« ПретходнаНастави »
the end, in which it would be necessary for him to turn the course of events, and rescue the plot from a tragic close, by sav. ing Miss Ainslee's life.
Here again the ordinary mortal would have been utterly at a loss. Miss Ainslee was not in the habit of rowing in leaky boats, and sinking at the proper distance from the shore ; or of riding unmanageable steeds, and being run away with ; or of falling over precipices, and getting caught on bushes half-way down ; or of getting into any other of the thousand and one perilous positions usually resorted to by heroines to give their respective heroes a chance to rescue them. And worst of all, if she had been in any such position, she probably would have been the first to see the way out and take it for herself. The case seemed hopeless. Yet here again Waring triumphed through his knowledge of woman-nature. He argued that he would attain the same result if Miss Ainslee believed he had saved her life, as if he really had ; and he meant to bring about this belief on her part, by taking advantage of a weakness in women which he considered universal ; namely, their dread of Cows. His plan was very simple. He was going to hire a cow, station it in the path through which Miss Ainslee was sure to pass, and appear at the proper moment to rescue her from it. So confident was he of success, that he was already picturing to himself the scene after the dreadful brute had been driven away. She would try to express her gratitude, stammering and blushing, and he would beg her not to thank him, modestly assuring her that he had done only what any man would have been glad to do in his place, and gallantly adding that he could never thank Fortune enough since she had given to him the honor. He would walk home with her, of course, but he would not press his advantage then. He thought it much more dramatic to walk in silence, and only sigh a little at parting. But he would go to her in the evening, and find her waiting for him, dressed in a white gown and playing softly on the banjo,—that was the only instrument she could play. She would be startled at his approach, and unable to conceal her joy, and he
There is no knowing to what lengths his imagination would have carried him, if he had not at this point reached the farm where he expected to procure the cow.
Farmer Watkins was in his barn-yard, when Waring appeared and preferred his rather singular request. The worthy man would no doubt have been surprised and suspicious, if he had not just finished a course in summer boarders, which had prepared him for anything extraordinary in the way of requests. Still, while he did not doubt the young man's sanity, he was not going to lend one of his cherished Jerseys without knowing to what use she was to be put.
“Wal now, what fur ?” he inquired dubiously.
"To-to-to show to a young lady,” stammered Waring, taken off his guard ; but he added artfully, “she's down from the city, don't you know ; never has seen a live cow, and wants to see one on its native heath, and all that. She would have come herself, but couldn't get away. So I was sent to fetch one. Couldn't refuse, don't you know ; really can't go back without it." Farmer Watkins considered. "Wal now, ain't that too bad ?” he said finally.
“ The cows are all off at the pasture, and I can't say I see my way to sendin' any one after 'em at this time of day.”
As his glance wandered around the barn-yard, as though a stray cow might be lurking in one of its corners, his face suddenly cleared.
“Now if you was only lookin' for an animal to show her, how'd a goat do?” he ventured. Goats ain't near as common as cows, anyways. They're what you might call a fancy animal, so to speak. I'd ruther see a goat than a cow, any day.”
The two men walked over and inspected the “ fancy” animal, which was engaged in gently butting the barn-door to and fro, just to keep its horns in practice. It was not one of those pretty, white, long-haired little creatures one often sees tied up in blue ribbons, pulling a baby's cart. This specimen was as large as a good-sized calf, and the homeliest animal Waring had ever seen. It was long and lean, spotted brown and dirty white; and when it turned its head, and blinked at him with malicious yellow eyes, Waring saw that its mouth was crooked, and that it had a ridiculous, ragged little beard.
"Willum the Konkerer!” said the farmer, with a chuckle of reminiscence. “There was a lady here last summer who used to call him that. She was mighty shy of him, for a fact; and she ain't the only one neither. All women-folks is afraid of Billy."
"Are they?" asked Waring, eagerly. “Well, I think he will do. That is,” he added doubtfully, “if you are sure he is perfectly safe.”
“Don't you worry," was the encouraging reply. “He's ten years old if he's a day, and he's gettin' stiff in his j'ints. He's as harmless as a lamb."
So a rope was brought and tied around the horns of the unsuspecting goat, and he was handed over to Waring, with many secret misgivings on the part of the latter.
“I hope he doesn't-a-butt, don't you know?” he inquired nervously, as the farmer bade them good-by at the gate. Billy had a way of rolling up his glassy eyes and lovingly twining his horns round one's legs, that was horribly suggestive.
“Oh, he don't often try that game," Billy's owner replied cheeringly. “I guess he wants to have his head scratched, that's what's the matter with him. He'll be all right."
For a time the two got on very well,-slowly, to be sure, for Billy seemed to be inordinately fond of having his head scratched ; yet Waring had no fear that they would not reach the scene of action before Miss Ainslee returned from the golflinks. When they reached the path through the woods, however, Billy rebelled. It was not befitting a goat of his age and dignity to go trapesing around the country at the heels of an inexperienced youth, with no prospect of food and shelter at the end of his journey. This nonsense had gone far enough, and he for one was not going to stand it any longer. He stopped in the middle of the path and obstinately refused to be persuaded to move. “Nice William! Nice old William ! Come along, there's a good old boy,” pleaded Waring, desperately. Billy gazed at him with quiet scorn, and then, deciding to waste no more valuable time, calmly began to chew his cud. This was too exasperating. Waring lost his timidity and his temper together. “You shall come, confound you !” he shouted, and grasped with no gentle hand the patriarch's scanty beard. The result was sudden and unexpected. Billy started back as though he had been shot, his eyes blazing and every hair on his body erect. This stripling had actually dared to lay violent hands on his beard, the pride and darling of his old age, the apple of his eye! This was an insult he could not forgive. His honor would never be satisfied unless blood were shed. Cocking his head on one side and raising one shoulder, he hurled himself full at the astonished youth. Just in time, Waring turned and fled, hearing behind him the ominous thud of his enemy's hoofs. Considering his age and the stiffness of his joints, Billy got over the ground amazingly; and Waring had barely time to draw himself into the low limbs of a friendly tree, before the enraged goat brought up underneath.
Then Waring, though exposed to no immediate danger, found himself in a very trying position. After one
or two halfhearted attempts to butt down the tree, Billy took a commanding position near by, and resumed the occupation which had been so rudely interrupted, chewing his cud with half-shut eyes, and a general appearance of unconcern. Yet when Waring, encouraged by this seeming indifference, began to descend, Billy was always wide awake and ready to receive him. The poor young man was just beginning to resign himself to the idea of remaining there until night, when help came from an unexpected quarter. With a light, firm step, her cheeks flushed with exercise and her eyes bright, Miss Ainslee came down the path, her golf-bag swinging from her shoulder. To do Waring justice he would rather have come down and run all risks than have her find him in such a position. But it was too late. Miss Ainslee took in the situation at a glance, and stood struggling hard to keep down her laughter. But Billy also perceived the new-comer, and welcomed this opportunity to vent his pentup wrath. He backed off and prepared for action.
“Miss Ainslee,” shouted Waring warningly, “the beast is after you! Run for your life!”
She did not deign to reply, but deliberately drawing her putter from the bag, she met the on-coming goat with a few well-directed blows. William the Conqueror, before whom no woman hitherto had dared make a stand, was surprised and discomfited by this unexpected resistance. And when Miss Ainslee followed up her advantage, and advanced upon him with threatening club, he hastily decided that in this case discretion was the better part of valor, and saved the remnant of his dignity by stalking solemnly off through the woods, wagging his little tail and muttering low in his beard. Then Miss Ainslee turned to Waring.
“I think you may safely come down now,” she said cuttingly. “Would you like me to help you ?” and when he stood by her side, she added, “I will walk with you to the edge of the woods, if you like."
Without waiting for his reply, she led the way down the path and he followed in silent misery. When they reached the open she turned, her lips grave, but her eyes running over with laughter.
“I think it will be safe for you to go on alone now," she said. 6. There are, to be sure, a few cows to pass, but I really think they are harmless. And I'm sure you won't meet another goat; such dangerous animals are rarely allowed to run loose."
“Miss Ainslee, I—" he began wretchedly, but she interrupted him hastily.
“I beg of you not to thank me,” she said, “I assure you I did only what any woman would have done in my place. Good afternoon."
It was cruel, but the temptation was great, and after this one outbreak she never again mentioned to Waring or any one else what took place that afternoon in the woods; which Waring probably thought another proof that she was an extraordinary woman.
A year later, Waring was one of a group of men who were discussing Miss Ainslee's recent engagement to one of their friends.
“Jack always was a lucky fellow," said one. “Always went in for the best, and what's more, always got it. I confess I envy him his wife.”
Waring blew a couple of smoke-rings into the air with elaborate unconcern.
“Do you, now?” he said indifferently. “Well, I don't know that I do. Miss Ainslee's a fine girl, an awfully fine girl, and I respect and admire her, and all that. But isn't she just a little too independent, don't you think? I rather believe prefer the kind one can take care of and protect, don't you know." Such is the gratitude of man.
MARGARET HAMILTON WAGENHALS.
THE SONG OF THE SEA
The gray old rocks are all aglow
With the sunset's crimson gold,
We come, we go,