“Fly like a youthful hart or roe,
Over the hills where the spices grow.”
The very breath of the spices of Arabia seemed borne into the young man’s senses by that voice. He saw in vision the blue tops of those delectable hills where the myrtle and the cassia grew; he felt within his limbs the ardent impulse of the hart or roe. He stood with his head bent, listening, until the music ceased; the blue hills sank suddenly into the land of the past, and all the spice-plants withered away.
There was but a few minutes’ interval; then there was a chorus—
“Strike the Timbrel.”
Burr Gordon, listening, heard in that only the great soprano, and it was to him like the voice of Miriam of old, summoning him to battle and glory.
But when that music ceased he did not wait any longer nor enter the house, but stole away silently. This time he travelled the main road, which intersected the old one at the Hautville house. The village lights shone before him all the way. He was half-way to the village when he met his cousin, Lot Gordon. He knew he was coming through the pale darkness of the night some time before he was actually in sight by his cough. Lot Gordon had had for years a sharp cough which afflicted him particularly when he walked abroad in night air. It carried as far as the yelp of a dog; when Burr first heard it he stopped short, and looked irresolutely at the thicket beside the road. He had a half-impulse to slink in there among the snowy bushes and hide until his cousin passed by. Then he shook his head angrily and kept on.
However, when the two men drew near each other Burr kept well to his side of the road and strode on rapidly, hoping his cousin might not recognize him. But Lot, with a hoarse laugh and another cough, swerved after him and jostled him roughly.
“Can’t cheat me, Burr Gordon,” said he.
“I don’t want to cheat you,” returned Burr, in a surly tone.
“You can’t if you do. Set me down anywhere in the woods when there’s a wind, and I’ll tell ye what the trees are if it’s so dark you can’t see a leaf by the way the boughs blow. The maples strike out stiff like dead men’s arms, and the elms lash like live snakes, and the pines stir all together like women. I can tell the trees no matter how dark ’tis by the way they move, and I can tell a Gordon by the swing of his shoulders, no matter how fast he slinks by on the other side in the shadow. You don’t set much by me, Burr, and I don’t set any too much by you, but we’ve got to swing our shoulders one way, whether we will or no, because our father and our grandfather did before us. Good Lord, aren’t men in leading-strings, no matter how high they kick!”
“I can’t stand here in the snow talking,” said Burr, and he tried to push past. But the other man stood before him with another laugh and cough. “You aren’t talking, Burr; I’m the one that’s talking, and I’ve heard stuff that was worse to listen to. You’d better stand still.”