Full Online Books
BOOK CATEGORIES
Authors Authors Short Stories Short Stories Long Stories Long Stories Funny Stories Funny Stories Love Stories Love Stories Stories For Kids Stories For Kids Poems Poems Essays Essays Nonfictions Nonfictions Plays Plays Folktales Folktales Fairy Tales Fairy Tales Fables Fables Learning Kitchen Learning Kitchen
LINKS
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Free Classified Website Without Registration Free Classified Website Daniel Company
Twitter Twitter Add book
donate
Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWest Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 10
Famous Authors (View All Authors)
West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 10 Post by :cshawl Category :Long Stories Author :George Barr Mccutcheon Date :May 2012 Read :2465

Click below to download : West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 10 (Format : PDF)

West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 10

BOOK II CHAPTER X

Toward the close of the exercises, the congregation was startled by the sound of an ax smiting wood. The blows were rapid and vigorous. The surprised people looked at each other first in wonder and then in consternation. Who was guilty of this unseemly sacrilege?

Finally those on the edge of the multitude discovered the wielder of the ax. Some one, not easily recognizable, was chopping away the supports of the scaffold. The crowd grew restless; angry mutterings were to be heard on all sides. Every eye was turned from the platform to glare at the lone chopper across the fallow field.

Madame Careni-Amori, who was about to begin her second song, looked helplessly at Ruth Clinton.

Ruth had recognized the man at once. At first she was annoyed, then there surged over her a great, uplifting thrill of exaltation. She stepped quickly to the front and, raising her clear young voice, reclaimed the wandering attention of the throng.

"Please be quiet. Madame Careni-Amori is to sing for us once more. Mr. Percival is knocking down that horrible thing over there. It is right that he should. We do not need it there as a warning. Mr. Percival has had a change of heart. He has been moved,--tremendously moved,--by what he has seen in your faces today. That is why he is over there now hacking down that dreadful thing. It is the skeleton at our feast. We were conscious of its presence all the time. He is over there all by himself cutting it down so that our hearts may be lighter, so that this glad hour may end without its curse. Please remain where you are. He requires no assistance. He prefers to do it all alone. And now, if you will all give attention, Madame Careni-Amori will sing for us."

Careni-Amori lifted up her glorious voice in song. The rhythmic beat of the ax went on unceasingly; the powerful arms and shoulders of the destroyer were behind every frenzied blow. As the last notes of the song died away, there came the sound of splintering wood, then a dull crash, and the gibbet lay flat upon the ground. Some one uttered an involuntary shout. As Percival turned from his completed work and wiped the sweat from his brow with his bare forearm, he found the gaze of the entire company fastened upon him. Then there came to his ears the clapping of hands, then the shrill clamour of voices raised in approbation. Swinging the ax on high, he buried its blade deep in the fallen timber and left it imbedded there. Snatching up his coat from a nearby stump, he waved his hand to the crowd and then, whirling, was quickly lost among the trees that lined the shore.

Landover walked beside the thoughtful Ruth as she crossed the Green on her way home. He studied her lovely profile out of the corner of his eye. As they drew away from the dispersing throng, he spoke to her.

"If money were of any value here in this Godforsaken spot, I would offer considerably more than a penny for your thoughts, Ruth."

She started slightly. "You couldn't buy them, Mr. Landover. They are not for sale at any price."

"I suppose there is no harm in venturing a guess, however. You will give me one guess, won't you?"

"All the guesses you like,--free of charge," she rejoined airily.

"You are trying to decide whether or not it was all done for effect."

She smiled mysteriously, looking straight ahead. Her eyes were very bright.

"You are wrong. I was thinking about hats, Mr. Landover. Don't you know that every woman's thoughts run to hats on Easter?"

"I confess I had a better opinion of him," he said, disregarding her flippancy. "I don't like him, but I've never suspected him of being a stupid ass before."

"Of whom are you speaking?" she inquired, suddenly looking him full in the eye.

"Our mutual friend, the enemy," he replied.

"Mr. Percival?"

"Certainly."

"But I thought he was beneath our notice."

"We can't very well help noticing him when he goes to such extreme lengths to attract attention."

"You think he did it to attract attention?"

"Not so much that, perhaps, as to get back into the lime-light. You see, he was rather out of it for as much as half an hour, and he simply couldn't stand it. So he went off and staged a little sideshow of his own."

She walked on in silence for a few moments, torn by doubts and misgivings. Landover's sarcastic analysis was like a douche of cold water. Perhaps he was right. It had been a spectacular, not to say diverting, exhibition. Her eyes darkened. An expression of pain lurked in them.

"I can't believe it of him, Mr. Landover," she said at last, in a slightly muffled voice.

"I thought it was understood you were to call me Abel, my dear."

"If he did it deliberately,--and with that motive,--it was unspeakable," she went on, a faint furrow appearing between her eyes.

"Of course, I may be wrong," said he magnanimously. "It may have been the result of an honest, uncontrollable impulse. But I doubt it."

"Men do queer, strange things when under the influence of a strong emotion," she said, a hopeful note in her voice.

"True. They are also capable of doing very base things. You don't for an instant suspect Percival of being a religious fanatic, do you?"

"Please don't sneer. And what, pray, has religion to do with it?"

"I dare say Morris Shine is again lamenting the absence of a motion picture camera. He is always complaining about the chances he has missed to--"

"Stop!"

"Why, Ruth dear, I--"

"We have no right to judge him, Mr. Landover."

"Are you defending him?"

"I don't believe he had the faintest notion that he was being--theatrical, as you call it. I am sure he did it because he was moved by an overpowering desire to make all of us happy. He couldn't bear the thought of that evil thing out there, pointing at us while we worshipped and tried to sing with gladness in our hearts. No! He did it for you, and for me, and for all the rest of us,--and he made every heart lighter when that thing toppled over and fell. Did you not see the change that came over every one when they realized that it was destroyed? There were smiles on every face, and every voice was cheerful. The look of uneasy dread was gone--Oh, you must have seen."

"I can only say that it ought to have been done before, Ruth,--not during the exercises."

"It was his way of publicly admitting he was wrong in insisting that it should remain."

"He had his way with that weak-kneed committee, as usual. The tactics of that Copperhead Camp he talks so much about are hardly applicable to conditions here. We are not law-defying ruffians, you know,--and these are women of quite another order."

"No one,--not even you, Mr. Landover,--can say that he has been anything but kind and considerate and sympathetic," she flashed. "He is firm,--but isn't that what we want? And the people worship him,--they will do anything for him. Even Manuel Crust respects him,--and obeys him. And you, down in your heart, respect him. He is your kind of a man, Mr. Landover. He does things. He is like Theodore Roosevelt. He does things."

Landover smiled grimly. "Perhaps that is why I dislike him."

"Because he is like Roosevelt?"

"My dear, let's not start an argument about Roosevelt."

"Just the same, I've heard you say over and over again that you wish Roosevelt were President now," she persisted. "Why do you say that if you are so down on him?"

Landover shrugged his shoulders expressively.

"I can wish that, my dear, and still not be an admirer of Mr. Roosevelt," he replied. "But to return to Percival, isn't it quite plain to you that he was pouting like a school-boy because he had not been asked to take part in today's exercises?"

"He was asked to take part in them. I asked him myself."

He glanced at her sharply. "You never told me you had asked him, Ruth."

"The night the crime was committed," she said briefly. "He was very nice about it. He promised to sing in the choir and--and to help me with the decorations. After our unpleasant experience the next day, he had the--shall we say tact or kindness?--to reconsider his promise."

"Openly advertising the fact that he preferred to have no part in any entertainment you were arranging," was Landover's comment. "I don't believe it was because of any particular delicacy of feeling on his part, my dear. In any case, the fact remains that he let you go ahead with the affair, and then, bang! right in the middle of it he stages his cheap, melodramatic, moving-picture act. Bosh!"

She turned on him with blazing eyes.

"You will not see anything good in him, will you? You can't be fair, can you? Well, I can be,--and I am. He has been fair with both of us,--and I am ashamed of the way I have treated him. We deserved his rebuke that morning, and he did not hesitate to turn us back,--although he realized what it would mean. He loves me, Abel Landover,--he loves me a thousand times more than you do, in spite of all your protestations. He--"

"Why, Ruth,--I--I--"

"Yes,--I know,--I know you are shocked. And I don't care,--do you understand? I don't care that! You want your answer, Mr. Landover. Well, you shall have it now. I cannot marry you. This is final."

The blood left his face. "You don't know what you are saying, Ruth," he exclaimed. "You are angry. When you have had time to--"

"I've had all the time I need," she interrupted shortly. "I don't want to be disagreeable,--but it's no use, Mr. Landover. I do not love you. I am sorry if I have misled you into hoping. There is nothing more to be said."

"You have misled me," he cried out bitterly.

"I am to blame, I suppose, for not giving you your answer before this. I have temporized. It is a woman's trick,--and a horrid one, I'll admit. I have never even thought of marrying you."

"Are you in love with Percival?" he demanded.

"Yes,--I think I am," she replied, looking him straight in the eye. She spoke with a sort of gasp, as if releasing a confession that surprised even herself.

"My God, Ruth,--I can't believe it," he groaned.

"I have denied it to myself--oh, a thousand times,--I've fought against it. I've tried to hate him. I've done everything in my power to make him believe that I despise him. But it's no use,--it's no use. I--I can't think of anything else. I can't think of any one else. Oh, I know I am quite mad to say this, but I sometimes find myself praying that we may never be rescued. It might mean--well, you can see what it might mean. Thank God, you have driven me to this confession. It is the first time I have been really honest with myself. I have lied to myself over and over again about my feeling toward him. I have lain awake for hours at night lying to myself--telling myself that I hate him and always will hate him. Now, it's out,--the truth is out. I have never hated him,--I have cared for him from the very beginning."

She spoke rapidly, the words rushing forth like a flood suddenly released after breaking through the dam, sweeping everything before it,--resistless, devastating, cruelly rapturous. She thought nothing of the hurt she was inflicting upon the man beside her; he was an atom in the path of the torrent, a thing that went down and was left behind as the flood swept over and by him. As suddenly as it began the torrent was checked. A hot flush seared her neck, her cheeks, her brow.

"What a fool you must think me!" she cried in dire chagrin. "What a stupid fool!"

He had not taken his eyes from her transfigured face. He had listened with his jaw set, his lips tightly pressed, his brow dark with anger.

"I don't think that," he said shortly. "You have merely lost your head, as any woman might, over a picturesque, good-looking soldier of fortune. Perhaps I should not be surprised, nor even shocked by what you've just told me. He is the sort that women do fall in love with,--and I suppose they are not to be blamed for it. No, I do not think you are a fool. When one reflects that such experienced heads as those possessed by the irreproachable Obosky, the immaculate Amori,--to say nothing of the estimable lady we are pleased to call the 'Empress of Brazil,'--when such heads as theirs are turned by a man it is high time to admit that he has something more than personal magnetism. I am wondering how far the contagion has really spread. There is a difference between contagion and infection, you know. Infection is the result of personal contact,--contagion is something in the air. This epidemic of infatuation very plainly is in two forms. It appears to be both infectious and contagious. I rather fancy the amiable Obosky has selected the former type of the prevailing malady. Percivalitis, I believe, is the name it goes by."

There was no mistaking the significance of his words. The implication was clear, even though veiled in the heaviest sarcasm. He had the satisfaction of seeing the colour ebb from her cheek. Her face being averted, he missed the swift flicker of pain that rushed to her eyes and, departing, took away with it the soft light that had glowed in them the instant before. He had touched a concealed canker,--the sensitive spot that had been the real cause of her sleepless, troubled nights,--the thing she had refused in her pride to accept as the real source of discomfort.

Down in her soul lay the poison of jealousy, a cruel and malignant influence that until now had been subdued by a mind stubbornly unwilling to recognize its existence.

In the eagerness to supply herself with additional reasons for hating Percival, she had given her imagination a rather free rein in regard to his relations with Olga Obosky. While she was without actual proof, she nevertheless tortured herself with suspicions that came almost to the same thing; in any case, they had the desired effect in that they created a very positive sense of irritation, and nothing seemed to please her more in the dead hour of night than the feeling that she had a right to be disgusted with him.

And now, Landover, in his sly arraignment, prodded a very live, raw spot, and she knew that it was bleak unhappiness and not rancour that had kept her awake.

"Is it necessary to beat about the bush, Mr. Land-over? If you have anything definite to tell me about Mr. Percival and Madame Obosky, I grant you permission to say all you have to say in the plainest language. Call a spade a spade. I am quite old enough to hear things called by their right names."

"Since you have been so quick to get my meaning, I don't consider it necessary to go into details. I daresay you have ears and eyes of your own. You can see and hear as well as I,--unless you are resolved to be both blind and deaf."

"Did you not hear me say that I know he loves me?"

"Yes,--I heard you quite distinctly."

"As a rule, do men love two women at the same time?" she inquired, patiently.

"I have never said that he loves Obosky. It is barely possible, however, that he may not choose to resist her,--if that conveys anything to your intelligence."

"It does and it does not," she replied steadily. "You see, I believe in him. I trust him."

"And I suppose you trust Olga Obosky," he said, with a sneer.

"I understand Olga Obosky far better than you do, Mr. Landover."

"I doubt it," said he drily.

"She is my friend."

"Ah! That measurably simplifies the situation. She will no doubt prove her friendship by delivering Mr. Percival to you, slightly damaged but guaranteed to--"

"Please be good enough to remember, Mr. Land-over, that you are not speaking to Manuel Crust," she exclaimed haughtily, and, with flaming cheeks, swept past him.

He hesitated a moment, and then started to follow her. She stopped short and, facing him, cried out: "Don't follow me! I do not want to hear another word. Stop! I can see by your eyes that you are ashamed,--you want to apologize. I do not want to hear it. I am hurt,--terribly hurt. Nothing you can say will help matters now, Mr. Landover."

"Just a second, Ruth," he cried, now thoroughly dismayed. "Give me a chance to explain. It was my mad, unreasoning love that--"

But, with an exclamation of sheer disgust, she put her fingers to her ears and sped rapidly down the walk. He stood still, watching her until she entered the cabin door and closed it behind her. Then he completed the broken sentence, but not in the voice of humility nor with the words that he had intended to utter.

If you like this book please share to your friends :
NEXT BOOKS

West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 11 West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 11

West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 11
BOOK II CHAPTER XIShay, coming up the walk, distinctly heard what he said. "What's the matter, Bill?" he inquired, pausing. "Did she throw the hooks into you?" Landover glared at him balefully. "You go to hell, damn you," he snarled, and walked away. "Soapy" rubbed his chin dubiously as he watched the retreating figure. Pursing his thin lips, he turned his attention to an unoffending stump six or eight feet away and scowled at it vindictively. He was turning something over in his mind, and he was manifestly in a state of indecision. Ruminating, he spoke aloud, perhaps for the benefit
PREVIOUS BOOKS

West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 9 West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 9

West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 9
BOOK II CHAPTER IXJust before sunset that evening, Sancho Mendez was publicly hanged. Confessing the crime, he was carried to the rude gibbet at the far edge of the wheat field and paid the price in full. He had been tried by a jury of twelve; and there was absolutely no question as to his guilt. His companion, a lad named Dominic, callously betrayed by the older man, fled to the forest and it was not until the second day after the hanging that he was found by a party of man-hunters, half-starved and half-demented. He was hanged at sunrise on
NEXT 10 BOOKS | PREVIOUS 10 BOOKS | RANDOM 10 BOOKS
LEAVE A COMMENT