16. Chapter XVI.
When Archer walked down the sandy main street
of St. Augustine to the house which had been
pointed out to him as Mr. Welland's, and saw May
Welland standing under a magnolia with the sun in her
hair, he wondered why he had waited so long to come.
Here was the truth, here was reality, here was the life
that belonged to him; and he, who fancied himself so
scornful of arbitrary restraints, had been afraid to break
away from his desk because of what people might
think of his stealing a holiday!
Her first exclamation was: "Newland--has anything
happened?" and it occurred to him that it would have
been more "feminine" if she had instantly read in his
eyes why he had come. But when he answered: "Yes--I
found I had to see you," her happy blushes took the
chill from her surprise, and he saw how easily he
would be forgiven, and how soon even Mr. Letterblair's
mild disapproval would be smiled away by a tolerant
Early as it was, the main street was no place for any
but formal greetings, and Archer longed to be alone
with May, and to pour out all his tenderness and his
impatience. It still lacked an hour to the late Welland
breakfast-time, and instead of asking him to come in
she proposed that they should walk out to an old
orange-garden beyond the town. She had just been for
a row on the river, and the sun that netted the little
waves with gold seemed to have caught her in its
meshes. Across the warm brown of her cheek her blown
hair glittered like silver wire; and her eyes too looked
lighter, almost pale in their youthful limpidity. As she
walked beside Archer with her long swinging gait her
face wore the vacant serenity of a young marble athlete.
To Archer's strained nerves the vision was as soothing
as the sight of the blue sky and the lazy river. They
sat down on a bench under the orange-trees and he put
his arm about her and kissed her. It was like drinking
at a cold spring with the sun on it; but his pressure
may have been more vehement than he had intended,
for the blood rose to her face and she drew back as if
he had startled her.