Liberty, October 16, 1926
“AND now,” said Molly, “tell me all about George and how you came to know one another and what you thought of him when you first saw him and what he likes for breakfast and what he talks about and what he said about me.”
* * *
It might have been expected that the passage of time, giving opportunity for quiet reflection on the subject of the illogical nature of the infatuation in which he had allowed himself to become involved, would have brought remorse to so clear and ruthless a thinker as Hamilton Beamish. It was not so, but far otherwise.
As Hamilton Beamish sat in the antechamber of Madame Eulalie’s office next day, he gloried in his folly; and when his better self endeavored to point out to him that what had happened was that he had allowed himself to be ensnared by a girl’s face—that is to say, by a purely fortuitous arrangement of certain albuminoids and fatty molecules—all Hamilton Beamish did was to tell his better self to put its head in a bag. He was in love, and he liked it. He was in love, and proud of it. His only really coherent thought as he waited in the anteroom was a resolve to withdraw the booklet on the Marriage Sane from circulation and try his hand at writing a poem or two.
“Madame Eulalie will see you now, sir,” announced the maid, breaking in upon his reverie.
Hamilton Beamish entered the inner room. And, having entered it, stopped dead.
“You!” he exclaimed.
The girl gave that fleeting pat at her hair which is always Woman’s reaction to the unexpected situation. And Hamilton Beamish, looking at that hair emotionally, perceived that he had been right in his yesterday’s surmise. It was, as he had suspected, a gleamy mass, sparkling with life and possessing that incomparable softness, freshness, and luxuriance.
“Why, how do you do?” said the girl.
“I’m fine,” said Hamilton Beamish.
“We seem fated to meet.”
“And I’m not quarrelling with fate,” he said.
“No,” said Hamilton Beamish. “Fancy it being you!”
“Fancy who being me?”
“Fancy you being you.” It occurred to him that he was not making himself quite clear. “I mean, I was sent here with a message for Madame Eulalie, and she turns out to be you.”
“A message? Who from?”
“From whom?” corrected Hamilton Beamish. Even in the grip of love, a specialist on Pure English remains a specialist on Pure English.
“That’s what I said—who from?”
HAMILTON BEAMISH smiled an indulgent smile. These little mistakes could be corrected later—possibly on the honeymoon.
“From Molly Waddington. She asked me to . . .”
“Oh, then you don’t want me to read your hand?”
“There is nothing I want more in this world,” said Hamilton Beamish warmly, “than to have you read my hand.”
“I don’t have to read it to tell your character, of course,” said the girl. “I can see that at a glance.”
“Oh, certainly. You have a strong, dominating nature and a keen incisive mind. You have great breadth of vision, iron determination, and marvelous insight. Yet, with it all, you are at heart gentle, kind, and lovable; deeply altruistic and generous to a fault. You have it in you to be a leader of men. You remind me of Julius Cæsar, Shakespeare, and Napoleon Bonaparte.”
“Tell me more!” said Hamilton Beamish.
“If you ever fell in love . . .”
“If I ever fell in love . . .”
“If you ever fell in love,” said the girl, raising her eyes to his and drawing a step closer, “you would . . .”
“Mr. Delancy Cabot,” announced the maid.
“Oh, darn it!” said Madame Eulalie. “I forgot I had an appointment. Send him in.”
“May I wait?” breathed Hamilton Beamish devoutly.
“Please do. I shan’t be long.” She turned to the door. “Come in, Mr. Cabot.”
Hamilton Beamish wheeled round. A long, stringy person was walking daintily into the room. He was richly, even superbly, dressed in the conventional costume of the popular clubman and pet of Society. He wore lavender gloves and a carnation in his buttonhole; and a vast expanse of snowy collar encircled a neck which suggested that he might be a throw-back to some giraffe ancestor. A pleasing feature of this neck was an Adam’s apple that could have belonged to only one man of Hamilton Beamish’s acquaintance.
“Garroway!” cried Hamilton Beamish. “What are you doing here? And what the devil does this masquerade mean?”
The policeman seemed taken aback. His face became as red as his wrists.
“I didn’t expect to find you here, Mr. Beamish,” he said apologetically.
“I didn’t expect to find you here, calling yourself De Courcy Bellville.”
“Delancy Cabot, sir. I like the name,” urged the policeman. “I saw it in a book.”
“Delancy Cabot, then. You, a policeman!”
The girl was breathing hard.
“Is this man a policeman?” she cried.
“YES, he is,” said Hamilton Beamish. “His name is Garroway, and I am teaching him to write poetry. And what I want to know,” he thundered, turning on the unhappy man, whose Adam’s apple was now leaping like a young lamb in the springtime, “is what are you doing here, interrupting a—interrupting a—in short, interrupting, when you ought either to be about your constabulary duties or else sitting quietly at home studying John Drinkwater? That is what I want to know.”
Officer Garroway coughed.
“The fact is, Mr. Beamish, I did not know that Madame Eulalie was a friend of yours.”
“Never mind whose friend she is.”
“But it makes all the difference, Mr. Beamish. I can now go back to headquarters and report that Madame Eulalie is above suspicion. You see, sir, I was sent here by my superior officers to effect a cop.”
“What do you mean, effect a cop?”
“To make an arrest, Mr. Beamish.”
“Then do not say ‘effect a cop.’ Purge yourself of these vulgarisms, Garroway.”
“Yes, sir. I will indeed, sir.”
“Aim at the English Pure.”
“Yes, sir. Most certainly, Mr. Beamish.”
“And what on earth do you mean by saying that you were sent here to arrest this lady?”
“It has been called to the attention of my superior officers, Mr. Beamish, that Madame Eulalie is in the habit of telling fortunes for a monetary consideration. Against the law, sir.”
Hamilton Beamish snorted.
“Ridiculous! If that’s the law, alter it!”
“I will do my best, sir.”
“I have had the privilege of watching Madame Eulalie engaged upon her art, and she reveals nothing but the most limpid truth. Go back to your superior officers and tell them to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.”
“Yes, sir. I will, sir.”
“And now leave us.”
“Yes, Mr. Beamish!” said Officer Garroway humbly. “At once, Mr. Beamish!”
FOR some moments after the door had closed, the girl stood staring at Hamilton Beamish with wondering eyes.
“Was that man really a policeman?”
“And you handled him like that, and he said ‘Yes sir!’ and ‘No sir!’ and crawled out on all fours.” She drew a deep breath. “It seems to me that you are just the sort of friend a lonely girl needs in this great city.”
“I am only too delighted that I was able to be of service.”
“Service is right! Mr. Beamish . . .”
“My first name is Hamilton.”
She looked at him, amazed.
“You are not the Hamilton Beamish? Not the man who wrote the Booklets?”
“I have written a few Booklets.”
“Why, you’re my favorite author! If it hadn’t been for you, I would still be moldering in a little one-horse town where there wasn’t even a good soda-fountain. But I got hold of a couple of your Are You in a Groove? things, and I packed up my grip and came right along to New York to lead a larger life. If I’d known yesterday that you were Hamilton Beamish, I’d have kissed you on the doorstep!”
It was Hamilton Beamish’s intention to point out that a curtained room with a closed door was an even more suitable place for such a demonstration, but, even as he tried to speak, there gripped him, for the first time in his life, a strange, almost George-Finch-like shyness. One deprecates the modern practice of exposing the great, but candor compels one to speak out and say that, at this juncture, Hamilton Beamish emitted a simpering giggle and began to twiddle his fingers.
The strange weakness passed. He adjusted his glasses firmly.
“Would you,” he asked, “could you possibly . . . Do you think you could manage to come and lunch somewhere tomorrow?”
THE girl uttered an exclamation of annoyance.
“Isn’t that too bad!” she said. “I can’t.”
“The day after?”
“I’m sorry. I’m afraid I shall be off the map for three weeks. I’ve got to jump on a train tomorrow and go visit the old folks back in East Gilead. It’s pop’s birthday on Saturday, and I never miss it.”
“Idaho. You wouldn’t have heard of the place, but it’s there!”
“But I have heard of it. A great friend of mine comes from East Gilead.”
“You don’t say! Who?”
“A man named George Finch.”
She laughed amusedly.
“You don’t actually mean to tell me you know George Finch?”
“He is my most intimate friend.”
“Then I trust for your sake,” said the girl, “that he is not such a yap as he used to be.”
Hamilton Beamish reflected. Was George Finch a yap? How precisely did one estimate the yaphood of one’s friends?
“By the word ‘yap’ you mean . . .?”
“I mean a yap. The sort of fellow who couldn’t say boo to a goose.”
Hamilton Beamish had never seen George Finch in conversation with a goose.
“I fancy New York has changed George,” he replied, after reflection. “In fact, now that I remember, it was on more or less that very subject that I called to see you in your professional capacity. The fact is, George Finch has fallen violently in love with Molly Waddington, the stepdaughter of your client, Mrs. Waddington.”
“You don’t say! And I suppose he’s too shy to come within a mile of her.”
“On the contrary. The night before last he seems to have forced his way into the house—you might say, practically forced his way—and now Mrs. Waddington has forbidden him to see Molly again, fearing that he will spoil her plan of marrying the poor child to a certain Lord Hunstanton.”
The girl stared.
“You’re right. George must have altered.”
“And we were wondering—Molly and I—if we could possibly induce you to stoop to a—shall I say a benevolent little ruse? Mrs. Waddington is coming to see you today, and it was Molly’s suggestion that I should sound you as to whether you would consent to take a look in the crystal and tell Mrs. Waddington that you see danger threatening Molly from a dark man with an eyeglass.”
“Of course!” promised the girl.
“You will really?” he asked.
“It isn’t much to do in return for all you have done for me.”
“Thank you, thank you,” said Hamilton Beamish. “I knew, the moment I set eyes on you, that you were a woman in a million. I wonder—could you possibly come to lunch one day after you return?”
“I’d love it,” came the response.
“I’ll leave you my telephone number.”
“Thanks. Give George my regards. I’d like to see him when I get back.”
“You shall. Good-by.”
“Good-by, Mr. Beamish.”
Her face wore a doubtful look.
“I don’t much like that name Hamilton. It’s kind of stiff.”
Hamilton Beamish had a brief struggle with himself.
“My name is also James. At one time in my life, many people used to call me Jimmy.” He shuddered a little, but repeated the word bravely. “Jimmy.”
“Put me on the list,” said the girl. “I like that much better. Good-by, Jimmy.”
“Good-by,” said Hamilton Beamish.
SO ends the first spasm of a great man’s love-story. A few moments later, Hamilton Beamish was walking in a sort of dance-measure down the street. Near Washington Square he gave a small boy a dollar and asked him if he was going to be President some day.
* * *
“GEORGE,” said Hamilton Beamish, “I met someone today who knew you back in East Gilead. A girl.”
“What was her name? Did Molly give you any message for me?”
“I don’t remember anyone called that. Did Molly give you any message for me?”
“She is slim and graceful and has tender gray eyes like mists floating over some pool in Fairyland.”
“I certainly don’t remember anyone in East Gilead like that. Did Molly give you any message for me?”
“No,” said Beamish at last.
“She didn’t?” George flung himself despairingly into a chair. “This is the end!”
“Oh yes, she did,” said Hamilton Beamish. “I was forgetting. She told me to tell you that, if you happened to be in Central Park tomorrow afternoon near the Zoo, you might meet her.”
“This is the maddest, merriest day of all the glad New Year,” said George Finch.
* * *
MADAME EULALIE peered into the crystal that was cupped between her shapely hands. The face that had caused Hamilton Beamish to jettison the principles of a lifetime was concentrated and serious.
“The mists begin to clear away!” she murmured.
“Ah!” said Mrs. Waddington. She had been hoping they would.
“There is some one very near to you . . .”
“A spirit?” said Mrs. Waddington nervously, casting an apprehensive glance over her shoulder.
“You misunderstand me,” said Madame Eulalie gravely. “I mean that that which is taking shape in the crystal concerns someone very near to you; some near relative.”
“Not my husband?” said Mrs. Waddington, in a flat voice. A careful woman with her money, she did not relish the idea of handing over ten dollars for visions about Sigsbee H.
“Does your husband’s name begin with an M?”
“No,” said Mrs. Waddington, relieved.
“The letter M seems to be forming itself among the mists.”
“I have a stepdaughter, Molly.”
“Is she tall and dark?”
“No. Small and fair.”
“Then it is she!” said Madame Eulalie. “I see her in her wedding-dress, walking up an aisle. Her hand is on the arm of a dark man with an eyeglass. Do you know such a person?”
“I do seem to sense the letter H.”
“Lord Hunstanton is a great friend of mine, and devoted to Molly. Do you really see her marrying him?”
“I see her walking up the aisle.”
“It’s the same thing.”
“No! For she never reaches the altar.”
“Why not?” asked Mrs. Waddington, justly annoyed.
“From the crowd, a woman springs forth. She bars the way. She seems to be speaking rapidly, with great emotion. And the man with the eyeglass is shrinking back, his face working horribly. His expression is very villainous. He raises a hand. He strikes the woman. She reels back. She draws out a revolver. And then . . .”
“Yes?” cried Mrs. Waddington. “Yes?”
“The vision fades,” said Madame Eulalie, rising briskly with the air of one who has given a good ten dollars’ worth.
“But it can’t be! It’s incredible.”
“The crystal never deceives.”
“But Lord Hunstanton is a most delightful man.”
“No doubt the woman with the revolver found him so—to her cost.”
“But you may have been mistaken. Many men are dark and wear an eyeglass. What did this man look like?”
“What does Lord Hunstanton look like?”
“He is tall and beautifully proportioned, with clear blue eyes and a small mustache, which he twists between the finger and thumb of his right hand.”
“It was he!”
“What shall I do?”
“Well, obviously it would seem criminal to allow Miss Waddington to associate with this man.”
“But he’s coming to dinner tonight.”
Madame Eulalie, whose impulses sometimes ran away with her, was about to say, “Poison his soup”; but contrived in time to substitute a sober shrug of the shoulders.
“I must leave it to you, Mrs. Waddington,” she said, “to decide on the best course of action. I cannot advise. I only warn. If you want change for a large bill, I think I can manage it for you,” she added, striking the business note.
ALL the way home, Mrs. Waddington pondered deeply. And, as she was not a woman who, as a rule, exercised her brain to any great extent, by the time she reached the house she was experiencing some of the sensations of one who has been hit on the head by a sandbag. What she felt that she needed above all things in the world, was complete solitude; and it was consequently with a jaundiced eye that she looked upon her husband, Sigsbee Horatio, when, a few moments after her return, he shuffled into the room where she had planted herself down for further intensive meditation.
“Well, Sigsbee?” said Mrs. Waddington wearily.
“Oh, there you are,” said Sigsbee H.
“Do you want anything?”
“Well, yes and no,” said Sigsbee.
Mrs. Waddington was exasperated to perceive at this point that her grave matrimonial blunder was slithering about the parquet floor in the manner of one trying out new dance-steps.
“Stand still!” she cried.
“I can’t,” said Sigsbee H. “I’m too nervous, I’m all of a twitter.”
“What in the world do you mean?”
“I’ve got something to tell you and I don’t know how to begin.”
“What do you wish to tell me?”
“I don’t wish to tell you it at all,” said Sigsbee frankly. “But I promised Molly I would. She came in a moment ago.”
“I was in the library. She found me there and told me this.”
“Do kindly get to the point, Sigsbee!”
“I promised her I would break it gently.”
“Break what gently? You are driving me mad.”
“Do you remember,” asked Sigsbee, “a splendid young Westerner named Pinch, who dropped in to dinner the night before last? A fine, breezy . . .”
“I am not likely to forget the person you mention. I have given strict instructions that he is never again to be admitted to the house.”
“Well, this splendid young Pinch . . .”
“I am not interested in Mr. Finch—which is, I believe, his correct name.”
“Pinch, I thought.”
“Finch! And what does his name matter, anyway?”
“Well,” said Sigsbee, “it matters this much, that Molly seems to want to make it hers. What I’m driving at, if you see what I mean, is that Molly came in a moment ago and told me that she and this young fellow Finch have just gone and got engaged to be married!”
HAVING uttered these words, Sigsbee Horatio stood gazing at his wife with something of the spellbound horror of a man who has bored a hole in a dam and sees the water trickling through, and knows that it is too late to stop it. He had had a sort of idea all along that the news might affect her rather powerfully, and his guess was coming true.
A woman of Mrs. Waddington’s physique could not “leap from her chair,” but she had begun to rise slowly like a balloon half filled with gas; and her face had become so contorted and her eyes so bulging, that any competent medical man of sporting tastes would have laid seven to four on a fit of apoplexy in the next few minutes.
But, by some miracle, this disaster—if you could call it that—did not occur. For quite a considerable time, the sufferer had trouble with her vocal cords and could emit nothing but guttural croaks. Then, mastering herself with a strong effort, she spoke:
“What did you say?”
“You heard,” said Sigsbee H. sullenly, twisting his fingers and wishing that he were out in Utah, rustling cattle.
Mrs. Waddington moistened her lips.
“Did I understand you to say that Molly was engaged to be married to—to that Finch?”
“Yes, I did. And,” added Sigsbee H., giving battle in the first line of trenches, “it’s no good saying it was all my fault, because I had nothing to do with it.”
“It was you who brought this man into the house.”
“Well, yes.” Sigsbee had overlooked that weak spot in his defenses. “Well, yes.”
There came upon Mrs. Waddington a ghastly calm.
“Ring the bell,” she said.
Sigsbee H. rang the bell.
“Ferris,” said Mrs. Waddington, “ask Miss Molly to come here.”
“Very good, madam.”
In the interval which elapsed between the departure of the butler and the arrival of the erring daughter, little conversation took place in the room. Once Sigsbee said “Er—” and in reply Mrs. Waddington said “Be quiet,” but that completed the dialogue. When Molly entered Mrs. Waddington was looking straight in front of her and heaving gently and Sigsbee H. had just succeeded in breaking a valuable china figure which he had taken from an occasional table and was trying in a preoccupied manner to balance on the end of a paper-knife.
“FERRIS says you want to see me, mother,” said Molly, floating brightly in.
She stood there, looking at the two with shining eyes. Her cheeks were delightfully flushed; and there was about her so radiant an air of sweet, innocent, girlish gayety that it was all Mrs. Waddington could do to refrain from hurling a bust of Edgar Allan Poe at her head.
“I do want to see you,” said Mrs. Waddington. “Pray tell me instantly what is all this nonsense I hear about you and”—she choked—“and Mr. Finch.”
“To settle a bet,” said Sigsbee H., “is his name Finch or Pinch?”
“Finch, of course.”
“I’m bad at names,” said Sigsbee. “I was in college with a fellow called Follansbee and do you think I could get it out of my nut that that guy’s name was Ferguson? Not in a million years! I . . .”
“Be quiet.” Mrs. Waddington concentrated her attention on Molly once more. “Your father says that you told him some absurd story about being . . .”
“Engaged to George?” said Molly. “Yes, it’s quite true. I am. By a most extraordinary chance, we met this afternoon in Central Park near the Zoo. . . .”
“A place,” said Sigsbee H., “I’ve meant to go to a hundred times and never seen yet. It’s a funny thing about living in a big city—you never somehow get round to seeing the sights which . . .”
“All right, all right! I was only saying . . .”
“We were both tremendously surprised, of course,” said Molly. “I said ‘Fancy meeting you here!’ and he said . . .”
“I have no wish to hear what Mr. Finch said.”
“Well, anyway, we walked round for a while, looking at the animals, and suddenly he asked me to marry him outside the cage of the Siberian yak.”
“No, sir!” exclaimed Sigsbee H. with a sudden strange firmness—the indulgent father who for once in his life asserts himself. “When you get married, you’ll be married in St. Thomas’ like any other nice girl.”
“I mean it was outside the cage of the Siberian yak that he asked me to marry him.”
“Oh, ah!” said Sigsbee H.
A dreamy look had crept into Molly’s eyes. Her lips were curved in a tender smile, as if she were re-living that wonderful moment in a girl’s life when the man she loves beckons to her to follow him into Paradise.
“You ought to have seen his ears!” she said. “They were absolutely crimson.”
“You don’t say!” chuckled Sigsbee H.
“Scarlet! And when he tried to speak, he gargled.”
“The poor simp!”
Molly turned on her father with flaming eyes.
“How dare you call my dear darling Georgie a simp?”
“How dare you call that simp your dear darling Georgie?” demanded Mrs. Waddington.
“Because he is my dear darling Georgie. I love him with all my heart, the precious lamb, and I’m going to marry him.”
“YOU are going to do nothing of the kind!” Mrs. Waddington quivered with outraged indignation. “Do you imagine I intend to allow you to ruin your life by marrying a despicable fortune-hunter?”
“He isn’t a despicable fortune-hunter.”
“He is a penniless artist.”
“Well, I’m sure he is frightfully clever, and will be able to sell his pictures for ever so much.”
“Besides,” said Molly defiantly, “when I marry, I get that pearl necklace which father gave mother. I can sell that, and it will keep us going for years.”
Mrs. Waddington was about to reply—and there is little reason to doubt that that reply would have been about as red-hot a comeback as any hundred-and-eighty-pound woman had ever spoken—when she was checked by a sudden exclamation of agony that proceeded from the lips of her husband.
Molly’s pearl necklace brings new complications into Georgie’s quest for Molly’s heart and hand. Will young love find a way? Watch for the funny antics in next week’s issue.
Printer’s errors corrected above:
Magazine had “If I ever fall in love . . .”; corrected to “fell” as in other three sources.
Magazine had “But he’s coming to dinner to-tonight.”
Magazine omitted the long dash after “about to reply” in the last paragraph.