Marjorie Dean's Romanceñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Marjorie dropped Jerry’s hand and flashed away from her along the pike, a slim, flitting, shadowy figure. She was laughing softly to herself as she ran on for a few yards.
“I told you I’d run away from you.” she reminded, as Jerry came speeding up to her. “I didn’t propose to stay after hearing myself compared to a yeast cake.”
The two had paused, breathless and laughing at one side of the pike. Their run had brought them just beyond the brightly lighted gate posts of Lenox Heath, a rambling, many gabled English manor house. Its powerful gate lights illuminated the pike for several hundred feet. Farther ahead of them it was dark and shadowy, in spite of the full moon’s rays.
A few more steps would bring them to the part of the highway which skirted the Carden estate, forming its southern boundary. Formerly the pike at this point had extended between irregular embankments of stony earth which rose to a low height above the pike’s smooth bed. It was at this particular part of the pike that Miss Susanna had narrowly escaped being run over by Lillian Walbert’s car on a February afternoon of the previous year.
During the summer which followed the date of Miss Susanna’s near accident, the right side of the pike which marked the northern boundary of the Clements estate had been leveled with the road bed by order of the Clements themselves. The low lumpy irregular ridge on the Carden side of the pike remained, flaunting itself in the face of improvement, a proof of Carden indifference and obstinacy. Because of it the Carden house and grounds appeared even more neglected and unkempt.
“It’s good and dark here in spite of the moon.” Jerry glanced up at the great arching limbs of the trees on the Carden side of the pike. A row of giant elms grew just inside the thick evergreen hedge which enclosed the Carden premises and gave the estate its name. Though still bare of leaves, the thick interlacing branches of the elms served as a screen against the moon’s pale radiance.
“What a gloomy old dump the Carden estate is!” was Jerry’s disapproving exclamation. “It looks like a ghost ranch.”
“It’s the Dark Tower in the Kingdom of Castles.” This time Marjorie did the naming. “‘Two Travelers to the Dark Tower came,’” she laughingly misquoted.
“Let’s hope we don’t see the horrors Childe Roland was supposed to have seen. Goodness knows what bogie horrified him. I should call ‘Childe Roland’ Browning’s most aggravating poem. But this eerie spot is no place for a literary discussion. B-r-r-r! Let’s beat it. I saw a white ghostly light flash out from behind that old house!”
Jerry did not accept her own proposal. Instead she stopped short, eyes trained on the pale flood of light. It emanated from a point behind the house and whitened a space to the left of the gloomy gray stone dwelling.
“Here comes your ghost, and in an automobile.” Marjorie began to laugh. Two white eyes of light had appeared around the left hand corner of the house and were rapidly coming down the drive toward the watchers.
“‘Two goslings to the Dark Tower came – and saw a gasoline ghost,’” she mocked.
The watchers came abreast of the entrance gateway of the estate just as the car reached it. By its light they saw that the gates stood open. They hurried past them and drew close to the uneven ridge of earth in order to allow the automobile plenty of room to turn onto the pike. Instead of driving on, the solitary occupant stopped the machine at the edge of the pike just clear of the gateway.
The machine itself was a long, rakish-looking racing car. Its driver was a tall man, very broad of shoulder. He wore a long dark motor coat. A leather motor cap was pulled down over his forehead. Intent on his own affairs, he did not glance toward the two young women. He sprang from the racer and strode back to close the gates. He slammed them shut with an air which indicated proprietorship. Two or three long steps and he had returned to his car. He leaped into it, started it and was gone almost instantly around the curve of the pike which was the last outpost of the Carden estate. Just on the other side of it the estate of Hamilton Arms began.
“Some ghost. That’s the first time I ever saw anyone emerge from that gloom patch, day or night. Now who do you suppose he was? If he’s a visitor at Carden Hedge he must be visiting either himself or spooks. Maybe he’s a Carden. Not that I care a hoot who he is, but one must have something to say about everyone.” Jerry left the rough ground on which the two had been standing for the smoothness of the pike. “Come along, Bean. It will be midnight before we hit the castle,” she predicted. “Ronny was right about this pair of Travelers.”
“I wonder if he was one of the Cardens?” Marjorie’s question contained a certain amount of curiosity. Since she had taken up the work of arranging the data for Brooke Hamilton’s biography she had found enough allusions to the Carden family to give her a clear idea of what a thorn Alec Carden had been to Brooke Hamilton’s flesh.
“He may be the son of Alec Carden. I mean the son who inherited Carden Hedge,” she continued musingly. “This man in the racer wasn’t young. I caught a fair view of his face in spite of the way he had his cap pulled down. Still he may be younger than I thought him at a glance, and the grandson of old Alec Carden.”
“Why worry about it?” teased Jerry. She had caught the note of puzzled interest in Marjorie’s voice.
“I’m not worrying. I’m wondering why that man’s face looked so familiar. I’m sure I never saw him before.”
“How can he look familiar to you if you’ve never before seen him?” inquired Jerry, with a chuckle.
“That’s precisely what I’m wondering. Perhaps he resembles some one I know or have seen. I must ask Miss Susanna to describe John Carden, the son who lives at the Hedge. Here we are at our own castle. Next time we mustn’t stay out so late, Jeremiah. I hope Miss Susanna hasn’t stayed up to wait for us. She likes her early bedtime, you know.”
Miss Susanna had elected to “stay up” to hear about Leila’s “great” idea. They found her waiting for them in the library, wrapped in a trailing blue velvet dressing gown. She hustled them upstairs to don negligees and ordered them down to the library when they should have changed costume. There she brought them two little Chinese bowls of chicken consomm? and a plate of salty crackers.
Both girls had eaten sparingly of the spread. After their moonlight walk they were really hungry, and the consomm? was delicious. As they ate it and nibbled the crisp crackers they regaled Miss Susanna with a lively account of the evening’s happenings. Interest in the Travelers’ new plans for entertainments drove the incident of the unknown motorist completely from Marjorie’s mind. Nor did she think of him again for some time afterward.
A RETURN TO A FORBIDDEN LAND
“Leslie, is it really you? I’d been wondering why you hadn’t answered my letter. I wrote you soon after I received your note.” Doris Monroe’s indifferent drawl was not in evidence as she answered the telephone. She was surprised and more pleased than she had thought she could possibly be to hear Leslie Cairns’ voice on the wire. Leslie’s arrival in Hamilton meant an immediate brightening of the bored existence Doris had been leading since her return from New York.
“I wrote you I’d surely be here in April,” Leslie brusquely reminded, “and here I am.”
“I’m awfully glad of it.” Doris spoke with pleasing sincerity. “Is Mrs. Gaylord with you?”
“Ye-es.” Leslie drawled the affirmation with exaggerated weariness. “How she does wish she wasn’t. She nearly had a conniption when I told her we were going to make a flying trip to Hamilton. I’ll meet you at the Colonial at four this P. M. You’ll hear more of my history then. Bye.” Leslie was gone.
Doris’s beautiful face was a study as she turned from the telephone. She was a trifle amazed at her distinct pleasure in Leslie’s unexpected arrival at Hamilton. Leslie had been so moodily unbearable after their return from the holiday vacation which they had spent in New York, Doris had felt relieved at the former’s sudden disappearance from Hamilton and the subsequent receipt of Leslie’s brief note from New York.
It was only recently that she had begun to miss Leslie and wish for her society. In spite of her ugly moods Leslie was possessed of an originality which Doris found singularly enlivening. No one could say more oddly funny things than Leslie when she chose to be humorous. Leslie never hesitated to pay extravagantly for whatever she happened to want. Doris admired in her what she considered Leslie’s “adventurous spirit.” She had been brought up to know her father’s explorer friends. They were hardy, intrepid world wanderers of daring. She had listened to their tales of reckless adventuring into the unknown and gloried in the doings of these splendid captains of adventure. There were occasions when it appeared to her that Leslie showed something of the same adventurous, undaunted spirit.
As a matter of truth, Leslie was animated by this very spirit. She had directed it, however, into ignoble channels. What she chose to regard as strategy and daring were nothing other than trickery and lawlessness.
Doris knew little or nothing of Leslie’s flagrant offenses as a student at Hamilton College. She had learned of the latter’s expellment from college from Leslie herself. She had consequently never heard the rights of the affair. She had heard vague stories concerning it from Julia Peyton, Clara Carter and one or two juniors. The knowledge of Leslie’s immense wealth had hampered even their gossip about the ex-student. The freshmen and the sophomores, who were Doris’s chief companions, had entered Hamilton too late to be on the campus at the period before Leslie’s and her chums’ expulsion from college. They, therefore, knew not much about her.
The present junior and senior classes had been respectively the freshman and sophomore classes during Leslie’s senior year at Hamilton, which had been also the year of her expulsion from college. At that particular time the attitude of the two lower classes had been one of horrified disapproval of the seventeen San Soucians who had been expelled from Hamliton for hazing a student. That was almost as much as any of them had ever learned about the affair. The girls who knew the disagreeable truth were Marjorie Dean and her intimates. Silence with them was honor. They knew a great many other derogatory facts about Leslie Cairns and her methods which they kept strictly sub rosa.
Doris was ready to welcome Leslie with warmth. She sorely lacked companions of interest. She had begun to grow bored to satiety by admiration. The freshies’ and sophs’ adoration for her was too superficial to be satisfying. They enjoyed rushing the college beauty. Each class liked to parade her on the campus and f?te her at Baretti’s, the Colonial or at their pet Hamilton tea shops as a triumphant class trophy. She was selfish, but not shallow; indifferent, but not vapid. It was in her composition to give as well as receive. Because she had been surfeited with adulation she had lately experienced a vague unrestful desire to turn from the knowledge of her own charms to an admiration of some one else.
First among the students of Hamilton she admired Leila Harper. Robin Page was her second “crush.” Muriel made a third in a trio which had won her difficult fancy. None of these, however, were likely to become her friends. She would never make overtures to them. She was confident that they would never make further friendly advances to her.
Such a state of mind on her part augured a hearty welcome for Leslie. Doris hurried to her room after her last afternoon class, hastily got into the new fawn English walking suit, recently arrived from a Bond Street shop, and made a buoyant exit from the Hall and to the garage for the white car. It was a clear, sunshiny day. She thought Leslie might like to take a ride in the Dazzler. Leslie had probably hired a taxicab in which to come from town to the Colonial.
It was a very short distance from the garage to the Colonial. Arrived there, Doris saw a solitary car parked in front of the restaurant. It was a black roadster of newest type and most expensive make. She jumped to an instant conclusion that it must belong to Leslie.
Doris parked the Dazzler behind the roadster and went into the tea room to meet Leslie. She found her seated at one of the several square mission oak tables engaged in a languid perusal of a menu card.
“How are you, Goldie? Have a seat at the table and a bite with yours truly.” Leslie waved Doris into the chair opposite her. Then she stretched an arm lazily across the table and offered Doris her hand.
“Very well, thank you, Leslie. How have you been getting along?” Doris returned, with only a shade of her usual drawl. “I am glad to see you. I have missed you.”
“A good miss.” Leslie shrugged an accompaniment to her laconic comment. “Were you surprised to hear me on the ’phone?”
“Of course. I was surprised when you wrote me from New York. I had no idea you had left Hamilton. I was afraid of being conditioned in math. I was studying like mad and hadn’t time just then to call you on the telephone at the hotel. I knew you were very busy.” So far as she went Doris was truthful.
“Oh, forget it. I believe what you say, Goldie, but you might have added that you were all fed up with me. I know I had a beastly grouch after the New York trip. It had teeth and claws. I had business trouble. That sneaking carpenter who is trying to swing the dormitory job for Bean and her precious Beanstalks coaxed all my men over to the Beggar Ranch. He told them a lot of fairy stories, I suppose. Anyway, I had to send for one of my father’s best men, an Italian financier, who understands Italian peasants. Even he couldn’t undo the mischief that scamp, Graham, had done.
“I finally had to send for my father. He fired the whole shooting match. I’m done with that garage flivver. My father said it wouldn’t pay me very well in the end. He was sore at me for wasting my time around this burg. He tried to make me promise I’d go to New York and never think about Hamilton again. He can’t stand the college since the precious Board gave me such an unfair deal.”
“Why, that’s dreadful, Leslie; about your garage I mean.” Doris had a certain amount of sympathy for Leslie. She was not specially interested in business, but she decided that Leslie had been badly treated.
“I’ll say it is,” Leslie made grim response. “Oh, never mind. I’m still worth a few dollars. Did you see my new car out in front?”
“Yes – I had an idea that car must belong to you. It suggested you to me at first sight.” Doris smiled across the table at her returned friend. “I had no idea you’d have a car. I brought the Dazzler on purpose. I thought we might like to take a ride.”
“Gaylord and I came here from New York in that car,” Leslie informed with an inflection of pride. “My father doesn’t know I’m here. He sailed for Europe last Thursday. I know positively that he went, too. I was at the dock and saw his steamer cut loose from Manhattan.”
“Were you?” Doris exhibited her usual polite reticence regarding Leslie’s father. Long since she had discovered that Leslie did not like to answer questions about him. “It is rather a long drive from New York, isn’t it. Your motor coat and hat are chic.”
“So is your suit. I suppose it floated straight across the pond to you. My coat came from the Clayham, in New York. But it’s some bang-up English shop, now let me tell you.” Leslie showed brightening satisfaction of her own greenish-gray motor coat and round hat of the same material.
Leslie’s own remarks about her father were “fairy stories” so far as her having seen him entered into them. She had not seen him, nor had she received any letters from him other than the peremptory one in which he had scathingly reprimanded her and ordered her to New York. Nevertheless she had seen him sail for Europe in the “Arcadia,” though he had not known of her presence on the dock when the steamer cleared.
She had gone to the dock in a cheap tan rain-coat, a red worsted Tam o’Shanter cap and a pair of shell-rimmed glasses. Mingling with the crowd on the dock she was confident her disguise was effective. Her father’s manager, Mr. Carrington, had furnished her with the information of the date and hour of her father’s departure for Europe. She had not seen him since the day when she had called at her father’s offices. Neither had he seen her father for more than a few minutes at a time during which no mention of Leslie had been made. He had been led by her to believe that she had planned a pleasant steamer surprise for her father. He had therefore kept his own counsel and his promise to Leslie. He had sent her a note to the Essenden which had been duly forwarded to her new address.
“I should think you’d rather be in New York than here.” Doris gave a half envious sigh. “There’s nothing here of interest off the campus.”
“Oh, I had to come here while Peter the Great was away.” Leslie volunteered this much of an explanation of her visit. “I must get a line on what was done on the garage so I’ll know just how much money I put into it. My father will want to know that right off the bat if he offers it for sale as it stands. You and I will have some bully rides and drives while I’m here, Goldie. I shan’t be such a grouch as I was right after Christmas. How are things at the knowledge shop? How is Bean? Had any fusses with her or her Beanstalks lately?” Leslie’s expression grew lowering as she mentioned Marjorie.
“Miss Dean and Miss Macy aren’t at Wayland Hall now. They’re staying at Hamilton Arms. I don’t know whether they are coming back to the Hall again or not.” Doris had expected the information might elicit surprise from her companion. She smiled in faint amusement of Leslie’s astonished features, then added the crowning bit of news. “Miss Dean was chosen by Miss Hamilton to write Brooke Hamilton’s biography.”
A WILD PLAN
“What-t? Do you know what you’re saying?” Leslie’s tones rose higher.
“I ought to know. I’ve heard nothing else since she left the Hall for Hamilton Arms.” Doris’s tone was the acme of weariness. “It wouldn’t have been surprising to hear that President Matthews had been asked to write Brooke Hamilton’s biography,” she continued. “The idea of Miss Dean as his biographer is, well —ridiculous.”
“It’s pure bosh,” Leslie said contemptuously. “She’s a tricky little hypocrite. She’s managed to curry favor with that wizened old frump at Hamilton Arms. The last of the Hamiltons! She looks it. I heard when I was at Hamilton that she was sore at the college; that she had all the dope for Brooke Hamilton’s biography but wouldn’t come across with it. I presume Bean slathered her with deceitful sweetness until she grew dizzy with her own importance and renigged.”
“I don’t like Miss Dean.” Doris’s fair face clouded. “I’m glad she’s not at the Hall any longer. Miss Harper and her other friends don’t appear to miss her much, or Miss Macy either. They have parties in one another’s rooms almost every night.”
“They have found they can live without her,” was Leslie’s satiric opinion. “You certainly have handed me news, Goldie.”
“Oh, that’s only a beginning,” Doris declared, well pleased with Leslie’s appreciation. “The other night Miss Dean and Miss Macy were at the Hall to dinner. Afterward they were in Miss Harper’s room with their crowd. They had a high old time talking and laughing. I could hear them, but not very plainly. They were planning shows, though. Since then a notice for a piano recital, featuring Candace Oliver, a freshie musical genius, has appeared on all the bulletin boards. Since that notice there has come another of an Irish play by Miss Harper. It’s to be given in May. The name of the play and the cast hasn’t yet been announced. Miss Harper is awfully tantalizing. She always waits until campus curiosity is at fever height about her plays before she gives out any more information.”
“She’s a foxy proposition.” Leslie showed signs of growing sulkiness. Her earlier affability had begun to wane at first mention of Marjorie Dean. Next to Marjorie, Leila Harper was registered in her black books.
“She’s clever, Leslie; not foxy,” Doris calmly corrected. She went on to tell Leslie of the part Leila had asked her to play in “The Knight of the Northern Sun.”
Leslie’s deep-rooted jealousy of the two girls who were college successes where she had been a rank failure rushed to the surface. “Leila Harper has nerve to ask you to be in a play when she knows you are a friend of mine. I see her game. She knows just how useful you can be to her in her confounded old play. It’s some feather in her theatre bonnet to keep the college beauty at her beck and call. She has planned to break up our friendship by flattering you into believing you are a dramatic wonder. Bean is probably back of Harper’s scheme. She can’t and never could bear to see me enjoy myself.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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