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- TRENT'S TRUST & OTHER STORIES - 5/45 -
supposed to be familiar with signatures, without exposing his secret and himself to ridicule. And, after all, what did it prove? Nothing. Even if this girl were cognizant of the man who supplied her address to the Callao banker two years ago, and he was really the missing owner of the portmanteau, would she know where he was now? It might make an opening for conversation if he ever met her familiarly, but nothing more. Yet I am afraid another idea occasionally took possession of Randolph's romantic fancy. It was pleasant to think that the patron of his own fortunes might be in some mysterious way the custodian of hers. The money was placed to her credit--a liberal sum for a girl so young. The large house in which she lived was sufficient to prove to the optimistic Randolph that this income was something personal and distinct from her family. That his unknown benefactor was in the habit of mysteriously rewarding deserving merit after the fashion of a marine fairy godmother, I fear did not strike him as being ridiculous.
But an unfortunate query in that direction, addressed to a cynical fellow clerk, who had the exhaustive experience with the immature mustaches of twenty-three, elicited a reply which shocked him. To his indignant protest the young man continued:--
"Look here; a girl like that who draws money regularly from some man who doesn't show up by name, who comes for it herself, and hasn't any address, and calls herself 'Avondale'--only an innocent from Dutch Flat, like you, would swallow."
"Impossible," said Randolph indignantly. "Anybody could see she's a lady by her dress and bearing."
"Dress and bearing!" echoed the clerk, with the derision of blase youth. "If that's your test, you ought to see Florry ----."
But here one may safely leave the young gentleman as abruptly as Randolph did. Yet a drop of this corrosive criticism irritated his sensitiveness, and it was not until he recalled his last meeting with her and her innocent escort that he was himself again. Fortunately, he did not relate it to the critic, who would in all probability have added a precocious motherhood to the young lady's possible qualities.
He could now only look forward to her reappearance at the bank, and here he was destined to a more serious disappointment. For when she made her customary appearance at the counter, he noticed a certain businesslike gravity in the paying teller's reception of her, and that he was consulting a small register before him instead of handing her the usual receipt form. "Perhaps you are unaware, Miss Avondale, that your account is overdrawn," Randolph distinctly heard him say, although in a politely lowered voice.
The young girl stopped in taking off her glove; her delicate face expressed her wonder, and paled slightly; she cast a quick and apparently involuntary glance in the direction of Randolph, but said quietly,--
"I don't think I understand."
"I thought you did not--ladies so seldom do," continued the paying teller suavely. "But there are no funds to your credit. Has not your banker or correspondent advised you?"
The girl evidently did not comprehend. "I have no correspondent or banker," she said. "I mean--I have heard nothing."
"The original credit was opened from Callao," continued the official, "but since then it has been added to by drafts from Melbourne. There may be one nearly due now."
The young girl seemed scarcely to comprehend, yet her face remained pale and thoughtful. It was not until the paying teller resumed with suggestive politeness that she roused herself: "If you would like to see the president, he might oblige you until you hear from your friends. Of course, my duty is simply to"--
"I don't think I require you to exceed it," returned the young girl quietly, "or that I wish to see the president." Her delicate little face was quite set with resolution and a mature dignity, albeit it was still pale, as she drew away from the counter.
"If you would leave your address," continued the official with persistent politeness, "we could advise you of any later deposit to your credit."
"It is hardly necessary," returned the young lady. "I should learn it myself, and call again. Thank you. Good-morning." And settling her veil over her face, she quietly passed out.
The pain and indignation with which Randolph overheard this colloquy he could with the greatest difficulty conceal. For one wild moment he had thought of calling her back while he made a personal appeal to Revelstoke; but the conviction borne in upon him by her resolute bearing that she would refuse it, and he would only lay himself open to another rebuff, held him to his seat. Yet he could not entirely repress his youthful indignation.
"Where I come from," he said in an audible voice to his neighbor, "a young lady like that would have been spared this public disappointment. A dozen men would have made up that sum and let her go without knowing anything about her account being overdrawn." And he really believed it.
"Nice, comf'able way of doing banking business in Dutch Flat," returned the cynic. "And I suppose you'd have kept it up every month? Rather a tall price to pay for looking at a pretty girl once a month! But I suppose they're scarcer up there than here. All the same, it ain't too late now. Start up your subscription right here, sonny, and we'll all ante up."
But Randolph, who seldom followed his heroics to their ultimate prosaic conclusions, regretted he had spoken, although still unconvinced. Happily for his temper, he did not hear the comment of the two tellers.
"Won't see HER again, old boy," said one.
"I reckon not," returned the other, "now that she's been chucked by her fancy man--until she gets another. But cheer up; a girl like that won't want friends long."
It is not probable that either of these young gentlemen believed what they said, or would have been personally disrespectful or uncivil to any woman; they were fairly decent young fellows, but the rigors of business demanded this appearance of worldly wisdom between themselves. Meantime, for a week after, Randolph indulged in wild fancies of taking his benefactor's capital of seventy dollars, adding thirty to it from his own hard-earned savings, buying a draft with it from the bank for one hundred dollars, and in some mysterious way getting it to Miss Avondale as the delayed remittance.
The brief wet winter was nearly spent; the long dry season was due, although there was still the rare beauty of cloud scenery in the steel-blue sky, and the sudden return of quick but transient showers. It was on a Sunday of weather like this that the nature- loving Randolph extended his usual holiday excursion as far as Contra Costa by the steamer after his dutiful round of the wharves and shipping. It was with a gayety born equally of his youth and the weather that he overcame his constitutional shyness, and not only mingled without restraint among the pleasure-seekers that thronged the crowded boat, but, in the consciousness of his good looks and a new suit of clothes, even penetrated into the aristocratic seclusion of the "ladies' cabin"--sacred to the fair sex and their attendant swains or chaperones.
But he found every seat occupied, and was turning away, when he suddenly recognized Miss Avondale sitting beside her little escort. She appeared, however, in a somewhat constrained attitude, sustaining with one hand the boy, who had clambered on the seat. He was looking out of the cabin window, which she was also trying to do, with greater difficulty on account of her position. He could see her profile presented with such marked persistency that he was satisfied she had seen him and was avoiding him. He turned and left the cabin.
Yet, once on the deck again, he repented his haste. Perhaps she had not actually recognized him; perhaps she wished to avoid him only because she was in plainer clothes--a circumstance that, with his knowledge of her changed fortunes, struck him to the heart. It seemed to him that even as a humble employee of the bank he was in some way responsible for it, and wondered if she associated him with her humiliation. He longed to speak with her and assure her of his sympathy, and yet he was equally conscious that she would reject it.
When the boat reached the Alameda wharf she slipped away with the other passengers. He wandered about the hotel garden and the main street in the hope of meeting her again, although he was instinctively conscious that she would not follow the lines of the usual Sunday sight-seers, but had her own destination. He penetrated the depths of the Alameda, and lost himself among its low, trailing oaks, to no purpose. The hope of the morning had died within him; the fire of adventure was quenched, and when the clouds gathered with a rising wind he felt that the promise of that day was gone. He turned to go back to the ferry, but on consulting his watch he found that he had already lost so much time in his devious wanderings that he must run to catch the last boat. The few drops that spattered through the trees presently increased to a shower; he put up his umbrella without lessening his speed, and finally dashed into the main street as the last bell was ringing. But at the same moment a slight, graceful figure slipped out of the woods just ahead of him, with no other protection from the pelting storm than a handkerchief tied over her hat, and ran as swiftly toward the wharf. It needed only one glance for Randolph to recognize Miss Avondale. The moment had come, the opportunity was here, and the next instant he was panting at her side, with the umbrella over her head.
The girl lifted her head quickly, gave a swift look of recognition, a brief smile of gratitude, and continued her pace. She had not taken his arm, but had grasped the handle of the umbrella, which linked them together. Not a word was spoken. Two people cannot be conversational or sentimental flying at the top of their speed beneath a single umbrella, with a crowd of impatient passengers watching and waiting for them. And I grieve to say that, being a happy American crowd, there was some irreverent humor. "Go it, sis! He's gainin' on you!" "Keep it up!" "Steady, sonny! Don't prance!" "No fancy licks! You were nearly over the traces that time!" "Keep up to the pole!" (i. e. the umbrella). "Don't crowd her off the track! Just swing on together; you'll do it."
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