Read CHAPTER XXIX - A FRIEND AT COURT of Uncle Terry A Story of the Maine Coast , free online book, by Charles Clark Munn, on

When Frank and his sister were away from Sandgate she said, “Well, my dear Ben Bolt, did you capture your sweet Alice that afternoon I told so many fibs to help you? I know you must have made an effort, for she showed it plainly.”

“No, I did not,” he answered frankly, “but I made a break, and as she didn’t take it amiss, I feel hopeful. The fact is, sis,” he continued ruefully, “she is the most proud-spirited girl I ever met, and mother is the ogre that stands in the way. If mother approves of Alice I am all right, but if she doesn’t receive her with open arms, it’s all day with me.”

“I could have told you that the day after we arrived there,” answered Blanch, “and I am not surprised. Now”-with a laugh-“you must court mamma for a few months, as well as your pretty Alice. It will do you good, for you never have been over-dutiful.”

Frank frowned. “Oh, bother these finicky mothers!” he exclaimed. “Why will they turn up their noses at every poor girl? If Alice had rich parents she would be all right, no matter if she were as homely as a hedge fence.”

“Maybe that’s so,” answered Blanch, “but you can’t change mamma, and if you want to win your Alice you must do as I tell you and court mamma. Now I will tell you what to do, and if you’re good to me I’ll help you do it. In the first place you must stay at Bethlehem until we go home, and do all you can to please your mother. Take her driving, ask her to play whist with you, and when she makes a good play, praise it; carry her wraps for her; be solicitous about her welfare and comfort in all things, and treat her just as if she were Alice instead of mamma. It won’t be as pleasant, but it will be good practice for you. Then when she is well cared for, act downcast at times and depressed. Wait a few days before working the melancholy act-that’s enough to provoke her interest-and don’t say much to other girls. Dance with Ede and me and say sweet things to mamma for a week. Then some day take her out for a drive and act as if you had lost your last friend. She will inevitably ask what ails you; but don’t tell her too quickly-let her coax you a little, and after a while make a clean breast of it.

“I would suggest you insinuate the girl has favored your suit, but has practically said ‘no,’ because she is too proud to marry into a rich family. That will do more to pique mamma’s interest in the matter than volumes of praise for Alice. Don’t say too much, but if she questions you about her, answer frankly to the point, but convey the impression that you consider your case hopeless, and leave the rest to me.”

Frank looked at his sister in silent admiration. “I didn’t know you had such a wise head on your shoulders,” he said at last, “or cared so much for me.”

It was a nice thing to say, and well deserved, for few brothers ever do have better sisters than Frank was blessed with; and if more impetuous young men would make confidants of their mothers or sisters in matters matrimonial, and heed their advice, there would be fewer divorces.

When Frank and Blanch had made a short stop at Saratoga, “just to be able to say so,” as Blanch said, they returned to Bethlehem and the little domestic drama began. At first it was not much to Frank’s liking, but as it progressed he grew interested in watching the surprising effect it had on his proud mother. To have her only son, and a handsome young fellow at that, show her so much devotion before crowds of people, gladdened her heart in a wonderful way, and as it was soon noticed and commented upon to her, it flattered her amazingly. She had known that Frank was from the first a little smitten with this sister of his college chum; but as he had had several mild cases of being smitten before, she thought nothing of it. With wise motherly caution, she took good care to ask no questions, even when Blanch told her they had visited Alice on their way to Saratoga. When the denouement came she was, as Blanch had predicted, completely taken aback. It was a decidedly new experience to her to learn that any girl could turn her back upon her son’s suit because he came from a wealthy and aristocratic family. While it surprised her a good deal, it also awakened her admiration for that girl still more. The one dread of her life had been that her impetuous son would make an unfortunate alliance and disgrace the family. She made but little reply to his love-lorn tale, except to laugh at him and assure him he would soon overcome it; but that night in the privacy of her room she questioned Blanch in a sly way very amusing to that shrewd daughter.

“Frank has not made me his confidant,” Blanch replied, “only I noticed he was very attentive to Miss Page, while she seemed to avoid being left alone with him a moment. She is one of the sweetest and prettiest girls I’ve met in a long time, and also one of the proudest. I quite fell in love with her at sight, and am sure Frank has; but so far as I saw, she gave him no encouragement. She is poor, pretty, and proud; and that tells the whole story. I imagined she believed she would not be welcomed by you, and while I begged her to come and visit me, I doubt if she does.” (A fib.)

This practically ended the first part of the play, though Frank noticed his mother watched him more closely and showed an increased tenderness towards him.

“Keep on courting mamma,” Blanch whispered to him one evening when they were alone, “she is watching you to see if you mean it, and is both surprised and pleased. As I expected, she has quizzed me, and if you convince her you are in earnest, and are really the discarded and forlorn lover you affect to be, it will end by her writing your sweet Alice a personal letter of invitation to visit us. Seriously, too, I believe that will be the only thing that will bring your schoolma’am to Boston, or at least to our house.”

When the last of August came and the Nasons returned to Boston, Frank and his mother were far better friends, and the most surprised one of the four was Edith, who was not in the secret.

“What has come over Frank?” she said to Blanch one day; “he has never been so well-behaved before in his life. First he quit idling and began to study law as if he meant to be somebody; then he deserted his crowd of cronies for us and has acted as if we were his sole care in life ever since! What is the meaning of it, Blanch?”

“I haven’t the least idea,” answered that arch plotter, “and it seems so good to have him devoted to us that I am not going to ask any questions. I am not disposed to act as foolish as the boy did who cut his drum open to find out what made the noise, or to find out what Frank’s reasons are for doing what he ought to do, and I would advise you not to.” All of which goes to show that far-seeing Blanch was capable of managing her mother and sister equally well.