(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The social secretary"

k~MMwJMfc~JHHk<MMkJMK~MBk..^M~BBk.4Mk~J^Bk~B^aHB~Mk'>Bi 

THE 
SOCIAL 



\ 



DAVID GRAHAM PHILLIPS 



LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF 

CALIFORNIA 

SANTA CRUZ 



The Social SecretaGS 




. 





THE SOCIAL 
SECRETARY 

4* 

DAVID GRAHAM PHILLIPS 
Author of The Plum Tree 
The Cost etcetc. 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY 
CLARENCE E UNDERWOOD 

Decorations by 
Ralph Fletcher Seymour 




New York 

Grosset & Dunlap 

Publishers 



COPYRIGHT 1905 
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY 

OCTOBER 




PS 



The Social Secretai35 



The Social Secretac 



I 



NOVEMBER 29. At half-past 
one to-day half- past one ex 
actly I began my "career." 
Mrs. Carteret said she would call for 
me at five minutes to one. But it was 
ten minutes after when she appeared, 
away down at the corner of I Street. 
Jim was walking up and down the 
drawing-room; I was at the window, 
watching that corner of I Street. 
"There she blows!" I cried, my voice 
brave, but my heart like a big lump of 
something soggy and sad. 



The Social Secreta^ 

Jim hurried up and stood behind me, 
staring glumly over my shoulder. He 
has proposed to me in so many words 
more than twenty times in the last three 
years, and has looked it every time 
we've met we meet almost every day. 
I could feel that he was getting ready 
to propose again, but I hadn't the slight 
est fear that he'd touch me. He's in 
the army, and his "pull" has kept him 
snug and safe at Washington and has 
promoted him steadily until now he's 
a Colonel at thirty-five. But he was 
brought up in a formal, old-fashioned 
way, and he'd think it a deadly insult 
to a woman he respected enough to ask 
her to be his wife if he should touch 
her without her permission. I admire 
Jim's self-restraint, but I couldn't bear 
being married to a man who worshiped 
me, even if I only liked him. If I 

2 



The Social Secretaos 

loved him, I'd be utterly miserable. I've 
been trying hard to love Jim for the 
past four months, or ever since I've 
really realized how desperate my affairs 
are. But I can't. And the most exas 
perating part of my obstinacy is that I 
can't find a good reason or excuse for it. 

As I was saying or, rather, writing 
Jim stood behind me and said in a 
husky sort of voice: "You ain't goin' 
to do it, are you, Gus?" 

I didn't answer. If I had said any 
thing, it would have been a feeble, 
miserable "No" which would have 
meant that I was accepting the alter 
native him. All my courage had gone 
and I felt contemptibly feminine and 
dependent. 

I looked at him I did like the ex 
pression of his eyes and the strength 
and manliness of him from head to foot. 



The Social Secreta^ 

What a fine sort of man a "pull" and 
a private income have spoiled in Jim 
Lafollette! He went on: "Surely, I'm 
not more repellent to you than than 
what that auto is coming to take you 
away to." 

"Shame on you, Jim Lafollette?" I 
said angrily most of the anger so tha* 
he wouldn't understand and take advan 
tage of the tears in my eyes and voice. 
"But how like you! How brave!" 

He reddened at that partly because 
he felt guilty toward me, partly because 
he is ashamed of the laziness that has 
made him shirk for thirteen years. "I 
don't care a hang whether it's brave or 
not, or what it is," he said sullenly. "I 
want you. And it seems to me I've got 
to do something use force, if necessary 
to keep you from from that. You 
ain't fit for it, Gus not in any way. 

4 



The Social Secreta^ 

Why, it's worse than being a servant. 
And you brought up as you've been " 

I laughed a pretty successful effort. 
"I've been educating for it all my life, 
without knowing it. And it's honest 
and independent. If you had the right 
sort of ideas of self-respect, you'd be 
ashamed of me if you thought I'd be 
low enough to marry a man I couldn't 
give my heart to for a living." 

"Don't talk rubbish," he retorted. 
"Thousands of women do it. Besides, 
if I don't mind, why should you? God 
knows you've made it plain enough that 
you don't love me. Gus, why can't you 
marry me and let me save you from this 
just as a brother might save a sister?" 

"Because I may love somebody some 
day, Jim," said I. I wanted to hurt 
him for his own sake, and also because 
I didn't want him to tempt me. 

5 



The Social Secretaos 

The auto was at the curb. He didn't 
move until I was almost at the drawing- 
room door. Then he rushed at me and 
his look frightened me a little. He 
caught me by the arm. "It's the last 
chance, Augusta!" he exclaimed. 
"Won't you?" 

I drew away and hurried out. "Then 
you don't intend to have anything to 
do with me after I've crossed the line 
and become a toiler?" I called back 
over my shoulder. I couldn't resist the 
temptation to be thoroughly feminine 
and leave the matter open by putting 
him in the wrong with my "woman's 
last word." I was so low in my mind 
that I reasoned that my adventure might 
be as appalling as I feared, in which 
case it would be well to have an alter 
native. I wonder if the awful thoughts 
we sometimes have are our real selves 
6 



The Social Secretacs 

or if they just give us the chance to 
measure the gap between what we might 
be as shown by them and what we are 
as shown by our acts. I hope the lat 
ter, for surely I can't be as poor a crea 
ture as I so often have impulses to make 
myself. 

Mrs. Carteret was waiting for the 
servant to open the door. I hurried her 
back toward the auto, being a little 
afraid that Jim would be desperate 
enough to come out and beg her to 
help him and I knew she would do 
it if she were asked. In the first place, 
Jessie always does what she's asked to 
do if it helps her to spend time and 
breath. In the second place, she'd never 
let up on me if she thought I had so 
good a chance to marry. For she knows 
that Washington is the hardest place in 
the world for a woman to find a hus- 



The Social SecretaG 

band unless she's got something that 
appeals to the ambition of men. Besides, 
she thinks, as do many of my friends, 
that I am indifferent to men and dis 
courage them. As if any woman was 
indifferent to men! The only point is 
that women's ideas of what constitutes 
a man differ, and my six years in this 
cosmopolis have made me somewhat 
discriminating. 

But to return to Jessie, she was full 
of apologies for being late. "I've thought 
of nothing but you, dear, for two days 
and nights. And I thought that for 
once in my life I'd be on time. Yet 
here I am, fifteen minutes late, unless 
that clock's wrong." She was looking 
at the beautiful little clock set in the 
dashbpard of the auto. 

"Only fifteen minutes!" I said. "And 
you never before were known to be less 

8 



The Social Secretae 

than half an hour late. You even kept 
the President waiting twenty minutes/' 

"Isn't it stupid, this fussing about 
being on time?" she replied. "I don't 
believe any but dull people and those 
who want to get something from one 
are ever on time. For those who really 
live, life is so full that punctuality is 
impossible. But I should have been on 
time, if I hadn't been down seeing the 
Secretary of War about Willie Catesby 
poor Willie! He has been so handi 
capped by nature!" 

"Did you get it for him?" I asked. 

"I think so third secretary at St. 
Petersburg. The secretary said: 'But 
Willie is almost an imbecile, Mrs. Car- 
teret. If we don't send him abroad, his 
family'll have to put him away/ And 
I said: ' That's true, Mr. Secretary. But 
if we don't send that sort of people to 

9 



The Social Secretaeg 

foreign courts, how are we to repay the 
insults they send us in the form of im 
becile attaches?' And then I handed 
him six letters from senators every one 
of them a man whose vote he needs for 
his fight on that nomination. They were 
real letters. So presently he said, 'Very 
well, Mrs. Carteret, I'll do what I can 
to resent the Czar's last insult by export 
ing Willie to him." 

I waited a moment, then burst out with 
what I was full of. "You think she'll 
take me?" I said. 

Jessie reproached me with tragedy in 
her always intensely serious gray eyes. 
"Take your' she exclaimed. "Take a 
Talltowers when there's a chance to get 
one? Why, as soon as I explained who 
you were, she fairly quivered with 
eagerness." 

"You had to explain who a Talltow- 
10 



The Social Secreta^ 

ers is?" I said with mock amazement. 
It's delightful to poke fun at Jessie; she 
always appreciates a jest by taking it 
more seriously than an ordinary state 
ment of fact. 

"But, dear, you mustn't be offended. 
You know Mrs. Burke is very common 
and ignorant. She doesn't know the 
first thing about the world. She said 
to me the other day that she had often 
heard there were such things as class 
distinctions, but had never believed it 
until she came to Washington she had 
thought it was like the fairy stories. 
She never was farther east than Chi 
cago until this fall. She went there 
to the Fair. You must get her to tell 
you how she and three other women 
who belong to the same Chautauqua 
Circle went on together and slept in 
the same room and walked from dawn 
ii 



The Social Secretao* 

till dark every day, catalogue in hand, 
for eleven days. It's too pathetic. She 
said, 'My! but my feet were sore. I 
thought I was a cripple for life/ " 

"That sounds nice and friendly/' said 
I, suspicious that Jessie's quaint sense of 
humor had not permitted her to appre 
ciate Mrs. Burke. "I'm so dreadfully 
afraid I'll fall into the clutches of peo 
ple that'll try to to humiliate me." 

Tears sprang to Jessie's eyes. "Please 
don't, Gus!" she pleaded. "They'll be 
only too deferential. And you must keep 
them so. I suspect that Mrs. Burke 
chums with her servants." 

We were stopping before the house 
the big, splendid Ralston Castle, as 
they call it; one of the very finest of the 
houses that have been building since rich 
men began to buy into the Senate and 
Cabinet and aspire for diplomatic places, 

12 



The Social Secreta^S 

and so have attracted other rich fami 
lies to Washington. What a changed 
Washington it is, and what a fight the 
old simplicity is making against the new 
ostentation! The sight of the Ralston 
Castle in my present circumstances de 
pressed me horribly. I went to my sec 
ond ball there, and it was given for me 
by Mrs. Ralston. And only a little more 
than a year ago I danced in the qua 
drille of honor with the French Ambas 
sador and the next week the Ralstons 
went smash and hurried abroad to hide, 
all except the old man who is hanging 
round Wall Street, they say, trying to 
get on his feet with the aid of his friends. 
Friends ! How that word must burn into 
him every time he thinks of it. When 
he got into a tight place his "friends" 
took advantage of their knowledge of 
his affairs to grab his best securities, they 

13 



The Social Secreta^ 

say. No doubt he was disagreeable in 
a way, but still those who turned on him 
the most savagely had been intimate with 
him and had accepted his hospitality. 

"You'll be mistress here," Jessie was 
saying. She had put on her prophetic 
look and pose she really believes she 
has second sight at certain times. "And 
you'll marry the son, if you manage it 
right. I counted him in when I was 
going over the advantages and disadvan 
tages of the place before proposing it to 
you. He looks like a mild, nice young 
man though I must say I don't fancy 
cowlicks right in the part of the hair. 
I saw only his picture." 

A tall footman with an insolent face 
opened the door and ushered us into the 
small drawing-room to the left: "Mrs. 
Carteret ! Miss Tall to wers ! " he shouted 
far louder than is customary or cour- 

H 



The Social 

teous. I saw the impudent grin in his eyes 
no proper man-servant ever permits 
any one to see his eyes. And he almost 
dropped the curtain in our faces, in such 
haste was he to get back to his lounging- 
place below stairs. 

His roar had lifted to her feet an 
elderly woman with her hair so badly 
dyed that it made her features look hag 
gard and harsh and even dissipated. She 
made a nervous bow. She was of the 
figure called stout by the charitable and 
sumptuous by the crude. She was richly- 
dressed, over-dressed, dressed-up shiny 
figured satin with a great deal of beads 
and lace that added to her width and 
subtracted from her height. She stood 
miserable, jammed and crammed into a 
tight corset. Her hands very nice 
hands, I noticed were folded upon her 
stomach. As soon as I got used to that 

15 



The Social Secreta^S 

revolting hair-dye, I saw that she had 
in fact a large-featured, sweet face with 
fine brown eyes. Even with the dye she 
was the kind of looking woman that it 
sounds perfectly natural to hear her hus 
band call "mother." 

Jessie went up to her as she stood 
wretched in her pitiful attempt at youth 
and her grandeur of clothes and sur 
roundings. Mrs. Burke looked down 
kindly, with a sudden quizzical smile 
that reminded me of my suspicions as 
to the Chicago Fair story. Jessie was 
looking up like a plump, pretty, tame 
robin, head on one side. "Dear Mrs. 
Burke," she said. "This is Miss Tall- 
towers, and I'm sure you'll love each 
other." 

Mrs. Burke looked at me I thought, 
with a determined attempt to be sus 
picious and cautious. I'm afraid Jessie's 
16 



The Social SecretaQS 

reputation for tireless effort to do some 
thing for everybody has finally "queered" 
her recommendations. However, what 
ever warning Mrs. Burke had received 
went for nothing. She was no match 
for Jessie Jessie from whom his Maj 
esty at the White House hides when 
he knows she's coming for an impossi 
ble favor she was no match for Jessie 
and she knew it. She wiped the sweat 
from her face and stammered: "I hope 
we'll suit each other, Miss " In her 
embarrassment she had forgotten my 
name. 

"Talltowers," whispered Jessie with a 
side-splitting look of tragic apology to 
me. Just then the clock in the corner 
struck out the half-hour from its cathedral 
bell the sound echoed and reechoed 
through me, for it marked the beginning 
of my "career." Jessie went on more 



The Social Secretaes 

loudly: "And now that our business is 
settled, can't we have some lunch, Mrs. 
Burke? I'm starved." 

Mrs. Burke brightened. "The Sena 
tor won't be here to-day," she drawled, in 
a tone which always suggests to me that, 
after all, life is a smooth, leisurely mat 
ter with plenty of time for everything 
except work. "As he was leaving for 
the Capitol this morning, he says to me, 
says he: 'You women had better fight 
it out alone.' ' 

"The dear Senator!" said Jessie. 
"He's so clever?" 

"Yes, he is mighty clever with those 
he likes," replied Mrs. Burke Jessie 
looking at me to make sure I would 
note Mrs. Burke's "provincial" way of 
using the word clever. 

Jessie saved the luncheon or, at least, 
thought she was saving it. Mrs. Burke 
18 ' 



The Social Secret aos 

and I had only to listen and eat. I caught 
her looking at me several times, and 
then I saw shrewdness in her eyes 
good-natured, but none the less pene 
trating for that. And I knew I should 
like her, and should get on with her. 
At last our eyes met and we both smiled. 
After that she somehow seemed less 
crowded and foreign in her tight, fine 
clothes. I saw she was impatient for 
Jessie to go the moment luncheon was 
over, but it was nearly three o'clock 
before we were left alone together. 
There fell an embarrassed silence for 
both of us were painfully conscious that 
nothing had really been settled. 

"When do you wish me to come 
if you do wish it at all?*' I asked, by 
way of making a beginning. 

"When do you think you could 
come?" she inquired nervously. 

'9 



The Social SecretaQS 

"Then you do wish to give me a 
trial? I hope you won't feel that Mrs. 
Carteret's precipitate way binds you." 

She gave me a shrewd, good-natured 
look. "I want you to come," she said. 
"I wanted it from what I'd heard of 
you I and Mr. Burke. I want it more 
than ever, now that F ve seen you. When 
can you come?" 

"To-morrow to-morrow morn- 
ing?" 

"Come as early as you like. The sal 
ary is is satisfactory?" 

"Mrs. Carteret said but I'm sure 
you can judge better whatever " I 
stuttered, red as fire. 

Mrs. Burke laughed. "I can see you 
ain't a great hand at business. The sal 
ary is two thousand a year, with a three 
months' vacation in the time we're not 
at Washington. Always have a plain un- 

20 



The Social Secretaos 

derstanding in money matters it saves 
a lot of mean feelings and quarrels." 

"Very well whatever you think. I 
don't believe I'm worth much of any 
thing until I've had a chance to show 
what I can do." 

"Well, Tom Mr. Burke said two 
thousand would be about right at the set- 
off," she drawled in her calming tone. 
"So we'll consider that settled." 

"Yes," I gasped, with a big sigh of 
relief. "I suppose you wish me to take 
charge of your social matters relieve 
you of the burdensome part of enter 
taining?" 

"I just wish you could," she said, with 
a great deal of humor in her slow voice. 
"But I've got to keep that it's the try 
ing to make people have a good time 
and not look and act as if they were 
wondering why they'd come." 

21 



The Social Secreta^ 

"That'll soon wear off/' said I. "Most 
of the stiffness is strangeness on both 
sides, don't you think?" 

"I don't know. As nearly as I can 
make out, they never had a real, natural 
good time in their lives. They wear the 
Sunday, go-to-meeting clothes and man 
ners the whole seven days. I'll never 
get used to it. I can't talk that kind of 
talk. And if I was just plain and natural, 
they'd think I was stark crazy." 

"Did you ever try?" 

She lifted her hands in mock-horror. 
"Mercy, no! Tom Mr. Burke warned 



me.' 3 



I laughed. "Men don't know much 
about that sort of thing," said I. "A 
woman might as well let a man tell her 
how to dress as how to act." 

She colored. "He does," she said, her 
eyes twinkling. "He was here two win- 

22 



The Social 

ters this is my first. I've a kind of feel 
ing that he really don't know, but he's 
positive and I've had nobody else to 
talk about it with. I'm a stranger here 
not a friend except people who well, 
I can guess pretty close to what they say 
behind my back." She laughed a great 
shaking of as much of her as was not 
held rigid by that tight corset. "Not 
that I care I like a joke myself, and 
I'm a good deal of a joke among these 
grand folks. Only, I do want to help 
Tom, and not be a drag." She gave me 
a sudden, sharp look. "I don't know 
why I trust you, I'm sure." 

"Because I'm your confidential ad 
viser," said I, "and it's always well to 
keep nothing from a confidential ad 
viser." The longer I looked and lis 
tened, the larger possibilities I saw in 
her. My enthusiasm was rising. 

2 3 



The Social Secreta^ 

She rose and came to me and kissed 
me. There were tears in her eyes. "I've 
been so lonesome/' she said. " Even Tom 
don't seem natural any more, away off 
here in the East. Sometimes I get so 
homesick that I just can't eat or any 
thing." 

"We're going to have a lot of fun," 
said I encouragingly as if she were 
twenty-four and I fifty, instead of it be 
ing the other way. "You'll soon learn 
the ropes." 

"I'm so glad you use slang," she 
drawled, back in her chair and comfort 
ably settled. "My, but Tom'll be scan 
dalized. He's made inquiries about you 
and has made up his mind that whatever 
you say is right. And I almost believed 
he knew the trails. I might 'a' known! 
He's a man, you see, and always was 
stiff with the ladies. You ought to 'a' 

24 



The Social Secreta^ 

seen the letter he wrote proposing to me. 
You see, I'm kind of fat and always was. 
Mother used to tease me because I hadn't 
any beaux except Tom, who wouldn't 
come to the point. She said: 'Lizzie, 
you'll never have a man make real love 
to you/ And she was right. When 
Tom proposed he wrote very formal- 
like not a sentimental word. And 
when we were married and got better 
acquainted, I teased him about it, and 
tried to get him to make love, real book 
kind of love. But not a word! But he's 
fond of me we always have got on 
fine, and his being no good at love-talk 
is just one of our jokes." 

It was fine to hear her drawl it out 
I knew that she was sure to make a 
hit, if only I could get her under way, 
could convince her that it's nice to be 
natural if you're naturally nice. 



The Social Secreta^ 

"Tom" came in from the Senate and 
I soon saw that, though she was a 
"really" lady, of the only kind that is 
real the kind that's born right, he was 
a made gentleman, and not a very suc 
cessful job. He was small and thin and 
dressed with the same absurd stiff care 
with which he had made her dress. He 
had a pointed reddish beard and reddish 
curls, and he used a kind of scent that 
smelt cheap though it probably wasn't. 
He was very precise and distant with 
me how "Lizzie's" eyes did twinkle 
as she watched him. I saw that she was 
"on to" Tom with the quickness with 
which a shrewd woman always finds 
out, once she gets the clue. 

"Have you had Miss Talltowers 
shown her rooms, Mrs. Burke?" he soon 
inquired. 

"Why, no, pa," replied Mrs. Burke. 
26 



The Social Secretaos 

"I forgot it clear." As she said "pa" 
he winced and her eyes danced with 
fun. She went on to me: "You don't 
mind our calling each other pa and ma 
before you, do you, Miss Talltowers? 
We're so used to doing it that, if you 
minded it and we had to stop, we'd feel 
as if we had company in the house all 
the time." 

I didn't dare answer, I was so full of 
laughter. For "pa" looked as if he 
were about to sink through the floor. 
She led me up to my rooms a beauti 
ful suite on the third floor. "We took 
the house furnished," she explained as 
we went, "and I feel as if I was living 
in a hotel except that the servants 
ain't nearly so nice. I do hope you'll 
help me with them. Tom wanted me 
to take a housekeeper, but those that 
applied were such grand ladies that I'd 

27 



The Social Secretaos 

rather V done all my own work than 
'a' had any one of them about. Perhaps 
we could get one now, and you could 
kind of keep her in check/' 

"I think it'd be better to have some 
one/' I replied. "I've had some experi 
ence in managing a house." I couldn't 
help saying it unsteadily not because 
I miss our house; no, I'm sure it wasn't 
that. But I suddenly saw the old li 
brary and my father looking up from his 
book to smile lovingly at me as I strug 
gled with the household accounts. Any 
how, deep down I'm glad he did know 
so little about business and so much 
about everything that's fine. I'd rather 
have my memories of him than any 
money he could have left me by being 
less of a father and friend and more of 
a "practical" man. 

Mrs. Burke looked at me sympathet- 
28 



The Social Secreta^ 

ically I could see that she longed to 
say something about my changed for 
tunes, but refrained through fear of not 
saying the right thing. I must teach 
her never to be afraid of that a born 
lady with a good heart could never be 
really tactless. She went to the front 
door with me, opening it for me her 
self to the contemptuous amusement of 
the tall footman. We shook hands and 
kissed I usually can't bear to have a 
woman kiss me, but I'd have felt badly 
if "ma" Burke hadn't done it. 

When I got back to Rachel's and 
burst into the drawing-room with a 
radiant face, I heard a grunt like a groan. 
It was from Jim in the twilight near 
Rachel at the tea-table. "I'm going 
out to service to-morrow," said I to 
Rachel. "So you're to be rid of your 
visitor at last." 

29 



The Social Secret a^ 

"Oh, Gus!" exclaimed Rachel be 
tween anger and tears. And Jim looked 
black and sullen. But I was happy 
and am to-night. Happy for the first 
time in two years. I'm going to do 
something and it is something that 
interests me. I'm going to launch a fine 
stately ship, a full-rigged four-master in 
this big-little sea of Washington society. 
What a sensation I can make with it 
among the pretty holiday boats! 



3 



D 



II 



ECEMBER 6. Last Monday 
morning young Mr. Burke 
Cyrus, the son and heir ar 
rived, just from Germany. The first 
glimpse I had of him was as he entered 
the house between his father and his 
mother, who had gone to the station to 
meet him. I got myself out of the way 
and didn't come down until "ma" Burke 
sent for me. I liked the way she was 
sitting there beaming but then, I like 
almost everything she does; she's such 
a large, natural person. She never stands, 

3 1 



The Social Secret a^ 

except on her way to sit just as soon as 
ever she can. "I never was a great 
hand for using my feet/' she said to me 
on my second day, "and I don't know 
but about as much seems to V come to 
find me as most people catch up with 
by running their legs off?' I liked the 
way her son was hovering about her. 
And I liked the way "pa" Burke hov 
ered round them both, nervous and pull 
ing at his whiskers and trying to think 
of things to say if he only wouldn't 
use brilliantine, or whatever it is, on his 
whiskers ! 

" Cyrus, this is my friend, Miss Tall- 
towers," said Mrs. Burke. I smiled and 
he clapped his heels together with a 
click and doubled up as if he had a sud 
den pain in his middle, just like all the 
northern Continental diplomats. When 
he straightened back to the normal I 



The Social Secreta^ 

took a good look at him and he at me. 
I don't know or, rather, didn't then 
know what he thought. But I thought 
him well, "common." He has a great 
big body that's strong and well-pro 
portioned; but his features are so insig 
nificant a small mouth, a small nose, 
small ears, eyes, forehead, small head. 
And there, in the very worst place 
just where the part ought to be was 
the cowlick I'd noticed in his photo 
graph. When he began to speak I liked 
him still less. He's been at Berlin three 
years, but still has his Harvard accent. 
I wonder why they teach men at Har 
vard to use their lips in making words 
as a Miss Nancy sort of man uses his 
fingers in doing fancy work? 

Neither of us said anything memora 
ble, and presently he went away to his 
room, his mother going up with him. 

33 



The Social Secret SLIQZ, 

His father followed to the foot of the 
stairs, then drifted away to his study 
where he could lie in wait for Cyrus 
on his way down. Pretty soon his 
mother came into the "office" they've 
given me it's just off the drawing-room 
so that I can be summoned to it the 
instant any one comes to see Mrs. Burke. 
"I've let his pa have him for a while," 
she explained, as she came in. I saw 
that she was full of her boy, so I turned 
away from my books. She rambled on 
about him for an hour, not knowing 
what she was saying, but just pouring 
out whatever came into her head. " His 
pa has always said I'd spoil him," was 
one of the things I remember, "but I 
don't think love ever spoiled anybody." 
Also she told me that his real name 
wasn't Cyrus but Bucyrus, the town his 
father originally came from it's some- 

34 



The Social Secreta^ 

where in Ohio, I think she said. "And/* 
said she, "whenever I want to cut his 
comb I just give him his name. He 
tames right down." Also that he has 
used all sorts of things on the cowlick 
without success. "There it is, still," 
said she, "as cross-grained as ever. I 
like it about the best of anything, ex 
cept maybe his long legs. I'm a duck- 
leg myself, and his pa well, his legs 
*just about reach the ground/ as Lincoln 
said, and after that the less said the 
sooner forgot. But Cyrus has legs. And 
his cowlick matches a cowlick in his 
disposition a kind of gnarly knot that 
you can't cut nor saw through nor get 
round no way. It's been the saving of 
him, he's so good-natured and easy 
otherwise." And she went on to tell 
how generous he is, "the only generous 
small-eared person I've ever known, 

35 



The Social SecretaG 

though I must say I have my doubts 
about ears as a sign. There was Bill 
Slayback in our town, with ears like a 
jack-rabbit, and whenever he had a poor 
man do a job of work about his place 
he used to pay him with a ninety-day 
note and then shave the note." 

I was glad when she hurried away at 
the sound of Cyrus in the hall. For a 
huge lot of work there'll be for me to do 
until I get things in some sort of order. 
I've opened a regular set of books to 
keep the social accounts in. Of course, 
nobody who goes in for society, on the 
scale we're going into it, could get along 
without social bookkeeping as big as a 
bank's. I pity the official women in the 
high places who can't afford secretaries; 
they must spend hours every night post 
ing and fussing with their account-books 
when they ought to be in bed asleep. 



The Social Secretag 

On my second day here "pa" Burke 
explained what his plans were. "We 
wish to make our house," said he, "the 
most distinguished social center in Wash 
ington, next to the White House and 
very democratic. Above all, Miss Tall- 
towers, democratic." 

"He don't mean that he wants us to 
do our own work and send out the wash," 
drawled "ma" Burke, who was sitting 
by. "But democratic, with fourteen ser 
vants in livery." 

"I understand," said I. "You wish 
simplicity, and people to feel at ease, 
Mr. Burke." 

"Exactly," he replied in a dubious 
tone. "But I wish to maintain the 
the dignities, as it were." 

I saw he was afraid I might get the 
idea he wanted something like those 
rough-and-tumble public maulings of 

37 



The-Social Secreta^ 

the President that they have at the White 
House. I hastened to reassure him; then 
I explained my plan. I had drawn up a 
system somewhat like those the Presi 
dent's wife and the Cabinet women and 
the other big entertainers have. I'm glad 
the Burkes haven't any daughters. If 
they had I'd certainly need an assistant. 
As it is, I'm afraid I'll worry myself 
hollow-eyed over my books. 

First, there's the Ledger a real, big, 
thick office ledger with almost four hun 
dred accounts in it, each one indexed. 
Of course, there aren't any entries as yet. 
But there soon will be what we owe 
various people in the way of entertain 
ment, what they've paid, and what they 
owe us. 

Second, there's my Day-Book. It 
contains each day's engagements so that 
I can find out at a glance just what we've 

38 



The Social Secreta^ 

got to do, and can make out each night 
before going to bed or early each morn 
ing the schedule for Mrs. Burke for the 
day, and for Senator Burke and the son, 
I suppose, for the late afternoon and the 
evening. 

Third, there's the Calling-Book. 
Already I've got down more than a thou 
sand names. The obscurer the women 
are the back-district congressmen's 
wives and the like the greater the 
necessity for keeping the calling account 
straight. I wonder how many public 
men have had their careers injured or 
ruined just because their wives didn't 
keep the calling account straight. They 
say that men forgive slights, and, when 
it's to their interest, forget them. But 
I know the women never do. They keep 
the knife sharp and wait for a chance 
to stick it in, for years and years. Of 

39 



The Social SecretaG 

course, if the Burkes weren't going into 
this business in a way that makes me 
think the Senator's looking for the nom 
ination for president I shouldn't be so 
elaborate. We'd pick out our set and 
stick to it and ignore the other sets. As 
it is, I'm going to do this thing thor 
oughly, as it hasn't been done before. 

Fourth, there's our Ball-and-Big- 
Dinner Book. That's got a list of all 
the young men and another of all the 
young women. And I'm making notes 
against the names of those I don't know 
very well or don't know at all notes 
about their personal appearance, eligibil 
ity, capacities for dancing, conversation, 
and so forth and so on. If you're going 
to make an entertainment a success 
you've got to know something more or 
less definite about the people that are 
coming, whom to ask to certain things 
40 






The Social Secret SL& 

and whom not to ask. Take a man like 
Phil Harkness, or a girl like Nell Wit- 
ton, for example. Either of them would 
ruin a dinner, but Phil shines at a ball, 
where silence and good steady dancing 
are what the girls want. As for Nell, 
she's possible at a ball only if you can be 
sure John Rush or somebody like him 
is coming somebody to sit with her 
and help her blink at the dancers and 
be bored. Then there's the Sain Trem- 
enger ? )Tt of man a good talker, but 
something ruinous when he turns loose 
in a ball-room and begins to batter the 
women's toilets to bits. He's a dinner 
man, but you can't ask him when poli 
tics may be discussed he gets so violent 
that he not only talks all the time, but 
makes a deafening clamor and uses swear 
words and we still have quiet people 
who get gooseflesh for damn. 

4 1 



The Social 

Then there's let mesee,what number 
oh, yes fifth, there's my Acceptance- 
and-Refusal Book. It's most necessary, 
both as a direct help and as an indirect 
check on other books. Then, too, I 
want it to be impossible to send the 
Burkes to places they've said they 
wouldn't go, or for them to be out 
when they've asked people to come here. 
Those things usually happen when 
you've asked some of those dreadful 
people that everybody always forgets, 
yet that are sure to be important at 
some critical time. 

Sixth, there's my Book of Home 
Entertainments a small book but most 
necessary, as arranging entertainments 
in the packed days of the Washington 
season isn't easy. 

Seventh, there's the little book with 
the list of entertainments other people 
42 



The Social Secreta^ 

are going to give. We have to have 
that so that we can know how to make 
our plans. And in it I'm going to keep 
all the information I can get about the 
engagements of the people we particu 
larly want to ask. If I'm not sharp-eyed 
about that I'll fail in one of my principal 
duties, which is getting the right sort 
of people under this roof often enough 
during the season to give us "distinction." 
Eighth, there's my Distinguished- 
Stranger Book. I'm going to make that 
a specialty. I want to try to know 
whenever anybody who is anybody is 
here on a visit, so that we can get hold 
of him if possible. The White House 
can get all that sort of information easily 
because the distinguished stranger 
always gives the President a chance to 
get at him. We shall have to make an 
effort, b 1 .:* I think we'll succeed. 

43 



The Social SecretaG 

Ninth that's my book for press 
notices. It's empty now, but I think 
"pa" Burke will be satisfied long before 
the season is over. 

Quite a library isn't it? How simple 
it must be to live in a city like New 
York or Boston where one bothers only 
with the people of one set and has 
practically no bookkeeping beyond a 
calling list. And here it's getting worse 
and worse each season. 

Let me see, how many sets are there? 
There's the set that can say must to us 
the White House and the Cabinet and 
the embassies. Then there's the set we 
can say must to a huge, big set and, 
in a way, important, but there's nobody 
really important in it. Then there's the 
still wider lower official set such people 
as the under-secretaries of departments, 
the attaches of embassies, small con- 

44 



The Social Secretaes 

gressmen and the like. Then there's the 
old Washington aristocracy my par 
ticular crowd. It doesn't amount to 
"shucks," as Mrs. Burke would say, but 
everybody tries to be on good terms 
with it, Lord knows why. Finally, 
there's the set of unofficial people the 
rich or otherwise distinguished who live 
in Washington and must be cultivated. 
And we're going to gather in all of 
them, so as not to miss a trick. 

The first one of the Burkes to whom 
I showed my books and explained my 
self in full was "ma" Burke. She looked 
as if she had been taken with a "misery," 
as she calls it. "Lord! Lord!" she 
groaned. "Whatever have I got my 
fool self into?" 

I laughed and assured her that it was 
nothing at all. "I'm only showing you 
my work. All you've got to do is to 

45 



The'Social 

carry out each day's work. I'll see to 
it that you won't even have to bother 
about what clothes to wear, unless you 
want to. You'll be perfectly free to 
enjoy yourself." 

"Enjoy myself?" said she. "Why, 
I'll be on the jump from morning till 
night." 

"From morning till morning again," 
I corrected. "The men sleep in Wash 
ington. But the women with social 
duties have no time for sleep only for 
naps." 

"I reckon it'll hardly be worth while 
to undress for bed," she said grimly. 
"I'm going to have the bed taken out 
of my room. It'd drive me crazy to 
look at it. Such a good bed, too. I 
always was a great hand for a good bed. 
I've often said to pa that you can't put 
too much value into a bed and by bed 



The Social SecretaG 

I don't mean headboard and footboard, 
nor canopy nor any other fixings. What 
do you think of my hair?" 

I was a bit startled by her sudden 
change of subject. I waited. 

"Don't mind me speak right out," 
she said with her good-natured twinkle. 
"You might think it wasn't my hair, 
but it is. The color's not, though, as 
you may be surprised to hear." The 
"surprised" was broadly satirical. 

"I prefer natural hair," said I, "and 
gray hair is most becoming. It makes a 
woman look younger, not older." 

"That's sensible," said she. "I never 
did care for bottled hair. I think it 
looks bad from the set-off, and gets 
worse. The widow Pfizer in our town 
got so that hers was bright green after 
she bottled it for two years, trying to 
catch old man Coakley. And after she 

47 



The Social 

caught him she bottled his, and it turned 
out green, too, after a while/' 

"Why run such a risk?" said I. "I'm 
sure your own hair done as your maid 
can do it would be far more becoming." 

Mrs. Burke was delighted. "I might 
have known better," she observed, "but 
I found Mr. Burke bottling his beard, 
and he wanted me to; and it seemed to 
me that somehow bottled hair just fitted 
right in with all the rest of this foolish 
ness here. How they would rear round 
at home if they knew what kind of a 
place Washington is ! Why, I hear that 
up at the White House, when the Presi 
dent leaves the table for a while during 
meals, all the ladies women, I mean 
his wife and all of them, have to rise 
and stand till he comes back." 

"Yes," I replied. "He's started that 
custom. I like ceremony, don't you?" 

4 8 



The Social Secreta^ 

"No, I can't say that I do," she 
drawled. "Out home all the drones and 
pokes and nobodies are just crazy about 
getting out in feathers and red plush 
aprons and clanking and pawing round, 
trying to make out they're somebody. 
And I've always noticed that whenever 
anybody that is a somebody hankers after 
that sort of thing it's because he's got a 
streak of nobody in him. No, I don't 
like it in Cal Walters out home, and I 
don't like it in the President." 

"We've got to do as the other capi 
tals do," said I. "Naturally, as we get 
more and more ambassadors, and a big 
ger army, and the President more power 
ful, we become like the European 
courts. And the President is simply 
making a change abruptly that'd have 
to come gradually anyhow." 

Her eyes began to twinkle. "First 

49 



The Social Secretao; 

thing you know, the country'll turn loose 
a herd of steers from the prairies in this 
town, and But, long as it's here, I 
suppose I've got to abide by it. So I'll 
do whatever you say. It'll be a poor do, 
without my trying to find fault." 

And she's being as good as her word. 
She makes me tell her exactly what to 
do. She is so beautifully simple and 
ladylike in her frank confessions of her 
ignorance just as the Queen of Eng 
land would be if she were to land on 
the planet Mars and have to learn the 
ways the surface ways, I mean. I've 
no doubt that outside of a few frills 
which silly people make a great fuss 
about, a lady is a lady from one end of 
the universe to the other. 

I'm making the rounds of my friends 
with Mrs. Burke in this period of wait 
ing for the season to begin. And she 

5 



The Social Secreta^ 

sits mum and keeps her eyes moving. 
She's rapidly picking up the right way 
to say things that is, the self-assurance 
to say things in her own way. I took 
her among my friends first because I 
wanted her to realize that I was abso 
lutely right in urging her to naturalness. 
There are so many in the different sets 
she'll be brought into contact with who 
are ludicrously self-conscious. Certainly, 
there's much truth in what she says 
about the new order. We Americans 
don't do the European sort of thing 
well, and, while the old way wasn't 
pretty to look at it, it was it was our 
own. However, I'm merely a social 
secretary, dealing with what is, and not 
bothering my head about what ought 
to be. And as for the Burkes, they're 
here to take advantage of what is, not 
to revolutionize things. 

5 1 



The Social Secreta^ 

Mr. Burke himself was the next mem 
ber of the family at whom I got a chance 
with my great plans. When he had got 
it all out of me he began to pace up and 
down the floor, pulling at his whiskers, 
and evidently thinking. Finally he 
looked at me in a kindly, sharp way, 
and, in a voice I recognized at once as 
the voice of the Thomas Burke who 
had been able to pile up a fortune and 
buy into the Senate, said: 

"I double your salary, Miss Tall- 
towers. And I hope you understand 
that expense isn't to be considered in 
carrying out your program. I want you 
to act just as if this were all for your 
self. And if we succeed I think you'll 
find I'm not ungenerous." And before 
I could try to thank him he was gone. 

The last member was "Bucyrus." 
As I knew his parents wished to be alone 

52 



The^Social 

with him at first I kept out of the way, 
breakfasting in my rooms, lunching and 
dining out a great deal. What little I 
saw of him I didn't like. He ignored 
me most of the time and I, for ona 
woman, don't like to be ignored by any 
man. When he did speak to me it was 
as they speak to the governess in fami 
lies where they haven't been used to 
very much for very long. Perhaps this 
piqued me a little, but it certainly 
amused me, and I spoke to him in an 
humble, deferential way that seemed 
somehow to make him uneasy. 

It was day before yesterday that he 
came into my office about an hour after 
luncheon. He tried to look very digni 
fied and superior. 

"Miss Talltowers," he said, "I must 
request you to refrain from calling mo 
sir whenever you address me." 

53 



The ; Social Secreta^ 

"I beg your pardon, sir," I replied 
meekly, "but I have never addressed 
you. I hope I know my place and my 
duty better than that. Oh, no, sir, I 
have always waited to be spoken to." 

He blazed a furious red. "I must 
request you," he said, with his speech 
at its most fancy-work like, "not to 
continue your present manner toward 
me. Why, the very servants are laugh 
ing at me." 

"Oh, sir," I said earnestly, "I'm sure 
that's not my fault." And I didn't spoil 
it by putting accent on the "that" and 
the "my." 

He got as pale as he had been red. 
"Are you trying to make it impossible 
for us to remain under the same roof?" 
he demanded. What a spoiled stupid! 

"I'm sure, sir," said I, and I think 
my eyes must have shown what an un- 

54 



The Social Secreta^ 

pleasant mood his hinted threat had put 
me in, "that I'm not even succeeding 
in making it impossible for us to remain 
in my private office at the same time. 
Do you understand me, or do you wish 
me to make my meaning " 

He had given a sort of snort and had 
rushed from the room. 

I suppose I ought to be more chari 
table toward him. A small person, 
brought up to regard himself as a sort 
of god, and able to buy flattery, and per 
mitted to act precisely as his humors 
might suggest what is to be expected 
of such a man? No, not a man but boy, 
for he's only twenty-six. Only twenty- 
six! One would think I was forty to 
hear me talking in that way of twenty- 
six. But women always seem older than 
men who are even many years older 
than they. And how having to earn 

55 



The Social 

my own bread has aged me inside! I 
think Jessie was right when she said in 
that solemn way of hers, "And although, 
dear Augusta, they may think you 
haven't brains enough, I assure you 
you'll develop them." Poor, dear Jessie! 
How she would amuse herself if she 
could be as she is, and also have a sense 
of humor ! 

At any rate, Mr. Bucyrus came strid 
ing back after half an hour, and, rather 
surlily but with a certain grudging man 
liness, said: "I beg your pardon, Miss 
Talltowers, for what I said. I am 
ashamed of my having forgotten myself 
and made that tyrannical speech to you/' 

"Thank you, sir," said I, without 
raising my eyes. "You are most gra 
cious." 

"And I hope," he went on, "that you 
will try to treat me as an equal." 

56 



The Social SecretaQ5 

"It'll be very hard to do that, sir," 
said I. And I lifted my eyes and let 
him see that I was laughing at him. 

He shifted uneasily, red and white by 
turns. "I think you understand me," 
he muttered. 

"Perfectly," said I. 

He waved his arm impatiently. 
"Please don't!" he exclaimed rather 
imperiously. "I could have got my 
mother to " 

"I hope you won't complain of me 
to your mother," I pleaded. 

He flushed and snorted, like a horse 
that is being teased by a fly it can reach 
with neither teeth, hoofs nor tail. "You 
know I didn't mean that. I'm not an 
utter cad now, don't say, 'Aren't you, 
sir?' " 

"I had no intention of doing so," 
said I. "In fact I've been trying to 

57 



The Social 

make allowances for you for your 
mother's sake. I appreciate that you've 
been away from civilization for a long 
time. And I'm sure we shall get on 
comfortably, once you've got your bear 
ings again." 

He was silent, stood biting his lips 
and looking out of the window. Pres 
ently, when I had resumed my work, 
he said in an endurable tone and man 
ner: "I hope you will be kind enough 
to include me in that admirable social 
scheme of yours. Are those your 
books?" 

I explained them to him as briefly 
as I could. I had no intention of mak 
ing myself obnoxious, but on the other 
hand I did not, and do not purpose to 
go out of my way to be courteous to 
this silly of an overgrown, spoiled baby. 
He tried to be nice in praise of my 

58 



The Social Secretaos 

system, but I got rid of him as soon as 
I had explained all that my obligations 
as social secretary to the family required. 
He thanked me as he was leaving and 
said, in his most gracious tone, "I shall 
see that my father raises your salary." 

I fairly gasped at the impudence of 
this, but before I could collect myself 
properly to deal with him he was gone. 
Perhaps it was just as well. I must be 
careful not to be "sensitive" that 
would make me as ridiculous as he is. 

And that's the man Jim Lafollette is 
fairly smoking with jealousy of! He 
was dining at Rachel's last night, and 
Rachel put him next me. He couldn't 
keep off the subject of "that young 
Burke." Jessie overheard him after a 
while and leaned round and said to me, 
"How do you and young Mr. Burke 
get on?" in her "strictly private" man- 

59 



The Social 

ner Jessie's strictly private manner is 
about as private as the Monument. 

"Not badly," I replied, to punish Jim. 
"We're gradually getting acquainted." 

Jim sneered under his mustache. "It's 
the most shameful scheme two women 
ever put up," he said, as if he were 
joking. 

"Oh, has Jessie told you?" I ex 
claimed, pretending to be concealing 
my vexation. 

"It's the talk of the town," he 
answered, showing his teeth in a grin 
that was all fury and no fun. 

There may be women idiots enough 
to marry a man who warns them in 
advance that he's rabidly jealous, but 
I'm not one of them. Better a crust 
in quietness. 



60 



Ill 

DECEMBER 27. Three weeks 
simply boiling with business 
since I wrote here and it seems 
not more than so many days. And all 
by way of preparation, for the actual 
season is still five days away. 

I can hardly realize that Mrs. Burke 
is the same person I looked at so dubi 
ously two days less than a month ago. 
Truly, the right sort of us Americans 
are wonderful people. To begin with 
her appearance: her hair isn't "bottled," 
as she called it, any more. It's beauti- 
61 



The Social Secretaos 

ful iron-gray, and softens her features 
and permits all the placid kindliness and 
humor of her face to show. Then there's 
her dress gracious, how tight-looking 
she was! A thin woman can, and should, 
wear close things. But no woman who 
wishes to look like a lady must ever 
wear anything tight. To be tight in one's 
clothes is to be tight in one's talk, man 
ner, thought and that means well, 
common. What an expressive word 
"common" is, yet I'm sure I couldn't 
define it. 

For a fat woman to be tight is 
revolting! My idea of misery is a fat 
woman in a tight waist and tight shoes. 
Yet fat women have a mania for wear 
ing tight things, just as gaunt women 
yearn for stripes and short women for 
flounces. My first move in getting Mrs. 
Burke into shape after doing away 
62 



The Social SecretaG5 

with that dreadful "bottled" hair was 
to put her into comfortable clothes. 
The first time I got her into an evening 
dress of the right sort I was rewarded 
for all my trouble by her expression. 
She kissed me with tears in her eyes. 
"My dear," said she, "never before did 
I have a best dress that I wasn't afraid 
to breathe in for fear I'd bust out, back 
or front." Then I made her sit down 
before her long glass and look at her 
self carefully. She had the prettiest kind 
of color in her cheeks as she smiled at 
me and said: "If I'd 'a' looked like this 
when I was young I reckon Mr. Burke 
wouldn't 'a' been so easy in his mind 
when he went away from home, nor 
'a' stayed so long. I always did sympa 
thize with pretty women when they 
capered round, but now I wonder they 
ever do sober down. If I weighed a hun- 



The Social SecretaQS 

dred pounds or so less I do believe I'd 
try to frisk yet." 

And I do believe she could; for she's 
really a handsome woman. Why is it 
that the women who have the most to 
them don't give it a chance to show 
through, but get themselves up so that 
anybody who glances at them tries 
never to look again? 

It is the change in her appearance 
even more than all she's learned that 
has given her self-confidence. She feels 
at ease and that puts her at ease, and 
puts everybody else at ease, too. It has 
reacted upon Mr. Burke. He has 
dropped brilliantine perhaps "ma" 
gave him a quiet hint and he has taken 
some lessons in dress from "Cyrus," who 
really gets himself up very well, con 
sidering that he has lived in Germany 
for three years. I should have hopes 



The Social SecretaQS 

that "pa" would blossom out into some 
thing very attractive socially if he 
hadn't a deep-seated notion that he is 
a great joker. A naturally serious man 
who tries to be funny is about the most 
painful object in civilization. Still, 
Washington is full of statesmen and 
scholars who try to unbend and be 
"light," especially with "the ladies." 
Nothing makes me or any other 
woman, I suppose so angry as for a 
man to show that he takes me for a fool 
by making a grinning galoot of himself 
whenever he talks to me. Bucyrus is 
much that kind of ass. He alternates 
between solemnity and silliness. 

I said rather pointedly to him the 
other night: "You men with your great, 
deep minds make a mistake in chang 
ing your manner when you talk with 
the women and the children. Nothing 

65 



The Social Secreta^ 

pleases us so much as to be taken seri 
ously." But it didn't touch him. How 
ever, he's hardly to blame. He's spent 
a great many years round institutions of 
learning, and in those places, I've no 
ticed, every one has a musty, fusty sense 
of humor. Probably it comes from 
cackling at classical jokes that have 
laughed themselves as dry as a mummy. 
We've been giving a few entertain 
ments informal and not large, but 
highly important. I had two objects in 
mind: In the first place, to get Mr. and 
Mrs. Burke accustomed to the style of 
hospitality they've got to give if they're 
going to win out. In the second place, 
to get certain of the kind of people who 
are necessary to us in the habit of com 
ing to this house and those people are 
not so very hard to get hold of now; 
later they'll be engaged day and night. 
66 



The Social Secreta^ 

For two weeks now I've had my two 
especial features going. One of them 
is for the men, the other for the women. 
And I can see already that they alone 
would carry us through triumphantly; 
for they've caught on. 

My men's feature is a breakfast. I 
engaged a particularly good cook the 
best old-fashioned Southern cook in 
Washington. Rachel had her, and I 
persuaded Mr. Derby to consent to giv 
ing her up to us, just for this season. 
Cleopatra that's her name has noth 
ing to do but get together every morn 
ing by nine o'clock the grandest kind 
of an old-fashioned American breakfast. 
And I explained to Senator Burke that 
he was to invite some of his colleagues, 
as many as he liked, and tell them to 
come any morning, or every morning 
if they wished, and bring their friends. 



The Social Secreta:^ 

I consult with Cleopatra every day 
as to what she's to have the next morn 
ing; and I think dear old father taught 
me what kind of breakfast men like. I 
don't give them too much, or they'd 
be afraid to come and risk indigestion 
a second time. I see to it that every 
thing is perfectly cooked and it's pretty 
hard for any man to get indigestion, 
even from corned beef hash and hot 
cornbread and buckwheat cakes with 
maple syrup, if it's perfectly cooked and 
is eaten in a cheerful frame of mind. 
No women are permitted at these break 
fasts just men, with everything free 
and easy, plenty to smoke, separate tables, 
but each large enough so that there's 
always room at any one of them for one 
more who might otherwise be uncom 
fortable. Even now we have from 
fifteen to twenty men among them 

68 



The Social Secretaos 

the very best in Washington. In the 
season we'll have thirty and forty, and 
our house will be a regular club from 
nine to eleven for just the right men. 

My other big feature is an informal 
dance every Wednesday night. It's 
already as great a success in its way as 
the breakfasts are in theirs. I've been 
rather careful about whom I let Mrs. 
Burke invite to come in on Wednesdays 
whenever they like. The result is that 
everybody is pleased; the affairs seem to 
be "exclusive," yet are not. I know it 
will do the Burkes a world of good 
politically, because a certain kind of 
people who are important politically 
but have had no chance socially are 
coming to us on Wednesdays, and that's 
just the kind of people who are frantic 
ally flattered by the idea that they are 
"in the push." 

6 9 



The Social Secretaos 

Speaking of being "in the push," 
there are two ways of getting there if 
one isn't there. One is to worm your 
way in; the other is to make yourself 
the head and front of "the push." 
That's the way for those who have 
money and know how. And that's the 
way the Burkes are getting in getting 
in at the front instead of at the rear. 

It's most gratifying to see how Mr. 
Burke treats me. He always has been 
deferential, but he now shows that he 
thinks I have real brains. And since his 
breakfasts have become the talk of the 
town and are "patronized" by the men 
he's so eager to get hold of, he is even 
consulting me about his business. I am 
criticizing for him now a speech he's 
going to make on the canal question 
next month a dreadfully dull speech, 
and I don't feel competent to tell him 



The Social Secretae 

what to do with it. I think I'll advise 
him not to make it, tell him his forte 
is diplomacy winning men round by 
personal dealing with them which is 
the truth. 

Young Mr. Burke after a period of 
unbending is now shyer than ever. I 
wondered why, until it happened to oc 
cur to me one day as I was talking with 
Jessie. I suddenly said to her: "Jessie, 
did you ever tell Nadeshda that you had 
planned to marry me to Cyrus Burke?" 

She hopped about in her chair a bit, 
as uneasy as a bird on a swaying perch. 
Then she confessed that she "might have 
suggested before Nadeshda what a de 
lightfully satisfactory thing it would be." 

I laughed to relieve her mind also 
because it amused me to see through 
Nadeshda. 

Of course, one of the women I needed 

7 1 



The Social Secretaos 

most in this Burke campaign was Na- 
deshda. And I happened to know that 
she is bent on marrying a rich Ameri 
can indeed, that's the only reason why 
the wilds of America are favored with 
the presence of the beautiful, joy-loving, 
courted and adored Baroness Nadeshda 
Daragane. The yarn about her sister, 
the ambassadress, being an invalid and 
shrinking from the heavy social respon 
sibilities of the embassy is just so much 
trash. So, as soon as "Cyrus" came I 
went over to see her, and, as diplomat 
ically as I knew how, displayed before 
her dazzled eyes the substantial advan 
tages of the sole heir of the great West 
ern multi-millionaire. 

As I went on to tell how generous 
the Senator is, and how certain he would 
be to lavish wealth upon his daughter- 
in-law, I could see her mind at work. 

72 



The Social Secreta^ 

A fascinating, naughty, treacherous lit 
tle mind it is like a small Swiss watch 
of the rarest workmanship and full of 
wheels within wheels. And she's a 
beautiful little creature, as warm as a 
tropical sun to look at, and about as 
cold as the Arctic regions to deal with. 
No, I haven't begun to describe her. 
I'd not be surprised to hear that she had 
eloped with her brother-in-law's coach 
man; nor should I be surprised to hear 
that she had married the most hideous, 
revolting man in the world for his money, 
and was suspected of being engaged in 
trying to hasten him off to the grave. 
She's of the queer sort that would kiss 
or kill with equal enthusiasm, capable 
of almost any virtue or vice on impulse. 
If there's any part of her beneath the 
impulsive part it's solid ice in a frame 
of steel. But is there? She's talked 

73 



The Social Secretaos 

about a good deal not a tenth enough 
to satisfy her craving for notoriety, and, 
I may add, not a tenth part so much as 
she deserves to be, and would be if we 
studied character on this side of the 
water instead of being too busy with 
ourselves to look beyond anybody else's 
surface. 

Well, the Baroness Nadeshda has been 
wild about the Burkes ever since we had 
our talk. And she has Mr. Cyrus thor 
oughly tangled in her nets, and the Sen 
ator, too. And, naturally, she lost no 
time in trying to "do" me. She has 
told Bucyrus what a designing creature 
I am no doubt has warned him that if 
I seem distant to him I'm at my dead 
liest, and to look out for mines. He 
certainly is looking out for them, for, 
whenever I speak to him, he acts as if 
he were stepping round on a volcano. 

74 



The Social Secreta^ 

I'm having a good deal of fun with 
him. I wish I had the time; I'd try to 
teach him a very valuable lesson. Really, 
it's a shame to let a man go through life 
imagining that he's an all-conqueror, 
when in reality the woman who marries 
him will feel that she's swallowing about 
as bitter a dose as Fate ever presented 
to feminine lips in a gold spoon. 

Dear old "ma" Burke hasn't yet 
yielded to Nadeshda's blandishments. 
We went to the embassy to call yester 
day afternoon at tea-time, and I saw her 
watching Nadeshda in that smiling, 
simple way of hers that conceals about 
as keen a brain as I shouldn't care to 
have tearing me to pieces for inspection. 

The embassy at tea-time is always 
wild. For then Sophie comes in with 
her monkey and Nadeshda's seven dogs 
are racing about. And the Count always 

75 



The Social SecretaQj 

laughs loudly, usually at nothing at all. 
And each time he laughs the dogs bark 
until the monkey in a great fright dashes 
up the curtains or flings himself at Sophie 
and almost strangles her with his paws 
or arms, or whatever they are, round 
her neck. I don't think I've ever been 
there that something hasn't been spilt 
for a huge mess; often the whole tea- 
table topples over. Mrs. Burke loves to 
go, for afterward she laughs a dozen 
times a day until her sides ache. 

As we came away yesterday I said to 
her: "What a fascinating, beautiful 
creature Nadeshda is!" 

Mrs. Burke smiled. "When I was a 
girl," she said, "I had a catamount for 
a pet a cub, and they had cut his 
claws. He was beautiful and mighty 
fascinating you never did know when 
he was going to fawn on you and when 



The Social SecretaG 

he was going to fasten his teeth in you. 
The baroness puts me in mind of my 
old pet, and how I didn't know which 
was harder to keep him or to give 
him up." 

"She certainly has a strange nature," 
said I. 

After a pause Mrs. Burke went on: 
"She's the queerest animal in this me 
nagerie here, so far as I've seen. And I 
don't think I'm wrong in suspecting 
she's sitting up to Cyrus." 

"I don't wonder he finds her inter 
esting," said I. 

"Cyrus is just like his pa," said she, 
"a mighty poor judge of women. It 
was lucky for his pa that he married 
and settled down before he had much 
glitter to catch the eyes of the women. 
Otherwise, he'd 'a' made a ridiculous 
fool of himself. But I like a man the 

77 



The Social Secretaes 

women can fool easy. That shows he's 
honest. These fellows who are so sharp 
at getting on to the tricks of the women 
ain't, as a rule, good for much else. But 
Cyrus has got me to look after him/' 

"He might do much worse than 
marry Nadeshda," said I. 

"That's what his pa says," she replied. 
"But I ain't got round to these new- 
fashioned notions of marriage. I want 
to see my Cyrus married to the sort of 
woman his ma'd like and be proud to 
have for the mother of her grand-chil 
dren. And I ain't altogether sure we 
need the kind of tone in our blood that 
a catamount'd bring. Though I must 
say a year or so of living with a cata 
mount might do Cyrus a world of good." 

Which shows that even love can't 
altogether blind "ma" Burke. 

January 3. I had to do a little schem- 



The Social Secreta^ 

ing to get Mrs. Burke an invitation to 
assist at the New Year's reception. It's 
always the first event of the season, and, 
though it would have been no great 
matter if I hadn't been able to get her 
in among those who stand near the 
President's wife and the Cabinet women, 
still I felt that I couldn't get my "pulls" 
into working order any too soon. Ever 
since the second week in my "job" I've 
realized that nothing could be easier than 
to put the Burkes well to the front, but 
my ambition to make them first calls for 
the exertion of every energy. 

So, in the third week of December I 
set Rachel at Mrs. Senator Lumley and 
Mrs. Admiral Bixby two women who 
can get almost anything in reason out 
of the President's wife. Rachel is about 
the most important woman in the old 
Washington aristocracy, and the Lum- 

79 



The Social Secretaos 

leys and the Bixbys are in the nature of 
fixtures here, not at all like an evanes 
cent President or Cabinet person. So 
Rachel's request set the two women to 
work. And although the President's 
wife said she'd asked all she intended to 
ask, far too many, and didn't see why 
on earth she should be beset for a new 
comer who had been reported to her 
as fat and impossible, still she finally 
yielded. 

I hadn't hoped to get an invitation 
for them for the Cabinet dinner, and I 
was astounded when it came. We had 
arranged to give a rather large informal 
dinner that night and had to call it off, 
as an invitation from the White House, 
even from the obscurest member of the 
President's family for any old function 
whatever, is a command that may not 
be disobeyed. Well, as I was saying, the 
80 



The Social Secretaos 

invitation to the Cabinet dinner came 
unsought. It seems that the Burke 
breakfasts are making a great stir polit 
ically; so great a stir that they have 
made the President a little uneasy. Of 
course, the best way to get rid of an 
opponent is to conciliate him. Hence 
the royal command to Senator and Mrs. 
Burke to appear at his Majesty's dinner 
to his Majesty's ministers. 

Mrs. Burke is tremendously proud of 
her first two communications from the 
White House. As for the Senator, he 
looks at them half a dozen times a day. 

I went down to the New Year's re 
ception to see how "ma" was getting 
on. As I had expected, she didn't stand 
very long. She cast about for a chair, 
and, seeing one, planted herself. Soon 
the Baroness joined her, and young 
Prince Krepousky joined Nadeshda, and 

81 



The Social Secretaos 

then General Martin, who loves Mrs. 
Burke for the feeds she gives. The 
group grew, and Mrs. Burke began to 
talk in her drawling, humorous way, 
and Nadeshda laughed, which made the 
others laugh for it's impossible to 
resist Nadeshda. When I arrived Mrs. 
Burke was "right in it." 

And after a while the President came 
and said: "Is this your reception, madam, 
or is it mine?" At which there was 
more laughing, he raising a great guffaw 
and slapping his hip with his powerful 
hand. Then they all went up to have 
something to eat, and the President spent 
most of the time with her. 

She doesn't need any more coaching 
Of course, she's flattered by her success. 
But instead of having her head turned, 
as most women do who get the least bit 
of especial attention from the conspicu- 

82 



The Social 

ous men here, she takes it all very plac 
idly. "They don't care shucks for me," 
she says, "and I know it. We're all in 
business together, and I'm mighty glad 
it can be carried on so cheerful-like." 
At the Cabinet dinner, to-morrow night, 
she'll have to sit well down toward the 
foot of the table. But she won't mind 
that. Indeed, if I hadn't been giving 
her lessons in precedence she wouldn't 
have an idea that everything here is 
arranged by rank. 

Jessie so she tells me had a half- 
hour's session with "Cyrus" the other 
day and gave him a very exalted idea of 
my social position and influence. No 
doubt, what she said confirmed his sus 
picion that I and my friends are con 
spiring against him; but I observe a 
distinct change in his manner toward 
me. He's even humble. I suppose he 

83 



The Social SecretaG 

thought I was some miserable creature 
whom his mother had taken on, half 
out of charity. I'm afraid I have a sort 
of family pride that's a little ridiculous 
but I can't help it. Still, I am Amer 
ican enough to despise people who are 
courteous or otherwise, according as they 
look up to or look down on the particular 
person's family and position. I guess 
young Mr. Burke is his father in an ag 
gravated form. Yet Jessie, and Rachel, 
too, pretend to like him. And probably 
they really do it's not hard to like any 
one who is not asking favors and is in 
a position to grant them, and isn't so 
near to one that his quills stick into one. 
The Countess of Wend came in to 
see me this afternoon and told me all 
about the row over at the legation. It 
seems that the new minister is a plebeian, 
and in their country people of his sort 

84 



The Social 

aren't noticed by the upper classes un 
less an upper-class man happens to need 
something to wipe his boots on and one 
of them is convenient for use. Well, 
every attache* is in a fury, and none of 
them will speak to the minister except 
in the most formal way and only when 
it's absolutely necessary. As for the 
minister's wife, the other women 
but what's the use of describing it; we 
all know how nasty women can be about 
matters of rank. The Count is talking 
seriously of .resigning. I'd be dread 
fully sorry, as Eugenie is a dear, more 
like an American than a foreigner; and 
I believe she really likes us, where most 
of them privately despise us as a lot of 
low-born upstarts. I know they laugh 
all day long at the President's queer 
manners and mannerisms but then, so 
do we, for that matter. And it's quite 

85 



The Social Secret 3i& 

unusual for Washington, where each 
President is bowed down to and praised 
everywhere and flattered till he thinks 
he's a sort of god and forgotten as 
soon as his term is ended. I suppose 
there's nothing deader on this earth 
than an ex-President, with no offices to 
distribute and no hopes for a further 
political career. 

January 9. We had a beautiful din 
ner here last night very brilliant too, 
as we all were going to a ball at the 
Russian embassy afterward. All the 
diplomats and army men were in uni 
form and one or two of the army men 
were really brilliant. But none of the 
diplomats. They say that no nation 
sends us its best or even its second best. 
It seems that diplomats don't amount 
to much in this day of cables. Those 
who have any intelligence naturally go 
86 



The Social Secretaos 

to courts, where the atmosphere is con 
genial and where there are chances for 
decorations. So we get only the stiffs 
and stuffs with a few exceptions. If it 
weren't for their women 

But, to return to our dinner Mrs. 
Burke went in with the German am 
bassador, and I saw that they were get 
ting on famously. He is a very clever 
man in a small way, and has almost an 
American sense of humor. As soon as 
he saw that she intended what she said 
to be laughed at he gave himself up to 
it. "Your Mrs. Burke is charming, 
Miss Talltowers," said he to me after 
dinner. "She ranks with Bret Harte 
and Mark Twain. It's only in Amer 
ica that you find old women who make 
you forget to wish you were with young 
and pretty women." 

Jim Lafollette took me in the first 



The Social Secretac 

time I've had him here. I must say he 
behaved very well and was the hand 
somest man in the room. But he never 
has much to say that is worth hearing. 
Though conversation at Washington in 
society isn't on any too high a plane, 
as a rule how could conversation in a 
mixed society anywhere be very high? 
still it isn't the wishy-washy chatter 
and gossip that Jim Lafollette delights 
in. Of course, army officers almost 
always go in for gossip that comes 
from sitting round with their women 
at lonely posts where nothing occurs. 
And they, as a rule, either gossip or 
simply drivel when they talk to women, 
because all the women that ever liked 
them liked them for their brass buttons, 
and all the women they ever liked they 
liked for their pretty faces and empty 
heads. So, usually, to get an army of- 



The Social Secretag 

ficer at dinner is to sit with a bowl of 
soft taffy held to your lips and a huge 
spoonful of it thrust into your mouth 
every time you stop talking. That's 
true of many of the statesmen, too, es 
pecially the heavyweights. I suppose 
I'm wrong, but I can't help suspecting 
a man without a sense of humor of be 
ing a solemn fraud. 

You'd think American women, at the 
capital, at least, would be interested in 
politics. But they're not. They say it's 
the vulgarity of the intriguing and of 
most of the best intriguers that makes 
them dislike politics, even here. I suspect 
there's another reason. We women are 
so petted by the men that we don't have 
to know anything to make ourselves 
agreeable. If we're pretty and listen 
well that's all that's necessary. So, why 
get headaches learning things ? 



The Social Secreta^ 

Of course, there are exceptions. Take 
Maggie Shotwell. Her husband is a 
wag-eared ass. Yet in eleven years she 
has advanced him from second secretary 
to minister to a second-class power just 
by showing up here at intervals and 
playing the game intelligently. And 
there are scores of army women who do 
as well in a smaller way, and a few of 
the diplomats' wives are most adroit, 
intriguing well both here and at their 
homes in a nice, clean way, as intrigue 
goes. 

But most of the women are like 
"ma" Burke, who'd as soon think of 
entering for a foot-race as of interfering 
in her husband's political affairs in any 
way, beyond giving him some sound 
advice about the men that can be trusted 
and the men that can't. I suppose if 
there were real careers in public life in 
90 



The Social Secreta^ 

this country, not dependent upon elec 
tions, the Washington women wouldn't 
be so lazy and indifferent, but would 
wake up and intrigue their brothers and 
sons and other male relatives into all 
sorts of things. Then, too, a man has 
to vote with his "party" on everything 
that's important, and his "party" is a 
small group of old men who are beyond 
social blandishments and go to bed early 
every night and associate only with men 
in the daytime. 

No, we women don't amount to much 
directly at Washington. If Jim Lafol- 
lette had kept away from the women 
and society he might have amounted 
to something. It's become a proverb 
that whenever a young man comes here 
and goes in for the social end of it he 
is doomed soon to disappear and be 
heard of no more. The President is try- 

9 1 



The Social Secreta 

ing to make society amount to some 
thing, but he won't succeed. Whatever 
benefit there may be in it will go, not 
to him, but to men like Senator Burke. 
He doesn't go any more than he can 
help, except to his own breakfasts. But 
he sends his wife, and so, without wast 
ing any of his time, he makes himself 
prominent in a very short space of time 
and gets all the big social indirect in 
fluence the influence of the women on 
their husbands. 

Mrs. Burke's younger brother, Robert 
Gunton, arrived last night. He reminds 
me of her, but he's slender and very act 
ive a shabby sort of person, clean but 
careless, and he looks as if he had so 
many other things to think about that 
he hadn't time to think about himself. 
He looks younger and talks older than 
his years. He's here to get some sort 
92 



The Social Secretaos 

of patent through; he won't permit his 
brother-in-law to assist him; he refuses 
to go anywhere in society, I mean. 
We rode up to the Capitol together in a 
street-car this morning, and I liked him. 

"Why do you ride in a street-car ?" 
he asked. 

"Because it's not considered good 
form to use carriages too much," I re 
plied. "It might rouse the envy of 
those who can't afford carriages." 

"Then it isn't because you don't want 
to, but because you don't dare to?" 

"Yes," said I. " But things are chang 
ing rapidly. The rich people who live 
here but care nothing for politics are 
gradually introducing class distinctions." 

"You mean, poor people who like to 
fawn upon and hate the rich are intro 
ducing class distinctions," he corrected. 

He is thirty-two years old; he treats 

93 



The Social Secretag 

a woman as if she were a man, and 
he treats a man as if he himself were 
one. It isn't possible not to like that 
sort of human being. 

Invitations are beginning to come in 
floods invitations for the big, formal 
things for which people are asked weeks 
in advance. And we are getting a splen 
did percentage of acceptances for our big 
affairs, thanks to my taking the trouble 
to find out the freest dates in the sea 
son. If all goes well, before another 
month, as soon as it gets round that we 
are going to give something big in a 
short time, lots of pretty good people will 
be holding off from accepting other 
things in the hope that they're on our 
list. 

Certainly, there's a good deal in go 
ing about anything in a systematic way 
even a social launching. 

94 



IV 

JANUARY 1 2. We are all sleeping 
so badly. Even the Senator,, whom 
nothing has ever before kept from 
his "proper rest," is complaining of 
wakefulness. Suppers every night either 
here or elsewhere, the house never quiet 
until two or three in the morning, all 
of us up at eight Cyrus often at seven 
because he rides a good deal, and the 
early morning is the only time when 
any one in Washington in the season 
can find time to ride. "It's worse than 
the Wilderness campaign," said Mr. 

95 



The Social Secreta^ 

Burke, who was a lieutenant in flie war. 
"For now and then, between battles and 
skirmishes, we did get plenty of sleep. 
This is a continuous battle day and night, 
week in and week out, with no let-up 
for Sundays." And Mrs. Burke poor 
"ma!" How hollow-eyed and sagged- 
cheeked she is getting with the real sea 
son less than two weeks old! She says: 
"I wouldn't treat a dog as I treat my 
self. I no sooner get to sleep than they 
wake me. I think the servants just de 
light to wake me, and I don't blame 
them, for they're worse off than we are, 
though I do try to be as easy on them 
as possible." She doesn't know how 
many long naps they take while she's 
dragging herself from place to place. 

On our way to the White House to 
a musicale she fell asleep. As we rolled 
up to the entrance I had to wake her. 



The Social SecretaQS 

She came to with a sort of groan and 
gave a ludicrously pitiful glance at the 
attendant who was impatiently waiting. 
"Oh, Lord!" she muttered. "I was 
dreaming I was in bed, and it ain't so. 
Instead, I've got to enjoy myself." And 
then she gave a dreary laugh. 

"Ma" Burke dozed through the mu- 
sicale with a pleasant smile on her large 
face and her head keeping time to the 
music. When we spoke to the Presi 
dent and he said he hoped she'd "en 
joyed herself," she drawled: "I did that, 
Mr. President! I only wish it had been 
longer I'm 'way behind on sleep." He 
laughed uproariously. It's the fashion 
to laugh at everything "ma" says now, 
because the German ambassador tells 
every one what a wit she is. And who'd 
fail to laugh at wit admired by an am 
bassador? 

97 



^ Social SecretaG 

Writing about sleep has driven off 
my fit of wakefulness. I'll only add 
that Lu Frayne's in town, working day 
and night to get her husband transferred 
from San Francisco to the War Depart 
ment here. I think she'll win out, as 
she's got two Senators who've been 
frightening the President by acting 
queerly lately. It's too funny! When 
the new Administration came every one 
was scared because the rumor got round 
that he was going to give us a repeti 
tion of the Cleveland nightmare. But 
there was nothing in it; the only "pulls" 
that have failed to work are those that 
were strong with the last Administra 
tion, and there's a whole crop of new 
pulls. Well, at least, the right sort of 
people, those who have family and posi 
tion, are getting their rights to prefer 
ence as they never did before. We've 

9 8 



The Social SecretaG 

not had many Presidents who knew the 
right sort of people even when they've 
been willing to please them, if they 
could pick them out. 

What a changed Washington it is: 
so many formalities; so many rich peo 
ple; so many rich men, and men of 
family and position in office; so many 
big, fine houses and English and French 
servants. "Such a stylishness!" 

January 14. Our first big dance last 
night I mean, formal dance to show our 
strength. Everybody was here, and the 
dinner beforehand and the supper after 
ward and all the mechanical arrange 
ments, so to speak, were perfect. The 
ball-room was a sight even "ma' ' Burke, 
tired to death, perked up. Almost all 
the diplomats, except those nobody 
asks, were here. And I don't think 
more than thirty people we hadn't in- 

99 



The Social Secretac 

vited ventured to come. We were all 
so excited that, after the last people had 
gone, we sat round for nearly an hour. 
"Ma" Burke took me in her arms and 
kissed me. "It was your ball/' said she. 
"But then, everything we get credit for 
is all yours; ain't it, pa?" 

"Miss Talltowers has certainly done 
wonderfully," said "pa" in his cautious, 
judicial way. Then he seemed ashamed 
of himself, as if he had been ungenerous, 
and shook hands with me and added: 
"Thank you, thank you, Miss Augusta 
if you'll permit me the liberty of call 
ing you so." 

"I never expected to see as pretty a 
girl as you bothering to have brains," 
Mrs. Burke went on to say. And for 
the first time in weeks and weeks it oc 
curred to me that I did have a personal 
existence apart from my work the 
100 



The Social Secreta5 

books and bookkeeping, the servants and 
the housekeeper, who is only one more 
to fuss with, the tradespeople, and mu 
sicians, and singers, and florists, and 
it makes my head whirl to try to recall 
the awful list. 

"She won't be pretty very long," said 
Cyrus he's taking lessons of his mother 
and is dropping his fancy-work speech 
and his "made-in-Germany" manners 
"if she don't stop working day and 
night." 

"Oh, I'm amusing myself," replied 
I; but I was reminded how weary I 
felt, and went away to bed. I neglected 
to close my sitting-room door, and as I 
was getting ready for bed in my dress 
ing-room I couldn't help overhearing 
a scrap of talk between Cyrus and Mr. 
Gunton as thev went along the hall on 
the way to their apartments. 
101 



The Social Secretaos 

"The Tevises were disgusting they 
showed their envy so plainly/' Cyrus 
said. The Tevises are trying hard to do 
what we're doing in a social way, and 
though they must have even more 
money than the Burkes, they're failing 
at it. 

"They'll never get anywhere," Mr. 
Gunton replied. "You can't collect 
much of a crowd of nice people just to 
watch you spend money. You've got 
to give them a real show. There's where 
Miss Talltowers comes in." 

"She has wonderful taste and origi 
nality," said Cyrus. Cyrus! 

Mr. Gunton sat out most of the even 
ing with Nadeshda. I suppose she was 
trying to make Cyrus jealous and also 
to create trouble between him and his 
uncle. I've not seen a franker flirtation 
even in Washington. Whenever I 
102 



The Social SecretaG 

chanced to look at them, Mr. Gunton 
was talking earnestly, and she seemed 
to be hanging to his words like a thirsty 
bird to a water-pan. And her queer, 
subtle face was well, it was beautiful, 
and gave me that sence of the wild and 
fierce and uncanny which makes her 
both fascinating and terrible. I think 
Mr. Gunton was infatuated indeed, I 
know it. For when I spoke of her to 
him this morning his eyes seemed to 
blaze. He drew a long breath. "A 
wonder-woman!" he said. "I never 
saw anything like her in the flesh." 
Then he looked a little sheepish, and 
added: "I mean it, but I laugh at my 
self, too. There are fools that don't 
know they're fools; then, there are fools 
that do know it and laugh at them 
selves as they plan fresh follies it takes 
a pretty clever man, Miss Talltowers, 
103 



The Social Secreta 

to make a grand, supreme, rip-roaring 
ass of himself, doesn't it? At least, I 
hope so." And with that somewhat 
mysterious observation he left me ab 
ruptly. 

When I saw hLn and Nadeshda to 
gether so much at the ball I looked 
out for Cyrus. He seemed bored, and 
devoted himself to wallflowers, but on 
the whole was surprisingly unconcerned, 
apparently. I had him in sight almost 
the whole evening. Jim Lafollette, 
who stuck to my train like a Japanese 
poodle I told him so, but he didn't 
take the hint said that "the gawk," 
meaning Cyrus, was hanging round me. 
"He's moon-struck," said Jim. "So 
your little put-up job with Jessie seems 
to be doing nicely, thank you." I won 
der why a man assumes that the fact 
that he loves a woman gives him the 
104 



The Social Secretag 

right to insult her and makes it his duty 
to do it. And I wonder why we women 
assent to that sort of impudence. There's 
another conventionality that ought to be 
stamped out. 

I find I was hasty in my judgment of 
Cyrus. He's a lot more of a man than 
he led me to suppose at first. I think 
he might be licked into shape. He ought 
to hunt up some widow or married 
woman older than himself and go to 
school for a few seasons. But perhaps 
Nadeshda will do as well. 

January 17. There were thirty-two 
at Senator Burke's "little informal break 
fast" yesterday morning, including four 
of the leading Senators, two members 
of the Cabinet, an ambassador and three 
ministers, several generals, half a dozen 
distinguished strangers, four or five big 
financial men from New York who are 



The Social SecretaQS 

here on "private business" with Con 
gress, and not a man who doesn't count 
for something except that wretched 
little Framstern, who never misses any 
thing free. And our regular weekly in 
formal dance was an equal success in its 
way. Senator Ritchie told me it was 
amazing how Burke had forged to the 
front in influence and in popularity. 
"And now that the newspapers have be 
gun to take him up he'll soon be stand 
ing out before the whole country." So 
my little suggestion about the wives and 
families of correspondents of the big pa 
pers, which the Burkes adopted, is bear 
ing fruit. And Mrs. Burke is so genuinely 
friendly and hospitable that really I've 
only to suggest her being nice to some 
body to set her to work. If she were 
the least bit of a fraud I'd not dare 
she'd only get into trouble. 
106 



The Social Secret a& 

January 1 8. I was breakfasting alone 
in my sitting-room this morning I 
always do an hour or so of work before 
I touch anything to eat when Mr. Gun- 
ton sent, asking if he might join me. I 
was glad to have him. His direct way 
is attractive, and he never talks without 
saying at least a few things I haven't 
heard time and again. He was in riding 
clothes, and as soon as I looked at him 
I saw he had something on his mind. 

"Good ride?" I asked. 

He made an impatient gesture when 
ever he has anything to say and doesn't 
know how to begin, the way to start 
him off is to make some common 
place remark. It acts like a blow that 
knocks in the head of a full barrel. "I 
was out with the Baroness Daragane," 
he said, "with Nadeshda." 

"And Cyrus?" said I. 
107 



The Social Secreta^S 

He looked at me in astonishment, 
then laughed queer ly. "Oh, bother!" 
he exclaimed. "Cyrus doesn't disturb 
himself about /ier, or she about him 
and you know it. Miss Talltowers, I 
love her and she loves me." 

His tone was convincing. But, after 
ihe first shock, I couldn't believe any 
thing so preposterous. And I felt sorry 
for him an honest, straight man, in 
experienced with women, a fine mix 
ture of gentleness and roughness, at once 
too much and too little of a gentleman 
for Nadeshda. If I had dared I should 
have tried to undeceive him. But 
I'm not so stupid as ever to try to make 
a person in love see the truth about the 
person he or she's in love with. So I 
simply said: "She is a most fascinating 



woman.' 



"You think I'm a fool," he went on, 

108 



The Social SecretaQS 

/ 

as if I hadn't spoken, "and I am a 
a blankety -blank fool. Did you see her 
night before last in that dress of silver 
spangles like the wonderful skin of some 
amazing serpent? Did you see her eyes 
her hair the way her arms looked 
as if they could wind themselves round 
a man's neck and choke him to death 
while her eyes were fooling him into 
thinking that such a death was greater 
happiness than to live?" He rolled this 
all out, then burst into a queer, crazy 
laugh. "You see, I'm a lunatic!" he 
said. 

"Yes, I see it," I replied cheerfully. 
"But why do you rave to me?" 

"Because I we have got to tell 
somebody, and you're the only person 
in Washington that I know that's both 
sensible and experienced, wise enough 
to understand, beautiful enough to sym- 
109 



The Social Secretaos 

pathize, and young enough to encour- 
age." 

That was rather good for a man who 
had had less than a month's real experi 
ence with women, wasn't it? I recognized 
Nadeshda's handiwork, and admired. 

"Miss Tall towers," he went on, "I 
am going to make a fool of myself, and 
she's going to help me." 

"In what particular sort of folly are 
you about to embark?" said I. 

"We're going to marry," he replied. 
"We've got to marry. I'm afraid of her 
and she's afraid of me, and we'll either 
have Heaven or the other place when 
we do marry perhaps big doses of 
each alternately. But we've got to do it." 

"You know it's impossible," said I. 
"Under the laws of her country she 
mayn't marry without the consent of 
her parents. And they'd never consent." 

no 



The Social Secreta^ 

"Certainly they won't," said he, "un 
less you can suggest some way of getting 
the ambassador and his wife round. We 
want to give her people a chance." This 
with perfect coolness. I began to believe 
that there must be something in it. 

"Does Nadeshda know you aren't 
rich?" I asked. 

"She knows I have practically noth 
ing. In fact I told her I had less than 
I have." 

"And you're sure she wishes to marry 
you?" 

"Ask her." 

He was quiet a while, then raved 
about her for ten minutes, begged me 
to do my best thinking, and left me. 
I felt dazed. I simply couldn't believe 
it. And the longer I thought, the more 
certain I was that she was making some 
sort of grand play in coquetry, which 
in 



The Social Secretacs 

seemed ridiculous enough when I con 
sidered what small game Mr. Gunton is 
from the standpoint of a woman like 
Nadeshda. 

In the afternoon I was in a flower 
store in Pennsylvania Avenue, and Na 
deshda joined me. Her surface was, if 
anything, cooler and subtler and more 
cynical than usual. "Send away your 
cab," said she, "and let me take you in 
my auto wherever you wish." 

As I was full of curiosity, I accepted 
instantly. When we were under way 
she gave me a strange smile a slow 
parting of the lips, a slow half-closing 
and elongation of those Eastern eyes 
which she inherits from a Russian grand 
mother, I believe. 

"Well, Gus," she said, "has that wild 
man told you?" 

"Yes, and you ought to be ashamed 

I 12 



The Social Secreta^ 

of yourself/' said I, a little indignantly. 
"It ain't fair to coax an innocent into 
your sort of game and fleece him of 
his little all." 

She laughed beautiful white teeth, 
cruel like her red lips. "It's all true 
all he told you," she replied. "All true, 
on my honor." 

Every season Washington's strange 
mixture of classes and conditions and 
nations furnishes at least one sensation 
of some kind or other. But, used as I 
am to surprises until they have ceased 
to surprise, this took me quite aback. 
"Do you love him, Nadeshda really?" 

She quite closed her eyes and said in 
a strange, slow undertone: "He's my 
master. The blood in my veins flowed 
straight from the savage wilderness. And 
he comes from there, and I don't dare 
disobey him. I'd do anything he said. 



The Social 

And when we're married I'll never 
glance at another man if he saw me 
he'd kill me. Ah, you don't understand 
you're too too civilized. Now, I 
think I should love him better if he'd 
beat me." 

I laughed it was too ridiculous, 
especially as she was plainly in earnest. 
She laughed, too, and added: "I think 
some day I'll try to make him do it. 
He's afraid of me, too. And he may 
well be, for I well, he belongs to me, 
you see, and I will have what's mine!" 

Yes, she would I believe her abso 
lutely. And I must say I like her at 
last, for all her extremely uncanny way 
of loving and of liking to be loved. I sup 
pose she's only a primeval woman 
I believe the primeval woman fancied 
the lover who lay in wait and brought 
her down with a club. I begin to un- 
114 



The Social Secretaos 

derstand Robert Gunton, too that is, 
the side of his nature she's roused. 

"Do you believe us?" she asked. 

"Yes, I do/' said I, "and I apolo^ 
gize to you. I've been thinking of you 
all along as fascinating, of course, but 
mercenary." 

"Ah, but so I am!" she exclaimed. 
" It breaks my heart to marry this poor 
man and of such a vulgar family 
even among you funny Americans. But" 
she threw up her arms and her shoul 
ders and let them drop in a gesture of 
tragicomic helplessness "I must have 
him; I must be his slave." 

I can't imagine how it's going to 
end, as her people will never let her 
marry him. Possibly, if "ma" Burke 
were to persuade the Senator to settle a 
large sum on her but that's wild, even 
if Gunton would consent. I can imag- 

"5 



The Social Secreta^ 

ine what a roar he'd give if such a thing 
were proposed. He'll insist on having 
her on his own terms. As if his insist 
ing would do any good! 

The last thing she said to me was: 
"Do you know when we became en 
gaged? Listen! It was the first time 
we met after three hours. After one 
hour he made me insult the men who 
came up to claim dances. After two 
hours he made me say, <I love you.' 
After three hours it was on the way 
down to my carriage he asked me to 
come into the little reception-room by 
the entrance. And he closed the door 
and caught me in his arms and kissed 
me. 'That makes you my wife/ he 
said in a dreadful voice oh, it was 
magntfique! and he said, ' Do you under 
stand?' And" she smiled ravishingly 
and nodded her head "I understood." 
116 



The Social SecretaQS 

I shan't sleep a wink to-night. 

January 20. I wish they hadn't told 
me. If ever a man loves me and wants 
to win me he must be well, perhaps 
not exactly that, but certainly not tame. 
I'm not K bit like Nadeshda, but I do 
hate the tame sort. I know what's the 
matter with me now. Yes, I wish they 
hadn't tc Id me. 

Janua y 21. Robert and Nadeshda 
have told "ma" Burke. She is de 
lighted! "I never heard of the like," she 
said to me all in a quiver. "I wish I'd 
known there were such things. I reckon 
I'd 'a' made my Tom cut a few capers 
before he got me." And then she laughed 
until she cried. It certainly was droll 
to picture "pa" capering in the Robert- 
Nadeshda fashion. 

She went to the embassy and told 
Nadeshda's sister, Madame I'Ambassa- 

"7 



The Social Secreta:^ 

drice. "She let on as if she was just 
tickled to death," she reported to me a 
few minutes after she returned. "And 
when I told her that we Tom and I 
would do handsomely by Nadeshda 
as soon as they were married she had 
tears in her eyes. But I don't trust her 
nor any other foreigner/' 

"Not even Nadeshda?" 

"Ma" nodded knowingly. "I reckon 
Bob'll keep her on the chalk," she re 
plied. "He's started right, and in mar 
riage, as in everything else, it's all in 
the start." 

January 22. Nadeshda asked Mrs. 
Burke to give a big costume ball, but 
I sat on it hard. "I don't think you 
want to do that, Mrs. Burke," said I, 
when she proposed it to me. "If this 
were New York it wouldn't matter so 
much, though I don't think really nice 
118 



The Social Secreta^ 

people with means do that sort of thing 
there. Here I'm afraid it'd make you 
very unpopular." 

"Do you think so?" said she. "Now, 
I'd 'a' said it was just the sort of fool 
ishness these people'd like." 

"Those who have money would," I 
replied. "But how about those who 
haven't? Don't you think that people 
of large means ought to make it a rule 
never to cause any expense whatever to 
those of their friends and acquaintances 
who haven't means?" 

"Don't say another word!" she ex 
claimed, seeing my point instantly. 
"Why, it'd be the worst thing in the 
world. Out home I've always been care 
ful about those kind of things, but on 
here I don't know the people and am 
liable to forget how they're circum 
stanced. They all seem so prosperous 
119 



The Social Secretacg 

on the surface. I reckon there's a lot 
of miserable pinching and squinching 
when the blinds are down." 

Cyrus happened to come in just then, 
and she told him all about it. He looked 
at me and grew red and evidently tried 
to say something probably something 
that would have shown how poorly he 
thought of my cheating them all out 
of the fun. But he restrained himself 
and said nothing. 

Presently he went out and must have 
gone straight to his father probably 
to remonstrate, though I may wrong 
him for, after a few minutes, the 
Senator came. 

"My son has just been telling me," 
he said to me, "and I agree with you 
entirely. It would be ruinous politically. 
As it is, if it hadn't been for you we'd 
never have been able to keep both the 

120 



The Social SecretaQS 

official and the fashionable sets in a good 
humor with us." I never saw him so 
"flustered" before. 

"What are you talking about, pa?" 
inquired Mrs. Burke. 

"About the costume ball you were 
thinking of giving." 

Mrs. Burke smiled. "You'd better 
go back to your cage," said she. "That's 
settled and done for long ago." 

"Pa" looked more uneasy than his 
good-natured tone seemed to justify 
but, no doubt, he knows when he has 
put his foot into it. He "faded" from 
the room. When she heard his study 
door close "ma" said to me in a com 
placent voice: "There's nothing like 
keeping a man always to his side of the 
fence. When 'pa' began to get rich I 
saw trouble ahead, for he was showing 
signs that he was thinking himself right 

121 



The Social SecretaQ$ 

smart better than the common run, and 
that he was including his wife in the 
common run. I took Mr. Smartie Burke 
right in hand. And so, with him it's 
never been 'I* in this family, but 'we.' 
And keeping it that way has made Tom 
lots happier than he would 'a' been 
lording it over me and having no con 
trol on his foolishness anywhere." 

What a dear, sensible woman she is! 
He's got good brains, but if he had as 
good brains as she has he'd get what 
he's after and doesn't stand a show for. 

January 24. The whole town is in 
a tumult over Robert and Nadeshda. 
People think she's crazy. When Cyrus 
said this to me I said: "And I think 
they are at least, delirious." 

"A divine delirium, though," he re 
plied, much to my astonishment. For 
he's never shown before that he had so 
122 



The Social Secreta^ 

much as a spot of that sort of thing in 
him. But then, I'm beginning to revise 
my judgment of him in some ways. He 
is much nearer what his mother said 
he was than what I thought him. But 
he's young and crude. I find that he 
likes and really appreciates the same 
composers and poets and novelists that 
I do. I can forgive much to any one 
who realizes what a poet Browning was 
when he did write poetry, not when 
he wrote the stuff for the Browning 
clubs to fuddle with. 

Nadeshda is in the depths except 
when Robert is by to hypnotize her. 
"I was so strong," she said pathetically 
to me to-day, "or I thought I was. 
And now I'm all weakness." She went 
on to tell me how horribly they are 
talking to her at the embassy for they 
are determined she shan't marry 
123 



The Social SecretaQS 

nobody with nothing." I always knew 
her brother-in-law was a snob of the 
cheapest and narrowest kind the well 
born, well-bred kind. But I had no idea 
he was a coward. He threatens to have 
the Emperor make her come home and 
go into a convent if she doesn't break 
off the engagement within a week. 

We are tremendously popular. Ev 
erybody is cultivating us, hoping to find 
out the real inside of this incredible en 
gagement. And the ambassador has to 
pretend publicly that he's personally 
wild with delight and hopes Nadeshda's 
parents will consent. He knows how 
unpopular it would make him and his 
country with America if his opposition 
and his reason for it were to be known. 

January 30. Nadeshda has disap 
peared. They give out at the embassy 
that she has left for home to consult 
124 



The Social Secreta^ 

with her parents. Robert looks like a 
man who had gone stark mad and was 
fighting to keep himself from showing it. 
We were all at the ball at the French 
embassy, Mr. and Mrs. Burke dining 
there. I dined at the White House a 
literary affair. The conversation was 
what you might expect when a lot of 
people get together to show one an 
other how brilliant they are. The Presi 
dent talked a great deal. He has very 
positive opinions on literature in all its 
branches. I was the only person at the 
table who wasn't familiar with his books. 
Fortunately, I wasn't cornered. Cyrus 
came to the ball from Mrs. Dorringer's, 
where he took in the Duchess d'Emarre. 
"She has a beautiful face in repose," he 
said to me as he paused for a moment, 
"and it's not at all pretty when she talks. 
So she listened well." 
125 



The Social Secreta^ 

I was too tired to dance, as were the 
others. We went home together, all 
depressed. "It's too ridiculous, this kind 
of life," said "ma" Burke, "and the most 
ridiculous part of it is that, now we're 
hauled into it and set a-going, we'll 
never get out and be sensible again. It 
just shows you can get used to anything 
in this world except doing as you 
please. I don't believe anybody was ever 
satisfied to do that. Did you ever wear a 
Mother Hubbard? There s comfort!" 

I can think of nothing but Robert 
and Nadeshda. Have they some sort of 
understanding? No I'm afraid not. 

I forgot to put down that Robert 
made the Senator go to the Secretary 
of State about Nadeshda's disappearance. 
The Secretary was sympathetic, but he 
refused to interfere in any way. What 
else could he do? 

126 



FEBRUARY i . Last night Robert 
started for Europe. He is going 
to see Nadeshda's father and 
mother. I begin to suspect that Na- 
deshda has really gone abroad and that 
she has let him know. He is certainly 
in a very different frame of mind from 
what he was at first. But he says noth 
ing, hints nothing. Rachel, who has a 
huge sentimental streak in her, has given 
Robert a letter to her sister Ellen she's 
married to one of the biggest nobles in 
the empire, Prince Gliickstein. Also, 
127 



The Social 

she has written Ellen a long, long letter, 
telling her all about Robert, and what 
a great catch he is. And he is a great 
catch now, for Senator Burke has organ 
ized a company to take over his patents 
and pay him a big sum for them it'll 
sound fabulously big to such people as 
the Daraganes. For even where these 
foreigners are very rich and have miles 
on miles of land and large incomes from 
it, they're not used to the kind of for 
tunes we have the sums in cash, or in 
property that's easily sold. And the 
Daraganes have only rank; their estates 
are quite insignificant, Von Slovatsky 
says. 

"They might as well consent first as 
last," said Mrs. Burke to me just after 
Robert left; "for Bob always gets what 
he wants. He never lets go. Cyrus is 
the same way he spent eleven months 
128 



The Social Secreta^ 

in the mountains once, and like to 'a' 
starved and froze and died of fever, just 
because he'd made up his mind not to 
come back without a grizzly. That's 
why the President took to him." 

And then she told me that it was 
Cyrus who thought out the scheme for 
making Robert financially eligible and 
put it in such form that Robert con 
sented. That convicted me of injustice 
again, for I had been suspecting him 
of being secretly pleased at Robert's set 
back he certainly hasn't looked in the 
least sorry for him. But it may be that 
Robert has told him more than he's told 
us. He certainly couldn't have found a 
closer-mouthed person. As his mother 
says, "The grave's a blabmouth beside 
him when it comes to keeping secrets. 
And most men are such gossips." 

Mrs. Fortescue came in to tea this 
129 



The Social Secreta^ 

afternoon. Mrs. Burke was out calling, 
and I received her or, rather, she 
caught me, for I detest her. Just as she 
was going Cyrus popped in, and she 
nailed him before he could pop out. 
She thought it was a good chance to 
put in a few strong strokes for her 
daughter. "Of course, it's very pretty 
and romantic about Nadeshda," she said, 
"and in this case I'm sure no one with 
a spark of heart could object. Still, the 
principle is bad. I don't think young 
girls who are properly brought up are 
so impulsive and imprudent. I often 
say to my husband that I think it's per 
fectly frightful the way girls young 
girls go about in Washington. They're 
out before they should be even think 
ing of leaving the nursery, and go round 
practically unchaperoned. It's so de 
moralizing." 

130 



The Social Secretaes 

"But how are they to compete with 
the young married women if they 
don't ?" said Cyrus, because he was evi 
dently expected to say something. 

"I don't think a man a sensible man 
looking for a wife for his home and 
a mother for his children would want 
a girl who'd been 'competing' in Wash 
ington society," she answered. "I don't 
at all approve the way American girls 
are brought up, anyway it's entirely 
too free and destructive of the innocence 
that is a woman's chief charm. And 
as for turning the young girls loose in 
Washington!" Mrs. Fortescue threw 
up her hands. "It's simply madness. 
Most of the men are foreigners, accus 
tomed to meet only married women in 
society. They don't know how to take a 
young girl, and they don't understand this 
American freedom. The wonder to me 



The Social Secreta^ 

is that we don't have a regular cataclysm 
every season. Now, I never permit 
Mildred to go anywhere without me or 
some other real chaperon. And I know 
that her mind is like a fresh rose-leaf." 

Cyrus and I exchanged a covert glance 
of amusement. Mildred Fortescue is a 
very nice, sweet girl, but well, she does 
fool her mother scandalously. 

"I should think a man would posi 
tively be afraid to marry the ordinary 
Washington society girl who knows 
everything that she shouldn't and noth 
ing that she should/' 

"Perhaps that's what makes them so 
irresistible," said Cyrus. 

" Irresistible to flirt with and tojtaner 
about with," said Mrs. Fortescue re 
proachfully. "But I'm sure you wouldn't 
marry one of them, Mr. Burke." 

"Oh, I don't know," he answered. 
132 



The Social SecretaG 

"No doubt it does spoil a good many, 
being so free and associating with ex 
perienced men who've been brought up 
in a very different way. But "7 he hesi 
tated and blushed uncomfortably "it 
seems to me that those who do come 
through all right are about the best any 
where. If a girl has any really bad qual 
ities anywhere in her they come out 
here. And if a Washington girl does 
marry a man for himself and I rather 
think they make marriages of the heart 
more than most girls in the same sort 
of society in other cities don't you, 
Miss Talltowers?" 

"It may be so," I replied. "But prob 
ably they're much like girls and men 
everywhere. They make marriages 
of the heart if they get the chance. And 
if nobody happens along in the marry 
ing mood who is able to appeal to their 

133 



The Social SecretaG 

hearts, they select the most eligible 
among the agreeable ones they can get. 
I think many a girl has been branded 
as mercenary when in reality the rich 
man she chose was neither more nor 
less agreeable than the poor man she 
rejected, and she only had choice among 
men she didn't especially care about." 
Mrs. Fortescue looked disgusted. 
Cyrus showed that he agreed with me. 
"What I was going to say/' he went on, 
"was, that if a Washington girl does 
choose a man, after she has known lots 
of men and has come to prefer him, 
she's not likely at least, not so likely 
to repent her bargain. And," he said, 
getting quite warmed up by his subject, 
"if a man looks forward to his wife's 
going about in society, as he must if he 
lives in a certain way, I think he's wise 
to select some one who has learned 

134 



The Social SecretaQS 

something of the world how to con 
duct herself, how to control herself, 
how to fill the role Fate has assigned 
her." 

"Oh, of course, a girl should be well- 
bred," said Mrs. Fortescue, as sourly as 
her sort of woman can speak to a bach 
elor with prospects. 

Cyrus said no more, and soon she was 
off. He stood at the window watching 
her carriage drive away. He turned 
abruptly I was at the little desk, writ 
ing a note. 

"You can't imagine," he said with 
quick energy, "how I loathe the aver 
age girl brought up in conventional, 
exclusive society in America." 

"Really?" said I, not stopping my 
writing though I don't mind confess 
ing that I was more interested in his 
views than I cared to let him see, 

135 



The Social Secreta^ 

"Yes, really," he replied ironically. 
Then he went on in his former tone: 
"Poor things, they can't help having 
silly mothers with the idea of aping the 
European upper classes, and with hardly 
a notion of those upper classes beyond 
well, such notions as are got in novels 
written by snobs for snobs. And these 
unfortunate girls are afraid of a genuine 
; emotion by Jove, I doubt if they even 
have the germs of genuine emotion. 
All that sort of thing has been weeded 
out of them. Little dry minds, little 
'dry hearts so 'proper/ so vulgar!" 

"Not in Washington," said I. 

"No, not so many in Washington; 
though more and more all the time. 
Miss Talltowers, will you marry me?" 

It was just like that no warning, 
not a touch of sentiment toward me. 
I almost dropped my pen. But I man- 



The Social 

aged to hide myself pretty well. I sim 
ply went on with my note, finished it, 
sealed and addressed it, and rang for a 
servant. Then I went and stood by the 
fire. The servant came; I gave him 
the note and went into my office. I 
had been in there perhaps ten minutes 
when he came, looking shy and sheep 
ish. He stumbled over a low chair and 
had a ridiculous time saving himself 
from falling. When he finally had him 
self straightened up and shaken together 
he stood with his hands behind him, 
and his face red, and his eyes down, 
and with his mouth fixed in that foolish 
little way as if he were about to speak 
with his fancy-work way of handling 
his words. 

"Do you wish something?" I asked. 

"Only only my answer," said he 
humbly. 

137 



The Social Secreta^ 

Would you believe it, I actually hesi 
tated. 

"I want a woman that doesn't like 
me for my money, and that at the same 
time would know how to act and would 
be be sensible. I've had you in mind 
ever since you explained your system 
for for" he smiled faintly "exploit 
ing mother and father. And mother 
has been talking in the same way of 
late. She says we can't afford to let you 
get out of the family. That's all, I guess 
all you'd have patience to hear." 

"Then you were making me a seri 
ous business proposition?" said I. 

"Well, you might call it that," he ad 
mitted, as if he weren't altogether satis 
fied with my way of summing it up. 

"I'm much obliged, but it doesn't 
attract me," I said. 

He gave a kind of hopeless gesture. 

138 



The Social Secreta^ 

"I've put it all wrong/' said he. "I 
always say things wrong. But I I 
believe I do things better." And he gave 
me a look that I liked. It was such a 
quaint mingling of such a nice man 
with such a nice boy. 

"I understand perfectly/' said I, and 
I can't tell how much I hated to hurt 
him he did so remind me of dear old 
"ma" Burke. "But please don't dis 
cuss it. I couldn't consider the matter 
possibly." 

"You won't leave!" he exclaimed. 
"I assure you I'll not annoy you. You 
must admit, Miss Talltowers, that I 
haven' t tried to thrust myself on you in the 
past. And really, mother and father 
couldn't get on at all without you." 

"Certainly, I shan't leave why 
should I?" said I. "I'm very well satis 
fied with my position." 

139 



The Social Secreta5 

"Thank you," he said with an awk 
ward bow, and he left me alone. 

Of course, I couldn't possibly marry 
him. But I suppose a woman's vanity 
compels her to take a more favorable 
view of any man after she's found out 
that he wishes to marry her. Anyhow, 
I find I don't dislike him at all as I 
thought I did. I couldn't help being 
amused at myself the next day. I was 
driving with Jessie, and she was giving 
me her usual sermon on the advantages 
of the Burke alliance if I could by 
chance scheme it through. "You're 
very pretty, Gus," she said. "In fact 
you're beautiful at times. Men do like 
height when it goes with your sort of 
a a willowy figure. Your eyes alone 
if you would only use them would 
catch him. And the Burkes would be 
well, they might object a little at first 
140 



The Social 

because you've given them a position 
that has no doubt swollen their heads 
but they'd yield gracefully. And 
although you are very attractive and are 
always having men in love with you, 
you've simply got to make up your 
mind soon. Look how many such nice, 
good-looking girls have been crowded 
aside by the young ones. Men are crazy 
about freshness, no matter what they 
pretend. Yes, you must decide, dear. 
And I couldn't endure poor Carter et 
when I married him." 

Carteret is a miserable specimen, and 
Jessie's ways keep him in a dazed state 
like an old hen sitting on a limb and 
turning her head round and round to 
keep watch on a fox that's racing in a 
circle underneath. Fox doesn't seem 
exactly to fit Jessie, but sometimes I 
suspect however 
141 



The Social Secreta^ 

"But," Jessie was going on, "I knew 
mama was my best friend. And when 
she said, 'Six months after marriage 
you'll be quite used to him and won't 
in the least mind, and you'll be so glad 
you married somebody who was quiet 
and good/ I married him. And I love 
him dearly, Gus, and we make each 
other so happy!" 

I laughed Jessie doesn't mind; she 
don't understand what laughter means 
in most people. I was thinking of what 
Rachel told me the other day. She said 
to Carteret, "It must be great fun 
wondering what Jessie will do next." 
And he looked at her in his dumb way 
and said: "What she'll do next? Lord, 
I ain't caught up with that. I'm just 
about six weeks behind on her record 
all the time." 

But to go back to Jessie's talk to me, 
142 



The SocialSecretaGS 

she went on: "And Mr. Burke's not 
so dreadfully unattractive, dear. Of 
course, he's far from handsome, and 
well, he's the son of Mr. and Mrs. Burke 
but though they're quite common and 
all that" 

I found myself furiously angry. "I 
don't think he's at all bad-looking," I 
said, pretending to be judicial. "He's 
big and strong and sensible; and what 
more does a woman usually ask for? 
And I don't at all agree with you about 
his father and mother, either especially 
his mother. No, Jessie, dear, my ob 
jections aren't yours at all. I'm sure you 
wouldn't understand them, so let's not 
talk about it." 

February 3. Yesterday Mrs. Tevis 
sent for me. That was a good deal of 
an impertinence, but I'm getting very 
sensible about impertinences. She lives 

143 



The Social 

in grand style in a big, new house in 
K Street it, like everything about her, 
is "regardless of expense." The Tevises 
have been making the most desperate 
efforts to "break in" last season and 
this, and as Washington is, up to a cer 
tain point, very easy for strangers with 
money, they've gone pretty far. I sup 
pose Washington's like every other cap 
ital the people are so used to all sorts 
of queer strangers and everything is so 
restless and changeful that no one minds 
adding to his list of acquaintances any 
person who offers entertainment and 
isn't too appalling. And the Tevises 
have been spending money like water. 
It's queer how people can go every 
where that anybody goes and can seem 
to be "right in it," yet not be in it at 
all. That's the way it is with the Tev 
ises. They are at every big affair in town 
144 



The SocialSecretae 

White House, embassies, private 
houses. But they're never invited to the 
smaller, more or less informal things. 
And when they do appear at a ball or 
anywhere they're treated with formal 
politeness. They know there's some 
thing wrong, but they can't for the life 
of them see what it is. And that's not 
strange, for who can see the line that's 
instinctively drawn between social sheep 
and social goats in the flock that's 
apparently all mixed up? Everybody 
knows the sheep on sight; everybody 
knows the goats. And all act accord 
ingly without anything being said. 

Well, Mr. and Mrs. Tevis are goats. 
Why? Anybody could see it after talk 
ing to either of them for five minutes; 
yet who could say why? It isn't because 
they're snobs lots of sheep are nauseat 
ing snobs. It isn't because they're very 

H5 



The Social Secreta^ 

badly self-made I defy anybody to pro 
duce a goat that can touch Willie 
Catesby or Rennie Tucker, yet each of 
them has ancestors by the score. It isn't 
because they're new the Burkes are 
new, yet Mrs. Burke has at least a dozen 
intimate acquaintances of the right sort. 
It isn't because they're ostentatious and 
boastful about wealth and prices there 
are scores of sheep who make the same 
sort of absurd exhibition of vulgarity. 
I can't place it. They're just goats, and 
they know it, and they feel it; and when 
you go to their house they suggest a 
restaurant keeper welcoming his cus 
tomers; and when they come to your 
house they suggest Cook's tourists roam 
ing in the private apartments of a palace, 
smiling apologetically at every one and 
wondering whether they're not about 
to be told to "step lively." 
146 



The Social SecretaG 

Mrs. Tevis received me very grandly 
and graciously, though dreadfully nerv 
ous withal, lest I should be seeing that 
she was "throwing a bluff" and should 
put her in her place. 

"I've requested you to come, my dear 
Miss Talltowers," she began, after she 
had bunglingly served tea from the new 
est and costliest and most elaborate tea-set 
I ever saw, "because I had a little mat 
ter of business to talk over with you 
and felt that we could talk more freely 
here." 

"I must be back at half-past five," 
said I, by way of urging her on to the 
point. 

"That will be quite time enough," 
said she. "We can have our little con 
versation quite nicely, and you will be 
in ample time for your duties." 

I wonder what sort of dialect she 

147 



The Social Secreta 

thinks in. It certainly can't be more 
irritating than the one she translates her 
thoughts into before speaking them. 
The dialect she inflicts on people sounds 
as if it were from a Complete Conver 
sationalist, got up by an old maid who 
had been teaching school for forty 
years. 

"I hare decided to take a secretary 
for next season/' she went on. "Not 
that I need any such direction as the 
Burkes. Fortunately, Mr. Tevis and I 
have had a large social experience on 
both sides of the Atlantic and have al 
ways moved with the best pebple. But 
just a secretary to attend to my oner 
ous correspondence and arrangements 
for entertaining. The duties would be 
light, but we should be willing to pay 
a larger salary than the position would 
really justify that is, we should be will- 



The Social Secretaj35 

ing to pay it, you know, to a lady such 
as you are/' 

I bowed. 

"We should treat you with all deli 
cacy and appreciation of the fact that 
your misfortunes have compelled you to 
take a a position which which " 

"You are very kind, Mrs. Tevis," 
said I. 

"And we realized that in all proba 
bility the Burkes would have no further 
use for your services at the end of this 
season, as you have been most success 
ful with them." 

I winced. For the first time the 
"practical" view of what I've been 
doing for the Burkes stared me in the 
face that is, the view which such people 
as the Tevises, perhaps many of my 
friends, took of it. So I was being re 
garded, spoken of, discussed, as a person 
149 



The Social SecretaQj 

who had been bought by the Burkes to 
get them in with certain people. And 
it was assumed that, having got what 
they wanted, they would dismiss me and 
so cut off a superfluous expense! I was 
somewhat astonished at myself for not 
having seen my position in this light 
before. 

And I suddenly realized why I hadn't 
because the Burkes were really nice peo 
ple, because I hadn't been their employee 
but their friend. What if I had started 
my career as a dependent of Mrs. TevisM 
I shivered. And when the Burkes should 
need me no longer why, the probabili 
ties were that I should have to seek em 
ployment from just such dreadful people 
as these upstarts eager to jam them 
selves in, vulgarians whom icy manners 
and forbidding looks only influence to 
fiercer efforts to associate with those 
150 



The Social Secretae 

who don't wish to associate with them. 

Mrs. Tevis interrupted my dismal 
thoughts with a cough, intended to be 
polite. "What what compensation 
would you expect, may I ask?" 

"What do such positions pay?" I said, 
and my voice sounded harsh to me. I 
wished to know what value was usually 
put upon such services. 

"Would say twenty-five dollars a 
week be meet with your views?" she 
asked, and her tone was that of a per 
son performing an act of astounding 
generosity. 

"Oh, dear me, no," said I, with the 
kind of sweetness that coats a pill of 
gall. "I couldn't think of trying to get 
you in for any such sum as that." 

I saw that the gall had bit through 
the sugar-coat. 

"Would you object to giving me some 



The Social SecretaQ5 

idea of what the Burkes pay?" she asked, 
with the taste puckering her mouth. 

"I should/' I replied, rising. "Any 
how, I don't care to undertake the job. 
Thank you so much for your generosity 
and kindness, Mrs. Tevis." I nodded 
I'm afraid it was a nod intended to 
"put her in her place." "Good-by." 
And I smiled and got myself out of the 
room before she recovered. 

I 'wish I hadn't seen her. I hate the 
truth it's always unpleasant. 

February 5. Mrs. Burke had thirty- 
one invitations to-day, eleven of them 
for her and Mr. Burke. Seven were in 
vitations to little affairs which Mrs. 
Tevis would give well, perhaps five 
dollars apiece to get to. How ridic 
ulous for her to economize in the one 
way in which liberality is most neces 
sary. Here they are spending probably 
152 



The Social Secret aG 

a hundred thousand dollars a season in 
hopeless attempts to do that which they 
would hesitate to pay me six hundred 
dollars for doing. And this when they 
think I could accomplish it. But could 
I? I guess not. To win out as I have 
with the Burkes you've got to have the 
right sort of material to work on, and 
it must be workable. Vulgar people 
would be ashamed to put themselves in 
any one's hands as completely as Mrs. 
Burke put herself in my hands. 

Oh, I'm sick sick, sick of it! I'm 
ashamed to look "ma" Burke in the 
face, because I think such mean things 
about them all when I'm in bed and blue. 

February 6. I decline all the invita 
tions that come for me personally. I sit 
in my "office" and pretend to be fussing 
with my books they give me the hor 
rors ! And I was so proud of them and 

153 



The Social Secreta^ 

of my plans to make my little enter 
prise a success. 

February 7. Mrs. Burke came in 
this afternoon and came round my desk 
and kissed me. "What is it, dear? 
What's the matter?" she said. "Won't 
you tell me? Why, I feel as if you 
were my daughter. I did have a daugh 
ter. She came first. Tom was so dis 
appointed. But I was glad. A son 
belongs to both his parents, and, when 
he's grown up, to his wife. But a 
daughter she would 'a' belonged to me 
always. And she had to up and die just 
when she was about to make up her 
mind to talk." 

I put my face down in my arms on 
the desk. 

"Tired, dear?" said "ma" she's a 
born "ma." "Of course, that's it. You're 
clean pegged out, working and worry- 



The Social Secreta^ 

ing. You must put it all away and rest." 
And she sat down by me. 

All of a sudden I couldn't help it 
I put my head on her great, big bosom 
and burst out crying. "Oh, I'm so bad!" 
I said. "And you're so good!" 

She patted me and kissed me on top 
of my head. "What pretty, soft hair 
you have, dear," she said, "and what a 
lot of it! My! My! I don't see how 
anybody that looks like you do could ever 
be unhappy a minute. You don't know 
what it means to be born homely and 
fat and to have to work hard just to 
make people not object to having you 
about." And she went on talking in 
that way until I was presently laugh 
ing, still against that great, big bosom 
with the great, big heart beating under 
it. When I felt that it would be a down 
right imposition to stay there any longer 

155 



The Social Secreta^ 

I straightened up. I felt quite cheerful. 

"Was there something worrying 
you?" she asked. 

I blushed and hung my head. "Yes, 
but I can't tell you/' said I. And I 
couldn't could I ? Besides, there some 
how doesn't seem to be much of any 
thing in all my brooding. What a nasty 
beast that Mrs. Tevis is! 

February 12. Mrs. Burke and I went 
to a reception at the Secretary of State's 
this afternoon. We saw Nadeshda's sis 
ter in the distance that's where we've 
always seen her and the ambassador and 
the whole embassy staff ever since the 
"bust-up," except funny little De Pleyev. 
He, being of a mediatized family, does 
not need to disturb himself about am 
bassadorial frowns or smiles. It's curi 
ous what a strong resemblance there is 
between a foreigner of royal blood and 



The Social Secreta^ 

a straightaway American gentleman. 
But, as I was about to write, this after 
noon the distance between us and Ma 
dame P Ambassadrice slowly lessened, and 
when she was quite close to us she gave 
us a dazzling smile apiece and said to 
Mrs. Burke: "My dear Madame Burke, 
you are looking most charming. You 
must come to us to tea. To-morrow? 
Do say yes we've missed you so. My 
poor back it almost shuts me out of 
the world/' And she passed on prob 
ably didn't wish to risk the chance that 
"ma's" puzzled look might give place 
to an expression of some kind of anger 
and that she might make one of those 
frank speeches she's famous for. 

"Well, did you ever!" exclaimed 
"ma" when the Countess was out of 
earshot. 

I said warningly: "Everybody's seen 

'57 



The Social Secreta^ 

it and is watching you." And it was 
true. The whole crowd in those per 
fume-steeped rooms was gaping, and the 
news had spread so quickly that a throng 
was pushing in from the tea-room, some 
of them still chewing. 

Afterward we discussed it, and could 
come to but one conclusion that the 
Robert-Nadeshda crisis had passed. But 
do the Daraganes think that Nadeshda 
is safe from Robert, or have they decided 
to take him in? Certainly, something 
decisive has happened. And if Robert 
had anything to do with it it must have 
been stirring enough to make the Dara 
ganes use the cable how else could 
Nadeshda's sister have got her cue so 
soon ? 

February 15. No news whatever of 
Robert and Nadeshda. Yesterday the 
ambassadress came here to tea and said 

158 



The Social Secreta^ 

to Mrs. Burke that she had had a letter 
from Nadeshda in which she sent us 
all her love "especially your dear, 
splendid, big Monsieur Cyrus." Mr. and 
Mrs. Burke are to dine at the embassy 
five weeks from to-night the ambas 
sadress insisted on Mrs. Burke's giving 
her first free evening to her, and that 
was it. 

"I reckon we'll have to go," said 
"ma" after her departure, and while the 
odor of her frightfully-powerful helio 
trope scent was still heavy in the room, 
"though I doubt if I'll be alive by then. 
Sometimes it seems to me I've just got 
to knock off and take a clean week in 
bed. I thought I'd never think of drugs 
to keep me going, as so many women 
advise. But I see I'm getting round to 
it. And I'm getting that fat in the body 
and that lean in the face! Did you ever 

159 



The SocialSecretaGS 

see the like? I must V lost three pounds 
off my face. And the skin's hanging 
there waiting for it to come back, in 
stead of shrinking. I'm glad my Tom 
never looks at me. I know to a certainty 
he ain't looked at me in twenty years. 
Husbands and wives don't waste much 
time looking at each other, and I guess 
it's a good, safe plan." 

Mrs. Burke does look badly. I must 
take better care of her. Cyrus looks 
badly, too. I haven't seen him to talk 
to since he made his "strictly business" 
proposition. I suppose he wants me to 
realize that he isn't one of the pestering 
kind. I'm sorry he takes it that way, 
as I'd have liked to be friends with him. 
He quarreled so beautifully when we 
didn't agree. It's a great satisfaction to 
have some one at hand who both agrees 
and quarrels in a satisfactory way. But 
160 



The Social Secreta^S 

I don't dare make any advances to him. 
He might misunderstand. 

I've just been laughing at his cow 
lick. It is such an obstinate little swirl. 
And when he looks serious it looks so 
funnily frisky, and when he smiles it 
looks so fiercely serious and disapprov 
ing. Yesterday I hurried suddenly into 
the little room just off the ball-room, 
thinking it was empty. But Cyrus and 
his mother were there, and he was tick 
ling her, and he looked so fond of her, 
and she looked so delighted. I slipped 
away without their seeing me. 

February 16. We gave our second 
big ball last night with a dinner for sixty 
before. It was just half-past five this 
morning when the last couple came 
sneaking out from the alcove off the lit 
tle room beyond the conservatory and, 
we pretending not to see them, scuttled 
161 



The Social Secreta^ 

away without saying good night. 
Major-General Cutler danced with Mrs. 
Burke in the opening quadrille, and 
Mr. Burke danced with the British am 
bassadress the ambassador is ill. I had 
Jim on my hands most of the evening 
though I was flirting desperately with 
little D'Estourelle, he hung to me with 
a maddening husbandish air of propri 
etorship. I don't see how I ever en 
dured him, much less thought of marry 
ing him. Cyrus Burke is a king beside 
him. Excuse me from men who think 
the fact that they've done a woman the 
honor of loving her gives them a prop 
erty right to her. Mrs. Burke was the 
belle of the ball. She had a crowd of 
men round her chair all evening, laugh 
ing at everything she said. 

February 17. A cable from Robert 
Guhton at Hamburg this morning 

162 



The Social Secr 

just "Arrive Washington about March 
3." That was all worse than nothing. 
It is Lent, but there's no let up for us. 
We only get rid of the kind of enter 
tainments that cost us the least trouble 
to plan and give, and we have to arrange 
more of the kind that have to be done 
carefully. Anybody can give a dance, 
but it takes skill to give a successful 
dinner. 

February 19. Nadeshda's sister said 
to-day, quite casually, to Jessie: "Desh- 
da's coming back, and we're so glad. 
The trip has done her so much good 
in every way." Now, whatever did that 
mean? 



163 



VI 

FEBRUARY 26. No news of 
Robert and Nadeshda. Have 
been glancing through this diary. 
How conceited I am, taking credit to 
myself for everything. I wonder if I 
am vainer than most people, or does 
everybody make the same ridiculous dis 
covery about himself when he takes 
himself off his guard? What an imper 
fect record this is of our launching. But 
then, if I had made it perfect I should 
have had to go into so many wearisome 
details, not to speak of my having so 
164 



The Social Secret aQ5 

little time. Still, it would have been 
interesting to read some day, when I 
shall have forgotten the little steps for 
although we've had in all only a month 
before the season and five weeks between 
New Year's and Ash Wednesday, so 
much has been crowded into that time. 
It's amazing what one can accomplish 
if one uses every moment to a single 
purpose. And I've not only used my 
own time, but Robert's and Jessie's and 
the time of their and my friends, and 
that of Nadeshda and a dozen other peo 
ple. They and I all worked together 
to make my enterprise a success and 
Jim and the Senator, and "ma" Burke 
was a great help after the first few 
weeks. Yes, and I mustn't forget Cyrus. 
He has made himself astonishingly pop 
ular. I see now that he showed a bet 
ter side to every one than he did to me. 

165 



The Social Secreta5 

Perhaps I can guess why. I wonder if 
he really cares or did care for me, or 
was it just "ma" trying to get me into 
the family, and he willing to do any 
thing she asked of him? 

But to go back to my vanity I see 
that Jessie, Rachel and Cyrus were the 
real cause of my success. Jessie and 
Rachel alone could make anybody, who 
wasn't positively awful, a go. Then 
Nadeshda, bent on marrying Cyrus at 
first, was a big help and every mama 
with a marriageable daughter was hot 
on Cyrus* trail. So it's easy to make 
an infallible recipe for getting into so 
ciety: First, wealth; second, willingness 
to act on competent advice; third, get 
a "secretary" who knows society and 
has intimate friends in its most exclu 
sive set, and who also knows how to 
arrange entertainments; fourth, have a 
166 



The Social Secretaos 

marriageable son, if possible, or, failing 
that, a daughter, or, failing that, a near 
relative who will be well dowered; fifth, 
organize the campaign thoroughly and 
pay particular attention to getting your 
self liked by the few people who really 
count. You can't bribe them; you can't 
drive them; you must amuse them. The 
more leisure people have the harder it 
is to amuse them. 

Looking back, I can see that "ma" 
Burke passed her social crisis when, on 
January 5, Mrs. Gaether asked her to 
assist at her reception. For Mrs. 
Gaether was the first social power who 
took "ma" up simply and solely because 
she liked her. 

We have spent a great deal of money, 
but not half what the Tevises have spent. 
But our money counted because it was 
incidental. Mere money won't carry any 

' 



, The Social 

one very far in Washington I don't 
believe it will anywhere, except, per 
haps, in New York. 

I ought to have kept some sort of 
record of what we've done from day to 
day I mean, more detailed than my 
books. However, I'll just put in our 
last full day before Lent, as far as I can 
recall it. No, I'll only write out what 
Mrs. Burke alone did that day: 

7:30 to 10. She and I, in her room, 
went over the arrangements for the ball 
we were giving in the evening. 

10 to 12:30. She went to see half a 
dozen people about various social matters, 
besides doing a great deal of shopping. 

12:30 to 1:45. More worrying con 
sultation with me, then dressing for 
luncheon. 

1:45 to 3 : 4S' A l n g an( i tiresome 
luncheon at one of the embassies. 

168 



The Social Secreta^s 

3:45 to 6:30. More than twenty calls 
and teas a succession of exhausting 
rushes and struggles. 

6:30 to 7:15. In the drawing-room 
here, with a lot of people coming and 
going. 

7:15 to 8. Dressing for dinner a 
frightful rush. 

8 to 8:30. Receiving the dinner 
guests. 

8:30 to 10:45. The dinner. 

10:45 to midnight. Receiving the 
guests for the dance on her feet all the 
time. 

Midnight to 6 in the morning. Sit 
ting, but incessantly busy. 

6 to 9. In bed. 

9. A new and crowded day. 

This has been a short season, but I 
don't think it was the shortness, crowd 
ing much into a few days, that made 
169 



The Social Secreta 

the pressure so great. It's simply that 
year by year Washington becomes so 
cially worse and worse. As I looked 
round at that last ball of ours I pitied 
the people who were nerving themselves 
up to trying to enjoy themselves. 

Almost every one was, and looked, 
worn out. Here and there the un 
natural brightness of eyes or cheeks 
showed that somebody usually a young 
person had been driven to some sort of 
stimulant to enable him or her to hold 
the pace. Quick to laugh; quick to 
frown and bite the lips in almost uncon 
trollable anger. Nerves on edge, flesh 
quivering. 

Yet, what is one to do? To be "in 
it" one must go all the time; not to go 
all the time, not to accept all the prin 
cipal invitations, is to make enemies 
right and left. Besides, who that gets 
170 



The Social 

into the hysterical state which the 
Washington season induces can be con 
tent to sit quietly at home when on 
every side there are alluring opportuni 
ties to enjoy? 

No wonder we see less and less of the 
jien of importance. No wonder the 
"sons of somebodies" and the young 
men of the embassies and legations and 
departments, most of them amiable 
enough, but all just about as near nothing 
as you would naturally expect, are the 
best the women can get to their houses. 

It is foolish; it is frightful. But it is 
somehow fascinating, and it gives us 
women the chance to go the same reck 
less American gait that the men go in 
their business and professions. 

I am utterly worn out. I might be 
asleep at this moment. Yet I'm sitting 
here alone, too feverish for hope of rest. 
171 



The Social Secreta^ 

And I can see lights in Cyrus' apart 
ment and in Senator Burke's sitting- 
room, and I don't doubt poor "ma" is 
tossing miserably in a vain attempt to 
get the sleep that used to come unasked 
and stay until it was fought off. 

It is Lent, and the season is supposed 
to be over. But the rush is still on, and 
other things which crowd and jam in 
more than fill up the vacant space left by 
big, formal parties. It seems to me that 
there is even as much dancing as there was 
two weeks ago. The only difference is 
that it isn't formally arranged for be 
forehand. 

I'd like to "shut off steam" indeed, 
it seems to me that I must if "ma" 
Burke is not to be sacrificed. But how 
can we? People expect us to entertain, 
and we must go out to their affairs also. 
The only escape would be to fly, and 
172 



The Social Secretaj35 

we can't do that so long as Congress 
is sitting. 

February 27. Robert and Nadeshda 
are both in town, he with us, she at the 
embassy. They are to be married the 
twelfth of April. The engagement is to 
be announced to-morrow. I've never seen 
any one more demure than Nadeshda, or 
happier. I suspect she's going to settle 
down into the most domestic of women. 
Indeed, I know it for, as she says, she's 
afraid of him, obeys him as a dog its mas 
ter, and the domestic side of her is the 
only one he'll tolerate. I've always heard 
that her sort of woman is the tamest, 
once it's under control. She has will 
but no continuity. He has a stronger 
will and his purposes are unalterable. 
So he'll continue to dominate her. 

"Ma" Burke asked him, "How did 
you make out with her folks?" 

173 



The'Social Secreta^ 

He smiled, then laughed. 

"I don't know exactly/' he said. 
"They couldn't talk my language nor 
I theirs. So it was all done through an 
interpreter. And he was Mrs. Dean's 
brother-in-law, Prince Gluckstein, 
and a regular trump. He saw them 
half a dozen times before I did. 
When I saw them everything was 
lovely. They left me alone with her 
after twenty minutes. Finally it was 
agreed that we should come back on 
the same steamer, her brother accom 
panying her." 

"But why on earth didn't you cable 
us?" she demanded. 

"I did," he replied. 

"But you didn't tell us anything," 
she returned. 

"I told you all there was to tell," he 
replied. 

174 



The Social Secreta^s 

"You only said you were coming/ 3 
she objected. 

"Well," he answered, looking 
somewhat surprised, "I knew you'd 
know I wouldn't come without her." 

I'm glad he didn't get it into his 
head to "take after" me. A woman 
stands no more chance with a man like 
that than a rabbit with a greyhound. 

February 29. "Ma" Burke is dread 
fully ill has been for two days. The 
doctors have got several large Latin 
names for it, but the plain truth is that 
she has broken down under the strain 
she seemed to be bearing so placidly. 
She didn't give up until she was abso 
lutely unable to lift herself out of bed. 
"I knew it was coming/' she said, "but 
I thought I had spirit enough to put 
it off till I had more time." 

It wasn't until she did give up that 

175 



The Social Secreta^ 

ter face really showed how badly off 
she was. I was sitting by her bed when 
"pa" Burke and Cyrus came in. I 
couldn't bear to look at them, yet I 
couldn't keep my eyes off their faces. 
Both got deadly white at sight of her, 
and "pa" rushed from the room after a 
moment or two. The doctor had cau 
tioned him against alarming her by 
showing any signs of grief. But "pa" 
couldn't stand it. He went to his study, 
and the housekeeper told me he cried 
like a baby. Cyrus stayed, and I couldn't 
help admiring the way he put on cheer 
fulness. 

"I'll be all right in a few days," said 
"ma." "It wasn't what I did; it was 
what I et. I'm such a fool that I can't 
let things that look good go by. And 
I went from house to house, munching 
away, cake here, candy there, choco- 



The Social SecretaQS 

late yonder, besides lunches and dinners 
and suppers. I et in and I et out. Now, 
I reckon I've got to settle the bill. 
Thank the Lord I don't have to do it 
standing up." 

Cyrus and I went away from her 
room together. "If she wasn't so good," 
said he, more to himself than to me, 
"I'd not be so so uncertain." 

"I feel that I'm to blame," said I 
bitterly. "It was I that gave her all 
those things to do." 

He was silent, and his silence fright 
ened me. I had felt that I was partly 
to blame. His silence made me feel 
that I was wholly to blame, and that 
he thought so. 

"If I could only undo it," I said, in 
what little voice I could muster. 

"If you only could," he muttered. 

I was utterly crushed. Every bit of 



The Social Secretaos 

my courage fled, and but what's the 
use of trying to describe it ? It was as 
if I had tried to murder her and had 
come to my senses and was realizing 
what I'd done. 

I suppose I must have shown what 
was in my mind, for, all of a sudden, 
with a sort of sob or groan, he put his 
arms round me such a strong yet such 
a gentle clasp! "Don't look like that, 
dear!" he pleaded. "Forgive me 
it was cowardly, what I said and not 
true. We're all to blame you the least. 
Haven't I seen, day after day, how you've 
done everything you could to spare her 
how you've worn yourself out?" 

He let me go as suddenly as he had 
seized me. 

"I'm not fit to be called a man!" he 
exclaimed. "Just because I loved you, 
and was always thinking of you, and 



The Social Secretacg 

watching you, and worrying about you, 
I neglected to think of mother. If I'd 
given her a single thought I'd have 
known long ago that she was ill." 

Just then Mrs. Burke's maid called 
me she was only a few yards away, 
and must have seen everything. I hur 
ried back to the room we had quitted 
a few minutes before. "You must cheer 
up those two big, foolish men, child," 
she said. "You all think I'm going to 
pass over, but I'm not. You won't get 
rid of me for many a year. And I rely 
on you to prevent them from going all 
to pieces." 

She paused and looked at me wist 
fully, as if she longed to say something 
but was afraid she had no right to. I 
said: "What is it ma?" 

Her face brightened. "Come, kiss 
me," she murmured. "Thank you for 
179 



The Social Secretae 

saying that. We're very different in lots 
of ways, being raised so different. But 
hearts have a way of finding each other, 
haven't they?" 

I nodded. 

"What I wanted to say was about 
Cyrus," she went on. "My Cyrus told 
me that he don't see how he could get 
along without you, no way, and I ad 
vised him to talk to you about it, be 
cause I knew it'd relieve his mind and 
because it'd set you to looking at him in 
a different way. Anyhow, it's always 
a good plan to ask for what you want. 
And he did and he told me you wouldn't 
hear to him. Don't think I'm trying to 
persuade you. All I meant to say is 
that" 

She stopped and smiled, a bright 
shadow of that old, broad, beaming smile 
of hers. 

180 



The Social SecretaG 

< *Fd do anything for you!" I ex 
claimed, on impulse. 

"I'm afraid that wouldn't suit Cyrus/' 
she drawled, good humoredly. "He'd 
be mad as the Old Scratch if he knew 
what I was up to now. Well do the 
best you can. But don't do anything 
unless it's for his sake. Only just look 
him over again. There's a lot to Cyrus 
besides his cowlick. And he's been so 
dead in love with you ever since he first 
saw you that he's been making a perfect 
fool of himself every time he looked at 
you or spoke to you. Sometimes, when 
I've seen the way he's acted up, like a 
farmhand waltzing in cowhides, I've felt 
like taking him over my knees and lay 
ing it on good and hard." 

I was laughing so that I couldn't 
answer the reaction from the fear that 
she might be very, very ill had made me 
181 



The Social Secreta^S 

hysterical. I could still see that she was 
sick, extremely sick, but I realized that 
our love for her had just put us into a 



" Do the best you can, dear/' she ended. 
"And everything all the entertaining 
here and the going out must be kept 
up just the same as if I was being 
dragged about down stairs j istead of lying 
up here resting." 

She insisted on this, and would not be 
content until she had my promise. " And 
don't forget to cheer pa and Cyrus up. 
I never was sick before not a day. 
That's why they take on so." 

I think I have been succeeding in 
cheering them up. And everything is 
going forward as before except, of 
course, that we've cut out every engage 
ment we possibly could. 

It's amazing how many friends "ma" 

182 






The Social Secreta^ 

Burke has made in such a short time. 
Ever since the news of her illness got 
out, the front door has been opening and 
shutting all day long. And those of the 
callers that I've seen have shown a real 
interest. This has made me have a bet 
ter opinion of human nature than I had 
thought I could have. I suppose half 
the seeming heartlessness in this world 
is suspicion and a sort of miserly dread 
lest one should give kindly feeling with 
out getting any of it in return. But 
"ma" Burke, who never bothers her 
head for an instant about whether peo 
ple like her, and gets all her pleasure 
out of liking them, makes friends by the j 
score. 

I'm in a queer state of mind about 
Cyrus. 

March 3. "Ma" Burke was brought 
down to the drawing-room for tea 



The Social Secreta^ 

to-day. She held a regular levee. Those 
that came early spread it round, and by 
six o'clock they were pouring in. She 
looked extremely well, and gloriously 
happy. All she had needed was com 
plete rest and sleep and less to eat. 
"After this/' she said, "I'm not going 
to eat more than four or five meals a 
day. At my age a woman can't stand 
the strain often and twelve my record 
was sixteen counting two teas as one 
meal." For an hour there was hilarious 
chattering in English, French, German, 
Italian, Russian, and mixtures of all five. 
I think the thing that most fascinates 
Mrs. Burke about Washington is the 
many languages spoken. She looks at 
me in an awed way when I trot out my 
three in quick succession. And she re 
gards the women as superhuman who 
speak so many languages so fluently that 
184 



The Social Secreta^S 

they drift from one to the other with 
out being quite sure what they're speak 
ing. There certainly were enough going 
on at once to-day, and a good many of 
the women smoked. 

But to return to Mrs. Burke. When 
only a few of those we know best were 
left this afternoon, and Nadeshda was 
smoking, Jessie, who is always so tact 
ful, said to Robert: "I'm glad to see 
that you don't object to Nadeshda's 
smoking." 

Mrs. Burke laughed. "Why should 
he?" said she. "Why, when we were 
children ma and pa used to sit on oppo 
site sides of the chimney, smoking their 
pipes. And ma dipped, too, when it wasn't 
convenient for her to have her pipe." 

"Do you smoke, Mrs. Burke?" asked 
Jessie, with wide, serious eyes. "I never 
saw you." 

185 



The Social Secreta^ 

"No, I don't," she confessed. "Tom 
used to hate the smell of it, so I never 
got into the habit." 

Nadeshda was tremendously amused 
by what Mrs. Burke had said about 
pipes. "I didn't know it was consid 
ered nice for a lady to smoke in Amer 
ica until recently," said she. "And 
pipes! How eccentric! Mama smokes 
cigars one after dinner, but I never 
heard of a lady smoking a pipe." 

"Ma wasn't a lady what you ' d call 
a lady," replied Mrs. Burke. "She was 
just a plain woman. She didn't smoke 
because she thought it was fashionable, 
but because she thought it was comfort 
able. As soon as we children got a little 
older we used to be terribly ashamed of 
it but she kept right on. And now it's 
come in style." 

"Not pipes" said Jessie. 

1 86 



The-Social Secreta^ 

"Not yet" said "ma," with a smile. 

When I thought they had all gone, 
and I was writing in my "office" for a 
few minutes before going up to dress, 
Nadeshda came in to me. "Ma" Burke 
used often to say that Nadeshda's eyes 
were "full of the Old Scratch," but cer 
tainly they were not at that moment. 
She was giving me a glimpse of that 
side which, as Browning, I think, says, 
even the meanest creature has and shows 
only to the person he or she loves. 
Not that Nadeshda loves me, but she 
has that side turned outermost nowa 
days whenever she hasn't the veil drawn 
completely over her real self. 

"My dear," she said in French, "what 
is it? Why these little smiles all after 
noon whenever you forgot where you 
were?" 

I couldn't help blushing. "I don't 



The Social Secreta^s 

quite know, myself/' I replied and it 
was so. 

"Oh, you cold, cold, cold Americans !"f 
then she paused and gave me one of 
her strange smiles, with her eyes elon 
gated and her lips just parted "I mean,j 
you American women." 

"Cold, because we don't set ourselves 
on fire?" I inquired. 

"But yes," she answered, "yourselves, 
and the men, too. Never mind. I shall 
not peep into your little secret." She 
laughed. "It always chills me to grope 
round in one of your cold American 
women's hearts." 

"I wish you could tell me what my 
secret is and that's the plain truth," 
said I. 

She laughed again, shrugged her 
shoulders, pinched my cheek, nodded 
her head until her big plumed hat was 
188 



The Social SecretaGS 

all in quiver and was shaking out vol 
umes of the strong, heavy perfume she 
uses. And without saying anything 
more she went away. 

March 4. Cyrus and I sat next each 
other at dinner at the Secretary of War's 
to-night. It has happened several times 
this winter, as the precedence is often 
very difficult to arrange at small din 
ners. Old Alex Bartlett took me in, and 
as he's stone deaf and a monstrous eater 
I was free. 

Cyrus had taken in a silent little girl 
who has just come out. She had ex 
hausted her little line of prearranged 
conversation before the fish was taken 
away. So Cyrus talked to me. 

"She's grateful for my letting her 

alone," said he when I tried to turn 

him back to his duty. "Besides, if I 

didn't meet you out once in a while 

189 



The Social SecretaG 

you'd forget me entirely. And I don't 
want that, if I can avoid it." 

"Thank you/' said I, for lack of any 
thing else to say, and with not the re 
motest intention of irritating him. But 
he flushed scarlet, and frowned. 

"You always and deliberately miscon 
strue everything I say," said he bitterly. 
"I know I'm unfortunate in trying to 
express myself to you, but why do you 
never attribute to me anything but the 
worst intentions?" 

"And why should you assume that 
every careless reply I make is a care 
fully thought out attack on you?" I re 
torted. "Don't you think your vanity 
makes you morbid?" 

"You know perfectly well that it 
isn't vanity that makes me think you 
especially dislike me," said he. 

"But I don't," I answered. "I con- 
190 



The Social Secretaos 

fess I did at first, but not since I've come 
to know you better." 

"Why did you dislike me at first ?" 
he asked. "You began on me with al 
most the first moment of our acquaint 



ance.' 3 



"That's true I did," I admitted. "I 
had a reason for it didn't Nadeshda tell 
you what it was?" 

He looked frightened. 

"Be frank, if you want me to be 
frank," said I. 

"I never for an instant believed what 
she said," he replied abjectly. Then 
after a warning look from me, he added 
"Really believed it, I mean." 

"And what was it that you didn't 
really believe?" I demanded. 

He looked at me boldly. "Nadeshda 
and one or two others told me that you 
and your friends had arranged it for me 
191 



The Social Secreta^ 

to marry you. But, of course, I knew it 
wasn't so." 

"But it was so," I replied. "You 
were one of the considerations that de 
termined my friends in trying to get 
me my .place." 

"Well and why didn't you take me 
when I finally fell into the trap?" 

I let him see I was laughing at him. 

He scowled his cowlick did look 
so funny that I longed to pull it. "Simply 
couldn't stand me not even for the 
sake of what I brought," he said. And 
then he gave me a straight, searching 
look. "I wonder why I don't hate you," 
he went on. "I wonder why I am such 
an ass as to care for you. Yes even if 
I knew you didn't care for me, still I'd 
want you. Can a man make a more de 
grading confession than that?" 

"But why?" said I, very careful not 
192 



The SocialSecretacs 

to let him see how eagerly I longed to 
hear him say the words again. "Why 
should you want me?" 

He gave a very unpleasant laugh. "If 
you think I'm going to sit here and ex 
hibit my feelings for your amusement 
you're going to be disappointed. It's 
none of your business why. Certainly 
not because I find anything sweet or 
amiable or even kind in you." 

"That's rude," said I. 

"It was intended to be," said he. 

"Please let's not quarrel now," said 
I coldly. "It gives me the headache 
to quarrel during dinner." 

And he answered between his set 
teeth, "To quarrel with you anywhere 
gives me the heartache, Gus." 

I had no answer for that, nor should 
I have had the voice to utter it if I 
had had it. And then Mr. Bartlett be- 



The Social SecretaG 

gan prosing to me about the Greeley- 
Grant campaign. And when the men 
came to join the women after dinner 
Cyrus went away almost immediately. 

I am so happy to-night. 

March 5. Cyrus came to me in my 
office to-day as I had expected. But 
instead of looking woebegone and abject, 
he was radiant. He shut the door be 
hind him. " Tou guilty of cowardice/' 
he began. "It isn't strange that I never 
suspected it." 

"What do you mean?" I asked, not 
putting down my pen. 

He came over and took it out of my 
fingers, then he took my fingers and 
kissed them, one by one. I was so 
astounded and something else that I 
made not the slightest resistance. "It's 
useless for you to cry out," he said, "for 
I've got the outer door well guarded." 
194 



The Social SecretaGS 

I started up aflame with indignation. 
"Who whom " I began. 

"Ma," he replied. 

"Oh!" I exclaimed, looking round 
with a wild idea of making a dart for 
liberty. 

" Ma," he repeated, "and it's not of the 
slightest use for you to try to side-step. 
You're cornered." He had both my 
hands now ~nd was looking at me at 
arm's length. "So you are afraid to 
marry me for fear people your friends 
will say that I walked right into 
the trap?" 

I hung my head and couldn't keep 
from trembling, I was so ashamed. 

"And if it wasn't for that you'd ac 
cept my 'proposition' now wouldn't 
you?" ' 

"I would not," I replied, wrenching 
myself away with an effort that put my 

195 



The Social Secretac 

hair topsy-turvy it always does try to 
come down if I make a sudden move 
ment, and I washed it only yesterday. 

"What gorgeous hair you have!" he 
said. "Sometimes I've caught a glimpse 
of it just as I was entering a room 
and I've had to retreat and compose 
myself to make a fresh try." 

"You've been talking to your moth 
er!" I exclaimed I'd been casting about 
for an explanation of all this sudden 
shrewdness of his in ways feminine. 

"I have," said he. "It's as important 
to her as to me that you don't escape." 

"And she told you that I was in love 
with you!" I tried to put a little not 
too much scorn into the "you." 

"She did," he answered. "Do you 
deny that it's true?" 

" I have told you I would never accept 
your * proposition,' " was my answer. 
196 



The Social Secret aes 

"So you did," said he. "Then you 
mean that you're going to sacrifice my 
mother's happiness and mine, simply 
because you're afraid of being accused 
of mercenary motives?" 

"I shall never accept your * proposi 
tion,'" I repeated, with a faint smile 
that was a plain hint. 

He came very close to me and looked 
down into my face. "What do you 
mean by that?" he demanded. And 
then he must have remembered what his 
proposition was a strictly business ar 
rangement on both sides. For, with a 
sort of gasp of relief, he took me in his 
arms. I do love the combination of 
strength and tenderness in a man. He 
had looked and talked and been so 
strong up to that instant. Then he was 
so tender I could hardly keep back the 
tears. 

197 



The^Social Secret aos 

"Wouldn't you like me to tell moth 
er?" he asked. "She's just in the next 
room and " 

I nodded and said, "I never should 
have caught you if it hadn't been for 
her." 

"Nor I you," said he. And he put 
me in a chair and opened the door. I 
somehow couldn't look up, though I 
knew she was there. 

"I don't know whether to laugh or 
cry," said "ma" Burke. "So I guess 
I'll just do both." And then she seated 
herself and was as good as her word. 




STORED AT MR'J 

THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ 

This book is due on the last DATE stamped below. 



I till* 1 



50m-l,'69(J5643s8)2373 3A.1 



- 



: 



3 2106 00213 7187