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The Hills of Refuge A Novel   By: (1858-1919)

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The HILLS OF REFUGE

A NOVEL

BY WILL N. HARBEN

AUTHOR OF "ANN BOYD," "ABNER DANIEL," "THE TRIUMPH," ETC.

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS NEW YORK AND LONDON

[Illustration: AS SHE NEARED HER HOME THE SUN'S RAYS WERE DYING OUT OF THE LANDSCAPE AND THE DUSK WAS GATHERING]

THE HILLS OF REFUGE

PART I

CHAPTER I

The house, a three story red brick residence, was on Walnut Street, near Beacon. Its narrow front faced the state Capitol with its gold sheeted dome; from its stoop one could look down on the Common and, from the corner of the street, see the Public Gardens. It was a Sunday morning and the Browne family were at breakfast in the dining room in the rear of the first floor, just back of the drawing room. The two rooms were separated by folding doors painted white, as was the wainscoting of the dining room. There was a wide bay window at the end, the sashes of which were up, and the spring air and sunshine came in, feeding the plants which stood in pots on the sill.

William Browne, the head of the family, a banker of middle age, slender, sallow of complexion, partially bald, and of a nervous temperament, his mustache and hair touched with gray, sat reading the Transcript of the evening before.

Opposite to him sat his wife, Celeste, a delicate woman somewhat under thirty years of age. She had once been beautiful, and might still be considered so, for her face was a rare one. Her eyes were deeply blue, and now ringed with dark circles which added to the beauty of her olive skin. The hand filling her husband's coffee cup was thin, tapering, and almost as small as a child's. Her lips had a drawn, sensitive expression when she spoke as he lowered his paper to take the coffee she was holding out to him.

"You have not told me how your business is," she said.

"Why do you want to know?" His irritation was obvious, though he was trying to hide it, as he dropped his paper at his side and all but glared at her over his cup.

"I think I ought to know such things," she answered. "Besides I worry considerably when when I think you are upset over financial matters."

"Upset?" He stared, it seemed almost fearfully, at her, and then began to eat the brown bread and fish cakes on his plate. "Why do you think that I am upset?"

"I can always tell," she faltered. "When you are disturbed over business you don't notice Ruth when you come in. You almost pushed her from your lap last night when she went to you in the library. It hurt the little thing's feelings. She did not know what to make of it."

"A position like mine is full of responsibility," he said, doggedly. "Hundreds of things go wrong. Mistakes are made sometimes. We are handling other people's money. The directors are harsh, puritanical men, and they are very hard to please. They want me to do it all, and they think I am infallible, or ought to be."

"You didn't sleep well last night," Celeste continued, still timidly. "I heard you walking to and fro. I smelled your cigars. I couldn't sleep, for it seemed to me that you were unusually disturbed. You may not remember it, but you ate scarcely anything at supper, and, although I asked you several questions, you did not hear me."

He bolted the mouthful of bread he had broken off. His eyes flashed desperately. "Oh, I can't go into all the details of our ups and downs!" he blurted out, shrugging his shoulders with impatience. "When I leave the bank I try to shut them in behind me. If I go over them with you it is like living through them again."

"Then then it is not your brother this time," Celeste ventured. "I thought perhaps the directors had spoken of his conduct again."

"Oh no. On my account they allow him to go and come as he likes. When he is not drinking he does splendid work as much, often, as two men. The directors know he is worth his pay even as it is. Sometimes he gets behind with his work, but soon catches up again. In fact, they all seem to like him... Continue reading book >>




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