Cupid’s Understudy
By Edward Salisbury Field

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Public Domain Books

Chapter Nine

At a quarter to four I received a note from Blakely saying it would be impossible for him to come in to tea as he had planned. It was the first time he had ever broken an engagement with me, and I was a wee bit unhappy over it, though I knew, of course, there must be some good reason why he couldn’t come. Still, his absence rather put me out of humor with tea, so I sent Valentine for a box of chocolates. When she returned I sat down with them and a novel, prepared to spend the rest of the afternoon alone.

The novel wasn’t half as silly as some I’ve read—the hero reminded me of Blakely—and the chocolates were unusually good; I was having a much better time than I had expected. Then some one knocked at the door.

“Bother!” I thought. “It can’t be anybody I wish to see; I’ll not let them in.”

The knock, was repeated. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe Blakely had changed his plans and had come for tea after all.

“Come in,” I called.

The door opened slowly, and there, standing on the threshold, was— Had I gone quite mad? I rose from my chair and stared unbelievingly- -at Blakely’s mother.

“May I come in?” she asked in her even, well-bred voice.

“Why—yes,” I faltered.

Closing the door behind her, she walked over to the fireplace.

“Won’t you sit down?” I asked. “No, I thank you. This is not an afternoon call, Miss Middleton, it is—But of course you understand.”

I didn’t understand at all, and her manner of saying I did made me furious.

“Perhaps I am very stupid,” I said, “but I cannot imagine why you are here.”

“Do you know where my son is?”

“I do not.”

“You have no idea?”

“I have no idea where your son is, nor why you are here.”

She eyed me intently. How cold and determined she looked and how handsome she was.

“If I thought you were telling the truth—”

“Mrs. Porter!”

She handed me a letter. “Please read that,” she said.

“I will not read it,” I replied. “I must beg that you leave me.”

“There, there, child, I did not mean to be rude.”

“You are more than rude, you are insolent.”

“I am distracted, child. Please read the letter.”

“Very well,” I said, “I’ll read it.”

This was the letter:

“MY DEAR MOTHER: This will be handed to you at four o’clock. At that hour I shall be in Ventura, accompanied by the Grand Duke Alexander, and, as we are making the trip by automobile, it may be that we shall neither of us return in time for your dinner this evening.”

“If, however, on reading this you will wire me at Ventura your full consent to my marriage with Miss Middleton, I think I can guarantee that your dinner party will be a success.”

“I shall be in Ventura till half past four. Should I fail to hear from you by that time, we shall continue our journey toward Los Angeles as fast as our six-cylinders will take us.”

“It grieves me more than I can tell you to employ this cavalier method against you, but my softer appeals have been in vain.”

“While not a party to the plot, the duke, I find is something of a philosopher; I do not look for any resistance on his part. If he does resist, so much the worse for him.”

“Your affectionate son, BLAKELY PORTER.”

“P. S. Please do not think that Miss Middleton has any knowledge of this plan. She has not.”

“P. S. Remember! We leave Ventura for Los Angeles at 4:50 p.m. sharp.”

“Mrs. Porter,” I said when I had finished reading the letter, “I am deeply humiliated that Blakely should have done this.”

“Still, I suppose you would marry him if I gave my consent.”

“I would not,” I replied hotly. “I might marry him without your consent, for I love him dearly; but I would never consider you had given your consent if it were forced from you by trickery.”

“You wouldn’t?”

“I would not.”

“But if he doesn’t bring the duke back my dinner will be ruined.”

“I will telegraph him myself,” I said.

“Supposing he won’t come?”

“Blakely will come if I ask him to.”

“And you will do this for me?”

“No; I am not doing it for you.”

“Then why—”

“Because I cannot bear to have Blakely act so ungenerously toward his mother.”

“He has but used my own weapons against me,” she remarked thoughtfully.

“Your weapons are quite unworthy of him, Mrs. Porter.” “The telegram must be dispatched at once,” she announced, glancing impatiently at her watch.

“If you will call the office and ask them to send up a boy with some forms, I will think over what I wish to say,” I said.

When the boy arrived I had decided upon my message. It was:


“If you do not return at once with your captive I shall consider that we have never met.”


I wrote it out on a form and handed it to Mrs. Porter. “Will that do?” I asked.

She read it at a glance. “Yes,” she said, “it will do. Here, boy, see that this is rushed.”

“I’m glad it was satisfactory,” I said. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Porter.”

“My dear girl . . .”

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Porter.”

Still she did not go. I realized her predicament, and was childish enough to enjoy it, for Blakely’s mother could not bear to accept a favor from a social inferior. Had I been a child, she would have patted me on the head and presented me with a sugar plum. As matters stood she was quite at sea; she wished to do something gracious—she didn’t know how.

To make her position more impossible, who should come stalking into the room but Dad,—dear, unsuspecting Dad. When he saw Mrs. Porter he immediately jumped at a whole row of conclusions.

“Well, well well!” he said. “This is a sight that does me good. I’m very glad indeed to see you, Mrs. Porter. Your son has had an idea that you were opposed to meeting Elizabeth; but I knew he couldn’t be right. And here you are; calling on her? Well, well, well! Elizabeth, haven’t you any tea to offer Blakely’s mother!”

“Mrs. Porter was just leaving” I managed to say. “She has been here some time.”

Dad beamed on us both.

“I told Blakely, Elizabeth couldn’t marry him until you consented," he blundered on, “but now I suppose it is all arranged. These children of ours are wonderfully impatient. I’m as fond of Blakely as if he were my own son, and you’ll feel the same about Elizabeth when you’ve known her longer.”

“Don’t let Dad keep you, Mrs. Porter,” I said. “I’m sure you have many things to attend to.”

Blakely’s mother who had been standing like one in a dream, now woke up.

“Yes,” she said, “I must be going. I called informally on Elizabeth to beg you both to come to my dinner to-night.”

“I told her we couldn’t possibly come,” I began. “Nonsense! Of course we can come,” Dad declared. “It will quite upset Blakely if you don’t come, and I shall be so disappointed.”

“There, there,” said Dad, “you’re not going to disappoint Blakely’s mother by refusing.”

“No,” I replied. “If Mrs. Porter really wants us we shall be delighted to come.”

“If either of you fails me it will make me most unhappy” she said, and there was a note of sincerity, in her voice that was unmistakable.

“Thank you,” I murmured. “We shall not fail you.”


Chapter One  •  Chapter Two  •  Chapter Three  •  Chapter Four  •  Chapter Five  •  Chapter Six  •  Chapter Seven  •  Chapter Eight  •  Chapter Nine  •  Chapter Ten  •  Chapter Eleven  •  Chapter Twelve

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Cupids understudy,
By Edward Salisbury Field
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