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x THE ROAD AT MIDNIGHT WHEN Dan went down into the shadows of the road, he stopped short before he reached the end of the stone wall, and turned for his last look at Chericoke. He saw the long old house, with its peaked roof over which the elm boughs arched, the white stretch of drive before the door, and the leaves drifting ceaselessly against the yellow squares of the library windows. As he looked Betty came slowly from the shadow by the gate, where she had lingered, and crossed the lighted spaces amid the falling leaves. On the threshold, as she turned to throw a glance into the night, it seemed to him, for a single instant, that her eyes plunged through the darkness into his own. Then, while his heart still bounded with the hope, the door opened, and shut after her, and she was gone. For a moment he saw only blackness - so sharp was the quick shutting off of the indoor light. The vague shapes upon the lawn showed like mere drawings in outline, the road became a pallid blur in the formless distance, and the shine of the lamplight on the drive shifted and grew dim as if a curtain had dropped across the windows. Like a white thread on the blackness he saw the glimmer beneath his grandmother's shutters, and it was as 219 220 The Battle-Ground if he had looked in from the high top of an elm and seen her lying with her candle on her breast. As he stood there the silence of the old house knocked upon his heart like sound - and quick fears sprang up within him of a sudden death, or of Betty weeping for him somewhere alone in the stillness. The long roof under the waving elm boughs lost, for a heartbeat, the likeness of his home, and became, as the clouds thickened in the sky, but a great mound of earth over which the wind blew and the dead leaves fell. But at last when he turned away and followed the branch road, his racial temperament had triumphed over the forebodings of the moment; and with the flicker of a smile upon his lips, he started briskly toward the turnpike. As the mind in the first ecstasy of a high passion is purified from the stain of mere emotion, so the Major, and the Major's anger, were forgotten, and his own bitter resentment swept as suddenly from his thoughts. He was overpowered and uplifted by the one supreme feeling from which he still trembled. All else seemed childish and of small significance beside the memory of Betty's lips upon his own. What room had he for anger when he was filled to overflowing with the presence of love? The branch road ran' out abruptly into the turnpike , and once off the familiar way by his grandfather 's stone wall, he felt the blackness of the night close round him like a vault. Without a lantern there was small hope of striking the tavern or the tavern road till morning. To go on meant a night upon the roadside or in the fields. The Road at Midnight 2~I As he stretched out his arm, groping in the blackness, he struck suddenly upon the body of the blasted tree, and coming round it, his eyes caught the red light of free Levi's fire, and he heard the sound of a hammer falling upon heated iron. The little path was somewhere in the darkness, and as he vainly sought for it, he stumbled over a row of stripped and headless cornstalks which ran up to the cabin door. Once upon the smooth stone before the threshold, he gave a boyish whistle and lifted his hand to knock. "It is I, Uncle Levi - there are no ' hants ' about," he cried. The hammer was thrown aside, and fell upon the stones, and a moment afterward, the door flew back quickly, showing the blanched face of free Levi and the bright glow of the hearth. "Dis yer ain' no time fur pranks," said the old man, angrily. " Ain't yer ever gwine ter grow up, yit?" and he added, slowly, "Praise de Lawd hit's you instid er de devil." " Oh, it's I, sure enough," returned Dan, lightly, as he came into the cabin. "I'm on my way to Merry Oaks Tavern, Uncle Levi, - ii's ten miles off, you know, and this blessed...


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