“I want to rent your entire house for a week,” he announced to Uncle Billy a few minutes later. It had occurred to him that the flood might last longer than they anticipated.
Uncle Billy’s eyes twinkled.
“I reckon it kin be did,” he allowed. “I reckon a ho-tel man’s got a right to rent his hull house ary minute.”
“Of course he has. How much do you want?”
Uncle Billy had made one mistake in not asking this sort of folks enough, and he reflected in perplexity.
“Make me a offer,” he proposed. “Ef it hain’t enough I’ll tell ye. You want to rent th’ hull place, back lot an’ all?”
“No, just the mere house. That will be enough,” answered the other with a smile. He was on the point of offering a hundred dollars, when he saw the little wrinkles about Mr. Tutt’s eyes, and he said seventy-five.
“Sho, ye’re jokin’!” retorted Uncle Billy. He had been considered a fine horse-trader in that part of the country. “Make it a hundred and twenty-five, an’ I’ll go ye.”
Mr. Ellsworth counted out some bills.
“Here’s a hundred,” he said. “That ought to be about right.”
“Fifteen more,” insisted Uncle Billy.
With a little frown of impatience the other counted off the extra money and handed it over. Uncle Billy gravely handed it back.
“Them’s the fifteen dollars Mr. Kamp give me,” he explained. “You’ve got the hull house fer a week, an’ o’ course all th’ money that’s tooken in is your’n. You kin do as ye please about rentin’ out rooms to other folks, I reckon. A bargain’s a bargain, an’ I allus stick to one I make.”
Ralph Ellsworth stalked among the trees, feverishly searching for squirrels, scarlet leaves, and the glint of a brown walking-dress, this last not being so easy to locate in sunlit autumn woods. Time after time he quickened his pace, only to find that he had been fooled by a patch of dogwood, a clump of haw bushes or even a leaf-strewn knoll, but at last he unmistakably saw the dress, and then he slowed down to a careless saunter.
She was reaching up for some brilliantly colored maple leaves, and was entirely unconscious of his presence, especially after she had seen him. Her pose showed her pretty figure to advantage, but, of course, she did not know that. How should she?
Ralph admired the picture very much. The hat, the hair, the gown, the dainty shoes, even the narrow strip of silken hose that was revealed as she stood a-uptoe, were all of a deep, rich brown that proved an exquisite foil for the pink and cream of her cheeks. He remembered that her eyes were almost the same shade, and wondered how it was that women-folk happened on combinations in dress that so well set off their natural charms. The fool!
He was about three trees away, now, and a panic akin to that which hunters describe as “buck ague” seized him. He decided that he really had no excuse for coming any nearer. It would not do, either, to be seen staring at her if she should happen to turn her head, so he veered off, intending to regain the road. It would be impossible to do this without passing directly in her range of vision, and he did not intend to try to avoid it. He had a fine, manly figure of his own.