Saturday's Child by Kathleen Thompson Norris
Part Two. Wealth
From among them she could instantly pick the writer, even though all three were strangers, and although, from the pictures she had seen of him, she had always fancied that Stephen Bocqueraz was a large, athletic type of man, instead of the erect and square-built gentleman who walked between the other two taller men. He was below the average height, certainly, dark, clean-shaven, bright-eyed, with a thin-lipped, wide, and most expressive mouth, and sleek hair so black as to make his evening dress seem another color. He was dressed with exquisite precision, and with one hand he constantly adjusted and played with the round black-rimmed glasses that hung by a silk ribbon about his neck. Susan knew him, at this time, to be about forty-five, perhaps a little less. If her very first impression was that he was both affected and well aware of his attractiveness, her second conceded that here was a man who could make any affectation charming, and not the less attractive because he knew his value.
"And what do I do, Mr. Br-r-rowning," asked Mr. Bocqueraz with pleasant precision, "when I wish to monopolize the company of a very charming young lady, at a dance, and yet, not dancing, cannot ask her to be my partner?"
"The next is the supper dance," suggested Susan, dimpling, "if it isn't too bold to mention it!"
He flashed her an appreciative look, the first they had really exchanged.
"Supper it is," he said gravely, offering her his arm. But Browning delayed him for a few introductions first; and Susan stood watching him, and thinking him very distinguished, and that to study a really great man, so pleasantly at her ease, was very thrilling. Presently he turned to her again, and they went in to supper; to Susan it was all like an exciting dream. They chose a little table in the shallow angle of a closed doorway, and watched the confusion all about them; and Susan, warmed by the appreciative eyes so near her, found herself talking quite naturally, and more than once was rewarded by the writer's unexpected laughter. She asked him if Mrs. Bocqueraz and his daughter were with him, and he said no, not on this particular trip.
"Julie and her mother are in Europe," he said, with just a suggestion of his Spanish grandfather in his clean-clipped speech. "Julie left Miss Bence's School at seventeen, had a coming-out party in our city house the following winter. Now it seems Europe is the thing. Mrs. Bocqueraz likes to do things systematically, and she told me, before Julie was out of the nursery, that she thought it was very nice for a girl to marry in her second winter in society, after a European trip. I have no doubt my daughter will announce her engagement upon her return."
"To whom?" said Susan, laughing at his precise, re-signed tone.
"That I don't know," said Stephen Bocqueraz, with a twinkle in his eye, "nor does Julie, I fancy. But undoubtedly her mother does!"
"Here is somebody coming over for a dance, I suppose!" he said after a few moments, and Susan was flattered by the little hint of regret in his tone. But the newcomer was Peter Coleman, and the emotion of meeting him drove every other thought out of her head. She did not rise, as she gave him her hand; the color flooded her face.
"Susan, you little turkey-buzzard--" It was the old Peter!-- "where've you been all evening? The next for me!"
"Mr. Bocqueraz, Mr. Coleman," Susan said, with composure, "Peter, Mr. Stephen Graham Bocqueraz."
Even to Peter the name meant something.
"Why, Susan, you little grab-all!" he accused her vivaciously. "How dare you monopolize a man like Mr. Bocqueraz for the whole supper dance! I'll bet some of those women are ready to tear your eyes out!"
"I've been doing the monopolizing," Mr. Bocqueraz said, turning a rather serious look from Peter, to smile with sudden brightness at Susan. "When I find a young woman at whose christening all the fairies came to dance," he added, "I always do all the monopolizing I can! However, if you have a prior claim--"
"But he hasn't!" Susan said, smilingly. "I'm engaged ten deep," she added pleasantly to Peter. "Honestly, I haven't half a dance left! I stole this."
"Why, I won't stand for it," Peter said, turning red.
"Come, it seems to me Mr. Coleman deserves something!" Stephen Bocqueraz smiled. And indeed Peter looked bigger and happier and handsomer than ever.
"Not from me," Susan persisted, quietly pleasant. Peter stood for a moment or two, not quite ready to laugh, not willing to go away. Susan busied herself with her salad, stared dreamily across the room. And presently he departed after exchanging a few commonplaces with Bocqueraz.
"And what's the significance of all that?" asked the author when they were alone again.
Susan had been wishing to make some sort of definite impression upon Mr. Stephen Graham Bocqueraz; wishing to remain in his mind as separated from the other women he had met to-night. Suddenly she saw this as her chance, and she took him somewhat into her confidence. She told him of her old office position, and of her aunt, and of Peter, and that she was now Emily Saunders' paid companion, and here only as a sort of Cinderella.
Never did any girl, flushing, dimpling, shrugging her shoulders over such a recital, have a more appreciative listener. Stephen Bocqueraz's sympathetic look met hers whenever she looked up; he nodded, agreed, frowned thoughtfully or laughed outright. They sat through the next dance, and through half the next, hidden in one of the many diminutive "parlors" that surrounded the ball-room, and when Susan was surrendered to an outraged partner she felt that she and the great man were fairly started toward a real friendship, and that these attractive boys she was dancing with were really very young, after all.
"Remember Stephen Bocqueraz that Brownie introduced to you just before supper?" asked Ella, as they went home, yawning, sleepy and headachy, the next day. Ella had been playing cards through the supper hour.
"Perfectly!" Susan answered, flushing and smiling.
"You must have made a hit," Ella remarked, "because--I'm giving him a big dinner on Tuesday, at the Palace--and when I talked to him he asked if you would be there. Well, I'm glad you had a nice time, kiddy, and we'll do it again!"
Susan had thanked her gratefully more than once, but she thanked her again now. She felt that she truly loved Ella, so big and good natured and kind.
Emily was a little bit cold when Susan told her about the ball, and the companion promptly suppressed the details of her own successes, and confined her recollections to the girls who had asked for Emily, and to generalities. Susan put her wilting orchids in water, and went dreamily through the next two or three days, recovering from the pleasure and excitement. It was almost a week before Emily was quite herself again; then, when Isabel Wallace came running in to Emily's sick-room to beg Susan to fill a place at their dinner-table at a few hours' notice, Susan's firm refusal quite won Emily's friendship back.
"Isabel's a dear," said Emily, contentedly settling down with the Indian bead-work in which she and Susan had had several lessons, and with which they filled some spare time, "but she's not a leader. I took you up, so now Isabel does! I knew--I felt sure that, if Ella let you borrow that dress, Isabel would begin to patronize you!"
It was just one of Emily's nasty speeches, and Emily really wasn't well, so Susan reminded herself, when the hot, angry color burned in her face, and an angry answer came to her mind. What hurt most was that it was partly true; Emily had taken her up, and, when she ceased to be all that Emily required of sympathy and flattery and interest, Emily would find someone else to fill Miss Brown's place. Without Emily she was nobody, and it did not console Susan to reflect that, had Emily's fortune been hers and Emily in her position, the circumstances would be exactly reversed. Just the accident of having money would have made Miss Brown the flattered and admired, the safe and secure one; just the not having it would have pushed Emily further even than Susan was from the world of leisure and beauty and luxury.
"This world is money!" thought Susan, when she saw the head-waiter come forward so smilingly to meet Ella and herself at the Palm Garden; when Leonard put off a dozen meekly enduring women to finish Miss Emily Saunders' gown on time; when the very sexton at church came hurrying to escort Mrs. Saunders and herself through the disappointed crowds in the aisles, and establish them in, and lock them in, the big empty pew. The newspapers gave half a column of blame to the little girl who tried to steal a two-dollar scarf from the Emporium, but there was nothing but admiration for Ella on the day when she and a twenty-year-old boy, for a wager, led a woolly white toy lamb, a lamb costing twenty-five dollars, through the streets, from the club to the Palace Hotel. The papers were only deeply interested and amused when Miss Elsa Chisholm gave a dinner to six favorite riding-horses, who were entertained in the family dining-room after a layer of tan-bark had been laid on the floor, and fed by their owners from specially designed leather bags and boxes; and they merely reported the fact that Miss Dolly Ripley had found so unusual an intelligence in her gardener that she had deeded to him her grandfather's eighty-thousand-dollar library. "He really has ever so much better brains than I have, don't you know?" said Miss Ripley to the press.
In return for the newspapers' indulgent attitude, however, they were shown no clemency by the Saunders and the people of their set. On a certain glorious, golden afternoon in May, Susan, twisting a card that bore the name of Miss Margaret Summers, representing the Chronicle, went down to see the reporter. The Saunders family hated newspaper notoriety, but it was a favorite saying that since the newspapers would print things anyway, they might as well get them straight, and Susan often sent dinner or luncheon lists to the three morning papers.
However, the young woman who rose when Susan went into the drawing- room was not in search of news. Her young, pretty face was full of distress.
"Miss Saunders?" asked she.
"I'm Miss Brown," Susan said. "Miss Saunders is giving a card-party and I am to act for her."
Miss Summers, beginning her story, also began to cry. She was the society editor, she explained, and two weeks before she had described in her column a luncheon given by Miss Emily Saunders. Among the list of guests she had mentioned Miss Carolyn Seymour.
"Not Carolyn Seymour!" said Susan, shocked. "Why, she never is here! The Seymours---" she shook her head. "I know people do accept them," said Susan, "but the Saunders don't even know them! They're not in the best set, you know, they're really hardly in society at all!"
"I know now," Miss Summers said miserably. "But all the other girls- -this year's debutantes--were there, and I had to guess at most of the names, and I chanced it! Fool that I was!" she interrupted herself bitterly. "Well, the next day, while I was in the office, my telephone rang. It was Thursday, and I had my Sunday page to do, and I was just rushing, and I had a bad cold,--I've got it yet. So I just said, 'What is it?' rather sharply, you know, and a voice said, in a businesslike sort of way, 'How did you happen to put Miss Carolyn Seymour's name on Miss Emily Saunders' lunch list?' I never dreamed that it was Miss Saunders; how should I? She didn't say 'I' or 'me' or anything--just that. So I said, 'Well, is it a matter of international importance?'"
"Ouch!" said Susan, wincing, and shaking a doubtful head.
"I know, it was awful!" the other girl agreed eagerly. "But--" her anxious eyes searched Susan's face. "Well; so the next day Mr. Brice called me into the office, and showed me a letter from Miss Ella Saunders, saying--" and Miss Summers began to cry again. "And I can't tell Mamma!" she sobbed. "My brother's been so ill, and I was so proud of my position!"
"Do you mean they--fired you?" Susan asked, all sympathy.
"He said he'd have to!" gulped Miss Summers, with a long sniff. "He said that Saunders and Babcock advertise so much with them, and that, if she wasn't appeased somehow--"
"Well, now, I'll tell you," said Susan, ringing for tea, "I'll wait until Miss Saunders is in a good mood, and then I'll do the very best I can for you. You know, a thing like that seems small, but it's just the sort of thing that is really important," she pursued, consolingly. She had quite cheered her caller before the tea-cups were emptied, but she was anything but hopeful of her mission herself.
And Ella justified her misgivings when the topic was tactfully opened the next day.
"I'm sorry for the little thing," said Ella, briskly, "but she certainly oughtn't to have that position if she doesn't know better than that! Carolyn Seymour in this house--I never heard of such a thing! I was denying it all the next day at the club and it's extremely unpleasant. Besides," added Ella, reddening, "she was extremely impertinent about it when I telephoned---"
"Duchess, she didn't dream it was you! She only said that she didn't know it was so important---" Susan pleaded.
"Well," interrupted Miss Saunders, in a satisfied and final tone, "next time perhaps she will know who it is, and whether it is important or not! Sue, while you're there at the desk," she added, "will you write to Mrs. Bergess, Mrs. Gerald Florence Bergess, and tell her that I looked at the frames at Gump's for her prizes, and they're lovely, from fourteen up, and that I had him put three or four aside---"
After the dance Peter began to call rather frequently at "High Gardens," a compliment which Emily took entirely to herself, and to escort the girls about on their afternoon calls, or keep them and Ella, and the old mistress of the house as well, laughing throughout the late and formal dinner. Susan's reserve and her resolutions melted before the old charm; she had nothing to gain by snubbing him; it was much pleasanter to let by-gones be by-gones, and enjoy the moment. Peter had every advantage; if she refused him her friendship a hundred other girls were only too eager to fill her place, so she was gay and companionable with him once more, and extracted a little fresh flavor from the friendship in Emily's unconsciousness of the constant interchange of looks and inflections that went on between Susan and Peter over her head. Susan sometimes thought of Mrs. Carroll's old comment on the popularity of the absorbed and busy girl when she realized that Peter was trying in vain to find time for a personal word with her, or was resenting her interest in some other caller, while she left Emily to him. She was nearer to Peter than ever, a thousand times more sure of herself, and, if she would still have married him, she was far less fond of him than she had been years ago.
Susan asked him some questions, during one idle tea-time, of Hunter, Baxter & Hunter. His uncle had withdrawn from the firm now, he told her, adding with characteristic frankness that in his opinion "the old guy got badly stung." The Baxter home had been sold to a club; the old people had found the great house too big for them and were established now in one of the very smartest of the new apartment houses that were beginning to be built in San Francisco. Susan called, with Emily, upon Mrs. Baxter, and somehow found the old lady's personality as curiously shrunk, in some intangible way, as was her domestic domain in actuality. Mrs. Baxter, cackling emphatically and disapprovingly of the world in general, fussily accompanying them to the elevator, was merely a rather tiresome and pitiful old woman, very different from the delicate little grande dame of Susan's recollection. Ella reported the Baxter fortune as sadly diminished, but there were still maids and the faithful Emma; there were still the little closed carriage and the semi-annual trip to Coronado. Nor did Peter appear to have suffered financially in any way; although Mrs. Baxter had somewhat fretfully confided to the girls that his uncle had suggested that it was time that Peter stood upon his own feet; and that Peter accordingly had entered into business relations with a certain very wealthy firm of grain brokers. Susan could not imagine Peter as actively involved in any very lucrative deals, but Peter spent a great deal of money, never denied himself anything, and took frequent and delightful vacations.
He took Emily and Susan to polo and tennis games, and, when the season at the hotel opened, they went regularly to the dances. In July Peter went to Tahoe, where Mrs. Saunders planned to take the younger girls later for at least a few weeks' stay. Ella chaperoned them to Burlingame for a week of theatricals; all three staying with Ella's friend, Mrs. Keith, whose daughter, Mary Peacock, had also Dolly Ripley and lovely Isabel Wallace for her guests. Little Constance Fox, visiting some other friends nearby, was in constant attendance upon Miss Ripley, and Susan thought the relationship between them an extraordinary study; Miss Ripley bored, rude, casual, and Constance increasingly attentive, eager, admiring.
"When are you going to come and spend a week with me?" drawled Miss Ripley to Susan.
"You'll have the loveliest time of your life!" Connie added, brilliantly. "Be sure you ask me for that week, Dolly!"
"We'll write you about it," Miss Ripley said lazily, and Constance, putting the best face she could upon the little slight, slapped her hand playfully, and said:
"Oh, aren't you mean!"
"Dolly takes it so for granted that I'm welcome at her house at any time," said Constance to Susan, later, "that she forgets how rude a thing like that can sound!" She had followed Susan into her own room, and now stood by the window, looking down a sun-steeped vista of lovely roads and trees and gardens with a discontented face. Susan, changing her dress for an afternoon on the tennis-courts, merely nodded sympathetically.
"Lord, I would like to go this afternoon!" added Constance, presently.
"Aren't you going over for the tennis?" Susan asked in amazement. For the semi-finals of the tournament were to be played on this glorious afternoon, and there would be a brilliant crowd on the courts and tea at the club to follow.
"No; I can't!" Miss Fox said briefly. "Tell everyone that I'm lying down with a terrible headache, won't you?"
"But why?" asked Susan. For the headache was obviously a fiction.
"You know that mustard-colored linen with the black embroidery that Dolly's worn once or twice, don't you?" asked Connie, with apparent irrelevancy.
Susan nodded, utterly at a loss.
"Well, she gave it to me to-day, and the hat and the parasol," said Constance, with a sort of resigned bitterness. "She said she had got the outfit at Osbourne's, last month, and she thought it would look stunning on me, and wouldn't I like to wear it to the club this afternoon?"
"Well--?" Susan said, as the other paused. "Why not?"
"Oh, why not!" echoed Connie, with mild exasperation. "Don't be a damned fool!"
"Oh, I see!" Susan said, enlightened. "Everybody knows it's Miss Ripley's, of course! She probably didn't think of that!"
"She probably did!" responded Connie, with a rather dry laugh. "However, the fact remains that she'll take it out of me if I go and don't wear it, and Mamma never will forgive me if I do! So, I came in to borrow a book. Of course, Susan, I've taken things from Dolly Ripley before, and I probably will again," she added, with the nearest approach to a sensible manner that Susan had ever seen in her, "but this is going a little too far!"
And, borrowing a book, she departed, leaving Susan to finish her dressing in a very sober frame of mind. She wondered if her relationship toward Emily could possibly impress any outsider as Connie's attitude toward Dolly Ripley impressed her.
With Isabel Wallace she began, during this visit, the intimate and delightful friendship for which they two had been ready for a long time. Isabel was two years older than Susan, a beautiful, grave-eyed brunette, gracious in manner, sweet of voice, the finest type that her class and environment can produce. Isabel was well read, musical, traveled; she spoke two or three languages besides her mother tongue. She had been adored all her life by three younger brothers, by her charming and simple, half-invalid mother, and her big, clever father, and now, all the girls were beginning to suspect, was also adored by the very delightful Eastern man who was at present Mrs. Butler Holmes' guest in Burlingame, and upon whom all of them had been wasting their prettiest smiles. John Furlong was college-bred, young, handsome, of a rich Eastern family, in every way a suitable husband for the beautiful woman with whom he was so visibly falling in love.
Susan watched the little affair with a heartache, not all unworthy. She didn't quite want to be Isabel, or want a lover quite like John. But she did long for something beautiful and desirable all her own; it was hard to be always the outsider, always alone. When she thought of Isabel's father and mother, their joy in her joy, her own pleasure in pleasing them, a thrill of pain shook her. If Isabel was all grateful, all radiant, all generous, she, Susan, could have been graceful and radiant and generous too! She lay awake in the soft summer nights, thinking of what John would say to Isabel, and what Isabel, so lovely and so happy, would reply.
"Sue, you will know how wonderful it is when it comes to you!" Isabel said, on the last night of their Burlingame visit, when she gave Susan a shy hint that it was "all right," if a profound secret still.
The girls did not stay for the theatricals, after all. Emily was deeply disgusted at being excluded from some of the ensembles in which she had hoped to take part and, on the very eve of the festivities, she became alarmingly ill, threw Mrs. Keith's household into utter consternation and confusion, and was escorted home immediately by Susan and a trained nurse.
Back at "High Gardens," they settled down contentedly enough to the familiar routine. Emily spent two-thirds of the time in bed, but Susan, fired by Isabel Wallace's example, took regular exercises now, airing the dogs or finding commissions to execute for Emily or Mrs. Saunders, made radical changes in her diet, and attempted, with only partial success, to confine her reading to improving books. A relative had sent Emily the first of the new jig-saw puzzles from New York, and Emily had immediately wired for more. She and Susan spent hours over them; they became in fact an obsession, and Susan began to see jig-saw divisions: in everything her eye rested on; the lawn, the clouds, or the drawing-room walls.
Sometimes Kenneth joined them, and Susan knew that it was on her account. She was very demure with him; her conversation for Emily, her eyes all sisterly unembarrassment when they met his. Mrs. Saunders was not well, and kept to her room, so that more than once Susan dined alone with the man of the house. When this happened Kenneth would bring his chair down from the head of the table and set it next to hers. He called her "Tweeny" for some favorite character in a play, brought her some books she had questioned him about, asked her casually, on the days she went to town for Emily, at what time she would come back, and joined her on the train.
Susan had thought of him as a husband, as she thought of every unattached man, the instant she met him. But the glamour of those early views of Kenneth Saunders had been somewhat dimmed, and since her arrival at "High Gardens" she had tried rather more not to displease this easily annoyed member of the family, than to make a definite pleasant impression upon him. Now, however, she began seriously to consider him. And it took her a few brief moments only to decide that, if he should ask her, she would be mad to refuse to become his wife. He was probably as fine a match as offered itself at the time in all San Francisco's social set, good-looking, of a suitable age, a gentleman, and very rich. He was so rich and of so socially prominent a family that his wife need never trouble herself with the faintest thought of her own standing; it would be an established fact, supreme and irrefutable. Beside him Peter Coleman was a poor man, and even Isabel's John paled socially and financially. Kenneth Saunders would be a brilliant "catch" for any girl; for little Susan Brown--it would be a veritable triumph!
Susan's heart warmed as she thought of the details. There would be a dignified announcement from Mrs. Saunders. Then,--Babel! Telephoning, notes, telegrams! Ella would of course do the correct thing; there would be a series of receptions and dinners; there would be formal affairs on all sides. The newspapers would seize upon it; the family jewels would be reset; the long-stored silver resurrected. There would be engagement cups and wedding-presents, and a trip East, and the instant election of young Mrs. Saunders to the Town and Country Club. And, in all the confusion, the graceful figure of the unspoiled little companion would shine serene, poised, gracious, prettily deferential to both the sisters-in-law of whom she now, as a matron, took precedence.
Kenneth Saunders was no hero of romance; he was at best a little silent and unresponsive; he was a trifle bald; his face, Susan had thought at first sight, indicated weakness and dissipation. But it was a very handsome face withal, and, if silent, Kenneth could be very dignified and courteous in his manner; "very much the gentleman," Susan said to herself, "always equal to the situation"!
Other things, more serious things, she liked to think she was woman of the world enough to condone. He drank to excess, of course; no woman could live in the same house with him and remain unaware of that; Susan had often heard him raging in the more intense stages approaching delirium tremens. There had been other things, too;-- women, but Susan had only a vague idea of just what that meant, and Kenneth's world resolutely made light of it.
"Ken's no molly-coddle!" Ella had said to her complacently, in connection with this topic, and one of Ella's closest friends had added, "Oh, Heaven save me from ever having one of my sons afraid to go out and do what the other boys do. Let 'em sow their wild oats, they're all the sooner over it!"
So Susan did not regard this phase of his nature very seriously. Indeed his mother often said wailingly that, if Kenneth could only find some "fine girl," and settle down, he would be the steadiest and best fellow in the world. It was Mrs. Saunders who elucidated the last details of a certain episode of Kenneth's early life for Susan. Emily had spoken of it, and Ella had once or twice alluded to it, but from them Susan only gathered that Kenneth, in some inexplicable and outrageous way, had been actually arrested for something that was not in the least his fault, and held as a witness in a murder case. He had been but twenty-two years old at the time, and, as his sisters indignantly agreed, it had ruined his life for years following, and Ken should have sued the person or persons who had dared to involve the son of the house of Saunders in so disgraceful and humiliating an affair.
"It was in one of those bad houses, my dear," Mrs. Saunders finally contributed, "and poor Ken was no worse than the thousands of other men who frequent 'em! Of course, it's terrible from a woman's point of view, but you know what men are! And when this terrible thing happened, Ken wasn't anywhere near--didn't know one thing about it until a great big brute of a policeman grabbed hold of his arm---! And of course the newspapers mentioned my poor boy's name in connection with it, far and wide!"
After that Kenneth had gone abroad for a long time, and whether the trained nurse who had at that time entered his life was really a nurse, or whether she had merely called herself one, Susan could not quite ascertain. Either the family had selected this nurse, to take care of Kenneth who was not well at the time, or she had joined him later and traveled with him as his nurse. Whatever it was, the association had lasted two or three years, and then Kenneth had come home, definitely disenchanted with women in general and woman in particular, and had settled down into the silent, cynical, unresponsive man that Susan knew. If he ever had any experiences whatever with the opposite sex they were not of a nature to be mentioned before his sisters and his mother. He scorned all the women of Ella's set, and was bitingly critical of Emily's friends.
One night, lying awake, Susan thought that she heard a dim commotion from the direction of the hallway--Kenneth's voice, Ella's voice, high and angry, some unfamiliar feminine voice, hysterical and shrill, and Mrs. Saunders, crying out: "Tottie, don't speak that way to Kennie!"
But before she could rouse herself fully, Mycroft's soothing tones drowned out the other voices; there was evidently a truce. The episode ended a few moments later with the grating of carriage wheels on the drive far below, and Susan was not quite sure, the next morning, that it had been more than a dream.
But Kenneth's history, summed up, was not a bit less edifying, was not indeed half as unpleasant, as that of many of the men, less rich and less prominent than he, who were marrying lovely girls everywhere, with the full consent and approval of parents and guardians. Susan had seen the newspaper accounts of the debauch that preceded young Harry van Vleet's marriage only by a few hours; had seen the bridegroom, still white-faced and shaking, lead away from the altar one of the sweetest of the debutantes. She had heard Rose St. John's mother say pleasantly to Rose's promised husband, "I asked your Chinese boy about those little week-end parties at your bungalow, Russell; I said, 'Yoo, were they pretty ladies Mr. Russ used to have over there?' But he only said 'No can 'member!'"
"That's where his wages go up!" the gentleman had responded cheerfully.
And, after all, Susan thought, looking on, Russell Lord was not as bad as the oldest Gerald boy, who married an Eastern girl, an heiress and a beauty, in spite of the fact that his utter unfitness for marriage was written plain in his face; or as bad as poor Trixie Chauncey's husband, who had entirely disappeared from public view, leaving the buoyant Trixie to reconcile two infant sons to the unknown horrors and dangers of the future.
If Kenneth drank, after his marriage, Mycroft would take care of him, as he did now; but Susan honestly hoped that domesticity, for which Kenneth seemed to have a real liking, would affect him in every way for good. She had not that horror of drink that had once been hers. Everybody drank, before dinner, with dinner, after dinner. It was customary to have some of the men brighten under it, some overdo it, some remain quite sober in spite of it. Susan and Emily, like all the girls they knew, frequently ordered cocktails instead of afternoon tea, when, as it might happen, they were in the Palace or the new St. Francis. The cocktails were served in tea- cups, the waiter gravely passed sugar and cream with them; the little deception was immensely enjoyed by everyone. "Two in a cup, Martini," Emily would say, settling into her seat, and the waiter would look deferentially at Susan, "The same, madam?"
It was a different world from her old world; it used a different language, lived by another code. None of her old values held here; things she had always thought quite permissible were unforgivable sins; things at which Auntie would turn pale with horror were a quietly accepted part of every-day life. No story was too bad for the women to tell over their tea-cups, or in their boudoirs, but if any little ordinary physical misery were alluded to, except in the most flippant way, such as the rash on a child's stomach, or the preceding discomforts of maternity, there was a pained and disgusted silence, and an open snub, if possible, for the woman so crude as to introduce the distasteful topic.
Susan saw good little women ostracized for the fact that their husbands did not appear at ease in evening dress, for their evident respect for their own butlers, or for their mere eagerness to get into society. On the other hand, she saw warmly accepted and admired the beautiful Mrs. Nokesmith, who had married her second husband the day after her release from her first, and pretty Beulah Garrett, whose father had swindled a hundred trusting friends out of their entire capital, and Mrs. Lawrence Edwards, whose oldest son had just had a marriage, contracted with a Barbary Coast woman while he was intoxicated, canceled by law. Divorce and disease, and dishonesty and insanity did not seem so terrible as they once had; perhaps because they were never called by their real names. The insane were beautifully cared for and safely out of sight; to disease no allusion was ever made; dishonesty was carried on in mysterious business avenues far from public inspection and public thought; and, as Ella once pointed out, the happiest people in society were those who had been married unhappily, divorced, and more fortunately mated a second time. All the married women Ella knew had "crushes"--young men who lounged in every afternoon for tea and cigarettes and gossip, and filled chairs at dinner parties, and formed a background in a theater box. Sometimes one or two matrons and their admirers, properly chaperoned, or in safe numbers, went off on motoring trips, and perhaps encountered, at the Del Monte or Santa Cruz hotels their own husbands, with the women that they particularly admired. Nothing was considered quite so pitiful as the wife who found this arrangement at all distressing. "It's always all right," said Ella, broadly, to Susan.