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- Dr. Heidenhoff's Process - 4/18 -
was a gentle, mild-mannered little lady, such a contrast in style and character to Madeline that there was a certain amusing fitness in the latter's habit of calling her "My baby."
"You have a very pleasant day for your picnic, Mr. Burr," said she.
"Yes, we are very lucky," replied Henry, his eyes following Madeline's movements as she stood before the glass, putting on her hat, which had a red feather in it.
To have her thus add the last touches to her toilet in his presence was a suggestion of familiarity, of domesticity, that was very intoxicating to his imagination.
"Is your father well?" inquired Mrs. Brand, affably.
"Very well, thank you, very well indeed," he replied
"There; now I'm ready," said Madeline. "Here's the basket, Henry. Good-bye, mother."
They were a well-matched pair, the stalwart young man and the tall, graceful girl, and it is no wonder the girl's mother stood in the door looking after them with a thoughtful smile.
Hemlock Hollow was a glen between wooded bluffs, about a mile up the beautiful river on which Newville was situated, and boats had been collected at the rendezvous on the river-bank to convey the picnickers thither. On arriving, Madeline and Henry found all the party assembled and in capital spirits; There was still just enough shadow on their merriment to leave the disposition to laugh slightly in excess of its indulgence, than which no condition of mind more favourable to a good time can be imagined.
Laura was there, and to her Will Taylor had attached himself. He was a dapper little black-eyed fellow, a clerk in the dry-goods store, full of fun and good-nature, and a general favourite, but it was certainly rather absurd that Henry should be apprehensive of him as a rival. There also was Fanny Miller, who had the prettiest arm in Newville, a fact discovered once when she wore a Martha Washington toilet at a masquerade sociable, and since circulated from mouth to mouth among the young men. And there, too, was Emily Hunt, who had shocked the girls and thrown the youth into a pleasing panic by appearing at a young people's party the previous winter in low neck and short sleeves. It is to be remarked in extenuation that she had then but recently come from the city, and was not familiar with Newville etiquette. Nor must I forget to mention Ida Lewis, the minister's daughter, a little girl with poor complexion and beautiful brown eyes, who cherished a hopeless passion for Henry. Among the young men was Harry Tuttle, the clerk in the confectionery and fancy goods store, a young man whose father had once sent him for a term to a neighbouring seminary, as a result of which classical experience he still retained a certain jaunty student air verging on the rakish, that was admired by the girls and envied by the young men.
And there, above all, was Tom Longman. Tom was a big, hulking fellow, good-natured and simple-hearted in the extreme. He was the victim of an intense susceptibility to the girls' charms, joined with an intolerable shyness and self-consciousness when in their presence. From this consuming embarrassment he would seek relief by working like a horse whenever there was anything to do. With his hands occupied he had an excuse for not talking to the girls or being addressed by them, and, thus shielded from the, direct rays of their society, basked with inexpressible emotions in the general atmosphere of sweetness and light which they diffused. He liked picnics because there was much work to do, and never attended indoor parties because there was none. This inordinate taste for industry in connection with social enjoyment on Tom's part was strongly encouraged by the other young men, and they were the ones who always stipulated that he should be of the party when there was likely to be any call for rowing, taking care of horses, carrying of loads, putting out of croquet sets, or other manual exertion. He was generally an odd one in such companies. It would be no kindness to provide him a partner, and, besides, everybody made so many jokes about him that none of the girls quite cared to have their names coupled with his, although they all had a compassionate liking for him.
On the present occasion this poor slave of the petticoat had been at work preparing the boats all the morning.
"Why, how nicely you have arranged everything!" said Madeline kindly, as she stood on the sand waiting for Henry to bring up a boat.
"What?" replied Tom, laughing in a flustered way.
He always laughed just so and said "what?" when any of the girls spoke to him, being too much confused by the fact of being addressed to catch what was said the first time.
"It's very good of you to arrange the boats for us, Madeline repeated.
"Oh, 'tain't anything, 'tain't anything at all," he blurted out, with a very red face.
"You are going up in our boat, ain't you, Longman?" said Harry Tuttle.
"No, Tom, you're going with us," cried another young man.
"He's going with us, like a sensible fellow," said Will Taylor, who, with Laura Burr, was sitting on the forward thwart of the boat, into the stern of which Henry was now assisting Madeline.
"Tom, these lazy young men are just wanting you to do their rowing for them," said she. "Get into our boat, and I'll make Henry row you."
"What do you say to that, Henry?" said Tom, snickering.
"It isn't for me to say anything after Madeline has spoken," replied the young man.
"She has him in good subjection," remarked Ida Lewis, not over-sweetly.
"All right, I'll come in your boat, Miss Brand, if you'll take care of me," said Tom, with a sudden spasm of boldness, followed by violent blushes at the thought that perhaps be had said something too free. The boat was pushed off. Nobody took the oars.
"I thought you were going to row?" said Madeline, turning to Henry, who sat beside her in the stern.
"Certainly," said he, making as if he would rise. "Tom, you just sit here while I row."
"Oh no, I'd just as lief row," said Tom, seizing the oars with feverish haste.
"So would I, Tom; I want a little exercise," urged Henry with a hypocritical grin, as he stood up in an attitude of readiness.
"Oh, I like to row. 'I'd a great deal rather. Honestly," asseverated Tom, as he made the water foam with the violence of his strokes, compelling Henry to resume his seat to preserve his equilibrium.
"It's perfectly plain that you don't want to sit by me, Tom. That hurts my feelings," said Madeline, pretending to pout.
"Oh no, it isn't that," protested Tom. "Only I'd rather row; that is, I mean, you know, it's such fun rowing."
"Very well, then," said Madeline, "I sha'n't help you any more; and here they all are tying their boats on to ours."
Sure enough, one of the other boats had fastened its chain to the stern of theirs, and the others had fastened to that; their oarsmen were lying off and Tom was propelling the entire flotilla.
"Oh, I can row 'em all just as easy's not," gasped the devoted youth, the perspiration rolling down his forehead.
But this was a little too bad, and Henry soon cast off the other boats, in spite of the protests of their occupants, who regarded Tom's brawn and muscle as the common stock of the entire party, which no one boat had a right to appropriate.
On reaching Hemlock Hollow, Madeline asked the poor young man for his hat, and returned it to him adorned with evergreens, which nearly distracted him with bashfulness and delight, and drove him to seek a safety-valve for his excitement in superhuman activity all the rest of the morning, arranging croquet sets, hanging swings, breaking ice, squeezing lemons, and fetching water.
"Oh, how thirsty I am!" sighed Madeline, throwing down her croquet mallet.
"The ice-water is not yet ready, but I know a spring a little way off where the water is cold as ice," said Henry.
"Show it to me this instant," she cried, and they walked off together, followed by Ida Lewis's unhappy eyes.
The distance to the spring was not great, but the way was rough, and once or twice he had to help her over fallen trees and steep banks. Once she slipped a little, and for, a single supreme moment he held her whole weight in his arms. Before, they had been talking and laughing gaily, but that made a sudden silence. He dared not look at her for some moments, and when he did there was a slight flush tingeing her usually colourless cheek.
His pulses were already bounding wildly, and, at this betrayal that she had shared his consciousness at that moment, his agitation was tenfold increased. It was the first time she had ever shown a sign of confusion in his presence. The sensation of mastery, of power over her, which it gave, was so utterly new that it put a sort of madness in his blood. Without a word they came to the spring and pretended to drink. As she turned to go back, he lightly caught her fingers in a detaining clasp, and said, in a voice rendered harsh by suppressed emotion--
"Don't be in such a hurry. Where will you find a cooler spot?"
"Oh, it's cool enough anywhere! Let's go back," she replied, starting to return as she spoke. She saw his excitement, and, being herself a little confused, had no idea of allowing a scene to be precipitated just then. She flitted on before with so light a foot that he did not overtake her until she came to a bank too steep for her to surmount without aid. He sprang up and extended her his hand. Assuming an expression as if she were unconscious who was helping her, she took it, and he drew her up to his side. Then with a sudden, audacious impulse, half hoping she would not be angry, half reckless if she were, he clasped her closely in his arms, and kissed her lips. She gasped, and freed herself.
"How dared you do such a thing to me?" she cried.
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