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The desired woman


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Title:TheDesiredWoman
Author:WillN.Harben
ReleaseDate:July,2004[EBook#6056]
FirstPosted:October30,2002
LastUpdated:August3,2018

Language:English

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THEDESIREDWOMAN


ByWILLN.HARBEN
Authorof"DixieHart,""PoleBaker,""TheRedemptionofKennethGalt,"
Etc.

TO
VELLAANDBILLY

CONTENTS
PARTI
CHAPTERI
CHAPTERII
CHAPTERIII
CHAPTERIV
CHAPTERV
CHAPTERVI


CHAPTERVII
CHAPTERVIII
CHAPTERIX
CHAPTERX
CHAPTERXI
CHAPTERXII
CHAPTERXIII
CHAPTERXIV
CHAPTERXV
CHAPTERXVI
CHAPTERXVII
CHAPTERXVIII
CHAPTERXIX
CHAPTERXX

PARTII
CHAPTERI
CHAPTERII
CHAPTERIII


CHAPTERIV
CHAPTERV
CHAPTERVI
CHAPTERVII
CHAPTERVIII


CHAPTERIX
CHAPTERX
CHAPTERXI
CHAPTERXII
CHAPTERXIII
CHAPTERXIV
CHAPTERXV
CHAPTERXVI
CHAPTERXVII
CHAPTERXVIII
CHAPTERXIX
CHAPTERXX
CHAPTERXXI
CHAPTERXXII
CHAPTERXXIII
CONCLUSION


PARTI


CHAPTERI
Inside the bank that June morning the clerks and accountants on their high
stools were bent over their ponderous ledgers, although it was several minutes
beforetheopening hour.The gray-stonebuildingwasinAtlanta'smostcentral
partonanarrowstreetpavedwithasphaltwhichslopeddownfromoneofthe
main thoroughfares to the section occupied by the old passenger depot, the
railway warehouses, and hotels of various grades. Considerable noise, despite
the closed windows and doors, came in from the outside. Locomotive bells
slowlyswungandclanged;steamwasescaping;cabs,drays,andtrucksrumbled
and creaked along; there was a whir of a street-sweeping machine turning a
cornerandtheshrillcriesofnewsboyssellingthemorningpapers.
JarvisSaunders,memberofthefirmofMostyn,Saunders&Co.,bankersand
brokers, came in; and, hanging his straw hat up, he seated himself at his desk,
whichthenegroporterhadputinorder.
"Isay,Wright"—headdressedthebald,stocky,middle-agedmanwho,atthe
paying-teller's window, was sponging his fat fingers and counting and labeling
packagesofcurrency—"whatisthisaboutMostynfeelingbadly?"
"Sothat'sgotoutalready?"Wrightrepliedinsurprise,asheapproachedand
leanedontherollingtopofthedesk."Hecautionedusallnottomentionit.You
know what a queer, sensitive sort of man he is where his health or business is
concerned."
"Oh,itisnotpublic,"Saundersreplied."IhappenedtomeetDr.Loydonthe
corner.Hehadjuststartedtoexplainmorefullywhenapatientstoppedtospeak
tohim,andsoIdidn'twait,ashesaidMostynwashere."
"Yes,he'sinhisofficenow."Wrightnoddedtowardthefrostedglassdoorin
the rear. "He was lying on the lounge when I left him just now. It is really
nothing serious. The doctor says it is only due to loss of sleep and excessive
mentalstrain,andthatafewweeks'restinsomequietplacewillstraightenhim
out."
"Well,I'mgladitisnotserious,"Saunderssaid."Ihaveseenhimbreakdown
before. He is too intense, too strenuous; whatever he does he does with every


nerveinhisbodydrawnastautasafiddle-string."
"Itishisoutsideoperations, his private deals," the teller wenton, in amore
confidential tone. "Why, it makes me nervous even to watch him. He's been
keyed high for the last week. You know, I'm an early riser, and I come down
beforeanyoneelsetogetmyworkup.Ifoundhimherethismorningathalfpast
seven.Hewasasnervousasamanabouttobehanged.Hecouldn'tsitorstand
stillaminute.HewaswaitingforatelegramfromAugustaconcerningWarner&
Co. I remember how you advised him against that deal. Well, I guess if it had
goneagainsthimitwouldhaveruinedhim."
The banker nodded. "Yes, that was foolhardy, and he seemed to me to be
goingintoitblindfolded.Herealizedthedangerafterward.Headmittedittome
lastnightattheclub.Hesaidthathewassorryhehadnottakenmyadvice.He
wasafraid,too,thatDelbridgewouldgetontoitandlaughathim."
"Delbridge is too shrewd to tackle a risk like that," Wright returned. He
glancedabouttheroomcautiously,andthenadded:"Idon'tknowasIhaveany
righttobetalkingaboutMostyn'saffairseventoyou,butIamprettysurethathe
gotgoodnews.Hedidn'tshowmethetelegramwhenitcame,butIwatchedhis
faceashereadit.Isawhiseyesflash;hesmiledatme,walkedtowardhisoffice
with a light step, as he always does when he's lucky, and then he swayed
sidewaysandkeeledoverinadeadfaint.TheporterandIpickedhimup,carried
himtohislounge,andsprinkledwaterinhisface.Thenwesentforthedoctor.
Hegavehimadoseofsomethingorotherandtoldhimnottodoalickofwork
foramonth."
"Well,I'llstepinandseehim."Saundersrose."Iguesshewon'tmind.He's
too big a plunger for a town of this size. He lets things get on his nerves too
much.Hehasnophilosophyoflife.Iwouldn'tgohispaceforallthemoneyin
theU.S.Treasury."
"Rightyouare,"thetellerreturned,ashewentbacktohiswork.
Opening the door of his partner's office, Saunders found him seated on the
lounge smoking a cigar. He was about thirty-five years of age, tall, broadshouldered, with blue eyes, yellow mustache, and was good-looking and well
built. Glancing up, he smiled significantly and nodded. There were dark rings
roundhiseyes,andthehandholdinghiscigarquiverednervously.
"Isupposeyouheardofthatsillyduckfitofmine?"hesmiled,thecornersof


hisrathersensuousmouthtwitching.
Saundersnoddedashesatdownintherevolving-chairatthedeskandslowly
swungitroundtillhefacedhispartner.
"It's a wonder to me that you are able to talk about it," he said, sharply.
"You'vebeenthroughenoughinthelasttendaystokilladozenordinarymen.
You'vetakentoomanystimulants,smokedlikethewoodsafire,andontopofit
all instead of getting natural sleep you've amused yourself at all hours of the
night. You've bolted your food, and fussed and fumed over Delbridge's affairs,
which,heavenknows,havenothingatalltodowithyourown."
"IsupposeIdokeeptrackofthefellow,"Mostynsmiled."Peoplecompareus
constantly.Westartedaboutthesametime,anditranklestohearofhismakinga
lucky strike just when I've had a tumble. This matter of my backing Warner
whenIwenttoAugustatheytoldmetheyhadmetwithmorebadluck,andifI
didn'tadvancefreshfundstheywouldhavetogounder.ItwasthebiggestriskI
evertook,butItookit.Iraisedthemoneyonmystreet-railwaybonds.Foraday
or so afterward I was hopeful, but they quit writing and wouldn't answer my
wires.MylawyerinAugustawrotemethattheywereallthreeonthevergeof
suicide,andiftheycouldnotcloseacertaindealinBostontheywouldgounder.
That'swhatI'vebeenwaitingonforthelastweek,andthat'swhyI'vebeencrazy.
Butitisallrightnow—allright.I'msafe,andImademoney,too—moneythat
Delbridgewouldliketohave."
"Therearenotwowaysaboutit."Saundersreachedforacigarinatrayonthe
deskandcutoffthetipwithapaper-knife."You'vegottotakearestandgetyour
mindoffofbusiness."
"Nobody knows that better than I do," Mostyn said, a sickly smile playing
overhiswanface,"andI'minthemoodforit.Ifeelasamanfeelswhohasjust
escaped the gallows. I'm going to the mountains, and I don't intend to open a
businessletterorthinkonceofthishotholeinawallforamonth.I'mgoingto
fishandhuntandlieintheshadeandswapyarnswithmossbackmoonshiners.
I've just been thinking of it, and it's like a soothing dream of peace and quiet.
You know old Tom Drake's place near your farm? I boarded there two weeks
three years ago and loved every cat and dog about. Tom told me to come any
timeIfeltlikeit."
"No better place anywhere," Saunders said. "I shall run up home now and
then,andcanseeyouandreport,butyouneedn'tbotheraboutus;we'llkeepthis


thing afloat. I'm wondering how you are going to get away from your social
duties. They usually claim you at this time of the year. Old Mitchell and his
daughterwillcertainlymissyou."
Mostynstaredathisfriendsteadily."TheyareoffforAtlanticCityMonday.
Theyhintedatmyjoiningthem,butIdeclined.Iwasworriedatthetimeover
this deal, but I need something quieter than that sort of trip. You are always
couplingmynamewithMissIrene's.I'mnotthefavoriteinthatquarterthatyou
makemeout."
"Ihaveeyesandearsandsomeexperienceinhumannature."Saunderspuffed
athiscigar.Hefeltthathisfriendwasexpectingwhathewassaying."Mitchell
isgettinginhisdotage,andhetalksveryfreelytomeattimes."
"Surelynotabout—aboutmeandIrene?"Mostynsaid,arippleofinterestin
histone.
"Oh yes, he quite lets himself go now and then. He thinks the sun rises and
sets in you. He is constantly talking about your rapid rise and keen business
judgment."
"Youcan'tmeanthathe'severgoneso—sofarasactuallytospeakofmein—
inconnectionwithhisdaughter?"Mostynsaid,tentatively.
"I may as well tell you that he has." Saunders felt that the subject was a
delicateone."Atleast,hehasexpressedthehopethatyouandshewouldcare
foreachother.Heknewyourfatherandlikedhim,andhehasbeenafraidthat
MissIrenemightfancysomeyoungfellowwithnosortofchanceintheworld.
He speaks quite freely of her as his sole heiress, often showing me the actual
figuresofwhatheexpectstoleaveher."
AtouchofredappearedinMostyn'scheeks."Heisgettingoldandgarrulous,"
he said. "I really have been of some help to him. It happens that I've never
advisedhimwronglyinanyventurehehasmade,andIsupposeheoverratesmy
ability; but, really, I give you my word that I have not thought seriously of
marryinganyone. I suppose some men would call me a fool—a cold-blooded
fellowlikeDelbridgewould,Iamsure,butI'vealwayshadadreamofrunning
acrossmyidealsomewhereandofmarryingsolelyforthesakeofold-fashioned
loveitself."
"What man hasn't?" Saunders responded, thoughtfully. "After all, very few


men,atleasthereintheSouth,marryforconvenienceorfinancialadvancement.
ThereisStillman;hemarriedatypewriterinhisoffice,abeautifulcharacter,and
theyareashappyasapairofdoves.ThenyourememberAbThorntonandSam
Thorpe.Bothofthemcouldhavetieduptomoney,Isuppose,butsomehowthey
didn't.Afterall,itisthebesttestofaman."
"Yes, that certainly is true," Mostyn said, "the ideal is the thing. I really
believeIhavetwodistinctsidestome—theromanticandthepractical.Soyou
needn't count on—on what you were speaking of just now. I think the young
ladyissomewhatlikemyself.Attimessheseemstohavedreams,andIamnot
thePrinceCharmingthatridesthroughthem."
At his own desk a few minutes later Saunders sat wrapped in thought. "He
doesn't really love her," he mused, "and she doesn't love him, but they will
marry. His eyes kindled when I mentioned her money. He may think he can
stand out against it, but he can't. In his better moments he leans toward the
higherthing,butthecurrentofgreedhascaughthimandwillsweephimalong."
AtthisjunctureSaunders'sattentionwasdrawntothepaying-teller'swindow.
"Itellyouyoucan'tseehimthismorning."Wrightwasspeakingfirmlytoan
elderly man who stood clinging desperately to the wire grating. "He's not well
andislyingdown."
"So he's lying down, is he?" was the snarling response. "He's lying down
whileIhavetowalkthestreetswithoutacentthroughhisrascality.Youtellhim
I'mgoingtoseehimifIhavetowaithereallday."
"Whoisit?"Saundersasked,beingunabletorecognizethespeakerfromhis
position.
Wrightturnedtohim."It'soldJeffHenderson,"hesaid,"stillharpingonthe
sameoldstring.He'sblockingupthewindow.Athinglikethatoughtnottobe
allowed.IfIwasthepresidentofthisbank,andamanlikethatdaredto—"
"Let him in at the side door, and send him to me," Saunders ordered, in a
gentletone."I'llseehim."
A moment later the man entered, and shuffled in a slipshod way up to
Saunders's desk. He was about seventy years of age, wore a threadbare frock
coat,baggytrousers,disreputableshoes,andabatteredsilkhatofancient,bellshapedpattern.Hewassmooth-shaven,quitepale,andhadscantgrayhairwhich


ingreasy,rope-likestrandstouchedhisshoulders.Hewasnervouslychewinga
cheap,unlightedcigar,andflakesofdamptobaccoclungtohisshirt-front.
"You wereinquiringforMostyn,"Saunderssaid,quietly."Heisnot atwork
thismorning,Mr.Henderson.IsthereanythingIcandoforyou?"
"I don't know whether you can or not," the old man said, as he sank into a
chair and leaned forward on his walking-cane. "I don't know whether anybody
canornot.Idon'tbelievethereisanylaworjusticeanywhere.Youandhimare
partners,butIdon'tbelieveyouknowhimcleantothebottomaswellasIdo.
Youwouldn'tbeinbusinesswithhimifyoudid,foryouareastraightman—a
body can tell that by your eye and voice—and I've never heard of any shady,
wildcatschemethatyoueverdabbledin."
"Wearegettingawayfromtheothermatter,"Saundersremindedhim,softly.
"YoucametoseeMostyn."
"Icametogivehimapieceofmymind,youngman—that'swhatI'mherefor.
Hedodgesme.Say,doyouknowhowhegothisstart—themoneyheputinthis
bank?Well,Icantellyou,andI'llbetheneverdid.HestartedtheHollyCreek
CottonMills.Itwashisidea.Ithoughthewashonestandstraight.Hewasgoing
roundtryingtointerestcapital.Ineverhadaheadforbusiness.Thewarleftme
flatonmybackwithallthefamilyniggersfree,butachunkofmoneycameto
mychildren—fiftythousanddollars.Itstoodintheirname,butIgottheirlegal
consenttohandleit.MostynknewIhaditandwasconstantlyding-dongingat
me about his mill idea. Well, I went in—I risked the whole amount. He was
made president although he didn't hold ten thousand dollars' worth of stock.
ThenIreckonyouknowwhathappened.Herunthethingplumbintheground,
claimed to be losing money—said labor was too high; claimed that the wrong
sortofmachineryhadbeenputin.Itwentfrombadtoworsefortwelvemonths,
then it shut down. The operatives moved away, and it was sold under the
hammer. Who bought it in—my God, who do you reckon bid it in for twentyfivecentsonthedollar?Why,thesamesmoothyoungduckthatistakinganap
in his fine private quarters back there now. Then what did he do? Why, all at
oncehefoundthatthemachinerywasallrightandlaborcouldbehad.Outofhis
ownpocketwithmoneyhehadmadeinsomeunderhanddealorotherheadded
onawing,filleditwithspindlesandlooms,builtmorecottages,andthreeyears
laterthestockhadhoppeduptotwoforone,andlittletobehadatthat.Henext
startedthisbank,andhereIsitinit"—theoldmanswepttheinteriorwithaslow
glance—"without a dollar to my name and my daughters hiring out for barely


enoughtokeepragsontheirbodies.Say,whatdoyouthink—"
"I am afraid the courts are the only place to settle a matter upon which two
partiesdisagree,"Saunderssaid,diplomatically,thoughafrownofsympathylay
onhishandsomedarkface.
"The courts be damned!" the old man growled, pounding the floor with his
stick. "I did take it to law. I spent the twelve thousand and odd dollars that I
rescuedfromtheruininsuinghim,onlytodiscoverthatthelawitselffavorsthe
shysterwhohasmoneyandissharpenoughtocircumventit."
"I am sorry, but there is absolutely nothing I can do to help you, Mr.
Henderson," Saunders said, lamely. "Of course, I mean in regard to this
particularmatter.Ifyouareinwant,however,andanyreasonableamountwould
beofservicetoyou—why,onmyownaccountIamwilling—"
"Idon'tmeanthat,"theoldmanbrokein,tremulously."Youareverykind.I
knowyouwouldhelpme,youshowitinyourface;butIdon'twantthatsortof
thing. It is—is my rights I'm after. I—I can't face my children after the way I
acted. I simply trusted Mostyn with my all—my life's blood—don't you see? I
rememberwhenIwashesitating,andaneighborhadhintedthatMostynwastoo
high a flyer—going with fast women and the like—to be quite safe—I
remember,Isay,thatthecommandment'Judgenotthatyebenotjudged'came
in my head, and I refused to listen to a word against him. But you see how it
ended."
"IwishIcouldhelpyou,"Saunderssaidagain,"butIdon'tseewhatIcando."
"Idon'teither."Theoldmansighedheavilyashegotup."Everybodytellsme
I am a fool to cry over spilt milk when even the law won't back me; but I'm
gettingclosetotheend,andsomehowIcan'tputmymindonanythingelse."He
laid his disengaged hand on Saunders's shoulder almost with the touch of a
parent. "I'll say one thing more, and then I'm gone. You've done me good this
morning—that is, some. I don't feel quite so—so hurt inside. It's because you
offeredto—totrustme.Iwon'tforgetthatsoon,Saunders,andI'mnotgoingto
come in here any more. If I have to see him I will meet him somewhere else.
Good-by."
Saunderswatchedthebentformshamblebetweenthecountersanddesksand
disappear.


"Pooroldchap!"hesaid."Theshameofhislackofjudgmentiskillinghim."
JustthenthedoorofMostyn'sofficeopened,andMostynhimselfcameout.
Hepausedoveranelectricadding-machine which wasbeingmanipulatedbya
clerk,gaveitanidleglance,andthencameontohispartner.
"Albert says old Henderson was here talking to you," he said, coldly. "I
supposeit'stheoldcomplaint?"
"Yes,"Saundersnodded,ashelookedup."IdidwhatIcouldtopacifyhim;he
isgettingintoabadmentalshape."
"He seems to be growing worse and worse." Mostyn went on, irritably. "I
heard he had actually threatened my life. I don't want to take steps to restrain
him,butI'llhavetoifhekeepsitup.Ican'taffordtohavehimslanderingmeon
everystreet-cornerasheisdoing.EverybusinessmanknowsIwasnottoblame
inthatdeal.Thecourtssettledthatforgoodandall."
Saundersmadenocomment.Hefumbledaglasspaper-weightwithonehand
and tugged at his brown mustache with the fingers of the other. Mostyn stared
intohiscalmeyesimpatiently.
"WhatdoyouthinkIoughttodo?"hefinallyasked.
"Iaminnopositiontosay,"Saundersanswered,awkwardly."Itisamatterfor
you to decide. His condition is really pitiful. His family seem to be in actual
need. Girls brought up as his daughters were brought up don't seem to know
exactlyhowtomakealiving."
"Well,Ican'tpaymoneybacktohim,"Mostynsaid,angrily."I'dmakeanass
ofmyself,andadmitmyindebtednesstomanyotherswhohappenedtolosein
that mill. His suit against me cost me several thousand dollars, and he has
injuredmeinallsortsofwayswithhisslanderoustongue.He'llhavetoletup.I
won'tstanditanylonger."
TherewithMostynturnedandwentbacktohisoffice.Closingthedoorbehind
him,hestartedtothrowhimselfonthelounge,butinsteadsatdownathisdesk,
tookupapenanddrewsomepapertohim."I'llwriteTomDrakeandaskhimif
he has room for me," he said. "Up there in the mountains I'll throw the whole
thingoffandtakeagoodrest."



CHAPTERII
J. Cuyler Mitchell got out of his landau in the porte cochere of his stately
residence on Peachtree Street, and, aided by his gold-headed ebony cane,
ascendedthestepsofthewideveranda,wherehestoodfanninghisfacewithhis
Panamahat.Larkin,thenegrodriver,glancedoverhisshoulderafterhim.
"Anythingmo',MarseJohn?"heinquired.
"No,I'mthroughwiththehorsesforto-day,"theoldmanreturned."Putthem
up,andrubthemdownwell."
AsthelandaumovedalongthecurvingdrivetothestablesintherearMitchell
saunteredaroundtotheshadedpartoftheverandaandwentinatthefrontdoor.
Hewastall,seventy-fiveyearsofage,slenderanderect,hadiron-grayhairanda
mustacheandpointedgoateeofthesameshade.Hewashanginghishatonthe
carvedmahoganyrackinthehallwhenJincy,ayoungcoloredmaid,camefrom
the main drawing-room on the right. She had a feather duster in her hand and
woreaturban-likehead-cloth,aneatblackdress,andacleanwhiteapron.
"WhereisIrene?"heinquired.
Themaidwasabouttoanswerwhenaresponsecamefromabove.
"HereIam,father,"criedMissMitchell."Can'tyoucomeuphere?I'vebeen
washingmyhair;I'veleftitloosetodry.Thereismorebreezeuphere."
"Ifyouwanttoseemeyou'lltrotdownhere,"theoldgentlemansaid,crustily.
"I put myself out to make that trip down-town for you, and I'll be hanged if I
climbthosestepsagaintillbed-time."
"Well, I'll be down in a minute," his daughter replied. "I know you have no
verybadnews,oryouwouldhavebeenmoreexcited.Yousee,Iknowyou."
Mitchell grunted, dropped his stick into an umbrella-holder, and turned into
the library, where he again encountered the maid, now vigorously dusting a
bookcase.
"Leaveit,leaveit!"hegrumbled."Idon'twanttobebreathingthatstuffinto


mylungsonadaylikethis.Thereisenoughdustinthestreetswithouthaving
actuallytoeatitathome."
With a sly look and a low impulsive titter of amusement the yellow girl
restoredavasetoitsplaceandturnedintothestudyadjoining.
"Getoutofthere,too!"Mitchellordered."Iwanttoreadmypaper,andyou
makemenervouswithyourswishingandknockingabout."
"I can slide the doors to," Jincy suggested, as she stood hesitatingly in the
wideopening.
"Andcutoffalltheair!"wasthetartresponse."FromnowonIwantyouto
picktimesforthissortofworkwhenI'moutofthehouse.Mylifeisoneeternal
jumpingabouttoaccommodateyou.Iwantcomfort,andI'mgoingtohaveit."
Shrugginghershoulders,themaidlefttheroom.Mitchellhadseatedhimself
nearanopenwindowandtakenuphispaperwhenhisdaughtercamedownthe
steps and entered. She was above medium height, had abundant chestnut hair,
blue eyes, a good figure, and regular features, the best of which was a sweet,
thin-lipped,sensitivemouth.Shehadonabluekimonoanddaintyslippers,and
movedwithluxuriouseaseandgrace.
"Yououghttohavemorepatiencewiththeservants,father,"shesaid,testily.
"Jincyisslowenough,heavenknows,withoutyougivingherexcusesforbeing
behindwithherwork.Nowshewillgotothekitchenandhinderthecook.Ifyou
onlyknewhowmuchtroubleservantsaretomanageyou'dbemoretactful.Half
a dozen women in this town want that girl, and she knows it. Mrs. Anderson
wantstotakehertoNewYorktonurseherbaby,andshewouldproposeitifshe
wasn'tafraidI'dbeangry."
Mitchellshookouthispaperimpatientlyandscannedthehead-linesoverhis
nose-glasses."Youdon'tseemverymuchinterestedinmytripdowntown,Imust
say."
"Well, perhaps I would be," she smiled, "but, you see, I know from your
actions thathe isn'tmuch sick.Ifhehad beenyou'dhave mountedthosesteps
threeatatime.DoyouknoweverybodyislaughingoveryourinterestinDick
Mostyn? Why, you are getting childish about him. I'm not so sure that he is
reallysowonderfulasyoumakehimout.ManypersonsthinkAlanDelbridgeis
abetterbusinessman,andasforhisbeingasaint—ohmy!"


"Idon'tcarewhattheythink,"Mitchellretorted."Theydon'tknowhimaswell
asIdo.Hewouldn'tbeundertheweatherto-dayifhehadn'toverworked,buthe
is all right now. The doctor says he only needs rest, and Dick is going to the
mountainsforamonth.Asforthat,Ican'tforthelifeofmeseewhy—"
"Why,AtlanticCitywithuswouldn'tdoeverybitaswell,"Irenelaughedout
impulsively."Oh,youarefunny!"
"Well,Idon'tseewhy,"theoldmansaid."Ifyoutworeallydocareforeach
other I can't see why you really would want to be apart the best month in the
year."
Irene gave her damp, fragrant hair a shake on one side and laughed as she
glancedathimmischievously."Youmustreallynotmeddlewithus,"shesaid.
"Threepeoplecan'trunanaffairlikethat."
Mitchellfoldedhispaper,eyedhersuspiciouslyforamoment,andthenasked:
"IsAndrewBucktongoingtoAtlanticCity?Ifheis,youmayaswelltellme.I
simply am not going to put up with that fellow's impudence. People think you
care for him—do you hear me?—some people say you like him as well as he
doesyou,andifhewasn'taspoorasJob'sturkeythatyou'dmarryhim."
MissMitchellavoidedherfather'seyes.Sheshookoutherhairagain,andran
herwhite,ringedfingersthroughitsbrowndepths."Haven'tIpromisedyounot
tothinkofAndyin—inanyseriousway?"shefaltered."Hismotherandsister
are nice, and I don't want to offend them. You needn't keep bringing his name
up." Her fine lips were twitching. "I'd not be a natural woman if I didn't
appreciatehis—hishonestadmiration."
"Honest nothing!" Mitchell blurted out. "He thinks you are going to have
money,andhebelievesyou'llbesillyenoughtobeinfluencedbyhispuppylove
tomakeafoolofyourself.Besides,he'sintheway.Hetookyoutoadancenot
longagowhenMostynwantedtogowithyou.Dicktoldmeatthebankthathe
wasgoingtoinviteyou,andthenthatyoungblockheadcalledforyou."
Miss Mitchell had the air of one subduing interest. She forced a faint smile
intothegeneralgravityofherface."Andyhadaskedmeamonthbefore,"she
said,"or,rather,hismotheraskedmeforhimthedaythecardsweresentout."
"Iknewshehadahandinit,"Mitchellretorted,inatoneofconviction."That
oldwomanisthemostcold-bloodedmatchmakerintheState,andshe'splaying


withyoulikeacatwithamouse.Theywantmymoney,Itellyou—that'swhat
theyareafter.Iknowhowtheoldthingtalkstoyou—she'salwaystellingyou
herdarlingboyisdyingofgrief,andallthatfoolishness."
Ireneavoidedherfather'seyes.Shewoundathickwispofherhairaroundher
headandbegantofastenitwithahairpin.Heheardhersigh.Thenshelooked
straightathim.
"Youarebotheringentirelytoomuch,"shehalffaltered,inatonethatwasall
butwistful."Now,I'llmake you a promise if—if you'll make meone.Youare
afraidDickMostynandIwillnevercometo—toanunderstanding,butitisall
right. I know I must be sensible, and I intend to be. I'm more practical than I
look.Now,hereiswhatIamgoingtopropose.AndyBucktonmaybeatAtlantic
Citywithhismother,andIwantyoutotreatthemdecently.Ifyouwillbeniceto
them I will assure you that when Dick gets back from the mountains he will
proposeandIwillaccepthim."
"Youtalkasifyouknewpositivelythathe—"
"Iunderstandhim,"theyoungladysaid."Iknowhimevenbetterthanyoudo,
withallyourbusinessdealingstogether.Now,thatwillhavetosatisfyyou,and
you'vegottoletmeseeAndyupthere.Yousimplymust."
"Well,Idon'tcare,"theoldmansaid,withabreathofrelief."Thisisthefirst
timeyoueverhavetalkedanysortofsenseonthesubject."
"Iknownothingelsewillsuityou,"Irenesaid,withalookofabstractionin
hereyes,"andIhavemadeupmymindtoletyouhaveyourway."
There was a tremulous movement to her breast, a quaver in her voice, of
whichsheseemedslightlyashamed,forsheturnedsuddenlyandlefttheroom.


CHAPTERIII
AtthegateinfrontofhisfarmhouseinthemountainsTomDrakereceiveda
letterfromtheruralmail-carrier,whowaspassinginaone-horsebuggy.
"That'sallthismorning,Tom,"thecarriersaid,cheerfully."You'vegotgood
cornandcottoninthebottombelowhere."
"Purtygood,Ireckon,ifthedrouthdon'tkill'em,"thefarmeranswered.The
carrierdroveon,andTomslowlyopenedhisletterandturnedtowardthehouse.
He was a typical Georgia mountaineer, strong, tall, broad-shouldered, middleaged.Heworenobeard,hadmildbrowneyes,heavychestnuthairuponwhich
restedashapelesswoolhatfullofholes.Hisarmsandlegswerelong,hisgait
slouching and deliberate. He was in his shirt-sleeves; his patched jean trousers
were too large at the waist, and were supported by a single home-knitted
suspender.Hewaschewingtobacco,andashewentalonghemovedhisstained
lipsintheaudiblepronunciationofthewordshewasreading.
His wife, Lucy, a slender woman, in a drab print dress with no sort of
adornment to it or to her scant, tightly knotted hair, stood on the porch
impatientlywaitingforhim.Behindher,leaninginthedoorway,washerbrother,
JohnWebb,ared-haired,red-facedbachelor,fiftyyearsofage,whoalsohadhis
eyesontheapproachingreader.
"Anotherdun,Ireckon,"Mrs.Drakesaid,tentatively,whenherhusbandhad
pausedatthebottomstepandglancedupfromthesheetinhishand.
"Notthistime."Tomslowlyspatontheground,andlookedfirstathiswife
andthenathisbrother-in-lawwithabroadeningsmile."Youtwoareasgoodat
guessin'asthegeneralrun,butifIgaveyouahundredtrials—yes,threehundred
—and all day to do it in, you wouldn't then come in a mile o' what's in this
letter."
"I don't intend to try," Mrs. Drake said, eagerly, "anyways not with all that
ironin' to do that's piled up like a haystack on the dinin'-room table, to say
nothin'ofthebedsandbed-clothestobesunned.Youcankeepyourbigsecretas
farasI'mconcerned."


"It's another Confederate Veteran excursion to some town whar whisky is
sold," said the bachelor, with a dry cackle. "That's my guess. You fellows that
was licked don't git no pensions from Uncle Sam, but you manage to have
enoughfunonceayeartomakeupforit."
Tom Drake swept the near-by mountain slope with his slow glance of
amusement,foldedthesheettantalizingly,andspatagain.
"I don't know, Luce," he said to his wife, as he wiped his lips on his shirtsleeve,"thatitisagoodtimetotellyouontopo'yourcomplaintofover-work,
butDickMostyn,yourAtlantaboarder,writesthathe'salittlebitrundownan'
wantstocomean'stayasolidmonth.Moneyseemstobenoobjecttohim,an'
he says if he kin just git the room he had before an' a chance at your home
cookingthreetimesadayhewillbeinclover."
"Well,well,well!"Lucycried,inatoneofdelight,"sohewantstocomeag'in,
an'allthistimeI'vebeenthinkin'he'dneverthinkofusanymore.Therewasn'ta
thingforhimtodothatsummerbutliearoundintheshade,exceptnowan'then
whenhewasofffishin'orhuntin'."
"Well, I hope you will let 'im come," John Webb drawled out, in his slow
fashion."Icansetan'studyatowndudelikehimbythehouran'nevergittired.
Ineverkinsomehowgitatwhatsechfellersthinkaboutordowhentheyareat
home.Hemakesmoney,buthow?Hishandsareassoftan'whiteasawoman's.
Hissocksareasthinan'flimsyasspider-webs.Hehadsixpairso'pants,ifhe
hadone,an'apairo'gallusestoeachpair.Iaxedhimonedaywhentheywasall
spreadoutonhisbedwhatonearthhehadsomanygallusesfor,an'Mostynsaid
—IgiveyoumywordI'mnotjokin'—hesaid"—Webblaughedoutimpulsively
—"hesaiditwastokeepfrombotherin'tobutton'emonever'timehechanged!
He said"—the bachelor continued to laugh—"that he could just throw the
gallusesoverhisshoulderswhenhewasinahurryan'bedonewiththejob.Do
youknow,folks,ifIwasaslazyasthatI'dbeafraidtheLordwouldcutmeoff
inmyprime.Why,afelleronafarmhastodomorethanthatever'timehepulls
abladeo'fodderorplantsaseedo'corn."
"Well,ofcourse,Iwant'imtocome."Mrs.Drakehadnotheardawordofher
brother'sramblingcomment,andtherewasadecidedlyexpectantintonationin
her voice. "Nobody's usin' the company-room, an' the presidin' elder won't be
here till fall. Mr. Mostyn never was a bit of trouble and seemed to love
everything I set before him. But I reckon we needn't feel so flattered. He's


coming here so he'll be near Mr. Saunders when he runs up to his place on
Sundays."
JohnWebb,forsuchaslowindividual,hadsuddenlytakenonanewimpetus.
Helefthissisterandherhusbandandpassedthroughthepassagebisectingthe
lowerpartoftheplaintwo-storyhouseandwentoutatthereardoor.Intheback
yardhe foundhisnephew,GeorgeDrake, aboyoffifteenyears, seatedonthe
grassrepairingaragged,mud-stainedfish-net.
"Who told you you could be out o' school, young feller?" John demanded,
dryly."I'llbetmylifeyouareplayin'hookey.Youthinkbecauseyoursister'sthe
teacheryoucanrunwildlikeamountainshote.MyLord,lookatyourclothes!
I'llswearitwouldbehardtotellwhetheryou'vegotonanythingornot—thatis,
anythingexceptmudan'slime.Haveyoubeentryin'topullthatseinethrough
thecreekbyyourself?"
Theboy,whohadafineheadandprofileandwasstoutlybuiltandgenerally
good-looking, was too busy with his strings and knots to look up. "Some fool
leftitinthecreek,andit'slaidthereforthelastmonth,"hemumbled."Ihadto
go in after it, and it was all tangled up and clogged with mud. Dolly knew I
wasn'tgoingtoschoolto-day."
"She knew it when you didn't turn up at roll-call, I bound you," Webb
drawled. "Say, do you know a young gal like her ain't strong enough to lick
scholars as sound as they ought to be licked, and thar is some talk about
appointin'someable-bodiedmanthatlivescloseabouttostepinan'sorto'clean
uptwoorthreetimesaweek.Idon'tknowbutwhatI'dlikethejob.Afellerthat
goesasnighnakedasyoudowouldbeablamegoodthingtopractiseon."
"Huh!" the boy sniffed, as he tossed back his shaggy brown hair. "You talk
mightybig.I'dliketoseeyoutrytowhipme—Ishorewould."
"Well,ImaygiveyouthechanceifDollycallsonmetohelp'erout,"Webb
laughed."Say,Istartedtotellyouasecret,butIwon't."
"Ialreadyknowwhatitis,"Georgesaid,withamischievousgrin.
"Yousayyoudo?"Webbwascaughtinthewilyfellow'ssnare.
"Yes,youaregoingtogetmarried."Theboynowburstintoaroaroflaughter
and threw himself back on the grass. "You and Sue Tidwell are going to get
spliced.Thewholevalley'stalkingaboutit,andhopingthatitwillbepubliclike


anelectionbarbecue.Youwithyourredheadandfreckledfaceandherwithher
stubnoseand—"
"Thatwilldo—thatwilldo!"Webb'sfrownseemedtodeepentheflushwhich,
folduponfold,cameintohisface."Jokin'isallright,butitain'tfairtobringina
lady'sname."
"Ohno,ofcoursenot."Theboycontinuedtolaughthroughthenetwhichhe
haddrawnoverhim."Theshoeisontheotherfootnow."
"Well, I'm not goin' to tell you the news," Webb declared, with a touch of
propitiationinhisvoice;and,notalittlediscomfited,heturnedaway,employing
aquickerstepthanusuallycharacterizedhismovement.
"Theyoungscamp!"hesaid."He'sgittin'entirelytooforward—entirely,fora
boyasyoungasheis,andmehisuncle."
Crossingastripofmeadowland,thenpickinghiswaybetweentherowsofa
patch of corn, and skirting a cotton-field, he came out into a red-clay road.
Along this he walked till he reached a little meeting-house snugly ensconced
amongbigtreesatthefootofthemountain.Thewhiteframebuilding,oblongin
shape,hadfourwindowswithgreenouterblindsoneachofitstwosides,anda
door at the end nearer the road. As Webb traversed the open space, where, on
Sundays,horseswerehitchedtothetreesandsaplings,adroneasofcountless
beesfellonhisears.Toanativethisneedednoexplanation.Duringfiveofthe
week-daysthebuildingwasusedasaschoolhouse.Thesoundwasmadebythe
studentsstudyingaloud,andJohn'sniece,DollyDrake,hadsolechargeofthem.
Reaching the door and holding his hat in his hand, Webb cautiously peered
within, beholding row after row of boys and girls whose backs were turned to
him.Atablackboardontheplatform,abitofchalkinherfingers,Dolly,agirl
eighteenyearsofage,stoodexplaininganexampleinarithmetictoseveralburly
boystallerthanherself.Webbglancedupatthesun.
"Theyhaven'thadrecessyet,"hereckoned."IswearI'msorryforthemboys.
I'd rather take a dozen lickin's than to stay in on a day like this an' try to git
lessonsinmyhead.Idon'tblameGeorgeabit,soIdon't.Ican'trecallathingin
theSaviour'steachin'sabouthavin'tostudyfiguresan'geography,nohow.Looks
tomeliketheoldertheworldgitsthefurtheritgitsfromcommonsense."
Patiently Webb held his ground till Dolly had dismissed the class; then,


turningtoatableonwhichstoodacumbersomebrassbell,shesaid:"I'mgoing
toletyouhaverecess,butyou'vegottogooutquietly."
Shehadnotceasedspeaking,andhadscarcelytouchedthehandleofthebell,
when there was a deafening clatter of books and slates on the crude benches.
Feet shod and feet bare pounded the floor. Merry yells rent the air. On the
platformitselftwoofthearithmeticdelinquentswereboxingplayfully,fiercely
punching,thrusting,anddodging.Atawindowthreeboyswerebodilyejectinga
fourth,thelegsandfeetofwhom,likeahumanletterV,wereseendisappearing
overthesill.
Smilingly Webb stood aside and let the clamoring drove hurtle past to the
playground outside, and when the way was clear he entered the church and
stalked up the single aisle toward his niece. Dolly had turned back to the
blackboard, and was sponging off the chalk figures. She was quite pretty; her
eyes were large, with fathomless hazel depths. Her brow, under a mass of
uncontrollable reddish-brown hair, was high and indicative of decided
intellectual power. She was of medium height, very shapely, and daintily
graceful.Shehadagoodnoseandasweet,sympatheticmouth.Herhandswere
slender and tapering, though suggestive of strength. She wore a simple white
shirtwaistandablackskirtthanwhichnothingcouldhavebeenmorebecoming.
Hearingheruncle'sstep,sheturnedandgreetedhissmilewithadubiousoneof
herown.
"Whydon'tyougooutandplaywiththebalancean'limberyourselfup?"he
asked.
"Play?Isayplay!"shesighed."Youmendon'tknowanymoreaboutwhata
woman teacher has to contend with than a day-old kitten. My head is in a
constantwhirl.SometimesIforgetmyownname."
"What'swrongnow?"Webbsmiledeagerly.
"Oh,it'severything—everything!"shesighed."Notathinghashappenedright
to-day. George flatly refused to come to school—even defied me before some
otherboysdowntheroad.Thenmyownsister—"
"What'swrongwithAnn?IremembernowthatIdidn'tseeherinthatdrove
justnow,andshecertainlyain'tathome,becauseI'mjustfromthar."
"No,sheisn'tathome,"Dollyfrowned,and,foranobviousreason,raisedher


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