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The Seven Darlings, Page 2

Gouverneur Morris


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

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

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

  Since Mary's proposal of the day before to turn the expensive camp intoa profitable inn, the family had talked of little else, and a number ofways and means had already been chosen from the innumerable onesproposed. In almost every instance Arthur had found himself an amusedminority. His platform had been: "Make them comfortable at a fairprice."

  But Mary, who knew the world, had retorted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Eve retorted sharply.

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

  But Phyllis was pulling a long face.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  "Can't you _tell_ us where it is?"

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

  "And where is the key?"

  "Just under Uncas."

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

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

  Everybody agreed with Eve except Arthur. He merely smiled with and ather.

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

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

  "Two hundred thousand?"

  He nodded again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  "I've thought of something," said Maud. "Just a line. Part of the ad, ofcourse, mentions prices. Now I think if we say prices from so and soup--it looks cheap and commonplace. At the bottom of the ad, then, afterwe've described all the domestic comforts of The Camp and its sportingopportunities, let's see if we can't catch the _clientele_ we are afterwith this:


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

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

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

  "Sure you've got it?" asked Lee.

  "Umm," said Gay, "sure."

  They giggled.

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

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

  Lee laughed with mischievous delight.

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

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

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

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

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

  "Yes. That will be the way. It would be a pity for the whole scheme tofall through for lack of brains. I suppose the others would neveragree?"

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

  "We shall get ourselves into trouble."

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

  "Who were they?"

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