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Title: A Maid in Arcady
Author: Barbour, Ralph Henry
Language: English
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                           A MAID IN ARCADY



[Illustration: “I SHALL WRITE AN ADVERTISEMENT MYSELF,” HE SAID.]



[Illustration: title page]



                               A MAID IN
                                ARCADY


                                  BY
                          RALPH HENRY BARBOUR

                    AUTHOR OF “KITTY OF THE ROSES”
                         “AN ORCHARD PRINCESS”
                                 ETC.


                        _With Illustrations by_
                         FREDERIC J. von RAPP


                         PHILADELPHIA & LONDON
                       J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
                                 1906



                            COPYRIGHT, 1906

                      BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY


                      Published, September, 1906


                     _Electrotyped and Printed by
           J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia, U. S. A._



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                           PAGE

 “I shall write an advertisement myself,” he said
                                            _Frontispiece_

 The stream sulked in a deep, pellucid pool                  10

 Who would have thought to find a Grecian goddess under
   New England skies?                                        20

 Slowly she raised her white arms                            23

 “I think I have explained matters, don’t you?”              52

 “I hope you like my pool?” inquired a voice                 61

 She was throwing crumbs of bread to the swans              113

 She went to him and placed her hands on his shoulders      139

 “Will you?” he repeated                                    213



[Illustration]



A MAID IN ARCADY



I.


The clear water of the little river, in which the willows were mirrored
quiveringly, shallowed where a tiny bar of silver-white sand thrust the
ripples aside. Thus confined, the stream sulked for a moment in a deep,
pellucid pool, and then, with sudden rush and gurgle, swept through a
miniature narrows and swirled about the naked roots of the willows.

[Illustration: THE STREAM SULKED IN A DEEP, PELLUCID POOL.]

With a quick plunge of the paddle Ethan guided the canoe past the
threatening bar. A drooping branch swept his face caressingly as the
craft gained the quiet water beyond. Here, as though repentant of its
impatience, the river loitered and lapped about a massive granite
bowlder, tugging playfully at the swaying ferns and tossing scintillant
drops upon the velvety moss. To the left, the fringe of woodland which,
in friendly gossip, had followed the little river for a quarter of a
mile, parted where a second stream, scarcely more than a brook, flowed
placidly into the first. Reinforced, the river widened a little and
went slowly, musically on under the drooping branches, alternately
sun-splashed and shadowed, until it disappeared at a distant turn. But
the canoe did not follow. Instead it rocked lazily by the bowlder,
while the ripples broke gently against its smooth sides.

To the bole of an old willow which dropped its leaves in autumn upon
the white sand-bar was nailed a weather-gray board, on which faded
letters stated:

                           PRIVATE PROPERTY!

                            NO TRESPASSING!

[Illustration]

Ethan observed the warning meditatively. In view of his later course of
action let us credit him with that hesitation. At length, with a faint
smile on his face, he turned the nose of the canoe toward the smaller
stream and his back to the sign.

To have observed him one would scarcely have believed him capable of
deliberately committing the dire crime of trespass. There was something
about his good-looking face which bespoke honesty. At least, it would
have been difficult to credit him with underhand methods; it seemed
easier to believe that if he ever did commit a crime it would be in
such a superbly open and above-board fashion as to rob it of half its
iniquity. Not that there was anything of classical beauty about his
face. His eyes were a shade of brown, his nose was perhaps a trifle too
short to reach the standard of the Grecians, his mouth, unhidden by any
mustache, did not to any great extent suggest a Cupid’s bow. His chin
was aggressive. For the rest, he had the usual allowance of hair of a
not uncommon shade of brown, and showed, when he laughed which was by
no means infrequently――a set of very white and very capable looking
teeth. And yet I reiterate my former adjective; good-looking he was;
good-looking in a healthy, frank, happy and rather boyish way that was
eminently satisfying.

If the sign on the old willow was right, and he really was trespassing,
I have no excuse to offer, or at least none that my conscience will
allow me to suggest. I can’t plead ignorance for him, for the simple
reason that he had seen the sign and read it and that he knew all about
trespass――or as much as was taught in the three-year course at the
Harvard Law School, which he had finished barely a fortnight ago.

Meanwhile he has been sending the canoe quietly along the winding water
path, dipping the paddle with easy, rhythmic swings of his shoulders,
pushing the blade astern through the clear water and swinging it,
flashing and dripping, back for the next stroke. He had tossed his
light cloth cap into the bottom of the canoe and had laid his coat
over a thwart. The summer morning sunlight, slanting through the
branches, wove quickly vanishing patterns in gold upon his brown hair.
The tiny breeze, just a mere breath from the southwest, fragrant with
the odor of damp, sun-warmed soil and greenery, stirred the sheer white
shirt he wore and laid it in folds under the raised arm.

The brook was rather shallow; everywhere the pebbled bottom was
visible. It was a whimsical brook, full of sudden turns and twistings;
rounding tiny promontories of alder and sheepberry, dipping into quiet
bays where bush honeysuckles were dripping sweetness from their pale
yellow funnels, skirting curving beaches of white sand where standing
armies of purple flags held themselves stiffly at attention and
restrained the invasion of the eager, swaying fern-rabble.

[Illustration]

He had gone several hundred yards by this time against the slow
current, and now there was evident a change in the foliage lining
the banks, even in the banks themselves. Artifice had aided nature.
Pink and white and yellow lilies dotted the stream, while at a little
distance a slender, graceful stone bridge arched from shore to shore.
Woodbine clustered about it and threw cool, trembling leaf-shadows
against the sunlit stones. The arch framed a charming vista of the
brook beyond. The canoe slipped noiselessly under the bridge and the
strip of shadow rested gratefully for an instant on Ethan’s face. On
the left there was a momentary break in the foliage and a brief glimpse
of a wide expanse of velvety turf. Then another turn, the canoe
brushing aside the broad lily-pads, and the end of the journey had
come, and, sitting with motionless paddle, he gazed spellbound.

[Illustration]



II.


The banks of the stream fell suddenly away on either side and the
canoe glided slowly and softly into a miniature lake. It was perhaps
twenty yards across at its widest place and much more than that in
length. Occasionally a far-reaching branch threw trembling shadows on
the water, but for the most part the trees stood back from the margin
of the pool and allowed the fresh green turf to descend unhampered to
the water’s edge. At a point farthest from where Ethan had entered
a little cascade tumbled. On all sides the ground sloped slightly
upward, and in one place a group of larches crowned the summit of a
knoll and mingled their delicate branches far above the neighboring
maples. Almost concealed among them an uncertain gleam of white caught
at moments through the trees to the right suggested a building of
some sort――perhaps the marble temple of the divinity, who, seated on
the bank with her bare sandaled feet crossed before her, observed the
intruder with calm, dreamy, almost smiling unconcern.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]

It was a beautiful scene into which Ethan had floated. Overhead was
a blue sky against which a few soft white clouds hung seemingly
motionless as though, like Narcissus, they had become enamored of their
reflections in the pool there below. On a tiny islet in the pool,
dwarf willows caressed the water with the tips of their pendulous
branches. Further on a trio of white swans sunned themselves, and
about the margin the bosom of the pool was carpeted with lily-pads and
starred with a multitude of fragrant blooms, white, rose-hued, carmine,
pale violet, sulphur-colored and blue. The gauze wings of darting
dragon-flies caught the sunlight, insects hovered above the flower-cups
and in the branches around many a feathered cantatrice was singing her
heart out. And for background there was always the varied green of
encircling trees.

Yes, it was very beautiful, but Ethan had no eyes for it. With paddle
still suspended between gunwale and water he was staring in a fashion
at once depicting surprise, curiosity, and admiration at the figure on
the grass. And what wonder? Who would have thought to find a Grecian
goddess under New England skies? Ethan’s thoughts leaped back to
mythology and he sought a name for her. Diana? Minerva? Venus? Iris?
Penelope?

And all the while――a very little while despite the telling――his eyes
ranged from the sandaled feet to the warm brown hair with its golden
fillet. A single garment of gleaming white reached from the feet to
the shoulders where it was caught together on either side with a metal
clasp. The arms were bare, youthfully slender, aglow in the sunlight.
And yet it was to the eyes that his gaze returned each time. “Minerva!”
his thoughts triumphed, “‘Minerva, goddess azure-eyed!’” And yet in the
next instant he knew that while her eyes were undeniably blue she
was no wise Minerva. Such youthful softness belonged rather to Iris or
Daphne or Syrinx.

[Illustration: WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT TO FIND A GRECIAN GODDESS UNDER
NEW ENGLAND SKIES?]

And all the while――just the little time it took for the canoe to
glide from the stream well into the pool――she had been regarding
him tranquilly with her deep blue eyes, her bare arms, stretching
downward to the grass, supporting her in an attitude suggesting recent
recumbency. And now, as the craft brushed the lily-pads aside, she
spoke.

[Illustration]

“Do you not fear the resentment of the gods?” she asked gravely. “It is
not wise for a mortal to look upon us.”

“I crave your mercy, O fair goddess,” he answered. “Blame rather this
tiny argosy of mine which, propelled by hands invisible, has brought me
hither. I doubt not that the gods hold me in enchantment.” He mentally
patted himself on the back; it wasn’t so bad for an impromptu!

She leaned forward and sunk her chin in the cup of one small hand,
viewing him intently as though pondering his words.

“It may be so,” she answered presently. “What call you your frail
vessel?”

“From this hour, Good Fortune.” Her gaze dropped.

“Will you deign to tell me your name, O radiant goddess?” he continued.
She raised her eyes again and he thought a little smile played for a
moment over her red lips.

“I am Clytie,” she answered, “a water-nymph. I dwell in this pool. And
you, how are you called?”

He answered readily and gravely: “I am Vertumnus, clad thus in
mortal guise that I may gain the presence of Pomona. Long have I wooed
her, O Nymph of the Pool.”

“I too love unrequited,” she answered sadly. “Apollo has my heart.
Though day by day I watch him drive his fiery chariot across the
heavens he sees me not.”

She arose and turned her face upward to the sun. Slowly she raised her
white arms and stretched them forth in tragic appeal.

[Illustration: SLOWLY SHE RAISED HER WHITE ARMS.]

“Apollo!” she cried. “Apollo! Hear me! Clytie calls to you!”

Such a passion of melancholy longing spoke in her voice that Ethan
thrilled in spite of himself. Unconsciously his gaze followed hers
to the blazing orb. The light dazzled his eyes and blinded him for a
moment. When he looked again toward the bank it was empty, but between
the trees, along the slope, a white garment fluttered and was lost to
sight.

[Illustration]

“Clytie!” he called in sudden dismay. And again.

“Clytie!”

A wood-thrush in a nearby tree burst into golden melody. But Clytie
answered not.



III.


The Roadside Inn at Riverdell sprawls its white length along the old
post-road over which many years ago the coaches swayed and rattled
between New York and Boston. The Roadside, known in those days as
Peppit’s Tavern, has changed but little. The front room over the porch,
has held notable guests: Washington, Hancock, Adams, Lafayette and many
more. On the tap-room windows you may still find the diamond-etched
initials of by-gone celebrities. And much of the old-time atmosphere
remains.

[Illustration]

The room into which Ethan had his bag taken after his return from his
adventure in Arcady was low-ceilinged and dim. The two small windows,
one overlooking the dilapidated orchard at the rear and the little
river beyond, the other revealing the murmuring depths of a big elm,
afforded little light. The floor was delightfully uneven; Ethan went
downhill to the washstand and uphill again to the old mahogany bureau.
The wide fire-place held a pair of antique andirons coveted by many
a visitor, and the narrow shelf above was adorned with an equally
desirable brass candlestick and a couple of opaque white glass vases
which, ancient as they were, post-dated the shelf itself by half a
hundred years. The bedstead, of mahogany, with rolling footboard, had
made concessions to modernity. The pegs along the side, from which
ropes had once been stretched, remained, but an up-to-date wire spring
and hair mattress had superseded the olden furnishings.

[Illustration]

Ethan lighted a cigarette, unstrapped his bag and took out a leathern
portfolio. With this on his knee, he sat at one of the open windows and
scrawled a note.

[Illustration]

    “Dear Vin, I am sending my man Farrell on to you with the
    machine with orders to place it at your disposal. Make what use
    you can of it. I think it is all right now, though it went back
    on us this morning about two miles north of here. Funny place
    for it to bust, wasn’t it; looks as though it meant me to pay
    a visit here, eh? Well, I’m humoring it. I’ve decided to stay
    here for a day or two at the Roadside. I want to brush up a bit
    on mythology. Very interesting subject, mythology, Vin. Just
    when I’ll follow the machine I can’t say yet; possibly in a
    day or two. Make my excuses to your mother and sisters; invent
    any old story you like. You might say, for instance, that
    Vertumnus, fickle god, has transferred his affections from
    Pomona to a water-nymph. But you needn’t if you’d rather not. I
    don’t care what you say. Expect me when you see me.

                                “Yours,

                                                          “ETHAN.”

With a smile as he thought of his friend’s perplexity on reading the
note, Ethan folded it and tucked it into an envelope. Then addressing
it to “Mr. Vincent Graves, The Boulders, Stillhaven, Mass.,” he sealed
it, dropped it into his pocket and made his way downstairs to dinner.

After dinner a big blue touring-car chugged its way southward along the
shaded road, with Farrell at the wheel and Ethan’s note in Farrell’s
pocket. Ethan watched it disappear. Then, drawing a chair to the edge
of the porch, he set himself in it, put his heels on the railing,
stuffed his hands into his pockets and asked himself with a puzzled
smile why he had done it.



IV.


The grass grew tall and lush under the gnarled old apple-trees back
of the Inn, and the straggling footpath which led to the landing was
a path only in name. By the time he had gained the river Ethan’s
immaculate white shoes were slate-colored with dew. The canoe rested
on two poles laid from crotches of the apple trees, which overhung the
stream. Ethan lifted it down and dropped it into the water. With paddle
in hand he stepped in and pushed off down-stream.

[Illustration]

On his left the orchard and garden of the Inn marched with him for a
way, giving place at length to a neck of woodland. On his right, seen
between the twisted willows, stretched a pleasant view of meadows and
tilled fields in the foreground, and, beyond, the gently rising hills,
wooded save where along the base the encroaching grasslands rose and
dipped. A couple of sleepy-looking farmhouses were nestled in the
middle-distance and the faint _whir-r-r_ of a mowing machine floated
across the meadows. In the high grass daisies were sprinkled as thickly
as stars in the Milky Way, and buttercups thrust their tiny golden
bowls above the pendulous plumes of the timothy, foxtail, and fescue.
The blue-eyed grass, too, was all abloom, like miniatures of the blue
flags which congregated wherever the spring floods had inundated the
meadows.

The sand-bar came in sight and the little river began to fuss and
fret as it gathered itself for what it doubtless believed to be an
awe-inspiring rush. The canoe bobbed gracefully through the rapids and
swung about in the pool below. Ethan winked soberly at the sign on the
willow tree and dipped his paddle again. The canoe breasted the lazy
current of the brook.

[Illustration]

It was just such a day as yesterday. The little breeze stirred the
rushes along the banks and brought odors of honeysuckle. Fleecy white
clouds seemed to float on the unshadowed stretches of the stream. On
one side a sudden blur of deep pink marked where a wild azalea was
ablossom. Again, a glimpse of white showed a viburnum sprinkling the
ground with its tiny blooms. Cinnamon ferns were pushing their pale
bronze “fiddle-heads” into the air. Now and then a wood lily displayed
a tardy blossom. Near the stone bridge a kingfisher darted downward to
the brook, broke its surface into silver spray and arose on heavy wing.

Once past the bridge and with only a single winding of the brook
between him and the lotus pool, Ethan trailed his paddle for a moment
while he asked himself whether he really expected to find the girl
waiting for him. Of course he didn’t, only――well, there was just
a chance――――! Nonsense; there was not the ghost of a chance! Oh,
very well; at least there was no harm in his paddling to the lotus
pool――barring that he was trespassing! He smiled at that. He smiled at
it several times, for some reason or other. Then he dipped his paddle
again and sent the “Good Fortune” gliding swiftly over the sunlit
water of the pond. And when he looked there she was, seated on the
bank, just as――and he realized it now――he had expected all along that
she would be!

[Illustration]

But it was not Clytie he saw; not unless the fashions have changed
considerably and water-nymphs may wear with perfect propriety white
shirtwaist suits and tan shoes. It was not impossible, he reasoned;
for all he knew to the contrary, the July number of the Goddesses’
Home Journal――doubtless edited by Minerva――might prescribe just
such garments for informal morning wear. At all events, being less
_bizarre_ than the flowing peplum of yesterday, Ethan――whose tastes
in attire were quite orthodox――liked it far better. The effect was
quite different, too. Yesterday she might have been Clytie; to-day
reason cried out against any such possibility; she was a very
modern-appearing and extremely charming young lady of, apparently,
twenty or twenty-one years of age, with a face, at present seen
in profile, piquant rather than beautiful. The nose was small and
delicate, the mouth, under a short lip, had the least bit of a pout
and the chin was softly round and sensitive. This morning she wore her
hair in a pompadour, while at the back the thick braids started low on
her neck and coiled around and around in a perfectly delightful and
absolutely puzzling fashion. Ethan liked her hair immensely. It was
light brown, with coppery tones where the sunlight became entangled.
She was seated on the sloping bank, her hands clasped about her knees
and her gaze turned dreamily toward the cascade which sparkled and
tinkled at the upper curve of the pool. As the canoe had made almost
no sound in its approach, she was, of course, ignorant of Ethan’s
presence. And yet it may be mentioned as an interesting if unimportant
fact that as he gazed at her for the space of half a minute a rosy
tinge, all unobserved of him, crept into her cheeks. He laid his paddle
softly across the canoe, and,――――

“Greetings, O Clytie!” he said.

She turned to him startledly. A little smile quivered about her lips.

“Good morning, Vertumnus,” she answered. Perhaps his gaze showed a
trifle too much interest, for after a brief instant hers stole away. He
picked up the paddle and moved the canoe closer to the shore.

“I’m very glad to find you have not yet taken root,” he said gravely.

“Taken root?” she echoed vaguely.

“Yes, for that was your fate at the last, wasn’t it? If I am not
mistaken you sat for days on the ground, subsisting on your tears and
watching the sun cross the heavens, until at last your limbs became
rooted to the ground and you just naturally turned into a sunflower. At
least, that’s the way I recollect it.”

“Oh, but you shouldn’t tell me what my fate is to be,” she answered
smilingly.

“Forearmed is forewarned; no, I mean the other way around!” he replied.
“Maybe if you just keep your feet moving you’ll escape that fate. It
would be awfully uncomfortable, I should say! Besides, pardon me if it
sounds rude, sunflowers are such unattractive things, don’t you think
so?”

[Illustration]

“Yes, I’m afraid they are. The fate of Daphne or Lotis or Syrinx would
be much nicer.”

“What happened to them, please?”

“Why, Daphne was changed to a laurel; have you forgotten?”

“No, but how about the other ladies?”

“Lotis became a lotus and Syrinx a clump of reeds. Pan gathered some
and made himself pipes to play on.

    “‘Poor nymph!――Poor Pan!――how he did weep to find
      Naught but a lovely sighing of the wind
      Along the reedy stream; a half-heard strain
      Full of sweet desolation――balmy pain.’”

“Shelley, for a dollar,” he said questioningly.

She shook her head smilingly. “Keats,” she corrected.

“Oh, I have a way of getting them mixed, those two chaps.” He paused.
“Do you know, it sounds odd nowadays to hear anyone quote poetry?”

“I suppose it does; I dare say it sounds very silly.”

“Not a bit of it! I like it! I wish I could do it myself. All I know,
though, is

    “‘The Lady Jane was tall and slim,
        The Lady Jane was fair,
      And Sir Thomas, my lord, was stout of limb,
        But his breath was short, and――――’

and so on. I used to recite that at school when I was a youngster;
knew it all through; and I think there were five or six pages of it.
I was quite proud of that, and used to stand on the platform Saturday
mornings and just gallop it off. I think the humor appealed to me.”

“It must have been delightful!” she laughed. “But you haven’t got even
that quite right!”

“Haven’t I? I dare say.”

“No, Sir Thomas was _her_ lord, not _my_ lord, and it was his cough
that was short instead of his breath.”

“Shows that my memory is failing at last,” he answered. “But, tell me,
do you know every piece of poetry ever written?”

“No, not so many. I happen to remember that, though. Besides, we
dwellers on Olympus hold poetry in rather more respect than you
mortals.”

“You forget that I am Vertumnus,” he answered haughtily.

“Of course! And you puzzled me with that yesterday, too. I had to go
home and hunt up a dictionary of mythology to see who Vertumnus was.”

“I――I trust you found him fairly respectable?” he asked. “To tell the
truth, I don’t recollect very much about him myself; and some of those
old chaps were――well, a bit rapid.”

“Vertumnus was quite respectable,” she replied. “In fact, he was quite
a dear, the way he slaved to win Pomona. I never cared very much about
Pomona,” she added frankly.

“I――I never knew her very well,” he answered carelessly.

“I think she was a stick.”

“You forget,” he said gently, “that you are speaking of the lady of my
affections.”

“Oh, I am so sorry!” she cried contritely. “Please forgive me!”

“If you will let me smoke a cigarette.”

“Why not? Considering that I am on shore and you on the water it hardly
seems necessary――――”

“Well, of course it’s your own private pool,” he said. “I thought
perhaps nymphs objected to the odor of cigarette-smoke around their
habitations.”

“This nymph doesn’t mind it,” she answered.

He selected a cigarette from his case very leisurely. He had had
several opportunities to see her eyes and was wondering whether they
were really the color they seemed to be. He had thought yesterday
that they were blue, like the sky, or a Yale flag or――or the ocean in
October; in short just _blue_. But to-day, seen from a distance of some
fifteen feet, and examined carefully, they appeared quite a different
hue, a――a violet, or――or mauve. He wasn’t sure just what mauve was,
but he thought it might be the color of her eyes. At all events, they
weren’t merely blue; they were something quite different, far more
wonderful, and infinitely more beautiful. He would look again just as
soon as he had the cigarette lighted, and――――

“Were you surprised to find me here this morning?” she asked suddenly.
There was no hint of coquetry in her tone and he stifled the first
reply occurring to him.

“I――no, I wasn’t――for some reason,” he answered honestly. “I dare say I
ought to have been.”

“I came on purpose to meet you,” she said calmly.

“Er――thank you――that is――――!”

“I wanted to explain about yesterday. You see I didn’t want you to
think I was just simply insane. There was――method in my madness.”

[Illustration]

“But I didn’t think you insane,” he denied, depositing the burnt
match carefully on a lily-pad and raising his gaze to hers. “I
thought――that――――”

“Yes, go on,” she prompted. “Tell me what you did think when you found
me here in that――that _thing_!”

“I thought I was in Arcadia and that you were just what you said you
were, a water-nymph.”

“Oh,” she murmured disappointedly; “I thought you were really going to
tell me the truth.”

“I will, then. Frankly, I didn’t know what to think. You said you were
Clytie, and far be it from me to question a lady’s word. I was stumped.
I tried to work it out yesterday afternoon and couldn’t, and so I came
back to-day in the hope that I might have the good fortune to see you
again.”

“It was rather silly,” she answered. “And I ought to have run away
when I saw your canoe coming. But it was so unexpected and sudden,
and I was bored and――and I wondered what you would look like when I
told you I was a water-nymph!” She laughed softly. “Only,” she went
on in a moment, with grievance in her tones, “you didn’t look at all
surprised! I might just as well have said ‘I am Mary Smith’ or――or
‘Laura Devereux!’”

(“Aha!” quoth Ethan to himself, “I am learning.”)

“You were very disappointing,” she concluded severely.

“I am sorry, really. I realize now that I should have displayed
astonishment and awe. Perhaps if you had said you were Laura――Laura
Devereux, was it?――I would have really shown some emotion.”

“Why?” she questioned.

“Well, don’t you think――Laura, now, is――I’m afraid I can’t just
explain.” He was watching her intently. She was studying her clasped
hands. “I suppose what I meant was that Laura is such an attractive
name, so――so musical, so melodious! And then coupled with Devereux it
is even――even――er――more so!”

“Is it?” She didn’t look at him and her tone was almost icy.

(“I fancy that’ll hold you for awhile,” he said to himself. “My boy,
you’re inclined to be a little too fresh; cut it out!”)

“I never thought Laura especially melodious,” she said.

“Perhaps you are prejudiced,” he suggested amiably.

“Why should I be?” she asked, observing him calmly. He hesitated and
paid much attention to his cigarette.

“Oh, no reason at all, I suppose,” he answered finally. He looked up
in time to surprise a little mocking smile in her eyes. Nonsense! He’d
show her that she couldn’t bluff him down like that! “To be honest,” he
continued, “what I meant was that some folks take a dislike to their
own names; in which case they are scarcely impartial judges.” He looked
across at her challengingly. She returned the look serenely.

“So you think that is my name?” she asked.

“Isn’t it?”

“I don’t see why you should think so,” she parried. “I might have found
it in a novel. I’m sure it sounds like a name out of a novel.”

“But you haven’t denied it,” he insisted.

“I don’t intend to,” she replied, the little tantalizing smile
quivering again at the corners of her mouth. “Besides, I have already
told you that my name is Clytie.”

He tossed the remains of his cigarette toward where one of the swans
was paddling about. The long neck writhed snake-like and the bill
disappeared under the water. Then with an insulted air and an angry bob
of the tail, the swan turned her back on Ethan and sailed hurriedly
back to her family.

“I understand,” he said. “I will try not to forget hereafter that this
is Arcadia, that you are Clytie and that I am Vertumnus.”

“Thank you, Vertumnus,” she said. “And now I must tell you what I came
here to tell. You must know, sir, that I am not in the habit of sitting
around on the grass in broad daylight dressed――as I was yesterday. If
I did I should probably catch cold. Yesterday morning we――a friend and
I――dressed up in costume and took each other’s pictures up there under
the trees. Afterwards the fancy took me to come down here and――and
‘make believe.’ And then you popped on to the scene all of a sudden.”

[Illustration]

“I see. Very rude of me, I’m sure. Of course, as we are in Arcady, and
you are a nymph and I a――a god, I don’t understand at all what you are
talking about; but I _would_ like to see those pictures!”

“I’m afraid you never will,” she laughed.

“I’m not so sure,” he said thoughtfully. “Strange things happen
in――Arcady.”

“Weren’t you the least bit surprised when you saw me? And when
I――acted so silly?”

“I certainly was! Really, for a while――especially after you had gone――I
was half inclined to think that I had been dreaming. You did it rather
well, you know,” he added admiringly.

“Did I?” She seemed pleased. “Didn’t it sound terribly foolish when I
spouted that about Apollo?”

“Not a bit! I――I half expected the sun to do something when you raised
your hands to it; I don’t know just what; wink, perhaps, or have an
eclipse.”

“You’re making fun of me!” she said dolefully.

“But I am not, truly! However, I don’t think you treated your audience
very nicely. To get me sun-blind and then steal away wasn’t kind. When
I looked around you had simply disappeared, as though by magic, and
I――” he shivered uncomfortably――“I felt a bit funny for a moment.”

“Really?” She positively beamed on him, and Ethan felt a sudden warmth
at his heart. “I suppose every person has a sneaking desire to act,”
she went on. “I know I have. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved
to――to ‘make believe.’ That’s why I did it yesterday.”

“Have you ever considered a stage career?” he asked gravely. She leaned
her chin in one small palm and observed him doubtfully.

“I never seem to know for certain,” she complained, “whether you are
making fun of me or not. And I don’t like to be made fun of――especially
by――――”

“Strangers? I don’t blame you, Miss――Clytie. I wouldn’t like it
myself.”

She continued to study him perplexedly, a little frown above her
somewhat impertinent nose. Ethan smiled composedly back. He enjoyed it
immensely. The sunlight made strange little golden blurs in her eyes.
They were very beautiful eyes; he realized it thoroughly; and he didn’t
care how long she allowed him to look into them like this. Only, well,
it was a bit disquieting to a chap. He could imagine that invisible
wires led from those violet orbs of hers straight down to his heart.
Otherwise how account for the tingling glow that was pervading the
latter? Not that it was unpleasant; on the contrary――――

“I beg your pardon?” he stammered.

“I merely said that I had no idea of the stage,” she replied distantly,
dropping her gaze.

“Oh!” He paused. It took him a moment to get the sense of what she had
said through his brain. Plainly, Arcadian air possessed a quality not
contained in ordinary ether, and its effect was strangely deranging
to the senses. “Oh!” he repeated presently, “I am glad you haven’t. I
shouldn’t want you to――er――――”

But that didn’t appear to be just the right thing to say, judging from
the sudden expression of reserve which settled over her countenance.
Ethan shook himself awake.

“It is time for me to go,” she said, getting to her feet. Ethan made an
absurdly futile motion toward assisting her. “I think I have explained
matters, don’t you?”

[Illustration: “I THINK I HAVE EXPLAINED MATTERS, DON’T YOU?”]

“You have explained,” he answered judicially, “but there is much
more that would bear, that even demands elucidation.”

“I don’t see that there is,” she replied a trifle coldly.

“Oh, of course, if you prefer to have me place my own interpretation
on――things――――!”

“What things?” she demanded curiously.

“What things?” he repeated vaguely. “Oh, why――er――lots,” he ended
lamely.

She turned her back.

“Good morning,” she said.

He took a desperate resolve.

“Good morning. Now that I know who you are――――”

“You don’t know who I am!” she retorted, facing him defiantly.

“Pardon me, but――――”

“I didn’t say my name was――that!”

“And I know more besides,” he added mysteriously.

“You don’t!”

“Oh, very well.” He smiled superiorly.

“How could you?”

“You forget that we gods have powers of――――”

“Oh! Well, tell me, then.”

“Not to-day,” he answered gently. “To-morrow, perhaps.”

He raised his paddle and turned the canoe about.

“But you will not see me to-morrow,” she said, stifling the smile that
threatened to mar her severity.

“You are not thinking of leaving Arcady?” he asked in surprise. “Where,
pray, could you find a more delightful pool than this? Observe those
swans! Observe the lilies! Besides, even in Arcady one doesn’t move so
late in the season.”

[Illustration]

She regarded him for a moment with intense gravity. Then,

“You really think so?” she asked musingly.

“I really do.”

He waited, wondering at himself for caring so much about her decision.
At last,

“Perhaps you are right,” she said. “Good morning.”

“And I, shall see you to-morrow?” he cried eagerly.

She turned under the first tree. The green shadows played over her hair
and dappled her white gown with tremulous silhouettes.

“That,” she laughed softly, tantalizingly, “is in the hands of the
gods.”

Her dress showed here and there through the trees for a moment and
then was lost to sight. Ethan heaved a sigh. Then he smiled. Then he
seized the paddle and shot the canoe toward the outlet.

[Illustration]

“Well,” he muttered, “I know how this god will vote!”



V.


Ethan laid aside his paddle and mopped his face with his handkerchief.
The canoe, left to its own devices, poked its nose against the meadow
bank and allowed its stern to float slowly around in the languid
current. He gazed across the fields over which the heat-waves danced
and shimmered and addressed himself to his cigarette case.

[Illustration]

“Providence,” he said, “showed great wisdom when it arranged that the
Pilgrims should land on the coast of Massachusetts. ‘From what I’ve
seen of these folks and what I’ve heard about them,’ says Providence,
‘I don’t believe they’re going to be much of an acquisition to the
New World. But I’ll give ’em a fair show. I’ll see that they land
at Plymouth and if they can survive a Massachusetts winter _and_ a
Massachusetts summer I’ll have nothing more to say. Those of them alive
a year from now will be entitled to prizes in the Endurance Test and
will have qualified to become Hardy Pioneers and build up the country.’”

He mopped his face again, lighted a cigarette and took up his paddle.

“One would think that this state might show moderation at some season
of the year,” he added disgustedly. “But not content with her Old
Fashioned Winters, Backward Springs and Early Falls she has to try and
wrest the Hot Weather blue ribbon from Arizona! No wonder they say a
Bostonian isn’t contented in Heaven; doubtless he finds the weather
frightfully equable and monotonous!”

He righted the canoe and went on, with a glance at the sky above the
hills.

“We’re probably in for a jolly good thunder-storm this afternoon,” he
muttered.

[Illustration]

By the time he had reached the entrance to the brook his forehead was
again beaded with perspiration and his thin negligée shirt showed a
disposition to cling to his shoulders. It was one of those intensely
hot and exceedingly humid days which the early summer so often visits
upon New England. Even the birds seemed to feel the heat and instead of
singing and darting about across the shadowed stream were content to
flutter and chirp drowsily amidst the branches. The hum of the insects
held a lethargic tone that somehow, like a locust’s clatter in August,
seemed to increase the heat. Ethan went slowly up the winding stream
with divided opinions on the subject of his own sanity. To sit in a
canoe in the broiling sun on a morning like this merely to talk to a
girl was rank idiocy, he told himself. Then he recalled her eyes, her
tantalizing little laugh, the soft tones of her voice, the provocative
ghost of a smile that so often trembled about her red lips, and owned
that she was worth it. After he had slipped under the stone footbridge
it suddenly occurred to him that perhaps the girl would object quite
as strongly as he to making a martyr of herself in the interests of
polite conversation! Perhaps she wouldn’t come at all! In which case
he would have had his journey for naught――and possibly a sunstroke
thrown in! The more he considered that possibility the more reasonable
it became, until, when he had shot the canoe into the little pond, and
saw that the bank was empty of aught save a pair of the swans who were
stretching their wings in the sunlight, he was not surprised.

“She certainly has more sense than I have,” he muttered.

Not a breath of air stirred the leaves of the encircling fringe of
trees. The little lake was like an artist’s palette set with all the
tender greens and pinks and whites and yellows of summer.

“I hope you like my pool?” inquired a voice.

[Illustration: “I HOPE YOU LIKE MY POOL?” INQUIRED A VOICE.]

Ethan turned from his survey of the scene and saw that the girl was
standing under the shade of a willow a little distance up the slope.
She was all in white, as yesterday, but a broad-brimmed hat of soft
white straw hid her hair and threw a shadow over her face. Ethan raised
his own less picturesque panama and bowed.

“It’s looking fine to-day, I think,” he answered. “Perhaps just a
little bit ornate, though. There’s such a thing as over-decorating even
a lotus pool.”

He turned the bow of the canoe toward the bank, swung it skilfully
and stepped ashore. The girl watched him silently. When he had pulled
the nose of the craft onto the grass and dropped his paddle he walked
toward her. A little flush crept into her cheeks, but her eyes met his
calmly.

“This is all dreadfully wrong, you know,” she said gravely. He stopped
a few feet away and fanned himself with his hat.

“Yes, very warm, isn’t it?” he agreed affably.

“In the first place,” she went on severely, “you are trespassing.”

“I beg your pardon?” he asked as though he had not comprehended.

“I said you are trespassing.”

“Oh! Yes, of course. Well, really, you couldn’t expect me to sit out
there in that hot sun, could you now? I――I have a rather delicate
constitution.”

“But you were trespassing before! Coming up here only makes it worse.”

“Better, I call it,” he answered, turning to look back unregretfully at
the pool.

“And then――then it is equally wrong for me to stay here and talk to
you.”

“Oh come now!” he objected. “Nymphs in my day were not so conventional!”

“So I shall leave you,” she continued, unheeding and turning away.

“Then I shall go with you.”

“You wouldn’t dare!” she cried.

“Why not? Really, Miss Clytie, I am fairly respectable and I know of
no reason why you shouldn’t be seen in my company. I have never done
murder and never stolen less than a million dollars at a time. To be
sure, I hope to become a practising attorney in the course of a year or
so, but as yet my honor is unsullied.”

She hesitated, her eyes turned in the direction of the house.

“Besides,” he added hastily, “I was going to tell you what I know about
you.”

“Then,” she answered reluctantly, “I’ll stay――a minute.”

“Thank you. And shall we be comfortable during that minute? ‘Come, let
us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings.’”

She shook her head.

“Please!” he begged. “You will never be able to stand during all I have
to tell you. Besides, you forget my delicate physique; I have been
repeatedly warned against over-exertion.”

She sank gracefully to the grass in a billowing of white muslin,
smiling and frowning at once as though annoyed by his persistence,
yet too amiable to refuse. All of which produced its effect, Ethan
realizing that she was doing him a great favor and becoming duly
grateful. He followed her example, seating himself on the turf in front
of her, paying, however, less attention to the disposition of his feet.
Unconsciously his hand sought a pocket, then dropped away again. She
laughed softly.

[Illustration]

“Please do,” she said.

“You’re sure you don’t mind?”

“Not at all,” she answered. So he produced his cigarette case and
then his match-box and finally blew a breath of gray smoke toward the
motionless branches overhead.

“Feel better?” she asked sympathetically.

“Much, thank you.”

“Then you may begin.”

“Begin――――?”

“Tell me what you know about me.”

“Oh! To be sure. Well, let me see. In the first place, your name is
Laura Devereux. I am right?”

She smiled mockingly.

“I haven’t agreed to tell you that.”

“Oh! But I know I am. I haven’t asked any questions, for that would
have been taking an unfair advantage, I fancy. But I happened to
overhear yesterday afternoon at the Inn that a family by the name
of Devereux had taken The Larches. And, as I have been in Riverdell
before, I know where The Larches is――are――. Would you say is or are?”

“I am only a listener.”

“Then I shall say am, to be on the safe side; I know where The Larches
am. You are living at The Larches.”

“No, I――I am merely staying there.”

“For the summer; exactly. That’s what I meant. When you are at home
you live in Boston. I won’t tell you how I discovered that, but it was
quite fairly.”

“Do I――are you sure I am a Bostonian?”

“Hm! Now that you mention it――I am not. Perhaps your family moved to
Boston from somewhere else?”

“Yes?”

“From――let me see! Pennsylvania? But no, you don’t talk like a
Pennsylvanian. Maryland? No again. Where, please?”

“But I haven’t acknowledged the correctness of any of your premises
yet,” she objected.

“But you don’t dare tell me I’m wrong,” he challenged.

“At least, I am not going to tell you so,” she answered.

“That is as good as an admission!”

“Very well,” she replied serenely. “And now that you know so much about
me――that is all, by the way?”

“So far,” he replied.

“Then don’t you think I ought to know something about you?”

“I am flattered that you care to.” He laid a hand over his heart and
bowed profoundly.

[Illustration]

“My curiosity is of the idlest imaginable,” she responded cruelly.

“I regret that bow,” he said. “However, I shall tell you anyhow. I am
like the prestidigitateur in that I have nothing to conceal. And,” he
added ruefully, “mighty little to reveal. My name is Parmley, surnamed
Ethan. I am holding nothing back there, for I have no middle name. It
has been a custom in our family since the days of the disreputable old
Norman robber from whom we are descended to exclude middle names. I
was born in this same Commonwealth of Massachusetts of well-to-do and
honest parents, both of whom have been dead for some years. I was an
only child. Pray, Miss Devereux, consider――――”

“If you don’t mind,” she interrupted, “I’d rather you didn’t call me
that. I haven’t owned to it, you know.”

“Pardon me! I was about to ask you, Miss Clytie, to consider that fact
when weighing my faults. As a child I was intensely interesting; I
have gathered as much from my mother. I passed successfully through
the measles, mumps, scarlet fever and whooping-cough. I also had the
postage-stamp, bird-egg and autograph manias. Later I wriggled my way
through a preparatory school――a sort of hot-house for tender young
snobs――and later managed, by the skin of my teeth and a condition or
two, to enter college. As it has been the custom for the Parmleys to
go to Harvard, I went there too. I am boring you frightfully?”

“No.”

“I succeeded in completing a four-year course in five. Some chaps do
it in three, but I didn’t want to appear arrogant. I took it leisurely
and finished in five. Then, as there had never been a lawyer in the
family, I decided to study law. I entered the Harvard Law School and
graduated a few weeks ago. I am now spending a hard-earned vacation. In
September I am to enter a law firm in Providence as a sort of dignified
office-boy.

“I am the possessor of some worldly wealth, not a great deal, but
enough for one of my simple tastes. I am even a member of the landed
gentry, since I own a piece of land with a house on it. I also own an
automobile, and it is that I have to thank for this pleasant meeting.”

She smiled a question.

“I left Boston bright and early Monday morning with Farrell. Farrell
calls himself a chauffeur, in proof of which he displays a license
and a badge. If it wasn’t for that license and that badge I’d never
suspect it. Farrell’s principal duty seems to be to hand me wrenches
and screw-drivers and things when I lie on my back in the road and
take a worm’s-eye view of the machine. All went as nice as you please
until we reached a spot some two miles north of this charming hamlet.
There things happened. I won’t weary you with a detailed list of
the casualties. Suffice it to say that I walked into Riverdell and
Farrell followed an hour later leaning luxuriously back in the car
and watching that the tow-rope didn’t snap. I ate a supplementary
breakfast at the Inn while Farrell entertained the blacksmith, and
then, having nothing better to do, I dropped the canoe into the water
and paddled downstream. Ever since I stole my first apple forbidden
territory has possessed an unholy fascination for me, and that is why,
perhaps, I roamed up the brook and stumbled, as it were, into Arcady.”

[Illustration]

“What color is your machine?” she asked.

“Exceedingly blue.”

“And――isn’t it almost repaired?”

“Er――almost, yes.”

“It is taking a long while, seems to me.”

“Well, its malady was grave. I think it had tonsillitis, judging from
the sounds it made.”

“Indeed? But it seemed to go very well.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I said that it seemed to go very well.”

“You have seen it?”

“Yes, it passed the house yesterday at about two o’clock.”

“There are a great many blue cars in the world,” he defended.

“Has it returned yet?” she asked, unheeding.

“No. The fact is, I was on my way to Stillhaven to visit friends there,
so I sent the car on for them to use. I have observed that, failing my
presence, the car does fairly well for my friends.”

[Illustration]

“What a pessimist! And you are staying in Riverdell?”

“For a few days, yes; at the Roadside.”

“Riverdell should feel flattered to find that you prefer it to
Stillhaven as a summer resort.” She gathered her skirts together with
one hand and started to rise. Ethan jumped to his feet and enjoyed the
intoxicating felicity of feeling her hand in his.

[Illustration]

“Thank you,” she murmured, smoothing her gown. Then, with a return of
that provoking, mocking little smile, “Would it be a terrible blow to
your vanity,” she asked, “if I were to tell you that your guesses are
all wrong?”

“Terrible,” he answered anxiously.

“Then I won’t tell you,” she said soothingly.

“But――but――they’re not wrong, are they?”

“‘Where ignorance is bliss――――’” she murmured.

“But I’d rather know! Tell me the worst, please!”

She shook her head smilingly.

“Good-bye,” she said.

“Aren’t you going to let me see you again?” he asked dolefully. Again
she shook her head.

“I have had the offer of a new pool,” she said, “one with all modern
improvements, and I think I shall move.”

“But――now, look here, it isn’t fair! What am I to do? It’s evident
you’ve never spent a holiday in Riverdell, or else you’d appreciate my
plight. There’s nothing to do save paddle around on that idiotic little
river. And every time I’m afraid the water will leak out when I’m not
watching it and leave me high and dry. If only for charity, please let
me come here and see you now and then――just for a moment! I’ll be very
good, really; I’ll even agree to stay in the canoe and frizzle before
your eyes!”

“You speak,” she answered perplexedly, “as though I had invited you
to come to Riverdell, or at least as though I were to blame for your
remaining here!”

He resisted the words that sprang to his lips.

“I beg your pardon then. I wouldn’t for the world imply anything so
absolutely criminal. But I am here and I am bored; and surely you
haven’t so many excitements, so many engagements in the mornings but
that you can spend a few moments communing with nature here at the
pool? Of course, I don’t recommend myself as an excitement; perhaps
I’m more of a narcotic; but I’ll do anything in my power to amuse you!
I’ll――I’ll even tell you fairy stories or sing to you; and I’ve never
done either in my life!”

“That is indeed an inducement then,” she laughed. “But――good-bye.”

“You won’t?”

“Do you think it likely?” she asked a trifle haughtily.

“Not when you look like that,” he answered dismally.

“Good-bye,” she said again, moving away.

“Good morning,” he answered. His eyes were on the ground where she had
been sitting. He took a step forward. From there he watched her pass
up the slope under the trees. At the last she turned back and looked
regretfully at the pool shimmering in the noontide heat.

“I shall be sorry to leave it,” she said softly, yet distinctly.
“Perhaps――I shall change my mind.”

Then she went on, passing from shadow to sunlight, until the trees hid
her. When she was quite out of sight Ethan lighted a cigarette, smiling
the while. Then he flicked aside the charred match, lifted his left
foot, stooped and picked up a little white wad which, as he gently
shook it out, became a dainty white handkerchief. He looked at it,
held it to his nose, touched it to his lips, folded it carefully and
clumsily and placed it in his pocket. Then he turned toward the pool
and the canoe.

[Illustration]

“She’s a coquette,” he muttered, “an arrant coquette. But――but she’s
simply――ripping!”



VI.


Ethan finished his second cigarette and tossed it hissing into the
pool. The nearest swan immediately paddled over to investigate. Ethan
sighed exasperatedly.

[Illustration]

“Go ahead, then, you old idiot!” he muttered. “You won’t like it any
better than you liked the last one; they’re out of the same box; but
try it if you want to. There, I told you so! Oh, that’s it; blame me
now! Blessed if you aren’t almost human!”

He looked for the twentieth time toward where the corner of the white
pergola gleamed through the trees and for the twentieth time turned his
gaze disappointedly away again. He had been there almost three-quarters
of an hour, and he wasn’t going to stay another minute! If she didn’t
want to come, all right! Only she wouldn’t get her handkerchief if she
didn’t! He had begun to doubt this morning whether she had dropped
that article on purpose, as he had suspected yesterday. If it had
been an accident she had probably returned already and searched for
it, and he could not base his hopes of seeing her on the score of the
handkerchief. It was quite evident, anyhow, that she wasn’t coming.
That farewell remark of hers which he had translated to his own liking
meant nothing, after all. He would throw his things into his bag and go
on to Stillhaven after dinner. He had been a comical ass to fool around
here like this tagging after a girl who didn’t want to be bothered
with him and risking dyspepsia at the Inn! And what the deuce was he
thinking about women for, anyway? Hadn’t he taken a solemn vow on the
occasion of his first, last and only affair to leave them severely
alone? He grinned reminiscently.

That had been a desperate affair, brief and tragic. It had occurred
in his freshman year. _She_ was a “saleslady” in a florist’s shop on
the Avenue. She had cheeks like one of the bridesmaid roses she sold,
a tip-tilted nose, sparkling gray eyes and a mass of black hair which
stood up from her forehead in a mighty rolling billow and smelled
headily of violet perfume when she pinned a carnation to his coat. It
had been love at first sight with Ethan, and he had seldom appeared
in public without a flower in his button-hole. He remembered with
something between a shudder and a sigh the exaltation of pride and joy
with which he had accompanied her to the theatre that first time! When
he had returned from his Christmas vacation to find her engaged to
the red-haired drug-clerk on the next corner he had promptly become a
confirmed misogynist. During the seven years which had elapsed between
that time and this he had relented somewhat, had gone through more than
one mild flirtation and had kept his heart. There had been so many,
many other things to occupy him that love had remained unconsidered.
And now, what was he doing here, sitting in a canoe in a lily pond when
he ought of right to be at Stillhaven helping Vincent sail the “Sea
Lark” in the club races? Wasn’t he making a fool of himself again? Then
something white moved toward him between the trees and the question
went unanswered.

[Illustration]

“I think I must have lost a handkerchief here yesterday,” she announced
by way of greeting and explanation.

“A handkerchief?” he cried. “Let me help you search.”

“Oh, don’t bother! It doesn’t matter, of course, only――I thought that
if it was here I’d get it.”

But Ethan was already out of the canoe.

“Er――what was it like?” he asked.

“Rather plain, I think; just a narrow lace edge.”

They looked diligently over the grass. Plainly it was not there. She
raised her head, brushed a stray lock of hair from her forehead and
laughed.

“I’m always losing them,” she said apologetically.

“Perhaps,” he suggested, “it might be well to offer a reward.”

“A splendid idea!” she cried. “We’ll post it on this tree here. Have
you a piece of paper? And a pencil?”

“Both.” He tore the front from an envelope and handed her his pencil.
She accepted them and set herself down on the grass.

“Oh, dear, what shall I write on? The canoe paddle? Thanks. Now let me
see. What shall I say?”

“You must start by writing ‘Lost!’ in big letters at the top. That’s
it.” Ethan’s rôle of adviser carried delicious privileges. It allowed
him to kneel quite close behind her and observe the pink lobe of one
small ear from a position of disquieting proximity.

“And then what?”

“I beg your pardon!” he said, with a start. “Why, then――er――let me see.
‘Lost’――――”

“I have that,” she said demurely.

“A small handkerchief belonging――――”

“How did you know it was small?” she asked with smiling interest.

“They always are,” he answered. “Where was I?”

“‘A small handkerchief belonging’――――”

“That doesn’t sound quite shipshape. Let’s try again. ‘Lost, a small
lady’s’――――”

They laughed together as though it was a most novel and excellent joke.

“I don’t care to advertise my smallness,” she objected.

“Well, once more now. ‘Lost, a small handkerchief with a funny little
lace border and an embroidered D in the left-hand lower corner.
Finder――――’”

“An embroidered D?” she asked puzzledly.

“Wasn’t it a D?”

“Perhaps it was,” she allowed. She leaned a little farther forward, for
the brief glance she had cast toward him had revealed the fact that his
head was startlingly near. “And――and the reward?” she asked a trifle
constrainedly.

“Finder may keep same for his honesty!”

“But――but that’s ridiculous!” she cried. “What’s the use of advertising
at all?”

“To save the finder from committing theft,” he answered soberly. “Think
of his conscience!”

“How do you know it’s a ‘him’?” she asked carelessly.

“I used the masculine gender merely in a――er――general way.”

“Oh!”

“Yes. Have you written that?”

“No, what’s the good of it? If the finder is dishonest enough to keep
it he may look after his own conscience!”

“That’s unchristian,” he answered sadly.

“I’ll do this, though,” she said. “If the finder will produce it I will
allow him to keep it on one condition.”

“And that?” he asked suspiciously.

“If there is a D on it he may have it. Otherwise――――”

The finder produced it, unfolded it and looked at the “left-hand lower
corner.”

“Well?” she asked, smilingly. He frowned.

“It――it looks more like an H,” he answered.

“It is an H! Now may I have it?”

“But it ought to be a D,” he said. “H stands neither for Devereux,
Laura, nor Clytie.”

“I never said it did!”

“This is quite plainly not your property,” he went on, refolding it.
“Being unable to find the owner, I shall retain possession of it.”

“But it’s mine!” she cried.

“Yours? What does the H stand for, then?”

She hesitated and flushed.

“I never said my name was Laura Devereux,” she murmured.

“No, but you see I happen to know that it is.” He replaced the
handkerchief in his pocket. Then he reached forward and took the paper
and envelope from her lap. “I shall write an advertisement myself,” he
said.

She watched him while he did so, biting her lip in smiling vexation.
When it was done he passed the composition across to her.

    “FOUND!”

    “A lady’s lace-bordered handkerchief bearing the initial H in
    one corner. Owner may recover same by proving ownership and
    rewarding finder. Apply to Vertumnus, care Clytie, Lotus Pool,
    Arcadia, between ten and twelve.”

[Illustration]

“What’s the reward?” she asked. He shook his head thoughtfully.

“I haven’t decided yet. Something――rather nice, I fancy.”

A faint flush crept into her cheeks and she turned her gaze toward the
pool.

“It is much cooler to-day,” she said.

“Yes, last night’s thunder-storm cleared the air,” he replied, in a
similar conversational tone. She glanced at the tiny watch hanging at
her belt. Then she murmured something and sprang lightly to her feet
before Ethan could go to her assistance.

“You are not going?” he asked in dismay.

She nodded gravely.

“But it’s quite early!”

“I don’t think it right to associate with dishonesty,” she answered
severely. “You know very well that that handkerchief is mine!”

“Yes, I do,” he answered. “That is, I saw you drop it yesterday.
Probably it belongs really to someone else. Unless――” he smiled――“unless
you bought it at a bargain sale? In which case the initial didn’t really
matter, I suppose.”

“Will you give it to me?” she asked unsmilingly.

“But it’s such a little thing!” he pleaded earnestly. “You have so many
more that surely the loss of this one won’t inconvenience you. And
I――I’ve taken a fancy to it.”

“That’s a convenient excuse for theft!” she answered.

“It’s the only one I have to offer,” he replied humbly.

“But――it’s so absurd!” she cried impatiently. “What can you want with
it?”

He was silent a moment. She glanced furtively at his face and then
moved a few steps toward the house.

“I wonder if you really want me to tell you?” he mused.

“Tell me what?” she asked uneasily.

“Why I want to keep it.”

“I don’t think I am――especially interested,” she answered coldly. “Are
you going to return it?”

“Maybe; in a moment. You don’t want to hear the reason?”

“I――Oh, well, what is the reason?” she asked impatiently.

“A very simple one. As a handkerchief merely it doesn’t attract me
especially. I have seen more beautiful ones, I think――――”

“Well!” she gasped.

“My desire to keep it arises from the simple fact that it is yours,
Clytie.”

She strove to meet his gaze with one exhibiting the proper amount of
haughty resentment. But the attempt was a failure. After the first
glance her eyes fell, the blood crept into her face and she turned
quickly away.

“May I keep it, please?” he asked softly.

She went swiftly up the little slope under the trees.

“Clytie!” he called. She paused, without turning, to listen.

“May I keep it?”

Clytie dropped her head and passed quickly from sight.

[Illustration]



VII.


Ethan stretched his arms, chastely clad in striped blue and white
madras, yawned expansively, kicked his legs loose from the sheet in
which they were entangled, and awoke; awoke to find the sunlight
dancing across the room and making radiant blurs of his brushes on the
old mahogany bureau; awoke to find a robin fervently launching his
brief ballad in through the window from the branches just outside;
awoke to find himself in a new and very wonderful world, a world
populated by a girl with violet eyes, a reiterating robin, and himself!

[Illustration]

He was in love!

Knowledge of the fact came to him with a heart-clutching abruptness.
He had gone to sleep last night without premonition; he awoke now to
a startling illumination of mind. Whence had the tidings come? From
the dancing sunlight streaming across the old boards? From the scented
breeze that stirred the leaves out there? From the perfervid gossip
of the swelling throat? Who could tell? And yet there it was, that
knowledge, as real as the green summer earth awaiting him, as much a
part of his life as the breath he drew!

He lay for a long while with his hands clasped under his head and
gazed out into the beautiful green and golden and azure world, with a
happy smile on his face, thinking new and ineffable thoughts. It is a
glorious thing to find oneself really, wholly in love for the first
time, glorious, wonderful, absorbing....

[Illustration]

The robin ceased his pæan and was silent, with his head cocked
attentively. Perhaps his ears were better than yours or mine and he
heard a song sweeter and more triumphant than any of his own, for after
a moment of listening he spread his wings and floated down across
sunlit spaces to the orchard.

I wonder if the safety razor was not invented for the man in love.
Certain it is that Ethan could never have used any other sort this
morning. At times, driven by a mad impatience to be out and away, he
shaved frantically, as though he feared that Nature would roll up
her landscape and be gone ere he could reach it; at times he stood
motionless, gazing unseeingly at the tip of his nose reflected in the
old mirror. Now he whistled blithely, only to stop in the middle of
a note and relapse into a silent gravity. In short, he exhibited all
the symptoms, mental and physical, usually accompanying his disease;
temperature increased, pulse at once full and fluttering, respiration
erratic, pupils of the eyes slightly dilated, mind apparently affected.

He dressed with unusual care, bewailing the fact that his choice of
garments was limited to two suits. Neither blue serge nor gray homespun
seemed fitted for the occasion; his heart hankered after purple and
fine linen. But at last he was dressed and was hurrying down the
creaking staircase to a late breakfast. Forty minutes later he was
floating amidst the lilies of Arcady.

       *       *       *       *       *

That line of stars, dear reader, is the typographic equivalent of
three wasted hours in the life of Ethan Parmley,――three empty unhappy
hours spent in and about a silly old puddle smelling like an apothecary
shop (I am using his own language now) with only a trio of idiotic
swans to talk to. The Nymph of the Violet Eyes came not.

And yet he saw her that day, after all; caught a fleeting glimpse of
her that at once assuaged and sharpened his hunger. He was on the porch
of the Inn after dinner smoking, morosely, when a smart trap swept by
from the direction of The Larches. It contained a coachman and two
ladies. One of the ladies had violet eyes, though, as her head was
turned away from him and partly hidden by a white parasol, he could not
have proved it at the moment. As for the other, he couldn’t have said
whether she was young or old, fair or dark. The pair of glistening,
well-groomed bays left Ethan scant time for observation. In a twinkling
the carriage and its precious burden were gone. And although he never
left the porch for more than a minute at a time all the rest of that
interminable summer afternoon he found no reward. There were other
roads leading to The Larches.

[Illustration]

The evening mail brought him a note from Vincent Graves:

    “Farrell showed up here Monday with the car and your note. I
    tried to find out from him what you were up to, but he either
    didn’t know or exercised a discretion I never credited him
    with. I hope it is nothing more than sunstroke; folks have been
    known to recover from that with their minds almost as good as
    new. Anyhow, I am coming over in a few days to see for myself.
    I know all about mythology――accent on the _myth_. But look
    here, no poaching on my preserves! I finished third yesterday
    on time-allowance; would have done better if I hadn’t carried
    away my jib at the outer mark. No wind to speak of. Can’t
    you come on for Saturday’s race? We’ve had the car out once
    or twice. There’s something wrong with it. Farrell has it in
    hospital to-day. My compliments to her, but tell her I need you
    here.

                                “Yours,

                                                      “_Vincent_.”

After supper Ethan drew a chair to the open window of his room, set the
lamp precariously on the bureau where the light would fall upon the
portfolio in his lap, and replied to Vincent:

    “My dear Vincent (he wrote), life moves sweetly in Arcadia.
    Clytie, she who beside her blossom-starred pool has so long
    gazed, enamored, upon the fiery Apollo, now hearkens to the
    wooing tones of green-garlanded Vertumnus. No more she fills
    the leafy hollow with her tears and soft reproaches, but
    reclined where shading branches defy the sun god’s fiercest
    rays, she smiles betimes upon Vertumnus. And he, bathing his
    heart in the warm blue pools of her eyes, forgets and forswears
    the too-coy Pomona. So, friend, runs the drama of Clytie the
    dawn-eyed Nymph of the Lotus Pool; of Apollo, radiant and
    unapproachable Lord of the Sun; and of Vertumnus, humble and
    enamored God of the Seasons. Friend, for love of me, petition
    fair Venus to aid my cause!

    “And now Jove be with you! The night wind steals sweetly
    through Arcadia’s moonlit glades and bears to my nostrils the
    heart-stirring fragrance of lily and of lotus. It is Clytie’s
    breath upon my cheek. Ah, my friend, I weep for you that you
    can never know the love of a god for a nymph in Arcady! May
    Somnus, gentlest of the gods, send thee sweet dreams. Farewell.

                                                     “VERTUMNUS.”

    “And now, having read this over, I see clearly that it is
    beyond your understanding, my friend, and so it may be that it
    will never reach your eyes.”

It never did.



VIII.


It sometimes rains even in Arcady.

When Ethan arose the next morning he found that Apollo was taking a
rest and that Jupiter was having things all his own way. At the foot
of the orchard the little river was foaming and boiling with puny
ferocity. The grass was beaten and drenched and the foliage was adrip.
But in the shelter of the elm outside the window a robin chirped
cheerfully, thinking doubtless of gustatory joys to come.

“Well, you’re taking it philosophically, my friend,” muttered Ethan,
“and I might as well follow your example, even though I have a soul
above fat worms. It’s got to stop sometime, and I might as well make
the best of it meanwhile. Still,” he added ruefully, “a whole day in
this ramshackle old ark doesn’t appeal to me much.”

He dressed leisurely, ate breakfast slowly, and afterward sought to
kill time with a book by a window in the tap-room. The volume, a
paper-clad novel left by some former guest, answered well enough. It
is doubtful if he could have given undivided attention to the most
engrossing story ever written. The rain, streaking down the tiny panes,
caught strange hues from the old glass and the light from the crackling
logs in the fire-place. Sometimes they were green like tender new apple
leaves in May, sometimes blue like rain-drenched violets, like――no, not
like but, rather, reminiscent of, certain eyes! Ah, there was food for
thought! The novel was turned face-downward on his knee, the cigarette
drooped thoughtfully from the corner of his mouth and his hands went
deep into his pockets. Those eyes! Rain-drenched violets? By jove,
yes! No simile, no comparison could be better! Rain-drenched violets
touched by the yellow light of the sun stealing back through gray
clouds! Rather an elaborate description, he thought with a smile at his
sentimentalism. The smile deepened as he recalled the infinitesimal
blue circle under the left eye, a little blue vein showing with
charming distinctness against the warm pallor of the skin like a vein
in soft-toned marble. It was a little thing to recall, little in all
ways, but it seemed to him a veritable triumph of the memory! By half
closing his eyes he could almost see it.

[Illustration]

_Slam!_

The paper-covered novel fell to the floor and lay fluttering its leaves
in helpless appeal. He rescued it and sought his place again, smiling
with real amusement over his foolishness.

“I’m certainly behaving like an idiot,” he thought. “I never knew
being in love was so――so deuced unsettling. First thing I know, if
I don’t keep a pretty steady hand on the reins, I’ll be writing
poetry or roaming around the place cutting hearts and initials in the
tree-trunks! H’m; let me see now; where was I? Ah, here we have it!

[Illustration]

“‘Garrison laid the diamond trinket gently back on the desk and puffed
slowly at his cigar. Presently he turned with disconcerting abruptness
to Mrs. Staniford. “There is no possibility of mistake?” he asked.
“None,” was the firm reply. “You could swear to the identity of this
jewel in court?” “Yes.” Garrison whipped a small round, black object
from his pocket and settled it against his eye. Then he took up the
trinket again and bent over it closely. “My dear madam,” he said
softly, “if you did that you would be making a grave mistake.” “What
do you mean?” she cried fiercely. “I mean,” was the smiling response,
“that this is not one of your jewels,――unless――――” “Well?” she
prompted impatiently. “Unless, my dear madam, you wear paste!” A sharp
involuntary exclamation of surprise startled them. They turned quickly.
Lord Burslem was crossing the library with white, set face.’

“Pshaw! I knew all along the things were paste,” sighed Ethan.
“Singleton is Mrs. Staniford’s son by a former marriage and she has
pinched the stones and given them to him to get him out of a scrape,
something to do with that lachrymose Miss Deene, maybe; at least,
something she knows about. Laurence is as innocent as the untrodden
snow, or whatever the correct simile is, and if I keep on to the last
chapter I’ll find out that fact. But I prefer to believe him guilty. He
wore a gardenia in his buttonhole, and that settles it. I can’t stand
for a man who wears gardenias. I insist that he is guilty.”

He tossed the book half-way across the room, arose, stretched his long
arms above his head and stared out of the window. The rain was falling
straight down from the dark sky in a manner that would doubtless have
pleased Isaac Newton greatly, showing as it did so perfectly the
attraction of gravitation. The drops were of immense size, and when one
struck the window pane it spread itself out into a very pool before
it trickled down to the sash. Ethan watched for awhile, then yawned,
glanced at his watch and lounged in to dinner.

About three o’clock the sky lightened somewhat and the torrential
downpour gave way to a quiet drizzle. He donned a raincoat and sought
the road. It was not bad walking, for the surface was well drained, and
he had put three-quarters of a mile behind him before he had considered
either distance or destination. Then, looking around and finding the
highway lined on the right by an ornamental iron fence through which
shrubs thrust their wet leaves, he smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

“I didn’t mean to come here,” he said to himself, “but now that I’m
here I might as well go on and tantalize myself with a look at the
house.”

Another minute brought him to a broad gate, flanked by high stone
pillars. A well-kept drive-way swept curving back to a large white
house, a house a little too pretentious to entirely please Ethan.
On one side,――the side, as he knew, nearest the lotus pool,――an
uncovered porch jutted out, and from this steps led to a white pergola.
The latter was a recent addition and as yet the grapevines had not
succeeded wholly in covering its nakedness. From one of the windows on
the lower floor of the house a dull orange glow emanated.

[Illustration]

“They’ve got a fire there,” said Ethan, “and she’s sitting in front of
it. Wish I was!”

He settled the collar of his raincoat closer about his neck to keep out
the drops, and sighed.

“You know,” he went on then, somewhat defiantly, addressing himself
apparently to the residence, “there’s no reason why I shouldn’t walk
right up the drive, ring the bell and ask for――for Mr. Devereux. I’ve
got the best excuse in the world. And once inside it would be odd if I
didn’t see Her. I’ve half a mind to do it! Only――perhaps she’d rather I
wouldn’t. And――I won’t.”

He took a final survey of the premises and turned away with another
sigh. Before he had reached the Inn the clouds had broken in the south
and a little wind was shaking the raindrops from the leaves along the
road.

[Illustration]

“A good sailing breeze,” he thought. “And, by the bye, this is
Saturday. I ought to be at Stillhaven helping Vin win that race. I
suppose I’ve disappointed him. However, a fellow can’t be in two places
at once; he ought to know that.”



IX.


The little breeze had held all night, and this morning the trees and
shrubs were quite dry again, but looking better for their bath. It was
Sunday, and as the canoe floated into the harbor of the lotus pool a
distant church bell was ringing. Perhaps, he told himself with a sudden
sinking of the heart, he was doomed to another day without sight of
Clytie; for it might be that the family would drive to church. But the
first fair look about him dispelled his forebodings. She was standing
at the border of the pool throwing crumbs of bread to the swans. She
saw him at almost the same moment and smiled.

[Illustration]

“Don’t come any nearer, please,” she said. “You’ll scare them.”

He dipped his paddle obediently and sat silent in the rocking craft
until the last crumb had been distributed and she had brushed the
crumbs from her outstretched hands. Stooping, she picked a book from
the grass and faced him.

[Illustration: SHE WAS THROWING CRUMBS OF BREAD TO THE SWANS.]

“May I come ashore?” he asked.

“You are already trespassing dreadfully,” she objected.

“‘In for a penny, in for a pound,’” he replied, sending the canoe
forward. “‘Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.’ And if I
could think of any other proverbs applicable to the matter I’d quote
them.” He jumped out and pulled the bow of the canoe onto the turf.

“You won’t mind, however, if I decline to stay and be hung with you?”
she asked.

“On the contrary, I should mind very much. In fact, I demand that you
remain and go bail for me in case I’m apprehended.”

“I fear I couldn’t afford it,” she answered.

“Doubtless your word would serve,” he said. “Perhaps, if you told them
the excellent character I bear, you might get me off scot-free.”

“But I don’t think I know enough about your character.”

“There’s something in that,” he allowed. “Perhaps you had better
observe me closely for the next hour or two. One can learn a great deal
about another person’s character by observation.”

“How can I do that if I go to church?”

“You can’t. That’s one reason why you’re not going to church.”

“Oh! And――are there other reasons?”

“Yes.”

“Perhaps you had better give a few of them. I don’t think the first one
is especially convincing.”

“Well, another one is that I haven’t seen you for three days.”

She shook her head gravely.

[Illustration]

“Go on, please.”

“Not good enough? Well, then, another reason is that you haven’t seen
me for three days.”

She laughed amusedly.

“Worse and worse,” she said.

“I didn’t think you’d care much for that argument,” he responded
cheerfully. “It was somewhat in the nature of an experiment, you see.
But the real unanswerable reason is this: I have missed seeing you
very much, I have been very dull, you are naturally kind-hearted and
would not unnecessarily cause pain or disappointment, and I beg of you
to give me a few moments of your cheerful society! Is that――better?”

“I don’t particularly care for it.”

“Miss Devereux――――”

“What have I told you?” she warned.

“I beg pardon! But――now, really, please let me call you by a Christian
name! I――I’d like to graduate from mythology.”

“I don’t think it would be proper for you to call me by my Christian
name,” she answered demurely.

“A Christian name, I said,” he answered patiently. “Tell me why you
don’t want me to address you as Miss Devereux, please.”

“Because――――” She stopped and dropped her gaze. “We’ve never been
properly introduced, have we?”

“True! Allow me, pray! Miss Devereux, may I present Mr. Parmley? Mr.
Parmley, Miss Devereux!” He stepped forward, smiling politely and
murmuring his pleasure, and ere she knew what was happening he was
shaking hands with her. “Awfully glad to meet you, Miss Devereux!” he
assured her cordially.

[Illustration]

She backed away, striving to draw her hand from his, and laughing
merrily.

“Is that what you call a proper introduction?” she asked.

“Well, it’s the best I could do under the circumstances,” Ethan
answered. “Having no mutual acquaintances handy, you see――――”

“Don’t you think――you might let go now?” she asked, her laughter dying
down to a nervous smile.

“Let go?” he echoed questioningly.

“Please! You have my hand!”

He looked down at it in mild surprise; then into her face.

“Isn’t that the strangest thing? I was never so surprised――――!”

“But――Mr. Parmley, please let go,” she begged.

“You don’t mean to say that I still have it?” He tried to seem at ease
and to speak carelessly, but his heart was pounding as though striving
to do the Anvil Chorus all by itself, and his voice wasn’t quite steady.

“I do,” she answered coldly, biting her lip a little. A disk of red
burned in each cheek. Her eyes were fixed on his imprisoning hand.
“Besides, you are hurting me,” she added, falling back upon the fib
which is a woman’s last resource in such a quandary. But he shook his
head soberly.

“Pardon me, but that’s impossible. You will observe that my hand is
quite loose about yours. Accuse me of unlawful detention, if you wish,
but not of cruelty.”

“But――but it is my hand,” she protested faintly.

“Well, that is nothing to boast of,” he replied smiling somewhat
tremulously. She had kept her eyes from him all along and he was
determined to see them before he gave up. “Look at mine; it’s twice as
big!”

The brown lashes fluttered for an instant and Ethan nerved himself for
the shock of looking into those violet eyes. He didn’t know what was
going to happen, he assured himself in a sudden delicious panic, and
he didn’t much care. Probably he would do something awfully rude,
something that would frighten and anger her, something for which she
would never forgive him! Perhaps the sudden trembling of his hand about
hers warned her, for the lashes lay still again. A moment of silence
followed, during which Ethan’s heart threatened to choke him. Then all
at once the little warm hand ceased tugging and lay limp and inert in
his. She turned her head and looked toward the trees and the shade.

“If we are going to hold hands for any length of time,” she remarked
coolly, “perhaps we had better sit down and be comfortable.”

Ethan released her instantly, while a wave of burning color swept
across his face. He felt terribly small and ridiculous! He realized
that he had taken it for granted that she had been experiencing
emotions similar to his own, and instead of that she had been only
bored and――and exasperated! He followed her laggingly up the slope,
savagely calling himself names and meditating a retirement in such
order as was still possible. She seated herself comfortably on the
grass with her back against the smooth round trunk of a maple and
patted down her skirts. Then she glanced up at him calmly.

“Do you realize,” she asked, “that you have made me late for church?”

He was grateful for that ready change of subject and piqued that she
should be so little disconcerted. His own heart was still dancing.

“I am an humble instrument of Providence,” he answered as lightly as he
could, dropping to the ground at a respectful distance from the tips
of her small shoes.

[Illustration]

“That sounds a little sacrilegious,” she said. “Besides――_humble_?”

“Humble, yes,” he answered. “I can’t think of a better word, unless it
is ‘abashed.’”

“But why do you call yourself an instrument of Providence? Because you
live there?”

“‘That sounds a little sacrilegious,’” he quoted. “I meant that if you
had gone to church you would have made yourself very warm and possibly
returned with a headache. I have saved you from that.”

“Thank you! But of course if it hadn’t been for the introduction I
couldn’t have stayed!”

“That is understood,” he responded with becoming gravity. She smiled
across as though amused by some thought, and Ethan felt vaguely
uncomfortable.

“It’s possible,” she said thoughtfully, “that you might have found a
mutual acquaintance after all to perform the ceremony for you.”

“Oh, I dare say; one usually can if one hunts long enough. It’s a
common enough process, and not especially difficult. For instance, I
ask, ‘You are acquainted in Boston, Miss Dev――Miss Unknown!’ You reply
‘Slightly, Mr. Parmley.’ ‘Perhaps you know the Smiths?’ ‘Smith, Smith?
N――no, I don’t think so. Are they friends of the Joneses?’ ‘I dare
say; I’ve never met the Joneses. Come to think of it, though, there
were some Joneses visiting the Robinsons at Nahant last summer; he is
a banker, I think; there were two daughters and a son just entering
college,’ ‘Oh, were you at Nahant?’ you inquire. ‘Then perhaps you
met the Browns there?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Really? Isn’t that jolly? Did you know
Gwendolin?’ ‘Well, rather!’ I reply in a tone insinuating that it
was rather desperate while it lasted. ‘Isn’t that odd?’ you exclaim.
‘Yes, funny how small the world is, isn’t it?’ I remark with startling
originality. Then we’re acquainted. Yes, it’s simplicity itself.”

“It certainly sounds so!” she laughed. “Let us try it!”

“Very well.”

She frowned intently for a moment, then,

“Are you acquainted in Stillhaven, Mr. Parmley?” she asked.

“Why, yes,” he answered, in surprise.

“Then perhaps you know the――the Penniwells?”

“Sorry to say I don’t,” he replied, laughing.

“No? They live in the next house to the hotel.”

“Hotel? Ah, I think I’ve met the Hotels! Was there a son about my age,
with――――”

“Don’t be absurd!” she laughed. “We’ll never get on if you don’t go by
the rules.”

“I thought I was,” he answered.

“Let me see! Oh, yes, the Graveses, do you know them?”

“Why, yes; do you?” he answered interestedly.

“I’ve met them.”

“Vincent is a great friend of mine,” he said eagerly. “I was on my way
to visit them for a while when――when I stopped here.”

“Really?” she cried. “How small the world is, after all!”

They laughed together. Then,

“And you know Vin?” he asked.

“Yes, I――I’ve met him,” she replied. Her tone hinted of embarrassment.

“Oh!” said Ethan thoughtfully. Had he discovered the explanation of
Vincent’s puzzling warning? Was the girl before him the “preserves”
referred to by his friend? Ethan’s heart sank for a moment. Nonsense!
She had plainly implied that she knew him only slightly, in which case
she didn’t belong any more to Vin than to him. “You don’t know him very
well, then?” he questioned anxiously.

“Aren’t you a――well, just a weeny bit inquisitive?” she asked smilingly.

“It may sound so,” he acknowledged, “but, you see, it means a good deal
to me; it’s rather important.”

[Illustration]

“Important?” she repeated wonderingly.

“Yes, you see――――” But of course he couldn’t explain why it was
important. So he floundered helplessly a moment. “Yes――that is――well,
they are very good friends of mine, Vin especially, and――”

“Oh, you feared perhaps I wasn’t a proper person for them to know?”

“Good heaven, no!”

“Then I don’t see――――!”

“I don’t blame you,” he said discouragedly. “Really, I was only talking
nonsense. I――I thought that if you knew them well, and I knew them
well, then we――we might know each other well!”

She gazed at him sorrowfully a moment. Then she shook her head
disappointedly.

“No,” she said, “no, that wasn’t at all what you meant. I suppose even
studying for the law has its effect.”

He laughed embarrassedly.

“May I see what you are reading?” he asked.

She lifted the volume from her lap, gravely took a folded handkerchief
from between the leaves where it had been doing duty as a mark, and
handed him the book.

“I’m sorry you can’t trust me,” he laughed.

“So am I,” was the regretful response. “It is terrible to have a friend
both a――a prevaricator and a――a――a――――”

“Embezzler,” he suggested helpfully. “Yes, it is bad. ‘Love Sonnets
from the Portuguese,’” he continued, reading the title. “May I ask if
you were going to take this to church with you?”

“I hadn’t thought of it. I suppose, like most men, you consider them
silly and sentimental,” she challenged.

He shook his head.

“Sweet and sentimental, rather,” he replied.

“You could hardly be expected to care for them, I suppose,” she said.
“Your tastes, if I recollect aright, run rather toward ‘The Ingoldsby
Legends’!”

“That is indeed unkind,” he murmured sorrowfully. “No, I am very fond
of these, this one especially; if it were not Sunday I would read it.”

“What has Sunday got to do with it?” she asked.

“Perhaps nothing,” was the reply. “I dare say it is only my Puritanism
cropping out. You know we New Englanders find it very difficult
to reconcile pleasure with religion. I can fancy the ghost of my
great-great-great-grandfather, in sugar-loaf hat and with beruffed
neck, standing over there in the shadows, holding his hands aloft in
holy horror at the sight of me sitting here on Sunday morning with a
volume of love-poems in my hands.”

“What nonsense!” she cried indignantly. “Isn’t love just as holy as――as
anything? Isn’t――――” She stopped abruptly and Ethan, lifting his head,
found her gazing toward him with something almost like horror in her
wide eyes.

“What is it?” he cried anxiously.

She shook her head and dropped her gaze to the hands folded on her
knees.

“Nothing,” she said very quietly. She laughed softly, uncertainly.
“Will you give me my book, please?” she asked.

“Of course,” he answered, still puzzled. Then, as he started to hand it
to her, it opened at the fly-leaf and he drew it back. “Laura Frances
Devereux,” he read aloud. He smiled quizzically as he returned the
volume.

“That proves nothing,” she replied defiantly. “I――I might have borrowed
it.”

“True, circumstantial evidence is not absolutely conclusive,
unless――unless there is a good deal of it!”

“You may think what you choose,” she answered lightly. She looked at
her watch and prepared to rise. This time Ethan was ready. She gave him
her hand and he helped her to her feet. The hand drew itself gently but
determinedly out of his and he let it go without a struggle.

[Illustration]

“Must you go?” he asked.

She nodded. Then she laughed.

“If you only knew what trouble I have getting here you’d appreciate――――”
She broke off, reddening a little.

“I do appreciate,” he said earnestly. “And I thank you very much for
your kindness this morning to a very undeserving chap. I――do you know,
Miss Devereux, I came within an ace of calling at The Larches yesterday
afternoon?”

She looked up quickly.

“Yes, I went for a walk in the afternoon and found myself at the gate
over there. I could see that you had a fire in the library and――――”

“But how did you know it was the library?” she asked.

“Why――er――wasn’t it? I supposed it was. Anyhow, it looked dreadfully
tempting. I pictured you sitting in front of it, and I very nearly paid
a call.”

“I’m glad you didn’t,” she breathed.

“Why?”

“Because――why, you don’t know me!”

“I should have asked for your father and introduced myself.”

“Well, you certainly don’t lack assurance!” she gasped.

“It would have been all right,” he assured her cheerfully.

“You wouldn’t have found him, though,” she said dryly.

“Then I would have asked for Mrs. Devereux, and, failing her, Miss
Devereux. You see, yesterday I was a bit desperate,” he added smilingly.

“Desperate! I should say foolhardy!”

“Why? Because I wanted to see you? Look here, please; why shouldn’t I
call on you at the house? As I’ve told you, I’m fairly respectable.
And――and I want to see you――more often! I suppose it sounds dreadfully
cheeky,” he went on softly, “but I want you to like me, and it doesn’t
seem to me that I get a fair show.”

The color came and went in her cheeks and the violets were hidden from
him.

“It certainly does sound――cheeky, as you call it,” she said after a
moment, rather unsteadily. “Considering that you have seen me but four
times.”

“Five, if you please. Besides, I don’t see that that matters. In fact,
I rather think the mischief was done the first time!”

He captured her hand and for a moment it only fluttered in his grasp.
Then it tried for liberty, but unsuccessfully. A moment passed, and,

“Are you making love to me, Mr. Parmley?” she asked, with a little
amused laugh. It was like a cold douche, but he resisted his first
impulse to release her.

[Illustration]

“Yes, I am,” he answered stoutly. “That’s just what I’m doing! And I’m
going to keep on doing it until I’m convinced that there’s no hope for
me. Please don’t struggle,” he continued, capturing her other hand
also. “I’ll let you go in just a moment. Maybe I’m behaving a good deal
like a bully, but I’m head-over-heels in love with you, Laura, and――――”

“No, no! Please!” she cried, with a little catch in her voice.

“What――what have I done?” he asked anxiously.

“I――You mustn’t call me that!”

“Very well, I won’t――yet. But I think of you as Laura――――”

“I don’t want you to!”

“Then I’ll try not to,” he answered gently. “But――couldn’t you make me
very happy by telling me that I’ve got a chance with you, dear? Just
the ghost of a chance?”

The bowed head shook negatively.

“You won’t? Or――you can’t?”

“I――I won’t,” she whispered.

He uttered a cry and strove to draw her toward him, but she resisted
with all her strength.

“Please! _Please!_” she gasped.

“I’ll――try not to,” he said ruefully. “But I may call at the house?
You’ll let me do that, won’t you?”

“I――suppose so,” she murmured faintly.

“To-day?” he cried. “To-morrow?”

“No, no! Wait, please; let me think.” She raised a pair of troubled
eyes to his for an instant. “I must see you again first. I have
something to tell you; something which may make a difference.
Perhaps――perhaps you won’t want to see me again――then!”

He laughed disdainfully.

“Try me! And when will you tell me this――this wonderful news? To-morrow
morning? Here?”

She nodded and strove to release her hands. After a moment of
indecision he let them go. She stood before him motionless an instant.
Then she raised her head slowly and he saw that her eyes were wet. With
an inarticulate cry of pain and longing he started forward, but she
held a hand against him.

“Please!” she said again, imploringly. His outstretched arms dropped
to his sides. “If I shouldn’t come――to-morrow――――” she began.

“But you’ve promised!”

“I know.” She nodded assent. “But――but if I shouldn’t――――”

“But you will!” he cried. “I shall be here, dear! Don’t fail me! If you
don’t come I’ll go to the house!”

“Then I must,” she said with a little smile. “And now――――” She went to
him and placed her hands on his shoulders and felt him tremble under
her touch. She raised her eyes, violets darkened and dewy with unshed
tears, to his. “Will you do one thing for me?”

[Illustration: SHE WENT TO HIM AND PLACED HER HANDS ON HIS SHOULDERS.]

His eyes answered.

“Then, please,――” she dropped her head in sudden shame――“kiss me
once――and let me go.”

His arms closed about her hungrily, but she held back.

“Promise!” she whispered “Promise to let me go!”

“Yes,” he groaned, “I promise.”

For an instant he was looking far, far down into dim, wonderful violet
depths....

Then he was alone. He turned unseeingly toward the canoe and trod upon
the book which lay forgotten on the grass. Stooping, he rescued it and
dropped it into his pocket.

“I’m getting to be an awful thief!” he murmured tremulously.

[Illustration]



X.


A glorious golden afternoon, a scintillant silvery night, and
then――Dawn’s pink finger-tips aquiver on the edges of the hills and
the bursting forth of a new day to the exultant overture of Nature’s
orchestra.

Ethan looked forth from the open window on to the most beautiful sight
given to the eyes of mortals,――the fresh, sparkling morning world
of summer seen through the magnifying lenses of love. The orchard
was fresh and vivid with the tender greens of sun-shot leaves and
grass, and dark and cool with pools of pleasant shadow. Dew-gems
shimmered under the caressing breeze and the tips of the spreading,
reaching branches nodded and whispered together. Beyond, the little
silver-voiced river laughed amongst its shallows and flashed in
the sunlight. From the marshland came the happy gurgle of a flock
of red-winged blackbirds, while fainter, yet sweet and clear, the
light-hearted tinkle of the bobolink floated across from the rising
meadows. Sleek, well-conditioned robins balanced amidst the apple-trees
and sang contentedly between groomings of their red waistcoats. And
louder, clearer, gladder sang Ethan’s heart.

[Illustration]

Dear reader, have you ever been young and in love on a summer morning?
Do you recollect how intoxicating was the soft, sweet breeze that
entered through the open window? How like liquid gold the sunshine
spread across the sill and dripped upon the floor? How every bird-note
was but a different rendering of the one sweet name? How eager and
impatient you were to be out in the good green world and how loth to
cease your dreaming long enough to dress? What a vastly important thing
was the selection of a tie or a ribbon? I hope that you remember these
things if you have forgotten all else!

The lotus pool never glowed more brilliantly, never sparkled more
radiantly than it did this morning. It was not difficult to imagine
that those floating cups held the colors into which Nature dipped her
brushes ere she painted the summer flowers. The lazy, luxury-loving
swans were dozing in the sunlight on their tiny island. The cascade
plashed and tinkled over moss and stone. The fringing trees blew
welcome shade upon the grassy sides of the little basin. And Ethan,
lifting his dripping paddle as the canoe rippled its way across
the mirror-like surface, drew a deep breath of the scented air and
experienced a sudden bewildering joy of life, an almost paganish
exultation. It seemed to him this morning that the world and he drew
breath together.

[Illustration]

It was early when he floated into Arcady and there were no violet eyes
to greet him. But his impatience was soothed by the happiness which
remembrance gave him. He dreamed there in the sunshine, lighting a
cigarette now and then and letting it burn itself out unnoticed between
his fingers. White clouds floated across the blue sky and across the
surface of the pool. Dragon-flies, their metallic-lustred wings ablaze,
darted and turned. Birds sang and insects buzzed, the breeze gossiped
to the leaves and the moments passed. When he finally awoke fully from
his dreaming and looked wonderingly at his watch the morning was almost
gone. He turned disappointed eyes toward the brief vista afforded by
the jealous trees. No glimpse of white drapery rewarded him. She had
said that she might not come. Why? Vaguely troubled, he propelled the
canoe to the bank and stepped out. Under the shade of the willow made
forever sacred by their meetings he threw himself down and waited while
the long hand of his watch crept laggingly half-way around the dial.
But patience had flown, and when the time he had set himself had passed
he jumped to his feet and set off up the lawn under the trees.

[Illustration]

Presently the corner of the white pergola sprang into view. Then the
trees thinned away and he was looking across an open, sun-bathed
stretch of lawn at the gleaming house. And as he looked, himself a
scarcely noticeable figure against the green shadows of the grove,
the front veranda of the house became suddenly peopled with a girl in
a white frock and a man in gray flannels. They came together through
the doorway and paused side by side at the top of the steps. Even at
that distance Ethan recognized them only too well. The man had taken
the girl’s hand and was speaking to her. Ethan watched for an instant
only, yet in that instant he saw with a sudden sinking of the heart how
the girl’s head, the sunlight aglint on the brown hair, lifted itself
with a little gesture of intimate happiness to her companion. Then, in
a sickening panic lest he might see more, Ethan turned quickly and
plunged back into the shadows.

All the way back to the Inn, with every stroke and lift of the paddle,
a refrain hammered ceaselessly at his brain: “No poaching on my
preserves! No poaching on my preserves!” What an ass he had been not to
understand! He hated Vincent as he had never hated anyone in his life,
realizing all the while the absolute injustice of it. Why hadn’t he
guessed from Vincent’s note how the land lay? He might have known that
Vincent could have referred to no one but Her. But why couldn’t the
fool have come out honestly and told him? A week ago, even three days
ago would have been time! Then, in the next moment, he knew that that
was not so, that it had always been too late, always since that first
meeting! Yet why, if she were Vincent’s, had she allowed him to love
her? Why had she virtually acknowledged her love for him? Why――――

[Illustration]

He remembered that kiss with a sudden choking, clutching sensation
at his throat. Had she meant nothing by that? Nothing? No, she had
meant all, everything that he had hoped! She did love him, and neither
Vincent Graves nor anyone else could have her! But that exultation was
short-lived. What she had meant was of little moment; she belonged to
Vincent by promise if by naught else, and Vincent was his friend.

Things were suddenly greatly simplified. His tangled thoughts smoothed
themselves out and he gave a sigh that was partly of relief. At least
his duty was plain. “No poaching on my preserves!” He had only to heed
that warning and take himself out of the way. That thought steadied
him down and his pulses ceased their deafening pounding. It wouldn’t
be easy, that duty! He knew that well enough, although at this moment
he was viewing it almost calmly. When the present excitement passed he
would find it hard going!

The prospect of facing Vincent troubled him more than anything else
as he drew the canoe from the water and laid it on its rack under the
trees. Vincent was probably even now awaiting him up there on the
porch. For a moment he thought of taking the canoe again and stealing
off up the stream for a ways and then walking across to the station
and taking the train for――anywhere out of all this! But it would be a
sneaking, cowardly thing to do. Besides, sooner or later Vincent and
he must meet, and as well now as any time. He lighted a cigarette with
fingers that trembled a little and walked up through the orchard.

As he had expected, Vincent Graves was awaiting him on the porch. He
was a tall, dark, fine-looking fellow, with a deep, pleasant voice and
a remarkable, careless ease of manner; just the sort of a chap, Ethan
told himself, that any sensible girl would fall in love with. Vincent
did not see him for a moment, and in that moment Ethan had opportunity
to study his friend with a new interest, view him from a novel point.
But he found he could not be coldly critical; Vincent was Vincent,
wholly admirable and lovable; and Ethan’s heart warmed under a sudden
inrush of affection as he went forward with outstretched hand.

“Hello, Vin!” he said.

Vincent swung about, seized the hand and grasped it warmly.

[Illustration]

“Why, you old chump!” he responded, smiling broadly. “Aren’t you
ashamed to look me in the eye? What have you been doing with yourself?
How’s mythology?”

“When did you come up?” asked Ethan, echoing the smile.

“This morning. Stopped at――――” He looked at Ethan with a quick lowering
of the eyebrows. “Look here, what’s the matter with you? You have
the cheerful, care-free countenance of a gentleman strolling to the
gallows! Been ill?”

“Ill?” laughed Ethan. “Certainly not; never felt better in my life.”

“If you felt any better you’d scream, eh? Well, you’ve been up to
something, Ethan, and you can lie yourself black in the face for all I
care. You’re going back with me this evening; that’s settled. I came
over in your machine and for a wonder it didn’t even spring a leak. I
left it at The Larches,” he went on in response to Ethan’s questioning
survey of the driveway and stable-yard. “I stopped there and made a
call.” He paused, smiling mysteriously.

“Oh,” said Ethan.

“Yes, I――look here, let’s take a walk. What time is it? What? Oh,
dinner be blowed! Come on, I want to talk a bit. Hang it, Eth, I’ll
have to talk or bust up like one of your tires!”

“All right,” answered Ethan, without enthusiasm. “Smoke?”

Vincent accepted a cigarette and when they had lighted up they passed
down the steps and along the road, under the arching elms, Vincent’s
hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“It’s largely your fault, old chap,” he said presently. He chuckled to
himself a moment before continuing. “You see, I got uneasy about your
sudden and mysterious affection for this rural paradise. I’ve never
heard you enthuse about it before; in fact I remember several violently
disparaging remarks on the subject of Riverdell. So when you wrote
that you were stopping here a while to study mythology I got scared.
Understand?”

“Perfectly! What are you jawing about?”

“Lord, you’re dense! I’ll explain in words of one――――”

“Thanks.”

[Illustration]

“You see, Eth, you’re a very captivating beggar; you have a wonderful
way with the fair sex. For instance, there was that girl at college――――”

“Cut it out,” growled Ethan.

“Still touchy? Well, I wasn’t taking any chances. Being interested over
this way myself I thought I’d better take a run over and look after
things. Thought maybe you were making love to my girl; poaching, you
know. Couldn’t have blamed you, old chap, for she’s just about the
swellest thing you ever saw.”

“So you came up to head me off, eh?” inquired Ethan uninterestedly.

“Exactly. And found to my surprise that you hadn’t been near the honey.
You don’t know what you’ve missed, Eth. They’re awfully nice folks, the
whole push; and they’d have been tickled to death to have you call. Why
didn’t you?”

“Consideration for your future happiness, Vin,” answered the other
calmly.

“And you haven’t been near the place?”

“I got as far as the gate one day when taking a walk.”

“Well, will you tell me what in blazes you’ve been doing here for the
last week?”

“No.”

Vincent studied him silently a moment.

“All right, old chap; I don’t want to be rudely inquisitive.”

“You’re not; only don’t bother your head about me. I’m off to-day,
anyhow.”

“Yes, you’re coming with me. The mater made me swear by the graves of
my ancestors that I’d fetch you back. And I’ve also promised to bring
you to dinner to-night at the Devereuxs’.”

“Sorry, Vin.”

“You won’t?”

“You’ve guessed it.”

“Why not? Look here, I want you to meet Laura!”

Ethan winced.

“That’s nice of you, Vin, but really I can’t. I’ve simply got to be
in Boston this evening. Tell them, please, that I’m very sorry, will
you? And that I hope to have the pleasure some other time. Make it all
right, like a good chap.”

“Well. But you’re coming over to Stillhaven later, aren’t you?”

“Maybe; perhaps in a week or two.”

“That’s rotten! Look here, Eth, can’t I get in on this? I don’t know
what’s up, and I won’t ask, but if I can help you any way――――”

“Of course, old man. If you could I’d say so. But there isn’t anything
wrong. I’ll explain later. It’s all right.”

“Doubt it. But you know best, I dare say.”

They turned by mutual consent and strolled back toward the Inn.
Presently Vincent broke the silence again.

“By the way, I haven’t told you quite all, Eth; I’m engaged.”

“The deuce you are!” Ethan simulated intense surprise.

“Yep!” Vincent grinned triumphantly.

“Who to, you idiot?”

“Why, haven’t I told you? To Laura Devereux. They’re the folks I’ve
been talking about. They have The Larches. You knew that!”

“Yes, but――when did it happen?”

“About an hour or so ago. I didn’t mean to do it to-day, but――hang
it, Eth, I just simply had to! She’s the best girl in the world, old
chap, and the prettiest too. I want you to see her. When you do you’ll
understand. I told her about you and she wants me to bring you up
to-night.”

“I hope you’ll be mighty happy, Vin.” They shook hands there in
the empty road very gravely in spite of their smiling faces. “And
congratulate her, too, old man. You’re rather a good sort――at times.
And of course I’ll get you to take me to see her just as soon as I come
back. I’ll have to get on the good side of her so she’ll let me come
and see you once in a while when you’re married. When’s it to be?”

[Illustration]

“Don’t be an ass!” grunted Vincent. “As for when, well, we haven’t
settled that yet. Maybe it won’t be until Spring; I fancy she would
rather wait until then. And I ought to get things fixed up a bit first,
too,” he added vaguely.

“Oh, it won’t take you long to burn a few letters and photographs,”
answered Ethan flippantly.

“Go to the deuce! Do we eat now?”

After dinner they sat together on the porch until such time as Vincent
thought he might venture to return to The Larches, and Ethan listened
patiently and with attempted enthusiasm to his friend’s mild ravings.
Vincent was ludicrously happy.

“It’s all so darned funny!” he kept repeating. “A few hours ago I was
scared to death for fear she wouldn’t have me, and now――――”

“And now you’re a goner,” finished Ethan.

“Laugh if you want to,” replied Vincent happily. “I expected you would.
I thought you’d cut up worse than you have, old chap. My time will
come!”

“When it does, you let me know,” scoffed Ethan.

“Look here, I wish you’d give up this Boston business and go along with
me to-night, Eth. I――there’s a reason.”

“Nonsense, you’re beyond reason. Besides, I can’t give it up, Vin.
Sorry; wish I could.”

“Oh, go to blazes! You could if you wanted to. Look here, I lay you any
odds you like that you’ve been caught yourself! You’ve met some girl
here and she’s gone home and you’re tagging after! You ought to have
more pride, Eth!”

“I dare say, Mr. Solomon. By the way, I don’t want to hurry you, but
it’s nearly half after two, and――――”

“The deuce it is!” Vincent leaped to his feet and Ethan laughed loudly
and cruelly. Vincent viewed him in amazement a moment and then joined.

“Talk about tagging!” chuckled Ethan.

“You haven’t seen her, you old scoffer,” responded his friend.

At a little after three Ethan tossed his luggage into the car, climbed
in beside the unruffled Farrell and swung the big blue monster toward
Boston. And while it ate up the long miles Ethan, his hands on the
wheel, scowled miserably ahead and honestly strove to forget that he
had ever stumbled into Arcady.

[Illustration]



XI.


A few days later Ethan walked into the office of the law firm in
Providence, hung his hat on a hook in the closet and blandly inquired
for his desk. The members of the firm discussed it later in the privacy
of the inner office.

“Looks as though he might be in earnest, anyway,” suggested the senior.
“Apparently not afraid of work, eh?”

“Something funny about it,” replied the junior, who was a bit of a
pessimist. “It isn’t like a fellow of his sort to give up his summer
and buckle down to reading law in July.” He shook his head with
misgivings. “It won’t last, mark my word.”

But it did. Business was slack throughout the hot weather and Ethan
had plenty of time for reading; and he made the most of it. Several
letters came from Vincent reminding him of his promise and urging
him to come down to Stillhaven for a while. But always Ethan pleaded
press of duties, until Vincent, whose own law shingle had been hanging
out for a year and who had yet to find business pressing, felt more
convinced than ever that his friend had, to use his own expression,
“come a cropper somehow!”

[Illustration]

In September Vincent ran down and spent Sunday. Ethan didn’t press him
to come again, for his conversation was not of a sort calculated to
reconcile a disappointed lover to his lot. The Devereuxs were still at
Riverdell, but were returning to their Boston apartments the last of
the month.

“She hasn’t forgiven you for not calling,” warned Vincent, “and you’ll
have to eat dirt when you do see her, old chap.”

Ethan expressed entire willingness to grovel, but flatly refused to
set a date for the proceedings. Vincent departed somewhat huffed, and
for some time there was a perceptible coolness between them. Ethan
regretted it, but he wasn’t ready yet to trust himself in the rôle of
Vincent’s friend.

His first vacation since he had gone to work came early in October.
Then a letter from a real estate agent who had the renting of his
property made a journey to Riverdell advisable. He left Providence,
with Farrell, in the car one Friday morning, intending to stay in
Riverdell over Saturday, and at two o’clock swung the machine in
through the big gate of The Larches. It had been a glorious brisk day,
they had made record time and Ethan’s spirits had been high. But now,
as they rumbled slowly up the circling driveway, old memories were
asserting themselves and buoyancy gave place to depression. The maples
were aflame in the afternoon sunlight, the Virginia creeper about the
porches was radiantly crimson, and along the gleaming white pergola
bunches of purple grapes were still aglow. But for all this The Larches
had a lonesome look. The windows on the lower floor were shuttered and
told eloquently of desertion.

[Illustration]

Ethan’s summons at the bell went unanswered for a time. Then footsteps
sounded on the marble tiles inside and the big door swung open,
revealing a comfortably stout, double-chinned woman who wiped her
damp, red hands on her blue calico apron.

“Why, Mr. Ethan!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, it’s I, Mrs. Billings,” he replied. “Farrell, take the car around
to the stable and I’ll have William open up for you.”

[Illustration]

He stepped into the dimly lighted hall, already filled with the chill
of approaching winter, and looked about him. Everything was apparently
the same in spite of its recent occupancy. The house had been rented
furnished, and plainly the Devereuxs had been satisfied to leave things
as they had found them. He took off his coat and tossed it on to the
big old-fashioned mahogany couch. Mrs. Billings, the housekeeper, was
still chattering volubly.

“If we’d known you was coming, sir, we’d have had the blinds open and
the fires lighted.”

“Never mind,” answered Ethan. “Have your husband build a fire in the
library and in my room. I shan’t be here beyond Sunday morning. You
can give me my meals in the library. I had a letter from Stearns a day
or so ago telling me that the Devereuxs had left and asking whether
I wanted to rent for the winter. I don’t believe I do. I don’t think
I shall rent again at all. Well how have you been, you and that
good-for-nothing husband of yours?”

“Nicely, sir, for myself, thank you. And Jonas, he isn’t one of the
complaining sort, sir, but he do have the rheumatism something awful in
wet weather. And how has your health been, Mr. Ethan?”

“I’ve been frightfully healthy, thank you. Where’s your husband?”

“I’ll call him, sir, at once. He’s out somewheres on the grounds, sir.
And I’ll have a fire lit in no time, sir. He’ll be very pleased to see
you, sir, will Jonas.” She stopped at the end of the hall and sank her
voice to a hoarse whisper. “I fear he’s getting old and failing, Mr.
Ethan,” she said despondently. “It――it’s his head sir.”

“Eh?”

“Yes, sir. Along in June it was, Mr. Ethan, or maybe early in the month
following, sir, that he came in quite excited like and wild, saying as
he had seen you with his own eyes over toward the grove there. Yes,
sir. ‘Jonas,’ says I, ‘it’s the sun.’ ‘No, ’taint,’ says he. ‘I saw him
with my own eyes,’ says he, ‘a-standing under the trees. And when I
looked again he was gone,’ he says. It gave me quite a shock, sir, as
you might say.”

[Illustration]

“Naturally. And since then you have observed no other symptoms?”

“No, sir, not particular, but he do seem a heap fonder of his victuals
than he used to, and I’ve heard tell as that’s a sure sign of a failing
intellect, Mr. Ethan.”

“In the case of your victuals, Mrs. Billings,” replied Ethan, “I’d say
it was an indication of wisdom.”

The housekeeper bridled and beamed.

“But, really,” continued Ethan, smiling, “I wouldn’t worry about
Billings. The fact is, I was down here for a day or so about the time
you speak of.”

“Here, sir? And you never came to see us, sir?”

“There――er――there were reasons, Mrs. Billings. And now how about that
fire? And send your husband out to unlock the carriage house, please.”

“Yes, sir, directly, sir. And Jonas really saw you, Mr. Ethan, same as
he said he did?”

“I think it more than likely, Mrs. Billings.”

“Well, that’s a great load off my mind, sir. Softening of the brain do
be so unfortunate!”

Later, just at dusk, Ethan emerged from the library on to the broad
cement-paved porch at the side of the house. Pausing to light a
cigarette, he passed down the stone steps to the pergola and traversed
its length. Fallen leaves rustled softly under his feet and the purple
clusters showed the effects of the frost. Once out of the arbor, his
steps led him almost unconsciously across the open lawn, russet now
and streaked with the long sombre shadows of the trees. He found
himself swayed by two desires; one to see the lotus pool again, the
other to avoid it. He went on through the twilight grove, filled with
a gentle――I had almost said pleasant――sadness. Underfoot the ground
was carpeted with the red leaves of the maples. Here and there a white
birch stood like a pale gold flame in the dying sunlight. The dark
green larches alone held themselves unchanged.

The pool was sadly different. Yellowing lily-pads floated upon the
surface, but no blossoms caught the slanting rays of the sun. Ethan sat
down under the willow, took his knees into his arms and puffed blue
smoke-wreaths into the amber light. Presently a shadow presence came
and sat beside him. The presence had violet eyes and red, red lips that
smiled wistfully. He didn’t turn his head, for he knew that if he did
he would find himself again alone. And presently they talked.

[Illustration]

“You were very cruel,” he said sadly.

“I didn’t mean to be,” she answered.

“No, I don’t think you did. You――you just didn’t think, I suppose. It
was all a bit of good fun with you. But――it played the deuce with me.”

“Did it?” she asked regretfully.

“But I’m not blaming you――now,” he went on. “I did at first. It seemed
needlessly cruel and heartless. But I understand now that it was all
my fault. You see, dear, I took it for granted, I thought, that
you――cared――the way I did. It was my silly conceit.”

He thought he heard a little sob beside him, but he resisted the
temptation to turn and look.

“If only there hadn’t been that kiss,” he continued dreamily.
“That――I’ve never quite understood that. Sometimes――I dare say it’s my
conceit again――but sometimes I can’t help thinking that you did care――a
little――just then! That is the hardest to forgive, dear,――and forget,
that kiss. If it wasn’t for the memory of that I think I could stand it
better. Why did you do it? _Why?_”

There was no answer save the sighing of a little breeze which crept
down the slope in a floating shower of dead leaves.

“Ah, but I want to know!” he insisted doggedly. “Was it just in fun?
Was it merely in pity? It couldn’t have been, I tell you! You never
kissed me like that for pity, dear! There was love in your eyes,
sweetheart; I saw it; fathoms deep in that purple twilight! Love, do
you hear? You can’t deny it, you can’t! And you trembled in my arms!
Why did you do it?” he asked sharply.

He turned impetuously,――and sighed. He was all alone. The presence had
fled.

[Illustration]

He tossed aside the dead cigarette in his hand and shivered. The breeze
was growing as the day passed, a chill October breeze laden with the
heavy, melancholy aroma of dying leaves. He arose and retraced his
steps to the house.



XII.


Ethan drank the last drop of excellent black coffee in the tiny cup and
swung his chair about so that he faced the cheerfully crackling logs
in the library fire-place. He had enjoyed his dinner, and he began to
feel delightfully restful and drowsy. The day spent in the open air,
with the wind rushing past him, the hearty repast and now the dancing
flames were all having their natural effect. He reached lazily for his
cigarette case, his gaze travelling idly over the high mantel above
him. Then his hand had dropped from his pocket and he was on his feet,
peering intently at a small photograph tucked half out of sight behind
one of the old Liverpool pitchers which flanked the clock. A moment
after he had it in his hands and was bending over it in the glare of
the light from the chandelier.

[Illustration]

It was evidently an amateur production, but it was good for all that.
And Ethan was troubling his head not at all as to its origin or its
merits or defects. It was sufficient for him that it showed a small,
graceful figure in white against a background of foliage, and that the
eyes which looked straight into his from under the waving hair with
its golden fillet were Hers. It was Clytie. One hand rested softly on
a flower-clustered spray of azalea, one bare sandaled foot gleamed
forth from under the straight white folds of the peplum and the lips
were parted in a little startled smile. Ethan devoured it eagerly while
his heart glowed and ached at once. He remembered telling her that he
would like to see those pictures, and remembered her laughing response:
“I’m afraid you never will!” And now he was looking at one of them
after all! And he was still looking when the gardener entered with the
replenished wood-basket.

“Where did this come from, Billings?” Ethan asked carelessly.

Billings set down his burden and crossed to the table. He was a small
man, well toward sixty, with his weather-beaten face shrivelled into
innumerable tiny, kindly wrinkles. In spite of his years, however, he
showed no signs of the mental degeneration which his wife had feared.
He came and looked near-sightedly at the card which Ethan held out.

“Why, sir, Lizzie came across that in one of the upstair rooms when
she was cleaning up after the folks went away and she put it on the
mantel here, thinking maybe it was valuable and they’d send back for
it.”

“I see.” Ethan laid it on the table, his eyes still upon it. “I don’t
think they’ll want it. Doubtless Miss Devereux has plenty more.”

“Yes, sir; they took a good many, sir, between them.”

“They? Oh, she had a friend with her?”

“Yes, sir. Miss Hoyt. I remember when they was taking those, sir. It
was early in the summer, soon after they came. The young ladies they
dressed themselves up in those queer things――sort o’ like sheets, they
was, sir――” the gardener’s voice became faintly apologetic, as though
he had not quite approved of such doings――“and went out on the lawn one
forenoon. They got me to cut away a bit of the branches, sir, right
here.” Billings indicated the upper left-hand corner of the picture.
“She said she had to have more light. It wasn’t much, sir; just a few
old twigs; no harm done, sir.”

“Of course not. It was――Miss Devereux asked you?”

“Yes, sir; Miss Laura they called her. A very pleasant young lady, sir.”

“Very pleasant, Billings,” assented Ethan with a sigh.

“You know her, then, sir?”

“I――hardly that; I’ve met her.”

“Yes, sir.” Billings turned toward the fire. “Shall I drop another log
on, sir?”

“No, I shall be going to bed very shortly.”

“Very well, sir.” Billings mended the fire, replaced the tongs and
stood carefully erect again, chuckling reminiscently. Then finding
Ethan’s eyes on him questioningly he said: “she took me, sir, too, with
her camery.”

“Really? I should like to see the picture.”

“Thank you, sir. It’s in the kitchen. Shall I fetch it? Lizzie says
it’s a very speakin’ likeness, sir, excepting that I was sort o’ took
by surprise, so to say, and had no time to spruce up.”

“Yes, bring it in by all means.”

The gardener hurried away and Ethan turned again to the picture. When
Billings returned Ethan said carelessly:

“By the way, if your wife asks about this you can tell her I
have――er――taken charge of it. Ah, this is the picture, eh? Why, I’d
call that excellent, Billings, excellent! Truly, a very speaking
likeness. You say Miss Devereux took this?”

[Illustration]

“Yes, sir, the same day they was taking the others, sir. I had lopped
off the branches and was standin’ by watching, sir, and after she had
taken that one there, sir, she said to me: ‘Billings, would you mind if
I took’――――”

“Not after she’d taken this, Billings,” interrupted Ethan, in the
interests of accuracy. “She didn’t take this one, of course.”

“I beg pardon, Mr. Ethan?”

“Never mind. I only said you didn’t mean that it was after she had
taken this one; it was another one you meant.”

“Oh, no, sir, it was that very one, sir. I had just lopped off the
branches――――”

“You don’t mean that she took her own picture, surely?” asked Ethan
with a smile.

“No, sir.”

“Exactly.”

“It was that one you have there, sir, she took.”

“This one? Now, look here, Billings, let’s get this straightened out
while we’re at it. Do you mean that Miss Devereux――mind, I’m talking of
_Miss Devereux_――do you mean that Miss Devereux took this photograph I
have in my hands?”

“Yes, sir, that’s the one. I had just lopped――――”

“Never mind the lopping,” interrupted Ethan with smiling impatience.
“But tell me how she did it.”

“Why, sir, she stood her camery up a little ways off, sir; it had three
little legs onto it, sir; and she pressed a little rubber ball, and
the camery went ‘click,’ sir, like that, sir,――‘click!’ and――――”

“Yes, yes, but――now look here, how far off was the camera from――from
this place, where you had lopped the branches?”

“About twenty feet, sir, maybe.”

“Well, will you kindly, tell me how Miss Devereux managed to squeeze
the little rubber ball and get into the picture at the same time?”

“Sir?”

“What I mean is,” answered Ethan patiently, “how could she have been
here――” tapping the photograph he held――“and at the camera the same
instant?”

That was evidently a poser. Billings scratched the back of his head
dubiously. Finally,

“But she wasn’t there, sir!” he explained.

“Wasn’t where? At the camera?”

“Yes, sir; I mean no, sir. She wasn’t there!” He pointed at the picture.

“Wasn’t here!” exclaimed Ethan. “Then how――hang it, man, but here’s her
picture!”

“Beg pardon, Mr. Ethan?” Billings looked both pained and puzzled, and
shot a quick look of inquiry at the dinner table.

“I say here’s her picture, you idiot!” repeated Ethan.

“Whose picture, sir?”

“Why, Miss Devereux’s!”

“No, sir.”

“What do you mean by ‘no, sir?’ I say――――”

A light broke upon Mr. Billings.

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Ethan,” he explained hurriedly. “I see your
mistake, sir, but you said as how you’d met the young lady, and I
thought you understood as how that wasn’t her, sir.”

“What? Who?”

“Wasn’t Miss Devereux, sir.”

“Do you mean that this isn’t Miss Devereux here in this picture?” cried
Ethan.

“Yes, sir; that is, no, sir. That isn’t her, Mr. Ethan.”

“Isn’t――! Then who is it?”

“Miss Hoyt, sir. I thought you under――――”

Ethan took Billings by the arms and forced him into a chair.

“You sit there and answer my questions, Billings,” he commanded
excitedly. He held the photograph before the gardener’s alarmed face.

“Who is this in the picture?”

“Miss Hoyt, sir, as I was telling you――――”

“Nonsense! You’re mistaken, man! Look close; take it in your hands!
Don’t answer until you’ve looked at it well. Where are your spectacles?”

“I don’t wear any, sir,” was the dignified reply. “My eyes, Mr. Ethan,
are just as clear as ever they were, sir. Why, I can see――――”

“Yes, yes, I beg your pardon, Billings, but I have most particular
reasons for wanting to be certain about this! Now――take a good look at
it!――now who is she?”

“Miss Hoyt, sir, and if you was to put me in jail the next minute, sir,
I wouldn’t say different! No, sir, not if my life was depending on it,
sir!”

[Illustration]

“And it’s not Miss Devereux?”

“No, sir, nor never was! Why, Mr. Ethan, Miss Devereux, as you must
recall, sir, is quite tall and slim, like――like a young birch,
sir,――with very dark hair. And Miss Hoyt, sir, as you can see――――”

Ethan planted himself with his back to the fire and lighted a cigarette
with trembling fingers.

“Billings,” he said softly, “I’ve been a damned fool!”

“Yes――that is, I can’t believe it, sir,” was the respectful answer. But
Billings’ expression said otherwise.

“Now I want you to tell me all you know about Miss Hoyt,” said Ethan.
“By the way, what was her first name?”

“Cicely, sir; Miss Cicely Hoyt.”

“Cicely,” repeated Ethan softly. “It just suits her!”

“Beg pardon, sir?”

“Oh, never mind. Where does she live?”

Billings thought in silence a moment.

“Ellington, sir,” he answered triumphantly, evidently pleased at his
powers of memory.

“Where the deuce is that, though?”

“About the centre of the state, sir, I think.”

“This state, do you mean? Massachusetts?”

“Yes, sir, Massachusetts.”

“And she was a friend of Miss Devereux’s?”

“Yes, sir. I gathered as how they went to school together. And Miss
Hoyt’s father, sir, died a while back and left her and her mother
very poorly off, sir. And the young lady is employed in a library at
Ellington, as I understand it, sir, and her mother is there, too, sir.”

“In the library?”

“No, sir, in Ellington. They used to live in Ohio, I believe.”

Ethan was silent a moment, smoking furiously. Then,

“Tell Farrell to come in here at once, Billings. And I’m much obliged
for what you’ve told me. Oh, wait, Billings! Throw another log on the
fire first. I don’t want it to go out; you and I have got lots to talk
about to-night!”

Farrell came speedily.

“Do you know where Ellington, Massachusetts, is?” asked Ethan.

“Yes, sir.”

“How long a run is it?”

Farrell produced a road map from his coat pocket and bent over it under
the light.

“Well, Mr. Parmley, I don’t know how the roads are now, sir, but
supposing they’re in fair condition we’d ought to do it in about two
and half hours.”

“Then if we left here at seven in the morning we’d get to Ellington by
noon?”

“Couldn’t help it, sir, barring accidents.”

“There mustn’t be any accidents,” answered Ethan, a bit unreasonably.

“I’ll do my best, sir.”

“Be ready to leave, then, promptly at seven!”

“Very well, sir.”

Farrell went out and as the door closed softly behind him Ethan, the
photograph in his hands, threw himself into the chair before the fire
and beamed blissfully at the flames.

[Illustration]



XIII.


The library was filled with the pallid twilight of a rainy day. Since
early morning the summit of Mount Tom, a dozen miles to the westward,
had been enveloped in ponderous, leaden clouds, and for two hours past
the storm, travelling along the Connecticut Valley, had been deluging
the slopes with autumnal ferocity.

[Illustration]

Through the rain-drenched windows a cold white light entered, flooding
the stack room with its iron tiers of slumbering volumes, and, here
at the barrier-like counter, illumining faintly the rebellious brown
hair of the girl who, with pen in hand, bent over the pile of catalogue
cards. The library was very still, so still that the sibilation of
the moving pen sounded portentously loud. Now and then the rustle of
a turning leaf or the scraping of feet on the floor came from around
the corner of the arched doorway where sat a solitary occupant of the
reading room. Save for these two the library was deserted. The hands
of the clock above the commemorative tablet pointed to a quarter past
twelve and the stack-boy and the assistant librarian had both gone to
their luncheons.

A more prolonged scraping of feet, followed by the sound of a moving
chair, caused the girl at the desk to raise her head and pause at her
work. A little frown of annoyance gathered and then gave place to a
smile of humorous resignation as footfalls sounded on the echoing
silence. From the reading room emerged a tall, thin youth of about
twenty, a youth with a pale, cadaverous face lighted by a pair of
patient, contemplative brown eyes which looked strangely incongruous
and out of place. He carried two books which he laid apologetically on
the counter.

“Excuse me, Miss Hoyt,” he said gently.

“Yes, Mr. Winkley?” she asked, looking up.

“I am very sorry to trouble you, but could you let me have Burton’s
Anatomy of Melancholy?”

“Have――What did you say, please?” she asked startledly.

“Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, please,” he repeated in his patient
voice. She turned hurriedly and disappeared into the stack room. Once
out of sight she leaned against one of the cases and laughed silently
and hysterically.

“Oh,” she thought, “if he doesn’t stop it and go away I shall have
to――to――I shall go crazy!”

Presently, with a final gasp, she brushed the back of her hand across
her eyes and went on down the concrete aisle in search of the volume.
Out at the counter, the youth, left to himself, watched her while she
was in sight and then leaned across to peer at the neatly arranged
cards. She had left her handkerchief beside her work. With a timorous
glance about him, he reached forward, picked it up and with a quick,
vehement movement pressed it to his thin, unsmiling lips. He held it so
a moment, his brown eyes staring widely through the rain-bleared window
as though beholding visions. Then, as her steps came back toward him,
he laid the handkerchief again in its place, straightened himself and
waited.

“Here it is, Mr. Winkley,” she said soberly.

“Thank you. I am sorry to trouble you,” he answered gravely.

“It is only what I am here for,” she answered coldly, taking up her
pen once more. He remained for an instant looking at the bent head.
Then, lifting the Anatomy of Melancholy from the counter, he turned and
walked slowly and quite noiselessly back to his table. But as he went
the ghost of a sigh trembled across the silence.

The girl raised her head with a despairing glance toward the reading
room, jabbed her pen viciously into the ink-stand and went on with
her writing. The clock overhead ticked slowly and softly. The rain
_swished_ past the windows.

But presently a new sound made itself heard. Dim at first, it grew
insistently until the girl heard it and again lifted her head and
listened with a new light in her violet eyes.

_Chug-chug, chug-chug-chug, chug-chug!_

[Illustration]

Automobiles are not common in Ellington, especially after the summer
colony departs, and the approach of this one brought a tinge of color
to the soft cheeks and a flutter to the heart of the librarian. So
often during the past three months she had listened with straining ears
to the panting of an automobile on the road below! Usually the sound
had died away again in the distance, and she had told herself, sighing,
that she was very glad. But to-day the sounds increased every instant.
The _chug-chug_ was slower now and more labored; the car had left the
village road and was climbing the circling gravelled drive to the
library. Every beat brought an answering beat from her heart.

Oh, it was foolish! she told herself angrily. And she didn’t want it
to happen! She hoped it wouldn’t! Resolutely she began her work again,
but the noise of the approaching machine seemed to fill the world
with a tumult of sound. Then, close at hand, the measured _chugs_
suddenly became hurried and incoherent, as though the intruding monster
was violently incensed at being stopped. Then――silence, appalling,
portentous! With white face the girl bent closer to her desk, her
pen tracing quivering figures and letters. The outer door opened and
closed again with a muffled jar. She heard the _swish ... swish_ of
the inner doors as they swung inward and back. Firm footfalls sounded
on the oaken floor. Very different they were from the soft tread of
the library habitué, and there was a determined, resolute character to
them that put the brown-haired librarian in a panic. Oh, how she wished
that she had fled while there had been time! She no longer doubted; the
unexpected, which all along had been the expected, had happened; the
thing which she had feared, and always hoped for, had come to pass. The
steps came nearer, straight from the doorway, scorning the longer and
quieter paths provided by the cocoa-fibre matting. The brown head still
bent over the desk. Then the footsteps stopped. A terrible silence fell
over the room. There was no help for it.

Slowly, reluctantly the girl raised her head.



XIV.


Had they lived in the Age of Stone that meeting might have proved far
more interesting for purposes of description. As it was, both being
fairly conventional characters of the Twentieth Century, the affair was
disappointingly commonplace.

“How do you do, Miss Hoyt?” he asked, smiling calmly and reaching a
hand across the counter. And,――――

[Illustration]

“Why, Mr. Parmley!” she replied, laying her own hand for an instant in
his.

A close observer, and both you and I, patient reader, pride ourselves
upon being such, would have noticed, perhaps, that in spite of the
commonplace words and the unembarrassed manners, the man’s cheeks
held an unaccustomed tinge of color and the girl’s face was more than
ordinarily pale. And could we have enjoyed a physician’s privilege of
examining the heart-action at that moment we would have straightened
ourselves up with very knowing smiles.

“I’ve come,” he said, as the soft hand drew itself away from his, “to
return a book. Is this the right place?”

“Yes,” she replied brightly.

“Thank you. I don’t know very much about libraries; I always avoid them
as much as possible as being rather too exciting.” He took a small book
from the pocket of his coat and laid it on the counter. “I’m afraid
there’s a good deal to pay on it. It’s been out quite a while.”

A tinge of color came into her cheeks as she took the volume. It was a
copy of “Love Sonnets from the Portuguese.”

“Oh, I’ll let you off,” she answered gayly. “We sometimes remit the
fines when the excuse is good.”

“Thank you. My excuse is excellent. I only yesterday discovered the
identity of the loaner.”

“Only yesterday?” she asked carelessly, but with quickening heart.

“To be exact, at about eight o’clock last evening.” He dropped his
voice and leaned a little further across the barrier. “You see, Miss
Hoyt, you fooled me very nicely.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Parmley, you fooled yourself. I told you――at least, I
never said I was Laura Devereux.”

“No, you didn’t, but――I wonder why I was so certain you were! If I
hadn’t been――――”

“I beg your pardon, Miss Hoyt, but will you please let me have
Swinburne’s Poems?”

It was the solitary reader. The girl disappeared into the stack
room, leaving the two men to a furtive and, on one part at least,
amused examination of each other. The pale youth, however, showed no
amusement; rather his look expressed suspicion and resentment. Ethan,
unable longer to encounter that baleful glare without smiling, turned
his head. Then the librarian came with the desired book.

“Thank you, Miss Hoyt!” said the reader. With a final glance of dawning
enmity at Ethan he returned to his solitude. Ethan looked inquiringly
at Cicely.

“He’s perfectly awful!” she replied despairingly. “He stays here hours
and hours at a time. I don’t believe he ever eats anything. And he
calls for books incessantly, from Plutarch’s Lives to――to Swinburne! I
think he is trying to read right through the catalogue. And a while ago
he came for――what do you think?――The Anatomy of Melancholy!”

Ethan smiled gently.

“I wouldn’t be too hard on him,” he said. “The poor devil is
head-over-heels in love with you.”

The phrase brought recollections――and a blush.

“Nonsense! He’s just a boy!” she answered.

“Boys sometimes feel pretty deeply――for the while,” he replied. “And
judging from his present line of reading, I’d say that the while hasn’t
passed yet.”

“It’s so silly and tiresome!” she said. “He gets terribly on my
nerves. He――he sighs――in the most heartbreaking way!” She laughed a
little nervously. Then a moment of silence followed.

“Clytie,” he began,――“I am going to call you that to-day, for I haven’t
got used to thinking of you as Cicely yet――do you know why I came?”

“To return the book,” she answered smilingly.

“No, not altogether. I came to ask you something.”

“I ought to feel flattered, oughtn’t I? It’s quite a ways here from
Providence, isn’t it?”

“Supposing we don’t pretend,” he answered gravely. “We’ve gone too
far to make that possible, don’t you think? And I’ve had a beast of
a summer,” he added inconsequently. “I thought――do you know what I
thought, dear?”

“How should I?” she asked weakly.

“I thought you were Laura Devereux, and that day when you didn’t come
I went for you and saw you and Vincent on the porch. And afterwards
he told me he was engaged to Miss Devereux, and――don’t you see what
it meant to me? And yesterday I found out, quite by accident, and――”
he reached across and seized her hand with a little laugh of sheer
happiness――“I haven’t slept a wink since! I――I thought I’d never get
here; the roads were quagmires!”

“Oh, why did you come?” she asked miserably.

“Why? Good Heaven, don’t you know, girl?” He leaned across and she felt
his lips on the hand still clasped in his.

“Yes, yes, I know,” she cried. “But――you mustn’t love me! You won’t
when I’ve told you!”

“Try me!” he said softly.

“I’m going to. But――I can’t if you have my hand.”

“If I let it go may I have it again?” he asked playfully.

“You won’t want it,” was the grim answer. “When you know what I am
really, you――won’t want――ever to see me――again.”

“That’s nonsense,” he answered stoutly. But a qualm of uneasiness
oppressed him.

She moved away from the counter until she was out of reach of his
impatient hands.

[Illustration]

“I meant you to fall in love with me,” she said evenly, looking at him
with wide eyes and white face. “I meant you to propose to me. I wanted
to――to marry you.”

He reached impetuously toward her with a smothered word of endearment,
but she held up a hand.

“Wait! You don’t understand! I――I didn’t care for you. I was tired of
being poor and――and of this!” She swept her glance about the bare and
silent library. “We used to have money,” she went on, speaking rapidly.
“We lived in Ohio then, when father was alive. Then I came east to
college. I met Laura there. We were friends almost at once, although
she was in the class ahead of me. I never finished, for my father
died and left us almost without a cent. I left college and Laura’s
father secured me work here. I studied hard and last year they made me
librarian. Then mother came east to live here with me. Laura was always
kind. When my vacation came I went to visit her there at The Larches.
Then you――I met you.”

She paused and dropped her gaze.

“Yes,” he said softly. “And then?”

“You said you had some property and you――you seemed nice and kind. I
was so weary of it all. I wanted――oh, you know? I wanted to have money,
enough to live decently somewhere else than here in this tomb they call
a town. I didn’t care. I set out to make you――like me. I went back
there to the pool each day for just that, until――――”

[Illustration]

“Well? Until?” he urged, smiling across at her.

“That is all,” she answered.

“And it was all absolutely mercenary? You never cared for me?”

“I’ve told you,” she answered.

“And――that last day, dear? It was the same? You didn’t care then
either?”

“Oh, what does it matter what happened afterwards?” she cried
agitatedly. “It was what I had done, don’t you see? It was the
meanness, the――the shamefulness of it!”

“Well, but this ‘afterward’? What of that?”

“Nothing,” she answered firmly.

Silence fell for a moment. They looked across at each other steadily,
she meeting his smile defiantly. Then the color crept up from throat to
cheeks and her eyes dropped.

“Dear,” he said gently, “I don’t care what happened before that
‘afterward.’ I loved you from the first moment, but I’m not going to
resent it if it took you longer to discover my irresistible charms.
Why, hang it all, I’m proud you should have thought me worth marrying
even for my money! But ‘afterward,’ dear? When I kissed you? You
can’t make me believe there was no love then, Cicely. And it is still
‘afterward,’ and it always will be! Dear, Arcadia is waiting for you.
The lotus pool is lonely without you. And so am I, Cicely, Cicely dear!”

[Illustration]

“Oh, I knew you would try to forgive me,” she cried miserably. “That is
why I――didn’t want you to come. Because after awhile you would remember
and――――”

“Cicely!”

“And you’d hate me!”

“Cicely! Look at me, dear! I want you to――――”

Soft footfalls reached them. The pale youth was approaching, his arms
laden with books. Ethan bit his lip and fell silent.

“I beg your pardon, Miss Hoyt, but would you mind giving me――――”

Ethan stepped toward him.

“Here,” he said hurriedly, “here’s just what you’re after. It’s no
trouble at all.” He forced the “Love Sonnets from the Portuguese,”
into the youth’s hands and turned him gently but firmly away from the
counter. The youth looked from the book to Ethan.

“How――how did you know?” he stammered resentfully.

“Never mind how, my boy. You’ve got it. Run along.”

After a moment of indecision, of many silent looks of inquiry and dark
suspicion, the youth trod softly away again. Ethan looked at Cicely
and they smiled together. Then she sank into her chair at the desk and
laughed helplessly, and cried a little, too. And Ethan said no word
until she had pressed the handkerchief to her eyes and turned toward
him again. Then,

“Will you come back to your lotus pool, O Clytie?” he asked softly.

“Wouldn’t it be rather cold and damp this weather?” she asked with a
little trembling laugh.

“I am going to have it steam-heated,” he answered gravely. “I was there
yesterday, Clytie, and it looked very forlorn without you, dear.”

“You were there?” she asked wonderingly.

“Yes. I forgot to tell you, didn’t I? The Larches is mine, dear, and
the lotus pool shall be yours for life, if you’ll let me come sometimes
and sit beside you under the trees on the bank. Will you?”

She dropped her eyes.

“Will you?” he repeated.

[Illustration: “WILL YOU?” HE REPEATED.]

She moved nearer, with lowered head, and laid her hands palms up on the
oaken counter. He took them and drew her toward him. She raised a rosy
face toward him, the violet eyes darting fearfully toward the reading
room. Ethan paused and looked thoughtful.

“In nice libraries,” he said, “they have what they call the open
stacks. Is it so here?”

She shook her head.

“But――there might be exceptions?”

“There might,” she answered softly.

“And do you think the librarian would permit me to be an exception?”

She nodded, blushing and provoking.

He turned, walked to the end of the counter and pushed aside the
swinging gate. At the door of the stack room he paused.

“I would like,” he said, “to find that book of mythology wherein are
related the loves of Clytie and Vertumnus. Could you show me where to
find it?”

She darted a glance toward the entrance to the reading room. Then she
followed him.

“I believe,” she murmured, as her hand stole into his, “I believe it is
in the farthest corner.”

Their footfalls died away down the concrete aisle. From the reading
room came the sound of a softly turned leaf. Then the library was very
silent.

[Illustration]



 Transcriber’s Notes:

 ――Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 ――Except for the frontispiece, illustrations have been moved to
   follow the text that they illustrate.

 ――Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 ――Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 ――Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.





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