Изображения страниц
[blocks in formation]

neath a stone. His turban had settled low over his eyes, partially blinding him, I think, and his scarlet dolman, buttoned tightly over his heavy winter clothing, gave

may Wilson Preston 04.

convulsed with immature emotions. He was emitting little clumps of bubbles from the corners of his mouth, like a crab suddenly disturbed in his meditations under

him an air of almost perfect sphericity. Of a sudden he swayed toward us, and fell massively on his face in the dust. The next instant his wailing smote the air.

"It seems to me," said the most charming woman in the world," that I have somewhere heard that sound before. Do you know, if this topheavy child hadn't absolutely flung me into your arms, I believe you would have proposed for one of the girls, after all?"

"Perhaps," I answered. "All the same, God bless you, Henry John!" "Wa-a-a-ah! Hoo-00-00-00! a-ah!" said Henry John.



Maylinson Preston

[graphic][merged small]



By Sydney Preston


T was part of Geoffrey Alison's pleasure-loving inconsequence to be content with the material comforts he enjoyed from day to day, and, somehow, his mind. had never grasped the possibility that the time might come when he would be compelled to take thought for the morrow. But as he stood on the road opposite The Jephson House and gazed after the stage that carried the last remnant of summer people from Quinn's Landing, he realized with a rush of impotent indignation that he was stranded. His frown deepened as he saw the vehicle reach the bend of the road, then he caught his breath sharply as a tiny handkerchief fluttered for an instant before it vanished around the curve.

It was Kitty Burger's, he knew, in spite of her casual, indif

with speculative interest as he diverged into the leaf-strewn path that led to the lake among the trees.

"Looks kinder lonesome and down on his luck," remarked the man, as they turned toward the house; "but perhaps it'll cheer him up a bit to lie down there on the beach and listen to the little waves

Mr. Snowberry.

ferent good-by; but whether it meant the city she might fling to a strayed dog, or a token of encouragement, he could not guess. It was two weeks since she had refused him, and though in that time, by no word or look, had she shown that he was regarded as anything more than a passing acquaintance, was it not possible-just barely possible, of course that her indifference, like his, had been assumed, and that at the end her real self had got the upper hand?

Alison's eyes suddenly smarted; with an abrupt movement he pulled his straw hat forward so that the brim shadowed his face, thrust his hands deep into his pockets, and strode, with bent head, along the road; while the landlord and his wife, lingering at their gate, followed his dejected figure

come wish-wash among the gravel." He sighed sympathetically and stroked the straggling reddish side-whiskers that failed to hide the good-natured placidity of his counte



The woman had kept pace in short steps to his ambling gait, her round, plump figure briskly energetic in every movement, and a preoccupied expression accounting for her unusual silence. "Look here, Jephson!" she burst forth suddenly, with an effect of smouldering irritation, "I've no patience with such talk. It seems to me that a grown-up man ought to have something else to do than to lie round listenin' to waves at this time of the year, when other folks is up to their necks in work. That's the way with all of you men: the minute anything goes wrong, down you flop in the comfortablest place you can find to think about it. Suppose Mr. Alison is down on his luck; what's the use of him sprawlin' round here when he might be doin' something useful to mend things? Here it is the first of October, and after some of the boarders hangin' on for nearly a month later than last year, I'm to have him layin' round in hammocks and stretchin' and yawnin' and lookin' lonesome,

while other folks is scrabblin' and scratchin' to get the fall housecleanin' done before winter."

They had reached the veranda, and Jephson, with a fleeting regretful glance at the empty hammocks and chairs that swayed in the wind, sat down gingerly on the edge of the floor and heaved a prodigious sigh.

"For my part, Maria," he replied, shifting himself back a little as he saw her mechanically follow his example, " it seems to me that it'd be no more natural for some men that didn't need to work to go huntin' for it, than it'd be for rabbits to go huntin' for little boys with guns. There's enough poor critters scrabblin' for a livin', without a young man like Mr. Alison tryin' to take their jobs from them. If Providence had meant him to grub along like me, would his daddy have been let grow rich in the leather business ?"

Mrs. Jephson eyed him keenly. "You didn't make that up out of your own head," she accused him; "you got it secondhanded-didn't you now?"

Jephson chuckled, shifted himself toward the support of the post, and put his feet on the veranda steps; his wife's interest being aroused, he could count on a comfortable chat, instead of being hurried off to work.

[ocr errors]

Well," he admitted, "I did hear Mr. Alison get off something like that one day last week, when I rowed him up the lake to the black bass fishin' ground. We had quite a chat that day, and he told me a few odds and ends that sort of relieved his mind. 'The fact is, Jephson,' he says to me, 'the old man hasn't used me right. I don't mind tellin' you,' says he, 'that if he spent a hundred dollars a day for the rest of his life, he'd have plenty over for a fine funeral; but he's that close he gredges me the allowance that's mine by right, bein' an only son. Actually, Jephson, he wants to make me go into the leather warehouse and learn the business, on a wage that'd scarcely pay for my neckties, instead of enjoyin' the income and privileges of a gentleman.""

"And why should he get money that he's too lazy to earn-I'd like you to tell me that?" his wife broke in.

"And why, as he put it to me," retorted Jephson, "should he fill up the place that


many a poor devil would jump at to keep body and soul together and keep his family from want?"

"Tut!" ejaculated Mrs. Jephson, slightly staggered.

"It'd be different," went on Jephson triumphantly, "" if he was like some. As he says to me, 'Jephson,' says he, raisin' his hand up solemn, 'if I wasted his substance on husks and swine, I wouldn't say a word; but considerin' I never harmed man nor woman in my life, I ain't tret right. All I asked,' says he, 'was two or three thousand a year to spend in the innocent diversions of a blameless life; and when I was refused my pride was touched, and I packed up my summer duds and

"But he wasn't too proud to live all summer on the fat of the land with them millionnaire Mingleys," she interjected. "It was all the same whose money paid for things, as long as there was French cooks and horses and yachts."

"Them Mingleys didn't use him right, neither," urged Jephson, on the defensive. "Well," she commented judicially," they had a right to go off of a sudden if they wanted to; and they wasn't bound to give him notice or take him with them. All the same, as far as I've heard, he was that good natured and obligin' and handy about doin' things, that perhaps he gave as much as he got, and I don't see no reason for all them people givin' him the go-by as if they was afraid of bein' sponged on.

[ocr errors]

Jephson's voice trembled with indignation: "And all the time, while there was picnics and boatin' and drivin' parties to get up, and tennis courts to lay out, and play-actin' goin' on, it was Mr. Alison this and Mr. Alison that, jest as sweet as pie the whole blame time!"

"He took his room here last Thursday, the day the Mingleys closed up, and didn't that pryin' little Mrs. Drinkwater that sings hymns all Sunday, make an excuse to come into my kitchen when dinner was on, to whisper confidential that I ought to get the money in advance. 'Mrs. Drinkwater,' says I, 'I've no doubt it's for my good, as you say, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.' 'Why not?' says she. 'Well,' says I, 'self-respect is the first law of my nature, and I ain't got none to spare; in the second place,' says I, 'I don't want to be took in, and I've noticed that in this

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »