission.
"We'll think about his case," said the Mixer, taking her own second
toddy, whereupon the two fell to talking of other things, chiefly of
their cattle plantations and the price of beef-stock, which then
seemed to be six and one half, though what this meant I had no notion.
Also I gathered that the Mixer at her own cattle-farm had been
watching her calves marked with her monogram, though I would never
have credited her with so much sentiment.
When the retiring hour came, Cousin Egbert and I prepared to take our
blankets outside to sleep, but the Mixer would have none of this.
"The last time I slept in here," she remarked, "mice was crawling over
me all night, so you keep your shack and I'll bed down outside. I
ain't afraid of mice, understand, but I don't like to feel their feet
on my face."
And to my great dismay, though Cousin Egbert took it calmly enough,
she took a roll of blankets and made a crude pallet on the ground
outside, under a spreading pine tree. I take it she was that sort. The
least I could do was to secure two tins of milk from our larder and
place them near her cot, in case of some lurking high-behind, though I
said nothing of this, not wishing to alarm her needlessly.
Inside the hut Cousin Egbert and I partook of a final toddy before
retiring. He was unusually thoughtful and I had difficulty in
persuading him to any conversation. Thus having noted a bearskin
before my bed, I asked him if he had killed the animal.
"No," said he shortly, "I wouldn't lie for a bear as small as that."
As he was again silent, I made no further approaches to him.
From my first sleep I was awakened by a long, booming yell from our
guest outside. Cousin Egbert and I reached the door at the same time.
"I've got it!" bellowed the Mixer, and we went out to her in the chill
night. She sat up with the blankets muffled about her.
"We start Bill in that restaurant," she began. "It come to me in a
flash. I judge he's got the right ideas, and Waterman and his wife can
cook for him."
"Bully!" exclaimed Cousin Egbert. "I was thinking he ought to have a
gents' furnishing store, on account of his mind running to dress, but
you got the best idea."
"I'll stake him to the rent," she put in.
"And I'll stake him to the rest," exclaimed Cousin Egbert delightedly,
and, strange as it may seem, I suddenly saw myself a licensed
"I'll call it the 'United States Grill,'" I said suddenly, as if by
"Three rousing cheers for the U.S. Grill!" shouted Cousin Egbert to
the surrounding hills, and repairing to the hut he brought out hot
toddies with which we drank success to the new enterprise. For a
half-hour, I dare say, we discussed details there in the cold night,
not seeing that it was quite preposterously bizarre. Returning to the
hut at last, Cousin Egbert declared himself so chilled that he must
have another toddy before retiring, and, although I was already
feeling myself the equal of any American, I consented to join him.
Just before retiring again my attention centred a second time upon the
bearskin before my bed and, forgetting that I had already inquired
about it, I demanded of him if he had killed the animal. "Sure," said
he; "killed it with one shot just as it was going to claw me. It was
an awful big one."
Morning found the three of us engrossed with the new plan, and by the
time our guest rode away after luncheon the thing was well forward and
I had the Mixer's order upon her estate agent at Red Gap for admission
to the vacant premises. During the remainder of the day, between games
of cribbage, Cousin Egbert and I discussed the venture. And it was now
that I began to foresee a certain difficulty.
How, I asked myself, would the going into trade of Colonel Marmaduke
Ruggles be regarded by those who had been his social sponsors in Red
Gap? I mean to say, would not Mrs. Effie and the Belknap-Jacksons feel
that I had played them false? Had I not given them the right to
believe that I should continue, during my stay in their town, to be
one whom their county families would consider rather a personage? It
was idle, indeed, for me to deny that my personality as well as my
assumed origin and social position abroad had conferred a sort of
prestige upon my sponsors; that on my account, in short, the North
Side set had been newly armed in its battle with the Bohemian set. And
they relied upon my continued influence. How, then, could I face them
with the declaration that I meant to become a tradesman? Should I be
doing a caddish thing, I wondered?
Putting the difficulty to Cousin Egbert, he dismissed it impatiently
by saying: "Oh, shucks!" In truth I do not believe he comprehended it
in the least. But then it was that I fell upon my inspiration. I might
take Colonel Marmaduke Ruggles from the North Side set, but I would
give them another and bigger notable in his place. This should be none
other than the Honourable George, whom I would now summon. A fortnight
before I had received a rather snarky letter from him demanding to
know how long I meant to remain in North America and disclosing that
he was in a wretched state for want of some one to look after him. And
he had even hinted that in the event of my continued absence he might
himself come out to America and fetch me back. His quarter's
allowance, would, I knew, be due in a fortnight, and my letter would
reach him, therefore, before some adventurer had sold him a system for
beating the French games of chance. And my letter would be compelling.
I would make it a summons he could not resist. Thus, when I met the
reproachful gaze of the C. Belknap-Jacksons and of Mrs. Effie, I
should be able to tell them: "I go from you, but I leave you a better
man in my place." With the Honourable George Augustus Vane-Basingwell,
next Earl of Brinstead, as their house guest, I made no doubt that the
North Side set would at once prevail as it never had before, the
Bohemian set losing at once such of its members as really mattered,
who would of course be sensible of the tremendous social importance of
the Honourable George.
Yet there came moments in which I would again find myself in no end of
a funk, foreseeing difficulties of an insurmountable character. At
such times Cousin Egbert strove to cheer me with all sorts of
assurances, and to divert my mind he took me upon excursions of the
roughest sort into the surrounding jungle, in search either of fish or
ground game. After three days of this my park-suit became almost a
total ruin, particularly as to the trousers, so that I was glad to
borrow a pair of overalls such as Cousin Egbert wore. They were a tidy
fit, but, having resolved not to resist America any longer, I donned
them without even removing the advertising placard.
With my ever-lengthening stubble of beard it will be understood that I
now appeared as one of their hearty Western Americans of the roughest
type, which was almost quite a little odd, considering my former
principles. Cousin Egbert, I need hardly say, was immensely pleased
with my changed appearance, and remarked that I was "sure a live
wire." He also heartened me in the matter of the possible disapproval
of C. Belknap-Jackson, which he had divined was the essential rabbit
in my moodiness.
"I admit the guy uses beautiful language," he conceded, "and probably
he's top-notched in education, but jest the same he ain't the whole
seven pillars of the house of wisdom, not by a long shot. If he gets
fancy with you, soak him again. You done it once." So far was the
worthy fellow from divining the intimate niceties involved in my
giving up a social career for trade. Nor could he properly estimate
the importance of my plan to summon the Honourable George to Red Gap,
merely remarking that the "Judge" was all right and a good mixer and
that the boys would give him a swell time.
Our return journey to Red Gap was made in company with the Indian
Tuttle, and the two cow-persons, Hank and Buck, all of whom professed
themselves glad to meet me again, and they, too, were wildly
enthusiastic at hearing from Cousin Egbert of my proposed business
venture. Needless to say they were of a class that would bother itself
little with any question of social propriety involved in my entering
trade, and they were loud in their promises of future patronage. At
this I again felt some misgiving, for I meant the United States Grill
to possess an atmosphere of quiet refinement calculated to appeal to
particular people that really mattered; and yet it was plain that,
keeping a public house, I must be prepared to entertain agricultural
labourers and members of the lower or working classes. For a time I
debated having an ordinary for such as these, where they could be shut
away from my selecter patrons, but eventually decided upon a tariff
that would be prohibitive to all but desirable people. The rougher or
Bohemian element, being required to spring an extra shilling, would
doubtless seek other places.
For two days we again filed through mountain gorges of a most awkward
character, reaching Red Gap at dusk. For this I was rather grateful,
not only because of my beard and the overalls, but on account of a hat
of the most shocking description which Cousin Egbert had pressed upon
me when my own deer-stalker was lost in a glen. I was willing to
roughen it in all good-fellowship with these worthy Americans, but I
knew that to those who had remarked my careful taste in dress my
present appearance would seem almost a little singular. I would rather
I did not shock them to this extent.
Yet when our animals had been left in their corral, or rude enclosure,
I found it would be ungracious to decline the hospitality of my new
friends who wished to drink to the success of the U.S. Grill, and so I
accompanied them to several public houses, though with the shocking
hat pulled well down over my face. Also, as the dinner hour passed, I
consented to dine with them at the establishment of a Chinese, where
we sat on high stools at a counter and were served ham and eggs and
some of the simpler American foods.
The meal being over, I knew that we ought to cut off home directly,
but Cousin Egbert again insisted upon visiting drinking-places, and I
had no mind to leave him, particularly as he was growing more and more
bitter in my behalf against Mr. Belknap-Jackson. I had a doubtless
absurd fear that he would seek the gentleman out and do him a
mischief, though for the moment he was merely urging me to do this. It
would, he asserted, vastly entertain the Indian Tuttle and the
cow-persons if I were to come upon Mr. Belknap-Jackson and savage him
without warning, or at least with only a paltry excuse, which he
seemed proud of having devised.
"You go up to the guy," he insisted, "very polite, you understand, and
ask him what day this is. If he says it's Tuesday, soak him."
"But it is Tuesday," I said.
"Sure," he replied, "that's where the joke comes in."
Of course this was the crudest sort of American humour and not to be
given a moment's serious thought, so I redoubled my efforts to detach
him from our honest but noisy friends, and presently had the
satisfaction of doing so by pleading that I must be up early on the
morrow and would also require his assistance. At parting, to my
embarrassment, he insisted on leading the group in a cheer. "What's
the matter with Ruggles?" they loudly demanded in unison, following
the query swiftly with: "He's all right!" the "he" being eloquently
But at last we were away from them and off into the darker avenue, to
my great relief, remembering my garb. I might be a living wire, as
Cousin Egbert had said, but I was keenly aware that his overalls and
hat would rather convey the impression that I was what they call in
the States a bad person from a bitter creek.
To my further relief, the Floud house was quite dark as we approached
and let ourselves in. Cousin Egbert, however, would enter the
drawing-room, flood it with light, and seat himself in an easy-chair
with his feet lifted to a sofa. He then raised his voice in a ballad
of an infant that had perished, rendering it most tearfully, the
refrain being, "Empty is the cradle, baby's gone!" Apprehensive at
this, I stole softly up the stairs and had but reached the door of my
own room when I heard Mrs. Effie below. I could fancy the chilling
gaze which she fastened upon the singer, and I heard her coldly
demand, "Where are your feet?" Whereupon the plaintive voice of Cousin
Egbert arose to me, "Just below my legs." I mean to say, he had taken
the thing as a quiz in anatomy rather than as the rebuke it was meant
to be. As I closed my door, I heard him add that he could be pushed
just so far.
Having written and posted my letter to the Honourable George the
following morning, I summoned Mr. Belknap-Jackson, conceiving it my
first duty to notify him and Mrs. Effie of my trade intentions. I also
requested Cousin Egbert to be present, since he was my business
All being gathered at the Floud house, including Mrs. Belknap-Jackson,
I told them straight that I had resolved to abandon my social career,
brilliant though it had been, and to enter trade quite as one of their
middle-class Americans. They all gasped a bit at my first words, as I
had quite expected them to do, but what was my surprise, when I went
on to announce the nature of my enterprise, to find them not a little
intrigued by it, and to discover that in their view I should not in
the least be lowering myself.
"Capital, capital!" exclaimed Belknap-Jackson, and the ladies emitted
little exclamations of similar import.
"At last," said Mrs. Belknap-Jackson, "we shall have a place with tone
to it. The hall above will be splendid for our dinner dances, and now
we can have smart luncheons and afternoon teas."
"And a red-coated orchestra and after-theatre suppers," said Mrs.
"Only," put in Belknap-Jackson thoughtfully, "he will of course be
compelled to use discretion about his patrons. The rabble, of
course----" He broke off with a wave of his hand which, although not
pointedly, seemed to indicate Cousin Egbert, who once more wore the
hunted look about his eyes and who sat by uneasily. I saw him wince.
"Some people's money is just as good as other people's if you come
right down to it," he muttered, "and Bill is out for the coin.
Besides, we all got to eat, ain't we?"
Belknap-Jackson smiled deprecatingly and again waved his hand as if
there were no need for words.
"That rowdy Bohemian set----" began Mrs. Effie, but I made bold to
interrupt. There might, I said, be awkward moments, but I had no doubt
that I should be able to meet them with a flawless tact. Meantime, for
the ultimate confusion of the Bohemian set of Red Gap, I had to
announce that the Honourable George Augustus Vane-Basingwell would
presently be with us. With him as a member of the North Side set, I
pointed out, it was not possible to believe that any desirable members
of the Bohemian set would longer refuse to affiliate with the smartest
My announcement made quite all the sensation I had anticipated.
Belknap-Jackson, indeed, arose quickly and grasped me by the hand,
echoing, "The Honourable George Augustus Vane-Basingwell, brother of
the Earl of Brinstead," with little shivers of ecstasy in his voice,
while the ladies pealed their excitement incoherently, with "Really!
really!" and "Actually coming to Red Gap--the brother of a lord!"
Then almost at once I detected curiously cold glances being darted at
each other by the ladies.
"Of course we will be only too glad to put him up," said Mrs.
"But, my dear, he will of course come to us first," put in Mrs. Effie.
"Afterward, to be sure----"
"It's so important that he should receive a favourable impression,"
responded Mrs. Belknap-Jackson.
"That's exactly why----" Mrs. Effie came back with not a little
obvious warmth. Belknap-Jackson here caught my eye.
"I dare say Ruggles and I can be depended upon to decide a minor
matter like that," he said.
The ladies both broke in at this, rather sputteringly, but Cousin
Egbert silenced them.
"Shake dice for him," he said--"poker dice, three throws, aces low."
"How shockingly vulgar!" hissed Mrs. Belknap-Jackson.
"Even if there were no other reason for his coming to us," remarked
her husband coldly, "there are certain unfortunate associations which
ought to make his entertainment here quite impossible."
"If you're calling me 'unfortunate associations,'" remarked Cousin
Egbert, "you want to get it out of your head right off. I don't mind
telling you, the Judge and I get along fine together. I told him when
I was in Paris and Europe to look me up the first thing if ever he
come here, and he said he sure would. The Judge is some mixer, believe
"The 'Judge'!" echoed the Belknap-Jacksons in deep disgust.
"You come right down to it--I bet a cookie he stays just where I tell
him to stay," insisted Cousin Egbert. The evident conviction of his
tone alarmed his hearers, who regarded each other with pained
"Right where I tell him to stay and no place else," insisted Cousin
Egbert, sensing the impression he had made.
"But this is too monstrous!" said Mr. Jackson, regarding me
"The Honourable George," I admitted, "has been known to do unexpected
things, and there have been times when he was not as sensitive as I
could wish to the demands of his caste----"
"Bill is stalling--he knows darned well the Judge is a mixer," broke
in Cousin Egbert, somewhat to my embarrassment, nor did any reply
occur to me. There was a moment's awkward silence during which I
became sensitive to a radical change in the attitude which these
people bore to Cousin Egbert. They shot him looks of furtive but
unmistakable respect, and Mrs. Effie remarked almost with tenderness:
"We must admit that Cousin Egbert has a certain way with him."
"I dare say Floud and I can adjust the matter satisfactorily to all,"
remarked Belknap-Jackson, and with a jaunty affection of
good-fellowship, he opened his cigarette case to Cousin Egbert.
"I ain't made up my mind yet where I'll have him stay," announced the
latter, too evidently feeling his newly acquired importance. "I may
have him stay one place, then again I may have him stay another. I
can't decide things like that off-hand."
And here the matter was preposterously left, the aspirants for this
social honour patiently bending their knees to the erstwhile despised
Cousin Egbert, and the latter being visibly puffed up. By rather
awkward stages they came again to a discussion of the United States
"The name, of course, might be thought flamboyant," suggested
"But I have determined," I said, "no longer to resist America, and so
I can think of no name more fitting."
"Your determination," he answered, "bears rather sinister
implications. One may be vanquished by America as I have been. One may
even submit; but surely one may always resist a little, may not one?
One need not abjectly surrender one's finest convictions, need one?"
"Oh, shucks," put in Cousin Egbert petulantly, "what's the use of all
that 'one' stuff? Bill wants a good American name for his place. Me? I
first thought the 'Bon Ton Eating House' would be kind of a nice name
for it, but as soon as he said the 'United States Grill' I knew it was
a better one. It sounds kind of grand and important."
Belknap-Jackson here made deprecating clucks, but not too directly
toward Cousin Egbert, and my choice of a name was not further
criticised. I went on to assure them that I should have an
establishment quietly smart rather than noisily elegant, and that I
made no doubt the place would give a new tone to Red Gap, whereat they
all expressed themselves as immensely pleased, and our little
conference came to an end.
In company with Cousin Egbert I now went to examine the premises I was
to take over. There was a spacious corner room, lighted from the front
and side, which would adapt itself well to the decorative scheme I had
in mind. The kitchen with its ranges I found would be almost quite
suitable for my purpose, requiring but little alteration, but the
large room was of course atrociously impossible in the American
fashion, with unsightly walls, the floors covered with American cloth
of a garish pattern, and the small, oblong tables and flimsy chairs
As to the gross ideals of the former tenant, I need only say that he
had made, as I now learned, a window display of foods, quite after the
manner of a draper's window: moulds of custard set in a row, flanked
on either side by "pies," as the natives call their tarts, with
perhaps a roast fowl or ham in the centre. Artistic vulgarity could of
course go little beyond this, but almost as offensive were the
abundant wall-placards pathetically remaining in place.
"Coffee like mother used to make," read one. Impertinently intimate
this, professing a familiarity with one's people that would never do
with us. "Try our Boston Baked Beans," pleaded another, quite
abjectly. And several others quite indelicately stated the prices at
which different dishes might be had: "Irish Stew, 25 cents";
"Philadelphia Capon, 35 cents"; "Fried Chicken, Maryland, 50 cents";
"New York Fancy Broil, 40 cents." Indeed the poor chap seemed to have
been possessed by a geographical mania, finding it difficult to submit
the simplest viands without crediting them to distant towns or
Upon Cousin Egbert's remarking that these bedizened placards would
"come in handy," I took pains to explain to him just how different the
United States Grill would be. The walls would be done in deep red; the
floor would be covered with a heavy Turkey carpet of the same tone;
the present crude electric lighting fixtures must be replaced with
indirect lighting from the ceiling and electric candlesticks for the
tables. The latter would be massive and of stained oak, my general
colour-scheme being red and brown. The chairs would be of the same
style, comfortable chairs in which patrons would be tempted to linger.
The windows would be heavily draped. In a word, the place would have
atmosphere; not the loud and blaring, elegance which I had observed in
the smartest of New York establishments, with shrieking decorations
and tables jammed together, but an atmosphere of distinction which,
though subtle, would yet impress shop-assistants, plate-layers and
road-menders, hodmen, carters, cattle-persons--in short the
Cousin Egbert, I fear, was not properly impressed with my plan, for he
looked longingly at the wall-placards, yet he made the most loyal
pretence to this effect, even when I explained further that I should
probably have no printed menu, which I have always regarded as the
ultimate vulgarity in a place where there are any proper relations
between patrons and steward. He made one wistful, timid reference to
the "Try Our Merchant's Lunch for 35 cents," after which he gave in
entirely, particularly when I explained that ham and eggs in the best
manner would be forthcoming at his order, even though no placard
vaunted them or named their price. Advertising one's ability to serve
ham and eggs, I pointed out to him, would be quite like advertising
that one was a member of the Church of England.
After this he meekly enough accompanied me to his bank, where he
placed a thousand pounds to my credit, adding that I could go as much
farther as I liked, whereupon I set in motion the machinery for
decorating and furnishing the place, with particular attention to
silver, linen, china, and glassware, all of which, I was resolved,
should have an air of its own.
Nor did I neglect to seek out the pair of blacks and enter into an
agreement with them to assist in staffing my place. I had feared that
the male black might have resolved to return to his adventurous life
of outlawry after leaving the employment of Belknap-Jackson, but I
found him peacefully inclined and entirely willing to accept service
with me, while his wife, upon whom I would depend for much of the
actual cooking, was wholly enthusiastic, admiring especially my
colour-scheme of reds. I observed at once that her almost exclusive
notion of preparing food was to fry it, but I made no doubt that I
would be able to broaden her scope, since there are of course things
that one simply does not fry.
The male black, or raccoon, at first alarmed me not a little by reason
of threats he made against Belknap-Jackson on account of having been
shopped. He nursed an intention, so he informed me, of putting
snake-dust in the boots of his late employer and so bringing evil upon
him, either by disease or violence, but in this I discouraged him
smartly, apprising him that the Belknap-Jacksons would doubtless be
among our most desirable patrons, whereupon his wife promised for him
that he would do nothing of the sort. She was a native of formidable
bulk, and her menacing glare at her consort as she made this promise
gave me instant confidence in her power to control him, desperate
fellow though he was.
Later in the day, at the door of the silversmith's, Cousin Egbert
hailed the pressman I had met on the evening of my arrival, and
insisted that I impart to him the details of my venture. The chap
seemed vastly interested, and his sheet the following morning
published the following:
THE DELMONICO OF THE WEST
Colonel Marmaduke Ruggles of London and Paris, for the past
two months a social favourite in Red Gap's select North Side
set, has decided to cast his lot among us and will henceforth
be reckoned as one of our leading business men. The plan of
the Colonel is nothing less than to give Red Gap a truly elite
and recherche restaurant after the best models of London and
Paris, to which purpose he will devote a considerable portion
of his ample means. The establishment will occupy the roomy
corner store of the Pettengill block, and orders have already
been placed for its decoration and furnishing, which will be
sumptuous beyond anything yet seen in our thriving metropolis.
In speaking of his enterprise yesterday, the Colonel remarked,
with a sly twinkle in his eye, "Demosthenes was the son of a
cutler, Cromwell's father was a brewer, your General Grant was
a tanner, and a Mr. Garfield, who held, I gather, an important
post in your government, was once employed on a canal-ship, so
I trust that in this land of equality it will not be presumptuous
on my part to seek to become the managing owner of a restaurant
that will be a credit to the fastest growing town in the state.
"You Americans have," continued the Colonel in his dry, inimitable
manner, "a bewildering variety of foodstuffs, but I trust I may
be forgiven for saying that you have used too little constructive
imagination in the cooking of it. In the one matter of tea,
for example, I have been obliged to figure in some episodes
that were profoundly regrettable. Again, amid the profusion of
fresh vegetables and meats, you are becoming a nation of tinned
food eaters, or canned food as you prefer to call it. This,
I need hardly say, adds to your cost of living and also makes
you liable to one of the most dreaded of modern diseases, a
disease whose rise can be traced to the rise of the tinned-food
industry. Your tin openers rasp into the tin with the result
that a fine sawdust of metal must drop into the contents and
so enter the human system. The result is perhaps negligible in
a large majority of cases, but that it is not universally so
is proved by the prevalence of appendicitis. Not orange or
grape pips, as was so long believed, but the deadly fine rain
of metal shavings must be held responsible for this scourge.
I need hardly say that at the United States Grill no tinned
food will be used."
This latest discovery of the Colonel's is important if true.
Be that as it may, his restaurant will fill a long-felt want,
and will doubtless prove to be an important factor in the social
gayeties of our smart set. Due notice of its opening will be
given in the news and doubtless in the advertising columns of
Again I was brought to marvel at a peculiarity of the American press,
a certain childish eagerness for marvels and grotesque wonders. I had
given but passing thought to my remarks about appendicitis and its
relation to the American tinned-food habit, nor, on reading the chap's
screed, did they impress me as being fraught with vital interest to
thinking people; in truth, I was more concerned with the comparison of
myself to a restaurateur of the crude new city of New York, which
might belittle rather than distinguish me, I suspected. But what was
my astonishment to perceive in the course of a few days that I had
created rather a sensation, with attending newspaper publicity which,
although bizarre enough, I am bound to say contributed not a little to
the consideration in which I afterward came to be held by the more
serious-minded persons of Red Gap.
Busied with the multitude of details attending my installation, I was
called upon by another press chap, representing a Spokane sheet, who
wished me to elaborate my views concerning the most probable cause of
appendicitis, which I found myself able to do with some eloquence,
reciting among other details that even though the metal dust might be
of an almost microscopic fineness, it could still do a mischief to
one's appendix. The press chap appeared wholly receptive to my views,
and, after securing details of my plan to smarten Red Gap with a
restaurant of real distinction, he asked so civilly for a photographic
portrait of myself that I was unable to refuse him. The thing was a
snap taken of me one morning at Chaynes-Wotten by Higgins, the butler,
as I stood by his lordship's saddle mare. It was not by any means the
best likeness I have had, but there was a rather effective bit of
background disclosing the driveway and the facade of the East Wing.
This episode I had well-nigh forgotten when on the following Sunday I
found the thing emblazoned across a page of the Spokane sheet under a
shrieking headline: "Can Opener Blamed for Appendicitis." A secondary
heading ran, "Famous British Sportsman and Bon Vivant Advances Novel
Theory." Accompanying this was a print of the photograph entitled,
"Colonel Marmaduke Ruggles with His Favourite Hunter, at His English
Although the article made suitable reference to myself and my
enterprise, it was devoted chiefly to a discussion of my tin-opening
theory and was supplemented by a rather snarky statement signed by a
physician declaring it to be nonsense. I thought the fellow might have
chosen his words with more care, but again dismissed the matter from
my mind. Yet this was not to be the last of it. In due time came a New
York sheet with a most extraordinary page. "Titled Englishman Learns
Cause of Appendicitis," read the heading in large, muddy type. Below
was the photograph of myself, now entitled, "Sir Marmaduke Ruggles and
His Favourite Hunter." But this was only one of the illustrations.
From the upper right-hand corner a gigantic hand wielding a tin-opener
rained a voluminous spray of metal, presumably, upon a cowering wretch
in the lower left-hand corner, who was quite plainly all in. There
were tables of statistics showing the increase, side by side of
appendicitis and the tinned-food industry, a matter to which I had
devoted, said the print, years of research before announcing my
discovery. Followed statements from half a dozen distinguished
surgeons, each signed autographically, all but one rather bluntly
disagreeing with me, insisting that the tin-opener cuts cleanly and,
if not man's best friend, should at least be considered one of the
triumphs of civilization. The only exception announced that he was at
present conducting laboratory experiments with a view to testing my
theory and would disclose his results in due time. Meantime, he
counselled the public to be not unduly alarmed.
Of the further flood of these screeds, which continued for the better
part of a year, I need not speak. They ran the gamut from serious
leaders in medical journals to paid ridicule of my theory in
advertisements printed by the food-tinning persons, and I have to
admit that in the end the public returned to a full confidence in its
tinned foods. But that is beside the point, which was that Red Gap had
become intensely interested in the United States Grill, and to this I
was not averse, though I would rather I had been regarded as one of
their plain, common sort, instead of the fictitious Colonel which
Cousin Egbert's well-meaning stupidity had foisted upon the town. The
"Sir Marmaduke Ruggles and His Favourite Hunter" had been especially
repugnant to my finer taste, particularly as it was seized upon by the
cheap one-and-six fellow Hobbs for some of his coarsest humour, he
more than once referring to that detestable cur of Mrs. Judson's, who
had quickly resumed his allegiance to me, as my "hunting pack."
The other tradesmen of the town, I am bound to say, exhibited a
friendly interest in my venture which was always welcome and often
helpful. Even one of my competitors showed himself to be a dead sport
by coming to me from time to time with hints and advice. He was an
entirely worthy person who advertised his restaurant as "Bert's
Place." "Go to Bert's Place for a Square Meal," was his favoured line
in the public prints. He, also, I regret to say, made a practice of
displaying cooked foods in his show-window, the window carrying the
line in enamelled letters, "Tables Reserved for Ladies."
Of course between such an establishment and my own there could be
little in common, and I was obliged to reject a placard which he
offered me, reading, "No Checks Cashed. This Means You!" although he
and Cousin Egbert warmly advised that I display it in a conspicuous
place. "Some of them dead beats in the North Side set will put you
sideways if you don't," warned the latter, but I held firmly to the
line of quiet refinement which I had laid down, and explained that I
could allow no such inconsiderate mention of money to be obtruded upon
the notice of my guests. I would devise some subtler protection
against the dead beet-roots.
In the matter of music, however, I was pleased to accept the advice of
Cousin Egbert. "Get one of them musical pianos that you put a nickel
in," he counselled me, and this I did, together with an assorted
repertoire of selections both classical and popular, the latter
consisting chiefly of the ragging time songs to which the native
Americans perform their folkdances.
And now, as the date of my opening drew near, I began to suspect that
its social values might become a bit complicated. Mrs. Belknap-Jackson,
for example, approached me in confidence to know if she might reserve
all the tables in my establishment for the opening evening, remarking
that it would be as well to put the correct social cachet upon the
place at once, which would be achieved by her inviting only the
desirable people. Though she was all for settling the matter at once,
something prompted me to take it under consideration.
The same evening Mrs. Effie approached me with a similar suggestion,
remarking that she would gladly take it upon herself to see that the
occasion was unmarred by the presence of those one would not care to
meet in one's own home. Again I was non-committal, somewhat to her
The following morning I was sought by Mrs. Judge Ballard with the
information that much would depend upon my opening, and if the matter
were left entirely in her hands she would be more than glad to insure
its success. Of her, also, I begged a day's consideration, suspecting
then that I might be compelled to ask these three social leaders to
unite amicably as patronesses of an affair that was bound to have a
supreme social significance. But as I still meditated profoundly over
the complication late that afternoon, overlooking in the meanwhile an
electrician who was busy with my shaded candlesticks, I was surprised
by the self-possessed entrance of the leader of the Bohemian set, the
Klondike person of whom I have spoken. Again I was compelled to
observe that she was quite the most smartly gowned woman in Red Gap,
and that she marvellously knew what to put on her head.
She coolly surveyed my decorations and such of the furnishings as were
in place before addressing me.
"I wish to engage one of your best tables," she began, "for your
opening night--the tenth, isn't it?--this large one in the corner will
do nicely. There will be eight of us. Your place really won't be half
bad, if your food is at all possible."
The creature spoke with a sublime effrontery, quite as if she had not
helped a few weeks before to ridicule all that was best in Red Gap
society, yet there was that about her which prevented me from rebuking
her even by the faintest shade in my manner. More than this, I
suddenly saw that the Bohemian set would be a factor in my trade which
I could not afford to ignore. While I affected to consider her request
she tapped the toe of a small boot with a correctly rolled umbrella,
lifting her chin rather attractively meanwhile to survey my freshly
done ceiling. I may say here that the effect of her was most
compelling, and I could well understand the bitterness with which the
ladies of the Onwards and Upwards Society had gossiped her to rags.
Incidently, this was the first correctly rolled umbrella, saving my
own, that I had seen in North America.
"I shall be pleased," I said, "to reserve this table for you--eight
places, I believe you said?"
She left me as a duchess might have. She was that sort. I felt almost
quite unequal to her. And the die was cast. I faced each of the three
ladies who had previously approached me with the declaration that I
was a licensed victualler, bound to serve all who might apply. That
while I was keenly sensitive to the social aspects of my business, it
was yet a business, and I must, therefore, be in supreme control. In
justice to myself I could not exclusively entertain any faction of the
North Side set, nor even the set in its entirety. In each instance, I
added that I could not debar from my tables even such members of the
Bohemian set as conducted themselves in a seemly manner. It was a
difficult situation, calling out all my tact, yet I faced it with a
firmness which was later to react to my advantage in ways I did not
yet dream of.
So engrossed for a month had I been with furnishers, decorators, char
persons, and others that the time of the Honourable George's arrival
drew on quite before I realized it. A brief and still snarky note had
apprised me of his intention to come out to North America, whereupon I
had all but forgotten him, until a telegram from Chicago or one of
those places had warned me of his imminence. This I displayed to
Cousin Egbert, who, much pleased with himself, declared that the
Honourable George should be taken to the Floud home directly upon his
"I meant to rope him in there on the start," he confided to me, "but I
let on I wasn't decided yet, just to keep 'em stirred up. Mrs. Effie
she butters me up with soft words every day of my life, and that
Jackson lad has offered me about ten thousand of them vegetable
cigarettes, but I'll have to throw him down. He's the human flivver.
Put him in a car of dressed beef and he'd freeze it between here and
Spokane. Yes, sir; you could cut his ear off and it wouldn't bleed. I
ain't going to run the Judge against no such proposition like that."
Of course the poor chap was speaking his own backwoods metaphor, as I
am quite sure he would have been incapable of mutilating
Belknap-Jackson, or even of imprisoning him in a goods van of beef. I
mean to say, it was merely his way of speaking and was not to be taken
at all literally.
As a result of his ensuing call upon the pressman, the sheet of the
following morning contained word of the Honourable George's coming,
the facts being not garbled more than was usual with this chap.
RED GAP'S NOTABLE GUEST
En route for our thriving metropolis is a personage no
less distinguished than the Honourable George Augustus
Vane-Basingwell, only brother and next in line of
succession to his lordship the Earl of Brinstead, the
well-known British peer of London, England. Our noble
visitor will be the house guest of Senator and Mrs.
J. K. Floud, at their palatial residence on Ophir Avenue,
where he will be extensively entertained, particularly by
our esteemed fellow-townsman, Egbert G. Floud, with whom
he recently hobnobbed during the latter's stay in Paris,
France. His advent will doubtless prelude a season of
unparalleled gayety, particularly as Mr. Egbert Floud
assures us that the "Judge," as he affectionately calls
him, is "sure some mixer." If this be true, the gentleman
has selected a community where his talent will find ample
scope, and we bespeak for his lordship a hearty welcome.
I must do Cousin Egbert the justice to say that he showed a due sense of
his responsibility in meeting the Honourable George. By general consent
the honour had seemed to fall to him, both the Belknap-Jacksons and Mrs.
Effie rather timidly conceding his claim that the distinguished guest
would prefer it so. Indeed, Cousin Egbert had been loudly arrogant in
the matter, speaking largely of his European intimacy with the "Judge"
until, as he confided to me, he "had them all bisoned," or, I believe,
"buffaloed" is the term he used, referring to the big-game animal that
has been swept from the American savannahs.
At all events no one further questioned his right to be at the station
when the Honourable George arrived, and for the first time almost
since his own homecoming he got himself up with some attention to
detail. If left to himself I dare say he would have donned frock-coat
and top-hat, but at my suggestion he chose his smartest lounge-suit,
and I took pains to see that the minor details of hat, boots, hose,
gloves, etc., were studiously correct without being at all assertive.
For my own part, I was also at some pains with my attire going
consciously a bit further with details than Cousin Egbert, thinking it
best the Honourable George should at once observe a change in my
bearing and social consequence so that nothing in his manner toward me
might embarrassingly publish our former relations. The stick, gloves,
and monocle would achieve this for the moment, and once alone I meant
to tell him straight that all was over between us as master and man,
we having passed out of each other's lives in that respect. If
necessary, I meant to read to him certain passages from the so-called
"Declaration of Independence," and to show him the fateful little card
I had found, which would acquaint him, I made no doubt, with the great
change that had come upon me, after which our intimacy would rest
solely upon the mutual esteem which I knew to exist between us. I mean
to say, it would never have done for one moment at home, but finding
ourselves together in this wild and lawless country we would neither
of us try to resist America, but face each other as one equal native
Waiting on the station platform with Cousin Egbert, he confided to the
loungers there that he was come to meet his friend Judge Basingwell,
whereat all betrayed a friendly interest, though they were not at all
persons that mattered, being of the semi-leisured class who each day
went down, as they put it, "to see Number Six go through." There was
thus a rather tense air of expectancy when the train pulled in. From
one of the Pullman night coaches emerged the Honourable George,
preceded by a blackamoor or raccoon bearing bags and bundles, and
followed by another uniformed raccoon and a white guard, also bearing
bags and bundles, and all betraying a marked anxiety.
One glance at the Honourable George served to confirm certain fears I
had suffered regarding his appearance. Topped by a deer-stalking
fore-and-aft cap in an inferior state of preservation, he wore the
jacket of a lounge-suit, once possible, doubtless, but now demoded,
and a blazered golfing waistcoat, striking for its poisonous greens,
trousers from an outing suit that I myself had discarded after it came
to me, and boots of an entirely shocking character. Of his cravat I
have not the heart to speak, but I may mention that all his garments
were quite horrid with wrinkles and seemed to have been slept in
Cousin Egbert at once rushed forward to greet his guest, while I
busied myself in receiving the hand-luggage, wishing to have our guest
effaced from the scene and secluded, with all possible speed. There
were three battered handbags, two rolls of travelling rugs, a
stick-case, a dispatch-case, a pair of binoculars, a hat-box, a
top-coat, a storm-coat, a portfolio of correspondence materials, a
camera, a medicine-case, some of these lacking either strap or handle.
The attendants all emitted hearty sighs of relief when these articles
had been deposited upon the platform. Without being told, I divined
that the Honourable George had greatly worried them during the long
journey with his fretful demands for service, and I tipped them
handsomely while he was still engaged with Cousin Egbert and the
latter's station-lounging friends to whom he was being presented. At
last, observing me, he came forward, but halted on surveying the
luggage, and screamed hoarsely to the last attendant who was now
boarding the train. The latter vanished, but reappeared, as the train
moved off, with two more articles, a vacuum night-flask and a tin of
charcoal biscuits, the absence of which had been swiftly detected by
It was at that moment that one of the loungers nearby made a peculiar
observation. "Gee!" said he to a native beside him, "it must take an
awful lot of trouble to be an Englishman." At the moment this seemed
to me to be pregnant with meaning, though doubtless it was because I
had so long been a resident of the North American wilds.
Again the Honourable George approached me and grasped my hand before
certain details of my attire and, I fancy, a certain change in my
bearing, attracted his notice. Perhaps it was the single glass. His
grasp of my hand relaxed and he rubbed his eyes as if dazed from a
blow, but I was able to carry the situation off quite nicely under
cover of the confusion attending his many bags and bundles, being
helped also at the moment by the deeply humiliating discovery of a
certain omission from his attire. I could not at first believe my eyes
and was obliged to look again and again, but there could be no doubt
about it: the Honourable George was wearing a single spat!
I cried out at this, pointing, I fancy, in a most undignified manner,
so terrific had been the shock of it, and what was my amazement to
hear him say: "But I _had_ only one, you silly! How could I wear
'em both when the other was lost in that bally rabbit-hutch they put
me in on shipboard? No bigger than a parcels-lift!" And he had too
plainly crossed North America in this shocking state! Glad I was then
that Belknap-Jackson was not present. The others, I dare say,
considered it a mere freak of fashion. As quickly as I could, I
hustled him into the waiting carriage, piling his luggage about him to
the best advantage and hurrying Cousin Egbert after him as rapidly as
I could, though the latter, as on the occasion of my own arrival,
halted our departure long enough to present the Honourable George to
"Judge, shake hands with my friend Eddie Pierce." adding as the
ceremony was performed, "Eddie keeps a good team, any time you want a
"Sure, Judge," remarked the driver cordially. "Just call up Main 224,
any time. Any friend of Sour-dough's can have anything they want night
or day." Whereupon he climbed to his box and we at last drove away.
The Honourable George had continued from the moment of our meeting to
glance at me in a peculiar, side-long fashion. He seemed fascinated
and yet unequal to a straight look at me. He was undoubtedly dazed, as
I could discern from his absent manner of opening the tin of charcoal
biscuits and munching one. I mean to say, it was too obviously a mere
"I say," he remarked to Cousin Egbert, who was beaming fondly at him,
"how strange it all is! It's quite foreign."
"The fastest-growing little town in the State," said Cousin Egbert.
"But what makes it grow so silly fast?" demanded the other.
"Enterprise and industries," answered Cousin Egbert loftily.
"Nothing to make a dust about," remarked the Honourable George,
staring glassily at the main business thoroughfare. "I've seen larger
towns--scores of them."
"You ain't begun to see this town yet," responded Cousin Egbert
loyally, and he called to the driver, "Has he, Eddie?"
"Sure, he ain't!" said the driver person genially. "Wait till he sees
the new waterworks and the sash-and-blind factory!"
"Is he one of your gentleman drivers?" demanded the Honourable George.
"And why a blind factory?"
"Oh, Eddie's good people all right," answered the other, "and the
factory turns out blinds and things."
"Why turn them out?" he left this and continued: "He's like that
American Johnny in London that drives his own coach to Brighton, yes?
Ripping idea! Gentleman driver. But I say, you know, I'll sit on the
box with him. Pull up a bit, old son!"
To my consternation the driver chap halted, and before I could
remonstrate the Honourable George had mounted to the box beside him.
Thankful I was we had left the main street, though in the residence
avenue where the change was made we attracted far more attention than
was desirable. "Didn't I tell you he was some mixer?" demanded Cousin
Egbert of me, but I was too sickened to make any suitable response.
The Honourable George's possession of a single spat was now flaunted,
as it were, in the face of Red Gap's best families.
"How foreign it all is!" he repeated, turning back to us, yet with
only his side-glance for me. "But the American Johnny in London had a
much smarter coach than this, and better animals, too. You're not up
to his class yet, old thing!"
"That dish-faced pinto on the off side," remarked the driver, "can
outrun anything in this town for fun, money, or marbles."
"Marbles!" called the Honourable George to us; "why marbles? Silly
things! It's all bally strange! And why do your villagers stare so?"
"Some little mixer, all right, all right," murmured Cousin Egbert in a
sort of ecstasy, as we drew up at the Floud home. "And yet one of them
guys back there called him a typical Britisher. You bet I shut him up
quick--saying a thing like that about a plumb stranger. I'd 'a' mixed
it with him right there except I thought it was better to have things
nice and not start something the minute the Judge got here."
With all possible speed I hurried the party indoors, for already faces
were appearing at the windows of neighbouring houses. Mrs. Effie, who
met us, allowed her glare at Cousin Egbert, I fancy, to affect the
cordiality of her greeting to the Honourable George; at least she
seemed to be quite as dazed as he, and there was a moment of
constraint before he went on up to the room that had been prepared for
him. Once safely within the room I contrived a moment alone with him
and removed his single spat, not too gently, I fear, for the nervous
strain since his arrival had told upon me.
"You have reason to be thankful," I said, "that Belknap-Jackson was
not present to witness this."
"They cost seven and six," he muttered, regarding the one spat
wistfully. "But why Belknap-Jackson?"
"Mr. C. Belknap-Jackson of Boston and Red Gap," I returned sternly.
"He does himself perfectly. To think he might have seen you in this
rowdyish state!" And I hastened to seek a presentable lounge-suit from
"Everything is so strange," he muttered again, quite helplessly. "And
why the mural decoration at the edge of the settlement? Why keep one's
eye upon it? Why should they do such things? I say, it's all quite
monstrous, you know."
I saw that indeed he was quite done for with amazement, so I ran him a
bath and procured him a dish of tea. He rambled oddly at moments of
things the guard on the night-coach had told him of North America, of
Niagara Falls, and Missouri and other objects of interest. He was
still almost quite a bit dotty when I was obliged to leave him for an
appointment with the raccoon and his wife to discuss the menu of my
opening dinner, but Cousin Egbert, who had rejoined us, was listening
sympathetically. As I left, the two were pegging it from a bottle of
hunting sherry which the Honourable George had carried in his
dispatch-case. I was about to warn him that he would come out spotted,
but instantly I saw that there must be an end to such surveillance. I
could not manage an enterprise of the magnitude of the United States
Grill and yet have an eye to his meat and drink. I resolved to let
spots come as they would.
On all hands I was now congratulated by members of the North Side set
upon the master-stroke I had played in adding the Honourable George to
their number. Not only did it promise to reunite certain warring
factions in the North Side set itself, but it truly bade fair to
disintegrate the Bohemian set. Belknap-Jackson wrung my hand that
afternoon, begging me to inform the Honourable George that he would
call on the morrow to pay his respects. Mrs. Judge Ballard besought me
to engage him for an early dinner, and Mrs. Effie, it is needless to
say, after recovering from the shock of his arrival, which she
attributed to Cousin Egbert's want of taste, thanked me with a wealth
of genuine emotion.
Only by slight degrees, then, did it fall to be noticed that the
Honourable George did not hold himself to be too strictly bound by our
social conventions as to whom one should be pally with. Thus, on the
morrow, at the hour when the Belknap-Jacksons called, he was
regrettably absent on what Cousin Egbert called "a hack-ride" with the
driver person he had met the day before, nor did they return until
after the callers had waited the better part of two hours. Cousin
Egbert, as usual, received the blame for this, yet neither of the
Belknap-Jacksons nor Mrs. Effie dared to upbraid him.
Being presented to the callers, I am bound to say that the Honourable
George showed himself to be immensely impressed by Belknap-Jackson,
whom I had never beheld more perfectly vogue in all his appointments.
He became, in fact, rather moody in the presence of this subtle
niceness of detail, being made conscious, I dare say, of his own
sloppy lounge-suit, rumpled cravat, and shocking boots, and despite
Belknap-Jackson's amiable efforts to draw him into talk about hunting
in the shires and our county society at home, I began to fear that
they would not hit it off together. The Honourable George did,
however, consent to drive with his caller the following day, and I
relied upon the tandem to recall him to his better self. But when the
callers had departed he became quite almost plaintive to me.
"I say, you know, I shan't be wanted to pal up much with that chap,
shall I? I mean to say, he wears so many clothes. They make me writhe
as if I wore them myself. It won't do, you know."
I told him very firmly that this was piffle of the most wretched sort.
That his caller wore but the prescribed number of garments, each vogue
to the last note, and that he was a person whom one must know. He
responded pettishly that he vastly preferred the gentleman driver with
whom he had spent the afternoon, and "Sour-dough," as he was now
calling Cousin Egbert.
"Jolly chaps, with no swank," he insisted. "We drove quite almost
everywhere--waterworks, cemetery, sash-and-blind factory. You know I
thought 'blind factory' was some of their bally American slang for the
shop of a chap who made eyeglasses and that sort of thing, but nothing
of the kind. They saw up timbers there quite all over the place and
nail them up again into articles. It's all quite foreign."
Nor was his account of his drive with Belknap-Jackson the following
day a bit more reassuring.
"He wouldn't stop again at the sash-and-blind factory, where I wished
to see the timbers being sawed and nailed, but drove me to a country
club which was not in the country and wasn't a club; not a human
there, not even a barman. Fancy a club of that sort! But he took me to
his own house for a glass of sherry and a biscuit, and there it wasn't
so rotten. Rather a mother-in-law I think, she is--bally old booming
grenadier--topping sort--no end of fun. We palled up immensely and I
quite forgot the Jackson chap till it was time for him to drive me
back to these diggings. Rather sulky he was, I fancy; uppish sort.
Told him the old one was quite like old Caroline, dowager duchess of
Clewe, but couldn't tell if it pleased him. Seemed to like it and
seemed not to: rather uncertain.
"Asked him why the people of the settlement pronounced his name
'Belknap Hyphen Jackson,' and that seemed to make him snarky again. I
mean to say names with hyphen marks in 'em--I'd never heard the hyphen
pronounced before, but everything is so strange. He said only the
lowest classes did it as a form of coarse wit, and that he was wasting
himself here. Wouldn't stay another day if it were not for family
reasons. Queer sort of wheeze to say 'hyphen' in a chap's name as if
it were a word, when it wasn't at all. The old girl, though--bellower
she is--perfectly top-hole; familiar with cattle--all that sort of
thing. Sent away the chap's sherry and had 'em bring whiskey and soda.
The hyphen chap fidgeted a good bit--nervous sort, I take it. Looked
through a score of magazines, I dare say, when he found we didn't
notice him much; turned the leaves too fast to see anything, though;
made noises and coughed--that sort of thing. Fine old girl. Daughter,
hyphen chap's wife, tried to talk, too, some rot about the season
being well on here, and was there a good deal of society in London,
and would I be free for dinner on the ninth?
"Silly chatter! old girl talked sense: cattle, mines, timber, blind
factory, two-year olds, that kind of thing. Shall see her often. Not
the hyphen chap, though; too much like one of those Bond Street
Vague misgivings here beset me as to the value of the Honourable
George to the North Side set. Nor could I feel at all reassured on the
following day when Mrs. Effie held an afternoon reception in his
honour. That he should be unaware of the event's importance was to be
expected, for as yet I had been unable to get him to take the Red Gap
social crisis seriously. At the hour when he should have been dressed
and ready I found him playing at cribbage with Cousin Egbert in the
latter's apartment, and to my dismay he insisted upon finishing the
rubber although guests were already arriving.
Even when the game was done he flatly refused to dress suitably,
declaring that his lounge-suit should be entirely acceptable to these
rough frontier people, and he consented to go down at all only on
condition that Cousin Egbert would accompany him. Thereafter for an
hour the two of them drank tea uncomfortably as often as it was given
them, and while the Honourable George undoubtedly made his impression,
I could not but regret that he had so few conversational graces.
How different, I reflected, had been my own entree into this county
society! As well as I might I again carried off the day for the
Honourable George, endeavouring from time to time to put him at his
ease, yet he breathed an unfeigned sigh of relief when the last guest
had left and he could resume his cribbage with Cousin Egbert. But he
had received one impression of which I was glad: an impression of my
own altered social quality, for I had graced the occasion with an
urbanity which was as far beyond him as it must have been astonishing.
It was now that he began to take seriously what I had told him of my
business enterprise, so many of the guests having mentioned it to him
in terms of the utmost enthusiasm. After my first accounts to him he
had persisted in referring to it as a tuck-shop, a sort of place where
schoolboys would exchange their halfpence for toffy, sweet-cakes, and
Now he demanded to be shown the premises and was at once duly
impressed both with their quiet elegance and my own business acumen.
How it had all come about, and why I should be addressed as "Colonel
Ruggles" and treated as a person of some importance in the community,
I dare say he has never comprehended to this day. As I had planned to
do, I later endeavoured to explain to him that in North America
persons were almost quite equal to one another--being born so--but at
this he told me not to be silly and continued to regard my rise as an
insoluble part of the strangeness he everywhere encountered, even
after I added that Demosthenes was the son of a cutler, that Cardinal
Wolsey's father had been a pork butcher, and that Garfield had worked
on a canal-boat. I found him quite hopeless. "Chaps go dotty talkin'
that piffle," was his comment.
At another time, I dare say, I should have been rather distressed over
this inability of the Honourable George to comprehend and adapt
himself to the peculiarities of American life as readily as I had
done, but just now I was quite too taken up with the details of my
opening to give it the deeper consideration it deserved. In fact,
there were moments when I confessed to myself that I did not care
tuppence about it, such was the strain upon my executive faculties.
When decorators and furnishers had done their work, when the choice
carpet was laid, when the kitchen and table equipments were completed
to the last detail, and when the lighting was artistically correct,
there was still the matter of service.
As to this, I conceived and carried out what I fancy was rather a
brilliant stroke, which was nothing less than to eliminate the fellow
Hobbs as a social factor of even the Bohemian set. In contracting with
him for my bread and rolls, I took an early opportunity of setting the
chap in his place, as indeed it was not difficult to do when he had
observed the splendid scale on which I was operating. At our second
interview he was removing his hat and addressing me as "sir."
While I have found that I can quite gracefully place myself on a level
with the middle-class American, there is a serving type of our own
people to which I shall eternally feel superior; the Hobbs fellow was
of this sort, having undeniably the soul of a lackey. In addition to
jobbing his bread and rolls, I engaged him as pantry man, and took on
such members of his numerous family as were competent. His wife was to
assist my raccoon cook in the kitchen, three of his sons were to serve
as waiters, and his youngest, a lad in his teens, I installed as
vestiare, garbing him in a smart uniform and posting him to relieve my
gentleman patrons of their hats and top-coats. A daughter was
similarly installed as maid, and the two achieved an effect of
smartness unprecedented in Red Gap, an effect to which I am glad to
say that the community responded instantly.
In other establishments it was the custom for patrons to hang their
garments on hat-pegs, often under a printed warning that the
proprietor would disclaim responsibility in case of loss. In the one
known as "Bert's Place" indeed the warning was positively vulgar:
"Watch Your Overcoat." Of course that sort of coarseness would have
been impossible in my own place.
As another important detail I had taken over from Mrs. Judson her
stock of jellies and compotes which I had found to be of a most
excellent character, and had ordered as much more as she could manage
to produce, together with cut flowers from her garden for my tables.
She, herself, being a young woman of the most pleasing capabilities,
had done a bit of charring for me and was now to be in charge of the
glassware, linen, and silver. I had found her, indeed, highly
sympathetic with my highest aims, and not a few of her suggestions as
to management proved to be entirely sound. Her unspeakable dog
continued his quite objectionable advances to me at every opportunity,
in spite of my hitting him about, rather, when I could do so
unobserved, but the sinister interpretation that might be placed upon
this by the baser-minded was now happily answered by the circumstance
of her being in my employment. Her child, I regret to say, was still
grossly overfed, seldom having its face free from jam or other smears.
It persisted, moreover, in twisting my name into "Ruggums," which I
found not a little embarrassing.
The night of my opening found me calmly awaiting the triumph that was
due me. As some one has said of Napoleon, I had won my battle in my
tent before the firing of a single shot. I mean to say, I had looked
so conscientiously after details, even to assuring myself that Cousin
Egbert and the Honourable George would appear in evening dress, my
last act having been to coerce each of them into purchasing varnished
boots, the former submitting meekly enough, though the Honourable
George insisted it was a silly fuss.
At seven o'clock, having devoted a final inspection to the kitchen
where the female raccoon was well on with the dinner, and having noted
that the members of my staff were in their places, I gave a last
pleased survey of my dining-room, with its smartly equipped tables,
flower-bedecked, gleaming in the softened light from my shaded
candlesticks. Truly it was a scene of refined elegance such as Red Gap
had never before witnessed within its own confines, and I had seen to
it that the dinner as well would mark an epoch in the lives of these
simple but worthy people.
Not a heavy nor a cloying repast would they find. Indeed, the bare
simplicity of my menu, had it been previously disclosed, would
doubtless have disappointed more than one of my dinner-giving
patronesses; but each item had been perfected to an extent never
achieved by them. Their weakness had ever been to serve a profusion of
neutral dishes, pleasing enough to the eye, but unedifying except as a
spectacle. I mean to say, as food it was noncommittal; it failed to
I should serve only a thin soup, a fish, small birds, two vegetables,
a salad, a sweet and a savoury, but each item would prove worthy of
the profoundest consideration. In the matter of thin soup, for
example, the local practice was to serve a fluid of which, beyond the
circumstance that it was warmish and slightly tinted, nothing of
interest could ever be ascertained. My own thin soup would be a
revelation to them. Again, in the matter of fish. This course with the
hostesses of Red Gap had seemed to be merely an excuse for a pause. I
had truly sympathized with Cousin Egbert's bitter complaint: "They
hand you a dab of something about the size of a watch-charm with two
strings of potato."
For the first time, then, the fish course in Red Gap was to be an
event, an abundant portion of native fish with a lobster sauce which I
had carried out to its highest power. My birds, hot from the oven,
would be food in the strictest sense of the word, my vegetables cooked
with a zealous attention, and my sweet immensely appealing without
being pretentiously spectacular. And for what I believed to be quite
the first time in the town, good coffee would be served.
Disheartening, indeed, had been the various attenuations of coffee
which had been imposed upon me in my brief career as a diner-out among
these people. Not one among them had possessed the genius to master an
acceptable decoction of the berry, the bald simplicity of the correct
formula being doubtless incredible to them.
The blare of a motor horn aroused me from this musing, and from that
moment I had little time for meditation until the evening, as the
_Journal_ recorded the next morning, "had gone down into history."
My patrons arrived in groups, couples, or singly, almost faster than
I could seat them. The Hobbs lad, as vestiare, would halt them for
hats and wraps, during which pause they would emit subdued cries of
surprise and delight at my beautifully toned ensemble, after which,
as they walked to their tables, it was not difficult to see that they
were properly impressed.
Mrs. Effie, escorted by the Honourable George and cousin Egbert, was
among the early arrivals; the Senator being absent from town at a
sitting of the House. These were quickly followed by the
Belknap-Jacksons and the Mixer, resplendent in purple satin and
diamonds, all being at one of my large tables, so that the Honourable
George sat between Mrs. Belknap-Jackson and Mrs. Effie, though he at
first made a somewhat undignified essay to seat himself next the
Mixer. Needless to say, all were in evening dress, though the
Honourable George had fumbled grossly with his cravat and rumpled his
shirt, nor had he submitted to having his beard trimmed, as I had
warned him to do. As for Belknap-Jackson, I had never beheld him more
truly vogue in every detail, and his slightly austere manner in any
Red Gap gathering had never set him better. Both Mrs. Belknap-Jackson
and Mrs. Effie wielded their lorgnons upon the later comers, thus
giving their table quite an air.
Mrs. Judge Ballard, who had come to be one of my staunchest adherents,
occupied an adjacent table with her family party and two or three of
the younger dancing set. The Indian Tuttle with his wife and two
daughters were also among the early comers, and I could not but marvel
anew at the red man's histrionic powers. In almost quite correct
evening attire, and entirely decorous in speech and gesture, he might
readily have been thought some one that mattered, had he not at an
early opportunity caught my eye and winked with a sly significance.
Quite almost every one of the North Side set was present, imparting to
my room a general air of distinguished smartness, and in addition
there were not a few of what Belknap-Jackson had called the "rabble,"
persons of no social value, to be sure, but honest, well-mannered
folk, small tradesmen, shop-assistants, and the like. These plain
people, I may say, I took especial pains to welcome and put at their
ease, for I had resolved, in effect, to be one of them, after the
manner prescribed by their Declaration thing.
With quite all of them I chatted easily a moment or two, expressing
the hope that they would be well pleased with their entertainment. I
noted while thus engaged that Belknap-Jackson eyed me with frank and
superior cynicism, but this affected me quite not at all and I took
pains to point my indifference, chatting with increased urbanity with
the two cow-persons, Hank and Buck, who had entered rather
uncertainly, not in evening dress, to be sure, but in decent black as
befitted their stations. When I had prevailed upon them to surrender
their hats to the vestiare and had seated them at a table for two,
they informed me in hoarse undertones that they were prepared to "put
a bet down on every card from soda to hock," so that I at first
suspected they had thought me conducting a gaming establishment, but
ultimately gathered that they were merely expressing a cordial
determination to enter into the spirit of the occasion.
There then entered, somewhat to my uneasiness, the Klondike woman and
her party. Being almost the last, it will be understood that they
created no little sensation as she led them down the thronged room to
her table. She was wearing an evening gown of lustrous black with the
apparently simple lines that are so baffling to any but the expert
maker, with a black picture hat that suited her no end. I saw more
than one matron of the North Side set stiffen in her seat, while Mrs.
Belknap-Jackson and Mrs. Effie turned upon her the chilling broadside
of their lorgnons. Belknap-Jackson merely drew himself up austerely.
The three other women of her party, flutterers rather, did little but
set off their hostess. The four men were of a youngish sort, chaps in
banks, chemists' assistants, that sort of thing, who were constantly
to be seen in her train. They were especially reprobated by the
matrons of the correct set by reason of their deliberately choosing to
ally themselves with the Bohemian set.
Acutely feeling the antagonism aroused by this group, I was
momentarily discouraged in a design I had half formed of using my
undoubted influence to unite the warring social factions of Red Gap,
even as Bismarck had once brought the warring Prussian states together
in a federated Germany. I began to see that the Klondike woman would
forever prove unacceptable to the North Side set. The cliques would
unite against her, even if one should find in her a spirit of
reconciliation, which I supremely doubted.
The bustle having in a measure subsided, I gave orders for the soup to
be served, at the same time turning the current into the electric
pianoforte. I had wished for this opening number something attractive
yet dignified, which would in a manner of speaking symbolize an
occasion to me at least highly momentous. To this end I had chosen
Handel's celebrated Largo, and at the first strains of this highly
meritorious composition I knew that I had chosen surely. I am sure the
piece was indelibly engraved upon the minds of those many
dinner-givers who were for the first time in their lives realizing
that a thin soup may be made a thing to take seriously.
Nominally, I occupied a seat at the table with the Belknap-Jacksons
and Mrs. Effie, though I apprehended having to be more or less up and
down in the direction of my staff. Having now seated myself to soup, I
was for the first time made aware of the curious behaviour of the
Honourable George. Disregarding his own soup, which was of itself
unusual with him, he was staring straight ahead with a curious
intensity. A half turn of my head was enough. He sat facing the
Klondike woman. As I again turned a bit I saw that under cover of her
animated converse with her table companions she was at intervals
allowing her very effective eyes to rest, as if absently, upon him. I
may say now that a curious chill seized me, bringing with it a sudden
psychic warning that all was not going to be as it should be. Some
calamity impended. The man was quite apparently fascinated, staring
with a fixed, hypnotic intensity that had already been noted by his
companions on either side.
With a word about the soup, shot quickly and directly at him, I
managed to divert his gaze, but his eyes had returned even before the
spoon had gone once to his lips. The second time there was a soup
stain upon his already rumpled shirt front. Presently it became only
too horribly certain that the man was out of himself, for when the
fish course was served he remained serenely unconscious that none of
the lobster sauce accompanied his own portion. It was a rich sauce,
and the almost immediate effect of shell-fish upon his complexion
being only too well known to me, I had directed that his fish should
be served without it, though I had fully expected him to row me for it
and perhaps create a scene. The circumstance of his blindly attacking
the unsauced fish was eloquent indeed.
The Belknap-Jacksons and Mrs. Effie were now plainly alarmed, and
somewhat feverishly sought to engage his attention, with the result
only that he snapped monosyllables at them without removing his gaze
from its mark. And the woman was now too obviously pluming herself
upon the effect she had achieved; upon us all she flashed an amused
consciousness of her power, yet with a fine affectation of quite
ignoring us. I was here obliged to leave the table to oversee the
serving of the wine, returning after an interval to find the situation
unchanged, save that the woman no longer glanced at the Honourable
George. Such were her tactics. Having enmeshed him, she confidently
left him to complete his own undoing. I had returned with the serving
of the small birds. Observing his own before him, the Honourable
George wished to be told why he had not been served with fish, and
only with difficulty could be convinced that he had partaken of this.
"Of course in public places one must expect to come into contact with
persons of that sort," remarked Mrs. Effie.
"Something should be done about it," observed Mrs. Belknap-Jackson,
and they both murmured "Creature!" though it was plain that the
Honourable George had little notion to whom they referred. Observing,
however, that the woman no longer glanced at him, he fell to his bird
somewhat whole-heartedly, as indeed did all my guests.
From every side I could hear eager approval of the repast which was
now being supplemented at most of the tables by a sound wine of the
Burgundy type which I had recommended or by a dry champagne. Meantime,
the electric pianoforte played steadily through a repertoire that had
progressed from the Largo to more vivacious pieces of the American
folkdance school. As was said in the press the following day, "Gayety
and good-feeling reigned supreme, and one and all felt that it was
indeed good to be there."
Through the sweet and the savoury the dinner progressed, the latter
proving to be a novelty that the hostesses of Red Gap thereafter
slavishly copied, and with the advent of the coffee ensued a
noticeable relaxation. People began to visit one another's tables and
there was a blithe undercurrent of praise for my efforts to smarten
the town's public dining.
The Klondike woman, I fancy, was the first to light a cigarette,
though quickly followed by the ladies of her party. Mrs.
Belknap-Jackson and Mrs. Effie, after a period of futile glaring at
her through the lorgnons, seemed to make their resolves
simultaneously, and forthwith themselves lighted cigarettes.
"Of course it's done in the smart English restaurants," murmured
Belknap-Jackson as he assisted the ladies to their lights. Thereupon
Mrs. Judge Ballard, farther down the room, began to smoke what I
believe was her first cigarette, which proved to be a signal for other
ladies of the Onwards and Upwards Society to do the same, Mrs. Ballard
being their president. It occurred to me that these ladies were grimly
bent on showing the Klondike woman that they could trifle quite as
gracefully as she with the lesser vices of Bohemia; or perhaps they
wished to demonstrate to the younger dancing men in her train that the
North Side set was not desolately austere in its recreation. The
Honourable George, I regret to say, produced a smelly pipe which he
would have lighted; but at a shocked and cold glance from me he put it
by and allowed the Mixer to roll him one of the yellow paper
cigarettes from a sack of tobacco which she had produced from some
secret recess of her costume.
Cousin Egbert had been excitedly happy throughout the meal and now
paid me a quaint compliment upon the food. "Some eats, Bill!" he
called to me. "I got to hand it to you," though what precisely it was
he wished to hand me I never ascertained, for the Mixer at that moment
claimed my attention with a compliment of her own. "That," said she,
"is the only dinner I've eaten for a long time that was composed
entirely of food."
This hour succeeding the repast I found quite entirely agreeable, more
than one person that mattered assuring me that I had assisted Red Gap
to a notable advance in the finest and correctest sense of the word,
and it was with a very definite regret that I beheld my guests
departing. Returning to our table from a group of these who had called
me to make their adieus, I saw that a most regrettable incident had
occurred--nothing less than the formal presentation of the Honourable
George to the Klondike woman. And the Mixer had appallingly done it!
"Everything is so strange here," I heard him saying as I passed their
table, and the woman echoed, "Everything!" while her glance enveloped
him with a curious effect of appraisal. The others of her party were
making much of him, I could see, quite as if they had preposterous
designs of wresting him from the North Side set to be one of
themselves. Mrs. Belknap-Jackson and Mrs. Effie affected to ignore the
meeting. Belknap-Jackson stared into vacancy with a quite shocked
expression as if vandals had desecrated an altar in his presence.
Cousin Egbert having drawn off one of his newly purchased boots during
the dinner was now replacing it with audible groans, but I caught his
joyous comment a moment later: "Didn't I tell you the Judge was some
"Mixing, indeed," snapped the ladies.
A half-hour later the historic evening had come to an end. The last
guest had departed, and all of my staff, save Mrs. Judson and her male
child. These I begged to escort to their home, since the way was
rather far and dark. The child, incautiously left in the kitchen at
the mercy of the female black, had with criminal stupidity been
stuffed with food, traces of almost every course of the dinner being
apparent upon its puffy countenance. Being now in a stupor from
overfeeding, I was obliged to lug the thing over my shoulder. I
resolved to warn the mother at an early opportunity of the perils of
an unrestricted diet, although the deluded creature seemed actually to
glory in its corpulence. I discovered when halfway to her residence
that the thing was still tightly clutching the gnawed thigh-bone of a
fowl which was spotting the shoulder of my smartest top-coat. The
mother, however, was so ingenuously delighted with my success and so
full of prattle concerning my future triumphs that I forbore to
instruct her at this time. I may say that of all my staff she had
betrayed the most intelligent understanding of my ideals, and I bade
her good-night with a strong conviction that she would greatly assist
me in the future. She also promised that Mr. Barker should thereafter
be locked in a cellar at such times as she was serving me.
Returning through the town, I heard strains of music from the
establishment known as "Bert's Place," and was shocked on staring
through his show window to observe the Honourable George and Cousin
Egbert waltzing madly with the cow-persons, Hank and Buck, to the
strains of a mechanical piano. The Honourable George had exchanged his
top-hat for his partner's cow-person hat, which came down over his
ears in a most regrettable manner.
I thought it best not to intrude upon their coarse amusement and went
on to the grill to see that all was safe for the night. Returning from
my inspection some half-hour later, I came upon the two, Cousin Egbert
in the lead, the Honourable George behind him. They greeted me
somewhat boisterously, but I saw that they were now content to return
home and to bed. As they walked somewhat mincingly, I noticed that
they were in their hose, carrying their varnished boots in either
Of the Honourable George, who still wore the cow-person's hat, I began
now to have the gravest doubts. There had been an evil light in the
eyes of the Klondike woman and her Bohemian cohorts as they surveyed
him. As he preceded me I heard him murmur ecstatically: "Sush is
Launched now upon a business venture that would require my unremitting
attention if it were to prosper, it may be imagined that I had little
leisure for the social vagaries of the Honourable George, shocking as
these might be to one's finer tastes. And yet on the following morning
I found time to tell him what. To put it quite bluntly, I gave him
beans for his loose behaviour the previous evening, in publicly ogling
and meeting as an equal one whom one didn't know.
To my amazement, instead of being heartily ashamed of his
licentiousness, I found him recalcitrant. Stubborn as a mule he was
and with a low animal cunning that I had never given him credit for.
"Demosthenes was the son of a cutler," said he, "and Napoleon worked
on a canal-boat, what? Didn't you say so yourself, you juggins, what?
Fancy there being upper and lower classes among natives! What rot! And
I like North America. I don't mind telling you straight I'm going to
take it up."
Horrified by these reckless words, I could only say "Noblesse oblige,"
meaning to convey that whatever the North Americans did, the next Earl
of Brinstead must not meet persons one doesn't know, whereat he
rejoined tartly that I was "to stow that piffle!"
Being now quite alarmed, I took the further time to call upon
Belknap-Jackson, believing that he, if any one, could recall the
Honourable George to his better nature. He, too, was shocked, as I had
been, and at first would have put the blame entirely upon the
shoulders of Cousin Egbert, but at this I was obliged to admit that
the Honourable George had too often shown a regrettable fondness for
the society of persons that did not matter, especially females, and I
cited the case of the typing-girl and the Brixton millinery person,
with either of whom he would have allied himself in marriage had not
his lordship intervened. Belknap-Jackson was quite properly horrified
at these revelations.
"Has he no sense of 'Noblesse oblige'?" he demanded, at which I quoted
the result of my own use of this phrase to the unfortunate man. Quite
too plain it was that "Noblesse oblige!" would never stop him from
yielding to his baser impulses.
"We must be tactful, then," remarked Belknap-Jackson. "Without
appearing to oppose him we must yet show him who is really who in Red
Gap. We shall let him see that we have standards which must be as
rigidly adhered to as those of an older civilization. I fancy it can
Privately I fancied not, yet I forbore to say this or to prolong the
painful interview, particularly as I was due at the United States
The _Recorder_ of that morning had done me handsomely, declaring
my opening to have been a social event long to be remembered, and
describing the costumes of a dozen or more of the smartly gowned
matrons, quite as if it had been an assembly ball. My task now was to
see that the Grill was kept to the high level of its opening, both as
a social ganglion, if one may use the term, and as a place to which
the public would ever turn for food that mattered. For my first
luncheon the raccoons had prepared, under my direction, a
steak-and-kidney pie, in addition to which I offered a thick soup and
a pudding of high nutritive value.
To my pleased astonishment the crowd at midday was quite all that my
staff could serve, several of the Hobbs brood being at school, and the
luncheon was received with every sign of approval by the business
persons who sat to it. Not only were there drapers, chemists, and
shop-assistants, but solicitors and barristers, bankers and estate
agents, and all quite eager with their praise of my fare. To each of
these I explained that I should give them but few things, but that
these would be food in the finest sense of the word, adding that the
fault of the American school lay in attempting a too-great profusion
of dishes, none of which in consequence could be raised to its highest
So sound was my theory and so nicely did my simple-dished luncheon
demonstrate it that I was engaged on the spot to provide the
bi-monthly banquet of the Chamber of Commerce, the president of which
rather seriously proposed that it now be made a monthly affair, since
they would no longer be at the mercy of a hotel caterer whose ambition
ran inversely to his skill. Indeed, after the pudding, I was this day
asked to become a member of the body, and I now felt that I was
indubitably one of them--America and I had taken each other as
seriously as could be desired.
More than once during the afternoon I wondered rather painfully what
the Honourable George might be doing. I knew that he had been promised
to a meeting of the Onwards and Upwards Club through the influence of
Mrs. Effie, where it had been hoped that he would give a talk on
Country Life in England. At least she had hinted to them that he might
do this, though I had known from the beginning that he would do
nothing of the sort, and had merely hoped that he would appear for a
dish of tea and stay quiet, which was as much as the North Side set
could expect of him. Induced to speak, I was quite certain he would
tell them straight that Country Life in England was silly rot, and
that was all to it. Now, not having seen him during the day, I could
but hope that he had attended the gathering in suitable afternoon
attire, and that he would have divined that the cattle-person's hat
did not coordinate with this.
At four-thirty, while I was still concerned over the possible
misadventures of the Honourable George, my first patrons for tea began
to arrive, for I had let it be known that I should specialize in this.
Toasted crumpets there were, and muffins, and a tea cake rich with
plums, and tea, I need not say, which was all that tea could be.
Several tables were filled with prominent ladies of the North Side
set, who were loud in their exclamations of delight, especially at the
finished smartness of my service, for it was perhaps now that the
profoundly serious thought I had given to my silver, linen, and
glassware showed to best advantage. I suspect that this was the first
time many of my guests had encountered a tea cozy, since from that day
they began to be prevalent in Red Gap homes. Also my wagon containing
the crumpets, muffins, tea cake, jam and bread-and-butter, which I now
used for the first time created a veritable sensation.
There was an agreeable hum of chatter from these early comers when I
found myself welcoming Mrs. Judge Ballard and half a dozen members of
the Onwards and Upwards Club, all of them wearing what I made out to
be a baffled look. From these I presently managed to gather that their
guest of honour for the afternoon had simply not appeared, and that
the meeting, after awaiting him for two hours, had dissolved in some
resentment, the time having been spent chiefly in an unflattering
dissection of the Klondike woman's behaviour the evening before.
"He is a naughty man to disappoint us so cruelly!" declared Mrs. Judge
Ballard of the Honourable George, but the coquetry of it was feigned
to cover a very real irritation. I made haste with possible excuses. I
said that he might be ill, or that important letters in that day's
post might have detained him. I knew he had been astonishingly well
that morning, also that he loathed letters and almost practically
never received any; but something had to be said.
"A naughty, naughty fellow!" repeated Mrs. Ballard, and the members of
her party echoed it. They had looked forward rather pathetically, I
saw, to hearing about Country Life in England from one who had lived
I was now drawn to greet the Belknap-Jacksons, who entered, and to the
pleasure of winning their hearty approval for the perfection of my
arrangements. As the wife presently joined Mrs. Ballard's group, the
husband called me to his table and disclosed that almost the worst
might be feared of the Honourable George. He was at that moment, it
appeared, with a rabble of cow-persons and members of the lower class
gathered at a stockade at the edge of town, where various native
horses fresh from the wilderness were being taught to be ridden.
"The wretched Floud is with him," continued my informant, "also the
Tuttle chap, who continues to be received by our best people in spite
of my remonstrances, and he yells quite like a demon when one of the
riders is thrown. I passed as quickly as I could. The spectacle
was--of course I make allowances for Vane-Basingwell's ignorance of
our standards--it was nothing short of disgusting; a man of his
position consorting with the herd!"
"He told me no longer ago than this morning," I said, "that he was
going to take up America."
"He _has_!" said Belknap-Jackson with bitter emphasis. "You
should see what he has on--a cowboy hat and chapps! And the very
lowest of them are calling him 'Judge'!"
"He flunked a meeting of the Onwards and Upwards Society," I added.
"I know! I know! And who could have expected it in one of his lineage?
At this very moment he should be conducting himself as one of his
class. Can you wonder at my impatience with the West? Here at an hour
when our social life should be in evidence, when all trade should be
forgotten, I am the only man in the town who shows himself in a
tea-room; and Vane-Basingwell over there debasing himself with our
All at once I saw that I myself must bear the brunt of this scandal. I
had brought hither the Honourable George, promising a personage who
would for once and all unify the North Side set and perhaps
disintegrate its rival. I had been felicitated upon my master-stroke.
And now it seemed I had come a cropper. But I resolved not to give up,
and said as much now to Belknap-Jackson.
"I may be blamed for bringing him among you, but trust me if things
are really as bad as they seem. I'll get him off again. I'll not let
myself be bowled by such a silly lob as that. Trust me to devote
profound thought to this problem."
"We all have every confidence in you," he assured me, "but don't be
too severe all at once with the chap. He might recover a sane balance
"I shall use discretion," I assured him, "but if it proves that I have
fluffed my catch, rely upon me to use extreme measures."
"Red Gap needs your best effort," he replied in a voice that brimmed
At five-thirty, my rush being over, I repaired to the neighbourhood
where the Honourable George had been reported. The stockade now
contained only a half-score of the untaught horses, but across the
road from it was a public house, or saloon, from which came
unmistakable sounds of carousing. It was an unsavoury place,
frequented only by cattle and horse persons, the proprietor being an
abandoned character named Spilmer, who had once done a patron to death
in a drunken quarrel. Only slight legal difficulties had been made for
him, however, it having been pleaded that he acted in self-defence,
and the creature had at once resumed his trade as publican. There was
even public sympathy for him at the time on the ground that he
possessed a blind mother, though I have never been able to see that
this should have been a factor in adjudging him.
I paused now before the low place, imagining I could detect the tones
of the Honourable George high above the chorus that came out to me.
Deciding that in any event it would not become me to enter a resort of
this stamp, I walked slowly back toward the more reputable part of
town, and was presently rewarded by seeing the crowd emerge. It was
led, I saw, by the Honourable George. The cattle-hat was still down
upon his ears, and to my horror he had come upon the public
thoroughfare with his legs encased in the chapps--a species of
leathern pantalettes covered with goat's wool--a garment which I need
not say no gentleman should be seen abroad in. As worn by the
cow-persons in their daily toil they are only just possible, being as
far from true vogue as anything well could be.
Accompanying him were Cousin Egbert, the Indian Tuttle, the
cow-persons, Hank and Buck, and three or four others of the same rough
stamp. Unobtrusively I followed them to our main thoroughfare, deeply
humiliated by the atrocious spectacle the Honourable George was making
of himself, only to observe them turn into another public house
entitled "The Family Liquor Store," where if seemed only too certain,
since the bearing of all was highly animated, that they would again
At once seeing my duty, I boldly entered, finding them aligned against
the American bar and clamouring for drink. My welcome was heartfelt,
even enthusiastic, almost every one of them beginning to regale me
with incidents of the afternoon's horse-breaking. The Honourable
George, it seemed, had himself briefly mounted one of the animals,
having fallen into the belief that the cow-persons did not try
earnestly enough to stay on their mounts. I gathered that one
experience had dissuaded him from this opinion.
"That there little paint horse," observed Cousin Egbert genially,
"stepped out from under the Judge the prettiest you ever saw."
"He sure did," remarked the Honourable George, with a palpable effort
to speak the American brogue. "A most flighty beast he was--nerves all
gone--I dare say a hopeless neurasthenic."
And then when I would have rebuked him for so shamefully disappointing
the ladies of the Onwards and Upwards Society, he began to tell me of
the public house he had just left.
"I say, you know that Spilmer chap, he's a genuine murderer--he let me
hold the weapon with which he did it--and he has blind relatives
dependent upon him, or something of that sort, otherwise I fancy
they'd have sent him to the gallows. And, by Gad! he's a witty
scoundrel, what! Looking at his sign--leaving the settlement it reads,
'Last Chance,' but entering the settlement it reads, 'First Chance.'
Last chance and first chance for a peg, do you see what I mean? I
tried it out; walked both ways under the sign and looked up; it worked
perfectly. Enter the settlement, 'First Chance'; leave the settlement,
'Last Chance.' Do you see what I mean? Suggestive, what! Witty! You'd
never have expected that murderer-Johnny to be so subtle. Our own
murderers aren't that way. I say, it's a tremendous wheeze. I wonder
the press-chaps don't take it up. It's better than the blind factory,
though the chap's mother or something is blind. What ho! But that's
silly! To be sure one has nothing to do with the other. I say, have
another, you chaps! I've not felt so fit in ages. I'm going to take up
Plainly it was no occasion to use serious words to the man. He slapped
his companions smartly on their backs and was slapped in turn by all
of them. One or two of them called him an old horse! Not only was I
doing no good for the North Side set, but I had felt obliged to
consume two glasses of spirits that I did not wish. So I discreetly
withdrew. As I went, the Honourable George was again telling them that
he was "going in" for North America, and Cousin Egbert was calling
"Three rousing cheers!"
Thus luridly began, I may say, a scandal that was to be far-reaching
in its dreadful effects. Far from feeling a proper shame on the
following day, the Honourable George was as pleased as Punch with
himself, declaring his intention of again consorting with the cattle
and horse persons and very definitely declining an invitation to play
at golf with Belknap-Jackson.
"Golf!" he spluttered. "You do it, and then you've directly to do it
all over again. I mean to say, one gets nowhere. A silly game--what!"
Wishing to be in no manner held responsible for his vicious pursuits,
I that day removed my diggings from the Floud home to chambers in the
Pettengill block above the Grill, where I did myself quite nicely with
decent mantel ornaments, some vivacious prints of old-world
cathedrals, and a few good books, having for body-servant one of the
Hobbs lads who seemed rather teachable. I must admit, however, that I
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