An English novelist of my acquaintance visiting Chicago received a representative of a great daily newspaper who desired to interview him. The interviewer was a typical American reporter, blue-eyed, high cheekboned, keen, nervous, finely strung, courteous, intensely alive, desirous to get to the heart of my friend’s mystery, and charmingly responsive to his frank welcome. They talked. My friend, to give the young man his story, discoursed on Chicago’s amazingly solved problem of the conglomeration of all the races under Heaven. To point his remarks and mark his contrasts he used the words “we English” and “you Americans.” After a time the young man smiled and said: “But am not an American—at least I’m an American citizen, but I’m not a born American.”
“But,” cried my friend, “you’re the essence of America.”
“No,” said the young man, “I’m an Icelander.”
Thus it was natural for Liosha’s father to find an Albanian wife in Chicago. She too was superficially Americanised. When they returned to Albania with their purely American daughter, they at first found it difficult to appear superficial Albanians. Liosha had to learn Albanian as a foreign language, her parents and herself always speaking English among themselves. But the call of the blood rang strong in the veins of the elders. Robbery and assassination on the heroic scale held for the man an irresistible attraction, and he acquired great skill at the business; and the woman, who seems to have been of a lymphatic temperament, sank without murmuring into the domestic subjection into which she had been born. It was only Liosha who rebelled. Hence her complicated attitude towards life, and hence her entertaining talk at the dinner table.
I enjoyed myself. So, I think, did everybody.
When the ladies rose,
Jaffery, who was nearest the door, opened it for them to pass out,
Barbara, the last, lingered for a second or two and laid her hand on
Jaffery’s arm and looked up at him out of her teasing blue eyes.
“My dear Jaff,” she said, “what kind of a dinner do you eat when you are hungry?”
Barbara having freed Jaffery from immediate anxieties with regard to Liosha, easily persuaded him to pay a longer visit than he had proposed. A telephonic conversation with a first distracted, then conscience-smitten and then much relieved Euphemia had for effect the payment of bills at the Savoy and the retreat of the gentle lady to Tunbridge Wells. Liosha remained with us, pending certain negotiations darkly carried on by my wife and Doria in concert. During this time I had some opportunity of observing her from a more philosophic standpoint and my judgment was—I will not say formed—but aided by Barbara’s confidential revelations. When not directly thwarted, she seemed to be good-natured. She took to Susan—a good sign; and Susan took to her—a better.