THE THIRD VIOLET
Author of The Red Badge of Courage, The Little Regiment, and Maggie
New York D. Appleton and Company 1897
Copyright, 1897, by D. Appleton and Company. Copyright, 1896, by Stephen Crane.
THE THIRD VIOLET.
The engine bellowed its way up the slanting, winding valley. Grey crags, and trees with roots fastened cleverly to the steeps looked down at the struggles of the black monster.
When the train finally released its passengers they burst forth with the enthusiasm of escaping convicts. A great bustle ensued on the platform of the little mountain station. The idlers and philosophers from the village were present to examine the consignment of people from the city. These latter, loaded with bundles and children, thronged at the stage drivers. The stage drivers thronged at the people from the city.
Hawker, with his clothes case, his paint-box, his easel, climbed awkwardly down the steps of the car. The easel swung uncontrolled and knocked against the head of a little boy who was disembarking backward with fine caution. "Hello, little man," said Hawker, "did it hurt?" The child regarded him in silence and with sudden interest, as if Hawker had called his attention to a phenomenon. The young painter was politely waiting until the little boy should conclude his examination, but a voice behind him cried, "Roger, go on down!" A nursemaid was conducting a little girl where she would probably be struck by the other end of the easel. The boy resumed his cautious descent.
The stage drivers made such great noise as a collection that as individuals their identities were lost. With a highly important air, as a man proud of being so busy, the baggageman of the train was thundering trunks at the other employees on the platform. Hawker, prowling through the crowd, heard a voice near his shoulder say, "Do you know where is the stage for Hemlock Inn?" Hawker turned and found a young woman regarding him. A wave of astonishment whirled into his hair, and he turned his eyes quickly for fear that she would think that he had looked at her. He said, "Yes, certainly, I think I can find it." At the same time he was crying to himself: "Wouldn't I like to paint her, though! What a glance—oh, murder! The—the—the distance in her eyes!"
He went fiercely from one driver to another. That obdurate stage for Hemlock Inn must appear at once. Finally he perceived a man who grinned expectantly at him. "Oh," said Hawker, "you drive the stage for Hemlock Inn?" The man admitted it. Hawker said, "Here is the stage." The young woman smiled.
The driver inserted Hawker and his luggage far into the end of the vehicle. He sat there, crooked forward so that his eyes should see the first coming of the girl into the frame of light at the other end of the stage. Presently she appeared there. She was bringing the little boy, the little girl, the nursemaid, and another young woman, who was at once to be known as the mother of the two children. The girl indicated the stage with a small gesture of triumph. When they were all seated uncomfortably in the huge covered vehicle the little boy gave Hawker a glance of recognition. "It hurted then, but it's all right now," he informed him cheerfully.
"Did it?" replied Hawker. "I'm sorry."
"Oh, I didn't mind it much," continued the little boy, swinging his long, red-leather leggings bravely to and fro. "I don't cry when I'm hurt, anyhow." He cast a meaning look at his tiny sister, whose soft lips set defensively.
The driver climbed into his seat, and after a scrutiny of the group in the gloom of the stage he chirped to his horses. They began a slow and thoughtful trotting. Dust streamed out behind the vehicle. In front, the green hills were still and serene in the evening air. A beam of gold struck them aslant, and on the sky was lemon and pink information of the sun's sinking. The driver knew many people along the road, and from time to time he conversed with them in yells.
The two children were opposite Hawker. They sat very correctly mucilaged to their seats, but their large eyes were always upon Hawker, calmly valuing him.
"Do you think it nice to be in the country? I do," said the boy.
"I like it very well," answered Hawker.
"I shall go fishing, and hunting, and everything. Maybe I shall shoot a bears."
"I hope you may."
"Did you ever shoot a bears?"
"Well, I didn't, too, but maybe I will. Mister Hollanden, he said he'd look around for one. Where I live——"
"Roger," interrupted the mother from her seat at Hawker's side, "perhaps every one is not interested in your conversation." The boy seemed embarrassed at this interruption, for he leaned back in silence with an apologetic look at Hawker. Presently the stage began to climb the hills, and the two children were obliged to take grip upon the cushions for fear of being precipitated upon the nursemaid.
Fate had arranged it so that Hawker could not observe the girl with the—the—the distance in her eyes without leaning forward and discovering to her his interest. Secretly and impiously he wriggled in his seat, and as the bumping stage swung its passengers this way and that way, he obtained fleeting glances of a cheek, an arm, or a shoulder.
The driver's conversation tone to his passengers was also a yell. "Train was an hour late t'night," he said, addressing the interior. "It'll be nine o'clock before we git t' th' inn, an' it'll be perty dark travellin'."
Hawker waited decently, but at last he said, "Will it?"
"Yes. No moon." He turned to face Hawker, and roared, "You're ol' Jim Hawker's son, hain't yeh?"
"I thort I'd seen yeh b'fore. Live in the city now, don't yeh?"
"Want t' git off at th' cross-road?"
"Come up fer a little stay doorin' th' summer?"
"On'y charge yeh a quarter if yeh git off at cross-road. Useter charge 'em fifty cents, but I ses t' th' ol' man. 'Tain't no use. Goldern 'em, they'll walk ruther'n put up fifty cents.' Yep. On'y a quarter."
In the shadows Hawker's expression seemed assassinlike. He glanced furtively down the stage. She was apparently deep in talk with the mother of the children.
When Hawker pushed at the old gate, it hesitated because of a broken hinge. A dog barked with loud ferocity and came headlong over the grass.
"Hello, Stanley, old man!" cried Hawker. The ardour for battle was instantly smitten from the dog, and his barking swallowed in a gurgle of delight. He was a large orange and white setter, and he partly expressed his emotion by twisting his body into a fantastic curve and then dancing over the ground with his head and his tail very near to each other. He gave vent to little sobs in a wild attempt to vocally describe his gladness. "Well, 'e was a dreat dod," said Hawker, and the setter, overwhelmed, contorted himself wonderfully.
There were lights in the kitchen, and at the first barking of the dog the door had been thrown open. Hawker saw his two sisters shading their eyes and peering down the yellow stream. Presently they shouted, "Here he is!" They flung themselves out and upon him. "Why, Will! why, Will!" they panted.
"We're awful glad to see you!" In a whirlwind of ejaculation and unanswerable interrogation they grappled the clothes case, the paint-box, the easel, and dragged him toward the house.
He saw his old mother seated in a rocking-chair by the table. She had laid aside her paper and was adjusting her glasses as she scanned the darkness. "Hello, mother!" cried Hawker, as he entered. His eyes were bright. The old mother reached her arms to his neck. She murmured soft and half-articulate words. Meanwhile the dog writhed from one to another. He raised his muzzle high to express his delight. He was always fully convinced that he was taking a principal part in this ceremony of welcome and that everybody was heeding him.
"Have you had your supper?" asked the old mother as soon as she recovered herself. The girls clamoured sentences at him. "Pa's out in the barn, Will. What made you so late? He said maybe he'd go up to the cross-roads to see if he could see the stage. Maybe he's gone. What made you so late? And, oh, we got a new buggy!"
The old mother repeated anxiously, "Have you had your supper?"
"No," said Hawker, "but——"
The three women sprang to their feet. "Well, we'll git you something right away." They bustled about the kitchen and dove from time to time into the cellar. They called to each other in happy voices.
Steps sounded on the line of stones that led from the door toward the barn, and a shout came from the darkness. "Well, William, home again, hey?" Hawker's grey father came stamping genially into the room. "I thought maybe you got lost. I was comin' to hunt you," he said, grinning, as they stood with gripped hands. "What made you so late?"
While Hawker confronted the supper the family sat about and contemplated him with shining eyes. His sisters noted his tie and propounded some questions concerning it. His mother watched to make sure that he should consume a notable quantity of the preserved cherries. "He used to be so fond of 'em when he was little," she said.
"Oh, Will," cried the younger sister, "do you remember Lil' Johnson? Yeh? She's married. Married las' June."
"Is the boy's room all ready, mother?" asked the father.
"We fixed it this mornin'," she said.
"And do you remember Jeff Decker?" shouted the elder sister. "Well, he's dead. Yep. Drowned, pickerel fishin'—poor feller!"
"Well, how are you gitting along, William?" asked the father. "Sell many pictures?"
"An occasional one."
"Saw your illustrations in the May number of Perkinson's." The old man paused for a moment, and then added, quite weakly, "Pretty good."
"How's everything about the place?"
"Oh, just about the same—'bout the same. The colt run away with me last week, but didn't break nothin', though. I was scared, because I had out the new buggy—we got a new buggy—but it didn't break nothin'. I'm goin' to sell the oxen in the fall; I don't want to winter 'em. And then in the spring I'll get a good hoss team. I rented th' back five-acre to John Westfall. I had more'n I could handle with only one hired hand. Times is pickin' up a little, but not much—not much."
"And we got a new school-teacher," said one of the girls.
"Will, you never noticed my new rocker," said the old mother, pointing. "I set it right where I thought you'd see it, and you never took no notice. Ain't it nice? Father bought it at Monticello for my birthday. I thought you'd notice it first thing."
When Hawker had retired for the night, he raised a sash and sat by the window smoking. The odour of the woods and the fields came sweetly to his nostrils. The crickets chanted their hymn of the night. On the black brow of the mountain he could see two long rows of twinkling dots which marked the position of Hemlock Inn.
Hawker had a writing friend named Hollanden. In New York Hollanden had announced his resolution to spend the summer at Hemlock Inn. "I don't like to see the world progressing," he had said; "I shall go to Sullivan County for a time."
In the morning Hawker took his painting equipment, and after manoeuvring in the fields until he had proved to himself that he had no desire to go toward the inn, he went toward it. The time was only nine o'clock, and he knew that he could not hope to see Hollanden before eleven, as it was only through rumour that Hollanden was aware that there was a sunrise and an early morning.
Hawker encamped in front of some fields of vivid yellow stubble on which trees made olive shadows, and which was overhung by a china-blue sky and sundry little white clouds. He fiddled away perfunctorily at it. A spectator would have believed, probably, that he was sketching the pines on the hill where shone the red porches of Hemlock Inn.
Finally, a white-flannel young man walked into the landscape. Hawker waved a brush. "Hi, Hollie, get out of the colour-scheme!"
At this cry the white-flannel young man looked down at his feet apprehensively. Finally he came forward grinning. "Why, hello, Hawker, old boy! Glad to find you here." He perched on a boulder and began to study Hawker's canvas and the vivid yellow stubble with the olive shadows. He wheeled his eyes from one to the other. "Say, Hawker," he said suddenly, "why don't you marry Miss Fanhall?"
Hawker had a brush in his mouth, but he took it quickly out, and said, "Marry Miss Fanhall? Who the devil is Miss Fanhall?"
Hollanden clasped both hands about his knee and looked thoughtfully away. "Oh, she's a girl."
"She is?" said Hawker.
"Yes. She came to the inn last night with her sister-in-law and a small tribe of young Fanhalls. There's six of them, I think."
"Two," said Hawker, "a boy and a girl."
"How do you—oh, you must have come up with them. Of course. Why, then you saw her."
"Was that her?" asked Hawker listlessly.
"Was that her?" cried Hollanden, with indignation. "Was that her?"
"Oh!" said Hawker.
Hollanden mused again. "She's got lots of money," he said. "Loads of it. And I think she would be fool enough to have sympathy for you in your work. They are a tremendously wealthy crowd, although they treat it simply. It would be a good thing for you. I believe—yes, I am sure she could be fool enough to have sympathy for you in your work. And now, if you weren't such a hopeless chump——"
"Oh, shut up, Hollie," said the painter.
For a time Hollanden did as he was bid, but at last he talked again. "Can't think why they came up here. Must be her sister-in-law's health. Something like that. She——"
"Great heavens," said Hawker, "you speak of nothing else!"
"Well, you saw her, didn't you?" demanded Hollanden. "What can you expect, then, from a man of my sense? You—you old stick—you——"
"It was quite dark," protested the painter.
"Quite dark," repeated Hollanden, in a wrathful voice. "What if it was?"
"Well, that is bound to make a difference in a man's opinion, you know."
"No, it isn't. It was light down at the railroad station, anyhow. If you had any sand—thunder, but I did get up early this morning! Say, do you play tennis?"
"After a fashion," said Hawker. "Why?"
"Oh, nothing," replied Hollanden sadly. "Only they are wearing me out at the game. I had to get up and play before breakfast this morning with the Worcester girls, and there is a lot more mad players who will be down on me before long. It's a terrible thing to be a tennis player."
"Why, you used to put yourself out so little for people," remarked Hawker.
"Yes, but up there"—Hollanden jerked his thumb in the direction of the inn—"they think I'm so amiable."
"Well, I'll come up and help you out."
"Do," Hollanden laughed; "you and Miss Fanhall can team it against the littlest Worcester girl and me." He regarded the landscape and meditated. Hawker struggled for a grip on the thought of the stubble.
"That colour of hair and eyes always knocks me kerplunk," observed Hollanden softly.
Hawker looked up irascibly. "What colour hair and eyes?" he demanded. "I believe you're crazy."
"What colour hair and eyes?" repeated Hollanden, with a savage gesture. "You've got no more appreciation than a post."
"They are good enough for me," muttered Hawker, turning again to his work. He scowled first at the canvas and then at the stubble. "Seems to me you had best take care of yourself, instead of planning for me," he said.
"Me!" cried Hollanden. "Me! Take care of myself! My boy, I've got a past of sorrow and gloom. I——"
"You're nothing but a kid," said Hawker, glaring at the other man.
"Oh, of course," said Hollanden, wagging his head with midnight wisdom. "Oh, of course."
"Well, Hollie," said Hawker, with sudden affability, "I didn't mean to be unpleasant, but then you are rather ridiculous, you know, sitting up there and howling about the colour of hair and eyes."
"I'm not ridiculous."
"Yes, you are, you know, Hollie."
The writer waved his hand despairingly. "And you rode in the train with her, and in the stage."
"I didn't see her in the train," said Hawker.
"Oh, then you saw her in the stage. Ha-ha, you old thief! I sat up here, and you sat down there and lied." He jumped from his perch and belaboured Hawker's shoulders.
"Stop that!" said the painter.
"Oh, you old thief, you lied to me! You lied—— Hold on—bless my life, here she comes now!"
One day Hollanden said: "There are forty-two people at Hemlock Inn, I think. Fifteen are middle-aged ladies of the most aggressive respectability. They have come here for no discernible purpose save to get where they can see people and be displeased at them. They sit in a large group on that porch and take measurements of character as importantly as if they constituted the jury of heaven. When I arrived at Hemlock Inn I at once cast my eye searchingly about me. Perceiving this assemblage, I cried, 'There they are!' Barely waiting to change my clothes, I made for this formidable body and endeavoured to conciliate it. Almost every day I sit down among them and lie like a machine. Privately I believe they should be hanged, but publicly I glisten with admiration. Do you know, there is one of 'em who I know has not moved from the inn in eight days, and this morning I said to her, 'These long walks in the clear mountain air are doing you a world of good.' And I keep continually saying, 'Your frankness is so charming!' Because of the great law of universal balance, I know that this illustrious corps will believe good of themselves with exactly the same readiness that they will believe ill of others. So I ply them with it. In consequence, the worst they ever say of me is, 'Isn't that Mr. Hollanden a peculiar man?' And you know, my boy, that's not so bad for a literary person." After some thought he added: "Good people, too. Good wives, good mothers, and everything of that kind, you know. But conservative, very conservative. Hate anything radical. Can not endure it. Were that way themselves once, you know. They hit the mark, too, sometimes. Such general volleyings can't fail to hit everything. May the devil fly away with them!"
Hawker regarded the group nervously, and at last propounded a great question: "Say, I wonder where they all are recruited? When you come to think that almost every summer hotel——"
"Certainly," said Hollanden, "almost every summer hotel. I've studied the question, and have nearly established the fact that almost every summer hotel is furnished with a full corps of——"
"To be sure," said Hawker; "and if you search for them in the winter, you can find barely a sign of them, until you examine the boarding houses, and then you observe——"
"Certainly," said Hollanden, "of course. By the way," he added, "you haven't got any obviously loose screws in your character, have you?"
"No," said Hawker, after consideration, "only general poverty—that's all."
"Of course, of course," said Hollanden. "But that's bad. They'll get on to you, sure. Particularly since you come up here to see Miss Fanhall so much."
Hawker glinted his eyes at his friend. "You've got a deuced open way of speaking," he observed.
"Deuced open, is it?" cried Hollanden. "It isn't near so open as your devotion to Miss Fanhall, which is as plain as a red petticoat hung on a hedge."
Hawker's face gloomed, and he said, "Well, it might be plain to you, you infernal cat, but that doesn't prove that all those old hens can see it."
"I tell you that if they look twice at you they can't fail to see it. And it's bad, too. Very bad. What's the matter with you? Haven't you ever been in love before?"
"None of your business," replied Hawker.
Hollanden thought upon this point for a time. "Well," he admitted finally, "that's true in a general way, but I hate to see you managing your affairs so stupidly."
Rage flamed into Hawker's face, and he cried passionately, "I tell you it is none of your business!" He suddenly confronted the other man.
Hollanden surveyed this outburst with a critical eye, and then slapped his knee with emphasis. "You certainly have got it—a million times worse than I thought. Why, you—you—you're heels over head."
"What if I am?" said Hawker, with a gesture of defiance and despair.
Hollanden saw a dramatic situation in the distance, and with a bright smile he studied it. "Say," he exclaimed, "suppose she should not go to the picnic to-morrow? She said this morning she did not know if she could go. Somebody was expected from New York, I think. Wouldn't it break you up, though! Eh?"
"You're so dev'lish clever!" said Hawker, with sullen irony.
Hollanden was still regarding the distant dramatic situation. "And rivals, too! The woods must be crowded with them. A girl like that, you know. And then all that money! Say, your rivals must number enough to make a brigade of militia. Imagine them swarming around! But then it doesn't matter so much," he went on cheerfully; "you've got a good play there. You must appreciate them to her—you understand?—appreciate them kindly, like a man in a watch-tower. You must laugh at them only about once a week, and then very tolerantly—you understand?—and kindly, and—and appreciatively."
"You're a colossal ass, Hollie!" said Hawker. "You——"
"Yes, yes, I know," replied the other peacefully; "a colossal ass. Of course." After looking into the distance again, he murmured: "I'm worried about that picnic. I wish I knew she was going. By heavens, as a matter of fact, she must be made to go!"
"What have you got to do with it?" cried the painter, in another sudden outburst.
"There! there!" said Hollanden, waving his hand. "You fool! Only a spectator, I assure you."
Hawker seemed overcome then with a deep dislike of himself. "Oh, well, you know, Hollie, this sort of thing——" He broke off and gazed at the trees. "This sort of thing—— It——"
"How?" asked Hollanden.
"Confound you for a meddling, gabbling idiot!" cried Hawker suddenly.
Hollanden replied, "What did you do with that violet she dropped at the side of the tennis court yesterday?"
Mrs. Fanhall, with the two children, the Worcester girls, and Hollanden, clambered down the rocky path. Miss Fanhall and Hawker had remained on top of the ledge. Hollanden showed much zeal in conducting his contingent to the foot of the falls. Through the trees they could see the cataract, a great shimmering white thing, booming and thundering until all the leaves gently shuddered.
"I wonder where Miss Fanhall and Mr. Hawker have gone?" said the younger Miss Worcester. "I wonder where they've gone?"
"Millicent," said Hollander, looking at her fondly, "you always had such great thought for others."
"Well, I wonder where they've gone?"
At the foot of the falls, where the mist arose in silver clouds and the green water swept into the pool, Miss Worcester, the elder, seated on the moss, exclaimed, "Oh, Mr. Hollanden, what makes all literary men so peculiar?"
"And all that just because I said that I could have made better digestive organs than Providence, if it is true that he made mine," replied Hollanden, with reproach. "Here, Roger," he cried, as he dragged the child away from the brink, "don't fall in there, or you won't be the full-back at Yale in 1907, as you have planned. I'm sure I don't know how to answer you, Miss Worcester. I've inquired of innumerable literary men, and none of 'em know. I may say I have chased that problem for years. I might give you my personal history, and see if that would throw any light on the subject." He looked about him with chin high until his glance had noted the two vague figures at the top of the cliff. "I might give you my personal history——"
Mrs. Fanhall looked at him curiously, and the elder Worcester girl cried, "Oh, do!"
After another scanning of the figures at the top of the cliff, Hollanden established himself in an oratorical pose on a great weather-beaten stone. "Well—you must understand—I started my career—my career, you understand—with a determination to be a prophet, and, although I have ended in being an acrobat, a trained bear of the magazines, and a juggler of comic paragraphs, there was once carved upon my lips a smile which made many people detest me, for it hung before them like a banshee whenever they tried to be satisfied with themselves. I was informed from time to time that I was making no great holes in the universal plan, and I came to know that one person in every two thousand of the people I saw had heard of me, and that four out of five of these had forgotten it. And then one in every two of those who remembered that they had heard of me regarded the fact that I wrote as a great impertinence. I admitted these things, and in defence merely builded a maxim that stated that each wise man in this world is concealed amid some twenty thousand fools. If you have eyes for mathematics, this conclusion should interest you. Meanwhile I created a gigantic dignity, and when men saw this dignity and heard that I was a literary man they respected me. I concluded that the simple campaign of existence for me was to delude the populace, or as much of it as would look at me. I did. I do. And now I can make myself quite happy concocting sneers about it. Others may do as they please, but as for me," he concluded ferociously, "I shall never disclose to anybody that an acrobat, a trained bear of the magazines, a juggler of comic paragraphs, is not a priceless pearl of art and philosophy."
"I don't believe a word of it is true," said Miss Worcester.
"What do you expect of autobiography?" demanded Hollanden, with asperity.
"Well, anyhow, Hollie," exclaimed the younger sister, "you didn't explain a thing about how literary men came to be so peculiar, and that's what you started out to do, you know."
"Well," said Hollanden crossly, "you must never expect a man to do what he starts to do, Millicent. And besides," he went on, with the gleam of a sudden idea in his eyes, "literary men are not peculiar, anyhow."
The elder Worcester girl looked angrily at him. "Indeed? Not you, of course, but the others."
"They are all asses," said Hollanden genially.
The elder Worcester girl reflected. "I believe you try to make us think and then just tangle us up purposely!"
The younger Worcester girl reflected. "You are an absurd old thing, you know, Hollie!"
Hollanden climbed offendedly from the great weather-beaten stone. "Well, I shall go and see that the men have not spilled the luncheon while breaking their necks over these rocks. Would you like to have it spread here, Mrs. Fanhall? Never mind consulting the girls. I assure you I shall spend a great deal of energy and temper in bullying them into doing just as they please. Why, when I was in Brussels——"
"Oh, come now, Hollie, you never were in Brussels, you know," said the younger Worcester girl.
"What of that, Millicent?" demanded Hollanden. "This is autobiography."
"Well, I don't care, Hollie. You tell such whoppers."
With a gesture of despair he again started away; whereupon the Worcester girls shouted in chorus, "Oh, I say, Hollie, come back! Don't be angry. We didn't mean to tease you, Hollie—really, we didn't!"
"Well, if you didn't," said Hollanden, "why did you——"
The elder Worcester girl was gazing fixedly at the top of the cliff. "Oh, there they are! I wonder why they don't come down?"
Stanley, the setter, walked to the edge of the precipice and, looking over at the falls, wagged his tail in friendly greeting. He was braced warily, so that if this howling white animal should reach up a hand for him he could flee in time.
The girl stared dreamily at the red-stained crags that projected from the pines of the hill across the stream. Hawker lazily aimed bits of moss at the oblivious dog and missed him.
"It must be fine to have something to think of beyond just living," said the girl to the crags.
"I suppose you mean art?" said Hawker.
"Yes, of course. It must be finer, at any rate, than the ordinary thing."
He mused for a time. "Yes. It is—it must be," he said. "But then—I'd rather just lie here."
The girl seemed aggrieved. "Oh, no, you wouldn't. You couldn't stop. It's dreadful to talk like that, isn't it? I always thought that painters were——"
"Of course. They should be. Maybe they are. I don't know. Sometimes I am. But not to-day."
"Well, I should think you ought to be so much more contented than just ordinary people. Now, I——"
"You!" he cried—"you are not 'just ordinary people.'"
"Well, but when I try to recall what I have thought about in my life, I can't remember, you know. That's what I mean."
"You shouldn't talk that way," he told her.
"But why do you insist that life should be so highly absorbing for me?"
"You have everything you wish for," he answered, in a voice of deep gloom.
"Certainly not. I am a woman."
"A woman, to have everything she wishes for, would have to be Providence. There are some things that are not in the world."
"Well, what are they?" he asked of her.
"That's just it," she said, nodding her head, "no one knows. That's what makes the trouble."
"Well, you are very unreasonable."
"You are very unreasonable. If I were you—an heiress——"
The girl flushed and turned upon him angrily.
"Well!" he glowered back at her. "You are, you know. You can't deny it."
She looked at the red-stained crags. At last she said, "You seemed really contemptuous."
"Well, I assure you that I do not feel contemptuous. On the contrary, I am filled with admiration. Thank Heaven, I am a man of the world. Whenever I meet heiresses I always have the deepest admiration." As he said this he wore a brave hang-dog expression. The girl surveyed him coldly from his chin to his eyebrows. "You have a handsome audacity, too."
He lay back in the long grass and contemplated the clouds.
"You should have been a Chinese soldier of fortune," she said.
He threw another little clod at Stanley and struck him on the head.
"You are the most scientifically unbearable person in the world," she said.
Stanley came back to see his master and to assure himself that the clump on the head was not intended as a sign of serious displeasure. Hawker took the dog's long ears and tried to tie them into a knot.
"And I don't see why you so delight in making people detest you," she continued.
Having failed to make a knot of the dog's ears, Hawker leaned back and surveyed his failure admiringly. "Well, I don't," he said.
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you do. You just say the most terrible things as if you positively enjoyed saying them."
"Well, what did I say, now? What did I say?"
"Why, you said that you always had the most extraordinary admiration for heiresses whenever you met them."
"Well, what's wrong with that sentiment?" he said. "You can't find fault with that!"
"It is utterly detestable."
"Not at all," he answered sullenly. "I consider it a tribute—a graceful tribute."
Miss Fanhall arose and went forward to the edge of the cliff. She became absorbed in the falls. Far below her a bough of a hemlock drooped to the water, and each swirling, mad wave caught it and made it nod—nod—nod. Her back was half turned toward Hawker.
After a time Stanley, the dog, discovered some ants scurrying in the moss, and he at once began to watch them and wag his tail.
"Isn't it curious," observed Hawker, "how an animal as large as a dog will sometimes be so entertained by the very smallest things?"
Stanley pawed gently at the moss, and then thrust his head forward to see what the ants did under the circumstances.
"In the hunting season," continued Hawker, having waited a moment, "this dog knows nothing on earth but his master and the partridges. He is lost to all other sound and movement. He moves through the woods like a steel machine. And when he scents the bird—ah, it is beautiful! Shouldn't you like to see him then?"
Some of the ants had perhaps made war-like motions, and Stanley was pretending that this was a reason for excitement. He reared aback, and made grumbling noises in his throat.
After another pause Hawker went on: "And now see the precious old fool! He is deeply interested in the movements of the little ants, and as childish and ridiculous over them as if they were highly important.—There, you old blockhead, let them alone!"
Stanley could not be induced to end his investigations, and he told his master that the ants were the most thrilling and dramatic animals of his experience.
"Oh, by the way," said Hawker at last, as his glance caught upon the crags across the river, "did you ever hear the legend of those rocks yonder? Over there where I am pointing? Where I'm pointing? Did you ever hear it? What? Yes? No? Well, I shall tell it to you." He settled comfortably in the long grass.
"Once upon a time there was a beautiful Indian maiden, of course. And she was, of course, beloved by a youth from another tribe who was very handsome and stalwart and a mighty hunter, of course. But the maiden's father was, of course, a stern old chief, and when the question of his daughter's marriage came up, he, of course, declared that the maiden should be wedded only to a warrior of her tribe. And, of course, when the young man heard this he said that in such case he would, of course, fling himself headlong from that crag. The old chief was, of course, obdurate, and, of course, the youth did, of course, as he had said. And, of course, the maiden wept." After Hawker had waited for some time, he said with severity, "You seem to have no great appreciation of folklore."
The girl suddenly bent her head. "Listen," she said, "they're calling. Don't you hear Hollie's voice?"
They went to another place, and, looking down over the shimmering tree-tops, they saw Hollanden waving his arms. "It's luncheon," said Hawker. "Look how frantic he is!"
The path required that Hawker should assist the girl very often. His eyes shone at her whenever he held forth his hand to help her down a blessed steep place. She seemed rather pensive. The route to luncheon was very long. Suddenly he took a seat on an old tree, and said: "Oh, I don't know why it is, whenever I'm with you, I—I have no wits, nor good nature, nor anything. It's the worst luck!"
He had left her standing on a boulder, where she was provisionally helpless. "Hurry!" she said; "they're waiting for us."
Stanley, the setter, had been sliding down cautiously behind them. He now stood wagging his tail and waiting for the way to be cleared.
Hawker leaned his head on his hand and pondered dejectedly. "It's the worst luck!"
"Hurry!" she said; "they're waiting for us."
At luncheon the girl was for the most part silent. Hawker was superhumanly amiable. Somehow he gained the impression that they all quite fancied him, and it followed that being clever was very easy. Hollanden listened, and approved him with a benign countenance.
There was a little boat fastened to the willows at the edge of the black pool. After the spread, Hollanden navigated various parties around to where they could hear the great hollow roar of the falls beating against the sheer rocks. Stanley swam after sticks at the request of little Roger.
Once Hollanden succeeded in making the others so engrossed in being amused that Hawker and Miss Fanhall were left alone staring at the white bubbles that floated solemnly on the black water. After Hawker had stared at them a sufficient time, he said, "Well, you are an heiress, you know."
In return she chose to smile radiantly. Turning toward him, she said, "If you will be good now—always—perhaps I'll forgive you."
They drove home in the sombre shadows of the hills, with Stanley padding along under the wagon. The Worcester girls tried to induce Hollanden to sing, and in consequence there was quarrelling until the blinking lights of the inn appeared above them as if a great lantern hung there.
Hollanden conveyed his friend some distance on the way home from the inn to the farm. "Good time at the picnic?" said the writer.
"Picnics are mainly places where the jam gets on the dead leaves, and from thence to your trousers. But this was a good little picnic." He glanced at Hawker. "But you don't look as if you had such a swell time."
Hawker waved his hand tragically. "Yes—no—I don't know."
"What's wrong with you?" asked Hollanden.
"I tell you what it is, Hollie," said the painter darkly, "whenever I'm with that girl I'm such a blockhead. I'm not so stupid, Hollie. You know I'm not. But when I'm with her I can't be clever to save my life."
Hollanden pulled contentedly at his pipe. "Maybe she don't notice it."
"Notice it!" muttered Hawker, scornfully; "of course she notices it. In conversation with her, I tell you, I am as interesting as an iron dog." His voice changed as he cried, "I don't know why it is. I don't know why it is."
Blowing a huge cloud of smoke into the air, Hollanden studied it thoughtfully. "Hits some fellows that way," he said. "And, of course, it must be deuced annoying. Strange thing, but now, under those circumstances, I'm very glib. Very glib, I assure you."
"I don't care what you are," answered Hawker. "All those confounded affairs of yours—they were not——"
"No," said Hollanden, stolidly puffing, "of course not. I understand that. But, look here, Billie," he added, with sudden brightness, "maybe you are not a blockhead, after all. You are on the inside, you know, and you can't see from there. Besides, you can't tell what a woman will think. You can't tell what a woman will think."
"No," said Hawker, grimly, "and you suppose that is my only chance?"
"Oh, don't be such a chump!" said Hollanden, in a tone of vast exasperation.
They strode for some time in silence. The mystic pines swaying over the narrow road made talk sibilantly to the wind. Stanley, the setter, took it upon himself to discover some menacing presence in the woods. He walked on his toes and with his eyes glinting sideways. He swore half under his breath.
"And work, too," burst out Hawker, at last. "I came up here this season to work, and I haven't done a thing that ought not be shot at."
"Don't you find that your love sets fire to your genius?" asked Hollanden gravely.
"No, I'm hanged if I do."
Hollanden sighed then with an air of relief. "I was afraid that a popular impression was true," he said, "but it's all right. You would rather sit still and moon, wouldn't you?"
"Moon—blast you! I couldn't moon to save my life."
"Oh, well, I didn't mean moon exactly."
The blue night of the lake was embroidered with black tree forms. Silver drops sprinkled from the lifted oars. Somewhere in the gloom of the shore there was a dog, who from time to time raised his sad voice to the stars.
"But still, the life of the studios——" began the girl.
Hawker scoffed. "There were six of us. Mainly we smoked. Sometimes we played hearts and at other times poker—on credit, you know—credit. And when we had the materials and got something to do, we worked. Did you ever see these beautiful red and green designs that surround the common tomato can?"
"Well," he said proudly, "I have made them. Whenever you come upon tomatoes, remember that they might once have been encompassed in my design. When first I came back from Paris I began to paint, but nobody wanted me to paint. Later, I got into green corn and asparagus——"
"Yes, indeed. It is true."
"But still, the life of the studios——"
"There were six of us. Fate ordained that only one in the crowd could have money at one time. The other five lived off him and despised themselves. We despised ourselves five times as long as we had admiration."
"And was this just because you had no money?"
"It was because we had no money in New York," said Hawker.
"Well, after a while something happened——"
"Oh, no, it didn't. Something impended always, but it never happened."
"In a case like that one's own people must be such a blessing. The sympathy——"
"One's own people!" said Hawker.
"Yes," she said, "one's own people and more intimate friends. The appreciation——"
"'The appreciation!'" said Hawker. "Yes, indeed!"
He seemed so ill-tempered that she became silent. The boat floated through the shadows of the trees and out to where the water was like a blue crystal. The dog on the shore thrashed about in the reeds and waded in the shallows, mourning his unhappy state in an occasional cry. Hawker stood up and sternly shouted. Thereafter silence was among the reeds. The moon slipped sharply through the little clouds.
The girl said, "I liked that last picture of yours."
"At the last exhibition, you know, you had that one with the cows—and things—in the snow—and—and a haystack."
"Yes," he said, "of course. Did you like it, really? I thought it about my best. And you really remembered it? Oh," he cried, "Hollanden perhaps recalled it to you."
"Why, no," she said. "I remembered it, of course."
"Well, what made you remember it?" he demanded, as if he had cause to be indignant.
"Why—I just remembered it because—I liked it, and because—well, the people with me said—said it was about the best thing in the exhibit, and they talked about it a good deal. And then I remember that Hollie had spoken of you, and then I—I——"
"Never mind," he said. After a moment, he added, "The confounded picture was no good, anyhow!"
The girl started. "What makes you speak so of it? It was good. Of course, I don't know—I can't talk about pictures, but," she said in distress, "everybody said it was fine."
"It wasn't any good," he persisted, with dogged shakes of the head.
From off in the darkness they heard the sound of Hollanden's oars splashing in the water. Sometimes there was squealing by the Worcester girls, and at other times loud arguments on points of navigation.
"Oh," said the girl suddenly, "Mr. Oglethorpe is coming to-morrow!"
"Mr. Oglethorpe?" said Hawker. "Is he?"
"Yes." She gazed off at the water.
"He's an old friend of ours. He is always so good, and Roger and little Helen simply adore him. He was my brother's chum in college, and they were quite inseparable until Herbert's death. He always brings me violets. But I know you will like him."
"I shall expect to," said Hawker.
"I'm so glad he is coming. What time does that morning stage get here?"
"About eleven," said Hawker.
"He wrote that he would come then. I hope he won't disappoint us."
"Undoubtedly he will be here," said Hawker.
The wind swept from the ridge top, where some great bare pines stood in the moonlight. A loon called in its strange, unearthly note from the lakeshore. As Hawker turned the boat toward the dock, the flashing rays from the boat fell upon the head of the girl in the rear seat, and he rowed very slowly.
The girl was looking away somewhere with a mystic, shining glance. She leaned her chin in her hand. Hawker, facing her, merely paddled subconsciously. He seemed greatly impressed and expectant.
At last she spoke very slowly. "I wish I knew Mr. Oglethorpe was not going to disappoint us."
Hawker said, "Why, no, I imagine not."
"Well, he is a trifle uncertain in matters of time. The children—and all of us—shall be anxious. I know you will like him."
"Eh?" said Hollanden. "Oglethorpe? Oglethorpe? Why, he's that friend of the Fanhalls! Yes, of course, I know him! Deuced good fellow, too! What about him?"
"Oh, nothing, only he's coming here to-morrow," answered Hawker. "What kind of a fellow did you say he was?"
"Deuced good fellow! What are you so—— Say, by the nine mad blacksmiths of Donawhiroo, he's your rival! Why, of course! Glory, but I must be thick-headed to-night!"
Hawker said, "Where's your tobacco?"
"Yonder, in that jar. Got a pipe?"
"Yes. How do you know he's my rival?"
"Know it? Why, hasn't he been—— Say, this is getting thrilling!" Hollanden sprang to his feet and, filling a pipe, flung himself into the chair and began to rock himself madly to and fro. He puffed clouds of smoke.
Hawker stood with his face in shadow. At last he said, in tones of deep weariness, "Well, I think I'd better be going home and turning in."
"Hold on!" Hollanden exclaimed, turning his eyes from a prolonged stare at the ceiling, "don't go yet! Why, man, this is just the time when—— Say, who would ever think of Jem Oglethorpe's turning up to harrie you! Just at this time, too!"
"Oh," cried Hawker suddenly, filled with rage, "you remind me of an accursed duffer! Why can't you tell me something about the man, instead of sitting there and gibbering those crazy things at the ceiling?"
"By the piper——"
"Oh, shut up! Tell me something about Oglethorpe, can't you? I want to hear about him. Quit all that other business!"
"Why, Jem Oglethorpe, he—why, say, he's one of the best fellows going. If he were only an ass! If he were only an ass, now, you could feel easy in your mind. But he isn't. No, indeed. Why, blast him, there isn't a man that knows him who doesn't like Jem Oglethorpe! Excepting the chumps!"
The window of the little room was open, and the voices of the pines could be heard as they sang of their long sorrow. Hawker pulled a chair close and stared out into the darkness. The people on the porch of the inn were frequently calling, "Good-night! Good-night!"
Hawker said, "And of course he's got train loads of money?"
"You bet he has! He can pave streets with it. Lordie, but this is a situation!"
A heavy scowl settled upon Hawker's brow, and he kicked at the dressing case. "Say, Hollie, look here! Sometimes I think you regard me as a bug and like to see me wriggle. But——"
"Oh, don't be a fool!" said Hollanden, glaring through the smoke. "Under the circumstances, you are privileged to rave and ramp around like a wounded lunatic, but for heaven's sake don't swoop down on me like that! Especially when I'm—when I'm doing all I can for you."
"Doing all you can for me! Nobody asked you to. You talk as if I were an infant."
"There! That's right! Blaze up like a fire balloon just because I said that, will you? A man in your condition—why, confound you, you are an infant!"
Hawker seemed again overwhelmed in a great dislike of himself. "Oh, well, of course, Hollie, it——" He waved his hand. "A man feels like—like——"
"Certainly he does," said Hollanden. "That's all right, old man."
"And look now, Hollie, here's this Oglethorpe——"
"May the devil fly away with him!"
"Well, here he is, coming along when I thought maybe—after a while, you know—I might stand some show. And you are acquainted with him, so give me a line on him."
"Well, I should advise you to——"
"Blow your advice! I want to hear about Oglethorpe."
"Well, in the first place, he is a rattling good fellow, as I told you before, and this is what makes it so——"
"Oh, hang what it makes it! Go on."
"He is a rattling good fellow and he has stacks of money. Of course, in this case his having money doesn't affect the situation much. Miss Fanhall——"
"Say, can you keep to the thread of the story, you infernal literary man!"
"Well, he's popular. He don't talk money—ever. And if he's wicked, he's not sufficiently proud of it to be perpetually describing his sins. And then he is not so hideously brilliant, either. That's great credit to a man in these days. And then he—well, take it altogether, I should say Jem Oglethorpe was a smashing good fellow."
"I wonder how long he is going to stay?" murmured Hawker.
During this conversation his pipe had often died out. It was out at this time. He lit another match. Hollanden had watched the fingers of his friend as the match was scratched. "You're nervous, Billie," he said.
Hawker straightened in his chair. "No, I'm not."
"I saw your fingers tremble when you lit that match."
"Oh, you lie!"
Hollanden mused again. "He's popular with women, too," he said ultimately; "and often a woman will like a man and hunt his scalp just because she knows other women like him and want his scalp."
"Yes, but not——"
"Hold on! You were going to say that she was not like other women, weren't you?"
"Not exactly that, but——"
"Well, we will have all that understood."
After a period of silence Hawker said, "I must be going."
As the painter walked toward the door Hollanden cried to him: "Heavens! Of all pictures of a weary pilgrim!" His voice was very compassionate.
Hawker wheeled, and an oath spun through the smoke clouds.
"Where's Mr. Hawker this morning?" asked the younger Miss Worcester. "I thought he was coming up to play tennis?"
"I don't know. Confound him! I don't see why he didn't come," said Hollanden, looking across the shining valley. He frowned questioningly at the landscape. "I wonder where in the mischief he is?"
The Worcester girls began also to stare at the great gleaming stretch of green and gold. "Didn't he tell you he was coming?" they demanded.
"He didn't say a word about it," answered Hollanden. "I supposed, of course, he was coming. We will have to postpone the melee."
Later he met Miss Fanhall. "You look as if you were going for a walk?"
"I am," she said, swinging her parasol. "To meet the stage. Have you seen Mr. Hawker to-day?"
"No," he said. "He is not coming up this morning. He is in a great fret about that field of stubble, and I suppose he is down there sketching the life out of it. These artists—they take such a fiendish interest in their work. I dare say we won't see much of him until he has finished it. Where did you say you were going to walk?"
"To meet the stage."
"Oh, well, I won't have to play tennis for an hour, and if you insist——"
As they strolled slowly in the shade of the trees Hollanden began, "Isn't that Hawker an ill-bred old thing?"
"No, he is not." Then after a time she said, "Why?"
"Oh, he gets so absorbed in a beastly smudge of paint that I really suppose he cares nothing for anything else in the world. Men who are really artists—I don't believe they are capable of deep human affections. So much of them is occupied by art. There's not much left over, you see."
"I don't believe it at all," she exclaimed.
"You don't, eh?" cried Hollanden scornfully. "Well, let me tell you, young woman, there is a great deal of truth in it. Now, there's Hawker—as good a fellow as ever lived, too, in a way, and yet he's an artist. Why, look how he treats—look how he treats that poor setter dog!"
"Why, he's as kind to him as he can be," she declared.
"And I tell you he is not!" cried Hollanden.
"He is, Hollie. You—you are unspeakable when you get in these moods."
"There—that's just you in an argument. I'm not in a mood at all. Now, look—the dog loves him with simple, unquestioning devotion that fairly brings tears to one's eyes——"
"Yes," she said.
"And he—why, he's as cold and stern——"
"He isn't. He isn't, Holly. You are awf'ly unfair."
"No, I'm not. I am simply a liberal observer. And Hawker, with his people, too," he went on darkly; "you can't tell—you don't know anything about it—but I tell you that what I have seen proves my assertion that the artistic mind has no space left for the human affections. And as for the dog——"
"I thought you were his friend, Hollie?"
"No, not the dog's. And yet you—really, Hollie, there is something unnatural in you. You are so stupidly keen in looking at people that you do not possess common loyalty to your friends. It is because you are a writer, I suppose. That has to explain so many things. Some of your traits are very disagreeable."
"There! there!" plaintively cried Hollanden. "This is only about the treatment of a dog, mind you. Goodness, what an oration!"
"It wasn't about the treatment of a dog. It was about your treatment of your friends."
"Well," he said sagely, "it only goes to show that there is nothing impersonal in the mind of a woman. I undertook to discuss broadly——
"At any rate, it was rather below you to do such scoffing at me."
"Well, I didn't mean—not all of it, Hollie."
"Well, I didn't mean what I said about the dog and all that, either."
"You didn't?" She turned toward him, large-eyed.
"No. Not a single word of it."
"Well, what did you say it for, then?" she demanded indignantly.
"I said it," answered Hollanden placidly, "just to tease you." He looked abstractedly up to the trees.
Presently she said slowly, "Just to tease me?"
At this time Hollanden wore an unmistakable air of having a desire to turn up his coat collar. "Oh, come now——" he began nervously.
"George Hollanden," said the voice at his shoulder, "you are not only disagreeable, but you are hopelessly ridiculous. I—I wish you would never speak to me again!"
"Oh, come now, Grace, don't—don't—— Look! There's the stage coming, isn't it?"
"No, the stage is not coming. I wish—I wish you were at the bottom of the sea, George Hollanden. And—and Mr. Hawker, too. There!"
"Oh, bless my soul! And all about an infernal dog," wailed Hollanden. "Look! Honest, now, there's the stage. See it? See it?"
"It isn't there at all," she said.
Gradually he seemed to recover his courage. "What made you so tremendously angry? I don't see why."
After consideration, she said decisively, "Well, because."
"That's why I teased you," he rejoined.
"Go on," he told her finally. "You are doing very well." He waited patiently.
"Well," she said, "it is dreadful to defend somebody so—so excitedly, and then have it turned out just a tease. I don't know what he would think."
"Who would think?"
"What could he think? Now, what could he think? Why," said Hollanden, waxing eloquent, "he couldn't under any circumstances think—think anything at all. Now, could he?"
She made no reply.
She was apparently reflecting.
"Under any circumstances," persisted Hollanden, "he couldn't think anything at all. Now, could he?"
"No," she said.
"Well, why are you angry at me, then?"
"John," said the old mother, from the profound mufflings of the pillow and quilts.
"What?" said the old man. He was tugging at his right boot, and his tone was very irascible.
"I think William's changed a good deal."
"Well, what if he has?" replied the father, in another burst of ill-temper. He was then tugging at his left boot.
"Yes, I'm afraid he's changed a good deal," said the muffled voice from the bed. "He's got a good many fine friends, now, John—folks what put on a good many airs; and he don't care for his home like he did."
"Oh, well, I don't guess he's changed very much," said the old man cheerfully. He was now free of both boots.
She raised herself on an elbow and looked out with a troubled face. "John, I think he likes that girl."
"What girl?" said he.
"What girl? Why, that awful handsome girl you see around—of course."
"Do you think he likes 'er?"
"I'm afraid so—I'm afraid so," murmured the mother mournfully.
"Oh, well," said the old man, without alarm, or grief, or pleasure in his tone.
He turned the lamp's wick very low and carried the lamp to the head of the stairs, where he perched it on the step. When he returned he said, "She's mighty good-look-in'!"
"Well, that ain't everything," she snapped. "How do we know she ain't proud, and selfish, and—everything?"
"How do you know she is?" returned the old man.
"And she may just be leading him on."
"Do him good, then," said he, with impregnable serenity. "Next time he'll know better."
"Well, I'm worried about it," she said, as she sank back on the pillow again. "I think William's changed a good deal. He don't seem to care about—us—like he did."
"Oh, go to sleep!" said the father drowsily.
She was silent for a time, and then she said, "John?"
"Do you think I better speak to him about that girl?"
She grew silent again, but at last she demanded, "Why not?"
"'Cause it's none of your business. Go to sleep, will you?" And presently he did, but the old mother lay blinking wild-eyed into the darkness.
In the morning Hawker did not appear at the early breakfast, eaten when the blue glow of dawn shed its ghostly lights upon the valley. The old mother placed various dishes on the back part of the stove. At ten o'clock he came downstairs. His mother was sweeping busily in the parlour at the time, but she saw him and ran to the back part of the stove. She slid the various dishes on to the table. "Did you oversleep?" she asked.
"Yes. I don't feel very well this morning," he said. He pulled his chair close to the table and sat there staring.
She renewed her sweeping in the parlour. When she returned he sat still staring undeviatingly at nothing.
"Why don't you eat your breakfast?" she said anxiously.
"I tell you, mother, I don't feel very well this morning," he answered quite sharply.
"Well," she said meekly, "drink some coffee and you'll feel better."
Afterward he took his painting machinery and left the house. His younger sister was at the well. She looked at him with a little smile and a little sneer. "Going up to the inn this morning?" she said.
"I don't see how that concerns you, Mary?" he rejoined, with dignity.
"Oh, my!" she said airily.
"But since you are so interested, I don't mind telling you that I'm not going up to the inn this morning."
His sister fixed him with her eye. "She ain't mad at you, is she, Will?"
"I don't know what you mean, Mary." He glared hatefully at her and strode away.
Stanley saw him going through the fields and leaped a fence jubilantly in pursuit. In a wood the light sifted through the foliage and burned with a peculiar reddish lustre on the masses of dead leaves. He frowned at it for a while from different points. Presently he erected his easel and began to paint. After a a time he threw down his brush and swore. Stanley, who had been solemnly staring at the scene as if he too was sketching it, looked up in surprise.
In wandering aimlessly through the fields and the forest Hawker once found himself near the road to Hemlock Inn. He shied away from it quickly as if it were a great snake.
While most of the family were at supper, Mary, the younger sister, came charging breathlessly into the kitchen. "Ma—sister," she cried, "I know why—why Will didn't go to the inn to-day. There's another fellow come. Another fellow."
"Who? Where? What do you mean?" exclaimed her mother and her sister.
"Why, another fellow up at the inn," she shouted, triumphant in her information. "Another fellow come up on the stage this morning. And she went out driving with him this afternoon."
"Well," exclaimed her mother and her sister.
"Yep. And he's an awful good-looking fellow, too. And she—oh, my—she looked as if she thought the world and all of him."
"Well," exclaimed her mother and her sister again.
"Sho!" said the old man. "You wimen leave William alone and quit your gabbling."
The three women made a combined assault upon him. "Well, we ain't a-hurting him, are we, pa? You needn't be so snifty. I guess we ain't a-hurting him much."
"Well," said the old man. And to this argument he added, "Sho!"
They kept him out of the subsequent consultations.
The next day, as little Roger was going toward the tennis court, a large orange and white setter ran effusively from around the corner of the inn and greeted him. Miss Fanhall, the Worcester girls, Hollanden, and Oglethorpe faced to the front like soldiers. Hollanden cried, "Why, Billie Hawker must be coming!" Hawker at that moment appeared, coming toward them with a smile which was not overconfident.
Little Roger went off to perform some festivities of his own on the brown carpet under a clump of pines. The dog, to join him, felt obliged to circle widely about the tennis court. He was much afraid of this tennis court, with its tiny round things that sometimes hit him. When near it he usually slunk along at a little sheep trot and with an eye of wariness upon it.
At her first opportunity the younger Worcester girl said, "You didn't come up yesterday, Mr. Hawker."
Hollanden seemed to think that Miss Fanhall turned her head as if she wished to hear the explanation of the painter's absence, so he engaged her in swift and fierce conversation.
"No," said Hawker. "I was resolved to finish a sketch of a stubble field which I began a good many days ago. You see, I was going to do such a great lot of work this summer, and I've done hardly a thing. I really ought to compel myself to do some, you know."
"There," said Hollanden, with a victorious nod, "just what I told you!"
"You didn't tell us anything of the kind," retorted the Worcester girls with one voice.
A middle-aged woman came upon the porch of the inn, and after scanning for a moment the group at the tennis court she hurriedly withdrew. Presently she appeared again, accompanied by five more middle-aged women. "You see," she said to the others, "it is as I said. He has come back."
The five surveyed the group at the tennis court, and then said: "So he has. I knew he would. Well, I declare! Did you ever?" Their voices were pitched at low keys and they moved with care, but their smiles were broad and full of a strange glee.
"I wonder how he feels," said one in subtle ecstasy.
Another laughed. "You know how you would feel, my dear, if you were him and saw yourself suddenly cut out by a man who was so hopelessly superior to you. Why, Oglethorpe's a thousand times better looking. And then think of his wealth and social position!"
One whispered dramatically, "They say he never came up here at all yesterday."
Another replied: "No more he did. That's what we've been talking about. Stayed down at the farm all day, poor fellow!"
"Do you really think she cares for Oglethorpe?"
"Care for him? Why, of course she does. Why, when they came up the path yesterday morning I never saw a girl's face so bright. I asked my husband how much of the Chambers Street Bank stock Oglethorpe owned, and he said that if Oglethorpe took his money out there wouldn't be enough left to buy a pie."
The youngest woman in the corps said: "Well, I don't care. I think it is too bad. I don't see anything so much in that Mr. Oglethorpe."
The others at once patronized her. "Oh, you don't, my dear? Well, let me tell you that bank stock waves in the air like a banner. You would see it if you were her."
"Well, she don't have to care for his money."
"Oh, no, of course she don't have to. But they are just the ones that do, my dear. They are just the ones that do."
"Well, it's a shame."
"Oh, of course it's a shame."
The woman who had assembled the corps said to one at her side: "Oh, the commonest kind of people, my dear, the commonest kind. The father is a regular farmer, you know. He drives oxen. Such language! You can really hear him miles away bellowing at those oxen. And the girls are shy, half-wild things—oh, you have no idea! I saw one of them yesterday when we were out driving. She dodged as we came along, for I suppose she was ashamed of her frock, poor child! And the mother—well, I wish you could see her! A little, old, dried-up thing. We saw her carrying a pail of water from the well, and, oh, she bent and staggered dreadfully, poor thing!"
"And the gate to their front yard, it has a broken hinge, you know. Of course, that's an awful bad sign. When people let their front gate hang on one hinge you know what that means."
After gazing again at the group at the court, the youngest member of the corps said, "Well, he's a good tennis player anyhow."
The others smiled indulgently. "Oh, yes, my dear, he's a good tennis player."
One day Hollanden said, in greeting, to Hawker, "Well, he's gone."
"Who?" asked Hawker.
"Why, Oglethorpe, of course. Who did you think I meant?"
"How did I know?" said Hawker angrily.
"Well," retorted Hollanden, "your chief interest was in his movements, I thought."
"Why, of course not, hang you! Why should I be interested in his movements?"
"Well, you weren't, then. Does that suit you?"
After a period of silence Hawker asked, "What did he—what made him go?"
"How was I to know you meant him? Well, he went because some important business affairs in New York demanded it, he said; but he is coming back again in a week. They had rather a late interview on the porch last evening."
"Indeed," said Hawker stiffly.
"Yes, and he went away this morning looking particularly elated. Aren't you glad?"
"I don't see how it concerns me," said Hawker, with still greater stiffness.
In a walk to the lake that afternoon Hawker and Miss Fanhall found themselves side by side and silent. The girl contemplated the distant purple hills as if Hawker were not at her side and silent. Hawker frowned at the roadway. Stanley, the setter, scouted the fields in a genial gallop.
At last the girl turned to him. "Seems to me," she said, "seems to me you are dreadfully quiet this afternoon."
"I am thinking about my wretched field of stubble," he answered, still frowning.
Her parasol swung about until the girl was looking up at his inscrutable profile. "Is it, then, so important that you haven't time to talk to me?" she asked with an air of what might have been timidity.
A smile swept the scowl from his face. "No, indeed," he said, instantly; "nothing is so important as that."
She seemed aggrieved then. "Hum—you didn't look so," she told him.
"Well, I didn't mean to look any other way," he said contritely. "You know what a bear I am sometimes. Hollanden says it is a fixed scowl from trying to see uproarious pinks, yellows, and blues."
A little brook, a brawling, ruffianly little brook, swaggered from side to side down the glade, swirling in white leaps over the great dark rocks and shouting challenge to the hillsides. Hollanden and the Worcester girls had halted in a place of ferns and wet moss. Their voices could be heard quarrelling above the clamour of the stream. Stanley, the setter, had sousled himself in a pool and then gone and rolled in the dust of the road. He blissfully lolled there, with his coat now resembling an old door mat.
"Don't you think Jem is a wonderfully good fellow?" said the girl to the painter.
"Why, yes, of course," said Hawker.
"Well, he is," she retorted, suddenly defensive.
"Of course," he repeated loudly.
She said, "Well, I don't think you like him as well as I like him."
"Certainly not," said Hawker.
"You don't?" She looked at him in a kind of astonishment.
"Certainly not," said Hawker again, and very irritably. "How in the wide world do you expect me to like him as well as you like him?"
"I don't mean as well," she explained.
"Oh!" said Hawker.
"But I mean you don't like him the way I do at all—the way I expected you to like him. I thought men of a certain pattern always fancied their kind of men wherever they met them, don't you know? And I was so sure you and Jem would be friends."
"Oh!" cried Hawker. Presently he added, "But he isn't my kind of a man at all."
"He is. Jem is one of the best fellows in the world."
Again Hawker cried "Oh!"
They paused and looked down at the brook. Stanley sprawled panting in the dust and watched them. Hawker leaned against a hemlock. He sighed and frowned, and then finally coughed with great resolution. "I suppose, of course, that I am unjust to him. I care for you myself, you understand, and so it becomes——"
He paused for a moment because he heard a rustling of her skirts as if she had moved suddenly. Then he continued: "And so it becomes difficult for me to be fair to him. I am not able to see him with a true eye." He bitterly addressed the trees on the opposite side of the glen. "Oh, I care for you, of course. You might have expected it." He turned from the trees and strode toward the roadway. The uninformed and disreputable Stanley arose and wagged his tail.
As if the girl had cried out at a calamity, Hawker said again, "Well, you might have expected it."
At the lake, Hollanden went pickerel fishing, lost his hook in a gaunt, gray stump, and earned much distinction by his skill in discovering words to express his emotion without resorting to the list ordinarily used in such cases. The younger Miss Worcester ruined a new pair of boots, and Stanley sat on the bank and howled the song of the forsaken. At the conclusion of the festivities Hollanden said, "Billie, you ought to take the boat back."
"Why had I? You borrowed it."
"Well, I borrowed it and it was a lot of trouble, and now you ought to take it back."
Ultimately Hawker said, "Oh, let's both go!"
On this journey Hawker made a long speech to his friend, and at the end of it he exclaimed: "And now do you think she cares so much for Oglethorpe? Why, she as good as told me that he was only a very great friend."
Hollanden wagged his head dubiously. "What a woman says doesn't amount to shucks. It's the way she says it—that's what counts. Besides," he cried in a brilliant afterthought, "she wouldn't tell you, anyhow, you fool!"
"You're an encouraging brute," said Hawker, with a rueful grin.
Later the Worcester girls seized upon Hollanden and piled him high with ferns and mosses. They dragged the long gray lichens from the chins of venerable pines, and ran with them to Hollanden, and dashed them into his arms. "Oh, hurry up, Hollie!" they cried, because with his great load he frequently fell behind them in the march. He once positively refused to carry these things another step. Some distance farther on the road he positively refused to carry this old truck another step. When almost to the inn he positively refused to carry this senseless rubbish another step. The Worcester girls had such vivid contempt for his expressed unwillingness that they neglected to tell him of any appreciation they might have had for his noble struggle.
As Hawker and Miss Fanhall proceeded slowly they heard a voice ringing through the foliage: "Whoa! Haw! Git-ap, blast you! Haw! Haw, drat your hides! Will you haw? Git-ap! Gee! Whoa!"
Hawker said, "The others are a good ways ahead. Hadn't we better hurry a little?"
The girl obediently mended her pace.
"Whoa! haw! git-ap!" shouted the voice in the distance. "Git over there, Red, git over! Gee! Git-ap!" And these cries pursued the man and the maid.
At last Hawker said, "That's my father."
"Where?" she asked, looking bewildered.
"Back there, driving those oxen."
The voice shouted: "Whoa! Git-ap! Gee! Red, git over there now, will you? I'll trim the shin off'n you in a minute. Whoa! Haw! Haw! Whoa! Git-ap!"
Hawker repeated, "Yes, that's my father."
"Oh, is it?" she said. "Let's wait for him."
"All right," said Hawker sullenly.
Presently a team of oxen waddled into view around the curve of the road. They swung their heads slowly from side to side, bent under the yoke, and looked out at the world with their great eyes, in which was a mystic note of their humble, submissive, toilsome lives. An old wagon creaked after them, and erect upon it was the tall and tattered figure of the farmer swinging his whip and yelling: "Whoa! Haw there! Git-ap!" The lash flicked and flew over the broad backs of the animals.
"Hello, father!" said Hawker.
"Whoa! Back! Whoa! Why, hello, William, what you doing here?"
"Oh, just taking a walk. Miss Fanhall, this is my father. Father——"
"How d' you do?" The old man balanced himself with care and then raised his straw hat from his head with a quick gesture and with what was perhaps a slightly apologetic air, as if he feared that he was rather over-doing the ceremonial part.
The girl later became very intent upon the oxen. "Aren't they nice old things?" she said, as she stood looking into the faces of the team. "But what makes their eyes so very sad?"
"I dunno," said the old man.
She was apparently unable to resist a desire to pat the nose of the nearest ox, and for that purpose she stretched forth a cautious hand. But the ox moved restlessly at the moment and the girl put her hand apprehensively behind herself and backed away. The old man on the wagon grinned. "They won't hurt you," he told her.
"They won't bite, will they?" she asked, casting a glance of inquiry at the old man and then turning her eyes again upon the fascinating animals.
"No," said the old man, still grinning, "just as gentle as kittens."
She approached them circuitously. "Sure?" she said.
"Sure," replied the old man. He climbed from the wagon and came to the heads of the oxen. With him as an ally, she finally succeeded in patting the nose of the nearest ox. "Aren't they solemn, kind old fellows? Don't you get to think a great deal of them?"
"Well, they're kind of aggravating beasts sometimes," he said. "But they're a good yoke—a good yoke. They can haul with anything in this region."
"It doesn't make them so terribly tired, does it?" she said hopefully. "They are such strong animals."
"No-o-o," he said. "I dunno. I never thought much about it."
With their heads close together they became so absorbed in their conversation that they seemed to forget the painter. He sat on a log and watched them.
Ultimately the girl said, "Won't you give us a ride?"
"Sure," said the old man. "Come on, and I'll help you up." He assisted her very painstakingly to the old board that usually served him as a seat, and he clambered to a place beside her. "Come on, William," he called. The painter climbed into the wagon and stood behind his father, putting his hand on the old man's shoulder to preserve his balance.
"Which is the near ox?" asked the girl with a serious frown.
"Git-ap! Haw! That one there," said the old man.
"And this one is the off ox?"
"Well, suppose you sat here where I do; would this one be the near ox and that one the off ox, then?"
"Nope. Be just same."
"Then the near ox isn't always the nearest one to a person, at all? That ox there is always the near ox?"
"Yep, always. 'Cause when you drive 'em a-foot you always walk on the left side."
"Well, I never knew that before."
After studying them in silence for a while, she said, "Do you think they are happy?"
"I dunno," said the old man. "I never thought." As the wagon creaked on they gravely discussed this problem, contemplating profoundly the backs of the animals. Hawker gazed in silence at the meditating two before him. Under the wagon Stanley, the setter, walked slowly, wagging his tail in placid contentment and ruminating upon his experiences.
At last the old man said cheerfully, "Shall I take you around by the inn?"
Hawker started and seemed to wince at the question. Perhaps he was about to interrupt, but the girl cried: "Oh, will you? Take us right to the door? Oh, that will be awfully good of you!"
"Why," began Hawker, "you don't want—you don't want to ride to the inn on an—on an ox wagon, do you?"
"Why, of course I do," she retorted, directing a withering glance at him.
"Well——" he protested.
"Let 'er be, William," interrupted the old man. "Let 'er do what she wants to. I guess everybody in th' world ain't even got an ox wagon to ride in. Have they?"
"No, indeed," she returned, while withering Hawker again.
"Gee! Gee! Whoa! Haw! Git-ap! Haw! Whoa! Back!"
After these two attacks Hawker became silent.
"Gee! Gee! Gee there, blast—s'cuse me. Gee! Whoa! Git-ap!"
All the boarders of the inn were upon its porches waiting for the dinner gong. There was a surge toward the railing as a middle-aged woman passed the word along her middle-aged friends that Miss Fanhall, accompanied by Mr. Hawker, had arrived on the ox cart of Mr. Hawker's father.
"Whoa! Ha! Git-ap!" said the old man in more subdued tones. "Whoa there, Red! Whoa, now! Wh-o-a!"
Hawker helped the girl to alight, and she paused for a moment conversing with the old man about the oxen. Then she ran smiling up the steps to meet the Worcester girls.
"Oh, such a lovely time! Those dear old oxen—you should have been with us!"
"Oh, Miss Fanhall!"
"What is it, Mrs. Truscot?"
"That was a great prank of yours last night, my dear. We all enjoyed the joke so much."
"Yes, your riding on the ox cart with that old farmer and that young Mr. What's-his-name, you know. We all thought it delicious. Ah, my dear, after all—don't be offended—if we had your people's wealth and position we might do that sort of unconventional thing, too; but, ah, my dear, we can't, we can't! Isn't the young painter a charming man?"
Out on the porch Hollanden was haranguing his friends. He heard a step and glanced over his shoulder to see who was about to interrupt him. He suddenly ceased his oration, and said, "Hello! what's the matter with Grace?" The heads turned promptly.
As the girl came toward them it could be seen that her cheeks were very pink and her eyes were flashing general wrath and defiance.
The Worcester girls burst into eager interrogation. "Oh, nothing!" she replied at first, but later she added in an undertone, "That wretched Mrs. Truscot——"
"What did she say?" whispered the younger Worcester girl.
"Why, she said—oh, nothing!"
Both Hollanden and Hawker were industriously reflecting.
Later in the morning Hawker said privately to the girl, "I know what Mrs. Truscot talked to you about."
She turned upon him belligerently. "You do?"
"Yes," he answered with meekness. "It was undoubtedly some reference to your ride upon the ox wagon."
She hesitated a moment, and then said, "Well?"
With still greater meekness he said, "I am very sorry."
"Are you, indeed?" she inquired loftily. "Sorry for what? Sorry that I rode upon your father's ox wagon, or sorry that Mrs. Truscot was rude to me about it?"
"Well, in some ways it was my fault."
"Was it? I suppose you intend to apologize for your father's owning an ox wagon, don't you?"
"Well, I am going to ride in the ox wagon whenever I choose. Your father, I know, will always be glad to have me. And if it so shocks you, there is not the slightest necessity of your coming with us."
They glowered at each other, and he said, "You have twisted the question with the usual ability of your sex."
She pondered as if seeking some particularly destructive retort. She ended by saying bluntly, "Did you know that we were going home next week?"
A flush came suddenly to his face. "No. Going home? Who? You?"
"Why, of course." And then with an indolent air she continued, "I meant to have told you before this, but somehow it quite escaped me."
He stammered, "Are—are you, honestly?"
She nodded. "Why, of course. Can't stay here forever, you know."
They were then silent for a long time.
At last Hawker said, "Do you remember what I told you yesterday?"
"No. What was it?"
He cried indignantly, "You know very well what I told you!"
"I do not."
"No," he sneered, "of course not! You never take the trouble to remember such things. Of course not! Of course not!"
"You are a very ridiculous person," she vouchsafed, after eying him coldly.
He arose abruptly. "I believe I am. By heavens, I believe I am!" he cried in a fury.
She laughed. "You are more ridiculous now than I have yet seen you."
After a pause he said magnificently, "Well, Miss Fanhall, you will doubtless find Mr. Hollanden's conversation to have a much greater interest than that of such a ridiculous person."
Hollanden approached them with the blithesome step of an untroubled man. "Hello, you two people, why don't you—oh—ahem! Hold on, Billie, where are you going?"
"I——" began Hawker.
"Oh, Hollie," cried the girl impetuously, "do tell me how to do that slam thing, you know. I've tried it so often, but I don't believe I hold my racket right. And you do it so beautifully."
"Oh, that," said Hollanden. "It's not so very difficult. I'll show it to you. You don't want to know this minute, do you?"
"Yes," she answered.
"Well, come over to the court, then. Come ahead, Billie!"
"No," said Hawker, without looking at his friend, "I can't this morning, Hollie. I've got to go to work. Good-bye!" He comprehended them both in a swift bow and stalked away.
Hollanden turned quickly to the girl. "What was the matter with Billie? What was he grinding his teeth for? What was the matter with him?"
"Why, nothing—was there?" she asked in surprise.
"Why, he was grinding his teeth until he sounded like a stone crusher," said Hollanden in a severe tone. "What was the matter with him?"
"How should I know?" she retorted.
"You've been saying something to him."
"I! I didn't say a thing."
"Yes, you did."
"Hollie, don't be absurd."
Hollanden debated with himself for a time, and then observed, "Oh, well, I always said he was an ugly-tempered fellow——"
The girl flashed him a little glance.
"And now I am sure of it—as ugly-tempered a fellow as ever lived."
"I believe you," said the girl. Then she added: "All men are. I declare, I think you to be the most incomprehensible creatures. One never knows what to expect of you. And you explode and go into rages and make yourselves utterly detestable over the most trivial matters and at the most unexpected times. You are all mad, I think."
"I!" cried Hollanden wildly. "What in the mischief have I done?"
"Look here," said Hollanden, at length, "I thought you were so wonderfully anxious to learn that stroke?"
"Well, I am," she said.
"Come on, then." As they walked toward the tennis court he seemed to be plunged into mournful thought. In his eyes was a singular expression, which perhaps denoted the woe of the optimist pushed suddenly from its height. He sighed. "Oh, well, I suppose all women, even the best of them, are that way."
"What way?" she said.
"My dear child," he answered, in a benevolent manner, "you have disappointed me, because I have discovered that you resemble the rest of your sex."
"Ah!" she remarked, maintaining a noncommittal attitude.
"Yes," continued Hollanden, with a sad but kindly smile, "even you, Grace, were not above fooling with the affections of a poor country swain, until he don't know his ear from the tooth he had pulled two years ago."
She laughed. "He would be furious if he heard you call him a country swain."
"Who would?" said Hollanden.
"Why, the country swain, of course," she rejoined.
Hollanden seemed plunged in mournful reflection again. "Well, it's a shame, Grace, anyhow," he observed, wagging his head dolefully. "It's a howling, wicked shame."
"Hollie, you have no brains at all," she said, "despite your opinion."
"No," he replied ironically, "not a bit."
"Well, you haven't, you know, Hollie."
"At any rate," he said in an angry voice, "I have some comprehension and sympathy for the feelings of others."
"Have you?" she asked. "How do you mean, Hollie? Do you mean you have feeling for them in their various sorrows? Or do you mean that you understand their minds?"
Hollanden ponderously began, "There have been people who have not questioned my ability to——"
"Oh, then, you mean that you both feel for them in their sorrows and comprehend the machinery of their minds. Well, let me tell you that in regard to the last thing you are wrong. You know nothing of anyone's mind. You know less about human nature than anybody I have met."
Hollanden looked at her in artless astonishment. He said, "Now, I wonder what made you say that?" This interrogation did not seem to be addressed to her, but was evidently a statement to himself of a problem. He meditated for some moments. Eventually he said, "I suppose you mean that I do not understand you?"
"Why do you suppose I mean that?"
"That's what a person usually means when he—or she—charges another with not understanding the entire world."
"Well, at any rate, it is not what I mean at all," she said. "I mean that you habitually blunder about other people's affairs, in the belief, I imagine, that you are a great philanthropist, when you are only making an extraordinary exhibition of yourself."
"The dev——" began Hollanden. Afterward he said, "Now, I wonder what in blue thunder you mean this time?"
"Mean this time? My meaning is very plain, Hollie. I supposed the words were clear enough."
"Yes," he said thoughtfully, "your words were clear enough, but then you were of course referring back to some event, or series of events, in which I had the singular ill fortune to displease you. Maybe you don't know yourself, and spoke only from the emotion generated by the event, or series of events, in which, as I have said, I had the singular ill fortune to displease you."
"How awf'ly clever!" she said.
"But I can't recall the event, or series of events, at all," he continued, musing with a scholarly air and disregarding her mockery. "I can't remember a thing about it. To be sure, it might have been that time when——"
"I think it very stupid of you to hunt for a meaning when I believe I made everything so perfectly clear," she said wrathfully.
"Well, you yourself might not be aware of what you really meant," he answered sagely. "Women often do that sort of thing, you know. Women often speak from motives which, if brought face to face with them, they wouldn't be able to distinguish from any other thing which they had never before seen."
"Hollie, if there is a disgusting person in the world it is he who pretends to know so much concerning a woman's mind."
"Well, that's because they who know, or pretend to know, so much about a woman's mind are invariably satirical, you understand," said Hollanden cheerfully.
A dog ran frantically across the lawn, his nose high in the air and his countenance expressing vast perturbation and alarm. "Why, Billie forgot to whistle for his dog when he started for home," said Hollanden. "Come here, old man! Well, 'e was a nice dog!" The girl also gave invitation, but the setter would not heed them. He spun wildly about the lawn until he seemed to strike his master's trail, and then, with his nose near to the ground, went down the road at an eager gallop. They stood and watched him.
"Stanley's a nice dog," said Hollanden.
"Indeed he is!" replied the girl fervently.
Presently Hollanden remarked: "Well, don't let's fight any more, particularly since we can't decide what we're fighting about. I can't discover the reason, and you don't know it, so——"
"I do know it. I told you very plainly."
"Well, all right. Now, this is the way to work that slam: You give the ball a sort of a lift—see!—underhanded and with your arm crooked and stiff. Here, you smash this other ball into the net. Hi! Look out! If you hit it that way you'll knock it over the hotel. Let the ball drop nearer to the ground. Oh, heavens, not on the ground! Well, it's hard to do it from the serve, anyhow. I'll go over to the other court and bat you some easy ones."
Afterward, when they were going toward the inn, the girl suddenly began to laugh.
"What are you giggling at?" said Hollanden.
"I was thinking how furious he would be if he heard you call him a country swain," she rejoined.
"Who?" asked Hollanden.
Oglethorpe contended that the men who made the most money from books were the best authors. Hollanden contended that they were the worst. Oglethorpe said that such a question should be left to the people. Hollanden said that the people habitually made wrong decisions on questions that were left to them. "That is the most odiously aristocratic belief," said Oglethorpe.
"No," said Hollanden, "I like the people. But, considered generally, they are a collection of ingenious blockheads."
"But they read your books," said Oglethorpe, grinning.
"That is through a mistake," replied Hollanden.
As the discussion grew in size it incited the close attention of the Worcester girls, but Miss Fanhall did not seem to hear it. Hawker, too, was staring into the darkness with a gloomy and preoccupied air.
"Are you sorry that this is your last evening at Hemlock Inn?" said the painter at last, in a low tone.
"Why, yes—certainly," said the girl.
Under the sloping porch of the inn the vague orange light from the parlours drifted to the black wall of the night.
"I shall miss you," said the painter.
"Oh, I dare say," said the girl.
Hollanden was lecturing at length and wonderfully. In the mystic spaces of the night the pines could be heard in their weird monotone, as they softly smote branch and branch, as if moving in some solemn and sorrowful dance.
"This has been quite the most delightful summer of my experience," said the painter.
"I have found it very pleasant," said the girl.
From time to time Hawker glanced furtively at Oglethorpe, Hollanden, and the Worcester girl. This glance expressed no desire for their well-being.
"I shall miss you," he said to the girl again. His manner was rather desperate. She made no reply, and, after leaning toward her, he subsided with an air of defeat.