“Very well, father; we will go. Only I must go with you.... You are not strong enough to go alone. We will go anywhere you like.”
Andrew Bolton got nimbly out of his chair and stood glowering at her across its back. Then he burst into a prolonged fit of laughter mixed with coughing.
“Oh, so you’ll go with father, will you?” he spluttered. “You insist—eh?”
And, still coughing and laughing mirthlessly, he went out of the room.
Left to herself, the girl sat down quietly enough before the fire. Her serene face told no story of inward sorrow to the watchful eyes of the man who loved her. Over long she had concealed her feelings, even from herself. She seemed lost in revery, at once sad and profound. Had she foreseen this dire disappointment of all her hopes, he wondered.
He stole away at last, half ashamed of spying upon her lonely vigil, yet withal curiously heartened. Wesley Elliot was right: Lydia Orr needed a friend. He resolved that he would be that friend.
In the room overhead the light had leapt to full brilliancy. An uncertain hand pulled the shade down crookedly. As the young man turned for a last look at the house he perceived a shadow hurriedly passing and repassing the lighted window. Then all at once the shadow, curiously huddled, stooped and was gone. There was something sinister in the sudden disappearance of that active shadow. Jim Dodge watched the vacant window for a long minute; then with a muttered exclamation walked on toward the village.
In the barroom of the Brookville House the flaring kerosene lamp lit up a group of men and half-grown boys, who had strayed in out of the chill darkness to warm themselves around the great stove in the middle of the floor. The wooden armchairs, which in summer made a forum of the tavern’s side piazza, had been brought in and ranged in a wide semicircle about the stove, marking the formal opening of the winter session. In the central chair sat the large figure of Judge Fulsom, puffing clouds of smoke from a calabash pipe; his twinkling eyes looking forth over his fat, creased cheeks roved impartially about the circle of excited faces.
“I can understand all right about Andrew Bolton’s turning up,” one man was saying. “He was bound to turn up sooner or later. I seen him myself, day before yesterday, going down street. Thinks I, ’Who can that be?’ There was something kind of queer about the way he dragged his feet. What you going to do about it, Judge? Have we got to put up with having a jailbird, as crazy as a loon into the bargain, living right here in our midst?”
“In luxury and idleness, like he was a captain of industry,” drawled another man who was eating hot dog and sipping beer. “That’s what strikes me kind of hard, Judge, in luxury and idleness, while the rest of us has to work.”