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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Captain's Toll-gate - Chapter 29. Two Pieces Of News
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The Captain's Toll-gate - Chapter 29. Two Pieces Of News Post by :mrtwist Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2209

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The Captain's Toll-gate - Chapter 29. Two Pieces Of News

CHAPTER XXIX. Two Pieces of News

It was nearly two weeks after Mrs. Easterfield drove away from the captain's toll-gate before she went back there again. There were many reasons for thus depriving herself of Olive's society. Mr. Tom had stayed with her for an unusually long time; a house full of visitors, mostly relatives, had succeeded the departed lovers, and Foxes; and, besides, Olive was so very busy and so very happy--as she learned from many little notes--cleaning the house from garret to cellar, and loving her uncle better every day, that it really would have been a misdemeanor to interfere with her ardent pursuits.

But now Olive had written that she wanted to tell her a lot of things which could not go into a letter, and so the Broadstone carriage stopped again at the toll-gate.

Two great things had Olive to tell, and she was really glad that her uncle was not at home so that she might get at once to the telling.

In the first place, old Mr. Port was dead, and Captain Asher was in great trouble about this. Of course, he could not keep away from the deathbed of his old friend, nor could he neglect to do all honor to his memory, but it was a terrible thing for him to have to go into the house where Maria Port lived. After what had happened it was almost too much for his courage, although he was a brave man. But he had conquered his feelings, and he was there now. The funeral would be to-morrow.

When Mrs. Easterfield heard all that Olive had to tell her about Maria Port, her heart went out to that brave man who kept the toll-gate.

The next thing that Olive had to tell was that she had heard from her father, who wrote that he would soon arrive in this country; that he would then go West, where he would marry Olive's former schoolmate; and that, on their wedding tour, he would make a little visit at the tollhouse so that Olive might see her new mother.

"Now, isn't this enough," cried Olive, "to make any girl spread her wings and fly to the ends of the earth? But I have no wings; they have all gone away in a dog-cart. But I don't feel about that as I used to feel," she continued, a little hardness coming into her face. "I am settled now just the same as if I were married, and father and Edith Malcolmsen may come just as soon as they please. They shall make no plans for me; I am going to stay here with Uncle John. This house is mine now, and I am seriously thinking of having it painted. I shall stay here just as if I were one of those trees, and my father and my new mother--"

Here tears came into Olive's eyes and Mrs. Easterfield stopped her.

"Olive," said she, "I will give you a piece of advice. When your father and his young wife come here, treat her exactly as if she were your old friend. If you do so I think you will get along very well. This is partly selfish advice, for I greatly desire the opportunity to treat your father hospitably. He was my friend when I was a girl, you remember, and I looked up to him with very great admiration."

And so these two friends sat and talked, and talked, and talked until it was positively shameful, considering that the Broadstone horses were accustomed to be fed and watered at noon, and that the coachman was very hungry.

When, at last, Mrs. Easterfield drove home, and it must have been three in the afternoon, she left Olive very much comforted, even in regard to the unfortunate obligations which had fallen upon her uncle. For now that her old father had gone, all intercourse with the Port woman would cease.

But in her own mind Mrs. Easterfield was not so very much comforted. It was all well enough to talk about Olive and her uncle and the happiness and safety of the home he had given her, but that sort of thing could not last very long. He was an elderly man and she was a girl. In the natural course of events, she would probably be left alone while she was very young. She would then be alone, for her father's wife could never be a mother to her when he was at sea, and their home would never be a home for her when he was on shore. What Olive wanted, in Mrs. Easterfield's opinion, was a husband. An uncle, such as Captain Asher, was very charming, but he was not enough.

During this pleasant afternoon, when Captain Asher was in town attending to some arrangements for the burial of Mr. Port, Miss Maria was sitting discreetly alone in her darkened chamber. She had a great many things to think about, and if she had allowed her conscience full freedom of action, there would have been much more upon her mind. She might have been troubled by the recollection that since her father's very determined treatment of her when she had endeavored to fix herself upon the affections of Captain Asher, she had so conducted herself toward her venerable parent that she had actually nagged the life out of him; and that had she been the dutiful daughter she ought to have been he might have been living yet. But thoughts of this nature were not common to Maria Port. She had made herself sure that the will was all right, and he was very old. There was a time for all things, and Maria was now about to begin life for herself. To her plans for this new life she now gave almost her sole attention.

She had one great object in view which overshadowed everything else, and this was to marry Captain Asher. This she could have done before, she firmly believed, had it not been for her old father and that horrid girl, the captain's niece. As for the elderly man who kept the toll-gate she did not mind him. If not interfered with, she was sure she could make him marry her, and then the great ambition of her life would be satisfied.

Unpretentious as was her establishment in town, she did not care to spend the money necessary to keep it up, and although she was often an unkind woman, she was not cruel enough to think of inflicting herself as a boarder upon any housewife in the town. No, the toll-gate was the home for her; and if Captain Asher chose to inflict himself upon her for a few years longer, she would try to endure it.

One obstacle to her plans was now gone, and she must devote herself to the work of getting rid of the other one. While Olive Asher remained at the tollhouse there was no chance for her in that quarter.

The funeral was over, and when the bereaved Miss Port took leave of Captain Asher she exhibited a quiet gratitude which was very becoming and suitable. During the short time when he had visited the house every day she had showed him no resentment on account of what had passed between them, and had treated him very much as if he had been one of her father's old friends with whom she was not very well acquainted and to whom she was indebted for various services connected with the sad occasion.

When he took final leave of her he shook her hand, and as he did so he gave her a peculiar grasp which, in his own mind, indicated that he and she had now nothing more to do with each other, and that the acquaintance was adjourned without day. She bade him a simple farewell, and as he left the house she grinned at his broad back. This grin expressed, to herself at least, that the old and rather faulty acquaintance was at an end, and that the new connection which she intended to establish between herself and him would be upon an entirely different basis.

He did not ask her if there was anything more that he could do for her, for he did not desire to mix himself up with her affairs, which he knew she was eminently able to manage for herself, and it was with a deep breath of relief that he got into his buggy and drove home to his toll-gate.

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