A Girl Of The Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter
Chapter XXV. Wherein Philip Finds Elnora, and Edith Carr Offers a Yellow Emperor
Oh, I need my own violin," cried Elnora. "This one may be a thousand times more expensive, and much older than mine; but it wasn't inspired and taught to sing by a man who knew how. It doesn't know `beans,' as mother would say, about the Limberlost."
The guests in the O'More music-room laughed appreciatively.
"Why don't you write your mother to come for a visit and bring yours?" suggested Freckles.
"I did that three days ago," acknowledged Elnora. "I am half expecting her on the noon boat. That is one reason why this violin grows worse every minute. There is nothing at all the matter with me."
"Splendid!" cried the Angel. "I've begged and begged her to do it. I know how anxious these mothers become. When did you send? What made you? Why didn't you tell me?"
"`When?' Three days ago. `What made me?' You. `Why didn't I tell you?' Because I can't be sure in the least that she will come. Mother is the most individual person. She never does what every one expects she will.
She may not come, and I didn't want you to be disappointed."
"How did I make you?" asked the Angel.
"Loving Alice. It made me realize that if you cared for your girl like that, with Mr. O'More and three other children, possibly my mother, with no one, might like to see me. I know I want to see her, and you had told me to so often, I just sent for her. Oh, I do hope she comes! I want her to see this lovely place."
"I have been wondering what you thought of Mackinac," said Freckles.
"Oh, it is a perfect picture, all of it! I should like to hang it on the wall, so I could see it whenever I wanted to; but it isn't real, of course; it's nothing but a picture."
"These people won't agree with you," smiled Freckles.
"That isn't necessary," retorted Elnora. "They know this, and they love it; but you and I are acquainted with something different. The Limberlost is life. Here it is a carefully kept park. You motor, sail, and golf, all so secure and fine. But what I like is the excitement of choosing a path carefully, in the fear that the quagmire may reach out and suck me down; to go into the swamp naked-handed and wrest from it treasures that bring me books and clothing, and I like enough of a fight for things that I always remember how I got them. I even enjoy seeing a canny old vulture eyeing me as if it were saying: `Ware the sting of the rattler, lest I pick your bones as I did old Limber's.' I like sufficient danger to put an edge on life. This is so tame. I should have loved it when all the homes were cabins, and watchers for the stealthy Indian canoes patrolled the shores. You wait until mother comes, and if my violin isn't angry with me for leaving it, to-night we shall sing you the Song of the Limberlost. You shall hear the big gold bees over the red, yellow, and purple flowers, bird song, wind talk, and the whispers of Sleepy Snake Creek, as it goes past you. You will know!" Elnora turned to Freckles.
He nodded. "Who better?" he asked. "This is secure while the children are so small, but when they grow larger, we are going farther north, into real forest, where they can learn self-reliance and develop backbone."
Elnora laid away the violin. "Come along, children," she said. "We must get at that backbone business at once. Let's race to the playhouse."
With the brood at her heels Elnora ran, and for an hour lively sounds stole from the remaining spot of forest on the Island, which lay beside the O'More cottage. Then Terry went to the playroom to bring Alice her doll. He came racing back, dragging it by one leg, and crying: "There's company! Someone has come that mamma and papa are just tearing down the house over. I saw through the window."
"It could not be my mother, yet," mused Elnora. "Her boat is not due until twelve. Terry, give Alice that doll----"
"It's a man-person, and I don't know him, but my father is shaking his hand right straight along, and my mother is running for a hot drink and a cushion. It's a kind of a sick person, but they are going to make him well right away, any one can see that. This is the best place.
I'll go tell him to come lie on the pine needles in the sun and watch the sails go by. That will fix him!"
"Watch sails go by," chanted Little Brother. "'A fix him! Elnora fix him, won't you?"
"I don't know about that," answered Elnora. "What sort of person is he, Terry?"
"A beautiful white person; but my father is going to `colour him up,' I heard him say so. He's just out of the hospital, and he is a bad person, 'cause he ran away from the doctors and made them awful angry. But father and mother are going to doctor him better. I didn't know they could make sick people well."
"'Ey do anyfing!" boasted Little Brother.
Before Elnora missed her, Alice, who had gone to investigate, came flying across the shadows and through the sunshine waving a paper. She thurst it into Elnora's hand.
"There is a man-person--a stranger-person!" she shouted. "But he knows you! He sent you that! You are to be the doctor! He said so! Oh, do hurry! I like him heaps!"
Elnora read Edith Carr's telegram to Philip Ammon and understood that he had been ill, that she had been located by Edith who had notified him. In so doing she had acknowledged defeat. At last Philip was free. Elnora looked up with a radiant face.
"I like him `heaps' myself!" she cried. "Come on children, we will go tell him so."
Terry and Alice ran, but Elnora had to suit her steps to Little Brother, who was her loyal esquire, and would have been heartbroken over desertion and insulted at being carried. He was rather dragged, but he was arriving, and the emergency was great, he could see that.
"She's coming!" shouted Alice.
"She's going to be the doctor!" cried Terry.
"She looked just like she'd seen angels when she read the letter," explained Alice.
"She likes you `heaps!' She said so!" danced Terry. "Be waiting! Here she is!"
Elnora helped Little Brother up the steps, then deserted him and came at a rush. The stranger-person stood holding out trembling arms.
"Are you sure, at last, runaway?" asked Philip Ammon.
"Perfectly sure!" cried Elnora.
"Will you marry me now?"
"This instant! That is, any time after the noon boat comes in."
"Why such unnecessary delay?" demanded Ammon.
"It is almost September," explained Elnora. "I sent for mother three days ago. We must wait until she comes, and we either have to send for Uncle Wesley and Aunt Margaret, or go to them. I couldn't possibly be married properly without those dear people."
"We will send," decided Ammon. "The trip will be a treat for them. O'More, would you get off a message at once?"
Every one met the noon boat. They went in the motor because Philip was too weak to walk so far. As soon as people could be distinguished at all Elnora and Philip sighted an erect figure, with a head like a snowdrift. When the gang-plank fell the first person across it was a lean, red-haired boy of eleven, carrying a violin in one hand and an enormous bouquet of yellow marigolds and purple asters in the other. He was beaming with broad smiles until he saw Philip. Then his expression changed.
"Aw, say!" he exclaimed reproachfully. "I bet you Aunt Margaret is right. He is going to be your beau!"
Elnora stooped to kiss Billy as she caught her mother.
"There, there!" cried Mrs. Comstock. "Don't knock my headgear into my eye. I'm not sure I've got either hat or hair. The wind blew like bizzem coming up the river."
She shook out her skirts, straightened her hat, and came forward to meet Philip, who took her into his arms and kissed her repeatedly. Then he passed her along to Freckles and the Angel to whom her greetings were mingled with scolding and laughter over her wind-blown hair.
"No doubt I'm a precious spectacle!" she said to the Angel. "I saw your pa a little before I started, and he sent you a note. It's in my satchel. He said he was coming up next week. What a lot of people there are in this world! And what on earth are all of them laughing about? Did none of them ever hear of sickness, or sorrow, or death? Billy, don't you go to playing Indian or chasing woodchucks until you get out of those clothes. I promised Margaret I'd bring back that suit good as new."
Then the O'More children came crowding to meet Elnora's mother.
"Merry Christmas!" cried Mrs. Comstock, gathering them in. "Got everything right here but the tree, and there seems to be plenty of them a little higher up. If this wind would stiffen just enough more to blow away the people, so one could see this place, I believe it would be right decent looking."
"See here," whispered Elnora to Philip. "You must fix this with Billy. I can't have his trip spoiled."
"Now, here is where I dust the rest of 'em!" complacently remarked Mrs. Comstock, as she climbed into the motor car for her first ride, in company with Philip and Little Brother. "I have been the one to trudge the roads and hop out of the way of these things for quite a spell."
She sat very erect as the car rolled into the broad main avenue, where only stray couples were walking. Her eyes began to twinkle and gleam. Suddenly she leaned forward and touched the driver on the shoulder.
"Young man," she said, "just you toot that horn suddenly and shave close enough a few of those people, so that I can see how I look when I leap for ragweed and snake fences."
The amazed chauffeur glanced questioningly at Philip who slightly nodded. A second later there was a quick "honk!" and a swerve at a corner. A man engrossed in conversation grabbed the woman to whom he was talking and dashed for the safety of a lawn. The woman tripped in her skirts, and as she fell the man caught and dragged her. Both of them turned red faces to the car and berated the driver. Mrs. Comstock laughed in unrestrained enjoyment. Then she touched the chauffeur again.
"That's enough," she said. "It seems a mite risky." A minute later she added to Philip, "If only they had been carrying six pounds of butter and ten dozen eggs apiece, wouldn't that have been just perfect?"
Billy had wavered between Elnora and the motor, but his loyal little soul had been true to her, so the walk to the cottage began with him at her side. Long before they arrived the little O'Mores had crowded around and captured Billy, and he was giving them an expurgated version of Mrs. Comstock's tales of Big Foot and Adam Poe, boasting that Uncle Wesley had been in the camps of Me-shin-go-me-sia and knew Wa-ca-co-nah before he got religion and dressed like white men; while the mighty prowess of Snap as a woodchuck hunter was done full justice. When they reached the cottage Philip took Billy aside, showed him the emerald ring and gravely asked his permission to marry Elnora. Billy struggled to be just, but it was going hard with him, when Alice, who kept close enough to hear, intervened.
"Why don't you let them get married?" she asked. "You are much too small for her. You wait for me!"
Billy studied her intently. At last he turned to Ammon. "Aw, well! Go on, then!" he said gruffly. "I'll marry Alice!"
Alice reached her hand. "If you got that settled let's put on our Indian clothes, call the boys, and go to the playhouse."
"I haven't got any Indian clothes," said Billy ruefully.
"Yes, you have," explained Alice. "Father bought you some coming from the dock. You can put them on in the playhouse. The boys do."
Billy examined the playhouse with gleaming eyes.
Never had he encountered such possibilities. He could see a hundred amusing things to try, and he could not decide which to do first. The most immediate attraction seemed to be a dead pine, held perpendicularly by its fellows, while its bark had decayed and fallen, leaving a bare, smooth trunk.
"If we just had some grease that would make the dandiest pole to play Fourth of July with!" he shouted.
The children remembered the Fourth. It had been great fun.
"Butter is grease. There is plenty in the 'frigerator," suggested Alice, speeding away.
Billy caught the cold roll and began to rub it against the tree excitedly.
"How are you going to get it greased to the top?" inquired Terry.
Billy's face lengthened. "That's so!" he said. "The thing is to begin at the top and grease down. I'll show you!"
Billy put the butter in his handkerchief and took the corners between his teeth. He climbed the pole, greasing it as he slid down.
"Now, I got to try first," he said, "because I'm the biggest and so I have the best chance; only the one that goes first hasn't hardly any chance at all, because he has to wipe off the grease on himself, so the others can get up at last. See?"
"All right!" said Terry. "You go first and then I will and then Alice. Phew! It's slick. He'll never get up."
Billy wrestled manfully, and when he was exhausted he boosted Terry, and then both of them helped Alice, to whom they awarded a prize of her own doll. As they rested Billy remembered.
"Do your folks keep cows?" he asked.
"No, we buy milk," said Terry.
"Gee! Then what about the butter? Maybe your ma needs it for dinner!"
"No, she doesn't!" cried Alice. "There's stacks of it! I can have all the butter I want."
"Well, I'm mighty glad of it!" said Billy. "I didn't just think. I'm afraid we've greased our clothes, too."
"That's no difference," said Terry. "We can play what we please in these things."
"Well, we ought to be all dirty, and bloody, and have feathers on us to be real Indians," said Billy.
Alice tried a handful of dirt on her sleeve and it streaked beautifully. Instantly all of them began smearing themselves.
"If we only had feathers," lamented Billy.
Terry disappeared and shortly returned from the garage with a feather duster. Billy fell on it with a shriek. Around each one's head he firmly tied a twisted handkerchief, and stuck inside it a row of stiffly upstanding feathers.
"Now, if we just only had some pokeberries to paint us red, we'd be real, for sure enough Indians, and we could go on the warpath and fight all the other tribes and burn a lot of them at the stake."
Alice sidled up to him. "Would huckleberries do?" she asked softly.
"Yes!" shouted Terry, wild with excitement. "Anything that's a colour."
Alice made another trip to the refrigerator. Billy crushed the berries in his hands and smeared and streaked all their faces liberally.
"Now are we ready?" asked Alice.
Billy collapsed. "I forgot the ponies! You got to ride ponies to go on the warpath!"
"You ain't neither!" contradicted Terry. "It's the very latest style to go on the warpath in a motor. Everybody does! They go everywhere in them. They are much faster and better than any old ponies."
Billy gave one genuine whoop. "Can we take your motor?"
"I suppose you are too little to run it?" said Billy.
"I am not!" flashed Terry. "I know how to start and stop it, and I drive lots for Stephens. It is hard to turn over the engine when you start."
"I'll turn it," volunteered Billy. "I'm strong as anything."
"Maybe it will start without. If Stephens has just been running it, sometimes it will. Come on, let's try."
Billy straightened up, lifted his chin and cried: "Houpe! Houpe! Houpe!"
The little O'Mores stared in amazement.
"Why don't you come on and whoop?" demanded Billy. "Don't you know how? You are great Indians! You got to whoop before you go on the warpath. You ought to kill a bat, too, and see if the wind is right. But maybe the engine won't run if we wait to do that. You can whoop, anyway. All together now!"
They did whoop, and after several efforts the cry satisfied Billy, so he led the way to the big motor, and took the front seat with Terry. Alice and Little Brother climbed into the back.
"Will it go?" asked Billy, "or do we have to turn it?"
"It will go," said Terry as the machine gently slid out into the avenue and started under his guidance.
"This is no warpath!" scoffed Billy. "We got to go a lot faster than this, and we got to whoop. Alice, why don't you whoop?
Alice arose, took hold of the seat in front and whooped.
"If I open the throttle, I can't squeeze the bulb to scare people out of our way," said Terry. "I can't steer and squeeze, too."
"We'll whoop enough to get them out of the way. Go faster!" urged Billy.
Billy also stood, lifted his chin and whooped like the wildest little savage that ever came out of the West. Alice and Little Brother added their voices, and when he was not absorbed with the steering gear, Terry joined in.
"Faster!" shouted Billy.
Intoxicated with the speed and excitement, Terry threw the throttle wider and the big car leaped forward and sped down the avenue. In it four black, feather- bedecked children whooped in wild glee until suddenly Terry's war cry changed to a scream of panic.
"The lake is coming!"
"Stop!" cried Billy. "Stop! Why don't you stop?"
Paralyzed with fear Terry clung to the steering gear and the car sped onward.
"You little fool! Why don't you stop?" screamed Billy, catching Terry's arm. "Tell me how to stop!"
A bicycle shot beside them and Freckles standing on the pedals shouted: "Pull out the pin in that little circle at your feet!"
Billy fell on his knees and tugged and the pin yielded at last. Just as the wheels struck the white sand the bicycle sheered close, Freckles caught the lever and with one strong shove set the brake. The water flew as the car struck Huron, but luckily it was shallow and the beach smooth. Hub deep the big motor stood quivering as Freckles climbed in and backed it to dry sand.
Then he drew a deep breath and stared at his brood.
"Terence, would you kindly be explaining?" he said at last.
Billy looked at the panting little figure of Terry.
"I guess I better," he said. "We were playing Indians on the warpath, and we hadn't any ponies, and Terry said it was all the style to go in automobiles now, so we----"
Freckles's head went back, and be did some whooping himself.
"I wonder if you realize how nearly you came to being four drowned children?" he said gravely, after a time.
"Oh, I think I could swim enough to get most of us out," said Billy. "Anyway, we need washing."
"You do indeed," said Freckles. "I will head this procession to the garage, and there we will remove the first coat." For the remainder of Billy's visit the nurse, chauffeur, and every servant of the O'More household had something of importance on their minds, and Billy's every step was shadowed.
"I have Billy's consent," said Philip to Elnora, "and all the other consent you have stipulated. Before you think of something more, give me your left hand, please."
Elnora gave it gladly, and the emerald slipped on her finger. Then they went together into the forest to tell each other all about it, and talk it over.
"Have you seen Edith?" asked Philip.
"No," answered Elnora. "But she must be here, or she may have seen me when we went to Petoskey a few days ago. Her people have a cottage over on the bluff, but the Angel never told me until to-day. I didn't want to make that trip, but the folks were so anxious to entertain me, and it was only a few days until I intended to let you know myself where I was."
"And I was going to wait just that long, and if I didn't hear then I was getting ready to turn over the country. I can scarcely realize yet that Edith sent me that telegram."
"No wonder! It's a difficult thing to believe. I can't express how I feel for her."
"Let us never speak of it again," said Philip. "I came nearer feeling sorry for her last night than I have yet. I couldn't sleep on that boat coming over, and I couldn't put away the thought of what sending that message cost her. I never would have believed it possible that she would do it. But it is done. We will forget it."
"I scarcely think I shall," said Elnora. "It is something I like to remember. How suffering must have changed her! I would give anything to bring her peace."
"Henderson came to see me at the hospital a few days ago. He's gone a rather wild pace, but if he had been held from youth by the love of a good woman he might have lived differently. There are things about him one cannot help admiring."
"I think he loves her," said Elnora softly.
"He does! He always has! He never made any secret of it. He will cut in now and do his level best, but he told me that he thought she would send him away. He understands her thoroughly."
Edith Carr did not understand herself. She went to her room after her good-bye to Henderson, lay on her bed and tried to think why she was suffering as she was.
"It is all my selfishness, my unrestrained temper, my pride in my looks, my ambition to be first," she said. "That is what has caused this trouble."
Then she went deeper.
"How does it happen that I am so selfish, that I never controlled my temper, that I thought beauty and social position the vital things of life?" she muttered. "I think that goes a little past me. I think a mother who allows a child to grow up as I did, who educates it only for the frivolities of life, has a share in that child's ending. I think my mother has some responsibility in this," Edith Carr whispered to the night. "But she will recognize none. She would laugh at me if I tried to tell her what I have suffered and the bitter, bitter lesson I have learned. No one really cares, but Hart. I've sent him away, so there is no one! No one!"
Edith pressed her fingers across her burning eyes and lay still.
"He is gone!" she whispered at last. "He would go at once. He would not see me again. I should think he never would want to see me any more. But I will want to see him! My soul! I want him now! I want him every minute! He is all I have. And I've sent him away. Oh, these dreadful days to come, alone! I can't bear it. Hart! Hart!" she cried aloud. "I want you! No one cares but you. No one understands but you. Oh, I want you!"
She sprang from her bed and felt her way to her desk.
"Get me some one at the Henderson cottage," she said to Central, and waited shivering.
"They don't answer."
"They are there! You must get them. Turn on the buzzer."
After a time the sleepy voice of Mrs. Henderson answered.
"Has Hart gone?" panted Edith Carr.
"No! He came in late and began to talk about starting to California. He hasn't slept in weeks to amount to anything. I put him to bed. There is time enough to start to California when he awakens. Edith, what are you planning to do next with that boy of mine?"
"Will you tell him I want to see him before he goes?"
"Yes, but I won't wake him."
"I don't want you to. Just tell him in the morning."
"You will be sure?"
Hart was not gone. Edith fell asleep. She arose at noon the next day, took a cold bath, ate her breakfast, dressed carefully, and leaving word that she had gone to the forest, she walked slowly across the leaves. It was cool and quiet there, so she sat where she could see him coming, and waited. She was thinking deep and fast.
Henderson came swiftly down the path. A long sleep, food, and Edith's message had done him good. He had dressed in new light flannels that were becoming. Edith arose and went to meet him.
"Let us walk in the forest," she said.
They passed the old Catholic graveyard, and entered the deepest wood of the Island, where all shadows were green, all voices of humanity ceased, and there was no sound save the whispering of the trees, a few bird notes and squirrel rustle. There Edith seated herself on a mossy old log, and Henderson studied her. He could detect a change. She was still pale and her eyes tired, but the dull, strained look was gone. He wanted to hope, but he did not dare. Any other man would have forced her to speak. The mighty tenderness in Henderson's heart shielded her in every way.
"What have you thought of that you wanted yet, Edith?" he asked lightly as he stretched himself at her feet.
Henderson lay tense and very still.
"Well, I am here!"
"Thank Heaven for that!"
Henderson sat up suddenly, leaning toward her with questioning eyes. Not knowing what he dared say, afraid of the hope which found birth in his heart, he tried to shield her and at the same time to feel his way.
"I am more thankful than I can express that you feel so," he said. "I would be of use, of comfort, to you if I knew how, Edith."
"You are my only comfort," she said. "I tried to send you away. I thought I didn't want you. I thought I couldn't bear the sight of you, because of what you have seen me suffer. But I went to the root of this thing last night, Hart, and with self in mind, as usual, I found that I could not live without you."
Henderson began breathing lightly. He was afraid to speak or move.
"I faced the fact that all this is my own fault," continued Edith, "and came through my own selfishness. Then I went farther back and realized that I am as I was reared. I don't want to blame my parents, but I was carefully trained into what I am. If Elnora Comstock had been like me, Phil would have come back to me. I can see how selfish I seem to him, and how I appear to you, if you would admit it."
"Edith," said Henderson desperately, "there is no use to try to deceive you. You have known from the first that I found you wrong in this. But it's the first time in your life I ever thought you wrong about anything--and it's the only time I ever shall. Understand, I think you the bravest, most beautiful woman on earth, the one most worth loving."
"I'm not to be considered in the same class with her."
"I don't grant that, but if I did, you, must remember how I compare with Phil. He's my superior at every point. There's no use in discussing that. You wanted to see me, Edith. What did you want?"
"I wanted you to not go away."
"Not at all?"
"Not at all! Not ever! Not unless you take me with you, Hart."
She slightly extended one hand to him. Henderson took that hand, kissing it again and again.
"Anything you want, Edith," he said brokenly. "Just as you wish it. Do you want me to stay here, and go on as we have been?"
"Yes, only with a difference."
"Can you tell me, Edith?"
"First, I want you to know that you are the dearest thing on earth to me, right now. I would give up everything else, before I would you. I can't honestly say that I love you with the love you deserve. My heart is too sore. It's too soon to know. But I love you some way. You are necessary to me. You are my comfort, my shield. If you want me, as you know me to be, Hart, you may consider me yours. I give you my word of honour I will try to be as you would have me, just as soon as I can."
Henderson kissed her hand passionately. "Don't, Edith," he begged. "Don't say those things. I can't bear it. I understand. Everything will come right in time. Love like mine must bring a reward. You will love me some day. I can wait. I am the most patient fellow."
"But I must say it," cried Edith. "I--I think, Hart, that I have been on the wrong road to find happiness. I planned to finish life as I started it with Phil; and you see how glad he was to change. He wanted the other sort of girl far more than he ever wanted me. And you, Hart, honest, now--I'll know if you don't tell me the truth! Would you rather have a wife as I planned to live life with Phil, or would you rather have her as Elnora Comstock intends to live with him?"
"Edith!" cried the man, "Edith!"
"Of course, you can't say it in plain English," said the girl. "You are far too chivalrous for that. You needn't say anything. I am answered. If you could have your choice you wouldn't have a society wife, either. In your heart you'd like the smaller home of comfort, the furtherance of your ambitions, the palatable meals regularly served, and little children around you. I am sick of all we have grown up to, Hart. When your hour of trouble comes, there is no comfort for you. I am tired to death. You find out what you want to do, and be, that is a man's work in the world, and I will plan our home, with no thought save your comfort. I'll be the other kind of a girl, as fast as I can learn. I can't correct all my faults in one day, but I'll change as rapidly as I can."
"God knows, I will be different, too, Edith. You shall not be the only generous one. I will make all the rest of life worthy of you. I will change, too!"
"Don't you dare!" said Edith Carr, taking his head between her hands and holding it against her knees, while the tears slid down her cheeks. "Don't you dare change, you big-hearted, splendid lover! I am little and selfish. You are the very finest, just as you are!"
Henderson was not talking then, so they sat through a long silence. At last he heard Edith draw a quick breath, and lifting his head he looked where she pointed. Up a fern stalk climbed a curious looking object. They watched breathlessly. By lavender feet clung a big, pursy, lavender-splotched, yellow body. Yellow and lavender wings began to expand and take on colour. Every instant great beauty became more apparent. It was one of those double-brooded freaks, which do occur on rare occasions, or merely an Eacles Imperialis moth that in the cool damp northern forest had failed to emerge in June. Edith Carr drew back with a long, shivering breath. Henderson caught her hands and gripped them firmly. Steadily she looked the thought of her heart into his eyes.
"By all the powers, you shall not!" swore the man. "You have done enough. I will smash that thing!"
"Oh no you won't!" cried the girl, clinging to his hands. "I am not big enough yet, Hart, but before I leave this forest I shall have grown to breadth and strength to carry that to her. She needs two of each kind. Phil only sent her one!"
"Edith I can't bear it! That's not demanded! Let me take it!"
"You may go with me. I know where the O'More cottage is. I have been there often."
"I'll say you sent it!"
"You may watch me deliver it!"
"Phil may be there by now."
"I hope he is! I should like him to see me do one decent thing by which to remember me."
"I tell you that is not necessary!"
"`Not necessary!'" cried the girl, her big eyes shining. "Not necessary? Then what on earth is the thing doing here? I just have boasted that I would change, that I would be like her, that I would grow bigger and broader. As the words are spoken God gives me the opportunity to prove whether I am sincere. This is my test, Hart! Don't you see it? If I am big enough to carry that to her, you will believe that there is some good in me. You will not be loving me in vain. This is an especial Providence, man! Be my strength! Help me, as you always have done!"
Henderson arose and shook the leaves from his clothing. He drew Edith Carr to her feet and carefully picked the mosses from her skirts. He went to the water and moistened his handkerchief to bathe her face.
"Now a dust of powder," he said when the tears were washed away.
From a tiny book Edith tore leaves that she passed over her face.
"All gone!" cried Henderson, critically studying her. "You look almost half as lovely as you really are!"
Edith Carr drew a wavering breath. She stretched one hand to him.
"Hold tight, Hart!" she said. "I know they handle these things, but I would quite as soon touch a snake."
Henderson clenched his teeth and held steadily. The moth had emerged too recently to be troublesome. It climbed on her fingers quietly and obligingly clung there without moving. So hand in hand they went down the dark forest path. When they came to the avenue, the first person they met paused with an ejaculation of wonder. The next stopped also, and every one following. They could make little progress on account of marvelling, interested people. A strange excitement took possession of Edith. She began to feel proud of the moth.
"Do you know," she said to Henderson," this is growing easier every step. Its clinging is not disagreeable as I thought it would be. I feel as if I were saving it, protecting it. I am proud that we are taking it to be put into a collection or a book. It seems like doing a thing worth while. Oh, Hart, I wish we could work together at something for which people would care as they seem to for this. Hear what they say! See them lift their little children to look at it!"
"Edith, if you don't stop," said Henderson, "I will take you in my arms here on the avenue. You are adorable!"
"Don't you dare!" laughed Edith Carr. The colour rushed to her cheeks and a new light leaped in her eyes
"Oh, Hart!" she cried. "Let's work! Let's do something! That's the way she makes people love her so. There's the place, and thank goodness, there is a crowd."
"You darling!" whispered Henderson as they passed up the walk. Her face was rose-flushed with excitement and her eyes shone.
"Hello, every, one!" she cried as she came on the wide veranda. "Only see what we found up in the forest! We thought you might like to have it for some of your collections."
She held out the moth as she walked straight to Elnora, who arose to meet her, crying: "How perfectly splendid! I don't even know how to begin to thank you."
Elnora took the moth. Edith shook hands with all of them and asked Philip if he were improving. She said a few polite words to Freckles and the Angel, declined to remain on account of an engagement, and went away, gracefully.
"Well bully for her!" said Mrs. Comstock. "She's a little thoroughbred after all!"
"That was a mighty big thing for her to be doing," said Freckles in a hushed voice.
"If you knew her as well as I do," said Philip Ammon, "you would have a better conception of what that cost."
"It was a terror!" cried the Angel. "I never could have done it."
"`Never could have done it!'" echoed Freckles. "Why, Angel, dear, that is the one thing of all the world you would have done!"
"I have to take care of this," faltered Elnora, hurrying toward the door to hide the tears which were rolling down her cheeks.
"I must help," said Philip, disappearing also. "Elnora," he called, catching up with her, "take me where I may cry, too. Wasn't she great?"
"Superb!" exclaimed Elnora. "I have no words. I feel so humbled!"
"So do I," said Philip. "I think a brave deed like that always makes one feel so. Now are you happy?"
"Unspeakably happy!" answered Elnora.