Read CHAPTER III - ARTHUR AND LEONARD of Bylow Hill, free online book, by George Washington Cable, on

Godfrey passed over to the General, who had walked down to his gate on his way to the great elm.  Out from behind the elm came the other two men, Arthur leading and talking briskly:-

“The sooner the better, Leonard.  Now while my work is new and taking shape-Ah! here’s Mrs. Morris.”

Both men were handsome.  Arthur, not much older than Ruth, was of medium height, slender, restless, dark, and eager of glance and speech.  Leonard was nearer the age of Godfrey; fairer than Arthur, of a quieter eye, tall, broad-shouldered, powerful, lithe, and almost tamely placid.  Mrs. Morris met them with animation.

“Have our churchwarden and our rector been having another of their long talks?”

The joint reply was cut short by Godfrey’s imperative hail:  “Leonard!”

As Byington turned that way, Arthur said quietly to Mrs. Morris, “He’s promised to retain charge”-and nodded toward Isabel.  The nod meant Isabel’s financial investments.

“And mine?” murmured the well-pleased lady.


The two gave heed again to Godfrey, who was loudly asking Leonard, “Why didn’t you tell us the news?”

“Oh,” drawled Leonard smilingly, “I knew father would.”

“I haven’t talked with Godfrey since he came,” said Mrs. Morris; and as she left Arthur she asked his brother:  “What news?  Has the governor truly made him”-

“District attorney, yes,” said Godfrey.  “Ruth, I think you might have told me.”

“Godfrey, I think you might have asked me,” laughed the girl, drawing Isabel toward Arthur and Leonard, in order to leave Mrs. Morris to Godfrey.

Arthur moved to meet them, but Ruth engaged him with a question, and Isabel turned to Leonard, offering her félicitations with a sweetness that gave Arthur tearing pangs to overhear.

“But when people speak to us of your high office,” he could hear her saying, “we will speak to them of your high fitness for it.  And still, Leonard, you must let us offer you our congratulations, for it is a high office.”

“Thank you,” replied Leonard:  “let me save the congratulations for the day I lay the office down.  Do you, then, really think it high and honorable?”

“Ah,” she rejoined, in a tone of reproach and defense that tortured Arthur, “you know I honor the pursuit of the law.”

Leonard showed a glimmer of drollery.  “Pursuit of the law, yes,” he said; “but the pursuit of the lawbreaker”-

“Even that,” replied Isabel, “has its frowning honors.”

“But I’m much afraid it seems to you,” he said, “a sort of blindman’s buff played with a club.  It often looks so to the pursued, they say.”

Isabel gave her chin a little lift, and raised her tone for those behind her:  “We shall try not to be among the pursued, Ruth and Arthur and I.”

The young lawyer’s smile broadened.  “My mind is relieved,” he said.

“Relieved!” exclaimed Isabel, with a rosy toss.  “Ruth, dear, here is your brother in distress lest Arthur or we should embarrass him in his new office by breaking the laws!  Mr. Byington, you should not confess such anxieties, even if you are justified in them!”

His response came with meditative slowness and with playful eyes:  “Whenever I am justified in having such anxieties, they shall go unconfessed.”

“That relieves my fears,” laughed Isabel, and caught a quick hint of trouble on Arthur’s brow, though he too managed to laugh.  Whereupon, half sighing, half singing, she twined an arm in one of Ruth’s, swung round her, waved to the General as he took a seat on the elm-tree bench, and so, passing to Arthur, changed partners.

“Let us go in,” whispered Leonard to his sister, with a sudden pained look, and instantly resumed his genial air.

But the uneasy Arthur saw his moving lips and both changes of countenance.  He saw also the look which Ruth threw toward Mrs. Morris, where that lady and Godfrey moved slowly in conversation,-he ever so sedate, she ever so sprightly.  And he saw Isabel glance as anxiously in the same direction.  But then her eyes came to his, and under her voice, though with a brow all sunshine, she said, “Don’t look so perplexed.”

“Perplexed!” he gasped.  “Isabel, you’re giving me anguish!”

She gleamed an injured amazement, but promptly threw it off, and when she turned to see if Leonard or Ruth had observed it they were moving to meet Godfrey.  Mrs. Morris was joining the General under the elm.

“How have I given you pain, dear heart?” asked Isabel, as she and Arthur took two or three slow steps apart from the rest, so turning her face that they should see its tender kindness.

“Ah! don’t ask me, my beloved!” he warily exclaimed.  “It is all gone!  Oh, the heavenly wonder to hear you, Isabel Morris, you-give me loving names!  You might have answered me so differently; but your voice, your eyes, work miracles of healing, and I am whole again.”

Isabel gave again the laugh whose blithe, final sigh was always its most winning note.  Then, with tremendous gravity, she said, “You are very indiscreet, dear, to let me know my power.”

His face clouded an instant, as if the thought startled him with its truth and value.  But when she added, with yet deeper seriousness of brow, “That’s no way to tame a shrew, my love,” he laughed aloud, and peace came again with Isabel’s smile.

Then-because a woman must always insist on seeing the wrong side of the goods-she murmured, “Tell me, Arthur, what disturbed you.”

“Words, Isabel, mere words of yours, which I see now were meant in purest play.  You told Leonard”-

“Leonard!  What did I tell Leonard, dear?”

“You told him not to confess certain anxieties, even if they were justified.”

“Oh, Arthur!”

“I see my folly, dearest.  But Isabel, he ought not to have answered that the more they were justified, the more they should go unconfessed!”

“Oh, Arthur! the merest, idlest prattle!  What meaning could you”-

“None, Isabel, none!  Only, my good angel, I so ill deserve you that with every breath I draw I have a desperate fright of losing you, and a hideous resentment against whoever could so much as think to rob me of you.”

“Why, dear heart, don’t you know that couldn’t be done?”

“Oh, I know it, you being what you are, even though I am only what I am.  But, Isabel, you know he loves you.  No human soul is strong enough to blow out the flame of the love you kindle, Isabel Morris, as one would blow out his bedroom candle and go to sleep at the stroke of a clock.”

“Arthur, I believe Leonard-and I do not say it in his praise-I believe Leonard can do that!”

“No, not so, not so!  Leonard is strong, but the fire of a strong man’s love, however smothered, burns on without mercy, my beautiful, and you cannot go in and out of that burning house as though it were not on fire.”

“And shall Leonard, then, not be our nearest and best friend, as we had planned?”

“He shall, Isabel.  Ah yes; not one smallest part of your sweet friendship will I take from him, nor of his from you.  For, Isabel, though he were as weak as I”-

“As weak as I, you should say, dear.  You are not weak, Arthur, are you?”

“Weak as the bending grass, Isabel, under this load of love.  But though he, I say, were as weak as I, you-ah, you!-are as wise as you are bewitching; and if I should speak to you from my most craven fear, I could find but one word of warning.”

“Oh, you dear, blind flatterer!  And what word would that be?”

“That you are most bewitching when you are wisest.”

As Isabel softly laughed she cast a dreaming glance behind, and noticed that she and Arthur were quite hidden in the flowery undergrowth of the hill path.  They kissed.

“Beloved,” said her worshipper, with a clouded smile, as he let her down from her tiptoes, “do you know you took that as though you were thinking of something else?”

“Did I?  Oh, I didn’t mean to.”

Such a reply only darkened the cloud.  “Of whom were you thinking, Isabel?”

She blushed.  “I was think-thinking-why, I was-I-I was think-thinking”-she went redder and redder as he went pale-“thinking of everybody on Bylow Hill.  Why-why, dear heart, don’t you see?  When you”-

“Oh, enough, enough, my angel!  I take the question back!”

“You made me think of everybody, Arthur, you were so sudden.  Just suppose I had done so to you!” They both thought that worthy of a good laugh.  “Next time, dear,” added Isabel,-“no, no, no, but-next time, you mustn’t be so sudden.  There’s no need, you know,”-she blushed again,-“and I promise you I’ll give my whole mind to it!  Get me some of that hawthorn bloom yonder, and let’s go back.”