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Chapter XVI--All Sorts of Bruises
 S. K. suggested the trap and I think he did not really believe that my bracelet was ever stolen, but thought that I imagined it was, because I was at that time half sick from nervous upset, which was not extraordinary, considering everything. “Put a mouse-trap in the box,” he suggested, “and then, when you hear it shoot, you can get up and chase Madam Jumel’s ghost with a hair brush or a shoe tree.”
I said he was a silly thing and ignored the chase suggestion. But, on the way home I stopped at a small grocery and bought a mouse-trap, and S. K., laughing quite a little, paid for it. Then he asked me how he was to settle with the landlord that month, muttered a good deal about extravagant women, and went on to say that we could easily locate the thief, by the mouse-trap which would be clamped on his first finger.
“And,” he said, “if the thief is sufficiently prominent, he will start a style and everyone will be wearing them. Your aunt will be saying, ‘My dear, I’ve mislaid my mouse-trap and I’m late now! Where ever can it be!’?” And we both laughed for half a block. It sounds silly, but S. K. imitates beautifully and I could just see Aunt Penelope running all over, hunting her mouse-trap, while Jane stood around holding her furs; and Ito and Amy helped hunt, and everyone got excited and hot; for that’s the way she does lose things and find them.
S. K. and I had been walking in the first snow-fall, which was a feathery, dry affair that clung and didn’t melt. It was really too cold to snow at all, and the gray sky that was full of it had a hard time letting it down to earth through the intense dry cold that made a wall. Your cheeks stung and grew pink and the flakes caught in your hair and on your clothes. S. K. said that snow was becoming to me and that I should always wear it and I replied that I would be charmed to in July.
Then he said, “My dear, you’re growing up. Your answers are becoming too quick and clever for a sixteen-year-old chit. I won’t have it.”
“Seventeen,” I responded.
He asked when and I told him that morning at four or thereabouts, for that was the hour at which I was presented to society, according to Mrs. Bradly, who has often told me what Chloe told her of the event. My mother was very pleased with me then and happy that my father had a daughter. When someone said, “Your eyes, Nelly, and your beautiful shade of hair!” she whispered, “That’ll please Carter, for he seems to like that sort!”
“You’re a mean girl,” said S. K., and he meant it. I apologized.
“Would have had a party for you,” he went on. “The mention in the social column would have read: ‘Mr. Samuel Kempwood entertained for Miss Natalie Page at his apartment--and so on.’ Then, ‘Among those present were Miss Natalie Page and Mr. Kempwood. The refreshments were charming, and Mr. Kempwood almost managed to save one slice of the cake for his consumption, but the onslaught of----’?”
I said he was unkind. Then we walked in haughty silence for another half-block.
“Look here,” he said, after a side look at me, “pretty soon, in two or three years, you’ll be coming out. Then--think of the young idiots with down on their upper lips who will fall for you. Nat, I predict it, and--suppose you fell for one of them?”
“Well, what of it?” I asked. I enjoyed it because I thought he was thinking how he’d miss our friendship. It gave me a new, queer feeling, which I suppose was power.
“Won’t have it,” said S. K. irritably.
“Really?” I said.
“Well, I won’t,” he said again. And he frowned and didn’t look at me. I melted. I care for him awfully and I can’t tease him long. For the sentence that always goes with the slipper and spanks is awfully true when I hurt S. K.
I slipped my arm through his and squeezed it tight against me. “Don’t you know,” I said, “that I’ll never like anyone as well as I do you, S. K. dear?” And I went on to tell him of all he’d done for me, how he’d saved me from running away from the firing-line, and made the firing-line a very pleasant place--in spots, and how much his teaching me history and helping me with my studies had helped, and how greatly his different interests had developed me. And I ended with: “If I ever do marry, you can pick out my husband.”
He fumbled for my hand, closed his around it hard, shook it, and said, with a funny little tight laugh: “It’s a go!” And then he was most awfully jolly, in a sort of excited way. I didn’t understand it then, but I liked him even more than usual, and so enjoyed the afternoon.
We had come from the Jumel Mansion, where we had seen General Washington. That is, we pretended we did. I often went to the Jumel Mansion, and S. K. sometimes went with me. I was glad, for he helped to make it, and the people who had lived in it, real to me. I had a paper to write about New York at the time of the fire, its life, development, and so on, and of course Washington came in it, and S. K.’s imagination made it get the Freshman prize. I felt mean about taking it, although he said what I had put in was original and not from him.
When I told our English teacher that Mr. Kempwood had helped me by talking facts to me, Amy was in the room, and that night she said: “You always try to be truthful, don’t you?”
I said, “Yes,” without looking at her.
Then she looked at the ring S. K. had given me, which I wear all the time. (Aunt Penelope said I could keep it because he was so much older.) “Do you think men like truthful girls?” Amy asked next. Her voice was small. I said I thought they did.
“How do they know you’re not truthful?” she asked next.
“How do you know there’s a drop of ink in a glass of water?” I counter-questioned.
“Do you think it shows?” she asked slowly.
I said I felt sure that it did.
“How?” she asked.
“By the loss of faith in those to whom you have lied,” I answered. I hated to hurt her, but I thought she deserved it, and it was the truth. I had lost faith in her, and after that occurrence about the violets I could not trust her.
“It isn’t the first little lie,” I said, “that counts so much; by that you only hurt yourself. But it’s the ripples from it that make the cruelness. You see, you take the trust out of the hearts of your friends, and for a substitute you give four words.”
“What are those?” asked Amy, fingering the fringe that hung from her overskirt.
“You Can’t Trust Her,” I said. Then Amy picked up a copy of Vogue and pretended to look at it, and I turned the pages of the London Sporting and Dramatic News, which is not so entirely given to lingerie and portraits of Lady Something. I like pictures of dogs because I know their points, and I found a double page of setters, which I studied with interest.
I think Amy tried to say that she was sorry about her lies, but I think she couldn’t. And I’m glad she didn’t, for I would have had to tell her that the only way to right a wrong is to try to undo it, and she wasn’t ready to do that at that time. That took a long thinking to accomplish, and a place in the centre of the stage.
But, to go back to the afternoon of mouse-traps and General Washington study, as I said, we visited the Mansion; and “Washington’s Headquarters” it was, most truly, that day.
“Do you smell something good?” asked S. K., as we stood in the hall. I shook my head.
“Stupid-nosed girl!” he said. “A huge cut of beef is roasting before the basement fireplace. It is on a spit, and it is being turned now and again by a fat, hot cook. There’s chatter below stairs. For this night President Washington is to give a large dinner party, and the house which was once Roger Morris’, and is now but a farmhouse, is to hold American celebrities. . . . Listen to the clatter on the stairs; it is a waiter in a blue satin coat and white satin breeches. He is carrying wine-glasses, because those were the good old days before anybody thought Loganberry was good for anything but painting the barn.
“Listen,” said S. K. I did, and then, in a loud voice, he said: “By King George’s beaten rascals, I’ve forgot the serviettes!”
And I seemed to see the waiter say this and hear him clatter toward a high dresser which held the linens. . . . S. K. told me about how they set the table, and he told me the date of this dinner, which was July 10, 1790. And then I had a list of the guests, who were President Washington’s Cabinet “and Ladies”: John and Abigail Adams, the Vice-President and his wife; Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State; Henry Knox, Secretary of War, and his wife; and Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, and his wife.
“I am glad to see Alexander Hamilton,” said S. K., squinting in the room (we pretended, of course, that their ghosts were back a-dining), “for he has done so much for America. He it was who saw that the United States must have a central power and central Government. (My, how the individual States did disagree after the war, how their trade restrictions did hamper and hurt the bigger trades and the good of the country!) He it was who got up the Constitution; and Mr. Jefferson, who sits across the table, the Declaration of Independence. Pretty nice things both of them, you know!”
I agreed.
“President Washington is speaking,” said S. K. “He has just told the servant to be lighter on his heavy-soled shoes (this in an aside), and then, as a good host, quickly diverts attention by mentioning a recollection. . . . ‘To think,’ he says, ‘that in September, 1776, I watched from this point the burning of the city of New York. It was an awesome and most fearful sight!’ (He pauses; I think he gives thanks that all the horrors of............
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