As for Garrison, despite his earnest attention to the track, those were unhappy days for him. He thought that he had voluntarily given up Sue’s society; given it up for the sake of saving his skin; for the fear of meeting Waterbury. Time and time again he determined to face the turfman and learn the worst. Cowardice always stepped in. Presently Waterbury would leave for the North, and things then would be as they had been.
He hated himself for his cowardice; for his compromise with self-respect. It was not that he valued Sue’s regard so lightly. Rather he feared to lose the little he had by daring all. He did not know that Sue had given him up. Did not know that she was hurt, mortally hurt; that her renunciation had not been necessary; that he had not given her the opportunity. He had stayed away, and she wondered. There could be but the one answer. He must hate this tie between them; this parent-fostered engagement. He was thinking of the girl he had left up North. Perhaps it was better for her, she argued, that she had determined upon renunciation.
Obviously Major Calvert and his wife noticed the breach in the Garrison-Desha entente cordiale. They credited it to some childish quarrel. They were wise in their generation. Old heads only muddle young hearts. To confer the dignity of age upon the differences of youth but serves to turn a mole-hill into a mountain.
But one memorable evening, when the boyish and enthusiastic major and Garrison returned from an all-day session at the track, they found Mrs. Calvert in a very quiet and serious mood, which all the major’s cajolery could not penetrate. And after dinner she and the major had a peace conference in the library, at the termination of which the doughty major’s feathers were considerably agitated.
Mrs. Calvert’s good nature was not the good nature of the faint-hearted or weak-kneed. She was never at loss for words, nor the spirit to back them when she considered conditions demanded them. Subsequently, when his wife retired, the major, very red in the face, called Garrison into the room.
“Eh, demmit, boy,” he began, fussing up and down, “I’ve noticed, of course, that you and Sue don’t pull in the same boat. Now, I thought it was due to a little tiff, as soon straightened as tangled, when pride once stopped goading you on. But your aunt, boy, has other ideas on the subject which she had been kindly imparting to me. And it seems that I’m entirely to blame. She says that I’ve caused you to neglect Sue for Dixie. Eh, boy, is that so?” He paused, eyeing Garrison in distress.
“No, it is not,” said Garrison heavily. “It is entirely my fault.”
The major heartily sighed his relief.
“Eh, demmit, I said as much to your aunt, but she knows I’m an old sinner, and she has her doubts. I told her if you could neglect Sue for Dixie your love wasn’t worth a rap. I knew there was something back of it. Well, you must go over to-night and straighten it out. These little tiffs have to be killed early—like spring chickens. Sue has her dander up, I tell you. She met your aunt to-day. Said flatly that she had broken the engagement; that it was final—”