The Heirlooms’ Clause
THEODORE GOODRIDGE ROBERTS
THE manners of the Braddock boys were old-fashioned even to the extent of being early-Victorian. They were elaborately, sometimes painfully, selfconscious and always sincere. They had come to them from their Kentish grandfather, Captain John Braddock, R.N., through the instructions and example of their father Such manners could not have survived the gnawing of time and the blandishments of new styles in any but a rural and Becluded community nor under many other combinations of domestic conditions than the circumstances in which the boys had been born and bred.There were traditions to the effect that Captain John’s manners and professional actions had been better than his morals and personal habits.
The Braddock boys were the only offspring of Thomas and Eliza Braddock; and at the time of the father’s death, which happened within a year of the mother’s, Johnny was in his thirty-sixth year and Dick in his thirty-second. Fairly mature boys! Yes, they were old enough, if nothing else.
Now the property belonged to Johnny and Dick, on a fifty-fifty basis of occupation and ownership and but for the absence of the old people, everything was as it had been for years. Johnny continued to open his eyes at half past four every morning in summer and six in winter, just as if he had the wheels of a clock inside him. He continued to leave his bed within a few seconds of opening his eyes and knock on the wail with the heel of a boot until Dick cried, “Thanks, Johnny, I’m wide awake!” and then to descend to the kitchen by the back stairs and beat on the pipe of the kitchen-stove with the lid-lifter until bumps on the floor above told him that Peter and Mary Lunt were astir.
Indoors and out, life for the Braddock boys continued to creep along its old orderly and comfortable grooves, until August of the year Nineteen Hundred and Thirteen.
Ferry Point is an extremely rural locality on the northern shore of the upper river. Here, in summer, a horseferry run by Amos Toner keeps the northern and southern shores in touch. Here are a general store and post-office, a blacksmith’s forge, a meeting-house, half a dozen undistinguished dwellings and the little yellow school-house. The lower line of the Braddock place touches the river at a point about a quarter of a mile above the village; and there, between the highway and the river, stands a little church of grey stone surrounded by an ancient graveyard. Though officially denominated St. Luke’s, this sacred edifice is locally known as Braddock’s Church. It was built at the sole charge of Captain John Braddock, R.N., soon after his arrival from England, at a time when the followers of the established church of the Mother Country were numerically strong on the upper river. Now these followers were few; now there were more of them in the little grave-yard than above ground; and St. Luke’s was opened and preached in once a month by a parson from a down-river parish.
\/f ISS ALICIA WATSON came to Ferry Point in August of the year of grace already mentioned, to take charge of the school. She was from the city, and this was not her first school. She was ambitious, but not as a teacher. The daughter of a carpenter who could work only in fine weather and of a seamstress who could not sew by artificial light, she had trained for and adopted her profession simply as a means of bettering her worldly condition. For the same reason, and much more eagerly, she would have gone on the stage, or become a movie star, or married. She had a very high opinion of marriage from a materialistic view-point—so high that she had already rejected six matrimonial offers.
“Mother said yes to the first who asked her, but I’ll wait and see what the seventh looks like—yes, and perhaps the seventeenth!” she told herself.
She was not a successful teacher. She had taken the school at Ferry Point simply because there was nothing better to be had at the time. Marriage with a farmer or village store-keeper, no matter how prosperous, was not in line with her ambition. She possessed a social instinct, wherever it had come from.
Alicia was fortunate enough to obtain board and lodging with the Davidsons, in the newest and largest house in the village. Davidson owned the general store and Mrs. Davidson was the best and most generous cook for miles around. Thè family at home consisted of these two and an unmarried daughter who kept the post office in a corner of her father’s store. Other daughters had married and gone away and sons had grown up and departed.
AT FIVE o’clock one afternoon within a week of Alicia’s arrival, she and Mrs Davidson sat idly in the rocking-chairs on the front verandah. She looked decidedly “lookable” to put it mildly. The fact is, she was a beauty, and knew how to make the most of her luck. She rocked idly back and forth, gazing as idly across the little front garden and dusty, sunlit road at the front of the store opposite; and Mrs. Davidson rocked back and forth and gazed admiringly at Alicia.
Suddenly a man trotted into view on a grey horse and drew rein in front of the store. Both horse and rider were long-legged and lean. The man dismounted, hitched the horse to a gnawed, iron-capped post and entered the store without having shown so much of his face as the profile to the women on the verandah across the road.
“Who’s that?” asked Alicia, with a change of lights in her eyes.
“It’s one of them Braddock boys, but I can’t tell t’other from which without I get a square look at their faces”, replied Mrs. Davidson. “They ride the same hosses, an’ they’re built alike as two skewers, an’ the both of ’em wears them queer shaped ridin’-pants an’ long yeller boots.” “But who are they?” asked Alicia, who had stopped her rocking and was now sitting forward in her chair. “Where do they come from?”
“Ain’t you ever heard of the Braddocks?” returned Mrs Davidson.
LICIA shook her head uncertainly.
“Now that’s real queer”, continued the other, “for there was six or seven folks come all the way from the city to the old lady’s burial two year ago an’ again to the old squire’s last year—all relations of the Braddocks or the Kilners. Johnny Braddock an’ Dick Braddock belong right here. Their farm is jist up the road a step— the old Braddock place.”
“Their farm? Is that gen—that man a farmer?” “Sure he’s a farmer! Both the boys is farmers; an’ good ones, too, for all their awkward manners an’ the queer pants they put on whenever they climb onto a hoss. That’s how they was brought up. Ma used to talk of them as quality, but she was kind of old-fashioned in her talk an’ her ways. I don’t have to, anyhow, with my son Earle a lawyer out west. The Braddock boys is jist farmers to me.”
“Quality,” said Alicia to her very own self, deep in her heart. And aloud, she said, “Those are riding-breeches,
Mrs Davidson, and they’re meant to be that shape. I’ve seen lots of them.”
As a matter of fact, she had not seen lots of ridingbreeches, but she had seen them depicted in illustrations of stories about very smart people by Mr Lloyd Osborne and the late Richard Harding Davis.
“They get ’em from London”, said Mrs Davidson, “an’ from the very same tailor their Pa an’ their Gran’pa .bought from, that’s how old-fashioned they are. An’ Mary Lunt says as how they’re still cut to the same measure their Gran’pa left behind 'im when he come out to this country the first time. Here he is now—and it’s Johnny—with a box i of axle-grease. He’s the oldest. Now would you believe it?—that a grown man would fuss himself up in them pants an’ boots with spurs to ’em jist to fetch a box of axle-grease from the store in the middle of hayin’? Would you believe it?—an’ him born an’ riz right on the farm!"
Alicia heard but did not answer. She leaned back gracefully in her chair; but her eyes continued to regard the tall man and the high horse beneath drooping lids.
JOHNNY unhitched and mounted in an easy and workmanlike manner, holding the round container of axle-grease in his right hand. The horse wheeled, and the sun glinted on the short, bright spurs which adorned the rider’s straight-legged yellow boots; and as it wheeled, Johnny looked up at the verandah across the way, slipped the box of homely lubricant under his bridle-arm and lifted his hat. This was done easily, gracefully, but the expression of the lean, sun-tanned face was embarrassed, even apologetic. Then the horse went away in a long-gaited trot, but not before Alicia had noted a swift change of expression in the rider’s eyes.
“There now!” exclaimed Mrs . Davidson. “You’d think I’d pointed a gun at ’im. That’s the way with the both of ’em, an’ always has been, an’ the old squire was almost as bad. Downright dumb, that’s what I call it! Hat in hand, like a scared rabbit—but no sand nor sociability. And they’re almost as awkward an’ dumb with the men as with the women-folk. Can’t say how-do without pretty near swallowin’ theirselves. You’d ought to of heard my boy Earle laugh at ’em last time he was home, jist after he’s finished college. Now he has manners, Earle has—free an’ easy, but real polite.”
“Is he married—that Mr Braddock?” asked Alicia. “Married! Land’s sake! I guess neither of ’em has ever said five words to any girl nor woman except Mary Lunt, for all their flourishin’ of the hat. Jean pretends they sometimes talk to her in the post office, but I guess all they say is to ask for their letters; an’ the both of ’em says a few words to Tildy Toner whenever they meet up with her on the road, but that’s because they drug her out of the river a couple of Springs ago, when she busted through the ice, her an’ her horse an’ red pung. No, they aint married an’ never will be.”
Alicia did not ask any more questions just then, but she thought very intently over what she had heard and seen of the Braddocks; and the more she thought, the more did the subject intrigue her. Her early suspicion that the case of the Braddock boys might be well worth investigating developed and solidified almost to a conviction before bed-time.
In the course of the week following her first sight of Johnny Braddock, Alicia Watson contrived to gather a great deal of information concerning the brothers, their affairs and their history, without appearing to be inquisitive or unduly interested. She learned that th° “Old Braddock Place” had a frontage on the river of one hundred and eighty reds and a depth of three miles and had never known the burden of a mortgage; that art-dealers and the like came several times a year from distant centres of civilization to offer fabulous prices for certain articles of furniture in the old house, only to go away emptyhanded; that the late Thomas Braddock had been offered and had indignantly refused the sum of one thousand dollars for the set of ivory chess men with which his sons now amused themselves laboriously every evening; that Captain John Braddock had left England and the Royal Navy when he was about to be promoted to the rank of admiral owing to a painful misunderstanding with the then Chief of the Admiralty who, in return for a familiar slap on the post-captain’s shoulder, had received a scornful and deliberate tweak of the nose; and that old Mary and Peter Lunt were ready to lay down their lives for the “boys” any day; and much more. It was enough for Alicia. She was clever and she had imagination; and, as has been previously stated, she possessed the social instinct. She looked into the future and allowed her ambitions to expand. She believed that Fate had brought her to Ferry Point.
She decided to marry one of the Braddock
ALICIA did not
hurry matters. It was well along in September when she made her first move. One night at supper, she asked Mr. Davidson if he knew of a safe saddle-horse which she might hire occasionally.
“Wall now, a saddlehoss,” said the storekeeper, who was always eager to try to impress Alicia with his perspicacity. “What you might call a ridin’hoss. You might think that any sound hoss would do for to ride hoss-back on, if only it wasn’t too heavy or too light—but thar you’d be wrong. It’s the gait an’ the temper an’ the trainin’ makes the ridin’ hoss. Lemme see now. An’ you’d want one that wasn’t scart of skirts. Tildy Toner rides her little sorrel mare, but she sets acrost like a man an’ without no skirts to notice—an’ I reckon she wouldn’t hire out that mare, anyhow. Wall now, lemme see. Hah! I got it! Thar’s the bay Mrs Braddock ust to ride on, an’ thar’s all the riggin’ far lady-like ridin.’ I
see him only yesterday, shinin’ like silk an’ fat as butter.”
“But you know them Braddock boys wouldn’t hire out any hoss, let alone that one”, said Mrs. Davidson. “Guess you ain’t forgot what happened when you tried to hire a hoss from ’em for that commercial gent.”
“Sure I ain’t forgot! Johnny says as how they don’t keep no livery stable—says it real polite an’ nasty; an’ then he ups an’ loans me the animal free gratis for nothin’.”
"Well, he won’t loan you that bay that was his Ma’s, anyhow.”
“Reckon he won’t—but what about loanin’ it to Miss Watson? What about that, now? I guess that’s a shoe on a different hoof.”
“Not him. Most any other man would, but not them Braddock boys. They aint got the sand. A pretty face an’ a rail-fence is all one to them.”
“Maybe so—but thar’s no fool like the fool who pertends he’s afeared of skirts an’ pretty faces—when once his foolishness busts out in him.”
Alicia murmured, “Oh, but I couldn’t think of asking a favor of strangers”; and then she retired to the verandah and elaborated her plan.
The next day was Saturday. Alicia set out for a long walk immediately after an early breakfast, appropriately garbed, carrying her luncheon in a little basket. She walked across the fields behind the village and into the pastures and woods beyond, but as soon as the windows of the Davidson house were hidden from her view, she turned to the left.
IT WAS a golden day, a day of promise; and Alicia felt the gold and the promise of it in her blood. She smiled rosily at the thought of how soon the foolishness of one or other of the Braddock boys was to “bust' out in
She soon reached a flank of the low wall of rough grey field stones that surrounded the grave-yard, and the little
church, and instead of skirting it in search of a gate, she skipped lightly over it. She wandered among the graves and studied the inscriptions on the stones, looking for all the world as if pensive reflections on the brevity of this life of vanities and the immortality of the soul alone occupied her mind. She moved very slowly, very gracefully, stooping tenderly over the more lowly slabs and crosses. If a poet had seen her, he would have written something very sad and lovely about youth and beauty resigning themselves, in the person of this one bright creature, to the grim inevitable—and then, after reading it to her, he would have offered to carry her basket. Yes, even a poet would have been fooled. Even a poet would have failed to suspect that she had come among these green mounds and fading inscriptions in the heady pursuit of a worldly design on life.
The fact is, Alicia had come to St. Luke’s on the chance of being seen by one or both of the Braddock boys. She knew that the parson from down river was to officiate here on the morrow, and she had been told that it was the custom of Johnny and Dick to prepare for the monthly service with their own hands. And she had not come in vain. Intent as she appeared to be on the graves, she had slanted a number of glances at the little church from the corners of her eyes and had caught a glimpse of a face regarding her from one of the narrow wdndows of the tiny vestry.
Her tender interest in the headstones of defunct members of the congregation of St. Luke’s brought her at last to a point within a yard or so of the little porch and the iron-studded door thereof. Then what more natural than that she should turn her tender inquiry from the exhausted graves to the sacred edifice. The door stood slightly ajar. It opened solidly yet easily at a touch of the hand, and Alicia entered the porch. The inner door stood wide open, and Alicia passed on and in with devotionally bowed head and downcast eyes. Thus she advanced as far as the font, four paces; and then, raising her shy eyes, she beheld a man crouched on hands and knees in front of her.
THE ROSES in Alicia’s cheeks paled to white lilies.
Her free hand went convulsively to her breast. Her lips parted as if she would cry out, but no sound
came from them. And
so she stood, all the light action of her graceful form suddenly arrested and her eyes wide and bright with maidenly embarrassment verging on fear.
What was she afraid of anyway! The man on the floor did not look dangerous. It was quite evident that his embarrassment was almost as deep as her own. He stared up at her with startled and apologetic eyes and a flushed face. In his right hand he held a wet scrubbing-brush pressed hard against the stones of the aisle. A folded sack was under his knees. A can of soft-soap and a large bucket full of dirty water stood beside him. His white outing shirt was open at the neck. “This must be Dick, the younger one”, thought Alicia.
“Oh!” she whispered faintly, the roses and lilies battling for place in her smooth cheeks and up and down her round and slender throat. "I—am so sorry! I—I’m intruding.” The man on the floor swallowed hard. The color deepened in his sun-tanned face and even his ears grew crimson. His mouth opened anil shut several times in quick succession, and without sound. And then he got swiftly and lightly to his feet and bowed profoundly, still gripping the wet brush in his wet right hand. Continued on page 37
Continued from page 17
“Not at all”, he said breathlessly. “I—we—honored, I’m sure.”
“It is very kind of you to say so,” she returned softly. “I love to sit in empty churches and think—in beautiful churches, such as this—and of course I did not know that—that anyone was here.” (Oh, Alicia! I’ll forgive you that one, but will the Recording Angel?)
“Our fault, absolutely,” said Dick, still speaking as if his windpipe had recently been stepped on. "Unforgivable— such condition—before a lady. Never happened before. You must try not— not to think me quite a boor.”
She eyed him with delicious surprise.
"Your condition'.”’ she queried. “You mean your working clothes. Why, l think you shnu.o he proud of them! And you ore &t;i-&t; 'i quite as well as most people :•:&t;• «I.ni they play tennis. I think tins ' wonderful of you—to clean your own • durch with your own hands.” They heard a dull faint sound, from somewhere in the direction of the little
"That's Johnny”, said the man, with a fleeting flicker of amusement in his grey eyes. “My brother. He has bolted — by way of the vestry.”
"Oh, I'm so sorry”, she said contritely. “I have chased him away. I am upsetting all your work. I'll go now, and then perhaps he'll come back.”
“But—no, please don’t go! I—you might like to look around; and if you really aren't offended by—by these rags of mineI—I shall consider it an honor to be permitted to show you around.”
SHE protested. She could not think of troubling him. She would go away and let him get on with his work. She did not go immediately, however, but examined everything of interest in the little church, including a number of memorial tablets on the walls. They reached the porch at last, and here was another tablet. The other memorials were large and verbose, but this one was small and concise. It read as follows:—
To The Memory Of ABDULAH BEY An Arabian Gentleman
“An Arabian gentleman,” read Alicia. “How interesting! And no dates of his birth or death. May I ask about him? It looks so mysterious.”
“I should like to tell you”, answered Dick. “It’s a family secret—but I should like to tell it to you.
“I should love to hear it, and I promise never to tell.”
“But it might shock you, Miss Watson. We’ve kept it dark, for fear one of the parsons might get hold of it.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Alicia, blankly. She wondered if this rustic aristocrat
dared to imagine for a moment that she would listen to a story admittedly too raw for the clergy.
“Are you very strict?” he asked.
“Strict”, she repeated. “I—I really don’t think I know what you mean exactly”.
She gave him a searching look screened by a puzzled and helpless smile, and failed to detect anything but apologetic admiration and an innocent anxiety to please in his ingenuous countenance. Her eyes warmed—but she was on her guard.
“Ah—as a churchwoman,” he explained. “Are you frightfully orthodox?”
“Orthodox!” she cried with a note of relief. “Oh, dear me, no—not frightfully.”
Mr Dick Braddock beamed.
“Then I’ll tell you the secret,” -he said. “Abdulah Bey, that Arabian gentleman, was a horse!”
Alicia displayed genuine amazement and interest. A horse! Just think of it. A tablet to the memory of a horse stuck up on the porch of a church! She had never heard of such a thing.
“My paternal grandfather owned him,” continued Dick. “That was before grandfather came to this country. He was a very keen sportsman when ashore and owned a place in Bedfordshire—not the family seat, you understand for he was a younger son, but a very good place that he had bought with his prize-money. Abdulah was the best horse he ever owned and won dozens of races—but he broke his neck at last in a steeple-chase. Grandfather tried to bury Abdulah in the churchyard—consecrated ground—but the vicar wouldn’t permit it. Then he had this tablet made and tried to put it up in the village church—but the vicar was too much for him. So one of the first things he did after buying this place was to build this little church and nail this tablet to the wall.”
“He must have been a very unusual person,” said Alicia.
“He was, in many ways; and he had an unusually hot and stubborn temper,” replied Dick.
“Which has not been inherited, I am sure,” remarked Alicia, with a look which caused her companion to shift his feet slightly so as to keep them fairly under his point of balance. “I have never seen any other two people with
such good-natured faces as you and you brother—if you will forgive me for saying
HE GASPED and looked uncommonly foolish.
“That’s very kind of you”, he said at last, in perfect sincerity. “But I am not sure that you are right, Miss Watson. The fact is, I feel suggestions of it often— of a hot temper; and I believe Johnny does, too, for we are very much alike. I believe that we are both afraid to show even the slightest hint of hasty temper because we both fear that we have inherited something of the kind. We never have done so, that’s certain—but I don t know why I am talking to you in this way! It’s not usual with me, I assure you. You seem to inspire confidence in me.
Before Alicia could say anything to this, a shadow fell across the sunshine on the threshold of the porch and the elder of the brothers stood in the arched doorway. He doffed his hat and bowed profoundly. His hair had been brushed recently. He wore spotless white trousers, a blue flannel coat and a necktie.
Alicia saw and understood. The game was in her hands! Of the two Braddock boys who were so awkward and shy and afraid of women, one had remained to talk to her, in spite of his working-clothes, and the other had run away only to dress up and return!—and all this at the first meeting!
Alicia began her riding lessons that very afternoon.
ONE grey afternoon in November, shortly before sunset, Johnny Braddock met Tildy Toner within a few yards of his front gate. He was dn foot and she was riding. He halted and bowed, as usual; and then he forgot himself so far as to stare, for Tildy was an astonishing sight. She was sitting astride her flat English saddle, as she always did but in place of the customary weatherfaded jacket, short skirt and leather leggings, she now wore a costume which startled and bewildered Mr. Braddock. And she astonished him again a second later by drawing rein instead of riding by as usual with a shy word of greeting. “Will you sell me Nixie?” she asked. Nixie was the bay horse on which Alicia was still learning to ride.
Here was another shock! What was the matter with little Tildy? He looked his astonishment.
“I hate to see that horse lamed , she added. “That Miss Watson never comes down twice in the same place. If she’d sit astride she wouldn’t do so much harm to Nixie—but I guess she’ll never learn
Johnny’s face grew red. Could this be Matilda Toner, the little girl whom he and Dick had once saved from the river? Could this be Amos Toner’s polite and self-effacing little daughter? What had come over her? ' V
“I don’t understand you, Tildy, he
“Î guess that’s right”, she_ answered, gravely. “How old do you think I am?” “How old? Why, I have known you a long time, Tildy. You are grown up now, I suppose. You must be getting on to eighteen.”
“And how do you like my new nding costume?”
“Why—ah—it is very striking. I scarcely knew you at first.”
“Isn’t it. It’s the latest thing for ladies in places like London and New York.” “Are you quite sure of that, Tildy?” “Of course I am. I got the address of your London tailor from Mary Lunt and wrote to him, and he sent me a form to fill out, and I measured myself and filled it out, and this is what he sent me. See, the breeches are buckstrapped just like yours and Mr Dick’s.”
“It is very becoming, Tildy—but rather
“That’s what I wanted it to be. Why shouldn’t I be startling, as well as other people? It’s easy enough, and I wish I’d thought of it before. I’m not going on eighteen. I’m going on twenty-four.” “Good Lor—goodness, I mean!” exclaimed Braddock. “Twenty-four! I have always thought of you as a child.” “Yes, I know you have, and that’s where you’ve been all wrong”, said the girl, leaning forward in her saddle. “I am not a child, and I’m startling, and I’m above the average in brains and looks, and I want to know which of you two your
wonderful Miss Watson intends to leave for me?” And without waiting for an •answer, she sat back and cantered away.
V/f R. BRADDOCK stood motionless in the road and stared after the sorrel mare for a full half-minute; and then he continued to stand for five minutes and stare along the empty road.
“The girl must be crazy!” he said at last. “Mad! What did she mean?” Three hours later, after supper, Johnny and Dick sat down by the library fire, drew a small table into place between them and set up the ivory chessmen. The white pieces and the first move fell to Johnny. They played for half an hour in unbroken silence and without so much as an exchange of glances. Then Johnny said,
“I’m sorry to interrupt the game, Dick, but there’s something I must say to you.” His voice was unsteady.
“Do you still doubt what I told you yesterday?” asked Dick, glancing up with an unpleasant smile.
“Let me explain”, returned the other. “I don’t doubt your word, of course— that goes without saying, Dick—but I’m afraid, I suspect, that there has been a misunderstanding. The fact is, I called on Alicia this afternoon, and congratulated her—very sincerely, Dick, but not very cheerfully, as you can imagine; and she seemed puzzled, uncertain.”
“Puzzled!” cried Dick. “Uncertain! What do you mean?”
“She did not seem sure that she had promised to marry you.”
“Not promised to marry me! Did she say so?”
“Calm yourself, Dick. I believe you. I think she misunderstood you. She said as much. That is, she said that you had misunderstood her.”
"Then I’m a fool—and blind and deaf!”
At that moment a door opened and Mary Lunt appeared on the threshold, a large, elderly, capable figure, with a distressed and determined face.
“Boys, I’ll tell it to you now, flatfooted, an’ you can say an’ do what you like about it!" she exclaimed. “I went an’ saw that Miss Alicia at noon today, an’ took along your copy of the old Squire’s will, an’ I showed her that there Heirlooms’ Clause. I tell you so now because I’ve been listenin’ at the key-hole for the right _ time to tell it. An’ that’s when she figgered as how Mr Dick had misunderstood her yesterday—when she read right there as how all the old pictures an’ silver an’ mahogany an’ china an’ swords an’ rings an’ necklaces was the property of the oldest son, whether he liked it or not an’ no matter what happened to the land an’ -the house an’ the live-stock. That’s what I did!—an’ you can kill me for it, or jail me, or drive me out of the house!—but it was my duty I done when I did it!”
CHE stepped back and closed the _ door with a thud. Johnny and Dick stared at one another across the valuable ivory chessmen with wide eyes and colorless faces.
“Oh, my God!” sighed Dick. Johnny did not speak, but he swallowed hard and licked his lips.
“She—-she wants everything!” whispered Dick. “The heirlooms.”
“I’ve been a cad, Dick”, said the elder. “I was bewitched, I think. I—I lost my head this afternoon. Of course I didn’t know about this—what Mary did—and I—she said that you had misunderstood her—and she promised to marry me!” “But—ah! I forgot! That was a misunderstanding! When is the marriage to take place?”
“You heard what Mary said.”
“Yes. She’ll have you and the gewgaws too.”
“Don’t be a fool, Dick! There’ll be no wedding.”
•“No wedding! Why not? You’re engaged to her, aren’t you?”
“Not after Mary’s disclosure. Certainly not!”
“You’ll break with her?”
“I’ll not marry her, that’s n certainty!” "You will, by the lord! You’ll keep your agreement with her, John Braddock, or I’ll know the reason why!”
“You know the reason why already, Dick, so don’t be a fool.”
“A fool! I’d sooner be a fool than a cad, a blackguard! You are a Braddock and the head of the family, and you’ve got to behave like it, by God! You ask
a ladyj to marry you—and then, when you learn that she likes your spoons and rings you decide to jilt her! That won t.go with me! Trn a Braddock too, and I m her friend, and I won’t allow it!
He got slowly to his feet, and Johnny followed his example.
"It is impossible”, said the elder. “Don’t you see it, Dick? Keep a grip on yourself, for Heaven’s sake, she doesn’t care for me. She wants those damn heirlooms. Arid I didn t know what I was doing, Dick. I was mad this afternoon—and have been for weeks. I—I don’t love her, I tell you!”
“You’ll marry her—you’ll keep faith with her—or you’ll fight me!”
“I’ll not marry her, and I’ll not fight
JOHNNY staggered from the blow, and his knee struck against the low table and upset several of the ivopr pieces. He stepped back, with his left hand before his face and his right idle at his side. No thought of retaliation came to him. He felt nothing of anger, but only a numbing pity for Dick. He knew now the measure and madness of Dick’s love for the beautiful little schemer who had come into their lives. He knew now that his own love for her had been a thing from the outside, a trick of hers, an hypnotic condition, witchcraft. He had first realized this several hours ago.
He lowered his hand and saw that ne was alone in the library. He ran across the room and opened the door into the hall. The big hall was dark save for the feeble illumination of a small hand-lamp on the table near the front door. He saw Dick near the table, fumbling for a hat. He ran forward and laid a hand on the other’s shoulder.
“Where are you off to, Dick. he asked.
“Nowhere in particular”, said Dick, unsteadily. “What does it matter where I’m off too? Why don’t you kick me?
Johnny wiped blood from his lower lip, patted the shoulder upon which his hand rested and said, “It would be like kicking old Grandfather Braddock.
They heard something outside the big door—a step, and a fumbling at the knob. Johnny stepped forward instantly and pulled the door wide open, discovering a figure in a long raincoat on the threshold. It was Alicia Watson.
Alicia did not look at Johnny, who stood on one side, but gazed at DicL “I’m going away”, she said. “I’m not fit to be here. I’m a—a—fake!— and a fool! I thought it was —a game— but it wasn’t!” , .
“You were playing with me, Alicia , said Johnny, gently.
“Yes,” she answered, without turning her head, still gazing at Dick.
“You care more for the heirlooms than for me”, he continued gently, as if reproving a child.
“I don’t care for them”, she returned, in a faint, flat voice. “I hate them— and the very thought of them.”
Johnny laid a hand on her arm and drew her into the hall.
“I understand, Alicia”, he said. “But I think you’ll have to explain it to Dick.” Then he stepped out into the chilly November dark, closing the big door of
JOHNNY went around to the back of the house, put on an old hat and coat, lit his pipe and returned to the chilly darkness. He walked slowly down the avenue to the highroad.
“I believe she’s sound at heart”, he murmured. “I hope Dick will see it. She doesn’t care a rap for me, that’s certain!”
But for the most part, his thoughts were confused. Now and again he withdrew his pipe from his mouth and touched his lower lip with his handkerchief. Emotionally, he felt at once upset and refreshed. He was conscious of a deep excitement and partially conscious of a yet deeper calm. Suddenly he halted and looked up and saw the wide, black bulk of Amos Toner’s house. The sittingroom window showed a light.
“Twenty-four”, he said. “And I thought she was still a child. I have been asleep for years, and now it seems that I’ve suffered a double awakening!” Then he turned, smiling to himself, and retraced his steps. “I must leave something for tomorrow,” he said.