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- Raspberry Jam - 1/45 -
THE GREAT HANLON
"You may contradict me as flat as a flounder, Eunice, but that won't alter the facts. There is something in telepathy--there is something in mind-reading--"
"If you could read my mind, Aunt Abby, you'd drop that subject. For if you keep on, I may say what I think, and--"
"Oh, that won't bother me in the least. I know what you think, but your thoughts are so chaotic--so ignorant of the whole matter--that they are worthless. Now, listen to this from the paper: 'Hanlon will walk blindfolded--blindfolded, mind you --through the streets of Newark, and will find an article hidden by a representative of The Free Press.' Of course, you know, Eunice, the newspaper people are on the square--why, there'd be no sense to the whole thing otherwise! I saw an exhibition once, you were a little girl then; I remember you flew into such a rage because you couldn't go. Well, where was I? Let me see--oh, yes--'Hanlon--' H'm--h'm--why, my goodness! it's to-morrow! How I do want to go! Do you suppose Sanford would take us?"
"I do not, unless he loses his mind first. Aunt Abby, you're crazy! What is the thing, anyway? Some common street show?"
"If you'd listen, Eunice, and pay a little attention, you might know what I'm talking about. But as soon as I say telepathy you begin to laugh and make fun of it all!"
"I haven't heard anything yet to make fun of. What's it all about?"
But as she spoke, Eunice Embury was moving about the room, the big living-room of their Park Avenue apartment, and in a preoccupied way was patting her household gods on their shoulders. A readjustment of the pink carnations in a tall glass vase, a turning round of a long-stemmed rose in a silver holder, a punch here and there to the pillows of the davenport and at last dropping down on her desk chair as a hovering butterfly settles on a chosen flower.
A moment more and she was engrossed in some letters, and Aunt Abby sighed resignedly, quite hopeless now of interesting her niece in her project.
"All the same, I'm going," she remarked, nodding her head at the back of the graceful figure sitting at the desk. "Newark isn't so far away; I could go alone--or maybe take Maggie--she'd love it--'Start from the Oberon Theatre--at 2 P.M.--' 'Him, I could have an early lunch and--'hidden in any part of the city--only mentally directed--not a word spoken--' Just think of that, Eunice! It doesn't seem credible that--oh, my goodness! tomorrow is Red Cross day! Well, I can't help it; such a chance as this doesn't happen twice. I wish I could coax Sanford--"
"You can't," murmured Eunice, without looking up from her writing.
"Then I'll go alone!" Aunt Abby spoke with spirit, and her bright black eyes snapped with determination as she nodded her white head. "You can't monopolize the willpower of the whole family, Eunice Embury!"
"I don't want to! But I can have a voice in the matters of my own house and family yes, and guests! I can't spare Maggie to-morrow. You well know Sanford won't go on any such wild goose chase with you, and I'm sure I won't. You can't go alone --and anyway, the whole thing is bosh and nonsense. Let me hear no more of it!"
Eunice picked up her pen, but she cast a sidelong glance at her aunt to see if she accepted the situation.
She did not. Miss Abby Ames was a lady of decision, and she had one hobby, for the pursuit of which she would attempt to overcome any obstacle.
"You needn't hear any more of it, Eunice," she said, curtly. "I am not a child to be allowed out or kept at home! I shall go to Newark to-morrow to see this performance, and I shall go alone, and--"
"You'll do nothing of the sort! You'd look nice starting off alone on a railroad trip! Why, I don't believe you've ever been to Newark in your life! Nobody has! It isn't done!"
Eunice was half whimsical, half angry, but her stormy eyes presaged combat and her rising color indicated decided annoyance.
"Done!" cried her aunt. "Conventions mean nothing to me! Abby Ames makes social laws--she does not obey those made by others!"
"You can't do that in New York, Aunt Abby. In your old Boston, perhaps you had a certain dictatorship, but it won't do here. Moreover, I have rights as your hostess, and I forbid you to go skylarking about by yourself."
"You amuse me, Eunice!"
"I had no intention of being funny, I assure you."
"While not distinctly humorous, the idea of your forbidding me is, well--oh, my gracious, Eunice, listen to this: 'The man chosen for Hanlon's "guide" is the Hon. James L. Mortimer--' --h'm--'High Street--' Why, Eunice, I've heard of Mortimer --he's--"
"I don't care who he is, Aunt Abby, and I wish you'd drop the subject."
"I won't drop it--it's too interesting! Oh, my! I wish we could go out there in the big car--then we could follow him round--"
"Hush! Go out to Newark in the car! Trail round the streets and alleys after a fool mountebank! With a horde of gamins and low, horrid men crowding about--"
They won't be allowed to crowd about!"
"I admit the yelling--"
"Aunt Abby, you're impossible!" Eunice rose, and scowled irately at her aunt. Her temper, always quick, was at times ungovernable, and was oftenest roused at the suggestion of any topic or proceeding that jarred on her taste. Exclusive to the point of absurdity, fastidious in all her ways, Mrs, Embury was, so far as possible, in the world but not of it.
Both she and her husband rejoiced in the smallness of their friendly circle, and shrank from any unnecessary association with hoi polloi.
And Aunt Abby Ames, their not entirely welcome guest, was of a different nature, and possessed of another scale of standards. Secure in her New England aristocracy, calmly conscious of her innate refinement, she permitted herself any lapses from conventional laws that recommended themselves to her inclination.
And it cannot be denied that the investigation of her pet subject, the satisfaction of her curiosity concerning occult matters and her diligent inquiries into the mysteries of the supernatural did lead her into places and scenes not at all in harmony with Eunice's ideas of propriety.
"Not another word of that rubbish, Auntie; the subject is taboo," and Eunice waved her hand with the air of one who dismisses a matter completely.
"Don't you think you can come any of your high and mighty airs on me!" retorted the elder lady. "It doesn't seem so very many years ago that I spanked you and shut you in the closet for impudence. The fact that you are now Mrs. Sanford Embury instead of little Eunice Ames hasn't changed my attitude toward you!"
"Oh, Auntie, you are too ridiculous!" and Eunice laughed outright. "But the tables are turned, and I am not only Mrs, Sanford Embury but your hostess, and, as such, entitled to your polite regard for my wishes."
"Tomfoolery talk, my dear; I'll give you all the polite regard you are entitled to, but I shall carry out my own wishes, even though they run contrary to yours. And to-morrow I prance out to Newark, N.J., your orders to the contrary notwithstanding!"
The aristocratic old head went up and the aristocratic old nose sniffed disdainfully, for though Eunice Embury was strong-willed, her aunt was equally so, and in a clash of opinions Miss Ames not infrequently won out.
Eunice didn't sulk, that was not her nature; she turned back to her writing desk with an offended air, but with a smile as of one who tolerates the vagaries of an inferior. This, she knew, would irritate her aunt more than further words could do.
And yet, Eunice Embury was neither mean nor spiteful of disposition. She had a furious temper, but she tried hard to control it, and when it did break loose, the spasm was but of short duration and she was sorry for it afterward. Her husband declared he had tamed her, and that since her marriage, about two years ago, his wise, calm influence had curbed her tendency to fly into a rage and had made her far more equable and placid of disposition.
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