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´╗┐Title: An Encore
Author: Deland, Margaret Wade Campbell, 1857-1945
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An Encore" ***

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[Illustration: [See page 4

WHEN ALFRED PRICE FELL IN LOVE WITH MISS LETTY MORRIS]



    An Encore

    BY

    MARGARET DELAND


    AUTHOR OF

    "THE AWAKENING OF HELENA RICHIE"
    "DR. LAVENDER'S PEOPLE"
    "OLD CHESTER TALES"
    ETC. ETC.


    ILLUSTRATED BY
    ALICE BARBER STEPHENS


    NEW YORK AND LONDON
    HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
    MCMVII



    Copyright, 1904, 1907, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

    _All rights reserved._
    Published October, 1907.



Illustrations


    "WHEN ALFRED PRICE FELL IN LOVE WITH
      MISS LETTY MORRIS"                      _Frontispiece_

    "THE CAPTAIN AND CYRUS WERE AFRAID
      OF GUSSIE"                              _Facing p_ 18

    "THERE WAS A LITTLE SILENCE, AND THEN
      DR. LAVENDER BEGAN"                          "     76



An Encore


According to Old Chester, to be romantic was just one shade less
reprehensible than to put on airs. Captain Alfred Price, in all his
seventy years, had never been guilty of putting on airs, but certainly
he had something to answer for in the way of romance.

However, in the days when we children used to see him pounding up the
street from the post-office, reading, as he walked, a newspaper held at
arm's-length in front of him, he was far enough from romance. He was
seventy years old, he weighed over two hundred pounds, his big head was
covered with a shock of grizzled red hair; his pleasures consisted in
polishing his old sextant and playing on a small mouth-harmonicon. As to
his vices, it was no secret that he kept a fat black bottle in the
chimney-closet in his own room, and occasionally he swore strange oaths
about his grandmother's nightcap. "He used to blaspheme," his
daughter-in-law said; "but I said, 'Not in my presence, if you please!'
So now he just says this foolish thing about a nightcap." Mrs. Drayton
said that this reform would be one of the jewels in Mrs. Cyrus Price's
crown; and added that she prayed that some day the Captain would give up
tobacco and _rum_. "I am a poor, feeble creature," said Mrs. Drayton; "I
cannot do much for my fellow-men in active mission-work,--but I give my
prayers." However, neither Mrs. Drayton's prayers nor Mrs. Cyrus's
active mission-work had done more than mitigate the blasphemy; the "rum"
(which was good Monongahela whiskey) was still on hand; and as for
tobacco, except when sleeping, eating, playing on his harmonicon, or
dozing through one of Dr. Lavendar's sermons, the Captain smoked every
moment, the ashes of his pipe or cigar falling unheeded on a vast and
wrinkled expanse of waistcoat.

No; he was not a romantic object. But we girls, watching him stump past
the school-room window to the post-office, used to whisper to one
another, "Just think! _he eloped._"

There was romance for you!

To be sure, the elopement had not quite come off, but except for the
very end, it was all as perfect as a story. Indeed, the failure at the
end made it all the better: angry parents, broken hearts--only, the
worst of it was, the hearts did not stay broken! He went and married
somebody else; and so did she. You would have supposed she would have
died. I am sure, in her place, any one of us would have died. And yet,
as Lydia Wright said, "How could a young lady die for a young gentleman
with ashes all over his waistcoat?"

But when Alfred Price fell in love with Miss Letty Morris, he was not
indifferent to his waistcoat, nor did he weigh two hundred pounds. He
was slender and ruddy-cheeked, with tossing red-brown curls. If he
swore, it was not by his grandmother nor her nightcap; if he drank, it
was hard cider (which can often accomplish as much as "rum"); if he
smoked it was in secret, behind the stable. He wore a stock, and (on
Sunday) a ruffled shirt; a high-waisted coat with two brass buttons
behind, and very tight pantaloons. At that time he attended the Seminary
for Youths in Upper Chester. Upper Chester was then, as in our time, the
seat of learning in the township, the Female Academy being there, too.
Both were boarding-schools, but the young people came home to spend
Sunday; and their weekly returns, all together in the stage, were
responsible for more than one Old Chester match....

"The air," says Miss, sniffing genteelly as the coach jolts past the
blossoming May orchards, "is most agreeably perfumed. And how fair is
the prospect from this hill-top!"

"Fair indeed!" responds her companion, staring boldly.

Miss bridles and bites her lip.

"_I_ was not observing the landscape," the young gentleman hastens to
explain.

In those days (Miss Letty was born in 1804, and was eighteen when she
and the ruddy Alfred sat on the back seat of the coach)--in those days
the conversation of Old Chester youth was more elegant than in our time.
We, who went to Miss Bailey's school, were sad degenerates in the way of
manners and language; at least so our elders told us. When Lydia Wright
said, "Oh my, what an awful snow-storm!" dear Miss Ellen was displeased.
"Lydia," said she, "is there anything 'awe'-inspiring in this display of
the elements?"

"No, 'm," faltered poor Lydia.

"Then," said Miss Bailey, gravely, "your statement that the storm is
'awful' is a falsehood. I do not suppose, my dear, that you
intentionally told an untruth; it was an exaggeration. But an
exaggeration, though not perhaps a falsehood, is unladylike, and should
be avoided by persons of refinement." Just here the question arises:
what would Miss Ellen (now in heaven) say if she could hear Lydia's
Lydia, just home from college, remark-- But no: Miss Ellen's precepts
shall protect these pages.

But in the days when Letty Morris looked out of the coach window, and
young Alfred murmured that the prospect was fair indeed, conversation
was perfectly correct. And it was still decorous even when it got beyond
the coach period and reached a point where Old Chester began to take
notice. At first it was young Old Chester which giggled. Later old Old
Chester made some comments; it was then that Alfred's mother mentioned
the matter to Alfred's father. "He is young, and, of course, foolish,"
Mrs. Price explained. And Mr. Price said that though folly was
incidental to Alfred's years, it must be checked.

"Just check it," said Mr. Price.

Then Miss Letty's mother awoke to the situation, and said, "Fy, fy,
Letitia! let me hear no more of this foolishness."

So it was that these two young persons were plunged in grief. Oh,
glorious grief of thwarted love! When they met now, they did not talk of
the landscape. Their conversation, though no doubt as genteel as before,
was all of broken hearts. But again Letty's mother found out, and went
in wrath to call on Alfred's family. It was decided between them that
the young man should be sent away from home. "To save him," says the
father. "To protect my daughter," says Mrs. Morris.

But Alfred and Letty had something to say.... It was in December; there
was a snow-storm--a storm which Lydia Wright would certainly have called
"awful"; but it did not interfere with true love; these two children met
in the graveyard to swear undying constancy. Alfred's lantern came
twinkling through the flakes, as he threaded his way across the
hill-side among the tombstones, and found Letty just inside the
entrance, standing with her black serving-woman under a tulip-tree. The
negress, chattering with cold and fright, kept plucking at the girl's
pelisse to hurry her; but once Alfred was at her side, Letty was
indifferent to storm and ghosts. As for Alfred, he was too cast down to
think of them.

"Letty, they will part us."

"No, my dear Alfred, no!"

"Yes. Yes, they will. Oh, if you were only mine!"

Miss Letty sighed.

"Will you be true to me, Letty? I am to go on a sailing-vessel to China,
to be gone two years. Will you wait for me?"

Letty gave a little cry; two years! Her black woman twitched her sleeve.

"Miss Let, it's gittin' cole, honey."

"(Don't, Flora.)--Alfred, _two years_! Oh, Alfred, that is an eternity.
Why, I should be--I should be twenty!"

The lantern, set on a tombstone beside them, blinked in a snowy gust.
Alfred covered his face with his hands--he was shaken to his soul; the
little, gay creature beside him thrilled at a sound from behind those
hands.

"Alfred,"--she said, faintly; then she hid her face against his arm; "my
dear Alfred, I will, if you desire it--fly with you!"

Alfred, with a gasp, lifted his head and stared at her. His slower mind
had seen nothing but separation and despair; but the moment the word was
said he was aflame. What! Would she? Could she? Adorable creature!

"Miss Let, my feet done git cole--"

"(Flora, be still!)--Yes, Alfred, yes. I am thine."

The boy caught her in his arms. "But I am to be sent away on Monday! My
angel, could you--fly, to-morrow?"

And Letty, her face still hidden against his, shoulder, nodded.

Then, while the shivering Flora stamped, and beat her arms, and the
lantern flared and sizzled, Alfred made their plans, which were simple
to the point of childishness. "My own!" he said, when it was all
arranged; then he held the lantern up and looked into her face, blushing
and determined, with snowflakes gleaming on the curls that pushed out
from under her big hood. "You will meet me at the minister's?" he said,
passionately. "You will not fail me?"

"I will not fail you!" she said; and laughed joyously; but the young
man's face was white.

She kept her word; and with the assistance of Flora, romantic again when
her feet were warm, all went as they planned. Clothes were packed,
savings-banks opened, and a chaise abstracted from the Price stable.

"It is my intention," said the youth, "to return to my father the value
of the vehicle and nag, as soon as I can secure a position which will
enable me to support my Letty in comfort and fashion."

On the night of the elopement the two children met at the minister's
house. (Yes, the very old Rectory to which we Old Chester children went
every Saturday afternoon to Dr. Lavendar's Collect class. But of course
there was no Dr. Lavendar there in those days).

Well; Alfred requested this minister to pronounce them man and wife; but
he coughed and poked the fire. "I am of age," Alfred insisted; "I am
twenty-two." Then Mr. Smith said he must first go and put on his bands
and surplice; and Alfred said, "If you please, sir." And off went Mr.
Smith--_and sent a note to Alfred's father and Letty's mother_!

We girls used to wonder what the lovers talked about while they waited
for the return of the surpliced traitor. Ellen Dale always said they
were foolish to wait. "Why didn't they go right off?" said Ellen. "If
_I_ were going to elope, I shouldn't bother to get married. But, oh,
think of how they felt when in walked those cruel parents!"

The story was that they were torn weeping from each other's arms; that
Letty was sent to bed for two days on bread and water; that Alfred was
packed off to Philadelphia the very next morning, and sailed in less
than a week. They did not see each other again.

But the end of the story was not romantic at all. Letty, although she
crept about for a while in deep disgrace, and brooded upon death--that
interesting impossibility, so dear to youth--_married_, if you please!
when she was twenty, somebody called North,--and went away to live. When
Alfred came back, seven years later, he got married, too. He married a
Miss Barkley. He used to go away on long voyages, so perhaps he wasn't
really fond of her. We tried to think so, for we liked Captain Price.

In our day Captain Price was a widower. He had given up the sea, and
settled down to live in Old Chester; his son, Cyrus, lived with him, and
his languid daughter-in-law--a young lady of dominant feebleness, who
ruled the two men with that most powerful domestic rod, foolish
weakness. This combination in a woman will cause a mountain (a masculine
mountain) to fly from its firm base; while kindness, justice, and good
sense leave it upon unshaken foundations of selfishness. Mrs. Cyrus was
a Goliath of silliness; when billowing black clouds heaped themselves in
the west on a hot afternoon, she turned pale with apprehension, and the
Captain and Cyrus ran for four tumblers, into which they put the legs of
her bed, where, cowering among the feathers, she lay cold with fear and
perspiration. Every night the Captain screwed down all the windows on
the lower floor; in the morning Cyrus pulled the screws out. Cyrus had a
pretty taste in horseflesh, but Gussie cried so when he once bought a
trotter that he had long ago resigned himself to a friendly beast of
twenty-seven years, who could not go much out of a walk because he had
string-halt in both hind legs.

But one must not be too hard on Mrs. Cyrus. In the first place, she was
not born in Old Chester. But, added to that, just think of her name! The
effect of names upon character is not considered as it should be. If one
is called Gussie for thirty years, it is almost impossible not to become
gussie after a while. Mrs. Cyrus could not be Augusta; few women can;
but it was easy to be gussie--irresponsible, silly, selfish. She had a
vague, flat laugh, she ate a great deal of candy, and she was afraid
of-- But one cannot catalogue Mrs. Cyrus's fears. They were as the sands
of the sea for number. And these two men were governed by them. Only
when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed will it be understood
why a man loves a fool; but why he obeys her is obvious enough: Fear is
the greatest power in the world; Gussie was afraid of thunder-storms, or
what not; but the Captain and Cyrus were afraid of Gussie! A hint of
tears in her pale eyes, and her husband would sigh with anxiety and
Captain Price slip his pipe into his pocket and sneak out of the room.
Doubtless Cyrus would often have been glad to follow him, but the old
gentleman glared when his son showed a desire for his company.

"Want to come and smoke with me? 'Your granny was Murray!'--you're
sojering. You're first mate; you belong on the bridge in storms. I'm
before the mast. Tend to your business!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was forty-eight years before Letty and Alfred saw each other
again--or at least before persons calling themselves by those old names
saw each other. Were they Letty and Alfred--this tousled, tangled,
good-humored old man, ruddy and cowed, and this small, bright-eyed
old lady, Mrs. North, led about by a devoted daughter? Certainly these
two persons bore no resemblance to the boy and girl torn from each
other's arms that cold December night. Alfred had been mild and slow;
Captain Price (except when his daughter-in-law raised her finger) was a
pleasant old roaring lion. Letty had been a gay, high-spirited little
creature, not as retiring, perhaps, as a young female should be, and
certainly self-willed; Mrs. North was completely under the thumb of her
daughter Mary. Not that "under the thumb" means unhappiness; Mary North
desired only her mother's welfare, and lived fiercely for that single
purpose. From morning until night (and, indeed, until morning again, for
she rose often from her bed to see that there was no draught from the
crack of the open window), all through the twenty-four hours she was on
duty.

[Illustration: THE CAPTAIN AND CYRUS WERE AFRAID OF GUSSIE]

When this excellent daughter appeared in Old Chester and said she was
going to hire a house, and bring her mother back to end her days in the
home of her girlhood, Old Chester displayed a friendly interest; when
she decided upon a house on Main Street, directly opposite Captain
Price's, it began to recall the romance of that thwarted elopement.

"Do you suppose she knows that story about old Alfred Price and her
mother?" said Old Chester; and it looked sidewise at Miss North with
polite curiosity. This was not altogether because of her mother's
romantic past, but because of her own manners and clothes. With painful
exactness, Miss North endeavored to follow the fashion; but she looked
as if articles of clothing had been thrown at her and some had stuck.
As to her manners, Old Chester was divided; Mrs. David Baily said, with
delicate disgust, that they were bad; but Mrs. Barkley said, that the
trouble was she hadn't any manners; and as for Dr. Lavendar, he insisted
that she was just shy. But, as Mrs. Drayton said, that was like Dr.
Lavendar, always making excuses for wrong-doing! "Which," said Mrs.
Drayton, "is a strange thing for a minister to do. For my part, I cannot
understand impoliteness in a _Christian_ female. But we must not judge,"
Mrs. Drayton ended, with what Willy King called her "holy look." Without
wishing to "judge," it may be said that, in the matter of manners, Miss
Mary North, palpitatingly anxious to be polite, told the truth; and as
everybody knows, truthfulness and agreeable manners are often divorced
on the ground of incompatibility. Miss North said things that other
people only thought. When Mrs. Willy King remarked that, though she did
not pretend to be a good house-keeper, she had the backs of her pictures
dusted every other day, Miss North, her chin trembling with shyness,
said, with a panting smile:

"That's not good house-keeping; it's foolish waste of time." And when
Neddy Dilworth's wife confessed coquettishly, that one would hardly take
her to be a year or two older than her husband, would one? Mary North
exclaimed, in utter astonishment: "is that all? Why, you look twelve
years older!" Of course such truthfulness was far from genteel,--though
Old Chester was not as displeased as you might have supposed.

While Miss North, timorous and sincere (and determined to be polite),
was putting the house in order before sending for her mother, Old
Chester invited her to tea, and asked her many questions about Letty and
the late Mr. North. But nobody asked whether she knew that her opposite
neighbor, Captain Price, might have been her father--at least that was
the way Miss Ellen's girls expressed it. Captain Price himself did not
enlighten the daughter he did not have; but he went rolling across the
street, and pulling off his big shabby felt hat, stood at the foot of
the steps, and roared out: "Morning! Anything I can do for you?" Miss
North, indoors, hanging window-curtains, her mouth full of tacks, shook
her head. Then she removed the tacks and came to the front door.

"Do you smoke, sir?"

Captain Price removed his pipe from his mouth and looked at it. "Why! I
believe I do, sometimes," he said.

"I inquired," said Miss North, smiling tremulously, her hands gripped
hard together, "because, if you do, I will ask you to desist when
passing our windows."

Captain Price was so dumfounded that for a moment words failed him. Then
he said, meekly, "Does your mother object to tobacco smoke, ma'am?"

"It is injurious to all ladies' throats," Miss North explained, her
voice quivering and determined.

"Does your mother resemble you, madam?" said Captain Price, slowly.

"Oh no! my mother is pretty. She has my eyes, but that's all."

"I didn't mean in looks," said the old man; "she did not look in the
least like you; not in the least! I mean in her views?"

"Her views? I don't think my mother has any particular views," Miss
North answered, hesitatingly; "I spare her all thought," she ended, and
her thin face bloomed suddenly with love.

Old Chester rocked with the Captain's report of his call; and Mrs. Cyrus
told her husband that she only wished this lady would stop his father's
smoking.

"Just look at his ashes," said Gussie; "I put saucers round everywhere
to catch 'em, but he shakes 'em off anywhere--right on the carpet! And
if you say anything, he just says, 'Oh, they'll keep the moths away!' I
worry so for fear he'll set the house on fire."

Mrs. Cyrus was so moved by Miss North's active mission-work that the
very next day she wandered across the street to call. "I hope I'm not
interrupting you," she began, "but I thought I'd just--"

"Yes; you are," said Miss North; "but never mind; stay, if you want to."
She tried to smile, but she looked at the duster which she had put down
upon Mrs. Cyrus's entrance.

Gussie wavered as to whether to take offence, but decided not to--at
least not until she could make the remark which was buzzing in her small
mind. It seemed strange, she said, that Mrs. North should come, not only
to Old Chester, but right across the street from Captain Price!

"Why?" said Mary North, briefly.

"_Why?_" said Mrs. Cyrus, with faint animation. "Gracious! is it
possible that you don't know about your mother and my father-in-law?"

"Your father-in-law?--my mother?"

"Why, you know," said Mrs. Cyrus, with her light cackle, "your mother
was a little romantic when she was young. No doubt she has conquered it
by this time. But she tried to elope with my father-in-law."

"What!"

"Oh, bygones should be bygones," Mrs. Cyrus said, soothingly; "forgive
and forget, you know. I have no doubt she is perfectly--well, perfectly
correct, now. If there's anything I can do to assist you, ma'am, I'll
send my husband over"; and then she lounged away, leaving poor Mary
North silent with indignation. But that night at tea Gussie said that
she thought strong-minded ladies were very unladylike; "they say she's
strong-minded," she added, languidly.

"Lady!" said the Captain. "She's a man-o'-war's-man in petticoats."

Gussie giggled.

"She's as flat as a lath," the Captain declared; "if it hadn't been for
her face, I wouldn't have known whether she was coming bow or stern on."

"I think," said Mrs. Cyrus, "that that woman has some motive in bringing
her mother back here; and _right across the street_, too!"

"What motive?" said Cyrus, mildly curious.

But Augusta waited for conjugal privacy to explain herself: "Cyrus, I
worry so, because I'm sure that woman thinks she can catch your father
again. Oh, just listen to that harmonicon down-stairs! It sets my teeth
on edge!"

Then Cyrus, the silent, servile first mate, broke out: "Gussie, you're a
fool!"

And Augusta cried all night, and showed herself at the breakfast-table
lantern-jawed and sunken-eyed; and her father-in-law judged it wise to
sprinkle his cigar ashes behind the stable.

       *       *       *       *       *

The day that Mrs. North arrived in Old Chester, Mrs. Cyrus commanded the
situation; she saw the daughter get out of the stage, and hurry into the
house for a chair so that the mother might descend more easily. She also
saw a little, white-haired old lady take that opportunity to leap
nimbly, and quite unaided, from the swinging step.

"Now, mother!" expostulated Mary North, chair in hand, and breathless,
"you might have broken your limb! Here, take my arm."

Meekly, after her moment of freedom, the little lady put her hand on
that gaunt arm, and tripped up the path and into the house, where, alas!
Augusta Price lost sight of them. Yet even she, with all her disapproval
of strong-minded ladies, must have admired the tenderness of the
man-o'-war's-man. Miss North put her mother into a big chair, and
hurried to bring a dish of curds.

"I'm not hungry," protested Mrs. North.

"Never mind. It will do you good."

With a sigh the little old lady ate the curds, looking about her with
curious eyes. "Why, we're right across the street from the old Price
house!" she said.

"Did you know them, mother?" demanded Miss North.

"Dear me, yes," said Mrs. North, twinkling; "why, I'd forgotten all
about it, but the eldest boy-- Now, what was his name? Al--something.
Alfred--Albert; no, Alfred. He was a beau of mine."

"Mother! I don't think it's refined to use such a word."

"Well, he wanted me to elope with him," Mrs. North said, gayly; "if that
isn't being a beau, I don't know what is. I haven't thought of it for
years."

"If you've finished your curds you must lie down," said Miss North.

"Oh, I'll just look about--"

"No; you are tired. You must lie down."

"Who is that stout old gentleman going into the Price house?" Mrs. North
said, lingering at the window.

"Oh, that's your Alfred Price," her daughter answered; and added, that
she hoped her mother would be pleased with the house. "We have boarded
so long, I think you'll enjoy a home of your own."

"Indeed I shall!" cried Mrs. North, her eyes snapping with delight.
"Mary, I'll wash the breakfast dishes, as my mother used to do!"

"Oh no," Mary North protested; "it would tire you. I mean to take every
care from your mind."

"But," Mrs. North pleaded, "you have so much to do; and--"

"Never mind about me," said the daughter, earnestly; "you are my first
consideration."

"I know it, my dear," said Mrs. North, meekly. And when Old Chester came
to make its call, one of the first things she said was that her Mary
was such a good daughter. Miss North, her anxious face red with
determination, bore out the assertion by constantly interrupting the
conversation to bring a footstool, or shut a window, or put a shawl over
her mother's knees. "My mother's limb troubles her," she explained to
visitors (in point of modesty, Mary North did not leave her mother a leg
to stand on); then she added, breathlessly, with her tremulous smile,
that she wished they would please not talk too much. "Conversation tires
her," she explained. At which the little, pretty old lady opened and
closed her hands, and protested that she was not tired at all. But the
callers departed. As the door closed behind them, Mrs. North was ready
to cry.

"Now, Mary, really!" she began.

"Mother, I don't care! I don't like to say a thing like that, though
I'm sure I always try to speak politely. But it's the truth, and to save
you I would tell the truth no matter how painful it was to do so."

"But I enjoy seeing people, and--"

"It is bad for you to be tired," Mary said, her thin face quivering
still with the effort she had made; "and they sha'n't tire you while I
am here to protect you." And her protection never flagged. When Captain
Price called, she asked him to please converse in a low tone, as noise
was bad for her mother. "He had been here a good while before I came
in," she defended herself to Mrs. North, afterwards; "and I'm sure I
spoke politely."

The fact was, the day the Captain came, Miss North was out. Her mother
had seen him pounding up the street, and hurrying to the door, called
out, gayly, in her little, old, piping voice, "Alfred--Alfred Price!"

The Captain turned and looked at her. There was just one moment's pause;
perhaps he tried to bridge the years, and to believe that it was Letty
who spoke to him--Letty, whom he had last seen that wintry night, pale
and weeping, in the slender green sheath of a fur-trimmed pelisse. If
so, he gave it up; this plump, white-haired, bright-eyed old lady, in a
wide-spreading, rustling black silk dress, was not Letty. She was Mrs.
North.

The Captain came across the street, waving his newspaper, and saying,
"So you've cast anchor in the old port, ma'am?"

"My daughter is not at home; do come in," she said, smiling and nodding.
Captain Price hesitated; then he put his pipe in his pocket and
followed her into the parlor. "Sit down," she cried, gayly. "Well,
_Alfred_!"

"Well--_Mrs. North_!" he said; and then they both laughed, and she began
to ask questions: Who was dead? Who had so and so married? "There are
not many of us left," she said. "The two Ferris girls and Theophilus
Morrison and Johnny Gordon--he came to see me yesterday. And Matty
Dilworth; she was younger than I--oh, by ten years. She married the
oldest Barkley boy, didn't she? I hear he didn't turn out well. You
married his sister, didn't you? Was it the oldest girl or the second
sister?"

"It was the second--Jane. Yes, poor Jane. I lost her in 'forty-five."

"You have children?" she said, sympathetically.

"I've got a boy," he said; "but he's married."

"My girl has never married; she's a good daughter,"--Mrs. North broke
off with a nervous laugh; "here she is, now!"

Mary North, who had suddenly appeared in the doorway, gave a questioning
sniff, and the Captain's hand sought his guilty pocket; but Miss North
only said: "How do you do, sir? Now, mother, don't talk too much and get
tired." She stopped and tried to smile, but the painful color came into
her face. "And--if you please, Captain Price, will you speak in a low
tone? Large, noisy persons exhaust the oxygen in the air, and--"

"_Mary!_" cried poor Mrs. North; but the Captain, clutching his old felt
hat, began to hoist himself up from the sofa, scattering ashes about as
he did so. Mary North compressed her lips.

"I tell my daughter-in-law they'll keep the moths away," the old
gentleman said, sheepishly.

"I use camphor," said Miss North, "Flora must bring a dust-pan."

"Flora?" Alfred Price said. "Now, what's my association with that name?"

"She was our old cook," Mrs. North explained; "this Flora is her
daughter. But you never saw old Flora?"

"Why, yes, I did," the old man said, slowly. "Yes. I remember Flora.
Well, good-bye,--Mrs. North."

"Good-bye, Alfred. Come again," she said, cheerfully.

"Mother, here's your beef tea," said a brief voice.

Alfred Price fled. He met his son just as he was entering his own
house, and burst into a confidence: "Cy, my boy, come aft and splice
the main-brace. Cyrus, what a female! She knocked me higher than
Gilroy's kite. And her mother was as sweet a girl as you ever saw!" He
drew his son into a little, low-browed, dingy room at the end of the
hall. Its grimy untidiness matched the old Captain's clothes, but it was
his one spot of refuge in his own house; here he could scatter his
tobacco ashes almost unrebuked, and play on his harmonicon without
seeing Gussie wince and draw in her breath; for Mrs. Cyrus rarely
entered the "cabin." "I worry so about its disorderliness that I won't
go in," she used to say, in a resigned way. And the Captain accepted her
decision with resignation of his own. "Crafts of your bottom can't
navigate in these waters," he agreed, earnestly; and, indeed, the room
was so cluttered with his belongings that voluminous hoop-skirts could
not get steerageway. "He has so much rubbish," Gussie complained; but it
was precious rubbish to the old man. His chest was behind the door; a
blow-fish, stuffed and varnished, hung from the ceiling; two colored
prints of the "Barque _Letty M._, 800 tons," decorated the walls; his
sextant, polished daily by his big, clumsy hands, hung over the
mantel-piece, on which were many dusty treasures--the mahogany spoke of
an old steering-wheel; a whale's tooth; two Chinese wrestlers, in ivory;
a fan of spreading white coral; a conch-shell, its beautiful red lip
serving to hold a loose bunch of cigars. In the chimney-breast was a
little door, and the Captain, pulling his son into the room after that
call upon Mrs. North, fumbled in his pocket for the key. "Here," he
said; "(as the Governor of North Carolina said to the Governor of South
Carolina)--Cyrus, she handed round _beef tea_!"

But Cyrus was to receive still further enlightenment on the subject of
his opposite neighbor:

"She called him in. I heard her, with my own ears! 'Alfred,' she said,
'come in.' Cyrus, she has designs; oh, I worry so about it! He ought to
be protected. He is very old, and, of course, foolish. You ought to
check it at once."

"Gussie, I don't like you to talk that way about my father," Cyrus
began.

"You'll like it less later on. He'll go and see her to-morrow."

"Why shouldn't he go and see her to-morrow?" Cyrus said, and added a
modest bad word; which made Gussie cry. And yet, in spite of what his
wife called his "blasphemy," Cyrus began to be vaguely uncomfortable
whenever he saw his father put his pipe in his pocket and go across the
street. And as the winter brightened into spring, the Captain went quite
often. So, for that matter, did other old friends of Mrs. North's
generation, who by-and-by began to smile at one another, and say, "Well,
Alfred and Letty are great friends!" For, because Captain Price lived
right across the street, he went most of all. At least, that was what
Miss North said to herself with obvious common-sense--until Mrs. Cyrus
put her on the right track....

"What!" gasped Mary North. "But it's impossible!"

"It would be very unbecoming, considering their years," said Gussie;
"but I worry so, because, you know, nothing is impossible when people
are foolish; and of course, at their age, they are apt to be foolish."

So the seed was dropped. Certainly he did come very often. Certainly her
mother seemed very glad to see him. Certainly they had very long talks.
Mary North shivered with apprehension. But it was not until a week later
that this miserable suspicion grew strong enough to find words. It was
after tea, and the two ladies were sitting before a little fire. Mary
North had wrapped a shawl about her mother, and given her a footstool,
and pushed her chair nearer the fire, and then pulled it away, and
opened and shut the parlor door three times to regulate the draught.
Then she sat down in the corner of the sofa, exhausted but alert.

"If there's anything you want, mother, you'll be sure and tell me?"

"Yes, my dear."

"I think I'd better put another shawl over your limbs?"

"Oh no, indeed!"

"Mother, are you _sure_ you don't feel a draught?"

"No, Mary; and it wouldn't hurt me if I did!"

"I was only trying to make you comfortable--"

"I know that, my dear; you are a very good daughter. Mary, I think it
would be nice if I made a cake. So many people call, and--"

"I'll make it to-morrow."

"Oh, I'll make it myself," Mrs. North protested, eagerly; "I'd really
enjoy--"

"Mother! Tire yourself out in the kitchen? No, indeed! Flora and I will
see to it."

Mrs. North sighed.

Her daughter sighed too; then suddenly burst out: "Old Captain Price
comes here pretty often."

Mrs. North nodded pleasantly. "That daughter-in-law doesn't half take
care of him. His clothes are dreadfully shabby. There was a button off
his coat to-day. And she's a foolish creature."

"Foolish? she's an unladylike person!" cried Miss North, with so much
feeling that her mother looked at her in mild astonishment. "And coarse,
too," said Mary North; "I think married ladies are apt to be coarse.
From association with men, I suppose."

"What has she done?" demanded Mrs. North, much interested.

"She hinted that he--that you--"

"Well?"

"That he came here to--to see you."

"Well, who else would he come to see? Not you!" said her mother.

"She hinted that he might want to--to marry you."

"Well--upon my word! I knew she was a ridiculous creature, but
really--!"

Mary's face softened with relief. "Of course she is foolish; but--"

"Poor Alfred! What has he ever done to have such a daughter-in-law?
Mary, the Lord gives us our children; but _Somebody Else_ gives us our
in-laws!"

"Mother!" said Mary North, horrified, "you do say such things! But
really he oughtn't to come so often. People will begin to notice it; and
then they'll talk. I'll--I'll take you away from Old Chester rather than
have him bother you."

"Mary, you are just as foolish as his daughter-in-law," said Mrs.
North, impatiently.

And, somehow, poor Mary North's heart sank.

Nor was she the only perturbed person in town that night. Mrs. Cyrus had
a headache, so it was necessary for Cyrus to hold her hand and assure
her that Willy King said a headache did not mean brain-fever.

"Willy King doesn't know everything. If he had headaches like mine, he
wouldn't be so sure. I am always worrying about things, and I believe my
brain can't stand it. And now I've got your father to worry about!"

"Better try and sleep, Gussie. I'll put some Kaliston on your head."

"Kaliston! Kaliston won't keep me from worrying. Oh, listen to that
harmonicon!"

"Gussie, I'm sure he isn't thinking of Mrs. North."

"Mrs. North is thinking of him, which is a great deal more dangerous.
Cyrus, you _must_ ask Dr. Lavendar to interfere."

As this was at least the twentieth assault upon poor Cyrus's
common-sense, the citadel trembled.

"Do you wish me to go into brain-fever before your eyes, just from
worry?" Gussie demanded. "You _must_ go!"

"Well, maybe, perhaps, to-morrow--"

"To-night--to-night," said Augusta, faintly.

And Cyrus surrendered.

"Look under the bed before you go," Gussie murmured.

Cyrus looked. "Nobody there," he said, reassuringly; and went on tiptoe
out of the darkened, cologne-scented room. But as he passed along the
hall, and saw his father in his little cabin of a room, smoking
placidly, and polishing his sextant with loving hands, Cyrus's heart
reproached him.

"How's her head, Cy?" the Captain called out.

"Oh, better, I guess," Cyrus said. ("I'll be hanged if I speak to Dr.
Lavendar!")

"That's good," said the Captain, beginning to hoist himself up out of
his chair. "Going out? Hold hard, and I'll go 'long. I want to call on
Mrs. North."

Cyrus stiffened. "Cold night, sir," he remonstrated.

"'Your granny was Murray, and wore a black nightcap!'" said the Captain;
"you are getting delicate in your old age, Cy." He got up, and plunged
into his coat, and tramped out, slamming the door heartily behind
him--for which, later, poor Cyrus got the credit. "Where you bound?"

"Oh--down-street," said Cyrus, vaguely.

"Sealed orders?" said the Captain, with never a bit of curiosity in his
big, kind voice; and Cyrus felt as small as he was. But when he left the
old man at Mrs. North's door, he was uneasy again. Maybe Gussie was
right! Women are keener about those things than men. And his uneasiness
actually carried him to Dr. Lavendar's study, where he tried to appear
at ease by patting Danny.

"What's the matter with you, Cyrus?" said Dr. Lavendar, looking at him
over his spectacles. (Dr. Lavendar, in his wicked old heart, always
wanted to call this young man Cipher; but, so far, grace had been given
him to withstand temptation.) "What's wrong?" he said.

And Cyrus, somehow, told his troubles.

At first Dr. Lavendar chuckled; then he frowned. "Gussie put you up to
this, Cy--_rus_?" he said.

"Well, my wife's a woman," Cyrus began, "and they're keener on such
matters than men; and she said, perhaps you would--would--"

"_What?_" Dr. Lavendar rapped on the table with the bowl of his pipe, so
loudly that Danny opened one eye. "Would what?"

"Well," Cyrus stammered, "you know, Dr. Lavendar, as Gussie says,
'there's no fo--'"

"You needn't finish it," Dr. Lavendar interrupted, dryly; "I've heard it
before. Gussie didn't say anything about a young fool, did she?" Then
he eyed Cyrus. "Or a middle-aged one? I've seen middle-aged fools that
could beat us old fellows hollow."

"Oh, but Mrs. North is far beyond middle age," said Cyrus, earnestly.

Dr. Lavendar shook his head. "Well, well!" he said. "To think that
Alfred Price should have such a-- And yet he is as sensible a man as I
know!"

"Until now," Cyrus amended. "But Gussie thought you'd better caution
him. We don't want him, at his time of life, to make a mistake."

"It's much more to the point that I should caution you not to make a
mistake," said Dr. Lavendar; and then he rapped on the table again,
sharply. "The Captain has no such idea--unless Gussie has given it to
him. Cyrus, my advice to you is to go home and tell your wife not to be
a goose. I'll tell her, if you want me to?"

"Oh no, no!" said Cyrus, very much frightened. "I'm afraid you'd hurt
her feelings."

"I'm afraid I should," said Dr. Lavendar, grimly.

"She's so sensitive," Cyrus tried to excuse her; "you can't think how
sensitive she is, and timid. I never knew anybody so timid! Why, she
makes me look under the bed every night, for fear there's somebody
there!"

"Well, next time, tell her 'two men and a dog'; that will take her mind
off your father." It must be confessed that Dr. Lavendar was out of
temper--a sad fault in one of his age, as Mrs. Drayton often said; but
his irritability was so marked that Cyrus finally slunk off,
uncomforted, and afraid to meet Gussie's eye, even under its bandage of
a cologne-scented handkerchief.

However, he had to meet it, and he tried to make the best of his own
humiliation by saying that Dr. Lavendar was shocked at the idea of the
Captain being interested in Mrs. North. "He said father had been, until
now, as sensible a man as he knew, and he didn't believe he would think
of such a dreadful thing. And neither do I, Gussie, honestly," Cyrus
said.

"But Mrs. North isn't sensible," Gussie protested, "and she'll--"

"Dr. Lavendar said 'there was no fool like a middle-aged fool,'" Cyrus
agreed.

"Middle-aged! She's as old as Methuselah!"

"That's what I told him," said Cyrus.

       *       *       *       *       *

By the end of April Old Chester smiled. How could it help it? Gussie
worried so that she took frequent occasion to point out possibilities;
and after the first gasp of incredulity, one could hear a faint echo of
the giggles of forty-eight years before. Mary North heard it, and her
heart burned within her.

"It's got to stop," she said to herself, passionately; "I must speak to
his son."

But her throat was dry at the thought. It seemed as if it would kill her
to speak to a man on such a subject, even to as little of a man as
Cyrus. But, poor, shy tigress! to save her mother, what would she not
do? In her pain and fright she said to Mrs. North that if that old man
kept on making her uncomfortable and conspicuous, they would leave Old
Chester!

Mrs. North twinkled with amusement when Mary, in her strained and
quivering voice, began, but her jaw dropped at those last words; Mary
was capable of carrying her off at a day's notice! The little old lady
trembled with distressed reassurances--but Captain Price continued to
call.

And that was how it came about that this devoted daughter, after days of
exasperation and nights of anxiety, reached a point of tense
determination. She would go and see the man's son, and say ... That
afternoon, as she stood before the swinging glass on her high bureau,
tying her bonnet-strings, she tried to think what she would say. She
hoped God would give her words--polite words; "for I _must_ be polite,"
she reminded herself desperately. When she started across the street her
paisley shawl had slipped from one shoulder, so that the point dragged
on the flagstones; she had split her right glove up the back, and her
bonnet was jolted over sidewise; but the thick Chantilly veil hid the
quiver of her chin.

Gussie met her with effusion, and Mary, striving to be polite, smiled
painfully, and said:

"I don't want to see you; I want to see your husband."

Gussie tossed her head; but she made haste to call Cyrus, who came
shambling along the hall from the cabin. The parlor was dark, for though
it was a day of sunshine and merry May wind, Gussie kept the shutters
bowed--but Cyrus could see the pale intensity of his visitor's face.
There was a moment's silence, broken by a distant harmonicon.

"Mr. Price," said Mary North, with pale, courageous lips, "you must
stop your father."

Cyrus opened his weak mouth to ask an explanation, but Gussie rushed in.

"You are quite right, ma'am. Cyrus worries so about it (of course we
know what you refer to). And Cyrus says it ought to be checked
immediately, to save the old gentleman!"

"You must stop him," said Mary North, "for my mother's sake."

"Well--" Cyrus began.

"Have you cautioned your mother?" Gussie demanded.

"Yes," Miss North said, briefly. To talk to this woman of her mother
made her wince, but it had to be done. "Will you speak to your father,
Mr. Price?"

"Well, I--"

"Of course he will!" Gussie broke in; "Cyrus, he is in the cabin now."

"Well, to-morrow I--" Cyrus got up and sidled towards the door. "Anyhow,
I don't believe he's thinking of such a thing."

"Miss North," said Gussie, rising, "_I_ will do it."

"What, _now_?" faltered Mary North.

"Now," said Mrs. Cyrus, firmly.

"Oh," said Miss North, "I--I think I will go home. Gentlemen, when they
are crossed, speak so--so earnestly."

Gussie nodded. The joy of action and of combat entered suddenly into her
little soul; she never looked less vulgar than at that moment. Cyrus had
disappeared.

Mary North, white and trembling, hurried out. A wheezing strain
from the harmonicon followed her into the May sunshine, then ended,
abruptly--Mrs. Price had begun! On her own door-step Miss North stopped
and listened, holding her breath for an outburst.... It came: a roar of
laughter. Then silence. Mary North stood, motionless, in her own parlor;
her shawl, hanging from one elbow, trailed behind her; her other glove
had split; her bonnet was blown back and over one ear; her heart was
pounding in her throat. She was perfectly aware that she had done an
unheard-of thing. "But," she said, aloud, "I'd do it again. I'd do
anything to protect her. But I hope I was polite?" Then she thought how
courageous Mrs. Cyrus was. "She's as brave as a lion!" said Mary North.
Yet, had Miss North been able to stand at the Captain's door, she would
have witnessed cowardice....

"Gussie, I wouldn't cry. Confound that female, coming over and stirring
you up! Now don't, Gussie! Why, I never thought of--Gussie, I wouldn't
cry--"

"I have worried almost to death. Pro-promise!"

"Oh, your granny was Mur-- Gussie, my dear, now _don't_."

"Dr. Lavendar said you'd always been so sensible; he said he didn't see
how you could think of such a dreadful thing."

"What! Lavendar? I'll thank Lavendar to mind his business!" Captain
Price forgot Gussie; he spoke "earnestly." "Dog-gone these people that
pry into-- Oh, now, Gussie, _don't_!"

"I've worried so awfully," said Mrs. Cyrus. "Everybody is talking about
you. And Dr. Lavendar is so--so angry about it; and now the daughter has
charged on me as though it is my fault! Of course, she is queer, but--"

"Queer? she's queer as Dick's hatband! Why do you listen to her? Gussie,
such an idea never entered my head--or Mrs. North's either."

"Oh yes, it has! Her daughter said that she had had to speak to her--"

Captain Price, dumfounded, forgot his fear and burst out: "You're a pack
of fools, the whole caboodle! I swear I--"

"Oh, don't blaspheme!" said Gussie, faintly, and staggered a little, so
that all the Captain's terror returned. _If she fainted!_

"Hi, there, Cyrus! Come aft, will you? Gussie's getting white around the
gills--Cyrus!"

Cyrus came, running, and between them they got the swooning Gussie to
her room; Afterwards, when Cyrus tiptoed down-stairs, he found the
Captain at the cabin door. The old man beckoned mysteriously.

"Cy, my boy, come in here"--he hunted about in his pocket for the key of
the cupboard--"Cyrus, I'll tell you what happened; that female across
the street came in, and told poor Gussie some cock-and-bull story about
her mother and me!" The Captain chuckled, and picked up his harmonicon.
"It scared the life out of Gussie," he said; then, with sudden angry
gravity,--"these people that poke their noses into other's people's
business ought to be thrashed. Well, I'm going over to see Mrs. North."
And off he stumped, leaving Cyrus staring after him, open-mouthed.

       *       *       *       *       *

If Mary North had been at home, she would have met him with all the
agonized courage of shyness and a good conscience. But she had fled out
of the house, and down along the River Road, to be alone and regain her
self-control.

The Captain, however, was not seeking Miss North. He opened the front
door, and advancing to the foot of the stairs, called up: "Ahoy, there!
Mrs. North!"

Mrs. North came trotting out to answer the summons. "Why, Alfred!" she
exclaimed, looking over the banisters, "when did you come in? I didn't
hear the bell ring. I'll come right down."

"It didn't ring; I walked in," said the Captain. And Mrs. North came
down-stairs, perhaps a little stiffly, but as pretty an old lady as you
ever saw. Her white curls lay against faintly pink cheeks, and her lace
cap had a pink bow on it. But she looked anxious and uncomfortable.

("Oh," she was saying to herself, "I do hope Mary's out!)--Well,
Alfred?" she said; but her voice was frightened.

The Captain stumped along in front of her into the parlor, and motioned
her to a seat. "Mrs. North," he said, his face red, his eye hard, "some
jack-donkeys have been poking their noses (of course they're females)
into our affairs; and--"

"Oh, Alfred, isn't it horrid in them?" said the old lady.

"Darn 'em!" said the Captain.

"It makes me mad!" cried Mrs. North; then her spirit wavered. "Mary is
so foolish; she says she'll--she'll take me away from Old Chester. I
laughed at first, it was so foolish. But when she said that--oh _dear_!"

"Well, but, my dear madam, say you won't go. Ain't you skipper?"

"No, I'm not," she said, dolefully. "Mary brought me here, and she'll
take me away, if she thinks it best. Best for _me_, you know. Mary is a
good daughter, Alfred. I don't want you to think she isn't. But she's
foolish. Unmarried women are apt to be foolish."

The Captain thought of Gussie, and sighed. "Well," he said, with the
simple candor of the sea, "I guess there ain't much difference in 'em,
married or unmarried."

"It's the interference makes me mad," Mrs. North declared, hotly.

"Damn the whole crew!" said the Captain; and the old lady laughed
delightedly.

"Thank you, Alfred!"

"My daughter-in-law is crying her eyes out," the Captain sighed.

"Tck!" said Mrs. North; "Alfred, you have no sense. Let her cry. It's
good for her!"

"Oh no," said the Captain, shocked.

"You're a perfect slave to her," cried Mrs. North.

"No more than you are to your daughter," Captain Price defended himself;
and Mrs. North sighed.

"We are just real foolish, Alfred, to listen to 'em. As if we didn't
know what was good for us."

"People have interfered with us a good deal, first and last," the
Captain said, grimly.

The faint color in Mrs. North's cheeks suddenly deepened. "So they
have," she said.

The Captain shook his head in a discouraged way; he took his pipe out of
his pocket and looked at it absent-mindedly. "I suppose I can stay at
home, and let 'em get over it?"

"Stay at home? Why, you'd far better--"

"What?" said the Captain.

"Come oftener!" cried the old lady. "Let 'em get over it by getting used
to it."

Captain Price looked doubtful. "But how about your daughter?"

Mrs. North quailed. "I forgot Mary," she admitted.

"I don't bother you, coming to see you, do I?" the Captain said,
anxiously.

"Why, Alfred, I love to see you. If our children would just let us
alone!"

"First it was our parents," said Captain Price. He frowned heavily.
"According to other people, first we were too young to have sense; and
now we're too old." He took out his worn old pouch, plugged some shag
into his pipe, and struck a match under the mantel-piece. He sighed,
with deep discouragement.

Mrs. North sighed too. Neither of them spoke for a moment; then the
little old lady drew a quick breath and flashed a look at him; opened
her lips; closed them with a snap; then regarded the toe of her slipper
fixedly. The color flooded up to her soft white hair.

The Captain, staring hopelessly, suddenly blinked; then his honest red
face slowly broadened into beaming astonishment and satisfaction. "_Mrs.
North_--"

"Captain Price!" she parried, breathlessly.

"So long as our affectionate children have suggested it!"

"Suggested--what?"

"Let's give 'em something to cry about!"

"Alfred!"

"Look here: we are two old fools; so they say, anyway. Let's live up to
their opinion. I'll get a house for Cyrus and Gussie--and your girl can
live with 'em, if she wants to!" The Captain's bitterness showed then.

"She could live here," murmured Mrs. North.

"What do you say?"

The little old lady laughed excitedly, and shook her head; the tears
stood in her eyes.

"Do you want to leave Old Chester?" the Captain demanded.

"You know I don't," she said, sighing.

"She'd take you away to-morrow," he threatened, "if she knew I had--I
had--"

"She sha'n't know it."

"Well, then, we've got to get spliced to-morrow."

"Oh, Alfred, no! I don't believe Dr. Lavendar would--"

"I'll have no dealings with Lavendar," the Captain said, with sudden
stiffness; "he's like all the rest of 'em. I'll get a license in Upper
Chester, and we'll go to some parson there."

Mrs. North's eyes snapped. "Oh, no, no!" she protested; but in another
minute they were shaking hands on it.

"Cyrus and Gussie can go and live by themselves," said the Captain,
joyously, "and I'll get that hold cleaned out; she's kept the ports shut
ever since she married Cyrus."

"And I'll make a cake! And I'll take care of your clothes; you really
are dreadfully shabby"; she turned him round to the light, and brushed
off some ashes. The Captain beamed. "Poor Alfred! and there's a button
gone! that daughter-in-law of yours can't sew any more than a cat (and
she _is_ a cat!). But I love to mend. Mary has saved me all that. She's
such a good daughter--poor Mary. But she's unmarried, poor child."

       *       *       *       *       *

However, it was not to-morrow. It was two or three days later that Dr.
Lavendar and Danny, jogging along behind Goliath under the buttonwoods
on the road to Upper Chester, were somewhat inconvenienced by the dust
of a buggy that crawled up and down the hills just a little ahead. The
hood of this buggy was up, upon which fact--it being a May morning of
rollicking wind and sunshine--Dr. Lavendar speculated to his companion:
"Daniel, the man in that vehicle is either blind and deaf, or else he
has something on his conscience; in either case he won't mind our dust,
so we'll cut in ahead at the watering-trough. G'on, Goliath!"

But Goliath had views of his own about the watering-trough, and instead
of passing the hooded buggy, which had stopped there, he insisted upon
drawing up beside it. "Now, look here," Dr. Lavendar remonstrated, "you
know you're not thirsty." But Goliath plunged his nose down into the
cool depths of the great iron caldron, into which, from a hollow log,
ran a musical drip of water. Dr. Lavendar and Danny, awaiting his
pleasure, could hear a murmur of voices from the depths of the eccentric
vehicle which put up a hood on such a day; when suddenly Dr. Lavendar's
eye fell on the hind legs of the other horse. "That's Cipher's trotter,"
he said to himself, and leaning out, cried: "Hi! Cy?" At which the other
horse was drawn in with a jerk, and Captain Price's agitated face
peered out from under the hood.

"Where! Where's Cyrus?" Then he caught sight of Dr. Lavendar. "'_The
devil and Tom Walker!_'" said the Captain, with a groan. The buggy
backed erratically.

"Look out!" said Dr. Lavendar--but the wheels locked.

Of course there was nothing for Dr. Lavendar to do but get out and take
Goliath by the head, grumbling, as he did so, that Cyrus "shouldn't own
such a spirited beast."

"I am somewhat hurried," said Captain Price, stiffly.

The old minister looked at him over his spectacles; then he glanced at
the small, embarrassed figure shrinking into the depths of the buggy.

("Hullo, hullo, hullo!" he said, softly. "Well, Gussie's done it.)
You'd better back a little, Captain," he advised.

"I can manage," said the Captain.

"I didn't say 'go back,'" Dr. Lavendar said, mildly.

"Oh!" murmured a small voice from within the buggy.

"I expect you need me, don't you, Alfred?" said Dr. Lavendar.

"What?" said the Captain, frowning.

"Captain," said Dr. Lavendar, simply, "if I can be of any service to you
and Mrs. North, I shall be glad."

Captain Price looked at him. "Now, look here, Lavendar, we're going to
do it this time, if all the parsons in--well, in the church, try to stop
us!"

"I'm not going to try to stop you."

"But Gussie said you said--"

"Alfred, at your time of life, are you beginning to quote Gussie?"

"But she said you said it would be--"

"Captain Price, I do not express my opinion of your conduct to your
daughter-in-law. You ought to have sense enough to know that."

"Well, why did you talk to her about it?"

"I didn't talk to her about it. But," said Dr. Lavendar, thrusting out
his lower lip, "I should like to."

"We were going to hunt up a parson in Upper Chester," said the Captain,
sheepishly.

Dr. Lavendar looked about, up and down the silent, shady road, then
through the bordering elder-berries into an orchard. "If you have your
license," he said, "I have my prayer-book. Let's go into the orchard.
There are two men working there we can get for witnesses--Danny isn't
quite enough, I suppose."

[Illustration: THERE WAS A LITTLE SILENCE, AND THEN DR. LAVENDER BEGAN]

The Captain turned to Mrs. North. "What do you say, ma'am?" he said. She
nodded, and gathered up her skirts to get out of the buggy. The two old
men led their horses to the side of the road and hitched them to the
rail fence; then the Captain helped Mrs. North through the elder-bushes,
and shouted out to the men ploughing at the other side of the orchard.
They came--big, kindly young fellows, and stood gaping at the three old
people standing under the apple-tree in the sunshine. Dr. Lavendar
explained that they were to be witnesses, and the boys took off their
hats.

There was a little silence, and then, in the white shadows and perfume
of the orchard, with its sunshine, and drift of petals falling in the
gay wind, Dr. Lavendar began.... When he came to "Let no man put
asunder--" Captain Price growled in his grizzled red beard, "Nor woman,
either!" But only Mrs. North smiled.

When it was over, Captain Price drew a deep breath of relief. "Well,
this time we made a sure thing of it, Mrs. North!"

"_Mrs. North?_" said Dr. Lavendar; and then he did chuckle.

"Oh--" said Captain Price, and roared at the joke.

"You'll have to call me Letty," said the pretty old lady, smiling and
blushing.

"Oh," said the Captain; then he hesitated. "Well, now, if you don't
mind, I--I guess I won't call you Letty. I'll call you Letitia."

"Call me anything you want to," said Mrs. Price, gayly.

Then they all shook hands with one another and with the witnesses, who
found something left in their palms that gave them great satisfaction,
and went back to climb into their respective buggies.

"We have shore leave," the Captain explained; "we won't go back to Old
Chester for a few days. You may tell 'em, Lavendar."

"Oh, may I?" said Dr. Lavender, blankly. "Well, good-bye, and good
luck!"

He watched the other buggy tug on ahead, and then he leaned down to
catch Danny by the scruff of the neck.

"Well, Daniel," he said, "'_if at first you don't succeed_'--"

And Danny was pulled into the buggy.


THE END



    Transcriber's Note:

    Both Lavender and Lavendar have been retained as they appear
    in the original publication.





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