CHAPTER I THE PRINCESS CINDERELLA
When the society editor of "America's foremost newspaper," as in its trademark it proclaims itself to be, announced that the Rodney Aldriches had taken the Allison McCreas' house, furnished, for a year, beginning in October, she spoke of it as an ideal arrangement. As everybody knew, it was an ideal house for a young married couple, and it was equally evident that the Rodney Aldriches were an ideal couple for it.
In the sense that it left nothing to further realization, it was an ideal house; an old house in the Chicago sense, built over into something very much older still—Tudor, perhaps—Jacobean, anyway—by a smart young society architect who wore soft collars and an uptwisted mustache, and who, by a perfectly reciprocal arrangement which almost deserves to be called a form of perpetual motion, owed the fact that he was an architect to his social position, and maintained his social position by being an architect.
He had cooperated enthusiastically with Florence McCrea, not only in the design of the house, but in the supplementary matters of furniture, hangings, rugs and pictures, with the effect that the establishment presented the last politely spoken word in things as they ought to be. The period furniture was accurate almost to the minute, and the arrangement of it, the color schemes and the lighting, had at once the finality of perfection and the perfection of finality. If you happened to like that sort of thing, it was precisely the sort of thing you'd like.
The same sort of neat, fully acquired perfection characterized the McCreas' domestic arrangements. Allison McCrea's income, combined with his wife's, was exactly enough to enable them to live in this house and entertain on the scale it very definitely prescribed, just half the time. Every other year they went off around the world in one direction or another, and rented their house furnished for exactly enough to pay all their expenses. They had no children, and his business, which consisted in allowing his bank to collect his invariable quarterly dividends for him and credit them to his account, offered no obstacle to this arrangement. On the alternate years, they came back and spent two years' income living in their house.
Florence was an old friend of Rodney's and it was her notion that it would be just the thing he'd want. She made no professions of altruism—admitted she was fussy about whom she rented her darling house to, and that Rodney and his wife would be exactly right. Still, she didn't believe he could do better. They'd have to have some sort of place to live in, in the autumn. It would be such a mistake to buy a lot of stuff in a hurry and find out later that they didn't want it! The arrangement she proposed would leave him an idyllically untroubled summer—nothing to fuss about, and provide ... Well, Rodney knew for himself what the house was—complete down to the cork-screws.
Even the servant question was eliminated. "Ours are so good," Florence said, "that the last time we rented the house, we put them in the lease....