Sunday, September 20, 2009

BORDERTOWNS: Chapter 9

Late in the afternoon Mary heard the kitchen door open, then close. Finally bustling noises came from the kitchen. Knowing her mother had returned home, she dipped a cloth into the pitcher of cold water on the washstand to wipe her face and eyes. Checking her face in the small mirror, she found she had removed all traces of her devastating experience at the hotel. She descended to the kitchen and began setting the table, pretending all the while not to notice her mother's silent appraisal.

Kirby arrived just as her father, Jerold and Mike returned home. Glancing out the rear window, she saw them accompany Kirby to the barn while he put up his horse.

She soon heard conversation, accompanied by laughter and the thumping of stomping boots as they opened the door. A cold blast of air rolled across the kitchen before Mike finally closed the door behind them.

"Pat, where have you and the boys been? You've been away for hours."

Her man looked sheepish and evasive. Jerold began to smile, waiting for his father's explanation.

"Well, we stopped at Cowan's, then at Charley Robinson's, and finally we ended at Jack McGlashans. Oh, he's a hard one to get away from!"

"It was well we left there, Mother," Mike asserted importantly, "Jack had a gallon of real Scottish whiskey. He wanted Pa to stay."

Pat's eyes crinkled, "Good stuff, too, love. I broke down and had a couple with him." He grinned foolishly and winked.

She knew it was more than a couple, but smiled good-naturedly at Kirby. "At least he had a good time this afternoon."

Mary forced herself into a semblance of humor. "Why Mother, you just got home yourself. Don't put upon Pa so."

"Ah, but I was helping Mrs. McKinnon with her sewing, not having a wee drop with the neighbors."

At that moment Mary saw Kirby glance at his Christmas gift; she had pinned it to her blouse. Approaching him, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and kissed his cheek. "Thank you for the lovely present!" Her voice was low and throaty, causing inquisitive looks from the others. To explain matters, she turned toward her family, putting her hand to the watch. "It's a Christmas gift from Kirby. Isn't it gorgeous?"

Kirby reached out to encircle her waist, pulling her close. "Well, that peck was better than nothing, but it wasn't much of a Christmas kiss." Smiling, he bent to fully kiss her lips. He detected only a passive response and felt disappointed.

Laughter came; Jerold clapped his hands in approval.

Mary felt confused by the kiss, but she forced a smile to cover her feelings.

Sounds came from the outer door and Robert entered through the kitchen. His appearance was jovial enough, but Mary knew his nonchalant pose was an effort to appear as if nothing had happened between them. Her embarrassment at the hotel had fueled feelings of anger, compounded by his failure to escort her home. He had disappointed her, and, perversely, she wanted to punish him. She decided she would focus her attention upon Kirby.

Robert's gaiety and conviviality fell short of bolstering his pride. The frosty reception he was getting from Mary was disheartening. He realized his shortcomings at the hotel and knew Mary was justified in her anger. The sudden appearance of the intruder at the door, and Mary's reaction, had frozen him into immobility. He knew his mistake, and determined to make it up to her if she would allow it. The indifferent manner in which she was treating him and the occasional caustic glances she gave him spoke only too eloquently. He knew their love affair was on the brink of destruction and that the fault was entirely his.

Robert noted Maggy's searching glance, indication she suspected something wrong between them. He attempted to allay her fears by being over-solicitous.

Mary, on the other hand, pointedly ignored him. She inquired of Kirby's doings at the fort, and made much of his cold ride from there. She almost relented when Robert announced, "I'm returning to Winnipeg tomorrow morning on the stage. There won't be much to do on the Selkirk-Emerson line next summer after we complete the final surveys, except perhaps supervise the construction. The contractor isn't required to turn the line over to us until the summer of '79, but the road will probably be in operation by next December. We suspect the contractors will run it for an additional profit -- that is, if they can make a deal with Jim Hill of the Saint Paul & Pacific.

Kirby held off mentioning the Emerson New Year dance, planning to ask Mary after Robert left the house. He determined to outstay Robert, hopeful that Mary would accept his invitation.

It was 9 p.m. when Robert expressed his regret at leaving, and Mary escorted him to the door. He felt embarrassed and frustrated. Their final kiss was cool, with no passion. Both were tense until Robert said softly, "I'll be back in April, but I'll write often." It was an uneasy truce, and Mary suddenly realized how quickly a wide gulf could present itself.

Robert felt an odd hollowness. He knew he was leaving a bad situation and had hoped for charity and consideration. He had received none.

Closing the door behind him, Mary stood pensively gazing at the panels. She wanted more from him, but hadn't asked, for fear of being refused. When she had mentioned marriage at the hotel room, he had not responded.

Finally Kirby drew her attention. He approached from behind as he drew on his buffalo coat. "Mary, will you honor me by going to the party at the Emerson Ball next Friday?"

She turned slowly to face him, her reverie broken. Her face gradually turned to a warm smile. "Oh, Yes!"

For seconds they stood face to face until he leaned to kiss her gently on the lips. Curiously, she felt herself returning the kiss, although it was not a kiss of passion; it was more a kiss of obligation. She puzzled over it later.

While walking back to the hotel, Robert found himself brooding about his reception at the McLaren home. Conflicting thoughts antagonized him to the point of hostility. Just who was Mary to treat him so shabbily? After all, he was an engineer and had proven himself this past summer. Even if they did marry, where would they live? Perhaps Winnipeg, for he would be working in the camps east of the Canadian Shield. He already knew his future work on the Emerson-Selkirk line would last only a couple of months or more, and then it would be back to the Rat Portage area, or possibly to the Western division. Word of mouth had indicated they were surveying several passes in the Rocky Mountains, seeking the most favorable rail route to the west coast.

Approaching the hotel, he noted that the small restaurant was still open, the windows so heavily frosted that it was impossible to see inside. Chilled to the core, he felt he would try for a cup of coffee. Finding the exterior door locked, he entered the lobby of the hotel to try the inner door. The wave of heat that greeted him as he entered the cafe seemed like a pleasant greeting.

Unbuttoning his coat, he tossed it across a chair and took the only cleared table. It was still damp, indicating it had just been wiped. The fragrant odor of fresh baking overpowered the usual greasy smell. He wondered who would be cooking this late on Christmas day.

Annie's face suddenly popped up in the kitchen-serving window. She seemed surprised to see him. "Thought I heard the door. Coffee, Robert?"

"Guess so, please."

He seemed so vague and subdued that she sensed something wrong. "Want sugar or cream?"

"No. Just black and hot will be fine."

Moments later she placed the cup and saucer before him, and then proceeded to sit on the opposite side of the table. She watched him intently as he lifted the cup to his lips and detected the biting-sweet odor of rum mixed in the coffee. He eyed here questioningly as he tasted the mixture.

"It's rum toddy. You looked so cold." She fluffed her hair nervously as she smiled. "After all, it is Christmas evening and still early. What's the matter? Have you and Mary had a fight?"

He studied the cup before answering, "Just a misunderstanding."

Annie looked at him accusingly, "Did she come to your room at the hotel this afternoon?"

He looked up in surprise. "How did you know?"

A grim look appeared on her face. "'Cause I was accused of it. Someone told Ma I visited your room. Mary and I look a lot alike and we're the same height. I figure it had to be her. I told Ma it wasn't me, but she doesn't believe me." She looked at him archly, "I've been accused before. I'm a grown woman now and can do as I please."

He interpreted her remark to mean that she had been with men before and that she was experienced. Yet he felt no desire to become involved with her. Seeking to defuse the trend of talk, he suggested, "It's a mighty small town. Everyone must know everything that goes on."

She arose to her feet and smiled roguishly at him, "Not everything. Heck, I feel like a toddy myself." She turned to the kitchen door, returning moments later with an enameled coffee pot, a cup, and a nearly full bottle of rum. Placing them in the center of the table, she turned to lock the door, and then pulled the inner curtain over the glass. Returning to the table, she poured a generous portion of rum into her cup, then reached over to pour an additional dollop into his. After adding coffee to her cup, she picked it up for a toast. "Merry Christmas Robert!"

Lazily, he raised his cup to touch hers. "Merry Christmas to you too, Annie!"

They sipped their drinks for long moments. Finally Annie casually arose to extinguish the hanging lamps, leaving one to barely light the room. After she returned to the table there was a total silence between them as they sipped their drinks. Now and then she surreptitiously studied his face, casually refilling their cups as they became low. He seemed unaware of her close scrutiny.

Since the very second Annie had seen him, she had dreamt of nothing else. She had memorized every line of his face that day. Then, when Mary brought him back to the restaurant that same afternoon, her thoughts were shameful. She didn't care. All's fair in love and war. She knew she would do anything to have this man for her own. All thoughts of friendship with Mary ceased to exist. This man was for her!

Each time she added rum and coffee to his cup, he knew he should refuse. Still, the silence and warm lethargy creeping over him left a sense of release and total relaxation.

"I suppose your misunderstanding was about something that happened this afternoon." Annie probed.

"She's mad at me." Robert answered disgustedly. "She pushed Ralston in my face tonight."

"What happened this afternoon?"

“Nothing! That's the trouble. Not a damned thing!"

Annie moved her chair beside him and put her hand on his shoulder. "Too bad. Perhaps she's too young for you."

He wished she would say no more. He wanted an inner quietness, neutrality that would negate his depression. Her hand brushed his cheek gently and she asked, "Is there anything I can do to smooth your troubles?"

He looked into her eyes and saw another Mary. Until now, he never realized how much Annie resembled his love. Why, the only real difference between them was that Mary had dark hair, while Annie's was a fiery red.

Emboldened by the drink and her closeness, he put his arm around her waist. His voice was becoming slurred. "You're a beautiful girl. How come you're not married?"

She cupped his face with both hands. "'Cause I've been waiting for the right man." Her voice had taken on a maudlin quality as she caressed his lips with her finger.

Finally he grasped her, pulling her onto his lap. She was surprised at her own boldness and slipped one hand into his shirt as she continued caressing his face. He responded by roughly kissing her neck and cheek, finally seeking her lips. She found herself responding as he insinuated his tongue between her lips.

A sudden sense of caution came to her; they must not be caught here; they must get out of the cafe.

"You're getting drunk. We have to get you to your room and into bed."

"Thassa good idea." He tried to stand, but she was still sitting on his lap. Giggling, she stood and helped him to his feet. Picking up the bottle of rum, she guided him to the door. Unlocking it, she removed the key, steering him into the hotel lobby -- then she relocked the door. Both lobby and hallway were vacant as they moved toward his room.

"Which room?" she asked.

"Room 10." He staggered and nearly fell, saved only by the proximity of the wall.

"Gotta light a lamp." Robert was fumbling at the dresser.

She grasped at his arm. "Don't need a light to sleep." She steered him to the bed, where he sat down heavily. Sitting beside him, she swayed against him. "Whassa matter, Robert? Don't like me?"

He put his arm around her. "Sure do." Then he puzzled, him mind wandering. "She's not too young, too afraid."

"Remember me? I'm Annie. Want me to leave?"

He wasn't sure. He had been celibate these past months in the bush. Perplexed, he hesitated, and then her hand slid to his inner thigh.

"Maybe I should leave you."

He reacted by grasping her shoulders, forcing her back on the bed.

"Wait, Robert! You're making me spill the bottle." She was attempting to keep the rum bottle upright. Roughly he felt for and took the bottle from her hand. Raising it to his lips, he drank the remainder. The bottle thumped on the floor as he clasped the warm hand that was insidiously exciting him. Was he afraid of what might happen? Swaying unsteadily, he realized, no, no, I don't want her to leave. He felt himself harden at the thought.

She coyly rolled from under his arm and slipped her dress over her head. Leaning forward, she began to unbutton his shirt. "We've got to get you to bed." Her full, rounded breasts touched his hands and Robert could stand no more. Tearing at the remaining buttons of his shirt, he cast it to the floor. Grasping her, he twisted, lowering her under him. Any sense of conscience or guilt he might have had disappeared magically in the next moments. Annie's abandonment was complete, almost wild. Barely raising herself, she lifted her chemise, and then tugged at his belt. His lips were seeking her breasts even as she thrust them to his face. Rising over her, he entered with a quick thrust. For moments he remained imbedded within her, and then his body began insistent movements that gained in vigor.

Her response was instant, gaining in intensity as her legs spread to engulf him fully. Her rhythm matched his perfectly as she clung to him, head thrust back, seeking more. Gasping with delight, she demanded more and more of him. She strained as the magnitude of their climax approached. Then came the tightness and the explosion.

Gently he held within her in their last diminishing movements that brought them to rest. Then her face relaxed and she opened her eyes to the dark room. "Robert! Oh, God! That was wonderful, almost like heaven! What a heavenly gift! Now we can get married and enjoy this forever."

Slowly he recoiled from her, his mind hazy. Marriage? Marriage? What in hell is she talking about? "Mary!"

"Don't talk now Robert. I've waited for a man like you for years. Aggressively rolling over him, she covered his body with hers. Her warmth began another surge of excitement and she accepted him into her, locking her legs under his.

Robert awoke in the morning to find he was alone. Slowly he pieced together the past night. Rising from the bed, he saw the empty bottle on the floor. His head throbbed and he was sick at heart. Had she been drunk, too? He couldn't remember who had finished the rum. How could he ever have been so stupid as to do such a thing, to even think Annie could replace Mary? Yet, enough of the encounter remained in his mind that he knew it would haunt him forever. The rumpled bed attested to the fact that he had been soddenly drunk, something he had never done before. My God! There was something about marriage, too!

Then he saw the blood stains on the sheets. Holy Hell! She must have been a virgin! And I thought she was experienced.

He picked up his scattered clothes, disgusted with himself. The thought ran through his mind -- she had been willing.

His musing turned to Mary, and he shook his head in disgust. Why am I thinking of Mary?” The stage leaves at nine this morning. Crimminy! How can I face Annie in the restaurant at breakfast?

He was saved that embarrassment when he found a strange girl waiting tables. When the cutter appeared to take the passengers to the stage at West Lynne, he found himself a nervous wreck.

Three days after Christmas Ian brought Susan home to meet his family. At first she seemed shy, but she soon warmed up to Mike, Jerold and Mary. They chatted together excitedly. Mary found an instant rapport with Susan. In their conversation she found they were nearly the same age and had similar interests.

Against her wishes, Maggy was taken with the girl. She could immediately see why Ian had fallen in love. The girl's high cheekbones were part of her Indian heritage, but her nose was straight and delicate, with none of the swollen, pudgy looks with which Maggy was familiar. Her racial features were exceptional, her manner calm; it was obvious she had pride. Maggy could see the girl would retain that youthful beauty even into her late years. The similarity between the girls as they sat side by side was almost unbelievable. Why, they could pass for sisters. Both were of the same height and coloring; both had long, shiny, coal black hair and high cheekbones. The striking difference was that while Mary's eyes were a deep blue, Susan's were a striking deep jet. The girl's manners and polished usage of the English language put Maggy to shame, since she knew that she herself had a strong brogue. She was relieved when Susan spoke freely of her father and mother. Golly, Maggy thought, this youngster is not a bit ashamed of her heritage – and why should she be?

Maggy felt a sudden indignation with herself. What did I expect? This is a lovely, sensible girl! Dispelling her prejudices, she took Susan into her confidence, mentioning that her birthing was due in January.

Susan's next words came as a surprise. "There are no doctors in Emerson or Pembina -- only occasional ones who come infrequently. But if you need someone experienced in accouchements, my Mother will help."

Maggy looked to Pat for help. The word accouchement was beyond her vocabulary.

Susan sensed her confusion and smiled. "I mean my mother often serves as a midwife."

Patrick began to laugh aloud, for he could see Maggy was suddenly self-conscious. "By gee, we'll just keep that in mind." Then he had second thoughts. "Is she experienced?"

"Oh, yes, she has delivered many children. Just ask anyone in Saint Vincent."

Ian brought up the subject of the Emerson dance. "How about the two of us going? We can double with Kirby and Mary."

Susan frowned. "Ian, I can't go! First of all I haven't a suitable dress; secondly, there will be folks there who look upon we part-bloods as trash. I won't put up with their stares and snobbery. It isn't fair." She turned to Mary. "So you're going to the ball with Lieutenant Ralston. I've never met him, but mother says he is a real gentleman; he's well liked at the fort." By way of explanation, she added, "Mother works at the laundry out there." She hesitated momentarily, "I haven't asked Ian as yet, but we've been invited to a house party in Pembina. It will give him an opportunity to meet some of my friends. It's to be held at the LaMoore home and several important people have been invited. Marguerite and I are to present a skit. We are dressing as the New Year and the Old Year."

"Which one are you to represent?" Patrick asked.

"Oh, I'm to be the New Year. Marguerite is three years my senior; she's already nineteen." She tossed her head back and smiled. "We settled that argument weeks ago." She turned to Ian and teased, "How about it? Will you accompany me, or must I find another escort?"

"I'm easily convinced. I wonder if Charley Brown will be there?"

"I doubt he will come, although I know he's been invited. He never takes Marguerite out publicly." A rueful expression appeared on her face.

The fact that Mary had attended the fort dance wrapped in her sheepskin coat bothered Maggy. She brought it to Patrick's attention at bedtime. "We can't have Mary going to the Emerson Ball dressed like a frump. She needs a wool overcoat, something dressy, and one that she can wear in town and to school. Patrick reached from the bed to turn out the lamp.

"Well, tell her to get one. She should be able to find one at Jasper's or Mrs. Trayner's. How much do you 'spose it will cost?"

"I'll pay for it from the egg and butter money -- shouldn't be more than five dollars or so."

When the matter was mentioned at the breakfast table, Mary seemed delighted. "I've been thinking of a new coat too, but I've enough money saved to buy one. Mrs. Trayner has some full-length kersey coats that are lovely. I really should buy from her, for she gave me that gorgeous dress."

"That's best, but Pat and I will pay for the coat. We've talked it over and you deserve it.” Maggy was emphatic.

When Kirby arrived to escort Mary to the New Year's Eve ball, she had never looked more exquisite. When she came down the stairs to the living room, Maggy noted Kirby's smile, his love for her daughter so obvious. She could almost see the bittersweet ache within him. Mary wore the same yellow silk gown that Mrs. Trayner had given her for the fort ball. With its slim, fluid lines, Kirby realized she would be a striking contrast to any other woman at the soiree. Her long black hair was braided and set in circular coils atop her head, almost like a crown. Small, shiny, glistening specks set it off. He was puzzled.

"What's that in your hair, Mary? It certainly adds a mysterious touch."

Mary and Maggy exchanged smiles, and then Mary explained. "It's bits of mica, Kirby. It's an old Irish secret – not so secret any more. The only trouble is, that it itches when it trickles down your neck."

"It looks like snowflakes. I like it!"

Getting her coat from the hallway, Mary handed it to Kirby, who spread it for her arms. Tucking her scarf around her neck, she turned to smile at him. "I'm ready, are you?"

"Now that they're gone, what are we doing tonight?" Patrick looked at Maggy fondly. "I'll bet Pa and Ma are celebrating in Orillia, for New Years and Twelfth Night are the feasting days of the Scots."

Maggy nodded, "I imagine your Father is playing his violin in one of the pubs and your Mother is watching. Personally, I'm nearly ready for bed. The babe is wearing me down." She smiled weakly, "It won't be many more days." She was glad for the dim lamplight and finally being alone with Patrick. It gave her a safe, warm feeling as she bent forward to kiss him. "I'll make us a cup of coffee, or would you rather have a hot toddy?"

He looked at her lovingly. "Coffee will be just fine."

The holiday season brought a plenitude of excitement.

After going to bed that evening, Maggy ran her hands over her distended belly, touching it lightly, fondling the thrusting occupant with loving hands. She had grown immense, and now the baby hung low, forcing her knees and toes outward. Maggy was almost positive she was carrying a girl, for the violent movements of elbows and feet of the three sons she had carried were absent. Instead, the rollings and movements in her womb were of a gentle nature. It was when she was lying in bed that her baby rolled in the liquid world, awakening Maggy, forcing her to seek a new position. She would gently support the subtly shifting form with both hands as she turned from one side to the other. Her most comforting thought was that it would be only another three weeks until the delivery. She had no fear of the birthing, having already carried four children to term. Her only apprehension was that it might be another boy. Can’t be she thought! She'll be a girl, and I'll call her Kate, or Kathleen, after Pat's Mother.

Upon their arrival at the dance, Kirby found that word of mouth had traveled to Emerson how this girl had captivated everyone at the Fort Pembina ball. He had difficulty booking four dances on her card for she was inundated with admirers, so many that she was embarrassed to the point of wanting to escape to the women's room. It was Kirby's resourcefulness at fending off the young men that gave her a sense of confidence and security. Even so, she wished her father and mother had come along for moral support.

Her sleek dress, lacking a bustle, evoked expressions of envy from many of the younger participants. Even Mrs. Fairbanks, the wife of one of the founders of the town, made a point of complimenting her.

"You are exquisite, Mary!" Taking Mary's hand, she turned toward her husband. "Isn't she, William?"

"A bonny lass indeed!" He exclaimed. "Enough so to set the lads a-fighting!" He smiled at Mary, as he turned to Kirby. "Watch her, lad. The competition is mighty fierce."

Mrs. Fairbanks added, "We must not monopolize you any longer. I can see the Lieutenant is anxious to get you into line for the grand march. We'll miss you when your family moves over to Minnesota, but we'll see you often; it's only a short way off."

From time to time during the schottisches, polkas, quadrilles, waltzes and square dances, Mary noticed Annie Gillis in the crowd and attempted to gain her attention. Annie turned away each time they made eye contact, seemingly occupied. At the time Mary didn't think it strange, for everyone was charged with excitement.

She sensed what was in Kirby's mind, but gave him no chance to bring it up. While in the sleigh on their way to the party, he attempted a serious conversation, but she deftly fended off his approach with light chitchat. She felt guilty for not loving him; he was a girl's ideal dream. He was solid and dependable, good-looking, extremely so. His features and actions made her wonder if she wasn't out of her mind for not marrying this man who wanted her so. He had a magnetism that attracted her, yet, she puzzled why she was still thinking of Robert, even while Kirby held her in his arms. Now that Robert was gone, perhaps for months, she wanted nothing to happen that would change their relationship.

Mary felt relieved to be so much sought after that Kirby was unable to monopolize her time, even between dances. When he did manage dances with her, Kirby knew he held the most beautiful girl at the ball in his arms. His pride was discernible to all.

When midnight came, the orchestra broke into 'Auld Lang Syne.' At the first sounds of it, Kirby whirled her to the center of the dance floor and stopped suddenly. He pointed upward. Lifting her eyes, she saw the hanging sprig of mistletoe. Kirby's strong hands grasped her waist, drawing her tightly to him. Before she could lower her head, his lips quickly closed on hers, not lightly as she expected, but firmly, with passion. At the touch of his lips and the pressure of his hands, all brotherly thoughts she had of him faded into obscurity. She suddenly felt lonely and insecure. Every pore of her body came alive and she found herself answering his lips with an unbidden passion. Her arms tightened around his neck and her fingers entwined in his hair, forcing his lips closer and tighter. She lost track of time until she felt him release her.

He seemed astounded. "My God, Mary! Did you really mean it?"

Still aroused by his kiss, but mortified by her reaction, she shrank back. Glancing around, she could see no one who realized that their long kiss was anything but perfunctory; everyone around them was singing. A slow smile came. "Oh, Kirby, it was the mistletoe and the strong punch."

On the ride home Mary's mind seemed in a blur; she was dimly aware of anything but her fervent response to Kirby's kiss. Am I just lonesome for Robert, or is it my body responding to Kirby? After all, he has kissed me before and I never felt such sudden fire. Is this how it feels to be a woman? What brought about that tremulous, turbulent force?

Lying in bed, she found herself unable to sleep. Kirby was on her mind. Other then having a slight Eastern accent, he had adapted to being a mid-westerner to perfection. Perhaps she had missed something in her first assessment of him. There was a mystery about him that was beginning to intrigue her. He had never once mentioned his family or past. But then, she had never had the opportunity to share confidences with him. A new feeling swept over her and she realized that perhaps Robert wasn't the only man in the world for her. She hugged her pillow when she remembered the feeling of Kirby's kiss under the mistletoe.

During the following days she found little time to dwell upon her disturbing encounter with Kirby. Now that the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the New Year was over, she was to teach school again. She must plan her days, making schedules based on each student's grade, and judging how much each child could absorb. She knew she had given Kirby an indication that he meant more to her than just a friend, yet she also knew he would never force attentions upon her. She felt guilty in giving him false hope. Even now she was looking forward to a letter from Robert. Yet, strangely, she found herself anticipating Kirby's visits. She knew her father and mother considered him favorably.

Maggy was not blind to the change in Mary. When Kirby's name came up, as it often did, her daughter raised her eyes in interest. She made sure that Kirby had complete freedom to visit Mary, and never interfered when they were together. She would have had to be blind not to see that Kirby was head over heels in love with Mary, and she admired his tact when dealing with her reticent daughter.