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- A Day Of Fate - 40/66 -
oats the world could offer, and she always found him, like Old Plod, ready to drop everything for her, and well he might. "No matter how devoted he has been, he can never plume himself on any magnanimity," I said to myself. "She probably finds him a trifle formal and sedate, and rather lacking in ideality, just as Old Plod is very stolid till she appears; but then he is safe and strong, and very kind to a friendless girl, who might well shrink from the vicissitudes of her lot, and would naturally be attracted by the protection and position which he could offer. In spite of the disparity of years, a woman might easily love a man who could do so much for her, and the banker is still well preserved and handsome. Of course Emily Warren does love him: all the wealth of Wall Street could not buy her. Yes, in a world full of lightning flashes she has made a thrifty and excellent choice. I may as well own it, in spite of every motive to prejudice. Gilbert Hearn is not my ideal man by any means. Good things are essential to him. He would feel personally aggrieved if the weather was bad for two days in succession. He is very charitable and public-spirited, and he likes our paper to recognize the fact: I have proof of that too. Alms given in the dark are not exactly wasted--but I'm thinking scandal. He so likes to let his 'light so shine.' He's respectability personified, and the toil-worn girl will be taken into an ark of safety.
"I suppose I ought to be magnanimous enough to think that it's all for the best, since he can do infinitely more for her than I ever could. She will be the millionaire's wife, and I'll go back to my dingy little office and write paragraphs heavy enough to sink a cork ship. Thus will end my June idyll; but should I live a century I will always feel that Gilbert Hearn married my wife."
For nearly an hour I sat listlessly in my chair and watched the shadows lengthen across the valley. Suddenly an impulse seized me, and I resolved to obey it.
"If I can go downstairs to-morrow, I can go just as well to-night," I said, "and go I will. She shall not have a shadow on her first evening with her lover, and she's too good-hearted to enjoy it wholly if she thinks I'm moping and sighing in my room. Moreover, I shall not let my shadows make a background for the banker's general prosperity. Stately and patronizing he cannot help being, and Miss Warren may lead him to think that he is under some obligation to me--I wish he might never hear of it--but, by Vulcan and his sledge! he shall have no cause to pity me while he unctuously rubs his hands in self-felicitation."
As far as my strength permitted, I made a careful toilet, and sat down to wait. As the sun sank below the horizon, the banker appeared. "Very appropriate," I muttered; "but his presence would make it dark at midday."
Miss Warren was talking with animation, and pointing out the surrounding objects of interest, and he was listening with a wonderfully complacent smile on his smooth, full face.
"How prosperous he looks!" I muttered. "The idea of anything going contrary to his will or wishes!"
Then I saw that a little girl sat on the front seat with Reuben, and that he was letting her drive, but with his hand hovering near the reins.
Mr. and Mrs. Yocomb came out and greeted Mr. Hearn cordially, and he in return was very benign, for it was evident that, in their place and station, he found them agreeable people, and quite to his mind.
"Why doesn't he take off his hat to Mrs. Yocomb as if she were a duchess?" I growled. "That trunk that fills half the rockaway doesn't look as if he had come to spend Sunday only. Perhaps we are destined to make a happy family. I wonder who the little girl is?".
The banker was given what was known as the parlor bedroom, on the ground floor, and I heard Adah taking the little girl to her room.
Miss Warren did not glance at my window on her return. "She would have been happy enough had I remained here and sighed like a furnace," I muttered grimly. "Well, idiot! why shouldn't she be?"
She had evidently lingered to say something to Mrs. Yocomb, but I soon heard her light step pass up to her room.
"Now's my chance," I thought. "Mrs. Yocomb is preparing for supper, and all the rest are out of the way," and I slipped down the stairs with noiseless and rather unsteady tread. Excitement, however, lent me a transient strength, and I felt as if the presence of the banker would give me sinews of steel. I entered the parlor unobserved, and taking my old seat, from which I had watched the approach of the memorable storm, I waited events.
The first one to appear was the banker, rubbing his hands in a way that suggested a habit of complacency and self-felicitation. He started slightly on seeing me, and then said graciously:
"Mr. Morton, I presume?"
"You are correct, Mr. Hearn. I congratulate you on your safe arrival."
"Thanks. I've travelled considerably, and have never met with an accident. Glad to see you able to be down, for from what I heard I feared you had not sufficiently recovered."
"I'm much better to-day, sir," I replied, briefly.
"Well, this air, these scenes ought to impart health and content. I'm greatly pleased already, and congratulate myself on finding so pleasant a place of summer sojourn. It will form a delightful contrast to great hotels and jostling crowds." I now saw Miss Warren, through the half-open door, talking to Mrs. Yocomb. They evidently thought the banker was conversing with Mr. Yocomb.
Instead of youthful ardor and bubbling happiness, the girl's face had a grave, sedate aspect that comported well with her coming dignities. Then she looked distressed. Was Mrs. Yocomb telling her of my profane and awful mood? I lent an inattentive ear to Mr. Hearn's excellent reasons for satisfaction with his present abode, and in the depths of my soul I thought, "If she's worrying about me now, how good-hearted she is!"
"I already foresee," Mr. Hearn proceeded, in his full-orbed tones, "that it will also be just the place for my little girl--safe and quiet, with very nice people to associate with."
"Yes," I said emphatically, "they are nice people--the best I ever knew."
Miss Warren started violently, took a step toward the door, then paused, and Mrs. Yocomb entered first.
"Why, Richard Morton!" she exclaimed, "what does thee mean by this imprudence?"
"I mean to eat a supper that will astonish you," I replied, laughing.
"But I didn't give thee leave to come down."
"You said I could come to-morrow, so I haven't disobeyed in spirit."
Miss Warren still stood in the hall, but seeing that I had recognized her, she came forward and gave me her hand as she said:
"No one is more glad than I that you are able to come down."
Her words were very quiet, but the pressure of her hand was so warm as to surprise me, and I also noted that what must have been a vivid color was fading from her usually pale face. I saw, too, that Mr. Hearn was watching us keenly.
"Oh, but you are shrewd!" I thought. "I wish you had cause to suspect."
I returned her greeting with great apparent frankness and cordiality as I replied, "Oh, I'm much better to-night, and as jolly as Mark Tapley."
"Well," ejaculated Mrs. Yocomb, "thee _has_ stolen a march on us, but I'm afraid thee'll be the worse for it."
"Ah, Mrs. Yocomb," I laughed, "your captive has escaped. I'm going to meeting with you to-morrow."
"No, thee isn't. I feel as if I ought to take thee right back to thy room."
"Mr. Yocomb," I cried to the old gentleman, who now stood staring at me in the doorway, "I appeal to you. Can't I stay down to supper?"
"How's this! how's this!" he exclaimed. "We were going to give thee a grand ovation to-morrow, and mother had planned a dinner that might content an alderman."
"Or a banker," I thought, as I glanced at Mr. Hearn's ample waistcoat; but I leaned back in my chair and laughed heartily as I said:
"You cannot get me back to my room, Mrs. Yocomb, now that I know I've escaped an ovation. I'd rather have a toothache."
"But does thee really feel strong enough?"
"Oh, yes; I never felt better in my life."
"I don't know what to make of thee," she said, with a puzzled look.
"No," I replied; "you little knew what a case I was when you took me in hand."
"I'll stand up for thee, Friend Morton. Thee shall stay down to supper, and have what thee pleases. Thee may as well give in, mother; he's out from under thy thumb."
"My dear sir, you talk as if you were out, too. I fear our mutiny may go too far. To-morrow is Sunday, Mrs. Yocomb, and I'll be as good as I know how all day, which, after all, is not promising much."
"It must be very delightful to you to have secured such good friends," began Mr. Hearn, who perhaps felt that he had stood too long in the
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