"Field open!" he exclaimed, dropping the roses and the scissors. "Field clear! What a double-dyed ass am I!" And with this he rushed out to the tennis ground; Mrs. Easterfield did not play.
Before Mrs. Easterfield returned to the house she stood for a moment and looked at the tennis players.
"Olive and three young men," she said to herself; "that will do very well."
A little before luncheon Claude Locker became very uneasy, and even agitated. He hovered around Olive, but found no opportunity to speak to her, for she was always talking to somebody else, mostly to the newcomer. But she was a little late in entering the dining-room, and Locker stepped up to her in the doorway.
"Is this your handkerchief?" he asked.
"No," said she, stopping; "isn't it yours?"
"Yes," he replied, "but I had to have some way of attracting your attention. I love you so much that I can scarcely see the table and the people."
"Thank you," she said, "and that is all for the next twenty-four hours."
Mr. Rupert Hemphill.
That afternoon it rained, so that the Broadstone people were obliged to stay indoors. Dick Lancaster found Mr. Fox a very agreeable and well-informed man, and Mrs. Fox was also an excellent conversationalist. Mrs. Easterfield, who, after the confidences of the morning, could not help looking at him as something more than an acquaintance, talked to him a good deal, and tried to make the time pass pleasantly, at which business she was an adept. All this was very pleasant to Dick, but it did not compensate him for the almost entire loss of the society of Olive, who seemed to devote herself to the entertainment of the Austrian secretary. Mrs. Easterfield was very sorry that the young foreigner had come at this time, but he had been invited the winter before; the time had been appointed; and the visit had to be endured.
When the rain had ceased, and Dick was about to take his leave, his hostess declared she would not let him walk back through the mud.
"You shall have a horse," she said, "and that will insure an early visit from you, for, of course, you will not trust the animal to other hands than your own. I would ask you to stay, but that would not be treating the captain kindly."
As Dick was mounting Mr. Du Brant was standing at the front door, a smile on his swarthy countenance. This smile said as plainly as words could have done so that it was very amusing to this foreign young man to see a person with rolled-up trousers and a straw hat mount upon a horse. Claude Locker, whose soul had been chafing all the afternoon under his banishment from the society of the angel of his life, was also at the front door, and saw the contemptuous smile. Instantly a new and powerful emotion swept over his being in the shape of a strong feeling of fellowship for Lancaster. It made his soul boil with indignation to see the sneer which the Austrian directed toward the young man, a thoroughly fine young man, who, by said foreigner's monkeyful impudence, and another's mistaken favor, had been made a brother-in-misfortune of himself, Claude Locker.
"I will make common cause with him against the enemy," thought Locker. "If I should fail to get her I will help him to." And although Dick's brown socks were plainly visible as he cantered away, Mr. Locker looked after him as a gallant and honored brother-in-arms.
That evening Claude Locker fought for himself and his comrade. He persisted in talking French with Mr. Du Brant; and his remarkable management of that language, in which ignorance and a subtle facility in intentional misapprehension were so adroitly blended that it was impossible to tell one from the other, amused Olive, and so provoked the Austrian that at last he turned away and began to talk American politics with Mr. Fox, which so elated the poet that the ladies of the party passed a merry evening.
"Would you like me to take him out rowing to-morrow?" asked Claude apart to his hostess.
"With you at the oars?" she asked.
"Of course," said Locker.
"I am amazed," said she, "that you should suspect me of such cold-blooded cruelty."
"You know you don't want him here," said Claude. "His salary can not be large, and he must spend the greater part of it on clothes—and oil."
"Is it possible," she asked, "that you look upon that young man as a rival?"
"By no means," he replied; "such persons never marry. They only prevent other people from marrying anybody. Therefore it is that I remember what sort of a boatman I am."
"My dear," said Mr. Fox, when he and his wife had retired to their room, "after hearing what that Austrian has to say of the American people, I almost revere Mr. Locker."
"I heard some of his remarks," she said, "and I imagined they would have an effect of that kind upon you."
When the Broadstone surrey came from the train the next morning it brought a gentleman.
"What!" exclaimed Mrs. Fox, when from the other side of the lawn she saw him alight. "Another young man with a valise! It seems to me that this is an overdose!"
"Overdoses," remarked Mr. Fox, "are often less dangerous than just enough poison."
Mrs. Easterfield received this visitor at the door. She had been waiting for him, and did not wish him to meet anybody when she was not present. After offering his respectful salutations, Mr. Hemphill, Mr. Easterfield's secretary in the central office of the D. and J., delivered without delay a package of which he was the bearer, and apologized for his valise, stating that Mr. Easterfield had told him he must spend the night at Broadstone.
"Most assuredly you would do that," said she, and to herself she added, "If I want you longer I will let you know."
Mr. Rupert Hemphill was a very handsome man; his nose was fine; his eyes were dark and expressive; he wore silky side-whiskers, which, however, did not entirely conceal the bloom upon his cheeks; his teeth were very good; he was well shaped; and his clothes fitted him admirably.
As has been said before, Mrs. Easterfield was exceedingly interested; she was even a little agitated, which was not common with her. She had Mr. Hemphill conducted to his room, and then she waited for him to come down; this also was not common with her.
"Mr. Locker," she called from the open door, "do you know where Miss Asher is?"
The poet stopped in his stride across the lawn, and approached the lady. "Oh, she is with the Du Brant," said he. "I have been trying to get in some of my French, but neither of them will rise to the fly. However, I am content; it is now three hours before luncheon, and if she has him to herself for that length of time, I think she will be thoroughly disgusted. Then it will be my time, as per agreement."
Mrs. Easterfield was a little disappointed. She wanted Olive by herself, but she did not want to make a point of sending for her. But fortune favored her.
"There she is," exclaimed Locker; "she is just going into the library. Let me go tell her you want her."
"Not at all," said Mrs. Easterfield. "Don't put yourself into danger of breaking your word by seeing her alone before luncheon. I'll go to her."
Mr. Locker continued his melancholy stroll, and Mrs. Easterfield entered the library. Olive must not be allowed to go away until the moment arrived which had been awaited with so much interest.
"I am looking for a copy of Tartarin sur les Alps. I am sure I saw it among these French books," said Olive, on her knees before a low bookcase. "Would you believe it, Mr. Du Brant has never read it, and he seems to think so much of education."
Mrs. Easterfield knew exactly where the book was, but she preferred to allow Olive to occupy herself in looking for it, while she kept her eyes on the hall.
"Wait a moment, Olive," said she; "a visitor has just arrived, and I want to make him acquainted with you."
Olive rose with a book in her hand, and Mrs. Easterfield presented Mr. Hemphill to Miss Asher. As she did so, Mrs. Easterfield kept her eyes steadily fixed upon the young lady's face. With a pleasant smile Olive returned Mr. Hemphill's bow. She was generally glad to make new acquaintances.
"Mr. Hemphill is one of my husband's business associates," said Mrs. Easterfield, still with her eyes on Olive. "He has just come from him."
"Did he send us this fine day by you?" said Olive. "If so, we are greatly obliged to him."
The young man answered that, although he had not brought the day, he was delighted that he had come in company with it.
"What atrocious commonplaces!" thought Mrs. Easterfield. "The girl does not know him from Adam!"
Here was a disappointment; the thrill, the pallor, the involuntary start, were totally absent; and the first act of the little play was a failure. But Mrs. Easterfield hoped for better things when the curtain rose again. She conducted Mr. Hemphill to the Foxes and let Olive go away with her book; and, as soon as she had the opportunity, she read the letter from her husband.
"With this I send you Mr. Hemphill," he wrote. "I don't know what you want to do with him, but you must take good care of him. He is a most valuable secretary, and an estimable young man. As soon as you have done with him please send him back."
"I am glad he is estimable," said Mrs. Easterfield to herself. "That will make the matter more satisfactory to Tom when I explain it to him."
When Dick Lancaster, properly booted and wearing a felt hat, returned the borrowed horse, he was met by Mr. Locker, who had been wandering about the front of the house, and when he had dismounted Dick was somewhat surprised by the hearty handshake he received.
"I am sorry to have to tell you," said the poet, "that there is another one."
"Another what?" asked Dick.
"Another unnecessary victim," replied Locker. And with this he returned to the front of the house.
At last Olive came down the stairs, and she was alone. Locker stepped quickly up to her.
"If I should marry," he said, "would I be expected to entertain that Austrian?"
She stopped, and gave the question her serious consideration. "I should think," she said, "that that would depend a good deal upon whom you should marry."
"How can you talk in that way?" he exclaimed. "As if there were anything to depend upon!"
"Nothing to depend upon," said Olive, slightly raising her eyebrows. "That is bad." And she went into the dining-room.
The afternoon was an exceptionally fine one, but the party at Broadstone did not take advantage of it; there seemed to be a spirit of unrest pervading the premises, and when the carriage started on a drive along the river only Mr. and Mrs. Fox were in it. Mrs. Easterfield would not leave Olive and Mr. Hemphill, and she did not encourage them to go. Consequently there were three young men who did not wish to go.
"It seems to me," said Mr. Fox, as they rolled away, "that a young woman, such as Miss Asher, has it in her power to interfere very much with the social feeling which should pervade a household like this. If she were to satisfy herself with attracting one person, all the rest of us might be content to make ourselves happy in such fashions as might present themselves."
"The rest of us!" exclaimed Mrs. Fox.
"Yes," replied her husband. "I mean you, and Mrs. Easterfield, and myself, and the rest. That young woman's indeterminate methods of fascination interfere with all of us."
"I don't exactly see how they interfere with me," said Mrs. Fox rather stiffly.
"If the carriage had been filled, as was expected," said her husband, "I might have had the pleasure of driving you in a buggy."
She turned to him with a smile. "Immediately after I spoke," she said, "I imagined you might be thinking of something of that kind."
Mrs. Easterfield was not a woman to wait for things to happen in their own good time. If possible, she liked to hurry them up. In this Olive and Hemphill affair there was really nothing to wait for; if she left them to themselves there would be no happenings. As soon as was possible, she took Olive into her own little room, where she kept her writing-table, and into whose sacred precincts her secretary was not allowed to penetrate.
"Now, then," said she, "what do you think of Mr. Hemphill?"
"I don't think of him at all," said Olive, a little surprised. "Is there anything about him to think of?"
"He sat by you at luncheon," said Mrs. Easterfield.
"I know that," said Olive, "and he was better than an empty chair. I hate sitting by empty chairs."
"Olive," exclaimed Mrs. Easterfield with vivacity, "you ought to remember that young man!"
"Remember him?" the girl ejaculated.
"Certainly," said Mrs. Easterfield. "After what you told me about him, I expected you would recognize him the moment you saw him. But you did not know him; you did not do anything I expected you to do; and I was very much disappointed."
"What are you talking about?" asked Olive.
"I am talking about Mr. Hemphill; Mr. Rupert Hemphill; who, about seven years ago, was engaged in the Philadelphia Navy-Yard, and who came to your house on business with your father. From what you told me of him I conjectured that he might now be my husband's Philadelphia secretary, for his name is Rupert, and I had reason to believe that he was once engaged in the navy-yard. When I found out I was entirely correct in my supposition I had him sent here, and I looked forward with the most joyous anticipations to being present when you first saw him. But it was all a fiasco! I suppose some people might think I was unwarrantably meddling in the affairs of others, but as it was in my power to create a most charming romance, I could not let the opportunity pass."
Olive did not hear a word of Mrs. Easterfield's latest remarks; her round, full eyes were fixed upon the wall in front of her, but they saw nothing. Her mind had gone back seven years.
"Is it possible," she exclaimed presently, "that that is my Rupert, my beautiful Rupert of the roseate cheeks, the Rupert of my heart, my only love! The Endymion-like youth I watched for every day; on whom I gazed and gazed and worshiped and longed for when he had gone; of whom I dreamed; to whom my soul went out in poetry; whose miniature I would have painted on the finest ivory if I had known how to paint; and whose image thus created I would have worn next my heart to look at every instant I found myself alone, if it had not been that my dresses were all fastened down the back! I am going to him this instant! I must see him again! My Rupert, my only love!" And with this she started to the door.
"Olive," cried Mrs. Easterfield, springing from her chair, "stop, don't you do that! Come back. You must not—"
But the girl had flown down the stairs, and was gone.
Mr. Lancaster's Backers.
Olive found Mr. Hemphill under a tree upon the lawn. He was sitting on a low bench with one little girl upon each knee. He was not a stranger to the children, for they had frequently met him during their winter residences in cities. He was telling them a story when Olive approached. He made an attempt to rise, but the little girls would not let him put them down.
"Don't move, Mr. Hemphill," said Olive; "I am going to sit down myself." And as she spoke she drew forward a low bench. "I am so glad to see you are fond of children, Mr. Hemphill," she continued; "you must have changed very much."
"Changed!" he exclaimed. "I have always been fond of them."
"Excuse me," said Olive, "not always. I remember a child you did not care for, on whom you did not even look, who was absolutely nothing to you, although you were so much to her."
Mr. Hemphill stared. "I do not remember such a child," said he.
"She existed," said Olive. "I was that child." And then she told him how she had seen him come to her father's house.
Mr. Hemphill remembered Lieutenant Asher, he remembered going to his house, but he did not remember seeing there a little girl.
"I was not so very little," said Olive; "I was fourteen, and I was just at an age to be greatly attracted by you. I thought you were the most beautiful young man I had ever beheld. I don't mind telling you, because I can not look upon you as a stranger, that I fell deeply in love with you."
As Mr. Hemphill sat and listened to these words his face turned redder than the reddest rose, even his silky whiskers seemed to redden, his fine-cut red lips were parted, but he could not speak. The two little girls had been gazing earnestly at Olive. Now the elder one spoke.
"I am in love," she said.
"And so am I," piped up the younger one.
"She's in love with Martha's little Jim," said the first girl, "but I am in love with Henry. He's eight. Both boys."
"I wouldn't be in love with a girl," said the little one contemptuously.
This interruption was a help to Mr. Hemphill, and his redness paled a little.
"Of course you could not be expected to know anything of my feelings for you," said Olive, "and perhaps it is very well you did not, for business is business, and the feelings of girls should not be allowed to interfere with it. But my heart went out to you all the same. You were my first love."
Now Mr. Hemphill crimsoned again worse than before. He had not yet spoken a word, and there was no word in the English language which he thought would be appropriate for the occasion.
"You may think I am a little cruel to plump this sort of thing upon you," said Olive, "in such a sudden way, but I am not. All this was seven years ago, and a person of my age can surely speak freely of what happened seven years ago. I did not even know you when I met you, but Mrs. Easterfield told me about you, and now I remember everything, and I think it would have been inhuman if I had not told you of the part you used to play in my life. You have a right to know it."
If Mr. Hemphill could have reddened any more he would have done so, but it was not possible. The thought flashed into his mind that it might be well to say something about her having found him very much changed, but in the next instant he saw that that would not do. How could he assume that he had ever been beautiful; how could he force her to say that he was not beautiful now, or that he still remained so?
"I am very glad I have met you," said Olive, "and that I know who you are. And I am glad, too, to tell you that I forgive you for not taking notice of me seven years ago."
"Is that all of your story?" asked the elder little girl.
"Yes," said Olive, laughing, "that is all."
"Well, then, let Mr. Hemphill go on with his," said she.
"Oh, certainly," said Olive, jumping up; "and you must all excuse me for interfering with your story."
Mr. Hemphill sat still, a little girl on each knee. He had not spoken a word since that beautiful girl had told him she had once loved him. And he could not speak now.
"You look as if you had a plaster taken off," said the younger little girl. And, after waiting a moment for an answer, she slipped off his knee; the other followed; and the story was postponed.
When Mrs. Easterfield heard Olive's account of this incident she was utterly astounded. "What sort of a girl are you" she exclaimed. "What are you going to do about it now?"
"Do?" said Olive quietly. "I have done."
Mrs. Easterfield was in a state of great perplexity. She had already asked Mr. Hemphill to stay until Saturday, three days off, and she could not tell him to go away, and the awkwardness of his remaining in the same house with Olive was something not easy to deal with.
During Olive's interview with Mr. Hemphill and the little girls Claude Locker had been sitting alone at a distance, gazing at the group. He was waiting for an opportunity of social converse, for this was not forbidden him even if the time did not immediately precede the luncheon hour. He saw Hemphill's blazing face, and deeply wondered. If it had been the lady who had flushed he would have bounced upon the scene to defend her, but Olive was calm, and it was the conscious guilt of the man that made his face look like a freshly painted tin roof. This was an affair into which he had no right to intrude himself, and so he sat and sighed, and his heart grew heavy. How many ante-luncheon avowals would have to be made before she would take so much interest in him, one way or the other!
Mr. Du Brant also sat at a distance. He was reading, or at least appearing to read; but he was so unaccustomed to holding a book in his hands that he did it very awkwardly, and Miss Raleigh, who was looking at him from the library window, made up her mind that if he dropped it, as she expected him to do, she would get the book and rub the dirt off the corners before it was put back into the bookcase. But when Olive left Mr. Hemphill she went so quickly into the house that the Austrian was unable to join her, and he, therefore, went to his room to prepare for dinner.
Dick Lancaster had also been waiting, although not watching. He had hoped that he might have a chance for a little talk with Olive. But there was really no good reason to expect it, for he knew that two, and perhaps three, young men had stayed at home that afternoon in the hope that they might have the same opportunity. The odds against him were great.
He began to think that perhaps he was engaged in a foolish piece of business, and was in danger of making himself disagreeably conspicuous. The other young men were guests at Broadstone, but if he came there every day as he had been doing, and as he wanted to do, it might be thought that he was taking advantage of Mrs. Easterfield's kindness. At that moment he heard the rustle of skirts, and, glancing up, saw Mrs. Easterfield, who was looking for him.
Mrs. Easterfield's regard for Lancaster was growing, partly on account of the confidence she had already reposed in him. In her present state of mind she would have been glad to give him still more, for she did not know what to do about Olive and Mr. Hemphill, and there was no one with whom she could talk upon the subject; even if she had known Dick better her loyalty to Olive would have prevented that.
"Have you found out anything about the captain and Olive?" she asked. "Has he spoken of her return?"
"No," replied Dick; "he has not said a word on the subject, but I am very sure he would be overjoyed to have her come back. Every day when the postman arrives I believe he looks for a letter from her, and he shows that he feels it when he finds none. He is good-natured, and pleasant, but he is not as cheerful as when I first came."
"Every day," said Mrs. Easterfield, as they walked together, "I love Olive more and more."
"So do I," thought Dick.
"But every day I understand her less and less," she continued. "She is truly a navy girl, and repose does not seem to be one of her characteristics. From what she has told me, I believe she has never lived in domestic peace and quiet until she came to stay with her uncle. It would delight me to see her properly married. I wish you would marry her."
Dick stopped, and so did she, and they stood looking at each other. He did not redden, for he was not of the flushing kind; his face even grew a little hard.
"Do you believe," said he, in a very different tone from his ordinary voice, "that I have the slightest chance?"
"Of course I do," she answered. "I believe you have a very good chance, or I should not have spoken to you. I flatter myself that I have excellent judgment concerning young men, and I am very fond of Olive."
"Mrs. Easterfield," exclaimed Dick, "you know I am in love with her. I suppose that has been easy enough to see, but it has all been very quick work with me; in fact, I have had very little to say to her, and have never said anything that could in the slightest degree indicate how I felt toward her. But I believe I loved her the second day I met her, and I am not sure it did not begin the day before."
"I think that sort of thing is always quick work where Olive is concerned," said Mrs. Easterfield. "I think it likely that many young men have fallen in love with her, and that they have to be very lively if they want a chance to tell her so. But don't be jealous. I know positively that none of them ever had the slightest chance. But now all that is passed. I know she is tired of an unsettled life, and it is likely she may soon be thinking of marrying, and there will be no lack of suitors. She has them now. But I want her to marry you."
"Mrs. Easterfield," exclaimed Dick, "you have known me but a very little while——"
"Don't mention that," she interrupted. "I do quick work as well as other people. I never before engaged in any matchmaking business, but if this succeeds, I shall be proud of it to the end of my days. You are in love with Olive, and she is worthy of you. I want you to try to win her, and I will do everything I can to help you. Here is my hand upon it."
As Dick held that hand and looked into that face a courage and a belief in himself came into his heart that had never been there before. By day and by night his soul had been filled with the image of Olive, but up to this moment he had not thought of marrying her. That was something that belonged to the future, not even considered in his state of inchoate adoration. But now that he had been told he had reason to hope, he hoped; and the fact that one beautiful woman told him he might hope to win another beautiful woman was a powerful encouragement. Henceforth he would not be content with simply loving Olive; if it were within his power he would win, he would have her.
"You look like a soldier going forth to conquest," said Mrs. Easterfield with a smile.
"And you," said he impulsively, "you not only look like, but you are an angel."
This was pretty strong for the young professor, but the lady understood him. She was very glad, indeed, that he could express himself impulsively, for without that power he could not win Olive.
As Dick started away from Broadstone on his walk to the toll-gate he heard quick steps behind him and was soon overtaken by Claude Locker.
"Hello," said that young man, "if you are on your way home I am going to walk a while with you. I have not done a thing to-day."
When Dick heard these words his heart sank. He was on his way home accompanied by Olive—Olive in his heart, Olive in his soul, Olive in his brain, Olive in the sky and all over the earth—how dared a common mortal intrude himself upon the scene?
"There is another thing," said Locker, who was now keeping step with him. "My soul is filled with murderous intent. I thirst for human life, and I need the restraints of companionship."
"Who is it you want to kill?" asked Dick coldly.
"It is an Austrian," replied the other. "I will not say what Austrian, leaving that to your imagination. I don't suppose you ever killed an Austrian. Neither have I, but I should like to do it. It would be a novel and delightful experience."
Dick did not think it necessary that he should be told more; he perfectly understood the state of the case, for it was impossible not to see that this young man was paying marked attention to Olive, while Mr. Du Brant was doing the same thing. But still it seemed well to say something, and he remarked:
"What is the matter with the Austrian?"
"He is in love with Miss Asher," said Locker, "and so am I. I am beginning to believe he is positively dangerous. I did not think so at first, but I do now. He has actually taken to reading. I know that man; I have often seen him in Washington. He was always running after some lady or other, but I never knew him to read before. It is a dangerous symptom. He reads with one eye, while the other sweeps the horizon to catch a glimpse of her. By the way, that would be a splendid idea for a district policeman; if he stood under a lamp-post in citizen's dress reading a book, no criminal would suspect his identity, and he could keep one eye on the printed page, and devote the other to the cause of justice. But to return to our sallow mutton, or black sheep, if you choose. That Austrian ought to be killed!"
Dick smiled sardonically. "He is not your only obstacle," he said.
"I know it," replied Locker. "There's that Chinese laundried fellow, smooth-finished, who came up this morning. He must be an old offender, for I saw her giving it to him hot this morning. I am sure she was telling him exactly what she thought of him, for he turned as red as a pickled beet. So he will have to scratch pretty hard if he expects to get into her good graces again, and I suppose that is what he came here for. But I am not so much afraid of him as I am of that Austrian. If he keeps on the literary lay, and reads books with her, looking up the words in the dictionary, it is dangerous."
"I do not see," said Lancaster, somewhat loftily, "why you speak of these things to me."
"Then I'll tell you," said Locker quickly. "I speak of them to you because you are just as much concerned in them as I am. You are in love with Miss Asher—anybody can see that—and, in fact, I should think you were a pretty poor sort of a fellow if you were not, after having seen and talked with her. Consequently that Austrian is just as dangerous to you as he is to me. And as I have chosen you for my brother-in-arms, it is right that I tell you everything I know."
"Brother-in-arms?" ejaculated Dick.
"That is what it is," said Locker, "and I will tell you how it came about. The Austrian looked upon you with scorn and contempt because you rode a horse wearing rolled-up trousers and low shoes. As you did not see him and could not return the contempt, I did it for you. Having done this, a fellow feeling for you immediately sprang up within me. That is what always happens, you know. After that the feeling became a good deal stronger, and I said to myself that if I found I could not get Miss Asher; and it's seventy-six I don't, for that's generally the state of my luck; I would help you to get her, partly because I like you, and partly because that Austrian must be ousted, no matter what happens or how it is done. So I became your brother-in-arms, and if I find I am out of the race, I am going to back you up just as hard as I can, and here's my hand upon it."
Dick stopped as he had stopped half an hour before, and gazed upon his companion.
"Now don't thank me," continued Locker, "or say anything nice, because if I find I can come in ahead of you I am going to do it. But if we work together, I am sure we need not be afraid of that Austrian, or of that fiery-faced model for a ready-made-clothes shop. It is to be either you or me—first place for me, if possible."
Dick could not help laughing. "You are a jolly sort of a fellow," said he, "and I will be your brother-in-arms. But it is to be first place for me, if possible." And they shook hands upon the bargain.
That evening Mr. Hemphill found Olive alone. "I have been trying to get a chance to speak to you, Miss Asher," said he. "I want to ask you to help me, for I do not know what in the world to do."
Olive looked at him inquiringly.
"Since you spoke to me this afternoon," he went on, "I have been in a state of most miserable embarrassment; I can not for the life of me decide what I ought to say or what I ought to do, or what I ought not to say or what I ought not to do. If I should pass over as something not necessary to take into consideration the—the—most unusual statement you made to me, it might be that you would consider me as a boor, a man incapable of appreciating the—the—highest honors. Then again, if I do say anything to show that I appreciate such honors, you may well consider me presumptuous, conceited, and even insulting. I thought a while ago that I would leave this house before it would be necessary for me to decide how I should act when I met you, but I could not do that. Explanations would be necessary, and I would not be able to make them, and so, in sheer despair, I have come to you. Whatever you say I ought to do I will do. Of myself, I am utterly helpless."
Olive looked at him with serious earnestness. "You are in a queer position," she said, "and I don't wonder you do not know what to do. I did not think of this peculiar consequence which would result from my revelation. As to the revelation itself, there is no use talking about it; it had to be made. It would have been unjust and wicked to allow a man to live in ignorance of the fact that such a thing had happened to him without his knowing it. But I think I can make it all right for you. If you had known when you were very young, in fact, when you were in another age of man, that a young girl in short dresses was in love with you, would you have disdained her affection?"
"I should say not!" exclaimed Rupert Hemphill, his eyes fixed upon the person who had once been that girl in short dresses.
"Well, then," said Olive, "there could have been nothing for her to complain of, no matter what she knew or what she did not know, and there is nothing he could complain of, no matter what he knew or did not know. And as both these persons have passed entirely out of existence, I think you and I need consider them no longer. And we can talk about tennis or bass fishing, or anything we like. And if you are a fisherman you will be glad to hear that there is first-rate bass fishing in the river now, and that we are talking of getting up a regular fishing party. We shall have to go two or three miles below here where the water is deeper and there are not so many rocks."
That night Mr. Hemphill dreamed hard of a girl who had loved him when she was little, and who continued to love him now that she had grown to be wonderfully handsome. He was going out to sail with her in a boat far and far away, where nobody could find them or bring them back.
A Letter for Olive.
The next morning, about an hour after breakfast, Mr. Du Brant proposed to Olive. He had received a letter the day before which made it probable that he might be recalled to Washington before the time which had been fixed for the end of his visit at Broadstone, and he consequently did not wish to defer for a moment longer than was necessary this most important business of his life. He told Miss Asher that he had never truly loved before; which was probably correct; and that as she had raised his mind from the common things of earth, upon which it had been accustomed to grovel, she had made a new man of him in an astonishingly short time; which, it is likely, was also true.
He assured her that without any regard to outside circumstances, he could not live without her. If at any other time he had allowed his mind to dwell for a moment upon matrimony, he had thought of family, position, wealth, social station, and all that sort of thing, but now he thought of nothing but her, and he came to offer her his heart. In fact, the man was truly and honestly in love.
Inwardly Olive smiled. "I can not ask him," she said to herself, "to say this again every day before dinner. He hasn't the wit of Claude Locker, and would not be able to vary his remarks; but I can not blast his hopes too suddenly, for, if I do that, he will instantly go away, and it would not be treating Mrs. Easterfield properly if I were to break up her party without her knowledge. But I will talk to her about it. And now for him.—Mr. Du Brant," she said aloud, speaking in English, although he had proposed to her in French, because she thought she could make her own language more impressive, "it is a very serious thing you have said to me, and I don't believe you have had time enough to think about it properly. Now don't interrupt. I know exactly what you would say. You have known me such a little while that even if your mind is made up it can not be properly made up, and therefore, for your own sake, I am going to give you a chance to think it all over. You must not say you don't want to, because I want you to; and when you have thought, and thought, and know yourself better—now don't say you can not know yourself better if you have a thousand years in which to consider it—for though you think that it is true it is not"
"And if I rack my brains and my heart," interrupted Mr. Du Brant, "and find out that I can never change nor feel in any other way toward you than I feel now, may I then——"
"Now, don't say anything about that," said Olive. "What I want to do now is to treat you honorably and fairly, and to give you a chance to withdraw if, after sober consideration, you think it best to do so. I believe that every young man who thinks himself compelled to propose marriage in such hot haste ought to have a chance to reflect quietly and coolly, and to withdraw if he wants to. And that is all, Mr. Du Brant. I must be off this minute, for Mrs. Easterfield is over there waiting for me."
Mr. Du Brant walked thoughtfully away. "I do not understand," he said to himself in French, "why she did not tell me I need not speak to her again about it. The situation is worthy of diplomatic consideration, and I will give it that."
From a distance Claude Locker beheld his Austrian enemy walking alone, and without a book.
"Something has happened," he thought, "and the fellow has changed his tactics. Before, under cover of a French novel, he was a snake in the grass, now he is a snake hopping along on the tip of his tail. Perhaps he thinks this is a better way to keep a lookout upon her. I believe he is more dangerous than he was before, for I don't know whether a snake on tip tail jumps or falls down upon his victims."
One thing Mr. Locker was firmly determined upon. He was going to try to see Olive as soon as it was possible before luncheon, and impress upon her the ardent nature of his feelings toward her; he did not believe he had done this yet. He looked about him. The party, excepting himself and Mr. Du Brant, were on the front lawn; he would join them and satirize the gloomy Austrian. If Olive could be made to laugh at him it would be like preparing a garden-bed with spade and rake before sowing his seeds.
The rural mail-carrier came earlier than usual that day, and he brought Olive but one letter, but as it was from her father, she was entirely satisfied, and retired to a bench to read it.
In about ten minutes after that she walked into Mrs. Easterfield's little room, the open letter in her hand. As Mrs. Easterfield looked up from her writing-table the girl seemed transformed; she was taller, she was straighter, her face had lost its bloom, and her eyes blazed.
"Would you believe it!" she said, grating out the words as she spoke. "My father is going to be married!"
Mrs. Easterfield dropped her pen, and her face lost color. She had always been greatly interested in Lieutenant Asher. "What!" she exclaimed. "He? And to whom?"
"A girl I used to go to school with," said Olive, standing as if she were framed in one solid piece. "Edith Marshall, living in Geneva. She is older than I am, but we were in the same classes. They are to be married in October, and she is to sail for this country about the time his ship comes home. He is to be stationed at Governor's Island, and they are to have a house there. He writes, and writes, and writes, about how lovely it will be for me to have this dear new mother. Me! To call that thing mother! I shall have no mother, but I have lost my father." With this she threw herself upon a lounge, and burst into passionate tears. Mrs. Easterfield rose, and closed the door.
Claude Locker had no opportunity to press his suit before luncheon, for Olive did not come to that meal; she had one of her headaches. Every one seemed to appreciate the incompleteness of the party, and even Mrs. Easterfield looked serious, which was not usual with her. Mr. Hemphill was much cast down, for he had made up his mind to talk to Olive in such a way that she should not fail to see that he had taken to heart her advice, and might be depended upon to deport himself toward her as if he had never heard the words she had addressed to him. He had prepared several topics for conversation, but as he would not waste these upon the general company, he indulged only in such remarks as were necessary to good manners.
Mr. Du Brant talked a good deal in a perfunctory manner, but inwardly he was somewhat elated. "Her emotions must have been excited more than I supposed," he thought. "That is not a bad sign."
Mrs. Fox was a little bit—a very little bit—annoyed because Mr. Fox did not make as many facetious remarks as was his custom. He seemed like one who, in a degree, felt that he lacked an audience; Mrs. Fox could see no good reason for this.
When Mrs. Easterfield went up to Olive's room she found her bathing her eyes in cold water.
"Will you lend me a bicycle" said Olive. "I am sure you have one."
Mrs. Easterfield looked at her in amazement.
"I want to go to my uncle," said Olive. "He is now all I have left in this world. I have been thinking, and thinking about everything, and I want to go to him. Whatever has come between us will vanish as soon as he sees me, I am sure of that. I do not know why he did not want me to come back to him, but he will want me now, and I should like to start immediately without anybody seeing me."
"But a bicycle!" exclaimed Mrs. Easterfield. "You can't go that way. I will send you in the carriage."
"No, no, no," cried Olive; "I want to go quietly. I want to go so that I can leave my wheel at the door and go right in. I have a short walking-skirt, and I can wear that. Please let me have the bicycle."
Mrs. Easterfield made Olive sit down and she talked to her, but there was no changing the girl's determination to go to her uncle, to go alone, and to go immediately.
Olive's Bicycle Trip.
Despite Olive's desire to set forth immediately on her bicycle trip, it was past the middle of the afternoon when she left Broadstone. She went out quietly, not by the usual driveway, and was soon upon the turnpike road. As she sped along the cool air upon her face refreshed her; and the knowledge that she was so rapidly approaching the dear old toll-gate, where, even if she did not find her uncle at the house, she could sit with old Jane until he came back, gave her strength and courage.
Up a long hill she went, and down again to the level country. Then there was a slighter rise in the road, and when she reached its summit she saw, less than a mile away, the toll-gate surrounded by its trees, the thick foliage of the fruit-trees in the garden, the little tollhouse and the long bar, standing up high at its customary incline upon the opposite side of the road. Down the little hill she went; and then, steadily and swiftly, onward. Presently she saw that some one was on the piazza by the side of the tollhouse; his back was toward her, he was sitting in his accustomed armchair; she could not be mistaken; it was her uncle.
Now and then, while upon the road, she had thought of what she should say when she first met him, but she had soon dismissed all ideas of preconceived salutations, or explanations. She would be there, and that would be enough. Her father's letter was in her pocket, and that was too much. All she meant to do was to glide up to that piazza, spring up the steps, and present herself to her uncle's astonished gaze before he had any idea that any one was approaching.
She was within twenty feet of the piazza when she saw that her uncle was not alone; there was some one sitting in front of him who had been concealed by his broad shoulders. This person was a woman. She had caught sight of Olive, and stuck her head out on one side to look at her. Upon her dough-like face there was a grin, and in her eye a light of triumph. With one quick glance she seemed to say: "Ah, ha, you find me here, do you? What have you to say to that?"
Olive's heart stood still. That woman, that Maria Port, sitting in close converse with her uncle in that public place where she had never seen any one but men! That horrid woman at such a moment as this! She could not speak to her; she could not speak to her uncle in her presence. She could not stop. With what she had on her mind, and with what she had in her pocket, it would be impossible to say a word before that Maria Port! Without a swerve she sped on, and passed the toll-gate. She only knew one thing; she could not stop.
The wildest suspicions now rushed into her mind. Why should her uncle be thus exposing himself to the public gaze with Maria Port? Why did it give the woman such diabolical pleasure to be seen there with him? With a mind already prepared for such sickening revelations, Olive was convinced that it could mean nothing but that her uncle intended to marry Maria Port. What else could it mean? But no matter what it meant, she could not stop. She could not go back.
On went her bicycle, and presently she gained sufficient command over herself to know that she should not ride into the town. But what else could she do? She could not go back while those two were sitting on the piazza. Suddenly she remembered the shunpike. She had never been on it, but she knew where it left the road, and where it reentered it. So she kept on her course, and in a few minutes had reached the narrow country road. There were ruts here and there, and sometimes there were stony places; there were small hills, mostly rough; and there were few stretches of smooth road; but on went Olive; sometimes trying with much effort to make good time, and always with tears in her eyes, dimming the roadway, the prospect, and everything in the world.
"There now!" exclaimed Maria Port, springing to her feet. "What have you got to say to that? If that isn't brazen I never saw brass!"
"What do you mean?" said the captain, rising in his chair.
"Mean?" said Maria Port, leaning over the railing. "Look there! Do you see that girl getting away as fast as she can work herself? That's your precious niece, Olive Asher, scooting past us with her nose in the air as if we was sticks and stones by the side of the road. What have you got to say to that, Captain John, I'd like to know?"
The captain ran down the path. "You don't mean to say that is Olive!" he cried.
"That's who it is," answered Miss Port. "She looked me square in the face as she dashed by. Not a word for you, not a word for me. Impudence! That doesn't express it!"
The captain paid no attention to her, but ran into the garden. Old Jane was standing near the house door. "Was that Miss Olive?" he cried. "Did you see her?"
"Yes," said old Jane, "it was her. I saw her comin', and I came out to meet her. But she just shot through the toll-gate as if she didn't know there was a toll on bicycles."
The captain stood still in the garden-path. He could not believe that Olive had done this to treat him with contempt. She must have heard some news. There must be something the matter. She was going into town at the top of her speed to send a telegram, intending to stop as she came back. She might have stopped anyway if it had not been for that good-for-nothing Maria Port. She hated Maria, and he hated her himself, at this moment, as she stood by his side, asking him what was the matter with him.
"It's no more than you have to expect," said she. "She's a fine lady, a navy lady, a foreign lady, that's been with the aristocrats! She's got good clothes on that she never wore here, and where I guess she had a pretty stupid time, judgin' from how they carry on at that Easterfield place. Why in the world should she want to stop and speak to such persons as you and me?"
The captain paid no attention to these remarks. "If she doesn't want to send a telegram, I don't see what she is going to town for in such a hurry. I suppose she thought she could get there sooner than a man could go on a horse," he said.
"Telegram!" sneered Miss Port. "It's a great deal easier to send telegrams from the gap."
"Then it is something worse," he thought. Perhaps she might be running away, though what in the world she was running from he could not imagine. Anyway, he must see her; he must find out. When she came back she must not pass again, and if she did not come back he must go after her. He ran to the road and put down the bar, calling to old Jane to come there and keep a sharp lookout. Then he quickly returned to the house.
"What are you going to do" asked Miss Port. "I never saw a man in such a fluster."
"If she does not come back very soon," said he, "I shall go to town after her."
"Then I suppose I might as well be going myself," said she. "And by the way, captain, if you are going to town, why don't you take a seat in my carriage? Dear knows me and the boy don't fill it."
But the captain would consider no such invitation. When he met Olive he did not want Maria Port to be along. He did not answer, and went into the house to make some change in his attire. Old Jane would not let Olive pass, and if he met her on the road or in the town he wanted to be well dressed.
Miss Port still stood in the path by the house door. "That's not what I call polite," said she, "but he's awful flustered, and I don't mind."
Far from minding, Maria was pleased; it pleased her to know that his niece's conduct had flustered him. The more that girl flustered him the better it would be, and she smiled with considerable satisfaction. If she could get that girl out of the way she believed she would find but little difficulty in carrying out her scheme to embitter the remainder of the good captain's life. She did not put it in that way to herself; but that was the real character of the scheme.
Suddenly an idea struck her. It was of no use for her to stand and wait, for she knew she would not be able to induce the captain to go with her. It would be a great thing if she could, for to drive into town with him by her side would go far to make the people of Glenford understand what was going to happen. But, if she could not do this, she could do something else. If she started away immediately she might meet that Asher girl coming back, and it would be a very fine thing if she could have an interview with her before she saw her uncle.
She made a quick step toward the house and looked in. The captain was not visible, but old Jane was standing near the back door of the tollhouse. The opportunity was not to be lost.
"Good-by, John," said she in a soft tone, but quite loud enough for the old woman to hear. "I'll go home first, for I've got to see to gettin' supper ready for you. So good-by, John, for a little while." And she kissed her hand to the inside of the house.
Then she hurried out of the gate; got into the little phaeton which was waiting for her under a tree; and drove away. She had come there that afternoon on the pretense of consulting the captain about her father's health, which she said disturbed her, and she had requested the privilege of sitting on the toll-gate piazza because she had always wanted to sit there, and had never been invited. The captain had not invited her then, but as she had boldly marched to the piazza and taken a seat, he had been obliged to follow.
Captain Asher, wearing a good coat and hat, relieved old Jane at her post, and waited and waited for Olive to come back. He did not for a moment think she might return by the shunpike, for that was a rough road, not fit for a bicycle. And if she passed this way once, why should she object to doing it again?
When more than time enough had elapsed for her return from the town, he started forth with a heavy heart to follow her. He told old Jane that if for any reason he should be detained in town until late, he would take supper with Mr. Port, and if, although he did not expect this, he should not come back that night, the Ports would know of his whereabouts. He did not take his horse and buggy because he thought it would be in his way. If he met Olive in the road he could more easily stop and talk to her if he were walking than if he had a horse to take care of.
"I hope you're not runnin' after Miss Olive," said old Jane.
The captain did not wish his old servant to imagine that it was necessary for him to run after his niece, and so he answered rather quickly: "Of course not." Then he set off toward the town. He did not walk very fast, for if he met Olive he would rather have a talk with her on the road than in Glenford.
He walked on and on, not with his eyes on the smooth surface of the pike, but looking out afar, hoping that he might soon see the figure of a girl on a bicycle; and thus it was that he passed the entrance to the shunpike without noticing that a bicycle track turned into it.
Olive struggled on, and the road did not improve. She worked hard with her body, but still harder with her mind. It seemed to her as though everything were endeavoring to crush her, and that it was almost succeeding. If she had been in her own room, seated, or walking the floor, indignation against her uncle would have given her the same unnatural vigor and energy which had possessed her when she read her father's letter; but it is impossible to be angry when one is physically tired and depressed, and this was Olive's condition now. Once she dismounted, sat down on a piece of rock, and cried. The rest was of service to her, but she could not stay there long; the road was too lonely. She must push on. So on she pressed, sometimes walking, and sometimes on her wheel, the pedals apparently growing stiffer at every turn. Slight mishaps she did not mind, but a fear began to grow upon her that she would never be able to reach Broadstone at all. But after a time—a very long time it seemed—the road grew more level and smooth; and then ahead she saw the white surface of the turnpike shining as it passed the end of her road. When she should emerge on that smooth, hard road it could not be long, even if she went slowly, before she reached home. She was still some fifty yards from the pike when she saw a man upon it, walking southward.
As Dick Lancaster passed the end of the road he lifted his head, and looked along it. It was strange that he should do so, for since he had started on his homeward walk he had not raised his eyes from the ground. He had reached Broadstone soon after luncheon, before Olive had left on her wheel, and had passed rather a stupid time, playing tennis with Claude Locker, he had seen but little of Mrs. Easterfield, whose mind was evidently occupied. Once she had seemed about to take him into her confidence, but had suddenly excused herself, and had gone into the house. When the game was finished Locker advised him to go home.
"She is not likely to be down until dinner time," he had said, "and this evening I'll defend our cause against those other fellows. I have several good things in my mind that I am sure will interest her, and I don't believe there's any use courting a girl unless you interest her."
Lancaster had taken the advice, and had left much earlier than was usual.
Mr. Lancaster accepts a Mission.
When Dick Lancaster saw Olive he stopped with a start, and then ran toward her.
"Miss Asher!" he exclaimed. "What are you doing here? What is the matter? You look pale."
When she saw him coming Olive had dismounted, not with the active spring usual with her, but heavily and clumsily. She did not even smile as she spoke to him.
"I am glad to see you, Mr. Lancaster," she said. "I am on my way back to Broadstone, and I would like to send a message to my uncle by you."
"Back from where? And why on this road?" he was about to ask, but he checked himself. He saw that she trembled as she stood.
"Miss Asher," said he, "you must stop and rest. Let me take your wheel and come over to this bank and sit down."
She sat down in the shade and took off her hat; and for a moment she quietly enjoyed the cool breeze upon her head. He did not want to annoy her with questions, but he could not help saying:
"You look very tired."
"I ought to be tired," she answered, "for I have gone over a perfectly dreadful road. Of course, you wonder why I came this way, and the best thing for me to do is to begin at the beginning and to tell you all about it, so that you will know what I have been doing, and then understand what I would like you to do for me."
So she told him all her tale, and, telling it, seemed to relieve her mind while her tired body rested. Dick listened with earnest avidity. He lost not the slightest change in her expression as she spoke. He was shocked when he heard of her father; he was grieved when he imagined how she must have felt when the news came to her; he was angry when he heard of the impertinent glare of Maria Port; and his heart was torn when he knew of this poor girl's disappointment, of her soul-harrowing conjectures, of her wearisome and painful progress along that rough road; of which progress she said but little, although its consequences he could plainly see. All these things showed themselves upon his countenance as he gazed upon her and listened, not only with his ears, but his heart.
"I shall be more than glad," he said, when she had finished, "to carry any message, or to do anything you want me to do. But I must first relieve you of one of your troubles. Your uncle has not the slightest idea of marrying Miss Port. I don't believe he would marry anybody; but, of all women, not that vulgar creature. Let me assure you, Miss Asher, that I have heard him talk about her, and I know he has the most contemptuous opinion of her. I have heard him make fun of her, and I don't believe he would have anything to do with her if it were not for her father, who is one of his oldest friends."
She looked at him incredulously. "And yet they were sitting close together," she said; "so close that at first I did not see her; apparently talking in the most private manner in a very public place. They surely looked very much like an engaged couple as I have noticed them. And old Jane has told me that everybody knows she is trying to trap him; and surely there is good reason to believe that she has succeeded."
Dick shook his head. "Impossible, Miss Asher," he said. "He never would have such a woman. I know him well enough to be absolutely sure of that. Of course, he treats her kindly, and perhaps he is sociable with her. It is his nature to be friendly, and he has known her for a long time. But marry her! Never! I am certain, Miss Asher, he would never do that."
"I wish I could believe it," said she.
"I can easily prove it to you," he said. "I will take your message to your uncle, I will tell him all you want me to tell him, and then I will ask him, frankly and plainly, about Miss Port. I do not in the least object to doing it. I am well enough acquainted with him to know that he is a frank, plain man. I am sure he will be much amused at your supposition, and angry, too, when I tell him of the way that woman looked at you and so prevented you from stopping when you had come expressly to see him. Then I will immediately come to Broadstone to relieve your mind in regard to the Maria Port business, and to bring you whatever message your uncle has to send you."
"No, no," said Olive, "you must not do that. It would be too much to come back to-day. You have relieved my mind somewhat about that woman, and I am perfectly willing to wait until to-morrow, when you can tell me exactly how everything is, and let me know when my uncle would like me to come and see him. I think it will be better next time not to take him by surprise. But I would be very, very grateful to you, Mr, Lancaster, if you would come as early in the morning as you can. I can wait very well until then, now that my mind is easier, but I am afraid that when to-morrow begins I shall be very impatient. My troubles are always worse in the morning. But you must not walk. My uncle has a horse and buggy. But perhaps it would be better to let Mrs. Easterfield send for you. I know she will be glad to do it."
Dick assured her that he did not wish to be sent for; that he would borrow the captain's horse, and would be at Broadstone as early as was proper to make a visit.
"Proper!" exclaimed Olive. "In a case like this any time is proper. In Mrs. Easterfield's name I invite you to breakfast. I know she will be glad to have me do it. And now I must go on. You are very, very good, and I am very grateful."
Dick could not say that he was more grateful for being allowed to help her than she could possibly be for being helped, but his face showed it, and if she had looked at him she would have known it.
"Miss Asher," he exclaimed as she rose, "your skirt is covered with dust. You must have fallen."
"I did have one fall," she said, "but I was so worried I did not mind."
"But you can not go back in that plight," he said; "let me dust your skirt." And breaking a little branch from a bush, he proceeded to make her look presentable. "And now," said he, when she had complimented him upon his skill, "I will walk with you to the entrance of the grounds. Perhaps as you are so tired," he said hesitatingly, "I can help you along, so that you will not have to work so hard yourself."
"Oh, no," she answered; "that is not at all necessary. When I am on the turnpike I can go beautifully. I feel ever so much rested and stronger, and it is all due to you. So you see, although you will not go with me, you will help me very much." And she smiled as she spoke. He truly had helped her very much.
Dick was unwilling that she should go on alone, although it was still broad daylight and there was no possible danger, and he was also unwilling because he wanted to go with her, but there was no use saying anything or thinking anything, and so he stood and watched her rolling along until she had passed the top of a little hill, and had departed from his view. Then he ran to the top of the little hill, and watched her until she was entirely out of sight.
The rest of the way to the toll-gate seemed very short to Dick, but he had time enough to make up his mind that he would see the captain at the earliest possible moment; that he would deliver his message and the letter of Lieutenant Asher; that he would immediately bring up the matter of Maria Port and let the captain know the mischief that woman had done. Then, armed with the assurances the captain would give him, he would start for Broadstone after supper, and carry the good news to Olive. It would be a shame to let that dear girl remain in suspense for the whole night, when he, by riding, or even walking an inconsiderable number of miles, could relieve her. He found old Jane in the tollhouse.
"Where is the captain" he asked.
"The captain?" she repeated. "He's in town takin' supper with his sweetheart."
Dick stared at her.
"Perhaps you haven't heard that he's engaged to Maria Port," said the woman; "and I don't wonder you're taken back! But I suppose everybody will soon know it now, and the sooner the better, I say."
"What are you talking about" exclaimed Dick. "You don't mean to tell me that the captain is going to marry Miss Port?"
"Whether he wants to or not, he's gone so far he'll have to. I've knowed for a long time she's been after him, but I didn't think she'd catch him just yet."
"I don't believe it." cried Dick. "It must be a mistake! How do you know it?"
"Know!" said old Jane, who, ordinarily a taciturn woman, was now excited and inclined to volubility. "Don't you suppose I've got eyes and ears? Didn't I see them for ever and ever so long sittin' out on this piazza, where everybody could see 'em, a-spoonin' like a couple of young people? And didn't I see 'em tearin' themselves asunder as if they couldn't bear to be apart for an hour? And didn't I hear her tell him she was goin' home to get an extry good supper for him? And didn't I hear her call him 'dear John,' and kiss her hand to him. And if you don't believe me you can go into the kitchen and ask Mary; she heard the 'dear John' and saw the hand-kissin'. And then didn't he tell me he was goin' to the Ports' to supper, and if he stayed late and anybody asked for him—meaning you, most probable, and I think he might have left somethin' more of a message for you—that he was to be found with the Ports—with Maria most likely, for the old man goes to bed early?"
Dick made no answer; he was standing motionless looking out upon the flowers in the garden.
"And perhaps you haven't heard of Miss Olive comin' past on a bicycle," old Jane remarked. "I saw her comin', and I knew by the look on her face that it made her sick to see that woman sittin' here, and I don't blame her a bit. When he started so early for town I thought he might be intendin' to look for her, and yet be in time for the Ports' supper, but she didn't come back this way at all, and I expect she went home by the shunpike."
"Which she did," said Dick, showing by this remark that he was listening to what the old woman was saying.
"But he cut me mighty short when I asked him," continued old Jane. "I tried to ease his mind, but as I found his mind didn't need no easin', I minded my own business, just as he was mindin' his. And now, sir, you'll have to eat your supper alone this time."
If Dick's supper had consisted of nectar and the brains of nightingales he would not have noticed it; and, until late in the evening, he sat in the arbor, anxiously waiting for the captain's return. About ten o'clock old Jane, sleepy from having sat up so long, called to him from the door that he might as well come in and let her lock up the house. The captain was not coming home that night. He had stayed with the Ports once before, when the old man was sick.
"I guess he's got a better reason for stayin' tonight," she said. "It'll be a great card for that Maria when the Glenford people knows it, and they'll know it you may be sure, if she has to go and walk the soles of her feet off tellin' them. One thing's mighty sure," she continued. "I'm not goin' to stay here with her in the house. He'll have to get somebody else to help him take toll. But I guess she'll want to do that herself. Nothin' would suit her better than to be sittin' all day in the tollhouse talkin' scandal to everybody that goes by."
Dick is not a Prompt Bearer of News.
When the captain reached Glenford, and before he went to the Ports' he went to the telegraph-office, and made inquiries at various other places, but his niece had not been seen in town. He wandered about so long and asked so many questions that it was getting dark when he suddenly thought of the shunpike. He had not thought of it before, for it was an unfit road for bicycles, but now he saw that he had been a fool. That was the only way she could have gone back.
Hurrying to a livery-stable, he hired a horse and buggy and a lantern, and drove to the shunpike. There he plainly saw the track of the bicycle as it had turned into that rough road. Then he drove on, examining every foot of the way, fearful that he might see, lying senseless by the side of the road, the figure of a girl, perhaps unconscious from fatigue, perhaps dead from an accident.
When at last he emerged upon the turnpike he lost the track of the bicycle, but still he went on, all the way to Broadstone; a girl might be lying senseless by the side of the road, even on the pike, which at this time was not much frequented. Thus assuring himself that Olive had reached Broadstone in safety, or at least had not fallen by the way, he turned and drove back to town upon the pike, passing his own toll-gate, where the bar was always up after dark. He had promised to return the horse that night, and, as he had promised, he intended to do it. It was after nine o'clock when, returning from the livery-stable, he reached the Port house, and saw Maria sitting in the open doorway.
She instantly ran out to meet him, asking him somewhat sharply why he had disappointed them. She had kept the supper waiting ever so long. He went in to see her father, who was sitting up for him, and she busied herself in getting him a fresh supper. Nice and hot the supper was, and although his answers to her questions had not been satisfactory, she concealed her resentment, if she had any. When the meal was over both father and daughter assured him that it was too late for him to go home that night, and that he must stay with them. Tired and troubled, Captain Asher accepted the invitation.
As soon as he could get away from the Port residence the next morning Captain Asher went home. He had hoped he would have been able to leave before breakfast, but the solicitous Maria would not listen to this. She prepared him a most tempting breakfast, cooking some of the things with her own hands, and she was so attentive, so anxious to please, so kind in her suggestions, and in every way so desirous to make him happy through the medium of savory food and tender-hearted concern, that she almost made him angry. Never before, he thought, had he seen a woman make such a coddling fool of herself. He knew very well what it meant, and that provoked him still more.
When at last he got away he walked home in a bad humor; he was even annoyed with Olive. Granting that what she had done was natural enough under the circumstances, and that she had not wished to stop when she saw him in company with a woman she did not like, he thought she might have considered him as well as herself. She should have known that it would give him great trouble for her to dash by in that way and neither stop nor come back to explain matters. She must have known that Maria Port was not going to stay always, and she might have waited somewhere until the woman had gone. If she had had the least idea of how much he wanted to see her she would have contrived some way to come back to him. But no, she went back to Broadstone to please herself, and left him to wander up and down the roads looking for her in the dark.
When the captain met old Jane at the door of the tollhouse her salutation did not smooth his ruffled spirits, for she told him that she and Mr. Lancaster had sat up until nearly the middle of the night waiting for him, and that the poor young man must have felt it, for he had not eaten half a breakfast.
The captain paid but little attention to these remarks and passed in, but before he crossed the garden he met Dick, who informed him that he had something very important to communicate. Important communications that must be delivered without a moment's loss of time are generally unpleasant, and knowing this, the captain knit his brows a little, but told Dick he would be ready for him as soon as he lighted his pipe. He felt he must have something to soothe his ruffled spirits while he listened to the tale of the woes of some one else.
But at the moment he scratched his match to light his pipe his soul was illuminated by a flash of joy; perhaps Dick was going to tell him he was engaged to Olive; perhaps that was what she had come to tell him the day before. He had not expected to hear anything of this kind, at least not so soon, but it had been the wish of his heart—he now knew that without appreciating the fact—it had been the earnest wish of his heart for some time, and he stepped toward the little arbor with the alacrity of happy anticipation.
As soon as they were seated Dick began to speak of Olive, but not in the way the captain had hoped for. He mentioned the great trouble into which she had been plunged, and gave the captain his brother's letter to read. When he had finished it the captain's face darkened, and his frown was heavy.
"An outrageous piece of business," he said, "to treat a daughter in this way; to put a schoolmate over her head in the family! It is shameful! And this is what she was coming to tell me?"
"Yes," said Dick, "that is it."
Now there was another flash of joy in the captain's heart, which cleared up his countenance and made his frown disappear. "She was coming to me," he thought. "I was the one to whom she turned in her trouble." And it seemed to this good captain as if he had suddenly become the father of a grown-up daughter.
"But what message did she send me?" he asked quickly. "Did she say when she was coming again?"
Dick hesitated; Olive had said that she wanted her uncle to say when he wanted to see her, so that there should be no more surprising, but this request had been conditional. Dick knew that she did not want to come if her uncle were going to marry Miss Port; therefore it was that he hesitated.
"Before we go any further," he said, "I think I would better mention a little thing which will make you laugh, but still it did worry Miss Asher, and was one reason why she went back to Broadstone without stopping."
"What is it" asked the captain, putting down his pipe.
Dick did not come out plainly and frankly, as he had told Olive he would do when he mentioned the Maria Port matter. In his own heart he could not help believing now that Olive's suspicions had had good foundations, and old Jane's announcements, combined with the captain's own actions in regard to the Port family, had almost convinced him that this miserable engagement was a fact. But, of course, he would not in any way intimate to the captain that he believed in such nonsense, and therefore, in an offhand manner, he mentioned Olive's absurd anxiety in regard to Miss Port.
When the captain heard Dick's statement he answered it in the most frank and plain manner; he brought his big hand down on his knee and swore as if one of his crew had boldly contradicted him. He did not swear at anybody in particular; there was the roar and the crash of the thunder and the flash of the lightning, but no direct stroke descended upon any one. He was angry that such a repulsive and offensive thing as his marriage to Maria Port should be mentioned, or even thought of, but he was enraged when he heard that his niece had believed him capable of such disgusting insanity. With a jerk he rose to his feet.
"I will not talk about such a thing as this," he said. "If I did I am sure I should say something hard about my niece, and I don't want to do that." With this he strode away, and proceeded to look after the concerns of his little farm.
Old Jane came cautiously to Dick. "Did he tell you when it was going to be, or anything about it?" she asked.
"No," said Dick, "he would not even speak of it."
"I suppose he expects us to mind our own business," said she, "and of course we'll have to do it, but I can tell him one thing—I'm goin' to make it my business to leave this place the day before that woman comes here."
Dejected and thoughtful, Dick sat in the arbor. Here was a state of affairs very different from what he had anticipated. He had not been able to hurry to her the evening before; he had not gone to breakfast as she had invited him; he had not started off early in the forenoon; and now he asked himself when should he go, or, indeed, why should he go at all? She had no anxieties he could relieve. Anything he could tell her would only heap more unhappiness upon her, and the longer he could keep his news from her the better it would be for her.
Olive had not joined the Broadstone party at dinner the night before. She had been too tired, and had gone directly to her room, where, after a time, Mrs. Easterfield joined her; and the two talked late. One who had overheard their conversation might well have supposed that the elder lady was as much interested in Lieutenant Asher's approaching nuptials as was the younger one. When she was leaving Mrs. Easterfield said:
"You have enough on your mind to give it all the trouble it ought to bear, and so I beg of you not to think for a moment of that absurd idea about your uncle's engagement. I never saw the woman, but I have heard of her; she is a professional scandal-monger; and Captain Asher would not think for a moment of marrying her. When Mr. Lancaster comes to-morrow you will hear that she was merely consulting him on business, and that you are to go to the toll-gate to-morrow as soon as you can. But remember, this time I am going to send you in the carriage. No more bicycles."
In spite of this well-intentioned admonition, Olive did not sleep well, and dreamed all night of Miss Port in the shape of a great cat covered with feathers like a chicken, and trying to get a chance to jump at her. Very early she awoke, and looking at her clock, she began to calculate the hours which must pass before Mr. Lancaster could arrive. It was rather strange that of the two troubles which came to her as soon as she opened her eyes, the suspected engagement of her uncle pushed itself in front of the actual engagement of her father; the one was something she knew she would have to make up her mind to bear; the other was something she feared she would have to make up her mind to bear.
What Olive determined to do.
Olive was very much disappointed at breakfast time, and as soon as she had finished that meal she stationed herself at a point on the grounds which commanded the entrance. People came and talked to her, but she did not encourage conversation, and about eleven o'clock she went to Mrs. Easterfield in her room.
"He is not coming," she said. "He is afraid."
"What is he afraid of?" asked Mrs. Easterfield.
"He is afraid to tell me that the optimistic speculations with which he tried to soothe my mind arose entirely from his own imagination. The whole thing is exactly what I expected, and he hasn't the courage to come and say so. Now, really, don't you think this is the state of the case, and that if he had anything but the worst news to bring me he would have been here long ago?"
Mrs. Easterfield looked very serious. "I would not give up," she said, "until I saw Mr. Lancaster and heard what he has to say."
"That would not suit me," said Olive. "I have waited and waited just as long as I can. It is as likely as not that he has concluded that he can not do anything here which will be of service to any one, and has started off to finish his vacation at some place where people won't bother him with their own affairs. He told me when I first met him that he was on his way North. And now, would you like me to tell you what I have determined to do?"
"I would," said Mrs. Easterfield, but her expression did not indicate that she expected Olive's announcement to give her any pleasure.
"I have been considering it all the morning," said Olive, "and I have determined to marry without delay. The greatest object of my life at present is to write to my father that I am married. I don't wish to tell him anything until I can tell him that. I would also be glad to be able to send the same message to the toll-gate house, but I don't suppose it will make much difference there."
"Do you think," said Mrs. Easterfield, "that my inviting you here made all this trouble?"
"No," said Olive. "It was not the immediate cause, but uncle knows I do not like that woman, and she doesn't like me, and it would not have suited him to have me stay very much longer with him. I thought at first he was glad to have me go on account of Mr. Lancaster, but now I do not believe that had anything to do with it. He did not want me with him, and what that woman came here and told me about his not expecting me back again was, I now believe, a roundabout message from him."
"Now, Olive," said Mrs. Easterfield, "it would be a great deal better for you to stop all this imagining until you hear from Mr. Lancaster, if you don't see him. Perhaps the poor young man has sprained his ankle, or was prevented in some ordinary way from coming. But what is this nonsense about getting married?"
"There is no nonsense about it," said Olive. "I am going to marry, but I have not chosen any one yet."
Mrs. Easterfield uttered an exclamation of horror. "Choose!" she exclaimed. "What have you to do with choosing? I don't think you are much like other girls, but I did think you had enough womanly qualities to make you wait until you are chosen."
"I intend to wait until I am chosen," said Olive, "but I shall choose the person who is to choose me. I have always thought it absurd for a young woman to sit and wait and wait until some one comes and sees fit to propose to her. Even under ordinary circumstances, I think the young woman has not a fair chance to get what she wants. But my case is extraordinary, and I can't afford to wait; and as I don't want to go out into the world to look for a husband, I am going to take one of these young men here."
"Olive," cried Mrs. Easterfield, "you don't mean you are going to marry Mr. Locker?"
"You forget," said Olive, "that I told you I have not made up my mind yet. But although I have not come to a decision, I have a leaning toward one of them. The more I think of it the more I incline in the direction of my old love."
"Mr. Hemphill!" exclaimed Mrs. Easterfield. "Olive, you are crazy, or else you are joking in a very disagreeable manner. There could be no one more unfit for you than he is."
"I am not crazy, and I am not joking," replied the girl, "and I think Rupert would suit me very well. You see, I think a great deal more of Rupert than I do of Mr. Hemphill, although the latter gentleman has excellent points. He is commonplace, and, above everything else, I want a commonplace husband. I want some one to soothe me, and quiet me, and to give me ballast. If there is anything out of the way to be done I want to do it myself. I am sure he is in love with me, for his anxious efforts to make me believe that the frank avowal of my early affection had no effect upon him proves that he was very much affected. I believe that he is truly in love with me."
Mrs. Easterfield's sharp eyes had seen this, and she had nothing to say.
"I believe," continued Olive, "that a retrospect love will be a better foundation for conjugal happiness than any other sort of affection. One can always look back to it no matter what happens, and be happy in the memory of it. It would be something distinct which could never be interfered with. You can't imagine what an earnest and absorbing love I once had for that man!"
Mrs. Easterfield sprang to her feet. "Olive Asher," she cried, "I can't listen to you if you talk in this way!"
"Well, then," said Olive, "if you object so much to Rupert—you must not forget that it would be Rupert that I would really marry if I became the wife of Mr. Hemphill—do you advise me to take Mr. Locker? And I will tell you this, he is not to be rudely set aside; he has warm-hearted points which I did not suspect at first. I will tell you what he just said to me. As I was coming up-stairs he hurried toward me, and his face showed that he was very anxious to speak to me. So before he could utter a word, I told him that he was too early; that his hour had not yet arrived. Then that good fellow said to me that he had seen I was in trouble, and that he had been informed it had been caused by bad news from my family. He had made no inquiries because he did not wish to intrude upon my private affairs, and all he wished to say now was that while my mind was disturbed and worried he did not intend to present his own affairs to my attention, even though I had fixed regular times for his doing so. But although he wished me to understand that I need not fear his making love to me just at this time, he wanted me to remember that his love was still burning as brightly as ever, and would be again offered me just as soon as he would be warranted in doing so."
"And what did you say to that?" asked Mrs. Easterfield.
"I felt like patting him on the head," Olive answered, "but instead of doing that I shook his hand just as warmly as I could, and told him I should not forget his consideration and good feeling."
Mrs. Easterfield sighed. "You have joined him fast to your car," she said, "and yet, even if there were no one else, he would be impossible."
"Why so?" asked Olive quickly. "I have always liked him, and now I like him ever so much better. To be sure he is queer; but then he is so much queerer than I am that perhaps in comparison I might take up the part of commonplace partner. Besides, he has money enough to live on. He told me that when he first addressed me. He said he would never ask any woman to live on pickled verse feet, and he has also told me something of his family, which must be a good one."
"Olive," said Mrs. Easterfield, "I don't believe at all in the necessity or the sense in your precipitating plans of marrying. It is all airy talk, anyway. You can't ask a man to step up and marry you in order that you may sit down and write a letter to your father. But if you are thinking of marrying, or rather of preparing to marry at some suitable time, why, in the name of everything that is reasonable, don't you take Mr. Lancaster? He is as far above the other young men you have met here as the mountains are above the plains; he belongs to another class altogether. He is a thoroughly fine young man, and has a most honorable profession with good prospects, and I know he loves you. You need not ask me how I know it—it is always easy for a woman to find out things like that. Now, here is a prospective husband for you whose cause I should advocate. In fact, I should be delighted to see you married to him. He possesses every quality which would make you a good husband."
Olive smiled. "You seem to know a great deal about him," said she, "and I assure you that so far as he himself is concerned, I have no objections to him, except that I think he might have had the courage to come and tell me the truth this morning, whatever it is."
"Perhaps he has not found out the truth yet," quickly suggested Mrs. Easterfield.
Olive fixed her eyes upon her companion and for a few moments reflected, but presently she shook her head.
"No, that can not be," she answered. "He would have let me know he had been obliged to wait. Oh, no, it is all settled, and we can drop that subject. But as for Mr. Lancaster, his connections would make any thought of him impossible. He, and his father, too, are both close friends of my uncle, and he would be a constant communication between me and that woman unless there should be a quarrel, which I don't wish to cause. No, I want to leave everything of that sort as far behind me as it used to be in front of me, and as Professor Lancaster is mixed up with it I could not think of having anything to do with him."
Mrs. Easterfield was silent. She was trying to make up her mind whether this girl were talking sense or nonsense. What she said seemed to be extremely nonsensical, but as she said it, it was difficult to believe that she did not consider it to be entirely rational.
"Well," said Olive, "you have objected to two of my candidates, and I positively decline the one you offer, so we have left only the diplomat. He has proposed, and he has not yet received a definite answer. You have told me yourself that he belongs to an aristocratic family in Austria, and I am sure that would be a grand match. We have talked together a great deal, and he seems to like the things I like. I should see plenty of court life and high society, for he will soon be transferred from this legation, and if I take him I shall go to some foreign capital. He is very sharp and ambitious, and I have no doubt that some day he will be looked upon as a distinguished foreigner. Now, as it is the ambition of many American girls to marry distinguished foreigners, this alliance is certainly worthy of due consideration."
"Stuff!" said Mrs. Easterfield.
Olive was not annoyed, and replied very quietly: "It is not stuff. You must know young women who have married foreigners and who did not do anything like so well as if they had married rising diplomats."
Mrs. Blynn now knocked at the door on urgent household business.
"I shall want to see you again about all this, Olive," said Mrs. Easterfield as they parted.
"Of course," replied the girl, "whenever you want to."
"Mrs. Blynn," said the lady of the house, "before you mention what you have come to talk about, please tell one of the men to put a horse to a buggy and come to the house. I want to send a message by him."
The letter which was speedily on its way to Mr. Richard Lancaster was a very brief one. It simply asked the young gentleman to come to Broadstone, with bad news or good news, or without any news at all. It was absolutely necessary that the writer should see him, and in order that there might be no delay she sent a conveyance for him. Moreover, she added, it would give her great pleasure if Mr. Lancaster would come prepared to spend a couple of days at her house. She felt sure good Captain Asher would spare him for that short time. She believed that at this moment more gentlemen were needed at Broadstone, and, although she did not go on to say that she thought Dick was not having a fair chance at this very important crisis, that is what she expected the young man to understand.
Just before luncheon, at the time when Claude Locker might have been urging his suit had he been less kind-hearted and generous, Olive found an opportunity to say a few words to Mrs. Easterfield.
"A capital idea has come into my head," she said. "What do you think of holding a competitive examination among these young men?"
"More stuff, and more nonsense!" ejaculated Mrs. Easterfield. "I never knew any one to trifle with serious subjects as you are trifling with your future."
"I am not trifling," said Olive. "Of course, I don't mean that I should hold an examination, but that you should. You know that parents—foreign parents, I mean—make all sorts of examinations of the qualifications and merits of candidates for the hands of their daughters, and I should be very grateful if you would be at least that much of a mother to me."
"No examination would be needed," said the other quickly; "I should decide upon Mr. Lancaster without the necessity of any questions or deliberations."
"But he is not a candidate," said Olive; "he has been ruled out. However," she added with a little laugh, "nothing can be done just now, for they have not all entered themselves in the competition; Mr. Hemphill has not proposed yet."
At that instant the rest of the family joined them on their way to luncheon.
The meal was scarcely over when Olive disappeared up-stairs, but soon came down attired in a blue sailor suit, which she had not before worn at Broadstone, and although the ladies of that house had been astonished at the number of costumes this navy girl carried in her unostentatious baggage, this was a new surprise to them.
"Mr. Hemphill and I are going boating," said Olive to Mrs. Easterfield.
"Olive!" exclaimed the other.
"What is there astonishing about it?" asked the girl. "I have been out boating with Mr. Locker, and it did not amaze you. You need not be afraid; Mr. Hemphill says he has had a good deal of practise in rowing, and if he does not understand the management of a boat I am sure I do. It is only for an hour, and we shall be ready for anything that the rest of you are going to do this afternoon."
With this, away she went, skipping over the rocks and grass, down to the river's edge, followed by Mr. Hemphill, who could scarcely believe he was in a world of common people and common things, while he, in turn, was followed by the mental anathemas of a poet and a diplomat.
The Captain and Dick Lancaster desert the Toll-Gate.
When Captain Asher, in an angry mood, left his young friend and guest and went out into his barnyard and his fields in order to quiet his soul by the consideration of agricultural subjects, he met with but little success. He looked at his pigs, but he did not notice their plump condition; he glanced at his two cows, cropping the grass in the little meadow, but it did not impress him that they also were in fine condition; nor did he care whether the pasture were good or not. He looked at this; and he looked at that; and then he folded his arms and looked at the distant mountains. Suddenly he turned on his heel, walked straight to the stable, harnessed his mare to the buggy, and, without saying a word to anybody, drove out of the gate, and on to Glenford.
Dick Lancaster, who was in the arbor, looked in amazement after the captain's departing buggy, and old Jane, with tears in her eyes, came out and spoke to him.
"Isn't this dreadful" she said to him. "Supper with that woman and there all night, and back again as soon as he can get off this mornin'!"
"Perhaps he is not going to her house," Dick suggested. "He may have business in town which he forgot yesterday."
"If he'd had it he'd forgot it," replied the old woman. "But he hadn't none. He's gone to Maria Port's, and he may bring her back with him, married tight and fast, for all you or me knows. It would be just like his sailor fashion. When the captain's got anything to do he just does it sharp and quick."
"I don't believe that," said Dick. "If he had had any such intention as that he certainly would have mentioned it to you or to me."
The good woman shook her head. "When an old man marries a girl," she said, "she just leads him wherever she wants him to go, and he gives up everything to her, and when an old man marries a tough and seasoned and smoked old maid like Maria Port, she just drives him wherever she wants him to go, and he hasn't nothin' to say about it. It looks as if she told him to come in this mornin', and he's gone. It may be for a weddin', or it may be for somethin' else, but whatever it is, it'll be her way and not his straight on to the end of the chapter."
Dick had nothing to answer. He was very much afraid that old Jane knew what she was talking about, and his mind was occupied with trying to decide what he, individually, ought to do about it. Old Jane was now obliged to go to the toll-gate to attend to a traveler, but when she came back she took occasion to say a few more words.
"It's hard on me, sir," she said, "at my age to make a change. I've lived at this house, and I've took toll at that gate ever since I was a girl, long before the captain came here, and I've been with him a long time. My people used to own this house, but they all died, and when the place was sold and the captain bought it, he heard about me, and he said I should always have charge of the old toll-gate when he wasn't attendin' to it himself, just the same as when my father was alive and was toll-gate keeper, and I was helpin' him. But I've got to go now, and where I'm goin' to is more'n I know. But I'd rather go to the county poorhouse than stay here, or anywhere else, with Maria Port. She's a regular boa-constrictor, that woman is! She's twisted herself around people before this and squeezed the senses out of them; and that's exactly what she's doin' with the captain. If she could come here to live and bring her old father, and get him to sell the house in town and put the money in bank, and then if she could worry her husband and her father both to death, and work things so she'd be a widow with plenty of money and a good house and as much farm land as she wanted, and a toll-gate where she could set all day and take toll and give back lies and false witness as change, she'd be the happiest woman on earth."