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"There's a level-headed boy, Emily. He's sticking to the farm. He won't be carried away by this city fever." Emily flushed with pleasure.
"He's coming over to-night, father. He telephoned that he wanted to see me about something."
Her eyes were bright as she looked out at the moonlit fields.
Emily Harbridge answered a familiar knock at the front door. Tom Wickham had come.
"Well, speaking of angels—" she began. "We were talking about you just a minute ago."
"Well, thinking of angels," he answered, "I've been thinking of you all day."
She smiled. She was accustomed to his compliments, but she feared they came more easily since he had been in France.
"Couldn't you find anything else to think about?" she asked.
"Nothing half so nice. Honestly, Emily, you're getting prettier every day."
She led the way into the parlor, where the girl's parents greeted the young man with smiling amiability. He was evidently high in the family favor.
"Father has just been paying you a compliment, haven't you, father?"
"We were just talking about all the young fellows leaving the farms," said Mr. Harbridge, "and I allowed as how you were one who wouldn't get caught by the epidemic. I guess that's what Emily meant.''
The boy's face was a study. Its expression changed instantly. The smile was gone and his troubled eyes showed the real distress he was feeling. He did not answer, and his silence became significant.
Emily sensed the strain, and a moment later the older people were vaguely conscious of something wrong. Mr. Harbridge wondered if he had said anything to embarrass the young man.
After an awkward pause Tom turned to Emily.
"Don't you want to ride over to town and see the movies?"
For a long time after the car started nothing was said. At last she spoke:
"What's the matter, Tom?"
"Oh, nothing—nothing much, Emily. I'm sorry if I'm acting like a gloom."
"Please, Tom, tell me." She wanted to press his arm, but this was a new and a strange Tom. He had never acted this way before.
"Why, there's nothing the matter, Emily. Maybe it's spring fever or something."
The girl was conscious of the vague unhappiness that crept over her. Something was wrong, something far from the happiness she felt this night had in store for her. She had looked forward to his coming so eagerly—since he had telephoned that he had something to tell her. Her lips quivered with disappointment.
"I'll tell you, Emily." He slowed the car until it barely moved. "I don't know whether you can understand or not, but ever since I came back from the other side I've been so restless I sometimes don't think I can stand it. When I was over there, in the mud and all that, I used to say, 'All I want in the world is to get back to God's country.' I wanted to be home, here, with all the people and things I love. I was sick of travel and foreigners. In my imagination this old home seemed like heaven."
His words came faster and faster as all the pent-up emotions of many stifled months burst loose.
"And then, when I came back, and all the people made a hero of me for a week or two, I was never so happy. I had the happiness of having gone and of having done my job with some credit. But then, after a few weeks, I wanted to be going again, and that's the way it's been for months. All the rest have gone to the city and I—I"— his voice faltered—"Emily, I want to go, too."