فرهنگی، هنری و ادبی

امروز : 28 تیر 1403

Gayley the Troubadour


Through the tremulous beauty of the California woods, in the silent April afternoon, came Sammy Peneyre, riding Clown. The horse chose his own way on the corduroy road, for the rider was lost in dreams. Clown was a lean old dapple gray so far advanced in years and ailments that when Doctor Peneyre had bought him, the year before, the dealer had felt constrained to remark:

“He’s better’n he looks, Doc’. You’ll get your seven dollars’ worth out of him yet!”

To which the doctor had amiably responded:

“Your saying so makes me wonder if I will, Joe. However, I’ll have my boy groom him and feed him, and we’ll see!”

But, as Clown had stubbornly refused to respond to grooming and feeding, he was, like other despised and discarded articles, voted by the Peneyre family quite good enough for Sammy, and Sammy accepted him gratefully.

The spirit of spring was affecting them both to-day–a brilliant day after long weeks of rain. Sammy whistled softly. Clown coquetted with the bit, danced under the touch of the whip, and finally took the steep mountain road with such convulsive springs as jolted his rider violently from dreams.

“Why, you fool, are you trying to run away?” said Sammy, suddenly alive to the situation. The road here was a mere shelf on the slope of the mountain, constantly used by descending lumber teams, and dangerous at all times. A runaway might easily be fatal. Sammy pulled at the bit; but, at the first hard tug, the old bridle gave way, and Clown, maddened by a stinging blow from the loose flying end of the strap, bolted blindly ahead.

Terrified now, Sammy clung to the pommel and shouted. The trees flew by; great clods of mud were flung up by the horse’s feet. From far up the road could be heard the creaking of a lumber team and the crack of the lumberman’s long whip.

“My Lord!” said Sammy, aloud, in a curious calm, “we’ll never pass that!”

And then, like a flash, it was all over. Clown, suddenly freed from his rider, galloped violently for a moment, stopped, snorted suspiciously, galloped another twenty feet, and stood still, his broken bridle dangling rakishly over one eye. Sammy, dragged from the saddle at the crucial instant to the safety of Anthony Gayley’s arms, as he brought his own horse up beside her, wriggled to the ground.

“That was surely going some!” said Anthony, breathing hard. “Hurt?”

“No-o!” said Sammy. But she leaned against the tall, big fellow, as he stood beside her, and was glad of his arm about her shoulders.

They had known each other by sight for years, but this was the first speech between them. Anthony suddenly realized that the doctor’s youngest daughter, with her shy, dark eyes and loosened silky braids, had grown from an awkward child into a very pretty girl. Sammy, glancing up, thought–what every other woman in Wheatfield thought–that Anthony Gayley was the handsomest man she had ever seen, in his big, loose corduroys, with a sombrero on the back of his tawny head.

“I was awfully afraid I’d grate against your leg,” said the boy, with his sunny smile; “but I couldn’t stop to figure it out. I just had to hustle!”

“There’s a lumber wagon ahead there,” Sammy said. “I’m–I’m very much obliged to you!”

They both laughed. Presently Anthony made the girl mount his own beautiful mare.

“Ride Duchess home. I’ll take your horse,” said he.

“Oh, no, indeed; please don’t bother!” protested Sammy, eagerly.

But Anthony only laughed and gave her a hand up. Sammy settled herself on the Spanish saddle with a sigh of satisfaction.

“I’ve always wanted to ride your horse!” said she, delightedly, as the big muscles moved smoothly under her.

Anthony smiled. “She’s the handsomest mare here-abouts,” said he. “I wouldn’t take a thousand dollars for her!”

Sammy watched him deftly repair the broken bridle of the now docile and crestfallen Clown, and spring to the saddle.

“I’m taking you out of your way!” she pleaded, and he answered gravely:

“Oh, no; I’ll be much happier seeing you safe home.”

When they reached her gate, the two changed horses, and Sammy rode slowly up the dark driveway alone. Even on this brilliant afternoon the old Peneyre place looked dull and gloomy. Dusty dark pines and eucalyptus trees grew close about the house. There was no garden, but here and there an unkempt geranium or rank great bush of marguerites sprawled in the uncut grass, and rose bushes, long grown wild, stood in spraying clusters that were higher than a man’s head. Pampas trees, dirty and overgrown, outlined the drive at regular intervals, their shabby plumes uncut from year to year.

The house was heavy, bay-windowed, three-storied. Ugly, immense, unfriendly, it struck an inharmonious note in the riotous free growth of the surrounding woods. The dark entrance-hall was flanked by a library full of obsolete, unread books, and by double drawing- rooms, rarely opened now. All the windows on the ground floor were darkened by the shrubbery outside and by heavy red draperies within.

Sammy, entering a side door, seemed to leave the day’s brightness behind her. The air indoors was chill, flat. A half-hearted little coal fire flickered in the grate, and Koga was cleaning silver at the table. Sammy took David Copperfield from the mantel and settled herself in a great chair.

“Koga, you go fix Clown now,” she suggested.

Koga beamed assent. Departing, he wrestled with a remark: “Oh! Nise day. I sink so.”

Sammy agreed. “You don’t have weather like this in Japan in April!”

“Oh, yis,” said Koga, and, drunk with the joy of speech, he added: “I sink so. Awe time nise in Jap-pon! I sink so.”

“All the time nice in Japan?” echoed Sammy, lazily. “Oh, what a story!”

But Koga was convulsed with innocent mirth. However excruciating the effort, he had produced a remark in English. He retired, repeating between spasms of enjoyment: “Oh, I sink so. Awe time nise in Jap- pon!”

The day dragged on, to all outward seeming like all of Sammy’s days. Twilight made her close her book and straighten her bent shoulders. Pong came in to set the table. The slamming of the hall door announced her father.

Presently Mrs. Moore, the housekeeper, came downstairs. Lamps were lighted; dinner loitered its leisurely way. After it the doctor set up one of his endless chess problems on the end of the table, and Sammy returned to David Copperfield.

“Father, you know Anthony Gayley–that young carpenter in Torney’s shop?”

“I do, my dear.”

“Well, Clown ran away to-day, and he really saved me from a bad smash.”

A long pause.

“Ha!” said the doctor, presently. “Set this down, will you, Sammy? Rook to queen’s fourth. Check. Now, knight–any move. No–hold on. Yes. Knight any move. Now, rook–wait a minute!”

His voice fell, his eyes were fixed. Sammy sighed.

At eight she fell to mending the fire with such vigor that her colorless little face burned. Then her spine felt chilly. Sammy turned about, trying to toast evenly; but it couldn’t be done. She thought suddenly of her warm bed, put her finger in her book, kissed her father’s bald spot between two yawns, and went upstairs.

The dreams went, too. There was nothing in this neglected, lonely day, typical of all her days, to check them. It was delicious, snuggling down in the chilly sheets, to go on dreaming.

Again she was riding alone in the woods. Again Clown was running away. Again, big gentle Anthony Gayley was galloping behind her. Again for that breathless moment she was in his arms. Sammy shut her eyes….

Her father, coming upstairs, wakened her. She lay smiling in the dark. What had she been thinking of? Oh, yes! And out came the dream horses and their riders again….

The next day she rode over the same bit of road again, and the day after, and the day after that. The rides were absolutely uneventful, but sweet with dreams.

A week later Sammy teased Mrs. Moore into taking her to the Elks’ concert and dance at the Wheatfield Hall over the post-office. When Mrs. Moore protested at this unheard-of proceeding, the girl used her one unfailing threat: “Then I’ll tell father I want another governess!”

Mrs. Moore hated governesses. There had been no governess at the doctor’s for two years. She looked uneasy. “You’ve nothing to wear,” said she.

“I’ll wear my embroidered linen,” said Sammy, “and Mary’s spangled scarf.”

“You oughtn’t borrow your sister’s things without permission,” said Mrs. Moore, half-heartedly.

“Mary’s in New York,” said Sammy, recklessly. “She’s not been home for two years, and she may not be back for two more! She won’t care. I’m eighteen, and I’ve never been to a dance, and I’m going–that’s all there is about it!”

And she burst into tears, and presently laughed herself out of them, and went to her sister’s orderly empty room to see what other treasures besides the spangled scarf Mary had left behind her.

Three months later, on a burning July afternoon, the Wheatfield “Terrors” played a team from the neighboring town of Copadoro. Wheatfield’s population was reputedly nine hundred, and certainly almost that number of onlookers had gathered to watch the game. The free seats were packed with perspiring women in limp summer gowns, and restless, crimson-faced children; and a shouting, vociferous line of men fringed the field. But in the “grand stand,” where chairs rented for twenty-five cents, there was still some room.

Three late-comers found seats there when the game was almost over– Sammy’s sister Mary, an extremely handsome young woman in a linen gown and wide hat, her brother Tom, a correct young man whose ordinary expression indicated boredom, and their aunt, a magnificent personage in gray silk, with a gray silk parasol. Their arrival caused some little stir.

“Well, for pit–!” exclaimed a stout matron seated immediately in front of them. “If it ain’t Mary Peneyre–an’ Thomas too! An’ Mrs. Bond–for goodness’ sake! Well, say, you folks are strangers. When ‘jew all get here? Sammy never told me you was coming!”

“How d’you do, Mrs. Pidgeon?” said Sammy’s aunt, cordially. “No, Samantha didn’t know it. We came–ah–rather suddenly. Yes, I’ve not been in Wheatfield for ten years. We got here on the two o’clock train.”

“Going to stay long, Mary?” said Mrs. Pidgeon, sociably.

“Only a few days,” said Miss Peneyre, distantly. (“That’s the worst of growing up in a place,” she said to herself. “Every one calls you ‘Mary’!”) “We are going to take Samantha back to New York with us,” she added.

“Look out you don’t find you’re a little late,” said Mrs. Pidgeon, with great archness. “I’m surprised you ain’t asked me if there’s any news from Sammy. Whole village talking about it.”

The three smiles that met her gaze were not so unconcerned as their wearers fondly hoped. Mrs. Bond ended a tense moment when she exclaimed, “There’s Sammy now!” and indicated to the others the last row of seats, where a girl in blue, with a blue parasol, was sitting alone. Mrs. Pidgeon delivered a parting shot. “Sammy might do lots worse than Anthony Gayley,” said she, confidentially. “Carpenter or no carpenter, he’s an elegant fellow. I thought Lizzie Philliber was ace high, an’ then folks talked some of Bootsy White. I guess Bootsy’d like to do some hair-pulling.”

“I dare say it’s just a boy-and-girl friendship,” said Mrs. Bond, lightly, but trembling a little and pressing Mary’s foot with her own. When they were climbing over the wooden seats a moment later, on their way to join Sammy, she added:

“Oh, really, it’s insufferable! I’d like to spank that girl!”

“Apparently the whole village is on,” contributed Tom, bitterly.

A moment later Sammy saw them; and if her welcome was a little constrained, it was merely because of shyness. She settled down radiantly between her sister and aunt, with a hand for each.

“Well, this is fun!” said Sammy. “Did you get my letter? Were you surprised? Are you all going to stay until September?”

Her happy fusillade of questions distressed them all. Mary said the unwise thing, trying to laugh, as she had always laughed, at Sammy:

Don’t talk as if you were going to be married, Sammy! It’s too awful–you don’t know how aunty and I feel about it! Why, darling, we want you to go back with us to New York! Sammy–“

The firm pressure of her aunt’s foot against her own stopped her.

“I knew you would feel that way about it, Mary,” said Sammy, very quietly, but with blazing cheeks; “but I am of age, and father says that Anthony has as much right to ask for the girl he loves as any other man, and that’s all there is to it!”

“You have it all thought out,” said Mary, very white; “but, I must say, I am surprised that a sister of mine, and a granddaughter of Judge Peters–a girl who could have everything!–is content to marry an ordinary country carpenter! You won’t have grandmother’s money until you’re twenty-one; there’s three years that you will have to cook and sweep and get your hands rough, and probably bring up–“

“Mary! Mary!” said Mrs. Bond.

“Well, I don’t care!” said Mary, unreproved. “And when she does get grandma’s money,” she grumbled, “what good will it do her?”

“We won’t discuss it, if you please, Mary,” said little Sammy, with dignity.

There was a silence. Tom lighted a cigarette. They watched the game, Mary fighting tears, Sammy defiant and breathing hard, Mrs. Bond with absent eyes.

“Stunning fellow who made that run!” said the elder woman presently. “Who is he, dear?”

“That’s Anthony!” said Sammy, shortly, not to be won.

“Anthony!” Mrs. Bond’s tone was all affectionate interest. She put up her lorgnette. “Well, bless his heart! Isn’t he good to look at!” she said.

“He’s all hot and dirty now,” Sammy said, relenting a little.

“He’s magnificent,” said Mrs. Bond, firmly. She cut Mary off from their conversation with a broad shoulder, and pressed Sammy’s hand. “We’ll all love him, I’m sure,” said she, warmly.

Sammy’s lip trembled.

“You will, Aunt Anne,” said she, a little huskily. Pent up confidence came with a rush. “I know perfectly well how Mary feels!” said Sammy, eagerly. “Why, didn’t you yourself feel a little sorry he’s a carpenter?”

“Just for a moment,” said Aunt Anne.

“I wish myself he wasn’t,” Sammy pursued; “but he likes it, and he’s making money, and he’s liked by every one. He’s on the team, you know, and sings in all the concerts. Wild horses couldn’t drag him away from Wheatfield. And why should he go away and study some profession he hates,” she rushed on resentfully, “when I’m perfectly satisfied with him as he is? Father asked him if he wouldn’t like to study a profession–I don’t see why he should!”

“Surely,” said Mrs. Bond, sympathetically, but quite at a loss. After a thoughtful moment she added seriously: “But, darling, what about your trousseau? Why not make it November, say, and take a flying trip to New York with your old aunty? I want the first bride to have all sorts of pretty things, you know. No delays,–everything ready-made, not a moment lost–?”

Sammy hesitated. “You do like him, don’t you, Aunt Anne?” she burst out.

“My dear, I hope I’m going to love him!”

“Do–do you mind my talking it over with him before I say I’ll go?” Sammy’s eyes shone.

“My darling, no! Take a week to think it over!” Mrs. Bond had never tried fishing, but she had some of the instincts of the complete angler.

A mad burst of applause interrupted her, and ended the game. Strolling from the field in the level, pitiless sunshine, the Peneyres were joined by young Gayley. He was quite the hero of the hour, stalwart in his base-ball suit, nodding and shouting greetings in every direction. He transferred a bat to his left hand to give Mrs. Bond a cheerfully assured greeting, and, with the freedom of long-gone days when he had played in the back lot with the Peneyre children, he addressed the young people as “Mary” and “Tom.” If three of the party thought him decidedly “fresh,” Sammy had no such criticism. She evidently adored her lover.

It was at her suggestion, civilly indorsed by the others, that he came to the house a few hours later for dinner. It was a painful meal. Mr. Gayley did not hesitate to monopolize the conversation. He was accustomed to admiration–too completely accustomed, in fact, to perceive that on this occasion it was wanting.

After dinner he sang–having quite frankly offered to sing. Mary played his accompaniments, and Sammy leaned on the closed cover of her mother’s wonderful old grand piano–sadly out of tune in these days!–and watched him. Tom, frankly rude, went to bed. Mary, determined that the engaged pair should not be encouraged any further than was unavoidable, stuck gallantly to her post.

Mrs. Bond sat watching, useless regrets filling her heart. How sweet the child was! How full of possibilities! How true the gray eyes were! How stubborn the mouth might be! Sammy’s power to do what she willed to do, in the face of all obstacles, had been notable since her babyhood. Her aunt looked from the ardent, virginal little head to the florid, handsome face of the singer, and her heart was sick within her.

Anthony Gayley came to the train to see them off, two weeks later, and Sammy kissed him good-by before the eyes of all Wheatfield. She had made her own conditions in consenting to make the Eastern visit. She was going merely to buy her trousseau; the subject of her engagement was never to be discussed; and every one–every one–she met was to know at once that she was going back to Wheatfield immediately to be married in December.

Anthony had agreed to wait until then.

“It isn’t as if every one knew it, Kid,” he said sensibly to his fiancee; “it gives me a chance to save a little, and it’s not so hard on mother. Besides, I’m looking out for a partner, and I’ll have to work him in.”

“I wonder you don’t think of entering some other business, Anthony,” Mrs. Bond said, to this remark. “You’re young enough to try anything. It’s such a–it’s such hard work, you know.”

“I’ve often thought I’d like to be an actor,” said Mr. Gayley, carelessly; “but there’s not much chance to break into that.”

“You could take a course of lessons in New York,” suggested Mary, and Sammy indorsed the idea with an eager look. But Anthony laughed.

“Not for mine! No, sir. I’ll stick to Wheatfield. I was a year in San Francisco a while back, and it was one lonesome year, believe me. No place like home and friends for your Uncle Dudley!”

“Don’t you meet a bunch of swell Eastern fellows and forget me,” he said to Sammy, as they stood awaiting the train. “I’ll be getting a little home ready for you; I’ll–I’ll trust you, Kid.”

“You may,” said Sammy. She looked at the burning, dry little main street, the white cottages that faced the station from behind their blazing gardens; she looked at the locust trees that almost hid the church spire, at the straggling line of eucalyptus trees that followed the country road to the graveyard a mile away. It was home. It was all she had known of the world–and she was going away into a terrifying new life. Her eyes brimmed.

“I swear to you that I’ll be faithful, Anthony,” she said solemnly. “On my sacred oath, I will!”

And ten minutes later they were on their way. The porter had pinned her new hat up in a pillow-case and taken it away, and Sammy was laughing because another porter quite seriously shouted: “Last call for luncheon in the dining-car!”

“I always knew they did it, but I never supposed they really did!” said Sammy, following her aunt through the shaded brightness of the Pullman to an enchanted table, from which one could see the glorious landscape flashing by.

It was all like a dream–the cities they fled through, the luxury of the big house at Sippican, the capped and aproned maids that were so eager to make one comfortable. The people she met were like dream people; the busy, useless days seemed too pleasant to be real.

August flashed by, September was gone. With the same magic lack of effort, they were all in the New York house. Sammy wore her first dinner gown, wore her first furs, made her youthful conquests right and left.

From the first, she told every one of her engagement. The thought of it, always in her mind, helped to give her confidence and poise.

“You must have heard of me, you know,” said her first dinner partner, “for your sister’s told me a lot about you. Piet van Soop.”

“Piet van Soop!” ejaculated Sammy, seriously.

“Certainly. Don’t you think that’s a pretty name?”

“But–but that can’t be your name,” argued Sammy, smilingly.

“Why can’t it?”

“Why, because no one with a name like van Soop to begin with would name a little darling baby Piet,” submitted Sammy.

“Oh, come,” said Mr. van Soop. “Your own name, now! Sammy, as Mary always calls you–that’s nothing to boast of, you know, and I’ll bet you were a very darling little baby yourself!”

Sammy laughed joyously, and a dozen fellow guests glanced sympathetically in the direction of the fresh, childish sound.

“Well, if that’s really your name, of course you can’t help it,” she conceded, adding, with the naivete that Mr. van Soop already found delightful: “Wouldn’t the combination be awful, though! Sammy van Soop!”

“If you’ll consider it, I’ll endeavor to make it the only sorrow you have to endure,” said Mr. van Soop; and the ensuing laughter brought them the attention of the whole table.

“No danger!” said Sammy, gayly. “I’m going home in December, you know, to be married!”

Every one heard it. Mary winced. Mrs. Bond flushed. Tom said a word that gave his pretty partner a right to an explanation. But Sammy was apparently cheerful.

Only apparently, however. For that night, when she found herself in her luxurious room again, she took Anthony’s picture from the bureau and studied it gravely under the lights.

“I said that right out,” she said aloud, “and I’ll keep on saying it. Then, when the time comes to go, I simply can’t back out!”

She put the picture back, and sat down at her dressing-table and stared at her own reflection. Her hair was filleted with silver and tiny roses; her gown was of exquisite transparent embroidery, and more tiny roses rumpled the deep lace collar. But even less familiar than this finery were the cheeks that blazed with so many remembered compliments, the scarlet lips that had learned to smile so readily, the eyes brilliant with new dreams.

“I feel as if sorrow–sorrow,” said little Sammy, shivering, “were just about two feet behind me, and as if–if it ever catches up– I’ll be the most unhappy girl in the world!”

And she gave herself a little shake and put a firm little finger-tip on Gabrielle’s bell.

“Sammy,” said Mr. van Soop, one dull gray afternoon some weeks later, “I’ve brought you out for a special purpose to-day.”

“Tea?” said Sammy, contentedly.

“Tea, gluttonous one,” he admitted, turning his big car into the park. “But, seriously, I want to ask you about your going away.”

“I don’t know that there’s anything to say about it,” said Sammy, carelessly. “I’ve had a wonderful time, and every one’s been charming. And now I’ve got to go back.”

“Sammy, I’ve no right to ask you a favor, but I’ve a reason,” Piet began. He halted. Both were crimson.

“Yes, yes; I know, Piet,” said Sammy, fluttered.

The car slackened, stopped. Their faces were not two feet apart.

“Well! Will you let me beg you–for your aunt, and sister, and for– well, for me, and for your own sake, Sammy–will you let me beg you just to wait? Here, or there, or anywhere else–will you just wait a while?”

Sammy was silent a moment. Then–

“For what reason?” she said.

“Because you may save yourself lifelong unhappiness.”

Sammy pondered, her lashes dropped, her hands clasped in her muff.

“Piet,” she said gravely, “it’s not as bad as that. No–I’ll not be unhappy. I love Wheatfield, and horses, and the old house, and–” she hesitated, adding more brightly: “and you can make happiness, you know! Just because it’s spring, or it’s Thanksgiving, or you’ve got a good book! Please go on,” she urged suddenly. “We’re very conspicuous here.”

They moved slowly along under the bare trees. A sullen sunset colored the western sky. The drive was filled with motor-cars, and groups of riders galloped on the muddy bridle-path. It was just dusk. Suddenly, as the lamplighters went their rounds, all the park bloomed with milky disks of light.

“You see,” Sammy went on presently, “I’ve thought this all out. Anthony’s a good man, and he loves me, and I–well, I’ve promised. What right have I to say calmly that I’ve changed my mind, and to hurt him and make him ridiculous before all the people he loves? He knows I’ll have money some day–no, Piet, you needn’t look so! That has nothing to do with it! But, of course, he knows it; and I said we would have a motor,–he’s wild for one!–and entertain, don’t you know, and that’s what he’s waiting for and counting on. He doesn’t deserve to be shamed and humiliated. And, besides, it would break his mother’s heart. She’s been awfully sweet to me. And it must be a bitter thing to be told that you’re not good enough for the woman you love. Anthony saved my life, you know, and I can’t break my word. I said: ‘On my oath, I’ll come back.’ And just because there is a difference between him–and us,” she hesitated, “he’s all the prouder and more sensitive. And it’s only a difference in surface things!” finished Sammy, loyally.

Piet was silent.

“Why, Tom keeps telling me that mother was a Cabot, and grandfather a judge, and talking Winthrop Colony and Copleys and Gilbert Stuarts to me!” the girl burst out presently. “As if that wasn’t the very reason for my being honorable! That’s what blood’s for!”

Still Piet was silent, his kind, ugly face set and dark.

“And then, you know,” said Sammy, with sudden brightness, “when I get back, and see the dear old place again, and get a good big breath of air,–which we don’t have here!–why, it’ll all straighten out and seem right again. My hope is,” she added, turning her honest eyes to the gloomy ones so near her, “my hope is that Anthony will be willing to wait a while–“

“What makes you think he is likely to?” said Piet, dryly.

There was a silence. Then he added:

“When do you go?”

“The–the twenty-sixth, I believe. I’ve got aunty’s consent–I go with the Archibalds to San Francisco.”

“And this is–?”

“The twentieth.”

For some time after that they wove their way along the sweeping Parkroads without speaking, and when they did begin to talk to one another again, the subject was a different one and Mr. van Soop was more cheerful. The tea hour was a fairly merry one. But when he left Sammy, an hour later, at her aunt’s door, he took off his big glove, and grew a little white, and held out his hand to her and said:

“I won’t see you again, Sammy. I’ve been thinking it over. You’re right; it’s all my own fault. I was very wrong to attempt to persuade you. But I won’t see you again. Good-by.”

“Why–!” began Sammy, in astonishment; then she looked down and stammered, “Oh–,” and finally she put her little hand in his and said simply:


Therefore it was a surprise to Mr. van Soop to find himself entering Mrs. Bond’s library just twenty-four hours later, and grasping the hands of the slender young woman who rose from a chair by the fire.

“Sammy! You sent for me?”

Sammy looked very young in a little velvet gown with a skirt short enough to show the big bows on her slippers. Her eyes had a childishly bewildered expression.

“I wanted you,” she said simply. “I–I’ve had a letter from Anthony. It came only an hour ago. I don’t know whether to be sorry or glad. Read it! Read it!”

She sat on a little, low stool by the fire, and Piet flattened the many loose pages of the letter on his knee and read.

Anthony had written on the glazed, ruled single sheets of the “Metropolitan Star Hotel”–had covered some twenty of them with his loose, dashing hand-writing.

My Dear Sammy [wrote Anthony, with admirable directness]: The boys wanted me to sit in a little game to-night, but the truth is I have been wanting for a long time to speak to you of a certain matter, and to-night seems a good chance to get it off my chest. A man feels pretty rotten writing a letter like this, but I’ve thought it over for more than a month now, and I feel that no matter how badly you and I both feel, the thing to do is not to let things go too far before we think the thing pretty thoroughly over and make sure that things–

“What the deuce is he getting at?” said Piet, breaking off suddenly.

“Go on!” said Sammy, bright color in her cheeks.

–make sure that things are best for the happiness of all parties [resumed Piet]. You see, Sammy [the letter ran on], as far as I am concerned, I never would have said a word, but I have been talking things over with a party whose name I will tell you in a minute, and they feel as if it would be better to write before you come on. I mean Miss Alma Fay. You don’t know her. She is Lucy Barbee’s cousin. Lucy and I had a great case years ago, and she and Tom asked me up to their house a few weeks ago, and Alma was staying with Lucy. Well, I took her to the Hallowe’en dance, and it was a keen dance, the swellest we ever had at the hall. Some of us rowed the girls on the river between the dances; we had a keen time. Well, after that I took her riding once or twice. She rides the best of any girl I ever saw; her father has the finest horses in East Wood–I guess he counts for quite a lot up there, he has the biggest department store and runs his own motor. Well, Sammy, I never would of written one word of this to you, but when Alma came to go away we both realized how it was. You know I have often had cases, as the boys call them, and a girl I was engaged to in Petrie told me once she hoped some day I’d get mine. Well, she would be pleased if she knew that I have. I have not slept since–

“Sammy!” said Piet, suddenly stopping.

“Go on!” said she, again.

But Piet couldn’t go on. He glanced at the next page, read, “Now, Sammy, it is up to you to decide,” skipped another page or two and read, “Neither Alma nor I would ever be happy if–” glanced at a third; then the leaves fluttered in wild confusion to the floor, and, with something between a sob and a shout, he caught Sammy in his arms.

“My darling,” said Piet, an hour later, “if I release your right hand for ten minutes, do you think you could write a line to Mr. Anthony Gayley? I would like to mail it when I go home to dress.”

“I was thinking I might wire–” said Sammy, dreamily.

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منبع: americanliterature