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vite to dinner and play bridge with will sel-



154 The Concentrations of Bee

dom steal your jewels, even if they get a good
chance (although I do know some ladies who
say they never leave thrust pins on the cush
ion or loose change in the drawer of the ladies
dressing room when they give afternoon recep
tions), but if you have mental property by
which you earn your living, it is never safe.
Ideas cannot even be copyrighted, as authors,
dramatists and brain workers know to their
sorrow.

" Many and many a successful play has been
stolen bodily by the man whose name is now
attached to it with all the honours of original
authorship. Many a novel filched from the
manuscript of a short story read to a friend.
Many a gentleman s agreement violated by
cousins or even brothers. James did this sev
eral times, I have discovered ! "

" I am not surprised," I said. " James was
the limit, wasn t he? "

James widow nodded.

" Yet how simple a thing it would have been
to pay the inventor and stay honest ! " she said.

" The contemplation of these injustices and
crimes used to give me much food for thought.
You know me. I felt that such lawlessness
deserved a punishment which, on the very face
of it, could never be administered. Yet I have
seen it proved over and over again that the



Vengeance of the Eighth 155

Eighth Commandment can take care of itself.
I don t need to sit up nights worrying for fear
those who break it will get away with the
goods and go scot free afterward. My ob
servations during the last few years that I have
set myself to watch, teach me that to steal a
thought or an idea from a helpless owner of
it, is about as satisfactory to the thief as steal
ing the blanket off a small-pox patient. If I
had to choose, I would far, far rather steal
money and only go to jail for it, for man-
made law is simple and humane compared to
the ills which flow toward a thief who is be
yond reach of such law and who must depend
upon detection and punishment by the eighth
commandment itself."

I was luxuriating on a couch on the opposite
side of the room, and at this, I rolled over in
delight.

"Goon, Bee! "I cried.

Much encouraged by my interest, which was
flattering, she proceeded :

" Thou shalt not steal ! Certainly not ! It
would be foolish to steal anything that you
would be caught in and punished for. But
suppose just suppose a fortune could be
made by the appropriating of a small, insignif
icant idea!

"What is an idea? What is a promise?



156 The Concentrations of Bee

What is a verbal agreement? How easy it is
to pretend to have misunderstood ! And noth
ing can be proved. Nobody can ever catch
you. Vengeance will never find you out. Will
it not ? Listen ! I know a man with an utterly
unmoral nature, who was honest because he
never got a perfectly safe chance to be dishon
est. He was well-to-do, healthy and appar
ently happy."

"Who is it, Bee?" I cried. "You might
as well mention names. I ll never tell."

She shook her head and continued despite
my pleadings :

" His chance came. He found an oppor
tunity to double his moderate fortune. He
could become rich simply by repudiating a
contract with a friend who trusted him. The
temptation was too much for him. He suc
cumbed. It impoverished the little family who
have never got on their feet since, but as for
him his wife and little son have never
known a well day since, and their illnesses
date from the time of the man s crime ! "

" Bee," I said, " that s a perfectly awful
idea you ve got hold of. It makes me shiver
to think of it. I wonder if Aubrey ever
unconsciously assimilates other people s
ideas?"

" Never ! " said Bee, fiercely. " Aubrey



Vengeance of the Eighth 157

and I may not admire each other, but I ll stake
my life on his honesty and truthfulness."

I unrolled myself, walked over, shook hands
with my sister and came back.

" Go on ! " I said. " More ! Scare me
again ! "

" I often wonder as I see this man s little
son lifted in the arms of trained nurses and see
the ghastly face of his wife, if he thinks of the
terrible vengeance of a law made away back
in the time of Moses? I also wonder if an
open confession of his secret crime, full resti
tution to his robbed friends, and a complete
reform in his life would have any effect upon
the constantly recurring illnesses of his loved
ones."

" But," I cried, " why did vengeance skip
the man and land on his innocent family? "

" Because," said Bee quickly, " the ven
geance of the eighth strikes one s weakest spot.
This man in order to make money would will
ingly have been paralyzed and done business
from a wheeled chair. But he worshipped his
family. If a woman inordinately loves her
brother or father, or a man his mother or wife
through that tenderest love the vengeance
will come for a crime which human law is
powerless to punish."

" How about a woman who marries a man



158 The Concentrations of Bee

for his money without loving him?" I said.
" There s an unpunishable crime for you, if
you like ! "

"Unpunishable, is it?" said Bee. "It
strikes me that such a case carries its own hell
with it every day and hour and minute of the
year. Such women don t have to wait until
death to get all that s coming to them. I ought
to know ! "

" Now look here, Bee Lathrop," I said, sit
ting up. " These are not your ideas. You
got em from somewhere! Maybe you stole
them!"

" No," she said, laughing. " I didn t steal
them. They were given to me. But what
makes you think they are not mine? "

" Rubbish ! Haven t I known your mind
inside and out ever since we were babies ? You
never in the world could have thought out all
that high moral stuff you ve been regaling me
with ! It is not your style. Explain "

" Well," said Bee, " Laflin Van Tassel gave
me my start but now I really believe all
these things."

" Ah, ha ! I knew they weren t yours orig
inally," I said.

" He writes lovely letters," said Bee, with
a conscious smile.



Vengeance of the Eighth 159

She reached inside of her blouse and drew
one forth.

" Want to have some more in this same
vein?"

" Fire away ! "

" Here it is. Listen to this. An entirely
new philosophy of life cannot fail to open up
to those who sit by and observe the world
hurry past. People used to believe in a fierce
and avenging God, who delighted in dispens
ing war, pestilence and disaster to His chil
dren, and that a pit of flames burned joyously
beyond the grave, tended day and night by a
gentleman in red, with cloven hoof and a
forked tail.

" But observation teaches differently, and
there are a goodly number of men and women
who believe that all the Hell there is and all
the Heaven we deserve we get right here and
now; who believe that God is a father and
who believe that only sin is ever punished.

" Such beliefs make a difference in the
way you translate the eighth commandment,
don t they? If you hold these beliefs, to re
pudiate a " gentleman s agreement " with a
man or woman who has no way of defence or
redress, is to bare your head to a vengeance
which will make no mistake and accidentally



160 The Concentrations of Bee

light on the man next door, or the woman
across the street. It will find your own de
fenceless pate and come down with a crack
that even the neighbours can hear.

" I d rather I d actually prefer the
small-pox blanket for mine, for I am imbued
with such a gloriously healthy fear of what
happens to the secret thief that I now actually
run after the conductor to give him my fare,
whereas I used to steal rides like the rest of
the church members with a godly air of piety
on my face which shook even the composure
of the spotters.

An infringement of the eighth command
ment is a hideous mental boomerang, and to
steal even a witticism and palm it off as your
own is to violate the strict letter of the law.

" Since I learned the good, healthy, whole
some fear of the neverendingness of its ven
geance, maybe you don t think I am generous
with quotation marks !

" I am not proud. I would rather you
would all think from my generosity in quota
tion marks that I never had an original idea
in my life than to borrow one without giving
credit and turn around some dark night to
see the avenging Eighth camping on my
trail !

Take your cleverness you, who origi-



Vengeance of the Eighth 161

nate it ! Far be it from me to sleep in a small
pox blanket if I know it.

Bee folded up the letter, put it in her blouse
and rolled over on her back, with her hands
under her head.

" Well, Bee," I said, " I don t think I ever
heard anything much finer than that. Laflin
must be awfully nice ! "

" He is the most wonderful man I ever met
in my life," said Bee quietly.

I coughed gently. Then I laughed.

" Imagine Bob writing such a letter," I
giggled.

Bee sniffed delicately.

" Bob ! " she said in a derision which spoke
volumes for her opinion of Laflin Van Tassel.
But as she volunteered no more concerning
him, I forbore to press her, well knowing
that I would get it all sooner or later. And
I was so well pleased with the straw by which
she had shown the wind s direction that I felt
able to wait with some degree of patience.

I suddenly changed the subject.

" Look here, Bee. You don t mean to tell
me that that old woman, Lyddy, is sincerely in
love with our Bobbie? "

" I mean to tell you that she is just that."

" But she can t have a hope of marrying
him, even with your help, can she? "



1 62 The Concentrations of Bee

" I think she can," answered Bee.

"Well, what about Bob s affair with this
other girl ? " I said.

Bee paused and looked down thoughtfully.

" You say Ava Corliss has a Puritan con
science ? "

" As Bob gracefully puts it It sticks out
so you bark your shins on it, " I giggled.

" Well," said Bee slowly, " of course one
doesn t wish to take advantage of the awful-
ness of such a situation, but I must say that
it gives me the first solid terra firma to stand
on that I ve had since I knew that Bob was
engaged. Most of the time I ve been swim
ming in a sea of glorious plans. Now I can
begin intelligent work."

And with that she left me.

Agape, of course.



CHAPTER XI

THE WIDOW ASSISTS

WHEN Aubrey s cousin, Col. John
Mockridge, who is Commandant
of Cadets at West Point, asked us
to come up and help stage a play the officers
wives were getting up, we went with great
joy, because Edith and John were exceedingly
agreeable people, and as Aubrey cared for so
few of his relatives, or rather, so few of his
relatives were worth caring for, we eagerly
cultivated those who were.

Col. Mockridge was a big man, with a big,
booming laugh. He dearly loved to tell the
story of how his wife once engaged a negro
cook from an intelligence office, who had such
trouble with the name Mockridge, that Mrs.
Mockridge finally said :

" Well, never mind the name. When you
get to West Point just ask anybody to show
you where we live. Ask for the Command
ant s house. You can remember that, can t
you?"

" Is dat whah you all lives ? " she answered
163



164 The Concentrations of Bee

scornfully. " Den you needn t trouble me
wid any more instructions, caze I ain t a-com-
in ! I wouldn t \vuk for nobody what lived
in a common dance house! I se got moh
selfrespeck ! "

We played bridge a good deal in those days,
but also, when Bee was with us and we had
six, we played six handed euchre and bid for
trumps.

I always claim that card playing in general,
but this game in particular, can give a very
good idea of the characters of the players, for
while some are always daring enough " to go
it alone," and risk losing twenty, others there
are, who, even on a good hand, will be so
cautious that they never play a brilliant game,
even when they hold the cards.

My sister was of this character, but then,
Bee was in every walk in life, very politic,
very diplomatic and never took the lead openly
in anything. Therefore it got to be a joke
among us when Bee would say, holding a hand
full of trumps, " I assist," whereupon a chorus
always rose from the other five,

" The widow assists! "

But Bee hadn t come with us this time, al
though she had been invited to join us for the
week of gaiety, when the play was to be pro
duced the week holding all sorts of delights



The Widow Assists 165

for the young people, including a hop, a ball
game between Yale and West Point and sev
eral private affairs, to which we were all in
vited.

The second morning after our arrival, I got
the following from Bee.

" DEAR FAITH : Please ask Edith if I may
bring with me that pretty Miss Levering. I
have got to know her very well and find her
charming. She lives in East 65th Street just
off Fifth Avenue and has some money of her
own something like three thousand a year.
Laflin is playing with her, but I don t believe
he means anything by his attentions, whereas,
with this girl s tact and money, she would
make an ideal wife for Dusty Miller.

" She is crazy about the army and regards
it with the awe of people who had relatives in
the volunteer service in the Civil war you
know what I mean. So see what you can do.

Ci Wire me if Edith has room for us. If
not, I will take her to the Howe s or the hotel.

" With love to Edith, John and Aubrey, I
am, as ever,

" Devotedly,

" BEE.

" P. S. I do hope you will use what little
sense God endowed you with in this matter,



1 66 The Concentrations of Bee

which possibly even you can see is a delicate
one.

" BEE."

As Edith had an extra room she was glad
to say yes, and I had just wired Bee to that
effect when Dusty called.

Dusty was the nicest cadet at the Academy,
we all thought. He was neither brilliant nor
rich nor particularly anything. Only he was
sweet and high principled and dear, and in his
uniform, he was well, he was enough to
make any girl leave all else and cleave only
unto him. His dancing was nothing short of
divine, and the way he made each one of us
feel as if we were the only woman in his mind
for the time being, was something rather
awful.

" I say, Mrs. Jardine," Dusty cried out,
" I ve just had the jolliest sort of a letter from
your sister, Mrs. Lathrop. Will you read it?
I want to talk to you a little about it after
ward."

I felt myself go rather cold at this, for Bee
thinks I am awfully dull at seconding what
she terms perfectly palpable diplomatic oppor
tunities, and I knew, if I failed her in this
crisis, I should have to answer to her like a
person at the bar of justice such being the



The Widow Assists 167

firm manner in which my sister managed the
family into which it had pleased Providence
to call her.

But such was Dusty s compelling charm
that when he pulled out Bee s letter I took it
and read it. It ran as follows:

" DEAR DUSTY : I wonder if you will be
good enough to help me out of a mess without
helping yourself into one?

" The fact is, I promised in a moment of
recklessness to take an awfully pretty girl
friend of mine to a West Point hop, intending
to put it off if possible until next year, when
Loyal Jerome will be a first classman, because
I have set my heart on getting him a rich and
pretty wife. He, as you know, is a sort of
cousin of ours, so it behooves us to have him
marry the right sort of a girl.

" But if you please, the minx decided that
she wanted to go to one now, and she boldly
asked me if I couldn t take her to this one.

" I am in despair. I know all the cards are
made out I know you probably have asked
your girl weeks ago I know you can t get
another card filled, but what shall I do?

" Will you see if there is room for one
more? If not, she will simply have to wait.

"If you find that you can arrange the mat-



1 68 The Concentrations of Bee

ter for me, please remember this. Miss Lever
ing is very young she won t be nineteen
until next month. She has an income of three
thousand dollars a year or thereabouts, in her
own right, and her father will doubtless leave
her more. She is one of the prettiest girls I
ever saw, also the gentlest and sweetest, so I
want you to make me a solemn promise that
you will not make love to her, nor allow any
of the others to do so, unless she should see
and take a fancy to Loyal. Try to have them
meet, if you can. It would look better if you
introduced them, rather than myself.

" Wire me if you can get her card filled.
I look forward to my own dances with you
with a great deal of pleasure.

" With kind regards to Dutch and
* Lamps, I am,

" Very sincerely your friend,

" BEATRICE LATHROP.

" P. S. It will not do you the slightest
good to get silly over Miss Levering yourself,
as I have determined on my course of action,
so beware!

" B. L."

I looked at him suspiciously to see if the
smell of cheese was noticeable on the trap, but



The Widow Assists 169

evidently it wasn t, for I looked him straight
in the eye and I saw there what pleased me so
much that I instantly decided that if Amy
Levering wanted to settle herself in life with
a good husband, she couldn t do better than to
let Dusty Miller fall in love with her, were he
so minded.

"What can you do at this late day?" I
asked.

" Do ! " he cried. " Why, do what your sis
ter tells me to do, of course. What else is
there to do when Mrs. Lathrop expresses a
wish ? I hustled around and got her card half
filled before I wired."

" Have you wired already? " I asked in sur
prise.

" Wired before noon to set her mind at
rest and give them plenty of time to pack."

" You are a thoughtful boy, Dusty," I said.

He beamed.

" Might just as well make people comfort
able when you can," he said. " We only go
along the road once, you know."

" I know, but you are young to have
learned it."

" My mother taught me that," he said,
simply. "It was her way!"

The quiet dignity and sweetness of the boy
struck me afresh. I suddenly wondered if this



170 The Concentrations of Bee

Amy Levering were good enough for him or
if she were but " a rag and a bone and a hank
of hair," like some other girls I knew, and
would break his heart.

" Have you ever seen her? " he asked sud
denly.

" Seen who? " I asked, ungrammatically but
comfortably.

" Miss Levering," he answered, a tinge of
colour coming into his bronzed face. The
poison was already beginning to work.

" Yes, I have seen her twice. Once at a
party at Sherry s when Laflin Van Tassel was
allowing her the joy of ordering the dinner.
She was awfully slow, but she was so plainly
enjoying herself that he was most patient with
her. He is a lovely fellow. And the other
time was at a polo game at Coolmeath."

"Beastly rich, this Van Tassel, isn t he?"
demanded Dusty jealously.

"Millionaire!"

" I wonder if she is the kind to marry for
money?" he asked wistfully, being poor as a
church mouse himself.

" Most girls are," I observed cruelly. " It
is terribly old fashioned now-a-days to let
preference interfere with business interests."

He looked at me with eyes which gradually
grew brighter.



The Widow Assists



" That s a pretty fair statement of what
love and marriage have come to mean in a
certain set," he said slowly. " Preference and
business interest. You remember what Ste
venson says in Virginibus Puerisque ? "

I nodded. We had discussed it often.

" / am pretty safe," he said ruefully.
" Everybody knows that I sha n t have a cent
but my pay, so I don t stand in as dangerous
a position as this precious Van Tassel of yours
of being married for my money. The girl
I marry, can t marry me for anything but that
obsolete article love ! "

" Stop a minute, silly, and let me set your
mind right on that delicate point," I said.
" Army officers, holding established positions
and representing, with our navy, about our
only national aristocracy, have as much to
offer a poor, ambitious or low-born girl as the
veriest millionaire who ever needed a keeper
to ward off bombarding females. Don t be
quite so modest ! You will be an officer in the
United States army, and especially as you will
graduate so near the head, you will surely get
into the engineers or the Artillery, which
means a lot. You go slow, Dusty Miller, and
keep your eyes open ! "

He laughed boyishly.

" I m too precious to be allowed out of pink



172 The Concentrations of Bee

cotton to hear you tell it ! " he cried. " Oh,
Mrs. Jardine ! I hope what you and I have
talked about so often isn t all moonshine! I
hope there is a sincere, truehearted girl in the
world for me somewhere, who won t think
that brass buttons and shoulder straps make
the man. Don t women care for a heart any
more at all? "

" Yes, dear child, they do heaps of them !
You are looking at a fool right now, who
values sentiment and love and truth above
above "

" Above automobiles ! " he finished for me,
knowing my weakness.

" Yes, even above those sacred pieces of
bric-a-brac," I said fervently.

" I believe you. And do you know ?
it s a comfort to find even one ! "

" Go on now, and find Loyal, and tell him
I want him," I said. " I suppose a first class
man can so condescend when aforesaid second
class-man happens to be a relative? "

" Are you going to tell him about Miss
Levering?" he demanded.

" Certainly not ! " I said with asperity, " and
so prejudice him against her? Why, if we
had wanted you to fall in love with her, my
sister wouldn t have written you like that,
would she? "



The Widow Assists 173

I reared my crest with pride, feeling that
this neat touch was worthy of the tortuous
Bee herself. But I felt guilty, not being an
adept in her art.

Dusty looked thoughtful, then he shook his
head.

" I never know what a woman will do, or
what she means by what she does do ! " he
said in desperation.

" Which shows you are in a very healthful
state of mind," I laughed. " When a man
frankly confesses his inability to understand
even the simplest woman-problem, all the other
women stand ready to explain matters and to
help him along."

" I m glad of that," he said, rising to go and
bowing over my hand in his inimitable way,
" for I feel that I shall need help before long."

This little talk put me so ardently on
Dusty s side, that when Bee arrived with Amy
Levering, I met the girl almost antagonistic
ally. Not that I should have, of course, for
she, like the rest of us, had we only been able
to keep the fact constantly in our minds, was
only one of Bee s puppets, who danced at her
bidding.

But antagonism could not breathe long in
the vicinity of this girl, who reminded me of
nothing so much as an old-fashioned moss



174 The Concentrations of Bee

rosebud, so gentle, so modest and so fragrant
she was.

She even had a certain sweet wistfulness in
her expression, which I have always associ
ated in my mind with moss roses, as if they
begged you to treat them with gentleness.

Bee at once gave me particulars about Amy
which further enlisted me. Her father had
married a second time, hence Amy s money
was her inheritance from her mother. There
was a second brood of children, and Amy s
position in the family was rather unenviable.
Her stepmother was not cruel, but she was in
tensely ambitious for her children, therefore
the hint for Amy to marry early and take her
self out of fifteen-year-old Julia s way was
given in a way there could be no mistaking.

The stepmother was clever, however, and in
spite of risking eclipse for herself in not being
able to make so brilliant a match for her own
daughter, she was in full cry after Laflin Van
Tassel for Amy, and was, to all appearances,
in a fair way to bag her game, or rather, to
run down her quarry, when a benign Provi
dence caused the widow Lathrop to observe
the chase and deign to take an interest.

Mrs. Levering did not know Bee s methods
of procedure or she would have incarcerated
her in some way, in order to keep her out of



The Widow Assists 175

the affair. But, for some curious reason, Bee
is never suspected of being a motive power by
anybody. Even after the game has been tri
umphantly won, Bee s esoteric part in the vic
tory always goes under the modest phrase of
" I assisted."

The first time Dusty and Amy saw each
other was at the hop, and owing to Dusty s
popularity as a dancer, he had been unable to
write his name on her card before the sixth,
which was a waltz.

Before that he had not even been presented,
but I saw him when his eyes first rested on her,
as she entered the ballroom with our party,
and from the way his gray eyes grew black,
I knew he was deeply stirred.

" Who is that? " she said quickly.

"That? Oh, that is Dusty Miller, the


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