Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Short Stories > Natalie Page > Chapter X--What Mr. Kempwood Told Me
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
Chapter X--What Mr. Kempwood Told Me
 Mr. Kempwood’s “rooms,” as he called them, were lovely. And I had a fine time going around and looking at things. His furniture is more than pretty; it has a reason. Everything is either very comfortable, or very interesting. And it all makes you want to linger. For instance, he opened a cabinette which honestly held interesting things, not like Aunt Penelope’s, which has only six fancy fans and a lot of ancient scent-bottles and an autographed book of poems and such truck. His has really fascinating things in it, and it is, therefore, worth the dusting trouble. There were all sorts of books in it, written in different ways. I mean scrolls--simply yards of those, and an East Indian one written on reeds all strung together, and even one on a brick. We agreed that it would be frightful to have to scratch out a best seller with a chisel. He said, “Think how your wrist would feel by the time your hero gets his best girl!” and I agreed. That brick was Assyrian. Then he had little tiny gods that the Egyptians buried with people. And he even had the toilet things of an ancient queen, and it had a tweezers in it, which led me to believe that even then they pulled out the extra eyebrows and made them skinny and beautiful, as women do to-day.
Evelyn has a woman come to do it each week, if she can’t get down to Elizabeth Varden’s. And she squawls--there are no other words for this--while it is being done. But her eyebrows are arched and beautifully shaped. I told Mr. Kempwood how she yelled, as I suggested the eyebrow theory. He laughed a good deal and said maybe I was right. Then he said I really oughtn’t to tell him things like that, and, although I didn’t see why I shouldn’t, I said I would not.
Then he asked me to sit down, and I did (and even I wanted to stay sitting, for his chairs are wonderfully sittable), after which he rang and we had tea, and since there were no plain bread and butter sandwiches I felt no obligation to eat any. I thanked Mr. Kempwood for omitting them, and I ate a good deal and enjoyed myself more than I have since reaching New York.
I told him a lot about Uncle Frank and Bradly-dear and even about Willy Jepson. And he asked me whether I thought I would marry Willy, and I said not if anyone else asked me. And then I had some more tea.
He asked me how old I was, at that point, and when I said sixteen, he was surprised. I don’t seem it. I know that. . . . That is one reason Amy never has room in the motor for me. I know I humiliate her by my lack of polish. Baseball doesn’t develop much beside muscle and quickness and a certain sort of flash judgment, I have realized lately. But I shall acquire those other things in the three years, of which over a week has passed.
“Where’s the bracelet to-day, Natalie?” Mr. Kempwood asked, after looking at my arms. . . . I wore a gray silk which has short sleeves. It has broad white cuffs and a big flaring white collar, and is pretty. . . . I replied that I thought I wouldn’t wear it, for I knew no one would believe my story.
“I suppose you’re interested in the Mansion?” he questioned further.
I said I was, decidedly.
“Know its history?” he asked.
“In a way,” I answered. “But not as well as I shall. . . . History has never interested me. I didn’t think things that happened to dead people vital, but lately----”
“Well,” he said, “they may not be vital; nothing but food and sleep really is, you know. But the things that have happened are interesting, because they make you think. Beside making you realize what helped to form the great country in which you live. Perhaps you haven’t seen History. Perhaps you’ve just said, ‘In 1776 Washington occupied the Jumel Mansion for some time’; or, ‘On Wednesday, July 3, 1833, Reverend Doctor Bogart married the celebrated Col. Burr and Madam Jumel, widow of the late Stephen Jumel,’ instead of seeing Washington step out of that door and stand on that porch. . . . Probably he watched the burning of New York from there. (A great many people think Nathan Hale started it. New York was then in the hands of the British, and many thought burning it was the thing to do. There are a good many things about Nathan Hale’s story that are still misty. . . .) You repeat dates about a wedding instead of seeing a queer old woman, rouged and smirking, come down the twisting stairs of the Jumel Mansion to meet her groom, who was a tired old man, poor and aware that a gay youth doesn’t leave much precipitate for a comfortable old age. . . . He gained six thousand dollars by that marriage, and she--some more experience with the law, for she divorced him.”
Mr. Kempwood stopped and asked if he might smoke. I said yes, and after he lit a long cigarette, which he put in an interesting holder, he went on with: “Can’t you see the old lady and the old man being married? The ceremony took place in the small parlour at the left as one enters. . . . Probably some servants looked on. Perhaps the room was lit by candles, dozens of them, flickering high, then low, and casting shadows. . . . My, what a house, what memories she put in it.” Mr. Kempwood paused, knocked off his ash, and then said: “Do you know houses have souls? They have the thoughts that their owners attach to their walls. Haven’t you seen lovely houses and heard people say: ‘Horrible place; I hate going there. . . . They are all so sarcastic.’ You see--before one knows it--the house absorbs the spirit of the people who live in it, and one thinks of the home as horrible. Now, Madam Jumel (you won’t quite understand this, Natalie, and it’s difficult to explain) didn’t have much chance, and she wasn’t always good. In fact, she was far from it. And she came to this house, which had belonged to the Roger Morris family, who had kept it fine and splendid, and she turned it to a mad-house before she died, and left it in possession of three quarrelling sets of heirs, who dragged their claims through the courts for years and years, and whose descendants are still bickering. For those who had lost felt that they had been cheated, and so they kept on bickering.”
“Don’t you think that a man who evades fighting leaves a stain?” I asked.
“Roger Morris?” said Mr. Kempwood.
I nodded.
“Yes, but if the reasons for his not fighting were sufficient, his evading it was right. . . . You see, his wife’s family, the Philipse, and the Robinsons--I believe the Robinsons had a country place still in existence at Dobbs Ferry, that has staged some interesting history, too--they all owned property,” he went on, “and if Captain Morris had sided with the King, where his sympathies probably lay, his property and that of all his connection might have been burned by the ‘Liberty Boys.’ . . . He had a family and a wife to care for. The Beverly Robinsons and their clan were not used to poverty. He could not drag them to it. We’ll say he left for that reason.”
“Why did they burn houses?” I asked.
“Because they thought their owners sympathized with England. . . ............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved