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A Modern Idyll   By: (1855-1931)

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By Frank Harris

"I call it real good of you, Mr. Letgood, to come and see me. Won't you be seated?"

"Thank you. It's very warm to day; and as I didn't feel like reading or writing, I thought I'd come round."

"You're just too kind for anythin'! To come an' pay me a visit when you must be tired out with yesterday's preachin'. An' what a sermon you gave us in the mornin' it was too sweet. I had to wink my eyes pretty hard, an' pull the tears down the back way, or I should have cried right out and Mrs. Jones watchin' me all the time under that dreadful bonnet."

Mrs. Hooper had begun with a shade of nervousness in the hurried words; but the emotion disappeared as she took up a comfortable pose in the corner of the small sofa.

The Rev. John Letgood, having seated himself in an armchair, looked at her intently before replying. She was well worth looking at, this Mrs. Hooper, as she leaned back on the cushions in her cool white dress, which was so thin and soft and well fitting that her form could be seen through it almost as clearly as through water. She appeared to be about eighteen years old, and in reality was not yet twenty. At first sight one would have said of her, "a pretty girl;" but an observant eye on the second glance would have noticed those contradictions in face and in form which bear witness to a certain complexity of nature. Her features were small, regular, and firmly cut; the long, brown eyes looked out confidently under straight, well defined brows; but the forehead was low, and the sinuous lips a vivid red. So, too, the slender figure and narrow hips formed a contrast with the throat, which pouted in soft, white fulness.

"I am glad you liked the sermon," said the minister, breaking the silence, "for it is not probable that you will hear many more from me." There was just a shade of sadness in the lower tone with which he ended the phrase. He let the sad note drift in unconsciously by dint of practice he had become an artist in the management of his voice.

"You don't say!" exclaimed Mrs. Hooper, sitting up straight in her excitement "You ain't goin' to leave us, I hope?"

"Why do you pretend, Belle, to misunderstand me? You know I said three months ago that if you didn't care for me I should have to leave this place. And yesterday I told you that you must make up your mind at once, as I was daily expecting a call to Chicago. Now I have come for your answer, and you treat me as if I were a stranger, and you knew nothing of what I feel for you."

"Oh!" she sighed, languorously nestling back into the corner. "Is that all? I thought for a moment the 'call' had come."

"No, it has not yet; but I am resolved to get an answer from you to day, or I shall go away, call or no call."

"What would Nettie Williams say if she heard you?" laughed Mrs. Hooper, with mischievous delight in her eyes.

"Now, Belle," he said in tender remonstrance, leaning forward and taking the small cool hand in his, "what is my answer to be? Do you love me? Or am I to leave Kansas City, and try somewhere else to get again into the spirit of my work? God forgive me, but I want you to tell me to stay. Will you?"

"Of course I will," she returned, while slowly withdrawing her hand. "There ain't any one wants you to go, and why should you?"

"Why? Because my passion for you prevents me from doing my work. You tease and torture me with doubt, and when I should be thinking of my duties I am wondering whether or not you care for me. Do you love me? I must have a plain answer."

"Love you?" she repeated pensively. "I hardly know, but "

"But what?" he asked impatiently.

"But I must just see after the pies; this 'help' of ours is Irish, an' doesn't know enough to turn them in the oven. And Mr. Hooper don't like burnt pies."

She spoke with coquettish gravity, and got up to go out of the room. But when Mr. Letgood also rose, she stopped and smiled waiting perhaps for him to take his leave. As he did not speak she shook out her frock and then pulled down her bodice at the waist and drew herself up, thus throwing into relief the willowy outlines of her girlish form... Continue reading book >>

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