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OUR SHORT STORY.-I

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OUR SHORT STORY. I THE INVETERATE LOVER. I By RADCLIFFE MARTIN. I Latin grammars are all very badly arran° ged. They always start the verba with am 0--1 love. Scores of innocent youths never get any farther. They start ??o-ing at an early age; they acquire the -ha-bit; they never get rid of it. Rec" ,aie Danvers was one of these unfortu- nates. He was a confirmed lover. I have seldom known him in love with less than three at onceânot counting casual flirta- tions with barmaids, waitresses and post- office girls. He could even wh^ isper sweet «o things to a post-office girl with a queue behind him waiting hungry for stamps. I â have known him squeeze a hand and a packet of postcards simultaneously. That ought to show you what kind of man he Vas. One day he came to me all aglow. "Who is she? I asked. t "I've done it at last, old man," he said. "Is it the hazel-eyed daughter of the vicar, or the blue-eyed granddaughter of the wealthy stockbroker, or the sparkling., dark-eyed progeny of the whisky mer- chant? inquired. (This inquiry at first sight seems to have a strong flavour of French exercises, but I knew Reggie's girls mainly by their eyes. He was great on eyes. He always stared â¢right into the pupils of a girl's eyes. I ihave known him look into the eyes of a to- bacconist's assistant till she let him have three boxes of matches after stoutly declar- ing she had none in the shop.) "Those! said Reggie Contemptuously "those were mere flirtations. This is a girP I met when I was week-ending at the Selsbys'. We played billiards together on Saturday night. I sat next to her in church on Sunday morning and squeezed her hand all through the sermon-forty minutes it was, and it didn't seem to last five: there's a wheeze for you if you're bent on church-goingâproposed to her in the afternoon, and spent a delicious evening in the garden." "She accepted you, then?" "Oh, yes, provided that her father gave his consent. She would on-ly agree to be en- gaged provisionally till then. Fine trait in a girl's character, respect for her father. I pnly hope my daughters "Before discussing the behaviour of your problematical daughters, Reggie, I should like to know if you have asked Pa? "Arranged to go over and see him this evening. It'll be all right, I think." "What coloured eyes?" I inquired. Deep chestnut-brown lakes of light," said Reggie solemnly. You've got it badly. Occupation of father? "Solicitor. But he's retired. Wealthy -old bird, I think. Lives in a big houseâ denha-m." S y"Ri-,ht I replied. "Chestnut-brown, solicitor. I shall know her when you talk about her. What's her name? "The most beautiful name in the worldâ Angela." "Reggie," I appealed, "get fixed in your ideas as to which is the most beautiful name in the world! I've already had from you Margaret, Vera, Ermyntrude, Mabel, Caroline and Bettyâbesides others." "This, old man, is final. From this day I shall never look at another girl. If you could only see the deep glow of her eyes and the little ringlets round her ears! "Then Angela shall have the toast-rack I bought when I thought Caroline was a dead cert. Bought it at a sale, thinking I'd save money, and I've been losing the interest on the money ever since." "Don't kid! What should you say to her father? "Oh, be kind and tactful. Don't try to borrow money or do anything that will up- set him." "Can't you be Ferious for a moment? I thought of telling him that I had five hun- dred a year of my own besides what I win on horse-racing. and that I have a wealthy aunt of seventy who thinks the world of ane. She does, too. She's always giving me good advice." "Oh, leave that horse-racing clause out and put a vear or two on to your aunt's age, and you'll do. You can't he sure of a lady's age. Say she's nearly seventy-five. And you might hint that her health is deli- cate. At that immense age it is sure to be. Have a Scotch with me now to drink success to your expedition." No," said Reggie; "it would never do to go smelling of Scotch. I must make a good impression. I'll look in late to-night 0 and tell you how I've got on." "Good' We'll have a Scotch then." It was very late when Reggie came "Good!" I said. "No signs of violence. Did the old gentleman blesa you? Had the shortage of young men impressed him so .much that he clasped you to his bosom? "After all, I didn't go." "Coward! "No, I was intending to go; in fact, I was on my way when, just as I was chang. ing at Clapham Junction, I saw a girl with -wonderful sapphire eyes. On the impulse of the moment I turned and followed her, got into the same carriage with her, and asked her if she'd like the window up or downâ jolly useful things carriage windows areâ and we were talking at once. At least I was, for she didn't say much. I went with her to her destination and saw her home- or, rather, nearly home. She wouldn't let me go all the way. She was a bit shy. you know. All the nicest girls are. Anyhow, I kissed her when she was leaving me. She seemed a bit upset, and told me I ought mot to have done it. I gave her my address, and she promised to think it over land write to me. If she does that I'm all right even if she sayg 'No,' for I shall know where she lives and I can easily come across her. I think if she's promised to write it'll be all right, don't you? "How can I tell you after my limited ex- perience with a mere half-dozen girls? If you don't know no one on earth can tell I you. What I'm more concerned about is the old solicitor." "Oh, of course, I looked after him. Slipped into a post-office and wired that I !had a sudden attack of influenza. and couldn't come. All sorts of apologies, of course. Cost mo two-and-nine. You see, I'm only provisionally engaged. I feel that I mustn't tie myself up till I am absolutely sure of myself. This is a splendid girlâ sapphire eyes and a wouderful silence. Says -scarcely anything, but her radiant eyes apeak. "That's a good quality in a wife. J. should prefer a. wife myself who only spoke with radiant eyes. But I am just a little bit sorry for the chestnut-brown lady." I should not be doing the straight thing by her if I married her when my heart was another's." "Beware of jilting a girl whose father is a solicitor." "I haven't jilted her. Angela is a. won- derful girl, but how cau-I marry her if I am thinking all the time about those sapphire eyes?" < Two days later I met Reggie again. "Well, how's the harem?" I asked. "Girls with sapphire eyes are deceptive," -said Reggie sternly. "She sent me a note without any address to say that she was engaged and could not ⢠see me again, and that I ought not to have kissed her. As if a girl who lets a fellow take her home doesn't expect to be kissed. Very curt, badly expressed note. I feel, after all, that Angela is the only girl in the world for me, I sent her some roses yesterday, and I'm going to see Pa to- i night. "Take care that you don't give the old gentleman influenza. He may not want to Bee you. "That's all right. I wrote explaining to him that it wasn't influenza. Chill with temperature. Doctor jumped to conclusion. Qitite well again, and going to call to. night. You'd better go blindfolded in c ase you .see someone else in the train." "No my mind j is made ajp. Angela is absolutely the ordy girl in the wo Id for me. You've got to be my best man." "And this is the reward of my long friendship. It will never do. I'd be calling Angela Caroline or Betty. You are welcome to the toast-rack, Reggie, but I decline the responsibility of getting you to the altar." "What place would you choose for a honeymoon if you were ine?" If you press me on the point, I say that a desert island without a single person on it save you and Angela. But you ve got to get Pa's consent first. We'll dieliuss honey- moon localities to-night." # ⢠Early that evening Reggie came into my rooms, and I saw by his face that some- thing terrible had happened. "Wasn't your aunt old enough? I asked. Did you put i n that bit about horse-racing? "I went in," groaned Reggie, "and the old chap seemed delighted to see me. He was really sympathetic, and I felt that I was on a dead cert. Then when we'd been over my aches and my splendid recovery he smiled sweetly and said, But I believe, Mr. Danvers, that you called upon me to- night with a definite object.' I thought it was very decent of the old bird to give me a decent opening, so off I went declaring my love for Angela, and telling him about my income, and putting up my aunt's age to seventy-six. He listened most approvingly. Really, Mr. Danvers,' he said, you seem an exceedingly eligible son-in-law for any- body; but may I tell you a little story? Perhaps you remember that on Wednesday night there was a dreadful rainstorm. Oh, you would be in bed. Yes,' said the old bird; you were best in bed on a night like that. For my part, I was just going out to catch the last post when I saw an inmate of my house with a letter also on the point of going out. I took the letter with mine. When I got to the pillar-box I went through my letters. Judge my astonishment when I saw a letter addressed to you not in my daughter's handwriting. When I returned to the house I sent for the person whose letter I had posted and made a few judicious inquiries. The result wasâbut let me ring the bell.' He rang it, and in a moment two girls enteredâAngela, and the girl with the sapphire eyes in a housemaid's dress. I just stared, and couldn't say anything. 'A ner- vous situation, is it not? said the old gen- tleman. Now, I uno-erstind that Mary there, with great good sp-tise, decided that she would have nothing to do with you. My daughter, with equal good sense, is follow- ing her example. A young gentleman who, on the way to visit his prospective father- in-law, runs off in mad pursuit of another girl and wires that he has influenza is not. in my opinion, a desirable addition to my family.' I couldn't stand those two girl glaring at me. They had fine eyes, but you can have too much of fine eyes. I think I'd better go,' I said. That remark show excellent good sense,' said the old josser. I may also add that you had better not re- turn. Your hat and coat are here. Be care. ful as you go home, Mr. Danvers. Beware of the influenza-the blue-eyed influenza, the silk-stockinged influenza, the yellow- haired influenza. Good-bye.' I stared at Danvera as he concluded his story. "Tell me what I am to do," said the de- spairing youth. "My heart is broken." I took out the toast-rack. Take this old man, and go to your proper spher-s.11 "Where's 'that?" "Salt Lake City."

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