ACROSS THE WAY X

On the following day, when they were about to pass as usual, she was suddenly confronted in her mind by the alternative whether to recognize him or not. A glance at him as he approached told her that he himself was evidently uncertain if she would choose to consider their experience of the previous day as equivalent to an introduction, and yet she noticed a certain wistfulness of expression which suggested the desire to be permitted to doff his hat to her. To acknowledge by a simple inclination of her head the existence of a man whom she was likely to pass every day seemed the natural thing to do, however unconventional; so she bowed.

“Good afternoon, Miss Whyte,” he said, lifting his hat with a glad smile.
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How completely our lives are often appropriated by incidents which seem at the time of but slight importance! For the next few months Elizabeth was buffeted as it were between the persistent persecution of Mr. Horace Barker and the persistent devotion of Mr. Homer Ramsay. With Mr. Barker she had no further interview, but not many weeks elapsed before the influence of malicious strictures and insinuations circulated by him concerning the hygienic arrangements of her school began to bear their natural fruit. Parents became querulous and suspicious; and when calumny was at its height, a case of scarlet-fever among her pupils threw consternation even into the soul of Mrs. Cyrus Bangs, her chief patroness. But, on the other hand, she soon realized that she possessed an ardent, if not altogether discreet, champion in her enemy’s septuagenarian first cousin once removed, who sang her praises and fought her battles from one end of Saville Street to the other. Mr. Ramsay no longer railed against electric cars and specialists; all his fulminations were uttered against the malicious warfare which his Cousin Horace and that blood relative’s sickly wife were waging against the charming little Miss Whyte, who had hired Mr. Cherrington’s house across the way. What is more, he paid Elizabeth almost daily visits, during which, after he had discussed ways and means for confounding his vindictive kinsman, he was apt to declare that she ought to be married, and that it was a downright shame so pretty a girl should be condemned to drudgery because she lacked a dowry. This was a point on which the old gentleman never ceased to harp; and Elizabeth labored vainly to make him understand that teaching was a delight to her instead of a drudgery, and that she had not the remotest desire for a husband. And by way of proving how indifferent she was to the whole race of men, she continued to bow to the unknown stranger of her daily walk without making the slightest effort to discover his name.

Pneumonia, that deadly foe of hale and hearty septuagenarians, carried Mr. Homer Ramsay off within forty-eight hours in the first week of May. And very shortly after, Elizabeth received a letter from Mr. Mills, the lawyer, requesting her to call on a matter of importance. She supposed that it concerned her lease. Perhaps her enemy had bought the roof over her head.

Mr. Mills ushered her into his private office. Then opening a parchment envelope on his desk, he turned to her, and said: “I have the pleasure to inform you, Miss Whyte, that my client, the late Mr. Homer Ramsay, has left you the residuary legatee of his entire property–some fifty or sixty thousand dollars. Perhaps,” he added, observing Elizabeth’s bewildered expression, “you would like to read the will while I attend to a little matter in the other office. It is quite short, and straight as a string. I drew the instrument, and the testator knew what he was about just as well as you or I.” by: Robert Grant (1852-1940)

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