As I said, this one was not a favorite in the family, and so he was neglected in every way, never sent to school, always allowed to associate with the worst and coarsest characters, and so of course he has grown up a rude, vulgar, ignorant, dissipated ruffian, and--"

"He? It's no such thing! You ought to be more generous than to make such a statement as that about a poor young stranger who--who--why, he is the very opposite of that! He is considerate, courteous, obliging, modest, gentle, refined, cultivated-oh, for shame! how can you say such things about him?"

"I don't blame you, Sally--indeed I haven't a word of blame for you for being blinded by--your affection--blinded to these minor defects which are so manifest to others who--"

"Minor defects? Do you call these minor defects? What are murder and arson, pray?"

"It is a difficult question to answer straight off--and of course estimates of such things vary with environment. With us, out our way, they would not necessarily attract as much attention as with you, yet they are often regarded with disapproval--"

"Murder and arson are regarded with disapproval?"

"Oh, frequently."

"With disapproval. Who are those Puritans you are talking about? But wait-how did you come to know so much about this family? Where did you get all this hearsay evidence?"

"Sally, it isn't hearsay evidence. That is the serious part of it. I knew that family-personally."

This was a surprise.

"You? You actually knew them?"

"Knew Zylo, as we used to call him, and knew his father, Dr. Snodgrass. I didn't know your own Snodgrass, but have had glimpses of him from time to time, and I heard about him all the time. He was the common talk, you see, on account of his--"

"On account of his not being a house-burner or an assassin, I suppose. That would have made him commonplace. Where did you know these people?"

"In Cherokee Strip."

"Oh, how preposterous! There are not enough people in Cherokee Strip to give anybody a reputation, good or bad. There isn't a quorum. Why the whole population consists of a couple of wagon loads of horse thieves."

Hawkins answered placidly--

"Our friend was one of those wagon loads."

Sally's eyes burned and her breath came quick and fast, but she kept a fairly good grip on her anger and did not let it get the advantage of her tongue. The statesman sat still and waited for developments. He was content with his work. It was as handsome a piece of diplomatic art as he had ever turned out, he thought; and now, let the girl make her own choice. He judged she would let her spectre go; he hadn't a doubt of it in fact; but anyway, let the choice be made, and he was ready to ratify it and offer no further hindrance.

Meantime Sally had thought her case out and made up her mind. To the major's disappointment the verdict was against him. Sally said:

"He has no friend but me, and I will not desert him now. I will not marry him if his moral character is bad; but if he can prove that it isn't, I will--and he shall have the chance. To me he seems utterly good and dear; I've never seen anything about him that looked otherwise- except, of course, his calling himself an earl's son. Maybe that is only vanity, and no real harm, when you get to the bottom of it. I do not believe he is any such person as you have painted him. I want to see him. I want you to find him and send him to me. I will implore him to be honest with me, and tell me the whole truth, and not be afraid."

"Very well; if that is your decision I will do it. But Sally, you know, he's poor, and--"

"Oh, I don't care anything about that. That's neither here nor there. Will you bring him to me?"

"I'll do it. When?--"

"Oh, dear, it's getting toward dark, now, and so you'll have to put it off till morning. But you will find him in the morning, won't you? Promise."

"I'll have him here by daylight."

"Oh, now you're your own old self again--and lovelier than ever!"

"I couldn't ask fairer than th

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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