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Chapter 9
Frances stood astounded at the sudden anger in his face as he turned on his heel and strode away, leaving her in the cold, dusky room alone.

When she went across the hall and into "the chamber" he was gone by the other way; Mrs. Randall and her father were deep in a discussion of his affairs, farm and household. Frances was left to her own reflections; they held a vague feeling of having stumbled somewhere and failed to measure to a greatness. She was quiet for the rest of their visit, beyond the custom of that cheerful young woman. As there was more time for thought she became conscience-stricken; she felt she knew where she had offended, she had derided the home of which young Montague was so proud and that while a guest within it; she strove to make her peace, but he gave her no chance, until[Pg 125] they waited on the steps in the moonlight for the trap.

Mrs. Randall was down on the walk, the professor was looking anxiously to Starlight's harness; Frances had lingered purposely.

The road home was rough, ruts and steep hills darkened by thick woods. Mr. Holloway was looking carefully to the fastenings of Starlight's harness, unwilling to trust too much to the hands of the boy who had brought him to the door. Mrs. Randall waited near him, Frances lingered purposely on the broad high steps of the porch.

The moonlight flooded the world; its white light gleamed on the drive about the circle where the tangled shrubbery cast weird shadowings; the dusk under the trees on the further lawn lay heavy and black; far-off loomed the oaks above the graves of those who had lived and died in the old house on whose steps they stood. The air of the autumn night was chill and still, save for the restless movements of Starlight. With the shadowed, unreal face of the night a feeling of awe touched Frances. She made[Pg 126] a step nearer to the young man standing by her, his tall figure towering above her, his fair face shadowed by his big soft hat.

"We have had a lovely visit," she said softly.

"I am glad."

"And it's such a beautiful old place—beautiful; you must trim up your roses and—"

"I know nothing of flowers," coldly.

"But I do; I will show you when we come again."

There was no answer, and the young woman began to realize this was not a case for cajolery, but for open candid speech.

"You must think me very, very—" she could not bring herself to say "flippant" no matter what self-accusation said. "You know I was only jesting, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our visit. I want to come again if you wish us," plainly throwing herself on his mercy and bidding for kind speech.

"If I wish you—" began the young man hurriedly.

[Pg 127]

"We will come and show you about the flowers in the spring," briskly.

"The spring!"

"Frances," called her father.

"You are not angry?" she questioned quickly and softly, as they went down the steps.

"No!" was all he said, yet Frances was quite satisfied with his friendliness as he put them in the trap and tucked the robes about them.

"Mind the old hill," he cautioned her father; "there's a new road through the wood to the left now—"

"I remember."

"And a tree is cut down across the old way; but it's dark in there and you might get into it."

"No danger!" assured the professor; "but Edward," as if in sudden remembrance, "there's another danger in the road to town—the freshet."


"Has no one cautioned you? The streams flood the country after a heavy rain. The[Pg 128] one below the big hill is especially dangerous. Don't forget it when the heavy rains set in, and don't be venturesome; there have been some dreadful accidents there."

"I had not heard," said Edward carelessly.

"Then you had better heed," declared the professor sententiously, as he stepped into the vehicle, "and when the water is out over the bridge, stay on the side you happen to be caught on."

"I'll remember, thank you."

"All right! Good night! When are you coming in?"

"Not for a day or two," owned the young man reluctantly, as he stood, his hand still on the wheel; "there's the ploughing for spring wheat."

"It's time that was done!"

"But I have had so much else."

"Yes, yes." Starlight was twisting restlessly across the drive from one side to the other. "Good night, we've enjoyed it immensely."

"Good night!" called the women, and they left him there in the circling drive, the great[Pg 129] empty house looming behind him, a light in one window—the window of his own room. He went up the wide, high steps slowly. The evening had not been all he dreamed it might be, nor had it been a failure; and they were coming again. She had said she wished it.

He threw himself into the chair the professor had lounged in and began to live over again the hours of her visit, leaving out the bitter and hugging to his memory the sweet. He recalled her supple figure, her gay words as they wandered about the old place; he remembered their tour of the house and reddened at the thought of his rudeness. It was only a careless speech, she could not have known how it jarred upon other deeper feelings. He recalled with a wave of tenderness, the subdued young woman of the evening, and smiled at the memory; it was a mood he had never seen before, and it won upon his heart; and dwelling on the thought of it, he began once more to dream what the old house would be were it full of life, to plan what could be done here and there,[Pg 130] without and within, for cheer and comfort and beautiful living.

It would be several days he had said, before he could come to town again; it was ten. The Sabbath had been promised to a neighbor back in the country. The ploughing took longer than he thought. A field which had been allowed to run to waste must be burned over; and while the weather held fair and windless, the undergrowth encroaching from the woodland must be cut and burned. The fodder was not yet stacked, and all the work was pressing upon him. Good hard work in the clear, pure air, sound sleep, and contented thoughts made the days speed by.

When the Sabbath, his holiday, came again, he was abroad in the red frosty dawn, hurrying from stable to breakfast and away. When he rode into town he still had time to go up to the University before the service. He left his horse at the stable and hastened up Main street. The town was yet quiet. On the bridge above the railroad he paused a second looking down at the station below.[Pg 131] A train was pulling out. The shriek of the locomotive echoed shrilly among the hills, the smoke hung in billowy clouds close about the smoke-stack, and the tops of the coaches gliding away were white and glistering with frost. Edward had a comfortable feeling of home and cheer as, standing there, he looked down and beyond on spires and housetops and chimney-tops smoke-wreathed; but as he turned to hasten on, he saw, coming slowly along the platform, the professor. Edward hurried back to the flight of steps sunk in the hillside.

The very look of Mr. Holloway gave him a feeling of dismay. His coat collar was turned high about his face, and the pallor of his clear white skin, bitten into purple and red by the chill of the morning, showed clearly framed against it and by his thick black hair streaked with gray. His dark eyes looked solemnly thoughtful. He had an air altogether desolate and distraught. Edward called to him. He started, looked up, and brightened wonderfully.

"Ah! I am glad to see you." He had[Pg 132] reached the head of the stairway. "Frances," he added dolefully, "has gone away; I have just been to see her off."

Fool! While he had been standing there happy with dreaming of seeing her, she had been slipping away from him in the glistening coaches he had watched so idly.

He had not a word to say.

"Don't know what possessed her. It was a sudden fancy. Last night she took it into her head all at once. It isn't like Frances to do such things! She was going this morning, she said, and she had us up by daybreak; she was bent on making this early train."

"Where has she gone?" asked Edward, dully.

"Keswick! Her cousin, you know; she can telephone to the store near his farm and have them send out for her. But," he repeated, "I can't think what possessed her."

Had the professor been able to think, to know what sent his daughter running away from him, his wrath had been hard for some one that day.

The day before had been the match game.[Pg 133] Frances, though some vague, half-delicious instinct of fear and distrust had made her keep from the old friendly footing with Lawson, had grown wildly enthusiastic at each day's practice. At three o'clock of that afternoon she had been driving out towards the ground. An orange and blue rosette was pinned in the breast of her smart brown jacket, and an orange and blue pennant lay at her feet in the trap.

Carriage after carriage was winding up the road already in the enclosure. The wind was soft, the sunshine of Indian Summer brooding over the land; the blue haze of the mountains, intensified, hung about their slopes and peaks. Here and there the late leaves still clung, blackberry and sumach flaunted their scarlet in the fence corners, and on the bit of rock-fence bordering a field the poison oak and ivy flecked the dull hue with red and bronze. Far below, where the land dipped to the valley, the country shimmered in the sunlight.

Inside the grounds, Frances pulled up close beside the ropes. The grand stand[Pg 134] had scarce an occupant, but all the enclosure outside the ropes about the arena was filled with carriages, the young women calling from one to the other. The University men were crowded close on the other sides of the ropes, calling, hurrahing, yelling, or, more sociably inclined, lounging around the barriers and talking to the young women in the carriages.

One of them came up to Frances and imperturbably possessed himself of the seat by her side. It was far more fun in his code, to be sitting by a pretty young woman, than to be crowded with the fellows over there. They were envying him he knew, and he leaned back in enjoyment of his unlooked-for position.

Frances was giving him scant heed.

The reins were thrown across the dash-board, trusting Starlight's scant sagacity. In the whip-stand was thrust the stick of her pennant. It fluttered in the soft air, the first unfurled, and the boys beyond the barriers cheered it lustily. It was not destined to stay there. Before the game was half over,[Pg 135] Frances, standing on her feet, was waving it wildly above her head.

The home team was playing magnificently. The visiting eleven had beaten them the year before: they were not doing so now. The field was wild. Call after call, college yell, keen irony, a cheer for this play, a jeer for that, urged on the University men. The visitors held stolidly to their work. The boys beyond the barriers were doing everything to rattle them, but the game went close. The home team made one score, the visitors had nothing, the field went wild with cheering; the visitors scored, there was silence. Once more the home team made a point; the umpire snapped his watch, called time; there was a pandemonium of yells.

Frances, standing, the pennant in her hand, watched the team jump the ropes, spent, worn, but happy with victory. Lawson was still in the arena, easing the defeat of the visitors by skilful flattery of their play, when she drove out. She watched the men, as she drove down the road, running along the field path through the sere grasses,[Pg 136] their arms close to their sides, their sweaters up to their chins, the hair on their foreheads heavy with sweat. Lawson overtook them just where the path came out into the road. He was the last. His play had gone far to winning the day. Frances with quick fingers unfastened the rosette on her breast and flung it to him as she went spinning by.

Lawson crushed it in his hand and ran on; his bath, his clothes, they cost him short time. He slipped from his room, down the quadrangle before the crowd was well back.

As it chanced, Frances, when he rang the bell of the professor's house, was half-way up the stair. An open door and drawn portière showed an empty room beyond, the firelight shining in the library darkened by the coming twilight. The hall was dusky. Frances' supple figure leaned over the banister.

"Bravo!" she called gayly down to him.

Susan banged the door as she went through. She was not yet won to "fur-awayers."

"It was splendid, splendid!" cried Frances, coming slowly down, her hand slipping along the banister.

[Pg 137]

He stood at the foot, silent, looking up at her, his hair damp and tossed into heavy locks on his forehead, his face ruddy with work and haste—strong, alert, nerved to forgetfulness of everything save one feeling. His eyes, masterful, drew her to him, slowly, steadfastly, step by step; on the last stair she paused, her hand trembling about the carving on the newel post, she could not look in his eyes, she saw instead her rosette in his button-hole.

For him, the cap he held in his hand fluttered to his feet; he held out both hands.

"Frances!" he whispered.

His eyes met hers. Her breast rose in a long breath. The dusky hall, his face shining there, the world empty save for themselves; it was the setting of fate. In one whirling thought the pages of all the old romances she had dreamed over held and impelled her, she was one of them. She was throbbing, sentient with the spirit they rhymed. It was this that beat to suffocation in heart and pulse, and held her helpless. She leaned heavily against the banister. And[Pg 138] just below, his face on a level with hers, his eyes, with neither laughter nor triumph, but passionate pleading, searching her face, he stood. He put his arms about her gently, closed them around her passionately, and kissed her,—a joy he had not dreamed he or any man could feel, surging through him; and then she had wrenched herself from him and sped upward.


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