The Bat HTML version

The Indomitable Miss Van Gorder
Miss Cornelis Van Gorder, indomitable spinster, last bearer of a name which had been
great in New York when New York was a red-roofed Nieuw Amsterdam and Peter
Stuyvesant a parvenu, sat propped up in bed in the green room of her newly rented
country house reading the morning newspaper. Thus seen, with an old soft Paisley shawl
tucked in about her thin shoulders and without the stately gray transformation that
adorned her on less intimate occasions, - she looked much less formidable and more
innocently placid than those could ever have imagined who had only felt the bite of her
tart wit at such functions as the state Van Gorder dinners. Patrician to her finger tips,
independent to the roots of her hair, she preserved, at sixty-five, a humorous and
quenchless curiosity in regard to every side of life, which even the full and crowded years
that already lay behind her had not entirely satisfied. She was an Age and an Attitude, but
she was more than that; she had grown old without growing dull or losing touch with
youth - her face had the delicate strength of a fine cameo and her mild and youthful heart
preserved an innocent zest for adventure.
Wide travel, social leadership, the world of art and books, a dozen charities, an existence
rich with diverse experience - all these she had enjoyed energetically and to the full - but
she felt, with ingenious vanity, that there were still sides to her character which even
these had not brought to light. As a little girl she had hesitated between wishing to be a
locomotive engineer or a famous bandit - and when she had found, at seven, that the
accident of sex would probably debar her from either occupation, she had resolved
fiercely that some time before she died she would show the world in general and the Van
Gorder clan in particular that a woman was quite as capable of dangerous exploits as a
man. So far her life, while exciting enough at moments, had never actually been
dangerous and time was slipping away without giving her an opportunity to prove her
hardiness of heart. Whenever she thought of this the fact annoyed her extremely - and she
thought of it now.
She threw down the morning paper disgustedly. Here she was at 65 - rich, safe, settled
for the summer in a delightful country place with a good cook, excellent servants,
beautiful gardens and grounds - everything as respectable and comfortable as - as a
limousine! And out in the world people were murdering and robbing each other, floating
over Niagara Falls in barrels, rescuing children from burning houses, taming tigers, going
to Africa to hunt gorillas, doing all sorts of exciting things! She could not float over
Niagara Falls in a barrel; Lizzie Allen, her faithful old maid, would never let her! She
could not go to Africa to hunt gorillas; Sally Ogden, her sister, would never let her hear
the last of it. She could not even, as she certainly would if the were a man, try and track
down this terrible creature, the Bat!
She sniffed disgruntledly. Things came to her much too easily. Take this very house she
was living in. Ten days ago she had decided on the spur of the moment - a decision
suddenly crystallized by a weariness of charitable committees and the noise and heat of
New York - to take a place in the country for the summer. It was late in the renting
season - even the ordinary difficulties of finding a suitable spot would have added some