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Chapter 16

The clouds sailed across the irregular space of pale blue Northern sky which the break in the woods opened for them overhead. It was so still that they heard, and smiled to hear, the broken voices of the others, who had gone to get berries in another direction—Miss Anderson's hoarse murmur and Munt's artificial bass. Some words came from the party on the rocks.

"Isn't it perfect?" cried the young fellow in utter content.

"Yes, too perfect," answered the girl, rousing herself from the reverie in which they had both lost themselves, she did not know how long. "Shall you gather any more?"

"No; I guess there's enough. Let's count them." He stooped over on his hand's and knees, and made as much of counting the bunches as he could. "There's about one bunch and a half a piece. How shall we carry them? We ought to come into camp as impressively as possible."

"Yes," said Alice, looking into his face with dreamy absence. It was going through her mind, from some romance she had read, What if he were some sylvan creature, with that gaiety, that natural gladness and sweetness of his, so far from any happiness that was possible to her? Ought not she to be afraid of him? She was thinking she was not afraid.

"I'll tell you," he said. "Tie the stems of all the bunches together, and swing them over a pole, like grapes of Eshcol. Don't you know the picture?"

"Oh yes."

"Hold on! I'll get the pole." He cut a white birch sapling, and swept off its twigs and leaves, then he tied the bunches together, and slung them over the middle of the pole.

"Well?" she asked.

"Now we must rest the ends on our shoulders."

"Do you think so?" she asked, with the reluctance that complies.

"Yes, but not right away. I'll carry them out of the woods, and we'll form the procession just before we come in sight."

Every one on the ledge recognised the tableau when it appeared, and saluted it with cheers and hand-clapping. Mrs. Pasmer bent a look on her daughter which she faced impenetrably.

"Where have you been?" "We thought you were lost!" "We were just organising a search expedition!" different ones shouted at them.

The lady with the coffee-pot was kneeling over it with her hand on it. "Have some coffee, you poor things! You must be almost starved."

"We looked about for you everywhere," said Munt, "and shouted ourselves dumb."

Miss Anderson passed near Alice. "I knew where you were all the time!"

Then the whole party fell to praising the novel conception of the bouquets of blueberries, and the talk began to flow away from Alice and Mavering in various channels.

All that had happened a few minutes ago in the blueberry patch seemed a far-off dream; the reality had died out of the looks and words.

He ran about from one to another, serving every one; in a little while the whole affair was in his hospitable hands, and his laugh interspersed and brightened the talk.

She got a little back of the others, and sat looking wistfully out over the bay, with her hands in her lap.

"Hold on just half a minute, Miss Pasmer! don't move!" exclaimed the amateur photographer, who is now of all excursions; he jumped to his feet, and ran for his apparatus. She sat still, to please him; but when he had developed his picture, in a dark corner of the rocks, roofed with a waterproof, he accused her of having changed her position. "But it's going to be splendid," he said, with another look at it.

He took several pictures of the whole party, for which they fell into various attitudes of consciousness. Then he shouted to a boat-load of sailors who had beached their craft while they gathered some drift for their galley fire. They had flung their arm-loads into the boat, and had bent themselves to shove it into the water.

"Keep still! don't move!" he yelled at them, with the imperiousness of the amateur photographer, and they obeyed with the helplessness of his victims. But they looked round.

"Oh, idiots!" groaned the artist.

"I always wonder what that kind of people think of us kind of people," said Mrs. Brinkley, with her eye on the photographer's subjects.

"Yes, I wonder what they do?" said Miss Cotton, pleased with the speculative turn which the talk might take from this. "I suppose they envy us?" she suggested.

"Well, not all of them; and those that do, not respectfully. They view, us as the possessors of ill-gotten gains, who would be in a very different place if we had our deserts."

"Do you really think so?"

"Yes, I think so; but I don't know that I really think so. That's another matter," said Mrs. Brinkley, with the whimsical resentment which Miss Cotton's conscientious pursuit seemed always to rouse in her.

"I supposed," continued Miss Cotton, "that it was only among the poor in the cities, who have begin misled by agitators, that the-well-to-do classes were regarded with suspicion."

"It seems to have begun a great while ago," said Mrs. Brinkley, "and not exactly with agitators. It was considered very difficult for us to get into the kingdom of heaven, you know."

"Yes, I know," assented Miss Cotton.

"And there certainly are some things against us. Even when the chance was given us to sell all we had and give it to the poor, we couldn't bring our minds to it, and went away exceeding sorrowful."

"I wonder," said Miss Cotton, "whether those things were ever intended to be taken literally?"

"Let's hope not," said John Munt, seeing his chance to make a laugh.

Mrs. Stamwell said, "Well, I shall take another cup of coffee, at any rate," and her hardihood raised another laugh.

"That always seems to me the most pitiful thing in the whole Bible," said Alice, from her place. "To see the right so clearly, and not to be strong enough to do it."

"My dear, it happens every day," said Mrs. Brinkley.

"I always felt sorry for that poor fellow, too," said Mavering. "He seemed to be a good fellow, and it was pretty hard lines for him."

Alice looked round at him with deepening gravity.

"Confound those fellows!" said the photographer, glancing at his hastily developed plate. "They moved."

William Dean Howells