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not even a remonstrance from poor Bee, whose
patience under Lyddy s final tortures was most
beautiful.

Lyddy had been a fiend for the last few



Lyddy and Bob s Wedding 309

weeks. Instead of being softened by her new
joy, she seemed alive to the incongruity of the
whole affair, and, as if suspecting all that we
were thinking, she took it out on all of us, as
if we had voiced our every thought.

But for Bee s sake we abstained from an
open break, consoling ourselves with the
thought that this was the end.

It was in such a temper that we gathered in
Bee s tiny drawing-room to see them married.

I was so nervous that I was shaking like a
leaf, and Aubrey actually had to hold one of
my hands to enable me to bear up under it.

" Be calm," he whispered to me whimsically,
" you needn t take it so hard. Remember it s
not you who are marrying Bob."

I smiled faintly, but I was not enjoying my
self.

Bob kept his eye nervously on the rug dur
ing the first part of the ceremony, and every
thing was going all right, until they came to
the part where Bob had to say :

" And with all my worldly goods I thee en
dow," whereupon the graceless scamp looked
directly at Jimmie and me and winked.

" Ah-gah ! " observed Jimmie in a loud tone.
It was not a sneeze, not a cough, but a cross
between the two, and instantly the blight of
grippe seemed to descend upon the entire com-



310 The Concentrations of Bee

pany, for such a session of sneezing and cough
ing seldom graces any occasion where snuff
is not also present. Or hay fever.

Bob was delighted. He straightened up
and made the final responses in a firm, com
posed tone. He saluted his bride bravely. He
accepted our congratulations with fortitude.
It made him master of the occasion.

We toasted the bridal couple in champagne,
then hurried home to dress for dinner, and at
eight o clock we gathered at the Cedric Hamil-
tons for one of the most amazing spectacles
of modern drawing-room warfare.



CHAPTER XXII

TWO WIDOWS AND THEIR WORK

IF the great game of life were simply a
husband-hunt, it could not have been bet
ter illustrated than at Hope s dinner,
where sat Lyddy and Bob, representing the
woman who boldly outbid another woman
for a husband and got what she paid for; Mrs.
Cox, who represented the Anne Whitefields of
this world women who reach out and grab
the man they want; and Bee, the artist, Bee
the dainty angler, Bee, the Perfect Widow!

When I said to Jimmie that Bee was in my
opinion the Perfect Widow, Jimmie said that
was going some, for widows are perforce the
most kittle of female cattle.

Nevertheless, besides her art, the work of
Mrs. Cox was coarse and crude. Mrs. Cox
evidently accepted the fact that Jermyn Lor-
ing s sister had invited her to dine in this inti
mate fashion and had sent her in on Jermyn s
arm, to indicate that she was a satisfactory
candidate in the eyes of a family notoriously
fastidious.

3"



312 The Concentrations of Bee

I may be conceited Jimmie says I am
but in Mrs. Cox s place I never could have
made such a crass mistake.

I would have asked myself a few common-
sense questions before my mirror, as, for ex
ample, what there was to recommend a forty-
year-old widow of small means and few at
tractions to a handsome, athletic, college grad
uate, in business for himself, and with his
father and mother and two beautiful sisters,
unmistakably in the best society which New
York can boast.

But some women seem strangely over-confi
dent. They are able to look themselves
squarely in the face and then bet on them
selves in a way to make an honest gambler
turn pale.

Sallie Fitzhugh would have been invaluable
that evening, for Sallie is a born diplomat and
can face down a most complicated situation,
while poor Hope, who is still only a bewitch
ing, grown-up child, more boy than girl, only
kept her agonized eyes on Jermyn and Mrs.
Cox until Bob, who sat at her right, merci
fully took her mind off her misery and made
a fool of himself in a noble cause.

Lyddy was gorgeously clad. Bee s artist
hand was visible in her every costume. She
had changed her wedding gown for a black



Two Widows and Their Work 313

gauze dinner dress, trimmed in Persian em
broidery with much colour and iridescence in
it. It had butterflies which stood out and
trembled and flashed their wings in the light.
Her fan and slippers were made to match and
a jewelled butterfly on a spiral was in her
hair, so that old Lyddy really looked wonder
fully well and Bob looked as if he could have
kissed Bee for making her so.

The dinner went along as usual for the first
half hour, Bob and Cedric Hamilton discuss
ing the relative merits of French and Italian
automobiles.

Dr. Bragg having been carefully placed, at
Bee s suggestion, directly opposite Mrs. Cox
and Jermyn, much to that widow s obvious
annoyance, gobbled his food with his custom
ary robust appetite and then, having satisfied
the first evident pangs of hunger, he had lei
sure to observe the methods of his lady love,
which he proceeded to do in a manner fairly
primitive in its barbarism.

Jermyn s head was close to the widow s, and
she was whispering to him behind her fan.

Dr. Bragg is large of bone, large of body,
clumsy of finger and thick of ankle. There
fore when he writhes in his chair, the joints
of said chair groan. When he fidgets with his
hands, he drops things.



314 The Concentrations of Bee

The butler had already picked up two forks
and given him another salt cellar for the one
he had upset, when Mrs. Cox came another
inch out of her low cut dinner gown and de
liberately pressed Jermyn s hand as he restored
her dropped handkerchief.

We all saw it, but nobody groaned aloud
except the doctor. He fairly bellowed in his
pain.

It was a sound no one could pass over in
silence, so we all looked at him. His forehead
was red and beaded with drops of sheer agony.

" What is the matter, doctor ? Are you
ill ? " asked Mrs. Cox in icy accents.

"No no, dear! I am not ill!" stam
mered the wretched man.

Jermyn turned and looked at Mrs. Cox.

" Why does that man call you dear ? " he
asked quietly.

"I I don t know! " murmured Mrs. Cox.
Then recovering herself, she said : " I didn t
notice that he did. But it is a little way of
his to call women he likes such names! Isn t
it, doctor?"

" It is not! " he roared. " And you know
it!"

If Mrs. Jimmie had kept still, the thing
would not have ended there, but in her dear,
gentle way, she restored a harmony which



Two Widows and Their Work 315

none of us wanted to see restored, by saying
in her kindest manner :

" Doctors do so much good in this world,
it is no wonder that they are sometimes over
wrought and nervous. You have been work
ing very continuously, haven t you, doc
tor?"

Everybody avoided looking at everybody
else. Jimmie stared hard at the end of his
cigarette, but his smile slowly widened and
finally he met my eye.

We never think of taking Mrs. Jimmie into
any of our little plots first, because she
wouldn t understand them; secondly, because
she would disapprove of them, and thirdly,
because she so seldom upsets them that it is an
unnecessary precaution.

This was one of the exceptions which
proved the rule.

But Jermyn was clever. And he was a
Loring, one of a family noted for their loyalty
to each other. He had been annoyed by the
remarks of his sisters about Mrs. Cox, never
theless he had been cautioned by them more
than he had been willing to admit. He knew
that both Sallie and Hope adored him and
had no thought in mind but his own welfare
and happiness. Furthermore, he had what
many a brother would be better off if he cul-



316 The Concentrations of Bee

tivated, and that is, a belief that a clever
woman s estimate of another woman is sure to
come true in the long run.

He had been sadly upset by his sisters at
tacks on Mrs. Cox, but he was under the spell
of her fascinations, and there comes a time in
every boy s life when an older woman fills his
imagination in a way no pretty girl can hope
to rival.

Jermyn was in this stage when his sister s
famous Rescue Dinner began, but I could see
that Dr. Bragg s evident agony Over Mrs.
Cox s flirtatious manner and the widow s
secret annoyance, which became every moment
more obvious, were not unobserved by the
young man. Consequently my opinion of him
rose in leaps and bounds. I have so long cher
ished a rooted conviction that men in love
were hopeless fools that this evidence on Jer-
myn s part to look before he leaped, gave me
much joy.

This time the tables seemed to be turned.
Ordinarily it is the woman who observes the
small signs and goes cautiously, and the man
who loses his head and rushes to his doom.
But the more Jermyn observed Dr. Bragg s
nervous and troubled mien ; the more he lis
tened to the doctor s endeavours to attract Mrs.
Cox s attention ; the more pronounced grew



Two Widows and Their Work 317

that lady s snubs to the long-suffering man,
the more Jermyn withdrew into his shell and
the more ardently the widow went after
him.

Hope s eyes were sparkling in triumph along
about the salad, but as for me, I had so many
other distractions that I lost track of that
affair every once in a while, in my acute inter
est in the others.

Laflin had never been so pronounced in his
attentions to Bee as he was that night. Hope
had sent him in with Bee, and the manner of
both Hope and Cedric indicated that Laflin s
choice met with their entire approval.

But, whether from Mrs. Cox s open hunt,
or from some secret reason, Bee s manner to
Laflin was cool and distant, while she was
more than charming to Cedric Hamilton, on
whose left she was seated Lyddy, the bride,
having the seat of honour on his right.

And it made Laflin nervous. Bee looked
simply stunning in white chiffon and no jewels,
and, to Lyddy s fury, younger than we had
ever seen her. I think it was a coup de theatre
of Bee s to come out in a gown emphasizing
her own youth fulness, on the day that Lyddy
would have given a fortune for Bee s lack of
years.

Bee s hair was done low in her neck and tied



31 8 The Concentrations of Bee

with a big white bow, such as young girls
wear, and while it was as mean a thing as only
a woman can think up, nobody could blame
her for this final stab at the redoubtable sister-
in-law, who had helped to make her life un
comfortable for years and years.

Nor was the final triumph of displaying the
devotion of the handsomest young millionaire
in town lacking to complete her triumph, and
the more indifferent Bee became, as Jermyn
whispered to me, " the more Laflin humped
himself."

Finally Jimmie fired the bomb he had been
considering, as I could see, for weeks.

" What sort of a machine are you getting,
Bob?" he asked.

Think we ll get an Isotta," answered Bob,
carelessly. " We want to hit her up, rather.
So I propose to get a machine warranted to
pass anything on the road."

Jimmie s cigar began to breathe and blink.

" Don t believe you ll be able to do that," he
said.

" Why not? " demanded Bob.

" Because I am going to take an American
machine over, and I ll bet that you never can
catch us."

I gasped, but Jimmie heard me. He turned
and grinned in my direction.



Two Widows and Their Work 319

" Think you and Aubrey could join us for
the summer?" he said.

I gave an ecstatic bounce in my chair, then
looked at Bee. But the widow s eyes were
discreetly cast down, so that she was also miss
ing the look of entreaty from Laflin.

" I don t like that arrangement at all," said
the bride, excitedly. " I want to get away
from people we know, and I don t propose to
go chasing at breakneck speed after the Jim
mies automobile, or to have them always chas
ing us. So let that end the matter before it
begins ! "

Everybody looked anxiously at Bob, but his
glance never wavered.

" I may buy just a racer with only room
for myself and the chauffeur for my own
sport," he said quietly. " But I rather think
it will be an Isotta. However, I shall leave
the final decision to Mrs. Mygatt. What shall
it be, Lydia?"

Lyddy s fan snapped. She glared at us,
like an animal at bay. Then she spoke, albeit
with a dry mouth.

" I will be satisfied with anything you de
cide, Bob, only I would like to go with
you!"

" Thank you," said Bob. Then turning to
Jirnmie, he said, " An Isotta touring car! "



320 The Concentrations of Bee

" How jolly it would be," said Jermyn, lean
ing forward, " if \ve could all meet over there
somewhere this summer! "

" Why, are you thinking of going? " asked
Hope, so eagerly that she clasped her hands on
the table in front of her.

" I had thought of it," said Jermyn. " The
Willings have ordered a new Mercedes, and
Cynthia rather wants me to join them at Aix
for a month s tour of France."

Hope nearly chanted the Te Deum in her
joy, for it had been a quarrel with Cynthia
Willing which had precipitated Mrs. Cox into
the arena.

Jermyn took this way of letting Hope know
of his change of heart.

For reply, Hope only held out her hand and
Jermyn wrung it without a word.

Bee looked up and smiled. Mrs. Cox saw
this and evidently was capable of putting two
and two together, for she murmured her apolo
gies for leaving early, and made as if to rise.

At that moment Hope rose from the table
and ordered coffee served in the drawing-
room. Jimmie and I were the last to leave the
dining-room, except Bee, whom Laflin openly
detained by taking her hand in his, regardless
of the English butler.

The ceiling to Hope s dining-room is a



Two Widows and Their Work 321

dome and has a curious echo, which accounts
for my halting Jimmie at the door with a gasp
of astonishment, for these words sounded
from the side wall in front of us :

" Take me, Bee ! I ve done everything you
wanted me to. I ve given up everything I
knew you couldn t stand, and I ve at last come
to the conclusion that I can t live without
you!"

Jimmie forgot to smoke in his excitement.
Of course we ought to have gone on or stopped
our ears or done something honourable. But
we didn t. We stood still and listened.

" Well," said Bee, with a little laugh, " when
I come to the same conclusion, after similar
deliberation and caution, I will let you know.
At present it is my intention to join the Jim
mies for a summer of motoring abroad ! "

Jimmie kicked at my skirts and we went
through the doorway in an ecstasy of silent
laughter.

" In that case," said Laflin in a troubled
voice, which held a new note of manliness in
it, " I shall buy a motor and follow you, even
if it is to the ends of the earth."

Bee cleared her throat as she always does
when she is pleased.

Jimmie wrenched my little finger and stam
mered :



322 The Concentrations of Bee

" For good work work with a fine, do
mestic finish work which will bear the clos
est inspection and compare favourably with
that of any other artist in her line give me,
- oh, give me, I say, the work of the widdy
Lathrop!"



THE END.



From

L. C. Page & Company s

Announcement List

of New Fiction

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By MORLEY ROBERTS, author of " Rachel Marr," " The

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A thrilling tale of mistaken identity, the scene of which
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Love ft Pioneer.



LIST OF NEW FICTION



THE MYSTERY OF MISS MOTTE

By CAROLINE ATWATER MASON, author of " The Binding of

the Strong," " A Lily of France," etc.

With frontispiece in color by Albert R. Thayer.

Cloth decorative $1.25

Mrs. Mason s story is a delightful combination of mystery and
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THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF QUINCY ADAMS
SAWYER AND MASON CORNER FOLKS

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TAG: YOU RE IT; OR THE CHIEN BOULE DOG

By VALANCE J. PATRIARCHE.

Illustrated. Cloth decorative $1.00

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his noneymoon) are all drawn with a fine humor.

The story is an exquisite bit of humor which will be read again
and again.



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