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A Frontier Romance, A Tale of Jumel Mansion by Will Lillibridge

 

I

A new settlement in a new country: no contemporary mind can conceive the possibilities of future greatness that lie in the fulfilment of its prophecy.

A long, irregular quadrangle has been hewn from the woods bordering the north bank of the Ohio River. Scattered through the clearing are rude houses, built of the forest logs. Bounding the space upon three sides, and so close that its storm music sounds plain in every ear, is the forest itself. On the fourth side flows the wide river, covered now, firm and silent, with a thick ice blanket. Across the river on the Kentucky shore, softened by the blue haze of distance, another forest crowds down to the very water's edge.

It is night, and of the cabins in the clearing each reflects, in one way or another, the character of its builder. Here a broad pencil of light writes “Careless!” on the black sheet of the forest; there a mere thread escaping tells of patient carpentry.

At one end of the clearing, so near the forest that the top of a falling tree would have touched it, stood a cabin, individual in its complete darkness except for a dull ruddy glow at one end, where a window extended as high as the eaves. An open fire within gnawed at the half-green logs, sending smoke and steam up the cavernous chimney, and casting about the room an uncertain, fitful light—now bright, again shadowy.

It was a bare room that the flickering firelight revealed, bare alike as to its furnishings and the freshness of its peeled logs, the spaces between which had been “chinked” with clay from the river-bank. Scarcely a thing built of man was in sight which had not been designed to kill; scarcely a product of Nature which had not been gathered at cost of animal life. Guns of English make, stretched horizontally along the walls upon pegs driven into the logs; in the end opposite the wide fireplace, home-made cooking utensils dangled from the end of a rough table, itself a product of the same factory. In front of the fire, just beyond the blaze and the coals and ashes, were heaped the pelts of various animals; black bear and cinnamon rested side by side with the rough, shaggy fur of the buffalo, brought by Indians from the far western land of the Dakotas.

Upon the heap, dressed in the picturesque utility garb of buckskin, homespun, and “hickory” which stamped the pioneer of his day, a big man lay at full length: a large man even here, where the law of the fittest reigned supreme. A stubbly growth of beard covered his face, giving it the heavy expression common to those accustomed to silent places, and dim forest trails.

Aside from his size, there was nothing striking or handsome about this backwoods giant, neither of face nor of form; yet, sleeping or waking, working or at leisure, he would be noticed—and remembered. In his every feature, every action, was the absolute unconsciousness of self, which cannot be mistaken; whether active or passive, there was about him an insinuation of reserve force, subtly felt, of a strong, determined character, impossible to sway or bend. He lay, now, motionless, staring with wide-open eyes into the fire and breathing slowly, deeply, like one in sleep.

There was a hammering upon the door; another, louder; then a rattling that made the walls vibrate.

“Come!” called the man, rousing and rolling away from the fire.

A heavy shoulder struck the door hard, and the screaming wooden hinges covered the sound of the entering footfall.

He who came was also of the type: homespun and buckskin, hair long and face unshaven. He straightened from a passage which was not low, then turning pushed the unwieldy door shut. It closed reluctantly, with a loud shrilling of its frost-bound hinges and frame. In a moment he dropped his hands and impatiently kicked the stubborn offender home, the suction drawing a puff of smoke from the fireplace into the room, and sending the ashes spinning in miniature whirlwinds upon the hearth.

The man on the floor contemplated the entry with indifference; but a new light entered his eyes as he recognized his visitor, though his face held like wood.

“Evenin', Clayton,” he greeted, nodding toward a stool by the hearth. “Come over 'n sit down to the entertainment.” A whimsical smile struggled through the heavy whiskers. “I've been seeing all sorts of things in there”—a thoughtful nod toward the fire. “Guess, though, a fellow generally does see what he's looking for in this world.”

“See here, Bud,” the visitor bluntly broke in, coming into the light and slurring a dialect of no nationality pure, “y' can't stop me thataway. There ain't no use talkin' about the weather, neither.” A motion of impatience; then swifter, with a shade of menace:

“You know what I came over fer. It's actin' the fool, I know, we few families out here weeks away from ev'rybody, but this clearin' can't hold us both.”

The menace suddenly left the voice, unconsciously giving place to a note of tenderness and of vague self-fear.

“I love that girl better 'n you er life er anything else, Bud; I tell ye this square to yer face. I can't stand it. I followed ye last night clean home from the party—an' I had a knife. I jest couldn't help it. Every time I know nex' time it'll happen. I don't ask ye to give her up, Bud, but to settle it with me now, fair an' open, 'fore I do something I can't help.”

He strode swiftly to and fro across the room as he spoke, his skin-shod feet tapping muffled upon the bare floor, like the pads of an animal. The fur of his leggings, rubbing together as he walked, generated static sparks which snapped audibly. He halted presently by the fireplace, and looked down at the man lying there.

“It's 'tween us, Bud,” he said, passion quivering in his voice.

Minutes passed before Bud Ellis spoke, then he shifted his head, quickly, and for the first time squarely met Clayton's eyes.

“You say it's between you and me,” he initiated slowly: “how do you propose to settle it?”

The other man hesitated, then his face grew red.

“Ye make it hard for me, Bud, 's though I was a boy talkin' to ye big here; but it's true, as I told ye: I ain't myself when I see ye settin' close to 'Liz'beth, er dancin' with your arm touchin' hern. I ain't no coward, Bud; an' I can't give her up—to you ner nobody else.

“I hate it. We've always been like brothers afore, an' it 'pears kinder dreamy 'n foolish 'n unnatural us settin' here talkin' 'bout it; but there ain't no other way I can see. I give ye yer choice, Bud: I'll fight ye fair any way y' want.”

Ellis's attitude remained unchanged: one big hand supported his chin while he gazed silently into the fire. Clayton stood contemplating him a moment, then sat down.

By and by Ellis's head moved a little, a very little, and their eyes again met. A minute passed, and in those seconds the civilization of each man moved back generations.

The strain was beyond Clayton; he bounded to his feet with a motion that sent the stool spinning.

“God A'mighty! Are y' wood er are y' a coward? Y' seem to think I'm practisin' speech-makin'. D'ye know what it means fer me to come up here like this to you?” He waited, but there was no response.

“I tell ye fer the last time, I love that girl, an' if it warn't fer you—fer you, Bud Ellis—she'd marry me. Can ye understand that? Now will ye fight?—or won't ye?”

A movement, swift and easy, like a released spring, the unconscious trick of a born athlete, and Ellis was upon his feet. Involuntarily, Clayton squared himself, as if an attack were imminent.

“No, I won't fight you,” said the big man, slowly. Without the least hesitation, he advanced and laid a hand upon the other man's shoulder, facing him at arm's length and speaking deliberately.

“It isn't that I'm afraid of you, either, Bert Clayton; you know it. You say you love her; I believe you. I love her, too. And Elizabeth—you have tried, and I have tried—and she told us both the same.

“God, man! I know how you feel. I've expected something like this a long time.” He drew his hand across his eyes, and turned away. “I've had murder in my heart when I saw you, and hated myself. It's only in such places as this, where nothing happens to divert one's mind, that people get like you and me, Bert. We brood and brood, and it's love and insanity and a good deal of the animal mixed. Yes, you're right. It's between you and me, Bert,—but not to fight. One of us has got to leave—”

“It won't be me,” Clayton quickly broke in. “I tell ye, I'd rather die, than leave.”

For a full minute Ellis steadily returned the other man's fiery look, then went on as though there had been no interruption:

“—and the sooner we go the better. How do you want to settle it—shall we draw straws?”

“No, we'll not draw straws. Go ef you're afraid; but I won't stir a step. I came to warn ye, or to fight ye if y' wanted. Seein' y' won't—good-night.”

Ellis stepped quickly in front of the door, and with the motion Clayton's hand went to his knife.

“Sit down, man,” demanded Ellis, sternly. “We're not savages. Let's settle this matter in civilized fashion.”

They confronted each other for a moment, the muscles of Clayton's face twitching an accompaniment to the nervous fingering of the buckhorn hilt; then he stepped up until they could have touched.

“What d' y' mean anyway?” he blazed. “Get out o' my road.”

Ellis leaned against the door-bar without a word. The fire had burned down, and in the shadow his face had again the same expression of heaviness. The breathing of Clayton, swift and short, like one who struggles physically, painfully intensified the silence of that dimly lighted, log-bound room.

With his right hand Clayton drew his knife; he laid his left on the broad half-circle of wood that answered as a door handle.

“Open that door,” he demanded huskily, “or by God, I'll stab ye!”

In the half-light the men faced each other, so near their breaths mingled. Twice Clayton tried to strike. The eyes of the other man held him powerless, and to save his life—even to satisfy a new, fierce hate—he could not stir. He stood a moment thus, then an animal-like frenzy, irresistible but impotent, seized him. He darted his head forward and spat in the heavy face so close to his own.

The unspeakable contempt of the insult shattered Bud Ellis's self-control. Prompted by blind fury, the great fist of the man shot out, hammer-like, and Clayton crumpled at his feet. It was a blow that would have felled the proverbial ox; it was the counterpart of many other blows, plus berserker rage, that had split pine boards for sheer joy in the ability to do so. These thoughts came sluggishly to the inflamed brain, and Ellis all at once dropped to his knees beside the limp, prostrate figure.

He bent over Clayton, he who had once been his friend. He was scarcely apprehensive at first, and he called his name brusquely; then, as grim conviction grew, his appeals became frantic.

At last Ellis shrank away from the Thing upon the floor. He stared until his eyeballs burnt like fire. It would never, while time lasted, move again.

Horror unutterable fell upon him.

II

In the year 1807 there were confined in a common Western jail, amid a swarm of wretches of every degree of baseness, two men as unlike as storm and sunshine. One was charged with treason, the other with murder; conviction, in either case, meant death.

One was a man of middle age, an aristocrat born; a college graduate and a son of a college graduate; a man handsome of appearance, passionate and ambitious, who knew men's natures as he knew their names. He had fought bravely for his country, and his counsels had helped mould the foundations of the new republic. Honored by his fellow-men, he had served brilliantly in such exalted positions as that of United States Senator, and Attorney General for the State of New York. On one occasion, only a single vote stood between him and the presidency.

His name was Aaron Burr.

The other was a big backwoodsman of twenty, whose life had been as obscure as that of a domestic animal. He was rough of manner and slow of speech, and just now, owing to a combination of physical confinement and mental torture altogether unlovely in disposition.

This man was Bud Ellis.

The other prisoners—a motley lot of frontier reprobates—ate together, slept together, and quarrelled together. Looking constantly for trouble, and thrown into actual contact with an object as convenient as Aaron Burr, it was inevitable that he should be made the butt of their coarse gibes and foul witticisms; and when these could not penetrate his calm, superior self-possession, it was just as inevitable that taunts should extend even to worse indignities.

Burr was not the man to be stirred against his calm judgment; but one day his passionate nature broke loose, and he and the offender came to blows.

There were a dozen prisoners in the single ill-lighted, log-bound room, and almost to a man they attacked him. The fight would not have lasted long had not the inequality appealed to Ellis on the second.

Moreover, with him, the incident was to the moment opportune. If ever a man was in the mood for war, it was the big, square-jawed pioneer. He was reckless and desperate for the first time in his life, and he joined with Burr against the room, with the abandon of a madman.

For minutes they fought. Elbows and knees, fists and feet, teeth and tough-skulled heads; every hard spot and every sharp angle bored and jabbed at the crushing mass which swiftly closed them in. They struggled like cats against numbers, and held the wall until the sound of battle brought the negligent guard running, and the muzzle of a carbine peeped through the grating. Burr and Ellis came out with scarce a rag and with many bruises, but with the new-born lust of battle hot within them. Ellis glowered at the enemy, and having of the two the more breath, fired the parting shot.

“How I'd like to take you fellows out, one at a time,” he said.

From that day the two men were kept apart from the others, and the friendship grew. When Burr chose, neither man nor woman could resist him. He chose now and Ellis, by habit and by nature silent, told of his life and of his thoughts. It was a new tale to Burr, these dream products of a strong man, and of solitude; and so, listening, he forgot his own trouble. The hard look that had formed over his face in the three years past vanished, leaving him again the natural, fascinating man who had first taken the drawing-room of the rare old Jumel mansion by storm. It was genuine, this tale that Ellis told; it was strong, with the savor of Mother Nature and of wild things, and fascinating with the beauty of unconscious telling.

“And the girl?” asked Burr after Ellis finished a passionate account of the last year. Unintentionally, he touched flame to tinder.

“Don't ask me about her. I'm not fit. She was coming to see me, but I wouldn't let her. She's good and innocent; she never imagined we were not as strong as she, and it's killing her. There's no question what will happen to me; everything is against me, and I'll be convicted.

“No one understands—she can't herself; but she feels responsible for one of us, already, and will feel the same for me when it's over. Anyway, I'd never see her again. I feel different toward her now, and always would. I'd never live over again days like I have in the past year: days I hated a friend I'd known all my life—because we both loved the same woman. If the Almighty sent love of woman into the world to be bought at the price I paid, it's wrong, and He's made a mistake. It's contrary to Nature, because Nature is kind.

“Last summer I'd sit out of doors at night and watch the stars come out thick, like old friends, till I'd catch the mood and be content. The wind would blow up from the south, softly, like some one fanning me, and the frogs and crickets would sing even and sleepy, and I'd think of her and be as nearly happy as it was possible for me to be.

“Then, somehow, he'd drift into the picture, and it grated. I'd wonder why this love of woman, which ought to make one feel the best of everything there is in life; which ought to make one kinder and tenderer to every one, should make me hate him, my best friend. The night would be spoiled, and from then on the crickets would sing out of tune. I'd go to bed, where, instead of sleeping, I would try to find out, and couldn't.

“And at last, that night—and the end! Oh, it's horrible, horrible! I wish to God they'd try me quick, and end it. It makes me hate that girl to think she's the cause. And that makes me hate myself, for I know she's innocent. Oh, it's tangled—tangled—”

Of the trial which followed, the world knows. How Burr pleaded his own case, and of the brilliancy of the pleading, history makes record at length. 'T was said long before, when the name of Burr was proud on the Nation's tongue—years before that fatal morning on Weekawken Heights—that no judge could decide against him. Though reviled by half the nation, it would seem it were yet true.

Another trial followed; but of this history is silent, though Aaron Burr pleaded this case as well. It was a trial for manslaughter, and every circumstance, even the prisoner's word, declared guilt. To show that a person may be guilty in act, and at the same time, in reality, innocent, calls for a master mind—the mind of a Burr. To tell of passion, one must have felt passion, and of such Burr had known his full share. No lawyer for the defence was ever better prepared than Burr, and he did his best. In court he told the jury a tale of motive, of circumstance, and of primitive love, such as had never been heard in that county before; such that the twelve men, without leaving their seats, brought a verdict of “Not guilty.”

“I can't thank you right,” said the big man, with a catch in his voice, wringing Burr's hand.

“Don't try,” interrupted Burr, quickly. “You did as much for me.” And even Burr did not attempt to say any more just then.

III

The two men went East together, travelling days where now hours would suffice. Why Burr took the countryman home with him, knowing, as he did, the incongruity of such a step, he himself could not have told. It puzzled Ellis still more. He had intended going far away to some indefinite place; but this opportunity of being virtually thrust into the position where he most wished to be, was unusual; it was a reversal of all precedent; and so why demur?

[Illustration: The two men went East together.]

On the way, Burr told much of his life—probably more than he had told before in years. He knew that the sympathy of Ellis was sincere, and a disinterested motive was with him a new thing, a key to confidence.

A woman was at this time, and had been for years, foremost in Burr's mind. He was going to see her now; beyond that his plans were dim. During a career of politics, there had crept into the man's life much that was hard and worldly; but this attachment was from ambition far apart—his most sacred thing.

She was a brilliant woman, this friend of Burr's; one whom many sought; but it was not this which influenced him. She had been his best friend, and had taken him into her own home during the darkest hour of his life, when condemnation was everywhere. Gossip had fluttered, but to no avail. Burr never forgot a friend, and in this case it was more than friendship: it was a genuine love that lasted; for years later, in his old age and hers as well, old Jumel mansion made gay at their wedding.

“What do you expect to do?” asked Burr of Ellis.

“Anything just now that will make me forget,” answered the countryman, quickly. “So there's enough of it is all that I ask. I'm going to get a little more education first. Sometime I'll study law—that is, if I'm here 'sometime.' I've got to be where there's life and action. I'll never end by being common.” He paused a moment, and on his face there formed the peculiar heavy look that had confronted Clayton; a mask that hid a determination, which nothing of earth could shake. He finished slowly: “I'll either be something, or nothing.”

Biographers leave the impression that at this time Burr was devoid of prestige on earth. Politically, this is true; but respecting his standing with the legal fraternity, it is wholly false. He had influence, and he used it, securing the stranger a place in a New York office, where his risk depended only upon himself. More than this, he gave Ellis money.

“You can pay me any interest you wish,” said he when the latter protested.

Ellis had been settled a week. One evening he sat in the back room of the city office, fighting the demon of homesickness with work, and the light of an open fire. It was late, and he had studied till Nature rebelled; now he sat in his own peculiar position, gazing into the glow, motionless and wide-eyed.

He started at a tap on the door, and the past came back in a rush.

“Come in,” he called.

Burr entered, and closed the door carefully behind him. Ellis motioned to a chair.

“No, I won't sit down,” said Burr. “I'm only going to stay a moment.”

He came over to the blaze, looking down on the other man's head. Finally he laid a hand on Ellis's shoulder.

“Lonesome, eh?” he inquired.

The student nodded silent assent.

“So am I,” said Burr, beginning to pace up and down the narrow room. “Do you know,” he burst out at last, “this town is like hell to me. Every hand is against me. There's not one man here, beside you, whom I can trust. I can't stand it. I'm going to leave the country. Some day I'll come back; but now it's too much.” There was the accumulated bitterness of months in his voice. “My God!” he interjected, “you'd think these people never did anything wrong in their lives.” He stopped and laid his hand again on the other man's shoulder.

“But enough of this—I didn't come to make you more lonesome. I want you to meet my friends before I go. You'll go out with me to-morrow afternoon?”

There was silence for a moment.

“If you wish. You know what I am,” said Ellis.

Burr's hand rested a moment longer.

“Good-night,” he said simply.

Some eight or ten miles north of the beach, on the island of Manhattan, stood Jumel home; a fine, white house, surrounded by a splendid lawn and gardens. A generation had already passed since its erection, and the city was slowly creeping near. It was a stately specimen of Colonial domestic architecture, built on simple, restful lines, and distinguished by the noble columns of its Grecian front. Destined to be diminished, the grounds had already begun to shrink; but from its commanding position it had a view that was magnificent, overlooking as it did, the Hudson, the Harlem, the East River, the Sound, and upon every side, miles upon miles of undulating land.

On the way, and again upon the grounds, Burr related the history of the old landmark, telling much with the fascination of personal knowledge. The tale of the Morrises, of Washington and of Mary Philipse was yet upon his tongue, as he led Ellis through the broad pillared entrance, into the great hall.

Things moved swiftly, very swiftly and very dreamily, to the countryman in the next few hours. Nothing but the lack of ability prevented his vanishing at the sound of approaching skirts; nothing but physical timidity prevented his answering the greeting of the hostess; nothing but conscious awkwardness prompted the crude bow that answered the courtesy of the girl with the small hands, and the dark eyes who accompanied her—the first courtesy from powdered maid of fashion that he had ever known. Her name, Mary Philipse, coming so soon after Burr's story, staggered him, and, open-mouthed, he stood looking at her. Remembrance came to Burr simultaneously, and he touched Ellis on the arm.

“Don't worry, my friend,” he laughed; “she's not the one.”

Ellis grew red to the ears.

“We'll leave you to Mary,” said Burr retreating with a smile; “she'll tell you the rest—from where I left off.”

The girl with the big brown eyes was still smiling in an amused sort of way, but Ellis showed no resentment. He knew that to her he was a strange animal—very new and very peculiar. He did not do as a lesser man would have done, pretend knowledge of things unknown, but looked the girl frankly in the eyes.

“Pardon me, but it was all rather sudden,” he explained. The red had left his face now. “I've only known a few women—and they were not—of your class. This is Mr. Burr's joke, not mine.”

The smile faded from the girl's face. She met him on his own ground, and they were friends.

“Don't take it that way,” she protested, quickly. “I see, he's been telling you of Washington's Mary Philipse. It merely happens that my name is the same. I'm simply a friend visiting here. Can't I show you the house? It's rather interesting.”

If Ellis was a novelty to the woman, she was equally so to him. Unconventionality reigned in that house, and they were together an hour. Never before in his life had Ellis learned so much, nor caught so many glimpses of things beyond, in an equal length of time. His idea of woman had been trite, a little vague. He had no ideal; he had simply accepted, without question, the one specimen he had known well.

In an uncertain sort of way he had thought of the sex as being invariably creatures of unquestioned virtue, but of mind somewhat defective; who were to be respected and protected, loved perhaps with the love animals know; but of such an one as this he had no conception.

Here was a woman, younger than he, whose unconscious familiarity with things, which to him lay hidden in the dark land of ignorance, affected him like a stimulant. A woman who had read and travelled and thought and felt; whose mind met him even in the unhesitating confidence of knowledge—it is no wonder that he was in a dream. It turned his little world upside down: so brief a time had elapsed since he had cursed woman for bringing crime into his life, in the narrowness of his ignorance thinking them all alike. He was in the presence of a superior, and his own smallness came over him like a flood.

He mentally swore, then and there, with a tightening of his jaw that meant finality, that he would raise himself to her plane. The girl saw the look, and wondered at it.

That night, at parting, the eyes of the two met. A moment passed—and another, and neither spoke a word. Then a smile broke over the face of Mary Philipse, and it was answered on the face of the man. Equals had met equals. At last the girl held out her hand.

“Call again, please,” she requested. “Good-night.”

Years passed. Burr had gone and returned again, and Jumel mansion had waxed festive to honor his home-coming. Then he opened an office in the city, and drab-colored routine fell upon him—to remain.

Meanwhile Time had done much for Ellis—rather, it had allowed him to do much for himself. He had passed through all the stages of transition—confusion, homesickness, despondency; but incentive to do was ever with him.

At first he had worked to forget, and, in self-defence; but Nature had been kind, and with years memory touched him softly, as though it were the past of another.

Then a new incentive came to him: an incentive more potent than the former, and which grew so slowly he did not recognize it, until he met it unmistakably face to face. Again into his life and against his will had crept a woman, and this woman's name was Mary Philipse. He met her now on her own ground, but still, as of old, with honors even. She had changed little since he first saw her. As often as he called, he met the same frank smile, and the brown eyes still regarded him with the same old candid, unreserved interest.

Ellis was, as the town would have said, successful. He had risen from a man-of-all-work to the State bar, and an office of his own. He had passed the decisive line and his rise was simply a question of time. He was in a position where he could do as he chose. He appreciated that Mary Philipse was the incentive that had put him where he was. She appealed to the best there was in his nature. She caused him to do better work, to think better thoughts. He unselfishly wished her the best there was of life. Just how much more he felt he did not know—at least this was sufficient.

He would ask her to marry him. It was not the mad, dazzling passion of which poets sing; but he was wiser than of yore. Of Mary he was uncertain. That he was not the only man who went often to old Jumel mansion he was well aware, and with the determination to learn certainties, there came a tenderer regard than he had yet known.

                  * * * * *

Jumel was gay that night. There would be few more such scenes, for the owner was no longer young; but of this the throng in brocade and broadcloth and powder, who filled the spacious mansion, were thoughtless. Everywhere was an atmosphere of welcome; from the steady light of lanterns festooned on facade and lawn, to the sparkle of countless candles within.

It was that night that Ellis drew Mary Philipse aside and told her the tale that grew passionate in the telling. Fortune was kind, for he told it to the soft accompaniment of wine glasses ringing, and the slow music of the stately minuet.

Mary Philipse heard him through without a word, an expression on her face he had never seen before. Then their eyes met in the same frank way they had hundreds of times before, and she gave him her answer.

“I've expected this, and I've tried to be ready; but I'm not. I can't say no, and I can't say yes. I wouldn't try to explain to any one else, but I think you'll understand. Forgive me if I analyze you a little, and don't interrupt, please.”

She passed her hand over her face slowly, a shade wearily.

“There are times when I come near loving you: for what you are, not for what you are to me. You are natural, you're strong; but you lack something I feel to be necessary to make life completely happy—the ability to forget all and enjoy the moment. I have watched you for years. It has been so in the past, and will be so in the future. Other men who see me, men born to the plane, have the quality—call it butterfly if you will—to enjoy the 'now.' It appeals to me—I am of their manner born.” Their eyes met and she finished slowly, “It's injustice to you, I know; but I can't answer—now.”

They sat a moment side by side in silence. The dancers were moving more swiftly to the sound of the Virginia reel.

Ellis reached over and took her hand, then bent and touched it softly with his lips.

“I will wait—and abide,” he said.

 
 
 

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