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Mary-'Gusta By Joseph Crosby Lincoln Characters: 30997

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

When Mary-'Gusta was seventeen a great event took place. The happening which led to it was trivial enough, but the results were important and far-reaching. They led to the second great change in her life, a change as important as that brought about by her memorable "visit" to South Harniss.

She was a girl in years still, but tall for her age, and in thought and manner almost a young woman. Her management of her uncles and Isaiah was now complete. They no longer protested, even to each other, against the management and, in fact, gloried in it. The cook and steward accepted her orders concerning the daily marketing and he and she audited the monthly bills. The white house by the shore was a different place altogether now and "chicken-pox tablecloths" and tarnished silver were things of the forgotten past. At the store she had become almost a silent partner, and Hamilton and Company's "emporium" was, thanks to her judgment and tact, if not yet an up-to-date establishment, at least a shop where commodities to be sold were in places where they might be seen by prospective purchasers and readily located by the proprietors.

She spent a good deal of her time, except in school hours, at the store and much of the buying as well as the selling was done by her. The drummers representing New York and Boston wholesale houses knew her and cherished keen respect for her abilities as a selector and purchaser of goods.

"Say," said one of these gentlemen, after a lengthy session during which his attempts to work off several "stickers" had been frustrated by Mary-'Gusta's common sense and discernment-"Say, that girl of yours is a wonder, do you know it? She's the sharpest buyer I ever run across on my trips down here. I don't take a back seat for anybody when it comes to selling goods, and there's mighty little I can't sell; but I can't bluff her. She knows what's what, you hear me!"

Shadrach, to whom this remark was made, chuckled. "You bet you!" he declared, with enthusiasm. "Anybody that gets ahead of our Mary-'Gusta has got to turn out afore the mornin' watch. She's smart. Zoeth and me ain't aboard the same craft with her."

"I should say not. And you can't get gay with her, either. Most girls of her age and as good a looker as she is don't object to a little ragging: they're used to it and they like it-but not her. She isn't fishing for boxes of candy or invitations to dances. That line of talk means good-by and no sale where she is. Business and just business, that's all there is to her. How long are you goin' to keep her here?"

"How long? Why, forever, I hope. What are you talkin' about?"

The drummer winked. "That's all right," he observed. "You want to keep her, I don't doubt: but one of these days somebody else'll be wanting her more than you do. Mr. Right'll be coming along here some time and then-good night! She's young yet, but in a couple of years she'll be a queen and then-well, then maybe I'll stand a better chance of unloading those last summer caps the house has got in stock. Girls like her don't stay single and keep store; there's too much demand and not enough competition. Gad! If I wasn't an antique and married already I don't know but I'd be getting into line. That's what!"

Captain Shadrach was inclined to be angry, but, although he would not have admitted it, he realized the truth of this frank statement. Mary-'Gusta was pretty, she was more than that, and the line was already forming. Jimmie Bacheldor had long ago ceased to be a competitor; that friendship had ended abruptly at the time of David's narrow escape; but there were others, plenty of them. Daniel Higgins, son of Mr. Solomon Higgins, the local lumber dealer and undertaker, was severely smitten. Dan was at work in Boston, where he was engaged in the cheerful and remunerative business of selling coffins for the American Casket Company. He was diligent and active and his future promised to be bright, at least so his proud father boasted. He came home for holidays and vacations and his raiment was anything but funereal, but Mary-'Gusta was not impressed either by the raiment or the personality beneath it. She treated the persistent Daniel as a boy and a former schoolmate. When he assumed manly airs she laughed at him and when he invited her to accompany him to the Cattle Show at Ostable she refused and said she was going with Uncle Zoeth.

Dan Higgins was not the only young fellow who found the store of Hamilton and Company an attractive lounging place. Some of the young gentlemen not permanent residents of South Harniss also appeared to consider it a pleasant place to visit on Summer afternoons. They came to buy, of course, but they remained to chat. Mary-'Gusta might have sailed or picknicked a good deal and in the best of company, socially speaking, if she had cared to do so. She did not so care.

"They don't want me, Uncle Shad," she said. "And I don't want to go."

"Course they want you," declared Shadrach, stoutly. "If they didn't want you they wouldn't ask you, 'tain't likely. And I heard that young Keith feller askin' you to go out sailin' with him this very afternoon."

"You didn't hear his sister ask me, did you? There, there, Uncle Shad, don't worry about me. I'm having a good time; a very much better time than if I went sailing with the Keiths."

"What's the matter with the Keiths? They're as nice folks as come to South Harniss."

"Of course they are."

"Well, then! And you're as good as they are, ain't you?"

"I hope so. Uncle Shad, why don't you wear a white flannel suit in hot weather? Mr. Keith, Sam's father, wore one at the church garden party the other day."

The Captain stared at her. "Why don't I wear-what?" he stammered.

"A white flannel suit. You're as good as Mr. Keith, aren't you?"

"I guess I am. I don't know why I ain't. But what kind of a question's that? I'd look like a plain fool tagged out in one of them things: anyway, I'd feel like one. I don't belong in a white flannel suit. I ain't no imitation dude."

"And I don't belong in Sam Keith's yacht. At least Mr. Keith and Edna would feel that I didn't. I don't want to be considered an imitation, either."

Shadrach shook his head. "You ain't like anybody else," he said. "You're a funny girl, Mary-'Gusta."

"I suppose I am; but I'm not as funny as I should be if I tried to BE somebody else. No, Uncle Shad, you'll just have to bear with me as I am, funniness and all."

A few days after this Keith, senior, came into the store. He was not arrayed in the white flannels but was wearing a rather shabby but very comfortable tweed jacket and trousers and a white canvas hat of the kind which Hamilton and Company sold for fifty cents. His shirt was of the soft-collared variety and his shoes were what South Harniss called "sneakers."

John Keith's visits to Cape Cod were neither very frequent nor lengthy. His wife and family came in June and remained until late September, but his sojourns were seldom longer than a week at a time and there were intervals of a month or more between them. In Chicago he was the head of a large business and that business demanded close attention. When he left it he left his cares with it and enjoyed himself in his own way. That way included old clothes, golf, a boat, and just as few tea and garden parties as his wife would permit.

He was planning a fishing trip and had stopped at the store to buy some tobacco. The partners had gone home for dinner and Mary-'Gusta was tending shop. At that moment she was busy with the traveling representative of Messrs. Bernstein, Goldberg and Baun, of Providence, wholesale dealers in stationery, cards and novelties. The time was August, but Mr. Kron, the drummer, was already booking orders for the Christmas season. His samples were displayed upon the counter and he and Mary-'Gusta were deep in conversation.

"That's what you ought to have," declared Mr. Kron, with enthusiasm. "Believe me, there's goin' to be some call for that line of stuff this year. The house can't turn 'em out fast enough."

"But what is it?" asked Mary-'Gusta. "What's it for?"

"It's a combination calendar and beauty-box," explained Mr. Kron. "Hang it on the wall by your bureau-see? In the mornin' you can't remember what day it is. All right, there's the calendar. Then you want to doll yourself up for-well, for the party you're goin' to-"

"The same morning?" interrupted Mary-'Gusta.

Mr. Kron grinned. He was a young man and this was his first trip in that section. His clothes were neither modest nor retiring and he, himself, did not suffer from these failings. Also he prided himself on having a way with the ladies, especially the younger ladies. And Mary-'Gusta was distinctly the most attractive young person he had met on this trip.

He laughed in appreciation of the joke.

"Say," he observed, admiringly, "you're up to the minute, ain't you! You're some kidder, all right. Are there many more in this burg like you? If there are I'm goin' to move in and settle down. What?"

Mary-'Gusta did not laugh, nor did she answer. Instead, she turned to the gentleman who had entered the store.

"Good morning, Mr. Keith," she said. "Was there anything you wanted?"

Keith smiled. "No hurry," he said. "I've got a little time to kill and if you don't mind I'll kill it here. I'll sit down and wait, if I may. That boatman of mine will be along pretty soon."

He took the chair by the door. Mr. Kron continued his exploitation of the combination calendar and beauty-box.

"You are goin' to a party," he went on, "either that night or that afternoon or sometime. Sure you are! Girls like you ain't handed the go-by on many parties in this neck of the woods-am I right? Well, then, when the time comes, you pull down the flap. There's your beauty-box, lookin'-glass, powder puff and powder, all complete. Now a novelty like that will sell-"

"We couldn't use it," interrupted Mary-'Gusta. "Show me something else."

Mr. Kron, disappointed but far from discouraged, showed her something else-many somethings. Concerning each he was enthusiastic, slangy, and familiar. Mary-'Gusta paid little attention to slang or enthusiasm; the familiarity she ignored utterly. She selected several of the novelties, a rather extensive line of Christmas cards, and in the matters of price and cash discounts was keen and businesslike. Keith watched and listened, at first with amusement, then with growing admiration for the girl's simplicity and good sense.

Mr. Kron's admiration was outspoken.

"Say," he said, as he repacked his samples, "you're a mighty clever buyer, do you know it? That line of stuff you've ordered is the cream, that's what it is. You made a mistake in not layin' in a dozen or two of those combination beauty-boxes, but that's all right. Here, have one for yourself. Take it with my compliments."

Mary-'Gusta declined. "No, thank you," she said.

"Why not? It don't come out of my pocket. The firm expects me to hand out little keepsakes like that. I've been plantin' 'em with the girls all the way down."

"No, thank you," she replied.

Mr. Kron, having finished his business as representative of Messrs. Bernstein, Goldberg and Baun, attempted a stroke of his own.

"Say," he said, "I've got a little spare time on my hands this evenin'; I shan't make the next town until tomorrow. There's a new movie theater just opened over to Orham. They tell me it's all to the mustard. I can hire a rig here and you and me might drive over tonight and take it in. What do you say, Kid?"

"No, thank you," said Mary-'Gusta again.


"No, thank you. Good day."

She turned away to enter the order she had just given in a book on the desk. Mr. Kron tried again, but she did not appear to hear him. He grinned, observed "Oh, very well!" and, with a wink at Mr. Keith, went out, a suitcase in each hand.

Keith rose from the chair and, walking over to the counter, requested to be supplied with the tobacco he had come to buy. Mary-'Gusta gave it to him. Her cheeks were red and Keith was surprised to notice that she looked almost as if she would like to cry. He guessed the reason.

"That young man will get himself thoroughly kicked some day," he observed; "I'm not sure that I oughtn't to have done it myself just now. He annoyed you, I'm afraid."

Mary-'Gusta answered without looking at him.

"That's all right," she said. "I'm foolish, I guess. He meant to be nice, perhaps. Some girls may like that sort of niceness; I don't."

"Why didn't you tell him to get out?"

"I wanted to see his samples. It is time for us to buy our Christmas things and I had rather choose them myself, that's all."

"Oh! But Mr. Hamilton or the Captain-I should think-"

"Oh, they might have bought some that we couldn't sell."

"The beauty-boxes, for instance?"

Mary-'Gusta smiled. "Why, yes," she admitted; "perhaps."

"I see. But it was rather an ordeal for you. Do you have to endure much of that sort of thing?"

"No more than any girl who keeps store, I guess."

At the dinner table that evening Keith referred to his experience as listener in Hamilton and Company's shop.

"That girl with the queer name," he said, "a niece of those two old chaps who run the place, I believe she is. Do you know anything about her, Gertrude?"

Before Mrs. Keith could reply, Edna spoke:

"Ask Sam, Dad," she said, mischievously. "Sam knows about her. He just adores that store; he spends half his time there."

"Nonsense, Edna!" protested Sam, turning red. "I don't do any such thing."

"Oh, yes, you do. And you know about Mary-'Gusta too. He says she's a peach, Daddy."

"Humph!" grunted her brother, indignantly. "Well, she is one. She's got every girl in your set skinned a mile for looks. But I don't know anything about her, of course."

Mrs. Keith broke in. "Skinned a mile!" she repeated, with a shudder. "Sam, what language you do use! Yes, John," she added, addressing her husband. "I know the girl well. She's pretty and she is sensible. For a girl who has had no opportunities and has lived all her life here in South Harniss she is really quite remarkable. Why do you speak of her, John?"

Mr. Keith related a part of the conversation between Mary-'Gusta and Mr. Kron.

"She handled the fellow splendidly," he said. "She talked business with him and she wouldn't let him talk anything else. But it was plain enough to see that she felt insulted and angry. It seems a pity that a girl like that should have to put up with that sort of thing. I wonder if her uncles, old Mr. Hamilton and Captain Shadrach, realize what happens when they're not about? How would they take it, do you think, if I dropped a hint?"

Edna laughed. "You would have to be very careful, Daddy," she said. "Mr. Hamilton and the Captain idolize Mary-'Gusta and she just worships them. Besides, she isn't really their niece, you know. She is a young lady of independent means-at least, so everybody says."

Her father was surprised. He asked what she meant by "independent means." Mrs. Keith answered.

"The means are not very extensive, I imagine," she said. "The story is that this Mary-'Gusta-why they persist in calling her by that dreadful name I can't understand-is the daughter of a former friend and partner. Mr. Hamilton and Captain Gould adopted her and she has lived with them ever since. She has money of her own, though no two of the townspeople ag

ree as to how much. I've heard it estimated all the way from five to fifty thousand. She never speaks of it and those queer old uncles of hers keep their affairs very much to themselves. But I agree with you, John; it is a shame that she should have to spend her life here in South Harniss. I think we ought to do something for her, if we can. I shall think it over."

Mrs. Keith was always doing something for somebody. At home in Chicago she was president of her women's club and identified with goodness knows how many charitable societies. In South Harniss she was active in church and sewing circles. Her enthusiasm was always great, but her tact was sometimes lacking. South Harniss people, some of them, were inclined to consider her as a self-appointed boss interfering where she had no business.

Her husband looked a trifle dubious.

"Be careful, Gertrude," he cautioned. "Look out you don't offend. These Cape Codders are self-respecting and touchy, you know. Anyone interfering with their private affairs is likely to get into trouble."

His wife resented the warning. "Don't throw cold water on everything, John," she said. "I know more about Cape Codders than you do. You only meet them for a few weeks each summer. I flatter myself that I know them and that they know and trust me. Of COURSE I shall be careful. And I shall think the Mary-'Gusta matter over."

She did think it over and a week later she came to her husband overflowing with the excitement of a brilliant idea. A cousin of hers, a maiden lady of sixty or thereabouts, wealthy and a semi-invalid who cherished her ill-health, was in need of a female companion. Mrs. Keith was certain that Mary-'Gusta would be just the person to fill that need.

Mr. Keith was by no means so certain. He raised some objections.

"Humph," he said. "Well, Gertrude, to be frank, I don't think much of the scheme. Cousin Clara has had one companion after the other for thirty years. None of them has stayed with her very long. She requires a sort of combination friend and lady's maid and secretary and waitress, and I don't think our Mary-'Gusta would enjoy that sort of job. I certainly shouldn't-with Clara."

His wife was indignant. "I might have known you would be ready with the cold water," she declared. "Clara is-well, cranky, and particular and all that, but the opportunity is wonderful. The girl would travel and meet the best people-"

"She might remove their wraps, I admit."

"Nonsense! And if Clara took a fancy to her she might leave her a good sum of money when she died."

"Perhaps, providing the girl didn't die first. No, Gertrude, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I don't think much of your idea. Anyway, according to my belief, you're approaching this thing from the wrong end. It isn't the girl herself you should try to influence, but her uncles, or guardians, or whatever they are. If I know her, and I've been making some inquiries, she won't leave them. She will consider that they need her at the house and store and she'll stay. They are the ones to influence. If the matter of her welfare and future was put to them in the right light they might-well, they might sacrifice themselves to benefit her."

"Rubbish! I know I'm right. She'll jump at the opportunity. I shall tell her about it this very afternoon."

"She won't accept; I'll bet on it."

His principal reason for non-belief in Mary-'Gusta's acceptance was his knowledge of his wife's lack of tact. The girl did not consider herself, nor was she, a subject of charity. And the position of combination friend and servant would not appeal to her. John Keith had an idea of his own concerning Mary-'Gusta, but it could wait until his wife's had failed.

It failed, of course, and Mrs. Keith, that evening, was indignant and angry.

"I never was so treated in my life," she declared. "That girl didn't know her place at all. I'm through. I wash my hands of the whole matter."

"Wasn't she polite?" inquired Keith.

"Oh, she was polite enough, as far as that goes, but she wouldn't even consider my proposal. Wouldn't even hear me through. She said she had no thought of leaving South Harniss. She was quite satisfied and contented where she was. One would think I had come to ask a favor instead of conferring one. Why, she seemed to think my plan almost ridiculous."

"Did she say so?"

"No, of course she didn't. She thanked me and all that; but she snubbed me just the same. I'm disgusted. I'm through-absolutely and completely through trying to help that girl!"

Keith did not say, "I told you so"; in fact, he said little or nothing more at the time. But a day or two afterwards he called at the store. Zoeth and Captain Shadrach were alone there, their niece having gone down to the house, a fact of which the caller was aware.

The partners liked John Keith. They considered him, as Captain Shad said, "a first-rate, everyday sort of feller," who did not patronize nor put on airs, even though he was a "summer man" and rich. When he talked with them it was of things they understood, local affairs, the cranberry crop, fishing, and the doings of the Board of Selectmen. He was willing to listen as well as talk and he did not refer to permanent residents as "natives," a habit of his wife's which irritated the Captain extremely.

"Jumpin' fire!" said the latter on one occasion, "every time that woman calls us town folks 'natives' I feel as if she cal'lated I lived up a tree and chucked coconuts at folks. I don't wonder some of the South Sea Islands heathen eat missionaries. If I ATE that woman she might agree with me; she don't as 'tis. Every time I say yes she says no, and that makes me think yes harder'n ever."

So Mrs. Keith was not popular with the South Harniss natives, perhaps because she tried so hard to be; her husband, who apparently did not try to be, was. He and his opinions were liked and respected. When he came into the store, therefore, on this occasion, Zoeth and Shad welcomed him, asked him to sit down, and the conversation began with the astonishing rise in the price of sea-front property and drifted from that to other timely and general topics.

Just how it drifted to Mary-'Gusta and her future neither of the partners could have told-however, drift there it did, and they found themselves chanting her praises to their caller, who seemed much interested.

"She is a remarkably capable girl," observed Mr. Keith. "And before we realize it she will be a young woman. Are you planning that she shall keep store and keep house for you the rest of her life, or the rest of yours?"

Zoeth shook his head. "Why," he said, mildly, "I don't know's we've planned much about it so fur. Those things sort of take care of themselves, always seemed to me. Or the Almighty takes care of 'em for us."

Their visitor smiled. "Someone else will be willing and anxious to take care of her before many years, or I miss my guess," he said. "She is likely to marry, you know. There must be some promising young fellows down here."

Shadrach sniffed. It was a subject he never discussed with his partner and did not like even to think about. The remark of the hat and cap drummer concerning the coming of a "Mr. Right" had troubled him not a little.

"Ugh!" he grunted; "there's promisin' ones enough. Most of those that are contented to stay here in South Harniss are nothin' BUT promise; they ain't so strong on makin' good. 'Tain't like 'twas when Zoeth and me were young ourselves. Now all the smart, ambitious boys go up to the city to work."

"Some of the girls go up there, too, don't they? To school, or college? Didn't I hear that Christopher Mullet's daughter was at school in Bridgewater?"

"Ugh!" grunted Shadrach again. "I cal'late you did hear. If you didn't you're the only one in town that ain't. Becky Mullet-yes, and Chris, too-ain't done anything but brag about their Irene's goin' off to what they call 'finishin' school.' Judas! I see HER finish. She ain't got-I swan that girl ain't got anything in her head but gas, and every time she opens her mouth she loses enough of that to keep a lighthouse lit up all night."

"Shadrach," murmured Zoeth, "don't say such unlikely things about folks. Be charitable as you can."

"Judas! I am-as much as I can. If I wasn't charitable to that Mullet girl I'd be talkin' yet. I hove to afore I'd got scarcely under way."

Keith put in a word. "Finishing schools are not all bad, by any means," he said. "There are various kinds and grades, of course, but a good private school for girls is a fine thing. It teaches them to meet and judge people of all kinds, and that fine feathers don't always make fine birds. Then, too, a girl at a good school of that sort is under strict discipline and her acquaintances, male acquaintances especially, are chosen with care. Sixteen to eighteen is a dangerous age for the average girl.

"By the way," he added, "did your niece tell you of her experience with that traveling salesman the other day, the fellow selling Christmas novelties? No? Well, I happened to be here at the time. It was rather interesting."

He told of Mary-'Gusta's session with Mr. Kron. The partners listened with growing indignation.

"Well, by the jumpin'!" exclaimed Captain Shad. "Did you ever hear such brassy talk in your life! I wish to thunder I'd been here. There'd have been one mighty sick patient ready for the doctor and he wouldn't have been a South Harniss native either. But Mary-'Gusta didn't take none of his sauce, I tell you; that girl of ours is all right!"

"Yes, she is all right. But she didn't enjoy the experience, that was plain enough, and, so far as I can see, she is likely to have a good many others of the same kind. Now it isn't my business, I know that; you can tell me to shut up and clear out any time you like, of course; but do you think it is just fair to a girl like your niece to condemn her to a life of storekeeping or the alternative of marrying one of the promising young men you've been talking about? Don't you think such a girl as she is deserves a chance; every chance you can give her?"

The two partners stared at him open-mouthed. Shadrach, as usual, spoke first.

"Condemn her?" he repeated. "Condemn Mary-'Gusta? A chance? Why-"

"Hush, Shadrach," interrupted Zoeth. "Mr. Keith ain't done yet. He's goin' to tell us what he means. Go on, Mr. Keith, what do you mean?"

Keith, having broken the ice, and found the water not so chilly as he had feared it might be, plunged in.

"Well, I mean this," he said. "I confess frankly that I have been very favorably impressed by your niece. She is an unusual girl-unusually pretty, of course, but much more than that. She is simple and brave and sensible and frank. If she were my daughter I should be very proud of her. I know you are. She should have, it seems to me, the opportunity to make the most of her qualities and personality. I've been thinking about her a great deal ever since my call at the store here the other day. Now I've got a suggestion to make. You can take it or leave it, but I assure you it is made with the best of intentions and solely in her interest as I see it; and I hope you'll take it after you've thought it over. Here it is."

He went on to impart the suggestion. His hearers listened, Zoeth silently and Shadrach with occasional mutterings and exclamations.

"So there you are," said Keith in conclusion. "The school is a good one, one of the best in Boston. Two years there will do worlds for your niece. It has done worlds for other girls I have known. It is rather expensive, of course, but, as I understand it, Mary has money of her own of which you, as her guardians, have charge. She couldn't spend a portion of that money to better advantage."

Zoeth said nothing, but he looked at the Captain and the Captain looked at him.

"She HAS money of her own, hasn't she?" inquired Mr. Keith. "I have been told she was left an independent fortune by her father."

There was another interval of silence. The partners were quite aware of the general belief in Mary-'Gusta's independent fortune. They had not discouraged that belief. It was no one's business but theirs and their respect and affection for Marcellus Hall had prevented the disclosure of the latter's poverty. That secret not even Mary-'Gusta knew; she, too, believed that the money which paid for her clothes and board and all the rest was her own. Her uncles had helped her to think so.

So when their visitor asked the pointed question Zoeth looked at Shadrach and the latter shook his head.

"Yup," he answered, brusquely, "it's true enough, I cal'late. Marcellus left her all he had. But-but look here, Mr. Keith. Do I understand you to advise us to send Mary-'Gusta away-to school-for two years? Jumpin' fire! How-how could we? She-why, what would we do without her?"

"It would be harder for you here in the store, of course."

"The store! 'Tain't the store I'm thinkin' about; it's me and Zoeth. What'll WE do without her? Why, she-why, no daughter could mean more to us than that girl does, and if Zoeth and me was her own-er-mother and father we couldn't think more of her. We'd be adrift and out of sight of land if Mary-'Gusta went away. No, no, we couldn't think of such a thing."

"Not even for her sake? She's worth a pretty big sacrifice, a girl like that."

A long discussion followed, a discussion interrupted by the arrival of occasional customers but resumed as soon as each of these individuals departed. Zoeth asked a question.

"This-this Miss-er-What's-her-name's school you're talkin' about," he asked, "a reg'lar boardin' school, is it?"

"Yes, but there are day pupils. It was my idea, provided you two were willing to listen to my suggestion at all, to suggest that Mary attend as a day pupil. She might live near the school instead of at it. That would be much less expensive."

"Um-hm," mused Shadrach, "but-but she'd have to live somewheres, and I for one would want to be mighty particular what sort of a place she lived at."

"Naturally. Well, I have thought of that, too, and here is suggestion number three: I have a cousin-a cousin of my first wife's-who lives on Pinckney Street, which is not far from the Misses Cabot's school. This cousin-Mrs. Wyeth is her name-is a widow and she hasn't too much money. She doesn't keep a boarding house exactly, but she has been known to take a few of what she calls 'paying guests.' She's very Bostonian and very particular concerning the references and family connections of those guests, but I think I could manage that. If your niece were placed in her care she would have a real home and meet only the sort of people you would wish her to meet."

He might have added that Mrs. Wyeth, being under many obligations, pecuniary and otherwise, to her wealthy Chicago relative, would need only a hint from him to give Mary-'Gusta the care and attention of a parent, a very particular, Boston first-family parent. But, unlike his present wife, he was not in the habit of referring to his charities, so he kept this information to himself.

Zoeth sighed. "I declare," he said, "you're mighty kind in all this, Mr. Keith. I know that you're sartin this goin' away to school would do Mary-'Gusta a sight of good. But-but I swan I-I can't hardly bear to think of our lettin' her go away from us."

"I don't wonder at that. Just think it over and we'll have another talk later."

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