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to see it demonstrated on some one we know,
wouldn t it ? "

" I think it would be horrid! " I answered.

Eleanor smiled her slow, superior, irritating
smile which the self-conscious artist bestows
on the rest of the world.

" You know I do not believe in the ethics
of things as vehemently as you do," she said
quietly.

" What do you believe in? " I asked.

" I believe in reaching out and taking what
ever one wants in this world, which could pos
sibly add to one s happiness," she replied.

"Regardless of the rights of others?"
asked Bee.

" Rights of others is a relative term," she
answered. " Everything has been stolen from
somebody else first. What I regard as my
rights to-day, possibly I appropriated from an
other a week ago. No man ever married and
became the legal property of one woman who
did not belong, in the eyes of some other
woman, to her, morally or ethically or what
ever you choose to call it. Therefore the
words my rights depend upon who speaks
them. Which brings me back to my original
statement."



Bee Surmounts Another Obstacle 287

Laura Clyde was evidently a companion
spirit of Eleanor Munson s, as well as her
guest, for she overheard the latter part of
these remarks and looked at us.

Bob, who always scented mischief a mile
away, asked deferentially:

" Did you hear that, Miss Clyde, and do
you agree ? "

" Oh, no," purred the girl, narrowing her
eyes at Laflin. " I have no desire to appropri
ate the property of another woman. I
might " here she looked squarely at Bee
" I might dispute her rights. I might lay
plans to circumvent a rival, but I would never
fight a losing game."

My sister regarded this extraordinary girl
attentively. She showed no vexation nor ap
prehension, but like a good general she was
learning the enemy s tactics.

" Oh," moaned Bob, " how I wish you girls
would squabble about me. I hate to have such
divinely interesting possibilities even men
tioned regarding another fellow, when I am
so near at hand and so worthy of your obser
vation, your attentions I may say, of your
love!"

" I should think," said Lyddy acidly, " that
you had had about enough of women squab
bling over you ! "



288 The Concentrations of Bee

This was a bomb sure enough, for Lyddy
had never before dared to bait Bob.

He did not even turn his head in her direc
tion, but his very ears grew hot as the blood
rose.

Then began poor Lyddy s punishment, for
Bob drew his chair close to Miss Clyde s and
for half an hour he murmured idiotic love to
her, carefully raising his voice whenever there
was a chance of Lyddy s hearing.

The girl answered in kind, but every ardent
word she spoke, she directed not at Bob, but
at Laflin Van Tassel, nor for one moment did
she remove the green, sleepy gleam of her
compelling eyes from his face.

This double game seemed to fascinate Bob,
for he flung himself more and more ardently
into it, until I decided that it was time to re
lieve the tension.

I have said before that I hate to hear open
love-making, and for a few moments, I cast
vainly about for a way to punish Bob for his
evening s work.

Suddenly I thought of Lyddy, and when no
one was observing me, I slipped into a vacant
chair beside her.

" Lyddy," I whispered, " I hate to hear
Bob talking like this, for after all, you know he
is engaged to you he is really your prop-



Bee Surmounts Another Obstacle 289

erty. Yet you heard Miss Clyde say she
would go after any man she wanted and get
him away from her rival "

I really did not look for so much success.
At my half expressed idea Lyddy clutched my
arm and turned purple in the face.

" Faith," she gasped. " Faith ! Help me to
get him out of it, and I ll do anything in the
world you want me to ! I ll I ll make you
a present a handsome present ! I ll even go
so far "

" You ve gone far enough, Lyddy! " I said
severely. " I ll help you for nothing, if you ll
only keep quiet. Let me think! How long
is it before Bob s wife can get her divorce?"

" The six months will be up on the 2Oth of
April, and it is now the 29th of March."

"Three weeks," I said. "Well, get Bob
to consent to be married about the first of May
and then promise to take him abroad if he will
give up this promiscuous love-making. It is
dangerous, Lyddy."

Again she gasped.

"I will," she whispered. "I will! I ll
have it out with him to-night. I ll never for
get that you suggested helping me, Faith Jar-
dine! I don t believe I ever understood you
before. Perhaps I have done you an injustice
in my thoughts."



290 The Concentrations of Bee

I did a little gasping on my own account
just here.

To think of stiff-necked old Lyddy acknowl
edging that she might be in the wrong! Per
haps I had not always done her justice, and
not to be outdone in courtesy, I hastened to
say so.

But she scarcely heard me. She was watch
ing Bob, who had twitched his chair closer to
Miss Clyde s and was now whispering to her.

Laflin watched her in fascinated silence, un
til suddenly she leaned slightly forward and
said :

" I am very tired. I must go."

Instantly he replied to her as if she had
commanded him:

" May I take you home? "

The girl smiled and turning her head side
ways, she shot a look of bright malice at Bee.

Again my sister controlled herself.

People got up and the Munsons prepared
to go. They were to spend the night with
friends in town.

Miss Clyde came to say good-night. She
spoke first to me, then she turned to Bee.

" Good-night," she said. " We can never
be friends, because we both want the same
man and I expect to get him, even if I have
to propose to him myself."



Bee Surmounts Another Obstacle 291

Although Miss Qyde lowered her voice so
that the men could not hear, Bee, Eleanor
Munson and I heard distinctly. I looked in
stinctively to see Eleanor repudiate such vul
garity, but she only smiled her aloof smile and
said:

" She is a direct little pagan, isn t she? "

And with a careless glance around the
studio, she remarked that it had been rather
a nice afternoon and went.

As the door closed behind her party, Bee
murmured fiercely in my ear:

" Not one pitying look from you ! I am a
match for her. Burst out laughing, stupid!
I m going to! "

And she laughed so close to my ear that I
jumped and bit my tongue.

But Bee was able to control not only others
but herself a far more difficult task, from
my point of view. And she was the life of
the party until everybody left, whereupon she
kissed me in a tired way and the Jimmies took
her home, together with Lyddy and Bob.

It must have been two weeks later when
Bee next spoke to me of Laura Clyde.

In the meantime Bee had never once sent
for Laflin even when she needed to see him
on business about the new house, which was
now being built. When she needed him, she



292 The Concentrations of Bee

wrote what she wanted and sent him out
alone. All the opportunities for being in his
society she pointedly neglected.

Finally one morning she showed me the fol
lowing extraordinary letter.

" Read this," she said. " It is from Miss
Clyde, and tell me what you think of it."

" Dear Mrs. Lathrop," it ran. " You will
not be in the least surprised to receive this
letter, because, after what I said to you the
last time we met, you will have been waiting
to hear from me.

" I did just what I said I would. I asked
him to marry me, and I ve never heard any
thing quite so awkward and painful and ab
surd as he was in the way he refused me.

" For refuse me he did, and I feel that you
have a right to know it for the game way you
have left the field clear to me.

" Perhaps it was your very gameness which
hurried me into precipitancy. I was getting
on, and perhaps, if I had waited, I could have
got him. But I don t know.

" It may interest you to know how I man
aged to get him out of your toils with such
apparent ease and celerity. I was in the per
gola at Coolmeath when you made your
famous volte face on the subject of architec
ture and I told him about it.



Bee Surmounts Another Obstacle 293

" It will give you some work to get around
his suspicion of your sincerity, but as my en
gagement to another man will be announced
Sunday, this will help you if you need help,
which I doubt.

" Only one word more, which believe me,
I offer in the friendliest spirit.

" You are going to have trouble in making
him propose, because he is simply a mass of
putty, with only an imitation spine.

" Good-bye and good luck. The bank-roll
of the man I got is not so wide as a church
door, nor so deep as a well, but twill serve.
" Very sincerely yours,

" LAURA CLYDE."

I dropped my hands helplessly at my side
when I finished, and Bee took the letter from
my nerveless fingers and held it carefully with
the tongs over the gas log.

" Well," she said tentatively.

" Well," I repeated, " that s the most curi
ous thing I ever read. It s a human document,
but somehow, in spite of its frankness, it seems
not as revolting as it should, because it s so
sportsman like! "

" She didn t care for him at all," said Bee.
" I was afraid, at first, she did."

" Do you? " I exclaimed suddenly.



294 The Concentrations of Bee

Then, for the first time in my life, I saw
my sister s face flush with honest feeling.

" Why, Bee! " I cried. " I didn t know ! I
rather thought

" It was, at first," answered Bee. " Then I
got to know him and I found that it would have
been the same even if he hadn t had a cent."

" But don t you think part of what this girl
said is true? He is vacillating and / think he
is soft."

Bee leaned forward.

" Do you remember James? " she said. " I
have had one husband of firm will, unbending
purpose and strong determination. I think
now I will take my chance with one where in
fluence counts for something. Poor James!
I think one reason for my great unhappiness
with him was because my one characteristic
the one you and Jimmie make such a fuss
about my ability to handle people and circum
stances, was entirely lost on such material as
James. It wore me out to try to influence him,
so I gave it up. With Laflin, it will be easy."

Then you think "I began dubiously.

Bee smiled.

" I think that in the year this poor man
has been a millionaire, he has been more run
after than anyone I ever knew in my life. I
shall be obliged to go carefully, but "



Bee Surmounts Another Obstacle 295

I smiled at the triumphant note in her voice.
What if, after all, her plans should miscarry?

" How about his suspicions of your sincerity
about the house ? You told me he thought you
were going to live there, but that you meant
to rent it."

" I know," said Bee. "But I have fully
decided to furnish and live in it."

" But won t you hate that? Its divine
beauty never did appeal to you."

" He loves it so, that if when we are mar
ried, I mean, he would probably have insisted
on living there anyway, so I ll simply begin to
order decorations and furniture, which will
refute his suspicions without a word from me."

" But Bee, that s, of course, terribly clever,
but how you will hate living in that isolated
place!"

Bee smiled.

" I sha n t mind it for a while! "

" But suppose he wants to stay ! "

"He won t," smiled Bee. "Things will
happen. They always do. He will suggest
moving! "

Yea, verily!

" Well," I said. " I can only repeat Laura
Clyde s words, Good-bye and good luck to
you! "



CHAPTER XX

PLANS

I CAN never understand why I am to
blame for everything which is, as Bob
says, " moral but distasteful," but the
fact remains that Bob blames me for his hav
ing at last been driven to bay and having to
marry Lyddy.

1 think he had rather hoped to go for a year,
or possibly more, in a state of engaged free
dom, pensioned and happy, but I, who never
look in more than one direction, before I leap
(which accounts for an occasional landing in
mud puddles, up to my knees), had, in order
to punish him, urged Lyddy to get Bob out of
his shocking probation.

Nor can I yet see that I did wrong. Bob
had no business to be left free to make love
to every woman he saw.

And I said so, when he accused me.

" I was a free man when I entered into that
ill-starred flirtation, queen of my heart, and
296



Plans 297

although I have seldom enjoyed anything
more than the sight of Lyddy s angel face
while I was making love to that little Miss
Clyde of Laflin s, yet, owing to your inter
ference, Lyddy nailed me for the role of Bene
dict on May first. Just think of it! I m to
be queen of the May, mother, I m to be queen
of the May! If you are awake, will you call
me early ? "

He made a wry face, got up, dropped his
cigar into the rose- jar, lighted a cigarette and
then continued :

" I don t like it, Ladybird ! I tell you, I
don t want to marry. I didn t even want to
marry Ava. I just like to be engaged. An
engagement has privileges and no responsibili
ties!"

" Bob Mygatt ! " I began explosively.

But Bob hurriedly interrupted me.

" Did you know that Ava and Shupe are
married ? " he asked hastily.

"No! Are they?"

" Married ! And Shupe has re-written
our play, The Alligator Pear Tree/
ruining it, to my mind, -but still he has got an
angel to produce it, and I suppose it will
make a hit ! "

"Did you give the play back to him?" I
asked.



298 The Concentrations of Bee

Bob nodded.

"Without any string to it?" I demanded
suspiciously.

Bob looked at me reproachfully.

" How you do suspect one ! " he murmured.

"But did you?"

" Don t stamp your foot at me like that,
White Princess ! You scare me so I can t talk.
Well then, I did retain a ten per cent, interest
in it, on account of all my work on it. The
thing was rotten when I took it! "

" Took it is good ! " I said scathingly.
" When you stole it ! "

Bob s face flushed such an agonized red that
I immediately repented my brutality. It s
funny how sensitive dishonourable people are.
Now if I had been able to get my own consent
to steal that play, you could have called me a
thief quite openly, and the verbal statement of
my deliberately dishonourable act would not
have added one whit to my discomfort.

Not so Bob. He was deeply sensitive
over having been caught and my mention of
it pained him in his tenderest conceit.

" Oh, well," he said finally, " it s all in a
life time, and the only reason you get blamed
for everything is because you are always so
ready and eager to jump into any fight going
on no matter what it s all about and so



Plans 299

gloriously willing to take sides. I think it is
bully myself."

" It may be bully," I said, smiling to think
what a lot of fun I have had fighting with
Jimmie, " but I get into heaps of trouble by
it."

" I am always in trouble," said Bob cheer
fully. " Just now I am worried to death won
dering what my fair Lyddy will wear the day
she leads me to the altar handcuffed to a
couple of deputy sheriffs. She does lean to
such courageous colours! I wonder if you
or "

" I am no good at a thing of that kind. Bee
is your party. Tell your troubles to her. If
I attempted it, it would get into the papers ! "

"Right you are!" he said, throwing his
cigarette stub into the fern dish, whence I care
fully took it and threw it not into his face,
as I felt like doing and said so but into an
ash tray. " I ll ask Bee."

He stood up to go and started to kiss my
hand, when he happened to think of something
else.

" Get on your things and come with me," he
suggested. " Then if my darling financier is
there too and I can t get a word with Bee, you
can tell her."

It isn t far to Bee s, and when we got there,



300 The Concentrations of Bee

Bee was making faces into the telephone trans
mitter and talking spasmodically with her eyes
closed.

Then we heard her say :

" Well, come on over. I m all alone. That
is to say, only Bob and Faith are here."

" Well, of all the nerve ! " murmured Bob.
" Evidently we don t count as much as a two-
spot. We only take up room, we do ! "

Bee laughed as she hung up the receiver.

" Who was it ? " I demanded.

" Hope Loring in a fit over a flirtation Mrs.
Cox is having with Jermyn. She says Cedric
only laughs at her fears, but she wants it put
a stop to, and I think I am just the one who
can help her out."

Bee s eyes are gray when she is at peace with
the world. They were green on this occasion,
and I could see that she had some neat plan in
mind to settle the affair of the slain rose on the
one hand and to spike the guns of a sister-
widow on the other.

I didn t particularly envy Mrs. Cox or Dr.
Bragg at that moment.

" Hope may make her mind easy," said Bob,
" Mrs. Cox has no intention of marrying Jer
myn. He s too poor. By the same token Dr.
Bragg is also safe safer than he wants to
be the old ninny ! "



Plans 301

Presently Hope came in, radiant in the
smart clothes brides find one of the perquisites
of marriage, and looking quite lovely.

Her sister, Sallie Fitzhugh, was with her,
and Bob at once began to reproach both sisters
with having married before they had fully
considered his attractions, and causing Hope
to flush gloriously with the way he called her
Mrs. Hamilton.

But he was not allowed to distract their at
tention from their main anxiety, for Hope, in
her straightforward, boyish way, plunged into
the heart of the matter, sweeping all conven
tional lukewarmness aside as if positive of our
sympathy and interest.

" Jermyn is so inexperienced and widows
are so clever," groaned Hope, entirely for
getting that Bee, into whose face she was gaz
ing, was also one of the class she condemned
so sweepingly.

" Oh, I beg your pardon, Mrs. Lathrop ! "
she cried realizing her mistake. " I forgot you
were one! Now, if I am not careful, I ll go
on and say but you are not clever like Mrs.
Cox, and so I ll simply make a bad matter
worse! But you know what I mean, don t
you?"

Hope s tone contained an agonized appeal
which Bee could not resist.



302 The Concentrations of Bee

"I do ! " she said with conviction.

"And you know this Mrs. Cox?" asked
Hope.

Bee s tone was fervent and replete with
feeling as she admitted that she knew the other
widow.

Bob leaned back in the window seat and
nursed his knee with an expression of enjoy
ment on his face which only appeared when
two or more human beings were about to fly
at each other s throats. At such times, Bob s
eagerness to help either combatant along was
truly touching.

" What makes you think Jermyn is inter
ested in Mrs. Cox? " I asked.

" Because he won t let me say a word
against her. He says she is innocent and
sincere and never encourages men to make love
to her like most wid

Hope stopped abruptly and clapped her
hands over her mouth.

"Oh, what is the matter with me?" she
moaned. " I am here in your house, asking
you to help me and insulting you in every sec
ond word ! "

" Don t mind ! " I said. " Bee isn t like
other widows. Her methods are entirely her
own. You could never mix her work with that



Plans 303

of any other unattached female. It s so dif
ferent."

Bob writhed and Bee bit her lip.

" Do you know a Dr. Bragg? " she asked.

" I ve met him," said Hope. " Beastly old
party! " she added frankly.

You must give a dinner and bring Jermyn
face to face with Mrs. Cox and Dr. Bragg,"
said Bee.

"Must I?" said Hope, doubtfully. "I
don t like Dr. Bragg and Cedric says he is a
bounder."

Th that s just what he is ! " stammered
Bob. " But I want to be there to see the fun.
Invite me, Mrs. Hamilton! Please do! "

" I ll see about it," said Hope, wrinkling
her pretty nose, as she thought of Lyddy.
" I ll make up a party for can you all come
two weeks from to-night?"

Bob s face fell.

That s the day of my funeral," he said.
" It s May first ! Have you all forgotten ? "

" Well, why not? " said Bee, eagerly. " It
would be all the more of an excuse. Give
them a bridal dinner, Hope. They can be
married at five o clock and sail the next
day."

" Suit yourselves ! " said Bob carelessly.



304 The Concentrations of Bee

" As long as it s got to be done, I don t care
how it s handled."

"Can you make Miss Lathrop agree?"
asked Sallie Fitzhugh.

" Can he? " I cried. " She s so tame, she ll
eat out of his hand."

" Bark, roll over and play dead," added Bob
gravely. " I ve trained her myself."

Hope jumped up and shook out her chiffons.

Then it s all settled. I can only have
twelve, because I only got my wedding silver
in dozens."

" You needn t invite us," said Sallie, " be
cause we are going to Lakewood Sunday to be
gone a week."

" I want the Jimmies "

" And us? Can t we come? " I begged. I
wouldn t have missed it for worlds.

" You bet you can," said Hope. " I ll need
you. Tell Mrs. Jimmie not to make any other
engagement until I can get my cards out."

" Don t you worry," I said. " Jimmie
would break an engagement to die and go to
heaven for a chance to see Bee lock horns
with Mrs. Cox."

" I ll ask Laflin," said Hope suddenly,
whereat Bee crimsoned and Bob stuffed a
pliable sofa pillow into his mouth.

I came away with Hope and Sallie, leaving



Plans 305

Bob to talk to Bee about Lyddy s choice of a
bridal gown.

" Hope," I said, as our ways parted, " make
up your mind for warm work at your dinner.
You are going to see two widows at their
best!"



CHAPTER XXI
LYDDY S FIRST AND BOB S SECOND WEDDING

MUCH to Lyddy s horror, Bob in
sisted upon being married on Fri
day, and as they were to sail on
Saturday, he had a reasonable excuse.

" The worse the day, the worse the deed,"
he observed gloomily. " I only wish I had
thought of it and I d have been married on
Good Friday. Last year three murderers were
put to death on that day."

Nevertheless, under Jimmie s cheering re
minders that Lyddy was going to take him to
London for the season, then for a yachting
cruise, then for a motoring trip, winding up
with Monte Carlo, where she had agreed to
stake Bob for the high play he had always
longed to indulge in, Bob revived.

I noticed that Jimmie s manner was peculiar,
as he was painting the delights which lay before
the bride and groom of European travel with
almost unlimited means.

We all knew that Jimmie had been particu
larly fortunate in business of late, for Mrs.
306



Lyddy and Bob s Wedding 307

Jimmie was fairly radiant over a pearl neck
lace which Jimmie had managed to get into an
eggshell and served to her on Easter morning
as if it were a soft boiled egg.

Aubrey s play had been produced in Plain-
field and had scored a success, but as no theatre
was available on Broadway, the managers de
cided to hold its New York production over
until September, so we had an empty summer
on our hands and no fixed plans.

This, however, did not disturb us, as plans
only annoy us and hamper our freedom.

Jimmie, on the contrary, likes to plan, even
if he changes his mind every day.

For another thing, he had come to like Bob
more and more and to make allowances for
his obvious faults. I think he felt that Bob
was getting all that was coming to him in
marrying Lyddy, and that it ill behooved us to
play the part of avenging angels and rub it in
any more. So that on Friday, May first, Bob s
wedding day and the day of Hope Hamilton s
farewell dinner to the bridal pair, Jimmie and
Bob were on the most amicable terms.

Although Lyddy wanted a white satin wed
ding, Bob and Bee finally chloroformed her
into a lavender crepe, heavily embroidered
with silver bullion, which looked better on her
than anything she had ever worn.



308 The Concentrations of Bee

She also wanted bridesmaids and flower
girls, but Bob put his foot down.

" Tis not decent," he told Aubrey and me,
" here I am a newly made grass-widower, with
the sod still sticking to me. I haven t been a
free man more than twenty minutes by the
clock, and for Lyddy to want to take the fu
neral baked meats to furnish forth the wedding
table is not in good form. Besides, I don t
choose to have you four gibbering idiots snick
ering at my misery from the pews. I wish we
could be married by a registrar and put the
announcement in that I once read in a western
paper So and So was married yesterday
afternoon to So and So. No cards. No cake.
No pie. Nobody s damned business !

We cheered him as best we could.

They were married from Bee s apartment
by the same clergyman who had buried James.

This was Lyddy s contribution to the gen
eral cheerfulness of the occasion. But Bee,
whose gleaming eyes could not help betray
ing the joy she felt at being for ever rid
of her incubus, would not refuse Lyddy any
thing, on this, her supreme day, so there was


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