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A Book o' Nine Tales. by Arlo Bates

Columbine was seated upon a rock


As

far as Mr. Tom was concerned, Mr. Dysart might as well not have existed. They did once meet in the passage before the study door when the invalid in his first days of walking was one rainy morning wandering restlessly about the halls; but the owner of the house hurried furtively past, as if he were the interloper and the other lord of the manor; and even when the convalescent was well enough to join the family at table, Mr. Dysart was very seldom there, so that the meals were for the most part taken _tete-a-tete_ by Columbine and her patient.

The result of such a situation is evident from the beginning. Exceptional natures might be imagined, perhaps, that would not have grown dangerously interested in each other under such circumstances; but at least these two drew every day closer together. Neither had any tie belonging to the past; or, more exactly, Columbine had none, and he, for the time being, at least, had no past. His helplessness and the mystery enshrouding him would have appealed to the heart of any woman, and Columbine had no distractions to fill her life and crowd out this ever-deepening interest. Of Mr. Tom, her beauty and freshness, her simplicity, which was so far removed from insipidity, her innocence, which never suggested ignorance, won the respect and admiration long before he was conscious that love, too, was growing in his heart.

There came a day, however, when he could no longer be ignorant

of the nature of his feelings.

The two had gone past the arbor and down to the shore. Columbine was seated upon a rock, while Tom lay at her feet, idly tossing pebbles into a pool left among the sea-weed by the ebbing tide. The maiden wore that day a dress of gray flannel, almost the color of the stone upon which she sat, trimmed with a velvet of orange which no complexion less brilliant than hers could have endured. She twisted in her fingers a spray of goldenrod, yellow-coated harbinger of autumn.

"The summer is gone," Columbine remarked, pensively. "It is getting late even for goldenrod."

"Yes," he echoed, "the summer is gone. I lost so much of it I hardly realize--"

He broke off suddenly, a new thought seizing him.

"Why!" he exclaimed, "how long I have been here! I ought to have taken myself off your hands long ago. How you must think I abuse your hospitality!"

"Nonsense!" she returned, brightly; "you of course cannot go until you are well. It is necessary that you at least conjure from the past the rest of your name before you start out into the world again. Make yourself as comfortable as you can, Mr. Tom; you won't be let loose for a long time to come yet."

Despite the lightness of her manner her companion fancied he detected a shade of some hitherto unnoted feeling in her words; but whether dread of his departure or desire to be rid of him he could not divine. The latter thought struck him with a sudden chill. The love which had been fostered in his mind by this close and intimate companionship was not unmixed at this moment with a fear of being thrown upon his own resources while ignorant alike of his place and his name. He clung strongly to Columbine as to one who understood and sympathized with his strange mental weakness. The color flamed into his pale cheeks with a sudden throb of intense emotion; then faded, to leave him whiter than ever.


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