Tamawaca Folks/Chapter 13
"Mr. Jarrod" said Jim when he went to work next morning, "father's here."
"I've just been to call upon him," returned the lawyer, looking steadily at the young man; "but you have n't."
"Does he know I'm here?" he asked, hesitatingly.
"I told him. He did n't know it until then. Your mother and Nellie and May are all delighted and eager to see you."
"He did not express himself as glad or sorry. You've offended him deeply, Jim."
The boy thrust his hands into his pockets and looked thoughtful.
"I'd like to see mother," he said, musingly. "She's as tender and sweet as any mother can be, Mr. Jarrod; but the poor dear is entirely under my father's thumb, and even his frown terrifies her."
"Hm," said the lawyer. "I thought that kind of wives became extinct years ago."
"Mother's the old-fashioned sort, sir. And the girls are all right, in their way—for sisters. But dad has a dreadful temper, and when he gets on his high horse all I can do is to jaw back."
"No two in a family should try to ride the high horse at the same time," observed Jarrod; "and you must remember that the head of the house controls the stables. He's sick, Jim, and his pain makes him crabbed. Why not try to bear with him, and be friendly?"
"That's what Susie says. Perhaps I really ought to go up to the cottage and call."
"There's no question about it. Go now."
"I said I'd never darken his doors again, you know," he intimated, weakly.
"These are not his doors. It's Grant's cottage."
"So it is. Well, I'll go."
He pulled his hat down over his ears desperately, buttoned his coat in spite of the heat, and with tense muscles but trembling lips marched up the hill to the Grant cottage.
Before he could knock the door flew open and he was in his mother's arms. The poor lady was sobbing with joy, and led her errant son into the room where his father sat propped with cushions in an easy chair.
"Here's Jim!" she said, trembling with uncertainty and a well founded fear of the interview to follow.
Mr. Everton looked at his boy and nodded.
"Sit down, Jim," he said. The tone was not harsh, but lacked cordiality.
Jim sat down.
"How are you, sir?"
"Pretty bad. I don't seem to find any relief."
Once Jim had wickedly suggested that he take his own rheumatism cure; but the remark had led to all their trouble, so he twirled his hat and answered perfunctorily:
"I'm sorry, sir."
Such mildness of demeanor ought to have placated the father. But Everton was eyeing his son suspiciously.
"They tell me you're working. A lawyer's clerk."
"I'm Mr. Jarrod's private secretary, sir."
"Huh! Good job for a college man, is n't it? Nice investment I made when I sent you to Cornell."
Jim wondered what he would say if he knew he had until recently been a dry-goods clerk.
"Have n't you had about enough of this two-penny folly?" demanded his father, more harshly.
"Oh, I've discovered that I can earn my own living," said the boy, flushing.
"That is n't the point. I reared you with the expectation that you would be of some use to me when I grew old and feeble. That time has arrived. I need you to help look after the business. Look here: do you owe nothing to me?"
Jim examined the pattern on the rug.
"Just as much as I owe myself, sir. Surely not more."
"Then pay your obligation to me first, and you can do as you please afterward."
"All right. That's fair."
His mother, who sat beside him silently holding his hand, hugged him again, and even Mr. Everton seemed pleased by the frank answer.
"You jeered at the business once, and called it a—a fake!" resumed the elder man, somewhat bitterly; "but it's nothing of the sort. Every one of the Everton Remedies is prepared according to the formula of a skillful physician, and they've helped lots of suffering people. Is not my name highly respected? Answer me!"
"I think it is."
"Very well. You shall be my assistant and have an interest in the business. I'll allow you ten thousand a year."
"Good!" said Jim, brightening suddenly. "Then I can get married."
"Oh, Jim!" cried his mother.
"To whom, sir?" asked his father.
"Why, to Susie. Perhaps you have n't heard of her. She's a girl I met at Tamawaca."
"What's her other name?"
"Smith. Susie Smith," dwelling on it lovingly.
"Smith! Well, who is she?"
"The sweetest girl in all the world, sir."
"Bah! Who are her people? Where does she come from?"
"I don't know."
"I have n't asked about her family. Why should I, when she's all right herself? She's stopping with Mr. Carleton—W. E. Carleton, the railway contractor. He says he knows you."
"Susie lives in New York, I think, or some Eastern city. Her mother is dead but her father is still on deck—I'm positive of that, for she often speaks of him."
"What does he do?"
"Can't imagine, I'm sure."
"Jim, you're a fool—a doddering imbecile!"
"Oh, Henry—please don't quarrel!" exclaimed Mrs. Everton, beginning to weep anew.
But the invalid was suffering twinges and would not be stayed.
"You'll have to give up that girl for good and all," he roared. "Susie Smith! Some cheap stenographer or a paid companion to Mrs. Carleton, I suppose. Some designing hussy who thinks you'll have money, and wants to get her clutches on it. Susie Smith! For heaven's sake, Jim, why can't you have a little sense?"
Jim got up, slowly and with a white face.
"Father, I don't know much about Susie except that I love her and mean to marry her. And I won't have you sneer at her, even if you are ill and bad tempered. You have no reason to say a word against her."
"I know," a smile creeping over his face to soften its fierceness; "but I'll change that name, pretty soon. Susie Everton is n't so bad, is it?"
"Give her up, Jim. Don't let her come between us."
"She's there, Dad, and you can't thrust her away."
"Give her up."
Mrs. Everton was sobbing softly. The invalid turned on his cushions with a sigh. But his jaws were closed tight and his brow bent to a frown. Jim had quite regained his composure.
"I hope you'll soon get better, sir," he remarked. "I shall be in Tamawaca for some weeks yet, and if I can be of any help in any way, let me know. Good bye, mother."
As he turned to go the door burst open and Nellie and May dashed in and threw themselves upon their brother with glad cries and smothering kisses. They were bright, pretty girls, and Jim loved them and was proud of them.
"Is it all made up, Jim?" asked Nell, anxiously.
"Not quite, little sister," smiling at her.
"Oh, but it must be! It's all wrong, dear, for us to be separated this way. Tell him so, father!" turning appealingly to the invalid.
"He refused my overtures," said Mr. Everton, testily.
"Oh, no!" laughed Jim; "he refused my sweetheart."
The girls clapped their hands gleefully.
"We've heard all about it, in the town," said one. "Oh, Jim, you lucky boy!"
"And whom do you think it is, Dad?" asked the other eagerly, as she seated herself beside her father's chair.
"I don't know; and Jim don't know."
"But we know! She's an old friend of ours. We knew her at Wellesley, and we've just called upon her and kissed her and hugged her for old times' sake. Father, it's Susie Smith!"
"Smith!" with a snort of contempt.
"The only, only child of the great Agamemnon Smith, the richest Standard Oil magnate after Rockefeller himself!"
Jim fell into a chair and stared at his father. His father stared at him.
"And that is n't all," said May, gushingly. "Susie's as lovely as she is rich—the sweetest, cutest, brightest and cunningest little thing that ever lived."
"To think that Susie Smith will be our sister!" cried Nell, clasping her hands ecstatically.
"And—and—Jim can change that name of Smith, you know," faltered poor Mrs. Everton, glancing at her husband nervously.
The invalid roused himself and looked up with a smile.
"So he can," he observed, drily. "Hang up your hat, Jim, and let's talk it over."
Jim hung up his hat.