Her face upturned to his in the moonlight wore the austere loveliness of a saint’s.
[Illustration: Her face upturned to his in the moonlight, wore the austere loveliness of a saint’s.]
“I wish you’d tell me something,” he said, his fine dark eyes taking in every detail of delicate tint and outline. “Do you know it all seems very strange and unusual to me—your coming to Brookville the way you did, and doing so much to—to make the people here happy.”
She drew a deep, sighing breath.
“I’m afraid it isn’t going to be easy,” she said slowly. “I thought it would be; but—”
“Then you came with that intention,” he inferred quickly. “You meant to do it from the beginning. But just what was the beginning? What ever attracted your attention to this forlorn little place?”
She was silent for a moment, her eyes downcast. Then she smiled.
“I might ask you the same question,” she said at last. “Why did you come to Brookville, Mr. Elliot?”
He made an impatient gesture.
“Oh, that is easily explained. I had a call to Brookville.”
“So did I,” she murmured. “Yes; I think that was the reason—if there must be a reason.”
“There is always a reason for everything,” he urged. “But you didn’t understand me. Do you know I couldn’t say this to another soul in Brookville; but I’m going to tell you: I wanted to live and work in a big city, and I tried to find a church—”
“Yes; I know,” she said, unexpectedly. “One can’t always go where one wishes to go, just at first. Things turn out that way, sometimes.”
“They seemed to want me here in Brookville,” he said, with some bitterness. “It was a last resort, for me. I might have taken a position in a school; but I couldn’t bring myself to that. I’d dreamed of preaching—to big audiences.”
She smiled at him, with a gentle sidewise motion of the head.
“God lets us do things, if we want to hard enough,” she told him quite simply.
“Do you believe that?” he cried. “Perhaps you’ll think it strange for me to ask; but do you?”
A great wave of emotion seemed to pass over her quiet face. He saw it alter strangely under his gaze. For an instant she stood transfigured; smiling, without word or movement. Then the inward light subsided. She was only an ordinary young woman, once more, upon whom one might bestow an indulgent smile—so simple, even childlike she was, in her unaffected modesty.
“I really must go in,” she said apologetically, “and help them cut the cake.”
Jim Dodge had been hoeing potatoes all day. It was hard, monotonous work, and he secretly detested it. But the hunting season was far away, and the growing potatoes were grievously beset by weeds; so he had cut and thrust with his sharp-bladed hoe from early morning till the sun burned the crest of the great high-shouldered hill which appeared to close in the valley like a rampart, off Grenoble way. As a matter of fact, the brawling stream which gave Brookville its name successfully skirted the hill by a narrow margin which likewise afforded space for the state road.