Read CHAPTER XV - DRUSILLA of The Green Mouse, free online book, by Robert W. Chambers, on ReadCentral.com.

During Which Chapter Mr. Carr Sings and One of His Daughters Takes her Postgraduate

Mr. Yates came presently, ushered by Ferdinand, and looking extremely worried.  Mr. Carr received him in his private office with ominous urbanity.

“Mr. Yates,” he said, forcing a distorted smile, “I have rather abruptly decided to show you exactly how one of the Destyn-Carr instruments is supposed to work.  Would you kindly stand here ­close by this table?”

Mr. Yates, astounded, obeyed.

“Now,” said Mr. Carr, with a deeply creased smile, “here is the famous Destyn-Carr apparatus.  That’s quite right ­take a snapshot at it without my permission ­”

“I ­I thought ­”

“Quite right, my boy; I intend you shall know all about it.  You see it resembles the works of a watch....  Now, when I touch this spring the receiver opens and gathers in certain psychic waves which emanate from the subconscious personality of ­well, let us say you, for example!...  And now I touch this button.  You see that slender hairspring of Rosium uncurl and rise, trembling and waving about like a tentacle?”

Young Yates, notebook in hand, recovered himself sufficiently to nod.  Mr. Carr leered at him: 

“That tentacle,” he explained, “is now seeking some invisible, wireless, psychic current along which it is to transmit the accumulated psychic waves.  As soon as the wireless current finds the subconscious personality of the woman you are destined to love and marry some day ­”

“I?” exclaimed young Yates, horrified.

“Yes, you.  Why not?  Do you mind my trying it on you?”

“But I am already in love,” protested the young man, turning, as usual, a ready red.  “I don’t care to have you try it on me.  Suppose that machine should connect me with ­some other ­girl ­”

“It has!” cried Carr with a hideous laugh as a point of bluish-white fire tipped the tentacle for an instant.  “You’re tied fast to something feminine!  Probably a flossy typewriter ­or a burlesque actress ­somebody you’re fitted for, anyway!” He clapped on his monocle, and glared gleefully at the stupefied young man.

“That will teach you to enter my premises and hold my daughter’s hand when she is drawing innocent pictures of Cooper’s Bluff!” he shouted.  “That will teach you to write poems to my eighteen-year-old daughter, Drusilla; that will teach you to tell her you are in love with her ­you young pup!”

“I am in love with her!” said Yates, undaunted; but he was very white when he said it.  “I do love her; and if you had behaved halfway decently I’d have told you so two weeks ago!”

Mr. Carr turned a delicate purple, then, recovering, laughed horribly.

“Whether or not you were once in love with my daughter is of no consequence now.  That machine has nullified your nonsense!  That instrument has found you your proper affinity ­doubtless below stairs ­”

“I am still in love with Drusilla,” repeated Yates, firmly.

“I tell you, you’re not!” retorted Carr.  “Didn’t I turn that machine on you?  It has never missed yet!  The Green Mouse has got you in the Mouseleum!”

“You are mistaken,” insisted Yates, still more firmly.  “I was in love with your daughter Drusilla before you started the machine; and I love her yet!  Now!  At the present time!  This very instant I am loving her!”

“You can’t!” shouted Carr.

“Yes, I can.  And I do!”

“No, you don’t!  I tell you it’s a scientific and psychical impossibility for you to continue to love her!  Your subconscious personality is now in eternal and irrevocable accord and communication with the subconscious personality of some chit of a girl who is destined to love and marry you!  And she’s probably a ballet-girl, at that!”

“I shall marry Drusilla!” retorted the young man, very pale; “because I am quite confident that she loves me, though very probably she doesn’t know it yet.”

“You talk foolishness!” hissed Carr.  “This machine has settled the whole matter!  Didn’t you see that spark?”

“I saw a spark ­yes!”

“And do you mean to tell me you are not beginning to feel queer?”

“Not in the slightest.”

“Look me squarely in the eye, young man, and tell me whether you do not have a sensation as though your heart were cutting capers?”

“Not in the least,” said Yates, calmly.  “If that machine worked at all it wouldn’t surprise me if you yourself had become entangled in it ­caught in your own machine!”

“W-what!” exclaimed Carr, faintly.

“It wouldn’t astonish me in the slightest,” repeated Yates, delighted to discover the dawning alarm in the older man’s features. “You opened the receiver; you have psychic waves as well as I. I was in love at the time; you were not.  What was there to prevent your waves from being hitched to a wireless current and, finally, signaling the subconscious personality of ­of some pretty actress, for example?”

Mr. Carr sank nervously onto a chair; his eyes, already wild, became wilder as he began to realize the risk he had unthinkingly taken.

“Perhaps you feel a little ­queer.  You look it,” suggested the young man, in a voice made anxious by an ever-ready sympathy.  “Can I do anything?  I am really very sorry to have spoken so.”

A damp chill gathered on the brow of Bushwyck Carr.  He did feel a trifle queer.  A curious lightness ­a perfectly inexplicable buoyancy seemed to possess him.  He was beginning to feel strangely youthful; the sound of his own heart suddenly became apparent.  To his alarm it was beating playfully, skittishly.  No ­it was not even beating; it was skipping.

“Y-Yates,” he stammered, “you don’t think that I could p-possibly have become inadvertently mixed up with that horrible machine ­do you?”

Now Yates was a generous youth; resentment at the treatment meted out to him by this florid, bad-tempered and pompous gentleman changed to instinctive sympathy when he suddenly realized the plight his future father-in-law might now be in.

“Yates,” repeated Mr. Carr in an agitated voice, “tell me honestly:  do you think there is anything unusual the matter with me?  I ­I seem to f-feel unusually ­young.  Do I look it?  Have I changed?  W-watch me while I walk across the room.”

Mr. Carr arose with a frightened glance at Yates, put on his hat, and fairly pranced across the room.  “Great Heavens!” he faltered; “my hat’s on one side and my walk is distinctly jaunty!  Do you notice it, Yates?”

“I’m afraid I do, Mr. Carr.”

“This ­this is infamous!” gasped Mr. Carr.  “This is ­is outrageous!  I’m forty-five!  I’m a widower!  I detest a jaunty widower!  I don’t want to be one; I don’t want to ­”

Yates gazed at him with deep concern.

“Can’t you help lifting your legs that way when you walk ­as though a band were playing?  Wait, I’ll straighten your hat.  Now try it again.”

Mr. Carr pranced back across the room.

“I know I’m doing it again,” he groaned, “but I can’t help it!  I ­I feel so gay ­dammit! ­so frivolous ­it’s ­it’s that infernal machine.  W-what am I to do, Yates,” he added piteously, “when the world looks so good to me?”

“Think of your family!” urged Yates.  “Think of ­of Drusilla.”

“Do you know,” observed Carr, twirling his eyeglass and twisting his mustache, “that I’m beginning not to care what my family think!...  Isn’t it amazing, Yates?  I ­I seem to be somebody else, several years younger.  Somewhere,” he added, with a flourish of his monocle ­“somewhere on earth there is a little birdie waiting for me.”

“Don’t talk that way!” exclaimed Yates, horrified.

“Yes, I will, young man.  I repeat, with optimism and emphasis, that somewhere there is a birdie ­”

“Mr. Carr!”

“Yes, merry old Top!”

“May I use your telephone?”

“I don’t care what you do!” said Carr, gayly.  “Use my telephone if you like; pull it out by the roots and throw it over Cooper’s Bluff, for all I care!  But” ­and a sudden glimmer of reason seemed to come over him ­“if you have one grain of human decency left in you, you won’t drag me and my terrible plight into that scurrilous New York paper of yours.”

“No,” said Yates, “I won’t.  And that ends my career on Park Row.  I’m going to telephone my resignation.”

Mr. Carr gazed calmly around and twisted his mustache with a satisfied and retrospective smile.

“That’s very decent of you, Yates; you must pardon me; I was naturally half scared to death at first; but I realize you are acting very handsomely in this horrible dilemma ­”

“Naturally,” interrupted Yates.  “I must stand by the family into which I am, as you know, destined to marry.”

“To be sure,” nodded Carr, absently; “it really looks that way, doesn’t it!  And, Yates, you have no idea how I hated you an hour ago.”

“Yes, I have,” said Yates.

“No, you really have not, if you will permit me to contradict you, merry old Top.  I ­but never mind now.  You have behaved in an unusually considerate manner.  Who the devil are you, anyway?”

Yates informed him modestly.

“Well, why didn’t you say so, instead of letting me bully you!  I’ve known your father for twenty years.  Why didn’t you tell me you wanted to marry Drusilla, instead of coming and blushing all over the premises?  I’d have told you she was too young; and she is!  I’d have told you to wait; and you’d have waited.  You’d have been civil enough to wait when I explained to you that I’ve already lost, by marriage, two daughters through that accursed machine.  You wouldn’t entirely denude me of daughters, would you?”

“I only want one,” said John Yates, simply.

“Well, all right; I’m a decent father-in-law when I’ve got to be.  I’m really a good sport.  You may ask all my sons-in-law; they’ll admit it.”  He scrutinized the young man and found him decidedly agreeable to look at, and at the same time a vague realization of his own predicament returned for a moment.

“Yates,” he said unsteadily, “all I ask of you is to keep this terrible n-news from my innocent d-daughters until I can f-find out what sort of a person is f-fated to lead me to the altar!”

Yates took the offered hand with genuine emotion.

“Surely,” he said, “your unknown intended must be some charming leader in the social activities of the great metropolis.”

“Who knows!  She may be m-my own l-laundress for all I know.  She may be anything, Yates!  She ­she might even be b-black!”

“Black!”

Mr. Carr nodded, shuddered, dashed the unmanly moisture from his eyeglass.

“I think I’d better go to town and tell my son-in-law, William Destyn, exactly what has happened to me,” he said.  “And I think I’ll go through the kitchen garden and take my power boat so that those devilish reporters can’t follow me.  Ferdinand!” to the man at the door, “ring up the garage and order the blue motor, and tell those newspaper men I’m going to town.  That, I think, will glue them to the lawn for a while.”

“About ­Drusilla, sir?” ventured Yates; but Mr. Carr was already gone, speeding noiselessly out the back way, through the kitchen garden, and across the great tree-shaded lawn which led down to the boat landing.

Across the distant hedge, from the beautiful grounds of his next-door neighbor, floated sounds of mirth and music.  Gay flags fluttered among the trees.  The Magnelius Grandcourts were evidently preparing for the brilliant charity bazaar to be held there that afternoon and evening.

“To think,” muttered Carr, “that only an hour ago I was agreeably and comfortably prepared to pass the entire afternoon there with my daughters, amid innocent revelry.  And now I’m in flight ­pursued by furies of my own invoking ­threatened with love in its most hideous form ­ matrimony!  Any woman I now look upon may be my intended bride for all I know,” he continued, turning into the semiprivate driveway, bordered heavily by lilacs; “and the curious thing about it is that I really don’t care; in fact, the excitement is mildly pleasing.”

He halted; in the driveway, blocking it, stood a red motor car ­a little runabout affair; and at the steering-wheel sat a woman ­a lady’s maid by her cap and narrow apron, and an exceedingly pretty one, at that.

When she saw Mr. Carr she looked up, showing an edge of white teeth in the most unembarrassed of smiles.  She certainly was an unusually agreeable-looking girl.

“Has something gone wrong with your motor?” inquired Mr. Carr, pleasantly.

“I am afraid so.”  She didn’t say “sir”; probably because she was too pretty to bother about such incidentals.  And she looked at Carr and smiled, as though he were particularly ornamental.

“Let me see,” began Mr. Carr, laying his hand on the steering-wheel; “perhaps I can make it go.”

“It won’t go,” she said, a trifle despondently and shaking her charming head.  “I’ve been here nearly half an hour waiting for it to do something; but it won’t.”

Mr. Carr peered wisely into the acétylènes, looked carefully under the hood, examined the upholstery.  He didn’t know anything about motors.

“I’m afraid,” he said sadly, “that there’s something wrong with the magne-e-to!”

“Do you think it is as bad as that?”

“I fear so,” he said gravely.  “If I were you I’d get out ­and keep well away from that machine.”

“Why?” she asked nervously, stepping to the grass beside him.

“It might blow up.”

They backed away rather hastily, side by side.  After a while they backed farther away, hand in hand.

“I ­I hate to leave it there all alone,” said the maid, when they had backed completely out of sight of the car.  “If there was only some safe place where I could watch and see if it is going to explode.”

They ventured back a little way and peeped at the motor.

“You could take a rowboat and watch it from the water,” said Mr. Carr.

“But I don’t know how to row.”

Mr. Carr looked at her.  Certainly she was the most prepossessing specimen of wholesome, rose-cheeked and ivory-skinned womanhood that he had ever beheld; a trifle nearer thirty-five than twenty-five, he thought, but so sweet and fresh and with such charming eyes and manners.

“I have,” said Mr. Carr, “several hours at my disposal before I go to town on important business.  If you like I will row you out in one of my boats, and then, from a safe distance, we can sit and watch your motor blow up.  Shall we?”

“It is most kind of you ­”

“Not at all.  It would be most kind of you.”

She looked sideways at the motor, sideways at the water, sideways at Mr. Carr.

It was a very lovely morning in early June.

As Mr. Carr handed her into the rowboat with ceremony she swept him a courtesy.  Her apron and manners were charmingly incongruous.

When she was gracefully seated in the stern Mr. Carr turned for a moment, stared all Oyster Bay calmly in the face through his monocle, then, untying the painter, fairly skipped into the boat with a step distinctly frolicsome.

“It’s curious how I feel about this,” he observed, digging both oars into the water.

How do you feel, Mr. Carr?”

“Like a bird,” he said softly.

And the boat moved off gently through the sparkling waters of Oyster Bay.

At that same moment, also, the sparkling waters of Oyster Bay were gently caressing the classic contours of Cooper’s Bluff, and upon that monumental headland, seated under sketching umbrellas, Flavilla and Drusilla worked, in a puddle of water colors; and John Chillingham Yates, in becoming white flannels and lilac tie and hosiery, lay on the sod and looked at Drusilla.

Silence, delicately accented by the faint harmony of mosquitoes, brooded over Cooper’s Bluff.

“There’s no use,” said Drusilla at last; “one can draw a landscape from every point of view except looking down hill.  Mr. Yates, how on earth am I to sit here and make a drawing looking down hill?”

“Perhaps,” he said, “I had better hold your pencil again.  Shall I?”

“Do you think that would help?”

“I think it helps ­somehow.”

Her pretty, narrow hand held the pencil; his sun-browned hand closed over it.  She looked at the pad on her knees.

After a while she said:  “I think, perhaps, we had better draw.  Don’t you?”

They made a few hen-tracks.  Noticing his shoulder was just touching hers, and feeling a trifle weary on her camp-stool, she leaned back a little.

“It is very pleasant to have you here,” she said dreamily.

“It is very heavenly to be here,” he said.

“How generous you are to give us so much of your time!” murmured Drusilla.

“I think so, too,” said Flavilla, washing a badger brush.  “And I am becoming almost as fond of you as Drusilla is.”

“Don’t you like him as well as I do?” asked Drusilla.

Flavilla turned on her camp-stool and inspected them both.

“Not quite as well,” she said frankly.  “You know, Drusilla, you are very nearly in love with him.”  And she resumed her sketching.

Drusilla gazed at the purple horizon unembarrassed.  “Am I?” she said absently.

“Are you?” he repeated, close to her shoulder.

She turned and looked into his sun-tanned face curiously.

“What is it ­to love?  Is it” ­she looked at him undisturbed ­“is it to be quite happy and lazy with a man like you?”

He was silent.

“I thought,” she continued, “that there would be some hesitation, some shyness about it ­some embarrassment.  But there, has been none between you and me.”

He said nothing.

She went on absently: 

“You said, the other day, very simply, that you cared a great deal for me; and I was not very much surprised.  And I said that I cared very much for you....  And, by the way, I meant to ask you yesterday; are we engaged?”

“Are we?” he asked.

“Yes ­if you wish....  Is that all there is to an engagement?”

“There’s a ring,” observed Flavilla, dabbing on too much ultramarine and using a sponge.  “You’ve got to get her one, Mr. Yates.”

Drusilla looked at the man beside her and smiled.

“How simple it is, after all!” she said.  “I have read in the books Pa-pah permits us to read such odd things about love and lovers....  Are we lovers, Mr. Yates?  But, of course, we must be, I fancy.”

“Yes,” he said.

“Some time or other, when it is convenient,” observed Flavilla, “you ought to kiss each other occasionally.”

“That doesn’t come until I’m a bride, does it?” asked Drusilla.

“I believe it’s a matter of taste,” said Flavilla, rising and naively stretching her long, pretty limbs.

She stood a moment on the edge of the bluff, looking down.

“How curious!” she said after a moment.  “There is Pa-pah on the water rowing somebody’s maid about.”

“What!” exclaimed Yates, springing to his feet.

“How extraordinary,” said Drusilla, following him to the edge of the bluff; “and they’re singing, too, as they row!”

From far below, wafted across the sparkling waters of Oyster Bay, Mr. Carr’s rich and mellifluous voice was wafted shoreward: 

I der-reamt that I dwelt in ma-arble h-a-l-ls.

The sunlight fell on the maid’s coquettish cap and apron, and sparkled upon the buckle of one dainty shoe.  It also glittered across the monocle of Mr. Carr.

“Pa-pah!” cried Flavilla.

Far away her parent waved a careless greeting to his offspring, then resumed his oars and his song.

“How extraordinary!” said Flavilla.  “Why do you suppose that Pa-pah is rowing somebody’s maid around the bay, and singing that way to her?”

“Perhaps it’s one of our maids,” said Drusilla; “but that would be rather odd, too, wouldn’t it, Mr. Yates?”

“A ­little,” he admitted.  And his heart sank.

Flavilla had started down the sandy face of the bluff.

“I’m going to see whose maid it is,” she called back.

Drusilla seated herself in the sun-dried grass and watched her sister.

Yates stood beside her in bitter dejection.

So this was the result!  His unfortunate future father-in-law was done for.  What a diabolical machine!  What a terrible, swift, relentless answer had been returned when, out of space, this misguided gentleman had, by mistake, summoned his own affinity!  And what an affinity!  A saucy soubrette who might easily have just stepped from the coulisse of a Parisian theater!

Yates looked at Drusilla.  What an awful blow was impending!  She never could have suspected it, but there, in that boat, sat her future stepmother in cap and apron! ­his own future stepmother-in-law!

And in the misery of that moment’s realization John Chillingham Yates showed the material of which he was constructed.

“Dear,” he said gently.

“Do you mean me?” asked Drusilla, looking up in frank surprise.

And at the same time she saw on his face a look which she had never before encountered there.  It was the shadow of trouble; and it drew her to her feet instinctively.

“What is it, Jack?” she asked.

She had never before called him anything but Mr. Yates.

“What is it?” she repeated, turning away beside him along the leafy path; and with every word another year seemed, somehow, to be added to her youth.  “Has anything happened, Jack?  Are you unhappy ­or ill?”

He did not speak; she walked beside him, regarding him with wistful eyes.

So there was more of love than happiness, after all; she began to half understand it in a vague way as she watched his somber face.  There certainly was more of love than a mere lazy happiness; there was solicitude and warm concern, and desire to comfort, to protect.

“Jack,” she said tremulously.

He turned and took her unresisting hands.  A quick thrill shot through her.  Yes, there was more to love than she had expected.

“Are you unhappy?” she asked.  “Tell me.  I can’t bear to see you this way.  I ­I never did ­before.”

“Will you love me; Drusilla?”

“Yes ­yes, I will, Jack.”

“Dearly?”

“I do ­dearly.”  The first blush that ever tinted her cheek spread and deepened.

“Will you marry me, Drusilla?”

“Yes....  You frighten me.”

She trembled, suddenly, in his arms.  Surely there were more things to love than she had dreamed of in her philosophy.  She looked up as he bent nearer, understanding that she was to be kissed, awaiting the event which suddenly loomed up freighted with terrific significance.

There was a silence, a sob.

“Jack ­darling ­I ­I love you so!”

Flavilla was sketching on her camp-stool when they returned.

“I’m horridly hungry,” she said.  “It’s luncheon time, isn’t it?  And, by the way, it’s all right about that maid.  She was on her way to serve in the tea pavilion at Mrs. Magnelius Grandcourt’s bazaar, and her runabout broke down and nearly blew up.”

“What on earth are you talking about?” exclaimed Drusilla.

“I’m talking about Mrs. Magnelius Grandcourt’s younger sister from Philadelphia, who looks perfectly sweet as a lady’s maid.  Tea,” she added, “is to be a dollar a cup, and three if you take sugar.  And,” she continued, “if you and I are to sell flowers there this afternoon we’d better go home and dress.... What are you smiling at, Mr. Yates?”

Drusilla naturally supposed she could answer that question.

“Dearest little sister,” she said shyly and tenderly, “we have something very wonderful to tell you.”

“What is it?” asked Flavilla.

“We ­we are ­engaged,” whispered Drusilla, radiant.

“Why, I knew that already!” said Flavilla.

“Did you?” sighed her sister, turning to look at her tall, young lover.  “I didn’t....  Being in love is a much more complicated matter than you and I imagined, Flavilla.  Is it not, Jack?”