About five o'clock that afternoon Ephraim was sitting in his shirt-sleeves by
the window of his room, and Cynthia was reading aloud to him an article (about
the war, of course) from a Washington paper, which his friend, Mr. Beard, had
sent him. There was a knock at the door, and Cynthia opened it to discover a
colored hall-boy with a roll in his hand.
"Mistah Ephum Prescott?" he said.
"Yes," answered Ephraim, "that's me."
Cynthia shut the door and gave him the roll, but Ephraim took it as though he
were afraid of its contents.
"Guess it's some of them war records from Amasy," he said.
"Oh, Cousin Eph," exclaimed Cynthia, excitedly, "why don't you open it? If
you don't I will."
"Guess you'd better, Cynthy," and he held it out to her with a trembling
Cynthia did open it, and drew out a large document with seals and printing
"Cousin Eph," she cried, holding it under his nose, "Cousin Eph, you're
postmaster of Brampton!"
Ephraim looked at the paper, but his eyes swam, and he could only make out a
dancing, bronze seal.
"I want to know!" he exclaimed. "Fetch Jethro."
But Cynthia had already flown on that errand. Curiously enough, she ran into
Jethro in the hall immediately outside of Ephraim's door. Ephraim got to his
feet; it was very difficult for him to realize that his troubles were ended,
that he was to earn his living at last. He looked at Jethro, and his eyes filled
with tears. "I guess I can't thank you as I'd ought to, Jethro," he said,
"leastways, not now."
"I'll thank him for you, Cousin Eph," said Cynthia. And she did.
"D-don't thank me," said Jethro, "I didn't have much to do with it, Eph.
Thank the President."
Ephraim did thank the President, in one of the most remarkable letters, from
a literary point of view, ever received at the White House. For the art of
literature largely consists in belief in what one is writing, and Ephraim's
letter had this quality of sincerity, and no lack of vividness as well. He spent
most of the evening in composing it.
Cynthia, too, had received a letter that day—a letter which she had read
several times, now with a smile, and again with a pucker of the forehead which
was meant for a frown. "Dear Cynthia," it said. "Where do you keep yourself? I
am sure you would not be so cruel if you knew that I was aching to see you."
Aching! Cynthia repeated the word, and remembered the glimpse she had had of him
in the dining room with Miss Janet Duncan. "Whenever I have been free" (Cynthia
repeated this also, somewhat ironically, although she conceded it the merit of
frankness), "Whenever I have been free, I have haunted the corridors for a sight
of you. Think of me as haunting the hotel desk for an answer to this, telling me
when I can see you—and where. P.S. I shall be around all evening." And it was
signed, "Your friend and playmate, R. Worthington."
It is a fact—not generally known—that Cynthia did answer the letter—twice.
But she sent neither answer. Even at that age she was given to reflection, and
much as she may have approved of the spirit of the letter, she liked the tone of
it less. Cynthia did not know a great deal of the world, it is true, but the
felt instinctively that something was wrong when Bob resorted to such means of
communication. And she was positively relieved, or thought that she was, when
she went down to supper and discovered that the table in the corner was empty.
After supper Ephraim had his letter to write, and Jethro wished to sit in the
corridor. But Cynthia had learned that the corridor was not the place for a
girl, so she explained—to Jethro that he would find her in the parlor if he
wanted her, and that she was going there to read. That parlor Cynthia thought a
handsome room, with its high windows and lace curtains, its long mirrors and
marble-topped tables. She established herself under a light, on a sofa in one
corner, and sat, with the book on her lap watching the people who came and went.
She had that delicious sensation which comes to the young when they first
travel—the sensation of being a part of the great world; and she wished that she
knew these people, and which were the great, and which the little ones. Some of
them looked at her intently, she thought too intently, and at such times she
pretended to read. She was aroused by hearing some one saying:—"Isn't this Miss
Cynthia looked up and caught her breath, for the young lady who had spoken
was none other than Miss Janet Duncan herself. Seen thus startlingly at close
range, Miss Duncan was not at all like what Cynthia had expected—but then most
people are not. Janet Duncan was, in fact, one of those strange persons who do
not realize the picture which their names summon up. She was undoubtedly
good-looking; her hair, of a more golden red than her brother's, was really
wonderful; her neck was slender; and she had a strange, dreamy face that
fascinated Cynthia, who had never seen anything like it.
She put down her book on the sofa and got up, not without a little tremor at
this unexpected encounter.
"Yes, I'm Cynthia Wetherell," she replied.
To add to her embarrassment, Miss Duncan seized both her hands impulsively
and gazed into her face.
"You're really very beautiful," she said. "Do you know it?"
Cynthia's only answer to this was a blush. She wondered if all city girls
were like Miss Duncan.
"I was determined to come up and speak to you the first chance I had," Janet
continued. "I've been making up stories about you."
"Stories!" exclaimed Cynthia, drawing away her hands.
"Romances," said Miss Duncan—"real romances. Sometimes I think I'm going to
be a novelist, because I'm always weaving stories about people that I see people
who interest me, I mean. And you look as if you might be the heroine of a
Cynthia's breath was now quite taken away.
"Oh," she said, "I—had never thought that I looked like that."
"But you do," said Miss Duncan; "you've got all sorts of possibilities in
your face—you look as if you might have lived for ages."
"As old as that?" exclaimed Cynthia, really startled.
"Perhaps I don't express myself very well" said the other, hastily; "I wish
you could see what I've written about you already. I can do it so much better
with pen and ink. I've started quite a romance already."
"What is it?" asked Cynthia, not without interest.
"Sit down on the sofa and I'll tell you," said Miss Duncan; "I've done it all
from your face, too. I've made you a very poor girl brought up by peasants, only
you are really of a great family, although nobody knows it. A rich duke sees you
one day when he is hunting and falls in love with you, and you have to stand a
lot of suffering and persecution because of it, and say nothing. I believe you
could do that," added Janet, looking critically at Cynthia's face.
"I suppose I could if I had to," said Cynthia, "but I shouldn't like it."
"Oh, it would do you good," said Janet; "it would ennoble your character. Not
that it needs it," she added hastily. "And I could write another story about
that quaint old man who paid the musicians to go away, and who made us all laugh
Cynthia's eye kindled.
"Mr. Bass isn't a quaint old man," she said; "he's the greatest man in the
Miss Duncan's patronage had been of an unconscious kind. She knew that she
had offended, but did not quite realize how.
"I'm so sorry," she cried, "I didn't mean to hurt you. You live with him,
"Yes," replied Cynthia, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.
"I've heard about Coniston. It must be quite a romance in itself to live all
the year round in such a beautiful place and to make your own clothes. Yours
become you very well," said Miss Duncan, "although I don't know why. They're not
at all in style, and yet they give you quite an air of distinction. I wish I
could live in Coniston for a year, anyway, and write a book about you. My
brother and Bob Worthington went out there one night and serenaded you, didn't
"Yes," said Cynthia, that peculiar flash coming into her eyes again, "and I
think it was very foolish of them."
"Do you?" exclaimed Miss Duncan, in surprise; "I wish somebody would serenade
me. I think it was the most romantic thing Bob ever did. He's wild about you,
and so is Somers they have both told me so in confidence."
Cynthia's face was naturally burning now.
"If it were true," she said, "they wouldn't have told you about it."
"I suppose that's so," said Miss Duncan, thoughtfully, "only you're very
clever to have seen it. Now that I know you, I think you a more remarkable
person than ever. You don't seem at all like a country girl, and you don't talk
Cynthia laughed outright. She could not help liking Janet Duncan, mere flesh
and blood not being proof against such compliments.
"I suppose it's because my father was an educated man," she said; "he taught
me to read and speak when I was young."
"Why, you are just like a person out of a novel! Who was your father?"
"He kept the store at Coniston," answered Cynthia, smiling a little sadly.
She would have liked to have added that William Wetherell would have been a
great man if he had had health, but she found it difficult to give out
confidences, especially when they were in the nature of surmises.
"Well," said Janet, stoutly, "I think that is more like a story than ever. Do
you know," she continued, "I saw you once at the state capital outside of our
grounds the day Bob ran after you. That was when I was in love with him. We had
just come back from Europe then, and I thought he was the most wonderful person
I had ever seen."
If Cynthia had felt any emotion from this disclosure, she did not betray it.
Janet, moreover, was not looking for it.
"What made you change your mind?" asked Cynthia, biting her lip.
"Oh, Bob hasn't the temperament," said Janet, making use of a word that she
had just discovered; "he's too practical—he never does or says the things you
want him to. He's just been out West with us on a trip, and he was always
looking at locomotives and brakes and grades and bridges and all such tiresome
things. I should like to marry a poet," said Miss Duncan, dreamily; "I know they
want me to marry Bob, and Mr. Worthington wants it. I'm sure, of that. But he
wouldn't at all suit me."
If Cynthia had been able to exercise an equal freedom of speech, she might
have been impelled to inquire what young Mr. Worthington's views were in the
matter. As it was, she could think of nothing appropriate to say, and just then
four people entered the room and came towards them. Two of these were Janet's
mother and father, and the other two were Mr. Worthington, the elder, and the
Honorable Heth Sutton. Mrs. Duncan, whom Janet did not at all resemble was a
person who naturally commanded attention. She had strong features, and a very
decided, though not disagreeable, manner.
"I couldn't imagine what had become of you, Janet," she said, coming forward
and throwing off her lace shawl. "Whom have you found—a school friend?"
"No, Mamma," said Janet, "this is Cynthia Wetherell." "Oh," said Mrs. Duncan,
looking very hard at Cynthia in a near-sighted way, and, not knowing in the
least who she was; "you haven't seen Senator and Mrs. Meade, have you, Janet?
They were to be here at eight o'clock."
"No," said Janet, turning again to Cynthia and scarcely hearing the question.
"Janet hasn't seen them, Dudley," said Mrs. Duncan, going up to Mr.
Worthington, who was pulling his chop whiskers by the door. "Janet has
discovered such a beautiful creature," she went on, in a voice which she did not
take the trouble to lower. "Do look at her, Alexander. And you, Mr. Sutton—who
are such a bureau of useful information, do tell me who she is. Perhaps she
comes from your part of the country—her name's Wetherell."
"Wetherell? Why, of course I know her," said Mr. Sutton, who was greatly
pleased because Mrs. Duncan had likened him to an almanac: greatly pleased this
evening in every respect, and even the diamond in his bosom seemed to glow with
a brighter fire. He could afford to be generous to-night, and he turned to Mr.
Worthington and laughed knowingly. "She's the ward of our friend Jethro," he
"What is she?" demanded Mrs. Duncan, who knew and cared nothing about
politics, "a country girl, I suppose."
"Yes," replied Mr. Sutton, "a country girl from a little village not far from
Clovelly. A good girl, I believe, in spite of the atmosphere in which she has
"It's really wonderful, Mr. Sutton, how you seem to know every one in your
district, including the women and children," said the lady; "but I suppose you
wouldn't be where you are if you didn't."
The Honorable Heth cleared his throat.
"Wetherell," Mr. Duncan was saying, staring at Cynthia through his
spectacles, "where have I heard that name?"
He must suddenly have remembered, and recalled also that he and his ally
Worthington had been on opposite sides in the Woodchuck Session, for he sat down
abruptly beside the door, and remained there for a while. For Mr. Duncan had
never believed Mr. Merrill's explanation concerning poor William Wetherell' s
"Pretty, ain't she?" said Mr. Sutton to Mr. Worthington. "Guess she's more
dangerous than Jethro, now that we've clipped his wings a little." The
congressman had heard of Bob's infatuation.
Isaac D. Worthington, however, was in a good humor this evening and was moved
by a certain curiosity to inspect the girl. Though what he had seen and heard of
his son's conduct with her had annoyed him, he did not regard it seriously.
"Aren't you going to speak to your constituent, Mr. Sutton?" said Mrs.
Duncan, who was bored because her friends had not arrived; "a congressman ought
to keep on the right side of the pretty girls, you know."
It hadn't occurred to the Honorable Heth to speak to his constituent. The
ways of Mrs. Duncan sometimes puzzled him, and he could not see why that lady
and her daughter seemed to take more than a passing interest in the girl. But if
they could afford to notice her, certainly he could; so he went forward
graciously and held out his hand to Cynthia; interrupting Miss Duncan in the
middle of a discourse upon her diary.
"How do you do, Cynthia?" said Mr. Sutton. Had he been in Coniston, he would
have said, "How be you?"
Cynthia took the hand, but did not rise, somewhat to Mr. Sutton's annoyance.
A certain respect was due to a member of Congress and the Rajah of Clovelly.
"How do you do, Mr. Sutton?" said Cynthia, very coolly.
"I like her," remarked Mrs. Duncan to Mr. Worthington.
"This is a splendid trip for you, eh, Cynthia?" Mr. Sutton persisted, with a
praiseworthy determination to be pleasant.
"It has turned out to be so, Mr. Sutton," replied Cynthia. This was not
precisely the answer Mr. Sutton expected, and to tell the truth, he didn't know
quite what to make of it.
"A great treat to see Washington and New York, isn't it?" said Mr. Sutton,
kindly, "a great treat for a Coniston girl. I suppose you came through New York
and saw the sights?"
"Is there another way to get to Washington?" asked Cynthia.
Mrs. Duncan nudged Mr. Worthington and drew a little nearer, while Mr. Sutton
began to wish he had not been lured into the conversation. Cynthia had been very
polite, but there was something in the quiet manner in which the girl's eyes
were fixed upon him that made him vaguely uneasy. He could not back out with
dignity, and he felt himself on the verge of becoming voluble. Mr. Sutton prided
himself on never being voluble.
"Why, no," he answered, "we have to go to New York to get anywhere in these
days." There was a slight pause. "Uncle Jethro taking you and Mr. Prescott on a
little pleasure trip?" He had not meant to mention Jethro's name, but he found
himself, to his surprise, a little at a loss for a subject.
"Well, partly a pleasure trip. It's always a pleasure for Uncle Jethro to do
things for others," said Cynthia, quietly, "although people do not always
appreciate what he does for them."
The Honorable Heth coughed. He was now very uncomfortable, indeed. How much
did this astounding young person know, whom he had thought so innocent?
"I didn't discover he was in town until I ran across him in the corridor this
evening. Should have liked to have introduced him to some of the Washington
folks—some of the big men, although not many of 'em are here," Mr. Sutton ran
on, not caring to notice the little points of light in Cynthia's eyes. (The idea
of Mr. Sutton introducing Uncle Jethro to anybody!) "I haven't seen Ephraim
Prescott. It must be a great treat for him, too, to get away on a little trip
and see his army friends. How is he?"
"He's very happy," said Cynthia.
"Happy!" exclaimed Mr. Sutton. "Oh, yes, of course, Ephraim's always happy,
in spite of his troubles and his rheumatism. I always liked Ephraim Prescott."
Cynthia did not answer this remark at all, and Mr. Sutton suspected strongly
that she did not believe it, therefore he repeated it.
"I always liked Ephraim. I want you to tell Jethro that I'm downright sorry I
couldn't get him that Brampton postmastership."
"I'll tell him that you are sorry, Mr. Sutton," replied Cynthia, gravely,
"but I don't think it'll do any good."
Not do any good!—What did the girl mean? Mr. Sutton came to the conclusion
that he had been condescending enough, that somehow he was gaining no merit in
Mrs. Duncan's eyes by this kindness to a constituent. He buttoned up his coat
"I hope you won't misunderstand me, Cynthia," he said. "I regret extremely
that my sense of justice demanded that I should make David Wheelock postmaster
at Brampton, and I have made him so."
It was now Cynthia's turn to be amazed.
"But," she exclaimed, "but Cousin Ephraim is postmaster of Brampton."
Mr. Sutton started violently, and that part of his face not hidden by his
whiskers seemed to pale, and Mr. Worthington, usually self-possessed, took a
step forward and seized him by the arm.
"What does this mean, Sutton?" he said.
Mr. Sutton pulled himself together, and glared at Cynthia.
"I think you are mistaken," said he, "the congressman of the district usually
arranges these matters, and the appointment will be sent to Mr. Wheelock
"But Cousin Ephraim already has the appointment," said Cynthia; "it was sent
to him this afternoon, and he is up in his room now writing to thank the
President for it."
"What in the world's the matter?" cried Mrs. Duncan, in astonishment.
Cynthia's simple announcement had indeed caused something of a panic among
the gentlemen present. Mr. Duncan had jumped up from his seat beside the door,
and Mr. Worthington, his face anything but impassive, tightened his hold on the
"Good God, Sutton!" he exclaimed, "can this be true?"
As for Cynthia, she was no less astonished than Mrs. Duncan by the fact that
these rich and powerful gentlemen were so excited over a little thing like the
postmastership of Brampton. But Mr. Sutton laughed; it was not hearty, but still
it might have passed muster for a laugh.
"Nonsense," he exclaimed, making a fair attempt to regain his composure, "the
girl's got it mixed up with something else—she doesn't know what she's talking
Mrs. Duncan thought the girl did look uncommonly as if she knew what she was
talking about, and Mr. Duncan and Mr. Worthington had some such impression, too,
as they stared at her. Cynthia's eyes flashed, but her voice was no louder than
"I am used to being believed, Mr. Sutton," she said, "but here's Uncle Jethro
himself. You might ask him."
They all turned in amazement, and one, at least, in trepidation, to perceive
Jethro Bass standing behind them with his hands in his pockets, as unconcerned
as though he were under the butternut tree in Coniston.
"How be you, Heth?" he said. "Er—still got that appointment p-practically in
"Uncle Jethro," said Cynthia, "Mr. Sutton does not believe me when I tell him
that Cousin Ephraim has been made postmaster of Brampton. He would like to have
you tell him whether it is so or not."
But this, as it happened, was exactly what the Honorable Heth did not want to
have Jethro tell him. How he got out of the parlor of the Willard House he has
not to this day a very clear idea. As a matter of fact, he followed Mr.
Worthington and Mr. Duncan, and they made their exit by the farther door. Jethro
did not appear to take any notice of their departure.
"Janet," said Mrs. Duncan, "I think Senator and Mrs. Meade must have gone to
our sitting room." Then, to Cynthia's surprise, the lady took her by the hand.
"I can't imagine what you've done, my dear," she said pleasantly, "but I believe
that you are capable of taking care of yourself, and I like you."
Thus it will be seen that Mrs. Duncan was an independent person. Sometimes
heiresses are apt to be.
"And I like you, too," said Janet, taking both of Cynthia's hands, "and I
hope to see you very, very often."
Jethro looked after them.
"Er—the women folks seem to have some sense," he said. Then he turned to
Cynthia. "B-be'n havin' some fun with Heth, Cynthy?" he inquired.
"I haven't any respect for Mr. Sutton," said Cynthia, indignantly; "it serves
him right for presuming to think that he could give a post-office to any one."
Jethro made no remark concerning this presumption on the part of the
congressman of the district. Cynthia's indignation against Mr. Sutton was very
real, and it was some time before she could compose herself sufficiently to tell
Jethro what had happened. His enjoyment as he listened may be imagined but
presently he forgot this, and became aware that something really troubled her.
"Uncle Jethro," she asked suddenly, "why do they treat me as they do?"
He did not answer at once. This was because of a pain around his heart—had
she known it. He had felt that pain before.
"H-how do they treat you, Cynthy?"
She hesitated. She had not yet learned to use the word patronize in the
social sense, and she was at a loss to describe the attitude of Mrs. Duncan and
her daughter, though her instinct had registered it. She was at a loss to
account for Mr. Worthington's attitude, too. Mr. Sutton's she bitterly resented.
"Are they your enemies?" she demanded.
Jethro was in real distress.
"If they are," she continued, "I won't speak to them again. If they can't
treat me as—as your daughter ought to be treated, I'll turn my back on them. I
am—I am just like your daughter—am I not, Uncle Jethro?"
He put out his hand and seized hers roughly, and his voice was thick with
"Yes, Cynthy," he said, "you—you're all I've got in the world."
She squeezed his hand in return.
"I know it, Uncle Jethro," she cried contritely, "I oughtn't to have troubled
you by asking. You—you have done everything for me, much more than I deserve.
And I shan't be hurt after this when people are too small to appreciate how good
you are, and how great."
The pain tightened about Jethro's heart—tightened so sharply that he could
not speak, and scarcely breathe because of it. Cynthia picked up her novel, and
set the bookmark.
"Now that Cousin Eph is provided for, let's go back to Coniston, Uncle
Jethro." A sudden longing was upon her for the peaceful life in the shelter of
the great ridge, and she thought of the village maples all red and gold with the
magic touch of the frosts. "Not that I haven't enjoyed my trip," she added; "but
we are so happy there."
He did not look at her, because he was afraid to.
"C-Cynthy," he said, after a little pause, "th-thought we'd go to Boston."
"Boston, Uncle Jethro!"
"Er—to-morrow—at one—to-morrow—like to go to Boston?"
"Yes," she said thoughtfully, "I remember parts of it. The Common, where I
used to walk with Daddy, and the funny old streets that went uphill. It will be
nice to go back to Coniston that way—over Truro Pass in the train."
That night a piece of news flashed over the wires to New England, and the
next morning a small item appeared in the Newcastle Guardian to the effect that
one Ephraim Prescott had bean appointed postmaster at Brampton. Copied in the
local papers of the state, it caused some surprise in Brampton, to be sure, and
excitement in Coniston. Perhaps there were but a dozen men, however, who saw its
real significance, who knew through this item that Jethro Bass was still
supreme—that the railroads had failed to carry this first position in their war
It was with a light heart the next morning that Cynthia, packed the little
leather trunk which had been her father's. Ephraim was in the corridor regaling
his friend, Mr. Beard, with that wonderful encounter with General Grant which
sounded so much like a Fifth Reader anecdote of a chance meeting with royalty.
Jethro's room was full of visiting politicians. So Cynthia, when she had
finished her packing, went out to walk about the streets alone, scanning the
people who passed her, looking at the big houses, and wondering who lived in
them. Presently she found herself, in the middle of the morning, seated on a
bench in a little park, surrounded by colored mammies and children playing in
the paths. It seemed a long time since she had left the hills, and this glimpse
of cities had given her many things to think and dream about. Would she always
live in Coniston? Or was her future to be cast among those who moved in the
world and helped to sway it? Cynthia felt that she was to be of these, though
she could not reason why, and she told herself that the feeling was foolish.
Perhaps it was that she knew in the bottom of her heart that she had been given
a spirit and intelligence to cope with a larger life than that of Coniston. With
a sense that such imaginings were vain, she tried to think what the would do if
she were to become a great lady like Mrs. Duncan.
She was aroused from these reflections by a distant glimpse, through the
trees, of Mr. Robert Worthington. He was standing quite alone on the edge of the
park, his hands in his pockets, staring at the White House. Cynthia half rose,
and then sat down and looked at him again. He wore a light gray, loose-fitting
suit and a straw hat, and she could not but acknowledge that there was something
stalwart and clean and altogether appealing in him. She wondered, indeed, why he
now failed to appeal to Miss Duncan, and she began to doubt the sincerity of
that young lady's statements. Bob certainly was not romantic, but he was a
man—or would be very soon.
Cynthia sat still, although her impulse was to go away. She scarcely analyzed
her feeling of wishing to avoid him. It may not be well, indeed, to analyze them
on paper too closely. She had an instinct that only pain could come from
frequent meetings, and she knew now what but a week ago was a surmise, that he
belonged to the world of which she had been dreaming—Mrs. Duncan's world. Again,
there was that mysterious barrier between them of which she had seen so many
evidences. And yet she sat still on her bench and looked at him.
Presently he turned, slowly, as if her eyes had compelled his. She sat
still—it was too late, then. In less than a minute he was standing beside her,
looking down at her with a smile that had in it a touch of reproach.
"How do you do, Mr. Worthington?" said Cynthia, quietly.
"Mr. Worthington!" he cried, "you haven't called me that before. We are not
children any more," she said.
"What difference does that make?"
"A great deal," said Cynthia, not caring to define it.
"Cynthia," said Mr. Worthington, sitting down on the beach and facing her,
"do you think you've treated me just right?"
"Of course I do," she said, "or I should have treated you differently."
Bob ignored such quibbling.
"Why did you run away from that baseball game in Brampton? And why couldn't
you have answered my letter yesterday, if it were only a line? And why have you
avoided me here in Washington?"
It is very difficult to answer for another questions which one cannot answer
for one's self.
"I haven't avoided you," said Cynthia.
"I've been looking for you all over town this morning," said Bob, with
pardonable exaggeration, "and I believe that idiot Somers has, too."
"Then why should you call him an idiot?" Cynthia flashed.
"How you do catch a fellow up!" said he; admiringly. "We both found out you'd
gone out for a walk alone."
"How did you find it out?"
"Well," said Bob, hesitating, "we asked the colored doorkeeper."
"Mr. Worthington," said Cynthia, with an indignation that made him quail, "do
you think it right to ask a doorkeeper to spy on my movements?"
"I'm sorry, Cynthia," he gasped, "I—I didn't think of it that way—and he
won't tell. Desperate cases require desperate remedies, you know."
But Cynthia was not appeased.
"If you wanted to see me," she said, "why didn't you send your card to my
room, and I would have come to the parlor."
"But I did send a note, and waited around all day."
How was she to tell him that it was to the tone of the note she objected—to
the hint of a clandestine meeting? She turned the light of her eyes full upon
"Would you have been content to see me in the parlor?" she asked. "Did you
mean to see me there?"
"Why, yes," said he; "I would have given my head to see you anywhere, only—"
"Duncan might have came in and spoiled it."
"Look here, Cynthia," he said, "you're not stupid—far from it. Of course you
know a fellow would rather talk to you alone."
"I should have been very glad to have seen Mr. Duncan, too."
"You would, would you!" he exclaimed. "I shouldn't have thought that."
"Isn't he your friend?" asked Cynthia.
"Oh, yes," said Bob, "and one of the best in the world. Only—I shouldn't have
thought you'd care to talk to him." And he looked around for fear the vigilant
Mr. Duncan was already in the park and had discovered them. Cynthia smiled, and
immediately became grave again.
"So it was only on Mr. Duncan's account that you didn't ask me to come down
to the parlor?" she said.
Bob was in a quandary. He was a truthful person, and he had learned something
of the world through his three years at Cambridge. He had seen many young women,
and many kinds of them. But the girl beside him was such a mixture of innocence
and astuteness that he was wholly at a loss how to deal with her—how to parry
her searching questions.
"Naturally—I wanted to have you all to myself," he said; "you ought to know
Cynthia did not commit herself on this point. She wished to go mercilessly to
the root of the matter, but the notion of what this would imply prevented her.
Bob took advantage of her silence.
"Everybody who sees you falls a victim, Cynthia," he went on; "Mrs. Duncan
and Janet lost their hearts. You ought to have heard them praising you at
breakfast." He paused abruptly, thinking of the rest of that conversation, and
laughed. Bob seemed fated to commit himself that day. "I heard the way you
handled Heth Sutton," he said, plunging in. "I'll bet he felt as if he'd been
dropped out of the third-story window," and Bob laughed again. "I'd have given a
thousand dollars to have been there. Somers and I went out to supper with a
classmate who lives in Washington, in that house over there," and he pointed
casually to one of the imposing mansions fronting on the park. "Mrs. Duncan said
she'd never heard anybody lay it on the way you did. I don't believe you half
know what happened, Cynthia. You made a ten-strike."
"A ten-strike?" she repeated.
"Well," he said, "you not only laid out Heth, but my father and Mr. Duncan,
too. Mrs. Duncan laughed at 'em—she isn't afraid of anything. But they didn't
say a word all through breakfast. I've never seen my father so mad. He ought to
have known better than to run up against Uncle Jethro."
"How did they run up against Uncle Jethro?" asked Cynthia, now keenly
"Don't you know?" exclaimed Bob, in astonishment.
"No," said Cynthia, "or I shouldn't have asked."
"Didn't Uncle Jethro tell you about it?"
"He never tells me anything about his affairs," she answered.
Bob's astonishment did not wear off at once. Here was a new phase, and he was
very hard put. He had heard, casually, a good deal of abuse of Jethro and his
methods in the last two days.
"Well," he said, "I don't know anything about politics. I don't know myself
why father and Mr. Duncan were so eager for this post-mastership. But they were.
And I heard them say something about the President going back on them when they
had telegraphed from Chicago and come to see him here. And maybe they didn't let
Heth in for it. It seems Uncle Jethro only had to walk up to the White House.
They ought to have sense enough to know that he runs the state. But what's the
use of wasting time over this business?" said Bob. "I told you I was going to
Brampton before the term begins just to see you, didn't I?"
"Yes, but I didn't believe you," said Cynthia.
"Why not?" he demanded.
"Because it's my nature, I suppose," she replied.
This was too much for Bob, exasperated though he was, and he burst into
"You're the queerest girl I've ever known," he said.
Not a very original remark.
"That must be saying a great deal," she answered.
"You must have known many."
"I have," he admitted, "and none of 'em, no matter how much they'd knocked
about, were able to look out for themselves any better than you."
"Not even Cassandra Hopkins?" Cynthia could not resist saying. She saw that
she had scored; his expressions registered his sensations so accurately.
"What do you know about her?" he said.
"Oh," said Cynthia, mysteriously, "I heard that you were very fond of her at
Bob could not help pluming himself a little. He thought the fact that she had
mentioned the matter a flaw in Cynthia's armor, as indeed it was. And yet he was
not proud of the Cassandra Hopkins episode in his career.
"Cassandra is one of the institutions at Andover," said he; "most fellows
have to take a course in Cassandra to complete their education."
"Yours seems to be very complete," Cynthia retorted.
"Great Scott!" he exclaimed, looking at her, "no wonder you made mince-meat
of the Honorable Heth. Where did you learn it all, Cynthia?"
Cynthia did not know. She merely wondered where she would be if she hadn't
learned it. Something told her that if it were not for this anchor she would be
drifting out to sea: might, indeed, soon be drifting out to sea in spite of it.
It was one thing for Mr. Robert Worthington, with his numerous resources, to
amuse himself with a girl in her position; it would be quite another thing for
the girl. She got to her feet and held out her hand to him.
"Good-by," she said.
"We are leaving Washington at one o'clock, and Uncle Jethro will be worried
if I am not in time for dinner."
"Leaving at one! That's the worst luck I've had yet. But I'm going back to
the hotel myself."
Cynthia didn't see how she was to prevent him walking with her. She would not
have admitted to herself that she had enjoyed this encounter, since she was
trying so hard not to enjoy it. So they started together out of the park. Bob,
for a wonder, was silent awhile, glancing now and then at her profile. He knew
that he had a great deal to say, but he couldn't decide exactly what it was to
be. This is often the case with young men in his state of mind: in fact, to be
paradoxical again, he might hardly be said at this time to have had a state of
mind. He lacked both an attitude and a policy.
"If you see Duncan before I do, let me know," he remarked finally.
Cynthia bit her lip. "Why should I?" she asked.
"Because we've only got five minutes more alone together, at best. If we see
him in time, we can go down a side street."
"I think it would be hard to get away from Mr. Duncan if we met him—even if
we wanted to," she said, laughing outright.
"You don't know how true that is," he replied, with feeling.
"That sounds as though you'd tried it before."
He paid no attention to this thrust.
"I shan't see you again till I get to Brampton," he said; "that will be a
whole week. And then," he ventured to look at her, "I shan't see you until the
Christmas holidays. You might be a little kind, Cynthia. You know I've—I've
always thought the world of you. I don't know how I'm going to get through the
three months without seeing you."
"You managed to get through a good many years," said Cynthia, looking at the
"I know," he said; "I was sent away to school and college, and our lives
"Yes, our lives separated," she assented.
"And I didn't know you were going to be like—like this," he went on, vaguely
enough, but with feeling.
"Like—well, I'd rather be with you and talk to you than any girl I ever saw.
I don't care who she is," Bob declared, "or how much she may have traveled." He
was running into deep water. "Why are you so cold, Cynthia?" "Why can't you be
as you used to be? You used to like me well enough."
"And I like you now," answered Cynthia. They were very near the hotel by this
"You talk as if you were ten years older than I," he said, smiling
She stopped and turned to him, smiling. They had reached the steps.
"I believe I am, Bob," she replied. "I haven't seen much of the world, but
I've seen something of its troubles. Don't be foolish. If you're coming to
Brampton just to see me, don't come. Good-by." And she gave him her hand
"But I will come to Brampton," he cried, taking her hand and squeezing it.
"I'd like to know why I shouldn't come."
As Cynthia drew her hand away a gentleman came out of the hotel, paused for a
brief moment by the door and stared at them, and then passed on without a word
or a nod of recognition. It was Mr. Worthington. Bob looked after his father,
and then glanced at Cynthia. There was a trifle more color in her cheeks, and
her head was raised a little, and her eyes were fixed upon him gravely.
"You should know why not," she said, and before he could answer her she was
gone into the hotel. He did not attempt to follow her, but stood where she had
left him in the sunlight.
He was aroused by the voice of the genial colored doorkeeper.
"Wal, suh, you found the lady, Mistah Wo'thington. Thought you would, suh.
T'other young gentleman come in while ago—looked as if he was feelin' powerful
bad, Mistah Wo'thington."