MoboReader> Literature > Once Aboard the Lugger-- The History of George and his Mary

   Chapter 3 No.3

Once Aboard the Lugger-- The History of George and his Mary By A. S. M. Hutchinson Characters: 12520

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Mrs. Major Gets The Key.

George carried a basket. He laid it upon the floor. Then he turned and kissed his Mary. He put his arms about her; held her to him for a moment in a tremendous hug; pressed his lips to hers; held her away, drinking love from her pretty eyes; again kissed her and again hugged.

She gasped: "I shall crack in half in a minute if you will be so ridiculous."

He laughed; let her free. He led to the tottering bench that stood across the room, sat her there, and taking her little gloved hand patted it between his.

"Fine, Mary," he said, "to see you again! Fine! It seems months!"

"Years," Mary whispered, giving one of the patting hands a little squeeze. "Years. And you never sent me a line. I've not had a word with you since you came up on the lawn that day and said you had passed your exam. You simply bolted off, you know."

"You got my letter, though, this morning?" George said. He dropped her hand; fumbled in his pocket for his pipe. He was becoming a little nervous at the matter before him.

Mary told him: "Well, that was nothing. It was such a frantic letter! What is all the mystery about?"

"I'll tell you the whole story." George got from the bench and began to pace, filling his pipe.

With a tender little smile Mary watched her George's dear face. Then, as he still paced, lit his pipe, gustily puffed, but did not speak, a tiny troubled pucker came between her eyes. There was a suspicion of a silly little tremor in her voice when at last she asked: "Anything wrong, old man?"

George inhaled a vast breath of smoke; let it go in a misty cloud. With a quick action he laid his pipe upon the table; sprang to her side. His right arm he put about her, in his left hand he clasped both hers. "Nothing wrong," he cried brightly; "not a bit wrong. Mary, it's a game, a plot, a dickens of a game."

"Well, tell me," she said, beaming.

"It wants your help."

"Well, tell me, tell me, stupid."

"You will help?"

"Of course, if I can. Oh, do tell me, Georgie!"

"I'll show you, that's quicker."

He sprang to the basket; unstrapped the lid; threw it back. A most exquisite orange head upreared. A queenly back arched. A beautiful figure stepped forth.

"George!" Mary cried. "George! The Rose! You've found her!"

George gave a nervous little crack of laughter. "I never lost her."

"Never lost her! No, but she's been-"

"I've had her all the time!"

"All the-"

"I took her!"

"You took her! You-took her! Oh, George, speak sense! Whatever can you mean?" Mary had jumped to her feet when first the Rose stepped forth; now was close to her George-face a little white, perplexed; hands clasped.

He cried: "Sweetest dove of a Mary, don't talk like that. Sit down and I'll tell you."

"But what have you done?-what have you done?"

The true woman was in that question. How they jostle us, these women, with their timid little flutterings when we are trying to put a case before them in our manlike way!-first spoiling their palate with all the sugar, so that they may not taste the powder.

"I'll tell you what I've done if you'll only sit down."

She went to the seat.

"Now laugh, Mary. You simply must laugh. I can't tell you while you look like that. Laugh, or I shall tickle you."

She laughed merrily-over her first bewilderment. "But, Georgie, it's something fearful that you've done, isn't it?"

He sat beside her; took her hands. "It's terrific. Look here. From the beginning. When I told old Marrapit I'd passed my exam. I asked for that 500 pounds-you know-to start us."

She nodded.

"He refused. He got in an awful state at the bare idea. I asked him to lend it-he got worse. Mary, he simply would not give or advance a penny: you know what that meant?"

The dejected droop of her mouth gave answer.

"Well, then, I concocted a plot. Old Wyvern helped me-Professor Wyvern, you know. I thought that if I took his cat, his beloved Rose, and lay low with her for a bit, he would-"

"Oh, George!"

"Well?"

"Nothing-finish."

"-He would be certain to offer a reward. And I guessed he wouldn't mind what he paid. So I thought I'd take the cat and hang on till he offered L500, or till I thought he'd be so glad to get the Rose back that he'd do what I want out of pure gratitude. Then I'd bring it back and get the money-say I'd found it, you see, and-and-wait a bit-for heaven's sake don't speak yet." George saw his Mary was bursting with words; as he judged the look in her eyes they were words he had reason to fear. Shirking their hurt, he hurried along. "Don't speak yet. Get the money, and then we'd save up and pay him back and then tell him. There!"

She burst out: "But, George-how could you? Oh, it's wrong-it's awful! Why, do you know what people would call you? They'd say you're a-yes, they'd say you're a-"

He snatched the terrible word from her lips with a kiss.

"They'd say I was a fool if I let Marrapit do me out of what is my own. That's the point, Mary. It's my money. I'm only trying to get what is my own. I felt all along you would see that; otherwise-" He hesitated. He was in difficulties. Manlike, he suddenly essayed to shoot the responsibility upon the woman. "-Otherwise I wouldn't have done it," he ended.

His Mary had the wit to slip from the net, to dig him a vital thrust with the trident: "If you thought that, why didn't you tell me?"

The thrust staggered him; set him blustering: "Tell you! Tell you! How could I tell you? I did it on the spur of the moment."

"You could have written. Oh, Georgie, it's wrong. It is wrong."

He took up the famous sex attack. "Wrong! Wrong! That's just like a woman to say that! You won't listen to reason. You jump at a thing and shut your eyes and your ears."

"I will listen to reason. But you haven't got any reason. If you had, why didn't you tell me before you did it?"

He continued the sex assault; flung out a declamatory hand. "There you go! Why didn't I tell you? I've told you why. I tell you I did it on the spur of the moment-"

But she still struggled. "Yes, that's just it. You didn't think. Now that you are thinking you must see it in its proper light. You must see it's wrong."

"I don't. I don't in the least."

"Well, why are you getting in such a state about it?"

"I'm not getting in a state!"

"You are." His Mary fumbled at her waist-belt. "You are. You're-saying-all sorts-of-things. You-said-I-was-just-like-a-woman." Out came this preposterous Mary's pocket handkerchief; into it went Mary's little nose.

George sprang to her. "Oh, Mary! Oh, I say, don't cry, old girl!"

The nose came out for a minute, a very shiny little nose. "I can't help crying. This is an-an awful business." The shiny little nose disappeared again.

George tried to pull away the handkerchief, tried to put his face against hers. A bony little shoulder poked obstinately up and prevented him. He burst out desperately. "Oh, damn! Oh, what a beast I am! I'm always making you cry. Oh, damn! Oh, Mary! I can't do anything right. I've had an awful time these days-and I was longing to see you,-and now I've called you names and been a brute."

His Mary gulped the tears that were making the shiny little nose every minute more shiny. Never could she bear to hear her George accuse himself. Upon a tremendous sniff, "You haven't been a brute," she said, "-a bit. It's my-my fault for annoying you when I don't properly understand. Perhaps I don't understand."

He put an arm about her. "You don't, Mary. Really and truly you don't. Let me tell you. Don't say a word till I've done. I'll tell you first why I've brought the Rose here. You see, I can't keep her anywhere else. I'm being chased about all over England. Bill and that infernal detective are after me now, and I simply must hide the beastly cat where it will be safe. Well, it's safest here-here, right under their noses, where nobody will ever look because everyone thinks it miles away by now. I can't stop near it, because I must be away on this clue they think I've got-especially now I've got mixed up with the detectives: see? So I want you just to come up from the house every day and feed the cat. You'll be perfectly safe, and it can't be for very long. You would do that, wouldn't you? Oh, Mary, think what it means to us!"

She polished the shiny little nose: "I'd do anything that would help you. But, Georgie, it's not right; it's wrong. Oh, it is wrong! I don't care what you say."

"But you haven't heard what I've got to say."

"I have. I've been listening for hours."

"No, no, Mary. No, I haven't explained yet. You're too serious about it. It isn't a bit serious. It's only a frightful rag. And nobody will suffer, because he'll get his money back. And, think-think what it means. Now, do listen!"

She listened, and her George poured forth a flood of arguments that were all mixed and tangled with love. She could not separate the two. This argument that he was right was delectably sugared with the knowledge that the thing was done for her; that delicious picture of the future, when it was swallowed, proved to be an argument in favour of his purpose. Love and argument, argument and love-she could not separate them, and they combined into a most exquisite sweetmeat. The arm her George had about her was a base advantage over her. How doubt her George was right when against her she could feel his heart! How be wiser than he when both her hands were in that dear brown fist?

She was almost won when with a "So there you are!" he concluded. She had been won if she had much longer remained beneath the drug of his dear, gay, earnest words.

But when he ceased she came to. The little awakening sigh she gave was the little fluttering sigh of a patient when the anesthetic leaves the senses clear.

She looked at her George. Horrible to dim the sparkling in those dear eyes, radiant with excitement, with love. Yet she did it. The goody-goody little soul of her put its hands about the little weakness of her and held it tight.

She said: "I do, do see what you mean, Georgie. But I do, do think it's wrong."

And then the little hands and the brown fist changed places. For she put one hand below the fist, and with the other patted as she gave her little homily-goody-goody little arguments, Sunday-school little arguments, mother-and-child little arguments. And very timidly she concluded: "You are not angry, Georgie, are you?"

This splendid George of hers gave her a tremendous kiss. "You're a little saint; you're a little idiot; you're a little angel; you're a little goose," he told her. "But I love you all the more for it, although I'd like to shake you. I would like to shake you, Mary. You're ruining the finest joke that ever was tried; and you're ruining our only chance of marrying; and goodness only knows what's going to happen now."

She laughed ever so happily. It was intoxicating to bend this dear George; intoxicating to have the love that came of bending him.

"But I am right, am I not?" she asked.

George said: "Look here, saint and goose. I'm simply not going to chuck the thing and all our happiness like this. I'll make a bargain. Saint and goose, we'll say you are right, but you shall have one night to think over it. One night. And this afternoon you will go to Professor Wyvern and tell him everything and hear what he thinks about it-what an outsider thinks: see? Yes, that's it. Don't even spend a night over it. Have a talk with Professor Wyvern, and if you still think I ought to chuck it, write to me at once, and to-morrow I'll come down and creep in unto my uncle with the cat, and say: 'Uncle, I have sinned.' There, Mary, that's agreed, isn't it?"

"That's agreed," she joined. "Yes, that's fair."

He looked at his watch. "I must cut. I must catch the one-thirty train. I must calm Bill and the 'tec. in case you-Mary, do weigh whatever Wyvern says, won't you?"

She promised; gave her George her hope that the Professor would make her see differently.

"That's splendid of you!" George cried. "Saint and goose, that's sweet of you. Mary, I'm sure he will. Look here, I must fly; come half-way to the station. The cat's all right here. Pop up and feed her this afternoon."

They pressed the door behind them; hurried down the path.

It was precisely as they turned from the lane into the high-road, that Mrs. Major, a cat beneath her arm, went bounding wildly through the copse towards Herons' Holt.

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