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Kilmeny of the Orchard

XIII. A Sweeter Woman Ne'er Drew Breath
Thenceforward Eric Marshall was a constant visitor at the Gordon homestead. He soon
became a favourite with Thomas and Janet, especially the latter. He liked them both,
discovering under all their outward peculiarities sterling worth and fitness of character.
Thomas Gordon was surprisingly well read and could floor Eric any time in argument,
once he became sufficiently warmed up to attain fluency of words. Eric hardly
recognized him the first time he saw him thus animated. His bent form straightened, his
sunken eyes flashed, his face flushed, his voice rang like a trumpet, and he poured out
a flood of eloquence which swept Eric's smart, up-to-date arguments away like straws in
the rush of a mountain torrent. Eric enjoyed his own defeat enormously, but Thomas
Gordon was ashamed of being thus drawn out of himself, and for a week afterwards
confined his remarks to "Yes" and "No," or, at the outside, to a brief statement that a
change in the weather was brewing.
Janet never talked on matters of church and state; such she plainly considered to be far
beyond a woman's province. But she listened with lurking interest in her eyes while
Thomas and Eric pelted on each other with facts and statistics and opinions, and on the
rare occasions when Eric scored a point she permitted herself a sly little smile at her
brother's expense.
Of Neil, Eric saw but little. The Italian boy avoided him, or if they chanced to meet
passed him by with sullen, downcast eyes. Eric did not trouble himself greatly about
Neil; but Thomas Gordon, understanding the motive which had led Neil to betray his
discovery of the orchard trysts, bluntly told Kilmeny that she must not make such an
equal of Neil as she had done.
"You have been too kind to the lad, lassie, and he's got presumptuous. He must be
taught his place. I mistrust we have all made more of him than we should."
But most of the idyllic hours of Eric's wooing were spent in the old orchard; the garden
end of it was now a wilderness of roses--roses red as the heart of a sunset, roses pink
as the early flush of dawn, roses white as the snows on mountain peaks, roses full
blown, and roses in buds that were sweeter than anything on earth except Kilmeny's
face. Their petals fell in silken heaps along the old paths or clung to the lush grasses
among which Eric lay and dreamed, while Kilmeny played to him on her violin.
Eric promised himself that when she was his wife her wonderful gift for music should be
cultivated to the utmost. Her powers of expression seemed to deepen and develop
every day, growing as her soul grew, taking on new colour and richness from her
ripening heart.
To Eric, the days were all pages in an inspired idyl. He had never dreamed that love
could be so mighty or the world so beautiful. He wondered if the universe were big
 
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