Jim Priest was very drunk, but insisted on hitching a team to the Butterworth
carriage and driving it loaded with guests to town. Every one laughed at him, but
he drove up to the farmhouse door and in a loud voice declared he knew what he
was doing. Three men got into the carriage and beating the horses furiously Jim
sent them galloping away.
When an opportunity offered, Clara went silently out of the hot dining-room and
through a door to a porch at the back of the house. The kitchen door was open
and the waitresses and cooks from town were preparing to depart. One of the
young women came out into the darkness accompanied by a man, evidently one
of the guests. They had both been drinking and stood for a moment in the
darkness with their bodies pressed together. "I wish it were our wedding night,"
the man's voice whispered, and the woman laughed. After a long kiss they went
back into the kitchen.
A farm dog appeared and going up to Clara licked her hand. She went around
the house and stood back of a bush in the darkness near where the carriages
were being loaded. Her father with Steve Hunter and his wife came and got into a
carriage. Tom was in an expansive, generous mood. "You know, Steve, I told you
and several others my Clara was engaged to Alfred Buckley," he said. "Well, I
was mistaken. The whole thing was a lie. The truth is I shot off my mouth without
talking to Clara. I had seen them together and now and then Buckley used to
come out here to the house in the evening, although he never came except when
I was here. He told me Clara had promised to marry him, and like a fool I took his
word. I never even asked. That's the kind of a fool I was and I was a bigger fool
to go telling the story. All the time Clara and Hugh were engaged and I never
suspected. They told me about it to-night."
Clara stood by the bush until she thought the last of the guests had gone. The lie
her father had told seemed only a part of the evening's vulgarity. Near the kitchen
door the waitresses, cooks and musicians were being loaded into the bus that
had been driven out from the Bidwell House. She went into the dining-room.
Sadness had taken the place of the anger in her, but when she saw Hugh the
anger came back. Piles of dishes filled with food lay all about the room and the
air was heavy with the smell of food. Hugh stood by a window looking out into the
dark farmyard. He held his hat in his hand. "You might put your hat away," she
said sharply. "Have you forgotten you're married to me and that you now live
here in this house?" She laughed nervously and walked to the kitchen door.
Her mind still clung to the past and to the days when she was a child and had
spent so many hours in the big, silent kitchen. Something was about to happen
that would take her past away--destroy it, and the thought frightened her. "I have
not been very happy in this house but there have been certain moments, certain
feelings I've had," she thought. Stepping through the doorway she stood for a
moment in the kitchen with her back to the wall and with her eyes closed.
Through her mind went a troop of figures, the stout determined figure of Kate
Chanceller who had known how to love in silence; the wavering, hurrying figure