Parnassus on Wheels/Chapter 15

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I NEVER knew just how it happened. Instead of driving back through Port Vigor, we turned into a side road leading up over the hill and across the heath where the air came fresh and sweet from the sea. The Professor sat very silent, looking about him. There was a grove of birches on the hill, and the sunlight played upon their satin boles.

"It feels good to be out again," he said calmly. "The Sage cannot be so keen a lover of open air as his books would indicate, or he wouldn't be so ready to clap a man into quod. Perhaps I owe him another punch on the nose for that."

"Oh, Roger," I said—and I'm afraid my voice was trembly—"I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Not very eloquent, was it? And then, somehow or other, his arm was around me.

"Helen," he said. "Will you marry me? I'm not rich, but I've saved up enough to live on. We'll always have Parnassus, and this winter we'll go and live in Brooklyn and write the book. And we'll travel around with Peg, and preach the love of books and the love of human beings. Helen—you're just what I need, God bless you. Will you come with me and make me the happiest bookseller in the world?"

Peg must have been astonished at the length of time she had for cropping the grass, undisturbed. I know that Roger and I sat careless of time. And when he told me that ever since our first afternoon together he had determined to have me, sooner or later, I was the proudest woman in New England. I told Roger about the ghastly wreck, and my agony of apprehension. I think it was the wreck that made us both feel inclined to forgive Andrew.

We had a light luncheon together there on the dunes above the Sound. By taking a short cut over the ridge we struck into the Shelby road without going down into Port Vigor again. Peg pulled us along toward Greenbriar, and we talked as we went.

Perhaps the best of it was that a cold drizzle of rain began to fall as we moved along the hill road. The Professor—as I still call him, by force of habit—curtained in the front of the van with a rubber sheet. Bock hopped up and curled himself against his master's leg. Roger got out his corncob pipe, and I sat close to him. In the gathering gloom we plodded along, as happy a trio—or quartet, if you include fat, cheery old Peg—as any on this planet. Summer was over, and we were no longer young, but there were great things before us. I listened to the drip of the rain, and the steady creak of Parnassus on her axles. I thought of my "anthology" of loaves of bread and vowed to bake a million more if Roger wanted me to.

It was after supper time when we got to Greenbriar. Roger had suggested that we take a shorter road that would have brought us through to Redfield sooner, but I begged him to go by way of Shelby and Greenbriar, just as we had come before. I did not tell him why I wanted this. And when finally we came to a halt in front of Kirby's store at the crossroads it was raining heavily and we were ready for a rest.

"Well, sweetheart," said Roger, "shall we go and see what sort of rooms the hotel has?"

"I can think of something better than that," said I. "Let's go up to Mr. Kane and have him marry us. Then we can get back to Sabine Farm afterward, and give Andrew a surprise."

"By the bones of Hymen!" said Roger. "You're right!"

It must have been ten o'clock when we turned in at the red gate of Sabine Farm. The rain had stopped, but the wheels sloshed through mud and water at every turn. The light was burning in the sitting-room, and through the window I could see Andrew bent over his work table. We climbed out, stiff and sore from the long ride. I saw Roger's face set in a comical blend of sternness and humour.

"Well, here goes to surprise the Sage!" he whispered.

We picked our way between puddles and rapped on the door. Andrew appeared, carrying the lamp in one hand. When he saw us he grunted.

"Let me introduce my wife," said Roger.

"Well, I'll be damned," said Andrew.

But Andrew isn't quite so black as I've painted him. When he's once convinced of the error of his ways, he is almost pathetically eager to make up. I remember only one remark in the subsequent conversation, because I was so appalled by the state of everything at Sabine Farm that I immediately set about putting the house to rights. The two men, however, as soon as Parnassus was housed in the barn and the animals under cover, sat down by the stove to talk things over.

"I tell you what," said Andrew—"do whatever you like with your wife; she's too much for me. But I'd like to buy that Parnassus."

"Not on your life!" said the Professor.