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does, ever married as rich a man as I am for
love? I could smash her map for her! "

" You needn t take the trouble to utter such
words even in fun," said Laflin Van Tassel.
" That poor woman, hating, as she seems to
do, every living creature, even you, her
friends, carries her punishment with her every
hour that she lives, and is deserving of your
profoundest sympathy. Just think of the
misery of her thought ! Never a kind or gen
erous word or deed, which has not herself for
a beneficiary. And not a tolerant thought
going out to her in her loneliness from anyone
on earth. It strikes me that with all her
money and I ve been poor long enough to
know the value of it Miss Lathrop is the
most pitiable object I ever have seen."

" By Jove! " said Jimmie. " You are right!
I never thought of the poor old critter in that
light before, but it is quite true. Not a living



In Search of a Husband 221

soul in this world but hates her. Think of
it!"

" I have thought of it often," said Mrs.
Jimmie quietly. " What she needs is a little
love."

" Well, you try and offer it to her and you
are liable to get your face slapped," said
Jimmie. " Love and Lyddy Lathrop, in
deed ! "

He looked at Bee, and added :

" Do you think you can learn to love our
dear Lyddy during the term you are sentenced
for?"

Bee shot him a strange look.

" It will not be a full sentence," she said.
" You know even a convict gets some time
off for good behaviour."

Laflin Van Tassel gave her a plainly ap
proving look, and Jimmie was on the verge
of understanding that something was going
on, when the door opened.



CHAPTER XIV

IN WHICH BOB MAKES A PROPOSAL OF
MARRIAGE

DTD you ever drive a family horse on a
lazy summer morning with such list-
lessness and loose reins that when he
suddenly shied at a tin can and ran away, you
were dumped out on the roadside, dazed and
speechless and so sat there, just watching his
cloud of dust and not even trying to do any
thing?

Well, when the door opened and in walked
a man, a woman and a child, it did not need
more than one glance into the child s face,
which was Bob s in miniature, for us all to
know that at last we were in the presence of
the Reason for everything.

Yet strange to say, Bob looked more appre
hensively at the man than at the other two, and
the first words he uttered were :

"Well, Shupe!"

Shupe held out a roll of music MS. and
said :

" Would you like to see the original of



Bob Makes a Proposal 223

your play to-night, Mr. Mygatt, author and
composer of the now famous musical comedy,
entitled The Alligator Pear Tree?"

Bob shook his head, whereat Mr. Shupe
handed the MS. to Laflin, who took it, looked
at it and flung it open on the table.

As for Ava, she was staring in a fascinated
silence at the child, who clung to his mother s
hand and half hid behind her skirts. The
woman s face was contemptuous and cynical
and she seemed to have been drawn into the
affair by Shupe, for she kept her eyes on him
and waited for him to speak.

Only Mrs. Keep, Mrs. Jimmie and I were at
all upset by the situation. Munson and
Eleanor continued to smoke their cigarettes,
elbows on the table, and to smile inscrutably.
Jimmie and Aubrey drew together and looked
rather white. Laflin and Bee exchanged
glances, while Bob turned frankly to

Lyddy!

Lyddy s face was, after all, the most worth
looking at, for here she was, a homeless, lonely
old maid, at the eleventh hour plainly in the
running for the hand of a young and agreeable
bachelor, fascinating, but so hopelessly dis
graced that hereafter decent people must per
force shun him, wherefore he would be all
the more hers and hers alone.



224 The Concentrations of Bee

Her face, as these thoughts struck her, was
a study in the passion of cupidity, exultant
malice and yes an honest affection
love, if you want to call it that, for our
poor, graceless, disgraced but still interesting
Bobbie !

Shupe, noticing that Ava s eyes were round
with horror at the sight of Bob s lineaments
in the face of the child, spoke out in a voice
of anguish :

"Aval" he said. "Aval"

Slowly she looked at him.

" Will you believe me now! Will you be
lieve, not only that he stole my play, my poor
play that I worked four years on, but that he
has stolen your love ? Yes, stolen it ! He be
longs to this woman, who, as you all can see,
and as the Munsons have known for three
years, is the mother of his child ! "

Jimmie started- so at this announcement
that he dropped hot ashes on his hand and
said:

" Ouch! " in a very upsetting way.

But the Munsons only nodded in corrobora-
tion of Shupe s assertion and seemed to feel
neither responsibility nor much interest in the
affair.

Dear Mrs. Keep was furtively wiping her



Bob Makes a Proposal 225

eyes and trying not to look at anybody it
was all so very embarrassing!

" If you had only believed me, Ava, dear,"
Shupe went on, with such a fine disregard of
his audience, that I could not help admiring
him, for we are a disconcerting set of listeners
even for a series of plain facts, let alone
a love story and a heart tragedy like this, but
Shupe was so very simple, he did not know,
and so he shamed us "I never would have
been driven to this. I let him steal my songs
without a word, because you were to sing
them and because they were originally written
to exploit your dear voice "

" But he paid you for them afterward,
Roger," said Ava, very pale, but still just and
fair.

" Not one cent, dearest. If he told you he
did, it was just another of his lies."

" No, no! " I cried. " He did pay you! I
I happen to know that he did ! "

Shupe smiled.

" Just because your dear husband lent him
the money to do it, Mrs. Jardine, do you be
lieve that I got it? He probably spent it on
some other woman ! "

Just here Lyddy clutched her belt, " for all
the world," as Jimmie said afterward, " as if



226 The Concentrations of Bee

she had been struck with the stomach ache,"
and we then saw that the Jardines had uncon
sciously and accidentally made her a present of
an amethyst belt buckle!

I could not resist giving Bob one wither
ing glance, but to my disgust, his blue Irish
eyes were actually twinkling with the exquisite
humour of the thing. I never saw such a
man as Bob Mygatt! You couldn t shame
him to save your life. There was no decency
in him to shame!

Then Shupe turned his attention to Bob,
who laid down his cigar, folded his hands and
prepared to give his whole attention to the
speaker.

" Bob Mygatt," he said, " it is quite useless
to say one word to you. You know what you
have done better than any of the rest of us.
You remember the day I brought this MS. to
you and you volunteered to try to get it before
some manager for me. You said that my idea
of a comedy written on the day of creation,
with all the animals talking and the scene the
Garden of Eden, was very original and taking.
Well, it tt aj taking. You took it, re-wrote
parts of it, changed its name to The Alligator
Pear Tree and produced it as your own. You
thought because I seemed a poor-spirited chap,
that you could bluff me out of it, but what



Bob Makes a Proposal 227

you did not know, was that I was in love with
Ava Corliss and that we were engaged until
she met you."

Here Bob turned and looked curiously at
Ava, who had the grace to blush hotly.

" You are right, my dear Mr. Shupe," said
Bob politely. " I certainly did not know that.
I may go further and state that I was led to
believe that I was the first in the young lady s
affections."

At this Jimmie s entire countenance ex
panded in a silent but exquisitely appreciative
grin. It seemed to do him no end of good to
know that the stinger Bob had been so neatly
stung by our godly Ava, and with that
Puritan conscience of hers too.

But after all, it was the Puritan conscience
which decided things, for Ava, who might
have overlooked the theft of the play, because
Bob s smooth tongue could argue and con
vince anybody that black was only a deep
shade of gray and thus but a trifle removed
from pure white, had not taken her eyes from
the child.

Knowing this evidently, Mr. Shupe had
brought his reinforcements with him.

" As to whether this man has a right to
marry any woman, ask the mother of this
child ! " said Shupe impressively.



228 The Concentrations of Bee

But Bob was evidently, as Jimmie said,
" tired of being the goat," for he got up, nerv
ously clenching and unclenching his hands and
turning several colours at once.

" Don t trouble the lady ! " he said quickly.
" The whole story is in my little son s face.
This thing has hounded me for five years.
I m glad it s out. I m glad you all know it.
Now, you be the judges. What shall I do?
I don t love the child s mother nor she me,
though I adore the child. I do love another
woman" (Here Bob kept his eyes neither on
Ava nor on Lyddy, but safely riveted to my
face!) " What shall I do? Marry her just to
give my child a name a name that nobody
else wants, and so live out my life in hell,
or "

He stopped short, astonished at the passion
expressed in Lyddy s tense face and loud
breathing.

" Wait! " she said. " Wait! You said just
now that nobody wanted your name. Ava
Corliss may not she s too good ! But I ll
take it. And I won t steal you from another
woman either, who has the first claim on you.
If, as you say, this woman does not love you,
nor you her, and if- Here she turned to
Bob with a frenzy in her face so naked that
we were all ashamed that we saw "if you



Bob Makes a Proposal 229

will love me me, you understand, as you
have loved these other women I will let
you marry and divorce her, and I will take
care of both the woman and the child for
life!"

In a silence which could have been heard for
miles. Bob Mygatt, as Jimmie said, " took the
hurdle."

" And after the divorce, will you marry me,
dear lady ? "

Poor Lyddy!

We turned away our faces. We just
couldn t look!



CHAPTER XV

IN WHICH BOB BEGINS HIS CAREER OF
MARRYING

I DIDN T actually swoon, but things got
black before my eyes and Aubrey got me
some water and Jimmie accidentally
dropped some cigarette ashes down my neck
as he patted me on the back and implored me
to " buck up " and not " spoil the fun."

Fun!

It was Laflin Van Tassel who took charge
of the woman and her child and who got Bob
married to her the next day before any of us
went back to town.

" Why didn t you let us in on the deal ? "
demanded Jimmie, who hates to go to sleep
at night for fear he will miss a dog fight or a
fire or some kind of excitement.

"Because it wasn t decent!" I cried.
" Laflin did quite right to get it done as
quietly as possible. I m glad I wasn t asked
to witness the thing. I wouldn t have seen it
for anything! How did they behave, Laflin? "
230



Bob s Career of Marrying 231

Jimmie bent double with laughter.

" Oh, yes ! You re glad you weren t there,
aren t you? Nevertheless, disgorge the
shockin details, Van Tassel. Tell her every
thing, or you ll die of her questions. They
are small, but there are so many of them, they
can sting a defenceless man to death."

" Not at all," I said, with pardonable heat.
(Jimmie does make me so wild.) " But while
one might not want to be mixed up in a dis
gusting affair like this, there is no harm in
wishing to know how Bob bore up under the
ordeal."

And then the same thought struck Jimmie
and me at the same time and we shrieked with
laughter.

" Honestly," said Jimmie wiping his eyes,
" of course we oughtn t to laugh at the im
moral spectacle of a man being obliged to right
his youthful follies by marrying the wronged
woman and giving his son a name, but honest
now ! To think of old Bob doing it to think
of Bob Mygatt "

"Jimmie!" I said imploringly, as the door
opened behind Jimmie.

" Oh, I know this is ribald and indecent,"
said Jimmie, fairly weeping into his handker
chief. " I realize what Laflin calls the ethics
of the case. I know matrimony is a holy



232 The Concentrations of Bee

estate and not to be entered into lightly, but
soberly, et cetera. But what I want to know
is, could Bob keep his face straight? What /
want to know is, did Ava Corliss and that
undertaker, Shupe, grace the scene? What
/ want to know is, was our fair Lyddy there
to give the bridegroom away, or does she con
sider this simply a renting of him for a season ?
What / want to know is - what are you
flagging me for, Faith Jardine, just when I
am beginning to enjoy myself?"

" Because," I said in quivering tones,
" Lyddy and Bob are just behind you ! "

For a moment Jimmie didn t dare turn
around to see. His mouth happened to be open
when I spoke and it stayed open so long that
I really feared for him. Then he got courage
to turn his head and face them.

I think I have never enjoyed anything in
the whole of my iniquitous career so much as
the sight of Jimmie s face when he finally
caught Bob s and Lyddy s look.

" We knocked twice," said Bob, to break
the ice which had frozen us all where we sat,
" but you were so congenially occupied -

Jimmie flapped his arms at him feebly, and
wiped the dampness from his brow.

I waited hopefully for Lyddy to express her
valuable opinion, but she only batted her weak



Bob s Career of Marrying 233

eyes and seemed to be gathering her scattered
faculties together.

" Well, Lyddy," I said at last, goaded into
speech by the frightened silence of the others.

Then Lyddy rose to the occasion. She was
shaking with fury. Her face was red with
lighter blotches on it, and before she had said
ten words, her voice rose to a shrill scream.

I can t remember what she said. I have
only the hazy recollection that I was preparing
to endure her tirade, as Bee and I had endured
them hundreds of times before, when suddenly
there was silence and we looked in amaze, to
see Bob quietly but firmly propelling her to
the door, and bowing as gallantly over her
hand as if she had been Elaine and he Sir
Launcelot.

As Jimmie said afterward, " He fair kicked
her out of the room and she didn t know it! "

When the door closed behind her, I looked
to see Jimmie and Bob clinch in battle.

But I didn t know Bob. He asked Laflin
for a cigarette, Jimmie for a match, Bee for
an ash-tray, crossed his long legs, looked
around at all of us, winked cheerfully and
grinned his usual Irish, Bob Mygatt grin.

Whereat we all relaxed our tense muscles
and breathed such a sigh of relief that it
sounded like a draught.



234 The Concentrations of Bee

We waited expectantly for Bob to begin.

" James," said Bob impressively, " be thank
ful that you are married to only one wife.
Laflin, think twice before you kiss the next
girl you feel foolish over. This mad longing
to kiss every pretty thing in female form I see,
is what has brought me to the pass you now
see me in, with a u>as, an is and a to-be! If I
could afford it, I d be a woman-hater! "

" You could make a fortune as a lion-
tamer," I said, my deep admiration of his
handling of the redoubtable Lyddy betraying
itself in my voice.

Bob grinned happily. He grinned just that
same way, I remembered, when he broke
Jimmie s bird dog of being gun-shy, and we
complimented him for it. As Jimmie says,
" Bob s vanity is the limit."

But Bob was simply dying to talk things
over with us, both to know how we took it
and to air his own emotion.

" Why weren t you there, dear heart of
ice?" he said addressing me. "Don t you
know that in the future whenever I am mar
ried, I want you to behold the obsequies? "

How could anybody help laughing at such
a graceless scamp as Bob Mygatt ?

" I didn t know where the services were
being conducted," I said.



Bob s Career of Marrying 235

" Services over the dear departed, " cor
rected Bob gravely. " You put it neatly as
usual. She s gone. I saw her off."

"Off? Off for where? " demanded Bee and
myself in a composite tone of voice.

"South Dakota!" quoth Bob. "In the
presence of witnesses, she asked me to come
and live with her and I flunked. Flunked
publicly and shamelessly. My dear Lyddy
was at my elbow to see that I did ! "

Now I didn t invite Bob Mygatt into this
story. He came in of his own accord and
stayed in because he became part of the narra
tive. I don t excuse him nor approve of him,
and I am just as much ashamed of myself as
anybody could possibly be of me, but the truth
of the matter is that if all of Bob s audiences
were as foolishly responsive to his iniquitous
proceedings and ribald comments thereon as
Jimmie and I were, it is no wonder that Bob
felt encouraged to do worse.

" Then you are really going to put it
through," I said.

"Am I?" said Bob. "What have / got
to do with it? Am I not a mere puppet in
Bee s hands, like all the rest of you whether
you know it or not ? "

"Bee s!" I cried. And then again,
"Bee s!"



236 The Concentrations of Bee

"Listen to her!" cried Bob derisively.
" Yet there are times when she exhibits almost
human intelligence ! "

Bee s smile was a little self-conscious as we
all focussed our glances upon her.

" In this case," she said gently, " I never
could have done it alone. I have Laflin to
thank, not only for many valuable suggestions
but for the entire execution of it."

" But but " I stuttered.

Jimmie helped me out.

" How ju know that Bob was willing? " he
demanded, with no tact and less shame.

" Jimmie," said his wife reprovingly.

For once he never answered her. He was
clenching and unclenching his hands andtheend
of his cigar was breathing like a locomotive.

It was only the second time I had ever seen
Bob blush.

" Tell em, Laflin," he said.

There is little to tell," said Laflin quietly.
" We heard of the Shupe matter and knew
that the play was headed for disaster. Then
Bee learned through Faith of the existence of
the woman and her child. She was growing
desperate because Bob could do nothing more
for her "

" I always divided with her when I had
anything," muttered Bob. Aubrey and I ex-



Bob s Career of Marrying 237

changed glances. We thought of Lyddy s
amethyst belt buckle.

" So we consulted Bob and found that
that "

" That things were getting altogether too
damned hot for me!" broke in Bob. " Ava
and her Scruples were choking the life out of
me. Just imagine, if you please, for one mo
ment, the spectacle of my being married,
hitched for life to that Walking Conscience!
Why, on my honour, I do believe all she saw
in me was a Soul to be Rescued. If I d mar
ried her, she d have held me up to her Ideals
with a grip on my hair that would have made
Absalom look like a two-spot. But I stood it
- that is, I trotted an engagement heat with
her, just as a pace-maker. I really never had
any intention of going down the home stretch
with her, and I don t believe she ever really
meant to marry me. I believe, as I look back
on it, that she has always preferred Shupe. But
how in the world she could, when she had me,
I can t see! Can you, lady-bird? She was
probably only intent upon Saving my Soul.
But she is pretty, you know, and I do did
love her ! Don t laugh ! I m trying to re
member that I m married ! "

" And engaged ! " reminded Jimmie.
" Don t forget the next on your list, Bob ! "



238 The Concentrations of Bee

" So then," pursued Bob, " I looked the
matter squarely in the face. On the one hand
debts, disgrace, a sweetheart, a Menace and
a Past. On the other hand, a dowered bride,
money to buy Shupe s interest in the play,
Freedom and a Fortune! "

Bob extended his arms above his head with
his hands clenched.

"Freedom!" jeered Jimmie under his
breath. But Bob heard him.

" Yes, freedom ! " he cried. " You give
me all the money that will be settled on me
before I take the fatal plunge and see if I don t
make good as to the freedom part."

" He will ! " I cried. " He will ! Remem
ber the way he headed her off this morning? "

" Bob," said Jimmie, " I don t want you to
beat her nor kick her not too hard, that is
nor to black her eye, so that it will show,
but I do want to shake hands with you just
on general principles!"

" Shrewish old vitriol-tongued termagant! "
Jimmie murmured in my ear. " Woman who
loves jewels as much as my wife not marry
for love indeed! Gee! I m glad Bob s going
to marry her! He ll fix her for us ! "

I sat looking at my sister and thinking hard.
As I looked back, I could see many things
which escaped me at the time.



Bob s Career of Marrying 239

" And in spite of all these things being
brought to Bee unsolicited," said Laflin, " she
held her peace. She told no one except me,
of course. She bore her cross patiently and
worked out her problem in the proper way."

Bee s face slowly crimsoned under the lively
inquiries she saw in Jimmie s and my eyes.

But we would have died rather than give
her away.

She bent an adoring and an adorable glance
of gratitude upon Laflin, which was the first
thing Jimmie had seen to arouse his suspicions.

He turned so suddenly to demand confirma
tion of me, that he caught me smiling.

" You fiend ! " he whispered. " Why didn t
you put me on ? "

" There isn t anything as yet on, " I whis
pered back. " Do see now, if you can behave
and not spoil things ! "

" So! " said Jimmie. "So! I begin to see
what our dear Bee meant by getting time
knocked off her sentence for good behaviour!
Six months of South Dakota, Bee, and then
you are free ! "

Bee and Laflin looked at each other.

"Six months!" growled Bob, biting into
his pipe stem. " Well laugh, you idiots !
Laugh!"



CHAPTER XVI

DR. BRAGG PLAYS HIS PART

" ~1~ AM beginning to think," said Jimmie
to me one day. But I rudely inter-
-*- rupted him :

"What?" I cried.

" Wait. The worst is yet to come. I am
beginning to think that I don t know it all.
Now don t swoon. Listen, and you ll learn
something even from me, despised though
I am!"

" Whatever you know, tell me," I coun
selled.

" Don t I always ? " said Jimmie, reproach
fully, " and isn t that the way I always get into
trouble? I saw something that day we had
our last illuminating insight into our dear
Robert Mygatt s character, and what do you
think it was? I saw him wink at Bee while
Laflin was explaining the spiritual way she
had borne her cross. And worse yet, Bee
winked back!"

240



Dr. Bragg Plays His Part 241

"Honest?" I cried.

" Honest and true ! Cross-my-heart-and-
hope-to-die-if-they-didn t ! "

Somehow I always believe a person who
will use that school-day formula, because I
never use it myself unless I am really telling
the truth. I d be afraid to.

" Now," Jimmie went on, " I believe that
our dear Bee is, as usual, managing us all
for her own deep-laid plans. I believe that
she and Bob have been in the deal from the
first. I believe that Bob arranged to have
that woman go to the Munsons so that you
could hear about it and tell Bee what s the
matter ? "

" Nothing, only I hate to be made a fool
of. And I believe you are right on this."

" Bob has a motto on his wall which says
Life is just one damned thing after an
other ! " said Jimmie. But I refused to smile.
I was too distinctly annoyed.

And yet, so potent are our Bee s spells that,
while we were yet smarting from the last
touch of her goad, we became her victims
again.

We had a friend by the name of Dr. Bragg.
But there ! He wasn t a friend. Aubrey said
he was a necessary evil, like Lyddy and the
necessity for sticky flypaper and occasional



242 The Concentrations of Bee

family rows and other things which annoy
more than their need is worth.

But Mrs. Jimmie had been afflicted with
rheumatism for a year and had tried baths,
doctors, Christian Science (unknown to Jim
mie), and now, Dr. Bragg, the osteopath, was
her latest venture.

Dr. Bragg was a bachelor about fifty-odd
years old, tall, awkward, raw-boned, large-
jointed and clumsy, with the clumsiness of
a man who knocks down bric-a-brac every
time he enters a room. He was in love with a
Mrs. Cox, a widow who was playing with
him, publicly and cruelly, as only a woman
can.

Now, little as any of us (who are fastidious
beyond our meed) cared for Dr. Bragg, we
possess a rugged sense of justice, and we used
to allow ourselves to become quite worked up
over the hopelessness of the doctor s passion.

But he, like most men, was confident oh,
very confident, not only of himself and his
own invaluable deductions on every known
subject, but that he understood women per
fectly. Besides, he was equally sure that he
knew what was what and that he was quite
capable, to quote Jimmie, " of trotting in our


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