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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCelebrity - Volume 3 - Chapter 9
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Celebrity - Volume 3 - Chapter 9 Post by :herbdalyjr Category :Long Stories Author :Winston Churchill Date :May 2012 Read :784

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Celebrity - Volume 3 - Chapter 9

VOLUME 3 CHAPTER IX

That evening I lighted a cigar and went down to sit on the outermost pile of the Asquith dock to commune with myself. To say that I was disappointed in Miss Thorn would be to set a mild value on my feelings. I was angry, even aggressive, over her defence of the Celebrity. I had gone over to Mohair that day with a hope that some good reason was at the bottom of her tolerance for him, and had come back without any hope. She not only tolerated him, but, wonderful to be said, plainly liked him. Had she not praised him, and defended him, and become indignant when I spoke my mind about him? And I would have taken my oath, two weeks before, that nothing short of hypnotic influence could have changed her. By her own confession she had come to Asquith with her eyes opened, and, what was more, seen another girl wrecked on the same reef.

Farrar followed me out presently, and I had an impulse to submit the problem as it stood to him. But it was a long story, and I did not believe that if he were in my boots he would have consulted me. Again, I sometimes thought Farrar yearned for confidences, though it was impossible for him to confide. And he wore an inviting air to-night. Then, as everybody knows, there is that about twilight and an after-dinner cigar which leads to communication. They are excellent solvents. My friend seated himself on the pile next to mine, and said,

"It strikes me you have been behaving rather queer lately, Crocker."

This was clearly an invitation from Farrar, and I melted.

"I admit," said I, "that I am a good deal perplexed over the contradictions of the human mind."

"Oh, is that all?" he replied dryly. "I supposed it was worse. Narrower, I mean. Didn't know you ever bothered yourself with abstract philosophy."

"See here, Farrar," said I, "what is your opinion of Miss Thorn?"

He stopped kicking his feet against the pile and looked up.

"Miss Thorn?"

"Yes, Miss Thorn," I repeated with emphasis. I knew he had in mind that abominable twaddle about the canoe excursions.

"Why, to tell the truth," said he, "I never had any opinion of Miss Thorn."

"You mean you never formed any, I suppose," I returned with some tartness.

"Yes, that is it. How darned precise you are getting, Crocker! One would think you were going to write a rhetoric. What put Miss Thorn into your head?"

"I have been coaching beside her this afternoon."

"Oh!" said Farrar.

"Do you remember the night she came," I asked, "and we sat with her on the Florentine porch, and Charles Wrexell recognized her and came up?"

"Yes," he replied with awakened interest, "and I meant to ask you about that."

"Miss Thorn had met him in the East. And I gathered from what she told me that he has followed her out here."

"Shouldn't wonder," said Farrar. "Don't much blame him, do you? Is that what troubles you?" he asked, in surprise.

"Not precisely," I answered vaguely; "but from what she has said then and since, she made it pretty clear that she hadn't any use for him; saw through him, you know."

"Pity her if she didn't. But what did she say?"

I repeated the conversations I had had with Miss Thorn, without revealing Mr. Allen's identity with the celebrated author.

"That is rather severe," he assented.

"He decamped for Mohair, as you know, and since that time she has gone back on every word of it. She is with him morning and evening, and, to crown all, stood up for him through thick and thin to-day, and praised him. What do you think of that?"

"What I should have expected in a woman," said he, nonchalantly.

"They aren't all alike," I retorted.

He shook out his pipe, and getting down from his high seat laid his hand on my knee.

"I thought so once, old fellow," he whispered, and went off down the dock.

This was the nearest Farrar ever came to a confidence.

I have now to chronicle a curious friendship which had its beginning at this time. The friendships of the other sex are quickly made, and sometimes as quickly dissolved. This one interested me more than I care to own. The next morning Judge Short, looking somewhat dejected after the overnight conference he had had with his wife, was innocently and somewhat ostentatiously engaged in tossing quoits with me in front of the inn, when Miss Thorn drove up in a basket cart. She gave me a bow which proved that she bore no ill-will for that which I had said about her hero. Then Miss Trevor appeared, and away they went together. This was the commencement. Soon the acquaintance became an intimacy, and their lives a series of visits to each other. Although this new state of affairs did not seem to decrease the number of Miss Thorn's 'tete-a-tetes' with the Celebrity, it put a stop to the canoe expeditions I had been in the habit of taking with Miss Trevor, which I thought just as well under the circumstances. More than once Miss Thorn partook of the inn fare at our table, and when this happened I would make my escape before the coffee. For such was the nature of my feelings regarding the Celebrity that I could not bring myself into cordial relations with one who professed to admire him. I realize how ridiculous such a sentiment must appear, but it existed nevertheless, and most strongly.

I tried hard to throw Miss Thorn out of my thoughts, and very nearly succeeded. I took to spending more and more of my time at the county-seat, where I remained for days at a stretch, inventing business when there was none. And in the meanwhile I lost all respect for myself as a sensible man, and cursed the day the Celebrity came into the state. It seemed strange that this acquaintance of my early days should have come back into my life, transformed, to make it more or less miserable. The county-seat being several miles inland, and lying in the midst of hills, could get intolerably hot in September. At last I was driven out in spite of myself, and I arrived at Asquith cross and dusty. As Simpson was brushing me off, Miss Trevor came up the path looking cool and pretty in a summer gown, and her face expressed sympathy. I have never denied that sympathy was a good thing.

"Oh, Mr. Crocker," she cried, "I am so glad you are back again! We have missed you dreadfully. And you look tired, poor man, quite worn out. It is a shame you have to go over to that hot place to work."

I agreed with her.

"And I never have any one to take me canoeing any more."

"Let's go now," I suggested, "before dinner."

So we went. It was a keen pleasure to be on the lake again after the sultry court-rooms and offices, and the wind and exercise quickly brought back my appetite and spirits. I paddled hither and thither, stopping now and then to lie under the pines at the mouth of some stream, while Miss Trevor talked. She was almost a child in her eagerness to amuse me with the happenings since my departure. This was always her manner with me, in curious contrast to her habit of fencing and playing with words when in company. Presently she burst out:

"Mr. Crocker, why is it that you avoid Miss Thorn? I was talking of you to her only to-day, and she says you go miles out of your way to get out of speaking to her; that you seemed to like her quite well at first. She couldn't understand the change."

"Did she say that?" I exclaimed.

"Indeed, she did; and I have noticed it, too. I saw you leave before coffee more than once when she was here. I don't believe you know what a fine girl she is."

"Why, then, does she accept and return the attentions of the Celebrity?" I inquired, with a touch of acidity. "She knows what he is as well, if not better, than you or I. I own I can't understand it," I said, the subject getting ahead of me. "I believe she is in love with him."

Miss Trevor began to laugh; quietly at first, and, as her merriment increased, heartily.

"Shouldn't we be getting back?" I asked, looking at my watch. "It lacks but half an hour of dinner."

"Please don't be angry, Mr. Crocker," she pleaded. "I really couldn't help laughing."

"I was unaware I had said anything funny, Miss Trevor," I replied.

"Of course you didn't," she said more soberly; "that is, you didn't intend to. But the very notion of Miss Thorn in love with the Celebrity is funny."

"Evidence is stronger than argument," said I. "And now she has even convicted herself."

I started to paddle homeward, rather furiously, and my companion said nothing until we came in sight of the inn. As the canoe glided into the smooth surface behind the breakwater, she broke the silence.

"I heard you went fishing the other day," said she.

"Yes."

"And the judge told me about a big bass you hooked, and how you played him longer than was necessary for the mere fun of the thing."

"Yes."

"Perhaps you will find in the feeling that prompted you to do that a clue to the character of our sex."

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