The City of Fire (Chapter 3, page 2 of 9)


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Chapter 3

He felt as if she had knighted him. He turned red and hot with shame
and pleasure.

"Aw, that ain't much. I earned sommore too, fer m'yant." He twisted his
cap around on his other hand roughly and then blurted out the last
thing he had meant to say: "Miss Lynn, it ain't wrong to do a thing you don't know ain't wrong, is
it?"

Marilyn looked at him keenly and laughed.

"It generally is, Billy, if you think it might be. Don't ever
try to fool your conscience, Billy, it's too smart for that."

He grinned sheepishly and then quite irrelevantly remarked: "I saw Cart last night."

But she seemed to understand the connection and nodded gravely: "Yes, I saw him a moment this morning. He said he might come back again
this evening."

The boy grunted contentedly and watched the warm color of her cheek
under the glow of the ruddy sunset. She always seemed to him a little
bit unearthly in the starriness of her beauty. Of course he never put
it to himself that way. In fact he never put it at all. It was just a
fact in his life. He had two idols whom he worshipped from afar, two
idols who understood him equally well and were understood by him, and
for whom he would have gladly laid down his young life. This girl was
one, and Mark Carter was the other. It was the sorrow of his young life
that Mark Carter had left Sabbath Valley indefinitely. The stories that
floated back of his career made no difference to Billy. He adored him
but the more in his fierce young soul, and gloried in his hero's need
of faithful friends. He would not have owned it to himself, perhaps,
but he had spoken of Mark just to find out if this other idol believed
those tales and was affected by them. He drew a sigh of deep content as
he heard the steady voice and knew that she was still the young man's
friend.

They passed out of the church silently together and parted in the glow
of red that seemed flooding the quiet village like a painting. She went
across the stretch of lawn to the low spreading veranda where her
mother sat talking with her father. Some crude idea of her beauty and
grace stole through his soul, but he only said to himself: "How,--kind of--little she is!" and then made a dash for his
rusty old wheel lying flat at the side of the church step. He gathered
it up and wheeled it around the side of the church to the old
graveyard, threading his way among the graves and sitting down on a
broad flat stone where he had often thought out his problems of life.
The shadow of the church cut off the glow of sunset, and made it seem
silent and dark. Ahead of him the Valley lay. Across at the right it
stretched toward the Junction, and he could see the evening train just
puffing in with a wee wisp of white misty smoke trailing against the
mountain green. The people for the hotels would be swarming off, for it
was Saturday night. The fat one would be there rolling trunks across
and the station agent would presently close up. It would be dark over
there at eight o'clock. The mountains loomed silently, purpling and
steep and hazy already with sleep.

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