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- You Never Know Your Luck, Volume 2. - 5/11 -
you're a man after my own heart. But you can't have it, even if you are after it, and you are welcome to the thirty-seven-year-old seraph in there!" She tossed a hand towards the house.
By this time he was on his feet too, almost bursting. "Well, you wicked little rip--you Ellen Terry at twenty-two, to think you could play it up like that! Why, never on the stage was there such--!"
"It's the poetry made me do it. It inspired me," she gurgled. "I felt --why, I felt here"--she pressed her hand to her heart "all the pangs of unrequited love--oh, go away, go back to the house and read that to her! She's in the sitting-room, and my mother's away down-town. Now's your chance, Claude Melnotte."
She put both hands on his big, panting chest and pushed him backward towards the house. "You're good enough for anybody, and if I wasn't so young and daren't leave mother till I get my wisdom-teeth cut, and till I'm thirty-seven--oh, oh, oh!" She laughed till the tears came into her eyes. "This is as good as--as a play."
"It's the best acted play I ever saw, from 'Ten Nights in a Bar-room' to 'Struck Oil,'" rejoined Jesse Bulrush, with a face still half ashamed yet beaming. "But, tell me, you heartless little woman, are the verses worth anything? Do you think she'll like them?"
Kitty grew suddenly serious, and a curious look he could not read deepened in her eyes. "Nurse 'll like them--of course she will," she said gently. "She'll like them because they are you. Read them to her as you read them to me, and she'll only hear your voice, and she'll think them clever and you a wonderful man, even if you are fifty and weigh a thousand pounds. It doesn't matter to a woman what a man's saying or doing, or whether he's so much cleverer than she is, if she knows that under everthing he's saying, 'I love you.' A man isn't that way, but a woman is. Now go." Again she pushed him with a small brown hand.
"Kitty Tynan, what a girl you are!" he said admiringly.
"Then be a father to me," she said teasingly.
"I can't marry both your mother and nurse."
"P'r'aps you can't marry either," she replied sarcastically, "and I know that in any case you'll never be any relative of mine by marriage. Get going," she said almost impatiently.
He turned to go, and she said after him, as he rolled away, "I'll let you hear some of my verses one day when you're more developed and can understand them."
"I'll bet they beat mine," he called back.
"You'll win your bet," she answered, and stood leaning against a tree with a curious look emerging and receding in her eyes. When he had disappeared, sitting down, she drew from her breast a slip of paper, unfolded it, and laid it on her knee. "It is better," she said. "It's not good poetry, of course, but it's truer, and it's not done according to a pattern like his. Yes, it's real, real, real, and he'll never see it--never see it now, for I've fought it' all out, and I've won."
Then she slowly read the verses aloud:
"Yes, I've won," she said with determination. So many of her sex have said things just as decisively, and while yet the exhilaration of their decision was inflaming them, have done what they said they would never, never, never do. Still there was a look in the fair face which meant a new force awakened in her character.
For a long time she sat brooding, forgetful of the present and of the little comedy of elderly lovers going on inside the house. She was thinking of the way conventions hold and bind us; of the lack of freedom in the lives of all, unless they live in wild places beyond the social pale. Within the past few weeks she had had visions of such a world beyond this active and ordered civilisation, where the will and the conscience of a man or woman was the only law. She was not lawless in mind or spirit. She was only rebelling gainst a situation in which she was bound hand and foot, and could not follow her honest and exclusive desire, if she wished to do so.
Here was a man who was married, yet in a real sense who had no wife. Suppose that man cared for her, what a tragedy it would be for them to be kept apart! This man did not love her, and so there was no tragedy for both. Still all was not over yet--yes, all was "over and over and over," she said to herself as she sprang to her feet with a sharp exclamation of disgust--with herself.
Her mother was coming hurriedly towards her from the house. There was a quickness in her walk suggesting excitement, yet from the look in her face it was plain that the news she brought was not painful. "He told me you were here, and--"
"Who told you I was here?"
"So it's all settled," she said, with a little quirk of her shoulders.
"Yes, he's asked her, and they're going to be married. It's enough to make you die laughing to see the two middle-aged doves cooing in there."
"I thought perhaps it would be you. He said he would like to be a father to me."
"That would prevent me if nothing else would," answered the widow of Tyndall Tynan. "A stepfather to an unmarried girl, both eyeing each other for a chance to find fault--if you please, no thank you!"
"That means you won't get married till I'm out of the way?" asked Kitty, with a look which was as much touched with myrrh as with mirth.
"It means I wouldn't get married till you are married, anyway," was the complacent answer.
"Is there any one special that--"
"Don't talk nonsense. Since your father died I've only thought of his child and mine, and I've not looked where I might. Instead, I've done my best to prove that two women could live and succeed without a man to earn for them; though of course without the pension it couldn't have been done in the style we've done it. We've got our place!"
There is a dignity attached to a pension which has an influence quite its own, and in the most primitive communities it has an aristocratic character which commands general respect. In Askatoon people gave Mrs. Tynan a better place socially because of her pension than they would have done if she had earned double the money which the pension brought her.
"Everybody has called on us," she added with reflective pride.
"Principally since Mr. Crozier came," added Kitty. "It's funny, isn't it, how he made people respect him before they knew who he was?"
"He would make Satan stand up and take off his hat, if he paid Hades a visit," said Mrs. Tynan admiringly. "Anybody'd do anything for him."
Kitty eyed her mother closely. There was a strange, far-away, brooding look in Mrs. Tynan's eyes, and she seemed for a moment lost in thought.
"You're in love with him," said Kitty sharply.
"I was, in a way," answered her mother frankly. "I was, in a way, a kind of way, till I knew he was married. But it didn't mean anything. I never thought of it except as a thing that couldn't be."
"Why couldn't it be?" asked Kitty, smothering an agitation rising in her breast.
"Because I always knew he belonged to where we didn't, and because if he was going to be in love himself, it would be with some girl like you. He's young enough for that, and it's natural he should get as his profit the years of youth that a young woman has yet to live."
"As though it was a choice between you and me, for instance!"
Mrs. Tynan started, but recovered herself. "Yes. If there had been any choosing, he'd not have hesitated a minute. He'd have taken you, of course. But he never gave either of us a thought that way."
"I thought that till--till after he'd told us his story," replied Kitty boldly.
"What has happened since then?" asked her mother, with sudden apprehension.
"Nothing has happened since. I don't understand it, but it's as though he'd been asleep for a long time and was awake again."
Mrs. Tynan gravely regarded her daughter, and a look of fear came into her face. "I knew you kept thinking of him always," she said; "but you had such sense, and he never showed any feeling for you; and young girls get over things. Besides, you always showed you knew he wasn't a possibility. But since he told us that day about his being married and all, has--has he been different towards you?"
"Not a thing, not a word," was the reply; "but--but there's a difference with him in a way. I feel it when I go in the room where he is."
"You've got to stop thinking of him," insisted the elder woman querulously. "You've got to stop it at once. It's no good. It's bad for you. You've too much sense to go on caring for a man that--"
"I'm going to get married," said Kitty firmly. "I've made up my mind. If you have to think about one person, you should stop thinking about another; anyhow, you've got to make yourself stop. So I'm going to marry--and stop."
"Who are you going to marry, Kitty? You don't mean to say it's John Sibley !"
"P'r'aps. He keeps coming."
"That gambling and racing fellow!"
"He owns a big farm, and it pays, and he has got an interest in a mine, and--"
"I tell you, you shan't," peevishly interjected Mrs. Tynan. "You shan't. He's vicious. He's--oh, you shan't! I'd rather--"
"You'd rather I threw myself away--on a married man?" asked Kitty covertly.
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