A West Point Wooing, a Victorian Romance By Clara Louise Burnham 1854-1927

A West Point Wooing
A Victorian Romance By Clara Louise Burnham

Victorian Romance: West Point Wooing

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 her acquaintance.

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 softly:

"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 yearling corporal.

"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 shiny.

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 recognition.

"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 his heart.

"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." "O

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 thought.

"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 of you."

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 window.

"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 understand."

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 mistakable.

"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 cadet.

"Your washerwoman is a man, as it happens."

"Oh, got Chinamen in, have they?"

"Geoffrey Wayne, you don't know what I 'm talking about."

"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 breast buckle.

"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- ten.

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 left off.

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 nearly faultless.

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 him."

Victorian Romance: West Point Wooing

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 beneath it.

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 rubbed."

"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 all.

"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 charm."

"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 labors."

"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 children begins:

"'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 less mischievous.

"'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 me."

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 deaf ears.

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 adjutant plaintively.

Victorian Romance: West Point Wooing

"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 hotel."

"Yes; let us go and sit on the piazza."

"Oh! did you think you were coming with me?"

The adjutant regarded her with as much indignation as was compatible with a strictly society expression.

"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 gun"-

"He was the best of the lot," interrupted the adjutant curtly.

"Did you recommend him?" asked Miss Elliott eagerly.


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 than words?"

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 sigh.

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 brief applause.

"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 face.

"'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 glibness.

"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 it."

"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 girls enough?"

"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, Sally."

"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 are beaten."

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 at once.

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 him."

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 him."

"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 suddenly scarlet.

"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 away.

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 marrying."

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 come.'"

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 her identity.

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 were married.

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 me!"

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 said confidentially.

"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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