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Chapter 30

Hope and Uncle Eb and I went away in a coach with Mrs Fuller.
There was a great crowd in the church that covered, with sweeping
arches, an interior more vast than any I had ever entered. Hope was
gowned in white silk, a crescent of diamonds in her hair - a
birthday gift from Mrs Fuller; her neck and a part of her full breast
unadorned by anything save the gifts of God - their snowy
whiteness, their lovely curves.

First Henry Cooper came on with his violin - a great master as I
now remember him. Then Hope ascended to the platform, her
dainty kid slippers showing under her gown, and the odious
Livingstone escorting her. I was never so madly in love or so
insanely jealous. I must confess it for I am trying to tell the whole
truth of myself - I was a fool. And it is the greater folly that one
says ever 'I was,' and never 'I am' in that plea. I could even see it
myself then and there, but I was so great a fool I smiled and spoke
fairly to the young man although I could have wrung his neck with
rage. There was a little stir and a passing whisper in the crowd as
she stood waiting for the prelude. Then she sang the ballad of Auld
Robin Grey - not better than I had heard her sing it before, but so
charmingly there were murmurs of delight going far and wide in
the audience when she had finished. Then she sang the fine
melody of 'Angels ever Bright and Fair', and again the old
ballad she and I had heard first from the violin of poor Nick
Goodall.

By yon bonnie bank an' by yon bonnie bonnie brae
The sun shines bright on Loch Lomond
Where me an' me true love were ever won't if gae
On the bonnie, bonnie bank o' Loch Lomond.

Great baskets of roses were handed to her as she came down from
the platform and my confusion was multiplied by their number for
I had not thought to bring any myself.

I turned to Uncle Eb who, now and then, had furtively wiped his
eyes. 'My stars!' he whispered, 'ain't it reemarkable grand! Never
heard ner seen nothin' like thet in all my born days. An' t' think
it's my little Hope.'

He could go no further. His handkerchief was in his hand while he
took refuge in silence.

Going home the flowers were heaped upon our laps and I, with
Hope beside me, felt some restoration of comfort.

'Did you see Trumbull?' Mrs Fuller asked. 'He sat back of us and
did seem to enjoy it so much - your singing. He was almost
cheerful.

'Tell me about Mr Trumbull,' I said. 'He is interesting.

'Speculator,' said Mrs Fuller. 'A strange man, successful, silent,
unmarried and, I think, in love. Has beautiful rooms they say on
Gramercy Park. Lives alone with an old servant. We got to know
him through the accident. Mr Fuller and he have done business
together - a great deal of it since then. Operates in the stock
market.

A supper was waiting for us at home and we sat a long time at the
table. I was burning for a talk with Hope but how was I to manage
it? We rose with the others and went and sat down together in a
corner of the great parlour. We talked of that night at the White
Church in Faraway when we heard Nick Goodall play and she had
felt the beginning of a new life.

'I've heard how well you did last year,' she said, 'and how nice you
were to the girls. A friend wrote me all about it. How attentive you
were to that little Miss Brown!

'But decently polite,' I answered. 'One has to have somebody or - or
be a monk.

'One has to have somebody!' she said, quickly, as she picked at the
flower on her bosom and looked down at it soberly. 'That is true
one has to have somebody and, you know, I haven't had any lack
of company myself. By the way, I have news to tell you.

She spoke slowly and in a low voice with a touch of sadness in it. I
felt the colour mounting to my face.

'News!' I repeated. 'What news, I-lope?

'I am going away to England,' she said, 'with Mrs Fuller if - if
mother will let me. I wish you would write and ask her to let me
go.

I was unhorsed. What to say I knew not, what it meant I could
vaguely imagine. There was a moment of awkward silence.

'Of course I will ask her if you wish to go,' I said. 'When do you
sail?

'They haven't fixed the day yet.

She sat looking down at her fan, a beautiful, filmy thing between
braces of ivory. Her knees were crossed, one dainty foot showing
under ruffles of lace. I looked at her a moment dumb with
admiration.

'What a big man you have grown to be Will,' she said presently. 'I
am almost afraid of you now.

She was still looking down at the fan and that little foot was
moving nervously. Now was my time. I began framing an avowal.
I felt a wild impulse to throw my strong arms about her and draw
her close to me and feel the pink velvet of her fair face upon mine.
If I had only done it! But what with the strangeness and grandeur
of that big room, the voices of the others who were sitting in the
library, near by, the mystery of the spreading crinoline that was
pressing upon my knees, I had not half the courage of a lover.

'My friend writes me that you are in love,' she said, opening her
fan and moving it slowly, as she looked up at me.

'She is right I must confess it,' I said, 'I am madly, hopelessly in
love. It is time you knew it Hope and I want your counsel.

She rose quickly and turned her face away.

'Do not tell me - do not speak of it again - I forbid you,' she
answered coldly.

Then she stood silent. I rose to take her hand and ask her to tell me
why, a pretty rankling in my heart, Soft footsteps and the swish of
a gown were approaching. Before I could speak Mrs Fuller had
come through the doorway.

'Come Hope,' she said, 'I cannot let you sit up late - you are worn
out, my dear.

Then Hope bade us both good-night and went away to her room. If
I had known as much about women then, as now, I should have
had it out, with short delay, to some understanding between us. But
in that subject one loves and learns. And one thing I have learned
is this, that jealousy throws its illusions on every word and look
and act. I went to my room and sat down for a bit of reckoning.
Hope had ceased to love me, I felt sure, and how was I to win her
back?

After all my castle building what was I come to?

I heard my door open presently, and then I lifted my head. Uncle
Eb stood near me in his stocking feet and shirt-sleeves.

'In trouble,' he whispered.

'In trouble,' I said.

''Bout Hope?'

'It's about Hope.'

'Don't be hasty. Hope'll never go back on you,' he whispered. 'She
doesn't love me,' I said impulsively. 'She doesn't care the snap of
her finger for me.

'Don't believe it,' he answered calmly. 'Not a single word of it.
Thet woman - she's tryin' t' keep her away from ye - but 'twon't
make no differ'nce. Not a bit.

'I must try to win her back - someway - somehow,' I whispered.

'Gi n ye the mitten?' he asked.

'That's about it,' I answered, going possibly too far in the depth of
my feeling.

'Whew w!' he softly whistled. 'Wall, it takes two mittens t'make a
pair - ye'll hev t'ask her ag in.

'Yes I cannot give her up,' I said decisively, 'I must try to win her
back. It isn't fair. I have no claim upon her. But I must do it.

'Consarn it! women like t'be chased,' he said. 'It's their natur'.
What do they fix up so fer - di'mon's an' silks an' satins - if 'tain't
t'set men a chasm 'uv 'em? You'd otter enjoy it. Stick to her -
jes' like a puppy to a root. Thet's my advice.'

'Hope has got too far ahead of me,' I said. 'She can marry a rich man
if she wishes to, and I don't see why she shouldn't. What am I, anyhow,
but a poor devil just out of college and everything to win? It makes me
miserable to think here in this great house how small I am.'

'There's things goin' if happen,' Uncle Eb whispered. 'I can't tell ye
what er when but they're goin' if happen an' they're goin' if
change everything.

We sat thinking a while then. I knew what he meant - that I was to
conquer the world, somehow, and the idea seemed to me so absurd
I could hardly help laughing as melancholy as I felt.

'Now you go if bed,' he said, rising and gently touching my head
with his hand. 'There's things goin' t'happen, boy - take my word
fer it.

I got in bed late at night but there was no sleep for me. In the still
hours I lay quietly, planning my future, for now I must make
myself worth having and as soon as possible.

Some will say my determination was worthy of a better lover but,
bless you! I have my own way of doing things and it has not been
always so unsuccessful.

Irving Bacheller