A West Point Wooing, a Victorian Romance By Clara Louise Burnham 1854-1927
A West Point Wooing
A Victorian Romance By Clara Louise Burnham
NEAR a window in the library at West Point a
young woman was sitting. She held in her hands
a book, but her eyes often wandered from the page
to the smooth green lawn without, or absently
sought the faces in the large paintings which line
the dignified room.
In truth the life of a girl at West Point is so
far more interesting to her than any effort of the
fictionist, little wonder that the spell of the latter
is feeble to hold her. She cannot spare time from
the engrossing heroes and heroines in her actual
surroundings to those who have not the pleasure of
Of course there are stars of varying magnitude
in the picturesque orbit of the post, and this brown-
haired young woman in the library was a bright
particular star of the present summer. Even
many of the plebes -- those downtrodden, wing-
clipped butts of every upper classman's ugly or
merry humors knew her face and name. Two
of them were in the library now, a forlorn Damon
and Pythias, companions whose friendly bond was
born of their common misery.
Damon, feigning to be absorbed in the cartoon of a comic paper, addressed his companion
"There is that Miss Elliott, over by the window."
The eyes of Pythias moved circumspectly thither
and he started a little, but not enough to imperil
the military bearing which had been dearly gained
by many encounters with a versatile and fluent
"I know her," he returned, and his heart began
to beat until there was risk to his beautiful new
buttons, despised of maidens, though never so
The sentiment which caused such commotion
and made his face crimson was one which can
scarcely be appreciated by one who does not know
the daily petty miseries of a plebe at our military
academy. When after weeks of daily rigors and
heartfelt thanks that no one near and dear to him
is by to witness his humiliations, he suddenly sees
a face connected with home, the associations called
up are overwhelming. That remote, happy time
when he was a gay, careless individual, respectfully entreated, comes up before him, and the face,
though once belonging to the most indifferent acquaintance, now becomes excitingly dear, and he is
filled with an eager desire to be recognized.
The longing Pythias felt at present to strain
Miss Elliott to his bell-buttoned breast would
have remained just as strong if she had suddenly
turned into old Jerry, his father's janitor. His
uppermost thought was not for her blue eyes and
the crisp freshness of her duck suit; it was that
she had broken gingerbread with him at his mother's table.
"I am going to speak to her," he added.
"Don't!" responded Damon, in a whisper as
explosive as he dared make it, at the same time
grasping his reckless friend's arm. Damon had
arrived at stolid heights -- or depths -- of philosophy,
wherein he had decided that a glance or a word
outside of grooves prescribed for the "beasts"
and "things" which composed his class was not
worth the candle.
Pythias was of more elastic material; but eager
as he was, he cast a glance around the spacious
room before shaking off his monitor's hand.
Damon anxiously perceived his valorous intentions.
"Wayne's spoony on her," he breathed ; but
Pythias was too far gone to hear reason. Even
the name of Wayne, the adored, the worshiped, the
unapproachable cadet-adjutant, failed to awe him.
He had fallen under another spell, the thought
of home. He was a boy again, and this was only
Sally Elliott, once the dearest friend of his sister
Winifred. Not speak to her? Well!
For Damon with his neutral policy, it was an
awesome sight to behold his companion cross the
library with a free stride, and present himself before a belle of such importance that it was hard even to decide whether she was an officer-girl or a cadet-girl, so assiduous in her case were the attentions of both these antagonistic rivals.
"Miss Sally!" exclaimed Pythias, gazing down
eagerly on the blue ribbon of her sailor hat.
The young woman looked up, the mild surprise
and doubt in her eyes giving place in a moment to
"You?" she said, offering her hand heartily.
"I'm glad to see you. I knew you were to enter
this summer. Sit down," she continued, in the
hushed voice due the place, but speaking cordially.
"How are you getting along? What do you think
of the Point?"
"Great place," returned the young fellow, accepting the chair, and bending only at the hips, as
he leaned toward her." Never received so much
attention in my life."
Her eyes sparkled appreciatively as she scrutinized him.
"I have been thinking about you. Winifred
wrote me to hunt you up when I came. I was
asking Mr. Paxton about you yesterday."
At the mention of the tactical officer, Pythias
shook his head admiringly.
"Do you know Mr. Paxton? He is the spooniest tac. we have," he returned, and Miss Elliott
knew he was referring to the elegance of the lieu-
tenant's appearance, and not to the susceptibility of
"I see you have your uniform. Lots better
than the shell jacket, isn't it?" she went on.
Pythias experienced a mild glow as she looked
him over. One year from now her gaze should be
unmixed with compassion.
"I asked Mr. Wayne about you, too," she continued," but he couldn't remember."
f course not," returned Pythias. " But I
am Mr. Wayne's washerwoman."
"Indeed!" returned Miss Elliott, approving
the smile with which this announcement was made.
"He has the right stuff in him; he'll do," she
"Yes," went on the cadet," I wash his gloves;
clean his buckles, too. In fact, I get a good many
buckles lent me, first and last."
Pythias looked so good-natured as he spoke that
Miss Elliott nodded at him confidentially.
"I believe you have come here to stay," she said
encouragingly, "and we are all going to be proud
These friendly words, and the kind, familiar
face, warmed the cockles of the lonely plebe's heart.
In the fullness of his rare pleasure, he thought of
Damon, and turned toward him with the intention
of beckoning him over and introducing him.
A wild gaze of horror met his genial look.
Each hair on Damon's head was evidently trying
to rise. His face was as pale as the long tanning
of the summer sun would permit. With one convulsive jerk of his hand, he summoned Pythias
back, then feigned to be again absorbed in the
papers on the table before him. Anon his eyes
furtively rose to the library entrance, where was
the apparition which had so discomposed him.
Geoffrey Wayne, the cadet-adjutant, had come
in. He was dressed for parade, and the light glittered on his gold chevrons and radiated from his
white, polished trousers, as he paused a second to
adjust his sword-knot, his plumed hat in hand.
Damon trembled. He considered it quite among
the possibilities for a violent explosion to shake the
library from its foundation to its golden dome, if
Wayne should discover a groveling worm of the
dust like a plebe conversing with the girl he had
distinguished by his own dazzling attentions.
Pythias, wondering at his friend's agitation,
turned back to his companion.
"It was so fortunate I happened to meet you
here, Miss Sally," he said. "There are so few
places where I am allowed to go. I hope you will
let me see you again. It does me more good than
I can tell you. Just excuse me a minute, I have
a friend over there"
For Damon had again caught his eye and motioned so wildly that Pythias rose perforce, and
moved in his direction.
Only just in time, according to Damon's judgment; for now the young adjutant's irreproachable
figure came into the room. Pythias perceived the lighting of the upper classman's fine brown
eyes, sole expression of pleasure of the dignified
and impassive face at perceiving the form by the
"I thought you would never leave her," growled
Damon through stiff lips, when Wayne had safely
passed them." I saw him come in, and if his knot
hadn't got twisted he'd have caught you."
"Caught me!" repeated Pythias indignantly,
unable to recollect all at once his helpless plebe
condition. "Nonsense! I am going back to say
goodbye to her."
"You blooming idiot!" returned Damon, seizing
his companion by the arm with a force of mind
and body which ultimately carried him through
the academy's course with flying colors. "Your
head's turned. Come out of this place. She '11
She did understand, and she sent a pleasant nod
to Pythias across Wayne's broad shoulder, as the
former waved his cap to her in his forced departure.
"I've been having a very pleasant chat with
your washerwoman," she said, when Wayne had
seated himself and was looking into her eyes with
an expression which he did not even wish to be
"Been to the laundry, eh? Well, Paxton is
certainly full of resource when it comes to entertaining a young lady!"
"I have just been assured that Mr. Paxton is
the spooniest tac. you have, so I find I am quite
right in admiring him," said Miss Elliott sedately.
"Oh, there 's no doubt of that," returned the
"Your washerwoman is a man, as it happens."
"Oh, got Chinamen in, have they?"
"Geoffrey Wayne, you don't know what I 'm
"That is nothing new. Two years' experience
has adjusted my brain to that."
"I am talking about the plebe who washes your
gloves," announced Miss Elliott, with dignity.
The adjutant raised his eyebrows.
"What makes you?" he asked lightly.
"Because I like him. I've always liked him.
Why, I have held him in my lap lots of times."
Wayne looked a second, then remarked:
"Odd taste, that."
"And I want you to befriend him."
"You want me to hold him in my lap?"
Miss Elliott was evidently engrossed in reminiscence.
"When he was a few months old," her voice
lowered even from its subdued murmur, "I distinctly remember that once I dropped him on the
floor; but I was only six."
Wayne shook his head.
"I 'm afraid that I should do the same thing,
even at my advanced age."
"I dare say he polished the very finery that you
have on," pursued the girl, regarding the distorted
reflection of her face in the adjutant's shining
"Been whining to you, has he?" asked the
cadet-officer quietly, examining his sword-hilt.
"Not a bit of it," returned the other indignantly. "He is the jolliest boy in the world. Whine! I guess not."
"I have been trying to find you to talk about
tonight's German," said Wayne, with evident
impatience of her subject, "and there goes the
first call now;" he went on to enlarge upon
this common interest, and Pythias was forgot-
Miss Elliott saw her plebe again the next
morning. Guard mounting was over, and the
band was giving the customary morning concert
under the elms. The laughing, chatting, and
flirting, that had been quenched by the roll of the
inexorable drum at the dance the night before,
was going gayly forward from the point where it
In contrast to the groups of talkative youths and
maidens distributed all about, stood a small squad
of motionless plebes in dress uniform and painfully braced. They were offering themselves in
competition, each hoping to be chosen for the color
guard, the duty of watching the flag all day carrying with it certain privileges, and being bestowed upon the cadet whose person and accoutrements
should be found by the adjutant to be the most
As Geoffrey Wayne in the gray and crimson,
white and gold glory of his dress uniform approached the waiting line, Sally Elliott stood near,
regarding them. Beside her was Pythias, whom
she had sent for to sit with her during guard
mount. He was in a sympathetic tremor, his eyes
fixed on Damon, who was a member of the squad,
and whose toilet Pythias had zealously superintended, jumping about him at the last with a whisk
broom and a bit of chamois leather, "painting the
lily" by every means in his power.
"Your friend looks quite uncomfortable," observed Miss Elliott, as she scrutinized that member of the stiff-backed line.
"Not half so much so as he feels," returned
Pythias. "But I don't see how even Mr. Wayne
can find any fault with him. It would take a
magnifying glass to find a speck of dust on
The adjutant, the official severity of his countenance unsoftened by Miss Elliott's proximity, approached the first victim of his inspection.
The band was playing a Sousa march, to whose
strains Sally had danced the last two-step with
Wayne the night before. She smiled at the contrast between the face of her partner then and the
expression he now bent upon the luckless cadet, who was even denied the privilege of trembling
As if a string had been pulled, the rifle of the
competing plebe flew from one hand to the other,
and with a jerk was offered to the adjutant.
Miss Elliott's low laugh bubbled forth.
"I should call that snatching," she remarked,
commenting on the cadet-officer's mode of accepting
the firearm. "Is it military to snatch?"
Pythias was too preoccupied to hear her. He
endeavored to look impassive, but his eyes glistened. Damon stood second in the line. Wayne
muttered something to the first plebe as he tossed
back the rifle, then moved to the next.
Damon at his approach became galvanized into
motion. His gun leaped from one hand to the
other in approved style.
"My, what a Jove-like frown Mr. Wayne wears!"
remarked Sally. She was watching intently, in
sympathy with the interest of Pythias. She saw
the cadet-officer take the rifle, gaze down its barrel, and unfix the bayonet. He drew his white-
gloved finger along the socket, then presented it
under Damon's nose with threatening energy and
a frowning stare which the plebe received with a
beating heart, but without the quiver of an eyelash.
"Oh, it 's not clean!" cried the girl regretfully.
"Miss Sally," said Pythias, in quiet desperation, "that gun has been unscrewed and each
separate part soaked in alcohol before it was
"Well, it is a shame!" she returned warmly,
watching the adjutant with disapproval as he continued down the line, looking each competitor over
closely, and drawing his white-gloved fingers around
triggers and over gun barrels, displaying the result
to their immobile owners.
"You seem interested, Miss Elliott."
It was Lieutenant Paxton who spoke, the young
cavalry officer whose military perfections had won
the encomium from Pythias. The latter effaced
himself as Miss Elliott turned to speak to the
newcomer, and as he went he cogitated. Mr.
Wayne's severity had been so impartial Pythias
did not wholly despair of his friend's success after
"Yes, I am interested, Mr. Paxton," replied
Miss Elliott. "I was just thinking that Mr.
Wayne needed some one to recite Watts's hymns
to him: 'Tis dogs delight to bark and bite,' and
'Birds in their little nests agree,' and such moral
stanzas. He looks at those poor cadets as if his
angry passions had risen permanently."
Mr. Paxton smiled with rather strained indifference. He did not like to have Sally Elliott interested in Geoffrey Wayne even sufficiently to deplore his manner; but this, of course, he did not
confess even to himself, for not many years had elapsed since he too wore the cadet gray under
these old elms.
"Is it a part of an adjutant's duty to look so
savage?" pursued the clear voice.
"A part of his pleasure, perhaps," returned her
companion. "Wayne makes a good adjutant," he
continued, remarking the quizzical expression on
the girl's face as she still regarded her friend's discharge of his official duty.
"I wish you would come up here in September,
when the officers get their innings, Miss Elliott,"
went on the lieutenant, as he returned the salute
of a passing cadet.
"I'm sure I should like to," she answered, turning to him frankly. "I doubt if there is a month
in the year when West Point has not some special
"I mean to ask your mother if she won't promise me to bring you to one of our hops this fall."
"Alas! it would be useless. My holidays do not
last so long."
"Isn't life one perpetual holiday for you? I
judged it was."
"Indeed, no!" The natural vivacity of the
bright face deepened till the blue eyes danced. "I
should not enjoy myself as I have here if it were.
You may be sure I need all the strength, nervous
force, and resource that can be stored up in a vacation, for I am a kindergartner."
"Indeed? I should like to see you at your
"Come by all means and visit us, but wear your
uniform. Your brass buttons would enrapture the
whole school. One of the favorite songs of the
"'A sword and a gun,
A gay prancing steed,
The brave soldier boy,
What more can he need!'"
Geoffrey Wayne approaching, his labors over,
caught sight of this pair laughing together, and
allowed himself to be seized upon by a couple of
maidens who had been biding their time until he
should be free.
"You see, Miss Elliott," said Paxton, "I'm
afraid if we don't get you for an officers' hop this
fall we never shall -- that is, not in my time. I
was credibly informed last night" the lieutenant lowered his voice, and his face became grave
and respectful "that you are engaged to Mr. Wayne."
The wondering eyes regarding him remained no
"'Credibly informed'? Dear me, Mr. Paxton,
you frighten me. In these dangerously advanced
days, when nobody knows when she may be hypnotized, or her astral body be lured off in an uncanny
manner, one can never tell what may not have
happened in some moment of unconsciousness."
"I see you don't wish to admit it, if the report is true," said the lieutenant stiffly. " Forgive
Sally smiled demurely.
"I have nothing to forgive, indeed, and I wish -- I do wish I could come to your hop, Mr. Paxton."
She gave him an expressive gaze, then half
turned her head and caught one of the glances
which Wayne was continuing to throw in her direction. He received her look as a summons, and,
lifting his cap, held it off his much-brushed crisp
hair in an attitude of provisional departure, while
the maidens chattered last words which fell on
Lieutenant Paxton, seeing the cadet impending,
drifted away, and Sally smiled an acknowledgment
of his adieu, then turned to meet Wayne. As he
drew near she puckered her white brow into the
darkest frown it would assume, and stared at him,
forcing her lips into a severe line.
"What is this?" inquired the adjutant, holding out his hand in spite of her forbidding attitude.
For answer she drew her bare finger across his
shining buckle, then thrust it toward his face with
an energy which surprised him into a most unmilitary start.
"There; do you think that's pretty?" she inquired, dimpling. "That is what you have been doing for the last twenty minutes. Where are
those poor plebes to be interred?"
"I wish you wouldn't talk shop to me," said the
"I do it for your good. A West Point training
makes young men so muscular you can surely get
away from me if you don't like it."
"No, I can't get away from you," remarked
Wayne, as if stating a fact oft repeated." What
are you going to do next?"
"It is growing warm here," said the girl, stifling a yawn. " I think I will go back to the
"Yes; let us go and sit on the piazza."
"Oh! did you think you were coming with
The adjutant regarded her with as much indignation as was compatible with a strictly society
"Seeing you will be here but a week longer, I
most decidedly am coming," he returned.
"I think I shall talk quite a little more about
that squad of plebes," she remarked, as they started
to walk toward the hedge.
Eloquent silence on the part of her companion.
"That second one in the line -- the stiffest dummy
of them all -- is Damon to my plebe's Pythias. His
"He was the best of the lot," interrupted the
"Did you recommend him?" asked Miss Elliott
She smiled upon him delightedly, and Geoffrey,
thanking his lucky stars, drank in the sweetness of
her approval, enjoying the radiance while it lasted,
and then successfully changing the subject.
A couple of evenings afterward there was a concert in camp. The half-moon made mysterious
the elm shadows, and into a retired nook of which
he had experience, the adjutant ushered his lady.
Pretty Sally had, since Mr. Paxton's announcement, had more than one bad quarter of an hour.
The conviction stole upon her at inconvenient times
and seasons that she was not treating Geoffrey
well. The summer had been so gay, so happy!
Was it, after all, going to leave a bitter taste behind it? She had first met Wayne in his yearling camp. He had visited her a number of times
during his furlough, and now this summer, when
he was at the height of his popularity, it had caused
her some secret elation to have him the chief and
frankest admirer of her little court. Over and
over again she met her recent self-accusation with
the assertion that she had been honest with him.
"In words, yes," answered conscience, " but had
not vanity incited the actions, which speak louder
Sally leaned back against her tree trunk, and
the band began to play Schubert's Serenade.
The sighing melody waved and flowed through the
drooping elm branches with the softly breathing
summer wind. Wayne, leaning on his elbow in
the grass, looked up at the white curve of his companion's cheek.
"You were a good girl to wear my favorite
gown," he said.
"A lot of good it did," she answered, in a practical tone." You have put me in a corner where
you can't see it."
"I can feel it," he answered contentedly, upon
which Miss Elliott gently but firmly drew the thin
fabric away from his clinging fingers.
"Hush! I want to hear the music," she said,
and the violins drowned her companion's smiling
They had not paused, on their way, to inspect
the programme, and so when midway of the evening the cornet, after a short preluding flourish,
began a sweet and sustained melody, accompanied
by the other instruments, Wayne's hands met in
"Bravo!" he exclaimed. "I requested that."
"What is it?" asked Miss Elliott.
He sank back again on his elbow, his dark head
almost touching her arm, and looked up into her
"'You are the darling of my heart,' " he said.
She was glad to reflect that the moonlight tends
to make one look pale, as she silently regarded him.
"Don't you know you are the darling of my
heart?" he asked.
"Please don't be funny," she returned briskly.
"But don't you? I 'm surprised at your neglect
of the English classics." Then in an easy voice
he sang softly with the cornet:
"'She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.'"
"Oh, 'Sally in our Alley,'" said Miss Elliott
reflectively. "I knew it was familiar."
"Sally!" Wayne suddenly but with great gentleness imprisoned the moon-white hand lying near
him on his favorite gown." I am going to ask
you again, dear."
"Why do you?" came the answer, with startled
"For several reasons. Partly because you are
going away so soon, partly because you are going
to cut tomorrow night's hop to go on Paxton's
drive, and partly because it will be the third time,
and the third time never fails. No, you needn't
try to draw your hand away. I am going to hold
"Why?" exclaimed Miss Elliott again, being
too much bewildered by this reckless firmness on
the part of a hitherto respectful individual to do
more than repeat her feeble question.
"For several reasons," returned Wayne, also
repeating himself. "Partly because a West Point
training makes a man so muscular that I am able to, and partly because whoever becomes the ultimate
owner of it -- if he knew all, he would surely feel
that I had earned this much. Then beside -- "
"Oh, Geoffrey!" there was a piteous little tremble
in the girl's voice as she uttered her interruption.
Heart and conscience were making a strange mixed
tumult within her. "I have always been honest
with you, haven't I?"
"Yes," was the dry answer, "I can say unhesitatingly that honesty is your forte; but," slowly
kissing her hand, a feat which the place, the music,
and her gentleness made easy, "I love you."
"Let us be sensible," said Miss Elliott hastily,
in a tone which strove to imply all sorts of practical
and prosaic ideas. "You live such a narrow life
up here you don't know what you do want. In a
few months you will be out; you will see the world.
You will meet other girls -- "
"Girls!" exclaimed the cadet, with justifiable
protest. "In the name of reason, haven't I met
"Well, then, no matter about them. If you
would drop my hand I could talk better."
"There is room for improvement, I admit; but
I need your hand unless you are going to give me
some hope to work on this winter. Say something
kind to me, Sally, can't you?"
"This is the merest infatuation, Geoffrey," returned Miss Elliott decidedly, "such as a young
man often feels for an older woman."
"Pshaw!" exclaimed the adjutant in much
scorn." Are you going to ring in that chestnut
again? "What are those few hours by which you
got a start of me?"
"I had a year and two months the start of you,
Mr. Wayne," said the girl, as coolly as though she
were not fearing to be overborne by his will. "A
small matter perhaps in some cases, but in ours
an added reason against -- against what you wish.
I have no money," she went on, "never shall have.
If it were not that I am the happy possessor of an
aunt who likes to give me an occasional treat, I
shouldn't be here now. A second lieutenant needs
a wife who can help him."
"And a wife who can love him -- love him
enough to trust him," said Geoffrey, trying to see
her face clearly in the dim light. "You don't care
for me yet. Here, take your hand;" he dropped
it gently on her knee.
"I do care for you," she said.
"As a sister, no doubt. Another chestnut,
"No, more as a mother," returned Miss Elliott,
with much dignity, and then started at the laugh
which fell from her companion's lips, jarring upon
the music. "You are very rude to laugh," she
said, with spirit. "My feeling for you is maternal, and I care for you very much."
"Awfully good of you, Sally, and you're a jolly
little mother; but, you see, I have one already,
a perfectly satisfactory one, too. It's something
else I need."
So they parted, still agreeing to disagree, when
Miss Elliott left the post and went back to her
home in Brooklyn and the kindergarten circle.
Geoffrey Wayne, being of determined stuff, kept
his high standing throughout the difficult struggle
of that last winter, and graduating, was assigned
to the corps of engineers. His post being within
easy reach of Brooklyn, he managed occasionally to
see Sally Elliott, and that young woman was frequently disconcerted, at the moment of patronizing
the lieutenant's prospects, to find that underneath
his equable demeanor lurked a repressed fire which
still burned for her alone, in spite of the persistent
and deliberate dampening process which had seemed
to her the only proof of true friendship possible
from her to him since that evening when the West
Point band, by special request, performed Sally
in our Alley.
Lieutenant Paxton, moreover, did not forget her
bright eyes. Many a Saturday night did he come
down to New York for the sake of a Sunday call
upon Miss Elliott, and speedily discovering that
she was not pledged to his rival, those visits in-
creased in regularity and length until Geoffrey
Wayne heard about them.
"You must remember, Sally," he said quietly
one day to his obdurate lady-love, "that promotion
comes faster in the engineers than in the cavalry."
She flushed slightly, meeting his straightforward
look, and had nothing to say.
"Since you are avowedly mercenary, I want to
remind you that it is well you are going to marry
me instead of Paxton."
Her lip curled. "What an invaluable servant
of the government you will be," she remarked.
"It is impossible for you to understand when you
Wayne felt himself change color, her tone was
so cold. "Then is it to be Paxton?" he asked.
"I will tell you when it is to be anybody."
He studied the carpet awhile before he spoke
again. "I don't want to quarrel with you," he
said, "today of all days. You know I wrote you
that my mother was very ill? Well, she is here;
her nurse brought her. Will you go to see her?"
"Indeed I will," returned the girl, all sympathy
Geoffrey took advantage of her sudden cordiality
to get possession of both her hands. "Don't let
Paxton come to see you so much," he said, and her
eyes fell before his strong gaze. " It isn't fair to
He was gone before she could frame the crushing reply he deserved; and indeed, after meditating
awhile, she went straight to her desk and wrote
the cavalry officer a note of excuse for not seeing
him the following Sunday, when, as he had informed her, he was intending to come.
Then she betook herself to the hospital to
visit Mrs. Wayne. It was their first meeting,
and somewhat embarrassing, inasmuch as she found
Geoffrey's mother astonishingly well posted about
her. The sick woman's attitude toward her was
that of an affectionate old friend, and when the
girl left she had promised to return the next day.
But Sally, from Mrs. Wayne's first cordial greeting, entertained a conviction that the elder lady's
manifest approval of her sprang from a knowledge
of her firmness with regard to Geoffrey. She
expected that this mutual understanding would
remain a tacit one, and therefore was surprised
one day when the invalid opened the subject.
Sally had made some deft change in the sufferer's pillows, to the increase of her comfort.
"I don't wonder Geoffrey loves you, my dear,"
said the sick woman.
The girl sat down beside the bed, silent under
the kindly scrutiny of the large eyes.
"He says you have not promised to marry
"No," returned Sally, in a rather choked voice.
"But why not? Don't you care for him?"
The girl shook her head hurriedly. "It is no
matter whether I care for him, Mrs. Wayne. It
would be the most inappropriate, unwise thing for
Geoffrey." And Sally launched into a detailed
account of her serious objections.
To her amazement, the sick woman appeared as
unmoved as her son by these weighty arguments.
When the girl had finished, steadied by her own
logic, she met the wistful eyes still bent upon her.
"Dear child, these things are trifles if you love
my boy even enough to let him love you; and to
learn that you do not would add the last misery to
the bitterness of death. I know, though I have
not yet had courage to tell Geoffrey so, that I shall
not live long. I must break it to him soon. Let
him have this great consolation. Promise me that
you will marry him before I die."
Sally's startled color rose, and her lips trembled.
"Don't make me feel that I am leaving him
alone, rejected by the woman he loves so devotedly,
and with no one to befriend him in the temptations
of life. Oh, Sally, my daughter!" The voice
died away, the eyes half closed, and a greater pallor
overspread the pinched face.
"Mrs. Wayne!" exclaimed the girl, terrified,
starting up and seizing a glass of water. "Yes,
yes, I promise!"
A feeble pressure of the hand replied to her.
As Miss Elliott was leaving the hospital a few
minutes later, she encountered Geoffrey entering.
"Don't go up now!" she ejaculated, and he exclaimed at the agitation in her face.
"Your mother had a sinking spell. It frightened me. She is better, but perhaps you had
better not see her." The girl's white face was
"My dear little Sally," breathed the troubled
young man. " How good you are. You will never
know how I appreciate it."
Day succeeded day, and the vision of a hurried
marriage beside a deathbed, at first constantly
before Miss Elliott's mental vision, faded slowly
Mrs. Wayne grew strong enough to travel, and
returned to her family in the South. Geoffrey
was held more and more closely by the demands of
the graduate course of study he was taking, and
when he succeeded in making a hurried trip to
Brooklyn his reception was only the customary one.
Nothing but the light in his eyes and a new elasticity in his manner betrayed that he knew of the
decisive interview between his mother and Sally,
for the latter's docility had proved short-lived.
Mrs. Wayne might outlive them all, she said to
her mother, and she continued to hold her lover at
the old distance.
Mrs. Elliott sighed resignedly. Geoffrey, as he
had taken pains to ascertain, had her good wishes.
"But how he can be patient to keep up such a
long game of hide-and-seek is beyond my comprehension," she remarked once to her daughter. Indeed, she said as much to Wayne himself one day
when they were tete-a-tete.
"I 'm biding my time, Mrs. Elliott," he answered, smiling." By autumn my affairs will
permit me to carry the fort by storm, and, little as your daughter suspects it from my meekness, I am
going to marry her and carry her off in triumph
and show her to my mother and the rest at home."
"I don't see how you will succeed," returned
Mrs. Elliott. " Sally doesn't seem to think of
Spring wore away into summer, and the fervid
heat of a July sun was reflecting from Brooklyn
pavements and parching its streets, before the
Elliotts decided upon flitting to cooler regions.
Whether Geoffrey Wayne remained away as a
discretionary measure, or whether business kept
him, Sally did not know, but she had not seen him
of late, and had heard from him but seldom.
As she started one day on a modest shopping
tour to purchase the articles needed by her mother
and herself before leaving the city, her thoughts
returned to him obstinately, despite repeated efforts
to divert and control them. She pictured scenes
on the parade ground, on the piazzas, and upon
the wooded walks and drives about his post, in
which the summer girl figured conspicuously.
There were always such a lot of them. No wonder he preferred their flattery to her cavalier attitude. It was probable that he was forgetting her,
and that was quite right the event she had
always prophesied and wished for.
When her errands were done she felt that she
could not return home at once, and, taking an
electric car, she rode for a couple of hours before she considered her thoughts sufficiently ordered to
admit of meeting her mother with her customary
insouciant manner. As she left the car, to her surprise she caught sight of Wayne himself. He was
advancing with his familiar military air, and upon
his face was a noticeable gravity. She saw him a
moment before he recognized her. and before they
met she was well fortified to make it clear that the
field was entirely open to the summer girl, and to
prove triumphantly that his devotion to herself
had never been seriously regarded.
He hurried forward at sight of her. "This is
fortunate, Sally," he said, and his face showed
haggard lines. "I have a telegram calling me
home. My mother is sinking very fast."
The girl gave an exclamation of sympathy.
"The telegram ends, 'Be married before you
Sally's heart leaped and beat fast. "But that
doesn't hold," she began feebly, with a dim idea
of letting him off.
"I have been to your house three times, and
could not find you. I must go by the nine o'clock
train tonight, so I took it for granted that you
would consent. I have the license. What time
would you prefer to have the minister come?"
Sally gasped. Geoffrey had never looked so
tall and commanding.
He consulted his watch. "It is now four
o'clock," he said.
"Really," she stammered, "really, there doesn't
seem to be much choice." Then, as Wayne's
white, troubled face was waiting, "Half past
seven," she finished.
He left her, and on the way home it seemed to
her she was in a dream. But her mother's excited
face brought her to a sense of the practical side of
the situation. Their stout maid-of-all-work was
afflicted with a mysterious malady, described by
herself as shortness of breath, and having had an
attack that morning, Mrs. Elliott had excused her
for the whole day.
Sally gave her mother a reassuring hug.
"What a mercy it is," said the latter, half hysterically, "that we had asked your cousin Dick to
come to dinner. I was regretting it a little while
ago, since it proves we must be our own cooks;
but if it weren't for him, there wouldn't be a
guest at your wedding, Sally. Why, my dear, it
is all the strangest, most unexpected"
"And the warmest time," Sally finished for her,
"that we ever knew."
Forthwith she plunged into the kitchen and
cooked the dinner, with her mother's help.
Mr. Richard Elliott, who had ridden up in
bicycle knickerbockers to aid his aunt in some business problem, was a most amazed man to find himself a guest at a wedding.
"Don't worry, Dick, you will do very well," said
Sally reassuringly. "You shall give me away."
When the meal was over, the bride, whose continuous sang-froid amazed her companions, donned
an apron over the street dress she had not had
time to discard, and proceeded to make lemonade,
the only available refreshment in the house.
"Oh, Sally! how different this is from my
expectations. Not a cake at your wedding!"
groaned Mrs. Elliott.
"Well," returned the girl, smiling demurely at
a lemon, "the question is, whether it is better
to have a wedding without a cake or a cake without a wedding?", Then, meeting her mother's
loving, puzzled expression, "Don't leave Dick
alone any longer, dear, and Geoffrey will be coming now."
Mrs. Elliott obediently disappeared, and when
Sally's labors were finished she followed her.
Covered by the voluminous apron the bride entered the parlor, bearing a large bowl of ice and
lemonade. Three men started to their feet as she
entered, and to her horror she discovered that the
minister, a stranger to her, had already arrived.
Mrs. Elliott hesitated in her embarrassment.
"My -- my daughter, Mr. Ford."
The minister advanced to the girl. "Is this
Miss Sarah?" he asked doubtfully.
Sally, being relieved by Geoffrey of her burden,
shook hands with the stranger and acknowledged
She knew that her cousin Dick was secretly impatient to return to the little family he had left
to oblige his aunt, so, looking about upon the company, she suggested that, as they were all there,
the wedding might as well take place. Thereupon, to Mrs. Elliott's intense relief, she removed
her apron, Geoffrey returned to her side, and they
After the ceremony the bride served the lemonade with her own hands, then said goodbye to the
minister and her cousin, and ran upstairs to put
on her staying-at-home gown. When she came
down arrayed in some besprigged white stuff,
Geoffrey was waiting at the foot of the stairs.
"Will-o'-the-wisp no longer," he said wonderingly, as he slowly took her in his arms and kissed
her willing lips. "To think that you belong to
They went out of doors and sat upon the piazza
until it was time for him to go to his train, scarcely
speaking as they clung together, so awesome was
the shadow of death which lay athwart the sun-
shine of their love.
Geoffrey's mother lived but a few days after he
reached her, and one week after the funeral he
sought the seaside resort where Mrs. Elliott and
her daughter were staying.
He arrived one day just before dinner, and
during the meal a girl guest at a table near the
one where he and Sally were sitting called the
attention of a friend to the couple.
"I am sure that is a bride and groom," she
"Why, no, it isn't," answered the second
maiden. "Haven't you noticed that Mrs. Wayne
before? She has been here as long as we have.
I suppose that must be her husband just arrived."
The first speaker sighed. " Well, I hope my
husband will look at me just like that," she
remarked appreciatively. "His wife has the happiest eyes I ever saw, and no wonder."
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