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The Celebrity Part 30

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My affection for McCann still remains a strong one.

After my talk with McCann I was sitting on the forecastle propped against the bitts of the Maria's anchor-chain, and looking at the swirling foam cast up by the tug's propeller. There were many things I wished to turn over in my mind just then, but I had not long been in a state of reverie when I became conscious that Miss Thorn was standing beside me. I got to my feet.

"I have been wondering how long you would remain in that trance, Mr.

Crocker," she said. "Is it too much to ask what you were thinking of?"

Now it so chanced that I was thinking of her at that moment. It would never have done to say this, so I stammered. And Miss Thorn was a young woman of tact.

"I should not have put that to so literal a man as you," she declared.

"I fear that you are incapable of crossing swords. And then," she added, with a slight hesitation that puzzled me, "I did not come up here to ask you that,--I came to get your opinion."

"My opinion?" I repeated.

"Not your legal opinion," she replied, smiling, "but your opinion as a citizen, as an individual, if you have one. To be frank, I want your opinion of me. Do you happen to have such a thing?"

I had. But I was in no condition to give it.

"Do you think me a very wicked girl?" she asked, coloring. "You once thought me inconsistent, I believe, but I am not that. Have I done wrong in leading the Celebrity to the point where you saw him this morning?"

"Heaven forbid!" I cried fervently; "but you might have spared me a great deal had you let me into the secret."

"Spared you a great deal," said Miss Thorn. "I--I don't quite understand."

"Well--" I began, and there I stayed. All the words in the dictionary seemed to slip out of my grasp, and I foundered. I realized I had said something which even in my wildest moments I had not dared to think of.

My secret was out before I knew I possessed it. Bad enough had I told it to Farrar in an unguarded second. But to her! I was blindly seeking some way of escape when she said softly:

"Did you really care?"

I am man enough, I hope, when there is need to be. And it matters not what I felt then, but the words came back to me.

"Marian," I said, "I cared more than you will ever learn."

But it seems that she had known all the time, almost since that night I had met her at the train. And how? I shall not pretend to answer, that being quite beyond me. I am very sure of one thing, however, which is that I never told a soul, man or woman, or even hinted at it. How was it possible when I didn't know myself?

The light in the west was gone as we were pulled into Far Harbor, and the lamps of the little town twinkled brighter than I had ever seen them before. I think they must have been reflected in our faces, since Miss Trevor, when she came forward to look for us, saw something there and openly congratulated us. And this most embarra.s.sing young woman demanded presently:

"How did it happen, Marian? Did you propose to him?"

I was about to protest indignantly, but Marian laid her hand on my arm.

"Tell it not in Asquith," said she. "Irene, I won't have him teased any more."

We were drawing up to the dock, and for the first time I saw that a crowd was gathered there. The report of this chase had gone abroad. Some began calling out to McCann when we came within distance, among others the editor of the Northern Lights, and beside him I perceived with amus.e.m.e.nt the generous lines: of the person of Mr. O'Meara himself. I hurried back to give Farrar a hand with the ropes, and it was O'Meara who caught the one I flung ash.o.r.e and wound it around a pile. The people pressed around, peering at our party on the Maria, and I heard McCann exhorting them to make way. And just then, as he was about to cross the plank, they parted for some one from behind. A breathless messenger halted at the edge of the wharf. He held out a telegram.

McCann seized it and dived into the cabin, followed closely by my client and those of us who could push after. He tore open the envelope, his eye ran over the lines, and then he began to slap his thigh and turn around in a circle, like a man dazed.

"Whiskey!" shouted Mr. Cooke. "Get him a gla.s.s of Scotch!"

But McCann held up his hand.

"Holy Saint Patrick!" he said, in a husky voice, "it's upset I am, bottom upwards. Will ye listen to this?"

"'Drew is your man. Reddish hair and long side whiskers, gray clothes. Pretends to represent summer hotel syndicate. Allen at Asquith unknown and harmless.

"' (Signed.) Everhardt."'

"Sew me up," said Mr. Cooke; "if that don't beat h.e.l.l!"

CHAPTER XXI

In this world of lies the good and the bad are so closely intermingled that frequently one is the means of obtaining the other. Therefore, I wish very freely to express my obligations to the Celebrity for any share he may have had in contributing to the greatest happiness of my life.

Marian and I were married the very next month, October, at my client's palatial residence of Mohair. This was at Mr. Cooke's earnest wish: and since Marian was Mrs. Cooke's own niece, and an orphan, there seemed no good reason why my client should not be humored in the matter. As for Marian and me, we did not much care whether we were married at Mohair or the City of Mexico. Mrs. Cooke, I think, had a secret preference for Germantown.

Mr. Cooke quite over-reached himself in that wedding. "The knot was tied," as the papers expressed it, "under a huge bell of yellow roses."

The paper also named the figure which the flowers and the collation and other things cost Mr. Cooke. A natural reticence forbids me to repeat it. But, lest my client should think that I undervalue his kindness, I will say that we had the grandest wedding ever seen in that part of the world. McCann was there, and Mr. Cooke saw to it that he had a punchbowl all to himself in which to drink our healths: Judge Short was there, still followed by the conjugal eye: and Senator Trevor, who remained over, in a new long black coat to kiss the bride. Mr. Cooke chartered two cars to carry guests from the East, besides those who came as ordinary citizens. Miss Trevor was of the party, and Farrar, of course, was best man. Would that I had the flow of words possessed by the reporter of the Chicago Sunday newspaper!

But there is one thing I must mention before Mrs. Crocker and I leave for New York, in a shower of rice, on Mr. Cooke's own private car, and that is my client's gift. In addition to the check he gave Marian, he presented us with a huge, 'repousse' silver urn he had had made to order, and he expressed a desire that the design upon it should remind us of him forever and ever. I think it will. Mercury is duly set forth in a gorgeous equipage, driving four horses around the world at a furious pace; and the artist, by special instructions, had docked their tails.

From New York, Mrs. Crocker and I went abroad. And it so chanced, in December, that we were staying a few days at a country-place in Suss.e.x, and the subject of The Sybarites was broached at a dinner-party. The book was then having its sale in England.

"Crocker," said our host, "do you happen to have met the author of that book? He's an American."

I looked across the table at my wife, and we both laughed.

"I happen to know him intimately," I replied.

"Do you, now?" said the Englishman; "what a very entertaining chap he is, is he not? I had him down in October, and, by Jove, we were laughing the blessed time. He was telling us how he wrote his novels, and he said, 'pon my soul he did, that he had a secretary or something of that sort to whom he told the plot, and the secretary elaborated, you know, and wrote the draft. And he said, 'pon my honor, that sometimes the clark wrote the plot and all,--the whole blessed thing,--and that he never saw the book except to sign his name to it."

"You say he was here in October?" asked Marian, when the laugh had subsided.

"I have the date," answered our host, "for he left me an autograph copy of The Sybarites when he went away." And after dinner he showed us the book, with evident pride. Inscribed on the fly-leaf was the name of the author, October 10th. But a glance sufficed to convince both of us that the Celebrity had never written it.

"John," said Marian to me, a suspicion of the truth crossing her mind, "John, can it be the bicycle man?"

"Yes, it can be," I said; "it is."

"Well," said Marian, "he's been doing a little more for our friend than we did."

Nor was this the last we heard of that meteoric trip through England, which the alleged author of The Sybarites had indulged in. He did not go up to London; not he. It was given out that he was travelling for his health, that he did not wish to be lionized; and there were friends of the author in the metropolis who had never heard of his secretary, and who were at a loss to understand his conduct. They felt slighted. One of these told me that the Celebrity had been to a Lincolnshire estate where he had created a decided sensation by his riding to hounds, something the Celebrity had never been known to do. And before we crossed the Channel, Marian saw another autograph copy of the famous novel.

One day, some months afterwards, we were sitting in our little salon in a Paris hotel when a card was sent up, which Marian took.

"John," she cried, "it's the Celebrity."

It was the Celebrity, in the flesh, faultlessly groomed and clothed, with frock coat, gloves, and stick. He looked the picture of ruddy, manly health and strength, and we saw at once that he bore no ill-will for the past. He congratulated us warmly, and it was my turn to offer him a cigarette. He was nothing loath to reminisce on the subject of his experiences in the wilds of the northern lakes, or even to laugh over them. He asked affectionately after his friend Cooke. Time had softened his feelings, and we learned that he had another girl, who was in Paris just then, and invited us on the spot to dine with her at "Joseph's."

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The Celebrity Part 30 summary

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