Nevertheless Bella was no more abashed that she was irritated by this. On the contrary she knew her mother and knew that she was fond of her; also that she was intrigued by her physical charm as well as her assured local social success as much as was her father, who considered her perfection itself and could be swayed by her least, as well as her much practised, smile.
“Not old enough, not old enough,” commented Bella reproachfully. “Will you listen? I’ll be eighteen in July. I’d like to know when you and Papa are going to think I’m old enough to go anywhere without you both. Wherever you two go, I have to go, and wherever I want to go, you two have to go, too.”
“Bella,” censured her mother. Then after a moment’s silence, in which her daughter stood there impatiently, she added, “Of course, what else would you have us do? When you are twenty-one or two, if you are not married by then, it will be time enough to think of going off by yourself. But at your age, you shouldn’t be thinking of any such thing.” Bella cocked her pretty head, for at the moment the side door downstairs was thrown open, and Gilbert Griffiths, the only son of this family and who very much in face and build, if not in manner or lack of force, resembled Clyde, his western cousin, entered and ascended.
He was at this time a vigorous, self-centered and vain youth of twenty-three who, in contrast with his two sisters, seemed much sterner and far more practical. Also, probably much more intelligent and aggressive in a business way – a field in which neither of the two girls took the slightest interest. He was brisk in manner and impatient. He considered that his social position was perfectly secure, and was utterly scornful of anything but commercial success. Yet despite this he was really deeply interested in the movements of the local society, of which he considered himself and his family the most important part. Always conscious of the dignity and social standing of his family in this community, he regulated his action and speech accordingly. Ordinarily he struck the passing observer as rather sharp and arrogant, neither as youthful or as playful as his years might have warranted. Still he was young, attractive and interesting. He had a sharp, if not brilliant, tongue in his head – a gift at times for making crisp and cynical remarks. On account of his family and position he was considered also the most desirable of all the young eligible bachelors in Lycurgus. Nevertheless he was so much interested in himself that he scarcely found room in his cosmos for a keen and really intelligent understanding of anyone else.
Hearing him ascend from below and enter his room, which was at the rear of the house next to hers, Bella at once left her mother’s room, and coming to the door, called: “Oh, Gil, can I come in?”
“Sure.” He was whistling briskly and already, in view of some entertainment somewhere, preparing to change to evening clothes.
“Where are you going?”
“Nowhere, for dinner. To the Wynants afterwards.”
“Oh, Constance to be sure.”
“No, not Constance, to be sure. Where do you get that stuff?”
“As though I didn’t know.”
“Lay off. Is that what you came in here for?”
“No, that isn’t what I came in here for. What do you think? The Finchleys are going to build a place up at Twelfth Lake next summer, right on the lake, next to the Phants, and Mr. Finchley’s going to buy Stuart a thirty-foot launch and build a boathouse with a sun-parlor right over the water to hold it. Won’t that be swell, huh?”
“Don’t say ‘swell.’ And don’t say ‘huh.’ Can’t you learn to cut out the slang? You talk like a factory girl. Is that all they teach you over at that school?”
“Listen to who’s talking about cutting out slang. How about yourself? You set a fine example around here, I notice.”
“Well, I’m five years older than you are. Besides I’m a man. You don’t notice Myra using any of that stuff.”
“Oh, Myra. But don’t let’s talk about that. Only think of that new house they’re going to build and the fine time they’re going to have up there next summer. Don’t you wish we could move up there, too? We could if we wanted to – if Papa and Mamma would agree to it.”
“Oh, I don’t know that it would be so wonderful,” replied her brother, who was really very much interested just the same. “There are other places besides Twelfth Lake.”
“Who said there weren’t? But not for the people that we know around here. Where else do the best people from Albany and Utica go but there now, I’d like to know. It’s going to become a regular center, Sondra says, with all the finest houses along the west shore. Just the same, the Cranstons, the Lamberts, and the Harriets are going to move up there pretty soon, too,” Bella added most definitely and defiantly. “That won’t leave so many out at Greenwood Lake, nor the very best people, either, even if the Anthonys and Nicholsons do stay here.”
“Who says the Cranstons are going up there?” asked Gilbert, now very much interested.
“Who told her?”
“Gee, they’re getting gayer and gayer,” commented her brother oddly and a little enviously. “Pretty soon Lycurgus’ll be too small to hold ’em.” He jerked at a bow tie he was attempting to center and grimaced oddly as his tight neck-band pinched him slightly.
For although Gilbert had recently entered into the collar and shirt industry with his father as general supervisor of manufacturing, and with every prospect of managing and controlling the entire business eventually, still he was jealous of young Grant Cranston, a youth of his own age, very appealing and attractive physically, who was really more daring with and more attractive to the girls of the younger set. Cranston seemed to be satisfied that it was possible to combine a certain amount of social pleasure with working for his father with which Gilbert did not agree. In fact, young Griffiths would have preferred, had it been possible, so to charge young Cranston with looseness, only thus far the latter had managed to keep himself well within the bounds of sobriety. And the Cranston Wickwire Company was plainly forging ahead as one of the leading industries of Lycurgus.
“Well,” he added, after a moment, “they’re spreading out faster than I would if I had their business. They’re not the richest people in the world, either.” Just the same he was thinking that, unlike himself and his parents, the Cranstons were really more daring if not socially more avid of life. He envied them.
“And what’s more,” added Bella interestedly, “the Finchleys are to have a dance floor over the boathouse. And Sondra says that Stuart was hoping that you would come up there and spend a lot of time this summer.”
“Oh, did he?” replied Gilbert, a little enviously and sarcastically. “You mean he said he was hoping you would come up and spend a lot of time. I’ll be working this summer.”
“He didn’t say anything of the kind, smarty. Besides it wouldn’t hurt us any if we did go up there. There’s nothing much out at Greenwood any more that I can see. A lot of old hen parties.”
“Is that so? Mother would like to hear that.”
“And you’ll tell her, of course”
“Oh, no, I won’t either. But I don’t think we’re going to follow the Finchleys or the Cranstons up to Twelfth Lake just yet, either. You can go up there if you want, if Dad’ll let you.”
Just then the lower door clicked again, and Bella, forgetting her quarrel with her brother, ran down to greet her father.
The head of the Lycurgus branch of the Griffiths, as contrasted with the father of the Kansas City family, was most arresting.