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- Spring Days - 56/56 -


"But you couldn't have really loved her; if you had you would never--"

"Yes, I did love her."

"I heard from my father to-day. Maggie is better. This is, of course, a very delicate question, but we have been friends so long--would you like me to see if--if this matter could be arranged? I don't like, as you know, to meddle in other people's affairs, I have quite enough to do to look after my own; but if you would like--You, of course, do not think of marrying Lizzie Baker?"

"Of course not."

"Then you would like me to speak to my father? Are you willing? Would you like to marry Maggie?"

"Yes, of course I should."

"I don't say so because she is my sister, but I think it is the best thing you could do."

They had traversed the paddock, and were close to the stables. Picking a few carrots out of a heap, they opened the door of Blue Mantle's box. The horse came towards them, his large eyes glancing, his beautiful crest arched. His coat shone like satin, his legs were as fine as steel, and with exquisite relish he drew the carrots from their hands.

The perspective of the hills was prolonged upon fading tints, and in the pale blueness the mares feeding in the paddocks grew strangely solitary and distinct; the trees about the coast towns were blended in shadow, and out of the first stars fell a quiet peace.

Their dinner awaited them--a little dinner, simple and humble. After dinner, when the lamp was brought in, Willy nursed the missus with affection and sincerity. Cissy sat on Frank's knee, and he told her stories and stroked her hair. This household retired at eleven. At ten every morning Willy was busy with his letters, his cheques, his accounts, and in the afternoon the young men walked about the fields talking of possible successes of the forthcoming breeding season, and so the days went. But the secret forces were busy about Frank's life. There were mines and counter-mines. Every fort of prejudice, every citadel of reason rested now upon foundations that quaked, and would fall at the first shock. Doom was about him. As the silence rustles in the deadly hush of the storm that brings winter upon the forest, he waited unconscious as a leaf in the imminence of the autumn moment; and in such a stillness, awaiting a change of soul, he received a letter from Lizzie. It dropped from his hand, and such desire to go as comes on swallow and cuckoo came on him; he struggled for a moment, and was sucked down in his passion.

The little village--a summary of English life and custom, a symbol of the Saxon, the church steeple pointing through the elm trees, the villas with their various embellishment in the line of glass porticos and privet hedges, the General, Mrs. Horlick, Messrs Brookes and Berkins--how complete it seemed, how individual and how synthetical-- his eyes filled with tears of unpremeditated grief. The leaves were falling, the hills were shrouded in wreaths of floating mist. Some trees had been cut down and scaffolding had been reared about the Manor House, some of the walls had already fallen revealing the wall paper, the pattern of which he could almost distinguish. He was going to the woman he loved, but he was leaving his youth behind, and those whom he had known as children, as girls, as women; he remembered all the gossip, all the quarrels, all the to-do about nothing; and now, looking on the beautiful garden where he had played and passioned in all varying moments of grief and glee, he re-lived the past; and leaning out of the carriage window he gazed fondly, and cried out: "Alas, those were Spring Days."

THE END


Spring Days - 56/56

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