“A Deal In Hearts”

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This story was first published in “The People’s Friend” in August 1913.

There was no author attributed to it at the time, which either means their identity would have been obvious to the readers, or the story may even have been a member of staff writing a story to fill a space!

We hope you enjoy!

“There’s your month’s salary, my boy, and you can go off for your holiday,” said Mr Benjamin Parker, stockbroker, to his nephew.

“And I don’t mind saying I’ve been pleased with you lately. Stick to it, and there’s no knowing but I might take you into partnership someday.”

Harry Graham flushed with pleasure.

“That’s awfully good of you, uncle!”

“Oh, I don’t make any promise — that’s conditional upon your working hard and behaving yourself! But I mean to take things easier myself soon, and may have other matters — er — home ties to occupy my attention.

“In fact, Harry, I’m thinking of getting married!”

“Married, uncle? My congratulations! But I’ve heard nothing of this!”

“No, nor nobody else — though it’s practically settled.” Mr Parker smoothed down his well-filled waistcoat and smiled complacently.

“That is, I’ve fixed upon the lady and secured her — her relative’s approval of the match. The lady of my choice is not wealthy, but she’s handsome, young—”

“Young?” exclaimed Harry Graham, unguardedly.

“Yes, why not?” Mr Parker’s complacency was slightly disturbed, “I’m not so very old myself, though I’m — er — stout, and getting bald.

“I’m in the prime of life yet! But remember, this is on the strict q.t. until our engagement is announced.

“Well, good-bye, my boy — and, by the way, I’m taking a few days off at the coast myself. There’s nothing doing at present, and Saunders can take charge meantime. Ta-ta!”

Harry Graham withdrew, eager to catch the one o’clock from Central; and it was only as he sped down Renfield Street, Glasgow, bag in hand, that he recollected neither had thought of asking where the other meant to spend his holiday.


As Harry Graham strode down Wemyss Bay pier to the Rothesay boat his eye was caught by a trim and dainty figure, clad in navy-blue, with a coquettish little had pinned upon golden hair, which gleamed in the glorious sunshine.

Beneath one arm was tucked a parasol, and under the other she carried an enormously fat long-bodied and short-legged poodle, with a ridiculous blue ribbon tied about its neck.

The animals was struggling and squirming, in evident desire to escape, calling forth rebuke and tiny admonitory slaps from its bearer.

“Pampered brute, I expect!” reflected Harry. “Wonder why women will spoil their pets and decorate them in that absurd manner? ‘Beauty and the Beast’, I fancy — if she’s as charming as she looks from behind!”

And she was.

As the boat swung out across the firth and Harry Graham strolled around the deck, he espied the golden-haired girl on a sheltered seat. And his first interested glance at the pretty face, lit with long-lashed blue eyes, resolved all doubts as to her attractiveness.

The fat, refractory poodle had been deposited by her side, and the girl had opened out her “People’s Friend”, and was already absorbed in its contents.

Left thus unguarded, the animal seized its chance to flop down from the seat and waddle off across the deck on its own pursuits. And Harry Graham, leaning over a rail near was startled by an ejaculations of annoyance and distress from the golden-haired girl as she sprang up in dismay.

For Mr Poodle had now wandered up on to the paddle-box, and was blinking down at the creaming surf, rolling about unsteadily, and with every probability of being pitched into the water.

“Oh!” gasped the girl, ” he’ll be drowned! Oh, what shall I do?”

Harry Graham sprang promptly to the rescue. In a moment he was on the paddle-box, grasping at the adventurous poodle. But, drawn back from danger, the animal wriggled itself free, leapt down, and darted off along the crowded deck.

“I’ll catch him for you, miss, don’t worry!” exclaimed Harry, his spirit roused, and set off in swift pursuit.

But the wonderful agility of that short-limbed quadruped proved more than he had bargained for. Dodging and twisting between the feet of the amused onlookers, the poodle fled to the stern, and from thence to the bow, escaping Harry’s repeated and frantic clutches, as if it quite enjoyed the sport, and was resolved, in sheer perversity, to balk the young man’s efforts.

At last, however, it unwarily scampered below and was cornered in the saloon.

Resisting the temptation to vent his exasperation upon the poodle’s over-fed carcass, Harry Graham sought the deck and restored his captive to the eager arms of the girl.

“Oh, naughty Peter!” she exclaimed, and looked up, blushing delightfully into the young man’s eyes. “It was awfully good of you, I’m sure, to take such trouble.”

“It was nothing, I assure you,” said Harry, gallantly.

“You see, he’s not my dog — he belongs to my aunt; I’m only following her down to Rothesay with him. And aunt would have been frantic if anything had happened to Peter.”

She thanked the young man again, and Harry reluctantly raised his hat and moved away, blessing Peter for affording excuse of speech with such a divinity.

And as he watched her leave the steamer at Rothesay, with the poodle in firm custody, he sighed sentimentally.

“That’s the sort of girl I should like to marry!” he murmured, as he made his way from the pier. “I wonder if I shall see her again?”

And he did. Strolling towards Craigmore on the very next afternoon, Harry Graham overtook the golden-haired girl of his dreams, clad in white now, and again accompanied by the poodle.

Peter was on a leash, but evidently did not relish the restraint, and had so contrived to twist the leather about his guardian’s slim ankles that Harry felt justified in advancing to her assistance.

“Still in trouble with Peter, I see!” he said, as the girl smilingly recognised him, and he stooped to extricate the beast.

“Yes!” she answered. “My aunt’s resting this afternoon, and asked me to take Peter out for a walk — and he simply won’t be led! Why, he’s quite good with you!” — for Harry Graham had retained the leash, and Peter was trotting along docilely now.

“Then, may I lead him along a little way with you?” ventured Harry eagerly, and though the girl hesitated for a moment, with beleaguered colour, she assented.

Secretly overjoyed, Harry Graham fell into step beside her, determined to make full use of this golden opportunity. And so well did he succeed, and so absorbing grew their conversation, that his companion only realised with a start how far they had walked, and declared that she must return to her aunt at once.

Peter continued on his best behaviour, and the way back seemed all too short to his guardians, forgetful of all but themselves, and growing amazingly intimate and confidential.

“Though we’re staying at the Hydro, we’re not really well off,” the girl confessed. “Indeed we’re so far from it, that aunt is constantly impressing upon me that I must make a wealthy match, marry — er — somebody — for his money!”

Her pretty cheeks were pink, and her voice sounded rebellious.

“Horrid, isn’t it?”

“It is,” agreed Harry Graham warmly. “But — you won’t, will you?”

“Not if I can help it! He’s very rich, and he’s got round my aunt — but he’s fat, and quite elderly, and I couldn’t bear him as a husband! I don’t want to marry at all!”

“Don’t you?” Harry interposed quickly. “Never?”

Her eyes wavered before his ardent gaze, and were cast down demurely.

“Well — not him, at anyrate. But he won’t leave me alone, and now he’s at the Hydro, too — I quite believe aunt invited him to follow us here that he might worry me into consent!”

“It’s a shame!” cried Harry, hotly indignant. “Don’t you allow yourself to be bullied! And if this old humbug persists, I’d advise you to lead him such a dance that he’ll throw up the sponge in despair!”

The girl laughed out merrily.

“A very good idea!” she began, but stopped with a gasp. “Oh! Here’s aunt herself coming, and Mr Parker with her! I’ll have to introduce you and I don’t even know your name!”

Harry Graham had neither time nor presence of mind to inform her. For they were already face to face with the approaching couple, and in a whirl of confusion he recognised his uncle escorting a middle-aged lady as stout and rubicund as himself.

“You, Harry? And with Miss Darlow?” cried Mr Benjamin Parker, while his companion eyed her niece suspiciously.

“Mollie! Where have you been so long? And who is this — with my darling Peter?”

“He’s my nephew, Harry Graham!” exclaimed Mr Parker. “But I wasn’t aware you knew Miss Darlow, Harry!”

“O-oh, yes!” stammered the young man, hastily relinquishing Peter’s leash. “Fancy you being in Rothesay too, uncle!”

“I’m at the Hydro, my boy — where are you staying?” returned the stockbroker; and Harry mumbled a reply, lifted his hat, and escaped hurriedly — glad to get away and be alone to face the awful truth.

His Uncle Benjamin was the rich, fat, unwelcome suitor he had been hearing of, and Mollie Darlow was the girl Mr Parker had confidently settled upon as his future wife!

Harry groaned aloud as he strode blindly along the Esplanade. He himself was already desperately in love with Mollie Darlow. But to act as rival Uncle Benjamin was to ruin his prospects and forfeit all chance of the promised partnership.

Yet to abandon all thoughts of the golden-haired girl now was impossible — and, after all, Molly had declared she would never marry Mr Parker.

But, at any rate, cost what it might, he must play the game meantime and keep out of their way.


“Mr Parker, I want you to take me rowing!” announced Molly.

Mr Benjamin Parker, comfortably ensconsed in a verandah chair, almost dropped his cigar in his dismay.

“Rowing?” he ejaculated. “But I can’t row — and it’s too warm!”

“Nonsense! You can learn, and the exercise will do you good. Come along — I’m going for my hat!”

Mr Parker roused himself stiffly, with a discontented sigh.

“Confound it!” he grumbled, under his breath. “Two days ago she trailed me to the top of Barone Hill, and I haven’t got over it yet! Yesterday she insisted on my golfing with her — I broke two borrowed clubs, spoiled yards of turf, and my arms feel as if they’d been disjointed. And now — rowing in this heat!”

He glanced disconsolately at Mollie’s aunt dozing placidly near with Peter on her lap, and reluctantly moved off to join his fair tormentor.

Harry Graham, flitting about the bay in a spanking little hired lug-sail, flung over the helm, and steered to cross the surge from an incoming steamer and enjoy the perilous delights of the heave.

But just then his attention was attracted by a cry from a rowing boat rear. It’s occupants had lost an oar, which was being frantically fished for with the other by a stout and heated gentleman, while the girl in the boat urged him wildly to haste, for their boat was broadside on to the approaching surge.

Recognising the pair, Harry Graham shifted his helm again, and bore down to the rescue.

And not a moment too soon. The surge caught the rowing board on the other side from which Mr Parker leaned, tilted it over, and threw him into the water. But as Harry swept past, with a might effort he caught Mollie Darlow round the waist and hauled her, safe and dry, into his craft.

Then, tacking swiftly and skilfully, he was able to grasp Mr Parker’s collar and drag him, spluttering and gasping, aboard also.

The rescued man sat, the picture of disgust and misery, and very silent, as Harry steered for the landing-stage. When it was reached Mr Parker stood up, the water still streaming from him, and grimly addressed his nephew.

“Harry,” he said, “I’ll come along tonight and thank you properly. Meanwhile, I’ll take a cab back to the Hydro!”

And with only a stiff bow to Mollie Darlow, he jumped off; and the girl’s pretty face crimsoned and twitched with uncontrollable mirth as she gazed after him.

“You mustn’t blame me, Mr Graham!” she choked out. “He’s your uncle, I know — but, after all, it’s your fault. I’m — I’m leading him the dance that you advised!”

“Harry,” said Mr Parker that evening, having duly expressed gratitude for his rescue. “I’m in a deuce of a fix!”

“Indeed, uncle?” said his nephew. “Can I be of any service?”

“I’m afraid not.” Mr Parker shook his head dolefully. “You see, it’s a delicate matter — a question of honour. As no doubt you’ve guessed, Miss Darlow is the young lady I’d fixed upon as my future wife — but I’m afraid I’ve made a mistake!”

“Why, uncle!” cried Harry Graham. “Isn’t she all that any man could desire?”

“She’s more, my boy! In fact, she’s altogether too much for me! I can’t be so young as I fancied, after all. Mollie’s too lively, too strenuous, too full of energy and high spirits — I’m for a quiet, peaceful life, not marriage with a — a cyclone!”

“Oh, uncle!”

“Now, there’s her aunt, a placid, restful woman, just my style! If I hadn’t been a fool I’d have proposed to her — but now I’ve gone and asked her consent to a match with her niece! I’m in an awful hole and can’t see how to get out of it!”

Harry Graham drew a quick breath, and leaned forward to the dejected stockbroker.

“Uncle,” he said persuasively, “I-I think I can suggest a way out. Suppose I marry Miss Darlow instead of you?”


“Yes. The truth is I’m in love with Mollie myself, but I couldn’t be your rival. If I win and marry her now, there’ll be no harm done — she’ll still be in the family, so to speak!

“Then you could marry her aunt; and — and if you’d give me that partnership, we’d all be happy and jolly together!”

Mr Benjamin Parker rose excitedly to his feet and wrung his nephews hands.

“Splendid!” he cried. “My honour saved — and my mind relieved! Come along to the Hydro, my boy, and begin your courtship at once. I only hope they’ll both behave like sensible women, and accept the change of partners!”

And before the holiday at Rothesay was over — they had.

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Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.