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Stories of Mystery edited by Rossiter Johnson
THE GHOST by WILLIAM D. O'CONNOR.
"Matter? Oh! everything's the matter, little Netty. The world goes round too fast. My boots pinch. Somebody stole my umbrella last year. And I've got a headache." He concluded this fanciful abstract of his grievances by putting his arms around her, and kissing her again. Then he sat down in the easy-chair, and took her fondly on his knee.
"Pa's got a headache! It is t-o-o bad, so it is," she continued in the same soothing, winning way, caressing his brow with her tiny hands. "It's a horrid shame, so it is! P-o-o-r pa. Where does it ache, papa-sy, dear? In the forehead? Cerebrum or cerebellum, papa-sy? Occiput or sinciput, deary?"
"Bah! you little quiz," he replied, laughing and pinching her cheek, "none of your nonsense! And what are you dressed up in this way for, to-night? Silks, and laces, and essences, and what not! Where are you going, fairy?"
"Going out with mother for the evening, Dr. Renton," she replied briskly; "Mrs. Larrabee's party, papa-sy. Christmas eve, you know. And what are you going to give me for a present, to-morrow, pa-sy?"
"To-morrow will tell, little Netty."
"Good! And what are you going to give me, so that I can make _my_ presents, Beary?"
"Ugh!" But he growled it in fun, and had a pocket-book out from his breast-pocket directly after. Fives--tens--twenties--fifties--all crisp, and nice, and new bank-notes.
"Will that be enough, Netty?" He held up a twenty. The smiling face nodded assent, and the bright eyes twinkled.
"No, it won't. But _that_ will," he continued, giving her a fifty.
"Fifty dollars, Globe Bank, Boston!" exclaimed Netty, making great eyes at him. "But we must take all we can get, pa-sy; mustn't we? It's too much, though. Thank you all the same, pa-sy, nevertheless." And she kissed him, and put the bill in a little bit of a portemonnaie with a gay laugh.
"Well done, I declare!" he said, smilingly. "But you're going to the party?"
"Pretty soon, pa."
He made no answer; but sat smiling at her. The phantom watched them, silently.
"What made pa so cross and grim, to-night? Tell Netty--do," she pleaded.
"Oh! because;--everything went wrong with me, to-day. There." And he looked as sulky, at that moment, as he ever did in his life.
"No, no, pa-sy; that won't do. I want the particulars," continued Netty, shaking her head, smilingly.
"Particulars! Well, then, Miss Nathalie Renton," he began, with mock gravity, "your professional father is losing some of his oldest patients. Everybody is in ruinous good health; and the grass is growing in the graveyards."
"In the winter time, papa?--smart grass!"
"Not that I want practice," he went on, getting into soliloquy; "or patients, either. A rich man who took to the profession simply for the love of it, can't complain on that score. But to have an interloping she-doctor take a family I've attended ten years, out of my hands, and to hear the hodge-podge gabble about physiological laws, and woman's rights, and no taxation without representation, they learn from her,--well, it's too bad!"
"Is that all, pa-sy? Seems to me _I_'d like to vote, too," was Netty's piquant rejoinder.
"Hoh! I'll warrant," growled her father. "Hope you'll vote the Whig ticket, Netty, when you get your rights."
"Will the Union be dissolved, then, pa-sy,--when the Whigs are beaten?"
"Bah! you little plague," he growled, with a laugh. "But, then, you women don't know anything about politics. So, there. As I was saying, everything went wrong with me to-day. I've been speculating in railroad stock, and singed my fingers. Then, old Tom Hollis outbid me to-day, at Leonard's, on a rare medical work I had set my eyes upon having. Confound him! Then, again, two of my houses are tenantless, and there are folks in two others that won't pay their rent, and I can't get them out. Out they'll go, though, or I'll know why. And, to crown all--um-m. And I wish the Devil had him! as he will."