Garrison had choked, and if the eminent lawyer’s wonderful vocabulary and eloquent manner had not just then intervened, Garrison then and there would have wilted and confessed everything. If only, he told himself fiercely, Major Calvert and his wife had not been so courteous, so trustful, so simple, so transparently honorable, incapable of crediting a dishonorable action to another, then perhaps it would not have been so difficult.
The ride behind the spanking bays was all a dream; all a dream as they drove up the long, white, wide Logan Pike under the nodding trees and the soft evening sun. Everything was peaceful—the blue sky, the waving corn-fields, the magnolia, the songs of the homing birds. The air tasted rich as with great breaths he drew it into his lungs. It gave him hope. With this air to aid him he might successfully grapple with consumption.
Garrison was in the rear seat of the phaeton with Mrs. Calvert, mechanically answering questions, giving chapters of his fictitious life, while she regarded him steadily with her grave blue eyes. Mr. Snark and the major were in the middle seat, and the eminent lawyer was talking a veritable blue streak, occasionally flinging over his shoulder a bolstering remark in answer to one of Mrs. Calvert’s questions, as his quick ear detected a preoccupation in Garrison’s tones, and he sensed that there might be a sudden collapse to their rising fortunes. He was in a very good humor, for, besides the ten thousand, and the bonus he would receive from Garrison on the major’s death, he had accepted an invitation to stay the week end at Calvert House.
Garrison’s inattention was suddenly swept away by the clatter of hoofs audible above the noise contributed by the bays. A horse, which Garrison instinctively, and to his own surprise, judged to be a two-year-old filly, was approaching at a hard gallop down the broad pike. Her rider was a young girl, hatless, who now let loose a boyish shout and waved a gauntleted hand. Mrs. Calvert, smilingly, returned the hail.
“A neighbor and a lifelong friend of ours,” she said, turning to Garrison. “I want you to be very good friends, you and Sue. She is a very lovely girl, and I know you will like her. I want you to. She has been expecting your coming. I am sure she is anxious to see what you look like.”
Garrison made some absent-minded, commonplace answer. His eyes were kindling strangely as he watched the oncoming filly. His blood was surging through him. Unconsciously, his hands became ravenous for the reins. A vague memory was stirring within him. And then the girl had swung her mount beside the carriage, and Major Calvert, with all the ceremonious courtesy of the South, had introduced her.
She was a slim girl, with a wealth of indefinite hair, now gold, now bronze, and she regarded Garrison with a pair of very steady gray eyes. Beautiful eyes they were; and, as she pulled off her gauntlet and bent down a slim hand from the saddle, he looked up into them. It seemed as if he looked into them for ages. Where had he seen them before? In a dream? And her name was Desha. Where had he heard that name? Memory was struggling furiously to tear away the curtain that hid the past.