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countess takes the tickets at the door, or pulls up the curtain, or snuffs the candles, or does something equally refined and elegant. As to the young man with nice clothes, which are really nice now, and must cost at least two and a half or three dollars, not to speak of that mantle of red drugget, which I happen to know the price of, for I bought some of it for my room once, -as to this young man, Lissy, he is a pretty good fellow, and if he does drink occasionally, I don't think people ought to take advantage of it, and give him black eyes and throw him in the mud. Do you? I am sure he might owe me two dollars and a half a long time before I would throw it up in his face, as the fellow did the other night at Wingdam.”
Mliss had taken his hand in both of hers and was trying to look in his eyes, which the young man kept as resolutely averted. Mliss had a faint idea of irony, indulging herself sometimes in a species of sardonic humor, which was equally visible in her actions and speech. But the young man continued in this strain until they had reached Mrs. Morpher's, and he had deposited Mliss in her maternal charge. Waiving the invitation of Mrs. Morpher to refreshment and rest, and shading his eyes with his hand to keep out the blue-eyed Clytemnestra’s siren glances, he excused himself, and went home.
For two or three days after the advent of the dramatic company, Mliss was late at school, and the master's usual Friday afternoon ramble was for once omitted, owing to the absence of his trustworthy guide. As he was putting away his books and preparing to leave the schoolhouse, a small voice piped at his side, “ Please, sir!” The master turned, and there stood Aristides Morpher.
“Well, my little man,” said the master, impatiently, “what is it? — quick!”
“Please, sir, me and ·Kerg' thinks that Mliss is going to run away agin.”
“ What's that, sir?” said the master, with that unjust testiness with which we always receive disagreeable news.
“Why, sir, she don't stay home any more, and “Kerg' and me see her talking with one of those actor fellers, and she's with him now; and please, sir, yesterday she told • Kerg' and me she could make a speech as well as Miss Cellerstina Montmoressy, and she spouted right off by heart,” and the little fellow paused in a collapsed condition.
“What actor?” asked the master.
“ Him as wears the shiny hat. And hair. And gold pin. And gold chain,” said the just Aristides, putting periods for commas to eke out his breath.
The master put on his gloves and hat, feeling an unpleasant tightness in his chest and thorax, and walked out in the road. Aristides trotted along by his side, endeavoring to keep pace with his short legs to the master's strides, when the master stopped suddenly, and Aristides bumped up against him. “Where were they talking ?” asked the master, as if continuing the conversation.
“ At the Arcade,” said Aristides.
When they reached the main street the master paused. “ Run down home,” said he to the boy. “If Mliss is there, come to the Arcade and tell me. If she is n't there, stay home; run!” And off trotted the shortlegged Aristides.
The Arcade was just across the way, - a long, rambling building containing a barroom, billiard-room, and restaurant. As the young man crossed the plaza he noticed that two or three of the passers-by turned and looked after him. He looked at his clothes, took out his handkerchief and wiped his face before he entered the bar-room. It contained the usual number of loungers, who stared at him as he entered. One of them looked at him so fixedly and with such a strange expression that the master stopped and looked again, and then saw it was only his own reflection in a large mirror. This made the master think that perhaps he was a little excited, and so he took up a copy of the Red Mountain Banner from one of the tables, and tried to recover his composure by reading the column of advertisements.
He then walked through the bar-room, through the restaurant, and into the billiardroom. The child was not there. In the latter apartment a person was standing by one of the tables with a broad-brimmed glazed hat on his head. The master recognized him as the agent of the dramatic company; he had taken a dislike to him at their first meeting, from the peculiar fashion of wearing his beard and hair. Satisfied that the object of his search was not there, he turned to the man with the glazed hat. He had noticed the master, but tried that common trick of unconsciousness, in which vulgar natures always fail. Balancing a billiard-cue in his hand, he pretended to play with a ball in the centre of the table. The master stood opposite to him until he raised his eyes; when their glances met, the master walked up to him.
He had intended to avoid a scene or quarrel, but when he began to speak something kept rising in his throat and retarded his utterance, and his own voice frightened him, it sounded so distant, low, and resonant.
“I understand," he began, “ that Melissa Smith, an orphan, and one of my scholars, has talked with you about adopting your profession. Is that so ?”
The man with the glazed hat leaned over the table, and made an imaginary shot, that sent the ball spinning round the cushions. Then walking round the table he recovered the ball and placed it upon the spot. This duty discharged, getting ready for another shot, he said,
“S'pose she has ?”
The master choked up again, but, squeezing the cushion of the table in his gloved hand, he went on:
“If you are a gentleman, I have only to tell you that I am her guardian, and responsible for her career. You know as well as I do the kind of life you offer her. As you