This Faithful Chameleon
Moral: If you’re fishing for a man don’t pretend that you like to fish for fish
THE BALLROOM, a ballroom no longer, had become a theatre given over to a benefit performance. The hotel guests, from being mere hotel guests, had jelled into an audience. And Jill Cummings herself who might, as just another pretty girl, be seen at any hour on the tennis courts, on the links, dancing upon this very floor, had emerged as something reminiscent of the theatre. Reminiscent of that faintly mysterious school of ladies who perch on pianos or lean against lamp posts on darkened stage sets, and wail of lost loves. Pretty little Jill Cummings.
She was standing there on the platform with all the ease of an old trouper. She was lounging gracefully to the music, shrugging her slim shoulders, making moan in the'orthodox, torch-song manner.
"... did I remember to tell you I adore you ...” she sang.
And, in the sixth of the concocted rows of seats, the mousy gentleman arched an eyebrow, touched a waxen whisker, turned to the lovely lady at his side.
“How long,” he murmured, “has this been going on?” At which the lady, who was Jill Cummings’ mother, smiled beautifully.
“Jill,” she said, “met young Philip Crump, whom you may see a few rows ahead whispering with Jean Hart, just three days ago.”
And she said no more, as though everything that should be explained had now been explained.
The mousy gentleman lifted his eyebrow another notch, unenlightened.
“Dear Mr. Selby, it is so clear,” Jill Cummings’ mother assured him, and opened a small archaic fan to screen her murmurings. She said: “Ypung Philip Crump knows this Bessie Tatë. Bessie Tate, trie latest of the revue stars. I overheard him this morning telling my Jill that he thinks Bessie superb, simply superb.”
“Yes?” wondered the mousy gentleman, Mr. Selby. “And my Jill, Mr. Selby, happens to be among the most impressionable of girls. She matches her colors to the taste of the young man of the moment.”
The mousy gentleman’s bright eyes brightened. “And so,” he murmured, “she sings like this?”
“Like Bessie.” Jill Cummings’ mother smiled behind her fan. “A complete little chameleon, my daughter. It’s really, very simple. And simplifying. I always can tell, quite automatically, which of the half-dozen young men underfoot she has settled her firm if momentary affections upon.”
“Very trying,” Mr. Selby found it.
Jill Cummings’ mother bent her charmingly dated head. She said: • p.
“At times. There was the hoyden incarnation, for instance; and the athletic, which was because of a college boy and dreadful for her complexion; and the intellectual, which was really dreadful for me. But, for this current crooning ...” And she flashed lovely eyes toward young Philip Crump’s excellent profile. “For this I can scarcely blame her.”
“All women,” Mr. Selby sniffed, “are chameleons.” Whereupon he contemplated his burnished toes profoundly.
“It is possible.” A shrug of gleaming shoulders conceded him the point. “But she is^a charming child, isn’t she, Mr. Selby?”
“. . . did I remember ...” Jill Cummings, the charming child, still moaned her song.
She was doing it well. With an enormous seriousness, in an acceptably husky voice, with self-possession. To watch her, no one might suspect that here was a young woman whose attention had long since abandoned her own singing. Whose attention, in fact, was even now concentrated on the third row centre, where sat Philip Crump and that romantically brunette young woman, Jean Hart, whispering beside him. ■ *-
In a day or two Jean Hart would be leaving for the’dty, and probably by the same train as Philip Crump, whose visit to his uncle was nearing an end.
“. . . that I adore you ...” Jill Cummings sang, and abruptly signalled the hotel orchestra that another chorus might be dispensed with.
But she was not to be let off in an instant. There was enthusiastic applause, an encore demanded. More applause.
There was make-up to be removed, congratulations to be smiled through, before she could make her way, coolly and as the crow flies, out into the long red-and-rattan lobby of the hotel.
PHIL CRUMP was standing alone near an elevator.
Jill said, “Hi,” to him in her new and throaty voice. And he turned to grin at her.
“You’ll do,” he said. “You out-bessied Bessie Tate tonight.”
He said it cheerfully and in his usual brotherly or benevolent manner. As though Jill’s hair were not amber and her eyes dark and wide.
But Jill went on smiling at him, hand on hip, looking worldly wise. “My public,” she murmured.
It was not the best moment for that romantic little brunette, Jean Hart, to appear around the comer of the impressive Crump shoulders.
Facing Phil Crump, she spoke to Jill, languidly enthused. “You were divine,” she told Jill. “I never possibly could do all those subtle heart throbs and slides the way you do them.”
Cautiously Jill looked pleased for her.
“As for singing in front of so many people,” Jean Hart declared, “I’d die. I simply would.”
She shivered a dainty little shiver at the thought, and Jill murmured politely that that, of course, was foolish.
And Philip Cramp, in simple masculine oblivion, beamed impartially upon them both, said: “Jean has
promised to sing alone for me, Jill. A private audition. You come to it, too. You and I won’t add up to many people.”
At which Miss Hart appeared quaintly fluttered. She insisted that they would be bored. She could not, it seemed, sing jazz. “Only old-fashioned songs my gran’ma taught me. And they do sound better with a harp, and, of course, I haven’t a harp with me up here in the mountains.” Hands clasped, dark head tilted, her frock fluttering about her, she looked very sweet, very appealing.
Phil Cramp continued to beam. And Jill, committed to jazz and its temperament, opened her lips as though to speak, rigidly closed them again. She might even then have spoken, had her lovely mother not swept up, the mousy gentleman,
Mr. Selby, in her wake.
Mrs. Cummings paused. She bestowed a dazzling smile upon young Mr. Crump, upon Jean Hart and Jill herself. And, with the smile, a glance as canny as it was charming.
The situation, in an instant, was hers.
She spoke to them, and presently reminded them—beautifully as she did everything beautifully—that they were soon due at a gala downstairs in the grill.
She said: “But first Phil’s uncle must be made to contribute to the benefit fund. It is dreadful. He wasn’t at the performance tonight.” Skilfully she drew Jean Hart’s arm through her own, manoeuvred toward an outlying corner. “And you, my dear, shall help me,” she assured her. “Yes, you shall.
As a wheedler of uncles, I am positive you are superb. You shall wheedle while I lend moral support, and between us we shall net a fat cheque for the Fund.”
Sweetly furious, Jean Hart could slip her net only vocally, call across her pretty shoulder, “Don’t forget! The grill in half an hour.” Rather more to Philip Crump than to Jill. And, as he smiled and nodded, she seemed resigned, even content to have her arm dipped more firmly through Mrs.
Cummings’ for a thorough exit.
Watching, Jill had the look of a young woman appreciating a parent. She also had the look of a young woman at whose side is a handsome, a cordial enough but not particularly attentive, young man.
He was saying: “Amusing kid, Jean.
Imagine playing a harp and singing ballads in this day and age. I like her.”
After a moment Jill said: “You like her even without a Bessie Tate technique?” lightly, as though it did not much matter.
Phil Crump grinned and said certainly he liked her without it. “Why not?” he said.
“A little sentiment and sentimentality in a girl are grand now and then. Shall we march on that grill gala now?”
Jill agreed that they should march. She said: “Tell me, is it going to be very gala?”
But she said it absently, engaged for the moment as definitely as the small, bewildered chameleon her mother had called her, in slipping to a new spot along the prismatic scale.
“A little sentiment and sentimentality are grand ...”
She and Phil were walking together down
the red-carpeted peacock alley of the hotel, past elderly people who smiled and nodded at her, past young people who shouted at her that her singing liad been elegant, absolutely elegant, past a certain wistful young man who, until three days before and Phil Crump’s arrival, had been the source of much golf enthusiasm.
She was following Phil Crump. She was going through the motions, and she was, it appeared, oblivious to thç motions, lost in thought, preoccupied.
“A little sentiment and sentimentality . . .”
Her preoccupation insulated her. It still hung about her as she abruptly paused, told Phil that he should go down to the grill alone, ahead of her.
“I’ll be along in a moment.” she told him. “This dress won’t do, you see. It’s for singing, not dancing,” she said, vaguely waved her hands.
And then she turned, darted upstairs for a mysterious twenty minutes. A successful, a triumphant twenty minutes.
IT WAS DARK in the grillroom. Small blue lights nestled dimly along the moss-hung walls. Faces there were blurred white spots, and on the swarming dance floor bright gowns and the black of masculine formality dissolved into a grey sameness. In a corner, four negroes pounded out throbbing jazz.
Jill Cummings hesitated in the doorway, and the white blurs that were faces turned toward her. She hesitated there in the half-light, strangely different, strangely lovely.
Did Phil Crump want enchantment? Jill was enchanting. Did he crave glamor? She was glamorous. Did he want romance? Jill embodied that and more.
Where Jean Hart swept fluffily about, Jill drifted in grace and swirls. Where Jean was vivid and languid by turns, Jill was gentle, faintly mysterious, elusive. A masterpiece, all told, of her own devising.
Her mother, at a distant table, peered at her through the dimness and approved her to Mr. Selby. She said: “My Jill may or may not be proving my chameleon theory, Mr. Selby. I can’t tell yet. But the effect is lovely.”
And even Mr. Selby became sentimental, seeing her, and
vowed that Jill looked, “You all over, my dear Mrs. Cummings. Almost.”
The young men of her party claimed her, eager and gallant. The young women eyed her.
Phil cut in on her in the midst of a swaying waltz.
“You have stolen a march on us somehow,” he told her. “I can hardly recognize you.”
And Jill smiled enigmatically for him. “Like it?” she said. “The stolen march, I mean?”
It was clear that he did like it. “Who wouldn’t?” he said reasonably.
Jill was gently gay about it. She shrugged, said nothing.
They danced together then in the dimness, and without talking, until the music stopped and left them near a low opened window. Beyond the window was coolness and quiet, instead of noise and the stifling press of the crowd.
Phil took a deep breath, shook his head clear. Jill sighed. He glanced at her, enquiring. She smiled. He smiled. A lifted eyebrow, a sweep of the hand, a nod, and it was tacitly agreed. Together they stepped across the windowsill, wandered out into the gentle mountain night.
nPIIE PIAZZA was wide, reminiscent of a ship’s deck. A sweet, cool breeze swept in from the misted valley, and the mountains beyond were black, pasteboard thin against a star-patterned sky. A brook somewhere shrilled high above the mountain stillness, the muffled dance music.
Jill led the way to the piazza railing where it curved in a great sweep out over the valley. The breeze stirred her amber hair that was faintly luminous in the half-light.
She sighed, murmured, “It’s all so lovely, isn’t it?” in a voice that was low and sweet, and not at all in the Bessie Tate school of things.
Phil Crump, standing beside her, agreed that it was all very lovely, and, eyes intent upon her, lighted a cigarette.
There was a singing look about her. She was smiling as she lifted a small, graceful hand to the breeze. She was perfect.
And Phil abruptly flicked his match away. He said: “You’re lovely, too. It’s queer ...” He paused, chuckled. “I never dreamed you could be like this. It would seem more normal to have you suddenly go energetic and bound out on the tennis court down there. Or maybe start singing one of your blues songs.”
Jill stiffened, guardedly glanced at him through her lashes. She said: “Would you like that better?”
Whereupon he stared at her, mildly alarmed, it appeared, for himself, even for her. His eyes narrowed. “I like a lot of things,” he said briefly.
Jill clung to her gentleness. As for instance, she murmured, his liking for girls of sentiment and sentimentality?
“I said,” Phil reminded her, “that I liked those now and then. But now and then, mind you.”
And, still watching her, he began to grin. As though suddenly he saw through things that should be seen through.
“All right, lady,” he chuckled. “You can come out of the disguise now. I know you. But you had me worried for a moment. I thought you might be like this naturally.” Jill said nothing, and her hands lay very still on the railing before her.
Phil was insistent. “Come on, lady,” he scoffed. “You can’t play a joke like this on an old hand like me for long. And you can’t tell me it isn’t a joke either. This fragile blossom stuff.”
And Jill said, “Joke?” steadily. “Yes, certainly it is. It’s mean of you to see through it right away. I was having fun.” Head high, she turned to laugh with him, without a betraying quaver for her shattered role.
PHIL, WHO had been alarmed for a moment, beamed his relief. He noticed that she was trembling, said: “You’re
shivering all of a sudden. You poor kid, are you cold?”
And was scoffed at for his sympathy. “Cold on a gorgeous night like this? Let’s talk about sensible things like blues songs instead.”
But he shook his head, drew her arm through his, started to pace the piazza, ardently, as a man having finished one lap, starts out on another.
“No,” he said, “let’s discuss ...” He paused, looked about him for inspiration, snapped his fingers, finding it. “Let’s discuss fish.”
Continued on page 39
Continued from page 17—Starts on page 16
Solemnly Phil drew to a stop, lifted a silencing hand. “Hear that?”
It was the brook in the valley below, shrilling, babbling, filling the world about them.
Jill, bewildered, admitted that she did hear it.
Philip said: “Somewhere in that brook are trout. You know, fish. Big speckled fellows. Sporty.”
Tucking her arm more snugly under his, he started forward again, apparently oblivious that she followed as the tail to his comet. Followed, listening to him with a curiously blank look to her. As though for the moment she were neither a Bessie Tate nor a fragile lady, neither sweet and sentimental, wise or sophisticated. As though for the moment she were only a bewildered young chameleon without a color.
“Trout,” Phil was saying, “are game. It takes art to land them. Real sport.” He stared out into the night as though he saw the trout there in their quiet pools. “I want to get into old clothes, to slap on a torn old hat and take my tackle, and go after those trout just once before I go back to the city.”
He paused then, snagged on a sudden inspiration. He turned to peer through the gloom at Jill.
It may have been the stars. It may have been the fact that Jill’s eyes were very dark and wide. It may have been the noisy brook below.
Phil said: “How are you on fish, Jill?” Violently, and with scarcely any relevance.
And Jill, gallantly collecting herself, stammered that she was very much in favor of fish.
Which seemed to please Phil well enough. He beamed. “Good girl,” he said, “then you’ll come and fish with me.”
His enthusiasm was contagious, and Jill, thoroughgoing little chameleon, timidly caught it up. She said: “I adore fishing, though”—with belated caution—“I’ve done very little of it.”
And apparently forgot that her fishing had been confined largely to a goldfish pond when she was very young.
But Phil still beamed. “We can go tomorrow,” he planned, “in the morning. I’ll telephone ahead for permits, and we’ll make an early start.”
Jill’s head was lifting, her eyes kindling. She was taking on the look of one who feels that perhaps the romantic odds are still even. Taking on the look of a young chameleon who has, at last, found a new and satisfactory color.
With a sudden eagerness she announced that the earlier the morning’s start the better for her.
“Knew you were a good little sport,” Phil approved, with a smile that converted her to a policy of good sportsmanship into infinity—if so it was to be.
IT WAS AS a very swagger little good sport that, early the next morning, she went to meet Phil under the hotel portecochere according to schedule. And presently discovered that Jean Hart had arrived before her. Jean, booted and spurred and speaking with Philip, which was not according to schedule.
Plainly, Jean was about to take a morning canter on one of the pair of horses champing near by. She was, also plainly and in the most charming manner possible, being out of tune with the notion of fishing.
“I couldn’t bear to hook a poor little fish,” she was protesting.
And Phil was grinning at her, quite undisturbed. He was suggesting that, apparently, horses suited her better.
“I ride,” Jean admitted, and with a confiding smile: “But horses and I somehow don’t agree. At least they seldom agree with me, and I prefer to be agreed with.
I’m riding this morning only because Tom wanted me to.” Whereupon she waved to a horsy young man inspecting the mounts.
Her riding kit became Miss Hart enormously, and her frank incompetence became her even better. Phil was obviously treating her to that gentle compassion strong men reserve for fragile women.
And Jill, watching, squared her shoulders, dug hands in pockets, adjusted her best sporting manner, strolled forward.
Phil swung about as she called a hearty good morning, showed himself thoroughly disreputable and pleasant-looking in an ancient fishing outfit. He inspected her smartness with misgiving.
“You won’t look like that by evening,” he warned.
And Jill shrugged, eyeing the horses standing near by. She said: “There’s
nothing to beat a grand horse, is there?” Still in her best sporting manner.
At which Phil grinned and remarked that a grand car might do the job, easily. “I’ve been asking questions this morning,” he said, “and we’ve got thirty miles to drive and a tramp after that before we reach our happy fishing grounds. Horses would be a little slow for that.”
But he stood beside her and watched Jean Hart—wrinkling her nose—ride off with the horsy young man. And he was franldy admiring of Jean’s horsemanship.
So that Jill agreed. “Jean,” she said earnestly, “is a pretty nice person, even if she’s not particularly right about fishing.”
And Phil smiled his direct, impersonal smile, said: “Does that matter? Everybody can’t like the same things. She’s Jean Hart, that’s all. And,” with a widening grin, “you’re you. Which is also very nice. Come on, lady. We’ve got to get going. Pick up that basket and hop on board.”
He said it briskly, as man to man. Jill hopped.
nPHEY DROVE through the morning mists, the sunlight, the crisp mountain air. They paused briefly at the village for permits, whirled on again. Along winding roads, past lakes and pine woods and across flat fields hemmed about by mountains.
And after a bit they drew up before a small inn and left the car, and started out along a path slippery with pine needles that lay beside a riotous stream. The same stream they had listened to the night before.
Jill trailed Philip, a basket slung across her shoulders, carrying her share of tackle. She followed him at first buoyantly, gaily, then panting a little. Until Philip abruptly stopped, caught her arm, pointed to brown shadows streaking through the clear water.
“Trout,” he beamed. “Big fellows.”
And promptly set down his paraphernalia, began drawing sections of a rod from its case, fitting them together.
“Light and whippy,” he said. “Just the thing for you. Try it.”
He gave the lengthy rod into Jill’s hand, and gingerly, at arm’s length, she waved it. He sat back on his heels, grinning.
“Told you it’d be just the thing for you,” he said. “What do you fish, wet or dry fly?”
Blankly Jill stared at him, stared down at her gleaming bromes. “Why dry, I suppose,” she said.
And was rewarded by more approval. “Good girl. Dry fly’s the best after all.” And taking up a fly book, Phil offered it to her. “Take your pick,” he said.
Color came into Jill’s cheeks, and her look was uncertain. But she pointed a wavering finger at one of the bright bits of wool and feather.
“Red hackle?” Judiciously Philip squinted up at the sky. “Well, maybe you’re right. It does seem to be clouding up. I’ll tie it on for you.”
Luck, it appeared, was with her, and, gathering confidence, Jill watched him among his reels and lines and hooks and flies. She watched him swishing his own rod, stamping into his hip boots.
He said: “Too bad you have no boots along to wade in. All set? Let’s see you make the first cast.”
But Jill prudently insisted that the first cast was his.
Quietly he waded out to a midstream rock, then pointed to significant ripples on the water. He stood poised, set himself, snapped his rod. The cast flicked overhead, landed lightly upstream, to float back on the current.
A silver flash. A splash. But no catch.
Beaming, Phil motioned that Jill should have the next try.
She set herself anxiously. And with the perfect mimicry of the beginner, she did well. Her cast landed light as thistledown upon the water. But again there was no catch.
Phil said: “Allright. You’re good. But they’re not biting down here. Better scramble along the bank upstream. Careful of those bushes in back of you.”
Jill forgot to be careful, gay as she was with easy success. Her third cast caught in the brush and tangled.
Philip did not notice. He was lighting his pipe.
At her fifth cast Jill slid into the water, knee deep. At her sixth there was a tug as the fly drifted back toward her. She jerked at the rod. Panic-stricken, she called, “Phil! Come quick, I’ve caught a fish!” and jerked again. And, as Philip came wading to her, she let the rod slip from her already pink and rubbed fingers.
Swiftly he retrieved it. “Broken line,” he frowned. “You struck too quick and hard.” And then, casually enough, with an eye to her mortification, he said: “Never mind. It’s time for lunch anyway.”
So Jill went to sit carefully under a tall birch, as though a gentler seat might have been grateful. Her feet were damp, and Phil glanced strangely at her now and then, as though making a diagnosis.
But an hour of quiet, of hot coffee and sandwiches and murmured talk, of paling sunlight and the cool breeze humming high above the noisy brook, of pine scent and the smoke of Phil’s pipe, and she could smile a little again. Staunch young chameleon that she was, she could even sigh contentedly, say, “This is all so good.” And appear to mean it.
Phil smiled at her and asked if it were “Better than blues singing, for instance?”
She answered, “Much better,” stoutly.
“Better than books or cabbages or kings?”
Phil grinned. “Maybe for you,” he granted, “but personally I’ve got quite a weakness for books and cabbages anyway.”
Palely, Jill stared at him. And he lounged to his feet, stood looking down at her.
“Nice person,” he said abruptly.
It was an accolade, a decoration, a restorative. Jill sat up, quite smartly for a jaded young woman, took the hand he offered her.
“Ready to carry on?” he approved. “Good girl. One of the best for an outing like this. And, thank heaven, you don’t chatter.”
He hoisted her unceremoniously to her feet.
Surreptitiously straightening a vertebra, Jill said, “Lead on,” even echoed his grin as a gratuitous bit of sportsmanship.
SHE SLIPPED into the icy water several times again that afternoon. She fouled her line in branches and broke it. And her smile grew set, and she caught no fish.
Phil, pipe clamped in teeth, eyes alert for trout, was too engrossed to notice.
The afternoon grew dimmer, and misty. A chill rain took to falling, so that Jill shivered a little, frowning anxiously.
Philip, glancing up, only seemed pleased. He said: “Drizzling, isn’t it? Great.
Ripples the surface, you know.” Obviously he liad no intention of leaving off.
But even then Jill met his smile with one of her own, dung steadfastly to her drooping sportsmanship, went on wearily casting, tangling her line, slipping, catching no trout.
It was another half hour before Phil called: “Raining hard now. Better turn up your coat collar.” Without any particular concern for her girlish health or sensibilities.
And Jill, for the first time, paused and visibly took thought. Iron, it seemed, might at last be entering her soul. A mutinous tilt came to her shoulders, and deliberately she stared at him, deliberately turned, retreated to the uncertain shelter of a dripping pine.
Phil was not warned. “Do you know,” he cheerfully bellowed, “you are a grand little sport. I’ve only met one other girl like you. Go fishing with her sometimes, too. She’s one of the best. You’d like her.”
He said it in his best man-to-man manner, and the tilt of Jill’s shoulders became subtly more mutinous. The chameleon of lier, it appeared, was fading from its colors.
Coldly she was eyeing Philip, eyeing her sodden feet, the bleak sky and bleaker water. She was shivering as the cold drizzle trickled down her neck. She said, “Really, would I like her?” in a reedy voice. And then, abruptly, stormily, she said : “l’m going home now.’’
Without glancing up, Phil agreed that it might be an idea. He said with calm reluctance: “We’ll go as soon as I get this big fellow. He’s thinking of rising to my next cast. I can tell. And don’t slosh around over there so much, lady.”
But Jill was not only sloshing, she was on her way. She was squelching in her waterlogged brogues back along the bank. She was stumbling and slipping down the path, head lowered to the cold rain pattering through the branches overhead, catching her breath in short angry gusts.
She had reached the car before Phil caught up with her, hurriedly collected fishing paraphernalia in hand.
Quietly he looked at her, said he was sorry. “I thought you were used to this sort of thing,” he said. “Do you want to go into the inn here to thaw out?”
And Jill shook her head, huddled back into a comer of the car, said stonily she only wanted to go back to the hotel.
Phil gave her a sharp glance, turned abruptly on his heel. He was silent as he strode to the other side of the car, slid into the driver’s seat, started the run back to the hotel. And his profile was as expressionless as the rain-blurred country through which he drove.
While Jill sat staring, wide-eyed and unseeing, absorbed in her own simmering thoughts.
Until presently the hotel appeared ahead, perched high upon its hill, its windows gaily bright with a promise of warmth and shelter.
MRS. CUMMINGS was pacing the damp piazza with the mousy gentleman, Mr. Selby, when Philip braked his car under the porte-cochere. She murmured, “Still, they might have been even later,” and watched as Philip turned as though to speak to Jill, and Jill abruptly opened the car door, stepped stiffly to the ground. Stepped, too, in the slithering mud that had been tracked up by other cars, slipped into a puddle.
Her mother made a small, sympathetic sound.
Phil was vaulting from the car, lifting Jill to her feet, obviously asking if she were hurt. And, dripping mud with dignity, Jill was shaking her head. Her coat was clinging moistly to her, her hair was wet and limp across her eyes, but she was standing proudly straight.
At Mrs. Cummings’ elbow Mr. Selby chuckled. “She looks like a small wet hen,” he said, “very mad.”
Which was, apparently, what Phil was observing. For he was grinning now, and
his voice re-echoing under the porte-
cochere said: “Come on, lady, snap out of it. A good little sport like you.”
At which, like an infuriated terrier, Jill was shaking the hair back from her eyes, insisting loudly that she was not a good little sport. “I hate good little sports !” she shouted.
And her mother smiled, wondering. “A good sport?” she murmured. “After the Bessie Tate singing and last night’s loveliness? This young man seems to have a w'ide and varied taste, Mr. Selby.” She sighed. “My poor chameleon.”
Mr. Selby twisted his waxen whisker, looked profound.
Jill’s eyes were flashing, and a trickle of rain was dribbling unnoticed down the bridge of her nose. “I also hate being ignored,” she was saying, “and singing blues and fishing, being laughed at. and being a fragile blossom or a pal. And anything else you can think of. From now on I shall do as I please, when I please, where I please.”
Furiously she was turning to go, and Philip, grinning no longer, was catching her by the arm, looking at her with a new and peculiar look, heatedly having his own say.
And, on the piazza above, Jill’s mother turned in charming bewilderment to Mr. Selby. She could not, she said, understand this.
Mr. Selby smiled wisely under his whisker, arched a complacent eyebrow, held that it was all quite simple. “You’ve heard, of course, my dear Mrs. Cummings, of the conscientious chameleon who, when placed on pink turned pink, and when placed on blue turned blue, and when placed on a plaid unhappily blew up?”
Philip still was holding Jill’s arm, firmly, but they were not arguing any more. They were not even speaking, but merely looking at each other as though suddenly many things that should have been understood were understood.
And then, Phil’s arm was about Jill, and they were giving a demonstration of joint disregard for public opinion.
Jill’s mother smiled. She sighed, drew her cloak gracefully about her.
“Thank you. Mr. Selby,” she said, “for your little story. It was very nice. But I’m afraid not quite nice enough. As you say, the little chameleon blew up. But, I think, she came back to earth again a little later, sincerely herself . . . Shall we go inside now, Mr. Selby?”