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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Martha - Chapter 46. Going Back For A Friend
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The House Of Martha - Chapter 46. Going Back For A Friend Post by :mrtwist Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2254

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The House Of Martha - Chapter 46. Going Back For A Friend

XLVI. GOING BACK FOR A FRIEND

When I reached home, I looked up my grandmother and told her everything that had happened. My excitement was so great that it was necessary I should talk to some one, and I felt a pang of regret when I remembered that latterly I had given no confidences to her.

My grandmother listened eagerly and without interrupting me, but as I spoke she shook her head again and again, and when I had finished, she said:--

"My dear boy, if you understood the world and the people in it as well as I do, you would know that that sort of thing could never, never work. Before long you and Sylvia would be madly in love with each other, and then what would happen nobody knows. It may be that Mother Anastasia has not fully done her duty in this case, or it may be that she has done too much, and other people may have acted improperly and without due thought and caution; but be this as it may, it is plain enough to see that your poor heart has been dreadfully wrung. I wish I had known before of this brotherhood notion, and of what you intended to do, and I would have told you, as I tell you now, that in this world we must accept situations. That is the only way in which we can get along at all. Sylvia Raynor has gone, soul and body, into this Martha House, which is the same as a convent, and to all intents and purposes she is the same as a nun. Now there is no use fighting against that sort of thing. Even if she should consent to climb over the wall, and run away with you, I do not believe you would like a wife who would do that, after all she had vowed and given her solemn word to."

"My dear grandmother," I said, "all that you say may be true, but it makes no difference to me; I shall always be faithful to Sylvia."

"Perhaps so, perhaps so," said my grandmother, "but you must remember this: it may be all very well to be faithful, but you should be careful how you do it. In some respects Mother Anastasia is entirely right, and your faithfulness, if injudiciously shown, may make miserable the life of this young woman." I sighed but said nothing. My grandmother looked pityingly upon me.

"I think you can do nothing better than to go and travel as you have proposed. Stay away for a year. Dear knows, I do not want to keep you from me for all that time, but the absence will be for your good. It will influence your life. When you come back, then you will know yourself better than you can possibly know yourself now. Then you will be able to see what you truly ought to do, and I promise you that if I am alive I will help you do it."

I took the dear old lady in my arms, and her advice to my heart. I acknowledged to myself that at this conjuncture the wisest thing, the kindest thing was to go away. I might not stay away for a year, but I would go.

"Grandmother," I said, "I will do what you advise. But I have something to ask of you: I have vowed that I will be a brother of the House of Martha, and that I will do its work, with or without the consent of the sisters, and with or without their companionship. Now if I go, will you be my substitute? Will you, as far as you can, assist the sisters in their undertakings, and do what you think I would have done, had I been here?"

"I cannot change a dilapidated hut into a charming cottage in one afternoon," she said, placing both hands on my shoulders as she spoke, "but I will do all that I can, and all that you ought to do, if you were here. That much I promise."

"Then I will go," I said, "with a heavy heart, but with an easier conscience."

Walkirk entirely approved of an immediate start upon the journey which I had before proposed. I think he feared that if it was postponed any longer, I might get some other idea into my head which would work better than the brotherhood scheme, and that our travels might be postponed indefinitely.

But there was a great deal to be done before I could leave home for a lengthy absence, and a week was occupied in arranging my business affairs, and planning for the comfort and pleasure of my grandmother while I should be away. Walkirk engaged the stenographer, and was the greatest possible help to me in every way, but notwithstanding his efforts to relieve me of work that was a busier week for me than any week in my whole life. This was an advantage to me, for it kept me from thinking too much of the reason for my hurried journey.

At last the day arrived on which the steamer was to sail, and the generally cool Walkirk actually grew nervous in his efforts to get me ready to start by the early morning train for the city. In these efforts I did not assist him in the least. In fact had he not been with me I think that I should not have tried to leave home in time to catch the steamer. The more I thought of catching the steamer, the less I cared to do so; the more I thought of leaving home, the less I cared to do so. It was not that I was going away from Sylvia that made me thus reluctant to start. It was because I was going away without taking leave of her,--without a word or even a sign from her. I ground my teeth as I thought of how I had lost the only chance I had had of bidding her farewell, and of assuring her that, no matter what happened, I would be constant to her and to the principles in which we had both come to believe. I had been too much excited on the morning I had left her in the Frenchman's cottage to think that that would be my last chance of seeing her; that thereafter Mother Anastasia would never cease to guard her from my speech or sight. I should have rushed in, caring for nothing. People might have talked, but Sylvia would have known that prohibitions and separations would make no difference in my feeling for her.

And now I was going away without a word or a sign, or even the slightest trifle which I could cherish as a memento of her. There was a blankness about it all which deadened my soul.

But Walkirk was inexorable. He made every arrangement, and even superintended my farewell to my grandmother, and gently but firmly interrupted me, as I repeated my entreaties that she would speedily find out something about Sylvia, and write to me. At last we were in the carriage, with time enough to reach the station, and Walkirk wiped his brow, as would a man who had had a heavy load lifted from his mind.

We had not gone a quarter of the distance when the thought suddenly struck me, Why should I go away without a memento of Sylvia? Why had I not remembered my friend Vespa, the wasp, whose flight around my secretary's room had made the first break in the restrictions which surrounded her; had first shown me a Sylvia in place of a gray-bonneted nun? That dead wasp, pinned to a card on the wall of my study, was the only thing I possessed in which Sylvia had a share. I must go back and get it; I must take it with me.

When I shouted to the coachman to turn, that I must go back to get something I had forgotten, Walkirk was thrown into a fever of anxiety. If we did not catch this train we would lose the steamer; the next train would be three hours later. But his protestations had no effect upon me. I must have Sylvia's wasp, no matter what happened.

Back to the house we dashed, and up-stairs I ran. I took down the card to which the wasp was affixed, I found a little box in which to put it, and while I was looking for a rubber band by which to secure the lid, a servant came hurriedly into the room with a telegram for me. I tore it open. It was from Miss Laniston and read thus:--

"Come to me as soon as you can. Important business."

"Important business!" I ejaculated. "She can have no business with me that does not concern Sylvia. I will go to her instantly." In a few seconds I was in the carriage, shouting to the man to drive as fast as he could.

"Yes, indeed," said Walkirk, "you cannot go too fast."

I handed my companion the telegram. He read it blankly.

"It is a pity," he said, "if the business is important. All that can be done now is to telegraph to her that she must write to you in London by the next steamer."

"I shall do nothing of the kind," said I, "I am going to her the instant we reach New York."

Walkirk clenched his hands together, and looked away. He had no words for this situation.

My temper was very different.

"What a wonderful piece of luck!" I exclaimed. "If we had kept on to the station, by this short cut, the telegraph boy, who of course came by the main road, would have missed me, and there would not have been time for him to get back to the station before the train started. How fortunate it was that I went back for that wasp."

"Wasp!" almost screamed Walkirk, and by the way he looked at me, I know he imagined that I was temporarily insane.

We caught the train, and on the way I explained my allusion to the wasp so far as to assure Walkirk that I was no more crazy than men badly crossed in love are apt to be.

"But are you really going to Miss Laniston?" he said.

"I shall be able to drive up there, give her fifteen minutes with five as a margin, and reach the steamer in time. You can go directly to the dock, and attend to the baggage and everything."

My under-study sighed, but he knew it was of no use to make any objections. He did not fail, however, to endeavor to impress upon me the importance of consulting my watch while listening to Miss Laniston's communication.

My plan was carried out; we separated as soon as we reached the city, and in a cab I rattled to Miss Laniston's house.

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