A Meeting of Greeks
A Meeting of Greeks
BY GEORGE WESTON
MORTIMER GRANNIS (one of a dozen guests) sat in moody silence on the piazza at Beechwoods. By the side of his chair was a cage, and in that was a parrot. Nearly every one else in the house had gone on a picnic and (with the exception of the moody young man and the parrot) the piazza was deserted. A pretty girl sauntered out of the doorway, and Mortimer arose and held out his hand. Whereupon the parrot chuckled.
"You wanted to see me, Mortimer?" asked the girl.
"Yes," said Mortimer, miserably. "Did your maid give you my note? Oh, Rose, I am the most unhappy fellow! Come and sit down."
Rose took the chair on the the other side of the most unhappy fellow.
"It's about last night," groaned Mortimer, in the tone of a man who has plumbed the dark depths of despair; "I have something to tell you. I should have told you—last night—but I couldn't—I simply couldn't! It was the moon, I guess."
"What is it?" whispered the girl (and she thought to herself, "Why, this is just like a play!"). "Is it something very terrible?" she hopefully asked.
The young man drew his chair back. "Rose," he said, "do you see this parrot?"
The parrot and the girl stared at each other. "Yes," she said, "I see him."
"That parrot," said the young man, with a dramatic flourish which Henry Irving himself might have envied—"that parrot is my Nemesis—my Fate—everything that is bad in my life! You have noticed the way I take him with me everywhere I go?"
"Yes, I thought it was rather odd."
"Odd!" he exclaimed, with a gesture that even made the parrot blink. "Wait, Rose, and I will tell you just how odd it is! Do you remember my Aunt Betsy?"
"I remember her very well," said Rose, smiling.
"Every one does," sighed Mortimer. "Do you remember that twinkle in her eye, Rose? Well, she is laughing yet, wherever she is; and do you know what she is laughing at? She is laughing at me! At me!"
"Mortimer!" exclaimed Rose, in a shocked voice.
"I was her only nephew," said poor Mortimer, "and every one thought she would leave everything to me. But instead of that she left me—this—this— this parrot and so much a year as long as I keep the parrot—and as long as I remain single."
"Why, Mortimer!" cried the girl, suddenly growing indignant, "I wonder why she put that in her will!"
"I suppose she was afraid that my wife might be unkind to Nicodemus here." The parrot burst into a cyclonic fit of laughter.
"Gracious!" cried Rose, looking at the bird with added disfavor.
"Oh, that's only one of his tricks," said Mortimer, in a tone of utter despondency. "He always laughs like that when his name is mentioned—or when I swear at him. So you see, Rose, if I marry you I am penniless, and of course you can't have a penniless husband—and so—what happened last night—"
"Why, I never heard of such a thing!" exclaimed Rose, still staring at the chuckling Nicodemus. A new note of indignation came into her voice. "So you have to choose between me and this thing of a parrot!"
"No, Rose, no!" said the miserable young man. "Don't put it that way. But I never thought that I would have to work, so I never learned anything useful, except to fool along with a medical course which I have nearly forgotten. And, of course, I can't marry you if 1 haven't a penny. And so—you see—" He gulped (a really tremendous gulp) and came to a stop.
"How did you say that you make him laugh?" asked Rose, leaning over toward the parrot, her hand on Mortimer's arm.
"By mentioning his name."
"But didn't you say there was another way?"
"Mortimer," murmured Rose, "make him laugh!"
"I have been thinking it over," said Rose the following afternoon. She had just found Mortimer on the lawn where that melancholy young man was playing croquet with himself.
"Why, Rose!" he said, dropping his mallet and taking her hand (with a fine sense of preference), "I thought you went to town this morning."
"I have been thinking it over," she repeated, "and now I am going to surprise you." She calmly surveyed the young man who was about to be surprised. "You may think that I am very bold," she continued in a very even voice, "but I don't care. I am not going to release you from—from what you said the other night!" To which she added that final full stop of feminine decision—"There!"
"But, Rose! If I marry you I sha'n't have a cent to bless myself with!"
To which she pouted and answered, "I don't care."
"But I care!"
"In other words," she said, "you want it your own way just to save your own feelings. As if I didn't have any feelings! Mortimer Grannis, I don't believe you love me a bit!"
She walked away with great (and becoming) dignity and sat down in a secluded nook on the piazza. Mortimer followed her, and, although she had already arranged the chair where she meant him to sit, she pretended to be unaware of his presence.
"But, Rose," he said, in growing consternation, "you don't understand! And I do love you!"
"Then you're a dear boy," she said, "and I understand it perfectly. You have either got to give me up, or give up that hateful Nicodemus—and I prefer that you shall give up Nicodemus."
"But I can't live on your money!"
"No; but you can make enough yourself."
"Oh, you'll find a way," she confidently told him. "You can brush up on your medical course, and be a doctor or something." She rested her chin on her palm and leaned over toward him. "Mortimer!" she whispered. He looked at her and his heart went on strike. "Do you love me?" she whispered again.
"Rose!" he cried, and his heart went back to work with an increase of wages.
"Then," she said, calmly rising, "let us go and turn Nicodemus loose. Where is he?"
"In the hall," winced Mortimer.
"What are you making a face at?"
"I'm not," he said, leading the way into the hall.
"Then do it quickly," she said, " because he who hesitates, you know— You hold the door open, Mortimer, and I'll open the cage and shoo him out."
The next moment the parrot was soaring grandly over the lawn like a variegated rocket and presently disappeared from sight over a grove of trees.
"There!" said Rose, with a tremulous little catch in her voice. "And now you have only me."
"Only you!" exclaimed Mortimer, and for some strange reason he opened his arms.
"You look as though you had just received good news," she said, shyly advancing.
"I have," he said, "and it comes straight from the heart."
But the second morning following he received news of an entirely different character. "I've just had a letter from Aunt Betsy's trustee," he said, soberly enough.
"What does he say?" asked Rose, laying aside the text-book on Materia Medica with which she had been waiting to coach him.
"Oh, he notes that Nicodemus and I have parted company, and he sends me a sealed letter from Aunt Betsy. I suppose she wrote it when she made her will, and I thought you might like to see it before I opened it."
"To my nephew Mortimer," read the inscription on the envelope, "to be read by him when he has forfeited his right as a beneficiary under my will of November 1, 1890. Elizabeth Robinson."
"There's something in it," said Rose, feeling the envelope.
"It's a key," said Mortimer, breaking the seal, "and here's a letter."
"My dear Mortimer," read the letter, "as long as you are simply content to look after Nicodemus and stay single, your present legacy is more than enough. But when you develop enough spirit to rebel against that tyrannous bird, or to choose a girl and marry her, you will get this letter. The inclosed key fits a small tin box in my safe-deposit vault. In that box is a later will of mine, dated November 2d, which leaves everything to you. Your loving Aunt Betsy."
"Now what do you think of that!" gasped Mortimer. Rose told him what she thought of it while they waltzed around the room. "I only hope now that Nicodemus is safe," said Mortimer, stopping at last for breath. "That's the only thing that's on my mind now."
"Oh, he's safe enough," said Rose, blushing.
"Safe enough? How do you mean?"
"Why, on Monday morning when I went to town I bought a parrot that looked just like him, and when you were playing croquet by yourself on Monday afternoon I put the strange parrot in Nicodemus's cage and I have been keeping Nicodemus up in the attic so that if you seemed to change your mind—about liking me better than the money—"
"Then!" cried Mortimer in a daze, "I haven't broken Aunt Betsy's first will after all!"
Rose blushed again. "Not," she said, "not until you have married the girl!"....