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- The Rich Mrs. Burgoyne - 1/25 -


THE RICH MRS. BURGOYNE

KATHLEEN NORRIS

TO KATHLEEN MARY THOMPSON

Lover of books, who never fails to find Some good in every book, your namesake sends This book to you, knowing you always kind To small things, timid and in need of friends.

O friend! I know not which way I must look For comfort, being, as I am, opprest, To think that now our life is only drest For show; mean handy-work of craftsman, cook, Or groom!--We must run glittering like a brook In the open sunshine, or we are unblest; The wealthiest man among us is the best: No grandeur now in nature or in book Delights us. Rapine, avarice, expense, This is idolatry; and these we adore: Plain living and high thinking are no more: The homely beauty of the good old cause Is gone; our peace, our fearful innocence. And pure religion breathing household laws. --WILLIAM WORDSWORTH.

CHAPTER I

"Annie, what are you doing? Polishing the ramekins? Oh, that's right. Did the extra ramekins come from Mrs. Brown? Didn't! Then as soon as the children come back I'll send for them; I wish you'd remind me. Did Mrs. Binney come? and Lizzie? Oh, that's good. Where are they? Down in the cellar! Oh, did the extra ice come? Will you find out, Annie? Those can wait. If it didn't, the mousse is ruined, that's all! No, wait, Annie, I'll go out and see Celia myself."

Little Mrs. George Carew, flushed and excited, crossed the pantry as she spoke, and pushed open the swinging door that connected it with the kitchen. She was a pretty woman, even now when her hair, already dressed, was hidden under snugly pinned veils and her trim little figure lost under a flying kimono. Mrs. Carew was expecting the twenty-eight members of the Santa Paloma Bridge Club on this particular evening, and now, at three o'clock on a beautiful April afternoon, she was almost frantic with fatigue and nervousness. The house had been cleaned thoroughly the day before, rugs shaken, mirrors polished, floors oiled; the grand piano had been closed, and pushed against the wall; the reading-table had been cleared, and wheeled out under the turn of the stairway; the pretty drawing-room and square big entrance hall had been emptied to make room for the seven little card-tables that were already set up, and for the twenty-eight straight-back chairs that Mrs. Carew had collected from the dining-room, the bedrooms, the halls, and even the nursery, for the occasion. All this had been done the day before, and Mrs. Carew, awakening early in the morning to uneasy anticipations of a full day, had yet felt that the main work of preparation was out of the way.

But now, in mid-afternoon, nothing seemed done. There were flowers still to arrange; there was the mild punch that Santa Paloma affected at card parties to be finished; there was candy to be put about on the tables, in little silver dishes; and new packs of cards, and pencils and score-cards to be scattered about. And in the kitchen--But Mrs. Carew's heart failed at the thought. True, her own two maids were being helped out to-day by Mrs. Binney from the village, a tower of strength in an emergency, and by Lizzie Binney, a worthy daughter of her mother; but there had been so many stupid delays. And plates, and glasses, and punch-cups, and silver, and napkins for twenty-eight meant such a lot of counting and sorting and polishing! And somehow George and the children must have dinner, and the Binneys and Celia and Annie must eat, too.

"Well," thought Mrs. Carew, with a desperate glance at the kitchen clock, "it will all be over pretty soon, thank goodness!"

A pleasant stir of preparation pervaded the kitchen. Mrs. Binney, enormous, good-natured, capable, was opening crabs at one end of the table, her sleeves rolled up, and her gingham dress, in the last stage of age and thinness, protected by a new stiff white apron; Celia, Mrs. Carew's cook, was sitting opposite her, dismembering two cold roasted fowls; Lizzie Binney, as trim and pretty as her mother was shapeless and plain, was filling silver bonbon-dishes with salted nuts.

"How is everything going, Celia?" said Mrs. Carew, sampling a nut.

"Fine," said Celia placidly. "He didn't bring but two bunches of sullery, so I don't know will I have enough for the salad. They sent the cherries. And Mrs. Binney wants you should taste the punch."

"It's sweet now," said Mrs. Binney, as Mrs. Carew picked up the big mixing-spoon, "but there's the ice to go in."

"Delicious! not one bit too sweet," Mrs. Carew pronounced. "You know that's to be passed around in the little glasses, Lizzie, while we're playing; and a cherry and a piece of pineapple in every glass. Did Annie find the doilies for the big trays? Yes. I got the bowl down; Annie's going to wash it. Oh, the cakes came, didn't they? That's good. And the cream for coffee; that ought to go right on ice. I'll telephone for more celery."

"There's some of these napkins so mussed, laying in the drawer," said Lizzie, "I thought I'd put a couple of irons on and press them out."

"If you have time, I wish you would," Mrs. Carew said, touching the frosted top of an angel-cake with a tentative finger. "I may have to play to-night, Celia," she went on, to her own cook, "but you girls can manage everything, can't you? Dinner really doesn't matter-- scrambled eggs and baked potatoes, something like that, and you'll have to serve it on the side porch."

"Oh, yes'm, we'll manage!" Celia assured her confidently. "We'll clear up here pretty soon, and then there's nothing but the sandwiches to do."

Mrs. Carew went on her way comforted. Celia was not a fancy cook, she reflected, passing through the darkened dining-room, where the long table had been already set with a shining cloth, and where silver and glass gleamed in the darkness, but Celia was reliable. And for a woman with three children, a large house, and but one other maid, Celia was a treasure.

She telephoned the grocer, her eyes roving critically over the hall as she did so. The buttercups, in a great bowl on the table, were already dropping their varnished yellow leaves; Annie must brush those up the very last thing.

"So far, so good!" said Mrs. Carew, straightening the rug at the door with a small heel and dropping wearily into a porch rocker. "There must be one thousand things I ought to be doing," she said, resting her head and shutting her eyes.

It was a warm, delicious afternoon. The little California town lay asleep under a haze of golden sunshine. The Carews' pretty house, with its lawn and garden, was almost the last on River Street, and stood on the slope of a hill that commanded all Santa Paloma Valley. Below it, the wide tree-shaded street descended between other unfenced lawns and other handsome homes.

This was the aristocratic part of the town. The Willard Whites' immense colonial mansion was here; and the Whites, rich, handsome, childless, clever, and nearing the forties, were quite the most prominent people of Santa Paloma. The Wayne Adamses, charming, extravagant young people, lived near; and the Parker Lloyds, who were suspected of hiding rather serious money troubles under their reckless hospitality and unfailing gaiety, were just across the street. On River Street, too, lived dignified, aristocratic old Mrs. Apostleman and nervous, timid Anne Pratt and her brother Walter, whose gloomy, stately old mansion was one of the finest in town. Up at the end of the street were the Carews, and the shabby comfortable home of Dr. and Mrs. Brown, and the neglected white cottage where Barry Valentine and his little son Billy and a studious young Japanese servant led a rather shiftless existence. And although there were other pretty streets in town, and other pleasant well-to- do women who were members of church and club, River Street was unquestionably THE street, and its residents unquestionably THE people of Santa Paloma.

Beyond these homes lay the business part of the town, the railway station, and post-office, the library, and the women's clubhouse, with its red geraniums, red-tiled roof, and plaster arches.

And beyond again were blocks of business buildings, handsome and modern, with metal-sheathed elevators, and tiled vestibules, and heavy, plate-glass windows on the street. There was a drug store quite modern enough to be facing upon Forty-second Street and Broadway, instead of the tree-shaded peace of Santa Paloma's main street. At its cool and glittering fountain indeed, a hundred drinks could be mixed of which Broadway never even heard. And on Broadway, three thousand miles away, the women who shopped were buying the same boxed powders, the same bottled toilet waters, the same patented soaps and brushes and candies that were to be found here. And in the immense grocery store nearby there were beautifully spacious departments worthy of any great city, devoted to rare fruits, and coffees and teas, and every pickle that ever came in a glass bottle, and every little spiced fish that ever came in a gay tin. A white-clad young man "demonstrated" a cake-mixer, a blue-clad young woman "demonstrated" jelly-powders.

Nearby were the one or two big dry-goods stores, with lovely gowns in their windows, and milliners' shops, with French hats in their smart Paris boxes--there was even a very tiny, very elegant little shop where pastes and powders and shampooing were the attraction; a


The Rich Mrs. Burgoyne - 1/25

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