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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 287 pages of information about Bart Ridgeley.

CHAPTER VI.

What he thought of things.

How grateful to the sensitive heart of the young man would have been the knowledge that he was an object of thoughtful interest to Julia’s mother, who, next to his own, had his reverence and regard!  He knew he was generally disliked; his intuitions assured him of this, and in his young arrogance he had not cared.  Indeed, he had come to feel a morbid pleasure in avoiding and being avoided; but now, as he sat in the little silent room in the late night, he felt his isolation.  He had been appalled at a discovery—­or rather a revelation—­made that afternoon.  He knew that he loved Julia, and that this love would be the one passion of manhood, as it had been of his boyhood.  He had given himself up to it as to a delicious onflowing stream, drifting him through enchanted lands, and had not thought or cared whither it might bear, or on what desolate shore it might finally strand him.

Now he felt its full strength and power, and he knew, too, that it was a force to be controlled, when perhaps that had become impossible.  He had never asked himself if a return of his passion were even possible, until now, when his whole fervid nature had gone out in a great hungry longing for her love and sympathy.  She had never stood so lovely and so inaccessible as he had seen her that day.  How deeply through and through came the first greeting of her eyes!  It was an electric flash never received before, and which as suddenly disappeared.  How cool and indifferent was her manner and look as he approached, and stood near her!  No inquiry, save that mocking one!  Not a word; not a thought of where he had been, or why he had returned, or what he would do; the shortest answer as to his inquiry about her mother; no intimation that he might even call at the house.  Thus he went over with it all—­over and over again.  What did he care?  But he did, and could not deceive himself.  He did care, and must not; and then he went back over all their intercourse since her return home, two or three months before he left, and it was all alike on her part—­a cool, indifferent avoidance of him.

Oh, she was so glorious—­so beautiful!  The whole world lay in the span of her slender waist—­a world not for him.  Was it something to be adventured for, fought for, found anywhere? something that he could climb up to and take? something to plunge down to in fathomless ocean and carry back?  No, it was her woman’s heart.  Like her father, she disliked him; and if, like her father, she would openly let him see and hear it—­but doesn’t she?  What had he to offer her?  How could he overcome her father’s dislike?  He felt in his soul what would come to him finally, but then, in the lapsing time?  And she avoided him now!

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