A HONEYMOON ADVENTURE.
Bv the Author of “As in a Loofaing-Glass.”
Time. — Five o’clock in the afternoon.
Scene.— Inner hall of the Palatial Hotel. A mixed crowd are discussing one another and afternoon tea. At one of the Japanese tables sit a bride and bridegroom, the former attired in walking costume and the sweetest thing in Parisian bonnets. They have been married three weeks. The lady is convinced she is the luckiest of her sex and her husband the handsomest of his. The man wonders what on earth fellows mean by disparaging matrimony , and reflects that, if everybody displayed his own wisdom in selection, divorce would be as obsolete as the thumb-screw. Their names are Mr. and Mrs. Jack Legion.
Jack— That thing is much too heavy for your delicate little hands — give it to me.
Isabel [obediently relinquishing best Britannia- metal tea-pot, weighing, with contents, quite a pound] — What care you do take of me, Jack! I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such a darling for a husband.
Jack— Goose! You’re miles too good for me— for any man! You’re an angel, or, what’s better still, the sweetest little woman under the sun.
Isabel— Will you say that when we have been married three years instead of three weeks?
Jack — Sweetheart!
Isabel [dimpling, and lifting the sugar-longs]— One lump, silly boy?
Jack— One. Hang these people, I wish we were alone!
Isabel [softly]— Dear Jack!
[An expressive silence, wherein their hands come in contact under the table.]
Isabel— And really, really. I am the only woman you ever loved?
Jack — You are, really and truly. [Mentally.] And, of course, it’s a fact. Flirtations don’t count–one makes an idiot of one’s self, as one has the measles.
Isabel — Don’t think me an “awful little duffer” for asking, Jack; I do so like to hear you say it. [Smiles and repeats it softly.] “The only woman he has ever loved.”
[Jack spills his tea as a lady enters and strolls toward the stove.]
Jack [mentally] — Great Jupiter! Laura! And I thought she was abroad!
Isabel — What’s the matter?
Jack [with ghastly merriment]— Ha, ha! Nothing, dear. Burned myself, that’s all. [Mentally.] So I did — but two years ago — not with tea, though.
[The new-comer evidently possesses a fearful fascination for him. He regards her with a frozen glare of horror.]
Isabel — And in books they say that men are fickle! How happy it makes me to know that you are different from the rest! I believe it was the feeling that you were that first made me care for you. [Earnestly.] It may seem girlish to you and absurd, but— but your tenderness would lose half its value to me if I thought that other women had known it, too.
Jack [mentally] — Thank the Lord, she hasn’t seen me yet — if I could only get away before she does! But if I move, I’m lost. [Aloud.] Waiter, bring me that Morning Post. [interposes newspaper as a screen between his features and the stove.]
Isabel [innocently] — Do you find it hot, dear?
Jack— Very. [Mentally.] This is awful! Something must be done. I should have to introduce her to Isabel, and I don’t want to. Laura’s a woman who never forgives, and I got tired first. Is it possible she knows we are here and means to work off old scores by giving me away? [Breaks into gentle perspiration.] If only I were certain she’d burned my letters — if only Isabel were a woman of the world! But a young girl would be sure to take it au grand strieux , and she believes in me so. Poor little wifey!
Voice at his Elbow — How d’ye do, Mr. Legion?
Jack [inwardly] — Run to earth, by gad — she’s got the eyes of a lynx! [Rises stiffly] Mrs. Sparkler—what an unexpected pleasure!
Mrs. Sparkler— I’ve been standing by you for the last ten minutes, I began to think you intended to cut me.
Jack— You’re joking. I’m a little short-sighted, you know.
Mrs. Sparkler — You must be, or you would have recognized me sooner.
Jack [mentally]— Now, what the deuce does she mean by that?
[Awkward pause, in which the two women eye each other curiously.]
Jack [taking the plunge at a rush]— Ah! allow me to introduce you: Mrs. Sparkler— my wife. An old friend of mine, Isabel.
Isabel — How nice I I’m always glad to meet Jack’s friends. Won’t you sit down and let me give you some tea?
Mrs. Sparkler— Thanks. [Sinks into chair,] I had heard you were here. I hoped we might meet. Really. I believe it was that idea which made me decide to come. You see. Mrs. Legion, I have known your husband so long, it was only natural I should be anxious to make the acquaintance of his wife.
Isabel [flattered]— It was very kind of you. Are your rooms in the hotel?
Mrs. Sparkler— Yes, I always stay here; I came last night.
Jack [mentally] — This excessive amiability is ominous; she means mischief. If I could only get Isabel away— but it’s dangerous to be rude. [The ladies fall to discussing chiffons. For fifteen minutes the Hon. Jack sits on thorns, with the sword of Damocles suspended over his head.]
Mrs. Sparkler [rising]— So good of you— I hate shopping alone. Your husband won’t mind, I’m sure.
Isabel— Jack, Mrs. Sparkler has offered to drive me into East Street. I know you hate shops; you will be glad of the excuse to remain at home.
Jack [quickly]— You forget that driving in an open carriage so late in the afternoon won’t improve your cold. I don’t mind taking you in the least.
Isabel— But surely if I’m well wrapped up…
Jack— I’d rather you didn’t risk it. If it were a closed carriage, of course…
Mrs. Sparkler [with triumph in her eyes)— And so it is; you must be thinking of the victoria. If you’re ready, Mrs. Legion, we’ll start; I told the man to be round at five o’clock.
Jack— You might ask me to go with you!
Mrs. Sparkler— How I wish we could, but unfortunately it’s a single brougham.
[He makes other objections, but is overruled by the ladies, and is eventually obliged to give way.]
Mrs. Sparkler [sotto voce, as he accompanies them to the door]— Do you know the day of the month, my friend?
Jack — The fifteenth. What do you mean?
Mrs. Sparkler— It’s exactly a year since you bade me “good-bye.” [Laughs harshly.] A coincidence, isn’t it, that our next meeting should take place on the anniversary of the date?
Jack [whispering]— You are going to tell her. I knew it. In mercy to her, don’t — she loves me!
Mrs. Sparkler [in the same key]— She is not the only woman who has loved and suffered!
Jack — Laura, for God’s sake!
Mrs. Sparkler [aloud and viciously] — I beg your pardon, Mr. Legion. Did you speak?
Isabel — Good-bye, Jack; I sha’n’t be long, dear.
Jack—” Your tenderness would lose half its value to me if I thought…” [Groans.] Will she look at me like that when she returns, I wonder? Poor little girl!— to be disillusioned so soon!
[Same scene an hour later. Jack, in evening-dress, is pacing agitatedly to and fro.]
Jack — Good heavens, what a time they are! This suspense is awful. If only they would come back–if only I knew the worst! That woman was always a vixen — and I nearly married her. What on earth I found in her I can’t conceive. She’s got the figure of a haystack I And her hair’s the most primary red I know.
[He is in the act of consulting his watch for the tenth time in as many minutes, when Mrs. Sparkler enters hurriedly and alone,]
Jack [going as white as a sheet] — Where’s Isabel?
Mrs. Sparkler— Buying chiffons! It’s all right; I wanted to speak to you, so I discovered I had a telegram to send. Come out here, away from this odious crowd. [They move into the conservatory, which opens out of the hall.]
Mrs. Sparkler [speaking very fast and tracing the pattern of the rug with the point of her shoe] —Jack, you slighted me, and that a woman never forgets or forgives! You made me care for you; you made me think you in earnest; and then you decided a woman like me was only good enough to flirt with, and you left with an explanation that it turns me hot to recall even now. You were a brute, and I meant that your wife should know all about it. But — I’ve changed my mind. She’s so fond of you, and such a child, and — I don’t war with children. It wouldn’t be fair sport— like— like breaking butterflies, you know! And — I was like that myself a century ago.
Jack — Laura!
Mrs. Sparkler [rather husky and flushed]—I shall go back to town to-morrow, so you needn’t be afraid I shall change my mind. Take care of her, Jack; she’s a good little soul. And treat her better than you treated me! Now I must be off, or I shall keep her waiting. Go and have a brandy and soda; you look as if you wanted one. Ha, ha, ha! If any one had told me I could be such a fool! [Exit, laughing hysterically.]
Jack [lighting a cigar and blinking hard]— Her hair isn’t such a bad color, after all; and she is right. I am a brute who doesn’t deserve his luck! — F. C. Phillips in The Sketch, 1893
The Argonaut [San Francisco, CA] 3 July 1893
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil really cannot contradict that last statement.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.