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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Deliverance: A Romance Of The Virginia Tobacco Fields - Book II - The Temptation - Chapter II. The Romance That Was
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The Deliverance: A Romance Of The Virginia Tobacco Fields - Book II - The Temptation - Chapter II. The Romance That Was Post by :travisdu Category :Long Stories Author :Ellen Glasgow Date :April 2011 Read :1375

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The Deliverance: A Romance Of The Virginia Tobacco Fields - Book II - The Temptation - Chapter II. The Romance That Was

Waking in the night she said again, "I love him to distraction,"
and slipping under the dimity curtains of the bed, sought his
letter where she had left it on the bureau. The full light of the
harvest moon was in the room--a light so soft that it lay like a
yellow fluid upon the floor. It seemed almost as if one might
stoop and fill the open palms.

She found the letter thrown carelessly upon the pincushion, and
holding it to her lips, paused a moment beside the window,
looking beyond the shaven lawn and the clustered oaks to where
the tobacco fields lay golden beneath the moon. It was such a
night as seemed granted by some kindly deity for the fulfillment
of lovers' vows, and the girl, standing beside the open window,
grew suddenly sad, as one who sees a vision with the knowledge
that it is not life. When presently she went back to bed it was
to lie sleepless until dawn, with the love letter held tightly in
her hands.

The next day a restlessness like that of fever worked in her
blood, and she ran from turret to basement of the roomy old
house, calling Will to come and help her find amusement.

"Play ball with me, Will," she said; "I feel as if I were a child
to-day." " Oh, it's no fun playing with a girl," replied the boy;
"besides, I am going fishing in the river with Zebbadee Blake; I
shan't be back till supper," and shouldering his fishing-rod he
flung off with his can of worms. Miss Saidie was skimming big
pans of milk in the spring-house, and Maria watched her idly for
a time, growing suddenly impatient of the leisurely way in which
the spoon travelled under the yellow cream. "I don't see how you
can be so fond of it," she said at last. "Lord, child, I never
could abide dairy work," responded Miss Saidie, setting the
skimmed pan aside and carefully lifting another from the flat
stones over which a stream óf water trickled. "And yet you've
done nothing else all your long life," wondered Maria. "When it
comes to doing a thing in this world," returned the little woman,
removing a speck of dust from the cream with the point of the
spoon, "I don't ask myself whether I like it or not, but what's
the best way to get it done. I've spent sixty years doing things
I wasn't fond of, and I don't reckon I'm any the less happy for
having done 'em well." "But I should be," asserted Maria, and
then, with her white parasol over her bared head, she started for
a restless stroll along the old road under the great chestnuts.
She had reached the abandoned ice-pond, and was picking her way
carefully in the shadow of the trees, when the baying of a pack
of hounds in full cry broke on her ears, and with the nervous
tremor she had associated from childhood with the sound, she
stopped short in the road and waited anxiously for the hunt to
pass. Even as she hesitated, feeling in imagination all the blind
terror of the pursuit, and determined to swing into a chestnut
bough in case of an approach, a small animal darted suddenly from
around the bend in the sunken road, and an instant afterward the
hounds in hot chase broke from the cover. For a single breath the
girl, dropping her parasol, looked at the lowered branch; then as
the small animal neared her her glance fell, and she saw that it
was a little yellow dog, with hanging red tongue and eyes bulging
in terror. From side to side of the red clay road the creature
doubled for a moment in its anguish, and then with a spring,
straight as the flight of a homing bird, fled to the shelter of
Maria's skirts. Quick as a heart-beat the girl's personal fears
had vanished, and as an almost savage instinct of battle awoke in
her, she stooped with a protecting movement and, picking the
small dog from the ground, held him high above her head as the
hounds came on. A moment before her limbs had shaken at the
distant cries; now facing the immediate presence of the danger,
she felt the rage of her pity flow like an infusion of strong
blood through her veins. Until they dashed her to the ground she
knew that she would stand holding the hunted creature above her
head. Like a wave the pack broke instantly upon her, forcing her
back against the body of the chestnut, and tearing her dress, at
the first blow, from her bosom to the ground. She had felt their
weight upon her breast, their hot breath full in her face, when,
in the midst of the confused noises in her ears, she heard a loud
oath that rang out like a shot, followed by the strokes of a
rawhide whip on living flesh. So close came the lash that the
curling end smote her cheek and left a thin flame from ear to
mouth. The lessening sounds became all at once like the silence;
and when the hounds, beaten back, slunk, whimpering, to heel, she
lowered her eyes until she looked straight into the face of
Christopher Blake. "My God! You have pluck!" he said, and his
face was like that of a dead man. Still holding the dog above her
head, she lay motionless against the body of the tree. "Drive the
beasts away," she pleaded like a frightened child. Without a word
he turned and ordered the hounds home, and they crawled
obediently back along the sunken road. Then he looked at her
again. "I saw them start the dog on my land," he said, "and I ran
across the field as soon as I could find my whip. If I hadn't
come up when I did they would have torn you to pieces. Not
another man in the world could have brought them in. Look at your
dress." Glancing down, she followed the long slit from bosom to
hem. "I hate them!" she exclaimed fiercely. "So it was your dog
they started?" "Mine!" She lowered the yellow cur, holding him
close in her arms, where he nestled shivering. "I never saw him
before, but he's mine now; I saved him. I shall name him Agag,
because the bitterness of death is past." "Well, rather--Look
here," he burst out impulsively, "you've got the staunchest pluck
I ever saw. I never knew a man brave enough to stand up against
those hounds--and you--why, I don't believe you flinched an
eyelash, and--by George the dog wasn't yours after all." " As if
that made a difference!" she flashed out. "Why, he ran to me for
help--and they might have killed me, but I'd never have given him
up."

"I believe you," he declared. She was conscious of a slight
thrill that passed quickly, leaving her white and weak. "I feel
tired," she said, pressing hard against the tree. "Will you be so
good as to pick up my parasol?" "Tired!" he exclaimed, and after
a moment, "Your face is hurt--did the dogs do it?" She shook her
head. "You struck me with your whip." "Is that so? I can't say
after this that I never lifted my hand against a woman--but harsh
measures are sometimes necessary, I reckon. Does it smart?" She
touched the place lightly. "Oh, it's no matter!" she returned. "I
suppose I ought really to thank you for taking the trouble to
save my life but I don't, because, after all, the hounds are
yours, you know." "Yes, I know; and they're good hounds, too, in
their way. The dog had no business on their land." "And they're
taught to warn off trespassers? Well, I hardly fancy their manner
of conveying the hint." "It is sometimes useful, all the while."

"Ah, in case of a Fletcher, I presume."

"In case of a Fletcher," he repeated, his face darkening. "do you
know I had entirely forgotten who you were?"

"It's time you were remembering it," she returned, "for I am most
decidedly a Fletcher."

For an instant he scowled upon her.

"Then you are most decidedly a devil," was his retort, as he
stooped to pick up her parasol from the road. "There's not much
left of it," he remarked, handing it to her.

"As things go, I dare say I ought to be grateful that they spared
the spokes," she said impatiently. "It does seem disagreeable
that I can't go for a short stroll along my own road without the
risk of having my clothes torn from my back. You really must keep
your horrid beasts from becoming a public danger."

"They never chase anything that keeps off my farm," he replied
coolly. "There's not so well trained a pack anywhere in the
county. No other dogs around here could have been beaten back at
the death."

"I fear that doesn't afford me the gratification you seem to
feel--particularly as the death you allude to would have been
mine. I suppose I ought to be overpowered with gratitude for the
whole thing, but unfortunately I'm not. I have had a very
unpleasant experience and I can't help feeling that I owe it to
you."

"You're welcome to feel about it anyway you please," he
responded, as Maria, tucking the dog under her arm, started down
the road to the Hall, the tattered parasol held straight above
her head.

At the house she carried Agag to her room, where she spent the
afternoon in the big chair by the window. Miss Saidie, coming in
with her dinner, inquired if she were sick, and then picked up
the torn dress from the bed.

"Why, Maria, how on earth did you do it?"

"Some hounds jumped on me in the road."

"Well, I never! They were those dreadful Blake beasts, I know. I
declare, I'll go right down and speak to Brother Bill about 'em."

"For heaven's sake, don't," protested the girl. "We've had
quarrelling enough as it is--and, tell me, Aunt Saidie, have you
ever known what it was all about?"

Miss Saidie was examining the rent with an eye to a possible
mending, and she did not look up as she answered. "I never
understood exactly myself, but your grandpa says they squandered
all their money and then got mad because they had to sell the
place. That's about the truth of it, I reckon."

"The Hall belonged to them once, didn't it?"

"Oh, a long time ago, when they were rich. Sakes alive, Maria,
what's the matter with your face?"

"I struck it getting away from the hounds. It's too bad, isn't
it? And Jack coming so soon, too. Do I look very ugly?"

"You're a perfect fright now, but I'll fix you a liniment to draw
the bruise away. It will be all right in a day or two. I declare,
if you haven't gone and brought a little po'-folksy yellow dog
into the house." Maria was feeding Agag with bits of chicken from
her plate, bending over him as he huddled against her dress.

"I found him in the road," she returned, "and I'm going to keep
him. I saved him from the hounds."

"Well, it seems to me you might have got a prettier one,"
remarked Miss Saidie, as she went down to mix the liniment.

It was several mornings after this that Fletcher, coming into the
dining-room where Maria sat at a late breakfast, handed her a
telegram, and stood waiting while she tore it open.

"Jim Weatherby brought it over from the crossroads," he said. "It
got there last night."

"I hope there's nobody dead, child," observed Miss Saidie, from
the serving-table, where she was peeling tomatoes.

"More likely it points to a marriage, eh, daughter?" chuckled
Fletcher jocosely.

The girl folded the paper and replaced it carefully in the
envelope. "It's from Jack Wyndham," she said, "and he comes this
evening. May I take the horses to the crossroads, grandpa?"

"Well, I did have a use for them," responded Fletcher, in high
good-nature, "but, seeing as your young fellow doesn't come every
day, I reckon I'll let you have 'em out."

Maria flinched at his speech; and then as the clear pink spread
evenly in her cheeks, she spoke in her composed tones. "I may as
well tell you, grandpa, that we shall marry almost immediately,"
she said.

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Not until September, when he lounged one day with a glass of beerin the little room behind Tom Spade's country store, didChristopher hear the news of Maria's approaching marriage. It wasSol Peterkin who delivered it, hiccoughing in the envelopingsmoke from several pipes, as he sat astride an overturned flourbarrel in one corner."I jest passed a wagonload of finery on the way to the Hall," hesaid, bulging with importance. "It's for the gal's weddin', Ireckon; an' they do say she's a regular Jezebel as far as clothesgo. I met her yestiddy with her young man that is to be, an' theway she
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With July there came a long rain, and in the burst of sunshinewhich followed it the young tobacco shot up fine and straight andtall, clothing the landscape in a rich, tropical green.>From morning till night the men worked now in the great fields,removing the numerous "suckers" from the growing plants, andpinching off the slender tops to prevent the first beginnings ofa flower, except where, at long spaces, a huge pink cluster wouldbe allowed to blossom and come to seed.Christopher, toiling all day alone in his own field, felt theclear summer dawn break over him, the golden noon gather to fullheat, and
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