AN AGACELLA OR
George Stafford was phlegmatic, unimaginative, and, even a bit stupid.
Once he was spending his vacation at the Hotel Thiersberry, the dullest spot in all America – extremely expensive and exclusive. ‘Exclusive’ is a terrible word, and the Hotel Thiersberry is a terrible place.
A vacation is an interval in work, as you know. It was absurd to imagine George working. He was super idle. And yet he had an excuse for his use of the word ‘vacation’. His friend asked him to make at least the impression of attempt and to put his name on a sign, ‘Rainier & Stafford, Architects.’
One day Rainier, his partner, advised George to stay at this hotel. When George went into the hotel library, there was no letter paper. One was supposed to use one’s own letter paper. George had none, but he wanted to write a letter and had to buy it in a shop. It was indeed very unusual paper; it was purple, with the figure of an animal that looked like a cow and sticks in its hoofs stamped in gold at the top of each sheet. But the shop had nothing else.
So, George was writing in the library.
Suddenly he saw a lady, looking through a lorgnette at the sheets of letter paper lying before him. Her gaze slowly traveled from the paper to his face.
‘Sir,’ she said, ‘what is your name?’
‘What?’ said George, taken aback. ‘My – oh, yes, my name – of course, certainly, my name. Stafford is my name,’ he said.
‘It is he,’ she said aloud. ‘I am sure of it.’
He opened his mouth to protest, but the lady continued. ‘Mr. Stafford, I am Mrs. Gordon Wheeler; and this is my daughter… Cecily, Mr. Stafford.’
For the first time in ten years George became conscious of the blood in his veins. Cecily, her cheeks rosy pink, stepped up to him.
‘Mr. Stafford,’ she
said in a sweet voice.
‘My dear girl,’ said George, ‘I trust your mother sleeps in the afternoon?’
‘Good heavens!’ said Mrs. Wheeler. ‘Here I am with an unmarried daughter, and the man accuses me of sleeping! However, I often close my eyes.’
‘I am sure you do,’ said George; ‘Goodness knows they need it!’
‘My dear girl – ‘ began George.
‘You called me that before,’ Cecily interrupted, ‘and I don’t like it…’
Next afternoon found George and Cecily together in a canoe on the lake. George lit a cigarette – his fifth in half an hour.
‘Aren’t you afraid you’ll get overheated?’ said Cecily sarcastically.
‘No,’ said George. ‘It’s perfectly safe here in the shade.’ Cecily looked at him. ‘Do you think that I came out in this boat to sit and watch you smoke? Look at that!’ – she pointed across the lake to another canoe. ‘They started after we did. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Take me back to the hotel.’ At this George looked at her with surprise. ‘What’s the trouble?’
‘The trouble is,’ said Cecily, ‘that a canoe is supposed to move.’
‘Do you mean,’ George interrupted, ‘you want to cross the lake?’
‘I do,’ said Cecily.
‘Good heavens!’ he said. ‘What for? Why should we want to get anywhere?’
‘Very well,’ Cecily said finally. ‘If you hand me that paddle, I shall return to the hotel. I must take you too, since you’re too heavy to throw overboard. Give me the paddle, please.’
George rose. There was two hundred pounds of him; and this mass, aroused, can do almost anything with a canoe. So, the canoe was bottom upwards, with Cecily on one end and George on the other.
‘I asked you to hand me the paddle,’ said Cecily in angry tones.
‘Here it is,’ said he.
‘Be careful!’ screamed Cecily.