The consternation in the Ellsworth party was past calculating by any known standards of measurement. The thing was an outrage! It was not to be borne! They would not submit to it!
Uncle Billy, however, secure in his mastery of the situation, calmly quartered them as he had said. “An’ let ’em splutter all they want to,” he commented comfortably to himself.
The Ellsworths were holding a family indignation meeting on the broad porch when the Van Ramps came contentedly down for a walk, and brushed by them with unseeing eyes.
“It makes a perfectly fascinating suite,” observed Mrs. Van Kamp, in a pleasantly conversational tone that could be easily overheard by anyone impolite enough to listen. “That delightful old-fashioned fireplace in the middle apartment makes it an ideal sitting-room, and the beds are so roomy and comfortable.”
“I just knew it would be like this!” chirruped Miss Evelyn. “I remarked as we passed the place, if you will remember, how charming it would be to stop in this dear, quaint old inn over night. All my wishes seem to come true this year.”
These simple and, of course, entirely unpremeditated remarks were as vinegar and wormwood to Mrs. Ellsworth, and she gazed after the retreating Van Kamps with a glint in her eye that would make one understand Lucretia Borgia at last.
Her son also gazed after the retreating Van Kamp. She had an exquisite figure, and she carried herself with a most delectable grace. As the party drew away from the inn she dropped behind the elders and wandered off into a side path to gather autumn leaves.
Ralph, too, started off for a walk, but naturally not in the same direction.
“Edward!” suddenly said Mrs. Ellsworth. “I want you to turn those people out of that suite before night!”
“Very well,” he replied with a sigh, and got up to do it. He had wrecked a railroad and made one, and had operated successful corners in nutmegs and chicory. No task seemed impossible. He walked in to see the landlord.
“What are the Van Kamps paying you for those three rooms?” he asked.
“Fifteen dollars,” Uncle Billy informed him, smoking one of Mr. Van Kamp’s good cigars and twiddling his thumbs in huge content.
“I’ll give you thirty for them. Just set their baggage outside and tell them the rooms are occupied.”
“No sir-ree!” rejoined Uncle Billy. “A bargain’s a bargain, an’ I allus stick to one I make.”
Mr. Ellsworth withdrew, but not defeated. He had never supposed that such an absurd proposition would be accepted. It was only a feeler, and he had noticed a wince of regret in his landlord. He sat down on the porch and lit a strong cigar. His wife did not bother him. She gazed complacently at the flaming foliage opposite, and allowed him to think. Getting impossible things was his business in life, and she had confidence in him.