Now to return to the Story-Club.
On the night appointed, we met. And to the delight of all the rest of us, Harry arrived with a look that satisfied us that he was to be no defaulter this time. The look was one of almost nervous uneasiness. Of course this sprung from anxiety to please Adela--at least, so I interpreted it. She occupied her old place on the couch; we all arranged ourselves nearly as before; and the fire was burning very bright. Before he began, however, Harry, turning to our host, said:
"May I arrange the scene as I please, for the right effect of my story?"
"Certainly," answered the colonel.
Harry rose, and extinguished the lamp.
"But, my dear sir," said the colonel, "how can you read now?"
"Perfectly, by the firelight," answered Harry.
He then went to the windows, and drawing aside the curtains, drew up the blinds.
It was full high moon, and the light so clear that, notwithstanding the brightness of the fire, each window seemed to lie in ghostly shimmer on the floor. Not a breath of wind was abroad. The whole country being covered with snow, the air was filled with a snowy light. On one side rose the high roof of another part of the house, on which the snow was lying thick and smooth, undisturbed save by the footprints, visible in the moon, of a large black cat, which had now paused in the middle of it, and was looking round suspiciously towards the source of the light which had surprised him in his midnight walk.
"Now," said Harry, returning to his seat, and putting on an air of confidence to conceal the lack of it, "let any one who has nerves retire at once, both for his own sake and that of the company! This is just such a night as I wanted to read my story in--snow--stillness--moonlight outside, and nothing but firelight inside. Mind, Ralph, you keep up the fire, for the room will be more ready to get cold now the coverings are off the windows.--You will say at once if you feel it cold, Miss Cathcart?"
Adela promised; and Harry, who had his manuscript gummed together in a continuous roll, so that he might not have to turn over any leaves, began at once: