Lilian Bell.

The concentrations of Bee online

. (page 6 of 15)
Online LibraryLilian BellThe concentrations of Bee → online text (page 6 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


love to my mother. She is large and fat, yet
Bob sits at her feet and traces resemblances
to me in her appearance - yet everybody says
I look like father s family until she laughs
herself red in the face. And, much to her dis
comfiture, he propels himself all over the room
in a sitting posture, clasping his knees if he
moves. And if she says to him with great
severity : Mr. Mygatt, did your mother never



HO The Concentrations of Bee

teach you manners ? he always says earnestly :
No, Mrs. Corliss, she left all that to you !
Then of course it s all over and after that
she can t do anything. Secretly she adores
him."

I began to wish the Nice Girl hadn t called.

" Well, about this trouble between you," I
said, hastily changing the subject. " How
does it stand now ? "

" Practically just where it stood before. We
are still engaged, but his offering to pay poor
Mr. Shupe for those lyrics isn t the trouble.
It s because after seeing the way he acted
about it, how can I be sure that the rest of
The Alligator Pear Tree is his? Do you
know, I have never put it into words before,
and I hate to now, but Bob Mygatt actually
has no conscience! "

" Do you know what / think is the matter
with him? " I said.

"No, what?"

" I believe that he actually doesn t know
right from wrong when he sees them ! "

Ava Corliss leaned back in her chair and
her hands fell at her sides totally relaxed.

"That is the truth!" she cried. "That
explains everything about him that has ever
puzzled me. Yes, that is it. It isn t that he
is consciously bad. He simply doesn t know."



Bob s Engagement III

She half way closed her eyes and thought
seriously for a moment. Then she said :

" That point of view alters everything. I
think I see my duty now."

"Do you always do your duty?" I asked
with awe. Duty to me was always the one
thing I exercised every faculty to get out of
doing.

" Oh, yes," she said, with an exalted look.
"Don t you?"

" Er oh, yes. Yes, of course," I said,
hastily. I remembered just in time that Bob
said she had no sense of humour. I began to
see why he said so. Her manner after she
spoke of duty and the peculiar look in her eyes
indicated a faint trace of the fanatic. I re
membered, too, what Bob said about her scru
ples.

When luncheon was announced, I begged
her again to join me, but she refused with
lifted head, and hastily said good-bye. I came
back after showing her out, pondering over her
unusual beauty and the strangeness of her en
gagement to Bob Mygatt.

The next bulletin came from Bob in the
shape of a note.

" Many thanks for your advice, dearest and
best of ladybirds," he wrote. " Everything
has come out O. K. I told her I had paid for



112 The Concentrations of Bee

those lyrics and the lie went down her pretty
white throat like an ice cream soda on a hot
day. But God keep her from ever meeting
Shupe. Even if we were married, I believe
she d leave me if she ever found out. Ava is
still to sing the role of Allie Gayter and we
open in New Haven on the I2th. Can t you
all make up a party and come up for the pre
miere? With dearest love, as ever, Bob."

" P. S. Of course you know, dear heart
of ice, that I am not naturally a villain. I
am only drawn into sin by my poverty. I am
over ears in debt and couldn t spare a sou for
Shupe to save my immortal soul from the
devil s frying. So keep my sekert! Bobbie."

I will own that by this time I was thor
oughly startled. Bob liked me, I was sure.
I was equally sure that he valued my good
opinion. Why, then, should he confess to me
that he had deliberately lied to the woman he
loved, unless he thought it was no harm and
was sure I would agree with him? Didn t
this prove that Bob didn t know right from
wrong?



CHAPTER VIII

NAPOLEONIC STRATEGY

IN my fond but foolish intention of giving 1
Bee s affairs a lift by arranging for her
to meet the man she had decided to marry,
I reckoned without my host. I had forgotten
how competent my sister was at managing her
own affairs. But I soon had my attention
called to the fact by a series of events, small
in themselves, yet significant when viewed in
their proper sequence and perspective.

The first was the assiduity with which Bee
cultivated Hope Loring s friendship, instead
of Sallie Fitzhugh s, who was of her own kind,
while the tomboy Hope was decidedly out of
my sister s orbit.

Laflin was Hope s favourite cousin, and
those two, with Hope s brother Jermyn were
all crazy over athletics, speedy motors and all
the forms of active sports which Bee secretly
disdained. Therefore, I was once more forced
to a reluctant admiration when I discovered
that Bee had consulted Mr. Loring, Hope s
father, about her affairs, for I at once sus-
"3



114 The Concentrations of Bee

pected that she intended to reach Laflin
through his interest in his profession. Just
how I did not see. But I knew that I should
soon discover.

The next thing I knew we were all invited
to Coolmeath to a polo match on the borings
private polo grounds.

Coolmeath was on the Hudson in the Po-
cantico Hills, and had been repurchased by
Mr. Loring very advantageously for Hope,
with her own money made so miraculously
during her mysterious illness.

Although it stood in Hope s name, as was
usual with this devoted family, they were all
there, with Mrs. Loring at the head of the
house, just as she used to be when Coolmeath
was theirs before their loss of fortune.

It was vaguely understood that Hope and
Cedric Hamilton would take it over when they
were married, but nobody who knew Hope,
placed much faith in the rumour, for Hope
knew as much about housekeeping as a Mal
tese kitten, whereas she was an authority on
polo and football and all the heroic accom
plishments that a gentleman like herself should
practise.

Jimmie took Bee, the Angel, Mrs. Jimmie
and myself in his motor. Lyddy had an en
gagement with Bob, so miraculously timed as



Napoleonic Strategy 115

almost to suggest the hand of Providence or
Bee, so we did not have to bother with her.

When we arrived, we found the Fitzhughs,
the Lorings, including Jermyn and his present
inamorata, Miss Cynthia Willing, Stony Stew
art and his wife and a number of young peo
ple, who carried themselves with so much
importance we felt that we ought to know
them, and were quite humiliated at being
obliged to be introduced.

Laflin Van Tassel had not yet arrived, but
was expected, and was bringing with him Mrs.
Pakenham and Miss Amy Levering.

These names told me nothing, but I saw by
the way Bee lifted her head and allowed the
green in her eyes to supplant the gray, that
she knew. I managed to ask her :

" The chaperon at his dinner at Sherry s,"
she answered cautiously, without moving her
lips, and the one we called the Girl in White.

" The one who did the ordering? " I whis
pered.

She nodded her head invisibly.

" I must tell Aubrey. He is still wondering
what she wanted to change that last order
to!"

Bee smiled. Then reluctantly she allowed
herself to be removed to the polo field.

The game was delightful. Hope played,



116 The Concentrations of Bee

looking like a pretty boy in her linen divided
skirt and her smart brown boots, and Cedric
Hamilton and Jermyn and Stony Stewart, all
the boys in fact, were worshipful as ever, and
even more devoted and tender because of her
wretched illness and her plucky recovery.

I saw Laflin when he came, but there was
no opportunity to introduce his party to Bee.

When the game was over and we all went
back to the pergola and the marquee for re
freshments, Sallie Fitzhugh happened to say
that they were thinking of building, and asked
Mrs. Jimmie what her idea of a summer cot
tage was.

As Laflin and Miss Levering had not yet
arrived from the polo grounds, there was
nothing for Bee to do but listen and join in
the discussion, which at first sounded decid
edly desultory, because Bee was permitting
her attention to wander.

" Yes," I heard my sister say, " I think you
are quite right, Sallie. Go by all means to
a spot which has neighbours. What do you
want to pioneer for? Why wade in mud while
roads are being built? Why wait for lights
and telephones to be installed, unless you can t
afford to go where luxuries of this sort are
already put in? You, fortunately, can afford
anything ! "



Napoleonic Strategy 117

" But Greenacre is very conventional my
husband calls it smug."

" But it is also distinctly fashionable," said
Bee. You are sure of your neighbours. The
keynote of a proper mode of living has already
been struck and the others have had the good
taste to chime in."

" I will admit," said Sallie, " that conven
tionality pleases me just as well as it does you,
Bee. But lately since we

" Since you have been seeing so much of
the Jimmies," said Bee, with faint scorn, " you
have felt ambitious along their lines, have you?
I know how it feels. It infects me at times.
But I always cross my ringers when I feel the
first symptoms. Take my advice, Sallie. Don t
you try to be original. You d only end in
being queer."

" I believe you are right," said Sallie, smil
ing, " but I wish you would convert Laflin
to your point of view. He wants me to build
in a tree or under ground, with subterranean
passages and tunnels and hanging gardens
anything in the world to be different from
everybody else. The only trouble would be to
find a spot original enough for his originality."

It is not often that my sister, Mrs. Lathrop,
sets a trap, baits it, then deliberately walks
into it and hears it snap on her own little paw,



Il8 The Concentrations of Bee

but that is exactly what she had been doing
in the last quarter of an hour.

The expression on her face was w*orth look
ing at. She made no reply, but I saw by her
rapidly changing countenance, that she was
where it would require some of her finest men
tal work to extricate herself without showing
where the trap had nipped her.

" Here they come," said Sallie. " Laflin
and Amy, absorbed as usual."

She beckoned to the slowly strolling couple,
who quickened their pace and joined us in
the pergola.

The pergola to my mind was the loveliest
spot in all Coolmeath. It was covered with
climbing roses and honeysuckle, and, except
for the bees, who evidently were as partial to
its cloying sweetness as I was, it was ideal
in its loveliness.

Personally, however, I am on terms of the
most distant politeness with bees, and except
for the time when Jimmie s bulldog chased
my cat and then carelessly sat down on a bee
to cool off, I have never been in sympathy
with bees method of drawing attention to
themselves.

That one time, however, justified their ex
istence. The bee, I remember, did not go with
the dog as he set off on his second heat, which



Napoleonic Strategy 119

was just as well, for at the rate he was trav
elling when he disappeared over the hedge,
even the weight of a bee would have been a
distinct handicap.

I mention the occurrence at this point, be
cause as Laflin and Amy Levering entered the
pergola, a bee flew into her hair and there was
some little confusion before Laflin got it out,
so that their introduction was very informal,
for we were all talking at once, and it was
some moments before Sallie brought the con
versation back to the building of cottages,
which she did by saying :

" I am sorry to say that we are all against
you, Laflin, in your suggestion to branch out
and build in an unusual way."

" I am not surprised," said Laflin, with the
young architect s usual weariness in encounter
ing conventions, " although I did hope "

" You did hope that our being relatives, you
could bamboozle us," said Norman Fitzhugh,
" into being into being "

" The yellow dog for you to try your in
cipient architectural madness on," said Jim-
mie. " But they won t any more than I
would ! Experiments cost money, son ! "

"I know! I know!" said Laflin. "It s
the same old story. I can get all the work I
want, on planning hideously commonplace



I2O The Concentrations of Bee

houses for people with no imagination, on
grounds which are flat and uninteresting. All
that most of my clients seem to care for is a
strip of beach or golf links. They haven t a
soul for the artistic or the odd or the surprises
which an imaginative mind can create out of
even one acre of land full of rocks and "

" What Laflin would like," said Hope,
" would be for someone to let him build a
house on top of a telegraph pole, to be reached
by an escalator or an airship! "

"No!" cried Jermyn, "that wouldn t be
sufficiently artistic. He wants to build a castle
on a rock in mid ocean, to be reached by all
sailing craft and ocean liners. It could be
rigged out with wireless, and supplies could
be fetched by balloons."

" Nonsense! " said Laflin. " You make me
out a crazy fool! I hope Miss Levering does
not believe you! "

The young man, who was handsome beyond
most men, turned and looked at the dainty
creature at his side, and I heard Bee s invis
ible plumage rustle.

" I wonder," said my sister slowly, " how
much of this she paused and looked di
rectly at Laflin and Amy Levering, " nonsense
I am to believe! I wonder if I have really
found at last " (Her delicate emphasis



Napoleonic Strategy 1 21

would seem to indicate that she had searched
with, oh, such weariness ! over half the world
and for many a long and tee-jous year!) " an
architect with sufficient soul and imagination
to appreciate the possibilities of a piece of
property so odd and artistic that I have hith
erto been actually afraid to spoil things by
planning to utilize its odd beauty instead of
subduing it by a modern and conventional
building!"

No less than ten pairs of bewildered eyes
were fastened upon my sister as she grace
fully delivered this amazing speech. Sallie
and Norman Fitzhugh in surprise; Jimmie
and I in silent delight, but poor Laflin Van
Tassel in the fascinated unbelief of one who
fears his ears are deceiving him. He knew
Bee s reputation for being a widow with
abundant means, and in the ardour of his pro
fessional zeal, he visibly detached himself
from the girl at his side and edged nearer to
my sister.

" The main feature of the property," Bee
went on, " is a huge gray rock, which juts
out into the Sound. I want the house built
on that. There is a sheer drop of two hundred
feet to the sea below. On one side, some
straight pines grow on the slope below, so that
a veranda built there would let those trees up



122 The Concentrations of Bee

through its floor. On the land side, the
ground is as flat as my hand, so that I could
have a garden full of old fashioned flowers."
(I stole a look at Aubrey just here, remem
bering Bee s education from Lady Mary and
Sir Wemyss Lombard at Peach Orchard, and
the Angel winked at me solemnly.) " But,
unless, Mr. Van Tassel, you could be in sym
pathy with such an idea, I fear my dream will
never be realized."

" My dear Mrs. er "

" Lathrop," said Bee, gently, but secretly
wild because he had not remembered her
name.

"Pardon me! Mrs. Lathrop," stammered
the young architect. "If you would honour
me by entrusting such a glorious opportunity
to me, I would be I would enjoy simply
drawing up the plans of such a place, whether
you ever accepted them or not."

" Oh, but," said Bee, smiling at him slowly,
" if you drew them up, as I am sure you could,
from all I have heard to-day, I would build
and count myself fortunate indeed to secure
such an architect."

" You just bet she would," murmured Jim-
mie in my ear. " Isn t Bee a wonder ! Good
old Bee ! "

"How large is the place?" asked Laflin,



Napoleonic Strategy 123

eagerly. In his preoccupation he turned a
little more from Amy Levering-. But my sis
ter is never rude unless she wishes to put some
upstart in his or her place, so she turned grace
fully to the girl and said :

" I m afraid all this is rather a bore to the
young people, isn t it, Miss Levering?"

" Oh, no ! " exclaimed the girl, smiling re-
sponsively. " I am always interested in any
thing which tends to make my own country
as beautiful as the places abroad."

Bee moved slightly and Amy came and sat
beside her, whereat Laflin frankly planted
himself in front of the two and plunged into
the subject afresh.

" I m sure Miss Levering means what she
says," said Laflin eagerly. " She is very sin
cere." He turned and smiled at the girl in
a way which was not lost upon Bee. " How
many acres are in your property, Mrs. "

" I am not sure," said Bee vaguely, " nor
could I give you its exact location. I only
know that it is miles from a single habitation.
There one could be absolutely alone with na
ture. And such nature! But if you are really
interested if you think you would care to
investigate and see if I have overestimated its
possibilities, why, I will look the matter up and
arrange "



124 The Concentrations of Bee

" Arrange for me to go with you some day
and see it ? Could you do that, Mrs. er "

" Lathrop! " prompted Bee with an expres
sion in her eyes which would have warned
anybody but a fool or a man that his interest
in the proposition over the subject of the lady
was not exactly making a hit with her.

" We might go in my motor," pursued Laf-
lin. " You say the rock juts out into the sea?
You could have two distinct effects one by
sea and one by land. I think " his eyes
took on a faraway look and for a moment we
all knew that we were forgotten.

But Bee was clever enough to be distinctly
pleased. It was sufficient triumph for her so
to have aroused his professional interest. She
felt that the personal would come later.

As she glanced at me, she gave me a look
which meant :

" Crude material, but capable of being
moulded. Decidedly worth while."

This message was so distinct that I absent-
mindedly answered aloud.

"So it is!"

At which she frowned in reproof.

I looked to see if Miss Levering seemed to
object to the way things had gone, but she was
frankly enjoying a little talk with Hope and
Cedric Hamilton, who were sitting just be-



Napoleonic Strategy 125

yond and feeding her with strawberries,
grown on the Coolmeath estate, and too deli
cious for mere words to describe.

I was glad to see by her sincerity that Miss
Levering did not resent her cavalier s present
defection, nor the possible desertion it por
tended. Evidently, thought I, the devotion, as
yet, is entirely on his side.

This idea must also have been in Bee s mind,
because I saw her studying the every move
and glance of the young people.

I will say this for my sister. She might
condescend to shift emotional scenery or de
flect mental currents, but she is no robber
" Bee is no body-snatcher " was the way Jim-
mie agreed with me, when I tried to get the
idea delicately into his ribald mind. She
wouldn t have hurt Amy Levering s feelings
for the world. Evidently, however, she came
to the same conclusion that I did, for she pro
ceeded to retire mentally, of course, fur
ther and further from the company and more
and more into her captivating personality, and
for each step she receded, Laflin took one in
advance, until, when the company broke up,
they seemed to be doing nicely, thanks.

It was only Sallie Fitzhugh who allowed
herself a sly dig at Bee, for her sudden change
of front.



126 The Concentrations of Bee

" I am a little surprised at you, Bee. I
understood you to say that for me to try to
be original would only end in my being queer.
Doesn t that remark also apply to you ? "

Bee smiled, but I, who knew her, realized
that she was uncomfortable. Still she had
counted the cost before she cast her die. She
had been suddenly called upon to choose be
tween going flatly back on a statement of opin
ion which we all knew was sincere, and the
unexpected opportunity of nailing Laflin Van
Tassel s millionaire attention by one bold
stroke, which might sacrifice the good opinion
of a dozen friends, but which kept to the main
issue and could scarcely fail to make good.

Trust our Bee to know her way about. She
chose, as usual, unerringly. Friends were
very well in their way, but one doesn t every
day find a young and handsome millionaire
of excellent family, roaming over the plains,
simply waiting to be roped, tied and branded.
So the friends who were sacrificed, were wit
ness to the branding, and dispersed, entertain
ing high hopes of also seeing the widow " gen
tle " her new property in the most approved
plains fashion.

" Perhaps," said Norman Fitzhugh slyly,
" Mrs. Lathrop forgot to cross her fingers this
time!"



Napoleonic Strategy 127

There was nothing malicious in these re
marks, for both Norman and Sallie were of
Bee s kind and played the game according to
the same rules, but I know now, that they
then and there tacitly accepted Bee as a cousin,
and from that moment realized that Laflin
Van Tassel s fate was sealed. In fact, Laflin
became engaged to my sister in that very hour,
although he himself did not know it then.
Bee saved the knowledge to surprise him with.

From Bee s preoccupation on the way home,
I knew something was bearing unusually hard
upon her mind, so I left her to wrestle with
her problem alone, as I knew she wished, cer
tain that she would tell me when she got
ready or when she had a use for my help.

And thus it turned out, for the next time
I went to see her, I saw by her determined
aspect that her plans were formed and I sus
pected that I had arrived upon the eve of
battle.

" Will you kindly tell me," I said with a
fine sarcasm which was quite wasted upon her,
as most family sarcasm is, " where this won
derful piece of property is situated ? Likewise
where you expect to get the money to build
your wonder-house with? Also what under
the shining sun you would do with such a
place if you had it you, whose idea of a



128 The Concentrations of Bee

suitable site for a country place, sufficiently
isolated to suit your social and sociable needs,
is a corner similar to those at 42nd Street and
Broadway? "

" Did you know," was Bee s lucid and ir
relevant reply to these spirited questions,
" that Bob has got a job with Sysonby and
Arsenal? "

" No, I didn t. Who are they? And what s
that got to do with my impassioned re
marks ? "

Bee lifted her head and listened. A triple
knock sounded at her door.

"That s Lyddy!" she whispered. "Go in
there and don t make a sound, as you value
your life! They are building contractors!
Don t you see? "

She pushed me into her bedroom so hastily
that I had no choice. I found myself sitting
on her bed and forced to listen, whether I
wanted to or not, because the door was
open.

I didn t mind listening, I am free to state, for
I was desperately curious.

" Bee," said Lyddy. " I want to ask you
what you know about Bob Mygatt s engage
ment? In the first place, is he engaged? "

" Always ! " said Bee smiling. " Either in
something questionable or in marriage!"



Napoleonic Strategy 129

" Humph ! " said Lyddy. " One means the
other generally, if you ask my opinion. Is
he engaged to that girl, really?"

" He says he is," said Bee. " Why? "

" Oh, nothing. I only wanted to know."

" She is desperately poor, and it is, in my
opinion, a most unsuitable match one which
if it takes place, will breed constant trouble and
end in a smash-up."

" What makes you think so? " asked Lyddy
hopefully.

" Because Bob is a born rascal a fas
cinating, lovable rascal, who needs a rich
wife, one who knows the world and who won t
be too hard on him, and not a raw young girl
with impossible ideals and a Puritan con
science. Bob hates poverty. He hates to be
good. It looks to me as if he were held only
by her beauty."

"If that is true," said Lyddy slowly,
" something might happen to break it off."

" It might," admitted Bee cautiously, " if
he doesn t marry her suddenly, before any
thing could be done, and show up some day
with a wife hanging on his arm. It would be
just like him."

Lyddy moaned. But Bee took no notice.

" I like the boy so well," said Bee, " that
I ve often thought I d like to take a hand in



130 The Concentrations of Bee

rescuing him from a painful entanglement.
I m sure he would be grateful to me."

Lyddy moved. I could hear her.

" Bee," she said. " Bob is very fond of
you. He would do almost anything you ad
vised."

" Oh," cried Bee, " I wouldn t take the
initiative for anything in the world! Sup
pose I could break it off and he should be un
happy. Think how he could blame me ! "

" Of course," said Lyddy hastily, " you
couldn t show your hand, but -


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryLilian BellThe concentrations of Bee → online text (page 6 of 15)