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   Chapter 4 No.4

Wanted: A Husband By Samuel Hopkins Adams Characters: 14011

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


HOPE, which is credited with various magic properties, had kindled a sickly sort of sub-glow in Darcy Cole's pasty face as she arrived at Miss Greene's address, to keep her appointment. Part of it subsided at sight of the indication that the elevator was still on strike. The remainder had vanished long before she had surmounted the four flights of stairs and stood panting dolorously before Gloria Greene. That composed person feigned polite surprise.

"Why, what's the matter, Darcy?"

"Those awful-pouf!-stairs. How-whoof-uff!-d' you ever-whoo-oo-oof!-do it?"

"Two steps at a time," explained the actress practically, "cuts the distance in half."

Darcy looked skeptical. "It would kill me," she declared.

"Very likely, as you are now. We're going to change all that."

The gleam returned into Darcy's big, dull eyes. "Yes?" said she eagerly. "How?"

"I should say," answered the actress with a carefully judicial air, "that you'd better start in by learning to give up."

"Give up what?"

"Everything that makes life worth living."

"Is it a joke?" asked Darcy, dubiously. "Far from it. Food, for instance. You eat too much."

"Often I don't get any luncheon at all."

"And too irregularly," pursued the accuser. "You drink too much."

"Gloria! One cocktail before dinner," was the indignant response.

"And too regularly," went on the relentless judge. "One is one too many for a girl with your complexion."

"Go on," said Darcy with sullen resignation. "You sleep too much."

"Eight hours isn't-"

"You interrupt too much," broke in the mentor severely. "You laze too much. You shirk and postpone too much. You nibble too much candy. When you feel below par you take a pill instead of a walk. Don't you?"

The girl stared. "How do you know all these things about me?"

"Read'em in your face, of course. And a lot more, besides."

"Nobody else ever read'em there. Not even the doctor."

"Probably he has, but is too polite to tell you all he sees, or too cynical to believe that you'd take the trouble to do anything about it if he told you. Or perhaps he just doesn't see it."

"Then how do you?"

"I'm an expert, my dear young innocent. It's part of my profession to be good-looking just as it is to keep well-read and well-dressed. And a lot harder!"

"How can it be harder for you? You're beautiful just naturally."

"I'm not beautiful. Your Holcomb Lee or any other artist with a real eye could reduce my face to a mere scrap-heap of ill-assorted features. I'm reasonably pleasant to look at because I work hard at the business of being just that. And I'm going to keep on being pleasant to look at for twenty good years yet if care and clothes will do it!"

"Clothes help such a lot," sighed the girl. "When are you going to help me with mine?"

Gloria Greene looked disparagingly at the girl's slack and flaccid body.

"When you develop something to put'em on," said she curtly.

"But I thought that if I had some nice clothes-"

"You'd develop inside them like the butterfly in the chrysalis," supplemented the other. "Unfortunately it doesn't work that way with humans. Didn't I tell you yesterday that it wasn't going to be easy?"

"Yes. But you're not telling me anything now. You're just-just discouraging me."

"Why, you poor-spirited little grub, you haven't even touched the outer edge of discouragement yet. Here! Can you do this?" Lifting her hands high above her glowing head, Gloria swept them down in a long curve of beauty, until she stood bowed but with unbending knees, her pink fingers flattened on the floor.

"Of course I can't," whined Darcy.

"Try it," suggested the other enticingly. "It isn't hard."

Darcy did not stir. "I've got corsets on," said she.

"You have. Awful ones. Take'em off."

"I will," she promised.

Performance, not promise, was what her instructor demanded. "Do it now."

With a sigh, the girl obeyed. "It makes me look sloppier than ever," she lamented, glancing toward the mirror.

"Not actually," was the counsel-of dubious comfort-from the other. "You only feel now as you've been looking all the time. Don't get another pair until I tell you. I'll pick'em out if you still want them when Andy Dunne is through with you."

"Who's Andy Dunne?"

"Andy," explained the actress concisely, "is the devil."

"That's encouraging," murmured the girl. "Anyway, you'll think he is. He's my trainer."

"Trainer! You talk as if you were a prizefighter."

"I cut Andy's lip with a straight left once," said Miss Greene with a proud, reminiscent gleam in her eye. "It was one of the biggest moments of my life."

Taking from her desk the note which she had described to Jacob Remsen as a commutation ticket to the last station, down-line, she handed it to Darcy. The girl read it.

Andy: This is Miss Darcy Cole. Put her through as you did

me, only more so.

Gloria Greene

Darcy tucked it carefully into her imitation-leather roll, saying:

"It's awfully good of you to take all this trouble for me."

"Oh, it isn't for you entirely. Call it part of my contribution to the general welfare. It gives me a pain in my artistic sense to see a woman-job spoiled; like a good picture daubed over by a bad amateur. So if I can rescue you as a brand from the burning and put you back on earth, a presentable human, I'll feel like a major of the Salvation Army. That's why I've decided to take you in hand. And may Heaven have mercy upon your body!"

"Amen!" confirmed Darcy piously, feeling for the introductory note.

"Only," added Gloria slowly, "I want to be clear on one point. I'd like to know for whom I'm really doing this."

"Why, for me, of course," said Darcy, big-eyed.

"Not for any one else?"

"Who else should there be? I told you there wasn't any-"

"I know. You swore there was no man in this. Then on top of it, you rouse my darkest suspicions by acting like a school-girl yesterday and tearing your hair because the first casual man that comes along doesn't gaze soulfully at you when he takes his departure."

"Gloria, I hate you! D' you mean Mr. Remsen? Surely you don't for a minute imagine-"

"No; I don't suppose Jack has anything to do with it, personally. But I seem to get a strong indication of Man as a species somewhere in the background of this business."

Pink grew Miss Darcy Cole; then red, and eventually scarlet, under Gloria's interested regard.

"You see!" exclaimed that acute person. "Come, now. Explain."

"It's-it's Maud Raines's fault," blurted Darcy.

"Agreed that it's all Maud's fault. Go on."

"No; it isn't all Maud's fault," corrected

Darcy with a palpable effort to do exact justice. "It's partly the British War Office's fault."

"International complications. Maud and the British War Office. Mr. Lee had better look out!"

"Not at all! It isn't Maud that the British War Office has been writing letters to."

"No? Who is it?"

"Me."

"Is this a long-distance flirtation

with an official Britisher, all wound round with red tape? What kind of fetters?"

"Well, not personal, exactly," reluctantly admitted the girl. "Propaganda matter. It's sent out by their press bureau. But it always comes addressed in nice, firm, man-ny handwriting."

"But why do they send to you?"

Darcy giggled. "That's the funny part of it. They must have got me confused with Dorsey Coles, the essayist. He used to live on East Fifty-Sixth Street."

"Very likely. When does the Man enter?"

"We-ell, you see, Maud and Helen were awfully curious about my English correspondent."

"Naturally."

"So I-well, I just let'em be."

"Is that any reason why you should wear the expression of one about to confess to a coldblooded murder?"

"Wait. You know I told you Maud had been catty about my sitting to Holcomb Lee."

"Yes."

"This is what I overheard her say to Helen, and I'm not even sure she didn't mean me to overhear. She said, 'Darcy's been sitting to Holcomb. Fancy it! Darcy as a model! I can no more imagine her being a model than I could her being engaged.' Wasn't that nasty of her, Gloria!"

"It was. And you very properly smothered her with a pillow as she slept and have come here to make your confession," twinkled Gloria.

"Worse," said Darcy in a small, tremulous voice. "Much worse."

Gloria sat up straight. "No!" she cried hopefully.

"Yes. For Helen said, 'Well, somebody in England seems pretty much interested in her, anyway.' That's what put it into my head."

"I wish you'd put it; into mine," said the other plaintively. "You don't seem to get any nearer the subject of your romance, which is Man."

"Well-promise not to laugh at me, Gloria!"

"I'll try."

"Just to show'em both, I got engaged."

"Darcy!"

"Yes; and one evening when both of the girls were being just a little extra peacocky over their double wedding next October and letting me understand what a favor it was to me that I was to be double maid of honor, I just up and told'em I didn't know whether I could be as I had an important engagement to be married myself."

"Lovely! Gorgeous!"

"They jumped at the English letters. So I told them that I thought I might as well own up about the affair; how I'd met him on my vacation in Canada and helped him try out horses for the British Government, which had sent him over for that purpose when he was wounded, and we had corresponded ever since. It was awfully well done, if I do say it as shouldn't."

"Let me get this right," pleaded Gloria.

"You made him all up yourself, just on the basis of those war-office letters?"

"N-no. That's just the trouble."

"You didn't make him up?"

"N-n-not entirely."

"For Heaven's sake, do be more explicit!"

"I'm t-t-trying to," said Darcy brokenly. "I got him out of a book."

"Then he's imaginary."

"I'm afraid he's real. Awfully real."

"Darcy Cole; what book did you get him out of?"

"Burke's Peerage."

With one headlong plunge Gloria projected herself upon the couch where she wallowed ecstatically among the pillows.

"Oh, Darcy! Darcy!" she gasped when she could achieve coherent speech. "For this I shall love you forever. I'll do more. I'll adopt you. I'll endow you. I'll-I'll canonize you. What's his name?"

"Sir Montrose Veyze, Bart., of Veyze Holdings, Hampshire, England," recited the girl formally.

Dissociating herself from a convulsed silk coverlet, Gloria straightened up. "Sir Montrose Veyze," she repeated thoughtfully and relishingly. "Why that particular and titled gentleman?"

"I got to the V's before I found any one that seemed to fill the bill."

"What special qualification commended him to your favorable consideration, Miss Cole?"

"Well, he's unmarried."

"That's important."

"And he's far away. I came across that in an English magazine."

"How far?"

"Way out in the East somewhere where one of the fifty-seven varieties of left-over wars is still going on."

"So far, so good. What are you going to do with him when he comes back?"

"If I only knew!" was the miserable rejoinder. "Maybe he won't come back. Maybe something will happen to him."

"It won't. He'll bear a charmed life, just to plague you," retorted her friend with conviction. "You bloodthirsty little beast!" she added.

"The worst I wish him," said Darcy tearfully, "is an honorable military death."

"Oh! Is that all! You'd have to go into deep mourning."

"That'd be better than suicide. And I can't see anything else for me to do if he lives through. I won't confess to that Maud-cat! I won't! I won't! I won't!"

"I don't blame you. But when are you to be married?"

"Uncertain. That's the advantage of having a fiancé at war."

"You must make it after the double wedding," decided Gloria. "Just for curiosity, how did you describe him?"

"I've rather dodged that, so far. But I think I'd like to have him tall and slender and with nice, steady, friendly eyes, like Mr. Remsen."

"So would Monty, doubtless," surmised Gloria.

"Who?"

"Monty Veyze."

"Gloria! Do you know Sir Montrose Veyze?"

"Rather. I visited at his sister's last time I was in England."

"Heavens! That makes it seem so ghastly real. What's he like?"

"Round and roly-poly and red and fiercelooking; but a good sort. And he used to be quite an admirer of mine. I do think, Darcy, that with the whole of Burke's Peerage to choose from you might have refrained from trespassing on my preserves. It isn't clubby of you!"

"You can have him!" cried the girl desperately. "Any one can have him! I don't care how round and red and-"

"He's rather far from your picture of him, certainly. Not a bit like Jack Remsen. So you approve of Jack, do you?"

"I thought him awfully attractive," said Darcy shyly.

"Oh, Jack's a dear. It's a pity about his money."

"Has he lost it?"

"No. Got it. Too much. Without it he might make a real actor. He's the best amateur in New York to-day. But-an amateur."

"What does he do?"

"Dabbles in artistic things. And plays at being everybody's little sunbeam. Never mind Jack. It's the imaginary Sir Montrose Veyze that we've got to figure on."

"Oh, do tell me what to do with him!" implored the too-inventive Darcy.

"Keep him. Prize him above rubies and diamonds. Nothing has given me a laugh like that for a year."

"But if-"

"Let the future take care of its ifs. Who can tell what will turn up? Fate is kind to creative genius. And I'm going to assist Fate if I can. I'll make you a bargain, Darcy, for half of your beautiful, inspiring, heaven-sent lie. You take me into equal partnership in it, and I'll be your little personal Guide to Health and Beauty until we've made a job of you. But you've got to promise on honor to keep up the Veyze myth, if I'm to be partner and half owner in it, until I agree to drop it. Is it a bargain?"

The light of unholy, reckless adventure shot into Darcy's pale eyes.

"It's a bargain," she agreed solemnly.

* * *

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