AT THE RAINBOW’S END
ADAM HAROLD BROWN
THE main street of Valeboro was just awakening from its afternoon nap, and several gentlemen of leisure had foregathered on the Commercial Hotel’s verandah. One of them peered up the street to where a closed wagon, drawn by a middle-aged, white horse, came into view.
“Here comes Dri Doolittle’s milk cart,” said the gazer, one. Mr. Fullerton Moon. “Whenever I see Dri I wonder:
What’s the world cornin’ to?
Six years ago, when he got back from France, we all thought he’d show some go.
But he ain’t.”
Ezra Small, the hotelkeeper, nodded solemnly.
“The whole trouble is,” he averred, “Dri ain’t got no ambition.”
“Didn’t he get a medal or something?” queried a little man named Corn.
“Yep. Distinguished Conduct, or some such. I advised him to wear it on his watchchain so folks c’u’d see what he done. But he won’t.”
“It all proves.” affirmed Mr.
Small, “as he ain’t got no ambition.”
“I thought it was on account o’ Smith Bros.,” argued Mr.
Corn. “Since they started a rival milk business, what with their pushing ways an’ two carts painted red, Dri’s losing all his customers. My wife says she’s going to give him up;
’twas Smiths’ last funny ad. that done it.”
“And through living alone like a Turkish pash-shah,” said the publican, “an’ carrying on with all them critters—you know what I mean, Full?”
Mr. Moon pursed his lips like a county judge. “Yep; a public scandal. That one he calls Nelly’s bad enough, but this furrin creature is worse. Why, only last week I was walking past his house when he seen me an’ asked me in; says he wants to introduce me to a young lady. In marches this French thing, and he says; ‘Shake hands with Miss Fifi.’ I wás near scandalized.”
“I still take milk from him,” said Mr. Small, “but hè knows I won’t stand nO foolin’. Didn’t he used to be sweet on old Bill Green’s daughter, Sally?”
“Yep,” replied the man addressed; “an’ I can’t understand what a good looking girl like her sees in a feller like Dri. Mrs. Green is set against her daughter throwin’ herself away. But Sally’s one of those independent girls, an’ her mother’s a determined lady, so I guess it’s pretty hot up at the Green place.”
His hearer nodding sagely, Mr. Moon went on—“The trouble with Dri is he’s too sentimental. Looks at ye as if there was somethin’ behind you. Why, his eyes make me think of the picture of a feller chasin a treasure-fairy at the end of one o’ them colored rainstorms.”
“But he won’t find no buried treasure! He—”
“I didn’t say ‘buried,’ Ezra; what made you think that?”
Mr. Small was confused. “Jes’ a little idea of my own,” he stammered. “He won’t find nothing. He ain’t clever enough.”
“Look.” Mr. Moon eyes the oncoming vehicle. “Good thing he keeps his face hid.”
ON THE milk-wagon’s iron step rested a boot, needing repair, topped by ten inches of trousered leg. The white horse stopped at the hotel curb; the veranda-critics stared in cold silence, but the landlord retired into the hallway.
Another trouser leg followed the first; a figure climbed slowly out revealing a youngish man of about twentyeight with a smooth and whimsical countenance. The gentle twist at the corners of his mouth was mildly humorous, but Mr. Small noticed worried wrinkles around the eyes.
In each hand Darius Doolittle carried two bottles of milk; with a genial nod veranda-ward, he entered the hotel. The outsiders strained to catch the conversation within.
“G’day, Dri,” they heard the boniface say. “Ain’t you sorta late?”
A milkman who reads Conrad is lured into a treasure hunt by stories of romance and riches on the Spanish Main and thereby is taught that not all gold is yellow.
“Yes, but I made my regular delivery this morning,” was the reply. “Though I am some delayed. I heard at noon that old Mrs Jones, who lives a mile out, couldn’t get any milk since her Jersey got run over, so I—”
The man of the world “hum’d” slightly. He did not care for sentiment.
“I’m kind o’ worried, too,” the milkman’s voice continued. “Hi Smith and his brother are taking all my trade. Don’t know what I’ll do; turn bootlegger, I guess. More bottles left every day than we can use—though you know they do drink a lot at the house.”
His short laugh met with no response. The landlord took pride in his respectability. Messrs. Moon and Corn exchanged glances.
“When I went down to the dairy where I keep the milk,” the speaker went on, “to get a supply of left-overs for home consumption, I saw so many bottles that I thought you might take some o’ them off my hands as a favor.”
Mr. Small was forced into a cul-de-sac. He hadn’t no call for milk, he said—but as a favor .
Darius strode to the curb, and slapped the white horse on the shoulder.
“Cheer up, Lothario,” he said, gathering the reins.
DRIVING through quiet Valeboro Mr. Doolittle contemplated his complex life. He knew he was in a rut; a financial rut. He could think of no way out. Have to make the best of it. On inheriting the milk business six years before, he had really planned to do something big. But the self-content of small-town conditions had beached his ship.
He had a sheet-anchor, however. Her name was Sally Green. Darius had known her all his life; they had gone to school together and played together. She was a bright
capable girl of perhaps twenty-five.
His liking grew to love, and more than once he had asked her to marry him. But each time she told him he must “do something first.” And each time Darius had resolved to “do it”—but the worries of life overcame him.
When he volunteered “for the duration,” it seemed to the girl he was at last coming into his manhood. Yet on his return he sank into the small-towm humdrum.
If things came to the worst, he had counted on his Uncle Asa for monetary backing. Asa Doolittle, a merchant in a small city not far from Valeboro, was reputed to be wealthy—and had no children. Apart from this Darius had always felt regard for his father’s brother. But barely a year before Uncle Asa died, and on hearing the will read the young man was honestly pleased that the estate went to the widow. He received a thousand dollars, which staved off bankruptcy for a while
That night, on leaving to catch the train, his aunt handed him some letters.
“I found these,” she said, “in Asa’s ‘miscellaneous’' pigeon-hole. They’re of no
value, but I thought you’d like to have ’em, Darius— sort o’ remembrance; you and your uncle were such friends ”
They were mostly circularletters from wholesale houses, but one held the reader’s curiosity. It bore a heavy Spanish post mark. Several times
Darius re-read it. It impressed him strongly, for it brought the flavor of romance into his silent dairy. Also the lure of buried gold. And he certainly needed to find a pot o’ gold—
The letter sang in his memory this afternoon. It was evidently written by one who understood human nature. The bold flowing hand-writing was easily recalled.
Uncle Asa was being addressed, and it was dated from Prison del Rio, Cadiz, Spain,” and ran:
“Dear Mr. Doolittle: In reply to your favour asking for particulars in reference to the buried treasure mentioned in my last note; I may say that many years ago when I was a prosperous citizen, I befriended an old sailor whotold me of a treasure-cave he had discovered on the Spanish Main. Before dying he gave me a map as to its exact location. When I had saved enough money to charter a schooner, I sailed to find the pirate’s gold. It was in a small and uncharted bay, and after searching for several weeks, I at last found the spot. But owing to earthquakes and shifting sands the cave’s walls had fallen in, forming a well, and from the distance of perhaps thirty feet, I could distinguish a mass cf treasure! There were ingots of gold, broken bags containing pieces -of-eight and golden doubloons; a chest with its end rotted off, which showed a glittering heap of jewellery. I think there were ten chests in all, though in the dim light there might have been only nine. Valued, I should judge, at half a million dollars.
“But I could not reach them! At last I realized that it was impossible to get them without engineering machinery, which—alas—wras beyond my pocket. And to cap all, the crew of my schooner threatened to mutiny. Accordingly I returned to Spain, a disappointed man, but holding in my mind where the treasure was hid. But here a worse misfortune befell me: The sea-cook, who was a spiteful fellow, had shown curiosity as to the treasure’s lay, and on my refusal to tell him, he informed the Cadiz authorities that I was smuggling wines and cheese from Venezuela. Therefore I was arrested, thrown into jail, and being unable to prove an alibi the corrupt court imposed a heavy fine, which— need I say— 1 am not able to pay. Thus 1 languish in prison until this trumped-upcharge is settled.
“My only friend was the schooner’s mate, who being just as disappointed and as poor as myself, has sime emigrated to America to seek his fortune. He would help if he could, but I cannot count on him, for the sum demanded is far beyond his honest toil.
“The good-souled jailer allows me to write tlr.s letter to appeal to the kindness of your heart—to advance the money to pay my fine— of course merely a loan. And then
—could I induce you?—to charter a ship and procure machinery, and go with me across those delightful Southern seas to regain the treasure. I offer you half the sum we find—which is certainly there—in all worth over 5,000,000 pesetas or half a million dollars.”
“You are the only man,” it finished—“that I would tell this to, because I have complete confidence in your honor and intelligence. I trust in your aid. Believe me, sir I am — ” the “Felipe Romancios del Ray” appeared with a flourish.
“By Jove!” Darius had ejaculated at his first reading. “In prison while he knows where there is—think of it— half a million dollars!”
There was a postscript, however:
“My friend the mate has opened a small office as a ‘Marine Commissioner’ in New York City. If you care to communicate with him, either verbally or by mail, he will arrange for a ship and machinery, as well as sending word to my lawyer in Cadiz. His name and address is Jose da Costa—”
But the number on East 23rd Street meant nothing to the milkman; it sounded all right.
Watching the revolving wheel this afternoon he ruminated on ways and means. The romance and adventure appealed to his heart. Yet liberating Mr. Ray, chartering “a rakish brig,” hiring engineering stuff—all would take capital. More than he could raise in ten years. Why, even now—
“I’m nearly broke,” he said to himself as the milkwagon turned off Maple Avenue—“thanks to the brothers Smith.”
He knew Silas Smith to be a decent enough fellow, but there was the “sleeping partner ” Darius had never met Hiram, though several times he had seen him, shifty-eyed, garbed in a “citified” suit with a crushed hat. He lived in New York but made flying visits to Valeboro. After each trip, Si would have some new tricks—and Mr. Doolittle would lose several customers.
“I suppose I could get a job on a farm,” he thought,
“but then I couldn’t keep them. Makes me ill to think of those delicate creatures being treated harsh; perhaps starving in some back street. Anyway I can go on a little longer. Wonder if that scratch on Nelly’s nose, she got when she quarreled with Rosey, is gone? Rosey’s mighty high-spirited. That reminds me,” he remembered, “this is the night I go to see Sally. Can’t think cf marriage—not now, though she knows that I love her . . . Anyway I’ll tell her to-night just how I stand.”
ALMOST before he knew it his horse halted before a small house in a quarter-acre lot.
After opening the gate Mr. Doolittle regarded his dwelling reflectively. It was silent and looked sombre. He knew its front door was locked: seldom unlocked. Its front window blinds were drawn down, like the eyelids of a meek young lady. And, like the milk-cart, it needed painting badly.
Wheeling at the corner, Darius’ gaze fell to the “cathole” in the door. Through this opening, cut in the doors of old-fashioned houses for the exit and entrance of the family feline, emerged a sleek tabby, who measured the milkman with appraising orbs.
“Hello, friend,” the man greeted. “How are all the kittens? Hungry I bet.”
Rubbing against the speaker’s leg, the cat allowed herself to be petted . . . Then she watched carefully as Lothario was unharnessed. Darius sighed at the halfempty corn-bin, and pitched down enough hay to feed several white horses. “Something may turn up,” was his thought. “Anyway 1 won’t let you starve, old scout.”
“I suppose,” he mused, “Fifi’s so full of those Persian notions that she’s likely waiting in the rocking-chair for me to come in and say: ‘Howdy.’ . . . ’nd I guess Nelly’s kind o’sulky. O, well—”
With a cluster of bottles in hand he marched houseward.
During his frugal supper the letter from Spain roved through his mind. He wanted to go on that treasure quest. But how?—At most he could only raise three or
four hundred. What was the sum needed? Well, he could inquire!
As soon as the supper things were cleared away he started to write.
His letter began, “Dear Mr. da Costa,” and briefly explained how the undersigned, being handed Mr. Ray’s letter among some papers of his late uncle, Asa Doolittle, was interested in the buried treasure. He would be obliged therefore to know the amount needed to pay the prisoner’s fine and engage a ship, etc. Signing D. R. Doolittle, he paused. “If I put Valeboro,” he murmured, “those chawbacons down to the post-office will get curious an’ wanta know all about it Hum. Let’s see?”
There was the village of Byeville, a few miles out, where he drove every week to the creamery. It had a post-office and Darius knew the postmaster. He would give it as his address. “And I’ll add ‘Box D’ ” he thought; “that’s where my letters ’ll go anyway.” He addressed, sealed and stamped the letter.
“I’ll just post this,” was his reflection. “Then I can have—” he smiled in anticipation. “Though I’ll not say anything about the treasure-hunt to Sally. I don’t think she cares for romance.” He eyed with affection his copy of “Treasure Island” lying among other Stevensons and a few Conrads on the kitchen shelf. “Sally’s a fine girl, but she’s awful practical ...”
TTE FOUND Sally reading, though she put her book -*■ aside on the milkman’s entry. “This stuff won’t interest you,” she laughed “You’re a hard-headed business man, aren’t you?”
Her merry eyes seemed to the man like pools of sunshine. And the personal conversation that followed, being hardly original, is better omitted. But at length the girl inquiring how the milk-business was progressing, Darius squared his shoulders.
“Don’t like to talk about it,”—his tone was diffident— “those Smiths are pushing me pretty far. I don’t know what I’ll do about money to keep going.”
Continued on page 55
At the Rainbow’s End
Continued from page 21
“Well, Darius,’’she had replied, “there’s only one thing to do.”
“What’s that, Sally?”
“You’ll have to give up keeping your collection.”
“Good Lord! Sally, you know I’m awful fond o’ them.”
“Yes, I know; but they have no real affection. I don’t see how you can stand all those cats.”
“Why, Sally. They’re so* intelligent. The way they look at you when they want something to eat is almost human!”
“And all those kittens, too! Now, Dri, no need to say drowning. I know a nice kitten is lovable, but too many . . . You said the Smith Bros, were pushing you. Well, then, you ought to push them. Why don’t you work out some advertising dodge? I’ve been thinking of a scheme for some time—something to strengthen your business.”
She calmed his startled eyes with a smile. “Hereit is; first you must paint your cart. Look prosperous. Then present a kitten to each remaining customer, hinting it will surely win a cash prize at the next show. Extra milk will be needed to keep them plump, and naturally people will buy from the donor.”
“Strangers might treat ’em harsh,” Darius demurred.
“Nobody,” put :n Sally, “would be unkind to a prize-winning cat.”
Finally she convinced him; he promised to carry out her plan. And from the look in his eyes the girl knew he was sincere. That night she slept peacefully, without the worried dreams she so often had.
But next morning, while watching Fifi yawn herself awake, Darius began to waver. He couldn’t do it—though he’d compromise. First he’d try and see the painter— Accordingly the milkman went through another uneventful day. The next was very similar. LI is fewer customers shortened the rounds, though that gave more time on thought. But mostly his mind dwelt on that romantic missive—on pirates’ loot—on the Spanish Main. He’d be driving over to Byeville in less than a week. He calculated his letter would take two and a half days to reach New York. If Mr. da Costa was brisk his answer should come in five days, six at most.
On the next day’s rounds he actually parted with one of his pets. His motives lacked enthusiasm, for although he had proved himself a brave man, he felt foolishly timid before the girl he loved. The following day he gave away two kittens, and found them well received. The people he chose felt proud to be presented with a prospective blue-ribboner.
/V LMOST before he knew it, came the time for his visit to Byeville. As soon as his business at the creamery was completed he hurried to the post office. Yet he needn’t expect anything, he felt; nothing came when you wanted—besides, well, he hadn’t sent any money: so—■ After sorting over a dozen letters, the postmaster handed one to Darius. For a moment the recipient stared, unable to realize. But the typewritten address was unmistakable; the red stamp and New York postmark were bona fide.
Returning to the milk-wagon he tore open the letter. Yes, it was from Mr. de Costa; he evidently used a typewriter. H’m. Briefly, the “Commissioner” said he was more than pleased to hear of Mr.
Doolittle’s interest in the treasure and his willingness to engage in an expedition. But Mr. del Ray, the only man who knew of the treasure-cave’s exact location, still pined in prison. Especially galling to one who knew where half a million dollars waited. His fine, together with the cost of the corrupt court and lawyer’s fees, amounted to a paltry $983.50.
“Holy Mike!” gasped the reader. This seemed to end everything. Yet the obstacle only arrayed his resohe. It was romance, adventure-and a half a million dollars.
Being a “Marino Comisionade”—Darius read with respect—Mr. de Costa was prepared to charter mining machinery and a ship at the low price of $1,000— perhaps less or more. He had best forward $5.000 for safety, and not to send it by registered letter or Post Office money order! You couldn’t trust the mails, stated the writer, adding that he had thought of forming a syndicate with some wealthy New Yorkers to free his dear friend del Ray, promising them a share of the treasure. But now—he would wait a week more, being confident of hearing some good news by then. And, the letter finished, when the three adventurers returned across the blue Caribbean with their chests full of gold pieces, the gentleman whose address was Byeville would find he had made a gilt-edged investment.
Darius drove back to Valeboro in deep thought. He could never raise that amount. Just when he had a chance— might as well jump off the bridge into the Vale! Yet there were the remaining customers who needed milk; the cats who must be fed - and there was Sally! If he could lay the treasure at her feet—
Through force of habit he ate his evening meal, still considering, and when pouring saucers of milk for his hungry household, he suddenly decided. He would go to New York; be frank with Mr. de Costa; he could form his syndicate. Then, when the released del Ray led a party to regain the hoard, Darius would volunteer as a helper. Surely they’d need an extra hand. He wouldn’t ask for a share; just what they liked to give him. He would go as a full-grown cabin-boy. Another Jim Hawkins—he broke into a whistling tune, and Fifi ceasing to lap, glanced up in alarm.
Then his plans were thought out. A man would be needed to take his milk route. H’m, Joe Parks would do.
He then considered transportation. The morning city-bound local connecting with the New York limited left sometime before the ticket-office would open. He must pay his fare to the conductor therefore.
And clothes. He remembered his portmanteau was crushed and broken— the only way was to borrow some sort of a bag. Let’s see? Oh, yes: Ez. Small generally had several hanging around.
Mr. Small was thinking of taking a trip himself. He had inside dope how to find a—he winked knowingly. Though in the meantime—he produced a green v.icker suit-case, bearing his capitalized name and address. But Darius didn’t mind.
That night Mr. Doolittle dreamed dreams. The story-ringed Caribbean was the setting, the Cadiz prisoner and the pirate who had hidden the treasure the principal figures. Rosy in jack-boots, flourished a cutlass, while Fifi, refusing to walk the plank, turned into a wicker
dress-suit-case full of pieces of eight. And over all, like a benediction, sailed the presence of Sally Green.
Early next morning Joe Parks arrived, and after receiving final instructions, drove his employer to the station.
ON REACHING New York Darius emerged from the Grand Central Terminal into the roar of Forty-Second Street. He felt lost in the noise, and the rush of humanity. He longed for the quiet of Valeboro, wished he was back jogging along in his milk-wagon. However he found his-way to the address he sought in East 23rd St. He was awed by the size of buildings, the crowds on the way, and wondered if there were enough cows in the world to supply them all with milk.
He read the name Jose da Costa, Marine Commissioner, on a door on the third floor. As he entered, a man sitting at a desk hastily shoved some papers into a drawer.
Darius stared intently. He seemed to know that keen face. Let’s see? Back in Yaleboro? Yes—but what in thunder could Hiram Smith be doing here?
The figure at the desk made an inquiring noise. “Well what can J do for you?” “I want to see Mr. da Costa,” said Darius. “Thr's is his office, isn’t it?” “Sure,” was responded. “I’m him. What—?”
“I wanted to see him,” went on the milkman, “about that—a—buried treasure.”
“Now look here—” reading the hotelkeeper’s name on the suitcase, the speaker’s brow furrowed with quick decision. “You come from this Mister Small, don’t you? But you’ve got nothing on me.” Waving Darius’ explanation, he continued: “I know who you are, all right. You country lawyers make me sick: butting into honest business. Two months ago this bird Small sent me fifty dollars. I told him it wouldn’t more’n charter a harbor tug; but I had legal advice on the letter, so you’ve got no evidence from it. He sent me $500 yesterday, though I didn’t ask him for it—”
He slapped an envelope on the desk from which peered two edges of a blue check. “I’ll cash it to-morrow morning—” He raised his hand. “I tell you this straight, so you won’t unload a lot of bunk. Get me?”
Darius was beginning to realize. Mr. da Costa or Hi. Smith had tried to deceive Uncle Asa—had fooled Ez. Small—and perhaps others The prisoner at Cadiz, the treasure-trove, the unexpected search, —were myths?
In the pause that followed, footsteps sounded along the hall. The door-handle turned; a man looked in. He looked what he was.
“Good-day, Hi,” he greeted, advancing. “You’re wanted down at the Federal building, to give a talk on this pirate stuff. The Post Office people are making another fuss about your use of the mails, so the chief wants to get the proper dope. Understand, you ain’t pulled; it’s just an invitation to a little chin-concert.”
Evidently not wanting to offend, “Mr. da Costa” stated his willingness. “I’ll only be an hour,” he said, and glanced at Darius. “This gent don’t look like he was in a hurry, eh?”
Hi. cleared some papers into a drawer putting on top the envelope containing Mr. Small’s letter and check, and the two departed.
Darius did some quick thinking. The buried treasure search was a fake, a swindle. And the longed-for romance, that he had thought was just over the horizon, had vanished. Natural reaction told him that the only romantic thing he cared about was the nearness of Sally Green.
This crooked scheme had fooled him - it had fooled Ezra Small and—that recalled him to the present—
Opening the desk drawer, he took out the envelope postmarked “Valeboro.” To make sure, he opened the letter; saw it was signed “E. Small” and that the check bore the same signature, and put them in his pocket.
The main affair now was to get back to his home-town, where, though folks weren’t perfect, they weren’t trying to rob one at every turn.
It came to him suddenly that in the eyes of the law he might be committing a felony by robbing a robber. These smart city lawyers might start anything. And the Valeborian knew you couldn’t trust the New York police. Better be going, he thought, while the going was good!
In the train next morning Darius thought of his business. The past was black. The future was vague and uncertain. Only one thought gave him pleasure —Sally. If he could not lay gold and jewels at her feet, he was determined ro make it up to her in other ways. There were other things in life, he realized—real things.
AT HOME affairs were not as he had left them. Looked as if someone had been fussing around. Why, there actually was a bunch of flowers in a bowl of water on the table. Ordinary flowers, as if somebody had foolishly picked them and then wanted to keep ’em from fading. Joe Parks wouldn’t be taken that way he felt sure. He glanced around. His copy of Treasure Island had been taken down!. Yes, and someone had been reading it. His mark was changed!
A noise in the yard caused him to stamp stable-ward. Mr. Parks had just driven in, and was proceeding to unharness Lothario. The “helper” wore a sheepish air, and tried to evade his employer’s questions.
“She said she'd, take the responsibility,” was all Joe would say. “Who? Why Sa— I mean Miss Green. She had her mind set an’ I couldn’t argue with her! you know, boss, nobody can! Anyway,” he added hopefully, “that ole lady that lives by Mrs. Corn wants a quart from us every day after this.”
Gaining no further information, Darius went into the house. Even the felines did not give him the pleasure they used to. They lapped their milk as if quite unconcerned that their master had been absent. Perhaps Sally was right when she said cats had no real affection.
In the early evening he called at the Green house. Perceiving that something was on his mind, Sally suggested a walk. Darius determined, however, not to mention what had happened to him. She would merely laugh at his ruined romance. But Sally herself brought up the subject.
“Back from your travels, Dri?” she said, swinging the gate to behind them. “Been seeking your fortune at the rainbow’s end? But you don’t look happy”— in a gentler tone. “Where have you been?” The girl put her hand on his arm—a soft pressure.
At that he told her everything. At length Sally spoke.
“As I thought,” she said, “Hi Smith’s nothing but a shark. But it was clever of you, Dri, to bring back Mr. Small’s check. When you give it to him, he won’t be able to do enough in your favor—in a business way of course. And you’ll not be pushed any more by the Smiths. From what I know of poor old Si he’ll cave-in when he hears about his brother. You need only to say the word—”
At this point Darius set his jaw. He meant simply to hand back the check to old Small, he said, and not speak of the affair to Si Smith. He wasn’t the kind, he intimated, to jump on a fellow when he was down. “Besides it would look like blackmail.”
“Oh, pshaw,” said Sally; “merely use a little diplomacy; now that you’re able to hand him the ‘black spot.’ ”
“The what7” he stammered.
“Why, that funny black piece of paper, like the pirates gave their victims. Don’t you know? I thought you read Treasure Island.”
So Sally had been reading his book! She told him what she had been doing the day before. After an early breakfast she took a pot of jelly to an old lady friend of her mother’s who was laid up. Returning past the Doolittle place she saw Joe Parks drive in; he told her he had seen his boss off to “furrin parts.” On her inquiring about the cats, Joe invited her in to see ’em.
While Joe was loading up with milkbottles the girl decided. She ordered Joe to take two kittens and give one to old Mrs. Moon, the other to Mrs. Corn. She then told him if he heard a rumor that his boss had gone to the city to collect a $1,000 prize one of his cats had won, he wasn’t to deny it.
JOE PARKS did not show up next morning. When paying him the night before, Darius remembered, he had murmured something about knowing a good bootlegger. Yet the “rounds” must be taken. Before leaving, Darius happened to notice the kittens playing about. Might as well try to get ’em a home, he thought, before they starved. Accordingly Continued on page 56
Continued from page 5b he took a couple and presented them to two women customers.
“Much obliged, Mr. Doolittle,” said the second lady, “is this a relation of the kitty that won the thousand dollar prize?”
The milkman’s disavowal drew forth a tolerant smile.
Slowly driving home in the afternoon a design formed in his mind. At his lonely supper it took shape; he would see Sally that very night. Tell her just how he stood. Be honest. Then propose marriage. She’d know he was sincere—really loved her.
With her as an impetus he could really “make good.” He would work his fingers to the bone. For her sake! He would try. He shaved so carefully that he almost cut himself; chose a clean collar; brushed his clothes; shined his shoes. As an afterthought he picked a yellow daisy and stuck it in his buttonhole. Just then, the gate opening, Joe Parks wavered in, plainly the worse for wear.
His employer came to the point. “You’ve been drinking white mule; I can smell. As you didn’t turn up to-day you’ve got to put in extra time. Get busy and wash that wagon.”
“I don’t feel like work to-night.” Joe’s tone was sullen.
Darius shot out his jaw. “You hear what I said° When I get back I want to find that wagon washed. See! Now get to it; make it snappy!”
Joe’s spirits fled. “Yessir,” he replied. He shuffled toward the stable, and Darius passing through the gate heard him drawing water from the pump.
Reaching the Green home the young man met his first disappointment. Sally had gone down to the village. Mrs. Green frowned and did not ask him in. “Not exactly cordial,” thought Darius, who therefore said he would step along and meet the girl coming hack.
Main Street was still bright—that is for Main Street—and after a seemingly long wait Darius spied Sally’s familiar figure. She was talking earnestly to his competitor, Si Smith. They turned into the drugstore, where through the window the watcher saw them enter the ice-cream parlor at the rear. What did it mean? He didn’t know how long he waited.
Suddenly the man and the girl came out. Darius heard Sally murmur good-
night—she had enjoyed the ice-cream. Si. walked away.
Darius resolved to let her pass. He wouldn’t butt in. But Sally’s bright eyes saw him.
“Hello, Dri,” she laughed. “Come out of that shadow and take off those whiskers. I know you.”
He had a wild desire to spring upon her. seize her in his arms, cover her mouth with kisses, kiss her white throat. But, “I was jes’ passin’.” was all he said; “can 1 see you home, Sally?”
She laughed again. Then as they slowly walked homeward she told him she had just been to Si Smith’s office off Main Street. On telling him what Darius knew about his brother, he seemed much upset.
“He hadn’t realized that Hiram was really a crook.” she said. “He was scared, too; till I let him understand, Dri, that you wouldn’t give them away.”
But Sally made a suggestion: Why did not the two milk-dealers combine, keeping to the name: “Doolittle & Co.”? Mr. Smith, wishing to be polite, and show agreement, had invited his visitor to have ice-cream.
A wave of relief surged in Darius. His dreams seemed to be coming true.
“It’s a great idea, Sally,” her companion assented. “Si knows the routes and he’d make a good partner.”
There was more he wanted to say. The moonlight, streaming past the treebranches, thrilled his heart. Now he felt was the time to put his thoughts into speech. But when his words came they did not seem romantic; they sounded commonplace. He merely said he was thinking of selling his old house and buying a brick one in the new residential section.
“Oh,” the girl put her hand to her throat. “Sell your dear old place! Why?”
“I. didn’t know you cared for it.” Darius gripped his new-found ambition.
“Me?”—her voiced hinged uncertainly. —“What have I to do with it?”
“Well,” he strove to peer under her eyelids which seemed to veil richer gems than any buried treasure, “it’s hardly fit for you to live in.” Then the light in her eyes braced his courage. He put his arms around her waist.
“For you to live in”, he finished, “when we’re married, Sally.”