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- A Phyllis of the Sierras - 10/17 -
"Did you see Miss Macy?" continued Mainwaring, carelessly.
"No. She's philanderin' with Captain Greyson."
"Philandering with Greyson?" echoed Mainwaring, in wonder.
"Yes; on horseback on the ridge."
"You mean she's riding out with Mr.--with Captain Greyson?"
"Yes; ridin' AND philanderin'," persisted Richelieu.
"And what do you call philandering?"
"Well; I reckon you and she oughter know," returned Richelieu, with a precocious air.
"Certainly," said Mainwaring, with a faint smile. Richelieu really was like Minty.
There was a long silence. This young Englishman was becoming exceedingly uninteresting. Richelieu felt that he was gaining neither profit nor amusement, and losing time. "I'm going," he said.
"Good morning," said Mainwaring, without looking up.
Richelieu picked up his specimens, thoroughly convinced of the stranger's glittering deceitfulness, and vanished.
It was nearly eight o'clock when Mrs. Bradley came from the house. She apologized, with a slightly distrait smile, for the tardiness of the household. "Mr. Bradley stayed at the mill all night, and will not be here until breakfast, when he brings your friend Mr. Richardson with him"--Mainwaring scarcely repressed a movement of impatience--"who arrives early. It's unfortunate that Miss Sharpe can't come to-day."
In his abstraction Mainwaring did not notice that Mrs. Bradley slightly accented Minty's formal appellation, and said carelessly,--
"Oh, that's why her brother came over here so early!"
"Did YOU see him?" asked Mrs. Bradley, almost abruptly.
"Yes. He is an amusing little beggar; but I think he shares his sister's preference for Mr. Bradley. He deserted me here in the veranda for him at the mill."
"Louise will keep you company as soon as she has changed her dress," continued Mrs. Bradley. "She was out riding early this morning with a friend. She's very fond of early morning rides."
"AND philandering," repeated Mainwaring to himself. It was quite natural for Miss Macy to ride out in the morning, after the fashion of the country, with an escort; but why had the cub insisted on the "philandering"? He had said, "AND philandering," distinctly. It was a nasty thing for him to say. Any other fellow but he, Mainwaring, might misunderstand the whole thing. Perhaps he ought to warn her--but no! he could not repeat the gossip of a child, and that child the brother of one of her inferiors. But was Minty an inferior? Did she and Minty talk together about this fellow Greyson? At all events, it would only revive the awkwardness of the preceding day, and he resolved to say nothing.
He was rewarded by a half-inquiring, half-confiding look in Louise's bright eyes, when she presently greeted him on the veranda. "She had quite forgotten," she said, "to tell him last night of her morning's engagement; indeed, she had half forgotten IT. It used to be a favorite practice of hers, with Captain Greyson; but she had lately given it up. She believed she had not ridden since--since--"
"Since when?" asked Mainwaring.
"Well, since you were ill," she said frankly.
A quick pleasure shone in Mainwaring's cheek and eye; but Louise's pretty lids did not drop, nor her faint, quiet bloom deepen. Breakfast was already waiting when Mr. Richardson arrived alone.
He explained that Mr. Bradley had some important and unexpected business which had delayed him, but which, he added, "Mr. Bradley says may prove interesting enough to you to excuse his absence this morning." Mainwaring was not displeased that his critical and observant host was not present at their meeting. Louise Macy was, however, as demurely conscious of the different bearing of the two compatriots. Richardson's somewhat self-important patronage of the two ladies, and that Californian familiarity he had acquired, changed to a certain uneasy deference towards Mainwaring; while the younger Englishman's slightly stiff and deliberate cordiality was, nevertheless, mingled with a mysterious understanding that appeared innate and unconscious. Louise was quick to see that these two men, more widely divergent in quality than any two of her own countrymen, were yet more subtly connected by some unknown sympathy than the most equal of Americans. Minty's prophetic belief of the effect of the two women upon Richardson was certainly true as regarded Mrs. Bradley. The banker--a large material nature--was quickly fascinated by the demure, puritanic graces of that lady, and was inclined to exhibit a somewhat broad and ostentatious gallantry that annoyed Mainwaring. When they were seated alone on the veranda, which the ladies had discreetly left to them, Richardson said,--
"Odd I didn't hear of Bradley's wife before. She seems a spicy, pretty, comfortable creature. Regularly thrown away with him up here."
Mainwaring replied coldly that she was "an admirable helpmeet of a very admirable man," not, however, without an uneasy recollection of her previous confidences respecting her husband. "They have been most thoroughly good and kind to me; my own brother and sister could not have done more. And certainly not with better taste or delicacy," he added, markedly.
"Certainly, certainly," said Richardson, hurriedly. "I wrote to Lady Mainwaring that you were taken capital care of by some very honest people; and that--"
"Lady Mainwaring already knows what I think of them, and what she owes to their kindness," said Mainwaring, dryly.
"True, true," said Richardson, apologetically. "Of course you must have seen a good deal of them. I only know Bradley in a business way. He's been trying to get the Bank to help him to put up some new mills here; but we didn't see it. I dare say he is good company--rather amusing, eh?"
Mainwaring had the gift of his class of snubbing by the polite and forgiving oblivion of silence. Richardson shifted uneasily in his chair, but continued with assumed carelessness:--
"No; I only knew of this cousin, Miss Macy. I heard of her when she was visiting some friends in Menlo Park last year. Rather an attractive girl. They say Colonel Johnson, of Sacramento, took quite a fancy to her--it would have been a good match, I dare say, for he is very rich--but the thing fell through in some way. Then, they say, SHE wanted to marry that Spaniard, young Pico, of the Amador Ranche; but his family wouldn't hear of it. Somehow, she's deuced unlucky. I suppose she'll make a mess of it with Captain Greyson she was out riding with this morning."
"Didn't the Bank think Bradley's mills a good investment?" asked Mainwaring quietly, when Richardson paused.
"Not with him in it; he is not a business man, you know."
"I thought he was. He seems to me an energetic man, who knows his work, and is not afraid to look after it himself."
"That's just it. He has got absurd ideas of co-operating with his workmen, you know, and doing everything slowly and on a limited scale. The only thing to be done is to buy up all the land on this ridge, run off the settlers, freeze out all the other mills, and put it into a big San Francisco company on shares. That's the only way we would look at it."
"But you don't consider the investment bad, even from HIS point of view?"
"And you only decline it because it isn't big enough for the Bank?"
"Richardson," said Mainwaring, slowly rising, putting his hands in his trousers pockets, and suddenly looking down upon the banker from the easy level of habitual superiority, "I wish you'd attend to this thing for me. I desire to make some return to Mr. Bradley for his kindness. I wish to give him what help he wants--in his own way--you understand. I wish it, and I believe my father wishes it, too. If you'd like him to write to you to that effect--"
"By no means, it's not at all necessary," said Richardson, dropping with equal suddenness into his old-world obsequiousness. "I shall certainly do as you wish. It is not a bad investment, Mr. Mainwaring, and as you suggest, a very proper return for their kindness. And, being here, it will come quite naturally for me to take up the affair again."
"And--I say, Richardson."
"As these ladies are rather short-handed in their domestic service, you know, perhaps you'd better not stay to luncheon or dinner, but go on to the Summit House--it's only a mile or two farther--and come back here this evening. I shan't want you until then."
"Certainly!" stammered Richardson. "I'll just take leave of the ladies!"
"It's not at all necessary," said Mainwaring, quietly; "you would only disturb them in their household duties. I'll tell them what I've done with you, if they ask. You'll find your stick and hat in
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