Albert Ross.

Love at seventy online

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his fatherly attitude toward her, and she could get
anything from him she chose to ask. The position
in the New York office of the Optical Company


would then be given back to Roland without ques-
tion, or perhaps a much better one.

He did not answer, half pleased at the prospect
she held out to him, and half inclined to reject it
outright, because it seemed like charity, and from a
woman, too.

" He will do it for me," she repeated, confidently.
" When I go to him and call him ' Uncle ' again there
is nothing he can refuse. You cannot imagine how
fond he used to be of me, and only this matter of
Roland has ever made any trouble between us.
Stay in Montvale a few days, till he returns, and I
can almost guarantee to arrange it."

Stay in Montvale ! More easily said than done, he
thought. He had not enough money to pay his
board at the hotel, aside from his disinclination to
go there and be subjected to cross-questionings. As
he was thinking this over, and wondering whether he
might not as well return to New York and wait there
for Eva's communication, in case she accomplished
anything, the girl clapped her hands together in
ecstacy, like the child she was.

"I have thought of the most romantic thing !" she
exclaimed. "You can stay here, in this house, just
as well as not !"

" In this house !" he repeated, surprised out of

"Exactly. This wing is never visited except by
Charlotte and me. You can take one of the cham-
bers and remain as long as necessary. I will see that
plenty of food is smuggled to you. In that way you
will be handy at all times for consultation, and when-


ever you wish to leave, you have only to wait for
darkness. I will even have my meals sent up, so
that we can dine together ! You have no idea how
thoroughly I am my own mistress that is, in every-
thing except the thing I most crave, the right to
leave the grounds and see the world. By-and-by,
perhaps you can help me to that, too."

It was certainly an agreeable inducement that she
held out to him. And after a reasonable time, dur-
ing which he raised insignificant objections, Dalton
agreed to remain for the night, at least, and to leave
the matter of a longer stay to be discussed the next




The poet who sang, " Oh, poverty is a weary
thin-g !" made no mistake. Maud Arline had felt its
sting many times since the day she was left, an
orphan, to the tender mercies of her guardian. She
had felt it when turned out the day her small fortune
was exhausted, and when she had to take a menial's
position in the hotel at Montvale. Then had come
Roland, with his strange manners, so entirely differ-
ent from anything she had ever experienced. And
when she had been in his company less than a month,
the inevitable happened. She fell violently in love
with the young gentleman.

At first she would not admit this, even to herself,
and, above all things, she did not wish him to guess
it. It was preposterous ! He was heir to a fortune
estimated at hundreds of thousands. She had liter-
ally nothing but the plain garments she wore. He
had the legions of friends that wealth always carries
in its train. She had no one on whom she could
make the slightest claim. Since her reduction to a
place in the "servant " class, she had become separ-
ated entirely from all she had formerly known.
Only in story books would such a man stoop to lift
such a girl to his side as an equal. And yet she
loved him.


She had supposed, from what Miss Giddings told
her, that he would be a very disagreeable person to
serve. She had made up h~: mind to endure a great
deal of fault-finding. Afte'her meeting with him in
the road these fears were succeeded by still stronger
ones. She dreaded the renewal of such attentions
as he had begun. Had he made the slightest move
at that time toward excessive familiarity, it would
have put her on her guard. It was because of his
unfailing courtesy that the revulsion took place in
her feelings.

When Mr. Hanson came to her with his story, tell-
ing her what the powerful uncle of his guest
demanded, she was momentarily stunned. The only
thing she had of value, her reputation, was in danger
of being taken from her, the landlord said, by the
village gossips. More than this, Roland was repre-
sented as a most dangerous and insidious foe of
honest womanhood. Penniless, she had no choice
but to accept the offer to pay her expenses to New
York, or whatever city she chose, and to see that she
did not suffer for the necessaries of life while she was
engaged in seeking a new situation.

It was a very dark hour for her when she landed,
a perfect stranger, in the metropolis, and sought one
of the cheapest lodgings she could find. Work,
plenty apparently for the million people around her,
did not seem so easy to obtain as she had been told.
Insult was offered her more frequently than anything
else, and her life grew lonelier as time went by.
Then came the bright face of Roland, the face she
had resolved not to look upon, the face she had been


told menaced her peace in this world and the next.
She had been given courage to tell him he must not
call again, though it nearly tore out her heartstrings
to do it. And then, when the night was darkest,
Guy Dalton had come.

Maud liked Guy. More than this, she trusted
him. He was as safe to admit to her confidence as
a girl friend would have been. She walked with
him in the summer evenings, took dinner opposite to
him in the restaurants, paying her own share some-
thing she insisted upon from the first. Guy's salary
was small, and Maud hated to use a penny more than
was necessary that came from Willard Linnette.
Both lived, therefore, in the most economical way,
but. economy is no bar to happiness. Indeed, given
a sufficiency of food and clothing to supply actual
physical needs, I think more real contentment is
found among the poor than among the rich. Maud
liked Guy, but never did she dream of loving him.
Removed by the hard hand of Fate from the man
she still adored, her young heart was as true to its
idol as if she had worn an engagement ring on her

And what were Guy's sentiments toward Maud ?
At first they were those of sympathy merely, a
desire to protect this innocent creature from the
rude touch of the thoughtless, wicked world. As
time passed he liked her better and better, and per-
haps he imagined, just before he took that fateful
journey, that he loved her. People get to liking
each other so well that in the absence of proof to the
contrary they imagine themselves afflicted with the


grand( passion. I have known of cases where mar-
riages followed this state of mind, and it was only
on awakening some weeks later that the unfortunate
parties discovered their mutual error. Guy was
almost as lonely without Maud as she without him.
Roland was to both of them something not quite of
their own station, not exactly a comrade, even when
he seemed most like one. Their poverty and their
friendlessness bound them together, but that was

When it became apparent that the elder Linnette
had cast his nephew off, and would refuse to aid
him in any way, Maud had a little flutter in her left
breast. Were Roland to become in reality as poor
as she, he would not look so far away. But there
arose between them now the figure of Eva Warren,
whose praises he never tired of singing to those ears
that heard him so patiently, though with such pain.

Roland never dreamed what agonies Maud suf-
fered when he chatted at the table, of this beautiful
girl, and reiterated his determination to marry her,
in spite of all the Linnettes ever born. And then
Guy went to see Tom Hobbs, and to tell Eva that
her lover would always be true to her, and that she
must not let anything take her from him. And in
his absence the deplorable event occurred that dis-
rupted the little group of three, not too happy
before, but now utterly miserable.

It was impossible for her to stay there with
Roland, alone. Nothing remained but another
struggle to support herself. She had used up all
the money given her by Mr. Hanson, and had fore-


borne to ask for more since she had violated one of
his principal injunctions, that of keeping away
from young Linnette. The life that opened before
her was unillumined by a single ray of hope.

She was in such low spirits that she could not
resist the friendly overtures that Roland made her
on the morning after Guy's departure. He ex-
pressed such hearty sorrow for what he had done
that she was quite overwhelmed.

" How did I ever do such a silly thing !" he
exclaimed, twenty times, and with each exclamation
his lips touched her fair cheek. " I resisted the temp-
tation at Montvale till I thought I had been turned
into adamant. Maud, my sweet girl, if you continue
to cry I shall take a revolver, that I have in the other
room, and spoil your best carpet."

Women are made for affection. In times of great
mental distress they turn their faces toward the sun-
light, no matter from which direction it comes. Ro-
land continued to talk in a low monotone, vowing to
set her right again with Guy, no matter how great an
apology it required. He referred to that young
man so often that she felt obliged to interpose a

" You are quite mistaken about Mr. Dalton," she
said. "There never has been anything between us
like like what you seem to think. We were good
friends, nothing more. But he has been very kind
to me, and I wish he had not gone away with such
suspicions in his mind. I have driven him from his
home, and all I ask is to return it to him. He will


never come while I remain, and that is why I must
go as soon as I can."

Roland was much affected.

" Go, child ! Where can you go?" he demanded.
*' You have no relations in the city, as you have often
told me. Your money from my uncle has been
stopped. Let us talk sensibly. Guy has run off in
a sudden fit of temper. Soon he will come to his
senses and we shall have him back again. It will
not do for you or me to desert the lighthouse. We
must stay here and keep a candle in the window for
our wanderer, when he gets tired of his cruise and
turns his eyes toward home."

With that he kissed her again, and she did not try
to stop him, though she was by no means ready to
accept his plan. She did not think it right to keep
house for him alone. It had been bad enough when
three of them were together. There were people,
she felt sure, who would look askance at such an
arrangement between young persons of opposite

" I don't know what to do," she mused. " I have
made trouble for you with your uncle ; and now I
have made trouble for him for Mr. Dalton. You
have both befriended me and received a very poor

Not less than three kisses contented Roland after
listening to that speech. He put his arm around
her waist, declaring that both he and Guy owed her
the most abject apologies for what they had done,
and that it was a shame for her to accuse herself of


" You must do nothing precipitate," he added. *
shall never let you out into this town again, hunting
for work. That would be madness. I have a hun-
dred dollars' worth of furniture that can be sold,
without seriously breaking up the menage, and when
that is gone, if all else fails, I have another string to
pull. I know, in spite of what you say, that I am
wholly to blame for all this row, and I shall do my
best to straighten it out."

Finally, an arrangement was made in this way.
Maud knew of a girl, one of the dressmakers where
she had worked, who lived down on Staten Island
and had to come and go every day, on very small
wages. She thought she could get this girl to come
and room with her in the flat, as a temporary expe-
dient, for the looks of the thing. If this succeeded
she would remain for the present, while Roland
tried to make things right with Mr. Dalton. She
did not like the idea of putting on her hat and walk-
ing out into the New York streets, without money
enough to pay for carting her trunk to a room,
the rent of which she could not raise.

To all this Roland agreed with pleasure, though
he protested mildly that the feminine addition to
the household was a reflection on him that was un-
warranted. He also warned her solemnly that in
case her friend was handsome, she would be more
than likely to regret introducing her. He was so
bright, in spite of all his troubles, that the girl soon
resumed her old manner. She set out the lunch and
they partook of it together. Before it was finished
he had her actually laughing at hfe pleasantries.


During the afternoon Maud arranged the mat-
ter with her friend, the maker of dresses, who
agreed to room at the flat and take her breakfast
there, getting her other meals outside. This suited
Roland very well, when Maud told him of it at

For the next three days Roland hunted for Guy.
He went to the restaurants he had formerly patron-
ized, inquired at the house w-here he had roomed on
Tenth Avenue, dropped in at the office of the Mont-
vale Optical Company, and walked the streets peer-
ing into every face that passed. In the intervals he
tried to pick out the furniture he talked of selling,
and once brought a buyer of secondhand goods to
look at it. But when the man offered him twenty-
three dollars for what had cost one hundred and
seventy-five, he broke into blasphemy and frightened
the dealer so that he ran away without looking
behind him. " I won't give the stuff to these wolves
till I have tried everything else," said Roland to
Maud. " I am going to pull that other string I told
you of. It's a thing I hate, but the landlord's agent
will be on our necks in a week, and there's no help.
Not only is the rent nearly due, but the ship is
running short of provisions."

The girl put her hand instinctively on his arm.

" It is perfectly honest of course the way you
are going to get this money," she said, with a deep

"To be sure," he retorted, reddening also. "Do
you think me a brigand, my child ? I'm not half as
bad, dear, as they've made me out to you."


He took her face between his hands and drew it
to his own.

" If I had the fortune I have lost, Maudie," he
murmured, ''no other man should ever press his lips
to yours."

The girl could not resist him. He kissed her
without the least trace of passion and went out.

She stood where he had left her, pondering on
those words of his. What did they mean ? " If he
were rich, no other man should ever touch her lips."
But he was engaged to that young lady in Montvale !
Ah, God ! To be so poor, to hold so much love, and
to hear such an intimation as that !

A flush of shame that she should have listened to
him, that she should have permitted him to touch
her, covered the girl's cheeks. And yet, he had not
looked as if he meant to offer an affront. With the
great riddle in her tired brain Maud turned to her
household labors, tears coursing slowly down her

An hour later she heard a knock at the door.
Supposing it to be the grocer's boy, she went to
open it.

"Mr. Linnette !" she gasped.

It was Mr. Willard Linnette, indeed. He was even
more astonished, not to say grieved, than she, for he
had no idea that he would find her in his nephew's
apartments. But he silently entered and closed the
door behind him.




As Roland walked along the street, after leaving
Maud, he whistled a low tune. He had surprised
himself by what he said to her. But he knew
that he meant every word of it, and that, strange
though it might be, he cared more for that girl
than for any other who breathed.

Mecurial in temperament, changeful as a weather-
vane, he was greatly influenced by the pathetic situa-
tion into which his actions had driven this young
woman. It was clear to him that he had done her a
wrong, and he wanted to offer reparation. If in
doing so he proved false to another that was an
incidental that he had not yet had time to discuss.

The errand on which he had started was most dis-
agreeable. He would not have believed, a month
before, that he could do it. Now there was no
choice. He was going to see his father and ask aid
of him.

In front of a handsome residence on Thirty-eighth
Street, not far from Lexington Avenue, he stopped.
Mustering courage with an effort, he ascended the
steps and pulled the bell. A man-servant in livery
responded to the summons.

" Is Mr. Linnette at home ?" asked Roland.


"Yes, sir; but he is very busy. Is it anything
particular ?"

" I wish to see him."

j " If you'll give me your card, sir, I'll inquire."
/ Though he had not been asked to enter, either by
word or look, Roland stepped into the hallway.

" I have not my card-case with me," he said, curtly.
" Tell him a gentleman is waiting in the reception-

He turned away abruptly, but the servant did not
seem satisfied.

" He's awful busy sir. Is it have you anything
to sell ?"

The young man turned on his questioner savagely.

" He is my father ! Tell him that his son is here !"

At that the servant bowed almost literally in the
dust, or would have done so had the remarkably
clean surroundings contained any of that material.
He begged Mr. Roland's pardon, and explained that,
"as there were so many agents about, and as Mr.
Linnette had a horror of them, and never, under any
circumstances, bought anything, and as he was so
very busy to-day, and as "

"Will you tell him I am here?" shouted the

This sufficed to cut short the apology that bade
fair to be endless. Roland looked around the room,
elegantly furnished, adorned with works of art on
all sides. It was a very long time since he had been
in that house a time dating back to the last of his
school-days. He had disliked his father ever since
he eould remember. Their few interviews had been


very brief. Nothing like a war of words had ever
arisen, but the coolness toward him of his nearest
living relation, galled him terribly. And now, to
have to come here like this !

The serving man returned.

" Mr. Linnette is very sorry, but he is editing an
article for a magazine, and could you call Monday ?"

Roland looked so darkly at him that the man
recoiled a step.

" Where is he ?" he demanded.

" In his chamber, sir."

Two steps at a time the son mounted the stairs.
Throwing open the door without ceremony, he strode
into the room where Payson Linnette was writing.

"Did you send word to me to ' call again ?' " he
asked, bitterly. " And did you understand who
wanted you ?"

The venerable gentleman looked up with a mild
but slightly annoyed expression.

" You interrupt my work," he said, in a low tone.

His long gray hair swept the turned-down collar
that was twice the ordinary width. He wore a
velvet coat and a sailor-knot cravat.

"I will interrupt it but a minute," replied Roland.
"I want some money ! It is the only time I have
asked you for any since I was old enough to remem-
ber. Give me five hundred dollars and I promise it
shall be the last."

The venerable brows were lifted slightly at the

"I must decline," said the elder man. "Your
Uncle Willard assumed charge of you many years


ago. There was a perfect understanding that you
should look to him for everything. If you have lost
his goodwill you must seek to regain it. As I have
an important piece of work on hand, I hope you will
not disturb me further."

The son's astonishment would hardly let him speak.
He had known something of the nature of his father,
but he had not anticipated a refusal.

" One word," he said, and again the benignant
brows were lifted deprecatingly. "Whatever the
cause, whose ever the fault, I and my uncle have
quarrelled. I am at the end of my resources. With-
out money at once I shall be turned into the street.
I have sought work in vain. Unless you assist me I
shall become either a beggar or a thief."

The annoyed look deepened on the venerable face.
Reaching slowly into his pocket, Payson Linnette
fumbled among the bills there and finally drew out
ten dollars.

"I ought not to do it it will inconvenience me,"
he murmured, " but you may have that. If you
are frugal it will last you till you can communi-
cate with my brother and beg his pardon. Good-

The father turned to his writing, as if he con-
sidered the interview finished. For several seconds
Roland stood there, unable to utter one of the
indignant things with which his mind was filled.

" I am in doubt," he said at last, " whether to take
that money and stuff it down your throat, or spend
it in poison to end a life disgraced by being
drawn from such a wretch ! You have lived all


these years as I did on the bounty of your suc-
cessful relation, which, having no blood nor heart
to cause you to rebel, you are able to retain. I care
not what becomes of me now. No greater disgrace
can fall to my lot than to have had you for my
father !"

With the air of a sovereign ruler, Roland left the
room and the house. A moment later Mr. Linnette
summoned the man-servant who attended the street
door and smiled upon him in his usual benevolent

"You know how much I hate to be disturbed,
Kelly," he said. " Hereafter if you wish to retain
your position be more careful."

" He told me he was your son, sir," stammered
the man.

" Here-after," repeated his employer, " be more
care-ful. No per-son must be al-lowed to dis-turb
me, under any cir-cum-stances."

Kelly bowed humbly and was glad to escape to
the floor below. He had served gentlemen, in his
day, who were sometimes violent in their language ;
but never had he felt so uneasy as when in the
presence of this pattern of propriety.

Roland, too angry almost to contain himself,
returned to his home. He must tell Maud of the
failure of that "string " which he had believed
would save them, when worse came to worst. There
was a half-formed idea in his mind of selling every-
thing he had for what it would bring; giving her
the sum, going to the wharves and shipping as
a sailor.


The uncle, who heard his step, signalled to Miss
Arline not to betray his presence for a few moments,
and she, in great doubt how to act, stood, physically
and metaphorically, between the two men.

"What do you think!" he cried, as soon as he
entered the room. " I went to my father my own
father, mind you ! to ask him for a paltry five hun-
dred dollars. I told him I had nothing left and that
it was either this or starvation, or even robbery. Of
course, I did not mean the last, dear, but I had to
say something. And what did he do ? He pushed
me a ten dollar bill across the table, murmured that
he was very busy, and said that was all he could
give ! I wanted to strangle him where he sat I

Willard Linnette, who had been hidden by an
open door leading to another room, stepped forward
with distended eyes.

" Did my brother do that (" he exclaimed, in a
trembling voice.

Roland looked from one to the other in amaze-
ment. Maud was gazing fixedly at the carpet,
unable to speak or look at him. What did it mean ?

" Yes, your brother did just that !" retorted the
young man, when he could command himself.
" Does it surprise you ? Did he ever show the
slightest interest in me ? I was a fool to go to him,
but it was either that or death. I can get nothing
to do, and I am desperate."

Tears came into the old man's eyes tears that
changed the manner of his nephew toward him in
an instant. The tender recollections of childhood


returned and blotted out all that had happened

pi nee.

"Under he cried.
In a moment their arms were about eacn other.-




"Would you mind leaving us together for a little
while ?" asked Mr. Linnette, of Maud, when he had
again resumed his seat.

Then, when the door closed behind the girl, he
had a long talk with his nephew. A very important
talk it was, too.

" I want to say, to begin with," said he, " that I
have questioned the young woman who just left
the room and am satisfied that I have wronged her

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Online LibraryAlbert RossLove at seventy → online text (page 14 of 18)