When the state of affairs had gone the rounds of the community until they were worn threadbare, they effected a final lodgment in the mind of Mr. Burwell.
“I have made a little discovery,” he announced one evening to his wife as she was brushing her hair for the night.
Mrs. Burwell was all delighted attention.
“Why, what can it be?” she murmured with gratifying feminine curiosity.
“You may have noticed, my dear,” began Mr. Burwell with a nervous glance at Sally’s chamber door across the hall, “that our friend Tom Bassett has called frequently of late.”
His wife nodded smilingly.
“Well, it has occurred to me from something I observed this evening that it is Sally who attracts him.”
Mrs. Burwell threw back her pretty head and laughed.
“Why, Mr. Burwell!” she exclaimed, “did you think that it was you—or I—or your grandfather’s portrait?”
Her husband looked slightly abashed.
“So you have observed it?” he asked in an injured tone.
Mrs. Burwell laid her brush aside and crossed the room to where he stood.
“Everybody knows you are a very clever man, Mr. Burwell,” she said. “I have never pretended to have as much sense as a man, and I hope nobody has ever accused me of anything so unwomanly—but there are some things you can’t teach your wife, with all your experience.”
Mr. Burwell stroked the plump hand on his arm and smiled in returning self-esteem.
“And you are quite sure he fancies Sally?” he inquired.
“I know it,” replied his wife decisively.
“Would it not be wise to prepare her, my dear?”
“Prepare Sally?” gasped Mrs. Burwell, and she went back to her mirror with dancing eyes.
“I have learned all they can teach me here,” wrote Eugenia from school on her eighteenth birthday, “so I’ll be home to-morrow.”
“Bless my soul!” exclaimed the general, holding the letter above his cakes and coffee. “The child’s mad—clean mad! We must put a stop to it.”
“Write her to stay where she is,” said Miss Chris decisively.
“I’ll write her, the young puss!” returned the general angrily. “Giving herself airs at her age, is she? Why, she’s just left her bottle!”
“What else does she say, Tom?” inquired his sister as she passed him the maple syrup.
The letter fluttered helplessly in the general’s hand. “I can’t stay away any longer from my dear, bad-tempered, old dad,” he read in a breaking voice; then he added hesitatingly, “I don’t reckon she’s right about knowing enough, eh, Chris?”
“Certainly not,” responded Miss Chris severely. “The child’s as headstrong as a colt. Get that letter off in time for the train, and I’ll let Sampson carry it to town.”
The general finished his breakfast and went to the old secretary in the library to write his letter. When he had given it to Sampson he came back to Miss Chris, who was washing the teacups in the pantry.