“Oh, cheer up!” said Madison. “It may be quiet for a day or two—but not much longer than that. Now tell me about the Flopper and Pale Face before Higgins gets back—have they got things straight? And pat your uncle’s hand while you talk, Helena—get the habit.”
“I don’t have to get the habit,” said Helena a little crossly, perching herself on the arm of the Patriarch’s chair and taking his hand. “I think he’s a perfect dear, and for us to sit here and take advantage of him when he trusts us is—”
“Now cut that out,” said Madison cheerfully. “Think of those gondolas in Venice when we get through with this—that’ll make you feel better. Go on about the Flopper and Pale Face—can the Flopper speak any English yet?”
Helena laughed in spite of herself.
“I’ve had a dream of a time with him,” she said. “He’s broken his neck trying, at any rate; and he’s not so bad as he was—quite.”
“Good!” said Madison. “And?”
“I read them your last letter saying they were to come together and work the train on the way down,” she continued. “The Flopper got the postmaster’s letter, too.”
“How did it size up as a testimonial?” inquired Madison.
Helena’s dark eyes flashed with amusement.
“Too thick—fishy?” asked Madison.
“Oh, no,” said Helena, “not if you have faith—just strong. It’s all right, though; I told him he could use it—it’s a drawing card in itself, for some of them would be curious enough to get off and see the finish. Everything is all fixed—they’ll be here to-morrow.”
“Good girl!” said Madison approvingly. “We’ll pull it off out there on the lawn where all the multitude can see—you’ll have to lead his nibs out and guide him to the Flopper while the hush falls and you look kind of scared—you know the lay. There’s no one can touch you when it comes to playing up to the house. And now, there’s just one thing more—you’ll need some one around here to help you and keep an eye on the offerings when they begin to come in. Well, that’s the Flopper’s role in the second act—see? Overwhelmed with gratitude at his cure, he attaches himself to the Patriarch with dog-like fidelity—beautiful thought!—get the idea? And—”
“Hush!” cautioned Helena. “Here’s Mr. Higgins coming.”
“All right,” said Madison, rising and moving to the door. “I’m going now, then—guess you understand. See you in the morning for the final touches. Tell Mr. Higgins I’m waiting outside for him to drive me home.” He raised his voice. “Good afternoon, Miss Vail,” he said, and stepped out onto the lawn.
IN WHICH THE BAIT IS NIBBLED
There was a group around the Flopper on the Portland platform beside the Bar Harbor express; some wore pitying expressions, others smiled a little tolerantly—Pale Face Harry, from the circle, sneered openly.