“Yah! Can’t sing! Out of practice! Got a cold! Instrument needs tuning! Excuse me! He! he!”
There was some other talk, in a voice too low for Albert to hear, though he listened with both ears, waiving all sense of delicacy about eavesdropping in his anger and his desire to rescue Katy. Then Westcott, who had evidently been drinking and was vinously frank, burst out with:
“Think I’d marry an old girl! Think I’d marry a smart one! I want a sweet little thing that would love me and worship me and believe everything I said. I know! By George! He! he! That Miss Minorkey at the table! She’d see through a fellow! Now, looky here, boys, I’m goin’ to be serious for once. I want a girl that’ll exert a moral influence over me, you know! But I’ll be confounded if I want too much moral influence, by George, he! he! A little spree now and then all smoothed over! I need moral influence, but in small doses. Weak constitution, you know! Can’t stand too much moral influence. Head’s level. A little girl! Educate her yourself, you know! He! he! By George! And do as you please.
“’O Jinny! git yer hoe-cake done, my dear!
O Jinny! git yer hoe-cake done!’
“Yah! yah! He! he! he!”
It is not strange that Charlton did not sleep that night, that he was a prey to conflicting emotions, blessing the cool, intellectual, self-possessed face of Miss Minorkey, who knew botany, and inwardly cursing the fate that had handed little Katy over to be the prey of such a man as Smith Westcott.
Isabel Marlay was not the niece of our friend Squire Plausaby, but of his first wife. Plausaby, Esq., had been the guardian of her small inheritance in her childhood, and the property had quite mysteriously suffered from a series of curious misfortunes: the investments were unlucky; those who borrowed of the guardian proved worthless, and so did their securities. Of course the guardian was not to blame, and of course he handled the money honestly. But people will be suspicious even of the kindest and most smoothly-speaking men; and the bland manner and innocent, open countenance of Plausaby, Esq., could not save him from the reproaches of uncharitable people. As he could not prove his innocence, he had no consolation but that which is ever to be derived from a conscience void of offense.
Isabel Marlay found herself at an early age without means. But she had never seen a day of dependence. Deft hands, infallible taste in matters of dress, invincible cheerfulness, and swift industry made her always valuable. She had not been content to live in the house of her aunt, the first Mrs. Plausaby, as a dependent, and she even refused to remain in the undefined relation of a member of the family whose general utility, in some sort, roughly squares the account of board and clothes at the year’s end.