Amazing grace, who prove.., p.5
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       Amazing Grace, Who Proves That Virtue Has Its Silver Lining, p.5

           Kate Trimble Sharber
 
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  CHAPTER V

  ET TU, BRUTE!

  My first waking thought the next morning had nothing on earth to dowith the dilemma of the day before. I stretched my arms lazily, then alittle shrinkingly, as I remembered what the daily grind would be.There was to be a Flag Day celebration of the Daughters of theAmerican Revolution--and I was to report Major Coleman's speech.That's why I shrank. I am not a society woman.

  "D. A. R.," I grumbled, jumping out of bed and going across to thewindow to see what kind of day we were going to have.--"_D-a-r-n!_"

  Anyway, the day was all right, and after waving a welcome to thesun--whose devout worshiper I am--I rubbed a circle of dust off themirror and looked at myself. Every woman has distinctly prettydays--and distinctly homely ones; and usually the homely ones come tothe front viciously when you're booked for something extraordinary.However, this proved to be one of my good-looking periods, and out ofsheer gratitude I polished off the whole expanse of the mirror.Incidentally, I am not an absolutely dustless housekeeper, in spite ofmy craze for simplicity. I consider that there are only two thingsthat need be kept passionately clean in this life--the human skin andthe refrigerator.

  "Are you going to dress for the fete--before you go to the office?"mother inquired rebelliously, as she saw me arranging my hair withthat look of masculine expectation later on in the morning. "Why don'tyou get your other work off, then come back home and dress?"

  "Well--because," I answered indifferently.

  "But the _Sons_ of the Revolution are going to meet with theDaughters!" she warned.

  "I know that."

  As if to demonstrate my possession of this knowledge I turned awayfrom the mirror and displayed my festive charms. A light graycoat-suit had been converted into the deception of a gala garment bythe addition of Irish lace; and mother, looking it overcontemptuously, went into her own bedroom for a moment, and came backcarrying her diamond-studded D. A. R. pin. She held it out towardme--with the air of a martyr.

  "But--aren't you going to wear it yourself?" I asked, with a littlefeeling of awe at the lengths of mother-love. She had been regent ofher chapter--and loved the organization well enough to go toWashington every year.

  "No."

  "Then--then do you mean to say that you're not going to Mrs. Walker'sto-day?"

  She shook her head.

  "Why--mother!"

  I turned to her and saw that a tear had dropped down upon the lastgolden bar bridging the wisp of red, white and blue. There were tenbars in all, each one engraved for an ancestor--and when I wore thething I felt like a foreign diplomat sitting for his picture.

  "What's the matter, honey?" I asked. She had always been my littlegirl, and I felt at times as if I were unduly severe in my disciplineof her.

  "Grace, you don't know how I feel!"

  The words came jerkily--and I knew that I was in for it.

  "Does your head ache?" I asked hastily. "You'd better get on the carand ride out into the--"

  "My head _doesn't_ ache!" she denied stoutly. "It's my h-heart!--Tosee you--Grace Chalmers Christie--racing around to such things as thisin a coat-suit! You ought, by right of birth and charm, be the chiefornament of such affairs as this--the chief ornament, I say--yet yougo carrying a _'hunk o' copy paper_!'"

  "In my bag," I modified.

  "And you get up and leave places before you get a bite of food--andrace back to that office, like a wild thing, to _'turn it in_!'"

  This contemptuous use of my own jargon caused me to laugh.

  "And do you think that the wearing of this heavy pin will prove soexhausting that I'll have to stay at Mrs. Walker's to-day for a biteof food?" I asked.

  She looked at me in helpless reproach.

  "I want you to go to this thing as a D. A. R.," she explained, "not asa _Herald_ reporter."

  "Then I'll wear it," I promised, kissing her soothingly. "But you mustgo, too."

  She shook her head again.

  "I can't--I really can't!" she said. "I've got nothing fine enough towear. This is going to be a magnificent thing, every one tellsme--with all the local Sons--and this wonderful Major Coleman tolecture on flags."

  She looked at me suspiciously as she uttered her plaint about the Sonsbeing present, and in answer, I thrust forward one gray suede pump.

  "But I'm ready for any Son on earth--Oldburgh earth," I protested."Don't you _see_ my exquisite lace collar--and the pink satin rose inmy chapeau--and this silken and buskskin footgear? Surely no true Sonwould ever pause to suspect the 'hunk o' copy paper' which liethbeneath all this glory!"

  "Isn't Guilford going with you?" she called after me as I left thehouse a few minutes later. "Will he meet you at the office?"

  "No--thank heaven--it's an awful thing to have to listen to two mentalk at the same time--especially when you're taking one down inshorthand--and Guilford is mercifully busy this afternoon."

  I had a bunch of pink roses, gathered fresh that morning from ourstrip of garden, and I stopped in the office of the owner andpublisher when I had reached the _Herald_ building. Just because he'sold, and drank out of the same canteen with my grandfather I made ahabit of keeping fresh flowers in his gray Rookwood vase. This spotof color, together with the occasional twinkle from his eyes, made theonly break in the dusty newspapery monotony of the room. He looked upfrom his desk, and his face brightened as he saw my holiday attire.

  "Well, Grace?"

  He started up, big and shaggy--and wistful--like a St. Bernard. I likeold men to look like St. Bernards--and young ones to look likegreyhounds.

  "Don't get up--nor clear off a chair for me," I warned, catching upthe vase and starting toward the water-cooler. "I can't stay aminute."

  He collapsed into his squeaky revolving chair. When he was a lad aYankee minnie ball had implanted a kiss upon his left shoulder-blade,and he still carried that side with a jaunty little hike--a mostflirtatious little hike, which, however, caused the distinguished restof him to appear unduly severe.

  "Ah! But you must explain the 'dolled-up' aspect," he begged.

  I laughed at the schoolgirl slang.

  "Why, this is Flag Day!" I told him. "How can you haveforgotten?--There will be a gigantic celebration at Mrs. HiramWalker's--and all the pedigreed world will be there."

  He smiled--slowly.

  "And you're writing it up?"

  "Just Major Coleman's lecture! They say he is quite the most learnedman in the world on the subject of flags. He knows them and lovesthem. He carries them about with him on these lecture tours infelt-lined steel cases."

  "Cases?" he smiled.

  "Certainly," I answered. "Whatever a man esteems most precious--oruseful--he has cases for! The commercial man has his sample cases--themedical man his instrument cases--the artistic man, his--"

  "Divorce cases," he interrupted dryly.

  "Alas, yes!" I sighed, my thoughts traveling back.

  He wheeled slowly, giving me a glance which finally tapered off withthe pink rosebuds in my hands.

  "Then," he asked kindly, "if you're going to a very great affair thisafternoon, why don't you keep these flowers and wear them yourself?"

  I shook my head.

  "But I'm a newspaper woman!" I said with dignity. "I might as wellwear a vanity-bag as to wear flowers."

  "Bosh! You're not a newspaper woman, Grace," he denied, still lookingat me half sadly. "And yet--well, sometimes it is--just such women asyou who do the amazing things."

  "Mother thinks so, certainly!" I laughed. "But you meant in what way,for instance?"

  He hesitated, studying me for a moment, while I held still and lethim, for there's always a satisfaction in being studied when there's asatin rose in your hat.

  "Oh--nothing," he finally answered, with a look of regret upon hisface.

  "But it is something!" I persisted, "and, even if I am in a big hurry,I shan't budge until you tell me!"

  "Well, since you insist--I only meant to say that I'd been doing alittle thinking on my own account lately--
as owner and publisher ofthis paper, with its interests at heart--and I've wondered just howmuch a woman might accomplish, after a man had failed."

  "A woman?"

  "By the ill use of her eyes, I mean," he confessed, his own eyestwinkling a little. "Women can gain by the ill use of their eyes whatmen fail to accomplish by their straightforward methods."

  "But that's what men hate so in women!" I said.

  He nodded.

  "Ye-es--maybe! That is, they make a great pretense of hating a womanwhen she uses her eyes to any end save one--charming them for theirown dear sakes!"

  "They naturally grudge her the spoils she gains by the ill use ofthose important members," I answered defensively.

  "Oh," he put in quickly, "I wasn't going to suggest that you do anysuch thing--unless you wanted to! I was merely thinking--that wasall!"

  "And besides," I kept on, "all the men who have ever done anythingworth being interviewed for--nearly all of them, I mean--are so oldthat--"

  He interrupted me wrathfully.

  "Old men are not necessarily blind men, Miss Christie," he explained."But we'll change the subject, if you please!"

  "Anyway, it doesn't happen once in twenty years that a newspaper womangets a scoop just because she's a woman," I continued, not being readyjust then to change the subject even if he had demanded it.

  "It does," he contradicted. "It's one of the most popular plots formagazine stories."

  "Bah! Magazine stories and life are two different propositions, mydear Captain Macauley!" I explained with a blase air. "I should likesome better precedent before I started out on an assignment."

  "Yet you are a most unprecedented young woman," he replied in ameaning tone. "I've suspected it before--but recent reports confirm myworst imaginings."

  I glanced at him searchingly.

  "You've been talking with mother?" I ventured.

  For a moment he was inscrutable.

  "Oh, I know you have!" I insisted. "She's told it to everybody whowill listen."

  "The story of the Coburn-Colt that wasn't hatched?"

  His face was severe, but the little upward twist of his left shoulderwas twitching as if with suppressed emotion.

  "She told you with tears in her eyes, I know," I kept on. "All the oldfriends get the tearful accompaniment."

  "Well, miss, doesn't that make you all the more ashamed of yourfoolishness?" he demanded.

  "My foolishness?"

  Something seemed to give way under me as he said this, for he wasalways on my side, and I had never found sympathy lacking before.

  "I mean that--that Don Quixote carried to an extreme becomes HappyHooligan," he pronounced.

  I drew back in amazement.

  "Why, Captain Horace Macauley--of Company A--18th Kentucky Infantry!"

  He tried hard not to smile.

  "You needn't go so far back--stay in the present century, if youplease."

  "But ever since then--even to this good day and in a newspaper office,where the atmosphere is so cold-blooded that a mosquito couldn't flyaround without getting a congestive chill, you know your reputation!Why, you could give the Don horse spurs and armor, then arrive a fullweek ahead of him at a windmill!"

  "Tommy-rot."

  "Supererogation is a prettier word," I amended, but he shook his head.

  "No! Six syllables are like six figures-they get you dizzy when youcommence fooling with them! Besides, I was discussing _your_ right tocommit foolish acts of self-sacrificing, Grace, not mine."

  "But it didn't seem foolish to me," I tried to explain.

  "When you're working in this rotten newspaper office, where no womancould possibly feel at home, for the vigorous sum of seventy-fivedollars a month?--Then it doesn't seem idiotic?"

  "No!"

  "And your mother moping and pining for the things she ought to have?"

  "No-o--not much!"

  "And Guilford Blake standing by, waiting like a gentleman for thisfever of emancipation to pass by and desquamation to take place?"

  This interested me.

  "What's 'desquamation?'" I asked. "I haven't time to get my dictionarynow."

  "You couldn't find it in any save a medical dictionary, likely," heexplained, with a pretense at patience. "Anyway, it's the peeling offprocess which follows a high fever--especially such fevers as yougirls of this restless, modern temperament so often experience!"

  I shivered.

  "Ugh! It doesn't sound pretty!" I commented.

  "Nor is it pretty," he assured me, "but it's very wholesome. Onceyou've caught the fever, lived through it, peeled off and got a shinynew skin you're forever immune against its return. This, of course, iswhat Guilford is waiting so patiently for. He is one of the mostestimable young fellows I know, Grace, and--"

  I looked wounded.

  "Don't you suppose I know that?" I asked. Then glancing quickly at thewatch bracelet on my wrist, and seeing with a gasp of relief that thehands were pointing toward the dangerous hour of three, I turnedtoward the door.

  "I must hurry!" I plead. "You've really no idea what an interestingoccasion a Flag Day celebration is, Captain Macauley!"

  "No?" he smiled, understanding my sudden determination to leave.

  "Indeed, no! Why, for three hundred and sixty-four days in the yearyou may have a gentle Platonic affection for General Washington, PaulRevere and the rest, but on the other day--Flag Day--your flame isrekindled into a burning zeal! You can't afford to be late! You musthurry!--Especially if you have to go there on the street-car!"

  "It's a deuced pity you can't get up a zeal for a devoted _living_man," he called after me in a severe voice as I reached the door."It's a pity you can't see the idiocy of this determination ofyours--before that publishing company revokes its offer."

  "Well, who knows?" I answered, waving him a gay good-by. "I hatestreet-cars above everything, and I'm sorry my coupe isn't waiting atthe door right now!"

 
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