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She uttered a contemptuous exclamation, notquite loud enough for the others to hear, as shere?ntered the room. The others, in fact, scarcelywould have heard. Fritzie, Doane, and DoraMorgan were laughing immoderately. Imogeneat the piano was playing softly. Kimberlystopped to speak to her.
"I forgot, by the way, to ask you when yousail, Imogene," he said.
She answered with one hand running over thekeys: "That depends on you, doesn't it, Robert?I do hope you'll get through soon."
"Anxious to get away, are you?"
"You know I always am."
"Where are you going this time?"
"To the Mediterranean, I suppose."
"You are fond of the Mediterranean."
"Every place else seems so savage after it."
"Lottie says you have been talking with MacBirney."
"Just a few minutes."
"How do you like him?" asked her brother-in-law.
Imogene laughed a little: "He is very intelligent.He confuses me a little, though; he is so brisk."
"Is he entertaining?"
Imogene shrugged her shoulders: "Yes. Only,he rather makes you feel as if he were selling yousomething, don't you know. I suppose it's hardlyfair to judge of one from the first interview. Hisviews are broad," smiled Imogene in retrospect."'I can't understand,' he said 'why our Americanmen should so unceasingly pursue money. Whatcan more than a million or two possibly be goodfor-unless to give away?'" Imogene looked witha droll smile into Kimberly's stolid face. "Whenhe said, 'a million or two,' I thought of my wretchedbrother-in-law struggling along with thirty or fortythat he hasn't yet managed to get rid of!"
"You don't think, then, he would accept a fewof them?" suggested Kimberly.
"Suppose you try him some time," smiledImogene as she walked with Kimberly to thecard-table where Fritzie and Dora Morgan sat withDoane.
"Travelling agrees with you, Robert," observed Doane.
"The country agrees with you," returnedKimberly. "Good company, I suppose, George, isthe secret."
"How is the consolidation getting along?"
"There isn't any consolidation."
"Slowly. How is the market?"
"Our end of it is waiting on you. When shallyou have some news for us?"
"You don't need news to make a market,"returned Kimberly indifferently, as he sat down.He looked at those around the table. "What areyou doing?"
"Tell your story again, Dora," suggested Doane.
Dora Morgan looked at Kimberly defiantly."No," she said briefly.
"Pshaw, tell it," urged Doane. "It's about theVirgin Mary, Robert."
Dora was firm: "It's not a bachelor's story,"she insisted.
"Most of your stories are bachelors' stories,Dora," said Kimberly.
Dora threw away her cigarette. "Listen tothat! Didn't I tell you?" she asked appealingto Doane. "Robert is getting to be a real nice man."
In an effort to appease both sides, Doanelaughed, but somewhat carefully.
"I got into trouble only the other day in tellingthat story," continued Dora, with the sameundercurrent of defiance.
Effectively dressed, though with a tendency tocolor, and with dark, regular features, flushed alittle at night, Dora Morgan had a promise ofmanner that contrasted peculiarly with herfreedom of tongue.
"Tell us about it, Dora?" said Lottie Nelson.
"It was over at The Towers.I was telling thestory to Uncle John. His blood is red, yet," sheadded without looking at Robert Kimberly toemphasize her implication.
"Uncle John!" echoed Fritzie, at fault. "DidUncle John object?"
"Oh, no, you misunderstand. It wasn't UncleJohn." Every one but Kimberly laughed. "Iwas telling Uncle John the story, and his nurse-yourprot?g?, what's his name? I never canremember-Lazarus? the queer little Italian," shesaid, appealing to Kimberly.
"Brother Francis," he answered.
"He's not so awfully little," interposed Fritzie.
"Well, he was in the room," continued Dora,"and he got perfectly furious the moment he heard it."
"Furious, Dora? Why, how funny!" exclaimedLottie Nelson, languidly.
"He turned on me like a thunder-cloud. PoorUncle John was still laughing-he laughs on oneside of his face since his stroke, and looks sofiendish, you know-when Lazarus began toglower at me. He was really insulting in hismanner. 'Oh, I didn't know you were here,' Isaid to hush him up. 'What difference shouldthat make?' he asked, and his eyes were flashing,I can tell you."
"'The Virgin Mary is no relation of yours, isshe?' I demanded frigidly. You ought to haveseen the man. You know how sallow he is; heflushed to the roots of his hair and his lips snappedlike a trap. Then he became ashamed of himself,I dare say, and his eyes fell; he put his handon his breast and bowed to me as if I had been aqueen-they certainly have the prettiest manners, these poor Italians-haven't they, Imogene?"
"But what did he say?" asked Fritzie.
"'Madame,' he exclaimed, as if I had stabbedhim to the heart, 'the Blessed Virgin is mymother.' You really would have thought I hadinsulted his own mother. They have such queerideas, these foreigners. My, but he was mad!Then, what do you think? The next day Ipassed him walking up from the lake and he cameover with such apologies! He prayed I wouldoverlook his anger-he professed to have been soshocked that he had forgotten himself-no doubthe was afraid he would lose his job."
"George, you look sleepy," Lottie Nelsoncomplained, looking at Doane. "You needsomething to wake you up. Suppose we adjourn tothe dining-room?"
Imogene returned to the piano. Kimberlywalked to the door of the dining-room with theothers. "I will go upstairs," he said to LottieNelson.
"Don't stay all night," she returned peremptorily."And come have something before you go up."
"Perhaps when I come down."
Fritzie caught his arm, and walked with himinto the hall. They talked for a moment. "Youmust meet her," declared Fritzie at length, "sheis perfectly lovely and will be over after a whilewith Dolly." Then she looked at him suddenly: "I declare, I don't believe you've heard a wordof what I've been saying."
"I'm afraid not, Fritzie, but no matter, listento what I say. Don't go in there and drink withthat bunch."
"Whiskey makes a fool of you."
Fritzie put up her hand: "Now don't scold."
Upstairs, Nelson and Charles Kimberly, facingeach other, were seated at a big table on which laya number of type-written sheets, beautifully clearand distinct. These they were examining.
"What are you going over?" asked Robert, taking the chair Nelson drew up for him.
"The Colorado plants."
"Our own or the MacBirney?"
Charles Kimberly with one hand in his pocket, and supporting his head with the other as hiselbow rested on the table, turned to Robert with aquestion.
"You've seen the MacBirney figures. What doyou think of them?"
"They are high. But I expected that."
"Do you really need the MacBirney plants tocontrol the Western market?" asked CharlesKimberly. With eyes half closed behind hisglasses he studied his brother's face, quite asoccupied with his thoughts as with his words.
Robert did not answer at once. "I should hateto say so, personally," he remarked at length.
"McCrea," continued Charles, "contends thatwe do need them to forestall competition. Thatis, he thinks with the MacBirney crowd out of thefield we can have peace for ten years out there."
Nelson asked a question. "What kind offactories have they got?"
"Old-fashioned," answered Robert Kimberly.
"What kind of influence?"
"In public affairs, I don't know. In tradethey are not dangerous, though MacBirney isambitious and full of energy. The father-in-lawwas a fine old fellow. But he died just before thereorganization. I don't know how much moneythey've got now."
"They haven't much," remarked Nelson.
"We bother them a good deal from San Francisco,"continued Robert Kimberly, reflecting, "butthat is expensive. Ultimately we must own morefactories in Colorado. Of course, as far as thatgoes, I would rather build new plants thanremodel rat-hospitals."
Charles Kimberly straightened up and turnedhimself in his chair. "Ten years of peace is wortha good deal to us. And if MacBirney can insurethat, we ought to have it. All of this," heappealed to Robert, as he spoke, "is supposing thatyou are willing to assent."
"I do not assent, chiefly because I distrustMacBirney. If the rest of you are satisfied totake him in, go ahead."
"The others seem to be, Robert."
"Then there is nothing more to be said. Let'sget at the depreciation charges and the estimatesfor next year's betterments, so we can go over thenew capitalization."
While the conference went on, the muffled humof gathering motor-cars came through the openwindows.
Robert Kimberly leaving the two men, walkeddownstairs again. The rooms were filling withthe overflow from the dance. They who hadcome were chiefly of the married set, though boysand girls were among them.
After the manner of those quite at home, the dancers, still wearing their flower leis, werescattered in familiar fashion about small tableswhere refreshment was being served.
At one end of the music room a group applaudeda clever young man, who, with his coat cuffs rolledback, was entertaining with amateur sleight-of-hand.
At the other end of the room, surrounded by asecond group, Fritzie Venable played smashingrag-time. About the tables pretty, overfedmarried women, of the plump, childless type, withlittle feet, fattening hands, and rounding shoulders, carried on a running chatter with men youngerthan their husbands.
A young girl, attended at her table by marriedmen, was trying to tell a story, and to overcomeunobserved, her physical repugnance to thewhiskey she was drinking.
In the dining-room Lottie Nelson was thecentre of a lively company, and her familiar pallor, which indulgence seemed to leave untouched, contrasted with the heightened color in DoraMorgan's face.
Robert Kimberly had paused to speak to someone, when Fritzie Venable came up to ask aquestion. At that moment Arthur and DollyDe Castro, with Alice on Dolly's left, enteredfrom the other end of the room. Kimberly sawagain the attractive face of a woman he hadnoticed dancing with Arthur at the Casino. Thethree passed on and into the hall. Kimberly, listening to Fritzie's question, looked after them.
"Fritzie, who is that with Dolly?" he askedsuddenly.
"That is Mrs. MacBirney."
"Mrs. MacBirney?" he echoed. "Who isMrs. MacBirney?"
"Why, Mr. MacBirney's wife, of course. Howstupid of you! I told you all about her beforeyou went upstairs. He has brought his wife onwith him. Dolly knew her mother and has beenentertaining Alice for a week."
"Alice! Oh, yes. I've been away, you know.MacBirney's wife? Of course. I was thinking ofsomething else. Well-I suppose I ought to meether. Come, Fritzie."
They found Alice with the De Castros in thehall. Dolly looked pleased as her brothercame forward. Alice collected herself. She felta momentary trepidation at meeting this man, from whom, she was already aware, much of whatshe had seen and most of the people whom she hadmet at Second Lake in some degree derived.
She had heard for years, since girlhood, indeed,of the house of Kimberly. Her own father'sstruggle through life had been in the line of theirbusiness, and the name of the Kimberlys couldnot but be haloed wherever refiners discussedtheir affairs. Moreover, at the moment her ownhusband was seeking, and with prospects ofsuccess, an alliance with them.
Yet in a moment she found it all very easy.Kimberly's manner as he met her was simplicityitself. His words were few and did not confuseher, yet they were sufficient to relieve the necessityof any effort on her part to avoid embarrassingpauses. She only noticed that the others ratherwaited for Kimberly to speak; giving him a chanceto say without interruption whatever he pleasedto say. Beyond this, that the conversation wasnow reserved for herself and Kimberly, she wasat ease and wondered why she had been a littleafraid of him. The surprise was that he wasyounger than she had supposed. She began towonder that his name should at times commandso much of the public interest. Nor could anybut those who knew him have realized that underhis restraint Alice was experiencing his mostgracious manner.
But those who did know him saw instantly howinterested he was in her youth and inexperience.Her cheeks were already flooded with pink, as ifshe realized she must do her best to please andwas conscious that she was not wholly failing.Timidity reflected itself in her answers, yet thiswas no more than an involuntary compliment, pleasing in itself. And whenever possible, Alicetook refuge from the brother's more directquestions by appealing to his sister Dolly. Kimberlywas diverted to see her seek escape in this fashionfrom his directness.
She expressed presently her admiration for thedecorations at the Casino and the talk turnedupon the Hawaiian singers; from them to Hawaiiand Honolulu. Word at that moment came fromthe music room that the singing was beginning.Kimberly without any sign of giving up Alice, followed Dolly and her husband down the hallto where the guests were gathering.
The group paused near the foot of the stairs.Alice asked an explanation of the chant that theyhad heard at the Casino and Kimberly interpretedthe rhythm for her. "But I should have thought,"he added, "you would be familiar with it."
"Because you have been at the Islands."
"Pray, how did you know that?"
"By your pronunciations."
"Ah, I see. But I was there only once, whenI was quite young, with my father."
"And yet you have no lei to-night? That ishardly loyal, is it?"
"We came late and they had all been givenout, I suppose."
"I have one in reserve. You must show yourgood-will to the musicians. Permit me." Heturned with dignity to the console where he had sounceremoniously discarded his own lei and pickedthe garland up to lay it upon Alice's shoulders.
"But Robert," Fritzie cried, "you mustn't!That is a rose lei."
"What is the difference?" asked Kimberly.
"There's a superstition, you know, about a rose lei."
"Mercy, what is it?" demanded Alice, pink and smiling.
"If a man gives you a rose lei you must marryhim or you will die."
"Fortunately," remarked Kimberly, lifting thedecoration quickly above Alice's head and placingit without hesitation on her shoulders, "neitherMrs. MacBirney nor I are superstitious. And theroses harmonize perfectly with your gown,Mrs. MacBirney. Don't you love the Islands?"
"I've always wanted to go back to them to stay.I don't think if I had my choice I should everleave them."
"Neither should I. We must get up a partyand have a yacht meet us in San Francisco forthe trip. This fall would be a good time to get away."
His decisive manner was almost startling; thetrip seemed already under way. And hismannerisms were interesting. A certain haltingconfidence asserted itself under the affected indifferenceof his utterance. Whatever he proposed seemedas easy as if done. He carried his chin somewhatlow and it gave a dogmatism to his words. Whilehe seemed to avoid using them obtrusively, hiseyes, penetrating and set under the straight heavybrows which contracted easily, were a barometerfrom which it was possible to read his intent.
"You have been frequently at the Islands?" returned Alice.
"Years ago I knew them very well."
"Father and I," Alice went on, "spent a monthat Honolulu." And again the softness of her longvowels fell agreeably on Kimberly's ear. Hervoice, he thought, certainly was pretty. "It islike a paradise. But they have their sorrows, dothey not? I remember one evening," Alice turnedtoward Fritzie to recount the incident, "just at thesunset of a rarely perfect day. We were walkingalong the street, when we heard the most piercingcries from a little weeping company of women andchildren who were coming down the esplanade.In front of them walked a man all alone-hewas a leper. They were taking him away fromhis family to be sent to Molokai. It was themost distressing thing I ever saw." She turned toKimberly. "You have never been at Molokai?"
"I have cruised more or less around it. Doyou remember the windward cliffs just above theleper settlement? They are superb from the sea.We put in once at Kalawao for a night and I calledon the priest in charge of the mission."
"It must have been very, very dreadful."
"Though like all dreadful places, disappointingat first; nothing, apparently, to inspire horror.But after we had breakfasted with the priest inthe morning, we went around with him to see hispeople." Kimberly's chin sank and his eyesclosed an instant as he moved his head. "Iremember," he added slowly, "a freezing uparound the heart before we had gone very far."Then he dismissed the recollection. "The attendantat home who takes care of my uncle-Francis-"he continued, "had a brother in the lepermissions. He died at Molokai. Francis hasalways wanted to go there."
The conversation waited a few moments on thesinging. "Miss Venable tells me," said Alice, presently, "these singers always come out to singfor you when they visit this country."
"I have met most of them at one time or anotherin Hawaii. You know they are the gentlest, mostgrateful people in the world. Sha'n't we havesome refreshment, Mrs. MacBirney?"
"I am hoping it will all be settled satisfactorilysoon," said Dolly De Castro to Alice oneafternoon a few weeks afterward. She had invitedAlice out from town for a fortnight at Black Rockwhile MacBirney, with McCrea and the activepartners of the Kimberly interests were workingon the negotiations for the purchase of theMacBirney factories.
"And when it is settled, I can congratulate you,I think, my dear, most sincerely on any issue thatassociates your husband and his interests withthose of my brothers."
"Indeed, I realize that it would be a matter forcongratulation, Mrs. De Castro. I hope if theydo come to terms, your brothers will findMr. MacBirney's Western acquaintance andexperience of some value. I am sorry you haven'tseen more of my husband-"
"I understand perfectly how engaged he has been."
"He is an unceasing worker. I told himyesterday, when he was leaving home, thatMrs. De Castro would think I had no husband."
"Then," continued Dolly, pursuing her topic,"if you can secure the little Cedar Lodge estateon the west shore-and I think it can bearranged-you will be very comfortable."
Dolly had suggested a drive around the lake, and as she made an admirable guide Alice lookedforward with interest to the trip. If it should beobjected that Dolly was not a good conversationalist,it could be maintained that she was a fascinating talker.
It is true that people who talk well must, asa penalty, say things. They can have nocontinued mental reserves, they must unburden theirinner selves. They let you at once into the heartof affairs about them-it is the price that thebrilliant talker must pay. Such a one gives you forthe moment her plenary confidence, and beforeAlice had known Dolly a month, she felt as if shehad known her for years.
On their drive the orders were to follow theprivate roads, and as the villas around the entire lakeconnected with one another, they were obliged touse the high-roads but little. Each of the placeshad a story, and none of these lost anything inDolly's dramatic rendering.
From the lower end of the lake they drove toSunbury, the village-commonplace, but Colonial,Dolly explained-and through it. Taking theridge road back of the hills, they approachedanother group of the country places. The houses ofthese estates belonged to an older day than thoseof the lake itself. Their type indicated thedescent from the earlier simplicity of the Colonial, and afforded a melancholy reminder of thearchitectural experiments following the period of theCivil War.
"Our families have been coming out here for ahundred years," observed Dolly. "These dreadfulFrench roofs we have been passing, give youthe latest dates on this side of the ridge." As shespoke they approached a house of brown sandstoneset in an ellipse of heavy spruces.
"This was the Roger Morgan place. Mrs. Morgan,Bertha, was our half-sister, dear, theonly child of my father's first marriage-she diedseven years ago. This villa belongs to FritzieVenable. She was Roger Morgan's niece. Butshe hasn't opened it for years-she just keeps acaretaker here and makes her home withImogene. To me, spruces are depressing."
"And what is that?" asked Alice, indicatingan ivy-covered pile of stone in the midst of acluster of elms at some distance to the left of thehouse and on a hill above it. "How odd and pretty!"
"That is the Morgan chapel."
"Oh, may we see it?"
"Of course," assented Dolly, less enthusiastically."Do you really want to see it?"
It was Alice's turn to be interested: "Why, yes,if we may. How quaint-looking," she pursued, scrutinizing the fa?ade.
"It is, in fact, a medi?val style," said Dolly.
The car was turned into the driveway leading upto the chapel. When the two women had alightedand walked up the steps to the porch, Alice foundthe building larger than it had appeared frombelow the Morgan house.
Dolly led the way within. "It really is abeautiful thing," she sighed as they entered. "Areproduction in part-this interior-of a little churchin Rome, that Mrs. Morgan was crazy about, SantaMaria in-dear me, I never can remember, SantaMaria in something or other. But I want youto look at this balustrade, and to walk up intoone of these ambones. Can't you see somedark-faced Savonarola preaching from one on the sinsof society?" Dolly ascended the steps of oneambone as she spoke, while Alice walked up intothe other.
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