The Captain's Toll-Gate
Frank R. Stockton
Part 4 out of 6
talked, and talked, and crocheted, with that everlasting Miss Raleigh!
He had seen Locker with her, and he had seen him go; and now he hoped
that the woman would soon depart. Then it would be his chance.
The young Austrian had become most eager to make Olive his wife. He
earnestly loved her; and, beyond that, he had come to see that a
marriage with her would be most advantageous to his prospects. This
beautiful and brilliant American girl, familiar with foreign life and
foreign countries, would give him a position in diplomatic society which
would be most desirable. She might not bring him much money; although he
believed that all American girls had some money; but she would bring him
favor, distinction, and, most likely, advancement. With such a wife he
would be a welcome envoy at any court. And, besides, he loved her. But,
alas, Miss Raleigh would not go away.
About half an hour after Claude Locker left Olive he encountered Dick
"Well," said he, "I charged. I was not routed, I can't say that I was
even repulsed. But I was obliged to withdraw my forces. I shall go into
camp, and renew the attack to-morrow. So, my friend, you will have to
wait. I wish I could say that there is no use of your waiting, but I am
a truthful person and can't do that."
Lancaster was not pleased. "It seems to me," he said, "that you trifle
with the most important affairs of life."
"Trifle!" exclaimed Locker. "Would you call it trifling if I fail, and
then to save her from a worse fate, were to back you up with all my
heart and soul?"
Dick could not help smiling. "By a worse fate," he said, "I suppose you
"The Austrian," interrupted Locker. "Mrs. Easterfield has told me
something about him. He may have a title some day, and he is about as
dangerous as they make them. Instead of accusing me of trifling, you
ought to go down on your knees and thank me for still standing between
him and her."
"That is a duty I would like to perform myself," said Dick.
"Perhaps you may have a chance," sighed Locker, "but I most earnestly
hope not. Look over there at that he-nurse. Those children have made him
take them walking, and he is just coming back to the house."
_The Conflicting Serenades._
Mrs. Easterfield worked steadily at her letter, feeling confident all
the time that her secretary was attending conscientiously to the task
which had been assigned to her, and which could not fail to be a most
congenial one. One of the greatest joys of Miss Raleigh's life was to
interfere in other people's business; and to do it under approval and
with the feeling that it was her duty was a rare joy.
The letter was to her husband, and Mrs. Easterfield was writing it
because she was greatly troubled, and even frightened. In the indulgence
of a good-humored and romantic curiosity to know whether or not a
grown-up young woman would return to a sentimental attachment of her
girlhood, she had brought her husband's secretary to the house with
consequences which were appalling. If this navy girl she had on hand had
been a mere flirt, Mrs. Easterfield, an experienced woman of society,
might not have been very much troubled, but Olive seemed to her to be
much more than a flirt; she would trifle until she made up her mind, but
when she should come to a decision Mrs. Easterfield believed she would
act fairly and squarely. She wanted to marry; and, in her heart, Mrs.
Easterfield commended her; without a mother; now more than ever without
a father; her only near relative about to marry a woman who was
certainly a most undesirable connection; Olive was surely right in
wishing to settle in life. And, if piqued and affronted by her father's
intended marriage, she wished immediately to declare her independence,
the girl could not be blamed. And, from what she had said of Mr.
Hemphill, Mrs. Easterfield could not in her own mind dissent. He was a
good young man; he had an excellent position; he fervently loved Olive;
she had loved him, and might do it again. What was there to which she
could object? Only this: it angered and frightened her to think of Olive
Asher throwing herself away upon Rupert Hemphill. So she wrote a very
strong letter to her husband, representing to him that the danger was
very great and imminent, and that he was needed at Broadstone just as
soon as he could get there. Business could be set aside; his wife's
happiness was at stake; for if this unfortunate match should be made, it
would be her doing, and it would cloud her whole life. Of herself she
did not know what to do, and if she had known, she could not have done
it. But if he came he would not only know everything, but could do
anything. This indicated her general opinion of Mr. Tom Easterfield.
"Now," said she to herself, as she fixed an immediate-delivery stamp
upon the letter, "that ought to bring him here before lunch to-morrow."
When Olive saw fit to go to her room Miss Raleigh felt relieved from
guard, and went to Mrs. Easterfield to report. She told that lady
everything that had happened, even including her own emotions at
various points of the interview. The amazed Mrs. Easterfield listened
with the greatest interest.
"I knew Claude Locker was capable of almost any wild proceeding," she
said, "but I did not think he would do that!"
"There is one thing I forgot," said the secretary, "and that is that I
promised Mr. Locker not to mention a word of what happened."
"I am very glad," replied Mrs. Easterfield, "that you remembered that
promise after you told me everything, and not before. You have done
admirably so far."
"And if I have any other opportunities of interpolating myself, so to
speak," said Miss Raleigh, "shall I embrace them?"
Mrs. Easterfield laughed. "I don't want you to be too obviously
zealous," she answered. "I think for the present we may relax our
efforts to relieve Miss Asher of annoyance." Mrs. Easterfield believed
this. She had faith in Olive; and if that young woman had promised to
give Claude Locker another hearing the next day she did not believe that
the girl would give anybody else a positive answer before that time.
Miss Raleigh went away not altogether satisfied. She did not believe in
relaxed vigilance; for one thing, it was not interesting.
Olive was surprised when she found that Mr. Lancaster was to stay to
dinner, and afterward when she was informed that he had been invited to
spend a few days, she reflected. It looked like some sort of a plan, and
what did Mrs. Easterfield mean by it? She knew the lady of the house
had a very good opinion of the young professor, and that might explain
the invitation at this particular moment, but still it did look like a
plan, and as Olive had no sympathy with plans of this sort she
determined not to trouble her head about it. And to show her
non-concern, she was very gracious to Mr. Lancaster, and received her
reward in an extremely interesting conversation.
Still Olive reflected, and was not in her usual lively spirits. Mr. Fox
said to Mrs. Fox that it was an abominable shame to allow a crowd of
incongruous young men to swarm in upon a country house party, and
interfere seriously with the pleasures of intelligent and
That night, after Mrs. Easterfield had gone to bed, and before she
slept, she heard something which instantly excited her attention; it was
the sound of a guitar, and it came from the lawn in front of the house.
Jumping up, and throwing a dressing-gown about her, she cautiously
approached the open window. But the night was dark, and she could see
nothing. Pushing an armchair to one side of the window, she seated
herself, and listened. Words now began to mingle with the music, and
these words were French. Now she understood everything perfectly. Mr. Du
Brant was a musician, and had helped himself to the guitar in the
From the position in which she sat Mrs. Easterfield could look upon a
second-story window in a projecting wing of the house, and upon this
window, which belonged to Olive's room, and which was barely perceptible
in the gloom, she now fixed her eyes. The song and the thrumming went
on, but no signs of life could be seen in the black square of that open
Mrs. Easterfield was not a bad French scholar, and she caught enough of
the meaning of the words to understand that they belonged to a very
pretty love song in which the flowers looked up to the sky to see if it
were blue, because they knew if it were the fair one smiled, and then
their tender buds might ope; and, if she smiled, his heart implored that
she might smile on him. There was a second verse, much resembling the
first, except that the flowers feared that clouds might sweep the sky;
and they lamented accordingly.
Now, Mrs. Easterfield imagined that she saw something white in the
depths of the darkness of Olive's room, but it did not come to the
front, and she was very uncertain about it. Suddenly, however, something
happened about which she could not be in the least uncertain. Above
Olive's room was a chamber appropriated to the use of bachelor visitors,
and from the window of this room now burst upon the night a wild,
unearthly chant. It was a song with words but without music, and the
voice in which it was shot out into the darkness was harsh, was shrill,
was insolently blatant. And thus the clamorous singer sang:
"My angel maid--ahoy!
If aught should you annoy,
By act or sound,
From sky or ground,
I then pray thee
To call on me
My angel maid--ahoy,
My ange--my ange--l maid
Ahoy! Ahoy! Ahoy!"
The music of the guitar now ceased, and no French words were heard. No
ditty of Latin origin, be it ever so melodious and fervid, could stand
against such a wild storm of Anglo-Saxon vociferation. Every ahoy rang
out as if sea captains were hailing each other in a gale!
"What lungs he has" thought Mrs. Easterfield, as she put her hand over
her mouth so that no one should hear her laugh. At the open window, at
which she still steadily gazed, she now felt sure she saw something
white which moved, but it did not come to the front.
A wave of half-smothered objurgation now rolled up from below; it was
not to be readily caught, but its tone indicated rage and
disappointment. But the guitar had ceased to sound, and the French love
song was heard no more. A little irrepressible laugh came from
somewhere, but who heard it beside herself Mrs. Easterfield could not
know. Then all was still, and the insects of the night, and the tree
frogs, had the stage to themselves.
Early in the morning Miss Raleigh presented herself before Mrs.
Easterfield to make a report. "There was a serenade last night," she
said, "not far from Miss Asher's window. In fact, there were two, but
one of them came from Mr. Locker's room, and was simply awful. Mr. Du
Brant was the gentleman who sang from the lawn, and I was very sorry
when he felt himself obliged to stop. I do not think very much of him,
but he certainly has a pleasant voice, and plays well on the guitar. I
think he must have been a good deal cut up by being interrupted in that
dreadful way, for he grumbled and growled, and did not go into the
house for some time. I am sure he would have been very glad to fight if
any one had come down."
"You mean," said Mrs. Easterfield, "if Mr. Locker had come."
"Well," said the secretary, "if Mr. Hemphill had appeared I have no
doubt he would have answered. Mr. Du Brant seemed to me ready to fight
"How do you know so much about him?" asked Mrs. Easterfield. "And why
did you think of Mr. Hemphill?"
"Oh, he was looking out of his window," said Miss Raleigh. "He could not
see, but he could hear."
"I ask you again," said Mrs. Easterfield, "how do you know all this?"
"Oh, I had not gone to bed, and, at the first sound of the guitar, I
slipped on a waterproof with a hood, and went out. Of course, I wanted
to know everything that was happening."
"I had not the least idea you were such an energetic person," remarked
Mrs. Easterfield, "and I think you were entirely too rash. But how about
Mr. Lancaster? Do you know if he was listening?"
Miss Raleigh stood silent for a moment, then she exclaimed: "There now,
it is too bad! I entirely forgot him! I have not the slightest idea
whether he was asleep or awake, and it would have been just as easy--"
"Well, you need not regret it," said Mrs. Easterfield. "I think you did
quite enough, and if anything of the kind occurs again I positively
forbid you to go out of the house."
"There is one thing we've got to look after," said Miss Raleigh,
without heeding the last remark, "this may result in bloodshed."
"Nonsense," said Mrs. Easterfield; "nothing of that kind is to be feared
from the gentlemen who visit Broadstone."
"Still," said Miss Raleigh, "don't you think it would be well for me to
keep an eye on them?"
"Oh, you may keep both eyes on them if you want to," said Mrs.
Easterfield. Then she began to talk about something else, but, although
she dismissed the matter so lightly, she was very glad at heart that she
had sent for her husband. Things were getting themselves into unpleasant
complications, and she needed Tom.
There was a certain constraint at the breakfast table. Mr. Fox had heard
the serenades, although his consort had slept soundly through the
turmoil; and, while carefully avoiding any reference to the incidents of
the night, he was anxiously hoping that somebody would say something
about them. Mrs. Easterfield saw that Mr. Du Brant was in a bad humor,
and she hoped he was angry enough to announce his early departure. But
he contented himself with being angry, and said nothing about going
Mr. Hemphill was serious, and looked often in the direction of Olive. As
for Dick Lancaster, Miss Raleigh, whose eye was fixed upon him whenever
it could be spared from the exigencies of her meal, decided that if
there should be a fight he would be one of the fighters; his brow was
dark and his glance was sharp; in fact, she was of the opinion that he
glared. Claude Locker did not come to breakfast until nearly everybody
had finished. His dreams had been so pleasant that he had overslept
In the eyes of Mrs. Easterfield Olive's conduct was positively charming.
No one could have supposed that during the night she had heard anything
louder than the ripple of the river. She talked more to Mr. Du Brant
than to any one else, although she managed to draw most of the others
into the conversation; and, with the assistance of the hostess, who gave
her most good-humored help, the talk never flagged, although it did not
become of the slightest interest to any one who engaged in it. They were
all thinking about the conflict of serenades, and what might happen
Shortly after breakfast Miss Raleigh came to Mrs. Easterfield. "Mr. Du
Brant is with her," she said quickly, "and they are walking away. Shall
"No," said the other with a smile, "you can let them alone. Nothing will
happen this morning, unless, indeed, he should come to ask for a
carriage to take him to the station."
Mrs. Easterfield was busy in her garden when Dick Lancaster came to her.
"What a wonderfully determined expression you have!" said she. "You look
as if you were going to jump on a street-car without stopping it!"
"You are right," said he, "I am determined, and I came to tell you so. I
can't stand this sort of thing any longer. I feel like a child who is
told he must eat at the second table, and who can not get his meals
until every one else is finished."
"And I suppose," she said, "you feel there will be nothing left for
"That is it," he answered, "and I don't want to wait. My soul rebels! I
can't stand it!"
"Therefore," she said, "you wish to appear before the meal is ready, and
in that case you will get nothing." He looked at her inquiringly. "I
mean," said she, "that if you propose to Miss Asher now you will be
before your time, and she will decline your proposition without the
"I do not quite understand that," said Dick. "Would she decline all
"I am afraid not."
"But why do you except me?" asked Dick. "Surely she is not engaged. I
know you would tell me at once if that were so."
"It is not so," said Mrs. Easterfield.
"Then I shall take my chances. With all this serenading and love-making
going on around me and around the woman I love with all my heart. I can
not stand and wait until I am told my time has come. The intensity and
the ardor of my feelings for her give me the right to speak to her.
Unless I know that some one else has stepped in before me and taken the
place I crave, I have decided to speak to her just as soon as I can. But
I thought it was due to you to come first and tell you."
"Mr. Lancaster," said Mrs. Easterfield, speaking very quietly, "if you
decide to go to Miss Asher and ask her to marry you, I know you will do
it, for I believe you are a man who keeps his word to himself, but I
assure you that if you do it you will never marry her. So you really
need not bother yourself about going to her; you can simply decide to do
it, and that will be quite sufficient; and you can stay here and hold
these long-stemmed dahlias for me as I cut them."
A troubled wistfulness showed itself upon the young man's face. "You
speak so confidently," he said, "that I almost feel I ought to believe
you. Why do you tell me that I am the only one of her suitors who would
certainly be rejected if he offered himself?"
Mrs. Easterfield dropped the long-stemmed dahlias she had been holding;
and, turning her eyes full upon Lancaster, she said, "Because you are
the only one of them toward whom she has no predilections whatever. More
than that, you are the only one toward whom she has a positive
objection. You are the only one who is an intimate friend of her uncle,
and who would be likely, by means of that intimate friendship, to bring
her into connection with the woman she hates, as well as with a relative
she despises on account of his intended marriage with that woman."
"All that should not count at all," cried Dick. "In such a matter as
this I have nothing to do with Captain Asher! I stand for myself and
speak for myself. What is his intended wife to me? Or what should she be
"Of course," said Mrs. Easterfield, "all that would not count at all if
Olive Asher loved you. But you see she doesn't. I have had it from her
own lips that her uncle's intended marriage is, and must always be, an
effectual barrier between you and her."
"What" cried Dick. "Have you spoken to her of me? And in that way?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Easterfield, "I have. I did not intend to tell you, but
you have forced me to do it. You see, she is a young woman of
extraordinary good sense. She believes she ought to marry, and she is
going to try to make the very best marriage that she possibly can. She
has suitors who have very strong claims upon her consideration--I am not
going to tell you those claims, but I know them. Now, you have no
claim--special claim, I mean--but for all this, I believe, as I have
told you before, that you are the man she ought to marry, and I have
been doing everything I can to make her cease considering them, and to
consider you. And this is the way she came to give me her reasons for
not considering you at all. Now the state of the case is plain before
Dick bowed his head and fixed his eyes upon the dahlias on the ground.
"Don't tread on the poor things," she said, "and don't despair. All you
have to do is to let me put a curbed bit on you, and for you to consent
to wear it for a little while. See," said she, moving her hands in the
air, as if they were engaged upon the bridle of a horse, "I fasten this
chain rather closely, and buckle the ends of the reins in the lowest
curb. Now, you must have a steady hand and a resolute will until the
time comes when the curb is no longer needed."
"And do you believe that time will come?" he asked.
"It will come," she said, "when two things happen; when she has reason
to love you, and has no reason to object to you; and, in my opinion,
that happy combination may arrive if you act sensibly."
"But--" said Dick.
At this moment a quick step was heard on the garden-path and they both
turned. It was Olive.
"Mr. Lancaster," she cried, "I want you; that is, if Mrs. Easterfield
can spare you. We are making up a game of tennis. Mr. Du Brant and Mr.
Hemphill are there, but I can not find Mr. Locker."
Mrs. Easterfield could spare him, and Dick Lancaster, with the curbed
chain pressing him very hard, walked away with Olive Asher.
_The Captain and Maria._
When the captain drove into Glenford on the day when his mind had been
so much disturbed by Dick Lancaster's questions regarding a marriage
between him and Maria Port, he stopped at no place of business, he
turned not to the right nor to the left, but went directly to the house
of his old friend with whom he had spent the night before.
Mr. Simeon Port was sitting on his front porch, reading his newspaper.
He looked up, surprised to see the captain again so soon.
"Simeon," said the captain, "I want to see Maria. I have something to
say to her."
The old man laid down his newspaper. "Serious?" said he.
"Yes, serious," was the answer, "and I want to see her now."
Mr. Port reflected for a moment. "Captain," said he, "do you believe you
have thought about this as much as you ought to?"
"Yes, I have," replied the captain; "I've thought just as much as I
ought to. Is she in the house?"
Mr. Port did not answer. "Captain John," said he presently, "Maria isn't
young, that's plain enough, considerin' my age; but she never does seem
to me as if she'd growed up. When she was a girl she had ways of her
own, and she could make water bile quick, and now she can make it bile
just as quick as ever she did, and perhaps quicker. She's not much on
mindin' the helm, Captain John, and there're other things about her that
wouldn't be attractive to husbands when they come to find them out. And
if I was you I'd take my time."
"That's just what I intend to do," said the captain. "This is my time,
and I am going to take it."
Miss Port, who was busy in the back part of the house, heard voices, and
now came forward. She was wiping her hands upon her apron, and one of
them she extended to the captain.
"I am glad to see you--John," she said, speaking in a very gentle voice,
and hesitating a little at the last word.
The captain looked at her steadfastly, and then, without taking her
hand, he said: "I want to speak to you by yourself. I'll go into the
She politely stepped back to let him pass her, and then her father
turned quickly to her.
"Did you expect to see him back so soon?" he asked.
She smiled and looked down. "Oh, yes," said she, "I was sure he'd come
back very soon."
The old man heaved a sigh, and returned to his paper.
Maria followed the captain. "John," said she, speaking in a low voice,
"wouldn't you rather come into the dinin'-room? He's a little bit hard
of hearin', but if you don't want him to hear anything he'll take in
every word of it."
"Maria Port," said the captain, speaking in a strong, upper-deck voice,
"what I have to say I'll say here. I don't want the people in the street
to hear me, but if your father chooses to listen I would rather he did
it than not."
She looked at him inquiringly. "Well," she answered, "I suppose he will
have to hear it some time or other, and he might as well hear it now as
not. He's all I've got in the world, and you know as well as I do that I
run to tell him everything that happens to me as soon as it happens.
Will you sit down?"
"No," said the captain, "I can speak better standing. Maria Port, I have
found out that you have been trying to make people believe that I am
engaged to marry you."
The smile did not leave Maria's face. "Well, ain't you?" said she.
A look of blank amazement appeared on the face of the captain, but it
was quickly succeeded by the blackness of rage. He was about to swear,
but restrained himself.
"Engaged to you?" he shouted, forgetting entirely the people in the
street; "I'd rather be engaged to a fin-back shark!"
The smile now left her face. "Oh, thank you very much," she said. "And
this is what you meant by your years of devotion! I held out for a long
time, knowing the difference in our ages and the habits of sailors, and
now--just when I make up my mind to give in, to think of my father and
not of myself, and to sacrifice my feelin's so that he might always
have one of his old friends near him, now that he's got too feeble to go
out by himself, and at his age you know as well as I do he ought to have
somebody near him besides me, for who can tell what may happen, or how
sudden--you come and tell me you'd rather marry a fish. I suppose you've
got somebody else in your mind, but that don't make no difference to me.
I've got no fish to offer you, but I have myself that you've wanted so
long, and which now you've got."
The angry captain opened his mouth to speak; he was about to ejaculate
Woman! but his sense of propriety prevented this. He would not apply
such an epithet to any one in the house of a friend. Wretch rose to his
lips, but he would not use even that word; and he contented himself
with: "You! You know just as well as you know you are standing there
that I never had the least idea of marrying you. You know, too, that you
have tried to make people think I had, people here in town and people
out at my house, where you came over and over again pretending to want
to talk about your father's health, when it did not need any more
talking about than yours does. You know you have made trouble in my
family; that you so disgusted my niece that she would not stop at my
house, which had been the same thing as her home; you sickened my
friends; and made my very servants ashamed of me; and all this because
you want to marry a man who now despises you. I would have despised you
long ago if I had seen through your tricks, but I didn't."
There was a smile on Miss Port's face now, but it was not such a smile
as that with which she had greeted the captain; it was a diabolical
grin, brightened by malice. "You are perfectly right," she said;
"everybody knows we are engaged to be married, and what they think about
it doesn't matter to me the snap of my finger. The people in town all
know it and talk about it, and what's more, they've talked to me about
it. That niece of your'n knows it, and that's the reason she won't come
near you, and I'm sure I'm not sorry for that. As for that old thing
that helps you at the toll-gate, and as for the young man that's
spongin' on you, I've no doubt they've got a mighty poor opinion of you.
And I've no doubt they're right. But all that matters nothin' to me.
You're engaged to be married to me; you know it yourself; and everybody
knows it; and what you've got to do is to marry, or pay. You hear what I
say, and you know what I'm goin' to stick to."
It may be well for Captain Asher's reputation that he had no opportunity
to answer Miss Port's remarks. At that instant Mr. Simeon Port appeared
at the door which opened from the parlor on the piazza. He stepped
quickly, his actions showing nothing of that decrepitude which his
dutiful daughter had feared would prevent him from seeking the society
of his friends. He fixed his eyes on his daughter and spoke in a loud,
"Maria," said he, "go to bed! I've heard what you've been saying, and
I'm ashamed of you. I've been ashamed of you before, but now it's worse
than ever. Go to bed, I tell you! And this time, go!"
There was nothing in the world that Maria Port was afraid of except her
father, and of him personally she had not the slightest dread. But of
his dying without leaving her the whole of his fortune she had an
abiding terror, which often kept her awake at night, and which sent a
sickening thrill through her whenever a difficulty arose between her and
her parent. She was quite sure what he would do if she should offend him
sufficiently; he would leave her a small annuity, enough to support her;
and the rest of his money would go to several institutions which she had
heard him mention in this connection. If she could have married Captain
Asher she would have felt a good deal safer; it would have taken much
provocation to make her father leave his money out of the family if his
old friend had been one of that family.
Now, when she heard her father's voice, and saw his dark eyes glittering
at her, she knew she was in great danger, and the well-known chill ran
through her. She made no answer; she cared not who was present; she
thought of nothing but that those eyes must cease to glitter, and that
angry voice must not be heard again. She turned and walked to her room,
which was on the same floor, across the hall.
"And mind you go to bed!" shouted her father. "And do it regular. You're
not to make believe to go to bed, and then get up and walk about as soon
as my back is turned. I'm comin' in presently to see if you've obeyed
She answered not, but entered her room, and closed the door after her.
Mr. Port now turned to the captain. "I never could find out," he said,
"where Maria got that mind of her'n. It isn't from my side, for my
father and mother was as good people as ever lived, and it wasn't from
her mother, for you knew her, and there wasn't anything of the kind
"No," said Captain Asher, "not the least bit of it."
"It must have been from her grandmother Ellis," said the old man. "I
never knew her, for she died before I was acquainted with the family,
but I expect she died of deviltry. That's the only insight I can get
into the reasons for Maria's havin' the mind she's got. But I tell you,
Captain John, you've had a blessed escape! I didn't know she was in the
habit of goin' out to your house so often. She didn't tell me that."
"Simeon," said the captain, "I think I will go now. I have had enough of
Maria. I don't suppose I'll hear from her very soon again."
The old man smiled. "No," said he, "I don't think she'll want to trouble
you any more."
Miss Port, whose ear was at the keyhole of her door not twelve feet
away, grinned malignantly.
Soon after Captain Asher had gone Mr. Port walked to the door of his
daughter's room, gave a little knock, and then opened the door a little.
"You are in bed, are you?" said he. "Well, that's good for you. Turn
down that coverlid and let me see if you've got your nightclothes on."
She obeyed. "Very well," he continued; "now you stay there until I tell
you to get up."
Captain Asher went home, still in a very bad humor. He had ceased to be
angry with Maria Port, he was done with her; and he let her pass out of
his mind. But he was angry with other people, especially with Olive.
She had allowed herself to have a most contemptuous opinion of him; she
had treated him shamefully; and as he thought of her his indignation
increased instead of diminishing. And young Lancaster had believed it!
And old Jane! It was enough to make a stone slab angry, and the captain
was not a stone slab.
_Mr. Tom arrives at Broadstone._
After the conclusion of the game of tennis in which Olive and three of
her lovers participated, Claude Locker, returning from a long walk,
entered the grounds of Broadstone. He had absented himself from that
hospitable domain for purposes of reflection, and also to avoid the
company of Mr. Du Brant. Not that he was afraid of the diplomat, but
because of the important interview appointed for the latter part of the
morning. He very much wished that no unpleasantness of any kind should
occur before the time for that interview.
Having found that he had given himself more time than was necessary for
his reflections and his walk, he had rested in the shade of a tree and
had written two poems. One of these was the serenade which he would have
roared out on the night air on a very recent occasion if he had had time
to prepare it. It was, in his opinion, far superior to the impromptu
verses of which he had been obliged to make use, and it pleased him to
think that if things should go well with him after the interview to
which he was looking forward, he would read that serenade to its object,
and ask her to substitute it in her memory for the inharmonic lines
which he had used in order to smother the degenerate melody of a
foreign lay. The other poem was intended for use in case his interview
should not be successful. But on the way home Mr. Locker experienced an
entire change of mind. He came to believe that it would be unwise for
him to arrange to use either of those poems on that day. For all he
knew, Miss Asher might like foreign degenerate lays, and she might be
annoyed that he had interfered with one. He remembered that she had told
him that if he had insisted on an immediate answer to his proposition it
would have been very easy to give it to him. He realized what that
meant; and, for all he knew, she might be quite as ready this morning to
act with similar promptness. That Du Brant business might have settled
her mind, and it would therefore be very well for him to be careful
about what he did, and what he asked for.
About half an hour before luncheon, when he neared the house and
perceived Miss Asher on the lawn, it seemed to him very much as if she
were looking for him. This he did not like, and he hurried toward her.
"Miss Asher," said he, "I wish to propose an amendment."
"To what?" asked Olive. "But first tell me where you have been and what
you have been doing? You are covered with dust, and look as hot as if
you had been pulling the boat against the rapids. I have not seen you
the whole morning."
"I have been walking," said he, "and thinking. It is dreadful hot work
to think. That should be done only in winter weather."
"It would be a woeful thing to take a cold on the mind," said Olive.
"That is so!" he replied. "That is exactly what I am afraid of this
morning, and that is the reason I want to propose my amendment. I beg
most earnestly that you will not make this interview definitive. I am
afraid if you do I may get chills in my mind, soul, and heart from which
I shall never recover. I have an idea that the weather may not be as
favorable as it was yesterday for the unveiling of tender emotions."
"Why so?" asked Olive.
"There are several reasons," returned Mr. Locker. "For one thing, that
musical uproar last night. I have not heard anything about that, and I
don't know where I stand."
Olive laughed. "It was splendid," said she. "I liked you a great deal
better after that than I did before."
"Now tell me," he exclaimed hurriedly, "and please lose no time, for
here comes a surrey from the station with a gentleman in it--do you like
me enough better to give me a favorable answer, now, right here?"
"No," said Olive. "I do not feel warranted in being so precipitate as
"Then please say nothing on the subject," said Locker. "Please let us
drop the whole matter for to-day. And may I assume that I am at liberty
to take it up again to-morrow at this hour?"
"You may," said Olive. "What gentleman is that, do you suppose?"
"I know him," said Locker, "and, fortunately, he is married. He is Mr.
"Here's papa! Here's papa!" shouted the two little girls as they ran out
of the front door.
"And papa," said the oldest one, "we want you to tell us a story just as
soon as you have brushed your hair! Mr. Rupert has been telling us
stories, but yours are a great deal better."
"Yes," said the other little girl, "he makes all the children too good.
They can't be good, you know, and there's no use trying. We told him so,
but he doesn't mind."
There was story-telling after luncheon, but the papa did not tell them,
and the children were sent away. It was Mrs. Easterfield who told the
stories, and Mr. Tom was a most interested listener.
"Well," said he, when she had finished, "this seems to be a somewhat
tangled state of affairs."
"It certainly is," she replied, "and I tangled them."
"And you expect me to straighten them?" he asked.
"Of course I do," she replied, "and I expect you to begin by sending Mr.
Hemphill away. You know I could not do it, but I should think it would
be easy for you."
"Would you object if I lighted a cigar?" he asked.
"Of course not," she said. "Did you ever hear me object to anything of
"No," said he, "but I never have smoked in this room, and I thought
perhaps Miss Raleigh might object when she came in to do your writing."
"My writing!" exclaimed Mrs. Easterfield. "Now don't trifle! This is no
time to make fun of me. Olive may be accepting him this minute."
"It seems to me," said Mr. Easterfield, slowly puffing his cigar, "that
it would not be such a very bad thing if she did. So far as I have been
able to judge, he is my favorite of the claimants. Du Brant and I have
met frequently, and if I were a girl I would not want to marry him.
Locker is too little for Miss Asher, and, besides, he is too flighty.
Your young professor may be good enough, but from my limited
conversation with him at the table I could not form much of an opinion
as to him one way or another. I have an opinion of Hemphill, and a very
good one. He is a first-class young man, a rising one with prospects,
and, more than that, I think he is the best-looking of the lot."
"Tom," said Mrs. Easterfield, "do you suppose I sent for you to talk
such nonsense as that? Can you imagine that my sense of honor toward
Olive's parents would allow me even to consider a marriage between a
high-class girl, such as she is--high-class in every way--to a mere
commonplace private secretary? I don't care what his attributes and
merits are; he is commonplace to the backbone; and he is impossible. If
what ought to be a brilliant career ends suddenly in Rupert Hemphill I
shall have Olive on my conscience for the rest of my life."
"That settles it," said Mr. Tom Easterfield; "your conscience, my dear,
has not been trained to carry loads, and I shall not help to put one on
it. Hemphill is a good man, but we must rule him out."
"Yes," said she, "Olive is a great deal more than good. He must be
"But I can't send him away this afternoon," Tom continued. "That would
put them both on their mettle, and, ten to one, he would considerately
announce his engagement before he left."
"No," said she. "Olive is very sharp, and would resent that. But now
that you are here I feel safe from any immediate rashness on their
"You are right," said Mr. Tom. "My very coming will give them pause. And
now I want to see the girl."
"What for?" asked Mrs. Easterfield.
"I want to get acquainted with her. I don't know her yet, and I can't
talk to her if I don't know her."
"Are you going to talk to her about Hemphill?"
"Yes, for one thing," he answered.
"Well," said she, "you will have to be very circumspect. She is both
alert, and sensitive."
"Oh, I'll be circumspect enough," he replied. "You may trust me for
It was not long after this that Mrs. Easterfield, being engaged in some
hospitable duties, sent Olive to show Mr. Tom the garden, and it was
rather a slight to that abode of beauty that the tour of the rose-lined
paths occupied but a very few minutes, when Mr. Easterfield became
tired, and desired to sit down. Having seated themselves on Mrs.
Easterfield's favorite bench, Olive looked up at her companion, and
"Well, sir, what is it you brought me here to say to me?"
Mr. Tom laughed, and so did she.
"If it is anything about the gentlemen who are paying their addresses
to me, you may as well begin at once, for that will save time, and
really an introduction is not necessary."
Mr. Easterfield's admiration for this young lady, which had been
steadily growing, was not decreased by this remark. "This girl," said he
to himself, "deserves a nimble-witted husband. Hemphill would never do
for her. It seems to me," he said aloud, "that we are already well
enough acquainted for me to proceed with the remarks which you have
correctly assumed I came here to make."
"Yes," said she, "I have always thought that some people are born to
become acquainted, and when they meet they instantly perceive the fact,
and the thing is accomplished. They can then proceed."
"Very well," said he, "we will proceed."
"I suppose," said Olive, "that Mrs. Easterfield has explained
everything, and that you agree with her and with me that it is a
sensible thing for a girl in my position to marry, and, having no one to
attend wisely to such a matter for me, that I should endeavor to attend
to it myself as wisely as I can. Also, that a little bit of pique,
caused by the fact that I am to have an old schoolfellow for a
stepmother, is excusable."
"And it is this pique which puts you in such a hurry? I did not exactly
"Yes, it does," said she. "I very much wish to announce my own
engagement, if not my marriage, before any arrangements shall be made
which may include me. Do you think me wrong in this?"
"No, I don't," said Mr. Easterfield. "If I were a girl in your place I
think I would do the same thing myself."
Olive's face expressed her gratitude. "And now," said she, "what do you
think of the young men? I feel so well acquainted with you through Mrs.
Easterfield that I shall give a great deal of weight to your opinion.
But first let me ask you one thing: After what you have heard of me do
you think I am a flirt?"
Mr. Tom knitted his brows a little, then he smiled, and then he looked
out over the flower-beds without saying anything.
"Don't be afraid to say so if you think so," said she. "You must be
perfectly plain and frank with me, or our acquaintanceship will wither
Under the influence of this threat he spoke. "Well," said he, "I should
not feel warranted in calling you a flirt, but it does seem to me that
you have been flirting."
"I think you are wrong, Mr. Easterfield," said Olive, speaking very
gravely. "I never saw any one of these young men before I came here
except Mr. Hemphill, and he was an entirely different person when I knew
him before, and I have given no one of them any special encouragement.
If Mr. Locker were not such an impetuous young man, I think the others
would have been more deliberate, but as it was easy to see the state of
his mind, and as we are all making but a temporary stay here, these
other young men saw that they must act quickly, or not at all. This,
while it was very amusing, was also a little annoying, and I should
greatly have preferred slower and more deliberate movements on the part
of these young men. But all my feelings changed when my father's letter
came to me. I was glad then that they had proposed already."
"That is certainly honest," said Mr. Tom.
"Of course it is honest," replied Olive. "I am here to speak honestly if
I speak at all. Now, don't you see that if under these peculiar
circumstances one eligible young man had proposed to me I ought to have
considered myself fortunate? Now here are three to choose from. Do you
not agree with me that it is my duty to try to choose the best one of
them, and not to discourage any until I feel very certain about my
"That is business-like," said Mr. Easterfield; "but do you love any one
"No, I don't," answered Olive, "except that there is a feeling in that
direction in the case of Mr. Hemphill. I suppose Mrs. Easterfield has
told you that when I was a schoolgirl I was deeply in love with him; and
now, when I think of those old times, I believe it would not be
impossible for those old sentiments to return. So there really is a tie
between him and me; even though it be a slight one; which does not exist
at all between me and any one of the others."
For a moment neither of them spoke. "That is very bad, young woman,"
thought Mr. Tom. "A slight tie like that is apt to grow thick and strong
suddenly." But he could not discourse about Mr. Hemphill; he knew that
would be very dangerous. He would have to be considered, however, and
much more seriously than he had supposed.
"Well," said he, "I will tell you this: if I were a young man,
unmarried, and on a visit to Broadstone at this time, I should not like
to be treated as you are treating the young men who are here. It is all
very well for a young woman to look after herself and her own interests,
but I should be very sorry to have my fate depend upon the merits of
other people. I may not be correct, but I am afraid I should feel I was
being flirted with."
"Well, then," said Olive, giving a quick, forward motion on the bench,
"you think I ought to settle this matter immediately, and relieve myself
at once from the imputation of trifling with earnest affection?"
"Oh, no, no, no!" cried Mrs. Easterfield. "Not at all! Don't do anything
Olive leaned back on the bench, and laughed heartily. "There is so much
excellent advice in this world," she said, "which is not intended to be
used. However, it is valuable all the same. And now, sir, what is it you
would like me to do? Something plain; intended for every-day use."
Mr. Tom leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. "It does not appear to
me," he said, "that you have told me very much I did not know before,
for Mrs. Easterfield put the matter very plainly before me."
"And it does not seem to me," said Olive, "that you have given me any
definite counsel, and I know that is what you came here to do."
"You are mistaken there," he said. "I came here to find out what sort of
a girl you are; my counsels must depend on my discoveries. But there is
one thing I want to ask you; you are all the time talking about three
young men. Now, there are four of them here."
"Yes," she answered quickly. "But only three of them have proposed;
and, besides, if the other were to do so, he would have to be set aside
for what I may call family reasons. I don't want to go into particulars
because the subject is very painful to me."
For a moment Mr. Tom did not speak. Then, determined to go through with
what he had come to do, which was to make himself acquainted with this
girl, he said: "I do not wish to discuss anything that is painful to
you, but Mrs. Easterfield and I are very much disturbed for fear that in
some way your visit to Broadstone created some misunderstanding or
disagreeable feeling between you and your uncle. Now, would you mind
telling me whether this is so, or not?"
She looked at him steadily. "There is an unpleasant feeling between me
and my uncle, but this visit has nothing to do with it. And I am going
to tell you all about it. I hate to feel so much alone in the world that
I can't talk to anybody about what makes me unhappy. I might have spoken
to Mrs. Easterfield, but she didn't ask me. But you have asked me, and
that makes me feel that I am really better acquainted with you than with
This remark pleased Mr. Tom, but he did not think it would be necessary
to put it into his report to his wife. He had promised to be very
circumspect; and circumspection should act in every direction.
"It is very hard for a girl such as I am," she continued, "to be alone
in the world, and that is a very good reason for getting married as soon
as I can."
"And for being very careful whom you marry," interrupted Mr.
"Of course," said she, "and I am trying very hard to be that. A little
while ago I had a father with whom I expected to live and be happy, but
that dream is over now. And then I thought I had an uncle who was going
to be more of a father to me than my own father had ever been. But that
dream is over, too."
"And why?" asked Mr. Easterfield.
"He is going to marry a woman," said Olive, "that is perfectly horrible,
and with whom I could not live. And the worst of it all is that he never
told me a word about it."
As she said this Olive looked very solemn; and Mr. Tom, not knowing on
the instant what would be proper to say, looked solemn also.
"You may think it strange," said she, "that I talk in this way to you,
but you came here to find out what sort of girl I am, and I am perfectly
willing to help you do it. Besides, in a case like this, I would rather
talk to a man than to a woman."
Mr. Tom believed her, but he did not know at this stage of the
proceedings what it would be wise to say. He was also fully aware that
if he said the wrong thing it would be very bad, indeed.
"Now, you see," said she, "there is another reason why I should marry as
soon as possible. In my case most girls would take up some pursuit which
would make them independent, but I don't like business. I want to be at
the head of a household; and, what is more, I want to have something to
do--I mean a great deal to do--with the selection of a husband."
The conversation was taking a direction which frightened Mr. Tom. In the
next moment she might be asking advice about the choice of a husband.
It was plain enough that love had nothing to do with the matter, and Mr.
Tom did not wish to act the part of a practical-minded Cupid. "And now
let me ask a favor of you," said he. "Won't you give me time to think
over this matter a little?"
"That is exactly what I say to my suitors," said Olive, smiling.
Mr. Tom smiled also. "But won't you promise me not to do anything
definite until I see you again?" he asked earnestly.
"That is not very unlike what some of my suitors say to me," she
replied. "But I will promise you that when you see me again I shall
still be heart-free."
"There can be no doubt of that," Mr. Tom said to himself as they arose
to leave the garden. "And, my young woman, you may deny being a flirt,
but you permitted the addresses of two young men before you were upset
by your father's letter. But I think I like flirts. At any rate, I can
not help liking her, and I believe she has got a heart somewhere, and
will find it some day."
When Mr. Tom returned to the house he did not find his wife, for that
lady was occupied somewhere in entertaining her guests. Now, although it
might have been considered his duty to go and help her in her hospitable
work, he very much preferred to attend to the business which she had
sent for him to do. And walking to the stables, he was soon mounted on a
good horse, and riding away southward on the smooth gray turnpike.
_The Captain and Mr. Tom._
Captain Asher was standing at the door of the tollhouse when he saw Mr.
Easterfield approaching. He recognized him, although he had had but one
brief interview with him one day at the toll-gate some time before. Mr.
Easterfield was a man absorbed in business, and the first summer Mrs.
Easterfield was at Broadstone he was in Europe engaged in large and
important affairs, and had not been at the summer home at all. And so
far this summer, he had been there but once before, and then for only a
couple of days. Now, as the captain saw the gentleman coming toward the
toll-gate he had no reason for supposing that he would not go through
it. Nevertheless, his mind was disturbed. Any one coming from Broadstone
disturbed his mind. He had not quite decided whether or not to ask any
questions concerning the late members of his household, when the
horseman stopped at the gate, and handed him the toll.
"Good morning, captain," said Mr. Easterfield cheerily, for he had heard
much in praise of the toll-gate keeper from his wife.
"Good morning, Mr. Easterfield," said the captain gravely.
"I am glad I do not have to introduce myself," said Mr. Easterfield,
"for I am only going through your gate as far as that tree to tie my
horse. Then, if convenient to you, I should like to have a little talk
The captain's mind, which had been relieved when Mr. Easterfield paid
his toll, now sank again. But he could not say a talk would be
inconvenient. "If I had known that you were not going on," he said, "you
need not have paid."
"Like most people in this life," said Mr. Easterfield, "I pay for what I
have already done, and not for what I am going to do. And now have you
leisure, sir, for a short conversation?"
The captain looked very glum. He felt not the slightest desire now to
ask questions, and still less desire to be interrogated. However, he was
not afraid of anything any one might say to him; and if a certain
subject was broached, he had something to say himself.
"Yes," said he; "do you prefer indoors or out of doors?"
"Out of doors, if it suits," replied the visitor, "for I would like to
take a smoke."
"I am with you there," said the captain, as he led the way to the little
Here Mr. Easterfield lighted a cigar, and the captain a pipe.
"Now, sir," said the latter, when the tobacco in his bowl was in a
satisfactory glow, "what is it you want to talk about?" He spoke as if
he were behind entrenchments, and ready for an attack.
"We have two of your guests with us," answered Mr. Easterfield,
"Professor Lancaster, and your niece."
"Oh," said the captain, evidently relieved. "I thought perhaps you had
come to ask questions about some reports you may have heard in regard to
"Not at all, not at all," said Mr. Easterfield. "I would not think of
mentioning your private affairs, about which I have not the slightest
right or wish to speak. But as we have apparently appropriated two of
your young people, I think, and Mrs. Easterfield agrees with me, that it
is but right you should be informed as to their health, and what they
The captain puffed vigorously. "When is Dick Lancaster coming back" he
"I can't say anything about that," replied Mr. Easterfield, "for I am
not master of ceremonies. We would like to keep him as long as we can,
but, of course, your claims must be considered."
"I should think so," remarked the captain.
"Professor Lancaster is a remarkably fine young man," said the other,
"and as he is a friend of yours, and as I should like him to be a friend
of mine, it would give me pleasure to talk to you more about him. But I
may as well confess that my real object in coming here is to talk about
your niece. Of course, as I said before, it might appear that I have no
right to meddle with your family affairs, but in this case I certainly
think I am justified; for, as Mrs. Easterfield invited the young lady to
leave you and to come to her, and as all that has happened to her has
happened at our house, and in consequence of that invitation, I think
that you, as her nearest accessible relative, should be told of what has
The captain made no answer, but gazed steadily into the face of the
"Therefore," continued Mr. Easterfield, "I will simply state that my
wife and I have very good reason to believe that your niece is about to
engage herself in marriage; and I will only add that we are very sorry,
indeed, that this should have occurred under our roof."
A sudden and curious change came over the face of the captain; a light
sparkled in his eye, and a faint flush, as if of pleasure, was visible
under his swarthy skin. He leaned toward his companion.
"Is it Dick Lancaster?" he asked quickly.
Mr. Easterfield answered gravely: "I wish it were, but I am very sorry
to say it is not."
The light went out of the captain's eye. He leaned back on his bench and
the little flush in his cheeks was succeeded by a somber coldness. "Very
good," said he; "I don't want to hear anything more about it, and, what
is more, it would not be right for you to tell me, even if I did want to
know. It is none of my business."
"Now, really, Captain Asher," began Mr. Easterfield.
"No, sir," the captain interrupted. "It is none of my business, and I
don't want to hear anything about it. And now, sir, I would like to tell
you something. It is something I thought you came here to ask about, and
I did not like it, but now I want to tell you of my own free will, in
confidence. That is to say, I don't want you to speak of it to anybody
in your house. I suppose you have heard something about my intending to
marry a woman in town?"
"Yes," said Mr. Easterfield, "I can not deny that I have, but I
considered it was entirely your own affair, and I had not--"
"Of course," interrupted the captain, "and I want to tell you--but I
don't want my niece to hear it as coming from me--that that whole thing
is a most abominable lie! That woman has been trying to make people
believe I am going to marry her, and she has made a good many believe
it, but I would rather cut my throat than marry her. But I have told her
what I think of her in a way she can not mistake. And that ends her! I
tell you this, Mr. Easterfield, because I believe you are a good man,
and you certainly seem to be a friendly man, and I would like you to
know it. I would have liked very much to tell everybody, especially my
own flesh and blood, but now I assure you, sir, I am too proud to have
her know it through me. Let her go on and marry anybody she pleases, and
let her think anything she pleases about me. She has been satisfied with
her own opinion of me without giving me a chance to explain to her, or
to tell her the truth, and now she can stay satisfied with it until
somebody else sets her straight."
"But this is very hard, captain," said Mr. Easterfield; "hard on you,
hard on her, and hard on all of us, I may say."
The captain made no answer to these words, and did not appear to hear
them. "I tell you, Mr. Easterfield," he said presently, "that I did not
know until now how much I cared for that girl. I don't mind saying this
to you because you come to me like a friend, and I believe in you. Yes,
sir, I did not know how much I cared for her, and it is pretty hard on
me to find out how little she cares for me."
"You are wrong there," said Mr. Easterfield. "My wife tells me that Miss
Asher has frequently talked to her about you and her life here, and it
is certain she has--"
"Oh, that does not make any difference," interrupted the captain. "I am
talking about things as they are now. It was all very well as long as
things seemed to be going right, but I believe in people who stand by
you when things seem to be going wrong, and who keep on standing by you
until they know how they are going, and that is exactly what she did not
do. Now, there was Dick Lancaster; he came to me and asked me squarely
about that affair. To be sure, I cut him off short, for it angered me to
think that he, or anybody else, should have such an idea of me, and,
besides, it was none of his business. But it should have been her
business; she ought to have made it her business; and, even if the thing
had stood differently, I would have told her exactly how it did stand;
and then she could have said to me what she thought about it, and what
she was going to do. But instead of that, she just made up her mind
about me, and away went everything. Yes, sir, everything. I can't tell
you the plans I had made for her and for myself, and, I may say, for
Dick Lancaster. If it suited her, I wanted her to marry him, and if it
suited her I wanted to go and live with them in his college town, or
any other place they might want to go. Again and again, after I knew
Dick, have I gone over this thing and planned it out this way, and that
way, but always with us three in the middle of everything. Do you see
that?" continued the captain after a slight pause, as he drew from his
pocket a dainty little pearl paper-cutter. "That belongs to her. She
used to sit out here, and cut the leaves of books as she read them. I
can see her little hand now as it went sliding along the edges of the
pages. When she went away she left it on the bench, and I took it. And
I've kept it in my pocket to take out when I sit here, and cut books
with it when I have 'em. I haven't many books that ain't cut, but I've
sat here and cut 'em till there wasn't any left. And then I cut a lot of
old volumes of Coast Survey Reports. It is a foolish thing for an old
man to do, but then--but then--well, you see, I did it."
There was a choke in the captain's voice as he leaned over to put the
paper-cutter in his pocket and to pick up his pipe, which he had laid on
the bench beside him. Mr. Easterfield was touched and surprised. He
would not have supposed the captain to be a man of such tender
sentiment. And he took him at once to his heart. "It is a shame," his
thoughts ran, "for this man to be separated from the niece he so loves.
She is a cold-hearted girl, or she does not understand him. It must not
Had he been a woman he would have said all this, but, being a man, he
found it difficult to break the silence which followed the captain's
last words. He did not know what to say, although he had no hesitation
in making up his mind what he was going to do about it all. He arose.
"Captain Asher," he said, "I have now told you what I thought you should
know, and I must take my departure. I would not presume for a moment to
offer you any advice in regard to your family affairs, but there is one
thing Mrs. Easterfield and I will interfere with, if we can, for we feel
that we have a right to do it, and that is any definite and immediate
engagement of your niece. If she should promise herself in marriage at
our house we shall feel that we are responsible for it, and that, in
fact, we brought it about. Whether the match shall seem desirable to you
or not, we do not wish to be answerable for it."
"Oh, I need not be counted in at all," said the captain, who had
recovered his composure. "It is her own affair. I suppose it was the
news of her father's intended marriage that put her in such a hurry."
"You are right," said Mr. Easterfield.
"Just like her" the captain exclaimed. "And I don't blame her. I'm with
When Mr. Tom reached Broadstone he dismounted at the stable, and walked
to the house. Nobody was to be seen on the grounds. It was a warm
afternoon when those whose hearts were undisturbed by the turmoils of
love were apt to be napping, and those who were in the tumultuous state
of mind referred to, preferred to separate themselves from each other
and the rest of the world until the cause of their inquietude should
consider the heat of the summer day as sufficiently mitigated for her to
appear again among her fellow beings.
Mr. Easterfield did not care to meet any of his guests, and hoped to
find his wife in her room, that he might report, and consult. But, as he
approached the house, he saw at an upper window a female head. It stayed
there just long enough for him to see that it was Olive's head; then it
disappeared. When he reached the hall door there stood Olive.
Mr. Tom was a little disappointed. He wanted to see his wife
immediately, and then to see Olive. But he could not say so.
"Well," said the girl, coming down the steps, "it looks as if we had
arranged to meet. But although we didn't, let's take a little walk. I
have something I want to say to you."
Mr. Easterfield turned, and walked away from the house. He was a
masterful man, and did not like to have his plans interfered with.
Therefore he made a dash, and had the first word. "Miss Asher," said he,
"I am glad to hear anything you have to say, but first you must really
listen to me."
Olive looked at him with surprise. She also was a masterful person, and
not accustomed to be treated in this way. But he gave her no chance.
"Miss Asher," said he, "I have come to you to speak for one of your
lovers, the truest, best lover you ever had, and I believe, ever will
Olive looked at him steadfastly, and her face grew hard. "Mr.
Easterfield," she said, "this will not do. I have told you I will not
have it. Mrs. Easterfield and you have been very good and kind, and I
have told you everything, but you do not seem to remember one thing I
have said. I will not have anybody forced upon me; no matter if he
happens to be an angel from heaven, or no matter how much better he may
be than anybody else on earth. I have my reasons for this determination.
They are good reasons, and, above all, they are my reasons. I don't want
you to think me rude, but if you persist in forcing that gentleman upon
my attention, I shall have to request that the whole subject be dropped
"Who in the name of common sense do you think I am talking about?"
exclaimed Mr. Tom. "Do you think I refer to Mr. Lancaster?"
"I do," she said. "You know you would not come to plead the cause of any
one of the others."
He looked down at her half doubtfully, wondering a little how she would
take what he was going to say. "You are mistaken," he said quietly. "I
have nothing whatever to say about Mr. Lancaster. The lover I speak of
is your uncle."
Then her face turned red. "Why do you use that expression? Did he send
you to say it?"
"Not at all. I came of my own free will. I went to see Captain Asher
immediately after I left you. Perhaps you are thinking that I have no
right to intrude in your family affairs, but I do not mind your thinking
that. I had a long talk with your uncle. I found that the uppermost
sentiment of his soul was his love for you. You had come into his life
like the break of day. Every little thing you had owned or touched was
dear to him because it had been yours, or you had used it. All his plans
in life had been remade in reference to you."
They had stopped and were standing facing each other. They could not
walk and talk as they were talking.
"Yet, but," she exclaimed, her face pale and her eyes fixed steadfastly
upon him, "but what of that--"
"There are no yets and buts," he exclaimed, half angry with her that she
hesitated. "I know what you were going to say, but that woman you have
heard of is nothing to him. He hates her worse than you hate her. She
has imposed upon you; how I know not; but she is an impostor."
At this instant she seized him by the arm. "Mr. Easterfield," she cried,
and as she spoke the tears were running down her cheeks, "please let me
have a carriage--something covered! I would go on my wheel, for that
would be quicker, but I don't want anybody to speak to me or see me!
Will you have it brought to the back door, Mr. Easterfield, please? I
will run to the house, and be waiting when it comes."
She did not wait for him to answer. He did not ask her where she was
going. He knew very well. She ran to the house, and he hurried to the
Having given his orders, Mr. Tom went in search of his wife. The moment
had arrived when it was absolutely necessary to let her know what was
He found her in her own room. "Where on earth have you been?" she
exclaimed. "I have been looking everywhere for you."
In as few words as possible he told her where he had been, and what he
"And where are you going now?" she asked.
"I am going to change my coat," said the good Mr. Tom. "After my ride
to the toll-gate and back this jacket is too dusty for me to drive with
"Drive with her" exclaimed Mrs. Easterfield. "It will be very well for
you to get rid of some of that dust, but when the carriage comes I will
drive with Olive to see her uncle."
And thus it happened that Mr. Tom stayed at home with the house party
while the close carriage, containing his wife and that dear girl, Olive
Asher, rolled swiftly southward over the smooth turnpike road.
_A Stop at the Toll-gate._
The four lovers at Broadstone walked, and wandered, and waited, after
breakfast that morning, but only one of them knew definitely what he was
waiting for, and that was Mr. Locker. He was waiting for half-past
twelve o'clock, when he would join Miss Asher, if she gave him an
opportunity; and he was sure she would give him one, for she was always
to be trusted. He intended this interview to be decisive. It would not
do for him to wait any longer; yes or no must be her word. She had been
walking down by the river with the best clothes on the premises, and he
now feared the owner of those clothes more than anybody else. He was a
keen-sighted young man, for otherwise how could he have been a poet, and
he assured himself that Miss Asher was taking Hemphill seriously.
So Mr. Locker determined to charge the works of the enemy that day
before luncheon. When the conflict was over his flag might float high
and free or it might lie trampled in the dust, but the battle should be
fought, and no quarter would be asked or given.
As for Mr. Hemphill and Mr. Du Brant, they simply wandered, and waited,
and bored the rest of the company. They did not care to do anything, for
that might embarrass them in case Miss Asher appeared and wished to do
something else; they did not want to stay in the house because she might
show herself somewhere out of doors; they did not want to stay on the
grounds because at any moment she might seat herself in the library with
a book; above all things, they wanted to keep away from each other; and
their indeterminate peregrinations made sick the souls of Mr. and Mrs.
The diplomat did not know what he was going to do when he saw Miss Asher
alone; everything would depend upon surrounding circumstances, for he
was quick as well as wary, and could make up his mind on the instant.
But good Rupert Hemphill had not even as much decision of purpose as
this. He had already spent half an hour with the lady of his love, and
he had not been very happy. Delighted that she had permitted him to join
her, he had at once begun to speak of the one great object which
dominated his existence, but she had earnestly entreated him not to do
"It is such a pity," she had said, "for us never to talk of anything but
that. There are so many things I like to talk about, especially the
things of which I read. I am now reading Charles Lamb--that is, whenever
I get a chance--and I don't believe anybody in these days ever does read
the works of that dear old man. There is a complete set of his books in
the library, and they do not look as if they had ever been opened. Did
you ever read his little essays on Popular Fallacies? Some of them are
just as true as they can be, although they seem like making fun,
especially the one about the angry man being always in the wrong. I am
inclined to side with the angry man. I know I am generally right when I
Mr. Hemphill had not read these little essays, nor had he admitted that
he had never read anything else by Mr. Lamb; but he had agreed that it
was very common to be both angry and right. Then Olive had talked to him
about other books, and his way had become very rough and exceedingly
thorny, and he had wished he knew how to bring up the subject of some
new figures in the German. But he had not succeeded in doing this. She
had been in a bookish mood, and the mood had lasted until she had left
Now he began to think that it would be better for him to give up
wandering and waiting and go into the library and prepare himself for
another talk with Olive, but he did not go; she might see him and
suspect his design. He would wait until later. He took some books to his
Dick Lancaster wandered and waited, but he was full of a purpose,
although it was not exactly definite; he wanted to find Mrs. Easterfield
and ask her to release him from his promise. He could not remain much
longer at Broadstone, and Olive's morning walk with Hemphill had made
him very nervous. She knew that these young men were in love with her,
and he had a right to let her know that he was also. It might be
imprudent for him to do this, but he could not see why it would not be
as imprudent at any other time as now. Moreover, there might come no
other time, and he had control of now.
Mrs. Easterfield had not joined her guests because of her anxiety about
Olive. Mr. Easterfield did not appear. For a time he was very
particularly engaged in the garden. Mr. Fox grew very much irritated.
"I tell you, my dear," said he, "every one who comes here makes this
place more stupid and dull. I can't see exactly any reason for it, but
these lovers are at the bottom of it. I hate lovers."
"You should be very glad, my dear," replied Mrs. Fox, "that I was not of
your opinion in my early life."
But things changed for the better after a time. It is true that Mrs.
Easterfield and Olive did not appear, but Mr. Easterfield showed
himself, and did it with great advantage. The simple statement that his
wife and Miss Asher had gone to make a call caused a feeling of relief
to spread over the whole party. Until the callers returned there was no
reason why they should not all enjoy themselves, and Mr. Easterfield was
there to show them how to do it.
As the Broadstone carriage rolled swiftly on there was not much
conversation between its occupants. To the somewhat sensitive mind of
Mrs. Easterfield it seemed that Olive was a little disappointed at the
change of companions, but this may have been a mere fancy. The girl was
so wrapped up in self-concentrated thought that it was not likely that
she would have talked much to any one. Suddenly, however, Olive broke
"Mr. Easterfield must be a thoroughly good man" she said.
"He is," assented the other.
"And you have always been entirely satisfied with him?"
"Entirely," was the reply, without a smile.
Now Olive turned her face toward her companion and laid her hand upon
her arm. "You ought to be a happy woman," she said.
"Now, what is this girl thinking of?" asked Mrs. Easterfield to herself.
"Is she imagining that any one of the young fellows who are now
besieging her can ever be to her what Tom is to me? Or is she making an
ideal of my husband to the disparagement of her own lovers? Whichever
way she thinks, she would better give up thinking."
But the somewhat sensitive Mrs. Easterfield need not have troubled
herself. The girl had already forgotten the good Mr. Tom, and her mind
was intent upon getting to her uncle.
"Will you please ask the man to stop," she said, "before he gets to the
gate, and let me out? Then perhaps you will kindly drive on to the
tollhouse and wait for me. I will not keep you waiting long."
The carriage stopped, and Olive slipped out, and, before Mrs.
Easterfield had any idea of what she was going to do, the girl climbed
the rail fence which separated the road from the captain's pasture
field. Between this field and the garden was a picket fence, not very
high; and, toward a point about midway between the little tollhouse and
the dwelling, Olive now ran swiftly. When she had nearly reached the
fence she gave a great bound; put one foot on the upper rail to which
the pickets were nailed; and then went over. What would have happened if
the sharp pales had caught her skirts might well be imagined. But
"That was a fine spring" said Mrs. Easterfield to herself. "She has
seen him in the house, and wants to get there before he hears the
Olive walked quietly through the garden to the house. She knew that her
uncle was not at the gate, for from afar she had seen that the little
piazza on which he was wont to sit was empty. She went noiselessly into
the hall, and looked into the parlor. By a window in the back of the
room she saw her uncle writing at a little table. With a rush of air she
was at his side before he knew she was in the room. As he turned his
head her arms were around his neck, and the pen in his hand made a great
splotch of ink upon her white summer dress.
"Now, uncle," she exclaimed, looking into his astonished face, "here I
am and here I am going to stay! And if you want to know anything more
about it, you will have to wait, for I am not going to make any
explanations now. I am too happy to know that I have a dear uncle left
to me in this world, and to know that we two are going to live together
always to want to talk about whys and wherefores."
"But, Olive" exclaimed the captain.
"There are no buts," she interrupted. "Not a single but, my dear Uncle
John! I have come back to stay with you, and that is all there is about
it. Mrs. Easterfield is outside in her carriage, and I must go and send
her away. But don't you come out, Uncle John; I have some things to say
to her, and I will let you know when she is going."
As Olive sped out of the room Captain Asher turned around in his chair
and looked after her. Tears were running down his swarthy cheeks. He
did not know how or why it had all happened. He only knew that Olive was
coming back to live with him!
Meantime old Jane was entertaining Mrs. Easterfield at the toll-gate,
where no money was paid, but a great deal of information gained. The old
woman had seen Miss Olive run into the house, and she was elated and
excited, and consequently voluble. Mrs. Easterfield got the full account
of the one-sided courtship of the captain and Miss Port. Even the
concluding episode of Maria having been put to bed had somehow reached
the ears of old Jane. It is really wonderful how secret things do become
known, for not one of the three actors in that scene would have told it
on any account. But old Jane knew it, and told it with great glee, to
Mrs. Easterfield's intense enjoyment. Then she proceeded to praise Olive
for the spirit she had shown under these trying circumstances; and, in
this connection, naturally there came into the recital the spirit the
old woman herself had shown under these same trying circumstances, and
how she had got all ready to leave the minute the nuptial knot was tied
and before that Maria Port could reach the toll-gate, although it was
like tearing herself apart to leave the spot where she had lived so many
years. "But," she concluded, "it is all right now. The captain tells me
it's all a lie of her own makin'. She's good at that business, and if
lies was salable she'd be rich."
Just as the old woman reached this, what seemed to her unsophisticated
mind, impossible business proposition, Olive appeared. Mrs. Easterfield
was surprised to see her so soon, and, to tell the truth, a little
disappointed. She had been greatly interested and amused by the old
woman's rapid tale, which she would not interrupt, but had put aside in
her mind several questions to ask, and one of them was in relation to
her husband's late visit to the captain. She had had no detailed account
from him, and she wondered how much this old body knew about it. She
seemed to know pretty much everything. But Olive's appearance put an end
to this absorbing conversation.
"Has you come to stay, dearie?" eagerly asked old Jane, as Olive grasped
"To be sure I have, Jane! I have come to stay forever!"
"Thank goodness!" exclaimed the old woman. "How the captain will
brighten up! But my! I must go and alter the supper!"
"Mrs. Easterfield," said Olive, when the old woman had departed, "you
will have to go back without me. I can not leave my uncle, and I am
going to stay here right along. You must not think I am ungrateful to
you, or unmindful of Mr. Easterfield's great kindness, but this is my
place for the present. Some day I know you will be good enough to let me
pay you another visit."
"And what am I to do with all those young men?" asked Mrs. Easterfield
mischievously. She would have added, "And one of them your future
husband?" But she remembered the coachman.
Olive laughed. "They will annoy you less when I am not there. If you
will be so good as to ask your maid to pack up my belongings, I will
send for my trunk." She glanced at the coachman. "Would you mind taking
a little walk with me along the road?"
"I shall be glad to do so," said Mrs. Easterfield, getting out of the
"Now, my dear Mrs. Easterfield," said Olive when they were some distance
from the toll-gate and the house, "I am going to ask you to add to all
your kindness one more favor for me."
"That has such an ominous sound," said Mrs. Easterfield, "that I am not
disposed to promise beforehand."
"It is about those three young men you mentioned."
"I mentioned no number, and there are four."
"In what I am going to ask of you one of them can be counted out. He is
not in the affair. Only three are in this business. Won't you be so good
as to decline them all for me? I know that you can do it better than I
can. You have so much tact. And you must have done the thing many a
time, and I have not done it once. I am very awkward; I don't know how;
and, to confess the truth, I have put myself into a pretty bad fix."
"Upon my word," cried Mrs. Easterfield, "that is a pretty thing for one
woman to ask of another!
"I know it is," said Olive, "and I would not ask it of anybody but the
truest friend--of no one but you. But you see how difficult it is for me
to attend to it. And it must be done. I have given up all idea of
marrying, I am going to stay here, and when my father comes with his
young lady he will find me settled and fixed, and he and she will have
nothing to do with making plans for me. Now, dear Mrs. Easterfield, I
know you will do this favor for me, and let me say that I wish you would
be particularly gentle and pleasant in speaking to Mr. Locker. I think
he is really a very kind and considerate young man. He certainly showed
himself that way. I know you can talk so nicely to him that perhaps he
will not mind very much. As for Mr. Du Brant, you can tell him plainly
that I have carefully considered his proposition--and that is the exact
truth--and that I find it will be wise for me not to accept it. He is a
man of affairs, and will understand that I have given him a
straightforward, practical answer, and he will be satisfied. You must
not be sharp with Mr. Hemphill, as I know you will be inclined to be.
Please remember that I was once in love with him, and respect my
feelings as well as his. Besides, he is good, and he is in earnest, and
he deserves fair treatment. I am sorry that I have worried you about
him, and I will tell you now that I have found out he would not do at
all. I found it out this morning when I was talking to him about books.
His mind is neither broad nor cultivated."
"I could have told you that," said Mrs. Easterfield, "and saved you all
the trouble of taking that walk by the river."
"And then there is one more thing," continued Olive; "it is about
Professor Lancaster. I am sure you will agree with me that it will not
do for him to come back here. I am just going to start housekeeping
again. I've got the supper on my mind this minute. You can't imagine how
everything has turned topsy-turvy since I left. I suppose he will be
wanting to go North, anyway. In fact, he told me so."
Mrs. Easterfield laughed. She did not believe that Mr. Lancaster would
want to go North, or West, or East, although South might suit him. But
she saw the point of Olive's request; it would be awkward to have him at
"Oh, I will take care of him," she said, "and he shall continue his
vacation trip just as soon as Mr. Easterfield and I choose to give him
"You see," said Olive in an explanatory way, "I have not anything in the
world to do with him, but I thought he might want to come back to see
uncle again. And, really," she added, speaking with a great deal of
earnestness, "I don't want to be bothered with any more young men! And
now I will call uncle. You know I had to say all these things to you
Mrs. Easterfield walked quickly back to her carriage, but she did not
wait to see Captain Asher. As a hostess it was necessary for her to
hurry back home; and as a quick-witted, sensible woman she saw that it
would be well to leave these two happy people to themselves. This was
not the time for them to talk to her. So, when the captain, unwilling to
wait any longer, appeared at the door of the house, these two dear
friends had kissed and parted, and the carriage was speeding away.
On her way home Mrs. Easterfield forgot her slight chagrin at what her
husband had not done, in her joy at what he had accomplished. He had
neglected to take her fully into his confidence, and had acted very much
as if he had been a naval commander, who had cut his telegraphic
connections in order not to be embarrassed by orders from the home
government. But, on the other hand, he had saved her from the terrible
shock of hearing Olive declare that she had just engaged herself to
Rupert Hemphill. If it had not been for the extraordinary promptness of
her good Tom--a style of action he had acquired in the railroad
business--it would have been just as likely as not that Olive would have
accepted that young man before she had had an opportunity of finding out
his want of breadth and cultivation.
About half-past twelve Claude Locker made his appearance in the spacious
hall. He looked out of the front door; he looked out of the back door;
he peered into the parlor; he glanced up the stairway; and then he
peeped into the library. He had not seen the lady of the house since her
return, and he was waiting for Olive. This morning his fate was to be
positively decided; he would take a position that would allow of no
postponement; he would tell her plainly that a statement that she was
not prepared to give him an answer that day would be considered by him
as a final rejection. She must haul down her flag or he would surrender
and present to her his sword.
Claude Locker saw nothing of Miss Asher, but it was not long before the
lady of the house came down-stairs.
"Oh, Mr. Locker," she exclaimed, "I am so glad to see you! Come into the
He hesitated a minute. "I beg your pardon," said he, "but I have an
"I know that," said she, "and you may be surprised to hear that it is
with me and not with Miss Asher. Come in and I will tell you about it."
Claude Locker actually ran after his hostess into the library, both of
his eyes wide open.
"And now," said she, "please sit down, and hear what I have to say."
Locker seated himself on the edge of a chair; he did not feel happy; he
suspected something was wrong.
"Is she sick?" he asked. "Can't she come down?"
"She is very well," was the reply, "but she is not here. She is with her
"Then I am due at her uncle's house before one o'clock," said he.
"No," she answered, "you are due here."
He fixed upon her a questioning glance.
"Miss Asher," she continued, "has deputed me to give you her answer. She
can not come herself, but she does not forget her agreement with you."
The young man still gazed steadfastly. "If it is to be a favorable
decision," said he, "I hope you will be able to excuse any exuberance of
demeanor on my part."
Mrs. Easterfield smiled. "In that case," she said, "I do not suppose I
should have been sent as an envoy."
His brow darkened, and instinctively he struck one hand with the other.
"That is exactly what I expected!" he exclaimed. "The signs all pointed
that way. But until this moment, my dear madam, I hoped. Yes, I had
presumed to hope that I might kindle in her heart a little nickering
flame. I had tried to do this, and I had left but one small match head,
which I intended to strike this day. But now I see I had a piece of the
wrong end of the match. After this I must be content forever to stay in
"I am glad you view the matter so philosophically," said Mrs.
Easterfield, "and Olive particularly desired me to say--"
"Don't call her Olive, if you please," he interrupted. "It is like
speaking to me through the partly open door of paradise, through which I
can not enter. Slam it shut, I beg of you, and talk over the top of the
"Miss Asher wants you to know," continued Mrs. Easterfield, "that while
she has decided to decline your addresses, she is deeply grateful to you
for the considerate way in which you have borne yourself toward her. I
know she has a high regard for you, and that she will not forget your
Mr. Locker put his hands in his pockets. "Do you know," said he, "as
this thing had to be done, I prefer to have you do it than to have her
do it. Well, it is done now! And so am I!"
"You never did truly expect to get her, did you, Mr. Locker?" asked Mrs.
"Never," he answered; "but I do not flinch at what may be
impossibilities. Nobody, myself included, can imagine that I shall rival
Keats, and yet I am always trying for it."
"Is it Keats you are aiming at?" she said.
"Yes," he replied; "it does not look like it, does it? But it is."
"And you don't feel disheartened when you fail?" said she.
Mr. Locker took his hands from his pockets, and folded his arms. "Yes,
I do," he said; "I feel as thoroughly disheartened as I do now. But I
have one comfort; Keats and Miss Asher dropped me; I did not drop them.
So there is nothing on my conscience. And now tell me, is she going to
take Lancaster? I hope so."
"She could not do that," answered Mrs. Easterfield, "for I know he has
not asked her."
"Then he'd better skip around lively and do it," said Mr. Locker, "not
only for his own sake, but for mine. If I should be cast aside for the
Hemphill clothes I should have no faith in humanity. I would give up
verse, and I would give up woman."
"Don't be afraid of anything like that," said Mrs. Easterfield,
laughing. "It may be somewhat of a breach of confidence, but I am going
to tell you nevertheless; because I think you deserve it; that I am also
deputed to decline the addresses of Mr. Hemphill, and Mr. Du Brant."
"Hurrah!" cried Locker. "Mrs. Easterfield, I envy you; and if you don't
feel like performing the rest of your mission, you can depute it to me.
I don't know anything at this moment that would give me so much joy."
"I would not be so disloyal or so cruel as that," said she. "But I shall
not be in a hurry. I shall let them eat their lunch in peace and hope."
"Not much peace," said he. "Her empty chair will put that to flight. I
know how it feels to look at her empty chair."
"Then you really love her?" said Mrs. Easterfield, much moved.
"With every fiber," said he.
Mrs. Easterfield found herself much embarrassed at the luncheon table.
She had made her husband understand the state of affairs, but had not
had time to enter into particulars with him, and she did not find it
easy satisfactorily to explain to the company the absence of Miss Asher
without calling forth embarrassing questions as to her return, and she
wished carefully to avoid telling them that her guest was not coming
back for the present. If she made this known then she feared there might
be a scene at the table.
Mr. Hemphill turned pale when, that afternoon, his hostess, in an
exceedingly clear and plain manner, made known to him his fate. For a
few moments he did not speak. Then he said very quietly: "If she had
not, of her own accord, told me that she had once loved me, I should
never have dared to say anything like that to her."
"I do not think you need any excuse, Mr. Hemphill," said Mrs.
Easterfield. "In fact, if you loved her, I do not see how you could help
speaking after what she herself said to you."
"That is true," he replied. "And I love her with all my heart!"
"She ought never to have told you of that girlish fancy," said his
hostess. "It was putting you in a very embarrassing position, and I am
bound to say to you, Mr. Hemphill, that I also am very much to blame.
Knowing all this, as I did, I should not have allowed you to meet her."
"Oh, don't say that!" exclaimed Mr. Hemphill. "Don't say that! Not for
the world would I give up the memory of hearing her say she once loved
me! I don't care how many years ago it was. I am glad you let me come
here. I am glad she told me. I shall never forget the happiness I have
had in this house. And now, Mrs. Easterfield, let me ask you one
At this moment Mrs. Easterfield, who was facing the door, saw her
husband enter the hall, and by his manner she knew he was looking for
"Excuse me," she said to Hemphill, "I will be back in an instant."
And she ran out. "Tom," she cried, "you must go away. I can not see you
now. I am very busy declining the addresses of a suitor, and can not be
Mr. Tom looked at her in surprise, although it was not often Mrs.
Easterfield could surprise him. He saw that she was very much in
"Well," said he, "if you are sure you are going to decline him I won't
interrupt you. And when you have sealed his fate you will find me in my
room. I want particularly to see you."
Mrs. Easterfield went back to the library and Hemphill continued: "You
need not answer if you do not think it is right," said he, "but do you
believe at any time she thought seriously of me?"
Mrs. Easterfield smiled as she answered: "Now, you see the advantage of
an agent in such matters as this. You could not have asked her that
question, or if you did she would not answer you. And now I am going to
tell you that she did have some serious thought of you. Whatever
encouragement she gave you, she treated you fairly. She is a very
practical young woman--"
"Excuse me," said Hemphill hurriedly, "but if you please, I would rather
you did not tell me anything more. Sometimes it is not well to try to
know too much. I can't talk now, Mrs. Easterfield, for I am dreadfully
cut up, but at the same time I am wonderfully proud. I don't know that
you can understand this."
"Yes, I can," she said; "I understand it perfectly."
"You are very kind," he said. As he was about to leave the room he
stopped and turned to Mrs. Easterfield. "Is she going to marry Professor
Lancaster?" he asked.
"Really, Mr. Hemphill," she replied, "I can not say anything about that.
I do not know any more than you do."
"Well, I hope she may," he said. "It would be a burning shame if she
were to accept that Austrian; and as for the other little man, he is too
ugly. You must excuse me for speaking of your friends in this way, Mrs.
Easterfield, but really I should feel dreadfully if I thought I had been
set aside for such a queer customer as he is."
Mrs. Easterfield did not laugh then; but when Hemphill had gone, and she
had joined her husband, they had a good time together.
"And so they all recommend Lancaster," said he.
"So far," she answered; "but I have yet to hear what Mr. Du Brant has to
"I think you have had enough of this discarding business," said Mr.
Tom. "You would better leave Du Brant to me."
"Oh, no," said she; "I promised Olive. And, besides, I think I like it."
"I believe you do," said Mr. Tom. "And now I want to say something
important. It is not right that Broadstone should be given up entirely
to the affairs of Miss Asher and her lovers. I think, for instance, that
our friend Fox looks very much dissatisfied."
"That is because Olive is not here," she replied.
"Not only that," he answered. "He loses her, and does not get anything
else in her place. Now, we must make this house lively, as it ought to
be. Let Du Brant off for to-day and let us make up a party to go out on
the river. We will take two boats, and have some of the men to do the
rowing. Postpone dinner so we can have a long afternoon."
Mr. Du Brant did not go on the river excursion. He had some letters to
write, and begged to be excused. He had not asked when Miss Asher was
expected back, or anything about her return. He did not understand the
state of affairs, and was afraid he might receive some misleading
information. But if she should come that afternoon or the next day he
determined to be on the spot. After that he might not be able to remain
at Broadstone, and it would be a glorious opportunity for him if she
should come back that afternoon.
It was twilight when the boating party returned. Under the genial
influence of Mr. Tom and his wife they had all enjoyed themselves as
much as it was possible for them to do so without Olive.
When Claude Locker, a little behind the others, reached the top of the
hill he perceived, not far away, Mr. Du Brant strolling. These two had
not spoken since the night of the interrupted serenade. Each of them had
desired to avoid words or actions which might disturb the peace of this
hospitable home, and consequently had very successfully succeeded in
avoiding each other. But now Mr. Locker walked straight up to the
secretary of legation, holding out his hand.
"Now, Mr. Du Brant," said he, "since we are both in the same boat, let
us shake hands and let bygones be bygones."
But the young Austrian did not take the proffered hand. For a moment he
looked as though he were about to turn away without taking any notice of
Locker, but he had not the strength of mind to do this. He turned and
remarked with a scowl:
"What do you mean by same boat? I have nothing to do with you on the
water or on the land!"
Mr. Locker shrugged his shoulders. "So you have not been told," said he.
"Told!" exclaimed Du Brant, now very much interested. "Told what?"
"That you will have to find out," said the other. "It is not my business
to tell you. But I don't mind saying that as I have been told I thought
perhaps you might have been."
"Told what?" exclaimed Mr. Du Brant again, stepping up closer to the
"Don't shout so," said Locker; "they will think we are quarreling.
Didn't I say I am not the person to tell you anything, and if you did
not understand me I will say it again."
For some seconds the Austrian looked steadily at his companion. Then he
said, "Have you been refused by Miss Asher?"
"Well," said Locker with a sigh, "as that is my business, I suppose I
can talk about it if I want to. Yes, I have."
Again Du Brant was silent for a time. "Did she tell you herself?" he
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