The house seemed suddenly quiet and lonesome. He went from the sitting-room to the kitchen, but neither Mrs. Hollis nor Aunt Melvy was to be found. Returning through the front hall, he opened the door to the parlor.
The sight that met him was somewhat gruesome. Everything was carefully wrapped in newspapers. Pictures enveloped in newspapers hung on the walls, newspaper chairs stood primly around a newspaper table. In the dim twilight it looked like the very ghost of a room.
Sandy threw open the window, and going over to the newspaper piano, untied the wrappings. He softly touched the keys and began to sing in an undertone. Old Irish love-songs, asleep in his heart since they were first dropped there by the merry mother lips, stirred and awoke. The accompaniment limped along lamely enough; but the singer, with hat over his eyes and lemon-juice on his nose, sang on as only a poet and lover can. His rich, full voice lingered on the soft Celtic syllables, dwelt tenderly on the diminutive endearments, while his heart, overcharged with sorrow and joy and romance and dreams, spilled over in an ecstasy of song.
Next door, in an upper bedroom, a tired soul paused in its final flight. Martha Meech, stretching forth her thin arms in the twilight, listened as one might listen to the strains of an angel choir.
“It’s Sandy,” she said, and the color came to her cheeks, the light to her eyes. For, like Sandy, she had youth and she had love, and life itself could give no more.
THE COUNTY FAIR
The big amphitheater at the fair grounds was filled as completely and evenly as a new paper of pins. Through the air floated that sweetest of all music to the childish ear—the unceasing wail of expiring balloons; and childish souls were held together in one sticky ecstasy of molasses candy and pop-corn balls.
Behind the highest row of seats was a promenade, and in front of the lowest was another. Around these circled a procession which, though constantly varying, held certain recurring figures like the charging steeds on a merry-go-round. There was Dr. Fenton, in his tight Confederate suit; he had been circling in that same procession at every fair for twenty years. There was the judge, lank of limb and loose of joint, who stopped to shake hands with all the strangers and invite them to take dinner in his booth, where Mrs. Hollis reveled in a riot of pastry. A little behind him strutted Mr. Moseley, sending search-lights of scrutiny over the crowd in order to discover the academy boys who might be wasting their time upon unlettered femininity.
At one side of the amphitheater, raised to a place of honor, was the courting-box. Here the aristocratic youth of the country-side met to measure hearts, laugh at the rustics, and enjoy the races.