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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Rise Of Roscoe Paine - Chapter 16
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The Rise Of Roscoe Paine - Chapter 16 Post by :ndennis Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :2176

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The Rise Of Roscoe Paine - Chapter 16

CHAPTER XVI

Before he could close the drawer completely I caught his arm and held it.

"George," I cried, "George, what is the matter? Tell me; you must tell me."

He tried to pull his arm free. Finding that I would not let him do this he gave up the attempt and, with a poor attempt at a laugh, answered, "Matter? Why, nothing is the matter. I am tired and nervous, same as I've told you I've been for the last two or three months, and you scared me, tiptoeing in like a sneak thief, this time of night."

"Time of night! It is but a little after nine. What is the matter with you?"

"Nothing is the matter, I tell you. Let go of my arm, Ros. What do you mean by holding on to me like this?"

"What do YOU mean, George? What does THAT mean?"

I pointed to the drawer. He looked and, with a sudden effort, jerked his arm free and closed the drawer.

"That?" with a forced laugh. "Oh, that's nothing. It was late and I was alone here, so--"

"I know better. George, you're frightening us all. Don't you suppose we can see that something is wrong with you? I have seen it ever since I came here to work. You are worrying your friends. You worry me. Give us a chance to help you. Give ME a chance. You owe me that. Tell me your trouble and I'll pull you out of it; see if I don't."

My confidence was, of course, only pretence, but my earnestness had some effect. He looked at me wistfully, and shook his head.

"Nobody can pull me out," he said. "You're a good fellow to want to help, but you can't. There ain't any trouble. I'm just nervous--"

"I know better. You're lying, George. Yes, you are; you're lying."

"Humph! You're pretty plain spoken, Ros Paine. There ain't many people I'd take that from."

"You'll take it from me, because you can't help it and because you know it is true. Come, George; come. You have been a friend to me; the only real friend I have had in years. I have been looking for a chance to get even for what you have done for me. Maybe here is the chance. Let me help you. I will."

He was wavering; I could see it. But again he shook his head.

"Nobody can help me," he said.

"George, for my sake--well, then, if not for my sake or your own, then for Nellie's, give me a chance. You aren't treating her right, George. You should think of her. You--"

"Stop! Damn you, Ros Paine! what right have you to--"

"The right of a friend, her friend and yours. You're frightening the poor girl to death. She is beginning to be afraid you don't care for her."

"I? I don't care for HER? I don't--Oh, my God!"

To my utter amazement he began to laugh. And then, all at once, his laughter ceased, he swayed, choked, and, suddenly collapsing in the chair, dropped his head upon his arms on the table and sobbed, sobs that shook him from head to heel.

For one strong, healthy, normal man to see another cry is a disconcerting and uncomfortable experience. Masculine tears do not flow easily and poor George, on the verge of hysterics, was a pitiful and distressing spectacle. I was almost as completely disorganized as he. I felt ashamed for him and ashamed of myself for having seen him in such a condition. I wanted desperately to help him and I did not know what to do, so beyond patting him on the back and begging him repeatedly to brace up and not behave like that, I did nothing. At last his sobs ceased and he was silent. I had risen from my chair and now I stood there with a hand on his shoulder; the ticking of the ancient eight-sided clock on the wall sounded loud in the room.

Suddenly he sat up and threw off my hand.

"Well," he said, bitterly, "I'm a fine specimen of a man, ain't I. Ain't you proud of me?"

"I am mighty sorry for you," I answered. "And I mean to help you."

"You can't."

"How do you know?"

"Because I do know, Ros," he turned and looked me straight in the eye. "I am going to give you some good advice. Take it, for your own sake. Clear out of here and leave me. Don't have anything more to do with me. Clear out."

I did not move.

"Are you going to do as I tell you?" he demanded. "Mind, I'm telling you this for your own good. Will you clear out and leave me?"

I smiled. "Of course not," I answered.

"Don't be a fool. You can't afford to be my friend. Clear out and leave me, do you hear?"

"I hear. Now, George, what is it?"

His fingers tapped the table. I could see he was making up his mind.

"You want to know?" he said. "You won't be satisfied until you do?"

"I have made that fairly plain, I hope. At least I've tried to."

His fist clenched and he struck the table.

"Then, by the Almighty, I'll tell you!" he cried, fiercely. "It'll be all over the county in a week. You might as well know it now. I'm a crook. I'm a thief. I've stolen money from this bank and I can't pay it back because I haven't got it and can't get it. I'm a crook, I tell you, and in a week or so it'll be the county jail for mine. Unless--unless," with a significant glance at the drawer, "something else happens to me in the meantime. There; now you know. Are you satisfied? Are you happy because you've found out?"

I did not answer. To tell the truth I was not entirely overcome by surprise at the disclosure. I had begun to suspect something of the sort. Yet, now that my suspicions were confirmed, I was too greatly shocked and horrified to speak at once.

"Well?" he sneered. "Now will you clear out and let me settle this my own way?"

I pulled my chair forward and sat down.

"Tell me all about it, George," I said, as calmly as I could. "How much is it?"

He stared at me aghast. "You won't go?" he cried. "You--you are going to stick by me even--even--"

"There! there! pull yourself together, old fellow. We won't give up the ship yet. How much is it? It can't be a great sum."

"It ain't. But, Ros--you--you can't--you mustn't be mixed up in this. I shan't let you. Don't you see?"

I argued and pleaded and reasoned with him for what seemed a long time before he would consent to tell me the whole story. And when it was told there was nothing new or novel in it. The old tale of an honest man who had not meant to go wrong, but, tempted by one of those wiles of the devil, an "inside tip" on the stock market, had bought heavily on margins, expecting to clear a handsome profit in a short time. The stock was Louisville and Transcontinental and the struggle for its control by certain big interests had made copy for financial writers for nearly a year. George had bought at a time when one syndicate had, so it believed, secured the control.

Then something went wrong in the deal and the shares began to decline in value. He put up more margins and still more, but it continued to decline. Finally under the spur of another "tip," the last of his own savings having gone to the insatiate brokers, he sent, to bolster his account and to save him from utter ruin, some bonds belonging to the bank.

"Not much," he declared, "only about thirty-five hundred dollars' worth, that's all. I never would have done it, Ros, but I was wild, desperate, you see. Here I was, getting ready to be married; Nellie and Cap'n Jed and the rest believing me to be comfortably fixed. It's easy enough now to say that I ought to have gone to her and told her. If I hadn't been certain that the market would turn and I'd be all right in a week, I'd have done it. But I was sure I'd be all right and I couldn't take the chance. I knew what her father would say about her marrying a pauper, and I just couldn't take the risk of losing her; I couldn't. She means more to me than--than--oh, wait until your time comes! Wait until the girl comes along that you care for more than the whole world. And then see what you'd do. See what it would mean to give her up! Just wait--wait and see!"

"Yes, yes," I put in, hastily. "I understand, George. But the stock, Louisville and Transcontinental, how is it now?"

"Just the same. It is dead, practically speaking. It hasn't moved half a point for six weeks. I've been expecting it would, but it hasn't. It's all right; the value is there; I know it. If I could only hang on and wait I could get my money back, part of it, anyhow. But I can't. I can't wait. And the broker people have got those bonds. Ros, I've been fighting this thing for weeks and weeks. I ain't slept a night for years, or so it seems. And next week--next WEEK I was to be married. My God! think of it!"

"Here, here! Don't do that," I urged. "Brace up. You and I must work this out. Wasn't there any one you could go to? Anyone you could borrow the money of? Thirty-five hundred isn't such a lot."

"Whom could I go to? I tried. Lord knows I tried! I did borrow a thousand of Cap'n Elisha Warren; trumped up some excuse or other and got that. But that was all he could let me have. And I know he thought my asking for that was queer."

"Did you consider going straight to Cap'n Dean and--"

"Dean? Cap'n Jed? Her father? Oh, Ros, don't be a fool altogether! I beg your pardon, old man! I don't mean it. You mustn't mind. I ain't responsible for what I say just now. But I couldn't go to Cap'n Jed. You know him. He's as straight and square and honest as he is obstinate and cranky. If I went to him I couldn't tell him the truth. And if I lied he'd suspect and want to know why I needed to borrow money. And Nellie--don't you see? There's the real awfulness of the whole thing. I couldn't go to her and tell her I was a thief. I couldn't see her face when I told her. And yet she's got to know it. She's got to know it!"

"But why? The stock may go up any day and then you could withdraw part of your margin."

He struck the table with another blow. "The stock ain't moved for six weeks, I tell you," he declared. "And, Ros," he leaned forward, his haggard face working with emotion, "those bonds ain't in our safe here, where they should be, and the bank examiner is due here within the next four days. He's at Middleboro now. I 'phoned Bearse, the cashier there, this very forenoon on a matter of business, and he happened to mention that the examiner was in his bank and working his way down the Cape. It's all up with me! All up! And Nellie! poor girl; I can't be here when she finds it out. I know you think I'm a poor specimen of a man, Ros, but I can't face the music. No," desperately, "and I won't."

He was giving way again, but I seized his shoulder and shook him.

"Stop it!" I commanded. "Stop it, George! Let me think. Be quiet now and let me think. There must be a way out somewhere. Let me think."

He leaned back in his chair. "All right," he said, hopelessly; "think, if you want to. Though why you should want to think about a thing like me I don't see. And I used to despise a crook as much as any one! and a coward still more! And now I'm both a crook and a coward."

I knew his cowardice was merely on Nellie's account. George Taylor was no coward in the ordinary sense of the word, nor was he a crook. I rose and paced up and down the room. He watched me listlessly; it was plain that he felt no confidence whatever in my being able to help him. After a time he spoke.

"It's no use, Ros," he said. "Don't worry your head about me; I ain't worth it. If there was any way out, any way at all, I'd have sighted it long ago. There ain't. Take my advice and leave me. You don't want to be mixed up with an embezzler."

I turned on him, impatiently. "I have been mixed up, as you call it, with one before," I said, sharply. "Is my own family record so clean that I need to pretend--there, George! don't be an idiot. Let me think."

The clock chimed ten. I stopped in my walk and turned to him.

"George," I said, "tell me this: If you had the money to buy back these bonds belonging to the bank you would be all right, wouldn't you? If you had it in your hands by to-morrow morning, I mean."

"Yes; IF I had it--but I haven't."

"You could send the money to the brokers and--"

"Send! I wouldn't send; I'd go myself and fetch the bonds back with me. Once I had them in that safe again I--"

"And you would not take any more risks, even if the market dropped and they had to sell out your account? Even if you lost every cent of your investment?"

The fierce earnestness of his answer satisfied even me. "What do you think I am?" he demanded. "Investment be hanged! It's my name as an honest man that I care about. Once let me get that back again and I'll face the poorhouse. Yes, and I'll tell Nellie the truth, all except that I was a thief; I can't tell her that. But I will tell her that I haven't got a cent except my salary. Then if she wants to give me up, all right. I'll bear it as best I can. Or, if she doesn't, and I lose my job here, I'll get another one somewhere else; I'll work at anything. She and I can wait and . . . But what is the use of talking like this? I've been over every inch of the ground a thousand times. There ain't a ray of light anywhere. The examiner will be here, the bonds will be missing, and I--I'll be in jail, or in hell, one or the other."

"No, you won't," I said, firmly.

"I won't! Why not?"

"Because there IS a ray of light. More than a ray. George, you go home and go to bed. To-morrow morning I may have news for you, good news."

The blood rushed to his face. He seized the arm of his chair.

"Good news!" he gasped. "Good news for ME! Ros--Ros, for the Lord's sake, what do you mean? You don't mean you see a way to--"

"Never mind what I mean. But I should like to know what you mean by not coming to me before? What are friends for, if not to help each other? Who told you that I was dead broke?"

"You? Why, you ain't got . . . Have you? Ros Paine, you ain't got thirty-five hundred to spare. Why, you told me yourself--"

"Shut up! Get up from that chair and come with me. Yes, you; and now, this minute. Give me that thing you've got in the drawer there. No, I'll take it myself. You ought to be ashamed of its being there, George. I am ashamed of you, and, if I thought you really meant to use it, I should be still more ashamed. Come! don't keep me waiting."

"But--but Ros--"

"Will you do as I tell you?"

I dragged him, almost literally dragged him, from the chair. Then, after extinguishing the lamp, I led him to the door of the bank and locked it, putting the key in my pocket.

"Now," said I, "I want you to make me a promise. I want you to quit behaving like a coward, because you are not one, and promise me that you will go straight home and to bed. I'll see you again the first thing in the morning. Then, I think--yes, I think your troubles, the worst part of them, will be over."

"But, Ros, PLEASE--I can't believe it! Won't you tell me--"

"Not a word. Will you promise me to behave like a man and go home? Or must I go with you?"

"No. I'll--I'll promise. I'll go straight home. But, oh Ros, I can't understand--"

"Good night."

I left him standing there, stammering incoherently like a man awakening from a nightmare, and hurried away.

I could not describe my progress down the dark Lower Road and along the Shore Lane. I do not remember any portion of it. I think I ran most of the way and if I met any one--which is not likely, considering the time--he or she must have thought me crazy. My thoughts were centered upon one fixed purpose. I had made up my mind to do a certain thing and, if possible, to do it that very night. If I did not, if I had time in which to reflect, to consider consequences, I might lose my nerve and it would not be done at all.

It was with a feeling of great relief that, as I came in sight of the Colton house, I saw lights in the rooms on the lower floor. The family, not being native born Denboroites, had not retired even though it was well after ten. I hastened up the long drive, and stood before the big door, my hand upraised to the knocker. And then, just for a moment, I hesitated.

If I lifted that knocker and let it fall; if I summoned the servant and announced that I wished to speak with Mr. Colton; if I did what I had come there to do, it would be all over with me in the village. My new born popularity, the respect which Cap'n Warren and Cap'n Jed and the rest of the townspeople had shown toward me of late, the cordial recognition which had been mine during the past few weeks and which, in spite of pretended indifference, I had come to expect and enjoy, all these would be lost if I persisted in my purpose. My future in Denboro depended upon whether or not I knocked at that door. And it was not too late to back out, even yet. I had only to turn quietly away and tell George, when I saw him in the morning, that I could not help him as I had hoped. And then I thought of his face as I saw it when I entered the bank--and of Nellie's letter to me.

I seized the knocker and rapped sharply.

For a few moments my knock was unanswered. Then I heard footsteps and the door was opened. Johnson, the butler, opened it, and his clerical countenance assumed a most astonished expression when he saw me standing before him.

"Is Mr. Colton in?" I asked.

"What? What--sir?" stammered Johnson. The "sir" was added under protest. He did not wish to show more respect than was absolutely necessary to a countryman, but he scarcely dared speak as disrespectfully as he felt. Therefore he compromised by voicing the respect and looking the other way.

"Is Mr. Colton in?" I repeated.

"I don't know. I--I don't think so--sir."

The windows at my left were, I knew, those of the library, the room where "Big Jim" and I had had our first lively discussion of the Shore Lane matter. I glanced at them.

"I think he is," I said. "In fact I know it; there is his shadow on the curtain. Tell him Mr. Paine wishes to speak with him."

Johnson looked as insolent as he dared, and still hesitated.

"It is very late," he said. "Mr. Colton is not in the 'abit of receiving callers at this time of night and--"

He was interrupted. The door behind him, the door leading from the library to the hall, opened and Colton himself appeared.

"What is it, Johnson?" he asked. "Anything wrong?"

The butler hastened to explain.

"No sir," he said; "nothing wrong exactly, sir. There is a person 'ere to see you, sir, and--"

"To see me, eh? Who is it? Why, hello, Paine! is that you?"

"Mr. Colton," said I, "I am sorry to disturb you at such a late hour, but--"

"Come in, come in," he interrupted. "What are you standing out there for? Johnson, why didn't you ask Mr. Paine in? What do you mean by keeping him out there?"

Mr. Johnson looked troubled.

"It was so late, sir," he stammered, "I thought--"

"You thought! If I had wanted any one to think I never should have hired you. Come in, Paine. Come into the library."

He led the way to the library and I followed him. It was my second visit to the big, handsomely furnished room and again, as on the first occasion, the sight of the books and all the other refinements and luxuries which money brings to its possessor gave me a pang of envy and resentment. It added increased bitterness to the humiliation of my errand. I had left that room defiantly expressing my independence. I had come back to it--

"Sit down," ordered Colton, pulling forward the big, leather-covered chair. "Have a cigar?"

"No thank you."

"Humph! That's what you said when you were here before. You're young, Paine. When you get to be as old as I am you'll never refuse a good cigar, or anything else that is good, when it is offered you. Well, you're still standing. Aren't going to refuse to sit down, are you?"

That was exactly what I was going to do. I would not sit down in that house. I would not accept the slightest courtesy from this man or any of his people. I would get rid of the unpleasant task I had come to do and then go away, never to return. They might make the most of the triumph which was to be theirs, but I would compel them to understand that I was not seeking their favor. I would not accept their patronage and they should know it. This, as I look back at it now, seems silly and childish enough, but I was not myself that night.

"Mr. Colton," said I, ignoring the proffered chair, "I have come to see you on a matter of business."

"Business, eh? Umph! I thought probably you were going to ask me to go fishing with you again. I'm all ready for another tussle with those--what do you call 'em--squid--squit--good Lord! what a name for a decent fish! But I don't care a continental what you call 'em. I'm ready to get at 'em when you say the word."

"My business will not detain either of us long. I--"

"Sit down, man, sit down. You make me nervous standing there."

"No. I won't sit."

He looked at me.

"What is the matter with you?" he asked. "You haven't got a balky digestion, have you? I've been fighting one for the last week. That fool of a country doctor tells me if I'm not careful what I eat I'll keel over pretty soon. I told him I'd eaten what I dashed please ever since I'd had teeth and I wasn't going to quit now. But I do feel like the devil. Look it, don't I?"

He did look ill, that was a fact, though I had not noticed it before and was far from feeling pity for him then. In fact I was rather glad to know that he was uncomfortable. I wanted him to be.

"What is the matter with you?" he demanded. "You look as if you had seen your grandmother's ghost."

I ignored the question. "Mr. Colton," I began again. "You made an offer not long ago."

I had caught his attention at last. He leaned back in his chair.

"I did," he said. "Ye-es, I did. Do you mean you are going to accept it?"

"In a way--yes."

"In a way? What do you mean by that? I tell you frankly, Paine, if you go to work for me there must be no 'ifs' or 'buts' about it. You'll enter my office and you'll do as I, or the men under me, tell you to do."

I was glad he said that, glad that he misunderstood me. It gave me an opportunity to express my feelings toward him--as I was feeling then.

"Don't let that trouble you," I said, sarcastically. "There will be no 'ifs' and 'buts' so far as that is concerned. I have no desire to work for you, Mr. Colton, and I don't intend doing so. That was not the offer I meant."

He was surprised, I am sure, but he did not express astonishment. He bent forward and looked at me more keenly than ever.

"There was only one other offer that I remember making you," he said, slowly. "That was for that land of yours. I offered you five thousand dollars for it. Do you mean you accept that offer?"

"Not exactly."

"Humph! Paine, we're wasting a lot of time here, it seems to me. My time is more or less valuable, and my digestion is, as I told you, pretty bad. Come! get it over. What do you mean? Are you going to sell me that land?"

"Yes."

He puffed deliberately at his cigar. His gaze did not leave my face.

"Why?" he asked, after a moment.

"That is my own affair. I will sell you the land, but not for five thousand dollars."

His expression changed. He knocked the ashes from his cigar and frowned.

"I see," he sneered. "Humph! Well, I've tried to make it plain to you fellows down here that I couldn't be held up. I thought I'd done it, but evidently I haven't. Five hundred is a good price for that land. Five thousand is ridiculous, but I gave you my reasons for being willing to be robbed that much. That, however, is the limit. I'll give you five thousand, but not another cent. You can take it or get out."

This was better. When he talked like that I could answer him and enjoy it.

"I'll get out very shortly," I said. "You are no more anxious to have that happen than I am. I don't want your other cent. I don't want your five thousand dollars. I'll sell you the land on one condition--no, on two. The first is that you pay me thirty-five hundred dollars for it."

"WHAT?"

I had upset his composure this time. He forgot to sneer; he even forgot to smoke.

"What?" he cried again. "Thirty-five hundred! Why, I offered you--"

"I know your offer. This is mine: I will sell you the land for thirty-five hundred, and not another cent. That, as you say, is the limit. You can take it or--or I will follow your suggestion and get out."

We looked at each other. His fingers moved toward the match box on the table. He took a match, scratched it, and held it to the end of his cigar. Then he took the cigar from his lips, blew out the match and tossed the latter into the fireplace.

"What is the second condition?" he asked, abruptly.

"That you pay me in cash, in money and not by check, at once."

"At once? Now, do you mean?"

"Yes, now. To-night if possible; if not, no later than nine o'clock to-morrow morning."

"Humph! Do you think I carry thirty-five hundred loose in my change pocket?"

"I don't know. But that is the second condition."

"Humph! . . . Look here, Paine; what--? I offered you the five thousand. That offer holds good."

"I don't accept it. I will sell for thirty-five hundred; no more and no less."

"But why not more?"

"I don't know. Yes, I do, too. You said once that you were willing to pay forty-five hundred for the privilege of having your own way. Perhaps I am willing to sacrifice fifteen hundred for the privilege of having mine. At all events I mean what I say."

"But why just thirty-five? Wouldn't you take thirty-six?"

"No. It is useless to argue, Mr. Colton, and useless to ask my reasons. I have them, and that is enough. Will you accept MY offer?"

He hesitated. The sneer had left his face and his tone when he addressed me was respectful, though there was a curious note of chagrin or dissatisfaction in it. I had expected him to be eager and, perhaps, mockingly triumphant. He was not. He seemed reluctant, almost disappointed.

"I suppose I'll have to," he said. "But, Paine, what is up? Why are you doing this? You're not afraid of me? No, of course you're not. You're not the kind to squeal and lie down because you think the odds are against you . . . Confound you!" with a sudden burst of impatience, "you are enough to upset all the self-conceit a man's got in him. Just as I think I'm beginning to size you up you break loose in a new place."

"Pardon me," I put in, "but I don't see that you are helping to save that valuable time of yours. I understand that you accept. Will you pay me now?"

He rose, threw away his cigar, and, with his hands in his pockets, stood regarding me.

"Your mind is made up, is it?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Humph! Have you thought of what our mutual friend Dean and the rest of the patriots may say when they find this out?"

I had thought of little else all the way from the bank to his door. I was thinking of it then.

"Of course," he added, "that is not my affair, but--"

"It is not."

"You're right; it isn't. Still--hang it all, Paine! I don't often feel any compunctions when I beat a fellow in a game like this, and I did intend to have my own way in this one--"

"Well, you're having it, aren't you?" I put in. "Why talk so much about it?"

"Because I am not so sure I am having it. Of course I can see that, for some reason or other, you need thirty-five hundred dollars. Anyone but you, if they were going to sell, would get the last dime they could squeeze. You won't, because you are as pig-headed as--as--"

"Oh, do cut it short," I snapped. And then, a trifle ashamed of my rudeness, "Excuse me, Mr. Colton, but this isn't exactly pleasant for me and I want to get it over. Will you pay me now?"

"Hold on; let me finish. I was going to say that, if you needed the thirty-five, perhaps I could manage to let you have it."

I stared at him. "Let me have it!" I cried. "Do you mean you'll lend it to me?"

"Why, yes, maybe. You and I have had such a first-rate, square, stand up fight that I rather hate to have it end. I want to lick you, not have you quit before I've really begun to fight. There's no fool philanthropy in this, understand; it is just for my own satisfaction."

I was so taken aback by this totally unexpected offer from the man whom I had insulted a dozen times since I entered his house, that I found it almost impossible to answer.

"What do you say?" he asked.

"No," I faltered. And then more firmly, "No; certainly not. I--I am much obliged to you, Mr. Colton, but--no."

"All right. You know best. I'll take your offer and I will hand you the money at the bank to-morrow morning. Will that do?"

"Not at the bank, Mr. Colton. Send it over to the house, if you can conveniently."

"I'll have it here before ten. My lawyer will draw up the papers and arrange for transfer of title in a few days. What? Going, are you? Good night. Oh--er--Paine, remember that my other offer, that of the place in my office, is open when you're ready to take it."

I shook my head. I had turned to go, but now I turned back, feeling that, perhaps, I should apologize again for my rudeness. After all, he had been kind, very kind, and I had scarcely thanked him. So I turned back to say something, I hardly knew what.

My doing so was a mistake. The door behind me opened and a voice said reproachfully, "Father, are you still here? The doctor said . . . Oh, I beg pardon."

I recognized the voice. Of all voices in the world I wished least to hear it just then. My back was toward the door and I kept it so. If she would only go! If she would only shut that door and go away!

I think she would have gone but her father called her.

"Mabel," he cried, "Mabel, don't go. It's all right. Come in. Paine and I have finished our talk. Nothing more you wished to say, was there, Paine?"

"No," said I. I was obliged to turn now; I could not get out of that room without doing it. So turn I did, and we faced each other.

"Good evening, Miss Colton," I said, with all the calmness I could muster.

She said, "Good evening," distantly and without any enthusiasm, but I saw her glance at her father and then at me and I knew she was wondering what our being together could possibly mean.

"Paine has been making me a little call," explained Colton, his eye twinkling. "Mabel, I'll risk another bet that you can't guess why he came."

"I shall not try," she said, disdainfully.

"Oh, you'd better! No? You won't? Well, then, I'll tell you. He has just sold me that land of his . . . Don't look at me like that; he has. We had a little disagreement as to price, but," with a grin, "I met his figures and we closed the deal. Aren't you going to congratulate him on having come to his senses at last? Come! he's waiting for congratulations."

This was not true. I was waiting for nothing; I was on my way to the door. But, to reach it I was obliged to pass her and our eyes met. My glance wavered, I know, but hers did not. For a moment she looked at me. Then she smiled. Whenever I am tempted to be vain, even now, I remember that smile.

"I congratulate him," she said. "Come, Father; you must go to bed now."

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CHAPTER XVIII am not going to attempt a description of my thoughts that night. It would take too long and the description would be wearisome. Other people's miseries are not interesting and I shall not catalog mine. Morning came at last and I rose, bathed my hot face in cold water, and went down stairs. Early as it was, not yet six, I heard Dorinda in the kitchen and, having no desire for conversation, I went out and walked up and down the beach until breakfast time. I had to pretend to eat, but I ate so little that both Lute
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CHAPTER XVSo I resolved, more resolutely than ever, to keep out of her way, to see as little of her as possible! and, as had happened before to similar resolutions of mine with which she was concerned, this one was rendered non-effective, through no fault of my own, almost as soon as it was made. For on Saturday afternoon, as I approached the Colton wharf, laden with bait and rods for the fishing excursion in the Colton boat, I saw her standing there beside her father, waiting for me. "We've got a passenger, Paine," said "Big Jim." "You've met her before,
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