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Moor Fires   By: (1880-1949)

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Author of "WILLIAM" and "THE MALLETTS"

New York Harcourt, Brace and Company

Printed in the U. S. A.


In the dusk of a spring evening, Helen Caniper walked on the long road from the town. Making nothing of the laden basket she carried, she went quickly until she drew level with the high fir wood which stood like a barrier against any encroachment on the moor, then she looked back and saw lights darting out to mark the streets she had left behind, as though a fairy hand illuminated a giant Christmas tree.

Among the other trees, black and mysterious on the hill, a cold wind was moaning. "It's the night wind," Helen murmured. The moor was inhabited by many winds, and she knew them all, and it was only the night wind that cried among the trees, for, fearless though it seemed, it had a dread of the hours that made it. The fir trees, their bare trunks like a palisade, swayed gently, and Helen's skirts flapped about her ankles. More lights glimmered in the town, and she turned towards home.

The moor stretched now on either hand until it touched a sky from which all the colour had not departed, and the road shone whitely, pale but courageous as it kept its lonely path. Helen's feet tapped clearly as she hurried on, and when she approached the road to Halkett's Farm, the sound of her going was mingled with that of hoofs, and an old horse, drawing a dog cart, laboured round the corner. It was the horse Dr. Mackenzie had always driven up the long road; it was now driven by his son, and when he saw that some one motioned him to stop, the young doctor drew up. He bent forward to see her.

"It's Helen," he said. "Oh, Helen, how are you?"

She stood by the step and looked up at him. "I'm very well. I'm glad you knew me. It's three years."

"And your hair is up."

"Miriam and I are twenty," she said gravely, and he laughed.

The horse shook himself and set the dog cart swaying; the jingle of his bit went adventurously across the moor; heather stalks scratched each other in the wind.

"You haven't lighted your lamps," Helen said. "Somebody might run into you."

"They might." He jumped down and fumbled for his matches. "The comfort is that we're not likely to do it to any one, at our pace. When I've made my fortune I shall buy a horse from George Halkett, one that will go fast and far."

"But I like this one," said Helen. "We used to watch for him when we had measles. He's mixed up with everything. Don't have another one."

"The fortune's still to make," he said. He had lighted the nearer lamp and Helen's slim figure had become a thing of shadows. He took the basket from her and put it under the seat. She was staring over the horse's back.

"There was a thing we used to do. We had bets about Dr. Mackenzie's ties, what colour they were; but we never won or lost, because we never saw them. His beard was so big. And once Miriam pretended there was a huge spider on the ceiling, but he wouldn't look up, though she screamed. He told her not to be a silly little girl. So we never saw them."

"I'm not surprised," the young doctor said. "He didn't wear them. What was the use? He was a practical man."

"Oh," Helen cried, "isn't that just like life! You bother and bother about something that doesn't exist and make yourself miserable for nothing. No, I won't do it."

"Do you?"

"It's a great fault of mine," she said.

He went round the back of the cart and lighted the other lamp. "Now I'm going to drive you home. That basket's heavy."

"I have been shopping," she explained. "Tomorrow a visitor is coming."

"Your father?" he asked quickly.

"No; he hasn't been again. He's ill, Notya says, and it's too cold for him here. Dr. Zebedee, aren't you glad to be back on the moor?"

"Well, I don't see much of it, you know. My work is chiefly in the streets but, yes, I think I'm glad."

"We've been watching for you, Miriam and I... Continue reading book >>

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