The Enchanted Barn (Chapter IV, page 1 of 7)


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The afternoon before, when Mr. Sidney Graham had returned to his office from seeing Shirley to the elevator, he stood several minutes looking thoughtfully at the chair where she had sat, while he carefully drew on his gloves.

There had been something interesting and appealing in the spirited face of the girl, with her delicate features and wistful eyes. He could not seem to get away from it. It had left an impression of character and a struggle with forces of which in his sheltered life he had had only a vague conception. It had left him with the feeling that she was stronger in some ways than himself, and he did not exactly like the sensation of it. He had always aimed to be a strong character himself; and for a young man who had inherited two hundred and fifty thousand dollars on coming of age, and double that amount two years later, with the prospect of another goodly sum when his paternal grandfather's estate was divided, he had done very well indeed. He had stuck to business ever since leaving college, where he had been by no means a nonentity either in studies or in athletics; and he had not been spoiled by the adulation that a young man of his good looks and wealth and position always receives in society. He had taken society as a sort of duty, but had never given it an undue proportion of his time and thoughts. Notably he was a young man of fine balance and strong self-control, not given to impulsive or erratic likes and dislikes; and he could not understand why a shabby little person with a lock of gold over one crimson cheek, and tired, discouraged lights in her had made so strong an impression upon him.

It had been his intention just before Shirley's arrival to leave the office at once and perhaps drop in on Miss Harriet Hale. If the hour seemed propitious, he would take her for a spin in his new racing-car that even now waited in the street below; but somehow suddenly his plan did not attract him deeply. He felt the need of being by himself. After a turn or two up and down his luxurious office he took the elevator down to the street floor, dismissed his chauffeur, and whirled off in his car, taking the opposite direction from that which would have taken him to the Hale residence. Harriet Hale was a very pretty girl with a brilliant mind and a royal fortune. She could entertain him and stimulate him tremendously, and sometimes he almost thought the attraction was strong enough to last him through life; but Harriet Hale would not be able to appreciate his present mood nor explain to him why the presence in his office for fifteen minutes of a nervy little stenographer who was willing to live in a barn should have made him so vaguely dissatisfied with himself. If he were to try to tell her about it, he felt sure he would meet with laughing taunts and brilliant sarcasm. She would never understand.

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