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Christopher and Columbus
Elizabeth Von Arnim

[Illustrated by Arthur Litle]


Frontispiece by Arthur Litle
Garden City New York
Doubleday, Page & Company
1919



[Illustration: "Oh, yes. You're both very fond of me," said Mr. Twist,
pulling his mouth into a crooked and unhappy smile.

"We love you." said Anna-Felicitas simply.]






CHAPTER I


Their names were really Anna-Rose and Anna-Felicitas; but they decided,
as they sat huddled together in a corner of the second-class deck of the
American liner _St. Luke_, and watched the dirty water of the Mersey
slipping past and the Liverpool landing-stage disappearing into mist,
and felt that it was comfortless and cold, and knew they hadn't got a
father or a mother, and remembered that they were aliens, and realized
that in front of them lay a great deal of gray, uneasy, dreadfully wet
sea, endless stretches of it, days and days of it, with waves on top of
it to make them sick and submarines beneath it to kill them if they
could, and knew that they hadn't the remotest idea, not the very
remotest, what was before them when and if they did get across to the
other side, and knew that they were refugees, castaways, derelicts, two
wretched little Germans who were neither really Germans nor really
English because they so unfortunately, so complicatedly were both,--they
decided, looking very calm and determined and sitting very close
together beneath the rug their English aunt had given them to put round
their miserable alien legs, that what they really were, were Christopher
and Columbus, because they were setting out to discover a New World.

"It's very pleasant," said Anna-Rose. "It's very pleasant to go and
discover America. All for ourselves."

It was Anna-Rosa who suggested their being Christopher and Columbus. She
was the elder by twenty minutes. Both had had their seventeenth
birthday--and what a birthday: no cake, no candles, no kisses and
wreaths and home-made poems; but then, as Anna-Felicitas pointed out, to
comfort Anna-Rose who was taking it hard, you can't get blood out of an
aunt--only a month before. Both were very German outside and very
English inside. Both had fair hair, and the sorts of chins Germans have,
and eyes the colour of the sky in August along the shores of the Baltic.
Their noses were brief, and had been objected to in Germany, where, if
you are a Junker's daughter, you are expected to show it in your nose.
Anna-Rose had a tight little body, inclined to the round.
Anna-Felicitas, in spite of being a twin, seemed to have made the most
of her twenty extra minutes to grow more in; anyhow she was tall and
thin, and she drooped; and having perhaps grown quicker made her eyes
more dreamy, and her thoughts more slow. And both held their heads up
with a great air of calm whenever anybody on the ship looked at them, as
who should say serenely, "We're _thoroughly_ happy, and having the time
of our lives."

For worlds they wouldn't have admitted to each other that they were even
aware of such a thing as being anxious or wanting to cry. Like other
persons of English blood, they never were so cheerful nor pretended to
be so much amused as when they were right down on the very bottom of
their luck. Like other persons of German blood, they had the squashiest
corners deep in their hearts, where they secretly clung to cakes and
Christmas trees, and fought a tendency to celebrate every possible
anniversary, both dead and alive.

The gulls, circling white against the gloomy sky over the rubbish that
floated on the Mersey, made them feel extraordinarily forlorn. Empty
boxes, bits of straw, orange-peel, a variety of dismal dirtiness lay
about on the sullen water; England was slipping away, England, their
mother's country, the country of their dreams ever since they could
remember--and the _St. Luke_ with a loud screech had suddenly stopped.

Neither of them could help jumping a little at that and getting an inch
closer together beneath the rug. Surely it wasn't a submarine already?

"We're Christopher and Columbus," said Anna-Rose quickly, changing as it
were the unspoken conversation.

As the eldest she had a great sense of her responsibility toward her
twin, and considered it one of her first duties to cheer and encourage
her. Their mother had always cheered and encouraged them, and hadn't
seemed to mind anything, however awful it was, that happened to
her,--such as, for instance, when the war began and they three, their
father having died some years before, left their home up by the Baltic,
just as there was the most heavenly weather going on, and the garden was
a dream, and the blue Chinchilla cat had produced four perfect kittens
that very day,--all of whom had to be left to what Anna-Felicitas, whose
thoughts if slow were picturesque once she had got them, called the
tender mercies of a savage and licentious soldiery,--and came by slow
and difficult stages to England; or such as when their mother began
catching cold and didn't seem at last ever able to leave off catching
cold, and though she tried to pretend she didn't mind colds and that
they didn't matter, it was plain that these colds did at last matter
very much, for between them they killed her.

Their mother had always been cheerful and full of hope. Now that she was
dead, it was clearly Anna-Rose's duty, as the next eldest in the family,
to carry on the tradition and discountenance too much drooping in
Anna-Felicitas. Anna-Felicitas was staring much too thoughtfully at the
deepening gloom of the late afternoon sky and the rubbish brooding on
the face of the waters, and she had jumped rather excessively when the
_St. Luke_ stopped so suddenly, just as if it were putting on the brake
hard, and emitted that agonized whistle.

"We're Christopher and Columbus," said Anna-Rose quickly, "and we're
going to discover America."

"Very well," said Anna-Felicitas. "I'll be Christopher."

"No. I'll be Christopher," said Anna-Rose.

"Very well," said Anna-Felicitas, who was the most amiable, acquiescent
person in the world. "Then I suppose I'll have to be Columbus. But I
think Christopher sounds prettier."

Both rolled their r's incurably. It was evidently in their blood, for
nothing, no amount of teaching and admonishment, could get them out of
it. Before they were able to talk at all, in those happy days when
parents make astounding assertions to other parents about the
intelligence and certain future brilliancy of their offspring, and the
other parents, however much they may pity such self-deception, can't
contradict, because after all it just possibly may be so, the most
foolish people occasionally producing geniuses,--in those happy days of
undisturbed bright castle-building, the mother, who was English, of the
two derelicts now huddled on the dank deck of the _St. Luke_, said to
the father, who was German, "At any rate these two blessed little
bundles of deliciousness"--she had one on each arm and was tickling
their noses alternately with her eyelashes, and they were screaming for
joy--"won't have to learn either German or English. They'll just _know_
them."

"Perhaps," said the father, who was a cautious man.

"They're born bi-lingual," said the mother; and the twins wheezed and
choked with laughter, for she was tickling them beneath their chins,
softly fluttering her eyelashes along the creases of fat she thought so
adorable.

"Perhaps," said the father.

"It gives them a tremendous start," said the mother; and the twins
squirmed in a dreadful ecstasy, for she had now got to their ears.

"Perhaps," said the father.

But what happened was that they didn't speak either language. Not, that
is, as a native should. Their German bristled with mistakes. They spoke
it with a foreign accent. It was copious, but incorrect. Almost the last
thing their father, an accurate man, said to them as he lay dying, had
to do with a misplaced dative. And when they talked English it rolled
about uncontrollably on its r's, and had a great many long words in it
got from Milton, and Dr. Johnson, and people like that, whom their
mother had particularly loved, but as they talked far more to their
mother than to their father, who was a man of much briefness in words
though not in temper, they were better on the whole at English than
German.

Their mother, who loved England more the longer she lived away from
it,--"As one does; and the same principle," Anna-Rose explained to
Anna-Felicitas when they had lived some time with their aunt and uncle,
"applies to relations, aunts' husbands, and the clergy,"--never tired of
telling her children about it, and its poetry, and its spirit, and the
greatness and glory of its points of view. They drank it all in and
believed every word of it, for so did their mother; and as they grew up
they flung themselves on all the English books they could lay hands
upon, and they read with their mother and learned by heart most of the
obviously beautiful things; and because she glowed with enthusiasm they
glowed too--Anna-Rose in a flare and a flash, Anna-Felicitas slow and
steadily. They adored their mother. Whatever she loved they loved
blindly. It was a pity she died. She died soon after the war began. They
had been so happy, so _dreadfully_ happy....

"You can't be Christopher," said Anna-Rose, giving herself a shake, for
here she was thinking of her mother, and it didn't do to think of one's
mother, she found; at least, not when one is off to a new life and
everything is all promise because it isn't anything else, and not if
one's mother happened to have been so--well, so fearfully sweet. "You
can't be Christopher, because, you see, I'm the eldest."

Anna-Felicitas didn't see what being the eldest had to do with it, but
she only said, "Very well," in her soft voice, and expressed a hope that
Anna-Rose would see her way not to call her Col for short. "I'm afraid
you will, though," she added, "and then I shall feel so like Onkel
Nicolas."

This was their German uncle, known during his life-time, which had
abruptly left off when the twins were ten, as Onkel Col; a very ancient
person, older by far even than their father, who had seemed so very old.
But Onkel Col had been older than anybody at all, except the pictures of
the _liebe Gott_ in Blake's illustrations to the Book of Job. He came to
a bad end. Neither their father nor their mother told them anything
except that Onkel Col was dead; and their father put a black band round
the left sleeve of his tweed country suit and was more good-tempered
than ever, and their mother, when they questioned her, just said that
poor Onkel Col had gone to heaven, and that in future they would speak
of him as Onkel Nicolas, because it was more respectful.

"But why does mummy call him poor, when he's gone to heaven?"
Anna-Felicitas asked Anna-Rose privately, in the recesses of the garden.

"First of all," said Anna-Rose, who, being the eldest, as she so often
explained to her sister, naturally knew more about everything, "because
the angels won't like him. Nobody _could_ like Onkel Col. Even if
they're angels. And though they're obliged to have him there because he
was such a very good man, they won't talk to him much or notice him much
when God isn't looking. And second of all, because you _are_ poor when
you get to heaven. Everybody is poor in heaven. Nobody takes their
things with them, and all Onkel Col's money is still on earth. He
couldn't even take his clothes with him."

"Then is he quite--did Onkel Col go there quite--"

Anna-Felicitas stopped. The word seemed too awful in connection with
Onkel Col, that terrifying old gentleman who had roared at them from the
folds of so many wonderful wadded garments whenever they were led in,
trembling, to see him, for he had gout and was very terrible; and it
seemed particularly awful when one thought of Onkel Col going to heaven,
which was surely of all places the most _endimanché_.

"Of course," nodded Anna-Rose; but even she dropped her voice a little.
She peeped about among the bushes a moment, then put her mouth close to
Anna-Felicitas's ear, and whispered, "Stark."

They stared at one another for a space with awe and horror in their
eyes.

"You see," then went on Anna-Rose rather quickly, hurrying away from the
awful vision, "one knows one doesn't have clothes in heaven because they
don't have the moth there. It says so in the Bible. And you can't have
the moth without having anything for it to go into."

"Then they don't have to have naphthalin either," said Anna-Felicitas,
"and don't all have to smell horrid in the autumn when they take their
furs out."

"No. And thieves don't break in and steal either in heaven," continued
Anna-Rose, "and the reason why is that there _isn't_ anything to steal."

"There's angels," suggested Anna-Felicitas after a pause, for she didn't
like to think there was nothing really valuable in heaven.

"Oh, nobody ever steals _them_," said Anna-Rose.

Anna-Felicitas's slow thoughts revolved round this new uncomfortable
view of heaven. It seemed, if Anna-Rose were right, and she always was
right for she said so herself, that heaven couldn't be such a safe place
after all, nor such a kind place. Thieves could break in and steal if
they wanted to. She had a proper horror of thieves. She was sure the
night would certainly come when they would break into her father's
_Schloss_, or, as her English nurse called it, her dear Papa's slosh;
and she was worried that poor Onkel Col should be being snubbed up
there, and without anything to put on, which would make being snubbed so
much worse, for clothes did somehow comfort one.

She took her worries to the nursemaid, and choosing a moment when she
knew Anna-Rose wished to be unnoticed, it being her hour for
inconspicuously eating unripe apples at the bottom of the orchard, an
exercise Anna-Felicitas only didn't indulge in because she had learned
through affliction that her inside, fond and proud of it as she was, was
yet not of that superior and blessed kind that suffers green apples
gladly--she sought out the nursemaid, whose name, too, confusingly, was
Anna, and led the conversation up to heaven and the possible conditions
prevailing in it by asking her to tell her, in strict confidence and as
woman to woman, what she thought Onkel Col exactly looked like at that
moment.

"Unrecognizable," said the nursemaid promptly.

"Unrecognizable?" echoed Anna-Felicitas.

And the nursemaid, after glancing over her shoulder to see if the
governess were nowhere in sight, told Anna-Felicitas the true story of
Onkel Col's end: which is so bad that it isn't fit to be put in any book
except one with an appendix.

A stewardess passed just as Anna-Felicitas was asking Anna-Rose not to
remind her of these grim portions of the past by calling her Col, a
stewardess in such a very clean white cap that she looked both reliable
and benevolent, while secretly she was neither.

"Can you please tell us why we're stopping?" Anna-Rose inquired of her
politely, leaning forward to catch her attention as she hurried by.

The stewardess allowed her roving eye to alight for a moment on the two
objects beneath the rug. Their chairs were close together, and the rug
covered them both up to their chins. Over the top of it their heads
appeared, exactly alike as far as she could see in the dusk; round
heads, each with a blue knitted cap pulled well over its ears, and round
eyes staring at her with what anybody except the stewardess would have
recognized as a passionate desire for some sort of reassurance. They
might have been seven instead of seventeen for all the stewardess could
tell. They looked younger than anything she had yet seen sitting alone
on a deck and asking questions. But she was an exasperated widow, who
had never had children and wasn't to be touched by anything except a
tip, besides despising, because she was herself a second-class
stewardess, all second-class passengers,--"As one does," Anna-Rose
explained later on to Anna-Felicitas, "and the same principle applies to
Jews." So she said with an acidity completely at variance with the
promise of her cap, "Ask the Captain," and disappeared.

The twins looked at each other. They knew very well that captains on
ships were mighty beings who were not asked questions.

"She's trifling with us," murmured Anna-Felicitas.

"Yes," Anna-Rose was obliged to admit, though the thought was repugnant
to her that they should look like people a stewardess would dare trifle
with.

"Perhaps she thinks we're younger than we are," she said after a
silence.

"Yes. She couldn't see how long our dresses are, because of the rug."

"No. And it's only that end of us that really shows we're grown up."

"Yes. She ought to have seen us six months ago."

Indeed she ought. Even the stewardess would have been surprised at the
activities and complete appearance of the two pupæ now rolled motionless
in the rug. For, six months ago, they had both been probationers in a
children's hospital in Worcestershire, arrayed, even as the stewardess,
in spotless caps, hurrying hither and thither with trays of food,
sweeping and washing up, learning to make beds in a given time, and be
deft, and quick, and never tired, and always punctual.

This place had been got them by the efforts and influence of their Aunt
Alice, that aunt who had given them the rug on their departure and who
had omitted to celebrate their birthday. She was an amiable aunt, but
she didn't understand about birthdays. It was the first one they had had
since they were complete orphans, and so they were rather sensitive
about it. But they hadn't cried, because since their mother's death they
had done with crying. What could there ever again be in the world bad
enough to cry about after that? And besides, just before she dropped
away from them into the unconsciousness out of which she never came
back, but instead just dropped a little further into death, she had
opened her eyes unexpectedly and caught them sitting together in a row
by her bed, two images of agony, with tears rolling down their swollen
faces and their noses in a hopeless state, and after looking at them a
moment as if she had slowly come up from some vast depth and distance
and were gradually recognizing them, she had whispered with a flicker of
the old encouraging smile that had comforted every hurt and bruise they
had ever had, "_Don't cry_ ... little darlings, _don't_ cry...."

But on that first birthday after her death they had got more and more
solemn as time passed, and breakfast was cleared away, and there were no
sounds, prick up their ears as they might, of subdued preparations in
the next room, no stealthy going up and down stairs to fetch the
presents, and at last no hope at all of the final glorious flinging open
of the door and the vision inside of two cakes all glittering with
candles, each on a table covered with flowers and all the things one has
most wanted.

Their aunt didn't know. How should she? England was a great and beloved
country, but it didn't have proper birthdays.

"Every country has one drawback," Anna-Rose explained to Anna-Felicitas
when the morning was finally over, in case she should by any chance be
thinking badly of the dear country that had produced their mother as
well as Shakespeare, "and not knowing about birthdays is England's."

"There's Uncle Arthur," said Anna-Felicitas, whose honest mind groped
continually after accuracy.

"Yes," Anna-Rose admitted after a pause. "Yes. There's Uncle Arthur."




CHAPTER II


Uncle Arthur was the husband of Aunt Alice. He didn't like foreigners,
and said so. He never had liked them and had always said so. It wasn't
the war at all, it was the foreigners. But as the war went on, and these
German nieces of his wife became more and more, as he told her, a
blighted nuisance, so did he become more and more pointed, and said he
didn't mind French foreigners, nor Russian foreigners; and a few weeks
later, that it wasn't Italian foreigners either that he minded; and
still later, that nor was it foreigners indigenous to the soil of
countries called neutral. These things he said aloud at meals in a
general way. To his wife when alone he said much more.

Anna-Rose, who was nothing if not intrepid, at first tried to soften his
heart by offering to read aloud to him in the evenings when he came home
weary from his daily avocations, which were golf. Her own suggestion
instantly projected a touching picture on her impressionable imagination
of youth, grateful for a roof over its head, in return alleviating the
tedium of crabbed age by introducing its uncle, who from his remarks was
evidently unacquainted with them, to the best productions of the great
masters of English literature.

But Uncle Arthur merely stared at her with a lacklustre eye when she
proposed it, from his wide-legged position on the hearthrug, where he
was moving money about in trouser-pockets of the best material. And
later on she discovered that he had always supposed the "Faery Queen,"
and "Adonais," and "In Memoriam," names he had heard at intervals during
his life, for he was fifty and such things do sometimes get mentioned
were well-known racehorses.

Uncle Arthur, like Onkel Col, was a very good man, and though he said
things about foreigners he did stick to these unfortunate alien nieces
longer than one would have supposed possible if one had overheard what
he said to Aunt Alice in the seclusion of their bed. His ordered
existence, shaken enough by the war, Heaven knew, was shaken in its
innermost parts, in its very marrow, by the arrival of the two Germans.
Other people round about had Belgians in their homes, and groaned; but
who but he, the most immensely British of anybody, had Germans? And he
couldn't groan, because they were, besides being motherless creatures,
his own wife's flesh and blood. Not openly at least could he groan; but
he could and did do it in bed. Why on earth that silly mother of theirs
couldn't have stayed quietly on her Pomeranian sand-heap where she
belonged, instead of coming gallivanting over to England, and then when
she had got there not even decently staying alive and seeing to her
children herself, he at frequent intervals told Aunt Alice in bed that
he would like to know.

Aunt Alice, who after twenty years of life with Uncle Arthur was both
silent and sleek (for he fed her well), sighed and said nothing. She
herself was quietly going through very much on behalf of her nieces.
Jessup didn't like handing dishes to Germans. The tradespeople twitted
the cook with having to cook for them and were facetious about sausages
and asked how one made sauerkraut. Her acquaintances told her they were
very sorry for her, and said they supposed she knew what she was doing
and that it was all right about spies, but really one heard such strange
things, one never could possibly tell even with children; and regularly
the local policeman bicycled over to see if the aliens, who were
registered at the county-town police-station, were still safe. And then
they looked so very German, Aunt Alice felt. There was no mistaking
them. And every time they opened their mouths there were all those r's
rolling about. She hardly liked callers to find her nieces in her
drawing-room at tea-time, they were so difficult to explain; yet they
were too old to shut up in a nursery.

After three months of them, Uncle Arthur suggested sending them back to
Germany; but their consternation had been so great and their entreaties
to be kept where they were so desperate that he said no more about that.
Besides, they told him that if they went back there they would be sure
to be shot as spies, for over there nobody would believe they were
German, just as over here nobody would believe they were English; and
besides, this was in those days of the war when England was still
regarding Germany as more mistaken than vicious, and was as full as ever
of the tradition of great and elaborate indulgence and generosity toward
a foe, and Uncle Arthur, whatever he might say, was not going to be
behind his country in generosity.

Yet as time passed, and feeling tightened, and the hideous necklace of
war grew more and more frightful with each fresh bead of horror strung
upon it, Uncle Arthur, though still in principle remaining good, in
practice found himself vindictive. He was saddled; that's what he was.
Saddled with this monstrous unmerited burden. He, the most patriotic of
Britons, looked at askance by his best friends, being given notice by
his old servants, having particular attention paid his house at night by
the police, getting anonymous letters about lights seen in his upper
windows the nights; the Zeppelins came, which were the windows of the
floor those blighted twins slept on, and all because he had married Aunt
Alice.

At this period Aunt Alice went to bed with reluctance. It was not a
place she had ever gone to very willingly since she married Uncle
Arthur, for he was the kind of husband who rebukes in bed; but now she
was downright reluctant. It was painful to her to be told that she had
brought this disturbance into Uncle Arthur's life by having let him
marry her. Inquiring backwards into her recollections it appeared to her
that she had had no say at all about being married, but that Uncle
Arthur had told her she was going to be, and then that she had been.
Which was what had indeed happened; for Aunt Alice was a round little
woman even in those days, nicely though not obtrusively padded with
agreeable fat at the corners, and her skin, just as now, had the moist
delicacy that comes from eating a great many chickens. Also she
suggested, just as now, most of the things most men want to come home
to,--slippers, and drawn curtains, and a blazing fire, and peace within
one's borders, and even, as Anna-Rose pointed out privately to
Anna-Felicitas after they had come across them for the first time, she
suggested muffins; and so, being in these varied fashions succulent, she
was doomed to make some good man happy. But she did find it real hard
work.

It grew plain to Aunt Alice after another month of them that Uncle
Arthur would not much longer endure his nieces, and that even if he did
she would not be able to endure Uncle Arthur. The thought was very
dreadful to her that she was being forced to choose between two duties,
and that she could not fulfil both. It came to this at last, that she
must either stand by her nieces, her dead sister's fatherless children,
and face all the difficulties and discomforts of such a standing by, go
away with them, take care of them, till the war was over; or she must
stand by Arthur.

She chose Arthur.

How could she, for nieces she had hardly seen, abandon her husband?
Besides, he had scolded her so steadily during the whole of their
married life that she was now unalterably attached to him. Sometimes a
wild thought did for a moment illuminate the soothing dusk of her mind,
the thought of doing the heroic thing, leaving him for them, and helping
and protecting the two poor aliens till happier days should return. If
there were any good stuff in Arthur would he not recognize, however
angry he might be, that she was doing at least a Christian thing? But
this illumination would soon die out. Her comforts choked it. She was
too well-fed. After twenty years of it, she no longer had the figure for
lean and dangerous enterprises.

And having definitely chosen Arthur, she concentrated what she had of
determination in finding an employment for her nieces that would remove
them beyond the range of his growing wrath. She found it in a children's
hospital as far away as Worcestershire, a hospital subscribed to very
largely by Arthur, for being a good man he subscribed to hospitals. The
matron objected, but Aunt Alice overrode the matron; and from January to
April Uncle Arthur's house was pure from Germans.

Then they came back again.

It had been impossible to keep them. The nurses wouldn't work with them.
The sick children had relapses when they discovered who it was who
brought them their food, and cried for their mothers. It had been
arranged between Aunt Alice and the matron that the unfortunate
nationality of her nieces should not be mentioned. They were just to be
Aunt Alice's nieces, the Miss Twinklers,--("We will leave out the von,"
said Aunt Alice, full of unnatural cunning. "They have a von, you know,
poor things--such a very labelling thing to have. But Twinkler without
it might quite well be English. Who can possibly tell? It isn't as
though they had had some shocking name like Bismarck.")

Nothing, however, availed against the damning evidence of the rolled
r's. Combined with the silvery fair hair and the determined little
mouths and chins, it was irresistible. Clearly they were foreigners, and
equally clearly they were not Italians, or Russians, or French. Within a
week the nurses spoke of them in private as Fritz and Franz. Within a
fortnight a deputation of staff sisters went to the matron and asked, on
patriotic grounds, for the removal of the Misses Twinkler. The matron,
with the fear of Uncle Arthur in her heart, for he was altogether the
biggest subscriber, sharply sent the deputation about its business; and
being a matron of great competence and courage she would probably have
continued to be able to force the new probationers upon the nurses if it
had not been for the inability, which was conspicuous, of the younger
Miss Twinkler to acquire efficiency.

In vain did Anna-Rose try to make up for Anna-Felicitas's shortcomings
by a double zeal, a double willingness and cheerfulness. Anna-Felicitas
was a born dreamer, a born bungler with her hands and feet. She not only
never from first to last succeeded in filling the thirty hot-water
bottles, which were her care, in thirty minutes, which was her duty, but
every time she met a pail standing about she knocked against it and it
fell over. Patients and nurses watched her approach with apprehension.
Her ward was in a constant condition of flood.

"It's because she's thinking of something else," Anna-Rose tried eagerly
to explain to the indignant sister-in-charge.

"Thinking of something else!" echoed the sister.

"She reads, you see, a lot--whenever she gets the chance she reads--"

"Reads!" echoed the sister.

"And then, you see, she gets thinking--"

"Thinking! Reading doesn't make _me_ think."

"With much regret," wrote the matron to Aunt Alice, "I am obliged to
dismiss your younger niece, Nurse Twinkler II. She has no vocation for
nursing. On the other hand, your elder niece is shaping well and I shall
be pleased to keep her on."

"But I can't stop on," Anna-Rose said to the matron when she announced
these decisions to her. "I can't be separated from my sister. I'd like
very much to know what would become of that poor child without me to
look after her. You forget I'm the eldest."

The matron put down her pen,--she was a woman who made many notes--and
stared at Nurse Twinkler. Not in this fashion did her nurses speak to
her. But Anna-Rose, having been brought up in a spot remote from
everything except love and laughter, had all the fearlessness of
ignorance; and in her extreme youth and smallness, with her eyes shining
and her face heated she appeared to the matron rather like an indignant
kitten.

"Very well," said the matron gravely, suppressing a smile. "One should
always do what one considers one's first duty."

So the Twinklers went back to Uncle Arthur, and the matron was greatly
relieved, for she certainly didn't want them, and Uncle Arthur said
Damn.

"Arthur," gently reproved his wife.

"I say Damn and I mean Damn," said Uncle Arthur. "What the hell can
we--"

"Arthur," said his wife.

"I say, what the hell can we do with a couple of Germans? If people
wouldn't swallow them last winter are they going to swallow them any
better now? God, what troubles a man lets himself in for when he
marries!"

"I do beg you, Arthur, not to use those coarse words," said Aunt Alice,
tears in her gentle eyes.

There followed a period of desperate exertion on the part of Aunt Alice.
She answered advertisements and offered the twins as nursery
governesses, as cheerful companions, as mothers' helps, even as orphans
willing to be adopted. She relinquished every claim on salaries, she
offered them for nothing, and at last she offered them accompanied by a
bonus. "Their mother was English. They are quite English," wrote Aunt
Alice innumerable times in innumerable letters. "I feel bound, however,
to tell you that they once had a German father, but of course it was
through no fault of their own," etc., etc. Aunt Alice's hand ached with
writing letters; and any solution of the problem that might possibly
have been arrived at came to nothing because Anna-Rose would not be
separated from Anna-Felicitas, and if it was difficult to find anybody
who would take on one German nobody at all could be found to take on
two.

Meanwhile Uncle Arthur grew nightly more dreadful in bed. Aunt Alice was
at her wits' end, and took to crying helplessly. The twins racked their
brains to find a way out, quite as anxious to relieve Uncle Arthur of
their presence as he was to be relieved. If only they could be
independent, do something, work, go as housemaids,--anything.

They concocted an anonymous-advertisement and secretly sent it to _The
Times_, clubbing their pocket-money together to pay for it. The
advertisement was:

    Energetic Sisters of belligerent ancestry but unimpeachable
    Sympathies wish for any sort of work consistent with respectability.
    No objection to being demeaned.

Anna-Felicitas inquired what that last word meant for it was Anna-Rose's
word, and Anna-Rose explained that it meant not minding things like
being housemaids. "Which we don't," said Anna-Rose. "Upper and Under.
I'll be Upper, of course, because I'm the eldest."

Anna-Felicitas suggested putting in what it meant then, for she regarded
it with some doubt, but Anna-Rose, it being her word, liked it, and
explained that it Put a whole sentence into a nut-shell, and wouldn't
change it.

No one answered this advertisement except a society in London for
helping alien enemies in distress.

"Charity," said Anna-Rose, turning up her nose.

"And fancy thinking _us_ enemies," said Anna-Felicitas, "Us. While
mummy--" Her eyes filled with tears. She kept them back, however,
behind convenient long eye-lashes.

Then they saw an advertisement in the front page of _The Times_ that
they instantly answered without saying a word to Aunt Alice. The
advertisement was:

    Slightly wounded Officer would be glad to find intelligent and
    interesting companion who can drive a 14 h.p. Humber. Emoluments by
    arrangement.

"We'll _tell_ him we're intelligent and interesting," said Anna-Rose,
eagerly.

"Yes--who knows if we wouldn't be really, if we were given a chance?"
said Anna-Felicitas, quite flushed with excitement.

"And if he engages us we'll take him on in turns, so that the emoluments
won't have to be doubled."

"Yes--because he mightn't like paying twice over."

"Yes--and while the preliminaries are being settled we could be learning
to drive Uncle Arthur's car."

"Yes--except that it's a Daimler, and aren't they different?"

"Yes--but only about the same difference as there is between a man and a
woman. A man and a woman are both human beings, you know. And Daimlers
and Humbers are both cars."

"I see," said Anna-Felicitas; but she didn't.

They wrote an enthusiastic answer that very day.

The only thing they were in doubt about, they explained toward the end
of the fourth sheet, when they had got to politenesses and were
requesting the slightly wounded officer to allow them to express their
sympathy with his wounds, was that they had not yet had an opportunity
of driving a Humber car, but that this opportunity, of course, would be
instantly provided by his engaging them. Also, would he kindly tell them
if it was a male companion he desired to have, because if so it was very
unfortunate, for neither of them were males, but quite the contrary.

They got no answer to this for three weeks, and had given up all hope
and come to the depressing conclusion that they must have betrayed their
want of intelligence and interestingness right away, when one day a
letter came from General Headquarters in France, addressed _To Both the
Miss Twinklers_, and it was a long letter, pages long, from the slightly
wounded officer, telling them he had been patched up again and sent back
to the front, and their answer to his advertisement had been forwarded
to him there, and that he had had heaps of other answers to it, and that
the one he had liked best of all was theirs; and that some day he hoped
when he was back again, and able to drive himself, to show them how
glorious motoring was, if their mother would bring them,--quick motoring
in his racing car, sixty miles an hour motoring, flashing through the
wonders of the New Forest, where he lived. And then there was a long bit
about what the New Forest must be looking like just then, all quiet in
the spring sunshine, with lovely dappled bits of shade underneath the
big beeches, and the heather just coming alive, and all the winding
solitary roads so full of peace, so empty of noise.

"Write to me, you two children," said the letter at the end. "You've no
idea what it's like getting letters from home out here. Write and tell
me what you do and what the garden is like these fine afternoons. The
lilacs must be nearly done, but I'm sure there's the smell of them
still about, and I'm sure you have a beautiful green close-cut lawn, and
tea is brought out on to it, and there's no sound, no sort of sound,
except birds, and you two laughing, and I daresay a jolly dog barking
somewhere just for fun and not because he's angry."

The letter was signed (Captain) John Desmond, and there was a scrawl in
the corner at the end: "It's for jolly little English kids like you that
we're fighting, God bless you. Write to me again soon."

"English kids like us!"

They looked at each other. They had not mentioned their belligerent
ancestry in their letter. They felt uncomfortable, and as if Captain
Desmond were fighting for them, as it were, under false pretences. They
also wondered why he should conclude they were kids.

They wrote to him again, explaining that they were not exactly what
could be described as English, but on the other hand neither were they
exactly what could be described as German. "We would be very glad indeed
if we were really _something_," they added.

But after their letter had been gone only a few days they saw in the
list of casualties in _The Times_ that Captain John Desmond had been
killed.

And then one day the real solution was revealed, and it was revealed to
Uncle Arthur as he sat in his library on a wet Sunday morning
considering his troubles in detail.

Like most great ideas it sprang full-fledged into being,--obvious,
unquestionable, splendidly simple,--out of a trifle. For, chancing to
raise his heavy and disgusted eyes to the bookshelves in front of him,
they rested on one particular book, and on the back of this book stood
out in big gilt letters the word

    AMERICA

There were other words on its back, but this one alone stood out, and it
had all the effect of a revelation.

There. That was it. Of course. That was the way out. Why the devil
hadn't Alice thought of _that_? He knew some Americans; he didn't like
them, but he knew them; and he would write to them, or Alice would write
to them, and tell them the twins were coming. He would give the twins
£200,--damn it, nobody could say that wasn't handsome, especially in
war-time, and for a couple of girls who had no earthly sort of claim on
him, whatever Alice might choose to think they had on her. Yet it was
such a confounded mixed-up situation that he wasn't at all sure he
wouldn't come under the Defence of the Realm Act, by giving them money,
as aiding the enemy. Well, he would risk that. He would risk anything to
be rid of them. Ship 'em off, that was the thing to do. They would fall
on their feet right enough over there. America still swallowed Germans
without making a face.

Uncle Arthur reflected for a moment with extreme disgust on the
insensibility of the American palate. "Lost their chance, that's what
_they've_ done," he said to himself--for this was 1916, and America had
not yet made her magnificent entry into the war--as he had already said
to himself a hundred times. "Lost their chance of coming in on the side
of civilization, and helping sweep the world up tidy of barbarism.
Shoulder to shoulder with us, that's where _they_ ought to have been.
English-speaking races--duty to the world--" He then damned the
Americans; but was suddenly interrupted by perceiving that if they had
been shoulder to shoulder with him and England he wouldn't have been
able to send them his wife's German nieces to take care of. There was,
he conceded, that advantage resulting from their attitude. He could not,
however, concede any others.

At luncheon he was very nearly gay. It was terrible to see Uncle
Arthur very nearly gay, and both his wife and the twins were most
uncomfortable. "I wonder what's the matter now," sighed Aunt Alice
to herself, as she nervously crumbled her toast.

It could mean nothing good, Arthur in such spirits on a wet Sunday, when
he hadn't been able to get his golf and the cook had overdone the joint.




CHAPTER III


And so, on a late September afternoon, the _St. Luke_, sliding away from
her moorings, relieved Uncle Arthur of his burden.

It was final this time, for the two alien enemies once out of it would
not be let into England again till after the war. The enemies themselves
knew it was final; and the same knowledge that made Uncle Arthur feel so
pleasant as he walked home across his park from golf to tea that for a
moment he was actually of a mind to kiss Aunt Alice when he got in, and
perhaps even address her in the language of resuscitated passion, which
in Uncle Arthur's mouth was Old Girl,--an idea he abandoned, however, in
case it should make her self-satisfied and tiresome--the same knowledge
that produced these amiable effects in Uncle Arthur, made his alien
nieces cling very close together as they leaned over the side of the
_St. Luke_ hungrily watching the people on the wharf.

For they loved England. They loved it with the love of youth whose
enthusiasms have been led by an adored teacher always in one direction.
And they were leaving that adored teacher, their mother, in England. It
seemed like losing her a second time to go away, so far away, and leave
her there. It was nonsense, they knew, to feel like that. She was with
them just the same; wherever they went now she would be with them, and
they could hear her saying at that very moment, "Little darlings,
_don't_ cry...." But it was a gloomy, drizzling afternoon, the sort of
afternoon anybody might be expected to cry on, and not one of the people
waving handkerchiefs were waving handkerchiefs to them.

"We ought to have hired somebody," thought Anna-Rose, eyeing the
handkerchiefs with miserable little eyes.

"I believe I've gone and caught a cold," remarked Anna-Felicitas in her
gentle, staid voice, for she was having a good deal of bother with her
eyes and her nose, and could no longer conceal the fact that she was
sniffing.

Anna-Rose discreetly didn't look at her. Then she suddenly whipped out
her handkerchief and waved it violently.

Anna-Felicitas forgot her eyes and nose and craned her head forward.
"Who are you waving to?" she asked, astonished.

"Good-bye!" cried Anna-Rose, waving, "Good-bye! Good-bye!"

"Who? Where? Who are you talking to?" asked Anna-Felicitas. "Has any one
come to see us off?"

"Good-bye! Good-bye!" cried Anna-Rose.

The figures on the wharf were getting smaller, but not until they had
faded into a blur did Anna-Rose leave off waving. Then she turned round
and put her arm through Anna-Felicitas's and held on to her very tight
for a minute.

"There wasn't anybody," she said. "Of course there wasn't. But do you
suppose I was going to have us _looking_ like people who aren't seen
off?"

And she drew Anna-Felicitas away to the chairs, and when they were
safely in them and rolled up to their chins in the rug, she added, "That
man--" and then stopped. "What man?"

"Standing just behind us--"

"Was there a man?" asked Anna-Felicitas, who never saw men any more than
she, in her brief career at the hospital, had seen pails.

"Yes. Looking as if in another moment he'd be sorry for us," said
Anna-Rose.

"Sorry for us!" repeated Anna-Felicitas, roused to indignation.

"Yes. Did you ever?"

Anna-Felicitas said, with a great deal of energy while she put her
handkerchief finally and sternly away, that she didn't ever; and after a
pause Anna-Rose, remembering one of her many new responsibilities and
anxieties--she had so many that sometimes for a time she didn't remember
some of them--turned her head to Anna-Felicitas, and fixing a worried
eye on her said, "You won't go forgetting your Bible, will you, Anna
F.?"

"My Bible?" repeated Anna-Felicitas, looking blank.

"Your German Bible. The bit about _wenn die bösen Buben locken, so folge
sie nicht_."

Anna-Felicitas continued to look blank, but Anna-Rose with a troubled
brow said again, "You won't go and forget that, will you, Anna F.?"

For Anna-Felicitas was very pretty. In most people's eyes she was very
pretty, but in Anna-Rose's she was the most exquisite creature God had
yet succeeded in turning out. Anna-Rose concealed this conviction from
her. She wouldn't have told her for worlds. She considered it wouldn't
have been at all good for her; and she had, up to this, and ever since
they could both remember, jeered in a thoroughly sisterly fashion at her
defects, concentrating particularly on her nose, on her leanness, and
on the way, unless constantly reminded not to, she drooped.

But Anna-Rose secretly considered that the same nose that on her own
face made no sort of a show at all, directly it got on to
Anna-Felicitas's somehow was the dearest nose; and that her leanness was
lovely,--the same sort of slender grace her mother had had in the days
before the heart-breaking emaciation that was its last phase; and that
her head was set so charmingly on her neck that when she drooped and
forgot her father's constant injunction to sit up,--"For," had said her
father at monotonously regular intervals, "a maiden should be as
straight as a fir-tree,"--she only seemed to fall into even more
attractive lines than when she didn't. And now that Anna-Rose alone had
the charge of looking after this abstracted and so charming younger
sister, she felt it her duty somehow to convey to her while tactfully
avoiding putting ideas into the poor child's head which might make her
conceited, that it behoved her to conduct herself with discretion.

But she found tact a ticklish thing, the most difficult thing of all to
handle successfully; and on this occasion hers was so elaborate, and so
carefully wrapped up in Scriptural language, and German Scripture at
that, that Anna-Felicitas's slow mind didn't succeed in disentangling
her meaning, and after a space of staring at her with a mild inquiry in
her eyes, she decided that perhaps she hadn't got one. She was much too
polite though, to say so, and they sat in silence under the rug till the
_St. Luke_ whistled and stopped, and Anna-Rose began hastily to make
conversation about Christopher and Columbus.

She was ashamed of having shown so much of her woe at leaving England.
She hoped Anna-Felicitas hadn't noticed. She certainly wasn't going on
like that. When the _St. Luke_ whistled, she was ashamed that it wasn't
only Anna-Felicitas who jumped. And the amount of brightness she put
into her voice when she told Anna-Felicitas it was pleasant to go and
discover America was such that that young lady, who if slow was sure,
said to herself, "Poor little Anna-R., she's really taking it dreadfully
to heart."

The _St. Luke_ was only dropping anchor for the night in the Mersey, and
would go on at daybreak. They gathered this from the talk of passengers
walking up and down the deck in twos and threes and passing and
repassing the chairs containing the silent figures with the round heads
that might be either the heads of boys or of girls, and they were
greatly relieved to think they wouldn't have to begin and be sea-sick
for some hours yet. "So couldn't we walk about a little?" suggested
Anna-Felicitas, who was already stiff from sitting on the hard cane
chair.

But Aunt Alice had told them that the thing to do on board a ship if
they wished, as she was sure they did, not only to avoid being sick but
also conspicuous, was to sit down in chairs the moment the ship got
under way, and not move out of them till it stopped again. "Or, at
least, as rarely as possible," amended Aunt Alice, who had never herself
been further on a ship than to Calais, but recognized that it might be
difficult to avoid moving sooner or later if it was New York you were
going to. "Two such young girls travelling alone should be seen as
seldom as ever you can manage. Your Uncle is sending you second-class
for that very reason, because it is so much less conspicuous."

It was also very much less expensive, and Uncle Arthur's generosities
were of the kind that suddenly grow impatient and leave off. Just as in
eating he was as he said, for plain roast and boiled, and messes be
damned, so in benefactions he was for lump sums and done with it; and
the extras, the driblets, the here a little and there a little that were
necessary, or were alleged by Aunt Alice to be necessary, before he
finally got rid of those blasted twins, annoyed him so profoundly that
when it came to taking their passage he could hardly be got not to send
them in the steerage. This was too much, however, for Aunt Alice, whose
maid was going with them as far as Euston and therefore would know what
sort of tickets they had, and she insisted with such quiet obstinacy
that they should be sent first-class that Uncle Arthur at last split the
difference and consented to make it second. To her maid Aunt Alice also
explained that second-class was less conspicuous.

Anna-Rose, mindful of Aunt Alice's words, hesitated as to the wisdom of
walking about and beginning to be conspicuous already, but she too was
stiff, and anything the matter with one's body has a wonderful effect,
as she had already in her brief career had numerous occasions to
observe, in doing away with prudent determinations. So, after cautiously
looking round the corners to see if the man who was on the verge of
being sorry for them were nowhere in sight, they walked up and down the
damp, dark deck; and the motionlessness, and silence, and mist gave them
a sensation of being hung mid-air in some strange empty Hades between
two worlds.

Far down below there was a faint splash every now and then against the
side of the _St. Luke_ when some other steamer, invisible in the mist,
felt her way slowly by. Out ahead lay the sea, the immense uneasy sea
that was to last ten days and nights before they got to the other side,
hour after hour of it, hour after hour of tossing across it further and
further away; and forlorn and ghostly as the ship felt, it yet, because
on either side of it were still the shores of England, didn't seem as
forlorn and ghostly as the unknown land they were bound for. For
suppose, Anna-Felicitas inquired of Anna-Rose, who had been privately
asking herself the same thing, America didn't like them? Suppose the
same sort of difficulties were waiting for them over there that had
dogged their footsteps in England?

"First of all," said Anna-Rose promptly, for she prided herself on the
readiness and clearness of her explanations, "America will like us,
because I don't see why it shouldn't. We're going over to it in exactly
the same pleasant spirit, Anna-F.,--and don't you go forgetting it and
showing your disagreeable side--that the dove was in when it flew across
the waters to the ark, and with olive branches in our beaks just the
same as the dove's, only they're those two letters to Uncle Arthur's
friends."

"But do you think Uncle Arthur's friends--" began Anna-Felicitas, who
had great doubts as to everything connected with Uncle Arthur.

"And secondly," continued Anna-Rose a little louder, for she wasn't
going to be interrupted, and having been asked a question liked to give
all the information in her power, "secondly, America is the greatest of
the neutrals except the _liebe Gott_, and is bound particularly to
prize us because we're so unusually and peculiarly neutral. What ever was
more neutral than you and me? We're neither one thing nor the other, and
yet at the same time we're both." Anna-Felicitas remarked that it sounded
rather as if they were the Athanasian Creed.

"And thirdly," went on Anna-Rose, waving this aside, "there's £200
waiting for us over there, which is a very nice warm thing to think of.
We never had £200 waiting for us anywhere in our lives before, did
we,--so you remember that, and don't get grumbling."

Anna-Felicitas mildly said that she wasn't grumbling but that she
couldn't help thinking what a great deal depended on the goodwill of
Uncle Arthur's friends, and wished it had been Aunt Alice's friends they
had letters to instead, because Aunt Alice's friends were more likely to
like her.

Anna-Rose rebuked her, and said that the proper spirit in which to start
on a great adventure was one of faith and enthusiasm, and that one
didn't have doubts.

Anna-Felicitas said she hadn't any doubts really, but that she was very
hungry, not having had anything that could be called a meal since
breakfast, and that she felt like the sheep in "Lycidas," the hungry
ones who looked up and were not fed, and she quoted the lines in case
Anna-Rose didn't recollect them (which Anna-Rose deplored, for she knew
the lines by heart, and if there was any quoting to be done liked to do
it herself), and said she felt just like that,--"Empty," said
Anna-Felicitas, "and yet swollen. When do you suppose people have food
on board ships? I don't believe we'd mind nearly so much about--oh well,
about leaving England, if it was after dinner."

"I'm not minding leaving England," said Anna-Rose quickly. "At least,
not more than's just proper."

"Oh, no more am I, of course," said Anna-Felicitas airily. "Except
what's proper."

"And even if we were feeling it _dreadfully_," said Anna-Rose, with a
little catch in her voice, "which, of course, we're not, dinner wouldn't
make any difference. Dinner doesn't alter fundamentals."

"But it helps one to bear them," said Anna-Felicitas.

"Bear!" repeated Anna-Rose, her chin in the air. "We haven't got much to
bear. Don't let me hear you talk of bearing things, Anna-F."

"I won't after dinner," promised Anna-Felicitas.

They thought perhaps they had better ask somebody whether there wouldn't
soon be something to eat, but the other passengers had all disappeared.
They were by themselves on the gloomy deck, and there were no lights.
The row of cabin windows along the wall were closely shuttered, and the
door they had come through when first they came on deck was shut too,
and they couldn't find it in the dark. It seemed so odd to be feeling
along a wall for a door they knew was there and not be able to find it,
that they began to laugh; and the undiscoverable door cheered them up
more than anything that had happened since seeing the last of Uncle
Arthur.

"It's like a game," said Anna-Rose, patting her hands softly and vainly
along the wall beneath the shuttered windows.

"It's like something in 'Alice in Wonderland,'" said Anna-Felicitas,
following in her tracks.

A figure loomed through the mist and came toward them. They left off
patting, and stiffened into straight and motionless dignity against the
wall till it should have passed. But it didn't pass. It was a male
figure in a peaked cap, probably a steward, they thought, and it stopped
in front of them and said in an American voice, "Hello."

Anna-Rose cast rapidly about in her mind for the proper form of reply
to Hello.

Anna-Felicitas, instinctively responsive to example murmured "Hello"
back again.

Anna-Rose, feeling sure that nobody ought to say just Hello to people
they had never seen before, and that Aunt Alice would think they had
brought it on themselves by being conspicuous, decided that perhaps
"Good-evening" would regulate the situation, and said it.

"You ought to be at dinner," said the man, taking no notice of this.

"That's what _we_ think," agreed Anna-Felicitas earnestly.

"Can you please tell us how to get there?" asked Anna-Rose, still
distant, but polite, for she too very much wanted to know.

"But _don't_ tell us to ask the Captain," said Anna-Felicitas, even more
earnestly.

"No," said Anna-Rose, "because we won't."

The man laughed. "Come right along with me," he said, striding on; and
they followed him as obediently as though such persons as possible _böse
Buben_ didn't exist.

"First voyage I guess," said the man over his shoulder.

"Yes," said the twins a little breathlessly, for the man's legs were
long and they could hardly keep up with him.

"English?" said the man.

"Ye--es," said Anna-Rose.

"That's to say, practically," panted the conscientious Anna-Felicitas.

"What say?" said the man, still striding on. "I said," Anna-Felicitas
endeavoured to explain, hurrying breathlessly after him so as to keep
within reach of his ear, "practically."

"Ah," said the man; and after a silence, broken only by the pantings for
breath of the twins, he added: "Mother with you?"

They didn't say anything to that, it seemed such a dreadful question to
have to answer, and luckily he didn't repeat it, but, having got to the
door they had been searching for, opened it and stepped into the bright
light inside, and putting out his arm behind him pulled them in one
after the other over the high wooden door-frame.

Inside was the same stewardess they had seen earlier in the afternoon,
engaged in heatedly describing what sounded like grievances to an
official in buttons, who seemed indifferent. She stopped suddenly when
the man appeared, and the official took his hands out of his pockets and
became alert and attentive, and the stewardess hastily picked up a tray
she had set down and began to move away along a passage.

The man, however, briefly called "Hi," and she turned round and came
back even more quickly than she had tried to go.

"You see," explained Anna-Rose in a pleased whisper to Anna-Felicitas,
"it's Hi she answers to."

"Yes," agreed Anna-Felicitas. "It's waste of good circumlocutions to
throw them away on her."

"Show these young ladies the dining-room," said the man.

"Yes, sir," said the stewardess, as polite as you please.

He nodded to them with a smile that developed for some reason into a
laugh, and turned away and beckoned to the official to follow him, and
went out again into the night.

"Who was that nice man?" inquired Anna-Rose, following the stewardess
down a broad flight of stairs that smelt of india-rubber and machine-oil
and cooking all mixed up together.

"And please," said Anna-Felicitas with mild severity, "don't tell us to
ask the Captain, because we really do know better than that."

"I thought you must be relations," said the stewardess.

"We are," said Anna-Rose. "We're twins."

The stewardess stared. "Twins what of?" she asked.

"What of?" echoed Anna-Rose. "Why, of each other, of course."

"I meant relations of the Captain's," said the stewardess shortly,
eyeing them with more disfavour than ever.

"You seem to have the Captain greatly on your mind," said
Anna-Felicitas. "He is no relation of ours."

"You're not even friends, then?" asked the stewardess, pausing to stare
round at them at a turn in the stairs as they followed her down
arm-in-arm.

"Of course we're friends," said Anna-Rose with some heat. "Do you
suppose we quarrel?"

"No, I didn't suppose you quarrelled with the Captain," said the
stewardess tartly. "Not on board this ship anyway."

She didn't know which of the two she disliked most, the short girl or
the long girl.

"You seem to be greatly obsessed by the Captain," said Anna-Felicitas
gently. "Obsessed!" repeated the stewardess, tossing her head. She was
unacquainted with the word, but instantly suspected it of containing a
reflection on her respectability. "I've been a widow off and on for ten
years now," she said angrily, "and I guess it would take more than even
the Captain to obsess _me_."

They had reached the glass doors leading into the dining-room, and the
stewardess, having carried out her orders, paused before indignantly
leaving them and going upstairs again to say, "If you're friends, what
do you want to know his name for, then?"

"Whose name?" asked Anna-Felicitas.

"The Captain's," said the stewardess.

"We don't want to know the Captain's name," said Anna-Felicitas
patiently. "We don't want to know anything about the Captain."

"Then--" began the stewardess. She restrained herself, however, and
merely bitterly remarking: "That gentleman _was_ the Captain," went
upstairs and left them.

Anna-Rose was the first to recover. "You see we took your advice," she
called up after her, trying to soften her heart, for it was evident that
for some reason her heart was hardened, by flattery. "You _told_ us to
ask the Captain."




CHAPTER IV


In their berths that night before they went to sleep, it occurred to
them that perhaps what was the matter with the stewardess was that she
needed a tip. At first, with their recent experiences fresh in their
minds, they thought that she was probably passionately pro-Ally, and had
already detected all those Junkers in their past and accordingly
couldn't endure them. Then they remembered how Aunt Alice had said, "You
will have to give your stewardess a little something."

This had greatly perturbed them at the time, for up to then they had
been in the easy position of the tipped rather than the tippers, and
anyhow they had no idea what one gave stewardesses. Neither, it
appeared, had Aunt Alice; for, on being questioned, she said vaguely
that as it was an American boat they were going on she supposed it would
have to be American money, which was dollars, and she didn't know much
about dollars except that you divided them by four and multiplied them
by five, or else it was the other way about; and when, feeling still
uninformed, they had begged her to tell them why one did that, she said
it was the quickest way of finding out what a dollar really was, and
would they mind not talking any more for a little while because her head
ached.

The tips they had seen administered during their short lives had all
been given at the end of things, not at the beginning; but Americans,
Aunt Alice told them, were in some respects, in spite of their talking
English, different, and perhaps they were different just on this point
and liked to be tipped at both ends. Anna-Rose wanted to crane out her
head and call up to Anna-Felicitas and ask her whether she didn't think
that might be so, but was afraid of disturbing the people in the
opposite berths.

Anna-Felicitas was in the top berth on their side of the cabin, and
Anna-Rose as the elder and accordingly as she explained to
Anna-Felicitas, needing more comfort, in the lower one. On the opposite
side were two similar berths, each containing as Anna-Felicitas
whispered after peeping cautiously through their closed curtains,--for
at first on coming in after dinner to go to bed the cabin seemed empty,
except for inanimate things, like clothes hanging up and an immense
smell,--its human freight. They were awed by this discovery, for the
human freight was motionless and speechless, and yet made none of the
noises suggesting sleep.

They unpacked and undressed as silently and quickly as possible, but it
was very difficult, for there seemed to be no room for anything, not
even for themselves. Every now and then they glanced a little uneasily
at the closed curtains, which bulged, and sniffed cautiously and
delicately, trying to decide what the smell exactly was. It appeared to
be a mixture of the sauce one had with plum pudding at Christmas, and
German bedrooms in the morning. It was a smell they didn't like the idea
of sleeping with, but they saw no way of getting air. They thought of
ringing for the stewardess and asking her to open a window, though they
could see no window, but came to the conclusion it was better not to
stir her up; not yet, at least, not till they had correctly diagnosed
what was the matter with her. They said nothing out loud, for fear of
disturbing whatever it was behind the curtains, but they knew what each
was thinking, for one isn't, as they had long ago found out, a twin for
nothing.

There was a slight scuffle before Anna-Felicitas was safely hoisted up
into her berth, her legs hanging helplessly down for some time after the
rest of her was in it, and Anna-Rose, who had already neatly inserted
herself into her own berth, after watching these legs in silence and
fighting a desire to give them a tug and see what would happen, had to
get out at last on hearing Anna-Felicitas begin to make sounds up there
as though she were choking, and push them up in after her. Her head was
then on a level with Anna-Felicitas's berth, and she could see how
Anna-Felicitas, having got her legs again, didn't attempt to do anything
with them in the way of orderly arrangement beneath the blankets, but
lay huddled in an irregular heap, screwing her eyes up very tight and
stuffing one of her pigtails into her mouth, and evidently struggling
with what appeared to be an attack of immoderate and ill-timed mirth.

Anna-Rose observed her for a moment in silence, then was suddenly seized
herself with a dreadful desire to laugh, and with a hasty glance round
at the bulging curtains scrambled back into her own berth and pulled the
sheet over her mouth.

She was sobering herself by going over her different responsibilities,
checking them off on her fingers,--the two five-pound notes under her
pillow for extra expenses till they were united in New York to their
capital, the tickets, the passports, and Anna-Felicitas,--when two thick
fair pigtails appeared dangling over the edge of her berth, followed by
Anna-Felicitas's head.

"You've forgotten to turn out the light," whispered Anna-Felicitas, her
eyelashes still wet from her late attack; and stretching her neck still
further down till her face was scarlet with the effort and the blood
rushing into it, she expressed a conviction to Anna-Rose that the human
freight behind the curtains, judging from the suspicious negativeness of
its behaviour, had no business in their cabin at all and was really
stowaways.

"German stowaways," added Anna-Felicitas, nodding her head emphatically,
which was very skilful of her, thought Anna-Rose, considering that it
was upside down. "_German_ stowaways," whispered Anna-Felicitas,
sniffing expressively though cautiously.

Anna-Rose raised herself on her elbows and stared across at the bulging
curtains. They certainly were very motionless and much curved. In spite
of herself her flesh began to creep a little.

"They're men," whispered Anna-Felicitas, now dangerously congested.
"Stowaways are."

There had been no one in the cabin when first they came on board and
took their things down, and they hadn't been in it since till they came
to bed.

"_German_ men," whispered Anna-Felicitas, again with a delicate
expressive sniff.

"Nonsense," whispered Anna-Rose, stoutly. "Men never come into ladies'
cabins. And there's skirts on the hooks."

"Disguise," whispered Anna-Felicitas, nodding again. "Spies' disguise."
She seemed quite to be enjoying her own horrible suggestions.

"Take your head back into the berth," ordered Anna-Rose quickly, for
Anna-Felicitas seemed to be on the very brink of an apoplectic fit.

Anna-Felicitas, who was herself beginning to feel a little
inconvenienced, obeyed, and was thrilled to see Anna-Rose presently
very cautiously emerge from underneath her and on her bare feet creep
across to the opposite side. She knew her to be valiant to recklessness.
She sat up to watch, her eyes round with interest.

Anna-Rose didn't go straight across, but proceeded slowly, with several
pauses, to direct her steps toward the pillow-end of the berths. Having
got there she stood still a moment listening, and then putting a careful
finger between the curtain of the lower berth and its frame, drew it the
smallest crack aside and peeped in.

Instantly she started back, letting go the curtain. "I beg your pardon,"
she said out loud, turning very red. "I--I thought--"

Anna-Felicitas, attentive in her berth, felt a cold thrill rush down her
back. No sound came from the berth on the other side any more than
before the raid on it, and Anna-Rose returned quicker than she had gone.
She just stopped on the way to switch off the light, and then felt along
the edge of Anna-Felicitas's berth till she got to her head, and pulling
it near her by its left pigtail whispered with her mouth close to its
left ear, "Wide awake. Watching me all the time. Not a man. Fat."

And she crawled into her berth feeling unnerved.




CHAPTER V


The lady in the opposite berth was German, and so was the lady in the
berth above her. Their husbands were American, but that didn't make them
less German. Nothing ever makes a German less German, Anna-Rose
explained to Anna-Felicitas.

"Except," replied Anna-Felicitas, "a judicious dilution of their blood
by the right kind of mother."

"Yes," said Anna-Rose. "Only to be found in England."

This conversation didn't take place till the afternoon of the next day,
by which time Anna-Felicitas already knew about the human freight being
Germans, for one of their own submarines came after the _St. Luke_ and
no one was quite so loud in expression of terror and dislike as the two
Germans.

They demanded to be saved first, on the ground that they were Germans.
They repudiated their husbands, and said marriage was nothing compared
to how one had been born. The curtains of their berths, till then so
carefully closed, suddenly yawned open, and the berths gave up their
contents just as if, Anna-Felicitas remarked afterwards to Anna-Rose, it
was the resurrection and the berths were riven sepulchres chucking up
their dead.

This happened at ten o'clock the next morning when the _St. Luke_ was
pitching about off the southwest coast of Ireland. The twins, waking
about seven, found with a pained surprise that they were not where they
had been dreaming they were, in the sunlit garden at home playing
tennis happily if a little violently, but in a chilly yet stuffy place
that kept on tilting itself upside down. They lay listening to the
groans coming from the opposite berths, and uneasily wondering how long
it would be before they too began to groan. Anna-Rose raised her head
once with the intention of asking if she could help at all, but dropped
it back again on to the pillow and shut her eyes tight and lay as quiet
as the ship would let her. Anna-Felicitas didn't even raise her head,
she felt so very uncomfortable.

At eight o'clock the stewardess looked in--the same stewardess, they
languidly noted, with whom already they had had two encounters, for it
happened that this was one of the cabins she attended to--and said that
if anybody wanted breakfast they had better be quick or it would be
over.

"Breakfast!" cried the top berth opposite in a heart-rending tone; and
instantly was sick.

The stewardess withdrew her head and banged the door to, and the twins,
in their uneasy berths, carefully keeping their eyes shut so as not to
witness the behaviour of the sides and ceiling of the cabin, feebly
marvelled at the stewardess for suggesting being quick to persons who
were being constantly stood on their heads. And breakfast,--they
shuddered and thought of other things; of fresh, sweet air, and of the
scent of pinks and apricots warm with the sun.

At ten o'clock the stewardess came in again, this time right in, and
with determination in every gesture.

"Come, come," she said, addressing the twins, and through them talking
at the heaving and groaning occupants of the other side, "you mustn't
give way like this. What you want is to be out of bed. You must get up
and go on deck. And how's the cabin to get done if you stay in it all
the time?"

Anna-Felicitas, the one particularly addressed, because she was more on
the right level for conversation than Anna-Rose, who could only see the
stewardess's apron, turned her head away and murmured that she didn't
care.

"Come, come," said the stewardess. "Besides, there's life-boat drill at
mid-day, and you've got to be present."

Anna-Felicitas, her eyes shut, again murmured that she didn't care.

"Come, come," said the stewardess. "Orders are orders. Every soul on the
ship, sick or not, has got to be present at life-boat drill."

"Oh, I'm not a soul," murmured Anna-Felicitas, who felt at that moment
how particularly she was a body, while the opposite berths redoubled
their groans.

"Come, come--" said the stewardess.

Then the _St. Luke_ whistled five times, and the stewardess turned pale.
For a brief space, before they understood what had happened, the twins
supposed she was going to be sick. But it wasn't that that was the
matter with her, for after a moment's staring at nothing with horror on
her face she pounced on them and pulled them bodily out of their berths,
regardless by which end, and threw them on the floor anyhow. Then she
plunged about and produced life-jackets; then she rushed down the
passage flinging open the doors of the other cabins; then she whirled
back again and tried to tie the twins into their life-jackets, but with
hands that shook so that the strings immediately came undone again; and
all the time she was calling out "Quick--quick--quick--" There was a
great tramping of feet on deck and cries and shouting.

The curtains of the opposite berths yawned asunder and out came the
Germans, astonishingly cured of their sea-sickness, and struggled
vigorously into their life-jackets and then into fur coats, and had the
fur coats instantly pulled off again by a very energetic steward who ran
in and said fur coats in the water were death-traps,--a steward so much
bent on saving people that he began to pull off the other things the
German ladies had on as well, saying while he pulled, disregarding their
protests, that in the water Mother Nature was the best. "Mother
Nature--Mother Nature," said the steward, pulling; and he was only
stopped just in the nick of time by the stewardess rushing in again and
seeing what was happening to the helpless Germans.

Anna-Rose, even at that moment explanatory, pointed out to
Anna-Felicitas, who had already grasped the fact, that no doubt there
was a submarine somewhere about. The German ladies, seizing their
valuables from beneath their pillows, in spite of the steward assuring
them they wouldn't want them in the water, demanded to be taken up and
somehow signalled to the submarine, which would never dare do anything
to a ship containing its own flesh and blood--and an American ship,
too--there must be some awful mistake--but anyhow they must be
saved--there would be terrible trouble, that they could assure the
steward and the twins and the scurrying passers-by down the passage, if
America allowed two Germans to be destroyed--and anyhow they would
insist on having their passage money refunded....

The German ladies departed down the passage, very incoherent and very
unhappy but no longer sick, and Anna-Felicitas, clinging to the edge of
her berth, feeling too miserable to mind about the submarine, feebly
wondered, while the steward tied her properly into her life-jacket, at
the cure effected in them. Anna-Rose seemed cured too, for she was
buttoning a coat round Anna-Felicitas's shoulders, and generally seemed
busy and brisk, ending by not even forgetting their precious little bag
of money and tickets and passports, and fastening it round her neck in
spite of the steward's assuring her that it would drag her down in the
water like a stone tied to a kitten.

"You're a _very_ cheerful man, aren't you," Anna-Rose said, as he pushed
them out of the cabin and along the corridor, holding up Anna-Felicitas
on her feet, who seemed quite unable to run alone.

The steward didn't answer, but caught hold of Anna-Felicitas at the foot
of the stairs and carried her up them, and then having got her on deck
propped her in a corner near the life-boat allotted to the set of cabins
they were in, and darted away and in a minute was back again with a big
coat which he wrapped round her.

"May as well be comfortable till you do begin to drown," he said
briskly, "but mind you don't forget to throw it off, Missie, the minute
you feel the water."

Anna-Felicitas slid down on to the deck, her head leaning against the
wall, her eyes shut, a picture of complete indifference to whatever
might be going to happen next. Her face was now as white as the frill of
the night-gown that straggled out from beneath her coat, for the journey
from the cabin to the deck had altogether finished her. Anna-Rose was
thankful that she felt too ill to be afraid. Her own heart was black
with despair,--despair that Anna-Felicitas, the dear and beautiful one,
should presently, at any moment, be thrown into that awful heaving
water, and certainly be hurt and frightened before she was choked out of
life.

She sat down beside her, getting as close as possible to keep her warm.
Her own twin. Her own beloved twin. She took her cold hands and put them
away beneath the coat the steward had brought. She slid an arm round her
and laid her cheek against her sleeve, so that she should know somebody
was there, somebody who loved her. "What's the _good_ of it all--_why_
were we born--" she wondered, staring at the hideous gray waves as
they swept up into sight over the side of the ship and away again as the
ship rose up, and at the wet deck and the torn sky, and the
miserable-looking passengers in their life-jackets collected together
round the life-boat.

Nobody said anything except the German ladies. They, indeed, kept up a
constant wail. The others were silent, the men mostly smoking
cigarettes, the women holding their fluttering wraps about them, all of
them staring out to sea, watching for the track of the torpedo to
appear. One shot had been fired already and had missed. The ship was
zig-zagging under every ounce of steam she could lay on. An official
stood by the life-boat, which was ready with water in it and provisions.
That the submarine must be mad, as the official remarked, to fire on an
American ship, didn't console anybody, and his further assurance that
the matter would not be allowed to rest there left them cold. They felt
too sure that in all probability they themselves were going to rest
there, down underneath that repulsive icy water, after a struggle that
was going to be unpleasant.

The man who had roused Anna-Rose's indignation as the ship left the
landing-stage by looking as though he were soon going to be sorry for
her, came across from the first class, where his life-boat was, to watch
for the track of the expected torpedo, and caught sight of the twins
huddled in their corner.

Anna-Rose didn't see him, for she was staring with wide eyes out at the
desolate welter of water and cloud, and thinking of home: the home that
was, that used to be till such a little while ago, the home that now
seemed to have been so amazingly, so unbelievably beautiful and blest,
with its daily life of love and laughter and of easy confidence that
to-morrow was going to be just as good. Happiness had been the ordinary
condition there, a simple matter of course. Its place was taken now by
courage. Anna-Rose felt sick at all this courage there was about. There
should be no occasion for it. There should be no horrors to face, no
cruelties to endure. Why couldn't brotherly love continue? Why must
people get killing each other? She, for her part, would be behind nobody
in courage and in the defying of a Fate that could behave, as she felt,
so very unlike her idea of anything even remotely decent; but it
oughtn't to be necessary, this constant condition of screwed-upness; it
was waste of effort, waste of time, waste of life,--oh the _stupidity_
of it all, she thought, rebellious and bewildered.

"Have some brandy," said the man, pouring out a little into a small cup.

Anna-Rose turned her eyes on him without moving the rest of her. She
recognized him. He was going to be sorry for them again. He had much
better be sorry for himself now, she thought, because he, just as much
as they were, was bound for a watery bier.

"Thank you," she said distantly, for not only did she hate the smell of
brandy but Aunt Alice had enjoined her with peculiar strictness on no
account to talk to strange men, "I don't drink."

"Then I'll give the other one some," said the man.

"She too," said Anna-Rose, not changing her position but keeping a
drearily watchful eye on him, "is a total abstainer."

"Well, I'll go and fetch some of your warm things for you. Tell me where
your cabin is. You haven't got enough on."

"Thank you," said Anna-Rose distantly, "we have quite enough on,
considering the occasion. We're dressed for drowning."

The man laughed, and said there would be no drowning, and that they had
a splendid captain, and were outdistancing the submarine hand over fist.
Anna-Rose didn't believe him, and suspected him of supposing her to be
in need of cheering, but a gleam of comfort did in spite of herself
steal into her heart.

He went away, and presently came back with a blanket and some pillows.

"If you _will_ sit on the floor," he said, stuffing the pillows behind
their backs, during which Anna-Felicitas didn't open her eyes, and her
head hung about so limply that it looked as if it might at any moment
roll off, "you may at least be as comfortable as you can."

Anna-Rose pointed out, while she helped him arrange Anna-Felicitas's
indifferent head on the pillow, that she saw little use in being
comfortable just a minute or two before drowning. "Drowning be hanged,"
said the man.

"That's how Uncle Arthur used to talk," said Anna-Rose, feeling suddenly
quite at home, "except that _he_ would have said 'Drowning be damned.'"

The man laughed. "Is he dead?" he asked, busy with Anna-Felicitas's
head, which defied their united efforts to make it hold itself up.

"Dead?" echoed Anna-Rose, to whom the idea of Uncle Arthur's ever being
anything so quiet as dead and not able to say any swear words for such a
long time as eternity seemed very odd.

"You said he _used_ to talk like that."

"Oh, no he's not dead at all. Quite the contrary."

The man laughed again, and having got Anna-Felicitas's head arranged in
a position that at least, as Anna-Rose pointed out, had some sort of
self-respect in it, he asked who they were with.

Anna-Rose looked at him with as much defiant independence as she could
manage to somebody who was putting a pillow behind her back. He was
going to be sorry for them. She saw it coming. He was going to say "You
poor things," or words to that effect. That's what the people round
Uncle Arthur's had said to them. That's what everybody had said to them
since the war began, and Aunt Alice's friends had said it to her too,
because she had to have her nieces live with her, and no doubt Uncle
Arthur's friends who played golf with him had said it to him as well,
except that probably they put in a damn so as to make it clearer for him
and said "You poor damned thing," or something like that, and she was
sick of the very words poor things. Poor things, indeed! "We're with
each other," she said briefly, lifting her chin.

"Well, I don't think that's enough," said the man. "Not half enough.
You ought to have a mother or something."

"_Everybody_ can't have mothers," said Anna-Rose very defiantly indeed,
tears rushing into her eyes.

The man tucked the blanket round their resistless legs. "There now," he
said. "That's better. What's the good of catching your deaths?"

Anna-Rose, glad that he hadn't gone on about mothers, said that with
so much death imminent, catching any of it no longer seemed to her
particularly to matter, and the man laughed and pulled over a chair
and sat down beside her.

She didn't know what he saw anywhere in that dreadful situation to laugh
at, but just the sound of a laugh was extraordinarily comforting. It
made one feel quite different. Wholesome again. Like waking up to
sunshine and one's morning bath and breakfast after a nightmare. He
seemed altogether a very comforting man. She liked him to sit near them.
She hoped he was a good man. Aunt Alice had said there were very few
good men, hardly any in fact except one's husband, but this one did seem
one of the few exceptions. And she thought that by now, he having
brought them all those pillows, he could no longer come under the
heading of strange men. When he wasn't looking she put out her hand
secretly and touched his coat where he wouldn't feel it. It comforted
her to touch his coat. She hoped Aunt Alice wouldn't have disapproved of
seeing her sitting side by side with him and liking it.

Aunt Alice had been, as her custom was, vague, when Anna-Rose, having
given her the desired promise not to talk or let Anna-Felicitas talk to
strange men, and desiring to collect any available information for her
guidance in her new responsible position had asked, "But when are men
_not_ strange?"

"When you've married them," said Aunt Alice. "After that, of course, you
love them."

And she sighed heavily, for it was bed-time.




CHAPTER VI


Nothing more was seen of the submarine.

The German ladies were certain the captain had somehow let them know he
had them on board, and were as full of the credit of having saved the
ship as if it had been Sodom and Gomorrah instead of a ship, and they
the one just man whose presence would have saved those cities if he had
been in them; and the American passengers were equally sure that the
submarine, on thinking it over, had decided that President Wilson was
not a man to be trifled with, and had gone in search of some prey which
would not have the might and majesty of America at its back.

As the day went on, and the _St. Luke_ left off zig-zagging, the relief
of those on board was the relief of a reprieve from death. Almost
everybody was cured of sea-sickness, and quite everybody was ready to
overwhelm his neighbour with cordiality and benevolence. Rich people
didn't mind poor people, and came along from the first class and talked
to them just as if they had been the same flesh and blood as themselves.
A billionairess native to Chicago, who had crossed the Atlantic forty
times without speaking to a soul, an achievement she was as justly proud
of as an artist is of his best creations, actually asked somebody in a
dingy mackintosh, whose little boy still looked pale, if he had been
frightened; and an exclusive young man from Boston talked quite a long
while to an English lady without first having made sure that she was
well-connected. What could have been more like heaven? The tone on the
_St. Luke_ that day was very like what the tone in the kingdom of heaven
must be in its simple politeness. "And so you see," said Anna-Rose, who
was fond of philosophizing in season and out of season, and particularly
out of season, "how good comes out of evil."

She made this observation about four o'clock in the afternoon to
Anna-Felicitas in an interval of absence on the part of Mr. Twist--such,
the amiable stranger had told them, was his name--who had gone to see
about tea being brought up to them; and Anna-Felicitas, able by now to
sit up and take notice, the hours of fresh air having done their work,
smiled the ready, watery, foolishly happy smile of the convalescent. It
was so nice not to feel ill; it was so nice not to have to be saved. If
she had been able to talk much, she would have philosophized too, about
the number and size of one's negative blessings--all the things one
hasn't got, all the very horrid things; why, there's no end to them once
you begin to count up, she thought, waterily happy, and yet people
grumble.

Anna-Felicitas was in that cleaned-out, beatific, convalescent mood in
which one is sure one will never grumble again. She smiled at anybody
who happened to pass by and catch her eye. She would have smiled just
like that, with just that friendly, boneless familiarity at the devil if
he had appeared, or even at Uncle Arthur himself.

The twins, as a result of the submarine's activities, were having the
pleasantest day they had had for months. It was the realization of this
that caused Anna-Rose's remark about good coming out of evil. The
background, she could not but perceive, was a very odd one for their
pleasantest day for months--a rolling steamer and a cold wind flicking
at them round the corner; but backgrounds, she pointed out to
Anna-Felicitas, who smiled her agreement broadly and instantly, are
negligible things: it is what goes on in front of them that matters. Of
what earthly use, for instance, had been those splendid summer
afternoons in the perfect woods and gardens that so beautifully framed
in Uncle Arthur?

No use, agreed Anna-Felicitas, smiling fatuously.

In the middle of them was Uncle Arthur. You always got to him in the
end.

Anna-Felicitas nodded and shook her head and was all feeble agreement.

She and Anna-Felicitas had been more hopelessly miserable, Anna-Rose
remarked, wandering about the loveliness that belonged to him than they
could ever have dreamed was possible. She reminded Anna-Felicitas how
they used to rub their eyes to try and see more clearly, for surely
these means of happiness, these elaborate arrangements for it all round
them, couldn't be for nothing? There must be some of it somewhere, if
only they could discover where? And there was none. Not a trace of it.
Not even the faintest little swish of its skirts.

Anna-Rose left off talking, and became lost in memories. For a long
time, she remembered, she had told herself it was her mother's death
blotting the light out of life, but one day Anna-Felicitas said aloud
that it was Uncle Arthur, and Anna-Rose knew it was true. Their mother's
death was something so tender, so beautiful, that terrible as it was to
them to be left without her they yet felt raised up by it somehow,
raised on to a higher level than where they had been before, closer in
their hearts to real things, to real values. But Uncle Arthur came into
possession of their lives as a consequence of that death, and he had
towered up between them and every glimpse of the sun. Suddenly there was
no such thing as freedom and laughter. Suddenly everything one said and
did was wrong. "And you needn't think," Anna-Felicitas had said wisely,
"that he's like that because we're Germans--or _seem_ to be Germans,"
she amended. "It's because he's Uncle Arthur. Look at Aunt Alice.
_She's_ not a German. And yet look at her."

And Anna-Rose had looked at Aunt Alice, though only in her mind's eye,
for at that moment the twins were three miles away in a wood picnicking,
and Aunt Alice was at home recovering from a _tête-à-tête_ luncheon with
Uncle Arthur who hadn't said a word from start to finish; and though she
didn't like most of his words when he did say them, she liked them still
less when he didn't say them, for then she imagined them, and what she
imagined was simply awful,--Anna-Rose had, I say, looked at Aunt Alice
in her mind's eye, and knew that this too was true.

Mr. Twist reappeared, followed by the brisk steward with a tray of tea
and cake, and their corner became very like a cheerful picnic.

Mr. Twist was most pleasant and polite. Anna-Rose had told him quite
soon after he began to talk to her, in order, as she said, to clear his
mind of misconceptions, that she and Anna-Felicitas, though their
clothes at that moment, and the pigtails in which their flair was done,
might be misleading, were no longer children, but quite the contrary;
that they were, in fact, persons who were almost ripe for going to
dances, and certainly in another year would be perfectly ripe for dances
supposing there were any.

Mr. Twist listened attentively, and begged her to tell him any other
little thing she might think of as useful to him in his capacity of
friend and attendant,--both of which, said Mr. Twist, he intended to be
till he had seen them safely landed in New York.

"I hope you don't think we _need_ anybody," said Anna-Rose. "We shall
like being friends with you very much, but only on terms of perfect
equality."

"Sure," said Mr. Twist, who was an American.

"I thought--"

She hesitated a moment.

"You thought?" encouraged Mr. Twist politely.

"I thought at Liverpool you looked as if you were being sorry for us."

"Sorry?" said Mr. Twist, in the tone of one who repudiates.

"Yes. When we were waving good-bye to--to our friends."

"Sorry?" repeated Mr. Twist.

"Which was great waste of your time."

"I should think so," said Mr. Twist with heartiness.

Anna-Rose, having cleared the ground of misunderstandings, an activity
in which at all times she took pleasure, accepted Mr. Twist's attentions
in the spirit in which they were offered, which was, as he said, one of
mutual friendliness and esteem. As he was never sea-sick, he could move
about and do things for them that might be difficult to do for
themselves; as he knew a great deal about stewardesses, he could tell
them what sort of tip theirs expected; as he was American, he could
illuminate them about that country. He had been doing Red Cross work
with an American ambulance in France for ten months, and was going home
for a short visit to see how his mother, who, Anna-Rose gathered, was
ancient and widowed, was getting on. His mother, he said, lived in
seclusion in a New England village with his sister, who had not married.

"Then she's got it all before her," said Anna-Rose.

"Like us," said Anna-Felicitas.

"I shouldn't think she'd got as much of it before her as you," said Mr.
Twist, "because she's considerably more grown up--I mean," he added
hastily, as Anna-Rose's mouth opened, "she's less--well, less completely
young."

"We're not completely young," said Anna-Rose with dignity. "People are
completely young the day they're born, and ever after that they spend
their time becoming less so."

"Exactly. And my sister has been becoming less so longer than you have.
I assure you that's all I meant. She's less so even than I am."

"Then," said Anna-Rose, glancing at that part of Mr. Twist's head where
it appeared to be coming through his hair, "she must have got to the
stage when one is called a maiden lady."

"And if she were a German," said Anna-Felicitas suddenly, who hadn't
till then said anything to Mr. Twist but only smiled widely at him
whenever he happened to look her way, "she wouldn't be either a lady or
a maiden, but just an It. It's very rude of Germans, I think," went on
Anna-Felicitas, abstractedly smiling at the cake Mr. Twist was offering
her, "never to let us be anything but Its till we've taken on some men."

Mr. Twist expressed surprise at this way of describing marriage, and
inquired of Anna-Felicitas what she knew about Germans.

"The moment you leave off being sea-sick, Anna-F.," said Anna-Rose,
turning to her severely, "you start being indiscreet. Well, I suppose,"
she added with a sigh to Mr. Twist, "you'd have had to know sooner or
later. Our name is Twinkler."

She watched him to see the effect of this, and Mr. Twist, perceiving he
was expected to say something, said that he didn't mind that anyhow, and
that he could bear something worse in the way of revelations.

"Does it convey nothing to you?" asked Anna-Rose, astonished, for in
Germany the name of Twinkler was a mighty name, and even in England it
was well known.

Mr. Twist shook his head. "Only that it sounds cheerful," he said.

Anna-Rose watched his face. "It isn't only Twinkler," she said, speaking
very distinctly. "It's _von_ Twinkler."

"That's German," said Mr. Twist; but his face remained serene.

"Yes. And so are we. That is, we would be if it didn't happen that we
weren't."

"I don't think I quite follow," said Mr. Twist.

"It _is_ very difficult," agreed Anna-Rose. "You see, we used to have a
German father."

"But only because our mother married him," explained Anna-Felicitas.
"Else we wouldn't have."

"And though she only did it once," said Anna-Rose, "ages ago, it has
dogged our footsteps ever since."

"It's very surprising," mused Anna-Felicitas, "what marrying anybody
does. You go into a church, and before you know where you are, you're
all tangled up with posterity."

"And much worse than that," said Anna-Rose, staring wide-eyed at her own
past experiences, "posterity's all tangled up with you. It's really
simply awful sometimes for posterity. Look at us."

"If there hadn't been a war we'd have been all right," said
Anna-Felicitas. "But directly there's a war, whoever it is you've
married, if it isn't one of your own countrymen, rises up against you,
just as if he were too many meringues you'd had for dinner."

"Living or dead," said Anna-Rose, nodding, "he rises up against you."

"Till the war we never thought at all about it," said Anna-Felicitas.

"Either one way or the other," said Anna-Rose.

"We never used to bother about what we were," said Anna-Felicitas. "We
were just human beings, and so was everybody else just human beings."

"We didn't mind a bit about being Germans, or about other people not
being Germans."

"But you mustn't think we mind now either," said Anna-Felicitas,
"because, you see, we're not."

Mr. Twist looked at them in turn. His ears were a little prominent and
pointed, and they gave him rather the air, when he put his head on one
side and looked at them, of an attentive fox-terrier. "I don't think I
quite follow," he said again.

"It _is_ very difficult," agreed Anna-Rose.

"It's because you've got into your head that we're German because of our
father," said Anna-Felicitas. "But what's a father, when all's said and
done?"

"Well," said Mr. Twist, "one has to have him."

"But having got him he isn't anything like as important as a mother,"
said Anna-Rose.

"One hardly sees one's father," said Anna-Felicitas. "He's always busy.
He's always thinking of something else."

"Except when he looks at one and tells one to sit up straight," said
Anna-Rose pointedly to Anna-Felicitas, whose habit of drooping still
persisted in spite of her father's admonishments.

"Of course he's very kind and benevolent when he happens to remember
that one is there," said Anna-Felicitas, sitting up beautifully for a
moment, "but that's about everything."

"And of course," said Anna-Rose, "one's father's intentions are
perfectly sound and good, but his attention seems to wander. Whereas
one's mother--"

"Yes," said Anna-Felicitas, "one's mother--"

They broke off and looked straight in front of them. It didn't bear
speaking of. It didn't bear thinking of.

Suddenly Anna-Felicitas, weak from excessive sea-sickness, began to cry.
The tears just slopped over as though no resistance of any sort were
possible.

Anna-Rose stared at her a moment horror-struck. "Look here, Anna-F.,"
she exclaimed, wrath in her voice, "I won't _have_ you be sentimental--I
won't _have_ you be sentimental...."

And then she too began to cry.

Well, once having hopelessly disgraced and exposed themselves, there was
nothing for it but to take Mr. Twist into their uttermost confidence. It
was dreadful. It was awful. Before that strange man. A person they
hardly knew. Other strangers passing. Exposing their feelings. Showing
their innermost miserable places.

They writhed and struggled in their efforts to stop, to pretend they
weren't crying, that it was really nothing but just tears,--odd ones
left over from last time, which was years and years ago,--"But _really_
years and years ago," sobbed Anna-Rose, anxiously explaining,--"the
years one falls down on garden paths in, and cuts one's knees, and
one's mother--one's mother--c-c-c-comforts one--"

"See here," said Mr. Twist, interrupting these incoherences, and pulling
out a beautiful clean pocket-handkerchief which hadn't even been
unfolded yet, "you've got to tell me all about it right away."

And he shook out the handkerchief, and with the first-aid promptness his
Red Cross experience had taught him, started competently wiping up their
faces.




CHAPTER VII


There was that about Mr. Twist which, once one had begun them,
encouraged confidences; something kind about his eyes, something not too
determined about his chin. He bore no resemblance to those pictures of
efficient Americans in advertisements with which Europe is
familiar,--eagle-faced gentlemen with intimidatingly firm mouths and
chins, wiry creatures, physically and mentally perfect, offering in
capital letters to make you Just Like Them. Mr. Twist was the reverse of
eagle-faced. He was also the reverse of good-looking; that is, he would
have been very handsome indeed, as Anna-Rose remarked several days later
to Anna-Felicitas, when the friendship had become a settled
thing,--which indeed it did as soon as Mr. Twist had finished wiping
their eyes and noses that first afternoon, it being impossible, they
discovered, to have one's eyes and noses wiped by somebody without being
friends afterwards (for such an activity, said Anna-Felicitas, belonged
to the same order of events as rescue from fire, lions, or drowning,
after which in books you married him; but this having only been wiping,
said Anna-Rose, the case was adequately met by friendship)--he would
have been very handsome indeed if he hadn't had a face.

"But you have to _have_ a face," said Anna-Felicitas, who didn't think
it much mattered what sort it was so long as you could eat with it and
see out of it.

"And as long as one is as kind as Mr. Twist," said Anna-Rose; but
secretly she thought that having been begun so successfully at his feet,
and carried upwards with such grace of long limbs and happy proportions,
he might as well have gone on equally felicitously for the last little
bit.

"I expect God got tired of him over that last bit," she mused, "and just
put on any sort of head."

"Yes--that happened to be lying about," agreed Anna-Felicitas. "In a
hurry to get done with him."

"Anyway he's very kind," said Anna-Rose, a slight touch of defiance in
her voice.

"Oh, _very_ kind," agreed Anna-Felicitas.

"And it doesn't matter about faces for being kind," said Anna-Rose.

"Not in the least," agreed Anna-Felicitas.

"And if it hadn't been for the submarine we shouldn't have got to know
him. So you see," said Anna-Rose,--and again produced her favourite
remark about good coming out of evil.

Those were the days in mid-Atlantic when England was lost in its own
peculiar mists, and the sunshine of America was stretching out towards
them. The sea was getting calmer and bluer every hour, and submarines
more and more unlikely. If a ship could be pleasant, which
Anna-Felicitas doubted, for she still found difficulty in dressing and
undressing without being sea-sick and was unpopular in the cabin, this
ship was pleasant. You lay in a deck-chair all day long, staring at the
blue sky and blue sea that enclosed you as if you were living in the
middle of a jewel, and tried not to remember--oh, there were heaps of
things it was best not to remember; and when the rail of the ship moved
up across the horizon too far into the sky, or moved down across it and
showed too much water, you just shut your eyes and then it didn't
matter; and the sun shone warm and steady on your face, and the wind
tickled the tassel on the top of your German-knitted cap, and Mr. Twist
came and read aloud to you, which sent you to sleep quicker than
anything you had ever known.

The book he read out of and carried about with him his pocket was called
"Masterpieces You Must Master," and was an American collection of
English poetry, professing in its preface to be a Short Cut to Culture;
and he would read with what at that time, it being new to them, seemed
to the twins a strange exotic pronunciation, Wordsworth's "Ode to
Dooty," and the effect was as if someone should dig a majestic Gregorian
psalm in its ribs, and make it leap and giggle.

Anna-Rose, who had no reason to shut her eyes, for she didn't mind what
the ship's rail did with the horizon, opened them very round when first
Mr. Twist started on his Masterpieces. She was used to hearing them read
by her mother in the adorable husky voice that sent such thrills through
one, but she listened with the courtesy and final gratitude due to the
efforts to entertain her of so amiable a friend, and only the roundness
of her eyes showed her astonishment at this waltzing round, as it
appeared to her, of Mr. Twist with the Stern Daughter of the Voice of
God. He also read "Lycidas" to her, that same "Lycidas" Uncle Arthur
took for a Derby winner, and only Anna-Rose's politeness enabled her to
refrain from stopping up her ears. As it was, she fidgeted to the point
of having to explain, on Mr. Twist's pausing to gaze at her
questioningly through the smoke-coloured spectacles he wore on deck,
which made him look so like a gigantic dragon-fly, that it was because
her deck-chair was so very much harder than she was.

Anna-Felicitas, who considered that, if these things were short-cuts to
anywhere, seeing she knew them all by heart she must have long ago got
there, snoozed complacently. Sometimes for a few moments she would drop
off really to sleep, and then her mouth would fall open, which worried
Anna-Rose, who couldn't bear her to look even for a moment less
beautiful than she knew she was, so that she fidgeted more than ever,
unable, pinned down by politeness and the culture being administered, to
make her shut her mouth and look beautiful again by taking and shaking
her. Also Anna-Felicitas had a trick of waking up suddenly and
forgetting to be polite, as one does when first one wakes up and hasn't
had time to remember one is a lady. "To-morrow to fresh woods and
pastures noo," Mr. Twist would finish, for instance, with a sort of gulp
of satisfaction at having swallowed yet another solid slab of culture;
and Anna-Felicitas, returning suddenly to consciousness, would murmur,
with her eyes still shut and her head lolling limply, things like,
"After all, it _does_ rhyme with blue. I wonder why, then, one still
doesn't like it."

Then Mr. Twist would turn his spectacles towards her in mild inquiry,
and Anna-Rose, as always, would rush in and elaborately explain what
Anna-Felicitas meant, which was so remote from anything resembling what
she had said that Mr. Twist looked more mildly inquiring than ever.

Usually Anna-Felicitas didn't contradict Anna-Rose, being too sleepy or
too lazy, but sometimes she did, and then Anna-Rose got angry, and would
get what the Germans call a red head and look at Anna-Felicitas very
severely and say things, and Mr. Twist would close his book and watch
with that alert, cocked-up-ear look of a sympathetic and highly
interested terrier; but sooner or later the ship would always give a
roll, and Anna-Felicitas would shut her eyes and fade to paleness and
become the helpless bundle of sickness that nobody could possibly go on
being severe with.

The passengers in the second class were more generally friendly than
those in the first class. The first class sorted itself out into little
groups, and whispered about each other, as Anna-Rose observed, watching
their movements across the rope that separated her from them. The second
class remained to the end one big group, frayed out just a little at the
edge in one or two places.

The chief fraying out was where the Twinkler kids, as the second-class
young men, who knew no better, dared to call them, interrupted the
circle by talking apart with Mr. Twist. Mr. Twist had no business there.
He was a plutocrat of the first class; but in spite of the regulations
which cut off the classes from communicating, with a view apparently to
the continued sanitariness of the first class, the implication being
that the second class was easily infectious and probably overrun, there
he was every day and several times in every day. He must have heavily
squared the officials, the second-class young men thought until the day
when Mr. Twist let it somehow be understood that he had known the
Twinkler young ladies for years, dandled them in their not very remote
infancy on his already full-grown knee, and had been specially appointed
to look after them on this journey.

Mr. Twist did not specify who had appointed him, except to the Twinkler
young ladies themselves, and to them he announced that it was no less a
thing, being, or creature, than Providence. The second-class young men,
therefore, in spite of their rising spirits as danger lay further
behind, and their increasing tendency, peculiar to those who go on
ships, to become affectionate, found themselves no further on in
acquaintance with the Misses Twinkler the last day of the voyage than
they had been the first. Not that, under any other conditions, they
would have so much as noticed the existence of the Twinkler kids. In
their blue caps, pulled down tight to their eyebrows and hiding every
trace of hair, they looked like bald babies. They never came to meals;
their assiduous guardian, or whatever he was, feeding them on deck with
the care of a mother-bird for its fledglings, so that nobody except the
two German ladies in their cabin had seen them without the caps. The
young men put them down as half-grown only, somewhere about fourteen
they thought, and nothing but what, if they were boys instead of girls,
would have been called louts.

Still, a ship is a ship, and it is wonderful what can be managed in the
way of dalliance if one is shut up on one long enough; and the Misses
Twinkler, in spite of their loutishness, their apparent baldness, and
their constant round-eyed solemnity, would no doubt have been the
objects of advances before New York was reached if it hadn't been for
Mr. Twist. There wasn't a girl under forty in the second class on that
voyage, the young men resentfully pointed out to each other, except
these two kids who were too much under it, and a young lady of thirty
who sat manicuring her nails most of the day with her back supported by
a life-boat, and polishing them with red stuff till they flashed rosily
in the sun. This young lady was avoided for the first two days, while
the young men still remembered their mothers, because of what she looked
like; but was greatly loved for the rest of the voyage precisely for
that reason.

Still, every one couldn't get near her. She was only one; and there
were at least a dozen active, cooped-up young men taking lithe,
imprisoned exercise in long, swift steps up and down the deck, ready for
any sort of enterprise, bursting with energy and sea-air and spirits. So
that at last the left-overs, those of the young men the lady of the rosy
nails was less kind to, actually in their despair attempted ghastly
flirtations with the two German ladies. They approached them with a kind
of angry amorousness. They tucked them up roughly in rugs. They brought
them cushions as though they were curses. And it was through this
_rapprochement_, in the icy warmth of which the German ladies expanded
like bulky flowers and grew at least ten years younger, the ten years
they shed being their most respectable ones, that the ship became aware
of the nationality of the Misses Twinkler.

The German ladies were not really German, as they explained directly
there were no more submarines about, for a good woman, they said,
becomes automatically merged into her husband, and they, therefore, were
merged into Americans, both of them, and as loyal as you could find, but
the Twinklers were the real thing, they said,--real, unadulterated,
arrogant Junkers, which is why they wouldn't talk to anybody; for no
Junker, said the German ladies, thinks anybody good enough to be talked
to except another Junker. The German ladies themselves had by sheer luck
not been born Junkers. They had missed it very narrowly, but they had
missed it, for which they were very thankful seeing what believers they
were, under the affectionate manipulation of their husbands, in
democracy; but they came from the part of Germany where Junkers most
abound, and knew the sort of thing well.

It seemed to Mr. Twist, who caught scraps of conversation as he came
and went, that in the cabin the Twinklers must have alienated sympathy.
They had. They had done more; they had got themselves actively disliked.

From the first moment when Anna-Rose had dared to peep into their
shrouded bunks the ladies had been prejudiced, and this prejudice had
later flared up into a great and justified dislike. The ladies, to begin
with, hadn't known that they were von Twinklers, but had supposed them
mere Twinklers, and the von, as every German knows, makes all the
difference, especially in the case of Twinklers, who, without it, were a
race, the ladies knew, of small shopkeepers, laundresses and postmen in
the Westphalian district, but with it were one of the oldest families in
Prussia; known to all Germans; possessed of a name ensuring subservience
wherever it went.

In this stage of preliminary ignorance the ladies had treated the two
apparently ordinary Twinklers with the severity their conduct, age, and
obvious want of means deserved; and when, goaded by their questionings,
the smaller and more active Twinkler had let out her von at them much as
one lets loose a dog when one is alone and weak against the attacks of
an enemy, instead of falling in harmoniously with the natural change of
attitude of the ladies, which became immediately perfectly polite and
conciliatory, as well as motherly in its interest and curiosity, the two
young Junkers went dumb. They would have nothing to do with the most
motherly questioning. And just in proportion as the German ladies found
themselves full of eager milk of kindness, only asking to be permitted
to nourish, so did they find themselves subsequently, after a day or
two of such uncloaked repugnance to it, left with quantities of it
useless on their hands and all going sour.

From first to last the Twinklers annoyed them. As plain Twinklers they
had been tiresome in a hundred ways in the cabin, and as von Twinklers
they were intolerable in their high-nosed indifference.

It had naturally been expected by the elder ladies at the beginning of
the journey, that two obscure Twinklers of such manifest youth should
rise politely and considerately each morning very early, and get
themselves dressed and out of the way in at the most ten minutes,
leaving the cabin clear for the slow and careful putting together bit by
bit of that which ultimately emerged a perfect specimen of a lady of
riper years, but the weedy Twinkler insisted on lying in her berth so
late that if the ladies wished to be in time for the best parts of
breakfast, which they naturally and passionately did wish, they were
forced to dress in her presence, which was most annoying and awkward.

It is true she lay with closed eyes, apparently apathetic, but you never
know with persons of that age. Experience teaches not to trust them.
They shut their eyes, and yet seem, later on, to have seen; they
apparently sleep, and afterwards are heard asking their spectacled
American friend what people do on a ship, a place of so much gustiness,
if their hair gets blown off into the sea. Also the weedy one had a most
tiresome trick of being sick instantly every time Odol was used, or a
little brandy was drunk. Odol is most refreshing; it has a lovely smell,
without which no German bedroom is complete. And the brandy was not
common schnaps, but an old expensive brandy that, regarded as a smell,
was a credit to anybody's cabin.

The German ladies would have persisted, and indeed did persist in using
Odol and drinking a little brandy, indifferent to the feeble prayer from
the upper berth which floated down entreating them not to, but in their
own interests they were forced to give it up. The objectionable child
did not pray a second time; she passed immediately from prayer to
performance. Of two disagreeables wise women choose the lesser, but they
remain resentful.

The other Twinkler, the small active one, did get up early and take
herself off, but she frequently mixed up her own articles of toilet with
those belonging to the ladies, and would pin up her hair, preparatory to
washing her face, with their hairpins.

When they discovered this they hid them, and she, not finding any,
having come to the end of her own, lost no time in irresolution but
picked up their nail-scissors and pinned up her pigtails with that.

It was a particularly sacred pair of nail-scissors that almost
everything blunted. To use them for anything but nails was an outrage,
but the grossest outrage was to touch them at all. When they told her
sharply that the scissors were very delicate and she was instantly to
take them out of her hair, she tugged them out in a silence that was
itself impertinent, and pinned up her pigtails with their buttonhook
instead.

Then they raised themselves on their elbows in their berths and asked
her what sort of a bringing up she could have had, and they raised their
voices as well, for though they were grateful, as they later on
declared, for not having been born Junkers, they had nevertheless
acquired by practice in imitation some of the more salient Junker
characteristics.

"You are _salop_," said the upper berth lady,--which is untranslatable,
not on grounds of propriety but of idiom. It is not, however, a term of
praise.

"Yes, that is what you are--_salop_," echoed the lower berth lady. "And
your sister is _salop_ too--lying in bed till all hours."

"It is shameful for girls to be _salop_," said the upper berth.

"I didn't know it was your buttonhook. I thought it was ours," said
Anna-Rose, pulling this out too with vehemence.

"That is because you are _salop_," said the lower berth.

"And I didn't know it wasn't our scissors either."

"_Salop, salop_," said the lower berth, beating her hand on the wooden
edge of her bunk.

"And--and I'm sorry."

Anna-Rose's face was very red. She didn't look sorry, she looked angry.
And so she was; but it was with herself, for having failed in
discernment and grown-upness. She ought to have noticed that the
scissors and buttonhook were not hers. She had pounced on them with the
ill-considered haste of twelve years old. She hadn't been a lady,--she
whose business it was to be an example and mainstay to Anna-Felicitas,
in all things going first, showing her the way.

She picked up the sponge and plunged it into the water, and was just
going to plunge her annoyed and heated face in after it when the upper
berth lady said: "Your mother should be ashamed of herself to have
brought you up so badly."

"And send you off like this before she has taught you even the ABC of
manners," said the lower berth.

"Evidently," said the upper berth, "she can have none herself."

"Evidently," said the lower berth, "she is herself _salop_."

The sponge, dripping with water, came quickly out of the basin in
Anna-Rose's clenched fist. For one awful instant she stood there in her
nightgown, like some bird of judgment poised for dreadful flight, her
eyes flaming, her knotted pigtails bristling on the top of her head.

The wet sponge twitched in her hand. The ladies did not realize the
significance of that twitching, and continued to offer large angry faces
as a target. One of the faces would certainly have received the sponge
and Anna-Rose have been disgraced for ever, if it hadn't been for the
prompt and skilful intervention of Anna-Felicitas.

For Anna-Felicitas, roused from her morning languor by the unusual
loudness of the German ladies' voices, and smitten into attention and
opening of her eyes, heard the awful things they were saying and saw the
sponge. Instantly she knew, seeing it was Anna-Rose who held it, where
it would be in another second, and hastily putting out a shaking little
hand from her top berth, caught hold feebly but obstinately of the
upright ends of Anna-Rose's knotted pigtails.

"I'm going to be sick," she announced with great presence of mind and
entire absence of candour.

She knew, however, that she only had to sit up in order to be sick, and
the excellent child--_das gute Kind_, as her father used to call her
because she, so conveniently from the parental point of view, invariably
never wanted to be or do anything particularly--without hesitation
sacrificed herself in order to save her sister's honour, and sat up and
immediately was.

By the time Anna-Rose had done attending to her, all fury had died out.
She never could see Anna Felicitas lying back pale and exhausted after
one of these attacks without forgiving her and everybody else
everything.

She climbed up on the wooden steps to smoothe her pillow and tuck her
blanket round her, and when Anna-Felicitas, her eyes shut, murmured,
"Christopher--don't mind _them_--" and she suddenly realized, for they
never called each other by those names except in great moments of
emotion when it was necessary to cheer and encourage, what
Anna-Felicitas had saved her from, and that it had been done
deliberately, she could only whisper back, because she was so afraid of
crying, "No, no, Columbus dear--of course--who really cares about
_them_--" and came down off the steps with no fight left in her.

Also the wrath of the ladies was considerably assuaged. They had
retreated behind their curtains until the so terribly unsettled Twinkler
should be quiet again, and when once more they drew them a crack apart
in order to keep an eye on what the other one might be going to do next
and saw her doing nothing except, with meekness, getting dressed, they
merely inquired what part of Westphalia she came from, and only in the
tone they asked it did they convey that whatever part it was, it was
anyhow a contemptible one.

"We don't come from Westphalia," said Anna-Rose, bristling a little, in
spite of herself, at their persistent baiting.

Anna-Felicitas listened in cold anxiousness. She didn't want to have to
be sick again. She doubted whether she could bear it.

"You must come from somewhere," said the lower berth, "and being a
Twinkler it must be Westphalia."

"We don't really," said Anna-Rose, mindful of Anna-Felicitas's words
and making a great effort to speak politely. "We come from England."

"England!" cried the lower berth, annoyed by this quibbling. "You were
born in Westphalia. All Twinklers are born in Westphalia."

"Invariably they are," said the upper berth. "The only circumstance that
stops them is if their mothers happen to be temporarily absent."

"But we weren't, really," said Anna-Rose, continuing her efforts to
remain bland.

"Are you pretending--pretending to _us_," said the lower berth lady,
again beating her hand on the edge of her bunk, "that you are not
German?"

"Our father was German," said Anna-Rose, driven into a corner, "but I
don't suppose he is now. I shouldn't think he'd want to go on being one
directly he got to a really neutral place."

"Has he fled his country?" inquired the lower berth sternly, scenting
what she had from the first suspected, something sinister in the
Twinkler background.

"I suppose one might call it that," said Anna-Rose after a pause of
consideration, tying her shoe-laces.

"Do you mean to say," said the ladies with one voice, feeling themselves
now on the very edge of a scandal, "he was forced to fly from
Westphalia?"

"I suppose one might put it that way," said Anna-Rose, again
considering.

She took her cap off its hook and adjusted it over her hair with a
deliberation intended to assure Anna-Felicitas that she was remaining
calm. "Except that it wasn't from Westphalia he flew, but Prussia," she
said.

"Prussia?" cried the ladies as one woman, again rising themselves on
their elbows.

"That's where our father lived," said Anna-Rose, staring at them in her
surprise at their surprise. "So of course, as he lived there, when he
died he did that there too."

"Prussia?" cried the ladies again. "He died? You said your father fled
his country."

"No. _You_ said that," said Anna-Rose.

She gave her cap a final tug down over her ears and turned to the door.
She felt as if she quite soon again in spite of Anna-Felicitas, might
not be able to be a lady.

"After all, it _is_ what you do when you go to heaven," she said as she
opened the door, unable to resist, according to her custom, having the
last word.

"But Prussia?" they still cried, still button-holing her, as it were,
from afar. "Then--you were born in Prussia?"

"Yes, but we couldn't help it," said Anna-Rose; and shut the door
quickly behind her.




CHAPTER VIII


Mr. Twist, who was never able to be anything but kind--he had the most
amiable mouth and chin in the world, and his name was Edward--took a
lively interest in the plans and probable future of the two Annas. He
also took a lively and solicitous interest in their present, and a
profoundly sympathetic one in their past. In fact, their three tenses
interested him to the exclusion of almost everything else, and his chief
desire was to see them safely through any shoals there might be waiting
them in the shape of Uncle Arthur's friends--he distrusted Uncle Arthur,
and therefore his friends--into the safe and pleasant waters of real
American hospitality and kindliness.

He knew that such waters abounded for those who could find the tap. He
reminded himself of that which he had been taught since childhood, of
the mighty heart of America which, once touched, would take persons like
the twins right in and never let them out again. But it had to be
touched. It had, as it were, to be put in connection with them by means
of advertisement. America, he reflected, was a little deaf. She had to
be shouted to. But once she heard, once she thoroughly grasped ...

He cogitated much in his cabin--one with a private bathroom, for Mr.
Twist had what Aunt Alice called ample means--on these two defenceless
children. If they had been Belgians now, or Serbians, or any persons
plainly in need of relief! As it was, America would be likely, he
feared, to consider that either Germany or England ought to be looking
after them, and might conceivably remain chilly and uninterested.

Uncle Arthur, it appeared, hadn't many friends in America, and those he
had didn't like him. At least that was what Mr. Twist gathered from the
conversation of Anna-Rose. She didn't positively assert but she very
candidly conjectured, and Mr. Twist could quite believe that Uncle
Arthur's friends wouldn't be warm ones. Their hospitality he could
imagine fleeting and perfunctory. They would pass on the Twinklers as
soon as possible, as indeed why should they not? And presently some
dreary small job would be found for them, some job as pupil-teacher or
girls' companion in the sterile atmosphere of a young ladies' school.

As much as a man of habitually generous impulses could dislike, Mr.
Twist disliked Uncle Arthur. Patriotism was nothing at any time to Mr.
Twist compared to humanity, and Uncle Arthur's particular kind of
patriotism was very odious to him. To wreak it on these two poor aliens!
Mr. Twist had no words for it. They had been cut adrift at a tender age,
an age Mr. Twist, as a disciplined American son and brother, was unable
to regard unmoved, and packed off over the sea indifferent to what might
happen to them so long as Uncle Arthur knew nothing about it. Having
flung these kittens into the water to swim or drown, so long as he
didn't have to listen to their cries while they were doing it, Uncle
Arthur apparently cared nothing.

All Mr. Twist's chivalry, of which there was a great deal, rose up
within him at the thought of Uncle Arthur. He wanted to go and ask him
what he meant by such conduct, and earnestly inquire of him whether he
called himself a man; but as he knew he couldn't do this, being on a
ship heading for New York, he made up for it by taking as much care of
the ejected nieces as if he were an uncle himself,--but the right sort
of uncle, the sort you have in America, the sort that regards you as a
sacred and precious charge.

In his mind's eye Mr. Twist saw Uncle Arthur as a typical bullying,
red-necked Briton, with short side-whiskers. He pictured him under-sized
and heavy-footed, trudging home from golf through the soppy green fields
of England to his trembling household. He was quite disconcerted one day
to discover from something Anna-Rose said that he was a tall man, and
not fat at all, except in one place.

"Indeed," said Mr. Twist, hastily rearranging his mind's-eye view of
Uncle Arthur.

"He goes fat suddenly," said Anna-Felicitas, waking from one of her
dozes. "As though he had swallowed a bomb, and it had stuck when it got
to his waistcoat."

"If you can imagine it," added Anna-Rose politely, ready to explain and
describe further if required.

But Mr. Twist could imagine it. He readjusted his picture of Uncle
Arthur, and this time got him right,--the tall, not bad-looking man,
clean-shaven and with more hair a great deal than he, Mr. Twist, had. He
had thought of him as an old ruffian; he now perceived that he could be
hardly more than middle-aged and that Aunt Alice, a lady for whom he
felt an almost painful sympathy, had a lot more of Uncle Arthur to get
through before she was done.

"Yes," said Anna-Rose, accepting the word middle-aged as correct.
"Neither of his ends looks much older than yours do. He's aged in the
middle. That's the only place. Where the bomb is."

"I suppose that's why it's called middle-aged," said Anna-Felicitas
dreamily. "One middle-ages first, and from there it just spreads. It
must be queer," she added pensively, "to watch oneself gradually
rotting."

These were the sorts of observations, Mr. Twist felt, that might
prejudice his mother against the twins If they could be induced not to
say most of the things they did say when in her presence, he felt that
his house, of all houses in America, should be offered them as a refuge
whenever they were in need of one. But his mother was not, he feared,
very adaptable. In her house--it was legally his, but it never felt as
if it were--people adapted themselves to her. He doubted whether the
twins could or would. Their leading characteristic, he had observed, was
candour. They had no _savoir faire_. They seemed incapable of anything
but naturalness, and their particular type of naturalness was not one,
he was afraid, that his mother would understand.

She had not been out of her New England village, a place called briefly,
with American economy of time, Clark, for many years, and her ideal of
youthful femininity was still that which she had been herself. She had,
if unconsciously, tried to mould Mr. Twist also on these lines, in spite
of his being a boy, and owing to his extreme considerateness had not yet
discovered her want of success. For years, indeed, she had been
completely successful, and Mr. Twist arrived at and embarked on
adolescence with the manners and ways of thinking of a perfect lady.

Till he was nineteen he was educated at home, as it were at his mother's
knee, at any rate within reach of that sacred limb, and she had taught
him to reverence women; the reason given, or rather conveyed, being that
he had had and still was having a mother. Which he was never to forget.
In hours of temptation. In hours of danger. Mr. Twist, with his virginal
white mind, used to wonder when the hours of temptation and of danger
would begin, and rather wish, in the elegant leisure of his
half-holidays, that they soon would so that he might show how determined
he was to avoid them.

For the ten years from his father's death till he went to Harvard, he
lived with his mother and sister and was their assiduous attendant. His
mother took the loss of his father badly. She didn't get over it, as
widows sometimes do, and grow suddenly ten years younger. The sight of
her, so black and broken, of so daily recurring a patience, of such
frequent deliberate brightening for the sake of her children, kept Mr.
Twist, as he grew up, from those thoughts which sometimes occur to young
men and have to do with curves and dimples. He was too much absorbed by
his mother to think on such lines. He was flooded with reverence and
pity. Through her, all women were holy to him. They were all mothers,
either actual or to be--after, of course, the proper ceremonies. They
were all people for whom one leapt up and opened doors, placed chairs
out of draughts, and fetched black shawls. On warm spring days, when he
was about eighteen, he told himself earnestly that it would be a
profanity, a terrible secret sinning, to think amorously--yes, he
supposed the word was amorously--while there under his eyes, pervading
his days from breakfast to bedtime, was that mourning womanhood, that
lopped life, that example of brave doing without any hope or expectation
except what might be expected or hoped from heaven. His mother was
wonderful the way she bore things. There she was, with nothing left to
look forward to in the way of pleasures except the resurrection, yet
she did not complain.

But after he had been at Harvard a year a change came over Mr. Twist.
Not that he did not remain dutiful and affectionate, but he perceived
that it was possible to peep round the corners of his mother, the
rock-like corners that had so long jutted out between him and the view,
and on the other side there seemed to be quite a lot of interesting
things going on. He continued, however, only to eye most of them from
afar, and the nearest he got to temptation while at Harvard was to read
"Madame Bovary."

After Harvard he was put into an engineering firm, for the Twists only
had what would in English money be five thousand pounds a year, and
belonged therefore, taking dollars as the measure of standing instead of
birth, to the middle classes. Aunt Alice would have described such an
income as ample means; Mrs. Twist called it straitened circumstances,
and lived accordingly in a condition of perpetual self-sacrifice and
doings without. She had a car, but it was only a car, not a
Pierce-Arrow; and there was a bathroom to every bedroom, but there were
only six bedrooms; and the house stood on a hill and looked over the
most beautiful woods, but they were somebody else's woods. She felt, as
she beheld the lives of those of her neighbours she let her eyes rest
on, who were the millionaires dotted round about the charming environs
of Clark, that she was indeed a typical widow,--remote, unfriended,
melancholy, poor.

Mrs. Twist might feel poor, but she was certainly comfortable. It was
her daughter Edith's aim in life to secure for her the comfort and
leisure necessary for any grief that wishes to be thorough. The house
was run beautifully by Edith. There were three servants, of whom Edith
was one. She was the lady's maid, the head cook, and the family butler.
And Mr. Twist, till he went to Harvard, might be described as the
page-boy, and afterwards in his vacations as the odd man about the
house. Everything centred round their mother. She made a good deal of
work, because of being so anxious not to give trouble. She wouldn't get
out of the way of evil, but bleakly accepted it. She wouldn't get out of
a draught, but sat in it till one or other of her children remembered
they hadn't shut the door. When the inevitable cold was upon her and she
was lamentably coughing, she would mention the door for the first time,
and quietly say she hadn't liked to trouble them to shut it, they had
seemed so busy with their own affairs.

But after he had been in the engineering firm a little while, a further
change came over Mr. Twist. He was there to make money, more money, for
his mother. The first duty of an American male had descended on him. He
wished earnestly to fulfil it creditably, in spite of his own tastes
being so simple that his income of £5000--it was his, not his mother's,
but it didn't feel as if it were--would have been more than sufficient
for him. Out of engineering, then, was he to wrest all the things that
might comfort his mother. He embarked on his career with as determined
an expression on his mouth as so soft and friendly a mouth could be made
to take, and he hadn't been in it long before he passed out altogether
beyond the line of thinking his mother had laid down for him, and
definitely grew up.

The office was in New York, far enough away from Clark for him to be at
home only for the Sundays. His mother put him to board with her brother
Charles, a clergyman, the rector of the Church of Angelic Refreshment
at the back of Tenth Street, and the teapot out of which Uncle Charles
poured his tea at his hurried and uncomfortable meals--for he practised
the austerities and had no wife--dribbled at its spout. Hold it as
carefully as one might it dribbled at its spout, and added to the
confused appearance of the table by staining the cloth afresh every time
it was used.

Mr. Twist, who below the nose was nothing but kindliness and generosity,
his slightly weak chin, his lavishly-lipped mouth, being all amiability
and affection, above the nose was quite different. In the middle came
his nose, a nose that led him to improve himself, to read and meditate
the poets, to be tenacious in following after the noble; and above were
eyes in which simplicity sat side by side with appreciation; and above
these was the forehead like a dome; and behind this forehead were
inventions.

He had not been definitely aware that he was inventive till he came into
daily contact with Uncle Charles's teapot. In his boyhood he had often
fixed up little things for Edith,--she was three years older than he,
and was even then canning and preserving and ironing,--little
simplifications and alleviations of her labour; but they had been just
toys, things that had amused him to put together and that he forgot as
soon as they were done. But the teapot revealed to him clearly what his
forehead was there for. He would not and could not continue, being the
soul of considerateness, to spill tea on Uncle Charles's table-cloth at
every meal--they had tea at breakfast, and at luncheon, and at
supper--and if he were thirsty he spilled it several times at every
meal. For a long time he coaxed the teapot. He was thoughtful with it.
He handled it with the most delicate precision. He gave it time. He
never hurried it. He never filled it more than half full. And yet at the
end of every pouring, out came the same devastating dribble on to the
cloth.

Then he went out and bought another teapot, one of a different pattern,
with a curved spout instead of a straight one.

The same thing happened.

Then he went to Wanamaker's, and spent an hour in the teapot section
trying one pattern after the other, patiently pouring water, provided by
a tipped but languid and supercilious assistant, out of each different
make of teapot into cups.

They all dribbled.

Then Mr. Twist went home and sat down and thought. He thought and
thought, with his dome-like forehead resting on his long thin hand; and
what came out of his forehead at last, sprang out of it as complete in
every detail as Pallas Athene when she very similarly sprang, was that
now well-known object on every breakfast table, Twist's Non-Trickler
Teapot.

In five years Mr. Twist made a fortune out of the teapot. His mother
passed from her straitened circumstances to what she still would only
call a modest competence, but what in England would have been regarded
as wallowing in money. She left off being middle-class, and was received
into the lower upper-class, the upper part of this upper-class being
reserved for great names like Astor, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. With
these Mrs. Twist could not compete. She would no doubt some day, for
Edward was only thirty and there were still coffee-pots; but what he was
able to add to the family income helped her for a time to bear the loss
of the elder Twist with less of bleakness in her resignation. It was as
though an east wind veered round for a brief space a little to the
south.

Being naturally, however, inclined to deprecation, when every other
reason for it was finally removed by her assiduous son she once more
sought out and firmly laid hold of the departed Twist, and hung her
cherished unhappiness up on him again as if he were a peg. When the
novelty of having a great many bedrooms instead of six, and a great deal
of food not to eat but to throw away, and ten times of everything else
instead of only once, began to wear off, Mrs. Twist drooped again, and
pulled the departed Twist out of the decent forgetfulness of the past,
and he once more came to dinner in the form of his favourite dishes, and
assisted in the family conversations by means of copious quotations from
his alleged utterances.

Mr. Twist's income was anything between sixty and seventy thousand
pounds a year by the time the war broke out. Having invented and
patented the simple device that kept the table-cloths of America, and
indeed of Europe, spotless, all he had to do was to receive his
percentages; sit still, in fact, and grow richer. But so much had he
changed since his adolescence that he preferred to stick to his
engineering and his office in New York rather than go home and be happy
with his mother.

She could not understand this behaviour in Edward. She understood his
behaviour still less when he went off to France in 1915, himself
equipping and giving the ambulance he drove.

For a year his absence, and the dangers he was running, divided Mrs.
Twist's sorrows into halves. Her position as a widow with an only son in
danger touched the imagination of Clark, and she was never so much
called upon as during this year. Now Edward was coming home for a rest,
and there was a subdued flutter about her, rather like the stirring of
the funeral plumes on the heads of hearse-horses.

While he was crossing the Atlantic and Red-Crossing the Twinklers--this
was one of Anna-Felicitas's epigrams and she tried Anna-Rose's patience
severely by asking her not once but several times whether she didn't
think it funny, whereas Anna-Rose disliked it from the first because of
the suggestion it contained that Mr. Twist regarded what he did for them
as works of mercy--while Mr. Twist was engaged in these activities, at
his home in Clark all the things Edith could think of that he used most
to like to eat were being got ready. There was an immense slaughtering
of chickens, and baking and churning. Edith, who being now the head
servant of many instead of three was more than double as hard-worked as
she used to be, was on her feet those last few days without stopping.
And she had to go and meet Edward in New York as well. Whether Mrs.
Twist feared that he might not come straight home or whether it was what
she said it was, that dear Edward must not be the only person on the
boat who had no one to meet him, is not certain; what is certain is that
when it came to the point, and Edith had to start, Mrs. Twist had
difficulty in maintaining her usual brightness.

Edith would be a whole day away, and perhaps a night if the _St. Luke_
got in late, for Clark is five hours' train journey from New York, and
during all that time Mrs. Twist would be uncared for. She thought Edith
surprisingly thoughtless to be so much pleased to go. She examined her
flat and sinewy form with disapproval when she came in hatted and booted
to say good-bye. No wonder nobody married Edith. And the money wouldn't
help her either now--she was too old. She had missed her chances, poor
thing.

Mrs. Twist forgot the young man there had been once, years before, when
Edward was still in the school room, who had almost married Edith. He
was a lusty and enterprising young man, who had come to Clark to stay
with a neighbour, and he had had nothing to do through a long vacation,
and had taken to dropping in at all hours and interrupting Edith in her
housekeeping; and Edith, even then completely flat but of a healthy
young uprightness and bright of eyes and hair, had gone silly and
forgotten how to cook, and had given her mother, who surely had enough
sorrows already, an attack of indigestion.

Mrs. Twist, however, had headed the young man off. Edith was too
necessary to her at that time. She could not possibly lose Edith. And
besides, the only way to avoid being a widow is not to marry. She told
herself that she could not bear the thought of poor Edith's running the
risk of an affliction similar to her own. If one hasn't a husband one
cannot lose him, Mrs. Twist clearly saw. If Edith married she would
certainly lose him unless he lost her. Marriage had only two solutions,
she explained to her silent daughter,--she would not, of course, discuss
with her that third one which America has so often flown to for solace
and relief,--only two, said Mrs. Twist, and they were that either one
died oneself, which wasn't exactly a happy thing, or the other one did.
It was only a question of time before one of the married was left alone
to mourn. Marriage began rosily no doubt, but it always ended black.
"And think of my having to see you like _this_" she said, with a gesture
indicating her sad dress.

Edith was intimidated; and the young man presently went away whistling.
He was the only one. Mrs. Twist had no more trouble. He passed entirely
from her mind; and as she looked at Edith dressed for going to meet
Edward in the clothes she went to church in on Sundays, she
unconsciously felt a faint contempt for a woman who had had so much time
to get married in and yet had never achieved it. She herself had been
married at twenty; and her hair even now, after all she had gone
through, was hardly more gray than Edith's.

"Your hat's crooked," she said, when Edith straightened herself after
bending down to kiss her good-bye; and then, after all unable to bear
the idea of being left alone while Edith, with that pleased face, went
off to New York to see Edward before she did, she asked her, if she
still had a minute to spare, to help her to the sofa, because she felt
faint.

"I expect the excitement has been too much for me," she murmured, lying
down and shutting her eyes; and Edith, disciplined in affection and
attentiveness, immediately took off her hat and settled down to getting
her mother well again in time for Edward.

Which is why nobody met Mr. Twist on his arrival in New York, and he
accordingly did things, as will be seen, which he mightn't otherwise
have done.




CHAPTER IX


When the _St. Luke_ was so near its journey's end that people were
packing up, and the word Nantucket was frequent in the scraps of talk
the twins heard, they woke up from the unworried condition of mind Mr.
Twist's kindness and the dreamy monotony of the days had produced in
them, and began to consider their prospects with more attention. This
attention soon resulted in anxiety. Anna-Rose showed hers by being
irritable. Anna-Felicitas didn't show hers at all.

It was all very well, so long as they were far away from America and
never quite sure that a submarine mightn't settle their future for them
once and for all, to feel big, vague, heroic things about a new life and
a new world and they two Twinklers going to conquer it; but when the new
world was really upon them, and the new life, with all the multitudinous
details that would have to be tackled, going to begin in a few hours,
their hearts became uneasy and sank within them. England hadn't liked
them. Suppose America didn't like them either? Uncle Arthur hadn't liked
them. Suppose Uncle Arthur's friends didn't like them either? Their
hearts sank to, and remained in, their boots.

Round Anna-Rose's waist, safely concealed beneath her skirt from what
Anna-Felicitas called the predatory instincts of their fellow-passengers,
was a chamois-leather bag containing their passports, a letter to the
bank where their £200 was, a letter to those friends of Uncle Arthur's
who were to be tried first, a letter to those other friends of his who
were to be the second line of defence supposing the first one failed,
and ten pounds in two £5 notes.

Uncle Arthur, grievously grumbling, and having previously used in bed
most of those vulgar words that made Aunt Alice so miserable, had given
Anna-Rose one of the £5 notes for the extra expenses of the journey
till, in New York, she should be able to draw on the £200, though what
expenses there could be for a couple of girls whose passage was paid
Uncle Arthur was damned, he alleged, if he knew; and Aunt Alice had
secretly added the other. This was all Anna-Rose's ready money, and it
would have to be changed into dollars before reaching New York so as to
be ready for emergencies on arrival. She judged from the growing
restlessness of the passengers that it would soon be time to go and
change it. How many dollars ought she to get?

Mr. Twist was absent, packing his things. She ought to have asked him
long ago, but they seemed so suddenly to have reached the end of their
journey. Only yesterday there was the same old limitless sea everywhere,
the same old feeling that they were never going to arrive. Now the waves
had all gone, and one could actually see land. The New World. The place
all their happiness or unhappiness would depend on.

She laid hold of Anna-Felicitas, who was walking about just as if she
had never been prostrate on a deck-chair in her life, and was going to
say something appropriate and encouraging on the Christopher and
Columbus lines; but Anna-Felicitas, who had been pondering the £5 notes
problem, wouldn't listen.

"A dollar," said Anna-Felicitas, worrying it out, "isn't like a
shilling or a mark, but on the other hand neither is it like a pound."

"No," said Anna-Rose, brought back to her immediate business.

"It's four times more than one, and five times less than the other,"
said Anna-Felicitas. "That's how you've got to count. That's what Aunt
Alice said."

"Yes. And then there's the exchange," said Anna-Rose, frowning. "As if
it wasn't complicated enough already, there's the exchange. Uncle Arthur
said we weren't to forget that."

Anna-Felicitas wanted to know what was meant by the exchange, and
Anna-Rose, unwilling to admit ignorance to Anna-Felicitas, who had to be
kept in her proper place, especially when one was just getting to
America and she might easily become above herself, said that it was
something that varied. ("The exchange, you know, varies," Uncle Arthur
had said when he gave her the £5 note. "You must keep your eye on the
variations." Anna-Rose was all eagerness to keep her eye on them, if
only she had known what and where they were. But one never asked
questions of Uncle Arthur. His answers, if one did, were confined to
expressions of anger and amazement that one didn't, at one's age,
already know.)

"Oh," said Anna-Felicitas, for a moment glancing at Anna-Rose out of the
corner of her eye, considerately not pressing her further.

"I wish Mr. Twist would come," said Anna-Rose uneasily, looking in the
direction he usually appeared from.

"We won't always have _him_" remarked Anna-Felicitas.

"I never said we would," said Anna-Rose shortly.

The young lady of the nails appeared at that moment in a hat so
gorgeous that the twins stopped dead to stare. She had a veil on and
white gloves, and looked as if she were going for a walk in Fifth Avenue
the very next minute.

"Perhaps we ought to be getting ready too," said Anna-Felicitas.

"Yes. I wish Mr. Twist would come--"

"Perhaps we'd better begin and practise not having Mr. Twist," said
Anna-Felicitas, as one who addresses nobody specially and means nothing
in particular.

"If anybody's got to practise that, it'll be you," said Anna-Rose.
"There'll be no one to roll you up in rugs now, remember. I won't."

"But I don't want to be rolled up in rugs," said Anna-Felicitas mildly.
"I shall be walking about New York."

"Oh, _you'll_ see," said Anna-Rose irritably.

She was worried about the dollars. She was worried about the tipping,
and the luggage, and the arrival, and Uncle Arthur's friends, whose
names were Mr. and Mrs. Clouston K. Sack; so naturally she was
irritable. One is. And nobody knew and understood this better than
Anna-Felicitas.

"Let's go and put on our hats and get ready," she said, after a moment's
pause during which she wondered whether, in the interests of Anna-Rose's
restoration to calm, she mightn't have to be sick again. She did hope
she wouldn't have to. She had supposed she had done with that. It is
true there were now no waves, but she knew she had only to go near the
engines and smell the oil. "Let's go and put on our hats," she
suggested, slipping her hand through Anna-Rose's arm.

Anna-Rose let herself be led away, and they went to their cabin; and
when they came out of it half an hour later, no longer with that bald
look their caps had given them, the sun catching the little rings of
pale gold hair that showed for the first time, and clad, instead of in
the disreputable jerseys that they loved, in neat black coats and
skirts--for they still wore mourning when properly dressed--with
everything exactly as Aunt Alice had directed for their arrival, the
young men of the second class could hardly believe their eyes.

"You'll excuse me saying so," said one of them to Anna-Felicitas as she
passed him, "but you're looking very well to-day."

"I expect that's because I _am_ well," said Anna-Felicitas amiably.

Mr. Twist, when he saw them, threw up his hands and ejaculated "My!"

"Yes," said Anna-Felicitas, who was herself puzzled by the difference
the clothes had made in Anna-Rose after ten solid days of cap and
jersey, "I think it's our hats. They do somehow seem very splendid."

"Splendid?" echoed Mr. Twist. "Why, they'd make the very angels jealous,
and get pulling off their haloes and kicking them over the edge of
heaven."

"What is so wonderful is that Aunt Alice should ever have squeezed them
out of Uncle Arthur," said Anna-Rose, gazing lost in admiration at
Anna-Felicitas. "He didn't disgorge nice hats easily at all."

And one of the German ladies muttered to the other, as her eye fell on
Anna-Felicitas, "_Ja, ja, die hat Rasse._"

And it was only because it was the other German lady's hair that spent
the night in a different part of the cabin from her head and had been
seen doing it by Anna-Felicitas, that she cavilled and was grudging.
"_Gewiss_," she muttered back, "_bis auf der Nase. Die Nase aber
entfremdet mich. Die ist keine echte Junkernase_."

So that the Twinklers had quite a success, and their hearts came a
little way out of their boots; only a little way, though, for there were
the Clouston K. Sacks looming bigger into their lives every minute now.

Really it was a beautiful day, and, as Aunt Alice used to say, that does
make such a difference. A clear pale loveliness of light lay over New
York, and there was a funny sprightliness in the air, a delicate dry
crispness. The trees on the shore, when they got close, were delicate
too--delicate pale gold, and green, and brown, and they seemed so
composed and calm, the twins thought, standing there quietly after the
upheavals and fidgetiness of the Atlantic. New York was well into the
Fall, the time of year when it gets nearest to beauty. The beauty was
entirely in the atmosphere, and the lights and shadows it made. It was
like an exquisite veil flung over an ugly woman, hiding, softening,
encouraging hopes.

Everybody on the ship was crowding eagerly to the sides. Everybody was
exhilarated, and excited, and ready to be friendly and talkative. They
all waved whenever another boat passed. Those who knew America pointed
out the landmarks to those who didn't. Mr. Twist pointed them out to the
twins, and so did the young man who had remarked favourably on
Anna-Felicitas's looks, and as they did it simultaneously and there was
so much to look at and so many boats to wave to, it wasn't till they had
actually got to the statue of Liberty that Anna-Rose remembered her £10
and the dollars.

The young man was saying how much the statue of Liberty had cost, and
the word dollars made Anna-Rose turn with a jump to Mr. Twist.

"Oh," she exclaimed, clutching at her chamois leather bag where it very
visibly bulged out beneath her waistband, "I forgot--I must get change.
And how much do you think we ought to tip the stewardess? I've never
tipped anybody yet ever, and I wish--I wish I hadn't to."

She got quite red. It seemed to her dreadful to offer money to someone
so much older than herself and who till almost that very morning had
treated her and Anna-Felicitas like the naughtiest of tiresome children.
Surely she would be most offended at being tipped by people such years
younger than herself?

Mr. Twist thought not.

"A dollar," said the young man. "One dollar. That's the figure. Not a
cent more, or you girls'll get inflating prices and Wall Street'll bust
up."

Anna-Rose, not heeding him and clutching nervously the place where her
bag was, told Mr. Twist that the stewardess hadn't seemed to mind them
quite so much last night, and still less that morning, and perhaps some
little memento--something that wasn't money--

"Give her those caps of yours," said the young man, bursting into
hilarity; but indeed it wasn't his fault that he was a low young man.

Mr. Twist, shutting him out of the conversation by interposing a
shoulder, told Anna-Rose he had noticed stewardesses, and also stewards,
softened when journeys drew near their end, but that it didn't mean they
wanted mementos. They wanted money; and he would do the tipping for her
if she liked.

Anna-Rose jumped at it. This tipping of the stewardess had haunted her
at intervals throughout the journey whenever she woke up at night. She
felt that, not having yet in her life tipped anybody, it was very hard
that she couldn't begin with somebody more her own size.

"Then if you don't mind coming behind the funnel," she said, "I can give
you my £5 notes, and perhaps you would get them changed for me and
deduct what you think the stewardess ought to have."

Mr. Twist, and also Anna-Felicitas, who wasn't allowed to stay behind
with the exuberant young man though she was quite unconscious of his
presence, went with Anna-Rose behind the funnel, where after a great
deal of private fumbling, her back turned to them, she produced the two
much-crumpled £5 notes.

"The steward ought to have something too," said Mr. Twist.

"Oh, I'd be glad if you'd do him as well," said Anna-Rose eagerly. "I
don't think I _could_ offer him a tip. He has been so fatherly to us.
And imagine offering to tip one's father."

Mr. Twist laughed, and said she would get over this feeling in time. He
promised to do what was right, and to make it clear that the tips he
bestowed were Twinkler tips; and presently he came back with messages of
thanks from the tipped--such polite ones from the stewardess that the
twins were astonished--and gave Anna-Rose a packet of very dirty-looking
slices of green paper, which were dollar bills, he said, besides a
variety of strange coins which he spread out on a ledge and explained to
her.

"The exchange was favourable to you to-day," said Mr. Twist, counting
out the money.

"How nice of it," said Anna-Rose politely. "Did you keep your eye on
its variations?" she added a little loudly, with a view to rousing
respect in Anna-Felicitas who was lounging against a seat and showing a
total absence of every kind of appropriate emotion.

"Certainly," said Mr. Twist after a slight pause. "I kept both my eyes
on all of them."

Mr. Twist had, it appeared, presented the steward and stewardess each
with a dollar on behalf of the Misses Twinkler, but because the exchange
was so favourable this had made no difference to the £5 notes. Reducing
each £5 note into German marks, which was the way the Twinklers, in
spite of a year in England, still dealt in their heads with money before
they could get a clear idea of it, there would have been two hundred
marks; and as it took, roughly, four marks to make a dollar, the two
hundred marks would have to be divided by four; which, leaving aside
that extra complication of variations in the exchange, and regarding the
exchange for a moment and for purposes of simplification as keeping
quiet for a bit and resting, should produce, also roughly, said
Anna-Rose a little out of breath as she got to the end of her
calculation, fifty dollars.

"Correct," said Mr. Twist, who had listened with respectful attention.
"Here they are."

"I said roughly," said Anna-Rose. "It can't be _exactly_ fifty dollars.
The tips anyhow would alter that."

"Yes, but you forget the exchange."

Anna-Rose was silent. She didn't want to go into that before
Anna-Felicitas. Of the two, she was supposed to be the least bad at
sums. Their mother had put it that way, refusing to say, as Anna-Rose
industriously tried to trap her into saying, that she was the better of
the two. But even so, the difference entitled her to authority on the
subject with Anna-Felicitas, and by dint of doing all her calculations
roughly, as she was careful to describe her method, she allowed room for
withdrawal and escape where otherwise the inflexibility of figures might
have caught her tight and held her down while Anna-Felicitas looked on
and was unable to respect her.

Evidently the exchange was something beneficent. She decided to rejoice
in it in silence, accept whatever it did, and refrain from asking
questions.

"So I did. Of course. The exchange," she said, after a little.

She gathered up the dollar bills and began packing them into her bag.
They wouldn't all go in, and she had to put the rest into her pocket,
for which also there were too many; but she refused Anna-Felicitas's
offer to put some of them in hers on the ground that sooner or later she
would be sure to forget they weren't her handkerchief and would blow her
nose with them.

"Thank you very much for being so kind," she said to Mr. Twist, as she
stuffed her pocket full and tried by vigorous patting to get it to look
inconspicuous. "We're never going to forget you, Anna-F. and me. We'll
write to you often, and we'll come and see you as often as you like."

"Yes," said Anna-Felicitas dreamily, as she watched the shore of Long
Island sliding past. "Of course you've got your relations, but relations
soon pall, and you may be quite glad after a while of a little fresh
blood."

Mr. Twist thought this very likely, and agreed with several other things
Anna-Felicitas, generalizing from Uncle Arthur, said about relations,
again with that air of addressing nobody specially and meaning nothing
in particular, while Anna-Rose wrestled with the obesity of her pocket.

"Whether you come to see me or not," said Mr. Twist, whose misgivings as
to the effect of the Twinklers on his mother grew rather than subsided,
"I shall certainly come to see you."

"Perhaps Mr. Sack won't allow followers," said Anna-Felicitas, her eyes
far away. "Uncle Arthur didn't. He wouldn't let the maids have any, so
they had to go out and do the following themselves. We had a follower
once, didn't we, Anna-R.?" she continued her voice pensive and
reminiscent. "He was a friend of Uncle Arthur's. Quite old. At least
thirty or forty. I shouldn't have thought he _could_ follow. But he did.
And he used to come home to tea with Uncle Arthur and produce boxes of
chocolate for us out of his pockets when Uncle Arthur wasn't looking. We
ate them and felt perfectly well disposed toward him till one day he
tried to kiss one of us--I forget which. And that, combined with the
chocolates, revealed him in his true colours as a follower, and we told
him they weren't allowed in that house and urged him to go to some place
where they were, or he would certainly be overtaken by Uncle Arthur's
vengeance, and we said how surprised we were, because he was so old and
we didn't know followers were as old as that ever."

"It seemed a very shady thing," said Anna-Rose, having subdued the
swollenness of her pocket, "to eat his chocolates and then not want to
kiss him, but we don't hold with kissing, Anna-F. and me. Still, we were
full of his chocolates; there was no getting away from that. So we
talked it over after he had gone, and decided that next day when he came
we'd tell him he might kiss one of us if he still wanted to, and we drew
lots which it was to be, and it was me, and I filled myself to the brim
with chocolates so as to feel grateful enough to bear it, but he didn't
come."

"No," said Anna-Felicitas. "He didn't come again for a long while, and
when he did there was no follow left in him. Quite the contrary."

Mr. Twist listened with the more interest to this story because it was
the first time Anna-Felicitas had talked since he knew her. He was used
to the inspiriting and voluble conversation of Anna-Rose who had looked
upon him as her best friend since the day he had wiped up her tears; but
Anna-Felicitas had been too unwell to talk. She had uttered languid and
brief observations from time to time with her eyes shut and her head
lolling loosely on her neck, but this was the first time she had been,
as it were, an ordinary human being, standing upright on her feet,
walking about, looking intelligently if pensively at the scenery, and in
a condition of affable readiness, it appeared, to converse.

Mr. Twist was a born mother. The more trouble he was given the more
attached he became. He had rolled Anna-Felicitas up in rugs so often
that to be not going to roll her up any more was depressing to him. He
was beginning to perceive this motherliness in him himself, and he gazed
through his spectacles at Anna-Felicitas while she sketched the rise and
fall of the follower, and wondered with an almost painful solicitude
what her fate would be in the hands of the Clouston Sacks.

Equally he wondered as to the other one's fate; for he could not think
of one Twinkler without thinking of the other. They were inextricably
mixed together in the impression they had produced on him, and they
dwelt together in his thoughts as one person called, generally,
Twinklers. He stood gazing at them, his motherly instincts uppermost,
his hearty yearning over them now that the hour of parting was so near
and his carefully tended chickens were going to be torn from beneath his
wing. Mr. Twist was domestic. He was affectionate. He would have loved,
though he had never known it, the sensation of pattering feet about his
house, and small hands clinging to the apron he would never wear. And it
was entirely characteristic of him that his invention, the invention
that brought him his fortune, should have had to do with a teapot.

But if his heart was uneasy within him at the prospect of parting from
his charges their hearts were equally uneasy, though not in the same
way. The very name of Clouston K. Sack was repugnant to Anna-Rose; and
Anna-Felicitas, less quick at disliking, turned it over cautiously in
her mind as one who turns over an unknown and distasteful object with
the nose of his umbrella. Even she couldn't quite believe that any good
thing could come out of a name like that, especially when it had got
into their lives through Uncle Arthur. Mr. Twist had never heard of the
Clouston Sacks, which made Anna-Rose still more distrustful. She wasn't
in the least encouraged when he explained the bigness of America and
that nobody in it ever knew everybody--she just said that everybody had
heard of Mr. Roosevelt, and her heart was too doubtful within her even
to mind being told, as he did immediately tell her within ear-shot of
Anna-Felicitas, that her reply was unreasonable.

Just at the end, as they were all three straining their eyes, no one
with more anxiety than Mr. Twist, to try and guess which of the crowd on
the landing-stage were the Clouston Sacks, they passed on their other
side the _Vaterland_, the great interned German liner at its moorings,
and the young man who had previously been so very familiar, as Anna-Rose
said, but who was only, Mr. Twist explained, being American, came
hurrying boldly up.

"You mustn't miss this," he said to Anna-Felicitas, actually seizing her
by the arm. "Here's something that'll make you feel home-like right
away."

And he led her off, and would have dragged her off but for
Anna-Felicitas's perfect non-resistance.

"He _is_ being familiar," said Anna-Rose to Mr. Twist, turning very red
and following quickly after him. "That's not just being American.
Everybody decent knows that if there's any laying hold of people's arms
to be done one begins with the eldest sister."

"Perhaps he doesn't realize that you _are_ the elder," said Mr. Twist.
"Strangers judge, roughly, by size."

"I'm afraid I'm going to have trouble with her," said Anna-Rose, not
heeding his consolations. "It isn't a sinecure, I assure you, being left
sole guardian and protector of somebody as pretty as all that. And the
worst of it is she's going on getting prettier. She hasn't nearly come
to the end of what she can do in that direction. I see it growing on
her. Every Sunday she's inches prettier than she was the Sunday before.
And wherever I take her to live, and however out of the way it is, I'm
sure the path to our front door is going to be black with suitors."

This dreadful picture so much perturbed her, and she looked up at Mr.
Twist with such worried eyes, that he couldn't refrain from patting her
on her shoulder.

"There, there," said Mr. Twist, and he begged her to be sure to
let him know directly she was in the least difficulty, or even
perplexity,--"about the suitors, for instance, or anything else.
You must let me be of some use in the world, you know," he said.

"But we shouldn't like it at all if we thought you were practising being
useful on us," said Anna-Rose "It's wholly foreign to our natures to
enjoy being the objects of anybody's philanthropy."

"Now I just wonder where you get all your long words from," said Mr.
Twist soothingly; and Anna-Rose laughed, and there was only one dimple
in the Twinkler family and Anna-Rose had got it.

"What do you want to get looking at _that_ for?" she
asked Anna-Felicitas, when she had edged through the crowd
staring at the _Vaterland_, and got to where Anna-Felicitas
stood listening abstractedly to the fireworks of American slang
the young man was treating her to,--that terse, surprising, swift
hitting-of-the-nail-on-the-head form of speech which she was
hearing in such abundance for the first time.

The American passengers appeared one and all to be rejoicing over the
impotence of the great ship. Every one of them seemed to be violently
pro-Ally, derisively conjecturing the feelings of the _Vaterland_ as
every day under her very nose British ships arrived and departed and
presently arrived again,--the same ships she had seen depart coming back
unharmed, unhindered by her country's submarines. Only the two German
ladies, once more ignoring their American allegiance, looked angry. It
was incredible to them, simply _unfassbar_ as they said in their
thoughts, that any nation should dare inconvenience Germans, should dare
lay a finger, even the merest friendliest detaining one, on anything
belonging to the mighty, the inviolable Empire. Well, these Americans,
these dollar-grubbing Yankees, would soon get taught a sharp, deserved
lesson--but at this point they suddenly remembered they were Americans
themselves, and pulled up their thoughts violently, as it were, on their
haunches.

They turned, however, bitterly to the Twinkler girl as she pushed her
way through to her sister,--those renegade Junkers, those contemptible
little apostates--and asked her, after hearing her question to
Anna-Felicitas, with an extraordinary breaking out of pent-up emotion
where she, then, supposed she would have been at that moment if it
hadn't been for Germany.

"Not here I think," said Anna-Rose, instantly and fatally ready as she
always was to answer back and attempt what she called reasoned
conversation. "There wouldn't have been a war, so of course I wouldn't
have been here."

"Why, you wouldn't so much as have been born without Germany," said the
lady whose hair came off, with difficulty controlling a desire to shake
this insolent and perverted Junker who could repeat the infamous English
lie as to who began the war. "You owe your very existence to Germany.
You should be giving thanks to her on your knees for her gift to you of
life, instead of jeering at this representative--" she flung a finger
out toward the _Vaterland_--"this patient and dignified-in
-temporary-misfortune representative, of her power."

"I wasn't jeering," said Anna-Rose, defending herself and clutching at
Anna-Felicitas's sleeve to pull her away.

"You wouldn't have had a father at all but for Germany," said the other
lady, the one whose hair grew.

"And perhaps you will tell me," said the first one, "where you would
have been _then_."

"I don't believe," said Anna-Rose, her nose in the air, "I don't
believe I'd have ever been at a loss for a father."

The ladies, left speechless a moment by the arrogance as well as several
other things about this answer gave Anna-Rose an opportunity for further
reasoning with them, which she was unable to resist. "There are lots of
fathers," she said, "in England, who would I'm sure have been delighted
to take me on if Germany had failed me."

"England!"

"Take you on!"

"An English father for you? For a subject of the King of Prussia?"

"I--I'm afraid I--I'm going to be sick," gasped Anna-Felicitas suddenly.

"You're never going to be sick in this bit of bathwater, Miss Twinkler?"
exclaimed the young man, with the instant ungrudging admiration of one
who is confronted by real talent. "My, what a gift!"

Anna-Rose darted at Anna-Felicitas's drooping head, that which she had
been going to say back to the German ladies dissolving on her tongue.
"Oh no--_no_--" she wailed. "Oh _no_--not in your best hat, Columbus
darling--you can't--it's not done--and your hat'll shake off into the
water, and then there'll only be one between us and we shall never be
able to go out paying calls and things at the same time--come away and
sit down--Mr. Twist--Mr. Twist--oh, please come--"

Anna-Felicitas allowed herself to be led away, just in time as she
murmured, and sat down on the nearest seat and shut her eyes. She was
thankful Anna-Rose's attention had been diverted to her so instantly,
for it would have been very difficult to be sick with the ship as quiet
as one's own bedroom. Nothing short of the engine-room could have made
her sick now. She sat keeping her eyes shut and Anna-Rose's attention
riveted, wondering what she would do when there was no ship and
Anna-Rose was on the verge of hasty and unfortunate argument. Would she
have to learn to faint? But that would terrify poor Christopher so
dreadfully.

Anna-Felicitas pondered, her eyes shut, on this situation. Up to now in
her life she had always found that situations solved themselves. Given
time. And sometimes a little assistance. So, no doubt, would this one.
Anna-Rose would ripen and mellow. The German ladies would depart hence
and be no more seen; and it was unlikely she and Anna-Rose would meet at
such close quarters as a ship's cabin any persons so peculiarly and
unusually afflicting again. All situations solved themselves; or, if
they showed signs of not going to, one adopted the gentle methods that
helped them to get solved. Early in life she had discovered that objects
which cannot be removed or climbed over can be walked round. A little
deviousness, and the thing was done. She herself had in the most
masterly manner when she was four escaped church-going for several years
by a simple method, that seemed to her looking back very like an
inspiration, of getting round it. She had never objected to going, had
never put into words the powerful if vague dislike with which it filled
her when Sunday after Sunday she had to go and dangle her legs
helplessly for two hours from the chair she was put on in the enclosed
pew reserved for the _hohe gräfliche Herrschaften_ from the Slosh.

Her father, a strict observer of the correct and a pious believer in
God for other people, attended Divine Service as regularly as he wound
the clocks and paid the accounts. He _repräsentierte_, as the German
phrase went; and his wife and children were expected to _repräsentieren_
too. Which they did uncomplainingly; for when one has to do with
determined husbands and fathers it is quickest not to complain. But the
pins and needles that patient child endured, Anna-Felicitas remembered,
looking back through the years at the bunched-up figure on the chair as
at a stranger, were something awful. The edge of the chair just caught
her legs in the pins and needles place. If she had been a little bigger
or a little smaller it wouldn't have happened; as it was, St. Paul
wrestling with beasts at Ephesus wasn't more heroic than Anna-Felicitas
perceived that distant child to have been, silently Sunday after Sunday
bearing her legs. Then one Sunday something snapped inside her, and she
heard her own voice floating out into the void above the heads of the
mumbling worshippers, and it said with a terrible distinctness in a sort
of monotonous wail: "I only had a cold potato for breakfast,"--and a
second time, in the breathless suspension of mumbling that followed upon
this: "I only had a cold potato for breakfast,"--and a third time she
opened her mouth to repeat the outrageous statement, regardless of her
mother's startled hand laid on her arm, and of Anna-Rose's petrified
stare, and of the lifted faces of the congregation, and of the bent,
scandalized brows of the pastor,--impelled by something that possessed
her, unable to do anything but obey it; but her father, a man of deeds,
rose up in his place, took her in his arms, and carried her down the
stairs and out of the church. And the minute she found herself really
rescued, and out where the sun and wind, her well-known friends, were
larking about among the tombstones, she laid her cheek as affectionately
against her father's head as if she were a daughter to be proud of, and
would have purred if she had had had a purr as loudly as the most
satisfied and virtuous of cats.

"_Mein Kind_," said her father, standing her up on a convenient tomb so
that her eyes were level with his, "is it then true about the cold
potato?"

"No," said Anna-Felicitas patting his face, pleased at what her legs
were feeling like again.

"_Mein Kind_," said her father, "do you not know it is wrong to lie?"

"No," said Anna-Felicitas placidly, the heavenly blue of her eyes,
gazing straight into his, exactly like the mild sky above the trees.

"No?" echoed her father, staring at her. "But, _Kind_, you know what a
lie is?"

"No," said Anna-Felicitas, gazing at him tenderly in her satisfaction at
being restored to a decent pair of legs; and as he still stood staring
at her she put her hands one on each of his cheeks and squeezed his face
together and murmured, "Oh, I do _love_ you."




CHAPTER X


Lost in the contemplation of a distant past Anna-Felicitas sat with her
eyes shut long after she needn't have.

She had forgotten about the German ladies, and America, and the future
so instantly pressing on her, and was away on the shores of the Baltic
again, where bits of amber where washed up after a storm, and the pale
rushes grew in shallow sunny water that was hardly salt, and the air
seemed for ever sweet with lilac. All the cottage gardens in the little
village that clustered round a clearing in the trees had lilac bushes in
them, for there was something in the soil that made lilacs be more
wonderful there than anywhere else in the world, and in May the whole
forest as far as one could walk was soaked with the smell of it. After
rain on a May evening, what a wonder it was; what a wonder, that running
down the black, oozing forest paths between wet pine stems, out on to
the shore to look at the sun setting below the great sullen clouds of
the afternoon over on one's left where Denmark was, and that lifting of
one's face to the exquisite mingling of the delicate sea smell and the
lilac. And then there was home to come back to when the forest began to
look too dark and its deep silence made one's flesh creep--home, and a
light in the window where ones mother was. Incredible the security of
those days, the safe warmth of them, the careless roominess....

"You know if you _could_ manage to feel a little better, Anna-F.," said
Anna-Rose's voice entreatingly in her ear, "it's time we began to get
off this ship."

Anna-Felicitas opened her eyes, and got up all confused and
self-reproachful. Everybody had melted away from that part of the deck
except herself and Anna-Rose. The ship was lying quiet at last alongside
the wharf. She had over-done being ill this time. She was ashamed of
herself for having wandered off so easily and comfortably into the past,
and left poor Christopher alone in the difficult present.

"I'm so sorry," she said smiling apologetically, and giving her hat a
tug of determination symbolic of her being ready for anything,
especially America. "I think I must have gone to sleep. Have you--" she
hesitated and dropped her voice. "Are they--are the Clouston Sacks
visible yet?"

"I thought I saw them," said Anna-Rose, dropping her voice too, and
looking round uneasily over her shoulder. "I'd have come here sooner to
see how you were getting on, but I thought I saw them, and they looked
so like what I think they will look like that I went into our cabin
again for a few minutes. But it wasn't them. They've found the people
they were after, and have gone."

"There's a great crowd waiting," said Mr. Twist, coming up, "and I think
we ought to go and look for your friends. As you don't know what they're
like and they don't know what you're like it may be difficult. Heaven
forbid," he continued, "that I should hurry you, but I have to catch a
train if I'm to get home to-night, and I don't intend to catch it until
I've handed you over safely to the Sacks."

"Those Sacks--" began Anna-Rose; and then she finished irrelevantly by
remarking that it was the details of life that were discouraging,--from
which Anna Felicitas knew that Christopher's heart was once more in her
boots.

"Come along," said Mr. Twist, urging them to wards the gangway.
"Anything you've got to say about life I shall be glad to hear, but at
some time when we're more at leisure."

It had never occurred to either of the twins that the Clouston Sacks
would not meet them. They had taken it for granted from the beginning
that some form of Sack, either male or female, or at least their
plenipotentiary, would be on the wharf to take them away to the Sack
lair, as Anna-Felicitas alluded to the family mansion. It was, they
knew, in Boston, but Boston conveyed nothing to them. Only Mr. Twist
knew how far away it was. He had always supposed the Sacks would meet
their young charges, stay that night in New York, and continue on to
Boston next day. The twins were so certain they would be met that Mr.
Twist was certain too. He had concluded, with a growingly empty feeling
in his heart as the time of separation drew near, that all that now
remained for him to do on behalf of the Twinklers was to hand them over
to the Sacks. And then leave them. And then go home to that mother he
loved but had for some time known he didn't like,--go home a bereft and
lonely man.

But out of the crowd on the pier, any of whom might have been Sacks for
all the Twinklers, eagerly scanning faces, knew, nobody in fact seemed
to be Sacks. At least, nobody came forward and said, "Are you the
Twinklers?" Other people fell into each other's arms; the air was full
of the noise of kissing, the loud legitimate kissing of relations; but
nobody took any notice of the twins. For a long while they stood
waiting. Their luggage was examined, and Mr. Twist's luggage--only his
was baggage--was examined, and the kissing and exclaiming crowd swayed
hither and thither, and broke up into groups, and was shot through by
interviewers, and got packed off into taxis, and grew thinner and
thinner, and at last was so thin that the concealment of the Sacks in it
was no longer possible.

There were no Sacks.

To the last few groups of people left in the great glass-roofed hall
piled with bags of wool and sulphur, Mr. Twist went up boldly and asked
if they were intending to meet some young ladies called Twinkler. His
tone, owing to perturbation, was rather more than one of inquiry, it
almost sounded menacing; and the answers he got were cold. He wandered
about uncertainly from group to group, his soft felt hat on the back of
his head and his brow getting more and more puckered; and Anna-Rose,
anxiously looking on from afar, became impatient at last of these
refusals of everybody to be Sacks, and thought that perhaps Mr. Twist
wasn't making himself clear.

Impetuous by nature and little given to calm waiting, she approached a
group on her own account and asked them, enunciating her words very
clearly, whether they were by any chance Mr. and Mrs. Clouston Sack.

The group, which was entirely female, stared round and down at her in
astonished silence, and shook its heads; and as she saw Mr. Twist being
turned away for the fifth time in the distance a wave of red despair
came over her, and she said, reproach in her voice and tears in her
eyes, "But _somebody's_ got to be the Sacks."

Upon which the group she was addressing stared at her in a more
astonished silence than ever.

Mr. Twist came up mopping his brow and took he arm and led her back to
Anna-Felicitas, who was taking care of the luggage and had sat down
philosophically to await developments on a bag of sulphur. She didn't
yet know what sulphur looked like on one's clothes after one has sat on
it, and smiled cheerfully and encouragingly at Anna-Rose as she came
towards her.

"There _are_ no Sacks," said Anna-Rose, facing the truth.

"It's exactly like that Uncle Arthur of yours," said Mr. Twist, mopping
his forehead and speaking almost vindictively. "Exactly like him. A man
like that _would_ have the sort of friends that don't meet one."

"Well, we must do without the Sacks," said Anna-Felicitas, rising from
the sulphur bag with the look of serene courage that can only dwell on
the face of one who is free from care as to what has happened to him
behind. "And it isn't," she added sweetly to Mr. Twist, "as if we hadn't
got _you_."

"Yes," said Anna-Rose, suddenly seeing daylight. "Of course. What do
Sacks really matter? I mean, for a day or two? You'll take us somewhere
where we can wait till we've found them."

"Yes," said Anna-Felicitas. "Some nice quiet old-fashioned coffee-house
sort of place, like the one the Brontes went to in St. Paul's Churchyard
the first time they were launched into the world."

"Yes. Some inexpensive place."

"Suited to the frugal."

"Because although we've got £200, even that will need watching or it
will go."

During this conversation Mr. Twist stood mopping his forehead. As often
as he mopped it it broke out afresh and had to be mopped again. They
were the only passengers left now, and had become very conspicuous. He
couldn't but perceive that a group of officials with grim,
locked-up-looking mouths were eyeing him and the Twinklers attentively.

Always zealous in the cause of virtue, America provided her wharves and
landing-places with officials specially appointed to guard the purity of
family life. Family life obviously cannot be pure without a marriage
being either in it or having at some time or other passed through it.
The officials engaged in eyeing Mr. Twist and the twins were all married
themselves, and were well acquainted with that awful purity. But eye the
Twist and Twinkler party as they might, they could see no trace of
marriage anywhere about it.

On the contrary, the man of the party looked so uneasy that it amounted
to conscious illegality.

"Sisters?" said the chief official, stepping forward abruptly.

"Eh?" said Mr. Twist, pausing in the wiping of his forehead.

"These here--" said the official, jerking his thumb at the twins. "They
your sisters?"

"No," said Mr. Twist stiffly.

"No," said the twins, with one voice. "Do you think we look like him?"

"Daughters?"

"No," said Mr. Twist stiffly.

"No," said the twins, with an ever greater vigour of repudiation. "You
_can't_ really think we look as much like him as all that?"

"Wife and sister-in-law?"

Then the Twinklers laughed. They laughed aloud, even Anna-Rose
forgetting her cares for a moment. But they were flattered, because it
was at least a proof that they looked thoroughly grown-up.

"Then if they ain't your sisters, and they ain't your daughters, and
they ain't your wife and sister-in-law, p'raps you'll tell me--"

"These young ladies are not anything at all of mine, sir," said Mr.
Twist vehemently.

"Don't you get sir-ing me, now," said the official sticking out his jaw.
"This is a free country, and I'll have no darned cheek."

"These young ladies in no way belong to me," said Mr. Twist more
patiently. "They're my friends."

"Oh. Friends, are they? Then p'raps you'll tell me what you're going to
do with them next."

"Do with them?" repeated Mr. Twist, as he stared with puckered brow at
the twins. "That's exactly what I wish I knew."

The official scanned him from head to foot with triumphant contempt. He
had got one of them, anyhow. He felt quite refreshed already. There had
been a slump in sinners the past week, and he was as full of suppressed
energy and as much tormented by it as an unexercised and overfed horse.
"Step this way," he ordered curtly, waving Mr. Twist towards a wooden
erection that was apparently an office. "Oh, don't you worry about the
girls," he added, as his prey seemed disinclined to leave them.

But Mr. Twist did worry. He saw Ellis Island looming up behind the two
figures that were looking on in an astonishment that had not yet had
time to turn into dismay as he was marched off out of sight. "I'll be
back in a minute," he called over his shoulder.

"That's as may be," remarked the official grimly.

But he was back; if not in a minute in a little more than five minutes,
still accompanied by the official, but an official magically changed
into tameness and amiability, desirous to help, instructing his
inferiors to carry Mr. Twist's and the young ladies' baggage to a taxi.

It was the teapot that had saved him,--that blessed teapot that was
always protruding itself benevolently into his life. Mr. Twist had
identified himself with it, and it had instantly saved him. In the
shelter of his teapot Mr. Twist could go anywhere and do anything in
America. Everybody had it. Everybody knew it. It was as pervasive of
America as Ford's cars, but cosily, quietly pervasive. It was only less
visible because it stayed at home. It was more like a wife than Ford's
cars were. From a sinner caught red-handed, Mr. Twist, its amiable
creator, leapt to the position of one who can do no wrong, for he had
not only placed his teapot between himself and judgment but had
accompanied his proofs of identity by a suitable number of dollar bills,
pressed inconspicuously into the official's conveniently placed hand.

The twins found themselves being treated with distinction. They were
helped into the taxi by the official himself, and what was to happen to
them next was left entirely to the decision and discretion of Mr.
Twist--a man so much worried that at that moment he hadn't any of
either. He couldn't even answer when asked where the taxi was to go to.
He had missed his train, and he tried not to think of his mother's
disappointment, the thought was so upsetting. But he wouldn't have
caught it if he could, for how could he leave these two poor children?

"I'm more than ever convinced," he said, pushing his hat still further
off his forehead, and staring at the back of the Twinkler trunks piled
up in front of him next to the driver, while the disregarded official at
the door still went on asking him where he wished the cab to go to,
"that children should all have parents."




CHAPTER XI


The hotel they were finally sent to by the official, goaded at
last by Mr. Twist's want of a made-up mind into independent
instructions to the cabman, was the Ritz. He thought this very
suitable for the evolver of Twist's Non-Trickler, and it was only
when they were being rushed along at what the twins, used to the
behaviour of London taxis and not altogether unacquainted with
the prudent and police-supervised deliberation of the taxis of
Berlin, regarded as a skid-collision-and-mutilation-provoking
speed, that a protest from Anna-Rose conveyed to Mr. Twist where
they were heading for.

"An hotel called Ritz sounds very expensive," she said. "I've heard
Uncle Arthur talk of one there is in London and one there is in Paris,
and he said that only damned American millionaires could afford to stay
in them. Anna-Felicitas and me aren't American millionaires--"

"Or damned," put in Anna-Felicitas.

"--but quite the contrary," said Anna-Rose, "hadn't you better take us
somewhere else?"

"Somewhere like where the Brontes stayed in London," said Anna-Felicitas
harping on this idea. "Where cheapness is combined with historical
associations."

"Oh Lord, it don't matter," said Mr. Twist, who for the first time in
their friendship seemed ruffled.

"Indeed it does," said Anna-Rose anxiously.

"You forget we've got to husband our resources," said Anna-Felicitas.

"You mustn't run away with the idea that because we've got £200 we're
the same as millionaires," said Anna-Rose.

"Uncle Arthur," said Anna-Felicitas, "frequently told us that £200 is a
very vast sum; but he equally frequently told us that it isn't."

"It was when he was talking about having given to us that he said it was
such a lot," said Anna-Rose.

"He said that as long as we had it we would be rich," said
Anna-Felicitas, "but directly we hadn't it we would be poor."

"So we'd rather not go to the Ritz, please," said Anna-Rose, "if you
don't mind."

The taxi was stopped, and Mr. Twist got out and consulted the driver.
The thought of his Uncle Charles as a temporary refuge for the twins
floated across his brain, but was rejected because Uncle Charles would
speak to no woman under fifty except from his pulpit, and approached
those he did speak to with caution till they were sixty. He regarded
them as one of the chief causes of modern unrest. He liked them so much
that he hated them. He could practise abstinence, but not temperance.
Uncle Charles was no good as a refuge.

"Well now, see here," said the driver at last, after Mr. Twist had
rejected such varied suggestions of something small and quiet as the
Waldorf-Astoria, the Plaza and the Biltmore, "you tell me where you want
to go to and I'll take you there."

"I want to go to the place your mother would stay in if she came up for
a day or two from the country," said Mr. Twist helplessly.

"Get right in then, and I'll take you back to the Ritz," said the
driver.

But finally, when his contempt for Mr. Twist, of whose identity he was
unaware, had grown too great even for him to bandy pleasantries with
him, he did land his party at an obscure hotel in a street off the less
desirable end of Fifth Avenue, and got rid of him.

It was one of those quiet and cheap New York hotels that yet are both
noisy and expensive. It was full of foreigners,--real foreigners, the
twins perceived, not the merely technical sort like themselves, but
people with yellow faces and black eyes. They looked very seedy and
shabby, and smoked very much, and talked volubly in unknown tongues. The
entrance hall, a place of mottled marble, with clerks behind a counter
all of whose faces looked as if they were masks, was thick with them;
and it was when they turned to stare and whisper as Anna-Felicitas
passed and Anna-Rose was thinking proudly, "Yes, you don't see anything
like that every day, do you," and herself looked fondly at her Columbus,
that she saw that it wasn't Columbus's beauty at all but the sulphur on
the back of her skirt.

This spoilt Anna-Rose's arrival in New York. All the way up in the lift
to the remote floor on which their bedroom was she was trying to brush
it off, for the dress was Anna-F.'s very best one.

"That's all your grips, ain't it?" said the youth in buttons who had
come up with them, dumping their bags down on the bedroom floor.

"Our what?" said Anna-Rose, to whom the expression was new. "Do you mean
our bags?"

"No. Grips. These here," said the youth.

"Is that what they're called in America?" asked Anna-Felicitas, with the
intelligent interest of a traveller determined to understand and
appreciate everything, while Anna-Rose, still greatly upset by the
condition of the best skirt but unwilling to expatiate upon it before
the youth, continued to brush her down as best she could with her
handkerchief.

"I don't call them. It's what they are," said the youth. "What I want to
know is, are they all here?"

"How interesting that you don't drop your h's," said Anna-Felicitas,
gazing at him. "The rest of you is so _like_ no h's."

The youth said nothing to that, the line of thought being one he didn't
follow.

"Those _are_ all our--grips, I think," said Anna-Rose counting them
round the corner of Anna-Felicitas's skirt. "Thank you very much," she
added after a pause, as he still lingered.

But this didn't cause him to disappear as it would have in England.
Instead, he picked up a metal bottle with a stopper off the table, and
shook it and announced that their ice-water bottle was empty. "Want some
ice water?" he inquired.

"What for?" asked Anna-Felicitas.

"What for?" echoed the youth.

"Thank you," said Anna-Rose, who didn't care about the youth's manner
which seemed to her familiar, "we don't want ice water, but we should be
glad of a little hot water."

"You'll get all you want of that in there," said the youth, jerking his
head towards a door that led into a bathroom. "It's ice water and ink
that you get out of me."

"Really?" said Anna-Felicitas, gazing at him with even more intelligent
interest, almost as if she were prepared, it being America, a country,
she had heard, of considerable mechanical ingenuity, to find his person
bristling with taps which only needed turning.

"We don't want either, thank you," said Anna-Rose.

The youth lingered. Anna-Rose's brushing began to grow vehement. Why
didn't he go? She didn't want to have to be rude to him and hurt his
feelings by asking him to go, but why didn't he? Anna-Felicitas, who was
much too pleasantly detached, thought Anna-Rose, for such a situation,
the door being wide open to the passage and the ungetridable youth
standing there staring, was leisurely taking off her hat and smoothing
her hair.

"Suppose you're new to this country," said the youth after a pause.

"Brand," said Anna-Felicitas pleasantly.

"Then p'raps," said the youth, "you don't know that the feller who
brings up your grips gets a tip."

"Of course we know that," said Anna-Rose, standing up straight and
trying to look stately.

"Then if you know why don't you do it?"

"Do it?" she repeated, endeavouring to chill him into respectfulness by
haughtily throwing back her head. "Of course we shall do it. At the
proper time and place."

"Which is, as you must have noticed," added Anna-Felicitas gently,
"departure and the front door."

"That's all right," said the youth, "but that's only one of the times
and places. That's the last one. Where we've got to now is the first
one."

"Do I understand," said Anna-Rose, trying to be very dignified, while
her heart shrank within her, for what sort of sum did one offer people
like this?--"that to America one tips at the beginning as well?"

"Yep," said the youth. "And in the middle too. Right along through.
Never miss an opportunity, is as good a slogan as you'll get when it
comes to tipping."

"I believe you'd have liked Kipps," said Anna-Felicitas meditatively,
shaking some dust off her hat and remembering the orgy of tipping that
immortal young man went in for at the seaside hotel.

"What I like now," said the youth, growing more easy before their
manifest youth and ignorance, "is tips. Guess you can call it Kipps if
it pleases you."

Anna-Rose began to fumble nervously in her purse "It's horrid, I think,
to ask for presents," she said to the youth in deep humiliation, more on
his account than hers.

"Presents? I'm not asking for presents. I'm telling you what's done,"
said the youth. And he had spots on his face. And he was repugnant to
her.

Anna-Rose gave him what looked like a shilling. He took it, and
remarking that he had had a lot of trouble over it, went away; and
Anna-Rose was still flushed by this encounter when Mr. Twist knocked and
asked if they were ready to be taken down to tea.

"He might have said thank you," she said indignantly to Anna-Felicitas,
giving a final desperate brushing to the sulphur.

"I expect he'll come to a bad end," said Anna-Felicitas soothingly.

They had tea in the restaurant and were the only people doing such a
thing, a solitary cluster in a wilderness of empty tables laid for
dinner. It wasn't the custom much in America, explained Mr. Twist, to
have tea, and no preparations were made for it in hotels of that sort.
The very waiters, feeling it was a meal to be discouraged, were showing
their detachment from it by sitting in a corner of the room playing
dominoes. It was a big room, all looking-glasses and windows, and the
street outside was badly paved and a great noise of passing motor-vans
came in and drowned most of what Mr. Twist was saying. It was an
unlovely place, a place in which one might easily feel homesick and that
the world was empty of affection, if one let oneself go that way. The
twins wouldn't. They stoutly refused, in their inward recesses, to be
daunted by these externals. For there was Mr. Twist, their friend and
stand-by, still with them, and hadn't they got each other? But they felt
uneasy all the same; for Mr. Twist, though he plied them with buttered
toast and macaroons and was as attentive as usual, had a somnambulatory
quality in his attention. He looked like a man who is doing things in a
dream. He looked like one who is absorbed in something else. His
forehead still was puckered, and what could it be puckered about, seeing
that he had got home, and was going back to his mother, and had a clear
and uncomplicated future ahead of him, and anyhow was a man?

"Have you got something on your mind?" asked Anna-Rose at last, when he
hadn't even heard a question she asked,--he, the polite, the interested,
the sympathetic friend of the journey across.

Mr. Twist, sitting tilted back in his chair, his hands deep in his
pockets, looked up from the macaroons he had been staring at and said,
"Yes."

"Tell us what it is," suggested Anna-Felicitas.

"You," said Mr. Twist.

"Me?"

"Both of you. You both of you go together. You're in one lump in my
mind. And on it too," finished Mr. Twist ruefully.

"That's only because," explained Anna-Felicitas, "you've got the idea
we want such a lot of taking care of. Get rid of that, and you'll feel
quite comfortable again. Why not regard us merely as pleasant friends?"

Mr. Twist looked at her in silence.

"Not as objects to be protected," continued Anna Felicitas, "but as
co-equals. Of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting."

Mr. Twist continued to look at her in silence.

"We didn't come to America to be on anybody's mind," said Anna-Rose,
supporting Anna-Felicitas.

"We had a good deal of that in England," said Anna-Felicitas. "For
instance, we're quite familiar with Uncle Arthur's mind, we were on it
so heavily and so long."

"It's our fixed determination," said Anna-Rose, "now that we're starting
a new life, to get off any mind we find ourselves on _instantly_."

"We wish to carve out our own destinies," said Anna-Felicitas.

"We more than wish to," corrected Anna-Rose, "we intend to. What were we
made in God's image for if it wasn't to stand upright on our own feet?"

"Anna-Rose and I had given this a good deal of thought," said
Anna-Felicitas, "first and last, and we're prepared to be friends with
everybody, but only as co-equals and of a reasonable soul and human
flesh subsisting."

"I don't know exactly," said Mr. Twist, "what that means, but it seems
to give you a lot of satisfaction."

"It does. It's out of the Athanasian Creed, and suggests such perfect
equality. If you'll regard us as co-equals instead of as objects to be
looked after, you'll see how happy we shall all be."

"Not," said Anna-Rose, growing tender, for indeed in her heart she
loved and clung to Mr. Twist, "that we haven't very much liked all
you've done for us and the way you were so kind to us on the
boat,--we've been _most_ obliged to you, and we shall miss you very much
indeed, I know."

"But we'll get over that of course in time," put in Anna-Felicitas, "and
we've got to start life now in earnest."

"Well then," said Mr. Twist, "will you two Annas kindly tell me what it
is you propose to do next?"

"Next? After tea? Go and look at the sights."

"I mean to-morrow," said Mr. Twist.

"To-morrow," said Anna-Rose, "we proceed to Boston."

"To track the Clouston Sacks to their lair," said Anna-Felicitas.

"Ah. You've made up your minds to do that. They've behaved abominably,"
said Mr. Twist.

"Perhaps they missed the train," said Anna-Felicitas mildly.

"It's the proper course to pursue," said Anna-Rose. "To proceed to
Boston."

"I suppose it is," said Mr. Twist, again thinking that the really proper
and natural course was for him to have been able to take them to his
mother. Pity one's mother wasn't--

He pulled himself up on the brink of an unfiliality. He was on the verge
of thinking it a pity one's mother wasn't a different one.




CHAPTER XII


"Then," said Mr. Twist, "if this is all you're going to see of New York,
this one evening, let us go and look at it."

He beckoned to the waiter who came up with the bill. Anna-Rose pulled
out her purse. Mr. Twist put up his hand with severe determination.

"You're my guest," he said, "as long as I am with you. Useless to
protest, young lady. You'll not get me to belie my American manhood. I
only listened with half an ear to all the things you both said in the
taxi, because I hadn't recovered from the surprise of finding myself
still with you instead of on the train for Clark, and because you both
of you do say so very many things. But understand once and for all that
in this country everything female has to be paid for by some man. I'm
that man till I've left you on the Sack doorstep, and then it'll be
Sack--confound him," finished Mr. Twist suddenly.

And he silenced Anna-Rose's protests, which persisted and were
indignant, by turning on her with, an irascibility she hadn't yet seen
in him, and inquiring of her whether then she really wished to put him
to public shame? "You wouldn't wish to go against an established custom,
surely," he said more gently.

So the twins gave themselves up for that one evening to what
Anna-Felicitas called government by wealth, otherwise plutocracy, while
reserving complete freedom of action in regard to Mr. Sack, who was, in
their ignorance of his circumstances, an unknown quantity. They might
be going to be mothers' helps in the Sack _ménage_ for all they
knew,--they might, they said, be going to be anything, from honoured
guests to typists.

"Can you type?" asked Mr. Twist.

"No," said the twins.

He took them in a taxi to Riverside Drive, and then they walked down to
the charming footpath that runs along by the Hudson for three enchanting
miles. The sun had set some time before they got there, and had left a
clear pale yellow sky, and a wonderful light on the river. Lamps were
being lit, and hung like silver globes in the thin air. Steep grass
slopes, and groups of big trees a little deeper yellow than the sky, hid
that there were houses and a street above them on their right. Up and
down the river steamers passed, pierced with light, their delicate smoke
hanging in the air long after they had gone their way. It was so great a
joy to walk in all this after ten days shut up on the _St. Luke_ and to
see such blessed things as grass and leaves again, that the twins felt
suddenly extraordinarily brisked up and cheerful. It was impossible not
to be cheerful, translated from the _St. Luke_ into such a place,
trotting along in the peculiar dry air that made one all tingly.

The world seemed suddenly quite good,--the simplest, easiest of objects
to tackle. All one had to do was not to let it weigh on one, to laugh
rather than cry. They trotted along humming bits of their infancy's
songs, feeling very warm and happy inside, felicitously full of tea and
macaroons and with their feet comfortably on something that kept still
and didn't heave or lurch beneath them. Mr. Twist, too, was gayer than
he had been for some hours. He seemed relieved; and he was. He had sent
a telegram to his mother, expressing proper sorrow at being detained in
New York, but giving no reason for it, and promising he would be with
her rather late the next evening; and he had sent a telegram to the
Clouston Sacks saying the Twinklers, who had so unfortunately missed
them in New York, would arrive in Boston early next afternoon. His mind
was clear again owing to the determination of the twins to go to the
Sacks. He was going to take them there, hand them over, and then go back
to Clark, which fortunately was only three hours' journey from Boston.

If the twins had shown a disinclination to go after the Sacks who, in
Mr. Twist's opinion, had behaved shamefully already, he wouldn't have
had the heart to press them to go; and then what would he have done with
them? Their second and last line of defence, supposing they had
considered the Sacks had failed and were to be ruled out, was in
California, a place they spoke of as if it were next door to Boston and
New York. How could he have let them set out alone on that four days'
journey, with the possibility of once more at its end not being met? No
wonder he had been abstracted at tea. He was relieved to the extent of
his forehead going quite smooth again at their decision to proceed to
the Sacks. For he couldn't have taken them to his mother without
preparation and explanation, and he couldn't have left them in New York
while he went and prepared and explained. Great, reflected Mr. Twist,
the verb dropping into his mind with the _aplomb_ of an inspiration, are
the difficulties that beset a man directly he begins to twinkle. Already
he had earnestly wished to knock the reception clerk in the hotel office
down because of, first, his obvious suspicion of the party before he had
heard Mr. Twist's name, and because of, second, his politeness, his
confidential manner as of an understanding sympathizer with a rich man's
recreations, when he had. The tea, which he, had poured out of one of
his own teapots, had been completely spoilt by the knowledge that it was
only this teapot that had saved him from being treated as a White Slave
Trafficker. He wouldn't have got into that hotel at all with the
Twinklers, or into any other decent one, except for his teapot. What a
country, Mr. Twist had thought, fresh from his work in France, fresh
from where people were profoundly occupied with the great business of
surviving at all. Here he came back from a place where civilization
toppled, where deadly misery, deadly bravery, heroism that couldn't be
uttered, staggered month after month among ruins, and found America
untouched, comfortable, fat, still with time to worry over the suspected
amorousness of the rich, still putting people into uniforms in order to
buttonhole a man on landing and cross-question him as to his private
purities.

He had been much annoyed, but he too couldn't resist the extreme
pleasure of real exercise on such a lovely evening, nor could he resist
the infection of the cheerfulness of the Twinklers. They walked along,
talking and laughing, and seeming to walk much faster than he did,
especially Anna-Rose who had to break into a run every few steps because
of his so much longer legs, his face restored to all its usual
kindliness as he listened benevolently to their remarks, and just when
they were beginning to feel as if they soon might be tired and hungry a
restaurant with lamp-hung gardens appeared as punctually as if they had
been in Germany, that land of nicely arranged distances between meals.
They had an extremely cheerful little supper out of doors, with things
to eat that thrilled the Twinklers in their delicious strangeness;
heavenly food, they thought it after the rigours of the second-class
cooking on the _St. Luke_, and the biggest ices they had seen in their
lives,--great dollops of pink and yellow divineness.

Then Mr. Twist took them in a taxi to look at the illuminated
advertisements in Broadway, and they forgot everything but the joy of
the moment. Whatever the next day held, this evening was sheer
happiness. Their eyes shone and their cheeks flushed, and Mr. Twist was
quite worried that they were so pretty. People at the other tables at
the restaurant had stared at them with frank admiration, and so did the
people in the streets whenever the taxi was blocked. On the ship he had
only sometimes been aware of it,--there would come a glint of sunshine
and settle on Anna-Rose's little cheek where the dimple was, or he would
lift his eyes from the Culture book and suddenly see the dark softness
of Anna-Felicitas's eyelashes as she slept in her chair. But now,
dressed properly, and in their dryland condition of cheerful animation,
he perceived that they were very pretty indeed, and that Anna-Felicitas
was more than very pretty. He couldn't help thinking they were a most
unsuitable couple to be let loose in America with only two hundred
pounds to support them. Two hundred pounds was just enough to let them
slip about if it should enter their heads to slip about,--go off without
explanation, for instance, if they wanted to leave the Clouston
Sacks,--but of course ridiculous as a serious background to life. A girl
should either have enough money or be completely dependent on her male
relations. As a girl was usually young reflected Mr. Twist, his
spectacles with the Broadway lights in them blazing on the two
specimens opposite him, it was safest for her to be dependent. So were
her actions controlled, and kept within the bounds of wisdom.

And next morning, as he sat waiting for the twins for breakfast at ten
o'clock according to arrangement the night before, their grape-fruit in
little beds of ice on their plates and every sort of American dish
ordered, from griddle cakes and molasses to chicken pie, a page came in
with loud cries for Mr. Twist, which made him instantly conspicuous--a
thing he particularly disliked--and handed him a letter.

The twins had gone.




CHAPTER XIII


They had left early that morning for Boston, determined, as they wrote,
no longer to trespass on his kindness. There had been a discussion in
their bedroom the night before when they got back in which Anna-Rose
supplied the heat and Anna-Felicitas the arguments, and it ended in
Anna-Felicitas succeeding in restoring Anna-Rose to her original
standpoint of proud independence, from which, lured by the comfort and
security of Mr. Twist's companionship, she had been inclined to slip.

It took some time, because of Anna-Rose being the eldest. Anna-Felicitas
had had to be as wary, and gentle, and persistently affectionate as a
wife whom necessity compels to try and get reason into her husband.
Anna-Rose's feathers, even as the feathers of a husband, bristled at the
mere breath of criticism of her superior intelligence and wisdom. She
was the leader of the party, the head and guide, the one who had the
dollars in her pocket, and being the eldest naturally must know best.
Besides, she was secretly nervous about taking Anna-Felicitas about
alone. She too had observed the stares of the public, and had never
supposed that any of them might be for her. How was she to get to Boston
successfully with so enchanting a creature, through all the
complications of travel in an unknown country, without the support and
counsel of Mr. Twist? Just the dollars and quarters and dimes and cents
cowed her. The strangeness of everything, while it delighted her so
long as she could peep at it from behind Mr. Twist, appalled her the
minute she was left alone with it. America seemed altogether a foreign
country, a strange place whose inhabitants by accident didn't talk in a
strange language. They talked English; or rather what sounded like
English till you found that it wasn't really.

But Anna-Felicitas prevailed. She had all Anna-Rose's inborn horror of
accepting money or other benefits from people who had no natural right
to exercise their benevolences upon her, to appeal to. Christopher,
after long wrestling restored at last to pride, did sit down and write
the letter that so much spoilt Mr. Twist's breakfast next morning, while
Columbus slouched about the room suggesting sentences.

It was a letter profuse in thanks for all Mr. Twist had done for them,
and couched in language that betrayed the particular share
Anna-Felicitas had taken in the plan; for though they both loved long
words Anna-Felicitas's were always a little the longer. In rolling
sentences that made Mr. Twist laugh in spite of his concern, they
pointed out that his first duty was to his mother, and his second was
not to squander his possessions in paying the hotel and railway bills of
persons who had no sort of claim on him, except those general claims of
humanity which he had already on the _St. Luke_ so amply discharged.
They would refrain from paying their hotel bill, remembering his words
as to the custom of the country, though their instincts were altogether
against this course, but they could and would avoid causing him the
further expense and trouble and waste of his no doubt valuable time of
taking them to Boston, by the simple process of going there without him.
They promised to write from the Sacks and let him know of their arrival
to the address at Clark he had given them, and they would never forget
him as long as they lived and remained his very sincerely, A.-R., and
A.-F. Twinkler.

Mr. Twist hurried out to the office.

The clerk who had been so confidential in his manner the evening before
looked at him curiously. Yes, the young ladies had left on the 8.15 for
Boston. They had come downstairs, baggage and all, at seven o'clock, had
asked for a taxi, had said they wished to go to Boston, inquired about
the station, etc., and had specially requested that Mr. Twist should not
be disturbed.

"They seemed in a slight hurry to be off," said the clerk, "and didn't
like there being no train before the 8.15. I thought you knew all about
it, Mr. Twist," he added inquisitively.

"So I did--so I did," said Mr. Twist, turning away to go back to his
breakfast for three.

"So he did--so he did," muttered the clerk with a wink to the other
clerk; and for a few minutes they whispered, judging from the
expressions on their faces, what appeared to be very exciting things to
each other.

Meanwhile the twins, after a brief struggle of extraordinary intensity
at the station in getting their tickets, trying to understand the black
man who seized and dealt with their luggage, and closely following him
wherever he went in case he should disappear, were sitting in a state of
relaxation and relief in the Boston express, their troubles over for at
least several hours.

The black porter, whose heart happened not to be black and who had
children of his own, perceived the helpless ignorance that lay behind
the twins' assumption a of severe dignity, and took them in hand and
got seats for them in the parlour car. As they knew nothing about cars,
parlour or otherwise, but had merely and quite uselessly reiterated to
the booking-clerk, till their porter intervened, that they wanted
third-class tickets, they accepted these seats, thankful in the press
and noise round them to get anything so roomy and calm as these
dignified arm-chairs; and it wasn't till they had been in them some
time, their feet on green footstools, with attendants offering them
fruit and chocolates and magazines at intervals just as if they had been
in heaven, as Anna-Felicitas remarked admiringly, that counting their
money they discovered what a hole the journey had made in it. But they
were too much relieved at having accomplished so much on their own,
quite uphelped for the first time since leaving Aunt Alice, to take it
particularly to heart; and, as Anna-Felicitas said, there was still the
£200, and, as Anna-Rose said, it wasn't likely they'd go in a train
again for ages; and anyhow, as Anna-Felicitas said, whatever it had cost
they were bound to get away from being constant drains on Mr. Twist's
purse.

The train journey delighted them. To sit so comfortably and privately in
chairs that twisted round, so that if a passenger should start staring
at Anna-Felicitas one could make her turn her back altogether on him; to
have one's feet on footstools when they were the sort of feet that don't
reach the ground; to see the lovely autumn country flying past, hills
and woods and fields and gardens golden in the October sun, while the
horrible Atlantic was nowhere in sight; to pass through towns so queerly
reminiscent of English and German towns shaken up together and yet not a
bit like either; to be able to have the window wide open without
getting soot in one's eyes because one of the ministering angels--clad,
this one, appropriately to heaven, in white, though otherwise
black--pulled up the same sort of wire screen they used to have in the
windows at home to keep out the mosquitoes; to imitate about twelve,
when they grew bold because they were so hungry, the other passengers
and cause the black angel to spread a little table between them and
bring clam broth, which they ordered in a spirit of adventure and
curiosity and concealed from each other that they didn't like; to have
the young man who passed up and down with the candy, and whose mouth was
full of it, grow so friendly that he offered them toffee from his own
private supply at last when they had refused regretfully a dozen
suggestions to buy--"Have a bit," he said, thrusting it under their
noses. "As a gentleman to ladies--no pecuniary obligations--come on,
now;" all this was to the twins too interesting and delightful for
words.

They accepted the toffee in the spirit in which it was offered, and
since nobody can eat somebody's toffee without being pleasant in return,
intermittent amenities passed between them and the young man as he
journeyed up and down through the cars.

"First visit to the States?" he inquired, when with some reluctance, for
presently it appeared to the twins that the clam broth and the toffee
didn't seem to be liking each other now they had got together inside
them, and also for fear of hurting his feelings if they refused, they
took some more.

They nodded and smiled stickily.

"English, I guess."

They hesitated, covering their hesitation with the earnest working of
their toffee-filled jaws.

Then Anna-Felicitas, her cheek distorted, gave him the answer she had
given the captain of the _St. Luke,_ and said, "Practically."

"Ah," said the young man, turning this over in his mind, the r in
"practically" having rolled as no English or American r ever did; but
the conductor appearing in the doorway he continued on his way.

"It's evident," said Anna-Rose, speaking with difficulty, for her jaws
clave together because of the toffee, "that we're going to be asked that
the first thing every time a fresh person speaks to us. We'd better
decide what we're going to say, and practise saying it without
hesitation."

Anna-Felicitas made a sound of assent.

"That answer of yours about practically," continued Anna-Rose,
swallowing her bit of toffee by accident and for one moment afraid it
would stick somewhere and make her die, "causes first surprise, then
reflection, and then suspicion."

"But," said Anna-Felicitas after a pause during which she had
disentangled her jaws, "it's going to be difficult to say one is German
when America seems to be so very neutral and doesn't like Germans.
Besides, it's only in the eye of the law that we are. In God's eye we're
not, and that's the principal eye after all."

Her own eyes grew thoughtful. "I don't believe," she said, "that parents
when they marry have any idea of all the difficulties they're going to
place their children in."

"I don't believe they think about it at all," said Anna-Rose. "I mean,"
she added quickly, lest she should be supposed to be questioning the
perfect love and forethought of their mother, "fathers don't."

They were silent a little after this, each thinking things tinged to
sobriety by the effect of the inner conflict going on between the clam
broth and the toffee. Also Boston was rushing towards them, and the
Clouston Sacks. Quite soon they would have to leave the peaceful
security of the train and begin to be active again, and quick and
clever. Anna-Felicitas, who was slow, found it difficult ever to be
clever till about the week after, and Anna-Rose, who was impetuous, was
so impetuous that she entirely outstripped her scanty store of
cleverness and landed panting and surprised in situations she hadn't an
idea what to do with. The Clouston Sacks, now--Aunt Alice had said, "You
must take care to be very tactful with Mr. and Mrs. Clouston Sack;" and
when Anna-Rose, her forehead as much puckered as Mr. Twist's in her
desire to get exactly at what tactful was in order to be able diligently
to be it, asked for definitions, Aunt Alice only said it was what
gentlewomen were instinctively.

"Then," observed Anna-Felicitas, when on nearing Boston Anna-Rose
repeated Aunt Alice's admonishment and at the same time provided
Anna-Felicitas for her guidance with the definition, "seeing that we're
supposed to be gentlewomen, all we've got to do is to behave according
to our instincts."

But Anna-Rose wasn't sure. She doubted their instincts, especially
Anna-Felicitas's. She thought her own were better, being older, but even
hers were extraordinarily apt to develop in unexpected directions
according to the other person's behaviour. Her instinct, for instance,
when engaged by Uncle Arthur in conversation had usually been to hit
him. Was that tact? Yet she knew she was a gentlewoman. She had heard
that, since first she had heard words at all, from every servant,
teacher, visitor and relation--except her mother--in her Prussian home.
Indeed, over there she had been told she was more than a gentlewoman,
for she was a noblewoman and therefore her instincts ought positively to
drip tact.

"Mr. Dodson," Aunt Alice had said one afternoon towards the end, when
the twins came in from a walk and found the rector having tea, "says
that you can't be too tactful in America. He's been there."

"Sensitive--sensitive," said Mr. Dodson, shaking his head at his cup.
"Splendidly sensitive, just as they are splendidly whatever else they
are. A great country. Everything on a vast scale, including
sensitiveness. It has to be met vastly. But quite easy really---" He
raised a pedagogic finger at the twins. "You merely add half as much
again to the quantity of your tact as the quantity you encounter of
their sensitiveness, and it's all right."

"Be sure you remember that now," said Aunt Alice, pleased.

As Boston got nearer, Anna-Rose, trying to learn Mr. Dodson's recipe for
social success by heart, became more silent. On the ship, when the
meeting with the Sacks was imminent, she had fled in sudden panic to her
cabin to hide from them. That couldn't have been tact. But it was
instinct. And she was a gentlewoman. Now once again dread took
possession of her and she wanted to hide, not to get there, to stay in
the train and go on and on. She said nothing, of course, of her dread to
Anna-Felicitas in order not to undermine that young person's _morale_,
but she did very much wish that principles weren't such important things
and one needn't have cut oneself off from the protecting figure of Mr.
Twist.

"Now remember what Aunt Alice said," she whispered severely to
Anna-Felicitas, gripping her arm as they stood jammed in the narrow
passage to the door waiting to be let out at Boston.

On the platform, they both thought, would be the Sacks,--certainly one
Sack, and they had feverishly made themselves tidy and composed their
faces into pleasant smiles preparatory to the meeting. But once again no
Sacks were there. The platform emptied itself just as the great hall of
the landing-stage had emptied itself, and nobody came to claim the
Twinklers.

"These Sacks," remarked Anna-Felicitas patiently at last, when it was
finally plain that there weren't any, "don't seem to have acquired the
meeting habit."

"No," said Anna-Rose, vexed but relieved. "They're like what Aunt Alice
used to complain about the housemaids,--neither punctual nor
methodical."

"But it doesn't matter," said Anna-Felicitas. "They shall not escape us.
I'm getting quite hungry for the Sacks as a result of not having them.
We will now proceed to track them to their lair."

For one instant Anna-Rose looked longingly at the train. It was still
there. It was going on further and further away from the Sacks. Happy
train. One little jump, and they'd be in it again. But she resisted, and
engaged a porter.

Even as soon as this the twins were far less helpless than they had been
the day before. The Sack address was in Anna-Rose's hand, and they knew
what an American porter looked like. The porter and a taxi were engaged
with comparative ease and assurance, and on giving the porter, who had
staggered beneath the number of their grips, a dime, and seeing a cloud
on his face, they doubled it instantly sooner than have trouble, and
trebled it equally quickly on his displaying yet further
dissatisfaction, and they departed for the Sacks, their grips piled up
round them in the taxi as far as their chins, congratulating themselves
on how much easier it was to get away from a train than to get into one.

But the minute their activities were over and they had time to think,
silence fell upon them again. They were both nervous. They both composed
their faces to indifference to hide that they were nervous, examining
the streets they passed through with a calm and _blasé_ stare worthy of
a lorgnette. It was the tact part of the coming encounter that was
chiefly unnerving Anna-Rose, and Anna-Felicitas was dejected by her
conviction that nobody who was a friend of Uncle Arthur's could possibly
be agreeable. "By their friends ye shall know them," thought
Anna-Felicitas, staring out of the window at the Boston buildings. Also
the persistence of the Sacks in not being on piers and railway stations
was discouraging. There was no eagerness about this persistence; there
wasn't even friendliness. Perhaps they didn't like her and Anna-Rose
being German.

This was always the twins' first thought when anybody wasn't
particularly cordial. Their experiences in England had made them a
little jumpy. They were conscious of this weak spot, and like a hurt
finger it seemed always to be getting in the way and being knocked.
Anna-Felicitas once more pondered on the inscrutable behaviour of
Providence which had led their mother, so safely and admirably English,
to leave that blessed shelter and go and marry somebody who wasn't. Of
course there was this to be said for it, that she wasn't their mother
then. If she had been, Anna-Felicitas felt sure she wouldn't have. Then,
perceiving that her thoughts were getting difficult to follow she gave
them up, and slid her hand through Anna-Rose's arm and gave it a
squeeze.

"Now for the New World, Christopher," she said, pretending to be very
eager and brave and like the real Columbus, as the taxi stopped.




CHAPTER XIV


The taxi had stopped in front of a handsome apartment house, and almost
before it was quiet a boy in buttons darted out across the intervening
wide pavement and thrust his face through the window.

"Who do you want?" he said, or rather jerked out.

He then saw the contents of the taxi, and his mouth fell open; for it
seemed to him that grips and passengers were piled up inside it in a
seething mass.

"We want Mr. and Mrs. Clouston Sack," said Anna-Rose in her most
grown-up voice. "They're expecting us."

"They ain't," said the boy promptly.

"They ain't?" repeated Anna-Rose, echoing his language in her surprise.

"How do you know?" asked Anna-Felicitas.

"That they ain't? Because they ain't," said the boy. "I bet you my
Sunday shirt they ain't."

The twins stared at him. They were not accustomed in their conversations
with the lower classes to be talked to about shirts.

The boy seemed extraordinarily vital. His speech was so quick that it
flew out with the urgency and haste of squibs going off.

"Please open the door," said Anna-Rose recovering herself. "We'll go up
and see for ourselves."

"You won't see," said the boy.

"Kindly open the door," repeated Anna-Rose.

"You won't see," he said, pulling it open, "but you can look. If you do
see Sacks up there I'm a Hun."

The minute the door opened, grips fell out. There were two umbrellas,
two coats, a knapsack of a disreputable bulged appearance repugnant to
American ideas of baggage which run on big simple lines of huge trunks,
an _attaché_ case, a suit case, a hold-all, a basket and a hat-box.
Outside beside the driver were two such small and modest trunks that
they might almost as well have been grips themselves.

"Do you mind taking those in?" asked Anna-Rose, getting out with
difficulty over the umbrella that had fallen across the doorway, and
pointing to the gutter in which the other umbrella and the knapsack lay
and into which the basket, now that her body no longer kept it in, was
rolling.

"In where?" crackled the boy.

"In," said Anna-Rose severely. "In to wherever Mr. and Mrs. Clouston
Sack are."

"It's no good your saying they are when they ain't," said the boy,
increasing the loudness of his crackling.

"Do you mean they don't live here?" asked Anna-Felicitas, in her turn
disentangling herself from that which was still inside the taxi, and
immediately followed on to the pavement by the hold-all and the
_attaché_ case.

"They did live here till yesterday," said the boy, "but now they don't.
One does. But that's not the same as two. Which is what I meant when you
said they're expecting you and I said they ain't."

"Do you mean to say--" Anna-Rose stopped with a catch of her breath. "Do
you mean," she went on in an awe-struck voice, "that one of them--one of
them is dead?"

"Dead? Bless you, no. Anything but dead. The exact opposite. Gone.
Left. Got," said the boy.

"Oh," said Anna-Rose greatly relieved, passing over his last word, whose
meaning escaped her, "oh--you mean just gone to meet us. And missed us.
You see," she said, turning to Anna-Felicitas, "they did try to after
all."

Anna-Felicitas said nothing, but reflected that whichever Sack had tried
to must have a quite unusual gift for missing people.

"Gone to meet you?" repeated the boy, as one surprised by a new point of
view. "Well, I don't know about that--"

"We'll go up and explain," said Anna-Rose. "Is it Mr. or Mrs. Clouston
Sack who is here?"

"Mr.," said the boy.

"Very well then. Please bring in our things." And Anna-Rose proceeded,
followed by Anna-Felicitas, to walk into the house.

The boy, instead of bringing them in, picked up the articles lying on
the pavement and put them back again into the taxi. "No hurry about
them, I guess," he said to the driver. "Time enough to take them up when
the gurls ask again--" and he darted after the gurls to hand them over
to his colleague who worked what he called the elevator.

"Why do you call it the elevator," inquired Anna-Felicitas, mildly
inquisitive, of this boy, who on hearing that they wished to see Mr.
Sack stared at them with profound and unblinking interest all the way
up, "when it is really a lift?"

"Because it is an elevator," said the boy briefly.

"But we, you see," said Anna-Felicitas, "are equally convinced that it's
a lift."

The boy didn't answer this. He was as silent as the other one wasn't;
but there was a thrill about him too, something electric and tense. He
stared at Anna-Felicitas, then turned quickly and stared at Anna-Rose,
then quickly back to Anna-Felicitas, and so on all the way up. He was
obviously extraordinarily interested. He seemed to have got hold of an
idea that had not struck the squib-like boy downstairs, who was
entertaining the taxi-driver with descriptions of the domestic life of
the Sacks.

The lift stopped at what the twins supposed was going to be the door of
a landing or public corridor, but it was, they discovered, the actual
door of the Sack flat. At any moment the Sacks, if they wished to commit
suicide, could do so simply by stepping out of their own front door.
They would then fall, infinitely far, on to the roof of the lift lurking
at the bottom.

The lift-boy pressed a bell, the door opened, and there, at once exposed
to the twins, was the square hall of the Sack flat with a manservant
standing in it staring at them.

Obsessed by his idea, the lift-boy immediately stepped out of his lift,
approached the servant, introduced his passengers to him by saying,
"Young ladies to see Mr. Sack," took a step closer, and whispered in his
ear, but perfectly audibly to the twins who, however, regarded it as
some expression peculiarly American and were left unmoved by it, "The
co-respondents."

The servant stared uncertainly at them. His mistress had only been gone
a few hours, and the flat was still warm with her presence and
authority. She wouldn't, he well knew, have permitted co-respondents to
be about the place if she had been there, but on the other hand she
wasn't there. Mr. Sack was in sole possession now. Nobody knew where
Mrs. Sack was. Letters and telegrams lay on the table for her unopened,
among them Mr. Twist's announcing the arrival of the Twinklers. In his
heart the servant sided with Mr. Sack, but only in his heart, for the
servant's wife was the cook, and she, as she frequently explained, was
all for strict monogamy. He stared therefore uncertainly at the twins,
his brain revolving round their colossal impudence in coming there
before Mrs. Sack's rooms had so much as had time to get, as it were,
cold.

"We want to see Mr. Clouston Sack," began Anna-Rose in her clear little
voice; and no sooner did she begin to speak than a door was pulled open
and the gentleman himself appeared.

"I heard a noise of arrival--" he said, stopping suddenly when he saw
them. "I heard a noise of arrival, and a woman's voice--"

"It's us," said Anna-Rose, her face covering itself with the bright
conciliatory smiles of the arriving guest. "Are you Mr. Clouston Sack?"

She went up to him and held out her hand. They both went up to him and
held out their hands.

"We're the Twinklers," said Anna-Rose.

"We've come," said Anna-Felicitas, in case he shouldn't have noticed it.

Mr. Sack let his hand be shaken, and it was a moist hand. He looked like
a Gibson young man who has grown elderly. He had the manly profile and
shoulders, but they sagged and stooped. There was a dilapidation about
him, a look of blurred edges. His hair lay on his forehead in disorder,
and his tie had been put on carelessly and had wriggled up to the rim of
his collar.

"The Twinklers," he repeated. "The Twinklers. Do I remember, I wonder?"

"There hasn't been much time to forget," said Anna-Felicitas. "It's
less than two months since there were all those letters."

"Letters?" echoed Mr. Sack. "Letters?"

"So now we've got here," said Anna-Rose, the more brightly that she was
unnerved.

"Yes. We've come," said Anna-Felicitas, also with feverish brightness.

Bewildered, Mr. Sack, who felt that he had had enough to bear the last
few hours, stood staring at them. Then he caught sight of the lift-boy,
lingering and he further saw the expression on his servant's face Even
to his bewilderment it was clear what he was thinking.

Mr. Sack turned round quickly and led the way into the dining-room.
"Come in, come in," he said distractedly.

They went in. He shut the door. The lift-boy and the servant lingered a
moment making faces at each other; then the lift-boy dropped away in his
lift, and the servant retired to the kitchen. "I'm darned," was all he
could articulate. "I'm darned."

"There's our luggage," said Anna-Rose, turning to Mr. Sack on getting
inside the room, her voice gone a little shrill in her determined
cheerfulness. "Can it be brought up?"

"Luggage?" repeated Mr. Sack, putting his hand to his forehead. "Excuse
me, but I've got such a racking headache to-day--it makes me stupid--"

"Oh, I'm _very_ sorry," said Anna-Rose solicitously.

"And so am I--_very_," said Anna-Felicitas, equally solicitous. "Have
you tried aspirin? Sometimes some simple remedy like that--"

"Oh thank you--it's good of you, it's good of you. The effect, you see,
is that I can't think very clearly. But do tell me--why luggage?
Luggage--luggage. You mean, I suppose, baggage."

"Why luggage?" asked Anna-Rose nervously. "Isn't there--isn't there
always luggage in America too when people come to stay with one?"

"You've come to stay with me," said Mr. Sack, putting his hand to his
forehead again.

"You see," said Anna-Felicitas, "we're the Twinklers."

"Yes, yes--I know. You've told me that."

"So naturally we've come."

"But _is_ it natural?" asked Mr. Sack, looking at them distractedly.

"We sent you a telegram," said Anna-Rose, "or rather one to Mrs. Sack,
which is the same thing--"

"It isn't, it isn't," said the distressed Mr. Sack. "I wish it were. It
ought to be. Mrs. Sack isn't here--"

"Yes--we're very sorry to have missed her. Did she go to meet us in New
York, or where?"

"Mrs. Sack didn't go to meet you. She's--gone."

"Gone where?"

"Oh," cried Mr. Sack, "somewhere else, but not to meet you. Oh," he went
on after a moment in which, while the twins gazed at him, he fought with
and overcame emotion, "when I heard you speaking in the hall I
thought--I had a moment's hope--for a minute I believed--she had come
back. So I went out. Else I couldn't have seen you. I'm not fit to see
strangers--"

The things Mr. Sack said, and his fluttering, unhappy voice, were so
much at variance with the stern lines of his Gibson profile that the
twins viewed him with the utmost surprise. They came to no conclusion
and passed no judgment because they didn't know but what if one was an
American one naturally behaved like that.

"I don't think," said Anna-Felicitas gently, "that you can call us
strangers. We're the Twinklers."

"Yes, yes--I know--you keep on telling me that," said Mr. Sack. "But I
can't call to mind--"

"Don't you remember all Uncle Arthur's letters about us? We're the
nieces he asked you to be kind to for a bit--as I'm sure,"
Anna-Felicitas added politely, "you're admirably adapted for being."

Mr. Sack turned his bewildered eyes on to her. "Oh, aren't you a pretty
girl," he said, in the same distressed voice.

"You mustn't make her vain," said Anna-Rose, trying not to smile all
over her face, while Anna-Felicitas remained as manifestly unvain as a
person intent on something else would be.

"We know you got Uncle Arthur's letters about us," she continued,
"because he showed us your answers back. You invited us to come and stay
with you. And, as you perceive, we've done it."

"Then it must have been months ago--months ago," said Mr. Sack, "before
all this--do I remember something about it? I've had such trouble
since--I've been so distracted one way and another--it may have slipped
away out of my memory under the stress--Mrs. Sack--" He paused and
looked round the room helplessly. "Mrs. Sack--well, Mrs. Sack isn't here
now."

"We're _very_ sorry you've had trouble," said Anna-Felicitas
sympathetically. "It's what everybody has, though. Man that is born of
woman is full of misery. That's what the Burial Service says, and it
ought to know."

Mr. Sack again turned bewildered eyes on to her. "Oh, aren't you a
pretty--" he again began.

"When do you think Mrs. Sack will be back?" interrupted Anna-Rose.

"I wish I knew--I wish I could hope--but she's gone for a long while,
I'm afraid--"

"Gone not to come back at all, do you mean?" asked Anna-Felicitas.

Mr. Sack gulped. "I'm afraid that is her intention," he said miserably.

There was a silence, in which they all stood looking at each other.

"Didn't she like you?" then inquired Anna-Felicitas.

Anna-Rose, sure that this wasn't tactful, gave her sleeve a little pull.

"Were you unkind to her?" asked Anna-Felicitas, disregarding the
warning.

Mr. Sack, his fingers clasping and unclasping themselves behind his
back, started walking up and down the room. Anna-Felicitas, forgetful of
what Aunt Alice would have said, sat down on the edge of the table and
began to be interested in Mrs. Sack.

"The wives I've seen," she remarked, watching Mr. Sack with friendly and
interested eyes, "who were chiefly Aunt Alice--that's Uncle Arthur's
wife, the one we're the nieces of--seemed to put up with the utmost
contumely from their husbands and yet didn't budge. You must have been
something awful to yours."

"I worshipped Mrs. Sack," burst out Mr. Sack. "I worshipped her. I do
worship her. She was the handsomest, brightest woman in Boston. I was as
proud of her as any man has ever been of his wife."

"Then why did she go?" asked Anna-Felicitas.

"I don't think that's the sort of thing you should ask," rebuked
Anna-Rose.

"But if I don't ask I won't be told," said Ann Felicitas, "and I'm
interested."

"Mrs. Sack went because I was able--I was so constructed--that I could
be fond of other people as well as of her," said Mr. Sack.

"Well, _that's_ nothing unusual," said Anna-Felicitas.

"No," said Anna-Rose, "I don't see anything in that."

"I think it shows a humane and friendly spirit," said Anna-Felicitas.

"Besides, it's enjoined in the Bible," said Anna-Rose.

"I'm sure when we meet Mrs. Sack," said Anna-Felicitas very politely
indeed, "much as we expect to like her we shall nevertheless continue to
like other people as well. You, for instance. Will she mind that?"

"It wasn't so much that I liked other people," said Mr. Sack, walking
about and thinking tumultuously aloud rather than addressing anybody,
"but that I liked other people so _much_."

"I see," said Anna-Felicitas, nodding. "You overdid it. Like over-eating
whipped cream. Only it wasn't you but Mrs. Sack who got the resulting
ache."

"And aren't I aching? Aren't I suffering?"

"Yes, but you did the over-eating," said Anna-Felicitas.

"The world," said the unhappy Mr. Sack, quickening his pace, "is so full
of charming and delightful people. Is one to shut one's eyes to them?"

"Of course not," said Anna-Felicitas. "One must love them."

"Yes, yes," said Mr. Sack. "Exactly. That's what I did."

"And though I wouldn't wish," said Anna-Felicitas, "to say anything
against somebody who so very nearly was my hostess, yet really, you
know, wasn't Mrs. Sack's attitude rather churlish?"

Mr. Sack gazed at her. "Oh, aren't you a pretty--" he began again,
with a kind of agonized enthusiasm; but he was again cut short by
Anna-Rose, on whom facts of a disturbing nature were beginning to press.

"Aunt Alice," she said, looking and feeling extremely perturbed as the
situation slowly grew clear to her, "told us we were never to stay with
people whose wives are somewhere else. Unless they have a mother or
other female relative living with them. She was most particular about
it, and said whatever else we did we weren't ever to do this. So I'm
afraid," she continued in her politest voice, determined to behave
beautifully under circumstances that were trying, "much as we should
have enjoyed staying with you and Mrs. Sack if she had been here to stay
with, seeing that she isn't we manifestly can't."

"You can't stay with me," murmured Mr. Sack, turning his bewildered eyes
to her. "Were you going to?"

"Of course we were going to. It's what we've come for," said
Anna-Felicitas.

"And I'm afraid," said-Anna-Rose, "disappointed as we are, unless you
can produce a mother--"

"But where on earth are we to go to, Anna-R.?" inquired Anna-Felicitas,
who, being lazy, having got to a place preferred if possible to stay in
it, and who besides was sure that in their forlorn situation a Sack in
the hand was worth two Sacks not in it, any day. Also she liked the look
of Mr. Sack, in spite of his being so obviously out of repair. He badly
wanted doing up she said to herself, but on the other hand he seemed to
her lovable in his distress, with much of the pathetic helplessness her
own dear Irish terrier, left behind in Germany, had had the day he
caught his foot in a rabbit trap. He had looked at Anna-Felicitas, while
she was trying to get him out of it, with just the same expression on
his face that Mr. Sack had on his as he walked about the room twisting
and untwisting his fingers behind his back. Only, her Irish terrier
hadn't had a Gibson profile. Also, he had looked much more efficient.

"Can't you by any chance produce a mother?" she asked.

Mr. Sack stared at her.

"Of course we're very sorry," said Anna-Rose.

Mr. Sack stared at her.

"But you understand, I'm sure, that under the circumstances--"

"Do you say," said Mr. Sack, stopping still after a few more turns in
front of Anna-Rose, and making a great effort to collect his thoughts,
"that I--that we--had arranged to look after you?"

"Arranged with Uncle Arthur," said Anna-Rose. "Uncle Arthur Abinger. Of
course you had. That's why we're here. Why, you wrote bidding us
welcome. He showed us the letter."

"Abinger. Abinger. Oh--_that_ man," said Mr. Sack, his mind clearing.

"We thought you'd probably feel like that about him," said
Anna-Felicitas sympathetically.

"Why, then," said Mr. Sack, his mind getting suddenly quite clear, "you
must be--why, you _are_ the Twinklers."

"We've been drawing your attention to that at frequent intervals since
we got here," said Anna-Felicitas.

"But whether you now remember or still don't realize," said Anna-Rose
with great firmness, "I'm afraid we've got to say good-bye."

"That's all very well, Anna-R.," again protested Anna-Felicitas, "but
where are we to go to?"

"Go?" said Anna-Rose with a dignity very creditable in one of her size,
"Ultimately to California, of course, to Uncle Arthur's other friends.
But now, this afternoon, we get back into a train and go to Clark, to
Mr. Twist. He at least has a mother."




CHAPTER XV


And so it came about that just as the reunited Twists, mother, son and
daughter, were sitting in the drawing-room, a little tired after a long
afternoon of affection, waiting for seven o'clock to strike and, with
the striking, Amanda the head maid to appear and announce supper, but
waiting with lassitude, for they had not yet recovered from an elaborate
welcoming dinner, the Twinklers, in the lovely twilight of a golden day,
were hastening up the winding road from the station towards them.
Silent, and a little exhausted, the unconscious Twists sat in their
drawing-room, a place of marble and antimacassars, while these light
figures, their shoes white with the dust of a country-side that had had
no rain for weeks, sped every moment nearer.

The road wound gently upwards through fields and woods, through quiet,
delicious evening country, and there was one little star twinkling
encouragingly at the twins from over where they supposed Clark would be.
At the station there had been neither porter nor conveyance, nor indeed
anybody or anything at all except themselves, their luggage, and a thin,
kind man who represented authority. Clark is two miles away from its
station, and all the way to it is uninhabited. Just at the station are a
cluster of those hasty buildings America flings down in out-of-the-way
places till she shall have leisure to make a splendid city; but the road
immediately curved away from these up into solitude and the evening sky.

"You can't miss it," encouraged the station-master. "Keep right along
after your noses till they knock up against Mrs. Twist's front gate.
I'll look after the menagerie--" thus did he describe the Twinkler
luggage. "Guess Mrs. Twist'll be sending for it as soon as you get
there. Guess she forgot you. Guess she's shaken up by young Mr. Twist's
arriving this very day. _I_ wouldn't have forgotten you. No, not for a
dozen young Mr. Twists," he added gallantly.

"Why do you call him young Mr. Twist," inquired Anna-Felicitas, "when he
isn't? He must be at least thirty or forty or fifty."

"You see, we know him quite well," said Anna-Rose proudly, as they
walked off. "He's a _great_ friend of ours."

"You don't say," said the station-master, who was chewing gum; and as
the twins had not yet seen this being done they concluded he had been
interrupted in the middle of a meal by the arrival of the train.

"Now mind," he called after them, "you do whatever the road does. Give
yourselves up to it, and however much it winds about stick to it. You'll
meet other roads, but don't you take any notice of them."

Freed from their luggage, and for a moment from all care, the twins went
up the hill. It was the nicest thing in the world to be going to see
their friend again in quite a few minutes. They had, ever since the
collapse of the Sack arrangements, been missing him very much. As they
hurried on through the scented woods, past quiet fields, between
yellow-leaved hedges, the evening sky growing duskier and the beckoning
star lighter, they remembered Mr. Twist's extraordinary kindness, his
devoted and unfailing care, with the warmest feelings of gratitude and
affection. Even Anna-Felicitas felt warm. How often had he rearranged
her head when it was hopelessly rolling about; how often had he fed her
when she felt better enough to be hungry. Anna-Felicitas was very
hungry. She still thought highly of pride and independence, but now
considered their proper place was after a good meal. And Anna-Rose, with
all the shameless cheerfulness of one who for a little has got rid of
her pride and is feeling very much more comfortable in consequence
remarked that one mustn't overdo independence.

"Let's hurry," said Anna-Felicitas. "I'm so dreadfully hungry. I do so
terribly want supper. And I'm sure it's supper-time, and the Twists will
have finished and we mightn't get any."

"As though Mr. Twist wouldn't see to that!" exclaimed Anna-Rose, proud
and confident.

But she did begin to run, for she too was very hungry, and they raced
the rest of the way; which is why they arrived on the Twist doorstep
panting, and couldn't at first answer Amanda the head maid's surprised
and ungarnished inquiry as to what they wanted, when she opened the door
and found them there.

"We want Mr. Twist," said Anna-Rose, as soon as she could speak.

Amanda eyed them. "You from the village?" she asked, thinking perhaps
they might be a deputation of elder school children sent to recite
welcoming poems to Mr. Twist on his safe return from the seat of war.
Yet she knew all the school children and everybody else in Clark, and
none of them were these.

"No--from the station," panted Anna-Rose.

"We didn't see any village," panted Anna-Felicitas.

"We want Mr. Twist please," said Anna-Rose struggling with her breath.

Amanda eyed them. "Having supper," she said curtly.

"Fortunate creature," gasped Anna-Felicitas, "I hope he isn't eating it
all."

"Will you announce us please?" said Anna-Rose putting on her dignity.
"The Miss Twinklers."

"The who?" said Amanda.

"The Miss Twinklers," said Anna-Rose, putting on still more dignity, for
there was that in Amanda's manner which roused the Junker in her.

"Can't disturb him at supper," said Amanda briefly.

"I assure you," said Anna-Felicitas, with the earnestness of conviction,
"that he'll like it. I think I can undertake to promise he'll show no
resentment whatever."

Amanda half shut the door.

"We'll come in please," said Anna-Rose, inserting herself into what was
left of the opening. "Will you kindly bear in mind that we're totally
unaccustomed to the doorstep?"

Amanda, doubtful, but unpractised in such a situation, permitted
herself, in spite of having as she well knew the whole of free and equal
America behind her, to be cowed. Well, perhaps not cowed, but taken
aback. It was the long words and the awful politeness that did it. She
wasn't used to beautiful long words like that, except on Sundays when
the clergyman read the prayers in church, and she wasn't used to
politeness. That so much of it should come out of objects so young
rendered Amanda temporarily dumb.

She wavered with the door. Instantly Anna-Rose slipped through it;
instantly Anna-Felicitas followed her.

"Kindly tell your master the Miss Twinklers have arrived," said
Anna-Rose, looking every inch a Junker. There weren't many inches of
Anna-Rose, but every one of them at that moment, faced by Amanda's want
of discipline, was sheer Junker.

Amanda, who had never met a Junker in her happy democratic life, was
stirred into bristling emotion by the word master. She was about to
fling the insult of it from her by an impetuous and ill-considered
assertion that if he was her master she was his mistress and so there
now, when the bell which had rung once already since they had been
standing parleying rang again and more impatiently, and the dining-room
door opened and a head appeared. The twins didn't know that it was
Edith's head, but it was.

"Amanda--" began Edith, in the appealing voice that was the nearest
she ever dared get to rebuke without Amanda giving notice; but she
stopped on seeing what, in the dusk of the hall, looked like a crowd.
"Oh--" said Edith, taken aback. "Oh--" And was for withdrawing her head
and shutting the door.

But the twins advanced towards her and the stream of light shining
behind her and the agreeable smell streaming past her, with outstretched
hands.

"How do you do," they both said cordially. "_Don't_ go away again."

Edith, feeling that here was something to protect her quietly feeding
mother from, came rather hastily through the door and held it to behind
her, while her unresponsive and surprised hand was taken and shaken even
as Mr. Sack's had been.

"We've come to see Mr. Twist," said Anna-Rose.

"He's our friend," said Anna-Felicitas.

"He's our best friend," said Anna-Rose.

"Is he in there?" asked Anna-Felicitas, appreciatively moving her nose,
a particularly delicate instrument, round among the various really
heavenly smells that were issuing from the dining-room and sorting them
out and guessing what they probably represented, the while water rushed
into her mouth.

The sound of a chair being hastily pushed back was heard and Mr. Twist
suddenly appeared in the doorway.

"What is it, Edward?" a voice inside said.

Mr. Twist was a pale man, whose skin under no circumstances changed
colour except in his ears. These turned red when he was stirred, and
they were red now, and seemed translucent with the bright light behind
him shining through them.

The twins flew to him. It was wonderful how much pleased they were to
see him again. It was as if for years they had been separated from their
dearest friend. The few hours since the night before had been enough to
turn their friendship and esteem for him into a warm proprietary
affection. They felt that Mr. Twist belonged to them. Even
Anna-Felicitas felt it, and her eyes as she beheld him were bright with
pleasure.

"Oh there you are," cried Anna-Rose darting forward, gladness in her
voice, and catching hold of his arm.

"We've come," said Anna-Felicitas, beaming and catching hold of his
other arm.

"We got into difficulties," said Anna-Rose.

"We got into them at once," said Anna-Felicitas.

"They weren't our difficulties--"

"They were the Sacks'--"

"But they reacted on us--"

"And so here we are."

"Who is it, Edward?" asked the voice inside.

"Mrs. Sack ran away yesterday from Mr. Sack," went on Anna-Rose eagerly.

"Mr. Sack was still quite warm and moist from it when we got there,"
said Anna-Felicitas.

"Aunt Alice said we weren't ever to stay in a house where they did
that," said Anna-Rose.

"Where there wasn't a lady," said Anna-Felicitas

"So when we saw that she wasn't there because she'd gone, we turned
straight round to you," said Anna. Rose.

"Like flowers turning to the sun," said Anna-Felicitas, even in that
moment of excitement not without complacency at her own aptness.

"And left our things at the station," Anna-Rose rushed on.

"And ran practically the whole way," said Anna-Felicitas, "because of
perhaps being late for supper and you're having eaten it all, and we so
dreadfully hungry--"

"Who is it, Edward?" again called the voice inside, louder and more
insistently.

Mr. Twist didn't answer. He was quickly turning over the situation in
his mind.

He had not mentioned the twins to his mother, which would have been
natural, seeing how very few hours he had of reunion with her, if she
hadn't happened to have questioned him particularly as to his
fellow-passengers on the boat. Her questions had been confined to the
first-class passengers, and he had said, truthfully, that he had hardly
spoken to one of them, and not at all to any of the women.

Mrs. Twist had been relieved, for she lived in dread of Edward's
becoming, as she put it to herself, entangled with ladies. Sin would be
bad enough--for Mrs. Twist was obliged reluctantly to know that even
with ladies it is possible to sin--but marriage for Edward would be even
worse, because it lasted longer. Sin, terrible though it was, had at
least this to be said for it, that it could be repented of and done
with, and repentance after all was a creditable activity; but there was
no repenting of marriage with any credit. It was a holy thing, and you
don't repent of holy things,--at least, you oughtn't to. If, as
ill-advised young men so often would, Edward wanted as years went on to
marry in spite of his already having an affectionate and sympathetic
home with feminine society in it, then it seemed to Mrs. Twist most
important, most vital to the future comfort of the family, that it
should be someone she had chosen herself. She had observed him from
infancy, and knew much better than he what was needed for his happiness;
and she also knew, if there must be a wife, what was needed for the
happiness of his mother and sister. She had not thought to inquire about
the second-class passengers, for it never occurred to her that a son of
hers could drift out of his natural first-class sphere into the slums of
a ship, and Mr. Twist had seen no reason for hurrying the Twinklers into
her mental range. Not during those first hours, anyhow. There would be
plenty of hours, and he felt that sufficient unto the day would be the
Twinklers thereof.

But the part that was really making his ears red was that he had said
nothing about the evening with the twins in New York. When his mother
asked with the fondness of the occasion what had detained him, he said
as many another honest man, pressed by the searching affection of
relations, has said before him, that it was business. Now it appeared
that he would have to go into the dining-room and say, "No. It wasn't
business. It was these."

His ears glowed just to think of it. He hated to lie. Specially he hated
to have lied,--at the moment, one plunged in spurred by sudden
necessity, and then was left sorrowfully contemplating one's
degradation. His own desire was always to be candid; but his mother, he
well knew, could not bear the pains candour gave her. She had been so
terribly hurt, so grievously wounded when, fresh from praying,--for
before he went to Harvard he used to pray--he had on one or two
occasions for a few minutes endeavoured not to lie to her that sheer
fright at the effect of his unfiliality made him apologize and beg her
to forget it and forgive him. Now she was going to be still more wounded
by his having lied.

The meticulous tortuousness of family life struck Mr. Twist with a
sudden great impatience. After that large life over there in France, to
come back to this dreary petticoat lying, this feeling one's way about
among tender places ...

"Who is it, Edward?" called the voice inside for the third time.

"There's someone in there seems quite particularly to want to know who
we are," said Anna-Felicitas. "Why not tell her?"

"I expect it's your mother," said Anna-Rose, feeling the full
satisfaction of having got to a house from which the lady hadn't run
anywhere.

"It is," said Mr. Twist briefly.

"Edith!" called the voice, much more peremptorily.

Edith started and half went in, but hesitated and quite stayed out. She
was gazing at the Twinklers with the same kind eyes her brother had,
but without the disfiguring spectacles. Astonishment and perplexity and
anxiety were mixed with the kindness. Amanda also gazed; and if the
twins hadn't been so sure of their welcome, even they might gradually
have begun to perceive that it wasn't exactly open-armed.

"Edith--Edward--Amanda," called the voice, this time with unmistakable
anger.

For one more moment Mr. Twist stood uncertain, looking down at the happy
confident faces turned up to him exactly, as Anna-Felicitas had just
said, like flowers turning to the sun. Visions of France flashed before
him, visions of what he had known, what he had just come back from. His
friends over there, the gay courage, the helpfulness, the ready,
uninquiring affection, the breadth of outlook, the quick friendliness,
the careless assumption that one was decent, that one's intentions were
good,--why shouldn't he pull some of the splendid stuff into his poor,
lame little home? Why should he let himself drop back from heights like
those to the old ridiculous timidities, the miserable habit of avoiding
the truth? Rebellion, hope, determination, seized Mr. Twist. His eyes
shone behind his spectacles. His ears were two red flags of revolution.
He gripped hold of the twins, one under each arm.

"You come right in," he said, louder than he had ever spoken in his
life. "Edith, see these girls? They're the two Annas. Their other name
is Twinkler, but Anna'll see you through. They want supper, and they
want beds, and they want affection, and they're going to get it all. So
hustle with the food, and send the Cadillac for their baggage, and fix
up things for them as comfortably as you know how. And as for Mrs.
Sack," he said, looking first at one twin and then at the other, "if it
hadn't been for her running away from her worthless husband--I'm
convinced that fellow Sack is worthless--you might never have come here
at all. So you see," he finished, laughing at Anna-Rose, "how good comes
out of evil."

And with the sound of these words preceding him he pushed open the
dining-room door and marched them in.




CHAPTER XVI


At the head of the table sat his mother; long, straight, and grave. She
was in the seat of authority, the one with its back to the windows and
its face to the door, from whence she could see what everybody did,
especially Amanda. Having seen what Amanda did, she then complained to
Edith. She didn't complain direct to Amanda, because Amanda could and
did give notice.

Her eyes were fixed on the door. Between it and her was the table,
covered with admirable things to eat, it being supper and therefore,
according to a Twist tradition surviving from penurious days, all the
food, hot and cold, sweet and salt, being brought in together, and
Amanda only attending when rung for. Half-eaten oyster patties lay on
Mrs. Twist's plate. In her glass neglected champagne had bubbled itself
flat. Her hand still held her fork, but loosely, as an object that had
lost its interest, and her eyes and ears for the last five minutes had
not departed from the door.

At first she had felt mere resigned annoyance that Amanda shouldn't have
answered the bell, but she didn't wish to cast a shadow over Edward's
homecoming by drawing poor Edith's attention before him to how very
badly she trained the helps, and therefore she said nothing at the
moment; then, when Edith, going in search of Amanda, had opened the door
and let in sounds of argument, she was surprised, for she knew no one so
intimately that they would be likely to call at such an hour; but when
Edward too leapt up, and went out and stayed out and failed to answer
her repeated calls, she was first astonished, then indignant, and then
suddenly was overcome by a cold foreboding.

Mrs. Twist often had forebodings, and they were always cold. They seized
her with bleak fingers; and one of Edith's chief functions was to
comfort and reassure her for as long a while each time as was required
to reach the stage of being able to shake them off. Here was one,
however, too icily convincing to be shaken off. It fell upon her with
the swiftness of a revelation. Something unpleasant was going to happen
to her; something perhaps worse than unpleasant,--disastrous. And
something immediate.

Those excited voices out in the hall,--they were young, surely, and they
were feminine. Also they sounded most intimate with Edward. What had he
been concealing from her? What disgracefulness had penetrated through
him, through the son the neighbourhood thought so much of, into her very
home? She was a widow. He was her only son. Impossible to believe he
would betray so sacred a position, that he whom she had so lovingly and
proudly welcomed a few hours before would allow his--well, she really
didn't know what to call them, but anyhow female friends of whom she had
been told nothing, to enter that place which to every decent human being
is inviolable, his mother's home. Yet Mrs. Twist did instantly believe
it.

Then Edward's voice, raised and defiant--surely defiant?--came through
the crack in the door, and every word he said was quite distinct. Anna;
supper; affection ... Mrs. Twist sat frozen. And then the door was
flung open and Edward tumultuously entered, his ears crimson, his face
as she had never seen it and in each hand, held tightly by the arm, a
girl.

Edward had been deceiving her.

"Mother--" he began.

"How do you do," said the girls together, and actually with smiles.

Edward had been deceiving her. That whole afternoon how quiet he had
been, how listless. Quite gentle, quite affectionate, but listless and
untalkative. She had thought he must be tired; worn out with his long
journey across from Europe. She had made allowances for him; been
sympathetic, been considerate. And look at him now. Never had she seen
him with a face like that. He was--Mrs. Twist groped for the word and
reluctantly found it--rollicking. Yes; that was the word that exactly
described him--rollicking. If she hadn't observed his languor up to a
few minutes ago at supper, and seen him with her own eyes refuse
champagne and turn his back on cocktails, she would have been forced to
the conclusion, dreadful though it was to a mother, that he had been
drinking. And the girls! Two of them. And so young.

Mrs. Twist had known Edward, as she sometimes informed Edith, all his
life, and had not yet found anything in his morals which was not
blameless. Watch him with what loving care she might she had found
nothing; and she was sure her mother's instinct would not have failed
her. Nevertheless, even with that white past before her--he hadn't told
her about "Madame Bovary"--she now instantly believed the worst.

It was the habit of Clark to believe the worst. Clark was very small,
and therefore also very virtuous. Each inhabitant was the careful
guardian of his neighhour's conduct. Nobody there ever did anything
that was wrong; there wasn't a chance. But as Nature insists on a
balance, the minds of Clark dwelt curiously on evil. They were minds
active in suspicion. They leapt with an instantaneous agility at the
worst conclusions. Nothing was ever said in Clark, but everything was
thought. The older inhabitants, made fast prisoners in their mould of
virtue by age, watched with jealous care the behaviour of those still
young enough to attract temptation. The younger ones, brought up in
inhibitions, settled down to wakefulness in regard to each other.
Everything was provided and encouraged in Clark, a place of pleasant
orchards and gentle fields, except the things that had to do with love.
Husbands were there; and there was a public library, and social
afternoons, and an Emerson society. The husbands died before the wives,
being less able to cope with virtue; and a street in Clark of smaller
houses into which their widows gravitated had been christened by the
stationmaster--a more worldly man because of his three miles off and all
the trains--Lamentation Lane.

In this village Mrs. Twist had lived since her marriage, full of dignity
and honour. As a wife she had been full of it, for the elder Mr. Twist
had been good even when alive, and as a widow she had been still fuller,
for the elder Mr. Twist positively improved by being dead. Not a breath
had ever touched her and her children. Not the most daring and
distrustful Clark mind had ever thought of her except respectfully. And
now here was this happening to her; at her age; when she was least able
to bear it.

She sat in silence, staring with sombre eyes at the three figures.

"Mother--" began Edward again; but was again interrupted by the
twins, who said together, as they had now got into the habit of saying
when confronted by silent and surprised Americans, "We've come."

It wasn't that they thought it a particularly good conversational
opening, it was because silence and surprise on the part of the other
person seemed to call for explanation on theirs, and they were
constitutionally desirous of giving all the information in their power.

"How do you do," they then repeated, loosening themselves from Mr. Twist
and advancing down the room with outstretched hands.

Mr. Twist came with them. "Mother," he said, "these are the Twinkler
girls. Their name's Twinkler. They---"

Freed as he felt he was from his old bonds, determined as he felt he was
on emulating the perfect candour and simplicity of the twins and the
perfect candour and simplicity of his comrades in France, his mother's
dead want of the smallest reaction to this announcement tripped him up
for a moment and prevented his going on.

But nothing ever prevented the twins going on. If they were pleased and
excited they went on with cheerful gusto, and if they were unnerved and
frightened they still went on,--perhaps even more volubly, anxiously
seeking cover behind a multitude of words.

Mrs. Twist had not yet unnerved and frightened them, because they were
too much delighted that they had got to her at all. The relief Anna-Rose
experienced at having safely piloted that difficult craft, the clumsy if
adorable Columbus, into a respectable Port was so immense that it
immediately vented itself in words of warmest welcome to the lady in the
chair to her own home.

"We're _so_ glad to see you here," she said, smiling till her dimple
seemed to be everywhere at once hardly able to refrain from giving the
lady a welcome hug instead of just inhospitably shaking her hand. She
couldn't even shake her hand, however, because it still held, immovably,
the fork. "It would have been too awful," Anna-Rose therefore finished,
putting the heartiness of the handshake she wanted to give into her
voice instead, "if _you_ had happened to have run away too."

"As Mrs. Sack has done from her husband," Anna-Felicitas explained,
smiling too, benevolently, at the black lady who actually having got
oyster patties on her plate hadn't bothered to eat them. "But of course
you couldn't," she went on, remembering in time to be tactful and make a
Sympathetic reference to the lady's weeds; which, indeed, considering
Mr. Twist had told her and Anna-Rose that his father had died when he
was ten, nearly a quarter of a century ago, seemed to have kept their
heads up astonishingly and stayed very fresh. And true to her German
training, and undaunted by the fork, she did that which Anna-Rose in her
contentment had forgotten, and catching up Mrs. Twist's right hand, fork
and all, to her lips gave it the brief ceremonious kiss of a well
brought up Junker.

Like Amanda's, Mrs. Twist's life had been up to this empty of Junkers.
She had never even heard of them till the war, and pronounced their
name, and so did the rest of Clark following her lead, as if it had been
junket, only with an r instead of a t at the end. She didn't therefore
recognize the action; but even she, outraged as she was, could not but
see its grace. And looking up in sombre hostility at the little head
bent over her hand and at the dark line of eyelashes on the the flushed
face, she thought swiftly, "_She's_ the one."

"You see, mother," said Mr. Twist, pulling a chair vigorously and
sitting on it with determination, "it's like this. (Sit down, you two,
and get eating. Start on anything you see in this show that hits your
fancy. Edith'll be fetching you something hot, I expect--soup, or
something--but meanwhile here's enough stuff to go on with.) You see,
mother--" he resumed, turning squarely to her, while the twins obeyed
him with immense alacrity and sat down and began to eat whatever
happened to be nearest them, "these two girls--well, to start with
they're twins--"

Mr. Twist was stopped again by his mother's face. She couldn't conceive
why he should lie. Twins the world over matched in size and features; it
was notorious that they did. Also, it was the custom for them to match
in age, and the tall one of these was at least a year older than the
other one. But still, thought Mrs. Twist, let that pass. She would
suffer whatever it was she had to suffer in silence.

The twins too were silent, because they were so busy eating. Perfectly
at home under the wing they knew so well, they behaved with an easy
naturalness that appeared to Mrs. Twist outrageous. But still--let that
too pass. These strangers helped themselves and helped each other, as if
everything belonged to them; and the tall one actually asked her--her,
the mistress of the house--if she could get _her_ anything. Well, let
that pass too.

"You see, mother--" began Mr. Twist again.

He was finding it extraordinarily difficult. What a tremendous hold
one's early training had on one, he reflected, casting about for words;
what a deeply rooted fear there was in one, subconscious, lurking in
one's foundations, of one's mother, of her authority, of her quickly
wounded affection. Those Jesuits, with their conviction that they could
do what they liked with a man if they had had the bringing up of him
till he was seven, were pretty near the truth. It took a lot of shaking
off, the unquestioning awe, the habit of obedience of one's childhood.

Mr. Twist sat endeavouring to shake it off. He also tried to bolster
himself up by thinking he might perhaps be able to assist his mother to
come out from her narrowness, and discover too how warm and glorious the
sun shone outside, where people loved and helped each other. Then he
rejected that as priggish.

"You see, mother," he started again, "I came across them--across these
two girls--they're both called Anna, by the way, which seems confusing
but isn't really--I came across them on the boat----"

He again stopped dead.

Mrs. Twist had turned her dark eyes to him. They had been fixed on
Anna-Felicitas, and on what she was doing with the dish of oyster
patties in front of her. What she was doing was not what Mrs. Twist was
accustomed to see done at her table. Anna-Felicitas was behaving badly
with the patties, and not even attempting to conceal, as the decent do,
how terribly they interested her.

"You came across them on the boat," repeated Mrs. Twist, her eyes on her
son, moved in spite of her resolution to speech. And he had told her
that very afternoon that he had spoken to nobody except men. Another
lie. Well, let that pass too ...

Mr. Twist sat staring back at her through his big gleaming spectacles.
He well knew the weakness of his position from his mother's point of
view; but why should she have such a point of view, such a niggling,
narrow one, determined to stay angry and offended because he had been
stupid enough to continue, under the influence of her presence, the old
system of not being candid with her, of being slavishly anxious to avoid
offending? Let her try for once to understand and forgive. Let her for
once take the chance offered her of doing a big, kind thing. But as he
stared at her it entered his mind that he couldn't very well start
moving her heart on behalf of the twins in their presence. He couldn't
tell her they were orphans, alone in the world, helpless, poor, and so
unfortunately German, with them sitting there. If he did, there would be
trouble. The twins seemed absorbed for the moment in getting fed, but he
had no doubt their ears were attentive, and at the first suggestion of
sympathy being invoked for them they would begin to say a few of those
things he was so much afraid his mother mightn't be able to understand.
Or, if she understood, appreciate.

He decided that he would be quiet until Edith came back, and then ask
his mother to go to the drawing-room with him, and while Edith was
looking after the Annas he would, well out of earshot, explain them to
his mother, describe their situation, commend them to her patience and
her love. He sat silent therefore, wishing extraordinarily hard that
Edith would be quick.

But Anna-Felicitas's eyes were upon him now, as well as his mother's.
"Is it possible," she asked with her own peculiar gentleness, balancing
a piece of patty on her fork, "that you haven't yet mentioned us to your
mother?"

And Anna-Rose, struck in her turn at such an omission, paused too with
food on the way to her mouth, and said, "And we such friends?"

"Almost, as it were, still red-not from being with you?" said
Anna-Felicitas.

Both the twins looked at Mrs. Twist in their surprise.

"I thought the first thing everybody did when they got back to their
mother," said Anna-Rose, addressing her, "was to tell her everything
from the beginning."

Mrs. Twist, after an instant's astonishment at this unexpected support,
bowed her head--it could hardly be called a nod--in her son's direction.
"You see--" the movement seemed to say, "even these ..."

"And ever since the first day at sea," said Anna-Felicitas, also
addressing Mrs. Twist, "up to as recently as eleven o'clock last night,
he has been what I think can be quite accurately described as our
faithful two-footed companion."

"Yes," said Anna-Rose. "As much as that we've been friends. Practically
inseparable."

"So that it really is _very_ surprising," said Anna-Felicitas to Mr.
Twist, "that you didn't tell your mother about us."

Mr. Twist got up. He wouldn't wait for Edith. It was unhealthy in that
room.

He took his mother's arm and helped her to get up. "You're very wise,
you two," he flung at the twins in the voice of the goaded, "but you may
take it from me you don't know everything yet. Mother, come into the
drawing-room, and we'll talk. Edith'll see to these girls. I expect I
ought to have talked sooner," he went on, as he led her to the door,
"but confound it all, I've only been home about a couple of hours."

"Five," said Mrs. Twist.

"Five then. What's five? No time at all."

"Ample," said Mrs Twist; adding icily, "and did I you say confound,
Edward?"

"Well, damn then," said Edward very loud, in a rush of rank rebellion.




CHAPTER XVII


This night was the turning-point in Mr. Twist's life. In it he broke
loose from his mother. He spent a terrible three hours with her in the
drawing-room, and the rest of the night he strode up and down his
bedroom. The autumn morning, creeping round the house in long white
wisps, found him staring out of his window very pale, his mouth pulled
together as tight as it would go.

His mother had failed him. She had not understood. And not only simply
not understood, but she had said things when at last she did speak,
after he had explained and pleaded for at least an hour, of an
incredible bitterness and injustice. She had seemed to hate him. If she
hadn't been his mother Mr. Twist would have been certain she hated him,
but he still believed that mothers couldn't hate their children. It was
stark against nature; and Mr. Twist still believed in the fundamental
rightness of that which is called nature. She had accused him of gross
things--she, his mother, who from her conversation since he could
remember was unaware, he had judged, of the very existence of such
things. Those helpless children ... Mr. Twist stamped as he strode.
Well, he had made her take that back; and indeed she had afterwards
admitted that she said it in her passion of grief and disappointment,
and that it was evident these girls were not like that.

But before they reached that stage, for the first time in his life he
had been saying straight out what he wanted to say to his mother just as
if she had been an ordinary human being. He told her all he knew of the
twins, asked her to take them in for the present and be good to them,
and explained the awkwardness of their position, apart from its tragedy,
as Germans by birth stranded in New England, where opinion at that
moment was so hostile to Germans. Then, continuing in candour, he had
told his mother that here was her chance of doing a fine and beautiful
thing, and it was at this point that Mrs. Twist suddenly began, on her
side, to talk.

She had listened practically in silence to the rest; had only started
when he explained the girls' nationality; but when he came to offering
her these girls as the great opportunity of her life to do something
really good at last, she, who felt she had been doing nothing else but
noble and beautiful things, and doing them with the most single-minded
devotion to duty and the most consistent disregard of inclination, could
keep silence no longer. Had she not borne her great loss without a
murmur? Had she not devoted all her years to bringing up her son to be a
good man? Had she ever considered herself? Had she ever flagged in her
efforts to set an example of patience in grief, of dignity in
misfortune? She began to speak. And just as amazed as she had been at
the things this strange, unknown son had been saying to her and at the
manner of their delivery, so was he amazed at the things this strange,
unknown mother was saying to him, and at the manner of their delivery.

Yet his amazement was not so great after all as hers. Because for years,
away down hidden somewhere inside him, he had doubted his mother; for
years he had, shocked at himself, covered up and trampled on these
unworthy doubts indignantly. He had doubted her unselfishness; he had
doubted her sympathy and kindliness; he had even doubted her honesty,
her ordinary honesty with money and accounts; and lately, before he went
to Europe, he had caught himself thinking she was cruel. Nevertheless
this unexpected naked justification of his doubts was shattering to him.

But Mrs. Twist had never doubted Edward. She thought she knew him inside
out. She had watched him develop. Watched him during the long years of
his unconsciousness. She had been quite secure; and rather disposed,
also somewhere down inside her, to a contempt for him, so easy had he
been to manage, so ready to do everything she wished. Now it appeared
that she no more knew Edward than if he had been a stranger in the
street.

The bursting of the dykes of convention between them was a horrible
thing to them both. Mr. Twist had none of the cruelty of the younger
generation to support him: he couldn't shrug his shoulder and take
comfort in the thought that this break between them was entirely his
mother's fault, for however much he believed it to be her fault the
belief merely made him wretched; he had none of the pitiless black
pleasure to be got from telling himself it served her right. So
naturally kind was he--weak, soft, stupid, his mother shook out at
him--that through all his own shame at this naked vision of what had
been carefully dressed up for years in dignified clothes of wisdom and
affection, he was actually glad, when he had time in his room to think
it over, glad she should be so passionately positive that he, and only
he, was in the wrong. It would save her from humiliation; and of the
painful things of late Mr. Twist could least bear to see a human being
humiliated.

That was, however, towards morning. For hours raged, striding about his
room, sorting out the fragments into which his life as a son had fallen,
trying to fit them into some sort of a pattern, to see clear about the
future. Clearer. Not clear. He couldn't hope for that yet. The future
seemed one confused lump. All he could see really clear of it was that
he was going, next day, and taking the twins. He would take them to the
other people they had a letter to, the people in California, and then
turn his face back to Europe, to the real thing, to the greatness of
life where death is. Not an hour longer than he could help would he or
they stay in that house. He had told his mother he would go away, and
she had said, "I hope never to see you again." Who would have thought
she had so much of passion in her? Who would have thought he had so much
of it in him?

Fury against her injustice shook and shattered Mr. Twist. Not so could
fair and affectionate living together be conducted, on that basis of
suspicion, distrust, jealousy. Through his instinct, though not through
his brain, shot the conviction that his mother was jealous of the
twins,--jealous of the youth of the twins, and of their prettiness, and
goodness, and of the power, unknown to them, that these things gave
them. His brain was impervious to such a conviction, because it was an
innocent brain, and the idea would never have entered it that a woman of
his mother's age, well over sixty, could be jealous in that way; but his
instinct knew it.

The last thing his mother said as he left the drawing-room was, "You
have killed me. You have killed your own mother. And just because of
those girls."

And Mr. Twist, shocked at this parting shot of unfairness, could find,
search as he might, nothing to be said for his mother's point of view.
It simply wasn't true. It simply was delusion.

Nor could she find anything to be said for his, but then she didn't try
to, it was so manifestly unforgivable. All she could do, faced by this
bitter sorrow, was to leave Edward to God. Sternly, as he flung out of
the room at last, unsoftened, untouchable, deaf to her even when she
used the tone he had always obeyed the tone of authority, she said to
herself she must leave her son to God. God knew. God would judge. And
Clark too would know; and Clark too would judge.

Left alone in the drawing-room on this terrible night of her second
great bereavement, Mrs. Twist was yet able, she was thankful to feel, to
resolve she would try to protect her son as long as she could from
Clark. From God she could not, if she would, protect him; but she would
try to protect him even now, as she had always protected him, from
earthly harm and hurt. Clark would, however, surely know in time,
protect as she might, and judge between her and Edward. God knew
already, and was already judging. God and Clark.... Poor Edward.




CHAPTER XVIII


The twins, who had gone to bed at half-past nine, shepherded by Edith,
in the happy conviction that they had settled down comfortably for some
time, were surprised to find at breakfast that they hadn't.

They had taken a great fancy to Edith, in spite of a want of restfulness
on her part that struck them while they were finishing their supper, and
to which at last they drew her attention. She was so kind, and so like
Mr. Twist; but though she looked at them with hospitable eyes and wore
an expression of real benevolence, it didn't escape their notice that
she seemed to be listening to something that wasn't, anyhow, them, and
to be expecting something that didn't, anyhow, happen. She went several
times to the door through which her brother and mother had disappeared,
and out into whatever part of the house lay beyond it, and when she came
back after a minute or two was as wanting in composure as ever.

At last, finding these abrupt and repeated interruptions hindered any
real talk, they pointed out to her that reasoned conversation was
impossible if one of the parties persisted in not being in the room, and
inquired of her whether it were peculiar to her, or typical of the
inhabitants of America, to keep on being somewhere else. Edith smiled
abstractedly at them, said nothing, and went out again.

She was longer away this time, and the twins having eaten, among other
things, a great many meringues, grew weary of sitting with those they
hadn't eaten lying on the dish in front of them reminding them of those
they had. They wanted, having done with meringues, to get away from them
and forget them. They wanted to go into another room now, where there
weren't any. Anna-Felicitas felt, and told Anna-Rose who was staring
listlessly at the left-over meringues, that it was like having committed
murder, and being obliged to go on looking at the body long after you
were thoroughly tired of it. Anna-Rose agreed, and said that she wished
now she hadn't committed meringues,--anyhow so many of them.

Then at last Edith came back, and told them she was sure they were very
tired after their long day, and suggested their going upstairs to their
rooms. The rooms were ready, said Edith, the baggage had come, and she
was sure they would like to have nice hot baths and go to bed.

The twins obeyed her readily, and she checked a desire on their part to
seek out her mother and brother first and bid them good-night, on the
ground that her mother and brother were busy; and while the twins were
expressing polite regret, and requesting her to convey their regret for
them to the proper quarter in a flow of well-chosen words that
astonished Edith, who didn't know how naturally Junkers make speeches,
she hurried them by the drawing-room door through which, shut though it
was, came sounds of people being, as Anna-Felicitas remarked, very busy
indeed; and Anna-Rose, impressed by the quality and volume of Mr.
Twist's voice as it reached her passing ears, told Edith that intimately
as she knew her brother she had never known him as busy as that before.

Edith said nothing, but continued quickly up the stairs.

They found they each had a bedroom, with a door between, and that each
bedroom had a bathroom of its own, which filled them with admiration and
pleasure. There had only been one bathroom at Uncle Arthur's, and at
home in Pomerania there hadn't been any at all. The baths there had been
vessels brought into one's bedroom every night, into which servants next
morning poured water out of buckets, having previously pumped the water
into the bucket from the pump in the backyard. They put Edith in
possession of these facts while she helped them unpack and brushed and
plaited their hair for them, and she was much astonished,--both at the
conditions of discomfort and slavery they revealed as prevalent in other
countries, and at the fact that they, the Twinklers, should hail from
Pomerania.

Pomerania, reflected Edith as she tied up their pigtails with the
ribbons handed to her for that purpose, used to be in Germany when she
went to school, and no doubt still was. She became more thoughtful than
ever, though she still smiled at them, for how could she help it?
Everyone, Edith was certain, must needs smile at the Twinklers even if
they didn't happen to be one's own dear brother's _protegees_. And when
they came out, very clean and with scrubbed pink ears, from their bath,
she not only smiled at them as she tucked them up in bed, but she kissed
them good-night.

Edith, like her brother, was born to be a mother,--one of the
satisfactory sort that keeps you warm and doesn't argue with you.
Germans or no Germans the Twinklers were the cutest little things,
thought Edith; and she kissed them, with the same hunger with which,
being now thirty-eight, she was beginning to kiss puppies.

"You remind me so of Mr. Twist," murmured Anna-Felicitas sleepily, as
Edith tucked her up and kissed her.

"You do all the sorts of things he does," murmured Anna-Rose, also
sleepily, when it was her turn to be tucked up and kissed; and in spite
of a habit now fixed in her of unquestioning acceptance and uncritical
faith. Edith went downstairs to her restless vigil outside the
drawing-room door a little surprised.

At breakfast the twins learnt to their astonishment that, though
appearances all pointed the other way what they were really doing was
not being stationary at all, but merely having a night's lodging and
breakfast between, as it were, two trains.

Mr. Twist, who looked pale and said shortly when the twins remarked
solicitously on it that he felt pale, briefly announced the fact.

"What?" exclaimed Anna-Rose, staring at Mr. Twist and then at
Edith--Mrs. Twist, they were told, was breakfasting in bed--"Why, we've
unpacked."

"You will re-pack," said Mr. Twist.

They found difficulty in believing their ears.

"But we've settled in," remonstrated Anna-Felicitas, after an astonished
pause.

"You will settle out," said Mr. Twist.

He frowned. He didn't look at them, he frowned at his own teapot. He had
made up his mind to be very short with the Annas until they were safely
out of the house, and not permit himself to be entangled by them in
controversy. Also, he didn't want to look at them if he could help it.
He was afraid that if he did he might be unable not to take them both in
his arms and beg their pardon for the whole horridness of the world.

But if he didn't look at them, they looked at him. Four round, blankly
surprised eyes were fixed, he knew, unblinkingly on him.

"We're seeing you in quite a new light," said Anna-Rose at last,
troubled and upset.

"Maybe," said Mr. Twist, frowning at his teapot.

"Perhaps you will be so good," said Anna-Felicitas stiffly, for at all
times she hated being stirred up and uprooted, "as to tell us where you
think we're going to."

"Because," said Anna-Rose, her voice trembling a little, not only at the
thought of fresh responsibilities, but also with a sense of outraged
faith, "our choice of residence, as you may have observed, is strictly
limited."

Mr. Twist, who had spent an hour before breakfast with Edith, whose eyes
were red, informed them that they were _en route_ for California.

"To those other people," said Anna-Rose. "I see."

She held her head up straight.

"Well, I expect they'll be very glad to see us," she said after a
silence; and proceeded, her chin in the air, to look down her nose,
because she didn't want Mr. Twist, or Edith or Anna-Felicitas, to notice
that her eyes had gone and got tears in them. She angrily wished she
hadn't got such damp eyes. They were no better than swamps, she
thought--undrained swamps; and directly fate's foot came down a little
harder than usual, up oozed the lamentable liquid. Not thus should the
leader of an expedition behave. Not thus, she was sure, did the original
Christopher. She pulled herself together; and after a minute's struggle
was able to leave off looking down her nose.

But meanwhile Anna-Felicitas had informed Mr. Twist with gentle dignity
that he was obviously tired of them.

"Not at all," said Mr. Twist.

Anna-Felicitas persisted. "In view of the facts," she said gently, "I'm
afraid your denial carries no weight."

"The facts," said Mr. Twist, taking up his teapot and examining it with
care, "are that I'm coming with you."

"Oh are you," said Anna-Felicitas much more briskly; and it was here
that Anna-Rose's eyes dried up.

"That rather dishes your theory," said Mr. Twist, still turning his
teapot about in his hands. "Or would if it didn't happen that I--well, I
happen to have some business to do in California, and I may as well do
it now as later. Still, I could have gone by a different route or train,
so you see your theory _is_ rather dished, isn't it?"

"A little," admitted Anna-Felicitas. "Not altogether. Because if you
really like our being here, here we are. So why hurry us off somewhere
else so soon?"

Mr. Twist perceived that he was being led into controversy in spite of
his determination not to be. "You're very wise," he said shortly, "but
you don't know everything. Let us avoid conjecture and stick to facts.
I'm going to take you to California, and hand you over to your friends.
That's all you know, and all you need to know."

"As Keats very nearly said," said Anna-Rose

"And if our friends have run away?" suggested Anna-Felicitas.

"Oh Lord," exclaimed Mr. Twist impatiently, putting the teapot down with
a bang, "do you think we're running away all the time in America?"

"Well, I think you seem a little restless," said Anna-Felicitas.

Thus it was that two hours later the twins found themselves at the
Clark station once more, once more starting into the unknown, just as if
they had never done it before, and gradually, as they adapted themselves
to the sudden change, such is the india-rubber-like quality of youth,
almost with the same hopefulness. Yet they couldn't but meditate, left
alone on the platform while Mr. Twist checked the baggage, on the
mutability of life. They seemed to live in a kaleidoscope since the war
began what a series of upheavals and readjustments had been theirs!
Silent, and a little apart on the Clark platform, they reflected
retrospectively; and as they counted up their various starts since the
days, only fourteen months ago, when they were still in their home in
Germany, apparently as safely rooted, as unshakably settled as the pine
trees in their own forests, they couldn't but wonder at the elusiveness
of the unknown, how it wouldn't let itself be caught up with and at the
trouble it was giving them.

They had had so many changes in the last year that they did want now to
have time to become familiar with some one place and people. Already
however, being seventeen, they were telling themselves, and each other
that after all, since the Sacks had failed them, California was their
real objective. Not Clark at all. Clark had never been part of their
plans. Uncle Arthur and Aunt Alice didn't even know it existed. It was a
side-show; just a little thing of their own, an extra excursion slipped
in between the Sacks and the Delloggs. True they had hoped to stay there
some time, perhaps even for months,--anyhow, time to mend their
stockings in, which were giving way at the toes unexpectedly, seeing how
new they were; but ultimately California was the place they had to go
to. It was only that it was a little upsetting to be whisked out of
Clark at a moment's notice.

"I expect you'll explain everything to us when we're in the train and
have lots of time," Anna-Rose had said to Mr. Twist as the car moved
away from the house and Edith, red-eyed, waved her handkerchief from the
doorstep.

Mrs. Twist had not come down to say good-bye, and they had sent her many
messages.

"I expect I will," Mr. Twist had answered.

But it was not till they were the other side of Chicago that he really
began to be himself again. Up to then--all that first day, and the next
morning in New York where he took them to the bank their £200 was in and
saw that they got a cheque-book, and all the day after that waiting in
the Chicago hotel for the train they were to go on in to California--Mr.
Twist was taciturn.

They left Chicago in the evening; a raw, wintery October evening with
cold rain in the air, and the twins, going early to bed in their
compartment, a place that seemed to them so enchanting that their
spirits couldn't fail to rise, saw no more of him till breakfast next
morning. They then noticed that the cloud had lifted a little; and as
the day went on it lifted still more. They were going to be three days
together in that train, and it would be impossible for Mr. Twist, they
were sure, to go on being taciturn as long as that. It wasn't his
nature. His nature was conversational. And besides, shut up like that in
a train, the sheer getting tired of reading all day would make him want
to talk.

So after lunch, when they were all three on the platform of the
observation car, though there was nothing to observe except limitless
flat stretches of bleak and empty country, the twins suggested that he
should now begin to talk again. They pointed out that his body was
bound to get stiff on that long journey from want of exercise, but that
his mind needn't, and he had better stretch it by conversing agreeably
with them as he used to before the day, which seemed so curiously long
ago, when they landed in America.

"It does indeed seem long ago," agreed Mr. Twist, lighting another
cigarette. "I have difficulty in realizing it isn't a week yet."

And he reflected that the Annas had managed to produce pretty serious
havoc in America considering they had only been in it five days. He and
his mother permanently estranged; Edith left alone at Clark sitting
there in the ruins of her loving preparations for his return, with
nothing at all that he could see to look forward to and live for except
the hourly fulfilment of what she regarded as duty; every plan upset;
the lives, indeed, of his mother and of his sister and of himself
completely altered,--it was a pretty big bag in the time, he thought,
flinging the match back towards Chicago.

Mr. Twist felt sore. He felt like somebody who had had a bad tumble, and
is sore and a little dizzy; but he recognized that these great ruptures
cannot take place without aches and doubts. He ached, and he doubted and
he also knew through his aches and doubts that he was free at last from
what of late years he had so grievously writhed under--the shame of
pretence. And the immediate cause of his being set free was, precisely,
the Annas.

It had been a violent, a painful setting free, but it had happened; and
who knew if, without their sudden appearance at Clark and the immediate
effect they produced on his mother, he wouldn't have lapsed after all,
in spite of the feelings and determinations he had brought back with
him from Europe, into the old ways again under the old influence, and
gone on ignobly pretending to agree, to approve, to enjoy, to love, when
he was never for an instant doing anything of the sort? He might have
trailed on like that for years--Mr. Twist didn't like the picture of his
own weakness, but he was determined to look at himself as he
was--trailed along languidly when he was at home, living another life
when he was away, getting what he absolutely must have, the irreducible
minimum of personal freedom necessary to sanity, by means of small and
shabby deceits. My goodness, how he hated deceits, how tired he was of
the littleness of them!

He turned his head and looked at the profiles of the Annas sitting
alongside him. His heart suddenly grew warm within him. They had on the
blue caps again which made them look so bald and cherubic, and their
eyes were fixed on the straight narrowing lines of rails that went back
and back to a point in the distance. The dear little things; the dear,
dear little things,--so straightforward, so blessedly straight and
simple, thought Mr. Twist. Fancy his mother losing a chance like this.
Fancy _anybody_, thought the affectionate and kind man, missing an
opportunity of helping such unfortunately placed children.

The twins felt he was looking at them, and together they turned and
looked at him. When they saw his expression they knew the cloud had
lifted still more, and their faces broke into broad smiles of welcome.

"It's pleasant to see you back again," said Anna-Felicitas heartily, who
was next to him.

"We've missed you very much," said Anna-Rose.

"It hasn't been like the same place, the world hasn't," said
Anna-Felicitas, "since you've been away."

"Since you walked out of the dining-room that night at Clark," said
Anna-Rose.

"Of course we know you can't always be with us," said Anna-Felicitas.

"Which we deeply regret," interjected Anna-Rose.

"But while you are with us," said Anna-Felicitas, "for these last few
days, I would suggest that we should be happy. As happy as we used to be
on the _St. Luke_ when we weren't being sea-sick." And she thought she
might even go so far as to enjoy hearing the "Ode to Dooty," now.

"Yes," said Anna-Rose, leaning forward. "In three days we shall have
disappeared into the maw of the Delloggs. Do let us be happy while we
can. Who knows what their maw will be like? But whatever it's like," she
added firmly, "we're going to stick in it."

"And perhaps," said Anna-Felicitas, "now that you're a little restored
to your normal condition, you'll tell us what has been the matter."

"For it's quite clear," said Anna-Rose, "that something _has_ been the
matter."

"We've been talking it over," said Anna-Felicitas, "and putting two and
two together, and perhaps you'll tell us what it was, and then we shall
know if we're right."

"Perhaps I will," said Mr. Twist, cogitating, as he continued
benevolently to gaze at them. "Let's see--" He hesitated, and pushed
his hat off his forehead. "I wonder if you'd understand--"

"We'll give our minds to it," Anna-Felicitas assured him.

"These caps make us look more stupid than we are," Anna-Rose assured
him, deducing her own appearance from that of Anna-Felicitas.

Encouraged, but doubtful of their capabilities of comprehension on
this particular point, Mr. Twist embarked rather gingerly on his
explanations. He was going to be candid from now on for the rest of his
days, but the preliminary plunges were, he found, after all a little
difficult. Even with the pellucidly candid Annas, all ready with ears
pricked up attentively and benevolently and minds impartial, he found it
difficult. It was because, on the subject of mothers, he feared he was
up against their one prejudice. He felt rather than knew that their
attitude on this one point might be uncompromising,--mothers were
mothers, and there was an end of it; that sort of attitude, coupled with
extreme reprobation of himself for supposing anything else.

He was surprised and relieved to find he was wrong. Directly they got
wind of the line his explanations were taking, which was very soon for
they were giving their minds to it as they promised and Mr. Twist's
hesitations were illuminating, they interrupted.

"So we were right," they said to each other.

"But you don't know yet what I'm going to say," said Mr. Twist. "I've
only started on the preliminaries."

"Yes we do. You fell out with your mother," said Anna-Rose.

"Quarrelled," said Anna-Felicitas, nodding

"We didn't think so at the time," said Anna-Rose.

"We just felt there was an atmosphere of strain about Clark," said
Anna-Felicitas.

"But talking it over privately, we concluded that was what had
happened."

Mr. Twist was so much surprised that for a moment he could only say
"Oh." Then he said, "And you're terribly shocked, I suppose."

"Oh no," they said airily and together.

"No?"

"You see--" began Anna-Felicitas.

"You see--" began Anna-Rose.

"You see, as a general principle," said Anna-Felicitas, "it's
reprehensible to quarrel with one's mother."

"But we've not been able to escape observing--" said Anna-Rose.

"In the course of our brief and inglorious career," put in
Anna-Felicitas.

"--that there are mothers and mothers," said Anna-Rose.

"Yes," said Mr. Twist; and as they didn't go on he presently added,
"Yes?"

"Oh, that's all," said the twins, once more airily and together.




CHAPTER XIX


After this brief _éclaircissement_ the rest of the journey was happy.
Indeed, it is doubtful if any one can journey to California and not be
happy.

Mr. Twist had never been further west than Chicago and break up or no
break up of his home he couldn't but have a pleasant feeling of
adventure. Every now and then the realization of this feeling gave his
conscience a twinge, and wrung out of it a rebuke. He was having the
best of it in this business; he was the party in the quarrel who went
away, who left the dreariness of the scene of battle with all its
corpses of dead illusions, and got off to fresh places and people who
had never heard of him. Just being in a train, he found, and rushing on
to somewhere else was extraordinarily nerve-soothing. At Clark there
would be gloom and stagnation, the heavy brooding of a storm that has
burst but not moved on, a continued anger on his mother's side,
naturally increasing with her inactivity, with her impotence. He was
gone, and she could say and do nothing more to him. In a quarrel,
thought Mr. Twist, the morning he pushed up his blinds and saw the
desert at sunrise, an exquisite soft thing just being touched into faint
colours,--in a quarrel the one who goes has quite unfairly the best of
it. Beautiful new places come and laugh at him, people who don't know
him and haven't yet judged and condemned him are ready to be friendly.
He must, of course, go far enough; not stay near at hand in some
familiar place and be so lonely that he ends by being remorseful. Well,
he was going far enough. Thanks to the Annas he was going about as far
as he could go. Certainly he was having the best of it in being the one
in the quarrel who went; and he was shocked to find himself cynically
thinking, on top of that, that one should always, then, take care to be
the one who did go.

But the desert has a peculiarly exhilarating air. It came in everywhere,
and seemed to tickle him out of the uneasy mood proper to one who has
been cutting himself off for good and all from his early home. For the
life of him he couldn't help feeling extraordinarily light and free.
Edith--yes, there was Edith, but some day he would make up to Edith for
everything. There was no helping her now: she was fast bound in misery
and iron, and didn't even seem to know it. So would he have been, he
supposed, if he had never left home at all. As it was, it was bound to
come, this upheaval. Just the mere fact of inevitable growth would have
burst the bands sooner or later. There oughtn't, of course, to have been
any bands; or, there being bands, he ought long ago to have burst them.

He pulled his kind slack mouth firmly together and looked determined.
Long ago, repeated Mr. Twist, shaking his head at his own weak past.
Well, it was done at last, and never again--never, never again, he said
to himself, sniffing in through his open window the cold air of the
desert at sunrise.

By that route, the Santa Fé, it is not till two or three hours before
you get to the end of the journey that summer meets you. It is waiting
for you at a place called San Bernardino. There is no trace of it
before. Up to then you are still in October; and then you get to the
top of the pass, and with a burst it is June,--brilliant, windless,
orange-scented.

The twins and Mr. Twist were in the restaurant-car lunching when the
miracle happened. Suddenly the door opened and in came summer, with a
great warm breath of roses. In a moment the car was invaded by the scent
of flowers and fruit and of something else strange and new and very
aromatic. The electric fans were set twirling, the black waiters began
to perspire, the passengers called for cold things to eat, and the twins
pulled off their knitted caps and jerseys.

From that point on to the end of the line in Los Angeles the twins could
only conclude they were in heaven. It was the light that did it, the
extraordinary glow of radiance. Of course there were orchards after
orchards of orange trees covered with fruit, white houses smothered in
flowers, gardens overrun with roses, tall groups of eucalyptus trees
giving an impression of elegant nakedness, long lines of pepper trees
with frail fern-like branches, and these things continued for the rest
of the way; but they would have been as nothing without that beautiful,
great bland light. The twins had had their hot summers in Pomerania, and
their July days in England, but had not yet seen anything like this.
Here was summer without sultriness, without gnats, mosquitoes,
threatening thunderstorms, or anything to spoil it; it was summer as it
might be in the Elysian fields, perfectly clear, and calm, and radiant.
When the train stopped they could see how not a breath of wind stirred
the dust on the quiet white roads, and the leaves of the magnolia trees
glistened motionless in the sun. The train went slowly and stopped
often, for there seemed to be one long succession of gardens and
villages. After the empty, wind-driven plains they had come through,
those vast cold expanses without a house or living creature in sight,
what a laughing plenty, what a gracious fruitfulness, was here. And when
they went back to their compartment it too was full of summer
smells,--the smell of fruit, and roses, and honey.

For the first time since the war began and with it their wanderings, the
twins felt completely happy. It was as though the loveliness wrapped
them round and they stretched themselves in it and forgot. No fear of
the future, no doubt of it at all, they thought, gazing out of the
window, the soft air patting their faces, could possibly bother them
here. They never, for instance, could be cold here, or go hungry. A
great confidence in life invaded them. The Delloggs, sun-soaked and
orange-fed for years in this place, couldn't but be gentle too, and kind
and calm. Impossible not to get a sort of refulgence oneself, they
thought, living here, and absorb it and give it out again. They pictured
the Delloggs as bland pillars of light coming forward effulgently to
greet them, and bathing them in the beams of their hospitality. And the
feeling of responsibility and anxiety that had never left Anna-Rose
since she last saw Aunt Alice dropped off her in this place, and she
felt that sun and oranges, backed by £200 in the bank, would be
difficult things for misfortune to get at.

As for Mr. Twist, he was even more entranced than the twins as he gazed
out of the window, for being older he had had time to see more ugly
things, had got more used to them and to taking them as principally
making up life. He stared at what he saw, and thought with wonder of his
mother's drawing-room at Clark, of its gloomy, velvet-upholstered
discomforts, of the cold mist creeping round the house, and of that
last scene in it, with her black figure in the middle of it, tall and
thin and shaking with bitterness. He had certainly been in that
drawing-room and heard her so terribly denouncing him, but it was very
difficult to believe; it seemed so exactly like a nightmare, and this
the happy normal waking up in the morning.

They all three were in the highest spirits when they got out at Los
Angeles and drove across to the Southern Pacific station--the name alone
made their hearts leap--to catch the afternoon train on to where the
Delloggs lived, and their spirits were the kind one can imagine in
released souls on their first arriving in paradise,--high, yet subdued;
happy, but reverential; a sort of rollicking awe. They were subdued, in
fact, by beauty. And the journey along the edge of the Pacific to
Acapulco, where the Delloggs lived, encouraged and developed this kind
of spirits, for the sun began to set, and, as the train ran for miles
close to the water with nothing but a strip of sand between it and the
surf, they saw their first Pacific sunset. It happened to be even in
that land of wonderful sunsets an unusually wonderful one, and none of
the three had ever seen anything in the least like it. They could but
sit silent and stare. The great sea, that little line of lovely islands
flung down on it like a chain of amethysts, that vast flame of sky, that
heaving water passionately reflecting it, and on the other side, through
the other windows, a sharp wall of black mountains,--it was
fantastically beautiful, like something in a poem or a dream.

By the time they got to Acapulco it was dark. Night followed upon the
sunset with a suddenness that astonished the twins, used to the
leisurely methods of twilight on the Baltic; and the only light in the
country outside the town as they got near it was the light from myriads
of great stars.

No Delloggs were at the station, but the twins were used now to not
being met and had not particularly expected them; besides, Mr. Twist was
with them this time, and he would see that if the Delloggs didn't come
to them they would get safely to the Delloggs.

The usual telegram had been sent announcing their arrival, and the
taxi-driver, who seemed to know the Dellogg house well when Mr. Twist
told him where they wanted to go, apparently also thought it natural
they should want to go exactly there. In him, indeed, there did seem to
be a trace of expecting them,--almost as if he had been told to look out
for them; for hardly had Mr. Twist begun to give him the address than
glancing at the twins he said, "I guess you're wanting Mrs. Dellogg";
and got down and actually opened the door for them, an attention so
unusual in the taxi-drivers the twins had up to then met in America that
they were more than ever convinced that nothing in the way of
unfriendliness or unkindness could stand up against sun and oranges.

"Relations?" he asked them through the window as he shut the door gently
and carefully, while Mr. Twist went with a porter to see about the
luggage.

"I beg your pardon?" said Anna-Rose.

"Relations of Delloggses?"

"No," said Anna-Rose. "Friends."

"At least," amended Anna-Felicitas, "practically."

"Ah," said the driver, leaning with both his arms on the window-sill in
the friendliest possible manner, and chewing gum and eyeing them with
thoughtful interest.

Then he said, after a pause during which his jaw rolled regularly from
side to side and the twins watched the rolling with an interest equal to
his interest in them, "From Los Angeles?"

"No," said Anna-Rose. "From New York."

"At least," amended Anna-Felicitas, "practically."

"Well I call that a real compliment," said the driver slowly and
deliberately because of his jaw going on rolling. "To come all that way,
and without being relations--I call that a real compliment, and a
friendship that's worth something. Anybody can come along from Los
Angeles, but it takes a real friend to come from New York," and he eyed
them now with admiration.

The twins for their part eyed him. Not only did his rolling jaws
fascinate them, but the things he was saying seemed to them quaint.

"But we wanted to come," said Anna-Rose, after a pause.

"Of course. Does you credit," said the driver.

The twins thought this over.

The bright station lights shone on their faces, which stood out very
white in the black setting of their best mourning. Before getting to Los
Angeles they had dressed themselves carefully in what Anna-Felicitas
called their favourable-impression-on-arrival garments,--those garments
Aunt Alice had bought for them on their mother's death, expressing the
wave of sympathy in which she found herself momentarily engulfed by
going to a very good and expensive dressmaker; and in the black
perfection of these clothes the twins looked like two well-got-up and
very attractive young crows. These were the clothes they had put on on
leaving the ship, and had been so obviously admired in, to the
uneasiness of Mr. Twist, by the public; it was in these clothes that
they had arrived within range of Mr. Sack's distracted but still
appreciative vision, and in them that they later roused the suspicions
and dislike of Mrs. Twist. It was in these clothes that they were now
about to start what they hoped would be a lasting friendship with the
Delloggs, and remembering they had them on they decided that perhaps it
wasn't only sun and oranges making the taxi-driver so attentive, but
also the effect on him of their grown-up and awe-inspiring hats.

This was confirmed by what he said next. "I guess you're old friends,
then," he remarked, after a period of reflective jaw-rolling. "Must be,
to come all that way."

"Well--not exactly," said Anna-Rose, divided between her respect for
truth and her gratification at being thought old enough to be somebody's
old friend.

"You see," explained Anna-Felicitas, who was never divided in her
respect for truth, "we're not particularly old anything."

The driver in his turn thought this over, and finding he had no
observations he wished to make on it he let it pass, and said, "You'll
miss Mr. Dellogg."

"Oh?" said Anna-Rose, pricking up her ears, "Shall we?"

"We don't mind missing Mr. Dellogg," said Anna-Felicitas. "It's Mrs.
Dellogg we wouldn't like to miss."

The driver looked puzzled.

"Yes--that would be too awful," said Anna-Rose, who didn't want a
repetition of the Sack dilemma. "You did say," she asked anxiously,
"didn't you, that we were going to miss Mr. Dellogg?"

The driver, looking first at one of them and then at the other, said,
"Well, and who wouldn't?"

And this answer seemed so odd to the twins that they could only as they
stared at him suppose it was some recondite form of American slang,
provided with its own particular repartee which, being unacquainted with
the language, they were not in a position to supply. Perhaps, they
thought, it was of the same order of mysterious idioms as in England
such sentences as I don't think, and Not half,--forms of speech whose
exact meaning and proper use had never been mastered by them.

"There won't be another like Mr. Dellogg in these parts for many a
year," said the driver, shaking his head. "Ah no. And that's so."

"Isn't he coming back?" asked Anna-Rose.

The driver's jaws ceased for a moment to roll. He stared at Anna-Rose
with unblinking eyes. Then he turned his head away and spat along the
station, and then, again fixing his eyes on Anna-Rose, he said, "Young
gurl, you may be a spiritualist, and a table-turner, and a
psychic-rummager, and a ghost-fancier, and anything else you please, and
get what comfort you can out of your coming backs and the rest of the
blessed truck, but I know better. And what I know, being a Christian, is
that once a man's dead he's either in heaven or he's in hell, and
whichever it is he's in, in it he stops."

Anna-Felicitas was the first to speak. "Are we to understand," she
inquired, "that Mr. Dellogg--" She broke off.

"That Mr. Dellogg is--" Anna-Rose continued for her, but broke off
too.

"That Mr. Dellogg isn't--" resumed Anna-Felicitas with determination,
"well, that he isn't alive?"

"Alive?" repeated the driver. He let his hand drop heavily on the
window-sill. "If that don't beat all," he said, staring at her. "What do
you come his funeral for, then?"

"His funeral?"

"Yes, if you don't know that he ain't?"

"Ain't--isn't what?"

"Alive, of course. No, I mean dead. You're getting me all tangled up."

"But we haven't."

"But we didn't."

"We had a letter from him only last month."

"At least, an uncle we've got had."

"And he didn't say a word in it about being dead--I mean, there was no
sign of his being going to be--I mean, he wasn't a bit ill or anything
in his letter--"

"Now see here," interrupted the driver, sarcasm in his voice, "it ain't
exactly usual is it--I put it to you squarely, and say it ain't
_exactly_ usual (there may be exceptions, but it ain't exactly _usual_)
to come to a gentleman's funeral, and especially not all the way from
New York, without some sort of an idea that he's dead. Some sort of a
_general_ idea, anyhow," he added still more sarcastically; for his
admiration for the twins had given way to doubt and discomfort, and a
suspicion was growing on him that with incredible and horrible levity,
seeing what the moment was and what the occasion, they were filling up
the time waiting for their baggage, among which were no doubt funeral
wreaths, by making game of him.

"Gurls like you shouldn't behave that way," he went on, his voice
aggrieved as he remembered how sympathetically he had got down from his
seat when he saw their mourning clothes and tired white faces and helped
them into his taxi,--only for genuine mourners, real sorry ones, going
to pay their last respects to a gentleman like Mr. Dellogg, would he, a
free American have done that. "Nicely dressed gurls, well-cared for
gurls. Daughters of decent people. Here you come all this way, I guess
sent by your parents to represent them properly, and properly fitted out
in nice black clothes and all, and you start making fun. Pretending.
Playing kind of hide-and-seek with me about the funeral. Messing me up
in a lot of words. I don't like it. I'm a father myself, and I don't
like it. I don't like to see daughters going on like this when their
father ain't looking. It don't seem decent to me. But I suppose you
Easterners--"

The twins, however, were not listening. They were looking at each other
in dismay. How extraordinary, how terrible, the way Uncle Arthur's
friends gave out. They seemed to melt away at one's mere approach.
People who had been living with their husbands all their lives ran away
just as the twins came on the scene; people who had been alive all their
lives went and died, also at that very moment. It almost seemed as if
directly anybody knew that they, the Twinklers, were coming to stay with
them they became bent on escape. They could only look at each other in
stricken astonishment at this latest blow of Fate. They heard no more of
what the driver said. They could only sit and look at each other.

And then Mr. Twist came hurrying across from the baggage office, wiping
his forehead, for the night was hot. Behind him came the porter,
ruefully balancing the piled-up grips on his truck.

"I'm sorry to have been so--" began Mr. Twist, smiling cheerfully: but
he stopped short in his sentence and left off smiling when he saw the
expression in the four eyes fixed on him. "What has happened?" he asked
quickly.

"Only what we might have expected," said Anna-Rose.

"Mr. Dellogg's dead," said Anna-Felicitas.

"You don't say," said Mr. Twist; and after a pause he said again, "You
don't say."

Then he recovered himself. "I'm very sorry to hear it, of course," he
said briskly, picking himself up, as it were, from this sudden and
unexpected tumble, "but I don't see that it matters to you so long as
Mrs. Dellogg isn't dead too."

"Yes, but--" began Anna-Rose.

"Mr. Dellogg isn't _very_ dead, you see," said Anna-Felicitas.

Mr. Twist looked from them to the driver, but finding no elucidation
there and only disapproval, looked back again.

"He isn't dead and settled _down_," said Anna-Rose.

"Not _that_ sort of being dead," said Anna-Felicitas. "He's _just_
dead."

"Just got to the stage when he has a funeral," said Anna-Rose.

"His funeral, it seems, is imminent," said Anna-Felicitas. "Did you not
give us to understand," she asked, turning to the driver, "that it was
imminent?"

"I don't know about imminent," said the driver, who wasn't going to
waste valuable time with words like that, "but it's to-morrow."

"And you see what that means for us," said Anna-Felicitas, turning to
Mr. Twist.

Mr. Twist did.

He again wiped his forehead, but not this time because the night was
hot.




CHAPTER XX


Manifestly it is impossible to thrust oneself into a house where there
is going to be a funeral next day, even if one has come all the way from
New York and has nowhere else to go. Equally manifestly it is impossible
to thrust oneself into it after the funeral till a decent interval has
elapsed. But what the devil, Mr. Twist asked himself in language become
regrettably natural to him since his sojourn at the front, is a decent
interval?

This Mr. Twist asked himself late that night, pacing up and down the
sea-shore in the warm and tranquil darkness in front of the Cosmopolitan
Hotel, while the twins, utterly tired out by their journey and the
emotions at the end of it, crept silently into bed.

How long does it take a widow to recover her composure? Recover, that
is, the first beginnings of it? At what stage in her mourning is it
legitimate to intrude on her with reminders of obligations incurred
before she was a widow,--with, in fact, the Twinklers? Delicacy itself
would shrink from doing it under a week thought Mr. Twist, or even under
a fortnight, or even if you came to that, under a month; and meanwhile
what was he to do with the Twinklers?

Mr. Twist, being of the artistic temperament for otherwise he wouldn't
have been so sympathetic nor would he have minded, as he so passionately
did mind, his Uncle Charles's teapot dribbling on to the tablecloth--was
sometimes swept by brief but tempestuous revulsions of feeling, and
though he loved the Twinklers he did at this moment describe them
mentally and without knowing it in the very words of Uncle Arthur, as
those accursed twins. It was quite unjust, he knew. They couldn't help
the death of the man Dellogg. They were the victims, from first to last,
of a cruel and pursuing fate; but it is natural to turn on victims, and
Mr. Twist was for an instant, out of the very depth of his helpless
sympathy, impatient with the Twinklers.

He walked up and down the sands frowning and pulling his mouth together,
while the Pacific sighed sympathetically at his feet. Across the road
the huge hotel standing in its gardens was pierced by a thousand lights.
Very few people were about and no one at all was on the sands. There was
an immense noise of what sounded like grasshoppers or crickets, and also
at intervals distant choruses of frogs, but these sounds seemed
altogether beneficent,--so warm, and southern, and far away from less
happy places where in October cold winds perpetually torment the world.
Even in the dark Mr. Twist knew he had got to somewhere that was
beautiful. He could imagine nothing more agreeable than, having handed
over the twins safely to the Delloggs, staying on a week or two in this
place and seeing them every day,--perhaps even, as he had pictured to
himself on the journey, being invited to stay with the Delloggs. Now all
that was knocked on the head. He supposed the man Dellogg couldn't help
being dead but he, Mr. Twist, equally couldn't help resenting it. It was
so awkward; so exceedingly awkward. And it was so like what one of that
creature Uncle Arthur's friends would do.

Mr. Twist, it will be seen, was frankly unreasonable, but then he was
very much taken aback and annoyed. What was he to do with the Annas? He
was obviously not a relation of theirs--and indeed no profiles could
have been less alike--and he didn't suppose Acapulco was behind other
parts of America in curiosity and gossip. If he stayed on at the
Cosmopolitan with the twins till Mrs. Dellogg was approachable again,
whenever that might be, every sort of question would be being asked in
whispers about who they were and what was their relationship, and
presently whenever they sat down anywhere the chairs all round them
would empty. Mr. Twist had seen the kind of thing happening in hotels
before to other people,--never to himself; never had he been in any
situation till now that was not luminously regular. And quite soon after
this with the chairs had begun to happen, the people who created these
vacancies were told by the manager--firmly in America, politely in
England, and sympathetically in France--that their rooms had been
engaged a long time ago for the very next day, and no others were
available.

The Cosmopolitan was clearly an hotel frequented by the virtuous rich.
Mr. Twist felt that he and the Annas wouldn't, in their eyes, come under
this heading, not, that is, when the other guests became aware of the
entire absence of any relationship between him and the twins. Well, for
a day or two nothing could happen; for a day or two, before his party
had had time to sink into the hotel consciousness and the manager
appeared to tell him the rooms were engaged, he could think things out
and talk them over with his companions. Perhaps he might even see Mrs.
Dellogg. The funeral, he had heard on inquiring of the hall porter was
next day. It was to be a brilliant affair, said the porter. Mr. Dellogg
had been a prominent inhabitant, free with his money, a supporter of
anything there was to support. The porter talked of him as the
taxi-driver had done, regretfully and respectfully; and Mr. Twist went
to bed angrier than ever with a man who, being so valuable and so
necessary, should have neglected at such a moment to go on living.

Mr. Twist didn't sleep very well that night. He lay in his rosy room,
under a pink silk quilt, and most of the time stared out through the
open French windows with their pink brocade curtains at the great starry
night, thinking.

In that soft bed, so rosy and so silken as to have been worthy of the
relaxations of, at least, a prima donna, he looked like some lean and
alien bird nesting temporarily where he had no business to. He hadn't
thought of buying silk pyjamas when the success of his teapot put him in
the right position for doing so, because his soul was too simple for him
to desire or think of anything less candid to wear in bed than flannel,
and he still wore the blue flannel pyjamas of a careful bringing up. In
that beautiful bed his pyjamas didn't seem appropriate. Also his head,
so frugal of hair, didn't do justice to the lace and linen of a pillow
prepared for the hairier head of, again at least, a prima donna. And
finding he couldn't sleep, and wishing to see the stars he put on his
spectacles, and then looked more out of place than ever. But as nobody
was there to see him,--which, Mr. Twist sometimes thought when he caught
sight of himself in his pyjamas at bed-time, is one of the comforts of
being virtuously unmarried,--nobody minded.

His reflections were many and various, and they conflicted with and
contradicted each other as the reflections of persons in a difficult
position who have Mr. Twist's sort of temperament often do. Faced by a
dribbling teapot, an object which touched none of the softer emotions,
Mr. Twist soared undisturbed in the calm heights of a detached and
concentrated intelligence, and quickly knew what to do with it; faced by
the derelict Annas his heart and his tenderness got in the ways of any
clear vision.

About three o'clock in the morning, when his mind was choked and strewn
with much pulled-about and finally discarded plans, he suddenly had an
idea. A real one. As far as he could see, a real good one. He would
place the Annas in a school.

Why shouldn't they go to school? he asked himself, starting off
answering any possible objections. A year at a first-rate school would
give them and everybody else time to consider. They ought never to have
left school. It was the very place for luxuriant and overflowing natures
like theirs. No doubt Acapulco had such a thing as a finishing school
for young ladies in it, and into it the Annas should go, and once in it
there they should stay put, thought Mr. Twist in vigorous American,
gathering up his mouth defiantly.

Down these lines of thought his relieved mind cantered easily. He would
seek out a lawyer the next morning, regularize his position to the twins
by turning himself into their guardian, and then get them at once into
the best school there was. As their guardian he could then pay all their
expenses, and faced by this legal fact they would, he hoped, be soon
persuaded of the propriety of his paying whatever there was to pay.

Mr. Twist was so much pleased by his idea that he was able to go to
sleep after that. Even three months' school--the period he gave Mrs.
Dellogg for her acutest grief--would do. Tide them over. Give them room
to turn round in. It was a great solution. He took off his spectacles,
snuggled down into his rosy nest, and fell asleep with the
instantaneousness of one whose mind is suddenly relieved.

But when he went down to breakfast he didn't feel quite so sure. The
twins didn't look, somehow, as though they would want to go to school.
They had been busy with their luggage, and had unpacked one of the
trunks for the first time since leaving Aunt Alice, and in honour of the
heat and sunshine and the heavenly smell of heliotrope that was in the
warm air, had put on white summer frocks.

Impossible to imagine anything cooler, sweeter, prettier and more
angelically good than those two Annas looked as they came out on to the
great verandah of the hotel to join Mr. Twist at breakfast. They
instantly sank into the hotel consciousness. Mr. Twist had thought this
wouldn't happen for a day or two, but he now perceived his mistake. Not
a head that wasn't turned to look at them, not a newspaper that wasn't
lowered. They were immediate objects of interest and curiosity, entirely
benevolent interest and curiosity because nobody yet knew anything about
them, and the wives of the rich husbands--those halves of the
virtuous-rich unions which provided the virtuousness--smiled as they
passed, and murmured nice words to each other like cute and cunning.

Mr. Twist, being a good American, stood up and held the twins' chairs
for them when they appeared. They loved this; it seemed so respectful,
and made them feel so old and looked-up to. He had done it that night in
New York at supper, and at all the meals in the train in spite of the
train being so wobbly and each time they had loved it. "It makes one
have such self-respect," they agreed, commenting on this agreeable
practice in private.

They sat down in the chairs with the gracious face of the properly
treated, and inquired, with an amiability and a solicitous politeness on
a par with their treatment how Mr. Twist had slept. They themselves had
obviously slept well, for their faces were cherubic in their bland
placidity, and already after one night wore what Mr. Twist later came to
recognize as the Californian look, a look of complete unworriedness.

Yet they ought to have been worried. Mr. Twist had been terribly worried
up to the moment in the night when he got his great idea, and he was
worried again, now that he saw the twins, by doubts. They didn't look as
though they would easily be put to school. His idea still seemed to him
magnificent, a great solution, but would the Annas be able to see it?
They might turn out impervious to it; not rejecting it, but simply
non-absorbent. As they slowly and contentedly ate their grape-fruit,
gazing out between the spoonfuls at the sea shining across the road
through palm trees, and looking unruffled itself, he felt it was going
to be rather like suggesting to two cherubs to leave their serene
occupation of adoring eternal beauty and learn lessons instead. Still,
it was the one way out, as far as Mr. Twist could see, of the situation
produced by the death of the man Dellogg. "When you've done breakfast,"
he said, pulling himself together on their reaching the waffle stage,
"we must have a talk."

"When we've done breakfast," said Anna-Rose, "we must have a walk."

"Down there," said Anna-Felicitas, pointing with her spoon. "On the
sands. Round the curve to where the pink hills begin."

"Mr. Dellogg's death," said Mr. Twist, deciding it was necessary at once
to wake them up out of the kind of happy somnolescence they seemed to be
falling into, "has of course completely changed--"

"How unfortunate," interrupted Anna-Rose, her eyes on the palms and the
sea and the exquisite distant mountains along the back of the bay, "to
have to be dead on a day like this."

"It's not only his missing the fine weather that makes it unfortunate,"
said Mr. Twist.

"You mean," said Anna-Rose, "it's our missing him."

"Precisely," said Mr. Twist.

"Well, we know that," said Anna-Felicitas placidly.

"We knew it last night, and it worried us," said Anna-Rose. "Then we
went to sleep and it didn't worry us. And this morning it still
doesn't."

"No," said Mr. Twist dryly. "You don't look particularly worried, I must
say."

"No," said Anna-Felicitas, "we're not. People who find they've got to
heaven aren't usually worried, are they."

"And having got to heaven," said Anna-Rose, "we've thought of a plan to
enable us to stay in it."

"Oh have you," said Mr. Twist, pricking up his ears.

"The plan seemed to think of us rather than we of it," explained
Anna-Felicitas. "It came and inserted itself, as it were, into our minds
while we were dressing."

"Well, I've thought of a plan too," said Mr. Twist firmly, feeling sure
that the twins' plan would be the sort that ought to be instantly nipped
in the bud.

He was therefore greatly astonished when Anna-Rose said, "Have you? Is
it about schools?"

He stared at her in silence. "Yes," he then said slowly, for he was
very much surprised. "It is."

"So is ours," said Anna-Rose.

"Indeed," said Mr. Twist.

"Yes," said Anna-Felicitas. "We don't think much of it, but it will tide
us over."

"Exactly," said Mr. Twist, still more astonished at this perfect harmony
of ideas.

"Tide us over till Mrs. Dellogg is---" began Anna-Rose in her clear
little voice that carried like a flute to all the tables round them.

Mr. Twist got up quickly. "If you've finished let us go out of doors,"
he said; for he perceived that silence had fallen on the other tables,
and attentiveness to what Anna-Rose was going to say next.

"Yes. On the sands," said the twins, getting up too.

On the sands, however, Mr. Twist soon discovered that the harmony of
ideas was not as complete as he had supposed; indeed, something very
like heated argument began almost as soon as they were seated on some
rocks round the corner of the shore to the west of the hotel and they
became aware, through conversation, of the vital difference in the two
plans.

The Twinkler plan, which they expounded at much length and with a
profusion of optimistic detail, was to search for and find a school in
the neighbourhood for the daughters of gentlemen, and go to it for three
months, or six months, or whatever time Mrs. Dellogg wanted to recover
in.

Up to this point the harmony was complete, and Mr. Twist could only nod
approval. Beyond it all was confusion, for it appeared that the twins
didn't dream of entering a school in any capacity except as teachers.
Professors, they said; professors of languages and literatures. They
could speak German, as they pointed out, very much better than most
people, and had, as Mr. Twist had sometimes himself remarked, an
extensive vocabulary in English. They would give lessons in English and
German literature. They would be able to teach quite a lot about Heine,
for instance, the whole of whose poetry they knew by heart and whose sad
life in Paris--

"It's no good running on like that," interrupted Mr. Twist. "You're not
old enough."

Not old enough? The Twinklers, from their separate rocks, looked at each
other in surprised indignation.

"Not old enough?" repeated Anna-Rose. "We're grown up. And I don't see
how one can be more than grown up. One either is or isn't grown up. And
there can be no doubt as to which we are."

And this the very man who so respectfully had been holding their chairs
for them only a few minutes before! As if people did things like that
for children.

"You're not old enough I say," said Mr. Twist again, bringing his hand
down with a slap on the rock to emphasize his words. "Nobody would take
you. Why, you've got perambulator faces, the pair of you--"

"Perambulator--?"

"And what school is going to want two teachers both teaching the same
thing, anyway?"

And he then quickly got out his plan, and the conversation became so
heated that for a time it was molten.

The Twinklers were shocked by his plan. More; they were outraged. Go to
school? To a place they had never been to even in their suitable years?
They, two independent grown-ups with £200 in the bank and nobody with
any right to stop their doing anything they wanted to? Go to school now,
like a couple of little suck-a-thumbs?

It was Anna-Rose, very flushed and bright of eye, who flung this
expression at Mr. Twist from her rock. He might think they had
perambulator faces if he liked--they didn't care, but they did desire
him to bear in mind that if it hadn't been for the war they would be now
taking their proper place in society, that they had already done a
course of nursing in a hospital, an activity not open to any but adults,
and that Uncle Arthur had certainly not given them all that money to
fritter away on paying for belated schooling.

"We would be anachronisms," said Anna-Felicitas, winding up the
discussion with a firmness so unusual in her that it showed how
completely she had been stirred.

"Are you aware that we are marriageable?" inquired Anna-Rose icily.

"And don't you think it's bad enough for us to be aliens and
undesirables," asked Anna-Felicitas, "without getting chronologically
confused as well?"

Mr. Twist was quiet for a bit. He couldn't compete with the Twinklers
when it came to sheer language. He sat hunched on his rock, his face
supported by his two fists, staring out to sea while the twins watched
him indignantly. School indeed! Then presently he pushed his hat back
and began slowly to rub his ear.

"Well, I'm blest if I know what to do with you, then," he said,
continuing to rub his ear and stare out to sea.

The twins opened their mouths simultaneously at this to protest against
any necessity for such knowledge on his part, but he interrupted them.
"If you don't mind," he said, "I'd like to resume this discussion when
you're both a little more composed."

"We're perfectly composed," said Anna-Felicitas.

"Less ruffled, then."

"We're quite unruffled," said Anna-Rose.

"Well, you don't look it, and you don't sound like it. But as this is
important I'd be glad to resume the discussion, say, to-morrow. I
suggest we spend to-day exploring the neighbourhood and steadying our
minds--"

"Our minds are perfectly steady, thank you."

"--and to-morrow we'll have another go at this question. I haven't told
you all my plan yet"--Mr. Twist hadn't had time to inform them of his
wish to become their guardian, owing to the swiftness with which he had
been engulfed in their indignation,--"but whether you approve of it or
not, what is quite certain is that we can't stay on at the hotel much
longer."

"Because it's so dear?"

"Oh, it isn't so much _that_,--the proprietor is a friend of mine, or
anyhow he very well might be--"

"It looks very dear," said Anna-Rose, visions of their splendid bedroom
and bathroom rising before her. They too had slept in silken beds, and
the taps in their bathroom they had judged to be pure gold.

"And it's because we can't afford to be in a dear place spending money,"
said Anna-Felicitas, "that it's so important we should find a salaried
position in a school without loss of time."

"And it's because we can't afford reckless squandering that we ought to
start looking for such a situation at once" said Anna-Rose.

"Not to-day," said Mr. Twist firmly, for he wouldn't give up the hope
of getting them, once they were used to it, to come round to his plan.
"To-day, this one day, we'll give ourselves up to enjoyment. It'll do us
all good. Besides, we don't often get to a place like this, do we. And
it has taken some getting to, hasn't it."

He rose from his rock and offered his hand to help them off theirs.

"To-day enjoyment," he said, "to-morrow business. I'm crazy," he added
artfully, "to see what the country is like away up in those hills."

And so it was that about five o'clock that afternoon, having spent the
whole day exploring the charming environs of Acapulco,--having been seen
at different periods going over the Old Mission in tow of a monk who
wouldn't look at them but kept his eyes carefully fixed on the ground,
sitting on high stools eating strange and enchanting ices at the shop in
the town that has the best ices, bathing deliciously in the warm sea at
the foot of a cliff along the top of which a great hedge of
rose-coloured geraniums flared against the sky, lunching under a grove
of ilexes on the contents of a basket produced by Mr. Twist from
somewhere in the car he had hired, wandering afterwards up through
eucalyptus woods across the fields towards the foot of the
mountains,--they came about five o'clock, thirsty and thinking of tea,
to a delightful group of flowery cottages clustering round a restaurant
and forming collectively, as Mr. Twist explained, one of the many
American forms of hotel. "To which," he said, "people not living in the
cottages can come and have meals at the restaurant, so we'll go right in
and have tea."

And it was just because they couldn't get tea--any other meal, the
proprietress said, but no teas were served, owing to the Domestic Help
Eight Hours Bill which obliged her to do without domestics during the
afternoon hours--that Anna-Felicitas came by her great idea.




CHAPTER XXI


But she didn't come by it at once.

They got into the car first, which was waiting for them in the scented
road at the bottom of the field they had walked across, and they got
into it in silence and were driven back to their hotel for tea, and her
brain was still unvisited by inspiration.

They were all tired and thirsty, and were disappointed at being thwarted
in their desire to sit at a little green table under whispering trees
and rest, and drink tea, and had no sort of wish to have it at the
Cosmopolitan. But both Mr. Twist, who had been corrupted by Europe, and
the twins, who had the habits of their mother, couldn't imagine doing
without it in the afternoon, and they would have it in the hotel sooner
than not have it at all. It was brought to them after a long time of
waiting. Nobody else was having any at that hour, and the waiter, when
at last one was found, had difficulty apparently in believing that they
were serious. When at last he did bring it, it was toast and marmalade
and table-napkins, for all the world as though it had been breakfast.

Then it was that, contemplating this with discomfort and distaste, as
well as the place they were sitting in and its rocking-chairs and marble
and rugs, Anna-Felicitas was suddenly smitten by her idea.

It fell upon her like a blow. It struck her fairly, as it were, between
the eyes. She wasn't used to ideas, and she stopped dead in the middle
of a piece of toast and looked at the others. They stopped too in their
eating and looked at her.

"What's the matter?" asked Anna-Rose. "Has another button come off?"

At this Mr. Twist considered it wisest to turn his head away, for
experience had taught him that Anna-Felicitas easily came undone.

"I've thought of something," said Anna-Felicitas.

Mr. Twist turned his head back again. "You don't say," he said, mildly
sarcastic.

"_Ich gratuliere_," said Anna-Rose, also mildly sarcastic.

"I've got an idea," said Anna-Felicitas. "But it's so luminous," she
said, looking from one to the other in a kind of surprise. "Of course.
That's what we'll do. Ridiculous to waste time bothering about schools."

There was a new expression on her face that silenced the comments rising
to Anna-Rose's and Mr. Twist's tongues, both of whom had tired feet and
were therefore disposed to sarcasm.

Anna-Felicitas looked at them, and they looked at her, and her face
continued to become visibly more and more illuminated, just as if a
curtain were being pulled up. Animation and interest shone in her
usually dreamy eyes. Her drooping body sat up quite straight. She
reminded Anna-Rose, who had a biblically well-furnished mind, of Moses
when he came down from receiving the Law on the mountain.

"Well, tell us," said Anna-Rose. "But not," she added, thinking of
Moses, "if it's only more commandments."

Anna-Felicitas dropped the piece of toast she was still holding in her
fingers, and pushed back her cup. "Come out on to the rocks," she said
getting up--"where we sat this morning." And she marched out, followed
by the other two with the odd submissiveness people show towards any one
who is thoroughly determined.

It was dark and dinner-time before they got back to the hotel.
Throughout the sunset Anna-Felicitas sat on her rock, the same rock she
had sat on so unsatisfactorily eight hours earlier, and expounded her
idea. She couldn't talk fast enough. She, so slow and listless, for once
was shaken into burning activity. She threw off her hat directly she got
on to the sands, climbed up the rock as if it were a pulpit, and with
her hands clasped round her knees poured out her plan, the long shafts
of the setting sun bathing her in bright flames and making her more like
Moses than ever,--if, that is, one could imagine Moses as beautiful as
Anna-F., thought Anna-Rose, and as felicitously without his nose and
beard.

It was wonderful how complete Anna-Felicitas's inspiration was. It
reminded Mr. Twist of his own about the teapot. It was, of course, a far
more complicated matter than that little device of his, and would have
to be thought out very carefully and approached very judiciously, but
the wealth of detail she was already ready with immensely impressed him.
She even had a name for the thing; and it was when he heard this name,
when it flashed into her talk with the unpremeditatedness of an
inspiration, that Mr. Twist became definitely enthusiastic.

He had an American eye for advertisement. Respect for it was in his
blood. He instantly saw the possibilities contained in the name. He saw
what could be done with it, properly worked. He saw it on hoarding-on
signposts, in a thousand contrivances for catching the public attention
and sticking there.

The idea, of course, was fantastic, unconventional, definitely outside
what his mother and that man Uncle Arthur would consider proper, but it
was outside the standards of such people that life and fruitfulness and
interest and joy began. He had escaped from the death-like grip of his
mother, and Uncle Arthur had himself forcibly expulsed the Annas from
his, and now that they were all so far away, instead of still timorously
trying to go on living up to those distant sterile ideas why shouldn't
they boldly go out into the light and colour that was waiting everywhere
for the free of spirit?

Mr. Twist had often observed how perplexingly much there is to be said
for the opposite sides of a question. He was now, but with no
perplexity, for Anna-Felicitas had roused his enthusiasm, himself taking
the very opposite view as to the proper thing for the twins to do from
the one he had taken in the night and on the rocks that morning. School?
Nonsense. Absurd to bury these bright shoots of everlastingness--this is
what they looked like to him, afire with enthusiasm and the setting
sun--in such a place of ink. If the plan, owing to the extreme youth of
the Annas, were unconventional, conventionality could be secured by
giving a big enough salary to a middle-aged lady to come and preside. He
himself would hover beneficently in the background over the undertaking.

Anna-Felicitas's idea was to use Uncle Arthur's £200 in renting one of
the little wooden cottages that seemed to be plentiful, preferably one
about five miles out in the country, make it look inside like an English
cottage, all pewter and chintz and valances, make it look outside like
the more innocent type of German wayside inn, with green tables and
spreading trees, get a cook who would concentrate on cakes, real lovely
ones, various, poetic, wonderful cakes, and start an inn for tea alone
that should become the fashion. It ought to be so arranged that it
became the fashion. She and Anna-Rose would do the waiting. The prices
would be very high, indeed exorbitant--this Mr. Twist regarded as
another inspiration,--so that it should be a distinction, give people a
_cachet_, to have had tea at their cottage; and in a prominent position
in the road in front of it, where every motor-car would be bound to see
it, there would be a real wayside inn signboard, such as inns in England
always have, with its name on it.

"If people here were really neutral you might have the Imperial arms of
Germany and England emblazoned on it," interrupted Mr. Twist, "just to
show your own extreme and peculiar neutrality."

"We might call it The Christopher and Columbus," interrupted Anna-Rose,
who had been sitting open-mouthed hanging on Anna-Felicitas's words.

"Or you might call it The Cup and Saucer," said Mr. Twist, "and have a
big cup brimming with tea and cream painted on it--"

"No," said Anna-Felicitas. "It is The Open Arms. That is its name."

And Mr. Twist, inclined to smile and criticise up to this, bowed his
head in instantaneous recognition and acceptance.

He became definitely enthusiastic. Of course he would see to it that not
a shadow of ambiguousness was allowed to rest on such a name. The whole
thing as he saw it, his mind working rapidly while Anna-Felicitas still
talked, would be a happy joke, a joyous, gay little assault on the
purses of millionaires, in whom the district abounded judging from the
beautiful houses and gardens he had passed that day,--but a joke and a
gay assault that would at the same time employ and support the Annas;
solve them, in fact, saw Mr. Twist, who all day long had been regarding
them much as one does a difficult mathematical problem.

It was Mr. Twist who added the final inspiration to Anna-Felicitas's
many, when at last she paused for want of breath. The inn, he said,
should be run as a war philanthropy. All that was over after the
expenses were paid and a proper percentage reserved by the Annas as
interest on their invested capital--they listened with eager respect to
these business-like expressions--would be handed over to the American
Red Cross. "That," explained Mr. Twist, "would seal the inn as both
respectable and fashionable, which is exactly what we would want to make
it."

And he then announced, and they accepted without argument or questioning
in the general excitement, that he would have himself appointed their
legal guardian.

They didn't go back to the Cosmopolitan till dinnertime, there was so
much to say, and after dinner, a meal at which Mr. Twist had to suppress
them a good deal because The Open Arms kept on bursting through into
their talk and, as at breakfast, the people at the tables round them
were obviously trying to hear, they went out once again on to the
sea-front and walked up and down till late continuing the discussion,
mostly simultaneously as regards the twins, while Mr. Twist chimed in
with practical suggestions whenever they stopped to take breath.

He had to drive them indoors to bed at last, for the lights were going
out one by one in the Cosmopolitan bedroom windows, where the virtuous
rich, exhausted by their day of virtue, were subsiding, prostrate with
boredom and respectability, into their various legitimate lairs, and he
stayed alone out by the sea rapidly sketching out his activities for the
next day.

There was the guardianship to be arranged, the cottage to be found, and
the middle-aged lady to be advertised for. She, indeed, must be secured
at once; got to come at once to the Cosmopolitan and preside over the
twins until they all proceeded in due season to The Open Arms. She must
be a motherly middle-aged lady, decided Mr. Twist, affectionate, skilled
in managing a cook, business-like, intellectual, and obedient. Her
feminine tact would enable her to appear to preside while she was in
reality obeying. She must understand that she was there for the Annas,
and that the Annas were not there for her. She must approach the
situation in the spirit of the enlightened king of a democratic country,
who receives its honours, accepts its respect, but does not lose sight
of the fact that he is merely the Chief Servant of the people. Mr. Twist
didn't want a female Uncle Arthur let loose upon those blessed little
girls; besides, they would have the dangerous weapon in their hands of
being able to give her notice, and it would considerably dim the
reputation of The Open Arms if there were a too frequent departure from
it of middle-aged ladies.

Mr. Twist felt himself very responsible and full of anxieties as he
paced up and down alone, but he was really enjoying himself. That
youthful side of him, so usual in the artistic temperament, which leaped
about at the least pleasant provocation like a happy lamb when the
sunshine tickles it, was feeling that this was great fun; and the
business side of him was feeling that it was not only great fun but
probably an extraordinarily productive piece of money-making.

The ignorant Annas--bless their little hearts, he thought, he who only
the night before on that very spot had been calling them
accursed--believed that their £200 was easily going to do everything.
This was lucky, for otherwise there would have been some thorny paths of
argument and convincing to be got through before they would have allowed
him to help finance the undertaking; probably they never would have, in
their scrupulous independence. Mr. Twist reflected with satisfaction on
the usefulness of his teapot. At last he was going to be able to do
something, thanks to it, that gave him real gladness. His ambulance to
France--that was duty. His lavishness to his mother--that again was
duty. But here was delight, here at last was what his lonely heart had
always longed for,--a chance to help and make happy, and be with and
watch being made happy, dear women-things, dear soft sweet kind
women-things, dear sister-things, dear children-things....

It has been said somewhere before that Mr. Twist was meant by Nature to
be a mother; but Nature, when she was half-way through him, forgot and
turned him into a man.




CHAPTER XXII


The very next morning they set out house-hunting, and two days later
they had found what they wanted. Not exactly what they wanted of course,
for the reason, as Anna-Felicitas explained that nothing ever is
_exactly_, but full of possibilities to the eye of imagination, and
there were six of this sort of eye gazing at the little house.

It stood at right angles to a road much used by motorists because of its
beauty, and hidden from it by trees on the top of a slope of green
fields scattered over with live oaks that gently descended down towards
the sea. Its back windows, and those parts of it that a house is ashamed
of, were close up to a thick grove of eucalyptus which continued to the
foot of the mountains. It had an overrun little garden in front,
separated from the fields by a riotous hedge of sweetbriar. It had a few
orange, and lemon, and peach trees on its west side, the survivors of
what had once been intended for an orchard, and a line of pepper trees
on the other, between it and the road. Neglected roses and a huge
wistaria clambered over its dilapidated face. Somebody had once planted
syringas, and snowballs, and lilacs along the inside of the line of
pepper trees, and they had grown extravagantly and were an impenetrable
screen, even without the sweeping pepper trees from the road.

It hadn't been lived in for years, and it was well on in decay, being
made of wood, but the situation was perfect for The Open Arms. Every
motorist coming up that road would see the signboard outside the pepper
trees, and would certainly want to stop at the neat little gate, and
pass through the flowery tunnel that would be cut through the syringas,
and see what was inside. Other houses were offered of a far higher
class, for this one had never been lived in by gentry, said the
house-agent endeavouring to put them off a thing so broken down. A
farmer had had it years back, he told them, and instead of confining
himself to drinking the milk from his own cows, which was the only
appropriate drink for a farmer the agent maintained--he was the
president of the local Anti-Vice-In-All-Its-Forms League--he put his
money as he earned it into gin, and the gin into himself, and so after a
bit was done for.

The other houses the agent pressed on them were superior in every way
except situation; but situation being the first consideration, Mr. Twist
agreed with the twins, who had fallen in love with the neglected little
house whose shabbiness was being so industriously hidden by roses, that
this was the place, and a week later it and its garden had been
bought--Mr. Twist didn't tell the twins he had bought it, in order to
avoid argument, but it was manifestly the simple thing to do--and over
and round and through it swarmed workmen all day long, like so many
diligent and determined ants. Also, before the week was out, the
middle-aged lady had been found and engaged, and a cook of gifts in the
matter of cakes. This is the way you do things in America. You decide
what it is that you really want, and you start right away and get it.
"And everything so cheap too!" exclaimed the twins gleefully, whose £200
was behaving, it appeared, very like the widow's cruse.

This belief, however, received a blow when they went without Mr. Twist,
who was too busy now for any extra expeditions, to choose and buy
chintzes, and it was finally shattered when the various middle-aged
ladies who responded to Mr. Twist's cry for help in the advertising
columns of the Acapulco and Los Angeles press one and all demanded as
salary more than the whole Twinkler capital.

The twins had a bad moment of chill fear and misgiving, and then once
more were saved by an inspiration,--this time Anna-Rose's.

"I know," she exclaimed, her face clearing. "We'll make it
Co-operative."

Mr. Twist, whose brow too had been puckered in the effort to think out a
way of persuading the twins to let him help them openly with his money,
for in spite of his going to be their guardian they remained difficult
on this point, jumped at the idea. He couldn't, of course, tell what in
Anna-Rose's mind the word co-operative stood for, but felt confident
that whatever it stood for he could manipulate it into covering his
difficulties.

"What is co-operative?" asked Anna-Felicitas, with a new respect for a
sister who could suddenly produce a business word like that and seem to
know all about it. She had heard the word herself, but it sat very
loosely in her head, at no point touching anything else.

"Haven't you heard of Co-operative Stores?" inquired Anna-Rose.

"Yes but--"

"Well, then."

"Yes, but what would a co-operative inn be?" persisted Anna-Felicitas.

"One run on co-operative lines, of course," said Anna-Rose grandly.
"Everybody pays for everything, so that nobody particular pays for
anything."

"Oh," said Anna-Felicitas.

"I mean," said Anna-Rose, who felt herself that this might be clearer,
"it's when you pay the servants and the rent and the cakes and things
out of what you get."

"Oh," said Anna-Felicitas. "And will they wait quite quietly till we've
got it?"

"Of course, if we're all co-operative."

"I see," said Anna-Felicitas, who saw as little as before, but knew of
old that Anna-Rose grew irascible when pressed.

"See here now," said Mr. Twist weightily, "if that isn't an idea. Only
you've got hold of the wrong word. The word you want is profit-sharing.
And as this undertaking is going to be a big success there will be big
profits, and any amount of cakes and salaries will be paid for as glibly
and easily as you can say your ABC."

And he explained that till they were fairly started he was going to stay
in California, and that he intended during this time to be book-keeper,
secretary, and treasurer to The Open Arms, besides Advertiser-in-Chief,
which was, he said, the most important post of all; and if they would be
so good as to leave this side of it unquestioningly to him, who had had
a business training, he would undertake that the Red Cross, American or
British, whichever they decided to support, should profit handsomely.

Thus did Mr. Twist artfully obtain a free hand as financial backer of
The Open Arms. The profit-sharing system seemed to the twins admirable.
It cleared away every scruple and every difficulty, they now bought
chintzes and pewter pots in the faith of it without a qualm, and even
ceased to blench at the salary of the lady engaged to be their
background,--indeed her very expensiveness pleased them, for it gave
them confidence that she must at such a price be the right one, because
nobody, they agreed, who knew herself not to be the right one would have
the face to demand so much.

This lady, the widow of Bruce D. Bilton of Chicago of whom of course,
she said, the Miss Twinklers had heard--the Miss Twinklers blushed and
felt ashamed of themselves because they hadn't, and indistinctly
murmured something about having heard of Cornelius K. Vanderbilt,
though, and wouldn't he do--had a great deal of very beautiful
snow-white hair, while at the same time she was only middle-aged. She
firmly announced, when she perceived Mr. Twist's spectacles dwelling on
her hair, that she wasn't yet forty, and her one fear was that she
mightn't be middle-aged enough. The advertisement had particularly
mentioned middle-aged; and though she was aware that her brains and
fingers and feet couldn't possibly be described as coming under that
heading, she said her hair, on the other hand, might well be regarded as
having overshot the mark. But its turning white had nothing to do with
age. It had done that when Mr. Bilton passed over. No hair could have
stood such grief as hers when Mr. Bilton took that final step. She had
been considering the question of age, she informed Mr. Twist, from every
aspect before coming to the interview, for she didn't want to make a
mistake herself nor allow the Miss Twinklers to make a mistake; and she
had arrived at the conclusion that what with her hair being too old and
the rest of her being too young, taken altogether she struck an absolute
average and perfectly fulfilled the condition required; and as she
wished to live in the country, town life disturbing her psychically too
much, she was willing to give up her home and her circle--it was a real
sacrifice--and accept the position offered by the Miss Twinklers. She
was, she said, very quiet, and yet at the same time she was very active.
She liked to fly round among duties, and she liked to retire into her
own mentality and think. She was all for equilibrium, for the right
balancing of body and mind in a proper alternation of suitable action.
Thus she attained poise,--she was one of the most poised women her
friends knew, they told her. Also she had a warm heart, and liked both
philanthropy and orphans. Especially if they were war ones.

Mrs. Bilton talked so quickly and so profusely that it took quite a long
time to engage her. There never seemed to be a pause in which one could
do it. It was in Los Angeles, in an hotel to which Mr. Twist had motored
the twins, starting at daybreak that morning in order to see this lady,
that the personal interview took place, and by lunch-time they had been
personally interviewing her for three hours without stopping. It seemed
years. The twins longed to engage her, if only to keep her quiet; but
Mrs. Bilton's spirited description of life as she saw it and of the way
it affected something she called her psyche, was without punctuation and
without even the tiny gap of a comma in it through which one might have
dexterously slipped a definite offer. She had to be interrupted at last,
in spite of the discomfort this gave to the Twinkler and Twist
politeness, because a cook was coming to be interviewed directly after
lunch, and they were dying for some food.

The moment Mr. Twist saw Mrs. Bilton's beautiful white hair he knew she
was the one. That hair was what The Open Arms wanted and must have; that
hair, with a well-made black dress to go with it, would be a shield
through which no breath of misunderstanding as to the singleness of
purpose with which the inn was run would ever penetrate. He would have
settled it with her in five minutes if she could have been got to
listen, but Mrs. Bilton couldn't be got to listen; and when it became
clear that no amount of patient waiting would bring him any nearer the
end of what she had to say Mr. Twist was forced to take off his coat, as
it were, and plunge abruptly into the very middle of her flow of words
and convey to her as quickly as possible, as one swimming for his life
against the stream, that she was engaged. "Engaged, Mrs. Bilton,"--he
called out, raising his voice above the sound of Mrs. Bilton's rushing
words, "engaged." She would be expected at the Cosmopolitan, swiftly
continued Mr. Twist, who was as particularly anxious to have her at the
Cosmopolitan as the twins were particularly anxious not to,--for for the
life of them they couldn't see why Mrs. Bilton should be stirred up
before they started inhabiting the cottage,--within three days--

"Mr. Twist, it can't be done," broke in Mrs. Bilton a fresh and
mountainous wave of speech gathering above Mr. Twist's head. "It
absolutely--"

"Within a week, then," he called out quickly, holding up the breaking of
the wave for an instant while he hastened to and opened the door. "And
goodmorning Mrs. Bilton--my apologies, my sincere apologies, but we
have to hurry away--"

The cook was engaged that afternoon. Mr. Twist appeared to have mixed up
the answers to his advertisement, for when, after paying the
luncheon-bill, he went to join the twins in the sitting-room, he found
them waiting for him in the passage outside the door looking excited.

"The cook's come," whispered Anna-Rose, jerking her head towards the
shut door. "She's a man."

"She's a Chinaman," whispered Anna-Felicitas.

Mr. Twist was surprised. He thought he had an appointment with a
woman,--a coloured lady from South Carolina who was a specialist in
pastries and had immaculate references, but the Chinaman assured him
that he hadn't, and that his appointment was with him alone, with him,
Li Koo. In proof of it, he said, spreading out his hands, here he was.
"We make cakies--li'l cakies--many, lovely li'l cakies," said Li Koo,
observing doubt on the gentleman's face; and from somewhere on his
person he whipped out a paper bag of them as a conjurer whips a rabbit
out of a hat, and offered them to the twins.

They ate. He was engaged. It took five minutes.

After he had gone, and punctually to the minute of her appointment, an
over-flowing Negress appeared and announced that she was the coloured
lady from South Carolina to whom the gentleman had written.

Mr. Twist uncomfortably felt that Li Koo had somehow been clever.
Impossible, however, to go back on him, having eaten his cakes. Besides,
they were perfect cakes, blown together apparently out of flowers and
honey and cream,--cakes which, combined with Mrs. Bilton's hair, would
make the fortune of The Open Arms.

The coloured lady, therefore, was sent away, disappointed in spite of
the _douceur_ and fair words Mr. Twist gave her; and she was so much
disappointed that they could hear her being it out loud all the way
along the passage and down the stairs, and the nature of her expression
of her disappointment was such that Mr. Twist, as he tried by animated
conversation to prevent it reaching the twins' ears, could only be
thankful after all that Li Koo had been so clever. It did, however,
reach the twins' ears, but they didn't turn a hair because of Uncle
Arthur. They merely expressed surprise at its redness, seeing that it
came out of somebody so black.

Directly after this trip to Los Angeles advertisements began to creep
over the countryside. They crept along the roads where motorists were
frequent and peeped at passing cars round corners and over hedges. They
were taciturn advertisements, and just said three words in big,
straight, plain white letters on a sea-blue ground:

THE OPEN ARMS

People passing in their cars saw them, and vaguely thought it must be
the name of a book. They had better get it. Other people would have got
it. It couldn't be a medicine nor anything to eat, and was probably a
religious novel. Novels about feet or arms were usually religious. A few
considered it sounded a little improper, and as though the book, far
from being religious, would not be altogether nice; but only very proper
people who distrusted everything, even arms took this view.

After a week the same advertisements appeared with three lines added:

THE OPEN ARMS
    YES
    BUT
WHY? WHERE? WHAT?

and then ten days after that came fresh ones:

THE OPEN ARMS
  WILL OPEN
    WIDE

On November 20th at Four P.M.

N.B. WATCH THE SIGNPOSTS.

And while the countryside--an idle countryside, engaged almost wholly in
holiday-making and glad of any new distraction--began to be interested
and asked questions, Mr. Twist was working day and night at getting the
thing ready.

All day long he was in Acapulco or out at the cottage, urging, hurrying,
criticizing, encouraging, praising and admonishing. His heart and soul
and brain was in this, his business instincts and his soft domestic
side. His brain, after working at top speed during the day with the
architect, the painter and decorator, the furnisher, the garden expert,
the plumbing expert, the electric-light expert, the lawyer, the estate
agent, and numberless other persons, during the night meditated and
evolved advertisements. There was to be a continual stream week by week
after the inn was opened of ingenious advertisements. Altogether Mr.
Twist had his hands full.

The inn was to look artless and simple and small, while actually being
the last word in roomy and sophisticated comfort. It was to be as like
an old English inn to look at as it could possibly be got to be going on
his own and the twins' recollections and the sensationally coloured
Elizabethan pictures in the architect's portfolio. It didn't disturb Mr.
Twist's unprejudiced American mind that an English inn embowered in
heliotrope and arum lilies and eucalyptus trees would be odd and
unnatural, and it wouldn't disturb anybody else there either. Were not
Swiss mountain chalets to be found in the fertile plains along the
Pacific, complete with fir trees specially imported and uprooted in
their maturity and brought down with tons of their own earth attached to
their roots and replanted among carefully disposed, apparently Swiss
rocks, so that what one day had been a place smiling with orange-groves
was the next a bit of frowning northern landscape? And were there not
Italian villas dotted about also? But these looked happier and more at
home than the chalets. And there were buildings too, like small Gothic
cathedrals, looking as uncomfortable and depressed as a woman who has
come to a party in the wrong clothes. But no matter. Nobody minded. So
that an English inn added to this company, with a little German
beer-garden--only there wasn't to be any beer--wouldn't cause the least
surprise or discomfort to anybody.

In the end, the sole resemblance the cottage had to an English inn was
the signboard out in the road. With the best will in the world, and the
liveliest financial encouragement from Mr. Twist, the architect couldn't
in three weeks turn a wooden Californian cottage into an ancient
red-brick Elizabethan pothouse. He got a thatched roof on to it by a
miracle of hustle, but the wooden walls remained; he also found a real
antique heavy oak front door studded with big rusty nailheads in a San
Francisco curiosity shop, that would serve, he said, as a basis for any
wished-for hark-back later on when there was more time to the old girl's
epoch--thus did he refer to Great Eliza and her spacious days--and
meanwhile it gave the building, he alleged, a considerable air; but as
this door in that fine climate was hooked open all day long it didn't
disturb the gay, the almost jocose appearance of the place when
everything was finished.

Houses have their expressions, their distinctive faces, very much as
people have, meditated Mr. Twist the morning of the opening, as he sat
astride a green chair at the bottom of the little garden, where a hedge
of sweetbriar beautifully separated the Twinkler domain from the rolling
fields that lay between it and the Pacific, and stared at his handiwork;
and the conclusion was forced upon him--reluctantly, for it was the last
thing he had wanted The Open Arms to do--that the thing looked as if it
were winking at him.

Positively, thought Mr. Twist, his hat on the back of his head, staring,
that was what it seemed to be doing. How was that? He studied it
profoundly, his head on one side. Was it that it was so very gay? He
hadn't meant it to be gay like that. He had intended a restrained and
disciplined simplicity, a Puritan unpretentiousness, with those sweet
maidens, the Twinkler twins, flitting like modest doves in and out among
its tea-tables; but one small thing had been added to another small
thing at their suggestion, each small thing taken separately apparently
not mattering at all and here it was almost--he hoped it was only his
imagination--winking at him. It looked a familiar little house; jocular;
very open indeed about the arms.




CHAPTER XXIII


Various things had happened, however, before this morning of the great
day was reached, and Mr. Twist had had some harassing experiences.

One of the first things he had done after the visit to Los Angeles was
to take steps in the matter of the guardianship. He had written to Mrs.
Bilton that he was the Miss Twinklers' guardian, though it was not at
that moment true. It was clear, he thought, that it should be made true
as quickly as possible, and he therefore sought out a lawyer in Acapulco
the morning after the interview. This was not the same lawyer who did
his estate business for him; Mr. Twist thought it best to have a
separate one for more personal affairs.

On hearing Mr. Twist's name announced, the lawyer greeted him as an old
friend. He knew, of course, all about the teapot, for the Non-Trickler
was as frequent in American families as the Bible and much more
regularly used; but he also knew about the cottage at the foot of the
hills, what it had cost--which was little--and what it would cost--which
was enormous--before it was fit to live in. The only thing he didn't
know was that it was to be used for anything except an ordinary
_pied-à-terre_. He had heard, too, of the presence at the Cosmopolitan
of the twins, and on this point, like the rest of Acapulco, was a little
curious.

The social column of the Acapulco daily paper hadn't been able to give
any accurate description of the relationship of the Twinklers to Mr.
Twist. Its paragraph announcing his arrival had been obliged merely to
say, while awaiting more detailed information, that Mr. Edward A. Twist,
the well-known Breakfast Table Benefactor and gifted inventor of the
famous Non-Trickler Teapot, had arrived from New York and was staying at
the Cosmopolitan Hotel with _entourage_; and the day after this the
lawyer, who got about a bit, as everybody else did in that encouraging
climate, happening to look in at the Cosmopolitan to have a talk with a
friend, had seen the _entourage_.

It was in the act of passing through the hall on its way upstairs,
followed by a boy carrying a canary in a cage. Even without the boy and
the canary it was a conspicuous object. The lawyer asked his friend who
the cute little girls were, and was interested to hear he was beholding
Mr. Edward A. Twist's _entourage_. His friend told him that opinion in
the hotel was divided about the precise nature of this _entourage_ and
its relationship to Mr. Twist, but it finally came to be generally
supposed that the Miss Twinklers had been placed in his charge by
parents living far away in order that he might safely see them put to
one of the young ladies' finishing schools in that agreeable district.
The house Mr. Twist was taking was not connected in the Cosmopolitan
mind with the Twinklers. Houses were always being taken in that paradise
by wealthy persons from unkinder climates. He would live in it three
months in the year, thought the Cosmopolitan, bring his mother, and keep
in this way an occasional eye on his charges. The hotel guests regarded
the Twinklers at this stage with nothing but benevolence and goodwill,
for they had up to then only been seen and not heard; and as one of
their leading characteristics was a desire to explain, especially if
anybody looked a little surprised, which everybody usually did quite
early in conversation with them, this was at that moment, the delicate
moment before Mrs. Bilton's arrival, fortunate.

The lawyer, then, who appreciated the young and pretty as much as other
honest men, began the interview with Mr. Twist by warmly congratulating
him, when he heard what he had come for, on his taste in wards.

Mr. Twist received this a little coldly, and said it was not a matter of
taste but of necessity. The Miss Twinklers were orphans, and he had been
asked--he cleared his throat--asked by their relatives, by, in fact,
their uncle in England, to take over their guardianship and see that
they came to no harm.

The lawyer nodded intelligently, and said that if a man had wards at all
they might as well be cute wards.

Mr. Twist didn't like this either, and said briefly that he had had no
choice.

The lawyer said, "Quite so. Quite so," and continued to look at him
intelligently.

Mr. Twist then explained that he had come to him rather than, as might
have been more natural, to the solicitor who had arranged the purchase
of the cottage because this was a private and personal matter--

"Quite so. Quite so," interrupted the lawyer, with really almost too
much intelligence.

Mr. Twist felt the excess of it, and tried to look dignified, but the
lawyer was bent on being friendly and frank. Friendliness was natural to
him when visited for the first time by a new client, and that there
should be frankness between lawyers and clients he considered essential.
If, he held, the client wouldn't be frank, then the lawyer must be; and
he must go on being so till the client came out of his reserve.

Mr. Twist, however, was so obstinate in his reserve that the lawyer
cheerfully and unhesitatingly jumped to the conclusion that the
_entourage_ must have some very weak spots about it somewhere.

"There's another way out of it of course, Mr. Twist," he said, when he
had done rapidly describing the different steps to be taken. There were
not many steps. The process of turning oneself into a guardian was
surprisingly simple and swift.

"Out of it?" said Mr. Twist, his spectacles looking very big and
astonished. "Out of what?"

"Out of your little difficulty. I wonder it hasn't occurred to you. Upon
my word now, I do wonder."

"But I'm not in any little diff--" began Mr. Twist.

"The elder of these two girls, now--"

"There isn't an elder," said Mr. Twist.

"Come, come," said the lawyer patiently, waiting for him to be sensible.

"There isn't an elder," repeated Mr. Twist, "They're twins."

"Twins, are they? Well I must say we manage to match up our twins better
than that over here. But come now--hasn't it occurred to you you might
marry one of them, and so become quite naturally related to them both?"

Mr. Twist's spectacles seemed to grow gigantic.

"Marry one of them?" he repeated, his mouth helplessly opening.

"Yep," said the lawyer, giving him a lead in free-and-easiness.

"Look here," said Mr. Twist suddenly gathering his mouth together, "cut
that line of joke out. I'm here on serious business. I haven't come to
be facetious. Least of all about those children--"

"Quite so, quite so," interrupted the lawyer pleasantly. "Children, you
call them. How old are they? Seventeen? My wife was sixteen when we
married. Oh quite so, quite so. Certainly. By all means. Well then,
they're to be your wards. And you don't want it known how recently
they've become your wards--"

"I didn't say that," said Mr. Twist.

"Quite so, quite so. But it's your wish, isn't it. The relationship is
to look as grass-grown as possible. Well, I shall be dumb of course, but
most things get into the press here. Let me see--" He pulled a sheet
of paper towards him and took up his fountain pen. "Just oblige me with
particulars. Date of birth. Place of birth. Parentage--"

He looked up ready to write, waiting for the answers.

None came.

"I can't tell you off hand," said Mr. Twist presently, his forehead
puckered.

"Ah," said the lawyer, laying down his pen. "Quite so. Not known your
young friends long enough yet."

"I've known them quite long enough," said Mr. Twist stiffly, "but we
happen to have found more alive topics of conversation than dates and
parents."

"Ah. Parents not alive."

"Unfortunately they are not. If they were, these poor children wouldn't
be knocking about in a strange country."

"Where would they be?" asked the lawyer, balancing his pen across his
forefinger.

Mr. Twist looked at him very straight. Vividly he remembered his
mother's peculiar horror when he told her the girls he was throwing away
his home life for and breaking her heart over were Germans. It had acted
upon her like the last straw. And since then he had felt everywhere,
with every one he talked to, in every newspaper he read, the same strong
hostility to Germans, so much stronger than when he left America the
year before.

Mr. Twist began to perceive that he had been impetuous in this matter of
the guardianship. He hadn't considered it enough. He suddenly saw
innumerable difficulties for the twins and for The Open Arms if it was
known it was run by Germans. Better abandon the guardianship idea than
that such difficulties should arise. He hadn't thought; he hadn't had
time properly to think; he had been so hustled and busy the last few
days....

"They come from England," he said, looking at the lawyer very straight.

"Ah," said the lawyer.

Mr. Twist wasn't going to lie about the twins, but merely, by evading,
he hoped to put off the day when their nationality would be known.
Perhaps it never would be known; or if known, known later on when
everybody, as everybody must who knew them, loved them for themselves
and accordingly wouldn't care.

"Quite so," said the lawyer again, nodding. "I asked because I overheard
them talking the other day as they passed through the hall of your
hotel. They were talking about a canary. The r in the word seemed a
little rough. Not quite English, Mr. Twist? Not quite American?"

"Not quite," agreed Mr. Twist. "They've been a good deal abroad."

"Quite so. At school, no doubt."

He was silent a moment, intelligently balancing his pen on his
forefinger.

"Then these particulars," he went on, looking up at Mr. Twist,--"could
you let me have them soon? I tell you what. You're in a hurry to fix
this. I'll call round to-night at the hotel, and get them direct from
your young friends. Save time. And make me acquainted with a pair of
charming girls."

"No," said Mr. Twist. He got on to his feet and held out his hand. "Not
to-night. We're engaged to-night. To-morrow will be soon enough. I'll
send round. I'll let you know. I believe I'm going to think it over a
bit. There isn't any such terrible hurry, anyhow."

"There isn't? I understood--"

"I mean, a day or two more or less don't figure out at much in the long
run."

"Quite so, quite so," said the lawyer, getting up too. "Well, I'm always
at your service, at any time." And he shook hands heartily with Mr.
Twist and politely opened the door for him.

Then he went back to his writing-table more convinced than ever that
there was something very weak somewhere about the _entourage_.

As for Mr. Twist, he perceived he had been a fool. Why had he gone to
the lawyer at all? Why not simply have announced to the world that he
was the Twinkler guardian? The twins themselves would have believed it
if he had come in one day and said it was settled, and nobody outside
would ever have dreamed of questioning it. After all, you couldn't see
if a man was a guardian or not just by looking at him. Well, he would do
no more about it, it was much too difficult. Bother it. Let Mrs. Bilton
go on supposing he was the legal guardian of her charges. Anyway he had
all the intentions of a guardian. What a fool he had been to go to the
lawyer. Curse that lawyer. Now he knew, however distinctly and
frequently he, Mr. Twist, might say he was the Twinkler guardian, that
he wasn't.

It harassed Mr. Twist to perceive, as he did perceive with clearness,
that he had been a fool; but the twins, when he told them that evening
that owing to technical difficulties, with the details of which he
wouldn't trouble them, the guardianship was off, were pleased.

"We want to be bound to you," said Anna-Felicitas her eyes very soft and
her voice very gentle, "only by ties of affection and gratitude."

And Anna-Rose, turning red, opened her mouth as though she were going to
say something handsome like that too, but seemed unable after all to get
it out, and only said, rather inaudibly, "Yes."




CHAPTER XXIV


Yet another harassing experience awaited Mr. Twist before the end of
that week.

It had been from the first his anxious concern that nothing should occur
at the Cosmopolitan to get his party under a cloud; yet it did get under
a cloud, and on the very last afternoon, too, before Mrs. Bilton's
arrival. Only twenty-four hours more and her snowy-haired respectability
would have spread over the twins like a white whig. They would have been
safe. His party would have been unassailable. But no; those Twinklers,
in spite of his exhortation whenever he had a minute left to exhort in,
couldn't, it seemed, refrain from twinkling,--the word in Mr. Twist's
mind covered the whole of their easy friendliness, their flow of
language, their affable desire to explain.

He had kept them with him as much as he could, and luckily the excited
interest they took in the progress of the inn made them happy to hang
about it most of the time of the delicate and dangerous week before Mrs.
Bilton came; but they too had things to do,--shopping in Acapulco
choosing the sea-blue linen frocks and muslin caps and aprons in which
they were to wait at tea, and buying the cushions and flower-pots and
canary that came under the general heading, in Anna-Rose's speech, of
feminine touches. So they sometimes left him; and he never saw them go
without a qualm.

"Mind and not say anything to anybody about this, won't you," he would
say hastily, making a comprehensive gesture towards the cottage as they
went.

"Of course we won't."

"I meant, nobody is to know what it's really going to be. They're to
think it's just a _pied-à-terre._ It would most ruin my advertisement
scheme if they--"

"But of _course_ we won't. Have we ever?" the twins would answer,
looking very smug and sure of themselves.

"No. Not yet. But--"

And the hustled man would plunge again into technicalities with
whichever expert was at that moment with him, leaving the twins, as he
needs must, to God and their own discretion.

Discretion, he already amply knew, was not a Twinkler characteristic.
But the week passed, Mrs. Bilton's arrival grew near, and nothing had
happened. It was plain to the watchful Mr. Twist, from the pleasant
looks of the other guests when the twins went in and out of the
restaurant to meals, that nothing had happened. His heart grew lighter.
On the last afternoon, when Mrs. Bilton was actually due next day, his
heart was quite light, and he saw them leave him to go back and rest at
the hotel, because they were tired by the accumulated standing about of
the week, altogether unconcernedly.

The attitude of the Cosmopolitan guests towards the twins was, indeed,
one of complete benevolence. They didn't even mind the canary. Who would
not be indulgent towards two such sweet little girls and their pet bird,
even if it did sing all day and most of the night without stopping? The
Twinkler girls were like two little bits of snapped-off sunlight, or
bits of white blossom blowing in and out of the hotel in their shining
youth and it was impossible not to regard them indulgently. But if the
guests were indulgent, they were also inquisitive. Everybody knew who
Mr. Twist was; who, however, were the Twinklers? Were they relations of
his? _Protégées_? Charges?

The social column of the Acapulco daily paper, from which information as
to new arrivals was usually got, had, as we know, in its embarrassment
at being ignorant to take refuge in French, because French may so easily
be supposed to mean something. The paper had little knowledge of, but
much confidence in, French. _Entourage_ had seemed to it as good a word
as any other, as indeed did _clientèle_. It had hesitated between the
two, but finally chose _entourage_ because there happened to be no
accent in its stock of type. The Cosmopolitan guests were amused at the
word, and though inquisitive were altogether amiable; and, until the
last afternoon, only the manager didn't like the Twinklers. He didn't
like them because of the canary. His sympathies had been alienated from
the Miss Twinklers the moment he heard through the chambermaid that they
had tied the heavy canary cage on to the hanging electric light in their
bedroom. He said nothing, of course. One doesn't say anything if one is
an hotel manager, until the unique and final moment when one says
everything.

On the last afternoon before Mrs. Bilton's advent the twins, tired of
standing about for days at the cottage and in shops, appeared in the
hall of the hotel and sat down to rest. They didn't go to their room to
rest because they didn't feel inclined for the canary, and they sat down
very happily in the comfortable rocking-chairs with which the big hall
abounded, and, propping their dusty feet on the lower bar of a small
table, with friendly and interested eyes they observed the other guests.

The other guests also observed them.

It was the first time the _entourage_ had appeared without its
companion, and the other guests were dying to know details about it. It
hadn't been sitting in the hall five minutes before a genial old
gentleman caught Anna-Felicitas's friendly eye and instantly drew up his
chair.

"Uncle gone off by himself to-day?" he asked; for he was of the party in
the hotel which inclined, in spite of the marked difference in profiles,
to the relationship theory, and he made a shot at the relationship being
that of uncle.

"We haven't got an uncle nearer than England," said Anna-Felicitas
affably.

"And we only got him by accident," said Anna-Rose, equally affably.

"It was an unfortunate accident," said Anna-Felicitas, considering her
memories.

"Indeed," said the old gentleman. "Indeed. How was that?"

"By the usual method, if an uncle isn't a blood uncle," said Anna-Rose.
"We happened to have a marriageable aunt, and he married her. So we have
to have him."

"It was sheer bad luck," said Anna-Felicitas, again brooding on that
distant image.

"Yes," said Anna-Rose. "Just bad luck. He might so easily have married
some one else's aunt. But no. His roving glance must needs go and fall
on ours."

"Indeed," said the old gentleman. "Indeed." And he ruminated on this,
with an affectionate eye--he was affectionate--resting in turn on each
Anna.

"Then Mr. Twist," he went on presently--"we all know him of course--a
public benefactor--"

"Yes, _isn't_ he," said Anna-Rose radiantly.

"A boon to the breakfast-table--"

"Yes, _isn't_ he," said Anna-Rose again, all asparkle. "He _is_ so
pleasant at breakfast."

"Then he--Mr. Twist--Teapot Twist we call him where I live--"

"Teapot Twist?" said Anna-Rose. "I think that's irreverent."

"Not at all. It's a pet name. A sign of our affection and gratitude.
Then he isn't your uncle?"

"We haven't got a real uncle nearer than heaven," said Anna-Felicitas,
her cheek on her hand, dreamily reconstructing the image of Onkel Col.

"Indeed," said the old gentleman. "Indeed." And he ruminated, on this
too, his thirsty heart--he had a thirsty heart, and found difficulty in
slaking it because of his wife--very indulgent toward the twins.

Then he said: "That's a long way off."

"What is?" asked Anna-Rose.

"The place your uncle's in."

"Not too far really," said Anna-Felicitas softly. "He's safe there. He
was very old, and was difficult to look after. Why, he got there at last
through his own carelessness."

"Indeed," said the old gentleman.

"Sheer carelessness," said Anna-Rose.

"Indeed," said the old gentleman. "How was that?"

"Well, you see where we lived they didn't have electric light," began
Anna-Rose, "and one night--the the night he went to heaven--he put the
petroleum lamp--"

And she was about to relate that dreadful story of Onkle Col's end
which has already been described in these pages as unfit for anywhere
but an appendix for time had blunted her feelings, when Anna-Felicitas
put out a beseeching hand and stopped her. Even after all these years
Anna-Felicitas couldn't bear to remember Onkle Col's end. It had haunted
her childhood. It had licked about her dreams in leaping tongues of
flame. And it wasn't only tongues of flame. There were circumstances
connected with it.... Only quite recently, since the war had damped down
lesser horrors, had she got rid of it. She could at least now talk of
him calmly, and also speculate with pleasure on the probable aspect of
Onkle Col in glory, but she still couldn't bear to hear the details of
his end.

At this point an elderly lady of the spare and active type, very upright
and much wrinkled, that America seems so freely to produce, came down
the stairs; and seeing the twins talking to the old gentleman, crossed
straight over and sat down briskly next to them smiling benevolently.

"Well, if Mr. Ridding can talk to you I guess so can I," she said,
pulling her knitting out of a brocaded bag and nodding and smiling at
the group.

She was knitting socks for the Allied armies in France the next winter,
but it being warm just then in California they were cotton socks because
wool made her hands too hot.

The twins were all polite, reciprocal smiles.

"I'm just crazy to hear about you," said the brisk lady, knitting with
incredible energy, while her smiles flicked over everybody. "You're
fresh from Europe, aren't you? What say? Quite fresh? My, aren't you
cute little things. Thinking of making a long stay in the States? What
say? For the rest of your lives? Why now, I call that just splendid.
Parents coming out West soon too? What say? Prevented? Well, I guess
they won't let themselves be prevented long. Mr. Twist looking after you
meanwhile? What say? There isn't any meanwhile? Well, I don't quite--Mr.
Twist your uncle, or cousin? What say? No relation at all? H'm, h'm. No
relation at all, is he. Well, I guess he's an old friend of your
parents, then. What say? They didn't know him? H'm, h'm. They didn't
know him, didn't they. Well, I don't quite--What say? But you know him?
Yes, yes, so I see. H'm, h'm. I don't quite--" Her needles flew in and
out, and her ball of cotton rolled on to the floor in her surprise.

Anna-Rose got up and fetched it for her before the old gentleman, who
was gazing with thirsty appreciation at Anna-Felicitas, could struggle
out of his chair.

"You see," explained Anna-Felicitas, taking advantage of the silence
that had fallen on the lady, "Mr. Twist, regarded as a man, is old, but
regarded as a friend he is new."

"Brand new," said Anna-Rose.

"H'm, h'm," said the lady, knitting faster than ever, and looking first
at one twin and then at the other. "H'm, h'm, h'm. Brand new, is he.
Well, I don't quite--" Her smiles had now to struggle with the
uncertainty and doubt, and were weakening visibly.

"Say now, where did you meet Teapot Twist?" asked the old gentleman, who
was surprised too, but remained quite benevolent owing to his
affectionate heart and his not being a lady.

"We met Mr. Twist," said Anna-Rose, who objected to this way of alluding
to him, "on the steamer."

"Not before? You didn't meet Mr. Twist before the steamer?" exclaimed
the lady, the last of her smiles flickering out. "Not before the
steamer, didn't you. Just a steamship acquaintance. Parents never seen
him. H'm, h'm, h'm."

"We would have met him before if we could," said Anna-Felicitas
earnestly.

"I should think so," said Anna-Rose. "It has been the great
retrospective loss of our lives meeting him so late in them."

"Why now," said the old gentleman smiling, "I shouldn't call it so
particularly late in them."

But the knitting lady didn't smile at all, and sat up very straight and
said "H'm, h'm, h'm" to her flashing needles as they flew in and out;
for not only was she in doubt now about the cute little things, but she
also regretted, on behalf of the old gentleman's wife who was a friend
of hers, the alert interest of his manner. He sat there so very much
awake. With his wife he never seemed awake at all. Up to now she had not
seen him except with his wife.

"You mustn't run away with the idea that we're younger than we really
are," Anna-Rose said to the old gentleman.

"Why no, I won't," he answered with a liveliness that deepened the
knitting lady's regret on behalf of his wife. "When I run away you bet
it won't be with an idea."

And he chuckled. He was quite rosy in the face, and chuckled; he whom
she knew only as a quiet man with no chuckle in him. And wasn't what he
had just said very like what the French call a _double entendre?_ She
hadn't a husband herself, but if she had she would wish him to be at
least as quiet when away from her as when with her, and at least as free
from _double entendres_. At least. Really more. "H'm, h'm, h'm," she
said, clicking her needles and looking first at the twins and then at
the old gentleman.

"Do you mean to say you crossed the Atlantic quite alone, you two?" she
asked, in order to prevent his continuing on these remarkable and
unusual lines of _badinage_.

"Quite," said Anna-Felicitas.

"That is to say, we had Mr. Twist of course," said Anna-Rose.

"Once we had got him," amended Anna-Felicitas.

"Yes, yes," said the knitting lady, "so you say. H'm, h'm, h'm. Once you
had got him. I don't quite--"

"Well, I call you a pair of fine high-spirited girls," said the old
gentleman heartily, interrupting in his turn, "and all I can say is I
wish I had been on that boat."

"Here's Mrs. Ridding," said the knitting lady quickly, relief in her
voice; whereupon he suddenly grew quiet. "My, Mrs. Ridding," she added
when the lady drew within speaking distance, "you do look as though you
needed a rest."

Mrs. Ridding, the wife of the old gentleman, Mr. Ridding, had been
approaching slowly for some time from behind. She had been out on the
verandah since lunch, trying to recover from it. That was the one
drawback to meals, she considered, that they required so much recovering
from; and the nicer they were the longer it took. The meals at the
Cosmopolitan were particularly nice, and really all one's time was taken
up getting over them.

She was a lady whose figure seemed to be all meals. The old gentleman
had married her in her youth, when she hadn't had time to have had so
many. He and she were then the same age, and unfortunately hadn't gone
on being the same age since. It had wrecked his life this inability of
his wife to stay as young and new as himself. He wanted a young wife,
and the older he got in years--his heart very awkwardly retained its
early freshness--the younger he wanted her; and, instead, the older he
got the older his wife got too. Also the less new. The old gentleman
felt the whole thing was a dreadful mistake. Why should he have to be
married to this old lady? Never in his life had he wanted to marry old
ladies; and he thought it very hard that at an age when he most
appreciated bright youth he should be forced to spend his precious
years, his crowning years when his mind had attained wisdom while his
heart retained freshness, stranded with an old lady of costly habits and
inordinate bulk just because years ago he had fallen in love with a
chance pretty girl.

He struggled politely out of his chair on seeing her. The twins,
impressed by such venerable abundance, got up too.

"Albert, if you try to move too quick you'll crick your back again,"
said Mrs. Ridding in a monotonous voice, letting herself down carefully
and a little breathlessly on to the edge of a chair that didn't rock,
and fanning herself with a small fan she carried on the end of a massive
gold chain. Her fatigued eyes explored the twins while she spoke.

"I can't get Mr. Ridding to remember that we're neither of us as young
as we were," she went on, addressing the knitting lady but with her eyes
continuing to explore the twins.

They naturally thought she was speaking to them, and Anna-Felicitas said
politely, "Really?" and Anna-Rose, feeling she too ought to make some
comment, said, "Isn't that very unusual?"

Aunt Alice always said, "Isn't that very unusual?" when she didn't know
what else to say, and it worked beautifully, because then the other
person launched into affirmations or denials with the reasons for them,
and was quite happy.

But Mrs. Ridding only stared at the twins heavily and in silence.

"Because," explained Anna-Rose, who thought the old lady didn't quite
follow, "nobody ever is. So that it must be difficult not to remember
it."

Mr. Ridding too was silent, but that was because of his wife. It was
quite untrue to say that he forgot, seeing that she was constantly
reminding him. "Old stranger," he thought resentfully, as he carefully
arranged a cushion behind her back. He didn't like her back. Why should
he have to pay bills for putting expensive clothes on it? He didn't want
to. It was all a dreadful mistake.

"You're the Twinkler girls," said the old lady abruptly.

They made polite gestures of agreement.

The knitting lady knitted vigorously, sitting up very straight and
saying nothing, with a look on her face of disclaiming every
responsibility.

"Where does your family come from?" was the next question.

This was unexpected. The twins had no desire to talk of Pomerania. They
hadn't wanted to talk about Pomerania once since the war began; and they
felt very distinctly in their bones that America, though she was a
neutral, didn't like Germany any more than the belligerents did. It had
been their intention to arrange together the line they would take if
asked questions of this sort, but life had been so full and so exciting
since their arrival that they had forgotten to.

Anna-Rose found herself unable to say anything at all. Anna-Felicitas,
therefore, observing that Christopher was unnerved, plunged in.

"Our family," she said gently, "can hardly be said to come so much as to
have been."

The old lady thought this over, her lustreless eyes on Anna-Felicitas's
face.

The knitting lady clicked away very fast, content to leave the
management of the Twinklers in more competent hands.

"How's that?" asked the old lady, finally deciding that she hadn't
understood.

"It's extinct," said Anna-Felicitas. "Except us. That is, in the direct
line."

The old lady was a little impressed by this, direct lines not being so
numerous or so clear in America as in some other countries.

"You mean you two are the only Twinklers left?" she asked.

"The only ones left that matter," said Anna-Felicitas. "There are
branches of Twinklers still existing, I believe, but they're so
unimportant that we don't know them."

"Mere twigs," said Anna-Rose, recovering her nerves on seeing
Anna-Felicitas handle the situation so skilfully; and her nose
unconsciously gave a slight Junker lift.

"Haven't you got any parents?" asked the old lady.

"We used to have," said Anna-Felicitas flushing, afraid that her darling
mother was going to be asked about.

The old gentleman gave a sudden chuckle. "Why yes," he said, forgetting
his wife's presence for an instant, "I guess you had them once, or I
don't see how--"

"Albert," said his wife.

"We are the sole surviving examples of the direct line of Twinklers,"
said Anna-Rose, now quite herself and ready to give Columbus a hand.
"There's just us. And we--" she paused a moment, and then plunged--"we
come from England."

"Do you?" said the old lady. "Now I shouldn't have said that. I can't
say just why, but I shouldn't. Should you, Miss Heap?"

"I shouldn't say a good many things, Mrs. Ridding," said Miss Heap
enigmatically, her needles flying.

"It's because we've been abroad a great deal with our parents, I
expect," said Anna-Rose rather quickly. "I daresay it has left its mark
on us."

"Everything leaves its mark on one," observed Anna-Felicitas pleasantly.

"Ah," said the old lady. "I know what it is now. It's the foreign r.
You've picked it up. Haven't they, Miss Heap."

"I shouldn't like to say what they haven't picked up, Mrs. Ridding,"
said Miss Heap, again enigmatically.

"I'm afraid we have," said Anna-Rose, turning red. "We've been told that
before. It seems to stick, once one has picked it up."

And the old gentleman muttered that everything stuck once one had picked
it up, and looked resentfully at his wife.

She moved her slow eyes round, and let them rest on him a moment.

"Albert, if you talk so much you won't be able to sleep to-night," she
said. "I can't get Mr. Ridding to remember we've got to be careful at
our age," she added to the knitting lady.

"You seem to be bothered by your memory," said Anna-Rose politely,
addressing the old gentleman "Have you ever tried making notes on little
bits of paper of the things you have to remember? I think you would
probably be all right then. Uncle Arthur used to do that. Or rather he
made Aunt Alice do it for him, and put them where he would see them."

"Uncle Arthur," explained Anna-Felicitas to the old lady, "is an uncle
of ours. The one," she said turning to the old gentleman, "we were just
telling you about, who so unfortunately insisted on marrying our aunt.
Uncle, that is, by courtesy," she added, turning to the old lady, "not
by blood."

The old lady's eyes moved from one twin to the other as each one spoke,
but she said nothing.

"But Aunt Alice," said Anna-Rose, "is our genuine aunt. Well, I was
going to tell you," she continued briskly, addressing the old gentleman.
"There used to be things Uncle Arthur had to do every day and every
week, but still he had to be reminded of them each time, and Aunt Alice
had a whole set of the regular ones written out on bits of cardboard,
and brought them out in turn. The Monday morning one was: Wind the
Clock, and the Sunday morning one was: Take your Hot Bath, and the
Saturday evening one was: Remember your Pill. And there was one brought
in regularly every morning with his shaving water and stuck in his
looking-glass: Put on your Abdominable Belt."

The knitting needles paused an instant.

"Yes," Anna-Felicitas joined in, interested by these recollections, her
long limbs sunk in her chair in a position of great ease and comfort,
"and it seemed to us so funny for him to have to be reminded to put on
what was really a part of his clothes every day, that once we wrote a
slip of our own for him and left it on his dressing-table: Don't forget
your Trousers."

The knitting needles paused again.

"But the results of that were dreadful," added Anna-Felicitas, her face
sobering at the thought of them.

"Yes," said Anna-Rose. "You see, he supposed Aunt Alice had done it, in
a fit of high spirits, though she never had high spirits--"

"And wouldn't have been allowed to if she had," explained
Anna-Felicitas.

"And he thought she was laughing at him," said Anna-Rose, "though we
have never seen her laugh--"

"And I don't believe he has either," said Anna-Felicitas.

"So there was trouble, because he couldn't bear the idea of her laughing
at him, and we had to confess."

"But that didn't make it any better for Aunt Alice."

"No, because then he said it was her fault anyhow for not keeping us
stricter."

"So," said Anna-Felicitas, "after the house had been steeped in a
sulphurous gloom for over a week, and we all felt as though we were
being slowly and steadily gassed, we tried to make it up by writing a
final one--a nice one--and leaving it on his plate at breakfast: Kiss
your Wife. But instead of kissing her he--" She broke off, and then
finished a little vaguely: "Oh well, he didn't."

"Still," remarked Anna-Rose, "it must be pleasant not to be kissed by a
husband. Aunt Alice always wanted him to, strange to say, which is why
we reminded him of it. He used to forget that more regularly than
almost anything. And the people who lived in the house nearest us were
just the opposite--the husband was for ever trying to kiss the person
who was his wife, and she was for ever dodging him."

"Yes," said Anna-Felicitas. "Like the people on Keats's Grecian Urn."

"Yes," said Anna-Rose. "And that sort of husband, must be even worse.

"Oh, much worse," agreed Anna-Felicitas.

She looked round amiably at the three quiet figures in the chairs. "I
shall refrain altogether from husbands," she said placidly. "I shall
take something that doesn't kiss."

And she fell into an abstraction, wondering, with her cheek resting on
her hand, what he, or it, would look like.

There was a pause. Anna-Rose was wondering too what sort of a creature
Columbus had in her mind, and how many, if any, legs it would have; and
the other three were, as before, silent.

Then the old lady said, "Albert," and put out her hand to be helped on
to her feet.

The old gentleman struggled out of his chair, and helped her up. His
face had a congested look, as if he were with difficulty keeping back
things he wanted to say.

Miss Heap got up too, stuffing her knitting as she did so into her
brocaded bag.

"Go on ahead and ring the elevator bell, Albert," said the old lady.
"It's time we went and had our nap."

"I ain't going to," said the old gentleman suddenly.

"What say? What ain't you going to, Albert?" said the old lady, turning
her slow eyes round to him.

"Nap," said the old gentleman, his face very red.

It was intolerable to have to go and nap. He wished to stay where he was
and talk to the twins. Why should he have to nap because somebody else
wanted to? Why should he have to nap with an old lady, anyway? Never in
his life had he wanted to nap with old ladies. It was all a dreadful
mistake.

"Albert," said his wife looking at him.

He went on ahead and rang the lift-bell.

"You're quite right to see that he rests, Mrs. Ridding," said Miss Heap,
walking away with her and slowing her steps to suit hers. "I should say
it was essential that he should be kept quiet in the afternoons. You
should see that Mr. Ridding rests more than he does. _Much_ more," she
added significantly.

"I can't get Mr. Ridding to remember that we're neither of us--"

This was the last the twins heard.

They too had politely got out of their chairs when the old lady began to
heave into activity, and they stood watching the three departing
figures. They were a little surprised. Surely they had all been in the
middle of an interesting conversation?

"Perhaps it's American to go away in the middle," remarked Anna-Rose,
following the group with her eyes as it moved toward the lift.

"Perhaps it is," said Anna-Felicitas, also gazing after it.

The old gentleman, in the brief moment during which the two ladies had
their backs to him while preceding him into the lift, turned quickly
round on his heels and waved his hand before he himself went in.

The twins laughed, and waved back; and they waved with such goodwill
that the old gentleman couldn't resist giving one more wave. He was
seen doing it by the two ladies as they faced round, and his wife, as
she let herself down on to the edge of the seat, remarked that he
mustn't exert himself like that or he would have to begin taking his
drops again.

That was all she said in the lift; but in their room, when she had got
her breath again, she said, "Albert, there's just one thing in the world
I hate worse than a fool, and that's an old fool."




CHAPTER XXV


That evening, while the twins were undressing, a message came up from
the office that the manager would be obliged if the Miss Twinklers'
canary wouldn't sing.

"But it can't help it," said Anna-Felicitas through the crack of door
she held open; she was already in her nightgown. "You wouldn't either if
you were a canary," she added, reasoning with the messenger.

"It's just got to help it," said he.

"But why shouldn't it sing?"

"Complaints."

"But it always has sung."

"That is so. And it has sung once too often. It's unpopular in this
hotel, that canary of yours. It's just got to rest a while. Take it
easy. Sit quiet on its perch and think."

"But it won't sit quiet and think."

"Well, I've told you," he said, going away.

This was the bird that had been seen arriving at the Cosmopolitan about
a week before by the lawyer, and it had piercingly sung ever since. It
sang, that is, as long as there was any light, real or artificial, to
sing by. The boy who carried it from the shop for the twins said its
cage was to be hung in a window in the sun, or it couldn't do itself
justice. But electric light also enabled it to do itself justice, the
twins discovered, and if they sat up late the canary sat up late too,
singing as loudly and as mechanically as if it hadn't been a real
canary at all, but something clever and American with a machine inside
it.

Secretly the twins didn't like it. Shocked at its loud behaviour, they
had very soon agreed that it was no lady, but Anna-Rose was determined
to have it at The Open Arms because of her conviction that no house
showing the trail of a woman's hand was without a canary. That, and a
workbag. She bought them both the same day. The workbag didn't matter,
because it kept quiet; but the canary was a very big, very yellow bird,
much bigger and yellower than the frailer canaries of a more exhausted
civilization, and quite incapable, unless it was pitch dark, of keeping
quiet for a minute. Evidently, as Anna-Felicitas said, it had a great
many lungs. Her idea of lungs, in spite of her time among them and
similar objects at a hospital, was what it had always been: that they
were things like pink macaroni strung across a frame of bones on the
principle of a lyre or harp, and producing noises. She thought the
canary had unusual numbers of these pink strings, and all of them of the
biggest and dearest kind of macaroni.

The other guests at the Cosmopolitan had been rather restive from the
first on account of this bird, but felt so indulgent toward its owners,
those cute little relations or charges or whatever they were of Teapot
Twist's, that they bore its singing without complaint. But on the
evening of the day the Annas had the interesting conversation with Mr.
and Mrs. Ridding and Miss Heap, two definite complaints were lodged in
the office, and one was from Mrs. Ridding and the other was from Miss
Heap.

The manager, as has been said, was already sensitive about the canary.
Its cage was straining his electric light cord, and its food,
assiduously administered in quantities exceeding its capacity, littered
the expensive pink pile carpet. He therefore lent a ready ear and sent
up a peremptory message; and while the message was going up, Miss Heap,
who had come herself with her complaint, stayed on discussing the Twist
and Twinkler party.

She said nothing really; she merely asked questions; and not one of the
questions, now they were put to him, did the manager find he could
answer. No doubt everything was all right. Everybody knew about Mr.
Twist, and it wasn't likely he would choose an hotel of so high a class
to stay in if his relations to the Miss Twinklers were anything but
regular. And a lady companion, he understood, was joining the party
shortly; and besides, there was the house being got ready, a permanent
place of residence he gathered, in which the party would settle down,
and experience had taught him that genuine illicitness was never
permanent. Still, the manager himself hadn't really cared about the
Twinklers since the canary came. He could fill the hotel very easily,
and there was no need to accommodate people who spoilt carpets. Also,
the moment the least doubt or question arose among his guests, all of
whom he knew and most of whom came back regularly every year, as to the
social or moral status of any new arrivals, then those arrivals must go.
Miss Heap evidently had doubts. Her standard, it is true, was the almost
impossibly high one of the unmarried lady of riper years, but Mrs.
Ridding, he understood, had doubts too; and once doubts started in an
hotel he knew from experience that they ran through it like measles. The
time had come for him to act.

Next morning, therefore, he briskly appeared in Mr. Twist's room as he
was pulling on his boots, and cheerfully hoped he was bearing in mind
what he had been told the day he took the rooms, that they were engaged
for the date of the month now arrived at.

Mr. Twist paused with a boot half on. "I'm not bearing it in mind," he
said, "because you didn't tell me."

"Oh yes I did, Mr. Twist," said the manager briskly. "It isn't likely
I'd make a mistake about that. The rooms are taken every year for this
date by the same people. Mrs. Hart of Boston has this one, and Mr. and
Mrs.--"

Mr. Twist heard no more. He finished lacing his boots in silence. What
he had been so much afraid of had happened: he and the twins had got
under a cloud.

The twins had been saying things. Last night they told him they had made
some friends. He had been uneasy at that, and questioned them. But it
appeared they had talked chiefly of their Uncle Arthur. Well, damnable
as Uncle Arthur was as a man he was safe enough as a topic of
conversation. He was English. He was known to people in America like the
Delloggs and the Sacks. But it was now clear they must have said things
besides that. Probably they had expatiated on Uncle Arthur from some
point of view undesirable to American ears. The American ear was very
susceptible. He hadn't been born in New England without becoming aware
of that.

Mr. Twist tied his bootlaces with such annoyance that he got them into
knots. He ought never to have come with the Annas to a big hotel. Yet
lodgings would have been worse. Why hadn't that white-haired gasbag,
Mrs. Bilton--Mr. Twist's thoughts were sometimes unjust--joined them
sooner? Why had that shirker Dellogg died? He got his bootlaces
hopelessly into knots.

"I'd like to start right in getting the rooms fixed up, Mr. Twist," said
the manager pleasantly. "Mrs. Hart of Boston is very--"

"See here," said Mr. Twist, straightening himself and turning the full
light of his big spectacles on to him, "I don't care a curse for Mrs.
Hart of Boston."

The manager expressed regret that Mr. Twist should connect a curse with
a lady. It wasn't American to do that. Mrs. Hart--

"Damn Mrs. Hart," said Mr. Twist, who had become full-bodied of speech
while in France, and when he was goaded let it all out.

The manager went away. And so, two hours later, did Mr. Twist and the
twins.

"I don't know what you've been saying," he said in an extremely
exasperated voice, as he sat opposite them in the taxi with their grips,
considerably added to and crowned by the canary who was singing, piled
up round him.

"Saying?" echoed the twins, their eyes very round.

"But whatever it was you'd have done better to say something else.
Confound that bird. Doesn't it ever stop screeching?"

It was the twins, however, who were confounded. So much confounded by
what they considered his unjust severity that they didn't attempt to
defend themselves, but sat looking at him with proud hurt eyes.

By this time they both had become very fond of Mr. Twist, and
accordingly he was able to hurt them. Anna-Rose, indeed, was so fond of
him that she actually thought him handsome. She had boldly said so to
the astonished Anna-Felicitas about a week before; and when
Anna-Felicitas was silent, being unable to agree, Anna-Rose had heatedly
explained that there was handsomeness, and there was the higher
handsomeness, and that that was the one Mr. Twist had. It was infinitely
better than mere handsomeness, said Anna-Rose--curly hair and a straight
nose and the rest of the silly stuff--because it was real and lasting;
and it was real and lasting because it lay in the play of the features
and not in their exact position and shape.

Anna-Felicitas couldn't see that Mr. Twist's features played. She looked
at him now in the taxi while he angrily stared out of the window, and
even though he was evidently greatly stirred his features weren't
playing. She didn't particularly want them to play. She was fond of and
trusted Mr. Twist, and would never even have thought whether he had
features or not ii Anna-Rose hadn't taken lately to talking so much
about them. And she couldn't help remembering how this very Christopher,
so voluble now on the higher handsomeness, had said on board the _St.
Luke_ when first commenting on Mr. Twist that God must have got tired of
making him by the time his head was reached. Well, Christopher had
always been an idealist. When she was eleven she had violently loved the
coachman. Anna-Felicitas hadn't ever violently loved anybody yet, and
seeing Anna-Rose like this now about Mr. Twist made her wonder when she
too was going to begin. Surely it was time. She hoped her inability to
begin wasn't perhaps because she had no heart. Still, she couldn't begin
if she didn't see anybody to begin on.

She sat silent in the taxi, with Christopher equally silent beside her,
both of them observing Mr. Twist through lowered eyelashes. Anna-Rose
watched him with hurt and anxious eyes like a devoted dog who has been
kicked without cause. Anna-Felicitas watched him in a more detached
spirit. She had a real affection for him, but it was not, she was sure
and rather regretted, an affection that would ever be likely to get the
better of her reason. It wasn't because he was so old, of course, she
thought, for one could love the oldest people, beginning with that
standard example of age, the _liebe Gott_; it was because she liked him
so much.

How could one get sentimental over and love somebody one so thoroughly
liked? The two things on reflection didn't seem to combine well. She was
sure, for instance, that Aunt Alice had loved Uncle Arthur, amazing as
it seemed, but she was equally sure she hadn't liked him. And look at
the _liebe Gott_. One loves the _liebe Gott_, but it would be going too
far, she thought, to say that one likes him.

These were the reflections of Anna-Felicitas in the taxi, as she
observed through her eyelashes the object of Anna-Rose's idealization.
She envied Anna-Rose; for here she had been steadily expanding every day
more and more like a flower under the influence of her own power of
idealization. She used to sparkle and grow rosy like that for the
coachman. Perhaps after all it didn't much matter what you loved, so
long as you loved immensely. It was, perhaps, thought Anna-Felicitas
approaching this subject with some caution and diffidence, the quantity
of one's love that mattered rather than the quality of its object. Not
that Mr. Twist wasn't of the very first quality, except to look at; but
what after all were faces? The coachman had been, as it were, nothing
else but face, so handsome was he and so without any other
recommendation. He couldn't even drive; and her father had very soon
kicked him out with the vigour and absence of hesitation peculiar to
Junkers when it comes to kicking and Anna-Rose had wept all over her
bread and butter at tea that day, and was understood to say that she
knew at last what it must be like to be a widow.

Mr. Twist, for all that he was looking out of the taxi window with an
angry and worried face, his attention irritably concentrated, so it
seemed, on the objects passing in the road, very well knew he was being
observed. He wouldn't, however, allow his eye to be caught. He wasn't
going to become entangled at this juncture in argument with the Annas.
He was hastily making up his mind, and there wasn't much time to do it
in. He had had no explanation with the twins since the manager's visit
to his room, and he didn't want to have any. He had issued brief orders
to them, told them to pack, declined to answer questions, and had got
them safely into the taxi with a minimum waste of time and words. They
were now on their way to the station to meet Mrs. Bilton. Her train from
Los Angeles was not due till that evening at six. Never mind. The
station was a secure place to deposit the twins and the baggage in till
she came. He wished he could deposit the twins in the parcel-room as
easily as he could their grips--neatly labelled, put away safely on a
shelf till called for.

Rapidly, as he stared out of the window, he arrived at decisions. He
would leave the twins in the waiting room at the station till Mrs.
Bilton was due, and meanwhile go out and find lodgings for them and her.
He himself would get a room in another and less critical hotel, and stay
in it till the cottage was habitable. So would unassailable
respectability once more descend like a white garment upon the party and
cover it up.

But he was nettled; nettled; nettled by the _contretemps_ that had
occurred on the very last day, when Mrs. Bilton was so nearly there;
nettled and exasperated. So immensely did he want the twins to be happy,
to float serenely in the unclouded sunshine and sweetness he felt was
their due, that he was furious with them for doing anything to make it
difficult. And, jerkily, his angry thoughts pounced, as they so often
did, on Uncle Arthur. Fancy kicking two little things like that out into
the world, two little breakable things like that, made to be cherished
and watched over. Mr. Twist was pure American in his instinct to regard
the female as an object to be taken care of, to be placed securely in a
charming setting and kept brightly free from dust. If Uncle Arthur had
had a shred of humanity in him, he angrily reflected, the Annas would
have stayed under his roof throughout the war, whatever the feeling was
against aliens. Never would a decent man have chucked them out.

He turned involuntarily from the window and looked at the twins. Their
eyes were fixed, affectionate and anxious, on his face. With the quick
change of mood of those whose chins are weak and whose hearts are warm,
a flood of love for them gushed up within him and put out his anger.
After all, if Uncle Arthur had been decent he, Edward A. Twist, never
would have met these blessed children. He would now have been at Clark;
leading lightless days; hopelessly involved with his mother.

His loose, unsteady mouth broke into a big smile. Instantly the two
faces opposite cleared into something shining.

"Oh dear," said Anna-Felicitas with a sigh of relief, "it _is_
refreshing when you leave off being cross."

"We're fearfully sorry if we've said anything we oughtn't to have," said
Anna-Rose, "and if you tell us what it is we won't say it again."

"I can't tell you, because I don't know what it was," said Mr. Twist, in
his usual kind voice. "I only see the results. And the results are that
the Cosmopolitan is tired of us, and we've got to find lodgings."

"Lodgings?"

"Till we can move into the cottage. I'm going to put you and Mrs. Bilton
in an apartment in Acapulco, and go myself to some hotel."

The twins stared at him a moment in silence. Then Anna-Rose said with
sudden passion, "You're not."

"How's that?" asked Mr. Twist; but she was prevented answering by the
arrival of the taxi at the station.

There followed ten minutes' tangle and confusion, at the end of which
the twins found themselves free of their grips and being piloted into
the waiting-room by Mr. Twist.

"There," he said. "You sit here quiet and good. I'll come back about one
o'clock with sandwiches and candy for your dinner, and maybe a
story-book or two. You mustn't leave this, do you hear? I'm going to
hunt for those lodgings."

And he was in the act of taking off his hat valedictorily when Anna-Rose
again said with the same passion, "You're not."

"Not what?" inquired Mr. Twist, pausing with his hat in mid-air.

"Going to hunt for lodgings. We won't go to them."

"Of course we won't," said Anna-Felicitas, with no passion but with an
infinitely rock-like determination.

"And pray--" began Mr. Twist.

"Go into lodgings alone with Mrs. Bilton?" interrupted Anna-Rose her
face scarlet, her whole small body giving the impression of indignant
feathers standing up on end. "While you're somewhere else? Away from us?
We won't."

"Of course we won't," said Anna-Felicitas again, an almost placid
quality in her determination, it was so final and so unshakable. "Would
you?"

"See here--" began Mr. Twist.

"We won't see anywhere," said Anna-Rose.

"Would you," inquired Anna-Felicitas, again reasoning with him, "like
being alone in lodgings with Mrs. Bilton?"

"This is no time for conversation," said Mr. Twist, making for the door.
"You've got to do what I think best on this occasion. And that's all
about it."

"We won't," repeated Anna-Rose, on the verge of those tears which always
with her so quickly followed any sort of emotion.

Mr. Twist paused on his way to the door. "Well now what the devil's the
matter with lodgings?" he asked angrily.

"It isn't the devil, it's Mrs. Bilton," said Anna-Felicitas. "Would you
yourself like--"

'But you've got to have Mrs. Bilton with you anyhow from to-day on."

"But not unadulterated Mrs. Bilton. You were to have been with us too.
We can't be drowned all by ourselves in Mrs. Bilton. _You_ wouldn't like
it."

"Of course I wouldn't. But it's only for a few days anyhow," said Mr.
Twist, who had been quite unprepared for opposition to his very
sensible arrangement.

"I shouldn't wonder if it's only a few days now before we can all
squeeze into some part of the cottage. If you don't mind dust and noise
and workmen about all day long."

A light pierced the gloom that had gathered round Anna-Felicitas's soul.

"We'll go into it to-day," she said firmly, "Why not? We can camp out.
We can live in those little rooms at the back over the kitchen,--the
ones you got ready for Li Koo. We'd be on the spot. We wouldn't mind
anything. It would just be a picnic."

"And we--we wouldn't be--sep--separated," said Anna-Rose, getting it out
with a gasp.

Mr. Twist stood looking at them.

"Well, of all the--" he began, pushing his hat back. "Are you aware,"
he went on more calmly, "that there are only two rooms over that
kitchen, and that you and Mrs. Bilton will have to be all together in
one of them?"

"We don't mind that as long as you're in the other one," said Anna-Rose.

"Of course," suggested Anna-Felicitas, "if you were to happen to marry
Mrs. Bilton it would make a fairer division."

Mr. Twist's spectacles stared enormously at her.

"No, no," said Anna-Rose quickly. "Marriage is a sacred thing, and you
can't just marry so as to be more comfortable."

"I guess if I married Mrs. Bilton I'd be more uncomfortable," remarked
Mr. Twist with considerable dryness.

He seemed however to be quieted by the bare suggestion, for he fixed his
hat properly on his head and said, sobriety in his voice and manner,
"Come along, then. We'll get a taxi and anyway go out and have a look at
the rooms. But I shouldn't be surprised," he added, "if before I've done
with you you'll have driven me sheer out of my wits."

"Oh, _don't_ say that," said the twins together, with all and more of
their usual urbanity.




CHAPTER XXVI


By superhuman exertions and a lavish expenditure of money, the rooms Li
Koo was later on to inhabit were ready to be slept in by the time Mrs.
Bilton arrived. They were in an outbuilding at the back of the house,
and consisted of a living-room with a cooking-stove in it, a bedroom
behind it, and up a narrow and curly staircase a larger room running the
whole length and width of the shanty. This sounds spacious, but it
wasn't. The amount of length and width was small, and it was only just
possible to get three camp-beds into it and a washstand. The beds nearly
touched each other. Anna-Felicitas thought she and Anna-Rose were going
to be regrettably close to Mrs. Bilton in them, and again urged on Mr.
Twist's consideration the question of removing Mrs. Bilton from the room
by marriage; but Anna-Rose said it was all perfect, and that there was
lots of room, and she was sure Mrs. Bilton, used to the camp life so
extensively practised in America, would thoroughly enjoy herself.

They worked without stopping all the rest of the day at making the
little place habitable, nailing up some of the curtains intended for the
other house, unpacking cushions, and fetching in great bunches of the
pale pink and mauve geraniums that scrambled about everywhere in the
garden and hiding the worst places in the rooms with them. Mr. Twist was
in Acapulco most of the time, getting together the necessary temporary
furniture and cooking utensils, but the twins didn't miss him, for they
were helped with zeal by the architect, the electrical expert, the
garden expert and the chief plumber.

These young men--they were all young, and very go-ahead--abandoned the
main building that day to the undirected labours of the workmen they
were supposed to control, and turned to on the shanty as soon as they
realized what it was to be used for with a joyous energy that delighted
the twins. They swept and they garnished. They cleaned the dust off the
windows and the rust off the stove. They fetched out the parcels with
the curtains and cushions in them from the barn where all parcels and
packages had been put till the house was ready, and extracted various
other comforts from the piled up packing-cases,--a rug or two, an easy
chair for Mrs. Bilton, a looking-glass. They screwed in hooks behind the
doors for clothes to be hung on, and they tied the canary to a
neighbouring eucalyptus tree where it could be seen and hardly heard.
The chief plumber found buckets and filled them with water, and the
electrical expert rigged up a series of lanterns inside the shanty, even
illuminating its tortuous staircase. There was much _badinage_, but as
it was all in American, a language of which the twins were not yet able
to apprehend the full flavour, they responded only with pleasant smiles.
But their smiles were so pleasant and the family dimple so engaging that
the hours flew, and the young men were sorry indeed when Mr. Twist came
back.

He came back laden, among other things, with food for the twins, whom he
had left in his hurry high and dry at the cottage with nothing at all to
eat; and he found them looking particularly comfortable and
well-nourished, having eaten, as they explained when they refused his
sandwiches and fruit, the chief plumber's dinner.

They were sitting on the stump of an oak tree when he arrived, resting
from their labours, and the grass at their feet was dotted with the four
experts. It was the twins now who were talking, and the experts who were
smiling. Mr. Twist wondered uneasily what they were saying. It wouldn't
have added to his comfort if he had heard, for they were giving the
experts an account of their attempt to go and live with the Sacks, and
interweaving with it some general reflections of a philosophical nature
suggested by the Sack _ménage_. The experts were keenly interested, and
everybody looked very happy, and Mr. Twist was annoyed; for clearly if
the experts were sitting there on the grass they weren't directing the
workmen placed under their orders. Mr. Twist perceived a drawback to the
twins living on the spot while the place was being finished; another
drawback. He had perceived several already, but not this one. Well, Mrs.
Bilton would soon be there. He now counted the hours to Mrs. Bilton. He
positively longed for her.

When they saw him coming, the experts moved away. "Here's the boss,"
they said, nodding and winking at the twins as they got up quickly and
departed. Winking was not within the traditions of the Twinkler family,
but no doubt, they thought, it was the custom of the country to wink,
and they wondered whether they ought to have winked back. The young men
were certainly deserving of every friendliness in return for all they
had done. They decided they would ask Mrs. Bilton, and then they could
wink at them if necessary the first thing to-morrow morning.

Mr. Twist took them with him when he went down to the station to meet
the Los Angeles train. It was dark at six, and the workmen had gone home
by then, but the experts still seemed to be busy. He had been astonished
at the amount the twins had accomplished in his absence in the town till
they explained to him how very active the experts had been, whereupon he
said, "Now isn't that nice," and briefly informed them they would go
with him to the station.

"That's waste of time," said Anna-Felicitas. "We could be giving
finishing touches if we stayed here."

"You will come with me to the station," said Mr. Twist.

Mrs. Bilton arrived in a thick cloud of conversation. She supposed she
was going to the Cosmopolitan Hotel, as indeed she originally was, and
all the way back in the taxi Mr. Twist was trying to tell her she
wasn't; but Mrs. Bilton had so much to say about her journey, and her
last days among her friends, and all the pleasant new acquaintances she
had made on the train, and her speech was so very close-knit, that he
felt he was like a rabbit on the wrong side of a thick-set hedge running
desperately up and down searching for a gap to get through. It was
nothing short of amazing how Mrs. Bilton talked; positively, there
wasn't at any moment the smallest pause in the flow.

"It's a disease," thought Anna-Rose, who had several things she wanted
to say herself, and found herself hopelessly muzzled.

"No wonder Mr. Bilton preferred heaven," thought Anna-Felicitas, also a
little restless at the completeness of her muzzling.

"Anyhow she'll never hear the Annas saying anything," thought Mr. Twist,
consoling himself.

"This hotel we're going to seems to be located at some distance from
the station," said Mrs. Bilton presently, in the middle of several pages
of rapid unpunctuated monologue. "Isolated, surely--" and off she went
again to other matters, just as Mr. Twist had got his mouth open to
explain at last.

She arrived therefore at the cottage unconscious of the change in her
fate.

Now Mrs. Bilton was as fond of comfort as any other woman who has been
deprived for some years of that substitute for comfort, a husband. She
had looked forward to the enveloping joys of the Cosmopolitan, its bath,
its soft bed and good food, with frank satisfaction. She thought it
admirable that before embarking on active duties she should for a space
rest luxuriously in an excellent hotel, with no care in regard to
expense, and exchange ideas while she rested with the interesting people
she would be sure to meet in it. Before the interview in Los Angeles,
Mr. Twist had explained to her by letter and under the seal of
confidence the philanthropic nature of the project he and the Miss
Twinklers were engaged upon, and she was prepared, in return for the
very considerable salary she had accepted, to do her duty loyally and
unremittingly; but after the stress and hard work of her last days in
Los Angeles she had certainly looked forward with a particular pleasure
to two or three weeks' delicious wallowing in flesh-pots for which she
had not to pay. She was also, however, a lady of grit; and she
possessed, as she said her friends often told her, a redoubtable psyche,
a genuine American free and fearless psyche; so that when, talking
ceaselessly, her thoughts eagerly jostling each other as they streamed
through her brain to get first to the exit of her tongue, she caught her
foot in some builder's débris carelessly left on the path up to the
cottage and received in this way positively her first intimation that
this couldn't be the Cosmopolitan, she did not, as a more timid female
soul well might have, become alarmed and suppose that Mr. Twist, whom
after all she didn't know, had brought her to this solitary place for
purposes of assassination, but stopped firmly just where she was, and
turning her head in the darkness toward him said, "Now Mr. Twist, I'll
stand right here till you're able to apply some sort of illumination to
what's at my feet. I can't say what it is I've walked against but I'm
not going any further with this promenade till I can say. And when
you've thrown light on the subject perhaps you'll oblige me with
information as to where that hotel is I was told I was coming to."

"Information?" cried Mr. Twist. "Haven't I been trying to give it you
ever since I met you? Haven't I been trying to stop your getting out of
the taxi till I'd fetched a lantern? Haven't I been trying to offer you
my arm along the path--"

"Then why didn't you say so, Mr. Twist?" asked Mrs. Bilton.

"Say so!" cried Mr. Twist.

At that moment the flash of an electric torch was seen jerking up and
down as the person carrying it ran toward them. It was the electrical
expert who, most fortunately, happened still to be about.

Mrs. Bilton welcomed him warmly, and taking his torch from him first
examined what she called the location of her feet, then gave it back to
him and put her hand through his arm. "Now guide me to whatever it is
has been substituted without my knowledge for that hotel," she said; and
while Mr. Twist went back to the taxi to deal with her grips, she walked
carefully toward the shanty on the expert's arm, expressing, in an
immense number of words, the astonishment she felt at Mr. Twist's not
having told her of the disappearance of the Cosmopolitan from her
itinerary.

The electrical expert tried to speak, but was drowned without further
struggle. Anna-Rose, unable to listen any longer without answering to
the insistent inquiries as to why Mr. Twist had kept her in the dark,
raised her voice at last and called out, "But he wanted to--he wanted to
all the time--you wouldn't listen--you wouldn't stop--"

Mrs. Bilton did stop however when she got inside the shanty. Her tongue
and her feet stopped dead together. The electrical expert had lit all
the lanterns, and coming upon it in the darkness its lighted windows
gave it a cheerful, welcoming look. But inside no amount of light and
bunches of pink geraniums could conceal its discomforts, its dreadful
smallness; besides, pink geraniums, which the twins were accustomed to
regard as precious, as things brought up lovingly in pots, were nothing
but weeds to Mrs. Bilton's experienced Californian eye.

She stared round her in silence. Her sudden quiet fell on the twins with
a great sense of refreshment. Standing in the doorway--for Mrs. Bilton
and the electrical expert between them filled up most of the
kitchen--they heaved a deep sigh. "And see how beautiful the stars are,"
whispered Anna-Felicitas in Anna-Rose's ear; she hadn't been able to see
them before somehow, Mrs. Bilton's voice had so much ruffled the night.

"Do you think she talks in her sleep?" Anna-Rose anxiously whispered
back.

But Mr. Twist, arriving with his hands full, was staggered to find Mrs.
Bilton not talking. An icy fear seized his heart. She was going to
refuse to stay with them. And she would be within her rights if she did,
for certainly what she called her itinerary had promised her a
first-rate hotel, in which she was to continue till a finished and
comfortable house was stepped into.

"I wish you'd say something," he said, plumping down the bags he was
carrying on the kitchen floor.

The twins from the doorway looked at him and then at each other in great
surprise. Fancy _asking_ Mrs. Bilton to say something.

"They would come," said Mr. Twist, resentfully, jerking his head toward
the Annas in the doorway.

"It's worse upstairs," he went on desperately as Mrs. Bilton still was
dumb.

"Worse upstairs?" cried the twins, as one woman.

"It's perfect upstairs," said Anna-Felicitas.

"It's like camping out without _being_ out," said Anna-Rose.

"The only drawback is that there are rather a lot of beds in our room,"
said Anna-Felicitas, "but that of course"--she turned to Mr.
Twist--"might easily be arranged--"

"I wish you'd _say_ something, Mrs. Bilton," he interrupted quickly and
loud.

Mrs. Bilton drew a deep breath and looked round her. She looked round
the room, and she looked up at the ceiling, which the upright feather in
her hat was tickling, and she looked at the faces of the twins, lit
flickeringly by the uncertain light of the lanterns. Then, woman of
grit, wife who had never failed him of Bruce D. Bilton, widow who had
remained poised and indomitable on a small income in a circle of
well-off friends, she spoke; and she said:

"Mr. Twist, I can't say what this means, and you'll furnish me no doubt
with information, but whatever it is I'm not the woman to put my hand to
a plough and then turn back again. That type of behaviour may have been
good enough for Pharisees and Sadducees, who if I remember rightly had
to be specially warned against the practice, but it isn't good enough
for me. You've conducted me to a shack instead of the hotel I was
promised, and I await your explanation. Meanwhile, is there any supper?"




CHAPTER XXVII


It was only a fortnight after this that the inn was ready to be opened,
and it was only during the first days of this fortnight that the party
in the shanty had to endure any serious discomfort. The twins didn't
mind the physical discomfort at all; what they minded, and began to mind
almost immediately, was the spiritual discomfort of being at such close
quarters with Mrs. Bilton. They hardly noticed the physical side of that
close association in such a lovely climate, where the whole of
out-of-doors can be used as one's living-room; and their morning
dressing, a difficult business in the shanty for anybody less young and
more needing to be careful, was rather like the getting up of a dog
after its night's sleep--they seemed just to shake themselves, and there
they were.

They got up before Mrs. Bilton, who was, however, always awake and
talking to them while they dressed, and they went to bed before she did,
though she came up with them after the first night and read aloud to
them while they undressed; so that as regarded the mysteries of Mrs.
Bilton's toilette they were not, after all, much in her way. It was like
caravaning or camping out: you managed your movements and moments
skilfully, and if you were Mrs. Bilton you had a curtain slung across
your part of the room, in case your younger charges shouldn't always be
asleep when they looked as if they were.

Gradually one alleviation was added to another, and Mrs. Bilton forgot
the rigours of the beginning. Li Koo arrived, for instance, fetched by a
telegram, and under a tent in the eucalyptus grove at the back of the
house set up an old iron stove and produced, with no apparent exertion,
extraordinarily interesting and amusing food. He went into Acapulco at
daylight every morning and did the marketing. He began almost
immediately to do everything else in the way of housekeeping. He was
exquisitely clean, and saw to it that the shanty matched him in
cleanliness. To the surprise and gratification of the twins, who had
supposed it would be their lot to go on doing the housework of the
shanty, he took it over as a matter of course, dusting, sweeping, and
tidying like a practised and very excellent housemaid. The only thing he
refused to do was to touch the three beds in the upper chamber. "Me no
make lady-beds," he said briefly.

Li Koo's salary was enormous, but Mr. Twist, with a sound instinct,
cared nothing what he paid so long as he got the right man. He was,
indeed, much satisfied with his two employees, and congratulated himself
on his luck. It is true in regard to Mrs. Bilton his satisfaction was
rather of the sorrowful sort that a fresh ache in a different part of
one's body from the first ache gives: it relieved him from one by
substituting another. Mrs. Bilton overwhelmed him; but so had the Annas
begun to. Her overwhelming, however, was different, and freed him from
that other worse one. He felt safe now about the Annas, and after all
there were parts of the building in which Mrs. Bilton wasn't. There was
his bedroom, for instance. Thank God for bedrooms, thought Mr. Twist. He
grew to love his. What a haven that poky and silent place was; what a
blessing the conventions were, and the proprieties. Supposing
civilization were so far advanced that people could no longer see the
harm there is in a bedroom, what would have become of him? Mr. Twist
could perfectly account for Bruce D. Bilton's death. It wasn't diabetes,
as Mrs. Bilton said; it was just bedroom.

Still, Mrs. Bilton was an undoubted find, and did immediately in those
rushed days take the Annas off his mind. He could leave them with her in
the comfortable certitude that whatever else they did to Mrs. Bilton
they couldn't talk to her. Never would she know the peculiar ease of the
Twinkler attitude toward subjects Americans approach with care. Never
would they be able to tell her things about Uncle Arthur, the kind of
things that had caused the Cosmopolitan to grow so suddenly cool. There
was, most happily for this particular case, no arguing with Mrs. Bilton.
The twins couldn't draw her out because she was already, as it were, so
completely out. This was a great thing, Mr. Twist felt, and made up for
any personal suffocation he had to bear; and when on the afternoon of
Mrs. Bilton's first day the twins appeared without her in the main
building in search of him, having obviously given her the slip, and said
they were sorry to disturb him but they wanted his advice, for though
they had been trying hard all day, remembering they were ladies and
practically hostesses, they hadn't yet succeeded in saying anything at
all to Mrs. Bilton and doubted whether they ever would, he merely smiled
happily at them and said to Anna-Rose, "See how good comes out of
evil"--a remark that they didn't like when they had had time to think
over it.

But they went on struggling. It seemed so unnatural to be all alone all
day long with someone and only listen. Mrs. Bilton never left their
side, regarding it as proper and merely fulfilling her part of the
bargain, in these first confused days when there was nothing for ladies
to do but look on while perspiring workmen laboured at apparently
producing more and more chaos, to become thoroughly acquainted with her
young charges. This she did by imparting to them intimate and meticulous
information about her own life, with the whole of the various uplifts,
as she put it, her psyche had during its unfolding experienced. There
was so much to tell about herself that she never got to inquiring about
the twins. She knew they were orphans, and that this was a good work,
and for the moment had no time for more.

The twins were profoundly bored by her psyche, chiefly because they
didn't know what part of her it was, and it was no use asking for she
didn't answer; but they listened with real interest to her concrete
experiences, and especially to the experiences connected with Mr.
Bilton. They particularly wished to ask questions about Mr. Bilton, and
find out what he had thought of things. Mrs. Bilton was lavish in her
details of what she had thought herself, but Mr. Bilton's thoughts
remained impenetrable. It seemed to the twins that he must have thought
a lot, and have come to the conclusion that there was much to be said
for death.

The Biltons, it appeared, had been the opposite of the Clouston-Sacks,
and had never been separated for a single day during the whole of their
married life. This seemed to the twins very strange, and needing a great
deal of explanation. In order to get light thrown on it the first thing
they wanted to find out was how long the marriage had lasted; but Mrs.
Bilton was deaf to their inquiries, and having described Mr. Bilton's
last moments and obsequies--obsequies scheduled by her, she said, with
so tender a regard for his memory that she insisted on a horse-drawn
hearse instead of the more fashionable automobile conveyance, on the
ground that a motor hearse didn't seem sorry enough even on first
speed--she washed along with an easy flow to descriptions of the
dreadfulness of the early days of widowhood, when one's crepe veil keeps
on catching in everything--chairs, overhanging branches, and passers-by,
including it appeared on one occasion a policeman. She inquired of the
twins whether they had ever seen a new-made widow in a wind. Chicago,
she said, was a windy place, and Mr. Bilton passed in its windiest
month. Her long veil, as she proceeded down the streets on the daily
constitutional she considered it her duty toward the living to take, for
one owes it to one's friends to keep oneself fit and not give way, was
blown hither and thither in the buffeting cross-currents of that uneasy
climate, and her walk in the busier streets was a series of
entanglements. Embarrassing entanglements, said Mrs. Bilton. Fortunately
the persons she got caught in were delicacy and sympathy itself; often,
indeed, seeming quite overcome by the peculiar poignancy of the
situation, covered with confusion, profuse in apologies. Sometimes the
wind would cause her veil for a few moments to rear straight up above
her head in a monstrous black column of woe. Sometimes, if she stopped a
moment waiting to cross the street, it would whip round the body of any
one who happened to be near, like a cord. It did this once about the
body of the policeman directing the traffic, by whose side she had
paused, and she had to walk round him backwards before it could be
unwound. The Chicago evening papers, prompt on the track of a sensation,
had caused her friends much painful if only short-lived amazement by
coming out with huge equivocal headlines:

WELL-KNOWN SOCIETY WIDOW AND POLICEMAN CAUGHT TOGETHER

and beginning their description of the occurrence by printing her name
in full. So that for the first sentence or two her friends were a prey
to horror and distress, which turned to indignation on discovering there
was nothing in it after all.

The twins, their eyes on Mrs. Bilton's face, their hands clasped round
their knees, their bodies sitting on the grass at her feet, occasionally
felt as they followed her narrative that they were somehow out of their
depth and didn't quite understand. It was extraordinarily exasperating
to them to be so completely muzzled. They were accustomed to elucidate
points they didn't understand by immediate inquiry; they had a habit of
asking for information, and then delivering comments on it.

This condition of repression made them most uncomfortable. The ilex tree
in the field below the house, to which Mrs. Bilton shepherded them each
morning and afternoon for the first three days, became to them, in spite
of its beauty with the view from under its dark shade across the sunny
fields to the sea and the delicate distant islands, a painful spot. The
beauty all round them was under these conditions exasperating. Only once
did Mrs. Bilton leave them, and that was the first afternoon, when they
instantly fled to seek out Mr. Twist; and she only left them then--for
it wasn't just her sense of duty that was strong, but also her dislike
of being alone--because something unexpectedly gave way in the upper
part of her dress, she being of a tight well-held-in figure, depending
much on its buttons; and she had very hastily to go in search of a
needle.

After that they didn't see Mr. Twist alone for several days. They hardly
indeed saw him at all. The only meal he shared with them was supper, and
on finding the first evening that Mrs. Bilton read aloud to people after
supper, he made the excuse of accounts to go through and went into his
bedroom, repeating this each night.

The twins watched him go with agonized eyes. They considered themselves
deserted; shamefully abandoned to a miserable fate.

"And it isn't as if he didn't _like_ reading aloud," whispered
Anna-Rose, bewildered and indignant as she remembered the "Ode to
Dooty."

"Perhaps he's one of those people who only like it if they do it
themselves," Anna-Felicitas whispered back, trying to explain his base
behaviour.

And while they whispered, Mrs. Bilton with great enjoyment
declaimed--she had had a course of elocution lessons during Mr. Bilton's
life so as to be able to place the best literature advantageously before
him--the diary of a young girl written in prison. The young girl had
been wrongfully incarcerated, Mrs. Bilton explained, and her pure soul
only found release by the demise of her body. The twins hated the young
girl from the first paragraph. She wrote her diary every day till her
demise stopped her. As nothing happens in prisons that hasn't happened
the day before, she could only write her reflections; and the twins
hated her reflections, because they were so very like what in their
secret moments of slush they were apt to reflect themselves. Their
mother had had a horror of slush. There had been none anywhere about
her; but it is in the air in Germany, in people's blood, everywhere; and
though the twins, owing to the English part of them, had a horror of it
too, there it was in them, and they knew it,--genuine German slush.

They felt uncomfortably sure that if they were in prison they would
write a diary very much on these lines. For three evenings they had to
listen to it, their eyes on Mr. Twist's door. Why didn't he come out and
save them? What happy, what glorious evenings they used to have at the
Cosmopolitan, spent in intelligent conversation, in a decent give and
take--not this button-holing business, this being got into a corner and
held down; and alas, how little they had appreciated them! They used to
get sleepy and break them off and go to bed. If only he would come out
now and talk to them they would sit up all night. They wriggled with
impatience in their seats beneath the _épanchements_ of the young girl,
the strangely and distressingly familiar _épanchements_. The diary was
published in a magazine, and after the second evening, when Mrs. Bilton
on laying it down announced she would go on with it while they were
dressing next morning, they got up very early before Mrs. Bilton was
awake and crept out and hid it.

But Li Koo found it and restored it.

Li Koo found everything. He found Mrs. Bilton's outdoor shoes the third
morning, although the twins had hidden them most carefully. Their idea
was that while she, rendered immobile, waited indoors, they would
zealously look for them in all the places where they well knew that they
weren't, and perhaps get some conversation with Mr. Twist.

But Li Koo found everything. He found the twins themselves the fourth
morning, when, unable any longer to bear Mrs. Bilton's voice, they ran
into the woods instead of coming in to breakfast. He seemed to find them
at once, to walk unswervingly to their remote and bramble-filled ditch.

In order to save their dignity they said as they scrambled out that they
were picking flowers for Mrs. Bilton's breakfast, though the ditch had
nothing in it but stones and thorns. Li Koo made no comment. He never
did make comments; and his silence and his ubiquitous efficiency made
the twins as fidgety with him as they were with Mrs. Bilton for the
opposite reason. They had an uncomfortable feeling that he was rather
like the _liebe Gott_,--he saw everything, knew everything, and said
nothing. In vain they tried, on that walk back as at other times, to
pierce his impassivity with genialities. Li Koo--again, they silently
reflected, like the _liebe Gott_--had a different sense of geniality
from theirs; he couldn't apparently smile; they doubted if he even ever
wanted to. Their genialities faltered and froze on their lips.

Besides, they were deeply humiliated by having been found hiding, and
were ashamed to find themselves trying anxiously in this manner to
conciliate Li Koo. Their dignity on the walk back to the shanty seemed
painfully shrunk. They ought never to have condescended to do the
childish things they had been doing during the last three days. If they
hadn't been found out it would, of course, have remained a private
matter between them and their Maker, and then one doesn't mind so much;
but they had been found out, and by Li Koo, their own servant. It was
intolerable. All the blood of all the Twinklers, Junkers from time
immemorial and properly sensitive to humiliation, surged within them.
They hadn't felt so naughty and so young for years. They were sure Li
Koo didn't believe them about the ditch. They had a dreadful sensation
of being led back to Mrs. Bilton by the ear.

If only they could sack Mrs. Bilton!

This thought, immense and startling, came to Anna-Rose, who far more
than Anna-Felicitas resented being cut off from Mr. Twist, besides being
more naturally impetuous; and as they walked in silence side by side,
with Li Koo a little ahead of them, she turned her head and looked at
Anna-Felicitas. "Let's give her notice," she murmured, under her breath.

Anna-Felicitas was so much taken aback that she stopped in her walk and
stared at Anna-Rose's flushed face.

She too hardly breathed it. The suggestion seemed fantastic in its
monstrousness. How could they give anybody so old, so sure of herself,
so determined as Mrs. Bilton, notice?

"Give her notice?" she repeated.

A chill ran down Anna-Felicitas's spine. Give Mrs. Bilton notice! It was
a great, a breath-taking idea, magnificent in its assertion of
independence, of rights; but it needed, she felt, to be approached with
caution. They had never given anybody notice in their lives, and they
had always thought it must be a most painful thing to do--far, far worse
than tipping. Uncle Arthur usedn't to mind it a bit; did it, indeed,
with gusto. But Aunt Alice hadn't liked it at all, and came out in a
cold perspiration and bewailed her lot to them and wished that people
would behave and not place her in such a painful position.

Mrs. Bilton couldn't be said not to have behaved. Quite the contrary.
She had behaved too persistently; and they had to endure it the whole
twenty-four hours. For Mrs. Bilton had no turn, it appeared, in spite
of what she had said at Los Angeles, for solitary contemplation, and
after the confusion of the first night, when once she had had time to
envisage the situation thoroughly, as she said, she had found that to
sit alone downstairs in the uncertain light of the lanterns while the
twins went to bed and Mr. Twist wouldn't come out of his room, was not
good for her psyche; so she had followed the twins upstairs, and
continued to read the young girl's diary to them during their undressing
and till the noises coming from their beds convinced her that it was
useless to go on any longer. And that morning, the morning they hid in
the ditch, she had even done this while they were getting up.

"It isn't to be borne," said Anna-Rose under her breath, one eye on Li
Koo's ear which, a little in front of her, seemed slightly slanted
backward and sideways in the direction of her voice. "And why should it
be? We're not in her power."

"No," said Anna-Felicitas, also under her breath and also watching Li
Koo's ear, "but it feels extraordinarily as if we were."

"Yes. And that's intolerable. And it forces us to do silly baby things,
wholly unsuited either to our age or our position. Who would have
thought we'd ever hide from somebody in a ditch again!" Anna-Rose's
voice was almost a sob at the humiliation.

"It all comes from sleeping in the same room," said Anna-Felicitas.
"Nobody can stand a thing that doesn't end at night either."

"Of course they can't," said Anna-Rose. "It isn't fair. If you have to
have a person all day you oughtn't to have to have the same person all
night. Some one else should step in and relieve you then. Just as they
do in hospitals."

"Yes," said Anna-Felicitas. "Mr. Twist ought to. He ought to remove her
forcibly from our room by marriage.

"No he oughtn't," said Anna-Rose hastily, "because we can remove her
ourselves by the simple process of giving her notice."

"I don't believe it's simple," said Anna-Felicia again feeling a chill
trickling down her spine.

"Of course it is. We just go to her very politely and inform her that
the engagement is terminated on a basis of mutual esteem but inflexible
determination."

"And suppose she doesn't stop talking enough to hear?"

"Then we'll hand it to her in writing."

The rest of the way they walked in silence, Anna-Rose with her chin
thrust out in defiance, Anna-Felicitas dragging her feet along with a
certain reluctance and doubt.

Mrs. Bilton had finished her breakfast when they got back, having seen
no sense in letting good food get cold, and was ready to sit and chat to
them while they had theirs. She was so busy telling them what she had
supposed they were probably doing, that she was unable to listen to
their attempted account of what they had done. Thus they were saved from
telling humiliating and youthful fibs; but they were also prevented, as
by a wall of rock, from getting the speech through to her ear that
Anna-Rose, trembling in spite of her defiance, had ready to launch at
her. It was impossible to shout at Mrs. Bilton in the way Mr. Twist,
when in extremity of necessity, had done. Ladies didn't shout;
especially not when they were giving other ladies notice. Anna-Rose,
who was quite cold and clammy at the prospect of her speech, couldn't
help feeling relieved when breakfast was over and no opportunity for it
had been given.

"We'll write it," she whispered to Anna-Felicitas beneath the cover of a
lively account Mrs. Bilton was giving them, _à propos_ of their being
late for breakfast, of the time it took her, after Mr. Bilton's passing,
to get used to his unpunctuality at meals.

That Mr. Bilton, who had breakfasted and dined with her steadily for
years, should suddenly leave off being punctual freshly astonished her
every day, she said. The clock struck, yet Mr. Bilton continued late. It
was poignant, said Mrs. Bilton, this way of being reminded of her loss.
Each day she would instinctively expect; each day would come the stab of
recollection. The vacancy these non-appearances had made in her life was
beyond any words of hers. In fact she didn't possess such words, and
doubted if the completest dictionary did either. Everything went just
vacant, she said. No need any more to hurry down in the morning, so as
to be behind the coffee pot half a minute before the gong went and Mr.
Bilton simultaneously appeared. No need any more to think of him when
ordering meals. No need any more to eat the dish he had been so fond of
and she had found so difficult to digest, Boston baked beans and bacon;
yet she found herself ordering it continually after his departure, and
choking memorially over the mouthfuls--"And people in Europe," cried Mrs
Bilton, herself struck as she talked by this extreme devotion, "say that
American women are incapable of passion!"

"We'll write it," whispered Anna-Rose to Anna-Felicitas.

"Write what?" asked Anna-Felicitas abstractedly, who as usual when Mrs.
Bilton narrated her reminiscences was absorbed in listening to them and
trying to get some clear image of Mr. Bilton.

But she remembered the next moment, and it was like waking up to the
recollection that this is the day you have to have a tooth pulled out.
The idea of not having the tooth any more, of being free from it charmed
and thrilled her, but how painful, how alarming was the prospect of
pulling it out!

There was one good thing to be said for Mrs. Bilton's talk, and that was
that under its voluminous cover they could themselves whisper
occasionally to each other. Anna-Rose decided that if Mrs. Bilton didn't
notice that they whispered neither probably would she notice if she
wrote. She therefore under Mrs. Bilton's very nose got a pencil and a
piece of paper, and with many pauses and an unsteady hand wrote the
following:

DEAR MRS. BILTON--For some time past my sister and I have felt that we
aren't suited to you, and if you don't mind would you mind regarding the
engagement as terminated? We hope you won't think this abrupt, because
it isn't really, for we seem to have lived ages since you came, and
we've been thinking this over ripely ever since. And we hope you won't
take it as anything personal either, because it isn't really. It's only
that we feel we're unsuitable, and we're sure we'll go on getting more
and more unsuitable. Nobody can help being unsuitable, and we're
fearfully sorry. But on the other hand we're inflexible.--Yours
affectionately,

ANNA-ROSE and ANNA-FELICITAS TWINKLER

With a beating heart she cautiously pushed the letter across the table
under cover of the breakfast _débris_ to Anna-Felicitas, who read it
with a beating heart and cautiously pushed it back.

Anna-Felicitas felt sure Christopher was being terribly impetuous, and
she felt sure she ought to stop her. But what a joy to be without Mrs.
Bilton! The thought of going to bed in the placid sluggishness dear to
her heart, without having to listen, to be attentive, to remember to be
tidy because if she weren't there would be no room for Mrs. Bilton's
things, was too much for her. Authority pursuing her into her bedroom
was what she had found most difficult to bear. There must be respite.
There must be intervals in every activity or endurance. Even the _liebe
Gott_, otherwise so indefatigable, had felt this and arranged for the
relaxation of Sundays.

She pushed the letter back with a beating heart, and told herself that
she couldn't and never had been able to stop Christopher when she was in
this mood of her chin sticking out. What could she do in face of such a
chin? And besides, Mrs. Bilton's friends must be missing her very much
and ought to have her back. One should always live only with one's own
sort of people. Every other way of living, Anna-Felicitas was sure even
at this early stage of her existence, was bound to come to a bad end.
One could be fond of almost anybody, she held, if they were somewhere
else. Even of Uncle Arthur. Even he somehow seemed softened by distance.
But for living-together purposes there was only one kind of people
possible, and that was one's own kind. Unexpected and various were the
exteriors of one's own kind and the places one found them in, but one
always knew them. One felt comfortable with them at once; comfortable
and placid. Whatever else Mrs. Bilton might be feeling she wasn't
feeling placid. That was evident; and it was because she too wasn't with
her own kind. With her eyes fixed nervously on Mrs. Bilton who was
talking on happily, Anna-Felicitas reasoned with herself in the above
manner as she pushed back the letter, instead of, as at the back of her
mind she felt she ought to have done, tearing it up.

Anna-Rose folded it and addressed it to Mrs. Bilton. Then she got up and
held it out to her.

Anna-Felicitas got up too, her inside feeling strangely unsteady and
stirred round and round.

"Would you mind reading this?" said Anna-Rose faintly to Mrs. Bilton,
who took the letter mechanically and held it in her hand without
apparently noticing it, so much engaged was she by what she was saying.

"We're going out a moment to speak to Mr. Twist," Anna-Rose then said,
making for the door and beckoning to Anna-Felicitas, who still stood
hesitating.

She slipped out; and Anna-Felicitas, suddenly panic-stricken lest she
should be buttonholed all by herself fled after her.




CHAPTER XXVIII


Mr. Twist, his mind at ease, was in the charming room that was to be the
tea-room. It was full of scattered fittings and the noise of hammering,
but even so anybody could see what a delightful place it would presently
turn into.

The Open Arms was to make a specialty of wet days. Those were the days,
those consecutive days of downpour that came in the winter and lasted
without interruption for a fortnight at a time, when visitors in the
hotels were bored beyond expression and ready to welcome anything that
could distract them for an hour from the dripping of the rain on the
windows. Bridge was their one solace, and they played it from after
breakfast till bedtime; but on the fourth or fifth day of doing this,
just the mere steady sitting became grievous to them. They ached with
weariness. They wilted with boredom. All their natural kindness got
damped out of them, and they were cross. Even when they won they were
cross, and when they lost it was really distressing. They wouldn't, of
course, have been in California at all at such a time if it were
possible to know beforehand when the rains would begin, but one never
did know, and often it was glorious weather right up to and beyond
Christmas. And then how glorious! What a golden place of light and
warmth to be in, while in the East one's friends were being battered by
blizzards.

Mr. Twist intended to provide a break in the day each afternoon for
these victims of the rain. He would come to their rescue. He made up
his mind, clear and firm on such matters, that it should become the
habit of these unhappy people during the bad weather to motor out to The
Open Arms for tea; and, full of forethought, he had had a covered way
made, by which one could get out of a car and into the house without
being touched by a drop of rain, and he had had a huge open fireplace
made across the end of the tea-room, which would crackle and blaze a
welcome that would cheer the most dispirited arrival. The cakes, at all
times wonderful were on wet days to be more than wonderful. Li Koo had a
secret receipt, given him, he said, by his mother for cakes of a quite
peculiar and original charm, and these were to be reserved for the rainy
season only, and be made its specialty. They were to become known and
endeared to the public under the brief designation of Wet Day Cakes. Mr.
Twist felt there was something thoroughly American about this
name--plain and business-like, and attractively in contrast to the
subtle, the almost immoral exquisiteness of the article itself. This
cake had been one of those produced by Li Koo from the folds of his
garments the day in Los Angeles, and Mr. Twist had happened to be the
one of his party who ate it. He therefore knew what he was doing when he
decided to call it and its like simply Wet Day Cakes.

The twins found him experimenting with a fire in the fireplace so as to
be sure it didn't smoke, and the architect and he were in their shirt
sleeves, deftly manipulating wood shavings and logs. There was such a
hammering being made by the workmen fixing in the latticed windows, and
such a crackling being made by the logs Mr. Twist and the architect kept
on throwing on the fire, that only from the sudden broad smile on the
architect's face as he turned to pick up another log did Mr. Twist
realize that something that hadn't to do with work was happening behind
his back.

He looked round and saw the Annas picking their way toward him. They
seemed in a hurry.

"Hello," he called out.

They made no reply to this, but continued hurriedly to pick their way
among the obstacles in their path. They appeared to be much perturbed.
What, he wondered, had they done with Mrs. Bilton? He soon knew.

"We've given Mrs. Bilton notice," panted Anna-Rose as soon as she got
near enough to his ear for him to hear her in the prevailing noise.

Her face, as usual when she was moved and excited, was scarlet, her eyes
looking bluer and brighter than ever by contrast.

"We simply can't stand it any longer," she went on as Mr. Twist only
stared at her.

"And you wouldn't either if you were us," she continued, the more
passionately as he still didn't say anything.

"Of course," said Anna-Felicitas, taking a high line, though her heart
was full of doubt, "it's your fault really. We could have borne it if we
hadn't had to have her at night."

"Come outside," said Mr. Twist, walking toward the door that led on to
the verandah.

They followed him, Anna-Rose shaking with excitement, Anna-Felicitas
trying to persuade herself that they had acted in the only way
consistent with real wisdom.

The architect stood with a log in each hand looking after them and
smiling all by himself. There was something about the Twinklers that
lightened his heart whenever he caught sight of them. He and his fellow
experts had deplored the absence of opportunities since Mrs. Bilton came
of developing the friendship begun the first day, and talked of them on
their way home in the afternoons with affectionate and respectful
familiarity as The Cutes.

"Now," said Mr. Twist, having passed through the verandah and led the
twins to the bottom of the garden where he turned and faced them,
"perhaps you'll tell me exactly what you've done."

"You should rather inquire what Mrs. Bilton has done," said
Anna-Felicitas, pulling herself up as straight and tall as she would go.
She couldn't but perceive that the excess of Christopher's emotion was
putting her at a disadvantage in the matter of dignity.

"I can guess pretty much what she has done," said Mr. Twist.

"You can't--you can't," burst out Anna-Rose. "Nobody could--nobody ever
could--who hadn't been with her day and night."

"She's just been Mrs. Bilton," said Mr. Twist, lighting a cigarette to
give himself an appearance of calm.

"Exactly," said Anna-Felicitas. "So you won't be surprised at our having
just been Twinklers."

"Oh Lord," groaned Mr. Twist, in spite of his cigarette, "oh, Lord."

"We've given Mrs. Bilton notice," continued Anna-Felicitas, making a
gesture of great dignity with her hand, "because we find with regret
that she and we are incompatible."

"Was she aware that you were giving it her?" asked Mr. Twist,
endeavouring to keep calm.

"We wrote it."

"Has she read it?"

"We put it into her hand, and then came away so that she should have an
opportunity of quietly considering it."

"You shouldn't have left us alone with her like this," burst out
Anna-Rose again, "you shouldn't really. It was cruel, it was wrong,
leaving us high and dry--never seeing you--leaving us to be talked to
day and night--to be read to--would _you_ like to be read to while
you're undressing by somebody still in all their clothes? We've never
been able to open our mouths. We've been taken into the field for our
airing and brought in again as if we were newborns, or people in prams,
or flocks and herds, or prisoners suspected of wanting to escape. We
haven't had a minute to ourselves day or night. There hasn't been a
single exchange of ideas, not a shred of recognition that we're grown
up. We've been followed, watched, talked to--oh, oh, how awful it has
been! Oh, oh, how awful! Forced to be dumb for days--losing our power of
speech--"

"Anna-Rose Twinkler," interrupted Mr. Twist sternly, "you haven't lost
it. And you not only haven't, but that power of yours has increased
tenfold during its days of rest."

He spoke with the exasperation in his voice that they had already heard
several times since they landed in America. Each time it took them
aback, for Mr. Twist was firmly fixed in their minds as the kindest and
gentlest of creatures, and these sudden kickings of his each time
astonished them.

On this occasion, however, only Anna-Rose was astonished. Anna-Felicitas
all along had had an uncomfortable conviction in the depth of her heart
that Mr. Twist wouldn't like what they had done. He would be upset, she
felt, as her reluctant feet followed Anna-Rose in search of him. He
would be, she was afraid very much upset. And so he was. He was appalled
by what had happened. Lose Mrs. Bilton? Lose the very foundation of the
party's respectability? And how could he find somebody else at the
eleventh hour and where and how could the twins and he live,
unchaperoned as they would be, till he had? What a peculiar talent these
Annas had for getting themselves and him into impossible situations! Of
course at their age they ought to be safe under the wing of a wise and
unusually determined mother. Well, poor little wretches, they couldn't
help not being under it; but that aunt of theirs ought to have stuck to
them--faced up to her husband, and stuck to them.

"I suppose," he said angrily, "being you and not being able to see
farther than the ends of your noses, you haven't got any sort of an idea
of what you've done."

"We--"

"She--"

"And I don't suppose it's much use my trying to explain, either. Hasn't
it ever occurred to you, though I'd be real grateful if you'd give me
information on this point--that maybe you don't know everything?"

"She--"

"We--"

"And that till you do know everything, which I take it won't be for some
time yet, judging from the samples I've had of your perspicacity, you'd
do well not to act without first asking some one's advice? Mine, for
instance?"

"She--" began Anna-Rose again; but her voice was trembling, for she
couldn't bear Mr. Twist's anger. She was too fond of him. When he looked
at her like that her own anger was blown out as if by an icy draught and
she could only look back at him piteously.

But Anna-Felicitas, being free from the weaknesses inherent in
adoration, besides continuing to perceive how Christopher's feelings put
her at a disadvantage, drew Mr. Twist's attention from her by saying
with gentleness, "But why add to the general discomfort by being
bitter?"

"Bitter!" cried Mr. Twist, still glaring at Anna-Rose.

"Do you dispute that God made us?" inquired Anna-Felicitas, placing
herself as it were like a shield between Mr. Twist's wrathful
concentration on Christopher and that unfortunate young person's
emotion.

"See here," said Mr. Twist turning on her, "I'm not going to argue with
you--not about _anything_. Least of all about God."

"I only wanted to point out to you," said Anna-Felicitas mildly, "that
that being so, and we not able to help it, there seems little use in
being bitter with us because we're not different. In regard to anything
fundamental about us that you deplore I'm afraid we must refer you to
Providence."

"Say," said Mr. Twist, not in the least appeased by this reasoning but,
as Anna-Felicitas couldn't but notice, quite the contrary, "used you to
talk like this to that Uncle Arthur of yours? Because if you did, upon
my word I don't wonder--"

But what Mr. Twist didn't wonder was fortunately concealed from the
twins by the appearance at that moment of Mrs. Bilton, who, emerging
from the shades of the verandah and looking about her, caught sight of
them and came rapidly down the garden.

There was no escape.

They watched her bearing down on them without a word. It was a most
unpleasant moment. Mr. Twist re-lit his cigarette to give himself a
countenance, but the thought of all that Mrs. Bilton would probably say
was dreadful to him, and his hand couldn't help shaking a little.
Anna-Rose showed a guilty tendency to slink behind him. Anna-Felicitas
stood motionless, awaiting the deluge. All Mr. Twist's sympathies were
with Mrs. Bilton, and he was ashamed that she should have been treated
so. He felt that nothing she could say would be severe enough, and he
was extraordinarily angry with the Annas. Yet when he saw the injured
lady bearing down on them, if he only could he would have picked up an
Anna under each arm, guilty as they were, and run and run; so much did
he prefer them to Mrs. Bilton and so terribly did he want, at this
moment, to be somewhere where that lady wasn't.

There they stood then, anxiously watching the approaching figure, and
the letter in Mrs. Bilton's hand bobbed up and down as she walked, white
and conspicuous in the sun against her black dress. What was their
amazement to see as she drew nearer that she was looking just as
pleasant as ever. They stared at her with mouths falling open. Was it
possible, thought the twins, that she was longing to leave but hadn't
liked to say so, and the letter had come as a release? Was it possible,
thought Mr. Twist with a leap of hope in his heart, that she was taking
the letter from a non-serious point of view?

And Mr. Twist, to his infinite relief, was right. For Mrs. Bilton, woman
of grit and tenacity, was not in the habit of allowing herself to be
dislodged or even discouraged. This was the opening sentence of her
remarks when she had arrived, smiling, in their midst. Had she not
explained the first night that she was one who, having put her hand to
the plough, held on to it however lively the movements of the plough
might be? She would not conceal from them, she said, that even Mr. Bilton
had not, especially, at first, been entirely without such movements. He
had settled down, however on finding he could trust her to know better
than he did what he wanted. Don't wise wives always? she inquired. And
the result had been that no man ever had a more devoted wife while he
was alive, or a more devoted widow after he wasn't. She had told him one
day, when he was drawing near the latter condition and she was
conversing with him, as was only right, on the subject of wills, and he
said that his affairs had gone wrong and as far as he could see she
would be left a widow and that was about all she would be left--she had
told him that if it was any comfort to him to know it, he might rely on
it that he would have the most devoted widow any man had ever had, and
he said--Mr. Bilton had odd fancies, especially toward the end--that a
widow was the one thing a man never could have because he wasn't there
by the time he had got her. Yes, Mr. Bilton had odd fancies. And if she
had managed, as she did manage, to steer successfully among them, he
being a man of ripe parts and character, was it likely that encountering
odd fancies in two very young and unformed girls--oh, it wasn't their
fault that they were unformed, it was merely because they hadn't had
time enough yet--she would be unable, experienced as she was, to steer
among them too? Besides, she had a heart for orphans; orphans and dumb
animals always had had a special appeal for her. "No, no, Mr. Twist,"
Mrs. Bilton wound up, putting a hand affectionately on Anna-Rose's
shoulder as a more convenient one than Anna-Felicitas's, "my young
charges aren't going to be left in the lurch, you may rely on that. I
don't undertake a duty without carrying it out. Why, I feel a lasting
affection for them already. We've made real progress these few days in
intimacy. And I just love to sit and listen to all their fresh young
chatter."




CHAPTER XXIX


This was the last of Mr. Twist's worries before the opening day.

Remorseful that he should have shirked helping the Annas to bear Mrs.
Bilton, besides having had a severe fright on perceiving how near his
shirking had brought the party to disaster, he now had his meals with
the others and spent the evenings with them as well. He was immensely
grateful to Mrs. Bilton. Her grit had saved them. He esteemed and
respected her. Indeed, he shook hands with her then and there at the end
of her speech, and told her he did, and the least he could do after that
was to come to dinner. But this very genuine appreciation didn't prevent
his finding her at close quarters what Anna-Rose, greatly chastened, now
only called temperately "a little much," and the result was a really
frantic hurrying on of the work. He had rather taken, those first four
days of being relieved of responsibility in regard to the twins, to
finnicking with details, to dwelling lovingly on them with a sense of
having a margin to his time, and things accordingly had considerably
slowed down; but after twenty-four hours of Mrs. Bilton they hurried up
again, and after forty-eight of her the speed was headlong. At the end
of forty-eight hours it seemed to Mr. Twist more urgent than anything he
had ever known that he should get out of the shanty, get into somewhere
with space in it, and sound-proof walls--lots of walls--and long
passages between people's doors; and before the rooms in the inn were
anything like finished he insisted on moving in.

"You must turn to on this last lap and help fix them up," he said to the
twins. "It'll be a bit uncomfortable at first, but you must just take
off your coats to it and not mind."

Mind? Turn to? It was what they were languishing for. It was what, in
the arid hours under the ilex tree, collected so ignominiously round
Mrs. Bilton's knee they had been panting for, like thirsty dogs with
their tongues out. And such is the peculiar blessedness of work that
instantly, the moment there was any to be done, everything that was
tangled and irritating fell quite naturally into its proper place.
Magically life straightened itself out smooth, and left off being
difficult. _Arbeit und Liebe_, as their mother used to say, dropping
into German whenever a sentence seemed to her to sound better that
way--_Arbeit und Liebe_: these were the two great things of life; the
two great angels, as she assured them, under whose spread-out wings lay
happiness.

With a hungry zeal, with the violent energy of reaction, the Annas fell
upon work. They started unpacking. All the things they had bought in
Acapulco, the linen, the china, the teaspoons, the feminine touches that
had been piled up waiting in the barn, were pulled out and undone and
carried indoors. They sorted, and they counted, and they arranged on
shelves. Anna-Rose flew in and out with her arms full. Anna-Felicitas
slouched zealously after her, her arms full too when she started, but
not nearly so full when she got there owing to the way things had of
slipping through them and dropping on to the floor. They were in a
blissful, busy confusion. Their faces shone with heat and happiness.
Here was liberty; here was freedom; here was true dignity--_Arbeit und
Liebe_....

When Mr. Twist, as he did whenever he could, came and looked on for a
moment in his shirt sleeves, with his hat on the back of his head and
his big, benevolent spectacles so kind, Anna-Rose's cup seemed full. Her
dimple never disappeared for a moment. It was there all day long now;
and even when she was asleep it still lurked in the corner of her mouth.
_Arbeit und Liebe_.

Immense was the reaction of self-respect that took hold of the twins.
They couldn't believe they were the people who had been so crude and
ill-conditioned as to hide Mrs. Bilton's belongings, and actually
finally to hide themselves. How absurd. How like children. How
unpardonably undignified. Anna-Rose held forth volubly to this effect
while she arranged the china, and Anna-Felicitas listened assentingly,
with a kind of grave, ashamed sheepishness.

The result of this reaction was that Mrs. Bilton, whose pressure on them
was relieved by the necessity of her too being in several places at
once, and who was displaying her customary grit, now became the definite
object of their courtesy. They were the mistresses of a house, they
began to realize, and as such owed her every consideration. This bland
attitude was greatly helped by their not having to sleep with her any
more, and they found that the mere coming fresh to her each morning made
them feel polite and well-disposed. Besides, they were thoroughly and
finally grown-up now, Anna-Rose declared--never, never to lapse again.
They had had their lesson, she said, gone through a crisis, and done
that which Aunt Alice used to say people did after severe trials, aged
considerably.

Anna-Felicitas wasn't quite so sure. Her own recent behaviour had
shaken and shocked her too much. Who would have thought she would have
gone like that? Gone all to pieces, back to sheer naughtiness, on the
first provocation? It was quite easy, she reflected while she worked,
and cups kept on detaching themselves mysteriously from her fingers, and
tables tumbling over at her approach, to be polite and considerate to
somebody you saw very little of, and even, as she found herself doing,
to get fond of the person; but suppose circumstances threw one again
into the person's continual society, made one again have to sleep in the
same room? Anna-Felicitas doubted whether it would be possible for her
to stand such a test, in spite of her earnest desire to behave; she
doubted, indeed, whether anybody ever did stand that test successfully.
Look at husbands.

Meanwhile there seemed no likelihood of its being applied again. Each of
them had now a separate bedroom, and Mrs. Bilton had, in the lavish
American fashion, her own bathroom, so that even at that point there was
no collision. The twins' rooms were connected by a bathroom all to
themselves, with no other door into it except the doors from their
bedrooms, and Mr. Twist, who dwelt discreetly at the other end of the
house, also had a bathroom of his own. It seemed as natural for American
architects to drop bathrooms about, thought Anna-Rose, as for the little
clouds in the psalms to drop fatness. They shed them just as easily, and
the results were just as refreshing. To persons hailing from Pomerania,
a place arid of bathrooms, it was the last word of luxury and comfort to
have one's own. Their pride in theirs amused Mr. Twist, used from
childhood to these civilized arrangements; but then, as they pointed out
to him, he hadn't lived in Pomerania, where nothing stood between you
and being dirty except the pump.

But it wasn't only the bathrooms that made the inn as planned by Mr.
Twist and the architect seem to the twins the most perfect, the most
wonderful magic little house in the world: the intelligent American
spirit was in every corner, and it was full of clever, simple devices
for saving labour--so full that it almost seemed to the Annas as if it
would get up quite unaided at six every morning and do itself; and they
were sure that if the smallest encouragement were given to the
kitchen-stove it would cook and dish up a dinner all alone. Everything
in the house was on these lines. The arrangements for serving
innumerable teas with ease were admirable. They were marvels of economy
and clever thinking-out. The architect was surprised at the attention
and thought Mr. Twist concentrated on this particular part of the future
housekeeping. "You seem sheer crazy on teas," he remarked; to which Mr.
Twist merely replied that he was.

The last few days before the opening were as full of present joy and
promise of yet greater joys to come as the last few days of a happy
betrothal. They reminded Anna-Felicitas of those days in April, those
enchanting days she had always loved the best, when the bees get busy
for the first time, and suddenly there are wallflowers and a flowering
currant bush and the sound of the lawn being mown and the smell of cut
grass. How one's heart leaps up to greet them, she thought. What a
thrill of delight rushes through one's body, of new hope, of delicious
expectation.

Even Li Koo, the wooden-faced, the brief and rare of speech seemed to
feel the prevailing satisfaction and harmony and could be heard in the
evenings singing strange songs among his pots. And what he was singing,
only nobody knew it, were soft Chinese hymns of praise of the two
white-lily girls, whose hair was woven sunlight, and whose eyes were
deep and blue even as the waters that washed about the shores of his
father's dwelling-place. For Li Koo, the impassive and inarticulate, in
secret seethed with passion. Which was why his cakes were so wonderful.
He had to express himself somehow.

But while up on their sun-lit, eucalyptus-crowned slopes Mr. Twist and
his party--he always thought of them as his party--were innocently and
happily busy full of hopefulness and mutual goodwill, down in the town
and in the houses scattered over the lovely country round the town,
people were talking. Everybody knew about the house Teapot Twist was
doing up, for the daily paper had told them that Mr. Edward A. Twist had
bought the long uninhabited farmhouse in Pepper Lane known as Batt's,
and was converting it into a little _ventre-à-terre_ for his widowed
mother--launching once more into French, as though there were something
about Mr. Twist magnetic to that language. Everybody knew this, and it
was perfectly natural for a well-off Easterner to have a little place
out West, even if the choice of the little place was whimsical. But what
about the Miss Twinklers? Who and what were they? And also, Why?

There were three weeks between the departure of the Twist party from the
Cosmopolitan and the opening of the inn, and in that time much had been
done in the way of conjecture. The first waves of it flowed out from the
Cosmopolitan, and were met almost at once by waves flowing in from the
town. Good-natured curiosity gave place to excited curiosity when the
rumour got about that the Cosmopolitan had been obliged to ask Mr.
Twist to take his _entourage_ somewhere else. Was it possible the cute
little girls, so well known by sight on Main Street going from shop to
shop, were secretly scandalous? It seemed almost unbelievable, but
luckily nothing was really unbelievable.

The manager of the hotel, dropped in upon casually by one guest after
the other, and interviewed as well by determined gentlemen from the
local press, was not to be drawn. His reserve was most interesting. Miss
Heap knitted and knitted and was persistently enigmatic. Her silence was
most exciting. On the other hand, Mrs. Ridding's attitude was merely one
of contempt, dismissing the Twinklers with a heavy gesture. Why think or
trouble about a pair of chits like that? They had gone; Albert was quiet
again; and wasn't that the gong for dinner?

But doubts as to the private morals of the Twist _entourage_ presently
were superseded by much graver and more perturbing doubts. Nobody knew
when exactly this development took place. Acapulco had been enjoying the
first set of doubts. There was no denying that doubts about somebody
else's morals were not unpleasant. They did give one, if one examined
one's sensations carefully, a distinct agreeable tickle; they did add
the kick to lives which, if they had been virtuous for a very long time
like the lives of the Riddings, or virgin for a very long time like the
life of Miss Heap, were apt to be flat. But from the doubts that
presently appeared and overshadowed the earlier ones, one got nothing
but genuine discomfort and uneasiness. Nobody knew how or when they
started. Quite suddenly they were there.

This was in the November before America's coming into the war. The
feeling in Acapulco was violently anti-German. The great majority of the
inhabitants, permanent and temporary, were deeply concerned at the
conduct of their country in not having, immediately after the torpedoing
of the _Lusitania_, joined the Allies. They found it difficult to
understand, and were puzzled and suspicious, as well as humiliated in
their national pride. Germans who lived in the neighbourhood, or who
came across from the East for the winter, were politely tolerated, but
the attitude toward them was one of growing watchfulness and distrust;
and week by week the whispered stories of spies and gun-emplacements and
secret stores of arms in these people's cellars or back gardens, grew
more insistent and detailed. There certainly had been at least one spy,
a real authentic one, afterward shot in England, who had stayed near-by,
and the nerves of the inhabitants had that jumpiness on this subject
with which the inhabitants of other countries have long been familiar.
All the customary inexplicable lights were seen; all the customary
mysterious big motor cars rushed at forbidden and yet unhindered speeds
along unusual roads at unaccountable hours; all the customary signalling
out to sea was observed and passionately sworn to by otherwise calm
people. It was possible, the inhabitants found, to believe with ease
things about Germans--those who were having difficulty with religion
wished it were equally easy to believe things about God. There was
nothing Germans wouldn't think of in the way of plotting, and nothing
they wouldn't, having thought of it, carry out with deadly thoroughness
and patience.

And into this uneasy hotbed of readiness to believe the worst, arrived
the Twinkler twins, rolling their r's about.

It needed but a few inquiries to discover that none of the young
ladies' schools in the neighbourhood had been approached on their
behalf; hardly inquiries,--mere casual talk was sufficient, ordinary
chatting with the principals of these establishments when one met them
at the lectures and instructive evenings the more serious members of the
community organized and supported. Not many of the winter visitors went
to these meetings, but Miss Heap did. Miss Heap had a restless soul. It
was restless because it was worried by perpetual thirst,--she couldn't
herself tell after what; it wasn't righteousness, for she knew she was
still worldly, so perhaps it was culture. Anyhow she would give culture
a chance, and accordingly she went to the instructive evenings. Here she
met that other side of Acapulco which doesn't play bridge and is proud
to know nothing of polo, which believes in education, and goes in for
mind training and welfare work; which isn't, that is, well off.

Nobody here had been asked to educate the Twinklers. No classes had been
joined by them.

Miss Heap was so enigmatic, she who was naturally of an unquiet and
exercise-loving tongue, that this graver, more occupied section of the
inhabitants was instantly as much pervaded by suspicions as the idlest
of the visitors in the hotels and country houses. It waved aside the
innocent appearance and obvious extreme youth of the suspects. Useless
to look like cherubs if it were German cherubs you looked like. Useless
being very nearly children if it were German children you very nearly
were. Why, precisely these qualities would be selected by those terribly
clever Germans for the furtherance of their nefarious schemes. It would
be quite in keeping with the German national character, that character
of bottomless artfulness, to pick out two such young girls with just
that type of empty, baby face, and send them over to help weave the
gigantic invisible web with which America was presently to be choked
dead.

The serious section of Acapulco, the section that thought, hit on this
explanation of the Twinklers with no difficulty whatever once its
suspicions were roused because it was used to being able to explain
everything instantly. It was proud of its explanation, and presented it
to the town with much the same air of deprecating but conscious
achievement with which one presents drinking-fountains.

Then there was the lawyer to whom Mr. Twist had gone about the
guardianship. He said nothing, but he was clear in his mind that the
girls were German and that Mr. Twist wanted to hide it. He had thought
more highly of Mr. Twist's intelligence than this. Why hide it? America
was a neutral country; technically she was neutral, and Germans could
come and go as they pleased. Why unnecessarily set tongues wagging? He
did not, being of a continuous shrewd alertness himself, a continuous
wide-awakeness and minute consideration of consequences, realize, and if
he had he wouldn't have believed, the affectionate simplicity and
unworldliness of Mr. Twist. If it had been pointed out to him he would
have dismissed it as a pose; for a man who makes money in any quantity
worth handling isn't affectionately simple and unworldly--he is
calculating and steely.

The lawyer was puzzled. How did Mr. Twist manage to have a forehead and
a fortune like that, and yet be a fool? True, he had a funny sort of
face on him once you got down to the nose part and what came after,--a
family sort of face, thought the lawyer; a sort of rice pudding,
wet-nurse face. The lawyer listened intently to all the talk and
rumours, while himself saying nothing. In spite of being a married man,
his scruples about honour hadn't been blunted by the urge to personal
freedom and the necessity for daily self-defence that sometimes afflicts
those who have wives. He remained honourably silent, as he had said he
would, but he listened; and he came to the conclusion that either there
was a quite incredible amount of stupidity about the Twist party, or
that there was something queer.

What he didn't know, and what nobody knew, was that the house being got
ready with such haste was to be an inn. He, like the rest of the world,
took the newspapers _ventre-à-terre_ theory of the house for granted,
and it was only the expectation of the arrival of that respectable lady,
the widowed Mrs. Twist, which kept the suspicions a little damped down.
They smouldered, hesitating, beneath this expectation; for Teapot
Twist's family life had been voluminously described in the entire
American press when first his invention caught on, and it was known to
be pure. There had been snapshots of the home at Clark where he had been
born, of the home at Clark (west aspect) where he would die--Mr. Twist
read with mild surprise that his liveliest wish was to die in the old
home--of the corner in the Clark churchyard where he would probably be
entombed, with an inset showing his father's gravestone on which would
clearly be read the announcement that he was the Resurrection and the
Life. And there was an inset of his mother, swathed in the black symbols
of ungluttable grief,--a most creditable mother. And there were accounts
of the activities of another near relative, that Uncle Charles who
presided over the Church of Heavenly Refreshment in New York, and a
snapshot of his macerated and unrefreshed body in a cassock,--a most
creditable uncle.

These articles hadn't appeared so very long ago, and the impression
survived and was general that Mr. Twist's antecedents were
unimpeachable. If it were true that the house was for his mother and she
was shortly arriving, then, although still very odd and unintelligible,
it was probable that his being there now with the two Germans was after
all capable of explanation. Not much of an explanation, though. Even the
moderates who took this view felt this. One wasn't with Germans these
days if one could help it. There was no getting away from that simple
fact. The inevitable deduction was that Mr. Twist couldn't help it. Why
couldn't he help it? Was he enslaved by a scandalous passion for them, a
passion cold-bloodedly planned for him by the German Government, which
was known to have lists of the notable citizens of the United States
with photographs and details of their probable weaknesses, and was
exactly informed of their movements? He had met the Twinklers, so it was
reported, on a steamer coming over from England. Of course. All arranged
by the German Government. That was the peculiar evil greatness of this
dangerous people, announced the serious section of Acapulco, again with
the drinking-fountain-presentation air, that nothing was too private or
too petty to escape their attention, to be turned to their own wicked
uses. They were as economical of the smallest scraps of possible
usefulness as a French cook of the smallest scraps and leavings of food.
Everything was turned to account. Nothing was wasted. Even the
mosquitoes in Germany were not wasted. They contained juices, Germans
had discovered, especially after having been in contact with human
beings, and with these juices the talented but unscrupulous Germans made
explosives. Could one sufficiently distrust a nation that did things
like that? asked the serious section of Acapulco.




CHAPTER XXX


People were so much preoccupied by the Twinkler problem that they were
less interested than they otherwise would have been in the sea-blue
advertisements, and when the one appeared announcing that The Open Arms
would open wide on the 29th of the month and exhorting the public to
watch the signposts, they merely remarked that it wasn't, then, the
title of a book after all. Mr. Twist would have been surprised and
nettled if he had known how little curiosity his advertisements were
exciting; he would have been horrified if he had known the reason. As it
was, he didn't know anything. He was too busy, too deeply absorbed, to
be vulnerable to rumour; he, and the twins, and Mrs. Bilton were safe
from it inside their magic circle of _Arbeit und Liebe_.

Sometimes he was seen in Main Street, that street in Acapulco through
which everybody passes at certain hours of the morning, looking as
though he had a great deal to do and very little time to do it in; and
once or twice the Twinklers were seen there, also apparently very busy,
but they didn't now come alone. Mrs. Bilton, the lady from Los
Angeles--Acapulco knew all about her and admitted she was a lady of
strictest integrity and unimpeachable character, but this only made the
Twinkler problem more obscure--came too, and seemed, judging from the
animation of her talk, to be on the best of terms with her charges.

But once an idea has got into people's heads, remarked the lawyer, who
was nudged by the friend he was walking with as the attractive trio were
seen approaching,--Mrs. Bilton with her black dress and her snowy hair
setting off, as they in their turn set her off, the twins in their clean
white frocks and shining youth,--once an idea has got into people's
heads it sticks. It is slow to get in, and impossible to get out. Yet on
the face of it, was it likely that Mrs. Bilton--

"Say," interrupted his friend, "since when have you joined up with the
water-blooded believe-nothing-but-good-ites?"

And only his personal affection for the lawyer restrained him from using
the terrible word pro-German; but it had been in his mind.

The day before the opening, Miss Heap heard from an acquaintance in the
East to whom she had written in her uneasiness, and who was staying with
some people living in Clark. Miss Heap wrote soon after the
departure--she didn't see why she shouldn't call it by its proper name
and say right out expulsion--of the Twist party from the Cosmopolitan,
but letters take a long time to get East and answers take the same long
time to come back in, and messages are sometimes slow in being delivered
if the other person doesn't realize, as one does oneself, the tremendous
interests that are at stake. What could be a more tremendous interest,
and one more adapted to the American genius, than safe-guarding public
morals? Miss Heap wrote before the sinister rumours of German
machinations had got about; she was still merely at the stage of
uneasiness in regard to the morals of the Twist party; she couldn't
sleep at night for thinking of them. Of course if it were true that his
mother was coming out ... but was she? Miss Heap somehow felt unable to
believe it. "Do tell your friends in Clark," she wrote, "how
_delighted_ we all are to hear that Mrs. Twist is going to be one of us
in our sunny refuge here this winter. A real warm welcome awaits her.
Her son is working day and night getting the house ready for her, helped
indefatigably by the two Miss Twinklers."

She had to wait over a fortnight for the answer, and by the time she got
it those other more terrible doubts had arisen, the doubts as to the
exact position occupied by the Twinklers and Mr. Twist in the German
secret plans for, first, the pervasion, and, second, the invasion of
America; and on reading the opening lines of the letter Miss Heap found
she had to sit down, for her legs gave way beneath her.

It appeared that Mrs. Twist hadn't known where her son was till Miss
Heap's letter came. He had left Clark in company of the two girls
mentioned, and about whom his mother knew nothing, the very morning
after his arrival home from his long absence in Europe. That was all his
mother knew. She was quite broken. Coming on the top of all her other
sorrow her only son's behaviour had been a fearful, perhaps a finishing
blow, but she was such a good woman that she still prayed for him. Clark
was horrified. His mother had decided at first she would try to shield
him and say nothing, but when she found that nobody had the least idea
of what he had done she felt she owed it to her friends to be open and
have no secrets from them. Whatever it cost her in suffering and
humiliation she would be frank. Anything was better than keeping up
false appearances to friends who believed in you. She was a brave woman,
a splendid woman. The girls--poor Mrs. Twist--were Germans.

On reading this Miss Heap was all of a tingle. Her worst suspicions
hadn't been half bad enough. Here was everything just about as black as
it could be; and Mr Twist, a well-known and universally respected
American citizen, had been turned, by means of those girls playing upon
weaknesses she shuddered to think of but that she had reason to believe,
from books she had studied and conversations she had reluctantly taken
part in, were not altogether uncommon, into a cat's-paw of the German
Government.

What should she do? What should she say? To whom should she go? Which
was the proper line of warning for her to take? It seemed to her that
the presence of these people on the Pacific coast was a real menace to
its safety, moral and physical; but how get rid of them? And if they
were got rid of wouldn't it only be exposing some other part of America,
less watchful, less perhaps able to take care of itself, to the ripening
and furtherance of their schemes, whatever their schemes might be? Even
at that moment Miss Heap unconsciously felt that to let the Twinklers go
would be to lose thrills. And she was really thrilled. She prickled with
excitement and horror. Her circulation hadn't been so good for years.
She wasn't one to dissect her feelings, so she had no idea of how
thoroughly she was enjoying herself. And it was while she sat alone in
her bedroom, her fingers clasping and unclasping the arms of her chair,
her feet nervously nibbing up and down on the thick soft carpet,
hesitating as to the best course for her to take, holding her knowledge
meanwhile tight, hugging it for a little altogether to herself, her very
own, shared as yet by no one,--it was while she sat there, that people
out of doors in Acapulco itself, along the main roads, out in the
country towards Zamora on the north and San Blas on the south, became
suddenly aware of new signposts.

They hadn't been there the day before. They all turned towards the spot
at the foot of the mountains where Pepper Lane was. They all pointed,
with a long white finger, in that direction. And on them all was written
in plain, sea-blue letters, beneath which the distance in miles or
fractions of a mile was clearly marked, _To The Open Arms_.

Curiosity was roused at last. People meeting each other in Main Street
stopped to talk about these Arms wondered where and what they were, and
decided to follow the signposts that afternoon in their cars and track
them down. They made up parties to go and track together. It would be a
relief to have something a little different to do. What on earth could
The Open Arms be? Hopes were expressed that they weren't something
religious. Awful to follow signposts out into the country only to find
they landed you in a meeting-house.

At lunch in the hotels, and everywhere where people were together, the
signposts were discussed. Miss Heap heard them being discussed from her
solitary table, but was so much taken up with her own exciting thoughts
that she hardly noticed. After lunch, however, as she was passing out of
the restaurant, still full of her unshared news and still uncertain as
to whom she should tell it first, Mr. Ridding called out from his table
and said he supposed she was going too.

They had been a little chilly to each other since the afternoon of the
conversation with the Twinklers, but he would have called out to any one
at that moment. He was sitting waiting while Mrs. Ridding finished her
lunch, his own lunch finished long ago, and was in the condition of
muffled but extreme exasperation which the unoccupied watching of Mrs.
Ridding at meals produced. Every day three times this happened, that Mr.
Ridding got through his meal first by at least twenty minutes and then
sat trying not to mind Mrs. Ridding. She wasn't aware of these efforts.
They would greatly have shocked her; for to try not to mind one's wife
surely isn't what decent, loving husbands ever have to do.

"Going where?" asked Miss Heap, stopping by the table; whereupon Mr.
Ridding had the slight relief of getting up.

Mrs. Ridding continued to eat impassively.

"Following these new signposts that are all over the place," said Mr.
Ridding. "Sort of paper-chase business."

"Yes. I'd like to. Were you thinking of going, Mrs. Ridding?"

"After our nap," said Mrs. Ridding, steadily eating. "I'll take you. Car
at four o'clock, Albert."

She didn't raise her eyes from her plate, and as Miss Heap well knew
that Mrs. Ridding was not open to conversation during meals and as she
had nothing to say to Mr. Ridding, she expressed her thanks and
pleasure, and temporarily left them.

This was a day of shocks and thrills. When the big limousine--symbol of
Mrs. Ridding's power, for Mr. Ridding couldn't for the life of him see
why he should have to provide a strange old lady with cars, and yet did
so on an increasing scale of splendour--arrived at the turn on the main
road to San Blas which leads into Pepper Lane and was confronted by the
final signpost pointing up it, for the first time The Open Arms and the
Twist and Twinkler party entered Miss Heap's mind in company. So too
did they enter Mr. Ridding's mind; and they only remained outside Mrs.
Ridding's because of her profound uninterest. Her thoughts were merged
in aspic. That was the worst of aspic when it was as good as it was at
the Cosmopolitan; one wasn't able to leave off eating it quite in time,
and then, unfortunately, had to go on thinking of it afterwards.

The Twist house, remembered her companions simultaneously, was in Pepper
Lane. Odd that this other thing, whatever it was, should happen to be
there too. Miss Heap said nothing, but sat very straight and alert, her
eyes everywhere. Mr. Ridding of course said nothing either. Not for
worlds would he have mentioned the word Twist, which so instantly and
inevitably suggested that other and highly controversial word Twinkler.
But he too sat all eyes; for anyhow he might in passing get a glimpse of
the place containing those cunning little bits of youngness, the
Twinkler sisters, and even with any luck a glimpse of their very selves.

Up the lane went the limousine, slowly because of the cars in front of
it. It was one of a string of cars, for the day was lovely, there was no
polo, and nobody happened to be giving a party. All the way out from
Acapulco they had only had to follow other cars. Cars were going, and
cars were coming back. The cars going were full of solemn people,
pathetically anxious to be interested. The cars coming back were full of
animated people who evidently had achieved interest.

Miss Heap became more and more alert as they approached the bend in the
lane round which the Twist house was situated. She had been there
before, making a point of getting a friend to motor her past it in
order to see what she could for herself, but Mr. Ridding, in spite of
his desire to go and have a look too, had always, each time he tried to,
found Mrs. Ridding barring the way. So that he didn't exactly know where
it was; and when on turning the corner the car suddenly stopped, and
putting his head out--he was sitting backwards--- he saw a great,
old-fashioned signboard, such as he was accustomed to in pictures of
ancient English village greens, with

     The Open Arms

in medieval letters painted on it, all he said was, "Guess we've run it
to earth."

Miss Heap sat with her hands in her lap, staring. Mrs. Ridding, her mind
blocked by aspic, wasn't receiving impressions. She gazed with heavy
eyes straight in front of her. There she saw cars. Many cars. All
stopped at this particular spot. With a dull sensation of fathomless
fatigue she dimly wondered at them.

"Looks as though it's a hostelry," said Mr. Ridding, who remembered his
Dickens; and he blinked up, craning his head out, at the signboard, on
which through a gap in the branches of the pepper trees a shaft of
brilliant late afternoon sun was striking. "Don't see one, though."

He jerked his thumb. "Up back of the trees there, I reckon," he said.

Then he prepared to open the door and go and have a look.

A hand shot out of Miss Heap's lap at him. "Don't," she said quickly.
"Don't, Mr. Ridding."

There was a little green gate in the thick hedge that grew behind the
pepper trees, and some people he knew, who had been in the car in front,
were walking up to it. Some other people he knew had already got to it,
and were standing talking together with what looked like leaflets in
their hands. These leaflets came out of a green wooden box fastened on
to one of the gate-posts, with the words _Won't you take one_? painted
on it.

Mr. Ridding naturally wanted to go and take one, and here was Miss Heap
laying hold of him and saying "Don't."

"Don't what?" he asked looking down at her, his hand on the door.

"Hello Ridding," called out one of the people he knew. "No good getting
out. Show doesn't open till to-morrow at four. Can't get in to-day.
Gate's bolted. Nothing doing."

And then the man detached himself from the group at the gate and came
over to the car with a leaflet in his hand.

"Say--" he said,--"how are you to-day, Miss Heap? Mrs. Ridding, your
humble servant--say, look at this. Teapot Twist wasn't born yesterday
when it comes to keeping things dark. No mention of his name on this
book of words, but it's the house he was doing up all right, and it is
to be used as an inn. Afternoon-tea inn. Profits to go to the American
Red Cross. Price per head five dollars. Bit stiff, five dollars for tea.
Wonder where those Twinkler girls come in. Here--you have this, Ridding,
and study it. I'll get another." And taking off his hat a second time to
the ladies he went back to his friends.

In great agitation Miss Heap turned to Mrs. Ridding, whose mind,
galvanized by the magic words Twist and Twinkler, was slowly heaving
itself free of aspic. "Perhaps we had best go back to the hotel, Mrs
Ridding," said Miss Heap, her voice shaking. "There's something I wish
particularly to tell you. I ought to have done so this morning, directly
I knew, but I had no idea of course that this...." She waved a hand at
the signboard, and collapsed into speechlessness.

"Albert--hotel," directed Mrs. Ridding.

And Mr. Ridding, clutching the leaflet, his face congested with
suppressed emotions, obediently handed on the order through the
speaking-tube to the chauffeur.




CHAPTER XXXI


"It's _perfect_," said the twins, looking round the tea-room.

This was next day, at a quarter to four. They had been looking round
saying it was perfect at intervals since the morning. Each time they
finished getting another of the little tables ready, each time they
brought in and set down another bowl of flowers they stood back and
gazed a moment in silence, and then said with one voice, "It's
_perfect_."

Mr. Twist, though the house was not, as we have seen, quite as sober,
quite as restrained in its effect as he had intended, was obliged to
admit that it did look very pretty. And so did the Annas. Especially the
Annas. They looked so pretty in the sea-blue frocks and little Dutch
caps and big muslin aprons that he took off his spectacles and cleaned
them carefully so as to have a thoroughly uninterrupted view; and as
they stood at a quarter to four gazing round the room, he stood gazing
at them, and when they said "It's _perfect_," he said, indicating them
with his thumb, "Same here," and then they all laughed for they were all
very happy, and Mrs. Bilton, arrayed exactly as Mr. Twist had pictured
her when he engaged her in handsome black, her white hair beautifully
brushed and neat, crossed over to the Annas and gave each of them a
hearty kiss--for luck, she said--which Mr. Twist watched with an odd
feeling of jealousy.

"I'd like to do that," he thought, filled with a sudden desire to hug.
Then he said it out loud. "I'd like to do that," he said boldly. And
added, "As it's the opening day."

"I don't think it would afford you any permanent satisfaction," said
Anna-Felicitas placidly. "There's nothing really to be gained, we think,
by kissing. Of course," she added politely to Mrs. Bilton, "we like it
very much as an expression of esteem."

"Then why not in that spirit--" began Mr. Twist.

"We don't hold with kissing," said Anna-Rose quickly, turning very red.
Intolerable to be kissed _en famille_. If it had to be done at all,
kissing should be done quietly, she thought. But she and Anna-Felicitas
didn't hold with it anyhow. Never. Never. To her amazement she found
tears in her eyes. Well, of all the liquid idiots.... It must be that
she was so happy. She had never been so happy. Where on earth had her
handkerchief got to....

"Hello," said Mr. Twist, staring at her.

Anna-Felicitas looked at her quickly.

"It's merely bliss," she said, taking the corner of her beautiful new
muslin apron to Christopher's eyes. "Excess of it. We are, you know,"
she said, smiling over her shoulder at Mr. Twist, so that the corner of
her apron, being undirected, began dabbing at Christopher's perfectly
tearless ears, "quite extraordinarily happy, and all through you.
Nevertheless Anna-R." she continued, addressing her with firmness while
she finished her eyes and began her nose, "You may like to be reminded
that there's only ten minutes left now before all those cars that were
here yesterday come again, and you wouldn't wish to embark on your
career as a waitress hampered by an ugly face, would you?"

But half an hour later no cars had come. Pepper Lane was still empty.
The long shadows lay across it in a beautiful quiet, and the crickets in
the grass chirruped undisturbed. Twice sounds were heard as if something
was coming up it, and everybody flew to their posts--Li Koo to the
boiling water, Mrs. Bilton to her raised desk at the end of the room,
and the twins to the door--but the sounds passed on along the road and
died away round the next corner.

At half-past four the _personnel_ of The Open Arms was sitting about
silently in a state of increasing uneasiness, when Mr. Ridding walked
in.

There had been no noise of a car to announce him; he just walked in
mopping his forehead, for he had come in the jitney omnibus to the
nearest point and had done the last mile on his own out-of-condition
feet. Mrs. Ridding thought he was writing letters in the smoking-room.
She herself was in a big chair on the verandah, and with Miss Heap and
most of the other guests was discussing The Open Arms in all its
probable significance. He hadn't been able to get away sooner because of
the nap. He had gone through with the nap from start to finish so as not
to rouse suspicion. He arrived very hot, but with a feeling of
dare-devil running of risks that gave him great satisfaction. He knew
that he would cool down again presently and that then the consequences
of his behaviour would be unpleasant to reflect upon, but meanwhile his
blood was up.

He walked in feeling not a day older than thirty,--most gratifying
sensation. The _personnel_, after a moment's open-mouthed surprise,
rushed to greet him. Never was a man more welcome. Never had Mr. Ridding
been so warmly welcomed anywhere in his life.

"Now isn't this real homey," he said, beaming at Anna-Rose who took his
stick. "Wish I'd known you were going to do it, for then I'd have had
something to look forward to."

"Will you have tea or coffee?" asked Anna-Felicitas, trying to look very
solemn and like a family butler but her voice quivering with eagerness.
"Or perhaps you would prefer frothed chocolate? Each of these beverages
can be provided either hot or iced--"

"There's ice-cream as well," said Anna-Rose, tumultuously in spite of
also trying to look like a family butler. "_I'd_ have ice-cream if I
were you. There's more body in it. Cold, delicious body. And you look so
hot. Hot things should always as soon as possible be united to cold
things, so as to restore the proper balance--"

"And there's some heavenly stuff called cinnamon-toast--hot, you know,
but if you have ice-cream at the same time it won't matter," said
Anna-Felicitas, hanging up his hat for him. "I don't know whether you've
studied the leaflets," she continued, "but in case you haven't I feel I
oughtn't to conceal from you that the price is five dollars whatever you
have."

"So that," said Anna-Rose, "you needn't bother about trying to save, for
you can't."

"Then I'll have tea to start with and see how I get on," said Mr.
Ridding, sitting down in the chair Anna-Felicitas held for him and
beaming up at her.

She flicked an imaginary grain of dust off the cloth with the corner of
her apron to convey to him that she knew her business, and hurried away
to give the order. Indeed, they both hurried away to give the order.

"Say--" called out Mr. Ridding, for he thought one Anna would have been
enough for this and he was pining to talk to them; but the twins weren't
to be stopped from both giving the very first order, and they
disappeared together into the pantry.

Mrs. Bilton sat in the farthest corner at her desk, apparently absorbed
in an enormous ledger. In this ledger she was to keep accounts and to
enter the number of teas, and from this high seat she was to preside
over the activities of the _personnel_. She had retired hastily to it on
the unexpected entrance of Mr. Ridding, and pen in hand was endeavouring
to look as if she were totting up figures. As the pages were blank this
was a little difficult. And it was difficult to sit there quiet. She
wanted to get down and go and chat with the guest; she felt she had
quite a good deal she could say to him; she had a great itch to go and
talk, but Mr. Twist had been particular that to begin with, till the room
was fairly full, he and she should leave the guests entirely to the
Annas.

He himself was going to keep much in the background at all times, but
through the half-open door of his office he could see and hear; and he
couldn't help thinking, as he sat there watching and observed the
effulgence of the beams the old gentleman just arrived turned on the
twins, that the first guest appeared to be extraordinarily and
undesirably affectionate. He thought he had seen him at the
Cosmopolitan, but wasn't sure. He didn't know that the Annas, after
their conversation with him there, felt towards him as old friends, and
he considered their manner was a little unduly familiar. Perhaps, after
all, he thought uneasily, Mrs. Bilton had better do the waiting and the
Annas sit with him in the office. The ledger could be written up at the
end of the day. Or he could hire somebody....

Mr. Twist felt worried, and pulled at his ear. And why was there only
one guest? It was twenty minutes to five; and this time yesterday the
road had been choked with cars. He felt very much worried. With every
minute this absence of guests grew more and more remarkable. Perhaps he
had better, this beings the opening day, go in and welcome the solitary
one there was. Perhaps it would be wise to elaborate the idea of the inn
for his edification, so that he could hand on what he had heard to those
others who so unaccountably hadn't come.

He got up and went into the other room; and just as Anna-Felicitas was
reappearing with the teapot followed by Anna-Rose with a tray of cakes,
Mr. Ridding, who was sitting up expectantly and giving his tie a little
pat of adjustment, perceived bearing down upon him that fellow Teapot
Twist.

This was a blow. He hadn't run risks and walked in the afternoon heat to
sit and talk to Twist. Mr. Ridding was a friendly and amiable old man,
and at any other time would have talked to him with pleasure; but he had
made up his mind for the Twinklers as one makes up one's mind for a
certain dish and is ravaged by strange fury if it isn't produced.
Besides, hang it all, he was going to pay five dollars for his tea, and
for that sum he ought to least to have it under the conditions he
preferred.

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Twist," he nevertheless said as Mr. Twist
introduced himself, his eyes, however, roving over the ministering
Annas,--a roving Mr. Twist noticed with fresh misgivings.

It made him sit down firmly at the table and say, "If you don't mind,
Mr.--"

"Ridding is my name."

"If you don't mind, Mr. Ridding, I'd like to explain our objects to
you."

But he couldn't help wondering what he would do if there were several
tables with roving-eyed guests at them, it being clear that there
wouldn't be enough of him in such a case to go round.

Mr. Ridding, for his part, couldn't help wondering why the devil Teapot
Twist sat down unasked at his table. Five dollars. Come now. For that a
man had a right to a table to himself.

But anyhow the Annas wouldn't have stayed talking for at that moment a
car stopped in the lane and quite a lot of footsteps were heard coming
up the neatly sanded path. Mr. Ridding pricked up his ears, for from the
things he had heard being said all the evening before and all that
morning in Acapulco, besides most of the night from the lips of that
strange old lady with whom by some dreadful mistake he was obliged to
sleep, he hadn't supposed there would be exactly a rush.

Four young men came in. Mr. Ridding didn't know them. No class, he
thought, looking them over; and was seized with a feeling of sulky
vexation suitable to twenty when he saw with what enthusiasm the
Twinklers flew to meet them. They behaved, thought Mr. Ridding crossly,
as if they were the oldest and dearest friends.

"Who are they?" he asked curtly of Mr. Twist, cutting into the long
things he was saying.

"Only the different experts who helped me rebuild the place," said Mr.
Twist a little impatiently; he too had pricked up his ears in
expectation at the sound of all those feet, and was disappointed.

He continued what Mr. Ridding, watching the group of young people,
called sulkily to himself his rigmarole, but continued more
abstractedly. He also was watching the Annas and the experts. The young
men were evidently in the highest spirits, and were walking round the
Annas admiring their get-up and expressing their admiration in laughter
and exclamations. One would have thought they had known each other all
their lives. The twins were wreathed in smiles. They looked as pleased,
Mr. Twist thought, as cats that are being stroked. Almost he could hear
them purring. He glanced helplessly across to where Mrs. Bilton sat, as
he had told her, bent pen in hand over the ledger. She didn't move. It
was true he had told her to sit like that, but hadn't the woman any
imagination? What she ought to do now was to bustle forward and take
that laughing group in charge.

"As I was telling you--" resumed Mr. Twist, returning with an effort to
Mr. Ridding, only to find his eyes fixed on the young people and catch
an unmistakably thwarted look in his face.

In a flash Mr. Twist realized what he had come for,--it was solely to
see and talk to the twins. He must have noticed them at the
Cosmopolitan, and come out just for them. Just for that. "Unprincipled
old scoundrel," said Mr. Twist under his breath, his ears flaming. Aloud
he said, "As I was telling you--" and went on distractedly with his
rigmarole.

Then some more people came in. They had motored, but the noise the
experts were making had drowned the sound of their arrival. Mr. Ridding
and Mr. Twist, both occupied in glowering at the group in the middle of
the room, were made aware of their presence by Anna-Felicitas suddenly
dropping the pencil and tablets she had been provided with for writing
down orders and taking an uncertain and obviously timid step forward.

They both looked round in the direction of her reluctant step, and saw
a man and two women standing on the threshold. Mr. Twist, of course,
didn't know them; he hardly knew anybody, even by sight. But Mr. Ridding
did. That is, he knew them well by sight and had carefully avoided
knowing them any other way, for they were Germans.

Mr. Ridding was one of those who didn't like Germans. He was a man who
liked or disliked what his daily paper told him to, and his daily paper
was anti-German. For reasons natural to one who disliked Germans and yet
at the same time had a thirstily affectionate disposition, he declined
to believe the prevailing theory about the Twinklers. Besides, he didn't
believe it anyhow. At that age people were truthful, and he had heard
them explain they had come from England and had acquired their rolling
r's during a sojourn abroad. Why should he doubt? But he refrained from
declaring his belief in their innocence of the unpopular nationality,
owing to a desire to avoid trouble in that bedroom he couldn't call his
but was obliged so humiliatingly to speak of as ours. Except, however,
for the Twinklers, for all other persons of whom it was said that they
were Germans, naturalized or not, immediate or remote, he had,
instructed by his newspaper, what his called a healthy instinctive
abhorrence.

"And she's got it too," he thought, much gratified at this bond between
them, as he noted Anna-Felicitas's hesitating and reluctant advance to
meet the new guests. "There's proof that people are wrong."

But what Anna-Felicitas had got was stage-fright; for here were the
first strangers, the first real, proper visitors such as any shop or
hotel might have. Mr. Ridding was a friend. So were the experts friends.
This was trade coming in,--real business being done. Anna-Felicitas
hadn't supposed she would be shy when the long-expected and prepared-for
moment arrived, but she was. And it was because the guests seemed so
disconcertingly pleased to see her. Even on the threshold the whole
three stood smiling broadly at her. She hadn't been prepared for that,
and it unnerved her.

"Charming, charming," said the newcomers, advancing towards her and
embracing the room and the tables and the Annas in one immense inclusive
smile of appreciation.

"Know those?" asked Mr. Ridding, again cutting into Mr. Twist's
explanations.

"No," said he.

"Wangelbeckers," said Mr. Ridding briefly.

"Indeed," said Mr. Twist, off whose ignorance the name glanced
harmlessly. "Well, as I was telling yous--"

"But this is delicious--this is a conception of genius," said Mr.
Wangelbecker all-embracingly, after he had picked up Anna-Felicitas's
tablets and restored them to her with a low bow.

"Charming, charming," said Mrs. Wangelbecker, looking round.

"Real cunning," said Miss Wangelbecker, "as they say here." And she
laughed at Anna-Felicitas with an air of mutual understanding.

"Will you have tea or coffee?" asked Anna-Felicitas nervously. "Or
perhaps you would prefer frothed chocolate. Each of these beverages can
be--"

"Delicious, delicious," said Mrs. Wangelbecker, enveloping
Anna-Felicitas in her smile.

"The frothed chocolate is very delicious," said Anna-Felicitas with a
kind of grave nervousness.

"Ah--charming, charming," said Mrs. Wangelbecker, obstinately
appreciative.

"And there's ice-cream as well," said Anna-Felicitas, her eyes on her
tablets so as to avoid seeing the Wangelbecker smile. "And--and a great
many kinds of cakes--"

"Well, hadn't we better sit down first," said Mr. Wangelbecker genially,
"or are all the tables engaged?"

"Oh I _beg_ your pardon," said Anna-Felicitas, blushing and moving
hastily towards a table laid for three.

"Ah--that's better," said Mr. Wangelbecker, following closely on her
heels. "Now we can go into the serious business of ordering what we
shall eat comfortably. But before I sit down allow me to present myself.
My name is Wangelbecker. An honest German name. And this is my wife. She
too had an honest German name before she honoured mine by accepting
it--she was a Niedermayer. And this is my daughter, with whom I trust
you will soon be friends."

And they all put out their hands to be shaken, and Anna-Felicitas shook
them.

"Look at that now," said Mr. Ridding watching.

"As I was telling you--" said Mr. Twist irritably, for really why should
Anna II. shake hands right off with strangers? Her business was to wait,
not to get shaking hands. He must point out to her very plainly.

"Pleased to meet you Miss von Twinkler," said Mrs. Wangelbecker; and at
this Anna-Felicitas was so much startled that she dropped her tablets a
second time.

"As they say here," laughed Miss Wangelbecker, again with that air of
mutual comprehension.

"But they don't," said Anna Felicitas hurriedly, taking her tablets from
the restoring hand of Mr. Wangelbecker and forgetting to thank him.

"What?" said Mrs. Wangelbecker. "When you are both so charming that for
once the phrase must be sincere?"

"Miss von Twinkler means she finds it wiser not to use her title," said
Mr. Wangelbecker. "Well, perhaps--perhaps. Wiser perhaps from the point
of view of convenience. Is that where you will sit, Güstchen? Still, we
Germans when we are together can allow ourselves the refreshment of
being ourselves, and I hope to be frequently the means of giving you the
relief, you and your charming sister, of hearing yourselves addressed
correctly. It is a great family, the von Twinklers. A great family. In
these sad days we Germans must hang together--"

Anna-Felicitas stood, tablets in hand, looking helplessly from one
Wangelbecker to the other. The situation was beyond her.

"But--" she began; then stopped. "Shall I bring you tea or coffee?" she
ended by asking again.

"Well now this is amusing," said Mr. Wangelbecker, sitting down
comfortably and leaning his elbows on the table. "Isn't it, Güstchen. To
see a von Twinkler playing at waiting on us."

"Charming, charming," said his wife.

"It's real sporting," said his daughter, laughing up at Anna-Felicitas,
again with comprehension,--with, almost, a wink. "You must let me come
and help. I'd look nice in that costume, wouldn't I mother."

"There is also frothed choc--"

"I suppose, now, Mr. Twist--he must be completely sympathy--"
interrupted Mr. Wangelbecker confidentially, leaning forward and
lowering his voice a little.

Anna-Felicitas gazed at him blankly. Some more people were coming in at
the door, and behind them she could see on the path yet more, and
Anna-Rose was in the pantry fetching the tea for the experts.

"Would you mind telling me what I am to bring you?" she asked. "Because
I'm afraid--"

Mr. Wangelbecker turned his head in the direction she was looking.

"Ah--" he said getting up, "but this is magnificent Güstchen, here are
Mrs. Kleinbart and her sister--why, and there come the Diederichs--but
splendid, splendid--"

"Say," said Mr. Ridding, turning to Mr. Twist with a congested face,
"ever been to Berlin?"

"No," said Mr. Twist, annoyed by a question of such wanton irrelevance
flung into the middle of his sentence.

"Well, it's just like this."

"Like this?" repeated Mr. Twist.

"Those there," said Mr. Ridding, jerking his head. "That lot there--see
'em any day in Berlin, or Frankfurt, or any other of their confounded
towns."

"I don't follow," said Mr. Twist, very shortly indeed.

"Germans," said Mr. Ridding.

"Germans?"

"All Germans," said Ridding.

"All Germans?"

"Wangelbeckers are Germans," said Mr. Ridding. "Didn't you know?"

"No," said Mr. Twist.

"So are the ones who've just come in."

"Germans?"

"All Germans. So are those behind, just coming in."

"Germans?"

"All Germans."

There was a pause, during which Mr. Twist stared round the room. It was
presenting quite a populous appearance. Then he said slowly, "Well I'm
damned."

And Mr. Ridding for the first time looked pleased with Mr. Twist. He
considered that at last he was talking sense.

"Mr. Twist," he said heartily, "I'm exceedingly glad you're damned. It
was what I was sure at the bottom of my heart you would be. Shake hands,
sir."




CHAPTER XXXII


That evening depression reigned in The Open Arms.

Mr. Twist paced up and down the tea-room deep in thought that was
obviously unpleasant and perplexed; Mrs. Bilton went to bed abruptly,
after a short outpour of words to the effect that she had never seen so
many Germans at once before, that her psyche was disharmonious to
Germans, that they made her go goose-fleshy just as cats in a room made
Mr. Bilton go goose-fleshy in the days when he had flesh to go it with,
that she hadn't been aware the inn was to be a popular resort and
rendezvous for Germans, and that she wished to speak alone with Mr.
Twist in the morning; while the twins, feeling the ominousness of this
last sentence,--as did Mr. Twist, who started when he heard it,--and
overcome by the lassitude that had succeeded the shocks of the
afternoon, a lassitude much increased by their having tried to finish up
the pailsful of left-over ices and the huge piles of cakes slowly
soddening in their own souring cream, went out together on to the
moonlit verandah and stood looking up in silence at the stars. There
they stood in silence, and thought things about the immense distance and
indifference of those bright, cold specks, and how infinitely
insignificant after all they, the Twinklers were, and how they would
both in any case be dead in a hundred years. And this last reflection
afforded them somehow a kind of bleak and draughty comfort.

Thus the first evening, that was to have been so happy, was spent by
everybody in silence and apart. Li Koo felt the atmosphere of oppression
even in his kitchen, and refrained from song. He put away, after dealing
with it cunningly so that it should keep until a more propitious hour, a
wonderful drink he had prepared for supper in celebration of the opening
day--"Me make li'l celebrity," he had said, squeezing together strange
essences and fruits--and he moved softly about so as not to disturb the
meditations of the master. Li Koo was perfectly aware of what had gone
wrong: it was the unexpected arrival to tea of Germans. Being a member
of the least blood-thirsty of the nations, he viewed Germans with
peculiar disfavour and understood his master's prolonged walking up and
down. Also he had noted through a crack in the door the way these people
of blood and death crowded round the white-lily girls; and was not that
sufficient in itself to cause his master's numerous and rapid steps?

Numerous indeed that evening were Mr. Twist's steps. He felt he must
think, and he could think better walking up and down. Why had all those
Germans come? Why, except old Ridding and the experts, had none of the
Americans come? It was very strange. And what Germans! So cordial, so
exuberant to the twins, so openly gathering them to their bosoms, as
though they belonged there. And so cordial too to him, approaching him
in spite of his withdrawals, conveying to him somehow, his disagreeable
impression had been, that he and they perfectly understood each other.
Then Mrs. Bilton; was she going to give trouble? It looked like it. It
looked amazingly like it. Was she after all just another edition of his
mother, and unable to discriminate between Germans and Germans, between
the real thing and mere technicalities like the Twinklers? It is true he
hadn't told her the twins were German, but then neither had he told her
they weren't. He had been passive. In Mrs. Bilton's presence passivity
came instinctively. Anything else involved such extreme and unusual
exertion. He had never had the least objection to her discovering their
nationality for herself, and indeed had been surprised she hadn't done
so long ago, for he felt sure she would quickly begin to love the Annas,
and once she loved them she wouldn't mind what their father had happened
to be. He had supposed she did love them. How affectionately she had
kissed them that very afternoon and wished them luck. Was all that
nothing? Was lovableness nothing, and complete innocence, after all in
the matter of being born, when weighed against the one fact of the von?
What he would do if Mrs. Bilton left him he couldn't imagine. What would
happen to The Open Arms and the twins in such a case, his worried brain
simply couldn't conceive.

Out of the corner of his eye every time he passed the open door on to
the verandah he could see the two Annas standing motionless on its edge,
their up-turned faces, as they gazed at the stars, white in the
moonlight and very serious. Pathetic children. Pathetic, solitary, alien
children. What were they thinking of? He wouldn't mind betting it was
their mother.

Mr. Twist's heart gave a kind of tug at him. His sentimental, maternal
side heaved to the top. A great impulse to hurry out and put his arms
round them seized him, but he frowned and overcame it. He didn't want to
go soft now. Nor was this the moment, his nicely brought up soul told
him, his soul still echoing with the voice of Clark, to put his arms
round them--this, the very first occasion on which Mrs. Bilton had left
them alone with him. Whether it would become proper on the very second
occasion was one of those questions that would instantly have suggested
itself to the Annas themselves, but didn't occur to Mr. Twist. He merely
went on to think of another reason against it, which was the chance of
Mrs. Bilton's looking out of her window just as he did it. She might, he
felt, easily misjudge the situation, and the situation, he felt, was
difficult enough already. So he restrained himself; and the Annas
continued to consider infinite space and to perceive, again with that
feeling of dank and unsatisfactory consolation, that nothing really
mattered.

Next day immediately after breakfast Mrs. Bilton followed him into his
office and gave notice. She called it formally tendering her
resignation. She said that all her life she had been an upholder of
straight dealing, as much in herself towards others as in others towards
herself--

"Mrs. Bilton--" interrupted Mr. Twist, only it didn't interrupt.

She had also all her life been intensely patriotic, and Mr. Twist, she
feared, didn't look at patriotism with quite her single eye--

"Mrs. Bilton--"

As her eye saw it, patriotism was among other things a determination to
resist the encroachments of foreigners--

"Mrs. Bilton--"

She had no wish to judge him, but she had still less wish to be mixed up
with foreigners, and foreigners for her at that moment meant Germans--

"Mrs. Bilton--"

She regretted, but psychically she would never be able to flourish in a
soil so largely composed, as the soil of The Open Arms appeared to be,
of that nationality--

"Mrs. Bilton--"

And though it was none of her business, still she must say it did seem
to her a pity that Mr. Twist with his well-known and respected American
name should be mixed up--

"Mrs. Bilton--"

And though she had no wish to be inquisitive, still she must say it did
seem to her peculiar that Mr. Twist should be the guardian of two girls
who, it was clear from what she had overheard that afternoon, were
German--

Here Mr. Twist raised his voice and shouted. "Mrs. Bilton," he shouted,
so loud that she couldn't but stop, "if you'll guarantee to keep quiet
for just five minutes--sit down right here at this table and not say one
single thing, not one single thing for just five minutes," he said,
banging the table, "I'll tell you all about it. Oh yes, I'll accept your
resignation at the end of that time if you're still set on leaving, but
just for this once it's me that's going to do the talking."

And this must be imagined as said so loud that only capital letters
would properly represent the noise Mr. Twist made.

Mrs. Bilton did sit down, her face flushed by the knowledge of how good
her intentions had been when she took the post, and how deceitful--she
was forced to think it--Mr. Twist's were when he offered it. She was
prepared, however, to give him a hearing. It was only fair. But Mr.
Twist had to burst into capitals several times before he had done, so
difficult was it for Mrs. Bilton, even when she had agreed, even when
she herself wished, not to say anything.

It wasn't five minutes but twenty before Mrs. Bilton came out of the
office again. She went straight into the garden, where the Annas, aware
of the interview going on with Mr. Twist, had been lingering anxiously,
unable at so crucial a moment to settle to anything, and with solemnity
kissed them. Her eyes were very bright. Her face, ordinarily colourless
as parchment, was red. Positively she kissed them without saying a
single word; and they kissed her back with such enthusiasm, with a
relief that made them hug her so tight and cling to her so close, that
the brightness in her eyes brimmed over and she had to get out her
handkerchief and wipe it away.

"Gurls," said Mrs. Bilton, "I had a shock yesterday, but I'm through
with it. You're motherless. I'm daughterless. We'll weld."

And with this unusual brevity did Mrs. Bilton sum up the situation.

She was much moved. Her heart was touched; and once that happened
nothing could exceed her capacity for sticking through what she called
thick and thin to her guns. For years Mr. Bilton had occupied the
position of the guns; now it would be these poor orphans. No Germans
could frighten her away, once she knew their story; no harsh judgments
and misconceptions of her patriotic friends. Mr. Twist had told her
everything, from the beginning on the _St. Luke_, harking back to Uncle
Arthur and the attitude of England, describing what he knew of their
mother and her death, not even concealing the part his own mother had
played or that he wasn't their guardian at all. He made the most of Mrs.
Bilton's silence; and as she listened her heart melted within her, and
the immense store of grit which was her peculiar pride came to the top
and once and for all overwhelmed her prejudices. But she couldn't think,
and at last she burst out and told Mr. Twist she couldn't think, why he
hadn't imparted all this to her long ago.

"Ah," murmured Mr. Twist, bowing his head as a reed in the wind before
the outburst of her released volubility.

Hope once more filled The Open Arms, and the Twist party looked forward
to the afternoon with renewed cheerfulness. It had just happened so the
first day, that only Germans came. It was just accident. Mr. Twist, with
the very large part of him that wasn't his head, found himself feeling
like this too and declining to take any notice of his intelligence,
which continued to try to worry him.

Yet the hope they all felt was not realized, and the second afternoon
was almost exactly like the first. Germans came and clustered round the
Annas, and made friendly though cautious advances to Mr. Twist. The ones
who had been there the first day came again and brought others with them
worse than themselves, and they seemed more at home than ever, and the
air was full of rolling r's--among them, Mr. Twist was unable to deny,
being the r's of his blessed Annas. But theirs were such little r's, he
told himself. They rolled, it is true, but with how sweet a rolling.
While as for these other people--confound it all, the place might really
have been, from the sounds that were filling it, a _Conditorei_ Unter
den Linden.

All his doubts and anxieties flocked back on him as time passed and no
Americans appeared. Americans. How precious. How clean, and straight,
and admirable. Actually he had sometimes, he remembered, thought they
weren't. What an aberration. Actually he had been, he remembered,
impatient with them when first he came back from France. What folly.
Americans. The very word was refreshing, was like clear water on a
thirsty day. One American, even one, coming in that afternoon would have
seemed to Mr. Twist a godsend, a purifier, an emollient--like some
blessed unction dropped from above.

But none appeared; not even Mr. Ridding.

At six o'clock it was quite dark, and obviously too late to go on
hoping. The days in California end abruptly. The sun goes down, and
close on its heels comes night. In the tea-room the charmingly shaded
lights had been turned on some time, and Mr. Twist, watching from the
partly open door of his office, waited impatiently for the guests to
begin to thin out. But they didn't. They took no notice of the signals
of lateness, the lights turned on, the stars outside growing bright in
the surrounding blackness.

Mr. Twist watched angrily. He had been driven into his office by the
disconcerting and incomprehensible overtures of Mr. Wangelbecker, and
had sat there watching in growing exasperation ever since. When six
struck and nobody showed the least sign of going away he could bear it
no longer, and touched the little muffled electric bell that connected
him to Mrs. Bilton in what Anna-Felicitas called a mystical union--Anna
II. was really excessively tactless; she had said this to Mrs. Bilton in
his presence, and then enlarged on unions, mystical and otherwise, with
an embarrassing abundance of imagery--by buzzing gently against her knee
from the leg of the desk.

She laid down her pen, as though she had just finished adding up a
column, and went to him.

"Now don't talk," said Mr. Twist, putting up an irritable hand directly
she came in.

Mrs. Bilton looked at him in much surprise. "Talk, Mr. Twist?" she
repeated. "Why now, as though--"

"Don't _talk_ I say, Mrs. Bilton, but listen. Listen now. I can't stand
seeing those children in there. It sheer makes my gorge rise. I want you
to fetch them in here--now don't talk--you and me'll do the confounded
waiting--no, no, don't talk--they're to stay quiet in here till the last
of those Germans have gone. Just go and fetch them, please Mrs. Bilton.
No, no, we'll talk afterwards. I'll stay here till they come." And he
urged her out into the tea-room again.

The guests had finished their tea long ago, but still sat on, for they
were very comfortable. Obviously they were thoroughly enjoying
themselves, and all were growing, as time passed, more manifestly at
home. They were now having a kind of supper of ices and fruit-salads.
Five dollars, thought the sensible Germans, was after all a great deal
to pay for afternoon tea, however good the cause might be and however
important one's own ulterior motives; and since one had in any case to
pay, one should eat what one could. So they kept the Annas very busy.
There seemed to be no end, thought the Annas as they ran hither and
thither, to what a German will hold.

Mrs. Bilton waylaid the heated and harried Anna-Rose as she was carrying
a tray of ices to a party she felt she had been carrying ices to
innumerable times already. The little curls beneath her cap clung damply
to her forehead. Her face was flushed and distressed. What with having
to carry so many trays, and remember so many orders, and try at the same
time to escape from the orderers and their questions and admiration,
she was in a condition not very far from tears.

Mrs. Bilton took the tray out of her hands, and told her Mr. Twist
wanted to speak to her; and Anna-Rose was in such a general bewilderment
that she felt quite scared, and thought he must be going to scold her.
She went towards the office reluctantly. If Mr. Twist were to be severe,
she was sure she wouldn't be able not to cry. She made her way very
slowly to the office, and Mrs. Bilton looked round the room for the
other one. There was no sign of her. Perhaps, thought Mrs. Bilton, she
was fetching something in the kitchen, and would appear in a minute; and
seeing a group over by the entrance door, for whom the tray she held was
evidently destined, gesticulating to her, she felt she had better keep
them quiet first and then go and look for Anna-Felicitas.

Mrs. Bilton set her teeth and plunged into her strange new duties. Never
would she have dreamed it possible that she should have to carry trays
to Germans. If Mr. Bilton could see her now he would certainly turn in
his grave. Well, she was a woman of grit, of adhesiveness to her guns;
if Mr. Bilton did see her and did turn in his grave, let him; he would,
she dared say, be more comfortable on his other side after all these
years.

For the next few minutes she hurried hither and thither, and waited
single-handed. She seemed to be swallowed up in activity. No wonder that
child had looked so hot and bewildered. Mr. Twist didn't come and help,
as he had promised, and nowhere was there any sign of Anna-Felicitas;
and the guests not only wanted things to eat, they wanted to talk,--talk
and ask questions. Well, she would wait on them, but she wouldn't talk.
She turned a dry, parchment-like face to their conversational
blandishments, and responded only by adding up their bills. Wonderful
are the workings of patriotism. For the first time in her life, Mrs.
Bilton was grumbled at for not talking.




CHAPTER XXXIII


In the office Anna-Rose found Mr. Twist walking up and down.

"See here," he said, turning on her when she came in, "I'm about tired
of looking on at all this twittering round that lot in there. You're
through with that for to-day, and maybe for to-morrow and the day after
as well."

He waved his arm at the deep chair that had been provided for his
business meditations. "You'll sit down in that chair now," he said
severely, "and stay put."

Anna-Rose looked at him with a quivering lip. She went rather unsteadily
to the chair and tumbled into it. "I don't know if you're angry or being
kind," she said tremulously, "but whichever it is I--I wish you
wouldn't. I--I wish you'd manage to be something that isn't either."
And, as she had feared, she began to cry.

"Anna-Rose," said Mr. Twist, staring down at her in concern mixed with
irritation--out there all those Germans, in here the weeping child; what
a day he was having--"for heaven's sake don't do that."

"I know," sobbed Anna-Rose. "I don't want to. It's awful being so
natu--natu--naturally liquid."

"But what's the matter?" asked Mr. Twist helplessly.

"Nothing," sobbed Anna-Rose.

He stood over her in silence for a minute, his hands in his pockets. If
he took them out he was afraid he might start stroking her, and she
seemed to him to be exactly between the ages when such a form of comfort
would be legitimate. If she were younger ... but she was a great girl
now; if she were older ... ah, if she were older, Mr. Twist could
imagine....

"You're overtired," he said aloofly. "That's what you are."

"No," sobbed Anna-Rose.

"And the Germans have been too much for you."

"They haven't," sobbed Anna-Rose, her pride up at the suggestion that
anybody could ever be that.

"But they're not going to get the chance again," said Mr. Twist, setting
his teeth as much as they would set, which wasn't, owing to his natural
kindliness, anything particular. "Mrs. Bilton and me--" Then he
remembered Anna-Felicitas. "Why doesn't she come?" he asked.

"Who?" choked Anna-Rose.

"The other one. Anna II. Columbus."

"I haven't seen her for ages," sobbed Anna-Rose, who had been much upset
by Anna-Felicitas's prolonged disappearance and had suspected her,
though she couldn't understand it after last night's finishings up, of
secret unworthy conduct in a corner with ice-cream.

Mr. Twist went to the door quickly and looked through. "I can't see her
either," he said. "Confound them--what have they done to her? Worn her
out too, I daresay. I shouldn't wonder if she'd crawled off somewhere
and were crying too."

"Anna-F.--doesn't crawl," sobbed Anna-Rose, "and she--doesn't cry but--I
wish you'd find--her."

"Well, will you stay where you are while I'm away, then?" he said,
looking at her from the door uncertainly.

And she seemed so extra small over there in the enormous chair, and
somehow so extra motherless as she obediently gurgled and choked a
promise not to move, that he found himself unable to resist going back
to her for a minute in order to pat her head. "There, there," said Mr.
Twist, very gently patting her head, his heart yearning over her; and it
yearned the more that, the minute he patted, her sobs got worse; and
also the more because of the feel of her dear little head.

"You little bit of blessedness," murmured Mr. Twist before he knew what
he was saying; at which her sobs grew louder than ever,--grew, indeed,
almost into small howls, so long was it since anybody had said things
like that to her. It was her mother who used to say things like that;
things almost exactly like that.

"Hush," said Mr. Twist in much distress, and with one anxious eye on the
half-open door, for Anna-Rose's sobs were threatening to outdo the noise
of teacups and ice-cream plates, "hush, hush--here's a clean
handkerchief--you just wipe up your eyes while I fetch Anna II. She'll
worry, you know, if she sees you like this,--hush now, hush--there,
there--and I expect she's being miserable enough already, hiding away in
some corner. You wouldn't like to make her more miserable, would you--"

And he pressed the handkerchief into Anna-Rose's hands, and feeling much
flurried went away to search for the other one who was somewhere, he was
sure, in a state of equal distress.

He hadn't however to search. He found her immediately. As he came out of
the door of his office into the tea-room he saw her come into the
tea-room from the door of the verandah, and proceed across it towards
the pantry. Why the verandah? wondered Mr. Twist. He hurried to
intercept her. Anyhow she wasn't either about to cry or getting over
having done it. He saw that at once with relief. Nor was she, it would
seem, in any sort of distress. On the contrary, Anna-Felicitas looked
particularly smug. He saw that once too, with surprise,--why smug?
wondered Mr. Twist. She had a pleased look of complete satisfaction on
her face. She was oblivious, he noticed, as she passed between the
tables, of the guests who tried in vain to attract her attention and
detain her with orders. She wasn't at all hot, as Anna-Rose had been,
nor rattled, nor in any way discomposed; she was just smug. And also she
was unusually, extraordinarily pretty. How dared they all stare up at
her like that as she passed? And try to stop her. And want to talk to
her. And Wangelbecker actually laying his hand--no, his paw; in his
annoyance Mr. Twist wouldn't admit that the object at the end of Mr.
Wangelbecker's arm was anything but a paw--on her wrist to get her to
listen to some confounded order or other. She took no notice of that
either, but walked on towards the pantry. Placidly. Steadily. Obvious.
Smug.

"You're to come into the office," said Mr. Twist when he reached her.

She turned her head and considered him with abstracted eyes. Then she
appeared to remember him. "Oh, it's you," she said amiably.

"Yes. It's me all right. And you're to come into the office."

"I can't. I'm busy."

"Now Anna II.," said Mr. Twist, walking beside her towards the pantry
since she didn't stop but continued steadily on her way, "that's
trifling with the facts. You've been in the garden. I saw you come in.
Perhaps you'll tell me the exact line of business you've been engaged
in."

"Waiting," said Anna-Felicitas placidly.

"Waiting? In the garden? Where it's pitch dark, and there's nobody to
wait on?"

They had reached the pantry, and Anna-Felicitas gave an order to Li Koo
through the serving window before answering; the order was tea and hot
cinnamon toast for one.

"He's having his tea on the verandah," she said, picking out the most
delicious of the little cakes from the trays standing ready, and
carefully arranging them on a dish. "It isn't pitch dark at all there.
There's floods of light coming through the windows. He won't come in."

"And why pray won't he come in?" asked Mr. Twist.

"Because he doesn't like Germans."

"And who pray is he?"

"I don't know."

"Well I do," burst out Mr. Twist. "It's old Ridding, of course. His name
is Ridding. The old man who was here yesterday. Now listen: I won't
have--"

But Anna-Felicitas was laughing, and her eyes had disappeared into two
funny little screwed-up eyelashy slits.

Mr. Twist stopped abruptly and glared at her. These Twinklers. That one
in there shaken with sobs, this one in here shaken with what she would
no doubt call quite the contrary. His conviction became suddenly final
that the office was the place for both the Annas. He and Mrs. Bilton
would do the waiting.

"I'll take this," he said, laying hold of the dish of cakes. "I'll send
Mrs. Bilton for the tea. Go into the office, Anna-Felicitas. Your sister
is there and wants you badly. I don't know," he added, as Li Koo pushed
the tea-tray through the serving window, "how it strikes you about
laughter, but it strikes me as sheer silly to laugh except at
something."

"Well, I was," said Anna-Felicitas, unscrewing her eyes and with gentle
firmness taking the plate of cakes from him and putting it on the tray.
"I was laughing at your swift conviction that the man out there is Mr.
Ridding. I don't know who he is but I know heaps of people he isn't, and
one of the principal ones is Mr. Ridding."

"I'm going to wait on him," said Mr. Twist, taking the tray.

"It would be most unsuitable," said Anna-Felicitas, taking it too.

"Let go," said Mr. Twist, pulling.

"Is this to be an unseemly wrangle?" inquired Anna-Felicitas mildly; and
her eyes began to screw up again.

"If you'll oblige me by going into the office," he said, having got the
tray, for Anna-Felicitas was never one to struggle, "Mrs. Bilton and me
will do the rest of the waiting for to-day."

He went out grasping the tray, and made for the verandah. His appearance
in this new rôle was greeted by the Germans with subdued
applause--subdued, because they felt Mr. Twist wasn't quite as cordial
to them as they had supposed he would be, and they were accordingly
being a little more cautious in their methods with him than they had
been at the beginning of the afternoon. He took no notice of them,
except that his ears turned red when he knocked against a chair and the
tray nearly fell out of his hands and they all cried out _Houp là_.
Damn them, thought Mr. Twist. _Houp là_ indeed.

In the farthest corner of the otherwise empty and very chilly verandah,
sitting alone and staring out at the stars, was a man. He was a young
man. He was also an attractive young man, with a thin brown face and
very bright blue twinkling eyes. The light from the window behind him
shone on him as he turned his head when he heard the swing doors open,
and Mr. Twist saw these things distinctly and at once. He also saw how
the young man's face fell on his, Mr. Twist's, appearance with the tray,
and he also saw with some surprise how before he had reached him it
suddenly cleared again. And the young man got up too, just as Mr. Twist
arrived at the table--got up with some little difficulty, for he had to
lean hard on a thick stick, but yet obviously with _empressement._

"You've forgotten the sugar," said Anna-Felicitas's gentle voice behind
Mr. Twist as he was putting down the tray; and there she was, sure
enough, looking smugger than ever.

"This is Mr. Twist," said Anna-Felicitas with an amiable gesture. "That
I was telling you about," she explained to the young man.

"When?" asked Mr. Twist, surprised.

"Before," said Anna-Felicitas. "We were talking for some time before I
went in to order the tea, weren't we?" she said to the young man,
angelically smiling at him.

"Rather," he said; and since he didn't on this introduction remark to
Mr. Twist that he was pleased to meet him, it was plain he couldn't be
an American. Therefore he must be English. Unless, suddenly suspected
Mr. Twist who had Germans badly on his nerves that day and was ready to
suspect anything, he was German cleverly got up for evil purposes to
appear English. But the young man dispersed these suspicions by saying
that he was over from England on six months' leave, and that his name
was Elliott.

"Like us," said Anna-Felicitas.

The young man looked at her with what would have been a greater interest
than ever if a greater interest had been possible, only it wasn't.

"What, are you an Elliott too?" he asked eagerly.

Anna-Felicitas shook her head. "On the contrary," she said, "I'm a
Twinkler. And so is my sister. What I meant was, you're like us about
coming from England. We've done that. Only our leave is for ever and
ever. Or the duration of the war."

Mr. Twist waved her aside. "Anna-Felicitas," he said, "your sister is
waiting for you in the office and wants you badly. I'll see to Mr.
Elliott."

"Why not bring your sister here?" said the young man, who, being in the
navy, was fertile in resourcefulness. And he smiled at Anna-Felicitas,
who smiled back; indeed, they did nothing but smile at each other.

"I think that's a brilliant idea," she said; and turned to Mr. Twist.
"You go," she said gently, thereby proving herself, the young man
considered, at least his equal in resourcefulness. "It's much more
likely," she continued, as Mr. Twist gazed at her without moving, "that
she'll come for you than for me. My sister," she explained to the young
man, "is older than I am."

"Then certainly I should say Mr. Twist is more likely--"

"But only about twenty minutes older."

"What? A twin? I say, how extraordinarily jolly. Two of you?"

"Anna-Felicitas," interrupted Mr. Twist, "you will go to your sister
immediately. She needs you. She's upset. I don't wish to draw Mr.
Elliott behind the scenes of family life, but as nothing seems to get
you into the office you force me to tell you that she is very, much
upset indeed, and is crying."

"Crying?" echoed Anna-Felicitas. "Christopher?" And she turned and
departed in such haste that the young man, who luckily was alert as well
as resourceful, had only just time to lean over and grab at a chair in
her way and pull it aside, and so avert a deplorable catastrophe.

"I hope it's nothing serious?" he inquired of Mr. Twist.

"Oh no. Children will cry."

"Children?"

Mr. Twist sat down at the table and lit a cigarette. "Tell me about
England," he said. "You've been wounded, I see."

"Leg," said the young man, still standing leaning on his stick and
looking after Anna-Felicitas.

"But that didn't get you six months' leave."

"Lungs," said the young man, looking down impatiently at Mr. Twist.

Then the swing doors swung to, and he sat down and poured out his tea.

He had been in the battle of Jutland, and was rescued after hours in the
water. For months he was struggling to recover, but finally tuberculosis
had developed and he was sent to California, to his sister who had
married an American and lived in the neighbourhood of Acapulco. This Mr.
Twist extracted out of him by diligent questioning. He had to question
very diligently. What the young man wanted to talk about was
Anna-Felicitas; but every time he tried to, Mr. Twist headed him off.

And she didn't come back. He waited and waited, and drank and drank.
When the teapot was empty he started on the hot water. Also he ate all
the cakes, more and more deliberately, eking them out at last with
slowly smoked cigarettes. He heard all about France and Mr. Twist's
activities there; he had time to listen to the whole story of the
ambulance from start to finish; and still she didn't come back. In vain
he tried at least to get Mr. Twist off those distant fields, nearer
home--to the point, in fact, where the Twinklers were. Mr. Twist
wouldn't budge. He stuck firmly. And the swing doors remained shut. And
the cakes were all eaten. And there was nothing for it at last but to
go.

So after half-an-hour of solid sitting he began slowly to get up, still
spreading out the moments, with one eye on the swing doors. It was both
late and cold. The Germans had departed, and Li Koo had lit the usual
evening wood fire in the big fireplace. It blazed most beautifully, and
the young man looked at it through the window and hesitated.

"How jolly," he said.

"Firelight is very pleasant," agreed Mr. Twist, who had got up too.

"I oughtn't to have stayed so long out here," said the young man with a
little shiver.

"I was thinking it was unwise," said Mr. Twist.

"Perhaps I'd better go in and warm myself a bit before leaving."

"I should say your best plan is to get back quickly to your sister and
have a hot bath before dinner," said Mr. Twist.

"Yes. But I think I might just go in there and have a cup of hot coffee
first."

"There is no hot coffee at this hour," said Mr. Twist, looking at his
watch. "We close at half-past six, and it is now ten minutes after."

"Then there seems nothing for it but to pay my bill and go," said the
young man, with an air of cheerful adaptation to what couldn't be
helped. "I'll just nip in there and do that."

"Luckily there's no need for you to nip anywhere," said Mr. Twist, "for
surely that's a type of movement unsuited to your sick leg. You can pay
me right here."

And he took the young man's five dollars, and went with him as far as
the green gate, and would have helped him into the waiting car, seeing
his leg wasn't as other legs and Mr. Twist was, after all, humane, but
the chauffeur was there to do that; so he just watched from the gate
till the car had actually started, and then went back to the house.

He went back slowly, perturbed and anxious, his eyes on the ground. This
second day had been worse than the first. And besides the continued and
remarkable absence of Americans and the continued and remarkable
presence of Germans, there was a slipperiness suddenly developed in the
Annas. He felt insecure; as though he didn't understand, and hadn't got
hold. They seemed to him very like eels. And this Elliott--what did he
think _he_ was after, anyway?

For the second time that afternoon Mr. Twist set his teeth. He defied
Elliott. He defied the Germans. He would see this thing successful, this
Open Arms business, or his name wasn't Twist. And he stuck out his
jaw--or would have stuck it out if he hadn't been prevented by the
amiable weakness of that feature. But spiritually and morally, when he
got back into the house he was all jaw.




CHAPTER XXXIV


That night he determined he would go into Acapulco next morning and drop
in at his bank and at his lawyer's and other places, and see if he could
pick up anything that would explain why Americans wouldn't come and have
tea at The Open Arms. He even thought he might look up old Ridding. He
didn't sleep. He lay all night thinking.

The evening had been spent _tête-à-tête_ with Anna-Felicitas. Anna-Rose
was in bed, sleeping off her tears; Mrs. Bilton had another headache,
and disappeared early; so he was left with Anna-Felicitas, who slouched
about abstractedly eating up the remains of ice-cream. She didn't talk,
except once to remark a little pensively that her inside was dreadfully
full of cold stuff, and that she knew now what it must feel like to be a
mausoleum; but, eyeing her sideways as he sat before the fire, Mr. Twist
could see that she was still smug. He didn't talk either. He felt he had
nothing at present to say to Anna-Felicitas that would serve a useful
purpose, and was, besides, reluctant to hear any counter-observations
she might make. Watchfulness was what was required. Silent watchfulness.
And wariness. And firmness. In fact all the things that were most
foreign to his nature, thought Mr. Twist, resentful and fatigued.

Next morning he had a cup of coffee in his room, brought by Li Koo, and
then drove himself into Acapulco in his Ford without seeing the others.
It was another of the perfect days which he was now beginning to take
as a matter of course, so many had there been since his arrival. People
talked of the wet days and of their desolate abundance once they
started, but there had been as yet no sign of them. The mornings
succeeded each other, radiant and calm. November was merging into
December in placid loveliness. "Oh yes," said Mr. Twist to himself
sardonically, as he drove down the sun-flecked lane in the gracious
light, and crickets chirped at him, and warm scents drifted across his
face, and the flowers in the grass, standing so bright and unruffled
that they seemed almost as profoundly pleased as Anna-Felicitas, nodded
at him, and everything was obviously perfectly contented and happy, "Oh
yes--I daresay." And he repeated this remark several times as he looked
round him,--he couldn't but look, it was all so beautiful. These things
hadn't to deal with Twinklers. No wonder they could be calm and bright.
So could he, if--

He turned a corner in the lane and saw some way down it two figures, a
man and a girl, sitting in the grass by the wayside. Lovers, of course.
"Oh yes--I daresay," said Mr. Twist again, grimly. They hadn't to deal
with Twinklers either. No wonder they could sit happily in the grass. So
could he, if--

At the noise of the approaching car, with the smile of the last thing
they had been saying still on their faces, the two turned their heads,
and it was that man Elliott and Anna-Felicitas.

"Hello," called out Mr. Twist, putting on the brakes so hard that the
Ford skidded sideways along the road towards them.

"Hello," said the young man cheerfully, waving his stick.

"Hello," said Anna-Felicitas mildly, watching his sidelong approach
with complacent interest.

She had no hat on, and had evidently escaped from Mrs. Bilton just as
she was. Escaped, however, was far too violent a word Mr. Twist felt;
sauntered from Mrs. Bilton better described her effect of natural and
comfortable arrival at the place where she was.

"I didn't know you were here," said Mr. Twist addressing her when the
car had stopped. He felt it was a lame remark. He had torrents of things
he wanted to say, and this was all that came out.

Anna-Felicitas considered it placidly for a moment, and came to the
conclusion that it wasn't worth answering, so she didn't.

"Going into the town?" inquired Elliott pleasantly.

"Yes. I'll give you a lift."

"No thanks. I've just come from there."

"I see. Then _you'd_ better come with me," said Mr. Twist to
Anna-Felicitas.

"I'm afraid I can't. I'm rather busy this morning."

"Really," said Mr. Twist, in a voice of concentrated sarcasm. But it had
no effect on Anna-Felicitas. She continued to contemplate him with
perfect goodwill.

He hesitated a moment. What could he do? Nothing, that he could see,
before the young man; nothing that wouldn't make him ridiculous. He felt
a fool already. He oughtn't to have pulled up. He ought to have just
waved to them and gone on his way, and afterwards in the seclusion of
his office issued very plain directions to Anna-Felicitas as to her
future conduct. Sitting by the roadside like that! Openly; before
everybody; with a young man she had never seen twenty-four hours ago.

He jammed in the gear and let the clutch out with such a jerk that the
car leaped forward. Elliott waved his stick again. Mr. Twist responded
by the briefest touch of his cap, and whirred down the road out of
sight.

"Does he mind your sitting here?" asked Elliott.

"It would be very unreasonable," said Anna-Felicitas gently. "One has to
sit somewhere."

And he laughed with delight at this answer as he laughed with delight at
everything she said, and he told her for the twentieth time that she was
the most wonderful person he had ever met, and she settled down to
listen again, after the interruption caused by Mr. Twist, with a ready
ear and the utmost complacency to these agreeable statements, and began
to wonder whether perhaps after all she mightn't at last be about to
fall in love.

In the new interest of this possibility she turned her head to look at
him, and he told her tumultuously--for being a sailor-man he went
straight ahead on great waves when it came to love-making--that her eyes
were as if pansies had married stars.

She turned her head away again at this, for though it sounded lovely it
made her feel a little shy and unprovided with an answer; and then he
said, again tumultuously, that her ear was the most perfect thing ever
stuck on a girl's cheek, and would she mind turning her face to him so
that he might see if she had another just like it on the other side.

She blushed at this, because she couldn't remember whether she had
washed it lately or not--one so easily forgot one's ears; there were so
many different things to wash--and he told her that when she blushed it
was like the first wild rose of the first summer morning of the world.

At this Anna-Felicitas was quite overcome, and subsided into a
condition of blissful, quiescent waiting for whatever might come next.
Fancy her face reminding him of all those nice things. She had seen it
every day for years and years in the looking-glass, and not noticed
anything particular about it. It had seemed to her just a face.
Something you saw out of, and ate with, and had to clean whatever else
you didn't when you were late for breakfast, because there it was and
couldn't be hidden,--an object remote indeed from pansies, and stars,
and beautiful things like that.

She would have liked to explain this to the young man, and point out
that she feared his imagination ran ahead of the facts and that perhaps
when his leg was well again he would see things more as they were, but
to her surprise when she turned to him to tell him this she found she
was obliged to look away at once again. She couldn't look at him. Fancy
that now, thought Anna-Felicitas, attentively gazing at her toes. And he
had such dear eyes; and such a dear, eager sort of face. All the more,
then, she reasoned, should her own eyes have dwelt with pleasure on him.
But they couldn't. "Dear me," she murmured, watching her toes as
carefully as if they might at any moment go away and leave her there.

"I know," said Elliott. "You think I'm talking fearful flowery stuff.
I'd have said Dear me at myself three years ago if I had ever caught
myself thinking in terms of stars and roses. But it's all the beastly
blood and muck of the war that does it,--sends one back with a rush to
things like that. Makes one shameless. Why, I'd talk to you about God
now without turning a hair. Nothing would have induced me so much as to
mention seriously that I'd even heard of him three years ago. Why, I
write poetry now. We all write poetry. And nobody would mind now being
seen saying their prayers. Why, if I were back at school and my mother
came to see me I'd hug her before everybody in the middle of the street.
Do you realize what a tremendous change that means, you little girl
who's never had brothers? You extraordinary adorable little lovely
thing?"

And off he was again.

"When I was small," said Anna-Felicitas after a while, still watching
her feet, "I had a governess who urged me to consider, before I said
anything, whether it were the sort of thing I would like to say in the
hearing of my parents. Would you like to say what you're saying to me in
the hearing of your parents?"

"Hate to," said Elliott promptly.

"Well, then," said Anna-Felicitas, gentle but disappointed. She rather
wished now she hadn't mentioned it.

"I'd take you out of earshot," said Elliott.

She was much relieved. She had done what she felt might perhaps be
regarded by Aunt Alice as her duty as a lady, and could now give herself
up with a calm conscience to hearing whatever else he might have to say.

And he had an incredible amount to say, and all of it of the most highly
gratifying nature. On the whole, looking at it all round and taking one
thing with another, Anna-Felicitas came to the conclusion that this was
the most agreeable and profitable morning she had ever spent. She sat
there for hours, and they all flew. People passed in cars and saw her,
and it didn't disturb her in the least. She perfectly remembered she
ought to be helping Anna-Rose pick and arrange the flowers for the
tea-tables, and she didn't mind. She knew Anna-Rose would be astonished
and angry at her absence, and it left her unmoved. By midday she was
hopelessly compromised in the eyes of Acapulco, for the people who had
motored through the lane told the people who hadn't what they had seen.
Once a great car passed with a small widow in it, who looked astonished
when she saw the pair but had gone almost before Elliott could call out
and wave to her.

"That's my sister," he said. "You and she will love each other."

"Shall we?" said Anna-Felicitas, much pleased by this suggestion of
continuity in their relations; and remarked that she looked as if she
hadn't got a husband.

"She hasn't. Poor little thing. Rotten luck. Rotten. I hate people to
die now. It seems so infernally unnatural of them, when they're not in
the fighting. He's only been dead a month. And poor old Dellogg was such
a decent chap. She isn't going anywhere yet, or I'd bring her up to tea
this afternoon. But it doesn't matter. I'll take you to her."

"Shall you?" said Anna-Felicitas, again much pleased. Dellogg. The name
swam through her mind and swam out again. She was too busy enjoying
herself to remark it and its coincidences now.

"Of course. It's the first thing one does."

"What first thing?"

"To take the divine girl to see one's relations. Once one has found her.
Once one has had"--his voice fell to a whisper--"the God-given luck to
find her." And he laid his hand very gently on hers, which were clasped
together in her lap.

This was a situation to which Anna-Felicitas wasn't accustomed, and she
didn't know what to do with it. She looked down at the hand lying on
hers, and considered it without moving. Elliott was quite silent now,
and she knew he was watching her face. Ought she, perhaps, to be going?
Was this, perhaps, one of the moments in life when the truly judicious
went? But what a pity to go just when everything was so pleasant. Still,
it must be nearly lunch-time. What would Aunt Alice do in a similar
situation? Go home to lunch, she was sure. Yet what was lunch when one
was rapidly arriving, as she was sure now that she was, at the condition
of being in love? She must be, or she wouldn't like his hand on hers.
And she did like it.

She looked down at it, and found that she wanted to stroke it. But would
Aunt Alice stroke it? No; Anna-Felicitas felt fairly clear about that.
Aunt Alice wouldn't stroke it; she would take it up, and shake it, and
say good-bye, and walk off home to lunch like a lady. Well, perhaps she
ought to do that. Christopher would probably think so too. But what a
pity.... Still, behaviour was behaviour; ladies were ladies.

She drew out her right hand with this polite intention, and
instead--Anna-Felicitas never knew how it happened--she did nothing of
the sort, but quite the contrary: she put it softly on the top of his.




CHAPTER XXXV


Meanwhile Mr. Twist had driven on towards Acapulco in a state of painful
indecision. Should he or shouldn't he take a turning he knew of a couple
of miles farther that led up an unused and practically undrivable track
back by the west side to The Open Arms, and instruct Mrs. Bilton to
proceed at once down the lane and salvage Anna-Felicitas? Should he or
shouldn't he? For the first mile he decided he would; then, as his anger
cooled, he began to think that after all he needn't worry much. The
Annas were lucidly too young for serious philandering, and even if that
Elliott didn't realize this, owing to Anna-Felicitas's great length, he
couldn't do much before he, Mr. Twist, was back again along the lane. In
this he under-estimated the enterprise of the British Navy, but it
served to calm him; so that when he did reach the turning he had made up
his mind to continue on his way to Acapulco.

There he spent some perplexing and harassing hours.

At the bank his reception was distinctly chilly. He wasn't used, since
his teapot had been on the market, to anything but warmth when he went
into a bank. On this occasion even the clerks were cold; and when after
difficulty--actual difficulty--he succeeded in seeing the manager, he
couldn't but perceive his unusual reserve. He then remembered what he
had put down to mere accident at the time, that as he drove up Main
Street half an hour before, all the people he knew had been looking the
other way.

From the bank, where he picked up nothing in the way of explanation of
the American avoidance of The Open Arms, the manager going dumb at its
mere mention, he went to the solicitors who had arranged the sale of the
inn, and again in the street people he knew looked the other way. The
solicitor, it appeared, wouldn't be back till the afternoon, and the
clerk, an elderly person hitherto subservient, was curiously short about
it.

By this time Mr. Twist was thoroughly uneasy, and he determined to ask
the first acquaintance he met what the matter was. But he couldn't find
anybody. Every one, his architect, his various experts--those genial and
frolicsome young men--were either engaged or away on business somewhere
else. He set his teeth, and drove to the Cosmopolitan to seek out old
Ridding--it wasn't a place he drove to willingly after his recent
undignified departure, but he was determined to get to the bottom of
this thing--and walking into the parlour was instantly aware of a hush
falling upon it, a holding of the breath.

In the distance he saw old Ridding,--distinctly; and distinctly he saw
that old Ridding saw him. He was sitting at the far end of the great
parlour, facing the entrance, by the side of something vast and black
heaped up in the adjacent chair. He had the look on his pink and
naturally pleasant face of one who has abandoned hope. On seeing Mr.
Twist a ray of interest lit him up, and he half rose. The formless mass
in the next chair which Mr. Twist had taken for inanimate matter,
probably cushions and wraps, and now perceived was one of the higher
mammals, put out a hand and said something,--at least, it opened that
part of its face which is called a mouth but which to Mr. Twist in the
heated and abnormal condition of his brain seemed like the snap-to of
some great bag,--and at that moment a group of people crossed the hall
in front of old Ridding, and when the path was again clear the chair
that had contained him was empty. He had disappeared. Completely. Only
the higher mammal was left, watching Mr. Twist with heavy eyes like two
smouldering coals.

He couldn't face those eyes. He did try to, and hesitated while he
tried, and then he found he couldn't; so he swerved away to the right,
and went out quickly by the side door.

There was now one other person left who would perhaps clear him up as to
the meaning of all this, and he was the lawyer he had gone to about the
guardianship. True he had been angry with him at the time, but that was
chiefly because he had been angry with himself. At bottom he had carried
away an impression of friendliness. To this man he would now go as a
last resource before turning back home, and once more he raced up Main
Street in his Ford, producing by these repeated appearances an effect of
agitation and restlessness that wasn't lost on the beholders.

The lawyer was in his office, and disengaged. After his morning's
experience Mr. Twist was quite surprised and much relieved by being
admitted at once. He was received neither coldly nor warmly, but with
unmistakable interest.

"I've come to consult you," said Mr. Twist.

The lawyer nodded. He hadn't supposed he had come not to consult him,
but he was used to patience with clients, and he well knew their
preference in conversation for the self-evident.

"I want a straight answer to a straight question," said Mr. Twist, his
great spectacles glaring anxiously at the lawyer who again nodded.

"Go on," he said, as Mr. Twist paused.

"What I want to know is," burst out Mr. Twist, "what the hell--"

The lawyer put up a hand. "One moment, Mr. Twist," he said. "Sorry to
interrupt--"

And he got up quickly, and went to a door in the partition between his
office and his clerks' room.

"You may go out to lunch now," he said, opening it a crack.

He then shut it, and came back to his seat at the table.

"Yes, Mr. Twist?" he said, settling down again. "You were inquiring what
the hell--?"

"Well, I was about to," said Mr. Twist, suddenly soothed, "but you're so
calm--"

"Of course I'm calm. I'm a quietly married man."

"I don't see what that's got to do with it."

"Everything. For some dispositions, everything. Mine is one. Yours is
another."

"Well, I guess I've not come here to talk about marriage. What I want to
know is why--"

"Quite so," said the lawyer, as he stopped. "And I can tell you. It's
because your inn is suspected of being run in the interests of the
German Government."

A deep silence fell upon the room. The lawyer watched Mr. Twist with a
detached and highly intelligent interest. Mr. Twist stared at the
lawyer, his kind, lavish lips fallen apart. Anger had left him. This
blow excluded anger. There was only room in him for blank astonishment.

"You know about my teapot?" he said at last.

"Try me again, Mr. Twist."

"It's on every American breakfast table."

"Including my own."

"They wouldn't use it if they thought--"

"My dear sir, they're not going to," said the lawyer. "They're
proposing, among other little plans for conveying the general sentiment
to your notice, to boycott the teapot. It is to be put on an unofficial
black list. It is to be banished from the hotels."

Mr. Twist's stare became frozen. The teapot boycotted? The teapot his
mother and sister depended on and The Open Arms depended on, and all his
happiness, and the twins? He saw the rumour surging over America in
great swift waves, that the proceeds of the Twist Non-Trickler were used
for Germany. He saw--but what didn't he see in that moment of submerged
horror? Then he seemed to come to the surface again and resume reason
with a gasp. "Why?" he asked.

"Why they're wanting to boycott the teapot?"

"No. Why do they think the inn--"

"The Miss Twinklers are German."

"Half."

"The half that matters--begging my absent wife's pardon. I know all
about that, you see. You started me off thinking them over by that ward
notion of yours. It didn't take me long. It was pretty transparent. So
transparent that my opinion of the intelligence of my fellow-townsfolk
has considerably lowered. But we live in unbalanced times. I guess it's
women at the bottom of this. Women got on to it first, and the others
caught the idea as they'd catch scarlet fever. It's a kind of scarlet
fever, this spy scare that's about. Mind you, I admit the germs are
certainly present among us." And the lawyer smiled. He thought he saw
he had made a little joke in that last remark.

Mr. Twist was not in the condition to see jokes, and didn't smile. "Do
you mean to say those children--" he began.

"They're not regarded as children by any one except you."

"Well, if they're not," said Mr. Twist, remembering the grass by the
wayside in the lane and what he had so recently met in it, "I guess I'd
best be making tracks. But I know better. And so would you if you'd seen
them on the boat. Why, twelve was putting their age too high on that
boat."

"No doubt. No doubt. Then all I can say is they've matured pretty
considerably since. Now do you really want me to tell you what is being
believed?"

"Of course. It's what I've come for."

"You mayn't find it precisely exhilarating, Mr. Twist."

"Go ahead."

"What Acapulco says--and Los Angeles, I'm told, too, and probably by
this time the whole coast--is that you threw over your widowed mother,
of whom you're the only son, and came off here with two German girls who
got hold of you on the boat--now, Mr. Twist, don't interrupt--on the
boat crossing from England, that England had turned them out as
undesirable aliens--quite so, Mr. Twist, but let me finish--that they're
in the pay of the German Government--no doubt, no doubt, Mr. Twist--and
that you're their cat's-paw. It is known that the inn each afternoon has
been crowded with Germans, among them Germans already suspected, I can't
say how rightly or how wrongly, of spying, and that these people are so
familiar with the Miss von Twinklers as to warrant the belief in a
complete secret understanding."

For a moment Mr. Twist continued both his silence and his stare. Then he
took off his spectacles and wiped them. His hand shook. The lawyer was
startled. Was there going to be emotion? One never knew with that sort
of lips. "You're not--" he began.

Then he saw that Mr. Twist was trying not to laugh.

"I'm glad you take it that way," he said, relieved but surprised.

"It's so darned funny," said Mr. Twist, endeavouring to compose his
features. "To anybody who knows those twins it's so darned funny.
Cat's-paw. Yes--rather feel that myself. Cat's-paw. That does seem a bit
of a bull's eye--" And for a second or two his features flatly refused
to compose.

The lawyer watched him. "Yes," he said. "Yes. But the effect of these
beliefs may be awkward."

"Oh, damned," agreed Mr. Twist, going solemn again.

And there came over him in a flood the clear perception of what it would
mean,--the sheer disaster of it, the horrible situation those helpless
Annas would be in. What a limitless fool he must have been in his
conduct of the whole thing. His absorption in the material side of it
had done the trick. He hadn't been clever enough, not imaginative
enough, nor, failing that, worldly enough to work the other side
properly. When he found there was no Dellogg he ought to have insisted
on seeing Mrs. Dellogg, intrusion or no intrusion, and handing over the
twins; and then gone away and left them. A woman was what was wanted.
Fool that he was to suppose that he, a man, an unmarried man, could get
them into anything but a scrape. But he was so fond of them. He just
couldn't leave them. And now here they all were, in this ridiculous and
terrible situation.

"There are two things you can do," said the lawyer.

"Two?" said Mr. Twist, looking at him with anxious eyes. "For the life
of me I can't see even one. Except running amoke in slander actions--"

"Tut, tut," said the lawyer, waving that aside. "No. There are two
courses to pursue. And they're not alternative, but simultaneous. You
shut down the inn--at once, to-morrow--that's Saturday. Close on
Saturday, and give notice you don't re-open--now pray let me
finish--close the inn as an inn, and use it simply as a private
residence. Then, as quick as may be, marry those girls."

"Marry what girls?"

"The Miss von Twinklers."

Mr. Twist stared at him. "Marry them?" he said helplessly. "Marry them
who to?"

"You for one."

Mr. Twist stared at him in silence. Then he said, "You've said that to
me before."

"Yep. And I'll say it again. I'll go on saying it till you've done it."

"'Well, if that's all you've got to offer as a suggestion for a way
out--"

But Mr. Twist wasn't angry this time; he was too much battered by
events; he hadn't the spirits to be angry.

"You've--got to--marry--one--of--those--girls," said the lawyer, at each
word smiting the table with his open palm. "Turn her into an American.
Get her out of this being a German business. And be able at the same
time to protect the one who'll be your sister in-law. Why, even if you
didn't want to, which is sheer nonsense, for of course any man would
want to--I know what I'm talking about because I've seen them--it's your
plain duty, having got them into this mess."

"But--marry which?" asked Mr. Twist, with increased helplessness and yet
a manifest profound anxiety for further advice.

For the first time the lawyer showed impatience "Oh--either or both," he
said. "For God's sake don't be such a--"

He pulled up short.

"I didn't quite mean that," he resumed, again calm. "The end of that
sentence was, as no doubt you guess, fool. I withdraw it, and will
substitute something milder. Have you any objection to ninny?"

No, Mr. Twist didn't mind ninny, or any other word the lawyer might
choose, he was in such a condition of mental groping about. He took out
his handkerchief and wiped away the beads on his forehead and round his
mouth.

"I'm thirty-five," he said, looking terribly worried.

Propose to an Anna? The lawyer may have seen them, but he hadn't heard
them; and the probable nature of their comments if Mr. Twist proposed to
them--to one, he meant of course, but both would comment, the one he
proposed to and the one he didn't--caused his imagination to reel. He
hadn't much imagination; he knew that now, after his conduct of this
whole affair, but all there was of it reeled.

"I'm thirty-five," he said helplessly.

"Pooh," said the lawyer, indicating the negligibleness of this by a
movement of his shoulder.

"They're seventeen," said Mr. Twist.

"Pooh," said the lawyer again, again indicating negligibleness. "My
wife was--"

"I know. You told me that last time. Oh, I know all _that_" said Mr.
Twist with sudden passion. "But these are children. I tell you they're
_children_--"

"Pooh," said the lawyer a third time, a third time indicating
negligibleness.

Then he got up and held out his hand. "Well, I've told you," he said.
"You wanted to know, and I've told you. And I'll tell you one thing
more, Mr. Twist. Whichever of those girls takes you, you'll have the
sweetest, prettiest wife of any man in the world except one, and that's
the man who has the luck to get the other one. Why, sweetest and
prettiest are poor words. She'll be the most delectable, the most--"

Mr. Twist rose from his chair in such haste that he pushed the table
crooked. His ears flamed.

"See here," he said very loud. "I won't have you talk familiarly like
that about my wife."




CHAPTER XXXVI


Wife. The word had a remarkable effect on him. It churned him all up.
His thoughts were a chaotic jumble, and his driving on the way home
matched them. He had at least three narrow shaves at cross streets
before he got out of the town and for an entire mile afterwards he was
on the wrong side of the road. During this period, deep as he was in
confused thought, he couldn't but vaguely notice the anger on the faces
of the other drivers and the variety and fury of their gesticulations,
and it roused a dim wonder in him.

Wife. How arid existence had been for him up to then in regard to the
affections, how knobbly the sort of kisses he had received in Clark.
They weren't kisses; they were disapproving pecks. Always disapproving.
Always as if he hadn't done enough, or been enough, or was suspected of
not going to do or be enough.

His wife. Mr. Twist dreadfully longed to kiss somebody,--somebody kind
and soft, who would let herself be adored. She needn't even love
him,--he knew he wasn't the sort of man to set passion alight; she need
only be kind, and a little fond of him, and let him love her, and be his
very own.

His own little wife. How sweet. How almost painfully sweet. Yes. But the
Annas....

When he thought of the Annas, Mr. Twist went damp. He might
propose--indeed, everything pointed to his simply having got to--but
wouldn't they very quickly dispose? And then what? That lawyer seemed to
think all he had to do was to marry them right away; not them, of
course,--one; but they were so very plural in his mind. Funny man,
thought Mr. Twist; funny man,--yet otherwise so sagacious. It is true he
need only propose to one of them, for which he thanked God, but he could
imagine what that one, and what the other one too, who would be sure to
be somewhere quite near would ... no, he couldn't imagine; he preferred
not to imagine.

Mr. Twist's dampness increased, and a passing car got his mud-guard. It
was a big car which crackled with language as it whizzed on its way, and
Mr. Twist, slewed by the impact half across the road, then perceived on
which side he had been driving.

The lane up to the inn was in its middle-day emptiness and somnolence.
Where Anna-Felicitas and Elliott had been sitting cool and shaded when
he passed before, there was only the pressed-down grass and crushed
flowers in a glare of sun. She had gone home long ago of course. She
said she was going to be very busy. Secretly he wished she hadn't gone
home, and that little Christopher too might for a bit be somewhere else,
so that when he arrived he wouldn't immediately have to face everybody
at once. He wanted to think; he wanted to have time to think; time
before four o'clock came, and with four o'clock, if he hadn't come to
any conclusion about shutting up the inn--and how could he if nobody
gave him time to think?--those accursed, swarming Germans. It was they
who had done all this. Mr. Twist blazed into sudden fury. They and their
blasted war....

At the gate stood Anna-Rose. Her face looked quite pale in the green
shade of the tunnelled-out syringa bushes. She as peering out down the
lane watching him approach. This was awful, thought Mr. Twist. At the
very gate one of them. Confronted at once. No time, not a minute's time
given him to think.

"Oh," cried out Anna-Rose the instant he pulled up, for she had waved to
him to stop when he tried to drive straight on round to the stable, "she
isn't with you?"

"Who isn't?" asked Mr. Twist.

Anna-Rose became paler than ever. "She has been kidnapped," she said.

"How's that?" said Mr. Twist, staring at her from the car.

"Kidnapped," repeated Anna-Rose, with wide-open horror-stricken eyes;
for from her nursery she carried with her at the bottom of her mind,
half-forgotten but ready to fly up to the top at any moment of panic, an
impression that the chief activities and recreations of all those
Americans who weren't really good were two: they lynched, and they
kidnapped. They lynched you if they didn't like you enough, and if they
liked you too much they kidnapped you. Anna-Felicitas, exquisite and
unsuspecting, had been kidnapped. Some American's concupiscent eye had
alighted on her, observed her beauty, and marked her down. No other
explanation was possible of a whole morning's absence from duties of one
so conscientious and painstaking as Anna-Felicitas. She never shirked;
that is, she never had been base enough to shirk alone. If there was any
shirking to be done they had always done it together. As the hours
passed and she didn't appear, Anna-Rose had tried to persuade herself
that she must have motored into Acapulco with Mr. Twist, strange and
unnatural and reprehensible and ignoble as such arch shirking would have
been; and now that the car had come back empty except for Mr. Twist she
was convinced the worst had happened--her beautiful, her precious
Columbus had been kidnapped.

"Kidnapped," she said again, wringing her hands.

Mr. Twist was horror-struck too, for he thought she was announcing the
kidnapping of Mrs. Bilton. Somehow he didn't think of Anna-Felicitas; he
had seen her too recently. But that Mrs. Bilton should be kidnapped
seemed to him to touch the lowest depths of American criminal enterprise
and depravity. At the same time though he recoiled before this fresh
blow a thought did fan through his mind with a wonderful effect of
coolness and silence,--"Then they'll gag her," he said.

"What?" cried Anna-Rose, as though a whip had lashed her. "Gag her?" And
pulling open the gate and running out to him as one possessed she cried
again, "Gag Columbus?"

"Oh that's it, is it," said Mr. Twist, with relief but also with
disappointment, "Well, if it's that way I can tell you--"

He stopped; there was no need to tell her; for round the bend of the
lane, walking bare-headed in the chequered light and shade as leisurely
as if such things as tours of absence didn't exist, or a distracted
household, or an anguished Christopher, with indeed, a complete, an
extraordinary serenity, advanced Anna-Felicitas.

Always placid, her placidity at this moment had a shining quality. Still
smug, she was now of a glorified smugness. If one could imagine a lily
turned into a god, or a young god turned into a lily and walking down
the middle of a sun-flecked Californian lane, it wouldn't be far out,
thought Mr. Twist, as an image of the advancing Twinkler. The god would
be so young that he was still a boy, and he wouldn't be worrying much
about anything in the past or in the future, and he'd just be coming
along like that with the corners of his mouth a little turned up, and
his fair hair a little ruffled, and his charming young face full of a
sober and abstracted radiance.

"Not much kidnapping there, I guess," said Mr. Twist with a jerk of his
thumb. "And you take it from me, Anna I.," he added quickly, leaning
over towards her, determined to get off to the garage before he found
himself faced by both twins together, "that when next your imagination
gets the jumps the best thing you can do is to hold on to it hard till
it settles down again, instead of wasting your time and ruining your
constitution going pale."

And he started the Ford with a bound, and got away round the corner into
the yard.

Here, in the yard, was peace; at least for the moment. The only living
thing in it was a cat the twins had acquired, through the services of
one of the experts, as an indispensable object in a really homey home.
The first thing this cat had done had been to eat the canary, which gave
the twins much unacknowledged relief. It was, they thought secretly,
quite a good plan to have one's pets inside each other,--it kept them so
quiet. She now sat unmoved in the middle of the yard, carefully cleaning
her whiskers while Mr. Twist did some difficult fancy driving in order
to get into the stable without inconveniencing her.

Admirable picture of peace, thought Mr. Twist with a sigh of envy.

He might have got out and picked her up, but he was glad to manoeuvre
about, reversing and making intricate figures in the dust, because it
kept him longer away from the luncheon-table. The cat took no notice of
him, but continued to deal with her whiskers even when his front wheel
was within two inches of her tail, for though she hadn't been long at
The Open Arms she had already sized up Mr. Twist and was aware that he
wouldn't hurt a fly.

Thanks to her he had a lot of trouble getting the Ford into the stable,
all of which he liked because of that luncheon-table; and having got it
in he still lingered fiddling about with it, examining its engine and
wiping its bonnet; and then when he couldn't do that any longer he went
out and lingered in the yard, looking down at the cat with his hands in
his pockets. "I must think," he kept on saying to himself.

"Lunchee," said Li Koo, putting his head out of the kitchen window.

"All right," said Mr. Twist.

He stooped down as though to examine the cat's ear. The cat, who didn't
like her ears touched but was prepared to humour him, got out of it by
lying down on her back and showing him her beautiful white stomach. She
was a black cat, with a particularly beautiful white stomach, and she
had discovered that nobody could see it without wanting to stroke it.
Whenever she found herself in a situation that threatened to become
disagreeable she just lay down and showed her stomach. Human beings in
similar predicaments can only show their tact.

"Nice pussy--nice, nice pussy," said Mr. Twist aloud, stroking this
irresistible object slowly, and forgetting her ear as she had intended
he should.

"Lunchee get cold," said Li Koo, again putting his head out of the
kitchen window. "Mis' Bilton say, Come in."

"All right," said Mr. Twist.

He straightened himself and looked round the yard. A rake that should
have been propped up against the tool-shed with some other gardening
tools had fallen down. He crossed over and picked it up and stood it up
carefully again.

Li Koo watched him impassively from the window.

"Mis' Bilton come out," he said; and there she was in the yard door.

"Mr. Twist," she called shrilly, "if you don't come in right away and
have your food before it gets all mushed up with cold I guess you'll be
sorry."

"All right--coming," he called back very loud and cheerfully, striding
towards her as one strides who knows there is nothing for it now but
courage. "All right, Mrs. Bilton--sorry if I've kept you waiting. You
shouldn't have bothered about me--"

And saying things like this in a loud voice, for to hear himself being
loud made him feel more supported, he strode into the house, through the
house, and out on to the verandah.

They always lunched on the verandah. The golden coloured awning was
down, and the place was full of a golden shade. Beyond it blazed the
garden. Beneath it was the flower-adorned table set as usual ready for
four, and he went out to it, strung up to finding the Annas at the
table, Anna-Felicitas in her usual seat with her back to the garden, her
little fair head outlined against the glowing light as he had seen it
every day since they had lived in the inn, Anna-Rose opposite, probably
volubly and passionately addressing her.

And there was no one.

"Why--" he said, stopping short.

"Yes. It's real silly of them not to come and eat before everything is
spoilt," said Mrs. Bilton bustling up, who had stayed behind to give an
order to Li Koo. And she went to the edge of the verandah and shaded her
eyes and called, "Gurls! Gurls! I guess you can do all that talking
better after lunch."

He then saw that down at the bottom of the garden, in the most private
place as regards being overheard, partly concealed by some arum lilies
that grew immensely there like splendid weeds, stood the twins facing
each other.

"Better leave them alone," he said quickly. "They'll come when they're
ready. There's nothing like getting through with one's talking right
away, Mrs. Bilton. Besides," he went on still more quickly for she
plainly didn't agree with him and was preparing to sally out into the
sun and fetch them in, "you and I don't often get a chance of a quiet
chat together--"

And this, combined with the resolute way he was holding her chair ready
for her, brought Mrs. Bilton back under the awning again.

She was flattered. Mr. Twist had not yet spoken to her in quite that
tone. He had always been the gentleman, but never yet the eager
gentleman. Now he was unmistakably both.

She came back and sat down, and so with a sigh of thankfulness
immediately did he, for here was an unexpected respite,--while Mrs.
Bilton talked he could think. Fortunately she never noticed if one
wasn't listening. For the first time since he had known her he gave
himself up willingly to the great broad stream that at once started
flowing over him, on this occasion with something of the comfort of
warm water, and he was very glad indeed that anyhow that day she wasn't
gagged.

While he ate, he kept on furtively looking down the garden at the two
figures facing each other by the arum lilies. Whenever Mrs. Bilton
remembered them and wanted to call them in, as she did at the different
stages, of the meal,--at the salad, at the pudding--he stopped her. She
became more and more pleased by his evident determination to lunch alone
with her, for after all one remains female to the end, and her
conversation took on a gradual tinge of Mr. Bilton's views about second
marriages. They had been liberal views; for Mr. Bilton, she said, had
had no post-mortem pettiness about him, but they were lost on Mr. Twist,
whose thoughts were so painfully preoccupied by first marriage.

The conclusions he came to during that trying meal while Mrs. Bilton
talked, were that he would propose first to Anna-Rose, she being the
eldest and such a course being accordingly natural, and, if she refused,
proceed at once to propose to Anna-Felicitas. But before proceeding to
Anna-Felicitas, a course he regarded with peculiar misgiving, he would
very earnestly explain to Anna-Rose the seriousness of the situation and
the necessity, the urgency, the sanity of her marrying him. These
proposals would be kept on the cool level of strict business. Every
trace of the affection with which he was so overflowing would be sternly
excluded. For instance, he wasn't going to let himself remember the feel
of Christopher's little head the afternoon before when he patted it to
comfort her. Such remembrances would be bound to bring a warmth into his
remarks which wouldn't be fair. The situation demanded the most
scrupulous fairness and delicacy in its treatment, the most careful
avoidance of taking any advantage of it. But how difficult, thought Mr.
Twist, his hand shaking as he poured himself out a glass of iced water,
how difficult when he loved the Annas so inconveniently much.

Mrs. Bilton observed the shaking of his hand, and felt more female than
ever.

Still, there it was, this situation forced upon them all by the war.
Nobody could help it, and it had to be faced with calmness,
steadfastness and tact. Calmness, steadfastness and tact, repeated Mr.
Twist, raising the water to his mouth and spilling some of it.

Mrs. Bilton observed this too, and felt still more female.

Marriage was the quickest, and really the only, way out of it. He saw
that now. The lawyer had been quite right. And marriage, he would
explain to the Annas, would be a mere formal ceremony which after the
war they--he meant, of course, she--could easily in that land of facile
and honourable divorce get rid of. Meanwhile, he would point out,
they--she, of course; bother these twins--would be safely American, and
he would undertake never to intrude love on them--her--unless by some
wonderful chance, it was wanted. Some wonderful chance ... Mr. Twist's
spectacles suddenly went dim, and he gulped down more water.

Yes. That was the line to take: the austere line of self-mortification
for the Twinkler good. One Twinkler would be his wife--again at the dear
word he had to gulp down water--and one his sister-in-law. They would
just have to agree to this plan. The position was too serious for
shilly-shallying. Yes. That was the line to take; and by the time he
had got to the coffee it was perfectly clear and plain to him.

But he felt dreadfully damp. He longed for a liqueur, for anything that
would support him....

"Is there any brandy in the house?" he suddenly flung across the web of
Mrs. Bilton's words.

"Brandy, Mr. Twist?" she repeated, at this feeling altogether female,
for what an unusual thing for him to ask for,--"You're not sick?"

"With my coffee," murmured Mr. Twist, his mouth very slack, his head
drooping. "It's nice...."

"I'll go and see," said Mrs. Bilton, getting up briskly and going away
rattling a bunch of keys.

At once he looked down the garden. Anna-Felicitas was in the act of
putting her arm round Anna-Rose's shoulder, and Anna-Rose was
passionately disengaging herself. Yes. There was trouble there. He knew
there would be.

He gulped down more water.

Anna-Felicitas couldn't expect to go off like that for a whole morning
and give Anna-Rose a horrible fright without hearing about it. Besides,
the expression on her face wanted explaining,--a lot of explaining. Mr.
Twist didn't like to think so, but Anna-Felicitas's recent conduct
seemed to him almost artful. It seemed to him older than her years. It
seemed to justify the lawyer's scepticism when he described the twins to
him as children. That young man Elliott--

But here Mr. Twist started and lost his thread of thought, for looking
once more down the garden he saw that Anna-Felicitas was coming towards
the verandah, and that she was alone. Anna-Rose had vanished. Why had he
bothered about brandy, and let Mrs. Bilton go? He had counted, somehow,
on beginning with Anna-Rose....

He seized a cigarette and lit it. He tried vainly to keep his hand
steady. Before the cigarette was fairly plight there was Anna-Felicitas,
walking in beneath the awning.

"I'm glad you're alone," she said, "for I want to speak to you."

And Mr. Twist felt that his hour had come.




CHAPTER XXXVII


"Hadn't you better have lunch first?" he asked, though he knew from the
look on her face that she wouldn't. It was a very remarkable look. It
was as though an angel, dwelling in perfect bliss, had unaccountably got
its feet wet. Not more troubled than that; a little troubled, but not
more than that.

"No thank you," she said politely. "But if you've finished yours, do you
mind coming into the office? Because otherwise Mrs. Bilton--"

"She's fetching me some brandy," said Mr. Twist.

"I didn't know you drank," said Anna-Felicitas, even at this moment
interested. "But do you mind having it afterwards? Because otherwise
Mrs. Bilton--"

"I guess the idea was to have it first," said Mr. Twist.

She was however already making for the tea-room, proceeding towards it
without hurry, and with a single-mindedness that would certainly get her
there.

He could only follow.

In the office she said, "Do you mind shutting the door?"

"Not at all," said Mr. Twist; but he did mind. His hour had come, and he
wasn't liking it. He wanted to begin with Anna-Rose. He wanted to get
things clear with her first before dealing with this one. There was less
of Anna-Rose. And her dear little head yesterday when he patted it....
And she needed comforting.... Anna-Rose cried, and let herself be
comforted.... And it was so sweet to Mr. Twist to comfort....

"Christopher--" began Anna-Felicitas, directly he had shut the door.

"I know. She's mad with you. What can you expect, Anna II.?" he
interrupted in a very matter-of-fact voice, leaning against a bookcase.
Even a bookcase was better than nothing to lean against.

"Christopher is being unreasonable," said Anna-Felicitas, her voice
softer and gentler than he had yet heard it.

Then she stopped, and considered him a moment with much of the look of
one who on a rather cold day considers the sea before diving in--with,
that is, a slight but temporary reluctance to proceed.

"Won't you sit down?" said Mr. Twist.

"Perhaps I'd better," she said, disposing herself in the big chair.
"It's very strange, but my legs feel funny. You wouldn't think being in
love would make one want to sit down."

"I beg your pardon?" said Mr. Twist.

"I have fallen in love," said Anna-Felicitas, looking up at him with a
kind of pensive radiance. "I did it this morning."

Mr. Twist stared at her. "I beg your--what did you say?" he asked.

She said, still with that air as she regarded him of pensive radiance,
of not seeing him but something beyond him that was very beautiful to
her and satisfactory, "I've fallen in love, and I can't tell you how
pleased I am because I've always been afraid I was going to find it a
difficult thing to do. But it wasn't. Quite the contrary."

Then, as he only staged at her, she said, "He's coming round this
afternoon on the new footing, and I wanted to prepare your and
Christopher's minds in good time so that you shouldn't be surprised."

And having said this she lapsed into what was apparently, judging from
her expression, a silent contemplation of her bliss.

"But you're too young," burst out Mr. Twist.

"Too young?" repeated Anna-Felicitas, coming out of her contemplation
for a moment to smile at him. "We don't think so."

Well. This beat everything.

Mr. Twist could only stare down at her.

Conflicting emotions raged in him. He couldn't tell for a moment what
they were, they were so violent and so varied. How dared Elliott. How
dared a person they had none of them heard of that time yesterday come
making love to a girl he had never seen before. And in such a hurry. So
suddenly. So instantly. Here had he himself been with the twins
constantly for weeks, and wouldn't have dreamed of making love to them.
They had been sacred to him. And it wasn't as if he hadn't wanted to hug
them often and often, but he had restrained himself as a gentleman
should from the highest motives of delicacy, and consideration, and
respect, and propriety, besides a great doubt as to whether they
wouldn't very energetically mind. And then comes along this blundering
Britisher, and straight away tumbles right in where Mr. Twist had feared
to tread, and within twenty-four hours had persuaded Anna-Felicitas to
think she was in love. New footing indeed. There hadn't been an old
footing yet. And who was this Elliott? And how was Mr. Twist going to be
able to find out if he were a proper person to be allowed to pay his
addresses to one so precious as a Twinkler twin?

Anger, jealousy, anxiety, sense of responsibility and mortification, all
tumbled about furiously together inside Mr. Twist as he leaned against
the bookcase and gazed down at Anna-Felicitas, who for her part was
gazing beatifically into space; but through the anger, and the jealousy,
and the anxiety, and the sense of responsibility and mortification one
great thought was struggling, and it finally pushed every other aside
and got out to the top of the welter: here, in the chair before him, he
beheld his sister-in-law. So much at least was cleared up.

He crossed to the bureau and dragged his office-stool over next to her
and sat down. "So that's it, is it?" he said, trying to speak very
calmly, but his face pulled all sorts of ways, as it had so often been
since the arrival in his life of the twins.

"Yes," she said, coming out of her contemplation. "It's love at last."

"I don't know about at last. Whichever way you look at it, Anna II.,
that don't seem to hit it off as a word. What I meant was, it's
Elliott."

"Yes," said Anna-Felicitas. "Which is the same thing. I believe," she
added, "I now have to allude to him as John."

Mr. Twist made another effort to speak calmly. "You don't," he said,
"think it at all unusual or undesirable that you should be calling a man
John to-day of whom you'd never heard yesterday."

"I think it's wonderful," said Anna-Felicitas beaming.

"It doesn't strike you in any way as imprudent to be so hasty. It
doesn't strike you as foolish."

"On the contrary," said Anna-Felicitas. "I can't help thinking I've
been very clever. I shouldn't have thought it of myself. You see, I'm
not _naturally_ quick." And she beamed with what she evidently regarded
as a pardonable pride.

"It doesn't strike you as even a little--well, a little improper."

"On the contrary," said Anna-Felicitas. "Aunt Alice told us that the one
man one could never be improper about, even if one tried, was one's
husband."

"Husband?" Mr. Twist winced. He loved, as we have seen, the word wife,
but then that was different.

"It's not time yet to talk of husbands," he said, full of a flaming
unreasonableness and jealousy and the sore feeling that he who had been
toiling so long and so devotedly in the heat of the Twinkler sun had had
a most unfair march stolen on him by this eleventh-hour stranger.

He flamed with unreasonableness. Yet he knew this was the solution of
half his problem,--and of much the worst half, for it was after all
Anna-Felicitas who had produced the uncomfortable feeling of
slipperiness, of eels; Anna-Rose had been quite good, sitting in a chair
crying and just so sweetly needing comfort. But now that the solution
was presented to him he was full of fears. For on what now could he base
his proposal to Anna-Rose? Elliott would be the legitimate protector of
both the Twinklers. Mr. Twist, who had been so much perturbed by the
idea of having to propose to one or other twin, was miserably upset by
the realization that now he needn't propose to either. Elliott had cut
the ground from under his feet. He had indeed--what was the expression
he used the evening before?--yes, nipped in. There was now no necessity
for Anna-Rose to marry him, and Mr. Twist had an icy and forlorn
feeling that on no other basis except necessity would she. He was
thirty-five. It was all very well for Elliott to get proposing to people
of seventeen; he couldn't be more than twenty-five. And it wasn't only
age. Mr. Twist hadn't shaved before looking-glasses for nothing, and he
was very distinctly aware that Elliott was extremely attractive.

"It's not time yet to talk of husbands," he therefore hotly and
jealously said.

"On the contrary," said Anna-Felicitas gently, "it's not only time but
war-time. The war, I have observed, is making people be quick and sudden
about all sorts of things."

"You haven't observed it. That's Elliott said that."

"He may have," said Anna-Felicitas. "He said so many things--"

And again she lapsed into contemplation; into, thought Mr. Twist as he
gazed jealously at her profile, an ineffable, ruminating, reminiscent
smugness.

"See here, Anna II.," he said, finding it impossibly painful to wait
while she contemplated, "suppose you don't at this particular crisis
fall into quite so many ecstatic meditations. There isn't as much time
as you seem to think."

"No--and there's Christopher," said Anna-Felicitas, giving herself a
shake, and with that slightly troubled look coming into her face again
as of having, in spite of being an angel in glory, somehow got her feet
wet.

"Precisely," said Mr. Twist, getting up and walking about the room.
"There's Christopher. Now Christopher, I should say, would be pretty
well heart-broken over this."

"But that's so unreasonable," said Anna-Felicitas with gentle
deprecation.

"You're all she has got, and she'll be under the impression--the
remarkably vivid impression--that she's losing you."

"But _that's_ so unreasonable. She isn't losing me. It's sheer gain.
Without the least effort or bother on her part she's acquiring a
brother-in-law."

"Oh, I know what Christopher feels," said Mr. Twist, going up and down
the room quickly. "I know right enough, because I feel it all myself."

"But _that's_ so unreasonable," said Anna-Felicitas earnestly. "Why
should two of you be feeling things that aren't?"

"She has always regarded herself as responsible for you, and I shouldn't
be surprised if she were terribly shocked at your conduct."

"But there has to _be_ conduct," said Anna-Felicitas, still very gentle,
but looking as though her feet were getting wetter. "I don't see how
anybody is ever to fall in love unless there's been some conduct first."

"Oh, don't argue--don't argue. You can't expect Anna-Rose not to mind
your wanting to marry a perfect stranger, a man she hasn't even seen."

"But everybody you marry started by being a perfect stranger and
somebody you hadn't ever seen," said Anna-Felicitas.

"Oh Lord, if only you wouldn't _argue_!" exclaimed Mr. Twist. "And as
for your aunt in England, what's she going to say to this
twenty-four-hours, quick-lunch sort of engagement? She'll be terribly
upset. And Anna-Rose knows that, and is I expect nigh worried crazy."

"But what," asked Anna-Felicitas, "have aunts to do with love?"

Then she said very earnestly, her face a little flushed, her eyes
troubled, "Christopher said all that you're saying now, and a lot more,
down in the garden before I came to you, and I said what I've been
saying to you, and a lot more, but she wouldn't listen. And when I found
she wouldn't listen I tried to comfort her, but she wouldn't be
comforted. And then I came to you; for besides wanting to tell you what
I've done I wanted to ask you to comfort Christopher."

Mr. Twist paused a moment in his walk. "Yes," he said, staring at the
carpet. "Yes. I can very well imagine she needs it. But I don't suppose
anything I would say--"

"Christopher is very fond of you," said Anna-Felicitas gently.

"Oh yes. You're both very fond of me," said Mr. Twist, pulling his mouth
into a crooked and unhappy smile.

"We love you," said Anna-Felicitas simply.

Mr. Twist looked at her, and a mist came over his spectacles. "You dear
children," he said, "you dear, dear children--"

"I don't know about children--" began Anna-Felicitas; but was
interrupted by a knock at the door.

"It's only the brandy," said Mr. Twist, seeing her face assume the
expression he had learned to associate with the approach of Mrs. Bilton.
"Take it away, please Mrs. Bilton," he called out, "and put it on the--"

Mrs. Bilton however, didn't take anything away, but opened the door an
inch instead. "There's someone wants to speak to you, Mr. Twist," she
said in a loud whisper, thrusting in a card. "He says he just must. I
found him on the verandah when I took your brandy out, and as I'm not
the woman to leave a stranger alone with good brandy I brought him in
with me, and he's right here back of me in the tea-room."

"It's John," remarked Anna-Felicitas placidly. "Come early."

"I say--" said a voice behind Mrs. Bilton.

"Yes," nodded Anna-Felicitas, getting up out of the deep chair. "That's
John."

"I say--may I come in? I've got something important--"

Mr. Twist looked at Anna-Felicitas. "Wouldn't you rather--?" he began.

"I don't mind John," she said softly, her face flooded with a most
beautiful light.

Mr. Twist opened the door and went out. "Come in," he said. "Mrs.
Bilton, may I present Mr. Elliott to you--Commander Elliott of the
British Navy."

"Pleased to meet you, Commander Elliott," said Mrs. Bilton. "Mr. Twist,
your brandy is on the verandah. Shall I bring it to you in here?"

"No thank you, Mrs. Bilton. I'll go out there presently. Perhaps you
wouldn't mind waiting for me there--I don't suppose Mr. Elliott will
want to keep me long. Come in, Mr. Elliott."

And having disposed of Mrs. Bilton, who was in a particularly willing
and obedient and female mood, he motioned Elliott into the office.

There stood Anna-Felicitas.

Elliott stopped dead.

"This isn't fair," he said, his eyes twinkling and dancing.

"What isn't?" inquired Anna-Felicitas gently, beaming at him.

"Your being here. I've got to talk business. Look here, sir," he said,
turning to Mr. Twist, "could _you_ talk business with her there?"

"Not if she argued," said Mr. Twist.

"Argued! I wouldn't mind her arguing. It's just her being there. I've
got to talk business," he said, turning to Anna-Felicitas,--"business
about marrying you. And how can I with you standing there looking
like--well, like that?"

"I don't know," said Anna-Felicitas placidly, not moving.

"But you'll interrupt--just your being there will interrupt. I shall see
you out of the corner of my eye, and it'll be impossible not to--I mean
I know I'll want to--I mean, Anna-Felicitas my dear, it isn't done. I've
got to explain all sorts of things to your guardian--"

"He isn't my guardian," corrected the accurate Anna-Felicitas gently.
"He only very nearly once was."

"Well, anyhow I've got to explain a lot of things that'll take some
time, and it isn't so much explain as persuade--for I expect," he said,
turning to Mr. Twist, "this strikes you as a bit sudden, sir?"

"It would strike anybody," said Mr. Twist trying to be stern but finding
it difficult, for Elliott was so disarmingly engaging and so disarmingly
in love. The radiance on Anna-Felicitas's face might have been almost a
reflection caught from his. Mr. Twist had never seen two people look so
happy. He had never, of course, before been present at the first
wonderful dawning of love. The whole room seemed to glow with the
surprise of it.

"There. You see?" said Elliott, again appealing to Anna-Felicitas, who
stood smiling beatifically at him without moving. "I've got to explain
that it isn't after all as mad as it seems, and that I'm a fearfully
decent chap and can give you lots to eat, and that I've got a jolly
little sister here who's respectable and well-known besides, and I'm
going to produce references to back up these assertions, and proofs that
I'm perfectly sound in health except for my silly foot, which isn't
health but just foot and which you don't seem to mind anyhow, and how--I
ask you _how_, Anna-Felicitas my dear, am I to do any of this with you
standing there looking like--well, like that?"

"I don't know," said Anna-Felicitas again, still not moving.

"Anna-Felicitas, my dear," he said, "won't you go?"

"No, John," said Anna-Felicitas gently.

His eyes twinkled and danced more than ever. He took a step towards her,
then checked himself and looked round beseechingly at Mr. Twist.

"_Somebody's_ got to go," he said.

"Yes," said Mr. Twist. "And I guess it's me."




CHAPTER XXXVIII


He went straight in search of Anna-Rose.

He was going to propose to her. He couldn't bear it. He couldn't bear
the idea of his previous twins, his blessed little Twinklers, both going
out of his life at the same time, and he couldn't bear, after what he
had just seen in the office, the loneliness of being left outside love.

All his life he had stood on the door-mat outside the shut door of love.
He had had no love; neither at home, where they talked so much about it
and there wasn't any, nor, because of his home and its inhibitions got
so thoroughly into his blood, anywhere else. He had never tried to
marry,--again because of his home and his mother and the whole
only-son-of-a-widow business. He would try now. He would risk it. It was
awful to risk it, but it was more awful not to. He adored Anna-Rose. How
nearly the afternoon before, when she sat crying in his chair, had he
taken her in his arms! Why, he would have taken her into them then and
there, while she was in that state, while she was in the need of
comfort, and never let her go out of them again, if it hadn't been that
he had got the idea so firmly fixed in his head that she was a child.
Fool that he was. Elliott had dispelled that idea for him. It wasn't
children who looked as Anna-Felicitas had looked just now in the office.
Anna-Rose, it is true, seemed younger than Anna-Felicitas, but that was
because she was little and easily cried. He loved her for being little.
He loved her because she easily cried. He yearned and hungered to
comfort, to pet to take care of. He was, as has been pointed out, a born
mother.

Avoiding the verandah and Mrs. Bilton, Mr. Twist filled with
recklessness, hurried upstairs and knocked at Anna-Rose's door. No
answer. He listened. Dead silence. He opened it a slit and peeped in.
Emptiness. Down he went again and made for the kitchen, because Li Koo,
who always knew everything, might know where she was. Li Koo did. He
jerked his head towards the window, and Mr. Twist hurried to it and
looked out. There in the middle of the yard was the cat, exactly where
he had left her an hour before, and kneeling beside her stroking her
stomach was Anna-Rose.

She had her back to the house and her face was hidden. The sun streamed
down on her bare head and on the pale gold rings of hair that frisked
round her neck. She didn't hear him till he was close to her, so much
absorbed was she apparently in the cat; and when she did she didn't look
up, but bent her head lower than before and stroked more assiduously.

"Anna-Rose," said Mr. Twist.

"Yes."

"Come and talk to me."

"I'm thinking."

"Don't think. Come and talk to me, little--little dear one."

She bent her head lower still. "I'm thinking," she said again.

"Come and tell me what you're thinking."

"I'm thinking about cats."

"About cats?" said Mr. Twist, uncertainly.

"Yes," said Anna-Rose, stroking the cat's stomach faster and carefully
keeping her face hidden from him. "About how wise and wonderful they
are."

"Well then if that's all, you can go on with that presently and come and
talk to me now."

"You see," said Anna-Rose, not heeding this, "they're invariably twins,
and more than twins, for they're often fours and sometimes sixes, but
still they sit in the sun quietly all their lives and don't mind a bit
what their--what their twins do--"

"Ah," said Mr. Twist. "Now I'm getting there."

"They don't mind a bit about anything. They just clean their whiskers
and they purr. Perhaps it's that that comforts them. Perhaps if I--if I
had whiskers and a--and a purr--"

The cat leaped suddenly to her feet and shook herself violently.
Something hot and wet had fallen on her beautiful stomach.

Anna-Rose made a little sound strangers might have taken for a laugh as
she put out her arms and caught her again, but it was a sound so
wretched, so piteous in the attempt to hide away from him, that Mr.
Twist's heart stood still. "Oh, don't go," she said, catching at the cat
and hugging her tight, "I can't let _you_ go--" And she buried her face
in her fur, so that Mr. Twist still couldn't see it.

"Now that's enough about the cat," he said, speaking very firmly.
"You're coming with me." And he stooped and picked her up, cat and all,
and set her on her feet.

Then he saw her face.

"Good God, Anna-Rose!" he exclaimed.

"I did try not to show you," she said; and she added, taking shelter
behind her pride and looking at him as defiantly as she could out of
eyes almost closed up, "but you mustn't suppose just because I happen
to--to seem as if I'd been crying that I--that I'm minding anything."

"Oh no," said Mr. Twist, who at sight of her face had straightway
forgotten about himself and his longings and his proposals, and only
knew that he must comfort Christopher. "Oh no," he said, looking at her
aghast, "I'm not supposing we're minding anything, either of us."

He took her by the arm. Comfort Christopher; that's what he had got to
do. Get rid as quickly as possible of that look of agony--yes, it was
downright agony--on her face.

He thought he guessed what she was thinking and feeling; he thought--he
was pretty sure--she was thinking and feeling that her beloved Columbus
had gone from her, and gone to a stranger, in a day, in a few hours, to
a stranger she had never even seen, never even heard of; that her
Columbus had had secrets from her, had been doing things behind her
back; that she had had perfect faith and trust in her twin, and now was
tasting the dreadful desolation of betrayal; and he also guessed that
she must be sick with fears,--for he knew how responsible she felt, how
seriously she took the charge of her beautiful twin--sick with fear
about this unknown man, sick with the feeling of helplessness, of
looking on while Columbus rushed into what might well be, for all any
one knew, a deadly mess-up of her happiness.

Well, he could reason her out of most of this, he felt. Certainly he
could reassure her about Elliott, who did inspire one with confidence,
who did seem, anyhow outwardly, a very fitting mate for Anna-Felicitas.
But he was aghast at the agony on her face. All that he guessed she was
thinking and feeling didn't justify it. It was unreasonable to suffer so
violently on account of what was, after all, a natural happening. But
however unreasonable it was, she was suffering.

He took her by the arm. "You come right along with me," he said; and led
her out of the yard, away from Li Koo and the kitchen window, towards
the eucalyptus grove behind the house. "You come right along with me,"
he repeated, holding her firmly for she was very wobbly on her feet,
"and we'll tell each other all about the things we're not minding. Do
you remember when the _St. Luke_ left Liverpool? You thought I thought
you were minding things then, and were very angry with me. We've made
friends since, haven't we, and we aren't going to mind anything ever
again except each other."

But he hardly knew what he was saying, so great was his concern and
distress.

Anna-Rose went blindly. She stumbled along, helped by him, clutching the
cat. She couldn't see out of her swollen eyes. Her foot caught in a
root, and the cat, who had for some minutes past been thoroughly uneasy,
became panic-stricken and struggled out of her arms, and fled into the
wood. She tried to stop it, but it would go. For some reason this broke
down her self-control. The warm cat clutched to her breast had at least
been something living to hold on to. Now the very cat had gone. Her
pride collapsed, and she tumbled against Mr. Twist's arm and just
sobbed.

If ever a man felt like a mother it was Mr. Twist at that moment. He
promptly sat her down on the grass. "There now--there, there now," he
said, whipping out his handkerchief and anxiously mopping up her face.
"This is what I did on the _St. Luke_--do you remember?--there now--that
time you told me about your mother--it looks like being my permanent
job--there, there now--don't now--you'll have no little eyes left soon
if you go on like this--"

"Oh but--oh but--Co-Columbus--"

"Yes, yes I know all about Columbus. Don't you worry about her. She's
all right. She's all right in the office at this moment, and we're all
right out here if only you knew it, if only you wouldn't cry such
quantities. It beats me where it all comes from, and you so
little--there, there now--"

"Oh but--oh but Columbus--"

"Yes, yes, I know--you're worrying yourself sick because you think
you're responsible for her to your aunt and uncle, but you won't be, you
know, once she's married--there, there now--"

"Oh but--oh but--"

"Now don't--now please--yes, yes, I know--he's a stranger, and you
haven't seen him yet, but everybody was a stranger once," said Mr.
Twist, quoting Anna-Felicitas's own argument, the one that had
especially irritated him half-an-hour before, "and he's real good--I'm
sure of it. And you'll be sure too the minute you see him. That's to
say, if you're able to see anything or anybody for the next week out of
your unfortunate stuck-together little eyes."

"Oh but--oh but--you don't--you haven't--"

"Yes, yes, I have. Now turn your face so that I can wipe the other side
properly. There now, I caught an enormous tear. I got him just in time
before he trickled into your ear. Lord, how sore your poor little eyes
are. Don't it even cheer you to think you're going to be a
sister-in-law, Anna-Rose?"

"Oh but you don't--you haven't--" she sobbed, her face not a whit less
agonized for all his reassurances.

"Well, I know I wish I were going to be a brother-in-law," said Mr.
Twist, worried by his inability to reassure, as he tenderly and
carefully dabbed about the corners of her eyes and her soaked eyelashes.
"My, shouldn't I think well of myself."

Then his hand shook.

"I wish I were going to be Anna-Felicitas's brother-in-law," he said,
suddenly impelled, perhaps by this failure to get rid of the misery in
her face, to hurl himself on his fate. "Not _yours_--get your mind quite
clear about that,--but Anna-Felicitas's." And his hand shook so much
that he had to leave off drying. For this was a proposal. If only
Anna-Rose would see it, this was a proposal.

Anna-Rose, however, saw nothing. Even in normal times she
wasn't good at relationships, and had never yet understood the
that-man's-father-was-my-father's-son one; now she simply didn't
hear. She was sitting with her hands limply in her lap, and sobbing
in a curious sort of anguish.

He couldn't help being struck by it. There was more in this than he had
grasped. Again he forgot himself and his proposal. Again he was
overwhelmed by the sole desire to help and comfort.

He put his hand on the two hands lying with such an air of being
forgotten on her lap. "What is it?" he asked gently. "Little dear one,
tell me. It's clear I'm not dead on to it yet."

"Oh--Columbus--"

She seemed to writhe in her misery.

"Well yes, yes Columbus. We know all about that."

Anna-Rose turned her quivering face to him. "Oh, you haven't seen--you
don't see--it's only me that's seen--"

"Seen what? What haven't I seen? Ah, don't cry--don't cry like that--"

"Oh, I've lost her--lost her--"

"Lost her? Because she's marrying?"

"Lost her--lost her--" sobbed Anna-Rose.

"Come now," remonstrated Mr. Twist. "Come now. That's just flat contrary
to the facts. You've lost nothing, and you've gained a brother."

"Oh,--lost her--lost her," sobbed Anna-Rose.

"Come, come now," said Mr. Twist helplessly.

"Oh," she sobbed, looking at him out of her piteous eyes, "has nobody
thought of it but me? Columbus hasn't. I--I know she hasn't from
what--from what--she said. She's too--too happy to think. But--haven't
you thought--haven't you seen--that she'll be English now--really
English--and go away from me to England with him--and I--I can't go to
England--because I'm still--I'm still--an alien enemy--and so I've lost
her--lost her--lost my own twin--"

And Anna-Rose dropped her head on to her knees and sobbed in an
abandonment of agony.

Mr. Twist sat without saying or doing anything at all. He hadn't thought
of this; nor, he was sure, had Anna-Felicitas. And it was true. Now he
understood Anna-Rose's face and the despair of it. He sat looking at
her, overwhelmed by the realization of her misfortune. For a moment he
was blinded by it, and didn't see what it would mean for him. Then he
did see. He almost leaped, so sudden was the vision, and so luminous.

"Anna-Rose," he said, his voice trembling, "I want to put my arm round
you. That's because I love you. And if you'll let me do that I could
tell you of a way there is out of this for you. But I can't tell you so
well unless--unless you let me put my arm round you first...."

He waited trembling. She only sobbed. He couldn't even be sure she was
listening. So he put his arm round her to try. At least she didn't
resist. So he drew her closer. She didn't resist that either. He
couldn't even be sure she knew about it. So he put his other arm round
her too, and though he couldn't be sure, he thought--he hardly dared
think, but it did seem as if--she nestled.

Happiness, such as in his lonely, loveless life he had never imagined,
flooded Mr. Twist. He looked down at her face, which was now so close to
his, and saw that her eyes were shut. Great sobs went on shaking her
little body, and her tears, now that he wasn't wiping them, were rolling
down her cheeks unchecked.

He held her closer to him, close to his heart where she belonged, and
again he had that sensation, that wonderful sensation, of nestling.

"Little Blessed, the way out is so simple," he whispered. "Little
Blessed, don't you see?"

But whether Anna-Rose saw seemed very doubtful. There was only that
feeling, as to which he was no doubt mistaken, of nestling to go on. Her
eyes, anyhow, remained shut, and her body continued to heave with sobs.

He bent his head lower. His voice shook. "It's so, so simple," he
whispered. "All you've got to do is to marry me."

And as she made an odd little movement in his arms he held her tighter
and began to talk very fast.

"No, no," he said, "don't answer anything yet. Just listen. Just let me
tell you first. I want to tell you to start with how terribly I love
you. But that doesn't mean you've got to love me--you needn't if you
don't want to--if you can't--if you'd rather not I'm eighteen years
older than you, and I know what I'm like to look at--no, don't say
anything yet--just listen quiet first--but if you married me you'd be an
American right away, don't you see? Just as Anna-Felicitas is going to
be English. And I always intended going back to England as soon as may
be, and if you married me what is to prevent your coming too? Coming to
England? With Anna-Felicitas and her husband. Anna-Rose--little
Blessed--think of it--all of us together. There won't be any aliens in
that quartette, I guess, and the day you marry me you'll be done with
being German for good and all. And don't you get supposing it matters
about your not loving me, because, you see, I love you so much, I adore
you so terribly, that anyhow there'll be more than enough love to go
round, and you needn't ever worry about contributing any if you don't
feel like it--"

Mr. Twist broke off abruptly. "What say?" he said, for Anna-Rose was
making definite efforts to speak. She was also making definite and
unmistakable movements, and this time there could be no doubt about it;
she was coming closer.

"What say?" said Mr. Twist breathlessly, bending his head.

"But I do," whispered Anna-Rose.

"Do what?" said Mr. Twist, again breathlessly.

She turned her face up to his. On it was the same look he had lately
seen on Anna-Felicitas's, shining through in spite of the disfiguration
of her tears.

"But--_of course_ I do," whispered Anna-Rose, an extraordinary smile,
an awe-struck sort of smile, coming into her face at the greatness of
her happiness, at the wonder of it.

"What? Do what?" said Mr. Twist, still more breathlessly.

"I--always did," whispered Anna-Rose.

"_What_ did you always did?" gasped Mr. Twist, hardly able to believe
it, and yet--and yet--there on her little face, on her little
transfigured face, shone the same look.

"Oh--_love_ you," sighed Anna-Rose, nestling as close as she could get.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Mr. Twist himself who got on a ladder at five minutes past four
that afternoon and pasted a strip of white paper obliquely across the
sign of The Open Arms with the word.

     SHUT

on it in big letters. Li Koo held the foot of the ladder. Mr. Twist had
only remembered the imminence of four o'clock and the German inrush a
few minutes before the hour, because of his being so happy; and when he
did he flew to charcoal and paper. He got the strip on only just in
time. A car drove up as he came down the ladder.

"What?" exclaimed the principal male occupant of the car, pointing,
thwarted and astonished, to the sign.

"Shut," said Mr. Twist.

"Shut?"

"Shut."



THE END





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