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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Deliverance: A Romance Of The Virginia Tobacco Fields - Book IV - The Awakening - Chapter III. The Day Afterward
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The Deliverance: A Romance Of The Virginia Tobacco Fields - Book IV - The Awakening - Chapter III. The Day Afterward Post by :rsgorman Category :Long Stories Author :Ellen Glasgow Date :April 2011 Read :814

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The Deliverance: A Romance Of The Virginia Tobacco Fields - Book IV - The Awakening - Chapter III. The Day Afterward

When Maria awoke, the sun was full in her eyes, and somewhere on
the lawn outside the first bluebird was whistling. With a start,
she sprang out of bed and dressed quickly by the wood fire which
Malindy had lighted. Then, before going downstairs, she raised
the window and leaned out into the freshness of the morning,
where a white mist glimmered in the hollows of the March
landscape. In the distance she saw the smoking chimneys of the
Blake cottage, very faint among the leafless trees, and nearer at
hand men were moving back and forth in her grandfather's fields.
Six years ago she would have found little beauty in so grave and
colourless a scene, but to-day as she looked upon it a peace such
as she had never known possessed her thoughts. The wisdom of
experience was hers now, and with it she had gained something of
the deeper insight into nature which comes to the soul that is
reconciled with the unknown laws which it obeys.

Going down a few moments later, she found that breakfast was
already over, and that Miss Saidie was washing the tea things at
the head of the bared table.

"Why, it seems but a moment since I fell asleep," said Maria, as
she drew back her chair. "How long has grandfather been up?"

"Since before daybreak. He is just starting to town, and he's in
a terrible temper because the last batch of butter ain't up to
the mark, he says. I'm sure I don't see why it ain't, for I
worked every pound of it with my own hands--but thar ain't no
rule for pleasing men, and never will be till God Almighty sets
the universe rolling upside down. That's the wagon you hear now.
Thank heaven, he won't be back till after dark."

With a gesture of relief Maria applied herself to the buttered
waffles before her, prepared evidently in her honour, and then
after a short silence, in which she appeared to weigh carefully
her unuttered words, she announced her intention of paying
immediately her visit to Will and Molly.

"Oh, you can't, you can't," groaned Miss Saidie, nervously
mopping out the inside of a cup. "For heaven's sake, don't raise
another cloud of dust jest as we're beginning to see clear

"Now don't tell me I can't when I must," responded Maria, pushing
away her plate and rising from the table; "there's no such word
as 'can't' when one has to, you know. I'll be back in two hours
at the most, and oh! with so much to tell you!"

After tying on her hat in the hall, she looked in again to
lighten Miss Saidie's foreboding by a tempting bait of news; but
when she had descended the steps and walked slowly along the
drive under the oaks, the assumed brightness of her look faded as
rapidly as the morning sunshine on the clay road before her. It
was almost with dismay that she found herself covering the ground
between the Hall and Will's home and saw the shaded lane
stretching to the little farm adjoining Sol Peterkin's.

As she passed the store, Mrs. Spade, who was selling white china
buttons to Eliza Field, leaned over the counter and stared in
amazement through the open window.

"Bless my soul an' body, if thar ain't old Fletcher's
granddaughter come back!" she exclaimed--"holdin' her head as
high as ever, jest as if her husband hadn't beat her black an'
blue. Well, well, times have slid down hill sence I was a gal,
an' the women of to-day ain't got the modesty they used to be
born with. Why, I remember the time when old Mrs. Beale in the
next county used to go to bed for shame, with a mustard plaster,
every time her husband took a drop too much, which he did every
blessed Saturday that he lived. It tided him over the Sabbath
mighty well, he used to say, for he never could abide the sermons
of Mr. Grant."

Eliza dropped the buttons she had picked up and turned, craning
her neck in the direction of Maria's vanishing figure.

"What on earth has she gone down Sol Peterkin's lane for?" she
inquired suspiciously.

"The Lord knows; if it's to visit her brother, I may say it's a
long ways mo'n I'd do."

"She was always a queer gal even befo' her marriage--so strange
an' far-away lookin' that I declar' it used to scare me half to
death to meet her all alone at dusk. I never could help feelin'
that she could bewitch a body, if she wanted to, with those
solemn black eyes."

"She ain't bewitched me," returned Mrs. Spade decisively "an'
what's mo', she's had too many misfortune come to her to make me
believe she ain't done somethin' to deserve 'em. Thar's mighty
few folks gets worse than they deserve in this world, an' when
you see a whole flock of troubles settle on a person's head you
may rest right sartain thar's a long score of misbehaviours up
agin 'em. Yes, ma'am; when I hear of a big misfortune happenin'
to anybody that I know, the first question that pops into my head
is: 'I wonder if they've broke the sixth this time or jest the
common seventh?' The best rule to follow, accordin' to my way of
thinkin', is to make up yo' mind right firm that no matter what
evil falls upon a person it ain't nearly so bad as the good Lord
ought to have made it."

"That's a real pious way of lookin' at things, I reckon," sighed
Eliza deferentially, as she fished five cents from the deep
pocket of her purple calico and slapped it down upon the counter;
"but we ain't all such good church-goers as you, the mo's the

"Oh, I'm moral, an' I make no secret of it, "replied Mrs. Spade.
"It's writ plain all over me, an' it has been ever sence the day
that I was born. 'That's as moral lookin' a baby as ever I saw,'
was what Doctor Pierson said to ma when I wan't mo'n two hours
old. It was so then, an' it's been so ever sence. 'Virtue may not
take the place of beaux,' my po' ma used to say, 'but it will
ease her along mighty well without 'em'--Yes, the buttons are
five cents. To be sure, I'll watch out and let you hear if she
comes this way again."

Maria, meanwhile, happily unconscious of the judgment of her
neighbours, walked thoughtfully along the lane until she came in
sight of the small tumbled-down cottage which had been Fletcher's
wedding gift to his grandson. A man in blue jean clothes was
ploughing the field on the left of the road, and it was only when
something vaguely familiar in his dejected attitude caused her to
turn for a second glance that she realised, with a pang, that he
was Will.

At her startled cry he looked up from the horses he was driving,
and then, letting the ropes fall, came slowly toward her across
the faint purple furrows. All the boyish jauntiness she
remembered was gone from his appearance; his reversion to the
family type had been complete, and it came to her with a shock
that held her motionless that he stood to-day where her
grandfather had stood fifty years before.

"Will!" she gasped, with an impulsive, motherly movement of her
arms. Rejecting her caress with an impatient shrug, he stood
kicking nervously at a clod of earth, his eyes wavering in a
dispirited survey of her face.

"Well, it seems that we have both made a blamed mess of things,"
he said at last.

Maria shook her head, smiling hopefully. "Not too bad a mess to
straighten out, dear," she answered. "We must set to work at once
and begin to mend matters. Ah, if you had only written me how
things were!"

"What was the use?" asked Will doggedly. "It was all grandpa--he
turned out the devil himself, and there was no putting up with
him. He'll live forever, too; that's the worst of it!"

"But you did anger him very much, Will--and you might so easily
have waited. Surely, you were both young enough."

"Oh, it wasn't all about Molly, you know, when it comes to that.
Long before I married he had made my life a burden to me. It all
began with his insane jealousy of Christopher Blake--"

"Of Christopher Blake?" repeated Maria, and fell a step away from

"Blake has been a deuced good friend to me," insisted Will;
"that's what the old man hates--what he's hated steadily all
along. The whole trouble started when I wouldn't choose my
friends to please him; and when at last I undertook to pick out
my own wife there was hell to pay."

Maria's gaze wandered inquiringly in the direction of the house,
which had a disordered and thriftless air.

"Is she here?" she asked, not without a slight nervousness in her

Will followed her glance, and, taking off his big straw hat,
pulled at the shoestring tied tightly around the crown.

"Not now; but you'll see her some day, when she's dressed up, and
I tell you she'll be worth your looking at. All she needs is a
little money to turn her into the most tearing beauty you ever

"And she's not at home?"

"Not now," he replied impatiently; "her mother has just come over
and taken her off. I say, Maria," he lowered his voice, and an
eager look came into his irresolute face, which already showed
the effects of heavy drinking, "this can't keep up, you know; it
really can't. We must have money, for there's a child coming in
the autumn."

"A child!" exclaimed Maria, startled. "Oh, Will! Will!" She
glanced round again at the barren landscape and the squalid
little house; "then something must be done at once--there's no
time to lose. I'll speak to grandfather about it this very

"At least, there's no harm in trying," said Will, catching
desperately at the suggestion. "Even if you don't make things
better, there's a kind of comfort in the thought that you can't
make them worse. We're at the bottom of the hill already. So, if
you don't pull us up, at least you won't push us any farther

"Oh, I'll pull you up, never fear; but you must give me time."

"Your own affairs are in rather a muddle I reckon, by now?"

"Hopeless, it seems; but I'll share with you the few hundreds I
still have. I brought this to-day, thinking you might be in
immediate need."

As she drew the little roll of bills from her pocket, Will
reached out eagerly, and, seizing it from her, counted it
greedily in her presence. "Well, you're a downright brick,
Maria," he remarked, as he thrust it hastily into his shirt.

Disappointment had chilled Maria's enthusiasm a little, but the
next instant she dismissed the feeling as ungenerous, and slipped
her hand affectionately through his arm as he walked back with
her into the road.

"I wish I could see Molly," she said again, her eyes on the
house, where she caught a glimpse of a bright head withdrawn from
one of the windows.

"She is over at her mother's, I told you," returned Will
irritably, and then, stooping to kiss her hurriedly, he added in
a persuasive voice: "Bring the old man to reason, Maria; it's
life or death, remember."

"I'll do my best, Will; I'll go on my knees to him to-night."

"Does he dislike you as much as ever?"

"No; he rather fancies me, I think. Last evening he grew almost
amiable, and this morning Aunt Saidie told me he left me a pound
of fresh butter from the market jar. If you only knew how fond
he's grown of his money you would realise what it means."

"Well, keep it up, for God's sake. Humour him for all he's worth.
Coddle and coax him into doing something for us, or dying and
leaving us his money."

Maria's face grew grave. "That's the serious part, Will; he talks
of leaving every penny he has to foreign missions."

"The devil!" cried Will furiously. "If he does, I hope he'll land
in hell. Don't let him, Maria. It all rests with you. Why, if he
did, you'd starve along with us, wouldn't you?"

"Oh, you needn't think of me--I could always teach, you know, and
a little money buys a great deal of happiness with me. I have
learned that great wealth is almost as much of an evil as great

"I'd take the risk of it, every time; and he is beastly rich,
isn't he, Maria?"

"One of the very richest men in the State, they told me at the

"Yet he has the insolence to cut me off without a dollar. Look at
this petered-out little farm he's given me. Why, it doesn't bring
in enough to feed a darkey!"

"We'll hope for better things, dear; but you must learn to be
patient--very patient. His anger has been smothered so long that
it has grown almost as settled as hate. Aunt Saidie doesn't dare
mention your name to him, and she tells me that if I so much as
speak of you he'll turn me out of doors."

"Then it's even worse than I thought."

"Perhaps. I can't say, for I haven't approached the subject even
remotely as yet. Keep your courage, however, and I promise you to
do my best."

She kissed him again, and then, turning her face homeward,
started at a rapid walk down the lane. The interview with Will
had disturbed her more than she liked to admit, and it was with a
positive throb of pain that she forced herself at last to compare
the boy of five years ago with the broken and dispirited man from
whom she had just parted. Was this tragedy the end of the young
ambition which Fletcher had nursed so fondly, this--a nervous,
overworked tobacco-grower, with bloodshot eyes, and features
already inflamed by reckless drinking? The tears sprang to her
lashes, and, throwing up her hands with a pathetic gesture of
protest, she hastened on homeward as if to escape the terror that
pursued her.

She had turned from the lane into the main road, and was just
approaching the great chestnuts which grew near the abandoned
ice-pond, when, looking up suddenly at the call of a bird above
her head, she saw Christopher Blake standing beside the rail
fence and watching her with a strong and steady gaze.
Involuntarily she slackened her pace and waited, smiling for him
to cross the fence; but, to her amazement, after an instant in
which his eyes held her as if rooted to the spot, he turned
hastily away and walked rapidly in the opposite direction. For a
breath she stood motionless, gazing blankly into space; then, as
she went on again, she knew that she carried with her not the
wonder at his sudden flight, but the clear memory of that one
moment's look into his eyes. A century of experience, with its
tears and its laughter, its joy and its anguish, its desire and
its fulfilment, seemed crowded into the single instant that held
her immovable in the road.

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The Deliverance: A Romance Of The Virginia Tobacco Fields - Book IV - The Awakening - Chapter IV. The Meeting in the Night The Deliverance: A Romance Of The Virginia Tobacco Fields - Book IV - The Awakening - Chapter IV. The Meeting in the Night

The Deliverance: A Romance Of The Virginia Tobacco Fields - Book IV - The Awakening - Chapter IV. The Meeting in the Night
When Christopher turned so abruptly from Maria's gaze he wasconscious only of a desperate impulse of flight. At the instanthis strength seemed to fail him utterly, and he realised that forthe first time in his life he feared to trust himself to face theimminent moment. His one thought was to escape quickly from herpresence, and in the suddenness of his retreat he did not weighthe possible effect upon her of his rudeness. A little later,however, when he had put the field between him and her hauntingeyes, he found himself returning with remorse to his imaginingsof what her scattered impressions must have

The Deliverance: A Romance Of The Virginia Tobacco Fields - Book IV - The Awakening - Chapter II. Maria Returns to the Hall The Deliverance: A Romance Of The Virginia Tobacco Fields - Book IV - The Awakening - Chapter II. Maria Returns to the Hall

The Deliverance: A Romance Of The Virginia Tobacco Fields - Book IV - The Awakening - Chapter II. Maria Returns to the Hall
Through the grove of oaks a single lighted window glimmered nowred, now yellow, as lamplight struggled with firelight inside,and Maria, walking rapidly through the dark, felt that thecomfortable warmth shining on the panes was her first welcomehome. The night had grown chilly, and she gathered her wrapsclosely together as she hastened along the gravelled drive andran up the broad stone steps to the closed door. There was noanswer to her knock, and, finding that the big silver handle ofthe door turned easily, she entered the hall and passedcautiously through the dusk that enveloped the great staircase.Her foot was on the first