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The Lightning Conductor Discovers America By A. M. Williamson Characters: 12863

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02



Kidd's Pines, Long Island,

April 3d.

Ma Chérie:

J'ai beaucoup de choses à dire-oh no, I forgot-you asked me to write in English, because it would help your spelling. That was a large compliment, mon petit choux, but do look up the most difficult words in the dictionary. It would be more safe. I am trying to think in English, but I find I think faster in French still; and I need to think extremely fast now, as fast as heat lightning. Aussi I dream in French, about American people, which mixes me up; and one laughs when I don't get my sentences right. You must not take me for a model, though I will do all my possible, and improve as the time passes on.

As I promised, I begin a letter to you on the ship, but I cannot finish, for too many things happening and the times-I mean the weather-being so bad. Perhaps it is better I did not, for everything is different now from what we thought. Darling Larry has lost all his money, and we are in the soup. But it is a superb soup, because we have a chef the most famous of the world. I have almost fear to tell you his name! It is the same as yours, only that naturally he has not the "de," though he has the grand air and is richer than we when we were rich. It will look strange to you, this, that we should have an employé so wonderful when we are in ruins. But he is not an employé like others. We are as his servants. And we have him because he helps us make our house a hotel for the high world. He is not alone in helping us, my father and me. There is, besides, a band who helps. Not a band that plays music, you comprehend, but a ring-a circle of people. I have made their acquaintance on the ship, all but one who came on the quai when we arrived, and broke the truth of Larry. I did not cry, though I saw all my happy days we have talked of so much, you and me, fly away in smoke. I thought not of them, but of Larry, which was worse, for I had a cold fear in my heart like the lumps of raspberry ice we sometimes swallowed too large and fast on the fête days. I feared he might have suffered too much and made himself die. I can speak of that now when I know he is saved. But he did not even wish to be dead. He is brave and wonderful and has earned some of the money back at roulette. I hoped he would earn more like that, it was so easy, beginning only with a few dollars and waiting till they mounted up, and he hoped so, too. But he has had to put himself in the hands of the band who advise us, and they do not approve the roulette. It is too often raided by the police; and then you do not win quite always.

Larry is too much the charmer for a good man of affairs, and I do not know what would have become of us two if it had not been for this band. It was they who thought of the hotel. At least, it was one-a man. I cannot tell you all about him now, it would take too long a time. And, besides, what can you tell of a man when you know nothing of him unless that he makes every one march as he chooses either with some word or some look of the eyes, though he is the poorest of all and has taken work as secretary? He is named Storm. For a man he is young, though for you and me it would be an age-thirty or thirty-two, Mrs. Winston thinks. Captain and Mrs. Winston are of the band. He is Captain the Honourable. That is the way the English put their titles with the soldier part in the front. They spell it "Honble" on letters or the lists of passengers, but you do not call them by it at all, which is odd; because if not, what is its use? Mrs. Shuster (that is another of the band) says Captain Winston will be a lord some day. He is wounded and very handsome, and his wife is a beauty and a darling. I have to call her Molly and she has made of me a "Patsey." What do you think she has done, when it burst out that Larry and I were poor as the mice of churches? She paid the douane for my dresses, those sweet things Madame la Marquise, your dear mother, troubled herself to choose for me. Then Molly bought them as I believed for herself, as we are much of the same form, though she is grander by some centimetres in front and at the waist. It was only on my birthday that I find they are for me! I said, "But, dear, dear cabbage, I can never wear all these when I am keeping a hotel!" She said: "Yes, you can, my cabbagette, for this hotel will be different. You and Larry are high swells and it will be a favour that people are let into your beautiful home. They will be glad of the luck to know you and they will pay for the privilege. The better you dress and the more proud you act the more will they be content and think they have the money's worth. Only the richest ones can afford to come."

That is well, perhaps, because we have not enough rooms for a grand crowd. We have twenty-five chambres, counting great with small, and with haste two beds are being installed in some. Each person, if you will believe me, is forced to pay at the least thirty dollars (a hundred and fifty francs) a day. It is crushing! I have thought no one would come. But they do already, though we are not yet in a state of reception. The first day when the announcement showed in the journals of New York and all other grand cities the rush began. That same night we had what Molly Winston calls sholes (or is it shoals?) of telegrams. I thought shoals were of fish only. I will copy a little of the avis au public. Le voilà!

"Monsieur Marcel Moncourt has the honour to announce that from April 1st the historic mansion of Kidd's Pines, near Huntersford, Long Island, will open under his direction as a hotel de luxe."

There was quite a lot more, explaining how Lafayette and Jerome Bonaparte, and King Edward VII when Prince of Wales had been entertained by ancestors of the present owner, Mr. Laurence Moore, who would now act as host; and that there were baths to all but five of the bed chambers. Was it not good chance that Larry had them put in? They are not paid for yet, and the plumber, with some others, has been very unkind, making Larry a bankroot-no, a bankrupt. We shall soon be rich again with all these thirties and forties and fifties and hundreds of dollars a day (we can take forty people to say nothing of servants if some of them will sleep ensemble), and then we can pay every one. Aussi the announcement spoke of the pines which have given to our place its name. Ther

e was a pirate captain named Kidd who buried gold under these trees or near, and though each of our generations since has dug hard whenever it felt poor, nobody has ever found anything, so the treasure is still there-wherever it is. Larry wanted to advertise that all might dig, male or female. Monsieur Moncourt would not permit, however. He said his name was enough, and further advertising would waste the money of the syndicat. He is part of the syndicat, and has more in it than the others. He would not come if it could not be that way, Mr. Storm told Larry. Mr. Storm has a friend who is a friend of Monsieur Moncourt's, a great friend he must be, because Monsieur M. will do anything to please him. Monsieur M. takes his salary of manager in shares. Mr. Storm does not have shares, because he, too, like us, is poor as mice who go to church-which it seems they are allowed to do in America, though I do not think we should let them in much in France. Mrs. Shuster, who has Mr. Storm for her secretary, is of the syndicat, and so is Mr. Edward Caspian, the man who broke the bad news for me. He is about as young as Mr. Storm, yet looks more young on account of being small and blond, with curly hair like Larry's. But he is not like Larry in other ways. Molly says he looks a combination of Lord Fauntleroy and Don Juan. I have read Lord Fauntleroy when I was a child, but not Don Juan, so I cannot judge. Do you know, chérie, I think he is in love with me, and Angéle thinks the same. She says it will be a good work to marry him, as he has one of the most gross fortunes of America, besides being rather beau, and bon gar?on. Angéle was not nice for a time when we had no servants at Kidd's Pines, and I asked her to wash a dish. She had the air of one ready to burst. But we stayed a few days at the Winstons' place, which has been left in a will to them, and Angéle became more happy. She says Madame la Marquise often took counsel with her and sacrificed her to me that I might have some one of experience to advise me in things of life greater than the dressing of hair. She has fallen into a devotion for Larry, and it is for his sake she wishes me to say yes if I am asked by Mr. Caspian. Well! I have not to decide till by and by, because he has not asked. For the moment I do not like him so very strongly, I cannot know why. Every one else seems to, except Mr. Storm, and a darling dog we have here, a golden collie, belonging to Larry, but like the baths, not paid for. It jumped against Mr. Caspian and frightened him so much that he wished it to be tied in a chain. We did not do it, though. I don't love men to have fear of dogs.

Mr. Caspian has come to live with us-in our hotel, I mean. Though he has the shares, if you will believe me he pays three hundred and fifty francs a day. So does Mrs. Shuster. She has a suite of bedroom and sitting-room. A good many of our rooms are like that, with curtains between. It was Larry's idea when Mamma and he were married and invited many guests.

Mr. Storm would not come to stay, though Mrs. S. wished to pay for him. She is a very rich bourgeoise who drops something off herself whenever she moves, if it is only a hairpin; but many time it is a worse thing. And she composes tracts about peace. She asked Mr. Storm to help her write some, but he said he knew nothing of peace, he had never had any. So you see he does what he likes, though a secretary. He has the most wonderful eyes ever seen. They haunt you as if they had looked deep into strange, sad things. You think of them at night before you go to sleep, and wonder about them, whether you have seen them long ago-and what they mean-for everybody thinks something different of him and his past, some good, some bad. He is not afraid of the collie, but pats it when he passes. And he lights up when he laughs! He has taken a room in the village near, in a little house, which he considers more suitable to him than this. Mr. Caspian, who was a socialist once, but is not now, says Mr. Storm dresses like an anarchist. He does not wish Mrs. Shuster to employ Mr. Storm, and this pleases her, because she thinks Mr. Caspian is "jealous." But figure to yourself! An old woman of forty and more!

I forgot to tell you the rest about Monsieur Moncourt. He directs the kitchen as well as the whole house, but you would not have to be ashamed of him even if you were parents. He does not come to our dining-room to eat, but has a little one of his own. He has gray hair, a sorrowful, dreamy face like a great artist who has lost an idea; but I suppose it is only that he is always thinking of some marvellous new plat to invent. He spends five days a week on Long Island and two in New York, for he has a house there of his own. I should love to go one day and see what it is like! Perhaps I shall go, with Molly.

I forgot aussi to tell you of the automobile you said you so much envied me. Captain Winston attended to the douane, and it is settled for us to keep the car as an "investment." I do not quite know who arranged this, because it was like the baths and the collie, not paid. But some one did arrange, and will be paid of course when we are making profits. I know it was Mr. Storm who said, in the conseil de guerre we had about the hotel, that there must be at least one motor to take guests on tour, and the smarter the car the better. But he could not have been the one to pay as he is the poorest of us all. Oh, I am so glad it is my duty to keep this darling car which was to have been my birthday present from Larry! I shall learn to drive it myself. Captain Winston will teach me. He knows how to drive all cars of every breed. Molly calls him her "Lightning Conductor." I could not wait till the chauffeur arrives.

By the way, we have a Russian count and his wife, an Austrian count and his, already all old, here. Mrs. Shuster is thrilled, and says their titles are a "draw." The trouble is the counts quarrel on politics and make snorty sounds at each other, so they have to be kept from colliding. It is I who must do this the most often, and it tears my nerves.

My pigeon, I will write again one of these days soon, when I have settled. Now I am still on my head!

Your upside down friend,


P. S. Larry has read this letter and says it is very bad English-shocking! But I cannot write it all over again. You will see, I shall do better next time.

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