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In the Midst of Alarms by Robert Barr

Part 5 out of 5

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likely he is alive at this moment. Ask me in the morning. What have you
been prowling after all night?"

There was no answer. Renmark was evidently asleep.

"I'll ask _you_ in the morning," muttered Yates drowsily--after
which there was silence in the tent.


Yates had stubbornly refused to give up his search for rest and quiet
in spite of the discomfort of living in a leaky and battered tent. He
expressed regret that he had not originally camped in the middle of
Broadway, as being a quieter and less exciting spot than the place he
had chosen; but, having made the choice, he was going to see the last
dog hung, he said. Renmark had become less and less of a comrade. He
was silent, and almost as gloomy as Hiram Bartlett himself. When Yates
tried to cheer him up by showing him how much worse another man's
position might be, Renmark generally ended the talk by taking to the

"Just reflect on my position," Yates would say. "Here I am dead in love
with two lovely girls, both of whom are merely waiting for the word. To
one of them I have nearly committed myself, which fact, to a man of my
temperament, inclines me somewhat to the other. Here I am anxious to
confide in you, and yet I feel that I risk a fight every time I talk
about the complication. You have no sympathy for me, Renny, when I need
sympathy; while I am bubbling over with sympathy for you, and you won't
have it. Now, what would you do if you were in my fix? If you would
take five minutes and show me clearly which of the two girls I really
ought to marry, it would help me ever so much, for then I would be
sure to settle on the other. It is the indecision that is slowly but
surely sapping my vitality."

By this time, Renmark would have pulled his soft felt hat over his
eyes, and, muttering words that would have echoed strangely in the
silent halls of the university building, would plunge into the forest.
Yates generally looked after his retreating figure without anger, but
with mild wonder.

"Well, of all cantankerous cranks he is the worst," he would say with a
sigh. "It is sad to see the temple of friendship tumble down about
one's ears in this way." At their last talk of this kind Yates resolved
not to discuss the problem again with the professor, unless a crisis
came. The crisis came in the form of Stoliker, who dropped in on Yates
as the latter lay in the hammock, smoking and enjoying a thrilling
romance. The camp was strewn with these engrossing, paper-covered
works, and Yates had read many of them, hoping to came across a case
similar to his own, but up to the time of Stoliker's visit he had not

"Hello, Stoliker! how's things? Got the cuffs in your pocket? Want to
have another tour across country with me?"

"No. But I came to warn you. There will be a warrant out to-morrow or
next day, and, if I were you, I would get over to the other side;
though you need never say I told you. Of course, if they give the
warrant to me, I shall have to arrest you; and although nothing may be
done to you, still, the country is in a state of excitement, and you
will at least be put to some inconvenience."

"Stoliker," cried Yates, springing out of the hammock, "you are a white
man! You're a good fellow, Stoliker, and I'm ever so much obliged. If
you ever come to New York, you call on me at the _Argus_ office,--
anybody will show you where it is,--and I'll give you the liveliest
time you ever had in your life. It won't cost you a cent, either."

"That's all right," said the constable. "Now, if I were you, I would
light out to-morrow at the latest."

"I will," said Yates.

Stoliker disappeared quietly among the trees, and Yates, after a
moment's thought, began energetically to pack up his belongings. It was
dark before he had finished, and Renmark returned.

"Stilly," cried the reporter cheerily, "there's a warrant out for my
arrest. I shall have to go to-morrow at the latest!"

"What! to jail?" cried his horrified friend, his conscience now
troubling him, as the parting came, for his lack of kindness to an old

"Not if the court knows herself. But to Buffalo, which is pretty much
the same thing. Still, thank goodness, I don't need to stay there long.
I'll be in New York before I'm many days older. I yearn to plunge into
the arena once more. The still, calm peacefulness of this whole
vacation has made me long for excitement again, and I'm glad the
warrant has pushed me into the turmoil."

"Well, Richard, I'm sorry you have to go under such conditions. I'm
afraid I have not been as companionable a comrade as you should have

"Oh, you're all right, Renny. The trouble with you is that you have
drawn a little circle around Toronto University, and said to yourself:
'This is the world.' It isn't, you know. There is something outside of
all that."

"Every man, doubtless, has his little circle. Yours is around the
_Argus_ office."

"Yes, but there are special wires from that little circle to all the
rest of the world, and soon there will be an Atlantic cable."

"I do not hold that my circle is as large as yours; still, there is
something outside of New York, even."

"You bet your life there is; and, now that you are in a more
sympathetic frame of mind, it is that I want to talk with you about.
Those two girls are outside my little circle, and I want to bring one
of them within it. Now, Renmark, which of those girls would you choose
if you were me?"

The professor drew in his breath sharply, and was silent for a moment.
At last he said, speaking slowly:

"I am afraid, Mr. Yates, that you do not quite appreciate my point of
view. As you may think I have acted in an unfriendly manner, I will try
for the first and final time to explain it. I hold that any man who
marries a good woman gets more than he deserves, no matter how worthy
he may be. I have a profound respect for all women, and I think that
your light chatter about choosing between two is an insult to both of
them. I think either of them is infinitely too good for you--or for me

"Oh, you do, do you? Perhaps you think that you would make a much
better husband than I. If that is the case, allow me to say you are
entirely wrong. If your wife was sensitive, you would kill her with
your gloomy fits. I wouldn't go off in the woods and sulk, anyhow."

"If you are referring to me, I will further inform you that I had
either to go off in the woods or knock you down. I chose the less of
two evils."

"Think you could do it, I suppose? Renny, you're conceited. You're not
the first man who has made such a mistake, and found he was barking up
the wrong tree when it was too late for anything but bandages and

"I have tried to show you how I feel regarding this matter. I might
have known I should not succeed. We will end the discussion, if you

"Oh, no. The discussion is just beginning. Now, Renny, I'll tell you
what you need. You need a good, sensible wife worse than any man I
know. It is not yet too late to save you, but it soon will be. You
will, before long, grow a crust on you like a snail, or a lobster, or
any other cold-blooded animal that gets a shell on itself. Then nothing
can be done for you. Now, let me save you, Renny, before it is too
late. Here is my proposition: You choose one of those girls and marry
her. I'll take the other. I'm not as unselfish as I may seem in this;
for your choice will save me the worry of making up my own mind.
According to your talk, either of the girls is too, good for you, and
for once I entirely agree with you. But let that pass. Now, which one
is it to be?"

"Good God! man, do you think I am going to bargain with you about my
future wife?"

"That's right, Renny. I like to hear you swear. It shows you are not
yet the prig you would have folks believe. There's still hope for you,
professor. Now, I'll go further with you. Although I cannot make up my
mind just what to do myself, I can tell instantly which is the girl for
you, and thus we solve both problems at one stroke. You need a wife who
will take you in hand. You need one who will not put up with your
tantrums, who will be cheerful, and who will make a man of you. Kitty
Bartlett is the girl. She will tyrannize over you, just as her mother
does over the old man. She will keep house to the queen's taste, and
delight in getting you good things to eat. Why, everything is as plain
as a pikestaff. That shows the benefit of talking over a thing. You
marry Kitty, and I'll marry Margaret. Come, let's shake hands over it."
Yates held up his right hand, ready to slap it down on the open palm of
the professor, but there was no response. Yates' hand came down to his
side again, but he had not yet lost the enthusiasm of his proposal. The
more he thought of it the more fitting it seemed.

"Margaret is such a sensible, quiet, level-headed girl that, if I am as
flippant as you say, she will be just the wife for me. There are depths
in my character, Renmark, that you have not suspected."

"Oh, you're deep."

"I admit it. Well, a good, sober-minded woman would develop the best
that is in me. Now, what do you say, Renny?"

"I say nothing. I am going into the woods again, dark as it is."

"Ah, well," said Yates with a sigh, "there's no doing anything with you
or for you. I've tried my best; that is one consolation. Don't go away.
I'll let fate decide. Here goes for a toss-up."

And Yates drew a silver half dollar from his pocket. "Heads for
Margaret!" he cried. Renmark clinched his fist, took a step forward,
then checked himself, remembering that this was his last night with the
man who had at least once been his friend.

Yates merrily spun the coin in the air, caught it in one hand, and
slapped the other over it.

"Now for the turning point in the lives of two innocent beings." He
raised the covering hand, and peered at the coin in the gathering
gloom. "Heads it is. Margaret Howard becomes Mrs. Richard Yates.
Congratulate me, professor."

Renmark stood motionless as a statue, an object lesson in self-control.
Yates set his hat more jauntily on his head, and slipped the epoch-
making coin into his trousers pocket.

"Good-by, old man," he said. "I'll see you later, and tell you all the

Without waiting for the answer, for which he probably knew there would
have been little use in delaying, Yates walked to the fence and sprang
over it, with one hand on the top rail. Renmark stood still for some
minutes, then, quietly gathering underbrush and sticks large and small,
lighted a fire, and sat down on a log, with his head in his hands.


Yates walked merrily down the road, whistling "Gayly the troubadour."
Perhaps there is no moment in a man's life when he feels the joy of
being alive more keenly than when he goes to propose to a girl of whose
favorable answer he is reasonably sure--unless it be the moment he
walks away an accepted lover. There is a magic about a June night, with
its soft, velvety darkness and its sweet, mild air laden with the
perfumes of wood and field. The enchantment of the hour threw its spell
over the young man, and he resolved to live a better life, and be
worthy of the girl he had chosen, or, rather, that fate had chosen for
him. He paused a moment, leaning over the fence near the Howard
homestead, for he had not yet settled in his own mind the details of
the meeting. He would not go in, for in that case he knew he would have
to talk, perhaps for hours, with everyone but the person he wished to
meet. If he announced himself and asked to see Margaret alone, his
doing so would embarrass her at the very beginning. Yates was naturally
too much of a diplomat to begin awkwardly. As he stood there, wishing
chance would bring her out of the house, there appeared a light in the
door-window of the room where he knew the convalescent boy lay.
Margaret's shadow formed a silhouette on the blind. Yates caught up a
handful of sand, and flung it lightly against the pane. Its soft patter
evidently attracted the attention of the girl, for, after a moment's
pause, the window opened carefully, while Margaret stepped quickly out
and closed it, quietly standing there.

"Margaret," whispered Yates hardly above his breath.

The girl advanced toward the fence.

"Is that _you?_" she whispered in return, with an accent on the
last word that thrilled her listener. The accent told plainly as speech
that the word represented the one man on earth to her.

"Yes," answered Yates, springing over the fence and approaching her.

"Oh!" cried Margaret, starting back, then checking herself, with a
catch in her voice. "You--you startled me--Mr. Yates."

"Not Mr. Yates any more, Margaret, but Dick. Margaret, I wanted to see
you alone. You know why I have come." He tried to grasp both her hands,
but she put them resolutely behind her, seemingly wishing to retreat,
yet standing her ground.

"Margaret, you must have seen long ago how it is with me. I love you,
Margaret, loyally and truly. It seems as if I had loved you all my
life. I certainly have since the first day I saw you."

"Oh, Mr. Yates, you must not talk to me like this."

"My darling, how else _can_ I talk to you? It cannot be a surprise
to you, Margaret. You must have known it long ago."

"I did not, indeed I did not--if you really mean it."

"Mean it? I never meant anything as I mean this. It is everything to
me, and nothing else is anything. I have knocked about the world a good
deal, I admit, but I never was in love before--never knew what love was
until I met you. I tell you that--"

"Please, please, Mr. Yates, do not say anything more. If it is really
true, I cannot tell you how sorry I am. I hope nothing I have said or
done has made you believe that--that--Oh, I do not know what to say! I
never thought you could be in earnest about anything."

"You surely cannot have so misjudged me, Margaret. Others have, but I
did not expect it of you. You are far and away better than I am. No one
knows that so well as I. I do not pretend to be worthy of you, but I
will be a devoted husband to you. Any man who gets the love of a good
woman," continued Yates earnestly, plagiarizing Renmark, "gets more
than he deserves; but surely such love as mine is not given merely to
be scornfully trampled underfoot."

"I do not treat your--you scornfully. I am only sorry if what you say
is true."

"Why do you say _if_ it is true? Don't you know it is true?"

"Then I am very sorry--very, _very_ sorry, and I hope it is
through no fault of mine. But you will soon forget me. When you return
to New York--"

"Margaret," said the young man bitterly, "I shall never forget you.
Think what you are doing before it is too late. Think how much this
means to me. If you finally refuse me, you will wreck my life. I am the
sort of man that a woman can make or mar. Do not, I beg of you, ruin
the life of the man who loves you."

"I am not a missionary," cried Margaret with sudden anger. "If your
life is to be wrecked, it will be through your own foolishness, and not
from any act of mine. I think it cowardly of you to say that I am to be
held responsible. I have no wish to influence your future one way or

"Not for good, Margaret?" asked Yates with tender reproach.

"No. A man whose good or bad conduct depends oh anyone but himself is
not my ideal of a man."

"Tell me what your ideal is, so that I may try to attain it."

Margaret was silent.

"You think it will be useless for me to try?"

"As far as I am concerned, yes."

"Margaret, I want to ask you one more question. I have no right to, but
I beg you to answer me. Are you in love with anyone else?"

"No!" cried Margaret hotly. "How dare you ask me such a question?"

"Oh, it is not a crime--that is, being in love with someone else is
not. I'll tell you why I dare ask. I swear, by all the gods, that I
shall win you--if not this year, then next; and if not next, then the
year after. I was a coward to talk as I did; but I love you more now
than I did even then. All I want to know is that you are not in love
with another man.

"I think you are very cruel in persisting as you do, when you have had
your answer. I say no. Never! never! never!--this year nor any other
year. Is not that enough?"

"Not for me. A woman's 'no' may ultimately mean 'yes.'"

"That is true, Mr. Yates," replied Margaret, drawing herself up as one
who makes a final plunge. "You remember the question you asked me just
now?--whether I cared for anyone else? I said 'no.' That 'no' meant

He was standing between her and the window, so she could not escape by
the way she came. He saw she meditated flight, and made as though he
would intercept her, but she was too quick for him. She ran around the
house, and he heard a door open and shut.

He knew he was defeated. Dejectedly he turned to the fence, climbing
slowly over where he had leaped so lightly a few minutes before, and
walked down the road, cursing his fate. Although he admitted he was a
coward for talking to her as he had done about his wrecked life, yet he
knew now that every word he had spoken was true. What did the future
hold out to him? Not even the incentive to live. He found himself
walking toward the tent, but, not wishing to meet Renmark in his
present frame of mind, he turned and came out on the Ridge Road. He was
tired and broken, and resolved to stay in camp until they arrested him.
Then perhaps she might have some pity on him. Who was the other man she
loved? or had she merely said that to give finality to her refusal? In
his present mood he pictured the worst, and imagined her the wife of
some neighboring farmer--perhaps even of Stoliker. These country girls,
he said to himself, never believed a man was worth looking at unless he
owned a farm. He would save his money, and buy up the whole
neighborhood; _then_ she would realize what she had missed. He
climbed up on the fence beside the road, and sat on the top rail, with
his heels resting on a lower one, so that he might enjoy his misery
without the fatigue of walking. His vivid imagination pictured himself
as the owner in a few years' time of a large section of that part of
the country, with mortgages on a good deal of the remainder, including
the farm owned by Margaret's husband. He saw her now, a farmer's faded
wife, coming to him and begging for further time in which to pay the
seven per cent. due. He knew he would act magnanimously on such an
occasion, and grandly give her husband all the time he required.
Perhaps then she would realize the mistake she had made. Or perhaps
fame, rather than riches, would be his line. His name would ring
throughout the land. He might become a great politician, and bankrupt
Canada with a rigid tariff law. The unfairness of making the whole
innocent people suffer for the inconsiderate act of one of them did not
occur to him at the moment, for he was humiliated and hurt. There is no
bitterness like that which assails the man who has been rejected by the
girl he adores--while it lasts. His eye wandered toward the black mass
of the Howard house. It was as dark as his thoughts. He turned his head
slowly around, and, like a bright star of hope, there glimmered up the
road a flickering light from the Bartletts' parlor window. Although
time had stopped as far as he was concerned, he was convinced it could
not be very late, or the Bartletts would have gone to bed. It is always
difficult to realize that the greatest of catastrophes are generally
over in a few minutes. It seemed an age since he walked so hopefully
away from the tent. As he looked at the light the thought struck him
that perhaps Kitty was alone in the parlor. She at least would not have
treated him so badly as the other girl; and--and she was pretty, too,
come to think of it. He always did like a blonde better than a

A fence rail is not a comfortable seat. It is used in some parts of the
country in such a manner as to impress the sitter with the fact of its
extreme discomfort, and as a gentle hint that his presence is not
wanted in that immediate neighborhood. Yates recollected this, with a
smile, as he slid off and stumbled into the ditch by the side of the
road. His mind had been so preoccupied that he had forgotten about the
ditch. As he walked along the road toward the star that guided him he
remembered he had recklessly offered Miss Kitty to the callous
professor. After all, no one knew about the episode of a short time
before except himself and Margaret, and he felt convinced she was not a
girl to boast of her conquests. Anyhow, it didn't matter. A man is
surely master of himself.

As he neared the window he looked in. People are not particular about
lowering the blinds in the country. He was rather disappointed to see
Mrs. Bartlett sitting there knitting, like the industrious woman she
was. Still it was consoling to note that none of the men-folks were
present, and that Kitty, with her fluffy hair half concealing her face,
sat reading a book he had lent to her. He rapped at the door, and it
was opened by Mrs. Bartlett, with some surprise.

"For the land's sake! is that you, Mr. Yates?"

"It is."

"Come right in. Why, what's the matter with you? You look as if you had
lost your best friend. Ah, I see how it is,"--Yates started,--"you have
run out of provisions, and are very likely as hungry as a bear."

"You've hit it first time, Mrs. Bartlett. I dropped around to see if I
could borrow a loaf of bread. We don't bake till to-morrow."

Mrs. Bartlett laughed.

"Nice baking you would do if you tried it. I'll get you a loaf in a
minute. Are you sure one is enough?"

"Quite enough, thank you."

The good woman bustled out to the other room for the loaf, and Yates
made good use of her temporary absence.

"Kitty," he whispered, "I want to see you alone for a few minutes. I'll
wait for you at the gate. Can you slip out?"

Kitty blushed very red and nodded.

"They have a warrant out for my arrest, and I'm off to-morrow before
they can serve it. But I couldn't go without seeing you. You'll come,

Again Kitty nodded, after looking up at him in alarm when he spoke of
the warrant. Before anything further could be said Mrs. Bartlett came
in, and Kitty was absorbed in her book.

"Won't you have something to eat now before you go back?"

"Oh, no, thank you, Mrs. Bartlett. You see, the professor is waiting
for me."

"Let him wait, if he didn't have sense enough to come."

"He didn't. I offered him the chance."

"It won't take us a moment to set the table. It is not the least

"Really, Mrs. Bartlett, you are very kind. I am not in the slightest
degree hungry now. I am merely taking some thought of the morrow. No; I
must be going, and thank you very much."

"Well," said Mrs. Bartlett, seeing him to the door, "if there's
anything you want, come to me, and I will let you have it if it's in
the house."

"You are too good to me," said the young man with genuine feeling, "and
I don't deserve it; but I may remind you of your promise--to-morrow."

"See that you do," she answered. "Good-night."

Yates waited at the gate, placing the loaf on the post, where he forgot
it, much to the astonishment of the donor in the morning. He did not
have to wait long, for Kitty came around the house somewhat
shrinkingly, as one who was doing the most wicked thing that had been
done since the world began. Yates hastened to meet her, clasping one of
her unresisting hands in his.

"I must be off to-morrow," he began.

"I am very sorry," answered Kitty in a whisper.

"Ah, Kitty, you are not half so sorry as I am. But I intend to come
back, if you will let me. Kitty, you remember that talk we had in the
kitchen, when we--when there was an interruption, and when I had to go
away with our friend Stoliker?"

Kitty indicated that she remembered it.

"Well, of course you know what I wanted to say to you. Of course you
know what I want to say to you now."

It seemed, however, that in this he was mistaken, for Kitty had not the
slightest idea, and wanted to go into the house, for it was late, and
her mother would miss her.

"Kitty, you darling little humbug, you know that I love you. You must
know that I have loved you ever since the first day I saw you, when you
laughed at me. Kitty, I want you to marry me and make something of me,
if that is possible. I am a worthless fellow, not half good enough for
a little pet like you; but, Kitty, if you will only say 'yes,' I will
try, and try hard, to be a better man than I have ever been before."

Kitty did not say "yes" but she placed her disengaged hand, warm and
soft, upon his, and Yates was not the man to have any hesitation about
what to do next. To practical people it may seem an astonishing thing
that, the object of the interview being happily accomplished, there
should be any need of prolonging it; yet the two lingered there, and he
told her much of his past life, and of how lonely and sordid it had
been because he had no one to care for him--at which her pretty eyes
filled with tears. She felt proud and happy to think she had won the
first great love of a talented man's life, and hoped she would make him
happy, and in a measure atone for the emptiness of the life that had
gone before. She prayed that he might always be as fond of her as he
was then, and resolved to be worthy of him if she could.

Strange to say, her wishes have been amply fulfilled, and few wives are
as happy or as proud of their husbands as Kitty Yates. The one woman
who might have put the drop of bitterness in her cup of life merely
kissed her tenderly when Kitty told her of the great joy that had come
to her, and said she was sure she would be happy; and thus for the
second time Margaret told the thing that was not, but for once Margaret
was wrong in her fears.

Yates walked to the tent a glorified man, leaving his loaf on the
gatepost behind him. Few realize that it is quite as pleasant to be
loved as to love. The verb "to love" has many conjugations. The earth
he trod was like no other ground he had ever walked upon. The magic of
the June night was never so enchanting before. He strode along with his
head and his thoughts in the clouds, and the Providence that cares for
the intoxicated looked after him, and saw that the accepted lover came
to no harm. He leaped the fence without even putting his hand to it,
and then was brought to earth again by the picture of a man sitting
with his head in his hands beside a dying fire.


Yates stood for a moment regarding the dejected attitude of his friend.

"Hello, old man!" he cried, "you have the most 'hark-from-the-tombs'
appearance I ever saw. What's the matter?"

Renmark looked up.

"Oh, it's you, is it?"

"Of course it's I. Been expecting anybody else?"

"No. I have been waiting for you, and thinking of a variety of things."

"You look it. Well, Renny, congratulate me, my boy. She's mine, and I'm
hers--which are two ways of stating the same delightful fact. I'm up in
a balloon, Renny. I'm engaged to the prettiest, sweetest, and most
delightful girl there is from the Atlantic to the Pacific. What d'ye
think of that? Say, Renmark, there's nothing on earth like it. You
ought to reform and go in for being in love. It would make a man of
you. Champagne isn't to be compared to it. Get up here and dance, and
don't sit there like a bear nursing a sore paw. Do you comprehend that
I am to be married to the darlingest girl that lives?"

"God help her!"

"That's what I say. Every day of her life, bless her! But I don't say
it quite in that tone, Renmark. What's the matter with you? One would
think you were in love with the girl yourself, if such a thing were

"Why is it not possible?"

"If that is a conundrum, I can answer it the first time. Because you
are a fossil. You are too good, Renny; therefore dull and
uninteresting. Now, there is nothing a woman likes so much as to
reclaim a man. It always annoys a woman to know that the man she is
interested in has a past with which she has had nothing to do. If he is
wicked and she can sort of make him over, like an old dress, she revels
in the process. She flatters herself she makes a new man of him, and
thinks she owns that new man by right of manufacture. We owe it to the
sex, Renny, to give 'em a chance at reforming us. I have known men who
hated tobacco take to smoking merely to give it up joyfully for the
sake of the women they loved. Now, if a man is perfect to begin with,
what is a dear, ministering angel of a woman to do with him? Manifestly
nothing. The trouble with you, Renny, is that you are too evidently
ruled by a good and well-trained conscience, and naturally all women
you meet intuitively see this, and have no use for you. A little
wickedness would be the making of you."

"You think, then, that if a man's impulse is to do what his conscience
tells him is wrong, he should follow his impulse, and not his

"You state the case with unnecessary seriousness. I believe that an
occasional blow-out is good for a man. But if you ever have an impulse
of that kind, I think you should give way to it for once, just to see
how it feels. A man who is too good gets conceited about himself."

"I half believe you are right, Mr. Yates," said the professor, rising.
"I will act on your advice, and, as you put it, see how it feels. My
conscience tells me that I should congratulate you, and wish you a long
and happy life with the girl you have--I won't say chosen, but tossed
up for. The natural man in me, on the other hand, urges me to break
every bone in your worthless body. Throw off your coat, Yates."

"Oh, I say, Renmark, you're crazy."

"Perhaps so. Be all the more on your guard, if you believe it. A
lunatic is sometimes dangerous."

"Oh, go away. You're dreaming. You're talking in your sleep. What!
Fight? Tonight? Nonsense!"

"Do you want me to strike you before you are ready?"

"No, Renny, no. My wants are always modest. I don't wish to fight at
all, especially to-night. I'm a reformed man, I tell you. I have no
desire to bid good-by to my best girl with a black eye to-morrow."

"Then stop talking, if you can, and defend yourself."

"It's impossible to fight here in the dark. Don't flatter yourself for
a moment that I am afraid. You just spar with yourself and get limbered
up, while I put some wood on the fire. This is too ridiculous."

Yates gathered some fuel, and managed to coax the dying embers into a

"There," he said, "that's better. Now, let me have a look at you. In
the name of wonder, Renny, what do you want to fight me for to-night?"

"I refuse to give my reason."

"Then I refuse to fight. I'll run, and I can beat you in a foot race
any day in the week. Why, you're worse than her father. He at least let
me know why he fought me."

"Whose father?"

"Kitty's father, of course--my future father-in-law. And that's another
ordeal ahead of me. I haven't spoken to the old man yet, and I need all
my fighting grit for that."

"What are you talking about?"

"Isn't my language plain? It usually is."

"To whom are you engaged? As I understand your talk, it is to Miss
Bartlett. Am I right?"

"Right as rain, Renny. This fire is dying down again. Say, can't we
postpone our fracas until daylight? I don't want to gather any more
wood. Besides, one of us is sure to be knocked into the fire, and thus
ruin whatever is left of our clothes. What do you say?"

"Say? I say I am an idiot."

"Hello! reason is returning, Renny. I perfectly agree with you."

"Thank you. Then you did not propose to Mar--to Miss Howard?"

"Now, you touch upon a sore spot, Renmark, that I am trying to forget.
You remember the unfortunate toss-up; in fact, I think you referred to
it a moment ago, and you were justly indignant about it at the time.
Well, I don't care to talk much about the sequel; but, as you know the
beginning, you will have to know the end, because I want to wring a
sacred promise from you. You are never to mention this episode of the
toss-up, or of my confession, to any living soul. The telling of it
might do harm, and it couldn't possibly do any good. Will you promise?"

"Certainly. But do not tell me unless you wish to."

"I don't exactly yearn to talk about it, but it is better you should
understand how the land lies, so you won't make any mistake. Not on
_my_ account, you know, but I would not like it to come to Kitty's
ears. Yes, I proposed to Margaret--first. She wouldn't look at me. Can
you credit that?"

"Well, now that you mention it, I--"

"Exactly. I see you _can_ credit it. Well, I couldn't at first;
but Margaret knows her own mind, there's no question about _that_.
Say! she's in love with some other fellow. I found out that much."

"You asked her, I presume."

"Well, it's my profession to find out things; and, naturally, if I do
that for my paper, it is not likely I am going to be behindhand when it
comes to myself. She denied it at first, but admitted it afterward, and
then bolted."

"You must have used great tact and delicacy."

"See here, Renmark; I'm not going to stand any of your sneering. I told
you this was a sore subject with me. I'm not telling you because I like
to, but because I have to. Don't put me in fighting humor, Mr. Renmark.
If _I_ talk fight, I won't begin for no reason and then back out
for no reason. I'll go on."

"I'll be discreet, and beg to take back all I said. What else?"

"Nothing else. Isn't that enough? It was more than enough for me--at
the time. I tell you, Renmark, I spent a pretty bad half, hour sitting
on the fence and thinking about it."

"So long as that?"

Yates rose from the fire indignantly.

"I take that back, too," cried the professor hastily. "I didn't mean

"It strikes me you've become awfully funny all of a sudden. Don't you
think it's about time we took to our bunks? It's late."

Renmark agreed with him but did not turn in. He walked to the friendly
fence, laid his arms along the top rail, and gazed at the friendly
stars. He had not noticed before how lovely the night was, with its
impressive stillness, as if the world had stopped, as a steamer stops
in mid-ocean. After quieting his troubled spirit with the restful stars
he climbed the fence and walked down the road, taking little heed of
the direction. The still night was a soothing companion. He came at
last to a sleeping village of wooden houses, and through the center of
the town ran a single line of rails, an iron link connecting the
unknown hamlet with all civilization. A red and a green light glimmered
down the line, giving the only indication that a train ever came that
way. As he went a mile or two farther the cool breath of the great lake
made, itself felt, and after crossing a field he suddenly came upon the
water, finding all further progress in that direction barred. Huge sand
dunes formed the shore, covered with sighing pines. At the foot of the
dunes stretched a broad beach of firm sand, dimly visible in contrast
with the darker water; and at long intervals fell the light ripple of
the languid summer waves, running up the beach with a half-asleep
whisper, that became softer and softer until it was merged in the
silence beyond. Far out on the dark waters a point of light, like a
floating star, showed where a steamer was slowly making her way; and so
still was the night that he felt rather than heard her pulsating
engines. It was the only sign of life visible from that enchanted bay--
the bay of the silver beach.

Renmark threw himself down on the soft sand at the foot of a dune. The
point of light gradually worked its way to the west, following,
doubtless unconsciously, the star of empire, and disappeared around the
headland, taking with it a certain vague sense of companionship. But
the world is very small, and a man is never quite as much alone as he
thinks he is. Renmark heard the low hoot of an owl among the trees,
which cry he was astonished to hear answered from the water. He sat up
and listened. Presently there grated on the sand the keel of a boat,
and someone stepped ashore. From the woods there emerged the shadowy
forms of three men. Nothing was said, but they got silently into the
boat, which might have been Charon's craft for all he could see of it.
The rattle of the rowlocks and the plash of oars followed, while a
voice cautioned the rowers to make less noise. It was evident that some
belated fugitives were eluding the authorities of both countries.
Renmark thought, with a smile, that if Yates were in his place he would
at least give them a fright. A sharp command to an imaginary company to
load and fire would travel far on such a night, and would give the
rowers a few moments of great discomfort. Renmark, however, did not
shout, but treated the episode as part of the mystical dream, and lay
down on the sand again. He noticed that the water in the east seemed to
feel the approach of morning even before the sky. Gradually the day
dawned, a slowly lightening gray at first, until the coming sun
spattered a filmy cloud with gold and crimson. Renmark watched the
glory of the sunrise, took one lingering look at the curved beauty of
the bay shore, shook the sand from his clothing, and started back for
the village and the camp beyond.

The village was astir when he reached it. He was surprised to see
Stoliker on horseback in front of one of the taverns. Two assistants
were with him, also seated on horses. The constable seemed disturbed by
the sight of Renmark, but he was there to do his duty.

"Hello!" he cried, "you're up early. I have a warrant for the arrest of
your friend: I suppose you won't tell me where he is?"

"You can't expect me to give any information that will get a friend
into trouble, can you? especially as he has done nothing."

"That's as may turn out before a jury," said one of the assistants

"Yes," assented, Stoliker, winking quietly at the professor. "That is
for judge and jury to determine--not you."

"Well," said Renmark, "I will not inform about anybody, unless I am
compelled to do so, but I may save you some trouble by telling where I
have been and what I have seen. I am on my way back from the lake. If
you go down there, you will still see the mark of a boat's keel on the
sand, and probably footprints. A boat came over from the other shore in
the night, and a man got on board. I don't say who the man was, and I
had nothing to do with the matter in any way except as a spectator.
That is all the information I have to give."

Stoliker turned to his assistants, and nodded. "What did I tell you?"
he asked. "We were right on his track."

"You said the railroad," grumbled the man who had spoken before.

"Well, we were within two miles of him. Let us go down to the lake and
see the traces. Then we can return the warrant."

Renmark found Yates still asleep in the tent. He prepared breakfast
without disturbing him. When the meal was ready, he roused the reporter
and told him of his meeting with Stoliker, advising him to get back to
New York without delay.

Yates yawned sleepily.

"Yes," he said, "I've been dreaming it all out. I'll get father-in-law
to tote me out to Fort Erie to-night."

"Do you think it will be safe to put it off so long?"

"Safer than trying to get away during the day. After breakfast I'm
going down to the Bartlett homestead. Must have a talk with the old
folks, you know. I'll spend the rest of the day making up for that
interview by talking with Kitty. Stoliker will never search for me
there, and, now that he thinks I'm gone, he will likely make a visit to
the tent. Stoliker is a good fellow, but his strong point is duty, you
know; and if he's certain I'm gone, he'll give his country the worth of
its money by searching. I won't be back for dinner, so you can put in
your time reading my Dime Novels. I make no reflections on your
cooking, Renny, now that the vacation is over; but I have my
preferences, and they incline toward a final meal with the Bartletts.
If I were you, I'd have a nap. You look tired out."

"I am," said the professor.

Renmark intended to lie down for a few moments until Yates was clear of
the camp, after which he determined to pay a visit; but Nature, when
she got him locked up in sleep, took her revenge. He did not hear
Stoliker and his satellites search the premises, just as Yates had
predicted they would; and when he finally awoke, he found to his
astonishment that it was nearly dark. But he was all the better for his
sleep, and he attended to his personal appearance with more than
ordinary care.

Old Hiram Bartlett accepted the situation with the patient and grim
stolidity of a man who takes a blow dealt him by a Providence known by
him to be inscrutable. What he had done to deserve it was beyond his
comprehension. He silently hitched up his horses, and, for the first
time in his life, drove into Fort Erie without any reasonable excuse
for going there. He tied his team at the usual corner, after which he
sat at one of the taverns and drank strong waters that had no apparent
effect on him. He even went so far as to smoke two native cigars; and a
man who can do that can do anything. To bring up a daughter who would
deliberately accept a man from "the States," and to have a wife who
would aid and abet such an action, giving comfort and support to the
enemy, seemed to him traitorous to all the traditions of 1812, or any
other date in the history of the two countries. At times wild ideas of
getting blind full, and going home to break every breakable thing in
the house, rose in his mind; but prudence whispered that he had to
live all the rest of his life with his wife, and he realized that this
scheme of vengeance had its drawbacks. Finally, he untied his patient
team, after paying his bill, and drove silently home, not having
returned, even by a nod, any of the salutations tendered to him that
day. He was somewhat relieved to find no questions were asked, and that
his wife recognized the fact that he was passing through a crisis.
Nevertheless, there was a steely glitter in her eye under which he
uneasily quailed, for it told him a line had been reached which it
would not be well for him to cross. She forgave, but it must not go any

When Yates kissed Kitty good-night at the gate, he asked her, with some
trepidation, whether she had told anyone of their engagement.

"No one but Margaret," said Kitty.

"And what did she say?" asked Yates, as if, after all, her opinion was
of no importance.

"She said she was sure I should be happy, and she knew you would make a
good husband."

"She's rather a nice girl, is Margaret," remarked Yates, with the air
of a man willing to concede good qualities to a girl other than his
own, but indicating, after all, that there was but one on earth for

"She is a lovely girl," said Kitty enthusiastically. "I wonder, Dick,
when you knew her, why you ever fell in love with me."

"The idea! I haven't a word to say against Margaret; but, compared with
my girl--"

And he finished his sentence with a practical illustration of his frame
of mind.

As he walked alone down the road he reflected that Margaret had acted
very handsomely, and he resolved to drop in and wish her good-by. But
as he approached the house his courage began to fail him, and he
thought it better to sit on the fence, near the place where he had sat
the night before, and think it over. It took a good deal of thinking.
But as he sat there it was destined that Yates should receive some
information which would simplify matters. Two persons came slowly out
of the gate in the gathering darkness. They strolled together up the,
road past him, absorbed in themselves. When directly opposite the
reporter, Renmark put his arm around Margaret's waist, and Yates nearly
fell off the fence. He held his breath until they were safely out of
hearing, then slid down and crawled along in the shadow until he came
to the side road, up which he walked, thoughtfully pausing every few
moments to remark: "Well, I'll be--" But speech seemed to have failed
him; he could get no further.

He stopped at the fence and leaned against it, gazing for the last time
at the tent, glimmering white, like a misshapen ghost, among the somber
trees. He had no energy left to climb over.

"Well, I'm a chimpanzee," he muttered to himself at last. "The highest
bidder can have me, with no upset price. Dick Yates, I wouldn't have
believed it of you. _You_ a newspaper man? _You_ a reporter
from 'way back? _You_ up to snuff? Yates, I'm ashamed to be seen
in your company! Go back to New York, and let the youngest reporter in
from a country newspaper scoop the daylight out of you. To think that
this thing has been going on right under your well-developed nose, and
you never saw it--worse, never had the faintest suspicion of it; that
it was thrust at you twenty times a day--nearly got your stupid head
smashed on account of it; yet you bleated away like the innocent little
lamb that you are, and never even suspected! Dick, you're a three-
sheet-poster fool in colored ink. And to think that both of them know
all about the first proposal! _Both_ of them! Well, thank Heaven,
Toronto is a long way from New York."


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