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.