Tom's Success

“Come, Philander, let us be a marching
Every one his true love a searching,”

Would be the most appropriate motto for this chapter, because, intimidated by the threats, denunciations, and complaints showered upon me in consequence of taking the liberty to end a certain story as I liked, I now yield to the amiable desire of giving satisfaction, and, at the risk of outraging all the unities, intend to pair off everybody I can lay my hands on.

Occasionally a matrimonial epidemic appears, especially toward spring, devastating society, thinning the ranks of bachelordom, and leaving mothers lamenting for their fairest daughters. That spring the disease broke out with great violence in the Shaw circle, causing paternal heads much bewilderment, as one case after another appeared with alarming rapidity. Fanny, as we have seen, was stricken first, and hardly had she been carried safely through the crisis, when Tom returned to swell the list of victims. As Fanny was out a good deal with her Arthur, who was sure that exercise was necessary for the convalescent, Polly went every day to see Mrs. Shaw, who found herself lonely, though much better than usual, for the engagement had a finer effect upon her constitution than any tonic she ever tried. Some three days after Fan’s joyful call, Polly was startled on entering the Shaws’ door, by Maud, who came tumbling downstairs, sending an avalanche of words before her,—

“He’s come before he said he should, to surprise us! He’s up in mamma’s room, and was just saying ‘How’s Polly?’ when I heard you come, in your creep-mouse way, and you must go right up. He looks so funny with whiskers, but he’s ever so nice, real big and brown, and he swung me right up when he kissed me. Never mind your bonnet, I can’t wait.”

And pouncing upon Polly, Maud dragged her away like a captured ship towed by a noisy little steam-tug.

“The sooner it’s over the better for me,” was the only thought Polly had time for before she plunged into the room above, propelled by Maud, who cried triumphantly,—

“There he is! Isn’t he splendid?”

For a minute, everything danced before Polly’s eyes, as a hand shook hers warmly, and a gruffish voice said heartily,—

“How are you, Polly?” Then she slipped into a chair beside Mrs. Shaw, hoping that her reply had been all right and proper, for she had not the least idea what she said.

Things got steady again directly, and while Maud expatiated on the great surprise, Polly ventured to look at Tom, feeling glad that her back was toward the light, and his was not. It was not a large room, and Tom seemed to fill it entirely; not that he had grown so very much, except broader in the shoulders, but there was a brisk, genial, free and easy air about him, suggestive of a stirring, out-of-door life, with people who kept their eyes wide open, and were not very particular what they did with their arms and legs. The rough-and-ready travelling suit, stout boots, brown face, and manly beard, changed him so much that Polly could find scarcely a trace of elegant Tom Shaw in the hearty-looking young man who stood with one foot on a chair, while he talked business to his father in a sensible way, which delighted the old gentleman. Polly liked the change immensely, and sat listening to the state of Western trade with as much interest as if it had been the most thrilling romance, for, as he talked, Tom kept looking at her with a nod or a smile so like old times, that for a little while she forgot Maria Bailey, and was in bliss.

By and by Fanny came flying in, and gave Tom a greater surprise than his had been. He had not the least suspicion of what had been going on at home, for Fan had said to herself, with girlish malice, “If he don’t choose to tell me his secrets, I’m not going to tell mine,” and had said nothing about Sydney, except an occasional allusion to his being often there, and very kind. Therefore, when she announced her engagement, Tom looked so staggered for a minute, that Fan thought he didn’t like it; but after the first surprise passed, he showed such an affectionate satisfaction, that she was both touched and flattered.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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