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THE ROCK TSlXD ARGUS, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26, 1913.
The, Siege of the Seven Suitors By MEREDITH NICHOLSON - CerrlrM. 111. Meredith Mch.lsoo CHAPTER XXV. Th. Seventh Man. HEZEKIAH bade Wlgjrln ex rhanre borne with hrr. and while he wss rpadJUHtltiB the saddle tflrths I explained to Ilexeklaii the iituatlon at Hojietield and told her of Dirk's Ufampr arrow the fields. "There's no tw foo'dn? -with this thin any more. I'll take W!kjtt to the hoti and lorfc him up until I've been numbered six. It's safest "Not ruurh It ia't. I don't intend thnt O-ilia ahall have the pleasure of refualnf you." "I'd like to know whr not. It' only to Oil the irap." "Oh." said Heseklab, "thnt would lie an embarrassment to Die all the rest of my life. Lie-ten carefully. Take WlRiry Jn hy the bark way and rive him a plfture book to look at. I,envt Orilin alone on th ternfe when you're all ready and see what hnppenn. If Dirk's on hla way to the house he's K"lup to do sometfcinjr, and he muet foel the edge of my displeasure. I owo hliu a few n Reneral principles " "What does all this mean? You ny there'a nothing wrong at the hou?" b-gan Wlgglua as we left Hezeklab and started toward Ilopeflelu. "Nothing whatever the matter. Kt erythlna perfectly all right, but you've got to keep rnuro. now and do what I tell you I've worked hard for you. old man, and when if all over I'm truing to send you a bill for profelo:ml serv ices, s ('owe." I urged my horse to his utmost, and Wiggins rode steadily bevide uie. The fright Orton had irlven blm hod done my friend good, and I fflt thut I was dealing with live man at Inst Til tell you all aliout this after we have a good nlebt rlgnr tonight." We rode direct to the stable, and I took Wiggins to my room by the back fnlrs and bade Mm help hlmiolf to my raiment. He was jiorfe't'v tractable, and I was glad to see thst he trusted Implicitly tr my culdaure. I met MNs Octavln in the lower hall. She was Just in from the k-nn. 'I hope, Aruold, that you have nr: i . HEZEKIAH rwn without entertainment. By the w:iy. If you should by cny chnn'-e see Ilezekiah you will kindly lr.timate to her that If she returns that mare she borrowed this morning In reasonably good condition I will overlook ber in discretion in taking it from the stable without permission." he did not wait for a reply, but continued on to her room, and I wenl direct to the terrace. Cecilia and Pep perton were Just poing into the botise to look up a bok or plce of music which they bud been discussing. Ce cilia waa making herself Interesting, as he so we:i knew how to do, and she aeemed in no wise anxious. "We had forgotten tea," she said. "Aunt Of tnrla bus Just ordered It." "She and Mr. I'epperton may have their tea. I believe the air outside will do you good for a little longer so if you don't mli.d. I'epperton, MIks Hol llster will resume her promenade alone." Ip has told me since that be thoucht me quite mad that afternoon. I bnde Cecilia prMrol the lone terrace slowly. She turned up the collar of the covert coat and obeyed, laughing a little nervously, but asking no ques tions. The scene could not have been more charmingly set. The great house loomed darkly behind her: beneath lay the garden, over which the dusk was Stealing golilenly. She piiu :ed suddenly os I watched from the window, and I stepped out to see what had attracted her attention. There Into the garden from Its farthest enfnune filed the six suitors who bad previously come to sit beneath the windows of their stricken lady. Hav ing failed to visit their wrath upon the perfidious Mil; they had changed their clothes anil returned to Hope field. If Hezeklah had not expressly commanded me not to become fKb sixth man. I should have offered my self on the spot and waited only un til Cecilia had mcde the Inevitable an swer before summoning Wiggins to end the whole affair. Such, however, was not to be the order of events. The procession, headed by Ormsby, was within a few yards of the terrace. Cecilia, apparently unconscious of their proximity, continued ber promenade. In a moment she must recognize them, ask them into the bouse, give them tea, and. otherwise, destroy my hope of securing; her happiness before the day's end. A choms of yelps and barks, as of dogs suddenly released, greeted my ear. The oncoming suitors heard It, too, and the line wabbled uncertainly. Then round ths house swept mastiffs, hounda. terriers a collection f prize winners such as few kennels ever boasted loping gayly in unwonted freedom toward unknown and forbid den pastures. The vanguard of fox terriers leaped down Into the garden, with the rest of the pack at their beels. Happy dojrs, to find grown men ready for a gam bol! Four of the suitors found one of the proper exits Into the road: two leaped te box hedge on the other side without shaking a leaf. I rsn round the bouse, stumbling through the rear guard of the truant canines and passing the kennel mas ter, who had rallied the stable men nd was In hot pursuit. "Somebody turned 'em out turned m out!" he shouted and swept pro fanely by. The gate of the kennel yard stood open. A familiar figure, running low. paused and then sprint ed nimbly along the paddock fence. A white sweater was distinguishable for a moment on a stone wall, then It fol lowed a pair of enchanted heels Into oblivion. Time had been passing swiftly, and the shadows were deepening. ' I re traced my steps toward the terrace, bearing the cries of pursued and pur suers growing fainter. I bad not yet gained a position from which I could see Cecilia, when a man appeared some distance ahead of me. walking guardedly In one of the garden plots. He came uncertainly, pausing to glance about, yet evidently led toward the terrace by a definite purpose. All may be fair In love snd war. but I confess to a feeling of pity for John Stewart Dick as I watched him slowly advancing to his fate. He was going boldly now. and I felt a sudden liking for him, nor can I believe that he was other than a manly fellow with sound brains and a good heart. I reasoned as I marked his approach to the terrace that he had been loiter ing In the neighborhood, probably watching Cecilia and Pepperton, and when the architect retired he had as sumed that the sixth man hud spoken. The appearance of his former com rades of the Inn had doubtless dis turbed him as It had me; then, thanks to the resourceful Hezekiah. they had been routed, and the coast was dear. I watched him draw nearer to Cecilia as r bare watched deer go down to a lake to drink. He would speak now, 1 was confident of It, and I stole round to the side entrance and sent word to Wiggins to go to the drawing room and wait for me. - Miss Octavia and Pepperton still lin gered over their teacups. The row made by the fugitives from ber kennels hnd net. it seemed, penetrated to the librarv, and Miss Octavia bade me Join J "William," she said, "you may rvs Oriana "97." the talk, which had to do, I remember, with sortie project for a national hall of fame that bad incurred ber charac teristic lisp;ensure. A hall of immor tal rasca Is in pillories she thought far likelier to please the masses. In fiftfen minutes I saw Cecilia cross ing the hall. She stopped where I could see her quite plainly and thrust her hand into the pocket of her coat Out flashed the silver notebook. She made n swift notation with the pencil that now, I knew, wrote the fate of the sixth man. I weLit out and spoke to her and walked beside her to the drawing room door, wlioro Hartley Wigjrins was waiting. miss 'ueiavia naa risen wnen I re turned to the library, and it was time to dress for dinner. "Just a moment. Miss nolllster. Something of great interest is about n occur." And I made excuses for de taining her for perhaps five minutes, not nioni- "You have never yet deceived me. Arnold Ames, and such is my conn dence in you that if you tell me that something Interesting win soon occur I have no reason to doubt you. It Is worth remembering, however, that fowl Is not improved by prolonged roast ing." I heard WUrrtns laugh in the halL and Miss Octavia raised her head. 1 Then Cecilia came into the room and 1 walked directly to her aunt. i "Aunt Octavia. here is the little sil- j rer notebook you gave me in Talis. I ! have Just written Mr. Wiggins' name la ; it, and as I have no further use for the book, I return it with my love and j thanks." : Wlthont a word Miss Octavia turned j to the wall and pressed the button I twice. j "William " she said as the butler ap- 1 pea red. "yon may serve Oriana '97, J and be cart-ful not to freeze It to death; I and the hour for dinner Is changed to ! 8. Arnold, you may yourself drive to ! Gooseberry bungalow for my brother ; and"nlece. They" dine with "me to night" Hezeklah and I built our bungalow In the orchard where on that October aft ernoon I found ber munching a red ap ple on the stone wall. She is the most scrupulous of housewives and only now took nie to task for scattering the hearth with fragments of the note rrom which this narrative . has been written. She has just been reading these last pages with meditative brown eyes and not wttnout occasionally reaching for the pen and retouching some sentence in which, she says, soot from my chimney doctoring days has clogged the ink. Cecilia and Wiggins live at Hopefleld across the fields. Miss Octavia insisted on thla, for the reason that the sword of . Hartley's great grandfather, found In the chest under the old house, gives him inalienable lights to the premises. Miss Octavia and her brother Bassford are traveling abroad and enjoying those mild adven tures to which they are both tempera mentally inclined. My name is Joined to Pepperton's on his office door. Pepperton proposed this arrangement, with so many as surances of faith in me that I could not refuse him; but I knew well enough that Miss Octavia had first out it into his head. "T'ou ought to say something more about the Asolando," Hezekiah has Just murmured at my shoulder. "Every body will ask whether we ever went back there." "Of conrse we go back there, neze klah, every time yon come to town and can get hold of me." "You'd better explain that Aunt Oc tavia started the tea room and still owns It and makes money out of It, though she rarely goes there, but sends Freda, the maid, to collect the profits. And It won't do any harm to say that when she met you there that day she decided at once that you would be a proper husband for me. Any one who reads your book will want to know that." nezeklah is always right. Po here endeth the chronicle. 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