Margaret Penrose.

Dorothy Dale in the City





Arent we the frivolous things, said Tavia, writing the most perfect nonsense to our friends merely because we found a dainty writing table!

With the most generous supply of writing paper! said Dorothy. But the couches and chairs in this room are too tempting to keep me at the writing desk. Dorothy sealed her letter and again curled up in the spacious rocking chair.

And while we are resting, we can study art, exclaimed Tavia, gazing at the oil paintings and tapestry that adorned the walls.

A woman, with a grand assortment of large bundles and small children, tried to get them all into her arms at once, preparatory to leaving the resting room, but found it so difficult that she sat down once more and laughed good-naturedly, while the children scrambled about the place, loath to leave such comfortable quarters. Dorothy watched with interest, and wondered how any woman could ever venture out with so many small children clinging to her for protection, to do a days shopping. Tavia was more interested in art at that moment.

Why go to the art museums? she asked, we can do that part on our trip right here and now; we only lack catalogues.

And we can do nicely without them, said Dorothy, dragging her wandering attention back to Tavia. I can enjoy all these pictures without knowing who painted them. We can have just five minutes more in this palatial room, and then we simply must go on.

And five minutes after the hour, Dorothy persuaded Tavia to leave the ideal spot, and, entering the elevator, they were whirled upward to the dress parade.

Roped off from the velvet, carpeted sales floors, numerous statuesque girls paraded about, dressed in garments to charm the eye of all beholders to lure the very short and stout person into purchasing a garment that looked divine on a willowy six-foot model; or, a wee bit of a lady into thinking that she can no longer exist, unless robed in a cloak of sable. But neither Dorothy nor Tavia cared much for the lure of the gorgeous garments, they were too awed at the moment to yearn for anything. A frail, ethereal creature, with a face of such delicacy and wistfulness, so dainty and graceful, with a little dimpled smile about her lips, passed the country girls and after that the girls could see nothing else in the room. They sat down and just watched her. A trailing robe of black velvet seemed almost too heavy for her slender white shoulders, and a large hat with snow white plume curling over the rim of the hat and encircling her bare throat, like a serpent, framed her flushed face.

There, breathed Tavia, is the prettiest face Ive ever dreamed of seeing.

Shes more than pretty, she has a soul, said Dorothy, reverently. There is something so wistful about her smile and the tired droop of her shoulders. I feel that I could love her!

She has put on an ermine wrap over the velvet gown, said Tavia. Shrinking behind Dorothy she said impulsively: Dare we speak to her? It must be the most wonderful thing in the world to have a face like that! And to spend all her days just wearing beautiful gowns!

She wears them so differently from the others here, declared Dorothy.

Shes strikingly cool, so far beyond her immediate surroundings.

I think she must be a princess, said Tavia, in a solemn voice, no one else could look like that and stroll about with such an air!

I think she is someone who has been wealthy and is now very poor, said Dorothy, tenderly. How she must detest being stared at all day long! This work, no doubt, is all she is fitted for, having been reared to do nothing but wear clothes charmingly.

Shes changing her hat now, said Tavia, watching the model as she was arrayed in a different hat. We might just walk past and smile. I shall always feel unsatisfied if we cannot hear her voice.

Together they timidly stepped near the wistful-eyed girl with the flushed face.

You must grow so very tired, said Dorothy, sympathetically.

A cool stare was the only reply.

Hurry with the boa, you poky thing, came from the red, pouting lips of the wistful-eyed girl, ignoring Dorothy and Tavia as though they were part of the buildings masonry. I aint got all day to wait! Gotta show ten more hats before closing. Hurry up there, you girls, you make me mad! Now you hurry, or Ill report you! and turning gracefully, she tilted her chin to just the right angle, the shrinking, wistful smile appeared on her lips, the tired droop slipped to her shoulders, all the air of charm covered her like a mantle, and again she started down the strip of carpet, leaving behind her two sadly disillusioned young girls.

Let us go right straight home, said Dorothy. One never knows what to believe is real in this hub-bub place.

We might have forgiven her anything, said Tavia, if she had been wistfully angry, or charmingly bossy; but to think that ethereal creature could turn into just a plain, everyday mortal!

The flowers were mostly artificial, the bargain counters mere stopping places for pickpockets, and the most beautiful girl was rude! cried Dorothy.

We must be tired; all things cant be wrong, said Tavia, philosophically.

Well take a taxi home, said Dorothy, Come on.

CHAPTER XV
TEA IN A STABLE

Tavia! exclaimed Dorothy, the next afternoon, as they prepared to go to a matinee, this address is Aunt Winnies apartment house the one she invested so much money in. She handed Tavia Miss Mingles card.

How strange that the teacher should be Aunt Winnies tenant, and you never knew it, cried Tavia, as she arranged a bunch of orchids, real hot-house orchids, that Ned had sent.

Wont Aunt Winnie be surprised when she learns that our little Miss Mingle is one of her tenants? Dorothy said. She was pinning on a huge bunch of roses. Ned had laughed at the girls tale of finding everything on the shopping tour to be false, and to prove that there were real things in New York City, had sent them these beautiful flowers to wear to the matinee.

Indeed, continued Dorothy, Im mighty glad we met Miss Mingle. Aunt Winnie has had just about enough worry over that old apartment house! Miss Mingle, no doubt, will relieve that anxiety to some extent. I do so hope that everything will come out right. But come, dear, dont look so grave, we must be gay for the show!

Ned ran into the room. Hurry, girls, he said, bowing low, the motor is at the door.

The car! screamed the girls in delight, where did the car come from?

Oh, just the magic of New York, said Ned, with a smile.

Not the Fire Bird? asked Dorothy, hat pin suspended in mid-air.

Oh, no, just a car. Maybe you girls like being bumped along on top of the bus, but little Neddie likes to have his hand on the wheel himself, said Ned.

Running a car in New York, said Tavia, is not North Birchland, you know. Maybe well get a worse bump in it than we ever dreamed of on top of the bus.

Oh, I know something about it, said Ned confidently, been downtown twice to-day in the thickest part of the traffic, and Im back, as youll see, if youll stop fooling with those flowers long enough to look at me.

Tavia turned and looked lingeringly at Ned. To-be-sure, she drawled, theres Ned, Dorothy.

Im really afraid, Ned, said Dorothy, the traffic is so awful, you know you arent accustomed to driving through such crowds.

If you stand there arguing all afternoon, there wont be any trouble about getting through the crowd, of course, gently reminded Ned. Its a limousine and a dandy! Bigger than the Fire Bird and a beautiful yellow!

Yellow! cried Tavia in horror. With my complexion! Couldnt you engage a car to match my hair?

And my feathers are green! exclaimed Dorothy. Just like a man, engage a car and never ask what shade we prefer!

Tavia sat down in mock dismay. Our afternoon is spoiled! No self-respecting person in this town ever rides in a car that doesnt match!

Oh, tommyrot, said Ned in deep disgust, listening in all seriousness to the girls banter. Who is going to look at us? Never heard of such foolishness! And he dug his hands into his pockets, and walked gloomily about the room.

Ned, dear, youre a darling, enthused Dorothy, you dont really believe we are so imbued with the spirit of New York as to demand that?

Ned really has paid us the greatest compliment, said Tavia, complacently, he believed it was all true, and only geniuses can produce that effect.

Fifteen minutes later, after several near-collisions, Ned drove the yellow car up to the entrance of the theatre, and while he was getting his check from the lobby usher, the girls tripped into the playhouse.

They had box seats. With intense interest the girls watched the continuous throng pouring into their places. Few of the passing crowd, however, returned the lavish interest that was centered on them from the first floor box; no one in the vast audience knew or cared that two country girls were having their first glimpse of a New York theatre audience. They saw nothing unusual in the eager, smiling young faces, and as Dorothy said to Tavia, only the striking, unique and frightfully unusual would get more than a passing glance from those that journey through New York town.

But Dorothy and Tavia did not look at the crowd long. It was something to be in a metropolitan theatre, witnessing one of the great successes of the season.

Soon the curtain rolled up on the first act, a beautiful parlor scene, and Tavia gave a gasp.

Say, it beats when I went on the stage, she whispered to Dorothy, referring to a time already related in detail in Dorothy Dales Great Secret.

Do you wish to go back? asked Dorothy.

Never!

The play went on, and as it was something really worth while, the girls enjoyed it greatly.

Isnt he handsome? whispered Tavia, referring to the leading man.

Look out, or youll fall in love with him, returned Ned, with a grin. Hes one of the girls matinee idols, you know.

Between the acts Ned slipped out for a few minutes. He returned with a box of bonbons and chocolates.

Oh, how nice! murmured Dorothy and Tavia.

Then came the great scene of the play, and the young folks were all but spellbound. When Vice was exposed and Virtue triumphed Dorothy felt like clapping her hands, and so did the others, and all applauded eagerly.

There was a short, final act. Just before the curtain arose a step sounded in the box and to the girls astonishment there stood Cologne.

Ive been trying to attract your attention for ever so long, she cried, after embracing and kissing her friends enthusiastically. Im spending the day with a chum. Its such a joy to meet you like this!

And yesterday we met Miss Mingle, laughed Dorothy. They drew their chairs up close, and told Cologne about the attempted theft.

Im so sorry for Miss Mingle, Cologne said, rather guardedly, it seems a pity that we never tried to know her better. She must have needed our sympathy and friendship so much.

All the time, she has been one of Aunt Winnies tenants, explained Dorothy. But of course I did not know that.

Then she must have told you about it, said Cologne.

Weve heard nothing, said Dorothy, but we expect to call there to-morrow.

Then, said Cologne discreetly, I can say no more.

Soon the last act was over, the orchestra struck up a popular tune, the applause was deafening, and the audience rose to leave the theatre.

Its all over, said Ned, and then he greeted Cologne and her friend, Helen Roycroft.

Didnt you like it? exclaimed Colognes friend, who was a New York girl. The critics just rave over it! Everyone must see it before anything else! But Im hungry; arent you? she asked, including all three.

Ned slipped back, but Tavia grasped his arm.

Theres the most wonderful little tea-room just off Fifth Avenue, said Helen Roycroft, with perfect self-possession and calm, and I should so love to have you enjoy a cup of tea with me.

Tavia murmured in Neds ear: Of course youre crazy for a cup of tea.

Ned looked helplessly at Dorothy, and calculated the money in his pockets. Four girls and all hungry! Helen Roycroft, meeting a new man, lost little time in impressing him with the wonderful importance of herself, and together she and Ned led the little party over Thirty-eighth Street to Fifth Avenue, while good-natured Cologne, with Dorothy and Tavia, followed behind.

The tea-room they entered, as Helen explained, was the most popular place in town for people of fashion, for artistic souls, and the moneyed, leisure class.

Everyone likes to come here, continued Helen, in a manner that plainly suggested that she loved to show off her city, mostly because the place was once the stable of a member of the particular four hundred, and as this is as near as most of its patrons will ever come to the four hundred, they make it a rendezvous at this particular hour every afternoon.

The stable still retained its original architecture, beamed ceiling and quaint stalls, painted a modest gray and white, in which were placed little tables to accommodate six persons, lighted with shaded candles. Cushioned benches were built to the sides of the stalls for seats; dainty waitresses, dressed also in demure gray and white, dispensed tea, and crackers and salads.

Hidden somewhere in the dim distance, musicians played soft, low music and the whole effect was so charming that even Ned held his breath and looked around him in wonder. This tea-room was something akin to a womans club, where they could entertain their men friends with afternoon tea, in seclusion within the stalls.

Helen Roycroft mentioned the name of a well-known actress and, trying hard to keep her enthusiasm within bounds, pointed her out to the party. The actress was seated alone in a stall, dreaming apparently, over a cup of tea. The waitress stood expectantly waiting for the young people to select their stall. When Tavia saw the actress, with whose picture they were all very familiar, she pinched Dorothy hard.

Surely we never can have such luck as to sit at the same tea table with her, indicating the matronly actress.

Should you like to? asked the New York girl.

And forthwith they were led to the stall. The matronly-looking woman languidly raised blue, heavy-lashed eyes to the gushing young girls who invaded her domain, then put one more lump of sugar in her tea and drank it, and Tavia breathlessly watched!

She was an actress of note, one of the finest in the world, and her pictures had always shown her as tall and slender and beautifully young! The woman Tavia gazed at had the face of the magazine pictures, but she was decidedly matronly; there was neither romance nor tragedy written on the smooth lines of her brow. She was so like, and yet so unlike her pictures, that Tavia fell to studying wherein lay the difference. It was rude, perhaps, but the lady in question, understood the eager brown eyes turned on her, and she smiled.

And that smile made everyone begin to talk.

It was quite like a family party. Ned, as the only man present, came in for the lions share of attention and it pleased him much. Just a whim of the noted actress perhaps, made her join gaily in the tea-party, or mayhap, it was a privilege she rarely enjoyed, this love of genuine laughter, and bright, merry talk of the fresh young school girls. And it was a moment in the lives of the girls that was never forgotten.

The voices in the tea-room scarcely rose above a murmur; the music played not a note above a dreamy, floating ripple; and the essence of the freshly-made tea pervaded the air.

At times Tavia could see the actress of the magazines, and again she was just somebodys mother, tired out and drinking tea, like every mother Tavia had ever met. But the most thrilling moment of all was when she said good-bye and asked the girls to call. And best of all, she meant it Dorothy knew that! There was no mistaking the sincerity of the voice, the kindly light of her eyes, nor the simple words of the invitation to call.

I must hurry now, she had said, Im due at the theatre in another hour; but I want to see you again. I want you to tell me more of your impressions of this great city. Ive really enjoyed this cup of tea more than you know, my dears, and she smiled at Tavia and Dorothy.

Tavia and Dorothy had really talked so much that Helen Roycroft had little chance to display her fine knowledge of city life. Cologne was well content to sit and listen.

When the actress was gone, Tavia said to Dorothy: Must we really go? I could stay here drinking tea for a week.

I never want to see a cup of tea again, declared Ned. And say, he continued, next time Im dragged into a ladies tea-room, I want an end seat! These stalls were never meant for fellows with knees where mine come! And he painfully unwound himself from a cramped position.

Ned does have so much trouble with those knees, explained Dorothy. He never can have any but an end seat or box-seat at the theatre, because there is no room for his knees elsewhere. Poor boy! How uncomfortable will be your memory of this tea-room!

It will be the loveliest memory of my trip, Tavia declared. We found something real and true!

Id give the whole world to be able to stay over, said Cologne, plaintively.

Just one more cup of tea! cried Dorothy, then well start for home in the yellow car.

Im glad its dark, said Tavia, mischievously glancing at Ned, the color combination is such wretched taste!

Im sorry, Cologne, said Dorothy, that you cant stay and come with us to-morrow to call on Miss Mingle.

Ned was cranking up the car, and the girls for a moment were just a confused mass of muffs and feathers and kisses, then they jumped in, and drove home to the Riverside apartment.

CHAPTER XVI
A STARTLING DISCOVERY

How funny! exclaimed Tavia, as she and Dorothy began to ascend the stairs in the deep, dark hallway of the apartment house that Aunt Winnie owned, and in which Miss Mingle and her sister lived. It was six stories high and had two apartments on each floor. A porter, with the unconcern of long habit, carelessly carried a rosy, cooing baby on his shoulder up the long flights of stairs, his destination being an apartment on the sixth floor. The mother of the child climbed up after him deep in thought, probably as to what to have for dinner that day.

No, there are no elevators, explained Dorothy. This house is one of the early apartments, built before the people knew the necessity for such luxuries as elevators.

Luxuries! said Tavia, stopping to catch her breath, if elevators are luxuries in a six-story house, Ill vote for luxuries!

Just one more flight, said Dorothy, its the fifth floor, the left apartment, I believe, she consulted a card as they paused on a landing.

I dont wonder now at Miss Mingle looking haggard, said Tavia, if she must face this climb every time she comes back. Imagine doing this several times a day!

At least, one would get all the necessary exercising, and in wet, cold weather, could have both amusement and exercise, sliding down the banisters and climbing back, Dorothy said, determined to see the bright side of it.

Tavia slipped in a heap on a step and gasped: Yes, indeed, Ill admit there may be advantages in the way of exercise.

Courage, said Dorothy laughing, we have only ten steps more!

While Dorothy resolutely dragged Tavia up the last ten steps, Miss Mingle appeared in the hall.

I heard your cheerful laughter, she said with a smile, and I said to sister, prepare the pillows for the girls to fall on, after their awful climb. But I didnt say, she added, playfully, feather pillows to fall on the girls!

We really enjoyed the climb, said Dorothy.

It was lots of fun, agreed Tavia.

They entered a room which at first glance seemed a confused jumble of beautiful furniture, magazines, newspapers and books, grocer and butcher and gas bills, and a gentle-faced woman reclining languidly in an easy chair. Her smooth black hair fell gracefully over her ears; she had large gray eyes, whose sweet patience was the most marked characteristic of her face.

My sister, Mrs. Bergham, has been quite ill, explained Miss Mingle, as she rushed about trying to clear off two chairs for the girls to sit on. Every chair in the room seemed to be littered with what Dorothy thought was a unique collection of various sorts of jars, tea pots, and cups; and last weeks laundry seemed to cover the radiators and tables. The room, however, for all the confusion, was quaint and artistic, and had odd little corners fixed up here and there.

Im so ill and Im afraid Ive been quite selfish, demanding so much of sisters time! Mrs. Bergham said, extending a long white hand to the girls, and with her other removing a scarf from her shoulders, allowing it to drop to the floor. Miss Mingle immediately picked it up, folded it neatly, and laid it on the window seat.

Ive had rather a sad Christmas, she went on. Sister, its getting too warm in this room, and, removing a pillow from under her head, she permitted that also to drop to the floor. Miss Mingle stooped and picked it up.





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