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Chapter 15 A SURPRISE AT THE COUNTRY CLUB

  • "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.
  • Owen."
  • "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!"