I wonder, too, how many of those argosies she sent out seeking the golden fleece returned to her? It’s a fine point for speculation. If one only knew.... ah, but it’s pitiful how much one doesn’t, and can’t, know in this hard and complex world! Or was it merely that she tired of them and wanted to be rid of them? Or again, do I wrong her there, and were there no more than the two of them, and did she simply suffer a solitary revulsion of feeling, as Harber did? But no, I’m sure I’m right in supposing Barton and Harber to have been but two ventures out of many, two arrows out of a full quiver shot in the dark at the bull’s-eye of fortune. And, by heaven, it was splendid shooting ... even if none of the other arrows scored!
Harber tells me he was ripe for the thing without any encouragement to speak of. Tawnleytown was dull plodding for hot youth. Half hidden in the green of fir and oak and maple, slumberous with midsummer heat, it lay when he left it. Thickly powdered with the fine white dust of its own unpaven streets, dust that sent the inhabitants chronically sneezing and weeping and red-eyed about town, or sent them north to the lakes for exemption, dust that hung impalpably suspended in the still air and turned the sunsets to things of glorious rose and red and gold though there wasn’t a single cloud or streamer in the sky to catch the light, dust that lay upon lawns and walks and houses in deep gray accumulation ... precisely as if these were objects put away and never used and not disturbed until they were white with the inevitable powdery accretion that accompanies disuse. Indeed, he felt that way about Tawnleytown, as if it were a closed room of the world, a room of long ago, unused now, unimportant, forgotten.
So unquestionably he was ready enough to go. He had all the fine and far-flung dreams of surging youth. He peopled the world with his fancies, built castles on every high hill. He felt the urge of ambition fiercely stirring within him, latent power pulsing through him. What would you? Wasn’t he young and in love?
For there had been, you must know, a good deal between them. What does one do in these deadly dull little towns for amusement, when one is young and fain and restless? Harber tells me they walked the streets and shaded lanes in the dim green coolness of evening, lounged in the orchard hammock, drifted down the little river, past still pools, reed-bordered, under vaulting sycamores, over hurrying reaches fretted with pebbles, forgot everything except one another and their fancies and made, as youth must, love. That was the programme complete, except for the talk, the fascinating, never-ending talk. Volumes on volumes of it—whole libraries of it.
So, under her veiled fostering, the feeling that he must leave Tawnleytown kept growing upon Harber until one evening it crystallized in decision.
It was on a Sunday. They had taken a lunch and climbed Bald Knob, a thousand feet above the town, late in the afternoon. The dying sun and the trees had given them a splendid symphony in black and gold, and had silenced them for a little. They sat looking down over the valley in which the well-known landmarks slowly grew dark and indistinguishable and dim lights blossomed one after another. The sound of church bells rose faintly through the still air. The pale last light faded in the sky.