Chapter XLII. The Way of the Lower Trail.

"Fix--the--light, as it was--please? That's--it. Thank you, Doctor. How beautiful she is--how beautiful!" He seemed to gather strength, and looked carefully into the face of each member of the little group about the bed; the shepherd, Old Matt, Aunt Mollie, Pete, and the physician. Then he turned his eyes back to the painting. To the watchers, the girl in the picture, holding her brimming cup, seemed to smile back again.

"I loved her--I loved--her. She was my natural mate--my other self. I belonged to her--she to me. I--I can't tell you of that summer--when we were together--alone in the hills--the beautiful hills--away from the sham and the ugliness of the world that men have made. The beauty and inspiration of it all I put into my pictures, and I knew because of that they were good--I knew they would win a place for me--and--they did. Most of all--I put it there," (He pointed to the painting on the wall) "and the crowd saw it and felt it, and did not know what it was. But I knew--I knew--all the time, I knew. Oh!--if that short summer could have been lengthened--into years, what might I not have done? Oh, God! That men--can be--so blind--so blind!"

For a time he lay exhausted, his face still turned toward the picture, but with eyes closed as though he dreamed. Then suddenly, he started up again, raising himself on his elbows, his eyes opened wide, and on his face a look of wondering gladness. They drew near.

"Do--do--you--hear? She is calling--she is calling again. Yes-- sweetheart--yes, dear. I--I am--com--"

Then, Old Matt and Aunt Mollie led the shepherd from the room.

And this way runs the trail that follows the lower level, where those who travel, as they go, look always over their shoulders with eyes of dread, and the gloomy shadows gather long before the day is done.