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- Vicky Van - 2/40 -


rose-colored cushions provided resting-places, and soft rose-shaded lights gave a mild glow of illumination.

Flowers were everywhere. Great bowls of roses, jars of pink carnations and occasionally a vase of pink orchids were on mantel, low bookcases or piano. And sometimes the odor of a cigarette or a burning pastille of Oriental fragrance, added to the Bohemian effect which is, oftener than not, discernible by the sense of smell.

Vicky herself, detested perfumes or odors of any kind, save fresh flowers all about. Indeed, she detested Bohemianism, when it meant unconventional dress or manners or loud-voiced jests or songs.

Her house was dainty, correct and artistic, and yet, I knew its atmosphere would not please my Aunt Lucy, or be just the right place for Winnie.

Many of the guests I knew. Cassie Weldon was a concert singer and Ariadne Gale an artist of some prominence, both socially and in her art circle. Jim Ferris and Bailey Mason were actors of a good sort, and Bert Garrison, a member of one of my best clubs, was a fast rising architect. Steele hadn't come yet.

Two tables of bridge were playing in the back part of the room, and in the rest of the rather limited space several couples were dancing.

"Mayn't we open the doors to the dining room, Vicky?" called out one of the card players. "The calorics of this room must be about ninety in the shade."

"Open them a little way," returned Miss Van Allen. "But not wide, for there's a surprise supper and I don't want you to see it yet."

They set the double doors a few inches ajar and went on with their game. The dining room, as I knew, was a wide room that ran all across the house behind both living-room and hall. It was beautifully decorated in pale green and silver, and often Vicky Van would have a "surprise supper," at which the favors or entertainers would be well worth waiting for.

Having greeted many whom I knew, I looked about for further speech with my hostess.

"She's upstairs in the music room," said Cassie Weldon, seeing and interpreting my questing glance.

"Thank you, lady, for those kind words," I called back over my shoulder, and went upstairs.

The front room on the second floor was dubbed the "music room," Vicky said, because there was a banjo in it. Sometimes the guests brought more banjos and a concert of glees and college songs would ensue. But more often, as to-night, it was a little haven of rest and peace from the laughter and jest below stairs.

It was an exquisite white and gold room, and here, too, as I entered, pale pink shades dimmed the lights to a soft radiance that seemed like a breaking dawn.

Vicky sat enthroned on a white divan, her feet crossed on a gold-embroidered white satin foot-cushion. In front of her sat three or four of her guests all laughing and chatting.

"But he vowed he was going to get here somehow," Mrs. Reeves was saying.

"What's his name?" asked Vicky, though in a voice of little interest.

"Somers," returned Mrs. Reeves.

"Never heard of him. Did you, Mr. Calhoun?" and Vicky Van looked up at me as I entered.

"No; Miss Van Allen. Who is he?"

"I don't know and I don't care. Only as Mrs. Reeves says he is coming here tonight, I'd like to know something about him."

"Coming here! A man you don't know?" I drew up a chair to join the group. "How can he?"

"Mr. Steele is going to bring him," said Mrs. Reeves. "He says--Norman Steele says, that Mr. Somers is a first-class all-around chap, and no end of fun. Says he's a millionaire."

"What's a millionaire more or less to me?" laughed Vicky. "I choose my friends for their lovely character, not for their wealth."

"Yes, you've selected all of us for that, dear," agreed Mrs. Reeves, "but this Somers gentleman may be amiable, too."

Mrs. Reeves was a solid, sensible sort of person, who acted as ballast for the volatile Vicky, and sometimes reprimanded her in a mild way.

"I love the child," she had said to me once, "and she is a little brick. But once in a while I have to tell her a few things for the good of the community. She takes it all like an angel."

"Well, I don't care," Vicky went on, "Norman Steele has no right to bring anybody here whom he hasn't asked me about. If I don't like him, I shall ask some of you nice, amiable men to get me a long plank, and we'll put it out of a window, and make him walk it. Shall we?"

We all agreed to do this, or to tar and feather and ride on a rail any gentleman who might in any way be so unfortunate as to fall one iota short of Vicky Van's requirements.

"And now," said Vicky, "if you'll all please go downstairs, except Mrs. Reeves and Mr. Garrison and my own sweet self, I'll be orfly obliged to you."

The sweeping gesture with which she sought to dismiss us was a wave of her white arms and a smile of her red lips, and I, for one, found it impossible to obey. I started with the rest, and then after the gay crowd were part way down stairs I turned back.

"Please, mayn't I join your little class, if I'll be very good?" I begged. "I don't want Bert Garrison to be left alone at the mercy of two such sirens."

Miss Van Allen hesitated. Her pink-tipped forefinger rested a moment on her curved lip. "Yes," she said, nodding her head. "Yes, stay, Mr. Calhoun. You may be a help. Are you any good at getting theatre boxes after they're all sold?"

"That's my profession," I returned. "I learned it from a correspondence school. Where's the theatre? Lead me to it!"

"It's the Metropolis Theatre," she replied. "And I want to have a party there to-morrow night, and I want two boxes, and this awful, dreadful, bad Mr. Garrison says they're all sold, and I can't get any! What can you do about it?"

"Oh, I'll fix it. I'll go to the people who bought the boxes you want, and--I don't know what I'll say to them, exactly--but I'll fix up such a yarn that they'll beg me to take the boxes off their hands."

"Oh, will you, really?" and the dazzling smile she gave me would have repaid a much greater Herculean task than I had undertaken. And, of course, I hadn't meant it, but when she thought I did, I couldn't go back on my word.

"I'll do my best, Miss Van Allen," I said, seriously, "and if I can't possibly turn the trick, I'll--well, I'll buy the Metropolitan Opera House, and put on a show of my own."

"No," she laughed, "you needn't do that. But if you try and fail--why, we'll just have a little party here, a sort of consolation party, and--oh, let's have some private theatricals. Wouldn't that be fun!"

"More fun than the original program?" I asked quickly, hoping to be let off my promise.

"No, sir!" she cried, "decidedly not! I want especially to have that theatre party and supper afterward at the Britz. Now you do all you can, won't you?"

I promised to do all I could, and I had a partial hope I could get what she wanted by hook or crook, and then, as she heard a specially favorite fox-trot being dashed off on the piano downstairs, she sprang from her seat, and kicking the satin cushion aside, asked me to dance. In a moment we were whirling around the music room to the zipping music, and Mrs. Reeve and Garrison followed in our steps.

Vicky danced with a natural born talent that is quite unlike anything acquired by lessons. I had no need to guide her, she divined my lead, and swayed in any direction, even as I was about to indicate it. I had never danced with anyone who danced so well, and I was profuse in my thanks and praise.

"I love it," she said simply, as she patted the gold fringes of her gown into place. "I adore dancing, and you are one of the best partners I have ever had. Come, let us go down and cut into a Bridge game. We'll just about have time before supper."

Pirouetting before me, she led the way, and we went down the long steep stairs.

A shout greeted her appearance in the doorway.

"Oh, Vicky, we have missed you! Come over here and listen to Ted's latest old joke!"

"No, come over here and hear this awful gossip Ariadne is telling for solemn truth. It's the very worst taradiddle she ever got off!"

"Here's a place, Vicky Van, a nice cosy corner, 'tween Jim and me. Come on, Ladygirl."

"No, thanks, everybody. I'm going to cut in at this table. May I? Am I a nuisance?"

"A Vicky-nuisance! They ain't no such animal!" and Bailey Mason rose to give her his chair.

"No," said she, "I want you to stay, Mr. Mason. 'Cause why, I want to play wiz you. Cassie, you give me your place, won't you, Ducky-Daddles? and you go and flirt with Mr. Calhoun. He knows the very newest flirts! Go, give him a tryout."


Vicky Van - 2/40

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