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The seven Darlings, by Gouverneur Morris; online

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annoyance of the tipping system. We pay our servants extra to make the
loss up to them."

Mr. Langham's mouth, which was rather like a Cupid's bow, tightened. And
he handed the greenback to the engineer of the _Streak_, just as if
Arthur's remonstrance had not been spoken. On the way to the office he
explained.

"Whenever I go anywhere," he said, "I find persons in humble situations
who smile at me and wish me well. I smile back and wish them well. It is
because, at some time or other, I have tipped them. To me the system has
never been an annoyance but a delightful opportunity for the exercise of
tact and judgment."

He came to a dead halt, planting his feet firmly.

"I shall be allowed to tip whomsoever I like," he said flatly, "or I
shan't stay."

"Our ambition," said Arthur stiffly, "is to make our guests comfortable.
Our rule against tipping is therefore abolished."

They entered the office. Mr. Langham could now see, having wiped the fog
from his glasses. He saw a lovely girl in black, seated at a table
facing him. Beyond her was a roaring fire of backlogs. Arthur presented
Mr. Langham.

"Are you frozen?" asked Maud. "Too cold to write your name in our
brand-new register?"

He took the pen which she offered him and wrote his name in a large,
clear hand, worthy of John Hancock.

"It's the first name in the book," he said. "It's always been a very
lucky name for me. I hope it will be for you."

Arthur had escaped.

"There is one more formality," said Maud: "breakfast."

"I had a little something in my car," said Mr. Langham; "but if it
wouldn't be too much trouble - er - just a few little eggs and things."

"How would it be," said Maud, "if I took you straight to the kitchen? My
sister Mary presides there, and you shall tell her exactly what you
want, and she will see that you get it."

A rosy blush mounted Mr. Langham's good-natured face.

"Oh," he said, with the deepest sincerity, "if I am to have the _entrée_
to the kitchen, I shall be happy. I will tell you a secret. At my club I
always breakfast in the kitchen. It's against the rules, but I do it. A
friendly chef - beds of glowing charcoal - burnished copper - piping-hot
tidbits."

It was up-hill to Smoke House, and Mr. Langham, in his burdensome
overcoat, grew warm on the way, and was puffing slightly when he got
there.

"Mary," Maud called - "Mr. Langham!"

"The kitchen is the foundation of all domestic happiness," said he. "I
have come to yours as fast as I could. I think - I _know_, that I never
saw a brighter, happier-looking kitchen."

He knew also that he had never seen so beautiful a presiding deity.

"Your sister," he said, "told me that I could have a little breakfast
right here." And he repeated the statement concerning his club kitchen.

"Of course, you can!" said Mary.

"Just a few eggs," he said, "and if there's anything green - - "

They called the chef. He was very happy because the season had begun. He
assigned Mr. Langham a seat from which to see and at which to be served,
then with the wrist-and-finger elegance of a prestidigitator, he began
to prepare a few eggs and something green.

"The trout - " Mary began dutifully, as it was for the sake of these that
Mr. Langham had ostensibly come so early in the season.

"Trout?" he said.

"The fishing - " She made a new beginning.

"The fishing, Miss Darling," he said, "will be of interest to my
friends. For my part, I don't fish. I have, in common with the kind of
boat from which fishing is done, nothing but the fact that we are both
ticklish. I saw your prospectus. I said: 'I shall be happy there, and
well taken care of.' Something told me that I should be allowed to
breakfast in the kitchen. The more I thought about it the less I felt
that I could wait for the somewhat late opening of your season, so I
pretended to be a fisher of trout. And here I am. But, mark you," he
added, "a few trout on the table now and then - I like that!"

"You shall have them," said Mary, "and you shall breakfast in the
kitchen. I do - always."

"Do you?" he exclaimed. "Why not together, then?"

His eyes shone with pleasure.

"I should be too early for you," she said.

"You don't know me. Is it ever too early to eat? Because I am stout,
people think I have all the moribund qualities that go with it. As a
matter of fact, I rise whenever, in my judgment, the cook is dressed and
down. Is it gross to be fond of food? So many people think so. I differ
with them. Not to care what you eat is gross - in my way of thinking. Is
there anything, for instance, more fresh in coloring, more adequate in
line, than a delicately poached egg on a blue-and-white plate? You call
this building Smoke House? I shall always be looking in. Do you mind?"

"Indeed we don't," said Mary. "Do we, chef?"

Chef laid a finger to his lips. It was no time for talk. "Never disturb
a sleeping child or a cooking egg," was one of his maxims.

"I knew that I should be happy here," said Mr. Langham. "I am."

Whenever he had a chance he gazed at Mary. It was her face in the row of
six that had lured him out of all his habits and made him feel that the
camp offered him a genuine chance for happiness. To find that she
presided over the kitchen had filled his cup to the brim. But when he
remembered that he was fat and fond of good things to eat and drink, his
heart sank.

He determined that he would eat but three eggs. They were, however,
prepared in a way that was quite new to him, and in the determined
effort to discern the ingredients and the method he ate five.

"There is something very keen about your Adirondack air," he explained
guiltily.

But Mary had warmed to him. Her heart and her reputation were involved
in the _cuisine_. She knew that the better you feed people the more they
love you. She was not revolted by Mr. Langham's appetite. She felt that
even a canary of a man must have fallen before the temptation of those
eggs.

They were her own invention. And chef had executed them to the very turn
of perfection.

Almost from the moment of his arrival, then, Mr. Samuel Langham began to
eat his way into the heart of the eldest Miss Darling.

In culinary matters a genuine intimacy sprang up between them. They
exchanged ideas. They consulted. They compared menus. They mastered the
contents of the late Mr. Darling's cellars.

Mr. Langham chose Lone House for his habitation. He liked the little
balcony that thrust out over the lake between the two pine-trees. And by
the time that his guests were due to arrive, he had established himself,
almost, in the affections of the entire family.

"He may be greedy," said Arthur, "but he's the most courteous man that
ever 'sat at meat among ladies'!"

"He's got the kindest heart," said Mary, "that ever beat."




VII


Mr. Langham's five guests arrived somewhat noisily, smoking five long
cigars. Lee and Gay, watching the float from a point of vantage, where
they themselves were free from observation, observed that three of the
trout fishermen were far older than they had led themselves to expect.

"That leaves only one for us," said Gay.

"Why?"

"Can't you see from here that the fifth is an Englishman?"

"Yes," said Lee. "His clothes don't fit, and yet he feels perfectly
comfortable in them."

"It isn't so much the clothes," said Gay, "as the face. The other faces
are excited because they have ridden fast in a fast boat, though they've
probably often done it before. Now he's probably never been in a fast
boat in his life till to-day, and yet he looks thoroughly bored."

The Englishman without changing his expression made some remark to the
other five. They roared. The Englishman blushed, and looked vaguely
toward a dark-blue mountain that rose with some grandeur beyond the
farther shore of the lake.

"Do you suppose," said Lee, "that what he said was funny or just dumb?"

"I think it was funny," said Gay, "but purely accidental."

"I think I know the other youth," said Lee; "I think I have danced with
him. Didn't Mr. Langham say there was a Renier among his guests?"

"H. L.," Gay assented.

"That's the one," Lee remembered. "Harry Larkins Renier. We have danced.
If he doesn't remember, he shall be snubbed. I like the old guy with the
Mark Twain hair."

"Don't you know _him_? I do. I have seen his picture often. He's the
editor of the _Evening Star_. Won't Arthur be glad!"

"What's his name?"

"Walter Leyden O'Malley. He's the literary descendant of the great Dana.
Don't talk to me, child; I know a great deal."

Gay endeavored to assume the look of an encyclopædia and failed.

"Mr. Langham," said Lee, "mentioned three other names, Alston,
Pritchard, and Cox. Which do you suppose is which?"

"I think that Pritchard is the very tall one who looks like a Kentucky
colonel; Cox is the one with the very large face; of course, the
Englishman is Alston."

"I don't."

"We can find out from Maud."

When the new arrivals, escorted by Arthur and Mr. Langham, had left the
office, Lee and Gay hurried in to look at their signatures and to
consult Maud as to identities.

The Kentucky-colonel-looking man proved to be Alston. Cox had the large
face, and the Englishman - John Arthur Merrivale Pritchard, as was to be
expected - wrote the best hand. Mr. O'Malley, the famous editor, wrote
the worst. His signature looked as if it had been traced by an inky worm
writhing in agony.

"Tell us at once," Gay demanded, "what they are like."

Maud regarded her frolicsome sisters with inscrutable eyes, and said:

"At first, you think that Mr. Cox is a heartless old cynic, but when you
get to know him really well - I remember an instance that occurred in the
early sixties - - "

"Oh, dry up!" said Lee. "Are they nice and presentable, like fat old Sam
Langham?"

"The three old ones," said Maud, "made me think of three very young boys
just loose from school. Messrs. Renier and Pritchard, however, seem more
used to holidays. There is, however, a complication. All five wish to go
fishing as soon as they can change into fishing clothes, and there
aren't enough guides to go around."

"What's the trouble?" asked Gay eagerly.

"Bullard," Maud explained, "has sent word that his wife is having a
baby, and Benton has gone up to Crotched Lake West to see if the ice is
out of it. That leaves only three guides to go around. Benton oughtn't
to have gone. Nobody told him to. But he once read the Declaration of
Independence, and every now and then the feeling comes over him that he
must act accordingly."

"But," exclaimed Lee, "what's the matter with Gay and me?"

"Nothing, I hope," said Maud; "you look well. I trust you feel well."

"We want to be guides," said Gay; "we want to be useful. Hitherto we've
done nothing to help. Mary works like a slave in the kitchen; you here.
Eve will never leave the laundry once the wash gets big. Phyllis has her
garden, in which things will begin to grow by and by, but we - we have no
excuse for existence - none whatever. Now, I could show Mr. Renier where
the chances of taking fish are the best."

"No," said Lee firmly; "I ought to guide him. It's only fair. He once
guided me - I've always remembered - bang into a couple who outweighed us
two to one, and down we went."

"Mary will hardly approve of you youngsters going on long expeditions
with strange young men," Maud was quite sure; "and, of course, Arthur
won't."

Lee and Gay began to sulk.

At that moment Arthur came into the office.

"Halloo, you two!" he said. "Been looking for you, and even shouting.
The fact is, we're short of guides, and Mary and I think - - "

Lee and Gay burst into smiles.

"What did we tell you, Maud? Of course, we will. There are no wiser
guides in this part of the woods."

"That," said Arthur, "is a fact. The older men looked alarmed when I
suggested that two of my sisters - you see, they've always had
native-born woodsmen and even Indians - - "

"Then," said Lee, "we are to have the guileless youths. I speak for
Renier."

"Meanie," said Gay.

"Lee ought to have first choice," said Arthur. "It's always been
supposed that Lee is your senior by a matter of twenty minutes."

"True or not," said Gay, "she looks it. Then I'm to guide the
Englishman."

"If you don't mind." Arthur regarded her, smiling. He couldn't help it.
She was _so_ pretty. "And I'd advise you not to be too eager to show
off. Mr. Pritchard has hunted and fished more than all of us put
together."

"That little pink-faced snip!" exclaimed Gay. "I'll sure see how much he
knows."

Half an hour later she was rowing him leisurely in the direction of
Placid Brook, and examining his somewhat remarkable outfit with
wondering eyes. This was not difficult, since his own eyes, which were
clear brown, and very shy, were very much occupied in looking over the
contents of the large-tackle box.

"If you care to rig your rod," said Gay presently, "and cast about as we
go, you might take something between here and the brook."

"Do you mean," he said, "that you merely throw about you at random, and
that it is possible to take fish?"

"Of course," said she - "when they are rising."

"But then the best one could hope for," he drawled, "would be
indiscriminate fish."

"Just what do you mean by that?"

"Why!" - and this time he looked up and smiled very shyly - "if you were
after elephant and came across a herd, would you pick out a bull with a
fine pair of tusks, or would you fire indiscriminately into the thick of
them, and perhaps bring down the merest baby?"

"I never heard of picking your fish," said Gay.

"Dear me," he commented, "then you have nearly a whole lifetime of
delightful study before you!"

He unslung a pair of field-glasses, focussed them, and began to study
the surface of the placid lake, not the far-off surface but the surface
within twenty or thirty feet. Then he remarked:

"Your flies aren't greatly different from ours. I think we shall find
something nearly right. One can never tell. The proclivities of trout
and char differ somewhat. I have never taken char."

"You don't think you are after char now, do you?" exclaimed Gay.
"Because, if so - this lake contains bass, trout, lake-trout, sunfish,
shiners, and bullheads, but no char."

Pritchard smiled a little sadly and blushed. He hated to put people
right.

"Your brook-trout," he said, "your _salmo fontinalis_, isn't a trout at
all. He's a char."

Gay put her back into the rowing with some temper. She felt that the
Englishman had insulted the greatest of all American institutions. The
repartee which sprang to her lips was somewhat feeble.

"If a trout is a char," she said angrily, "then an onion is a fruit."

To her astonishment, Mr. Pritchard began to laugh. He dropped everything
and gave his whole attention to it. He laughed till the tears came and
the delicate guide boat shook from stem to stern. Presently the germ of
his laughing spread, and Gay came down with a sharp attack of it
herself. She stopped rowing. Two miles off, a loon, that most exclusive
laugher of the North Woods, took fright, dove, and remained under for
ten minutes.

The young people in the guide boat looked at each other through smarting
tears.

"I am learning fast," said Gay, "that you count your fish before you
catch them, that trout are char, and that Englishmen laugh at other
people's jokes."

She rowed on.

"Don't forget to tell me when you've chosen your fish," she remarked.

"You shall help me choose," he said; "I insist. I speak for a
three-pounder."

"The event of a lifetime!"

"Why, Miss Gay," he said, "it's all the event of a lifetime. The Camp,
the ride in the motor-boat, the wonderful, wonderful breakfast, water
teeming with fish, the woods, and the mountains - millions of years ago
it was decreed that you and I should rock a boat with laughter in the
midst of New Moon Lake. And yet you speak of a three-pounder as the
event of a lifetime! My answer is a defiance. We shall take one _salmo
fontinalis_ - one wily char. He shall not weigh three pounds; he shall
weigh a trifle more. Then we shall put up our tackle and go home to a
merry dinner."

"Mr. Pritchard," said Gay, "I'll bet you anything you like that you
don't take a trout - or a char, if you like - that will weigh three pounds
or over. I'll bet you ten to one."

"Don't do that," he said; "it's an even shot. What will you bet?"

"I'll bet you my prospective dividends for the year," she said,
"against - - "

"My prospective title?"

He looked rather solemn, but laughter bubbled from Gay.

"It's a good sporting proposition," said Pritchard. "It's a very sound
title - old, resonant - and unless you upset us and we drown, tolerably
certain to be mine to pay - in case I lose."

"I don't bet blindly," said Gay. "What is the title?"

"I shall be the Earl of Merrivale," said he; "and if I fail this day to
take a char weighing three pounds or over, you will be the Countess of
Merrivale."

"Dear me!" said Gay, "who ever heard of so much depending on a mere
fish? But I don't like my side of the bet. It's all so sudden. I don't
know you well enough, and you're sure to lose."

"I'll take either end of the bet you don't like," said Mr. Pritchard
gravely. "If I land the three-pounder, you become the countess; if I
don't, I pay you the amount of your dividends for the year. Is that
better?"

"Much," smiled Gay; "because, with the bet in this form, there is
practically no danger that either of us will lose anything. My dividends
probably won't amount to a row of pins, and you most certainly will not
land so big a fish."

Meanwhile they had entered the mouth of Placid Brook. The surface was
dimpling - rings became, spread, merged in one another, and were not. The
fish were feeding.

"Let us land in the meadow," said Mr. Pritchard, his brown eyes clear
and sparkling, "and spy upon the enemy."

"Are you going to leave your rod and things in the boat?"

"For the present - until we have located our fish."

They landed, and he advanced upon the brook by a detour, stealthily,
crouching, his field-glasses at attention. Once he turned and spoke to
Gay in an authoritative whisper:

"Try not to show above the bushes."




VIII


The sun was warm on the meadow, and although the bushes along its margin
were leafless, the meadow itself had a greenish look, and the feel of
the air was such that Gay, upon whom silence and invisibility had been
enjoined, longed to dance in full sight of the trout and to sing at the
top of her voice: "Oh, that we two were Maying!" Instead, she crouched
humbly and in silence at Pritchard's side, while he studied the dimpling
brook through his powerful field-glasses.

Gay had never seen red Indians except in Buffalo Bill's show, where it
is made worth their while to be very noisy. But she had read her Cooper
and her Ballantyne,

"Ballantyne, the brave,
And Cooper of the wood and wave,"

and she knew of the early Christian patience with which they are
supposed to go about the business of hunting and fishing.

Pritchard, she observed, had a weather-red face and high cheek-bones. He
was smooth-shaved. He wore no hat. But for his miraculously short-cut
hair, his field-glasses, his suit of coarse Scotch wool, whose colors
blended so well with the meadow upon which he crouched, he might have
been an Indian. His head, the field-glasses, the hands which clasped
them, moved - nothing else.

"Is it a bluff?" thought Gay. "Is he just posing, or is there something
in it?"

Half an hour passed - three quarters. Gay was pale and grimly smiling.
Her legs had gone to sleep. But she would not give in. If an Englishman
could fish so patiently, why, so could she. She was fighting her own
private battle of Bunker Hill - of New Orleans.

Pritchard lowered his glasses, handed them to Gay, and pointed up the
brook and across, to where a triangular point of granite peered a few
inches above the surface. Gay looked through the glasses, and Pritchard
began to whisper in her ear:

"Northwest of that point of rock, about two feet - keep looking just
there, and I'll try to tell you what to see."

"There's a fish feeding," she answered; "but he must be a baby, he just
makes a bubble on the surface."

"There are three types of insect floating over him," said Pritchard; "I
don't know your American beasts by name, but there is a black, a brown,
and a grayish spiderlike thing. He's taking the last. If you see one of
the gray ones floating where he made his last bubble, watch it."

Gay presently discerned such an insect so floating, and watched it. It
passed within a few inches of where the feeding trout had last risen and
disappeared, and a tiny ring gently marked the spot where it had been
sucked under. Gay saw a black insect pass over the fatal spot unscathed,
then browns; and then, once more, a gray, very tiny in the body but with
longish legs, approached and was engulfed.

"Now for the tackle box," Pritchard whispered.

They withdrew from the margin of the brook, Gay in that curious ecstasy,
half joy, half sorrow, induced by sleepy legs. She lurched and almost
fell. Pritchard caught her.

"Was the vigil too long?" he asked.

"I liked it," she said. "But my legs went to sleep and are just waking
up. Tell me things. There were fish rising bold - jumping clean
out - making the water boil. But you weren't interested in them."

"It was noticeable," said Pritchard, "and perhaps you noticed that one
fish was feeding alone. He blew his little rings - without fear or
hurry - none of the other fishes dared come anywhere near him. He lives
in the vicinity of that pointed rock. The water there is probably deep
and, in the depths, very cold. Who knows but a spring bubbles into a
brook at the base of that rock? The fish lives there and rules the water
around him for five or six yards. He is selfish, fat, and old. He feeds
quietly because nobody dares dispute his food with him. He is the
biggest fish in this reach of the brook. At least, he is the biggest
that is feeding this morning. Now we know what kind of a fly he is
taking. Probably I have a close imitation of it in my fly box. If not,
we shall have to make one. Then we must try to throw it just above
him - very lightly - float it into his range of vision, and when he sucks
it into his mouth, strike - and if we are lucky we shall then proceed to
take him."

Gay, passionately fond of woodcraft, listened with a kind of awe.

"But," she said, seeing an objection, "how do you know he weighs three
pounds and over?"

"Frankly," said Pritchard, "I don't. I am gambling on _that_." He shot
her a shy look. "Just hoping. I know that he is big. I believe we shall
land him. I hope and pray that he weighs over three pounds."

Gay blushed and said nothing. She was beginning to think that Pritchard
might land a three-pounder as well as not - and she had light-heartedly
agreed, in that event, to become the Countess of Merrivale. Of course,
the bet was mere nonsense. But suppose, by any fleeting chance, that
Pritchard should not so regard it? What _should_ she do? Suppose that
Pritchard had fallen victim to a case of love at first sight? It would
not, she was forced to admit (somewhat demurely), be the first instance
in her own actual experience. There was a young man who had so fallen in
love with her, and who, a week later, not knowing the difference - so
exactly the triplets resembled each other - had proposed to Phyllis.

They drew the guide boat up onto the meadows and Pritchard, armed with a
scoop-net of mesh as fine as mosquito-netting, leaned over the brook and
caught one of the grayish flies that were tickling the appetite of the
big trout.

This fly had a body no bigger than a gnat's.

Pritchard handed Gay a box of japanned tin. It was divided into
compartments, and each compartment was half full of infinitesimal trout
flies. They were so small that you had to use a pair of tweezers in
handling them.

Pritchard spread his handkerchief on the grass, and Gay dumped the flies
out on it and spread them for examination. And then, their heads very
close together, they began to hunt for one which would match the live
one that Pritchard had caught.

"But they're too small," Gay objected. "The hooks would pull right
through a trout's lip."

"Not always," said Pritchard. "How about this one?"

"Too dark," said Gay.

"Here we are then - a match or not?"

The natural fly and the artificial placed side by side were wonderfully
alike.

"They're as like as Lee and me," said Gay.

"Lee?"

"Three of us are triplets," she explained. "We look exactly alike - and
we never forgive people who get us mixed up."


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