"That's all right. I shall be glad to have you serve Mrs. Owen in any way.
It's a good deal of a compliment that she thought of you in that connection.
Go ahead, and call on me if I can help you. You'll have to furnish loca_ondsmen. See what's required and let me know."
Such was Bassett's reply when Harwood asked his permission to serve a_dministrator of Andrew Kelton's estate. Bassett was a busy man, and hi_omestic affairs often gave him concern. He had talked to Harwood a good dea_bout Marian, several times in fits of anger at her extravagance. His wif_etired fitfully to sanatoriums, and he had been obliged to undertake th_upervision of his children's schooling. Blackford was safe for the time in _ilitary school, and Marian had been tutored for a year at home. The idea of _ollege course for Marian had been, since Sylvia appeared, a mania with Mrs.
Bassett. Marian had not the slightest interest in the matter, and Bassett wa_eary of the struggle, and sick of the idea, that only by a college career fo_er could Mrs. Owen's money be assured to his children. Mrs. Bassett being no_t a rest cure in Connecticut, and Bassett, much away from home, and seein_othing to be gained by keeping his daughter at Fraserville, had persuade_iss Waring to take her as a special student, subject to the discipline of th_chool, but permitted to elect her own studies. It was only because Basset_as a man she liked to please that the principal accepted Marian, now eightee_ears old, on this anomalous basis. Marian was relieved to find herself free_f the horror of college, but she wished to be launched at once upon a socia_areer; and the capital and not Fraserville must be the scene of he_ntroduction. Bassett was merely tiding over the difficult situation until hi_ife should be able to deal with it. Marian undoubtedly wheedled her father _ood deal in the manner of handsome and willful daughters. She had rarel_xperienced his anger; but the remembrance of these occasions rose before he_s the shadowy background of any filial awe she may be said to have had.
Bassett asked Dan to accompany him and Marian to the Country Club for dinne_ne evening while Harwood still waited for Mrs. Owen's summons to Montgomery.
Picking up Marian at Miss Waring's, they drove out early and indulged in _oitering walk along the towpath of the old canal, not returning to th_lubhouse until after seven. When they had found a table on the veranda, Da_urned his head slightly and saw Thatcher, Allen, and Pettit, the Fraservill_ditor, lounging in after-dinner ease at a table in a dim corner.
"Why, there's Mr. Thatcher," exclaimed Marian.
"And if that isn't Mr. Pettit! I didn't know he ever broke into a place lik_his."
They all bowed to the trio. Thatcher waved his hand.
"Mr. Pettit," observed Bassett dryly, "is a man of the world and likely t_reak in anywhere."
His manner betrayed no surprise; he asked Marian to order dinner, and bowed t_ tableful of golfers, where an acquaintance was whispering his name to som_uests from out of town.
It was the least bit surprising that the Honorable Isaac Pettit should b_ining at the Country Club with Mr. Edward Thatcher, and yet it was possibl_o read too much seriousness into the situation. Harwood was immensel_nterested, but he knew it was Bassett's way to betray no trepidation at eve_uch a curious conjunction of planets as this. Dan was in fact relieved tha_assett had found the men together: Bassett had seen with his own eyes an_ight make what he pleased of this sudden intimacy.
Marian had scorned the table d'hôte dinner, and was choosing, from the
"special" offerings, green turtle soup and guinea fowl, as affording _leasant relief from the austere regimen of Miss Waring's table. The roastin_f the guinea hen would require thirty minutes the waiter warned them, bu_assett made no objection. Marian thereupon interjected a postscript of frogs'
legs between soup and roast, and Bassett cheerfully acquiesced.
"You seem to be picking the most musical birds offered," he remarked amiably.
"I don't believe I'd eat the rest of the olives if I were you."
"Why doesn't Allen Thatcher come over here and speak to us, I'd like to know,"
asked Marian. "You wouldn't think he'd ever seen us before."
The three men having dined had, from appearances, been idling at the table fo_ome time. Pettit was doing most of the talking, regaling his two auditor_ith tales from his abundant store of anecdotes. At the end of a story a_hich Thatcher had guffawed loudly, they rose and crossed the veranda. Hearin_hem approaching, Bassett rose promptly, and they shook hands all round.
If there were any embarrassments in the meeting for the older men, it wa_oncealed under the cordiality of their greetings. Pettit took charge of th_ituation.
"Well, sir," he boomed, "I might've known that if I came to town and brok_nto sassiety I'd get caught at it; you can't get away from home folks!
Thatcher has filled me amply with expensive urban food in this sylva_etreat—nectar and ambrosia. I'm even as one who drinks deep of the waters o_ife and throws the dipper in the well. Just come to town and wander from th_traight and narrow path and your next-door neighbor will catch you ever_ime. Fact is I lectured on 'American Humor' in Churubusco last night and a_ifting the spirits of Brazil to-morrow. This will be all from Ike Pettit, th_raserville funny man, until the wheat's safe and our Chautauquas pitch thei_ents in green fields far away. Reminds me of what Dan Voorhees sai_nce,—dear old Dan Voorhees,—I almost cry when I think o' Dan: well, as I wa_aying—"
"Didn't know you were in town, Mort," Thatcher interrupted. "I've been i_hicago a week and only got back this evening. I found your esteemed fello_ownsman about to hit a one-arm lunch downtown and thought it best to draw hi_way from the lights of the great city."
This was apology or explanation, as one chose to take it. Bassett wa_pparently unmoved by it.
"I've been in town a day or two. I don't live in sleeping-cars the way you do, Ed. I keep to the main traveled road—the straight and narrow path, as ou_rother calls it," said Bassett.
"Well, I'm going to quit working myself to death. It's getting too hot fo_oker, and I'm almost driven to lead a wholesome life. The thought pains me, Mort."
Marian had opened briskly upon Allen. She wanted to know whether he had passe_he school the night before with a girl in a blue hat; she had been sure i_as he, and his denial only intensified her belief that she had seen him. Sh_ad wagered a box of caramels with her roommate that it was Allen; how dare h_eny it and cause her to lose a dollar of her allowance? Allen said the leas_e could do would be to send the candy himself; a proposition which sh_eclared, in a horrified whisper, he must put from his thoughts forever.
Candy, it appeared, was contraband at Miss Waring's! Bassett, ignoring th_ivacious colloquy between his daughter and Allen, continued to exchang_ommonplaces with Thatcher and Pettit. Marian's ease of manner amused Harwood; Allen was bending over her in his eager way; there was no question but that h_dmired her tremendously. The situation was greatly to her liking, and she wa_aking the most of it. It was in her eye that she knew how to manage men.
Seeing that Mr. Thatcher was edging away, she played upon him to delay hi_scape.
"I wish you would come up to Waupegan this summer, Mr. Thatcher. You an_ather are such friends, and we should all be so glad to have you for _eighbor. There are always houses to be rented, you know."
"Stranger things have happened than that, Miss Marian," replied Thatcher, eying her boldly and quite satisfied with her appearance. "My women folks wan_llen and me to come across for the summer; but we like this side of the bi_ater. Little Old United States—nothing touches it! Allen and I may take a ru_p into Canada sometime when it gets red hot."
"Reminds me—speaking of the heat—back in the Hancock campaign—" Pettit wa_eginning, but Thatcher was leaving and the editor and Allen followe_erforce. In a moment they heard Thatcher's voice peremptorily demanding hi_otor from the steps of the entrance.
"Pettit's lecture dates must be multiplying," observed Dan carelessly.
"They seem to be," Bassett replied, indifferently.
"I can find out easily enough whether he lectured at Churubusco last night o_ot, or is going to invade Brazil to-morrow," Dan suggested.
"Easy, but unnecessary. I think I know what's in your mind," Bassett answered, as Marian, interested in the passing show, turned away, "but it isn't of th_lightest importance one way or another."
"That was Miss Bosworth," announced Marian—"the one in the white flannel coat; she's certainly grand to look at."
"Please keep your eyes to the front," Bassett admonished; "you mustn't star_t people, Marian." And then, having dismissed Pettit, and feeling called upo_o bring his daughter into the conversation, he said: "Marian, you remembe_he Miss Garrison your aunt is so fond of? Her grandfather died the other da_nd Miss Garrison had to come home. Your Aunt Sally is in Montgomery with he_ow. Mr. Harwood went to the funeral."
"That's too bad," said Marian, at once interested. "Sylvia's a mighty nic_irl, and I guess her grandfather had just about raised her, from what sh_old me. I wonder what she's going to do?" she asked, turning to Harwood.
"She's going back to college to take her degree, and then Mrs. Owen is goin_o have her at Waupegan this summer."
"Oh! I didn't know Aunt Sally was going to open her house this summer!" sai_arian, clearly surprised. "It must be just that she wants to have Sylvia wit_er. They're the best kind of pals, and of course Aunt Sally and the ol_rofessor were friends all their lives. I'm glad Sylvia's going to be at th_ake; she will help some," she concluded.
"You don't mean that you're tired of the lake?" asked Harwood, noting th_alf-sigh with which she had concluded. "I thought all Waupegan peopl_referred it to the Maine coast or Europe."
"Oh, I suppose they do," said Marian. "But I think I could live through _eason somewhere else. It will be good fun to have Aunt Sally's house ope_gain. She must be making money out of that farm now. I suppose Sylvia'_randfather didn't have much money. Still Sylvia's the kind of girl tha_ouldn't much mind not having money. She isn't much for style, but she doe_now an awful lot."
"Don't you think a girl may be stylish and know a lot, too?" asked her father.
"I suppose it _is_ possible," the girl assented, with a reluctance that cause_oth men to laugh.
"Let me see: Papa, you didn't see Sylvia that summer she was at the lake. Tha_as the summer you played a trick on us and only spent a day at Waupegan. Yes; I remember now; you came home from Colorado and said hello and skipped th_ext morning. Of course you didn't see Sylvia."
"Oh, yes, I did," replied Bassett. "I remember her very well, indeed. I quit_gree with your mother and Aunt Sally that she is an exceedingly fine girl."
"She certainly discouraged me a good deal about college. Four years of schoo_fter you're seventeen or eighteen! Not for Marian!" and she shook her hea_rolly.
Bassett was either absorbed in thought or he chose to ignore Marian's remark.
He was silent for some time, and the girl went on banteringly with Harwood.
She availed herself of all those immunities and privileges which the god_onfer upon young women whom they endow with good looks. In the half-freedo_f the past year she had bought her own clothes, with only the nomina_upervision of Miss Waring's assistant; and in her new spring raiment she wa_ery much the young lady, and decidedly a modish one. Dan glanced from her t_he young people at a neighboring table. Among the girls in the party none wa_rettier or more charmingly gowned than Marian. In the light of this proximit_e watched her with a new attention, and he saw that her father, too, studie_er covertly, as though realizing that he had a grown daughter on his hands.
Her way with Harwood was not without coquetry; she tapped his arm with her fa_ightly when he refused to enter into a discussion of his attentions, of whic_he protested she knew much, to Miss Bosworth. He admitted having called o_iss Bosworth once; her brother was a Yale man, and had asked him to the hous_n the score of that tie; but Marian knew much better. She was sure that h_as devoting himself to Miss Bosworth; every one said that he was becoming _reat society man.
She had wearied of his big-brother attitude toward her. Except the callo_outh of Fraserville and the boys she had known all the summers of her life a_aupegan, Harwood and Allen Thatcher were the only young men she knew. In he_ater freedom at school she had made the office telephone a nuisance to him, but he sympathized with her discreetly in her perplexities. Several times sh_ad appealed to him to help her out of financial difficulties, confiding t_im tragically that if certain bills reached Fraserville she would be ruine_orever.
Marian found the Country Club highly diverting; it gave her visions of th_ocial life of the capital of which she had only vaguely dreamed. She kne_any people by sight who were socially prominent, and she longed to be o_heir number. It pleased her to find that her father, who was a non-residen_ember and a rare visitor at the club, attracted a good deal of attention; sh_iked to think him a celebrity. The Speaker of the House in the last sessio_f the general assembly came out and asked Bassett to meet some men with who_e had been dining in the rathskeller; while her father was away, Marian, wit_lbows resting on the table, her firm, round chin touching her lightl_nterlaced fingers, gave a capital imitation of a girl making hersel_greeable to a young man. Dan was well hardened to her cajoleries by thi_ime; he was confident that she would have made "sweet eyes at Caliban."
Harwood, smoking the cigar Bassett had ordered for him, compared favorabl_ith other young men who had dawned upon Marian's horizon. Like most Wester_oys who go East to college, he had acquired the habit of careful pressing an_rushing and combing; his lean face had a certain distinction, and he wa_nfailingly courteous and well-mannered.
"This will be tough on mama," she observed casually.
"Pray, be more explicit!"
"Oh, Aunt Sally having Sylvia up there at the lake again."
"Why shouldn't she have her there if she wants her? I thought your mothe_dmired Sylvia. I gathered that ray of light somewhere, from you or Mrs.
"Oh, mama was beautiful to her; but I shall always think, just between you an_e and that spoon, that it was Aunt Sally asking Sylvia to the lake that tim_hat gave mama nervous prostration."
"Nonsense! I advise you, as an old friend, not to say such things: you'_etter not even think them."
"Well, it was after that, when she saw that Aunt Sally had taken up Sylvia, that mama got that bug about having me go to college. She got the notion tha_t was Sylvia's intellectual gifts that interested Aunt Sally; and mam_hought I'd better improve my mind and get into the competition."
"You thought your mother was jealous? I call that very unkind; it's not th_ay to speak of your mother."
"Well, if you want to be nasty and lecture me, go ahead, Mr. Harwood. You mus_ike Sylvia pretty well yourself; you took her back to college once and had n_nd of a lark,—I got that from Aunt Sally, so you needn't deny it."
"Humph! Of course I like Sylvia; any one's bound to."
"But if Aunt Sally leaves her all her money, just because she's so bright, an_ducated, and cuts me off, then what would be the answer?"
"I shouldn't have anything to say about it; it would be Mrs. Owen that did th_aying," laughed Dan. "Why didn't you meet the competition and go to college?
You have brains, but you don't seem interested in anything but keepin_mused."
"I suppose," she answered petulantly, "it would please you to see me go t_eaching a kindergarten or something like that. Not for Marian! I'm going t_ee life—" and she added ruefully—"if I get the chance! Why doesn't papa leav_raserville and come to the city? They say he can have any political office h_ants, and he ought to run for governor or something like that, just on m_ccount."
"I dare say he's just waiting for you to suggest it. Why not the presidency?
You could get a lot of fun out of the White House, ordering the army around, and using the battleships to play with. The governorship and trifles like tha_ould only bore you."
"Don't be silly. The newspapers print most horrible things about papa—"
"Which aren't true."
"Of course they're newspaper lies; but if he lets them say all those things h_ught to get something to pay for it. He's only a state senator from th_ayest county in Indiana. It makes me tired."
The girl's keen penetration had often surprised and it had sometimes appalle_arwood in the curious intimacy that had grown up between them. Her intuition_ere active and she had a daring imagination. He wondered whether Bassett wa_ully aware of the problem Marian presented. Dan had never ventured to sugges_ sharper discipline for the girl, except on the occasion when he had caugh_er walking with Allen in the park. He had regretted his interferenc_fterward; for Bassett's anger had seemed to him out of all proportion to th_ffense. Like most indifferent or indulgent parents, Bassett was prone t_xcesses in his fitful experiments in discipline. Dan had resolved not t_eddle again; but Marian was undeniably a provoking young person. It had bee_uggested to him of late by one or two of his intimates that in due course o_vents he would of course marry his employer's daughter. As she faced hi_cross the table, the pink light of the candle-shade adding to the glow o_ealth in her pretty cheeks, she caused him to start by the abruptness wit_hich she said:—
"I don't see much ahead of me but to get married; do you?"
"If you put it up to me, I don't see anything ahead of you, unless you take _ifferent view of life; you never seem to have a serious thought."
"Mr. Harwood, you can be immensely unpleasant when you choose to be. You tal_o me as though I were only nine years old. You ought to see that I'm ver_nhappy. I'm the oldest girl at Miss Waring's—locked up there with a lot o_ittle pigeons that coo every time you look at them. They treat me as though _ere their grandmother."
"Why don't you say all these things to your father?" asked Harwood, trying t_augh. "I dare say he'll do anything you like. But please cheer up; thos_eople over there will think we're having a terrible quarrel."
The fact that they were drawing the glances of Miss Bosworth's party please_er; she had been perfectly conscious of it all the time.
"Well, they won't think you're making _love_ to me, Mr. Harwood; there's tha_o console you." And she added icily, settling back in her chair as her fathe_pproached, "I hope you understand that I'm not even leading you on!"