At seven o’clock the Seaside Hotel struggled into full dress—ladies emerged from siestas and curlpapers, dowagers wormed into straight fronts and spread the spousal vestments of boiled shirt, U-shaped waistcoat et al. across the bed. Slim young men in the swelter of their inside two-fifty-a-day rooms carefully extracted their braided-at-the-seams trousers from beneath the mattresses and removed trees from patent-leather pumps.
At seven-thirty young girls fluttered in and out from the dining-room like brilliant night moths, the straight-front dowagers, U-vested spouses, and slim young men in braided trousers seams crowded about the desk for the influx of mail, and read their tailor and modiste duns with the rapt and misleading expression that suggested a love rune rather than a “Please remit.” Interested mothers elbowed for the most desirable veranda rockers; the blather of voices, the emph-umph-umph of the three-nights-a-week orchestra and the remote pound of the ocean joined in united effort.
At eight o’clock Miss Myra Sternberger yawned in her wicker rocker and raised two round and bare-to-the-elbow arms high above her head.
“Gee!” she said. “This place is so slow it gets on my nerves—it does!”
Mrs. Blondheim, who carried toast away from the breakfast-table concealed beneath a napkin for her daughter who remained abed until noon, paused in her Irish crochet, spread a lace wheel upon her ample knee, and regarded it approvingly.
“What you got to kick about, Miss Sternberger? Didn’t I see you in the surf this morning with that shirtwaist drummer from Cincinnati?”
“Mr. Eckstein—oh, I been meetin’ him down here in July for two years. He’s a nice fellow an’ makes a good livin’—but he ain’t my style.”
“Girls are too particular nowadays. Take my Bella—why, that girl’s had chances you wouldn’t believe! But she always says to me, she says, ‘Mamma, I ain’t goin’ to marry till Mr. Right comes along.'”
“That’s just the same way with me.”
“My Bella’s had chances—not one, but six. You can ask anybody who knows us in New York the chances that goil has had.”
“I ain’t in a hurry to take the first man that asks me, neither.”
Mrs. Blondheim wrapped the forefinger of her left hand with mercerized cotton thread, and her needle flashed deftly.
“What about the little Baltimore fellow that went away yesterday? I seen he was keepin’ you pretty busy.”
“Aw, Mrs. Blondheim, can’t a girl have a good time with a fellow without gettin’ serious?”
But she giggled in pleased self-consciousness and pushed her combs into place—Miss Sternberger wore her hair oval about her face like Mona Lisa; her cheeks were pink-tinted, like the lining of a conch-shell.
“My Bella always says a goil can’t be too careful at these here summer resorts—that’s why she ain’t out every night like some of these goils. She won’t go out with a young man till she knows he comes from nice people.”
Miss Sternberger patted the back of her hand against her mouth and stifled a yawn.
“One thing I must say for my Bella—no matter where I take that goil, everybody says what a nice, retirin’ goil she is!”
“Bella does retire rather early,” agreed Miss Sternberger in tones drippingly sweet.
“I try to make her rest up in summer,” pursued Mrs. Blondheim, unpunctured. “You goils wear yourselves out—nothin’ but beaus, beaus all the time. There ain’t a night in New York that my Bella ain’t out with some young man. I always say to her, ‘Bella, the theayters ought to give you a commission.'”
Miss Sternberger rocked.
“Where did you say you live in New York, Miss Sternberger?”
“West One Hundred and Eleventh Street.”
“Oh yes—are you related to the Morris Sternbergers in the boys’-pants business?”
“I think—on my father’s side.”
“Honest, now! Carrie Sternberger married my brother-in-law; and they’re doin’ grand, too! He’s built up a fine business there. Ain’t this a small woild after all!”
“It is that,” agreed Miss Sternberger. “Why, last summer I was eatin’ three meals a day next to my first cousin and didn’t know it.”
“Look!” said Mrs. Blondheim. “There’s those made-up Rosenstein goils comin’ out of the dinin’-room. Look at the agony they put on, would you! I knew ’em when they were livin’ over their hair-store on Twenty-thoid Street. I wonder where my Bella is!”
“That’s a stylish messaline the second one’s got on, all right. I think them beaded tunics are swell.”
“If it hadn’t been for the false-hair craze old man Rosenstein wouldn’t—”
Mrs. Blondheim leaned forward in her chair; her little flowered-silk work-bag dropped to the floor. “There’s Bella now! Honest, that Mr. Arnheim ‘ain’t left her once to-day, and he only got here this morning, too! Such a fine young man, the clerk says; he’s been abroad six months and just landed yesterday—and been with her all day. When I think of the chances that goil had. Why, Marcus Finberg, who was down here last week, was crazy about her!”
“Did you say that fellow’s name was Arnheim?”
“Yes. ‘Ain’t you heard of the Arnheim models? He’s a grand boy, the clerk says, and the swellest importer of ladies’ wear in New York.”
Miss Sternberger leaned forward in her chair. “Is that Simon Arnheim?”
“Sure. He’s the one that introduced the hobble skoit. My Bella was one of the foist to wear one. There ain’t a fad that he don’t go over to Europe and get. He made a fortune off the hobble skoit alone.”
“Is that so?”
“Believe me, if he wasn’t all right my Bella wouldn’t let him hang on that way.”
“I’ve heard of him.”
“I wish you could see that Babette Dreyfous eying my Bella! She’s just green because Bella’s got him.”
“Do you use the double stitch in your crochet, Mrs. Blondheim? That’s a pretty pattern you’re workin’ on.”
“Yes. I’ve just finished a set of doilies you’d pay twenty-five dollars for anywhere.”
Miss Sternberger rose languidly to her feet. “Well,” she said, “I guess I’ll take a stroll and go up to bed.”
“Don’t be so fidgety, Miss Sternberger; sit down by me and talk.”
Miss Sternberger smiled. “I’ll see you later, Mrs. Blondheim; and don’t forget that preparation I was tellin’ you about—Sloand’s Mosquito Skit. Just rub the bottle stopper over your pillow and see if it don’t work.”
She moved away with the dignity of an emperor moth, slim and supple-hipped in a tight-wrapped gown.
The Seaside Hotel lobby leaned forward in its chairs; young men moved their feet from the veranda rail and gazed after her; pleasantries fell in her pathway as roses before a queen.
A splay-mouthed youth, his face and neck sunburnt to a beefy red, tugged at her gold-colored scarf as she passed.
“Oh, you Myra!” he sang.
“Quit your kiddin’, Izzy!” she parried back. “Who was that blonde I seen you with down at the beach this mornin’?”
A voluptuous brunette in a rose-pink dress and diamonds dragged her down to the arm of her rocker.
“I got a trade-last for you, Myra.”
“Give it to me, Clara.”
“No, I said a trade—and a dandy, too!”
“Well, I got one for you, too—Leon Eckstein says he thinks you’re an awfully sweet girl and will make some man a grand wife.”
Clara giggled and fingered the gold-fringe edging of Miss Sternberger’s sleeve. She spoke slowly and stressed each word alike.
“Well, there’s a fellow just got here from Paris yesterday — says you sure know how to dress and that you got a swell figure.”
“Who said it?”
“I should know!”
“That fellow over there with Bella Blondheim—the one with the smooth face and grayish hair. I hear he’s a swell New York fellow in the importin’ business.”
“How’d Bella grab him?”
“She’s been holdin’ on to him like a crawfish all day. She won’t let anybody get near him—neither will her mother.”
“Here comes Izzy over here after me! If there’s one fellow I can’t stand it’s him.”
Miss Sternberger moved away with her chin tilted at a sharp angle. At a turn in the veranda she came suddenly upon Miss Bella Blondheim and a sleek, well-dressed young man with grayish hair. Miss Blondheim’s hand was hooked with a deadlock clutch to the arm of her companion.
Miss Sternberger threw herself before them like a melodrama queen flagging a train. “Hello, Bella!” she said in a voice as low as a ‘cello.
Miss Blondheim, who had once sold the greatest number of aprons at a charity bazar, turned cold eyes upon the intruder.
“Hello, Myra!” she said in cool tones of dismissal.
There was a pause; the color swept up and surged over Miss Blondheim’s face.
“Are you finished with Love in a Cottage, Bella? I promised it to Mrs. Weiss when you’re finished with it.”
“Yes,” said Bella. “I’ll bring it down to-night.”
There was another pause; the young man with the grayish hair coughed.
“Mr. Arnheim, let me introduce you to my friend, Miss Sternberger.”
Miss Sternberger extended a highly groomed hand. “Pleased to meet you,” she said.
“Howdy-do, Miss Sternberger?” His arm squirmed free from the deadlock clutch. “Won’t you join us?”
“Thanks,” said Myra, smiling until an amazing quantity of small white teeth showed; “but I just stopped by to tell Bella that Mrs. Blondheim was askin’ for her.”
There was a third pause.
“Won’t you come along, Mr. Arnheim? Mamma’s always so worried about me; and I’d like for you to meet mamma,” said Bella, anxiously.
With a heroic jerk Mr. Arnheim managed to free himself entirely. “Thanks,” he said; “but I think I’ll stay out and have a smoke.”
Miss Blondheim’s lips drooped at the corners. She entered the bright, gabbling lobby, threading her way to her mother’s stronghold. The maternal glance that greeted her was cold and withering.
“I knew if I couldn’t hold her she’d get him away. That’s why I didn’t go and play lotto with the ladies.”
“Well, I couldn’t help it, could I? You’re always nosin’ after me so—anybody could say you want me and not be lyin’.”
“That’s the thanks I get for tryin’ to do the right thing by my children. When I was your age I had more gumption in my little finger than you got in your whole hand! I’d like to see a little piece like her get ahead of me. No wonder you ain’t got no luck!”
Miss Blondheim sat down wearily beside her mother. “I wish I knew how she does it.”
“Nerve! That’s how. ‘Ain’t I been preachin’ nerve to you since you could talk? You’d be married to Marcus Finberg now if you’d ‘a’ worked it right and listened to your mother.”
“Aw, maw, lemme alone. I couldn’t make him pop, could I? I don’t see other girls’ mothers always buttin’ in.”
Out in the cool of the veranda Miss Sternberger strolled over to the railing and leaned her back against a white wooden column. Her eyes, upslanting and full of languor, looked out over the toiling, moiling ocean. She was outlined as gently as a Rembrandt.
“A penny for your thoughts, Miss Sternberger.”
Mr. Arnheim, the glowing end of a newly lighted cigar in one corner of his mouth, peered his head over her shoulder.
“Oh, Mr. Arnheim, how you scared me!” Miss Sternberger placed the well-groomed left hand, with a seal ring on the third finger, upon the thread-lace bosom of her gown. “How you frightened me!”
“It’s a nice night, Miss Sternberger. Want to walk on the beach?”
“Don’t mind if I do,” she said.
They strolled the length of the veranda, down the steps to the boardwalk and the beach beyond.
Mrs. Blondheim rolled her crochet into a tight ball and stuck her needle upright. “Come on, Bella; let’s go to bed.”
They trailed past the desk like birds with damp feathers.
“Send up some ice-water to three-hundred-and-eighteen,” said Miss Bella over the counter, her eyes straining meanwhile past the veranda to the beach below.
Without, a moon low and heavy and red came out from the horizon; it cast a copper-gold band across the water.
“Let’s go down to the edge, kiddo.”
Mr. Arnheim helped Miss Sternberger plow daintily through the sand.
“If I get sand in my shoes I’ll blame you, Mr. Arnheim.”
“Little slippers like yours can’t hold much.”
They seated themselves like small dunes on the white expanse of beach; he drew his knees up under his chin and nursed them.
In the eery light they might have been a fay and a faun in evening dress.
“Well,” said Mr. Arnheim, exhaling loudly, “this is something like it.”
“Ain’t that a grand moon, though, Mr. Arnheim?”
“The moon ‘ain’t got a show when you’re round, little one.”
“I’ll bet you say that to every girl you meet.”
“Nix I do; but I know when a girl looks good to me.”
“I wish I knew if you was jollyin’ me or not.”
He tossed his cigar into the surf that curled at their very feet, leaving a rim of foam and scum. The red end died with a fizz. Then he turned his dark eyes full upon her with a steady focus.
“If you knew me better you’d know that I ain’t that sort of a fellow. When I say a thing I mean it.”
His hand lay outstretched; she poured rivulets of white sand between the fingers. They watched the little mounds of sand which she patted into shape.
“I’ll bet you’re a New York girl.”
“I can tell them every time—style and all.”
“I’ll bet you’re a New York fellow, too.”
“Little New York is good enough for me. I’ve been over in Paris four months, now, and, believe me, it looked good yesterday to see the old girlie holdin’ her lamp over the harbor.”
Miss Sternberger ran her hand over the smooth sheen of her dress; her gown was chaste, even stern, in its simplicity—the expensive simplicity that is artful rather than artless.
“That’s a neat little model you’re wearin’.”
“Aw, Mr. Arnheim, what do you know about clothes?”
Mr. Arnheim threw back his head and laughed long and loud. “What do I know about clothes? I only been in the biz for eight years. What I don’t know about ladies’ wear ain’t in the dictionary.”
“Well,” said Miss Sternberger, “that’s so; I did hear you was in the business.”
“I’m in the importin’ line, I am. Why, girl, I’ve put through every fad that’s taken hold in the last five years—brought them over myself, too, I’ve dressed Broadway and Fifth Avenue in everything from rainy-day to harem skirts.”
“Sure! I’ve imported more good sellers than any dealer in New York. I got a new model now passin’ customs that’s to be a bigger hit than the sheath was. Say, when I brought over the hobble every house on the Avenue laughed in my face; and when I finally dumped a consignment on to one of them, the firm was scared stiff and wanted to countermand; but I had ’em and they couldn’t jump me.”
“By Jove! it wasn’t two weeks before that very model was the talk of New York and Lillian Russell was wearin’ one in the second act of her show; and when she wears a model it’s as good as made.”
“Gee!” she said. “I could just sit and listen to you talk and talk.”
He hunched close. “I sold the first dozen pannier dresses for a sum that would give you the blind staggers. I was just as scared as she was, too, but all you got to do with women is to get a few good-lookin’ bell-sheep to lead and the others will follow fast.”
She regarded him in the wan moonlight. “If there’s anything I admire,” she said, “it’s a smart man.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve just got a little better judgment than the next fellow. Those things come natural, that’s all. In my line a fellow’s got to know human nature. If I’d sprung the hobble on the Avenue five years ago I’d gone broke on the gamble; but I sprung the idea on ’em at just the right time.”
Her hand, long and slim, lay like a bit of carved ivory on the sand; he leaned forward and covered it with his.
“I want to see a great deal of you while I’m down here.”
She did not reply, but drew her hand away with a shy diffidence.
“I’ll bet I could show you some things that would warm you up all right. I’m goin’ into New York with the swellest bunch of French novelties you ever seen. I’ve got a peach-colored Piquette model I’ve brought over that’s goin’ to be the talk of the town.”
He laughed delightedly. “Sure! You never heard of the firm? Wait till you see ’em on show at the openin’. It’s got the new butterfly back; and, believe me, it wasn’t no cinch to grab that pattern, neither. I laid low in Paris two months before I even got a smell at it.”
“You talk just like a story-book,” she said.
He stretched himself full length on the sand and looked up into her face. “I’ll show you a thing or two when we get back to New York, little one.”
“You ain’t like most of the boys I know, Mr. Arnheim. You got something different about you.”
“And you got a face like the kind you see painted on fans—on the order of a Japanese dame. I got some swell Japanese imports, too.”
“Everybody says that about me. I take after paw.”
“Say, little one, I want your telephone number when I get back to New
“I’ll be pleased to have you call me up, Mr. Arnheim.”
“Will I call you up? Well, rather!”
“I know some nice girls I’ll introduce you to.”
He looked at her insinuatingly. “I know one nice girl, and that’s enough,” he said.
“Aw, Mr. Arnheim, of all the jolliers I ever knew you got ’em beat.” She rose to her feet like a gold-colored phoenix from a mound of white sand. “When I meet a fellow I like I don’t want him to tell me nothin’ but the truth.”
“That’s just the way with me—when I meet a girl that looks good I want to treat her white, and I want her to do the same by me.”
They strolled along the edge of the beach. Once the foaming surf threatened to lap over her slippers; he caught her deftly and raised her high above the swirl.
“Oh,” she cried, a little breathlessly, “ain’t you strong!” Then she laughed in a high-pitched voice.
They dallied until the moon hardened from a soft, low ball to a high, yellow disk and the night damp seeped into their clothes. Miss Sternberger’s yellow scarf lay like a limp rag on her shoulders.
“You’re a perfect thirty-six, ain’t you, little one?”
“That’s what they say when I try on ready-mades,” she replied, with sweet reticence.
“Gee!” he said. “Wouldn’t I like you in some of my models! Maybe if you ain’t no snitch I’ll show you the colored plates some day.”
“I ain’t no snitch,” she said. Her voice was like a far-away echo.
They climbed the wooden steps to their hotel like glorified children who had been caught in a silver weft of enchantment.
The lobby was semi-dark; they asked for their keys in whispers and exchanged good-nights in long-drawn undertones.
“Until to-morrow, little one.”
She entered the elevator with a smile on her lips and in her eyes. They regarded each other through the iron framework until she shot from sight.
* * * *
At breakfast next morning Mrs. Blondheim drew up before her “small steak, French-fried potatoes, jelly omelet, buttered toast, buckwheat cakes, and coffee.”
“Well, of all the nerve!” she exclaimed to her vis-à-vis, Mrs. Epstein. “If there ain’t Myra Sternberger eatin’ breakfast with that Mr. Arnheim!”
Mrs. Epstein opened a steaming muffin, inserted a lump of butter, and pressed the halves together. “I said to my husband last night,” she remarked, ‘I’m glad we ‘ain’t got no daughters’; till they’re married off and all, it ain’t no fun. With my Louie, now, it’s different. When he came out of the business school my husband put him in business, and now I ‘ain’t got no worry.”
“My Bella ‘ain’t never given me a day’s worry, neither. I ain’t in no hurry to marry her off. She always says to me, ‘Mamma,’ she says, ‘I ain’t in no hurry to marry till Mr. Right comes along.'”
“My Louie is comin’ down to-day or to-morrow on his vacation if he can get away from business. Louie’s a good boy—if I do say so myself.”
“I don’t want to talk—but I often say what my Bella gets when she marries is enough to give any young man a fine start in a good business.”
“I must have my Louie meet Miss Bella. The notes and letters Louie gets from girls you wouldn’t believe; he don’t pay no attention to ’em. He’s an awful mamma-boy, Mrs. Blondheim.”
“It will be grand for them to meet,” said Mrs. Blondheim. “If I do say it, my Bella’s had proposals you wouldn’t believe! Look at Simon Arnheim over there—he only met her yesterday, and do you think he would leave her side all day? No, siree. Honest, it makes me mad sometimes. A grand young man comes along and Bella introduces him to every one, but she won’t have nothin’ to do with him.”
“Try some of this liver and onions, Mrs. Blondheim; it’s delicious.”
Mrs. Blondheim partook and nibbled between her front teeth. “I got a grand recipe for suss und sauer liver. When we’re at home my Bella always says, ‘Mamma, let’s have some liver and gedämftes fleisch for lunch.'”
“Do you soak your liver first?” inquired Mrs. Epstein. “My Louie won’t eat nothin’ suss und sauer. It makes me so mad. I got to cook different for every one in my family. Louie won’t eat this and his father won’t eat that!”
“I’ll give you the recipe when I give you the one for the noodles. Bella says it’s the best she ever ate. My husband gets so mad when I go down in the kitchen—me with two grand girls and washerwoman two days a week! But the girls can’t cook to suit me.”
“Excuse me, too, from American cookin’.”
Mrs. Blondheim’s interest and gaze wandered down the dining-hall. “I wish you’d look at that Sternberger girl actin’ up! Ain’t it disgusting?”
“Please pass the salt, Mrs. Blondheim. That’s the trouble with hotel cooking—they don’t season. At home we like plenty of it, too. I season and season, and then at the table my husband has to have more.”
“She wouldn’t have met him at all if it hadn’t been for Bella,” pursued Mrs. Blondheim.
The object of Mrs. Blondheim’s solicitude, fresh as spring in crisp white linen, turned her long eyes upon Mr. Arnheim.
“You ought to feel flattered, Mr. Arnheim, that I let you come over to my table.”
Mr. Arnheim regarded her through a mist of fragrant coffee steam. “You betcher life I feel flattered. I’d get up earlier than this to have breakfast with a little queen.”
“Ain’t you ever goin’ to quit jollyin’?”
He leaned across the table. “That ain’t a bad linen model you’re wearin’—it’s domestic goods, too. Where’d you get it?”
“I sold them a consignment last year; but, say, if you want to see real classy white goods you ought to see some ratine cutaways I’m bringing over. I’ve brought a model I’m goin’ to call the Phoebe Snow. It’s the niftiest thing for early fall you ever saw.”
“You never heard of it? That’s where I get my work in—it’s the new lines, the novelty stuff, that gets the money.”
“Are you goin’ in the surf this morning, Mr. Arnheim?”
“I’m goin’ where you go, little one.” He dropped two lumps of sugar into her coffee-cup. “Sweets to the sweet,” he said.
“Silly!” But she giggled under her breath.
They pushed back their chairs and strolled down the aisle between the tables. She smiled brightly to her right and left.
“Good morning, Mrs. Blondheim. Is it warm enough for you?”
“Good morning,” replied Mrs. Blondheim, stabbing a bit of omelet with vindictive fork.
Mrs. Epstein looked after the pair with warming eyes. “She is a stylish dresser, ain’t she?”
“I wish you’d see the white linen my Bella’s got. It’s got sixteen yards of Cluny lace in the waist alone—and such Cluny, too! I paid a dollar and a half a yard wholesale.”
“Just look at this waist I’m wearin’, Mrs. Blondheim. You wouldn’t think I paid three and a half for the lace, would you?”
“Oh yes; I can always tell good stuff when I see it, and I always say it pays best in the end,” said Mrs. Blondheim, feeling the heavy lace edge of Mrs. Epstein’s sleeve between discriminating thumb and forefinger.
Suddenly Mrs. Epstein’s eyes widened; she rose to her feet, drawing a corner of the table-cloth awry. “If it ain’t my Louie!”
Mr. Louis Epstein, a faithful replica of his mother, with close black hair that curled on his head like the nap of a Persian lamb, imprinted a large, moist kiss upon the maternal lips.
“Hello, maw! Didn’t you expect me?”
“Not till the ten-o’clock train, Louie. How’s papa?”
“He’th fine. I left him billing thom goods to Thpokane.”
“How’s business, Louie?”
“Not tho bad, but pa can’t get away yet for a week. The fall goods ain’t all out yet.”
“Ain’t it awful, the way that man is all for business, Mrs. Blondheim? This is my son Louie.”
“Well, well, Mr. Epstein. I’ve heard a lot about you. I want you to meet my daughter Bella. You ought to make friends.”
“Yeth’m,” said Mr. Epstein.
* * * * *
Out on the clean-washed beach the sun glinted on the water and sent points of light dancing on the wavelets like bits of glass. Children in blue rompers burrowed and jangled their painted spades and pails; nursemaids planted umbrellas in the sand and watched their charges romp; parasols flashed past like gay-colored meteors.
In the white-capped surf bathers bobbed and shouted, and all along the shore-line the tide ran gently up the beach and down again, leaving a smooth, damp stretch of sand which soughed and sucked beneath the steps of the bathers.
Far out, where the waters were highest and the whitecaps maddest, Mr. Arnheim held Miss Sternberger about her slim waist and raised her high over each rushing breaker. They caught the swells and lay back against the heavy tow, letting the wavelets lap up to their chins.
Mr. Arnheim, with little rivulets running down his cheeks, shook the water out of his grayish hair and looked at her with salt-bitten, red-rimmed eyes.
“Gee!” he wheezed. “You’re a spunky little devil! Excuse me from the beach-walkers; I like ’em when they’re game like you.”
She danced about like an Amphitrite. “Who would be afraid of the water with a dandy swimmer like you?”
“This ain’t nothin’,” said Mr. Arnheim. “You ought to see me in still water. At Arverne last summer I was the talk of the place.”
They emerged from the water, dripping and heavy-footed. She wrung out her brief little skirts and stamped her feet on the sand. Mr. Arnheim hopped on one foot and then on the other, holding his head aslant. Then they stretched out on the white, sunbaked beach. Miss Sternberger loosened her hair and it showered about her.
“Gee! ‘Ain’t you got a swell bunch of hair!”
She shook and fluffed it. “You ought to seen it before I had typhoid. I could sit on it then.”
“That Phoebe Snow model that I got in mind for Lillian Russell would make you look like a queen, with that hair of yourn!”
She buried his arm in the sand and patted the mound. “Now,” she said, “I got you, and you can’t do anything without askin’ me.”
“You got me, anyway,” he said, with an expressive glance.
“Yes,” she purred, “that’s what you say now; but when you get back to New York you’ll forget all about the little girl you met down at the shore.”
“That’s all you know about me. I don’t take up with every girl.”
“I’m glad you don’t,” she said.
“But I’ll bet you got a different fellow for every day when you’re in New York.”
“Nothin’ like that,” she said; “but, anyway, there’s always room for one more.”
Two young men without hats passed. Miss Sternberger called out her greeting.
“Hello, Manny! Wasn’t the water grand? What? Well, you tell Leo he don’t know nothin’. No, we don’t want to have our pictures taken! Mr. Arnheim, I want to introduce you to Mr. Landauer, a neckwear man out of Baltimore, and Mr. Manny Sinai, also neckwear, out of New York.”
They posed, with the white sunlight in their eyes.
“I hope we won’t break the camera,” said Arnheim.
The remark was greeted with laughter. The little machine clicked, the new-comers departed, and then Miss Sternberger and Mr. Arnheim turned to each other again.
“You ain’t tired, are you—Myra?”
“No—Simon”—she danced to her feet and tossed the hair back from her face—”I ain’t tired.”
They walked down the beach toward the bathhouse, humming softly to themselves.
“I’ll be out in ten minutes,” she said, pausing at the door of her locker.
“Me too,” he said.
When they met again they were regroomed and full of verve. She was as cool as a rose. They laughed at their crinkly finger-tips—wrinkled by the water like parchment; and his neck, where it rose above the soft high collar, was branded by the sun a flaming red.
“Gee!” she cried. “Ain’t you sunburnt!”
“I always tan red,” he said.
“And me, I always tan tan.”
They exchanged these pithy and inspired bits of autobiography in warm, intimate tones. At their hotel steps she sighed with a delicious weariness.
“I wish I could do everything for you, little one—even walk up-stairs.”
“I ain’t tired, Simon; only—only—Oh, I don’t know.”
“Little one,” he said, softly.
In the lobby Miss Bella Blondheim leaned an elbow on the clerk’s desk and talked to a stout young man with a gold-mounted elk’s tooth on his watch-fob, and black hair that curled close to his head.
They made a group of four for a moment, Miss Blondheim regarding the arrivals with bright, triumphant eyes.
“My friend, Mr. Louis Epstein,” she said.
The men shook hands.
“Related to the Epstein & Son Millinery Company, Broadway and Spring?”
“Thertainly am. I happen to be the thon mythelf.”
“Was you in the surf this mornin’, Bella? It was grand!”
“No, Myra,” replied her friend. “Mr. Epstein and me took a trip to Ocean View.”
“You missed the water this mornin’. It was fine and dandy!” volunteered Mr. Arnheim.
“Me and Mr. Epstein are goin’ this afternoon—ain’t we?”
“We thertainly are,” agreed Mr. Epstein, regarding Miss Blondheim with small, admiring eyes.
Miss Sternberger edged away. “Pleased to have met you, Mr. Epstein.”
Mr. Arnheim edged with her and they moved on their way toward the dining-room.
Mrs. Blondheim from her point of vantage—the wicker rocker—leaned toward her sister-in-law.
“Look, Hanna! that’s Louie Epstein, of the Epstein & Son Millinery Company, with Bella. He’s a grand boy. I meet his mother at Doctor Bergenthal’s lecture every Saturday morning. Epstein & Son have got a grand business, and Bella could do a whole lot worse.”
“Well, I wish her luck,” said Mrs. Blondheim’s sister-in-law.
“I smell fried smelts. Let’s go in to lunch.”
Mrs. Blondheim stabbed her crochet needle into her spool. “I usually dip my smelts in bread crumbs. Have you ever tried them that way, Hanna?”
“Julius don’t eat smelts.”
They moved toward the dining-room.
Late that afternoon Miss Sternberger and Mr. Arnheim returned from a sail. Their faces were flushed and full of shy, sweet mystery.
“I can’t show you the models the way I’d like to, dearie, but I got ’em in colors just like the real thing.”
“Oh, Simon, you’re doin’ a thing like this for me without me even askin’ you!”
His hold of her arm tightened. “I wouldn’t show these here to my own sister before the twenty-fifth of the month. Now you know how you stand with me, little one.”
“Oh,” she cried, “I’m so excited! It’s just like lookin’ behind the scenes in a theayter.”
He left her and returned a few moments later with a flat, red-covered portfolio. They sought out an unmolested spot and snuggled in a corner of a plush divan in one of the deserted parlors. He drew back the cover and their heads bent low.
At each turn of the pages she breathed her ecstasy and gave out shrills and calls of admiration.
“Oh, Simon, ain’t that pink one a beauty! Ain’t that skirt the swellest thing you ever seen!”
“That’s the Piquette model, girlie. You and all New York will be buyin’ it in another month. Ain’t it the selectest little thing ever?”
Her face was rapt. “It’s the swellest thing I’ve ever seen!” she declared.
He turned to another plate.
“Oh-h-h-h-h!” she cried.
“Ain’t that a beauty! That there is going to be the biggest hit I’ve had yet. Watch out for the Phoebe Snow! I’ve got the original model in my trunks. That cutaway effect can’t be beat.”
“Oh-h-h-h-h!” she repeated.
They passed slowly over the gay-colored plates.
“There’s that flame-colored one I’d like to see you in.”
“Gee!” she said. “There’s some class to that.”
After a while the book was laid aside and they talked in low, serious tones; occasionally his hand stroked hers.
The afternoon waned; the lobby thinned; the dowagers and their daughters asked for room keys and disappeared for siestas and more mysterious processes; children trailed off to rest; the hot land-breezes, dry and listless, stirred the lace curtains of the parlor—but they remained on the plush divan, rapt as might have been Paolo and Francesca in their romance-imbued arbor.
“How long will you be down here?” she asked.
“As long as you,” he replied, not taking his eyes from her face.
“Sure. I don’t have to go in to New York for a week or ten days yet. My season ain’t on yet.”
She leaned her head against the back of the divan. “All nice things must end,” she said, with the ‘cello note in her voice.
“Oh, I don’t know!” he replied, with what might have been triple significance.
They finally walked toward the elevator, loath to part for the interim of dressing.
That evening they strolled together on the beach until the last lights of the hotel were blinking out. Then they stole into the semi-dark lobby like thieves—but soft-voiced, joyous thieves. A few straggling couples like themselves came in with the same sheepish but bright-eyed hesitancy. At the elevator Miss Blondheim and Mr. Epstein were lingering over good-nights.
The quartette rode up to their respective floors together—the girls regarding each other with shy, happy eyes; the men covering up their self-consciousness with sallies.
“Ain’t you ashamed to keep such late hours, Miss Blondheim?” said Mr. Arnheim.
“I don’t see no early-to-bed-early-to-rise medals on none of us,” she said, diffidently.
“These thummer rethorts sure ain’t no plathe for a minither’s thon,” said Mr. Epstein.
“Remember, Mr. Arnheim, whoever’s up first wait in the leather chair opposite the elevator.”
“Sure thing, Miss Sternberger.”
Her last glance, full of significance, was for Mr. Arnheim. The floor above he also left the elevator, the smile still on his lips.
Left alone, Mr. Epstein turned to Miss Blondheim.
“Good night, dearie,” he whispered. “Thweet dreamth.”
“Good night, Louie,” she replied. “Same to you.”
Mr. Arnheim awoke to a scudding rain; his ocean-ward window-sill dripping and a great patch of carpet beneath the window dark and soggy. Downstairs the lobby buzzed with restrained energies; a few venturesome ones in oils and turned-up collars paced the veranda without.
Mr. Arnheim, in his invariable soft collar and shadow-checked suit, skirted the edge of the crowd in matinal ill humor and deposited his room key at the desk. The clerk gave him in return a folded newspaper and his morning mail.
Mr. Arnheim’s morning aspect was undeniable. He suggested too generous use of soap and bay rum, and his eyes had not lost the swollen heaviness that comes with too much or too little sleep. He yawned and seated himself in the heavy leather chair opposite the elevator.
His first letter was unstamped and addressed to him on hotel stationery; the handwriting was an unfamiliar backhand and the inclosure brief:
DEAR MR. ARNHEIM: I am very sorry we could not keep our date, but I got a message and I got to go in on the 7:10 train. Hope to see you when I come back.
Sincerely, MYRA STERNBERGER.
Mr. Arnheim replaced the letter slowly in the envelope. There were two remaining—a communication from a cloak-manufacturing firm and a check from a banking-house. He read them and placed them in his inside coat pocket. Then he settled the back of his neck against the rim of the chair, crossed one leg over the other, rattled his newspaper open, and turned to the stock-market reports.
One week later Mr. Simon Arnheim, a red portfolio under one arm, walked into the mahogany, green-carpeted, soft-lighted establishment of an importing house on Fifth Avenue.
Mrs. S.S. Schlimberg, senior member, greeted him in her third-floor office behind the fitting-rooms.
“Well, well! Wie geht’s, Arnheim? I thought it was gettin’ time for you.”
Mr. Arnheim shook hands and settled himself in a chair beside the desk. “You know you can always depend upon me, madame, to look you up the minnit I get back. Don’t I always give you first choice?”
Mrs. Schlimberg weighed a crystal paper-weight up and down in her pudgy, ringed hands. “None of your fancy prices for me this season, Arnheim. There’s too many good things lyin’ loose. That’s why I got my openin’ a month sooner. I got a designer came in special off her vacation with some good things.”
Mr. Arnheim winked. “Schlim, I got some models here to show you that you can’t beat. When you see ’em you’ll pay any price.”
“I can’t pay your fancy prices no more. I paid you too much for that plush fad last winter, and it never was a go.”
Mr. Arnheim chuckled. “When you see a couple of the designs I brought over this trip you’ll be willin’ to pay me twice as much as for the hobble. Come on—own up, Schlim; you can’t beat my styles. Why, you can copy them for your import-room and make ninety per cent, on any one of ’em!”
“They won’t pay the prices, I tell you. Some of my best customers have gone over to other houses for the cheaper goods.”
“You can’t put over domestic stuff on your trade, Schlim. You might as well admit it. You gotta sting your class of trade in order to have ’em appreciate you.”
“Now, just to show you that I know what I’m talking about, Arnheim, I got the best lines of new models for this season I’ve had since I’m in business—every one of them domestics too. I’m puttin’ some made-in-America models in the import-room to-day that will open your eyes.”
Mr. Arnheim laughed and opened his portfolio. “I’ll show you these till my trunks come up,” he said.
“Just a minute, Arnheim. I want to show you some stuff—Miss
Sternberger!” Mrs. Schlimberg raised her voice slightly, “Miss
Almost immediately a svelte, black-gowned figure appeared in the doorway; she wore her hair oval about her face, like a Mona Lisa, and her hands were long and the dusky white of ivory.
“Mr. Arnheim, I want to introduce you to a designer we’ve got since you went away. Mr. Arnheim—Miss Sternberger.”
The whir of sewing-machines from the workrooms cut the silence.
“How do you do?” said Miss Sternberger.
“How do you do?” said Mr. Arnheim.
“Miss Sternberger is like you, Mr. Arnheim—she’s always out after novelties; and I will say for her she don’t miss out! She put out a line of uncut velvets last winter that was the best sellers we had.”
Mr. Arnheim bowed. Mrs. Schlimberg turned to Miss Sternberger.
“Miss Sternberger, will you bring in some of those new models that are going like hot cakes? Just on the forms will do.”
“Certainly.” She disappeared from the doorway.
Mrs. Schlimberg tapped her forefinger on the desk. “There’s the finest little designer we’ve ever had! I got her off a Philadelphia house, and I ‘ain’t never regretted the money I’m payin’ her. She’s done more for the house in eight months than Miss Isaacs did in ten years!”
Miss Sternberger returned; a stock-boy wheeled in the new models on wooden figures while Mrs. Schlimberg and her new designer arranged them for display. Mrs. Schlimberg turned to Mr. Arnheim.
“How’s the wife and boys, Arnheim? I ‘ain’t seen ’em since you brought ’em all in to see the Labor Day parade from the store windows last fall. Them’s fine boys you got there, Arnheim!”
“Thanks,” said Arnheim.
“Now, Arnheim, I’m here to ask you if you can beat these. Look at that there peach-bloom Piquette—look! Can you beat it? That there’s the new butterfly skirt—just one year ahead of anything that’s being shown this season.” Mrs. Schlimberg turned to a second model. “Look at this here ratine cutaway. If the Phoebe Snow ain’t the talk of New York before next week, then I don’t know my own name. Ain’t it so, Miss Sternberger?”
Miss Sternberger ran her smooth hand over the lace shoulder of the gown. “This is a great seller,” she replied, smiling at Mr. Arnheim. “Lillian Russell is going to wear it in the second act of her new play when she opens to-morrow night.”
“I guess we’re slow in here,” chuckled Mrs. Schlimberg, nudging Mr. Arnheim with the point of her elbow.
Miss Sternberger spread the square train of a flame-colored robe full length on the green carpet and drew back a corner of the hem to display the lacy avalanche beneath. Then she bowed slightly and turned toward the door.
Mrs. Schlimberg laid a detaining hand on her sleeve. “Just a minute, Miss Sternberger. Mr. Arnheim’s brought in some models he wants us to look at.”
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