Part 4 out of 4
"I don't care what you do!" said Carr, gayly. "Use my telephone if you
like; pull it out by the roots and throw it over Cooper's Bluff, for all
I care! But"--and a sudden glimmer of reason seemed to come over him--"if
you have one grain of human decency left in you, you won't drag me and my
terrible plight into that scurrilous New York paper of yours."
"No," said Yates, "I won't. And that ends my career on Park Row. I'm
going to telephone my resignation."
Mr. Carr gazed calmly around and twisted his mustache with a satisfied
and retrospective smile.
"That's very decent of you, Yates; you must pardon me; I was naturally
half scared to death at first; but I realize you are acting very
handsomely in this horrible dilemma----"
"Naturally," interrupted Yates. "I must stand by the family into which I
am, as you know, destined to marry."
"To be sure," nodded Carr, absently; "it really looks that way, doesn't
it! And, Yates, you have no idea how I hated you an hour ago."
"Yes, I have," said Yates.
"No, you really have not, if you will permit me to contradict you, merry
old Top. I--but never mind now. You have behaved in an unusually
considerate manner. Who the devil are you, anyway?"
Yates informed him modestly.
"Well, why didn't you say so, instead of letting me bully you! I've known
your father for twenty years. Why didn't you tell me you wanted to marry
Drusilla, instead of coming and blushing all over the premises? I'd have
told you she was too young; and she is! I'd have told you to wait; and
you'd have waited. You'd have been civil enough to wait when I explained
to you that I've already lost, by marriage, two daughters through that
accursed machine. You wouldn't entirely denude me of daughters, would
"I only want one," said John Yates, simply.
"Well, all right; I'm a decent father-in-law when I've got to be. I'm
really a good sport. You may ask all my sons-in-law; they'll admit it."
He scrutinized the young man and found him decidedly agreeable to look
at, and at the same time a vague realization of his own predicament
returned for a moment.
"Yates," he said unsteadily, "all I ask of you is to keep this terrible
n-news from my innocent d-daughters until I can f-find out what sort of a
person is f-fated to lead me to the altar!"
Yates took the offered hand with genuine emotion.
"Surely," he said, "your unknown intended must be some charming leader in
the social activities of the great metropolis."
"Who knows! She may be m-my own l-laundress for all I know. She may be
anything, Yates! She--she might even be b-black!"
Mr. Carr nodded, shuddered, dashed the unmanly moisture from his
"I think I'd better go to town and tell my son-in-law, William Destyn,
exactly what has happened to me," he said. "And I think I'll go through
the kitchen garden and take my power boat so that those devilish
reporters can't follow me. Ferdinand!" to the man at the door, "ring up
the garage and order the blue motor, and tell those newspaper men I'm
going to town. That, I think, will glue them to the lawn for a while."
"About--Drusilla, sir?" ventured Yates; but Mr. Carr was already gone,
speeding noiselessly out the back way, through the kitchen garden, and
across the great tree-shaded lawn which led down to the boat landing.
Across the distant hedge, from the beautiful grounds of his next-door
neighbor, floated sounds of mirth and music. Gay flags fluttered among
the trees. The Magnelius Grandcourts were evidently preparing for the
brilliant charity bazaar to be held there that afternoon and evening.
"To think," muttered Carr, "that only an hour ago I was agreeably and
comfortably prepared to pass the entire afternoon there with my
daughters, amid innocent revelry. And now I'm in flight--pursued by
furies of my own invoking--threatened with love in its most hideous form--
matrimony! Any woman I now look upon may be my intended bride for all I
know," he continued, turning into the semiprivate driveway, bordered
heavily by lilacs; "and the curious thing about it is that I really don't
care; in fact, the excitement is mildly pleasing."
He halted; in the driveway, blocking it, stood a red motor car--a little
runabout affair; and at the steering-wheel sat a woman--a lady's maid by
her cap and narrow apron, and an exceedingly pretty one, at that.
When she saw Mr. Carr she looked up, showing an edge of white teeth in
the most unembarrassed of smiles. She certainly was an unusually
"Has something gone wrong with your motor?" inquired Mr. Carr,
"I am afraid so." She didn't say "sir"; probably because she was too
pretty to bother about such incidentals. And she looked at Carr and
smiled, as though he were particularly ornamental.
"Let me see," began Mr. Carr, laying his hand on the steering-wheel;
"perhaps I can make it go."
"It won't go," she said, a trifle despondently and shaking her charming
head. "I've been here nearly half an hour waiting for it to do something;
but it won't."
Mr. Carr peered wisely into the acetylenes, looked carefully under the
hood, examined the upholstery. He didn't know anything about motors.
"I'm afraid," he said sadly, "that there's something wrong with the
"Do you think it is as bad as that?"
"I fear so," he said gravely. "If I were you I'd get out--and keep well
away from that machine."
"Why?" she asked nervously, stepping to the grass beside him.
"It _might_ blow up."
They backed away rather hastily, side by side. After a while they backed
farther away, hand in hand.
"I--I hate to leave it there all alone," said the maid, when they had
backed completely out of sight of the car. "If there was only some safe
place where I could watch and see if it is going to explode."
They ventured back a little way and peeped at the motor.
"You could take a rowboat and watch it from the water," said Mr. Carr.
"But I don't know how to row."
Mr. Carr looked at her. Certainly she was the most prepossessing specimen
of wholesome, rose-cheeked and ivory-skinned womanhood that he had ever
beheld; a trifle nearer thirty-five than twenty-five, he thought, but so
sweet and fresh and with such charming eyes and manners.
"I have," said Mr. Carr, "several hours at my disposal before I go to
town on important business. If you like I will row you out in one of my
boats, and then, from a safe distance, we can sit and watch your motor
blow up. Shall we?"
"It is most kind of you----"
"Not at all. It would be most kind of you."
She looked sideways at the motor, sideways at the water, sideways at Mr.
It was a very lovely morning in early June.
As Mr. Carr handed her into the rowboat with ceremony she swept him a
courtesy. Her apron and manners were charmingly incongruous.
When she was gracefully seated in the stern Mr. Carr turned for a moment,
stared all Oyster Bay calmly in the face through his monocle, then,
untying the painter, fairly skipped into the boat with a step distinctly
"It's curious how I feel about this," he observed, digging both oars into
"_How_ do you feel, Mr. Carr?"
"Like a bird," he said softly.
And the boat moved off gently through the sparkling waters of Oyster Bay.
At that same moment, also, the sparkling waters of Oyster Bay were gently
caressing the classic contours of Cooper's Bluff, and upon that
monumental headland, seated under sketching umbrellas, Flavilla and
Drusilla worked, in a puddle of water colors; and John Chillingham Yates,
in becoming white flannels and lilac tie and hosiery, lay on the sod and
looked at Drusilla.
Silence, delicately accented by the faint harmony of mosquitoes, brooded
over Cooper's Bluff.
"There's no use," said Drusilla at last; "one can draw a landscape from
every point of view except looking _down_ hill. Mr. Yates, how on earth
am I to sit here and make a drawing looking down hill?"
"Perhaps," he said, "I had better hold your pencil again. Shall I?"
"Do you think that would help?"
"I think it helps--somehow."
Her pretty, narrow hand held the pencil; his sun-browned hand closed over
it. She looked at the pad on her knees.
After a while she said: "I think, perhaps, we had better draw. Don't
They made a few hen-tracks. Noticing his shoulder was just touching hers,
and feeling a trifle weary on her camp-stool, she leaned back a little.
"It is very pleasant to have you here," she said dreamily.
"It is very heavenly to be here," he said.
"How generous you are to give us so much of your time!" murmured
"I think so, too," said Flavilla, washing a badger brush. "And I am
becoming almost as fond of you as Drusilla is."
"Don't you like him as well as I do?" asked Drusilla.
Flavilla turned on her camp-stool and inspected them both.
"Not quite as well," she said frankly. "You know, Drusilla, you are very
nearly in love with him." And she resumed her sketching.
Drusilla gazed at the purple horizon unembarrassed. "Am I?" she said
[Illustration: "Perhaps,' he said, 'I had better hold your pencil
"Are you?" he repeated, close to her shoulder.
She turned and looked into his sun-tanned face curiously.
"What is it--to love? Is it"--she looked at him undisturbed--"is it to be
quite happy and lazy with a man like you?"
He was silent.
"I thought," she continued, "that there would be some hesitation, some
shyness about it--some embarrassment. But there, has been none between
you and me."
He said nothing.
She went on absently:
"You said, the other day, very simply, that you cared a great deal for
me; and I was not very much surprised. And I said that I cared very much
for you.... And, by the way, I meant to ask you yesterday; are we
"Are we?" he asked.
"Yes--if you wish.... Is _that_ all there is to an engagement?"
"There's a ring," observed Flavilla, dabbing on too much ultramarine and
using a sponge. "You've got to get her one, Mr. Yates."
Drusilla looked at the man beside her and smiled.
"How simple it is, after all!" she said. "I have read in the books Pa-pah
permits us to read such odd things about love and lovers.... Are we
lovers, Mr. Yates? But, of course, we must be, I fancy."
"Yes," he said.
"Some time or other, when it is convenient," observed Flavilla, "you
ought to kiss each other occasionally."
"That doesn't come until I'm a bride, does it?" asked Drusilla.
"I believe it's a matter of taste," said Flavilla, rising and naively
stretching her long, pretty limbs.
She stood a moment on the edge of the bluff, looking down.
"How curious!" she said after a moment. "There is Pa-pah on the water
rowing somebody's maid about."
"What!" exclaimed Yates, springing to his feet.
"How extraordinary," said Drusilla, following him to the edge of the
bluff; "and they're singing, too, as they row!"
From far below, wafted across the sparkling waters of Oyster Bay, Mr.
Carr's rich and mellifluous voice was wafted shoreward:
"_I der-reamt that I dwelt in ma-arble h-a-l-ls._"
The sunlight fell on the maid's coquettish cap and apron, and sparkled
upon the buckle of one dainty shoe. It also glittered across the monocle
of Mr. Carr.
"Pa-_pah!_" cried Flavilla.
Far away her parent waved a careless greeting to his offspring, then
resumed his oars and his song.
"How extraordinary!" said Flavilla. "Why do you suppose that Pa-_pah_ is
rowing somebody's maid around the bay, and singing that way to her?"
"Perhaps it's one of our maids," said Drusilla; "but that would be rather
odd, too, wouldn't it, Mr. Yates?"
"A--little," he admitted. And his heart sank.
Flavilla had started down the sandy face of the bluff.
"I'm going to see whose maid it is," she called back.
Drusilla seated herself in the sun-dried grass and watched her sister.
Yates stood beside her in bitter dejection.
So _this_ was the result! His unfortunate future father-in-law was done
for. What a diabolical machine! What a terrible, swift, relentless answer
had been returned when, out of space, this misguided gentleman had, by
mistake, summoned his own affinity! And _what_ an affinity! A saucy
soubrette who might easily have just stepped from the _coulisse_ of a
Yates looked at Drusilla. What an awful blow was impending! She never
could have suspected it, but there, in that boat, sat her future
stepmother in cap and apron!--his own future stepmother-in-law!
And in the misery of that moment's realization John Chillingham Yates
showed the material of which he was constructed.
"Dear," he said gently.
"Do you mean me?" asked Drusilla, looking up in frank surprise.
And at the same time she saw on his face a look which she had never
before encountered there. It was the shadow of trouble; and it drew her
to her feet instinctively.
"What is it, Jack?" she asked.
She had never before called him anything but Mr. Yates.
"What is it?" she repeated, turning away beside him along the leafy path;
and with every word another year seemed, somehow, to be added to her
youth. "Has anything happened, Jack? Are you unhappy--or ill?"
He did not speak; she walked beside him, regarding him with wistful eyes.
So there was more of love than happiness, after all; she began to half
understand it in a vague way as she watched his somber face. There
certainly was more of love than a mere lazy happiness; there was
solicitude and warm concern, and desire to comfort, to protect.
"Jack," she said tremulously.
He turned and took her unresisting hands. A quick thrill shot through
her. Yes, there _was_ more to love than she had expected.
"Are you unhappy?" she asked. "Tell me. I can't bear to see you this way.
I--I never did--before."
"Will you love me; Drusilla?"
"Yes--yes, I will, Jack."
"I do--dearly." The first blush that ever tinted her cheek spread and
"Will you marry me, Drusilla?"
"Yes.... You frighten me."
She trembled, suddenly, in his arms. Surely there were more things to
love than she had dreamed of in her philosophy. She looked up as he bent
nearer, understanding that she was to be kissed, awaiting the event which
suddenly loomed up freighted with terrific significance.
There was a silence, a sob.
"Jack--darling--I--I love you so!"
Flavilla was sketching on her camp-stool when they returned.
"I'm horridly hungry," she said. "It's luncheon time, isn't it? And, by
the way, it's all right about that maid. She was on her way to serve in
the tea pavilion at Mrs. Magnelius Grandcourt's bazaar, and her runabout
broke down and nearly blew up."
"What on earth are you talking about?" exclaimed Drusilla.
"I'm talking about Mrs. Magnelius Grandcourt's younger sister from
Philadelphia, who looks perfectly sweet as a lady's maid. Tea," she
added, "is to be a dollar a cup, and three if you take sugar. And," she
continued, "if you and I are to sell flowers there this afternoon we'd
better go home and dress.... _What_ are you smiling at, Mr. Yates?"
Drusilla naturally supposed she could answer that question.
"Dearest little sister," she said shyly and tenderly, "we have something
very wonderful to tell you."
"What is it?" asked Flavilla.
"We--we are--engaged," whispered Drusilla, radiant.
"Why, I knew that already!" said Flavilla.
"Did you?" sighed her sister, turning to look at her tall, young lover.
"I didn't.... Being in love is a much more complicated matter than you
and I imagined, Flavilla. Is it not, Jack?"
_Containing a Parable Told with Such Metaphorical Skill that the Author
Is Totally Unable to Understand It_
The Green Mouse now dominated the country; the entire United States was
occupied in getting married. In the great main office on Madison Avenue,
and in a thousand branch offices all over the Union, Destyn-Carr machines
were working furiously; a love-mad nation was illuminated by their
Marriage-license bureaus had been almost put out of business by the
sudden matrimonial rush; clergymen became exhausted, wedding bells in the
churches were worn thin, California and Florida reported no orange crops,
as all the blossoms had been required for brides; there was a shortage of
solitaires, traveling clocks, asparagus tongs; and the corner in rice
perpetrated by some conscienceless captain of industry produced a panic
equaled only by a more terrible _coup_ in slightly worn shoes.
All America was rushing to get married; from Seattle to Key West the
railroads were blocked with bridal parties; a vast hum of merrymaking
resounded from the Golden Gate to Governor's Island, from Niagara to the
Gulf of Mexico. In New York City the din was persistent; all day long
church bells pealed, all day long the rattle of smart carriages and hired
hacks echoed over the asphalt. A reporter of the _Tribune_ stood on top
of the New York Life tower for an entire week, devouring cold-slaw
sandwiches and Marie Corelli, and during that period, as his affidavit
runs, "never for one consecutive second were his ample ears free from the
near or distant strains of the Wedding March."
And over all, in approving benediction, brooded the wide smile of the
greatest of statesmen and the great smile of the widest of statesmen--
these two, metaphorically, hand in hand, floated high above their people,
scattering encouraging blessings on every bride.
A tremendous rise in values set in; the newly married required homes;
architects were rushed to death; builders, real-estate operators,
brokers, could not handle the business hurled at them by impatient
Then, seizing time by the fetlock, some indescribable monster secured the
next ten years' output of go-carts. The sins of Standard Oil were
forgotten in the menace of such a national catastrophe; mothers' meetings
were held; the excitement became stupendous; a hundred thousand brides
invaded the Attorney-General's office, but all he could think of to say
was: "Thirty centuries look down upon you!"
These vague sentiments perplexed the country. People understood that the
Government meant well, but they also realized that the time was not far
off when millions of go-carts would be required in the United States. And
they no longer hesitated.
All over the Union fairs and bazaars were held to collect funds for a
great national factory to turn out carts. Alarmed, the Trust tried to
unload; militant womanhood, thoroughly aroused, scorned compromise. In
every city, town, and hamlet of the nation entertainments were given,
money collected for the great popular go-cart factory.
The affair planned for Oyster Bay was to be particularly brilliant--a
water carnival at Center Island with tableaux, fireworks, and
illuminations of all sorts.
Reassured by the magnificent attitude of America's womanhood, business
discounted the collapse of the go-cart trust and began to recover from
the check very quickly. Stocks advanced, fluctuated, and suddenly whizzed
upward like skyrockets; and the long-expected wave of prosperity
inundated the country. On the crest of it rode Cupid, bow and arrows
discarded, holding aloft in his right hand a Destyn-Carr machine.
For the old order of things had passed away; the old-fashioned doubts and
fears of courtship were now practically superfluous.
Anybody on earth could now buy a ticket and be perfectly certain that
whoever he or she might chance to marry would be the right one--the one
intended by destiny.
Yet, strange as it may appear, there still remained, here and there, a
few young people in the United States who had no desire to be safely
provided for by a Destyn-Carr machine.
Whether there was in them some sporting instinct, making hazard
attractive, or, perhaps, a conviction that Fate is kind, need not be
discussed. The fact remains that there were a very few youthful and
marriageable folk who had no desire to know beforehand what their fate
One of these unregenerate reactionists was Flavilla. To see her entire
family married by machinery was enough for her; to witness such
consummate and collective happiness became slightly cloying. Perfection
can be overdone; a rift in a lute relieves melodious monotony, and when
discords cease to amuse, one can always have the instrument mended or buy
"What I desire," she said, ignoring the remonstrances of the family, "is
a chance to make mistakes. Three or four nice men have thought they were
in love with me, and I wouldn't take anything for the--experience. Or,"
she added innocently, "for the chances that some day three or four more
agreeable young men may think they are in love with me. One learns by
making mistakes--very pleasantly."
Her family sat in an affectionately earnest row and adjured her--four
married sisters, four blissful brothers-in-law, her attractive
stepmother, her father. She shook her pretty head and continued sewing on
the costume she was to wear at the Oyster Bay Venetian Fete and Go-cart
"No," she said, threading her needle and deftly sewing a shining, silvery
scale onto the mermaid's dress lying across her knees, "I'll take my
chances with men. It's better fun to love a man not intended for me, and
make him love me, and live happily and defiantly ever after, than to have
a horrid old machine settle you for life."
"But you are wasting time, dear," explained her stepmother gently.
"Oh, no, I'm not. I've been engaged three times and I've enjoyed it
immensely. That isn't wasting time, is it? And it's _such_ fun!
He thinks he's in love and you think you're in love, and you have such an
agreeable time together until you find out that you're spoons on somebody
else. And then you find out you're mistaken and you say you always want
him for a friend, and you presently begin all over again with a perfectly
"Are you utterly demoralized!"
"Demoralized? Why? Everybody behaved as I do before you and William
invented your horrid machine. Everybody in the world married at hazard,
after being engaged to various interesting young men. And I'm not
demoralized; I'm only old-fashioned enough to take chances. Please let
The family regarded her sadly. In their amalgamated happiness they
deplored her reluctance to enter where perfect bliss was guaranteed.
Her choice of role and costume for the Seawanhaka Club water tableaux
they also disapproved of; for she had chosen to represent a character now
superfluous and out of date--the Lorelei who lured Teutonic yachtsmen to
destruction with her singing some centuries ago. And that, in these
times, was ridiculous, because, fortified by a visit to the nearest
Destyn-Carr machine, no weak-minded young sailorman would care what a
Lorelei might do; and she could sing her pretty head off and comb herself
bald before any Destyn-Carr inoculated mariner would be lured overboard.
But Flavilla obstinately insisted on her scaled and fish-tailed costume.
When her turn came, a spot-light on the clubhouse was to illuminate the
float and reveal her, combing her golden hair with a golden comb and
singing away like the Musical Arts.
"And," she thought secretly, "if there remains upon this machine-made
earth one young man worth my kind consideration, it wouldn't surprise me
very much if he took a header off the Yacht Club wharf and requested me
to be his. And I'd be very likely to listen to his suggestion."
So in secret hopes of this pleasing episode--but not giving any such
reason to her protesting family--she vigorously resisted all attempts to
deprive her of her fish scales, golden comb, and role in the coming water
fete. And now the programmes were printed and it was too late for them to
She rose, holding out the glittering, finny garment, which flashed like a
collapsed fish in the sunshine.
"It's finished," she said. "Now I'm going off somewhere by myself to
"In the water?" asked her father uneasily.
As Flavilla was a superb swimmer nobody could object. Later, a maid went
down to the landing, stowed away luncheon, water-bottles and costume in
the canoe. Later, Flavilla herself came down to the water's edge,
hatless, sleeves rolled up, balancing a paddle across her shoulders.
As the paddle flashed and the canoe danced away over the sparkling waters
of Oyster Bay, Flavilla hummed the threadbare German song which she was
to sing in her role of Lorelei, and headed toward Northport.
"The thing to do," she thought to herself, "is to find some nice, little,
wooded inlet where I can safely change my costume and rehearse. I must
know whether I can swim in this thing--and whether I can sing while
swimming about. It would be more effective, I think, than merely sitting
on the float, and singing and combing my hair through all those verses."
The canoe danced across the water, the paddle glittered, dipped, swept
astern, and flashed again. Flavilla was very, very happy for no
particular reason, which is the best sort of happiness on earth.
There is a sandy neck of land which obstructs direct navigation between
the sacred waters of Oyster Bay and the profane floods which wash the
gravelly shores of Northport.
"I'll make a carry," thought Flavilla, beaching her canoe. Then, looking
around her at the lonely stretch of sand flanked by woods, she realized
at once that she need seek no farther for seclusion.
First of all, she dragged the canoe into the woods, then rapidly
undressed and drew on the mermaid's scaly suit, which fitted her to the
throat as beautifully as her own skin.
It was rather difficult for her to navigate on land, as her legs were
incased in a fish's tail, but, seizing her comb and mirror, she managed
to wriggle down to the water's edge.
A few sun-warmed rocks jutted up some little distance from shore; with a
final and vigorous wriggle Flavilla launched herself and struck out for
the rocks, holding comb and mirror in either hand.
Fishtail and accessories impeded her, but she was the sort of swimmer who
took no account of such trifles; and after a while she drew herself up
from the sea, and, breathless, glittering, iridescent, flopped down upon
a flat rock in the sunshine. From which she took a careful survey of the
Certainly nobody could see her here. Nobody would interrupt her either,
because the route of navigation lay far outside, to the north. All around
were woods; the place was almost landlocked, save where, far away through
the estuary, a blue and hazy horizon glimmered in the general direction
of New England.
So, when she had recovered sufficient breath she let down the flashing,
golden-brown hair, sat up on the rock, lifted her pretty nose skyward,
and poured forth melody.
As she sang the tiresome old Teutonic ballad she combed away vigorously,
and every now and then surveyed her features in the mirror.
_Ich weiss nicht was soll es bedeuten
Dass ich so traurig bin----_
she sang happily, studying her gestures with care and cheerfully flopping
She had a very lovely voice which had been expensively cultivated. One or
two small birds listened attentively for a while, then started in to help
On the veranda of his bungalow, not very far from Northport, stood a
young man of pleasing aspect, knickerbockers, and unusually symmetrical
legs. His hands reposed in his pockets, his eyes behind their eyeglasses
were fixed dreamily upon the skies. Somebody over beyond that screen of
woods was singing very beautifully, and he liked it--at first.
However, when the unseen singer had been singing the Lorelei for an hour,
steadily, without intermission, an expression of surprise gradually
developed into uneasy astonishment upon his clean-cut and unusually
"That girl, whoever she is, can sing, all right," he reflected, "but why
on earth does she dope out the same old thing?"
He looked at the strip of woods, but could see nothing of the singer. He
listened; she continued to sing the Lorelei.
"It can't be a phonograph," he reasoned. "No sane person could endure an
hour of that fool song. No sane person would sing it for an hour,
Disturbed, he picked up the marine glasses, slung them over his shoulder,
walked up on the hill back of the bungalow, selected a promising tree,
and climbed it.
Astride a lofty limb the lord of Northport gazed earnestly across the
fringe of woods. Something sparkled out there, something moved,
glittering on a half-submerged rock. He adjusted the marine glasses and
squinted through them.
"Great James!" he faltered, dropping them; and almost followed the
glasses to destruction on the ground below.
How he managed to get safely to earth he never knew. "Either I'm crazy,"
he shouted aloud, "or there's a--a mermaid out there, and I'm going to
find out before they chase me to the funny house!"
There was a fat tub of a boat at his landing; he reached the shore in a
series of long, distracted leaps, sprang aboard, cast off, thrust both
oars deep into the water, and fairly hurled the boat forward, so that it
alternately skipped, wallowed, scuttered, and scrambled, like a hen
"This is terrible," he groaned. "If I _didn't_ see what I think I saw,
I'll eat my hat; if I did see what I'm sure I saw, I'm madder than the
hatter who made it!"
Nearer and nearer, heard by him distinctly above the frantic splashing of
his oars, her Lorelei song sounded perilously sweet and clear.
"Oh, bunch!" he moaned; "it's horribly like the real thing; and here I
come headlong, as they do in the story books----"
He caught a crab that landed him in a graceful parabola in the bow, where
he lay biting at the air to recover his breath. Then his boat's nose
plowed into the sandy neck of land; he clambered to his feet, jumped out,
and ran headlong into the belt of trees which screened the singer. Speed
and gait recalled the effortless grace of the kangaroo; when he
encountered logs and gullies he rose grandly, sailing into space, landing
with a series of soft bounces, which presently brought him to the other
side of the woods.
And there, what he beheld, what he heard, almost paralyzed him. Weak-
kneed, he passed a trembling hand over his incredulous eyes; with the
courage of despair, he feebly pinched himself. Then for sixty sickening
seconds he closed his eyes and pressed both hands over his ears. But when
he took his hands away and opened his terrified eyes, the exquisitely
seductive melody, wind blown from the water, thrilled him in every fiber;
his wild gaze fell upon a distant, glittering shape--white-armed, golden-
haired, fish-tailed, slender body glittering with silvery scales.
The low rippling wash of the tide across the pebbly shore was in his
ears; the salt wind was in his throat. He saw the sun flash on golden
comb and mirror, as her snowy fingers caressed the splendid masses of her
hair; her song stole sweetly seaward as the wind veered.
A terrible calm descended upon him.
"This is interesting," he said aloud.
A sickening wave of terror swept him, but he straightened up, squaring
"I may as well face the fact," he said, "that I, Henry Kingsbury, of
Pebble Point, Northport, L.I., and recently in my right mind, am now,
this very moment, looking at a--a mermaid in Long Island Sound!"
He shuddered; but he was sheer pluck all through. Teeth might chatter,
knees smite together, marrow turn cold; nothing on earth or Long Island
could entirely stampede Henry Kingsbury, of Pebble Point.
His clutch on his self-control in any real crisis never slipped; his
mental steering-gear never gave way. Again his pallid lips moved in
"The--thing--to--do," he said very slowly and deliberately, "is to swim
out and--and touch it. If it dissolves into nothing I'll probably feel
He began to remove coat, collar, and shoes, forcing himself to talk
calmly all the while.
"The thing to do," he went on dully, "is to swim over there and get a
look at it. Of course, it isn't really there. As for drowning--it really
doesn't matter.... In the midst of life we are in Long Island.... And, if
it _is_ there--I c-c-can c-capture it for the B-B-Bronx----"
Reason tottered; it revived, however, as he plunged into the s. w.[A] of
Oyster Bay and struck out, silent as a sea otter for the shimmering shape
on the ruddy rocks.
[Footnote A: Sparkling Waters or Sacred Waters.]
Flavilla was rehearsing with all her might; her white throat swelled with
the music she poured forth to the sky and sea; her pretty fingers played
with the folds of burnished hair; her gilded hand-mirror flashed, she
gently beat time with her tail.
So thoroughly, so earnestly, did she enter into the spirit of the siren
she was representing that, at moments, she almost wished some fisherman
might come into view--just to see whether he'd really go overboard after
However, audacious as her vagrant thoughts might be, she was entirely
unprepared to see a human head, made sleek by sea water, emerge from the
floating weeds almost at her feet.
"Goodness," she said faintly, and attempted to rise. But her fish tail
"Are you real!" gasped Kingsbury.
"Y-yes.... Are you?"
"Great James!" he half shouted, half sobbed, "are you _human?_"
"V-very. Are _you?_"
He clutched at the weedy rock and dragged himself up. For a moment he lay
breathing fast, water dripping from his soaked clothing. Once he feebly
touched the glittering fish tail that lay on the rock beside him. It
quivered, but needle and thread had been at work there; he drew a deep
breath and closed his eyes.
When he opened them again she was looking about for a likely place to
launch herself into the bay; in fact, she had already started to glide
toward the water; the scraping of the scales aroused him, and he sat up.
"I heard singing," he said dreamily, "and I climbed a tree and saw--you!
Do you blame me for trying to corroborate a thing like _you?_"
"You thought I was a _real_ one?"
"I thought that I thought I saw a real one."
She looked at him hopefully.
"Tell me, _did_ my singing compel you to swim out here?"
"I don't know what compelled me."
"But--you _were_ compelled?"
"I--it seems so----"
"O-h!" Flushed, excited, laughing, she clasped her hands under her chin
and gazed at him.
"To think," she said softly, "that you believed me to be a real siren,
and that my beauty and my singing actually did lure you to my rock! Isn't
He looked at her, then turned red:
"Yes, it is," he said.
Hands still clasped together tightly beneath her rounded chin, she
surveyed him with intense interest. He was at a disadvantage; the sleek,
half-drowned appearance which a man has who emerges from a swim does not
exhibit him at his best.
But he had a deeper interest for Flavilla; her melody and loveliness had
actually lured him across the water to the peril of her rocks; this human
being, this man creature, seemed to be, in a sense, hers.
"Please fix your hair," she said, handing him her comb and mirror.
"Certainly. I want to look at you."
He thought her request rather extraordinary, but he sat up and with the
aid of the mirror, scraped away at his wet hair, parting it in the middle
and combing it deftly into two gay little Mercury wings. Then, fishing in
the soaked pockets of his knickerbockers, he produced a pair of smart
pince-nez, which he put on, and then gazed up at her.
"Oh!" she said, with a quick, indrawn breath, "you _are_ attractive!"
At that he turned becomingly scarlet.
Leaning on one lovely, bare arm, burnished hair clustering against her
cheeks, she continued to survey him in delighted approval which sometimes
made him squirm inwardly, sometimes almost intoxicated him.
"To think," she murmured, "that _I_ lured _you_ out here!"
"I _am_ thinking about it," he said.
She laid her head on one side, inspecting him with frankest approval.
"I wonder," she said, "what your name is. I am Flavilla Carr."
"Not one of the Carr triplets!"
"Yes--but," she added quickly, "I'm not married. Are you?"
"Oh, no, no, no!" he said hastily. "I'm Henry Kingsbury, of Pebble Point,
"Master and owner of the beautiful but uncertain _Sappho?_ Oh, tell me,
_are_ you the man who has tipped over so many times in Long Island Sound?
Because I--I adore a man who has the pluck to continue to capsize every
day or two."
"Then," he said, "you can safely adore me, for I am that yachtsman who
has fallen off the _Sappho_ more times than the White Knight fell off his
"I--I _do_ adore you!" she exclaimed impulsively.
"Of course, you d-d-don't mean that," he stammered, striving to smile.
"Yes--almost. Tell me, you--I know you are not like other men! _You_
never have had anything to do with a Destyn-Carr machine, have you?"
"Neither have I.... And so you are not in love--are you?"
"Neither am I. Oh, I am so glad that you and I have waited, and not
become engaged to somebody by machinery.... I wonder whom you are
She clapped her hands. "Neither am I. It is too stupid, isn't it? I
_don't_ want to marry the man I ought to marry. I'd rather take chances
with a man who attracts me and who is attracted by me.... There was, in
the old days--before everybody married by machinery--something not
altogether unworthy in being a siren, wasn't there?... It's perfectly
delightful to think of your seeing me out here on the rocks, and then
instantly plunging into the waves and tearing a foaming right of way to
what might have been destruction!"
Her flushed, excited face between its clustering curls looked straight
"It _was_ destruction," he said. His own voice sounded odd to him. "Utter
destruction to my peace of mind," he said again.
"You--don't think that you love me, do you?" she asked. "That would be
too--too perfect a climax.... _Do_ you?" she asked curiously.
"Do--do you _know_ it?" He gazed bravely at her: "Yes."
She flung up both arms joyously, then laughed aloud:
"Oh, the wonder of it! It is too perfect, too beautiful! You really love
me? Do you? Are you _sure_?"
"Yes.... Will you try to love me?"
"Well, you know that sirens don't care for people.... I've already been
engaged two or three times.... I don't mind being engaged to you."
"Couldn't you care for me, Flavilla?"
"Why, yes. I do.... Please don't touch me; I'd rather not. Of course, you
know, I couldn't really love you so quickly unless I'd been subjected to
one of those Destyn-Carr machines. You know that, don't you? But," she
added frankly, "I wouldn't like to have you get away from me. I--I feel
like a tender-hearted person in the street who is followed by a lost
"Oh, I _didn't_ mean anything unpleasant--truly I didn't. You know how
tenderly one feels when a poor stray cat comes trotting after one----"
He got up, mad all through.
"_Are_ you offended?" she asked sorrowfully. "When I didn't mean anything
except that my heart--which is rather impressionable--feels very warmly
and tenderly toward the man who swam after me.... Won't you understand,
please? Listen, we have been engaged only a minute, and here already is
our first quarrel. You can see for yourself what would happen if we ever
"It wouldn't be machine-made bliss, anyway," he said.
That seemed to interest her; she inspected him earnestly.
"Also," he added, "I thought you desired to take a sportsman's chances?"
"And I thought you didn't want to marry the man you ought to marry."
"Then you certainly ought not to marry me--but, will you?"
"How can I when I don't--love you."
"You don't love me because you ought not to on such brief
acquaintance.... But _will_ you love me, Flavilla?"
She looked at him in silence, sitting very still, the bright hair veiling
her cheeks, the fish's tail curled up against her side.
"I don't know," she said faintly.
"Shall I help you?"
Evidently she had gazed at him long enough; her eyes fell; her white
fingers picked at the seaweed pods. His arm closed around her; nothing
stirred but her heart.
"Shall I help you to love me?" he breathed.
"No--I am--past help." She raised her head.
"This is all so--so wrong," she faltered, "that I think it must be
right.... Do you truly love me?... Don't kiss me if you do.... Now I
believe you.... Lift me; I can't walk in this fish's tail.... Now set me
He lifted her, walked to the water's edge, bent and placed her in the
sea. In an instant she had darted from his arms out into the waves,
flashing, turning like a silvery salmon.
"Are you coming?" she called back to him.
He did not stir. She swam in a circle and came up beside the rock. After
a long, long silence, she lifted up both arms; he bent over. Then, very
slowly, she drew him down into the water.
* * * * *
"I am quite sure," she said, as they sat together at luncheon on the
sandspit which divides Northport Bay from the s.w. of Oyster Bay, "that
you and I are destined for much trouble when we marry; but I love you so
dearly that I don't care."
"Neither do I," he said; "will you have another sandwich?"
And, being young and healthy, she took it, and biting into it, smiled
adorably at her lover.
OTHER BOOKS BY
ROBERT W. CHAMBERS
It was Mr. Chambers himself who wrote of the caprices of the Mystic
Three--Fate, Chance, and Destiny--and how it frequently happened that a
young man "tripped over the maliciously extended foot of Fate and fell
plump into the open arms of Destiny." Perhaps it was due to one of the
pranks of the mystic sisters that Mr. Chambers himself should lay down
his brush and palette and take up the pen. Mr. Chambers studied art in
Paris for seven years. At twenty-four his paintings were accepted at the
Salon; at twenty-eight he had returned to New York and was busy as an
illustrator for _Life, Truth_, and other periodicals. But already the
desire to write was coursing through him. The Latin Quarter of Paris,
where he had studied so long, seemed to haunt him; he wanted to tell its
story. So he did write the story and, in 1893, published it under the
title of "In the Quarter." The same year he published another book, "The
King in Yellow," a grewsome tale, but remarkably successful. The easel
was pushed aside; the painter had become writer.
Writing of Mr. Chambers's novel of last fall
THE DANGER MARK
in _The Bookman_, Dr. Frederic Taber Cooper said, "In this last field
(the society novel) it would seem as though Mr. Chambers had, at length,
found himself; and the fact that the last of the four books is the best
and most sustained and most honest piece of work he has yet done affords
solid ground for the belief that he has still better and maturer volumes
yet to come. There is no valid reason why Mr. Chambers should not
ultimately be remembered as the novelist who left behind him a
comprehensive human comedy of New York."
This is another novel of society life like "The Fighting Chance" and "The
Firing Line." The chief characters in the story are a boy and a girl,
inheritors of a vast fortune, whose parents are dead, and who have been
left in the guardianship of a large Trust Company. They are brought up
with no companions of their own age and are a unique pair when turned
out, on coming of age, into New York society--two children educated by a
great machine, possessors of fabulous wealth, with every inherited
instinct for good and evil set free for the first time. The fact that the
girl has acquired the habit of dropping a little cologne on a lump of
sugar and nibbling it when tired or depressed gives an indication of the
struggle that the children have before them, a struggle of their own, in
the midst of their luxurious surroundings, more vital, more real,
perhaps, than any that Mr. Chambers has yet depicted. It is a tense,
powerful, highly dramatic story, handling a delicate subject without
offense to the taste or the judgment of the most critical reader.
Mr. Chambers's third novel of society life is
THE FIRING LINE
Its scenes are laid principally at Palm Beach, and no more distinct yet
delicately tinted picture of an American fashionable resort, in the full
blossom of its brief, recurrent glory, has ever been drawn. In this book,
Mr. Chambers's purpose is to show that the salvation of society lies in
the constant injection of new blood into its veins. His heroine, the
captivating Shiela Cardross, of unknown parentage, yet reared in luxury,
suddenly finds herself on life's firing line, battling with one of the
most portentous problems a young girl ever had to face. Only a master
writer could handle her story; Mr. Chambers does it most successfully.
THE YOUNGER SET
is the second of Mr. Chambers's society novels. It takes the reader into
the swirling society life of fashionable New York, there to wrestle with
that ever-increasing evil, the divorce question. As a student of life,
Mr. Chambers is thorough; he knows society; his pictures are so accurate
that he enables the reader to imbibe the same atmosphere as if he had
been born and brought up in it. Moreover, no matter how intricate the
plot may be or how great the lesson to be taught, the romance in the
story is always foremost. For "The Younger Set," Mr. Chambers has
provided a hero with a rigid code of honor and the grit to stick to it,
even though it be unfashionable and out of date. He is a man whom
everyone would seek to emulate.
The earliest of Mr. Chambers's society novels is
THE FIGHTING CHANCE
It is the story of a young man who has inherited with his wealth a
craving for liquor, and a girl who has inherited a certain rebelliousness
and a tendency toward dangerous caprice. The two, meeting on the brink of
ruin, fight out their battles--two weaknesses joined with love to make a
It is sufficient to say of this novel that more than five million people
have read it. It has taken a permanent place among the best fiction of
is the title of Mr. Chambers's novel just preceding "The Danger Mark." It
is the romance of a young woman spy and scout in the Civil War. As a
special messenger in the Union service, she is led into a maze of
critical situations, but her coolness and bravery and winsome personality
always carry her on to victory. The story is crowded with dramatic
incident, the roar of battle, the grim realities of war; and, at times,
in sharp contrast, comes the tenderest of romance. It is written with an
understanding and sympathy for the viewpoint of the partisans on both
sides of the conflict.
is a novel of the Revolutionary War. It is the fourth, chronologically,
of a series of which "Cardigan" and "The Maid-at-Arms" were the first
two. The third has not yet been written. These novels of New York in the
Revolutionary days are another striking example of the enthusiasm which
Mr. Chambers puts into his work. To write an accurate and successful
historical novel, one must be a historian as well as a romancer. Mr.
Chambers is an authority on New York State history during the Colonial
period. And, if the hours spent in poring over old maps and reading up
old records and journals do not show, the result is always apparent. The
facts are not obtrusive, but they are there, interwoven in the gauzy woof
of the artist's imagination. That is why these romances carry conviction
always, why we breathe the very air of the period as we read them.
Another splendid example of the author's versatility is this farcical,
humorous satire on the _art nouveau_ of to-day, Mr. Chambers, with all
his knowledge of the artistic jargon, has in this little novel created a
pious fraud of a father, who brings up his eight lovely daughters in the
Adirondacks, where they wear pink pajamas and eat nuts and fruit, and
listen to him while he lectures them and everybody else on art. It is
easy to imagine what happens when several rich and practical young New
Yorkers stumble upon this group. Everybody is happy in the end.
One might run on for twenty books more, but there is not space enough
more than to mention "The Tracer of Lost Persons," "The Tree of Heaven,"
"Some Ladies in Haste," and Mr. Chambers's delightful nature books for
children, telling how _Geraldine_ and _Peter_ go wandering through
"Outdoor-Land," "Mountain-Land," "Orchard-Land," "River-Land," "Forest-
Land," and "Garden-Land." They, in turn, are as different from his novels
in fancy and conception as each of his novels from the other.
Mr. Chambers is a born optimist. The labor of writing is a natural
enjoyment to him. In reading anything he has written, one is at once
impressed with the ease with which it moves along. There is no straining
after effects, no affectations, no hysteria; but always there is a
personality, an individuality that appeals to the best side of the
reader's nature and somehow builds up a personal relation between him and
the author. Perhaps it is this consummate skill, this remarkable ability
to win the reader that has enabled Mr. Chambers to increase his audience
year after year, until it now numbers millions; and it is only just that
critics should, as they frequently do, proclaim him "the most popular
writer in the country."