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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 237 pages of information about Mercy Philbrick's Choice.
case.  But it was not.  Already Mercy had a sense of antagonism, of warfare, with Stephen, or rather with her love for him.  Already her pride was beginning to array itself in reticence, in withdrawal, in suppression.  More than once she had said to herself “I can live without him!  I could bear that pain better than this.”  More than once she had asked herself with a kind of terror, “Do I really wish ever to see Stephen again?” and had been forced to own in her secret thought that she shrank from meeting him.  She began even to consider the possibility of deferring the visit to Lizzy Hunter, which she had promised to make in the spring.  As the time drew nearer, her unwillingness to go increased, and she would no doubt have discovered some way of escape; but one day early in March a telegram came to her, which left her no longer any room for choice.

It ran:—­

“Uncle Dorrance is not expected to live.  He wishes to see you.  He is at my house.  Come immediately.

Lizzy Hunter.”

Chapter XIII.

Within six hours after the receipt of this telegram, Mercy was on her way to Penfield.  Her journey would take a night and part of a day.  As the morning dawned, and she drew near the old familiar scenes, her heart was wrung with conflicting memories and hopes and fears.  The whole landscape was dreary:  the fields were dark and sodden, with narrow banks of discolored snow lying under the fences, and thin rims of ice along the edges of the streams and pools.  The sky was gray; the bare trees were gray:  all life looked gray and hopeless to Mercy.  She had had an over-mastering presentiment from the moment when she read the telegram that she should reach Penfield too late to see Parson Dorrance alive.  A strange certainty that he had died in the night settled upon her mind as soon as she waked from her troubled sleep; and when she reached Lizzy’s door, and saw standing before it the undertaker’s wagon, which she so well remembered, there was no shock of surprise to her in the sight.  At the first sound of Mercy’s voice, Lizzy came swiftly forward, and fell upon her neck in a passion of crying.

“O Mercy, Mercy, he”—­

“Yes, dear, I know it,” interrupted Mercy, in a calm tone.  “I know he is dead.”

“Why, who told you, Mercy?” exclaimed Lizzy.  “He only died a few hours ago,—­about daybreak,”

“Oh, I thought he died in the night!” said Mercy, in a strange tone, as if trying to recollect something accurately about which her memory was not clear.  Her look and her tone filled Lizzy with terror, and banished her grief for the time being.

“Mercy, Mercy, don’t look so!” she exclaimed.  “Speak to me!  Oh, do cry, can’t you?” And Lizzy’s tears flowed afresh.

“No, Lizzy, I don’t think I can cry,” said Mercy, in the same strange, low voice.  “I wish I could have spoken to him once, though.  Did he leave any word for me?  Perhaps there is something he wanted me to do.”

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