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But she didn't come by it at once.
They got into the car first, which was waiting for them in the scented road at the bottom of the field they had walked across, and they got into it in silence and were driven back to their hotel for tea, and her brain was still unvisited by inspiration.
They were all tired and thirsty, and were disappointed at being thwarted in their desire to sit at a little green table under whispering trees and rest, and drink tea, and had no sort of wish to have it at the Cosmopolitan. But both Mr. Twist, who had been corrupted by Europe, and the twins, who had the habits of their mother, couldn't imagine doing without it in the afternoon, and they would have it in the hotel sooner than not have it at all. It was brought to them after a long time of waiting. Nobody else was having any at that hour, and the waiter, when at last one was found, had difficulty apparently in believing that they were serious. When at last he did bring it, it was toast and marmalade and table-napkins, for all the world as though it had been breakfast.
Then it was that, contemplating this with discomfort and distaste, as well as the place they were sitting in and its rocking-chairs and marble and rugs, Anna-Felicitas was suddenly smitten by her idea.
It fell upon her like a blow. It struck her fairly, as it were, between the eyes. She wasn't used to ideas, and she stopped dead in the middle of a piece of toast and looked at the others. They stopped too in their eating and looked at her.
"What's the matter?" asked Anna-Rose. "Has another button come off?"
At this Mr. Twist considered it wisest to turn his head away, for experience had taught him that Anna-Felicitas easily came undone.
"I've thought of something," said Anna-Felicitas.
Mr. Twist turned his head back again. "You don't say," he said, mildly sarcastic.
"Ich gratuliere," said Anna-Rose, also mildly sarcastic.
"I've got an idea," said Anna-Felicitas. "But it's so luminous," she said, looking from one to the other in a kind of surprise. "Of course. That's what we'll do. Ridiculous to waste time bothering about schools."
There was a new expression on her face that silenced the comments rising to Anna-Rose's and Mr. Twist's tongues, both of whom had tired feet and were therefore disposed to sarcasm.
Anna-Felicitas looked at them, and they looked at her, and her face continued to become visibly more and more illuminated, just as if a curtain were being pulled up. Animation and interest shone in her usually dreamy eyes. Her drooping body sat up quite straight. She reminded Anna-Rose, who had a biblically well-furnished mind, of Moses when he came down from receiving the Law on the mountain.
"Well, tell us," said Anna-Rose. "But not," she added, thinking of Moses, "if it's only more commandments."
Anna-Felicitas dropped the piece of toast she was still holding in her fingers, and pushed back her cup. "Come out on to the rocks," she said getting up--"where we sat this morning." And she marched out, followed by the other two with the odd submissiveness people show towards any one who is thoroughly determined.
It was dark and dinner-time before they got back to the hotel. Throughout the sunset Anna-Felicitas sat on her rock, the same rock she had sat on so unsatisfactorily eight hours earlier, and expounded her idea. She couldn't talk fast enough. She, so slow and listless, for once was shaken into burning activity. She threw off her hat directly she got on to the sands, climbed up the rock as if it were a pulpit, and with her hands clasped round her knees poured out her plan, the long shafts of the setting sun bathing her in bright flames and making her more like Moses than ever,--if, that is, one could imagine Moses as beautiful as Anna-F., thought Anna-Rose, and as felicitously without his nose and beard.
It was wonderful how complete Anna-Felicitas's inspiration was. It reminded Mr. Twist of his own about the teapot. It was, of course, a far more complicated matter than that little device of his, and would have to be thought out very carefully and approached very judiciously, but the wealth of detail she was already ready with immensely impressed him. She even had a name for the thing; and it was when he heard this name, when it flashed into her talk with the unpremeditatedness of an inspiration, that Mr. Twist became definitely enthusiastic.
He had an American eye for advertisement. Respect for it was in his blood. He instantly saw the possibilities contained in the name. He saw what could be done with it, properly worked. He saw it on hoarding-on signposts, in a thousand contrivances for catching the public attention and sticking there.
The idea, of course, was fantastic, unconventional, definitely outside what his mother and that man Uncle Arthur would consider proper, but it was outside the standards of such people that life and fruitfulness and interest and joy began. He had escaped from the death-like grip of his mother, and Uncle Arthur had himself forcibly expulsed the Annas from his, and now that they were all so far away, instead of still timorously trying to go on living up to those distant sterile ideas why shouldn't they boldly go out into the light and colour that was waiting everywhere for the free of spirit?
Mr. Twist had often observed how perplexingly much there is to be said for the opposite sides of a question. He was now, but with no perplexity, for Anna-Felicitas had roused his enthusiasm, himself taking the very opposite view as to the proper thing for the twins to do from the one he had taken in the night and on the rocks that morning. School? Nonsense. Absurd to bury these bright shoots of everlastingness--this is what they looked like to him, afire with enthusiasm and the setting sun--in such a place of ink. If the plan, owing to the extreme youth of the Annas, were unconventional, conventionality could be secured by giving a big enough salary to a middle-aged lady to come and preside. He himself would hover beneficently in the background over the undertaking.
Anna-Felicitas's idea was to use Uncle Arthur's £200 in renting one of the little wooden cottages that seemed to be plentiful, preferably one about five miles out in the country, make it look inside like an English cottage, all pewter and chintz and valances, make it look outside like the more innocent type of German wayside inn, with green tables and spreading trees, get a cook who would concentrate on cakes, real lovely ones, various, poetic, wonderful cakes, and start an inn for tea alone that should become the fashion. It ought to be so arranged that it became the fashion. She and Anna-Rose would do the waiting. The prices would be very high, indeed exorbitant--this Mr. Twist regarded as another inspiration,--so that it should be a distinction, give people a cachet, to have had tea at their cottage; and in a prominent position in the road in front of it, where every motor-car would be bound to see it, there would be a real wayside inn signboard, such as inns in England always have, with its name on it.
"If people here were really neutral you might have the Imperial arms of Germany and England emblazoned on it," interrupted Mr. Twist, "just to show your own extreme and peculiar neutrality."
"We might call it The Christopher and Columbus," interrupted Anna-Rose, who had been sitting open-mouthed hanging on Anna-Felicitas's words.
"Or you might call it The Cup and Saucer," said Mr. Twist, "and have a big cup brimming with tea and cream painted on it--"
"No," said Anna-Felicitas. "It is The Open Arms. That is its name."
And Mr. Twist, inclined to smile and criticise up to this, bowed his head in instantaneous recognition and acceptance.
He became definitely enthusiastic. Of course he would see to it that not a shadow of ambiguousness was allowed to rest on such a name. The whole thing as he saw it, his mind working rapidly while Anna-Felicitas still talked, would be a happy joke, a joyous, gay little assault on the purses of millionaires, in whom the district abounded judging from the beautiful houses and gardens he had passed that day,--but a joke and a gay assault that would at the same time employ and support the Annas; solve them, in fact, saw Mr. Twist, who all day long had been regarding them much as one does a difficult mathematical problem.
It was Mr. Twist who added the final inspiration to Anna-Felicitas's many, when at last she paused for want of breath. The inn, he said, should be run as a war philanthropy. All that was over after the expenses were paid and a proper percentage reserved by the Annas as interest on their invested capital--they listened with eager respect to these business-like expressions--would be handed over to the American Red Cross. "That," explained Mr. Twist, "would seal the inn as both respectable and fashionable, which is exactly what we would want to make it."
And he then announced, and they accepted without argument or questioning in the general excitement, that he would have himself appointed their legal guardian.
They didn't go back to the Cosmopolitan till dinnertime, there was so much to say, and after dinner, a meal at which Mr. Twist had to suppress them a good deal because The Open Arms kept on bursting through into their talk and, as at breakfast, the people at the tables round them were obviously trying to hear, they went out once again on to the sea-front and walked up and down till late continuing the discussion, mostly simultaneously as regards the twins, while Mr. Twist chimed in with practical suggestions whenever they stopped to take breath.
He had to drive them indoors to bed at last, for the lights were going out one by one in the Cosmopolitan bedroom windows, where the virtuous rich, exhausted by their day of virtue, were subsiding, prostrate with boredom and respectability, into their various legitimate lairs, and he stayed alone out by the sea rapidly sketching out his activities for the next day.
There was the guardianship to be arranged, the cottage to be found, and the middle-aged lady to be advertised for. She, indeed, must be secured at once; got to come at once to the Cosmopolitan and preside over the twins until they all proceeded in due season to The Open Arms. She must be a motherly middle-aged lady, decided Mr. Twist, affectionate, skilled in managing a cook, business-like, intellectual, and obedient. Her feminine tact would enable her to appear to preside while she was in reality obeying. She must understand that she was there for the Annas, and that the Annas were not there for her. She must approach the situation in the spirit of the enlightened king of a democratic country, who receives its honours, accepts its respect, but does not lose sight of the fact that he is merely the Chief Servant of the people. Mr. Twist didn't want a female Uncle Arthur let loose upon those blessed little girls; besides, they would have the dangerous weapon in their hands of being able to give her notice, and it would considerably dim the reputation of The Open Arms if there were a too frequent departure from it of middle-aged ladies.
Mr. Twist felt himself very responsible and full of anxieties as he paced up and down alone, but he was really enjoying himself. That youthful side of him, so usual in the artistic temperament, which leaped about at the least pleasant provocation like a happy lamb when the sunshine tickles it, was feeling that this was great fun; and the business side of him was feeling that it was not only great fun but probably an extraordinarily productive piece of money-making.
The ignorant Annas--bless their little hearts, he thought, he who only the night before on that very spot had been calling them accursed--believed that their £200 was easily going to do everything. This was lucky, for otherwise there would have been some thorny paths of argument and convincing to be got through before they would have allowed him to help finance the undertaking; probably they never would have, in their scrupulous independence. Mr. Twist reflected with satisfaction on the usefulness of his teapot. At last he was going to be able to do something, thanks to it, that gave him real gladness. His ambulance to France--that was duty. His lavishness to his mother--that again was duty. But here was delight, here at last was what his lonely heart had always longed for,--a chance to help and make happy, and be with and watch being made happy, dear women-things, dear soft sweet kind women-things, dear sister-things, dear children-things....
It has been said somewhere before that Mr. Twist was meant by Nature to be a mother; but Nature, when she was half-way through him, forgot and turned him into a man.
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