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dull black with no jewels and your speedome-

2O The Concentrations of Bee

ter registers : " Many miles have been tra
versed from that open grave. We are nearing
the frontier of a new country."

Then finally you leave off black and blossom
forth in pastel shades and lo! You are over
the border. You indicate to the world that
your dead is forgotten.

Is this not vulgar as well as cruel and often
untrue ?

Many bands of crape are worn for un-
mourned dead and much crape is finally laid
aside from wounds which never cease to

When will this unnatural custom be discon
tinued among the civilized?

Bee never puts on, except to the public and
then only to appease the public s own opinion.
Her husband had been a nuisance both to him
self and to others, so that Bee s mourning
merely consisted of a discreet dropping of the
eyes whenever his name was mentioned, a fin
gering of the black bordered handkerchief and
perfectly irreproachable clothes.

How she managed this last we never knew,
because she decried the act of a friend of ours
who was so willing to part with her husband
that she ordered her mourning tentatively the
first day the doctor pronounced his case hope

In Which Bee Takes a Hand 21

Bee disapproved of that. She said it was
heartless and unnecessary.

It was unnecessary for Bee, for all I could
ever detect in her irreproachable behaviour
during her brief but volcanic married life,
were lightning glances shot at every mourn
ing bonnet we saw glances so comprehen
sive that they served Bee s purpose, yet so
swift, that no one saw them but Jimmie and

But neither blamed Bee. Her husband was
also named James, but we are all quite sure
that nobody ever liked him well enough to call
him Jim.

James had been tall, thin, transparent, with
damp hands, wispy hair and a long, cold, red
nose. It was not the convivial cup which had
slightly reddened that unamiable member of
James features. As Jimmie said, we could
have forgiven him if it had been but James
nose was the thin, red nose of righteousness
and acquisitiveness. He simply loved to be
disagreeable, and in addition he was rich and
close. Which to the Jimmies, the Jardines,
and Bee, were three unpardonable crimes. We
all loved good humour. Whenever we had
money we strove to part with it as quickly and
buoyantly as possible and we never even kept
the change.

22 The Concentrations of Bee

Therefore we thought it quite handsome of
James to leave us to our own devices and go
where he would be more appreciated.

He left but one blood relative, a sister. She
was just like James except that his face was
yellow and hers was blotched with red. But
she was just as acidulous and the only time
either of them ever smiled was after a remark
or act which had made someone writhe.

James sister was named Lydia James al
ways called her " Lyddy " and she was a
hopeful spinster. Knowing that Bee did not
care for her, James gave Lydia a home with
them, which made my sister more wretched
than anything in the world except an ill fitting
gown. Thus Bee spent as much time away
from her husband and charming sister-in-law
as possible, and we profited by her most agree
able companionship in consequence.

The estate had been long in settling and at
first it was thought there was no will, but
finally one was discovered and it was Bee who
told me of its contents by word of mouth. She
never wrote to us about it while we were in
Europe. Bee writes the funniest letters I ever
read in my life. In one that I received in Po
land she said : " James lies snoring on the
couch in the library as I write. My life is
filled with just such poetry and romance."

In Which Bee Takes a Hand 23

Which was a sample of her courage and sense
of humour. She never complained of him.
As she said : " I had eyes and ears, and it was
all my fault." So then, she was too just to
take it out either on him or others.

In her place, I should have been a widow

But Bee is very just. She let him have his
chance to live.

Bee had been called away on business when
we arrived, so that we had been back from
Europe several weeks before we met.

She was most impressive, but although she
was doubtless as anxious to talk of her own
affairs as I was to hear her, she asked all about
us and our travels, before she permitted her
own plans to obsess her entire being.

Finally I took the plunge.

" Where are you going to live, Bee? "

" Here in New York! " said Bee, with scin-
tillant eyes. " Where else in Heaven s name
would anyone want to live ? "

" And we heard that a will was found ? "

" Oh, yes a most complete will, with every
thing arranged just as James wished to leave
things after him."

"Just as he wished them to be!" I cried.
" Then "

" Exactly! " said Bee, evenly. " The evil

24 The Concentrations of Bee

that men do lives after them ! with a ven
geance in this case. I don t really don t see
how he managed to arrange everything in so
complete a manner. He must have planned it
for years."

My heart sank. Too well, knowing our
dear James, I knew what that meant.

" But the house in Charityville," I said.
" I thought he wanted you to live there. How
do you get around that ? "

" I got Lyddy s consent to live here instead.
Anything that I can get her to do, can be done.
She is sole executrix as well as residuary

" Oh, Bee ! " I cried impulsively. " I am so
sorry for you ! "

" Thanks, dear," said Bee, smiling bravely.
" But I have had a year in which to be not
exactly reconciled, but accustomed to the
thought. James must have been planning
things for years."

" How are things left ? "

" It is as pretty a plot as you would ever
wish to see " began Bee, smiling.

" You mean where James is buried ? "

" No, I mean the way he left things. My
good husband must have cherished quite an
active grudge against me to have got his own
consent to take so long a chance."

In Which Bee Takes a Hand 25

" But I don t understand," I said impa
tiently. " Get along with your story! "

" You know how how thrifty James was
when it came to parting with money ? " in
quired Bee.

" I know it used to take the skin off his palm
when anybody could pry his hand loose from
a dollar," I said crossly.

" Well, before his death, he gave actually
gave to Lyddy all his interest-bearing income-
producing effects, so that "


" Exactly ! I had to take my widow s third
out of the Kokomo Land Company in other
words, I can get practically nothing until that
huge, unproductive tract of land is sold,
and "

"And what?" I cried.

" Lyddy doesn t care to sell ! "

I sat a moment in silence.

" Why Bee, where does that leave you?"

" Practically at Lyddy s mercy. At his
death, Lyddy was rich, James land poor. He
had given her every valuable thing in his pos
session in order to cheat me out of an in
come ! "

This news was so overwhelming that I could
think of nothing to say. But Bee, having had,
as she remarked, a year in which to accus-

26 The Concentrations of Bee

torn herself to the situation, had found her

Therefore she proceeded.

" I have had the best lawyers in such mat
ters at work ever since I discovered the situa
tion, and on all sides I find evidences of the
far-reachingness of his revenge."

" But his revenge for what? " I asked.

" I think," said Bee, slowly, " that he was
vexed because I could enjoy myself in spite of
him. I believe he was jealous because we
all of us could get away from him and have
fun out of everything. I think he hated laugh
ter and light heartedness and I know he hated
people with a sense of humour. You remem
ber how particularly he disliked Jimmie?"

"And me!" I said grimly. "He used to
look as though he would enjoy throwing rocks
at us when we howled about nothing at all
which to me is one of the joys of living."

" I know it is. And you have largely taught
that view to me. Anyhow, if it hadn t been
for you and the Jimmies, I couldn t have stood
it I d have gone mad."

" It s too bad James was what he was," I
said mournfully. " We d have been so glad to
take him on, if he d been a decent sort. But
he was he was

" I know," said Bee evenly. " He was! "

In Which Bee Takes a Hand 27

" Well, but how are you going to live? " I

" Oh," said Bee. " I have something a
tiny income, a third of the furniture, a third
of James personal effects

" A third of his old clothes ! " I suggested

Bee smiled.

" Quite so ! And "

" Well, go on ! What are you smiling at ? "

" Don t be so impatient," said Bee.

" But you are so slow ! " I cried.

" Well, Lyddy has aspirations. It s too
funny," she went on hurriedly, seeing by my
lowering brow that I still did not understand
and would not have much more circumlocu
tion Bee does love to produce an effect ! -
" but Lyddy too, has evidently been jealous
all the time, of our fun, for she proposes to
temporize she practically offers to put the
Kokomo land on the market, if I will, as she
puts it, live under the same roof with her/
which I translate to mean "

" Not that we ll have to take Lyddy on! "
I whispered in a horror so actual and so ex
cruciating that Bee must have been deeply
pleased at the genuineness of my emotion.

Bee took her lower lip between her teeth
and slowly nodded her head.

28 The Concentrations of Bee

I flung myself face downward on the couch.

" Oh, don t cry ! " said Bee anxiously.
" Have you lost all faith in me? Don t you
know that I still propose to to manage mat
ters somewhat? "

" I cannot see one thing beyond the fact that
Lyddy Lathrop is the most unalterably dis
agreeable person I ever knew in my life and
that the fact of her wanting to come with us
would destroy every vestige of my enjoyment
in life. All I ve got left is Aubrey! "

"True! " said Bee. "You ve got him and
she can t get him away from you nor even
crowd in between. But Faith "


" Listen a minute."

" I m listening, but I must say that I don t
see a way out of it for any of us. What
are you going to do first ? "

" I am supposed to be moving at this very
minute," said my sister calmly.

"Moving!" I cried explosively. "Where
to? Why didn t you tell me? Where are you
going to live? In a hotel or an apartment?
Or a house? Near here? "

" Don t stop, Faith ! " said Bee. " It s sheer
music to hear you reel off your observations
like that. One learns so much of life from
your fervid conversation."

In Which Bee Takes a Hand 29

I grinned at her. Her sarcasm sounded like
old times.

" You know those ducky new apartments
next to where the Fitzhughs live? Well,
Sallie Loring told me that Cedric Hamilton
had taken one for himself, so I went to look
and what do you think? There is a front one
on the third floor just right for me and another
just back consisting of three rooms, a bath
and kitchennette which Lyddy wants. So we
had the landlord cut a door between, and there
we shall be, both literally under one roof and
living amiably "

" But with separate latch keys ! " I cried in
overpowering admiration of my sister s clever

" How wonderful that Lyddy should have
wanted that apartment ! " I said.

Bee permitted herself a slow smile at my
tribute to her powers of persuasion.

" It is the best I could do under the circum
stances," said Bee modestly. " Lyddy desires
to become one of us. She has acute matri
monial aspirations. She has unlimited ready
money at her command. She can be led to do
almost anything if one goes about it properly,
but in order to do it properly "

" To do her properly," I suggested.

30 The Concentrations of Bee

" Quite so," agreed Bee. " One must know
her peculiarities. / know them."

" Unhappily you do," I murmured.

" And I propose to do the best I can. Al
though she makes conditions "

" Conditions ? What sort ? "

Bee waved her hand.

" Conditions which you will soon learn for
yourself. I propose to circumvent her in
every possible manner, because I consider
James will outrageous and because it annoys
me to discover myself in a cul de sac, whence
nobody expects me to emerge. Therefore I
choose to interpret her commands one way -
she declared that she and I must live together
under one roof or she practically threatens
never to allow the property to be sold, thus
leaving me with an income of less than I ever
had before in my life."

I looked at my sister in pity. Truly for a
young woman who was not condemned in
some past existence to expiate a life spent in
misdeeds, she had about dreed her weird in
this. Almost every sort of domestic, mental
calamity which could be imagined had been
hers. She seemed no sooner to rise from one
dizzying blow than she was felled to earth by
another. Her friends never knew what sort
of burdens she bore, for her indomitable pride

In Which Bee Takes a Hand 31

bade her bear them in secret, but I always
knew and sometimes the Jimmies did.

Through it all, the thing which made us
adore her was her uncrushable, implacable will
to stand upright under everything. She never
seemed to scramble to her feet x bruised and
covered with dust. She rose gracefully and
we always found her immaculate and scornful
of our pity.

In fact she never pitied herself. Her sense
of justice was so keen, she nearly always saw
why these things came and she resolutely set
herself to overcome them. She had worked
out a philosophy of cause and effect which was
rigidly self searching and which constantly
dared its adherents to look themselves straight
in the eye. You can t flinch much if you do

Bee was always hopeful, superbly patient in
regard to ultimate success, though quite hu
manly impatient of daily obstacles and imped
iments. She seldom asked help of anybody
and on the rare occasions when she did, it was
always exactly in the line of one s work and
therefore not only easy to give but reasonable
to be asked to give it.

Thus when my sister found herself with
ample means so tied up that to get even her
share she must placate, pacify and cajole an

32 The Concentrations of Bee

unpleasant elderly person, and with the added
abomination of being obliged to live without
daily fights with the most impossible of old
maids I had ever encountered, I should not
have been surprised to see Bee s spirits flag.

Not a bit of it!

She was capable of attending not only to
her own affairs with magnificent courage, but
of lending a hand in the administration of
ours. And the way she concentrated on us,
on Lyddy, on Bob Mygatt and his mix-up, to
say nothing of Laflin Van Tassel and our af
fair with the Munsons is worthy of being told
by one more skilled than I.

" And how about yourself? " she said, after
we had finally left off discussing hers, chiefly
because in our fluency, we had left nothing

" Well, we we have rented a studio
apartment in the Buckingham studios

" Not the Munsons ? " said Bee in a muf
fled voice, seizing my arm with a grip as if
I had said that I had rented a ward in a de
tention hospital.

"Yes, why?"

Bee leaned back in her chair and looked at
me. It was the hopeless look of the finally

" Do you know that there are folding doors

In Which Bee Takes a Hand 33

between Eleanor s studio and the one you have
taken ? " she said.

" Yes."

" You know that? But perhaps you haven t
signed the lease? "

Her tone was distinctly hopeful.

" Yes, we have."

" Well, my advice to you if you care for
it which perhaps you don t? "

" Yes, I do. What do you advise ? "

" I advise you to nail up that door. Brick
it up ! And see as little of the Munsons as pos

" But Bee ! What are you talking about ?
The Munsons are the most charming people
we know except the Jimmies ! "

" That s just why ! I want you to stay
friendly. With an open door between you,
you might see each other every day."

" I am going to send them their lunches
and "

" Good Heavens, Faith ! Sometimes I think
you are only half witted ! " said Bee slowly.

Now if her tones had been heated I should
have resented her words. But she seemed to
speak more in grief than in anger.

" And when they want to stay in town over
night I am going to let them sleep in our
studio or roll our big couches into Eleanor s/

34 The Concentrations of Bee

I continued valiantly, thinking- it well for her
to know the worst.

" There remains but one thing more to com
plete your utter ruin and that is for you to
have money transactions with each other," said
Bee. " That would certainly complete the
catastrophe. And if you rent from him you d
have to! "

At that I remained ominously silent and Bee
saw that she must explain without further

" You know the Munsons reputation for,
well to put it mildly, eccentricity. / don t
call it that. I consider them stark mad. I
suppose Aubrey would call it the insanity of
genius and that you both actually derive
amusement from the history of their career.
But to me they are dangerous because they are
unknown quantities. They are social dyna
mite. Liable to blow themselves and all asso
ciated with them into infinitesimal bits with
out warning and without excuse. They are
governed by no law. They are unaware of
conventions. Munson confides their most pri
vate affairs to chance acquaintances, and any
thing told in confidence to him is current prop
erty inside of an hour. Munson simply leaks
information into every open ear he passes.

" Now, you are about as safe with them as

In Which Bee Takes a Hand 35

a blazing match over a gasoline tank. You
will go to mothering them, for they are either
forlorn objects, worthy of anybody s pity, or
else arrogantly soaring over the heads of even
the richest and most successful. Just now,
being down, they will appeal to you. You will
work to get them orders, you will slave to
make them comfortable. You will torment
your friends to death trying to serve the Mun-
sons, and all of a sudden, when you least ex
pect it, somebody he has only known half an
hour will tell Munson that you, in your airy,
funny way, have said something about him
or his work, and without even coming to you
decently to discover whether you did or not,
Munson will turn on you, talk about you, tell
everything he knows about you and insult you
in a way you never will forgive. Then inside
of two weeks he will come in^ with a smile,
ask for a whiskey and soda and begin just
where he left off. In other words Munson
will have forgiven himself for having insulted

I listened to Bee with freezing marrow.
Although I had never had the pleasure of a
quarrel with Munson, I knew by the accuracy
of Bee s observations on other phases of life,
that she was perfect right on this matter.

" But he is so charming," I said. However

36 The Concentrations of Bee

I said it as one speaks of a being who has
passed out of one s life.

" Personally I don t find him so. I like
Eleanor. There is more foundation to her.
But Munson has the same damp, lifeless hand
shake that James had," said James widow.

"Good Heavens!" I cried. "So he has!
I never thought of it before."

" Rest assured," said my sister, " that char
acteristics show in trifles like that. I don t say
just because they shake hands alike, that
James and Munson have similar characteris
tics. I only say that something within tells
me to shun Munson that is, to shun famil
iarity with him."

" I believe so much in the way a man shakes
hands," I faltered. Bee s calling my atten
tion to this hitherto unnoticed characteristic
had shaken my faith in Munson more than all
she had said of her own opinion of him.

" So do I. Now, the lifelessness of James
grasp meant chiefly an unwillingness to give
out anything he could keep for himself,
whether sympathy, human interest or money.
With Munson "

" With Munson," I interrupted, " it means
only a different branch of complete self-ness,
for both Munson and Eleanor are an incarna
tion of the word Ego. They give yes, you

In Which Bee Takes a Hand 37

could have their money, or the clothes off their
back, because they don t value such things!"
I cried, growing more and more excited in
my sudden understanding of them, " but as for
any interest in me or you or Aubrey, or our
work why, Bee ! I told Munson eleven
times about Aubrey s new play, and as we
parted, he said : By the way, is Aubrey doing
any writing these days ? He simply hadn t
heard the sound of my voice when it was not
discussing his affairs !

" Exactly," said Bee, evenly. " Don t get
so excited, Faith. You have known all this

" No, I haven t," I said despondently. " I
didn t realize it until you called my attention
to it."

" Well, don t go up in the air about it. You
are probably planning to cut the Munsons off
your list. Why can t you moderate your wor
ship of your friends? Why must all your
geese be swans? "

" Well, for one thing, I will take your
advice and not let Aubrey borrow money from
him," I said.

" I should think not. And for another
thing, don t get behind in the rent even for
a day. For he will tell it on you far and near,
and he will hide behind the fact that you owe

38 The Concentrations of Bee

him money to stave off every creditor he pos

Again I shivered.

" As an example of how his ignorance of
business injures people, a man of means agreed
to pay him a certain rent for his old studio
quarterly. Yet Munson told me six weeks ago
that his tenant had gone to Mexico owing him
six hundred dollars, and he gave me the im
pression that the man had absconded. Mun
son said he might have to bring an action to
get his rent. Since then every time I have
heard this man s name mentioned I have ex
pected to hear of his arrest. Yesterday I
heard that he will be back in three weeks and
the rent isn t even due until January. I tell
you, Faith Jardine, Edward Munson is the
most dangerous man a woman like you could
interest herself in."

" What kind of a woman am I, Bee? "

Bee leaned back and crossed her feet. I
could see that she intended to enjoy herself.

" What kind of a woman are you ? " she
repeated, not to gain time, but as a sort of
appetizing hors d ceuvre to the mental meal of
which she was about to make of me.

Just then the telephone rang and I flew to
answer it.

"It s the Jimmies!" I announced beam


YOU are just in time," I said as we
greeted them, " to assist at a clinic! "
" A what? " said Mrs. Jimmie.

"A clinic!" I repeated. "At my earnest
request Bee was about to give me her unvar
nished opinion of me."

You have been under the knife so often,"
said Jimmie, " I should think you wouldn t
even need chloroform."

" Indeed she has not," said Bee, warmly.
" Faith very seldom hears the truth about her
self. Aubrey flatters her to death, and I never
express the whole of my opinion unless asked
for it."

" But Bee, dear, don t you admire Faith the
way we all do? " asked Mrs. Jimmie uneasily.

" I admire her good points extravagantly,
dear Mrs. Jimmie," said Bee. " But in spite
of them, I think I really think that Faith
is the most uncomfortable person to live with
I ever knew in my life."

40 The Concentrations of Bee

I drew in my feet a trifle, involuntarily, and
Jimmie fumbled in his pockets hurriedly.

" Wait a minute, Bee," he begged. " Just
wait till I find a match."

He hastily lighted a large, black cigar,
leaned back, blew a long, thin line of smoke
in the air, grinned and said:

"Now, Bee!"

I expected this of him. He was simply
delighted at the prospect of seeing me dis

" First of all," began Bee, " you are never
consecutively truthful. You are a creature of
moods. You analyze yourself for the amuse
ment of others, not intending to deceive, but
you do deceive."

Jimmie laughed until he choked on cigar

" But," continued Bee, " your fibs are al
ways at your own expense. You never really
do the terrible things you declare yourself
capable of doing, so that really you are much
finer than you believe yourself to be."

Jimmie looked so astonished nay, so flat
and so distinctly disappointed at this that I had
to laugh. I was immensely flattered, but to
tell the truth, I was as much surprised as he
was. Not once in a million years does Bee
say anything decent to me, for while we adore

From a Sister s Point of View 41

each other, we simply loathe each other s ideals
in life. I consider mine much higher than
Bee s, but she is positive that nobody but a
fool would cherish mine and that hers reflect

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