People in the country go by the almanac, instead of by events, as in cities; and May quickened into June, June warmed into July, and ran on to fervid August. Quiet ruled in the Ridgeley cottage, rarely broken, save when Julia galloped up and made a pleasant little call, had a game of romps with George, a few quick words with Edward; an enquiry, or adroit circumlocution, would bring out Bart’s name, which the young lady would hear with the most innocent air in the world. She always had some excuse; she was going, returning to, or from some sick person, or on some kind errand. Once or twice later, young King, of Ravenna, accompanied her; and still later, Mr. Thorndyke was riding with her frequently.
It was observed that while her beauty had perfected, if possible, the character of her face had deepened, and a tenderer light was in her eyes. As the time came for Bart’s examination, she carelessly remarked that he would be home soon, and was told that he had decided to take a short course in the Albany law-school, and would go directly from Jefferson; that when he left in the spring, he had determined not to return to Newbury until the end of a year; but that his mother might expect him certainly at that time. Julia was turning over a bound volume of the New York Mirror, and came upon a Bristol board, on which was a fine pen-and-ink outline head of Bart. She took it up and asked Mrs. Ridgeley if she might have it. “Certainly,” was the answer, “if you wish it,” and she carried it away. After leaving the house she discovered on the other side, a better finished and more artistic likeness of herself in crayon, with her hair falling about her neck and shoulders; and surrounding it, two or three outlines of her features in profile, which she recognized by the hair—one of poor Bart’s “ships” that had escaped the general burning.
* * * * *
Barton decided to avail himself of the kindness of Mr. Windsor, and quietly made his arrangements accordingly. The summer was very pleasant to him. He devoted himself with his usual ardor to his books, but gave much of his leisure to Ida, who began to feel the approach of a calamity that gradually extinguished the light in her eyes. She was already suffering—although not anticipating a serious result—a pressure in the forehead, and a gradual impairing of vision, without pain. Under its shadow, that no medical art could dissipate, she found a wonderful solace in the tender devotion of her newly found brother, who read to her, walked with her, and occasionally rode with her, in all tender, manly ways surrounding her with an atmosphere of kind and loving observances, which she more than repaid, with the strong, healthy and pure womanly influence, which she exercised over him.
Late one wondrously beautiful August night, as Bart was returning from a solitary stroll, he was suddenly joined by Sartliff, bare-headed and bare-footed, who placed his hand within his arm, and turning him about, walked him back towards the wood. Bart had not seen him for weeks, and he thought his face was thinner and more haggard, and his eyes more cavernous than he had ever seen them.