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Chapter 12 IN WHICH CASSANDRA HEARS THE VOICES, AND DAVID LEASES A FARM

  • That evening David sat long on his rock holding his flute and watching th_hin golden crescent of the new moon floating through a pale amber sky, an_ne star near its tip slowly sliding down with it toward the deepenin_orizon.
  • The glowing sky bending to the purple hilltops—the crescent moon and the lon_hining star—the evening breeze singing in the pines above him—the delicat_rbutus blossoms hiding near his feet—the call of a bird to its mate, and th_aint answering call from some distant shade—the call in his own heart that a_et returned to him unanswered, but with its quiet surety of ultimat_esponse—the joy of these moments perfect in beauty and a more abundan_ssurance of gladness near at hand—filled him and lifted his soul to follo_he star.
  • Guided by the unseen hand that held the earth, the crescent moon and the sta_o their orbits, would he find the great happiness that should be not hi_lone, but also for the eyes uplifted to the mountain top and the hear_aiting in the shadows for the one to be sent? Ah, surely, surely, for thi_ad he come. He stooped to the arbutus blossoms to inhale their fragrance. H_ose and, lifting his flute to his lips, played to solace his own waiting, inventing new caprices and tossing forth the note_aringly—delicately—rapturously—now penetrating and strong, now faintl_ollowing and scarcely heard, uttering a wordless gladness.
  • Under the great holly tree in the shadows Cassandra sat, watching, as h_atched, the crescent moon and the lone star sailing in the pale amber light, with the deepening purple mountain hiding the dim distance below them. Ofte_n the early evening when her mother and Hoyle were sleeping, she would clim_p here to pray for Frale that he might truly repent, and for herself that sh_ight be strong in her purpose to give up all her cherished hopes and plans, if thereby she might save him from his own wild, reckless self.
  • It was here his boy's passion had been revealed to her, and here she had see_im changed from boy to man, filled with a man's hunger for her, which had le_im to crime, and held him unrepentant and glad could he thus hold her hi_wn. She must give up the life she had hoped to lead and take upon her th_ife of the wife of Cain, to help him expiate his deed. For this must she bo_er head to the yoke her mother had borne before her. In the sadness of he_eart she said again and again: "Christ will understand. He was a man o_orrows and acquainted with grief! He will understand."
  • Again came to her, as they had often come of late, dropping down through th_till air, down through the leafless boughs like joyful hopes yet to b_ealized, the flute notes. What were they, those sweet sounds? She held he_reath and lifted her face toward the sky. Once, long ago in France, th_easant girl had heard the "Voices." Were they heavenly sweet, like thes_ounds? Did they drop from the sky and fill the air like these? Oh, why shoul_hey seem like hopes to her who had put away from her all hope? Were the_ringing hope to her who must rise to toil and lie down in weariness for labo_ever done; who must hold always with sorrowing heart and clinging hands t_he soul of a murderer—hold and cling, if haply she might save—and weep fo_hat which, for her, might never be? Were they bringing hope that she migh_et live gladly as the birds live; that she might go beyond that and live lik_hose who have no sin imposed on them, to walk with the gods, she knew no_ow, but to rise to things beyond her ken?
  • Down came the notes, sweet, shrill, white notes,—hurrying, drifting, lingering, calling her to follow; down on her heart with healing and comfor_hey fell, lightly as dew on flowers, sparkling with life, joy-giving an_ure.
  • Slowly she began climbing, listening, waiting, one step upward after another, following the sound. As if in a trance she moved. Below her the noise o_alling water made a murmuring accompaniment to the music dropping fro_bove—an earth-made accompaniment to heaven-sent melody, meeting and forming _erfect harmony in her heart as she climbed. Gradually the horror and th_orrow fell away from her even, as the soul shall one day shed its garment o_arth, until at last she stood alone and silent near David, etherealized i_he faint light to a spirit-like semblance of a woman.
  • With a glad pounding of his heart he sprang towards her. Scarcely conscious o_he act he held out both his arms, but she did not move. She stood silentl_egarding him, her hands dropped at her side, then with drooping head sh_urned and began wearily to descend the way she had come. He followed her an_ook her hand. She let it lie passively in his and walked on. He wished h_ight feel her fingers close warmly about his own, but no, they were cold. Sh_eemed wholly withdrawn from him, and her face bore the look of one who wa_alking in her sleep, yet he knew her to be awake.
  • "Miss Cassandra, speak to me," he begged, in quiet tones. "Don't walk awa_ntil you tell me why you came."
  • She seemed then to become aware that he was holding her by the hand an_ithdrew it, and in the faint light he thought she smiled. "It was jus_oolishness. You will laugh at me. I heard the music, and I thought it migh_e—you made it I reckon, but down there it sounded like it might be the
  • 'Voices.' You remember how they came to Joan of Arc, like we were reading las_eek?" She began to walk on more hurriedly.
  • "I will go down with you," he said, "you thought it might be the voices? Wha_id they say to you?"
  • "Oh, don't go with me. I never heed the dark."
  • "Won't you let me go with you? What did the flute say to you? Can't you tel_e?"
  • She laughed a little then. "It was only foolishness. I reckon the 'Voices'
  • never come these days. I have heard it before, but didn't know where it cam_rom. It just seemed to drop down from heaven like, and this time it seeme_ome different, as if it might be the 'Voices' calling. It was pretty, suh, far away and soft—like part—of everything. My father's playing sounded sa_ost times, like sweet crying, but this was more like sweet laughing. I neve_eard anything so glad like this was, so I tried to find it. Now I know it i_ou who make it I won't disturb you again, suh. Good evening." She hastene_way and was soon lost in the gloom.
  • David stood until he heard her footsteps no more, then turned and entered hi_abin, his mind and heart full of her. Surely he had called her, and the soun_f his call was to her like "sweet laughing." Her face and her quain_xpressions went with him into his dreams.
  • When he hurried down to the widow's place next morning, his mind filled wit_lans which he meant to carry out and was sure, with the boyish certainty o_is nature he could compass, he heard the voice of little Hoyle shrill_alling to old Pete: "Whoa, mule. Haw there. Haw there, mule. What ye goin'
  • that side fer; come 'round here."
  • Below the widow's house, the stream, after its riotous descent from the fall, meandered quietly through the rich bit of meadow and field, her inheritanc_or over a hundred years, establishing her claim to distinction among he_eighbors. Here Martha Caswell had lived with her mother and her two brother_ntil she married and went with her young husband over "t'other side Pisgah"; then her mother sent for them to return, begging her son-in-law to come an_are for the place. Her two sons, reckless and wild, were allowing the land t_un to waste, and the buildings to fall in pieces through neglect.
  • The daughter Martha, true to her name, was thrifty and careful, and under he_nfluence, her gentle dreamer of a husband, who cared more for his fiddle, hi_ooks, and his sermons, gradually redeemed the soil from weeds and th_uildings from dilapidation, until at last, with the proceeds of her weavin_nd his own hard labor, they saved enough to buy out the brothers' interests.
  • By that time the younger son had fallen a victim to his wild life, and th_ther moved down into the low country among his wife's people. Thus were th_erlins left alone on their primitive estate. Here they lived contentedly wit_assandra, their only child, and her father's constant companion, until th_ragedy which she had so simply related to David.
  • Her father's learning had been peculiar. Only a little classic lore, treasure_here schools were none and books were few, handed down from grandfather t_randson. His Greek he had learned from the two small books the widow had s_arefully preserved, their marginal notes his only lexicon. They and his Bibl_nd a copy of Bunyan's _Pilgrim's Progress_ were all that were left of hi_reasures. A teething puppy had torn his _Dialogues of Plato_ to shreds, an_hen his successor had come into the home, he had used the _Marcus Aurelius_or gun wadding, ere his wife's precaution of placing the padlock from th_oor on her mother's old linen chest.
  • To-day, as David passed the house, the old mother sat on her little porc_hurning butter in a small dasher churn. She was glad, as he could see, because she could do something once more.
  • "Now are you happy?" he called laughingly, as he paused beside her.
  • "Well, I be. Hit's been a right smart o' while since I been able to do a lic_' work. We sure do have a heap to thank you fer. Be Decatur Irwin as glad t_ose his foot as I be to git my laig back?" she queried whimsically; "I recko_ot."
  • "I reckon not, too, but with him it was a case of losing his life or his foot, while with you it was only a question of walking about, or being bedridden fo_he next twenty years."
  • "They be ignorant, them Irwins, an' she's more'n that, fer she's a fool. Sh_ome round yest'day wantin' to borry a hoe to fix up her gyarden patch, an'
  • she 'lowed ef you'n Cass had only lef' him be, he'd 'a' come through al_ight, fer hit war a-gettin' better the day you-uns took hit off. I told he_as, he'd 'a' come cl'ar through to the nex' world, like Farwell done. Whe_he misery left him, he up an' died, an' Lord knows whar he went."
  • "I'll get him an artificial foot as soon as he is able to wear one. He'll ge_n very well with a peg under his knee until then. What's Hoyle doing with th_ule?"
  • "He's rid'n' him fer Cass. She's tryin' to get the ground ready fer a crap.
  • Hit's all we can do. Our women nevah war used to do such work neither, but sh_ould try."
  • "What's that? Is she ploughing?" he asked sharply, and strode away.
  • "I reckon she don't want ye there, Doctah," the widow called after him, but h_alked on.
  • The land lay in a warm hollow completely surrounded by hills. It had been man_ears cleared, and the mellow soil was free from stumps and roots. When Thryn_rrived, three furrows had been run rather crookedly the length of the patch, and Cassandra stood surveying them ruefully, flushed and troubled, holding t_he handles of the small plough and struggling to set it straight for the nex_urrow.
  • The noise of the fall behind them covered his approach, and ere she was awar_e was at her side. Placing his two hands over hers which clung stubbornly t_he handles of the plough, he possessed himself of them. Laughingly he turne_er about after the short tussle, and looked down into her warm, flushed face.
  • Still holding her hands, he pulled her away from the plough to the grassy edg_f the field, leaving Hoyle waiting astride the mule.
  • "Whoa, mule. Stand still thar," he shrilled, as the beast sought to cross th_it of ploughed ground to reach the grass beyond.
  • "Let him eat a minute, Hoyle," said David. "Let him eat until I come. Now, Miss Cassandra, what does this mean? Do you think you can plough all tha_and? Is that it?"
  • "I must."
  • "You must not."
  • "There is no one else now. I must." He could feel her hands quiver in his, a_e forcibly held them, and knew from her panting breath how her heart wa_eating. She held her head high, nevertheless, and looked bravely back int_is eyes.
  • "You must let me—" he paused. Intuitively he knew he must not say as yet wha_e would. "Let me direct you a little. You have been most kind to me—and—it i_y place; I am a doctor, you know."
  • "If I were sick or hurt, I would give heed to you, I would do anything yo_ay; but I'm not, and this is laid on me to do. Leave go my hands, Docto_hryng."
  • "If you'll sit down here a moment and talk this thing out with me, I will. No_ell me first of all, why is this laid on you?"
  • "Frale is gone and it must be done, or we will have no crop, and then we mus_ell the animals, and then go down and live like poor white trash." Her low, passive monotone sounded like a moan of sorrow.
  • "You must hire some one to do this heavy work."
  • "Every one is working his own patch now, and—no, I have no money to hire with.
  • I reckon I've thought it all over every way, Doctor." She looked sadly down a_er hands and then up at the mountain top. "I know you think this is no wor_or a girl to do, and you are right. Our women never have done such. Only i_he war times my Grandmother Caswell did it, and I can now. A girl can do wha_he must. I have no way to turn but to live as my people have lived before me.
  • I thought once I might do different, go to school and keep separate—but—" Sh_pread out her hands with a hopeless gesture, and rose to resume her work.
  • "Give me a moment longer. I'm not through yet. That's right, now listen. I se_he truth of what you say, and I came down this morning to make a propositio_o your mother—not for your sake only—don't be afraid, for my own as well; bu_ didn't make it because I hadn't time. She told me what you were doing, and _urried off to stop you. Don't speak yet, let me finish. I feel I have th_ight, because I know—I know I was sent here just now for a purpose—guided t_ome here." He paused to allow his words to have their full weight. Whethe_he would perceive his meaning remained to be seen.
  • "I understand." She spoke quietly. "Doctor Hoyle sent you to be helped like h_as—and you have been right kind to more than us. You've helped that many i_eems like you were sent here for we-all as well as for your own sake, bu_hat can't help me now, Doctor; it—"
  • "Ah, yes it can. I'm far from well yet. I shall be, but I must stay on for _ong time, and I want some interest here. I want to see things of my ow_rowing. The ground up around my little cabin is stony and very poor, and _ant to rent this little farm of yours. Listen—I'll pay enough so you need no_ell your cattle, and you—you can go on with your weaving. You can work in th_ouse again as you have always done. Sometime, when your mother is stronger, you can take up your life again and go to school—as you meant to live—can'_ou?"
  • "That can never be now. If you take the farm or not, I must bide on here i_he old way. I must take up the life my mother lived and my grandmother, an_ers before her. It is mine, forever, to live it that way—or die."
  • "Why do you talk so?"
  • "God knows, but I can't tell you. Thank you, suh. I will be right glad to ren_ou the farm. I'd a heap rather you had it than any one else I ever knew, fo_e care more for it than you would guess, but for the rest—no. I must bide an_ork till I die; only maybe I can save little Hoyle and give him a chance t_earn something, for he never could work—being like he is."
  • Thryng's eyes danced with joy as he regarded her. "Hoyle is not going to b_lways as he is, and he shall have the chance to learn something also. Loo_p, Miss Cassandra, look squarely into my eyes and laugh. Be happy, Mis_assandra, and laugh. I say it."
  • She laughed softly then. She could not help it.
  • "Wasn't that what the 'Voices' were saying last night when you followed?"
  • "Yes, yes. They seemed like they were calling, 'Hope, hope,' but they were no_he real 'Voices.' You made it."
  • "Yes, I made it; and I was truly calling that to you. And you replied; yo_ame to me."
  • "Ah, but that is different from the 'Voices' she heard."
  • "But if they called the truth to you—what then?"
  • "Doctah, there is no longer any hope for me. God called me and let me cut of_ll hope, once. I did it, and now, only death can change it."
  • "If I believe you, you must believe me. We won't talk of it any more. I'_ungry. Your mother was churning up there; let's go and get some buttermilk, and settle the business of the rent. You've run three good furrows and I'l_un three more beside them—my first, remember, in all my life. Then we'l_lant that strip to sunflowers. Come, Hoyle, tie the mule and follow us."
  • So David carried his way. They walked merrily back to the house, chattering o_is plans and what he would raise. He knew nothing whatever of the sort o_rops to be raised, and she was naïvely gay at his expense, a mood he wa_verjoyed to awaken in her. He vowed that merely to walk over ploughed groun_ade a man stronger.
  • On the porch he sat and drank his buttermilk and, placing his paper on th_tep, drew up a contract for rent. Then Cassandra went to her weaving, and h_nd Hoyle returned to the field, where with much labor he succeeded in turnin_hree furrows beside Cassandra's, rather crooked and uncertain ones, it i_rue, but quite as good as hers, as Hoyle reluctantly admitted, which serve_o give David a higher respect for farmers in general and ploughme_specially.