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Madame Bo-Peep, Of The Ranches
by [?]

“Aunt Ellen,” said Octavia, cheerfully, as she threw her black kid gloves carefully at the dignified Persian cat on the window-seat, “I’m a pauper.”

“You are so extreme in your statements, Octavia, dear,” said Aunt Ellen, mildly, looking up from her paper. “If you find yourself temporarily in need of some small change for bonbons, you will find my purse in the drawer of the writing desk.”

Octavia Beaupree removed her hat and seated herself on a footstool near her aunt’s chair, clasping her hands about her knees. Her slim and flexible figure, clad in a modish mourning costume, accommodated itself easily and gracefully to the trying position. Her bright and youthful face, with its pair of sparkling, life-enamoured eyes, tried to compose itself to the seriousness that the occasion seemed to demand.

“You good auntie, it isn’t a case of bonbons; it is abject, staring, unpicturesque poverty, with ready-made clothes, gasolined gloves, and probably one o’clock dinners all waiting with the traditional wolf at the door. I’ve just come from my lawyer, auntie, and, ‘Please, ma’am, I ain’t got nothink ‘t all. Flowers, lady? Buttonhole, gentleman? Pencils, sir, three for five, to help a poor widow?’ Do I do it nicely, auntie, or, as a bread-winner accomplishment, were my lessons in elocution entirely wasted?”

“Do be serious, my dear,” said Aunt Ellen, letting her paper fall to the floor, “long enough to tell me what you mean. Colonel Beaupree’s estate–“

“Colonel Beaupree’s estate,” interrupted Octavia, emphasizing her words with appropriate dramatic gestures, “is of Spanish castellar architecture. Colonel Beaupree’s resources are–wind. Colonel Beaupree’s stocks are–water. Colonel Beaupree’s income is–all in. The statement lacks the legal technicalities to which I have been listening for an hour, but that is what it means when translated.”

“Octavia!” Aunt Ellen was now visibly possessed by consternation. “I can hardly believe it. And it was the impression that he was worth a million. And the De Peysters themselves introduced him!”

Octavia rippled out a laugh, and then became properly grave.

De mortuis nil, auntie–not even the rest of it. The dear old colonel–what a gold brick he was, after all! I paid for my bargain fairly–I’m all here, am I not?–items: eyes, fingers, toes, youth, old family, unquestionable position in society as called for in the contract–no wild-cat stock here.” Octavia picked up the morning paper from the floor. “But I’m not going to ‘squeal’–isn’t that what they call it when you rail at Fortune because you’ve, lost the game?” She turned the pages of the paper calmly. “‘Stock market’–no use for that. ‘Society’s doings’–that’s done. Here is my page–the wish column. A Van Dresser could not be said to ‘want’ for anything, of course. ‘Chamber-maids, cooks, canvassers, stenographers–‘”

“Dear,” said Aunt Ellen, with a little tremor in her voice, “please do not talk in that way. Even if your affairs are in so unfortunate a condition, there is my three thousand–“

Octavia sprang up lithely, and deposited a smart kiss on the delicate cheek of the prim little elderly maid.

“Blessed auntie, your three thousand is just sufficient to insure your Hyson to be free from willow leaves and keep the Persian in sterilized cream. I know I’d be welcome, but I prefer to strike bottom like Beelzebub rather than hang around like the Peri listening to the music from the side entrance. I’m going to earn my own living. There’s nothing else to do. I’m a–Oh, oh, oh!–I had forgotten. There’s one thing saved from the wreck. It’s a corral–no, a ranch in–let me see–Texas: an asset, dear old Mr. Bannister called it. How pleased he was to show me something he could describe as unencumbered! I’ve a description of it among those stupid papers he made me bring away with me from his office. I’ll try to find it.”

Octavia found her shopping-bag, and drew from it a long envelope filled with typewritten documents.