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The Prisoner   By: (1857-1948)

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THE PRISONER

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO · DALLAS ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED

LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.

TORONTO

THE PRISONER

BY

ALICE BROWN

AUTHOR OF "MY LOVE AND I," "CHILDREN OF EARTH," "ROSE MACLEOD," ETC.

New York THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 1916

All rights reserved

Copyright, 1916 By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

Set up and electrotyped. Published June, 1916 Reprinted June, 1916 July, 1916 Twice August, 1916.

THE PRISONER

I

There could not have been a more sympathetic moment for coming into the country town or, more accurately, the inconsiderable city of Addington than this clear twilight of a spring day. Anne and Lydia French with their stepfather, known in domestic pleasantry as the colonel, had hit upon a perfect combination of time and weather, and now they stood in a dazed silence, dense to the proffers of two hackmen with the urgency of twenty, and looked about them. That inquiring pause was as if they had expected to find, even at the bare, sand encircled station, the imagined characteristics of the place they had so long visualised. The handsome elderly man, clean shaven, close clipped, and, at intervals when he recalled himself to a stand against discouragement, almost military in his bearing, was tired, but entrenched in a patient calm. The girls were profoundly moved in a way that looked like gratitude: perhaps, too, exalted as if, after reverses, they had reached a passionately desired goal. Anne was the elder sister, slender and sweet, grave with the protective fostering instinct of mothers in a maidenly hiding, ready to come at need. She wore her plain blue clothes as if unconscious of them and their incomplete response to the note of time. A woman would have detected that she trimmed her own hat, a flat, wide brimmed straw with a formless bow and a feather worthy only in long service. A man would have cherished the memory of her thin rose flushed face with the crisp touches of sedate inquiry about the eyes. "Do you want anything?" Anne's eyes were always asking clearly. "Let me get it for you." But even a man thus tenderly alive to her charm would have thought her older than she was, a sweet sisterly creature to be reverentially regarded.

Lydia was the product of a different mould. She was the woman, though a girl in years and look, not removed by chill timidities from woman's normal hopes, the clean animal in her curved mouth, the trick of parting her lips for a long breath because, for the gusto of life, the ordinary breath wouldn't always do, and showing most excellent teeth, the little square chin, dauntless in strength, the eyes dauntless, too, and hair all a brown gloss with high lights on it, very free about her forehead. She was not so tall as Anne, but graciously formed and plumper. Curiously, they did not seem racially unlike the colonel who, to their passionate loyalties, was "father" not a line removed. In the delicacy of his patrician type he might even have been "grandfather", for he looked older than he was, the worsted prey of circumstance. He had met trouble that would not be evaded, and if he might be said to have conquered, it was only from regarding it with a perplexed immobility, so puzzling was it in a world where honour, he thought, was absolutely defined and a social crime as inexplicable as it was rending.

And while the three wait to have their outlines thus inadequately sketched, the hackman waits, too, he of a more persistent hope than his fellows who have gone heavily rolling away to the stable, it being now six o'clock and this the last train.

Lydia was a young woman of fervid recognitions. She liked to take a day and stamp it for her own, to say of this, perhaps: "It was the ninth of April when we went to Addington, and it was a heavenly day. There was a clear sky and I could see Farvie's beautiful nose and chin against it and Anne's feather all out of curl... Continue reading book >>




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