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Nell, of Shorne Mills or, One Heart's Burden   By: (-1920)

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Or, One Heart's Burden


Author of "Better Than Life," "A Life's Mistake," "Once in a Life," "'Twas Love's Fault," etc.

A. L. Burt Company Publishers :: :: :: New York 1898



"Dick, how many are twenty seven and eight?"

The girl looked up, with narrow eyes and puckered brow, from the butcher's book, which she was laboriously "checking," at the boy who leaned back on the window seat picking out a tune on a banjo.

"Thirty nine," he replied lazily but promptly, without ceasing to peck, peck at the strings.

She nodded her thanks, and traveled slowly up the column, counting with the end of her pencil and jotting down the result with a perplexed face.

They were brother and sister, Nell and Dick Lorton, and they made an extremely pretty picture in the sunny room. The boy was fair with the fairness of the pure Saxon; the girl was dark dark hair with the sheen of silk in it, dark, straight brows that looked all the darker for the clear gray of the eyes which shone like stars beneath them. But the eyes were almost violet at this moment with the intensity of her mental effort, and presently, as she raised them, they flashed with a mixture of irritation and sweet indignation.

"Dick, if you don't put that banjo down I'll come over and make you. It's bad enough at most times; but the 'Old Folks at Home' on one string, while I'm trying to check this wretched book, is intolerable, and not to be endured. Put it down, Dick, or I'll come over and smash both of you!"

He struck a chord, an exasperating chord, and then resumed the more exasperating peck, peck.

"'Twas ever thus," he said, addressing the ceiling with sad reproach. "Women are born ungrateful, and continue so. Here am I, wasting this delightful afternoon in attempting to soothe a sister's savage breast by sweet strains of heavenly music, and she "

With a laugh, she sprang from her seat and went for him. There was a short and fierce struggle, during which the banjo was whirled hither and thither; then he got her down on the floor, sat upon her, and deliberately resumed pecking out the "Old Folks at Home."

"Let me get up, Dick! Let me get up this instant!" she cried indignantly and breathlessly. "The man's waiting for the book. Dick, do you hear? I'll pinch you I'll crumple your collar! I'll burn that beast of a banjo directly you've gone out. Dick, I'm sure you're hurting me seriously. Di ck! I've got a pain! Oh, you wait until you've gone out! I'll light the fire with that thing! Get up!"

Without a change of countenance, as if he were deaf to her entreaties and threats, he tuned up the banjo, and played a breakdown.

"Comfortable, Nell? That's right. Always strive for contentment, whatever your lot may be. At present your lot is to provide me with a nice, springy seat, and it will so continue to be until you promise on your honor, mind that you will not lay a destructive hand on this sweetest of instruments."

"Oh, let me get up, Dick!"

"Until I receive that promise, and an abject apology, it is a case of j'y suis, j'y reste , my child," he responded blandly.

She panted and struggled for a moment or two, then she gasped:

"I I promise!"

"On your word of honor?"

"Yes, yes! Dick, you are breaking my ribs or something."

"Corset, perhaps," he suggested. "And the apology? A verbal one will suffice on this occasion, accompanied by the sum of one shilling for the purchase of cigarettes."

"I shan't! You never said a word about a shilling!"

"I did not I hadn't time; but I shall now have time to make it two."

The door opened, and a servant with a moon shaped face and prominent eyes looked in. She did not seem at all surprised at the state of affairs did not even smile.

"The butcher's man says shall he wait any longer, miss?"

"Yes, tell him to wait, Molly," said the boy. "Miss Nell is tired, and is lying down for a little while; resting, you know."

"I I promise! I apologize! You you shall have the shilling!" gasped the girl, half angrily, half haughtily... Continue reading book >>

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