The Captain's Toll-Gate
Frank R. Stockton
Part 3 out of 6
This was pretty strong for the young professor, but the lady understood
him. She was very glad, indeed, that he could express himself
impulsively, for without that power he could not win Olive.
As Dick started away from Broadstone on his walk to the toll-gate he
heard quick steps behind him and was soon overtaken by Claude Locker.
"Hello," said that young man, "if you are on your way home I am going to
walk a while with you. I have not done a thing to-day."
When Dick heard these words his heart sank. He was on his way home
accompanied by Olive--Olive in his heart, Olive in his soul, Olive in
his brain, Olive in the sky and all over the earth--how dared a common
mortal intrude himself upon the scene?
"There is another thing," said Locker, who was now keeping step with
him. "My soul is filled with murderous intent. I thirst for human life,
and I need the restraints of companionship."
"Who is it you want to kill?" asked Dick coldly.
"It is an Austrian," replied the other. "I will not say what Austrian,
leaving that to your imagination. I don't suppose you ever killed an
Austrian. Neither have I, but I should like to do it. It would be a
novel and delightful experience."
Dick did not think it necessary that he should be told more; he
perfectly understood the state of the case, for it was impossible not to
see that this young man was paying marked attention to Olive, while Mr.
Du Brant was doing the same thing. But still it seemed well to say
something, and he remarked:
"What is the matter with the Austrian?"
"He is in love with Miss Asher," said Locker, "and so am I. I am
beginning to believe he is positively dangerous. I did not think so at
first, but I do now. He has actually taken to reading. I know that man;
I have often seen him in Washington. He was always running after some
lady or other, but I never knew him to read before. It is a dangerous
symptom. He reads with one eye, while the other sweeps the horizon to
catch a glimpse of her. By the way, that would be a splendid idea for a
district policeman; if he stood under a lamp-post in citizen's dress
reading a book, no criminal would suspect his identity, and he could
keep one eye on the printed page, and devote the other to the cause of
justice. But to return to our sallow mutton, or black sheep, if you
choose. That Austrian ought to be killed!"
Dick smiled sardonically. "He is not your only obstacle," he said.
"I know it," replied Locker. "There's that Chinese laundried fellow,
smooth-finished, who came up this morning. He must be an old offender,
for I saw her giving it to him hot this morning. I am sure she was
telling him exactly what she thought of him, for he turned as red as a
pickled beet. So he will have to scratch pretty hard if he expects to
get into her good graces again, and I suppose that is what he came here
for. But I am not so much afraid of him as I am of that Austrian. If he
keeps on the literary lay, and reads books with her, looking up the
words in the dictionary, it is dangerous."
"I do not see," said Lancaster, somewhat loftily, "why you speak of
these things to me."
"Then I'll tell you," said Locker quickly. "I speak of them to you
because you are just as much concerned in them as I am. You are in love
with Miss Asher--anybody can see that--and, in fact, I should think you
were a pretty poor sort of a fellow if you were not, after having seen
and talked with her. Consequently that Austrian is just as dangerous to
you as he is to me. And as I have chosen you for my brother-in-arms, it
is right that I tell you everything I know."
"Brother-in-arms?" ejaculated Dick.
"That is what it is," said Locker, "and I will tell you how it came
about. The Austrian looked upon you with scorn and contempt because you
rode a horse wearing rolled-up trousers and low shoes. As you did not
see him and could not return the contempt, I did it for you. Having done
this, a fellow feeling for you immediately sprang up within me. That is
what always happens, you know. After that the feeling became a good deal
stronger, and I said to myself that if I found I could not get Miss
Asher; and it's seventy-six I don't, for that's generally the state of
my luck; I would help you to get her, partly because I like you, and
partly because that Austrian must be ousted, no matter what happens or
how it is done. So I became your brother-in-arms, and if I find I am out
of the race, I am going to back you up just as hard as I can, and here's
my hand upon it."
Dick stopped as he had stopped half an hour before, and gazed upon his
"Now don't thank me," continued Locker, "or say anything nice, because
if I find I can come in ahead of you I am going to do it. But if we work
together, I am sure we need not be afraid of that Austrian, or of that
fiery-faced model for a ready-made-clothes shop. It is to be either you
or me--first place for me, if possible."
Dick could not help laughing. "You are a jolly sort of a fellow," said
he, "and I will be your brother-in-arms. But it is to be first place for
me, if possible." And they shook hands upon the bargain.
That evening Mr. Hemphill found Olive alone. "I have been trying to get
a chance to speak to you, Miss Asher," said he. "I want to ask you to
help me, for I do not know what in the world to do."
Olive looked at him inquiringly.
"Since you spoke to me this afternoon," he went on, "I have been in a
state of most miserable embarrassment; I can not for the life of me
decide what I ought to say or what I ought to do, or what I ought not to
say or what I ought not to do. If I should pass over as something not
necessary to take into consideration the--the--most unusual statement
you made to me, it might be that you would consider me as a boor, a man
incapable of appreciating the--the--highest honors. Then again, if I do
say anything to show that I appreciate such honors, you may well
consider me presumptuous, conceited, and even insulting. I thought a
while ago that I would leave this house before it would be necessary for
me to decide how I should act when I met you, but I could not do that.
Explanations would be necessary, and I would not be able to make them,
and so, in sheer despair, I have come to you. Whatever you say I ought
to do I will do. Of myself, I am utterly helpless."
Olive looked at him with serious earnestness. "You are in a queer
position," she said, "and I don't wonder you do not know what to do. I
did not think of this peculiar consequence which would result from my
revelation. As to the revelation itself, there is no use talking about
it; it had to be made. It would have been unjust and wicked to allow a
man to live in ignorance of the fact that such a thing had happened to
him without his knowing it. But I think I can make it all right for
you. If you had known when you were very young, in fact, when you were
in another age of man, that a young girl in short dresses was in love
with you, would you have disdained her affection?"
"I should say not!" exclaimed Rupert Hemphill, his eyes fixed upon the
person who had once been that girl in short dresses.
"Well, then," said Olive, "there could have been nothing for her to
complain of, no matter what she knew or what she did not know, and there
is nothing he could complain of, no matter what he knew or did not know.
And as both these persons have passed entirely out of existence, I think
you and I need consider them no longer. And we can talk about tennis or
bass fishing, or anything we like. And if you are a fisherman you will
be glad to hear that there is first-rate bass fishing in the river now,
and that we are talking of getting up a regular fishing party. We shall
have to go two or three miles below here where the water is deeper and
there are not so many rocks."
That night Mr. Hemphill dreamed hard of a girl who had loved him when
she was little, and who continued to love him now that she had grown to
be wonderfully handsome. He was going out to sail with her in a boat far
and far away, where nobody could find them or bring them back.
_A Letter for Olive._
The next morning, about an hour after breakfast, Mr. Du Brant proposed
to Olive. He had received a letter the day before which made it probable
that he might be recalled to Washington before the time which had been
fixed for the end of his visit at Broadstone, and he consequently did
not wish to defer for a moment longer than was necessary this most
important business of his life. He told Miss Asher that he had never
truly loved before; which was probably correct; and that as she had
raised his mind from the common things of earth, upon which it had been
accustomed to grovel, she had made a new man of him in an astonishingly
short time; which, it is likely, was also true.
He assured her that without any regard to outside circumstances, he
could not live without her. If at any other time he had allowed his mind
to dwell for a moment upon matrimony, he had thought of family,
position, wealth, social station, and all that sort of thing, but now he
thought of nothing but her, and he came to offer her his heart. In fact,
the man was truly and honestly in love.
Inwardly Olive smiled. "I can not ask him," she said to herself, "to say
this again every day before dinner. He hasn't the wit of Claude Locker,
and would not be able to vary his remarks; but I can not blast his hopes
too suddenly, for, if I do that, he will instantly go away, and it would
not be treating Mrs. Easterfield properly if I were to break up her
party without her knowledge. But I will talk to her about it. And now
for him.--Mr. Du Brant," she said aloud, speaking in English, although
he had proposed to her in French, because she thought she could make her
own language more impressive, "it is a very serious thing you have said
to me, and I don't believe you have had time enough to think about it
properly. Now don't interrupt. I know exactly what you would say. You
have known me such a little while that even if your mind is made up it
can not be properly made up, and therefore, for your own sake, I am
going to give you a chance to think it all over. You must not say you
don't want to, because I want you to; and when you have thought, and
thought, and know yourself better--now don't say you can not know
yourself better if you have a thousand years in which to consider
it--for though you think that it is true it is not"
"And if I rack my brains and my heart," interrupted Mr. Du Brant, "and
find out that I can never change nor feel in any other way toward you
than I feel now, may I then----"
"Now, don't say anything about that," said Olive. "What I want to do now
is to treat you honorably and fairly, and to give you a chance to
withdraw if, after sober consideration, you think it best to do so. I
believe that every young man who thinks himself compelled to propose
marriage in such hot haste ought to have a chance to reflect quietly
and coolly, and to withdraw if he wants to. And that is all, Mr. Du
Brant. I must be off this minute, for Mrs. Easterfield is over there
waiting for me."
Mr. Du Brant walked thoughtfully away. "I do not understand," he said to
himself in French, "why she did not tell me I need not speak to her
again about it. The situation is worthy of diplomatic consideration, and
I will give it that."
From a distance Claude Locker beheld his Austrian enemy walking alone,
and without a book.
"Something has happened," he thought, "and the fellow has changed his
tactics. Before, under cover of a French novel, he was a snake in the
grass, now he is a snake hopping along on the tip of his tail. Perhaps
he thinks this is a better way to keep a lookout upon her. I believe he
is more dangerous than he was before, for I don't know whether a snake
on tip tail jumps or falls down upon his victims."
One thing Mr. Locker was firmly determined upon. He was going to try to
see Olive as soon as it was possible before luncheon, and impress upon
her the ardent nature of his feelings toward her; he did not believe he
had done this yet. He looked about him. The party, excepting himself and
Mr. Du Brant, were on the front lawn; he would join them and satirize
the gloomy Austrian. If Olive could be made to laugh at him it would be
like preparing a garden-bed with spade and rake before sowing his seeds.
The rural mail-carrier came earlier than usual that day, and he brought
Olive but one letter, but as it was from her father, she was entirely
satisfied, and retired to a bench to read it.
In about ten minutes after that she walked into Mrs. Easterfield's
little room, the open letter in her hand. As Mrs. Easterfield looked up
from her writing-table the girl seemed transformed; she was taller, she
was straighter, her face had lost its bloom, and her eyes blazed.
"Would you believe it!" she said, grating out the words as she spoke.
"My father is going to be married!"
Mrs. Easterfield dropped her pen, and her face lost color. She had
always been greatly interested in Lieutenant Asher. "What!" she
exclaimed. "He? And to whom?"
"A girl I used to go to school with," said Olive, standing as if she
were framed in one solid piece. "Edith Marshall, living in Geneva. She
is older than I am, but we were in the same classes. They are to be
married in October, and she is to sail for this country about the time
his ship comes home. He is to be stationed at Governor's Island, and
they are to have a house there. He writes, and writes, and writes, about
how lovely it will be for me to have this dear new mother. Me! To call
that thing mother! I shall have no mother, but I have lost my father."
With this she threw herself upon a lounge, and burst into passionate
tears. Mrs. Easterfield rose, and closed the door.
Claude Locker had no opportunity to press his suit before luncheon, for
Olive did not come to that meal; she had one of her headaches. Every one
seemed to appreciate the incompleteness of the party, and even Mrs.
Easterfield looked serious, which was not usual with her. Mr. Hemphill
was much cast down, for he had made up his mind to talk to Olive in such
a way that she should not fail to see that he had taken to heart her
advice, and might be depended upon to deport himself toward her as if he
had never heard the words she had addressed to him. He had prepared
several topics for conversation, but as he would not waste these upon
the general company, he indulged only in such remarks as were necessary
to good manners.
Mr. Du Brant talked a good deal in a perfunctory manner, but inwardly he
was somewhat elated. "Her emotions must have been excited more than I
supposed," he thought. "That is not a bad sign."
Mrs. Fox was a little bit--a very little bit--annoyed because Mr. Fox
did not make as many facetious remarks as was his custom. He seemed like
one who, in a degree, felt that he lacked an audience; Mrs. Fox could
see no good reason for this.
When Mrs. Easterfield went up to Olive's room she found her bathing her
eyes in cold water.
"Will you lend me a bicycle" said Olive. "I am sure you have one."
Mrs. Easterfield looked at her in amazement.
"I want to go to my uncle," said Olive. "He is now all I have left in
this world. I have been thinking, and thinking about everything, and I
want to go to him. Whatever has come between us will vanish as soon as
he sees me, I am sure of that. I do not know why he did not want me to
come back to him, but he will want me now, and I should like to start
immediately without anybody seeing me."
"But a bicycle!" exclaimed Mrs. Easterfield. "You can't go that way. I
will send you in the carriage."
"No, no, no," cried Olive; "I want to go quietly. I want to go so that I
can leave my wheel at the door and go right in. I have a short
walking-skirt, and I can wear that. Please let me have the bicycle."
Mrs. Easterfield made Olive sit down and she talked to her, but there
was no changing the girl's determination to go to her uncle, to go
alone, and to go immediately.
_Olive's Bicycle Trip._
Despite Olive's desire to set forth immediately on her bicycle trip, it
was past the middle of the afternoon when she left Broadstone. She went
out quietly, not by the usual driveway, and was soon upon the turnpike
road. As she sped along the cool air upon her face refreshed her; and
the knowledge that she was so rapidly approaching the dear old
toll-gate, where, even if she did not find her uncle at the house, she
could sit with old Jane until he came back, gave her strength and
Up a long hill she went, and down again to the level country. Then there
was a slighter rise in the road, and when she reached its summit she
saw, less than a mile away, the toll-gate surrounded by its trees, the
thick foliage of the fruit-trees in the garden, the little tollhouse and
the long bar, standing up high at its customary incline upon the
opposite side of the road. Down the little hill she went; and then,
steadily and swiftly, onward. Presently she saw that some one was on the
piazza by the side of the tollhouse; his back was toward her, he was
sitting in his accustomed armchair; she could not be mistaken; it was
Now and then, while upon the road, she had thought of what she should
say when she first met him, but she had soon dismissed all ideas of
preconceived salutations, or explanations. She would be there, and that
would be enough. Her father's letter was in her pocket, and that was too
much. All she meant to do was to glide up to that piazza, spring up the
steps, and present herself to her uncle's astonished gaze before he had
any idea that any one was approaching.
She was within twenty feet of the piazza when she saw that her uncle was
not alone; there was some one sitting in front of him who had been
concealed by his broad shoulders. This person was a woman. She had
caught sight of Olive, and stuck her head out on one side to look at
her. Upon her dough-like face there was a grin, and in her eye a light
of triumph. With one quick glance she seemed to say: "Ah, ha, you find
me here, do you? What have you to say to that?"
Olive's heart stood still. That woman, that Maria Port, sitting in close
converse with her uncle in that public place where she had never seen
any one but men! That horrid woman at such a moment as this! She could
not speak to her; she could not speak to her uncle in her presence. She
could not stop. With what she had on her mind, and with what she had in
her pocket, it would be impossible to say a word before that Maria Port!
Without a swerve she sped on, and passed the toll-gate. She only knew
one thing; she could not stop.
The wildest suspicions now rushed into her mind. Why should her uncle
be thus exposing himself to the public gaze with Maria Port? Why did it
give the woman such diabolical pleasure to be seen there with him? With
a mind already prepared for such sickening revelations, Olive was
convinced that it could mean nothing but that her uncle intended to
marry Maria Port. What else could it mean? But no matter what it meant,
she could not stop. She could not go back.
On went her bicycle, and presently she gained sufficient command over
herself to know that she should not ride into the town. But what else
could she do? She could not go back while those two were sitting on the
piazza. Suddenly she remembered the shunpike. She had never been on it,
but she knew where it left the road, and where it reentered it. So she
kept on her course, and in a few minutes had reached the narrow country
road. There were ruts here and there, and sometimes there were stony
places; there were small hills, mostly rough; and there were few
stretches of smooth road; but on went Olive; sometimes trying with much
effort to make good time, and always with tears in her eyes, dimming the
roadway, the prospect, and everything in the world.
"There now!" exclaimed Maria Port, springing to her feet. "What have you
got to say to that? If that isn't brazen I never saw brass!"
"What do you mean?" said the captain, rising in his chair.
"Mean?" said Maria Port, leaning over the railing. "Look there! Do you
see that girl getting away as fast as she can work herself? That's your
precious niece, Olive Asher, scooting past us with her nose in the air
as if we was sticks and stones by the side of the road. What have you
got to say to that, Captain John, I'd like to know?"
The captain ran down the path. "You don't mean to say that is Olive!" he
"That's who it is," answered Miss Port. "She looked me square in the
face as she dashed by. Not a word for you, not a word for me. Impudence!
That doesn't express it!"
The captain paid no attention to her, but ran into the garden. Old Jane
was standing near the house door. "Was that Miss Olive?" he cried. "Did
you see her?"
"Yes," said old Jane, "it was her. I saw her comin', and I came out to
meet her. But she just shot through the toll-gate as if she didn't know
there was a toll on bicycles."
The captain stood still in the garden-path. He could not believe that
Olive had done this to treat him with contempt. She must have heard some
news. There must be something the matter. She was going into town at the
top of her speed to send a telegram, intending to stop as she came back.
She might have stopped anyway if it had not been for that
good-for-nothing Maria Port. She hated Maria, and he hated her himself,
at this moment, as she stood by his side, asking him what was the matter
"It's no more than you have to expect," said she. "She's a fine lady, a
navy lady, a foreign lady, that's been with the aristocrats! She's got
good clothes on that she never wore here, and where I guess she had a
pretty stupid time, judgin' from how they carry on at that Easterfield
place. Why in the world should she want to stop and speak to such
persons as you and me?"
The captain paid no attention to these remarks. "If she doesn't want to
send a telegram, I don't see what she is going to town for in such a
hurry. I suppose she thought she could get there sooner than a man could
go on a horse," he said.
"Telegram!" sneered Miss Port. "It's a great deal easier to send
telegrams from the gap."
"Then it is something worse," he thought. Perhaps she might be running
away, though what in the world she was running from he could not
imagine. Anyway, he must see her; he must find out. When she came back
she must not pass again, and if she did not come back he must go after
her. He ran to the road and put down the bar, calling to old Jane to
come there and keep a sharp lookout. Then he quickly returned to the
"What are you going to do" asked Miss Port. "I never saw a man in such a
"If she does not come back very soon," said he, "I shall go to town
"Then I suppose I might as well be going myself," said she. "And by the
way, captain, if you are going to town, why don't you take a seat in my
carriage? Dear knows me and the boy don't fill it."
But the captain would consider no such invitation. When he met Olive he
did not want Maria Port to be along. He did not answer, and went into
the house to make some change in his attire. Old Jane would not let
Olive pass, and if he met her on the road or in the town he wanted to be
Miss Port still stood in the path by the house door. "That's not what I
call polite," said she, "but he's awful flustered, and I don't mind."
Far from minding, Maria was pleased; it pleased her to know that his
niece's conduct had flustered him. The more that girl flustered him the
better it would be, and she smiled with considerable satisfaction. If
she could get that girl out of the way she believed she would find but
little difficulty in carrying out her scheme to embitter the remainder
of the good captain's life. She did not put it in that way to herself;
but that was the real character of the scheme.
Suddenly an idea struck her. It was of no use for her to stand and wait,
for she knew she would not be able to induce the captain to go with her.
It would be a great thing if she could, for to drive into town with him
by her side would go far to make the people of Glenford understand what
was going to happen. But, if she could not do this, she could do
something else. If she started away immediately she might meet that
Asher girl coming back, and it would be a very fine thing if she could
have an interview with her before she saw her uncle.
She made a quick step toward the house and looked in. The captain was
not visible, but old Jane was standing near the back door of the
tollhouse. The opportunity was not to be lost.
"Good-by, John," said she in a soft tone, but quite loud enough for the
old woman to hear. "I'll go home first, for I've got to see to gettin'
supper ready for you. So good-by, John, for a little while." And she
kissed her hand to the inside of the house.
Then she hurried out of the gate; got into the little phaeton which was
waiting for her under a tree; and drove away. She had come there that
afternoon on the pretense of consulting the captain about her father's
health, which she said disturbed her, and she had requested the
privilege of sitting on the toll-gate piazza because she had always
wanted to sit there, and had never been invited. The captain had not
invited her then, but as she had boldly marched to the piazza and taken
a seat, he had been obliged to follow.
Captain Asher, wearing a good coat and hat, relieved old Jane at her
post, and waited and waited for Olive to come back. He did not for a
moment think she might return by the shunpike, for that was a rough
road, not fit for a bicycle. And if she passed this way once, why should
she object to doing it again?
When more than time enough had elapsed for her return from the town, he
started forth with a heavy heart to follow her. He told old Jane that if
for any reason he should be detained in town until late, he would take
supper with Mr. Port, and if, although he did not expect this, he should
not come back that night, the Ports would know of his whereabouts. He
did not take his horse and buggy because he thought it would be in his
way. If he met Olive in the road he could more easily stop and talk to
her if he were walking than if he had a horse to take care of.
"I hope you're not runnin' after Miss Olive," said old Jane.
The captain did not wish his old servant to imagine that it was
necessary for him to run after his niece, and so he answered rather
quickly: "Of course not." Then he set off toward the town. He did not
walk very fast, for if he met Olive he would rather have a talk with her
on the road than in Glenford.
He walked on and on, not with his eyes on the smooth surface of the
pike, but looking out afar, hoping that he might soon see the figure of
a girl on a bicycle; and thus it was that he passed the entrance to the
shunpike without noticing that a bicycle track turned into it.
Olive struggled on, and the road did not improve. She worked hard with
her body, but still harder with her mind. It seemed to her as though
everything were endeavoring to crush her, and that it was almost
succeeding. If she had been in her own room, seated, or walking the
floor, indignation against her uncle would have given her the same
unnatural vigor and energy which had possessed her when she read her
father's letter; but it is impossible to be angry when one is physically
tired and depressed, and this was Olive's condition now. Once she
dismounted, sat down on a piece of rock, and cried. The rest was of
service to her, but she could not stay there long; the road was too
lonely. She must push on. So on she pressed, sometimes walking, and
sometimes on her wheel, the pedals apparently growing stiffer at every
turn. Slight mishaps she did not mind, but a fear began to grow upon her
that she would never be able to reach Broadstone at all. But after a
time--a very long time it seemed--the road grew more level and smooth;
and then ahead she saw the white surface of the turnpike shining as it
passed the end of her road. When she should emerge on that smooth, hard
road it could not be long, even if she went slowly, before she reached
home. She was still some fifty yards from the pike when she saw a man
upon it, walking southward.
As Dick Lancaster passed the end of the road he lifted his head, and
looked along it. It was strange that he should do so, for since he had
started on his homeward walk he had not raised his eyes from the ground.
He had reached Broadstone soon after luncheon, before Olive had left on
her wheel, and had passed rather a stupid time, playing tennis with
Claude Locker, he had seen but little of Mrs. Easterfield, whose mind
was evidently occupied. Once she had seemed about to take him into her
confidence, but had suddenly excused herself, and had gone into the
house. When the game was finished Locker advised him to go home.
"She is not likely to be down until dinner time," he had said, "and this
evening I'll defend our cause against those other fellows. I have
several good things in my mind that I am sure will interest her, and I
don't believe there's any use courting a girl unless you interest her."
Lancaster had taken the advice, and had left much earlier than was
_Mr. Lancaster accepts a Mission._
When Dick Lancaster saw Olive he stopped with a start, and then ran
"Miss Asher!" he exclaimed. "What are you doing here? What is the
matter? You look pale."
When she saw him coming Olive had dismounted, not with the active spring
usual with her, but heavily and clumsily. She did not even smile as she
spoke to him.
"I am glad to see you, Mr. Lancaster," she said. "I am on my way back to
Broadstone, and I would like to send a message to my uncle by you."
"Back from where? And why on this road?" he was about to ask, but he
checked himself. He saw that she trembled as she stood.
"Miss Asher," said he, "you must stop and rest. Let me take your wheel
and come over to this bank and sit down."
She sat down in the shade and took off her hat; and for a moment she
quietly enjoyed the cool breeze upon her head. He did not want to annoy
her with questions, but he could not help saying:
"You look very tired."
"I ought to be tired," she answered, "for I have gone over a perfectly
dreadful road. Of course, you wonder why I came this way, and the best
thing for me to do is to begin at the beginning and to tell you all
about it, so that you will know what I have been doing, and then
understand what I would like you to do for me."
So she told him all her tale, and, telling it, seemed to relieve her
mind while her tired body rested. Dick listened with earnest avidity. He
lost not the slightest change in her expression as she spoke. He was
shocked when he heard of her father; he was grieved when he imagined how
she must have felt when the news came to her; he was angry when he heard
of the impertinent glare of Maria Port; and his heart was torn when he
knew of this poor girl's disappointment, of her soul-harrowing
conjectures, of her wearisome and painful progress along that rough
road; of which progress she said but little, although its consequences
he could plainly see. All these things showed themselves upon his
countenance as he gazed upon her and listened, not only with his ears,
but his heart.
"I shall be more than glad," he said, when she had finished, "to carry
any message, or to do anything you want me to do. But I must first
relieve you of one of your troubles. Your uncle has not the slightest
idea of marrying Miss Port. I don't believe he would marry anybody; but,
of all women, not that vulgar creature. Let me assure you, Miss Asher,
that I have heard him talk about her, and I know he has the most
contemptuous opinion of her. I have heard him make fun of her, and I
don't believe he would have anything to do with her if it were not for
her father, who is one of his oldest friends."
She looked at him incredulously. "And yet they were sitting close
together," she said; "so close that at first I did not see her;
apparently talking in the most private manner in a very public place.
They surely looked very much like an engaged couple as I have noticed
them. And old Jane has told me that everybody knows she is trying to
trap him; and surely there is good reason to believe that she has
Dick shook his head. "Impossible, Miss Asher," he said. "He never would
have such a woman. I know him well enough to be absolutely sure of that.
Of course, he treats her kindly, and perhaps he is sociable with her. It
is his nature to be friendly, and he has known her for a long time. But
marry her! Never! I am certain, Miss Asher, he would never do that."
"I wish I could believe it," said she.
"I can easily prove it to you," he said. "I will take your message to
your uncle, I will tell him all you want me to tell him, and then I will
ask him, frankly and plainly, about Miss Port. I do not in the least
object to doing it. I am well enough acquainted with him to know that he
is a frank, plain man. I am sure he will be much amused at your
supposition, and angry, too, when I tell him of the way that woman
looked at you and so prevented you from stopping when you had come
expressly to see him. Then I will immediately come to Broadstone to
relieve your mind in regard to the Maria Port business, and to bring
you whatever message your uncle has to send you."
"No, no," said Olive, "you must not do that. It would be too much to
come back to-day. You have relieved my mind somewhat about that woman,
and I am perfectly willing to wait until to-morrow, when you can tell me
exactly how everything is, and let me know when my uncle would like me
to come and see him. I think it will be better next time not to take him
by surprise. But I would be very, very grateful to you, Mr, Lancaster,
if you would come as early in the morning as you can. I can wait very
well until then, now that my mind is easier, but I am afraid that when
to-morrow begins I shall be very impatient. My troubles are always worse
in the morning. But you must not walk. My uncle has a horse and buggy.
But perhaps it would be better to let Mrs. Easterfield send for you. I
know she will be glad to do it."
Dick assured her that he did not wish to be sent for; that he would
borrow the captain's horse, and would be at Broadstone as early as was
proper to make a visit.
"Proper!" exclaimed Olive. "In a case like this any time is proper. In
Mrs. Easterfield's name I invite you to breakfast. I know she will be
glad to have me do it. And now I must go on. You are very, very good,
and I am very grateful."
Dick could not say that he was more grateful for being allowed to help
her than she could possibly be for being helped, but his face showed it,
and if she had looked at him she would have known it.
"Miss Asher," he exclaimed as she rose, "your skirt is covered with
dust. You must have fallen."
"I did have one fall," she said, "but I was so worried I did not mind."
"But you can not go back in that plight," he said; "let me dust your
skirt." And breaking a little branch from a bush, he proceeded to make
her look presentable. "And now," said he, when she had complimented him
upon his skill, "I will walk with you to the entrance of the grounds.
Perhaps as you are so tired," he said hesitatingly, "I can help you
along, so that you will not have to work so hard yourself."
"Oh, no," she answered; "that is not at all necessary. When I am on the
turnpike I can go beautifully. I feel ever so much rested and stronger,
and it is all due to you. So you see, although you will not go with me,
you will help me very much." And she smiled as she spoke. He truly had
helped her very much.
Dick was unwilling that she should go on alone, although it was still
broad daylight and there was no possible danger, and he was also
unwilling because he wanted to go with her, but there was no use saying
anything or thinking anything, and so he stood and watched her rolling
along until she had passed the top of a little hill, and had departed
from his view. Then he ran to the top of the little hill, and watched
her until she was entirely out of sight.
The rest of the way to the toll-gate seemed very short to Dick, but he
had time enough to make up his mind that he would see the captain at the
earliest possible moment; that he would deliver his message and the
letter of Lieutenant Asher; that he would immediately bring up the
matter of Maria Port and let the captain know the mischief that woman
had done. Then, armed with the assurances the captain would give him, he
would start for Broadstone after supper, and carry the good news to
Olive. It would be a shame to let that dear girl remain in suspense for
the whole night, when he, by riding, or even walking an inconsiderable
number of miles, could relieve her. He found old Jane in the tollhouse.
"Where is the captain" he asked.
"The captain?" she repeated. "He's in town takin' supper with his
Dick stared at her.
"Perhaps you haven't heard that he's engaged to Maria Port," said the
woman; "and I don't wonder you're taken back! But I suppose everybody
will soon know it now, and the sooner the better, I say."
"What are you talking about" exclaimed Dick. "You don't mean to tell me
that the captain is going to marry Miss Port?"
"Whether he wants to or not, he's gone so far he'll have to. I've knowed
for a long time she's been after him, but I didn't think she'd catch him
"I don't believe it." cried Dick. "It must be a mistake! How do you know
"Know!" said old Jane, who, ordinarily a taciturn woman, was now excited
and inclined to volubility. "Don't you suppose I've got eyes and ears?
Didn't I see them for ever and ever so long sittin' out on this piazza,
where everybody could see 'em, a-spoonin' like a couple of young people?
And didn't I see 'em tearin' themselves asunder as if they couldn't
bear to be apart for an hour? And didn't I hear her tell him she was
goin' home to get an extry good supper for him? And didn't I hear her
call him 'dear John,' and kiss her hand to him. And if you don't believe
me you can go into the kitchen and ask Mary; she heard the 'dear John'
and saw the hand-kissin'. And then didn't he tell me he was goin' to the
Ports' to supper, and if he stayed late and anybody asked for
him--meaning you, most probable, and I think he might have left
somethin' more of a message for you--that he was to be found with the
Ports--with Maria most likely, for the old man goes to bed early?"
Dick made no answer; he was standing motionless looking out upon the
flowers in the garden.
"And perhaps you haven't heard of Miss Olive comin' past on a bicycle,"
old Jane remarked. "I saw her comin', and I knew by the look on her face
that it made her sick to see that woman sittin' here, and I don't blame
her a bit. When he started so early for town I thought he might be
intendin' to look for her, and yet be in time for the Ports' supper, but
she didn't come back this way at all, and I expect she went home by the
"Which she did," said Dick, showing by this remark that he was listening
to what the old woman was saying.
"But he cut me mighty short when I asked him," continued old Jane. "I
tried to ease his mind, but as I found his mind didn't need no easin', I
minded my own business, just as he was mindin' his. And now, sir, you'll
have to eat your supper alone this time."
If Dick's supper had consisted of nectar and the brains of nightingales
he would not have noticed it; and, until late in the evening, he sat in
the arbor, anxiously waiting for the captain's return. About ten o'clock
old Jane, sleepy from having sat up so long, called to him from the door
that he might as well come in and let her lock up the house. The captain
was not coming home that night. He had stayed with the Ports once
before, when the old man was sick.
"I guess he's got a better reason for stayin' tonight," she said. "It'll
be a great card for that Maria when the Glenford people knows it, and
they'll know it you may be sure, if she has to go and walk the soles of
her feet off tellin' them. One thing's mighty sure," she continued. "I'm
not goin' to stay here with her in the house. He'll have to get somebody
else to help him take toll. But I guess she'll want to do that herself.
Nothin' would suit her better than to be sittin' all day in the
tollhouse talkin' scandal to everybody that goes by."
_Dick is not a Prompt Bearer of News._
When the captain reached Glenford, and before he went to the Ports' he
went to the telegraph-office, and made inquiries at various other
places, but his niece had not been seen in town. He wandered about so
long and asked so many questions that it was getting dark when he
suddenly thought of the shunpike. He had not thought of it before, for
it was an unfit road for bicycles, but now he saw that he had been a
fool. That was the only way she could have gone back.
Hurrying to a livery-stable, he hired a horse and buggy and a lantern,
and drove to the shunpike. There he plainly saw the track of the bicycle
as it had turned into that rough road. Then he drove on, examining every
foot of the way, fearful that he might see, lying senseless by the side
of the road, the figure of a girl, perhaps unconscious from fatigue,
perhaps dead from an accident.
When at last he emerged upon the turnpike he lost the track of the
bicycle, but still he went on, all the way to Broadstone; a girl might
be lying senseless by the side of the road, even on the pike, which at
this time was not much frequented. Thus assuring himself that Olive had
reached Broadstone in safety, or at least had not fallen by the way, he
turned and drove back to town upon the pike, passing his own toll-gate,
where the bar was always up after dark. He had promised to return the
horse that night, and, as he had promised, he intended to do it. It was
after nine o'clock when, returning from the livery-stable, he reached
the Port house, and saw Maria sitting in the open doorway.
She instantly ran out to meet him, asking him somewhat sharply why he
had disappointed them. She had kept the supper waiting ever so long. He
went in to see her father, who was sitting up for him, and she busied
herself in getting him a fresh supper. Nice and hot the supper was, and
although his answers to her questions had not been satisfactory, she
concealed her resentment, if she had any. When the meal was over both
father and daughter assured him that it was too late for him to go home
that night, and that he must stay with them. Tired and troubled, Captain
Asher accepted the invitation.
As soon as he could get away from the Port residence the next morning
Captain Asher went home. He had hoped he would have been able to leave
before breakfast, but the solicitous Maria would not listen to this. She
prepared him a most tempting breakfast, cooking some of the things with
her own hands, and she was so attentive, so anxious to please, so kind
in her suggestions, and in every way so desirous to make him happy
through the medium of savory food and tender-hearted concern, that she
almost made him angry. Never before, he thought, had he seen a woman
make such a coddling fool of herself. He knew very well what it meant,
and that provoked him still more.
When at last he got away he walked home in a bad humor; he was even
annoyed with Olive. Granting that what she had done was natural enough
under the circumstances, and that she had not wished to stop when she
saw him in company with a woman she did not like, he thought she might
have considered him as well as herself. She should have known that it
would give him great trouble for her to dash by in that way and neither
stop nor come back to explain matters. She must have known that Maria
Port was not going to stay always, and she might have waited somewhere
until the woman had gone. If she had had the least idea of how much he
wanted to see her she would have contrived some way to come back to him.
But no, she went back to Broadstone to please herself, and left him to
wander up and down the roads looking for her in the dark.
When the captain met old Jane at the door of the tollhouse her
salutation did not smooth his ruffled spirits, for she told him that she
and Mr. Lancaster had sat up until nearly the middle of the night
waiting for him, and that the poor young man must have felt it, for he
had not eaten half a breakfast.
The captain paid but little attention to these remarks and passed in,
but before he crossed the garden he met Dick, who informed him that he
had something very important to communicate. Important communications
that must be delivered without a moment's loss of time are generally
unpleasant, and knowing this, the captain knit his brows a little, but
told Dick he would be ready for him as soon as he lighted his pipe. He
felt he must have something to soothe his ruffled spirits while he
listened to the tale of the woes of some one else.
But at the moment he scratched his match to light his pipe his soul was
illuminated by a flash of joy; perhaps Dick was going to tell him he was
engaged to Olive; perhaps that was what she had come to tell him the day
before. He had not expected to hear anything of this kind, at least not
so soon, but it had been the wish of his heart--he now knew that without
appreciating the fact--it had been the earnest wish of his heart for
some time, and he stepped toward the little arbor with the alacrity of
As soon as they were seated Dick began to speak of Olive, but not in the
way the captain had hoped for. He mentioned the great trouble into which
she had been plunged, and gave the captain his brother's letter to read.
When he had finished it the captain's face darkened, and his frown was
"An outrageous piece of business," he said, "to treat a daughter in this
way; to put a schoolmate over her head in the family! It is shameful!
And this is what she was coming to tell me?"
"Yes," said Dick, "that is it."
Now there was another flash of joy in the captain's heart, which cleared
up his countenance and made his frown disappear. "She was coming to me,"
he thought. "I was the one to whom she turned in her trouble." And it
seemed to this good captain as if he had suddenly become the father of a
"But what message did she send me?" he asked quickly. "Did she say when
she was coming again?"
Dick hesitated; Olive had said that she wanted her uncle to say when he
wanted to see her, so that there should be no more surprising, but this
request had been conditional. Dick knew that she did not want to come if
her uncle were going to marry Miss Port; therefore it was that he
"Before we go any further," he said, "I think I would better mention a
little thing which will make you laugh, but still it did worry Miss
Asher, and was one reason why she went back to Broadstone without
"What is it" asked the captain, putting down his pipe.
Dick did not come out plainly and frankly, as he had told Olive he would
do when he mentioned the Maria Port matter. In his own heart he could
not help believing now that Olive's suspicions had had good foundations,
and old Jane's announcements, combined with the captain's own actions in
regard to the Port family, had almost convinced him that this miserable
engagement was a fact. But, of course, he would not in any way intimate
to the captain that he believed in such nonsense, and therefore, in an
offhand manner, he mentioned Olive's absurd anxiety in regard to Miss
When the captain heard Dick's statement he answered it in the most frank
and plain manner; he brought his big hand down on his knee and swore as
if one of his crew had boldly contradicted him. He did not swear at
anybody in particular; there was the roar and the crash of the thunder
and the flash of the lightning, but no direct stroke descended upon any
one. He was angry that such a repulsive and offensive thing as his
marriage to Maria Port should be mentioned, or even thought of, but he
was enraged when he heard that his niece had believed him capable of
such disgusting insanity. With a jerk he rose to his feet.
"I will not talk about such a thing as this," he said. "If I did I am
sure I should say something hard about my niece, and I don't want to do
that." With this he strode away, and proceeded to look after the
concerns of his little farm.
Old Jane came cautiously to Dick. "Did he tell you when it was going to
be, or anything about it?" she asked.
"No," said Dick, "he would not even speak of it."
"I suppose he expects us to mind our own business," said she, "and of
course we'll have to do it, but I can tell him one thing--I'm goin' to
make it my business to leave this place the day before that woman comes
Dejected and thoughtful, Dick sat in the arbor. Here was a state of
affairs very different from what he had anticipated. He had not been
able to hurry to her the evening before; he had not gone to breakfast as
she had invited him; he had not started off early in the forenoon; and
now he asked himself when should he go, or, indeed, why should he go at
all? She had no anxieties he could relieve. Anything he could tell her
would only heap more unhappiness upon her, and the longer he could keep
his news from her the better it would be for her.
Olive had not joined the Broadstone party at dinner the night before.
She had been too tired, and had gone directly to her room, where, after
a time, Mrs. Easterfield joined her; and the two talked late. One who
had overheard their conversation might well have supposed that the elder
lady was as much interested in Lieutenant Asher's approaching nuptials
as was the younger one. When she was leaving Mrs. Easterfield said:
"You have enough on your mind to give it all the trouble it ought to
bear, and so I beg of you not to think for a moment of that absurd idea
about your uncle's engagement. I never saw the woman, but I have heard
of her; she is a professional scandal-monger; and Captain Asher would
not think for a moment of marrying her. When Mr. Lancaster comes
to-morrow you will hear that she was merely consulting him on business,
and that you are to go to the toll-gate to-morrow as soon as you can.
But remember, this time I am going to send you in the carriage. No more
In spite of this well-intentioned admonition, Olive did not sleep well,
and dreamed all night of Miss Port in the shape of a great cat covered
with feathers like a chicken, and trying to get a chance to jump at her.
Very early she awoke, and looking at her clock, she began to calculate
the hours which must pass before Mr. Lancaster could arrive. It was
rather strange that of the two troubles which came to her as soon as she
opened her eyes, the suspected engagement of her uncle pushed itself in
front of the actual engagement of her father; the one was something she
_knew_ she would have to make up her mind to bear; the other was
something she _feared_ she would have to make up her mind to bear.
_What Olive determined to do._
Olive was very much disappointed at breakfast time, and as soon as she
had finished that meal she stationed herself at a point on the grounds
which commanded the entrance. People came and talked to her, but she did
not encourage conversation, and about eleven o'clock she went to Mrs.
Easterfield in her room.
"He is not coming," she said. "He is afraid."
"What is he afraid of?" asked Mrs. Easterfield.
"He is afraid to tell me that the optimistic speculations with which he
tried to soothe my mind arose entirely from his own imagination. The
whole thing is exactly what I expected, and he hasn't the courage to
come and say so. Now, really, don't you think this is the state of the
case, and that if he had anything but the worst news to bring me he
would have been here long ago?"
Mrs. Easterfield looked very serious. "I would not give up," she said,
"until I saw Mr. Lancaster and heard what he has to say."
"That would not suit me," said Olive. "I have waited and waited just as
long as I can. It is as likely as not that he has concluded that he can
not do anything here which will be of service to any one, and has
started off to finish his vacation at some place where people won't
bother him with their own affairs. He told me when I first met him that
he was on his way North. And now, would you like me to tell you what I
have determined to do?"
"I would," said Mrs. Easterfield, but her expression did not indicate
that she expected Olive's announcement to give her any pleasure.
"I have been considering it all the morning," said Olive, "and I have
determined to marry without delay. The greatest object of my life at
present is to write to my father that I am married. I don't wish to tell
him anything until I can tell him that. I would also be glad to be able
to send the same message to the toll-gate house, but I don't suppose it
will make much difference there."
"Do you think," said Mrs. Easterfield, "that my inviting you here made
all this trouble?"
"No," said Olive. "It was not the immediate cause, but uncle knows I do
not like that woman, and she doesn't like me, and it would not have
suited him to have me stay very much longer with him. I thought at first
he was glad to have me go on account of Mr. Lancaster, but now I do not
believe that had anything to do with it. He did not want me with him,
and what that woman came here and told me about his not expecting me
back again was, I now believe, a roundabout message from him."
"Now, Olive," said Mrs. Easterfield, "it would be a great deal better
for you to stop all this imagining until you hear from Mr. Lancaster,
if you don't see him. Perhaps the poor young man has sprained his ankle,
or was prevented in some ordinary way from coming. But what is this
nonsense about getting married?"
"There is no nonsense about it," said Olive. "I am going to marry, but I
have not chosen any one yet."
Mrs. Easterfield uttered an exclamation of horror. "Choose!" she
exclaimed. "What have you to do with choosing? I don't think you are
much like other girls, but I did think you had enough womanly qualities
to make you wait until you are chosen."
"I intend to wait until I am chosen," said Olive, "but I shall choose
the person who is to choose me. I have always thought it absurd for a
young woman to sit and wait and wait until some one comes and sees fit
to propose to her. Even under ordinary circumstances, I think the young
woman has not a fair chance to get what she wants. But my case is
extraordinary, and I can't afford to wait; and as I don't want to go out
into the world to look for a husband, I am going to take one of these
young men here."
"Olive," cried Mrs. Easterfield, "you don't mean you are going to marry
"You forget," said Olive, "that I told you I have not made up my mind
yet. But although I have not come to a decision, I have a leaning toward
one of them. The more I think of it the more I incline in the direction
of my old love."
"Mr. Hemphill!" exclaimed Mrs. Easterfield. "Olive, you are crazy, or
else you are joking in a very disagreeable manner. There could be no
one more unfit for you than he is."
"I am not crazy, and I am not joking," replied the girl, "and I think
Rupert would suit me very well. You see, I think a great deal more of
Rupert than I do of Mr. Hemphill, although the latter gentleman has
excellent points. He is commonplace, and, above everything else, I want
a commonplace husband. I want some one to soothe me, and quiet me, and
to give me ballast. If there is anything out of the way to be done I
want to do it myself. I am sure he is in love with me, for his anxious
efforts to make me believe that the frank avowal of my early affection
had no effect upon him proves that he was very much affected. I believe
that he is truly in love with me."
Mrs. Easterfield's sharp eyes had seen this, and she had nothing to say.
"I believe," continued Olive, "that a retrospect love will be a better
foundation for conjugal happiness than any other sort of affection. One
can always look back to it no matter what happens, and be happy in the
memory of it. It would be something distinct which could never be
interfered with. You can't imagine what an earnest and absorbing love I
once had for that man!"
Mrs. Easterfield sprang to her feet. "Olive Asher," she cried, "I can't
listen to you if you talk in this way!"
"Well, then," said Olive, "if you object so much to Rupert--you must not
forget that it would be Rupert that I would really marry if I became the
wife of Mr. Hemphill--do you advise me to take Mr. Locker? And I will
tell you this, he is not to be rudely set aside; he has warm-hearted
points which I did not suspect at first. I will tell you what he just
said to me. As I was coming up-stairs he hurried toward me, and his face
showed that he was very anxious to speak to me. So before he could utter
a word, I told him that he was too early; that his hour had not yet
arrived. Then that good fellow said to me that he had seen I was in
trouble, and that he had been informed it had been caused by bad news
from my family. He had made no inquiries because he did not wish to
intrude upon my private affairs, and all he wished to say now was that
while my mind was disturbed and worried he did not intend to present his
own affairs to my attention, even though I had fixed regular times for
his doing so. But although he wished me to understand that I need not
fear his making love to me just at this time, he wanted me to remember
that his love was still burning as brightly as ever, and would be again
offered me just as soon as he would be warranted in doing so."
"And what did you say to that?" asked Mrs. Easterfield.
"I felt like patting him on the head," Olive answered, "but instead of
doing that I shook his hand just as warmly as I could, and told him I
should not forget his consideration and good feeling."
Mrs. Easterfield sighed. "You have joined him fast to your car," she
said, "and yet, even if there were no one else, he would be impossible."
"Why so?" asked Olive quickly. "I have always liked him, and now I like
him ever so much better. To be sure he is queer; but then he is so much
queerer than I am that perhaps in comparison I might take up the part
of commonplace partner. Besides, he has money enough to live on. He told
me that when he first addressed me. He said he would never ask any woman
to live on pickled verse feet, and he has also told me something of his
family, which must be a good one."
"Olive," said Mrs. Easterfield, "I don't believe at all in the necessity
or the sense in your precipitating plans of marrying. It is all airy
talk, anyway. You can't ask a man to step up and marry you in order that
you may sit down and write a letter to your father. But if you are
thinking of marrying, or rather of preparing to marry at some suitable
time, why, in the name of everything that is reasonable, don't you take
Mr. Lancaster? He is as far above the other young men you have met here
as the mountains are above the plains; he belongs to another class
altogether. He is a thoroughly fine young man, and has a most honorable
profession with good prospects, and I know he loves you. You need not
ask me how I know it--it is always easy for a woman to find out things
like that. Now, here is a prospective husband for you whose cause I
should advocate. In fact, I should be delighted to see you married to
him. He possesses every quality which would make you a good husband."
Olive smiled. "You seem to know a great deal about him," said she, "and
I assure you that so far as he himself is concerned, I have no
objections to him, except that I think he might have had the courage to
come and tell me the truth this morning, whatever it is."
"Perhaps he has not found out the truth yet," quickly suggested Mrs.
Olive fixed her eyes upon her companion and for a few moments reflected,
but presently she shook her head.
"No, that can not be," she answered. "He would have let me know he had
been obliged to wait. Oh, no, it is all settled, and we can drop that
subject. But as for Mr. Lancaster, his connections would make any
thought of him impossible. He, and his father, too, are both close
friends of my uncle, and he would be a constant communication between me
and that woman unless there should be a quarrel, which I don't wish to
cause. No, I want to leave everything of that sort as far behind me as
it used to be in front of me, and as Professor Lancaster is mixed up
with it I could not think of having anything to do with him."
Mrs. Easterfield was silent. She was trying to make up her mind whether
this girl were talking sense or nonsense. What she said seemed to be
extremely nonsensical, but as she said it, it was difficult to believe
that she did not consider it to be entirely rational.
"Well," said Olive, "you have objected to two of my candidates, and I
positively decline the one you offer, so we have left only the diplomat.
He has proposed, and he has not yet received a definite answer. You have
told me yourself that he belongs to an aristocratic family in Austria,
and I am sure that would be a grand match. We have talked together a
great deal, and he seems to like the things I like. I should see plenty
of court life and high society, for he will soon be transferred from
this legation, and if I take him I shall go to some foreign capital. He
is very sharp and ambitious, and I have no doubt that some day he will
be looked upon as a distinguished foreigner. Now, as it is the ambition
of many American girls to marry distinguished foreigners, this alliance
is certainly worthy of due consideration."
"Stuff!" said Mrs. Easterfield.
Olive was not annoyed, and replied very quietly: "It is not stuff. You
must know young women who have married foreigners and who did not do
anything like so well as if they had married rising diplomats."
Mrs. Blynn now knocked at the door on urgent household business.
"I shall want to see you again about all this, Olive," said Mrs.
Easterfield as they parted.
"Of course," replied the girl, "whenever you want to."
"Mrs. Blynn," said the lady of the house, "before you mention what you
have come to talk about, please tell one of the men to put a horse to a
buggy and come to the house. I want to send a message by him."
The letter which was speedily on its way to Mr. Richard Lancaster was a
very brief one. It simply asked the young gentleman to come to
Broadstone, with bad news or good news, or without any news at all. It
was absolutely necessary that the writer should see him, and in order
that there might be no delay she sent a conveyance for him. Moreover,
she added, it would give her great pleasure if Mr. Lancaster would come
prepared to spend a couple of days at her house. She felt sure good
Captain Asher would spare him for that short time. She believed that at
this moment more gentlemen were needed at Broadstone, and, although she
did not go on to say that she thought Dick was not having a fair chance
at this very important crisis, that is what she expected the young man
Just before luncheon, at the time when Claude Locker might have been
urging his suit had he been less kind-hearted and generous, Olive found
an opportunity to say a few words to Mrs. Easterfield.
"A capital idea has come into my head," she said. "What do you think of
holding a competitive examination among these young men?"
"More stuff, and more nonsense!" ejaculated Mrs. Easterfield. "I never
knew any one to trifle with serious subjects as you are trifling with
"I am not trifling," said Olive. "Of course, I don't mean that I should
hold an examination, but that you should. You know that parents--foreign
parents, I mean--make all sorts of examinations of the qualifications
and merits of candidates for the hands of their daughters, and I should
be very grateful if you would be at least that much of a mother to me."
"No examination would be needed," said the other quickly; "I should
decide upon Mr. Lancaster without the necessity of any questions or
"But he is not a candidate," said Olive; "he has been ruled out.
However," she added with a little laugh, "nothing can be done just now,
for they have not all entered themselves in the competition; Mr.
Hemphill has not proposed yet."
At that instant the rest of the family joined them on their way to
The meal was scarcely over when Olive disappeared up-stairs, but soon
came down attired in a blue sailor suit, which she had not before worn
at Broadstone, and although the ladies of that house had been astonished
at the number of costumes this navy girl carried in her unostentatious
baggage, this was a new surprise to them.
"Mr. Hemphill and I are going boating," said Olive to Mrs. Easterfield.
"Olive!" exclaimed the other.
"What is there astonishing about it?" asked the girl. "I have been out
boating with Mr. Locker, and it did not amaze you. You need not be
afraid; Mr. Hemphill says he has had a good deal of practise in rowing,
and if he does not understand the management of a boat I am sure I do.
It is only for an hour, and we shall be ready for anything that the rest
of you are going to do this afternoon."
With this, away she went, skipping over the rocks and grass, down to the
river's edge, followed by Mr. Hemphill, who could scarcely believe he
was in a world of common people and common things, while he, in turn,
was followed by the mental anathemas of a poet and a diplomat.
_The Captain and Dick Lancaster desert the Toll-Gate._
When Captain Asher, in an angry mood, left his young friend and guest
and went out into his barnyard and his fields in order to quiet his soul
by the consideration of agricultural subjects, he met with but little
success. He looked at his pigs, but he did not notice their plump
condition; he glanced at his two cows, cropping the grass in the little
meadow, but it did not impress him that they also were in fine
condition; nor did he care whether the pasture were good or not. He
looked at this; and he looked at that; and then he folded his arms and
looked at the distant mountains. Suddenly he turned on his heel, walked
straight to the stable, harnessed his mare to the buggy, and, without
saying a word to anybody, drove out of the gate, and on to Glenford.
Dick Lancaster, who was in the arbor, looked in amazement after the
captain's departing buggy, and old Jane, with tears in her eyes, came
out and spoke to him.
"Isn't this dreadful" she said to him. "Supper with that woman and there
all night, and back again as soon as he can get off this mornin'!"
"Perhaps he is not going to her house," Dick suggested. "He may have
business in town which he forgot yesterday."
"If he'd had it he'd forgot it," replied the old woman. "But he hadn't
none. He's gone to Maria Port's, and he may bring her back with him,
married tight and fast, for all you or me knows. It would be just like
his sailor fashion. When the captain's got anything to do he just does
it sharp and quick."
"I don't believe that," said Dick. "If he had had any such intention as
that he certainly would have mentioned it to you or to me."
The good woman shook her head. "When an old man marries a girl," she
said, "she just leads him wherever she wants him to go, and he gives up
everything to her, and when an old man marries a tough and seasoned and
smoked old maid like Maria Port, she just drives him wherever she wants
him to go, and he hasn't nothin' to say about it. It looks as if she
told him to come in this mornin', and he's gone. It may be for a
weddin', or it may be for somethin' else, but whatever it is, it'll be
her way and not his straight on to the end of the chapter."
Dick had nothing to answer. He was very much afraid that old Jane knew
what she was talking about, and his mind was occupied with trying to
decide what he, individually, ought to do about it. Old Jane was now
obliged to go to the toll-gate to attend to a traveler, but when she
came back she took occasion to say a few more words.
"It's hard on me, sir," she said, "at my age to make a change. I've
lived at this house, and I've took toll at that gate ever since I was a
girl, long before the captain came here, and I've been with him a long
time. My people used to own this house, but they all died, and when the
place was sold and the captain bought it, he heard about me, and he said
I should always have charge of the old toll-gate when he wasn't
attendin' to it himself, just the same as when my father was alive and
was toll-gate keeper, and I was helpin' him. But I've got to go now, and
where I'm goin' to is more'n I know. But I'd rather go to the county
poorhouse than stay here, or anywhere else, with Maria Port. She's a
regular boa-constrictor, that woman is! She's twisted herself around
people before this and squeezed the senses out of them; and that's
exactly what she's doin' with the captain. If she could come here to
live and bring her old father, and get him to sell the house in town and
put the money in bank, and then if she could worry her husband and her
father both to death, and work things so she'd be a widow with plenty of
money and a good house and as much farm land as she wanted, and a
toll-gate where she could set all day and take toll and give back lies
and false witness as change, she'd be the happiest woman on earth."
It had been long since old Jane had said as much at any one time to any
one person, but her mind was stirred. Her life was about to change, and
the future was very black to her.
When dinner was ready the captain had not yet returned, and Dick ate his
meal by himself. He was now beginning to feel used to this sort of
thing. He had scarcely finished, and gone down to the garden-gate to
look once more over the road toward Glenford, when the man in the buggy
arrived, and he received Mrs. Easterfield's letter.
He lost no moments in making up his mind. He would go to Broadstone, of
course, and he did not think it at all necessary to stand on ceremony
with the captain. The latter had gone off and left him without making
any statement whatever, but he would do better, and he wrote a note
explaining the state of affairs. As he was leaving old Jane came to bid
"I don't know," said she, "that you will find me here when you come
back. The fact of it is I don't know nothin'. But one thing's certain,
if she's here I ain't, and if she's too high and mighty to take toll in
her honeymoon, the captain'll have to do it himself, or let 'em pass
Mrs. Easterfield was on the lawn when Lancaster arrived, and in answer
to the involuntary glance with which Dick's eyes swept the surrounding
space, even while he was shaking hands with her, she said: "No, she is
not here. She has gone boating, and so you must come and tell me
everything, and then we can decide what is best to tell her."
For an instant Dick's soul demurred. If he told Olive anything he would
tell her all he knew, and exactly what had happened. But he would not
lose faith in this noble woman who was going to help him with Olive if
she could. So they sat down, side by side, and he told her everything he
knew about Captain Asher and Miss Port.
"It does look very much as if he were going to marry the woman," said
Mrs. Easterfield. Then she sat silent and looked upon the ground, a
frown upon her face.
Dick was also silent, and his countenance was clouded. "Poor Olive," he
thought, "it is hard that this new trouble should come upon her just at
But Mrs. Easterfield said in her heart: "Poor fellow, how little you
know what has come upon you! The woman who has turned her uncle from
Olive has turned Olive from you."
"Well," said the lady at length, "do you think it is worth while to say
anything to her about it? She has already surmised the state of affairs,
and, so far as I can see, you have nothing of importance to tell her."
"Perhaps not," said Dick, "but as she sent me on a mission I want to
make known to her the result of it so far as there has been any result.
It will be very unpleasant, of course--it will be even painful--but I
wish to do it all the same."
"That is to say," said Mrs. Easterfield with a smile that was not very
cheerful, "you want to be with her, to look at her and to speak to her,
no matter how much it may pain her or you to do it."
"That's it," answered Dick.
Mrs. Easterfield sat and reflected. She very much liked this young man,
and, considering herself as his friend, were there not some things she
ought to tell him? She concluded that there were such things.
"Mr. Lancaster," she said, "have you noticed that there are other young
men in love with Miss Asher?"
"I know there is one," said Dick, "for he told me so himself."
"That was Claude Locker?" said she with interest.
"And he promised," continued Dick, "that if he failed he would do all he
could to help me. I can not say that this is really for love of me, for
his avowed object is to prevent Mr. Du Brant from getting her. We
assumed that he was her lover, although I do not know that there is any
real ground for it."
"There is very good ground for it," said she, "for he has already
proposed to her. What do you think of that?"
"It makes no difference to me," said Dick; "that is, if he has not been
accepted. What I want is to find myself warranted in telling Miss Asher
how I feel toward her; it does not matter to me how the rest of the
"Then there is another," said Mrs. Easterfield, "with whom she is now on
the river--Mr. Hemphill. He is in love with her; and as he can not stay
here very long, I think he will soon propose."
"I can not help it," said Dick; "I love her, and the great object of my
life just at present is to tell her so. You said you would help me, and
I hope you will not withdraw from that promise."
"No, indeed," said she, "but I do not know her as well as I thought I
did. But here she comes now, and without the young man. I hope she has
not drowned him!"
Without heeding anything that had just been said to him Dick kept his
eyes fixed upon the sparkling girl who now approached them. Every step
she made was another link in his chain; Mrs. Easterfield glanced at him
and knew this. She pitied him for what he had to tell her now, and more
for what he might have to hear from her at another time. But Olive saved
Dick from any present ordeal. She stepped up to him and offered him her
"I do not wonder, Mr. Lancaster," she said, "that you did not want to
come back and tell me your doleful story, but as I know what it is, we
need not say anything about it now, except that I am ever so much
obliged to you for all your kindness to me. And now I am going to ask
another favor. Won't you let me speak to Mrs. Easterfield a few
As soon as they were seated, with the door shut, Olive began.
"Well," said she, "he has proposed."
"Mr. Hemphill!" exclaimed Mrs. Easterfield.
"Rupert," Olive answered, "yes, it is truly Rupert who proposed to me."
"I declare," cried Mrs. Easterfield, "you come to me and tell me this as
if it were a piece of glad news. Yesterday, and even this morning, you
were plunged in grief, and now your eyes shine as if you were positively
"I have told you my aim and object in life," said the girl. "I am trying
to do something, and to do it soon, and everything is going on smoothly.
And as to being happy, I tell you, Mrs. Easterfield, there is no woman
alive who could help being made happy by such a declaration as I have
just received. No matter what answer she gave him, she would be bound
to be happy."
"Most other women would not have let him make it," said Mrs. Easterfield
a little severely.
"There is something in that," said Olive, "but they would not have the
object in life I have. I may be unduly exalted, but you would not wonder
at it if you had seen him and heard him. Mrs. Easterfield, that man
loves me exactly as I used to love him, and he has told me his love just
as I would have told him mine if I could have carried out the wish of my
heart. His eyes glowed, his frame shook with the ardor of his passion.
Two or three times I had to tell him that if he did not trim boat we
should be upset. I never saw anything like his impassioned vehemence. It
reminded me of Salvini. I never was loved like that before."
"And what answer did you make to him?" asked Mrs. Easterfield, her voice
"I did not make him any. It would not have been fair to the others or to
myself to do that. I shall not swerve from my purpose, but I shall not
Mrs. Easterfield rose suddenly and stepped to the open window; she could
not sit still a moment longer; she needed air. "Olive," she said, "this
is mad and wicked folly in you, and it is impertinent in him, no matter
how much you encouraged him. I would like to send him back to his desk
this minute. He has no right to come to his employer's house and behave
in this manner."
Olive did not get angry. "He is not impertinent," said she. "He knows
nothing in this world but that I once loved him, and that now he loves
me. Employer and employee are nothing to him. I don't believe he would
go if you told him to, even if you could do such a thing, which I don't
believe you would, for, of course, you would think of me as well as of
"Olive Asher," cried Mrs. Easterfield in a voice which was almost a
wail, "do you mean to say that you are to be considered in this matter,
that for a moment you think of marrying this man?"
"Yes," said Olive; "I do think of it, and the more I think of it the
better I think of it. He is a good man; you have told me that yourself;
and I can feel that he is good. I know he loves me. There can be no
mistake about his words and his eyes. I feel as I never felt toward any
other man, that I might become attached to him. And in my opinion a real
attachment is the foundation of love, and you must never forget that I
once loved him." The girl now stepped close to Mrs. Easterfield. "I am
sorry to see those tears," she said; "I did not come here to make you
"But you have made me very unhappy," said the elder lady, "and I do not
think I can talk any more about this now."
When Olive had gone Mrs. Easterfield hurried down-stairs in search of
Lancaster. She did not care what any one might think of her
unconventional eagerness; she wanted to find him, and she soon
succeeded. He was sitting in the shade with a book, which, when she
approached him, she did not believe he was reading.
"Yes," said she, as he started to his feet in evident concern, "I have
been crying, and there is no use in trying to conceal it. Of course, it
is about Olive, but I can not confide in you now, and I do not know that
I have any right to do so, anyway. But I came here to beg you most
earnestly not to propose to Miss Asher, no matter how good an
opportunity you may have, no matter how much you want to do so, no
matter how much hope may spring up in your heart."
"Do you mean," said Dick, "that I must never speak to her? Am I too
late? Is she lost to me?"
"Not at all," said she, "you are not too late, but you may be too early.
She is not lost to anybody, but if you should speak to her before I tell
you to she will certainly be lost to you."
_Mr. Locker determines to rush the Enemy's Position._
The party at Broadstone was not in what might be called a congenial
condition. There were among them elements of unrest which prevented that
assimilation which is necessary to social enjoyment. Even the ordinarily
placid Mr. Fox was dissatisfied. The trouble with him was--although he
did not admit it--that he missed the company of Miss Asher. He had found
her most agreeable and inspiriting, but now things had changed, and he
did not seem to have any opportunity for the lively chats of a few days
before. He remarked to his wife that he thought Broadstone was getting
very dull, and he should be rather glad when the time came for them to
leave. Mrs. Fox was not of his opinion; she enjoyed the state of affairs
more than she had done when her husband had been better pleased. There
was something going on which she did not understand, and she wanted to
find out what it was. It concerned Miss Asher and one of the young men,
but which one she could not decide. In any case it troubled Mrs.
Easterfield, and that was interesting.
Claude Locker seemed to be a changed man; he no longer made jokes or
performed absurdities. He had become wonderfully vigilant, and seemed to
be one who continually bided his time. He bided it so much that he was
of very little use as a member of the social circle.
Mr. Du Brant was also biding his time, but he did not make the fact
evident. He was very vigilant also, but was very quiet, and kept himself
in the background. He had seen Olive and Mr. Hemphill go out in the
boat, but he determined totally to ignore that interesting occurrence.
The moment he had an opportunity he would speak to Olive again, and the
existence of other people did not concern him.
Mr. Hemphill was walking by the river; Olive had not allowed him to come
to the house with her, for his face was so radiant with the ecstasy of
not having been discarded by her that she did not wish him to be seen.
From her window Mrs. Easterfield saw this young man on his return from
his promenade, and she knew it would not be many minutes before he would
reach the house. She also saw the diplomat, who was glaring across the
grounds at some one, probably Mr. Locker, who, not unlikely, was glaring
back at him. She had come up-stairs to do some writing, but now she put
down her pen and called to her secretary.
"Miss Raleigh," said she, "it has been a good while since you have done
anything for me."
"Indeed it has," said the other with a sigh.
"But I want you to do something this minute. It is strictly confidential
business. I want you to go down on the lawn, or any other place where
Miss Asher may be, and make yourself _mal a propos_. I am busy now, but
I will relieve you before very long. Can you do that? Do you
The aspect of the secretary underwent a total change. From a dull,
heavy-eyed woman she became an intent, an eager emissary. Her hands
trembled with the intensity of her desire to meddle with the affairs of
"Of course I understand," she exclaimed, "and I can do it. You mean you
don't want any of those young men to get a chance to speak to Miss
Asher. Do you include Mr. Lancaster? Or shall I only keep off the
"I include all of them," said Mrs. Easterfield. "Don't let any of them
have a chance to speak to her until I can come down. And hurry! Here is
one coming now."
Hurrying down-stairs, the secretary glanced into the library. There she
saw Mrs. Fox in one armchair, and Olive in another, both reading. In the
hall were the two little girls, busily engaged in harnessing two small
chairs to a large armchair by means of a ball of pink yarn. Outside,
about a hundred yards away, she saw Mr. Hemphill irresolutely
approaching the house. Miss Raleigh's mind, frequently dormant, was very
brisk and lively when she had occasion to waken it. She made a dive
toward the children.
"Dear little ones," she cried, "don't you want to come out under the
trees and have the good Mr. Hemphill tell you a story? I know he wants
to tell you one, and it is about a witch and two pussy-cats and a
kangaroo. Come along. He is out there waiting for us." Down dropped the
ball of yarn, and with exultant cries each little girl seized an
outstretched hand of the secretary, and together they ran over the grass
to meet the good Mr. Hemphill.
Of course he was obliged to want to tell them a story; they expected it
of him, and they were his employer's children. To be sure he had on mind
something very practical and sensible he wished to say to Miss Olive,
which had come to him during his solitary walk, and which he did not
believe she would object to hearing, although he had said so much to her
quite recently. As soon as he should begin to speak she would know that
this was something she ought to know. It was about his mother, who had
an income of her own, and did not in the least depend upon her son. Miss
Olive would certainly agree with him that it was proper for him to tell
But the little girls seized his hands and led him away to a bench,
where, having seated him almost forcibly, each climbed upon a knee. The
good Mr. Hemphill sent a furtive glare after Miss Raleigh, who, with
that smile of gentle gratification which comes to one after having just
done a good deed to another, sauntered slowly away.
"Don't come back again," cried out the older of the little girls. "He
was put out in the last story, and we want this to be a long one. And
remember, Mr, Rupert, it is to be about a witch and two pussy-cats--"
"And a kangaroo," added the other.
At the front door the secretary met Miss Asher, just emerging. "Isn't
that a pretty picture" she said, pointing to the group under the trees.
Olive looked at them and smiled. "It is beautiful," she said; "a
regular family composition. I wish I had a kodak."
"Oh, that would never do!" exclaimed Miss Raleigh. "He is just as
sensitive as he can be, and, of course, it's natural. And the dear
little things are so glad to get him to themselves so that they can have
one of the long, long stories they like so much. May I ask what that is
you are working, Miss Asher?"
"It is going to be what they call a nucleus," said Olive, showing a
little piece of fancy work. "You first crochet this, and then its
ultimate character depends on what you may put around it. It may be a
shawl, or a table cover, or even an apron, if you like crocheted aprons.
I learned the stitch last winter. Would you like me to show it to you?"
"I should like it above all things," said the secretary. And together
they walked to a rustic bench quite away from the story-telling group.
"So far I have done nothing but nucleuses," said Olive, as they sat
down. "I put them away when they are finished, and then I suppose some
time I shall take up one and make it into something."
"Like those pastry shells," said Miss Raleigh, "which can be laid away
and which you can fill up with preserves or jam whenever you want a pie.
How many of these have you, Miss Asher?"
"When this is finished there will be four," said Olive.
At some distance, and near the garden, Dick Lancaster, strolling
eastward, encountered Claude Locker, strolling westward.
"Hello!" cried Locker. "I am glad to see you. Brought your baggage with
you this time, I see. That means you are going to stay, of course."
"A couple of days," replied Dick.
"Well, a man can do a lot in that time, and you may have something to
do, but I am not sure. No, sir," continued Locker, "I am not sure. I am
on the point of making a demonstration in force. But the enemy is always
presenting some new force. By enemy you understand me to mean that which
I adore above all else in the world, but which must be attacked, and
that right soon if her defenses are to be carried. Step this way a
little, and look over there. Do you see that Raleigh woman sitting on a
bench with her? Well, now, if I had not had such a beastly generous
disposition I might be sitting on that bench this minute. I was deceived
by a feint of the opposing forces this morning. I don't mean she
deceived me. I did it myself. Although I had the right by treaty to
march in upon her, I myself offered to establish a truce in order that
she might bury her dead. I did not know who had been killed, but it
looked as if there were losses of some kind. But it was a false alarm.
The dead must have turned up only missing, and she was as lively as a
cricket at luncheon, and went out in a boat with that tailor's
model--sixteen dollars and forty-eight cents for the entire suit
ready-made; or twenty-three dollars made to order."
Dick smiled a little, but his soul rebelled within him. He regretted
that he had given his promise to Mrs. Easterfield. What he wanted to do
that moment was to go over to Captain Asher's niece and ask her to take
a walk with him. What other man had a better right to speak to her than
he had? But he respected his word; it would be very hard to break a
promise made to Mrs. Easterfield; and he stood with his hands in his
pockets, and his brows knit.
"Now, I tell you what I am going to do," said Locker. "I am going to
wait a little while--a very little while--and then I shall bounce over
my earthworks, and rush her position. It is the only way to do it, and I
shall be up and at her with cold steel. And now I will tell you what you
must do. Just you hold yourself in reserve; and, if I am routed, you
charge. You'd better do it if you know what's good for you, for that
Austrian's over there pulverizing his teeth and swearing in French
because that Raleigh woman doesn't get up and go. Now, I won't keep you
any longer, but don't go far away. I can't talk any more, for I've got
to have every eye fixed upon the point of attack."
Dick looked at the animated face of his companion, and began to ask
himself if the moment had not arrived when even a promise made to Mrs.
Easterfield might be disregarded. Should he consent to allow his fate to
depend upon the fortunes of Mr. Locker? He scorned the notion. It would
be impossible for the girl who had talked so sweetly, so earnestly, so
straight from her heart, when he had met her on the shunpike, to marry
such a mountebank as this fellow, generous as he might be with that
which could never belong to him. As to the diplomat, he did not
condescend to bestow a thought upon such a black-pointed little
_Miss Raleigh enjoys a Rare Privilege._
Miss Raleigh was very attentive to the instructions given her by Miss
Asher, and while she exhibited the fashion of the new stitch Olive
"I wonder," she said to herself, "if Mrs. Easterfield has done this. It
looks very much like it, and if she did I am truly obliged to her. There
is nothing I want so much now as a rest, and I didn't want to stay in
the house either. Miss Raleigh," said she, suddenly changing the
subject, "were you ever in love?"
The secretary started. "What do you mean by that?" she asked.
"I don't mean anything," said Olive. "I simply wanted to know."
"It is a queer question," said Miss Raleigh, her face changing to
another shade of sallowness.
"I know that," said Olive quickly, "but the answers to queer questions
are always so much more interesting than those to any others. Don't you
"Yes, they are," said Miss Raleigh thoughtfully, "but they are generally
awfully hard to get. I have tried it myself."
"Then you ought to have a fellow feeling for me," said Olive.
"Well," said the other, looking steadfastly at her companion, "if you
will promise to keep it all to yourself forever, I don't mind telling
you that I was once in love. Would you like me to tell you who I was in
"Yes," said Olive, "if you are willing to tell me."
"Oh, I am perfectly willing," said the secretary. "It was Mr. Hemphill."
Olive turned suddenly and looked at her in amazement.
"Yes, it was Mr. Hemphill over there," said the other, speaking very
tranquilly, as if the subject were of no importance. "You see, I have
been living with the Easterfields for a long time, and in the winter we
see a good deal of Mr. Hemphill. He has to come to the house on
business, and often takes meals. He is Mr. Easterfield's private and
confidential secretary. And, somehow or other, seeing him so often, and
sometimes being his partner at cards when two were needed to make up a
game, I forgot that I was older than he, and I actually fell in love
with him. You see he has a good heart, Miss Asher; anybody could tell
that from his way with children; and I have noticed that bachelors are
often nicer with children than fathers are."
"And he?" asked Olive.
Miss Raleigh laughed a little laugh. "Oh, I did all the loving," she
answered. "He never reciprocated the least little bit, and I often
wondered why I adored him as much as I did. He was handsome, and he was
good, and he had excellent taste; he was thoroughly trustworthy in his
relations to the family, and I believe he would be equally so in all
relations of life; but all that did not account for my unconquerable
ardor, which was caused by a certain something which you know, Miss
Asher, we can't explain."
Olive tried hard not to allow any emotion to show itself in her face,
but she did not altogether succeed. "And you still--" said she.
"No, I don't," interrupted Miss Raleigh. "I love him no longer. There
came a time when all my fire froze. I discovered that there was--"
"I say, Miss Asher--" it was the voice of Claude Locker.
Olive looked around at him. "Well?" said she.
"Perhaps you have not noticed," said he, "that the tennis ground is now
in the shade, and if you don't mind walking that way--" He said a good
deal more which Miss Raleigh did not believe, understanding the young
man thoroughly, and which Olive did not hear. Her mind was very busy
with what she had just heard, which made a great impression on her. She
did not know whether she was affronted, or hurt, or merely startled.
Here was a man who loved her, a man she had loved, and one about whom
she had been questioning herself as to the possibility of her loving him
again. And here was a woman, a dyspeptic, unwholesome spinster, who had
just said she had loved him. If Miss Raleigh had loved this man, how
could she, Olive, love him? There was something repugnant about it which
she did not attempt to understand. It went beyond reason. She felt it
to be an actual relief to look up at Claude Locker, and to listen to
what he was saying.
"You mean," said she presently, "that you would like Miss Raleigh and me
to come with you and play tennis."
"I did not know Miss Raleigh played," he answered, "but I thought
"Oh, no," said Olive. "I would not think of such a thing. In fact, Miss
Raleigh and I are engaged. We are very busy about some important work."
Mr. Locker gazed at the crocheted nucleus with an air of the loftiest
disdain. "Of course, of course," said he, "but you really oblige me,
Miss Asher, to speak very plainly and frankly and to say that I really
do not care about playing tennis, but that I want to speak to you on a
most important subject, which, for reasons that I will explain, must be
spoken of immediately. So, if Miss Raleigh will be kind enough to
postpone the little matter you have on hand--"
Olive smiled and shook her head. "No, indeed, sir," she said; "I would
not hurt a lady's feelings in that way, and moreover, I would not allow
her to hurt her own feelings. It would hurt your feelings, Miss Raleigh,
wouldn't it, to be sent away like a child who is not wanted?"
"Yes," said the secretary, "I think it would."
Mr. Locker listened in amazement. He had not thought the mature maiden
had the nerve to say that.
"Then again," said Olive, "this isn't the time for you to talk business
with me, and you should not disturb me at this hour."
"Oh," said Locker, bringing down the forefinger of his right hand upon
the palm of his left, "that is a point, a very essential point. I
voluntarily surrendered the period of discourse which you assigned to me
for a reason which I now believe did not exist, and this is only an
assertion of the rights vested in me by you."
Miss Raleigh listened very attentively to these remarks, but could not
imagine what they meant.
Olive looked at him graciously. "Yes," she said, "you are very generous,
but your period for discourse, as you call it, will have to be
"But it can't be postponed," he answered. "If I could see you alone I
could soon explain that to you. There are certain reasons why I must
"I can't help it," said Olive. "I am not going to leave Miss Raleigh,
and I am sure she does not want to leave me, so if you are obliged to
speak you must speak before her."
Mr. Locker gazed from one to the other of the two ladies who sat before
him; each of them wore a gentle but determined expression. He addressed
"Miss Raleigh," said he, "if you understood the reason for my strong
desire to speak in private with Miss Asher, perhaps you would respect it
and give me the opportunity I ask for. I am here to make a proposition
of marriage to this lady, and it is absolutely necessary that I make it
without loss of time. Do you desire me to make it in your presence?"
"I should like it very much," said Miss Raleigh.
Mr. Locker gave her a look of despair, and turned to Olive. "Would you
permit that?" he asked.
"If it is absolutely necessary," she said, "I suppose I shall have to
Mr. Locker had the soul of a lion in his somewhat circumscribed body,
and he was not to be recklessly dared to action.
"Very well, then," said he, "I shall proceed as if we were alone, and I
hope, Miss Raleigh, you will at least see fit to consider yourself in a
strictly confidential position."
"Indeed I shall," she replied; "not one word shall ever--"
"I hope not," interrupted Claude, "and I will add that if I should ever
be accidentally present when a gentleman is about to propose to you,
Miss Raleigh, I shall heap coals of fire upon your head by
The secretary was about to thank him, but Olive interrupted. "Now,
Claude Locker," said she, "what can you possibly have to say to me that
you have not said before?"
"A good deal, Miss Asher, a good deal, although I don't wonder you
suppose that no man could say more to you of his undying affection than
I have already said. But, since I last spoke on the subject, I have been
greatly impressed by the fact that I have not said enough about myself;
that I have not made you understand me as I really am. I know very well
that most people, and I suppose that at some time you have been among
them, look upon me as a very frivolous young man, and not one to whom
the right sort of a girl should give herself in marriage. But that is a
mistake. I am as much to be depended upon as anybody you ever met. My
apparently whimsical aspect is merely the outside--my shell, marked off
in queer designs with variegated colors--but within that shell I am as
domestic, as sober, and as surely to be found where I am expected to be
as any turtle. This may seem a queer figure, but it strikes me as a very
good one. When I am wanted I am there. You can always depend upon me."
There was not a smile upon the face of either woman as he spoke. They
were listening earnestly, and with the deepest interest. Miss Raleigh's
eyes sparkled, and Olive seemed to be most seriously considering this
new aspect in which Mr. Locker was endeavoring to place himself.
"Perhaps you may think," Claude continued, "that you would not desire
turtle-like qualities in a husband, you who are so bright, so bounding,
so much like a hare, but I assure you, that is just the companion who
would suit you. All day you might skip among the flowers, and in the
fields, and wherever you were, you would always know where I was--making
a steady bee-line for home; and you would know that I would be there to
welcome you when you arrived."
"That is very pretty!" said Miss Raleigh. And then she quickly added:
"Excuse me for making a remark."
"Now, Miss Asher," continued Locker, "I have tried, very imperfectly, I
know, to make you see me as I really am, and I do hope you can put an
end to this suspense which is keeping me in a nervous tingle. I can not
sleep at night, and all day I am thinking what you will say when you do
decide. You need not be afraid to speak out before Miss Raleigh. She is
in with us now, and she can't get out. I would not press you for an
answer at this moment, but there are reasons which I can not say
anything about without meddling with other people's business. But my
business with you is the happiness of my life, and I feel that I can not
longer endure having it momentarily jeopardized."
At the conclusion of this speech a faint color actually stole into Miss
Raleigh's face, and she clasped her thin hands in the intensity of her
"Mr. Locker," said Olive, speaking very pleasantly, "if you had come to
me to-day and had asked me for a decision based upon what you had
already said to me, I think I might have settled the matter. But after
what you have just told me, I can not answer you now. You give me things
to think about, and I must wait."
"Heavens" exclaimed Mr. Locker, clasping his hands. "Am I not yet to
know whether I am to rise into paradise, or to sink into the infernal
Olive smiled. "Don't do either, Mr. Locker," she said. "This earth is a
very pleasant place. Stay where you are."
He folded his arms and gazed at her. "It is a pleasant place," said he,
"and I am mighty glad I got in my few remarks before you made your
decision. I leave my love with you on approbation, and you may be sure I
shall come to-morrow before luncheon to hear what you say about it."
"I shall expect you," said Olive. And as she spoke her eyes were full of
"Now, that's genuine," said Miss Raleigh, when Locker had departed. "If
he had not felt every word he said he could not have said it before me."
"No doubt you are right," said Olive. "He is very brave. And now you see
this new line, which begins an entirely different kind of stitch!"
In the middle distance Mr. Du Brant still strolled backward and forward,
pulverizing his teeth and swearing in French. He seldom removed his eyes
from Miss Asher, but still she sat on that bench and crocheted, and
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