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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGlory Of Youth - Chapter 17. Glory Of Youth
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Glory Of Youth - Chapter 17. Glory Of Youth Post by :svesty Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :May 2012 Read :759

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Glory Of Youth - Chapter 17. Glory Of Youth

CHAPTER XVII. GLORY OF YOUTH

When Bettina cried, "I could fly with you,--forever," the light of a great joy leaped in Justin's eyes. But he said nothing; he merely set his hand more steadily to steering.

And Bettina was content to be silent; to drift on and on in this golden world, where there was just herself and the youth with the shining eyes.

Far beneath them several racing yachts seemed flung like white flower petals on the surface of the sea; two girls in red coats on the club-house tennis courts made glowing spots of color; the crowds of people on the rocks, with their heads upturned to view the fairy ship of the air, were as formless and as lacking in life and movement as a patchwork quilt.

Bettina felt no wonder. Her mood was one of heavenly enchantment; having passed the first gate of the great adventure, no small detail could seem strange.

If in those exquisite moments she remembered Anthony, she gave no sign. Somewhere, perhaps, down there in the darkness, was a weary man working; there were sick people; pain was there and suffering. But such things belonged to an existence in which she had no part. It was as if she had died, and, rising above the earth, looked pityingly on those who still struggled and strove.

She had a sudden whimsical memory of a Sunday-school song which had appealed to her childish imagination:


"I shall have wings, I shall have wings,
I shall have wings, some day----"


Years ago she had sung it with a half hundred enthusiastic youngsters. Her vision, then, had dealt, somewhat hazily, with golden crowns, with plumed pinions, and with ultimate bliss; but never had her imagination compassed such a moment as this!

Above the noise of the motor Justin was aware of the lilt of her fresh young voice:

"I shall have wings, I shall have wings----"

The humming wires keyed the hackneyed tune to a sort of celestial harmony:


"Bright wings of love, from God above,
To bear my glad soul away----"


Justin glanced down at her rapt face.

"Do you like it?"

"It is--heaven!"

As she again took up the little song, he joined in, and they finished the last verse triumphantly; then they looked at each other and laughed.

"I used to sing it in Sunday-school," Bettina explained.

"So did I," and these simple sentences, in their uplifted mood, seemed fraught with great meaning.

They were beyond the harbor now. Ahead of them and to the right was the open sea; to the left, the town, with its church steeples like pin points beneath them, its most imposing buildings no bigger than mushrooms.

"Are we so very high?"

"Not so high, perhaps, as it seems to you. It is perfectly safe."

On and on they went, leaving the lighthouse behind them, leaving behind them the harbor and the town, passing, finally, the great forest through which they had raced in the rain.

Then Justin had asked, "Do you remember?"

And Bettina had answered, "Shall I ever forget?"

The gulls circled below them, uttering mewing cries. It was as if they protested against the intrusion of this bird man and bird woman in a realm which had belonged to winged things since the world began.

They came presently to a long and lonely stretch of beach, above which Justin sailed, low, and, relaxing his vigilance for the first time, he began his eager wooing--all fire and rapture.

And Bettina trembled--and listened.

It seemed to her that throughout her life she had waited to hear that which Justin was saying to her now.

"You were made for me--dear. In my dreams there has always been a girl like you--little and white and helpless--but vivid, too, in flashes. When I saw you for the first time in that dark room on that rainy day I knew that you were--mine. I know I'm not good enough for you. I know that if you should ever marry me I should thank God on my knees every day of my life. But it isn't conceit which makes me believe that you and I have been coming toward each other always. I don't know why you gave me back the silver ring. At this moment I don't care--although the other night my world went to pieces--but just now, what you said,--and the way you said it, that you would fly with me forever,--made me feel that all the things I had hoped were true----"

Bettina felt as if their souls were bared. What conventional thing could she say which would hide her joy? Her eyes would tell him though her lips might not.

As if he read her thoughts he bent down to her. "Look at me," he urged, and again, "My dear one--is it, then, really--true?"

* * * * *

She knew now that she was Justin's and he was hers until the end of time. By all the white wonder of her thoughts she knew it. By all the quickened blood in her beating heart. What she had felt for Anthony was the affection of an unawakened nature--she had given him gratitude, friendship--but between them were the years across which she must look somewhat timidly; between them was his sadness, which oppressed her, and his profession, which she feared.

But here was youth, which she understood, and romance, for which she had longed, and love at white-heat.

Thus, as she soared with Justin, she forgot past promises and future judgments, and whispered, "It is true----"

After that they talked in the language of youth and love.

"Do you know how pretty you are?"

"You think that I am pretty because you--like me."

"I think it because I--love you."

The echo of their light laughter went trailing after them as the song of a lark trails through the blue.

Softly, at last, Justin brought his shining ship down to the surface of a little bay.

Two men at work on the beach came out in a dory in answer to his call.

They were eager and curious, and glad to tow the queer craft into shallow water, to make it fast, and to watch it for a time.

"We will walk about for a bit," Justin said to Bettina, "and go back at sunset."

Bettina demurred. "It's really late now," she said, with her eyes on the eastern horizon, where the first gray haze of twilight was beginning to gather.

"Look the other way. There's all the gold of the west, and it won't be dark for hours."

"But Sophie will worry."

"She will think you're with Anthony--he's nice and safe."

"Perhaps some one will have seen us, and have told her, and anyhow, I must get back for dinner."

"Any one may eat a dinner, but for you and me there may never be another moment like this!"

Following a steep path they came presently to a curious and lonely spot. Here was an ancient burying place. On a rocky headland, overlooking the entrance to the harbor and the wide sweep of the sea beyond, the first dead of the colony had been buried; here lay the forefathers of the town. Many of the stones had fallen; others stood sturdily where they had stood for centuries. Strange old stones they were, of gray slate, etched with forbidding symbols of skulls and crossbones.

In one corner was a monument of later erection. It had to do with the memory of more than a hundred men who had been lost in a September gale off the fishing banks.

Bettina shivered as she read the carved history.

"Oh, how did the women stand it," she said, "to come here to the top of this hill, week after week, watching? To wonder and worry and fear. To wake in the middle of the night and know that their husbands and lovers were out in the blackness and storm. And then at last to see the boats coming in, and not know whether the ones they loved were on board--to find, perhaps, at last, that they were not on board. How did they stand it?"

"As you would have stood it, if you had been one of them----"

"Would I?" wistfully. "Do you think I could be brave and patient?"

"You could be everything that is good and beautiful----"

She did not smile or blush. All the glamour of their flight had fallen from her. The old cemetery with its gruesome headstones oppressed her. The purple shadows of the twilight seemed to circle the world.

She shuddered and one little hand caught at the sleeve of Justin's coat.

He glanced down at her. "My dear one, what is it?"

Her frightened eyes pleaded. "I--I don't like it here. I'm afraid."

"With me--silly. You weren't afraid up there in the clouds."

"This is--different. It seems down here as if the whole world were--dead----"

"You're tired. Look here, I'm going to carry you up this hill."

As he said it, masterfully, she felt herself swept up into his strong young arms.

"Put me down!"

He drew his head back to look at her.

"Why?"

"I'll tell you in a minute. Put me down."

He set her on her feet, and she stood there, swaying, her lips parted.

At last she said, "I love you," but held out her hand as if to keep him from her. "I love you--but I mustn't let you--love me."

"Why not?"

"Because--oh, Justin," she was stripping off her gloves, "oh, I've tried to hide these," pitifully, "to hide these from you. I wanted my little moment of happiness, too. But now you've got to know."

The gloves were off, and the last rays of the setting sun, striking the great jewels, brought fire which seemed to blind Justin's eyes.

He caught her hands in his, roughly. "Who gave them to you?" he demanded. "Who gave them to you, Bettina?"

But all his doubts and fears had crystallized to certainty before she whispered, "Anthony."

"Do you mean that you are going to marry--Anthony?"

She nodded. "He loves me, Justin."

"And you love him?"

Her head went up. "I told you just now that--I loved--you. But I've promised Anthony. He asked me that day before I went to Diana's. The day after I first saw you. And he was so good, and I was so lonely, that I thought that--I cared. I didn't know then what it meant--to care."

His eyes, which had been stern, softened.

"And now that you know," he asked, "what are you going to do?"

She twisted her fingers nervously.

"I don't know," she faltered. "What shall I do, Justin?"

"Oh, my dear," he said, brokenly, "Anthony is my friend. I can't steal you--like a thief--in the night----"

Her lips quivered. "I knew that--you'd say that. I am glad--you--said it."

He turned away. "If you knew how hard it is for me to say it."

She laid her little hand on his arm.

"If you only won't be angry with me."

He turned back to her. "I am not angry," he said, "only I have been--all sorts of a fool."

She sank down hopelessly on a broken stone bench, backed by evergreen trees. "You haven't been a fool," she said. "I should have told you. But I couldn't. Diana wouldn't let me."

"What did Diana have to do with it?"

"She said that Anthony's friends ought to know me before the engagement was announced."

"So you and she have talked it over, and Sophie, I suppose--and how many others?" His laugh was not good to hear.

"Oh, please. I don't think any of us could have guessed that--things would have turned out like this. I didn't dream how you felt and how I felt until the other night, when you tried to give me the little ring. Then I knew."

"That you loved me?"

"No. That you loved me. I--I didn't know the other until to-day when you said--'Come.'"

"Didn't you know that day in the rain?"

"No, oh, _no_. I thought it was just because we were both young, and good friends, and happy together."

"And I thought it was because our spirits met--in the storm."

He flung himself down beside her. "To me the whole thing seems monstrous. Anthony is years too old for you, even if you loved him. And you don't love him."

"Yet I can't break a promise, can I?"

He moved restlessly.

"If you told him, he would release you, of course. But somehow I'd feel an awful cad to have Anthony think that I had taken you from him."

"How do you think I should feel?" The color flamed in her cheeks. "Don't you know that a woman has just as fine a sense of honor in such things as a man?"

As she made a movement to rise, he caught at the floating ends of her white veil, and held them, as if he would thus anchor her to himself.

"Forgive me," he pleaded. "I'm afraid I'm too desperately unhappy to know what I am saying."

"I know--I'm unhappy, too."

With the fatalism of youth they had accepted their tragedy as final. He still held the end of her veil in his hand, but her face was turned away from him.

A little breeze came from the west, and there was a dark line of cloud below the gold.

"We shall have to go home on the train," Justin said, as he noted the whitecaps beyond the bay. "There's too much wind to make it safe for us to fly."

"Then we must go now. It is very late."

"I can telephone Sophie from the gatekeeper's house. It's on the other side of the church. And I'll telephone to the men to come after the hydro-plane."

She assented listlessly, and they walked on.

The church, when they reached it, showed itself an ancient edifice. Built of English brick, it had withstood the storms of years. Its bell still rang clearly the call to Sunday service, and at its font were baptized the descendants of the men who slept in the old cemetery.

As they reached the steps, a man who was digging a grave hailed them. "If you and your wife would like to look in," he said to Justin, "you can bring the key to me at the gate. I'll be there when you come."

He unlocked the door for them. They heard his retreating footsteps, and knew that they were alone. Then Justin spoke with quickened breath. "That is as it should be--my wife----"

Out of a long silence she whispered, "Please--we must not--we must not----"

"Surely we have a right to happiness----"

She had left his side, and her voice seemed to come faintly from among the shadows: "Hasn't everybody a right to happiness?"

"Why should we think of everybody--it is my happiness and yours which concerns us--sweetheart."

She did not answer, and, following her, he found that she had entered one of the high-backed, old-fashioned pews, and was on her knees.

Hesitating, he presently knelt beside her.

It was very still in the old church--the old, old church, with its history of sorrow and stress and storm. One final blaze of light illumined the stained glass window above the altar, and touched the bent heads with glory--the bright uncovered head and the veiled one beside it.

Then again came dimness, darkness--silence.

They were in the vestibule of the church before he spoke to her.

"Did you pray," he asked, "for me?"

"I prayed for all men and women--who love----"

He laid his hands on her shoulders and gazed down at her with all of his heart in his sad young eyes. "There must be some way out of this," he said. "Surely God can't be so cruel as to keep us apart. Why, we are so young, dear one, and there's all of life before us--think of all the years."

The look with which she met his glance had in it all the steadfastness of awakened womanhood. "You said out there that I could be brave and patient. Help me to be brave--big brother."

"Don't," he said, hoarsely; "don't call me that. It's got to be all or nothing. But whatever comes, whether you marry me or marry Anthony--I'm going to love you always. I'm going to love you until I die, Bettina."

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