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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Martha - Chapter 52. I finish the Sicilian Love-Story
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The House Of Martha - Chapter 52. I finish the Sicilian Love-Story Post by :ben.g Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2315

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The House Of Martha - Chapter 52. I finish the Sicilian Love-Story



It might have been supposed that my little experience in gathering up loose ends would have deterred me from further efforts in this direction, but it did not.

I had left Miss Laniston without asking some questions I had intended to put to her. I wished very much to know--I thought it was my right to know--something definite about the Mr. Brownson who had formerly been connected, so to speak, with the Misses Raynor. I hated this subject as I hated the vilest medicine, but I felt that I must get the matter straightened in my mind, yet I could not say anything to Sylvia about it. And after what Miss Laniston had read to me I could not ask her anything, even if my mind had been sufficiently composed to formulate questions. She was a very plain-spoken person. Too much so, perhaps.

Walkirk was very different; in fact, I think he erred on the other side. I am sure that he would have liked to conceal from me anything that would give me pain. In the course of his life he had met a great many people; he might know something about Brownson. Any way, I would throw out some feelers in that direction.

"Yes," I remarked to him, in the course of a conversation about the late Mother Superior, "what she is going to do is a very fine thing,--a noble enterprise, and she is just the sort of person to go into it, but after all I would rather see her married to the right sort of man. A woman like that owes it to society to be married."

"I fancy," said Walkirk, "that she has permanently left the marrying class. When she broke with Brownson, I think she broke with marriage."

"What were the points of that?" I asked. "Did you ever happen to hear anything about him?"

"I knew him very well," answered Walkirk. "Those were his prints I was cataloguing just before I entered your service. He had then been dead a year or more, and I was working for the estate."

I arose and went to the window. I wiped my forehead, which had become moist. If this man had known Brownson, why should he not know all? Was he familiar with both engagements? It made me sick to think of it. There was no sense or reason in such emotion, for it was not likely that Sylvia's engagement had been a secret one; but I had a proud soul and could not bear to think that people about me, especially Walkirk, should be aware of Sylvia's attachment, slight as it may have been, to another than myself. I heartily wished that I had not spoken of the subject.

Still, as I had spoken of it, I might as well learn all that I could.

"What sort of a man was this Brownson?" I asked. "What reason was there that Miss Marcia Raynor should have cared for him?"

"He was a fine man," said Walkirk. "He was educated, good-looking, rich. He was young enough, but had been a bachelor too long, perhaps, and had very independent ways. It was on account of his independence of thought, especially on religious matters, that he and Miss Marcia Raynor had their difficulties, which ended in the breaking of the engagement. I am quite sure that she was a good deal cut up. As I said before, I do not think that she will consider marriage again."

I took in a full breath of relief. Here Walkirk had told the little story of Brownson, and had said nothing of any subsequent engagement. Perhaps he knew of none. This thought was truly encouraging.

"Perhaps you are right," I said, "she may know better than any of us what will suit her. Any way I ought to be satisfied; and that reminds me, Walkirk, that I have never expressed to you, as strongly as I wished to do it, my appreciation of the interest you have taken in my varied relations with Miss Sylvia Raynor, and for the valuable advice and assistance you have given me from time to time. For instance, I believe that your reluctance to have me go away from Tangent Island was due to your discovery that the island belonged to Sylvia's mother, and, therefore, there was some probability that she might come there."

Walkirk smiled. "You have hit the truth," he said.

"I have sometimes wondered," I continued, "why a man should take so much interest in the love affairs of another. When one engages an under-study, he does not generally expect that sort of thing."

"Well," said Walkirk, "when a man engages as an under-study, or in a similar capacity, he often performs services, without regard to his duty and salary, simply because they interest and please him. Now it struck me that it would be a curious bit of romantic realism if two beautiful women, who on account of one man had become nuns in a convent, or what was practically the same thing, should both be taken out of that convent and brought back to their true life in the world by another man."

"Two women"--I gasped.

Walkirk smiled, and his voice assumed a comforting tone.

"Of course that sort of thing has its rough points for the second man, but in this case I do not think they amount to much. Brownson's affair with the younger lady would have come to an end as soon as she had discovered the rocks in his character, but her mother broke it off before it came to that. But I do not think she would have gone into the sisterhood, if it had not been for the man's death very soon after the breaking of the engagement. This affected her very much, but there was no reason why it should, for he was killed in a railway accident, and I am positively certain that he would have married some one else if he had lived long enough."

I had nothing to say to all this. I walked slowly into my study and shut the door. Surely I had had enough of picking up loose ends. If there were any more of them I would let them flap, dangle, float in the air, do what they please; I would not touch them.

* * * * *

That evening I spent with Sylvia. In the course of our conversation she suddenly remarked:--

"Do you know we have had so much to do and so much to talk about, and so much to think about and plan, that I have had no chance to ask you some questions that I have been thinking about. In the first place I want you to tell me all about Mr. Walkirk. How long has he been with you? Are you always going to keep him? What does he do? What was his business before he came to you? Was he always an under-study for people? It has struck me that that would be such an odd occupation for a man to have. And then there is another thing,--a mere supposition of mine, but still something that I have had a sort of curiosity about: supposing that the House of Martha had not been broken up, and it were all fixed and settled that I should stay there always, and supposing cousin Marcia had left us, and had gone into her college work, just as she is doing now--do you think that you would have had any desire to study medicine?

"And then there is another thing that is not a question, but something which I think I ought to tell you,--something which you have a right to know before we are married."

"Sylvia," said I, interrupting her, "let me give you a little piece of wisdom from my own experience: The gnawings of ungratified curiosity are often very irritating, but we should remember that the gnawings of gratified curiosity are frequently mangling."

"Indeed!" she exclaimed, "is that the way you look at it? Well, I can assure you that what I have to tell is of no importance at all, but if you have anything to say that is mangling, I want to hear it this very minute."

"My dear Sylvia," said I, "we have had so much to do and so much to talk about, and so much to think about and plan, that I have had no chance to finish the story of Tomaso and Lucilla."

"That is true," she cried, with sparkling eyes; "and above all things I want to hear the end of that story."

I sat by her on the sofa and finished the story of the Sicilian lovers.

"In some ways," she said, "it is very much like our story, isn't it?"

"Except," I answered, "that the best part of ours is just beginning."

Frank R Stockton's fiction Book: House of Martha

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