Изображения страниц

a young fawn, Nancy swept down the middle of the barn floor like a flower borne by the breeze. She was Youth, Hope, Joy incarnate! She had washed the dishes that night, would wash them again in the morning, but what of that? What mattered it that the years just ahead (for aught she knew to the contrary) were full of self-denial and economy? Was she not seventeen? Anything was possible at seventeen! What if the world was to be a work-a-day world? There was music and laughter in it as well as work, and there was love in it, too, oceans of love, so why not trip and be merry and guide one's young partner safely through the difficult mazes of the dance and bring him out flushed and triumphant, to receive mother's laughing compliments?

Everybody was dancing The Tempest in his or her own fashion, thought the Admiral, looking on. Mrs. Popham was grave, even gloomy from the waist up, but incredibly lively from the waist down, moving with the precision of machinery, while her partner, a bricklayer from Beulah Centre, engaged the attention of the entire company by his wonderful steps. She was fully up to time too, you may be sure, as her rival, Mrs. Bill Harmon, was opposite her in the set. Lallie Joy, clad in one of Kathleen's dresses, her hair dressed by Julia, was a daily attendant at the Vacation

School, but five weeks of steady instruction had not sufficed to make her sure of ladies' grand chain. Olive moved like a shy little wild thing, with a bending head and a grace all her own, while Gilbert had great ease and distinction.

There was a brief interval for ice cream, accompanied by marble cake, gold cake, silver cake, election cake, sponge cake, cup cake, citron cake, and White Mountain cake, and while it was being eaten, Susie Bennett played The Sliding Waltz, The Maiden's Prayer, and Listen to the Mocking Bird with variations; variations requiring almost supernatural celerity.

"I guess there ain't many that can touch Sutey at the piano!" said Osh Popham, who sat beside the Admiral. "Have you seen anybody in the cities that could play any faster 'n she can? And do you ever ketch her landin' on a black note when she started for a white one? I guess not!"

"You are right!" replied the Admiral, "and now there seems to be a general demand for you. What are they requesting you to do, -fly?"

"That's it," said Osh. "Mis' Carey, will you play for me? Maria, you can go into the carriage house if you don't want to be disgraced."

"Come, my beloved, haste away,
Cut short the hours of thy delay.
Fly like a youthful hart or roe

Over the hills where spices grow."

At length the strains of the favorite old tune faded on the ears of the delighted audience. Then they had The Portland Fancy and The Irish Washerwoman and The College Hornpipe, and at last the clock in the carriage house struck midnight and the guests departed in groups of twos and threes and fours, their cheerful voices sounding far down the village street.

Osh Popham stayed behind to cover the piano, put out the lanterns, close the doors and windows, and lock the barn, while Mrs. Carey and the Admiral strolled slowly along the greensward to the side door of the house.

"Good-night," Osh called happily as he passed them a few minutes later. "I guess Beulah never see a party such as ourn was, this evenin'! I guess if the truth was known, the State o' Maine never did, neither! Good-night, all! Mebbe if I hurry along I can ketch up with Maria!"

His quick steps brushing the grassy pathway could be heard for some minutes in the clear still air, and presently the sound of his mellow tenor came floating back:

"Come, my beloved, haste away,
Cut short the hours of thy delay.
Fly like a youthful hart or roe

Over the hills where spices grow."

Julia had gone upstairs with the sleepy Peterbird, who had been enjoying his first experience of late hours on the occasion of Nancy's coming out; the rest of the young folks were gathered in a group under the elms, chatting in couples, Olive and Ralph Thurston, Kathleen and Cyril Lord, Nancy and Tom Hamilton. Then they parted, Tom Hamilton strolling to the country hotel with the young school teacher for companion, while Olive and Cyril walked across the fields to the House of Lords.

It was a night in a thousand. The air was warm, clear, and breathlessly still; so still that not a leaf stirred on the trees. The sky was cloudless, and the moon, brilliant and luminous, shone as it seldom shines in a northern clime. The water was low in Beulah's shining river and it ran almost noiselessly under the bridge. While Kathleen and Julia were still unbraiding their hair, exclaiming at every twist of the hand as to the "loveliness" of the party, Nancy had kissed her mother and crept silently into bed. All night long the strains of The Tempest ran through her dreams. There was the touch of a strange hand

and a

on hers, an altogether new touch, warm and compelling. There was the gay trooping down the centre of the barn in fours, some one by her side who had never been there before, sensation entirely new and intoxicating, that whenever she met the glance of her partner's merry dark eyes she found herself at the bottom

of them.

Was she a child when she heard Osh Popham cry: "Take your partners for The Tempest!" and was she a woman when he called: "All promenade to seats!" She hardly knew. Beulah was a dream; the Yellow House was a dream, the dance was a dream, the partner was a dream. At one moment she was a child helping her father to plant the crimson rambler, at another she was a woman pulling a rose from the topmost branch and giving it to some one who steadied her hand on the trellis; some one who said "Thank you and "Good-night" differently from the rest of the world.

[ocr errors]

Who was the young stranger? Was he the Knight of Beulah Castle, the Overlord of the Yellow House, was he the Yellow Peril, was he a good bird to whom Mother Carey's chicken had shown the way home? Still the dream went on in bewildering circles, and Nancy kept hearing mysterious phrases spoken with a new meaning,-"Will

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »