One Saturday afternoon in the beginning of April, Ellery Boyden showed his brother, James, who was visiting from Edgetown, Cat’s Ladder. The house was charming and welcoming, with a nice little garden; and there was a lovely view of the city spread out far below. A smile of pleasure spread across Ellery’s handsome face as he drank in the sight of Cat’s Ladder. He looked to his brother for his opinion.
“So this is your dream house,” James murmured approvingly.
“Susan loves it,” Ellery said, “It belongs to her. I can see her in it.”
Sympathy filled James’s face. “The annual day is drawing near. Do you think she will accept you this time?”
Ellery sighed tiredly. “Perhaps being proposed to for the past nine years on her birthday has worn her down. But I have doubts. And if she does accept me, I know it will not be out of love. She has made it clear she will forever stay true to the memory of Vernon Darby. I am nothing but a good old pal to her.” Pals they had been for many years – through high school and now as fellow teachers at Clement College. He turned to his brother. “I fear I’m running out of time. Susan may resist my proposals for the rest of her life. I’m fighting a losing battle.”
James’s face became thoughtful. “You truly care for her.”
“I’ve loved her for so very long. I cannot help but cling to a glimmer of hope that one day she will love me,” Ellery confessed.
“Maybe….” An idea suddenly started forming in James’s mind. “Maybe if you come up with something else – a new strategy – you will win her!”
“How do you mean?” demanded Ellery, startled.
“Listen. You have proposed once every year for the past nine to Susan without success. Perhaps you shouldn’t propose to her on her birthday this time.” He waved off Ellery’s attempts to protest and went on. “You need to think of a way for her to see that she can love you and would want to be your wife.”
Ellery’s confused frown slowly turned to a look of dawning comprehension. “James, your advice may be correct. My past attempts of wooing Susan have failed. It is time I try getting her another way. But how?”
Both brothers fell silent thinking hard, expressions of deep concentration on their faces.
“I could buy Cat’s Ladder…!” Ellery said.
“You could pretend you are to be married…!” exclaimed James at the same time.
The two spent the rest of the day slowly developing a plan. And Ellery hoped desperately he would find success in this final chance to win Susan’s heart.