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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Hollow Of Her Hand - Chapter 7. A Faithful Crayon-Point
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The Hollow Of Her Hand - Chapter 7. A Faithful Crayon-Point Post by :catalin Category :Long Stories Author :George Barr Mccutcheon Date :May 2012 Read :1812

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The Hollow Of Her Hand - Chapter 7. A Faithful Crayon-Point

CHAPTER VII. A FAITHFUL CRAYON-POINT

Leslie Wrandall came out on the eleven-thirty. Hetty was at the station with the motor, a sullen resentment in her heart, but a welcoming smile on her lips. The sun shone brightly. The Sound glared with the white of reflected skies.

"I thought of catching the eight o'clock," he cried enthusiastically, as he dropped his bag beside the motor in order to reach over and shake hands with her. "That would have gotten me here hours earlier. The difficulty was that I didn't think of the eight o'clock until I awoke at nine."

"And then you had the additional task of thinking about breakfast," said Hetty, but without a trace of sarcasm in her manner.

"I never think of breakfast," said he amiably. "I merely eat it. Of course, it's a task to eat it sometimes, but--well, how are you? How do you like it out here?"

He was beside her on the broad seat, his face beaming, his gay little moustache pointing upward at the ends like oblique brown exclamation points, so expansive was his smile.

"I adore it," she replied, her own smile growing in response to his. It was impossible to resist the good nature of him. She could not dislike him, even though she dreaded him deep down in her heart. Her blood was hot and cold by turns when she was with him, as her mind opened and shut to thoughts pleasant and unpleasant with something of the regularity of a fish's gills in breathing.

"I knew you would. It's great. You won't care much for our place, Miss Castleton. Sara's got the pick of the coast in that place of hers. Trust old Sebastian Gooch to get the best of everything. If my dad or my grand-dad had possessed a tenth of the brain that that old chap had, we'd have our own tabernacle up there on the point, instead of sulking at his back gate. That's really where we're located, you know. His back gate opens smack in the face of our front one. I think he did it with malice aforethought, too. His back gate is two miles from the house. It wasn't really necessary to go so far for a back gate as all that, was it? To make it worse, he put a big sign over it for us to read: 'NO TRESPASSING. THIS MEANS YOU.' Sara took it down after the old boy died."

"I suppose by that time the desire to trespass was gone," she said. "One doesn't enjoy freedom of that sort."

"I've come to believe that the only free things we really covet are passes to the theatre. We never get over that, I'm sure. I'd rather have a pass to the theatre than a ten dollar bill any time. I say, it was nice of you to come down to meet me. It was more than I--er--expected." He almost said "hoped for."

"Sara was too busy about the house to come," she explained quickly. "And I had a few errands to do in the village."

"Don't spoil it!"

"I am a horribly literal person," she said.

"Better that than literally horrible," he retorted, rather proud of himself for it. "It's wonderful, the friendship between you two girls--Sara's not much more than a girl, you see. You're so utterly unlike in every way."

"It isn't strange to me," said she simply, but without looking at him.

"Of course, I can understand it," he went on. "I've always liked Sara. She's bully. Much too good for my brother, God rest his soul. He never--"

"Oh, don't utter a thing like that, even in jest," she cried, shocked by his glib remark.

He flushed. "You didn't know Challis," he said almost surlily.

She held her breath.

After a moment, the points of his little moustache went up again in the habitual barometrical smile. Rather a priggish, supercilious smile, she thought, taking a glance at his face.

"I say I can understand it, but mother and Vivian will never be able to get it through those tough skulls of theirs. They really don't like Sara. Snobs, both of 'em--of the worst kind, too. Why, mother has always looked upon Sara as a--e---a sort of brigandess, the kind that steals children and holds them for ransom. Of course, old man Gooch was as common as rags--utterly impossible, you know--but that shouldn't stand against Sara. By the way, her father called her Sallie. Her mother was a very charming woman, they say. We never knew her. For that matter, we never knew the old man until he became prominent as a father-in-law."

The girl was silent. He went on.

"Mother likes you. She doesn't say it in so many words, but I can see that she wonders how you can have anything in common with Sara. She prides herself on being able to distinguish blue blood at a glance. Silly notion she's got, but--"

"Please don't go on, Mr. Wrandall," cried Hetty in distress.

"I'm not saying she isn't friendly to Sara nowadays," he explained. "She's changed a good deal in the last few months. I think she's broadening out a bit. Since that visit to Nice, she's been quite different. As a matter of fact, she expects to see a good bit of Sara and you this summer. It's like a spring thaw, by Jove, it is."

"When does she come to the country?" asked Hetty, bent on breaking his train of confidence.

"In three or four weeks. But, as I was saying, the mater has taken a great fancy to you. She--"

"It's very nice of her."

"She prides herself, as I said before, but she always makes sure by asking questions."

"Questions?"

"Yes. Although she could see through you as if you were plate glass, she made it a point to ask Sara all the questions she could think of. Over in Nice, you know. Of course Sara told her everything, and now she's quite sure she can't be mistaken in people. Really, Miss Castleton, she's very amusing sometimes, mother is."

Hetty was looking straight ahead, her face set.

"What did Sara tell her about me?"

"Oh, all that was necessary to prove to mother that she was right. As if it really made any difference, you know."

"Please explain."

"What is there to explain? She merely gave your pedigree, as we'd say at the dog show, begging your pardon, ma'am. Pedigrees are a sort of hobby with the mater. She collects 'em wherever she goes."

He gave his moustache a little twist.

"Then my references are satisfactory, so to speak," said she, with a wry little smile.

"Perfectly," said he, with conviction; "if we are to put any dependence in the intelligence office."

"Doesn't it stagger Mrs. Wrandall somewhat to reconcile my pedigree to the position I occupy in Sara's household--that of companion, so to say?" asked Hetty, a slight curl to her lip.

He looked rather blank. "I don't believe she looks at you in just that light," said he uncomfortably.

"I fancy you'd better enlighten her."

"Let well enough alone," quoted he glibly.

"But I AM a companion," insisted Hetty, a little spot of red in each cheek.

"In a sense, I suppose," said he affably. "Of course, Sara puts you down as a friend."

"I think you'd better understand my real position, Mr. Wrandall," said she firmly.

"I do," said he. "You are Sara's friend. That's enough for me. The fact that your father was or is a distinguished English army officer, and some sort of a cousin to a lord, and that you have the entre to fashionable London drawing-rooms, is quite enough for mother. That qualifies you to be companion to anybody, she'd say. And there's the end to it."

She was looking at him in amazement. Her lips were slightly parted and her eyes were wide. For a moment she was puzzled. Then a swift smile illumined her face. She understood.

"Of course, in London, it really isn't anything to boast about, getting into drawing-rooms," she said, vastly amused.

"Well, it is over here," said he promptly.

"And it isn't always open sesame to be related to a peer."

"I suppose not."

"Nevertheless, I am glad that your mother and Miss Vivian take me for what I am. Do you, by any chance, go in for pedigree, Mr. Wrandall?"

The shaft of irony sped over his head.

"Only in dogs and horses," he replied promptly. "It means a lot when it comes to buying a dog or a horse."

"How do you feel when you've been sold?"

"I take my medicine."

"As a good sportsman should."

"I dare say you think I'm a deuce of a prig for saying the things--"

"On the contrary, I appreciate your candour."

"Don't hesitate to say it. I'm used to being called a prig. My brother Challis always considered me one. I think he meant snob. But that was because our ideals weren't the same. By the way, you ought to like Vivian."

"That depends."

"On Vivian, I suppose?"

"Not precisely. I should say it depends on your sister's attitude toward Sara."

"Oh, she likes Sara well enough. Viv's not particularly narrow, Miss Castleton."

Hetty bestowed a smile upon him.

"That's comforting, Mr. Wrandall," she said, and he was silent for a moment, reflecting.

"Do you know," said he, as if a light had suddenly burst in upon him, "you've got more poise than any girl I've ever seen?"

"It's my bringing up, sir," she said mockingly.

"Ancestral habit," he explained, with a polite bow.

"Pedigreeable manners, perhaps."

"I wish the mater could have heard you say that." admiringly.

"Don't you adore the country at this time of the year?"

"When I get to heaven I mean to have a place in the country the year round," he said conclusively.

"And if you don't get to heaven?"

"I suppose I'll take a furnished flat somewhere."

Sara was waiting for them at the bottom of the terrace as they drove up. He leaped out and kissed her hand.

"Much obliged," he murmured, with a slight twist of his head in the direction of Hetty, who was giving orders to the chauffeur.

"You're quite welcome," said Sara, with a smile of understanding. "She's lovely, isn't she?"

"Enchanting!" said he, almost too loudly.

Hetty walked up the long ascent ahead of them. She did not have to look back to know that they were watching her with unfaltering interest. She could feel their gaze.

"Absolutely adorable," he added, enlarging his estimate without really being aware that he voiced it.

Sara shot a look at his rapt face, and turned her own away to hide the queer little smile that flickered briefly and died away.

Hetty, pleading a sudden headache, declined to accompany them later on in the day when they set forth in the car to "pick up" Brandon Booth at the inn. They were to bring him over, bag and baggage, to stay till Tuesday.

"He will be wild to paint her," declared Leslie when they were out of sight around the bend in the road. He had waved his hat to Hetty just before the trees shut off their view of her. She was standing at the top of the steps beside one of the tall Italian vases.

Sara did not respond.

"By the way, Sara, is she the niece or the grand-daughter of old Lord Murgatroyd? I'm a bit mixed."

"Her father is Colonel Castleton, of the Indian Army, and he is the eldest son of a second son, if you don't find that too difficult to solve. The second son aforesaid mentioned, so to speak, was the brother of Lord Murgatroyd. That would make Colonel Castleton his Lordship's nephew, but utterly without prospects of coming into a title, as there are several healthy British obstacles in the way. I suppose one would call Hetty a grand-niece."

"Mother wasn't quite certain whether you said niece or grand-daughter," explained Leslie. "Her mother's dead, I take it. Who was she?"

"Why are you so curious?"

"Isn't it quite natural?"

"Her mother was a Glynn. You have heard of the Glynns, of course?" She trusted to his vanity and was rewarded. The question was a sort of reproach.

"Certainly," he replied, without hesitation. The mere fact that she spoke of them as "THE Glynns" was sufficient. It was proof enough that they were people one ought to know, by name at least, if one were to profess intelligence regarding the British aristocracy. As a matter of fact, he had not heard of the Glynns, but that didn't matter. "The Irish Glynns, you mean?" he ventured, taking a chance at hitting the mark. He had a faint recollection of hearing her say that Hetty was part Irish.

"You have only to look into her eyes to know she's Irish," she said diplomatically.

"I've never seen such eyes," he exclaimed.

"She's a darling," said Sara and changed the subject, knowing full well that he would come back to it before long. "Is it true that Vivian and Mr. Booth are interested in each other?"

"Yes and no," he replied, with a profound sigh. "That is to say, she's interested in him and he isn't interested in her--in the way I take you to mean it. I suspect it's an easy matter for a girl to fall in love with Brandy. He's a corking fine chap."

"Then it would be very nice for Vivian, eh?"

"Oh, quite so--quite so. His forbears came over with Noah, according to mother. You know mother, Sara."

"Indeed I do," said she with conviction.

He laughed without restraint. "Mother can rattle off the best families in the Bible without missing a name, beginning with the Honourable Adam. Of course, she knows the Glynns and the Castletons and the Murgatroyds, although I dare say they haven't had much to do with the Bible. Come to think of it, she did go to the trouble of looking up the Castleton family in the Debrett."

"She did?" exclaimed Sara, with a slight narrowing of the eyes.

"Yes. She established the connection all right enough. She's keen for Miss Castleton."

"Oh," said she, relieved. After a moment: "And you?"

"I'm mad about her," he said simply, and then, for some unaccountable reason, gave over being loquacious and lapsed into a state of almost lugubrious quiet.

She glanced at his face, furtively at first, as if uncertain of his mood, then with a prolonged stare that was frankly curious and amused.

"Don't lose your head, Leslie," she said softly, almost purringly.

He started. "Oh, I say, Sara, I'm not likely to--"

"Stranger things have happened," she interrupted, with a shake of her head. "I can't afford to have you making love to her and getting tired of the game, as you always do, dear boy, just as soon as you find she's in love with you. She is too dear to be hurt in that way. You mustn't--"

"Good Lord!" he cried; "what a bounder you must take me for! Why, if I thought she'd--But nonsense! Let's talk about something else. Yourself, for instance."

She leaned back with a smile on her lips, but not in her eyes; and drew a long, deep breath. He was hard hit. That was what she wanted to know.

They found Booth at the inn. He was sitting on the old-fashioned porch, surrounded by bags and boys. As he climbed into the car after the bags, the boys grinned and jingled the coins in their pockets and ventured, almost in unison, the intelligence that they would all be there if he ever came back again. Big and little, they had transported his easel and canvases from place to place for three weeks or more and his departure was to be regarded as a financial calamity.

"I could go to ten circuses this summer if that many of 'em was to come to town," said one small citizen as Croesus rode away in a cloud of village dust.

"Gee, I wish to goodness he'd come back," was the soulful cry of another.

"I don't like them pictures he paints, though, do you?" observed another, more critical than avaricious.

"Naw!" was the scornful reply, also in unison.

From which it may he gathered that Mr. Brandon Booth was not cherished for art's sake alone, but for its relation to Mammon.

The object of their comments was making himself agreeable to the lady who was to be his hostess for the next few days. Leslie, perhaps in the desire to be alone with his reflections, sat forward with the chauffeur, and paid little or no heed to that unhappy person's comments on the vile condition of ALL village thorough-fares, New York City included.

"By the way, Sara," he said, suddenly breaking in on the conversation that went on at his back, and thereby betraying a secret wish that was taking shape in his mind, "what have you done with the little red runabout you had a year or two ago?"

She started. "You mean--"

As she hesitated, he went on. "It would come in very handy for twosome tours."

"I disposed of it some time ago, Leslie," said she. "I thought you'd remember."

"Oh,--er--by Jove!" he stammered in confusion.

He remembered that she had GIVEN it away a day or two after that awful night in March, and he recalled her reason for doing so. He twisted the tiny end of his moustache with unnecessary vigour--I might say fury. It was a most unhappy FAUX PAS.

"Softening of the brain," he muttered, in dismal apology to himself.

"And you painted those wretched little boys instead of the beautiful things that Nature provides for us out here, Mr. Booth?" Sara was saying to the artist beside her.

"Of course, I managed to get in a bit of Nature, even at that," said he, with a smile. "Boys are pretty close to earth, you know. To be perfectly honest, I did it in order to get away from the eminently beautiful but unnatural things I'm required to paint at home."

"Your subjects wouldn't care for that," she warned him, in some amusement.

"Oh, as to that, the comments of the boys on the things I did up here weren't altogether flattering to me, so I'm chastened. They were more than frank about them. We live to learn."

"Where are the canvases?"

"I immortalised them, one and all, by destroying them by fire and sword, only the sword happened to be a penknife. They made a most excellent bonfire."

"And so, you've nothing to show for your fortnight?"

"Oh, yes. A most desirable invitation to forget my failures at your expense."

"Poof!"

"I don't blame you. It WAS inane. Still, I can't help saying, Mrs. Wrandall, that it is a desirable invitation. You won't say 'poof' to that, because I won't listen to it."

"On the other hand, it's very good of you to come."

"It seems to me I'm always in debt to Leslie, with slim prospect of ever squaring accounts," said he whimsically. "But for him, I couldn't have come."

"I suppose we will see you at the Wrandall place this summer."

"I'm coming out to paint Leslie's sister in June, I believe. And that reminds me, I came upon an uncommonly pretty girl not far from your place the other day--and yesterday, as well--some one I've met before, unless I'm vastly mistaken. I wonder if you know your neighbours well enough--by sight, at least--to venture a good guess as to who I mean."

She appeared thoughtful.

"Oh, there are dozens of pretty girls in the neighbourhood. Can't you remember where you met--" She stopped suddenly, a swift look of apprehension in her eyes.

He failed to note the look or the broken sentence. He was searching in his coat pocket for something. Selecting a letter from the middle of a small pocket, he held it out to her.

"I sketched this from memory. She posed all too briefly for me," he said.

On the back of the envelope was a remarkably good likeness of Hetty Castleton, done broadly, sketchily with a crayon point, evidently drawn with haste while the impression was fresh, but long after she had passed out of range of his vision.

"I know her," said Sara quietly. "It's very clever, Mr. Booth."

"There is something hauntingly familiar about it," he went on, looking at the sketch with a frown of perplexity. "I've seen her somewhere, but for the life of me I can't place her. Perhaps in a crowded street, or the theatre, or a railway train--just a fleeting glimpse, you know. But in any event, I got a lasting impression. Queer things like that happen, don't you think so?"

Mrs. Wrandall leaned forward and spoke to Leslie. As he turned, she handed him the envelope, without comment.

"Great Scott!" he exclaimed.

"Mr. Booth is a mind reader," she explained. "He has been reading your thoughts, dear boy."

Booth understood, and grinned.

"You don't mean to say--" began the dumfounded Leslie, still staring at the sketch. "Upon my word, it's a wonderful likeness, old chap. I didn't know you'd ever met her."

"Met her?" cried Booth, an amiable conspirator. "I've never met her."

"See here, don't try anything like that on me. How could you do this if you've never seen--"

"He IS a mind reader," cried Sara.

"Haven't you been thinking of her steadily for--well, we'll say ten minutes?" demanded Booth.

Leslie reddened. "Nonsense!"

"That's a mental telepathy sketch," said the artist, complacently.

"When did you do it?"

"This instant, you might say. See! Here is the crayon point. I always carry one around with me for just such--"

"All right," said Leslie blandly, at the same time putting the envelope in his own pocket; "we'll let it go at that. If you're so clever at mind pictures, you can go to work and make another for yourself. I mean to keep this one."

"I say," began Booth, dismayed.

"One's thoughts are his own," said the happy possessor of the sketch. He turned his back on them.

Sara was contrite. "He will never give it up," she lamented.

"Is he really hard hit?" asked Booth in surprise.

"I wonder," mused Sara.

"Of course, he's welcome to the sketch, confound him."

"Would you like to paint her?"

"Is this a commission?"

"Hardly. I know her, that's all. She is a very dear friend."

"My heart is set on painting some one else, Mrs. Wrandall."

"Oh!"

"When I know you better, I'll tell you who she is."

"Could you make a sketch of this other one from memory?" she asked lightly.

"I think so. I'll show you one this evening. I have my trusty crayon about me always, as I said before."

Later in the afternoon Booth came face to face with Hetty. He was descending the stairs and met her coming up. The sun streamed in through the tall windows at the turn in the stairs, shining full in her uplifted face as she approached him from below. He could not repress the start of amazement. She was carrying a box of roses in her arms--red roses whose stems protruded far beyond the end of the pasteboard box and reeked of a fragrant dampness.

She gave him a shy, startled smile as she passed. He had stopped to make room for her on the turn. Somewhat dazed he continued on his way down the steps, to suddenly remember with a twinge of dismay that he had not returned her polite smile, but had stared at her with most unblinking fervour. In no little shame and embarrassment, he sent a swift glance over his shoulder. She was walking close to the banister rail on the floor above. As he glanced up their eyes met, for she too had turned to peer.

Leslie Wrandall was standing near the foot of the stairs. There was an eager, exalted look in his face that slowly gave way to well-assumed unconcern as his friend came upon him and grasped his arm.

"I say, Leslie, is--is she staying here?" cried Booth, lowering his voice to an excited half-whisper.

"Who?" demanded Wrandall vacantly. His mind appeared to be elsewhere.

"Why, that's the girl I saw on the road--Wake up! The one on the envelope, you ass. Is she the one you were telling me about in the club--the Miss What's-Her-Name who--"

"Oh, you mean Miss Castleton. She's just gone upstairs. You must have met her on the steps."

"You know I did. So THAT is Miss Castleton."

"Ripping, isn't she? Didn't I tell you so?"

"She's beautiful. She IS a type, just as you said, old man,--a really wonderful type. I saw her yesterday--and the day before."

"I've been wondering how you managed to get a likeness of her on the back of an envelope," said Leslie sarcastically. "Must have had a good long look at her, my boy. It isn't a snap-shot, you know."

Booth flushed. "It is an impression, that's all. I drew it from memory, 'pon my soul."

"She'll be immensely gratified, I'm sure."

"For heaven's sake, Les, don't be such a fool as to show her the thing," cried Booth in consternation. "She'd never understand."

"Oh, you needn't worry. She has a fine sense of humour."

Booth didn't know whether to laugh or scowl. He compromised with himself by slipping his arm through that of his friend and saying heartily:

"I wish you the best of luck, old boy."

"Thanks," said Leslie drily.

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