Read CHAPTER III of The Love Story of Abner Stone , free online book, by Edwin Carlile Litsey, on

I named him Fido, after much deliberation and great hesitancy. My principal objection to this name was that nearly every diminutive dog bore it, but then it was old fashioned, and I had a weakness for old-fashioned things, if this taste could be spoken of in such a manner. I had really intended setting him adrift after his leg was strong, but during the days of his convalescence I became so strongly attached to him that I completely forgot my former idea. He was great company for me, and after I had given him several baths, and all he could eat every day, he wasn’t such a bad-looking dog, after all. The hair on his back lay down now, and his pinched body rounded out till I began to fear obesity, while his tail took on a handsome curl. Altogether, I was rather proud of him. But the result of my crude attempt at surgery became manifest when I finally removed the splints. The limb had grown together, it is true, but it was dreadfully crooked, and a large knot appeared where the fracture had been. When he tried to walk, I discovered that this leg was a trifle shorter than its mate, and poor Fido limped a little, but I believe this only added to my affection.

Winter held on till March, and then reluctantly gave way before the approach of spring. The wind blew; the sun shone at intervals; the ice began to melt, and muddy rivulets formed in the streets. When the ground dried up a little, I began my afternoon walks, Fido limping cheerfully along beside me. One day my commiseration for his affliction almost vanished. We had strolled away out past the streets, and had been walking along a pike, when the refreshing green of a clover meadow on my left caused me to climb the fence and seek a closer acquaintance. Fido wriggled through a crack at the bottom, and as I sat on the top rail for a moment, the little rascal suddenly gave tongue and shot out across the meadow after a young rabbit, which was making good time through the low clover. That lame leg didn’t impede my yellow pup’s running qualities, and I had to call him severely by name before he gave up the chase. He came panting back to me with his dripping tongue hanging out, and with as innocent a look on his face as one could imagine. I felt that he needed a gentle chastising, but there was nothing lying around wherewith to administer it, and I did not search for the necessary switch. But I wasted no more sympathy on that crooked right leg.

I became interested in the view before me, and forgot that time was passing. The clover meadow stretched away to a low bluff, at the base of which I could see the shining surface of a small stream. Far to my right a field was being broken up for corn. The fresh scent of the newly turned earth came to my nostrils like perfume. On the farther side of the field a patient mule was plodding along, dragging his burden, a plough, behind him, and I heard the guiding cries of the driver as he spoke in no gentle voice to the animal which was wearing its life away for its master’s gain. A meadow lark arose a little to one side. I noticed his yellow vest, sprinkled with dark spots, as he flew with drooping tail for a few rods, then sank down again in the clover. From somewhere in the distance a Bob White’s clear notes welled up through the silence. A flutter of wings near by, and I turned my head to see a bluebird flit gently to the top of a stake in the fence-corner not far away. They were abroad, these harbingers of spring, and I knew that balmy breezes and bursting buds came quickly in their wake. How sweet it was to know that earth’s winding-sheet had been rent from her breast once more; that the shackles had been torn from her streams and the fetters loosed from her trees; to feel that where there had been barren desolation and lifeless refuse of last year’s math would soon appear green shoots of grass, and growing flowers; that the tender leaves of the trees would whisper each to each in a language which we cannot understand, but which we love to hear. Especially at eventide, when the heat of the day is softened by twilight shadows, and a gentle breeze comes wandering along, touching with fairy fingers the careworn face and tired hands.

The sun had sunk below the horizon. As I now directed my gaze to the western sky, one of those rarely beautiful phenomena which sometimes accompany sunset in early spring, was spread before me. Spanning the clear sky, stretching from western horizon to zenith, and from zenith to eastern horizon, was a narrow, filmy band of cloud. And by some subtle reflection of which we do not know, the whole had caught the golden sheen of the hidden sun, and glowed, pale gold and pink and saffron. The sky was clear but for this encircling cloud-band, and my fancy saw it as a ring girding the earth with celestial glory, a fitting path for spirit feet when they tread the upward heights. I watched it pale, with upturned face, its changing tints in themselves a miracle, and thought of the wonders which lay beyond it, which we are taught to seek. Thought of what was on the other side of that steadily purpling curtain stretched above me which no human eye might pierce. Groves of peace and endless song and light which never paled; my mothers face

A star blossomed out in the tranquil depths above me, white and pure as a thought of God; some dun-colored boats were drifting in an azure sea out in the west, and a whippoorwill’s plaintive wail sounded through the dusk from adown the fence-row. Up from the still earth there floated to my nostrils the incense of a dew-drenched landscape, fresh, odorous, wonderfully sweet, and a fire-fly’s zigzag lantern came travelling towards me across the darkening meadow. Everything had become very still. It was that magic hour when the voices of the things of the day are hushed, and the things of the night have not yet awakened. Only at intervals the whippoorwill’s call arose, like a pulse of pain. The voice of the ploughman in the adjoining field came no more to my ears; a respite from labor had come to both man and beast. The birds were still. There was no flutter of wings, no piping cry. The earth rested for a spell, and a solemn quietude stole over the scented fields.

I knew that I ought to be going that I ought to have gone long ago, but still I sat on the topmost rail of the fence, which stretched away like a many-horned worm on either side of me. Supper was already cold, but I had been a little late on several occasions before, and Mrs. Moss had very kindly laid something aside for me. I was one whom she called “a queer man who saw nothing outside of his books,” and while this was not altogether true, inasmuch as I was even now missing both supper and books for another delight in which my soul revelled, still she bore with my eccentricities, and I was thankful to her. “You should fall in love, Mr. Stone,” she said to me one day, half jestingly, “and that would get you out of some of your staid ways.” I replied with a smile that, as she did not take young ladies to board, there was small chance of that, and had thought of her remark no more. But now, in the tender gloaming of an April day, I felt that I did love, and with as ardent a passion as any man ever owned. I loved the rich sunlight, which I had watched fade away, but which still lingered in my breast. I loved the greening of Nature, and the yellowing of her harvest. I loved the soul-expanding influence of sky and air, and the far-reaching, billowy fields. All things that grew, and all things that moved in this, God’s kingdom, I loved. What else was there to love? A woman? Yes; but they lived for me only in the pages of history and romance, and it was not likely that I, a bookworm bachelor of forty-five, would ever meet the one to stir my heart. And I feared them, a little. Out here, under the sky, with no one to hear but Fido and the dumb silence, I can make this confession. I knew she lived, somewhere, the one to whom my heart would cry, because this is the plan of the Creator, but I was glad that our lines of life had not crossed.

So please Him, thus would I live content.