The Harvester by Gene Stratton-Porter
Chapter XVII. Love Invades Science
The Harvester placed the key in the door and turned to Doctor Carey and the nurse.
"I drugged her into unconsciousness before I left, but she may have returned, at least partially. Miss Barnet, will you kindly see if she is ready for the doctor? You needn't be in the least afraid. She has no strength, even in delirium."
He opened the door, his head averted, and the nurse hurried into the room. The Girl on the bed was beginning to toss, moan, and mutter. Skilful hands straightened her, arranged the covers, and the doctor was called. In the living-room the Harvester paced in misery too deep for consecutive thought. As consciousness returned, the Girl grew wilder, and the nurse could not follow the doctor's directions and care for her. Then Doctor Carey called the Harvester. He went in and sitting beside the bed took the feverish, wildly beating hands in his strong, cool ones, and began stroking them and talking.
"Easy, honey," he murmured softly. "Lie quietly while I tell you. You mustn't tire yourself. You are wasting strength you need to fight the fever. I'll hold your hands tight, I'll stroke your head for you. Lie quietly, dear, and Doctor Carey and his head nurse are going to make you well in a little while. That's right! Let me do the moving; you lie and rest. Only rest and rest, until all the pain is gone, and the strong days come, and they are going to bring great joy, love, and peace, to my dear, dear girl. Even the moans take strength. Try just to lie quietly and rest. You can't hear Singing Water if you don't listen, Ruth."
"She doesn't realize that it is you or know what you say, David," said Doctor Carey gently.
"I understand," said the Harvester. "But if you will observe, you will see that she is quiet when I stroke her head and hands, and if you notice closely you will grant that she gets a word occasionally. If it is the right one, it helps. She knows my voice and touch, and she is less nervous and afraid with me. Watch a minute!"
The Harvester took both of the Girl's fluttering hands in one of his and with long, light strokes gently brushed them, and then her head, and face, and then her hands again, and in a low, monotonous, half sing-song voice he crooned, "Rest, Ruth, rest! It is night now. The moon is bridging Loon Lake, and the whip-poor-will is crying. Listen, dear, don't you hear him crying? Still, Girl, still! Just as quiet! Lie so quietly. The whip-poor-will is going to tell his mate he loves her, loves her so dearly. He is going to tell her, when you listen. That's a dear girl. Now he is beginning. He says, `Come over the lake and listen to the song I'm singing to you, my mate, my mate, my dear, dear mate,' and the big night moths are flying; and the katydids are crying, positive and sure they are crying, a thing that's past denying. Hear them crying? And the ducks are cheeping, soft little murmurs while they're sleeping, sleeping. Resting, softly resting! Gently, Girl, gently! Down the hill comes Singing Water, laughing, laughing! Don't you hear it laughing? Listen to the big owl courting; it sees the coon out hunting, it hears the mink softly slipping, slipping, where the dews of night are dripping. And the little birds are sleeping, so still they are sleeping. Girls should be a-sleeping, like the birds a-sleeping, for to-morrow joy comes creeping, joy and life and love come creeping, creeping to my Girl. Gently, gently, that's a dear girl, gently! Tired hands rest easy, tired head lies still! That's the way to rest----"
On and on the even voice kept up the story. All over and around the lake, the length of Singing Water, the marsh folk found voices to tell of their lives, where it was a story of joy, rest, and love. Up the hill ranged the Harvester, through the forest where the squirrels slept, the owl hunted, the fire-flies flickered, the fairies squeezed flower leaves to make colour to paint the autumn foliage, and danced on toadstool platforms. Just so long as his voice murmured and his touch continued, so long the Girl lay quietly, and the medicines could act. But no other touch would serve, and no other voice would answer. If the harvester left the room five minutes to show the nurse how to light the fire, and where to find things, he returned to tossing, restless delirium.
"It's magic David," said Doctor Carey. "Magic!"
"It is love," said the Harvester. "Even crazed with fever, she recognizes its voice and touch. You've got your work cut out, Doc. Roll your sleeves and collect your wits. Set your heart on winning. There is one thing shall not happen. Get that straight in your mind, right now. And you too, Miss Barnet! There is nothing like fighting for a certainty. You may think the Girl is desperately ill, and she is, but make up your minds that you are here to fight for her life, and to save it. Save, do you understand? If she is to go, I don't need either of you. I can let her do that myself. You are here on a mission of life. Keep it before you! Life and health for this Girl is the prize you are going to win. Dig into it, and I'll pay the bills, and extra besides. If money is any incentive, I'll give you all I've got for life and health for the Girl. Are you doing all you know?"
"I certainly am, David."
"But when day comes you'll have to go back to the hospital and we may not know how to meet crises that will arise. What then? We should have a competent physician in the house until this fever breaks."
"I had thought of that, David. I will arrange to send one of the men from the hospital who will be able to watch symptoms and come for me when needed."
"Won't do!" said the Harvester calmly. "She has no strength for waiting. You are to come when you can, and remain as long as possible. The case is yours; your decisions go, but I will select your assistant. I know the man I want."
"Who is he, David?"
"I'll tell you when I learn whether I can get him. Now I want you to give the Girl the strongest sedative you dare, take off your coat, roll your sleeves, and see how well you can imitate my voice, and how much you have profited by listening to my song. In other words, before day calls, I want you to take my place so successfully that you deceive her, and give me time to make a trip to town. There are a few things that must be done, and I think I can work faster in the night. Will you?"
Doctor Carey bent over the bed. Gently he slipped a practised hand under the Harvester's and made the next stroke down the white arm. Gradually he took possession of the thin hands and his touch fell on the masses of dark hair. As the Harvester arose the doctor took the seat.
"You go on!" he ordered gruffly. "I'll do better alone."
The Harvester stepped back. The doctor's touch was easy and the Girl lay quietly for an instant, then she moved restlessly.
"You must be still now," he said gently. "The moon is up, the lake is all white, and the birds are flying all around. Lie still or you'll make yourself worse. Stiller than that! If you don't you can't hear things courting. The ducks are quacking, the bull frogs are croaking, and everything. Lie still, still, I tell you!"
"Oh good Lord, Doc!" groaned the Harvester in desperation.
The Girl wrenched her hands free and her head rolled on the pillow.
"Harvester! Harvester!" she cried.
The doctor started to arise.
"Sit still!" commanded the Harvester. "Take her hands and go to work, idiot! Give her more sedative, and tell her I'm coming. That's the word, if she realizes enough to call for me."
The doctor possessed himself of the flying hands, and gently held and stroked them.
"The Harvester is coming," he said. "Wait just a minute, he's on the way. He is coming. I think I hear him. He will be here soon, very soon now. That's a good girl! Lie still for David. He won't like it if you toss and moan. Just as still, lie still so I can listen. I can't tell whether he is coming until you are quiet."
Then he said to the Harvester, "You see, I've got it now. I can manage her, but for pity sake, hurry man! Take the car! Jim is asleep on the back seat----Yes, yes, Girl! I'm listening for him. I think I hear him! I think he's coming!"
Here and there a word penetrated, and she lay more quietly, but not in the rest to which the Harvester had lulled her.
"Hurry man!" groaned the doctor in a whispered aside, and the Harvester ran to the car, awakened the driver and told him he had a clear road to Onabasha, to speed up.
"Where to?" asked the driver.
"Dickson, of the First National."
In a few minutes the car stopped before the residence and the Harvester made an attack on the front door. Presently the man came.
"Excuse me for routing you out at this time of night," said the Harvester, "but it's a case of necessity. I have an automobile here. I want you to go to the bank with me, and get me an address from your draft records. I know the rules, but I want the name of my wife's Chicago physician. She is delirious, and I must telephone him."
The cashier stepped out and closed the door.
"Nine chances out of ten it will be in the vault," he said.
"That leaves one that it won't," answered the Harvester. "Sometimes I've looked in when passing in the night, and I've noticed that the books are not always put away. I could see some on the rack to-night. I think it is there."
It was there, and the Harvester ordered the driver to hurry him to the telephone exchange, then take the cashier home and return and wait. He called the Chicago Information office.
"I want Dr. Frank Harmon, whose office address is 1509 Columbia Street. I don't know the 'phone number."
Then came a long wait, and after twenty minutes the blessed buzzing whisper, "Here's your party."
"You remember Ruth Jameson, the daughter of a recent patient of yours?"
"Well my name is Langston. The Girl is in my home and care. She is very ill with fever, and she has much confidence in you. This is Onabasha, on the Grand Rapids and Indiana. You take the Pennsylvania at seven o'clock, telegraph ahead that you are coming so that they will make connection for you, change at twelve- twenty at Fort Wayne, and I will meet you here. You will find your ticket and a check waiting you at the Chicago depot. Arrange to remain a week at least. You will be paid all expenses and regular prices for your time. Will you come?"
"All right. Make no failure. Good-bye."
Then the Harvester left an order with the telephone company to run a wire to Medicine Woods the first thing in the morning, and drove to the depot to arrange for the ticket and check. In less than an hour he was holding the Girl's hands and crooning over her.
"Jerusalem!" said Doctor Carey, rising stiffly. "I'd rather undertake to cut off your head and put it back on than to tackle another job like that. She's quite delirious, but she has flashes, and at such times she knows whom she wants; the rest of the time it's a jumble and some of it is rather gruesome. She's seen dreadful illness, hunger, and there's a debt she's wild about. I told you something was back of this. You've got to find out and set her mind at ease."
"I know all about it," said the Harvester patiently between crooning sentences to the Girl. "But the crash came before I could convince her that it was all right and I could fix everything for her easily. If she only could understand me!"
"Did you find your man?"
"Yes. He will be here this afternoon."
"This takes quick work."
"Do you know anything about him?"
"Yes. He is a young fellow, just starting out. He is a fine, straight, manly man. I don't know how much he knows, but it will be enough to recognize your ability and standing, and to do what you tell him. I have perfect confidence in him. I want you to come back at one, and take my place until I go to meet him."
`I can bring him out."
"I have to see him myself. There are a few words to be said before he sees the Girl."
"David, what are you up to?"
"Being as honourable as I can. No man gets any too decent, but there is no law against doing as you would be done by, and being as straight as you know how. When I've talked to him, I'll know where I am and I'll have something to say to you."
"David, I'm afraid----"
"Then what do you suppose I am?" said the Harvester. "It's no use, Doc. Be still and take what comes! The manner in which you meet a crisis proves you a whining cur or a man. I have got lots of respect for a dog, as a dog; but I've none for a man as a dog. If you've gathered from the Girl's delirium that I've made a mistake, I hope you have confidence enough in me to believe I'll right it, and take my punishment without whining. Go away, you make her worse. Easy, Girl, the world is all right and every one is sleeping now, so you should be at rest. With the day the doctor will come, the good doctor you know and like, Ruth. You haven't forgotten your doctor, Ruth? The kind doctor who cared for you. He will make you well, Ruth; well and oh, so happy! Harmon, Harmon, Doctor Harmon is coming to you, Girl, and then you will be so happy!"
"Why you blame idiot!" cried Doctor Carey in a harsh whisper. "Have you lost all the sense you ever had? Stop that gibber! She wants to hear about the birds and Singing Water. Go on with that woods line of talk; she likes that away the best. This stuff is making her restless. See!"
"You mean you are," said the Harvester wearily. "Please leave us alone. I know the words that will bring comfort. You don't."
He began the story all over again, but now there ran through it a continual refrain. "Your doctor is coming, the good doctor you know. He will make you well and strong, and he will make life so lovely for you."
He was talking without pause or rest when Doctor Carey returned in the afternoon to take his place. He brought Mrs. Carey with him, and she tried a woman's powers of soothing another woman, and almost drove the Girl to fighting frenzy. So the doctor made another attempt, and the Harvester raced down the hill to the city. He went to the car shed as the train pulled in, and stood at one side while the people hurried through the gate. He was watching for a young man with a travelling bag and perhaps a physician's satchel, who would be looking for some one.
"I think I'll know him," muttered the Harvester grimly. "I think the masculine element in me will pop up strongly and instinctively at the sight of this man who will take my Dream Girl from me. Oh good God! Are You sure You are good?"
In his brown khaki trousers and shirt, his head bare, his bronze face limned with agony he made no attempt to conceal, the Harvester, with feet planted firmly, and tightly folded arms, his head tipped slightly to one side, braced himself as he sent his keen gray eyes searching the crowd. Far away he selected his man. He was young, strong, criminally handsome, clean and alert; there was discernible anxiety on his face, and it touched the Harvester's soul that he was coming just as swiftly as he could force his way. As he passed the gates the Harvester reached his side.
"Doctor Harmon, I think," he said.
"This way! If you have luggage, I will send for it later."
The Harvester hurried to the car.
"Take the shortest cut and cover space," he said to the driver. The car kept to the speed limit until toward the suburbs.
Doctor Harmon removed his hat, ran his fingers through dark waving hair and yielded his body to the swing of the car. Neither man attempted to talk. Once the Harvester leaned forward and told the driver to stop on the bridge, and then sat silently. As the car slowed down, they alighted.
"Drive on and tell Doc we are here, and will be up soon," said the Harvester. Then he turned to the stranger. "Doctor Harmon, there's little time for words. This is my place, and here I grow herbs for medicinal houses."
"I have heard of you, and heard your stuff recommended," said the doctor.
"Good!" exclaimed the Harvester. "That saves time. I stopped here to make a required explanation to you. The day you sent Ruth Jameson to Onabasha, I saw her leave the train and recognized in her my ideal woman. I lost her in the crowd and it took some time to locate her. I found her about a month ago. She was miserable. If you saw what her father did to her and her mother in Chicago, you should have seen what his brother was doing here. The end came one day in my presence, when I paid her for ginseng she had found to settle her debt to you. He robbed her by force. I took the money from him, and he threatened her. She was ill then from heat, overwork, wrong food----every misery you can imagine heaped upon the dreadful conditions in which she came. It had been my intention to court and marry her if I possibly could. That day she had nowhere to go; she was wild with fear; the fever that is scorching her now was in her veins then. I did an insane thing. I begged her to marry me at once and come here for rest and protection. I swore that if she would, she should not be my wife, but my honoured guest, until she learned to love me and released me from my vow. She tried to tell me something; I had no idea it was anything that would make any real difference, and I wouldn't listen. Last night, when the fever was beginning to do its worst, she told me of your entrance into her life and what it meant to her. Then I saw that I had made a mistake. You were her choice, the man she could love, not me, so I took the liberty of sending for you. I want you to cure her, court her, marry her, and make her happy. God knows she has had her share of suffering. You recognize her as a girl of refinement?"
"You grant that in health she would be lovelier than most women, do you not?"
"She was more beautiful than most in sickness and distress."
"Good!" cried the Harvester. "She has been here two weeks. I give you my word, my promise to her has been kept faithfully. As soon as I can leave her to attend to it, she shall have her freedom. That will be easy. Will you marry her?"
The doctor hesitated.
"What is it?" asked the Harvester.
"Well to be frank," said Doctor Harmon, "it is money! I'm only getting a start. I borrowed funds for my schooling and what I used for her. She is in every way attractive enough to be desired by any man, but how am I to provide a home and support her and pay these debts? I'll try it, but I am afraid it will be taking her back to wrong conditions again."
"If you knew that she owned a comfortable cottage in the suburbs, where it is cool and clean, and had, say a hundred a month of her own for the coming three years, could you see your way?"
"That would make all the difference in the world. I thought seriously of writing her. I wanted to, but I concluded I'd better work as hard as I could for some practice first, and see if I could make a living for two, before I tried to start anything. I had no idea she would not be comfortably cared for at her uncle's."
"I see," said the Harvester. "If I had kept out, life would have come right for her."
"On the contrary," said the doctor, "it appears very probable that she would not be living."
"It is understood between us, then, that you will court and marry her so soon as she is strong enough?"
"It is understood," agreed the doctor.
"Will you honour me by taking my hand?" asked the Harvester. "I scarcely had hoped to find so much of a man. Now come to your room and get ready for the stiffest piece of work you ever attempted."
The Harvester led the way to the guest chamber over looking the lake, and installed its first occupant. Then he hurried to the Girl. The doctor was holding her head and one hand, his wife the other, and the nurse her feet. It took the Harvester ten strenuous minutes to make his touch and presence known and to work quiet. All over he began crooning his story of rest, joy, and love. He broke off with a few words to introduce Doctor Harmon to the Careys and the nurse, and then calmly continued while the other men stood and watched him.
"Seems rather cut out for it," commented Doctor Harmon.
"I never yet have seen him attempt anything that he didn't appear cut out for," answered Doctor Carey.
"Will she know me?" inquired the young man, approaching the bed.
When the Girl's eyes fell on him she grew rigid and lay staring at him. Suddenly with a wild cry she struggled to rise.
"You have come!" she cried. "Oh I knew you would come! I felt you would come! I cannot pay you now! Oh why didn't you come sooner?"
The young doctor leaned over and took one of the white hands from the Harvester, stroking it gently.
"Why you did pay, Ruth! How did you come to forget? Don't you remember the draft you sent me? I didn't come for money; I came to visit you, to nurse you, to do all I can to make you well. I am going to take care of you now so finely you'll be out on the lake and among the flowers soon. I've got some medicine that makes every one well. It's going to make you strong, and there's something else that's going to make you happy; and me, I'm going to be the proudest man alive."
He reached over and took possession of the other hand, stroking them softly, and the Girl lay tensely staring at him and gradually yielding to his touch and voice. The Harvester arose, and passing around the bed, he placed a chair for Doctor Harmon and motioning for Doctor Carey left the room. He went to the shore to his swimming pool, wearily dropped on the bench, and stared across the water.
"Well thank God it worked, anyway!" he muttered.
"What's that popinjay doing here?" thundered Doctor Carey. "Got some medicine that cures everybody. Going to make her well, is he? Make the cows, and the ducks, and the chickens, and the shitepokes well, and happy----no name for it! After this we are all going to be well and happy! You look it right now, David! What under Heaven have you done?"
"Left my wife with the man she loves, and to whom I release her, my dear friend," said the Harvester. "And it's so easy for me that you needn't give making it a little harder, any thought."
"David, forgive me!" cried Doctor Carey. "I don't understand this. I'm almost insane. Will you tell me what it means?"
"Means that I took advantage of the Girl's illness, utter loneliness, and fear, and forced her into marrying me for shelter and care, when she loved and wanted another man, who was preparing to come to her. He is her Chicago doctor, and fine in every fibre, as you can see. There is only one thing on earth for me to do, and that is to get out of their way, and I'll do it as soon as she is well; but I vow I won't leave her poor, tired body until she is, not even for him. I thought sure I could teach her to love me! Oh but this is bitter, Doc!"
"You are a consummate fool to bring him here!" cried Doctor Carey. "If she is too sick to realize the situation now, she will be different when she is normal again. Any sane girl that wouldn't love you, David, ain't fit for anything!"
"Yes, I'm a whale of a lover!" said the Harvester grimly. "Nice mess I've made of it. But there is no real harm done. Thank God, Harmon was not the only white man."
"David, what do you mean?"
"Is it between us, Doc?"
"For all time?"
The Harvester told him. He ended, "Give the fellow his dues, Doc. He had her at his mercy, utterly alone and unprotected, in a big city. There was not a living soul to hold him to account. He added to his burdens, borrowed more money, and sent her here. He thought she was coming to the country where she would be safe and well cared for until he could support her. I did the remainder. Now I must undo it, that's all! But you have got to go in there and practise with him. You've got to show him every courtesy of the profession. You must go a little over the rules, and teach him all you can. You will have to stifle your feelings, and be as much of a man as it is in you to be, at your level best."
"I'm no good at stifling my feelings!"
"Then you'll have to learn," said the Harvester. "If you'd lived through my years of repression in the woods you'd do the fellow credit. As I see it, his side of this is nearly as fine as you make it. I tell you she was utterly stricken, alone, and beautiful. She sought his assistance. When the end came he thought only of her. Won't you give a young fellow in a place like Chicago some credit for that? Can't you get through you what it means?"
Doctor Carey stood frowning in deep thought, but the lines of his face gradually changed.
"I suppose I've got to stomach him," he said.
The nurse came down the gravel path.
"Mr. Langston, Doctor Harmon asked me to call you," she said.
The Harvester arose and went to the sunshine room.
"What does he want, Molly?" asked the doctor.
"Wants to turn over his job," chuckled the nurse. "He held it about seven minutes in peace, and then she began to fret and call for the Harvester. He just sweat blood to pacify her, but he couldn't make it. He tried to hold her, to make love to her, and goodness knows what, but she struggled and cried, `David,' until he had to give it up and send me."
"Molly," said Doctor Carey, "we've known the Harvester a long time, and he is our friend, isn't he?"
"Of course!" said the nurse.
"We know this is the first woman he ever loved, probably ever will, as he is made. Now we don't like this stranger butting in here; we resent it, Molly. We are on the side of our friend, and we want him to win. I'll grant that this fellow is fine, and that he has done well, but what's the use in tearing up arrangements already made? And so suitable! Now Molly, you are my best nurse, and a good reliable aid in times like this. I gave you instructions an hour ago. I'll add this to them. You are on the Harvester's side. Do you understand? In this, and the days to come, you'll have a thousand chances to put in a lick with a sick woman. Put them in as I tell you."
"Yes, Doctor Carey."
"And Molly! You are something besides my best nurse. You're a smashing pretty girl, and your occupation should make you especially attractive to a young doctor. I'm sure this fellow is all right, so while you are doing your best with your patient for the Harvester, why not have a try for yourself with the doctor? It couldn't do any harm, and it might straighten out matters. Anyway, you think it over."
The nurse studied his face silently for a time, and then she began to laugh softly.
"He is up there doing his best with her," she said.
The doctor threw out his hands in a gesture of disdain, and the nurse laughed again; but her cheeks were pink and her eyes flashing as she returned to duty.
"Random shot, but it might hit something, you never can tell," commented the doctor.
The Harvester entered the Girl's room and stood still. She was fretting and raising her temperature rapidly. Before he reached the door his heart gave one great leap at the sound of her voice calling his name. He knew what to do, but he hesitated.
"She seems to have become accustomed to you, and at times does not remember me," said Doctor Harmon. "I think you had better take her again until she grows quiet."
The Harvester stepped to the bed and looked the doctor in the eye.
"I am afraid I left out one important feature in our little talk on the bridge," he said. "I neglected to tell you that in your fight for this woman's life and love you have a rival. I am he. She is my wife, and with the last fibre of my being I adore her. If you win, and she wants you to take her away, I will help you; but my heart goes with her forever. If by any chance it should occur that I have been mistaken or misinterpreted her delirium or that she has been deceived and finds she prefers me and Medicine Woods, to you and Chicago, when she has had opportunity to measure us man against man, you must understand that I claim her. So I say to you frankly, take her if you can, but don't imagine that I am passive. I'll help you if I know she wants you, but I fight you every inch of the way. Only it has got to be square and open. Do you understand?"
"You are certainly sufficiently clear."
"No man who is half a man sees the last chance of happiness go out of his life without putting up the stiffest battle he knows," said the Harvester grimly. "Ruth- girl, you are raising the fever again. You must be quiet."
With infinite tenderness he possessed himself of her hands and began stroking her hair, and in a low and soothing voice the story of the birds, flowers, lake, and woods went on. To keep it from growing monotonous the Harvester branched out and put in everything he knew. In the days that followed he held a position none could take from him. While the doctors fought the fever, he worked for rest and quiet, and soothed the tortured body as best he could, that the medicines might act.
But the fever was stubborn, and the remedies were slow; and long before the dreaded coming day the doctors and nurse were quietly saying to each other that when the crisis came the heart would fail. There was no vitality to sustain life. But they did not dare tell the Harvester. Day and night he sat beside the maple bed or stretched sleeping a few minutes on the couch while the Girl slept; and with faith never faltering and courage unequalled, he warned them to have their remedies and appliances ready.
"I don't say it's going to be easy," he said. "I just merely state that it must be done. And I'll also mention that, when the hour comes, the man who discovers that he could do something if he had digitalis, or a remedy he should have had ready and has forgotten, that man had better keep out of my sight. Make your preparations now. Talk the case over. Fill your hypodermics. Clean your air pumps. Get your hot-water bottles ready. Have system. Label your stuff large and set it conveniently. You see what is coming, be prepared!"
One day, while the Girl lay in a half-drugged, feverish sleep, the Harvester went for a swim. He dressed a little sooner than was expected and in crossing the living-room he heard Doctor Harmon say to Doctor Carey on the veranda, "What are we going to do with him when the end comes?"
The Harvester stepped to the door. "That won't be the question," he said grimly. "It will be what will he do with us?"
Then, with an almost imperceptible movement, he caught Doctor Harmon at the waist line, and lifted and dangled him as a baby, and then stood him on the floor. "Didn't hardly expect that much muscle, did you?" he inquired lightly. "And I'm not in what you could call condition, either. Instead of wasting any time on fool questions like that, you two go over your stuff and ask each other, have we got every last appliance known to physics and surgery? Have we got duplicates on hand in case we break delicate instruments like hypodermic syringes and that sort of thing? Engage yourselves with questions pertaining to life; that is your business. Instead of planning what you'll do in failure, bolster your souls against it. Granny Moreland beats you two put together in grip and courage."
The Harvester returned to his task, and the fight went on. At last the hour came when the temperature fell lower and lower. The feeble pulses flickered and grew indiscernible; a gray pallor hovered over the Girl, and a cold sweat stood on her temples.
"Now!" said the Harvester. "Exercise your calling! Fight like men or devils, but win you must."
They did work. They administered stimulants; applied heat to the chilled body; fans swept the room with vitalized air; hypodermics were used; and every last resort known to science was given a full test, and the weak heart throbbed slower and slower, and life ran out with each breath. The Harvester stood waiting with set jaws. He could detect no change for the better. At last he picked up a chilled hand and could discover no pulse, and the gray nails and the dark tips told a story of arrested circulation. He laid down the hand and faced the men.
"This is what you'd call the crisis, Doc?" he asked gently.
"Are you stemming it? Are you stemming it? Are you sure she is holding her own?"
Doctor Carey looked at him silently.
"Have you done all you can do?" asked the Harvester.
"You believe her going out?"
The Harvester turned to Doctor Harmon. "Do you concur in that?"
Then to the nurse, "And you?"
"Then," said the Harvester, "all of you are useless. Get out of here. I don't want your atmosphere. If you can believe only in death, leave us! She is my wife, and if this is the end she belongs to me, and I will do as I choose with her. All of you go!"
The Harvester stepped to the bathroom door and called Granny Moreland. "Granny," he said, "science has turned tail, and left me in extremity. Fill your hot- water bottles and come in here with your heart big with hope and help me save my Dream Girl. She is breathing Granny; we've got to make her keep it up, that's all----just keep her breathing."
He returned to the sunshine room, placed a small table beside the bed, and on it a glass of water, spoon, and a hypodermic syringe. When Granny Moreland came he said: "Now you begin on her feet and rub with long, sweeping, upward strokes to drive the blood to her heart."
Around the Girl he piled hot-water bottles and breathlessly hung over her, rubbing her hands. He wiped the perspiration from her forehead, and then dropped by her bed and for a second laid his face on her cold palm.
"If I am wrong, Heaven forgive me," he prayed. "And you, oh, my darling Dream Girl, forgive me, but I am forced to try----God helping me! Amen."
He arose, took a small bottle from his pocket, filled the spoon with water, and measured into it three drops of liquid as yellow as gold. Then he held the spoon to the blue lips, and with his fingers worked apart the set teeth, and poured the medicine down her throat. Then they rubbed and muttered snatches of prayer for fifteen minutes when the Harvester administered another three drops. It might have been fancy, but it seemed to him her jaws were not so stiff. Faster flew his hands and he sent Granny Moreland to refill the hot bottles. When he gave the Girl the third dose he injected some of the liquid over her heart and of the glycerine the doctors had left, in the extremities. He released more air and began rubbing again.
The second hour started in the same way, and ended with slowly relaxing muscles and faint tinges of colour in the white cheeks. The feet were not so cold, and when the Harvester held the spoon he knew that the Girl made an effort to swallow, and he could see her eyelids tremble. Thereupon he pointed these signs to Granny, and implored her to rub and pray, and pray and rub, while he worked until the perspiration rolled down his gray face. At the end of the second hour he began decreasing the doses and shortening the time, and again he commenced in a low rumble his song of life and health, to encourage the Girl as consciousness returned.
Occasionally Doctor Carey opened the door slightly and peeped in to see if he were wanted, but he received no invitation to enter. The last time he left with the impression that the Harvester was raving, while he worked over a lifeless body. He had the Girl warmly covered and bent over her face and hands. At her feet crouched Granny Moreland, rubbing, still rubbing, beneath the covers, while in a steady stream the Harvester was pouring out his song. If he had listened an instant longer he would have recognized that the tone and the words had changed. Now it was, "Gently, breathe gently, Girl! Slowly, steadily, easily! Deeper, a little deeper, Ruth! Brave Girl, never another so wonderful! That's my Dream Girl coming from the shadows, coming to life's sunshine, coming to hope, coming to love! Deeper, just a little deeper! Smoothly and evenly! You are making it, Girl! You are making it! By all that is holy and glorious! Stick to it, Ruth, hold tight to me! I'll help you, dear! You are coming, coming back to life and love. Don't worry yourself trying too hard, if only you can send every breath as deeply as the last one, you can make it. You brave girl! You wonderful Dream Girl! Ah, Ruth, the name of this is victory!"
An hour before Doctor Carey had said to Doctor Harmon and the nurse, as he softly closed the door: "It is over and the Harvester is raving. We'll give him a little more time and see if he won't realize it himself. That will be easier for him than for us to try to tell him."
Now he opened the door, stared a second, and coming to the opposite side of the bed, he leaned over the Girl. Then he felt her feet. They were warm and slightly damp. A surprised look crept over his face. He gently reached for a hand that the Harvester yielded to him. It was warm, the blue tips becoming rosy, the wrist pulse discernible. Then he bent closer, touched her face, and saw the tremulous eyelids. He turned back the cover, and held his ear over her heart. When he straightened, "As God lives, she's got a chance, David!" he exulted in an awed whisper.
The Harvester lifted a graven face, down which the sweat of agony rolled, and his lips parted in a twitching smile. "Then this is where love beats the doctors, Carey!" he said.
"It is where love has ventured what science dares not. Love didn't do all of this. In the name of the Almighty, what did you give her, David?"
"Life!" cried the Harvester. "Life! Come on, Ruth, come on! Out of the valley come to me! You are well now, Girl! It's all over! The last trace of fever is gone, the last of the dull ache. Can you swallow just two more drops of bottled sunshine, Ruth?"
The flickering lids slowly opened, and the big black eyes looked straight into the Harvester's. He met them steadily, smiling encouragement.
"Hang on to each breath, dear heart!" he urged. "The fever is gone. The pain is over! Long life and the love you crave are for you. You've only to keep breathing a few more hours and the battle is yours. Glorious Girl! Noble! You are doing finely! Ruth, do you know me?"
Her lips moved.
"Don't try to speak," said the Harvester. "Don't waste breath on a word. Save the good oxygen to strengthen your tired body. But if you do know me, maybe you could smile, Ruth!"
She could just smile, and that was all. Feeble, flickering, transient, but as it crossed the living face the Harvester lifted her hands and kissed them over and over, back, palm, and finger tips.
"Now just one more drop, honey, and then a long rest. Will you try it again for me?"
She assented, and the Harvester took the bottle from his pocket, poured the drop, and held the spoon to willing lips. The big eyes were on him with a question. Then they fell to the spoon. The Harvester understood.
"Yes, it's mine! It's got sixty years of wonderful life in it, every one of them full of love and happiness for my dear Dream Girl. Can you take it, Ruth?"
Her lips parted, the wine of life passed between. She smiled faintly, and her eyelids dropped shut, but presently they opened again.
"My Dream Girl!"
"Don't, Ruth! Save every breath to help your heart."
"Life it is, Girl!" exulted the Harvester. "Long life! Love! Home! The man you love! Every happiness that ever came to a girl! Nothing shall be denied you! Nothing shall be lacking! It's all in your hands now, Ruth. We've all done everything we can; you must do the remainder. It's your work to send every breath as deeply as you can. Doc, release another tank of air. Are her feet warm, Granny? Let the nurse take your place now. And, honey, go to sleep! I'll keep watch for you. I'll measure each breath you draw. If they shorten or weaken, I'll wake you for more medicine. You can trust me! Always you can trust me, Ruth."
The Girl smiled and fell into a light, even slumber. Granny Moreland stumbled to the couch and rolled on it sobbing with nervous exhaustion. Doctor Carey called the nurse to take her place. Then he came to the Harvester's side and whispered, "Let me, David!"
The Harvester looked up with his queer grin, but he made no motion to arise.
"Won't you trust me, David? I'll watch as if it were my own wife."
"I wouldn't trust any man on earth, for the coming three hours," replied the Harvester. "If I keep this up that long, she is safe. Go and rest until I call you."
He again bent over the Girl, one hand on her left wrist, the other over her heart, his eyes on her lips, watching the depth and strength of her every breath. Regularly he administered the medicine he was giving her. Sometimes she took it half asleep; again she gave him a smile that to the Harvester was the supreme thing of earth or Heaven. Toward the end of the long vigil, in exhaustion he slipped to the floor, and laid his head on the side of the bed, and for a second his hand relaxed and he fell asleep. The Girl awakened as his touch loosened and looking down she saw his huddled body. A second later the Harvester awoke with a guilty start to find her fingers twisted in the shock of hair on the top of his head.
"Poor stranded Girl," he muttered. "She's clinging to me for life, and you can stake all you are worth she's going to get it!"
Then he gently relaxed her grip, gave her the last dose he felt necessary, yielded his place to Doctor Carey and staggered up the hill. As the sun peeped over Medicine Woods he stretched himself between the two mounds under the oak, and for a few minutes his body was rent with the awful, torn sobbing of a strong man. Belshazzar nosed the twisting figure and whined pitifully. A chattering little marsh wren tilted on a bush and scolded. A blue jay perched above and tried to decide whether there was cause for an alarm signal. A snake coming from the water to hunt birds ran close to him, and changing its course, went weaving away among the mosses. Gradually the pent forces spent themselves, and for hours the Harvester lay in the deep sleep of exhaustion, and stretched beside him, Belshazzar guarded with anxious dog eyes.