Showing What Comes of Disobedience, Rosium,
About noon Bushwyck Carr bounced
into the gymnasium, where the triplets had just finished their fencing
"Did any of you three
go into the laboratory this morning?" he demanded, his voice terminating
in a sort of musical bellow, like the blast of a mellow French horn
on a touring car.
Drusilla, and Sybilla--all clothed precisely alike in knee kilts,
plastrons, gauntlets and masks, came to attention, saluting their
parent with their foils. The Boznovian fencing mistress, Madame
Tzinglala, gracefully withdrew to the dressing room and departed.
"Which of you three
girls went into the laboratory this morning?" repeated their father
The triplets continued
to stand in a neat row, the buttons of their foils aligned and resting
on the hardwood floor. In graceful unison they removed their masks;
three flushed and unusually pretty faces regarded the author of
their being attentively--more attentively still when that round
and ruddy gentleman, executing a facial contortion, screwed his
monocle into an angry left eye and glared.
"Didn't I warn you
to keep out of that laboratory?" he asked wrathfully; "didn't I
explain to you that it was none of your business? I believe I informed
you that whatever is locked up in that room is no concern of yours.
"Well, confound it,
what did you go in for, then?"
An anxious silence
was his answer. "You didn't all go in, did you?" he demanded in
a melodious bellow.
"Oh, no, Pa-pah!"
"Did two of you go?"
"Oh-h, n-o, Pa-pah!"
"Well, which one did?"
The line of beauty
wavered for a moment; then Sybilla stepped slowly to the front,
three paces, and halted with downcast eyes.
"I told you not to,
didn't I?" said her father, scowling the monocle out of his eye
and reinserting it.
"But you did?"
"That will do! Flavilla!
Drusilla! You are excused," dismissing the two guiltless triplets
with a wave of the terrible eyeglass; and when they had faced to
the rear and retired in good order, closing the door behind them,
he regarded his delinquent daughter in wrathy and rubicund dismay.
"What did you see in
that laboratory?" he demanded.
Sybilla began to count
on her fingers. "As I walked around the room I noticed jars, bottles,
tubes, lamps, retorts, blowpipes, batteries----"
"Did you notice a small,
shiny machine that somewhat resembles the interior economy of a
but I haven't come to that yet----"
"Did you go near it?"
"You didn't touch it,
"I was going to tell
you?" he bellowed musically. "Answer me, Sybilla!"
"What did you suppose
it to be?"
"I thought--we all
thought--that you kept a wireless telephone instrument in there----"
"Why? Just because
I happen to be president of the Amalgamated Wireless Trust Company?"
"Yes. And we were dying
to see a wireless telephone work.... I thought I'd like to call
up Central--just to be sure I could make the thing go-- What
is the matter, Pa-pah?"
He dropped into a wadded
armchair and motioned Sybilla to a seat opposite. Then with another
frightful facial contortion he reimbedded the monocle.
"So you deliberately
opened that door and went in to rummage?"
"No," said the girl;
"we were--skylarking a little, on our way to the gymnasium; and
I gave Brasilia a little shove toward the laboratory door, and then
Flavilla pushed me--very gently--and somehow I--the door flew open
and my mask fell off and rolled inside; and I went in after it.
That is how it happened--partly."
She lifted her dark
and very beautiful eyes to her stony parent, then they dropped,
and she began tracing figures and arabesques on the polished floor
with the point of her foil. "That is partly how," she repeated.
"What is the other
"The other part was
that, having unfortunately disobeyed you, and being already in the
room, I thought I might as well stay and take a little peep around----"
Her father fairly bounced
in his padded chair. The velvet-eyed descendant of Eve shot a fearful
glance at him and continued, still casually tracing invisible arabesques
with her foil's point.
"You see, don't you,"
she said, "that being actually in, I thought I might
as well do something before I came out again, which would make my
disobedience worth the punishment. So I first picked up my mask,
then I took a scared peep around. There were only jars and bottles
and things.... I was dreadfully disappointed. The certainty of being
punished and then, after all, seeing nothing but bottles, did
seem rather unfair.... So I--walked around to--to see if I could
find something to look at which would repay me for the punishment....
There is a proverb, isn't there Pa-pah?--something
about being executed for a lamb----"
"Go on!" he said sharply.
"Well, all I could
find that looked as though I had no business to touch it was a little
was it! Did you touch it?"
"Yes, several times.
Was it a wireless?"
"Never mind! Yes, it's
one kind of a wireless instrument. Go on!"
Sybilla shook her head:
"I'm sure I don't see
why you are so disturbingly emphatic; because I haven't an idea
how to send or receive a wireless message, and I hadn't the vaguest
notion how that machine might work. I tried very hard to make it
go; I turned several screws and pushed all the push-buttons----"
Mr. Carr emitted a
hollow, despairing sound--a sort of musical groan--and feebly plucked
"I tried every lever,
screw, and spring," she went on calmly, "but the machine must have
been out of order, for I only got one miserable little spark----"
"You got a spark?"
"Yes--just a tiny,
noiseless atom of white fire----"
Her father bounced
to his feet and waved both hands at her distractedly.
"Do you know what you've
done?" he bellowed.
"Well, you've prepared
yourself to fall in love! And you've probably induced some indescribable
pup to fall in love with you! And that's what you've
"Yes, you have!"
"But how can a common
"It's another kind
of a wireless. Your brother-in-law, William Destyn, invented it;
I'm backing it and experimenting with it. I told you to keep out
of that room. I hung up a sign on the door: 'Danger! Keep
"W-was that thing loaded?"
"Yes, it was
"Waves!" shouted her
father, furiously. "Psychic waves! You little ninny, we've just
discovered that the world and everything in it is enveloped in psychic
waves, as well as invisible electric currents. The minute you got
near that machine and opened the receiver, waves from your subconscious
personality flowed into it. And the minute you touched that spring
and got a spark, your psychic waves had signaled, by wireless, the
subconscious personality of some young man--some insufferable pup--who'll
come from wherever he is at present--from the world's end if need
be--and fall in love with you."
Mr. Carr jumped ponderously
up and down in pure fury; his daughter regarded him in calm consternation.
"I am so very, very
sorry," she said; "but I am quite certain that I am not going to
fall in love----"
"You can't help it,"
roared her father, "if that instrument worked."
"Is--is that what it's
"That's what it's invented
for; that's why I'm putting a million into it. Anybody on earth
desiring to meet the person with whom they're destined, some time
or other, to fall in love, can come to us, in confidence, buy a
ticket, and be hitched on to the proper psychic connection which
insures speedy courtship and marriage--Damnation!"
"I can't help it! Any
self-respecting, God-fearing father would swear! Do you think I
ever expected to have my daughters mixed up with this machine? My
daughters wooed, engaged and married by machinery!
And you're only eighteen; do you hear me? I won't have it! I'll
certainly not have it!"
"But, dear, I don't
in the least intend to fall in love and marry at eighteen. And if--he--really--comes,
I'll tell him very frankly that I could not think of falling in
love. I'll quietly explain that the machine went off by mistake
and that I am only eighteen; and that Flavilla and Drusilla and
I are not to come out until next winter. That," she added innocently,
"ought to hold him."
"The thing to do,"
said her father, gazing fixedly at her, "is to keep you in your
room until you're twenty!"
Mr. Carr smote his
"You'll stay in for
a week, anyway!" he thundered mellifluously. "No motoring party
for you! That's your punishment. You'll be safe for today, anyhow;
and by evening William Destyn will be back from Boston and I'll
consult him as to the safest way to keep you out of the path of
this whippersnapper you have managed to wake up--evoke--stir out
of space-- wherever he may be--whoever he may be--whatever he chances
to call himself----"
"George," she murmured
She looked at her father,
"How absurd of me,"
she said. "I don't know why I should have thought of that name,
George; or why I should have said it out loud--that way--I really
"Who do you know named
"N-nobody in particular
that I can think of----"
"Sybilla! Be honest!"
"Really, I don't; I
am always honest."
He knew she was truthful,
always; but he said:
"Then why the devil
did you look--er--so, so moonily at me and call me George?"
"I can't imagine--I
can! You don't realize it, but that cub's name must be George! I'll
look out for the Georges. I'm glad I've been warned. I'll see that
no two-legged object named George enters this house! You'll never
go anywhere where there's anybody named George if I can prevent
"I--I don't want to,"
she returned, almost ready to cry. "You are very cruel to me----"
"I wish to be. I desire
to be a monster!" he retorted fiercely. "You're an exceedingly bad,
ungrateful, undutiful, disobedient and foolish child. Your sisters
and I are going to motor to Westchester and lunch there with your
sister and your latest brother-in-law. And if they ask why you didn't
come I'll tell them that it's because you're undutiful, and that
you are not to stir outdoors for a week, or see anybody who comes
into this house!"
"I--I suppose I d-deserve
it," she acquiesced tearfully. "I'm quite ready to be disciplined,
and quite willing not to see anybody named George-- ever! Besides,
you have scared me d-dreadfully! I--I don't want to go out of the
And when her father
had retired with a bounce she remained alone in the gymnasium, eyes
downcast, lips quivering. Later still, sitting in precisely the
same position, she heard the soft whir of the touring car outside;
then the click of the closing door.
"There they go," she
said to herself, "and they'll have such a jolly time, and all those
very agreeable Westchester young men will be there-- particularly
Mr. Montmorency.... I did like him awfully; besides,
his name is Julian, so it is p-perfectly safe to like him--and I
did want to see how Sacharissa looks after her bridal
Her lower lip trembled;
she steadied it between her teeth, gazed miserably at the floor,
and beat a desolate tattoo on it with the tip of her foil.
"I am being well paid
for my disobedience," she whimpered. "Now I can't go out for a week;
and it's April; and when I do go out I'll be so anxious all the
while, peeping furtively at every man who passes and wondering whether
his name might be George.... And it is going to be horridly awkward,
too.... Fancy their bringing up some harmless dancing man named
George to present to me next winter, and I, terrified, picking up
my débutante skirts and running.... I'll actually be obliged
to flee from every man until I know his name isn't George. Oh, dear!
Oh, dear! What an awful outlook for this summer when we open the
house at Oyster Bay! What a terrible vista for next winter!"
She naïvely dabbed
a tear from her long lashes with the back of her gauntlet.
Her maid came, announcing
luncheon, but she would have none of it, nor any other offered office,
including a bath and a house gown.
"You go away somewhere,
Bowles," she said, "and please, don't come near me, and don't let
anybody come anywhere in my distant vicinity, because I am v-very
unhappy, Bowles, and deserve to be--and I--I desire to be alone
"But, Miss Sybilla----"
"No, no, no! I don't
even wish to hear your voice--or anybody's. I don't wish to hear
a single human sound of any description. I--what is
that scraping noise in the library?"
"A man, Miss Sybilla----"
W-what's his name?"
"I don't know, miss.
He's a workman--a paper hanger."
"Did you wish me to
ask him to stop scraping, miss?"
Sybilla laughed: "No,
thank you." And she continued, amused at herself after her maid
had withdrawn, strolling about the gymnasium, making passes with
her foil at ring, bar, and punching bag. Her anxiety, too, was subsiding.
The young have no very great capacity for continued anxiety. Besides,
the first healthy hint of incredulity was already creeping in. And
as she strolled about, swishing her foil, she mused aloud at her
"What an extraordinary
and horrid machine!... How can it do such exceedingly
common things? And what a perfectly unpleasant way to fall in love--by
machinery!... I had rather not know who I am some day to--to like--very
much.... It is far more interesting to meet a man by accident, and
never suspect you may ever come to care for him, than to buy a ticket,
walk over to a machine full of psychic waves and ring up some strange
man somewhere on earth."
With a shudder of disdain
she dropped on to a lounge and took her face between both hands.
She was like her sisters,
tall, prettily built, and articulated, with the same narrow feet
and hands--always graceful when lounging, no matter what position
her slim limbs fell into.
And now, in her fencing
skirts of black and her black stockings, she was exceedingly ornamental,
with the severe lines of the plastron accenting the white throat
and chin, and the scarlet heart blazing over her own little heart--unvexed
by such details as love and lovers. Yes, unvexed; for she had about
come to the conclusion that her father had frightened her more than
was necessary; that the instrument had not really done its worst;
in fact, that, although she had been very disobedient, she had had
a rather narrow escape; and nothing more serious than paternal displeasure
was likely to be visited upon her.
Which comforted her
to an extent that brought a return of appetite; and she rang for
luncheon, and ate it with the healthy nonchalance usually so characteristic
of her and her sisters.
"Now," she reflected,
"I'll have to wait an hour for my bath"--one of the inculcated principles
of domestic hygiene. So, rising, she strolled across the gymnasium,
casting about for something interesting to do.
She looked out of the
back windows. In New York the view from back windows is not imposing.
Tiring of the inartistic
prospect she sauntered out and downstairs to see what her maid might
be about. Bowles was sewing; Sybilla looked on for a while with
languid interest, then, realizing that a long day of punishment
was before her, that she deserved it, and that she ought to perform
some act of penance, started contritely for the library with resolute
intentions toward Henry James.
As she entered she
noticed that the bookshelves, reaching part way to the ceiling,
were shrouded in sheets. Also she encountered a pair of sawhorses
overlaid with boards, upon which were rolls of green flock paper,
several pairs of shears, a bucket of paste, a large, flat brush,
a knife and a T-square.
"The paper hanger man,"
she said. "He's gone to lunch. I'll have time to seize on Henry
James and flee."
Now Henry James, like
some other sacred conventions, was, in that library, a movable feast.
Sometimes he stood neatly arranged on one shelf, sometimes on another.
There was no counting on Henry.
Sybilla lifted the
sheets from the face of one case and peered closer. Henry was not
visible. She lifted the sheets from another case; no Henry; only
G.P.R., in six dozen rakish volumes.
Sybilla peeped into
a third case. Then a very unedifying thing occurred. Surely, surely,
this was Sybilla's disobedient day. She saw a forbidden book glimmering
in old, gilded leather--she saw its classic back turned mockingly
toward her--the whole allure of the volume was impudent, dog- eared,
She took it out, replaced
it, looked hard, hard for Henry, found him not, glanced sideways
at the dog-eared one, took a step sideways.
"I'll just see where
it was printed," she said to herself, drawing out the book and backing
off hastily--so hastily that she came into collision with the sawhorse
table, and the paste splashed out of the bucket.
But Sybilla paid no
heed; she was examining the title page of old Dog- ear: a rather
wonderful title page, printed in fascinating red and black with
"I'll just see whether--"
And the smooth, white fingers hesitated; but she had caught a glimpse
of an ancient engraving on the next page--a very quaint one, that
held her fascinated.
She turned the next
page. The first paragraph of the famous classic began deliciously.
After a few moments she laughed, adding to herself: "I can't see
There was no harm.
Her father had meant another book; but Sybilla did not know that.
"I'll just glance through
it to--to--be sure that I mustn't read it."
She laid one hand on
the paper hanger's table, vaulted up sideways, and, seated on the
top, legs swinging, buried herself in the book, unconscious that
the overturned paste was slowly fastening her to the spattered table
An hour later, hearing
steps on the landing, she sprang--that is, she went through all
the graceful motions of springing lightly to the floor. But she
had not budged an inch. No Gorgon's head could have consigned her
to immovability more hopeless.
Restrained from freedom
by she knew not what, she made one frantic and demoralized effort--and
sank back in terror at the ominous tearing sound.
She was glued irrevocably
to the table.