Part 18 (1/2)

But there may be a personal difficulty at the bottom of it, and the young man has taken this method of damaging Mr. Gusher's character.”

Mr. Romer presented his compliments to Mrs. Chapman, and, seeing the intimacy there was between her family and a person calling himself Philo Gusher, begged to inform her that the name of that individual was Louis Pinto, a notorious and well-known impostor, who had fled from Havana, where he had been several times imprisoned, to escape punishment for his crimes.

”Anything but that, my dear husband. I am sure my pride would never survive it. And to happen just when society--yes, my dear, the very best of your Bowling Green people were beginning to leave cards. Another ball and we should have brought the best of them down.”

”Another ball, my dear?” returned Chapman, with a sigh. ”A ball a year ought to satisfy any respectable family.” Chapman was indeed becoming alarmed at his wife's extravagance and weakness for society. Her worldliness he feared would bring him to grief ere long. The last ball had entailed the expense of new carpets; and the young gentlemen had quite taken possession of the house, which they held until after daylight, and then went home in a very unsteady condition of the limbs.

To make the matter worse, Bowles had been very much demoralized ever since, and now demanded another horse or his discharge. He had no complaint to make either about his pay or livery; but to have it thrown up to him every day, and by all the coachmen in the neighborhood, that he was in the service of a one horse family, was more than his proud spirit could bear.

Chapman held that dancing was not the profession of a gentleman, and that b.a.l.l.s had done nothing for the great moral progress of the world.

In fine, his mind had been engaged for some time back on something more serious; and he delighted his wife by telling her that he had been working up a great scheme for freeing and vitalizing all mankind.

The door bell rang, and in another minute Mr. Gusher, all serene and elegant, was ushered into the lady's presence. Never was young gentleman more exquisitely upholstered.

The lady extended her hand and received him cordially, saying she had been looking for him with unusual anxiety.

”I am very glad you have come, Mr. Gusher,” interposed Chapman. ”My dear wife is oppressed with a little matter I am sure you can relieve.”

Mr. Gusher turned and thanked them for the high compliment thus paid him. ”You shall ze as I shall be so grateful for dis 'onar. And your daughter--she is well?”

”Very well--she was speaking of you kindly to-day. Here is something that reached me to-day, Mr. Gusher,” she resumed, rising from her chair and handing him the letter, with a dignity of manner quite uncommon to her: ”I am sure you will pardon me, sir, but it contains matter which, as a friend of yours, I have taken the liberty to submit. I make it a rule to stand by a friend, you know.”

Gusher took the letter and began reading it with an air of unconcern.

Then breaking out into a hearty laugh, he replied: ”Zis grand rascal as write dis let-tar is one par-tick-lar friend of mine--”

”I am sure, sir,” rejoined Mrs. Chapman, ”he is an enemy of yours, and no friend. That you can explain it all satisfactorily, I have no doubt.”

”Pardon, madam, pardon; this grand rascal I call him one friend. Ze 'onar, madam, he is so much dear to me as my life. Oh yes, you shall zee as my 'onar and mine country is more dear to me zan my life. Zis grand rascal, he is my friend be-cause he do me zis injury so many times, and in ze end he do me so much good. You shall zee zar was a lady. Zat lady, ze grand rascal as writes zis letter--it is so many years ago, as I almost forget--pays to her his compliment. Pardon, madam, zat lady prefar me to ze gentleman. Zen zat gentleman he pays to me his compliment like one grand rascal. He persecute my 'onar, and he make me so many friends--”

”Really, Mr. Gusher,” interrupted Mrs. Chapman, encouragingly, ”then it is all the result of jealousy? I had a suspicion that there was something of the kind at the bottom of it.”

”You shall zee, madam, it was be-cause ze lady prefar me. Zen I give ze grand rascal one pistol.” Here Mr. Gusher flourished his right hand.

”You shall give me ze satisfaction as one gentleman he give to ze oser, I say. I gives to ze grand rascal one small sword. I say I shall have ze satisfaction one gentleman he will give to ze oser. No, madam, ze grand rascal, he is one small coward. He will not give me ze satisfaction. I shall show you as this grand rascal tells not one word of ze truth.”

”I told you, my dear,” said Chapman, ”that Mr. Gusher was a gentleman, and would explain it all to your satisfaction.”

Mrs. Chapman expressed herself highly gratified at what she had heard.

But in order to put the matter beyond question, and to prove to her entire satisfaction that he was not only an innocent, but a much injured gentleman, Gusher returned on the following day armed with a large number of letters, some of them sealed with great seals, the writers setting forth that they had known the young gentleman from his birth up, that he was of irreproachable character, and his parents very distinguished people.

Of course the Chapmans were entirely satisfied. Indeed Mr. Gusher so turned his guns on Mr. Romer as to make his position extremely uncomfortable. Both were guests at the old City Hotel, where Gusher was a great favorite with all the young ladies, and to whom he related his difficulty with Romer. In short, he so enlisted their sympathies in his behalf that they were ready to join him in ejecting Romer from the house as a slanderer. One said what a mean thing he must be to slander the handsome young foreigner in that way. A second tossed and turned her head aside when she met him, and pouted her pretty lips to let him know what she meant. A third refused to return his bow, while a fourth gave him the cut direct. There was no standing up against such a storm of female indignation as he now found blowing about his ears. He saw, also, that to have attempted to sustain his charges with proof would only be sheer folly. In short, there was nothing for the plain young outspoken American to do but surrender the field to the handsome young foreigner and his female admirers, seek respectful treatment beyond the sound of their voices--and wait.

CHAPTER XXIX.

CHANGED CIRc.u.mSTANCES.

Oh, what a sweet charm there is in hope. How it beguiles the ambitious lover, causes him to build castles he finds crushed at last under his disappointments. How gently it lifts the drooping heart into an higher realm of cheerfulness, still gilding and brightening the future. Day after day and week after week it carries the timid, desponding soul over its sea of trouble and disappointment, and pictures its love-dream in colors more and more beautiful. How it ensnares us, and then betrays us with its false visions of future bliss. It beguiles both you and me with its featly spun tales of fame and riches, which it weaves so ingeniously into its fascinating web.

Such were the thoughts invading Mattie's mind as she sat at the parlor window one morning, looking out over Bowling Green, contemplating the strange influences by which she was surrounded, and wondering what the future would bring her. There was something so earnest and yet so kindly in that pale, expressive face, and those soft blue eyes.