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THE SEVEN DARLINGS ***




Produced by Annie R. McGuire. This book was produced from
scanned images of public domain material from the Google
Print archive.









THE SEVEN DARLINGS




[Illustration: She stood stock-still, in plain view if they had looked
her way]




THE
SEVEN DARLINGS

* * * * *

BY GOUVERNEUR MORRIS

* * * * *


[Illustration]


With Frontispiece
By HOWARD CHANDLER CHRISTY

* * * * *

A. L. BURT COMPANY
Publishers
New York
Published by Arrangements with CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS




COPYRIGHT, 1915, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS




TO
HOPE DAVIS




THE SEVEN DARLINGS




I


Six of the Darlings were girls. The seventh was a young man who looked
like Galahad and took exquisite photographs. Their father had died
within the month, and Mr. Gilpin, the lawyer, had just faced them, in
family assembled, with the lamentable fact that they, who had been so
very, very rich, were now astonishingly poor.

"My dears," he said, "your poor father made a dreadful botch of his
affairs. I cannot understand how some men - - "

"Please!" said Mary, who was the oldest. "It can't be any satisfaction
to know why we are poor. Tell us just how poor we are, and we'll make
the best of it. I understand that The Camp isn't involved in the general
wreck."

"It isn't," said Mr. Gilpin, "but you will have to sell it, or at least,
rent it. Outside The Camp, when all the estate debts are paid, there
will be thirty or forty thousand dollars to be divided among you."

"In other words - _nothing_," said Mary; "I have known my father to spend
more in a month."

"Income - " began Mr. Gilpin.

"_Dear_ Mr. Gilpin," said Gay, who was the youngest by twenty minutes;
"don't."

"Forty thousand dollars," said Mary, "at four per cent is sixteen
hundred. Sixteen hundred divided by seven is how much?"

"Nothing," said Gay promptly. And all the family laughed, except Arthur,
who was trying to balance a quill pen on his thumb.

"I might," said Mr. Gilpin helplessly, "be able to get you five per cent
or even five and a half."

"You forget," said Maud, the second in age, and by some thought the
first in beauty, "that we are father's children. Do you think _he_ ever
troubled his head about five and a half per cent, or even," she finished
mischievously, "six?"

Arthur, having succeeded in balancing the quill for a few moments, laid
it down and entered the discussion.

"What has been decided?" he asked. His voice was very gentle and
uninterested.

"It's an awful pity mamma isn't in a position to help us," said Eve.

Eve was the third. After her, Arthur had been born; and then, all on a
bright summer's morning, the triplets, Lee, Phyllis, and Gay.

"That old scalawag mamma married," said Lee, "spends all her money on
his old hunting trips."

"Where is the princess at the moment?" asked Mr. Gilpin.

"They're in Somaliland," said Lee. "They almost took me. If they had, I
shouldn't have called Oducalchi an old scalawag. You know the most
dismal thing, when mamma and papa separated and _she_ married _him_, was
his turning out to be a regular old-fashioned brick. He can throw a fly
yards further and lighter than any man _I_ ever saw."

"And if you are bored," said Phyllis, "you say to him, 'Say something
funny, Prince,' and he always can, instantly, without hesitation."

"All things considered," said Gay, "mamma's been a very lucky girl."

"Still," said Mary, "the fact remains that she's in no position to
support us in the lap of luxury."

"Our kid brother," said Gay, "the future Prince Oducalchi, will need all
she's got. When you realize that that child will have something like
fifty acres of slate roofs to keep in order, it sets you thinking."

"One thing I insist on," said Maud, "mamma shan't be bothered by a lot
of hard-luck stories - - "

"Did it ever occur to you, Mr. Gilpin," said Arthur, in his gentle
voice, "that my sisters are the six sandiest and most beautiful girls in
the world? I've been watching them out of the corner of my eye, and
wishing to heaven that I were Romney or Gainsborough. I'd give a million
dollars, if I had them, for their six profiles, immortally painted in a
row. But nowadays if a boy has the impulse to be a painter, he is given
a camera; or if he wishes to be a musician, he is presented with a
pianola. Luxury is the executioner of art. Personally I am so glad that
I am going to be poor that I don't know what to do."

"Aren't you sorry for us, Artie?" asked Gay.

"Very," said he; "and I don't like to be called Artie."

* * * * *

Immediately after their father's funeral the Darlings had hurried off to
their camp on New Moon Lake. An Adirondack "camp" has much in common
with a Newport "cottage." The Darlings' was no exception. There was
nothing camp-like about it except its situation and the rough bark
slats with which the sides of its buildings were covered. There were
very many buildings. There was Darling House, in which the family had
their sleeping-rooms and bathrooms and dressing-rooms. There was Guide's
House, where the guides, engineers, and handy men slept and cooked, and
loafed in rainy weather. A passageway, roofed but open at the sides, led
from Darling House to Dining House - one vast room, in the midst of which
an oval table which could be extended to seat twenty was almost lost.
Heads of moose, caribou, and elk (not "caught" in the Adirondacks)
looked down from the walls. Another room equally large adjoined this. It
contained tables covered with periodicals; two grand pianos (so that
Mary and Arthur could play duets without "bumping"); many deep and easy
chairs, and a fireplace so large that when it was half filled with
roaring logs it looked like the gates of hell, and was so called.

Pantry House and Bar House led from Dining House to Smoke House, where
an olive-faced chef, all in white, was surrounded by burnished copper
and a wonderful collection of blue and white.

There was Work House with its bench, forge, and lathe for working wood
and iron; Power House adjoining; and on the slopes of the mountain back
of the camp, Spring House, from which water, ice-cold, at high pressure
descended to circulate in the elaborate plumbing of the camp.

For guests, there were little houses apart - Rest House, two
sleeping-rooms, a bath and a sitting-room; Lone House, in which one
person could sleep, keep clean, write letters, or bask on a tiny balcony
thrust out between the stems of two pine-trees and overhanging deep
water; Bachelor House, to accommodate six of that questionable species.
And placed here and there among pines that had escaped the attacks of
nature and the greed of man were half a dozen other diminutive houses,
accommodating from two to four persons.

The Camp was laid out like a little village. It had its streets, paved
with pine-needles, its street lamps.

It had grown from simple beginnings with the Darling fortune; with the
passing of this, it remained, in all its vast and intricate elaboration,
like a white elephant upon the family's hands. From time to time they
had tried the effect of giving the place a name, but had always come
back to "The Camp." As such it was known the length and breadth of the
North Woods. It was _The_ Camp, par excellence, in a region devoted to
camps and camping.

"Other people," the late Mr. Darling once remarked, "have more land, but
nobody else has quite as much camp."

The property itself consisted of a long, narrow peninsula thrust far out
into New Moon Lake, with half a mountain rising from its base. With the
exception of a small village at the outlet of the lake, all the
remaining lands belonged to the State, and since the State had no
immediate use for them and since the average two weeks' campers could
not get at them without much portage and expense, they were regarded by
the Darlings as their own private preserves.

"The Camp," said Mr. Gilpin, "is, of course, a big asset. It is unique,
and it is celebrated, at least among the people who might have the means
to purchase it and open it. You could ask, and in time, I think, get a
very large price."

They were gathered in the playroom. Mary, very tall and beautiful, was
standing with her back to the fireplace.

"Mr. Gilpin," she said, "I have been coming to The Camp off and on for
twenty-eight years. I will never consent to its being sold."

"Nor I," said Maud. "Though I've only been coming for twenty-six."

"In twenty-four years," said Eve, "I have formed an attachment to the
place which nothing can break."

"Arthur," appealed Mr. Gilpin, "perhaps you have some sense."

"I?" said Arthur. "Why? Twenty-two years ago I was born here."

"Good old Arthur!" exclaimed the triplets. "We were born here, too - just
nineteen years ago."

"But," objected Mr. Gilpin, "you can't run the place - you can't live
here. Confound it, you young geese, you can't even pay the taxes."

Lee whispered to Gay.

"Look at Mary!"

"Why?"

"She's got a look of father in her eyes - father going down to Wall
Street to raise Cain."

Mary spoke very slowly.

"Mr. Gilpin," she said, "you are an excellent estate lawyer, and I am
very fond of you. But you know nothing about finance. We are going to
live here whenever we please. We are going to run it wide open, as
father did. We are even going to pay the taxes."

Mr. Gilpin was exasperated.

"Then you'll have to take boarders," he flung at her.

"Exactly," said Mary.

There was a short silence.

"How do you know," said Gay, "that they won't pick their teeth in
public? I couldn't stand that."

"They won't be that kind," said Mary grimly. "And they will be so busy
paying their bills that they won't have time."

"Seriously," said Arthur, "are you going to turn The Camp into an inn?"

"No," said Mary, "not into an inn. It has always been _The_ Camp. We
shall turn it into _The_ Inn."




II


Mr. Gilpin had departed in what had perhaps been the late Mr. Darling's
last extravagant purchase, a motor-boat which at rest was a streak of
polished mahogany, and at full speed, a streak of foam. The reluctant
lawyer carried with him instructions to collect as much cash as possible
and place it to the credit of the equally reluctant Arthur Darling.

"Arthur," Mary had agreed, "is perhaps the only one of us who could be
made to understand that a bank account in his name is not necessarily at
his own personal disposal. Arthur is altruistically and Don Quixotically
honest."

It was necessary to warm the playroom with a tremendous fire, as October
had changed suddenly from autumn to winter. There was a gusty grayness
in the heavens that promised flurries of snow.

Since Mary's proposal of the day before to turn the expensive camp into
a profitable inn, the family had talked of little else, and a number of
ways and means had already been chosen from the innumerable ones
proposed. In almost every instance Arthur had found himself an amused
minority. His platform had been: "Make them comfortable at a fair
price."

But Mary, who knew the world, had retorted:

"We are not appealing to people who consider what they pay but to people
who only consider what they get. Make them luxurious; and they will pay
anything we choose to ask."

After Mr. Gilpin's chillsome departure in the _Streak_, the family
resumed the discussion in front of the great fire in the playroom. Wow,
the dog, who had been running a deer for twenty-four hours in defiance
of all game-laws, was present in the flesh, but his weary spirit was in
the land of dreams, as an occasional barking and bristling of his mane
testified. Uncas, the chipmunk, had also demanded and received
admittance to the council. For a time he had sat on Arthur's shoulder,
puffing his cheeks with inconceivable rapidity, then, soporifically
inclined by the warmth of the fire and the constant strain incident to
his attempts to understand the ins and outs of the English language when
rapidly and even slangily spoken, he dropped into Arthur's breast-pocket
and went to sleep.

Arthur sighed. He was feeling immensely fidgety; but he knew that any
sudden, irritable shifting of position would disturb the slumbers of
Uncas, and so for nearly an hour he held himself heroically, almost
uncannily, still.

Two years ago, dating from his graduation, Arthur had had a change of
heart. He had been so dissipated as to give his family cause for the
utmost anxiety. He had squandered money with both hands. He had had a
regular time for lighting a cigarette, namely, when the one which he had
been smoking was ready to be thrown away. He had been a keen hunter and
fisherman. His chief use for domestic animals was to tease them and play
tricks upon them. Then suddenly, out of this murky sky, had shone the
clear light of all his subsequent behavior. He neither drank nor smoked;
he neither slaughtered deer nor caught fish. He was never quarrelsome.
He went much into the woods to photograph and observe. He became almost
too quiet and self-effacing for a young man. He asked nothing of the
world - not even to be let alone. He was patient under the fiendish
ministrations of bores. He tamed birds and animals, spoiling them, as
grandparents spoil grandchildren, until they gave him no peace, and were
always running to him at inconvenient times because they were hungry,
because they were sleepy, because they thought somebody had been
abusing them, or because they wished to be tickled and amused.

"He's like a peaceful lake," Maud had once said, "deep in the woods,
where the wind never blows," and Eve had nodded and said: "True. And
there's a woman at the bottom of it."

The sisters all believed that Arthur's change of heart could be traced
to a woman. They differed only as to the kind.

"One of our kind," Mary thought, "who wouldn't have him."

"One of our kind," thought Maud, "who couldn't have him."

And the triplets thought differently every day. All except Gay, who
happened to know.

"But," said Maud, "if we are to appeal to people of our own class, all
mamma's and papa's old friends and our own will come to us, and that
will be much, too much, like charity."

"Right," said Mary. "Don't tell _me_ I haven't thought of that. I have.
Applications from old friends will be politely refused."

"We can say," said Eve, "that we are very sorry, but every room is
taken."

"But suppose they aren't?" objected Arthur.

Eve retorted sharply.

"What is that to do with it? We are running a business, not a Bible
class."

But Phyllis was pulling a long face.

"Aren't we ever to see any of our old friends any more?"

Lee and Gay nudged each other and began to tease her.

"Dearest Pill," they said, "all will yet be well. There is more than one
Geoffrey Plantagenet in the world. You shall have the pick of all the
handsome strangers."

"Oh, come, now!" said Arthur, "Phyllis is right. Now and then we must
have guests - who don't pay."

"Not until we can afford them," said Mary. "Has anybody seen the
sketch-map that papa made of the buildings?"

"I know where it is," said Arthur, "but I can't get it now; because Wow
needs my feet for a pillow and at the moment Uncas is very sound
asleep."

"Can't you _tell_ us where it is?"

"Certainly," he said; "it's in the safe. The safe is locked."

"And where is the key?"

"Just under Uncas."

"Very well, then," said Mary, "important business must wait until
Stripes wakes up. Meanwhile, I think we ought to make up our minds how
and how much to advertise."

"There are papers," said Eve, "that all wealthy Americans always see,
and then there's that English paper with all the wonderful
advertisements of country places for sale or to let. I vote for a
full-page ad in that. People will say, 'Jove, this must be a wonderful
proposition if it pays 'em to advertise it in an English paper.'"

Everybody agreed with Eve except Arthur. He merely smiled with and at
her.

"We can say," said Eve, "shooting and fishing over a hundred thousand
acres. Does the State own as much as that, Arthur?"

He nodded, knowing the futility of arguing with the feminine conscience.

"Two hundred thousand?"

He nodded again.

"Then," said Eve, "make a note of this, somebody." Maud went to the
writing-table. "Shooting and fishing over hundreds of thousands of
acres."

"There must be pictures," said Maud, "in the text of the ad - the place
is full of them; and if they won't do, Arthur can take others - when Wow
and Uncas wake up."

"There must be that picture after the opening of the season," said Mary,
"the year the party got nine bucks - somebody make a point of finding
that picture."

"There are some good strings of trout and bass photographically
preserved," said Gay.

"A picture of chef in his kitchen will appeal," said Lee.

"So will interiors," said Maud. "Bedrooms with vistas of plumbing. Let's
be honestly grateful to papa for all the money he spent on porcelain and
silver plate."

"Oh, come," said Mary, "we must advertise in the American papers, too. I
think we should spend a good many thousand dollars. And of course we
must do away with the big table in the dining-house and substitute
little tables. I propose that we ransack the place for photographs, and
that Maud try her hand at composing full-page ads. And, Arthur, please
don't forget the sketch plan of the buildings - we'll have to make quite
a lot of alterations."

"I've thought of something," said Maud. "Just a line. Part of the ad, of
course, mentions prices. Now I think if we say prices from so and so
up - it looks cheap and commonplace. At the bottom of the ad, then, after
we've described all the domestic comforts of The Camp and its sporting
opportunities, let's see if we can't catch the _clientèle_ we are after
with this:

"'PRICES RATHER HIGH.'"

"Maud," said Mary, after swift thought, "your mind is as clear as a gem.
Just think how that line would have appealed to papa if he'd been
looking into summer or winter resorts. Make a note of it - What are you
two whispering about?"

Lee and Gay looked up guiltily. They had not only been whispering but
giggling. They said: "Nothing. Absolutely nothing."

But presently they put on sweaters and rowed off in a guide boat, so
that they might converse without fear of being observed.

"Sure you've got it?" asked Lee.

"Umm," said Gay, "sure."

They giggled.

"And you think we're not just plain conceited?"

"My dear Lee," said Gay, "Mary, Maud, and Eve are famous for their faces
and their figgers - have been for years, poor old things. Well, in my
candid opinion, you and Phyllis are better-looking in every way. I look
at you two from the cool standpoint of a stranger, and I tell you that
you are incomparably good-looking."

Lee laughed with mischievous delight.

"And you look so exactly like us," she said, "that strangers can't tell
us apart."

"For myself," said Gay demurely, "I claim nothing. Absolutely nothing.
But you and Pill are certainly as beautiful as you are young."

"For the sake of argument, then," said Lee, "let's admit that we six
sisters considered as a collection are somewhat alluring to the eye.
Well - when the mail goes with the ads Maud is making up, we'll go with
it, and make such changes in the choice of photographs as we see fit."

"That won't do," said Gay. "There will be proofs to correct."

"Then we'll wait till the proofs are corrected and sent off."

"Yes. That will be the way. It would be a pity for the whole scheme to
fall through for lack of brains. I suppose the others would never
agree?"

"The girls _might_," said Lee, "but Arthur never. He would rise up like
a lion. You know, deep down in his heart he's a frightful stickler for
the proprieties."

"We shall get ourselves into trouble."

"It will not be the first or the last time. And besides, we can escape
to the woods if necessary, like Bessie Belle and Mary Grey."

"Who were they?"

"'They were two bonnie lassies.
They built a house on yon burn brae
And thecht it o'er wi' rashes.'"




III


If we except Arthur, whose knowledge of the Adirondack woods and waters
was that of a naturalist, Lee and Gay were the sportsmen of the family.
They had begun to learn the arts of fishing and hunting from excellent
masters at the tender age of five. They knew the deeps and shallows of
every lake and brook within many miles as intimately as a good housewife
knows the shelves in her linen closet. They talked in terms of blazes,
snags, spring holes, and runways. Each owned a guide boat, incomparably
light, which she could swing to her shoulders and carry for a quarter of
a mile without blowing. If Lee was the better shot, Gay could throw the
more seductive fly.

There had been a guide in the girls' extreme youth, a Frenchman, Pierre
Amadis de Troissac, who had perhaps begun life as a gentleman. Whatever
his history, he had taught the precious pair the rudiments of French and
the higher mysteries of fishing.

He had made a special study of spring holes, an essential in Adirondack
trout-fishing, and whenever the Darlings wanted trout, it had only been
necessary to tell De Troissac how many they wanted and to wait a few
hours. On those occasions when he went fishing for the larder, Lee and
Gay, two little roly-polies with round, innocent eyes, often accompanied
him. It never occurred to De Troissac that the children could mark down
the exact places from which he took fish, and, one by one and quite
unintentionally, he revealed to them the hard-won secrets of his spring
holes. The knowledge, however, went no further. They would have told
Phyllis, of course, if she had been a sport. But she wasn't. She
resembled Lee and Gay almost exactly in all other ways; but the spirit
of pursuit and capture was left out of her. Twice she had upset a boat
because a newly landed bass had suddenly begun to flop in the bottom of
it, and once, coming accidentally upon a guide in the act of
disembowelling a deer, she had gone into hysterics. She could row, carry
a boat, swim, and find the more travelled trails; but, as Lee and Gay
said: "Pill would starve in the woods directly the season was over."

She couldn't discharge even a twenty-two calibre rifle without shutting
her eyes; she couldn't throw a fly twenty feet without snarling her
leader. The more peaceful arts of out-of-doors had excited her
imagination and latent skill.

In the heart of the woods, back of The Camp, not to be seen or even
suspected until you came suddenly upon it, she had an acre of gardens
under exquisite cultivation, and not a little glass. She specialized in
nectarines, white muscats of Alexandria, new peas, and heaven-blue
larkspur. But, for the sake of others, she grew to perfection beets,
sweet corn, the lilies in variety, and immense Japanese iris.

As The Camp was to be turned into an inn which should serve its guests
with delicious food, Phyllis and her garden became of immense importance
and she began to sit much apart, marking seed catalogues with one end of
a pencil and drumming on her beautiful teeth with the other.

Negotiations had been undertaken with a number of periodicals devoted to
outdoor life, and a hundred schemes for advertising had been boiled down
to one, which even Arthur was willing to let stand. To embody Mary's
ideas of a profitable proposition into a page of advertising without
being too absurd or too "cheap," had proved extremely difficult.

"We will run The Inn," she said, "so that rich people will live very
much as they would if they were doing the running. One big price must
cover all the luxuries of home. We must eliminate all extras - everything
which is a nuisance or a trouble. Except for the trifling fact that we
receive pay for it, we must treat them exactly as papa used to treat his
guests. He gave his guests splendid food of his own ordering. When they
wanted cigars or cigarettes, they helped themselves. There was always
champagne for dinner, but if men preferred whiskey and soda, they told
the butler, and he saw that they got it. What I'm driving at is this:
There must be no difference in price for a guest who drinks champagne
and one who doesn't drink anything. And more important still, we must do
all the laundering without extra charge; guides, guide boats, guns, and
fishing-tackle must be on tap - just as papa had everything for his
guests. The one big price must include absolutely everything."

Added to this general idea, it was further conveyed in the final


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