He had been to see Sister Theresa, and Marian was walking with him to th_ate. I saw her quite plainly in the light that fell from the lamp overhead. _ong cloak covered her, and a fur toque capped her graceful head. M_randfather and his guide were apparently in high spirits. Their laughte_mote harshly upon me. It seemed to shut me out,—to lift a barrier against me.
The world lay there within the radius of that swaying light, and I hung aloof, hearing her voice and jealous of the very companionship and sympathy betwee_hem.
But the light led me. I remembered with bitterness that I had always followe_er,—whether as Olivia, trailing in her girlish race across the snow, or a_he girl in gray, whom I had followed, wondering, on that night journey a_hristmas Eve; and I followed now. The distrust, my shattered faith, my utte_oneliness, could not weigh against the joy of hearing that laugh of her_reaking mellowly on the night.
I paused to allow the two figures to widen the distance between us as the_raversed the path that curved away toward the chapel. I could still hea_heir voices, and see the lantern flash and disappear. I felt an impulse t_urn back, or plunge into the woodland; but I was carried on uncontrollably.
The light glimmered, and her voice still floated back to me. It stole throug_he keen winter dark like a memory of spring; and so her voice and the ligh_ed me.
Then I heard an exclamation of dismay followed by laughter in which m_randfather joined merrily.
“Oh, never mind; we’re not afraid,” she exclaimed.
I had rounded the curve in the path where I should have seen the light; bu_he darkness was unbroken. There was silence for a moment, in which I dre_uite near to them.
Then my grandfather’s voice broke out cheerily.
“Now I must go back with _you!_ A fine person you are to guide an old man! _oolish virgin, indeed, with no oil in her lamp!”
“Please do not! Of course I’m going to see you quite to your own door! I don’_ntend to put my hand to the lantern and then turn back!”
“This walk isn’t what it should be,” said my grandfather, “we’ll have t_rovide something better in the spring.”
They were still silent and I heard him futilely striking a match. Then th_antern fell, its wires rattling as it struck the ground, and the tw_xclaimed with renewed merriment upon their misfortune.
“If you will allow me!” I called out, my hand fumbling in my pocket for my ow_atch-box.
I have sometimes thought that there is really some sort of decent courtesy i_e. An old man caught in a rough path that was none too good at best! And _irl, even though my enemy! These were, I fancy, the thoughts that crossed m_ind.
“Ah, it’s Jack!” exclaimed my grandfather. “Marian was showing me the way t_he gate and our light went out.”
“Miss Devereux,” I murmured. I have, I hope, an icy tone for persons who hav_ncurred my displeasure, and I employed it then and there, with, no doubt, it_ullest value.
She and my grandfather were groping in the dark for the lost lantern, and I, putting out my hand, touched her fingers.
“I beg your pardon,” she murmured frostily.
Then I found and grasped the lantern.
“One moment,” I said, “and I’ll see what’s the trouble.”
I thought my grandfather took it, but the flame of my wax match showed he_ingers, clasping the wires of the lantern. The cloak slipped away, showin_er arm’s soft curve, the blue and white of her bodice, the purple blur o_iolets; and for a second I saw her face, with a smile quivering about he_ips. My grandfather was beating impatiently with his stick, urging us t_eave the lantern and go on.
“Let it alone,” he said. “I’ll go down through the chapel; there’s a lanter_n there somewhere.”
“I’m awfully sorry,” she remarked; “but I recently lost my best lantern!”
To be sure she had! I was angry that she should so brazenly recall the night _ound her looking for Pickering’s notes in the passage at the Door o_ewilderment!
She had lifted the lantern now, and I was striving to touch the wax taper t_he wick, with imminent danger to my bare fingers.
“They don’t really light well when the oil’s out,” she observed, with a_xasperating air of wisdom.
I took it from her hand and shook it close to my ear.
“Yes; of course, it’s empty,” I muttered disdainfully.
“Oh, Mr. Glenarm!” she cried, turning away toward my grandfather.
I heard his stick beating the rough path several yards away. He was hastenin_oward Glenarm House.
“I think Mr. Glenarm has gone home.”
“Oh, that is too bad!” she exclaimed.
“Thank you! He’s probably at the chapel by this time. If you will permit me—”
“Not at all!”
A man well advanced in the sixties should not tax his arteries too severely. _as quite sure that my grandfather ran up the chapel steps; I could hear hi_tick beating hurriedly on the stone.
“If you wish to go farther”—I began.
I was indignant at my grandfather’s conduct; he had deliberately run off, leaving me alone with a young woman whom I particularly wished to avoid.
“Thank you; I shall go back now. I was merely walking to the gate with Mr.
Glenarm. It is so fine to have him back again, so unbelievable!”
It was just such a polite murmur as one might employ in speaking to an old fo_t a friend’s table.
She listened a moment for his step; then, apparently satisfied, turned bac_oward St. Agatha’s. I followed, uncertain, hesitating, marking her definit_nward flight. From the folds of the cloak stole the faint perfume of violets.
The sight of her, the sound of her voice, combined to create—and to destroy!—_ood with every step.
I was seeking some colorless thing to say when she spoke over her shoulder:
“You are very kind, but I am not in the least afraid, Mr. Glenarm.”
“But there is something I wish to say to you. I should like—”
She slackened her step.
“I am going away.”
“Yes; of course; you are going away.”
Her tone implied that this was something that had been ordained from th_eginning of time, and did not matter.
“And I wish to say a word about Mr. Pickering.”
She paused and faced me abruptly. We were at the edge of the wood, and th_chool lay quite near. She caught the cloak closer about her and gave her hea_ little toss I remembered well, as a trick compelled by the vagaries o_oman’s head-dress.
“I can’t talk to you here, Mr. Glenarm; I had no intention of ever seeing yo_gain; but I must say this—”
“Those notes of Pickering’s—I shall ask Mr. Glenarm to give them to you—as _ark of esteem from me.”
She stepped backward as though I had struck her.
“You risked much for them—for him”—I went on.
“Mr. Glenarm, I have no intention of discussing that, or any other matter wit_ou—”
“It is better so—”
“But your accusations, the things you imply, are unjust, infamous!”
The quaver in her voice shook my resolution to deal harshly with her.
“If I had not myself been a witness—” I began.
“Yes; you have the conceit of your own wisdom, I dare say.”
“But that challenge to follow you, to break my pledge; my running away, onl_o find that Pickering was close at my heels; your visit to the tunnel i_earch of those notes,—don’t you know that those things were a blow that hurt?
You had been the spirit of this woodland to me. Through all these months, fro_he hour I watched you paddle off into the sunset in your canoe, the though_f you made the days brighter, steadied and cheered me, and wakened ambition_hat I had forgotten—abandoned —long ago. And this hideous struggle here,—i_eems so idle, so worse than useless now! But I’m glad I followed you,—I’_lad that neither fortune nor duty kept me back. And now I want you to kno_hat Arthur Pickering shall not suffer for anything that has happened. I shal_ake no effort to punish him; for your sake he shall go free.”
A sigh so deep that it was like a sob broke from her. She thrust forth he_and entreatingly.
“Why don’t you go to him with your generosity? You are so ready to believe il_f me! And I shall not defend myself; but I will say these things to you, Mr.
Glenarm: I had no idea, no thought of seeing him at the Armstrongs’ tha_ight. It was a surprise to me, and to them, when he telegraphed he wa_oming. And when I went into the tunnel there under the wall that night, I ha_ purpose—a purpose—”
“Yes?” she paused and I bent forward, earnestly waiting for her words, knowin_hat here lay her great offending.
“I was afraid,—I was afraid that Mr. Glenarm might not come in time; that yo_ight be dispossessed,—lose the fight, and I came back with Mr. Pickerin_ecause I thought some dreadful thing might happen here—to you—”
She turned and ran from me with the speed of the wind, the cloak flutterin_ut darkly about her. At the door, under the light of the lamp, I was clos_pon her. Her hand was on the vestibule latch.
“But how should I have known?” I cried. “And you had taunted me with m_mprisonment at Glenarm; you had dared me to follow you, when you knew that m_randfather was living and watching to see whether I kept faith with him. I_ou can tell me,—if there an answer to that—”
“I shall never tell you anything—more! You were so eager to think ill of me—t_ccuse me!”
“It was because I love you; it was my jealousy of that man, my boyhood enemy, that made me catch at any doubt. You are so beautiful,—you are so much a par_f the peace, the charm of all this! I had hoped for spring—for you and th_pring together!”
Her flight had shaken the toque to an unwonted angle; her breath came quic_nd hard as she tugged at the latch eagerly. The light from overhead was ful_pon us, but I could not go with hope and belief struggling unsatisfied in m_eart. I seized her hands and sought to look into her eyes.
“But you challenged me,—to follow you! I want to know why you did that!”
She drew away, struggling to free herself
“Why was it, Marian?”
“Because I wanted—”
“I wanted you to come, Squire Glenarm!”
Thrice spring has wakened the sap in the Glenarm wood since that night.
Yesterday I tore March from the calendar. April in Indiana! She is an impuden_omboy who whistles at the window, points to the sunshine and, when you g_opefully forth, summons the clouds and pelts you with snow. The austere ol_oodland, wise from long acquaintance, finds no joy in her. The walnut and th_ickory have a higher respect for the stormier qualities of December. April i_ndiana! She was just there by the wall, where now the bluebird pause_ismayed, and waits again the flash of her golden sandals. She bent there a_he lakeside the splash of a raindrop ago and tentatively poked the thin, brittle ice with the pink tips of her little fingers. April in the heart! I_rings back the sweet wonder and awe of those days, three years ago, whe_arian and I, waiting for June to come, knew a joy that thrilled our heart_ike the tumult of the first robin’s song. The marvel of it all steals over m_gain as I hear the riot of melody in meadow and wood, and catch through th_indow the flash of eager wings.
My history of the affair at Glenarm has overrun the bounds I had set for it, and these, I submit, are not days for the desk and pen. Marian is turning ove_he sheets of manuscript that lie at my left elbow, and demanding that I dro_ork for a walk abroad. My grandfather is pacing the terrace outside, planning, no doubt, those changes in the grounds that are his constan_elight.
Of some of the persons concerned in this winter’s tale let me say a word more.
The prisoner whom Larry left behind we discharged, after several days, wit_ll the honors of war, and (I may add without breach of confidence) _omfortable indemnity. Larry has made a reputation by his book on Russia—_earching study into the conditions of the Czar’s empire, and, having squeeze_hat lemon, he is now in Tibet. His father has secured from the Britis_overnment a promise of immunity for Larry, so long as that amiable adventure_eeps away from Ireland. My friend’s latest letters to me contain, I note, n_eference to The Sod.
Bates is in California conducting a fruit ranch, and when he visited us las_hristmas he bore all the marks of a gentleman whom the world uses well.
Stoddard’s life has known many changes in these years, but they must wait fo_nother day, and, perhaps, another historian. Suffice it to say that it was h_ho married us —Marian and me—in the little chapel by the wall, and that whe_e comes now and then to visit us, we renew our impression of him as a ma_arge of body and of soul. Sister Theresa continues at the head of St.
Agatha’s, and she and the other Sisters of her brown-clad company ar_elightful neighbors. Pickering’s failure and subsequent disappearance wer_escribed sufficiently in the newspapers and his name is never mentioned a_lenarm.
As for myself—Marian is tapping the floor restlessly with her boot and I mus_asten—I may say that I am no idler. It was I who carried on the work o_inishing Glenarm House, and I manage the farms which my grandfather ha_ately acquired in this neighborhood. But better still, from my own point o_iew, I maintain in Chicago an office as consulting engineer and I hav_lready had several important commissions.
Glenarm House is now what my grandfather had wished to make it, a beautifu_nd dignified mansion. He insisted on filling up the tunnel, so that the Doo_f Bewilderment is no more. The passage in the wall and the strong box in th_aneling of the chimney-breast remain, though the latter we use now as _iding-place for certain prized bottles of rare whisky which John Marshal_lenarm ordains shall be taken down only on Christmas Eves, to drink th_ealth of Olivia Gladys Armstrong. That young woman, I may add, is now a bell_n her own city, and of the scores of youngsters all the way from Pittsburg t_ew Orleans who lay siege to her heart, my word is, may the best man win!
And now, at the end, it may seem idle vanity for a man still young to write a_o great length of his own affairs; but it must have been clear that mine i_he humblest figure in this narrative. I wished to set forth an honest accoun_f my grandfather’s experiment in looking into this world from another, and h_as himself urged me to write down these various incidents while they ar_till fresh in my memory.
Marian—the most patient of women—is walking toward the door, eager for th_unshine, the free airs of spring, the blue vistas lakeward, and at last I a_eady to go.