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Cross Purposes

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"Well, if you can't getyourown consent, Mrs. Deery, Isuiposeyoucan't," y-iid Mr. Pernni bis reproachful gaze fixed upon the fly promenading the widow'a plump wrist. "I had hoped, on refiection, you'd come to consider my proposal favorably, but it seems you think you couldn't be happy with me." "I couldn't be happy with Roxanna," responded the lady, impatiently; then, checking herself, she ilushed like the woodbine at the window, and in her turn gazed upon the itinerating fly. "Oh, if you refuse me on account of sister, Mrs. Deery, I really can't take 'No1 for an uiswer," ciied her suitor, looking up with an encouraged air. The widow's gaze never swerved from the insect, now chal'ing its stiffened little legs upon her thumb. "You'll have no trouble withgetting on with sister, I'll wager," pursued the eager wooei-. "You rarely see an evener tempered woman." "Yes, that's just it, Mr. Perrin. Roxanna's too perfect," broke forth the lady, brushing away the fly with startling energy. "It would tidget me to death to live with her. She's a chosen vessel, and I'm only connnon clay." The widow Deery common clay, indeed! Mr. Perrin would have divined thecontrary unaided by the officious sunbeam which darted in at that inslant to point out her manifold attractions. Beirig deeply in love, he took advantage of his opportunity to pay a handsome compliment and to renew his suit. For oni; intozicating moment his fair listoner wavered, but the moment passé!. "Hush, please, Mr. Perrin! Don't eay any more about it!" cried she, with a willful toss of her bewitching brown caris. "I might care for you" - the tremor in her voice was very nearly his undoine - "I might care for you, but I couldn't breathe with Roxanna. Think how my little boy would worry her! She wouldn't speak an unkind word, but evory time he left Bticky finger-printson a door I should feel that she was wishing that he and his niQther had staid away." "I riiiüht - " Mr. Perrin paused, shocked at his base impulse. Had he actually been about to remark that he miulit provide sister with another home? Sister, who, but for devotion to his interosts, might nowbematronizing a household of her own? Dear, faithful Roxanna! Could he ever requite her for those weary years of watching beside the couch of his helpless, dying wife? The full measuré of her self-saerifice he had nol known at the time, but he now had no doubt that for Climena's sake and his she had disoarded Joel Kirby. No, no; sister should never be requested to vacate the dwelüng over which she had ruled so well and so long! And to Mr. l'erriu's credit be it stated, that in the ardor of his passion for the little widow he closed his lips upon the disloyal words that perchance might have won her, and strode forth from her cottage a rejected lover. "If Kirby should want Roxanna now as much as, according to accounts, he wanted her before he went to Caiitornia, why, it nnL'lit straighten things," mused he, plodding despondently along the path through the iields; "but they say he has his eye on his cousin Martha. Nalurally he would be looking forsomebodyyounger than sister; she has faded. There's an odds in woniou." And the lover's thoughts reverted to the buxom widow, little younger than Roxanna, yet no more faded than a morning-glory at sunrise. Mr. Perrin'a feet had traversed the meado w and ascended the s'.ope of the pasture adjoining the highway ere his mind caugnt up with them. Then he murniured, halt audibly. "I wonder whether Kirby did cali thisafternoon? When I saw his team oming over the ridge, it struck me I might as well steal off throuh the orchard. Considering hes in the neighborhood looking up his old friends, he can't civilly pass by Roxanna, and I wouldn't be a hm' drance in case - " His soliloquy merged in alow whistle of satisiaction. He had reachedthe bars opposite his own gate, andat the pate.his forefeet deep in ahollow pawed by their impatience, stood Mr. Kirby's gay sorrel. At the spectaole Mr. Fernn s heart bounded within liim, and he clutched the topmost rail forsuppoit. Should he lead the forotten horse away to ■ the stable, or should he by so doing lappear t o take too much for granted? He desired to be hospitable.he desired to be exceedingly hospitable, but he must not convey the impression that he was over-zealous for a brotherinlaw, and thua annoy Roxanna. Sister was so fastidioua! In unprecedented excitement the habitually easy-going man debated within himself regar din j; the course of conduct belittina this exceptional 'Occasion, and finally judged it best to interfere with the probable wooing in no particular. Accordingly he crept quietly around to the porch door, with a surreptitious glance at the sitting-room in passing. A brisk tire of chips revealed to him his rather prim blonde sister si-ated in a low rocker before the hearth, axid Joel Kirby leaning against the mantel near her, volubly discoureiag. "They've opened the ball without me, I guess," oniised the skulkinghost, facetiously, as he hitched his chair along to the kitchen stove to warm his feet in the oven. "Seeing that its the fust vieit, 1 must 3ay Joel stays it out well. Unquestionably he means business. What'a to prevent it? Hes a first rate fellow, and '11 make a kind husband. If I wasn't sure of that I wouldn't consent to his having Roxanna. I should hate to have him take hor out to California. I hope its tria' that he has bought back the old homestead. Well, well, wouldn't I like to be a little monse in thesiti ing-room wall about this time?" Could he have had his wish, a most astounded little mouse would the uortliy man havepersonated. 'You are the most morbidly scientious person, Roxy, that I know of," Mr. Kirliy was saying, with a frown that scored bis fdrhead with horizontal wrinkluslikothestaffin written music. "If I could only oonvince you that it was your duty to be my wife, I should stand some chance of geLtinj you; but unluckily for me, you've chcrished this uotion that you ought to keep house for your brother till you " "Brother needs me," murmured Miss Roxanna, tears swelling in her eyes of "baby blue." "And don't I need you? Haven't I some rights? During your stricken sister's iilness I consented to waive those, but now 'she is gone, and I want you." "Don't, Joel, don't!" "I teil you I do, and can't help it," cried Mr. Kirby, with a grim humor. "When I couldn't move you by letter, I resolved I'd come and speak for myself. You used to say you loved me, Roxy. Can't you - " "You know plenty of other ladies, Joel.younger and moreplensing," faltered Miss Roxanna, nervously smoothingthe pale gild ofhairthatframedher temples in a Gothic arch. "They are nothing to me," replied the gentleman, curtly, almost as it he esteemed the fact a matter of regret. Assured of the favor of more than one pretty girl of his acquaintance, was it not a little hard that the full curren t of his being must needs set toward this unresponsive woman of thirty? It had ever been thus with Joel Kirby from his preverse childhood, when, if he wanted cake no human power could induce himto nibble gingerbread. "No, Roxy, there's only one woman in the world" for me," he continued, in a softer tone. "Your brother ia of a different temperament. Has it never occurred to you that he may uiarry a second time?" "Brother marry! Oh, no, indeed, heil never marry - never!" cried Miss Roxanna, rooted andgrounded in the belief that her brother's heart was entombed with the dead Climena. "No, ; he could not take a second wiïe, Joel, and you see he has only me. Icouldn't be so cruel as to leave hini." To all Mr. Kirby'ssubsequentpleadings she made this samo reply, but it soothed his chafting spirit not a litt'.e that she made it with fal tering and that she parted from him with tears. As the sound of his rapid wheels died in the distance, she hastily dried her eyes and hurried into the kitchen to seeabout the belated supper. Mr. Perrin still gloating over castles in Spain, looked up with the roguish purpose of greeting her as "Mrs. Kirby," but dismayed at her troubled countenance, remarked that "the days were getting shorter" - a fact that she hadobserved before. He feit as if he had received a blow. For him there was, there could be, but one interpretation of his sister's unwonted emotion. She loved Kirby, and Kirby no longer cared for her. lJoor girl, she had dreamed that a man's affections are like granite boulders, incapable of change, and she was awakening with a shock. Hapless Roxanna' She too had her trials. Keenly sympathetic, the magnanimous brother, concealed his own disappointment as best he could, and lavished upon his sorrowful sister an excess of tenderness. "You have the knack of spoiling me for other folks' cooking, little woman, that's the truth," said he at tea time, ostentatiously heaping his plate with cream toast. "How should I ever get alone without you?" "That'll make her feel that I appreciate her, if Joel doesn't," he mused, benevolently; while she, on her side of the table was thinking: "It's just as I suspected; it would kill brother to lose me." "Oh,you'dmanagesomehow. Maybe you'd marry," she ventured timidly, almost hearing the fluttering of the lost Climena's wings. "Poh! poh! sister, nothing seems less likely," answered her brother, in a voice so sad that Miss Roxanna chided herself for having opaned his wound afresh. But she had done it for Joel's sake. She owed to Joel to make sure that there could be no misunderstanding. The October days with their noonday patches of sunshine and their heavy borders ot twilight came and went. In a spnsm of hope that the charming widow might yet consent to share the domestic sceptio with is sister, Mr. Perrin made a second proposal, only to receive a second decided, though flattering, retusal. Mr. Kirby repeated his cali upon Roxanna, and deparled cursinti iate, and by no meiins loving Mr. Perrin, whom he supuosed perfectly acquainted with the relations bet ween hiniself andlloxanna. Overtnking Mr. Perrin oneday walking home from the office, Mr. Kirby with inward reluctance asked him to ride. With equal reluctance Mr. Perrin acoepted the invitation, reflectinc: "If I ain't civil, he'll take it that I'm mad because he doesn't renew his offer to Roxanna, andl won't humor him." "Heavy frost last night," growled Mr. Kirby. "Very," asserted the other, conI scious of an inward chili. "Winter is upon us. Shall you spend it in Maine?" "My plans are uncertain," snarled Mr. Kirby; adding, mentally: "Thanks to you, sir." "Of course you can chooseyourown climate. There's the advantage of having plenty of money, and no family ties." "No family ties! Whose fault was it that he had 1.0 Himily ties?" mused the irate bachelor.makingrapid passes over his long beard as if he would mesmerize the pain in his breast. might not Roxanna have been his wife years aso but for the necessjties of this selfïsh brother?" "Though I've lately heard it hinted, Joel, that you are thinking of marryintr," Mr. l'ernn blundcred on, in his embarrassment saying the very thing he had resolved not to say. Mr. Kirby snapped bis whip, and transfixed hiscompanion withaglance so frigid that poor Mr. Perrin shivered as if he was impaled on an icicle. "Your cousin is a iine girl, Joel - an uncommonly line girl. I - I congratúlate yon," he stammered, wishing it would do to get out and walk. "You are too kind, Perrin - too kind by half," sneered Mr. Kirby, letting go the reins in his anger. "You've robbed me of one bride, sir, and now you want to make arnends, do you, by chosini: me another?" "Why, Kirby, what are you raving about? When have I ever interfered with your concerns - matrimonial or otherwise?" cried Mr. Perrin, in a tone of nijured innocence. "You are laboring under somt' strange delusion." "Do you pretend it's a delusion of mine that but for you Roxanna would be my wife?" "Oh, he's twitting me on old scores," mused Mr. Perrin, aggrieved. "He blames me ior let tint sister give up her prospecta in life for L'limena's sake. Sister would do it, and she never told me there was anything between her and Joel." "Whenaman is in a tihb place, Jool, he's apt to realize his own needs bitter t han the needs of his brethren, I suppose," he said, aloud, after a monient'a pause, "But I'ni sorry if you bear me a grudfje." "Tight p!ace! Do you cali yourself in a tit;lit glacé, PerrLj - a strong, hearty fellow liko you? You ought to be Independent of your pistor. Yon ougbt to hire a housekeeper, and lut Roxanna go." "Leí Roxanna szo! Wtaereí" interrogatcil tli" nefogged Mr. Perrin. BhE pr0fets to live. I should let her decide after we were married," replied Mr. Kirby, impatiently. "The main point ifl to got her awny froni you. She says you say you couldn't live wit hoi oei." "Yes, I did say it- I did s.íy it; but I take it all back," criod Mr. Perrin, fairly blimking in the light that rtiddenly illuminated his darkened mind, "I see thirurs clearer than I did, Joel. I won't stand any longer bcLwcon you and Roxanna." "Your hand on it?" "My hand on it, Joel. I shall be glad- proud that is- to uivo sister to you; andif you are Roing on up to the housfi, you can teil her í said so." "Thank you, Perrin- thank you. And il' I've spoken sh.uply, I be; your pardon," cried Mr. Kirby, smiling like a Santa Claus. "Oh, it's il1 right. Everything is all right," replied Mr. Perrin, too happy to keep it to himself. "Drop me here, Kirby, piense; I have an engagement to make. And make it to-doy I sh.ill and I will, (od willin"," be added. beneath his breath, as he dismourtted before the door of tlie Widow Deery.


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Ann Arbor Democrat