Once Aboard the Lugger Part 71

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Mrs. Major gave a sigh that suggested more than she dared say.

She sighed again when the game was concluded. Mr. Marrapit sat on.

"Quite like old times," Mrs. Major murmured. "Good night, Mr.

Marrapit; and don't lose hope. Remember my dream."

"Quite like old times," Mr. Marrapit murmured.

The masterly woman ascended the stairs rubbing her hands.

V.

Mrs. Major ate an excellent breakfast upon the following morning. She was upon the very threshold of winning into paradise, but not a tremor of nervousness did she betray or feel. This was a superb woman.

At eleven she left the house and took a walk--rehearsing the manner in which she had arranged to burst in upon Mr. Marrapit with the cat, checking again the arguments with which she would counter and lull any doubts he might raise.

At twelve she entered the hut.

Mrs. Major was in the very act of leaving the building, the cat beneath her arm, when a sound of voices and footsteps held her upon the threshold. She listened; the sounds drew near. She closed the door; the sounds, now loud, approached the hut. She ran to the inner room; a hand was laid upon the outer latch. She closed the door; applied her eye to a crack; George and Mary entered.

CHAPTER III.

Mrs. Major Gets The Key.

George carried a basket. He laid it upon the floor. Then he turned and kissed his Mary. He put his arms about her; held her to him for a moment in a tremendous hug; pressed his lips to hers; held her away, drinking love from her pretty eyes; again kissed her and again hugged.

She gasped: "I shall crack in half in a minute if you will be so ridiculous."

He laughed; let her free. He led to the tottering bench that stood across the room, sat her there, and taking her little gloved hand patted it between his.

"Fine, Mary," he said, "to see you again! Fine! It seems months!"

"Years," Mary whispered, giving one of the patting hands a little squeeze. "Years. And you never sent me a line. I've not had a word with you since you came up on the lawn that day and said you had pa.s.sed your exam. You simply _bolted_ off, you know."

"You got my letter, though, this morning?" George said. He dropped her hand; fumbled in his pocket for his pipe. He was becoming a little nervous at the matter before him.

Mary told him: "Well, that was _nothing_. It was such a _frantic_ letter! What is all the mystery about?"

"I'll tell you the whole story." George got from the bench and began to pace, filling his pipe.

With a tender little smile Mary watched her George's dear face. Then, as he still paced, lit his pipe, gustily puffed, but did not speak, a tiny troubled pucker came between her eyes. There was a suspicion of a silly little tremor in her voice when at last she asked: "Anything wrong, old man?"

George inhaled a vast breath of smoke; let it go in a misty cloud.

With a quick action he laid his pipe upon the table; sprang to her side. His right arm he put about her, in his left hand he clasped both hers. "Nothing wrong," he cried brightly; "not a bit wrong. Mary, it's a game, a plot, a d.i.c.kens of a game."

"Well, tell me," she said, beaming.

"It wants your help."

"Well, tell me, tell me, stupid."

"You will help?"

"Of course, if I can. Oh, do tell me, Georgie!"

"I'll show you, that's quicker."

He sprang to the basket; unstrapped the lid; threw it back. A most exquisite orange head upreared. A queenly back arched. A beautiful figure stepped forth.

"_George!_" Mary cried. "George! _The Rose!_ You've found her!"

George gave a nervous little crack of laughter. "I never lost her."

"Never lost her! No, but she's been--"

"I've had her all the time!"

"_All the_--"

"I took her!"

"You _took_ her! _You_--took her! Oh, George, speak sense! Whatever can you mean?" Mary had jumped to her feet when first the Rose stepped forth; now was close to her George--face a little white, perplexed; hands clasped.

He cried: "Sweetest dove of a Mary, don't talk like that. Sit down and I'll tell you."

"But what have you done?--what have you _done?_"

The true woman was in that question. How they jostle us, these women, with their timid little flutterings when we are trying to put a case before them in our manlike way!--first spoiling their palate with all the sugar, so that they may not taste the powder.

"I'll tell you what I've done if you'll only sit down."

She went to the seat.

"Now laugh, Mary. You simply must laugh. I can't tell you while you look like that. Laugh, or I shall tickle you."

She laughed merrily--over her first bewilderment. "But, Georgie, it's something fearful that you've done, isn't it?"

He sat beside her; took her hands. "It's terrific. Look here. From the beginning. When I told old Marrapit I'd pa.s.sed my exam. I asked for that 500 pounds--you know--to start us."

She nodded.

"He refused. He got in an awful state at the bare idea. I asked him to lend it--he got worse. Mary, he simply would not give or advance a penny: you know what that meant?"

Once Aboard the Lugger Part 71

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Once Aboard the Lugger Part 71 summary

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