The Lightning Conductor Discovers America - Letter II
In which Molly's new friend Pat seeks solutions for sudden financial distress
THE HONORABLE MRS. WINSTON TO HER FRIEND THE COUNTESS OF LANE
Awepesha, Long Island,
You dear, to send us such a nice expensive cablegram! We found it waiting when we arrived. Of course the name of the place limped out of England hopelessly mutilated. But how could a British telegraph operator be expected to spell Awepesha? The name is more American than the United States, being Indian; and meaning "it calms." Belonging to Long Island, it is Algonquian of course. Don't you think that rather a nice name for a place on a shady shore by quiet waters, where fierce winds never blow, and soft mists often make you look at the world as through an opal? It's an appropriate name, too, because poor Cousin John Randolph Payton, who died and left Awepesha to me, built it after separating from a Xantippe wife who made his life a Nell.
Everything is sweet; and the large white house has the calmest face you ever saw: wide-apart eyes, and a high, broad forehead, under drooping green hair—elm hair. Jack loves it. He says I mustn't dream of selling, as he rather thought it would be wise to do, before he saw my legacy. Now his feeling is that even if we don't spend more than two months out of twenty-four at the place, we simply must keep it for ours. You know we were married abroad, and this is Jack's first sight of anything Colonial. When I used to talk about a house being "Colonial," it left him cold. He had an idea that to the trained eye of a true Englishman "Colonial" would mean debased Georgian. But now he admits—he's a darling about admitting things, which I hear is a rare virtue in husbands!—that there's a delicious uniqueness about an American Colonial house not to be found anywhere or in anything else the world over. It is, he thinks, as if America had spiritualized the Georgian era and expressed it in terms of airy lightness unknown to the solid Georges themselves. Of course, our home isn't quite the real thing, but a copy. It's forty years old, whereas Kidd's Pines—but oh, my dear, that reminds me! You'd never believe what has happened to that poor child, Patricia Moore, whom I "starred" in my ship's letter to you. When I wrote, she seemed on the topmost crest of the wave. "Poor" was the last adjective I should have selected to describe her position in life.
Compared with her, nothing has happened to Jack and me. All we've done since I posted that letter on the dock (waiting for the kindest pet of a custom-house man) can be expressed in three words, veni, vidi, vici. We came, we saw, we conquered—or anyhow took possession. It's much the same thing. But Patsey! Her world has turned upside down, and Jack and I are trying with all our wills and wits to turn it right side up again. The Mystery Man is entangled in the scheme, too, in a weird way. But I must begin at the beginning, or I shall get tangled myself.
Pat put on a smart Paris frock to land in, and meet "Larry": also hat. She looked a dream, and felt one. Every woman did her best in the clothes line (I don't mean a pun), but Mrs. Shuster transcended us all. You can't think what she was like in one of the new-fashioned dresses, and a close-winged hat with a long stick-out thing behind exactly the shape and size of a setting hen. You may imagine a description of Mrs. Shuster irrelevant to Patsey Moore's fate and the entangling of the Mystery Man: but you'll see in a few minutes that this is not so. Our dear millionairess had been "making up" to Pat as well as to Jack and me a good deal, for several days before landing; and you know how Jack and I just can't be rude to fellow human beings and take steps to shed them, no matter how we are bored. I inherited this lack of shaden freude from dear father, and Jack has inherited it from me. At least, he says he didn't mind how much he hurt pushing people until I softened his heart beyond repair, and turned it into a sort of cushion for any creature needing sanctuary.
When we saw the Dove of Peace (her nickname on board) preening herself in clothes which would have made the Queen of Sheba "look like thirty cents," I was weak enough to breathe the desired words of admiration. "Gorgeous" was, I think, my adjective; and it was no fib.
The poor dear was pleased, and volunteered the information that she'd "dressed up to kill" for a particular purpose.
"It's really for my protégé's sake," she explained. "I marconied my friend Mr. Caspian to meet me. You know, the Caspian—Ed Caspian, who's come into the Stanislaws' fortune. I think I've told you I know him very well?"
(She had indeed. If she'd told us once she'd told us a dozen times. I longed to say so. But one doesn't say to Mrs. Shuster the things one longs to say. She would go to bed and die if one did.)
"I've wired him to meet me at the boat, because I thought I'd interest him in brave Peter Storm," she went on. "That poor fellow's so quixotic he won't take favours from a woman. But he can't refuse a helping hand from a man like Ed Caspian."
"Have you told Mr. Storm what you're going to do for him?" I ventured to inquire.
"Not yet," said Mrs. Shuster, slowly and conspicuously covering with gloves a pair of hands more ringed than Saturn. "I thought I'd surprise him. You see, he's persuaded the authorities that he's an American (though you know what I think!), so he's no emigrant, but a returning citizen of the United States. That's what his passport makes him out to be. I've seen it. I asked to. He'll be getting off the ship with the rest of us, and I shall just say, 'Mr. Storm, I want you to have a little talk with Mr. Caspian, the great social philanthropist.'"
"I see!" I responded inadequately. "But I thought, judging from the newspapers, that Mr. Caspian had—er—turned over a new leaf since he tumbled into all that money."
(You've read, I suppose, Mercédes mia, about the change in the White Hope of the socialists when suddenly he found himself the tenth richest man in America? I'd never met him myself, till the day of our landing: I've been on the other side of the water so much since Jack and I were married and father died. But one has often heard of Ed Caspian, the "gentleman socialist," the shining light of settlement workers. And since this money came to him several friends have written that it was sad—or funny, according to the point of view—to see how he'd altered.)
"It's only the gutter papers that print those horrid stories," Mrs. Shuster reproached me. "Why, they say things against Me sometimes! They say all I do is for self-advertisement. Did you ever hear such a wicked lie? But we Public Characters have to put up with a lot. It's our martyrdom. I know Ed Caspian through and through. At one time—" (she blushed and bridled as only a fat woman with two or three chins can bridle, and I understood what she wished me to understand, though Ed Caspian can't be more than thirty-two, and she's perhaps forty-five)—"at one time—oh, well, he was a poor young man with noble principles, and I'm always interested in such. My poor husband left me free to do as I liked at his death, and I was able to help several institutions Mr. Caspian was working for. I've been in Europe since he got his money; but I have perfect faith in him. He's richer than I am now, by a long shot, but he used to say he'd do anything to prove his gratitude. It's up to him to prove it to-day. I sent him a long telegram from Sandy Hook, and, by the by, mentioned you and the Honble Captain Winston."
Jack is attacked with acute goosefleshitis whenever she calls him that, but I think it's pathetic, she relishes the word "Honourable" so much, and makes it sound round and fat in her mouth like a big chocolate cream. Of course, Jack and I are quite nobodies; but it did occur to me when in the same breath she said, "Ed would do anything," etc., and "I mentioned you," that Mr. Caspian might know about Jack's father; and that he might find it better worth while bothering to meet Lord Brighthelmston's son than merely to prove his gratitude to a benefactress no longer needed.
Well, anyhow, the not very good ship Evangeline steamed slowly to her wharf at an early hour of the morning, and Patsey Moore and Mrs. Shuster were two of the most excited people on board. Jack and I expected no one to meet us, because purposely we had let no one know. So we were not desperately emotional for our own sakes. But we were for Pat's.
"In a minute we'll see Larry!" she kept exclaiming. And her cheeks were like roses and her eyes like sapphires—literally, sapphires.
We all gazed at the welcoming, waving crowd; but as the mass individualized into faces, male and female, there was nothing admirable enough for Larry. Pat gave up hope almost as willingly as a lioness in the Zoo would give up her food at half-past feeding time. But at last she had to bow to the inevitable. Larry had not materialized. She was in "M" and we were in "W," so we couldn't do as much for her as we should have liked, and for a while had to leave her to the tender mercies of her maid. It was a relief to my mind, therefore, when I saw Mrs. Shuster introducing a man—Mr. Caspian I had no doubt—to the girl. Hurrying back to "S," she saw me peering out from "W" and flew to me, breathless.
"He came, you see!" she panted. "Dear fellow! He's just the same. Not one bit spoilt. But oh, what do you think he's told me—about Miss Moore's father?"
"Not dead?" I breathed.
"Worse!" She stopped to pant some more. I could have shaken her.
"Don't keep me in suspense," I begged. But the lady's eyes had lit upon her protégé. "There's Peter Storm!" she exclaimed. "I've been watching for him. I was afraid he might get away without seeing me."
He certainly was in the act of getting away, though I wasn't so sure about the rest. "Mr. Storm!" she cried. "Mr. Storm!"
He was forced to turn. Mrs. Shuster beckoned. He came toward us, though not with the long strides which had been leading him in another direction. He took off his cap, bowed gravely, and murmured something about having a man to meet.
(Jack was absent on leave, searching for some one to look at our trunks.)
"Oh, Mr. Storm," said his guardian angel, "I wouldn't have missed you for anything. But I was afraid you might have misunderstood my message. I've sent for a very important man, a great friend of mine, to introduce you to—Mr. Ed Caspian. He won't be long now. But when I mentioned Miss Moore, the young lady on the ship, and pointed her out to him, he told me the most dreadful news about her father. The poor man is absolutely ruined and bankrupt and everything else that's bad; and here's this dear child with trunkfuls of clothes and a motor car to pay duty on. Mr. Caspian was so interested when he saw her (that shows he's as good-hearted as ever in spite of the newspapers!), and he's ready to do anything to help, even to paying all the duties."
Half-forgotten gossip hopped into my mind like a toad. Somebody had shown me a paragraph in a scandal-loving American paper about the "change of heart" Ed Caspian had undergone with his change of purse. "Oh, he can't be allowed to do anything of that sort for Miss Moore," I said quickly. "Her father must have heaps of friends who—and anyhow, we shall look after her. I do hope Mr. Caspian isn't telling the poor child about her father's troubles?"
"Well, he offered to break the news to her gently," confessed Mrs. Shuster, looking guilty. "I told him she was so worried about Mr. Moore not coming to the boat. I'm sure Mr. Caspian wouldn't say a word to frighten her. He's as gentle as a fawn. I always found him so. And we'll all do things to help dear little Miss Moore. We'll club together; I'd love to."
I hardly heard. Without a thought of answering I dashed off to the rescue of Pat. But I was conscious, as I dashed, that the Ship's Mystery had given me a look. Not a word had he spoken since Mrs. Shuster began on the subject of Patsey Moore (not that he'd had a chance), but the look was one which nobody, no matter how preoccupied, could help being conscious of—it was so brilliant and so strange.
On the way to Patsey I caught sight of Jack in the distance and diverged to him. "I'll get hold of a man in a minute," he said, thinking I'd grown impatient.
"Never mind a man!" I snapped. "Never mind anything!"
"Not even your hats?" he laughed.
"Hang my hats! Oh, Jack, Pat's father's ruined, and that Caspian creature is telling her—unless we can stop him. Do come!"
Jack came. But we were too late. The roses on Pat's cheeks were already snowed under when we hurled ourselves at "M." They both turned as we came up, she and he together. I wasted only one glance on Mr. Caspian—just enough to see that he was a small man perfectly turned out by his tailor and fairly well by his Maker: all the upper part of a blond head and face rather beautiful and idealistic, the lower part not so good, might even be a rude contradiction. Then my eyes went to Pat's, which were more sapphire-like than ever, because they glittered behind tears that she'd have died rather than let fall. By not winking she had induced the tear-vessels to take back a few, and the process would go on satisfactorily, I was sure, if nothing untoward intervened.
"Have you and Mr. Winston met Mr. Caspian?" she asked, as formally as at a school reception for teaching young girls How to Succeed in Society. Her lips were white and moved stiffly, as lips do when they are cold, though the day was mild as milk. "Mr. Caspian says he knows Larry slightly, and—and—that he's in great trouble."
"I'm awfully sorry to be a bearer of ill tidings," Ed Caspian defended himself to Jack and me, "but Miss Moore was worrying—when Mrs. Shuster introduced us—because her father hadn't come to meet her, and I thought it would perhaps be best——"
Well, I won't bother you, Mercédes, dear, with all the "we saids" and "he saids." We—that is, Jack and I—soon realized that Caspian knew what he knew about "Larry's" affairs by hearsay, or from the newspapers. He was scarcely acquainted with Larry himself: had only met him at houses of mutual friends. Laurence Moore had come a regular cropper, it seemed. Things had been faring badly with him for some time "because he was no business man, and fellows were always persuading him to go into rotten things." "But we'll see him through, Miss Moore, we'll see him through," Mr. Caspian finished up. "Don't be unhappy. And I see in the papers that the fine old house is yours and can't be sold. Your father made it over to you legally, years ago. So that's all right, isn't it?"
"Have—have things been in the papers about us?" asked Pat. The tears had been put neatly back where they belonged, without one dropping out, and she looked pitifully brave—ready for anything, no matter what. She didn't know enough about the world to resent anything Caspian had said. On the contrary, she was probably thinking he meant to be kind—showing himself a good friend of Larry's and all that. Of course I realized from the first that the instant he saw Pat the man simply snapped at her. If indeed he had the intention of helping Larry it had been born in his mind within the last fifteen minutes, and whatever he might do would be for value received. Not that it was quite fair to blame him for that. With another type of man I might have thought it thrillingly romantic that he should fall in love at first sight and resolve to save the girl's father. But with Ed Caspian it was different—somehow. You see, he used to pose as a saint, a sort of third-rate St. George, with Society for the Dragon: he was all for the poor and oppressed. I remember reading speeches of his, in rather prim language. He was supposed to live like an anchorite. Now, here was St. George turned into his own Dragon. What an unnatural transformation! He, who had said luxury was hurrying the civilized world to destruction, wore a pearl in his scarf-pin worth thousands of dollars if it was worth a cent. He had all the latest slang of a Bond Street Nut. (By the way, over here when one talks of a "nut" it doesn't mean a swell, but a youth who is what they'd call "dotty" or "bunny on the 'umph" in a London music hall.) And though his eyebrows still had that heavenly arch which must have made his early reputation, the rest of him didn't look heavenly at all.
If I'd been a sensible matchmaker, I ought to have said to myself, perhaps, "Never mind, my dear Molly, beggars mustn't be choosers. Pat is, it seems, a beggar maid. You shouldn't look a gift Cophetua in the mouth. Here he is, to be had for the taking. Encourage her to take him."
But I just couldn't! I wanted her by and by to marry some one tall and handsome and altogether splendid. In fact, a Man. And if a man were a Man, it didn't matter whether he were a Cophetua or not. So I listened quite disgustedly as Mr. Ed Caspian answered Pat's piteous question about the newspapers, and criticised his affected accent. I think he fancied it English.
"Oh, it happens to lots of the best men," he set out to console her, "to be in the papers that way. There's nothing in it! I shouldn't have noticed, had it been some chap I'd never heard of. And then, Kidd's Pines, don't you know! That's a famous place. There was a picture of it in the Sunday Times, and something about its history. I've always wanted to see the house. May I come down, Miss Moore? There might be ways I could help you—your father, I mean—if I could look around and study the situation. For instance, it might pay me—actually pay me (no question of obligations)—to lend money on the place enough to set Mr. Moore right with his creditors and enough over to begin again."
"I don't understand," said Pat.
"Oh, you spider!" said I, in my mind, also perhaps with my eyes. I refrained from saying it with my lips, however, because after all, you see, I was a new friend of Pat's and mustn't stick my fingers into the mechanism of her fate without being sure I could improve its working. Jack and I aren't millionaires, especially since the war broke out and all our pet investments slumped. That convalescent home for soldiers we're financing at Folkestone eats up piles of money, to say nothing of the Belgian refugees to whom we've given up Edencourt. There are fourteen families, and not less than seven children in the smallest, the largest has sixteen—the average is ten. Is your brain equal to the calculation? Mine isn't, but our purse has to be; for we've guaranteed to clothe as well as feed the lot for the duration of the war, and I hear we're keeping a shoe factory working double time. I felt that the most we could do in a financial way for dear Pat would be to pay duty on her car and clothes, and see that, personally, she lacked for nothing. Whatever Mr. Caspian's motives might be, I dared not choke him off on my own responsibility, and Jack said not a word. So I swallowed that "spider," but just as I was choking it down and Caspian was beginning to explain his noble, disinterested scheme, Mrs. Shuster and the S. M. (for that in future please read Ship's Mystery) bore down upon the letter "M."
For an instant I supposed that Pirate Shuster had captured Storm as a reluctant prize, but his expression told me that this was not the case. He came willingly, had even the air of leading the expedition; and his look of interested curiosity Caspian-ward was only equalled by mine at him. Remembering vividly the strange, brilliant, and puzzling glance he had thrown to me as I left him with Mrs. Shuster, I threw him one which I hoped was as brilliant and at the same time more intelligible. What I put into it was: "You're a man, even if you are a mystery, so do hurry up and interrupt this conversation, which has got beyond me."
Of course, I didn't dream that he could help by word or deed, but I thought if he just hurled himself blindly into the breach it would be something. By the time Mr. Caspian could renew his offer, Larry Moore might be at hand to look after his own interests and Pat's.
Mr. Peter Storm (perhaps I've mentioned this?) is tall and has therefore very long legs—soldier legs—that is, they can take prodigious strides as if they had a redoubt or something to carry in record time. Whether my glance had lassoed him, or whether he wanted to be introduced to Mrs. Shuster's rich friend, I couldn't tell. Anyhow, he landed among us like an arrow shot from an unseen bow, and "Jill came tumbling after." (By the way, "Jill" would be a lovely name for Mrs. S. I believe her real one is Lily.)
Mr. Caspian had to stop talking and turn to the newcomers; but before he stopped his explanation had got as far as "a perfectly businesslike arrangement: a mortgage on the place could be——"
I wondered if Peter Storm's ears were as quick of hearing as they were well shaped; and if so whether he would guess what was up, and take enough impersonal interest in a pretty girl far removed from his sphere to be sorry for her.
Mrs. Shuster's first words went far to answer that question. "Oh, my dear Captain and Mrs. Winston, Mr. Storm suggests the most wonderful plan. I was telling him more about poor Miss Moore's troubles—all I'd heard from Mr. Caspian—and it seems he knows about Kidd's Pines, dear Miss Patty's beautiful place which is her own in spite of all misfortunes." She stopped and giggled a little; then went on in a coy tone, with an arch glance at her tall protégé. "I had to confess that I could never believe he was an American. But now I have to. He knows too much about America not to have lived here. He says he used to keep a winter hotel in Florida, and he knows all about the business. He thinks Miss Moore might make a fortune turning Kidd's Pines into a hotel—the right kind of hotel. Isn't it a wonderful idea, to help her poor father? Oh, I forgot! Mr. Caspian, Mr. Storm! I was telling you about him, Eddy."
The two men acknowledged the introduction, inapropos as it was. They were the most extraordinary contrast to one another: the important Caspian in his pluperfect clothes, looking insignificant; the unimportant Storm in his junk-shop get-up, looking extraordinarily significant. He, an ex-hotel-keeper! It was a blow to mystery. Yet I didn't lose interest. Somehow I felt more.
"I shouldn't know how to keep a hotel, should I?" faltered Patsey, in her childlike voice.
"You'd have to get expert assistance," said the S. M.
"I asked Mr. Storm if he would be free to give advice, and—and perhaps do more," broke in Mrs. Shuster. "I've persuaded him to reconsider his first decision. He's now promised to begin over here as my secretary till he gets something better to do. And, dear Miss Patty, I'll be just delighted to come as your first guest, to bring you luck, if you approve of the idea. I haven't any home. I intended to live at the Waldorf and look around. But from what I hear, nobody need ever look farther than Kidd's Pines, if things there are managed the right way."
"I don't think Miss Moore will need to turn her wonderful old historic place into an inn," said Ed Caspian acidly. "I, too, have a plan, haven't I, Miss Moore? And with all respect to our friend Mrs. Shuster, it's just as practical and a good deal pleasanter than hers."
"Not mine, Eddy: Mr. Storm's," the lady hastened to disclaim responsibility at the first buffet.
"Ah, Mr. Storm's," amended Eddy, trying to look down on the S. M. (Have you ever seen a pet fox terrier or a dachshund with a bone, try to look down on a wandering collie unprovided with bone? Well!...)
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Caspian," I ventured, "but I don't see how your plan is quite as 'practical' as the other. Interest has to be paid on a mortgage, and if it can't be paid, why it's foreclosed, both in real life and Irish melodramas where the lovely heroine has the most agonizing alternatives offered her. Suppose, anyhow, we just let Mr. Storm tell us—since he's an expert—what he means by the 'right way' of turning Kidd's Pines into a hotel. Maybe he means something very special."
"I do," replied the S. M. "I mean what is called an 'exclusive' hotel—especially exclusive in its prices. If people think it difficult to get in, they'll all fight to do so." He looked at Pat. "I hope you won't think I'm pushing," he said, "I remember Kidd's Pines when I was a boy. I thought it was the most beautiful place I ever saw. I've seen a good many since then; but I still think the same."
A little colour crept back to Pat's cheeks. "Why!" she exclaimed, evidently forgetting her troubles for an instant, as Atlas might if some one lifted up the world to ease his shoulders. "Why, do you know when I first met you, I had a feeling as if I'd seen you before somewhere—a long time ago. Did we ever meet when I was a little girl? I seem to associate you with—with my father, as if you'd been a friend of his?"
"No, I was never a friend of his," said the S. M., quietly. "He wouldn't know the name of Storm from the name of Adam."
My brain worked wildly as he made this answer. I thought—perhaps I imagined it—that he looked suddenly as stormy as his name. I remembered the sheet of paper that had fluttered to me, the day we went to visit the third class—part of a letter which, rightly or wrongly, I had attributed to Peter Storm. Could it be possible that he had known about Larry Moore's wild speculations and other foolishnesses?—that he had some hold over Moore?—that he had wanted to send him a warning which would now be too late?
There was nothing to put such wild ideas into my head, except the sudden, really very odd look in the man's expressive dark eyes—a look I couldn't help associating with the talk about Laurence Moore.
"But I'm a friend of the house," Mr. Storm was going on to explain. "There was a story I read once—almost the first after I learned to read and could enjoy myself with a book. It was called 'Cade of Kidd's Pines': a great tale for boys."
"Oh, and for girls, too!" cried Pat. "An uncle of mine wrote that book. It was dedicated to——"
"I've read it!" chipped in Ed Caspian, not to be outdone by any Storm. "What fellow hasn't? I've given it away for prizes to boys in mission schools. To my mind it would be a shame to make a common hotel out of such a place as Kidd's Pines."
"I don't suggest making a common hotel," said the S. M. The two gazed at each other, the S. M. with a resolutely impersonal look, Caspian with as rude a stare as his sainted eyebrows would permit. "A good thing," thought I, "that you've reconsidered and taken Mrs. Shuster's offer, for you'd never squeeze one out of Caspian even if you'd accept it—which you wouldn't!"
While I was thinking, Jack spoke. "Shall we hold a council of war?" he proposed. "You're all interested in finding some way for Miss Moore and her father out of their troubles. We're interested, too, but we must consult Mr. Moore himself before we can decide anything definite. For some reason he hasn't been able to come to the ship: a business reason probably. My wife and I are going to be neighbours of Miss Moore. We'll take her to Kidd's Pines, and if it's better for her to stay with us for a while we shall only be too happy. Anyhow, we invite you to Awepesha this afternoon; you, Mrs. Shuster——"
"And Mr. Storm, my new secretary?" she broke in coyly.
"Of course. We hope Mr. Storm will come and elaborate this interesting hotel scheme of his. I shouldn't wonder if there were something in it."
"Do I share the invitation?" asked Caspian. "Don't forget that I have a scheme, too!"
"Delighted!" said Jack, making no allusion to the latter "scheme."
When he got me alone, under pretext of going back to "W" for the examination of our luggage, we hastily counted up what money we had between us, in order to regulate Pat's affairs at the custom house without delay and without mortification to her. Even before the blow fell, she had given Jack the bills for the Paris purchases, so that he might help her calculate the sums which must be paid. "Larry always writes that he has no head for figures," she had said, "so if Captain Winston and I know what's to be done it will save time and gray matter. All poor Larry will have to do is to hand over the right change."
She spoke lightly of "change," having been brought up to know little difference between pounds and pence. Even now when the blow had fallen, and fallen hard, happiness was so much more natural to her than unhappiness that she was already cheered by our suggestions. It seemed to her that everything must soon "come right." I believe she was more anxious to comfort Larry and show him what a tower of strength she could be to him than anything else. The first thought in many girls' heads would have been: "Here's an end of my good times before they've begun!" but I'm sure there was no place in Pat's mind for her own grievances. I fancied that she'd even forgotten those dresses for the débutante who might now never "début," and the birthday car which might appropriately be named the "White Elephant." Indeed I hoped she would forget, so that Jack might pay the duty and escape protests or gratitude. But the girl had a more practical side to her nature than I'd supposed. Just as Jack and I had finished our calculations by discovering that we hadn't enough ready money to settle up with the customs for ourselves and Pat, the Stormy Petrel "hovered in the offing."
"Miss Moore asked me to find you," he said, "and ask you not to pay duty for her things, as she thinks they'd better be sold for what they'll fetch, so the Paris trades-people may be paid without worrying her father."
"My gracious!" I exclaimed. "I never thought of that! She gave my husband the bills. I took it for granted they'd been paid, at least!"
"It seems not," said the S. M. "I suppose the trades-folk considered Mr. Moore's name a good one. The French have an almost pathetic faith in Americans." (I wondered how he knew that!) "But," he went on more slowly, "I should have liked to suggest to Miss Moore, if I'd dared, that she ought to stick to her car if she's going to keep a hotel. It might be useful."
"Of course she must stick to it," Jack agreed, "and to her poor little bits of finery. We'll see to all that, and the Paris people shan't suffer. I'm afraid these custom-house chaps won't be keen on taking my cheque, as they don't know me, but later will do, perhaps. They won't make a fuss——"
"I can let you have a thousand dollars if it would be any good," said the surprising Storm, taking from a breast pocket of his cheap ready-made coat an ancient leather wallet, which looked as if it might have belonged to Cain or Abel.
"Oh, then all your money wasn't torpedoed!" I blurted out before I knew that I was thinking aloud. Then I blushed furiously and wished that the most top-heavy skyscraper in New York would fall on my head. But the S. M. only laughed. "It was not," he replied. "When a man hasn't much he sticks to what he's got a good deal closer than a brother. My savings and I escaped together."
This made him seem to me even more mysterious than before, if possible. A man travelling steerage, plastered with bank-notes! But, I reminded myself, he had a right to be Spartan if he liked: there was no crime in that, and if he'd stolen the money he wouldn't be likely to mention its existence, even for the sake of as pretty a girl as Patricia Moore.
I hardly expected Jack to accept the loan, but he promptly did, and when I saw how pleased, almost grateful, Peter Storm looked, a flash of intuition made clear Jack's tactics. Just because the S. M. was what he was, and wore what he wore, the dear boy treated him as man to man. I do think men are nice, don't you?... All the same, for a minute I came near doing Mr. Storm an injustice. I suspected him of wanting Pat to hear what he had done: but no, on the contrary. He asked us both to promise that the matter shouldn't be mentioned to her.
"I've done nothing," he said. "I shall get my money back from you in a day or two." And he handed over to Jack ten one-hundred-dollar bills which I suppose went down with him in the Lusitania and the Arabic, and bobbed up again. I couldn't help seeing that when they came out they left his wallet as empty as the whale after it had disgorged Jonah. I did hope he had pennies in other pockets, or that his salary from Mrs. Shuster was going to begin in advance.
After my cousin died and left Awepesha to me, Jack and I decided to keep all the servants on, anyhow until we'd made our visit to America. That being the case, we'd wired to the house the day and probable time of our arrival in New York, and the chauffeur had come for us with a respectable elderly automobile which (as the estate agents say) "went with the place." The chauffeur was (is) elderly and respectable, too, evidently transferred by the fairy wand of Circumstance from the box-seat of a carriage to the wheel of a car. We took poor forlorn little Pat and pouting Angéle to Awepesha with us, instead of carrying them a mile farther on; and then, without waiting for half a glance at his new domain, Jack nobly undertook a voyage of discovery to Kidd's Pines.
What he found out there and the decision of the war council I must wait to tell you till my next letter. I do want this to catch the first ship bound for England, home, and beauty, otherwise you'll think me ungrateful for that ten-dollar telegram. And I'm not—I'm not!
We both send love to you and dear old Monty.
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