The Riverman by Stewart Edward White
"Oh, it IS the best way, dear, after all!" cried Carroll, pressing close to her husband. "A few minutes ago I was all doubts and fears, but now I feel so safe and settled," she laughed happily. "It is as though I had belonged to you always, you old Rock of Gibraltar! and anything that happens now will come from the outside, and not from the inside, won't it, dear?"
"Yes, sweetheart," said Orde.
"Poor mother! I wonder how she'll take it."
"We'll soon know, anyway," replied Orde, a little grimly.
In the hallway of the Bishop house Orde kissed her.
"Be brave, sweetheart," said he, "but remember that now you're my wife."
She nodded at him gravely and disappeared.
Orde sat in the dim parlour for what seemed to be an interminable period. Occasionally the sounds of distant voices rose to his ear and died away again. The front door opened to admit some one, but Orde could not see who it was. Twice a scurrying of feet overhead seemed to indicate the bustle of excitement. The afternoon waned. A faint whiff of cooking, escaping through some carelessly open door, was borne to his nostrils. It grew dark, but the lamps remained unlighted. Finally he heard the rustle of the portieres, and turned to see the dim form of the general standing there.
"Bad business! bad business!" muttered the old man. "It's very hard on me. Perhaps you did the right thing--you must be good to her-- but I cannot countenance this affair. It was most high-handed, sir!"
The portieres fell again, and he disappeared.
Finally, after another interval, Carroll returned. She went immediately to the gas-fixture, which she lit. Orde then saw that she was sobbing violently. She came to him, and for a moment hid her face against his breast. He patted her hair, waiting for her to speak. After a little she controlled herself.
"How was it?" asked Orde, then.
"I never knew people could be so cruel," she complained in almost a bewildered manner. "Jack, we must go to-night. She--she has ordered me out of the house, and says she never wants to see my face again." She broke down for a second. "Oh, Jack! she can't mean that. I've always been a good daughter to her. And she's very bitter against Gerald. Oh! I told her it wasn't his fault, but she won't listen. She sent for that odious Mr. Merritt--her rector, you know--and he supported her. I believe he's angry because we did not go to him. Could you believe such a thing! And she's shut herself up in her air of high virtue, and underneath it she's, oh, so angry!"
"Well, it's natural she should be upset," comforted Orde. "Don't think too much of what she does now. Later she'll get over it."
Carroll shivered again.
"You don't know, dear, and I'm not going to tell you. Why," she cried, "she told me that you and I were in a conspiracy to drive her to her grave so we could get her money!"
"She must be a little crazy," said Orde, still pacifically.
"Come, help me," said Carroll. "I must get my things."
"Can't you just pack a bag and leave the rest until tomorrow? It's about hungry time"
"She says I must take every stitch belonging to me tonight."
They packed trunks until late that night, quite alone. Gerald had departed promptly after breaking the news, probably without realising to what a pass affairs would come. A frightened servant, evidently in disobedience of orders and in fear of destruction, brought them a tray of food, which she put down on a small table and hastily fled. In a room down the hall they could hear the murmur of voices where Mrs. Bishop received spiritual consolation from her adviser. When the trunks were packed, Orde sent for a baggage waggon. Carroll went silently from place to place, saying farewell to such of her treasures as she had made up her mind to leave. Orde scribbled a note to Gerald, requesting him to pack up the miscellanies and send them to Michigan by freight. The baggage man and Orde carried the trunks downstairs. No one appeared. Carroll and Orde walked together to the hotel. Next morning an interview with Gerald confirmed them in their resolution of immediate departure.
"She is set in her opposition now, and at present she believes firmly that her influence will separate you. Such a state of mind cannot be changed in an hour."
"And you?" asked Carroll.
"Oh, I," he shrugged, "will go on as usual. I have my interests."
"I wish you would come out in our part of the country," ventured Orde.
Gerald smiled his fine smile.
"Good-bye," said he. "Going to a train is useless, and a bore to everybody."
Carroll threw herself on his neck in an access of passionate weeping.
"You will write and tell me of everything, won't you?" she begged.
"Of course. There now, good-bye."
Orde followed him into the hall.
"It would be quite useless to attempt another interview?" he inquired.
Gerald made a little mouth.
"I am in the same predicament as yourselves," said he, "and have since nine this morning taken up my quarters at the club. Please do not tell Carroll; it would only pain her."
At the station, just before they passed in to the train, the general appeared.
"There, there!" he fussed. "If your mother should hear of my being here, it would be a very bad business, very bad. This is very sad; but--well, good-bye, dear; and you, sir, be good to her. And write your daddy, Carroll. He'll be lonesome for you." He blew his nose very loudly and wiped his glasses. "Now, run along, run along," he hurried them. "Let us not have any scenes. Here, my dear, open this envelope when you are well started. It may help cheer the journey. Not a word!"
He hurried them through the gate, paying no heed to what they were trying to say. Then he steamed away and bustled into a cab without once looking back.
When the train had passed the Harlem River and was swaying its uneven way across the open country, Carroll opened the envelope. It contained a check for a thousand dollars.
"Dear old daddy!" she murmured. "Our only wedding present!"
"You are the capitalist of the family," said Orde. "You don't know how poor a man you've married. I haven't much more than the proverbial silver watch and bad nickel."
She reached out to press his hand in reassurance. He compared it humorously with his own.
"What a homely, knotted, tanned old thing it is by yours," said he.
"It's a strong hand," she replied soberly, "it's a dear hand." Suddenly she snatched it up and pressed it for a fleeting instant against her cheek, looking at him half ashamed.