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It was cunning
and candid and chivalrous all at once. It acknowledged defeat and guilt
and embodied a certain pride in the victor.

"Well, that settles that," said Arthur. "One thing more--I don't want
you to say what made the row between us."

"All right, pard; only, you'd better see Tim."

In spite of his care, the matter came to the ears of Richards, who
laughed over it and told his wife, who stared blankly.

"Good land! When did it happen?"

"A couple of days ago."

"Wal, there! I thought there was a nigger in the fence. Dan had a head
on him like a bushel basket. What was it about?"

"Something Tim said about Edith."

"I want to know! Wal, wal! An' here they've been going around as
peaceful as two kittens ever since."

"Of course. They pitched in and settled it man fashion; they ain't a
couple of women who go around sniffin' and spittin' at each other," said
Richards, with brutal sarcasm. "As near as I can learn, Tim and Dan come
at him to once."

"They're a nice pair of tramps!" said Mrs. Richards indignantly. "I told
you when they come they'd make trouble."

"I told you the cow'd eat up the grindstone," Richards replied with a
grin, walking away.

The more Mrs. Richards thought of it, the finer it all appeared to her.
She was deeply engaged now on Arthur's side, and was very eager to do
something to help on in his "sparking," as she called it. She seized the
first opportunity to tell Edith.

"Don't s'pose you heard of the little fracas we had t'other day," she
began, in phrase which she intended to be delicately indirect.

Edith was sitting in the cart, and Mrs. Richards stood at the wheel,
with her apron shading her head.

"Why, no. What was it?"

"Mr. Ramsey come mighty near gettin' killed." The old woman enjoyed
deeply the dramatic pallor and distortion of the girl's face.

"Why--why--what do you mean?"

"Wal, if he hadn't a lammed one feller with a bucket he'd a been laid
out sure. So Richards says; as it is, it's the other feller that has the
head." She laughed to see the girl's face grow rosy again.

"Then--Mr. Ramsey isn't hurt?"

"Not a scratch! The funny part of it is, they've been going around here
for a week, quiet as you please. I wouldn't have known anything about it
only for Richards."

"Oh, isn't it dreadful?" said the girl.

"Yes, 'tis!" the elder woman readily agreed; "but why don't you ask what
it was all about?"

"Oh, I don't want to know anything more about it; it's too terrible."

Mrs. Richards was approaching the climax.

"It was all about you."

The girl could not realize what part she should have with a disgraceful
row in the barnyard of her uncle's farm.

"Yes, these men--they're regular tramps; I told Richards so the first
time I set eyes on 'em--they made a little free with your name, and Art
he overheard them and he went for 'em, and they both come at him, two
to one, and he lammed both out in a minute--so Richards says. Now I call
that splendid; don't you? A young feller that'll stand up for his girl
ag'in two big tramps----"

The Major had been motioning for Edith to drive on down toward the gate,
and she seized the chance for escape. Her lips quivered with shame and
anger. It seemed already as if she had been splashed with mire.

"Oh, the vulgar creatures!" she said, in her throat, her teeth shut
tight.

"There, isn't that a fine field?" asked the Major, as he pointed to the
cabbages. "There is a chance for an American imitator of Monet--those
purple-brown deeps and those gray-blue-pink pearl tints--What's the
matter, my dear?" he broke off to ask. "Are you ill?"

"No, no, only let's go home," she said, the tears coming into her eyes.

He got in hastily.

"My dear, you are really ill. What's the matter? Has your old enemy the
headache--" He put his arm about her tenderly.

"No, no! I'm sick of this place--I wish I'd never seen it! How could
those dreadful men fight about me? It's horrible!"

The Major whistled.

"Oh, ho! that's got around to you, has it? I didn't know it myself until
yesterday; I was hoping it wouldn't reach you at all. I wouldn't mind
it, my dear. It's the shadow every lovely woman throws, no matter where
she walks; it's only your shadow that has passed over the cesspool."

"But I can't even bear that; it seems like a part of me. What do you
suppose they said of me?" she asked, in morbid curiosity.

"Now, now, dearest, to know that would be stepping into the muck after
your shadow; the talk of such men is unimaginable to you."

"You don't mean Mr. Ramsey?"

"No; Mr. Ramsey is a different sort of man, and I don't suppose anything
else would have brought him to blows with those rough men."

They sat looking straight forward.

"Oh, it's horrible, horrible!"

Her uncle tightened his arm about her.

"I suppose the knowledge of such lower deeps must come to you some day,
but don't seek it now; I've told you all you ought to know. Ramsey meant
well," he went on, after a silence, "but such things do little good, not
enough to pay for the outlay of self-respect. He can't control their
talk when he's out of hearing."

"But I supposed that if a woman was--good--I mean--I didn't know that
men talked in that way about girls--like me. How could they?"

The abyss still fascinated her.

"My dear, such men are only half civilized. They have all the passions
of animals, and all the vices of men. Ramsey was too hot-headed; their
words do not count; they weren't worth whipping."

There was a little silence. They were nearing the mountains again, and
both raised their eyes to the peaks deeply shadowed in Tyrian purple.

"I know how you feel, I think," the Major went on, "but the best thing
to do is to forget it. I'm sorry Ramsey fought. To walk into a gang of
rough men like that is foolish and dangerous too, for the ruffian is
generally the best man physically, I'm sorry to say."

"It was brave, though, don't you think so?" she asked.

He looked at her quickly.

"Oh, yes; it was brave and very youthful."

She smiled a little for the first time.

"I guess I like youth."

"In that case I'll have to promote him for it," he said with a smile
that made her look away toward the mountains again.


V.

Saulisbury took a sudden turn to friendliness, and defended the action
when the Major related the story that night at the dinner table, as they
were seated over their coffee and cigars. He was dining with the
Saulisburys.

"It's uncommon plucky, that's what I think, d'ye kneow. By Jeove, I
didn't think the young dog had it in him, really. He did one fellow up
with a bucket, they say, and met the other fellow with his left. Where
did the young beggah get his science?"

"At college, I suppose."

"But I suppeosed these little Western colleges were a milk-and-wahta
sawt of thing, ye kneow--Baptist and Christian Endeavor, and all that,
ye kneow."

"Oh, no," laughed the Major. "They are not so benighted as that. They
give a little attention to the elementary studies, though I believe
athletics do come second on the curriculum."

"Well, the young dog seems to have made some use of his chawnce," said
Saulisbury, who had dramatized the matter in his own way, and saw Ramsey
doing the two men up in accordance with Queensberry rules. "I wouldn't
hawf liked the jobe meself, do ye kneow. They're forty years apiece, and
as hard as nails."

Mrs. Saulisbury looked up from her walnuts.

"Sam is ready to carry the olive club to Mr. Ramsey. 'The poor beggar,'
as he has called him all along, will be a gentleman from this time
forward."

After the Major had gone, Saulisbury said:

"There's one thing the Majah was careful note to mention, my deah. Why
should this young fellow be going abeout defending the good name of his
niece? Do ye kneow, my deah, I fancy the young idiot is in love with
her."

"Well, suppose he is?"

"But, my deah! In England, you kneow, it wouldn't mattah; it would be a
case of hopeless devotion. But as I understand things heah, it may
become awkward. Don't ye think so, love?"

"It depends upon the young man. Edith could do worse than marry a good,
clean, wholesome fellow like that."

"Good gracious! You deon't allow your mind to go that fah?"

"Why, certainly! I'd much rather she'd marry a strong young workingman
than some burnt-out third-generation wreck of her own set in the city."

"But the fellow has no means."

"He has muscle and brains, and besides, she has something of her own."

Saulisbury filled his pipe slowly.

"Luckily, it's all theory on our part; the contingency isn't heah--isn't
likely to arrive, in fact."

"Don't be too sure. If I can read a girl's heart in the lines of her
face, she's got where principalities and powers are of small account."

"Really?"

"Sure as shooting," she smilingly said.

Saulisbury mused and puffed.

"In that case, we will have to turn in and give the fellow what you
Americans call a boost."

"That's _right_," his wife replied slangily.

Edith went to her room that night with a mind whirling in dizzying
circles, whose motion she could not check. It was terrible to have it
all come in this way.

She knew Arthur cared for her--she had known it from the first--but with
the happy indifference of youth, she had not looked forward to the end
of the summer. The sure outcome of passion had kept itself somewhere in
a golden glimmer on the lower sweep of the river.

She wished for some one to go to for advice. Mrs. Thayer, she knew,
would exclaim in horror over the matter. The Major had hinted the course
she would have to take, which was to show Arthur he had no connection
with her life--if she could. But deep in her heart she knew she could
not do that.

Suddenly a thought came to her which made her flush till the dew of
shame stood upon her forehead. He had never been to see her; she had
always been to see him!

She knew that this was true. She did not attempt to conceal it from
herself now. The charm of those rides with her uncle was the chance of
seeing Arthur. The sweet, never-wearying charm that made this summer one
of perfect happiness, that had made her almost forget her city ways and
friends, that had made her brown and strong with the soil and wind, was
daily contact with a robust and wholesome young man, a sturdy figure
with brown throat and bare, strong arms.

She went off at this point into a retrospective journey along the
pathways of her summer outing.



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