When a Man Marries
Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 2 out of 4
was paying any attention to us. "Tell them that, to be obliging,
I have nearly drowned in a sea of lies; tell them that I am not
only not married, but that I never intend to marry; tell them
that we are a lot of idiots with nothing better to do than to
trifle with strangers within our gates, people who build--I mean,
people that are worth two to our one! Run and tell them."
He looked at me for a minute, then he turned on his heel and left
me. It looked as though Max might be going to be difficult.
While I was improvising an apron out of a towel, and Anne was
pinning a sheet into a kimono, so she could take off her dinner
gown and still be proper, Dallas harked back to the robbery.
"Ann put the collar on the table there," he said. "There's no
mistake about that. I watched her do it, for I remember thinking
it was the sole reminder I had that Consolidated Traction ever
went above thirty-nine."
Max was looking around the room, examining the window locks and
whistling between his teeth. He was in disgrace with every one,
for by that time it was light enough to see three reporters with
cameras across the street waiting for enough sun to snap the
house, and everybody knew that it was Max and his idiotic wager
that had done it. He had made two or three conciliatory remarks,
but no one would speak to him. His antics were so queer, however,
that we were all watching him, and when he had felt over the rug
with his hands, and raised the edges, and tried to lift out the
chair seats, and had shaken out Dal's shoes (he said people often
hid things and then forgot about it), he made a proposition.
"If you will take that infernal furnace from around my neck, I'll
undertake either to find the jewels or to show up the thief," he
said quietly. And of course, with all the people in the house
under suspicion, every one had to hail the suggestion with joy,
and to offer his assistance, and Jimmy had to take Max's share of
the furnace. So they took the scullery slip downstairs to the
policeman, and gave Jim Max's share of the furnace. (Yes, I had
broken the policeman to them gently. Of course, Anne said at once
that he was the thief, but they found him tucked in and sound
asleep with his back against the furnace.)
"In the first place," Max said, standing importantly in the
middle of the room, "we retired between two and three--nearer
three. So the theft occurred between three and five, when Anne
woke up. Was your door locked, Dal?"
"No. The door into the hall was, but the door into the dressing
room was open, and we found the door from there into the hall
open this morning."
"From three until five," Max repeated. "Was any one out of his
room during that time?"
"I was," said Tom Harbison promptly, from the foot of the bed. "I
was prowling all around somewhere about four, searching"--he
glanced at me--"for a drink of water. But as I don't know a pearl
from a glass bead, I hope you exonerate me."
Everybody laughed and said, "Of course," and "Sure, old man," and
changed the subject quickly.
While that excitement was on, I got Jim to one side and told him
about Bella. His good-natured face was radiant at first.
"I suppose she DID come to see Takahiro, eh, Kit?" he asked
delicately. "She didn't say anything about me?"
"Nothing good. She said the house was in a disgraceful
condition," I said heartlessly. "And her diamond bracelet was
stolen while she took a nap on the kitchen table"--he
groaned--"and--oh, Jim, you are such a goose! If I could only
manage my own affairs the way I could my friends'! She's too sure
of you, Jimmy. She knows you adore her, and--how brutal could you
"Fair," he said. "I may have undiscovered depths of brutality
that I have never had occasion to use. However, I might try.
"Listen, Jim," I urged. "It was always Bella who did things here;
she managed the house, she tyrannized over her friends, and she
bullied you. Yes, she did. Now she's here, without your
invitation, and she has to stay. It's your turn to bully, to
dictate terms, to be coldly civil or politely rude. Make her
furious at you. If she is jealous, so much the better."
"How far would you sacrifice yourself on the altar of
friendship?" he asked.
"You may pay me all the attention you like, in public," I
replied, and after we shook hands we went together to Bella.
There was an ominous pause when we went into the den. Bella was
sitting by the register, with her furs on, and after one glance
over her shoulder at us, she looked away again without speaking.
"Bella," Jim said appealingly. And then I pinched his arm, and he
drew himself up and looked properly outraged.
"Bella," he said, coldly this time, "I can't imagine why you have
put yourself in this ridiculous position, but since you have--"
She turned on him in a fury.
"Put MYSELF in this position!"
She was frantic. "It's a plot, a wretched trick of yours, this
quarantine, to keep me here."
Jim gasped, but I gave him a warning glance, and he swallowed
"On the contrary," he said, with maddening quiet, "I would be the
last person in the world to wish to perpetuate an indiscretion of
yours. For it was hardly discreet, was it, to visit a bachelor
establishment alone at ten o'clock at night? As far as my
plotting to keep you here is concerned, I assure you that nothing
could be further from my mind. Our paths were to be two parallel
lines that never touch." He looked at me for approval, and Bella
"You are worse that I ever thought you," she stormed. "I thought
you were only a--a fool. Now I know you--for a brute!"
Well, it ended by Jim's graciously permitting Bella to
remain--there being nothing else to do--and by his magnanimously
agreeing to keep her real identity from Aunt Selina and Mr.
Harbison, and to break the news of her presence to Anne and the
rest. It created a sensation beside which Anne's pearls faded
away, although they came to the front again soon enough.
Jim broke the news at once, gathering everybody but Harbison and
Aunt Selina in the upper hall. He was palpitatingly nervous, but
he tried to carry it off with a high hand.
"It's unfortunate," he said, looking around the circle of faces,
each one frozen with amazement, and just a suspicion, perhaps of
incredulity. "It's particularly unfortunate for her. You all know
how high-strung she is, and if the papers should get hold of
it--well, we'll all have to make it as easy as we can for her."
With Jim's eyes on them, they all swallowed the butler story
without a gulp. But Anne was indignant.
"It's like Bella," she snapped. "Well, she has made her bed and
she can lie on it. I'm sure I shan't make it for her. But if you
want to know my opinion, Mr. Harbison may be a fool, but you
can't ram two Bellas, both NEE Knowles, down Miss Caruthers'
throat with a stick."
We had not thought of that before and every one looked blank.
Finally, however, Jim said Bella's middle name was Constantia,
and we decided to call her that. But it turned out afterward that
nobody could remember it in a hurry, and generally when we wanted
to attract her attention, we walked across the room and touched
her on the shoulder. It was quicker and safer.
The name decided, we went downstairs in a line to welcome Bella,
to try to make her feel at home, and to forget her deplorable
situation. Leila had worked herself into a really sympathetic
frame of mind.
"Poor dear," she said, on the way down. "Now don't grin, anybody,
just be cordial and glad to see her. I hope she doesn't cry; you
know the spells she takes."
We stopped outside the door, and everybody tried to look cheerful
and sympathetic, and not grinny--which was as hard as looking as
if we had had a cup of tea--and then Jim threw the door open and
we filed in.
Bella was comfortably reading by the fire. She had her feet up on
a stool and a pillow behind her head. She did not even look at us
for a minute; then she merely glanced up as she turned a page.
"Dear me," she said mockingly, "what a lot of frumps you all are!
I had hoped it was some one with my breakfast."
Then she went on reading. As Leila said afterward, that kind of
person OUGHT to be divorced.
Aunt Selina came down just then and I left everybody trying to
explain Bella's presence to her, and fled to the kitchen. The
Harbison man appeared while I was sitting hopelessly in front of
the gas range, and showed me about it.
"I don't know that I ever saw one," he said cheerfully, "but I
know the theory. Likewise, by the same token, this tea kettle,
set on the flame, will boil. That is not theory, however, that is
early knowledge. 'Polly, put the kettle on; we'll all take tea.'
Look at that, Mrs. Wilson. I didn't fight bacilli with boiled
water at Chickamauga for nothing."
And then he let out the policeman and brought him into the
kitchen. He was a large man, and his face was a curious mixture
of amazement, alarm and dignity. No doubt we did look queer,
still in parts of our evening clothes and I in the white silk and
lace petticoat that belonged under my gown, with a yellow and
black pajama coat of Jimmy's as a sort of breakfast jacket.
"This is Officer Flannigan," Mr. Harbison said. "I explained our
unfortunate position earlier in the morning, and he is prepared
to accept our hospitality. Flannigan, every person in this house
has got to work, as I also explained to you. You are appointed
dishwasher and scullery maid."
The policeman looked dazed. Then, slowly, like dawn over a
sleeping lake, a light of comprehension grew in his face.
"Sure," he said, laying his helmet on the table. "I'll be glad to
be doing anything I can to help. Me and Mrs. Wilson--we used to
be friends. It's many the time I've opened the carriage door for
her, and she with her head in the air, and for all that, the
pleasant smile. When any one around her was having a party and
wanted a special officer, it was Mrs. Wilson that always said,
Get Flannigan, Officer Timothy Flannigan. He's your man.'"
My heart had been going lower and lower. So he knew Bella, and he
knew I was not Bella, although he had not grasped the fact that I
was usurping her place. The odious Harbison man sat on the table
and swung his feet.
"I wonder if you know," he said, looking around him, "how good it
is to see a white woman so perfectly at home in a civilized
kitchen again, after two years of food cooked by a filthy Indian
squaw over a portable sheet-iron stove!"
SO PERFECTLY AT HOME? I stood in the middle of the room and
stared around at the copper things hanging up and the rows of
blue and white crockery, and the dozens and hundreds of
complicated-looking utensils, whose names I had never even heard,
and I was dazed. I tried with some show of authority to instruct
Flannigan about gathering up the soiled things, and, after
listening in puzzled silence for a minute, he stripped off his
blue coat with a tolerant smile.
"Lave em to me, miss," he said. The "miss" passed unnoticed. "I
mayn't give em a Turkish bath, which is what you are describin',
but I'll get the grease off all right. I always clean up while
the missus is in bed with a young un."
He rolled up his sleeves, found a brown checked gingham apron
behind the door, and tied it around his neck with the ease of
practice. Then he cleared off the plates, eating what appealed to
him as he did so, and stopping now and again for a deep-throated
"I'm thinkin'," he said once, stopping with a dish in the air,
"what a deuce of a noise there will be when the vaccination
doctor comes around this mornin'. In a week every one of us will
be nursin' a sore arm or walkin' on one leg, beggin' your pardon,
miss. The last time the force was vaccinated, I asked to be done
behind me ear; I needed me legs and I needed me arms, but didn't
need me head much!"
He threw his head back and laughed. Mr. Harbison laughed. Oh, we
were very cheerful! And that awful stove stared at me, and the
kettle began to hum, and Aunt Selina sent down word that she was
not well, and would like some omelet on her tray. Omelet!
I knew that it was made of eggs, but that was the extent of my
knowledge. I muttered an excuse and ran upstairs to Anne, but she
was still sniffling over her necklace, and said she didn't know
anything about omelets and didn't care. Food would choke her.
Neither of the Mercer girls knew either, and Bella, who was still
reading in the den, absolutely declined to help.
"I don't know, and I wouldn't tell you if I did. You can get
yourself out, as you got yourself in," she said nastily. "The
simplest thing, if you don't mind my suggesting it, is to poison
the coffee and kill the lot of us. Only, if you decide to do it,
let me know; I want to live just long enough to see Jimmy Wilson
Bella is the kind of person who gets on one's nerves. She finds a
grievance and hugs it; she does ridiculous things and blames
other people. And she flirts.
I went downstairs despondently, and found that Mr. Harbison had
discovered some eggs and was standing helplessly staring at them.
"Omelet--eggs. Eggs--omelet. That's the extent of my knowledge,"
he said, when I entered. "You'll have to come to my assistance."
It was then that I saw the cook book. It was lying on a shelf
beside the clock, and while Mr. Harbison had his back turned I
got it down. It was quite clear that the domestic type of woman
was his ideal, and I did not care to outrage his belief in me. So
I took the cook book into the pantry and read the recipe over
three times. When I came back I knew it by heart, although I did
not understand it.
"I will tell you how," I said with a great deal of dignity, "and
since you want to help, you may make it yourself."
He was delighted.
"Fine!" he said. "Suppose you give me the idea first. Then we'll
go over it slowly, bit by bit. We'll make a big fluffy omelet,
and if the others aren't around, we'll eat it ourselves."
"Well," I said, trying to remember exactly, "you take two eggs--"
"Two!" he repeated. "Two eggs for ten people!"
"Don't interrupt me," I said irritably. "If--if two isn't enough
we can make several omelets, one after the other."
He looked at me with admiration.
"Who else but you would have thought of that!" he remarked.
"Well, here are two eggs. What next?"
"Separate them," I said easily. No, I didn't know what it meant.
I hoped he would; I said it as casually as I could, and I did not
look at him. I knew he was staring at me, puzzled.
"Separate them!" he said. "Why, they aren't fastened together!"
Then he laughed. "Oh, yes, of course!" When I looked he had put
one at each end of the table. "Afraid they'll quarrel, I
suppose," he said. "Well, now they're separated."
"First separate, then beat!" he repeated. "The author of that
cook book must have had a mean disposition. What's next? Hang
them?" He looked up at me with his boyish smile.
"Separate and beat," I repeated. If I lost a word of that recipe
I was gone. It was like saying the alphabet; I had to go to the
beginning every time mentally.
"Well," he reflected, "you can't beat an egg, no matter how cruel
you may be, unless you break it first." He picked up an egg and
looked at it. "Separate!" he reflected. "Ah--the white from
the--whatever you cooking experts call it--the yellow part."
"Exactly!" I exclaimed, light breaking on me. "Of course. I KNEW
you would find it out." Then back to the recipe--"beat until well
mixed; then fold in the whites."
"Fold?" he questioned. "It looks pretty thin to fold, doesn't it?
I--upon my word, I never heard of folding an egg. Are you--but of
course you know. Please come and show me how."
"Just fold them in," I said desperately. "It isn't difficult."
And because I was so transparent a fraud and knew he must find me
out then, I said something about butter, and went into the
pantry. That's the trouble with a lie; somebody asks you to tell
one as a favor to somebody else, and the first thing you know,
you are having to tell a thousand, and trying to remember the
ones you have told so you won't contradict yourself, and the very
person you have tried to help turns on you and reproaches you for
being untruthful! I leaned my elbows despondently on the shelf of
the kitchen pantry, with the feet of a guard visible through the
high window over my head, and waited for Mr. Harbison to come in
and demand that I fold a raw egg, and discover that I didn't know
anything about cooking, and was just as useless as all the
He came. He held the bowl out to me and waved a fork in triumph.
"I have solved it," he said. "Or, rather, Flannigan and I have
solved it. The mixture awaits the magic touch of the cook."
I honestly thought I could do the rest. It was only to be put in
a pan and browned, and then in the oven three minutes. And I did
it properly, but for two things: I should have greased the pan
(but this was the book's fault; it didn't say) and I should have
lighted the oven. The latter, however, was Mr. Harbison's fault
as much as mine, and I had wit enough to lay it to absent-
mindedness on the part of both of us.
After that, Aunt Selina or no Aunt Selina, we decided to have
boiled eggs, and Mr. Harbison knew how to cook them. He put them
in the tea kettle and then went to look at the furnace. And
Officer Timothy Flannigan ground the coffee and gave his opinion
of the board of health in no stinted terms. As for me, I burned
my fingers and the toast, and felt myself growing hot and cold,
for I was going to be found out as soon as Flannigan grasped the
Then, of course, I did the thing that caused me so much trouble
later. I put down the toaster--at least the Harbison man said it
was a toaster--and went over and stood in front of the policeman.
"I don't suppose you will understand--exactly," I said, "but--but
if anything occurs to--to make you think I am not--that things
are not what they seem to be--I mean, what I say they are--you
will understand that it is a joke, won't you? A joke, you know."
Yes, that was what I said. I know it sounds like a raving
delirium, but when Max came down and squizzled some bacon, as he
said, and told Flannigan about the robbery, and how, whether it
was a joke or deadly earnest, somebody in the house had taken
Anne's pearls, that wretched policeman winked at me solemnly over
Max's shoulder. Oh, it was awful!
And, to add to my discomfort, the most unpleasant ideas WOULD
obtrude themselves. WHAT was Mr. Harbison doing on the first
floor of the house that night? Ice water, he had said. But there
had been plenty of water in the studio! And he had told me it was
Mr. Harbison came back in a half hour, and I remembered the eggs.
We fished them out of the tea kettle, and they were perfectly
hard, but we ate them.
The doctor from the board of health came that morning and
vaccinated us. There was a great deal of excitement, and Aunt
Selina was done on the arm. As she did not affect evening clothes
this was entirely natural, but later on in the week, when the
wretched things began to take, nobody dared to limp, and Leila
made a terrible break by wearing a bandage on her left arm, after
telling Aunt Selina that she had been vaccinated on the right.
Chapter VIII. CORRESPONDENTS' DEPARTMENT
The following letters were found in the house post box after the
lifting of the quarantine, and later were presented to me by
their writers, bound in white kid (the letters, not the authors,
FROM THOMAS HARBISON, LATE ENGINEER OF BRIDGES, PERUVIAN TRUNK
LINES, SOUTH AMERICA, TO HENRY LLEWELLYN, CARE OF UNION NITRATE
COMPANY, IQUIQUE, CHILI.
Dear Old Man:
I think I was fully a week trying to drive out of my mind my last
glimpse of you with your sickly grin, pretending to be tickled to
pieces that the only white man within two hundred miles of your
shack was going on a holiday. You old bluffer! I used to hang
over the rail of the steamer, on the way up, and see you standing
as I left you beside the car with its mule and the Indian driver,
and behind you a million miles of soul-destroying pampa. Never
mind, Jack; I sent yesterday by mail steamer the cigarettes,
pipes and tobacco, canned goods and poker chips. Put in some
magazines, too, and the collars. Don't know about the ties--guess
it won't matter down there.
Nothing happened on the trip. One of the engines broke down three
days out, and I spent all my time below decks for forty-eight
hours. Chief engineer raving with D.T.'s. Got the engine fixed in
record time, and haven't got my hands clean yet. It was bully.
With this I send the papers, which will tell you how I happen to
be here, and why I have leisure to write you three days after
landing. If the situation were not so ridiculous, it would be
maddening. Here I am, off for a holiday and congratulating myself
that I am foot free and heart free--yes, my friend, heart
free--here I am, shut in the house of a man I never saw until
last night, and wouldn't care if I never saw again, with a lot of
people who never heard of me, who are almost equally vague about
South America, who play as hard at bridge as I ever worked at
building one (forgive this, won't you? The novelty has gone to my
head), and who belong to the very class of extravagant,
luxury-loving, non-producing parasites (isn't that what we called
them?) that you and I used to revile from our lofty Andean
To come down to earth: here we are, six women and five men,
including a policeman, not a servant in the house, and no one who
knows how to do anything. They are really immensely interesting,
these people; they all know each other very well, and it is
"Jimmy" here, and "Dal" there--Dallas Brown, who went to India
with me, you remember my speaking of him--and they are good
natured, too, except at meal times. The little hostess, Mrs.
Wilson, took over the cooking, and although luncheon was better
than breakfast, the food still leaves much to the imagination.
I wish you could see this Mrs. Wilson, Hal. You would change a
whole lot of your ideas. She is a thoroughbred, sure enough, and
of course some of her beauty is the result of the exquisite care
about which you and I--still from our Andean pinnacle--used to
rant. But the fact is, she is more than that. She has fire, and
pluck, no end. If you could have seen her this morning, standing
in front of a cold kitchen range, determined to conquer it, and
had seen the tilt of her chin when I offered to take over the
cooking--you needn't grin; I can cook, and you know it--you would
understand what I mean. It was so clear that she was paralyzed
with fright at the idea of getting breakfast, and equally clear
that she meant to do it. By the way, I have learned that her name
was McNair before she married this would-be artist, Wilson, and
that she is a daughter of the McNair who financed the Callao
I have not met the others so intimately. There are two sisters
named Mercer, inclined to be noisy--they are playing roulette in
the next room now. One is small and dark, almost Hebraic in type,
named Leila and called Lollie. The other, larger, very blonde and
languishing, and with a decided preference for masculine society,
even, saving the mark, mine! Dallas Brown's wife, good looking,
smokes cigarettes when I am not around--they all do, except Mrs.
Then there is a maiden aunt, who is ill today with grippe and
excitement, and a Miss Knowles, who came for a moment last night
to see Mrs. Wilson, was caught in the quarantine (see papers),
and, after hiding all night in the basement, is sulking all day
in her room. Her presence created an excitement out of all
proportion to the apparent cause.
From the fact that I have reason to know that my artist host and
his beautiful wife are on bad terms, and from the significant
glances with which the announcement of Miss Knowles' presence was
met, the state of affairs seems rather clear. Wilson impresses me
as a spineless sort, anyhow, and when the lady of the basement
shut herself away from the rest today and I happened on "Jimmy,"
as they call him, pleading with her through the door, I very
nearly kicked him down the stairs. Oh, yes, I'll keep out, right
enough; it isn't my affair.
By the way, after the quarantine and with the policeman locked in
the furnace room, a pearl necklace and a diamond bracelet were
stolen! Just ten of us to divide the suspicion! Upon my word,
Hal, it's the queerest situation I ever heard of. Which of us did
it? I make a guess that not a few of us are fools, but which is
the knave? The worst of it is, I am the only unaccredited member
of the household!
This is more scandal than I ever wrote in my life. Lay it to
circumscribed environment, and the lack of twenty miles over the
pampa before breakfast. We have all been vaccinated, and the
officious gentlemen from the board of health have taken their
grins and their formaldehyde and gone. Ye gods, how we cough!
The Carlton order will go through all right, I think. Phoned him
this morning. If it does, old man, we will take a month in
September and explore the Mercator property.
Do you know, Hal, I have been thinking lately that you and I
stick too close to the grind. Business is right enough, but
what's the use of spending one's best years succeeding in
everything except the things that are worth while? I'll be thirty
sooner than I care to say, and--oh, well, you won't understand.
You'll sit down there, with the Southern Cross and the rest of
the infernal astronomical galaxy looking down on you, and the
Indians chanting in the village, and you will think I have grown
sentimental. I have not. You and I down there have been looking
at the world through the reverse end of the glass. It's a bully
old world, Hal, and this is God's part of it.
Burn this letter after you read it; I suspect it is covered with
germs. Well, happy days, old man.
P.S. By the way, can't you spare some of the Indian pottery you
picked up at Callao? I told Mrs. Wilson about it, and she was
immensely interested. Send it to this address. Can you get it to
the next steamer?--T.
FROM MAXWELL REED TO RICHARD BURTON BAGLEY, UNIVERSITY CLUB, NEW
Enclosed find my check for five hundred, as per wager. Possibly
you were within your rights in protecting your bet in the manner
you chose, but while I do not wish to be offensive, your
reporters are damnably so.
Yours, Maxwell Reed
FROM OFFICER FLANNIGAN TO MRS. MAGGIE FLANNIGAN, ERIN STREET.
As soon as you receive this, go down to Mac and tell him the
story as I tell you hear. Tell him I was walkin my beat, and I'd
been afther seein Jimmy Alverini about doin the right thing for
Mac on Monday, at the poles, when I seen a man hangin suspicious
around this house, which is Mr. Wilson's, on Ninety-fifth. And,
of coorse, afther chasin the man a mile or more, I lose him,
which was not my fault. So I go back to the Wilson house, and
tell them to be careful about closin up fer the night, and while
I'm standin in the hall, with all the swells around me, sparklin
with jewels, the board of health sends a man to lock us all in,
because the Jap thats been waiter has took the smallpox and gone
to the hospitle. I stood me ground. I sez, sez I, you cant shtop
an officer in pursute of his duty. I rafuse to be shut in. Be
shure to tell Mac that.
So here I am, and like to be for a month. Tell Mac theres four
votes shut up here, and I can get them for him, if he can stop
this monkey business.
Then go over to the Dago Church on Webster Avenue and put a
dollar in Saint Anthony's box. He'll see me out of this scrape,
right enough. Do it at once. Now remember, go to Mac first; maybe
you can get the dollar from him, and mind what you tell him.
Your husband, Tim Flannigan
FROM ME TO MOTHER--MRS. THEODORE McNAIR, HOTEL HAMILTON, BERMUDA.
I hope you will get this before you read the papers, and when you
DO read them, you are not to get excited and worried. I am as
well as can be, and a great deal safer than I ever remember to
have been in my life. We are quarantined, a lot of us, in Jim
Wilson's house, because his irreproachable Jap did a very
reproachable thing--took smallpox. Now read on before you get
excited. HIS ROOM HAS BEEN FUMIGATED, and we have been
vaccinated. I am well and happy. I can't be killed in a railway
wreck or smashed when the car skids. Unless I drown myself in my
bath, or jump through a window, positively nothing can happen to
me. So gather up all your maternal anxieties and cast them to the
Anne Brown is here--see the papers for list--and if she can not
play propriety, Jimmy's Aunt Selina can. In fact, she doesn't
play at it; she works. I have telephoned Lizette for some
clothes--enough for a couple of weeks, although Dallas promises
to get us out sooner. Now, dear, do go ahead and have a nice
time, and on no account come home. You could only have the
carriage to stop in front of the house, and wave to me through a
Mother, I want you to do something for me. You know who is down
there, and--this is awfully delicate, Mumsy--but he's a nice boy,
and I thought I liked him. I guess you know he has been rather
attentive. Now, I DO like him, Mumsy, but not the way I thought I
did, and I want you to--very gently, of course--to discourage him
a little. You know how I mean. He's a dear boy, but I am so tired
of people who don't know anything but horses and motors.
And, oh, yes,--do you remember a girl named Lucille Mellon who
was at school with you in Rome? And that she married a man named
Harbison? Well, her son is here! He builds railroads and bridges
and things, and he even built himself an automobile down in South
America, because he couldn't afford to buy one, and burned wood
in it! Wood! Think of it!
I wired father in Chicago for fear he would come rushing home.
The picture in the paper of the face at the basement window is
supposed to be Mr. Harbison, but of course it isn't any more like
him than mine is like me.
Anne Brown mislaid her pearl collar when she took it off last
night, and has fussed herself into a sick headache. She declares
it was stolen! Some of the people are playing bridge, Betty
Mercer is doing a cake walk to the RHAPSODIE HONGROISE--Jim has
no every-day music--and the telephone is ringing. We have
received enough flowers for a funeral--somebody sent Lollie a
Gates Ajar, only with the gates shut.
There are no servants--think of it, Mumsy. I wish you had made me
learn to cook. Mr. Harbison has shown me a little--he was a
soldier in the Spanish War--but we girls are a terribly ignorant
lot, Mumsy, about the real things of life.
Now, don't worry. It is more sport than camping in the
Adirondacks, and not nearly so damp.
Your loving daughter, Katherine.
P.S.--South America must be wonderful. Why can't we put the
Gadfly in commission, and take a coasting trip this summer? It is
a shame to own a yacht and never use it. K.
THIS NOTE, EVIDENTLY DELIVERED BY MESSENGER, WAS FOUND AMONG
OTHER LITTER IN THE VESTIBULE AFTER THE LIFTING OF THE
Mr. Alex Dodds, City Editor, Mail and Star:
Dear D.--Can't get a picture. Have waited seven hours. They have
closed the shutters.
WRITTEN ON THE BACK OF THE ABOVE NOTE.
Watch the roof.
Chapter IX. FLANNIGAN'S FIND
The most charitable thing would be to say nothing about the first
day. We were baldly brutal--that's the only word for it. And Mr.
Harbison, with his beautiful courtesy--the really sincere
kind--tried to patch up one quarrel after another and failed. He
rose superbly to the occasion, and made something that he called
a South American goulash for luncheon, although it was too salty,
and every one was thirsty the rest of the day.
Bella was horrid, of course. She froze Jim until he said he was
going to sit in the refrigerator and cool the butter. She locked
herself in the dressing room--it had been assigned to me, but
that made no difference to Bella--and did her nails, and took
three different baths, and refused to come to the table. And of
course Jimmy was wild, and said she would starve. But I said,
"Very well, let her starve. Not a tray shall leave my kitchen."
It was a comfort to have her shut up there anyhow; it postponed
the time when she would come face to face with Flannigan.
Aunt Selina got sick that day, as I have said. I was not so
bitter as the others; I did not say that I wished she would die.
The worst I ever wished her was that she might be quite ill for
some time, and yet, when she began to recover, she was dreadful
to me. She said for one thing, that it was the hard-boiled eggs
and the state of the house that did it, and when I said that the
grippe was a germ, she retorted that I had probably brought it to
her on my clothing.
You remember that Betty had drawn the nurse's slip, and how
pleased she had been about it. She got up early the morning of
the first day and made herself a lawn cap and telephoned out for
a white nurse's uniform--that is, of course, for a white uniform
for a nurse. She really looked very fetching, and she went around
all the morning with a red cross on her sleeve and a Saint
Cecilia expression, gathering up bottles of medicine--most of it
flesh reducer, which was pathetic, and closing windows for fear
of drafts. She refused to help with the house work, and looked
quite exalted, but by afternoon it had palled on her somewhat,
and she and Max shook dice.
Betty was really pleased when Aunt Selina sent for her. She took
in a bottle of cologne to bathe her brow, and we all stood
outside the door and listened. Betty tiptoed in in her pretty cap
and apron, and we heard her cautiously draw down the shades.
"What are you doing that for?" Aunt Selina demanded. "I like the
"It's bad for your poor eyes," Betty's tone was exactly the
proper bedside pitch, low and sugary.
"Sweet and low, sweet and low, wind of the western sea!" Dal
"Put up those window shades!" Aunt Selina's voice was strong
enough. "What's in that bottle?"
Betty was still mild. She swished to the window and raised the
"I'm SO sorry you are ill," she said sympathetically. "This is
for your poor aching head. Now close your eyes and lie perfectly
still, and I will cool your forehead."
"There's nothing the matter with my head," Aunt Selina retorted.
"And I have not lost my faculties; I am not a child or a sick
cow. If that's perfumery, take it out."
We heard Betty coming to the door, but there was no time to get
away. She had dropped her mask for a minute and was biting her
lip, but when she saw us she forced a smile.
"She's ill, poor dear," she said. "If you people will go away, I
can bring her around all right. In two hours she will eat out of
"Eat a piece out of your hand," Max scoffed in a whisper.
We waited a little longer, but it was too painful. Aunt Selina
demanded a mustard foot bath and a hot lemonade and her back
rubbed with liniment and some strong black tea. And in the
intervals she wanted to be read to out of the prayer book. And
when we had all gone away, there came the most terrible noise
from Aunt Selina's room, and every one ran. We found Betty in the
hall outside the door, crying, with her fingers in her ears and
her cap over her eye. She said she had been putting the hot water
bottle to Aunt Selina's back, and it had been too hot. Just then
something hit against the door with a soft thud, fell to the
floor and burst, for a trickle of hot water came over the sill.
"She won't let me hold her hand," Betty wailed, "or bathe her
brow, or smooth her pillow. She thinks of nothing but her stomach
or her back! And when I try to make her bed look decent, she
spits at me like a cat. Everything I do is wrong. She spilled the
foot bath into her shoes, and blamed me for it."
It took the united efforts of all of us--except Bella, who stood
back and smiled nastily--to get Betty back into the sick room
again. I was supremely thankful by that time that I had not drawn
the nurse's slip. With dinner ordered in from one of the clubs,
and the omelet ten hours behind me, my position did not seem so
unbearable. But a new development was coming.
While Betty was fussing with Aunt Selina, Max led a search of the
house. He said the necklace and the bracelet must be hidden
somewhere, and that no crevice was too small to neglect.
We made a formal search all together, except Betty and Aunt
Selina, and we found a lot of things in different places that Jim
said had been missing since the year one. But no jewels--nothing
even suggesting a jewel was found. We had explored the entire
house, every cupboard, every chest, even the insides of the
couches and the pockets of Jim's clothes--which he resented
bitterly--and found nothing, and I must say the situation was
growing rather strained. Some one had taken the jewels; they
hadn't walked away.
It was Flannigan who suggested the roof, and as we had tried
every place else, we climbed there. Of course we didn't find
anything, but after all day in the house with the shutters closed
on account of reporters, the air was glorious. It was February,
but quite mild and sunny, and we could look down over Riverside
Drive and the Hudson, and even recognize people we knew on
horseback and in cars. It was a pathetic joy, and we lined up
along the parapet and watched the motor boats racing on the
river, and tried to feel that we were in the world as well as of
it, but it was very hard.
Betty had been making tea for Aunt Selina, and of course when
she heard us up there, she followed, tray and all, and we drank
Aunt Selina's tea and had the first really nice time of the day.
Bella had come up, too, but she was still standoffish and queer,
and she stood leaning against a chimney and staring out over the
river. After a little Mr. Harbison put down his cup and went over
to her, and they talked quite confidentially for a long time. I
thought it bad taste in Bella, under the circumstances, after
snubbing Dallas and Max, and of course treating Jim like the dirt
under her feet, to turn right around and be lovely to Mr.
Harbison. It was hard for Jim.
Max came and sat beside me, and Flannigan, who had been sent down
for more cups, passed tea, putting the tray on top of the
chimney. Jim was sitting grumpily on the roof, with his feet
folded under him, playing Canfield in the shadow of the parapet,
buying the deck out of one pocket and putting his winnings in the
other. He was watching Bella, too, and she knew it, and she
strained a point to captivate Mr. Harbison. Any one could see
And that was the picture that came out in the next morning's
papers, tea cups, cards and all. For when some one looked up,
there were four newspaper photographers on the roof of the next
house, and they had the impertinence to thank us!
Flannigan had seen Bella by that time, but as he still didn't
understand the situation, things were just the same. But his
manner to me puzzled me; whenever he came near me he winked
prodigiously, and during all the search he kept one eye on me,
and seemed to be amused about something.
When the rest had gone down to dress for dinner, which was being
sent in, thank goodness, I still sat on the parapet and watched
the darkening river. I felt terribly lonely, all at once, and
sad. There wasn't any one any nearer than father, in the West, or
mother in Bermuda, who really cared a rap whether I sat on that
parapet all night or not, or who would be sorry if I leaped to
the dirty bricks of the next door-yard--not that I meant to, of
The lights came out across the river, and made purple and yellow
streaks on the water, and one of the motor boats came panting
back to the yacht club, coughing and gasping as if it had
overdone. Down on the street automobiles were starting and
stopping, cabs rolling, doors slamming, all the maddening,
delightful bustle of people who are foot-free to dine out, to
dance, to go to the theater, to do any of the thousand
possibilities of a long February evening. And above them I sat on
the roof and cried. Yes, cried.
I was roused by some one coughing just behind me, and I tried to
straighten my face before I turned. It was Flannigan, his double
row of brass buttons gleaming in the twilight.
"Excuse me, miss," he said affably, "but the boy from the hotel
has left the dinner on the doorstep and run, the cowardly little
divil! What'll I do with it? I went to Mrs. Wilson, but she says
it's no concern of hers." Flannigan was evidently bewildered.
"You'd better keep it warm, Flannigan," I replied. "You needn't
wait; I'm coming." But he did not go.
"If--if you'll excuse me, miss," he said, "don't you think ye'd
betther tell them?"
"Tell them what?"
"The whole thing--the joke," he said confidentially, coming
closer. "It's been great sport, now, hasn't it? But I'm afraid
they will get on to it soon, and--some of them might not be
agreeable. A pearl necklace is a pearl necklace, miss, and the
"What do you mean?" I gasped. "You don't think--why, Flannigan--"
He merely grinned at me and thrust his hand down in his pocket.
When he brought it up he had Bella's bracelet on his palm,
glittering in the faint light.
"Where did you get it?" Between relief and the absurdity of the
thing, I was almost hysterical. But Flannigan did not give me the
bracelet; instead, it struck me his tone was suddenly severe.
"Now look here, miss," he said; "you've played your trick, and
you've had your fun. The Lord knows it's only folks like you
would play April fool jokes with a fortune! If you're the
sinsible little woman you look to be, you'll put that pearl
collar on the coal in the basement tonight, and let me find it."
"I haven't got the pearl collar," I protested. "I think you are
crazy. Where did you get that bracelet?"
He edged away from me, as if he expected me to snatch it from him
and run, but he was still trying in an elephantine way to treat
the matter as a joke.
"I found it in a drawer in the pantry," he said, "among the dirty
linen. And if you're as smart as I think you are, I'll find the
pearl collar there in the morning--and nothing said, miss."
So there I was, suspected of being responsible for Anne's pearl
collar, as if I had not enough to worry me before. Of course I
could have called them all together and told them, and made them
explain to Flannigan what I had really meant by my delirious
speech in the kitchen. But that would have meant telling the
whole ridiculous story to Mr. Harbison, and having him think us
all mad, and me a fool.
In all that overcrowded house there was only one place where I
could be miserable with comfort. So I stayed on the roof, and
cried a little and then became angry and walked up and down, and
clenched my hands and babbled helplessly. The boats on the river
were yellow, horizontal streaks through my tears, and an early
searchlight sent its shaft like a tangible thing in the darkness,
just over my head. Then, finally, I curled down in a corner with
my arms on the parapet, and the lights became more and more
prismatic and finally formed themselves into a circle that was
Bella's bracelet, and that kept whirling around and around on
something flat and not over-clean, that was Flannigan's palm.
Chapter X. ON THE STAIRS
I was roused by someone walking across the roof, the cracking of
tin under feet, and a comfortable and companionable odor of
tobacco. I moved a very little, and then I saw that it was a
man--the height and erectness told me which man. And just at that
instant he saw me.
"Good Lord!" he ejaculated, and throwing his cigar away he came
across quickly. "Why, Mrs. Wilson, what in the world are you
doing here? I thought--they said--"
"That I was sulking again?" I finished disagreeably. "Perhaps I
am. In fact, I'm quite sure of it."
"You are not," he said severely. "You have been asleep in a
February night, in the open air, with less clothing on than I
wear in the tropics."
I had got up by this time, refusing his help, and because my feet
were numb, I sat down on the parapet for a moment. Oh, I knew
what I looked like--one of those
"There is one thing about you that is comforting," I sniffed.
"You said precisely the same thing to me at three o'clock this
morning. You never startle me by saying anything unexpected."
He took a step toward me, and even in the dusk I could see that
he was looking down at me oddly. All my bravado faded away and
there was a queerish ringing in my ears.
"I would like to!" he said tensely. "I would like, this
minute--I'm a fool, Mrs. Wilson," he finished miserably. "I ought
to be drawn and quartered, but when I see you like this I--I get
crazy. If you say the word, I'll--I'll go down and--" He clenched
It was reprehensible, of course; he saw that in an instant, for
he shut his teeth over something that sounded very fierce, and
strode away from me, to stand looking out over the river, with
his hands thrust in his pockets. Of course the thing I should
have done was to ignore what he had said altogether, but he was
so uncomfortable, so chastened, that, feline, feminine, whatever
the instinct is, I could not let him go. I had been so wretched
"What is it you would like to say?" I called over to him. He did
not speak. "Would you tell me that I am a silly child for
pouting?" No reply; he struck a match. "Or would you preach a
nice little sermon about people--about women--loving their
He grunted savagely under his breath.
"Be quite honest," I pursued relentlessly. "Say that we are a lot
of barbarians, say that because my--because Jimmy treats me
outrageously--oh, he does; any one can see that--and because I
loathe him--and any one can tell that--why don't you say you are
shocked to the depths?" I was a little shocked myself by that
time, but I couldn't stop, having started.
He came over to me, white-faced and towering, and he had the
audacity to grip my arm and stand me on my feet, like a bad
child--which I was, I dare say.
"Don't!" he said in a husky, very pained voice. "You are only
talking; you don't mean it. It isn't YOU. You know you care, or
else why are you crying up here? And don't do it again, DON'T DO
IT AGAIN--or I will--"
"Make a fool of myself, as I have now," he finished grimly. And
then he stalked away and left me there alone, completely
bewildered, to find my way down in the dark.
I groped along, holding to the rail, for the staircase to the
roof was very steep, and I went slowly. Half-way down the stairs
there was a tiny landing, and I stopped. I could have sworn I
heard Mr. Harbison's footsteps far below, growing fainter. I even
smiled a little, there in the dark, although I had been rather
profoundly shaken. The next instant I knew I had been wrong; some
one was on the landing with me. I could hear short, sharp
breathing, and then--
I am not sure that I struggled; in fact, I don't believe I did--I
was too limp with amazement. The creature, to have lain in wait
for me like that! And he was brutally strong; he caught me to him
fiercely, and held me there, close, and he kissed me--not once or
twice, but half a dozen times, long kisses that filled me with
hot shame for him, for myself, that I had--liked him. The
roughness of his coat bruised my cheek; I loathed him. And then
someone came whistling along the hall below, and he pushed me
from him and stood listening, breathing in long, gasping breaths.
I ran; when my shaky knees would hold me, I ran. I wanted to hide
my hot face, my disgust, my disillusion; I wanted to put my head
in mother's lap and cry; I wanted to die, or be ill, so I need
never see him again. Perversely enough, I did none of those
things. With my face still flaming, with burning eyes and hands
that shook, I made a belated evening toilet and went slowly,
haughtily, down the stairs. My hands were like ice, but I was
consumed with rage. Oh, I would show him--that this was New York,
not Iquique; that the roof was not his Andean tableland.
Every one elaborately ignored my absence from dinner. The Dallas
Browns, Max and Lollie were at bridge; Jim was alone in the den,
walking the floor and biting at an unlighted cigar; Betty had
returned to Aunt Selina and was hysterical, they said, and
Flannigan was in deep dejection because I had missed my dinner.
"Betty is making no end of a row," Max said, looking up from his
game, "because the old lady upstairs insists on chloroform
liniment. Betty says the smell makes her ill."
"And she can inhale Russian cigarettes," Anne said enviously,
"and gasolene fumes, without turning a hair. I call a revoke,
Dal; you trumped spades on the second round."
Dal flung over three tricks with very bad grace, and Anne counted
them with maddening deliberation.
"Game and rubber," she said. "Watch Dal, Max; he will cheat in
the score if he can. Kit, don't have another clam while I am in
this house. I have eaten so many lately my waist rises and falls
with the tide."
"You have a stunning color, Kit," Lollie said. "You are really
quite superb. Who made that gown?"
"Where have you been hiding, du kleine?" Max whispered, under
cover of showing me the evening paper, with a photograph of the
house and a cross at the cellar window where we had tried to
escape. "If one day in the house with you, Kit, puts me in this
condition, what will a month do?"
From beyond the curtain of a sort of alcove, lighted with a
red-shaded lamp, came a hum of conversation, Bella's cool, even
tones, and a heavy masculine voice. They were laughing; I could
feel my chin go up. He was not even hiding his shame.
"Max," I asked, while the others clamored for him and the game,
"has any one been up through the house since dinner? Any of the
He looked at me curiously.
"Only Harbison," he replied promptly. "Jim has been eating his
heart out in the den every since dinner; Dal played the Sonata
Appasionata backward on the pianola--he wanted to put through one
of Anne's lingerie waists, on a wager that it would play a tune;
I played craps with Lollie, and Flannigan has been washing
Well, that was conclusive, anyhow. I had had a faint hope that it
might have been a joke, although it had borne all the evidences
of sincerity, certainly. But it was past doubting now; he had
lain in wait for me at the landing, and had kissed me, ME, when
he thought I was Jimmy's wife. Oh, I must have been very light,
very contemptible, if that was what he thought of me!
I went into the library and got a book, but it was impossible to
read, with Jimmy lying on the couch giving vent to something
between a sigh and a groan every few minutes. About eleven the
cards stopped, and Bella said she would read palms. She began
with Mr. Harbison, because she declared he had a wonderful hand,
full of possibilities; she said he should have been a great
inventor or a playwright, and that his attitude to women was one
of homage, respect, almost reverence. He had the courage to look
at me, and if a glance could have killed he would have withered
When Jimmy proffered his hand, she looked at it icily. Of course
she could not refuse, with Mr. Harbison looking on.
"Rather negative," she said coldly. "The lines are obscured by
cushions of flesh; no heart line at all, mentality small,
self-indulgence and irritability very marked."
Jim held his palm up to the light and stared at it.
"Gad!" he said. "Hardly safe for me to go around without gloves,
It was all well enough for Jim to laugh, but he was horribly
hurt. He stood around for a few minutes, talking to Anne, but as
soon as he could he slid away and went to bed. He looked very
badly the next morning, as though he had not slept, and his
clothes quite hung on him. He was actually thinner. But that is
ahead of the story.
Max came to me while the others were sitting around drinking
nightcaps, and asked me in a low tone if he could see me in the
den; he wanted to ask me something. Dal overheard.
"Ask her here," he said. "We all know what it is, Max. Go ahead
and we'll coach you."
"Will you coach ME?" I asked, for Mr. Harbison was listening.
"The woman does not need it," Dal retorted. And then, because Max
looked angry enough really to propose to me right there, I got up
hastily and went into the den. Max followed, and closing the
door, stood with his back against it.
"Contrary to the general belief, Kit," he began, "I did NOT
intend to ask you to marry me."
I breathed easier. He took a couple of steps toward me and stood
with his arms folded, looking down at me. "I'm not at all sure,
in fact, that I shall ever propose to you," he went on
"You have already done it twice. You are not going to take those
back, are you, Max?" I asked, looking up at him.
But Max was not to be cajoled. He came close and stood with his
hand on the back of my chair. "What happened on the roof
tonight?" He demanded hoarsely.
"I do not think it would interest you," I retorted, coloring in
spite of myself.
"Not interest me! I am shut in this blasted house; I have to see
the only woman I ever loved--REALLY loved," he supplemented, as
he caught my eye, "pretend she is another man's wife. Then I sit
back and watch her using every art--all her beauty--to make still
another man love her, a man who thinks she is a married woman. If
Harbison were worth the trouble, I would tell him the whole
story, Aunt Selina be--obliterated!"
I sat up suddenly.
"If Harbison were worth the trouble!" I repeated. What did he
mean? Had he seen--
"I mean just this," Max said slowly. "There is only one
unaccredited member of this household; only one person, save
Flannigan, who was locked in the furnace room, one person who was
awake and around the house when Anne's jewels went, only one
person in the house, also, who would have any motive for the
"Motive?" I asked dully.
"Poverty," Max threw at me. "Oh, I mean comparative poverty, of
course. Who is this fellow, anyhow? Dal knew him at school,
traveled with him through India. On the strength of that he
brings him here, quarters him with decent people, and wonders
when they are systematically robbed!"
"You are unjust!" I said, rising and facing him. "I do not like
Mr. Harbison--I--I hate him, if you want to know. But as to his
being a thief, I--think it is quite as likely that you took the
Max threw his cigarette into the fire angrily.
"So that is how it is!" he mocked. "If either of us is the thief,
it is I! You DO hate him, don't you?"
I left him there, flushed with irritation, and joined the others.
Just as I entered the room, Betty burst through the hall door
like a cyclone, and collapsed into a chair. "She's a mean,
cantankerous old woman!" she declared, feeling for her
handkerchief. "You can take care of your own Aunt Selina, Jim
Wilson. I will never go near her again."
"What did you do? Poison her?" Dallas asked with interest.
"G--got camphor in her eyes," snuffed Betty. "You never--heard
such a noise. I wouldn't be a trained nurse for anything in the
world. She--she called me a hussy!"
"You're not going to give her up, are you, Betty?" Jim asked
imploringly. But Betty was, and said so plainly.
"Anyhow, she won't have me back," she finished, "and she has sent
"Have mercy!" Dal cried, dropping to his knees. "Oh, fair
ministering angel, she has not sent for me!"
"No," Betty said maliciously. "She wants Bella--she's crazy about
Chapter XI. I MAKE A DISCOVERY
Really, I have left Aunt Selina rather out of it, but she was
important as a cause, not as a result; at least at first. She
came out strong later. I believe she was a very nice old woman,
with strong likes and prejudices, which she was perfectly willing
to pay for. At least, I only presume she had likes; I know she
Nobody every understood why Bella consented to take Betty's place
with Aunt Selina. As for me, I was too much engrossed with my own
affairs to pay the invalid much attention. Once or twice during
the day I had stopped in to see her, and had been received
frigidly and with marked disapproval. I was in disgrace, of
course, after the scene in the dining room the night before. I
had stood like a naughty child, just inside the door, and replied
meekly when she said the pillows were overstuffed, and why didn't
I have the linen slips rinsed in starch water? She laid the blame
of her illness on me, as I have said before, and she made Jim
read to her in the afternoon from a book she carried with her,
Coals of Fire on the DOMESTIC Hearth, marking places for me to
She sent for me that night, just as I had taken off my gown; so I
threw on a dressing gown and went in. To my horror, Jim was
already there. At a gesture from Aunt Selina, he closed the door
into the hall and tiptoed back beside the bed, where he sat
staring at the figures on the silk comfort.
Aunt Selina's first words were:
"Where's that flibberty-gibbet?"
Jim looked at me.
"She must mean Betty," I explained. "She has gone to bed, I
"Don't--let--her--in--this--room--again," she said, with awful
emphasis. "She is an infamous creature."
"Oh, come now, Aunt Selina," Jim broke in; "she's foolish,
perhaps, but she's a nice little thing."
Aunt Selina's face was a curious study. Then she raised herself
on her elbow, and, taking a flat chamois-skin bag from under her
pillow, held it out.
"My cameo breastpin," she said solemnly; "my cuff-buttons with
gold rims and storks painted on china in the middle; my watch,
that has put me to bed and got me up for forty years, and my
money--five hundred and ten dollars and forty cents!--taken with
the doors locked under my nose." Which was ambiguous, but
"But, good gracious, Miss Car--Aunt Selina!" I exclaimed, "you
don't think Betty Mercer took those things?"
"No," she said grimly; "I think I probably got up in my sleep and
lighted the fire with them, or sent em out for a walk." Then she
stuffed the bag away and sat up resolutely in bed.
"Have you made up?" she demanded, looking from one to the other
of us. "Bella, don't tell me you still persist in that nonsense."
"What nonsense?" I asked, getting ready to run.
"That you do not love him."
"James," she snapped irritably. "Do you suppose I mean the
I looked over at Jimmy. She had got me by the hand, and Jimmy was
making frantic gestures to tell her the whole thing and be done
with it. But I had gone too far. The mill of the gods had crushed
me already, and I didn't propose to be drawn out hideously
mangled and held up as an example for the next two or three
weeks, although it was clear enough that Aunt Selina disapproved
of me thoroughly, and would have been glad enough to find that no
tie save the board of health held us together. And then Bella
came in, and you wouldn't have known her. She had put on a
straight white woolen wrapper, and she had her hair in two long
braids down her back. She looked like a nice, wide-eyed little
girl in her teens, and she had some lobster salad and a glass of
port on a tray. When she saw the situation, she put the things
down and had the nastiness to stay and listen.
"I'm not blind," Aunt Selina said, with one eye on the tray. "You
two silly children adore each other; I saw some things last
Bella took a step forward; then she stopped and shrugged her
shoulders. Jim was purple.
"I saw you kiss her in the dining room, remember that!" Aunt
Selina went on, giving the screw another turn.
It was Bella's turn to be excited. She gave me one awful stare,
then she fixed her eyes on Jim.
"Besides," Aunt Selina went on, "you told me today that you loved
her. Don't deny it, James."
Bella couldn't keep quiet another instant. She came over and
stood at the foot of the bed.
"Please don't excite yourself, DEAR Miss Caruthers," she said in
a voice like ice. "Every one knows that he loves her; he simply
overflows with it. It--it is quite a by-word among their friends.
They have been sitting together in a corner all evening."
Yes, that was what she said; when I had not spoken to Jimmy the
whole time in the den. Bella was cattish, and she was jealous,
too. I turned on my heel and went to the door; then I turned to
her, with my hand on the knob.
"You have been misinformed," I said coldly. "You can not possibly
know, having spent three hours in a corner yourself--with Mr.
Harbison." I abhor jealousy in a woman.
Well, Aunt Selina ate all the lobster salad, and drank the port
after Bella had told her it was beef, iron and wine, and she
slept all night, and was able to sit up in a chair the next day,
and was so infatuated with Bella that she would not let her out
of her sight. But that is ahead of the story.
At midnight the house was fairly quiet, except for Jim, who kept
walking around the halls because he couldn't sleep. I got up at
last and ordered him to bed, and he had the audacity to have a
grievance with me.
"Look at my situation now!" he said, sitting pensively on a steam
radiator. "Aunt Selina is crazy. I only kissed your hand, anyhow,
and I don't know why you sat in the den all evening; you might
have known that Bella would notice it. Why couldn't you leave me
alone to my misery?"
"Very well," I said, much offended. "After this I shall sit with
Flannigan in the kitchen. He is the only gentleman in the house."
I left him babbling apologies and went to bed, but I had an
uncomfortable feeling that Bella had been a witness to our
conversation, for the door into Aunt Selina's room closed softly
as I passed.
I knew beforehand that I was not going to sleep. The instant I
turned out the light the nightmare events of the evening ranged
themselves in a procession, or a series of tableaus, one after
the other; Flannigan on the roof, with the bracelet on his palm,
looking accusingly at me; Mr. Harbison and the scene on the roof,
with my flippancy; and the result of that flippancy--the man on
the stairs, the arms that held me, the terrible kisses that had
scorched my lips--it was awful! And then the absurd situation
across Aunt Selina's bed, and Bella's face! Oh, it was all so
ridiculous--my having thought that the Harbison man was a
gentleman, and finding him a cad, and worse. It was
excruciatingly funny. I quite got a headache from laughing;
indeed I laughed until I found I was crying, and then I knew I
was going to have an attack of strangulated emotion, called
hysteria. So I got up and turned on all the lights, and bathed my
face with cologne, and felt better.
But I did not go to sleep. When the hall clock chimed two, I
discovered I was hungry. I had had nothing since luncheon, and
even the thirst following the South American goulash was gone.
There was probably something to eat in the pantry, and if there
was not, I was quite equal to going to the basement.
As it happened, however, I found a very orderly assortment of
left-overs and a pitcher of milk, which had no business there in
the pantry, and with plenty of light I was not at all frightened.
I ate bread and butter and drank milk, and was fast becoming a
rational person again; I had pulled out one of the drawers part
way, and with a tray across the corner I had improvised a
comfortable seat. And then I noticed that the drawer was full of
soiled napkins, and I remembered the bracelet. I hardly know why
I decided to go through the drawer again, after Flannigan had
already done it, but I did. I finished my milk and then, getting
down on my knees, I proceeded systematically to empty the drawer.
I took out perhaps a dozen napkins and as many doilies without
finding anything. Then I took out a large tray cloth, and there
was something on it that made me look farther. One corner of it
had been scorched, the clear and well defined imprint of a
lighted cigarette or cigar, a blackened streak that trailed off
into a brown and yellow. I had a queer, trembly feeling, as if I
were on the brink of a discovery--perhaps Anne's pearls, or the
cuff buttons with storks painted on china in the center. But the
only thing I found, down in the corner of the drawer, was a
To me, it seemed quite enough. It was one of the South American
cigarettes, with a tobacco wrapper instead of paper, that Mr.
Chapter XII. THE ROOF GARDEN
I was quite ill the next morning--from excitement, I suppose.
Anyhow, I did not get up, and there wasn't any breakfast. Jim
said he roused Flannigan at eight o'clock, to go down and get the
fire started, and then went back to bed. But Flannigan did not
get up. He appeared, sheepishly, at half-past ten, and by that
time Bella was down, in a towering rage, and had burned her hand
and got the fire started, and had taken up a tray for Aunt Selina
As the others straggled down they boiled themselves eggs or ate
fruit, and nobody put anything away. Lollie Mercer made me some
tea and scorched toast, and brought it, about eleven o'clock.
"I never saw such a house," she declared. "A dozen housemaids
couldn't put it in order. Why should every man that smokes drop
ashes wherever he happens to be?"
"That's the question of the ages," I replied languidly. "What was
Max talking so horribly about a little while ago?" Lollie looked
"About nothing at all," she declared. "Anne told me to clean the
bath tubs with oil, and I did it, that's all. Now Max says he
couldn't get it off, and his clothes stick to him, and if he
should forget and strike a match in the--in the usual way, he
would explode. He can clean his own tub tomorrow," she finished
At noon Jim came in to see me, bringing Anne as a concession to
Bella. He was in a rage, and he carried the morning paper like a
club in his hand.
"What sort of a newspaper lie would you call this?" he demanded
irritably. "It makes me crazy; everybody with a mental image of
me leaning over the parapet of the roof, waving a board, with the
rest of you sitting on my legs to keep me from overbalancing!"
"Maybe there's a picture!" Anne said hopefully.
"No picture," he announced. "I wonder why they restrained
themselves! I wish Bella would keep off the roof," he added, with
fresh access of rage, "or wear a mask or veil. One of those
fellows is going to recognize her, and there'll be the deuce to
"When you are all through discussing this thing, perhaps you will
tell me what is the matter," I remarked from my couch. "Why did
you lean over the parapet, Jim, and who sat on your legs?"
"I didn't; nobody did," he retorted, waving the newspaper. "It's
a lie out of the whole cloth, that's what it is. I asked you
girls to be decent to those reporters; it never pays to offend a
newspaper man. Listen to this, Kit."
He read the article rapidly, furiously, pausing every now and
then to make an exasperated comment.
ATTEMPT AT ESCAPE
FRUSTRATED MEMBERS OF THE FOUR HUNDRED DEFY THE LAW
"Special Officer McCloud, on duty at the quarantined house of
James Wilson, artist and clubman, on Ninety-fifth Street,
reported this morning a daring attempt at escape, made at 3 A.M.
It is in this house that some eight or nine members of the smart
set were imprisoned during the course of a dinner party, when the
Japanese butler developed smallpox. The party shut in the house
includes Miss Katherine McNair, the daughter of Theodore McNair,
of the Inter-Ocean system; Mr. and Mrs. Dallas Brown; the Misses
Mercer; Maxwell Reed, the well-known clubman and whip; and a Mr.
Thomas Harbison, guest of the Dallas Browns and a South American.
"Officer McCloud's story, told to a Chronicle reporter this
morning, is as follows: The occupants of the house had been
uneasy all day. From the air of subdued bustle, and from a
careful inspection of the roof, made by the entire party during
the afternoon, his suspicion had been aroused. Nothing unusual,
however, occurred during the early part of the night. From eight
o'clock to twelve, McCloud was relieved from duty, his place
being taken by Michael Shane, of the Eighty-sixth Street Station.
"When McCloud came on duty at midnight, Shane reported that about
eleven o'clock the searchlight of a steamer on the river,
flashing over the house, had shown a man crouching on the
parapet, evidently surveying the roof across, which at this point
is only twelve feet distant, with a view of making his escape.
One seeing Shane below, however, he had beat a retreat, but not
before the officer had seen him distinctly. He was dressed in
evening clothes and wore a light tan overcoat.
"Officer McCloud relieved Shane at midnight, and sent for a
plain-clothes man from the station house. This man was stationed
on the roof of the Bevington residence next door, with strict
injunctions to prevent an escape from the quarantined mansion.
Nothing suspicious having occurred, the man on the roof left
about 3 A.M., reporting to McCloud below that everything was
quiet. At that moment, glancing skyward, one of the officers was
astounded to see a long narrow board project itself from the
coping of the Wildon house, waver uncertainly for a moment, and
then advance stealthily toward the parapet across. When it was
within a foot or two of a resting place, McCloud called sharply
to the invisible refugee above, at the same time firing his
revolver in the ground.
"The result was surprising. The board stopped, trembled, swayed a
little, and dropped, missing the vigilant officers by a hair's
breadth, and crashing to the cement with a terrific force. An
inspection of the roof from the Bevington house, later, revealed
nothing unusual. It is evident, however, that the quarantine is
proving irksome to the inhabitants of the sequestered residence,
most of whom are typical society folk, without resources in
themselves. Their condition, without valets and maids, is
certainly pitiable. It has been rumored that the ladies are doing
their own hair, and that the gentlemen have been reduced to
putting their own buttons in their shirts. This deplorable
situation, however, is unavoidable.
"The vigilance of the board of health has been most commendable
in this case. Beginning with a wager over the telephone that they
would break quarantine in twenty-four hours, and ending with the
attempt to span a twelve-foot gulf with a board, over which to
cross to freedom, these shut-in society folk have shown
characteristic disregard of the laws of the state. It is quite
time to extend to the millionaire the same strictness that keeps
the commuter at home for three weeks with the measles; that makes
him get the milk bottles and groceries from the gate post and
smell like dog soap for a month afterward, as a result of
We sat in dead silence for a minute. Then:
"Perhaps it is true," I said. "Not of you, Jim--but some one may
have tried to get out that way. In fact, I think it extremely
"Who? Flannigan? You couldn't drive him out. He's having the time
of his life. Do you suspect me?"
"Come away and don't fight," Anne broke in pacifically. "You will
have to have luncheon sent in, Jimmy; nobody has ordered anything
from the shops, and I feel like old Mother Hubbard."
"I wish you would all go out," I said wearily. "If every man in
the house says he didn't try to get over to the next roof last
night, well and good. But you might look and see if the board is
still lying where it fell."
There was an instantaneous rush for the window, and a second's
pause. Then Jimmy's voice, incredulous, awed:
"Well, I'll be--blessed! There's the board!"
I stayed in my room all that day. My head really ached and then,
too, I did not care to meet Mr. Harbison. It would have to come;
I realized that a meeting was inevitable, but I wanted time to
think how I would meet him. It would be impossible to cut him,
without rousing the curiosity of the others to fever pitch; and
it was equally impossible to ignore the disgraceful episode on
the stairs. As it happened, however, I need not have worried. I
went down to dinner, languidly, when every one was seated, and
found Max at my right, and Mr. Harbison moved over beside Bella.
Every one was talking at once, for Flannigan, ambling around the
table as airily as he walked his beat, had presented Bella with
her bracelet on a salad plate, garnished with romaine. He had
found it in the furnace room, he said, where she must have
dropped it. And he looked at me stealthily, to approve his
Every one was famished, and as they ate they discussed the board
in the area way, and pretended to deride it as a clever bit of
press work, to revive a dying sensation. No one was deceived;
Anne's pearls and the attempt to escape, coming just after,
pointed only to one thing. I looked around the table, dazed.
Flannigan, almost the only unknown quantity, might have tried to
escape the night before, but he would not have been in dress
clothes. Besides, he must be eliminated as far as the pearls were
concerned, having been locked in the furnace room the night they
were stolen. There was no one among the girls to suspect. The
Mercer girls had stunning pearls, and could secure all they
wanted legitimately; and Bella disliked them. Oh, there was no
question about it, I decided; Dallas and Anne had taken a wolf to
their bosom--or is it a viper?--and the Harbison man was the
creature. Although I must say that, looking over the table, at
Jimmy's breadth and not very imposing personality, at Max's lean
length, sallow skin, and bold dark eyes, at Dallas, blond,
growing bald and florid, and then at the Harbison boy, tall,
muscular, clear-eyed and sunburned, one would have taken Max at
first choice as the villain, with Dal next, Jim third, and the
Harbison boy not in the running.
It was just after dinner that the surprise was sprung on me. Mr.
Harbison came around to me gravely, and asked me if I felt able
to go up on the roof. On the roof, after last night! I had to
gather myself together; luckily, the others were pushing back
their chairs, showing Flannigan the liqueur glasses to take up,
and lighting cigars.
"I do not care to go," I said icily.
"The others are coming," he persisted, "and I--I could give you
an arm up the stairs."
"I believe you are good at that," I said, looking at him
steadily. "Max, will you help me to the roof?"
Mr. Harbison really turned rather white. Then he bowed
ceremoniously and left me.
Max got me a wrap, and every one except Mr. Harbison and Bella,
who was taking a mass of indigestables to Aunt Selina, went to
"Where is Tom?" Anne asked, as we reached the foot of the stairs.
"Gone ahead to fix things," was the answer. But he was not there.
At the top of the last flight I stopped, dumb with amazement; the
roof had been transformed, enchanted. It was a fairy-land of
lights and foliage and colors. I had to stop and rub my eyes.
From the bleakness of a tin roof in February to the brightness
and greenery of a July roof garden!
"You were the immediate inspiration, Kit," Dallas said. "Harbison
thought your headache might come from lack of exercise and fresh
air, and he has worked us like nailers all day. I've a blister on
my right palm, and Harbison got shocked while he was wiring the
place, and nearly fell over the parapet. We bought out two
full-sized florists by telephone."
It was the most amazing transformation. At each corner a pole had
been erected, and wires crossed the roof diagonally, hung with
red and amber bulbs. Around the chimneys had been massed
evergreen trees in tubs, hiding their brick-and-mortar ugliness,
and among the trees tiny lights were strung. Along the parapet
were rows of geometrical boxwood plants in bright red crocks, and
the flaps of a crimson and white tent had been thrown open,
showing lights within, and rugs, wicker chairs, and cushions.
Max raised a glass of benedictine and posed for a moment,
"To the Wilson roof garden!" he said. "To Kit, who inspired; to
the creators, who perspired; and to Takahiro--may he not have
Every one was very gay; I think the knowledge that tomorrow Aunt
Selina might be with them urged them to make the most of this
last night of freedom. I tried to be jolly, and succeeded in
being feverish. Mr. Harbison did not come up to enjoy what he had
wrought. Jim brought up his guitar and sang love songs in a
beautiful tenor, looking at Bella all the time. And Bella sat in
a steamer chair, with a rug over her and a spangled veil on her
head, looking at the boats on the river--about as soft and as
chastened as an an acetylene headlight.
And after Max had told the most improbable tale, which Leila
advised him to sprinkle salt on, and Dallas had done a clog
dance, Bella said it was time for her complexion sleep and went
downstairs, and broke up the party.
"If she only give half as an much care to her immortal soul,"
Anne said when she had gone, "as she does to her skin, she would
let that nice Harbison boy alone. She must have been brutal to
him tonight, for he went to bed at nine o'clock. At least, I
suppose he went to bed, for he shut himself in the studio, and
when I knocked he advised me not to come in."
I had pleaded my headache as an as an excuse for avoiding Aunt
Selina all day, and she had not sent for me. Bella was really
quite extraordinary. She was never in the habit of putting
herself out for any one, and she always declared that the very
odor of a sick room drove her to Scotch and soda. But here she
was, rubbing Aunt Selina's back with chloroform liniment--and you
know how that smells--getting her up in a chair, dressed in one
of Bella's wadded silk robes, with pillows under her feet, and
then doing her hair in elaborate puffs--braiding her gray switch
and bringing it, coronet-fashion, around the top of her head. She
even put rice powder on Aunt Selina's nose, and dabbed violet
water behind her ears, and said she couldn't understand why she
(Aunt Selina) had never married, but, of course, she probably
would some day!
The result was, naturally, that the old lady wouldn't let Bella
out of her sight, except to go to the kitchen for something to
eat for her. That very day Bella got the doctor to order ale for
Aunt Selina (oh, yes; the doctor could come in; Dal said "it was
all a-coming in, and nothing going out") and she had three pints
of Bass, and learned to eat anchovies and caviare--all in one
Bella's conduct to Jim was disgraceful. She snubbed him, ignored
him, tramped on him, and Jim was growing positively flabby. He
spent most of his time writing letters to the board of health and
playing solitaire. He was a pathetic figure.
Well, we went to bed fairly early. Bella had massaged Aunt
Selina's face and rubbed in cold cream, Anne and Dallas had
compromised on which window should be open in their bedroom, and
the men had matched to see who should look at the furnace. I did
not expect to sleep, but the cold night air had done its work,
and I was asleep almost immediately.
Some time during the early part of the night I wakened, and,
after turning and twisting uneasily, I realized that I was cold.
The couch in Bella's dressing room was comfortable enough, but
narrow and low. I remember distinctly (that was what was so
maddening; everybody thought I dreamed it)--I remember getting an
eiderdown comfort that was folded at my feet, and pulling it up
around me. In the luxury of its warmth I snuggled down and went
to sleep almost instantly. It seemed to me I had slept for hours,
but it was probably an hour or less, when something roused me.
The room was perfectly dark, and there was not a sound save the
faint ticking of the clock, but I was wide awake.
And then came the incident that in its ghastly, horrible
absurdity made the rest of the people shout with laughter the
next day. It was not funny then. For suddenly the eiderdown
comfort began to slip. I heard no footstep, not the slightest
sound approaching me, but the comfort moved; from my chin, inch
by inch, it slipped to my shoulders; awfully, inevitably,
hair-raisingly it moved. I could feel my blood gather around my
heart, leaving me cold and nerveless. As it passed my hands I
gave an involuntary clutch for it, to feel it slip away from my
fingers. Then the full horror of the situation took hold of me;
as the comfort slid past my feet I sat up and screamed at the top
of my voice.
Of course, people came running in all sorts of things. I was
still sitting up, declaring I had seen a ghost and that the house
was haunted. Dallas was struggling for the second armhole of his
dressing gown and Bella had already turned on the lights. They
said I had had a nightmare, and not to sleep on my back, and
perhaps I was taking grippe.
And just then we heard Jimmy run down the stairs, and fall over
something, almost breaking his wrist. It was the eiderdown
comfort, half-way up the studio staircase!
Chapter XIII. HE DOES NOT DENY IT
Aunt Selina got up the next morning and Jim told her all the
strange things that had been happening. She fixed on Flannigan,
of course, although she still suspected Betty of her watch and
other valuables. The incident of the comfort she called nervous
indigestion and bad hours.
She spent the entire day going through the storeroom and linen
closets, and running her fingers over things for dust. Whenever
she found any she looked at me, drew a long breath, and said,
"Poor James!" It was maddening. And when she went through his
clothes and found some buttons off (Jim didn't keep a man, and
Takahiro had stopped at his boots) she looked at me quite
"His mother was a perfect housekeeper," she said. "James was
brought up in clothes with the buttons on, put on clean shelves."
"Didn't they put them on him?" I asked, almost hysterically. It
had been a bad morning, after a worse night. Every one had found
fault with the breakfast, and they straggled down one at a time
until I was frantic. Then Flannigan had talked to me about the
pearls, and Mr. Harbison had said, "Good morning," very stiffly,
and nearly rattled the inside of the furnace out.
Early in the morning, too, I overheard a scrap of conversation
between the policeman and our gentleman adventurer from South
America. Something had gone wrong with the telephone and Mr.
Harbison was fussing over it with a screw driver and a pair of
scissors--all the tools he could find. Flannigan was lifting rugs
to shake them on the roof--Bella's order.
"Wash the table linen!" he was grumbling. "I'll do what I can
that's necessary. Grub has to be cooked, and dishes has to be
washed--I'll admit that. If you're particular, make up your bed
every day; I don't object. But don't tell me we have to use
thirty-three table napkins a day. What did folks do before
napkins was invented? Tell me that!"--triumphantly.
"What's the answer?" Mr. Harbison inquired absently, evidently
with the screw driver in his mouth.
"Used their pocket handkerchiefs! And if the worst comes to the
worst, Mr. Harbison, these folks here can use their sleeves, for
all I care--not that the women has any sleeves to speak of. Wash
clothes I will not."
"Well, don't worry Mrs. Wilson about it," the other voice said.
Flannigan straightened himself with a grunt.
"Mrs. Wilson!" he said. "A lot she would worry. She's been a
disappointment to me, Mr. Harbison, me thinking that now she'd
come back to him, after leavin' him the way she did, they'd be
like two turtle doves. Lord! The cook next door--"
But what the cook had told about Bella and Jimmy was not
divulged, for the Harbison man caught him up with a jerk and sent
Flannigan, grumbling, with his rugs to the roof.
It did not seem possible to carry on the deception much longer,
but if things were bad now, what would they be when Aunt Selina
learned she had been lied to, made ridiculous, generally
deceived? And how would I be able to live in the house with her
when she did know? Luckily, every one was so puzzled over the
mystery in the house that numbers of little things that would
have been absolutely damning were never noticed at all. For
instance, my asking Jimmy at luncheon that day if he took cream
in his coffee! And Max coming to the rescue by dropping his watch
in his glass of water, and creating a diversion and giving
everybody an opportunity to laugh by saying not to mind, it had
been in soak before.
Just after luncheon Aunt Selina brought me some undergarments of
Jim's to be patched. She explained at length that he had always
worn out his undergarments, because he always squirmed around so
when he was sitting. And she showed me how to lay one of the
garments over a pillow to get the patch in properly.
It was the most humiliating moment of my life, but there was no
escape. I took my sewing to the roof, while she went away to find
something else for me to do when that was finished, and I sat
with the thing on my knee and stared at it, while rebellious
tears rolled down my cheeks. The patch was not the shape of the
hole at all, and every time I took a stitch I sewed it fast to
the pillow beneath. It was terrible. Jim came up after a while
and sat down across from me and watched, without saying anything.
I suppose what he felt would not have been proper to say to me.
We had both reached the point where adequate language failed us.
Finally he said:
"I wish I were dead."
"So do I," I retorted, jerking the thread.
"Where is she now?"
"Looking for more of these." I indicated the garment over the
pillow, and he wiggled. Please don't squirm," I said coldly. "You
will wear out your--lingerie, and I will have to mend them."
He sat very still for five minutes, when I discovered that I had
put the patch in crosswise instead of lengthwise and that it
would not fit. As I jerked it out he sneezed.
"Or sneeze," I added venomously. "You will tear your buttons off,
and I will have to sew them on."
Jim rose wrathfully. "Don't sit, don't sneeze'," he repeated.
"Don't stand, I suppose, for fear I will wear out my socks. Here,
give me that. If the fool thing has to be mended, I'll do it
He went over to a corner of the parapet and turned his back to
me. He was very much offended. In about a minute he came back,
triumphant, and held out the result of his labor. I could only
gasp. He had puckered up the edges of the hole like the neck of a
bag, and had tied the thread around it. "You--you won't be able
to sit down," I ventured.
"Don't have any time to sit," he retorted promptly. "Anyhow, it
will give some, won't it? It would if it was tied with elastic
instead of thread. Have you any elastic?"
Lollie came up just then, and Jim took himself and his mending
downstairs. Luckily, Aunt Selina found several letters in his
room that afternoon while she was going over his clothes, and as
it took Jim some time to explain them, she forgot the task she
had given me altogether.
When Lollie came up to the roof, she closed the door to the
stairs, and coming over, drew a chair close to mine.
"Have you seen much of Tom today?" she asked, as an introduction.
"I suppose you mean Mr. Harbison, Lollie," I said. "No--not any
more than I could help. Don't whisper, he couldn't possibly hear
you. And if it's scandal I don't want to know it."
"Look here, Kit," she retorted, "you needn't be so superior. If I
like to talk scandal, I'm not so sure you aren't making it."
That was the way right along: I was making scandal; I brought
them there to dinner; I let Bella in!
And, of course, Anne came up then, and began on me at once.
"You are a very bad girl," she began. "What do you mean by
treating Tom Harbison the way you do? He is heart-broken."
"I think you exaggerate my influence over him," I retorted. "I
haven't treated him badly, because I haven't paid any attention
Anne threw up her hands.
"There you are!" she said. "He worked all day yesterday fixing
this place for you--yes, for you, my dear. I am not blind--and
last night you refused to let him bring you up."
"He told you!" I flamed.
"He wondered what he had done. And as you wouldn't let him come
within speaking distance of you, he came to me."
"I am sorry, Anne, since you are fond of him," I said. "But to me
he is impossible--intolerable. My reasons are quite sufficient."
"Kit is perfectly right, Anne," Leila broke in. "I tell you,
there is something queer about him," she added in a portentous
"He is perfect," she declared. "Of good family, warm-hearted,
courageous, handsome, clever--what more do you ask?"
"Honesty," said Leila hotly. "That a man should be what he says
Anne and I both stared.
"It is your Mr. Harbison," Leila went on, "who tried to escape
from the house by putting a board across to the next roof!"
"I don't believe it," said Anne. "You might bring me a picture of
him, board in hand, and I wouldn't believe it."
"Don't then," Lollie said cruelly. "Let him get away with your
pearls; they are yours. Only, as sure as anything, the man who
tried to escape from the house had a reason for escaping, and the
papers said a man in evening dress and light overcoat. I found
Mr. Harbison's overcoat today lying in a heap in one of the
maids' rooms, and it was covered with brick dust all over the
front. A button had even been torn off."
"Pooh!" Anne said, when she had recovered herself a little.
"There isn't any reason, as far as that goes, why Flannigan
shouldn't have worn Tom's overcoat, or--any of the others,"
"Flannigan!" Leila said loftily. "Why, his arms are like piano
legs; he couldn't get into it. As for the others, there is only
one person who would fit, or nearly fit, that overcoat, and that
is Dallas, Anne."
While Anne was choking down her wrath, Leila got up and darted
out of the tent. When she came back she was triumphant.
"Look," she said, holding out her hand. And on her palm lay a
lightish brown button. "I found it just where the paper said the
board was thrown out, and it is from Mr. Harbison's overcoat,
without a doubt."
Of course I should not have been surprised. A man who would kiss
a woman on a dark staircase--a woman he had known only two
days--was capable of anything.
"Kit has only been a little keener than the rest of us," Lollie
said. "She found him out yesterday."
"Upon my word," said Anne indignantly, preparing to go, "if I
didn't know you girls so well, I would think you were crazy. And
now, just to offset this, I can tell you something. Flannigan
told me this morning not to worry; that he has my pearl collar
spotted, and that YOUNG LADIES WILL HAVE THEIR JOKES!"
Yes, as I said before, it was a cheerful, joy-producing
I sat and thought it over after Anne's parting shot, when Leila
had flounced downstairs. Things were closing in; I gave the
situation twenty-four hours to develop. At the end of that time
Flannigan would accuse me openly of knowing where the pearls
were; I would explain my silly remark to him and the mine would
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