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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Martha - Chapter 49. My Own Way
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The House Of Martha - Chapter 49. My Own Way Post by :codebluenj Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :1721

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The House Of Martha - Chapter 49. My Own Way

XLIX. MY OWN WAY.

When I went home to my grandmother, she was greatly surprised to see me, and I lost no time in explaining my unexpected appearance.

"Really, really," she exclaimed, "I was just writing you a letter, which I intended to send after you, so that you would get it when you arrived in London; and in it I was going to tell you all about the breaking up of the House of Martha, of which I first heard half an hour after you left me. I was glad you had not known of it before you started, for I thought it would be so much better for all the changes to be made while you were away, and for Sylvia to be in her mother's house, where she could get rid of her nunnish habits, and have some proper clothes made up. Of course I knew you would come back soon, but I thought your own mind would be in much better order for a little absence."

"My dear grandmother," I cried, "in mind and body I am in perfect order, and it is presence, not absence, which made me so."

"Somehow or other," said she, smiling, "the fates seem to help you to have your own way, and I am sure I am delighted that you will stay at home. And what has become of Mr. Walkirk?"

"Upon my word!" I exclaimed--"I do not know."

Towards evening Walkirk returned, looking tired and out of spirits. I truly regretted the carelessness and neglect with which I had treated him, and explained and apologized to the best of my ability. He was a good-natured fellow, and behaved magnanimously.

"Things have turned out wonderfully well," he said, as he took a seat, "but I shall be more delighted with the state of affairs when I am a little less fatigued. Minor annoyances ought not to be considered, but I assure you I have had a pretty rough time of it. As the hour for sailing drew near, and you did not make your appearance, I became more and more nervous and anxious. I would not allow our baggage to be put on board, for I knew a conference with a lady was likely to be of indefinite duration, and when at last the steamer sailed, I went immediately to Miss Laniston's house to inform you of the fact, and to find out what you proposed to do; but Miss Laniston was not at home, and the servant told me that a gentleman--undoubtedly you--had left the house nearly an hour before, and his great haste made her think that he was trying to catch a steamer.

"'People would not hurry like that,' she said, 'to catch a train, for there's always another one in an hour or two.'

"Then I began to fear that in your haste you had gone on board the wrong steamer--two others sailed to-day, a little later than ours, and I went to their piers and made all sorts of inquiries, but I could find out nothing. Then I went to your club, to your lawyer's office, and several other places where I supposed you might go, but no one had seen or heard of you. Then a fear began to creep over me that you had had some greatly depressing news from Miss Laniston, and that you had made away with yourself."

"Walkirk!" I exclaimed, "how dared you think that?"

"Men in the nervous condition I was," he answered, "think all sorts of things, and that is one of the things I thought. Finally I went to Miss Laniston's house again, and this time I found her, and learned what had happened. Then I went to the pier, ordered the trunk sent back here, for I knew there was no question now of the trip to Europe, and here I am."

It was easy to see that whatever pleasure the turn in my affairs may have given Walkirk, he was disappointed at losing his trip to Europe; but I thought it well not to reopen his wounds by any allusion to this fact, and contented myself by saying the most earnest and cordial things about what he had done and suffered for me that day, and inwardly determining that I would make full amends to him for his lost journey.

In about ten days I received a message by cable from Liverpool, which was sent by my stenographer, informing me that he had gone aboard the steamer, as per agreement, and being busy writing letters to send back by the pilot, had not discovered that Walkirk and I were not on board until it was too late. The message was a long one, and its cost, as well as that of the one by which I informed the stenographer that he might come home, and the price of the man's passage to Liverpool and back, besides the sum I was obliged to pay him for his lost time, might all have been saved to me, had the fellow been thoughtful enough to make himself sure that we were on board before he allowed himself to be carried off. But little rubs of this kind were of slight moment to me at that time.

On the day after things had been taken for granted between Sylvia and myself, I saw her at her mother's house, and I must admit that although it had given me such exquisite pleasure to feel that she was mine in the coarse gray gown of a "sister," it delighted me more to feel she was mine in the ordinary costume of society. She was as gay as a butterfly ought to be which had just cast off its gray wrappings and spread its wings to the coloring light.

I found Mrs. Raynor in a somewhat perturbed state of mind.

"I cannot accommodate myself," she said, "to these sudden and violent mutations. I like to sit on the sands and stay there as long as I please, and to feel that I know how high each breaker will be, and how far the tide will come in, but these tidal waves which make beach of sea and sea of beach sweep me away utterly; I cannot comprehend where I am. A week ago I considered you as an enemy with active designs on the peace of my daughter. I was about to write you a letter to demand that you should cease from troubling her. But I heard you were going to Europe, and then I felt that henceforth our paths would be smoother, for I believed that absence would cure you of your absurd and objectless infatuation; but suddenly, down goes the House of Martha, and up comes the enemy, transformed into a suitor, who is loved by Sylvia, and against whom I can have no possible objection. Now can not you see for yourself how this sort of thing must affect a mind accustomed to a certain uniformity of emotion?"

"Madam," said I, "it will be the object of my life to make you so happy in our happiness that you shall remember this recent tumult of events as something more gratifying to look back upon than your most cherished memories of tranquil delight."

"You seem to have a high opinion of your abilities," she said, smiling, "and of the value of what you offer me. I am perfectly willing that you try what you can do; nevertheless I wish you had gone to Europe. Everything would have turned out just the same, and the affair would have been more seemly."

"Oh, we can easily make that all right," said I. "Sylvia and I will go to Europe on our bridal trip."

As I finished these words Sylvia came into the room, accompanied by Miss Laniston.

"Here is a gentleman," said my dear girl to her companion, "who has declared his desire to thank you for something you have done for him, and he has spoken so strongly about the way in which he intended to pour out his gratitude, that I want to see how he does it."

"Mr. Vanderley," said Miss Laniston, "I forbid you to utter one word of that outpouring, which you would have poured out yesterday morning, had it not been so urgently necessary to catch a train. When I am ready for the effusion referred to, I will fix a time for it and let you know the day before, and I will take care that no one shall be present at it but ourselves."

"Any way," said Sylvia, "he will tell me all about it."

"If he does," said Miss Laniston, "you will re-enter a convent."

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