Disturbing Charm


23. 2-6 The Charm Remembered

"A is happy, oh, so happy!
A is happy, B is not."


The words of Golden remained with her friend all the way back to Wembley Park, down the Drive of little red-roofed villas, and up the short-flagged path between the standard rose-bushes that led to her Aunt's front door.

Olwen took her latch-key from her bag and let herself in; as she did so she heard the voice of the Aunt from the sitting-room, "Is that you, dear?"

"Yes! I'll be down in a minute," she called back, and ran straight upstairs to the bedroom with the pink-curtained window that overlooked the back lawn.

She wanted to be alone for a moment or so. She had just told the Sunburst Girl that what she wanted was amusement, but what she would have liked now would have been solitude.

Why had Golden unsettled her again like this, when she had been getting along so cheerfully?

She sat down on the edge of the springy brass-railed bed drawn up against the window. It was open, and the breeze stirred in the curtain behind her head, full of uneasy thought.... As she drew the hat-pins from her head she glanced restlessly about her room, bright, girlishly pink-and-white, with the atmosphere of a room that had been lived in happily enough. Mechanically Olwen's eyes fell upon the dressing-table, upon the crystal powder-box, upon the signed photograph of Professor Howel-Jones--about the frame of which there was twisted a long piece of pink ribbon, sewn to----

Why, it was that half-forgotten Charm of her days in France!

Half scornfully she smiled now at the memories that it brought to her.

It seemed another Olwen that she remembered, poring over typewritten directions for the use of that Charm.... Fancy an Olwen who believed in that! What a simple way out of the problems of Love, to wear a mascot and to have everything happen that one could wish!

This did happen to some people, Olwen mused. To Golden van Huysen it had come without the help of any talisman. Golden possessed within her all that quality of Charm of which that "inventor" claimed to have found the secret. She was one of the lucky people who hold that secret without knowing what it is....

But as for materializing it into something that might be annexed and worn----well, thought the new and more sophisticated Olwen, what had been the success of that, so far? Half laughing now, she considered it.

That other, romantic little Olwen had (in her first enthusiasm!) written to that newspaper address for more of the Charm.

No answer had been vouchsafed to her.

Therefore her experiments had been limited to four. She had planted out her Charm upon four people: Miss Agatha Walsh, Mrs. Cartwright, little Mr. Brown, and herself.

With what results?

This older, wiser Olwen ticked them off now on her fingers.

One, Agatha Walsh--successful. She had become engaged to her Gustave and was perfectly happy.

Two, Mrs. Cartwright--unsuccessful. Absolutely nothing had happened, thought Olwen, vexedly; her friend the writer had received not one word of added attention from her Uncle, and had remained unclaimed except by that work and those boys of hers.

Three, little Mr. Brown--more than unsuccessful. Not only had he failed to attract anybody on his own account, but he had shown symptoms of becoming attracted to a girl who didn't want him.

Four, Herself--unsuccessful again. No results at all. You can't count as "results" two attacks of masculine dog-in-the-mangerishness, one box of chocolates, a few ragging remarks, and an evening of having one's hand held in a boat. No results....

That left one out of four cases in which the Charm had worked. Only one out of four people lucky in Love! Was it so the world over? One in four meant a quarter of the people in the world!... Well, perhaps that wasn't such a very poor percentage, Olwen told herself more briskly as she gave herself a little shake out of her meditations and ran downstairs to the sitting-room, where a cup of cocoa and a plate of those neutral objects known as War-biscuits had been set ready for her by the Aunt.

This Aunt was Professor Howel-Jones's youngest sister, a small demure woman of forty-five, with the air of constantly saying, "Of course I am the failure of the family." She had been left a widow very young, and it was her pose to give out that she had never been asked to marry again. But her pretty eyes laughed, most disconcertingly, while the rest of her face remained prim. She smoked, sang Clarice Mayne's songs and forbade Olwen to call her "Aunt" anything.

"Thank you, Lizzie," said her niece, as this lady handed her over a letter that had arrived by the last post. Then, glancing at the signature, Olwen gave a little exclamation of surprise. It was over the well-known type of coincidence that brings a letter from some one almost immediately following one's own thoughts of that some one. For the letter was signed, "Yours affectionately, AGATHA WALSH."

Miss Walsh wrote from Paris, where she had just been having "Oh, such a lovely time shopping with Madame Leroux, who had taken a month away from the hotel, and had been looking up some of the relations----"

Followed an account of these relations who had evidently taken the English fiancée to their bosoms; Agatha, who had been English and provincial, was rapidly becoming a good French bourgeoise.

She went on, "Oh, and there is such news, Olwen. Figure to yourself that Gustave is coming to London with General Chose next week! Coming as his orderly! Just think how lovely for me! Of course I shall come over at once. I have not been in England since September! We must all meet, we and you and the Professor and dear Mrs. Cartwright, if she is in town! And won't it be like old times again! and oh, Olwen, I may even be getting married----"

This last word was so heavily underlined that Olwen had to laugh, and the Aunt asked her what she was so pleased at.

"Oh, only that there are some very happy people in the world even now," said Olwen.

"'Some' pessimist", murmured the Aunt, whose vocabulary was not of her epoch. "Never mind, Olwen; I have just remembered something. An admirer rang you up on the telephone this afternoon, and would you ring him up at the Regent Palace Hotel as soon as you came in----?"

"What?" said Olwen, astonished. "What was his name, and why d'you think he was an admirer, Lizzie?"

"I think he admired you by the tone of his voice, in which he said, 'Miss Olwen,'" said the demure Aunt, who had a private and vicarious delight in watching all the activities of her young niece. "As for his name----what was it now? Something rather out of the way."

"I don't know," wondered Olwen. "Was it Mr. Ellerton?"

"Oh, no; not our young Naval man who finished our last drop of whisky, by the way--no, I thought at once of him, dear, but it wasn't. It was--oh, yes! He said, 'Ask her to ring up Lieutenant Brown.'"

"What? Not Little Mr. Brown?"

"I couldn't tell you what height he was," murmured the Aunt, but already Olwen, amused, had run out into the hall and had taken up the telephone.

(Coincidence, then, had been busying itself with another of the Les Pins party!)

After some little delay the Regent Palace found Mr. Brown.

"Hul-lo!" the familiar boy's voice sounded over the wires as cheerily as it had sounded over the waves and through the pine woods. "That you, Miss Olwen?... That's great. How are you?... That's top-hole.... Me? Oh, I'm fine, thanks. Yes; I'm up for a Board. I say, Miss Olwen, when can we for-gather?... Can I see you tomorrow?... Dinner? What are you doing?"

Olwen said, "I'm going to a party at Mrs. Cartwright's----"

"No! By Jove, are you? I say, I'm glad you mentioned it. I nearly forgot. I'm booked for Mrs. C. too. Rang her up and she asked me to roll up at seven. Can I take you along? Miss Olwen, can't I have tea with you in town somewhere first?"

"Er----" began Olwen, doubtfully. Truth to tell she had not wanted to see very much of little Mr. Brown; she had not wished to encourage his boyish sentimentality for her.

He took up quickly, "Won't you have tea with me, here, tomorrow? I've got something very particular to say to you, Miss Olwen."

"Oh? What is it?"

"Give you three guesses. I say, you know that mascot you gave me?"


"Well! It's brought me luck, I reckon."

"Oh, has it? Well, what is it?"

"That's what I want to talk about tomorrow," came with a joyous giggle from the other end of the wires; evidently the speaker could scarcely wait until tomorrow's talk. "I say, can't you guess, Miss Olwen? Master's got off, this time."

"Got what?"


"I can't quite hear what you say," called Olwen, puzzled. "Who has got what?"

"Oh, spare my blushes," begged the voice of Mr. Brown, and then brought out the announcement, "I'm engaged to be married, Miss Olwen, that's what!"

"Oh--oh!" gasped Olwen. "I'm so glad----"

"Thanks! Thought you would be! You wait till you hear all about it though. You prepare for a shock, Miss O. Tea tomorrow. Four o'clock. That suit you? I'll meet you at the door--you know, in the hall just in front of the big place where all the animals feed. Right! So long! Chin-chin!"

"Good night!" called Olwen, and rang off. Then she stood gazing at the telephone almost as if it were the small figure in khaki coming towards her out of the forest.

Engaged----Little Mr. Brown!

The Charm had worked with him, then, after all?

That made two out of four....

Well, that was a better percentage than she had thought she might hope for, thought Olwen as she turned away.

Did it mean that after all half the people in the world were lucky in love?