Davis' Short Stories Vol. 2 HTML version

The Messengers
When Ainsley first moved to Lone Lake Farm all of his friends asked him the same
question. They wanted to know, if the farmer who sold it to him had abandoned it as
worthless, how one of the idle rich, who could not distinguish a plough from a harrow,
hoped to make it pay? His answer was that he had not purchased the farm as a means of
getting richer by honest toil, but as a retreat from the world and as a test of true
friendship. He argued that the people he knew accepted his hospitality at Sherry's
because, in any event, they themselves would be dining within a taxicab fare of the same
place. But if to see him they travelled all the way to Lone Lake Farm, he might feel
assured that they were friends indeed.
Lone Lake Farm was spread over many acres of rocky ravine and forest, at a point where
Connecticut approaches New York, and between it and the nearest railroad station
stretched six miles of an execrable wood road. In this wilderness, directly upon the lonely
lake, and at a spot equally distant from each of his boundary lines, Ainsley built himself a
red brick house. Here, in solitude, he exiled himself; ostensibly to become a gentleman
farmer; in reality to wait until Polly Kirkland had made up her mind to marry him.
Lone Lake, which gave the farm its name, was a pond hardly larger than a city block. It
was fed by hidden springs, and fringed about with reeds and cat-tails, stunted willows and
shivering birch. From its surface jutted points of the same rock that had made farming
unremunerative, and to these miniature promontories and islands Ainsley, in keeping
with a fancied resemblance, gave such names as the Needles, St. Helena, the Isle of
Pines. From the edge of the pond that was farther from the house rose a high hill, heavily
wooded. At its base, oak and chestnut trees spread their branches over the water, and
when the air was still were so clearly reflected in the pond that the leaves seemed to float
upon the surface. To the smiling expanse of the farm the lake was what the eye is to the
human countenance. The oaks were its eyebrows, the fringe of reeds its lashes, and, in
changing mood, it flashed with happiness or brooded in sombre melancholy. For Ainsley
it held a deep attraction. Through the summer evenings, as the sun set, he would sit on the
brick terrace and watch the fish leaping, and listen to the venerable bull-frogs croaking
false alarms of rain. Indeed, after he met Polly Kirkland, staring moodily at the lake
became his favorite form of exercise. With a number of other men, Ainsley was very
much in love with Miss Kirkland, and unprejudiced friends thought that if she were to
choose any of her devotees, Ainsley should be that one. Ainsley heartily agreed in this
opinion, but in persuading Miss Kirkland to share it he had not been successful. This was
partly his own fault; for when he dared to compare what she meant to him with what he
had to offer her he became a mass of sodden humility. Could he have known how much
Polly Kirkland envied and admired his depth of feeling, entirely apart from the fact that
she herself inspired that feeling, how greatly she wished to care for him in the way he
cared for her, life, even alone in the silences of Lone Lake, would have been a beautiful
and blessed thing. But he was so sure she was the most charming and most wonderful girl
in all the world, and he an unworthy and despicable being, that when the lady demurred,
he faltered, and his pleading, at least to his own ears, carried no conviction.