AN IDEAL IDOL
A Chapter Devoted to the Proposition that
All Mankind Are Born of Woman
He began by suddenly filling the air with canary
birds; they flew and chirped and fluttered about her head, until,
bewildered, she shrank back, almost frightened at the golden hurricane.
To reassure her he
began doing incredible things with the big silver hoops, forming
chains and linked figures under her amazed eyes, although each hoop
seemed solid and without a break in its polished circumference.
Then, one by one, he tossed the rings up and they vanished in mid-air
before her very eyes.
"How did you do that?"
she cried, enchanted.
He laughed and produced
the big, white Persian cats, changed them into kittens, then into
birds and butterflies, and finally into a bowl full of big, staring
goldfish. Then he picked up a ladle, dipped out the fish, carefully
fried them over an electric lamp, dumped them from the smoking frying
pan back into the water, where they quietly swam off again, goggling
their eyes in astonishment.
"That," said the girl,
excitedly, "is miraculous!"
"Isn't it?" he said,
delighted as a boy at her praise. "What card will you choose?"
And he handed her a
"The ace of hearts,
if you please."
"Draw it from the pack."
"Any card?" she inquired.
"Oh! how on earth did you make me draw the ace of hearts?"
"Hold it tightly,"
he warned her.
She clutched it in
her pretty fingers.
"Are you sure you hold
it?" he asked.
She looked and found
that it was the queen of diamonds she held so tightly; but, looking
again to reassure herself, she was astonished to find that the card
was the jack of clubs. "Tear it up," he said. She tore it into small
"Throw them into the
She obeyed, and almost
cried out to see them take fire in mid-air and float away in ashy
Face flushed, eyes
brilliant, she turned to him, hanging on his every movement, every
Before her rapt eyes
the multicolored mice danced jigs on slack wires, then were carefully
rolled up into little balls of paper which immediately began to
swell until each was as big as a football. These burst open, and
out of each football of white paper came kittens, turtles, snakes,
chickens, ducks, and finally two white rabbits with silly pink eyes
that began gravely waltzing round and round the room.
"Please stand up and
shake your skirts," he said.
She rose hastily and
obeyed; a rain of silver coins fell, then gold, then banknotes,
littering the floor. Then precious stones began to drop about her;
she shook them from her hair, her collar, her neck; she clenched
her hands in nervous amazement, but inside each tight little fist
she felt something, and opening her fingers she fairly showered
the floor with diamonds.
"Can't you save one
for me?" he asked. "I really need it." But when again she looked
for the glittering heap at her feet, it was gone; and, search as
she might, not one coin, not one gem remained.
Glancing up in dismay
she found herself in a perfect storm of white butterflies--no, they
were red--no, green!
"Is there anything
in this world you desire?" he asked her.
"A--a glass of water----"
She was already holding
it in her hands, and she cried out in amazement, spilling the brimming
glass; but no water fell, only a rain of little crimson flames.
"I can't--can't drink
this--can I?" she faltered.
"With perfect safety,"
he smiled, and she tasted it.
"Taste it again," he
She tried it; it was
It was ginger ale.
She stared at the glass,
frothing with ice-cream soda; there was a long silver spoon in it,
Enchanted, she lay
back, savoring her ice, shyly watching him.
He went on gayly doing
uncanny or charming things; her eyes were tired, dazzled, but not
too weary to watch him, though she scarcely followed the marvelous
objects that appeared and vanished and glittered and flamed under
his ceaselessly busy hands.
She did notice with
a shudder the appearance of an owl that sat for a while on his shoulder
and then turned into a big fur muff which was all right as long
as he held it, but walked away on four legs when he tossed it to
A shower of brilliant
things followed like shooting stars; two or three rose trees grew,
budded, and bloomed before her eyes; and he laid the fresh, sweet
blossoms in her hands. They turned to violets later, but that did
not matter; nothing mattered any longer as long as she could lie
there and gaze at him--the most splendid man her maiden eyes had
ever unclosed upon.
About two thousand
yards of brilliant ribbons suddenly fell from the ceiling; she looked
at him with something perilously close to a sigh. Out of an old
hat he produced a cage full of parrots; every parrot repeated her
first name decorously, monotonously, until packed back into the
hat and stuffed into a box which was then set on fire.
Her heart was pretty
full now; for she was only eighteen and she had been considering
his poverty. So when in due time the box burned out and from the
black and charred débris the parrots stepped
triumphantly forth, gravely repeating her name in unison; and when
she saw that the entertainment was at an end, she rose, setting
her ice-cream soda upon a table, and, although the glass instantly
changed into a teapot, she walked straight up to him and held out
"I've had a perfectly
lovely time," she said. "And I want to say to you that I have been
thinking of several things, and one is that it is perfectly ridiculous
for you to be poor."
"It is rather ridiculous,"
he admitted, surprised. "Isn't it! And no need of it at all. Your
father made a fortune for my father. All you have to do is to let
my father make a fortune for you."
"Is that all?" he asked,
"Of course. Why did
you not tell him so? Have you seen him?"
"No," he said gravely.
"I saw others--I did
not care to try--any more--friends."
He shook his head.
"Then I will."
"Please don't," he
said quietly. Her hand still lay in his; she looked up at him; her
eyes were starry bright and a little moist.
"I simply can't stand
this," she said, steadying her voice.
She choked; her sensitive mouth trembled.
"Good Heavens!" he
breathed; "do you care!"
"Care--care," she stammered.
"You saved my life with a laugh! You face st-starvation with a laugh!
Your father made mine! Care? Yes, I care!"
But she had bent her
head; a bright tear fell, spangling his polished shoes; the pulsating
seconds passed; he laid his other hand above both of hers which
he held, and stood silent, stunned, scarcely daring to understand.
Nor was it here he
could understand or even hope--his instinct held him stupid and
silent. Presently he released her hands.
She said "Good-by"
calmly enough; he followed her to the door and opened it, watching
her pass through the hall to her own door. And there she paused
and looked back; and he found himself beside her again.
"Only," she began,
"only don't do all those beautiful magic things for any--anybody
else--will you? I wish to have--have them all for myself--to share
them with no one----"
He held her hands imprisoned
again. "I will never do one of those things for anybody but you,"
he said unsteadily.
"Truly?" Her face caught
"But how--how, then,
"I don't care what
happens to me!" he said. To look at him nobody would have thought
him young enough to say that sort of thing.
"I care," she said,
releasing her hands and stepping back into her studio.
For a moment her lovely,
daring face swam before his eyes; then, in the next moment, she
was in his arms, crying her eyes out against his shoulder, his lips
pressed to her bright hair.
And that was all right
in its way, too; madder things have happened in our times; but nothing
madder ever happened than a large, bald gentleman who came up the
stairs in a series of bounces and planted his legs apart and tightened
his pudgy grip upon his malacca walking stick, and confronted them
with distended eyes and waistband.
In vigorous but incoherent
English he begged to know whether this scene was part of an education
"Papah," she said calmly,
"you are just in time. Go into the studio and I'll come in one moment."
Then giving her lover
both hands and looking at him with all her soul in her young eyes:
"I love you; I'll marry you. And if there's trouble"--she smiled
upon her frantic father--"if there is trouble I will follow you
about the country exhibiting green mice----"
"What!" thundered her
"Green mice," she repeated
with an adorable smile at her lover--"unless my father finds a necessity
for you in his business--with a view to partnership. And I'm going
to let you arrange that together. Good-by."
And she entered her
studio, closing the door behind her, leaving the two men confronting
one another in the entry.
For one so young she
had much wisdom and excellent taste; and listening, she heard her
father explode in one lusty Saxon word. He always said it when beaten;
it was the beginning of the end, and the end of the sweetest beginning
that ever dawned on earth for a maid since the first sunbeam stole
So she sat down on
her little camp stool before her easel and picked up a hand glass;
and, sitting there, carefully removed all traces of tears from her
wet and lovely eyes with the cambric hem of her painting apron.
Mr. Carr, "am I to understand that the only thing you can do for
a living is to go about with a troupe of trained mice?"
"I've invented a machine,"
observed the young man, modestly. "It ought to be worth millions--if
you'd care to finance it."
"The idea is utterly
repugnant to me!" shouted her father.
The young man reddened.
"If you wouldn't mind examining it--" He drew from his pocket a
small, delicately contrived bit of clockwork. "This is the machine----"
"I don't want to see
seen it. Do you mind sitting down a moment? Be careful of that kitten!
Kindly take this chair. Thank you. Now, if you would be good enough
to listen for ten minutes----"
"I don't want to be
good enough! Do you hear!"
"Yes, I hear," said
young Destyn, patiently. "And as I was going to explain, the earth
is circumscribed by wireless currents of electricity----"
"But those are not
the only invisible currents that are ceaselessly flowing around
our globe!" pursued the young man, calmly. "Do you see this machine?"
"No, I don't!" snarled
"Then--" And, leaning
closer, William Augustus Destyn whispered into Bushwyck Carr's fat,
"You can't prove
had dried her eyes. Every few minutes she glanced anxiously at the
little French clock over her easel.
"What on earth can
they be doing?" she murmured. And when the long hour struck she
arose with resolution and knocked at the door.
"Come in," said her
father, irritably, "but don't interrupt. William and I are engaged
in a very important business transaction."