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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Martha - Chapter 51. A Loose End
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The House Of Martha - Chapter 51. A Loose End Post by :Joe_Coon Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :1035

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The House Of Martha - Chapter 51. A Loose End



I was now a very happy man, but I was not an entirely satisfied one. Looking back upon what had happened, I could see that there were certain loose ends, which ought to be gathered up before they were broken off and lost, or tangled up with something to which they did not belong.

It has always been my disposition to gather up the loose ends, to draw together the floating strands of circumstance, tendency, intention, and all that sort of thing, so that I may see what they are and where they come from. I like to know how I stand in relation to them, and how they may affect me.

One of the present loose ends was brought to my mind by a conversation with Sylvia. I had been speaking of her cousin Marcia Raynor, and expressing my pleasure that she was about to enter a new life, to which she seemed so well adapted.

"Marcia is a fine woman," she said, "and I love her ever so much, but you know she has caused me a great deal of pain; that she has actually made me cry when I was in bed at night."

I assured her that I had never imagined such a thing possible.

"Of course," Sylvia continued, "I do not refer to the way she acted just before the House of Martha was broken up. Then she opposed everything I wanted to do, and would listen to no reason, but I wouldn't listen to her reasons either, and I was entirely too angry with her to think of crying on her account. It was before that, that she made my very heart sick, and all on your account."

"She was severe upon me, I suppose."

"Not a bit of it," said Sylvia, "if she had been severe, I should not have minded it so much, but it was quite the other way. Now just put yourself in my place and try to think how you would have felt about it. Here was I, fixed and settled for life in the House of Martha, and here were you, perfectly convinced--at least I was afraid you were convinced--that there was nothing for you to do but to give me up, and here was Marcia, just about to step out into the world a free woman, and at the same time taking a most wonderful interest in you, and trying to make you understand that you ought to let me alone, and all that sort of thing."

"In which she did not succeed at all," I said.

"So it appears," said Sylvia, "but I couldn't be sure about that at the time, you know, and if she had succeeded there was no earthly reason why you should not have become as much interested in her as she was in you, and then--but it's too dreadful to talk about; it used to make me fairly boil."

"You mean to say," said I, "that you were jealous of your Cousin Marcia."

"Yes," she answered, "there is no use in calling it by any other name; I was jealous, savagely so, sometimes."

Now this was a very high compliment, and I did not fail to express my satisfaction at having been the subject of such emotions. But one of the results of Sylvia's communication was to remind me of the existence of a loose end. I had never understood Mother Anastasia's feelings towards me. It had been very interesting to me to make conjectures about those feelings, and now that I could safely do more than conjecture I wished to do more, and to find out, if possible, if there had been any reasons for the construction I had placed upon the actions of the beautiful Mother Superior. Of course this was of no real importance now, but one cannot be brought into relations with such a woman as Marcia Raynor without wanting to know exactly what those relations were.

I had far too much prudence, however, to talk on this subject with Sylvia; if I talked with any one I must do it very cautiously. One morning I called upon Miss Laniston. That lady was informed on a great many points, and, moreover, was exceedingly free-spoken. I did not expect any direct information from her, but she might say something from which I might make inferences.

She thought I had come to thank her for what she had done for me, but I assured her that this ceremony must be postponed for the present, for Sylvia had instructed me to write my gratitude in a letter, which she thought would be a much preferable method than for me to pour it out in a private interview.

"Your Sylvia seems to be a jealous little body," she remarked.

"Oh, no," said I, "although, of course, it is natural enough for persons in our state of mind to have tendencies that way. By the way, one of these tendencies on her part was rather odd. Do you know that at one time she was almost jealous of her cousin Marcia, at that time a gray-bonneted sister? As you know so much of our affairs I do not think I am going too far in telling that."

Miss Laniston seemed to be considering the subject.

"It is the commonest thing," she said presently, "to make mistakes about matters of this sort. Now, for instance, I once put some questions to you which seemed to indicate that there might be some reason for Sylvia's uneasiness. Didn't you think they pointed that way?"

"Yes, I did," I replied.

"And have you ever thought of it since?" she asked.

"Occasionally. Of course the matter is of no vital interest now. But at the time you spoke of it, I could not help wondering if I had said or done anything during my rather intimate acquaintance with Mother Anastasia which would give you good cause to put the questions to which you just now alluded."

"Well," said Miss Laniston, "you seemed to me, at the time, to be in a decidedly unbalanced state of mind, but I think I acted most unwarrantably in speaking of Marcia as I did. In fact, I often act unwarrantably. It is one of my habits. And to prove it to you, I am going to act unwarrantably again. Having brought the elder Miss Raynor before you in a way that might have led you to have undefined ideas about her, I am going to bring her before you again in order that those ideas may be exactly defined. It is all wrong, I know, but I like to set things straight, whether I do it in the right way or wrong way."

"That is exactly my disposition," I replied; "I always want to set things straight."

She left the room, and soon returned with a letter.

"When I decide positively to do a thing," she said, sitting down and opening the letter, "I think it just as well to drop apologies and excuses. You and I have decided that matters ought to be set straight, and so, here goes. Marcia has just written me a long letter in which she says a good deal about you and Sylvia, and I am going to read you a part of it which I think will straighten out some things which I may have made crooked, in my efforts to do good to all parties concerned--a dangerous business, I may say.

"'It is delightful to think,' thus Marcia writes,--'that Sylvia's life is at last settled for her, and that, too, in the right way. Of course, neither you nor I would be satisfied with a match like that; but Sylvia is not only satisfied with Mr. Vanderley, but I have no doubt that she will be perfectly happy with him. More than that, I believe she will supply his shortcomings, and strengthen his weaknesses, and as he has a naturally good disposition, and an ample fortune, I think Sylvia is to be sincerely congratulated. When we first spoke of this matter a good while ago I thought that if the Sylvia-Vanderley affair could ever be arranged, it would be a good thing, and I have not changed my opinion.' The rest of the letter," said Miss Laniston, folding it as she spoke, "chiefly concerns the new college, and I do not suppose it would interest you."

I agreed with her, and took my leave. The loose end had been gathered up.

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