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The young man had passed through the Hatchard gate, and she had
the street to herself. North Dormer is at all times an empty place, and at
three o'clock on a June afternoon its few able-bodied men are off in the
fields or woods, and the women indoors, engaged in languid household
The girl walked along, swinging her key on a finger, and looking
about her with the heightened attention produced by the presence of a
stranger in a familiar place. What, she wondered, did North Dormer look
like to people from other parts of the world? She herself had lived there
since the age of five, and had long supposed it to be a place of some im-
portance. But about a year before, Mr. Miles, the new Episcopal clergy-
man at Hepburn, who drove over every other SundayÑwhen the roads
were not ploughed up by haulingÑto hold a service in the North
Dormer church, had proposed, in a fit of missionary zeal, to take the
young people down to Nettleton to hear an illustrated lecture on the
Holy Land; and the dozen girls and boys who represented the future of
North Dormer had been piled into a farm-waggon, driven over the hills
to Hepburn, put into a way-train and carried to Nettleton.
In the course of that incredible day Charity Royall had, for the first
and only time, experienced railway-travel, looked into shops with plate-
glass fronts, tasted cocoanut pie, sat in a theatre, and listened to a gentle-
man saying unintelligible things before pictures that she would have en-
joyed looking at if his explanations had not prevented her from under-
standing them. This initiation had shown her that North Dormer was a
small place, and developed in her a thirst for information that her posi-
tion as custodian of the village library had previously failed to excite. For
a month or two she dipped feverishly and disconnectedly into the dusty
volumes of the Hatchard Memorial Library; then the impression of
Nettleton began to fade, and she found it easier to take North Dormer as
the norm of the universe than to go on reading.
The sight of the stranger once more revived memories of Nettleton,
and North Dormer shrank to its real size. As she looked up and down it,
from lawyer Royall's faded red house at one end to the white church at
the other, she pitilessly took its measure. There it lay, a weather-beaten
sunburnt village of the hills, abandoned of men, left apart by railway,
trolley, telegraph, and all the forces that link life to life in modern com-
munities. It had no shops, no theatres, no lectures, no "business block";
only a church that was opened every other Sunday if the state of the
roads permitted, and a library for which no new books had been bought
for twenty years, and where the old ones mouldered undisturbed on the