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The dancing pavilion, separated from theCasino itself by an arched passageway andaffording another pretty view of the lake in themoonlight, was filled with young people whenAlice entered.
"It will be cool here, I think," suggested DollyDe Castro, leading the way for her guest. "TheHickories is by no means a gay place," shecontinued, seating herself beside Alice where theycould see the dancers moving in and out of thelong room. "And it isn't a club. There is justthis Casino and the fields for golf and polo. It isa neighborhood affair-and really the quietestplace of the kind in the Lake country. Too badyou could not have been here three weeks ago forthe Kermess."
"So Miss Venable said. They are great fun."
"We revive one occasionally to preserve theDutch traditions of the family," continued Dolly."Mrs. Charles Kimberly-Imogene-gave it thisyear. Last year I gave it. You would have seeneverybody, especially the Sea Ridge people.Fritzie, dear?" Dolly paused to stay a slender youngwoman who was passing. "Miss Venable," sheexplained, still speaking to Alice, "is our favoritecousin and will make you acquainted with every one."
Fritzie Venable whose lively, brown eyesescaped beauty only through a certain keennessof expression, stopped with a smile and waitedon Dolly's word.
"I want Mrs. MacBirney to go over to theNelsons' after a while. This dance is really ayoung people's affair," Dolly went on, turningto Alice. "These are friends of Grace's andLarrie's and I don't know half of them. Takecare of Mrs. MacBirney a moment, Fritzie, willyou, while I find Arthur?" asked Dolly, risingand leaving the two together.
Alice looked after Dolly as she walked away.Dolly had the Kimberly height and preserved itwith a care that gave dignity to her carriage.Her dignity, indeed, showed in her words as wellas in her manner; but in both it battled with amental intensity that fought for immediateexpression. Dolly persuaded and dictated unblushingly, though it could not be said, unpleasingly.
"I know you are enjoying Mrs. De Castro andher lovely home," said Fritzie to Alice. "Ofcourse," she added as Alice assented, "The Towersis on a much grander scale. But I think BlackRock is the 'homiest' place on Second Lake. Isuppose since I saw you yesterday you have beenall around?"
"Not quite; but I've met many lovely people."
"You can't help liking Second Lake people.They are a kind-hearted, generous set-notablyso for people of means."
"Aren't such people usually generous?"
Fritzie looked doubtful: "People of large means, perhaps, yes. Indeed, the only trouble here is, there are too many of that sort. Everybody isprosperous and everybody, with, I think, twoexceptions, contented. I," laughed Fritzie, "amone of the exceptions. There being no possibilityof pre?minence in the line of means, I believe Ihave in my r?le of discontent a certain distinction; and as far as I can see, as much fun as anybody.In fact, I've often thought the only place whereI should care to be rich would be among thepoor.Where every one overflows with luxurydistinctions are necessarily lost-and I likedistinctions. Isn't this pretty for dancing?"
"Everything over here is pretty," said Alice.
"The place takes its name, 'The Hickories,'from the grove back of it. You see there wasnothing about the Lake itself to serve the purposeof a country club-no golf course, no polo field.All this stretch of the eastern shore is a part ofThe Towers estate, but Mr. Kimberly was goodenough to set it apart for the rest of us-you havemet Mr. Robert Kimberly?"
"Neither of the Mr. Kimberlys as yet."
"There is Charles now." Fritzie indicated asmooth-faced, youthful-looking man coming inthrough one of the veranda openings. "That ishe speaking to Dolly. They call him thehandsome Kimberly."
Alice smiled: "For a man that's rather asevere handicap, isn't it?"
"To be called handsome?"
"It suggests in a way that good looks areexceptional in the family, and they are not, for theirsister, Mrs. De Castro is very handsome, I think.Which brother is this?"
"The married brother; the other is Robert.They call him the homely Kimberly. He isn'treally homely, but his face in repose is heavy.He is the bachelor."
"Mr. MacBirney tells me he is completelywrapped up in business."
"Rather-yes; of late years."
"That, I presume, is why he has never married."
"Perhaps," assented Fritzie with a prudentpause. "Some men," she went on somewhatvaguely, "get interested, when they are young, inwomen in general. And afterward never settledown to any one woman, you know."
"I should think that kind of a man would betiresome."
Fritzie looked at young Mrs. MacBirney somewhatin surprise, but there was nothing in Alice'sfrank eyes to provoke criticism. They metFritzie's with an assurance of good-nature thatforestalled hostility. Then, too, Fritzieremembered that Mrs. MacBirney was from the Westwhere people speak freely. "Robert is deliberatebut not a bit tiresome," was all Fritzie said inanswer. "Indeed, he is not communicative."
"I didn't mean in that way," explained Alice."I should only be afraid a man like that wouldtake himself so seriously."
Fritzie laughed: "He wouldn't know what thatmeant. You had music at your dinner to-night."
"Lovely music: the Hawaiian singers."
"I was sorry I couldn't be there. They alwayscome out to sing for Robert when they are in theStates, and they are always in dreadful financialstraits when they get as far from home as this, andhe is always making up their deficits. They usedto sing at The Towers, from barges on the lake.But The Towers is hardly ever opened nowadaysfor a function. The music over the waterwith the house illuminated was simply superb.And the evening winding up with fireworks!"sighed Fritzie in pleasing retrospect.
"There is Robert now," she continued.. "Doyou see him? With Mrs. Charles Kimberly.They are devoted. Isn't she a slip? And thedaintiest little thing. Robert calls her his littleQuakeress-her people were Quakers. She seemslost among the Kimberlys-though Robert isn'tquite so tall as his brother, only more muscularand slower."
Robert Kimberly with Imogene on his armentered from the opposite side of the room andwalked across the floor to take her to her husband.His face was darker than that of Charles andheavier eyebrows rendered his expression less alert.Fritzie waved a hand at Imogene, who answeredwith her fan and greeted Alice.
"And there comes Mrs. Nelson-the palebrunette. Heroic woman, I call her. She has beenfighting her advancing weight for ten years. Isn'tshe trim? Heavens, she ought to be. She livesin Paris half the time and does nothing but dressand flirt."
"And who is it with her?"
"The stately creature with her is Dora Morgan.She is a divorc?e. She likewise lives in Parisand is quite a singer. I haven't heard her latelybut she used to sing a little off the key; she dressesa little off the key yet, to say nothing of theway she acts sometimes. They are going to dance."
A small orchestra of stringed instruments witha French horn, hidden somewhere in a balcony, began the faint strains of a German waltz. Thenight was warm. Young people in white strollingthrough dim veranda openings into the softlylighted room moved at once out upon the floorto the rhythm of the music. Others, following, paused within the doorways to spin out ends ofsmall talk or persist in negligible disputes. Thedancers wore the pretty Hawaiian leis in honor ofthe Island singers.
"There were some interesting men at the dinnerto-night," said Alice.
"You mean the German refiners? Yes, theyare Charles Kimberly's guests," remarked Fritzieas the floor filled. "There they are now, in thatgroup in the archway with Mr. Nelson."
"But the smaller man was not at the dinner."
"No, that is Guyot, the French representativeof the Kimberlys. He and George Doane, the bald, good-looking man next to him, have the party incharge. You met the immense man, HerrGustav Baumann, at dinner. He is a great refinerand a Hawaiian planter. They are on their wayto Honolulu now and leave within an hour or twoin Robert Kimberly's car for San Francisco. TheBaumanns have known the Kimberlys forgenerations. Should you ever think Herr Baumanncould dance? He is as light as a cat on his feet, but he waltzes in the dreadful Europeanround-and-round way. The black-haired man with thebig nose is Lambert, a friend of his, a promoterand a particularly famous chemist whom RobertKimberly, by the way, hates-he is a Belgian. Ican't bear him, either-and, Heavens, Guyot isbringing him over here now to ask me to dance!"
Fritzie's fear proved true. However, sheaccepted graciously as Lambert was broughtforward and bowed in making his request. But shedid not fail to observe that though he bowed low,Lambert's bold eyes were glued on Alice evenwhile he was begging Fritzie for the dance.Something in Alice's slender face, the white hardlytouched enough with pink, except under animation, held Lambert's glance. Alice, alreadyprejudiced, directed her eyes as far away as possibleunder the inspection and was glad that Fritzierose at once.
Robert Kimberly joined Baumann and EdwardNelson. "You have not told me yet, Robert,"Baumann began, "how you put in your time herein the country."
"I have a good secretary and do a great deal ofmy work here, Gustav."
"But one does not always work. What else?I remember," he continued, turning to Nelson,"the stories my father used to tell about theKimberlys-your father, Robert, and especially yourUncle John." Baumann radiated interest ineverything American. "Those men were busymen. Not alone sugar-refining, but horses, steamboats, opera-houses, women-always, always someexcitement."
"Other times, other manners, Baumann,"suggested Nelson. "In those days a fine horse hada national interest; to-day, everybody's horsedoes his mile in two minutes. The railroads longago killed the steamboats; newsboys build theopera-houses now; sugar refines itself. Meremoney-making, Baumann, has become so absorbingthat a Kimberly of this generation doesn'thave time to look at a woman."
"Nelson!" protested the good-natured andperspiring German, "no time to look at a woman?That, at least, cannot be true, can it, Robert?"
"Not quite. But I imagine the interest haswaned," said Kimberly. "When a man took hislife in his hand on such a venture the excitementgave it a double zest-the reflection that you werean outlaw but prepared, if necessary, to pay theprice with your life. Nowadays, the husband hasfallen lower than the libertine. If you break uphis home-he sues you. There is nothinghair-raising in that. Will you dance, Gustav?"
"I want very much to dance. Your womendance better than ours."
"Why, your women dance beautifully. Nelsonwill find you a partner," suggested Kimberly."I must hunt up Mrs. Nelson. I have a dancewith her, myself."
Alice sat for a moment alone. Among thedancers, Robert Kimberly moved past her withLottie Nelson on his arm. Alice noticed howhandsome and well poised Lottie was on her feet;Kimberly she thought too cold to be an attractivepartner.
Within a moment Dolly came back. "I can'tfind Arthur anywhere."
"He isn't on the floor, Mrs. De Castro."
"No matter, I will let him find me. Isn't it apretty company? I do love these fresh faces,"remarked Dolly, sitting down. "The youngpeople complain of our being exclusive. That isabsurd. We have to keep quiet, otherwise whylive in the country? Besides, what would begained by opening the doors?"
Dolly had a pleasing way of appealing indifficulties, or what seemed such, even to a stranger."We don't want ambitious people," she went on;"they are killing, you know-and we certainlydon't want any more like ourselves. As Arthursays," Dolly laughed a little rippling laugh, "'wehave social liabilities enough of our own.'"
Arthur De Castro came up just in time to hearhis name: "What's that Arthur says, Dolly?"
"Oh, here you are!" exclaimed his wife. "Nomatter, dear, what it was."
"It is certain Arthur never said anything ofthe kind, Mrs. MacBirney," interposed De Castro."If any one said it, it must have been you, Dolly."
Alice laughed at the two. "No matter whosaid it," remarked Dolly, dismissing the controversy,"somebody said it. It really sounds morelike Robert than anybody else."
"You will be aware very soon, Mrs. MacBirney,"continued De Castro, "that the Kimberlyssay all manner of absurd things-and they are notalways considerate enough to father them on someone else, either."
Alice turned to her hostess with amused interest: "You, of course, are included because you are aKimberly."
"She is more Kimberly than the Kimberlys,"asserted her husband. "I am not a Kimberly."Arthur De Castro in apologizing bowed with soreal a deprecation that both women laughed.
"Of course, the young people rebel," persistedDolly, pursuing her topic, and her dark hairtouched with gray somehow gave an authority toher pronouncements, "young people always wanta circle enlarged, but a circle never should be.What is it you want, Arthur?"
"I am merely listening."
"Don't pretend that you leave the men just tolisten to me. You want Mrs. MacBirney todance."
"She is always like that," declared De Castroto Alice, whom he found pleasing because hergraciousness seemed to invite its like. "Just suchbursts of divination. At times they areoverwhelming. I remember how stunned I was whenshe cried-quite before I could get my breath:'You want to marry me!'"
"Was she right?" laughed Alice, looking fromone to the other.
"Is she right now?"
"Dolly is always right."
"Then I suppose I must dance."
"Not, of course, unless you want to."
Alice appealed to Dolly: "What did you do?"
"I said I wouldn't marry him."
"But you did," objected her companion.
"He was so persistent!"
Alice laughingly rose: "Then it would bebetter to consent at once."
Dolly rose with her. Two of the dancersstopped before them: a tall, slender girl and aruddy-faced, boyish young man.
"Grace," said Dolly to the blue-eyed girl, "Iwant you to meet Mrs. MacBirney. This is myniece, Grace De Castro."
The young girl looked with pretty expectancyinto Alice's face, and frankly held out her hand.
"Oh, what a bloom!" exclaimed Alice, lookingat the delicate features and transparent skin.Grace laughed happily. Alice kept her hand amoment: "You are like a bit of morning cometo life, Grace."
"And this is my cousin, Mrs. MacBirney-Mr. Morgan,"said Grace shyly.
Larrie Morgan, a bit self-conscious, stood foran instant aloof. Alice said nothing, but her eyesin the interval worked their spell. He suddenlysmiled.
"I'm mightily pleased to meet you, Mrs. MacBirney,"he exclaimed with heartiness. "We'veall heard about you. Is Mr. MacBirney here?"he continued, tendering the biggest complimenthe could think of.
"He is somewhere about, I think."
"We shall lose our waltz, Mrs. MacBirney,"urged Arthur De Castro.
"Oh, we mustn't do that. Let's run,"whispered Alice, taking his arm.
"Who is Mrs. MacBirney?" asked Grace ofLarrie with an appealing look as Alice movedaway.
"Why, don't you know? Her husband ownssome beet plants."
"What lovely manners she has." Grace spokeunder her breath. "And so quiet. Where aretheir refineries, Larrie?"
"In the West."
"Where in the West?"
"Somewhere out toward the Rocky Mountains,"hazarded Larrie.
"Denver?" suggested Grace doubtfully.
"I fancy that's it. Anyway," explained Larriecoldly, "we are buying them."
"Are you?" asked Grace, lifting her soft eyestimidly.
To her, Larrie was the entire Kimberly sugarinterest; and at the moment of making theMacBirney purchase he looked, to Grace, the part.
Edward Nelson, the counsel, in somemeasure the political adviser and, as to thepublic, the buffer of the Kimberly sugar interests, was fond of entertaining. Being naturally anamiable gourmet, his interests suited his tastes.Moreover, his wife, Lottie Nelson, pleasing offace, with a figure well proportioned and withdistinction in her bright, indolent eyes, loved toentertain. And she loved to entertain withoutworking hard to do so. Morningside, her countryhome at Second Lake, though both attractive andspacious, and designed with a view to entertaining, was already being replaced with a new home moreattractive and more spacious, and meant to befilled with still more guests.
Observation and experience had convincedLottie that the easiest way to keep people in hand isto feed them well. And she quite understood thata vital part of the feeding in such a philosophy isthe drinking. There were difficulties, it is true, but which of us has not difficulties?
People-provided, they were people ofconsequence-diverted Lottie. She had nochildren-children had no place in her view of life-norwas she vitally interested in her husband. Thecompanionship of those whom she called herfriends thus became a necessity; the annoyancebeing that not always would the particularfriends whom she wanted-men chiefly-gather to her.
On the evening of the De Castro dinner anddance, Lottie was in better than her usual spirits.She had brought home Charles Kimberly-who asa yachtsman bore the title of Commodore-andhis wife, Imogene. Imogene, the little Quakeress, did not like her, as Lottie was aware, but CharlesKimberly was always in sorts and alwaystractable-different in that respect from Robert.Charles and his wife took MacBirney and FritzieVenable to the Nelsons' with them and Alice wasto follow with the De Castros.
When Lottie reached home, Dora Morgan hadalready come over with George Doane, one of theKimberly stock brokers. These two assured theevening. In the dining-room only a few-of theright sort-were needed for good company.
But more was in prospect for thisevening-Robert Kimberly was expected. Nelson camedown from the library with MacBirney and lefthim with Imogene while he followed Charles toa smoking-room. Fritzie and Mrs. Nelson joinedDoane and Dora Morgan in the music-room.Cards were proposed, but no one had the energyto get at them.
A servant passed in the hall to answer the doorand Lottie Nelson at once left the room. Whenshe reached the vestibule the footman was takingRobert Kimberly's coat. She walked well up toRobert before she spoke: "At last!"
"I went back to The Towers for a moment,"said Kimberly in explanation. "Are Charles andNelson here?"
"And is that all after a month-'Are Charlesand Nelson here?'!" echoed Lottie patiently andwith a touch of intimate reproach.
"We have a conference to-night, you know,Lottie. How are you?"
She put back her abundant hair: "Why didn'tyou call up last week when you were home tofind out?"
"I was home only overnight. And I camelate and left before you were awake. You knowI have been at the new refinery for a week. Webegan melting yesterday."
"At the big one?"
"At the big one."
She took hold of the lei that he had worn overfrom the dance and in a leisurely way made apretence of braiding the stem of a loose rose backinto it. "This is the prettiest I've seen," saidLottie. "Who gave it to you?"
"Grace. What is the matter with it?" heasked looking down at her white fingers.
"You are losing your decoration," she murmuredwith leisurely good-nature. "Nobody todo anything for you."
Kimberly looked at the parting lei with someannoyance, but if he entertained doubts as to itsneeding attention he expressed none. "Thesethings are a nuisance anyway," he declared atlength, lifting the lei impatiently over his head anddepositing it without more ado on a console. "Wewill leave it there."
"Where else have you been all this time?"demanded Lottie with an indolent interest.
"All over the country-even across the Rockies."
"Across the Rockies! And a whole big car toyourself! You must love solitude. And now youare buying a lot of refineries."
"Not I-the companies are."
"Oh, it's all the same."
"Not precisely; this MacBirney purchase isnot by my advice or with my approval."
"He is in there now, Imogene is talking with him."
"The trip was extremely tedious," said Kimberly, casting his eyes slowly around for means of escape.
"How could it be anything else with no friendsalong?"
"With McCrea and two secretaries and astenographer, I hadn't time to take any friends."
"What is time for?"
"I should say in the West it is valuable forgetting home with."
"And when you do get home?"
"To build more; borrow more; control more; sell more; spend more. I'm speaking for all therest of you, not for myself. I'm just thecentrifugal to throw the money out."
"Never by any chance to live more, I suppose?"
"You mean to eat and drink more? Howcould we?"
"I don't mean to eat and drink more. I meanjust what I say, to live more!"
They were at the threshold of the music room.He laughed good-naturedly, but Lottie declinedto be appeased.
"Lord, but I'm sick of it all!" she exclaimedpetulantly.
Kimberly used care not to offend, yet he alwaysinterposed a screen between himself and her, and however delicate the barrier, Lottie Nelsonhad never been able to penetrate it.
"No sicker of it than I am," he returned."But I'm a part of the machine; I can't get out.I suppose you are, and you can't get out. Butyou are too young to talk like that; wait till thenew home is finished. Then you will shine."
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