The Marquis Goes Donkey-Riding

I

MY great-grandmother was by no means an accomplished French scholar. Was yours? And even in English, my great-grandmother’s spelling was far from faultless. In those well-thumbed receipt-books of hers, written by her own hand, and still beautifully legible, you will note that she sometimes doubles the t in butter, and sometimes not; she generally gives an h to sugar, and seldom allows an egg more than one g to stand on. But the far-flung fame of her cooking did not suffer in consequence. And had her prowess in languages and in orthography been equal to her skill in the household arts of her day (spinning, weaving, brewing and the like), my cousin Felix might never have known the joyous adventures of a collector of Lafayette silver. For, frankly, it was my great-grandmother, who, owing to a slip in her French, first sent the marquis on his donkey-riding. Lafayette in Egypt! Cousin Felix never rested until he got to the bottom of the matter.

Felix Bradford, you must know, is one of the great color-manufact urers of the age. Tube-colors, of course. There’s more in the business, and perhaps less in the tubes, than one would expect. But Felix is a thoroughly good sport; and twenty years ago, finding that he was making a comfortable income from the art of painting (other men’s painting), he decided to become a collector of something besides money. Colonial silver, for example; and he hoped to include among his treasures the lost Lafayette porringer, from which, as a child, he had often been spiritually fed.

He had never seen that porringer, though our grandmother Bradford had frequently described its glories, and had told us just how, at the age of eight, she had lost the better part of it forever. It had been ordered in Paris, by her seafaring father, a petty officer under Paul Jones. Very likely the museums would not call it a porringer, for it was larger and finer than most vessels in that class; besides, it had a cover. Grandmother Bradford, sinful little child though she once was, had not lost the cover. Felix, as a boy, had often seen it and even handled it, delightedly running his fingers over its fluted silver dome, topped by a flaming torch wrought in silver, with touches of gold inlaid among t he flames. He had an exquisite joy in caressing that silver-gilt finial. Sometimes, to vary his beautiful imaginary pain in being burned by it, he would wet a thumb and forefinger before touching it, though he knew Grandmother Bradford did not approve the gesture. Evidently Cousin Felix was early marked for some important contact with the fine arts.

Felix was a little boy of six when that great American awakening, the Philadelphia Centennial, showed the world, as by a lightning-flash, just how backward we were in matters of art. It was annoying, but it had to be admitted, that all those peoples across the water (who, we strongly suspected, did not keep the Ten Commandments nearly so well as we did) were our superiors in the creation of beauty.

From that time onward, Felix felt the influence of our shamed national gropings in art, and groped with the best. I say nothing for his early pencil copy of a work called Pharaoh’s Horses, a copy finally completed after prodigious efforts on the part, of an anaroic Saturday-morning drawing-teacher to keep him at the job for many weeks. Nor can I endorse the lady’s method, the first important step of which was completely to cover a steel engraving of Pharaoh’s Horses with tissue paper, a small square portion of this being torn off at the beginning of each session, to disclose the exact amount of horseflesh that must be completed within the two hours. Somehow, the square inch that Felix happened to be producing at any given moment never seemed in itself to be far wrong; yet the more inches he completed, the less right his copy looked. This vaguely troubled both teacher and pupil, but neither of them knew what to do about it, except to press on. Houdon’s celebrated maxim, ‘Copiez, copiez, copiez ton jours,' has never, I. hope, had a more literal and ruthless application. For years thereafter, Felix could not look upon a 4-H pencil without active loathing.

But even Pharaoh’s Horses, for all their fiery eyes and swelling neck-veins, could not cpiite trample the life out, of Felix’s love of the beautiful. On rainy holidays, with a plate of ginger cookies at hand, hestill liked to peer inside grandmother’s corner cabinet , where she kept the ‘bug china,’ the mandarin teacups, the thin silver teaspoons, the curiously elaborate sugar-tongs, and the sugarbowl with a castle on it. If there were no other boys about, he would gladly listen to the old lady’s story of the Lafayette porringer, with its engraving of the marquis on donkey-back. Lafayette in Egypt! It was a tale to invite dreams.

Grandma Bradford had two quite different ways of talking. When she spoke of modern things, or read a paper at the Ladies’ Circle, she used her modern manner; but when she talked of oldtime things, she generally dropped into a style to correspond.

‘There I set on the front porch,’ she would say, ‘eatin’ my cold porridge out of the porringer. I was the only girl, and they alius called it I was some indulged. But I guess folks would n’t call it that nowadays! T was a hot evenin’, and Aunt Carline heel company, and they wanted to talk by theirselves, so she let me set out on the porch with my supper. And when I got it et, I put the porringer up onto the porch jest as careful as I could, and begun playin’ with Rover. He was a real young dog, Rover was; a puppy, you might say, but a big dog, too. I dunno how ’t is, but dogs don’t seem to come as big now as they did then! And fust thing I knew, he lep’ up onto the porch, and got that porringer into his maouth, and rushed off downhill, me racin’ after him. And that was the last our family ever saw of it. And Rover never stopped till he got to the brook; it was roarin’ tumble, the brook was, ’cos it had be’n a rainy summer; and the more I called, the more he did n’t hear, but kep’ a-runnin’. And he run and he run, all along the brookside, till he got to the path that led square up to the Ellicksenders’ house, and there he turned up sharp — ’

Grandma paused for breath, and let Felix take up the familiar tale.

‘And the Ellicksenders’ house,’ recited Felix, with gusto, ‘was no better than a den of thieves.’

‘Yes, and jest then I heard Aunt Carline callin’, and back I flew to the haouse. And when she said, “Why, Lydia Fairlee, where is the rest of the porringer?” oh, my, wa’n’t I scairt? I hope it will be a lesson to you, Felix, the way I was too scairt to tell the hull truth. I was scairt o’ bein’ punished, so I told a part-truth, which is a near-lie, same as some boys I know of.’

Felix reddened, and deemed it wise to advance the story as hurriedly as possible. ‘You told her you put it up onto the porch, careful as anything — ’

‘ Yes, but I did n’t class tell her Rover hed snatched the porringer, and was carryin’ it straight as a streak o’ lightnin’ to the Ellicksender boys. No, sir, as long as I was in my right mind, I never owned up a syllable of it to anybody!’ A note of sinful triumph rang in the old lady’s voice. ‘ ’ T wa’n’t till two years later it all came out. I hed scarlet fever, and was clretful deleerious, and raved a lot about Rover and the porringer and the Ellicksender haouse; so Aunt Carline knew at last jest what had happened. That sickness spared me the rod, I guess!’ Grandma chuckled at the thought of this immunity, but at once recollected herself. ‘No, Felix, ’t ain’t any use. Be sure your sin will find you out.’

Again Felix squirmed away from any impending moral, mentally making a note to the effect that he must study ways to avoid scarlet fever, if not actual sin.

‘ But of course, ’t was too late then to accuse the Ellieksenders. And one o’ them, the wust one, hed died in jail, anyhow; so you see, Felix, if he did take that porringer, his sin found him out, too. The youngest boy turned out real good, it seems. Grew up to be a minister, real celebrated, too. Some younger ’n me, he was.’

But the career of the boy who ‘turned out real good ’ had no vital interest for Felix. His thoughts wandered toward the ‘wust one,’ the one who died in jail. Not that he himself wanted to die in jail; far from it. But he certainly did not want to grow up to be a minister, either; and he hoped in his secret heart that there might be some middle course. A most, determined little fellow was Felix. That day, while listening to one half of the porringer story, and repeating the other, he made up his mind that, when he should reach man’s estate, he would get to the bottom of this Lafayette business.

Very delicately he twirled the silver cover over his palm, as if it were a kind of sacred top too fine for human nature’s daily play. He flicked it lightly, connoisseur-fashion, with his handkerchief. For a second, he was almost sorry that the handkerchief, from its nature and uses, had to be so grimy. Then he heaved a sigh for beauty vanished. I have often thought that, if Cousin Felix had gone into poetry instead of paint, he would have made good in that, too.

‘Too bad there’s no bottom when there’s such a beautiful top! Say, Grammer, show us the drawing you made when you were little.’

Nothing loath, Grammer unlocked one of the small drawers of her cabinet, and took from it a packet of ancient letters. In the heart of the packet was a square of brownish paper, on which was traced a circle about six inches in diameter, with two project ing lace-like ears. One might call it a plan view of the bowl of the porringer. Little Lydia Fairlee had drawn it by the simple expedient of laying the object upside down on the paper, and penciling around the outline. Evidently the pierced handles had attracted the child, for these had been drawn with great care. In the space beneath, she had done her own hand, by the same process. Many a time Felix had fitted his own five fingers over that symbol. Once his hand had been a rather good fit, but of late, it had been growing steadily beyond bounds.

‘Yes, sir,’ Madam Bradford was saying, ‘that’s the drawin’, and I can assure you I was well cuffed by Aunt Carline for usin’ up her paper. Those days, folks did n’t throw paper araound the way they do to-day. I suppose, ef I’d be’n a child these times, I’d ’a’ had Sattidy drawin’-lessons, and I hope I I could ’a’ profited by ’em. But nobody ever gave me a chance at Pharaoh’s hosses.’

Felix grinned, guiltily.

‘Anyways, your great-grandfather saved up that drawin’ pretty car’ful! We found it among his papers. And when I’m through, I shall leave it to you, along with the silver cover. You ’re the one that loves lovely things.’

Felix was too well used to that reference, ‘when I’m through,’to feel it very deeply, other than as a part of the porringer story. But he was an affectionate child, and there being no spectators, he gave his grandmother the kiss she wanted. Then he fitted the cover over the drawing, as he had often done before.

‘And there was a picture of Lafayette on the side of the bottom part?’

Madam Bradford suddenly switched to her most modern style of speech. She often took a sly pleasure in disconcerting her hearers by making these lightning changes.

‘An engraving is the correct term, I believe.’ There was a world of prunes and prisms in her tone. ‘An engraving upon silver, executed in Paris. And underneath it was engraved, all in the French language, “ Lafayette in Egypt.” Your great-grandmother, who was quite a French scholar for those days, used to translate it for me. Very Frenchy writing it was, too; very Frenchy and flourishy. And in the picture, I mean the engraving, there was Lafayette on donkey-back, plain as anything, all wrapped up in a big cloak, and right alongside was a man, his body servant, I expect, urging the donkey on. I can see it in my mind to this day. If I was a drawer, I could draw it for you.’

Felix sighed again, a sigh of yearning and disillusion. Somehow donkey-riding, even in Egypt, and with a body servant, seemed to him rather tame work for Lafayette. He himself would have preferred for his hero something in more heroic vein. He knew from a picture in his geography that, donkeys went with the Pyramids and the mouths of the Nile. Of course, donkeyriding is well enough, in an everyday sort of way; but was Lafayette an everyday sort of man? In his heart Felix felt it a pity that the marquis had n’t had a ‘ go ’ at Pharaoh’s horses, or their descendants. Once, in church, the minister had read out in a great voice something about, a Bible horse, whose neck was ‘clothed in thunder.’ That Bible horse, Felix reasoned, would have been just the mount for Lafayette! For a moment, the little boy’s mind even harbored a doubt, as to his great-grandmother’s French scholarship.

‘Grammer, are you sure it was a donkey? Do you remember the ears?’

Madam Bradford replied with a majesty that withered all doubt. ‘I do. If I was a drawer, I could draw those ears for you. Lafayette in Egypt.’

II

To-day, Cousin Felix himself hardly knows at what age he began to fit various facts together, with an accuracy damaging to the Lafayette myth. If, as family tradition had it, the porringer had been ordered in Paris by our seafaring ancestor, in t he year 1779, was it really likely that, at that date, Lafayette’s exploits, either warlike or otherwise, either in Egypt or elsewhere, were already so noised abroad as to be stock subjects for the silversmith’s skill? Absurd! ‘Any Sophomore would know better,’ reasoned the youth Felix; ‘even a Harvard man.’ But by the time Felix had taken his degree at Yale, and was beginning at the bottom round of the paint business, his interest in the vanished porringer had become dormant; for many years thereafter, his business career, his new home and growing family occupied his mind, to the exclusion of childish trifles.

Nevertheless, at the destined hour, his collector’s passion overtook him, and was thenceforth to remain with him. He began to haunt auction-rooms, private collections, museums. Pictures, books, furniture — he loved them all; but Colonial silver was his chief desire. He read much, studied much, and even wrote a little, now and then, upon this subject paramount. And, though he scarcely owned it , even to himself, the missing part of the Fairlee porringer was the central object of his quest. As the years rushed on with gathering speed, the by-products of this pursuit became very considerable: His collection vied with that of Lockwood or of Halsey or of Clearwater. Silver tankards and platters were his; also silver braziers and caudle-cups and chocolatepots, silver ladles and buckles and patchboxes. But porringers were really his long suit, he said. Of these, he possessed enough to lend a score to various museums, and yet to keep in his own cabinet a more than sufficient number (all of the middle period) to serve as soup-bowls for his famous dinners of twelve.

Naturally, his delight in what he had merely whetted his longing for what he had not. Whenever his birthdays impended, as they continued to do with annoying annual precision, his wife and the elder children (especially young Felicia) would once more set out hunting for ‘the Lafayette bottom’; and failing always in their search, would, in despair, purchase some costly and inadequate substitute for the thing they sought. Indeed, ‘Father’s feeling for antique silver, you know!' had made him no niggard with modern gold, and his offspring, even in their early youth, had their many-leaved, rigorously inspected check-books. Nor could I ever see that they were in any way the worse for this indulgence.

Felix smiled happily enough when, on the morning of his fifty-first birthday, young Felicia bounded into his study, and plumped down upon his table an ill-favored bulbous tankard of somewhat baroque design — a piece which she jubilantly declared was ‘a genuine John Cony,’ but which was really, as our wise expert whispered to himself in the midst of his outspoken praise and thanksgiving, ‘no more a Cony than I am a king.'

‘No use, Dad,’ said young Felicia, shaking a wise blonde head, in her funny little perpetual morning-glory way. ‘ Mother and I have given up the Lafayette bottom for keeps. We’ve searched high and low for the old thing, from Salem, Massachusetts, to Baltimore, Maryland, and so have you. Nothing doing. I don’t believe there ever was a Lafayette bottom, anyway! ’ This last with the air of uttering a superb and daring heresy, possibly epoch-making in the annals of silvercollecting in America.

‘As for that,’ replied Felix, whose self-imposed role it was never to turn a hair at the opinions of youth, ‘I have n’t. believed it myself, this long time.’

Felicia started indignantly. ‘Why, payrent, pay rent! What do you mean by such — recalcitrating? I thought you staked your life on that Lafayette business! ’

‘I’m afraid you have n’t been keeping up with the times,’ retorted the parent. ‘For the past ten years, at least, I’ve discounted the tale. I’ve been putting two and two together, and I really don’t see the sense in trying to make a baker’s dozen out of it, do you ? ’

‘Oh, well, if you’re bringing it down to cold mathematics, Father, I rather think you’re going to miss some of the joys of your job!’

‘On the contrary, my dear Flickey, the joys will be all the keener.'

‘Well, I wish you’d explain your change of base.’

‘ I have n’t made any change of base. And have n’t I told you a hundred times that the true collector should never venture out of doors without being armored in doubt? Why, from the time of dear Grammer Bradford’s maunderings about Lafayette in Egypt, when I was a little boy in a wine-colored plaid shirt, I had my misgivings about the tale. It’s the doubt that makes the chase interesting. Of course, all us Bradfords know that our Fairlee ancestor was with Paul Jones on the ship Ranger in the harbor of Quiheron, in 1779, when that ship received the first national salute ever given to the American flag in Europe.’

Flickey stifled a yawn behind her preposterous dinner ring.

‘So far, so good. Next, we have reason to believe that our seafaring grandsire got up to Paris that same year, and there ordered the Fairlee porringer, the cover of which I now possess, the bowl being mysteriously dog-lost.’

‘Yes, dog-gone lost, forever and a day.’

Felix fingered the scrolled thumbpiece of the supposed John Cony. ‘ But did n’t you ever stop to think, my dear, just what Lafayette was up to, those days? He was only twenty when he came over to us, in 1777. Is it at all likely that he’d ever been in Egypt before that time? Not enough to notice, I ’ll be bound! No, I can’t think he was celebrated enough in 1779 to warrant having his exploits, real or imaginary, engraved on the side of a porringer, to make a household word of himself.’

‘Another illusion overboard,’ cried Felicia, hopefully, as if pleased with a parent’s progress. But she departed, thoughtful.

‘Do you know,’ she announced to her mother, afterward, ‘Dad does n’t really swallow that Lafayette stuff, any more than you and I do?’

‘Of course not, dearie!”

‘Well, of all the gay parental deceivers, you two are the limit! You’ll be saving there’s no Santa Claus next!’

Flickey flounced off in a dudgeon not wholly pretended. She was thoughtful, too. As her parents’ interest in the quest waned, her own waxed stronger.

‘The old dears got a rise out of me, all right,’ she confided to Jimmy Alexander, a Princeton boy who had succeeded in wresting forever from Yale Felicia’s sworn allegiance, originally granted to Harvard, and for a brief hour wavering between Amherst and Columbia.

‘So much depends upon where you spend your summers,’ Felicia had once ingenuously remarked; and, not without some anxiety, her parents had made a similar observation. However, it was with a certain feeling of relief that Felix and his wife had compared notes upon the subject of Jimmy Alexander. Weighed in the balance with every other collegian in Flickey’s career, the young man triumphed conspicuously. Incidentally, he had an interest in old silver, an interest which even the skeptical Felix believed was genuine.

The fount and origin of that interest would have been clear to our cousin the collector, could he have overheard Flickey and Jimmy in the arbor, after a game of tennis.

‘I’ll beat you to it,’ Flickey was saying. ‘You find me that Lafayette bottom, and your fortune’s made with Father. He tells us now, after all these years, that he does n’t believe there is such a thing. But all the same there’s a look of holy faith shining behind those shell rims of his. Say, Jimmy, did you ever notice how blue Father’s eyes are? They’re the eyes of a believer, every time! ’

Jimmy was too much engrossed with Felicia’s eyes to spare a thought for Felix’s. But the girl’s suggestion about the Lafayette bottom caught his fancy. An up-and-coming lawyer, such as he intended eventually to be, ought to be able to hunt down a silver bowl; or rather, what is more to the point with lawyers, to get someone else to do it.

‘My aunt. Amanda at Lost River,’ he mused aloud, ‘has quite a little collection of such trifles, and I’m sure she’d be glad to advise —’

‘Your aunt Amanda, at Lost River!’ hooted Felicia, the morning-glory willingly assuming the role of owl. ‘O Jimmy, you innocent, don’t you suppose Father has been up hill and down dale, from Lost River to Newfoundland Bay, looking for that bowl? Don’t you know that half the dealers in New York are out with bloodhounds seeking stuff for Father’s cabinets to devour? Your aunt Amanda indeed! And Lost River! Huh!’

Jimmy was nettled, but not defeated. ‘All the same,’ he retorted stubbornly, ‘my aunt Amanda is just as good as anybody’s else, and in fact a lot. better than most; and there’s as good fish in Lost River as you can buy in all New York. And furthermore, if you don’t mind my mentioning it, my aunt Amanda is an authority on Early American silver. You probably are not aware of the fact that it was she who wrote the famous Blakeney monograph! Amanda Alexander Blakeney is her name.’

Flickey was taken aback for a fraction of a second. ‘A. A. Blakeney? Why, we were brought up on her! I thought it was a him, I did, really! Dad swears by his Blakeney.’

‘Then why should n’t we Dodge up to Lost. River,’ urged Jimmy, appeased, ‘ and see Auntie about it ? ’

Felicia’s eyes shone, but her words were circumspect. ‘Of course, we could Dodge it in your car, or Ford it in mine; but had n’t we better get Father and Mother to take us up in the family ark, with Priscilla and the children — ?’

‘Not on your blooming passport! Where do I come in, with a deal like that? If anything results, does little Jimmy draw the prestige? No, no; I want to perform the quest by myself — with you, of course. Can’t ask anyone else, my runabout won’t stand for it. After all, I’m furnishing an aunt; and I think I ought to have something to say.’

‘I’ll see how Mother feels about it,’ vouchsafed Flickey. She added to herself, ‘I’ll wear my pink-and-white stripe, with the rose blazer. But perhaps not the earrings — you never can tell about earrings.’

III

Late one July afternoon, Amanda Alexander Blakeney had ensconced herself, with Queen Victoria, in a shady corner of the terrace, and was looking forward to an hour of tranquil enjoyment with Lehzen’s caraway seeds, and Lord M. To her vexation, the very first paragraph was punctuated for her by footsteps on the brick walk; and, peering through the pine boughs, she spied a gay young pair who had evidently just descended from a car, left in quite the wrong place in her courtyard.

‘I hope,’ she said to herself, ‘it is n’t another brazen couple come to ask if this is a “gift-shop-’n’-tea-house,” and can they have something wet. Well, they’ll hear from me, and —’

A brisk voice broke in, man-fashion.

‘Hello, hello, Aunt Mandy! Anything wet for the weary prodigal nevvy ? ’

‘Well, of all tilings,’ replied the great museum authority on silver, beaming with pleasure upon her favorite Alexander nephew. Lord M. was readily enough forgotten in the vivid presence of the young people, and the subject of silver readily enough approached with the arrival of a tea-tray laden with various products, reflecting credit alike upon the collector and her cook. Mrs. Blakeney was a childless widow, distinctly pretty, with a young face framed by abundant white hair. In her fresh lilac gown with its touches of old lace, and in her daintily buckled slippers, of a Victorian slenderness, she was, as Felicia afterward declared, ‘a regular storybook fairy-godmother person.’ Old silver was her love, her life, her knowledge. Everybody’s silver was of interest to her; she was always ready to talk, or even to hear others talk, concerning caudle-cups or apostle spoons, or saltcellars, or tankards.

She gave a delicately amused attention to Flickey’s chatter of her father’s quest for the Lafayette bottom. The young girl naturally felt that her hostess’s interest was due, in part, to her own pleasing vivacity in telling the story of the child Lydia, the Fairlce porringer, Rover, and the evil Ellicksenders. At the mention of that name, Ellicksender, Mrs. Blakeney started, and even changed color; one would have said that a feeling of indignant protest surged over her when the ‘ den of thieves’ was blithely insisted upon by young Felicia; but the lady did not interrupt.

‘And the fun of it is,’ Felicia continued, stimulated by the fact that Jimmy was admiring her within an inch of his life, while even Mrs. Blakeney was spellbound, ‘ the fun of it is, Father still has the drawing his grandma Bradford made when she was a little girl. You know she made a drawing of the Lafayette bowl just by laying it down on paper and tracing around it, as young things do!’

One would have supposed that the speaker was a thousand years removed from such simplicities.

‘But that is n’t all,’ added Flickey, taking from her beaded bag a folded paper, and passing it to Mrs. Blakeney. ‘ What must Father do but go ahead and have half a dozen copies made of that old drawing, perfect in every detail; and he has given one to each of us children, Mother included, so that, wherever we are, we can always be prepared to find a porringer bottom that will fit exactly, if there is such a thing. Regular Bradford-family-identification tag, I call it. Of course Father has t he top; but. We’ve never had any luck in finding the bottom, though Mother and I have hunted and delved and dug. Sometimes the circle would be right, or almost right, but the handles — oh, dear! INe’ve looked at gorms of handles, all of them terribly wrong.’

She paused a moment to wonder whether she had been talking too much; she did not wish to appear the raw young feminine ignoramus in the eyes of a person so delightful as Aunt Amanda, who, as Felicia now saw, was studying that drawing, and with a kind of passionate earnestness, too. The expert’s face was itself a study: doubt, amazement, recognition were to be seen struggling there. The polite interest had become acute.

Flickey, jubilantly aware that as usual she was making a success of her conversation, was inspired to further efforts. In imitation of her father’s most discriminating manner, site continued, ‘Of course, from the collector’s point of view, we don’t attach any undue importance to the Lafayette myth, and — ’

‘Neither do I,’ observed Mrs. Blakeney, with unexpected decisiveness. ‘ If you’d both care to come and look at some of my things, perhaps you’ll see why not.’

The girl and boy followed the lady into her gray-paneled drawing-room, fresh and delicately fragrant with the spice of July pinks nodding from crystal vases. It seemed to Felicia that she had never before entered a room that was at once so simple and so sophisticated, so withdrawn from the world, yet so inviting to a guest. Mrs. Blakeney, no less than Felicia, carried a beaded handbag; but Mrs. Blakeney’s, Felicia subsequently reported to an attentive father, made her own look like thirty cents.

Mrs. Blakeney’s bag held a key, with which she opened a highboy, gleaming discreetly from a nook just beyond the fireplace. Its shelves were laden with treasure; and Flickey, although long inured to the surprises that a collector can spring upon his family, exclaimed with joy before those marshaled riches. For Felicia, like her father before her, was fated to pursue beauty; even her girlish mistakes — her collection of athletic collegians, for example, her amethystine earrings, her overwrought, overworking dinner ring in all its preposterousness— resulted from her thirst after loveliness rather than from her vanity. Jimmy himself was to her largely one last pure product of the beautiful.

In Mrs. Blakeney’s drawing-room, before the highboy and its spoils, her eyes filled with tears of thankfulness for beauty. She felt that the ranks of silver vessels beaming and gleaming upon her had in some mysterious way gathered into themselves, and greatly multiplied all over their surfaces, all possible beauty from all known worlds, only to reflect it back upon those who were fortunate enough to be near. Not only the faded rose of the hangings and the dim gray of the paneling and the dusky orange outline of the spinet were reflected winkingly from those silver shapes: it seemed to her that the very fragrance of the pinks and the breath of summer itself were wafted to her by silver voices. Flickey sometimes passed for flippant; but this was not her flippant day. Indeed, she was startled out. of a mood that was partly pleasure and partly prayer by Aunt Amanda’s matter-of-fact remark, —

‘My French stuff, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I keep it locked because, — oh, well, there are just a few trifles, — Jimmy, reach me down that, top piece, will you, please? The one at the right, of the alms-basin.’

With a certain grave excitement, Mrs. Blakeney had already placed Felicia’s drawing upon a little table; she smoothed out the folds of the paper, especially those that crossed the lacelike handles. Then, with but a casual glance at the delicately wrought bowl that Jimmy put into her hands, she set it, with dramatic exactness, over the outline traced by the child Lydia.

Each one of the trio felt, for a moment the touch of a bygone day. There could be no doubt whatever that, the lost piece of silver was found. Unless, indeed, as the young lawyer’s mind profanely suggested, those old boys made such things by the gross, like the green spectacles that Moses bought! But the surmise was too grotesque for utterance. Even with his slender knowledge of the silversmith’s art, he could discern that, the Fairlee porringer was no machine-made product. It had been created by many touches, but by few hands; perhaps by only one pair of hands, and that a master’s.

Felicia’s eyes (not wholly untrained, however subject to occasional error) rested admiringly, even reverently, on a master craftsman’s work. She turned toward Mrs. Blakeney.

' I feel just as if you had taken down a receiver, and asked me to listen into it, and that I heard a voice say, oh, ever so long distance: “This is little Lydia speaking.” ’

Jimmy, too, was thoughtful. ‘But where does Lafayette come in, I wonder? Lafayette in Egypt?’

Aunt Amanda smiled, picked up the bowl, and pointed out, just below the rim, a tiny engraving of a long-eared beast, bearing a cloaked figure, while another personage trudged at the side. Palm trees and a pyramid completed the scene. How strange that anyone, most of all a God-fearing Fairlec, could ever have failed to recognize the Bible story of Mary and Joseph, fleeing with the Child! Many curves and scrolls enclosed this specimen of the graver’s art, and among these could be discerned, in the fiourishy French writing of which Grandma Bradford had often spoken,

LA FUITE EN EGYPTE.

For a collector, Mrs. Blakeney was certainly sportsmanlike, yes, magnanimous. We called it broad-minded when she gave to Jimmy Alexander’s bride, as a wedding-gift, her ‘Flight into Egypt’ piece; an object so tenderly cherished by her that she had never even made mention of it in any of her monographs, but had kept it unspotted from the world, in her own collection. She had always, and with reason, considered it an Alexander heirloom, to which she was justly entitled, through the bequest of her grand-uncle, Judge Alexander. She knew, however, that the Alexanders, like most of us, had had ups and downs; she knew that one branch of the family had been prolific in good-for-nothings, some of whom had fallen so low as to misspell the family name for a whole generation, writing it Ellicksender, when they wrote it at all. Though she doubted the justice of calling the humble Ellicksender home a ‘den of thieves,’ she nevertheless believed it probable that Judge Alexander’s ‘La Fuite en Egypte’ porringer had come into his family’s possession in some vague, unexplained way, rather than by purchase. For Judge Alexander’s father, Dr. Phineas Alexander, that pillar of the Presbyterian faith, had originally been a mere Ellicksender, socalled; he it was who had ‘turned out real good,’ and so had failed to win the interest of either Felix or myself, in our childish days. As Mrs. Blakeney said, ‘The ironies of Time certainly do iron out everything, if you wait, long enough’; and it was Dr. Alexander, alias Ellicksender, who had lifted up the fallen fortunes of his family to their former lofty place in American history.

Felicia is really a kindly little soul. When I went to see Cousin Felix after the wedding, I was not surprised to find that, on the ground of safety first, she insists that the Lafayette bottom shall remain, during her father’s lifetime, remarried to its fluted, flame-topped cover. The écuelle is easily the pride of the collector’s heart. ‘ Of course, I have costlier pieces,’ quoth Felix, ‘but none so dear to me as this.’

We grinned at each other as he repeated his boyhood’s gesture, wetting a thumb and forefinger before he touched the flame.