CHAPTERI If I didn't tell this, nobody else ever would; certainly not Diana, nor Major Vandyke—stilllessEaglehimself—ImeanCaptainEaglestonMarch;andthey andIaretheonlyoneswhoknow,exceptafewsuchpeopleaspresidentsand secretaries of war and generals, who never tell anything even under torture. Besides,thereistheunofficialpart.Withoutthat,thedramawouldbelikeaplay in three acts, with the first and third acts chopped off. The presidents and secretariesofwarandgeneralsknownothingabouttheunofficialpart. It'sstrangehowthebiggestthingsoflifegrowoutofthetiniestones.Thereis theoldsimileoftheacornandtheoak,forinstance.Butoakstakealongtimeto grow,andeverybodyconcernedinoakcultureiscalmlyexpectingthemtodoit. Imagineanacornexplodingtoletoutanoakhugeenoughtoshadowtheworld! If, two years ago, when I was sixteen, I hadn't wanted money to buy a white frockwithrosesonit,whichIsawinSelfridge'swindow,asecretcrisisbetween the United States and Mexico would have been avoided; and the career of a splendidsoldierwouldnothavebeenbroken. OnemonthbeforeImetthewhitedress,DianaandFatherandIhadcomefrom home—that's Ballyconal—to see what good we could do with a season in London;goodforDiana,Imean,andIputherbeforeFatherbecausehedoesso himself. Every one else he puts far, far behind, like the beasts following Noah into the Ark. Not that I'm sure, without looking them up, that they did follow Noah.ButifithadbeenFather,hewouldhavearrangeditinthatway,toescape seeingtheiruglyfacesorsmellingthosewhowerenotnicetosmell. IsupposeIshouldhavebeenleftatBallyconal,withnothingtodobutstudymy beloved French and Spanish, my sole accomplishments; only Father had contrivedtolettheplace,throughtheNewYorkHerald,toanAmericanfamily who, poor dears, snapped it up by cable from the description in the advertisement of "a wonderful XII Century Castle." Besides, Diana couldn't affordamaid.Andthat'swhyIwastakentoAmericaafterward.Icandohair beautifully. So, when one thinks back, Fate had begun to weave a web long beforethemakingofthatwhitedress.Noneofthosetremendousthingswould havehappenedtochange heavenknowshowmanylives,ifIhadn'tbeenborn
with the knack of a hairdresser, inherited perhaps from some bourgeoise ancestressofmineonMother'sside. When theAmericanfamilyfound out whatBallyconalwasreally like, andthe twelfth-century rats had crept out from the hinterland of the old wainscoting ("rich in ancient oak," the advertisement stated), to scamper over its faces by night, and door knobs had come off in its hands by day, or torn carpets had tripped it upandsprained its ankles,it saidbadwords aboutdeceitful,stoneybrokeIrishearls,andfledattheendofafortnight,havingpaidfortwomonthsin advanceattherateofthirty-fiveguineasaweek.Fatherhadbeensadlysurethat theAmericanswoulddothatverything,sohehadcountedongettingonlythe advancemoneyandnomore.Thismeantcheaplodgingsforus,whichspoiled Diana'schancesfromthestart,asshetoldFathertheminuteshesawthehouse. It was in a fairly good neighbourhood, and the address looked fashionable on paper; but man, and especially girl, may not live on neighbourhood and paper alone,evenifthelattercanbepepperedwithcoronets. Idon'tknowwhatcurseormildewcollectsonpoorIrishearls,butitsimplygoes nowheretobeoneinLondon;andthentherewasthehandicapofFather'stwo quaintmarriages.Diana'smotherwasamusic-hall"artiste"(isn'tthattheword?) without any money except what she earned, and also—I heard a woman say once, when she thought Little Pitcher's ears were engaged elsewhere—without any"h's"exceptinthewrongplaces. Mymother,thepoordarling,musthavebeenjustasunsuitableinherway.She was a French chocolate heiress, whom Father married to mend the family fortunes,whenDianawasfive;butsomeoneshortlyaftersprangonthemarket abetterchocolatethanherpeoplemade,soshewasafailure,too,andnoteven beautiful like Diana's mother. Luckily for her, she died when I was born; but neithershenorthe"artiste"canhavehelpedFathermuch,withthesmartfriends ofhisyoungdayswhenhewasoneofthebest-lookingbachelorsintown. Diana was considered beautiful, but "the image of her mother," by those inconvenient creatures who run around the world remembering other people's pasts;andthoughsheandFatherwereinvitedtolotsofbigcrushes,theyweren't asked to any of the charming intimate things which Diana says are the right backgroundforadébutante.ThiswenttoDi'sheartandFather'sliver,andmade thembothdreadfullyhardtogetonwith.Cinderellawasn'tinitwithme,except that when they were beastly, I was beastly back again; a relief to which Cinderellaprobablydidn'ttreatherself,beingafairy-storyheroine,stuffedwith
virtuesasasultanacakeisstuffedwithplums. ThedayIaskedFatherforthewhitefrockwithrosesonitinSelfridge'swindow, hewassodisagreeablethatIwenttomyroomandslammedthedoorandkicked achair.ItwastruethatIdidnotneedthedress,becauseIneverwentanywhere andwasonlyaflapper(it'salmostmoreunpleasanttobecalledaflapperthana "mouthtofeed");still,therealpleasureofhavingathingiswhenyoudon'tneed it,butjustwantit.Thefartherawayfrommethatgownseemedtorecede,the more I longed for it; and when Father told me not to nag or be a little idiot, I determinedthatsomehoworother,byhookorcrook,thefrockshouldhangon mywallbehindthechintzcurtainwhichcallsitselfawardrobe. Themorningoftherefusal,FatherandDiwerestartingofftobeawayallthat day and night. They were asked to a ridiculous house party given by a rich, suburbanPicklefamilyatEpsomfortheDerby,andDihadbeengrumblingthat itwasexactlythesortofinvitationtheywouldget:foronenightandtheDerby, insteadofAscot.However,itwasthetimeofthemonthforamoon,andquite decentyoungmenhadbeenenticed;soDiwasn'tsoverysorryforherselfafter all. Her nickname at home in Ireland, "Diana the Huntress," had been already imported, free of duty, to England, by a discarded flirtée; but I don't think she minded, it sounded so dashing, even if it was only grasping. She went off moderatelyhappy;andIwasleftwithtwenty-fourhoursonmyhandstodecide bywhathook,orwhatcrook,IcouldpossiblyannexthedresswhichIfelthad beenbornforme. AtlastIthoughtofawaythatmightdo.Mypoorlittlechocolatemothermadea will the day before she died, when I was a week old, leaving everything she possessed to me. Of course her money was all gone, because she had been married for two years to Father, and Himself is a very expensive man. But he hadn'tspentherjewelsyet,norherweddingveil,norafewotherpiecesoflace. Sincethenhe'swheedledmostofthejewelleryoutofme,buttheweddingveilI mean to keep always, and a Point d'Alençon scarf and some handkerchiefs he has probably forgotten. I had forgotten them, too, but when I was racking my brain how to get the Selfridge dress, the remembrance tumbled down off its dustylittleshelf. The legacies were at the bottom of my trunk, because it was simpler to bring them away from Ballyconal, than find a stowaway place that the American family wouldn't need for its belongings. The veil nothing would have induced me to part with; but the scarf was so old, I felt sure it must have come to my
mother from a succession of chocolate or perhaps soap or sardine grandmammas,andIhadn'tmuchsentimentaboutit.Ihadnopreciseideawhat thelaceoughttobeworth,butIfanciedPointd'Alençonmustbevaluable,andI thought I ought to get more than enough by selling it to buy the white dress, whichcostsevenguineas. Taxying through Wardour Street with Di, I had often noticed an antique shop appropriately crusted with the grime of centuries, all but the polished window, wherelaceandchinaandbitsofoldsilverweredisplayed.Itseemedtomethata person intelligent enough to combine odds and ends with such fetching effect oughttobethemantoappreciatemygreat—orgreatgreat-grandmother'sscarf.I didn't run to taxis when alone, and would as soon have got into one of those appalling motor buses as leap on to the back of a mad elephant that had berserkeredoutoftheZoo.Consequently,Ihadtowalk.Itwasanuntidy,badly dustedday,withahotwind;andIrealized,whenIcaughtsightofmyselfina convex mirror in the curiosity-shop window, that I looked rather like a small femaleeditionofStrumpelpeter. There was a bell on the door which, like a shrill, disparaging leit motif, announcedme,andmademesuddenlyself-conscious.Ithadn'toccurredtome before that there was anything to be ashamed of or frightened about in my errand. I'd vaguely pictured the shopman as a dear old Dickensy thing who wouldtakeafussyinterestinmeandmyscarf,andwhowould,withafatherly manner, press upon me a handful of sovereigns or a banknote. But as the bell jangled,oneofthemostrepulsivemenIeversawlookedtowardthedoor.There wasanothermanintheplace,talkingtothefirstcreature,andhelookedup,too. Noteventheblindestbat,however,couldhavemistakenhimforashopkeeper, andhisbeingthereputnotonlyadifferentcomplexiononthebusiness,buton me.Ifeltmineturningbrightpink,insteadoftheusualcreamthataccompanies thechocolate-colouredhairandeyeswithwhichIadvertisetheindustryofmy Frenchancestors. TheshopmanstaredatmewithasulkylookexactlylikethatofNebuchadnezzar, ourboarpigfromYorkshire,whichtookaprizeforitsnoseorsomething.This personmighthavewonaprizeforhisnosealso,ifanofferhadbeengoingfor largeones.Therestofhisface,olivegreenandfat,wasintheperspectiveofthis nose,justasthelesserproportionsofhisbody,suchaschestandlegs,werein theperspectiveofhis—waist.TheshopwasmuchsmallerthanIhadexpected from the window—a place you might have swung a cat in without giving it concussionofthebrain,butnotalion;andthemen—thefatproprietorandhis
long,leancustomer,andtwosuitsofdeformed-lookingarmour,seemedalmost to fill it. I've heard an actor talk about a theatre being so tiny he was "on the audience";andthesetwowereontheirs,theaudiencebeingme.Iwassocloseto the fat one that I could see the crumbs on the folds of his waistcoat, like food stored on cupboard shelves. I took such a dislike to him that I felt inclined to bounce out as quickly as I had bounced in, but the door had banged mechanically behind me, as if to stop the bell at any cost. The shop smelt of mothpowder,oldleather,mustypaper,andhairoil. "Well,mylittlegirl,whatdoyouwant?"inquiredNebuchadnezzar,withthekind oflispthatturnsaratintoayat. Littlegirl,indeed!Tobecalleda"littlegirl"byathinglikethat,andaskedwhat I wanted in that second-hand Hebrew tone, made me boil for half a second. Then, suddenly, I saw that it was funny, and I almost giggled as I imagined myselfhaughtilyexplainingthatIhadreachedtheageofsixteen,tosaynothing of being the daughter of two or three hundred earls. I didn't care a tuppenny anythingwhetherhemistookmefornineorninety;butIdidbegintofeelthatit wouldn'tbepleasantunrollingmytissue-paperparcelandbargainingformoney undertheeyesandearsoftheotherman. Theywereveryniceeyesandears.AlreadyI'dhadtimetonoticethat;foreven in these days, when men aren't supposed to be as indispensable to females as they were in Edwardian or Victorian and earlier ages, I don't think it's entirely obsoleteforagirltolearnmoreaboutaman'slooksinthreesecondsthanshe picksupaboutanotherwoman'sfrockintwo. Thismanwasn'twhatmostgirlsofsixteenwouldcallyoung;butIamdifferent frommostgirlsbecauseI'vealwayshadtobeasortoflawuntomyself,inorder nottobecomeafamilyfootstool.I'vehadtomakeupmymindabouteverything orriskmybraindegeneratingintoabathsponge;andoneofthethingsImadeit upaboutearlywasthatIdidn'tlikeboysornuts.Thecustomerinthecuriosity shop, to whom the proprietor was showing perfect ducks of Chelsea lambs plastered against green Chelsea bushes, was, maybe, twenty-eight or thirty, a greatageforawoman,butnotsobadforaman;andIwishedtogoodnesshe would buy or not buy a lamb and go forth about other business. However, I couldn'tindefinitelydelayansweringthatquestionaddressedto"littlegirl." "Iwanttoshowyouapoint-lacescarf,"Isnapped.Nebuchadnezzar'sunderstudy squeezedhimselfoutfrombehindthecounter,andlumberedasteportwonearer
me, moving not straight ahead, but from side to side, as tables do for spiritualists. "We don't mend lace here, if that's what you've come for, my child," he patronizedme. "Itdoesn'tneedtobemended,"saidI."It'sbeautifullace.It'stobesold." "Oa—oh,"heexplodedwithacockneydrawl,andarudelookcomingintohis eyeswhichhe'dkeptoutwhiletherewashopethatthedusty,blown-aboutlittle thingmightturnintoacustomer."Well!Let'ssee!ButI'vegotmoreoldlaceon handnowthanIknowwhattodowith." AsIunrolledlayersoftissuepaperwhichseemedtorustleloudlyoutofsheer spite,Iwasconsciousthatthecustomerhadsaunteredawayasfaraspossible, andwasgazingatsomeoldprintsonthewallwhichgavehimanexcusetoturn hisbacktous.Ithoughtthissweetlytactfulofhim. Nebuchadnezzar(overtheshophecallshimselfFranks,thesortofnoncommittal name a Jacobs or Wolfstein likes to hide under) almost snatched the lace from myhandsasIopenedthepackage,shookoutitsfolds,helditclosetohiseyes, pawed it, and sniffed. "Humph!" he grunted ungraciously. "Same old thing as usual.IfI'vegotoneof'em,I'vegotadozen.Whatdidyouexpecttoaskforit?" "Tenpounds,"Iannounced,asboldasoneofthoselionsthatcouldnotbeswung inhisshop. "Tenpounds!"Idon'tknowwhetherthesoundhemadewasmeantforasnortor alaugh."Tengrandmothers!" "Yes,"saidI,flaringupasifhe'dstruckamatchonme."That'sjustit!Tenofmy grandmothers have worn this scarf since it was made, and I want a pound for eachofthem." Therewasasmallfunnynoisebehindme,likeastaunchedgiggle,andIglanced over my shoulder at the customer, but his back looked most calm and inoffensive. "You'll have to take it out in wanting, I'm afraid, my girl," returned the shopkeeper."Icanofferyouthirtybob,nomoreandnoless.That'sallthething's worthtome."
Itriedtopullthescarfoutofhishands,buthedidn'tseemreadytogiveitup. "It'sworthagreatdealmoretome,"Isaid."I'llcarryitawaysomewhereelse, wheretheyknowaboutoldlace." "Myword!You'reapertyoungpieceforyoursize!"remarkedthehorribleman; andthoughIcouldhaveboxedhisears(whichstoodoutexactlylikethehandles onanurn),Ifeltmyowntingle,becauseitwastrue,whathesaid:Iwasapert young piece. Holding my own at home, and lots of other things in life (for sixteenyearsoflifeseemfearfullylongifthey'reallyou'vegotbehindyou),had mademepert,andIdidn'tlovemyselfforit,anymorethanaporcupinecanbe really fond of his own quills. I couldn't bear, somehow, that the man with the niceeyesshouldbehearingmecalleda"pertpiece,"andthinkingmeone.Quite a smart repartee came into my head, but a heavy feeling in my heart kept me from putting it into words; and Nebuchadnezzar went grunting on: "I know as muchaboutoldlaceasanymaninthisstreet,ifnotintown.That'swhyIdon't offermore." "Givemebackmyscarf,please,"wasmyonlyanswer,inquiteasmallvoice. Stillheheldontothelace."Lookhere,miss,"saidheinachangedtone,"how didyoucometogetholdofthisbitofproperty,anyhow?Folksain'tinthehabit ofsendingtheirchildrenouttodisposeo'theirvaluables.HowcanItellthatyou ain'tnickedthisoffyourmotheroryouraunt,orsomeotherdamewhodoesn't knowyou'reout?IfIwasdoin'mydooty,Ishouldn'twonderifIoughtn'ttocall inthepolice!" "You horrid, horrid person," I flung at him. "You're trying to frighten me—to blackmail me—into selling you my lace for thirty shillings, when maybe it's worthtwentytimesthat.Butifanyonecallsthepolice,itwillbeme,togiveyou inchargefor—forintimidation." AlmostbeforeIhadtimetobeproudofthewordwhenI'dcontrivedtogetitout, thecustomerhaddetachedhimselffromtheprintsandintervened. "Ibegyourpardonforinterfering,"hesaid(tome,nottoNebuchadnezzar),"but I can't help wondering"—and he smiled a perfectly disarming smile—"if you aren'tratheryoungtobeabusinesswomanonyourownaccount.Willyoulet meseethelace?" Of course the shopkeeper gave it up to him instantly, shamefaced at realizing thathiscustomer,insteadofadmiringhissmartmethods,wasenteringthelists
againsthim. While my champion (I felt sure somehow that he was my champion at heart) took the scarf in his hands, and began trying to look wise over it, I had about forty-nine seconds in which to look at him. Even at first glance I had thought himnice,butnowIdecidedthathewasthenicestmanIhadeverseen.Notthe handsomest; I don't mean that, for our county in Ireland is celebrated for its handsomemen,bothhighandlow.AlsoI'dseenseveralDreamssincewecame toLondon:but—well,justthenicest. Becauseitwasthemiddleoftheseasonandhewasintweeds,Ifanciedthathe didn'tgoinforbeing"smart."I'dlearnedenoughalreadyaboutLondonwaysto understandasmuchasthat.ButallthesameIthoughtthathehadtheairofa soldier. And he had such a contradictory sort of face that it interested me immensely,wonderingwhatthecontradictionsmeant. He had taken off his hat when I came into the shop (I'd noticed that, and had beenpleased),andnowIsawthattheupperpartofhisforeheadwasverywhite andtherestofhisfaceverytanned,asifhiscomplexionhadslippeddown.He hadalmoststraw-colouredhair,whichseemedlighterthanitwasbecauseofhis sunburnedskin;andhiseyebrowsandtheeyelashes(loweredwhilehegazedat my lace) were two or three shades darker. They were long, arched brows that gavealookofdreamyromancetotheupperpartofhisface,butthelowerpart wasextremelydetermined,perhapsevenobstinate.Itjumpedintomyheadthata woman—even a fascinator like Diana—would never be able to make him changehismindaboutthings,ordothingshedidn'twishtodo.Thatwasoneof thecontradictions,andthenosewasanother.ItwasratheraRomansortofnose, and looked aggressive, as if it would be searching about for forlorn hopes to fight for; anyhow, as if it must fight at all costs. Then, contradicting the nose, wasthemouth(forhewasclean-shavenasallyoungmenoughttobe,andnot leavetoomuchtoourimagination),amouthsomehowlikeaboy's,affectionate andkindandgay,thoughfarfrombeingweak.Ididn'tknowwhattomakeof himatall,and,ofcourse,Ilikedhimthebetterforthat. "I think this is mighty fine lace," he pronounced, when he had studied it long enoughtoshowoffasaconnoisseur;andallofasuddenIrealizedthathewas anAmerican.DianahadcollectedtwoAmericanfriendswhoofteninvitedherto theSavoy,andI'dheardthem,andnooneelse,say"mightyfine.""Areyousure youwanttogetridofit?"
I thought he was a dear to put it like that, as if I could have no real need for money,buthadsuchaglutoflacescarvesathomethatImustridmyselfofa fewsuperfluousones.Ashespokehewaslookingstraightatmewiththekind eyes I had noticed first of all—gray and yellow and brown mixed up together intohazel.Isupposeitmusthavebeensomequalityinthatlookwhichmademe decideinstantlytotellhimeverything.I'dhavesufferedthetortureoftheboot (anyhow, for a minute or two) before I would have explained myself to Nebuchadnezzar. "I'msureIdowanttosell,ifIcangetasmuchastenpoundsforthething,"I answered."Nothinglessthansevenguineaswouldbeofanyusetome.There's somethingwhichcostssevenguineas—athingI'mdyingtobuy.Mymotherleft thisscarftome,aswellassomeotherlaceIwouldn'tsellfortheworld.Butit's quitemineandIcandoasIlikewithit." "Letmesee!Tenpoundsisfiftydollars,isn'tit?"themanreflectedoutaloud. "Idon'tknow,"Icaughthimup,"anythingaboutAmericanmoneyorAmerica." Hesmiledatmeagain.PerhapsIhadhopedhewould. "That'stoobad!Yououghttocomeoveronoursideandlearn." "I'd love to, especially to the parts where I could show off my French and Spanish.ButI'msureIshallnevergetthechancetocrossthesea."Iwasthree thousandmilesfromdreamingthenofallthethingsthatweretocomeoutofthis littleaffairofthescarfandthedresswhichhadtemptedmetoputmylaceonthe market. "Well," he went on, going back from me to my property. "I'll buy this pretty thingfortenpoundsifyouliketosellittome;buthonestly,Iwarnyouthatfor allIknowitmaybeworthalotmore." "I'llbeperfectlysatisfiedwithtenpounds,"Isaid."ButIdon'twishyoutobuy justoutofkindness,whenI'malmostsureyoudon'treallywantto." "ButIdo,"heassuredme."Icameintothisplacetocarryoutacommissionfor anauntofmineinAmerica.Shewroteandaskedmetofindhersomethingina curiosity shop in England that she could give for a wedding present to a girl who'swildaboutantiques.Anoldfriendofoursisgoingtotaketheparcelback with her when she sails to-morrow; smuggle it, maybe, but that's not my business. I thought of a miniature on ivory, but I haven't taken a big fancy to
anythingI'veseensofar.Ilikeyourlacebetter,anditcostsjustthemoneymy aunttoldmetospend.Sothereyouare." "Andthere'sthelace,"Iadded,laughing."It'syours.Thankyouverymuch." "It'sformetothankyou,"saidhe."I'mawfullyafraidI'mgettingthebestofthe bargain,though.Wouldn'tyourathergosomewherefirstandconsultanexpert?" "No, indeed," said I. "Maybe the expert would tell us the lace was worth only fivepounds,notten.WhatI'minahurrytodoistodashtoSelfridge's,andbuy thedressIwantbeforesomebeastofagirlgetsitbeforeme.Oh,horror!Maybe she'stherealready!" "Theworstofitis,"saidmynewfriend—Ifelthewasthat—"Ihaven'tgotthe tenpoundsonme.ImeanttohaveanythingImightdecidetobuysenthomeand paidforatmyhotel." "Can'tIgowithyoutoyourhotel,andyougivemethemoneythere?"Iwanted toknow."Yousee,I'minsuchahurryaboutthedress." He glanced at me with a funny look in his eyes, and somehow I read what it meant.Hehadn'tcalledmea"littlegirl,"andhadbehavedasrespectfullyasifI wereahundred;butIcouldseethathethoughtmeabouttwelveorthirteen;and nowhewassayingtohimself:"Noharmcartingachildlikethataboutwithouta chaperon." ThiswasthefirsttimeI'deverbeengladthatIhadsacrificedmyselfforDi,and come to London in my old frocks up to the tops of my boots, and my hair hanging in two tails down to my waist. Of course, if any one were caddish or cattishenoughtolookherupinthebook,itcouldbefoundoutataglancethat LadyDianaO'Malleywastwenty-three;butevenifapersonisacadoracat,he (orshe)isoftentoolazytogothroughthedullpagesofDebrettorBurke;and besides, there is seldom one of the books handy. Therefore, Di had a sporting chanceofbeingtakenforeighteen,thesweetconventionalageofadébutanteon her presentation. Every one did know, however, that Father had married twice, and that there must be a difference of five or six years between Diana and the chocolate child. Accordingly, if I could be induced to look thirteen at most, it wouldbeuseful.Asforme,Ihadn'tcaredparticularly.IknewIshouldn'tgetany grown-upfuninLondon,whethermyhairwereinatailoratwist,orwhether mydresseswereshortorlong.SometimesIhadbeensorryforbeginninginthat way,butnowIsawthatvirtuewasgoingtoberewarded.
"Allright,"saidmyfriend."Maybeitwillbethebestarrangement."Andweleft Nebuchadnezzar looking as the dog in the fable must have looked, when he snappedatthereflectedbitofmeatinthewaterandlostthebitinhismouth. Ataxiwaspassing,andstoppedattheflourishofacane.IjumpedinbeforeI couldbehelped.Themanfollowed;andthoughIwaslookingforwardonlytoa little fun, my very first adventure in London "on my own," the chauffeur was speeding us along a road that didn't stop at the Waldorf Hotel: it was a road whichwouldcarryusbothonandon,towardablazingbonfireofwildpassion andromance.
CHAPTERII Thefirstthingwedidwhenwewereinthetaxicabwastointroduceourselvesto eachother.ItoldhimthatIwasMargueriteO'Malley,butthat,asIwasn'tabit likeamargueriteorevenacommonorgardendaisy,I'ddegeneratedintoPeggy. I didn't drag in anything about my family tree; it seemed unnecessary. He told me that he was Eagleston March, but that he had degenerated into "Eagle." I thoughtthisnicknamesuitedhisaquilinenose,hisbrillianteyes,andthateager, alertlookhehadofbeingaliveineverynerveandfibre.Hetoldme,too,thathe wasacaptainintheAmericanarmy,overinEnglandforthefirsttimeonleave; but before he got so far, I knew very well who he was, for I'd read about him daysagoinFather'sTimes. "Why,you'rethefirstAmericanwho'sloopedtheloopatHendon!"Icriedout. "Youinventedsomestabilitythingorothertoputonamonoplane." Helaughed."Somestabilitythingorother'saneatdescription.Butyou'reright. I'mtheAmericanfellowthattheloophaslooped." "NowIknow,"saidI,"whyyou'renotattheDerbyto-day.Horsesattheirfastest mustseemslowtoaflyingman." "This time you're not right," he corrected me. "I'm not at the Derby because it isn'tmuchfunseeingaracewhenyoudon'tknowanythingaboutthehorses,and haven'tapaltogowith." "But you must have lots of pals," I thought out aloud. "Every one adores the airmen." "Dothey?Ihaven'tnoticedit." "Then you can't be conceited. Perhaps American men aren't. I never knew one before,exceptinbusiness." "Good heavens! So you really are a business woman, as well as a linguist, apparently.Atwhatagedidyoubegin?" "Whatagedoyoutakemefornow?"Ihedged.
"Abouttwelveorthirteen,Isuppose,thoughI'mnojudgeofgirls'ages,whether they'relittleorbig." "I'm over twelve," I confessed, and went on hastily to change the dangerous subject."ButIreallydidhavebusinesswithanAmerican.Itwasinletters.My father made me write them, though they were signed with his name. He hates writing letters. I'm so thankful your name isn't Trowbridge. I hope you aren't relatedtoanyTrowbridges?" "Notone.Butwhy?" "Oh,because,ifyouwere,youmightwanttothrowmetothewolves—Imean underthemotorbuses.We'vedonetheTrowbridgesofChicagoafearfulwrong. WeletthemourplaceinIreland,whilewecametoLondontoenjoyourselves." Helaughedaloud,thatverynice,younglaughofhis,whichmademefeelmore athomewithhimthanwithpeopleI'dknownallmylife."Youreallyareaquaint little woman," he said. "Now I come to think of it, I do know some people in ChicagonamedTrowbridge." "Oh, well," said I, "if you must throw me out of anything, do it out of your monoplane.Itwouldbesomuchmoredistinguishedthanoutofameretaxi.And atleast,Ishouldhaveflownfirst!Foryouwouldhavetotakemeupbeforeyou coulddashmedown.Andsomydreamwouldhavecometrue." "Isityourdreamtofly?"heasked,interested. "Waking and sleeping," said I. "Ever since I was a tiny child, my very best dreamhasbeenthatIwasflying.Eventodreamitasleepisperfectlywonderful and thrilling, worth being born for, just to feel. What must it be when you're actuallyawake?" "Youareanenthusiast,"saidCaptainMarch."You'vegotitinyourblood.What apityyou'renotaboy.Youcouldbea'flyingman'yourself." "Well,it'ssomethingtoknowone,"saidI."Why,I'dgivemyhand—theleftone —or anyhow, a finger of it—for just an hour in the air. A toe would be too cheap." "I'dtakeyouuplikeashot,ifyourpeoplewouldletyougo,"saidhe. Igaspedwithjoy."Oh,wouldyou?"Iexclaimed."Reallyandtruly,Ididn'tmean
tohint!Butitwouldbeheaventogo!" "NotinmyGoldenEagle,"helaughed,"forI'dguaranteetobringyousafeand sound back to earth again, this side of heaven. I can take up one passenger, though I haven't yet, since I came out here. I haven't met anybody, till now, I particularlycaredtoask,andwhowouldparticularlyhavecaredtogo." "Andyouwouldcaretotakeme?Howkindofyou!" "Kindtomyself.ItoldyouIhadn'tanypalsinEngland.Youseemtobethestuff they'remadeof.You'dbea'mascot,'I'msure.Butyourpeople——" "People? I haven't any. At least, a governess I once had said you couldn't call two, 'people.' They must be spoken of as 'persons.' I have only persons who belongtome—justFatherandagrown-upsister—ahalf-sister.Theylikeeach other so much that they haven't room to care about me. If the Golden Eagle tippedmeout,andsmashedmeasflatasapaperdoll,theywouldn'tshedatear." "Poorlittlechild!Butmaybeyou'remistaken.Maybeyouarenotconceited!" "Yes,Iam!That'swhyInoticewhenI'mnotloved.Oh,dotakemeup.Takeme upto-day!I'mallaloneintheworld.My'persons'havegonetotheDerby,and arestayingallnightatEpsomwithafat,richfamily.I'mlefttothemercyofthe landladyinourlodgings.I'llevengiveupthedressatSelfridge'stogowithyou. That'smorethansacrificingatoe!" But he had stopped laughing. Instead he had turned quite grave. "I couldn't possibly do it," he said. "I'm awfully sorry to refuse. If you were older, you'd understandthatitwouldn'tbetherightthingforastrangemananda'foreigner,' to kidnap a little girl and fly off with her into space. Supposing I had an accident? I'm sure I shouldn't—but just supposing. I should never be able to forgive myself. Don't despair though. If you can manage to introduce me as a respectablesortofchaptoyourfather,andhegiveshispermission——" "ButhowdidIgettoknowyou?"Igroaned."Ishallhavetofib." "No,youwon't,"hesaidquickly."Irefusetobefibbedabout.Youmustthinkof someotherway." "I'm afraid," I said dolefully, "you agree with that hateful curiosity man about me!"
"Agreewithhim?Idon'tunderstand." "ThatI'mapertminxorsomething.That'swhathecalledme—orapertpiece. It'sallthesamething.AndIamit.Idon'tmindtellingfibs.I'vetoldlots." "Youpoorlittlething!"exclaimedCaptainMarchinapityingtone,butwiththe kindofpitytheproudestpersonwouldn'tresent,becauseitreallycamefromhis heart."Youseemtohavehadtofightyourownbattles.Maybeyourmotherdied whenyouwereveryyoung?" "WhenIwasaweekyoung,"Isaid,andsuddenlyIfeltmyselfchokedup. "Thatexplains thetelling offibs,yousee,andsayingyoudon'tmind—though I'msureyoudo,whenyoustoptothinkofit;becausethesortofgirlwhocanbe agoodpaltoamanjustcan'ttellfibs,anymorethanthemancan—ifhe'sworth beingapalto." Twoboilinghottearsrandownmyface,oneoneachcheek.Icouldn'tanswer.I onlylookedupathim,feelingalleyes. "WhatabeastIam!"heexclaimed."I'vemadeyoucry!" "It's I who am the beast," I managed to gasp out, because I saw he was badly distressedaboutme,andwhathehaddone."I'mcryingbecauseI'malittlebeast. ButI'dlikenottobe." "You'renot.You'realittlesoldier.Willyouforgiveme?Ididn'tmeantopreach." "Youdidn'tpreach.Iexpectyou'dtalklikethattoarealsoldier—oneofthose you'recaptainof.Well,I'llpretendI'moneofthosesoldiers,andthatyou'remy captain." AsIspoke,thetaxiwasdrawingupinfrontofhishotel;butIwentstraighton withmyplay,andgavehimamilitarysalute."Thankyou,Captain,"saidI,"for taking an interest. I shan't forget. No more fibs! I'll work for my corporal's stripe!" "Good child!"hebeamedon me,lookingyoungandhappyagain."I'llgetyou the stripe. I have it ready for you upstairs. I'll bring it down when I bring the moneyforthelacescarf.Wouldyouratherwaitinthetaxi,orwillyoucomeinto theladies'parlourinthehotel?" Ithought"parlour"alovelyword,andveryFrench,thoughIsupposeditmight
beAmerican,too.Itwasquiteanadventuregoingintoanhotel. My captain (already I'd begun to think of him as that, since he'd called me a soldier) paid the chauffeur and led me to a big drawing-room where several womensat,soprettilydressedandsotrimthattheymademefeelshabbyinmy brownhollandfrockandmyblown-abouthair.Iwonderedwhathehadmeantby saying he would bring me a "corporal's stripe," and whether he had meant anythingatall,exceptapassingjoke.Somehow,Ifeltthathehadhadadefinite idea,butIdidn'tdreamitwouldbeanythinghalfsofascinatingasitturnedout. Hewasnotgonemorethanfiveorsixminutes,andwhenheappearedagainhe drew up a chair in front of me, deliberately turning his back to the other occupantsoftheroom,sothattheycouldnotseewhatwasgoingon.Thenhe mademeholdoutmyhands(Iwasashamedofmyuntidygloves)andreceivein them ten golden sovereigns, which he counted as they dropped into my open palms. "I hope you'll never regret bartering away your great-great-grandmother's beautiful lace for this pittance," said he. "And now for the corporal's stripe, if you'regoingtoenlistinmyregiment." "Iam,"Icried."I'veenlistedinitalready." "Here, then," and he took from his coat pocket a little crumpled-up ball of something black and gold, evidently thrust in with haste. "This is one of the chevronsIworeonmysleevewhenIwasmadecorporalofcadetsatWestPoint, eleven years ago this very month. You'll laugh, I guess, when I tell you why I broughtthethingwithmeoverhere.Ikeptit,outofasortof—ofsentiment,or sentimentalitymaybe,becauseIwassodashedproudwhenIgotit.Ithoughtit marked an epoch in my life; that it was a token of success. Well, when I was comingovertoyoursideofthewater,totryouttheGoldenEagleamongallthe Englishflyers,Iwassillyenoughtothinkifshedidanygood,I'dstickthispoor oldstripeonhersomewhere,forauldlangsyne.NowI'drathergiveittoyou, littlesoldier." IthinkitwasatthatminuteIbegantoworshiphim.Iworshippedhimasachild worships, and as a woman worships, too; except that, perhaps, when a woman letsherselfgowithafloodofloveforaman,sheunconsciouslyexpectssome return.I'msureIdidn'texpectanything.Thatwouldhavebeentooridiculous! IfeltratherguiltyaboutdeprivingtheGoldenEagleofhermaster'strophy,but
afterall,agirlismoreappreciativethanamonoplane;andbesides,itwouldhave hurt Captain March's feelings in that mood of his, if I'd refused. I had a convictionthatacorporal'sstripe,givenasarewardandanincentive,wouldbe tomeatalisman.IdecidedthatI'dkeepitinaplacewhereIcouldrushtolook atitwheneverIneededencouragementtogoonbeingasoldier.IfIwantedto sneakmyselfoutoftroublewithafib,orbesnappishtoFatherorcattishtoDi, orsay"damn,"orbangadoorinarage,itseemedtomethatIshouldonlyhave tothinkofthatlittletriangleofblackclothandgiltbraidtobesuddenlyasgood asgold,allthewaythroughtomyheart. Maybe I showed some of these thoughts in my eyes when I thanked Captain March(Disaysmyeyestellallmysecrets),forhewasnicerthanever,inthe chivalrous,almosttenderwaysomemenhavewithgirl-children.Hesaidhewas justaslonelyasIwas,orworse,becausehehadn'tasoulwhobelongedtohim inEngland,andwoulditbequiteproperandallrightforanoldsoldierlikehim toinvitealittlegirllikemetolunch? Of course I said yes—yes, it would be entirely proper and perfectly splendid, though they might have forgotten to put anything of the sort into books of etiquette.Bythattimeitwashalf-pasttwelve,onlyafewminuteslefttodashto Selfridge's and rescue the dress (if it wasn't already lost) before luncheon, so CaptainMarchofferedtowhiskmeuptotheshopinataxi.Hepromised,ifthe gown were gone, that he'd help me choose another. But it wasn't gone; which showedthat,asI'dfeltinmybones,itreallyhadbeenbornforme. "Why,it'sapartydress,isn'tit?"mycaptaininnocentlywantedtoknow."And isn'titabittoooldforyou?" "Icanhaveitmadeshorter,"Isaid."Andifitisalittletoooldformeitdoesn't matter,becauseI'mneverinvitedtoanyparties.Ishan'tbeforyears,ifever.I shan't come out like my sister Di, I shall just slowly leak out, with nobody noticing.Itisn'tthatIexpecttowearthisfrock.It'sthejoyofhavingitwhichis soimportant." "Girls begin to be queer evidently, even when they're children," said he. "But that doesn't make them less interesting. I know of an invitation to a party you couldhave,though,ifyouwantedit.ThewifeofourAmericanambassadoris giving a ball to-morrow night. I know her a little. She'd be awfully pleased to sendyourpeoplecardsfortheshow,ifIaskedher.Orperhapsthey'vehadcards already?"
Ishookmyhead."I'msuretheyhaven't.Areyougoing?" "Yes,I'veaccepted." "IknowDianawouldloveit.I'lltellheraboutyou—andaboutto-day,forshe can't be cross with me if it ends in an invitation. And you'd be her firstflying man." Even as I spoke I had a misgiving. It came like a cramp in the heart. Di's nickname seemed to whisper itself in my ear: "Diana the Huntress—Diana the Huntress!"Ididn'twanthertoshootherarrowthroughthisman'sheart,because —well—justbecause.Buttheywouldhavetomeetifhewerenottobelostto me,sinceherefusedtobeapartnerinfibs.TheideaseemedexactlythechanceI had been looking for; and if the invitation came through me, provided I were includedbytheambassadress,Ididn'tseehowDiandFathercouldleavemeout. "Allright,youshallhavethecard,Icanpromisethat!"mycaptainsaidcheerily. "But,"Ihaggled,"willtheambassadressaska—alittlegirllikeme,whoisn'tout yet?" "Ofcourseshewill.I'llseetothat.Whyshouldn'talittlegirlgoforonce?Here isonepartnerforher." Todanceinthewhitedress,withhim!Thethingmustbetoogoodtobetrue.Yet itreallydidseemasifitmightcometrue. Heletmeselecttheplaceforluncheon,andIchosetheZoo.HesaidIcouldn't havechosenbetter.Itwasn'taverygrandmeal,butitwasthehappiestI'dever had.CaptainMarchtoldmethingsaboutAmerica,andaeroplanes,thoughvery littleabouthimself—exceptthathewasstationedatabeautifulplaceinArizona, called Fort Alvarado, close to the springs of the same name, where girls came andhad"thetimeoftheirlives."Afterwardwewanderedaboutandmadeloveto theZooanimals,andatlastsawthemfed.Whenthelionsandtigershadfinished their glorious roaring, which seemed to bring the desert and the jungle near, it wasalmostfiveo'clock,sowehadteaatthecrescent-shapedteahouse,infront of the Mappin Terraces. I lingered over my strawberries as long as I decently could,because,thoughIsearchedhardforit,thereseemedtobenoboredlook on Captain March's face. When I did reluctantly say, "I suppose I'd better go home?"heactuallyhadtheairofbeingsorry. "It'sbeenthenicestdayIeverlivedin,"Itoldhim.
"I'veenjoyedeveryminuteofit,too,"saidhe."Whatapitywecan'tpolishitoff withadinnerandthetheatre.Lookhere,ifyou'dlikeit,MissPeggy,IguessI cangetthatoldladyItoldyouof,who'ssailingto-morrowandwilltakethelace scarf,togowithusaschaperon.Whatdoyousay?" What could I say? Being a child, it didn't matter showing the wildest delight. Therearesomeadvantagesinbeingachild. HetookmehometoourlodgingsinChapelStreet(whichcheaplygaveusthe addressofMayfair)andthenIhadtobreakittohimthatIwasn'taMiss. "Goodgracious!"heexclaimed,whenIbeganwiththosewords."Childrendon't marryinyourcountryatthirteen,dothey?" Iexplainedthat,becausemyfatherhappenedtobeanearl,hisdaughtershada courtesy title; and when he looked a little shocked, as if he were wondering whether he had been indiscreet, I nodded toward the house, as our taxicab stopped before the insignificant green door. "You see by where we live how unimportantweare!"Iexcusedmyselfinsuchapleadingvoicethathelaughed. Thenheflashedawaytomakearrangementsfortheevening—ourevening! The landlady had a telephone, and presently I got the message which Captain March had told me to expect. Mrs. Jewitt had consented to dine and go to the theatre.WouldIliketheSavoy,andtosee"Milestones"afterward?AndwasI surethisbusinesswouldn'tgetmeintotroubleto-morrow? If it had sent me into penal servitude for life, I shouldn't have hesitated; but I repliedthatmysisterwouldforgivemeforthesakeoftheAmericanEmbassy ball.IknewDicouldbecountedon,intheexceptionalcircumstances,nottotell Father;butIdidn'tmentionthatdetailtoCaptainMarch.Iwasafraidhemight thinkthecorporal'sstripehadbeenill-bestowed,butonemustdrawthestraight lineoftruthsomewhere!
CHAPTERIII NextmorningwhenDicameback,Itoldherwhatwasnecessarytotell,andnot abitmore.IexplainedhowIhadmetCaptainEaglestonMarch,andhowwehad spent the day and the heavenly evening. But first, I let her open the invitation which had just come by hand from the American Embassy (she opens all Father'sletters,exceptthosethathavearepulsivelyprivatelook),andwhenshe began,"Iwonderhowonearth——,"Iwasabletoworkmystoryinneatly,as anexplanation. Dilistenedtotheend,withoutinterruptingmeonceexceptbyopeninghereyes verywide,andnowandthenraisinghereyebrows,orgivingventtoexpressive sighs.IsawthatshewasthinkinghardasIwenton,andIknewwhatshewas thinking:abouttheneedofforgivingmebecauseofthenewinterestinlifemy naughtinesshadbroughther. When I had finished up the tale with our dinner at the Savoy, and seeing "Milestones,"andthenontopofall,havingsupperwithMrs.JewittandCaptain Marchataterriblyrespectablebutfascinatingnightclubofwhichhehadbeen madeamember,Dianadidn'tscold.ShesaidthatCaptainMarchbeinganofficer and a flying man made all the difference, but she hoped I would not have put myselfintosuchapositionwithanyothersortofman,whetherhemistookme forachildornot.Evenasitwas,shewouldn'tdaretellFatherthehistoryofmy day: but, as they had made several American acquaintances lately, she could easilyaccountfortheEmbassyinvitation. "We'll go, of course, won't we?" I catechized her, knowing that her word with Fatherwasprettywelllaw. "Yes,we'llgo,"sheanswered."I'llwriteanacceptanceandsenditbyhand." IwassoenchantedatthisthatIdasheduptomyroomandbeganshorteningthe newdress.IhadmentioneditvaguelytoDi,butitwastheonepartofmystory inwhichshetooknointerest.Isawhowthekeennessdiedoutofherbeautiful sea-blue eyes, and how her soul retired comfortably behind them, to think of somethingelse,justasyouseepeoplewalkawayfromwindowsthroughwhich they've been looking out, leaving them emptily blank. As she didn't care what littlePeggywore,littlePeggydecidedtogiveherasurpriseatthelastmoment.