Page images

service with a touch of pride. "Nellie will be very handsome, like you, Frank-straight and tall and fair."

Major Hardeservice had been straight and fair, and he was still handsome, with a firm and almost dashing carriage; but several years of service on the frontier under a burning sun, where in summer the hot air, from whatever direction it blew, came over a dazzling white plain, had turned a fair complexion to a permanent red. The Major's uniform, too, measured several inches more around the belt than when, as a slender lieutenant, he had assisted Miss Elizabeth Marwin to change her name. No doubt if a blush could have vied with his high color, his wife would have seen that the Major was pleased, for he was proud of his good looks, and Eleanor might have inherited her father's vanity.

"But Bess," said the big soldier, pulling a little dark-eyed creature up to his broad knee, and pressing a heavy mustache against the soft cheek," will marry for love, dear. And she'll make a good wife for a fortuneless soldier like me. She is like her mother."

The hot winds of the desert, and the blinding glitter of snow on crusted fields, had not spoiled the delicacy of Mrs. Hardeservice's cheek, and her blush was evident enough. It was such a pretty blush that the Major height ened it with his lips, and then went stalking out so heavily that the weight of his boots on the board walk could be heard until he reached the parade-ground.

In this way it came about that the family always thought and spoke of Eleanor as the future wife of some man whose fortune could be measured only by the beauty of his wife. That such a man would be worthy there never was any doubt.

But this was almost twenty years before the summer when Colonel and Mrs. Hardeservice and the Misses Hardeservice were spending the summer at Bar Harbor.

The pretty Eleanor, when she was fifteen years old (she did not deny three months later that she was sixteen), had been sent East to her Aunt Helen to receive in New York the social education befitting a rich man's wife. At that time she was as vain and as coquettish as any young girl who is pretty and fully aware of her beauty.

When little Bess, out on the withered stretches of Colorado, read her sister's letters about New York, she thought Eleanor a very fine lady, for Bess's big eyes had seen as yet only forts, and soldiers, and army officers who petted her, and big, square houses as hideous as dull-red paint could make them.

On the night when Miss Eleanor was "to come out," there was an additional military VOL. XLIV.-67.

erectness to the Major's figure over two thousand miles away from New York. Mrs. Hardeservice was in as much of a flutter as if she herself were that night to make a pretty courtesy to full-fledged society. Bess, now fourteen, was in an ecstatic dream in which magnificent gowns, and wonderful music, and oppressively fragrant flowers set her head in a wild whirl. The sentry who paced out the dark night near the Major's quarters wondered at the lateness of the hour when the last light in the officer's house went out.

After this came long letters of afternoon teas, receptions, dinner-parties, cotillons, and countless other entertainments, so that Bess lay awake at night and pictured dukes and royal princes kneeling before Nell, while glittering palaces and fairy gardens danced before her eyes. She was a little disappointed when she received a photograph on the back of which was written, "To my dearest Bess, from her sister in her coming-out gown." Bess had expected to see a crown on the grand lady's head, whereas she was dressed very simply in white. But she was a very beautiful woman, and Mrs. Hardeservice looked at the picture many times that day.

Bess had gone to bed when Mrs. Hardeservice, looking at the Major as she spoke to him of Eleanor, saw that he was dozing. His hand was clenched around a newspaper so that the edges had split. She went up to him with tears in her eyes, and threw her arms around his neck.

"Frank," she said, half sobbing, "I want her."

The Major sprang to his feet. His arm shot out, his finger pointing steadily.

"I can march it in thirteen hours!" he cried, and then rubbed his eyes. "Nell, dear," he added with a short laugh, as if he were ashamed, "I have been fighting Indians again." He looked regretful to find himself in post instead of in the field. She was crying softly to herself when she went up-stairs.

Eleanor was twenty, and her father was a colonel, when his horse, carrying him over the plain at a hard gallop, plunged a leg into a prairie-dog's hole. The heavy Colonel was carried home white and limp, and Cæsar, the horse, was shot to end his suffering. The Colonel lay in bed for three months, and then went on the retired list. The family moved East, and after living in New York for a few months found a quiet little home in Mount Vernon, where the Colonel read the military publications, and army and navy notes in the newspapers—and fretted.

As for Eleanor, she had grown a wonderfully beautiful woman, and her triumphs were many. She was then tall and slender, with shoulders

which marked her spirit and pride. She held them up and back, and when she shrugged them it was like the gesture of a woman who ruled a people. Her throat and neck were marvelously beautiful. They were soft, and yet there was strength in them. Her head was firmly poised, and the hues of her hair were radiant. When she was pleased her eyes, and lips, and every curve of her features, smiled. When she was indifferent her face was like white marble.

Her winters were spent in New York with her aunt, and though no one doubted that she was, as the newspapers spoke of her, a "reigning belle," she did not get married. Not that she had no opportunities. There were hints without end in the publications that balance the accounts of society's ledgers. The smart young men who dawdled on the outer circles of her admirers could tell who was going to marry her. Sometimes they let slip the secret; sometimes they declared that they could not betray honorable confidences. There were mothers of daughters who frowned when desirable men followed in the haughty Miss Hardeservice's train. There were mothers of light-headed young men, possessed of ample fortunes, who trembled at the same time. And yet Miss Hardeservice did not get married. There was only one family that did not wonder at this. The Colonel was a little worried, for he was poor, but his serenity of mind never deserted him about his elder daughter's judgment. Mrs. Hardeservice was content to have her daughter, if only during the summers, and Bess loyally scoffed at every man who offered his name and fortune to her sister. Bess saw a little of Eleanor's world. She stayed in it for one winter. She was not abashed, but after that she chose to remain at home, and while her sister danced gaily or impassively in the social whirl, got her name in the "society" columns daily, and gracefully repulsed young men who swore that they would shoot themselves if she did not marry them, Bess read the "Army and Navy Journal" to her soldier father while he indulged in stolen naps, unmindful of social strife or Indian wars.

When Miss Hardeservice confessed to the Colonel one day, as her fingers played with his gray locks, that she was weary of it all, and begged him to take her to Bar Harbor on a family trip, where they could amuse one another, the Colonel, as he always did to every proposal of hers, cheerfully consented. He went to his desk, looked at his slender surplus in bank, wrinkled his brows a little, and made one more plunge into his account.

It was at Bar Harbor that Colonel Hardeservice began and brilliantly closed his last campaign. While the family adhered strictly

to their plan of enjoying themselves very quietly and simply, it was not surprising that Eleanor should find at Bar Harbor friends who were unwilling to allow her to keep in the social background. But when it was proved after argument, pleadings, and protestations that she was determined in her resolve, her ardent friends did not force their admiration to the point of driving themselves into sympathetic retirement. Her father, valiant soldier that he was, stood before Eleanor. Her friends began to know him. They had not seen his like before. His candor, his freshness, his freedom from conventional restraint, and his fine, open self-reliance, nourished and ripened on frontier posts, caught the spirits of all who met him. It was then that the Colonel became a lion. He danced, he told stories of Western life, he promenaded the long verandas, débutantes leaning on his arm. Colonel Hardeservice was the central figure of Bar Harbor, and in defending his daughter from her admirers and suitors he gave back to society not only Miss Hardeservice, but her father.

The Colonel saw at first glance wherein Eleanor had been at fault. It was not true that there were no men who were her equals. There were many-too many. Only an old campaigner could pick from the flower of this army the most gallant and worthy captain. So while the Colonel conducted armies of young pedestrians up Newport Mountain, led dashing cavalry troops in buckboards over the island of Mount Desert, and watched social manoeuvers with a critical eye, he searched carefully for his chief aide. In the flush of his victories he went beyond military operations. He planned a naval invasion of the dark-hued island which lay before his hotel. Seated in a fickle canoe managed by a young woman whose color was as fresh as the sea air,- the Colonel had never touched an oar or a paddle in his life, he saw his fleet ground on the shore of the invaded land, and, standing up in his treacherous craft, gaily waved his straw hat and proclaimed the island a province of Mount Desert.

Those were joyous days for the Colonel. The eyes of the fashionable world were upon him. But he did not allow himself to forget his duty to Eleanor. His keen eye was always on the alert. The man whom he sought he soon found. At the same time he made a discovery which caused him, a father whose whole thoughts were devoted to the interest of his daughter, no little mental turmoil.

There were two men toward whom the Colonel's attention was drawn. He liked them both, and their admiration for him was shown in many ways. They were both wholly unlike the Colonel and wholly unlike each other. What made it hard for the Colonel to do his duty was

that his heart went out at the very start to the younger of the two men. And he was poor. He liked Alfred Strong because Strong reminded him of the army. He was bold, vigorous, impetuous, and a little intolerant. He spoke rapidly in an argument, almost nervously, but he talked well, for in his life as a newspaper man, from reporter to editor, he had seen a good deal of the world-"A good deal," he himself said, "which a man would be better for not seeing and knowing."

Philip Malcolm, Strong's friend, on the other hand, had never earned a penny in his life. He had been constantly in Miss Hardeservice's court for three years. He was rich, he was slow, and he was grave. The Colonel had great respect for his good sense. He decided that Malcolm was a most desirable son-in-law, and although he would have preferred Strong, he accepted the conditions, soldier-like, and was firm in his duty.

The striking difference between the two friends, Strong and Malcolm, was something like this:

"You are a lucky dog, Phil, to have your disposition," said Strong once, when Malcolm came up to the editorial rooms after a rambling trip abroad. "If I had your money, it would kill me. I should be chasing fancies from the north to the south pole. I could n't keep still, should get out of breath and run myself to death-die from heart-failure."

"I work just as hard in my way," Malcolm answered, "as you do. I am forced to amuse myself. That is the hardest work in the world. I'm not fit for real, honest work. You can make your own living. That ought to be satisfaction enough."

He turned his dark eyes to look after something that was beyond his reach.

"Paint! paint!" cried Strong. "You paint well. That last bit of yours was good. Every one says so. How long did it take you? Two years!" exclaimed the editor. "I should drive at a picture night and day, spoil it in no time, and smash the canvas on a chair. You have patience; paint and do something."

Malcolm smiled at his ardor. " My dear fellow," he said, "it is easy enough for you to say that. That feeling is part of you. But I am different, and I make the best of it." Nevertheless, he looked discontented.

What made the Colonel attached to Strong was the editor's iconoclastic way of smashing at things.

"A newspaper man," said Strong to him, "is a freak of nature. He is shut out from those things which most people regard as the best part of life. He should never get married, for instance. It is n't fair to his family. He is an independent slave—a slave so long as he

earns his living; independent when he starves. His whole self is put away, checked at the door, you might say, when he goes to his editorial desk. He gets no rest and no consideration, because every one around him lives at the same high tension, until he breaks down. Then there is a flurry. Every one is shocked. His paper sends him to Europe - can't do enough for him; but his nerves are gone. They are on so fine an edge that inactivity jars them. Look at me-thirty-five, a young man, and my paper has to exile me to Bar Harbor for the summer. I should not have lasted here a week," he added with a smile, "if you had not come along to cheer me up. It 's frightfully dull and flat. When I was a reporter I could work thirty-six hours at a stretch without a wink of sleep or a bite to eat save a sandwich wherever I could grab it. I would then go home, sleep ten hours, eat a good breakfast, and report at the office, bright and smiling for another fast. Now why, it would kill me now," he said with a laugh.

"A soldier, too," said the Colonel. "Just like us. But you would n't change it."

Strong leaned back in his chair and smiled into the keen old eyes of the soldier.

"No, I would n't," he said; "not for the world. I live on it. The excitement and stimulus of it would keep me alive."

"So it does; so it did with me," cried the Colonel, warmly. He wished that Strong were wealthy. "I would give — oh, it's all over with me now," he added gloomily.

After this talk Strong held first place in the Colonel's estimation.


Strong was on the veranda of the Colonel's hotel, talking with the veteran and Malcolm, when he first met Miss Hardeservice. came walking up slowly from the water, a jacket trailing in her hand. There were then two small spots of color in her cheek, which looked brighter than they were above the white of her yachting-gown. It was after dinner, and the slanting sun sent shining flashes through her hair. When she sat down with them to rest, her several winters in New York showed in her face, for it became pale; but at times, as she talked, a touch of pink was in her cheek again.

"That color will refuse to come in two years more," said Strong to himself. He looked at her while he chatted with the little dark-eyed one, as he called the younger Miss Hardeservice.

"She is older than she looks," he thought. "Twenty-eight, or twenty-nine; no, twentyeight." He wronged her by two years. After a while he drifted into conversation with her alone. It was perfectly aimless. He became

a trifle impatient with her. "She poses," he forces were often thrown into utter confusion, so that he could not direct them all.

said mentally.

When he and Malcolm were walking to their hotel, he broke out suddenly, "She is handsome."

"Who is handsome ?" said Malcolm.

"Why, Miss Hardeservice, of course." He knew all about Malcolm's suit, but he was very frank with his friend.

"I did n't like her mannerisms," Strong went on; "that is, I thought she assumed weariness of some things. Perhaps she piqued my vanity by appearing to be a little bored. Is n't she just a bit of a coquette?" he blurted


"N-no, she is n't," answered Malcolm. "I once thought she was." He stopped for a minute. "But she is perfectly frank with men. I do not know of a single case where she has not been sincere."

[ocr errors]

Well, I like the little one better," said Strong. "She is full of good sense, and she knows a deal. She rests me. She's calm and placid, like the water down there. Her sister is more like those straight trees up on the hill." Malcolm gave him no answer.

"But I must say, Phil," Strong went on, "that I have never seen a more handsome She carries herself superbly. She seems to be all that a man could picture to himself. If she would only feel! Do you know," he said earnestly, "I can't get it out of my head that she poses. Hang it, Phil!" he jerked out in his quick way, forgetting his friend, "I think that girl wants to marry money."

"I don't believe it," answered the other, quietly, looking up over the hill. "No; you will like her better. She is much like her father."

"He is a sterling old soldier and a fine gentleman," said Strong. "I like him. I like the little one. I think I like them all, but I like the Colonel best."

It did not take the Colonel long, with his fine perceptions, to discover that Strong was falling in love with his younger daughter. This complicated affairs, but it eased his mind, for he would have found it against his inclination to oppose the editor had he tried to win Eleanor. Now he had only to broaden his field of operations and to make use of his military talents in massing his forces or performing flank movements. So the Colonel's ruddy face beamed, and his heart was light; but this campaign was

[blocks in formation]

One of the difficulties was that Strong was impartial in his attentions. He was as uncertain as the wind. Malcolm's suit made little headway. It was impossible to tell whether he felt shy or hopeless.

There was also one phase of the situation which the commander-in-chief failed to take in: Strong and Malcolm were not so cordial to each other as they had been. This was scarcely the fault of Strong. He believed in a fair fight and the laurels to the victor. Malcolm, on the other hand, could not take up arms against a friend. He was never sure of his own position, and was even in more doubt about Strong. He was a shuttlecock on a battledore held by an irresponsible hand. If he went canoeing with Bess, it was because Miss Hardeservice and Strong were on the water together. If he found himself playing tennis with Miss Hardeservice for a partner, it was because Bess and Strong had already formed an alliance. Realizing this, Malcolm felt uncomfortable. But the Colonel was untiring in the use of his tactics, so that in the end he usually had the supreme satisfaction of seeing the battle wage as he wished. Then he would draw aloof and survey the field with a calm dignity and a soldier's pride. One could almost fancy him sweeping a plain with his field-glass. As he examined the war maps in his brain, his smile grew more eloquent and his face more ruddy.

One night, when he gave Bess a good-night kiss, he pinched her cheek affectionately, and looked down into her dark eyes with such a meaning glance that his daughter blushed furiously and ran away from him, involuntarily trying to hide her treacherous cheeks with her hands.

"Strong is in love with our Bess, dear," he said to his wife.

"I think he is, Frank," answered his wife, complacently.

"This has been known to me for some time," said the Colonel, nodding his gray head sagely.

"I don't think that Bess is very-fond of him," she answered, hesitating over the word.

"Don't you?" said he, with a mysterious smile. "He is just the husband for Bess, frank, brave, able, and—handsome," he added, looking at himself in a glass. "You are n't opposed to it, are you?" he asked anxiously.

"Not in the least. Bess will marry the man she loves. She could not be made to do otherwise. She has a great deal of spirit, only she seldom shows it."

"But she likes Strong."

"Yes, she does; but Bess is very shy. If she loved a man, she would be more likely to re

treat from him. I should say that she was more likely to love Mr.—a man like—well, a man like Malcolm."

"You don't mean to say," cried the Colonel, jumping up in alarm, "that"

“Oh, dear, no,” cried little Mrs. Hardeservice, frightened by her husband's voice.

"What do you mean, then ?" he asked in a relieved tone.

"I think that Mr. Strong is in love with Bess, that Mr. Malcolm has always been in love with Nell, but that such an idea never entered Bess's little head, while Nell does n't care for either of them. Nell seems to be tired of every one but us. She says that she is going to spend the winter at home. She has written to her aunt, and Helen is greatly vexed about it."

"My dear," said the Colonel, smoothing his ruffled dignity, "you should see with my eyes. Nell will be engaged to Malcolm before we leave this place."

"Never mind, Frank," answered his wife, gently; "it will all come out right."

"How blind women are!" reflected the son of Mars; and he smiled serenely.

PERHAPS Strong and Malcolm first confessed to themselves that their relations were a little strained on the evening when they just escaped a serious accident. They were out canoeing with the two sisters. Strong managed a canoe with fine skill. His boat was a mere shell, and his quick arms drove it through the still water like a knife-blade. It was as delicately poised as a spinning bicycle-wheel, and Strong, with another person in the craft, could keep it at all times on a perfect balance. He and the younger Miss Hardeservice were shooting about on the water before the island, while Malcolm and Miss Hardeservice, in a much heavier boat, were following in their wake. Strong wheeled his frail craft around in a pretty half-circle, a streak of white behind them showing their course. Then with a long sweep of his arm, showing brown and sinewy where his sleeves were uprolled, he sent the canoe skimming over the water, and drew in his paddle. This circular course brought them nearer Malcolm and Miss Hardeservice. Strong and the younger sister watched the water drip from the shining paddle as they drifted.

Malcolm was propelling his heavy canoe vigorously, and his boat promised to cross Strong's bows. He seemed a little excited. Miss Hardeservice's back was toward them, and she held her glove up where the sun touched her cheek.

They were not twenty yards away, and would cross very near the light canoe, when suddenly Malcolm's paddle stopped as he leaned forward saying something earnestly; his boat swerved,

and came straight toward the other canoe. Strong's paddle was lying across his lap.

"Look out, Phil!" he shouted, as he seized it, and thrust it into the water; "you will cut us down!" His paddle gleamed behind him, and the canoe sprang ahead. Malcolm had not seen them. Before he could lift his hand, his boat shot along the stern of Strong's, grazing it and sending a shiver over the lighter craft.

"Sit still, sit still," said Strong in a low voice to the younger Miss Hardeservice, as the canoe tipped and rocked. Her face was pale. He brought his boat around until he was close up to Malcolm. He looked at his friend, and then at Miss Hardeservice. Malcolm was dazed, but she had a fine light on her beautiful face. Strong's eyes flashed, and when he spoke his voice was trembling.

"You just missed drowning us all, Phil," he said curtly, and turned his canoe toward the shore. His glance fell on his companion as his paddle flashed back and forth.

"I hope you were not frightened," he said, trying to smile.

[ocr errors]

Oh, no," she answered; "you were so quick that I had no time to know that there was any danger." But her lip quivered.

Strong did not seem to hear her. His lips were pressed together, and where his straight brows approached each other there was a little knot.

Malcolm apologized to him that evening.

"I nearly made a fatal blunder," he said, "and I am ashamed enough of myself. You saved us all, Fred. Thank you very much," and he tried to wring the other's hand. “ "I was thrown out of my senses," he went on, hesitating. "I-I was greatly surprised by something. Don't be so stiff about it, Fred," he added, with a rising color. "Miss Hardeservice - that is, I made a terrible blunder."

"All's well that ends well," answered the other, with a little laugh that was slightly harsh.

Not until the season was nearing its end did Colonel Hardeservice lose faith in his strategy, and not even then would he believe that he had been entirely mistaken in his plan of conducting his campaign. But he was harassed by misgivings. Apparently he had won the day. Strong was nearly always with Bess, and Miss Hardeservice was more kind to Malcolm than she had ever been before; but there was now an open restraint between every one. Strong and Malcolm had no more to do with each other than courtesy and civility demanded. The Colonel himself did not find the editor so entertaining or frank as he had been. Eleanor was the most natural of them all. She was as dignified as always, and if she were more bored

« PreviousContinue »