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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Mystery Of Metropolisville - Chapter 16. The Return
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The Mystery Of Metropolisville - Chapter 16. The Return Post by :geoall28 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :1879

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The Mystery Of Metropolisville - Chapter 16. The Return


As long as he could, Charlton kept Katy at Glenfield. He amused her by every means in his power; he devoted himself to her; he sought to win her away from Westcott, not by argument, to which she was invulnerable, but by feeling. He found that the only motive that moved her was an emotion of pity for him, so he contrived to make her estimate his misery on her account at its full value. But just when he thought he had produced some effect there would come one of Smith Westcott's letters, written not as he talked (it is only real simpleheartedness or genuine literary gift that can make the personality of the writer felt in a letter), but in a round business hand with plenty of flourishes, and in sentences very carefully composed. But he managed in his precise and prim way to convey to Katy the notion that he was pining away for her company. And she, missing the giggle and the playfulness from the letter, thought his distress extreme indeed. For it would have required a deeper sorrow than Smith Westcott ever felt to make him talk in the stiff conventional fashion in which his letters were composed.

And besides Westcott's letters there were letters from her mother, in which that careful mother never failed to tell how Mr. Westcott had come in, the evening before, to talk about Katy, and to tell her how lost and heart-broken he was. So that letters from home generally brought on a relapse of Katy's devotion to her lover. She was cruelly torn by alternate fits of loving pity for poor dear Brother Albert on the one hand, and poor, dear, _dear Smith Westcott on the other. And the latter generally carried the day in her sympathies. He was such a poor dear fellow, you know, and hadn't anybody, not even a mother, to comfort him, and he had often said that if his charming and divine little Katy should ever prove false, he would go and drown himself in the lake. And that would be _so awful, you know. And, besides, Brother Albert had plenty to love him. There was mother, and there was that quiet kind of a young lady at the City Hotel that Albert went to see so often, though how he could like anybody so cool she didn't know. And then Cousin Isa would love Brother Albert maybe, if he'd ask her. But he had plenty, and poor Smith had often said that he needed somebody to help him to be good. And she would cleave to him forever and help him. Mother and father thought she was right, and she couldn't anyway let Smith drown himself. How could she? That would be the same as murdering him, you know.

During the fortnight that Charlton and his sister visited in Glenfield, Albert divided his time between trying to impress Katy with the general unfitness of Smith Westcott to be her husband, and the more congenial employment of writing long letters to Miss Helen Minorkey, and receiving long letters from that lady. His were fervent and enthusiastic; they explained in a rather vehement style all the schemes that filled his brain for working out his vocation and helping the world to its goal: while hers discussed everything in the most dispassionate temper. Charlton had brought himself to admire this dispassionate temper. A man of Charlton's temper who is really in love, can bring himself to admire any traits in the object of his love. Had Helen Minorkey shown some little enthusiasm, Charlton would have exaggerated it, admired it, and rejoiced in it as a priceless quality. As she showed none, he admired the lack of it in her, rejoiced in her entire superiority to her sex in this regard, and loved her more and more passionately every day. And Miss Minorkey was not wanting in a certain tenderness toward her adorer. She loved him in her way, it made her happy to be loved in that ideal fashion.

Charlton found himself in a strait betwixt two. He longed to worship again at the shrine of his Minerva. But he disliked to return with Katy until he had done something to break the hold of Smith Westcott upon her mind. So upon one pretext or another he staid until Westcott wrote to Katy that business would call him to Glenfield the next week, and he hoped that she would conclude to return with him. Katy was so pleased with the prospect of a long ride with her lover, that she felt considerable disappointment when Albert determined to return at once. Brother Albert always did such curious things. Katy, who had given Albert a dozen reasons for an immediate return, now thought it very strange that he should be in such a hurry. Had he given up trying to find that new kind of grasshopper he spoke of the day before?

One effect of the unexpected arrival of Albert and Katy in Metropolisville, was to make Smith Westcott forget that he ever had any business that was likely to call him to Glenfield. Delighted to see Katy back. Would a died if she'd staid away another week. By George! he! he! he! Wanted to jump into the lake, you know. Always felt that way when Katy was out of sight two days. Curious. By George! Didn't think any woman could ever make such a fool of him. He! he! Felt like ole Dan Tucker when he came to supper and found the hot cakes all gone. He! he! he! By George! You know! Let's sing de forty-lebenth hymn! Ahem!

"If Diner was an apple,
And I was one beside her,
Oh! how happy we would be,
When we's skwushed into cider!
And a little more cider too, ah-hoo!
And a little more cider too!
And a little more cider too--ah--hoo!
And a little more cider too."

How much? Pailful! By George! He! he! he! That's so! You know. Them's my sentiments. 'Spresses the 'motions of my heart, bredren! Yah! yah! By hokey! And here comes Mr. Albert Charlton. Brother Albert! Just as well learn to say it now as after a while. Eh, Katy? How do, brother Albert? Glad to see you as if I'd stuck a nail in my foot. By George! he! he! You won't mind my carryin' on. Nobody minds me. I'm the privileged infant, you know. I am, by George! he! he! Come, Kate, let's take a boat-ride.

"Oh! come, love, come; my boat's by the shore;
If yer don't ride now, I won't ax you no more."

And so forth. Too hoarse to sing. But I am not too feeble to paddle my own canoe. Come, Katy Darling. You needn't mind your shawl when you've got a Westcott to keep you warm. He! he! By George!

And then he went out singing that her lips was red as roses or poppies or something, and "wait for the row-boat and we'll all take a ride."

Albert endeavored to forget his vexation by seeking the society of Miss Minorkey, who was sincerely glad to see him back, and who was more demonstrative on this evening than he had ever known her to be. And Charlton was correspondingly happy. He lay in his unplastered room that night, and counted the laths in the moonlight, and built golden ladders out of them by which to climb up to the heaven of his desires. But he was a little troubled to find that in proportion as he came nearer to the possession of Miss Minorkey, his ardor in the matter of his great Educational Institution--his American Philanthropinum, as he called it--abated.

I ought here to mention a fact which occurred about this time, because it is a fact that has some bearing on the course of the story, and because it may help us to a more charitable judgment in regard to the character of Mr. Charlton's step-father. Soon after Albert's return from Glenfield, he received an appointment to the postmastership of Metropolisville in such a way as to leave no doubt that it came through Squire Plausaby's influence. We are in the habit of thinking a mean man wholly mean. But we are wrong. Liberal Donor, Esq., for instance, has a great passion for keeping his left hand exceedingly well informed of the generous doings of his right. He gives money to found the Liberal Donor Female Collegiate and Academical Institute, and then he gives money to found the Liberal Donor Professorship of Systematic and Metaphysical Theology, and still other sums to establish the Liberal Donor Orthopedic Chirurgical Gratuitous Hospital for Cripples and Clubfooted. Shall I say that the man is not generous, but only ostentatious? Not at all. He might gratify his vanity in other ways. His vanity dominates over his benevolence, and makes it pay tribute to his own glory. But his benevolence is genuine, notwithstanding. Plausaby was mercenary, and he may have seen some advantages to himself in having the post-office in his own house, and in placing his step-son under obligation to himself. Doubtless these considerations weighed much, but besides, we must remember the injunction that includes even the Father of Evil in the number of those to whom a share of credit is due. Let us say for Plausaby that, land-shark as he was, he was not vindictive, he was not without generosity, and that it gave him sincere pleasure to do a kindness to his step-son, particularly when his generous impulse coincided so exactly with his own interest in the matter. I do not say that he would not have preferred to take the appointment himself, had it not been that he had once been a postmaster in Pennsylvania, and some old unpleasantness between him and the Post-Office Department about an unsettled account stood in his way. But in all the tangled maze of motive that, by a resolution of force, produced the whole which men called Plausaby the Land-shark, there was not wanting an element of generosity, and that element of generosity had much to do with Charlton's appointment. And Albert took it kindly. I am afraid that he was just a little less observant of the transactions in which Plausaby engaged after that. I am sure that he was much less vehement than before in his denunciations of land-sharks. The post-office was set up in one of the unfinished rooms of Mr. Plausaby's house, and, except at mail-times, Charlton was not obliged to confine himself to it. Katy or Cousin Isa or Mrs. Plausaby was always glad to look over the letters for any caller, to sell stamps to those who wanted them, and tell a Swede how much postage he must pay on a painfully-written letter to some relative in Christiana or Stockholm. And the three or four hundred dollars of income enabled Charlton to prosecute his studies. In his gratitude he lent the two hundred and twenty dollars--all that was left of his educational fund--to Mr. Plausaby, at two per cent a month, on demand, secured by a mortgage on lots in Metropolisville.

Poor infatuated George Gray--the Inhabitant of the Lone Cabin, the Trapper of Pleasant Brook, the Hoosier Poet from the Wawbosh country--poor infatuated George Gray found his cabin untenable after little Katy had come and gone. He came up to Metropolisville, improved his dress by buying some ready-made clothing, and haunted the streets where he could catch a glimpse now and then of Katy.

One night, Charlton, coming home from an evening with Miss Minorkey at the hotel, found a man standing in front of the fence.

"What do you want here?" he asked sharply.

"Didn' mean no harm, stranger, to nobody."

"Oh! it's you!" exclaimed Charlton, recognizing his friend the Poet. "Come in, come in."

"Come in? Couldn' do it no way, stranger. Ef I was to go in thar amongst all them air ladies, my knees would gin out. I was jist a-lookin' at that purty creetur. But I 'druther die'n do her any harm. I mos' wish I was dead. But 'ta'n't no harm to look at her ef she don' know it. I shan't disturb her; and ef she marries a gentleman, I shan't disturb him nuther. On'y, ef he don' mind it, you know, I'll write po'try about her now and then. I got some varses now that I wish you'd show to her, ef you think they won't do her no harm, you know, and I don't 'low they will. Good-by, Mr. Charlton. Comin' down to sleep on your claim? Land's a-comin' into market down thar."

After the Poet left him, Albert took the verses into the house and read them, and gave them to Katy. The first stanza was, if I remember it rightly, something of this sort:

"A angel come inter the poar trapper's door,
The purty feet tromped on the rough puncheon floor,
Her lovely head slep' on his prairie-grass piller--
The cabin is lonesome and the trapper is poar,
He hears little shoes a-pattin' the floor;
He can't sleep at night on that piller no more;
His Hoosier harp hangs on the wild water-willer!"

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