Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Short Stories > Natalie Page > Chapter V--New York and My New Home
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
Chapter V--New York and My New Home
 I had a very happy time with the Cranes, and, although Mary Elinor’s story upset me a little (in spite of my then not believing it), I was cheered by the time I left, and entirely myself. Mrs. Crane told me to go play ball with William, after breakfast. She said I was foolish to drop it entirely and that she knew Mrs. Bradly would want me to play if she realized what good exercise it was. And Doctor Crane said he would write her. So I played, and after William let go of two hot ones and said “Ouch!” before he could suppress it, I felt better.
Doctor Crane rooted--for me, and it was all very happy. And I did so want to stay! He and Mary Elinor sat on grapefruit crates and yelled; Mrs. Crane came to the door now and again; Lucky, the awfully black little nigger, climbed up on the laundry roof, and every once in a while old Aunt Eliza would look out the window and laugh so that she shook all over.
“Doan that beat all?” she’d say. “An’ Mistah William droppin’ them balls!” And then she’d laugh again, and William did too, although he couldn’t have enjoyed having me come out on top. But they are all that way. They really don’t mind discomfort, if other people are happy, they are so kind!
We scored by making each other drop and miss balls, but of course the aim had to be square. The method was the thing. And just as Doctor Crane was yelling, “Good grounder, Nat! Now sock him with a warm baby!” Mrs. Crane opened the door and said: “Ted, you’ve got to start. . . . It’s almost half-past. . . .” And I had to put on my hat. I hated to. I just wish I could have stayed there and had my education applied!
They all went to the station with me except Mrs. Crane, and Mary Elinor bought me a little box of mints, and William gave me a glass baseball bat filled with tiny candies, for a joke. Then Doctor Crane bought me several magazines, some of which were full of baseball stories, talked to the porter about me (Doctor Crane somehow got through the gates), and I was off.
And all the way to New York I was cheered by the way the Cranes had said good-bye to me. Mrs. Crane was lovely and, with Mary Elinor, made me promise to come again; and Doctor Crane wrote down just what I was to do if I wasn’t met, beside being awfully good to me, and William said I could play ball.
I thought about them a lot; about my new bracelet, and about New York.
I had dinner on the train, which in the North they call lunch, and got on very well. It wasn’t difficult, because you wrote down what you wanted, and I knew exactly what that was. I ordered lobster, which I had never tasted, ice-cream, cake, a cream puff, and chocolate with whipped cream on top of it. A gentleman who sat opposite me gasped and said: “Oh, my!” Then he asked me if I was tired of life. He seemed impressed with my order, but I don’t know why. He got zwiebach (he told me what it was) and soft-boiled eggs and milk. And after he finished lunch he offered me some pepsin tablets. He took several, but I refused. And he said perhaps I was wise, for, he said, he didn’t know what one little tablet could do against that line-up. Then he asked me if there were any ostriches among my ancestors. He was selling automobile tyres, and called the waiter George, and seemed to know him very well. And he told me all about his indigestion, as his eyes roved over my order. “As for eating a mess like that----” he said, and then ended with, “Oh, my----” but I cannot quote him entirely, for it was terrible. It is that word which goes in church, but which becomes swearing when a man says it in talking to the umpire. I suppose this man was in pain. . . . After that we talked of baseball, and he knew Hans Wagner and had known him since the beginning of his career, when he played in the Oil League in Western Pennsylvania.
Of course I was interested. I lingered over my cream puff, ice-cream, and cake, and he lingered over his milk. He said he’d look me up in New York, and I was awfully grateful, and I said I was sure my aunt would love to have him come to supper. To which he replied, “Me for it, kid,” which sounded a little queer to me, even then. I did not know, at that time, that you are not supposed to talk to people to whom you have not been presented, or who have not been presented to you. I learned that later. But that belongs in another part of this story.
We reached New York when it was just growing dark, and never in all my life will I forget the look of it, the dazzling lit-Christmas-trees look of the tall, bright buildings, and the hurrying, bright-faced crowds. Everyone seemed in a hurry, and some people actually ran, and especially as they crossed Fifth Avenue, where we drove for some distance.
My uncle’s chauffeur met me, and he did not seem very sociable (I had not learned that you mustn’t talk to them, at that time), and after I asked him how he was and whether my aunt and uncle were well and whether they had had summer colds or hay fever, which is the way we start acquaintance in Queensburg, I stopped talking and looked. And I never saw so much to see before. It is wonderful. It took all my dreams of fairyland and made them look like a miffed ball. I looked up, and began to see why they picture the Reuben type with their mouths ajar. It is natural to let your chin droop from surprise.
“Are we almost there?” I asked, after we’d gone about a million blocks.
Jackson replied, “Not yet, miss,” and stared straight ahead.
And I said: “Well, isn’t this a long way!”
And he said: “Yes, miss.”
After that I did some more looking. . . . The dusk had fallen, and it made a lovely haze around the tops of the buildings, and looking down the side streets one could see only millions of motor head-lights, and nothing but those. And the women were so beautifully dressed! Some of them, in the passing motors, leaned way back and looked tired, but beautifully so. . . . Not as the women do around Queensburg. When they are tired they wear calico wrappers, and their backs get stooped, and usually there is a baby clinging to their skirts. . . . But here it is different. I can’t say why. The women’s eyes are narrowed as if they wanted to look tired. And they are so pretty. “Jackson,” I said, “I never saw such beautiful complexions”--no, I said, “Mr. Jackson,” then. And he said: “Yes, miss.”
Well, after a great way of this we reached a quieter section, and here, in front of a very tall, brownstone building, Jackson alighted, and I followed. A girl, whom I knew to be Evelyn, came out of a doorway, and said, “Why, what made you ride up with Jackson?” and then she turned her cheek for my kiss. And I can’t yet understand what there was about that which made me feel so hollow and cold inside.
Then she said: “Come in, and we’ll go up. I don’t think mother’s in, but she will be soon. . . . I hope your trip was pleasant?”
I replied that it was. But I don’t think she heard what I said, for we had stepped in an elevator and she was busy smiling at a man who leaned on a heavy cane.
“Charming day, Mr. Kempwood,” she said. “You’ve been motoring?”
He said he had.
“I have too, a bit,” said Evelyn, “but I was kept in most of this afternoon by a wild bout of auction. And--I took the prize!” She showed it to him. It was a beautiful thing, a little enamelled box on a gold chain, and in it was a powder-puff, pink powder, and a place for coins. Even I was impressed with it, and at that time I knew little beside what the proper balance of a bat should be. I began to feel worse and to swallow hard. The man looked at me in a quizzical way, his eyes narrowed, and little wrinkles showing at the corners of them. Then he said good-night and got off.
“Mr. Samuel Kempwood,” said Evelyn, as we went on (she said this in a low tone so that the elevator man shouldn’t hear), “has the apartment on the third floor. Wonderful collection of ivories, and is the most thrillingly romantic person. . . . Ah, here we are!” And then we stepped out.
Well, I don’t know what I had expected, but I know I had not expected a flat, I mean apartment, like this. It is wonderful. In the first place, it takes up the whole floor of that great big building, and doesn’t seem at all crowded. I had expected folding beds and having to put your hat on the piano and eat off a card-table, but it isn’t that way.
When we got off we stepped into a little outer hall, and Evelyn rang. Then a maid opened the door, and we went in without speaking to her. After she took Evelyn’s furs, Evelyn said: “Is my mother in, Jane?”
And the maid answered with: “Not yet, Miss Evelyn.”
After that Evelyn said, “You had your dinner on the train?” and I said I had. She didn’t say anything about supper, and of course I didn’t understand at that time. But I began to feel frightfully hollow under my belt. I stood this a little while, and at last I said: “Could I have a cup of tea? I don’t like to make any trouble--but----”
“Tea?” she echoed, and raised her eyebrows as if she were ever so surprised, and then added: “Of course.”
And she rang a bell. “I didn’t get any supper,” I explained, “because I thought you’d be waiting it here for me.”
“I thought you meant you’d had your evening meal,” she said quickly. “It is called dinner here. You will avoid confusion if you remember that. Jane, please see that some dinner is put on for Miss Natalie. She has not dined.” Jane bowed and left, and I began to feel even more hollow, and this time it was my heart that felt that way too. Evelyn moved around humming. She had been reading a great deal of mail and casually commenting on it as she read, like this: “Tuesday. . . . Um, I don’t--know. . . . And does Mrs. Stanwood think I would accept her invitation? . . .” And then she would hum something else. She shakes her voice a great deal when she sings. She forgot me even more than she had, and I did feel so alone.
When Jane at last came back, Evelyn looked up and spoke. “Really,” she said, “you must excuse me. . . . I didn’t mean to neglect you, but I had to get through my mail; you know how it is, of course. . . . Do you want to brush up before you eat? Frightful of me to forget to ask you.”
I said all I wanted was to eat, and then Jane said, “This way, please,” and I followed, sort of tiptoeing because everything seemed so very grand, and it all made me seem even shabbier than I was.
The dining-room is all panelled in some sort of dark wood, and has beautifully upholstered dark furniture in it. Silver gleamed from a long sideboard, which hasn’t one mirror in it (they all have mirrors on them in Queensburg), and a Jap served things. I liked him; he smiled at me.
There were roses and lilies of the valley in a great silver bowl which stood in the centre of the table, and I liked those better than anything. And when I looked at them my eyes filled. And I guess the Jap man saw it, for he took out a rose and several sprays of lilies of the valley and laid them by my place and said, “Like flowers. . . . Always pretty,” and I said: “Can I really have them?” And he smiled at me again.
And then he got food, and gave me the right fork, after I had used up the wrong one on the wrong thing to eat it with, which is mixed, but as I said, gym. work is where I do well.
After I had got through, and the Jap had given me a bowl of water with a flower floating in it (it confused me then) and was asking me whether I wanted coffee here or in the drawing-room, Amy, my cousin who is nearest my age, came in.
“My dear,” she said, “I simply hated not being here to receive you, but it was my dancing-class afternoon, and afterward I went to dinner with a friend. I couldn’t in decency refuse her. I hope your trip was pleasant? . . . Do let us go in where we can talk comfortably. . . . (Ito, coffee in the drawing-room, please.) Mother isn’t in, is she? . . . Poor mother, so rushed! . . . But everyone is. We love having you, Natalie!” And then she slid her arm through mine and squeezed my hand. And I loved her from that minute on. For--although we are very different, and she sometimes seems affected to me, she is kind. And you can overlook anything if people are that.
Evelyn is not. When you humiliate her, she hurts you to pay it back. I know that. . . . After the first half-hour of Evelyn, I learned my first big lesson from New York. And that wasn’t calling dinner supper; it was that kindness and making other people feel happy is the most important thing in life, and the thing that counts most truly and deeply. I try hard not to err in this now, for I know how it feels to have people do it.
When we reached the drawing-room, we found Evelyn had left. She is twenty-one and “out,” and she goes to parties a great deal. Amy sat talking about her and her beaux (she didn’t call them that), and her engagements, and I sat trying to look as if I cared a great deal about what Amy said, but thinking of Uncle Frank, Bradly-dear, and of Willy Jepson. That night I was quite sure that Willy Jepson would have a wife before he was eighteen! But he didn’t. However, that comes later.
At about ten Amy asked whether I’d like to go to bed, and I admitted that I was tired, and so she showed me to the most beautiful little room near hers, with a bathroom which she and Evelyn and I were to use.
“Absurd little room we had to give you, dear,” she said, “but I suppose you can make out. If you need anything, the button is by the door, and the electrics turn on here. Anything I can get you?”
I thanked her and said no, and then she wished me happy dreams and left.
Alone--I looked around. It was the most beautiful bedroom I had ever seen, but that did not help me. There was a dressing-table with three mirrors to it, and long mirrors in all the doors. There was a table by the bed, with a telephone on it, under a little lady’s fluffy skirts. And there was a light on this table too, with a pink shade from which roses artistically drooped. There were books by this, and a flashlight. . . . I never dreamed then that I would use that flashlight as I did later. . . . The walls were of brocade, in a rose shade, and the furniture was gray, with baskets of roses painted on it. And there was a sort of a lounge on which you could sit up, but lie down, if you understand, and deep, cretonne-covered chairs. When you opened the cupboard door the cupboard lit up, and there were hangers inside, and it was scented. I went around touching things very timidly and looking. And, as I said before, it was the most beautiful bedroom I ever saw, and at that time frankly awed me; but--it showed how little things count. For I wanted my own, bare-floored little bedroom with no decoration except two fish-nets and a mounted eagle, and which held nothing but a straight-backed chair, a bed, and a bureau with a wavery mirror. . . . I wanted it terribly. . . . I wanted to hear Uncle Frank “Ho hum” and to have Mrs. Bradly scold me, when all the time she was loving me--inside. I wanted to hear Willy Jepson whistle and yell: “Come on, Nat! Let’s go fishing!” I wanted home!
But I swallowed hard and began to unpack. When I found the china cat I held him awfully close between my hands, and then--when I found the bug that stays in the ground three years, I stood up.
“I’ve got to,” I said unsteadily, “for Uncle Frank and my mother. I’ve got to--and--I will!”
And then I set those things on the bureau and began to undress. I looked at them a lot as I did. And after I was ready for bed I said my prayers awfully hard, the way you do when things go wrong and it is nice to remember that there is someone who will do His best to right fouls, if you need it. And then I turned off the lights and got in bed. I couldn’t sleep. So after quite a while I got up and fumbled around to find the Jumel bracelet, Bradly-dear’s cat, and the bug. And I put them all on the table by my bed, and then, after I’d touched them now and again, I slipped into dreams.
And I dreamed that Uncle Frank said: “Ho hum, ho hum! She’s a pretty nice little bug!”

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