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   Chapter 2 No.2

The Desired Woman By Will N. Harben Characters: 8249

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:06


J. Cuyler Mitchell got out of his landau in the porte cochere of his stately residence on Peachtree Street, and, aided by his gold-headed ebony cane, ascended the steps of the wide veranda, where he stood fanning his face with his Panama hat. Larkin, the negro driver, glanced over his shoulder after him.

"Anything mo', Marse John?" he inquired.

"No, I'm through with the horses for to-day," the old man returned.

"Put them up, and rub them down well."

As the landau moved along the curving drive to the stables in the rear Mitchell sauntered around to the shaded part of the veranda and went in at the front door. He was tall, seventy-five years of age, slender and erect, had iron-gray hair and a mustache and pointed goatee of the same shade. He was hanging his hat on the carved mahogany rack in the hall when Jincy, a young colored maid, came from the main drawing-room on the right. She had a feather duster in her hand and wore a turban-like head-cloth, a neat black dress, and a clean white apron.

"Where is Irene?" he inquired.

The maid was about to answer when a response came from above.

"Here I am, father," cried Miss Mitchell. "Can't you come up here? I've been washing my hair; I've left it loose to dry. There is more breeze up here."

"If you want to see me you'll trot down here," the old gentleman said, crustily. "I put myself out to make that trip down-town for you, and I'll be hanged if I climb those steps again till bed-time."

"Well, I'll be down in a minute," his daughter replied. "I know you have no very bad news, or you would have been more excited. You see, I know you."

Mitchell grunted, dropped his stick into an umbrella-holder, and turned into the library, where he again encountered the maid, now vigorously dusting a bookcase.

"Leave it, leave it!" he grumbled. "I don't want to be breathing that stuff into my lungs on a day like this. There is enough dust in the streets without having actually to eat it at home."

With a sly look and a low impulsive titter of amusement the yellow girl restored a vase to its place and turned into the study adjoining.

"Get out of there, too!" Mitchell ordered. "I want to read my paper, and you make me nervous with your swishing and knocking about."

"I can slide the doors to," Jincy suggested, as she stood hesitatingly in the wide opening.

"And cut off all the air!" was the tart response. "From now on I want you to pick times for this sort of work when I'm out of the house. My life is one eternal jumping about to accommodate you. I want comfort, and I'm going to have it."

Shrugging her shoulders, the maid left the room. Mitchell had seated himself near an open window and taken up his paper when his daughter came down the steps and entered. She was above medium height, had abundant chestnut hair, blue eyes, a good figure, and regular features, the best of which was a sweet, thin-lipped, sensitive mouth. She had on a blue kimono and dainty slippers, and moved with luxurious ease and grace.

"You ought to have more patience with the servants, father," she said, testily. "Jincy is slow enough, heaven knows, without you giving her excuses for being behind with her work. Now she will go to the kitchen and hinder the cook. If you only knew how much trouble servants are to manage you'd be more tactful. Half a dozen women in this town want that girl, and she knows it. Mrs. Anderson wants to take her to New York to nurse her baby, and she would propose it if she wasn't afraid I'd be angry."

Mitchell shook out his paper impatiently and scanned the head-lines over his nose-glasses. "You don't seem very much interested in my trip downtown, I must say."

"Well, perhaps I would be," she smiled, "but, you see, I know from your actions that he isn't much sick. If he had been you'd have mounted those steps three at a time. Do you know everybody is laughing over your interest in Dick Mostyn? Why, you are getting childish about him. I'm not so sure that he is really so wonderful as you make him out. Many persons think Alan Delbridge is a better business man, and as for his bein

g a saint-oh my!"

"I don't care what they think," Mitchell retorted. "They don't know him as well as I do. He wouldn't be under the weather to-day if he hadn't overworked, but he is all right now. The doctor says he only needs rest, and Dick is going to the mountains for a month. As for that, I can't for the life of me see why-"

"Why, Atlantic City with us wouldn't do every bit as well," Irene laughed out impulsively. "Oh, you are funny!"

"Well, I don't see why," the old man said. "If you two really do care for each other I can't see why you really would want to be apart the best month in the year."

Irene gave her damp, fragrant hair a shake on one side and laughed as she glanced at him mischievously. "You must really not meddle with us," she said. "Three people can't run an affair like that."

Mitchell folded his paper, eyed her suspiciously for a moment, and then asked: "Is Andrew Buckton going to Atlantic City? If he is, you may as well tell me. I simply am not going to put up with that fellow's impudence. People think you care for him-do you hear me?-some people say you like him as well as he does you, and if he wasn't as poor as Job's turkey that you'd marry him."

Miss Mitchell avoided her father's eyes. She shook out her hair again, and ran her white, ringed fingers through its brown depths. "Haven't I promised you not to think of Andy in-in any serious way?" she faltered. "His mother and sister are nice, and I don't want to offend them. You needn't keep bringing his name up." Her fine lips were twitching. "I'd not be a natural woman if I didn't appreciate his-his honest admiration."

"Honest nothing!" Mitchell blurted out. "He thinks you are going to have money, and he believes you'll be silly enough to be influenced by his puppy love to make a fool of yourself. Besides, he's in the way. He took you to a dance not long ago when Mostyn wanted to go with you. Dick told me at the bank that he was going to invite you, and then that young blockhead called for you."

Miss Mitchell had the air of one subduing interest. She forced a faint smile into the general gravity of her face. "Andy had asked me a month before," she said, "or, rather, his mother asked me for him the day the cards were sent out."

"I knew she had a hand in it," Mitchell retorted, in a tone of conviction. "That old woman is the most cold-blooded matchmaker in the State, and she's playing with you like a cat with a mouse. They want my money, I tell you-that's what they are after. I know how the old thing talks to you-she's always telling you her darling boy is dying of grief, and all that foolishness."

Irene avoided her father's eyes. She wound a thick wisp of her hair around her head and began to fasten it with a hairpin. He heard her sigh. Then she looked straight at him.

"You are bothering entirely too much," she half faltered, in a tone that was all but wistful. "Now, I'll make you a promise if-if you'll make me one. You are afraid Dick Mostyn and I will never come to-to an understanding, but it is all right. I know I must be sensible, and I intend to be. I'm more practical than I look. Now, here is what I am going to propose. Andy Buckton may be at Atlantic City with his mother, and I want you to treat them decently. If you will be nice to them I will assure you that when Dick gets back from the mountains he will propose and I will accept him."

"You talk as if you knew positively that he-"

"I understand him," the young lady said. "I know him even better than you do, with all your business dealings together. Now, that will have to satisfy you, and you've got to let me see Andy up there. You simply must."

"Well, I don't care," the old man said, with a breath of relief. "This is the first time you ever have talked any sort of sense on the subject."

"I know nothing else will suit you," Irene said, with a look of abstraction in her eyes, "and I have made up my mind to let you have your way."

There was a tremulous movement to her breast, a quaver in her voice, of which she seemed slightly ashamed, for she turned suddenly and left the room.

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