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- Wild Youth, Volume 2. - 12/12 -
the meetin'. Watch me now, I'll tell you how it was. She was sittin' on a bench in the gardin, lookin' in front of her and seein' nothin' but what was in her mind's eye, and who can tell what she would be seein'! There she sat sweet as a saint, very straight up, the palms of her hands laid on the bench on either side, as though they was supporfin' her--like a statue she looked. I watched her manny a minute, but she niver moved. Well, there she was, lookin'--lookin' in front o' her, whin round the big tree in the middle of the gardin he come and stood forninst her. They just looked and looked at each other without a word. Like months it seemed. They looked, and looked, as though they was tryin' to read some story in each other's eyes, and then she give a kind of joyful moan, and intil his arms she went like a nestlin' bird.
"He raised up her head, and-well, now, y'r anner, I niver saw anything I liked better. There niver had been a girl in his life, and there niver was a man in hers--not one that mattered, till they two took up with each other, and it's a thing--well, y'r anner, I'd be a proud man if I could write it down. It's a story that'd take its place beside the ancient ones."
The Young Doctor looked at Patsy meditatively. "Patsy," said he, "the difference between the north and the south of Ireland is that in the south they are all poets--" He paused.
"Well, you haven't finished, y 'r anner," said Kernaghan.
"And in the north they think they are," continued the Young Doctor. "I'd like to see those two as your eyes in front of your mind saw them, Patsy."
"Aw, well then, you couldn't do it, Doctor dear, for you've niver been in love. Shure, there's no heart till ye !" answered the Irishman, and took another pinch of snuff with a flourish.
Flamingo-like in her bright-coloured, figured gown, with a wild flower in her hair and her gray curls dancing gently at her temples, a little old lady trotted up and down the big sitting-room of Slow Down Ranch, talking volubly and insistently. One ironically minded would have said she chirruped, for her words came out in not unmusical, if staccato, notes, and she shook her shrivelled, ringed fingers reprovingly at a stalwart young man.
Once or twice, as she seemed to threaten him with what the poet called "The slow, unmoving finger of scorn," he giggled. It was evident that he was at once amused and troubled. This voice had cherished and chided him all his life, and he could measure accurately what was behind it. It was a wilful voice. It had the insistance which power gives, and to a woman --or to most women--power is either money or beauty, since, in the world as it is, office and authority are denied them. Beauty was gone from the face of the ancient dame, but she still had much money, and, on rare occasions, it gave her a little arrogance. It did so now as she admonished her beloved son, who at any time would have renounced fortune, or hope of fortune, for some wilful idea of his own. A less sordid modern did not exist.
He was not very effective in the contest of tongue between his mother and himself. As the talk went on he foresaw that he was to be beaten; yet he persisted, for he loved a joy-wrangle, as he called it, with his mother. He had argued with her many a time, just to see her in a harmless passion, and note how the youth of her came back, giving high colour to the wrinkled face, and how the eyes shone with a brightness which had been constant in them long ago. They were now quarrelling over that ever-fruitful cause of antagonism--the second woman in the life of a man. Yet, strange to say, the flamingo-like Eugenie Guise, was fighting for the second woman, not against her.
"I'll say it all again and again and again till you have sense, Orlando," she declared. "Your old mother hasn't lived all these years for nothing. I'm not thinking of you; I'm thinking of her." She pointed towards the door of another room, from which came sounds of laughter--happy laughter --in which a man's and a woman's voices sounded. "On the day she comes into this house--and that's the day after to-morrow--I shall go. I'll stand at the door and welcome you, and see you have a good wedding- breakfast and that it all goes off grand, then I shall vanish."
Orlando made a helpless gesture of the hand. "Well, mother, as I said, it will make us both unhappy--Louise as much as me. You and I have never been parted except for a few weeks at a time, and I'm sure I don't know how I could stand it."
"Rather late to think about it," the other returned. "You can't have two women spoiling you in one house and being jealous of each other--oh, you needn't toss your fingers! Even two women that love each other can't bear the competition. Just because I love her and want her to be happy, off I go to your Aunt Amelia to live with her. She's poor, and I'll still have someone to boss as I've bossed you. I never knew how much I loved Amelia till she got sick last year when everything terrible was happening here. I'm going, Orlando--
Two birds hopping on one branch Would kill the joy of Slow Down Ranch--
"There, I made that up on the moment. It's true, even if it is poetry."
"It isn't poetry, mother," was the reply, and there was an ironical look in Orlando's eyes. "Poetry's the truth of life," he hastened to add carefully, "and it's not poetry to say that you could be a kill-joy."
The little lady tossed her head. "Well, you'll never have a chance to prove it, for I'm taking the express east on the night of your wedding. That's settled. Amelia needs me, and I'm going to her. . . . Your wedding present will be the ranch and a hundred thousand dollars," she added.
"You're the sun-dried fruit of Paradise, Mother," Orlando said, taking her by the arms.
"I heard the Young Doctor call me a bird of Paradise once," she returned. "People don't know how sharp my ears are. . . . But I never stored it up against him. Taste is born in you, and if people haven't got it in the cradle, they never have it. I suppose his mother went around in a black alpaca and wore her hair like a wardress in a jail. I'm sorry for him--that's all."
"Suppose I should get homesick for you and run away from her!" remarked Orlando slyly.
"Run away with her to me," chirruped Eugenie, with a vain little laugh.
Suddenly her manner changed, and she looked at her son with dreamy intensity. "You are so wonderfully young, my dear," she said, "and I am very old. I had much happiness with your father while he lived. He was such a wise man. Always he gave in to me in the little things, and I gave in to him in all the big things. He almost made me a sensible woman."
There was a strange wistfulness in her face. Through all the years, down beneath everything, there had been the helpless knowledge in her own small, garish mind that she had little sense; now she realized that she was given a chance to atone for all her pettiness by doing one great sensible thing.
Orlando was about to embrace her, but she briskly, turned away. She could not endure that. If he did it, the pent-up motherhood would break forth, and her courage would take flight. She was something more than the "parokeet of Pernambukoko," as Patsy Kernaghan had called her.
She went to the door of the other room. "I want to talk to the Young Doctor about Amelia," she said. "He's clever, and perhaps he could give her a good prescription. I'll send Louise to you. It's nicer courting in this room where you can see the garden and the grand hills. You're going to give Louise the little gray mare you lassooed last year, aren't you? I always think of Louise when I look at that gray mare. You had to break the pony's heart before she could be what she is--the nicest little thing that ever was broken by a man's hand; and Louise, she had to have her heart broken too. Your father and I were almost of an age--he was two years older, and we had our youth together. And you and Louise are so wonderfully young, too. Be good to her, son. She's never been married. She was only in prison with that old lizard. What a horrible mouth he had! It's shut now," she added remorselessly. Opening the door of the other room, she disappeared.
A moment later, Louise entered upon Orlando.
The vanished months had worked wonders in her. She was like the young summer beyond the open windows, alive to her finger-tips, shyly radiant, with shining eyes, yet in their depths an alluring pensiveness never to leave them altogether. Knowledge had come to her; an apprehending soul was speaking in her face. The sweetness of her smile, as she looked at the man before her, was such as could only be distilled from the bitter herbs of the desert.
"Oh, Orlando!" she said joyously, as she came forward.
*END THE SMALL PRINT! FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN EBOOKS*Ver.02/11/02*END*
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