LITTLE EVE EDGARTON
ELEANOR HALLOWELL ABBOTT
Author of "Molly Make Believe," "The White Linen Nurse," etc.
With Illustrations by
THE CENTURY CO.
_Published, September, 1914_
[Illustration: "Music! Flowers! Palms! Catering! Everything!"]
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"Music! Flowers! Palms! Catering! Everything!"
"I am riding," she murmured almost inaudibly
"I would thereforerespectfully
suggest as a special topic of
conversation the consummate
cheek of--yours truly, Paul Reymouth
"Your PAPER-DOLL BOOK?" stammered Barton
"Don't delay me!" she said, "I've got to make four hundred muffins!"
Suddenly full comprehension
broke upon him and he fairly blurted out
"You're nice," he said. "I like you!"
"Any time that you people want me," suggested Edgarton's icy voice, "I
here--in about the middle of the floor!"
LITTLE EVE EDGARTON
"But you live like such a fool--of course you're bored!" drawled the
Older Man, rummaging listlessly through his pockets for the
"Well, I like your nerve!" protested the Younger Man with unmistakable
"Do you--really?" mocked the Older Man, still smiling very faintly.
For a few minutes then both men resumed their cigars, staring
blinkishly out all the while from their dark green piazza
the dazzling white tennis
courts that gleamed like so many slippery
pine planks in the afternoon glare and heat. The month was August, the
day typically handsome, typically vivid, typically caloric.
It was the Younger Man who recovered his conversational interest
first. "So you think I'm a fool?" he resumed at last quite abruptly.
"Oh, no--no! Not for a minute!" denied the Older Man. "Why, my dear
sir, I never even implied that you were a fool! All I said was that
you--lived like a fool!"
Starting to be angry, the Younger Man laughed instead. "You're
certainly rather an amusing
sort of chap," he acknowledged
A gleam of real pride quickened most ingenuously in the Older Man's
pale blue eyes. "Why, that's just the whole point of my argument," he
beamed. "Now--you look interesting. But you aren't! And I--don't look
interesting. But it seems that I am!"
"You--you've got a nerve!" reverted the Younger Man.
Altogether serenely the Older Man began to rummage again through all
his pockets. "Thank you for your continuous
compliments," he mused.
"Thank you, I say. Thank you--very much. Now for the very first time,
sir, it's beginning
to dawn on me just why you have honored me with
so much of your company--the past three or four days. I truly believe
that you like me! Eh? But up to last Monday, if I remember correctly,"
he added drily, "it was that showy young Philadelphia crowd that was
absorbing the larger part of your--valuable attention? Eh? Wasn't it?"
"What in thunder
are you driving at?" snapped the Younger Man. "What
are you trying
to string me about, anyway? What's the harm if I did
say that I wished to glory I'd never come to this blasted hotel? Of
all the stupid
people! Of all the stupid
places! Of all the
"The mountains here are considered quite remarkable
suggested the Older Man blandly.
"Mountains?" snarled the Younger Man. "Mountains? Do you think for a
moment that a fellow like me comes to a God-forsaken spot like this
for the sake of mountains?"
noisily the Older Man jerked his chair around and, slouching
down into his shabby
gray clothes, with his hands thrust
deep into his
pockets, his feet shoved out before him, sat staring at his companion.
from brow to chin with myriad
of perplexity, his lean, droll face looked suddenly almost monkeyish
in its intentness.
"What does a fellow like you come to a place like this for?" he asked
"Why--tennis," conceded the Younger Man. "A little tennis. And golf--a
little golf. And--and--"
"And--girls," asserted the Older Man with precipitous conviction.
Across the Younger Man's splendidly
tailored shoulders a little
flicker of self-consciousness went crinkling. "Oh, of course," he
grinned. "Oh, of course I've got a vacationist's usual partiality for
pretty girls. But Great Heavens!" he began, all over again. "Of all
"But you live like such a fool--of course you're bored," resumed the
"There you are at it again!" stormed the Younger Man with tempestuous
"Why shouldn't I be 'at it again'?" argued the Older Man mildly.
"Always and forever picking out the showiest people that you can
find--and always and forever being bored to death with them
eventually, but never learning
anything from it--that's you! Now
wouldn't that just naturally suggest to any observing stranger that
there was something radically idiotic about your method of life?"
"But that Miss Von Eaton looked like such a peach!" protested the
Younger Man worriedly.
"That's exactly what I say," droned the Older Man.
"Why, she's the handsomest girl here!" insisted the Younger Man
"That's exactly what I say," droned the Older Man.
"And the best dresser!" boasted the Younger Man stubbornly.
"That's exactly what I say," droned the Older Man.
"Why, just that pink paradise
hat alone would have knocked almost any
chap silly," grinned the Younger Man a bit sheepishly.
"Humph!" mused the Older Man still droningly. "Humph! When a chap
falls in love with a girl's hat at a summer resort, what he ought to
do is to hike back to town on the first train he can catch--and go
find the milliner who made the hat!"
"Hike back to--town?" gibed the Younger Man. "Ha!" he sneered. "A chap
would have to hike back a good deal farther than 'town' these days to
find a girl that was worth hiking back for! What in thunder's the
matter with all the girls?" he queried petulantly. "They get stupider
and stupider every summer! Why, the peachiest debutante you meet the
whole season can't hold your interest much beyond the stage where you
once begin to call her by her first name!"
Irritably, as he spoke, he reached out for a bright-covered magazine
from the great pile of books and papers that sprawled on the wicker
table close at his elbow. "Where in blazes do the story-book writers
find their girls?" he demanded. Noisily with his knuckles he began to
knock through page after page of the magazine's big-typed
the year's most popular story-book heroines.
"Why--here are no end of story-book girls," he complained, "that could
keep a fellow guessing till his hair was nine shades of white! Look at
the corking things they say! But what earthly
good are any of 'em to
you? They're not real! Why, there was a little girl in a magazine
story last month--! Why, I could have died for her! But confound
say, what's the use? They're none of 'em real! Nothing but moonshine!
Nothing in the world, I tell you, but just plain made-up moonshine!
Slowly the Older Man drew in his long, rambling legs and crossed one
knee adroitly over the other.
"Improbable--your grandmother!" said the Older Man. "If there's--one
person on the face of this earth who makes me sick it's the ninny who
calls a thing 'improbable' because it happens to be outside his own
special, puny experience of life."
Tempestuously the Younger Man slammed down his magazine to the floor.
"Great Heavens, man!" he demanded. "Where in thunder
would a fellow
like me start out to find a story-book girl? A real girl, I mean!"
"Almost anywhere--outside yourself," murmured the Older Man blandly.
"Eh?" jerked the Younger Man.
"That's what I said," drawled the Older Man with unruffled suavity.
"But what's the use?" he added a trifle
more briskly. "Though you
searched a thousand years! A 'real girl'? Bah! You wouldn't know a
'real girl' if you saw her!"
"I tell you I would!" snapped the Younger Man.
"I tell you--you wouldn't!" said the Older Man.
"Prove it!" challenged the Younger Man.
"It's already proved!" confided the Older Man. "Ha! I know your type!"
he persisted frankly. "You're the sort of fellow, at a party, who
just out of sheer fool-instinct will go trampling down every other man
in sight just for the sheer fool-joy of trying
to get the first dance
with the most conspicuously showy-looking, most conspicuously
artificial-looking girl in the room--who always and invariably
you to death' before the evening is over! And while you and the rest
of your kind are battling together--year after year--for this special
privilege of being 'bored to death,' the 'real girl' that you're
asking about, the marvelous
girl, the girl with the big, beautiful,
unspoken thoughts in her head, the girl with the big, brave, undone
deeds in her heart, the girl that stories are made of, the girl whom
you call 'improbable'--is moping off alone in some dark, cold
corner--or sitting forlornly partnerless against the bleak wall of the
ballroom--or hiding shyly up in the dressing-room--waiting to be
discovered! Little Miss Still-Waters, deeper than ten thousand seas!
Little Miss Gunpowder, milder than the dusk before the moon ignites
it! Little Miss Sleeping-Beauty, waiting
for her Prince!"
"Oh, yes--I suppose so," conceded the Younger Man impatiently. "But
that Miss Von Eaton--"
"Oh, it isn't that I don't know a pretty face--or hat, when I see it,"
interrupted the Older Man nonchalantly. "It's only that I don't put my
trust in 'em." With a quick gesture, half audacious, half apologetic,
he reached forward suddenly and tapped the Younger Man's coat sleeve.
"Oh, I knew just as well as you," he affirmed, "oh, I knew just as
well as you--at my first glance--that your gorgeous
young Miss Von
Eaton was excellingly handsome. But I also knew--not later certainly
than my second glance--that she was presumably
rather stupid. You
can't be interesting, you know, my young friend, unless you do
interesting things--and handsome creatures are proverbially lazy.
Humph! If Beauty is excuse enough for Being, it sure takes Plainness
then to feel the real necessity for--Doing.
of hats, if it's stimulating conversation that you're
after, if you're looking for something unique, something significant,
something really worth while--what you want to do, my young friend, is
to find a girl with a hat you'd be ashamed
to go out with--and stay
home with her! That's where you'll find the brains, the originality,
the vivacity, the sagacity, the real ideas!"
With his first sign of genuineamusement
the Younger Man tipped back
his head and laughed right up into the green-lined roof of the piazza.
"Now just whom would you speciallyrecommend
for me?" he demanded
mirthfully. "Among all the feminine
galaxy of bores and frumps that
seem to be congregated at this particular hotel--just whom would you
for me? The stoop-shouldered, school-marmy Botany
dame with her incessant
garden gloves? Or?--Or--?" His whole face
brightened suddenly with a rather extraordinaryamount
malice: "Or how about that duddy-looking little Edgarton girl that I
saw you talking with this morning?" he asked delightedly. "Heaven
knows she's colorless enough to suit even you--with her
winter-before-spring-before-summer-before-last clothes and her voice
so meek you'd have to hold her in your lap to hear it. And her--"
"That 'duddy-looking' little Miss Edgarton--meek?" mused the Older Man
astonishment. "Meek? Why, man alive, she was born in a
snow-shack on the Yukon River! She was at Pekin in the Boxer
Rebellion! She's roped steers in Oklahoma! She's matched her
embroidery silks to all the sunrise
tints on the Himalayas! Just why
should she seem meek--do you suppose--to a--to
a--twenty-five-dollar-a-week clerk like yourself?"
"'A twenty-five-dollar-a-week clerk like myself?'" the Younger Man
fairly gasped. "Why--why--I'm the juniorpartner
of the firm of Barton
& Barton, stock-brokers! Why, we're the biggest--"
"Is that so?" quizzed the Older Man with feigned surprise.
"Well--well--well! I beg your pardon. But now doesn't it all go to
prove just exactly what I said in the beginning--that it doesn't
behoove a single one of us to judge too hastily
As if fairly overwhelmed with embarrassment
he sat staring silently
off into space for several seconds. Then--"Speaking of this Miss
Edgarton," he resumed genially, "have you ever exactly sought her
out--as it were--and actually
tried to get acquainted with her?"
"No," said Barton shortly. "Why, the girl must be thirty years old!"
"S--o?" mused the Older Man. "Just about your age?"
"I'm thirty-two," growled the Younger Man.
"I'm sixty-two, thank God!" acknowledged the Older Man. "And your
gorgeous Miss Von Eaton--who bores you so--all of a sudden--is
"Twenty," prompted the Younger Man.
"Poor--senile--babe," ruminated the Older Man soberly.
"Eh?" gasped the Younger Man, edging forward in his chair. "Eh?
"Sure!" grinned the Older Man. "Twenty is nothing but the 'sere and
yellow leaf' of infantile caprice! But thirty is the jocund
character! On land or sea the Lord Almighty never made anything as
radiantly, divinely young as--thirty! Oh, but thirty's the darling
in a woman!" he added with sudden exultant positiveness. "Thirty's the
birth of individuality! Thirty's the--"
"Twenty has got quite enough individuality
for me, thank you!"
asserted Barton with some curtness.
"But it hasn't!" cried the Older Man hotly. "You've just confessed
that it hasn't!" In an amazingimpulse
of protest he reached out and
shook his freckled
fist right under the Younger Man's nose. "Twenty, I
tell you, hasn't got any individuality
at all!" he persisted
"Twenty isn't anything at all except the threadbare cloak of her
father's idiosyncrasies, lined with her mother's made-over tact,
trimmed with her great-aunt somebody's short-lipped smile, shrouding a
brand-new frame of--God knows what!"
"Eh? What?" questioned the Younger Man uneasily.
"When a girl is twenty, I tell you," persisted the Older Man--"there's
not one marrying man among us--Heaven help us!--who can swear whether
her charm is Love's own permanent
food or just Nature's temporary
bait! At twenty, I tell you, there's not one man among us who can
prove whether vivacity is temperament
or just plain kiddishness;