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He was tempted into adding to her excitement with a compliment.
"Yes," he said, "very much handsomer than I could ever hope to make it."
A slow deep red rose to her face. "Give it to me!" she demanded. "If you will stand in the same position until I have drawn another-certainly," he returned.
He was fully convinced that when she repeated the attitude there would be added to it a look of consciousness.
When she settled into position and caught at the bough again, he watched in some distaste for the growth of the nervously complaisant air, but it did not appear. was unconsciousness itself.
It is possible that Rebecca Noble had never been so happy during her whole life as she was during this one summer. Her enjoyment of every wild beauty and novelty was immeasurably keen. Just at this time to be shut out, and to be as it were high above the world, added zest to her pleasure.
"Ah," she said once to her lover," happiness is better here one can taste it slowly."
Fatigue seemed impossible to her. With Lennox as her companion she performed miracles in the way of walking and climbing, and explored the mountain fastnesses for miles around. Her step grew firm and elastic, her color richer, her laugh had a buoyant ring. She had never been so nearly a beautiful woman as she was sometimes when she came back to the cabin after a ramble, bright and sun-flushed, her hands full of laurel and vines.
"Your gown of 'hodden-gray' is wonderfully becoming, Beck," Lennox said again and again with a secret exulting pride in her.
Their plans for the future took tone from their blissful, unconventional life. They could not settle down until they had seen the world. They would go here and there, and perhaps, if they found it pleasanter so, not settle down at all. There were certain claywhite closely built villages, whose tumbledown houses jostled each other upon divers precipitous cliffs on the wayside between Florence and Rome, toward which Lennox's compass seemed always to point. He rather argued that the fact of their not being dilated upon in the guide-books rendered them additionally interesting. Rebecca had her fancies too, and together they managed to talk a good deal of tender romantic nonsense which was purely their own business,
and gave the summer days a delicate yet distinct flavor.
The evening after the sketch was made they spent upon the mountain-side together. When they stopped to rest, Lennox flung himself upon the ground at Rebecca's feet, and lay looking up at the far away blue of the sky in which a slow-flying bird circled lazily. Rebecca, with a cluster of pink and white laurel in her hand, proceeded with a metaphysical and poetic harangue she had previously begun.
"To my eyes," she said, "it has a pathetic air of loneliness-pathetic and yet not exactly sorrowful. It knows nothing but its own pure, brave, silent life. It is only pathetic to a worldling-wordlings like us. How fallen we must be to find a life desolate because it has only nature for a companion!"
She stopped with an idle laugh, waiting for an ironical reply from the "worldling" at her feet; but he remained silent, still looking upward at the clear deep blue.
As she glanced toward him she saw something lying upon the grass between them and bent to pick it up. It was the sketch which he had forgotten and which had slipped from the portfolio.
"You have dropped something," she said, and seeing what it was, uttered an exclamation of pleasure.
He came back to earth with a start, and, recognizing the sketch, looked more than half irritated.
"Oh! it is that, is it?" he said.
a picture it will make!"
"It is not to be a picture," he answered. "It was not intended to be anything more than a sketch."
"But why not?" she asked. "It is too good to lose. You never had such a model in your life before."
"No," he answered grudgingly.
The hand with which Rebecca held the sketch dropped. She turned her attention to her lover, and a speculative interest grew in her face.
"That girl," she said slowly, after a mental summing up occupying a few seconds,-"that girl irritates you-irritates you."
He laughed faintly.
"I believe she does," he replied, "yes, irritates' is the word to use."
And yet if this were true, his first act upon returning home was a singular one. He was rather late, but the girl Lodusky
"I thort so," nodding benignly. "Waal now, Dusk'll make a powerful nice picter if she don't git contrairy. The trouble with Dusk is her a-gittin' contrairy. She's as like old Hance Dunbar as she kin be. I mean in some ways. Lord knows, 'twouldn't do to say she was like him in everythin'."
Naturally, Miss Noble made some inquiries into the nature of old Hance Dunbar's "contrairiness." Secretly, she had a desire to account for Lodusky according to established theory.
"I wonder ye haint heern of him," said "Mis'" Harney. "He was jest awful-old Hance! He was Nath's daddy, an' Lord! the wickedest feller! Folks was afeared of him. No one darsn't to go a-nigh him when he'd git mad-a-rippin' 'n' a-rearin' 'n' a-chargin'. 'N' he never got no religion, mind yc; he died jest that a-way. He was allers a hankerin' arter seein' the world, 'n' he went off an' staid off a right smart while,nine or ten year,-'n' lived in all sorts o' ways in them big cities. When he come back he was a sight to see, sick 'n' pore 'n' holler-eyed, but as wicked as ever. Dusk was a little thing 'n' he was a old man, but he'd laugh 'n' tell her to take care of her face 'n' be a smart gal. He was drefful sick at last 'n' suffered a heap, 'n' one day he got up offen his bed 'n' tuk down Nath's gun 'n' shot hisself as cool as could be. He hadn't no patience 'n' he said, ' When a der-derned man had lived through what he had 'n' then wouldn't die, it was time to kill him.' Seems like it sorter 'counts fur Dusk, she don't git her cur'usness from her own folks; Nath an' Mandy's mighty clever, both on 'em."
us," she continued with a smile, "be as charitable as possible."
When the picture was fairly under way, Lennox's visits to the Harneys' cabin were somewhat less frequent. The mood in which she found he had gradually begun to regard his work aroused in Rebecca a faint wonder. He seemed hardly to like it, and yet to be fascinated by it. He was averse to speaking freely of it, and still he thought of it continually. Frequently when they were together, he wore an absent, perturbed air. 66 You do not look content," she said to him once.
He passed his hand quickly across his forehead and smiled, plainly with an effort, but he made no reply.
The picture progressed rather slowly upon the whole. Rebecca had thought the subject a little fantastic at first and yet had been attracted by it. A girl in a peculiar dress of black and white bent over a spring with an impatient air trying in vain to catch a glimpse of her beauty in the reflection of the moonlight.
"It's ourspring, shore," commented "Mis"" Dunbar. "'N' its Dusk-but Lord! how fine she's fixed. Ye're as fine as ye want to be in the picter, Dusk, if ye wa'n't never fine afore. Don't ye wish ye had sich dressin' as thet thar now?"
The sittings were at the outset peculiarly silent. There was no untimely motion or change of expression, and yet no trying passiveness. passiveness. The girl gave any position a look of unconsciousness quite wonderful. Privately, Lennox was convinced that she was an actress from habit-that her ease was the result of life-long practice. Sometimes he found his own consciousness of her steady gaze almost unbearable. He always turned to meet her deep eyes fixed upon him with an expression he could not fathom. Frequently he thought it an expression of dislike of secret resentment— of subtle defiance. There came at last a time when he knew that he turned toward her again and again because he felt that he must-because he had a feverish wish to see if the look had changed.
Once when he did this he saw that it had changed. She had moved a little, her eyes were dilated with a fire which startled him beyond self-control, her color came and went, she breathed fast. The next instant she sprang from her chair.
"I wont stand it no longer," she cried panting; "no longer-I wont!"
Her ire was magnificent. She flung her
head back, and struck her side with her drew forth from the recesses of her trunk clenched hand. her neglected writing folio and a store of paper.
"No longer!" she said; "not a minute!" Lennox advanced one step and stood, palette in hand, gazing at her.
Miss Thorne, entering the room, found her kneeling over the trunk, and spoke to
"What have I done? he asked. her. "What?"
"What?" she echoed with contemptuous scorn. "Nothin'! But d'ye think I don't know ye?"
"Know me!" he repeated after her mechanically, finding it impossible to remove his glance from her.
"What d'ye take me fur ?" she demanded. "A fool? Yes, I was a fool-a fool to come here, 'n' set 'n' let ye-let ye despise me!" in a final outburst.
Still he could only echo her again, and say "Despise you!"
Her voice lowered itself into an actual fierceness of tone.
"Ye've done it from first to last," she said. "Would ye look at her like ye look at me? Would ye turn half way 'n' look at her 'n' then turn back as if-as if-. Aint there "-her eyes ablaze-" aint there no life to me ?"
"Stop!" he began hoarsely.
"I'm beneath her, am I?" she persisted. "ME beneath another woman-Dusk Dunbar! It's the first time!"
She walked toward the door as if to leave him, but suddenly she stopped. A passionate tremor shook her; he saw her throat swell. She threw her arm up against the logs of the wall and dropped her face upon it, sobbing tumultuously.
There was a pause of perhaps three seconds. Then Lennox moved slowly toward her. Almost unconsciously he laid his hand upon her heaving shoulder and so stood trembling a little.
When Rebecca paid her next visit to the picture it struck her that it appeared at a standstill. As she looked at it her lover saw a vague trouble growing slowly in her eyes.
"What!" he remarked. "It does not please you?"
"What are you going to do?" she asked. Rebecca smiled faintly.
"What I ought to have begun before," she said. "I am behindhand with my work."
She laid the folio and her ink-stand upon the table, and made certain methodical arrangements for her labor. She worked diligently all day, and looked slightly pale and wearied when she rose from her seat in the evening. Until eleven o'clock she sat at the open door, sometimes talking quietly, sometimes silent and listening to the wind among the pines. She did not mention her lover's name, and he did not come. spent many a day and night in the same manner after this. For the present the long, idle rambles and unconventional moon-lit talks were over. It was tacitly understood between herself and her aunt that Lennox's labor occupied him.
"It seems a strange time to begin a picture during a summer holiday," said Miss Thorne a little sharply upon one occasion.
Rebecca laughed with an air of cheer.
"No time is a strange time to an artist,” she answered. "Art is a mistress who gives no holidays."
She was continually her bright, erect, alert self. The woman who loved her dearly and had known her from her earliest childhood, found her sagacity and knowl edge set at naught as it were. She had been accustomed to see her niece admired far beyond the usual lot of women; she had gradually learned to feel it only natural that she should inspire quite a strong sentiment even in casual acquaintances. She had felt the delicate power of her fascination herself, but never at her best and brightest had she found her more charming or quicker of wit and fancy than she was
Even Lennox, coming every few days with a worn-out look and touched with a "I think," she answered,—“ I feel as if haggard shadow, made no outward change it had not pleased you."
He fell back a few paces and stood scanning it with an impression at once hard and
"Please me!" he exclaimed in a voice almost strident. "It should. She has beauty enough."
"She does not look," said the elder lady to herself, "like a neglected woman." And then the sound of the phrase struck her with a sharp incredulous pain. "A neglected woman!" she repeated,-" Beck!"
She did not understand, and was not On her return home that day Rebecca weak enough to ask questions.
But once in the middle of the night Miss Thorne awakened with a mysterious shock to find the place at her side empty and her niece sitting at the open window in a quiet which suggested that she might not have moved for an hour.
She obeyed her strong first impulse, and rose and went to her.
She laid her hand on her shoulder, and shook her gently.
"Beck!" she demanded, "what are you doing?"
When the girl turned slowly round, she started at the sight of her cold, miserable pallor.
"I am doing nothing-nothing," she answered. "Why did you get up? It's a fine night, isn't it?"
Despite her discretion, Miss Thorne broke down into a blunder.
"You-you never look like this in the day-time!" she exclaimed.
"No," was the reply given with cool deliberateness. "No; I would rather
For the moment she was fairly incomprehensible. There was in the set of her eye and the expression of her fair, clear face, the least hint of dogged obstinacy. "Beck " she began. "You ought not to have got up," said Beck. "It is enough to look like this' at night when I am by myself. Go back to bed, if you please."
Miss Thorne went back to bed meekly. She was at once alarmed and subdued. She felt as if she had had a puzzling interview with a stranger.
In these days Lennox regarded his model with morbid interest. A subtle change was perceptible in her. Her rich color deepened, she held herself more erect, her eye had a larger pride and light. She was a finer creature than ever, and yet—she came at his call. He never ceased to wonder at it. Sometimes the knowledge of his power stirred within him a vast impatience, sometimes he was hardened by it, but somehow it never touched him, though he was thrown into tumult-bound against his will. He could not say that he understood her. Her very passiveness baffled him and caused
him to ask himself what it meant. spoke little, and her emotional phases seemed reluctant, but her motionless face and slowly raised eye always held a meaning of their own.
On an occasion when he mentioned his approaching departure, she started as if she had received a blow, and he turned to see her redden and pale alternately, her face full of alarm.
"What is the matter?" he asked brusquely.
“I—hadn't bin thinkin' on it," she stammered. "I'd kinder forgot."
He turned to his easel again and painted rapidly for a few minutes. Then he felt a light touch on his arm. She had left her seat noiselessly and stood beside him. She gave him a passionate, protesting look. A fire of excitement seemed to have sprung up within her and given her a defiant daring.
"D'ye think I'll stay here-when ye're gone-like I did before ?" she said.
She had revealed herself in many curious lights to him, but no previous revelation had been so wonderful as was the swift change of mood and bearing which took place in her at this instant. In a moment she had melted into soft tears, her lips were tremulous, her voice dropped into a shaken whisper.
"I've allers wanted to go away," she said. "I-I've allers said I would. I want to go to a city somewhar-I don't keer whar. I might git work-I've heerd of folks as did. P'r'aps some un ud hire me!"
He stared at her like a man fascinated. "You go to the city alone!" he said under his breath. "You try to get work!" "Yes," she answered. "Don't ye know
He stopped her.
"No," he said, "I don't. It would be a dangerous business unless you had friends. As for me, I shall not be in America long. As soon as I am married I go with my wife to Europe."
He heard a sharp click in her throat. Her tears were dried and she was looking straight at him.
"Are ye a-goin' to be married ?" she asked.
"Yes." "To-her?" with a gesture in the direction of the Harneys' cabin. "Yes."
"Oh!" and she walked out of the room.
He did not see her for three days, and the picture stood still. He went to the Harneys' and found Rebecca packing her trunk.
"We are going back to New York," she
'Why ?" he asked.
"Because our holiday is over."
Miss Thorne regarded him with chill severity.
"When may we expect to see you?" she inquired.
He really felt half stupefied,-as if for the time being his will was paralyzed.
"I don't know," he answered.
He tried to think that he was treated badly and coldly. He told himself that he had done nothing to deserve this style of thing, that he had simply been busy and absorbed in his work, and that if he had at times appeared preoccupied it was not to be wondered at. But when he looked at Rebecca he did not put these thoughts into words; he did not even say that of course he should follow them soon, since there was nothing to detain him but a sketch or two he had meant to make.
By night they were gone and he was left restless. and miserable. He was so restless that he could not sleep but wandered down toward the spring. He stopped at the exact point at which he had stopped on the night of his arrival-at the top of the zigzag little path leading down the rocky incline. He stopped because he heard a sound of passionate sobbing. He descended slowly. He knew the sound-angry, fierce, uncontrollable-because he had heard it before. It checked itself the instant he reached the ground. Lodusky leaning against a projecting rock kept her eyes fixed upon the water.
"Why did you come here?" he demanded, a little excitedly. "What are you crying for? What has hurt you?"
"Nothin'," in a voice low and unsteady. He drew a little nearer to her and for the first time was touched. She would not look at him, she was softened and altered, in her whole appearance, by a new pallor.
"Have "he began, "have I?" "You!" she cried, turning on him with a bitter, almost wild, gesture. "You wouldn't keer if I was struck dead afore ye!"
"Look here," he said to her, with an agitation he could not master. "Let me tell you something about myself. If you think I am a passably good fellow you are mistaken. I am a bad fellow, a poor fel
low, an ignoble fellow. You don't understand?" as she gazed at him in bewilderment. "No, of course, you don't. knows I didn't myself until within the last two weeks. It's folly to say such things to you; perhaps I say them half to satisfy myself. But I mean to show you that I am not to be trusted. I think perhaps I am too poor a fellow to love any woman honestly and altogether. I followed one woman here, and then after all let another make me
The next instant he started backward. Before he had time for a thought she had uttered a low cry, and flung herself down at his feet.
"I don't keer," she panted; "I wont keer fur nothin',-whether ye're good or bad,only don't leave me here when ye go away."
A week later Lennox arose one morning and set about the task of getting his belong. ings together. He had been up late and had slept heavily and long. He felt exhausted and looked so.
The day before, his model had given him his last sitting. The picture stood finished upon the easel. It was a thorough and artistic piece of work, and yet the sight of it was at times unbearable to him. There were times again, however, when it fascinated him anew when he went and stood opposite to it, regarding it with an intense gaze. He scarcely knew how the last week had passed. It seemed to have been spent in alternate feverish struggles and reckless abandonment to impulse. He had let himself drift here and there, he had at last gone so far as to tell himself that the time had arrived when baseness was possible to him.
"I don't promise you an easy life," he had said to Dusk the night before. "I tell you I am a bad fellow, and I have lost something through you that I cared for. You may wish yourself back again."