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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Mystery Of Metropolisville - Chapter 37. The Last
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The Mystery Of Metropolisville - Chapter 37. The Last Post by :Des_Walsh Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :3241

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The Mystery Of Metropolisville - Chapter 37. The Last

CHAPTER XXXVII. THE LAST

The letter was deposited at the post-office immediately. Charlton did not dare give his self-denying resolution time to cool.

Isa was not looking for letters, and Mrs. Ferret ventured to hint that the chance of meeting somebody on the street had something to do with her walk. Of course Miss Marlay was insulted. No woman would ever do such a thing. Consciously, at least.

And after reading Charlton's letter, what did Isa do? What could she do? A woman may not move in such a case. Her whole future happiness may drift to wreck by somebody's mistake, and she may not reach a hand to arrest it. What she does must be done by indirection and under disguise. It is a way society has of training women to be candid.

The first feeling which Isa had was a sudden shock of surprise. She was not so much astonished at the revelation of Charlton's feeling as at the discovery of her own. With Albert's abrupt going away, all her heart and hope seemed to be going too. She had believed her interest in Charlton to be disinterested until this moment. It was not until he proposed going away entirely that she came to understand how completely that interest had changed its character.

But what could she do? Nothing at all. She was a woman.

As evening drew on, Charlton felt more and more the bitterness of the self-denial he had imposed upon himself. He inwardly abused Mrs. Ferret for meddling. He began to hope for all sorts of impossible accidents that might release him from his duty in the case. Just after dark he walked out. Of course he did not want to meet Miss Marlay--his mind was made up--he would not walk down Plausaby street--at least not so far as Mrs. Ferret's house. There could be no possible harm in his going half-way there. Love is always going half-way, and then splitting the difference on the remainder. Isa, on her part, remembered a little errand she must attend to at the store. She felt that, after a day of excitement, she needed the air, though indeed she did not want to meet Charlton any more, if he had made up his mind not to see her. And so they walked right up to one another, as lovers do when they have firmly resolved to keep apart.

"Good-evening, Isabel," said Albert. He had not called her Isabel before. It was a sort of involuntary freedom which he allowed himself--this was to be the very last interview.

"Good-evening--Albert." Isa could not refuse to treat him with sisterly freedom--now that she was going to bid him adieu forever. "You were going away without so much as saying good-by."

"One doesn't like to be the cause of unpleasant remarks about one's best friend," said Charlton.

"But what if your best friend doesn't care a fig for anybody's remarks," said Isabel energetically.

"How?" asked Albert. It was a senseless interrogatory, but Isa's words almost took his breath.

Isa was startled at having said so much, and only replied indistinctly that it didn't matter what people said.

"Yes, but you don't know how long such things might cleave to you. Ten years hence it might be said that you had been the friend of a man who was--in--the penitentiary." Charlton presented objections for the sake of having them refuted.

"And I wouldn't care any more ten years hence than I do now. Were you going to our house? Shall I walk back with you?"

"I don't know." Charlton felt his good resolutions departing. "I started out because I wanted to see the lake where Katy was drowned before I go away. I am ever so glad that I met you, if I do not compromise you. I would rather spend this evening in your company than in any other way in the world--" Albert hadn't meant to say so much, but he couldn't recall it when it was uttered--"but I feel that I should be selfish to bring reproach on you for my own enjoyment."

"All right, then," said Isa, laughing, "I'll take the responsibility. I am going to the lake with you if you don't object."

"You are the bravest woman in the world," said Albert with effusion.

"You forget how brave a man you have shown yourself."

I am afraid this strain of talk was not at all favorable to the strength and persistence of Charlton's resolution, which, indeed, was by this time sadly weakened.

After they had spent an hour upon the knoll looking out upon the lake, and talking of the past, and diligently avoiding all mention of the future, Charlton summoned courage to allude to his departure in a voice more full of love than of resolve.

"Why do you go, Albert?" Isa said, looking down and breaking a weed with the toe of her boot. They had called each other by their Christian names during the whole interview.

"Simply for the sake of your happiness, Isa. It makes me miserable enough, I am sure." Charlton spoke as pathetically as he could.

"But suppose I tell you that your going will make me as wretched as it can make you. What then?"

"How? It certainly would be unmanly for me to ask you to share my disgrace. A poor way of showing my love. I love you well enough to do anything in the world to make you happy."

Isa looked down a moment and began to speak, but stopped.

"Well, what?" said Albert.

"May I decide what will make me happy? Am I capable of judging?"

Albert looked foolish, and said, "Yes," with some eagerness. He was more than ever willing to have somebody else decide for him.

"Then I tell you, Albert, that if you go away you will sacrifice my happiness along with your own."

* * * * *

It was a real merry party that met at a _petit souper at nine o'clock in the evening in the dining-room of the City Hotel some months later. There was Lurton, now pastor in Perritaut, who had just given his blessing on the marriage of his friends, and who sat at the head of the table and said grace. There were Albert and Isabel Charlton, bridegroom and bride. There was Gray, the Hoosier Poet, with a poem of nine verses for the occasion.

"I'm sorry the stage is late," said Albert. "I wanted Jim." One likes to have all of one's best friends on such an occasion.

Just then the coach rattled up to the door, and Albert went out and brought in the Superior Being.

"Now, we are all here," said Charlton. "I had to ask Mrs. Ferret, and I was afraid she'd come."

"Not her!" said Jim.

"Why?"

"She kin do better."

"How?"

"She staid to meet her beloved."

"Who's that?"

"Dave." Jim didn't like to give any more information than would serve to answer a question. He liked to be pumped.

"Dave Sawney?"

"The same. He told me to-day as him and the widder owned claims as 'jined, and they'd made up their minds to jine too. And then he haw-haw'd tell you could a-heerd him a mile. By the way, it's the widder that's let the cat out of the bag."

"What cat out of what bag?" asked Lurton.

"Why, how Mr. Charlton come to go to the State boardin'-house fer takin' a land-warrant he didn' take."

"How _did she find out?" said Isa. Her voice seemed to be purer and sweeter than ever--happiness had tuned it.

"By list'nin' at the key-hole," said Jim.

"When? What key-hole?"

"When Mr. Lurton and Miss Marlay--I beg your pard'n, Mrs. Charlton--was a-talkin' about haow to git Mr. Charlton out."

"Be careful," said Lurton. "You shouldn't make such a charge unless you have authority."

Jim looked at Lurton a moment indignantly. "Thunder and lightnin'," he said, "Dave tole me so hisself! Said _she tole him. And Dave larfed over it, and thought it 'powerful cute' in her, as he said in his Hoosier lingo;" and Jim accompanied this last remark with a patronizing look at Gray.

"Charlton, what are you thinking about?" asked Lurton when conversation flagged.

"One year ago to-day I was sentenced, and one year ago to-morrow I started to Stillwater."

"Bully!" said Jim. "I beg yer pardon, Mrs. Charlton, I couldn't help it. A body likes to see the wheel turn round right. Ef 'twould on'y put some folks _in as well _as turn some a-out!"

When Charlton with his bride started in a sleigh the next morning to his new home on his property in the village of "Charlton" a crowd had gathered about the door, moved partly by that curiosity which always interests itself in newly-married people, and partly by an exciting rumor that Charlton was not guilty of the offense for which he had been imprisoned. Mrs. Ferret had told the story to everybody, exacting from each one a pledge of secrecy. Just as Albert started his horses, Whisky Jim, on top of his stage-box, called out to the crowd, "Three cheers, by thunder!" and they were given heartily. It was the popular acquittal.


WORDS AFTERWARDS.

Metropolisville is only a memory now. The collapse of the land-bubble and the opening of railroads destroyed it. Most of the buildings were removed to a neighboring railway station. Not only has Metropolisville gone, but the unsettled state of society in which it grew has likewise disappeared--the land-sharks, the claim speculators, the town-proprietors, the trappers, and the stage-drivers have emigrated or have undergone metamorphosis. The wild excitement of '56 is a tradition hardly credible to those who did not feel its fever. But the most evanescent things may impress themselves on human beings, and in the results which they thus produce become immortal. There is a last page to all our works, but to the history of the ever-unfolding human spirit no one will ever write.


(THE END)
Edward Eggleston's Novel: Mystery of Metropolisville

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