Read CHAPTER XXXVIII - THE OLD SONGS of Uncle Terry A Story of the Maine Coast , free online book, by Charles Clark Munn, on

Influenced by time, place, and the earnest pleading of her admirer, Alice Page had, on that summer afternoon by the mill-pond, stepped a little from her pedestal of pride. In a way, too, her feelings were touched, at least enough to give her many an hour’s heartache afterwards while she was resolutely putting the sweet illusion out of her mind. But no one, not even her brother, knew it, and only Aunt Susan suspected, and she wisely kept her counsel, hoping that all would come right in the end.

The proposed change did not seem to disturb her much, although Alice noticed that she was more quiet than ever and avoided that subject.

“I’m ready an’ willin’ to go if you think best,” she said; “and I’ll do my best as long as I can. I hain’t got long to stay, and if I see you two happy, I’m content.”

It was the pathos of old age, and it touched Alice’s heart.

Two weeks before Christmas came a cordial letter from Blanch, reminding Alice of her promise to visit her during the holidays and insisting that she do so now. With it was enclosed an equally cordial but brief note of invitation from Mrs. Nason. Alice replied to both in due form and with profuse thanks, also stating that she had promised her brother she would visit him during her vacation, and hoped to have one or two evenings with them at that time.

“I will let them see I am not a deserted tabby-cat,” she said to herself, “waiting around in the cold until some one opens a door for me.” And then this proud little country girl enclosed both notes to her brother and told him he had best inform the Nasons of her intended visit in a matter-of-fact way. “But mind,” she added, “you do not let on that you know they have invited me to visit them. We will do just as we talked, go there and spend one or two evenings, or perhaps I may meet them at a theatre, which would be much better.”

By return mail came his assurance of obedience and a sizable check. “Use it all, my dear sis,” he wrote, “and for your own needs, too. I do not want you to feel ashamed of your gowns when you come to Boston.”

“Bless his dear heart,” said Alice, when she read the letter, “what a prize that island girl will get in him!” And then she came near crying at the thought of that possible outcome. But when Christmas came and she kissed Aunt Susan good-by, she was near giving up the trip altogether. It may have been the sad face of her aunt that brought the irresolution, or a feeling that meeting Frank would re-awaken the little heartache she had for five months been trying to conquer; for this proud girl had firmly made up her mind that she would utter a very decided “no” if Frank proposed again. When she reached Boston she was met by her brother, and for three days he devoted his entire time to her.

“I have not told Frank, even, when you were coming,” he observed, “and shall not let them know you are here until we call.” Then he added, smiling, “I want you to myself for a few days, because after Frank knows you are here I am sure to be one too many most of the time.”

“Not on his account, you’ll not be,” replied Alice with a snap, and it is likely that moment she meant it too.

And what a gallant escort that brother was! And what a change from the dull monotony of her home life those days were to Alice!

They hunted for houses and visited art galleries mornings, lunched at Parker’s at noon, and devoted the afternoons and evenings to theatres. Then after that usually a tete-a-tete supper at a cozy place where the best was to be had, and a little chat in his or her room before retiring. It was during one of these brief visits that she noticed some of the pictures that hung in his room.

“Who painted that shipwreck scene?” she asked, looking at one. “It is a gem, and those poor sailors clinging to the ice-covered rigging are enough to make one shiver. And those awful waves, too, are simply terrifying. And what a pretty scene is this wild tangle of rocks with a girl leaning on one and looking out on the ocean where the sun is setting or rising,” she continued as she viewed the next one. Then as she examined it a little closer she added, “Who is E. T.?” Albert made no answer and she passed to a third one showing a little rippled cove with the ocean beyond and a girl seated in the shade of a small spruce tree.

“Why, this is by E. T. too,” she exclaimed, and turning to her brother she repeated, “who is E. T.?”

“Well,” he answered, “I will take you down to the island some time and introduce you to her. She will be glad to meet my sister, you may be certain.”

Then it all flashed over Alice, and the brief history of this girl, as her brother had told it, came back to her in an instant. “So that was the wreck she floated ashore from, was it, Bert?” she asked; “and can she paint like that? Why, I am astonished! And who is the girl leaning on the rock?” she added; “and what an exquisitely molded figure! And what a pretty pose! Who is she?”

“That is your possible sister-in-law,” answered Albert with a touch of pride, “and the pictures were done by her from sketches I first made myself. They are true to life so far as all details go, only I failed to catch her expressive face in the one that shows a front view of her.”

“And so that was the way you wooed your island goddess, was it?” observed Alice with a roguish look; “made her pose for a sketch while you said sweet things to her.” Then with a woman’s curiosity she added, “Have you a picture of her?”

“No, I am sorry to say I have not,” he replied; “remember, she has been hidden away on an island all her life, and I doubt if she ever had a picture taken.”

“And when will you take me to see her?” asked Alice. “I am so anxious to meet this fairy of the shore who has stolen my brother’s heart. Can’t we go down there before I return home?”

“We can,” he added, “but I think we’d better wait until spring.”

The next day he informed her he had secured a box at the Tremont for that evening, and had invited the Nasons to join them. “I thought it would relieve your mind a little, Alice,” he added, “to meet your bogie on neutral ground.” And it did.

But Mrs. Nason was a long way from being the haughty spectre Alice had conjured up, and like many excellent mothers was simply interested to see that her only and impetuous son did not make a mésalliance. While she had wisely made no comment regarding her son’s apparent disappointment, what Blanch had said, together with that fact, had won for Alice a respect she was totally unaware of. That a poor and pretty country schoolma’am was proud enough to discourage that son’s attentions because of the difference in their positions was an unusual experience to her and one that awakened her curiosity. “I should like to meet Miss Page,” she said to Blanch when the latter had asked if she might invite her to visit them, “and see what she is like. A girl that shows the spirit she does is certainly worth cultivating, and as she entertained you so nicely, by all means let us return the obligation.”

When Alice’s cool but polite note reached Mrs. Nason, she was piqued to even a greater degree of curiosity, and when Albert’s courteous letter, inviting “Mrs. Nason and family to share a box at the Tremont for the purpose of meeting my sister” was received, she returned a cordial acceptance by bearer.

To Alice the proposed meeting was a source of dread, and when the carriage called for Albert and herself she was in an excited state of mind, and maybe it was not all on account of Mrs. Nason either. They had barely taken their seats in the box, and the orchestra had only just begun the overture, when the usher knocked and Blanch, followed by the rest of the family, entered. That young lady greeted Alice with an effusive kiss at once, and the next instant she found herself shaking hands with a rotund and gray-haired lady of dignified bearing, but of very kind and courteous manner. An introduction to Edith followed, and then Frank acknowledged her polite “How do you do, Mr. Nason?” with his very best bow.

Their meeting was the most formal of any, as Alice evidently wished it to be, since she did not offer her hand, and then she insisted that Mrs. Nason and her two daughters occupy the front chairs.

“You are our guests this evening,” said Alice with quiet dignity, when Blanch urged her to take one, “and so must pardon me for insisting.”

Then the play began, and by the time the first act was over Alice had taken a mental inventory of her “bogie” and made up her mind that she was no bogie at all. When the curtain fell, Mrs. Nason began chatting with Alice in the pleasantest way possible, and with seemingly cordial interest in all she said, while Blanch wisely kept quiet and Edith devoted herself to Albert. It was after the second curtain when Mrs. Nason said: “I must insist that you divide your visit with us, Miss Page, and allow us to return a little of your hospitality. Of course I understand that your brother comes first, and rightly too, but we must claim a part of your time.”

“I had promised myself one or two evenings at your home,” Alice answered quietly, “but I do not feel that I ought to desert Bertie more than that.”

Then for the first time Blanch put in her little word: “Now do not offer your brother as an excuse,” she said, “for it will not do a bit of good. I have been anticipating your promised visit for a long time, and no brother is going to rob me of it. I shall come around to-morrow forenoon with the coachman, and if you are not ready to go back with me, bag and baggage, I will take your baggage, and then you will have to come.”

Alice smiled at this vehement cordiality.

“I do not see why you cannot see your brother and visit with him just as well at our house,” put in Mrs. Nason; “he is always welcome there, and he knows it, I am sure.”

Alice turned to her brother, remarking: “It is nice of you to insist, and I am more than grateful, but it must be as he says.” Then she added prettily: “He is my papa and mamma now, and the cook and captain bold, and mate of the ‘Nancy’ brig as well.”

“I will stir up a mutiny on the ‘Nancy’ brig if he does not consent,” laughed Blanch, “so there is an end to that; and you must be ready at ten to-morrow.”

“Well, what do you think of the ‘haughty mother’ now?” observed Albert, after the Nasons had rolled away in their carriage. “Is she the awful spectre you imagined?”

“Oh, she’s nice enough,” answered Alice, “only it is just as well to let her see I need a little urging.”