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Francis Lynde Stetson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 317 pages of information about The Quickening.

“Oh, isn’t it terrible?” she sobbed; and Tom held her the closer.

“Never mind,” he comforted.  “He was crazy-mad, as he had a good right to be.  You know he will be heart-broken when he comes to himself.  You are his one ewe lamb, Ardea.”

“I know,” she faltered; “but O Tom! it was so unnecessary; so wretchedly unnecessary!  It’s—­it’s more than two whole months since—­since Vincent Farley broke the engagement, and—­”

He held her at arm’s length to look at her, but she hid her face in her hands.

“Broke the engagement!” he exclaimed, almost roughly.  “Why did he do that?”

She stood before him with her hands clasped and the clear-welled eyes meeting his bravely.

“Because I told him I could not marry him without first telling him that I loved you, Tom; that I had been loving you always and in spite of everything,” she said.

And what more she said I do not know.

XXXVII

WHOSE YESTERDAYS LOOK BACKWARD

“Tom, isn’t this the same foot-log you made me walk that day when you were trying to convince me that you were the meanest boy that ever breathed?” asked Ardea, gathering her skirts preparatory to the stream crossing.

“It is.  But you didn’t walk it, as you may remember:  you fell off.  Wait a second and give me those azaleas.  I’ll go first and take your hand.”

Tom Gordon, lately home from a full half-year spent in the unfettered solitudes of the Carriso iron fields, to be married first, and afterward to start up—­with Caleb for superintendent—­the idle Chiawassee plant as a test and experimental shop for American Aqueduct, was indemnifying himself for the long exile.

On this Saturday evening in the lovers’ month of June he had walked Ardea around and about through the fragrant summer wood of the upper creek valley, retracing, in part, the footsteps of the boy whose fishing had been spoiled and the little girl who was to be bullied into submission; and so rambling they had come at length to the old moss-grown foot-log which had been a newly-felled tree in the former time.  Tom went first across the rustic bridge, holding the hand of ecstatic thrillings, and pausing in mid-passage that he might have excuse for holding it the longer.  Ah me! we were all young once; and some of us are still young,—­God grant,—­in heart if not in years.

It was during the mid-passage pause, and while she was looking down on the swirling waters sometime of terrifying, that Miss Dabney said: 

“How deep is it, Tom?  Would I really have drowned if you and Hector had not pulled me out?”

He laughed.

“It’s a thankless thing to spoil an idyl, isn’t it?  But that is the way with all the little playtime heroics we leave behind in childhood.  You could have waded out.”

She made the adorable little grimace which was one of the survivals of the yesterdays, and suffered him to lead her across.

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