The Enchanted Barn (Chapter III, page 2 of 8)


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"Oh, I see, your mother is the farmer, I suppose. Your home is near by--near to the barn you want to rent?"

Then she understood.

"No, oh, no!" she said desperately. "We don't want to use the barn for a barn at all. I want to use it for a house!"

It was out at last, the horrible truth; and she sat trembling to see his look of amazement.

"Use it for a house!" he exclaimed. "Why, how could you? To live in, do you mean? or just to take a tent and camp out there for a few days?"

"To _live in_," said Shirley doggedly, lifting her eyes in one swift defiant look and then dropping them to her shabby gloves and thin pocketbook, empty now even of the last precious nickel. If he said anything more, she was sure she should cry. If he patronized her the least little bit, or grew haughty, now that he saw how low she was reduced, she would turn and fly from the office and never look him in the face.

But he did neither. Instead, he just talked in a natural tone, as if it were the most common thing in the world for a girl to want to live in a barn, and nothing to be surprised over in the least.

"Oh, I see," he said pleasantly. "Well, now, that might be arranged, you know. Of course I don't know much about things, but I could find out. You see, I don't suppose we often have calls to rent the property that way----"

"No, of course not," said Shirley, gathering up her scattered confidence. "I know it's queer for me to ask, but we have to move--they are going to build an apartment-house where we are renting now, and mother is sick. I should like to get her out into the country, our house is so little and dark; and I thought, if she could be all summer where she could see the sky and hear the birds, she might get well. I want to get my little sisters and brothers out of the city, too. But we couldn't likely pay enough rent. I suppose it was silly of me to ask."

"Not at all!" said the young man courteously, as though she had been a queen whom he delighted to honor. "I don't see why we shouldn't be able to get together on some kind of a proposition--that is, unless father has other plans that I don't know about. A barn ought not to be worth such a big price. How much would you feel like paying?"

He was studying the girl before him with interested eyes; noting the well-set head on the pretty shoulders, even in spite of the ill-fitting shabby blue coat; the delicate features; the glint of gold in the soft brown hair; the tilt of the firm little chin, and the wistfulness in the big blue eyes. This was a new kind of girl, and he was disposed to give her what she wanted if he could. And he _could_. He knew well that anything he willed mightily would not be denied him.

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