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The engine bellowed its way up the slanting, winding valley. Grey crags, and trees with roots fastened cleverly to the steeps looked down at the struggles of the black monster. When the train finally released its passengers they burst forth with the enthusiasm of escaping convicts. A great bustle ensued on the platform of the little mountain station. The idlers and philosophers from the village were present to examine the consignment of people from the city. These latter, loaded with bundles and children, thronged at the stage drivers. The stage drivers thronged at the people from the city ...
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The Third Violet
LONDON ∙ NEW YORK ∙ TORONTO ∙ SAO PAULO ∙ MOSCOW
PARIS ∙ MADRID ∙ BERLIN ∙ ROME ∙ MEXICO CITY ∙ MUMBAI ∙ SEOUL ∙ DOHA
TOKYO ∙ SYDNEY ∙ CAPE TOWN ∙ AUCKLAND ∙ BEIJING
Published by Sovereign Classic
First published in 2014
Copyright © 2014 Sovereign
Design and Artwork © 2014 www.urban-pic.co.uk
Images and Illustrations © 2014 Stocklibrary.org
All Rights Reserved.
ISBN: 9781910558126 (ebk)
The engine bellowed its way up the slanting, winding valley. Grey crags, and trees with roots fastened cleverly to the steeps looked down at the struggles of the black monster.
When the train finally released its passengers they burst forth with the enthusiasm of escaping convicts. A great bustle ensued on the platform of the little mountain station. The idlers and philosophers from the village were present to examine the consignment of people from the city. These latter, loaded with bundles and children, thronged at the stage drivers. The stage drivers thronged at the people from the city.
Hawker, with his clothes case, his paint-box, his easel, climbed awkwardly down the steps of the car. The easel swung uncontrolled and knocked against the head of a little boy who was disembarking backward with fine caution. “Hello, little man,” said Hawker, “did it hurt?” The child regarded him in silence and with sudden interest, as if Hawker had called his attention to a phenomenon. The young painter was politely waiting until the little boy should conclude his examination, but a voice behind him cried, “Roger, go on down!” A nursemaid was conducting a little girl where she would probably be struck by the other end of the easel. The boy resumed his cautious descent.
The stage drivers made such great noise as a collection that as individuals their identities were lost. With a highly important air, as a man proud of being so busy, the baggageman of the train was thundering trunks at the other employees on the platform. Hawker, prowling through the crowd, heard a voice near his shoulder say, “Do you know where is the stage for Hemlock Inn?” Hawker turned and found a young woman regarding him. A wave of astonishment whirled into his hair, and he turned his eyes quickly for fear that she would think that he had looked at her. He said, “Yes, certainly, I think I can find it.” At the same time he was crying to himself: “Wouldn’t I like to paint her, though! What a glance—oh, murder! The—the—the distance in her eyes!”
He went fiercely from one driver to another. That obdurate stage for Hemlock Inn must appear at once. Finally he perceived a man who grinned expectantly at him. “Oh,” said Hawker, “you drive the stage for Hemlock Inn?” The man admitted it. Hawker said, “Here is the stage.” The young woman smiled.
The driver inserted Hawker and his luggage far into the end of the vehicle. He sat there, crooked forward so that his eyes should see the first coming of the girl into the frame of light at the other end of the stage. Presently she appeared there. She was bringing the little boy, the little girl, the nursemaid, and another young woman, who was at once to be known as the mother of the two children. The girl indicated the stage with a small gesture of triumph. When they were all seated uncomfortably in the huge covered vehicle the little boy gave Hawker a glance of recognition. “It hurted then, but it’s all right now,” he informed him cheerfully.
“Did it?” replied Hawker. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, I didn’t mind it much,” continued the little boy, swinging his long, red-leather leggings bravely to and fro. “I don’t cry when I’m hurt, anyhow.” He cast a meaning look at his tiny sister, whose soft lips set defensively.
The driver climbed into his seat, and after a scrutiny of the group in the gloom of the stage he chirped to his horses. They began a slow and thoughtful trotting. Dust streamed out behind the vehicle. In front, the green hills were still and serene in the evening air. A beam of gold struck them aslant, and on the sky was lemon and pink information of the sun’s sinking. The driver knew many people along the road, and from time to time he conversed with them in yells.
The two children were opposite Hawker. They sat very correctly mucilaged to their seats, but their large eyes were always upon Hawker, calmly valuing him.
“Do you think it nice to be in the country? I do,” said the boy.
“I like it very well,” answered Hawker.
“I shall go fishing, and hunting, and everything. Maybe I shall shoot a bears.”
“I hope you may.”
“Did you ever shoot a bears?”
“Well, I didn’t, too, but maybe I will. Mister Hollanden, he said he’d look around for one. Where I live——”
“Roger,” interrupted the mother from her seat at Hawker’s side, “perhaps every one is not interested in your conversation.” The boy seemed embarrassed at this interruption, for he leaned back in silence with an apologetic look at Hawker. Presently the stage began to climb the hills, and the two children were obliged to take grip upon the cushions for fear of being precipitated upon the nursemaid.
Fate had arranged it so that Hawker could not observe the girl with the—the—the distance in her eyes without leaning forward and discovering to her his interest. Secretly and impiously he wriggled in his seat, and as the bumping stage swung its passengers this way and that way, he obtained fleeting glances of a cheek, an arm, or a shoulder.
The driver’s conversation tone to his passengers was also a yell. “Train was an hour late t’night,” he said, addressing the interior. “It’ll be nine o’clock before we git t’ th’ inn, an’ it’ll be perty dark travellin’.”
Hawker waited decently, but at last he said, “Will it?”
“Yes. No moon.” He turned to face Hawker, and roared, “You’re ol’ Jim Hawker’s son, hain’t yeh?”
“I thort I’d seen yeh b’fore. Live in the city now, don’t yeh?”
“Want t’ git off at th’ cross-road?”
“Come up fer a little stay doorin’ th’ summer?”
“On’y charge yeh a quarter if yeh git off at cross-road. Useter charge ‘em fifty cents, but I ses t’ th’ ol’ man. ‘Tain’t no use. Goldern ‘em, they’ll walk ruther’n put up fifty cents.’ Yep. On’y a quarter.”
In the shadows Hawker’s expression seemed assassinlike. He glanced furtively down the stage. She was apparently deep in talk with the mother of the children.
When Hawker pushed at the old gate, it hesitated because of a broken hinge. A dog barked with loud ferocity and came headlong over the grass.
“Hello, Stanley, old man!” cried Hawker. The ardour for battle was instantly smitten from the dog, and his barking swallowed in a gurgle of delight. He was a large orange and white setter, and he partly expressed his emotion by twisting his body into a fantastic curve and then dancing over the ground with his head and his tail very near to each other. He gave vent to little sobs in a wild attempt to vocally describe his gladness. “Well, ‘e was a dreat dod,” said Hawker, and the setter, overwhelmed, contorted himself wonderfully.
There were lights in the kitchen, and at the first barking of the dog the door had been thrown open. Hawker saw his two sisters shading their eyes and peering down the yellow stream. Presently they shouted, “Here he is!” They flung themselves out and upon him. “Why, Will! why, Will!” they panted.
“We’re awful glad to see you!” In a whirlwind of ejaculation and unanswerable interrogation they grappled the clothes case, the paint-box, the easel, and dragged him toward the house.
He saw his old mother seated in a rocking-chair by the table. She had laid aside her paper and was adjusting her glasses as she scanned the darkness. “Hello, mother!” cried Hawker, as he entered. His eyes were bright. The old mother reached her arms to his neck. She murmured soft and half-articulate words. Meanwhile the dog writhed from one to another. He raised his muzzle high to express his delight. He was always fully convinced that he was taking a principal part in this ceremony of welcome and that everybody was heeding him.
“Have you had your supper?” asked the old mother as soon as she recovered herself. The girls clamoured sentences at him. “Pa’s out in the barn, Will. What made you so late? He said maybe he’d go up to the cross-roads to see if he could see the stage. Maybe he’s gone. What made you so late? And, oh, we got a new buggy!”
The old mother repeated anxiously, “Have you had your supper?”
“No,” said Hawker, “but——”
The three women sprang to their feet. “Well, we’ll git you something right away.” They bustled about the kitchen and dove from time to time into the cellar. They called to each other in happy voices.
Steps sounded on the line of stones that led from the door toward the barn, and a shout came from the darkness. “Well, William, home again, hey?” Hawker’s grey father came stamping genially into the room. “I thought maybe you got lost. I was comin’ to hunt you,” he said, grinning, as they stood with gripped hands. “What made you so late?”
While Hawker confronted the supper the family sat about and contemplated him with shining eyes. His sisters noted his tie and propounded some questions concerning it. His mother watched to make sure that he should consume a notable quantity of the preserved cherries. “He used to be so fond of ‘em when he was little,” she said.
“Oh, Will,” cried the younger sister, “do you remember Lil’ Johnson? Yeh? She’s married. Married las’ June.”
“Is the boy’s room all ready, mother?” asked the father.
“We fixed it this mornin’,” she said.
“And do you remember Jeff Decker?” shouted the elder sister. “Well, he’s dead. Yep. Drowned, pickerel fishin’—poor feller!”
“Well, how are you gitting along, William?” asked the father. “Sell many pictures?”
“An occasional one.”
“Saw your illustrations in the May number of Perkinson’s.” The old man paused for a moment, and then added, quite weakly, “Pretty good.”
“How’s everything about the place?”
“Oh, just about the same—’bout the same. The colt run away with me last week, but didn’t break nothin’, though. I was scared, because I had out the new buggy—we got a new buggy—but it didn’t break nothin’. I’m goin’ to sell the oxen in the fall; I don’t want to winter ‘em. And then in the spring I’ll get a good hoss team. I rented th’ back five-acre to John Westfall. I had more’n I could handle with only one hired hand. Times is pickin’ up a little, but not much—not much.”
“And we got a new school-teacher,” said one of the girls.
“Will, you never noticed my new rocker,” said the old mother, pointing. “I set it right where I thought you’d see it, and you never took no notice. Ain’t it nice? Father bought it at Monticello for my birthday. I thought you’d notice it first thing.”
When Hawker had retired for the night, he raised a sash and sat by the window smoking. The odour of the woods and the fields came sweetly to his nostrils. The crickets chanted their hymn of the night. On the black brow of the mountain he could see two long rows of twinkling dots which marked the position of Hemlock Inn.
Hawker had a writing friend named Hollanden. In New York Hollanden had announced his resolution to spend the summer at Hemlock Inn. “I don’t like to see the world progressing,” he had said; “I shall go to Sullivan County for a time.”
In the morning Hawker took his painting equipment, and after manœuvring in the fields until he had proved to himself that he had no desire to go toward the inn, he went toward it. The time was only nine o’clock, and he knew that he could not hope to see Hollanden before eleven, as it was only through rumour that Hollanden was aware that there was a sunrise and an early morning.
Hawker encamped in front of some fields of vivid yellow stubble on which trees made olive shadows, and which was overhung by a china-blue sky and sundry little white clouds. He fiddled away perfunctorily at it. A spectator would have believed, probably, that he was sketching the pines on the hill where shone the red porches of Hemlock Inn.
Finally, a white-flannel young man walked into the landscape. Hawker waved a brush. “Hi, Hollie, get out of the colour-scheme!”
At this cry the white-flannel young man looked down at his feet apprehensively. Finally he came forward grinning. “Why, hello, Hawker, old boy! Glad to find you here.” He perched on a boulder and began to study Hawker’s canvas and the vivid yellow stubble with the olive shadows. He wheeled his eyes from one to the other. “Say, Hawker,” he said suddenly, “why don’t you marry Miss Fanhall?”
Hawker had a brush in his mouth, but he took it quickly out, and said, “Marry Miss Fanhall? Who the devil is Miss Fanhall?”
Hollanden clasped both hands about his knee and looked thoughtfully away. “Oh, she’s a girl.”
“She is?” said Hawker.
“Yes. She came to the inn last night with her sister-in-law and a small tribe of young Fanhalls. There’s six of them, I think.”
“Two,” said Hawker, “a boy and a girl.”
“How do you—oh, you must have come up with them. Of course. Why, then you saw her.”
“Was that her?” asked Hawker listlessly.
“Was that her?” cried Hollanden, with indignation. “Was that her?”
“Oh!” said Hawker.
Hollanden mused again. “She’s got lots of money,” he said. “Loads of it. And I think she would be fool enough to have sympathy for you in your work. They are a tremendously wealthy crowd, although they treat it simply. It would be a good thing for you. I believe—yes, I am sure she could be fool enough to have sympathy for you in your work. And now, if you weren’t such a hopeless chump——”
“Oh, shut up, Hollie,” said the painter.
For a time Hollanden did as he was bid, but at last he talked again. “Can’t think why they came up here. Must be her sister-in-law’s health. Something like that. She——”
“Great heavens,” said Hawker, “you speak of nothing else!”
“Well, you saw her, didn’t you?” demanded Hollanden. “What can you expect, then, from a man of my sense? You—you old stick—you——”
“It was quite dark,” protested the painter.
“Quite dark,” repeated Hollanden, in a wrathful voice. “What if it was?”
“Well, that is bound to make a difference in a man’s opinion, you know.”
“No, it isn’t. It was light down at the railroad station, anyhow. If you had any sand—thunder, but I did get up early this morning! Say, do you play tennis?”
“After a fashion,” said Hawker. “Why?”
“Oh, nothing,” replied Hollanden sadly. “Only they are wearing me out at the game. I had to get up and play before breakfast this morning with the Worcester girls, and there is a lot more mad players who will be down on me before long. It’s a terrible thing to be a tennis player.”
“Why, you used to put yourself out so little for people,” remarked Hawker.
“Yes, but up there”—Hollanden jerked his thumb in the direction of the inn—”they think I’m so amiable.”
“Well, I’ll come up and help you out.”
“Do,” Hollanden laughed; “you and Miss Fanhall can team it against the littlest Worcester girl and me.” He regarded the landscape and meditated. Hawker struggled for a grip on the thought of the stubble.
“That colour of hair and eyes always knocks me kerplunk,” observed Hollanden softly.
Hawker looked up irascibly. “What colour hair and eyes?” he demanded. “I believe you’re crazy.”
“What colour hair and eyes?” repeated Hollanden, with a savage gesture. “You’ve got no more appreciation than a post.”
“They are good enough for me,” muttered Hawker, turning again to his work. He scowled first at the canvas and then at the stubble. “Seems to me you had best take care of yourself, instead of planning for me,” he said.
“Me!” cried Hollanden. “Me! Take care of myself! My boy, I’ve got a past of sorrow and gloom. I——”
“You’re nothing but a kid,” said Hawker, glaring at the other man.
“Oh, of course,” said Hollanden, wagging his head with midnight wisdom. “Oh, of course.”
“Well, Hollie,” said Hawker, with sudden affability, “I didn’t mean to be unpleasant, but then you are rather ridiculous, you know, sitting up there and howling about the colour of hair and eyes.”
“I’m not ridiculous.”
“Yes, you are, you know, Hollie.”
The writer waved his hand despairingly. “And you rode in the train with her, and in the stage.”
“I didn’t see her in the train,” said Hawker.
“Oh, then you saw her in the stage. Ha-ha, you old thief! I sat up here, and you sat down there and lied.” He jumped from his perch and belaboured Hawker’s shoulders.
“Stop that!” said the painter.
“Oh, you old thief, you lied to me! You lied—— Hold on—bless my life, here she comes now!”
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