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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTogether - Part One - Chapter 9
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Together - Part One - Chapter 9 Post by :hlpunltd Category :Long Stories Author :Robert Herrick Date :May 2012 Read :2871

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Together - Part One - Chapter 9

PART ONE CHAPTER IX

The Darnells had a farm a few miles out of Torso, and this spring they had given up their house on the square and moved to the farm permanently. Bessie said it was for Mrs. Darnell's health; men said that the lawyer was in a tight place with the banks; and gossip suggested that Darnell preferred being in Torso without his wife whenever he was there. The farm was on a small hill above a sluggish river, and was surrounded by a growth of old sycamores and maples. There was a long stretch of fertile fields in front of the house, dotted by the huge barns and steel windmills of surrounding farms.

One Sunday in early May the Lanes were riding in the direction of the Darnell place, and Isabelle persuaded her husband to call there. "I promised to ride out here and show him the horses," she explained. The house was a shabby frame affair, large for a farmhouse, with porticoes and pillars in Southern style. They found the Darnells with the Falkners in the living-room. Tom Darnell was reading an Elizabethan play aloud, rolling out the verse in resounding declamation, punctuated by fervid appreciation,--"God! but that's fine!" "Hear this thing sing." "Just listen to this ripper."


"O God! O God! that it were possible
To undo things done; to call back yesterday!
That Time could turn up his swift sandy glass,
To untell the days, and to redeem the hours!" ...

When the Lanes had found chairs before the fire, he kept on reading, but with less enthusiasm, as if he felt an alien atmosphere. Falkner listened to the lines with closed eyes, his grim jaw relaxed, the deep frown smoothed. Bessie stroked a white cat,--it was plain that her thoughts were far away. Mrs. Darnell, who looked slovenly but pretty, stared vacantly out of the window. The sun lay in broad, streaks on the dusty floor; there was an air of drowsy peace, broken only by the warm tones of the lawyer as his voice rose and fell over the spirited verse. Isabelle enjoyed it all; here was something out of her usual routine. Darnell's face, which reflected the emotion of the lines, was attractive to her. He might not be the "right sort"; but he was unusual.... Finally Darnell flung the book into the corner and jumped up.

"Here I am boring you good people with stuff dead and gone these hundreds of years. Falkner always starts me off. Let's have a drink and take a look at the horses."

The living-room was a mess of furniture and books, wineglasses, bottles, wraps, whips, and riding-boots. Lane looked it over critically, while Darnell found some tumblers and poured out wine. Then they all went to the stable and dawdled about, talking horse. The fields were green with the soft grass, already nearly a foot high. Over the house an old grape-vine was budding in purple balls. There was a languor and sweetness to the air that instigated laziness. Although Lane wished to be off, Isabelle lingered on, and Darnell exclaimed hospitably: "You stay to dinner, of course! It is just plain dinner, Mrs. Lane,"--and he swept away all denial. Turning to his wife, who had said nothing, he remarked, "It's very good of them to come in on us like this, isn't it, Irene?"

Mrs. Darnell started and mumbled:--

"Yes, I am sure!"

His manners to his wife were always perfect, deferential,--why should she shrink before him? Isabelle wondered.... Dinner, plentiful and appetizing, was finally provided by the one negro woman. Darnell tried to talk to Lane, but to Isabelle's surprise her husband was at a disadvantage:--the two men could not find common ground. Then Darnell and Falkner quoted poetry, and Isabelle listened. It was all very different from anything she knew. While the others waited for their coffee, Darnell showed her the old orchard, --"to smell the first blossoms." It was languorously still there under the trees, with the misty fields beyond. Darnell said dreamily:--

"This is where I'd like to be always,--no, not six miles from Torso, but in some far-off country, a thousand miles from men!"

"You, a farmer!" laughed Isabelle. "And what about Congress, and the real anarchists?"

"Oh, you cannot understand! You do not belong to the fields as I do." He pointed ironically to her handsome riding skirt. "You are of the cities, of people. You will flit from this Indiana landscape one day, from provincial Torso, and spread your gay wings among the houses of men. While I--" He made a gesture of despair,--half comic, half serious,--and his dark face became gloomy.

Isabelle was amused at what she called his "heroics," but she felt interested to know what he was; and it flattered her that he should see her "spreading gay wings among the houses of men." These days she liked to think of herself that way.

"You will be in Washington, while we are still in Torso!" she answered.

"Maybe," he mused. "Well, we play the game--play the game--until it is played out!"

'He is not happy with his wife,' Isabelle concluded sagely; 'she doesn't understand him, and that's why she has that half-scared look.'

"I believe you really want to play the game as much as anybody," she ventured with a little thrill of surprise to find herself talking so personally with a man other than her husband.

"You think so?" he demanded, and his face grew wistful. "There is nothing in the game compared with the peace that one might have--"

Lane was calling to her, but she lingered to say:--

"How?"

"Far away--with love and the fields!"

They walked back to where John was holding the horses. She was oddly fluttered. For the first time since she had become engaged a man had somehow given her that special sensation, which women know, of confidence between them. She wished that John had not been so anxious to be off, and she did not repeat to him Darnell's talk, as she usually did every small item. All that she said was, after a time of reflection, "He is not a happy man."

"Who?"

"Mr. Darnell."

"From what I hear he is in a bad way. It is his own fault. He has plenty of ability,--a splendid chance."

She felt that this was an entirely inadequate judgment. What interested the man was the net result; what interested the woman was the human being in whom that result was being worked out. They talked a little longer about the fermenting tragedy of the household that they had just left, as the world talks, from a distance. But Isabelle made the silent reservation,--'she doesn't understand him--with another woman, it would be different.'...

Their road home lay through a district devastated by the mammoth sheds of some collieries. A smudged sign bore the legend:--

PLEASANT VALLEY COAL COMPANY

Lane pulled up his horse and looked carefully about the place. Then he suggested turning west to examine another coal property.

"I suppose that Freke man is awfully rich," Isabelle remarked, associating the name of the coal company with its president; "but he's so common,--I can't see how you can stand him, John!"

Lane turned in his saddle and looked at the elegant figure that his wife made on horseback.

"He isn't half as interesting as Tom Darnell or Rob," she added.

"I stand him," he explained, smiling, "for the reason men stand each other most often,--we make money together."

"Why, how do you mean? He isn't in the railroad."

"I mean in coal mines," he replied vaguely, and Isabelle realized that she was trespassing on that territory of man's business which she had been brought up to keep away from. Nevertheless, as they rode homeward in the westering golden light, she thought of several things:--John was in other business than the railroad, and that puffy-faced German-American was in some way connected with it; business covered many mysteries; a man did business with people he would not ordinarily associate with. It even crossed her mind that what with sleep and business a very large part of her husband's life lay quite beyond her touch. Perhaps that was what the Kentuckian meant by his ideal,--to live life with some loved one far away in companionship altogether intimate.

But before long she was thinking of the set of her riding-skirt, and that led to the subject of summer gowns which she meant to get when she went East with her mother, and that led on to the question of the summer itself. It had been decided that Isabelle should not spend another summer in the Torso heat, but whether she should go to the Connecticut place or accept Margaret Lawton's invitation to the mountains, she was uncertain. Thus pleasantly her thoughts drifted on into her future.

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