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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesChildren Of The Market Place - Chapter 15
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Children Of The Market Place - Chapter 15 Post by :otto_jurscha Category :Long Stories Author :Edgar Lee Masters Date :May 2012 Read :1631

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Children Of The Market Place - Chapter 15

CHAPTER XV

The house was done. My furnishings were delivered. There were curtains to make, many feminine touches were needed to settle the rooms. Sarah did all that she could, but Dorothy Clayton had come. She was just a year younger than I, and of charming appearance and manner. We had become friends almost at once. She was with me daily, as we put the house in order for occupancy. Reverdy thought that Sarah must be apprised of what had happened to Zoe. She was terribly wounded and distressed. But she approved of my course in keeping Zoe with me.

On my birthday, June 18th, we had the housewarming. I gave a party, inviting all the young people from Jacksonville and the country around: those that I knew and those that I didn't--all but Lamborn. The omission would be notable, but I could not invite him. The matter was promptly gossiped about. Lamborn himself was stirred to talk now. He made the most detestable references to Zoe and me; and I was told of them. At the party Douglas drew me aside and confided to me that Lamborn was in an ugly rage.

Douglas was quite the life of my party. He mingled freely with all the company, making himself charming to every one. He danced with every girl present, and more than once with Dorothy. His short figure gave him a certain comical appearance. But he was graceful and adept at the dances. And his wit and good humor kept every one in high spirits. Reverdy, too, participated in the joy of the occasion with generous enthusiasm. Altogether, we were a merry crowd. I had strengthened my hold upon the affections of the community. For the time I had forgotten my embarrassing troubles. They came back to my mind after the guests had departed. And there was something else to disturb me. Dorothy had gained more than my passing interest.

Work was now my salvation, and I had plenty to do. I had learned in this year a vast amount about running a farm; and I was blessed with excellent health. But meanwhile Zoe! It was not long before it was certain that she was to bear a child; and it would not be many months or even weeks when she could not walk out or go to town without betraying her secret to the world. But then what should the explanation be? Should I tell what I knew? Should I remain silent?

Except for engrossing duties, with time to think and brood, I should have been thrown into tortures with the possibilities. There was always the chance, too, that Zoe in the desperation of the moment might run away from me. She had the English blood of my father in her veins, venturesome, perhaps reckless. Perhaps it was well that she had no control of the profits of the farm which had thus far been allotted to her, nor her share of the ready money which my father had left. I had had Reverdy appointed her guardian, making myself accountable to him. I deemed this the fitting thing; and I was also brought to do it because I might be absent at times in the future when she would need money. But if Zoe should run away what would become of her? The chance of her being kidnapped and sold into slavery filled me with terror. Yet the days went on without change.

Except that Sarah's boy was born! What a father Reverdy was! So wondering and gentle. And he guarded Sarah like a lover and father in one. Zoe was wild to see Sarah's boy; but that was out of the question now. She wanted to deed some of her land to the boy, or better perhaps, to Sarah. But she would have to wait until she became of age to do this.

The birth of Sarah's boy affected Zoe profoundly. She was now about two months advanced in her own pregnancy. She was beginning to think of the ordeal herself, of the fate of the child, what it was being born to.... What, indeed? I noticed that Zoe had hours of deep depression. Would it not be best for me to have a woman in the house with Zoe? Mrs. Engle knew of a widow about fifty whose husband had been killed in the War of 1812. And I got her, a Mrs. Brown. Zoe was now free of the housework. She had a companion when I was away on my work about the farm. And I felt relieved. But my mind and heart were full of problems. There was always Zoe! There was always Lamborn, skulking in the shadows of my speculations. How would I unravel this tangle with him?

Then there was Dorothy. Some of the talk must reach her eventually. It might come to her as a smudge upon me. Then I could not expect to continue my attentions to her without explanations. How could I go into explanations with Dorothy? But even if Dorothy only knew that Zoe was my sister, what would she think of me? Could she have an interest in a man with a family relationship of this sort? Could Dorothy, bred in Tennessee, look with favor upon my attentions? Had Reverdy and Sarah kept this relationship from Dorothy? Had some one else told her? But if she had not found these circumstances a reason for turning from me could she tolerate the rest of my difficulties?

And one night I came home to find Zoe in bed. She was in great pain and very weak. She was scarcely able to talk. She took my hand and pressed it, only saying: "I have done something for you. If I die, it will be best anyway. If I live it will be all right. I could not bear to bring you such shame and trouble. Don't worry ... don't."

Mrs. Brown came in and stood by the bed. She did not speak. She looked at me as if to say that sometimes desperate things have to be done. I understood. I acquiesced. Did Mrs. Brown do it? I never asked. Zoe's sufferings were very great. All this for Lamborn's drunken madness. And then Zoe began to mend. She was out of her difficulty. She became herself in a few weeks. But her spirit had changed. She was wiser, more self-possessed. She was more a woman. A great load had been lifted from me; yet I now faced a new Zoe. What would this mature Zoe do to me?

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CHAPTER XVIThere was the law against Zoe taking this step, and against any one having any part in it. Still would it be known? I was content to wait for developments and meanwhile to put the whole thing behind me. Work helped me to do this. I had Sarah's boy to interest me too. They had named him Amos. I had taken five twenty-dollar gold pieces and tied them in a package, bound them with a ribbon, and placed them in his tiny hand. I could not foresee the time when I should touch his hand on an occasion of very
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CHAPTER XIThe autumn was coming on. The cholera had abated. The air was cool and fresh. The country was taking fire from the colors of the changing year. And I was feeling more rugged than I had ever felt in my life. As I have said, a college had already been founded in Jacksonville. Indeed, some years before my coming the one brick building on the campus had been constructed; and before that the log hut, also on the campus, in which the young president and his pretty wife had spent their first winter here in 1829. Reverdy told me that
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