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CHAPTER THIRTEEN


Teddie's head was much clearer by the time she had motored out to Tuxedo. Her head was clearer, but the contradictory tides of feeling that eddied about her troubled young heart seemed as muddled up as ever. Even her Uncle Chandler was not entirely oblivious of the fact that some newer ferment was working in the depths of that bottled-up young soul. But he asked no questions. There were two things which he knew too well for that: one was life in general, and the other was Theodora Lydia Lorillard Hayden in particular.

As for Teddie herself, she was tyrannical and melting and snappy and chummy all at the same time. She promptly ordered the servants back at their posts, and just as promptly proceeded to bully them in a manner which plainly betokened that she intended to be master of her fate in at least one quarter of an otherwise unconquered world. She ordered silver unpacked and moth-bags banished and the striped ticking off the furniture and the cars overhauled and the drapes restored and the drive-borders retrimmed and an absurd amount of cut flowers for every room in the house. But she prowled moodily about that house, resenting its quietness at the same time that she gave orders she was at home to nobody. She tried riding before breakfast, and found her old mount gone soft and her new groom grown sulky. She tried reading, and discovered how unbelievably dull all modern books could be. She tried motoring, and found no interest in maneuvering the old hair-pin curves on two wheels and no thrill in defying the old speed-traps at sixty miles an hour. Even the greenhouses, when she invaded them, seemed to suggest funeral setpieces and the vanity of all earthly ways. The very walls about that lordly Hayden demense grew still again remarkably suggestive of jail walls. And that particular wall which intervened between her own and the adjacent West estate seemed to take on a particularly objectionable coloring.

As for her Uncle Chandler, he punctiliously dressed for dinner, and punctiliously sat at one end of the big dining-room table while Teddie just as solemnly sat at the other—though she did once emerge sufficiently from her self-absorption to remark that they looked exactly like two palm-trees on the edge of the Sahara. She also once ventured to ask if Watkins really oughtn't to have a passport when he carried the joint all the way from her end of the table down to the old Major's end of the table. And her Uncle Chandler brightened up sufficiently to inquire if he hadn't better order a taxi to run them out to the terrace for coffee, so abysmally vast seemed the distances in that dolorous and empty house.

If the old Major remained suspiciously meek and long-suffering during these days of trial, it must be acknowledged that he made divers and undivulged trips in to the City, whence he returned oddly fortified in spirit and beguilingly abstracted in manner. The only excursion which brought him obvious displeasure was that when he brought back to Teddie a motor-truck loaded down with her studio possessions—which the lady in question solemnly committed to a bonfire on the rear end of the East Drive. And that afternoon as they sat taking tea and cinnamon-toast on the Terrace, he finally found the courage to confront the morose-eyed young lady who sat in the high-backed willow-chair so moodily tearing an Ophelia rose to pieces.

"Say, Teddie, isn't it about time you were loosening up?" the old Major quietly inquired.

"About what?" demanded Teddie, taking her third slice of cinnamon-toast.

"About that mix-up down in the Village."

"It wasn't a mix-up," corrected Teddie.

"Then what was it?"

"It was a revelation!"

"A revelation of what?" asked Uncle Chandler as he put his teacup down.

"Of what men are!" asserted the abstracted-eyed Teddie.

"Of course," said the old Major as he took out a chased gold case and meditatively extracted a cigarette. "So let's have it, Teddikins, hook, line and sinker !"

But Teddie shook her head,

"I telegraphed to father," she inappositely remarked.

"Where is Trummie this summer?" her uncle inquired.

"He's still at the Arizona Camp Observatory," explained Teddie.

"Trummie moves so slowly," complained the old Major. "The poor man can't help it, I suppose, trailing that chain of D. S.'s, and F. R. S.'s and F. R. G. S.'s around after him all the time. But I suppose you felt he was the proper person to talk such things over with?"

Teddie nodded a slightly abstracted assent.

"Yes, I felt that way. But I had a wire from father this morning. He says he'll be through with his spectographic analysis of the Milky Way nebulæ before the end of October and that as soon as he feels sure he can synthesize an isotope of hydrogen approximating to nebulum he'll come east and have a talk with me!"

The old Major smiled pensively.

"Yes, I remember what he said when the Rubber Trust swallowed up my little Congolo Company and squeezed me out after I'd squeezed out the original Amsterdammers: 'The oysters eat the diatoms, and we eat the oysters!' It makes me wish, Teddie, that I could be a philosopher now and then."

"I wish women could be," remarked Teddie.

"Then why not make a stab at it," ventured the old gentleman who had been so intently studying her averted face, "by telling me what the trouble is?"

"There's really nothing to tell, Uncle Chandler," solemnly asserted the young lady with the moody eyes, drawing the striped ticking of reticence over the brocaded injustices of youth.

The old Major tossed away his cigarette. He sat staring at the poor little rich girl in the willow lawn-chair. He stared at her so long and so intently that she finally turned about and looked none too fraternally into his face.

"What are you thinking about?" she asked.

"It's queer I never noticed it before," remarked the old Major, apparently more to himself than to the girl confronting him.

"Noticed what?" asked Teddie.

"How you're getting a bit like your mater," replied the placid-eyed old gentleman in the armchair, "a bit tamed and trimmed off and ironed out!"

"I won't be!" proclaimed Teddie, with quite unlooked-for passion, as she got up from her chair.

"But how, my dear, are you going to stop it?" asked the still equable old Major.

"I won't get like that!" reiterated Teddie, looking for all the world like a second Artemisia confronting an army of embattled males. She stood there, as though expecting some retort from him. But he said nothing. He merely took out another cigarette, lighted it, and recovered his morning Herald from the grass at his feet. This he proceeded to peruse with studied unconcern, quite ignoring the young Artemisia still glowering at him over the edge of it. Then he looked up, with the ghost of a yawn.

"By the way, I saw the Commodore in town yesterday," observed Teddie's uncle as he leisurely turned a page. "He was telling me a queer thing about young West."

"Indeed!" said Teddie, without moving.

"The Commodore was saying that Gerry's going to marry that Rivers girl," offhandedly announced the maculated old scoundrel in immaculate cricketer's flannel.

He waited behind his paper, for several seconds. Then he heard a mirthless little laugh. Then he heard the contemptuous ejaculation of "That frump!" And then he heard quick steps along the marble walk that bisected the Terrace.

"Where are you going?" he demanded as he looked up to see Teddie making off with the stride of a Diana.

But Teddie entirely ignored that question. Instead of answering that not unnatural interrogation she was calling sharply out to Watkins: "Tell Parrish I want my car. I want it at once!" And two minutes later, as the old Major folded up his paper and watched Teddie vanish down the West Drive leaving a scurry of gravel and a residuary cloud of dust above the shrubbery, he sighed audibly, and took out another cigarette, and sat deep in thought.