The Merry Men

Page 33

The sound of his own mill-wheel, or of the wind among the trees, confounded and charmed his heart. The most enchanting thoughts presented themselves unbidden in his mind. He was so happy that he could not sleep at night, and so restless, that he could hardly sit still out of her company. And yet it seemed as if he avoided her rather than sought her out.

One day, as he was coming home from a ramble, Will found Marjory in the garden picking flowers, and as he came up with her, slackened his pace and continued walking by her side.

'You like flowers?' he said.

'Indeed I love them dearly,' she replied. 'Do you?'

'Why, no,' said he, 'not so much. They are a very small affair, when all is done. I can fancy people caring for them greatly, but not doing as you are just now.'

'How?' she asked, pausing and looking up at him.

'Plucking them,' said he. 'They are a deal better off where they are, and look a deal prettier, if you go to that.'

'I wish to have them for my own,' she answered, 'to carry them near my heart, and keep them in my room. They tempt me when they grow here; they seem to say, "Come and do something with us;" but once I have cut them and put them by, the charm is laid, and I can look at them with quite an easy heart.'

'You wish to possess them,' replied Will, 'in order to think no more about them. It's a bit like killing the goose with the golden eggs. It's a bit like what I wished to do when I was a boy. Because I had a fancy for looking out over the plain, I wished to go down there - where I couldn't look out over it any longer. Was not that fine reasoning? Dear, dear, if they only thought of it, all the world would do like me; and you would let your flowers alone, just as I stay up here in the mountains.' Suddenly he broke off sharp. 'By the Lord!' he cried. And when she asked him what was wrong, he turned the question off and walked away into the house with rather a humorous expression of face.

He was silent at table; and after the night hid fallen and the stars had come out overhead, he walked up and down for hours in the courtyard and garden with an uneven pace. There was still a light in the window of Marjory's room: one little oblong patch of orange in a world of dark blue hills and silver starlight. Will's mind ran a great deal on the window; but his thoughts were not very lover-like. 'There she is in her room,' he thought, 'and there are the stars overhead: - a blessing upon both!' Both were good influences in his life; both soothed and braced him in his profound contentment with the world. And what more should he desire with either? The fat young man and his councils were so present to his mind, that he threw back his head, and, putting his hands before his mouth, shouted aloud to the populous heavens. Whether from the position of his head or the sudden strain of the exertion, he seemed to see a momentary shock among the stars, and a diffusion of frosty light pass from one to another along the sky. At the same instant, a corner of the blind was lifted and lowered again at once. He laughed a loud ho-ho! 'One and another!' thought Will. 'The stars tremble, and the blind goes up. Why, before Heaven, what a great magician I must be! Now if I were only a fool, should not I be in a pretty way?' And he went off to bed, chuckling to himself: 'If I were only a fool!'

The next morning, pretty early, he saw her once more in the garden, and sought her out.

'I have been thinking about getting married,' he began abruptly; 'and after having turned it all over, I have made up my mind it's not worthwhile.'

She turned upon him for a single moment; but his radiant, kindly appearance would, under the circumstances, have disconcerted an angel, and she looked down again upon the ground in silence. He could see her tremble.

'I hope you don't mind,' he went on, a little taken aback. 'You ought not. I have turned it all over, and upon my soul there's nothing in it. We should never be one whit nearer than we are just now, and, if I am a wise man, nothing like so happy.'

'It is unnecessary to go round about with me,' she said.

The Merry Men Page 34

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Robert Louis Stevenson
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