Read CHAPTER XI of People of the Whirlpool, free online book, by Mabel Osgood Wright, on


June 10. Sylvia Latham has returned alone. Her father came with her as far as Chicago, where, having business that would detain him for perhaps ten days, and warm weather having set in, he insisted that Sylvia should at once proceed eastward. At least that is what Miss Lavinia tells me; but she has suddenly turned quite reticent in everything that concerns the Lathams, which, together with Mrs. Jenks-Smith’s random remarks, have inevitably set me to thinking.

I had hoped to form a pleasant friendship with Sylvia, for though I have only met her two or three times, I feel as if I really knew her; but there will be little chance now, as they go on to Newport the first of July, and the continual procession of house parties, for golf, tennis, etc., at the Bluffs, even though they are called informal, necessarily stand in the way of intimate neighbourly relations between us. Monty Bell has been dividing his week ends between the Ponsonby, Vanderveer, and Jenks-Smith households, yet he always is in the foreground when I have been to see Sylvia, even though I have tried to slip in between times in the morning.

I do not like this Monty Bell; he seems to be merely an eater of dinners and a cajoler of dames, such superficial chivalry of speech as he exhibits being only one of the many expedients that gain him the title of “socially indispensable” that the Whirlpoolers accord him.

Personally anything but attractive, he seems able to organize and control others in a most singular way. Perhaps it is because he has a genius for taking pains and planning successful entertainments for his friends, even to the minutest detail, and giving them the subtle distinction of both originality and finish, without troubling their givers to think for themselves. Miss Lavinia-says that he has the entree of the two or three very exclusive New York houses that have never yet opened their doors to Mrs. Latham and several more aspiring Whirlpoolers, Mrs. Jenks-Smith having penetrated the sacred precincts, only by right of having been presented at the English Court in the last reign through the influence of her stepdaughter, who married a poverty-stricken title.

“I don’t know what it all amounts to,” said the outspoken Lady of the Bluffs on her return, “except that I’m in it now with both feet, which is little enough pay for the trouble I took and the money Jenks-Smith put out.

“Our son-in-law? No, he’s not exactly English, he’s Irish, blood of the old kings, they say; but all the good it does him is, that he can wear his hat with a feather in it, or else his shoes, I can never remember which, in the presence of royalty, when if it wasn’t for good American money he’d have neither one or the other.

“Money? Oh yes, that’s all they want of us over there; we’ve no cause to stick up our noses and think it’s ourselves. We know, Jenks-Smith and I, for haven’t we been financial mother and father in law to a pair of them for ten years? Jenks-Smith was smart, though; he wouldn’t give a lump sum down, but makes them an allowance, and we go over every year or so and bail them out of some sort of a mess to boot, have the plumbing fixed up, and start the children all over with new clothes. That’s what we’re doing when the papers say, ’Mr. and Mrs. Jenks-Smith, who went to Carlsbad for the waters, are now in Ireland, being entertained in regal style by their daughter and son-in-law at Bally-whack House.’”

Miss Lavinia says with a shiver that whoever marries Monty Bell, and it is absolutely necessary for him to make a wealthy connection in the immediate future, will have all New York doors open to her, and that, as Mrs. Latham is leaving no stone unturned in order to become a social leader, a marriage between Sylvia and Mr. Bell would secure her the complete prestige necessary to her ambition, while rearranged families are so common and often the results of such trivial causes, that the fact of the man’s having a lovely wife and two children living abroad does not militate against him in the least. It all seems ghastly, this living life as if it was a race track, where to reach the social goal is the only thought, no matter how, or over or through what wreckage, or in what company the race is to be won.

Since her return Sylvia has looked pale and seemed less buoyant. She is much disappointed because her plan of going to Rockcliffe to see her class graduate cannot be carried out. Miss Lavinia had promised to go with her, and the poor child was looking forward to a week of girlish pleasure among the friends with whom she had spent two years, when, lo and behold! the rose and strawberry festival, that the Lady of the Bluffs had stirred up for the benefit of the hospital, assumed such huge proportions that the entire colony became involved, and the dates conflicting, it was impossible for Sylvia to leave home without entirely tipping over her mother’s plans.

The places on the north side of the Bluff road are to be thrown open, grand-chain fashion, each contributing something by way of entertainment, games, a merry-go-round brought with great expense from the city, fortune telling, a miniature show of pet animals, and an amateur circus, being a few of the many attractions offered.

The spectators are to pay a fee and enter by the Ponsonbys’, the first place on the south, and gradually work their way up to the Jenks-Smiths’, where the rose garden and an elaborate refreshment booth will be reached. The Latham garden is too new to make any showing, but Mrs. Latham, who has been much in New York of late, promises something novel in the way of a tea room in her great reception hall, while Mrs. Jenks-Smith insisted that Sylvia should have charge of her rose booth, saying: “Your name’s suitable for the business, you’ll look well in a simple hat and baggy mull gown, such as artists always want to put on the people they paint, and I must positively have some one who’ll stay by me and see that things are not torn to bits, for all the rest of the girls will slide off with the first pair of trousers that comes along. Anyway, you don’t match the little Ponsonby and Chatfield minxes that your mother has chosen for her six Geisha girls, for you are a head taller than the bunch.”

Nothing is talked of now but this fête. Of course it will help the hospital, even though ten times the amount is being spent upon the preparation than any sum that can possibly be made for the charity; but it pleases the people to spend. Father says that the Whirlpoolers are already bored; that they have used up the place, for the time being, and if it were not for this festival, the Bluffs would be deserted for Newport and Long Island long before July.

Social ambition has even infected our rector’s jolly little wife, who has never felt able or called upon to entertain in any but the most informal way. After hearing the report of a clerical luncheon in New York, where the clergyman sat at the foot of his own table with a miniature shepherd’s crook before him, and the favour beside the plate of each female guest consisted of a woolly lamb, she, not to be outdone, immediately imperilled the possibility of a new winter gown by inviting all the non-resident members of the congregation to lunch, and serving the ice cream in a toy Noah’s Ark, while the animals from it were grouped about a large dish of water, to form an appropriate decoration in the centre of the table, and sugar doves at each plate held leaves in their mouths, upon which the name of the guest was neatly pricked with a pin.

Lavinia Dorman has decided to stay with me and do without her maid, rather than take a cottage, or board, for we find that we do not wear on each other in the least. We never plan for one another, or interfere in any way, and each takes it for granted that if the other desires assistance of any sort, she will ask for it.

Miss Lavinia pokes about the garden at her own sweet will. I gather the flowers, I could not give that up to any one, and she takes charge of arranging them in the house. She is very fond of doing fancy work, I am not, so that her offer to re-cover the sofa cushions in den, study, and library comes in the light of a household benefaction.

Besides this, she has a very good effect upon the boys, and without being at all fussy, she is instilling their absorbent minds quite unconsciously with some little bits of the quaint good breeding of other days that they will never forget. They love to go to town with her, one of her first stipulations being that if I chose to include her in some of our long drives, well and good, otherwise she wished the liberty of telephoning the stable for horse and man, whenever she pleased, without my troubling myself about her movements.

Meanwhile, I really think that this living in the midst of a family without losing her independence is making Lavinia Dorman grow backwards toward youth. She has bought an outing hat without strings, trimmed with fluffy white, she takes her work out under the trees in a basket, and has given up tying her head in a thin and a thick veil every time she drives out. If she could learn to sit comfortably back and lounge a trifle, and if a friendly magpie would only chance along and steal her stock of fronts, for a nest, so that she would be obliged to show her own lovely hair that shades like oxidized silver, the transformation would be complete.

Martin Cortright also is developing mental energy. He always had considerable physical vim, as I found the Sunday after he first came, when he accompanied Evan upon one of his long walks, and was not used up by it. He has stopped fumbling with reference books and shuffling bits of paper by the hour, and writes industriously every day by the west window of the attic, where he can refresh himself by looking out of the window at the garden, or across at the passers on the highway. I was afraid that he might wish to read the results nightly to either father or Evan, but no, he keeps them safely under lock and key in a great teacher’s desk that he bought second hand over in town. He stays to dine with us two or three nights a week, but he has grown flexible, and our meals are very merry ones. Laugh softly to yourself, Experience Book, and flutter your leaves just a bit as I write, that of their own volition, Miss Lavinia and Martin have drifted from whist to piquet, as by natural transition, and Evan is free for garden saunterings once more.

June 25. Yesterday was the day of the festival, and it was neither sultry, foggy, nor brought to a sudden stop by a thunder shower, as so often happens at this season.

By half past two in the afternoon the country teams could be seen winding Bluff ward by all the various roads, and before three, the hour at which the gates were to be opened, every available hitching place was occupied, and the line of vehicles extended well up one of the back lanes that was bounded by a convenient rail fence.

Horace Bradford arrived home at Pine Ridge night before last. He had expected to see Sylvia and Miss Lavinia at Rockcliffe. Missing them, and not knowing the cause of their change of plan, very naturally his first thought was to drive down to Oak-lands and make a double call. On taking up the local paper he saw the announcement of the rose festival set forth in ornamental type, which gave him a key to the situation, so that the substantial, if not ornamental, farm buggy, drawn by a young horse with plenty of free-gaited country go but no “manners,” was one of the first to reach the Bluffs, Horace innocently hoping to have a few moments with Sylvia before the festivities began. He therefore inquired his way to the Latham house direct, instead of going into the fair grounds by way of the Ponsonbys’, and encountered Perkins, Potts, and Parker, who were on guard at the door, as well as two footmen who stood by the steps with straw wheel guards ready to assist people from their traps, and two grooms in silk-sleeved buff jackets, who waited to take charge of the horses of the men who were expected to ride over from a neighbouring social settlement.

The outdoor group seemed to be in doubt how to proceed. Bradford had all the ease of bearing that they instinctively felt belonged to a gentleman, but his turnout was beyond the pale, and the grooms hesitated to give it the shelter of the perfectly equipped stable.

Perkins, however, did not hesitate, and before Bradford could open his lips, came through the doors that were fastened wide open, and, with a wave of his hand said, in freezing tones, “You’ve come in the wrong way; the entrance gate and ticket booth is below, as the sign shows.”

“I wish to see Miss Latham,” said Bradford, handing his card, and at the same time with difficulty suppressing a violent desire to knock the man down.

“Not at home,” replied immovable Perkins, vouchsafing no further information.

“Then take my card to Mrs. Latham,” thundered Bradford, nettled by his slip in not asking for both at the first instance, and; as the man still hesitated, he strode past him through the porch and into the hall.

As Perkins disappeared through one of the many doorways, Bradford stood still for a moment before his eyes focussed to the change of light. The pillars of the hall that supported the balcony corridor of the second story were wreathed with light green vines, delicate green draperies screened the windows, the pale light coming from many Japanese lanterns and exquisitely shaded bronze lamps rather than outside. Half a dozen little arbours were formed by large Japanese umbrellas, under which tea tables were placed, and the sweet air of the summer afternoon was changed and made suffocatingly heavy by burning incense.

Of course all this paraphernalia belonged to the festival, and yet Bradford was not prepared to find Sylvia living in such daily state as the other surroundings implied. He knew that she belonged to a prosperous family, but his entrance to what he supposed would be, as the name implied, a country cottage, was a decided shock to him.

He had been drawn irresistibly toward Sylvia almost from their meeting in the lecture room several years before, but he could hardly allow himself the luxury of day dreams then, and it was not until his promotion had seemed to him to place him upon a safe footing, that he had paused long enough to realize how completely she was woven into all his thoughts of the future. Now, as he waited there, a broad gulf, not a crossable river, seemed to stretch before him, not alone financial but ethical, a sweeping troublous torrent, the force of which he could neither stem nor even explain to himself, verily the surging of the Whirlpool at his feet.

Babbling girlish voices waked him from his revery, and half a dozen young figures, disguised in handsomely embroidered Japanese costumes and headgear, their eyes given the typical almond-shaped and upward slant by means of paint and pencil, came down the stairs, followed a moment later by a taller figure in still richer robes, and so carefully made up by powder and paint that at a distance she looked but little older than the girls. Coming toward Bradford with an expression of playful inquiry, she said: “Is this Mr. Bradford? I am Mrs. Latham. Did you wish to see me? I’ve only a moment to spare, for at three o’clock I lose my identity and become a Geisha girl.”

Bradford was embarrassed for a moment, even quite disconcerted. Why should he have taken it for granted that Sylvia had spoken of him, and that he should be known to her mother? But such was the case, and he felt bitterly humbled.

“I was one of Miss Latham’s instructors at Rockcliffe two years ago. I have returned now to spend the vacation with my mother, whom perhaps you know, at Pine Ridge, and finding that you have come to live here I ventured to call.” If poor Bradford had desired to be stiff and uninterestingly didactic, he could not have succeeded better.

“Ah, yes Rockcliffe Sylvia was there for a couple of years, and will doubtless be glad to hear of the place. I myself never approved of college life for girls, it makes them so superior and offish when they return to society. Even two years abroad have not put Sylvia completely at her ease among us again.

“We do not live here; this is merely a between-season roost, and we leave again next week, so I have not met your mother. The only one of the name I recollect is an old country egg woman back somewhere in the hills toward Pine Ridge. You will find Sylvia at Mrs. Jenks-Smith’s, just above, at the rose booth. Pardon me if I leave you now, I have so much on my hands this afternoon.”

Thus dismissed, Bradford went out into the light again. He noticed for the first time that his horse and buggy, standing unheeded where he left them, looked strangely out of date, and as he went down the steps, the horse turned his head, and recognizing him, gave a joyful whinny that caused the grooms to grin. He could feel the colour rising to his very eyes, and for a moment he determined to go home without making any further effort to find Sylvia, and he felt grateful that his mother had declined his invitation to come with him to the festival.

His mother, “the egg-woman”! What would she have thought of Sylvia’s mother thus painted and transformed in the name of charity? He experienced a thrill of relief at the escape.

As he found himself on the free highway once more, he faltered. He would see how Sylvia bore herself in the new surroundings before he put it all behind him. This time he found a bit of shade and a fence rail for the too friendly nag, and entering the Jenks-Smith grounds afoot, followed the crowd that was gathering.

The rose garden of five years’ well-trained growth was extremely beautiful, while the pergola that separated it from the formal garden of the fountain, and at the same time served as a gateway to it, was utilized as the booth where roses and fanciful boxes of giant strawberries were to be sold.

Bradford, standing at a little distance, under an archway, scanned the faces of the smart married women who bustled about canvassing, and the young girls who carelessly gathered the sumptuous roses into bouquets for the buyers, making a great fuss over the thorns as they did so. Then one tall, white-clad figure arrested his attention. It was Sylvia. She handled the flowers lovingly, and was bestowing patient attention upon a country woman, to whom these pampered roses were a revelation, and who wished a bouquet made up of samples, one of each variety, and not a mass all of a colour like the bunches that were arranged in the great baskets.

As Sylvia held the bouquet up for the woman’s approval, adding a bud here and there, pausing to breathe its fragrance herself before handing it to the purchaser, Horace’s courage came back. She was plainly not a part of the vortex that surrounded her. Circumstances at present seemed to stand between. He could not even venture a guess if she ever gave him other than a friendly thought; but a feeling came over him as he stood in the deep shade, that some day she might be lonely and need steadfast friendship, and then the opportunity to serve her would give him the right to question.

Now thoroughly master of himself, he went toward her, and was rewarded by a greeting of unfeigned pleasure, a few moments of general talk, and a big bunch of roses for his mother.

“No, you shall not buy these. I am sending them to your mother with my love, to beg pardon for Miss Lavinia and myself, for we’ve been trying to go to Pine Ridge all the week; but this affair has kept me spinning like a top, and when I do stop I expect to fall over with weariness. I was so sorry about Rockcliffe Commencement. Some day, perhaps, mamma will have finished bringing me out, and then I can crawl in again where it is quiet, and live. Ah, you went to the house and saw her, and she said we were going away next week? I did not know it, but we flit about so one can never tell. I’ve half a mind to be rebellious and ask to be left here with Lavinia Dorman for guardian, I’m so tired of change. Yes, I enjoyed my flying trip to the West, in a way, though father only came as far as Chicago with me, but I expect him to-morrow.”

Then the crowd surged along, peering, staring, and feeling, so that it would have blocked the way conspicuously if Bradford had lingered longer. As he vanished, Monty Bell sauntered up, and, entering the booth, took his place by Sylvia. Under pretext of good-naturedly saving her fingers from thorns by tying the bouquets for her, kept by her side all the afternoon, and when a lull came at tea time, strolled with her toward the refreshment tent, where he coaxed her to sit down to rest in one of the little recesses that lined the garden wall, where she would be free from the crowd while he brought her some supper.

This she did the more readily because she was really tired, almost to the point of faintness, and even felt grateful when Mr. Bell returned with some dainty food, and sat beside her to hold her plate. She was so used to seeing him about at all hours, making himself generally useful, that the little attentions he continually showered upon her never held a fragment of personality in her eyes.

Now, however, something familiar in his manner jarred upon her and put her strangely on her guard. One of the man’s peculiarities was that he had a hypnotic manner, and presently, almost before she could really understand what he was about, he had put his arm around her and was making an easy, take-it-all-for-granted declaration of love.

For an instant she could not believe her ears, and then his tightening clasp brought realization. Tearing herself away, and dropping her plate with a crash, she faced him with white face and blazing eyes, saying but one word “Stop!” in so commanding a tone that even his fluency faltered, and he paused in exceeding amaze at the result of what he had supposed any woman of his set would esteem an honour, much more this strange girl whose mother was engaged so systematically in securing a place at the ladder top.

“If I had understood that your casual politeness to me and usefulness to my mother meant insult such as this, we should have checked it long ago.”

“Insult?” ejaculated Monty Bell, looking over his shoulder, apprehensive lest some one should be within ear-shot, for to be an object of ridicule was the greatest evil that could come to him. “You don’t understand. I want you to marry me.”

“Insult, most certainly! What else do you call it for a man with two little daughters, and divorced by his wife for his own unforgivable fault, to ask any woman to marry him! Yes, I know, you see. Lavinia Dorman is a friend of Mrs. Bell!”

“The devil!” muttered the man, still looking about uneasily, under the gaze of her uncompromising accusation. In some way the directness of her words made him feel uncomfortable for the moment, but he quickly recovered, changed his tactics, and burying his hands in his pockets, assumed his usually jaunty air, while half a smile, half a sneer, crossed his face as he said lightly: “What a droll, Puritan spitfire we are, aren’t we? As if rearranged families were not a thing of daily happening. Don’t feel called upon to kick up a rumpus, it isn’t necessary; besides, take a tip from me, your mother won’t like it! If you are through with that cup, I will take the things back,” and nonchalantly shying the bits of the broken plate into the bushes, he went toward the refreshment tent, saying to his host, Mrs. Jenks-Smith, who was inquiring for Sylvia: “Yes, she is yonder in the second arbour. I’ve taken her some tea, for she’s quite done up; that beastly overland trip home was too much for her in the first hot weather.”

Consequently the warm-hearted Lady of the Bluffs was naturally prepared to find Sylvia sick and faint, and urged sending her home, where she could slip in and get to bed unobserved, which was the one thing that the girl most desired. Also this shrewd lady was wise enough to give no sign, even though she drew her conclusions, when on turning to leave the arbour she saw a bit of the broken plate lying on the ground at the opposite side near where a point of the rustic work had torn a shred from Sylvia’s mull drapery as she had pulled herself away.

By the time that Sylvia had gained her room the warm twilight sky had been transformed to a silver lake by the moon, but she neither enjoyed its beauty nor heard the music that was beginning to come from the rose garden above, as well as the tea room below stairs. She sat by the window, deaf to all outside things, with only one thought in her mind; she would gladly have buried the occurrence of the arbour, if it were possible, but as it was, she must tell her mother, as now, that his motive was made plain, Monty Bell, as a matter of course, could no longer come to the house. Finally she went to bed and slept from sheer exhaustion, never for a moment doubting that her mother would take her view of the matter. Presently the French maid crept in and closed the blinds, wondering why Mademoiselle often seemed to take pleasure so sadly, and appeared older than Madame, her mother, and then, feeling at liberty, hurried down gayly to dance on the back porch with the loitering gentlemen’s gentlemen who gathered there.

Mrs. Latham slept late the next morning, and at eleven o’clock had only finished looking over her mail without yet touching her breakfast, when, without waiting for an answer to her knock, Sylvia entered. Her mother looked up in some surprise, for she did not encourage running in and out at all hours, or any of the usual intimacies between a mother and grown daughter who are companions. In fact she did not even ask Sylvia to sit down, or if she was ill, though her pallor was very apparent, but merely raised questioning eyebrows, saying, “What is it?” as she turned her attention to some legal-looking documents in her lace-decked lap.

Chilled to the heart Sylvia seated herself in a low chair by her mother, so that she need not raise her voice, and twisting her hands nervously, told what had happened in as few words as possible, much as if she had repeated them over and over until they were learned like a lesson.

Mrs. Latham’s cold gray eyes at first snapped viciously, and then grew big with wonder as Sylvia ended by saying, “I should never have spoken of this to any one, and tried to forget, but you would think it strange that Mr. Bell should stop coming here and ”

“Think it strange?” said Mrs. Latham, speaking harshly and rapidly, a thing she rarely did. “Do you know what I think of you? That you are the most absolute little fool I ever imagined. You not only refuse a man who could make your social position secure, but rant and get into tantrums over the compliment he pays you, and call it an ‘insult,’ exactly as your canting grandmother Latham might have done. I’ve no patience with you; and if you think that this nonsense of yours shuts the door in Monty Bell’s face, you are wholly mistaken.

“While we are upon this subject of divorce that seems to shock you so, I may as well tell you what you will not see for yourself, and your father appears to have been too mealy-mouthed to explain, we have agreed to separate. No need of your getting tragic, there are no public recriminations on either side, no vulgar infidelity or common quarrelling, everything quite amicable, I assure you. Simply we find our tastes totally different, and have done so for several years. Mr. Latham’s ambitions are wholly financial, mine are social. He repelled and ignored my best friends, and as we are in every way independent of each other, he has been wise enough to avoid possible and annoying complications by standing out of my way and making it easy for me to legalize the arrangement and readjust myself completely to new conditions.”

“But what of Carthy and me?” gasped Sylvia, in a voice so choked and hollow that the older woman hesitated, but for a single instant only. “Have neither you nor father thought of us? Where do we belong? Where is our home? Can people who have once loved each other forget their children and throw them off so? Does God allow it? You must have cared for father once, for I remember when I was a little girl you told me that you called me Sylvia, to have my name as nearly like father’s Sylvester as possible. Have you forgotten it all, that you can do this thing, when you say in the same breath that father has done no evil?”

“Don’t be tragic, Sylvia, and rake up things that have nothing to do with the matter. As to your brother, it was your father’s foolish severity about a card debt, and insisting upon placing him away from me, that is primarily responsible for the divorce, not any wish of mine to exile Carthy. And you ask where your home is, as if I had turned you out, when you have just refused an offer that any unmarried society woman, who can afford it, would clutch.”

Sylvia sat silent, looking blindly before her. Her mother waited a moment, as if expecting some reply, and then continued: “Now that the matter is virtually settled, I suppose in a few days the papers will save me the trouble of announcing it. Under the circumstances, I shall rent the Newport house for the season, as I have had several good offers, and go abroad for two or three months on the continent, so that before my return the town house will be redecorated and everything will be readjusted for a successful winter. You had better take a few days before deciding what to do. You can, of course, come with me, if you are not sick of travel, or go to your father, who is ready to make you a handsome allowance; though you will find that awkward at present, as he is moving about so much. If you choose to feel aggrieved just now, you might persuade your dear, prim Miss Dorman to either stay here with you or take that little furnished house that is to rent on the lower road, if you prefer that form of discomfort they call simplicity. You needn’t decide now; take time,” she added genially, as if she was doing all that could be asked.

When she ceased speaking, Sylvia, with bowed head, rose and quickly left the room.

Then Mrs. Latham gave a sigh of relief that the interview was over, threw the papers into a bureau drawer, called to the maid, who had been all the while listening in the dressing room, to prepare to arrange her hair, and, taking the chances that Sylvia would keep her room, at least for some hours, wrote a hasty note to Monty Bell, inviting him to luncheon.

Meanwhile, Sylvia, instead of going to her room to cry, took her hat and crept out into the lane that led to the woods. She must be quite away by herself and gain time to think. This was a terrible sort of grief that could neither be kept secret nor halved by sympathy, but must be worn in the full glare of day. Her heart condemned her mother wholly, and she understood why her father kept the silence of shame, to whom could she turn? As she gained the woods, and throwing herself down on a soft bed of hemlock needles, closed her dry, burning eyes, two people seemed to stand side by side and look at her pityingly, Lavinia Dorman and Horace Bradford, and mentally she turned toward one and shrank from the other. In Miss Lavinia she saw her only refuge, but between herself and Horace the shadow of his upright mother seemed to intervene. What could they think of her mother playing at Geisha girl in her own home at the very hour of its wreck?