The Dodds-Sinders stories will run in MaeLean’s during January, February and March. The stories record the experiences of a Canadian family which suddenly acquires wealth and endeavors to attain social prominence. The three chapters deal with the Dodds-Sinders at home, abroad, and on their return. Mr. Cahn has given all of the stories a delightfully humorous turn.
THE doorbell rang just as James, butler to the Sinders family, was in the midst of a graphic account of how Miss Birdie Sinders had managed to overturn a plate full of soup into her young man’s lap the evening before. He had reached the most dramatic part of his story, there was a broad grin upon the faces of all his hearers and James was too much of an artist to stop upon, the very brink of a climax.
He continued and the bell sounded again, but not until he was rewarded by a howl of laughter from the Jimpkin’s butler, Mrs. Jimpkin’s maid, all the Sinders servants and Jones’ valet assembled in the kitchen and disposed around a table decorated with several bottles of Sinders’ best imported beer, did he make any move to answer.
As the echoes died away after the second summons, James donned his coat, pulled down his cuffs and assuming his professional air of funeral gravity picked up the solid silver card tray from a corner of the stove and leisurely proceeded to the discharge of his duty.
Mr. Sinders, feeling himself to be in bad odor with his family, had taken refuge from their wrath in the library, that vault-like home of learning in the most expensive bindings, arranged upon the shelves in a sort of checkerboard effect that Sinders thought and freely said was “swell and neat.”
All the books in black bindings were
together, those in grey beneath, flanked a little below by those in green and red. Sinders had been to considerable pains to find shades enough to continue the idea upon all four walls of the big room and had not spared expense, even going to the lengths of having a stack of city directories rebound in sky blue to fill out a corner.
But, even in the midst of his literary kaleidoscope, Sinders was not happy, for he had nothing to read.
Mrs. Sinders and the girls carefully examined every book and magazine that came to the house and had, ever since the awful day when Mrs. T. T. Byble had found nothing but fashion plates and five numbers of the Pinkun and seven of a horrible Yankee Police Gazette on the library table.
Sinders had been sitting gloomily smoking and wishing himself poor again when the first summons came, lie sprang up and was making for the door when he recollected that he now had a butler to open doors and so even that small pleasure was denied him. At the second ring he began to hope that James had fallen down the cellar stairs and broken his superior neck and to wonder if he did not now have sufficient excuse to offer Sally for answering it himself.
Then it flashed upon him that in a reckless moment that day he had invited old Donald Hicks to call upon him and have a pipe whilst they talked over the old days. He shuddered at the thought of a visit from Hicks upon such an evening. He would just tip him the wink to make himself scarce since the Missis and the girls were in such critical humors.
Sinders scrambled out of the enormous chair in which he was half buried and hastened across the slippery polished floors toward the door. He trod as warily as a cat upon hot bricks but a rug with all the fiendish treachery of the Persian slid beneath him and all but laid him low. At this instant he heard James approaching and promptly gave way to downright panic.
He would have sworn before all the Iv.C.’s in Canada that he who stood without the portal was none other than Donald Hicks, stewed of course, for was it not close on to ten p.m. ; had not Donald made a modest clean-up at Porcupine, and who, with brains in his head, putting those things together could doubt but what he had employed every shining moment in an energetic attempt to put himself outside of all the moisture to be had in the city—far famed as the most virtuous in Canada?
Hicks was unconventional at all times, but at ten in the evening of a festive day! Well, he must be headed off at all costs. What might he not say to the painfully correct and formal James? What sort of a shindy would he not kick up right there on the doorstep? St. George Street, hearing it, would elevate its already lofty nose and Sally and the girls—•
Sinders bit his under lip and swore a miner’s oath to reach that door first.
Alas, thanks to the slippery floor and the cursed Persian he had lost too much time. He heard his butler sliding back the door and entering the hall. He had seen his employer leaping from rug to rug down the long vista of the rooms and, knowing that if he allowed him to open the door he would hear from Mrs. Sinders without fail, hastened his pace to a dog trot.
“Hi’ll hawnser, sir!” he said, but Sinders still kept on.
“The old fool is getting deaf,” thought James and mended his pace. Sinders not daring to raise his voice lest Sally should overhear, increased his pace and so, master and man ran nothing more nor less than a foot-race to the door.
Thanks to the butler’s handicap, Sinders won by a nose and opened the door.
Sure enough, there stood, or rather leaned, friend Hicks, very much the worse for wear and showing every sign of distress in visage and eccentric apparel. He was shedding copious tears and vainly endeavoring to dry them upon the hard and unresponsive surface of all that remained of a three-dollar derby hat.
The verandah light was bathing this operation in a golden glow and the departing guests at the house across the way were showing marked signs of interest.
One glance was enough to reveal to Sinders the futility of asking Donald to depart. He must remove him from the public gaze, come what might. He reached for Donald’s collar with one hand and for the light switches with the other.
His friend’s untimely lurch forward confused him and so he not only failed to put out the verandah light but jerked Hicks into a hall as dark as the inside of a blind man’s hat.
James, mystified by all this, had retired a few feet and stood waiting, partly for orders but mostly in order to hear what was to happen next.
The slamming of the front door and Donald’s incoherent greetings brought Mrs. Sinders rustling to the head of the stairs.
“James!” she called, alarmed at the darkness and the strange voice.
“Yes, madam,” said James from the gloom.
“What’s the trouble? Turn on the lights! This instanti”
“No, sir!” hissed Sinders desperately.
“Nozzer lady lost in the fog,” observed Hicks. “I’ll shin g to keep ’er company.” And he raised his voice.
“Shut up !” roared Sinders.
“Turn on the lights!” called Mrs. Sinders furiously.
James started for the switches. Sinders pushed Hicks toward the library; he protested and tried to go the other way. Mrs. Sinders ran down the stairs just in time to meet all three at the foot of them. There was a head-splitting collision and they all fell in a heap, the four-hundred-dollar grandfather clock, which had just that day been sent home from Byryre’s and forgotten in its new place, crashing over upon them.
There was a shower of glass, the chimes sounded wildly and then they untangled themselves.
“Beg pardon, sir,” said James.
“Police!” croaked Donald. “It’s a raid!” Mrs. Sinders began to scold vehemently, and what Sinders said could never be repeated.
The girls came running, the French maid excitedly telephoned for the police, the neighbor’s servants remained in the background but missed none of the details and Donald, separated from the debris of the grandfather clock, was thrust into the library and onto the lounge to sleep it off and be out of harm’s way. Instead of subsiding, however, he amused himself by pulling down books and endeavoring to throw them back into place after the manner of a game of quoits.
After all this, of course, no power on earth could save Sinders from the interview with Sally and the girls which had been impending all evening. He answered the numerous questions of the policeman who came in answer to the maid’s call, and bribed James into a promise of silence, under the impression that he was the only dangerous witness, and then he meekly obeyed orders and joined his wife in her sittingroom.
Nora and Birdie were there, too. He saw that they had recently been weeping and his heart softened, until he noticed that they both wore the gowns whose exaggerated cut had provoked
him to stern criticism earlier in the. evening.
He sat down before his better fiveeighths, jauntily crossed his legs and thrust his thumbs into the arm-holes of his vest.
His wife looked at him witheringly until he could bear it no longer.
“Sally! As sure as my name’s Sandy Sinders I-”
“Don’t call me Sally. And your name is not Sandy. You are S. Hobson Sinders, or at least you used to be, but the girls and me have decided that from now on you and us are the DoddsSinders. Your ma’s folks were Dodds and good people in the old country and everybody knows I was a Dodds, and my family can’t be beat in Canada, so we are Dodds-Sinders from this out.”
“But everybody calls me Sandy. All the boys-”
“Don’t interrupt ! It’s bad form and
‘Sandy’ is vulgar.”
“The boys, miners like that Hicks, we are not going to know any more. They’re bad form.”
Seeing the downcast look upon her father’s face Birdie handed him a card upon which was engraved “Dodds-Sinders.” “See here, pa, it looks swell.”
He looked at it doubtfully.
“What’s this here mark?”
“It’s a hyphen.”
“Hi—hife—Dodds, line between Sinders, eh? I’ll keep this, Birdie, and learn it before I spring it on anybody.”
Mrs. Sinders sighed impatiently. “There you are again, using slang. I tell you Dodds-Sinders we will never get anywhere or be anything until you get refined.”
“Well, Sally, Sarah I mean! We don’t need to be refined. We’ve got plenty of money. We have one of the swellest houses, and the swellest clothes and-”
“Yes, and nobody will look at us because everybody calls you Sandy and slaps you on the back, and folks like Hicks come and make a show of us. Everybody has heard about how your ma insisted on doing the cooking herself even though I have a high-priced French chef in the kitchen, and she would call him “Cheffie” and gossip with the Jimpkin’s maid over the back fence.”
“Well, ma can make better tea-biscuit than that chef and you used to gossip with everybody up in the mines.”
“Oh, be still! Porcupine’s society don’t count. We are millionaires now. I want Nora and Birdie to have some chance.”
“So do I.”
“Well, for pity’s sake then, pa, don’t order any more ‘cuisine’ at a restaurant.”
“Say!” exclaimed Dodds-Sinders, interested at last, “I could see from that waiter’s face that something was wrong. I heard Bob Short say the cuisine at that hotel was fine. I was tired of all the queer stuff -we’ve been getting for to top off with and so I says to him, ‘Bring along a big order of that there cuisine.’ ”
Nora, divided between laughter and tears, explained, but her father was still doubtful.
“I don’t know, Nora. Bob Short is up to date. He said it and he ought to know.”
“Him know!” cried Mrs. Dodds-Sinders. “Why, his pa was nothing but a barber.”
“You don’t say! How do you know?”
“I heard Mrs. Toppe-Nyche say he was a barbarian and his father before him. So you see you can’t go by what he says.”
“Urn, maybe, but I could buy and sell the Toppe-Nyches and they don’t live on such a swell street either. I don’t see why you set such store by them.”
“They’re in society, real society, and they know lords and earls and everything in England,” answered Mrs. Dodds-Sinders.
“Pa, we are going to England.”
“What’s that? Don’t they keep it here?”
The silence that greeted this question, and the hopeless expression upon
three feminine faces, made Dodds-Sinders realize that he had made one more mistake. He grinned unhappily.
Nora sprang up and ran to throw her arms around him.
“Dear old dad. This is not your lucky day. I’ll tell you. Ma and Birdie and I have spent a lot of money furnishing up this house like a palace and hiring all these saucy servants and trying to get into the best society, but we can’t do it while we are so ignorant of what’s the right thing to do, and have, and say, and go to.”
“We think that your way of making money is a good way to get what we want if we just use it right. When you first landed in the mines you didn’t know quartz from railroad iron and instead of trying to prospect right away, you hired out and learned from the beginning up—didn’t you?”
Dodds-Sinders nodded and smoothed Nora’s bonny brown head with a diamond-decked but still horny hand.
“Well, we have tried to learn this society life from the top; it don’t work, and so we are going over to England where they really know how, and see if we can’t pick up a few points.”
“Then we will come back here and we will see who turns up their nose at us !” cried Birdie.
“All right, me girls. Go along. I’ll pay the bills and never hoi—complain. Yer ma can’t say I ever denied her a thing I could give her, but look out you don’t come back so culturated that I don’t know you at all.”
They all laughed.
“You are going along, Sam, right along. You need cultivation as much as we do.”
“But Sally, dear, I’m too old to be learning new tricks.”
“Oh, no, you’re not; you’re only forty-seven.”
“I wish I was ninety.”
“It wouldn’t save you.”
“I wish you’d tell me why you-”
“I’ll teach this town that Sarah Dodds-Sinders always gets what she goes after.”
“All right. I’ll go along and watch the fun.”
“Mercy I” exclaimed Birdie, “what a queer odor! Something must be burning.”
Dodds-Sinders gave a gasp and dashed down to the library followed by his family.
There, on the hearth-rug before the fire lay Donald Hicks fast asleep, beside him were two gold fish and a third, impaled upon the papercutter, was toasted to a turn.
They looked at their unconscious guest with various expressions and finally Mrs. Dodds-Sinders spoke.
“Samuel, please don’t make any
friends like Hicks in London. It’s a good thing we are sailing next week.” “I’ll be awful lonesome over there, Sarah. Can’t I take along a valet for company?”
“Certainly ! The very thing.”
“All right. I’ll sober up Hicks. He needs culturating too and me and him could have some fun I bet you.”
“I bet you can’t!” chorused three indignant voices.
Dodds-Sinders, left alone, sank into a chair beside Hicks. “You lucky pup,” he said enviously. “You ain’t got a copper to your name and ain’t never going to have. I wish you was me and I was you.”
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