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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Fortunes Of Oliver Horn - Chapter 16. Some Days At Brookfield Farm
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The Fortunes Of Oliver Horn - Chapter 16. Some Days At Brookfield Farm Post by :dopom9 Category :Long Stories Author :Francis Hopkinson Smith Date :May 2012 Read :1954

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The Fortunes Of Oliver Horn - Chapter 16. Some Days At Brookfield Farm


Brookfield village lay in a great wide meadow through which strayed one of Moose Hillock's lost brooks--a brook tired out with leaping from bowlder to bowlder and taking headers into deep pools, and plunging down between narrow walls of rock. Here in the meadow it caught its breath and rested, idling along, stopping to bathe a clump of willows; whispering to the shallows; laughing gently with another brook that had locked arms with it, the two gossiping together under their breath as they floated on through the tall grasses fringing the banks, or circled about the lily-pads growing in the eddies. In the middle of the meadow, just where two white ribbons of roads crossed, was a clump of trees pierced by a church-spire. Outside of this bower of green--a darker green than the velvet meadow- grass about it--glistened the roofs and windows of the village houses.

All this Oliver saw, at a distance, from the top of the stage.

As he drew nearer and entered the main street, the clump of trees became giant elms, their interlaced branches making shaded cloisters of the village streets. The buildings now became more distinct; first a tavern with a swinging sign, and across the open common a quaint church with a white tower.

At the end of the avenue of trees, under the biggest of the elms, stood an old-fashioned farmhouse, its garden-gate opening on the highway, and its broad acres--one hundred or more--reaching to the line of the vagabond brook.

This was Margaret's home.

The stage stopped; the hair-trunk and sketch-trap were hauled out of the dust-begrimed boot and deposited on the sidewalk at the foot of the giant elm. Oliver swung back the gate and walked up the path in the direction of the low-roofed porch, upon which lay a dog, which raised its head and at the first click of the latch came bounding toward him, barking with every leap.

"Needn't be afraid, she won't hurt you!" shouted a gray-haired man in his shirt-sleeves, who had risen from his seat on the porch and who was now walking down the garden-path. "Get out, Juno! I guess you're the young man that's been painting with our Margaret up in the Gorge. She's been expecting you all morning. Little dusty, warn't it?"

Oliver's face brightened up. This must be Margaret's father!

"Mr. Grant, I suppose?"

"Yes, that's what they call me--Silas Grant. Let me take your bag. My son John will be here in a minute, and will help you in with your trunk. Needn't worry, it's all right where it is. Folks are middling honest about here," he added, with a dry laugh, and his hand closed on his guest's--a cold limp, dead-fish sort of a hand, Oliver thought.

Oliver said he was sure of it, and that he hoped Miss Margaret was well, and the old man said she was, "Thank you," and Oliver surrendered the bag --it was his sketch-trap--and the two walked toward the house. During the mutual greetings the dog sniffed at Oliver's knees and looked up into his face.

"And I suppose this is Juno," our hero said, stopping to pat her head. "Good dog--you don't remember me?" It seemed easier somehow to converse with Juno than with her master. The dog wagged her tail, but gave no indications of uncontrollable joy at meeting her rescuer again.

"Oh, you've seen her? She's Margaret's dog, you know."

"Yes, I know, but she's forgotten me. I saw her before I ever knew--your daughter." It was a narrow escape, but he saved himself in time. " Blessed old dog," he said to himself, and patted her again.

By the time he had reached the porch-steps he had made, unconsciously to himself, a mental inventory of his host's special features: tall, sparsely built, with stooping shoulders and long arms, the big hands full of cold knuckles with rough finger-tips (Oliver found that out when his own warm fingers closed over them); thin face, with high cheek-bones showing above his closely-cropped beard and whiskers; gray eyes--steady, steel-gray eyes, hooded by white eyebrows stuck on like two tufts of cotton-wool; nose big and strong; square jaw hanging on a hinge that opened and shut with each sentence, the upper part of the face remaining motionless as a mask. Oliver remembered having once seen a toy ogre with a jaw and face that worked in the same way. He had caught, too, the bend of his thin legs, the hump of the high shoulders, and saw the brown skin of the neck showing through the close-cut white hair. Suddenly a feeling of repugnance amounting almost to a shrinking dislike of the man took possession of him --it is just such trifles that turn the scales of likes and dislikes for all of us. "Could this really be Margaret's father?" he said to himself. Through whose veins, then, had all her charm and loveliness come? Certainly not from this cold man without grace of speech or polish of manner.

This feeling of repugnance had come with a flash, and in a flash it was gone. On the top step of the low piazza stood a young girl in white, a rose in her hair, her arm around a silver-haired old lady in gray silk, With a broad white handkerchief crossed over her bosom.

Oliver's hat was off in an instant.

Margaret came down one step to greet him and held out both her hands. "Oh, we are so glad to welcome you!" Then turning to her companion she said: "Mother, this is Mr. Horn, who has been so good to me all summer."

The old lady--she was very deaf--cupped one hand behind her ear, and with a gracious smile extended the other to Oliver.

"I am so pleased you came, sir, and I want to thank you for being so kind to our daughter. Her brother John could not go with her, and husband and I are most too old to leave home now." The voice was as sweet and. musical as a child's, not the high-keyed, strained tone of most deaf people. When they all stood on the porch level Margaret touched Oliver's arm.

"Speak slowly and distinctly, Ollie," she whispered, "then mother can hear you."

Oliver smiled in assent, took the old lady's thin fingers, and with a cordiality the more pronounced because of a certain guilty sense he had for his feeling of repugnance to her father, said:

"Oh, but think what a delight it was for me to be with her. Every day we painted together, and you can't imagine how much she taught me; you know there is nobody in the Academy class who draws as well as your daughter." A light broke in Margaret's eyes at this, but she let him go on. "She has told you, of course, of all the good times we have had while we were at work" (Margaret had, but not all of them). "It is I who should thank YOU, not only for letting Miss Margaret stay so long, but for wanting me to come to you here in your beautiful home. It is my first visit to this--but you are standing, I beg your pardon," and he looked about for a chair.

There was only one chair on the porch--it was under Silas Grant.

"No, don't disturb yourself, Mr. Horn; I prefer standing," Mrs. Grant answered, with a deprecatory gesture as if to detain Oliver. No one in Brookfield ever intruded on Silas Grant's rights to his chair, not even his wife.

Silas heard, but he did not move; he had performed his duty as host; it was the women-folk's turn now to be pleasant. What he wanted was to be let alone. All this was in his face, as he sat hunched up between the arms of the splint rocker.

Despite the old lady's protest, Oliver made a step toward the seated man. His impulse was to suggest to his host that the lady whom he had honored by making his wife was at the moment standing on her two little feet while the lord of the manor was quietly reposing upon the only chair on the piazza, a fact doubtless forgotten by his Imperial Highness.

Mr. Grant had read at a glance the workings of the young man's mind, and knew exactly what Oliver wanted, but he did not move. Something in the bend of Oliver's back as he bowed to his wife had irritated him. He had rarely met Southerners of Oliver's class--never one so young--and was unfamiliar with their ways. This one, he thought, had evidently copied the airs of a dancing-master; the wave of Oliver's hand--it was Richard's in reality, as were all the boy's gestures--and the fine speech he had just made to his wife, proved it. Instantly the instinctive doubt of the Puritan questioning the sincerity of whatever is gracious or spontaneous, was roused in Silas's mind. From that moment he became suspicious of the boy's genuineness.

The old lady, however, was still gazing into the boy's face, unconscious of what either her husband or her guest was thinking.

"I am so glad you like our mountains, Mr. Horn," she continued. "Mr. Lowell wrote his beautiful lines, 'What is so Rare as a Day in June,' in our village, and Mr. Longfellow never lets a summer pass without spending a week with us. And you had a comfortable ride down the mountains, and were the views enjoyable?"

"Oh, too beautiful for words!" It was Margaret this time, not the scenery; he could not take his eyes from her, as he caught the beauty of her throat against the soft white of her dress, and the exquisite tint of the October rose in contrast with the autumnal browns of her hair. Never had he dreamed she could be so lovely. He could not believe for one moment that she was the Margaret he had known; any one of the Margarets, in fact. Certainly not that one of the Academy school in blue gingham with her drawing-board in her lap, alone, self-poised, and unapproachable, among a group of art-students; or that other one in a rough mountain-skirt, stout- shoes, and a tam-o'-shanter, the gay and fearless companion, the comrade, the co-worker. This Margaret was a vision in white, with arms bare to the elbow --oh, such beautiful arms! and the grace and poise of a duchess--a Margaret to be reverenced as well as loved--a woman to bend low to.

During this episode, in which Silas sat studying the various expressions that flitted across Oliver's face, Mr. Grant shifted uneasily in his chair. At last his jaws closed with a snap, while the two tufts of cotton-wool, drawn together by a frown, deeper than any which had yet crossed his face, made a straight line of white. Oliver's enthusiastic outburst and the gesture which accompanied it had removed Silas Grant's last doubt. His mind was now made up.

The young fellow, however, rattled on, oblivious now of everything about him but the joy of Margaret's presence.

"The view from the bend of the road was especially fine--" he burst forth again, his eyes still on hers. "You remember, Miss Margaret, your telling me to look out for it?" (he couldn't stand another minute of this unless she joined in the talk). "In my own part of the State we have no great mountains nor any lovely brooks full of trout. And the quantity of deer that are killed every winter about here quite astonishes me. Why, Mr. Pollard's son Hank, so he told me, shot fourteen last winter, and there were over one hundred killed around Moose Hillock. You see, our coast is flat, and many of the farms in my section run down to the water. We have, it is true, a good deal of game, but nothing like what you have here," and he shrugged his shoulders, and laughed lightly as if in apology for referring to such things in view of all the wealth of the mountains about him.

"What kind of game have you got?" asked Mr. Grant, twisting his head and looking at Oliver from under the straight line of cotton-wool.

Oliver turned his head toward the speaker. "Oh, wild geese, and canvas-back ducks and--"

"And negroes?" There was a harsh note in Silas's voice which sounded like a saw when it clogs in a knot, but Oliver did not notice it. He was too happy to notice anything but the girl beside him.

"Oh, yes, plenty of them," and he threw back his head, laughing this time until every tooth flashed white.

"You hunt them, too, don't you? With dogs, most of the time, I hear." There was no mistaking the bitterness in his voice now.

The boy's face sobered in an instant. He felt as if someone had shot at him from behind a tree.

"Not that I ever saw, sir," he answered, quickly, straightening himself, a peculiar light in his eyes. "We love ours."

"Love 'em? Well, you don't treat 'em as if you loved 'em."

Margaret saw the cloud on Oliver's face and made a step toward her father.

"Mr. Horn lives in the city, father, and never sees such things."

"Well, if he does he knows all about it. You own negroes, don't you?" The voice was louder; the manner a trifle more insistent. Oliver could hardly keep his temper. Only Margaret's anxious face held him in check.

"No; not now, sir--my father freed all of his." The tones were thin and cold. Margaret had never heard any such sound before from those laughing lips.

Silas Grant was leaning forward out of his chair. The iron jaw was doing the talking now.

"Where are these negroes?" he persisted.

"Two of them are living with us, sir. They are in my father's house now."

"Rather shiftless kind of help, I guess. You've got to watch 'em all the time, I hear. Steal everything they get their hands on, don't they?" This was said with a dry, hard laugh that was meant to be conciliatory--as if he expected Oliver to agree with him now that he had had his say.

Oliver turned quickly toward his host's chair. For a moment he was so stunned and hurt that he could hardly trust himself to speak. He looked up and saw the expression of pain on Margaret's face, and instantly remembered where he was and who was offending him.

"Our house-servants, Mr. Grant, are part of our home," he said, in a low, determined voice, without a trace of anger. "Old Malachi, who was my father's body-servant, and who is now our butler, is as much beloved by everyone as if he were one of the family. For myself, I can never remember the time when I did not love Malachi."

Before her father could answer, Margaret had her hand on Oliver's shoulder.

"Don't tell all your good stories to father now," she said, with a grateful smile. "Wait until after dinner, when we can all hear them. Come, Mr. Horn, I know you want to get the dust out of your eyes." Then in an aside, "Don't mind him, Ollie. It's only father's way, and he's the dearest father in the world when you understand him," and she pressed his arm meaningly as they walked to the door.

Before they reached the threshold the gate swung to with a click, and a young man with a scythe slung over his shoulder strode up the path. He was in the garb of a farm-hand; trousers tucked into his boots, shirt open at the throat, and head covered by a coarse straw hat. This shaded a good-natured, sun- burnt face, lighted by two bright blue eyes.

"Oh, here comes my brother John," Margaret cried. "Hurry up, John--here's Mr. Horn."

The young man quickened his pace, stopped long enough to hang the scythe on the porch-rail, lifted his hat from his head, and, running up the short flight of steps, held out his hand cordially to Oliver, who advanced to meet him.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Horn. Madge has told us all about you. Excuse my rig--we are short of men on the farm, and I took hold. I'm glad of the chance, for I get precious little exercise since I left college. You came from East Branch by morning stage, I suppose? Oh, is that your trunk dumped out in the road? What a duffer I was not to know. Wait a minute--I'll bring it in," and he sprang down the steps.

"No, let me," cried Oliver, running after him. He had not thought of his trunk since he had helped stow it in the boot outside Ezra Pollard's gate--but then he had been on his way to Margaret's!

"No, you won't. Stay where you are--don't let him come, Madge."

The two young men raced down the path, Juno scampering after them. John, who could outrun any man at Dartmouth, vaulted over the fence and had hold of the brass handle before Oliver could open the gate.

"Fair-play!" cried Oliver, and they each grasped a handle--either one could have held it out at arm's length with one hand--and brought it up the garden- path, puffing away in pantomime as if it weighed a ton, and into the house. There they deposited it in the bedroom that was to be Oliver's during the two days of his visit at Brookfield Farm, Margaret clapping her hands in high glee, and her mother holding back the door for them to pass in.

Silas Grant watched the young fellows until they disappeared inside the door, lifted himself slowly from his seat by his long arms, stretched himself, with a yawn, to his full height, and said aloud to himself as he pushed his chair back against the wall:

"His father's got a negro for body-servant, has he, and a negro for butler--just like 'em. They all want somebody to wait on 'em."

At dinner Oliver sat on Mrs. Grant's right--her best ear, she said--Margaret next, and John opposite. The father was at the foot, in charge of the carving- knife.

During the pauses in the talk Oliver's eyes wandered around the room, falling on the queer paper lining the walls--hunting-scenes, with red-coated fox-hunters leaping five-barred gates; on the side- board covered with silver, but bare of a decanter-- only a pitcher filled with cider which Hopeful Prime, the servant, a woman of forty in spectacles, and who took part in the conversation, brought from the cellar; and finally on a family portrait that hung above the fireplace. A portrait was always a loadstone to Oliver.

Mrs. Grant had been watching his glance.

"That's Mr. Grant's great-uncle--old Governor Shaw," she said, with a pleased smile; "and the next one to it is Margaret's great-grandmother This one--" and she turned partly in her chair and pointed to a face Oliver thought he had seen before, where, he couldn't remember--"is John Quincy Adams. He was my father's most intimate friend," and a triumphant expression overspread her face.

Oliver smiled, too, inwardly, to himself. The talk, to his great surprise, reminded him of Kennedy Square. Family portraits were an inexhaustible topic of conversation in most of its homes. He had never thought before that people at the North had any ancestors--none they were very proud of.

John looked up and winked. "Great scheme naming me after his Royal Highness," he said, in an undertone. "Sure road to the White House; they thought I'd make a good third."

Mrs. Grant went on, not having heard a word of John's aside: "This table you're eating from, once belonged to Mr. Adams. He gave it to my father, who often spent a week at a time with him in the White House."

"And I wish he was there now," interrupted Silas from the foot of the table. "He'd straighten out this snarl we're drifting into. Looks to me as if there would be some powder burnt before this thing is over. What do your people say about it?" and he nodded at Oliver. He had served the turkey, and was now sharpening the carver for the boiled ham, trying the edge with his thumb, as Shylock did.

"I haven't been at home for some time, sir," replied Oliver, in a courteous tone--he intended to be polite to the end--"and so I cannot say. My father's letters, seem to be very anxious, but mother doesn't think there'll be any trouble; at least she said so in her last letter."

Silas looked up from under the tufts of cotton- wool. Were the mothers running the politics of the South, he wondered?

"And there's another thing you folks might as well remember. We're not going to let you break up the Union, and we're not going to pay you for your slaves, either," and he plunged the fork into the ham that the spectacled waitress had laid before him and rose in his chair, the knife poised in his hand to carve it the better.

"Mr. Horn hasn't got any slaves to sell, father-- didn't you hear him say so? His father freed his," laughed Margaret. Her father's positiveness never really worried her. She rather liked it at times. It was only because she had read in Oliver's face the impression her father was making upon him that she essayed to soften the force of his remarks.

"I heard him, Margaret, I heard him. Glad of it--but he's the only man from his parts that I ever heard who did. The others won't give 'em up so easy. They hung John Brown for trying to help the negroes free themselves, don't forget that." Oliver looked up and knitted his brows. Silas saw it. "I'm not meaning any offence to you, young man," he said quickly, waving the knife toward Oliver. "I'm taking this question on broad grounds. If I had my way I'd teach those slave-drivers--" and he buried the knife in the yielding ham, "that--"

"They did just right to hang him," interrupted John. "Brown was a fanatic, and ought to have stayed at home. No one is stronger than the law. That's where old Ossawatomie Brown made a mistake." Everybody was entitled to express his or her opinion in this house except the dear old mother. Margaret's fearless independence of manner and thought had been nurtured in fertile soil.

Mrs. Grant had been vainly trying to get the drift of the conversation, her hand behind her ear.

"Parson Brown, did you say, John? He married us, sir," and she turned to Oliver. "He lived here over forty years. The church that you passed was where he preached."

John laughed, and so did Silas, at the old lady's mistake, but Oliver only became the more attentive to his hostess. He was profoundly grateful to the reverend gentleman for coming out of his grave at this opportune moment and diverting the talk into other channels. Why did they want to bother him with all this talk about slavery and the South, when he was so happy he could hardly stay in his skin? It set his teeth on edge--he wished that the dinner were over and everybody down at the bottom of the sea but Margaret; he had come to see his sweetheart --not to talk slavery.

"Yes, I saw the church," and for the rest of the dinner, Oliver was entertained with the details in the life of the Rev. Leonidas Brown, including his manner of preaching; the crowds who would go to hear him; the number converted under the good man's ministrations; to all of which Oliver listened with a closeness of attention that would have surprised those who knew him unless they had discovered that his elbow had found Margaret's during the recital, and that the biography of every member of Brown's congregation might have been added to that of the beloved pastor without wearying him in the slightest degree.

When the nuts were served--Silas broke his with his fingers--his host made one more effort to draw Oliver into a discussion, but Margaret stopped it by exclaiming, suddenly:

"Where shall Mr. Horn smoke, mother?" She wanted Oliver to herself--the family had had him long enough.

"Why, does he want to SMOKE?" she answered, with some consternation.

"Yes, of course he does. All painters smoke."

"Well, I don't know; let me see." The old lady hesitated as if seeking the choice between two evils. "I suppose in the sitting-room. No--the library would be better."

"Oh, I won't smoke at all if your mother does not like it," Oliver protested, springing from his chair.

"Oh, yes, you will," interrupted John. "I never smoke, and father don't, but I know how good a pipe tastes. Let's go into the library."

Margaret gave Oliver the big chair and sat beside him. It was a small room, the walls almost hidden with books; the windows filled with flowering plants. There was a long table piled up with magazines and pamphlets, and an open fireplace, the wall above the mantel covered with framed pictures of weeping- willows worked out with hair of dead relatives, and the mantel itself with faded daguerreotypes propped apart like half-opened clam-shells.

Mr. Grant on leaving the dining-room walked slowly to the window without looking to the right or left, dropped into a chair and gazed out through the leaves of a geranium. The meal was over. Now he wanted rest and quiet. When Mrs. Grant entered the library and saw the wavy lines of tobacco- smoke that were drifting lazily about the room she stopped, evidently annoyed and uneasy. No such sacrilege of her library had taken place for years; not since her Uncle Reuben had come home from China. The waves of smoke must have caught the expression on her face, for she had hardly reached Oliver's chair before they began stealing along the ceiling in long, slanting lines until they reached the doorway, when with a sudden swoop, as if frightened, and without once looking back, they escaped into the hall.

The dear lady laid her hand on Oliver's shoulder, bent over him in a tender, motherly way, and said:

"Do you think it does you any good?"

"I don't know that it does."

"Why should you do it, then?"

"But I won't if you'd rather I'd not." Oliver sprang to his feet, took his pipe from his mouth, and was about to cross the room to knock the ashes from it into the fireplace when Margaret laid her hand on his arm.

"No, don't stop. Mother is very foolish about some things--smoking is one of them."

"But I can't smoke, darling," he said, in an undertone, "if your mother objects." The mother law was paramount, to say nothing of the courtesy required of him. Then he added, with a meaning look in his eyes--"Can't we get away some place where we can talk?" Deaf mothers are a blessing sometimes.

Margaret pressed his hand--her fingers were still closed over the one holding the pipe.

"In a moment, Ollie," and she rose and went into the adjoining room.

Mrs. Grant went to her husband's side, and in her gentle mission of peace put her arm around his neck, patting his shoulder and talking to him in a low tone, her two yellow-white curls streaming down over the collar of his coat. Silas slipped his hand over his wife's and for an instant caressed it tenderly with his cold, bony fingers. Then seeing Oliver's eyes turning his way he drew in his shoulders with a quick movement and looked askance at his guest. Any public show of affection was against Silas's creed and code. If people wanted to hug each other, better do it upstairs, he would say, not where everybody was looking on, certainly not this young man, who was enough of a mollycoddle already.

John, now that Margaret had gone, moved over from the lounge and took her seat, and the two young men launched out into a discussion of flies and worms and fish-bait, and whether frog's legs were better than minnows in fishing for pickerel, and what was the best-sized shot for woodcock and Jack-snipe. Oliver told of the ducking-blinds, of the Chesapeake, and of how the men sat in wooden boxes sunk to the water's edge, with the decoy ducks about them, and shot the flocks as they flew over. And John told of a hunting trip he had made with two East Branch guides, and how they went loaded for deer and came back with a bear and two cubs. And so congenial did they find each other's society that before Margaret returned to the room--she had gone into her studio to light the lamp under the tea-kettle--the two young fellows had discovered that they were both very good fellows indeed, especially Oliver and especially John, and Oliver had half promised to come up in the winter and go into camp with John, and John met him more than half-way with a promise to accept Oliver's invitation for a week's visit in Kennedy Square the next time he went home, if that happy event ever took place, when they would both go down to Carroll's Island for a crack at a canvas- back.

This had gone on for ten minutes or more--ten minutes is an absurdly long period of time under certain circumstances--when Margaret's voice was heard in the doorway:

"Come, John, you and Mr. Horn have talked long enough; I want to show him my studio if you'll spare him a moment."

John knew when to spare and when not to--oh, a very intelligent brother was John! He did not follow and talk for another hour of what a good time he would have duck-shooting, and of what togs he ought to carry--spoiling everything; nor did he send his mother in to help Margaret entertain their guest. None of these stupid things did John do. He said he would go down to the post-office if Oliver didn't mind, and would see him at supper, and Margaret said that that was a very clever idea, as nobody had gone for the mail that day, and there were sure to be letters, and not to forget to ask for hers. Awfully sensible brother was John. Why aren't there more like him?

Entering Margaret's studio was like going back to Moose Hillock. There were sketches of the interior of the school-house, and of the children, and of the teacher who had taught the year before. There was Mrs. Taft sitting on that very porch, peeling potatoes, with a tin pan in her lap--would they ever forget that porch and the moonlight and the song of the tree-toads, and the cry of the loon? There was Hank in corduroys, with an axe over his shoulder; and Hank in a broad straw hat and no shoes, with a fishing-pole in one hand; and Hank chopping wood; the chips littering the ground. There was Ezra Pollard sitting in his buckboard with a buffalo-robe tucked about him, and Samanthy by his side. And best of all, and in the most prominent place, too, there was the original drawing of the Milo--the one she was finishing when Oliver upset Judson, and which, strange to say, was the only Academy drawing which Margaret had framed--besides scores and scores of sketches of people and things and places that she had made in years gone by.

The room itself was part of an old portico which had been walled up. It had a fireplace at one end, holding a Franklin stove, and a skylight overhead, the light softened by green shades. Here she kept her own books ranged on shelves over the mantel; and in the niches and corners and odd spaces a few rare prints and proofs--two Guido Renis and a Leonardo, both by Raphael Morghen. Against the wall was an old. clothes-press with brass handles, its drawers filled with sketches, as well as a lounge covered with chintz and heaped up with cushions. The door between the studio and library had been taken off, and was now replaced by a heavy red curtain. Margaret had held it aside for Oliver to enter, and it had dropped back by its own weight, shutting them both safely in.

I don't know what happened when that heavy red curtain swung into place, and mother, father, sea, sky, sun, moon, stars, and the planets, with all that in them is, were shut out for a too brief moment.

And if I did know I would not tell.

We go through life, and we have all sorts of sensations. We hunger and are fed. We are thirsty, and reach an oasis. We are homeless, and find shelter. We are ill, and again walk the streets. We dig and delve and strain every nerve and tissue, and the triumph comes at last, and with it often riches and honor. All these things send shivers of delight through us, and for the moment we spread our wings and soar heavenward. But when we take in our arms the girl we love, and hold close her fresh, sweet face, with its trusting eyes, and feel her warm breath on our cheeks, and the yielding figure next our heart, knowing all the time how mean and good-for-nothing and how entirely unworthy of even tying her shoe- strings we are, we experience a something compared with which all our former flights heavenward are but the flutterings of bats in a cave.

And the blessed John did not come back until black, dark night!--not until it was so dark that you couldn't see your hand before you or the girl beside you, which is nearer the truth; not until the stout woman in spectacles with the conversational habit, had brought in a lard-oil lamp with a big globe, which she set down on Margaret's table among her books and papers. And when John did come, and poked his twice-blessed head between the curtains, it was not to sit down inside and talk until supper-times but to say that it was getting cold outside and that they ought to have a fire if they intended to sit in the studio after supper. (Oh, what a trump of a brother!) And if they didn't mind he'd send Hopeful right away with some chips to start it. All of which Miss Hopeful Prime accomplished, talking all the time to Margaret as she piled up the logs, and not forgetting a final word to Oliver as she left the room, to the effect that she "guessed it, must be kind o' comfortin' to set by a fire"--such luxuries, of course, to her thinking, being unknown in his tropical land, where the blacks went naked and the children lay about in the sun munching watermelons and bananas.

What an afternoon it had been! They had talked of the woods and their life under the trees; of the sketches they made and how they could improve them, and would; of the coming winter and the prospect of the school being opened and what it meant to them if it did, and how much more if it did not, and she be compelled to remain in Brookfield with Oliver away all winter in New York, and of a thousand and one other things that lay nearest their hearts and with which neither you nor I have anything to do.

It was good, Margaret thought, to talk to him in this way, and see the quick response in his eyes and feel how true and helpful he was.

She had dreaded his coming--dreaded the contrasts which she knew his presence among them would reveal. She knew how punctiliously polite he was, and how brusque and positive was her father. She realized, too, how outspoken and bluff was John, and how unaccustomed both he and her dear deaf mother were to the ways of the outside world. What would Oliver think of them? What effect would her home life have on their future? she kept saying to herself.

Not that she was ashamed of her people, certainly not of her father, who really occupied a higher position than any of his neighbors. He was not only a deacon in the church and chairman of the School Board, but he had been twice sent to the Legislature, and at one time had been widely discussed as a fitting candidate for Governor. Nobody in Brookfield thought the less of him because of his peculiarities --many of his neighbors liked him the better for his brusqueness; they believed in a man who had the courage of his convictions and who spoke out, no matter whose toes he trod on.

Nor could she be ashamed of her brother John-- so kind to everybody; so brave and generous, and such a good brother. Only she wished that he had some of Oliver's courtesy, and that he would take off his hat when a lady spoke to him in the road, and keep it off till she bade him replace it, and observe a few of the other amenities; but even with all his defects of manner--all of which she had never before noticed--he was still her own dear brother John, and she loved him dearly.

And as for her mother--that most gentle and gracious of women--that one person in the house who was considerate of everybody's feelings and tolerant of everybody's impatience! What could Oliver find in her except what was adorable? As she thought of her mother, a triumphant smile crossed her face. "That's the one member of the Grant family," she said to herself, "whom my fine gentleman must admit is the equal of any one of his top-lofty kinsfolk in Kennedy Square or anywhere else." Which outburst the scribe must admit to himself was but another proof of the fact that no such thing as true democracy exists the world over.

None of these thoughts had ever crossed her mind up to the time she met Oliver on the bridge that first sunny morning. He had never discussed the subject of any difference between their two families, nor had he ever criticised the personality of anyone she knew. He had only BEEN HIMSELF. The change in her views had come gradually and unconsciously to her as the happy weeks flew by. Before she knew it she had realized from his talk, from his gestures, even from the way he sat down or got up, or handled his knife and fork, or left the room or entered it, that some of her early teachings had led her astray, and that there might be something else in life worth having outside of the four cardinal virtues--economy, industry, pluck, and plain-speaking. And if there were--and she was quite certain of it now--would Oliver find them at Brookfield Farm? This was really the basis of her disquietude; the kernel of the nut which she was trying to crack.

If any of these shortcomings on the part of his entertainers had been apparent to Oliver, or if he had ever drawn any such deductions, or noted any such contrasts, judged by the Kennedy Square code, no word of disappointment had passed his lips.

Some things, it is true, during his visit at the farm, had deeply impressed him, but they were not those that Margaret feared. He had thought of them that first night when going over the events of the day as they passed in review before him. One personality and one incident had made so profound an impression upon him that he could not get to sleep for an hour thinking about them. It was the stalwart figure of John Grant in his broad-brimmed straw hat and heavy boots striding up the garden-path with his scythe over his shoulder. This apparition, try as he might, would not down at his bidding.

"Think of that young fellow," he kept repeating to himself. "The eldest son and heir to the estate no doubt, a college-bred man and a most charming gentleman, working like a common laborer in his father's field. And proud of it, too--and would do it again and talk about it. And yet I was so ashamed of working with my hands that I had to run away from home for fear the boys would laugh at me.

Margaret heard the whole story from Oliver's lips the next morning with many adornments, and with any amount of good resolutions for the future. She listened quietly and held his hand the closer, her eyes dancing in triumph, the color mounting to her cheeks, but she made no reply.

Neither did she return the confidence and tell Oliver how she wished her father could see some things in as clear a light, and be more gentle and less opinionated. She was too proud for that.

And so the days, crowded thick with emotions, sped on.

The evening of their first one came and passed, with its half-hours when neither spoke a word and when both trembled all over for the very joy of living; and the morning of the second arrived, bringing with it a happiness she had never known before, and then the morning of the third--and the last day.

They had kept their secret even from John. Oliver wanted to inform her father at once of his attachment, telling her it was not right for him to accept the hospitality of her parents unless they understood the whole situation, but she begged him to wait, and he had yielded to her wishes.

They had all discussed him at their pleasure.

"Nice chap that young Horn," John had said to her the night before. "We had three or four of 'em in my class, one from Georgia and two from Alabama. They'd fight in a minute, but they'd make up just as quick. This one's the best of the lot." He spoke as if they had all belonged to another race --denizens of Borneo or Madagascar or the islands of the Pacific.

"I have sent my love to his mother, my dear," Mrs. Grant had confided to her early that same morning. "I am sure he has a good mother. He is so kind and polite to me, he never lets me remember that I am deaf when I talk to him," and she looked about her in her simple, patient way.

"Yes--perhaps so," said Silas, sitting hunched up in his chair. "Seems sort of skippy-like to me. Something of a Dandy Jim, I should say. Good enough to make men painters of, I guess." Artists in those days had few friends North or South.

None of these criticisms affected Margaret. She didn't care what they thought of him. She knew his heart, and so would they in time.

When Oliver had said all his public good-byes to the rest of the family--the good-byes with which we have nothing to do had been given and taken in the studio with the curtains drawn--he joined Margaret at the gate.

They were standing in the road now, under the giant elm, waiting for the stage. She stood close beside him, touching his arm with her own, mournfully counting the minutes before the stage would come, her eyes up the road. All the light and loveliness of the summers all the joy and gladness of life, would go out of her heart when the door of the lumbering vehicle closed on Oliver.

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