William F. Stratton
A Romance of Two Grips
Updated: Jan 1, 2022
By Frank N. Stratton
The Valley Weekly, St. Louis, Missouri, January 13, 1904.
It might not have happened if Chelmsford hadn’t noticed her vainly trying to overcome the obstinacy of the car window. And it might not have happened then, had she not shot that appealing glance in Chelmsford's direction. To that glance from those eyes, Chelmsford—hitherto invincible— capitulated.
He dropped his grip and tackled the window. Under the spell of those eyes and that smile he was conscious of a Samson-like strength; if necessary he could have torn the window from its casing. After he had conquered the window there was nothing to do but resume the grip, acknowledge the thanks, and continue his search for a vacant seat. It was really too bad that the other half of her seat was occupied.
When he had at last settled down, he tried to turn his thoughts to the breeze-kissed lakes, denizened by voracious and inquisitive bass, which he had reluctantly left behind; to the city of turmoil and smoke to which he was reluctantly returning; but they determinedly refused to turn from—those eyes.
At each stop of the crowded excursion train he watched to see if she left the coach. When she and her mother arose, as the train pulled into his own station, he hurried forward, elated, only to behold a handsome young fellow meet them and bear them triumphantly away, paying especial attention to her.
Thirty minutes later, Chelmsford slammed a grip upon his dressing-table, and scowled fiercely at his reflection in the mirror.
“Just my luck!” he growled. “Missed the one opportunity of my life.”
He slipped the catches of the grip and jerked it open savagely. Strange and surprising articles flew forth, articles quite foreign to the apartments of a bachelor. Marvelous and dainty garments, decorated with delicate lace and bows of ribbons, rose up from the yawning receptacle to confound him. A bunch of tiny hairpins tinkled on the table. A downy powder-puff rolled forth, its faint incense rising to astonished nostrils.
“Shade of Saint Anthony, protect me!” Chelmsford gasped. “It’s her grip!"
A little package of letters nestled at the bottom, the uppermost envelope bearing an Inscription:
"Miss Grace Olcott, 2714 North Walnut Street, City.”
Only five blocks away! One never knows how near he may be to Paradise.
Gingerly, reverently, he tucked the escaped articles into the grip, snapped it shut, and rushed out.
At a neat little cottage in a shady street, she, herself, answered his ring. She uttered a little cry of mingled joy and dismay, and held I out her hands—for the grip.
“Did you—open it?” she stammered.
“Naturally; they are precisely alike and—”
“Horrible!” she interrupted, and fled her grip.
Soon her mother appeared, handed Chelmsford his property, with a few cool words of thanks, and laid her hand on the knob of the door. Evidently, she considered the affair as a closed incident. So Chelmsford lifted his hat politely, and returned to his rooms humbly.
An oblong of pasteboard on the floor caught his eye. He snatched it up, turned it over, saw a face, and—kissed it. Then, seeking solace, he searched his grip for something which should have been in it but which wasn’t. Meditating for a moment, he smiled hopefully.
Next day arrived a little missive:
“Pardon me if I say that a gentleman would not have kept my photograph. Kindly return it at once—by mail. (Miss) Grace Olcott.”
Promptly Chelmsford retaliated:
“Pardon me for wondering what use a lady can have for my pipe. I shall call for it—in person. Respectfully, John Chelmsford.”
As he approached the cottage next morning she emerged, hatted and gloved, bearing a stenographer’s note-book. She blazed at him for a moment with those eyes, then melted, and laughed merrily.
“What a muddle! That pipe must have fallen out when we opened your grip. We thought Brother Will had left it when he brought us from the station I’ll run in and get It.”
The pipe restored, Chelmsford observed, brazenly:
"Come on. We'll miss our car. You’re going town, aren’t you?”
She was, of course, and to Chelmsford, and— yes, to her—that car seemed to travel exasperatingly fast as they chatted together. As he handed her from the car she said, suddenly: “My photograph. You must return that—you know.”
“Is It really necessary that I return It?”
“By mail?” he asked, smiling.
She looked down, and shifted the notebook nervously.
“I think I shall bring it—this evening.”
She looked up at him quickly, then down again.
"Quick! The car’s going. May I?”
She glanced up archly, smiling bewitchedly: “If you think that safer than mail,” she called back as she turned away.