« AnkstesnisTęsti »
"No," said Patty, wondering.
Come," said Beulah, getting up and catch ing at Patty's shoulder for support.
"Oh, you must n't!" wailed the little girl. "Be good to me now; help me, Patty," said Beulah, starting for the door; and then Patty went with her to the dining-room.
Beulah propped herself against the table when she got there, and Miss Nancy started to ward her, forgetting her grievances, and crying affectionately: "My child, my child!"
"Please sit down, Miss Nancy; don't let me give any more trouble than I must. I know I am fearfully selfish now. I can't help it. No, I can't sit down, not now; in a moment. I am going to be more selfish than ever."
Beulah had spoken with self-control, but now her legs seemed to give way under her, and she sat down upon the floor, and with all her effort she could not get her breath without a gasping struggle.
"You'll think I'm crazy; so I am, mighty near, but I'm trying to get hold of myself; I will, Miss Nancy; only do something for me." She was speaking faster and faster, but with breaks and pauses, catching hold of the other woman's dress, after imperiously stilling all effort to stop or lift her.
Oh, do one great thing," she hurried on; go to the hotels — and see if Tom M'Grath is here." She bent her face into her hands. "Don't do anything but just that: find out if he is here, and if I know you are doing it, that you 've done it, whether he is or not, I won't lose my mind." Her voice sank in a whisper. Miss Nancy had already been saying, "Yes, yes, Beulah," and now she lifted her up, assuring her that she would start at once, and Beulah lay down upon the old sofa, where Miss Nancy thought she would get a rest from her own bed. But she had one more thing to ask. "I want Patty to go with you, Miss Nancy," she said.
"My dear child, I cannot," Miss Nancy began.
"Miss Nancy," Beulah interrupted, "I can't let you go alone; you can't take Anne if she's out; please take Patty with you; she 'll be willing to go, I know she will. It's bad enough to have you go. I'll never get over the shame of it; how can I stand it if you go alone?"
Just then Patty, who had stepped out of the room, returned, and Beulah appealed to her. Yes; she would gladly go with Miss Nancy.
"Very well, then," Miss Nancy agreed, in a muffled manner, and disappeared. She had gone so far in reversing all her ideas and standards that a little more or less did not matter much; but she was embarrassed at the loss of her own identity.
When she was gone Beulah called Patty to her, and, holding her hand hard between both her own, said: "Patty, you are not to let her
-" she stopped and her face flushed—" you are not to let her-let Mr. M'Grath know-if you should find him. You know how a woman would feel, don't you?"
Patty solemnly nodded her whirling young head.
"Miss Nancy does n't," Beulah went on. "She just thinks about what 's proper, and she's too scared now to care about that, or she would n't go. But I could n't live and have Tom know,- that is, have him think I meant him to know,- you understand. Keep her from-exposing me, Patty," and Beulah sank back upon her sofa.
So you see what faith Beulah put in those views of womanly pride and dignity which we have seen her disappoint.
In a few minutes Miss Nancy, not knowing in her ignorance how wildly hopeless a search she was beginning, started out with Patty into the stormy March night, upon her mission.
With what dignity of mien Miss Nancy quelled the hotel clerks; with what persistence she pursued them; finally with what helplessness she succumbed to the madness of the chase, under the hallucination that by a sufficient display of determination she could force Tom M'Grath to materialize— all this in time came to be recounted by Patty with gusto; but on this night her relish of it was slight, and before they came home, at three o'clock in the morning, she had fallen into a weary, dream-like apathy. From this you will infer, correctly, that their efforts were fruitless. Beulah heard this in silence, and silence she maintained.
Miss Nancy now contemplated the step she dreaded most—sending for Beulah's mother. But here again she was paralyzed by fear of the girl's stubborn resistance, and dread of the effect opposition might have on her. Never before had Miss Nancy viewed self-will-outside of herself-as aught but something to be righteously and immediately put down; never before had she doubted her power to put it down in any one subject to her authority legally or spiritually. Now her soul was full of darkness. The next morning while she was lying down, and Patty was sleeping, the doorbell rang, and the servant brought a telegram to the girl who was in the parlor pretending to study, but who was really reveling in bewildered, sympathetic, delighted speculation upon the household tragedy. The telegram was for Beulah, and she carried it to her pleased with the chance of entering the forbidden chamber. Beulah did not answer when she rapped; she went in, and Beulah did not stir till she heard the word "telegram"; then she sat up and tried
to open it, but it fell from her shaking fingers; she picked it up and tried again; she could not command the clever little hands whose skill had wrought her all this woe. With an effort she held out the envelop to the other girl. "Read it," she said.
In a twinkle it was open, and she heard these words:
"Been on ranch. Am coming to you. On road now. Tom."
"Thank you," said Beulah, with sweet civility, taking the telegram. "I am so much obliged; a telegram is so alarming, you know, and then it's always nothing at all," and she smiled, though her breath was coming a little hard, and nodded a polite dismissal.
In half an hour she came out of her room, clothed and in her right mind, and sought Miss Nancy. Kissing her cheek, she said:
"I feel very much better, Miss Nancy. I am so sorry for all the trouble and anxiety I have given you. You've been so good-I shall never forget. Is Patty up? Poor little Patty, I must go speak to her." Then from the doorway: "I've just had a telegram from Mr. M'Grath, Miss Nancy. He 's on his way to New York," and she disappeared.
And then Miss Nancy at that late day learned the real aptness of the worn old phrase about being torn by conflicting emotions.
Between this time and that of Mr. M'Grath's arrival, Beulah, after all her storms, found herself moved to sit down over her sketches in tender contemplation of the glories she was foregoing, the glories of personal aggrandizement, though she never thought of putting it that way. In the secret chambers of her mind the phrase about "all for love and the world well lost " reiterated itself with a pensive, sweet personal application, and she sighed occasionally out of the fullness of her joy of sacrifice. Meanwhile she was missing her classes at the League; but it happened, for a wonder, that her name came up between two of her teachers there, in a private discussion of their sorrows. "Life would be more cheerful," said one young man, "if being D. F's did n't seem to insure their turning their attention to art. They undertake it not only when they 've no eye, and no feeling, but with broken matches for fingers."
"I don't think those are the worst," said the other. "They don't get out into the light to do much harm. I hate 'em worst when they 've got the fingers and nothing else, and are ready pretty soon to help fill the maw of the Philistine. There's that Virginia girl I pointed out to you-Hunt's her name, I believe. She has n't an atom of talent, or even real intelligence about art-no color, hopelessly bad in
her drawing, but she 's got a sort of superficial facility." And he went on condemning Beulah, whose self-satisfaction had roused his ire, to a life that he declared below an honest washerwoman's in dignity.
When Mr. M'Grath arrived, before he had been in the parlor twenty minutes he wanted to take Beulah out walking-to the puzzled vexation of the ladies who had vacated it for the lovers' convenience. Beulah came to the dining-room where the household was assembled, as self-possessed as ever, and asked Patty to go with her. Miss Nancy could only snort feebly, so cowed was she by all that had passed; and when Beulah said that Tom was most anxious to meet her, though he was in something of a hurry just now, and that he hoped to see her in an hour or so, when they all came back, she put on a mollified air, and counseled Patty to go.
While they were putting on their hats, Beulah said, as she carefully adjusted hers, and, with her eyes on the mirror, stuck in a long pin:
"Patty, I don't think Miss Nancy would be quite so horrid as to tell Tom anything,— to talk to him about things, you know,-do you?" "N-o-o," said Patty, staring at the face in the glass; "I'm sure she would n't."
"I reckon I'll just not give her much chance," said Beulah, abstractedly, as she put on her gloves.
When they returned Mr. M'Grath was introduced to Miss Nancy. He was a tall young man with a firm-set mouth, pleasant dark eyes, and a broad soft hat.
"Now I'll return the favor," he said, when his acquaintance with the lady was properly established; "I'll introduce you to my wife. Sit right down here, Miss Nancy. You must n't lay it up against her if you think we have n't treated you just right. It was n't her fault. You know you've got a mighty lot of influence over her, Miss Nancy, and the truth is, I was n't right sure it all worked my way,-yes, I know,— and I was n't right sure she 'd find me as valuable in the hand as in the bush, so I just insisted that we get this business fixed before we said anything to you about it. I feel bad about the pictures, too, Miss Nancy. I know you were right about all that, I know you were,— but, you see, we'd gotten ourselves into a tangle before we knew she was a genius, and it was too late-" His voice dropped into a sad little affectionate cadence as he fixed his eyes on the floor. Then he looked up at Beulah. "I can't say I'm sorry, Miss Nancy, but I'm willing to be a little sorry for her, and I'll lay out to make it up to her as far as I can. If she can paint any in Texas, she shall." Beulah smiled, and as she smiled she sighed. a little sigh. Viola Roseboro'.
A SIMPLE CASE.
WITH PICTURES BY E. W. KEMBLE.
THAT 'S IT-GO PITCHING INTO ME."
HE justice's office was over Shackleton & Podley's Trade Headquarters. It was reached by a flight of plank stairs tacked to the outer wall of the building and supported by wooden props. Huntley preceded Cleary up the steps, but before the small pine door which represented to him the portal of those precincts wherein dwelt the law, he drew back; and as he followed Cleary into the room he was half minded to remove his hat. He saw, however, that the lawyer went in with his head covered, and, vaguely relying on this precedent, plunged his hand into his trousers' pocket again. Perhaps this was the only time in his life that Mr. Huntley was visited by a doubt on a point of etiquette.
The justice was an enormously fat old man, with so great an expanse of bald head that one might easily find out countries on it. Topographically it might have been described as ranging from rough and broken over the forehead to fine, undulating table-landson thecrown of the head. He wore a pair of round-eyed spectacles, and he wore them so constantly that there were two red ravines on each side of his face, diverging at the top of his ears; one running up over his temples, and the other leading to the corners of his pale blue eyes, which were so fat and wide and round that they seemed to have accumulated adipose tissue along with his body.
As the lawyer, followed by Huntley, approached the table, Justice Snagley laid down his paper, lifted his spectacles to the upper ravine, and turned slowly around in his cushioned, revolving office-chair. Cleary laid the paper on the table before the justice, smoothing it out for him as he said:
"Mr. Huntley here wants to make this affidavit before you, Judge."
The justice fixed his glasses, and read the affidavit; then he laid it on the table, and looked up at Huntley. Huntley stood before him. stoop-shouldered, loose-jointed, gawky, his hands stuck into his trousers' pockets, his shapeless slouch-hat on the back of his head. His neck and ears were grimy with dust, and his lank, sunburned cheeks were stubbled over with a week's growth of red beard. He was looking down at Snagley with a kind of mild-eyed interest, and when the justice looked up he responded at once with a grin. Snagley lifted a flat-palmed right hand to the level of his shoulder and made three or four short upward motions with it. Huntley observed this little dramatization with a touch of bewilderment. He stared an instant at the hand; then, feeling that something was expected of him, grinned still more broadly, and nodded approvingly at Snagley; whereat the justice, being naturally somewhat irascible, glared hard at Huntley, swore a little, and sharply bade him to hold up his right hand and take off his hat.
His judicial function being discharged, Mr. Snagley unbent somewhat.
"Goin' to stan' 'im a suit, eh?" he said to Huntley, as he indorsed the affidavit. "I think I ought-a beat 'im, don't you?" Huntley asked, eager for a shred of comfort.
Snagley rolled up his round eyes. "Lawsuits, Mr. Huntley, is gol darn uncertain," he replied wisely, and with a touch of dignity in his voice.
"You get out the writ, Judge," said Cleary, starting for the door," and I 'll go find Smiley."
"You'll find Mr. Wentworth workin' on the street over by Risley's," Mr. Snagley returned severely.
To Lawyer Cleary the constable was Smiley, notwithstanding the rebuke of the justice. Cleary was of that disposition termed ungodly by old-fashioned and orthodox folk. Sufficient unto himself was Mr. Cleary. If a grateful community ever erected a statue to his memory, he would doubtless be shown
standing with his broad, flat feet well apart, one hand buried up to the knuckles in his trousers' pocket, and the other elevated before his breast and wagging an argumentative forefinger. He always wore a long, black frockcoat, a celluloid standing collar, and no necktie. His hair was red and thin, as were his eyebrows; his eyes were watery blue, set wide apart; he had the flattest, most indefensible failure of a nose; his mouth could be likened to nothing but a gash in a pumpkin; and his complexion was violently sanguine. But these things trou
displayed on the other. Shackleton and Podley were at the back of the room talking with a real-estate agent, who sat humped over on the counter, smoking a corn-cob pipe. As Huntley approached, Shackleton turned around: "Anything to-day, Mr. Huntley?" he asked in a business-like way.
"Oh, I jes dropped in," Huntley replied uncertainly, glancing at the opposite wall. "Say, Huntley, I hear Risley got your mules," said the real-estate agent, tentatively, as Huntley lifted himself up on the counter and looked
bled Mr. Cleary not a whit. If other people's opinions coincided with his, he congratulated them; if they differed from his, he pitied them: and he did both with equal sincerity. When word came that the Supreme Court had decided the Skinner county-seat case against him and his colleagues, he read the telegram over carefully, then shoved his hat back, and exclaimed in a tone of some annoyance, "Well, dad burr 'em! they guessed wrong-that 's all."
As Cleary went to find the constable, Huntley, left to himself, wandered to the bottom of the stairs, and furtively peered into the windows of Shackleton & Podley's, where on one side there was a pyramid of tin fruit-cans, and on the other an array of white and hickory shirts, silk handkerchiefs, and plow-shoes. He hesitated a few moments, then lounged in at the door, and walked slowly and somewhat uncertainly down the store, casting a glance now at the calico prints on one side and now at the groceries
about for a convenient place to discharge his mouthful of tobacco. The questioner had a shrewd, droll little face that all puckered toward a round rabbit mouth.
"Well, yes, he's got 'em; but he won't have 'em long," Huntley replied, lounging forward and resting his forearms across his knees.
Podley rolled his fat little head to one side and looked sagaciously up at Huntley.
"How was that transaction, anyway, Mr. Huntley? How did you come to give that note?" he asked with an air of discreet interest. His precise utterance contrasted oddly with the slipshod speech of the other men.
"Well, you see," Huntley began, ""long about thirty days ago a feller come to my place sellin' a patent churn-'n' it was a darn good churn too. My woman can make butter with it now twicet as quick 's she can with the old un. Well, this chap he purtended to be appointin' agents; 'n' he went on with 'is lingo about bein' recommended to come to me, 'n'
about how much I could make out of it, 'n' all that kind o' talk. 'N''e didn't want no money I was jes to sign a receipt fer the churn 'at 'e left fer me to use fer a sample, 'n' to sign a contrack to turn over the money less my commission, 'n' all that sort o' thing. 'N' where 'e fooled me, you see, he read over the receipt 'n' the contrack all right, but 'e 'ad a lot o' papers there on the table, 'n' when I come to sign, you see, 'e mixed 'em in the shuffle somehow, 'n' I s'pose I signed a note 'n' mortgage instead of a receipt 'n' contrack. I hain't much of a scholar, 'n' his jes readin' 'em over, 'course I s'posed they was the same 's 'e read. The woman wa'n't to home that day, so I up 'n' signed 'em. 'N' the mortgage― darn 'f 'e did n't do that pretty slick. He says, you know, that I've got to give 'im a description of the mules, so's the company 'll know I've got a team to travel around with and do the canvassin'. 'N''e writes the description of the mules jes as I give it in the paper there-what I s'posed was the contrack; 'n'that's how he got the description of the mules. I've replevied the mules now. Course if I can prove at Mr. Risley wa'n't no innocent purchaser of the note, I 'll keep 'em."
"You say Risley has the mules now?" Podley asked.
"He did have 'em, but I'm replevinin' 'em now," Huntley replied, looking at the door. "Course, soon 's the feller got the note he come here 'n' sold it to Risley-er purtended he did. Cleary's been over to the county-seat 'n' looked at the mortgage, 'n' 'e says 'at it was printed right here by Potts to the Herald' office. Cleary says more 'n likely Risley 'n' this chap was in cahoots all the time. Potts tol' me 'isself that 'e printed a lot of blanks fer this chap."
There was a little silence; then Huntley looked up with a doubtful grin.
"Gosh ding it! you see, I can't afford to lose them mules. I was all hailed out this spring, 'n' I got to have the mules to earn some money to keep the kids with this winter."
"Well, gentlemen, it 's an outrage," said the real-estate man, slipping from the counter; "it's an outrage."
"Shameful, sir, shameful," said Mr. Podley, walking toward the front part of the store.
"I hope you will win your case, anyway, Huntley, and keep your mules," the real-estate man said as he followed Podley.
When they were out of hearing, Huntley turned to Shackleton. "How's it goin' to be about gettin' a jag a flour, Shackleton?" he asked. "This blame lawin' 's goin' to take all my money right now, 'n' we 're about out up to the ranch."
Shackleton shook his head. "Could n't do it possibly," he said briskly. "Be glad to acVOL. XLIV.-36.
commodate you if we could; but we could n't do it. Too much out; too many bills to meet. Can't do it to-day, possibly."
Huntley looked down at the floor a moment. "I thought maybe you might lemme have fifty pound er so," he said meditatively, scratching his leg. "Get this darn business fixed up, I can pay you in ten days."
Huntley looked up, but Shackleton shook his head. "Too uncertain," he replied confidentially. Then, laying both hands on Huntley's shoulders in the most brotherly manner, he said cheerily, "Do it in a minute, Lem, if we could; but the way things are now, we could n't possibly."
With his eyes upon the floor, Huntley loitered slowly toward the door. As he gained it, the constable appeared on the sidewalk, and gently waved his hand toward the opposite side of the street. "There's your mules, Mr. Huntley," he said in a voice of subdued emotion, much as though he had conjured them up out of the ground and presented them to Huntley. In that event the sleek little bodies of those two bay mules could not have awakened more joy in Huntley's breast. He hurried across the street, and climbed into the wagon.
The mules set their brisk little legs in motion, and the wagon rattled out of town. Just outside of the corporation there was a slight rise of ground, and as the mules trotted up the gentle ascent, Huntley turned in his seat and looked back at the village below. On the opposite side of the town the railroad was laid along the level prairie with hardly any grading. There was a tall, glaringly red elevator and a little brown depot at the foot of the one straggling business street. Spreading out from the business street, comprising the remainder of Centropolis, were isolated, rambling dwellings, all of wood and mostly one-storied. Some slender saplings, at a little distance hardly distinguishable from bean-poles, set in a few of the front yards, made the only attempt toward shrubbery. Shade there was none, and the little collection of pine buildings stood broiling and frying under the intolerable August sun. Beyond the town the level prairie stretched away to a gauzy blue line on the horizon, made by the timber along the banks of the Sam River. The land was more undulating on Huntley's side, but there was not a hill or a tree in sight to break the wavy expanse of prairie. The grass was drying up, and the fields of ripe wheat, twenty, forty, sixty acres in a patch, made only yellower dots here and there in the waste of light brown and dingy green. The scattered "shacks" of the settlers, primitive board structures, covered in some cases with black tarpaper, scarcely made an impression upon the wildness of the scene.