“Mr. Orme says he would like to meet Colonel Sheraton,” she explained, “and thee knows that we have not been to see our neighbors for some time now. I thought that perhaps Colonel Sheraton might be moved to listen to me as well as to Mr. Orme, if I should speak of peace—not in argument, as thee knows, but as his neighbor.”
She looked at me a moment, her hand dusting at my coat. “Thee knows the Sheratons and the Cowles have sometimes been friends and sometimes enemies—I would rather we were friends. And, Jack, Miss Grace is quite thy equal—it any may be the equal of my boy. And some day thee must be thinking, thee knows—”
“I was already thinking, mother,” said I gravely; and so, indeed, I was, though perhaps not quite as she imagined.
At least that is how we happened to ride to the Sheratons that afternoon, in our greater carriage, my father and Mr. Orme by the side of my mother, and I alongside on horseback. In some way the visit seemed to have a formal nature.
Colonel Sheraton met us at his lawn, and as the day was somewhat warm, asked us to be seated in the chairs beneath the oaks. Here Miss Grace joined us presently, and Orme was presented to her, as well as to Mrs. Sheraton, tall, dark, and lace-draped, who also joined us in response to Colonel Sheraton’s request. I could not fail to notice the quick glance with which Orme took in the face and figure of Grace Sheraton; and, indeed he had been a critical man who would not have called her fair to look upon.
The elder members of the party fell to conversing in their rocking-chairs there on the lawn, and I was selfish enough to withdraw Miss Grace to the gallery steps, where we sat for a time, laughing and talking, while I pulled the ears of their hunting dog, and rolled under foot a puppy or two, which were my friends. I say, none could have failed to call Grace Sheraton fair. It pleased me better to sit there on the gallery steps and talk with her than to listen once more to the arguments over slavery and secession. I could hear Colonel Sheraton’s deep voice every now and then emphatically coinciding with some statement made by Orme. I could see the clean-cut features of the latter, and his gestures, strongly but not flamboyantly made.
As for us two, the language that goes without speech between a young man and a maid passed between us. I rejoiced to mock at her, always, and did so now, declaring again my purpose to treat her simply as my neighbor and not as a young lady finished at the best schools of Philadelphia. But presently in some way, I scarce can say by whose first motion, we arose and strolled together around the corner of the house and out into the orchard.
THE MADNESS OF MUCH KISSING
“That was a very noble thing of you,” Miss Grace Sheraton was saying to me, as we passed slowly among the big trees of the Sheraton apple orchard. Her eyes were rather soft and a slight color lay upon her cheeks, whose ivory hue was rarely heightened in this way.