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star player on the football team. They count
on his not allowing Yale to wipe the ground
with the Army boys ! "

" Dusty ! " she said. " What a funny nick
name ! "

There is another Miller here, whom they
call the Moth Miller. And two Bells -
one Ding-dong and one Jingle.

" What is his real name? " asked Amy, ig
noring all side issues and still speaking of the
man who stood looking at her over the heads

176 The Concentrations of Bee

of the others as if he had never seen a girl

" Willing Miller his mother was a Phila
delphia Willing. He is a cousin of Cynthia
Willing the girl Jermyn Loring is in love
with ! "

Amy paid no attention to poor Jermyn s as
pirations. She simply drew her breath deeply
and her colour rose under Dusty s ardent gaze.

She was a pretty girl at any time, but that
night she was enough to turn the head of even
the most case-hardened.

Her dress was white and fluffed out around
her feet in multitudinous ruffles, over which
hung what looked like seaweed, or green
grasses, in the midst of which were clustered
here and there bunches of small pink roses.
The skirt was looped with these little clusters,
her sash was green, and her bodice edged with
a narrower band of the same green grasses
and pink rosebuds. Her curls were dressed in
a loose Psyche knot, tied with a broad soft
pink ribbon, and her bouquet was pink roses,
with long green ribbons.

This striking, yet simple costume, marked
her at once as possessing individuality and
taste, the women critically dissecting it, yet
forced to admire it, and the men, enchanted
by the picture she made in it, taking it in

The Widow Assists 177

bodily, bewildered by the effect, without know
ing in the least how it was produced, nor car
ing one whit. All they knew was that it re
minded them of something cool and green and
summary, and her wistful beauty tinged the
daguerreotype her appearance suggested, with
the old fashioned romance which lies deep
down in every man s heart, and which springs
suddenly to life at such things as a tangled
garden of the blooms of his boyhood recol
lection, or the sight of a moss-grown well, or
the bars of an old song, sung in the twilight.

Dusty Miller felt all this and more the very
first moment he saw Amy Levering. He fell
in love with her at sight and fell hard. And
I knew from the way Bee drew in her breath
and cleared her throat that she, too, had seen
and observed his emotion.

Her management was masterly. She pre
vented an introduction, although Dusty s eyes
begged her dumbly like a dog s. She sur
rounded Amy with other men. She took
Dusty for her own property, and when she
could no longer manage him, she gave him
to me with a fierce sisterly look which meant
" Take this away with you and do what you
know I want done with it ! "

I generally obey orders, but I am so soft,
Dusty at once took advantage of my easiness

I7& The Concentrations of Bee

and came out with a request which Bee would
have prevented.

" Introduce me to her ! " he begged. " I
believe I have gone crazy ! "

What use would it have been for me to look
bewildered and ask what he meant? I knew
and he knew that I knew. So instead of obey
ing Bee, inside of five minutes Dusty and I
were actually rummaging among the cozy
corners between dances trying in the boldest
manner to find Amy Levering.

But Bee was too much for us. She had
Amy hemmed in three deep, so that when we
found her even Dusty gave it up and turned
back to dance sadly with me.

Ours was the fourth. Dusty danced the
fifth with Edith Mockridge, who, in her ca
pacity as one of the patronesses, kept him on
duty until the music for the sixth was about
to begin.

It happened that Amy s partner for the fifth
was a cadet named Atwood, who was just out
of the hospital after a sprained ankle, so they
went around the room but once, then sat down
next to me to rest. Presently I saw the boy
go rather pale, and I told him to go out and
get some fresh air and that I would keep Miss
Levering with me until the next dance.

The poor fellow was profuse in his apolo-

The Widow Assists 179

gies, but I could see that he had overtaxed
himself, so we urged him to go, which he
finally did.

No sooner were we left alone than Amy
turned and looked searchingly in my face for
a moment, then with a quick sigh she slipped
her little gloved hand into mine.

I don t know when I have been so touched
at the simplicity of her appraisement and the
confidence betrayed by that little cuddling
move of hers.

I pressed her hand and said nothing. Pres
ently she lifted her flowers to her face and
behind that screen murmured,

" Mrs. Jardine, do you believe that two
people ever fall in love at first sight ? "

" I do indeed, my dear ! " I said fervently.
" My husband did worse than that he pro
posed to me the first night we ever met and
before we had spoken together ten minutes ! "

Amy turned to me with a face flashing like
sunlight on the water.

" Oh, how lovely! How lovely! " she cried.
" And you what did you do ? Was it the
same with you? "

" I regret to say that I laughed in his face
and went on with my previous affair with an
other man. But why did you ask me that?"

" Because the first man I saw when we came

180 The Concentrations of Bee

in to-night, has the face I always see when I
dream. He seemed to recognize me in just
the same way, for I saw, I actually saw him
straighten up and look surprised, and his eyes
turned black quite black. I haven t met him
yet, but all the evening he has kept close to
where I was and his eyes look straight into
mine always. The next dance is his and
and he is coming for me now ! "

I don t often allow myself to be foolish or
overpowered in public, but somehow, both
Amy and Dusty struck me as being out of the
common and wonderfully sincere and un
worldly, so that when I saw Dusty bearing
down upon us, and looking straight into
Amy s eyes, and Amy, without waiting for
me to speak or even introduce them, rose and
stood waiting, and then, the band striking up
at that moment, Dusty just naturally opened
his arms and Amy fluttered into them, it
didn t even seem odd to me it seemed to be
the only thing in the world for them to do.
Nor did I, as a chaperon, find it at all objec
tionable when I saw him draw her much
closer than the exigencies of the occasion
seemed to demand, and I smiled at them joy
ously for doing it.

That s the kind of a chaperon / am!

But after they were gone and my Angel

The Widow Assists 181

came to sit out a dance with me, I gasped at
my shocking behaviour, and I wondered if
they would be married before I saw them
again, or only just engaged!

They have never admitted it, but I believe
they knew before that waltz was over that
they were destined for each other, for I have
never seen such an exalted look on any two
peoples faces as I saw on theirs.

Still they said absolutely nothing, nor could
Bee dig a word out of Amy either then or
afterward, which accounts for what followed.

I have never seen an army post which did
not possess its married flirt, and West Point at
this particular time was no exception to the

Mrs. Caxton was pretty, vivacious and ut
terly untrustworthy. She was a demoraliz
ing influence which everyone felt who came
near her, but she was of the clinging vine sort,
and chivalrous young men, like those at the
Academy, were loth to treat her as cavalierly
as she deserved.

It so happened that Dusty Miller was her
latest selection, and seeing the sort of devo
tion he laid at Amy Levering s feet that night,
inflamed her shallow heart with jealous hate.

I exonerate Bee entirely in this affair. I
do not believe that Mrs. Caxton needed to

1 82 The Concentrations of Bee

have anyone point out how Dusty was falling
in love, still, I must say that if Bee had
thought the affair showed symptoms of not
moving to her taste, she was perfectly capable
of setting such a woman as Mrs. Caxton to
stir things up a bit.

But be that as it may, the band was playing
Home Sweet Home and the last of the most
brilliant hop of the season was about over, and
the dear gray and white uniforms against the
soft ball gowns of the girls were circling
slowly and still more slowly until the end was
reached, when Mrs. Caxton caught something
of hers in Amy s lace, which tore so shock
ingly that not one woman in the room believed
it was an accident.

Of course there were exclamations and
apologies and introductions, and Amy was
the only unsuspicious person in the group, for
I saw even some of the cadets exchange

Mrs. Caxton insisted upon taking Amy to
the dressing room and examining into the
damage, and they finally went upstairs to
gether, Mrs. Caxton s arm around Amy s

Mrs. Caxton finally wound the matter up
by asking Amy to drive with her the next day
to prove that Amy did not bear malice, and as

The Widow Assists 183

Mrs. Caxton had a delicious little basket phae
ton, Bee told Amy that she would better go,
and they arranged to meet us afterward at
dress parade.

I saw Amy at luncheon and learned that
she and Dusty had been down Flirtation Walk
together, and that her first view of West Point
had been given her by him. I carried the pic
ture of that child s face in my memory for
many a long day, for I never saw it exactly
the same again.

I don t know what happened during that
drive. I only know that when that Caxton
woman brought Amy to where our party were
standing to watch the parade from, I had to
look twice to see if it were Amy, so white, so
wan, so piteous was her look.

Mrs. Caxton s face was full of bright mal
ice, and she left us with the wickedest little
laugh I ever heard.

I have only a confused recollection of that
superb spectacle, dress parade at West Point.
The immaculate uniforms, the clock-like pre
cision, the soldierly bearing of those dear boys
all were blurred. My whole thought was to
shield this white-lipped girl from observation
and to get her home.

As I laughed and talked with others I felt
Aubrey press a paper into my hand.

184 The Concentrations of Bee

" Don t read it until you get home," he

When I was at liberty to look for him, both
he and Amy had disappeared.

I thought the time would never come when
I could find the time, in that gay set of chat
terers to read that pencilled scrawl. It was
from Amy and said simply :

" I have gone home. Let me go quietly,
for I believe I am dying."

Aubrey came into the room just as I read it.

"Where is she? In her room? Did you
bring her home? What is the matter with
her? Did she tell you? Did you see this
note? I must go to her at once! "

He caught at my hand as I rushed by him.

" I put her on the train on the New York
side. She has gone home alone. The child
is desperately hurt and the best thing is to let
her fight it out alone."

"Aubrey!" I cried. "Aubrey! You let
that girl go alone ! "

" I telephoned Mrs. Jimmie to meet her at
the station. She will know what to do ! "

" Yes, so she will ! Poor dear ! What was
it, do you think? What did Mrs. Caxton tell

" I don t know, but it must have been pretty
bad. That woman is a devil ! "

The Widow Assists 185

It is a serious thing to be a cadet at West
Point when you are in love. Although Col.
Mockridge was our cousin and could have
given Dusty leave to go to New York ten
times over, he wouldn t do it, for he not only
ridiculed the idea that these two were in love,
but he rather resented our believing it, and
our interference irritated his usual placid soul
to such an extent that he finally said that he
was glad Mrs. Caxton said enough to put a
stop to such utter foolishness as a belief among
sensible persons that anything serious could
come of a twenty-four-hour infatuation.

In vain we cited " The Brushwood Boy "
and told of all the instances we knew, as well
as some we made up. He was obdurate, and
I was forced to see Dusty suffer during that
wretched week, as I never care to see a man
suffer again.

/ believed in the love of these two at any rate.

I know this. Dusty wrote to Amy every
day for two months, before she would even
open a letter. She returned them to him,
everyone. Still, he told me it was a comfort
even to see her handwriting on the envelopes,
and that he never tore one open without the
hope that she had relented and answered.

In vain did I attempt to find out what sort
of a lie Mrs. Caxton had told. Had Dusty

1 86 The Concentrations of Bee

been foolish and written a letter that she could
show ? Dusty swore he hadn t.

There was a frightful row, about something
else, ostensibly, but Mrs. Caxton was finally
made to see that she was persona non grata,
so she left West Point, taking her docile hus
band with her to stir up trouble in another
post. Officially it read that her husband was
" transferred."

Finally Bee did what only a very brave and
a very clever woman would dare to do.

She set herself to bring Amy Levering and
Laflin Van Tassel together.

To be sure, she knew by this time that Amy
was a girl of spirit and courage, and we had
all come to realize that she would win, along
any lines she chose to lay down for herself.
She had a will of iron under that delicate, wist
ful beauty of hers.

And her self-control was wonderful.

She allowed herself to be paired off with
Laflin at dinners, and she seemed to all out
ward appearances to be satisfied with the way
things were going, but once when she was
alone with me she threw herself into my arms
weeping bitterly and sobbing out :

"Oh, Mrs. Jardine! My Brushwood
Boy ! The hero of all my dreams!"

She listened to my accounts of how Dusty

The Widow Assists 187

distinguished himself on the gridiron and how
well he acted in the play, but no amount of art
could draw from her one word of the trouble
between them.

Finally, on Bee s hint, I wrote Dusty a long
letter, in which I artfully mingled Amy s and
Laflin s names. In fact, I stirred up his jeal
ousy to the best of my poor ability.

The result of my prowess made me feel
that my art was almost too strong for every
day use, for the next train brought Dusty to
New York.

" Dusty," I cried when I saw him, " had
you leave to come? "

He shook his head miserably.

" No, the Superintendent wouldn t give it to
me, so I ll have to resign. But I don t mind
even that if I can only see Amy. Do you think
you could manage it for me."

" Could I? " I cried valiantly. " I ll bring
her dead or alive ! "

I brought her!

And I left them alone together in my studio
for one whole blissful afternoon.

And they made it up whatever it was.

By four o clock they were safely engaged.
For I descended upon them with tea and de
manded to know. I frankly told them that I
could not bear the suspense any longer.

1 88 The Concentrations of Bee

They both kissed me, and Amy would have
kissed Aubrey, if she had not seen how queer
Aubrey looked when Dusty kissed me, so she
considerately forbore. But she looked as
though she would like to kiss the whole world
and let it know how much beauty there was in
life and how much to love.

Aubrey, who knows his cousin, Col. Mock-
ridge, and the Superintendent and army disci
pline better than the rest of us do, looked grave
when I told him that Dusty was here without

" Unless we can placate the powers," he
said, " it will mean either a court martial or

" He says he means to resign," I said.

That would be a pity, for Miller is a born
soldier and would make a fine officer. I sup
pose, though, that with influence brought to
bear, we could get him a civilian appointment

" Oh, but that would be horrid," I cried.
" He is so near the head of his class that he is
eligible for the engineers or the artillery at
the worst, and then to miss graduation and
enter the army as a civilian ! "

" He knew all that before he came," said

The Widow Assists 189

" Well, I should think that would prove to
Col. Mockridge that he is in earnest."

Aubrey shook his head. Then he went and
talked with Dusty awhile. Finally he came
back with a serious face.

" I think I ll run up to West Point and talk
to John about the matter. You can send
Dusty to the Jimmies for the night. I ll be
back in the morning."

The next day a little before noon my studio
presented an unusual appearance. Amy and
Bee and Dusty were there, and Amy, all ex
citement, brought the news that she had
spread the whole matter before her father and
he had promised to call on me at twelve o clock
and look Dusty over.

" He didn t even tell mother, so that means
that he is all on our side," cried Amy.

When Cyrus Levering entered the room, I
knew why he had come to be such a power in
the world of finance. He radiated strength,
and the iron will Amy had inherited looked
out of his keen blue eyes.

The young man and the old became friends
in that first honest hand clasp.

" So," said Mr. Levering. " My little girl
has not been herself since she went to West
Point with Mrs. Jardine "

190 The Concentrations of Bee

I looked up in astonishment and Bee

" and you are the Reason, are you?"

" I wish I could think that I had been," said
the young man smiling. " But if I had had
my way, her knowing me would not have
brought that look to her face. The reason for
that look wore skirts."

The old man s face broke into a smile.

" Do you love my child, young man? "

" With all my heart," said Dusty solemnly.

" Then treat her well and I ll treat you well.
You won t have to live on just your salary."

" Haven t you told him, Amy ? " asked

"Told him what?"

" That I probably won t have any salary to
support you on, unless I can get a civilian ap

"What s that?" said Mr. Levering,
sharply. " I thought you were a cadet at
West Point."

" I am," answered Dusty. " But I shall be
expelled for absence without leave. I couldn t
get leave, Amy wouldn t come to me, nor even
read my letters, so I came to her."

The old man worked his eyebrows up and
down as he sat watching the young man.

" So ! You risked dismissal and possibly

The Widow Assists 191

ruined your career just to see my girl. Was
that wise?"

"No, sir!"

" Well, you re both young. You can wait
and prove your mettle."

"I m willing to!"

" But I m not," cried Amy. " I don t want
to wait ! "

" You don t," said her father, tilting her
face up to his. " What do you want ? "

" I want to be married the day after he
graduates and have a big military wedding ! "

" When I was a boy in Akron, Ohio," said
the old man, " I joined the village band, not
because I was musical, but so that I could wear
the uniform. I guess Amy inherits my love
for brass buttons."

" It is barely possible," I said, " that my
husband has been successful in averting any
bad results from Mr. Miller s action. He went
to West Point last night to intercede for him."

" Your husband did that? " asked Mr. Lev
ering. " Amy, you seem to have made

Just then Aubrey let himself in, and I ran to
meet him. I knew by his face that his quest
had been in vain.

We introduced him and he told us about it.

" I never saw such a place as West Point,"

192 The Concentrations of Bee

said the Angel wearily. " Influence, talk, ar
guments, threats, anger, rage, sweetness, tears,
pleadings all in vain. You are up against
it good and hard, young man."

" Did you see Maj. Faxon, the Superintend
ent?" asked Dusty dismally.

" I did. I don t care for him. He s not an
affable acquaintance."

"What do they propose to do to him?"
asked Mr. Levering.

" Court martial and dismiss him is the
program they sketched out for my entertain

" Well, there s this to be said for Maj.
Faxon. He is a sick man. He has asked to
be retired and the Retiring Board is to act
next week. He doesn t feel like closing his
career by making a possible mistake," said

" Who is to succeed him? " I asked.

" Maj. Featherstone," said Dusty.

I looked at Bee. So did Aubrey. So did
all the others, just because we did. But Bee
never blushes. Her eyes change colour.

Then a faint sound made itself heard, some
thing like a snicker. I have since wondered if
it came from me, for I was the only one who
knew of both facts one, of Maj. Feather-
stone s hopeless but none the less interesting

The Widow Assists 193

passion for my widowed sister, the other of
Bee s sub-cutaneous reason for releasing Laflin
Van Tassel from any possible interest in
Amy Levering by marrying her to another

" Maj. Featherstone is in town," said Bee
slowly. " He is at the New Grand Hotel.
I "

"You what?" I demanded impatiently.
I forgot that Bee might hesitate at placing
herself under obligations to Maj. Feather-
stone by asking a favour of him, just at this
stage of the game, but I might have known
that my sister plays boldly to win.

" I had a note from him this morning say
ing that that he had important news for me.
It might mean that he is to report at once. In
that case "

" There s no time to be lost," said Aubrey.

" I might telephone," said Bee.

I escorted her to the telephone so promptly
that it disturbed her dignity.

It seemed ages before she finished, for no
one who has not tried it, knows the maddening
delays of telephoning to any New York hotel.

Finally, however, she came back.

" Dusty," she said, " you are in clover.
Maj. Featherstone has been appointed Acting
Superintendent, and he says for you to ap-

194 The Concentrations of Bee

ply for five days leave beginning yester

Dusty s incredulous face showed how mar
vellous must have been Bee s influence to have
got such a thing through the frightful red tape
of West Point.

" What ? " he cried. " Mrs. Lathrop, are
you sure? "

" I am sure. Maj. Featherstone will be at
West Point to-morrow morning. If I were in
your place I d have my letter there to greet
him. I told him that we would manage Col.

" Oh, John is all right," said Aubrey.
" When he discovered that Miller was really
here, he was on our side in a minute."

"Hum!" said Cyrus Levering. "Well,
Amy, you certainly are blessed with influential
friends." Here he looked at Bee. " I m glad
you wrote me that letter, Mrs. Lathrop," he
added. " I wouldn t have made more trouble
for these young people for anything."

"What letter?" asked Amy.

" Did you think I fell into your young man s
arms without knowing something about him
and his family and his record? You owe
more of this morning s work to Mrs. Lathrop
than you realize, Amy. In fact I may say that

The Widow Assists 195

without her efforts in your behalf, it wouldn t
have been done."

" Oh, no, Mr. Levering," said Bee mod
estly. " You held the cards. I only assisted."



JUST then occurred an upheaval in the
domestic economy of our home, which
deserves a passing mention.

It was Pearl Marguerite of course.

Although she was only the black general
housework girl, Pearl Marguerite had her
social uses.

I discovered them one evening when I had
Patricia Marston and her Englishman to din
ner. I happened to call her by name.

" Pearl Marguerite," I said, " please hand
me the red pepper ! "

Lord Abernethy gave one glance into her
black, black face. Then he laughed loud and
long and the American joke then being told
made quite a hit.

But I knew what had amused him, so that
during all the rest of the dinner, whenever it
was time for Abernethy to laugh, I called
Pearl Marguerite by name.

Afterwards everybody said he was the first

Marriage of Pearl Marguerite 197

Englishman they ever saw who could appre
ciate our kind of jokes.

Pearl Marguerite was one of the most com
petent servants I ever saw. She did all the
washing and ironing, the cooking, cleaning,
chamber work and waiting, yet she always
seemed to have plenty of time.

I went into the kitchen one day and found
her leaning so far out of the window that she
was holding on by hooking her toes under the
edge of the table across which she was lying.

" Pearl Marguerite," I cried, making ready
to seize her by her ankle in case I startled her.
" Do be careful. It is nine stones to the
ground ! "

She humped herself back and stood before

" I wasn t doin nothin , Mis Jardine," she

" I didn t say you were," I answered.

She gave me a queer look.

" I came to tell you that I have had a com
plaint made against you by the servants whose
rooms are next yours," I said.

The servants quarters in our apartment

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Online LibraryLilian BellThe concentrations of Bee → online text (page 9 of 15)