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and there were shadows in her gray eyes. There was about her a suggestion of retarded development-of maidenhood's spring lingering with no change of season into maturity's summer-it may have been the shadows in her eyes. The guest certainly felt it, for the smile he had summoned to make smooth his entrance flickered, and his tongue was silent. The touch of apprehension that had ruled his movements still possessed him; and the girl, perceiving it, kindly tried to put him
"It is hard walking, isn't it? The snow's quite soft under foot. Did you come the back road? I didn't know anybody could get through, it is so bad; but a soldier goes where other people can't, and thinks nothing of it. Are you cold? Won't you sit up to the stove? Can I do anything for you?"
She was plainly a few years older than he, and this gave him confidence. As he became sure of her sincerity he nodded, spoke briefly, and smiled; and at her last question he held out his hand with a bit of silver in it and said: "Ten cents worth of something to eat, please."
She stood back and showed white, strong teeth in a pleasant laugh: "You are the first soldier I ever saw with money to throw away!"
"I haven't got much. That's all," he replied-a mock apology. As his apprehension faded a reckless lightness came to his face and tongue; like a man who has nothing but life, and puts no value on that.
She was already moving back and forth between the pantry and the table. "I think you won't pay for anything you get in this house. No soldier ever did," she said, decidedly. "Though we Vermonters haven't had much chance to feed soldiers since the war. Father was in that—all through it."
He looked at her, a quick cat-like look of avoidance. "Is your father here?" he asked, as though it was an important question.
"He is dead," said the girl, quietly. "Your lunch is ready."
He took the chair she placed for him. After a moment he moved it to the end of the table, so he could look from the
window and view the turnpike northward. Then he ate like a man to whom food is a stranger. She watched him with curious pleasure.
"You must have been hungry," she observed.
"Walking gives me an appetite always."
You belong at the new Fort, don't a?"
"I came from there." "You on furlough?" "No. Yes. Well, call it that. Yes, I'm on furlough.” He tried to return non-committal answers, but he was divided between his food, his watch, and her questions.
The food and her kindness had revived him. He was fresher, his eyes were brighter than when he entered. With his fatigue he seemed to have cast off his wary attitude. So you won't take my ten cents? Sort of a widow's mite, you know," he said lightly, rising and making a feint of offering it.
"No, indeed. Father never would, and I am sure I will not." Her stiff seriousness put a sudden restraint on the young soldier. He stood irresolute in the middle of the room, and the outer door opened. He turned toward it like a flash.
A man of thirty-five, in a farmer's frock, entered. He took in the fact of the soldier's presence, and then his eyes sought the girl questioningly. Hers answered him gladly; the shadows fled; her attitude became more easily upright, as though a sure support had come to her. The farmer nodded pleasantly at the soldier.
"Country's defender?" he said.
"Something like," said the soldier, reassured. "Foraging for rations," he added, with a motion of his hand toward the table.
"Yes? Well, I guess you got pretty good care taken of you here," the farmer replied, with a fond glance at the girl. She colored in a pleased way. The soldier said to himself that these two were lovers, and his heart gave a throb of sympathy.
The farmer continued with a certain awkward kindliness of speech and manner: "It's been something of a rarity for us to see the uniform up here till they built the Fort last summer. But I guess you boys don't get treated any worse for not being known?
"Probably not," said the soldier, dryly.
"I was telling him about father," the girl interposed. Her manner said there were no secrets in her house or heart from this farmer.
"Yes? Well, I don't know of anything better to tell him." He hung hesitatingly at the
door. "I just came in to see if you wanted anything from the village. I'm going up that way."
"I don't know of anything," she returned, after thought.
"Well, then, I'll be going." He turned to the soldier. "'Bout twelve miles from the Fort, ain't you? If I see any of your boys up to the village I'll tell them you're here."
"No matter," said the soldier, nonchalantly. "If they want me they'll ask. Don't put yourself out for me. The farmer went, and his sleigh-bells jingled up the road. The girl watched him from the window, and the shadows were again in her eyes when she turned.
"I'd better be going," said the soldier, a trifle nervously. The farmer's departure had made him restless.
"If you're going to the Fort you might have ridden with him far as the village. Why didn't I think!" the girl reproached herself.
'No, I'm going south. On furlough, you know."
You might be going back-so near
Making his way slowly.-Page 213.
ly out of money," she said, with a little he asked, as not knowing what to do or touch of humor in her discernment.
"We don't need money in Vermont. It's God's country to us," said he, halfflippantly again.
"Thank you," said she, with serious dignity, for it sounded to her like praise. It demanded practical recognition. "Wait a moment," she said, "I will show you something."
Then she went into another room, the door of which stood partly open. She spoke with some one in there-and he involuntarily made a movement toward the outer door, he was so distrustful of persons present but unseen. He looked out of the north window again; no one but the farmer was in sight, even to the edge of the village. And he stood, and stayed. The girl came back.
"Mother is in here," she said. "She will be glad if you step in. She is a great invalid, after a lifetime of hard work."
No. He was wounded, and suffered many years. He was a sick man ever after the war. Mother was very strong and capable, but she had the care of him and of the farm, and she broke down. It was plain, coarse food I gave you
"It was good," he interposed, "and company kitchens don't give us delicate appetites."
"The years of sickness are expensive, and we have to live very closely. And the times are hard for farmer folk, too," she concluded.
He thrust his hand into his pocket again. "You'd do better to take what I can give you. I wish it was more."
"Oh, no," she said, decidedly, with a smile that intensified the refusal. "Much or little, it doesn't matter. I refused from principle, and it doesn't make any difference whether we get along or not, so long as we do right. Father was a soldier, and could die for right; mother and I are women, and have to live for it." Then she fancied she saw bewilderment on his face, and a sudden womanly pity for him took possession of her. "Keep your money as you go along till you find some one worse off than mother and I. There are such people without a past. Then let them have it."
They had been standing near the north window as they talked, and from time to time she glanced out. She had seen her lover turn from the turnpike to a road less used, where he would find another neighbor and offer his good services; it was part of their poverty that the farmers should depend on one another, and find happiness in that interdependence. Now she looked and saw something else-a dark grouping of mounted men, half a dozen of them, riding by twos down the road from the village.
"There come some of your comrades," she exclaimed; and receiving no reply, turned to look at the soldier. "What ails you!" she cried, alarmed.
His eyes were fixed on that foreboding column, and he had become suddenly very pale beneath his ruddy burn; he did not move; he did not an
swer. In a moment she connected his furtive manner, his evasive speech, with this. She dropped her hands to the table, and dealt him a blow with her eyes. "You are a deserter!"
All the scorn her loyal nature could feel was expressed in this.
He cowered before her, the spirit of defence gone from him. A wounded deer, weakened to the last degree, will plead dumbly with its eyes for mercy from the hunter, its inferior; but his submissive glance was craven.
"Don't let them get me," he whimpered.
Then his lips went dry and moved noiselessly, trying to plead. He could not venture on the road; he dared not climb to the wood; for protection he rested on this girl, who was a stranger to even the thought of error. And through the window he saw the mounted patrol approaching at a steady trot. There was a ringing in his ears like the clank of their accoutrements. She felt no pity for this man, a skulker. Her father was her standard. Her lover was measured by him, was even now proving his loyalty by loving and waiting, and loving yet the more under the stress of forbidding poverty. She loathed the spirit of deception embodied in the cringing fellow before her; she was indignant at the imposition practised upon her.
"I am sorry mother saw you." girl was inflexible. Her words fell cold
"You are a deserter!"
much to make you strong judge the failure of another? You never failed, yourself! What can you know about it?"
"What did you see in there?" she demanded, extending her arm toward the inner room. "An old woman dead in life, a man alive in death-or, no, you could not see him. You saw only his sword, something that stands for his death. But he did not run away! And what could be more to be avoided?" she challenged.