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HOME > Classical Novels > Kilmeny of the Orchard > CHAPTER XII. A PRISONER OF LOVE
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 When Eric betook himself to the the next evening he had to admit that he felt rather nervous. He did not know how the Gordons would receive him and certainly the reports he had heard of them were not encouraging, to say the least of it. Even Mrs. Williamson, when he had told her where he was going, seemed to look upon him as one on bearding a lion in his .  
“I do hope they won’t be very uncivil to you, Master,” was the best she could say.
He expected Kilmeny to be in the orchard before him, for he had been delayed by a call from one of the trustees; but she was nowhere to be seen. He walked across it to the wild cherry lane; but at its entrance he stopped short in sudden dismay.
Neil Gordon had stepped from behind the trees and stood confronting him, with blazing eyes, and lips which in emotion so great that at first it prevented him from speaking.
With a thrill of dismay Eric instantly understood what must have taken place. Neil had discovered that he and Kilmeny had been meeting in the orchard, and beyond doubt had carried that tale to Janet and Thomas Gordon. He realized how unfortunate it was that this should have happened before he had had time to make his own explanation. It would probably prejudice Kilmeny’s still further against him. At this point in his thoughts Neil’s pent up passion suddenly found in a burst of wild words.
“So you’ve come to meet her again. But she isn’t here—you’ll never see her again! I hate you—I hate you—I hate you!”
His voice rose to a scream. He took a furious step nearer Eric as if he would attack him. Eric looked in his eyes with a calm , before which his wild passion broke like on a rock.
“So you have been making trouble for Kilmeny, Neil, have you?” said Eric contemptuously. “I suppose you have been playing the spy. And I suppose that you have told her uncle and aunt that she has been meeting me here. Well, you have saved me the trouble of doing it, that is all. I was going to tell them myself, tonight. I don’t know what your in doing this has been. Was it of me? Or have you done it out of to Kilmeny?”
His contempt cowed Neil more effectually than any display of anger could have done.
“Never you mind why I did it,” he muttered . “What I did or why I did it is no business of yours. And you have no business to come around here either. Kilmeny won’t meet you here again.”
“She will meet me in her own home then,” said Eric sternly. “Neil, in behaving as you have done you have shown yourself to be a very foolish, undisciplined boy. I am going straightway to Kilmeny’s uncle and aunt to explain everything.”
Neil sprang forward in his path.
“No—no—go away,” he wildly. “Oh, sir—oh, Mr. Marshall, please go away. I’ll do anything for you if you will. I love Kilmeny. I’ve loved her all my life. I’d give my life for her. I can’t have you coming here to steal her from me. If you do—I’ll kill you! I wanted to kill you last night when I saw you kiss her. Oh, yes, I saw you. I was watching—spying, if you like. I don’t care what you call it. I had followed her—I suspected something. She was so different—so changed. She never would wear the flowers I picked for her any more. She seemed to forget I was there. I knew something had come between us. And it was you, curse you! Oh, I’ll make you sorry for it.”
He was working himself up into a fury again—the untamed fury of the Italian peasant in his heart’s desire. It all the restraint of his training and environment. Eric, amid all his anger and , felt a thrill of pity for him. Neil Gordon was only a boy still; and he was and beside himself.
“Neil, listen to me,” he said quietly. “You are talking very foolishly. It is not for you to say who shall or shall not be Kilmeny’s friend. Now, you may just as well control yourself and go home like a decent fellow. I am not at all frightened by your threats, and I shall know how to deal with you if you persist in with me or Kilmeny. I am not the sort of person to put up with that, my lad.”
The restrained power in his tone and look cowed Neil. The latter turned sullenly away, with another muttered curse, and into the shadow of the firs.
Eric, not a little under all his external composure by this most unexpected and unpleasant encounter, pursued his way along the lane which wound on by the belt of woodland in twist and curve to the Gordon homestead. His heart beat as he thought of Kilmeny. What might she not be suffering? Doubtless Neil had given a very exaggerated and distorted account of what he had seen, and probably her relations were very angry with her, poor child. Anxious to their as soon as might be, he hurried on, almost forgetting his meeting with Neil. The threats of the latter did not trouble him at all. He thought the angry outburst of a jealous boy mattered but little. What did matter was that Kilmeny was in trouble which his heedlessness had brought upon her.
Presently he found himself before the Gordon house. It was an old building with sharp eaves and dormer windows, its stained a dark gray by long exposure to wind and weather. Faded green hung on the windows of the lower story. Behind it grew a thick wood of spruces. The little yard in front of it was and and flowerless; but over the low front door a luxuriant early-flowering rose vine clambered, in a riot of blood-red blossom which contrasted strangely with the general bareness of its surroundings. It seemed to fling itself over the grim old house as if intent on bombarding it with an alien life and .
Eric knocked at the door, wondering if it might be possible that Kilmeny should come to it. But a moment later it was opened by an elderly woman—a woman of lines from the of her , dark print dress to the crown of her head, covered with black hair which, despite its few gray threads, was still thick and luxuriant. She had a long, pale face somewhat worn and wrinkled, but possessing a certain harsh of feature which neither age nor wrinkles had quite destroyed; and her deep-set, light gray eyes were not of suggested , although they now surveyed Eric with an unconcealed . Her figure, in its merciless dress, was very angular; yet there was about her a dignity of carriage and manner which Eric liked. In any case, he preferred her unsmiling to vulgar .
He lifted his hat.
“Have I the honour of speaking to Miss Gordon?” he asked.
“I am Janet Gordon,” said the woman stiffly.
“Then I wish to talk with you and your brother.”
“Come in.”
She stepped aside and motioned him to a low brown door opening on the right.
“Go in and sit down. I’ll call Thomas,” she said coldly, as she walked out through the hall.
Eric walked into the parlour and sat down as bidden. He found himself in the most old-fashioned room he had ever seen. The solidly made chairs and tables, of some wood grown dark and polished with age, made even Mrs. Williamson’s “parlour set” of horsehair seem modern by contrast. The painted floor was covered with round braided rugs. On the centre table was a lamp, a Bible and some theological volumes contemporary with the square-runged furniture. The walls, wainscoted half way up in wood and covered for the rest with a dark, diamond-patterned paper, were hung with faded engravings, mostly of clerical-looking, bewigged personages in gowns and bands.
But over the high, undecorated black mantel-piece, in a ruddy glow of sunset light striking through the window, hung one which caught and held Eric’s attention to the of everything else. It was the enlarged “crayon” photograph of a young girl, and, in spite of the of execution, it was easily the center of interest in the room.
Eric at once guessed that this must be the picture of Margaret Gordon, for, although quite unlike Kilmeny’s sensitive, spirited face in general, there was a subtle, unmistakable resemblance about brow and chin.
The pictured face was a very handsome one, suggestive of dark eyes and vivid colouring; but it was its expression rather than its beauty which fascinated Eric. Never had he seen a indicative of more intense and stubborn will power. Margaret Gordon was dead and buried; the picture was a cheap and inartistic production in an impossible frame of and plush; yet the in that face dominated its surroundings still. What then must have been the power of such a personality in life?
Eric realized that this woman could and would have done she willed, unflinchingly and unrelentingly. She could stamp her desire on everything and everybody about her, moulding them to her wish and will, in their own despite and in defiance of all the resistance they might make. Many things in Kilmeny’s upbringing and became clear to him.
“If that woman had told me I was ugly I should have believed her,” he thought. “Ay, even though I had a mirror to contradict her. I should never have dreamed of disputing or questioning anything she might have said. The strange power in her face is almost uncanny, peering out as it does from a mask of beauty and youthful curves. Pride and stubbornness are its salient characteristics. Well, Kilmeny does not at all resemble her mother in expression and only very slightly in feature.”
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