Chapter 12: Both Sides

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Steve’s engagement made a great stir in the family a pleasant one this time, for nobody objected, everything seemed felicitous, and the course of true love ran very smoothly for the young couple, who promised to remove the only obstacle to their union by growing old and wise as soon as possible. If he had not been so genuinely happy, the little lover’s airs would have been unbearable, for he patronized all mankind in general, his brother and elder cousins in particular.

“Now, that is the way to manage matters,” he declared, standing before the fire in Aunt Clara’s billiard room a day or two after the ball, with his hands behind his back. “No nonsense, no delay, no domestic rows or tragic separations. Just choose with taste and judgment, make yourself agreeable through thick and thin, and when it is perfectly evident that the dear creature adores the ground you walk on, say the word like a man, and there you are.”

“All very easy to do that with a girl like Kitty, who has no confounded notions to spoil her and trip you up every time you don’t exactly toe the mark,” muttered Charlie, knocking the balls about as if it were a relief to hit something, for he was in a gloriously bad humor that evening, because time hung heavy on his hands since he had forsworn the company he could not keep without danger to himself.

“You should humor those little notions, for all women have them, and it needs tact to steer clear of them. Kitty’s got dozens, but I treat them with respect, have my own way when I can, give in without growling when I can’t, and we get on like a couple of—”

“Spoons,” put in Charlie, who felt that he had not steered clear and so suffered shipwreck in sight of land.

Steve meant to have said “doves,” but his cousin’s levity caused him to add with calm dignity, “reasonable beings,” and then revenged himself by making a good shot which won him the game.

“You always were a lucky little dog, Steve. I don’t begrudge you a particle of your happiness, but it does seem as if things weren’t quite fair sometimes,” said Archie, suppressing an envious sigh, for, though he seldom complained, it was impossible to contrast his own and his cousin’s prospects with perfect equanimity.

“His worth shines forth the brightest who in hope
Always confides: the Abject soul despairs,”

observed Mac, quoting Euripides in a conversational tone as he lay upon a divan reposing after a hard day’s work.

“Thank you,” said Archie, brightening a little, for a hopeful word from any source was very comfortable.

“That’s your favorite Rip, isn’t it? He was a wise old boy, but you could find advice as good as that nearer home,” put in Steve, who just then felt equal to slapping Plato on the shoulder, so elated was he at being engaged “first of all the lot,” as he gracefully expressed it.

“Don’t halloo till you are out of the wood, Dandy Mrs. Kit has jilted two men, and may a third, so you’d better not brag of your wisdom too soon, for she may make a fool of you yet,” said Charlie, cynically, his views of life being very gloomy about this time.

“No, she won’t, Steve, if you do your part honestly. There’s the making of a good little woman in Kitty, and she has proved it by taking you instead of those other fellows. You are not a Solomon, but you’re not spoilt yet, and she had the sense to see it,” said Mac encouragingly from his corner, for he and his brother were better friends than even since the little scene at the Van Tassels’.

“Hear! Hear!” cried Steve, looking more than ever like a cheerful young cockerel trying to crow as he stood upon the hearth rug with his hands under his coat tails, rising and falling alternately upon the toes and heels of his neat little boots.

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