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have had the heart to speak crossly to a poor fellow
looking for work on a winter's day ; especially such
a nice fellow as Clarence.

" There were some terribly narrow escapes besides
that one," smiled Roland. " It really looked for
some time as if I were destined to occupy the
eligible position of being your husband. There
must be a kind fate that watches over imprudent
girls, or you never would have escaped. And we
would have made a very poor match, wouldn't we,
Eva ?"

Mrs. Lincoln shook her head, as if she had not
the least doubt of it.

" I was shut up here, you remember," she said,
" with nothing to get my ideas from but a lot of
ancient novels. So I naturally fell in love with the
first man I saw. And then, he was such a persistent
one, and so used to affairs of the heart, a more
experienced girl might have been beguiled."

All laughed at the manner of the speaker, which
was grimly sarcastic, but Roland replied that if there
was anything fickle in this world it was a woman.

" Why, Clarence," he said, " I had letters by the
dozen from your wife, vowing eternal fidelity to me !
What can one expect of a girl like that?"

" You need not say too much, or I will expose
some of your frailties," retorted Lincoln. " I have
not forgotten when you told me Maud was in New
York, and advised me to call on her, saying I could
have 'all your right, title and interest.' "



308 LOVB AT 8EVENTT.

Maud looked her husband quizzically in the eyes.

" Did you say that ?" she asked, sweetly.

"I am afraid I did," he replied, with mock sorrow.
" But if he was dunce enough not to accept the
offer, he needn't bring it up at this late day."

This satisfied everybody, and the conversation
turned upon the question of Mrs. Lincoln's health.

" I have been well enough ever since I got out of
that everlasting routine of my early life," she said.
"I believe half the illness in the world is caused by
stagnation of the mind. It begins often in some
slight affection and the patient is confined so closely
that it grows chronic. You don't think me much of
an invalid now, do you ?" she asked her husband.

His answer was eminently satisfactory on this
point. Had it not been, Eva's rich color and the
bright gleam in her eyes would have proved her far
from the state of an invalid.

"/ought to be the happiest one of you all," put
in Maud, when there was a pause. " Not only have
I found a husband, but a father. And you cannot
imagine how dear he has grown to me ! I never
dreamed that anything could be so tender. His
only desire seems to be to ascertain my wishes and
comply with them in every respect. How quickly
he has recovered, too ! The doctors never come to
see him now, and his step is as light as a young
man's. He tells me that I ought not to 'sacrifice
myself for him, as he calls living here in this beau-
tiful house, but nothing would induce me to leave
him. Since Roland went into the firm it is the best
place for us both/'



A PKEP AT THE STABS. 309

Her husband admitted this, but said he could not
understand why he had found Montvale so dull
when he first returned from Europe. It was now,
he actually believed, the most delightful place in
Christendom. Three or four times a month he and
Maud would take runs down to the city, to enjoy
the theatre or opera, and stay a night or two ; but
for the rest of the time there was something won-
derfully attractive in that little village in the hills.

" Do you hear anything lately from Charlotte ?"
asked Maud of Eva.

" Yes, and she is perfectly contented. It is odd
to think that all the time I was confiding to her my
own heart troubles she was having an ' affair ' of her
own. I was thunderstruck when she told me she
was engaged, and that the day was set for her wed-
ding. He is a nice fellow, I judge, from his apoear-
ance and all she says of him. They were over-
whelmed with the check you sent them, and are
going to put the amount into a cottage. I have
promised to go and see them when they get settled."

The party of talkers then broke up, each couple
going to their own apartments, the young brides
kissing each other affectionately as they parted.

In the library, Mr. Linnette, Sr., played his game
of chess with Tom Hobbs. Between the moves they
talked of various things, as was their habit

" I'm going to give Lincoln an interest in the
business next month," said Mr. Linnette, " He's
showing great capacity, and he might as well be
under cover."



310 LOVE AT SEVENTY.

"Can't get over the old feeling about his wife,
can you ?" smiled Hobbs.

The manufacturer drew a long breath.

" Not over the old feeling, no," he responded.
" She will always seem like another daughter to me.
But, as true as I sit here, I'm glad she has a husband
fitter for her nearer her years than I would have
been."

Hobbs growled that it was a good thing for a man
to have common sense, even if it did come late in life.

"The biggest joke of the century, though," he
added, " is the way Roland outwitted you. When it
looked as if he hadn't a single chance to inherit a
cent of yours, he stepped into the whole pile by acci-
dent. I always was fond of the scamp, and I'm
glad he's turning out so well."

Mr. Linnette nodded, reminiscently.

" I have heard all about his kindness to Clarence,"
said he, " and it shows he was never as bad as I
imagined. It looked, at one time, as if the saving of
that boy's life had deprived him of his inheritance,
but he never said a word, even after their quarrel.
Do you know, Tom, what it was that completely
revolutionized my feelings toward Roland ?"

Hobbs indicated a negative.

" It was the horrible heartlessness of my brother.
I have not been to see him since the day he refused
his son the paltry amount he asked to save him from
starvation. If it were not for Maud's protest I
would have cut him off without another sou. He
had no excuse but that of miserliness. There was
no trouble between him and Roland, as there was in



A PEEP AT THE STABS. 811

my case. The young fellow had said pretty hard
things to me, I can tell you, but when I heard what
Payson did I forgot them all."

The game was finished. Hobbs rose and put on
his hat.

"Well," he said, as he turned to go, " those young
folks seem pretty happy, don't they?"

" Yes," was the serene reply. " We are all happy
over the outcome of things, I am sure."

The night was clear. Above his head the astron-
omer could see a thousand stars whose names he
knew and whose diameters he had measured. One
was all alone in its part of the heavens, as if the
others, who clustered in groups, shunned its com-
pany. But the lone star gave its full share to the
splendor of the night !

Up the stairs to his chamber walked the old man
with a slow step. Passing the rooms where slum-
bered the wedded couples, rich in their youth and
marital felicity, he found his vacant pillow and
stretched himself to a sleep that was untroubled.
And the moon's rays touched his features with a soft
and mellow light, typical of the infinite repose
which comes to one who has met his Enemy and
vanquished him utterly !



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