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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Place Of Honeymoons - Chapter 11. At The Crater's Edge
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The Place Of Honeymoons - Chapter 11. At The Crater's Edge Post by :richa Category :Long Stories Author :Harold Macgrath Date :May 2012 Read :2944

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The Place Of Honeymoons - Chapter 11. At The Crater's Edge

CHAPTER XI. AT THE CRATER'S EDGE

Harrigan declared that he would not go over to Caxley-Webster's to tea.

"But I've promised for you!" expostulated his wife. "And he admires you so."

"Bosh! You women can gad about as much as you please, but I'm in wrong when it comes to eating sponge-cake and knuckling my knees under a dinky willow table. And then he always has some frump...."

"Frump!" repeated Nora, delighted.

"Frump inspecting me through a pair of eye-glasses as if I was a new kind of an animal. It's all right, Molly, when there's a big push. They don't notice me much then. But these six by eight parties have me covering."

"Very well, dad," agreed Nora, who saw the storm gathering in her mother's eyes. "You can stay home and read the book mother got you yesterday. Where are you now?"

"Page one," grinning.

Mrs. Harrigan wisely refrained from continuing the debate. James had made up his mind not to go. If the colonel repeated his invitation to dinner, where there would be only the men folk, why, he'd gladly enough go to that.

The women departed at three, for there was to be tennis until five o'clock. When Harrigan was reasonably sure that they were half the distance to the colonel's villa, he put on his hat, whistled to the dachel, and together they took the path to the village.

"We'd look fine drinking tea, wouldn't we, old scout?" reaching down and tweaking the dog's velvet ears. "They don't understand, and it's no use trying to make 'em. Nora gets as near as possible. Herr Rosen! Now, where have I seen his phiz before? I wish I had a real man to talk to. Abbott sulks half the time, and the Barone can't get a joke unless it's driven in with a mallet. On your way, old scout, or I'll step on you. Let's see if we can hoof it down to the village at a trot without taking the count."

He had but two errands to execute. The first was accomplished expeditely in the little tobacconist's shop under the arcade, where the purchase of a box of Minghetti cigars promised later solace. These cigars were cheap, but Harrigan had a novel way of adding to their strength if not to their aroma. He possessed a meerschaum cigar-holder, in which he had smoked perfectos for some years. The smoke of an ordinary cigar became that of a regalia by the time it passed through the nicotine-soaked clay into the amber mouthpiece. He had kept secret the result of this trifling scientific research. It wouldn't have been politic to disclose it to Molly. The second errand took time and deliberation. He studied the long shelves of Tauchnitz. Having red corpuscles in superabundance, he naturally preferred them in his literature, in the same quantity.

"Ever read this?" asked a pleasant voice from behind, indicating _Rodney Stone with the ferrule of a cane.

Harrigan looked up. "No. What's it about?"

"Best story of the London prize-ring ever written. You're Mr. Harrigan, aren't you?"

"Yes," diffidently.

"My name is Edward Courtlandt. If I am not mistaken, you were a great friend of my father's."

"Are you Dick Courtlandt's boy?"

"I am."

"Well, say!" Harrigan held out his hand and was gratified to encounter a man's grasp. "So you're Edward Courtlandt? Now, what do you think of that! Why, your father was the best sportsman I ever met. Square as they make 'em. Not a kink anywhere in his make-up. He used to come to the bouts in his plug hat and dress suit; always had a seat by the ring. I could hear him tap with his cane when there happened to be a bit of pretty sparring. He was no slouch himself when it came to putting on the mitts. Many's the time I've had a round or two with him in my old gymnasium. Well, well! It's good to see a man again. I've seen your name in the papers, but I never knew you was Dick's boy. You've got an old grizzly's head in your dining-room at home. Some day I'll tell you how it got there, when you're not in a hurry. I went out to Montana for a scrap, and your dad went along. After the mill was over, we went hunting. Come up to the villa and meet the folks.... Hang it, I forgot. They're up to Caxley-Webster's to tea; piffle water and sticky sponge-cake. I want you to meet my wife and daughter."

"I should be very pleased to meet them." So this was Nora's father? "Won't you come along with me to the colonel's?" with sudden inspiration. Here was an opportunity not to be thrust aside lightly.

"Why, I just begged off. They won't be expecting me now."

"All the better. I'd rather have you introduce me to your family than to have the colonel. As a matter of fact, I told him I couldn't get up. But I changed my mind. Come along." The first rift in the storm-packed clouds; and to meet her through the kindly offices of this amiable man who was her father!

"But the pup and the cigar box?"

"Send them up."

Harrigan eyed his own spotless flannels and compared them with the other's. What was good enough for the son of a millionaire was certainly good enough for him. Besides, it would be a bully good joke on Nora and Molly.

"You're on!" he cried. Here was a lark. He turned the dog and the purchases over to the proprietor, who promised that they should arrive instantly at the villa.

Then the two men sought the quay to engage a boat. They walked shoulder to shoulder, flat-backed, with supple swinging limbs, tanned faces and clear animated eyes. Perhaps Harrigan was ten or fifteen pounds heavier, but the difference would have been noticeable only upon the scales.

* * * * *

"Padre, my shoe pinches," said Nora with a pucker between her eyes.

"My child," replied the padre, "never carry your vanity into a shoemaker's shop. The happiest man is he who walks in loose shoes."

"If they are his own, and not inherited," quickly.

The padre laughed quietly. He was very fond of this new-found daughter of his. Her spontaneity, her blooming beauty, her careless observation of convention, her independence, had captivated him. Sometimes he believed that he thoroughly understood her, when all at once he would find himself mentally peering into some dark corner into which the penetrating light of his usually swift deduction could throw no glimmer. She possessed the sins of the butterfly and the latent possibilities of a Judith. She was the most interesting feminine problem he had in his long years encountered. The mother mildly amused him, for he could discern the character that she was sedulously striving to batten down beneath inane social usages and formalities. Some day she would revert to the original type, and then he would be glad to renew the acquaintance. In rather a shamefaced way (a sensation he could not quite analyze) he loved the father. The pugilist will always embarrass the scholar and excite a negligible envy; for physical perfection is the most envied of all nature's gifts. The padre was short, thickset, and inclined toward stoutness in the region of the middle button of his cassock. But he was active enough for all purposes.

"I have had many wicked thoughts lately," resumed Nora, turning her gaze away from the tennis players. She and the padre were sitting on the lower steps of the veranda. The others were loitering by the nets.

"The old plaint disturbs you?"

"Yes."

"Can you not cast it out wholly?"

"Hate has many tentacles."

"What produces that condition of mind?" meditatively. "Is it because we have wronged somebody?"

"Or because somebody has wronged us?"

"Or misjudged us, by us have been misjudged?" softly.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Nora, springing up.

"What is it?"

"Father is coming up the path!"

"I am glad to see him. But I do not recollect having seen the face of the man with him."

The lithe eagerness went out of Nora's body instantly. Everything seemed to grow cold, as if she had become enveloped in one of those fogs that suddenly blow down menacingly from hidden icebergs. Fortunately the inquiring eyes of the padre were not directed at her. He was here, not a dozen yards away, coming toward her, her father's arm in his! After what had passed he had dared! It was not often that Nora Harrigan was subjected to a touch of vertigo, but at this moment she felt that if she stirred ever so little she must fall. The stock whence she had sprung, however, was aggressive and fearless; and by the time Courtlandt had reached the outer markings of the courts, Nora was physically herself again. The advantage of the meeting would be his. That was indubitable. Any mistake on her part would be playing into his hands. If only she had known!

"Let us go and meet them, Padre," she said quietly. With her father, her mother and the others, the inevitable introduction would be shorn of its danger. What Celeste might think was of no great importance; Celeste had been tried and her loyalty proven. Where had her father met him, and what diabolical stroke of fate had made him bring this man up here?

"Nora!" It was her mother calling.

She put her arm through the padre's, and they went forward leisurely.

"Why, father, I thought you weren't coming," said Nora. Her voice was without a tremor.

The padre hadn't the least idea that a volcano might at any moment open up at his side. He smiled benignly.

"Changed my mind," said Harrigan. "Nora, Molly, I want you to meet Mr. Courtlandt. I don't know that I ever said anything about it, but his father was one of the best friends I ever had. He was on his way up here, so I came along with him." Then Harrigan paused and looked about him embarrassedly. There were half a dozen unfamiliar faces.

The colonel quickly stepped into the breach, and the introduction of Courtlandt became general. Nora bowed, and became at once engaged in an animated conversation with the Barone, who had just finished his set victoriously.

The padre's benign smile slowly faded.

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