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

The last bright streamer had disappeared, but still there remained a faint, chaste glow above the dark line of hills. An unseen Hand had sown the sky thickly with stars, and more fell to their appointed places as the moments passed. A bull-frog boomed out his guttural note, and Fido began to whine and gnaw at the rail just below my feet. He was getting hungry, and I acquiesced to his wordless plea to go home. Night had now come, and the air was chilly, so I buttoned my coat close up to my chin, and moved briskly. We were some distance from home, but the lights of the city were reflected in the sky, and besides, it was not dark, because of the stars, and the road over which we went had but one end.

I ate in quiet satisfaction the lunch which Mrs. Moss had saved for me, but when I tried to interest myself in Emerson, a few minutes later, I found that one of my favorites bored me. This sudden lack of appreciation of the great essayist annoyed me, and I forced my eyes to traverse line after line, hoping that the pleasing charm which they had always held for me would return. But this policy proved futile, so at length I quietly closed the book and put it down on the table, disgusted with myself. Perhaps my mind required something in lighter vein, and there was my bookcase, with its glass doors open, as they usually were. But the delightful metre of the “Lady of the Lake” seemed halting and tame to me that night, and this volume I did not close as gently as I had the former one, but flung it carelessly on the table and walked nervously to the window and raised the sash. For a moment only a moment I stood there, trying to find a few stars through the curtain of factory smoke which hung overhead, and letting the cool air blow about me. Then I put the window down, and came back to my easy-chair, satisfied, for I had solved the riddle of my unrest.

That afternoon’s walk had showed me of what I was depriving myself. It dawned upon me in that moment that the pastoral joys which I had known that day were dearer to my soul than printed pages and the mind-narrowing captivity of four walls. Out there were unbounded possibilities for the mind and soul, lessons to be learned, pages to be read, secrets to discover, a message in each soft gurgle of the brook; a whisper from each stirring leaf; a hidden story in the dreamy face of each flower. All of these became voices in my ears; I could listen to their singing and sighing for hours. What an awakening it was! I had been dreaming for over half my life, and with a sigh I looked at the well-worn tomes in my bookcase, which must now take second place in my heart. They had served me well. True and tried friends, into whose faces I had looked in both joy and sorrow, and never failed of consolation or delight. I would never desert them God forbid! They were grappled to my soul with hooks which would neither bend nor break, and which could not fall away. Still would I come to them and caress them with loving fingers as I held them in my lap; still would I ask their advice and store my mind of their knowledge, for they had lightened too many hours of my life to be forsaken now, it would be like giving up a friend of twoscore years for one newly found. And I loved them none the less, in the full flush of the secret which I had discovered I knew this, and I walked over to where the long rows stood like phalanxes, and ran my hands lovingly over the sheepskin and vellum backs. And, ’pon my soul, they seemed to respond to my fingers, as though I had touched hands with a friend! They may have been dumb, but they were not lifeless; for the spirits of their creators still lingered between the leaves, and made them live for me. Good friends, rest easy on your shelves; one by one each of you shall come down, as you have always done, and commune with me. When Nature sleeps, then we shall revel.

I sat down again, and stretched my feet out towards the low fire. With pipe newly filled, I caressed it between my joined hands, and thought. After a half hour of smoking and ruminating, I came to a conclusion. I would move to the country for the summer! What a dolt I had been all these years! The matter of board need not be considered, for that was cheaper in the country than in town. When winter came again, I could return to my present quarters, if I chose. What I wanted was a quiet old farmhouse with as few people in it as possible, and located in the blue-grass region of the State. Then life would be one endless delight, days afield, and peaceful, noiseless nights. To be awakened in the morning by the matin song of the thrush; to breathe the intoxicating odor of honeysuckle and jessamine; to step out into the dew-washed grass, instead of upon the hard pavement, and to receive the countless benedictions of the outstretched arms of the trees as I walked beneath them. Where had my mind been a-wandering all of these years that I had not thought of this before? But I was too sensible to mar my present joy with useless regrets. The future was bright with anticipation and rich with promise, and my heart grew light.

And Fido poor Fido would be glad of the change, too, for I am sure it must have taxed his love for me to stay in the goods-box which I had converted into a kennel and placed in the small backyard. Mrs. Moss, honest soul, when giving her reluctant consent to this, consoled herself by thinking that she was only yielding to another of my vagaries.

There was no one else to consider, and so I put the thing down in my mind as settled. I would leave this soul-dwarfing, cramped, smoke-hung atmosphere, and take up my abode where the air was pure, and where the sun could shine. Mrs. Moss would lose a good, quiet boarder, it is true; but my consideration for Mrs. Moss’s feelings would not cause me to sacrifice myself. Some one else would come and take the room which had been mine for ten years, and I would soon be forgotten.

The revelation which I had experienced put me in such high spirits at the glorious prospects before me that I could not think of going to bed when eleven o’clock sounded from the mantel-tree. Instead, I believe I actually chuckled, as I slipped my hand into the pocket of my dressing-gown for my tobacco-pouch, and proceeded to fill my pipe again. Method had always been the rule of my life, but that night I put it by for a space. The question paramount was where should I go? Certainly most any farm housewife would give me a room upstairs for a small money consideration a month, but I was a little particular, and wanted to live and move among folks, for which I was fitted by birth and education. I knew that blood as blue and as genteel flowed through country veins as through city arteries; but how was I to find these people out? I didn’t know a dozen persons in Louisville outside of my boarding-house. The hands of the clock were getting dangerously near together at the top of the dial before a solution came.

Suddenly I bethought me of Reuben Walker, that staid, long-headed fellow who had graduated with me back in forty. The nearest approach I ever had to a friend. He had gone to practise law in Springfield, down there in Washington County, and had made something of a name for himself, too. I hadn’t seen him since forty-five, hadn’t written to him since fifty, but he was the only man living I knew who could help me. So I forthwith indited a note to Reuben Walker, Esq., Attorney-at-Law, reminding him of our former intimacy, regretting that we had allowed ourselves to drift apart, and asking if he knew of a quiet country home where I might spend the summer. I reasoned that it was a country lawyer’s business to know everybody in his county, and I hoped that Reuben remembered me well enough to refer me only to the kind with whom I would care to affiliate. I did not write letters often, my correspondence averaging perhaps a half dozen epistles a year, and so I signed my name to this one before reading it over. Then I recollected one of the earliest injunctions of my father: “Be very careful what you sign your name to,” so I deliberately reread the missive before me. It was all right; I had said all that was necessary, but just as I was bending the sheet to fold it I stopped, spread it out again, and, taking up my quill, wrote as a postscript:

“I much prefer a home where there are no young ladies.”