Chaperoning Camelia

W. L. WENDALL From Pearson's Magazine September 1 1909

Chaperoning Camelia

W. L. WENDALL From Pearson's Magazine September 1 1909

Chaperoning Camelia

W. L. WENDALL From Pearson's Magazine

"LONG distance from Rose-

mere for Mr. Ferrell,” an-

nounced the office boy, at the establishment of Bowen, Bowen and Ferrell. Mr. John Blount Ferrell, in the act of struggling into a refractory sleeve, gave a desperate pull, felt and heard a responding rip, and dashed into the telephone box. lie had just ten minutes in which to catch the Rosemere Special, leaving the Fortysecond Street station at 5.10.

“Ilello—hello!" cried Air. Ferrell in pardonable haste.

“Ilello," a faint murmur rippled back. “Is that you, John ! This is Aí illy speaking — yes, your sister Milly. John, the Browns are in an awful fix. Ilello! Can you hear? Yes, our next door neighbors the Browns. Airs. Brown expected to br-brNew York to shop and meet br-brr who is coming back br-br her. They were to meet at the station, but the baby swallowed—I mean, tried to swallow, a br-brhook— what is that? A”ou will miss your train? Oh, you mustn’t. I’ll hurry. The baby—yes, at the Forty-second Street station. She has never br-brNew York br-brfore. You mustn’t miss her—what? Yes, yes, you are to meet her and explain. Ilow will you know her? Oh, good gracious, I haven’t the slightesct idea. Airs. Br-browas so upset about the baby. Her name? Why. it’s Ca-cabr-br r-r-brsh."

Air. Ferrell pressed his hand wild-

lv to his forehead. “What?" he he shouted. “I didn’t catch the name.”

“Ca-ca-brsh-brsh,” answered Air-. Lancing from Rosemere.

“Line’s crossed. Wait a minute. New York," said the operator.

Air. Ferrell glanced at the clock. It was upon the stroke of five. He hung up the receiver, snatched his suitcase and dashed out of the office, wheeling from Thirty-ninth Street into Fifth Avenue, and tacked up that stately thoroughfare desperately, regardless of the indignant protests which greeted him on all sides as he came into violent contact with the pedestrians who, at this festive hour of five, were taking their daily promenade.

As Air. Ferrell entered the station, he was greeted by the megaphone gentleman announcing in stentorian tones that the Rosemere Special would leave in seven minutes. Air. Ferrell glanced helplessly around the green and white grandeur of the place, never as at that moment so conscious of its vastness. Somewhere. somehow, in that rushing, shouting multitude, he was to find Airs. Browns friend. “Where. Oh where, is the friend of the friend of mv sister?" chanted the young man as he worked his way through the crowd toward the gateway leading to the Rosemere Special. An inconsiderate baby yelled blatantly in Air. Ferrell's ears, but it did not prove to be the voice of the oracle

A big, masterful-looking man with blue eyes and a brown curly beard was roaring above the baby’s anthem at a young woman who stood at Air. Ferrell’s right.

"Well, Aliss Campbell, my time’s up. Train leaves in three minutes. Sorry to leave you alone.”

The young woman held out a gray-gloved hand. “Good-bye, AH. Roberts. Yes, do go. You mustn’t lose your train. Don’t worry about me. I am sure AHs. Brown will come in time.”

Air. John Ferrell wheeled spasmodically toward the young person, fastened his eyes upon her and kept them there. The man with the blue eyes and brown curly beard had disappeared. Air. Ferrell pressed forward and bared his head.

“I beg pardon. Are you waiting for Airs. Brown of Rosemere?” asked he in his best tone.

The young woman, who was gowned in a dove-tinted tailor suit and wore a fetching little straw toque to match, raised dove-colored eyes to Air. Ferrell. Their glance was cool and non-committal. It occurred to Air. Ferrell that she resented his question.

“I have a message from Airs. Brown,” he explained hurriedly. “She, that is, my sister, Airs. Lancing, who is Airs. Brown’s next door neighbor, telephoned me from Rosemere just before I left my office, to say that Airs. Brown was unable to come to New York. She asked me to meet you and see that you reached Rosemere safely.”

Aliss Aluriel Campbell’s eyes did not change their expression : neither did they leave Air. Ferrell’s face. They were plainly saying: “Are you telling the truth? I have heard about innocent young women being abducted by wicked men in the heart of a great city, and before the gaze of multitudes.” Yes, that is what the dove-colored eyes were saying to Air, Ferrell,

Air. Ferrell, reading their message, blushed the blush of affronted honest}'. “AIy name is John Ferrell, and I am going out to Rosemere to visit my sister Airs. Boyd Lancing. I am afraid I cannot offer you any credentials other than my word until we reach Rosemere.”

The gray eyes smiled faintly. If looks were to be depended upon, they decided, AH. John Ferrell was honest. Everything about his appearance and bearing indicated the gentleman. And Airs. Brown had not come.

“All aboard for Rosemere Special. Have your tickets ready,” came the summons from Track Four.

There was a startled movement at AH. Ferrell’s side.

“Oh—my bag—Air. Roberts has it,”’ gasped Aliss Campbell.

Air. Ferrell was cruel enough to smile, an indiscretion which he speedily hid behind his hand. “That will be all right” he reassured her. “I can telegraph him at the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street station.”

It was not all right, however, from Aliss Campbell’s viewpoint. Distress was plainly written in her eyes and voice as she made the tragic admission :

“But I haven’t a cent ! Aly pocketbook is in the bag.”

“But my pocket-book isn't,” said Air. Ferrell cheerfully. “Just keep by me. We haven’t a moment to lose.”

From Forty-second Street to One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street Aliss Campbell studied the passing landscape. Air. John Ferrell studied Aliss Campbell.

“It is a most unfortunate affair,” Aliss Campbell announced, suddenly turning her gaze upon the youngman.

Mr. Ferrell hastily shifted his gaze upon the first object which presented itself within his range. “It might have been worse—for me,” he re-

turned kindly. “Over there, for instance.”

“I don’t understand,” said Miss Campbell, crisply. It was not the answer she had expected—if, indeed, it can be said that she expected any.

“Third seat across the aisle,” directed the young man, “green feathers. It might have been she— she might have been you — you might have been she,” he continued lucidly.

Miss Campbell beamed comprehensively. “It is what I should call an Irish idyl,” she murmured. “Generations of hod-carriers are stamped upon that ample brow—and jaw.”

“Especially the jaw,” Mr. Ferrell added. “It is truly Celtic.” Emboldened by this little exchange of humor, Mr. Ferrell ventured to say, “Aren’t you glad for my sake that you arn’t she?”

Miss Campbell opened her magazine. “Don’t you want to smoke, Air. Ferrell?” she asked gently.

“No,” answered Air. Ferrell promptly, “unless you want to read. Don’t let me keep you from it,” he urged politely.

Miss Campbell turned to the first article. It was on Municipal Government. “If you don’t mind, I will,” she said, and bent her eyes upon the page. “If he isn’t telling the truth, I shall find it out when we reach Rosemere,” she thought. “Rhoda or Dick will surely meet me at the station. He wouldn’t dare carry it farther. What could have kept Rhoda away?” She glanced at her companion. His eyes were fastened in a mesmeric gaze upon the green feathers.

“Did you find out what prevented Mrs. Brown from meeting me? asked Miss Campbell.

Mr. Ferrell’s countenance cleared. “W by the baby swallowed the button-hook," he said brightly.

“What?” cried Miss Campbell.

“That is, he—she — it tried to swallow the button-hook. I don’t

think it got all the way down,” he reassured her. “The lines got crossed. It was awfully hard to understand what AI illy said.”

“Well, I hope it didn’t go all the way down,” said Miss Campbell. “Rhoda’s baby is too old to swallow button-hooks. He must be four years.”

Mr. Ferrell gazed absently out of the window. Babies were a subject of which he had little knowledge. He was the second and last child, and Alilly had always played the role of “little mother” rather than of sister.

“Green feathers is going to slee])." announced Mr. Ferrell a moment later. “I am convinced that she is the sort of person w ho snores.”

From the third seat across the aisle came an unmistakable sound. The feathers swayed wildly, then lurched forward.

“You are right : she is,” said Miss Campbell. “When do we reach Rosemere ?”

“In about ten minutes, I am afraid,” said the young man.

“Rosemere! All off for South Rosemere !” shouted the conductor.

“We go to North Rosemere,” explained Mr. Ferrell. “There are four Rosemeres, you know', like the Oranges.”

“Then I should have been in a fix if I hadn’t met you,” Miss Campbell was gracious enough to acknowledge. “Mrs. Brown has invited some people to dinner to-night, I believe. There is to be a dance at the club later." Miss Campbell closed her remark with a conscious little cough. Mr. Ferrell’s eyes were patiently asking a question. She hoped it would not get beyond the eyes. But it did.

“Then—I may have some dances." asked Mr. Ferrell audibly.

“Oh—poor Green Feathers!” cried Miss Campbell in distress. “She almost toppled off" just then. Don’t vou want to waken her? Think

what a fall it would be if she did go down.”

“But she isn’t going to,” said Mr. Ferrell calmly. “I — 1 think you were unduly exercised,” he added primly. Did the child think him a fool?—wondered Air. John Ferrell. All the king’s horses could not .»ave drawn his request for a dance trom him again. Lie was a sensitive fellow, was Air. Ferrell.

“Rosemere! All oft" for North Rosemere!” came the summons.

“Green Feathers is taking notice,” observed Aliss Campbell, as they passed down the aisle. “Do you think Rosemere is her destination?”

Air. Ferrell glanced backward. “There is every indication that it is. Shall we hurry and avoid the brogue ?”

A pretty little woman gowned in a fresh muslin frock was advancing down the Rosemere station platform. Two children trotted beside her. Air. Ferrell raised his hat and waved it.

“There is Airs. Brown,” he cried. The muslin-frocked woman and the children waved and smiled their greeting. A moment later they were together.

“Well, did you find her, Air. Ferrell?” Mrs. Brown’s face wore an anxious look. “Oh, I hope you chd,” she gasped. “The poor dear soul could never get here alone.”

“Did I find her?” chuckled Mr. Ferrell. “It was the easiest thing I ever had to do. Here she is, prepaid, right side up, '¡handled with care,” the young man babbled on.

“Aliss Campbell”-he turned with

a smile to his traveling companion. The smile died a young and instantaneous death. His glance traveled madly back to Airs. Brown. A cold ripple shot down Air. Ferrell’s spine. Both ladies were starting at each other in dazed and stony silence.

“I never saw this—this young lady in my life, Aír. Ferrell.” Airs. Brown’s tone was icy. Her smile had vanished. Her eyes were tak-

ing disapproving inventory of the perfect gown, the cool, self-possessed bearing of the younger woman. It’ was an appearance that would mislead the most circumspect young man. It had mislead poor, young Air. Ferrell. But it had not misled Airs. Brown. No indeed.

Air. Ferrell gasped. Never saw Aliss Campbell? He refused to accept the rejection. It left a conjecture too impossible to contemplate. The knight-errant raised fearful eyes to his lady. That the only explanation of this inexplainable situation devolved upon her he was most unhappily conscious. He saw, with a half fearful relief, that she was about to give it.

“Why—I never saw this — this lady in my life,” cried Aliss Campbell, flashing belligerent glances at Air. Ferrell. His own glance fell beneath the scorn in hers. He could not face the accusation which it held. “Air. Ferrell, where is Airs. Brown ?”

“Here,” signed Mr. Ferrell “the only Airs. Brown I know. Of course, there has been a mistake somewhere, somehow,” he went on wearily. “I assure you, Aliss Campbell-”

“Aliss Campbell?” echoed Airs. Brown. “Why, Alilly told you Brewster—Camelia Brewster. Didn’t you hear her?”

Air. Ferrell smiled. It was not a happy smile. It was a weak, simpering movement of lips too weak to keep together. Face Aliss Muriel Campbell he could not. He turned feverishly to Airs. Brown.

“The lines were crossed. I had an awful time hearing Alilly. There was something about the baby swallowing a button-hook. It prevented you from going into the city. (Airs. Brown nodded.) You were to meet some one at the Forty-second Street station—am I right so far? (Another nod. Hope rayed the gloom in Air. Ferrell’s soul. He should, at

least, be exonerated from the base suspicion which lurked in Aliss Aí Uriel Campbell’s breast.) Alilly did try to give me the — the person’s name. But the lines got crossed and I couldn’t hear a word.” Aír. Ferrell’s forehead was damp. lie absently mopped it with his sleeve and picked an imaginary thread from the lapel of his coat.

“Of course, there has been an unfortunate mistake. It seems to have been a misunderstanding on all sides.” Aliss Campbell’s voice was cool and crisp. She was for the first time addressing Mrs. Brown. “I went to the station expecting to meet my friend, Airs. Richard Brown-”

“Airs. Richard Brown !” shrilled the other lady. “Airs. Richard Brown!” she repeated in italics. The iciness in her voice melted into laughter. “Why, Richard Brown is my husband’s brother. They live in Wrest Rosemere.”

Aliss Campbell looked from Airs. Brown to Aír. Ferrell with dazed eyes. “Then, where am I?” she demanded.

“You are in North Rosemere,” said Air. Ferrell gently.

“Then where is Camelia Brewster?” demanded Airs. Brown. Air. Ferrell did not know. Fortunatelv, he did not have to answer.

“Fiere is Camelia, Airs. Brown dearie,” cried a cheery voice from the crowd.

I hen an unexpected thing happened. Aliss Campbell gave a stifled shriek and stared at the approacher through streaming tears of laughter. Air. Ferrell’s broad shoulders collapsed suddenly. Ilis body began to sway with an emotion which proved to be an acute attack of smothered mirth.

“Green Feathers, Green Feathers," gasped the young man, and was immediately seized with another attack.

True enough — Green Feathers. Her fat old face beaming with complacent joy, the green feathers waving jubilantly above an upholstered pompadour of wondrous design and hue, Camelia the Celt was sailing breezily down the platform, full rigged, with penants flying.

“’Tis in the smokin’ cart yez must have rid, Alissis Brown,” was her greeting. “I come to the station airly and I sez to the gintleman at the gate, sez I, ‘Whin Airs. Brown comes for Camelia Brewster, till her I have wint into th’ cart. You mind her?’ sez 1. ‘Yes,’ sez he, T know her well.’ Whin th’ injine het up, dearie, and begin to rip an’ snort an' jerk (it minded me of me sister Elbe’s boy Tim as had the St. Yitual’s Dance, Airs. Brown), I was crazy for sure. And was it in the smokin’ cart yez rid. Airs. Brown, dearie ?”

"Airs. Brown dearie" gently placed the children's hands in Camelia’s. She was struggling valiantly against her desire to join in the song of mirth which still gurgled in the throats of Aliss Aluriel Campbell and Aha John Ferrell.

"Take the children and wait for me in the trap. Camelia,” she said, quelling the eloquent flow of Camelia’s brogue with the tone and look which the old servant of twelve years’ faithful service had learned to know — and obey. But Camelia’s glance was roving toward the mirthful ones. Recognition gleamed in her eyes and drew a smiling gap across the ample jaw.

“Aw—aw—” she coquetted, “I seen yez in th' cart." Jubilant laughter bubbled through the gap. Camelia leaned forward confidentially. “But the cart is a gr-r-and place for sweetheartin’!” she whispered.

Aliss Campbell’s mirth subsided into shocked silence. She drew herself up stiffly and gazed after the departing train.

AH. Ferrell’s mirth subsided into

an hysterical giggle. He, too, sought refuge in the Rosemere Special.

“The trap, Camelia,” Mrs. Brown pointed toward the road. Camelia obeyed. There was no mistaking that tone. Her mistress turned to the others. “1 think that the situation has explained itself,” she laughed. “Perhaps, Miss Campbell, you would like to telephone over to Rhoda. There is a trol-”

“I shall take Miss Campbell over in Boyd’s auto,” broke in Mr. Ferrell hurriedly.

“Is there no other way? Are there no trains?” asked Miss Campbell.

“There is a trol-” joined Mrs.

Brown.

“There is no other convenient way. There are no more trains tonight,” interrupted Mr. Ferrell emphatically. “I can get you over in thirty minutes, Miss Campbell. If you will wait here, I will run up and get the machine. We—we can arrange about those dances goingover,” he added boldly.

Miss Campbell inspected the landscape directly behind Mr. Ferrell. It was unresponsive, very, and noncompelling, whereas Mr. Ferrell’s eyes-

“Yes—we can arrange that goingover,” she murmured, meeting the eyes, conscious for the first time that they were dark and long and had very bright lights in them — altogether attractive eyes and good to look into.

Two weeks later, the “Flyer,” Mr. Boyd Lancing’s touring car, swung leisurely down the Rosemere highway and into a world of gold. In the front seats were Mr. John Ferrell and Miss Muriel Campbell. The back seats were heaped with rugs and lunch baskets and a quantity of

magazines. It may be remarked here that while the rugs and lunch baskets were appreciated to the lull, the magazines returned from that afternoon’s trip with their pages uncut, their covers unturned.

“This is the fourteenth ride l have taken in the ‘Flyer’,” observed Miss Campbell. To whom, I wonder, does the ‘Flyer’ belong.”

“I guess Mr. Boyd Lancing is beginning to think it belongs to John Ferrell,” grinned the young man. 1 íe slackened the machine from second to first speed. “T am thinking of buying a Comstock,” contined Mr. Ferrell settling back and looking at his companion. “What do you think of it ?”

Miss Campbell studied the sunlight effects upon an approaching haystack. “Two weeks ago you said that automobiles were the pest of modern civilization,” she remarked. “Why have you changed your mind ?”

“Do you really want to know?” asked Mr. Ferrell slowly. The world had turned from gold to green. The “Flyer,” nosing lier way through a woodland road, came to a standstill. Mr. Ferrell leaned toward his companion. There were danger signals in his eyes. But Miss Muriel Campbell came of fighting stock. Retreat was not for her.

“Yes, I really want to know,” she answered bravely.

“In the words of Camelia,” the young man’s voice trembled between laughter and tenderness, “I have learned that ‘the cart is a gr-r-and place for sweetheartin’ !’ Do you agree with me—Muriel ?”

Miss Campbell looked into Ferrell’s eyes. “Yes,” she answered suddenly.