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Chapter 6 Echoes from the Past

  • During his stay at The Pines Mr. Britton spent the greater portion of his tim_ith Mr. Underwood, either at their offices or at the mines. Darrell,
  • therefore, saw little of his new-found friend except as they all gathered i_he evening around the glowing fire in the large family sitting-room, for,
  • notwithstanding the lingering warmth and sunshine of the days, the nights wer_ecoming sharp and frosty, so that an open fire added much to the evening'_njoyment. Each morning, however, before his departure, Mr. Britton stoppe_or a few words with Darrell; some quaint, kindly bit of humor, the pleasan_lavor of which would enliven the entire day; some unhackneyed expression o_ympathy whose very genuineness and sincerity made Darrell's position seem t_im less isolated and solitary than before; or some suggestion which, acte_pon, relieved the monotony of the tedious hours of convalescence.
  • At his suggestion Darrell took vigorous exercise each day in the morning ai_nd sunshine, devoting his afternoons to a course of light, pleasant reading.
  • "If you are going to work," said Mr. Britton, "the first requisite is to hav_our body and mind in just as healthful and normal a condition as possible, i_rder that you may be able to give an equivalent for what you receive. I_hese days of trouble between employer and employed, we hear a great dea_bout the laborer demanding an honest equivalent for his toil, but it does no_ccur to him to inquire whether he is giving his employer an honest equivalen_or his money. The fact is, a large percentage of working-men and working-
  • women, in all departments of labor, are squandering their energies night afte_ight in various forms and degrees of dissipation until they are utterl_ncapacitated for one honest day's work; yet they do not hesitate to take _ull day's wages, and would consider themselves wronged were the smalles_raction withheld."
  • Darrell found himself rather restricted in his reading for the first few days,
  • as he found but a limited number of books at The Pines, until Mrs. Dean, wh_ad received a hint from Mr. Britton, meeting him one day in the upper hall,
  • led him into two darkened rooms, saying, as she hastened to open the blinds,—
  • "These are what the children always called their 'dens.' All their books ar_ere, and I thought maybe you'd like to look them over. If you see anythin_ou like, just help yourself, and use the rooms for reading or writin_henever you want to."
  • Darrell, left to himself, looked about him with much interest. The two room_ere similar in style and design, but otherwise were as diverse as possible.
  • The room in which he was standing was furnished in embossed leather. A leathe_ouch stood near one of the windows, and a large reclining-chair of the sam_aterial was drawn up before the fireplace. Near the mantel was a pipe-rac_illed with fine specimens of briar-wood and meerschaum pipes. Signs o_ennis, golf, and various athletic sports were visible on all sides; in th_entre of the room stood a large roll-top desk, open, and on it lay a bria_ipe, filled with ashes, just where the owner's hand had laid it. But wha_ost interested Darrell was a large portrait over the fireplace, which he kne_ust be that of Harry Whitcomb. The face was neither especially fine no_trong, but the winsome smile lurking about the curves of the sensitive mout_nd in the depths of the frank blue eyes rendered it attractive, and it wa_ith a sigh for the young life so suddenly blotted out that Darrell turned t_nter the second room.
  • He paused at the doorway, feeling decidedly out of place, and glanced abou_im with a serio-comic smile. The furnishings were as unique as possible, n_ne piece in the room bearing any relation or similarity to any other piece.
  • There were chairs and tables of wicker-work, twisted into the most ornat_esigns, interspersed among heavy, antique pieces of carving and slende_pecimens of colonial simplicity; divans covered with pillows of ever_elicate shade imaginable; exquisite etchings and dainty bric-à-brac. In a_lcove formed by a large bay-window stood a writing-desk of ebony inlaid wit_other-of-pearl, and on an easel in a secluded corner, partially concealed b_ilken draperies, was the portrait of Kate Underwood,—a childish, rathe_mmature face, but with a mouth indicating both sweetness and strength o_haracter, and with dark, strangely appealing eyes.
  • The walls of both rooms were lined with bookcases, but their contents wer_idely diverse, and, to Darrell's surprise, he found the young girl's librar_ontained far the better class of books. But even in their selection h_bserved the same peculiarity that he had noted in the furnishing of the room;
  • there were few complete sets of books; instead, there were one, two, or thre_olumes of each author, as the case might be, evidently her especia_avorites.
  • But Darrell returned to the other room, which interested him far more, eac_rticle in it bearing eloquent testimony to the happy young life of whos_ragic end he had now often heard, but of which he was unable to recall th_aintest memory. Passing slowly through the room, his attention was caught b_ violin case standing in an out-of-the-way corner. With a cry of joy he dre_t forth, his fingers trembling with eagerness as he opened it and too_herefrom a genuine Stradivarius. At that moment his happiness knew no bounds.
  • Seating himself and bending his head over the instrument after the manner of _rue violin lover, he drew the bow gently across the strings, producing _hord of such triumphant sweetness that the air seemed vibrating with the jo_hich at that instant thrilled his own soul.
  • Immediately all thought of himself or of his surroundings was lost. With eye_alf closed and dreamy he began to play, without effort, almost mechanically,
  • but with the deft touch of a master hand, while liquid harmonies filled th_oom, quivering, rising, falling; at times low, plaintive, despairing; the_welling exultantly, only to die away in tremulous, minor undertones. Th_an's pent-up feelings had at last found expression,—his alternate hope an_espair, his unutterable loneliness and longing,—all voiced by the violin.
  • Of the lapse of time Darrell had neither thought nor consciousness until th_oor opened and Mrs. Dean's calm smile and matter-of-fact voice recalled hi_o a material world.
  • "I see that you have found Harry's violin," she said.
  • "I beg your pardon," Darrell stammered, somewhat dazed by his sudden descen_o the commonplace, "I ought not to have taken it; I never thought,—I was s_elighted to find the instrument and so carried away with its tones,—it neve_ccurred to me how it might seem to you!"
  • "Oh, that is all right," she interposed, quietly; "use it whenever you like.
  • Harry bought it two years ago, but he never had the patience to learn it, s_t has been used very little. I never heard such playing as yours, and _tepped in to ask you to bring it downstairs and play for us to-night. Mr.
  • Britton will be delighted; he enjoys everything of that sort."
  • Around the fireside that evening Darrell had an attentive audience, though th_ppreciation of his auditors was manifested in a manner characteristic o_ach. Mr. Underwood, after two or three futile attempts to talk business wit_is partner, finding him very uncommunicative, gave himself up to th_njoyment of his pipe and the music in about equal proportions, indulgin_urreptitiously in occasional brief naps, though always wide awake at the en_f each number and joining heartily in the applause.
  • Mrs. Dean sat gazing into the glowing embers, her face lighted with quie_leasure, but her knitting-needles twinkled and flashed in the firelight wit_he same unceasing regularity, and she doubled and seamed and "slipped an_ound" her stitches with the same monotonous precision as on other evenings.
  • Mr. Britton, in a comfortable reclining-chair, sat silent, motionless, hi_ead thrown back, his eyes nearly closed, but in the varying expression of hi_obile face Darrell found both inspiration and compensation.
  • For more than three hours Darrell entertained his friends; quaint medleys,
  • dreamy waltzes, and bits of classical music following one after another, wit_o effort, no hesitancy, on the part of the player. To their eager inquiries,
  • he could only answer,—
  • "I don't know how I do it. They seem to come to me with the sweep of the bo_cross the strings. I have no recollection of anything that I am playing; i_eems as though the instrument and I were simply drifting."
  • Late in the evening, when they were nearly ready to separate for the night,
  • Darrell sat idly strumming the violin, when an old familiar strain floate_weetly forth, and his astonished listeners suddenly heard him singing in _ich baritone an old love-song, forgotten until then by every one present.
  • Mrs. Dean had already laid aside her work and sat with hands folded, a smil_f unusual tenderness hovering about her lips, while Mr. Britton's face wa_uivering with emotion. At its conclusion he grasped Darrell's hand silently.
  • "That is a very old song," said Mrs. Dean. "It seems queer to hear you sin_t. I used to hear it sung when I was a young girl, and that," she adde_miling, "was a great many years ago."
  • "And I have sung it many a time a great many years ago," said Mr. Britton. An_e hastily left the room.