Albert Ross.

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goblet of wine." He lifted a decanter as he spoke,
and filled a glass with sherry, which he put to his
lips. " That is an excellent thing. (I mean the
principle, not this sherry.) You do not use tobacco
in any form " he took up a cigar, and contempla-
tively bit off the end "which is also to be com-
mended. I do not see how anyone except myself,
of course, can be so foolish as to clog their brains
with the vile fumes of that pernicious weed." He
lit the cigar. "Tobacco (puff) is undoubtedly a
curse (puff) which should be prohibited by statute.
Our ancestors drank wine and smoked (puff) and we
show the debasing results of their habit. If we
should quit both of these villainous things (puff,
puff), our descendants might possibly look as beauti-
ful as those of our modern temperance spouters."

He held the cigar contemplatively in his hand, as
he finished the sentence.

44 But the greatest reason why I have such complete


confidence in you," continued Roland, after blowing
a vast quantity of smoke in rings to the ceiling, " is
on account of your exceedingly correct views in
relation to the sexes. You must know I was joking
a few minutes ago, when I intimated that a residence
in New York might undermine the most beautiful
trait in your composition. It is my conviction that
you will be absolutely impervious to temptation
which endears you to me with such especial tender-

Rising from the chair in which he was sitting, the
speaker proceeded to take a collection of photo-
graphs from his trunk.

" Here are some of the women that made my life
endurable on my foreign journeys. How can I look
on their countenances now but with melancholy ?
From every one is reflected the accusing glance, the
questioning eyelid, the trembling mouth. Be thank-
ful, my dear boy, that you will never have on your
heart the heavy load these pictures place on mine."

It was impossible to tell how much seriousness and
how much irony there was in these expressions. Guy
could not help a natural curiosity which led him to
examine the collection.

" This one I met in Trieste," said Roland, taking
one of the loveliest from the group. " You could not
imagine a prettier creature. I was in. the bloom of
my youth then and she was hardly sixteen. You
know the women ripen earlier there than here. How
well I remember the last hours I passed with her !
We drove to a resort in the outskirts, where we had
supper. She took rather more than I should have


advised of the warm, rich wine of the country. As we
rode back in the early morning hours she lay in a half
stupor with her fair head in my lap. At the rear
entrance to her father's house a faithful old duenna
was awaiting us with some alarm, for Papa would
have made it unpleasant for all concerned had he
detected us. Just before we reached her home I
aroused her from sleep, and twining those arms
those bare arms you see there around my neck, she
vowed that nothing should ever tear us apart. As I
had planned to go away on the early morning train
I could not very well coincide with this view. It
required all my powers of persuasion to induce hef
to enter her abode a temporary expedient "

" Promising to return ?" interpolated the anxious

" I think likely, but"

" Oh, how could you be so cruel !" cried Guy.
" Or, having done it, how can you have the heart to
tell me ?"

Roland feigned surprise.

" I think I acted quite praiseworthily," he replied.
" Would you prefer that I should continue taking a
young girl on such excursions, with no chance what-
ever that good would result ? I thought my sudden
departure quite creditable, all things considered.
But, as far as escaping temptation is concerned, I
might as well have remained, for I had not been a
week in Italy when I met this one."

He took the picture of a dark-eyed beauty from
the pack, and held it up where he could study its
exquisite outlines.


" I shall not tell you her story," he said, " because
you are such an unappreciative listener. It was much
more romantic than the other. Poor Alma

He was interrupted by an exclamation from Guy,
who took another picture from the collection and
held it up to his gaze.

" Here is one that should not be put in such com-
pany !" he said, with feeling.

It was a photograph of Maud Arline. Roland had
placed it ingeniously with the others, in order to
note its effect on his companion,

" I am glad you found that," said he, nonchal-
antly, " for I want you to take it with you. It is
quite likely you will run across her in New York
such girls often gravitate toward the large cities
and you might need it to make the identification

" Do you think I could forget her ?" asked the
other, incredulously.

" Such things have happened. However, if you
don't care for the picture, you may leave it."

But Dalton had already placed the photograph in
his pocket, ignoring the outstretched hand. Roland
laughed roguishly, and turned the conversation into
other channels.

" I shall not stay much longer at Montvale," he
said. " You will find me in New York before many

" You must be anxious to see your father," sug-
gested Guy.

" Oh, very I" was the satirical response. " Just
about as anxious as he is to see me. If I were a


book of poems, or an essay written by some famous
man himself, for example I might interest him.
Being only a son, however, makes it quite a different
matter. He has only one redeeming quality in my
eyes. He is picturesque."

Guy looked disappointed, not to say shocked, at
this statement.

" It is the truth. He once sat as a model for a
painting of Benevolence. Benignity shines from
every muscle of his placid countenance. His very
beard is a study of grace and generosity. And yet
I know that no distress could be so deep and no
agony so excruciating as to stir his calm eyes. He
writes the most exquisite articles upon philanthropy,
and if he had a million loaves of bread he would not
give a crust to a blind beggar. But like yourself,
my dear Guy, he is unquestionably picturesque, and
to that extent worth calling upon occasionally."

As Roland paused, his companion said, reproach-
fully :

" Still, he is your father,"

"Yes, unhappily. But I would rather own for my
progenitor a half-clad tramp who did not know where
to lay his head or to find his next meal, than such a
well-kept, finely carved block of senseless marble."

There was moisture in Guy Dalton's eyes as the
two friends waited at the railway station the next
day. Roland was affected even while he laughed
and said that tears were only for women.

" And that reminds me," he added, feeling the
need of raising his spirits by a witticism, " I want you
to be sure to avoid everything that wears petticoats,


for therein lieth a snare. Of course, should you
happen to run across Maud, you will try to ascertain
why she left here so suddenly. Tell her I thought it
very shabby, after all the pleasant hours we spent
together. Tell her"

But the train was starting. Guy wrung his com-
panion's hand so sharply that he bruised it, and
with a hasty *'- Good-by" left him alone.




For various reasons nearly a fortnight elapsed
after the meeting which Roland Linnette had with
Eva Warren in his uncle's library before he accepted
her invitation to enter the grounds surreptitiously
late at night. She had not been as well as usual, for
one thing, and her mother had remained with her a
good deal. The impatient lover was obliged to
content himself with the daily missives that Char-
lotte contrived to smuggle to him, and he thought
Montvale duller than ever, during the days after
Dalton's departure. At last, however, a time was set
for the long-delayed meeting. He was to wait near
the wall door at the rear of the mansion until after
Eva had seen Mr. Linnette's light extinguished and
was sure Tom Hobbs had finished his game of chess
and gone home.

The habits of the household, as the girl knew from
experience, were very clock-like. Mr. Linnette
seldom remained long out of bed after the departure
of his regular visitor. Having allowed a half hour
from the time she saw the light put out Eva sent
Charlotte to find the anxious watcher.

All the innumerable adventures which the young
man had experienced seemed to pale into insignifi-
cance in comparison with this one. He had climbed


by a grapevine to the window of a wealthy beauty
in Sicily ; had been smuggled disguised into the
seraglio of a great official of Constantinople ; had
barely escaped with his life from an avenging hus-
band in Japan ; but this escapade possessed a
strangeness equalled by none of the others. To be
prowling around the walls that had enclosed his
head in boyhood walls destined to be his own in the
course of time ; to creep like a burglar across these
well-known walks and into this familiar house ; to
meet in this manner this paragon of innocence !

When Roland stepped into the room where Miss
Eva was waiting, his heart knocked so loudly against
his ribs that he could almost hear it.

" Well, I am here," he said, in a low voice, tuned
to the most musical accents of which he was master.

Upon conducting him to her mistress the maid
had retreated into the hallway, closing but not latch-
ing the door behind her. No sooner had she disap-
peared than Roland, overcome with joy, stretched
out his arms to Eva.

" My darling," he cried, in tones of the deepest
passion, " will you now refuse me that kiss which I
have waited for so long ?"

The young girl seemed quite composed, making a
marked contrast to his impetuosity.

" You must have forgotten what I told you," uhe
replied, gently.

He caught both her hands in his.

" That you would only kiss the man who 1 % be
your husband ? Behold him !"

She hesitated still, regarding him intently


-Do you swear that ?" she asked. " Do you swear
that I shall be your wife ?"

Only a minute before this, the young man had
been firm in his resolution not to say anything to
commit himself. The dependence that he had upon
his uncle was so absolute that he had meant to be
circumspect in his words, however careless his con-
duct might appear. But he was intoxicated with
the sweetness of the creature before him, and to
save his life he could not have made her a different

"With all my soul !" he answered, earnestly.

Eva waited no longer, but permitted him to clasp
her in his arms and press a kiss upon her lips.

" Have you thought how we are to arrange it ?"
she said, as Soon as she could escape from his

To arrange it ! Her thoughts were not to be
turned even for a moment from the subject of

" That will be all right in time," he responded,
after a slight pause. " For the present is it not
wisest to take the happiness that comes to us and
leave all difficult problems for the future? Such
meetings as this ought to be devoted to the de-
liciousness of love, not passed in sober calculations
how to escape the happiest period of life."

She looked slightly troubled.

"And does the ' deliciousness of love' end with
matrimony ?" she asked, in her ingenuous way.

"Why, no," he replied, confused for the moment.
44 But lovers usually like to prolong, as much as pos-


sible, that delightful time when they have become all
in all to each other, and yet are unbound by legal
ties. In our case there are a hundred barriers to
marriage, which must all be broken down ; to our
love there was but one, and that Charlotte and her
keys has easily opened."

Eva showed the greatest interest in every word he

" Are there really so many barriers to our mar-
riage ?" she asked. "Tell me what they are."

"Well, the two greatest, perhaps, are my uncle
and your mother."

She brightened at this, for she had feared that his
answer would reveal some terrible obstacle of whose
existence she had been unaware.

" Those barriers are easily surmounted," she smiled.
"My mother would not stand in the way of any-
thing I insisted upon. And as for your uncle, he
has no legal control over my actions."

Roland wished that she would not be so precise
and positive. He blushed as he felt that he could
not explain his own situation without laying himself
open to the charge of selfishness.

"My uncle could refuse to do anything more for
me in a pecuniary way, which, to say the least, would
be embarrassing."

The girl knit her brows and relapsed into thought.

" You could earn a living, could you not, without
his aid ? I supposed any man of education and
talent could do that. We shall not need much, and
I will gladly do all I can to help you."

She looked so infantile, as she uttered these


words, that Roland could not help embracing her

" I wish, with all my heart," he replied, and he
had never spoken more earnestly, " that I had been
brought up to do something useful. To tell the
truth, Eva, I have no idea how I could turn my
slight talents into bread. If all else fails, my dear,
I will make a hercfulean effort to convince the world
that I am a much-needed individual, for whom it
has long felt a keen desire. It would be much better,
though, if we could convince my respected relation
that he ought to give us his blessing."

As Eva clasped her hands behind her head and
leaned back in the arm-chair she made a very pretty

" I am not so sure he wont" she said. " He seems
to care very much for me. If I tell him I love you
and wish to be your wife, I think he will want me to
be happy."

She was so hopeful that Roland did not like to
disturb her serenity, though he had little faith in her

" I sincerely trust you are right," he answered.
" For, if he does not, if he positively opposes us, we
shall have to wait."

A pout altered the expression of her pretty

"To wait!" she repeated, dismally. "How
long ?"

Roland kissed her again, thinking her more
bewitching than ever.

" We must be sensible," he said. " Is it not better


to let a little time go by, during which he mk^, j
induced to relent ?"

The girl did not take kindly to this suggestion.

<( You don't know how tired I am of my humdrum
existence," she said, wearily. " Oh, I want so much
to get out, to go where I can see the world ! If
they keep me shut up much longer I shall never
live to be your wife."

The conversation progressed along the same lines
for another hour, but nothing definite was reached.
He could not make her understand why he was so
cautious. Her ideas of love had been obtained
entirely from certain old-fashioned novels that she
had found in the big collection downstairs. In those
romances the ardent swains dared everything to
possess their sweethearts, and the recalcitrant
parents and uncles invariably relented in time to
make everything lovely at the close,

Before Charlotte came to let him out, it was
understood that he would come again within a few
days, and that in the meantime the lovers would
exchange letters regularly.

With the most joyous feelings that he had known
for many months, Roland set out to return to the
Montvale House. He had only gone a short dis-
tance, however, when a most unexpected and unwel-
come f0rm confronted him in the highway.

For a few moments neither the uncle nor the
nephew uttered a word. Roland saw that his even-
ing's exploit was known, and from the set expression
on Mr. Linnette's face realized that he had little
cause to hope for mercy.


" I am a straightforward man," came at last in
hard tones from the elder gentleman. " I know
where you have been. I will listen to no explan-
ations, for nothing can palliate your offence.
To-morrow you must leave Montvale, and never
return to it without my leave. Under no circum-
stances must you hold communication with any
person dwelling in my house. You rely on me for
your income. If you obey me you will continue to
receive it as in the past. If you do not " here Mr.
Llnnette made a significant pause " you may
expect nothing more from me."

A thousand thoughts rushed to Roland's brain
during the delivery of this speech. All that he
owed this man ; the kindness shown him from his
infancy ; the sweet face and figure he had just left ;
the hardships experienced by those who are penniless,
as shown in Guy Dalton's case. He did not dare
begin an argument with his uncle, in that gentle-
man's present state of mind, It was a hard choice,
but he must take the safer way. He could do as he
was ordered, trusting to the future to right him.

" I will go, Sir," he said, quietly.

Mr. Linnette had expected a different answer. He
had prepared himself for harsh expressions and
recriminations. When he heard his nephew's dutiful
reply he could hardly refrain from embracing him
and letting forth the torrent of tears that struggled
to his eyes. But he restrained himself, and the two
men parted without further parley.

Early the next morning Roland, with all his
belongings, took a train for New York.




jRoland's feelings, as he rode toward the city, were
far from enviable. Every revolution of the wheels
under his car was taking him farther and farther
from the one he loved best. He believed he cared
a great deal for Eva Warren. She had made a most
vivid impression upon his ordinarily fickle nature.
He had really convinced himself that he was to find
with her the true peace of mind and serenity of life
that comes from an ideal marriage. She had led him
to hope that his uncle would consent to remove the
difficulties in their way, under the persuasive elo-
quence of her bright eyes and sweet voice. Now
everything was changed. He had fallen under the
displeasure of a man whose power over his income
was as absolute as that of the Czar over his subjects.
He had been sent away, with strict directions not to
return under the direst penalty.

When he heard his sentence he accepted it, con-
soling himself with the belief that some fortunate
circumstance would eventually intervene to save
him. He had to admit, however, that there was
very little clear sky on his horizon. The offence of
which he had been guilty must seem upon the sur-
face a heinous one. He had no reason to doubt
that the very blackest suspicions were entertained in


regard to his conduct. Should this be the case,
how unpleasant Eva's situation must be ! It was
unlikely that Mr. Linnette would take any pains to
explain matters to her. She would send her letters
to the usual place, and when there were no answers,
Charlotte would make an investigation, and report
that the man who had professed the warmest affec^
tion for her so short a time before, had coolly left the
place, without sending a word to explain the reason,
or an address to which she could write.

Oh, it was scandalous ! Even the fear of being
disinherited, of losing the immense property which
his uncle had accumulated, could hardly dissuade
the young man from leaving the train at the first
station, and returning, at any risk, to the girl he had
deserted. But prudence conquered for the moment,
and he decided to continue his journey to New
York, where he might confide the whole story to Guy
Dalton, and see if together they could find a way to
untangle the knot.

It was on a holiday that he reached the city, and
the office of the Montvale Optical Company was
closed. As he did not know Guy's house address,
he was obliged to wait until the next morning be-
fore he could see him. Strolling about at random
during the afternoon, he happened to pass through
East Ninth Street, where he encountered, as he had
often done, an evidence of the fact that this world
is a very contracted place. On the sidewalk a little
ahead of him was a female figure, whose outlines
seemed strangely familiar, and he was not long ia


deciding that it belonged to the late waitress of the
Montvaie House.

The pleasure of meeting anyone he knew, com-
bined with curiosity as to the sort of life she was
now leading, induced him to follow her. Fearing
that if he made his presence known too soon she
might decline to acquaint him with her place of resi-
dence, he lagged in the rear until he saw her enter
a dwelling. Three minutes later he rang the bell.
The girl who answered his summons directed him to
a room up two flights of stairs, leaving him to make
his own way to that locality.

"Now, don't say you're sorry to see me !" he ex-
claimed, the expression with which he was received
giving rise to this suspicion. " Why, you don't even
ask me to enter."

At this, Maud, who had stood stock still in her sur-
prise, moved to one side and allowed rather than
invited him to pass in.

" Let me quiet your fears at once, if you have
any," he said, in a sprightly tone. " I found your
abode by the purest accident, in fact by seeing you
on the street just now, and it seemed only a neigh-
borly act to call. I thought you and I were too
good friends for such an abrupt leave as you took of
me. At Montvaie, which I left yesterday morning,
no one seemed to have the slightest notion where
you were. But now I shall learn all about it. What
are you doing in New York ; and what drove you
away in such a hurry ?"

He glanced hurriedly at the furniture as he spoke.


She had not found anything very luxurious, at all


4 cloud that had gathered around the girl's eyes
deepened at his question.

" I came away because because I thought it best.
And because I believed I could earn my living better

"I hope you have succeeded," he said, kindly.

" Not yet," she told him, with a sad frankness. " I
find there are many others as much in need of work
as I. Still, I am not discouraged. I shall keep

It requires money to live in a city, even in the
plainest manner, and Roland began to wonder where
she had obtained enough for her wants. He had
good reason to believe her purse was empty when
she lived in Montvale.

"You must be well provided with funds to be able
to wait so long," he said, boldly.

" I I had a little," she stammered, much con-
fused. "It does not cost much here."

"But the little it does cost," he said, with sudden
conviction, " comes from my uncle. He sent you
away for fear I should lower his great name by con-
tracting a marriage with you ! His name ! He who
has wheeled a barrow in his day, shovelled coal and
handled a pickaxe. That's where the money comes
from. You do not dare deny it !"

A tumult raged in the girl's breast as she heard
him. A marriage with Roland ! Could such a
thing have been, for a moment, in the thoughts of
the wealthy manufacturer ? This was not the story


that Hanson had told her, when he pressed the bank-
notes into her hand and asked her to leave on the
very next train. He had represented that a scandal
was imminent, that their close relations were causing
talk, and that she would either have to go in this
quiet way, with sufficient funds to relieve her present
necessities, or be turned out ignominiously in the
face of the village.

" You do not answer," said Roland. " In this case
I shall consider that silence is confession."

"You confuse me so much that I do not know
what to say," she responded. " I never dreamed of
meeting you. And you must not call here any
more, for really I cannot see you."

His mind was too full of Eva now to mind much
this rather cool dismissal. For, with the words, Miss
Arline rose from the chair she had taken, as if to bid
him farewell.

"I shall respect your wish," he replied, with a
smile, " though I think you would be wiser to con-
fide in me a little. I am not half so great a villain
as I have been represented. If my uncle is supply-
ing your purse, and if he, from any cause, ceases to
do so, and you need anything, my city address is at
his office on Third Street. You will be very silly if
you don't let me know. And, let me tell you, though
it may not seem encouraging, the chances are that
you will. I don't suppose you have a relation or
acquaintance in town. But," he walked slowly out
into the hallway as he talked, " I am overstaying my
welcome. I wouldn't care so much if you hadn't got
into this scrape on my account," he added.

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Online LibraryAlbert RossLove at seventy → online text (page 8 of 18)