A Spinner in the Sun (Chapter 6, page 1 of 7)

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Chapter 6

Sleet had fallen in the night, but at sunrise, the storm ceased. Miss Evelina had gone to sleep, lulled into a sense of security by the icy fingers tapping at her cobwebbed window pane. She awoke in a transfigured world. Every branch and twig was encased in crystal, upon which the sun was dazzling. Jewels, poised in midair, twinkled with the colours of the rainbow. On the tip of the cypress at the gate was a ruby, a sapphire gleamed from the rose-bush, and everywhere were diamonds and pearls.

Frosty vapour veiled the spaces between the trees and javelins of sunlight pierced it here and there. Beyond, there were glimpses of blue sky, and drops of water, falling from the trees, made a musical, cadence upon the earth beneath.

Miss Evelina opened her window still more. The air was peculiarly soft and sweet. It had the fragrance of opening buds and growing things and still had not lost the tang of the frost.

She drew a long breath of it and straightway was uplifted, though seemingly against her will. Spring was stirring at the heart of the world, sending new currents of sap into the veins of the trees, new aspirations into dead roots and fibres, fresh hopes of bloom into every sleeping rose. Life incarnate knocked at the wintry tomb; eager, unseen hands were rolling away the stone. The tide of the year was rising, soon to break into the wonder of green boughs and violets, shimmering wings and singing winds.

The cold hand that clutched her heart took a firmer hold. With acute self-pity, she perceived her isolation. Of all the world, she alone was set apart; branded, scarred, locked in a prison house that had no door. The one release was denied her until she could get away.

Poverty had driven her back. Circumstances outside her control had pushed her through the door she had thought never to enter again. Through all the five-and-twenty years, she had thought of the house with a shudder, peopling it with a thousand terrors, not knowing that there was no terror save her own fear.

Sorrow had put its chains upon her suddenly, at a time when she had not the strength to break the bond. At first she had struggled; then ceased. Since then, her faculties had been in suspense, as it were. She had forgotten laughter, veiled herself from joy, and walked hand in hand with the grisly phantom of her own conjuring.

Behind the shelter of her veil she had mutely prayed for peace--she dared not ask for more. And peace had never come. Her crowning humiliation would be to meet Anthony Dexter face to face--to know him, and to have him know her. Not knowing where he was, she had travelled far to avoid him. Now, seeking the last refuge, the one place on earth where he could not be, she found herself separated from him by less than a mile. More than that, she had gone to his house, as she had gone on the fateful day a quarter of a century ago. She had taken back the pearls, and had not died in doing it. Strangely enough, it had given her a vague relief.

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