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Chapter 29 AND SO THE LIGHT LED ME

  • 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.
  • “Yes.”
  • “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!”
  • “Oh, please—!”
  • 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—”
  • “Yes.”
  • “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.