Ruggles of Red Gap
Harry Leon Wilson
Part 5 out of 6
was frequently obliged to address him more sharply than one should
ever address one's servant, my theory having always been that a
serving person should be treated quite as if he were a gentleman
temporarily performing menial duties, but there was that strain of
lowness in all the Hobbses which often forbade this, a blending of
servility with more or less skilfully dissembled impertinence, which I
dare say is the distinguishing mark of our lower-class serving people.
Removed now from the immediate and more intimate effects of the
Honourable George's digressions, I was privileged for days at a time
to devote my attention exclusively to my enterprise. It had thriven
from the beginning, and after a month I had so perfected the minor
details of management that everything was right as rain. In my
catering I continued to steer a middle course between the British
school of plain roast and boiled and a too often piffling French
complexity, seeking to retain the desirable features of each. My
luncheons for the tradesmen rather held to a cut from the joint with
vegetables and a suitable sweet, while in my dinners I relaxed a bit
into somewhat imaginative salads and entrees. For the tea-hour I
constantly strove to provide some appetizing novelty, often, I
confess, sacrificing nutrition to mere sightliness in view of my
almost exclusive feminine patronage, yet never carrying this to an
As a result of my sound judgment, dinner-giving in Red Gap began that
winter to be done almost entirely in my place. There might be small
informal affairs at home, but for dinners of any pretension the
hostesses of the North Side set came to me, relying almost quite
entirely upon my taste in the selection of the menu. Although at first
I was required to employ unlimited tact in dissuading them from
strange and laboured concoctions, whose photographs they fetched me
from their women's magazines, I at length converted them from this
unwholesome striving for novelty and laid the foundations for that
sound scheme of gastronomy which to-day distinguishes this
fastest-growing town in the state, if not in the West of America.
It was during these early months, I ought perhaps to say, that I
rather distinguished myself in the matter of a relish which I
compounded one day when there was a cold round of beef for luncheon.
Little dreaming of the magnitude of the moment, I brought together
English mustard and the American tomato catsup, in proportions which
for reasons that will be made obvious I do not here disclose, together
with three other and lesser condiments whose identity also must remain
a secret. Serving this with my cold joint, I was rather amazed at the
sensation it created. My patrons clamoured for it repeatedly and a
barrister wished me to prepare a flask of it for use in his home. The
following day it was again demanded and other requests were made for
private supplies, while by the end of the week my relish had become
rather famous. Followed a suggestion from Mrs. Judson as she
overlooked my preparation of it one day from her own task of polishing
"Put it on the market," said she, and at once I felt the inspiration
of her idea. To her I entrusted the formula. I procured a quantity of
suitable flasks, while in her own home she compounded the stuff and
filled them. Having no mind to claim credit not my own, I may now say
that this rather remarkable woman also evolved the idea of the label,
including the name, which was pasted upon the bottles when our product
"Ruggles' International Relish" she had named it after a moment's
thought. Below was a print of my face taken from an excellent
photographic portrait, followed by a brief summary of the article's
unsurpassed excellence, together with a list of the viands for which
it was commended. As the International Relish is now a matter of
history, the demand for it having spread as far east as Chicago and
those places, I may add that it was this capable woman again who
devised the large placard for hoardings in which a middle-aged but
glowing bon-vivant in evening dress rebukes the blackamoor who has
served his dinner for not having at once placed Ruggles' International
Relish upon the table. The genial annoyance of the diner and the
apologetic concern of the black are excellently depicted by the
artist, for the original drawing of which I paid a stiffish price to
the leading artist fellow of Spokane. This now adorns the wall of my
It must not be supposed that I had been free during these months from
annoyance and chagrin at the manner in which the Honourable George was
conducting himself. In the beginning it was hoped both by
Belknap-Jackson and myself that he might do no worse than merely
consort with the rougher element of the town. I mean to say, we
suspected that the apparent charm of the raffish cattle-persons might
suffice to keep him from any notorious alliance with the dreaded
Bohemian set. So long as he abstained from this he might still be
received at our best homes, despite his regrettable fondness for low
company. Even when he brought the murderer Spilmer to dine with him at
my place, the thing was condoned as a freakish grotesquerie in one
who, of unassailable social position, might well afford to stoop
I must say that the murderer--a heavy-jowled brute of husky voice, and
quite lacking a forehead--conducted himself on this occasion with an
entirely decent restraint of manner, quite in contrast to the
Honourable George, who betrayed an expansively naive pride in his
guest, seeming to wish the world to know of the event. Between them
they consumed a fair bottle of the relish. Indeed, the Honourable
George was inordinately fond of this, as a result of which he would
often come out quite spotty again. Cousin Egbert was another who
became so addicted to it that his fondness might well have been called
a vice. Both he and the Honourable George would drench quite every
course with the sauce, and Cousin Egbert, with that explicit
directness which distinguished his character, would frankly sop his
bread-crusts in it, or even sip it with a coffee-spoon.
As I have intimated, in spite of the Honourable George's affiliations
with the slum-characters of what I may call Red Gap's East End, he had
not yet publicly identified himself with the Klondike woman and her
Bohemian set, in consequence of which--let him dine and wine a Spilmer
as he would--there was yet hope that he would not alienate himself
from the North Side set.
At intervals during the early months of his sojourn among us he
accepted dinner invitations at the Grill from our social leaders; in
fact, after the launching of the International Relish, I know of none
that he declined, but it was evident to me that he moved but
half-heartedly in this higher circle. On one occasion, too, he
appeared in the trousers of a lounge-suit of tweeds instead of his
dress trousers, and with tan boots. The trousers, to be sure, were of
a sombre hue, but the brown boots were quite too dreadfully
unmistakable. After this I may say that I looked for anything, and my
worst fears were soon confirmed.
It began as the vaguest sort of gossip. The Honourable George, it was
said, had been a guest at one of the Klondike woman's evening affairs.
The rumour crystallized. He had been asked to meet the Bohemian set at
a Dutch supper and had gone. He had lingered until a late hour,
dancing the American folkdances (for which he had shown a surprising
adaptability) and conducting himself generally as the next Earl of
Brinstead should not have done. He had repeated his visit, repairing
to the woman's house both afternoon and evening. He had become a
constant visitor. He had spoken regrettably of the dulness of a
meeting of the Onwards and Upwards Society which he had attended. He
was in the woman's toils.
With gossip of this sort there was naturally much indignation, and yet
the leaders of the North Side set were so delicately placed that there
was every reason for concealing it. They redoubled their attentions to
the unfortunate man, seeking to leave him not an unoccupied evening or
afternoon. Such was the gravity of the crisis. Belknap-Jackson alone
remained finely judicial.
"The situation is of the gravest character," he confided to me, "but
we must be wary. The day isn't lost so long as he doesn't appear
publicly in the creature's train. For the present we have only
unverified rumour. As a man about town Vane-Basingwell may feel free
to consort with vicious companions and still maintain his proper
standing. Deplore it as all right-thinking people must, under present
social conditions he is undoubtedly free to lead what is called a
double life. We can only wait."
Such was the state of the public mind, be it understood, up to the
time of the notorious and scandalous defection of this obsessed
creature, an occasion which I cannot recall without shuddering, and
which inspired me to a course that was later to have the most
inexplicable and far-reaching consequences.
Theatrical plays had been numerous with us during the season, with the
natural result of many after-theatre suppers being given by those who
attended, among them the North Side leaders, and frequently the
Klondike woman with her following. On several of these occasions,
moreover, the latter brought as supper guests certain representatives
of the theatrical profession, both male and female, she apparently
having a wide acquaintance with such persons. That this sort of thing
increased her unpopularity with the North Side set will be understood
when I add that now and then her guests would be of undoubted
respectability in their private lives, as theatrical persons often
are, and such as our smartest hostesses would have been only too glad
To counteract this effect Belknap-Jackson now broached to me a plan of
undoubted merit, which was nothing less than to hold an afternoon
reception at his home in honour of the world's greatest pianoforte
artist, who was presently to give a recital in Red Gap.
"I've not met the chap myself," he began, "but I knew his secretary
and travelling companion quite well in a happier day in Boston. The
recital here will be Saturday evening, which means that they will
remain here on Sunday until the evening train East. I shall suggest to
my friend that his employer, to while away the tedium of the Sunday,
might care to look in upon me in the afternoon and meet a few of our
best people. Nothing boring, of course. I've no doubt he will arrange
it. I've written him to Portland, where they now are."
"Rather a card that will be," I instantly cried. "Rather better class
than entertaining strolling players." Indeed the merit of the proposal
rather overwhelmed me. It would be dignified and yet spectacular. It
would show the Klondike woman that we chose to have contact only with
artists of acknowledged preeminence and that such were quite willing
to accept our courtesies. I had hopes, too, that the Honourable George
might be aroused to advantages which he seemed bent upon casting to
the American winds.
A week later Belknap-Jackson joyously informed me that the great
artist had consented to accept his hospitality. There would be light
refreshments, with which I was charged. I suggested tea in the Russian
manner, which he applauded.
"And everything dainty in the way of food," he warned me. "Nothing
common, nothing heavy. Some of those tiny lettuce sandwiches, a bit of
caviare, macaroons--nothing gross--a decanter of dry sherry, perhaps,
a few of the lightest wafers; things that cultivated persons may
trifle with--things not repugnant to the artist soul."
I promised my profoundest consideration to these matters.
"And it occurs to me," he thoughtfully added, "that this may be a time
for Vane-Basingwell to silence the slurs upon himself that are
becoming so common. I shall beg him to meet our guest at his hotel and
escort him to my place. A note to my friend, 'the bearer, the
Honourable George Augustus Vane-Basingwell, brother of his lordship
the Earl of Brinstead, will take great pleasure in escorting to my
home----' You get the idea? Not bad!"
Again I applauded, resolving that for once the Honourable George would
be suitably attired even if I had to bully him. And so was launched
what promised to be Red Gap's most notable social event of the season.
The Honourable George, being consulted, promised after a rather sulky
hesitation to act as the great artist's escort, though he persisted in
referring to him as "that piano Johnny," and betrayed a suspicion that
Belknap-Jackson was merely bent upon getting him to perform without
"But no," cried Belknap-Jackson, "I should never think of anything so
indelicate as asking him to play. My own piano will be tightly closed
and I dare say removed to another room."
At this the Honourable George professed to wonder why the chap was
desired if he wasn't to perform. "All hair and bad English--silly
brutes when they don't play," he declared. In the end, however, as I
have said, he consented to act as he was wished to. Cousin Egbert, who
was present at this interview, took somewhat the same view as the
Honourable George, even asserting that he should not attend the
"He don't sing, he don't dance, he don't recite; just plays the piano.
That ain't any kind of a show for folks to set up a whole evening
for," he protested bitterly, and he went on to mention various
theatrical pieces which he had considered worthy, among them I recall
being one entitled "The Two Johns," which he regretted not having
witnessed for several years, and another called "Ben Hur," which was
better than all the piano players alive, he declared. But with the
Honourable George enlisted, both Belknap-Jackson and I considered the
opinions of Cousin Egbert to be quite wholly negligible.
Saturday's _Recorder_, in its advance notice of the recital,
announced that the Belknap-Jacksons of Boston and Red Gap would
entertain the artist on the following afternoon at their palatial home
in the Pettengill addition, where a select few of the North Side set
had been invited to meet him. Belknap-Jackson himself was as a man
uplifted. He constantly revised and re-revised his invitation list; he
sought me out each day to suggest subtle changes in the very artistic
menu I had prepared for the affair. His last touch was to supplement
the decanter of sherry with a bottle of vodka. About the caviare he
worried quite fearfully until it proved upon arrival to be fresh and
of prime quality. My man, the Hobbs boy, had under my instructions
pressed and smarted the Honourable George's suit for afternoon wear.
The carriage was engaged. Saturday night it was tremendously certain
that no hitch could occur to mar the affair. We had left no detail to
The recital itself was quite all that could have been expected, but
underneath the enthusiastic applause there ran even a more intense
fervour among those fortunate ones who were to meet the artist on the
Belknap-Jackson knew himself to be a hero. He was elaborately cool. He
smiled tolerantly at intervals and undoubtedly applauded with the
least hint of languid proprietorship in his manner. He was heard to
speak of the artist by his first name. The Klondike woman and many of
her Bohemian set were prominently among those present and sustained
glances of pitying triumph from those members of the North Side set so
soon to be distinguished above her.
The morrow dawned auspiciously, very cloudy with smartish drives of
wind and rain. Confined to the dingy squalor of his hotel, how gladly
would the artist, it was felt, seek the refined cheer of one of our
best homes where he would be enlivened by an hour or so of contact
with our most cultivated people. Belknap-Jackson telephoned me with
increasing frequency as the hour drew near, nervously seeming to dread
that I would have overlooked some detail of his refined refreshments,
or that I would not have them at his house on time. He telephoned
often to the Honourable George to be assured that the carriage with
its escort would be prompt. He telephoned repeatedly to the driver
chap, to impress upon him the importance of his mission.
His guests began to arrive even before I had decked his sideboard with
what was, I have no hesitation in declaring, the most superbly dainty
buffet collation that Red Gap had ever beheld. The atmosphere at once
became tense with expectation.
At three o'clock the host announced from the telephone:
"Vane-Basingwell has started from the Floud house." The guests
thrilled and hushed the careless chatter of new arrivals.
Belknap-Jackson remained heroically at the telephone, having demanded
to be put through to the hotel. He was flushed with excitement. A
score of minutes later he announced with an effort to control his
voice: "They have left the hotel--they are on the way."
The guests stiffened in their seats. Some of them nervously and for no
apparent reason exchanged chairs with others. Some late arrivals
bustled in and were immediately awed to the same electric silence of
waiting. Belknap-Jackson placed the sherry decanter where the vodka
bottle had been and the vodka bottle where the sherry decanter had
been. "The effect is better," he remarked, and went to stand where he
could view the driveway. The moments passed.
At such crises, which I need not say have been plentiful in my life, I
have always known that I possessed an immense reserve of coolness.
Seldom have I ever been so much as slightly flustered. Now I was
calmness itself, and the knowledge brought me no little satisfaction
as I noted the rather painful distraction of our host. The moments
passed--long, heavy, silent moments. Our host ascended trippingly to
an upper floor whence he could see farther down the drive. The guests
held themselves in smiling readiness. Our host descended and again
took up his post at a lower window.
The moments passed--stilled, leaden moments. The silence had become
intolerable. Our host jiggled on his feet. Some of the quicker-minded
guests made a pretence of little conversational flurries: "That second
movement--oh, exquisitely rendered!... No one has ever read Chopin so
divinely.... How his family must idolize him!... They say.... That
exquisite concerto!... Hasn't he the most stunning hair.... Those
staccato passages left me actually limp--I'm starting Myrtle in
Tuesday to take of Professor Gluckstein. She wants to take
stenography, but I tell her.... Did you think the preludes were just
the tiniest bit idealized.... I always say if one has one's music, and
one's books, of course--He must be very, _very_ fond of music!"
Such were the hushed, tentative fragments I caught.
The moments passed. Belknap-Jackson went to the telephone. "What? But
they're not here! Very strange! They should have been here half an
hour ago. Send some one--yes, at once." In the ensuing silence he
repaired to the buffet and drank a glass of vodka. Quite distraught he
The moments passed. Again several guests exchanged seats with other
guests. It seemed to be a device for relieving the strain. Once more
there were scattering efforts at normal talk. "Myrtle is a strange
girl--a creature of moods, I call her. She wanted to act in the moving
pictures until papa bought the car. And she knows every one of the new
tango steps, but I tell her a few lessons in cooking wouldn't--Beryl
Mae is just the same puzzling child; one thing one day, and another
thing the next; a mere bundle of nerves, and so sensitive if you say
the least little thing to her ... If we could only get Ling Wong
back--this Jap boy is always threatening to leave if the men don't get
up to breakfast on time, or if Gertie makes fudge in his kitchen of an
afternoon ... Our boy sends all his wages to his uncle in China, but I
simply can't get him to say, 'Dinner is served.' He just slides in and
says, 'All right, you come!' It's very annoying, but I always tell the
family, 'Remember what a time we had with the Swede----'"
I mean to say, things were becoming rapidly impossible. The moments
passed. Belknap-Jackson again telephoned: "You did send a man after
them? Send some one after him, then. Yes, at once!" He poured himself
another peg of the vodka. Silence fell again. The waiting was terrific.
We had endured an hour of it, and but little more was possible to any
sensitive human organism. All at once, as if the very last possible
moment of silence had passed, the conversation broke loudly and
generally: "And did you notice that slimpsy thing she wore last
night? Indecent, if you ask me, with not a petticoat under it, I'll
be bound!... Always wears shoes twice too small for her ... What men
can see in her ... How they can endure that perpetual smirk!..." They
were at last discussing the Klondike woman, and whatever had befallen
our guest of honour I knew that those present would never regain their
first awe of the occasion. It was now unrestrained gabble.
The second hour passed quickly enough, the latter half of it being
enlivened by the buffet collation which elicited many compliments upon
my ingenuity and good taste. Quite almost every guest partook of a
glass of the vodka. They chattered of everything but music, I dare say
it being thought graceful to ignore the afternoon's disaster.
Belknap-Jackson had sunk into a mood of sullen desperation. He drained
the vodka bottle. Perhaps the liquor brought him something of the
chill Russian fatalism. He was dignified but sodden, with a depression
that seemed to blow from the bleak Siberian steppes. His wife was
already receiving the adieus of their guests. She was smouldering
ominously, uncertain where the blame lay, but certain there was blame.
Criminal blame! I could read as much in her narrowed eyes as she
tried for aplomb with her guests.
My own leave I took unobtrusively. I knew our strangely missing guest
was to depart by the six-two train, and I strolled toward the station.
A block away I halted, waiting. It had been a time of waiting. The
moments passed. I heard the whistle of the approaching train. At the
same moment I was startled by the approach of a team that I took to be
I saw it was the carriage of the Pierce chap and that he was driving
with the most abandoned recklessness. His passengers were the
Honourable George, Cousin Egbert, and our missing guest. The great
artist as they passed me seemed to feel a vast delight in his wild
ride. He was cheering on the driver. He waved his arms and himself
shouted to the maddened horses. The carriage drew up to the station
with the train, and the three descended.
The artist hurriedly shook hands in the warmest manner with his
companions, including the Pierce chap, who had driven them. He
beckoned to his secretary, who was waiting with his bags. He mounted
the steps of the coach, and as the train pulled out he waved
frantically to the three. He kissed his hand to them, looking far out
as the train gathered momentum. Again and again he kissed his hand to
the hat-waving trio.
It was too much. The strain of the afternoon had told even upon my own
iron nerves. I felt unequal at that moment to the simplest inquiry,
and plainly the situation was not one to attack in haste. I mean to
say, it was too pregnant with meaning. I withdrew rapidly from the
scene, feeling the need for rest and silence.
As I walked I meditated profoundly.
From the innocent lips of Cousin Egbert the following morning there
fell a tale of such cold-blooded depravity that I found myself with
difficulty giving it credit. At ten o'clock, while I still mused
pensively over the events of the previous day, he entered the Grill in
search of breakfast, as had lately become his habit. I greeted him
with perceptible restraint, not knowing what guilt might be his, but
his manner to me was so unconsciously genial that I at once acquitted
him of any complicity in whatever base doings had been forward.
He took his accustomed seat with a pleasant word to me. I waited.
"Feeling a mite off this morning," he began, "account of a lot of
truck I eat yesterday. I guess I'll just take something kind of
dainty. Tell Clarice to cook me up a nice little steak with plenty of
fat on it, and some fried potatoes, and a cup of coffee and a few
waffles to come. The Judge he wouldn't get up yet. He looked kind of
mottled and anguished, but I guess he'll pull around all right. I had
the chink take him up about a gallon of strong tea. Say, listen here,
the Judge ain't so awful much of a stayer, is he?"
Burning with curiosity I was to learn what he could tell me of the day
before, yet I controlled myself to the calmest of leisurely
questioning in order not to alarm him. It was too plain that he had no
realization of what had occurred. It was always the way with him, I
had noticed. Events the most momentous might culminate furiously about
his head, but he never knew that anything had happened.
"The Honourable George," I began, "was with you yesterday? Perhaps he
ate something he shouldn't."
"He did, he did; he done it repeatedly. He et pretty near as much of
that sauerkraut and frankfurters as the piano guy himself did, and
that's some tribute, believe me, Bill! Some tribute!"
"The piano guy?" I murmured quite casually.
"And say, listen here, that guy is all right if anybody should ask
you. You talk about your mixers!"
This was a bit puzzling, for of course I had never "talked about my
mixers." I shouldn't a bit know how to go on. I ventured another
"Where was it this mixing and that sort of thing took place?"
"Why, up at Mis' Kenner's, where we was having a little party:
frankfurters and sauerkraut and beer. My stars! but that steak looks
good. I'm feeling better already." His food was before him, and he
attacked it with no end of spirit.
"Tell me quite all about it," I amiably suggested, and after a
moment's hurried devotion to the steak, he slowed up a bit to talk.
"Well, listen here, now. The Judge says to me when Eddie Pierce comes,
'Sour-dough,' he says, 'look in at Mis' Kenner's this afternoon if you
got nothing else on; I fancy it will repay you.' Just like that.
'Well,' I says, 'all right, Judge, I fancy I will. I fancy I ain't got
anything else on,' I says. 'And I'm always glad to go there,' I says,
because no matter what they're always saying about this here Bohemian
stuff, Kate Kenner is one good scout, take it from me. So in a little
while I slicked up some and went on around to her house. Then hitched
outside I seen Eddie Pierce's hack, and I says, 'My lands! that's a
funny thing,' I says. 'I thought the Judge was going to haul this here
piano guy out to the Jackson place where he could while away the
tejum, like Jackson said, and now it looks as if they was here. Or
mebbe it's just Eddie himself that has fancied to look in, not having
anything else on.'
"Well, so anyway I go up on the stoop and knock, and when I get in the
parlour there the piano guy is and the Judge and Eddie Pierce, too,
Eddie helping the Jap around with frankfurters and sauerkraut and beer
and one thing and another.
"Besides them was about a dozen of Mis' Kenner's own particular
friends, all of 'em good scouts, let me tell you, and everybody
laughing and gassing back and forth and cutting up and having a good
time all around. Well, so as soon as they seen me, everybody says,
'Oh, here comes Sour-dough--good old Sour-dough!' and all like that,
and they introduced me to the piano guy, who gets up to shake hands
with me and spills his beer off the chair arm on to the wife of Eddie
Fosdick in the Farmers' and Merchants' National, and so I sat down and
et with 'em and had a few steins of beer, and everybody had a good
time all around."
The wonderful man appeared to believe that he had told me quite all of
interest concerning this monstrous festivity. He surveyed the
mutilated remnant of his steak and said: "I guess Clarice might as
well fry me a few eggs. I'm feeling a lot better." I directed that
this be done, musing upon the dreadful menu he had recited and
recalling the exquisite finish of the collation I myself had prepared.
Sausages, to be sure, have their place, and beer as well, but
sauerkraut I have never been able to regard as an at all possible food
for persons that really matter. Germans, to be sure!
Discreetly I renewed my inquiry: "I dare say the Honourable George was
in good form?" I suggested.
"Well, he et a lot. Him and the piano guy was bragging which could eat
the most sausages."
I was unable to restrain a shudder at the thought of this revolting
"The piano guy beat him out, though. He'd been at the Palace Hotel for
three meals and I guess his appetite was right craving."
"Well, it was like Jackson said: this lad wanted to while away the
tejum of a Sunday afternoon, and so he whiled it, that's all. Purty
soon Mis' Kenner set down to the piano and sung some coon songs that
tickled him most to death, and then she got to playing ragtime--say,
believe me, Bill, when she starts in on that rag stuff she can make a
piano simply stutter itself to death.
[Illustration: MIS' KENNER SET DOWN TO THE PIANO AND SUNG SOME COON
SONGS THAT TICKLED HIM MOST TO DEATH]
"Well, at that the piano guy says it's great stuff, and so he sets
down himself to try it, and he catches on pretty good, I'll say that
for him, so we got to dancing while he plays for us, only he don't
remember the tunes good and has to fake a lot. Then he makes Mis'
Kenner play again while he dances with Mis' Fosdick that he spilled
the beer on, and after that we had some more beer and this guy et
another plate of kraut and a few sausages, and Mis' Kenner sings 'The
Robert E. Lee' and a couple more good ones, and the guy played some
more ragtime himself, trying to get the tunes right, and then he
played some fancy pieces that he'd practised up on, and we danced some
and had a few more beers, with everybody laughing and cutting up and
having a nice home afternoon.
"Well, the piano guy enjoyed himself every minute, if anybody asks
you, being lit up like a main chandelier. They made him feel like he
was one of their own folks. You certainly got to hand it to him for
being one little good mixer. Talk about whiling away the tejum! He
done it, all right, all right. He whiled away so much tejum there he
darned near missed his train. Eddie Pierce kept telling him what time
it was, only he'd keep asking Mis' Kenner to play just one more rag,
and at last we had to just shoot him into his fur overcoat while he
was kissing all the women on their hands, and we'd have missed the
train at that if Eddie hadn't poured the leather into them skates of
his all the way down to the dee-po. He just did make it, and he told
the Judge and Eddie and me that he ain't had such a good time since he
left home. I kind of hated to see him go."
He here attacked the eggs with what seemed to be a freshening of his
remarkable appetite. And as yet, be it noted, I had detected no
consciousness on his part that a foul betrayal of confidence had been
committed. I approached the point.
"The Belknap-Jacksons were rather expecting him, you know. My
impression was that the Honourable George had been sent to escort him
to the Belknap-Jackson house."
"Well, that's what I thought, too, but I guess the Judge forgot it, or
mebbe he thinks the guy will mix in better with Mis' Kenner's crowd.
Anyway, there they was, and it probably didn't make any difference to
the guy himself. He likely thought he could while away the tejum there
as well as he could while it any place, all of them being such good
scouts. And the Judge has certainly got a case on Mis' Kenner, so
mebby she asked him to drop in with any friend of his. She's got him
bridle-wise and broke to all gaits." He visibly groped for an
illumining phrase. "He--he just looks at her."
The simple words fell upon my ears with a sickening finality. "He just
looks at her." I had seen him "just look" at the typing-girl and at
the Brixton milliner. All too fearfully I divined their preposterous
significance. Beyond question a black infamy had been laid bare, but I
made no effort to convey its magnitude to my guileless informant. As I
left him he was mildly bemoaning his own lack of skill on the
"Darned if I don't wish I'd 'a' took some lessons on the piano myself
like that guy done. It certainly does help to while away the tejum
when you got friends in for the afternoon. But then I was just a
hill-billy. Likely I couldn't have learned the notes good."
It was a half-hour later that I was called to the telephone to listen
to the anguished accents of Belknap-Jackson.
"Have you heard it?" he called. I answered that I had.
"The man is a paranoiac. He should be at once confined in an asylum
for the criminal insane."
"I shall row him fiercely about it, never fear. I've not seen him
"But the creature should be watched. He may do harm to himself or to
some innocent person. They--they run wild, they kill, they burn--set
fire to buildings--that sort of thing. I tell you, none of us is
"The situation," I answered, "has even more shocking possibilities,
but I've an idea I shall be equal to it. If the worst seems to be
imminent I shall adopt extreme measures." I closed the interview. It
was too painful. I wished to summon all my powers of deliberation.
To my amazement who should presently appear among my throng of
luncheon patrons but the Honourable George. I will not say that he
slunk in, but there was an unaccustomed diffidence in his bearing. He
did not meet my eye, and it was not difficult to perceive that he had
no wish to engage my notice. As he sought a vacant table I observed
that he was spotted quite profusely, and his luncheon order was of the
Straight I went to him. He winced a bit, I thought, as he saw me
approach, but then he apparently resolved to brass it out, for he
glanced full at me with a terrific assumption of bravado and at once
began to give me beans about my service.
"Your bally tea shop running down, what! Louts for waiters, cloddish
louts! Disgraceful, my word! Slow beggars! Take a year to do you a
rasher and a bit of toast, what!"
To this absurd tirade I replied not a word, but stood silently
regarding him. I dare say my gaze was of the most chilling character
and steady. He endured it but a moment. His eyes fell, his bravado
vanished, he fumbled with the cutlery. Quite abashed he was.
"Come, your explanation!" I said curtly, divining that the moment was
one in which to adopt a tone with him. He wriggled a bit, crumpling a
roll with panic fingers.
"Come, come!" I commanded.
His face brightened, though with an intention most obviously false. He
coughed--a cough of pure deception. Not only were his eyes averted
from mine, but they were glassed to an uncanny degree. The fingers
wrought piteously at the now plastic roll.
"My word, the chap was taken bad; had to be seen to, what! Revived, I
mean to say. All piano Johnnies that way--nervous wrecks, what!
Spells! Spells, man--spells!"
"Come, come!" I said crisply. The glassed eyes were those of one
"In the carriage--to the hyphen chap's place, to be sure. Fainting
spell--weak heart, what! No stimulants about. Passing house! Perhaps
have stimulants--heart tablets, er--beer--things of that sort. Lead
him in. Revive him. Quite well presently, but not well enough to go
on. Couldn't let a piano Johnny die on our hands, what! Inquest,
evidence, witnesses--all that silly rot. Save his life, what! Presence
of mind! Kind hearts, what! Humanity! Do as much for any chap. Not let
him die like a dog in the gutter, what! Get no credit, though----" His
curiously mechanical utterance trailed off to be lost in a mere husky
murmur. The glassy stare was still at my wall.
I have in the course of my eventful career had occasion to mark the
varying degrees of plausibility with which men speak untruths, but
never, I confidently aver, have I beheld one lie with so piteous a
futility. The art--and I dare say with diplomat chaps and that sort it
may properly be called an art--demands as its very essence that the
speaker seem to be himself convinced of the truth of that which he
utters. And the Honourable George in his youth mentioned for the
I turned away. The exhibition was quite too indecent. I left him to
mince at his meagre fare. As I glanced his way at odd moments
thereafter, he would be muttering feverishly to himself. I mean to
say, he no longer _was_ himself. He presently made his way to the
street, looking neither to right nor left. He had, in truth, the dazed
manner of one stupefied by some powerful narcotic. I wondered
pityingly when I should again behold him--if it might be that his poor
wits were bedevilled past mending.
My period of uncertainty was all too brief. Some two hours later, full
into the tide of our afternoon shopping throng, there issued a
spectacle that removed any lingering doubt of the unfortunate man's
plight. In the rather smart pony-trap of the Klondike woman, driven by
the person herself, rode the Honourable George. Full in the startled
gaze of many of our best people he advertised his defection from all
that makes for a sanely governed stability in our social organism. He
had gone flagrantly over to the Bohemian set.
I could detect that his eyes were still glassy, but his head was
erect. He seemed to flaunt his shame. And the guilty partner of his
downfall drove with an affectation of easy carelessness, yet with a
lift of the chin which, though barely perceptible, had all the effect
of binding the prisoner to her chariot wheels; a prisoner, moreover,
whom it was plain she meant to parade to the last ignominious degree.
She drove leisurely, and in the little infrequent curt turns of her
head to address her companion she contrived to instill so finished an
effect of boredom that she must have goaded to frenzy any matron of
the North Side set who chanced to observe her, as more than one of
Thrice did she halt along our main thoroughfare for bits of shopping,
a mere running into of shops or to the doors of them where she could
issue verbal orders, the while she surveyed her waiting and drugged
captive with a certain half-veiled but good-humoured insolence. At
these moments--for I took pains to overlook the shocking scene--the
Honourable George followed her with eyes no longer glassed; the eyes
of helpless infatuation. "He looks at her," Cousin Egbert had said. He
had told it all and told it well. The equipage graced our street upon
one paltry excuse or another for the better part of an hour, the woman
being minded that none of us should longer question her supremacy over
the next and eleventh Earl of Brinstead.
Not for another hour did the effects of the sensation die out among
tradesmen and the street crowds. It was like waves that recede but
gradually. They talked. They stopped to talk. They passed on talking.
They hissed vivaciously; they rose to exclamations. I mean to say,
there was no end of a gabbling row about it.
There was in my mind no longer any room for hesitation. The quite
harshest of extreme measures must be at once adopted before all was
too late. I made my way to the telegraph office. It was not a time for
correspondence by post.
Afterward I had myself put through by telephone to Belknap-Jackson.
With his sensitive nature he had stopped in all day. Although still
averse to appearing publicly, he now consented to meet me at my
chambers late that evening.
"The whole town is seething with indignation," he called to me. "It
was disgraceful. I shall come at ten. We rely upon you."
Again I saw that he was concerned solely with his humiliation as a
would-be host. Not yet had he divined that the deluded Honourable
George might go to the unspeakable length of a matrimonial alliance
with the woman who had enchained him. And as to his own disaster, he
was less than accurate when he said that the whole town was seething
with indignation. The members of the North Side set, to be sure, were
seething furiously, but a flippant element of the baser sort was quite
openly rejoicing. As at the time of that most slanderous minstrel
performance, it was said that the Bohemian set had again, if I have
caught the phrase, "put a thing over upon" the North Side set. Many
persons of low taste seemed quite to enjoy the dreadful affair, and
the members of the Bohemian set, naturally, throughout the day had
been quite coarsely beside themselves with glee.
Little they knew, I reflected, what power I could wield nor that I had
already set in motion its deadly springs. Little did the woman dream,
flaunting her triumph up and down our main business thoroughfare, that
one who watched her there had but to raise his hand to wrest the
victim from her toils. Little did she now dream that he would stop at
no half measures. I mean to say, she would never think I could bowl
her out as easy as buying cockles off a barrow.
At the hour for our conference Belknap-Jackson arrived at my chambers
muffled in an ulster and with a soft hat well over his face. I
gathered that he had not wished to be observed.
"I feel that this is a crisis," he began as he gloomily shook my hand.
"Where is our boasted twentieth-century culture if outrages like this
are permitted? For the first time I understand how these Western
communities have in the past resorted to mob violence. Public feeling
is already running high against the creature and her unspeakable set."
I met this outburst with the serenity of one who holds the winning
cards in his hand, and begged him to be seated. Thereupon I disclosed
to him the weakly, susceptible nature of the Honourable George,
reciting the incidents of the typing-girl and the Brixton milliner. I
added that now, as before, I should not hesitate to preserve the
"A dreadful thing, indeed," he murmured, "if that adventuress should
trap him into a marriage. Imagine her one day a Countess of Brinstead!
But suppose the fellow prove stubborn; suppose his infatuation dulls
all his finer instincts?"
I explained that the Honourable George, while he might upon the spur
of the moment commit a folly, was not to be taken too seriously; that
he was, I believed, quite incapable of a grand passion. I mean to say,
he always forgot them after a few days. More like a child staring into
shop-windows he was, rapidly forgetting one desired object in the
presence of others. I added that I had adopted the extremest measures.
Thereupon, perceiving that I had something in my sleeve, as the saying
is, my caller besought me to confide in him. Without a word I handed
him a copy of my cable message sent that afternoon to his lordship:
_"Your immediate presence required to prevent a monstrous
He brightened as he read it.
"You actually mean to say----" he began.
"His lordship," I explained, "will at once understand the nature of
what is threatened. He knows, moreover, that I would not alarm him
without cause. He will come at once, and the Honourable George will be
told what. His lordship has never failed. He tells him what perfectly,
and that's quite all to it. The poor chap will be saved."
My caller was profoundly stirred. "Coming here--to Red Gap--his
lordship the Earl of Brinstead--actually coming here! My God! This is
wonderful!" He paused; he seemed to moisten his dry lips; he began
once more, and now his voice trembled with emotion: "He will need a
place to stay; our hotel is impossible; had you thought----" He
glanced at me appealingly.
"I dare say," I replied, "that his lordship will be pleased to have
you put him up; you would do him quite nicely."
"You mean it--seriously? That would be--oh, inexpressible. He would be
our house guest! The Earl of Brinstead! I fancy that would silence a
few of these serpent tongues that are wagging so venomously to-day!"
"But before his coming," I insisted, "there must be no word of his
arrival. The Honourable George would know the meaning of it, and the
woman, though I suspect now that she is only making a show of him,
might go on to the bitter end. They must suspect nothing."
"I had merely thought of a brief and dignified notice in our press,"
he began, quite wistfully, "but if you think it might defeat our
"It must wait until he has come."
"Glorious!" he exclaimed. "It will be even more of a blow to them." He
began to murmur as if reading from a journal, "'His lordship the Earl
of Brinstead is visiting for a few days'--it will surely be as much as
a few days, perhaps a week or more--'is visiting for a few days the C.
Belknap-Jacksons of Boston and Red Gap.'" He seemed to regard the
printed words. "Better still, 'The C. Belknap-Jacksons of Boston and
Red Gap are for a few days entertaining as their honoured house guest
his lordship the Earl of Brinstead----' Yes, that's admirable."
He arose and impulsively clasped my hand. "Ruggles, dear old chap, I
shan't know at all how to repay you. The Bohemian set, such as are
possible, will be bound to come over to us. There will be left of it
but one unprincipled woman--and she wretched and an outcast. She has
made me absurd. I shall grind her under my heel. The east room shall
be prepared for his lordship; he shall breakfast there if he wishes. I
fancy he'll find us rather more like himself than he suspects. He
shall see that we have ideals that are not half bad."
He wrung my hand again. His eyes were misty with gratitude.
Three days later came the satisfying answer to my cable message:
_"Damn! Sailing Wednesday_.--BRINSTEAD."
Glad I was he had used the cable. In a letter there would doubtless
have been still other words improper to a peer of England.
Belknap-Jackson thereafter bore himself with a dignity quite
tremendous even for him. Graciously aloof, he was as one carrying an
inner light. "We hold them in the hollow of our hand," said he, and
both his wife and himself took pains on our own thoroughfare to cut
the Honourable George dead, though I dare say the poor chap never at
all noticed it. They spoke of him as "a remittance man"--the black
sheep of a noble family. They mentioned sympathetically the trouble
his vicious ways had been to his brother, the Earl. Indeed, so
mysteriously important were they in allusions of this sort that I was
obliged to caution them, lest they let out the truth. As it was, there
ran through the town an undercurrent of puzzled suspicion. It was
intimated that we had something in our sleeves.
Whether this tension was felt by the Honourable George, I had no means
of knowing. I dare say not, as he is self-centred, being seldom aware
of anything beyond his own immediate sensations. But I had reason to
believe that the Klondike woman had divined some menace in our
attitude of marked indifference. Her own manner, when it could be
observed, grew increasingly defiant, if that were possible. The
alliance of the Honourable George with the Bohemian set had become, of
course, a public scandal after the day of his appearance in her trap
and after his betrayal of the Belknap-Jacksons had been gossiped to
rags. He no longer troubled himself to pretend any esteem whatever for
the North Side set. Scarce a day passed but he appeared in public as
the woman's escort. He flagrantly performed her commissions, and at
their questionable Bohemian gatherings, with their beer and sausages
and that sort of thing, he was the gayest of that gay, mad set.
Indeed, of his old associates, Cousin Egbert quite almost alone seemed
to find him any longer desirable, and him I had no heart to caution,
knowing that I should only wound without enlightening him, he being
entirely impervious to even these cruder aspects of class distinction.
I dare say he would have considered the marriage of the Honourable
George as no more than the marriage of one of his cattle-person
companions. I mean to say, he is a dear old sort and I should never
fail to defend him in the most disheartening of his vagaries, but he
is undeniably insensitive to what one does and does not do.
The conviction ran, let me repeat, that we had another pot of broth on
the fire. I gleaned as much from the Mixer, she being one of the few
others besides Cousin Egbert in whose liking the Honourable George had
not terrifically descended. She made it a point to address me on the
subject over a dish of tea at the Grill one afternoon, choosing a
table sufficiently remote from my other feminine guests, who
doubtless, at their own tables, discussed the same complication. I was
indeed glad that we were remote from other occupied tables, because in
the course of her remarks she quite forcefully uttered an oath, which
I thought it as well not to have known that I cared to tolerate in my
"As to what Jackson feels about the way it was handed out to him that
Sunday," she bluntly declared, "I don't care a----" The oath quite
dazed me for a moment, although I had been warned that she would use
language on occasion. "What I do care about," she went on briskly, "is
that I won't have this girl pestered by Jackson or by you or by any
man that wears hair! Why, Jackson talks so silly about her sometimes
you'd think she was a bad woman--and he keeps hinting about something
he's going to put over till I can hardly keep my hands off him. I just
know some day he'll make me forget I'm a lady. Now, take it from me,
Bill, if you're setting in with him, don't start anything you can't
Really she was quite fierce about it. I mean to say, the glitter in
her eyes made me recall what Cousin Egbert had said of Mrs. Effie, her
being quite entirely willing to take on a rattlesnake and give it the
advantage of the first two assaults. Somewhat flustered I was, yet I
hastened to assure her that, whatever steps I might feel obliged to
take for the protection of the Honourable George, they would involve
nothing at all unfair to the lady in question.
"Well, they better hadn't!" she resumed threateningly. "That girl had
a hard time all right, but listen here--she's as right as a church.
She couldn't fool me a minute if she wasn't. Don't you suppose I been
around and around quite some? Just because she likes to have a good
time and outdresses these dames here--is that any reason they should
get out their hammers? Ain't she earned some right to a good time,
tell me, after being married when she was a silly kid to Two-spot
Kenner, the swine--and God bless the trigger finger of the man that
bumped him off! As for the poor old Judge, don't worry. I like the old
boy, but Kate Kenner won't do anything more than make a monkey of him
just to spite Jackson and his band of lady knockers. Marry him? Say,
get me right, Bill--I'll put it as delicate as I can--the Judge is too
darned far from being a mental giant for that."
I dare say she would have slanged me for another half-hour but for the
constant strain of keeping her voice down. As it was, she boomed up
now and again in a way that reduced to listening silence the ladies at
several distant tables.
As to the various points she had raised, I was somewhat confused.
About the Honourable George, for example: He was, to be sure, no
mental giant. But one occupying his position is not required to be.
Indeed, in the class to which he was born one well knows that a mental
giant would be quite as distressingly bizarre as any other freak. I
regretted not having retorted this to her, for it now occurred to me
that she had gone it rather strong with her "poor old Judge." I mean
to say, it was almost quite a little bit raw for a native American to
adopt this patronizing tone toward one of us.
And yet I found that my esteem for the Mixer had increased rather than
diminished by reason of her plucky defence of the Klondike woman. I
had no reason to suppose that the designing creature was worth a
defence, but I could only admire the valour that made it. Also I found
food for profound meditation in the Mixer's assertion that the woman's
sole aim was to "make a monkey" of the Honourable George. If she were
right, a mesalliance need not be feared, at which thought I felt a
great relief. That she should achieve the lesser and perhaps equally
easy feat with the poor chap was a calamity that would be, I fancied,
endured by his lordship with a serene fortitude.
Curiously enough, as I went over the Mixer's tirade point by point, I
found in myself an inexplicable loss of animus toward the Klondike
woman. I will not say I was moved to sympathy for her, but doubtless
that strange ferment of equality stirred me toward her with something
less than the indignation I had formerly felt. Perhaps she was an
entirely worthy creature. In that case, I merely wished her to be
taught that one must not look too far above one's station, even in
America, in so serious an affair as matrimony. With all my heart I
should wish her a worthy mate of her own class, and I was glad indeed
to reflect upon the truth of my assertion to the Mixer, that no unfair
advantage would be taken of her. His lordship would remove the
Honourable George from her toils, a made monkey, perhaps, but no
Again that day did I listen to a defence of this woman, and from a
source whence I could little have expected it. Meditating upon the
matter, I found myself staring at Mrs. Judson as she polished some
glassware in the pantry. As always, the worthy woman made a pleasing
picture in her neat print gown. From staring at her rather absently I
caught myself reflecting that she was one of the few women whose hair
is always perfectly coiffed. I mean to say, no matter what the press
of her occupation, it never goes here and there.
From the hair, my meditative eye, still rather absently, I believe,
descended her quite good figure to her boots. Thereupon, my gaze
ceased to be absent. They were not boots. They were bronzed slippers
with high heels and metal buckles and of a character so distinctive
that I instantly knew they had once before been impressed upon my
vision. Swiftly my mind identified them: they had been worn by the
Klondike woman on the occasion of a dinner at the Grill, in
conjunction with a gown to match and a bluish scarf--all combining to
achieve an immense effect.
My assistant hummed at her task, unconscious of my scrutiny. I recall
that I coughed slightly before disclosing to her that my attention had
been attracted to her slippers. She took the reference lightly,
affecting, as the sex will, to belittle any prized possession in the
face of masculine praise.
"I have seen them before," I ventured.
"She gives me all of hers. I haven't had to buy shoes since baby was
born. She gives me--lots of things--stockings and things. She likes me
to have them."
"I didn't know you knew her."
"Years! I'm there once a week to give the house a good going over.
That Jap of hers is the limit. Dust till you can't rest. And when I
clean he just grins."
I mused upon this. The woman was already giving half her time to
superintending two assistants in the preparation of the International
"Her work is too much in addition to your own," I suggested.
"Me? Work too hard? Not in a thousand years. I do all right for you,
It was true; she was anything but a slacker. I more nearly approached
my real objection.
"A woman in your position," I began, "can't be too careful as to the
associations she forms----" I had meant to go on, but found it quite
absurdly impossible. My assistant set down the glass she had and quite
venomously brandished her towel at me.
"So that's it?" she began, and almost could get no farther for mere
sputtering. I mean to say, I had long recognized that she possessed
character, but never had I suspected that she would have so inadequate
a control of her temper.
"So that's it?" she sputtered again, "And I thought you were too
decent to join in that talk about a woman just because she's young and
wears pretty clothes and likes to go out. I'm astonished at you, I
really am. I thought you were more of a man!" She broke off, scowling
at me most furiously.
Feeling all at once rather a fool, I sought to conciliate her. "I have
joined in no talk," I said. "I merely suggested----" But she shut me
"And let me tell you one thing: I can pick out my associates in this
town without any outside help. The idea! That girl is just as nice a
person as ever walked the earth, and nobody ever said she wasn't
except those frumpy old cats that hate her good looks because the men
all like her."
"Old cats!" I echoed, wishing to rebuke this violence of epithet, but
she would have none of me.
"Nasty old spite-cats," she insisted with even more violence, and went
on to an almost quite blasphemous absurdity. "A prince in his palace
wouldn't be any too good for her!"
"Tut, tut!" I said, greatly shocked.
"Tut nothing!" she retorted fiercely. "A regular prince in his palace,
that's what she deserves. There isn't a single man in this one-horse
town that's good enough to pick up her glove. And she knows it, too.
She's carrying on with your silly Englishman now, but it's just to pay
those old cats back in their own coin. She'll carry on with him--yes!
But marry? Good heavens and earth! Marriage is serious!" With this
novel conclusion she seized another glass and began to wipe it
viciously. She glared at me, seeming to believe that she had closed
the interview. But I couldn't stop. In some curious way she had
stirred me rather out of myself--but not about the Klondike woman nor
about the Honourable George. I began most illogically, I admit, to
rage inwardly about another matter.
"You have other associates," I exclaimed quite violently, "those
cattle-persons--I know quite all about it. That Hank and Buck--they
come here on the chance of seeing you; they bring you boxes of candy,
they bring you little presents. Twice they've escorted you home at
night when you quite well knew I was only too glad to do it----" I
felt my temper most curiously running away with me, ranting about
things I hadn't meant to at all. I looked for another outburst from
her, but to my amazement she flashed me a smile with a most enigmatic
look back of it. She tossed her head, but resumed her wiping of the
glass with a certain demureness. She spoke almost meekly:
"They're very old friends, and I'm sure they always act right. I don't
see anything wrong in it, even if Buck Edwards has shown me a good
deal of attention."
But this very meekness of hers seemed to arouse all the violence in my
"I won't have it!" I said. "You have no right to receive presents from
men. I tell you I won't have it! You've no right!"
"Haven't I?" she suddenly said in the most curious, cool little voice,
her eyes falling before mine. "Haven't I? I didn't know."
It was quite chilling, her tone and manner. I was cool in an instant.
Things seemed to mean so much more than I had supposed they did. I
mean to say, it was a fair crumpler. She paused in her wiping of the
glass but did not regard me. I was horribly moved to go to her, but
coolly remembered that that sort of thing would never do.
"I trust I have said enough," I remarked with entirely recovered
"You have," she said.
"I mean I won't have such things," I said.
"I hear you," she said, and fell again to her work. I thereupon
investigated an ice-box and found enough matter for complaint against
the Hobbs boy to enable me to manage a dignified withdrawal to the
rear. The remarkable creature was humming again as I left.
I stood in the back door of the Grill giving upon the alley, where I
mused rather excitedly. Here I was presently interrupted by the dog,
Mr. Barker. For weeks now I had been relieved of his odious
attentions, by the very curious circumstance that he had transferred
them to the Honourable George. Not all my kicks and cuffs and beatings
had sufficed one whit to repulse him. He had kept after me, fawned
upon me, in spite of them. And then on a day he had suddenly, with
glad cries, become enamoured of the Honourable George, waiting for him
at doors, following him, hanging upon his every look. And the
Honourable George had rather fancied the beast and made much of him.
And yet this animal is reputed by poets and that sort of thing to be
man's best friend, faithfully sharing his good fortune and his bad,
staying by his side to the bitter end, even refusing to leave his body
when he has perished--starving there with a dauntless fidelity. How
chagrined the weavers of these tributes would have been to observe the
fickle nature of the beast in question! For weeks he had hardly
deigned me a glance. It had been a relief, to be sure, but what a
sickening disclosure of the cur's trifling inconstancy. Even now,
though he sniffed hungrily at the open door, he paid me not the least
attention--me whom he had once idolized!
I slipped back to the ice-box and procured some slices of beef that
were far too good for him. He fell to them with only a perfunctory
acknowledgment of my agency in procuring them.
"Why, I thought you hated him!" suddenly said the voice of his owner.
She had tiptoed to my side.
"I do," I said quite savagely, "but the unspeakable beast can't be
left to starve, can he?"
I felt her eyes upon me, but would not turn. Suddenly she put her hand
upon my shoulder, patting it rather curiously, as she might have
soothed her child. When I did turn she was back at her task. She was
humming again, nor did she glance my way. Quite certainly she was no
longer conscious that I stood about. She had quite forgotten me. I
could tell as much from her manner. "Such," I reflected, with an
unaccustomed cynicism, "is the light inconsequence of women and dogs."
Yet I still experienced a curiously thrilling determination to protect
her from her own good nature in the matter of her associates.
At a later and cooler moment of the day I reflected upon her defence
of the Klondike woman. A "prince in his palace" not too good for her!
No doubt she had meant me to take these remarkable words quite
seriously. It was amazing, I thought, with what seriousness the lower
classes of the country took their dogma of equality, and with what
naive confidence they relied upon us to accept it. Equality in North
America was indeed praiseworthy; I had already given it the full
weight of my approval and meant to live by it. But at home, of course,
that sort of thing would never do. The crude moral worth of the
Klondike woman might be all that her two defenders had alleged, and
indeed I felt again that strange little thrill of almost sympathy for
her as one who had been unjustly aspersed. But I could only resolve
that I would be no party to any unfair plan of opposing her. The
Honourable George must be saved from her trifling as well as from her
serious designs, if such she might have; but so far as I could
influence the process it should cause as little chagrin as possible to
the offender. This much the Mixer and my charwoman had achieved with
me. Indeed, quite hopeful I was that when the creature had been set
right as to what was due one of our oldest and proudest families she
would find life entirely pleasant among those of her own station. She
seemed to have a good heart.
As the day of his lordship's arrival drew near, Belknap-Jackson became
increasingly concerned about the precise manner of his reception and
the details of his entertainment, despite my best assurances that no
especially profound thought need be given to either, his lordship
being quite that sort, fussy enough in his own way but hardly formal
His prospective host, after many consultations with me, at length
allowed himself to be dissuaded from meeting his lordship in correct
afternoon garb of frock-coat and top-hat, consenting, at my urgent
suggestion, to a mere lounge-suit of tweeds with a soft-rolled hat and
a suitable rough day stick. Again in the matter of the menu for his
lordship's initial dinner which we had determined might well be
tendered him at my establishment. Both husband and wife were rather
keen for an elaborate repast of many courses, feeling that anything
less would be doing insufficient honour to their illustrious guest,
but I at length convinced them that I quite knew what his lordship
would prefer: a vegetable soup, an abundance of boiled mutton with
potatoes, a thick pudding, a bit of scientifically correct cheese, and
a jug of beer. Rather trying they were at my first mention of this--a
dinner quite without finesse, to be sure, but eminently nutritive--and
only their certainty that I knew his lordship's ways made them give
The affair was to be confined to the family, his lordship the only
guest, this being thought discreet for the night of his arrival in
view of the peculiar nature of his mission. Belknap-Jackson had hoped
against hope that the Mixer might not be present, and even so late as
the day of his lordship's arrival he was cheered by word that she
might be compelled to keep her bed with a neuralgia.
To the afternoon train I accompanied him in his new motor-car, finding
him not a little distressed because the chauffeur, a native of the
town, had stoutly--and with some not nice words, I gathered--refused
to wear the smart uniform which his employer had provided.
"I would have shopped the fellow in an instant," he confided to me,
"had it been at any other time. He was most impertinent. But as usual,
here I am at the mercy of circumstances. We couldn't well subject
Brinstead to those loathsome public conveyances."
We waited in the usual throng of the leisured lower-classes who are so
naively pleased at the passage of a train. I found myself picturing
their childish wonder had they guessed the identity of him we were
there to meet. Even as the train appeared Belknap-Jackson made a last
moan of complaint.
"Mrs. Pettengill," he observed dejectedly, "is about the house again
and I fear will be quite well enough to be with us this evening." For
a moment I almost quite disapproved of the fellow. I mean to say, he
was vogue and all that, and no doubt had been wretchedly mistreated,
but after all the Mixer was not one to be wished ill to.
A moment later I was contrasting the quiet arrival of his lordship
with the clamour and confusion that had marked the advent among us of
the Honourable George. He carried but one bag and attracted no
attention whatever from the station loungers. While I have never known
him be entirely vogue in his appointments, his lordship carries off a
lounge-suit and his gray-cloth hat with a certain manner which the
Honourable George was never known to achieve even in the days when I
groomed him. The grayish rather aggressive looking side-whiskers first
caught my eye, and a moment later I had taken his hand.
Belknap-Jackson at the same time took his bag, and with a trepidation
so obvious that his lordship may perhaps have been excusable for a
momentary misapprehension. I mean to say, he instantly and crisply
directed Belknap-Jackson to go forward to the luggage van and recover
A bit awkward it was, to be sure, but I speedily took the situation in
hand by formally presenting the two men, covering the palpable
embarrassment of the host by explaining to his lordship the astounding
ingenuity of the American luggage system. By the time I had deprived
him of his check and convinced him that his box would be admirably
recovered by a person delegated to that service, Belknap-Jackson,
again in form, was apologizing to him for the squalid character of the
station and for the hardships he must be prepared to endure in a crude
Western village. Here again the host was annoyed by having to call
repeatedly to his mechanician in order to detach him from a gossiping
group of loungers. He came smoking a quite fearfully bad cigar and
took his place at the wheel entirely without any suitable deference to
His lordship during the ride rather pointedly surveyed me, being
impressed, I dare say, by something in my appearance and manner quite
new to him. Doubtless I had been feeling equal for so long that the
thing was to be noticed in my manner. He made no comment upon me,
however. Indeed almost the only time he spoke during our passage was
to voice his astonishment at not having been able to procure the
London _Times_ at the press-stalls along the way. His host made
clucking noises of sympathy at this. He had, he said, already warned
his lordship that America was still crude.
"Crude? Of course, what, what!" exclaimed his lordship. "But naturally
they'd have the _Times_! I dare say the beggars were too lazy to
look it out. Laziness, what, what!"
"We've a job teaching them to know their places," ventured
Belknap-Jackson, moodily regarding the back of his chauffeur which
somehow contrived to be eloquent with disrespect for him.
"My word, what rot!" rejoined his lordship. I saw that he had arrived
in one of his peppery moods. I fancy he could not have recited a
multiplication table without becoming fanatically assertive about it.
That was his way. I doubt if he had ever condescended to have an
opinion. What might have been opinions came out on him like a rash in
form of the most violent convictions.
"What rot not to know their places, when they must know them!" he
"Quite so, quite so!" his host hastened to assure him.
"A--dashed--fine big country you have," was his only other
"Indeed, indeed," murmured his host mildly. I had rather dreaded the
oath which his lordship is prone to use lightly.
Reaching the Belknap-Jackson house, his lordship was shown to the
apartment prepared for him.
"Tea will be served in half an hour, your--er--Brinstead," announced
his host cordially, although seemingly at a loss how to address him.
"Quite so, what, what! Tea, of course, of course! Why wouldn't it be?
Meantime, if you don't mind, I'll have a word with Ruggles. At once."
Belknap-Jackson softly and politely withdrew at once.
Alone with his lordship, I thought it best to acquaint him instantly
with the change in my circumstances, touching lightly upon the matter
of my now being an equal with rather most of the North Americans. He
listened with exemplary patience to my brief recital and was good
enough to felicitate me.
"Assure you, glad to hear it--glad no end. Worthy fellow; always knew
it. And equal, of course, of course! Take up their equality by all
means if you take 'em up themselves. Curious lot of nose-talking
beggars, and putting r's every place one shouldn't, but don't blame
you. Do it myself if I could--England gone to pot. Quite!"
"Gone to pot, sir?" I gasped.
"Don't argue. Course it has. Women! Slasher fiends and firebrands!
Pictures, churches, golf-greens, cabinet members--nothing safe.
Pouring their beastly filth into pillar boxes. Women one knows.
Hussies, though! Want the vote--rot! Awful rot! Don't blame you for
America. Wish I might, too. Good thing, my word! No backbone in
Downing Street. Let the fiends out again directly they're hungry. No
system! No firmness! No dash! Starve 'em proper, I would."
He was working himself into no end of a state. I sought to divert him.
"About the Honourable George, sir----" I ventured.
"What's the silly ass up to now? Dancing girl got him--yes? How he
does it, I can't think. No looks, no manner, no way with women. Can't
stand him myself. How ever can they? Frightful bore, old George is.
Well, well, man, I'm waiting. Tell me, tell me, tell me!"
Briefly I disclosed to him that his brother had entangled himself with
a young person who had indeed been a dancing girl or a bit like that
in the province of Alaska. That at the time of my cable there was
strong reason to believe she would stop at nothing--even marriage, but
that I had since come to suspect that she might be bent only on making
a fool of her victim, she being, although an honest enough character,
rather inclined to levity and without proper respect for established
I hinted briefly at the social warfare of which she had been a storm
centre. I said again, remembering the warm words of the Mixer and of
my charwoman, that to the best of my knowledge her character was
without blemish. All at once I was feeling preposterously sorry for
His lordship listened, though with a cross-fire of interruptions.
"Alaska dancing girl. Silly! Nothing but snow and mines in Alaska."
Or, again, "Make a fool of old George? What silly piffle! Already done
it himself, what, what! Waste her time!" And if she wasn't keen to
marry him, had I called him across the ocean to intervene in a vulgar
village squabble about social precedence? "Social precedence silly
I insisted that his brother should be seen to. One couldn't tell what
the woman might do. Her audacity was tremendous, even for an American.
To this he listened more patiently.
"Dare say you're right. You don't go off your head easily. I'll rag
him proper, now I'm here. Always knew the ass would make a silly
marriage if he could. Yes, yes, I'll break it up quick enough. I say
I'll break it up proper. Dancers and that sort. Dangerous. But I know
A summons to tea below interrupted him.
"Hungry, my word! Hardly dared eat in that dining-coach. Tinned stuff
all about one. Appendicitis! American journal--some Colonel chap found
it out. Hunting sort. Looked a fool beside his silly horse, but seemed
to know. Took no chances. Said the tin-opener slays its thousands.
Rot, no doubt. Perhaps not."
I led him below, hardly daring at the moment to confess my own
responsibility for his fears. Another time, I thought, we might chat
Belknap-Jackson with his wife and the Mixer awaited us. His lordship
was presented, and I excused myself.
"Mrs. Pettengill, his lordship the Earl of Brinstead," had been the
host's speech of presentation to the Mixer.
"How do do, Earl; I'm right glad to meet you," had been the Mixer's
acknowledgment, together with a hearty grasp of the hand. I saw his
lordship's face brighten.
"What ho!" he cried with the first cheerfulness he had exhibited, and
the Mixer, still vigorously pumping his hand, had replied, "Same
here!" with a vast smile of good nature. It occurred to me that they,
at least, were quite going to "get" each other, as Americans say.
"Come right in and set down in the parlour," she was saying at the
last. "I don't eat between meals like you English folks are always
doing, but I'll take a shot of hooch with you."
The Belknap-Jacksons stood back not a little distressed. They seemed
to publish that their guest was being torn from them.
"A shot of hooch!" observed his lordship "I dare say your shooting
over here is absolutely top-hole--keener sport than our popping at
driven birds. What, what!"
At a latish seven, when the Grill had become nicely filled with a
representative crowd, the Belknap-Jacksons arrived with his lordship.
The latter had not dressed and I was able to detect that
Belknap-Jackson, doubtless noting his guest's attire at the last
moment, had hastily changed back to a lounge-suit of his own. Also I
noted the absence of the Mixer and wondered how the host had contrived
to eliminate her. On this point he found an opportunity to enlighten
me before taking his seat.
"Mark my words, that old devil is up to something," he darkly said,
and I saw that he was genuinely put about, for not often does he fall
into strong language.
"After pushing herself forward with his lordship all through tea-time
in the most brazen manner, she announces that she has a previous
dinner engagement and can't be with us. I'm as well pleased to have
her absent, of course, but I'd pay handsomely to know what her little
game is. Imagine her not dining with the Earl of Brinstead when she
had the chance! That shows something's wrong. I don't like it. I tell
you she's capable of things."
I mused upon this. The Mixer was undoubtedly capable of things.
Especially things concerning her son-in-law. And yet I could imagine
no opening for her at the present moment and said as much. And Mrs.
Belknap-Jackson, I was glad to observe, did not share her husband's
evident worry. She had entered the place plumingly, as it were,
sweeping the length of the room before his lordship with quite all the
manner her somewhat stubby figure could carry off. Seated, she became
at once vivacious, chatting to his lordship brightly and continuously,
raking the room the while with her lorgnon. Half a dozen ladies of the
North Side set were with parties at other tables. I saw she was
immensely stimulated by the circumstance that these friends were
unaware of her guest's identity. I divined that before the evening was
over she would contrive to disclose it.
His lordship responded but dully to her animated chat. He is never
less urbane than when hungry, and I took pains to have his favourite
soup served quite almost at once. This he fell upon. I may say that he
has always a hearty manner of attacking his soup. Not infrequently he
makes noises. He did so on this occasion. I mean to say, there was no
finesse. I hovered near, anxious that the service should be without
His head bent slightly over his plate, I saw a spoonful of soup
ascending with precision toward his lips. But curiously it halted in
mid-air, then fell back. His lordship's eyes had become fixed upon
some one back of me. At once, too, I noted looks of consternation upon
the faces of the Belknap-Jacksons, the hostess freezing in the very
midst of some choice phrase she had smilingly begun.
I turned quickly. It was the Klondike person, radiant in the costume
of black and the black hat. She moved down the hushed room with
well-lifted chin, eyes straight ahead and narrowed to but a faint
offended consciousness of the staring crowd. It was well done. It was
superior. I am able to judge those things.
Reaching a table the second but one from the Belknap-Jacksons's, she
relaxed finely from the austere note of her progress and turned to her
companions with a pretty and quite perfect confusion as to which chair
she might occupy. Quite awfully these companions were the Mixer,
overwhelming in black velvet and diamonds, and Cousin Egbert,
uncomfortable enough looking but as correctly enveloped in evening
dress as he could ever manage by himself. His cravat had been tied
many times and needed it once more.
They were seated by the raccoon with quite all his impressiveness of
manner. They faced the Belknap-Jackson party, yet seemed unconscious
of its presence. Cousin Egbert, with a bored manner which I am certain
he achieved only with tremendous effort, scanned my simple menu. The
Mixer settled herself with a vast air of comfort and arranged various
hand-belongings about her on the table.
Between them the Klondike woman sat with a restraint that would
actually not have ill-become one of our own women. She did not look
about; her hands were still, her head was up. At former times with her
own set she had been wont to exhibit a rather defiant vivacity. Now
she did not challenge. Finely, eloquently, there pervaded her a
reserve that seemed almost to exhale a fragrance. But of course that
is silly rot. I mean to say, she drew the attention without visible
effort. She only waited.
The Earl of Brinstead, as we all saw, had continued to stare. Thrice
slowly arose the spoon of soup, for mere animal habit was strong upon
him, yet at a certain elevation it each time fell slowly back. He was
acting like a mechanical toy. Then the Mixer caught his eye and nodded
crisply. He bobbed in response.
"What ho! The dowager!" he exclaimed, and that time the soup was
"Poor old mater!" sighed his hostess. "She's constantly taking up
people. One does, you know, in these queer Western towns."
"Jolly old thing, awfully good sort!" said his lordship, but his eyes
were not on the Mixer.
Terribly then I recalled the Honourable George's behaviour at that
same table the night he had first viewed this Klondike person. His
lordship was staring in much the same fashion. Yet I was relieved to
observe that the woman this time was quite unconscious of the interest
she had aroused. In the case of the Honourable George, who had frankly
ogled her--for the poor chap has ever lacked the finer shades in these
matters--she had not only been aware of it but had deliberately played
upon it. It is not too much to say that she had shown herself to be a
creature of blandishments. More than once she had permitted her eyes
to rest upon him with that peculiarly womanish gaze which, although
superficially of a blank innocence, is yet all-seeing and even shoots
little fine arrows of questions from its ambuscade. But now she was
ignoring his lordship as utterly as she did the Belknap-Jacksons.
To be sure she may later have been in some way informed that his eyes
were seeking her, but never once, I am sure, did she descend to even a
veiled challenge of his glance or betray the faintest discreet
consciousness of it. And this I was indeed glad to note in her.
Clearly she must know where to draw the line, permitting herself a
malicious laxity with a younger brother which she would not have the
presumption to essay with the holder of the title. Pleased I was, I
say, to detect in her this proper respect for his lordship's position.
It showed her to be not all unworthy.
The dinner proceeded, his lordship being good enough to compliment me
on the fare which I knew was done to his liking. Yet, even in the very
presence of the boiled mutton, his eyes were too often upon his
neighbour. When he behaved thus in the presence of a dish of mutton I
had not to be told that he was strongly moved. I uneasily recalled now
that he had once been a bit of a dog himself. I mean to say, there was
talk in the countryside, though of course it had died out a score of
years ago. I thought it as well, however, that he be told almost
immediately that the person he honoured with his glance was no other
than the one he had come to subtract his unfortunate brother from.
The dinner progressed--somewhat jerkily because of his lordship's
inattention--through the pudding and cheese to coffee. Never had I
known his lordship behave so languidly in the presence of food he
cared for. His hosts ate even less. They were worried. Mrs.
Belknap-Jackson, however, could simply no longer contain within
herself the secret of their guest's identity. With excuses to the deaf
ears of his lordship she left to address a friend at a distant table.
She addressed others at other tables, leaving a flutter of sensation
in her wake.
Belknap-Jackson, having lighted one of his non-throat cigarettes,
endeavoured to engross his lordship with an account of their last
election of officers to the country club. His lordship was not
properly attentive to this. Indeed, with his hostess gone he no longer
made any pretence of concealing his interest in the other table. I saw
him catch the eye of the Mixer and astonishingly intercepted from her
a swift but most egregious wink.
"One moment," said his lordship to the host. "Must pay my respects to
the dowager, what, what! Jolly old muggins, yes!" And he was gone.
I heard the Mixer's amazing presentation speech.
"Mrs. Kenner, Mr. Floud, his lordship--say, listen here, is your right
name Brinstead, or Basingwell, like your brother's?"
The Klondike person acknowledged the thing with a faintly gracious
nod. It carried an air, despite the slightness of it. Cousin Egbert
was more cordial.
"Pleased to meet you, Lord!" said he, and grasped the newcomer's hand.
"Come on, set in with us and have some coffee and a cigar. Here, Jeff,
bring the lord a good cigar. We was just talking about you that
minute. How do you like our town? Say, this here Kulanche Valley----" I
lost the rest. His lordship had seated himself. At his own table
Belknap-Jackson writhed acutely. He was lighting a second
cigarette--the first not yet a quarter consumed!
At once the four began to be thick as thieves, though it was apparent
his lordship had eyes only for the woman. Coffee was brought. His
lordship lighted his cigar. And now the word had so run from Mrs.
Belknap-Jackson that all eyes were drawn to this table. She had
created her sensation and it had become all at once more of one than
she had thought. From Mrs. Judge Ballard's table I caught her glare at
her unconscious mother. It was not the way one's daughter should
regard one in public.
Presently contriving to pass the table again, I noted that Cousin
Egbert had changed his form of address.
"Have some brandy with your coffee, Earl. Here, Jeff, bring Earl and
all of us some lee-cures." I divined the monstrous truth that he
supposed himself to be calling his lordship by his first name, and he
in turn must have understood my shocked glance of rebuke, for a bit
later, with glad relief in his tones, he was addressing his lordship
as "Cap!" And myself he had given the rank of colonel!
The Klondike person in the beginning finely maintained her reserve.
Only at the last did she descend to vivacity or the use of her eyes.
This later laxness made me wonder if, after all, she would feel bound
to pay his lordship the respect he was wont to command from her class.
"You and poor George are rather alike," I overheard, "except that he
uses the single 'what' and you use the double. Hasn't he any right to
use the double 'what' yet, and what does it mean, anyway? Tell us."
"What, what!" demanded his lordship, a bit puzzled.
"But that's it! What do you say 'What, what' for? It can't do you any
"What, what! But I mean to say, you're having me on. My word you
are--spoofing, I mean to say. What, what! To be sure. Chaffing lot,
you are!" He laughed. He was behaving almost with levity.
"But poor old George is so much younger than you--you must make
allowances," I again caught her saying; and his lordship replied:
"Not at all; not at all! Matter of a half-score years. Barely a
half-score; nine and a few months. Younger? What rot! Chaffing again."
Really it was a bit thick, the creature saying "poor old George" quite
as if he were something in an institution, having to be wheeled about
in a bath-chair with rugs and water-bottles!
Glad I was when the trio gave signs of departure. It was woman's craft
dictating it, I dare say. She had made her effect and knew when to go.
"Of course we shall have to talk over my dreadful designs on your poor
old George," said the amazing woman, intently regarding his lordship
"Leave it to me," said he, with a scarcely veiled significance.
"Well, see you again, Cap," said Cousin Egbert warmly. "I'll take you
around to meet some of the boys. We'll see you have a good time."
"What ho!" his lordship replied cordially. The Klondike person flashed
him one enigmatic look, then turned to precede her companions. Again
down the thronged room she swept, with that chin-lifted,
drooping-eyed, faintly offended half consciousness of some staring
rabble at hand that concerned her not at all. Her alert feminine foes,
I am certain, read no slightest trace of amusement in her unwavering
lowered glance. So easily she could have been crude here!
Belknap-Jackson, enduring his ignominious solitude to the limit of his
powers, had joined his wife at the lower end of the room. They had
taken the unfortunate development with what grace they could. His
lordship had dropped in upon them quite informally--charming man that
he was. Of course he would quickly break up the disgraceful affair.
Beginning at once. They would doubtless entertain for him in a quiet
At the deserted table his lordship now relieved a certain sickening
apprehension that had beset me.
"What, what! Quite right to call me out here. Shan't forget it.
Dangerous creature, that. Badly needed, I was. Can't think why you
waited so long! Anything might have happened to old George. Break it
up proper, though. Never do at all. Impossible person for him. Quite!"
I saw they had indeed taken no pains to hide the woman's identity from
him nor their knowledge of his reason for coming out to the States,
though with wretchedly low taste they had done this chaffingly. Yet it
was only too plain that his lordship now realized what had been the
profound gravity of the situation, and I was glad to see that he meant
to end it without any nonsense.
"Silly ass, old George, though," he added as the Belknap-Jacksons
approached. "How a creature like that could ever have fancied him!
His hosts were profuse in their apologies for having so thoughtlessly
run away from his lordship--they carried it off rather well. They were
keen for sitting at the table once more, as the other observant diners
were lingering on, but his lordship would have none of this.
"Stuffy place!" said he. "Best be getting on." And so, reluctantly,
they led him down the gauntlet of widened eyes. Even so, the tenth
Earl of Brinstead had dined publicly with them. More than repaid they
were for the slight the Honourable George had put upon them in the
affair of the pianoforte artist.
An hour later Belknap-Jackson had me on by telephone. His voice was
not a little worried.
"I say, is his lordship, the Earl, subject to spells of any sort? We
were in the library where I was showing him some photographic views of
dear old Boston, and right over a superb print of our public library
he seemed to lose consciousness. Might it be a stroke? Or do you think
it's just a healthy sleep? And shall I venture to shake him? How would
he take that? Or should I merely cover him with a travelling rug? It
would be so dreadful if anything happened when he's been with us such
a little time."
I knew his lordship. He has the gift of sleeping quite informally when
his attention is not too closely engaged. I suggested that the host
set his musical phonograph in motion on some one of the more audible
selections. As I heard no more from him that night I dare say my plan
Our town, as may be imagined, buzzed with transcendent gossip on the
morrow. The _Recorder_ disclosed at last that the Belknap-Jacksons
of Boston and Red Gap were quietly entertaining his lordship, the
Earl of Brinstead, though since the evening before this had been news
to hardly any one. Nor need it be said that a viciously fermenting
element in the gossip concerned the apparently cordial meeting of his
lordship with the Klondike person, an encounter that had been watched
with jealous eyes by more than one matron of the North Side set. It
was even intimated that if his lordship had come to put the creature
in her place he had chosen a curious way to set about it.
Also there were hard words uttered of the Belknap-Jacksons by Mrs.
Effie, and severe blame put upon myself because his lordship had not
come out to the Flouds'.
"But the Brinsteads have always stopped with us before," she went
about saying, as if there had been a quite long succession of them. I
mean to say, only the Honourable George had stopped on with them,
unless, indeed, the woman actually counted me as one. Between herself
and Mrs. Belknap-Jackson, I understood, there ensued early that
morning by telephone a passage of virulent acidity, Mrs. Effie being
heard by Cousin Egbert to say bluntly that she would get even.
Undoubtedly she did not share the annoyance of the Belknap-Jacksons at
certain eccentricities now developed by his lordship which made him at
times a trying house guest. That first morning he arose at five sharp,
a custom of his which I deeply regretted not having warned his host
about. Discovering quite no one about, he had ventured abroad in
search of breakfast, finding it at length in the eating establishment
known as "Bert's Place," in company with engine-drivers, plate-layers,
milk persons, and others of a common sort.
Thereafter he had tramped furiously about the town and its environs
for some hours, at last encountering Cousin Egbert who escorted him to
the Floud home for his first interview with the Honourable George. The
latter received his lordship in bed, so Cousin Egbert later informed
me. He had left the two together, whereupon for an hour there were
heard quite all over the house words of the most explosive character.
Cousin Egbert, much alarmed at the passionate beginning of the
interview, suspected they might do each other a mischief, and for some
moments hovered about with the aim, if need be, of preserving human
life. But as the uproar continued evenly, he at length concluded they
would do no more than talk, the outcome proving the accuracy of his
Mrs. Effie, meantime, saw her opportunity and seized it with a cool
readiness which I have often remarked in her. Belknap-Jackson,
distressed beyond measure at the strange absence of his guest, had
communicated with me by telephone several times without result. Not
until near noon was I able to give him any light. Mrs. Effie had then
called me to know what his lordship preferred for luncheon. Replying
that cold beef, pickles, and beer were his usual mid-day fancy, I
hastened to allay the fears of the Belknap-Jacksons, only to find that
Mrs. Effie had been before me.
"She says," came the annoyed voice of the host, "that the dear Earl
dropped in for a chat with his brother and has most delightfully
begged her to give him luncheon. She says he will doubtless wish to
drive with them this afternoon, but I had already planned to drive him
myself--to the country club and about. The woman is high-handed, I
must say. For God's sake, can't you do something?"
I was obliged to tell him straight that the thing was beyond me,
though I promised to recover his guest promptly, should any
opportunity occur. The latter did not, however, drive with the Flouds
that afternoon. He was observed walking abroad with Cousin Egbert, and
it was later reported by persons of unimpeachable veracity that they
had been seen to enter the Klondike person's establishment.
Evening drew on without further news. But then certain elated members
of the Bohemian set made it loosely known that they were that evening
to dine informally at their leader's house to meet his lordship. It
seemed a bit extraordinary to me, yet I could not but rejoice that he
should thus adopt the peaceful methods of diplomacy for the
extrication of his brother.
Belknap-Jackson now telephoning to know if I had heard this
report--"canard" he styled it--I confirmed it and remarked that his
lordship was undoubtedly by way of bringing strong pressure to bear on
"But I had expected him to meet a few people here this evening," cried
the host pathetically. I was then obliged to tell him that the
Brinsteads for centuries had been bluntly averse to meeting a few
people. It seemed to run in the blood.
The Bohemian dinner, although quite informal, was said to have been
highly enjoyed by all, including the Honourable George, who was among
those present, as well as Cousin Egbert. The latter gossiped briefly
of the affair the following day.
"Sure, the Cap had a good time all right," he said. "Of course he
ain't the mixer the Judge is, but he livens up quite some, now and
then. Talks like a bunch of firecrackers going off all to once, don't
he? Funny guy. I walked with him to the Jacksons' about twelve or one.
He's going back to Mis' Kenner's house today. He says it'll take a lot
of talking back and forth to get this thing settled right, and it's
got to be right, he says. He seen that right off." He paused as if to
"If you was to ask me, though, I'd say she had him--just like that!"
He held an open hand toward me, then tightly clenched it.
Suspecting he might spread absurd gossip of this sort, I explained
carefully to him that his lordship had indeed at once perceived her to
be a dangerous woman; and that he was now taking his own cunning way
to break off the distressing affair between her and his brother. He
listened patiently, but seemed wedded to some monstrous view of his
"Them dames of that there North Side set better watch out," he
remarked ominously. "First thing they know, what that Kate Kenner'll
hand them--they can make a lemonade out of!"
I could make but little of this, save its general import, which was of
course quite shockingly preposterous. I found myself wishing, to be
sure, that his lordship had been able to accomplish his mission to
North America without appearing to meet the person as a social equal,
as I feared indeed that a wrong impression of his attitude would be
gained by the undiscerning public. It might have been better, I was
almost quite certain, had he adopted a stern and even brutal method at
the outset, instead of the circuitous and diplomatic. Belknap-Jackson
shared this view with me.
"I should hate dreadfully to have his lordship's reputation suffer for
this," he confided to me.
The first week dragged to its close in this regrettable fashion.
Oftener than not his hosts caught no glimpse of his lordship
throughout the day. The smart trap and the tandem team were constantly
ready, but he had not yet been driven abroad by his host. Each day he
alleged the necessity of conferring with the woman.
"Dangerous creature, my word! But dangerous!" he would announce.
"Takes no end of managing. Do it, though; do it proper. Take a high
hand with her. Can't have silly old George in a mess. Own brother,
what, what! Time needed, though. Not with you at dinner, if you don't
mind. Creature has a way of picking up things not half nasty."
But each day Belknap-Jackson met him with pressing offers of such
entertainment as the town afforded. Three several times he had been
obliged to postpone the informal evening affair for a few smart
people. Yet, though patient, he was determined. Reluctantly at last he
abandoned the design of driving his guest about in the trap, but he
insistently put forward the motor-car. He would drive it himself. They
would spend pleasant hours going about the country. His lordship
continued elusive. To myself he confided that his host was a nagger.
"Awfully nagging sort, yes. Doesn't know the strain I'm under getting
this silly affair straight. Country interesting no doubt, what, what!
But, my word! saw nothing but country coming out. Country quite all
about, miles and miles both sides of the metals. Seen enough country.
Seen motor-cars, too, my word. Enough of both, what, what!"
Yet it seemed that on the Saturday after his arrival he could no
longer decently put off his insistent host. He consented to accompany
him in the motor-car. Rotten judging it was on the part of
Belknap-Jackson. He should have listened to me. They departed after
luncheon, the host at the wheel. I had his account of such following
events as I did not myself observe.
"Our country club," he observed early in the drive. "No one there, of
course. You'd never believe the trouble I've had----"
"Jolly good club," replied his lordship. "Drive back that way."
"Back that way," it appeared, would take them by the detached villa of
the Klondike person.
"Stop here," directed his lordship. "Shan't detain you a moment."
This was at two-thirty of a fair afternoon. I am able to give but the
bare facts, yet I must assume that the emotions of Belknap-Jackson as
he waited there during the ensuing two hours were of a quite
distressing nature. As much was intimated by several observant
townspeople who passed him. He was said to be distrait; to be smoking
his cigarettes furiously.
At four-thirty his lordship reappeared. With apparent solicitude he
escorted the Klondike person, fetchingly gowned in a street costume of
the latest mode. They chatted gayly to the car.
"Hope I've not kept you waiting, old chap," said his lordship
genially. "Time slips by one so. You two met, of course, course!" He
bestowed his companion in the tonneau and ensconced himself beside
"Drive," said he, "to your goods shops, draper's, chemist's--where was
"To the Central Market," responded the lady in bell-like tones, "then
to the Red Front store, and to that dear little Japanese shop, if he
"Mind! Mind! Course not, course not! Are you warm? Let me fasten the
I confess to have felt a horrid fascination for this moment as I was
able to reconstruct it from Belknap-Jackson's impassioned words. It
was by way of being one of those scenes we properly loathe yet
morbidly cannot resist overlooking if opportunity offers.
Into the flood tide of our Saturday shopping throng swept the car and
its remarkably assembled occupants. The street fair gasped. The
woman's former parade of the Honourable George had been as nothing to
"Poor Jackson's face was a study," declared the Mixer to me later.
I dare say. It was still a study when my own turn came to observe it.
The car halted before the shops that had been designated. The Klondike
person dispatched her commissions in a superbly leisured manner,
attentively accompanied by the Earl of Brinstead bearing packages for
Belknap-Jackson, at the wheel, stared straight ahead. I am told he
bore himself with dignity even when some of our more ingenuous
citizens paused to converse with him concerning his new motor-car. He
is even said to have managed a smile when his passengers returned.
"I have it," exclaimed his lordship now. "Deuced good plan--go to that
Ruggles place for a jolly fat tea. No end of a spree, what, what!"
It is said that on three occasions in turning his car and traversing
the short block to the Grill the owner escaped disastrous collision
with other vehicles only by the narrowest possible margin. He may have
courted something of the sort. I dare say he was desperate.
"Join us, of course!" said his lordship, as he assisted his companion
to alight. Again I am told the host managed to illumine his refusal
with a smile. He would take no tea--the doctor's orders.
The surprising pair entered at the height of my tea-hour and were
served to an accompaniment of stares from the ladies present. To this
they appeared oblivious, being intent upon their conference. His
lordship was amiable to a degree. It now occurred to me that he had
found the woman even more dangerous than he had at first supposed. He
was being forced to play a deep game with her and was meeting guile
with guile. He had, I suspected, found his poor brother far deeper in
than any of us had thought. Doubtless he had written compromising
letters that must be secured--letters she would hold at a price.
And yet I had never before had excuse to believe his lordship
possessed the diplomatic temperament. I reflected that I must always
have misread him. He was deep, after all. Not until the two left did I
learn that Belknap-Jackson awaited them with his car. He loitered
about in adjacent doorways, quite like a hired fellow. He was
passionately smoking more cigarettes than were good for him.
I escorted my guests to the car. Belknap-Jackson took his seat with
but one glance at me, yet it was eloquent of all the ignominy that had
been heaped upon him.
"Home, I think," said the lady when they were well seated. She said it
"Home," repeated his lordship. "Are you quite protected by the robe?"
An incautious pedestrian at the next crossing narrowly escaped being
run down. He shook a fist at the vanishing car and uttered a stream of
oaths so vile that he would instantly have been taken up in any
Half an hour later Belknap-Jackson called me.
"He got out with that fiend! He's staying on there. But, my God! can
nothing be done?"
"His lordship is playing a most desperate game," I hastened to assure
him. "He's meeting difficulties. She must have her dupe's letters in
her possession. Blackmail, I dare say. Best leave his lordship free.
He's a deep character."
"He presumed far this afternoon--only the man's position saved him
with me!" His voice seemed choked with anger. Then, remotely, faint as
distant cannonading, a rumble reached me. It was hoarse laughter of
the Mixer, perhaps in another room. The electric telephone has been
perfected in the States to a marvellous delicacy of response.
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