No, don't touch me! please let me go on now, or I'll not tell you any more. I wonder if you never guessed what I had in that chamois-skin bag you're so worried about?" "Why, yes, I did guess, Biddy, right or wrong." "And I'll bet you it was wrong! What did you think, when I wouldn't understand any of your hints to tell what I wore over my heart?"
"What are you afraid of," I asked Biddy when I had a chance with her alone, "even if Bedr is a spy? Surely you kept your promise and left that chamois-skin bag in a Cairo bank?" "It wasn't a promise," she reminded me. "I only said I'd think about it. Well, I did think about it, and I couldn't put it in a bank. I told you it was the sort of thing one doesn't put in banks."
There were always girls here: a late-comer eating her luncheon, two chatter-boxes sharing a bit of powdered chamois-skin at a mirror, a girl who felt ill drinking something hot at the stove. Here was always company, and gossip, Susan might stop for a half-cup of scalding hot tea, or a chocolate from a striped paper bag.
As Cora entered from the hall, a woman of fifty came in at a door opposite, and, a dust-cloth retained under her left arm, an unsheathed weapon ready for emergency, leaned sociably against the door-casing and continued to polish a tablespoon with a bit of powdered chamois-skin.
Madame Matifat, whom we lately met crowned with a turban for the ball, now wore a gown of blue velvet, with coarse cotton stockings, leather shoes, gloves of chamois-skin with a border of green plush, and a bonnet lined with pink, filled in with white puffs about the face. These ten personages assembled at five o'clock. The old Ragons always requested their guests to be punctual.
The ladies had sought their apartments and the downy couches; the cook, on a shady bench under the trellis, nodded as she seeded the raisins for the frozen pudding of the six-o'clock dinner; the waiter had succumbed in clearing the lunch-table and made mesmeric passes with the dish-rag in a fantasy of washing the plates; the stable-boy slumbered in the hay, high in the loft, while the fat old coachman, with a chamois-skin in his hand, dozed as he sat on the step of the surrey, between the fenders; the old dog snored on the veranda floor, and Mrs.
Afterwards she said to herself with a certain admiration for her cleverness: "Couldn't save sixty dollars much easier than that," and she had added the hundred and thirty to the little hoard in the chamois-skin bag and brass match-box in the bottom of her trunk.
The article of commerce called chamois-skin is another fraud; nobody could skin a chamois, it is too small. The creature is a humbug in every way, and everything which has been written about it is sentimental exaggeration.
"No, no, no," cried Trina, "it's not true; it's not true." She dropped on her knees before the trunk, and tossed back the lid, and plunged her hands down into the corner underneath her wedding dress, where she always kept the savings. The brass match-safe and the chamois-skin bag were there. They were empty.
The Colonel offered some excellent tobacco, and Tom begged leave to fetch his pipe. When he returned he brought with it the chamois-skin bag that held the silver cup, and laid it before him on the table. It was like the dread of going into battle, but the moment had arrived. He laid his hand on the cup for a moment as if to hide it, then he waited until his pipe was fairly going.