by Henrietta H. Holdich
"Königin," said I, as I poked the
fire, "what do you think of the
people in the house?"
On second thoughts it was not "Königin"
that I said, for it was only that night
that she received the title. It is of no
consequence what I did call her, however,
for from that time she was never
anything but Königin to me.
We began to "talk things over," as
we had a way of doing; and very good
fun it was and quite harmless, provided
the ventilator was not open. That had
happened once or twice, and got us into
quite serious scrapes. People have such
an utterly irrational objection to your
amusing yourself in the most innocent
way at what they consider their expense.
Königin and I had come to the boarding-house
that very day. We were by
ourselves, for our male protectors were
off "a-hunting the wild deer and following
the roe"—or its Florida equivalent,
whatever that may be—and we did not
fancy staying at a hotel under the circumstances.
Now, we had taken our
observations, and were prepared to pronounce
our opinions on our fellow-boarders.
One after another was canvassed
and dismissed. Mr. A. had eccentric
table-manners; Miss B. wriggled and
squirmed when she talked; Mrs. C. was
much too lavish of inappropriate epithets;
Mr. X.'s conversation, on the contrary,
was quite bald and bare from the utter
lack of those parts of speech; Miss Y.
had a nice face, and Mrs. Z. a pretty
Just here Königin suddenly burst out
laughing. "Really," she said, "we go
about the world criticising people as if
we were King Solomon and the queen
"'Die Königin von Seba,'" said I.
"That, I suppose, is you and our motto
should be, 'Wir sind das Volk und die
Weisheit stirbt mit uns.'"
I was not at all sure of the accuracy
of my translation, but its appropriateness
"What do you think of the Englishman,
Königin?" I asked, giving the fire
another poke, not from shamefacedness,
but because it really needed it, for the
evening was damp and chilly.
"I like him," said Königin decidedly.
Königin and I were always prepared
with decided opinions, whether we knew
anything about the subject in hand or
"He has a fine head," Königin went
on, "quite a ducal contour, according to
our republican ideas of what a duke
ought to be. I like the steady intense
light of his eyes under those straight
dark brows, and that little frown only
increases the effect. Then his laugh is
so frank and boyish. Yes, I like him
"He has a nice gentlemanly voice," I
suggested—"rather on the 'gobble-gobble'
order, but that is the fault of his
This is enough of that conversation,
for, after all, neither of us is the heroine
of this tale. It is well that this should
be distinctly understood at the start.
Somehow, "the Jook" (as we generally
called him, in memory of Jeames Yellowplush)
and I became very intimate
after that, but it was never anything more
than a sort of camaraderie. Königin
knew all about it, and she pronounced
it the most remarkable instance of a
purely intellectual flirtation which she
had ever seen; which was all quite correct,
except for the term "flirtation," of
which it never had a spice.
One of the Jook's most striking peculiarities,
though by no means an uncommon
one among his countrymen, was a
profound distrust of new acquaintances
and an utter incapacity of falling into
the free and easy ways which prevail
more strongly perhaps in Florida than
in any other part of America. There
really was some excuse for him, though,
for, not to put it too strongly, society
is a little mixed in Florida, and it is
hard for a foreigner to discriminate closely
enough to avoid being drawn into unpleasant
complications if he relaxes in
the slightest degree his rules of reserve.
Besides which, the Jook was a man of
the most morbid and ultra refinement.
"Refinement" was the word he preferred,
but I should have called it an absurd
squeamishness. He could make no allowance
for personal or local peculiarities,
and eccentricities in our neighbors
which delighted Königin and me and
sent us into fits of laughter excited in
his mind only the most profound disgust.
Therefore, partly in the fear of having
his sensibilities unpleasantly jarred upon,
partly from the fear of making objectionable
acquaintances whom he might afterward
be unable to shake off, and partly
from an inherent and ineradicable shyness,
he went about clad in a mantle of
gloomy reserve, speaking to no one, looking
at no one—"grand, gloomy and peculiar."
It was currently reported that
previous to our arrival he had never
spoken to a creature in the boarding-house,
though he had been an inmate
of it for six weeks. For the rest, he was
clever and intelligent, with frank, honest,
boyish ways, which I liked, even though
they were sometimes rather exasperating.
It was not quite pleasant, for instance,
to hear him speak of Americans in the
frank and unconstrained manner which
he adopted when talking to us. We
could hardly wonder at it when we looked
at the promiscuous crowd which formed
his idea of American society. Refined
and well-bred people there certainly were,
but these were precisely the ones who
never forced themselves upon his notice,
leaving him to be struck and stunned by
fast and hoydenish young ladies, ungrammatical
and ill-bred old ones, and
men of all shades of boorishness and
swagger, such as make themselves conspicuous
in every crowd. Unluckily,
both Königin and I have English blood
in our veins, and the Jook could not be
convinced that we did not eagerly snatch
at the chance thus presented of claiming
the title of British subjects. It is quite
hopeless to attempt to convince Englishmen
that any American would not be
British if he could. Pride in American
citizenship is an idea utterly monstrous
and inconceivable to them, and they can
look on the profession of it in no other
light than that of a laudable attempt at
making the best of a bad case. Therefore,
the Jook persisted in ignoring our
protestations of patriotic ardor, and in
paying us the delicate compliment of
considering us English and expressing
his views on America with a beautiful
frankness which kept us in a frame of
mind verging on delirium.
What was to be done with such a man?
Clearly, but one thing, and I sighed for
one of our American belles who should
come and see and conquer this impracticable
Englishman. At present, things
seemed quite hopeless. There was no one
within reach who would have the slightest
chance of success in such an undertaking.
Though outsiders gave me the
credit of his subjugation, I knew quite
well that there not only was not, but
never could be, the necessary tinge of
sentimentality in our intercourse. We
were much too free and easy for that,
and we laughed and talked, rambled and
boated together, "like two babes in the
woods," as Königin was fond of remarking.
It was in Florida that all this took place—in
shabby, fascinating Jacksonville,
where one meets everybody and does
nothing in particular except lounge about
and be happy. So the Jook and I lounged
and were happy with a placid, unexciting
sort of happiness, until the day when
Kitty Grey descended upon us with the
suddenness of a meteor, and very like
one in her bewildering brightness.
Kitty was by no means pretty, but,
though women recognized this fact, the
man who could be convinced of it remains
yet to be discovered. You might
force them to confess that Kitty's nose
was flat, her eyes not well shaped, her
teeth crooked, her mouth slightly awry,
but it always came back to the same
point: "Curious that with all these defects
she should still be so exquisitely
Really, I did not so much wonder at it
myself sometimes when I saw Kitty's
pale cheeks flush with that delicious
pink, her wide hazel eyes deepen and
glow, her little face light up with elfish
mirth, and her round, childish figure
poise itself in some coquettish attitude.
Then she had such absurd little hands,
with short fingers and babyish dimples,
such tiny feet, and such a wealth of
crinkled dark-brown hair—such bewitching
little helpless ways, too, a fashion of
throwing herself appealingly on your compassion
which no man on earth could resist!
At bottom she was a self-reliant,
independent little soul, but no mortal
man ever found that out: Kitty was far
Of course, as soon as I saw Kitty I
thought of the Jook. Would he or wouldn't
he? On the whole, I was rather afraid
he wouldn't, for Kitty's laugh sometimes
rang out a little too loud, and Kitty's
spirits sometimes got the better of her
and set her frisking like a kitten, and I
was afraid the modest sense of propriety
which was one of the Jook's strong points
would not survive it. However, I concluded
to risk it, but just here a sudden
and unforeseen obstacle checked my triumphant
"Mr. Warriner," I said sweetly (I was
always horribly afraid I should call him
Mr. Jook, but I never did), "I want to
introduce you to my friend, Miss Grey."
The Jook looked at me with his most
placid smile, and replied blandly, "Thank
you very much, but I'd rather not."
Did any one ever hear of such a man?
I understood his reasons well enough,
though he did not take the trouble to
explain them: it was only exclusiveness
gone mad. And he prided himself upon
his race and breeding, and considered
our American men boors!
After that I nearly gave up his case as
hopeless, and devoted myself to Kitty,
whom I really believe the Jook did not
know by sight after having been for
nearly a week in the same house with
Kitty once or twice mildly insinuated
her desire to know him. "He has such
a nice face," she said plaintively, "and
such lovely little curly brown whiskers!
He is the only man in the house worth
looking at, but if I happen to come up
when he is talking to you, he instantly
disappears. He must think me very
It was really very embarrassing to me,
for of course I could not tell her that the
Jook had declined the honor of an introduction.
I knew, as well as if she had
told me so, that Kitty in her secret heart
accused me of a mean and selfish desire
to keep him all to myself, but I was
obliged meekly to endure the obloquy,
undeserved as it was. Königin used to
go into fits of laughter at my dilemma,
and just at this period my admiration of
the Jook went down to the lowest ebb.
"He is a selfish, conceited creature!" I
exclaimed in my wrath. "I really believe
he thinks that bewitching little Kitty
would fall in love with him forthwith
if he submitted to an introduction. Oh,
I do wish he knew what we thought of
him! Why doesn't he listen outside of
"My dear," said Königin, still laughing,
though sympathetic, "it strikes me
that we began by making rather a demi-god
of the man, and are ending by stripping
him of even the good qualities which
he probably does possess."
Well! things went on in this exasperating
way for a week or so longer. Of
course I washed my hands of the Jook,
for I was too much exasperated to be
even civil to him. Kitty was as bright
and good-natured as ever, ready to enjoy
all the little pleasures that came in her
way, though now and then I fancied that
I detected a stealthy, wistful look at the
Jook's impassive face.
It was lovely that day, but fearfully
hot. The sun showered down its burning
rays upon the white Florida sands,
the sky was one arch of cloudless blue,
and the water-oaks swung their moss-wreaths
languidly over the deserted
streets. We had been dreaming and
drowsing away the morning, Königin,
Kitty and I, in the jelly-fish-like state
into which one naturally falls in Florida.
Suddenly Kitty sprang to her feet. "I
can't stand this any longer," she said:
"I shall turn into an oyster if I vegetate
here. Please, do you see any shells
sprouting on my back yet?"
"What do you want to do?" I asked
drowsily. "You can't walk in this heat,
and if you go on the river the sun will
take the skin off your face, and where
are you then, Miss Kitty?"
"I can't help that," retorted Kitty in
a tone of desperation. "I don't exactly
know where I shall go, but I think in
pursuit of some yellow jessamine."
I sat straight up and gazed at her:
"Are you mad, Kitty? Has the heat
addled your brain already? You would
have to walk at least a mile before you
could find any; and what's the good of
it, after all? It would all be withered
before you could get home."
"Can't help that," repeated Kitty: "I
shall have had it, at all events. Any
way, I'm going, and you two can finish
your dreams in peace."
It was useless to argue with Kitty when
she was in that mood, so I contented myself
with giving her directions for reaching
the nearest copse where she would
be likely to find the fragrant beauty.
Two hours later Königin sat at the
window gazing down the long sandy
street. Suddenly her face changed, an
expression of interest and surprise came
into her dreamy eyes: she put up her
glass, and then broke into a laugh.
"Come and look at this," she exclaimed;
and I came.
What I saw was only Kitty and the
Jook, but Kitty and the Jook walking
side by side in the most amicable manner—Kitty
sparkling, bewitching, helpless,
appealing by turns or altogether as
only she could be; the Jook watching
her with an expression of amusement
and delight on his handsome face. And
both were laden with great wreaths and
trails of yellow jessamine, golden chalices
of fragrance, drooping sprays of
green glistening leaves, until they looked
like walking bowers.
"How on earth—" I exclaimed, and
could get no further: my feelings choked
Kitty came in radiant and smiling as
the morning, bearing her treasures. Of
course we both pounced upon her: "Kitty,
where did you meet the Jook? How
did it happen? What did you do?"
"Cows!" said Kitty solemnly, with
grave lips and twinkling eyes.
"Cows? Cows in Florida? Kitty,
what do you mean?"
"A cow ran at me, and I was frightened
and ran at Mr. Warriner. He drove
the cow off. That's all. Then he walked
home with me. Any harm in that?"
"Now, Kitty, the idea! A Florida
cow run at you? If you had said a pig,
there might be some sense in it, for the
pigs here do have some life about them;
but a cow! Why, the creatures have not
strength enough to stand up: they are
all starving by inches."
"Can't help that," said Kitty. "Must
have thought I was good to eat, then, I
suppose. I thought she was going to
toss me, but I don't think it would be
much more agreeable to be eaten. Mr.
Warriner is my preserver, anyhow, and
I shall treat him 'as sich.'"
Kitty looked so mischievous and so
mutinous that there was evidently no use
in trying to get anything more out of her,
and after standing there a few minutes
fingering her blossoms and smiling to
herself, she danced off to dress for tea.
"Selfish little thing, not to offer us one
of those lovely sprays!" I exclaimed,
but Königin laughed: "My dear, they
are hallowed. Our touch would profane
Königin always saw further than I
did, and I gasped: "Königin! you don't
"Oh no, dear, not yet. Kitty is piqued,
and wants to fascinate the Jook a little—just
a little as yet, but she may burn her
fingers before she gets through. Looks
are contagious, and—did you see her
Such a brilliant little figure as slipped
softly into the dining-room that evening,
all wreathed and twisted and garlanded
about with the shining green vines, gemmed
with their golden stars. Head and
throat and waist and round white arms
were all twined with them, and blossoming
sprays and knots of the delicately
carved blossoms drooped or clung here
and there amid her floating hair and
gauzy black drapery. How did the child
ever make them stick? How had she
managed to decorate herself so elaborately
in the short time that had elapsed
since her return? But Kitty had ways
of doing things unknown to duller mortals.
Not a word had Kitty for me that
evening, but for her father such clinging,
coaxing, wheedling ways, and for
the Jook such coy, sparkling, artfully-accidental
glances, such shy turns of
the little head, such dainty capricious
airs, that it was delicious to watch her.
Königin and I sat in a dark corner for
the express purpose of admiring her delicate
little manœuvres. As for her father,
good stolid man! he was well used to
Kitty's freaks, and went on reading his
newspaper in such a matter-of-fact way
that she might as well have wheedled
the Pyramid of Cheops. The Jook, however,
was all that could be desired. The
shyest of men—shy and proud as only
an Englishman can be—he could not
make up his mind to walk directly up
to Kitty, as an American would do, as
all the young Americans in the room
would have done if Kitty had let them.
But Kitty, flighty little butterfly as she
seemed, had stores of tact and finesse
in that little brain of hers, and the power
of developing a fine reserve which had
already wilted more than one of the
young men of the house. For Kitty was
none of your arrant and promiscuous
flirts who count "all fish that come to
their net." She was choice and dainty
in her flirtations, but, possibly, none the
less dangerous for that.
The Jook hovered about the room from
chair to sofa, from sofa to window-seat,
finding himself at each remove one degree
nearer to Kitty.
"He is like a tame canary-bird,"
whispered Königin. "Let it alone and
it will come up to you after a while, but
speak to it and you frighten it off at
And when at length he reached Kitty's
side, how beautiful was the look of
slight surprise, not too strongly marked,
and the half-shy pleasure in the eyes
which she raised to him; and then the
coy little gesture with which she swept
aside her draperies and made room for
him. Half the power of Kitty's witcheries
lay in her frank, childish manner,
just dashed with womanly reserve.
Well! the Jook was thoroughly in the
vortex now: there was no doubt about
that. Kitty might laugh as loud as she
pleased, and he only looked charmed.
Kitty might frisk like a will-o'-the wisp,
and he only admired her innocent vivacity.
Even the bits of slang and the
Americanisms which occasionally slipped
from her only struck him as original
and piquant. How would it all end?
That neither Königin nor I could divine,
for Kitty was not one to wear her heart
upon her sleeve. It was very little that
we saw of Kitty in these days, for she
was always wandering off somewhere,
boating on the broad placid river or
lounging about "Greenleaf's" or driving—always
with the Jook for cavalier,
and, if the excursions were long, with
her father to play propriety. When she
did come into our room, she was not our
own Kitty, with her childish airs and
merry laughter. This was a brilliant and
volatile little woman of the world, who
rattled on in the most amusing manner
about everything—except the Jook.
About him her lips never opened, and
the most distant allusion to him on our
part was sufficient to send her fluttering
off on some pressing and suddenly remembered
errand. Yet this reserve
hardly seemed like the shyness of conscious
but unacknowledged love. On
the contrary, we both fancied—Königin
and I—that Kitty began to look worried,
and somehow, in watching her and the
Jook, we began to be conscious that a
sort of constraint had crept into her manner
toward him. It could be no doubt
of his feelings that caused it, for no woman
could desire a bolder or more ardent
lover than he had developed into, infected,
no doubt, by the American atmosphere.
Sometimes, too, we caught
shy, wistful glances at the Jook from Kitty's
eyes, hastily averted with an almost
guilty look if he turned toward her.
"What can it mean, Königin?" I said.
"She looks as if she wanted to confess
some sin, and was afraid to."
"Some childish peccadillo," said Königin.
"In spite of all her woman-of-the-world-ishness
the child has a morbidly
sensitive conscience, and is troubled
about some nonsense that nobody else
would think of twice."
"Can it be that she has only been flirting,
and is frightened to find how desperately
in earnest he is?"
"Possibly," replied Königin. "But I
fancy that she is too well used to that
phase of affairs to let it worry her. Wait
a while and we shall see."
We couldn't make anything of it, but
even the Jook became worried at last by
Kitty's queer behavior, and I suppose he
thought he had better settle the matter.
For one evening, when I was keeping
my room with a headache, I was awakened
from a light sleep by a sound of voices
on the piazza outside of my window. It
was some time before I was sufficiently
wide awake to realize that the speakers
were Kitty and the Jook, and when I did
I was in a dilemma. To let them know
that I was there would be to overwhelm
them both with confusion and interrupt
their conversation at a most interesting
point, for the Jook had evidently just
made his declaration. It was impossible
for me to leave the room, for I was by
no means in a costume to make my appearance
in the public halls. On the
whole, I concluded that the best thing I
could do would be to keep still and never,
by word or look, to let either of them
know of my most involuntary eavesdropping.
Kitty was speaking when I heard them
first, talking in a broken, hesitating voice,
which was very queer from our bright,
fluent little Kitty: "Mr. Warriner, you
don't know what a humbug you make
me feel when you talk of 'my innocence'
and 'unconsciousness' and 'lack of vanity,'
and all the rest of it. I have been
feeling more and more what a vain, deceitful,
hypocritical little wretch I am
ever since I knew you. I have been expecting
you to find me out every day,
and I almost hoped you would."
"What do you mean, Miss Grey?"
asked the Jook in tones of utter amazement,
as well he might.
"Oh dear! how shall I tell you?"
sighed poor Kitty; and I could feel her
blushes burning through her words.
Then, with a sudden rush: "Can't you
see? I feel as if I had stolen your love,
for it was all gained under false pretences.
You never would have cared
for me if you had known what a miserable
hypocrite I really was. Why, that
very first day I wasn't afraid of the cow—she
didn't even look at me—but I saw
you coming, and—and—Helen wouldn't
introduce you to me—and it just struck
me it would be a good chance, and so I
rushed up to you and—Oh! what will
you think of me?"
"Think?" said the Jook: "why, I think
that while ninety-nine women out of a
hundred are hypocrites, not one in a
thousand has the courage to atone for
it by an avowal like yours. Not that it
was exactly hypocrisy, either."
The poor blundering Jook! Always
saying the most maddening things under
the firm conviction that it was the
most delicate compliment.
Kitty was too much in earnest to mind
it now, though. "Do you know," she
went on, "that from the very first day
I came into the house I was determined
to captivate you?—that every word and
every look was directed to that end? I
have been nothing but an actress all
through. I have done it before, hundreds
and hundreds of times, but I never
felt the shame of it until now—because—because—"
"Because you never loved any one before?
Is that it, Kitty?" said the Jook
"Oh, I don't know," said Kitty desperately.
"How can I tell? But it's all
Helen's fault. If she had introduced
you to me in a rational way, I should
never have gone on so. But she wouldn't,
and I was piqued—"
"I must exonerate Miss Helen," interrupted
the Jook. "She wanted to introduce
me, and I declined. I am sure
I don't know why—English reserve, I
suppose. I had not seen you then, you
know, and some of the people here are
such a queer lot that I rather dreaded
"Not Helen's fault?" wailed Kitty.
"Oh, this is stolen—oh, poor Helen!"
Naturally, the Jook was utterly bewildered,
but as for me I sprang up into a
sitting posture, for the meaning of Kitty's
behavior had just flashed upon me.
Absolutely, the poor little goose thought
that in accepting the Jook, as she was
evidently dying to do, she would be robbing
me of my lover. And she never
guessed at my own little romance, tucked
away safely in the most secret corner
of my heart, which put any man save
one quite out of the question for me. If
I had stopped to think, I suppose I should
not have done what I did, but in my surprise
the words came out before I thought:
"Good gracious, Kitty my dear! do take
the Jook if you want him! I don't."
I could not help laughing when I realized
what I had done. A little shriek from
Kitty and a very British exclamation from
the Jook, a slight scuffle of chairs and a
sense, rather than sound, of confusion,
announced the effect of my words.
I waited for their reply, but dead silence
prevailed, so I was obliged to
speak again. "You needn't be alarmed,"
I said, peering cautiously through
the chinks in the blinds, for I had approached
the window by this time. "I
didn't mean to listen, but I couldn't get
out of the way, and I never intended to
let you or any one else know that I had
heard your conversation. I'm awfully
sorry that I have disturbed you, but, as
I am in for it now, I might as well go
There I stopped, for I didn't exactly
know what to say, and I hoped that one
of them would "give me a lead." I could
just catch a glimpse of their faces in the
moonlight. The Jook was staring straight
at the window-shutter behind which I
lurked, and the wrath and disgust expressed
in his handsome features set me
off into a silent chuckle. I was sorry for
Kitty, though. Her face drooped as if it
were weighed down by its own blushes,
and the long lashes quivered upon the
"Ah, really, Miss Helen," spoke the
Jook at last, "this is a most unexpected
pleasure. Ah, really, you know, I
It was not very lucid, but it was all I
needed, and I replied suavely, "Oh yes,
I understand. You never asked me, and
never had the faintest idea of doing so.
Otherwise, we should not have been such
good friends. All I want is to enforce
the fact on Kitty's mind.—And now,
Kitty, my dear, if you are quite satisfied
on this point, I will dress and go down
stairs.—Don't disturb yourselves, pray!"
for both of them showed signs of moving.
"You can finish your conversation to
much better advantage where you are,
and this little excitement has quite cured
I wonder how in the world they ever
took up the dropped stitches in that conversation?
They did it somehow, though,
for when they reappeared Kitty was the
prettiest possible picture of shy, blushing,
shamefaced happiness, while the Jook
was fairly beaming with pride and delight.
It was a case of true love at last:
there was no doubt about that—such
love as few would have believed that a
flighty little creature like Kitty was capable
of feeling. It was wonderful to
see how quickly all her little wiles and
coquetries fell off under its influence,
just as the rosy, fluttering leaves of the
spring fall off when the fruit pushes its
way. I don't believe it had ever struck
her before that there was anything degrading
in this playing fast and loose
with men's hearts which had been her
favorite pastime, or in beguiling them by
feigning a passion of which she had never
felt one thrill. It was not until Love
the magician had touched her heart that
the honest and loyal little Kitty that
lay at the bottom of all her whims and
follies was developed. The very sense
of unworthiness which she felt in view
of the Jook's straightforward and manly
ardor was the surest guarantee for the
perfection of her cure.
A truce to moralizing. Kitty does not
need it, nor the Jook either. If he is not
proud of the bright little American bride
he is to take back with him to the "tight
little isle" of our forefathers, why, appearances
are "deceitful above all things,
and desperately wicked."