The Harvester by Gene Stratton-Porter
Chapter XII. "The Way of a Man With a Maid"
The next day the Harvester lifted the oilcloth, and picking up a folded note he read----
"Aunt Molly found rest in the night. She was more comfortable than she had been since I have known her. Close the end she whispered to me to thank you if I ever saw you again. She will be buried to-morrow. Past that, I dare not think."
The Harvester sat on the log and studied the lines. She would not come that day or the next. After a long time he put the note in his pocket, wrote an answer telling her he had been there, and would come on the following day on the chance of her wanting anything he could do, and the next he would bring the ginseng money, so she must be sure to meet him.
Then he went back to the wagon, turned Betsy, and drove around the Jameson land watching closely. There were several vehicles in the barn lot, and a couple of men sitting under the trees of the door yard. Faded bedding hung on the line and women moved through the rooms, but he could not see the Girl. Slowly he drove on until he came to the first house, and there he stopped and went in. He saw the child of the previous day, and as she came forward her mother appeared in the doorway.
The Harvester explained who he was and that he was examining the woods in search of some almost extinct herbs he needed in his business. Then he told of having been at the adjoining farm the day before and mentioned the sick woman. He added that later she had died. He casually mentioned that a young woman there seemed pale and ill and wondered if the neighbours would see her through. He suggested that the place appeared as if the owner did not take much interest, and when the woman finished with Henry Jameson, he said how very important it seemed to him that some good, kind-hearted soul should go and mother the poor girl, and the woman thought she was the very person. Without knowing exactly how he did it, the Harvester left with her promise to remain with the Girl the coming two nights. The woman had her hands full of strange and delicious fruit without understanding why it had been given her, or why she had made those promises. She thought the Harvester a remarkably fine young man to take such interest in strangers and she told him he was welcome to anything he could find on her place that would help with his medicines.
The Harvester just happened to be coming from the woods as the woman freshly dressed left the house, so he took her in the wagon and drove back to the Jameson place, because he was going that way. Then he returned to Medicine Woods and worked with all his might.
First he polished floors, cleaned windows, and arranged the rooms as best he could inside the cabin; then he gave a finishing touch to everything outside. He could not have told why he did it, but he thought it was because there was hope that now the Girl would come to Onabasha. If he found opportunity to bring her to the city, he hoped that possibly he might drive home with her and show Medicine Woods, so everything must be in order. Then he worked with flying fingers in the dry-house, putting up her ginseng for market, and never was weight so liberal.
The next morning he drove early to Onabasha and came home with a loaded wagon, the contents of which he scattered through the cabin where it seemed most suitable, but the greater part of it was for her. He glanced at the bare floors and walls of the other rooms, and thought of trying to improve them, but he was afraid of not getting the right things.
"I don't know much about what is needed here," he said, "but I am perfectly safe in buying anything a girl ever used."
Then he returned to the city, explained the situation to the doctor, and selected the room he wanted in case the Girl could be persuaded to come to the hospital. After that he went to see the doctor's wife, and made arrangements for her to be ready for a guest, because there was a possibility he might want to call for help. He had another jug of fruit juice and all the delicacies he could think of, also a big cake of ice, when he reached the woods. There were only a few words for him.
"I will come to-morrow at two, if at all possible; if not, keep the money until I can."
There was nothing to do except to place his offering under the oilcloth and wait, but he simply was compelled to add a line to say he would be there, and to express the hope that she was comfortable as possible and thinking of the sunshine room. Then he returned to Medicine Woods to wait, and found that possible only by working to exhaustion. There were many things he could do, and one after another he finished them, until completely worn out; and then he slept the deep sleep of weariness.
At noon the next day he bathed, shaved, and dressed in fresh, clean clothing. He stopped in Onabasha for more fruit, and drove to the Jameson woods. He was waiting and watching the usual path the Girl followed, when her step sounded on the other side. The Harvester arose and turned. Her pallor was alarming. She stepped on the rug he had spread, and sank almost breathless to the chair.
"Why do you come a new way that fills you with fear?" asked the Harvester.
"It seems as if Uncle Henry is watching me every minute, and I didn't dare come where he could see. I must not remain a second. You must take these things away and go at once. He is dreadful."
"So am I," said the Harvester, "when affairs go too everlastingly wrong. I am not afraid of any man living. What are you planning to do?"
"I want to ask you, are you sure about the prices of my drawing and the ginseng?"
"Absolutely," said the Harvester. "As for the ginseng it went in fresh and early, best wild roots, and it brought eight a pound. There were eight pounds when I made up weight and here is your money."
He handed her a long envelope addressed to her.
"What is the amount?" she asked.
"I can't believe it."
"You have it in your fingers."
"You know that I would like to thank you properly, if I had words to express myself."
"Never mind that," said the Harvester. "Tell me what you are planning. Say that you will come to the hospital for the long, perfect rest now."
"It is absolutely impossible. Don't weary me by mentioning it. I cannot."
"Will you tell me what you intend doing?"
`I must," she said, "for it depends entirely on your word. I am going to get Uncle Henry's supper, and then go and remain the night with the neighbour who has been helping me. In the morning, when he leaves, she is coming with her wagon for my trunk, and she is going to drive with me to Onabasha and find me a cheap room and loan me a few things, until I can buy what I need. I am going to use fourteen dollars of this and my drawing money for what I am forced to buy, and pay fifty on my debt. Then I will send you my address and be ready for work."
She clutched the envelope and for the first time looked at him.
"Very well," said the Harvester. "I could take you to the wife of my best friend, the chief surgeon of the city hospital, and everything would be ease and rest until you are strong; she would love to have you."
The Girl dropped her hands wearily.
"Don't tire me with it!" she cried. "I am almost falling despite the stimulus of food and drink I can touch. I never can thank you properly for that. I won't be able to work hard enough to show you how much I appreciate what you have done for me. But you don't understand. A woman, even a poverty-poor woman, if she be delicately born and reared, cannot go to another woman on a man's whim, and when she lacks even the barest necessities. I don't refuse to meet your friends. I shall love to, when I can be so dressed that I will not shame you. Until that times comes, if you are the gentleman you appear to be, you will wait without urging me further."
"I must be a man, in order to be a gentleman," said the Harvester. "And it is because the man in me is in hot rebellion against more loneliness, pain, and suffering for you, that the conventions become chains I do not care how soon or how roughly I break. If only you could be induced to say the word, I tell you I could bring one of God's gentlest women to you."
"And probably she would come in a dainty gown, in her carriage or motor, and be disgusted, astonished, and secretly sorry for you. As for me, I do not require her pity. I will be glad to know the beautiful, refined, and gentle woman you are so certain of, but not until I am better dressed and more attractive in appearance than now. If you will give me your address, I will write you when I am ready for work."
Silently the Harvester wrote it. "Will you give me permission to take these things to your neighbour for you?" he asked. "They would serve until you can do better, and I have no earthly use for them."
She hesitated. Then she laughed shortly.
"What a travesty my efforts at pride are with you!" she cried. "I begin by trying to preserve some proper dignity, and end by confessing abject poverty. I yet have the ten you paid me the other day, but twenty-four dollars are not much to set up housekeeping on, and I would be more glad than I can say for these very things."
"Thank you," said the Harvester. "I will take them when I go. Is there anything else?"
"I think not."
"Will you have a drink?"
"Yes, if you have more with you. I believe it is really cooling my blood."
"Are you taking the medicine?"
"Yes," she said, "and I am stronger. Truly I am. I know I appear ghastly to you, but it's loss of sleep, and trying to lay away poor Aunt Molly decently, and----"
"And fear of Uncle Henry," added the Harvester.
"Yes," said the Girl. "That most of all! He thinks I am going to stay here and take her place. I can't tell him I am not, and how I am to hide from him when I am gone, I don't know. I am afraid of him."
"Has he any claim on you?"
"Shelter for the past three months."
"Are you of age?"
"I am almost twenty-four," she said.
"Then suppose you leave Uncle Henry to me," suggested the Harvester.
"Careful now! The red bird told you why!" said the man. "I will not urge it upon you now, but keep it steadily in the back of your head that there is a sunshine room all ready and waiting for you, and I am going to take you to it very soon. As things are, I think you might allow me to tell you----"
She was on her feet in instant panic. "I must go," she said. "Uncle Henry is dogging me to promise to remain, and I will not, and he is watching me. I must go----"
"Can you give me your word of honour that you will go to the neighbour woman to-night; that you feel perfectly safe?"
She hesitated. "Yes, I----I think so. Yes, if he doesn't find out and grow angry. Yes, I will be safe."
"How soon will you write me?"
"Just as soon as I am settled and rest a little."
"Do you mean several days?"
"Yes, several days."
"An eternity!" cried the Harvester with white lips. "I cannot let you go. Suppose you fall ill and fail to write me, and I do not know where you are, and there is no one to care for you."
"But can't you see that I don't know where I will be? If it will satisfy you, I will write you a line to- morrow night and tell you where I am, and you can come later."
"Is that a promise?" asked the Harvester.
"It is," said the Girl.
"Then I will take these things to your neighbour and wait until to-morrow night. You won't fail me?"
"I never in all my life saw a man so wild over designs," said the Girl, as she started toward the house.
"Don't forget that the design I'm craziest about is the same as the red bird's," the Harvester flung after her, but she hurried on and made no reply.
He folded the table and chair, rolled the rug, and shouldering them picked up the bucket and started down the river bank.
Such a faint little call he never would have been sure he heard anything if Belshazzar had not stopped suddenly. The hair on the back of his neck arose and he turned with a growl in his throat. The Harvester dropped his load with a crash and ran in leaping bounds, but the dog was before him. Half way to the house, Ruth Jameson swayed in the grip of her uncle. One hand clutched his coat front in a spasmodic grasp, and with the other she covered her face.
The roar the Harvester sent up stayed the big, lifted fist, and the dog leaped for a throat hold, and compelled the man to defend himself. The Harvester never knew how he covered the space until he stood between them, and saw the Girl draw back and snatch together the front of her dress.
"He took it from me!" she panted. "Make him, oh make him give back my money!"
Then for a few seconds things happened too rapidly to record. Once the Harvester tossed a torn envelope exposing money to the Girl, and again a revolver, and then both men panting and dishevelled were on their feet.
"Count your money, Ruth?" said the Harvester in a voice of deadly quiet.
"It is all here," said she.
"Her money?" cried Henry Jameson. "My money! She has been stealing the price of my cattle from my pockets. I thought I was short several times lately."
"You are lying," said the Harvester deliberately. "It is her money. I just paid it to her. You were trying to take it from her, not the other way."
"Oh, she is in your pay?" leered the man.
"If you say an insulting word I think very probably I will finish you," said the Harvester. "I can, with my naked hands, and all your neighbours will say it is a a good job. You have felt my grip! I warn you!"
"How does my niece come to be taking money from you!"
"You have forfeited all right to know. Ruth, you cannot remain here. You must come with me. I will take you to Onabasha and find you a room."
A horrible laugh broke from the man.
"So that is the end of my saintly niece!" he said.
"Remember!" cried the Harvester advancing a step. "Ruth, will you go to the rest I suggested for you?"
"Will you go to Doctor Carey's wife?"
"Will you marry me and go to the shelter of my home with me?"
Wild-eyed she stared at him.
"Because I love you, and want life made easier for you, above anything else on earth."
"But your Dream Girl!"
"You are the dream girl! I thought the red bird told you for me! I didn't know it would be a shock. I believed I had made you understand."
By that time she was shaking with a nervous chill, and the sight unmanned the Harvester.
"Come with me!" he urged. "We will decide what you want to do on the way. Only come, I beg you."
"First it was marry, now it's decide later," broke in Henry Jameson, crazed with anger. "Move a step and I'll strike you down. I'd better than see you disgraced----"
The Harvester advanced and Jameson stepped back.
"Ruth," said the Harvester, "I know how impossible this seems. It is giving you no chance at all. I had intended, when I found you, to court you tenderly as girl ever was wooed before. Come with me, and I'll do it yet. The new home was built for you. The sunshine room is ready and waiting for you. There is pure air, fresh water, nothing but rest and comfort. I'll nurse you back to health and strength, and you shall be courted until you come to me of your own accord."
"Impossible!" cried the girl.
"Only if you make it so. If you will come now, we can be married in a few hours, and you can be safe in your own home. I realize now that this is unexpected and shocking to you, but if you will come with me and allow me to restore you to health and strength, and if, say, in a year, you are convinced that you do not love me, I will set you free. If you will come, I swear to you that you shall be my wife first, and my honoured guest afterward, until such time as you either tell me you love me or that you never can. Will you come on those terms, Ruth?"
"It will end fear, uncertainty, and work, until you are strong and well. It will give you home, rest, and love, that you will find is worth your consideration. I will keep my word; of that you may be sure."
"No," she cried. "No! But take back this money! Keep it until I tell you to whom to pay it."
She started toward him holding out the envelope.
Henry Jameson, with a dreadful oath, sprang for it, his contorted face a drawn snarl. The Harvester caught him in air and sent him reeling. He snatched the revolver from the Girl and put the money in his pocket.
"Ruth, I can't leave you here," he said. "Oh my Dream Girl! Are you afraid of me yet? Won't you trust me? Won't you come?"
"You are right about that, my lady; you will come back to the house, that's what you'll do," said Henry Jameson, starting toward her.
"No!" cried the Girl retreating. "Oh Heaven help me! What am I to do?"
"Ruth, you must come with me," said the Harvester. "I don't dare leave you here."
She stood between them and gave Henry Jameson one long, searching look. Then she turned to the Harvester.
"I am far less afraid of you. I will accept your offer," she said.
"Thank you!" said the Harvester. "I will keep my word and you shall have no regrets. Is there anything here you wish to take with you?"
"I want a little trunk of my mother's. It contains some things of hers."
"Will you show me where it is?"
She started toward the house; he followed, and Henry Jameson fell in line. The Harvester turned on him. "You remain where you are," he said. "I will take nothing but the trunk. I know what you are thinking, but you will not get your gun just now. I will return this revolver to-morrow."
"And the first thing I do with it will be to use it on you," said Henry Jameson.
"I'll report that threat to the police, so that they can see you properly hanged if you do," retorted the Harvester, as he followed the girl.
"Where is his gun?" he asked as he overtook her. When he reached the house he told her to watch the door. He went inside, broke the lock from the gun in the corner, found the trunk, and swinging it to his shoulder, passed Henry Jameson and went back through the woods. The Harvester set the trunk in the wagon, helped the Girl in, and returned for the load he had dropped at her call. Then he took the lines and started for Onabasha.
The Girl beside him was almost fainting. He stopped to give her a drink and tried to encourage her.
"Brace up the best you can, Ruth," he said. "You must go with me for a license; that is the law. Afterward, I'll make it just as easy for you as possible. I will do everything, and in a few hours you will be comfortable in your room. You brave girl! This must come out right! You have suffered more than your share. I will have peace for you the remainder of the way."
She lifted shaking hands and tried to arrange her hair and dress. As they neared the city she spoke.
"What will they ask me?"
"I don't know. But I am sure the law requires you to appear in person now. I can take you somewhere and find out first."
"That will take time. I want to reach my room. What would you think?"
"If you are of age, where you were born, if you are a native of this country, what your father and mother died of, how old they were, and such questions as that. I'll help you all I can. You know those things. don't you?"
"Yes. But I must tell you----"
"I don't want to be told anything," said the Harvester. "Save your strength. All I want to know is any way in which I can make this easier for you. Nothing else matters. I will tell you what I think; if you have any objections, make them. I will drive to the bank and get a draft for what you owe, and have that off your mind. Then we will get the license. After that I'll take you to the side door, slip you in the elevator and to the fitting room of a store where I know the manager, and you shall have some pretty clothing while I arrange for a minister, and I'll come for you with a carriage. That isn't the kind of wedding you or any other girl should have, but there are times when a man only can do his best. You will help me as much as you can, won't you?"
"Anything you choose. It doesn't matter----only be quick as possible."
"There are a few details to which I must attend," said the Harvester, "and the time will go faster trying on dresses than waiting alone. When you are properly clothed you will feel better. What did you say the amount you owe is?"
"You may get a draft for fifty dollars. I will pay the remainder when I earn it."
"Ruth, won't you give me the pleasure of taking you home free from the worry of that debt?"
"I am not going to `worry.' I am going to work and pay it."
"Very well," said the Harvester. "This is the bank. We will stop here."
They went in and he handed her a slip of paper.
"Write the name and address on that?" he said.
As the slip was returned to him, without a glance he folded it and slid it under a wicket. "Write a draft for fifty dollars payable to that party, and send to that address, from Miss Ruth Jameson," he said.
Then he turned to her.
"That is over. See how easy it is! Now we will go to the court house. It is very close. Try not to think. Just move and speak."
"Hello, Langston!" said the clerk. "What can we do for you here?"
"Show this girl every consideration," whispered the Harvester, as he advanced. "I want a marriage license in your best time. I will answer first."
With the document in his possession, they went to the store he designated, where he found the Girl a chair in the fitting room, while he went to see the manager.
"I want one of your most sensible and accommodating clerks," said the Harvester, "and I would like a few words with her."
When she was presented he scrutinized her carefully and decided she would do.
"I have many thanks and something more substantial for a woman who will help me to carry through a slightly unusual project with sympathy and ability," he said, "and the manager has selected you. Are you willing?"
"If I can," said the clerk.
"She has put up your other orders," interposed the manager; "were they satisfactory?"
"I don't know," said the Harvester. "They have not yet reached the one for whom they were intended. What I want you to do," he said to the clerk, "is to go to the fitting room and dress the girl you find there for her wedding. She had other plans, but death disarranged them, and she has only an hour in which to meet the event most girls love to linger over for months. She has been ill, and is worn with watching; but some time she may look back to her wedding day with joy, and if only you would help me to make the best of it for her, I would be, as I said, under more obligations than I can express."
" I will do anything," said the clerk.
"Very well," said the Harvester. "She has come from the country entirely unprepared. She is delicate and refined. Save her all the embarrassment you can. Dress her beautifully in white. Keep a memorandum slip of what you spend for my account."
"What is the limit?" asked the clerk.
"There is none," said the Harvester. "Put the prettiest things on her you have in the right sizes, and if you are a woman with a heart, be gentle!"
"Is she ready?" inquired the manager at the door an hour later.
"I am," said the Girl stepping through.
The astounded Harvester stood and stared, utterly oblivious of the curious people.
"Here, here, here!" suddenly he whistled it, in the red bird's most entreating tones.
The Girl laughed and the colour in her face deepened.
"Let us go," she said.
"But what about you?" asked the manager of the Harvester.
"Thunder!" cried the man aghast. "I was so busy getting everything else ready, I forgot all about myself. I can't stand before a minister beside her, can I?"
"Well I should say not," said the manager.
"Indeed yes," said the Girl. "I never saw you in any other clothing. You would be a stranger of whom I'd be afraid."
"That settles it!" said the Harvester calmly. "Thank all of you more than words can express. I will come in the first of the week and tell you how we get along."
Then they went to the carriage and started for the residence of a minister.
"Ruth, you are my Dream Girl to the tips of your eyelashes," said the Harvester. "I almost wish you were not. It wouldn't keep me thinking so much of the remainder of that dream. You are the loveliest sight I ever saw."
"Do I really appear well?" asked the Girl, hungry for appreciation.
"Indeed you do!" said the Harvester. "I never could have guessed that such a miracle could be wrought. And you don't seem so tired. Were they good to you?"
"Wonderfully! I did not know there was kindness like that in all the world for a stranger. I did not feel lost or embarrassed, except the first few seconds when I didn't know what to do. Oh I thank you for this! You were right. Whatever comes in life I always shall love to remember that I was daintily dressed and appeared as well as I could when I was married. But I must tell you I am not real. They did everything on earth to me, three of them working at a time. I feel an increase in self-respect in some way. David, I do appear better?"
When she said "David," the Harvester looked out of the window and gulped down his delight. He leaned toward her.
"Shut your eyes and imagine you see the red bird," he said. "In my soul, I am saying to you again and again just what he sang. You are wonderfully beautiful, Ruth, and more than wonderfully sweet. Will you answer me a question?"
"If I can."
"I love you with all my heart. Will you marry me?"
"I said I would."
"Then we are engaged, aren't we?"
"Please remove the glove from your left hand. I want to put on your ring. This will have to be a very short engagement, but no one save ourselves need know."
"David, that isn't necessary."
"I have it here, and believe me, Ruth, it will help in a few minutes; and all your life you will be glad. It is a precious symbol that has a meaning. This wedding won't be hurt by putting all the sacredness into it we can. Please, Ruth!"
"On one condition."
"What is it?"
"That you will accept and wear my mother's wedding ring in exchange," she said. "It is all I have."
"Ruth, do you really wish that?"
"I am more pleased than I can tell you. May I have it now?"
She took off her glove and the Harvester held her hand closely a second, then lifted it to his lips, passionately kissed it and slipped on a ring, the setting a big, lustrous pearl.
"I looked at some others," he said, "but nothing got a second glance save this. They knew you were coming down the ages, and so they got the pearls ready. How beautiful it is on your hand! Put on the glove and wear that ring as if you had owned it for the long, happy year of betrothal every girl should have. You can start yours to-day, and if by this time next year I have not won you to my heart and arms, I'm no man and not worthy of you. Ruth, you will try just a little to love me, won't you?"
"I will try with all my heart," she said instantly.
"Thank you! I am perfectly happy with that. I never expected to marry you before a year, anyway. All the difference will be the blessed fact that instead of coming to see you somewhere else, I now can have you in my care, and court you every minute. You might as well make up your mind to capitulate soon. It's on the books that you do."
"If an instant ever comes when I realize that I love you, I will come straight and tell you; believe me, I will."
"Thank you!" said the Harvester. "This is going to be quite a proper wedding after all. Here is the place. It will be over soon and you on the home way. Lord, Ruth----!"
The Girl smiled at him as he opened the carriage door, helped her up the steps and rang the bell.
"Be brave now!" he whispered. "Don't lose your lovely colour. These people will be as kind as they were at the store."
The minister was gentle and wasted no time. His wife and daughter, who appeared for witnesses, kissed Ruth, and congratulated her. She and the Harvester stood, took the vows, exchanged rings, and returned to the carriage, a man and his wife by the laws of man.
"Drive to Seaton's cafe'," the Harvester said.
"Oh David, let us go home!"
"This is so good I hate to stop it for something you may not like so well. I ordered lunch and if we don't eat it I will have to pay for it anyway. You wouldn't want me to be extravagant, would you?"
"No," said the Girl, "and besides, since you mention it, I believe I am hungry."
"Good!" cried the Harvester. "I hoped so! Ruth, you wouldn't allow me to hold your hand just until we reach the cafe'? It might save me from bursting with joy."
"Yes," she said. "But I must take off my lovely gloves first. I want to keep them forever."
"I'd hate the glove being removed dreadfully," said the Harvester, his eyes dancing and snapping.
"I'm sorry I am so thin and shaky," said the Girl. "I will be steady and plump soon, won't I?"
"On your life you will," said the Harvester, taking the hand gently.
Now there are a number of things a man deeply in love can think of to do with a woman's white hand. He can stroke it, press it tenderly, and lay it against his lips and his heart. The Harvester lacked experience in these arts, and yet by some wonderful instinct all of these things occurred to him. There was real colour in the Girl's cheeks by the time he helped her into the cafe'. They were guided to a small room, cool and restful, close a window, beside which grew a tree covered with talking leaves. A waiting attendant, who seemed perfectly adept, brought in steaming bouillon, fragrant tea, broiled chicken, properly cooked vegetables, a wonderful salad, and then delicious ices and cold fruit. The happy Harvester leaned back and watched the Girl daintily manage almost as much food as he wanted to see her eat.
When they had finished, "Now we are going home," he said. "Will you try to like it, Ruth?"
"Indeed I will," she promised. "As soon as I grow accustomed to the dreadful stillness, and learn what things will not bite me, I'll be better."
"I'll have to ask you to wait a minute," he said. "One thing I forgot. I must hire a man to take Betsy home."
"Aren't you going to drive her yourself?"
"No ma'am! We are going in a carriage or a motor," said the Harvester.
"Indeed we are not!" contradicted the Girl. "You have had this all your way so far. I am going home behind Betsy, with Belshazzar at my knee."
"But your dress! People will think I am crazy to put a lovely woman like you in a spring wagon."
"Let them!" said the Girl placidly. "Why should we bother about other people? I am going with Betsy and Belshazzar."
The Harvester had been thinking that he adored her, that it was impossible to love her more, but every minute was proving to him that he was capable of feeling so profound it startled him. To carry the Girl, his bride, through the valley and up the hill in the little spring wagon drawn by Betsy--that would have been his ideal way. But he had supposed that she would be afraid of soiling her dress, and embarrassed to ride in such a conveyance. Instead it was her choice. Yes, he could love her more. Hourly she was proving that.
"Come this way a few steps," he said. "Betsy is here."
The Girl laid her face against the nose of the faithful old animal, and stroked her head and neck. Then she held her skirts and the Harvester helped her into the wagon. She took the seat, and the dog went wild with joy.
"Come on, Bel," she softly commanded.
The dog hesitated, and looked at the Harvester for permission.
"You may come here and put your head on my knee," said the Girl.
"Belshazzar, you lucky dog, you are privileged to sit there and lay your head on the lady's lap," said the Harvester, and the dog quivered with joy.
Then the man picked up the lines, gave a backward glance to the bed of the wagon, high piled with large bundles, and turned Betsy toward Medicine Woods. Through the crowded streets and toward the country they drove, when a big red car passed, a man called to them, then reversed and slowly began backing beside the wagon. The Harvester stopped.
"That is my best friend, Doctor Carey, of the hospital, Ruth," he said hastily. "May I tell him, and will you shake hands with him?"
"Certainly!" said the Girl.
"Is it really you, David?" the doctor peered with gleaming eyes from under the car top.
"Really!" cried the Harvester, as man greets man with a full heart when he is sure of sympathy. "Come, give us your best send-off, Doc! We were married an hour ago. We are headed for Medicine Woods. Doctor Carey, this is Mrs. Langston."
"Mighty glad to know you!" cried the doctor, reaching a happy hand.
The Girl met it cordially, while she smiled on him.
"How did this happen?" demanded the doctor. "Why didn't you let us know? This is hardly fair of you, David. You might have let me and the Missus share with you."
"That is to be explained," said the Harvester. "It was decided on very suddenly, and rather sadly, on account of the death of Mrs. Jameson. I forced Ruth to marry me and come with me. I grow rather frightened when I think of it, but it was the only way I knew. She absolutely refused my other plans. You see before you a wild man carrying away a woman to his cave."
"Don't believe him, Doctor!" laughed the Girl. "If you know him, you will understand that to offer all he had was like him, when he saw my necessity. You will come to see us soon?"
"I'll come right now," said the doctor. "I'll bring my wife and arrive by the time you do."
"Oh no you won't!" said the Harvester. "Do you observe the bed of this wagon? This happened all `unbeknownst' to us. We have to set up housekeeping after we reach home. We will notify you when we are ready for visitors. Just you subside and wait until you are sent for."
"Why David!" cried the astonished Girl.
"That's the law!" said the Harvester tersely. "Good- bye, Doc; we'll be ready for you in a day or two."
He leaned down and held out his hand. The grip that caught it said all any words could convey; and then Betsy started up the hill.