“I was sitting just back of Willie Raines and I heard what he was saying about some woman, whom he and Peter Scudder had met on the boat over, not keeping her appointment with them. Peter is of the Philadelphia elect and nobody knows why he consorts with the gay Willie. I saw them come off the boat together this morning and I knew that the whole Scudder Meeting House would be in a glum over their being together. Would you mind telling me just why you soused your tea into his face? It would make a corking story for my morning edition. Did you know them or did you know the lady or did you do it to be launcelotting?”
“I think it must have been for the third of those reasons, Madam, but I am not sure that I know the word you use,” I answered with much caution.
“Launcelot, you know, the boy that was always fussing around over injured women, in Tennyson or somewhere, just for a love of ’em that was always perfectly proper. Nice of him but not progressive. Say, do you mind sitting down in a quiet corner of the tea room and telling me all about it? Are you French or Russian or Brazilian, and do you believe in women, or is it just because you like ’em that you threw the tea? I’ve got a suffrage article to do and I believe you’d make a good headline, with your militant tea throwing. Want to tell me all about it?”
“I have just one hour before going to the State of Harpeth, many miles from here, Madam,” I made answer with a great politeness. “I thank you but I must make my regrets.”
“Oh, I can find out all I want to know about you in five minutes. Just come sit down with me and be a good boy. Do you want to give me your name? I wish you really were somebody that had given Willie that tea fight.” And while making protestations and remonstrances I was led again into that tea room and seated at a great distance from the table which had been occupied by that Mr. William Raines and Mr. Peter Scudder, who had now departed. “If you really were some big gun it would kill Willie dead.”
“Then, Madam, permit me to present myself to you as Robert Carruthers, Marquis de Grez and Bye, from Paris on my way to visit my Uncle, General Robert Carruthers, of the State of Harpeth. I would very willingly by information or a sword kill that Mr. William Raines of Saint Louis and I regret that—that—” At the beginning of my sentence I had drawn myself up into the attitude of the old Marquis of Flanders in the hall of the ruined Chateau de Grez, but when I had got to the point—of, shall I say, my own sword?—I was forced to collapse and I could feel my knees under the tea table begin to shake together and huddle for their accustomed and now missing skirts.