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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Captain's Toll-gate - Chapter 14. A Letter For Olive
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The Captain's Toll-gate - Chapter 14. A Letter For Olive Post by :sbeard Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2202

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The Captain's Toll-gate - Chapter 14. A Letter For Olive

CHAPTER XIV. A Letter for Olive

The next morning, about an hour after breakfast, Mr. Du Brant proposed to Olive. He had received a letter the day before which made it probable that he might be recalled to Washington before the time which had been fixed for the end of his visit at Broadstone, and he consequently did not wish to defer for a moment longer than was necessary this most important business of his life. He told Miss Asher that he had never truly loved before; which was probably correct; and that as she had raised his mind from the common things of earth, upon which it had been accustomed to grovel, she had made a new man of him in an astonishingly short time; which, it is likely, was also true.

He assured her that without any regard to outside circumstances, he could not live without her. If at any other time he had allowed his mind to dwell for a moment upon matrimony, he had thought of family, position, wealth, social station, and all that sort of thing, but now he thought of nothing but her, and he came to offer her his heart. In fact, the man was truly and honestly in love.

Inwardly Olive smiled. "I can not ask him," she said to herself, "to say this again every day before dinner. He hasn't the wit of Claude Locker, and would not be able to vary his remarks; but I can not blast his hopes too suddenly, for, if I do that, he will instantly go away, and it would not be treating Mrs. Easterfield properly if I were to break up her party without her knowledge. But I will talk to her about it. And now for him.--Mr. Du Brant," she said aloud, speaking in English, although he had proposed to her in French, because she thought she could make her own language more impressive, "it is a very serious thing you have said to me, and I don't believe you have had time enough to think about it properly. Now don't interrupt. I know exactly what you would say. You have known me such a little while that even if your mind is made up it can not be properly made up, and therefore, for your own sake, I am going to give you a chance to think it all over. You must not say you don't want to, because I want you to; and when you have thought, and thought, and know yourself better--now don't say you can not know yourself better if you have a thousand years in which to consider it--for though you think that it is true it is not"

"And if I rack my brains and my heart," interrupted Mr. Du Brant, "and find out that I can never change nor feel in any other way toward you than I feel now, may I then----"

"Now, don't say anything about that," said Olive. "What I want to do now is to treat you honorably and fairly, and to give you a chance to withdraw if, after sober consideration, you think it best to do so. I believe that every young man who thinks himself compelled to propose marriage in such hot haste ought to have a chance to reflect quietly and coolly, and to withdraw if he wants to. And that is all, Mr. Du Brant. I must be off this minute, for Mrs. Easterfield is over there waiting for me."

Mr. Du Brant walked thoughtfully away. "I do not understand," he said to himself in French, "why she did not tell me I need not speak to her again about it. The situation is worthy of diplomatic consideration, and I will give it that."

From a distance Claude Locker beheld his Austrian enemy walking alone, and without a book.

"Something has happened," he thought, "and the fellow has changed his tactics. Before, under cover of a French novel, he was a snake in the grass, now he is a snake hopping along on the tip of his tail. Perhaps he thinks this is a better way to keep a lookout upon her. I believe he is more dangerous than he was before, for I don't know whether a snake on tip tail jumps or falls down upon his victims."

One thing Mr. Locker was firmly determined upon. He was going to try to see Olive as soon as it was possible before luncheon, and impress upon her the ardent nature of his feelings toward her; he did not believe he had done this yet. He looked about him. The party, excepting himself and Mr. Du Brant, were on the front lawn; he would join them and satirize the gloomy Austrian. If Olive could be made to laugh at him it would be like preparing a garden-bed with spade and rake before sowing his seeds.

The rural mail-carrier came earlier than usual that day, and he brought Olive but one letter, but as it was from her father, she was entirely satisfied, and retired to a bench to read it.

In about ten minutes after that she walked into Mrs. Easterfield's little room, the open letter in her hand. As Mrs. Easterfield looked up from her writing-table the girl seemed transformed; she was taller, she was straighter, her face had lost its bloom, and her eyes blazed.

"Would you believe it!" she said, grating out the words as she spoke. "My father is going to be married!"

Mrs. Easterfield dropped her pen, and her face lost color. She had always been greatly interested in Lieutenant Asher. "What!" she exclaimed. "He? And to whom?"

"A girl I used to go to school with," said Olive, standing as if she were framed in one solid piece. "Edith Marshall, living in Geneva. She is older than I am, but we were in the same classes. They are to be married in October, and she is to sail for this country about the time his ship comes home. He is to be stationed at Governor's Island, and they are to have a house there. He writes, and writes, and writes, about how lovely it will be for me to have this dear new mother. Me! To call that thing mother! I shall have no mother, but I have lost my father." With this she threw herself upon a lounge, and burst into passionate tears. Mrs. Easterfield rose, and closed the door.

Claude Locker had no opportunity to press his suit before luncheon, for Olive did not come to that meal; she had one of her headaches. Every one seemed to appreciate the incompleteness of the party, and even Mrs. Easterfield looked serious, which was not usual with her. Mr. Hemphill was much cast down, for he had made up his mind to talk to Olive in such a way that she should not fail to see that he had taken to heart her advice, and might be depended upon to deport himself toward her as if he had never heard the words she had addressed to him. He had prepared several topics for conversation, but as he would not waste these upon the general company, he indulged only in such remarks as were necessary to good manners.

Mr. Du Brant talked a good deal in a perfunctory manner, but inwardly he was somewhat elated. "Her emotions must have been excited more than I supposed," he thought. "That is not a bad sign."

Mrs. Fox was a little bit--a very little bit--annoyed because Mr. Fox did not make as many facetious remarks as was his custom. He seemed like one who, in a degree, felt that he lacked an audience; Mrs. Fox could see no good reason for this.

When Mrs. Easterfield went up to Olive's room she found her bathing her eyes in cold water.

"Will you lend me a bicycle" said Olive. "I am sure you have one."

Mrs. Easterfield looked at her in amazement.

"I want to go to my uncle," said Olive. "He is now all I have left in this world. I have been thinking, and thinking about everything, and I want to go to him. Whatever has come between us will vanish as soon as he sees me, I am sure of that. I do not know why he did not want me to come back to him, but he will want me now, and I should like to start immediately without anybody seeing me."

"But a bicycle!" exclaimed Mrs. Easterfield. "You can't go that way. I will send you in the carriage."

"No, no, no," cried Olive; "I want to go quietly. I want to go so that I can leave my wheel at the door and go right in. I have a short walking-skirt, and I can wear that. Please let me have the bicycle."

Mrs. Easterfield made Olive sit down and she talked to her, but there was no changing the girl's determination to go to her uncle, to go alone, and to go immediately.

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