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" He won t be underdone when I am
through with him," said Bee quietly.

Whereat Laflin said simply,

" I am sorry."

And instantly we all became aware, as in a
flash, that Laflin, too, was an outsider, if not
exactly an alien.

We may not be perfect, we of The Happy
Family, but we love ourselves, and our faults
are just the sort of faults that we can bear
with ease, if you allow us to make rude re
marks occasionally. Therefore the hint of re
proof from an outsider of one of us of the
rank of our beloved Bee, made Jimmie and
me lift our heads and look at each other with
the same question in the eye of each.

"Shall we let Bee marry him?" we tele
graphed.

Then we looked at the green inner light in
Bee s eye and we smiled foolishly. We
wouldn t be called upon to act, if she meant
what that look said.



CHAPTER XVII

IN WHICH BEE APPLIES A COUNTER IRRITANT

WHEN we separated that night we
felt that things were brewing, so
that when in a few days Bee sum
moned Jimmie and me to a star chamber ses
sion and left out both Aubrey and Mrs. Jim
mie, we knew that something had happened.

Bee s very attitude seemed different as she
met us, and at first I looked at her blacks to
see if she had narrowed her. bands of woe or
gone into lavender. But her clothes were as
immaculate, as self-restrained and as sombre
as an English butler. It was her eye which
had changed. In a flash, it came to us.

Bee was returning to her own ! Her newly
acquired holiness was dropping from her, as a
garment, and we worthless ones welcomed her
back to our midst with silent acclaim. It
never does to cheer too loudly over Bee s re
turns until you know what they mean.

" Don t take off your things, Faith, because
we are going over to your studio. Something
has happened, or rather, will happen to-day.
264



Bee Applies a Counter Irritant 265

Oh, don t look so frightened, silly! I only
meant that Dr. Bragg got even with me for
telling him that Mrs. Cox wasn t interested in
his profession and telling her that I should
think she would engage a foeman worthy of
her steel, by telling the Munsons how you
talked about him as a landlord, and "

" Come on ! " cried Jimmie, putting his
stick on the elevator bell and holding it there
until it came up with a rush, ignoring all gen
tler signals.

He bundled us into the machine and we flew
to my studio.

The moment we arrived, I saw that we were
none too soon. It was in the air.

Bee, usually so polite, stepped ahead of me
and walked to the double doors connecting our
studio with Eleanor s. Blackman, the super
intendent, was there, tinkering with the lock.

" Has it come, Mr. Blackman?" asked Bee,
sweetly.

"Has what come, Mrs. Lathrop?" asked
Blackman.

" The load of bricks Mr. Jardine ordered to
brick up these doors."

Blackman laid down his keys and scratched
his head.

" I don t understand it, Mrs. Lathrop," he
said, " Has there been any trouble ? Excuse



266 The Concentrations of Bee

me for asking, but Mr. Munson has been some
thing awful over the telephone all day. He
gave orders to put a padlock on this door

" I suppose he had heard that my brother-
in-law intended to do far more than that," said
Bee sweetly. " You needn t mind the padlock.
We want it bricked up so that no sound can
penetrate the wall. Work will begin on it at
once. When Mr. Munson calls up again,
please tell him that."

With a smile of glee which plainly showed
the low status the Munsons held with their all-
powerful superintendent, Blackman took his
leave.

Then Jimmie and I showed ourselves.

" Have you really got the bricks, Bee ? "
asked Jimmie.

" No," said Bee, calmly. " I knew you
could get them for us."

Bee s manner of putting the impossible up
to a man and confidently expecting him to
compass it, is very flattering and always makes
a hit with her victim.

Jimmie frowned a moment, then went to the
telephone.

Bee and I sat on the table and waited.

" Ju get em ? " I demanded when he re
turned.

They arc coming up on hods now ! " he



Bee Applies a Counter Irritant 267

said with a grin. " The foreman in charge of
the apartment house being built across the
street fellow by the name of Rafferty
used to work for me. I saw him this morn
ing. By good luck I just caught him and he s
lending me bricks, mortar and workmen for
this job. It ll be done in a couple of hours."

" Jimmie," I said. " You are a wonder."

Jimmie beamed with pleasure at my com
pliment, whereupon I produced refreshments,
and having seen my guests at their ease, I
said:

" Now, please, Bee, may I know how this
thing is coming out?"

" I haven t decided yet," she returned.
" But one thing is certain. Now that the black
flag has been raised, I propose to compel Mun-
son to repair the wall of your bedroom before
we consent to make up."

" Consent to make up ! " I cried. " Do you
think he will ever speak to us after seeing
this?"

And I waved my hand at the bricks, which
were beginning to arrive.

" I have calculated," said Bee, " that Black-
man did not wait for Munson to telephone
again. He called Munson and said we were
bricking up the doors. Munson, being more
curious than a dozen cats, will catch the first



268 The Concentrations of Bee

train for town. It will take him two hours to
get here. Therefore about five o clock we
shall see Munson s emotional silk hat and his
nervous beard through that aperture which we
now sit watching, and he will forget all about
the vendetta in his curiosity to know what we
got excited about to the extent of cutting off
communication with him and his."

" If he comes, he ll be wild about having the
wind taken out of his sails," said Jimmie, who
occasionally betrays an astuteness which causes
me to love him. " Munson has more vindic-
tiveness than any man I know."

* He has more pride in his ability to hate
first and get even first, than anything else,"
said Bee. " But like all children, he is quick
to forget."

" And especially quick to forgive himself for
having insulted you," I put in. " He says
things he ought to be shot for, and then for
gets all about them."

Bee smiled.

" I told you so," she said. " But you
wouldn t believe me."

" Faith was too busy doing things for them
to see flaws at first," said Jimmie. But ob
serving my open-mouthed amazement at his
praise, he hastily turned to Bee and said :

" However, commander of the faithful, I do



Bee Applies a Counter Irritant 269

not see exactly how you are coming out on this
deal not that our poor feeble brains are
capable of understanding such a Mike Mike
- What s the fellow s name, Faith ? "

"Mike? Mike who?"

" That s just what I am asking you ! You
know! The fellow who laid plots. Mike

" Machiavelli ! " I shrieked. " Mike! Any
body would think he was a hod carrier ! "

" That s the chap. Mikeavelli ! We may not
be capable of understanding our young friend
here, Mike Lathrop, but we would like a try
at it."

" I think I have it," said Bee slowly. " I
know one of Dr. Darlington s assistants. If
he is only in ! "

She went to the telephone and called up the
Department of Health, while Jimmie and I
still sat on the table and swung our feet and
listened hopefully.

Presently Bee came back.

" I got him ! " she said. " And he was just
on his way up town and will stop here."

The bricklayers had begun their work.
Jimmie directed it, with Rafferty s help, for
Rafferty had to come over to see what it was
all about.

" Now," said Bee, " when Dr. Lambertson
comes, leave him entirely to me. Don t either



270 The Concentrations of Bee

one of you put an oar in, no matter what you
think."

We promised and Bee managed the young
and good looking doctor from the Health De
partment as only our Bee could. I think Bee
must have taken him in on the joke, for when
they came down from inspecting the fungus
on my bedroom wall, Dr. Lambertson joined
us for a moment and watched the bricklayers
with a broad grin on his face, in which was
largely writ a great approval of the widow
Lathrop and her nimble wit in planning such
a coup.

Bee went to the elevator with him and I
heard him say :

" Well, good-bye till Thursday. And be
sure and let me know if I can be of the least
further service to you, Mrs. Lathrop," when
the elevator arrived and claimed him.

Bee came back, smiling her little conscious
smile of having done a good job, and was in
the act of relating to us what the doctor had
said, when the return trip of the elevator
brought Munson, his hair, beard and the nap
of his tall hat all betraying nervous anxiety
and an agitated curiosity.

He glanced in at our open front door as he
passed, but hurried on, entered his own door



Bee Applies a Counter Irritant 271

and appeared behind the bricklayers at the con
necting doors of the two studios.

We looked up pleasantly and waited for him
to begin.

" Pardon my intrusion," he began, in a tone
of honeyed sarcasm, " but may I inquire what
architectural designs you seem to have planned
upon my property ? "

" It has been done to avoid unpleasantness,
Mr. Munson. Please believe that, before we
explain," said Bee quickly.

She needn t have hurried. I didn t know
what to say and neither did Jimmie.

" To avoid unpleasantness ! " repeated Mun
son with delicate emphasis.

" Exactly," said Bee softly. " Knowing, as
we all do, upon what friendly terms Mrs. Jar-
dine has always been with you, we naturally
considered your feelings in the present un
happy situation, and closed communication
between two families, both endowed with flu
ent conversational ability, before a final breach
could occur."

Munson stepped over the bricks in his
feminine curiosity.

" The present unhappy situation ! " he re
peated. " May I inquire to what you re
fer?"



272 The Concentrations of Bee

My teeth chattered for fear he would ask
me.

Bee looked around vaguely.

" Is it possible," she murmured, " that even
yet he does not know ! "

This implied slur upon his intelligence
brought the vain red into Munson s cheeks.

" I think I don t quite understand ! " he said
tentatively.

" It seems impossible that you should not,"
said Bee, " in which case I must explain."

Jimmie s eagerness to know too, caused him
to take a step toward Bee, which brought a
twitch to Bee s lips and a twitch to his coat
tails from me, at which hint he came to him
self and gazed nonchalantly at the ceiling.

Your continued refusal to have the leak in
Mrs. Jardine s bedroom repaired has been
brought to the attention of the Board of
Health, and I have here an order from the
Commissioner "

Munson s face flamed.

"I I beg your pardon!" he stammered.
" I was not aware I did not know -

He stopped because of my look.

" It shall be attended to at once," he said.
" I will speak about it at the very next meeting
of the Building Committee."

" And leave my sister to occupy a bedroom



Bee Applies a Counter Irritant 273

with fungus on. the walls two inches long?"
inquired Bee. " Indeed, Mr. Munson, if I may
take the liberty of saying so, you take a singu
lar view of the length of time Mrs. Jardine
intends to suffer in silence. Protests have al
ready gone to the chairman of the Building
Committee, signed by myself and Jimmie as
witnesses and quoting this order from the
Board of Health."

Munson laughed irritatingly.

" Mrs. Jardine s habit of suffering in si
lence is, indeed, well known to her admiring
friends," said Munson sarcastically. " I hap
pen to know that at a dinner party very re
cently, she publicly complained of her distress
at having caught cold from sleeping in a damp
bedroom and cas^t a slur upon me in my capac
ity as landlord."

" And I happen to know," retorted Jimmie,
" that she did nothing of the kind. The slurs
were cast by myself and Aubrey Jardine and
Dr. Bragg the very tattler who carried the
gossip to you, Ed Munson and what Faith
said was that the delight of your conversation
more than outweighed the dampness of a
bedroom wall! But Faith always is the
goat!"

" And I have always been," I burst out bit
terly, " ever since I was ten years old ! "



274 The Concentrations of Bee

" And what were you before that? " sneered
Munson.

" Before that I was nothing but a kid ! " I
answered.

We are a queer set and no mistake. There
we were, " all het up " as Dr. Bragg would
say, and fairly spoiling for a fight, literally
falling into each other s arms over a foolish
joke, which, one half second before it was ut
tered had been as far from my mind as the
North Pole.

Munson s conduct, however, was the most
amazing. He came up to me and offered his
hand.

" I can never quarrel with a woman capable
of that," he said, with a forgiving smile. " I
must catch the five-forty back, so I must hurry.
Have those bricks taken away and the leak will
be attended to at once to-morrow. By the
way, may I have just a peg before I go?
Thanks, awfully."

Jimmie attended to his wants and Munson
pledged us fluently and gracefully in a little
speech.

Then he sat down his glass, consulted his
watch, took up his silk hat, shook hands with
us all around regardless of the queer looks on
our faces, and said good-bye.



Bee Applies a Counter Irritant 275

He turned at the door and came back nerv
ously rubbing his hat the wrong way.

" Oh, Eleanor begged me to say, Mrs.
Jardine, that if you had no objection we would
like to borrow the apartment from you next
Friday and give a reception in your studio
and a picture exhibit in ours throwing the
two together, of course. And and as
most of our friends are not aware that we have
unfortunately been obliged to sublet our studio,
and know nothing of your tenancy, she begs
to know if you will wear a hat and come in at
the street door like any other guest ! "



CHAPTER XVIII
ELEANOR S RECEPTION AND WHAT CAME OF IT

I HAVE felt foolish before, but I never
felt a completer idiot than I did at Elea
nor Munson s reception in my studio,
walking around all the afternoon, clad in my
best and wearing hat and gloves.

I sternly refused to come in from the street
in the middle of the afternoon, and send in my
card as she wanted me to do. I was there
when the thing started and to the earliest
guest I appeared already placed.

My sense of humour or my common sense,
if you please, simply wouldn t let me go out
of my way to make a fool of myself. I am
never one to think myself the only person to
possess a brain, and on this occasion I give
even the wayfaring man credit for the possi
bility of putting two and two together and ar
riving at the conclusion that they make four,
even if the Munsons did continue to ejaculate
five and six as the proper answer to the ques
tion of the afternoon.

How did they know how many persons
276



Eleanor s Reception 277

knew the apartment was mine and wondered
at the change of hostesses?

But no. They even bore in silence the com
ments of their intimates on the amount of new
furniture (ours) they had bought since their
last inspection, and thus they carried off, by a
superiority or effrontery or fluke of luck, a
situation which would have had me grovelling
in the dust and choking with eager and unnec
essarily fluent explanations to total and indif
ferent strangers.

But the Munsons had no sense of humour.
I decided it finally that afternoon. Eleanor
had only an intellectual appreciation of it in
others, and Munson had an understanding of
the ridiculous and a cynical wit which often
passed for humour. But Munson s witticisms
generally left a fine line of blood behind them,
like the scratches of a playful cat.

Bee was there in a costume of subdued woe
which made every woman there willing to go
into mourning, if they could only hope to equal
her get-up. It represented The Widow Begin
ning to Take Notice in a living picture.

Bob Mygatt was there too, and Laflin Van
Tassel and Mrs. Keep and the Jimmies, and
our dear Lyddy and Hope Loring and her hus
band, Cedric Hamilton, and Sallie and Nor
man Fitzhugh and Lord and Lady Abernethy.



278 The Concentrations of Bee

I was in the act of trying to get Patricia to
let Eleanor paint her portrait when Jimmie
and Aubrey overheard me, and separated us
as quickly and quietly as if we had been about
to spring at each other s throats.

But Bee, who generally revelled in recep
tions and such like, scarcely spoke, unless ad
dressed. She even ignored Laflin s presence
almost to the point of avoidance, while as for
Laflin, he stood off in a corner and followed
her every movement with his eyes.

I thought to give matters an onward fillip
on my own account by stirring Lyddy up to
naming the happy day the very moment Bob
got his divorce, and my opportunity came at
Eleanor s reception and at the supper after
ward, which happened in this wise.

Jimmie came up and whispered in my ear :

" Come up in the balcony with me quick.
Got some great news for you ! "

When we were alone, we hid behind the
palms, where nobody could see us, but where
we could see everybody in the studio, and then
Jimmie said :

" Know what s the matter with Bee ? "

"No, what?"

" See that girl walking around by herself
the one with an Orange County fruit farm on
her hat?"



Eleanor s Reception 279

"Yes, who is it?"

" Her name is Laura Clyde. She is after
Laflin Van Tassel hot foot and she told Sallie
Fitzhugh she was engaged to him. I acci
dentally overheard Sallie telling Bee honest,
it was accidental ! You needn t look at me like
that! And how could I have told you if I
hadn t overheard ? "

" Do you suppose she really is, or is that a
ruse of hers to touch Bee s pride and induce
her to draw off? "

" Exactly my own conclusions ! " cried Jim-
mie. " She isn t the real thing and I don t
believe Laflin is taken in. But he is a godly
young person and this Miss Laura Clyde is
fishing for him with religious angle-worms,
so to speak."

" So," I said, " so that s what s been the
matter with Bee for the last few weeks! I
wonder how it will turn out ! "

" You wonder, do you ? Well, I ll tell you
how it will turn out. If Bee finds out that it
is true and isn t prepared to give up the chase
she will manage things so that Laflin will jump
his trolley. She won t let him get away, nor
she won t turn pious to please him. She tried
it for a while, but it bored our charming young
widow to the verge of extinction. Didn t you
hear her serve notice on us the other night?



280 The Concentrations of Bee

Bee simply won t be put upon, as our gentle
domestics have it. And if I mistake not the
signs, Bee is going to fire her first gun this
blessed day."

"What makes you think so?"

" Cuz she asked me and Mary and Laflin
to stay a few minutes after everybody goes."

" Tell you what I ll do," I said. " I ll order
in a few things and we ll have a little supper
instead of dinner."

" Turn me loose in the kitchen, Faith, and
I ll make a cup," said Jimmie, diving for his
coat and hat. " And and, Faith ! One min
ute! As you can t use either of these tele
phones, you d better let me order the sup
per!"

Verily this seemed to be my day to enter
tain by proxy !

I let Jimmie out at the mezzanine door and
sought out Bee.

" Jimmie has just gone out to order a little
supper sent in," I murmured, " and I think I ll
ask Bob and Laflin to stay. Do you want any
body else ? "

Bee s face lighted up as if by magic.

The very thing!" she said, catching my
wrist. " Ask Eleanor s friend, Miss Clyde,
and Lyddy."

"Lyddy! Oh, Bee, must I?"



Eleanor s Reception 281

" You must ! Don t kick ! And the Mun-
sons ! Oh, this is almost too good to be true ! "

"What is?"

" Faith, don t ask any questions, but help me
as only you will know how to, when the time
comes ! "

" You mean Miss Clyde? "

" How did you know ? " asked Bee. " But
I m glad you do, for I rather feel that I am
dealing with an unknown quantity in that
young woman."

" If you want my opinion," I said bluntly,
" this Miss Clyde is what old Mary would call
a little blister ! But I ll help no matter
what she is."



CHAPTER XIX

IN WHICH BEE SURMOUNTS ANOTHER
OBSTACLE

JIMMIE S supper on my china in the stu
dio, borrowed from me for the day by
the Munsons, was a great success.
Only Aubrey accidentally spoiled things
some by saying:

" In some ways, my wife is like a man. She
always remembers that men want to eat even
after a lady s reception. At home, my mother
never had dinner on the days she gave lunch
eons or teas. She always said she wasn t hun-

gry."

I ought to have kept still, but I blurted out :

" I regret to be obliged to tell you, dear,
that this is Jimmie s supper! "

" It was your idea, wasn t it, you,
you " Jimmie hesitates to call me names
right out, but his face was red with embar
rassment under his wife s approving glances.

Ever since we had had to borrow money,
Jimmie has used every effort to contribute to
282



Bee Surmounts Another Obstacle 283

our support, short of abstracting our bills from
the postman and sending them back receipted.

Mrs. Keep smiled her slow smile under
which Jimmie writhed helplessly. Jimmie
sickens and droops under public approval and
only thrives on abuse.

Wherefore he always enjoys the best of
health in my vicinage.

I have never seen Bee so well, so alive as
she was that night. She seemed like a lumi
nous live wire, but I could not understand why
she and Bob exchanged glances occasionally,
which were replete with secret understanding.
Was it because they were both in bondage to
circumstance and applying their wits to an ex
trication which would seem to the lay mind an
impossibility?

I managed to whisper to Bob during the
evening :

" How is it that you and Bee understand
each other so well ? What is this wireless code
of signals you have adopted ? "

Bob laughed.

" There is no code, Highness. Bee and I
understand each other by the same token that
you and I do the bond of iniquity sub
merged iniquity, which binds criminals of the
higher class together. You understand me just
in proportion to your own wickedness and you



284 The Concentrations of Bee

love me because of your sense of humour. If
it wasn t for that you d hate me. But don t
ever hate me, Faith," added the idiot passion
ately, "or I ll die!"

As he carefully raised his voice during this
last speech so that Lyddy could not fail to hear
him, I could have slapped him.

And as she reared her head and slowly grew
majenta, Bob snickered.

Fortunately Munson saved the situation just
here by asking for another whiskey and soda.
As it was his third Eleanor shot him a warning
glance, to which he replied aloud, as is the
custom of some husbands when in pursuit of
their third.

Bee endeavoured to seat Miss Clyde next to
Laflin, but that astute young woman with an
ease which baffled my sister s best efforts
chose a place opposite to him, whereupon Bee
established herself as far away from them both
as possible and evidently counted on me as a
scout to circle around and make reports.

Miss Clyde was a remarkable looking girl
even in this day of a fashion by which the
most ordinary may make themselves conspicu
ous. She was very pretty, having loose curl
ing strands of her hair hanging down on either
side of her face and blowing across her fore
head.



Bee Surmounts Another Obstacle 285

It sounds horrid to describe it, but it was
artistic and effective on her. Her empire
gown hung loosely on her slim figure. Her
great hat, which she refused to remove, shad
owed her face. Her lace sleeves wrinkled on
her slender, rounded arms and came over her
thin hands to her heavily ringed fingers.

She made a striking and effective picture,
except that her eyes were queer. They were a
clear green and she seldom opened them wide.
She kept them narrowed and she peered at
people out of these green slits like a sleepy cat.

They were not pretty, but no one who ever
looked at them, failed to look again and yet
again, and sometimes people seemed able to
look nowhere else when she was around.

She fastened these compelling eyes of hers
on Laflin the moment we were seated, and al
though he vainly endeavoured to refuse to re
spond, he found himself yielding more and
more to their spell.

It was Jimmie who blurted out at one end
of the table :

" I do believe she s trying to hypnotize
him!"

It shocked most of us who heard. Only
Eleanor Munson showed her utter unconcern
and lack of responsibility to anybody, by re
marking indifferently:



286 The Concentrations of Bee

"I ve been told she can do it as completely
as a professional. It would be rather amusing


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