Margaret Penrose.

Dorothy Dale in the City





There, there, dear, said the latter, I cant let you talk about it. The girls will tell you all about their trip and youll forget the miserable aches and pains. She puffed and patted the pillows on which her sister was resting.

Mrs. Bergham smiled languidly. Its so fine to be young and strong, she said. I have two small sons, and it made my Christmas so hard not to have them with me. But I couldnt take care of them. They are such robust little fellows! Sister decided, and I suppose shes right she always is that it would be best for me not to have the care of them while I am so ill. She sighed and smiled patiently at Miss Mingle. So we sent them away to school. I did so count on having them with me this holiday, but sister thought it would only be a worry; didnt you, dear?

Miss Mingle hesitated just the fraction of a second, then she answered cheerfully: Mrs. Bergham is so nervous, and the boys are such lively little crickets, we didnt have them home for Christmas.

Children are sometimes such perfect cares, declared Tavia, feeling that something should be said.

Then, too, continued Mrs. Bergham, evidently greatly enjoying the opportunity to talk about herself to the helpless callers, Ive tried hard to add a little to our income. I paint, she arched her straight, black eyebrows slightly. Everything was going along so beautifully, although it is an expensive apartment to keep up, and I cared nothing for myself, I like to keep a home for my sister, and I worked and worked, and was so worried. Dont you like this apartment? Ive grown very fond of it. She talked in a rambling way, but her voice was pleasing and her manner quite tranquil, so that Dorothy wondered how she said so much with apparently little exertion.

The night the telegram came, said Miss Mingle, I thought she was dying, and I must say, she laughed, that that alone saved you naughty girls from receiving some horrible punishment. They all laughed at the remembrance of that last night at Glenwood. But when I got here, continued Miss Mingle, my sister was much better, and I was so relieved to find her just like her own dear self, when I had expected to find her very ill that I forgot everything, even having the boys home, so that sisters fatherless sons had no Santa Claus this year.

Tavia was curious. The furnishings of the room were good, almost elaborate, but the carelessness of it all at first hid the good points. Surely Mrs. Bergham did not keep it up on her painting. Tavia judged that, by the long, slender, almost helpless hand and the whole poise of the woman. And the two little boys at school! Could it be possible, she thought, that Miss Mingle supported the family?

Im sorry I am not well enough to arrange to have you meet some of my young friends, said Mrs. Bergham. We entertain a little, sister and I. I know so many interesting young people. Bohemians, sister calls them!

Miss Mingle was arranging the books on top of a bookcase and they fell with a clatter.

If she made any answer, it was lost in the noise.

At the name of Bohemians Dorothy brightened. Ive never seen a real, live Bohemian! she exclaimed, clasping her hands together with ecstasy.

But we met an actress yesterday, Tavia said, hesitatingly.

Mrs. Bergham waved her hand in space. I mean real artists, people who have genius, who are doing wonderful things for the world! We count those among our friends, she said.

My! thought Dorothy, did Miss Mingle belong to that society? Did she know the geniuses of the world, and yet had never mentioned it to the girls at school? But Miss Mingle had little to say. She finished arranging the books, and moving swiftly, nervously about, she tried to bring some kind of order out of the confusion in the room.

Do sit down, sister, this can all wait. Im sure the girls dont mind if we are not in perfect order, said Mrs. Bergham.

Dorothy and Tavia, in one breath, assured the ladies that they didnt mind a bit, and Tavia even added, with the intention of making Miss Mingle feel at ease, that it was more home-like.

I never could sit up perfectly straight nor stay comfortably near anything that was just where it should be, explained Mrs. Bergham. My husband loved that streak of disorder that was part of my nature, but sister was always the most precise and careful little creature. She looked at Miss Mingle with limpid, loving eyes. Sister was always the greatest girl for taking all the responsibility, she was so hopelessly in love with work in her girlhood! What a lovely time our girlhood was! Isnt it time for my broth? she asked, as she glanced at a small watch on her wrist.

Forgive me, dear, said Miss Mingle, I forgot. Ill prepare it immediately, and she dropped what she was doing and hurried to the kitchen.

Mrs. Bergham arose and walked to the window seat, resting her elbows on some pillows. She wore a light blue dressing gown, made on simple lines, but so perfectly pretty that Dorothy and Tavia decided at once to make one like it immediately, on reaching home. The light blue shade brought out the clear blue-grey of her eyes, and her heavy dark lashes shaded the soft, white skin. She sighed, and asked the girls to sit with her in the window seat. In her presence Tavia felt very awkward, young and inexperienced, and she sat rather rigidly. Dorothy was more at ease and, too, more critical of their hostess. She listened to the quick, nervous steps of Miss Mingle as she hurried about the kitchen, preparing nourishment for her languid sister.

There isnt much view from this window, said Tavia bluntly, more because she felt ill at ease than because she had expected to see something besides the tall, brown buildings across the street. The buildings were high, no sky could be seen from the window, and the sun did not seem to penetrate the long line of stone buildings across the way.

Oh, there are disadvantages here, I know, but Im so fond of just this one room. The house is in that part of the city most convenient to everything that is, everything worth while, of course. So, sister decided it was best to stay here. However, the rent is enormous. It was that mostly which caused my breakdown. In six months time our rent has been doubled by the landlord. I got ill thinking about it, and I just had to send for sister. Sisters salary isnt so large, and the constant increase in our rent is a burden too great to bear.

Id move, said Tavia, promptly.

But where would we find another place that meets all the requirements as this place does? If sister were always with me, we might come across something suitable some time, but alone, I am of little use in a business manner. Sister is so clever! She can do everything so much better than I. My illness is keeping me at home at present, and as my sister will return to school directly, there is really no time to look about for other quarters. The sufferer said this quite decidedly.

Who raises the rents? Dorothy tried to ask the question naturally, but a lump seized her throat, and she felt the blood rushing to her cheeks.

Oh, some agent. Several dozens of persons have bought and sold this house, according to Mr. Akerson, since we moved in. The subject was evidently beginning to bore Mrs. Bergham, for she yawned. What pretty hair you have, Miss Dale, she exclaimed, so much like the gold the poets sing about.

Dorothy brushed back the tiny locks that persisted in hanging about her ears, and she smiled shyly.

Cant you refuse to pay the increases in the rent? asked Dorothy.

Oh, these is always some good reason for the increases, answered Mrs. Bergham. Some new improvements, or some big expense attached to maintaining a studio apartment, in fact, according to Mr. Akerson, the reasons for raising our rent are endless.

Dorothys eyes met Tavias in a quick flash, as she noted the name of the agent.

Then Miss Mingle came into the room with a neatly-arranged tray for her sister. Mrs. Bergham thanked her and waited patiently while little Miss Mingle drew up a table to the window seat and placed the things on it.

Mrs. Bergham held up a napkin. I dont want to trouble, dear, but really Ive used this napkin several times. Just hand me any kind; I know things havent been ironed or cared for as they should be, but I dont mind. There, that one is all right. Im an awful care; am I not?

Miss Mingle squeezed her hand. Just get well and be your old, happy self again, thats all I ask. She turned to the girls. My sister and her boys are all I have in the world to work and live for, she finished.

Im really so sorry, sister, that you did not speak about the girls spending their holiday in town. We could have a nice little dinner before you all return to Glenwood, suggested Mrs. Bergham.

Dont think of it, said Dorothy, shocked at the idea of little Miss Mingle being burdened with the additional care of trying to give a dinner for Tavia and herself. Indeed, it would have been more to Dorothys mind to have taken Miss Mingle with her, and have her sit in Aunt Winnies luxurious apartment, and be waited on for just one day, as the little teacher was waiting on her languid sister.

Tavia, too, thought, since the idea of increasing any of Miss Mingles responsibilities was apt to be brought up, it was the right moment to depart.

Dorothy held Miss Mingles hand as they were leaving and said: Mrs. Bergham told us of your difficulty about the rent. Im so sorry.

We are absolutely helpless, said Miss Mingle. We are paying three times what the apartment was originally rented for and there is no logical reason why it should be so. The agent says its the landlords commands, and if we dont like it we can move. It seems that this particular landlord is money mad!

Oh, cried Dorothy, something must be done!

The only thing that I can think of, said Mrs. Bergham, wiping two tears from her eyes, is to forget the whole tiresome business. It was horrid of me to say anything at all, but its so much on our minds that I cannot help talking about it.

Im very glad indeed, said Dorothy, that you did.

We were not bored by that story, Tavia said, and we surely are very pleased to have had this pleasure of becoming acquainted with Miss Mingles sister.

In another moment the girls began the weary climb down the four flights of stairs.

Reaching the street Dorothy started off at a mad pace.

Im so thoroughly provoked, she said to Tavia, who was a yard behind, that I must walk quickly or Ill explode.

Well, Im disgusted too, Dorothy, but Ill take a chance on exploding, Im not used to six-day walking races, however much you may be. And incidentally, I must say I should have liked very much to have shaken a certain person until all the languidness was shaken out of her bones!

Shaken her! cried Dorothy, I should have liked to spank her!

If that is an artistic temperament, said Tavia, I never wish to meet another. Of all the lackadaisical clinging vines; of all the sentimental, selfish people that ever existed!

To think of that poor little woman teaching school, and going without ordinary comforts, to help support her sister in ease and relieve her of the responsibility of bringing up her two children! Dorothy had slackened her pace and the girls walked together, although still swinging along rapidly.

A person without a temperament would have moved instantly, but that creature stayed on and on, paying every increase, getting the extra money of course from Miss Mingle, just because she was so fond of that one room! Tavia mimicked Mrs. Berghams voice and manner.

Too languid to look for another, said Dorothy, her eyes aglow with indignation. But, Tavia, there is one thing certain. Dear Aunt Winnie shall now know where the leak in her income is, said Dorothy.

Tavia did not reply, because a sudden idea had leaped to her brain. She listened quietly while Dorothy talked about Aunt Winnies business affairs, her brain awhirl with the excitement of this thing that had suddenly come to her; come as a means of repaying Dorothy and Aunt Winnie for all their loving kindness to her. To keep the idea tucked away in the innermost regions of her mind, she bit her tongue, so afraid was she that once her lips opened the idea would burst forth. So Dorothy talked on and on and Tavia only listened.

CHAPTER XVII
TAVIAS RESOLVE

Tavia was preoccupied at breakfast. Ned slily guessed that she was yearning for a certain someone left behind in Dalton, but Tavia just smiled, and insisted that she was paying strict attention to other matters.

Then why, demanded Ned, have you poured maple syrup into your coffee?

I didnt! declared Tavia, but there was little use denying it when she carefully stirred her cup.

Dorothy shook her forefinger at Tavia. This morning you had your ribbons in your hair, and yet you asked me to find them for you; and then you said you were a stupid when I located them for you on top of your head.

But I still deny that I am preoccupied, or dreaming, declared Tavia. In fact, Im too wideawake. It hurts to be as fully awake as I am!

Look out! warned Ned, there, you almost put sugar in your egg cup!

Please stop noticing me, said poor Tavia, chagrined at last into pleading with her teasers. Suppose I admit that I am deeply absorbed?

Dont do anything of the sort, said Aunt Winnie, just put all the maple syrup in your coffee that you wish; you may like coffee that way, if Ned does not.

It was noticeable to all that Tavias attention was not given to her immediate surroundings, and while the others were still at breakfast, the girl stole noiselessly to her room, dressed for the street, and quietly opened the door leading into their private hall. She listened, and caught the sound of merry voices from the breakfast room. She tiptoed down the hall, opened the outer door, and reached the elevator in safety. She rang, and it seemed almost an hour before the car came up. Elevators are such slow things when one is on an errand that must be done in haste!

Tavia watched Mrs. Whites door, afraid every moment that Dorothy or Aunt Winnie would pop out. But the elevator did finally arrive, and bidding the boy good morning Tavia at last felt safe. To what they would say when they discovered that she had gone out alone through the streets of New York city, Tavia gave only a momentary thought. It could all be explained so nicely when she returned.

She hastened to a corner drug-store, asked permission to use the pay telephone, and entered the booth. Not until then did Tavia know fear! How to telephone, what to say she couldnt think connectedly. After finding the number, she took off the receiver with more confidence than she really felt. Her heart beat so fast that she thought the girl at the central office would ask what that thumping noise was on the wire!

Hello! she called, timidly.

A boys voice at the other end of the line answered.

I would like to speak with Mr. Akerson, if you please, said Tavia, and felt braver now that she had really started on her adventure.

Is this Mr. Akerson? No? Someone had answered, but evidently it was not the right man.

After a long wait another voice floated into Tavias ear a womans voice. Tavia said, becoming impatient: I simply want to talk with Mr. Akerson. Is that impossible?

She was assured by the voice at the other end that it was not, but Mr. Akerson was always busy, and must have the name of the party. This was not what Tavia had expected, and for a moment she was confused and felt like hanging up the receiver and running away.

Well? asked the young lady.

Tell him oh, just tell him, a young lady; he doesnt know me.

I must have your name, or I cannot call him to the phone.

How aggravating! exclaimed Tavia to the empty air, I didnt expect I would have to publish my name broadcast. Then she spoke into the receiver:

I want to see Mr. Akerson on very special, important business that only concerns myself; kindly tell him that, please, she said, with great dignity.

Not a sound came from the other end and Tavia began to wonder whether this would end her mission, when a loud, hearty voice yelled right in her ear:

Hello-o-o!

It only startled Tavia. At that moment she couldnt have remembered her own name.

Hello-o! called the impatient voice again.

Might I have an interview with you this morning? Tavia at last managed to gasp.

Who is this? asked the voice in a more gentle tone.

Im a young lady who wants a private interview with you, she answered, trying to be very impressive.

Why certainly, said the mans voice. When do you wish to see me? Tavia caught a hint of amusement in the tone, so she answered quickly, trying to throw into her accent the commanding tones of grown-up women: I must see you immediately, and just as soon as I can get down to your office.

Very well, said the voice, but wont you tell me your name?

Not now, answered Tavia, still maintaining great dignity of voice, and please, will you tell me just how to reach your office and and, oh, all about getting there. You see, I really dont know where Nassau Street is.

The man laughed, and Tavia quickly jotted down the directions and left the telephone a bit perplexed. How amused the man had been! Perhaps it wasnt customary for young girls to make appointments thus. Tavia quailed, she did so detest doing anything that a born and bred New York girl would not do.

The mere matter of taking a surface car and reaching lower Broadway was a bit nerve-racking, but simple in the extreme. Tavia felt that, for a country girl, she could travel through the city like a veteran. Mr. Akerson had specifically told her not to take the subway, as it might be puzzling, but, finding the office building was not as simple as finding the proper car to get there had been. There were numerous large buildings on the block, and such crowds of heedless men rushing passed her! There were as many people in the middle of the street as there were on the walks. Everyone was in a tremendous hurry, and could not wait for his neighbor.

Lower New York presented to Tavia the most bewildering, impossible place she had ever imagined! In the shopping districts, New York is enchanting, but this section, with its forbidding-looking, sunless, narrow streets, and the wind blowing constantly, piercing and sharp, made Tavia shiver under her furs. Each building seemed equipped with whirling doors that were perpetually in motion, and to enter one of these doors caused Tavia to shrink back and wish heartily that Dorothy or Ned was with her.

She stood waiting an opportune moment to slip into the rapidly-swinging doors, and should have turned away in despair of ever entering, when a young man stopped, and holding the circular portal still, with one strong arm, he bowed to Tavia to pass through. She plunged into the compartment and was whirled into a white marble hall directly in front of a row of elevators. Again she read the address of Mr. Akerson. Room 1409. Entering an elevator she wondered in a misty, dizzy way how one knew where to get off to find room Number 1409.

Eighteenth floor! yelled the elevator operator, looking askance at Tavia. Then before Tavia could think, he called, Going down! and the elevator filled up for the downward trip. Tavia gasped. How stupid she had been! How she wished Dorothy was with her! Then she left the elevator on the ground floor and pulling together all her courage, she asked an important looking man in uniform, how she could reach Room 1409.

Fourteenth floor, to your right, explained the man, taking the bewildered Tavia by the arm and putting her on an elevator.

So thats the system, thought Tavia, and she could have laughed aloud. And marveling at the perfect simplicity of so many things that at first glance seemed complicated, Tavia found herself at the fourteen floor.

Room Fourteen Hundred and Nine to your right, said the elevator boy, without Tavia having asked him anything about it.

To your right, sounded simple, but as Tavia surveyed the various halls, running in numerous directions, she grew weary of her first business trip and so tired that she almost lost sight of the reason for the journey. Under the guidance of a flippant young person, Tavia finally located to the right.

She opened the door and entered. She fairly rushed into the office because she felt that Mr. Akerson must be tired waiting for her arrival. A small boy sat at a telephone switchboard.

Who dyer wanta see? asked the boy, with utter indifference.

Mr. Akerson, said Tavia.

The boy telephoned to somewhere, and presently a young girl appeared, and without a word, conducted Tavia through a long suite of offices, with crowds of clerks, desks and bookcases in every conceivable corner. The young miss poked her head into a door and called out:

Mr. A.

As not in, called back another young voice. Back in half an hour.





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