« AnteriorContinuar »
to have heard her. She would have made you shiver. Sbe said she could never think of such a thing, that Gussie is too young in the first place, and doesn't know her own mind, and she will not entertain the subject for three or four years at least,—which in the old lady's lingo means never.
Robert. Poor fellow. I don't wonder you feel badly.
HORACE. So, I have made up my mind. You remember Tom Brightly who went to Colorado, don't you? Well, his uncle, or cousin, or somebody, has a big sheep-ranch out there. Tom has an interest in the concern aud he wants me to come out and help him. I'm first choice, but there's another fellow he knows who is ready to snap at the chance if I don't accept. I received a dispatch from Tom to-day; he wanted an immediate answer, and I have just replied, “yes.” So, I've come here this evening to kiss Gussie good-bye. Then I'll go home, pack my duds, and be ready to leave Hopewood on the five-fifteen train to-morrow morning. I might as well bid you good-bye too, old fellow, for a little while, maybe a year or so, may be forever.
ROBERT. O Hod! Haven't you been in too much of a hurry? Why, just think of Gussie. It will break her heart.
HORACE. What good would it do her if I was to stay here. The old lady would never let me see her.
Robert. I know, but she might be induced to alter her decision (putting hand on Horace's shoulder). Oh, my
dear fellow! You don't know how sorry I feel for you. This news has clouded my spiritɛ; it makes me feel mean and selfish to be happy when you are so miserable. Is there anything I can do for you? Just say the word. I will hunt the girls up, and if I see Gussie, shall I send her to you?
HORACE. Yes,-no. I can't stay here. Tell her she may tind me in the garden. I'm going down to cool off.
ROBERT. Very well. (Goes to door but returns and bends over Horace.) Keep up a good heart. Who knows what may turn up next?
[Erit. HORACE. Lucky dog! How singular it is. He has had everything to go right with him from his cradle, but for me it has just been the reverse. Well, I suppose it is fate. Enter Elsie carrying a pasteboard box which she lays on table.
Elsie. Why, Horace! I didn't know you were here. Does Gussie know?
HORACE. No. Where is she?
EISIE. Up in her room, I think, lying down. She went out for a walk this afternoon and returned tired out. (Goes towards door.) I'll tell her you are here, and she will be down in a second.
HORACE. No, don't disturb her. I'll walk around the garden for a while. When you see her tell her I'm going away and would like to speak with her. If she can't come down, tell her to go to the window and wave her handkerchief. Then I'll climb up the trellis and talk to her on the veranda.
Elsie. Oh, Horace, that would be dreadful. Suppose auntie should get to hear of it. But it would be fun,-just like Romeo and Juliet. Anyhow if you do, besure you don't step on my pansies; they are directly under the arbor. Mind, if anything happens to them, I'll never speak to you again as long as I live. HORACE. I'll be careful.
[Erit. ELSIE. Poor fellow, he looks awfully down-hearted. Could auntie have been lecturing him when I saw them together this afternoon? I wonder what is the matter with his face, it's all black and blue. (Goes to table.) I am alone at last. Now for a peep at dear, darling –(Enter Gussie.) Why Gussie, how you startled me! Horace Duckworth was here just now. He is going away, and wants to see you. I think he has said something to auntie about you know what, and she has objected.
GUSSIE. Oh, dear! where is he?
ELSIE. He has gone down in the garden, and when you are ready to see him you are to go to the window, and wave your handkerchief.
Gussie. What can be the matter ? (Rushes to window, waves handkerchief, and calls softly “Horace.") Why, no, Elsie! he is not there. Are you positive that is what he told you ?
Elsie. That is exactly what he said. You had better try it again in fifteen minutes or so. But come here, Gussie. I have something to show you. It's a secret, - but you may guess. What do you suppose is in this box?
GUSSIE. I don't know. Ruching?
Elsie (with disgust). No. To-day is Robert's birthday, and this is my present for bim.
GUSSIE. Let me see it. You have raised my curiosity.
Guasil (peeping in box). Why it's a cat!
Elsie. Yes, listen and I will tell you. Late one evening, about two weeks ago, I was walking along the pike, when I saw something curled up in the root of a tree. At first, I thought it was a squirrel, but when I came up close, I found it was a poor, sick little kitten. It looked at me so svieet and piteous that I fell in love with it. Then this idea suggested itself to my mind. Suppose I take this kitten, fatten ber up, and give her to Robert for a birthday present. I had nothing else to give him but a miserable old glove-box which I knew would look awful mean in me when he is sure to give me something nice and expensive on my birthday. So, I wrapped Kitty up in my handkerchief, and took her over to Mrs. O'Flanagan, who has nursed her and brought her to. This afternoon I tied a red ribbon around her neck, and had Mike put her in this box. I intend to hand it to Robert, and ask him to take off the lid. Wont it be fun ?
GUSSIE. Ye-es, but are you sure he will like her? You know men don't usually care for cats.
Elsie. Of course he will. Why, he loves them. He has often told me he thinks they are too cute for anything. I have given her a lovely name,- Rosalind. Don't you like it?
GUSSIE. “As You Like It.”
Gresie (sarcastically). Very. (Peeps in box.) My! how savagely she glares at us!
Eisie. Well, no wonder. She don't like to be tied up in a box. Poor little pussy, tied up in a nassy old box. Never mind, it wont be long. Why, Gussie, you don't know how bright she is. Only yesterday I was feeding her, and she scratched my band till it bled.
GUSSIE. The dear little thing! Gracious, how her bones stick out!
Elsie. Well if you had been gick, like her, I want to know if your—but, Gussie, I think it's very unkind in you to talk in that style about a poor, unfortunate, little kitten.
Gussie. I don't see how you can touch it. (Waves hand in mock disgust.) Throw it away! Throw it away!
Elsie. You are a mean, spiteful, little wretch. (Begins to cry.)
GUSSIE (going up to Elsie, and putting arm around her waist). Now you know I was only in fun. I didn't intend to hurt your feelings. Kitty is lovely, and your idea is a splendid one,but it wont do to let auntie know anything about it. Yuu know she has a mortal hatred of cats.
ELSIE. Has she? I didn't think
GUSSIE. Yes, indeed. She wont allow one on the place; she would never let me have even a kitten. One day I was walking with her in the lane; a cat ran up to us, and auntie almost fainted. She has some unaccountable prejudice against them.
ELSIE. Don't you think she would like Rosalind ?
GUSSIE. Sh-h-h! Enter Miss Barker. Elsie hastily drops the lid of box, covers it up
with newspaper. Girls run up to Miss B., one on each side. GUSSIE. Oh, auntie! is it true you have sent Horace away? Eisie. Oh, auntie! is it true you don't like cats ?
Miss B. Slowly, my dears, I can answer only one question at a time. (Sits down on chair towards front of stage. The girls bring stools and sit on either side of her.)
Miss B. (to Gussie.) Yes, my dear. It is true I have sent Horace away. Now, don't cry. Auntie knows best what is for your good. Horace Duckworth is too unsettled, too thoughtless, too frivolous to make any girl happy. (Aside.) Such neckties! (aloud.) Besides, his reputation is not the best.
GUSSIE. Oh, auntie, you are alluding to that affair at Cripp's Corner. Indeed, he was not to blame. The man insulted him, and he knocked him down. He explained it all to me.
Miss B. (drily.) Oh! no doubt. Well, my answer was not final. I simply told him I could not think of his proposal for three or four years at least. This will give him a chance to better his fortune and his reputation.
Gussie (tearfully). Oh, dear! He will marry some other girl, out of pique,-I know he will.
Miss B. (to Gussie.) Then so much the worse for him. (To Elsie.) Yes, my dear, it is true I have a strong aversion to cats. When your age--yes, just about your age, I suffered a terrible shock and a cruel disappointment from which, to this day, I have never fully recovered. A cat was the cause. Poor creature! I have since learned she was not to blame, but from ihat time, I have always associated cats and heartbreak.
GUSSIE. Was the incident you refer to in any way con. gected with a young man?
Miss B. (afler a pause.) Yes.
} (excitedly). Oh, auntie! tell us about it. ELSIE
Miss B. My dear girls! I am afraid you will think I am a very silly, old auntie to rehearse this story of my maidenhood. But since you ask me, I will make you my confidants. When I was a young girl of nineteen or twenty, I was tbe recipient of marked attention from many of the young gentlemen of the vicinity and elsewhere. In a word, I was quite a pelle. But, of all those who called upon me, there was only one I really cared for. He was a young physician who had just received his diploma from the College of Surgery. What a model he was! where could such a man be found now?-an expert horseman, sportsman, and angler, yet an accomplished dancer and conversationalist. What compliments he used to pay me! what language he used! Alas, there is but one name I could place beside his! (Looks at Elsie.) I refer to Robert Duckworth, but even Robert, highly as I regard him, has not the supreme courtesy, the exquisite delicacy, the consummate finish possessed by—(Elsie and Gussie lean forward eagerly.) this young man. Well, his visits became more and more frequent, my parents fully approved of the courtship, and the hour grew ripe for his proposal. One day he asked me to take a walk in the garden. We had not gone far when he requested me to sit down on a bench placed against the wall which separated us from the road. I could see by his face what was coming, and composed myself in delicious expectancy. He dropped on his knees. Just at this juncture-oh, heavens! I can hear it as plainly now as then-my ears caught the frightened howl of a cat. Then, quick as a flash, the vile creature came bounding over the wall, directly upon my head. I felt its feet catch in my hair; I felt its slimy fur rub against my cheek,—and I knew
I fainted stark on the grass. When I recovered, I was in my room; the shock had completely prostrated me, and I did not lea my bed for a week. He called several times, but I refused to see him.
GUSSIE. Oh, auntie! that was foolish. Why, he was not to blame. Miss B. Of course not, but I have not yet told you
the worst. Here was my wretched predicament. You know,