The announcement of my engagement brought the usual influx of congratulations by letter and in person. Bolton was gravely delighted, shook my hand paternally, and even promised to quit his hermit hole and go with me to call upon the Van Arsdels.

As to Jim, he raised a notable breeze among the papers.

"Engaged!—you, sly dog, after all! Well! well! Let your sentimental fellows alone for knowing what they're about. All your sighing, and poetry, and friendship, and disinterestedness and all that don't go for nothing. Up to 'biz' after all! Well, you've done a tolerably fair stroke! Those Van Arsdel girls are good for a hundred thousand down, and the rest will come in the will. Well, joy to you my boy! Remember your old grandfather."

Now there was no sort of use in going into high heroics with Jim, and I had to resign myself to being congratulated as a successful fortune hunter, a thing against which all my resolution and all my pride had always been directed. I had every appearance of being caught in the fact, and Jim was prepared to make the most of the situation.

"I declare, Hal," he said, perching himself astride a chair, "such things make a fellow feel solemn. We never know when our turn may come. Nobody feels safe a minute; it's you to-day and me to-morrow. I may be engaged before the week is out—who knows!"

"If nothing worse than that happens to you, you needn't be frightened," said I. "Better try your luck. I don't find it bad to take at all."

"Oh, but think of the consequences, man! Wedding journey, bandboxes and parasols to look after; beefsteaks and coffee for two; house rent and water taxes; marketing, groceries; all coming down on you like a thousand of brick! And then 'My dear, won't you see to this?' and 'My dear, have you seen to that?' and 'My dear, what makes you let it rain?' and 'My dear, how many times must I tell you I don't like hot weather?' and 'My dear, won't you just step out and get me the new moon and seven stars to trim my bonnet?' That's what I call getting a fellow into business! It's a solemn thing, Hal, now I tell you, this getting married!"

"If it makes you solemn, Jim, I shall believe it," I said.

"Well, when is it to come off? When is the blissful day?"

"No time fixed as yet," said I.

"Why not? You ought to drive things. Nothing under heaven to wait for except to send to Paris for the folderols. Well, I shall call up and congratulate. If Miss Alice there would take me, there might be a pair of us. Wouldn't it be jolly? I say, Hal, how did you get it off?"

"Get what off?"

"Why, the question."

"You'll have to draw on your imagination for that, Jim."

"I tell you what, Harry, I won't offer myself to a girl on uncertainties. I'd pump like thunder first and find out whether she'd have me or not."

"I fancy," said I, "that if you undertake that process with Miss Alice, you'll have your match. I think she has as many variations of yes and no as a French woman."

"She doesn't catch this child," said Jim, "though she's mag. and no mistake. Soberly, she's one of the nicest girls in New York—but Jim's time isn't come yet.

'Oh, no, no! not for Joe,

Not for Joseph, if he knows it,

Oh, dear, no!'

So now, Hal, don't disturb my mind with these trifles. I've got three books to review before dinner, and only an hour and a half to do it in."

In my secret heart I began to wish that the embarrassments that were hanging over the Van Arsdel fortunes would culminate and come to a crisis one way or another, so that our position might appear to the world what it really was. Mr. Van Arsdel's communications to me were so far confidential that I did not feel that I could allude to the real state of things even with my most intimate friends; so that while I was looked upon from the outside as the prospective winner of an heiress, Eva and I were making all our calculations for the future on the footing of the strictest prudence and economy. Everybody was looking for splendor and festivities; we were enacting a secret pastoral, in which we forsook the grandeurs of the world to wander forth hand in hand in paths of simplicity and frugality.

A week after this I received a note from Caroline which announced her arrival in the city, and I lost no time in waiting on her and receiving her congratulations on my good fortune. Eva and Ida Van Arsdel were prompt in calling upon her, and the three struck up a friendship which grew with that tropical rapidity and luxuriance characteristic of the attachments of women. Ida and Caroline become at once bosom friends.

"I'm so glad," Eva commented to me, "because you and I are together so much now that I was afraid Ida might feel a little out in the cold; I have been her pet and stand-by. The fact is, I'm like that chemical thing that dyers call a mordant—something that has an affinity for two different colors that have no affinity for each other. I'm just enough like mamma and just enough like Ida to hold the two together. They both tell me everything, and neither of them can do without me."

"I can well believe that," said I, "it is an experience in which I sympathize. But I am coming in now, like the third power in a chemical combination, to draw you away from both. I shouldn't think they'd like it."

"Oh, well, it's the way of nature! Mamma left her mother for papa—but Ida!—I'm glad for her to have so nice a friend step in just now—one that has all her peculiar tastes and motives. I wish she could go to Paris and study with Ida when she goes next year. Do you know, Harry, I used to think you were engaged to this cousin of yours? Why weren't you?"

"She never would have had me,—her heart was gone to somebody else."

"Why isn't she married, then?"

"Oh! the course of true love, you know."

"Tell me all about it."

"She never made me her confidant," said I, evasively.

"Tell me who it was, at all events," demanded she.


"What! that serious, elegant Bolton that you brought to call on us the other night! We all liked him so much! What can be the matter there? Why, I think he's superb, and she's just the match for him. What broke it off?"

"You know I told you she never made me her confidant."

"Nor he, either?"

"Well," said I, feeling myself cornered, "I throw myself on your mercy. It's another man's secret, and I ought not to tell you, but if you ask me I certainly shall."

"Right or wrong?"

"Yes, fair Eve, just as Adam ate the apple, so beware!"

"I'm just dying to know, but if you really ought not to tell me I won't tease for it; but I tell you what it is, Harry, if I were you I should bring them together."

"Would you dare take the responsibility of bringing any two together?"

"I suppose I should. I am a daring young woman."

"I have not your courage," said I, "but if it will do you any good to know, Bolton is in a fair way to renew the acquaintance, though he meant not to do it."

"You can tell me how that happened, I suppose?"

"Yes, that is at your service. Simply, the meeting was effected as some others of fateful results have been,—in a New York street-car."

"Aha!" she said, laughing.

"Yes; he was traveling up Sixth Avenue the other night when a drunken conductor was very rude to two ladies. Bolton interfered, made the man behave himself, waited on the ladies across the street to their door as somebody else once did,—when, behold! a veil is raised, the light of the lamp flashes, and one says 'Mr. Bolton!' and the other 'Miss Simmons!' and the romance is opened."

"How perfectly charming! Of course he'll call and see her. He must, you know."

"That has proved the case in my experience."

"And all the rest will follow. They are made for each other. Poor Ida, she won't have Caroline to go to Paris with her!"

"No? I think she will. In fact I think it would be the best thing Caroline could do."

"You do! You don't want them to be married?"

"I don't know. I wouldn't say—in fact it's a case I wouldn't for the world decide."

"Oh, heavens! Here's a mystery, an obstacle, an unknown horror, and you can't tell me what it is, and I must not ask. Why, this is perfectly dreadful! It isn't anything against Bolton?"

"Bolton is the man I most love, most respect, most revere," I said.

"What can it be then?"

"Suppose we leave it to fate and the future," said I.

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