Had she waved her hand at him? He could not tell. Motionless he stood, a while, then cleared away the barrier of branches that obstructed the road, took up his knapsack, and with slow steps returned to the sugar-house.
Almost on the threshold, a white something caught his eye. He picked it up. Her handkerchief! A moment he held the dainty, filmy thing in his rough hand. A vague perfume reached his nostrils, disquieting and seductive.
“More than eighteen dollars an ounce, perhaps!” he exclaimed, with sudden bitterness; but still he did not throw the handkerchief away. Instead, he looked at it more keenly. In one corner, the fading light just showed him some initials. He studied them, a moment.
“C. J. F.” he read. Then, yielding to a sudden impulse, he folded the kerchief and put it in his pocket.
He entered the sugar-house, to make sure, before departing, that he had left no danger of fire behind him.
Another impulse bade him sit down on a rough box, there, before the dying embers. He gazed at the bed of leaves, a while, immersed in thought, then filled his pipe and lighted it with a glowing brand, and sat there—while the night came—smoking and musing, in a reverie.
The overpowering lure of the woman who had lain in his arms, as he had borne her thither; her breath upon his face; the perfume of her, even her blood that he had washed away—all these were working on his senses, still. But most of all he seemed to see her eyes, there in the ember-lit gloom, and hear her voice, and feel her lithe young body and her breast against his breast.
For a long time he sat there, thinking, dreaming, smoking, till the last shred of tobacco was burned out in the heel of his briar; till the last ember had winked and died under the old sheet-iron stove.
At last, with a peculiar laugh, he rose, slung the knapsack once more on his shoulders, settled his cap upon his head, and made ready to depart.
But still, one moment, he lingered in the doorway. Lingered and looked back, as though in his mind’s eye he would have borne the place away with him forever.
Suddenly he stooped, picked up a leaf from the bed where she had lain, and put that, too, in his pocket where the kerchief was.
Then, looking no more behind him, he strode off across the maple-grove, through which, now, the first pale stars were glimmering. He reached the road again, swung to the north, and, striking into his long marching stride, pushed onward northward, away and away into the soft June twilight.
TIGER WALDRON “COMES BACK.”
Old Isaac Flint loved but two things in all this world—power, and his daughter Catherine.
I speak advisedly in putting “power” first. Much as he idolized the girl, much as she reminded him of the long-dead wife of his youth, he could have survived the loss of her. The loss of power would inevitably have crushed and broken him, stunned him, killed him. Yet, so far as human affection could still blossom in that withered heart, shrunk by cold scheming and the cruel piracies of many decades, he loved the girl.