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"The Fenelby Smugglers" from Good Housekeeping

by Ellis Parker Butler
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from Good Housekeeping
The Fenelby Smugglers
by Ellis Parker Butler

SYNOPSIS OF MAY (opening) CHAPTERS -- The Fenelbys were facing the problem of saving an education fund which should be ample to put Bobberts, age nine months, through college when the time should come. Penny contributions were discouraging. Mr. Fenelby hit on the happy scheme of organizing the Commonwealth of Bobberts calling a family congress and adopting a tariff, ten per cent on all necessities and thirty per cent on all luxuries brought into the house. This would be an indirect tax for the benefit of Bobberts which they would not feel, argued Mr. Fenelby.

The tariff had scarcely gone in force when Mr. Fenelby received word that his brother Will would pay a long promised visit. Mrs. Fenelby was notified that her cousin Kitty would arrive about the same time. It was decided that the tariff must apply to whatsoever the visitors might bring into the house, but the guests were not notified until they arrived. Both guests thought this a splendid plan and agreed to abide by the tariff law, and be governed by it. Kitty asked Mr. Fenelby to have her three trunks sent over from the city.

Chapter III --- Kitty's Trunks

When Mr. Fenelby went to the city in the morning he gave Kitty's trunk checks to the expressman. When he returned to his home in the evening he found Kitty and Mrs. Fenelby on the porch, and Mrs. Fenelby was explaining to her visitor, for about the tenth time, the workings of the Fenelby Domestic Tariff. She had explained to Kitty how the tariff had come to be adopted, how it was to supply an That fellow looks as if he had no strength at all, and see how he carries off that trunk. education fund for Bobberts -- who was at that moment asleep in his crib, upstairs -- and how every necessity brought into the house had to pay into Bobberts' bank ten per cent, and every luxury thirty per cent. Kitty was a dear, as was Mrs. Fenelby, but they were as different as cousins could be, for while Mrs. Fenelby was the man's ideal of a gentle domestic person, Kitty was the man's ideal of a forceful, jolly girl, and as full of liveliness as a well-behaved young lady could be. She was properly interested in Bobberts and admired him loudly, but in her heart she was not sorry that Mr. Fenelby's Brother Will was to be a visitor at the house during her stay. She did not show any unmaidenly curiosity in regard to Brother Will, but between doses of Bobberts and Tariff she managed to learn about all Mrs. Fenelby knew regarding Brother Will's past, present and future, including a pretty minute description of his appearance, habits and beliefs.

Brother Will had arrived that very day, and on the way up from the station the Fenelbys had explained to him all about the Domestic Tariff, and also that until a bed could be sent out from the city he would have to find a bed wherever he could, and so it happened that he went right back to the city with Mr. Fenelby, and had not met Kitty, as he preferred to sleep in the city, rather than in the hammock on the porch.

There is an admirable natural honesty in women that prevents them from claiming that their husbands are perfection. In some this is so abnormally developed that, to be on the safe side, I suppose, they will not allow that their husbands have any virtues whatever; in others, the trace of this type of honesty is so slight that they will claim to everyone, except their dearest friends, that their husbands are the best in the world. The normal wife first announces that her husband is as near perfect as any man can be, and the proceeds to enumerate all his imperfections, bad humors, and annoying habits, under the impression, perhaps, that she is praising him. Mrs. Fenelby had been proceeding in somewhat this way in her conversation with Kitty, under the impression that she was showing Kitty how lovely and domestically perfect was her life, but Kitty gained from it only the impression that Mrs. Fenelby had become the slave of Mr. Fenelby and Bobberts.

The more Mrs. Fenelby explained the working of the Domestic Tariff the more positive of this did Kitty become. It was Laura who paid all the household bills, and so Laura had to pay the tariff duty on whatever came into the house; it was Laura who had to give up her weekly box of candy because if she received it she had to pay twenty-four cents duty. To Kitty the Fenelby Domestic Tariff seemed to be a scheme concocted by Mr. Fenelby to make Laura provide an education fund for Bobberts. Poor Laura was evidently being misused and did not know it. Poor Laura must be rescued, and given that womanly freedom that women are supposed to long for, even when they don't want it. Poor, meek Laura needed someone to put a foot down, and Kitty felt that she had an admirable foot for that or any other purpose. She proposed to put it down.

When Mr. Fenelby entered his yard on his return from the city he stopped short, and then looked up to where the two young women were sitting on the porch.

"Hello!" he said, "what is the matter with these trunks? Wouldn't that expressman carry them upstairs? I declare, those fellows are getting too independent for comfort. Unless you hold a dollar tip out before them they won't so much as turn around. Now, I distinctly told this fellow to carry these three trunks upstairs, and I said I would make it all right with him, and here he leaves them on the lawn. I hope, dear, you were at home when he came."

"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Fenelby, "I was, and you should not blame the poor man. I am sure he tried hard enough to carry them up. He actually insisted on carrying them up whether we wanted them carried up or not. He was quite rude about it. He said you had told him to carry them up and that he meant to do it whether we let him or not, and -- and at last I had to give him a dollar to leave them down here."

"You -- you gave him a dollar not to carry these trunks upstairs?" exclaimed Mr Fenelby. "Did you say you paid the man a dollar not to carry them upstairs?"

"I had to," said Mrs. Fenelby. "It was the only way I could prevent him from doing it. He said you told him to carry them up, and that up they must go, if he had to break down the front door to do it. I think he must have been drinking, Tom, he used awful language, and at last he got quite maudlin, about it and sat down on one of the trunks and cried, actually cried! He said that for years and years he had refused to carry trunks upstairs, and that now, just when he had joined the Salvation Army, and was trying to lead a better life, and be kind and helpful and earn an extra dollar for his family by carrying trunks upstairs when gentlemen asked him to, I had to step in and refuse to let him carry trunks upstairs, and that this was the sort of thing that discouraged a poor man who was trying to make up for his past errors. So I gave him a dollar to leave them down here."

If she had been looting the truncks she would not have worked more hurriedly.

Mr. Fenelby looked at the three big trunks ruefully, and shook his head at them.

"Well," he said, "I suppose it is all right, Laura, but I can't see why you wouldn't let him take them up. You know I don't enjoy that kind of work, and that I don't think it is good for me."

"Kitty didn't want them taken up," said Mrs. Fenelby, gently, "she -- she wanted them left down here."

"Down here?" asked Mr. Fenelby, as if dazed. "Down here on the grass?"

"Yes," said Kitty, lightly. "It was my idea. Laura had nothing to do with it at all. I thought it would be nice to have the trunks down here on the lawn. Everywhere I visit they always take my trunks up to my room, and it gets so tiresome always having the same thing happen, so I thought that this time I would have a variety and leave my trunks on the lawn. I never in my life left my trunks on a front lawn, and I wanted to see how it would be. You don't think they will hurt the grass, do you, Mr. Fenelby?"

Kitty asked this with such an air of sincerity that Mr. Fenelby seated himself on one of the trunks and looked up at her anxiously. He could not recall that he had ever heard of any weakness of mind in Kitty or in her family, but he could not doubt his ears.

"But -- but --" he said, "but you don't mean to leave them here, do you?"

Kitty smiled down at him reassuringly.

"Of course, if it is going to harm the grass at all, Mr. Fenelby, I sha'n't think of it," she said. "I know that sometimes when a board or anything lies on the grass a long time the grass under the board gets all white, and if the trunks are going to make white spots on your lawn, I'll have them removed, but I thought that if we moved the trunks around to different places every day it would avoid that. But you know more about that than I do. Do you think they will make white places on the lawn, Mr. Fenelby?"

"I don't know," he said, abstractedly. "I mean, yes, of course they will. But they will get rained on. You don't want your trunks rained on, you know. Trunks aren't meant to be rained on. It isn't good for them." A thought came to him suddenly. "You and Laura haven't quarreled, have you?" he asked, for he thought that perhaps that was why Kitty would not have her trunks carried up.

"Indeed not!" cried Kitty, putting her arm affectionately around Laura's waist.

"I -- I thought perhaps you had," faltered Mr. Fenelby. "I thought -- that is to say -- I was afraid perhaps you were going away again. I thought you were going to make us a good, long visit --"

"Indeed I am," said Kitty, cheerfully. "I am going to stay weeks, and weeks, and weeks. I am going to stay until you are all tired to death of me, and beg me to be gone."

"That is good," said Mr. Fenelby, with an attempt at pleasure. "But don't you think, since you are going to do what we want you to do, and stay for weeks, and weeks, and weeks, that you had better let your trunks be taken up to your room? Or -- I'll tell you what we'll do! Suppose we just take the trunks into the lower hall?"

He felt pretty certainly, now, that Kitty must have had a little touch of, say, sunstroke, or something of that kind, and he went on in a gently argumentative tone.

"Just into the lower hall," he said. "That would be different from having them in your room, and it would save my grass. I worked hard to get this lawn looking as it does now, Kitty, and I cannot deny that big trunks like these will not do it any good. Let us say we will put the trunks in the lower hall. Then they will be safe, too. No one can steal them there. A front lawn is a rather conspicuous place for trunks. And what will the neighbors say, too, if we leave the trunks on the lawn? Why shouldn't we put the trunks in the lower hall?"

"Well," said Kitty, "I can't afford it, that is why. Really, Mr. Fenelby, I can't afford to have those three trunks brought into the house."

"And yet," said Mr. Fenelby, with just the slightest hint of impatience, "you girls could afford to give the man a dollar not to take them in! That is woman's logic!"

"Oh! a dollar!" said Kitty. "If it was only a matter of a dollar! I hope you don't think, Mr. Fenelby, that I travel with only ten dollars' worth of baggage! No, indeed! I simply cannot afford to pay ten per cent duty on what is in those trunks, and so I prefer to let them remain on the lawn. I wrote Laura that I expected to be treated as one of the family while I was visiting her, and if the Domestic Tariff is part of the way the family is treated I certainly expect to live up to it. Now, don't blame Laura, for she was not only willing to have the trunks come in without paying duty, but insisted that they should."

Mr. Fenelby looked very grave. He was in a perplexing situation. He certainly did not wish to appear inhospitable, and yet Laura had had no right to say that the trunks could enter the house duty free. The only way such an unusual alteration in the Domestic Tariff could be made was by act of the Family Congress, and he very well knew that if once the matter of revising the tariff was taken up it was beyond the ken of man where it would end. He preferred to stand pat on the tariff as it had been originally adopted.

"I told her," said Kitty, "that she had no right to throw off the duty on my trunks, at all, and that I wouldn't have it, and I didn't."

"Well, Tom," said Mrs. Fenelby, "you know perfectly well that we can't leave those trunks out on the lawn. It would not only be absolutely foolish to do that, but cruel to Kitty. A girl simply can't visit away from home without trunks, and it is absolutely necessary that Kitty should have her trunks."

"'Necessities, ten per cent,'" quoted Kitty.

"But, my dear," said Mr. Fenelby, softly, "we really can't break all our household rules just because Kitty has brought three trunks, can we? Kitty does not expect us to do that, and I think she looks at it in a very rational manner. I like the spirit she has evinced."

"Very well, then," said Mrs. Fenelby, "you must find some way to take care of those trunks, for we cannot leave them on the lawn."

"Why can't we take them to some neighbor's house?" asked Kitty, "I am sure some neighbor would be glad to store them for me for awhile. Aren't you on good terms with your neighbors, Laura?"

"The Rankins might take them," said Laura, thoughtfully. "They have that vacant room, you know, Tom. They might not mind letting us put them in there."

"I don't know the Rankins," said Kitty," but I am sure they are perfectly lovely people, and that they would not mind in the least."

"I know they wouldn't," said Mr. Fenelby. "Rankin would be glad to do something of that sort to repay me for the number of times he has borrowed my lawn mower. I will step over after dinner and ask him."

"Are you sure, very sure, that you do not mind, Kitty?" asked Mrs. Fenelby. "You will not feel hurt, or anything?"

"Oh, no!" said Kitty, lightly. "It will be a lark. I never in my life went visiting with three trunks, and then had them stored in another house. It will be quite like being shipwrecked on a desert island, to get along with one shirtwaist and one handkerchief."

"It will not be quite that bad, you know," said Mr. Fenelby, with the air of a man stating a great discovery, "because, don't you see, you can open your trunks at the Rankins, and bring over just as many things as you think you can afford to pay on."

For some reason that Mr. Fenelby could not fathom Kitty laughed merrily at this, and then they all went in to dinner. It was a very good dinner, of the kind that Bridget could prepare when she was in the humor, and they sat rather longer over it than usual, and then Mr. Fenelby proposed that he should step over to the Rankins' and arrange about the storage of Kitty's trunks, and on thinking it over he decided that he had better step down to the station and see if he could not get a man to carry the trunks across the street and up the Rankins' stairs. As they filed out of the house upon the porch Kitty suddenly decided that it was a beautiful evening for a little walk, and that nothing would please her so much as to walk to the station with Mr. Fenelby, if Laura would be one of the party, and after running up to see that Bobberts was all right, Laura said that she would go, and they started. As they were crossing the street to the Rankins' Kitty suddenly turned back.

That fellow looks as if he had no strength at all, and see how he carries off that trunk.

"You two go ahead," she said. "The air will do you good, Laura. I have something I want to do," and she ran back.

She entered the house, and looked out of the window until she saw the Fenelbys go into the Rankins' and come out again, and saw them start to the station, but as soon as they were out of sight she dashed down the porch steps and threw open the lids of her trunks. Never in the history of trunks was the act of unpacking done so quickly or so recklessly. She dived into the masses of fluffiness and emerged with great armfuls, and hurried them into the house, up the stairs, and into her closet, and was down again for another load. If she had been looting the trunks she could not have worked more hurriedly, or more energetically, and when the last armful had been carried up she slammed the lids and turned the keys, and sank in a graceful position on the lower porch step.

Mr. and Mrs. Fenelby returned with leisurely slowness of pace, the station loafer and man-of-little-work slouching along at a respectful distance behind them. Kitty greeted them with a cheerful frankness of face. The man-of-little-work looked at the three big trunks as if their size was in some way a personal insult to him. He tried to assume the look of a man who has been cozened away from his needed rest on false pretenses.

"I didn't know as the trunks was as big as them," he drawled. "If I'd knowed they was, I wouldn't of walked all the way over here. Fifty cents ain't no fair price for carryin' three trunks the size and heft of them, across -- well, say this is a sixty foot street -- say, eighty feet, and up a flight of stairs. I don't say nothin', but I'll leave it to the ladies."

"Fifty cents!" cried Kitty. "I should think not! Why, I didn't imagine you would do it for less than a dollar. I mean to pay you a dollar."

"That's right," said the man. "You see I have to walk all the way back to the station when I git through, too. My time goin' and comin' is worth something."

He bent down and took the largest trunk by one handle, to heave it to his back, and as he touched the handle the trunk almost arose into the air of its own accord. The man straightened up and looked at it, and a strange look passed across his face, but he closed his mouth and said nothing.

"Would you like a lift?" asked Mr. Fenelby.

"No," said the man shortly. "I know how to handle trunks, I do," and it certainly seemed that he did, for he swung it to his back with all the grace of a Sandow, and started off with it. Mr. Fenelby looked at him with surprise.

"Now, isn't that one of the oddities of nature?" said Mr. Fenelby. "That fellow looks as if he had no strength at all, and see how he carries off that trunk as if there was not a thing in it. I suppose it is a knack he has. Now, see how hard it is for me merely to lift one end of this smallest one."

But before he could touch it Kitty had grasped him by the arm.

"Oh, don't try it!" she cried. "Please don't! You might hurt your back."

Chapter IV -- Billy

A few minutes before noon the next day Billy Fenelby dropped into Mr. Fenelby's office in the city and the two men went out to lunch together. It would be hard to imagine two brothers more unlike than Thomas and William Fenelby, for if Thomas Fenelby was inclined to be small in stature and precise in his manner, William was all that his nickname of Billy implied, and was not so many years out of his college football eleven, where he had won a place because of his size and strength. Billy Fenelby, after having been heroized by innumerable girls during his college years, had become definitely a man's man, and was in the habit of saying that his girly-girl days were over, and that he would walk around a block any day to escape meeting a girl. He was not afraid of girls, and he did not hate them, but be simply held that they were not worthwhile. The truth was that he had been so petted and worshipped by them as a star football player that the attention they paid him as an ordinary young man, not unlike many other young men out of college, seemed tame by comparison. No doubt he had come to believe, during his college days, that the only interesting thing a girl could do was to admire a man heartily, and in the manner that only football players and matinee idols are admired, so that now, when he had no particular claim to admiration, girls had become, so far as he was concerned, useless affairs.

"Now, about this girl-person that you have over at your house," he said to his brother, when they were seated at their lunch, "what about her?"

"About her?" asked Mr. Fenelby. "How do you mean?"

"What about her?" repeated Billy. "You know how I feel about the girl-business. I suppose she is going to stay awhile?"

"Kitty? I think so. We want her to. But you needn't bother about Kitty. She won't bother you a bit. She's the right sort, Billy. Not like Laura, of course, for I don't believe there is another woman anywhere just like Laura, but Kitty is not the ordinary, flighty girl. You should hear her appreciate Bobberts. She saw his good points, and remarked about them, at once, and the way she has caught the spirit of the Domestic Tariff that I was telling you about is fine! Most girls would have hemmed and hawed about it, but she didn't! No, sir! She just saw what a fine idea it was, and when she saw that she couldn't afford to have her three trunks brought into the house she proposed that she leave them at a neighbor's. Did not make a single complaint. Don't worry about Kitty."

"That is all right about the tariff," said Billy. "I can't say I think much of that tariff idea myself, but so long as it is the family custom a guest couldn't do any less than live up to it. But I don't like the idea of having to spend a number of weeks in the same house with any girl. They are all bores, Tom, and I know it. A man can't have any comfort when there is a girl in the house. And between you and me that Kitty girl looks the kind that is sure to be always right at a fellow's side. I was wondering if Laura would think it was all right if I stayed in town here?"

"No, she wouldn't," said Tom shortly. "She would be offended, and so would I. If you are going to let some nonsense about girls being a bore -- which is all foolishness -- keep you away from the house, you had better --. Why," he added, "it is an insult to us -- to Laura and me -- just as if you said right out that the company we choose to ask to our home was not good enough for you to associate with. If you think our house is going to bore you --"

"Now, look here, old man," said Billy, "I don't mean that at all, and you know I don't. I simply don't like girls, and that is all there is to it. But I'll come. I'll have my trunk sent over and --. Say, do I have to pay duty on what I have in my trunk?"

"Certainly," said Mr. Fenelby. "That is, of course, if you want to enter into the spirit of the thing. It is only ten per cent, you know, and it all goes into Bobberts' education fund."

Billy sat in silent thought awhile.

"I wonder," he said at length, "how it would do if I just put a few things into my suitcase -- enough to last me a few days at a time -- and left my trunk over here I don't need everything I brought in that trunk. I was perfectly reckless about putting things in that trunk. I put into that trunk nearly everything I own in this world, just because the trunk was so big that it would hold everything, and it seemed a pity to bring a big trunk like that with nothing in it but air. Now, I could take my suitcase and put into it the things I will really need --"

"Certainly," said Mr. Fenelby. "You can do that if you want to, and it would be perfectly fair to Bobberts. All Bobberts asks is to be paid a duty on what enters the house. He don't say what shall be brought in, or what shall not. Personally, Billy, I would call the duty off, so far as you are concerned, but I don't think Laura would like it. We started this thing fair, and we are all living up to it. Laura made Kitty live up to it and you can see it would not be right for me to make an exception in your case just because you happen to be my brother."

"No," agreed Billy, "it wouldn't, I don't ask it. I will play the game and I will play it fair. All I ask is: If I bring a suitcase, do I have to pay on the cost? Because if I do, I won't bring it. I can wrap all I need in a piece of paper, and save the duty on the suitcase. I believe in playing fair, Tom, but that is no reason why I should be extravagant."

"I think," said Tom, doubtfully, "suitcases should come in free. Of course, if it was a brand new suitcase it would have to pay duty, but an old one -- one that has been used -- is different. It is like wrapping paper. The duty is assessed on what the package contains and not on the package itself. If it is not a new suitcase you will not have to pay duty on it."

"Then my suitcase will go in free," said Billy. "It is one of the first crop of suitcases that was raised in this country, and I value it more as a relic than as a suitcase. I carry it more as a souvenir than as a suitcase."

"Souvenirs are different," said Mr. Fenelby. "Souvenirs are classed as luxuries, and pay thirty per cent. If you consider it a souvenir it pays duty."

"I will consider it a suitcase," said Billy, promptly. "I will consider it a poor old, worn out suitcase."

"I think that would be better," agreed Mr. Fenelby. "But we will have to wait and see what Laura considers it."

As on the previous evening the ladies were on the porch, enjoying the evening air, when Mr. Fenelby reached home with Billy in tow, and Billy greeted them as if he had never wished anything better than to meet Miss Kitty.

"Where is this custom house Tom has been telling me about?" he asked, as soon as the hand shaking was over. "I want to have my baggage examined. I have dutiable goods to declare. Who is the inspector?"

"Laura is," said Kitty. "She is the slave of the grinding system that fosters monopoly and treads under heel the poor people."

"All right," said Billy, "I declare one collar. I wish to bring one collar into the bosom of this family. I have in this suitcase one collar. I never travel without one extra collar. It is the two-for-a-quarter kind, with a name like a sleeping car, and it has been laundered twice, which brings it to the verge of ruin. How much do I have to pay on the one collar?"

"Collars are a necessity," said Mrs. Fenelby, "and they pay ten per --"

"What a notion!" exclaimed Kitty. "Collars are not a necessity. Collars are an actual luxury, especially in warm weather. Many very worthy men never wear a collar at all, and would not think of wearing one in hot weather. They are like jewelry or -- or something of that sort. Collars certainly pay thirty per cent."

"I reserve the right to appeal," said Billy. "Those are the words of an unjust judge. But how much do I take off the value of the collar because two-thirds of its life has been laundered away. How much is one-third of twelve and a half?"

"Now, that is pure nonsense," Kitty said, "and I sha'n't let poor, dear little Bobberts be robbed in any such way. That collar cost twelve and a half cents, and it has had two and a half cents spent on it twice, so it is now a seventeen and a half cent collar, and thirty per cent of that is -- is --"

"Oh, if you are going to rob me!" exclaimed Billy. "I don't care. I can get along without a collar. I will bring out a sweater tomorrow."

"Sweaters pay only ten per cent," said Kitty sweetly. "What else have you in your suitcase?"

"Air," said Billy. "Nothing but air. I didn't think I could afford to bring anything else, and I will leave the collar out here. I open the case -- I take out the collar -- I place it gently on the porch railing -- and I take the empty suitcase case into the house. I pay no duty at all, and that is what you get for being so grasping."

Mr. Fenelby shook his head.

"You can't do that, Billy," he said. "That puts the suitcase in another class. It isn't a package for holding anything now, so it doesn't go in free, and it isn't a necessity -- because you can't need an empty suitcase -- so it doesn't go in at ten per cent, so it must be a luxury, and it pays thirty per cent."

"That suitcase," said Billy, looking at it with a calculating eye, "is not worth thirty per cent of what it is worth. It is worthless, and I wouldn't give ten per cent of nothing for it. It stays outside. So I pay nothing. I go in free. Unless I have to pay on myself."

"You don't have to," said Kitty, "although I suppose Laura and Tom think you are a luxury."

"Don't you think I am one?" asked Billy.

"No, I don't," said Kitty frankly, "and when you know me better, you will not ask such a foolish question. Wherever I am, there a young man is a necessity."



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