Albert Ross.

Love at seventy online

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The girl had a severe struggle with the conflicting
^motions which these expressions brought forth. It
was true, as lie surmised, that Mr. Linnette had made
a bargain with her, through Hanson, by which he
was to send her what money she needed until she
could obtain a satisfactory position, in exchange for
which she was never to see or speak to his nephew.
She had been too overwhelmed at the landlord's
accusations, when he made her the proposition, to
attempt the least defence, but had followed his sug-
gestions blindly, not knowing what else to do. She
was practically penniless, and, though Mr. Linnette's
money almost burned her fingers, she dared not
decline it. Her main thought was to get away as
quickly as possible, away from Montvale, away from
Roland, away from all those people to whom she had
become, as was represented to her, an object of

By some mysterious fate the person she had prom-
ised to avoid had found her in this large city, on the
very day of his arrival, and without effort on his
part. The short interview she had had with him
could not be construed as a violation of her word to
Mr. Hanson. But, should she have given such a
promise ?

"I will keep your card," she said, while he won-
dered why it took her so long to answer.

" By-the-way," said Roland, as he was turning
from her, " our friend, Guy Dalton, is here, in my
uncle's office. Is he in your bad books as well as I ?
If he isn't, and you happen to run across him, it will


be a charity to give him a kind word. He always
seemed to like you."

Then he went out upon the street and walked to
his hotel. The next morning he went at an early
hour to find Guy, and arrange a lunch together at
one o'clock.

" How happens it that you are here without giv-
ing me the least warning?" asked Dalton as soon as
he could control his delight.

" Oh, the devil is in it !" was the response. " I've
had a set-to with my respected uncle."

" Not a falling out !" cried Guy, with distended

" Something mighty like it. I'll tell you every-
thing at noon."

And at noon he did tell him everything. He re-
lated the whole Warren episode, from beginning to
end, concealing nothing.

" Isn't it a fine kettle of fish ?" he said, at the con-
clusion. " I'm in a condition of mind to kill some-
body. And poor little Eva, she must by this time
have voted me the crudest and most inconstant man.
If I wanted to mail her a letter, at the risk of my
uncle's wrath, there is not one chance in a hundred
it would ever reach her. Spies are undoubtedly on
the watch, ready to intercept anything addressed to
her name. Come, old man, tell me what to do. You
ought to have an idea in that head of yours."

Guy was much affected by this recitation of his
friend's misfortune. He counselled patience, ex-
pressing the belief that Mr. Linnette would not long
hold himself in such an attitude toward his nephew.


To violate the quarantine regulations at present
would be merely to invite ruin. Nor was it wise, he
added, timidly, to underrate the financial considera-
tions. As long as the uncle held the purse-strings,
he could control Roland's conduct as readily as a
pilot could handle a boat through the tiller.

" But you don't realize what a burning affection I
have developed for that dear girl !" cried Roland,
comically. " I have been in love with a thousand
women and never really had my heart on fire till

" I am afraid you never loved any of them," was
the sober reply. " It is not so very long ago that
you seemed wholly wrapped up in another young

A loud laugh greeted this statement.

" What, the pretty little Maud ?" he replied. " She
did entertain me, in that frightfully dull Montvale,
but* I don't think I ever meant anything serious.
Even if I had I could not but see how little chance
there was for me after she caught sight of you.
And that reminds me that you must run over and
call on her. She lives but a few minutes' walk from
here and would welcome you warmly."

" Miss Arline !" cried Dalton, rising from his chair.
" She is here, in New York !"

" Exactly," smiled Roland. " I will cheerfully
give you her address."

The younger man drew several long breaths, which
he emitted slowly. He was evidently much surprised
by the news.

" I do not understand," he stammered. " You say


you love Miss Warren. Then why have you St..
Miss Arline here ?"

It was some seconds before Linnette could grasp
the full meaning of this question.

" You are wrong in your brilliant surmise," he
answered. " Miss Maud is the victim of another
ridiculous move on the part of my venerated kins-
man. He had her sent away from the hotel on
account of a silly notion in relation to me. I learned
of her residence only yesterday afternoon, and then
quite accidentally. Oh, I give you my word ! She
is of no use to me now, and I shall take great pleas-
ure in passing over to you all my right, title and

Dalton shrank from these careless expressions as if
they were so many blows upon his shoulders.

" Don't speak like that !" he pleaded. " It hurts

" Does it, really ?" asked Roland, looking at his
companion in a puzzled way. "Then I am right,
and you are not entirely indifferent to the girl. You
see, I saw Maud in the street and followed her home
without letting her know she was watched. When I
called at her room she treated me with the coldest
civility, and even had the supreme impertinence to
remark, as I was going away, that she did not care to
see me again. Of course I lay all that to the lies
or possibly to the truths that Hanson had been
hired to tell her about me. Whatever the reason,
my mind is now too full of my newest inamorata to
let me shed many tears. As I am barred from
Maud's society, and as she is entirely alone in the


city, I know she would be delighted to see you often.
And although I don't think I am much to blame for
her present situation, I would like to hear from her
occasionally, and even render her assistance if she
ever needs it."

Guy made a number of inquiries in relation to
Miss Arline which his friend could not answer posi-
tively. All he knew was that she meant to secure a
position of some kind by which she could earn her
living, and he had no doubt that Willard Linnette
was supplying her temporary wants.

When the friends separated, Guy had in his pos-
session the number of the house on Ninth Street,
and that very evening he called there. Maud did
not conceal her pleasure at the sight of his face, and
gave him a very different reception from the one
Roland found. Before an hour had passed the last
vestige of nervousness had disappeared from both of
them, and they chatted confidentially. Guy told
how pleased he was with his place in the Optical
Company's office, where he had been promised, with-
out any solicitation on his part, a rise in salary at
fche end of six months' service. And Maud had that
very day made an engagement with a milliner, which
would give her almost enough to live on in the
economical fashion she was practising.

Though intensely anxious to learn the exact con-
nection of the elder Linnette with her affairs, Guy
did not think of questioning her in relation to that
matter. He was sure, whatever it was, that it
reflected no discredit upon her. When they parted
it was with an understanding that he would call


frequently. The next evening they took a long walk
together, and within a week had dined ensemble at a
cheap French restaurant, where a dinner was served
for forty cents. Several days later they had even
viewed a play together from an upper gallery, at a
cost of half a dollar.

As for Roland, he took rooms in a swell bachelor
apartment hotel and set about drowning his regrets
with the aid of several young gentlemen afflicted,
like himself, with too much spare time and endowed
with a sufficient quantity of greenbacks. He was
not happy, but he could formulate no plan to get
out of his difficulties. Theatres, rides in the park,
and such light entertainment as was furnished by
one or two clubs which he joined, helped to pass the
time away. Dalton, whom he generally met at
lunch time, still counselled him to have patience,
and to do nothing rash.

" How much patience do you think you'd have, in
my place ?" Roland used to answer, exasperated at
the long delay.




The disappointment felt by Eva Warren when she
received no answers to the letters which her maid
left for young Mr. Linnette was not over-estimated
in the most vivid dreams of the absent one. All that
Charlotte could learn, when she made a tour of
investigation, was that he had left town on the very
morning following their last meeting. The two
girls talked it over for hours at a time, but
they could not account for the circumstance. Eva
felt intuitively that her mother's employer had had
something to do with the matter, but she could not
ascertain the truth of her suspicions except by
direct inquiry, which she was naturally disinclined
to make. It was incredible that the ardent lover,
who had seemed hardly able to control his fond
emotions, should have taken a wilful resolve to
desert her. She believed that he would write, at
least, explaining every thing. But a fortnight elapsed
and nothing was forthcoming.

Eva was a girl of naturally strong mind, notwith-
standing the peculiar moods into which her strange
and confined life had led her. She did not give
vent to her feelings in tears, nor did she lose courage.
When it was apparent that Roland did not intend to
explain his conduct by letter, she determined to


speak of him to his uncle, the first time she could
find the latter alone. All at once, however, such
opportunities seemed to have disappeared. The
senior Linnette became visible only at meals, and as
her mother was always present on those occasions,
she did not like to refer to the subject. Evenings
Mr. Linnette spent with old Tom Hobbs in the
library as formerly. At last she could wait no
longer, and one day, at dinner, she abruptly broke
the ice.

" I hear that your nephew has left town," she said.
" Isn't it rather strange that he should stay so long
in Montvale, and never visit you here ?"

Mrs. Warren looked up in a startled way. She
knew that Roland had been to the house, and that
he had talked with Eva there. Mr. Linnette had
discovered the fact of their meeting, by a more
thorough questioning of Slocum, and had thought
it wise to convey the information to the girl's
mother, in order to put her on her guard against a
possible repetition. But he had not told the lady of
the visit Roland made to her daughter's rooms, and
he would not for anything have had her learn of

To Eva's remark he answered quietly, having
schooled himself to expect something of the kind,
that his nephew was master of his own movements,
and in the habit of selecting his places of residence.

"Undoubtedly," responded Eva. "But it does
seem odd to me, when I think how fond you used to
be of him "


M Used to be?" interrupted Mr. Linnette, without
raising his eyes.

" Used to be," she repeated, with added emphasis.
" When I remember that he is the only child of your
only brother, that this was his home for many years,
that he was gone abroad a very long time, and that
on his return you have not had him here once, even
to a dinner, and that now he has gone away, I can-
not help being very much surprised. Pardon me if
I speak too plainly."

Mr. Linnette's eyes were turned affectionately upon
the speaker.

"I will pardon you almost anything," he said,

" But, if this is your fault, I will not pardon you"
replied the girl, with the freedom she was accus-
tomed to use toward him. " Do you know what
rumors are abroad ? It is said that / have taken
his place here, that I am crowding him out of his
rightful position. Such gossip is not pleasant to
me, I assure you."

The manufacturer was evidently much disturbed
by this remarkable statement ; while Mrs. Warren
fidgeted uneasily on her side of the table, afraid to
say anything, but wishing heartily that her daughter
would select some other topic for conversation.

" I do not see how we can keep silly people from
talking," replied Mr. Linnette, after a pause. He
had been wondering who were the guilty parties,
and thinking he would make the village too warm
for them, if he could discover their identity. "The
public has nothing to do with my private affairs,


and I heartily wish it would attend to its own busi-

He said this in his ordinary tone, but Eva felt that
he was very much in earnest.

. " I have only one thing to say," she remarked.
"If. it is true that I am creating a coldness on your
part toward any of your relations, I wish to go away
at once."

This was startling enough to make Mrs. Warren
drop a plate that she was filling with fruit, while
some tea that Mr. Linnette was about to convey to
his mouth splashed upon the table cloth.

" You will compel me," said Mr. Linnette, as soon
as he could command his voice, " to say things in
reference to my nephew that I had rather keep to
myself. If I have not invited him here it is on
account of matters I have learned which are not to
his credit."

Mrs. Warren, growing more and more apprehen-
sive, touched the foot of her daughter under the
table, but the message, though thoroughly under-
stood, had no effect. Eva had never been much
under her mother's control, and of late years
she had acted quite independently of her. She
answered the last speaker as boldly as if there were
not fifty years difference in their ages.

" Of course I do not know what you refer to," she
said, " but I should think it a poor way to improve
him, if he needs it, to send him forth again into the
world with no one to advise or direct his course.
Had you brought him here, he might have found
influences that would have benefited him."


Mr. Linnette could not refrain from looking at
Eva with an expression that she could not mistake.
She knew instantly that he was aware of the visit that
Roland had paid to her room. With this knowledge
came the certainty that he had sent his nephew
away on account of it. She had learned more than
she expected, and not caring to prolong the conver-
sation in the presence of her mother, she made no
further reference to the matter.

It being now morally certain that her lover had
been forced into the action he had taken, she deter-
mined to write to him and assure him of her sym-
pathy and continued devotion. The first thing was
to ascertain his address. Charlotte, faithful to the
utmost, discovered an opinion in the village that
Roland was in New York. Eva knew that a letter
addressed -to the general delivery in that city would
be very unlikely to reach its destination. When she
was nearly in despair Charlotte learned another fact,
which seemed of more account. She discovered that
Roland's friend, Guy Dalton, was now employed at
the New York office of the Montvale Optical Com-
pany. Eva believed he would be almost certain to
know her lover's whereabouts.

Filled with new hope, Eva wrote Guy a letter
without delay, telling him to direct his answer to an
assumed name, in care of Charlotte's sister, Mrs.
Merrill, who lived in the village of Montvale. Be-
lieving that she had entered upon what would prove
a solution of the great enigma, Eva was in the
highest spirits she had known for weeks. When she


met Mr. Linnette at table that day she could hardly
conceal her gaiety.

The wily maker of instruments was not, however,
to be so easily outwitted as the young girl imagined.
The postmaster, who was practically his own
appointee, had agreed to let him see all of the mail
that left the village. There were only two bags
each day, one closing at two o'clock in the afternoon,
and the other at nine in the evening. Aside from
the letters of the Optical Company the correspon-
dence that went through the office was trivial, and it
required but a few moments for Mr. Linnette to
examine it. He knew that Eva would do her best to
learn Roland's address, and he had no intention that
she should succeed in communicating with him.

" Here's a letter that may interest you," said
Postmaster Hadlock, on the evening of the day
when Eva had suddenly appeared so radiant.

Linnette took it eagerly in his hand. Yes, it was
in Eva's handwriting. It was not addressed to his
nephew, however, but to " Guy Dalton, Esq., care
Montvale Optical Company, No Third St., New

The name was wholly unfamiliar to him, and he
turned in an inquiring manner to the postmaster.

" Do you 'T^"* this gentleman ?" he asked Mr.

"Why, yes," was the answer. "He is a young
fellow whom your nephew befriended and kept at
the hotel here for some time. He was hired finally
at the works and at last was sent to the head office."

"That looks sufficiently suspicious," said Mr. Lin-


nette, with a bright gleam in his eye, " to justify me
in getting at the contents of this envelope at once.'*

He took up a paper cutter which lay on the desk,
but the postmaster turned livid.

"Excuse me !" he exclaimed. " To open a letter
after it has been deposited is punishable by a heavy
penalty. You must find some other way, sir."

" I can at least take it to her mother," Mr. Lin-
nette answered, his face darkening. "As her
daughter is a minor, she certainly has a right to it."

The postmaster was in great distress. He disliked
to offend this man, on whose goodwill his bread
and butter depended, but he had a fear of the law
that was even greater.

" I beg your pardon," he stammered, " but what is
there to prove its authorship ? Even experts are
sometimes mistaken in relation to handwriting. It
has been committed to the mail and I dare not do
anything but forward it. If you wish to know what
is inside, there is a much safer way. You can take
the train to New York and get possession of it at
your office. I am very sorry, but I am under oath."

Mr. Linnette uttered an impatient exclamation and
strode into the street. In the morning he was a pas-
senger on the earliest train. He had merely told his
housekeeper that he was going away on business,
something too common to attract any attention.

He arrived at his New York office in advance of
the mail, and directed that all letters received be
brought to his private office. When they arrived he
found the one for which he specially waited. After


deliberating a little he rang a bell and requested
that Mr. Dalton be asked to step in.

When this message was given to Guy he was
thrown into a state of agitation. He had seen Mr.
Linnette at the office once before, and knew he sel-
dom spoke to anyone except the head clerk or the
messenger boy. He tried to think of something he
had done to merit criticism, for he did not imagine
his employer would send for him on any other
account. When he presented himself in the inner
office there was a bright red spot in each of his pale

Mr. Linnette looked up at his entrance and told
the young man to sit down.

" Is your name Guy Dalton ?" he asked.

Guy responded with a faint affirmative. He had
marked the serious look and his forebodings in-

" How long have you been employed here ?"

" About a month, sir. Though, before that, 1 was
for some time at your Montvale Works."

"Yes, yes, I know," said Mr. Linnette. "Now, I
have a little business to transact with you. It is in
reference to this letter, which has just arrived in the

Guy showed his astonishment, as he gazed at the
envelope. He had no regular correspondent, and
could not imagine who had sent it.

" Do you recognize that handwriting ?"

" No, sir," responded the young man, after exam-
ining it with care.

" It was mailed at Montvale, you see."


Guy nodded vaguely.

" Do you mean to tell me," asked Mr. Linnette,
harply, " that you were not expecting a letter from
that place ?"

The young man's countenance grew still rosier.
He felt like one charged with an unknown offence,
like a man put on trial without being told of what
he is accused.

" I beg your pardon, sir," he answered, " but won't
you tell me the reason for this strange series of
questions. That letter, judging by the superscrip-
tion, appears to belong to me. I have no idea who
wrote it, but if you will hand it to me I can easily
ascertain. Then perhaps we shall get on better."

Mr. Linnette's brow darkened.

"Very likely," he said, satirically. "Very likely.
But you will not read it until I have opened it. I
mean to learn its contents before I give it to you."

As he took up a paper cutter from the desk,
Dalton's attitude changed instantly.

" You have no right to open that letter !" he cried,

There was but one person that the instrument
maker had ever permitted to speak to him in that
way old Tom Hobbs. For an instant he was dis-
concerted, but he had no idea of giving the missive
to the one who claimed it with such a show of

" Be careful, young man !" he replied. " This
letter is in the handwriting of a girl who is under
my protection. I have reason to believe that it con-
tains a message for an individual with whom I have


forbidden her to hold any communication. I do not
propose, Mr. Dalton, to have one of my employes
use his position to frustrate me in the wise and
proper management of my affairs."

Guy heard and understood. It was as plain to
him now as the noonday. The letter was undoubt-
edly from Eva Warren, who had written to him
because she could not write to Roland. Having
come to this conclusion the young man determined
that Mr. Linnette, whatever his financial or social
position, should not possess himself of the sacred
secret contained in that envelope. Had he been the
president of the United States he would not have
allowed him to open it.

" Give me that letter !" he said, imperatively.

The elder man was trembling under the strain.
He had not closed his eyes all night.

" One minute," he answered, impressively. " I
want you to understand what you are doing. I have
told my nephew that if he ever attempts to com-
municate with this young lady I shall disinherit
him shall cease treating him as my relation from
that day forth. I think you call him your friend.
Consider, then, before you do an act that may ruin

" Give me that letter !"

The outstretched hand was still claiming the
missive when an unexpected arrival complicated
affairs still more. Roland Linnette had happened
to call at the office for a word with Guy. On learn-
ing that his uncle was interviewing the young man
in his private office, he immediately suspected that


Something of interest to himself was going on there.
With this thought in mind he had no hesitation in
walking boldly into the room.

" Give me that letter !" he heard Guy say, and
his quick eye took in the address on the envelope
that his uncle held up. He knew the handwriting,
and the extraordinary tableau began to have a
definite meaning for him.

Eva had written to him, perhaps under cover of
Dalton's name but about him, at least. His uncle
was evidently withholding the letter from its right-
ful owner, probably with the intention of violating
its seal for his own purposes. The hottest anger he
had ever known suffused his brain, completely turn-
ing his head for the moment ; and before Willard
Linnette dreamed of his intention he strode forward
and grasped the missive in his hand.

The millionaire started to his feet, but, seeing the
determined attitude of both the young men, he de-
cided that it would be useless to attempt regaining
the document by brute force. The group made a
striking picture, the same expressions written on
each face.

" You have done a fine day's work, you two !"
sneered Mr. Linnette, between his shut teeth. " Mr.
Dalton, you may go to the cashier for whatever sum
is due you, and never show yourself in my office
again. And you " he addressed himself now to
Roland " may go where you please ; to the devil,
if you like ! I shall cancel your letter of credit, and
you will get nothing more from me. Let me tell
you another thing. The poor girl you meant to

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Online LibraryAlbert RossLove at seventy → online text (page 9 of 18)