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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

A breeze blowing across the cornfield swept over them


On

this Saturday evening Sylvia was particularly happy. The day's activities, that had begun late, left her a little breathless. She was wondering whether any one had ever been so happy, and whether any other girl's life had ever been so pleasantly ordered. Her heartbeat quickened as she thought of college and the busy years that awaited her there; and after that would come the great world's wide-open doors. She was untouched by envy, hatred, or malice. There was no cloud anywhere that could mar; the stars that stole out into the great span of sky were not more tranquil than her own heart. The world existed only that people might show kindness one to another, and that all this beauty of wood, field, water, and starry sky might bring joy to the souls of men. She knew that there was evil in the world; but she knew it from books and not from life. Her path had fallen in pleasant places, and only benignant spirits attended her.

She was roused suddenly by the sound of steps in the path beneath. This twilight sanctuary had never been invaded before, and she rose hastily. The course of an irregular path that followed the lake was broken here by the creek's miniature chasm, but adventurous pedestrians might gain the top and continue over a rough rustic bridge along the edge of Mrs. Owen's cornfield. Sylvia peered down, expecting to see Marian or Blackford, but a stranger was approaching, catching at bushes to facilitate his ascent. Sylvia stepped back,

assuming it to be a cottager who had lost his way. A narrow-brimmed straw hat rose above the elderberry bushes, and with a last effort the man stood on level ground, panting from the climb. He took off his hat and mopped his face as he glanced about. Sylvia had drawn back, but as the stranger could not go on without seeing her she stepped forward, and they faced each other, in a little plot of level ground beside the defile.

"Pardon me!" he exclaimed, still breathing hard; and then his eyes met hers in a long gaze. His gray eyes searched her dark ones for what seemed an interminable time. Sylvia's hand sought the maple but did not touch it; and the keen eyes of the stranger did not loosen their hold of hers. A breeze blowing across the cornfield swept over them, shaking the maple leaves, and rippled the surface of the lake. The dusk, deepening slowly, seemed to shut them in together.

"Pardon me, again! I hope I didn't frighten you! I am Mr. Bassett, Marian's father."

"And I am Sylvia Garrison. I am staying--"

"Oh," he laughed, "you needn't tell me! They told me at the supper-table all about you and that you and Marian are fast friends."

"I knew you were coming; they were speaking of it this morning."

They had drawn closer together during this friendly exchange. Again their eyes met for an instant, then he surveyed her sharply from head to foot, as he stood bareheaded leaning on his stick.

"I must be going," said Sylvia. "There's a path through the corn that Mrs. Owen lets me use. They'll begin to wonder what's become of me."

"Why not follow the path to the lane,--I think there is a lane at the edge of the field,--and I will walk to the house with you. The path through the corn must be a little rough, and it's growing dark."


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