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For Frederick Travers hated ostentation. The machine that waited outside
expensive machine in the county, yet he did not care to flaunt its price
or horse-power in a red flare across the landscape, which also was
mostly his, from the sand dunes and the everlasting beat of the Pacific
breakers, across the fat bottomlands and upland pastures, to the far
summits clad with redwood forest and wreathed in fog and cloud.
A rustle of skirts caused him to look over his shoulder. Just the
faintest hint of irritation showed in his manner. Not that his daughter
was the object, however. Whatever it was, it seemed to lie on the desk
"What is that outlandish name again?" she asked. "I know I shall never
remember it. See, I've brought a pad to write it down."
Her voice was low and cool, and she was a tall, well-formed,
clear-skinned young woman. In her voice and complacence she, too,
showed the drill-marks of order and restraint.
Frederick Travers scanned the signature of one of two letters on the
desk. "Bronislawa Plaskoweitzkaia Travers," he read; then spelled the
difficult first portion, letter by letter, while his daughter wrote it
"Now, Mary," he added, "remember Tom was always harum scarum, and you
must make allowances for this daughter of his. Her very name
is--ah--disconcerting. I haven't seen him for years, and as for her...."
A shrug epitomised his apprehension. He smiled with an effort at wit.
"Just the same, they're as much your family as mine. If he _is_ my
brother, he is your uncle. And if she's my niece, you're both cousins."
Mary nodded. "Don't worry, father. I'll be nice to her, poor thing. What
nationality was her mother?--to get such an awful name."
"I don't know. Russian, or Polish, or Spanish, or something. It was just
like Tom. She was an actress or singer--I don't remember. They met in
Buenos Ayres. It was an elopement. Her husband--"
"Then she was already married!"
Mary's dismay was unfeigned and spontaneous, and her father's irritation
grew more pronounced. He had not meant that. It had slipped out.
"There was a divorce afterward, of course. I never knew the details. Her
mother died out in China--no; in Tasmania. It was in China that Tom--"
His lips shut with almost a snap. He was not going to make any more
slips. Mary waited, then turned to the door, where she paused.
"I've given her the rooms over the rose court," she said. "And I'm going
now to take a last look."
Frederick Travers turned back to the desk, as if to put the letters
away, changed his mind, and slowly and ponderingly reread them.
"It's been a long time since I was so near to the old home,
and I'd like to take a run up. Unfortunately, I played ducks
and drakes with my Yucatan project--I think I wrote about
it--and I'm broke as usual. Could you advance me funds for
the run? I'd like to arrive first class. Polly is with me,
you know. I wonder how you two will get along.
"P.S. If it doesn't bother you too much, send it along
_"Dear Uncle Fred":_
the other letter ran, in what seemed to him a strange, foreign-taught,
yet distinctly feminine hand.
"Dad doesn't know I am writing this. He told me what he said
to you. It is not true. He is coming home to die. He doesn't
know it, but I've talked with the doctors. And he'll have to
come home, for we have no money. We're in a stuffy little
boarding house, and it is not the place for Dad. He's helped
other persons all his life, and now is the time to help him.
He didn't play ducks and drakes in Yucatan. I was with him,
and I know. He dropped all he had there, and he was robbed.
He can't play the business game against New Yorkers. That
explains it all, and I am proud he can't.
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