Sylvia's Suitors: A Little Episode
SYLVIA ENGLES folded the letter she had just written, and put it in the envelope. Then she arose from her chair, put on her hat and sacque, and so opened the letter and read the last pages over.
“ You need not wonder,” she read, “ why I prefer to spend October at the sea-shore. If you were here, — I wish you were ! — you would rather wonder why all the world is not of my mind. But I am glad it isn’t! I’d like another woman to help entertain the two learned men who also sojourn here, but I should object to the world. One of the charms of the place is my sense of my proprietary right in the ocean. For me the tides come and go; for me the sea breaks and rolls ; mine are the sunsets and the white-caps, and mine, O Rachel, the spoil and the plunder! For know, my dear, that I do not stay only for the fine weather and the ocean, nor yet for good comradeship, but for mosses! Never again will you say you are tired of ‘ Miss Engles’s cowslip china.’ It, Rachel, has had its day ! It is to be succeeded by mosses, sea-weeds, algœ. They will be the rage ! I am determined upon that. You and your fashionable friends can make conversation, as you sip your chocolate, upon the variety and delicacy of my designs. No plate is to have its duplicate, no cup its fellow. I shall not paint very many, but I warrant you they 'll be expensive ! You will go wild when you see my designs, but you need not hope to buy any of my china. It will be dear, too dear ! Still, as you are going to be married, you shall have a tête-à-tête set. In the mean time, won’t you stop at my studio and tell the janitor that I will be home the 1st of November ? You might suggest some dusting up. As ever, “ S. E.”
“Now,” said Sylvia, “ Rachel will have news to tell,” and then she put on her gloves, and started for the post-office. When she reached that Mecca of all sea-side visitors she found it closed. She knocked, but no one answered ; she tried both doors but in vain. Then she went into the drug - store nest door. “Oh, Mr. Snyder,” she exclaimed, as a man with a napkin in his hand came out of the back room, “ the post-office too has gone! What are we to do now ? ”
Mr. Snyder wiped his fingers, and smiled. “ It is not quite as bad as that, Miss Engles ! We poor residents have not many luxuries after you city folks leave us, but we do manage to keep our post-office. I guess Joe Ruggles has gone to his tea; he mostly shuts up then.”
“ Must I sit on the step and wait for him ? ” asked Sylvia.
“ Not much,” said Mr. Snyder. “ Just you leave your letter here, and I ’ll see to it.”
“It must go in the first mail,” said Sylvia.
“It shall,” replied Mr. Snyder; and then he opened the door for Sylvia, and she turned to go to the beach.
As she walked along Atlantic Avenue, and then down one of the cross-streets toward the ocean, she thought the place looked as if it had been desolated by the plague. The stores, the hotels, the pleasant sunny cottages, were all closed and silent. No one was to be seen upon the long and sandy streets. On some of the avenues were rows of forlorn and dingy bath-houses, moved away from the beach and from winter tides. The long board walk by the shore, the pavilions, which at their best suggested Sampson Brass’s summer-house, were gone, and the very signs of gay life silenced made the place doubly desolate.
But Sylvia was too full of vitality to feel depressed, and indeed rather enjoyed the loneliness that left her free and happy.
She was pretty, she had abundant interests in her life, and she had half made up her mind to marry. She was not young, for she was thirty-six; but she had had a very good time, and she meant never to have a bad one. She had once lived abroad, and had studied art in Rome and in Paris, and she was wise in technical terms, and knew all about the schools; and when she wrote pretty little poems she turned them with many a neat allusion to both Dante and Raphael. She was never worried because she could not paint great pictures, and when she was in Paris she used to go among the studios, and without any envy admire ambitious Americans working at Pompeiian interiors and Arabs at prayer. When she came home she refused all pupils, and applied herself to painting little girls. Her pictures sold, but with mildness; yet her day of triumph came. It came with “ decorative art,” and a panel and a tea-service established her reputation, and made Sylvia the fashion. After this all was easy.
The man she thought of marrying was Professor Arnold. He was a widower with one child, and Sylvia had now been at the sea-shore for two months with them. She had always meant to marry, and any one could see that this would be a suitable match, He had position and money, and Sylvia liked both, and thought she deserved both. The child, little Josie, was fond of her, and she liked to have the tender little creature depend on her, run after her, and play the tyrant over her.
They were all Josie’s slaves. The professor, who was writing his lectures in a room where he could not see the ocean, had stayed at the sea-shore on her account; Dr. Kennedy was always at her service when his neuralgia permitted, and Sylvia already gave her many a little motherly care; the landlord petted her, and the waiter was her worshiper ; and these five people, at present, made up Josie’s world.
When Sylvia reached the beach she found Josie busy making a well in the sand, while Dr. Kennedy walked up and down. His long ulster was buttoned over his slender, tall figure, and he wore a huge blue and white scarf tied over his hat to protect his ears.
“ Oh, here you come ! ” he cried. “ I have been watching for you. Just come here, Miss Sylvia. Now look over the water. What do you see ? ”
Sylvia went to him. “ I see the waves breaking on the shore,” she replied. “ It is high tide, but the breakers are not rough. It is a tranquil sea.”
“ What else ? ” he asked, — “ no ships, no boats, no gulls ? ”
“ Only water and sky.”
“ Now look along the shore.”
“ I see sand, — a long, level stretch of gray sand.”
“And the sky ? ”
“ There are clouds. They are white and many-piled. The sky is soft and blue, and over there,” pointing, “ the sunset colors are reflected from the west.”
“ Then,” said he impressively, “ look at that child ! You have not mentioned her, — a mere speck of humanity, a creature not three feet high, a small bit of color, red and white; and yet she is all we see between here and Portugal ! Think of it ! Nearly four thousand miles of space, and hers the only life in sight! Miss Sylvia,” and the doctor’s voice deepened, “ this is what I call — solitude! ”
“ And you like it ? ”
“Yes,” he said, “I do. I like it, as the Frenchman did, when I have a pleasant companion with whom to share it.”
“Very well,” said Sylvia, taking out her watch, “ if I come under that head, I will stay with you fifty-three minutes. By that time Thomas will be ready to sound his gong for supper, and the professor will be walking on the porch looking for us.”
“ Suppose, then,” said the doctor, “ that we sit down by the anchor. I don’t like this wind, and I have a shawl there.”
The anchor, which in the summer was attached to a bathing - line, was now drawn up on the shore, and deeply imbedded in the sand made a snug recess, of which Sylvia was fond. The doctor hung his shawl upon the arms of the anchor, and offered Sylvia the cosy, tapestried seat; but she, declining it, sat in the open air, and he went far back in the shelter.
“ This,” he said, “ I call comfort ! And now, Miss Sylvia, when are you going away ? ”
“ In two weeks,” said she.
“ And the professor a week after. I shall be lonely ! See here, Miss Sylvia, why don’t you stay here all winter ? You have no idea how charming it is. No ice, no snow; the air a visible tonic, — exhilarating, sparkling! You could paint and get new inspirations. ‘ Stay, Sylvia, stay.’ ”
“ The inspirations would not be of much use here,” said Sylvia; “and do you suppose Mr. Reimer would take a panel in exchange for my board ? ”
“ But, my dear,” said the doctor, “ an artist is free. He need not live in his shop, — his studio, I mean. Paint your pictures here, and send them to your agent.”
“ Pictures ? ” said Sylvia. “ It is teacups ! If fashion patronizes me, I must be on hand. You ought to see me receive, doctor,” she went on. “ I wear a long, monkish brown gown, and on it is many a spot of paint. My studio is lovely, and I give æsthetic teas sometimes. I can fancy you at one! Will you come ? ”
“Nonsense! ” said he, flushing. “ How frivolous you try to make yourself ! I wonder you paint at all.”
“You wouldn’t,” said she, “if you knew the size of my bank account.”
“ I am perfectly in earnest,” the doctor said. “ I don’t like women to work. I don’t believe in it. I have had a surfeit of it. In my family all the women work. The older ones manage hospitals and societies, and the younger ones teach, or read, or practice medicine. I don’t like it. They all have money. I don’t believe you yearn to be independent, to have a life of your own, and all that fol-di-rody.”
“ I don’t,” said Sylvia. “ I would n’t like to be no more than the basket handle ; I know too well all the joys of independence ! Still, you see, I have n’t money, so I earn it.”
“That is just it!” cried the doctor, coming a little way out of his niche. “You work because you must have a living. Very good. And your occupation is genteel and lady-like.”
“ Don’t say ‘genteel’! ” cried Sylvia.
“That is a very good word. Would respectable be any better? No? Well, this is what I meant to say, — a pretty, domestic woman like you ought to get married. In fact, you ought to have been married some time ago.”
“ How do you know I am domestic ? ” said Sylvia, slightly coloring, and ignoring his last remark. “ Artists are generally considered Bohemian rather than domestic.”
“ Oh, but you are not an out-and-out artist.”
“ Indeed, I am ! ” cried Sylvia. “ I have n’t much genius, but you don’t suppose I spend my life painting tea-cups ? I paint pictures, and I exhibit them, and, what is more to the purpose, I sell them.”
“I don’t doubt it,” said the doctor; “ but all the same you ought to get married. There’s another objection I have to my family : the girls don’t marry. They have n’t the time, and so we have an army of old maids. I don’t like it. There is that child’s father; why don’t he marry ? ”
“ I am sure I don’t know ; ” and now Sylvia really did color.
“ He ought to do it,” pursued the relentless doctor. “ That child cannot be brought up properly by servants, and he has no sisters. Do you know, Miss Sylvia, — now, I suppose you ’ll get mad! — I had a great mind to advise him to ask you. It seems a pity for him to lose the chance of so good a mother for Josie. You see I have an observant nature, and I have watched you with her. You are fond of her, you have pleasant little ways with her, and she is certainly fond of you. Yes, you would make a very good mother for her.”
Sylvia laughed at this. She did not mean to betray any feeling again.
“ The reason why I am so candid, and perhaps abrupt — you do think me abrupt?”
“ I do,” said Sylvia.
“ Well, the reason is that the matter is a little involved. When I first thought of it, you and the professor were digging a cave for the child in the sand, and she was jumping about in high glee. Do you remember ? ”
Yes, Sylvia remembered it very well.
“ It was a pretty picture, I thought, and it flashed on me that the professor would be blind if he did not see what he ought to do. Ask you to marry him, I mean.”
“I ought to be very much obliged to you,” said Sylvia coolly.
“ Oh, but that isn’t all! ” the doctor continued, pushing the scarf off his ears. “ You don’t understand yet how the matter is involved. When I went back to the hotel it occurred to me that I was a very great fool. I had much better ask you to marry me. I am sure I need a good wife.”
“ Very well,” said Sylvia, with admirable gravity.
“Still, you see,” he said, “it seemed rather mean not to give him the chance. It is of course obvious that he needs the wife the most, — on account of the little girl, you know. My first thought referred to his marrying you, and that gives him, you see, a sort of preëmption claim.”
“ I am not sure of that,” replied Sylvia. “ Don’t they give patents, or something of the sort, for the first idea ? ”
“ Then,” said the doctor eagerly, “ you would be willing to let me ask you ? ”
“ Oh, perfectly,” said Sylvia.
“ I wish I knew what you mean — would you refuse — But no, I won’t do it. I really think he ought to have the first chance. The little girl is to be considered, you know.”
“ Is it Josie who is the first object ? ” said Sylvia. “ If that is so, I might adopt her. That would make it all right, and none of us be worried.”
“ Her father would n’t part with her ; but I am thinking of the welfare of all. By George, Miss Sylvia, I wish I knew your Eng; or rather, I wish the professor did. I’d like Chang myself! Of course Arnold knows nothing of this. I thought I had best speak to you first. I was afraid he would not explain the situation, — not as I would.”
“ I don’t believe he could,” replied she.
“Well,” said the doctor, “what have you to say ? ”
“ I cannot say anything,” she answered.
“ You cannot ? ” repeated the doctor.
“ I could offer an opinion, I suppose,” said Sylvia; “ but you see I can’t, under the circumstances, make it a personal matter yet.”
“ You mean,” the doctor said, “ that neither of us has yet asked you ? ”
“Exactly,” Sylvia answered.
“Very well, then. Now, suppose, before we go any farther, that we see just where we stand in the present position of affairs. In the first place, — because it would, perhaps, not be proper to refer to the professor’s personal matters at this moment, — do you think you could marry me ? ”
“ No, I don’t,” she answered. “ I am very sure I could n’t.”
“ That is frank,” he said, looking greatly pleased. “I like that. It is business-like, and helps us to clear the ground. Now, why could n’t you ? ”
“For one thing, I don’t care enough for you, and for another, I never thought of it.”
“ Very good. But we will now suppose you might waive the second reason, and I could try to persuade you out of the first. So then, what are your objections likely to be ? You can’t, for instance, object to my family ? ”
“ No,” said Sylvia; “ to tell you the honest truth, I know nothing about it.”
“ You don’t! ” exclaimed the doctor. “ Then I ’ll tell you. We are good Quaker stock. We came over with William Penn. We are in every history of Pennsylvania ever written. If you ask for family, you can’t do better. We are an Arch Street Quaker family.”
“ Is that any better than any other street Quakers ? ” asked Sylvia.
“ To be a real Arch Street Quaker, Miss Sylvia, you must be born into it. You may visit our circle, marry into it, live next door to it; but to be of it — birth is necessary. It is the aristocracy of the country.”
“ I might have liked to have been born into it,” said Sylvia, “ I cannot tell; but I am sure I should n’t want to marry into it.” Then she said, “ Is it stupid ? ”
“ Awfully,” said the doctor, “ but it is good. I simply refer to it as a question of family. You need not have anything to do with it. We don’t when we can help it. We are church people, you know, — prayer-books, marrying out of meeting, and all that. If you are interested in colonial furniture, we have plenty of it. In fact, you could n’t do better in the way of family.”
“ Well, then,” said Sylvia, “ I give up that point. I don’t object to your family.”
“ I am not poor. I like my profession, and if I need more money I will practice again. Could you be satisfied with seven thousand three hundred and sixty-two dollars a year ? ”
“ Perfectly,” said Sylvia.
“ I am not young, — I am forty-six ; but the professor is still older, so that point is not to be considered.”
“ Oh, yes, it is ! ” exclaimed Sylvia. “We are not considering this matter relatively; the professor is not under discussion.”
“ True enough,” replied the doctor, “ that is a fact to be remembered. Absolutely, then, I am not old; I am amiable, I am not tyrannical, and when I have n’t the neuralgia and don’t wear this scarf I am not ugly; I am a person of good habits ; I smoke, but I don’t drink, bet, nor gamble. These are points in my favor ? ”
“ Certainly,” said Sylvia.
“ Well, then ? ”
“ I think,” said she, taking out her watch, “ that now we ought to consider why I should marry you. These points are, you say, a your favor; but leaving out your being an Arch Street Quaker, I might find other men having these same general qualifications, and I should like my husband to have some special ones. We have n’t time, however, just now. You know I can think over what you already have said.”
“ But I don’t like you to think over it too long. I have always fancied a woman’s feeling in this position ought to be rather impulsive. She ought to have quick, spontaneous feeling.”
“ Oh, I have,” said she, giving him a curious look, “ but I should like to be cool, judicial. This is an important matter.”
The doctor smiled.
“ But it is,” she said, “ and I ought to have time, for several reasons. One, — to begin pretty far on, — in the fifth place, is that it is a good while since I had an offer, and I am out of practice. Beside that, you must own this is rather sudden.”
“ Who made you the last offer ? ” asked the doctor.
“An Englishman. It was a better one than yours, for there was a title somewhere in his family. He said he thought it would be awfully jolly to marry an American.”
“ And he was quite right,” the doctor said. “ Did you accept him ? ”
“ I don’t believe he thought so. He never behaved as if he did.”
“ Well, you think of what I said,” and the doctor got up and began to fold the shawl. “ And of course you understand that, although we approached the matter from a practical side, I love you. I should not wish to many a woman to whom I was not attached.”
“ I will remember,” Sylvia replied, taking hold of the other end of the shawl, and helping him fold it. The doctor then drew his scarf over his ears. They called Josie, who was busy carrying water to her well, and liberally baptizing herself as she trotted back and forth.
“ Now,” said the doctor, as they drew near the house, and the professor came out to meet his little girl, “ the next thing is to speak to Arnold.”
“ Speak to who ? ” cried Sylvia, standing still.
“ To Arnold, of course. Why, you don’t think I mean to let the matter rest here ! I want my answer, and we have agreed that he ought to have the first chance.”
“ ‘ We agreed ’! ” Sylvia exclaimed. “ Dr. Kennedy, you are an idiot! ”
The doctor laughed at this, and then prevented all further discussion by going into the house.
“ He certainly won’t,” said Sylvia to herself, as, in the evening, she went out on the porch to walk; “ but I do wish Mr. Reimer would stop that dreadful old fiddle and go sit with them.”
Then she half turned to go herself, but she was not sure. Perhaps the doctor would make an umpire of her, and ask her for a ruling on the spot. And yet it was absurd in her to hesitate. She would get her sewing, and go in as if nothing had happened. She wished Josie had not gone to bed. She wished her tea-cups were all in China. She wished — At that moment the door opened, and the professor looked out.
“ Oh, it is you ! ” he exclaimed. “ I thought I heard footsteps as I passed, and I wondered who it could be. I did not think of you for a moment. And then I never knew you to walk on this side of the house. It is more sheltered, but you cannot see the ocean.”
“ Oh, I don’t care for the ocean tonight,” replied Sylvia, “ and I am just going up-stairs.”
“ Don’t go yet,” said the professor. “ Let me get my hat and walk with you. I have been in the house nearly all day, and I am tired of house air.”
Sylvia hesitated. “ Very well,” she said, “ but I cannot stay long.”
So the professor put on his hat and coat, and joined her.
“ Shall we not go around to the other porch ? ” he asked.
“If you do,” she answered, “the doctor will see you and call you in. He thinks night air bad for the neuralgia.”
“ I have no neuralgia. Have you ? ”
“ No, but he has. I don’t know, however, but that it would be best for us to be called in.”
“ Do you know, he is a very peculiar person, Miss Sylvia ? ”
“ He certainly is. But do tell me, professor, do you believe much in the electric light ? I know just what will be done. The ocean will be lighted ! All along the shore we will have lamps, and all the dim, solemn vagueness of sea, shore, and sky will be lost. Would n’t it be dreadful if Edison should destroy night? ”
“ He can’t destroy sleep if he does. I slept in St. Petersburg, with the sun shining at midnight, just as regularly as at home. But as I was saying about the doctor ” —
“ Don’t let us discuss the doctor,” said Sylvia, getting a little excited. “ I don’t want to talk of people, and any way I must go in.”
The professor gently laid his hand on her arm, and Sylvia at once shook it off.
“ Miss Sylvia,” he began, “ between us, — not from my choice, I beg you to acknowledge, — you are, I can understand, in a position trying to a person of sensitive temperament.”
“ I am sleepy,” said Sylvia, “ if that is what you mean.”
“A better person than Felix Kennedy does not live,” the professor continued, “ but he is hasty. I like to move slowly and with caution. I consider my action, I act with judgment.”
“ But I am sleepy,” said Sylvia.
“ Do not prevaricate,” said the professor. “ Believe me, you had better listen to me.”
“ I wish I knew just what you are going to say ” — but then Sylvia paused and blushed.
“ I am not going to say anything frightful. You are safe in listening to me. I am not as obtuse as Kennedy seems to think. It would be a very obtuse man indeed, Miss Sylvia, who could live with you and be insensible to your charming nature.”
“ Yes, I dare say,” said Sylvia, a little absently ; “ but I must go in now. It is cold.”
“ I would like,” said the professor, not heeding this, “ to be frank with you.”
“ Frank ! ” exclaimed Sylvia. “ Why, I never knew such frank people! It is terrible. If you want to please me, do be a little reticent.”
“ I want to please you,” the professor said briskly, “ but I do want to tell you something. Do you know, I have been planning, vaguely, but hopefully, to take you home with me.”
“I would n’t go ! ” cried Sylvia, stopping and leaning against the porch railing. “ I have my own work, my own life, my own interests. Why can’t you men understand that! ” said the inconsistent creature. " You think all women want to marry. I don’t! Perhaps, — I once thought I would, but now, — why, nothing on earth would tempt me! ”
“You wrong me, Miss Sylvia,” said the professor. “ I meant to leave you free. I meant you to have your studio, your own friends, your own pursuits. Had I lived in Yew York, I should not have hesitated to speak to you ; but I did not like to ask you to go to Boston, and leave so much behind you.”
“ That proves,” said Sylvia, who was herself now both excited and frank, “ how little men understand women. Do you suppose I would hesitate to follow any one I loved to the north pole? Boston, indeed ! Why, I would n’t have put it in the balance! ”
“ But see how you excite yourself,” said the professor; “I really don’t deserve your wrath. I know that too bold approaches are likely to alarm a sensitive lady.”
“ Oh, I am not sensitive,” said Sylvia. “Ask the doctor if I am.”
“ Pardon me,” he replied, “ but you are. I knew I had no right to disturb your useful, happy life; but Josie loves you so well, your influence over her is so good, that I thought you might consent to become her governess.”
“ Oh ! ” cried Sylvia, and she walked quickly down the porch.
“ The position in Boston, you understand, is very honorable; and in my family, and with your own social talents ” —
“ Spare me your compliments,” interrupted Sylvia, who felt curiously enough at this moment. “ I can assure you that I never mean to be a governess, but I do love Josie.”
“ I know you do. But, not to take up the second point, I have now other views. Let me fasten your shawl more closely ; you are cold,”
“ No, indeed,” Sylvia replied, “ I am hot! ”
“ Now,” said the professor, still speaking gently and evenly, “ I have changed my mind. I still want you to go to Boston, but I want to marry you. Forgive me if I am abrupt. I meant to break this to you more politely, but the doctor is in a torpedic condition. I am forced to seem rough and inconsiderate, but I have learned to love you dearly. I could forgive you anything. You could not offend me. Miss Sylvia,” — and here he took hold of her arm again, — “tell me you forgive me! If you are angry with me now, may I not some time again plead my cause ? In a month ? May I not come then to you ? ”
Sylvia laughed, — she could not help it, — but the professor’s face grew red.
“ It is very funny,” she said.
“ It is very provoking,” retorted the professor. “ I will never, never forgive Kennedy! If he had not precipitated matters, you would not have been offended with me, and you might have given me a hearing, at least.”
“ Oh, no, I should n’t, — that is, I should have had but one answer for you,” said Sylvia, quite forgetting her old plans upon this point. “ But you ought to proceed more logically and in order. You ought first to have asked me to become your governess, and then you could have tried me in that capacity, and if I suited ” —
“ Don’t scoff,” said the professor. “ I am deeply in earnest, and ” —
“Good-night!” cried Sylvia, darting in at the door as they passed it, — “ good-night! ”
The next day Sylvia had her breakfast early,and saw no one but Josie; but about noon there was a knock at her door which she answered in person. It was the doctor.
“I thought, perhaps” — he began; and then noticing her books and dresses on the bed, “ By George, you are not packing up! ”
“ Yes, I am,” she answered. “ Did n’t the landlord tell you the news ? I have asked for my bill, and I go by the afternoon train.”
“ Driven away ! ” ejaculated the doctor. “ By Jove, it is too bad ! ”
“ Letters,” said Sylvia gravely, — “ important letters.”
“ I dare say,” said he, “ and the mail not yet in! Tell me, are you offended ? ”
Sylvia made no reply.
“ You could n’t be offended with Arnold,” he said ; “ he is too gentle to offend any one. But I — I am a bear ! Will you forgive me ? ”
Sylvia hesitated a half moment before she took the hand he offered. “ One of you,” she said impulsively, “did not mean to offend. I am sure of that.”
“ Yes, I know,” he answered, in a melancholy tone; “ he never does. But then, neither did I. The mischief is I do all the things I don’t mean and don’t want to do.”
Sylvia looked up at him with gentle, amused eyes.
“ But tell me,” he resumed, in his usual manner, “you don’t really mean to go away and leave things in this condition ? ”
“ What condition ? ” asked Sylvia.
“ You understand. Now see here, Miss Sylvia, I don’t want you to treat the professor badly. You ought to be decently polite to him. And there is Josie,—you must not forget her. You ought to answer one of us.”
“ I have but one to answer,” said Sylvia, putting her hand on the knob of the door, “ and I would n’t mind being treated with a little decent politeness myself.”
“ Yes, yes,” and the doctor looked a little blank. “ But somehow I cannot realize that I have cut myself off, by being so very considerate. It was rather stupid now, was n’t it? ”
“ The whole affair is stupid,” Sylvia replied. “ But won’t you please go away, and let me finish my packing ? I don’t want to be left, and I hate to hurry.”
The doctor put his foot against the door to keep her from closing it. “ Tell me one thing,” he said, with a good deal of entreaty in his voice : “ you are not going to refuse both of us ? ”
“ I am not going to accept both of you, — not the same day ; and I do wish you would remember that you have never asked me. Now do go, that’s a good fellow.”
“ But, Miss Sylvia,” and the doctor’s face grew eager, “ you will — say you will — you must! Oh, Miss Sylvia, don't accept your first offer ! ”
“ That is mean ! ” said Sylvia, and her face was the same color as the doctor’s, and both were red. “ I thought you were going to be so chivalrous, and all that stuff, and here ” —
“ But you don’t love him,” said the doctor, as she paused, “ and of course you mean to love the man you marry.”
“ I certainly do ; but how do you know I don’t?” said the incoherent Sylvia, and she at once began to rub a spot on the door with her finger.
At that moment Mrs. Reimer, armed with brush and dust-pan, came down the hall.
“ See here ! ” cried the doctor, turning quickly. “ Won’t you — that’s a good woman — won’t you throw an old shoe after me ? ”
At this Sylvia gave his foot a vicious little push with her own, and banged her door shut.
“ Do you know,” and the doctor’s solemn manner impressed his landlady, “ that I am awfully sorry for the professor ? ”
“ Why, you don’t mean to say that anything has happened to him ! ” she exclaimed.
“ No, not exactly,” he replied. “ But I am sorry all the same. He ’ll be terribly cut up. You see, he was so sure. Now I was n’t. I don’t deserve it, and he did. And there’s Josie, too ! I am awfully sorry ! ”
“ Well, you don’t look so,” said Mrs. Reimer, going her way. “ If ever I saw a man who was in a very good humor, you look like that man.”