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The Way to Peace   By: (1857-1945)

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By Margaret Deland




ATHALIA HALL stopped to get her breath and look back over the road climbing steeply up from the covered bridge. It was a little after five, and the delicate air of dawn was full of wood and pasture scents the sweetness of bay and the freshness of dew drenched leaves. In the valley night still hung like gauze under the trees, but the top of the hill was glittering with sunshine.

"Why, we've hardly come halfway!" she said.

Her husband, plodding along behind her, nodded ruefully. "Hardly," he said.

In her slim prettiness Athalia Hall looked like a girl, but she was thirty four. Part of the girlishness lay in the smoothness of her white forehead and in the sincere intensity of her gaze. She wore a blue linen dress, and there was a little, soft, blue scarf under her chin; her white hat, with pink roses and loops of gray blue ribbon, shadowed eager, unhumorous eyes, the color of forget me nots. Her husband was her senior by several years a large, loose limbed man, with a scholarly face and mild, calm eyes eyes that were full of a singular tenacity of purpose. Just now his face showed the fatigue of the long climb up hill; and when his wife, stopping to look back over the glistening tops of the birches, said, "I believe it's half a mile to the top yet!" he agreed, breathlessly. "Hard work!" he said.

"It will be worth it when I get to the top and can see the view!" she declared, and began to climb again.

"All the same, this road will be mighty hot when the sun gets full on it," her husband said; and added, anxiously, "I wish I had made you rest in the station until train time." She flung out her hands with an exclamation: "Rest! I hate rest!"

"Hold on, and I'll give you a stick," he called to her; "it's a help when you're climbing." He pulled down a slender birch, and, setting his foot on it, broke it off at the root. She stopped, with an impatient gesture, and waited while he tore off handfuls of leaves and whittled away the side shoots.

"Do hurry, Lewis!" she said.

They had left their train at five o'clock in the morning, and had been sitting in the frowsy station, sleepily awaiting the express, when Athalia had had this fancy for climbing the hill so that she might see the view.

"It looks pretty steep," her husband warned her.

"It will be something to do, anyhow!" she said; and added, with a restless sigh, "but you don't understand that, I suppose."

"I guess I do after a fashion," he said, smiling at her. It was only in love's fashion, for really he was incapable of quite understanding her. To the country lawyer of sober piety and granite sense of duty, the rich variety of her moods was a continual wonder and sometimes a painful bewilderment. But whether he understood the impetuous inconsequence of her temperament "after a fashion," or whether he failed entirely to follow the complexity of her thought, he met all her fancies with a sort of tender admiration. People said that Squire Hall was henpecked; they also said that he had married beneath him. His father had been a judge and his grandfather a minister; he himself was a graduate of a fresh water college, which later, when he published his exegesis on the Prophet Daniel, had conferred its little degree upon him and felt that he was a "distinguished son." With such a lineage he might have done better, people said, than to marry that girl, who was the most fickle creature and no housekeeper, and whose people this they told one another in reserved voices were PLAY ACTORS! Athalia's mother, who had been the "play actor," had left her children an example of duty domestic as well as professional duty faithfully done. As she did not leave anything else, Athalia added nothing to the Hall fortune; but Lewis's law practice, which was hardly more than conveyancing now and then, was helped out by a sawmill which the Halls had owned for two generations... Continue reading book >>

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