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reply, pretending that she did not know it. This
set Roland to thinking. He had known Tom from
babyhood. They had been unusually good friends,
and he did not believe anything would persuade the
old man to injure him. If Hobbs wanted his address
it must be for some good reason. At dinner that
evening he talked the matter over with Dalton.


" He is a shrewd old fellow," said he, " and there
is a possibility that he has something of importance
to tell me. He's a poor hand at letter writing, and
the best way to get at the bottom of the matter
would be to see him personally. But the trouble is
he's not much of a traveller. He would consider a
journey to New York as serious a matter as I should
one to Australia. I don't think he's been ten miles
from Montvale in thirty years. For me to go to
him has its difficulties and dangers. So you see I
really don't know what to do."

Dalton looked as if the problem was too deep for
him, while Maud, on the other side of the table,
expressed sympathy in her sober face.

"I say, Guy ! Couldn't you run up there for a
day or two ?" exclaimed Roland, suddenly.

" I ?" said Dalton.

" To be sure. You would not run the slightest
risk. Hobbs may have something to say that we
ought to hear. And then I could even arrange an
interview for you with Eva ! They will not watch
her so closely when they know I'm out of town."

Guy was much confused at these propositions. It
was not at all clear that he could accomplish any-
thing by the journey. But he wanted to please
Roland, and he responded at once that he would go.

" I shall be only too happy," he said. " Tell me
what you wish me to do."

Miss Arline moved her chair back a little from the
table, and waited for the conversation to proceed.
The young men had no secrets from her.

" Here is the case," said Roland, in a business-


like tone. "My uncle has threatened me with disin-
heritance. When I told him to go to the devif with
his money, and give it to whom he pleased, he re-
plied that he meant to will it all to Miss Eva War-
ren. That did not sound so terribly, for in the
course of time I felt pretty certain to get it back
again. To prevent this possibility he has informed
the young lady that if she ever becomes my wife lie
will cut her off also. Now," proceeded Roland,
placing both his elbows on the table, and looking
from one to the other of his auditors, " talk as \ve
may under the excitement of outraged pride, a mil-
lion dollars is worth preserving if it can be done
without too great a sacrifice. It appears that Tom
Hobbs has some communication to make to me
Tom has an immense influence over Mr. Willard
Linnette. My uncle would do nothing so important
as the making of a new will without consulting Tom.
In my opinion that is exactly what the superinten-
dent wants to see me about. I will send him a note
by you, asking him to unveil the whole affair. Then
if it turns out to be anything requiring my presence
I shall go at once."

Guy was rather surprised to see Roland's anxiety
about his uncle's fortune, remembering the haughty
way in which he had flung the gauntlet at his kins-
man's feet. It was true, however, as he said, that
one might get over-excited and think better of
things, when time had cooled him off. The ill-luck
in finding a situation where he could earn something,
had, no doubt, affected his views.


"Do you wish me to indicate in what way you
would modify your position ?" asked Guy.

" Modify my position !"

"Yes, in order to save the money."

Roland struck his fist heavily on the dining-table.

" Confound his money ! I don't want that old
man to make a fool of himself, that's all. When he
threw me up I didn't say a word. It's a different
thing when the loss is Eva's. If I'm not to have the
property I want her to get it."

" So that you can share it with her later," said
Dalton, insinuatingly.

Roland could not help laughing, like one detected
in a sly game.

" Well, that's not so criminal, is it ?" he said. " My
uncle is growing aged. I don't understand what has
set him so severely against me. If he hadn't ac-
quired a prejudice from some unknown source he
would never have been so violent. Hobbs knows
him like a book and may have a key to the riddle."

Guy indicated his belief that this might prove
true, and the pair then proceeded to plan a way by
which he could meet Miss Warren.

" What shall I say to her if I'm able to get within
speaking distance ?" Guy asked.

" Oh, I leave that to you," was the reply. " You
know the entire situation. She will ask you a hun-
dred questions, which you must use your judgment
in answering. Touch lightly on the fact that I am
still a distinguished member of the Knights of Rest.
If she don't think that any too creditable of me, and
believes it's easy to fall into a salaried position in


this town, let her come here and try. Now, the
sooner you go, the better. I am impatient to hear
what Hobbs has to say. Why can't you start
to-morrow ?"

<; I can," replied Daltoo.

" And will you ?"

" I will."




The proprietor of Montvale was ill at ease.
Though the postmaster and himself were thrown
completely off the true scent by the plan which had
been adopted, he felt certain that Eva was sending
letters to his nephew and receiving replies. The
girl's cheerfulness at the table, the only place where
he now saw her, convinced him that he was being
outwitted. Since the night when he went to her
chamber she had only spoken to him in the briefest
manner, and the quietness in the dining-room at
meal-time was oppressive. Mrs. Warren, though she
did her best, could not add anything to her em-
ployer's stock of information. Eva was uniformly
courteous to her mother, but managed to evade a
direct answer to all questions.

"What an idea!" she would exclaim, when the
matter of letter-writing was mentioned. " Doesn't
all the mail for the house pass through your
hands ?"

Mr. Linnette could not help talking occasionally
abaut his troubles with old Tom Hobbs. He did
not receive much sympathy from that eccentric
person, but it was better even to be abused than to
be without any confidant whatever. Thanks to
Tom, the threatened changes in the will had not j"*


been made. Hobbs insisted that the present was no
time for alterations. Mr. Linnette, he said, should
at least wait until he had made up his mind whom
to sacrifice and whom to benefit before he set his
lawyers at work.

There was so much sense in this suggestion that
the manufacturer could not help acting upon it ;
though he remarked, with a grimace, that it would
not be agreeable if some complaint should carry
him off, leaving all his property to be handed over
to his scamp of a nephew. To which Hobbs replied
that he did not look like a man liable to sudden
death, and that he was quite as likely to outlive
both his former intended beneficiaries as to precede
them to the other world.

While laboring to secure the longest delay pos-
sible, in the interest of Roland, for whom he had
always entertained a warm liking, Hobbs grew un-
easy over the present financial condition of the
young man. He thought it a great hardship to be
deprived of his income, after the way he had been
brought up, with no alternative but work, or some
disreputable method of getting a living. If Roland
found the former plan too difficult, it was not impos-
sible that he would be driven to the latter. It was
with this in mind that Hobbs tried to get Roland's
address from Eva's maid. He had lived a thrifty-
life and had a snug little sum laid by. He wanted
to offer assistance out of his own funds to enable
Roland to tide over the emergency, which he could
not help believing would be only temporary.

To effect this result it was necessary to move with


caution. Willard Linnette would not be likely to
fancy a direct interference in his affairs. Hobbs did
not like Eva well enough to confide too much in her,
and when his attempt failed with Charlotte he was
at a total loss which way to turn. But one very
dark night, just as he was about to retire, the door-
bell of his house was rung. On being called he
found Guy Dalton awaiting him, with a letter from
the " young master" in his hand.

" And so he sent you, clear from New York !'*
said Hobbs, when he had read the brief note of intro-
duction. " Come in and sit down. It's almost nine
o'clock and I was going to bed. How did you get
here so late ? I suppose you came on the six o'clock,
and have been to supper at the hotel ?"

" No, sir," replied Dalton. " I did not wish any-
one at Montvale to set me ; so I left the train at
Ellsworth, where I got a lunch, and then walked

Hobbs eyed him intently. He looked a great deal
better than he used, when he was employed in the
Works. Life in the city evidently agreed with him.
It was a long walk from Ellsworth.

"Walked over?" repeated Hobbs. "Why, it's
seven miles !"

"It didn't seem so long. The walking is good. I
didn't mind it at all. I expect to go over the same
road again to-night when I leave you."

Hobbs protested that a walk of fourteen mile*
was altogether too long for anyone, but Guy smiled
confidently, saying that he was quite used to it, and,
in fact, enjoyed the prospect. He then, in response


to inquiries, told the whole story of Roland's life
since he left the village, including, with particular
detail, an account of the trouble in his uncle's office.

"And doesn't he show the least desire to make
up ?" demanded the superintendent.

" No. But you must remember Mr. Linnette has
made no overtures, either."

" They are the biggest pair of fools ever born !"
replied Hobbs. " The old man is the worst one, of
course, but the boy is not far behind him. When
he knew what a crank his uncle was, why couldn't
he agree to anything, no matter what, until the wind
took another direction ? A million dollars doesn't
grow on every bush ! I've had all I could do to stop
the destruction of the will by which Linnette left his
property to his nephew, which would leave in force
an old one bequeathing everything to some cannibal

Guy remarked, as an explanation of his friend's
conduct, that he was devotedly attached to Miss
Warren, and could not bear to see anyone insult a
communication that she had written.

" Stuff !" ejaculated Hobbs. " Nothing but stuff !
There are a thousand better girls, if he would only
look about him. He's exactly like his uncle always
wanting what he can't have, because he can't have it.
I've a good notion to tell you something for your
own information, mind you ! not his. Can you keep
a secret ?"

Dalton replied that he thought he could.

"Then keep this one. Will Linnette, seventy
years old as he is, loves that little girl himself. He


would marry her to-morrow if she would accept

The listener was plainly shocked.

" Are you sure ?" he gasped.

"Sure? Don't I know him, soul and body ? Was
there ever anything in his head he could keep from
me if he tried? Look at his pretenses. He brings
up his nephew's immoralities, and makes a great
fuss about them. But he knew all that long ago
and passed them off for what they are, the peccadil-
loes of a young man. Roland might have gone on
in his own way as long as he lived if he hadn't come
between the old man and his sweetheart. Now, this
must be a secret between us. I don't know what
would happen if Roland found it out."

Guy promised again to say nothing about the

" Well," continued Hobbs, " all this is not to the
point. What is the boy living on, and how does he
expect to meet his bills ?"

To this inquiry Guy responded with the utmost
frankness. He told how they had got along thus
far, but admitted that their funds were steadily
running lower and that there were no means in sight
for replenishing them.

"Then he must take a loan from me," said Hobbs,
with decision. " I don't ask him to accept a gift,
but he must borrow what he needs until something
better turns up. Tell him to write me, whenever he
wants anything, and I will see that he gets it."

The two men went out to the front yard together,


as Dalton said he must be going. The night was

not a clear one and they were unobserved.

" You weren't brought up around these parts, I
take it," remarked the elder man, with an inquisitive

" No," said Guy. I used to live in Vermont."

" Ah ! I was up that way once. It was a long
while ago. What town did you come from, now ?"

" Ryegate."

Hobbs loosened his hold of the gate, which he had
pulled back, and the spring slammed it in its place

" Sho ! You don't say. There's several of them
Ryegates. It wasn't East Ryegate, was it ?"

" Yes," was the listless reply. " It was East

The moon peeped out of the clouds just enough
to light the faces of the two men. Guy was look-
ing at the ground, impatient to be off, as he had
another call to make that evening, and it was getting
late. Hobbs observed him with renewed interest.

" And your name is Dalton ?" he said, inter-

" Y-e-s."

" Did you ever hear," began Hobbs, slowly, " of a
family up that way by the name of Lincoln ?"

Guy raised his eyes, with quick suspicion in their
gaze, and slowly responded in the affirmative.

" There were two women of that name there once,"
soliloquized the superintendent. " One of them
died, a long time ago. The other"

* Died, too."


" Did she ?" said Hobbs. " How long ago was
that ?"

" Eight years, I should think," replied Dalton.
Then he took several steps that brought him outside
the gate, and with a short " Good-by," started on
the Ellsworth road.

A village clock was striking ten. Guy felt reason-
ably certain that he had not been seen by any per-
son except Mr. Hobbs, since entering the precincts
of Montvale, the residents being of that rural order
who have a proverb that no honest person is out of
doors after nine at night. But though he started on
the road to Ellsworth he did not long continue in
that direction. As soon as he dared he bent his
steps by a circuitous route to the rear of Willard
Linnette's estate.

A letter from her lover had informed Eva Warren
that Guy would be in Montvale that evening, and
had asked her to see that Charlotte kept watch at
the familiar door in the wall that had played such
an important part before in the meetings of the
young couple. The girl was more than anxious to
communicate with this messenger, and no place
seemed safer for the purpose than her own rooms,
now again free from the suspicion of those who had
watched her. The maid was on the alert, and her
ears detected the first sound that was made on the
panel. The visitor was smuggled through the dark-
ness, and reached Eva's chamber without attracting
the attention of anyone else.

As Guy's eyes fell on his hostess, he thought he
had never seen anything so lovely. She was arrayed


entirely in white, her favorite. Her complexion, re-
minding him of a creamy rose tinged with pink, set
off the bright eyes that glowed with pleasure and

" So this is Mr. Dalton ?"

Charlotte had left the room promptly, and they
were quite alone. In a moment they were talking
together on the matters in relation to which he had
come. The girl's perfect self-possession made it
easy for him to converse with her. He felt before
he had been in the house ten minutes as if he had
known her for years. She told him her story in the
frankest manner, and asked him a thousand ques-
tions about Roland and himself.

Everything was progressing nicely, when Guy pre-
cipitated an entirely new phase of the discussion by
a slip of the tongue, the simple mention of the word
"Maud," in referring to the new household that the
young men had set up.

" Maud?" echoed the girl, quickly.

"Yes," he answered, realizing instantly that a new
quality had come into her voice. " Our house-

" And Arline ?" asked Eva. " Is her name
Arline ?"

Guy stammered that it was.

" She was at the Montvale House formerly, I be-
lieve," mused Eva.

He indicated that she was right in her statement.
And he wished heartily that he had been more


" How did they come together ?" she inquired,

Finding that he had put his foot in it, Guy did
the best he could by claiming Maud as his own
friend. He went on to describe her situation in the
great city, hardly able to earn enough to keep her
body and soul together. He wanted to work on
Eva's sympathies for a sister in distress, but only
the belief that her lover had no connection with the
matter would have allayed her rising resentment.

" Then it was you and not Roland who suggested
her," she said, apparently much relieved. "Mr.
Linne-tte told me their names were coupled in a
hateful way while here ; and though, of course, I did
not believe there was warrant for it, I am naturally
surprised to hear they were living under the same
roof as one might say, in one family. It is strange,"
she added, musingly, " that he never spoke of her in
any of his letters."

It flashed across Guy's mind at this moment that
it was Roland who suggested the engagement of
Miss Arline, and a spasm of doubt took possession
of his brain.

" He may not have thought it of enough conse-
quence," he replied, trying to crush the unpleasant
feeling. " I did not know there was any talk about
them here, though. When I was at the hotel I am
sure I heard nothing."

Eva was suffering under the lash of disappoint-
ment that such an interesting bit of news should
have come to her in this roundabout way. Roland
had referred to his housekeeper, without giv : Mg


the least intimation that he had ever known her

" This is what his uncle said to me," she answered.
" She was asked to leave Montvale because Roland's
influence over her was not good."

Up to this instant Dalton had placed not the least
credence in this allegation. He had regarded it, in
the words of his friend, as a ridiculous surmise on
Willard Linnette's part. But now a hundred little
things occurred to him that pointed in an opposite
direction. He knew that Roland was no saint. He
remembered that he had remained at home most of
the time since the housekeeping had begun, under
one pretext or another, thus being thrown into the
unrestricted company of the young woman in ques-
tion. As for Maud, it was almost impossible to
believe anything really wrong of her, but who could
say what influences one so used to charming mem-
bers of her sex might have brought to bear ? In the
collection of photographs which Roland had shown
him there were faces as sweet as hers ; and yet

"We have happened to exchange information of
mutual interest," said Eva, with a smile, for she saw
the frown that covered his brow, and wished to dis-
sipate it as soon as possible. " I do not believe, how-
ever, that it is of much account. While it is true Mr.
Linnette urged Mr. Hanson to send her away, and
furnished the money, and gave the reason I have
repeated, that proves nothing. He has taken a dis-
like to his nephew that renders him blind to reason.
As it is evident Miss Arline does not share his fear-
else she would not be where she is we may as well


call it a baseless charge and let it pass. Probably
she was not unwilling to exchange the dull life she
led here for the brighter prospects of the city, and
cared little how the exchange was made."

Dalton was silent. He detested double dealing
from the bottom of his soul. While he meant to
defend Roland to this girl, he doubted him more and
more. Why had he picked out Maud to be their
housekeeper? And was there anything in this
journey on which they had sent him, leaving them so
many hours alone ?

" I can quite sympathize with her," pursued the
musical voice of his companion. " I often feel that
I would accept almost any terms to get away from
this place. Her position is far preferable to mine, for
she is free, while I am under constant surveillance.
If release does not come soon I shall take matters
into my own hands, and actually run away."

Guy could hardly answer her. If his suspicions
were in the least justified he never would speak to
Roland again. He rose, with the remark that it was
time he set out on his walk to Ellsworth, if he was
to catch the early train.

" You were kind to come," said Eva, sweetly. " I
shall never forget it. It seems almost like meeting
Roland. Tell him the sight of you, and what you
have said to me, has given me new strength and
patience. But tell him also," and the pink ran riot
over her fair complexion, " that he must not make
me wait too long."

These ingenuous words impressed Guy with her
perfect innocence more than the most modest expres-


sions could have done. Her nature was evidently
wholly unspoiled and simple. Pressing his hand
warmly Eva gave him into Charlotte's charge, and
he escaped without detection by the avenue through
which he had entered the grounds.

"He's a splendid fellow!" was Eva's comment,
when her maid returned. " And did you notice
how handsome he is ? His eyes are really poetic,
and his voice is as gentle as a woman's. I hope
Roland will send him here again."

Then she added, after a momentary pause
"You used to see Maud Arline, who lived at the
hotel. What kind of a girl should you say she




It was only twenty hours from the time that Guy
Dalton left New York when he returned to it. Only
twenty hours that Roland and Maud had been to-
gether. But a great deal can be accomplished in
twenty hours.

Roland did not plan anything, either. Guy was
quite wrong in his surmise that a deep plot had been
laid and that he was its victim. Nevertheless, the
result was not pleasant to any of them, and all on
account of the strangest coincidence imaginable.

To tell the truth, Roland intended to behave in
the most perfect manner. He could not have acted
better that first day had Maud been his sister.
Lunch was taken at a restaurant, and when he re-
turned he suggested a very simple meal for the even-
ing, as he had eaten late and Guy was away. Any-
thing handy would answer, he said. Then, as the
girl began her preparations, he sat down near her,
talking in the good-natured, familiar way to which
she had grown accustomed.

As he watched her a sense of her beauty grew upon
him. How little she depended upon artificial adorn-
ment ! That was the true beauty the kind that
dress does not accentuate unduly. He made her
talk about herself, and execrated with her the heart-


less guardian who had compelled her to seek her
own livelihood the moment her little fortune was ex-
hausted. The story was a very pathetic one, and
Roland was moved to compassion and indignation
in about equal measure.

"And then," he said, "when you found a shelter,
my uncle had to interfere and send you away on the
ground that I might fall in love with you. How
absurd !"

Maud blushed to her finger-tips.

" He's a queer old fellow !" continued Roland.
"I'd like to know what he does want. He must
intend me for a bachelor, like himself. He's just as
set against my loving his ward, you know, as he was
against you. But 1 ought to do him partial justice.
I was getting to be a little too fond of you,

The girl, whose hands were in the flour, making
biscuit, cast a reproachful glance at the speaker.

"It is unkind to say that," she remarked, in a low

He rose and took a step toward her, with a very
sober face.

" Unkind, Maud ! I unkind to you ! Do you
think I would say a word you did not like, if I knew
it ? You think too hard of me for some of the
things I said and did at Hanson's. The fact is, I
liked you immensely and I do yet "

He saw that her lip was beginning to quiver.

" Not quite in the way of a lover, you know," he
went on, desperately. " Only as a friend a very
good friend. Hang it, Maud ! I wish I could make


you understand me ! I'm afraid I never shall.
We'd better drop it, before we get into deep

With this remark he left her abruptly, and walked
into the next room, where he took up a book and

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Online LibraryAlbert RossLove at seventy → online text (page 12 of 18)