Produced by David Clarke, Meredith Bach and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net (Thisfile was produced from images generously made availableby The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)
BY HAROLD STEELE MACKAYE
NEW YORK CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 1904
COPYRIGHT, 1904, BYCHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
Published, April, 1904
I. THE THEORY OF COPERNICUS DROOP 1
II. A VISIT TO THE PANCHRONICON 23
III. A NOCTURNAL EVASION 38
IV. A CHANGE OF PLAN 58
V. DROOP'S THEORY IN PRACTICE 86
VI. SHIPWRECKED ON THE SANDS OF TIME 103
VII. NEW TIES AND OLD RELATIONS 123
VIII. HOW FRANCIS BACON CHEATED THE BAILIFFS 157
IX. PHOEBE AT THE PEACOCK INN 179
X. HOW THE QUEEN READ HER NEWSPAPER 208
XI. THE FAT KNIGHT AT THE BOAR'S HEAD 242
XII. HOW SHAKESPEARE WROTE HIS PLAYS 258
XIII. HOW THE FAT KNIGHT DID HOMAGE 277
XIV. THE FATE OF SIR PERCEVALL'S SUIT 297
XV. HOW REBECCA RETURNED TO NEWINGTON 317
XVI. HOW SIR GUY KEPT HIS TRYST 324
XVII. REBECCA'S TRUMP CARD 340
THE THEORY OF COPERNICUS DROOP
The two sisters were together in their garden.
Rebecca Wise, turned forty and growing slightly gray at the temples, wasmoving slowly from one of her precious plants to the next, leaning overeach to pinch off a dead leaf or count the buds. It was the historicmonth of May, 1898, and May is the paradise of flower lovers.
Phoebe was eighteen years younger than her sister, and the beauty ofthe village. Indeed, many declared their belief that the whole State ofNew Hampshire did not contain her equal.
She was seated on the steps of the veranda that skirted the little whitecottage, and the absent gaze of her frank blue eyes was directed throughthe gate at the foot of the little path bordered by white rose-bushes.In her lap was a bundle of papers yellowed by age and an ivoryminiature, evidently taken from the carved wooden box at her side.
Presently Rebecca straightened her back with a slight grimace and lookedtoward her sister, holding her mold-covered hands and fingers spreadaway from her.
"Well," she inquired, "hev ye found anythin'?"
Phoebe brought her gaze back from infinity and replied:
"No, I ain't. Only that one letter where Isaac Burton writes her thatthe players have come to town."
"I don't see what good them letters'll do ye in the Shakespeare class,then."
Rebecca spoke listlessly--more interested in her garden than in hersister's search.
"I don't know," Phoebe rejoined, dreamily. "It's awful funny--butwhenever I take out these old letters there comes over me the feelin'that I'm 'way off in a strange country--and I feel like somebody else."
Rebecca looked up anxiously from her work.
"Them sort o' philanderin' notions are foolish, Phoebe," she said, andflicked a caterpillar over the fence.
Phoebe gave herself a little shake and began to tie up the papers.
"That's so," she replied. "But they will come when I get these out, an'I got 'em out thinkin' the' might be somethin' about Shakespeare in 'emfor our class."
She paused and looked wistfully at the letters again.
"Oh!" she cried, "how I do wonder if he was among those players at thePeacock Inn that day! You know 'players' is what they called play-actorsin those days, and he was a play-actor, they say."
"Did he live very far back, then?" said Rebecca, wishing to appearinterested, but really intent upon a new sprout at the foot of thelilac-bush.
"Yes, three hundred years ago. Three of these letters has a date in 1598exactly."
There was a long silence, and at length Rebecca looked up from theground to ascertain its cause. She frowned and drew her aching backstiffly straight again.
"Everlastin'ly lookin' at that pictur'!" she exclaimed. "I declare togoodness, Phoebe Wise, folks'll think you're vain as a pouter pigeon."
Phoebe laughed merrily, tossed the letters into the box and leaped toher feet. The miniature at which she had been gazing was still in herhands.
"Folks'll never see me lookin' at it, Rebecca--only you," she said.
Then with a coaxing tone and looking with appealing archness at hersister, she went on:
"Is it really like me, Rebecca? Honest true?"
The elder woman merely grunted and moved on to the next bed, andPhoebe, with another laugh, ran lightly into the house.
A few moments later she reappeared at the front door with consternationon her face.
"Land o' goodness, Rebecca!" she cried, "do you know what time it is?Near onto one o'clock, an' I've got to be at the Shakespeare class athalf past. We'll have to dish up dinner right this minute, and I don'tsee how I can change my dress after it an' help with the dishes too."
She was very proud of her baby sister, proud of her having been "clearthrough high school," and proud of her eminence in the local literarysociety. There was certainly something inspiring in having a sister whowas first corresponding secretary of the Women's Peltonville Associationfor the Study of Shakespearian History and Literature; and it was simplywonderful how much poetry she could repeat from the pages of herfavorite author.
* * * * *
Peltonville Center, New Hampshire, was one of those groups of neatlykept houses surrounding a prettily shaded, triangular common which seemto be characteristic of New England. Standing two miles from the nearestrailway station, this little settlement possessed its own combined storeand post-office, from whose narrow veranda one might watch the risinggeneration playing Saturday base-ball on the grassy triangle.
The traditional old meeting-house stood on the opposite side of thecommon, facing the store. The good old days of brimstone theology werepast, and the descendants of the godly Puritans who raised this steeple"in the fear of the Lord," being now deprived of their chief source offear, found Sunday meetings a bore, and a village pastor an unnecessaryluxury.
Indeed, there seemed little need of pastoral admonition in such a townas Peltonville Center. There was a grimly commonplace and universalgoodness everywhere, and the village was only saved from unconsciousnessof its own perfection by the individual shortcomings of one of itscitizens. Fortunately for the general self-complacence, however, thenecessary revealing contrast was found in him.
Copernicus Droop was overfond of the bottle, and in spite of theprohibition laws of his State, he proved himself a blessed example andwarning by a too frequent and unmistakable intoxication in public. Hewas gentle and even apologetic in his cups, but he was clearly a "slaveof rum" and his mission was therefore fulfilled.
On this first of May, 1898, a number of idle young men sat in a row onthe edge of the store veranda.
Some were whittling, some making aimlessmarks in the dust with a stick. All leaned limply forward, with theirelbows on their knees.
It was clearly not a Sunday, for the meeting-house was open, and fromtime to time, one or perhaps two young women together passed into thecool and silent room. The loungers at the store let none escape theirnotice, and the name of each damsel was passed down the line in anundertone as its owner entered the church.
A lantern-jawed young farmer at the end of the row slowly brushed theshavings from his clothes and remarked:
"Thet's the secon' meetin' of the Shekspeare class this month, ain'tit?"
"Yep, an' there'll be two more afore the summer boarders comes up----"
The second speaker would have continued, but he was here interrupted bya third, who whispered loudly:
"Say, fellers, there goes Copernicus."
All eyes were raised and unanimously followed the shabby figure whichhad just emerged from behind the church and now started into the roadleading away from the common toward the north.
"Walks pretty straight fer him, don't he?" snickered the first speaker.
"He's not ben tight fer two days."
"Bet ye a jack-knife he'll be spreein' it fer all he's wuth to-morrow."
Fortunately these comments did not reach the ears of their object, who,all unconscious of the interest which he inspired, made good his way ata fairly rapid pace.
Presently he stopped.
With muslin skirts swaying, hair rumpled, and fair young face flushedwith exertion, Phoebe Wise was hurrying toward the common. She wasalmost running in her haste, for she was late and the Shakespeare classwas a momentous institution.
"Oh, say, Cousin Phoebe," was the man's greeting, "can you tell me efyer sister's to home?"
The young girl came to a sudden full stop in her surprise. This cousinlygreeting from the village reprobate was as exciting and as inexplicableas it was unheard of.
"Why, Mr. Droop!" she exclaimed, "I--I--I s'pose so."
The truth was the truth, after all. But it was hard on Rebecca. What_could_ this man want with her sister?
Droop nodded and passed on.
"Thank ye. Don't stop fer me," he said.
Phoebe moved forward slowly, watching Copernicus over her shoulder.She noted his steady steps and pale face and, reassured, resumed herflying progress with redoubled vigor. After all, Rebecca was forty-twoyears old and well able to take care of herself.
Meanwhile, Rebecca Wise, having carefully wrung out her dishcloth,poured out the water and swept the little sink, was slowly untying herkitchen apron, full of a thankful sense of the quiet hour before herwherein to knit and muse beside the front window of her little parlor.
In the centre of this room there stood a wide, round table, bearing alarge kerosene-lamp and the week's mending. At the back and opposite thetwo windows stood the well-blacked, shiny, air-tight stove. Above thiswas a wooden mantel, painted to imitate marble, whereon were depositedtwo photographs, four curious Chinese shells, and a plaster cross towhich there clung a very plaster young woman in scant attire, the wholebeing marked "Rock of Ages" in gilt letters at the base.
Horse-hair furniture in all the glory of endless "tidies" was arrangedagainst walls bedight with a rainbow-like wilderness of morning-glories.The ceiling was of white plaster, and the floor was painted white anddecked here and there with knitted rag-carpets, on whose Joseph's-coatedsurfaces Rebecca loved to gaze when in retrospective mood. In thosehumble floor-coverings her knowing eyes recognized her first clockedstockings and Phoebe's baby cloak. There was her brother Robert's wooltippet embalmed in loving loops with the remnants of his wife's bestSunday-go-to-meetin' ribbons. These two had long been dead, but theirsister's loving eyes recreated them in rag-carpet dreams wherein shelived again those by-gone days.
Rebecca had just seated herself and was unrolling her work, when hereyes caught a glimpse of a man's form through the window. He had passedinto her gate and was approaching the door. She leaned forward for agood look and then dropped back into her chair with a gasp of surprise.
"Copernicus Droop!" she exclaimed, "did you ever!"
She sat in rigid astonishment until she heard his timid knock, followedby the sound of shoes vigorously wiped upon the door-mat.
"Well, come! Thet's a comfort!" she thought. "He won't muss thecarpet"--and she rose to admit her visitor.
"Good mornin'," said Droop, timidly. "I seen Cousin Phoebe a-runnin'down the road, an' I sorter thought I'd run in an' see how you was."
"Come right in," said Rebecca, in non-committal tones. She shut the doorand followed him into the parlor.
"Here, give me yer hat," she continued. "Set right there. How be ye?"
Droop obeyed. In a few moments the two were seated facing each other,and Rebecca's needles were already busy. There was an interval ofawkward silence.
"Well, what did ye come fer?"
It was Rebecca who broke the spell. In her usual downright fashion, shecame to the point at once. She thought it as well he should know thatshe was not deceived by his polite pretence of casual friendly interest.
Droop settled forward with elbows on his knees and brought hisfinger-tips carefully and accurately together. He found this actionamazingly promotive of verbal accuracy.
"Well, Cousin Rebecca," he began, slowly, "I'm lookin' fer a partner."He paused, considering how to proceed.
The spinster let her hands drop in speechless wonder. The audacity ofthe man! He--to her--a proposal! At her age! From him!
Fortunately the next few words disclosed her error, and she blushed forit as she lifted her work again, turning nearer the window as if forbetter light.
"Yes," Droop proceeded, "I've a little business plan, an' it needscapital an' a partner."
He waited, but there was no response.
"Capital an' a partner," he repeated, "an' intelligence an' ambition. SoI come to you."
Rebecca turned toward him again, scarcely less surprised now thanbefore.
"To me! D'ye mean to say ye've me in yer mind fer a partner--withcapital?"
Droop nodded slowly and compressed his lips.
"Well, I want to know!" she exclaimed, helplessly.
"Oh, I know you ain't overly rich right now," said Droop,apologetically; "but it warn't no secret thet ye might hev hed JoeChandler ef ye hadn't ben so shifty in yer mind an' fell betwixt twostools--an' Lord knows Joe Chandler was as rich as--as Peter Craigindown to Keene--pretty nigh."
Again Rebecca blushed, but this time in anger.
"See here, Copernicus Droop--" she began.
"Oh, I don't mean nothin' mean, now," he insisted, earnestly. "I'm jestleadin' up to the pint sorter natural like--breakin' the thing easy, yeknow."
"What _air_ you a-drivin' at?"
"Ye see, it's sorter hard to explain. It's this way. I hev a mightyfine plan in my mind founded on a mixin' up of astronomicalconsiderations with prior inventions----"
"Mister Droop!" exclaimed his hostess, gazing severely into his eyes,"ef you think I'll let you go to drinkin' rum till----"
"Honest to goodness, Miss Wise, I've not teched a drop!" cried Droop,leaping to his feet and leaning forward quickly. "You may smell mybreath ef----"
A violent push sent him back to his chair.
"Thet'll do, Mr. Droop. I'll undertake to believe ye fer once, but I'llthank ye to speak plain English."
"I'll do my best," he sighed, plaintively. "I don't blame ye fer nottakin' to it quick. I didn't myself at first. Well--here. Ye see--yeknow----"
He paused and swallowed hard, gazing at the ceiling for inspiration.Then he burst out suddenly:
"Ye know the graphophone an' the kodak and the biograph an' all themthings what ye can see down to Keene?"
Rebecca nodded slowly, with suspicion still in her eye.
"Well, the's a heap o' things ben invented since the Centennial of 1876.Don
't you s'pose they've made hills o' money out o' them things--withpatents an' all?"
"An' don't you s'pose that ef anybody in 1876 was to up an' bring outsech inventions all at once he'd be bigger than all the other inventorsput together!"
Rebecca slowly pushed her needle through her hair, which was a sign ofthoughtfulness.
"Wal, o' course," she said, at length, "ef anybody hed aben smart enoughto've invented all them things in 1876 he'd aben a pretty big man, Iguess."
Droop edged forward eagerly.
"An' s'posen' that you hed married Joe Chandler back in 1876, an' youwas rich enough to back up an inventor like that, an' he come to you an'offered to give you half ef you'd up an' help him put 'em on the market,an' s'posen'----"
"What the land sake's the use o' s'posin'?" Rebecca cried, sharply."This is 1898, an' I ain't married, thanks be to goodness!"
"Ah, but ye could be, ef we was in 1876! There, there--I know what youwant to say--but 'taint so! What would ye say ef I was to tell ye thatall ye've got to do is jest to get into a machine I've got an' I cantake ye back to 1876 in next to no time! What would ye say----"
"I'd say ye was tighter'n a boiled owl, Copernicus Droop."
"But I ain't, I ain't!" he almost screamed. "I tell ye I hevn't techedliquor fer two days. I've reformed. Ef ye won't smell my breath----"
"Then you're plum crazy," she interrupted.
"No, nor crazy either," he insisted. "Why, the whole principle of it isso awful simple! Ef you'd ben to high school, now, an' knew astronomyan' all, you'd see right through it like nothin'."
"Well, then, you c'n explain it to them as hez ben to high school, an'that's sister Phoebe. Here she comes now."
She went at once to the door to admit the new-comer. Her visitor,watching the pretty younger sister as she stepped in, rosy and full oflife, could not but remark the contrast between the two women.
"Twenty-two years makes a heap o' difference!" he muttered. "But Rebeccawas jest as pretty herself, back in 1876."
"Look, Rebecca!" cried Phoebe, as she entered the door, "here's a newbook Mrs. Bolton lent me to-day. All about Bacon writing Shakespeare'splays, an' how Bacon was a son of Queen Elizabeth. Do you s'pose hereally did?"
"Oh, don't ask me, child!" was the nervous reply. "Mr. Droop's in theparlor."
Phoebe had forgotten her short interview with Droop, and she nowsnatched off her hat in surprise and followed her elder sister, noddingto their visitor as she entered.
"Set down, both o' ye," said Rebecca. "Now, then, Mr. Droop, perhapsyou'll explain."
Rebecca was far more mystified and interested than she cared to admit.Her brusque manner was therefore much exaggerated--a dissimulation whichtroubled her conscience, which was decidedly of the tenderest NewEngland brand.
Poor Copernicus experienced a sense of relief as he turned his eyes tothose of the younger sister. She felt that Rebecca's manner wasdistinctly cold, and her own expression was the more cordial incompensation.
"Why, Miss Phoebe," he said, eagerly, "I've ben tellin' your sisterabout my plan to go back to the Centennial year--1876, ye know."
"To--to what, Mr. Droop?"
Phoebe's polite cordiality gave place to amazed consternation. Droopraised a deprecating hand.
"Now don't you go to think I'm tight or gone crazy. You'll understandit, fer you've ben to high school. Now see! What is it makes the days goby--ain't it the daily revolution of the sun?"
Phoebe put on what her sister always called "that schoolmarm look" andreplied:
"Why, it's the turning round of the earth on its axis once in----"
"Yes--yes--It's all one--all one," Droop broke in, eagerly. "To put itanother way, it comes from the sun cuttin' meridians, don't it?"
Rebecca, who found this technical and figurative expression beyond her,paused in her knitting and looked anxiously at Phoebe, to see how shewould take it. After a moment of thought, the young woman admitted hervisitor's premises.
"Very good! An' you know's well's I do, Miss Phoebe, that ef a mantravels round the world the same way's the sun, he ketches up on time awhole day when he gets all the way round. In other words, the folks thatstays at home lives jest one day more than the feller that goes roundthe world that way. Am I right?"
Droop glanced triumphantly at Rebecca. This tremendous admission on herlearned young sister's part stripped her of all pretended coldness. Herdeep interest was evident now in her whole pose and expression.
"Now, then, jest follow me close," Droop continued, sitting far forwardin his chair and pointing his speech with a thin forefinger on his openpalm.
"Ef a feller was to whirl clear round the world an' cut all themeridians in the same direction as the sun, an' he made the whole triparound jest as quick as the sun did--time wouldn't change a mite ferhim, would it?"
Phoebe gasped at the suggestion.
"Why, I should think--of course----"
She stopped and put her hand to her head in bewilderment.
"Et's a sure thing!" Droop exclaimed, earnestly. "You've said yerselfthat the folks who stayed to home would live one day longer than thefellow that went round. Now, ef that feller travelled round as fast asthe sun, the stay-at-homes would only be one day older by the time hegot back--ain't that a fact?"
Both sisters nodded.
"Well, an' the traveller would be one day younger than they'd be. An'ain't that jest no older at all than when he started?"
"My goodness! Mr. Droop!" Phoebe replied, feebly. "I never thought ofthat."
"Well, ain't it so?"
"Of course--leastways--why, it must be!"
"All right, then!"
Droop rose triumphantly to his feet, overcome by his feelings.
"Follow out that same reasonin' to the bitter end!" he cried, "an' whatwill happen ef that traveller whirls round, cuttin' meridians jest twiceas fast as the sun--goin' the same way?"
"Why, as sure as shootin', I tell ye, that feller will get jest one dayyounger fer every two whirls round!"
There was a long and momentous silence. The tremendous suggestion hadfor the moment bereft both women of all reasoning faculty.
At length the younger sister ventured upon a practical objection.
"But how's he goin' to whirl round as fast as that, Mr. Droop?" shesaid.
Droop smiled indulgently.
"Et does sound outlandish, when ye think how big the world is. But whatif ye go to the North Pole? Ain't all the twenty-four meridians jammedup close together round that part of the globe?"
"Thet's so," murmured Rebecca, "I've seen it many's the time on the mapin Phoebe's geography book."
"Sure enough," Droop rejoined. "Then ain't it clear that ef a feller'lljest take a grip on the North Pole an' go whirlin' round it, he'll becuttin' meridians as fast as a hay-chopper? Won't he see the sun gettin'left behind an' whirlin' the other way from what it does in nature? An'ef the sun goes the other way round, ain't it sure to unwind all thetime thet it's ben a-rollin' up?"
Rebecca's ball of yarn fell from her lap at this, and, as she followedit with her eyes, she seemed to see a practical demonstration of Droop'smarvellous theory.
Phoebe felt all the tremendous force of Droop's logic, and she flushedwith excitement. One last practical objection was obvious, however.
"The thing must be all right, Mr. Droop," she said; "an' come to thinkof it, this must be the reason so many folks have tried to reach theNorth Pole. But it never _has_ been reached yet, an' how are you agoin'to do it?"
"You think it never hez," Copernicus replied. "The fact is, though, thatI've ben there."
"You!" Phoebe cried.
"And is there a pole there?" Rebecca asked, eagerly.
"The's a pole there, an' I've swung round it, too," Droop replied,sitting again with a new and delightful sense of no longer beingunwelcome.
"Here's how 'twas. About a year ago there come to my b
ack door astrange-lookin' man who'd hurt his foot some way. I took him in an'fixed him up--you know I studied for a doctor once--an' while he wasbein' fixed up, he sorter took a fancy to me an' he begun to give me thestory of his life. He said he was born in the year 2582, an' had bentakin' what he called a historical trip into the past ages. He went onat a great rate like that, an' I thought he was jest wanderin' in hismind with the fever, so I humored him. But he saw through me, an' hewouldn't take no but I should go down into Burnham's swamp with him tosee how he'd done it.
"Well, down we went, and right spang in the thickest of the bushes an'muck we come across the queerest lookin' machine that ever ye see!
"Right there an' then he told me all the scientific talk about time an'astronomy thet I've told you, an' then he tuck me into the thing. Fustthing I knew he give a yank to a lever in the machinery an' there was abig jerk thet near threw me on the back o' my head. I looked out, an'there we was a-flyin' over the country through the air fer the NorthPole!"
"There, now!" cried Rebecca, "didn't Si Wilkins' boy Sam say he seen acomet in broad daylight last June?"
"Thet was us," Droop admitted.
"And not a soul believed him," Phoebe remarked.
"Well," continued Droop, "to make a long story short, thet future-manwhirled me a few times 'round the North Pole--unwound jest five weeks o'time, an' back we come to Peltonville a-hummin'!"
"And then?" cried the two women together.
"Ef you'll believe me, there we was back to the day he fust come--an'fust thing I knew, thet future-man was a-comin' up to my back door, sameez before, a-beggin' to hev his foot fixed. It was hard on him, but Iwas convinced fer keeps."
Copernicus shook his head sadly, with retrospective sadness.
"An' where is the future-man now?" Phoebe asked.
"Tuk cold on his lungs at the North Pole," said Droop, solemnly. "Hedpneumonia an' up'n died."
"But there warn't nobody round heerd of him except you," said Rebecca."Who buried him?"
"Ah, thet's one o' the beauties o' the hull business. He'd showed me allthe ropes on his machine--his Panchronicon, as he called it--an' so Iup'n flew round the North Pole the opposite way as soon's he passedaway, till I'd made up the five weeks we'd lost. Then when I got back itwas five weeks after his funeral, an' I didn't hev to bother about it."
The two sisters looked at each other, quite overcome with admiration.
"My land!" Rebecca murmured, gathering up her yarn and knitting again."Sence they've invented them X-rays an' took to picturin' folks'insides, I kin believe anythin'."
"You don't hev to take my word fer it," Droop exclaimed. "Ef you'll comeright along with me this blessed minute, I'll show you the machine rightnow."
"I'd jest love to see it," said Rebecca, her coldness all forgotten,"but it's mos' too late fer this afternoon. There's the supper to get,you know, an'----"
"But the plan, Rebecca," Phoebe cried. "You've forgotten that Ihaven't heard Mr. Droop's plan."
"I wish 't you'd call me 'Cousin Copernicus,'" said Droop, earnestly."You know I've sworn off--quit drinkin' now."
Phoebe blushed at his novel proposal and insisted on the previousquestion.
"But what is the plan?" she said.
"Why, my idea is this, Cousin Phoebe. I want we should all go back to1876 again. Thet's the year your sister could hev married Joe Chandleref she'd wanted to."
Rebecca murmured something unintelligible, blushing furiously, with hereyes riveted to her knitting. Phoebe looked surprised.
"You know you could, Cousin Rebecca," Droop insisted. "Now what I sayis, let's go back there. I'll invent the graphophone, the kodak, thevitascope, an' Milliken's cough syrup an' a lot of other big moderninventions. Rebecca'll marry Chandler, an' she an' her husband can backup my big inventions with capital. Why, Cousin Phoebe," he cried, withenthusiasm, "we'll all hev a million apiece!"
The sentimental side of Droop's plan first monopolized Phoebe'sattention.
"Rebecca Wise!" she exclaimed, turning with mock severity to face hersister. "Why is it I've never heard tell about this love affair beforenow? Why, Joe Chandler's just a _fine_ man. Is it you that broke hisheart an' made him an old bachelor all his life?"
Rebecca must have dropped a stitch, for she turned toward the windowagain and brought her knitting very close to her face.
"What brought ye so early to home, Phoebe?" she said. "Warn't there noShakespeare meetin' to-day?"
"No. Mis' Beecher was to lead, an' she's been taken sick, so I cameright home. But you can't sneak out of answerin' me like that, MissSlyboots," Phoebe continued, in high spirits.
Seating herself on the arm of her sister's chair, she put her arms abouther neck and, bending over, whispered:
"Tell me honest, now, Rebecca, did Joe Chandler ever propose to you?"
"No, he never did!" the elder sister exclaimed, rising suddenly.
"Now, Mr. Droop," she continued, "your hull plan is jest too absurd tothink of----"
Droop tried to expostulate, but she raised her voice, speaking morequickly.
"An' you come 'round again after supper an' we'll tell ye what we'vedecided," she concluded.
The humor of this reply was lost on Copernicus, but he moved toward thedoor with a sense of distinct encouragement.
"Remember the rumpus we'll make with all them inventions," Droop calledback as he walked toward the gate, "think of the money we'll make!"
But Rebecca was thinking of something very different as she stood at thefront door gazing with softened eyes at the pasture and woods beyond theroad. She seemed to see a self-willed girl breaking her own heart andanother's rather than acknowledge a silly error. She was wondering ifthat had really been Rebecca Wise. She felt again all the old bewitchingheart-pangs, sweetened and mellowed by time, and she wondered if shewere _now_ really Rebecca Wise.