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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

Bassett was reduced to despair


Bassett

saw Sylvia daily, and he was wary of her at first. She had dealt him a staggering blow that rainy evening at the door of Elizabeth House--a blow which, from her, had an effect more poignant than she knew. That incident was ended, however, and he felt that he had nothing to fear from her. No one appreciates candor so thoroughly as the man who is habitually given to subterfuge, evasion, and dissimulation. Sylvia's consent to tutor Blackford indicated a kindly feeling toward the family. It was hardly likely that she would report to Mrs. Bassett his indiscretions with Rose Farrell. And his encounters with Sylvia had moreover encouraged the belief that she viewed life broadly and tolerantly.

There was little for a man of Bassett's tastes to do at Waupegan. Most of the loungers at the Casino were elderly men who played bridge, which he despised; and he cared little for fishing or boating. Tennis and golf did not tempt him. His wife had practically ceased to be a figure in the social life of the colony; Marian was away, and Blackford's leisure was spent with boys of his own age. Morton Bassett was lonely.

It thus happened that he looked forward with growing interest to Sylvia's daily visits to his house. He found that he could mark her progress from Mrs. Owen's gate round the lake to his own cottage from the window of a den he maintained in the attic. He remained there under the hot shingles, conscious of her presence

in his house throughout her two hours with Blackford. Once or twice he took himself off to escape from her; but on these occasions he was surprised to find that he was back on the veranda when Sylvia emerged from the living-room with her pupil. She was always cheery, and she never failed to say something heartening of Blackford's work.

A number of trifling incidents occurred to bring them together. The cook left abruptly, and Mrs. Bassett was reduced to despair. Bassett, gloomily pacing his veranda, after hearing his wife's arraignment of the world in general and domestic servants in particular, felt the clouds lift when Sylvia came down from a voluntary visit to the invalid. He watched her attack the problem by long-distance telephone. Sensations that were new and strange and sweet assailed him as he sat near in the living-room of his own house, seeing her at the telephone desk by the window, hearing her voice. Her patience in the necessary delays while connection was made with the city, her courtesy to her unseen auditors, the smile, the occasional word she flung at him--as much as to say, of course it's bothersome but all will soon come right!--these things stirred in him a wistfulness and longing such as the hardy oak must feel when the south wind touches its bare boughs with the first faint breath of spring.

"It's all arranged--fixed--accomplished!" Sylvia reported at last. "There's a cook coming by the afternoon train. You'll attend to meeting her? Please tell Mrs. Bassett it's Senator Ridgefield's cook who's available for the rest of the summer, as the family have gone abroad. She's probably good--the agent said Mrs. Ridgefield had brought her from Washington. Let me see! She must have Thursday afternoon off and a chance to go to mass on Sunday. And you of course stand the railroad fare to and from the lake; it's so nominated in the bond!"


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