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Chapter 5 MR. TRIMMER THROWS HIS BOMB

  • MISS Cynthia Meyrick was a good many girls in one. So many, indeed, that i_ight truthfully be added that while most people are never so much alone a_hen in a crowd, Miss Meyrick was never so much in a crowd as when alone. Mos_f these girls were admirable, a few were more mischievous than admirable, bu_ely upon it that every single one of them was nice.
  • It happened to be as a very serious-minded girl that Miss Meyrick opened he_yes on Tuesday morning. She lay for a long time watching the Florid_unshine, spoken of so tenderly in the railroad's come-on books, as it dance_cross the foot of her bed. To-day the  _Lileth_  was to steam into San Marc_arbor! To-day her bridegroom was to smile his slow British smile on her onc_ore! She recalled these facts without the semblance of a thrill.
  • Where, she wondered, was the thrill? The frivolous girl who had met Lor_arrowby abroad, and dazzled by dreams of social triumphs to come had allowe_er aunt to urge her into this betrothal, was not present at the moment. Ha_he been, she would have declared this Cynthia Meyrick a silly, and laughe_er into gaiety again.
  • Into the room toddled the aunt who had stood so faithfully on the coachin_ine abroad. With heavy wit, she spoke of the coming of Lord Harrowby. Mis_ynthia did not smile. She turned grave eyes on her aunt.
  • "I'm wondering," she confessed. "Was it the thing to do, after all? Shall I b_o very happy?"
  • "Nonsense. Ninety-nine out of a hundred engaged girls have doubts. It'_atural." Aunt Mary sat down on the bed, which groaned in agony. "Of cours_ou'll be happy. You'll take precedence over Marion Bishop—didn't we look tha_p? And after the airs she's put on when she's come back to Detroit—well, yo_ught to be the happiest of girls."
  • "I know—but—" Miss Meyrick continued to gaze solemnly at her aunt. She wa_ccustomed to the apparition. To any one who knew Aunt Mary only in her publi_ppearances, a view of her now would have been startling. Not to go too deepl_nto the matter, she had not yet been poured into the steel girders tha_etermined her public form. Her washed-out eyes were puffy, and her gray hai_as not so luxurious as it would be when she appeared in the hotel diningroo_or lunch. There she sat, a fat little lump of a woman who had all her lif_hased will-o'the-wisps.
  • "But what?" she demanded firmly.
  • "It seems as if all my fun were over. Didn't you feel that way when you becam_ngaged?"
  • "Hardly. But then—I hadn't enjoyed everything money will buy, as you have.
  • I've always said you had too much. There, dear—cheer up. You don't seem t_ealize. Why, I can remember when you were born—in the flat down on Secon_treet—and your father wearing his old overcoat another year to pay th_octor's bill. And now that little fluffy baby is to marry into the peerage!
  • Bless you, how proud your mother would be had she lived—"
  • "Are you sure, Aunt Mary?"
  • "Positive." Aunt Mary's eyes filled, and with ,i show of real, if clums_ffection, she leaned over and kissed her niece. "Come, dear, get up. I'v_rdered breakfast in the rooms."
  • Miss Cynthia sat up. And as if banished by that act, the serious little mous_f a girl scampered into oblivion, and in her place appeared a gay young rogu_ho sees the future lying bright ahead.
  • "After all," she smiled, "I'm not married— yet." And humming brightly from _urrent musical comedy—"Not just yet—just yet—just yet—" she stretched fort_ne slim white arm to throw aside the coverlet. At which point it is bes_iscreetly to withdraw.
  • Mr. Minot, after a lonesome if abundant breakfast, was at this momen_trolling across the hotel courtyard toward yesterday morning's New Yor_apers. As he walked, the pert promises of Mr. Trimmer filled his mind. Wha_as the proposition Mr. Trimmer had in tow? How would it affect th_pproaching wedding? And what course of action should the representative o_ephson pursue when it was revealed? For in the sensible light of morning Dic_inot realized that while he remained in San Marco as the guardian o_ephson's interests, he must do his duty. Adorable Miss Meyrick might be, bu_ny change of mind on her part must be over his dead body. A promise was _romise.
  • With this resolve firm, he proceeded along the hot sidewalk of San Sebastia_venue. On his right the rich shops again, a dignified Spanish church as ol_s the town, a rambling lackadaisical "opera-house." On his left the green an_and colored plaza, with the old Spanish governor's house in the center, no_erving Uncle Sam as post-office. A city of the past was this; "other times, other manners" breathed in the air.
  • At the news-stand Minot met Jack Paddock, jaunty, with a gardenia in hi_uttonhole and the atmosphere of prosperity that goes with it.
  • "Come for a stroll," Paddock suggested. "I presume you want the giddy story o_y life I promised you yesterday? Been down to the old Spanish fort yet? No?
  • Come ahead, and there on the ramparts I'll impart."
  • They went down the narrow and very modern street of the souvenir venders.
  • Suddenly the street ended, and they walked again in the past. The remnants o_he old city gates restored, loomed in the sunlight. They stepped through th_ortals, and Minot gave a gasp.
  • There in the quiet morning stood the great gray fort that the early settler_ad built to protect themselves from the gay dogs who roamed the seas. It_assive walls spoke clearly of romance, of bloody days of cutlass and spike, of bandaged heads and ready arms. Such things still stood! Still stood in th_nited States— land of steam radiators and men who marched in suffrag_arades!
  • The old caretaker let them in, and they went up the stone steps to stand a_ast on the parapet looking down on the shimmering sea. To Minot, fresh fro_roadway, it all seemed like a colorful dream. They climbed to the highes_oint and sat, swinging their legs over the edge. Far below the bright blu_aters broke on the lower walls.
  • "It's a funny country down here," Paddock said slowly. "A sort of too-good-to- be-true, who-believes-it place. Bright and gay and full of green palms, and s_uch like a musical comedy you keep waiting all the time for the curtain to g_own and the male population to begin its march up the aisle. I've been her_hree months, and I don't yet think it's really true."
  • He shifted on the cold stones.
  • "Ever since white men hit on it," he went on, "it's sort of kept luring the_ere on fool dream hunts—like a woman. Along about the time old Ponce de Leo_ame over here prospecting for the fountain that nobody but Lillian Russel_as located yet, another Spaniard—I forget his name —had a pipe dream, too. H_ame over hot-foot looking for a mountain of gold he dreamed was here. I'_orry for that old boy."
  • "Sorry for him?" repeated Minot.
  • "Yes—sorry. He had the right idea, but he arrived several hundred years to_oon. He should have waited until the yellow rich from the North showed u_ere. Then he'd have found his mountain—he'd have found a whole range o_hem."
  • "I suppose I'm to infer," Mr. Minot said, "that where he failed, you'v_anded."
  • "Yes, Dick. I am right on the mountain with my little alpenstock in hand."
  • "I'm sorry," replied Minot frankly. "You might have amounted to something i_ou'd been separated from money long enough."
  • "So I've heard," Paddock said with a yawn. "But it wasn't to be. I haven'_een you since we left college, have I? Well, Dick, for a couple of years _ried to make good doing fiction. I turned them out by the yard—nice quie_ittle teatable yarns with snappy dialogue. Once I got eighty dollars for _tory. It was hard work— and I always did yearn for the purple, you know."
  • "I know," said Minot gravely.
  • "Well, I've struck it, Dick. I've struck the deep purple with a loud i_ickening thud. Hist I The graft I mentioned yesterday." He glanced over hi_houlder. "Remember Mrs. Bruce, the wittiest hostess in San Marco?"
  • "Of course I do."
  • "Well, I write her repartee for her."
  • "Her—what?"
  • "Her repartee—her dialogue—the bright talk she convulses dinner tables with.
  • Instead of putting my smart stuff into stories at eighty per, I sell it t_rs. Bruce at—I'd be ashamed to tell you, old man. I remarked that it wa_ssentially soft . It is."
  • "This is a new one on me," said Minot, dazed.
  • A delighted smile spread over Mr. Paddock's handsome face.
  • "Thanks. That's the beauty of it . I'm a pioneer. There'll be others, but _as the first. Consider the situation. Here's Mrs. Bruce, loaded with diamond_nd money, but tonguetied in company, with a wit developed in Zanesville, Ohio. Bright, but struggling, young author comes to her—offers to make he_onversation the sensation of the place for a few pesos."
  • "You did that?"
  • "Yes—I ask posterity to remember it was I who invented the graft. Mrs. Bruc_ell on my fair young neck. Now, she gives me in advance a list of he_ngagements, and for the important ones I devise her line of talk. Then, a_'m usually present at the occasion, I swing things round for her and give he_er cues. If I'm not there, she has to manage it herself. It's a grea_ife—only a bit of a strain on me. I have to remember not to be clever i_ompany. If I forget and spring a good one, she jumps on me proper afterwar_or not giving it to her."
  • "Jack," said Minot slowly, "come way from here with me. Come north. This plac_ill finish you sure."
  • "Sorry, old man," laughed Paddock, "but I've had a nip of the lotus. This laz_ld land suits me. I like to sit on a veranda while a dusky menial in a whit_oat hands me the tinkle-tinkle in a tall cool glass. Come away? Oh, no—_ouldn't do that."
  • "You'll marry down here," sighed Minot. "Some girl with money. And the caree_e all hoped you'd make for yourself will go up in a golden cloud."
  • "I met a girl," Paddock replied, half closing his eyes and smiling cynicall_t the sea—"little thing from the Middle West, stopping at a back stree_oarding-house—father in the hardware business, nobody at all—but eyes lik_he sea there, hands like butterflies—sort of—got me— That's how I happen t_now I'll never marry. For if I married anybody it would have to be her—and _et her go home without saying a word because I was selfish and like this eas_ame and intend to stick to it until I'm smothered in rose-leaves. Shall w_ander back?"
  • "See here, Jack—I don't want to preach"— Minot tried to conceal hi_eriousness with a smile—"but if I were you I'd stick to this girl, and mak_ood—"
  • "And leave this?" Paddock laughed. "Dick, you old idiot, this is meat an_rink to me. This nice old land of loiter in the sun. Nay, nay. Now, I'v_eally got to get back. Mrs. Bruce is giving a tango tea thi_fternoon—informal, but something has to be said— These fellows who write _aily humorous column must lead a devil of a life."
  • With a laugh, Minot followed his irresponsible friend down the steps. The_rossed the bridge over the empty moat and came through the city gates agai_o the street of the alligator.
  • "By the way," Paddock said as they went up the hotel steps, "you haven't tol_e what brought you south?"
  • "Business, Jack," said Minot. "It's a secret— perhaps I can tell you later."
  • "Business? I thought, of course, you came for pleasure."
  • "There'll be no pleasure in this trip for me," said Minot bitterly.
  • "Oh, won't there?" Paddock laughed. "Wait till you hear Mrs. Bruce talk. Se_ou later, old man."
  • 'At luncheon they brought Mr. Minot a telegram from a certain seventeent_loor in New York. An explosive telegram. It read:
  • "Nonsense nobody here to take your place, see it through, you've given you_ord.
  • "thacker."
  • Gloomily Mr. Minot considered. What was there to do but see it through? Eve_hough Thacker should send another to take his place, could he stay to woo th_ady he adored? Hardly. In that event he would have to go away —never see he_gain—never hear her voice— If he stayed as Jephson's representative he migh_now the glory of her nearness for a week, might thrill at her smile—eve_hile he worked to wed her to Lord Harrowby. And perhaps— Who could say? Har_s he might work, might he not be thwarted? It was possible.
  • So after lunch he sent Thacker a reassuring; message, promising to stay. An_t the end of a dull hour in the lobby, he set out to explore the town.
  • The Mermaid Tea House stood on the waterfront, with a small second-floo_alcony that looked out on the harbor. Passing that way at four-thirty tha_fternoon, Minot heard a voice call to him. He glanced up.
  • "Oh, Mr. Minot—won't you come into my parlor?" Cynthia Meyrick smiled down o_im.
  • "Splendid," Minot laughed. "I walk forlorn through this bid Spanis_own—suddenly a lattice is thrown wide, a fair hand beckons. I dash within."
  • "Thanks for dashing," Miss Meyrick greeted him, on the balcony. "I was findin_t dreadfully dull. But I'm afraid the Spanish romance is a little lacking.
  • There is no moonlight, no lattice, no mantilla, no Spanish beauty."
  • "No matter," Minot answered. "I never did care for Spanish types. They flas_ike a skyrocket—then tumble in the dark. Now, the home-grown girls—"
  • "And nothing but tea," she interrupted. "Will you have a cup?"
  • "Thanks. Was it really very dull?"
  • "Yes. This book was to blame." She held up a novel.
  • "What's the matter with it?"
  • "Oh—it's one of those books in which the hero and heroine are forever 'gazin_nto each other's eyes.' And they understand perfectly. But the reade_oesn't. I've reached one of those gazing matches now."
  • "But isn't it so in real life—when people gaze into each other's eyes, don'_hey usually understand?" "Do they?"
  • "Don't they? You surely have had more experience than I."
  • "What makes you think so?" she smiled.
  • "Because your eyes are so very easy to gaze into."
  • "Mr. Minot—you're gazing into them— brazenly. And—neither of us 'understand,'
  • do we?"
  • "Oh, no—we're both completely at sea."
  • "There," she cried triumphantly. "I told you these authors were all wrong."
  • Minot, having begun to gaze, found difficulty in stopping. She was near, sh_as beautiful— and a promise made in New York was a dim and distant thing.
  • "The railroad folders try to make you believe Florida is an annex to Heaven,"
  • he said. "I used to think they were lying. But—"
  • She blushed.
  • "But what, Mr. Minot?"
  • He leaned close, a strange light in his eyes. He opened his mouth to speak.
  • Suddenly he glanced over her shoulder, and the light died from his eyes. Hi_ips set in a bitter curve.
  • "Nothing," he said. A silence.
  • "Mr. Minot—you've grown awfully dull."
  • "Havel? I'm sorry."
  • "Must I go back to my book—"
  • She was interrupted by the shrill triumphant cry of a yacht's siren at he_ack. She turned her head.
  • "The  _Lileth,"_  she said.
  • "Exactly," said Minot. "The bridegroom cometh."
  • Another silence.
  • "You'll want to go to meet him," Minot said, rising. He stood looking at th_oat, flashing gaily in the sunshine. "I'll go with you as far as the street."
  • "But—you know Lord Harrowby. Meet him with me."
  • "It seems hardly the thing—"
  • "But I'm not sentimental. And surely Allan's not."
  • "Then I must be," said Minot. "Really—I'd rather not—"
  • They went together to the street. At the parting of the ways, Minot turned t_er.
  • "I promised Lord Harrowby in New York," he told her, "that you would have you_amp trimmed and burning."
  • She looked up at him. A mischievous light came into her eyes.
  • "Please—have you a match?" she asked.
  • It was too much. Minot turned and fled down the street. He did not once loo_ack, though it seemed to him that he felt every step the girl took acros_hat narrow pier to her fiance's side.
  • As he dressed for dinner that night his telephone rang, and Miss Meyrick'_oice sounded over the wire.
  • "Harrowby remembers you very pleasantly. Won't you join us at dinner?"
  • "Are you sure an outsider—" he began.
  • "Nonsense. Mr. Martin Wall is to be there."
  • "Ah—thank you—I'll be delighted," Minot replied.
  • In the lobby Harrowby seized his hand.
  • "My dear chap—you're looking fit. Great to see you again. By the way—do yo_now Martin Wall?"
  • "Yes—Mr. Wall and I met just before the splash," Minot smiled. He shook hand_ith Wall, unaccountably genial and beaming. "The Hudson, Mr. Wall, is a bi_hilly in February."
  • "My dear fellow," said Wall, "can you ever forgive me? A thousand apologies.
  • It was all a mistake—a horrible mistake."
  • "I felt like a rotter when I heard about it," Harrowby put in. "Martin mistoo_ou for some one else. You must forgive us both."
  • "Freely," said Minot. "And I want to apologize for my suspicions of you, Lor_arrowby."
  • "Thanks, old chap."
  • "I never doubted you would come—after I saw Miss Meyrick."
  • "She is a ripper, isn't she?" said Harrowby enthusiastically.
  • Martin Wall shot a quick, almost hostile glance at Minot.
  • "You've noticed that yourself, haven't you?" he said in Minot's ear.
  • At which point the Meyrick family arrived, and they all went in to dinner.
  • That function could hardly be described as hilarious. Aunt Mary fluttered an_asped in her triumph, and spoke often of her horror of the new. The recen_dmission of automobiles to the sacred precincts of Bar Harbor seemed to b_he great and disturbing fact in life for her. Spencer Meyrick said little; his thoughts were far away. The rush and scramble of a business office, th_lick of typewriters, the excitement of the dollar chase—these things had bee_is life. Deprived of them, like many another exile in the South, he moved i_ dim world of unrealities and wished that he were home. Minot, too, ha_ittle to say. On Martin Wall fell the burden of entertainment, and he bore i_s one trained for the work. Blithely he gossiped of queer corners that ha_nown him and amid the flow of his oratory the dinner progressed.
  • It was after dinner, when they all stood together in the lobby a moment befor_eparating, that Mr. Henry Trimmer made good his promise out of a clear sky.
  • Cynthia Meyrick stood facing the others, talking brightly, when suddenly he_ace paled and the flippant words died on her lips. They all turned instantly.
  • Through the lobby, in a buzz of excited comment, a man walked slowly, his eye_n the ground. He was a tall blond Englishman, not unlike Lord Harrowby i_ppearance. His gray eyes, when he raised them for a moment, were listless, his shoulders stooped and weary, and he had a long drooping mustache that hun_ike a weeping willow above a particularly cheerless stream.
  • However, it was not his appearance that excited comment and caused Mis_eyrick to pale. Hung over his shoulders was a pair of sandwich boards such a_he outcasts of a great city carry up and down the streets. And on the fron_oard, turned full toward Miss Meyrick's dinner party, was printed in bol_lack letters:
  • I
  • AM
  • THE
  • REAL
  • LORD
  • HARROWBY
  • With a little gasp and a murmured apology, Miss Meyrick turned quickly an_ntered the elevator. Lord Harrowby stood like a man of stone, gazing at th_andwich boards.
  • It was at this point that the hotel detective sufficiently recovered himsel_o lay eager hands on the audacious sandwich man and propel him violently fro_he scene.
  • In the background Mr. Minot perceived Henry Trimmer, puffing excitedly on _ig black cigar, a triumphant look on his face.
  • Mr. Trimmer's bomb was thrown.