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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Martha - Chapter 47. I Interest Miss Laniston
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The House Of Martha - Chapter 47. I Interest Miss Laniston Post by :cclittle Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :1962

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The House Of Martha - Chapter 47. I Interest Miss Laniston


When I reached Miss Laniston's house that lady was at breakfast, but she did not keep me waiting long.

"Truly," she said, as she entered the drawing-room, "you are the most expeditious person I ever knew. I knew that you would come to me, but I did not suppose you would even start as soon as this."

"I had already started when I received your telegram," I said.

"To come here?"

"No, to sail for Europe."

"Well, well!" she exclaimed, "from this moment I shall respect my instincts, a thing I never did before. When I woke this morning my first thought was of the message I intended to send to you, and I intended to attend to it immediately after breakfast; but my hitherto unappreciated instincts hinted to me that no time should be lost, and I called my maid, and dispatched the telegram immediately. Moral: Do all the good you can before you get up in the morning. Why are you starting for Europe?"

"I haven't time to tell you," I said, "in fact, I can only remain a few minutes longer, or I shall lose the steamer. Please tell me your business."

"Is Sylvia the cause of your going away?" she asked.

"Yes," I said; "is she the reason of your wishing to see me?"

"Most certainly," she answered; "when does your steamer start?"

"By ten o'clock," I said.

"Oh, bless me," she remarked, glancing at the clock, "you have quite time enough to hear all I have to say, and then if you do not catch the steamer it is your own fault. Sit down, I pray you."

Very reluctantly I took a seat, for at last the spirit of Walkirk had infected me.

"Now," said she, "I will cut my story as short as possible, but you really ought to hear it before you start. I made a visit to Arden, on the day after you performed the grand transformation scene in your brotherhood extravaganza. I should have been greatly amused by what was told me of this prank, if I had not seen that it had caused so much trouble. Sylvia was in a wretched way, and in an extremely bad temper. Marcia was almost as miserable, for she was acting the part of an extinguisher not only to Sylvia's hopes and aspirations, but to her own. So far as I could see there was no way out of the doleful dumps in which you seemed to have plunged yourself and all parties concerned, but I set to work to try what I could do to straighten out matters; my principal object being, I candidly admit, to enable Marcia Raynor to feel free to give up her position of watch-dog, and go to her National College, on which her soul is set. But to accomplish this, I must first do something with Sylvia; but that girl has a conscience like a fence post, and a disposition like a squirrel that skips along the rails. I could do nothing with her. She had sworn to be a Sister of Martha for life, and yet she would not consent to act like an out and out sister, and give up all that stuff about typewriting for you, and the other nonsensical notions of co-Marthaism, with which you infected her. She stoutly stuck to it, in spite of all the arguments I could use, that there was no good reason why you and she, as well as the other sisters and some other gentlemen, could not work together in the noble cause of I don't remember what fol-de-rol. Pretty co-Marthas you and she would make!

"Then I tried to induce Marcia to give up her fancies of responsibilities and all that, and to leave the girl in the charge of the present Mother Inferior, an elderly woman called Sister Sarah, who in my opinion could be quite as much of a griffin as the case demanded. But she would not listen to me. She had been the cause of her cousin's joining the sisterhood, and now she would not desert her, and she said a lot about the case requiring not only vigilance, but kindness and counsel, and that sort of thing. Then I went back to the city, and tried my hand on Sylvia's mother, but with no success at all. She is like a stone gate-post, and always was, and declared that as Sylvia had entered the institution because Marcia was there, it was the latter's duty to give up everything else, and to throw herself between Sylvia and your mischievous machinations and to stay there until you were married to somebody, and the danger was past."

"Machinations!" I ejaculated,--"a most unreasonable person."

"Perhaps so," said Miss Laniston, "but not a bit more than the rest of you. You are the most unreasonable lot I ever met with. Having failed utterly with the three women, I had some idea of sending for you, and of trying to persuade you to marry some one who is not under the sisterhood's restrictions, and so smooth out this wretched tangle, but I knew that you were more obstinate and stiff-necked than any of them, and so concluded to save myself the trouble of reasoning with you."

"A wise decision," I remarked.

"But I could not give up," she continued; "I could not bear the thought that my friend Marcia Raynor should sacrifice herself in this way. I went back to Arden in the hope that something might suggest itself; that a gleam of sense might be shown by the one or the other of the lunatics in gray for whose good I was racking my brains. But I found things worse than I had left them. Sylvia had stirred herself into a spirit of combativeness of which no one would have supposed her capable, and had actually endeavored to brow-beat her Mother Superior into the belief that a Brotherhood Annex was not only necessary to the prosperity and success of the House of Martha, but that it was absolutely wicked not to have it. She had gone on in this strain until Marcia had become angry, and then there had been a scene and tears, and much subsequent misery.

"I talked first with one doleful sister, and then with the other, with the only result that I became nearly as doleful as they. In my despair I went to Marcia, and urged her to acknowledge herself vanquished, to give up this contest, which would be her ruin, to show herself a true woman, and to take up the true work of her life. 'Oh, I couldn't do it,' she said, and she looked as if she were going to cry, a most unusual thing with her; 'if I went away, to-morrow they would be together, making mud-pies for the children of the poor.' I sprang to my feet. 'Marcia Raynor,' I cried, 'you made this House of Martha. You are the head and the front, the top and the bottom of it. You are its founder and its autocrat, it lives on your money,--for everybody knows that what these sisters make wouldn't buy their pillboxes,--and now, having run it all these years, and having brought yourself and Sylvia to the greatest grief by it, it is your duty to put an end to it, to abolish it.'

"'Abolish the House of Martha?' she cried, with her great eyes blazing at me.

"'Yes,' I said, 'abolish it, destroy it, annihilate it, declare it null, void, dead and gone, utterly extinguished, and out of existence. You can do this, and you ought to do this. It is your only way out of the dreadful situation in which you have got yourself and Sylvia. Let the other sisters go to some other institutions, or wherever they like. You and Sylvia will be free, that is the great point. Now do not hesitate. Stop supplies, dissolve the organization, break up the House of Martha, and do it instantly.'

"She made one step towards me and seized me by the wrist. 'Janet,' she said, 'I will do it.' And she did it that day. At present there is no House of Martha."

I sat and gazed at Miss Laniston without comprehending what I had heard.

"No House of Martha!" I ejaculated.

"That is precisely the state of the case," she answered; "the establishment was dissolved at noon yesterday. As I had had all the trouble of bringing this thing about, I considered that I had a right to tell you of it myself. I thought it would interest me to see how you took it."

I rose to my feet; I stepped towards her.

"No House of Martha," I gasped,--"and Sylvia?"

"Sylvia will go home to her mother, so she told me yesterday. I was present at the dissolution. I think she will probably come to the city this afternoon."

I snatched up my hat. "I must go to her instantly," I said. "I must see her before she reaches her mother. I have lost time already."

"Upon my word!" exclaimed Miss Laniston, "your way of taking it is indeed interesting. Not a word of thanks, not a sign of recognition"--

I had nearly reached the door, but now rushed back and seized her by the hand. "Excuse me," I said, "but you can see for yourself"--and with one violent shake I dropped her hand, and hurried away.

"Oh, yes," she cried, "I can easily see for myself," and as I left the house I heard her hearty laugh.

I sprang into my cab, ordering the man to drive fast for the railroad station. It mattered not to me whether Walkirk went to Europe or not. All I cared for was to catch the next train which would take me to Arden.

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