Transients in Arcadia
by O. Henry
There is a hotel on Broadway that has escaped discovery by
the summer-resort promoters. It is deep and wide and cool. Its
rooms are finished in dark oak of a low temperature. Home-made
breezes and deep-green shrubbery give it the delights without
the inconveniences of the Adirondacks. One can mount its broad
staircases or glide dreamily upward in its aerial elevators,
attended by guides in brass buttons, with a serene joy that
Alpine climbers have never attained. There is a chef in its
kitchen who will prepare for you brook trout better than the
White Mountains ever served, sea food that would turn Old Point
Comfort--"by Gad, sah!"--green with envy, and Maine venison
that would melt the official heart of a game warden.
A few have found out this oasis in the July desert of Manhattan.
During that month you will see the hotel's reduced array of
guests scattered luxuriously about in the cool twilight of its
lofty dining-room, gazing at one another across the snowy waste
of unoccupied tables, silently congratulatory.
Superfluous, watchful, pneumatically moving waiters hover near,
supplying every want before it is expressed. The temperature
is perpetual April. The ceiling is painted in water colors to
counterfeit a summer sky, across which delicate clouds drift
and do not vanish as those of nature do to our regret.
The pleasing, distant roar of Broadway is transformed in the
imagination of the happy guests to the noise of a waterfall
filling the woods with its restful sound. At every strange
footstep the guests turn an anxious ear, fearful lest their
retreat be discovered and invaded by the restless pleasure-seekers
who are forever hounding nature to her deepest lairs.
Thus in the depopulated caravansary the little band of
connoisseurs jealously hide themselves during the heated
season, enjoying to the uttermost the delights of mountain
and seashore that art and skill have gathered and served to
In this July came to the hotel one whose card that she sent
to the clerk for her name to be registered read "Mme. Heloise
Madame Beaumont was a guest such as the Hotel Lotus loved.
She possessed the fine air of the elite, tempered and
sweetened by a cordial graciousness that made the hotel
employees her slaves. Bell-boys fought for the honor of
answering her ring; the clerks, but for the question of
ownership, would have deeded to her the hotel and its
contents; the other guests regarded her as the final touch
of feminine exclusiveness and beauty that rendered the
This super-excellent guest rarely left the hotel. Her habits
were consonant with the customs of the discriminating patrons
of the Hotel Lotus. To enjoy that delectable hostelry one must
forego the city as if it were leagues away. By night a brief
excursion to the nearby roofs is in order; but during the
torrid day one remains in the umbrageous fastnesses of the
Lotus as a trout hangs poised in the pellucid sanctuaries of
his favorite pool.
Though alone in the Hotel Lotus, Madame Beaumont preserved
the state of a queen whose loneliness was of position only.
She breakfasted at ten, a cool, sweet, leisurely, delicate
being who glowed softly in the dimness like a jasmine flower
in the dusk.
But at dinner was Madame's glory at its height. She wore a
gown as beautiful and immaterial as the mist from an unseen
cataract in a mountain gorge. The nomenclature of this gown
is beyond the guess of the scribe. Always pale-red roses
reposed against its lace-garnished front. It was a gown that
the head-waiter viewed with respect and met at the door. You
thought of Paris when you saw it, and maybe of mysterious
countesses, and certainly of Versailles and rapiers and
Mrs. Fiske and rouge-et-noir. There was an untraceable rumor
in the Hotel Lotus that Madame was a cosmopolite, and that
she was pulling with her slender white hands certain strings
between the nations in the favor of Russia. Being a citizeness
of the world's smoothest roads, it was small wonder that she
was quick to recognize in the refined purlieus of the Hotel
Lotus the most desirable spot in America for a restful sojourn
during the heat of mid-summer.
On the third day of Madame Beaumont's residence in the hotel
a young man entered and registered himself as a guest. His
clothing--to speak of his points in approved order--was quietly
in the mode; his features good and regular; his expression that
of a poised and sophisticated man of the world. He informed the
clerk that he would remain three or four days, inquired concerning
the sailing of European steamships, and sank into the blissful
inanition of the nonpareil hotel with the contented air of a
traveller in his favorite inn.
The young man--not to question the veracity of the register--was
Harold Farrington. He drifted into the exclusive and calm current
of life in the Lotus so tactfully and silently that not a ripple
alarmed his fellow-seekers after rest. He ate in the Lotus and
of its patronym, and was lulled into blissful peace with the
other fortunate mariners. In one day he acquired his table and
his waiter and the fear lest the panting chasers after repose
that kept Broadway warm should pounce upon and destroy this
contiguous but covert haven.
After dinner on the next day after the arrival of Harold Farrington,
Madame Beaumont dropped her handkerchief in passing out. Mr.
Farrington recovered it, and returned it without the effusiveness
of a seeker after acquaintance.
Perhaps there was a mystic freemasonry between the discriminating
guests of the Lotus. Perhaps they were drawn one to another by
the fact of their common good fortune in discovering the acme of
summer resorts in a Broadway hotel. Words delicate in courtesy
and tentative in departure from formality passed between the two.
And, as if in the expedient atmosphere of a real summer resort,
an acquaintance grew, flowered and fructified on the spot as does
the mystic plant of the conjuror. For a few moments they stood
on a balcony upon which the corridor ended, and tossed the
feathery ball of conversation.
"One tires of the old resorts," said Madame Beaumont, with a
faint but sweet smile. "What is the use to fly to the mountains
or the seashore to escape noise and dust when the very people
that make both follow you there?"
"Even on the ocean," remarked Farrington, sadly, "the Philistines
be upon you. The most exclusive steamers are getting to be scarcely
more than ferry-boats. Heaven help us when the summer resorter
discovers that the Lotus is further away from Broadway than
Thousand Islands or Mackinac."
"I hope our secret will be safe for a week, anyhow," said Madame,
with a sigh and a smile. "I do not know where I would go if they
should descend upon the dear Lotus. I know of but one place so
delightful in summer, and that is the castle of Count Polinski,
in the Ural Mountains."
"I hear that Baden-Baden and Cannes are almost deserted this
season," said Farrington. "Year by year the old resorts fall
in disrepute. Perhaps many others, like ourselves, are seeking
out the quiet nooks that are overlooked by the majority."
"I promise myself three days more of this delicious rest,"
said Madame Beaumont. "On Monday the Cedric sails."
Harold Farrington's eyes proclaimed his regret. "I too must
leave on Monday," he said, "but I do not go abroad."
Madame Beaumont shrugged one round shoulder in a foreign
"One cannot hide here forever, charming though it may be. The
chateau has been in preparation for me longer than a month.
Those house parties that one must give--what a nuisance! But
I shall never forget my week in the Hotel Lotus."
"Nor shall I," said Farrington in a low voice, "and I shall
never forgive the Cedric."
On Sunday evening, three days afterward, the two sat at a
little table on the same balcony. A discreet waiter brought
ices and small glasses of claret cup.
Madame Beaumont wore the same beautiful evening gown that
she wore each day at dinner. She seemed thoughtful. Near
her hand on the table lay a small chatelaine purse. After
she had eaten her ice she opened the purse and took out a
"Mr. Farrington," she said, with the smile that had won
the Hotel Lotus, "I want to tell you something. I'm going
to leave before breakfast in the morning, because I've got
to go back to my work. I'm behind the hosiery counter at
Casey's Mammoth Store, and my vacation's up at eight o'clock
to-morrow. That paper dollar is the last cent I'll see till
I draw my eight dollars salary next Saturday night. You're
a real gentleman, and you've been good to me, and I wanted
to tell you before I went.
"I've been saving up out of my wages for a year just for
this vacation. I wanted to spend one week like a lady if
I never do another one. I wanted to get up when I please
instead of having to crawl out at seven every morning;
and I wanted to live on the best and be waited on and ring
bells for things just like rich folks do. Now I've done
it, and I've had the happiest time I ever expect to have
in my life. I'm going back to my work and my little hall
bedroom satisfied for another year. I wanted to tell you
about it, Mr. Farrington, because I--I thought you kind
of liked me, and I--I liked you. But, oh, I couldn't help
deceiving you up till now, for it was all just like a
fairy tale to me. So I talked about Europe and the things
I've read about in other countries, and made you think I
was a great lady.
"This dress I've got on--it's the only one I have that's
fit to wear--I bought from O'Dowd & Levinsky on the
"Seventy-five dollars is the price, and it was made to
measure. I paid $10 down, and they're to collect $1 a
week till it's paid for. That'll be about all I have to
say, Mr. Farrington, except that my name is Mamie Siviter
instead of Madame Beaumont, and I thank you for your
attentions. This dollar will pay the instalment due on
the dress to-morrow. I guess I'll go up to my room now."
Harold Farrington listened to the recital of the Lotus's
loveliest guest with an impassive countenance. When she
had concluded he drew a small book like a checkbook from
his coat pocket. He wrote upon a blank form in this with
a stub of pencil, tore out the leaf, tossed it over to his
companion and took up the paper dollar.
"I've got to go to work, too, in the morning," he said, "and
I might as well begin now. There's a receipt for the dollar
instalment. I've been a collector for O'Dowd & Levinsky for
three years. Funny, ain't it, that you and me both had the
same idea about spending our vacation? I've always wanted
to put up at a swell hotel, and I saved up out of my twenty
per, and did it. Say, Mame, how about a trip to Coney
Saturday night on the boat--what?"
The face of the pseudo Madame Heloise D'Arcy Beaumont
"Oh, you bet I'll go, Mr. Farrington. The store closes at
12 on Saturdays. I guess Coney'll be all right even if we
did spend a week with the swells."
Below the balcony the sweltering city growled and buzzed
in the July night. Inside the Hotel Lotus the tempered,
cool shadows reigned, and the solicitous waiter single-footed
near the low windows, ready at a nod to serve Madame and
At the door of the elevator Farrington took his leave,
and Madame Beaumont made her last ascent. But before
they reached the noiseless cage he said: "Just forget
that 'Harold Farrington,' will you?--McManus is the
name--James McManus. Some call me Jimmy."
"Good-night, Jimmy," said Madame.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~