Part 5 out of 8
did it. If I have anything to forgive you, that is what it is."
Wesley removed his hat and sat on a bench.
"Katharine," he said solemnly, "nobody ever knows how
to take you."
"Would it be asking too much to take me for having a few
grains of plain common sense?" she inquired. "You've known
all this time that Comstock got what he deserved,
when he undertook to sneak in an unused way across a
swamp, with which he was none too familiar. Now I
should have thought that you'd figure that knowing the
same thing would be the best method to cure me of pining
for him, and slighting my child."
"Heaven only knows we have thought of that, and
talked of it often, but we were both too big cowards.
We didn't dare tell you."
"So you have gone on year after year, watching me
show indifference to Elnora, and yet a little horse-sense
would have pointed out to you that she was my salvation.
Why look at it! Not married quite a year. All his vows
of love and fidelity made to me before the Almighty
forgotten in a few months, and a dance and a Light Woman so
alluring he had to lie and sneak for them. What kind of a
prospect is that for a life? I know men and women.
An honourable man is an honourable man, and a liar is a liar;
both are born and not made. One cannot change to the
other any more than that same old leopard can change
its spots. After a man tells a woman the first untruth
of that sort, the others come piling thick, fast, and
mountain high. The desolation they bring in their wake
overshadows anything I have suffered completely. If he
had lived six months more I should have known him for what
he was born to be. It was in the blood of him. His father
and grandfather before him were fiddling, dancing people; but
I was certain of him. I thought we could leave Ohio and
come out here alone, and I could so love him and interest
him in his work, that he would be a man. Of all the fool,
fruitless jobs, making anything of a creature that begins
by deceiving her, is the foolest a sane woman ever undertook.
I am more than sorry you and Margaret didn't see your way
clear to tell me long ago. I'd have found it out in a
few more months if he had lived, and I wouldn't have
borne it a day. The man who breaks his vows to me once,
doesn't get the second chance. I give truth and honour.
I have a right to ask it in return. I am glad I understand
at last. Now, if Elnora will forgive me, we will take a new
start and see what we can make out of what is left of life.
If she won't, then it will be my time to learn what suffering
"But she will," said Wesley. "She must! She can't
help it when things are explained."
"I notice she isn't hurrying any about coming home.
Do you know where she is or what she is doing?"
"I do not. But likely she will be along soon. I must
go help Billy with the night work. Good-bye, Katharine.
Thank the Lord you have come to yourself at last!"
They shook hands and Wesley went down the road while
Mrs. Comstock entered the cabin. She could not swallow food.
She stood in the back door watching the sky for moths,
but they did not seem to be very numerous. Her spirits
sank and she breathed unevenly. Then she heard the
front screen. She reached the middle door as Elnora
touched the foot of the stairs.
"Hurry, and get ready, Elnora," she said. "Your supper
is almost spoiled now."
Elnora closed the stair door behind her, and for the first
time in her life, threw the heavy lever which barred out
anyone from down stairs. Mrs. Comstock heard the thud,
and knew what it meant. She reeled slightly and caught
the doorpost for support. For a few minutes she clung
there, then sank to the nearest chair. After a long time
she arose and stumbling half blindly, she put the food in
the cupboard and covered the table. She took the lamp
in one hand, the butter in the other, and started to the
spring house. Something brushed close by her face, and she
looked just in time to see a winged creature rise above the
cabin and sail away.
"That was a night bird," she muttered. As she stopped
to set the butter in the water, came another thought.
"Perhaps it was a moth!" Mrs. Comstock dropped the
butter and hurried out with the lamp; she held it high
above her head and waited until her arms ached.
Small insects of night gathered, and at last a little
dusty miller, but nothing came of any size.
"I must go where they are, if I get them," muttered
She went to the barn after the stout pair of high boots
she used in feeding stock in deep snow. Throwing these
beside the back door she climbed to the loft over the spring
house, and hunted an old lard oil lantern and one of first
manufacture for oil. Both these she cleaned and filled.
She listened until everything up stairs had been still for
over half an hour. By that time it was past eleven o'clock.
Then she took the lantern from the kitchen, the two old
ones, a handful of matches, a ball of twine, and went from
the cabin, softly closing the door.
Sitting on the back steps, she put on the boots, and then
stood gazing into the perfumed June night, first in the
direction of the woods on her land, then toward the Limberlost.
Its outline was so dark and forbidding she shuddered
and went down the garden, following the path toward the
woods, but as she neared the pool her knees wavered and
her courage fled. The knowledge that in her soul she was
now glad Robert Comstock was at the bottom of it made a
coward of her, who fearlessly had mourned him there,
nights untold. She could not go on. She skirted the
back of the garden, crossed a field, and came out on
the road. Soon she reached the Limberlost. She hunted
until she found the old trail, then followed it stumbling
over logs and through clinging vines and grasses.
The heavy boots clumped on her feet, overhanging branches
whipped her face and pulled her hair. But her eyes were
on the sky as she went straining into the night, hoping to
find signs of a living creature on wing.
By and by she began to see the wavering flight of something
she thought near the right size. She had no idea
where she was, but she stopped, lighted a lantern and
hung it as high as she could reach. A little distance away
she placed the second and then the third. The objects
came nearer and sick with disappointment she saw that
they were bats. Crouching in the damp swamp grasses,
without a thought of snakes or venomous insects, she
waited, her eyes roving from lantern to lantern. Once she
thought a creature of high flight dropped near the lard oil
light, so she arose breathlessly waiting, but either it
passed or it was an illusion. She glanced at the old lantern,
then at the new, and was on her feet in an instant creeping close.
Something large as a small bird was fluttering around.
Mrs. Comstock began to perspire, while her hand shook wildly.
Closer she crept and just as she reached for it, something
similar swept past and both flew away together.
Mrs. Comstock set her teeth and stood shivering. For a
long time the locusts rasped, the whip-poor-wills cried and
a steady hum of night life throbbed in her ears. Away in
the sky she saw something coming when it was no larger
than a falling leaf. Straight toward the light it flew.
Mrs. Comstock began to pray aloud.
"This way, O Lord! Make it come this way! Please!
O Lord, send it lower!"
The moth hesitated at the first light, then slowly,
easily it came toward the second, as if following a path
of air. It touched a leaf near the lantern and settled.
As Mrs. Comstock reached for it a thin yellow spray wet
her hand and the surrounding leaves. When its wings
raised above its back, her fingers came together.
She held the moth to the light. It was nearer brown than
yellow, and she remembered having seen some like it in
the boxes that afternoon. It was not the one needed to
complete the collection, but Elnora might want it, so
Mrs. Comstock held on. Then the Almighty was kind,
or nature was sufficient, as you look at it, for following
the law of its being when disturbed, the moth again threw
the spray by which some suppose it attracts its kind,
and liberally sprinkled Mrs. Comstock's dress front
and arms. From that instant, she became the best moth
bait ever invented. Every Polyphemus in range hastened
to her, and other fluttering creatures of night followed.
The influx came her way. She snatched wildly here and
there until she had one in each hand and no place to
put them. She could see more coming, and her aching
heart, swollen with the strain of long excitement,
hurt pitifully. She prayed in broken exclamations that
did not always sound reverent, but never was human soul
in more intense earnest.
Moths were coming. She had one in each hand.
They were not yellow, and she did not know what to do.
She glanced around to try to discover some way to keep
what she had, and her throbbing heart stopped and
every muscle stiffened. There was the dim outline of
a crouching figure not two yards away, and a pair of
eyes their owner thought hidden, caught the light in a
cold stream. Her first impulse was to scream and fly
for life. Before her lips could open a big moth alighted
on her breast while she felt another walking over her hair.
All sense of caution deserted her. She did not care to
live if she could not replace the yellow moth she had killed.
She turned her eyes to those among the leaves.
"Here, you!" she cried hoarsely. "I need you! Get yourself
out here, and help me. These critters are going to get away
from me. Hustle!"
Pete Corson parted the bushes and stepped into the light.
"Oh, it's you!" said Mrs. Comstock. "I might have known!
But you gave me a start. Here, hold these until I make some
sort of bag for them. Go easy! If you break them I don't
guarantee what will happen to you!"
"Pretty fierce, ain't you!" laughed Pete, but he advanced
and held out his hands. "For Elnora, I s'pose?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Comstock. "In a mad fit, I trampled
one this morning, and by the luck of the old boy himself
it was the last moth she needed to complete a collection.
I got to get another one or die."
"Then I guess it's your funeral," said Pete. "There ain't
a chance in a dozen the right one will come. What colour
"Yellow, and big as a bird."
"The Emperor, likely," said Pete. "You dig for
that kind, and they are not numerous, so's 'at you can
smash 'em for fun."
"Well, I can try to get one, anyway," said Mrs. Comstock.
"I forgot all about bringing anything to put them in.
You take a pinch on their wings until I make a poke."
Mrs. Comstock removed her apron, tearing off the strings.
She unfastened and stepped from the skirt of her
calico dress. With one apron string she tied shut the
band and placket. She pulled a wire pin from her hair,
stuck it through the other string, and using it as a bodkin
ran it around the hem of her skirt, so shortly she had a
large bag. She put several branches inside to which the
moths could cling, closed the mouth partially and held
it toward Pete.
"Put your hand well down and let the things go!" she ordered.
"But be careful, man! Don't run into the twigs! Easy!
That's one. Now the other. Is the one on my head gone?
There was one on my dress, but I guess it flew. Here comes
a kind of a gray-looking one."
Pete slipped several more moths into the bag.
"Now, that's five, Mrs. Comstock," he said. "I'm sorry,
but you'll have to make that do. You must get out of
here lively. Your lights will be taken for hurry
calls, and inside the next hour a couple of men will ride
here like fury. They won't be nice Sunday-school men,
and they won't hold bags and catch moths for you.
You must go quick!"
Mrs. Comstock laid down the bag and pulled one of
the lanterns lower.
"I won't budge a step," she said. "This land doesn't
belong to you. You have no right to order me off it.
Here I stay until I get a Yellow Emperor, and no little
petering thieves of this neighbourhood can scare me away."
"You don't understand," said Pete. "I'm willing to
help Elnora, and I'd take care of you, if I could, but
there will be too many for me, and they will be mad at
being called out for nothing."
"Well, who's calling them out?" demanded Mrs. Comstock.
"I'm catching moths. If a lot of good-for-nothings get
fooled into losing some sleep, why let them, they can't
hurt me, or stop my work."
"They can, and they'll do both."
"Well, I'll see them do it!" said Mrs. Comstock. "I've got
Robert's revolver in my dress, and I can shoot as straight
as any man, if I'm mad enough. Any one who interferes
with me to-night will find me mad a-plenty. There goes another!"
She stepped into the light and waited until a big brown
moth settled on her and was easily taken. Then in light,
airy flight came a delicate pale green thing, and Mrs.
Comstock started in pursuit. But the scent was not right.
The moth fluttered high, then dropped lower, still lower,
and sailed away. With outstretched hands Mrs. Comstock
pursued it. She hurried one way and another, then ran
over an object which tripped her and she fell.
She regained her feet in an instant, but she had lost sight
of the moth. With livid face she turned to the crouching man.
"You nasty, sneaking son of Satan!" she cried. "Why are
you hiding there? You made me lose the one I wanted
most of any I've had a chance at yet. Get out of here!
Go this minute, or I'll fill your worthless carcass so full
of holes you'll do to sift cornmeal. Go, I say! I'm using
the Limberlost to-night, and I won't be stopped by the
devil himself! Cut like fury, and tell the rest of them
they can just go home. Pete is going to help me, and
he is all of you I need. Now go!"
The man turned and went. Pete leaned against a tree,
held his mouth shut and shook inwardly. Mrs. Comstock
came back panting.
"The old scoundrel made me lose that!" she said. "If any
one else comes snooping around here I'll just blow them
up to start with. I haven't time to talk. Suppose that
had been yellow! I'd have killed that man, sure!
The Limberlost isn't safe to-night, and the sooner those
whelps find it out, the better it will be for them."
Pete stopped laughing to look at her. He saw that
she was speaking the truth. She was quite past reason,
sense, or fear. The soft night air stirred the wet hair
around her temples, the flickering lanterns made her face
a ghastly green. She would stop at nothing, that was evident.
Pete suddenly began catching moths with exemplary industry.
In putting one into the bag, another escaped.
"We must not try that again," said Mrs. Comstock.
"Now, what will we do?"
"We are close to the old case," said Pete. "I think
I can get into it. Maybe we could slip the rest in there."
"That's a fine idea!" said Mrs. Comstock. "They'll have
so much room there they won't be likely to hurt
themselves, and the books say they don't fly in daytime
unless they are disturbed, so they will settle when it's
light, and I can come with Elnora to get them."
They captured two more, and then Pete carried them
to the case.
"Here comes a big one!" he cried as he returned.
Mrs. Comstock looked up and stepped out with a prayer
on her lips. She could not tell the colour at that
distance, but the moth appeared different from the others.
On it came, dropping lower and darting from light to light.
As it swept near her, "O Heavenly Father!" exulted Mrs.
Comstock, "it's yellow! Careful Pete! Your hat, maybe!"
Pete made a long sweep. The moth wavered above
the hat and sailed away. Mrs. Comstock leaned against
a tree and covered her face with her shaking hands.
"That is my punishment!" she cried. "Oh, Lord, if
you will give a moth like that into my possession, I'll
always be a better woman!"
The Emperor again came in sight. Pete stood tense
and ready. Mrs. Comstock stepped into the light and
watched the moth's course. Then a second appeared
in pursuit of the first. The larger one wavered into
the radius of light once more. The perspiration rolled
down the man's face. He half lifted the hat.
"Pray, woman! Pray now!" he panted.
"I guess I best get over by that lard oil light and go
to work," breathed Mrs. Comstock. "The Lord knows
this is all in prayer, but it's no time for words just now.
Ready, Pete! You are going to get a chance first!"
Pete made another long, steady sweep, but the moth
darted beneath the hat. In its flight it came straight
toward Mrs. Comstock. She snatched off the remnant
of apron she had tucked into her petticoat band and
held the calico before her. The moth struck full against
it and clung to the goods. Pete crept up stealthily.
The second moth followed the first, and the spray
showered the apron.
"Wait!" gasped Mrs. Comstock. "I think they have settled.
The books say they won't leave now."
The big pale yellow creature clung firmly, lowering
and raising its wings. The other came nearer. Mrs.
Comstock held the cloth with rigid hands, while Pete
could hear her breathing in short gusts.
"Shall I try now?" he implored.
"Wait!" whispered the woman. "Something seems to
The night breeze stiffened and gently waved the apron.
Locusts rasped, mosquitoes hummed and frogs sang uninterruptedly.
A musky odour slowly filled the air.
"Now shall I?" questioned Pete.
"No. Leave them alone. They are safe now. They are mine.
They are my salvation. God and the Limberlost gave them
to me! They won't move for hours. The books all say so.
O Heavenly Father, I am thankful to You, and you, too,
Pete Corson! You are a good man to help me. Now, I can
go home and face my girl."
Instead, Mrs. Comstock dropped suddenly. She spread
the apron across her knees. The moths remained undisturbed.
Then her tired white head dropped, the tears she had thought
forever dried gushed forth, and she sobbed for pure joy.
"Oh, I wouldn't do that now, you know!" comforted Pete.
"Think of getting two! That's more than you ever could
have expected. A body would think you would cry, if you
hadn't got any. Come on, now. It's almost morning.
Let me help you home."
Pete took the bag and the two old lanterns. Mrs. Comstock
carried her moths and the best lantern and went ahead to
light the way.
Elnora had sat beside her window far into the night.
At last she undressed and went to bed, but sleep would
not come. She had gone to the city to talk with members of
the School Board about a room in the grades. There was
a possibility that she might secure the moth, and so be able
to start to college that fall, but if she did not, then she
wanted the school. She had been given some encouragement,
but she was so unhappy that nothing mattered. She could
not see the way open to anything in life, save a long
series of disappointments, while she remained with
her mother. Yet Margaret Sinton had advised her to go
home and try once more. Margaret had seemed so sure
there would be a change for the better, that Elnora had
consented, although she had no hope herself. So strong is
the bond of blood, she could not make up her mind to seek
a home elsewhere, even after the day that had passed.
Unable to sleep she arose at last, and the room being warm,
she sat on the floor close the window. The lights in the
swamp caught her eye. She was very uneasy, for quite a
hundred of her best moths were in the case. However, there
was no money, and no one ever had touched a book or any
of her apparatus. Watching the lights set her thinking,
and before she realized it, she was in a panic of fear.
She hurried down the stairway softly calling her mother.
There was no answer. She lightly stepped across the
sitting-room and looked in at the open door. There was
no one, and the bed had not been used. Her first thought
was that her mother had gone to the pool; and the Limberlost
was alive with signals. Pity and fear mingled in the
heart of the girl. She opened the kitchen door, crossed the
garden and ran back to the swamp. As she neared it she
listened, but she could hear only the usual voices of night.
"Mother!" she called softly. Then louder, "Mother!"
There was not a sound. Chilled with fright she hurried
back to the cabin. She did not know what to do.
She understood what the lights in the Limberlost meant.
Where was her mother? She was afraid to enter, while
she was growing very cold and still more fearful about
remaining outside. At last she went to her mother's room,
picked up the gun, carried it into the kitchen, and crowding
in a little corner behind the stove, she waited in trembling
anxiety. The time was dreadfully long before she heard
her mother's voice. Then she decided some one had been
ill and sent for her, so she took courage, and stepping
swiftly across the kitchen she unbarred the door and drew
back from sight beside the table.
Mrs. Comstock entered dragging her heavy feet. Her dress
skirt was gone, her petticoat wet and drabbled, and
the waist of her dress was almost torn from her body.
Her hair hung in damp strings; her eyes were red with crying.
In one hand she held the lantern, and in the other stiffly
extended before her, on a wad of calico reposed a
magnificent pair of Yellow Emperors. Elnora stared, her
"Shall I put these others in the kitchen?" inquired a
The girl shrank back to the shadows.
"Yes, anywhere inside the door," replied Mrs. Comstock
as she moved a few steps to make way for him.
Pete's head appeared. He set down the moths and was gone.
"Thank you, Pete, more than ever woman thanked you before!"
said Mrs. Comstock.
She placed the lantern on the table and barred the door.
As she turned Elnora came into view. Mrs. Comstock
leaned toward her, and held out the moths. In a voice
vibrant with tones never before heard she said: "Elnora,
my girl, mother's found you another moth!"
WHEREIN MOTHER LOVE IS BESTOWED ON ELNORA,
AND SHE FINDS AN ASSISTANT IN MOTH HUNTING
Elnora awoke at dawn and lay gazing around the
unfamiliar room. She noticed that every vestige
of masculine attire and belongings was gone, and
knew, without any explanation, what that meant.
For some reason every tangible evidence of her father
was banished, and she was at last to be allowed to
take his place. She turned to look at her mother.
Mrs. Comstock's face was white and haggard, but on it
rested an expression of profound peace Elnora never
before had seen. As she studied the features on the
pillow beside her, the heart of the girl throbbed in tenderness.
She realized as fully as any one else could what her mother
had suffered. Thoughts of the night brought shuddering fear.
She softly slipped from the bed, went to her room, dressed and
entered the kitchen to attend the Emperors and prepare breakfast.
The pair had been left clinging to the piece of calico.
The calico was there and a few pieces of beautiful wing.
A mouse had eaten the moths!
"Well, of all the horrible luck!" gasped Elnora.
With the first thought of her mother, she caught up the
remnants of the moths, burying them in the ashes of the stove.
She took the bag to her room, hurriedly releasing its
contents, but there was not another yellow one. Her mother
had said some had been confined in the case in the Limberlost.
There was still a hope that an Emperor might be among them.
She peeped at her mother, who still slept soundly.
Elnora took a large piece of mosquito netting, and ran
to the swamp. Throwing it over the top of the case, she
unlocked the door. She reeled, faint with distress.
The living moths that had been confined there in their
fluttering to escape to night and the mates they sought
not only had wrecked the other specimens of the case,
but torn themselves to fringes on the pins. A third of the
rarest moths of the collection for the man of India were
antennaless, legless, wingless, and often headless.
Elnora sobbed aloud.
"This is overwhelming," she said at last. "It is making
a fatalist of me. I am beginning to think things
happen as they are ordained from the beginning, this
plainly indicating that there is to be no college, at least,
this year, for me. My life is all mountain-top or canon.
I wish some one would lead me into a few days of `green pastures.'
Last night I went to sleep on mother's arm, the moths all
secured, love and college, certainties. This morning I wake
to find all my hopes wrecked. I simply don't dare let mother
know that instead of helping me, she has ruined my collection.
Everything is gone--unless the love lasts. That actually
seemed true. I believe I will go see."
The love remained. Indeed, in the overflow of the long-
hardened, pent-up heart, the girl was almost suffocated
with tempestuous caresses and generous offerings. Before the
day was over, Elnora realized that she never had known
her mother. The woman who now busily went through the
cabin, her eyes bright, eager, alert, constantly planning,
was a stranger. Her very face was different, while it did
not seem possible that during one night the acid of twenty
years could disappear from a voice and leave it sweet and pleasant.
For the next few days Elnora worked at mounting the
moths her mother had taken. She had to go to the Bird
Woman and tell about the disaster, but Mrs. Comstock
was allowed to think that Elnora delivered the moths
when she made the trip. If she had told her what actually
happened, the chances were that Mrs. Comstock again
would have taken possession of the Limberlost, hunting
there until she replaced all the moths that had been destroyed.
But Elnora knew from experience what it meant to collect
such a list in pairs. It would require steady work for at
least two summers to replace the lost moths. When she left
the Bird Woman she went to the president of the Onabasha
schools and asked him to do all in his power to secure her
a room in one of the ward buildings.
The next morning the last moth was mounted, and the
housework finished. Elnora said to her mother, "If you
don't mind, I believe I will go into the woods pasture
beside Sleepy Snake Creek and see if I can catch some
dragonflies or moths."
"Wait until I get a knife and a pail and I will go along,"
answered Mrs. Comstock. "The dandelions are plenty
tender for greens among the deep grasses, and I might just
happen to see something myself. My eyes are pretty sharp."
"I wish you could realize how young you are," said Elnora.
"I know women in Onabasha who are ten years older than you,
yet they look twenty years younger. So could you, if you
would dress your hair becomingly, and wear appropriate clothes."
"I think my hair puts me in the old woman class permanently,"
said Mrs. Comstock.
"Well, it doesn't!" cried Elnora. "There is a woman
of twenty-eight who has hair as white as yours from sick
headaches, but her face is young and beautiful. If your
face would grow a little fuller and those lines would go
away, you'd be lovely!"
"You little pig!" laughed Mrs. Comstock. "Any one
would think you would be satisfied with having a splinter
new mother, without setting up a kick on her looks,
first thing. Greedy!"
"That is a good word," said Elnora. "I admit the charge.
I am greedy over every wasted year. I want you young,
lovely, suitably dressed and enjoying life like the
other girls' mothers."
Mrs. Comstock laughed softly as she pushed back her
sunbonnet so that shrubs and bushes beside the way could
be scanned closely. Elnora walked ahead with a case over
her shoulder, a net in her hand. Her head was bare, the
rolling collar of her lavender gingham dress was cut in a V
at the throat, the sleeves only reached the elbows. Every few
steps she paused and examined the shrubbery carefully,
while Mrs. Comstock was watching until her eyes ached,
but there were no dandelions in the pail she carried.
Early June was rioting in fresh grasses, bright flowers,
bird songs, and gay-winged creatures of air. Down the
footpath the two went through the perfect morning, the
love of God and all nature in their hearts. At last they
reached the creek, following it toward the bridge. Here Mrs.
Comstock found a large bed of tender dandelions and stopped
to fill her pail. Then she sat on the bank, picking over the
greens, while she listened to the creek softly singing its June song.
Elnora remained within calling distance, and was having
good success. At last she crossed the creek, following
it up to a bridge. There she began a careful examination
of the under sides of the sleepers and flooring for cocoons.
Mrs. Comstock could see her and the creek for several
rods above. The mother sat beating the long green leaves
across her hand, carefully picking out the white buds,
because Elnora liked them, when a splash up the creek
attracted her attention.
Around the bend came a man. He was bareheaded,
dressed in a white sweater, and waders which reached
his waist. He walked on the bank, only entering the
water when forced. He had a queer basket strapped on
his hip, and with a small rod he sent a long line spinning
before him down the creek, deftly manipulating with
it a little floating object. He was closer Elnora than
her mother, but Mrs. Comstock thought possibly by
hurrying she could remain unseen and yet warn the girl
that a stranger was coming. As she approached the
bridge, she caught a sapling and leaned over the water to
call Elnora. With her lips parted to speak she hesitated
a second to watch a sort of insect that flashed past on the
water, when a splash from the man attracted the girl.
She was under the bridge, one knee planted in the
embankment and a foot braced to support her. Her hair
was tousled by wind and bushes, her face flushed,
and she lifted her arms above her head, working to loosen
a cocoon she had found. The call Mrs. Comstock had
intended to utter never found voice, for as Elnora looked
down at the sound, "Possibly I could get that for you,"
suggested the man.
Mrs. Comstock drew back. He was a young man with a
wonderfully attractive face, although it was too
white for robust health, broad shoulders, and slender,
"Oh, I do hope you can!" answered Elnora. "It's quite
a find! It's one of those lovely pale red cocoons
described in the books. I suspect it comes from having
been in a dark place and screened from the weather."
"Is that so?" cried the man. "Wait a minute. I've never
seen one. I suppose it's a Cecropia, from the location."
"Of course," said Elnora. "It's so cool here the moth
hasn't emerged. The cocoon is a big, baggy one, and it
is as red as fox tail."
"What luck!" he cried. "Are you making a collection?"
He reeled in his line, laid his rod across a bush and
climbed the embankment to Elnora's side, produced a
knife and began the work of whittling a deep groove
around the cocoon.
"Yes. I paid my way through the high school in
Onabasha with them. Now I am starting a collection
which means college."
"Onabasha!" said the man. "That is where I am visiting.
Possibly you know my people--Dr. Ammon's? The doctor is
my uncle. My home is in Chicago. I've been having typhoid
fever, something fierce. In the hospital six weeks.
Didn't gain strength right, so Uncle Doc sent for me.
I am to live out of doors all summer, and exercise until
I get in condition again. Do you know my uncle?"
"Yes. He is Aunt Margaret's doctor, and he would
be ours, only we are never ill."
"Well, you look it!" said the man, appraising Elnora
at a glance.
"Strangers always mention it," sighed Elnora. "I wonder
how it would seem to be a pale, languid lady and ride
in a carriage."
"Ask me!" laughed the man. "It feels like the--dickens!
I'm so proud of my feet. It's quite a trick to stand
on them now. I have to keep out of the water all I can
and stop to baby every half-mile. But with interesting
outdoor work I'll be myself in a week."
"Do you call that work?" Elnora indicated the creek.
"I do, indeed! Nearly three miles, banks too soft to brag
on and never a strike. Wouldn't you call that hard labour?"
"Yes," laughed Elnora. "Work at which you might
kill yourself and never get a fish. Did any one tell you
there were trout in Sleepy Snake Creek?"
"Uncle said I could try."
"Oh, you can," said Elnora. "You can try no end,
but you'll never get a trout. This is too far south and
too warm for them. If you sit on the bank and use
worms you might catch some perch or catfish."
"But that isn't exercise."
"Well, if you only want exercise, go right on fishing.
You will have a creel full of invisible results every night."
"I object," said the man emphatically. He stopped
work again and studied Elnora. Even the watching
mother could not blame him. In the shade of the bridge
Elnora's bright head and her lavender dress made a
picture worthy of much contemplation.
"I object!" repeated the man. "When I work I want
to see results. I'd rather exercise sawing wood, making
one pile grow little and the other big than to cast all day
and catch nothing because there is not a fish to take.
Work for work's sake doesn't appeal to me."
He digged the groove around the cocoon with skilled hand.
"Now there is some fun in this!" he said. It's going to
be a fair job to cut it out, but when it comes, it is
not only beautiful, but worth a price; it will help you on
your way. I think I'll put up my rod and hunt moths.
That would be something like! Don't you want help?"
Elnora parried the question. "Have you ever hunted
moths, Mr. Ammon?
"Enough to know the ropes in taking them and to
distinguish the commonest ones. I go wild on Catocalae.
There's too many of them, all too much alike for Philip,
but I know all these fellows. One flew into my room when
I was about ten years old, and we thought it a miracle.
None of us ever had seen one so we took it over to the
museum to Dr. Dorsey. He said they were common enough,
but we didn't see them because they flew at night.
He showed me the museum collection, and I was so
interested I took mine back home and started to hunt them.
Every year after that we went to our cottage a month
earlier, so I could find them, and all my family helped.
I stuck to it until I went to college. Then, keeping
the little moths out of the big ones was too much for the
mater, so father advised that I donate mine to the museum.
He bought a fine case for them with my name on it,
which constitutes my sole contribution to science. I know
enough to help you all right."
"Aren't you going north this year?"
"All depends on how this fever leaves me. Uncle says
the nights are too cold and the days too hot there
for me. He thinks I had better stay in an even
temperature until I am strong again. I am going to stick
pretty close to him until I know I am. I wouldn't admit
it to any one at home, but I was almost gone. I don't
believe anything can eat up nerve much faster than the
burning of a slow fever. No, thanks, I have enough.
I stay with Uncle Doc, so if I feel it coming again he can
do something quickly."
"I don't blame you," said Elnora. "I never have been
sick, but it must be dreadful. I am afraid you are tiring
yourself over that. Let me take the knife awhile."
"Oh, it isn't so bad as that! I wouldn't be wading
creeks if it were. I only need a few more days to get
steady on my feet again. I'll soon have this out."
"It is kind of you to get it," said Elnora. "I should
have had to peel it, which would spoil the cocoon for a'
specimen and ruin the moth."
"You haven't said yet whether I may help you while
I am here."
"You better say `yes,'" he persisted. "It would be a
real kindness. It would keep me outdoors all day and
give an incentive to work. I'm good at it. I'll show you
if I am not in a week or so. I can `sugar,' manipulate
lights, and mirrors, and all the expert methods. I'll wager,
moths are numerous in the old swamp over there."
"They are," said Elnora. "Most I have I took there.
A few nights ago my mother caught a number, but we
don't dare go alone."
"All the more reason why you need me. Where do
you live? I can't get an answer from you, I'll go tell
your mother who I am and ask her if I may help you.
I warn you, young lady, I have a very effective way
with mothers. They almost never turn me down."
"Then it's probable you will have a new experience
when you meet mine," said Elnora. "She never was
known to do what any one expected she surely would."
The cocoon came loose. Philip Ammon stepped down
the embankment turning to offer his hand to Elnora.
She ran down as she would have done alone, and taking
the cocoon turned it end for end to learn if the imago it
contained were alive. Then Ammon took back the cocoon
to smooth the edges. Mrs. Comstock gave them one
long look as they stood there, and returned to
her dandelions. While she worked she paused occasionally,
listening intently. Presently they came down the creek,
the man carrying the cocoon as if it were a jewel, while
Elnora made her way along the bank, taking a lesson in casting.
Her face was flushed with excitement, her eyes shining,
the bushes taking liberties with her hair. For a picture
of perfect loveliness she scarcely could have been surpassed,
and the eyes of Philip Ammon seemed to be in working order.
"Moth-er!" called Elnora.
There was an undulant, caressing sweetness in the girl's
voice, as she sung out the call in perfect confidence
that it would bring a loving answer, that struck deep in
Mrs. Comstock's heart. She never had heard that word
so pronounced before and a lump arose in her throat.
"Here!" she answered, still cleaning dandelions.
"Mother, this is Mr. Philip Ammon, of Chicago,"
said Elnora. "He has been ill and he is staying with
Dr. Ammon in Onabasha. He came down the creek
fishing and cut this cocoon from under the bridge for me.
He feels that it would be better to hunt moths than to
fish, until he is well. What do you think about it?"
Philip Ammon extended his hand. "I am glad to
know you," he said.
"You may take the hand-shaking for granted," replied
Mrs. Comstock. "Dandelions have a way of making
fingers sticky, and I like to know a man before I
take his hand, anyway. That introduction seems mighty
comprehensive on your part, but it still leaves
me unclassified. My name is Comstock."
Philip Ammon bowed.
"I am sorry to hear you have been sick," said Mrs. Comstock.
"But if people will live where they have such vile water as
they do in Chicago, I don't see what else they are to expect."
Philip studied her intently.
"I am sure I didn't have a fever on purpose," he said.
"You do seem a little wobbly on your legs," she observed.
"Maybe you had better sit and rest while I finish
these greens. It's late for the genuine article, but
in the shade, among long grass they are still tender."
"May I have a leaf?" he asked, reaching for one as he sat
on the bank, looking from the little creek at his feet, away
through the dim cool spaces of the June forest on the
opposite side. He drew a deep breath. "Glory, but this
is good after almost two months inside hospital walls!"
He stretched on the grass and lay gazing up at the
leaves, occasionally asking the interpretation of a bird note
or the origin of an unfamiliar forest voice. Elnora began
helping with the dandelions.
"Another, please," said the young man, holding out his hand.
"Do you suppose this is the kind of grass Nebuchadnezzar
ate?" Elnora asked, giving the leaf.
"He knew a good thing if it is."
"Oh, you should taste dandelions boiled with bacon and
served with mother's cornbread."
"Don't! My appetite is twice my size now. While it
is--how far is it to Onabasha, shortest cut?"
The man lay in perfect content, nibbling leaves.
"This surely is a treat," he said. "No wonder you find
good hunting here. There seems to be foliage for almost
every kind of caterpillar. But I suppose you have to
exchange for northern species and Pacific Coast kinds?"
"Yes. And every one wants Regalis in trade. I never
saw the like. They consider a Cecropia or a Polyphemus
an insult, and a Luna is barely acceptable."
"What authorities have you?"
Elnora began to name text-books which started a discussion.
Mrs. Comstock listened. She cleaned dandelions with greater
deliberation than they ever before were examined.
In reality she was taking stock of the young man's long,
well-proportioned frame, his strong hands, his smooth,
fine-textured skin, his thick shock of dark hair,
and making mental notes of his simple manly speech and
the fact that he evidently did know much about moths.
It pleased her to think that if he had been a neighbour boy
who had lain beside her every day of his life while she
worked, he could have been no more at home. She liked
the things he said, but she was proud that Elnora had a
ready answer which always seemed appropriate.
At last Mrs. Comstock finished the greens.
"You are three miles from the city and less than a mile
from where we live," she said. "If you will tell me what
you dare eat, I suspect you had best go home with us and
rest until the cool of the day before you start back.
Probably some one that you can ride in with will be passing
"That is mighty kind of you," said Philip. "I think I will.
It doesn't matter so much what I eat, the point is that
I must be moderate. I am hungry all the time."
"Then we will go," said Mrs. Comstock, "and we will
not allow you to make yourself sick with us."
Philip Ammon arose: picking up the pail of greens and
his fishing rod, he stood waiting. Elnora led the way.
Mrs. Comstock motioned Philip to follow and she walked
in the rear. The girl carried the cocoon and the box of
moths she had taken, searching every step for more.
The young man frequently set down his load to join in
the pursuit of a dragonfly or moth, while Mrs. Comstock watched
the proceedings with sharp eyes. Every time Philip picked
up the pail of greens she struggled to suppress a smile.
Elnora proceeded slowly, chattering about everything
beside the trail. Philip was interested in all the objects
she pointed out, noticing several things which escaped her.
He carried the greens as casually when they took a short
cut down the roadway as on the trail. When Elnora
turned toward the gate of her home Philip Ammon
stopped, took a long look at the big hewed log cabin, the
vines which clambered over it, the flower garden ablaze
with beds of bright bloom interspersed with strawberries
and tomatoes, the trees of the forest rising north and west
like a green wall and exclaimed: "How beautiful!"
Mrs. Comstock was pleased. "If you think that," she
said, "perhaps you will understand how, in all this present-
day rush to be modern, I have preferred to remain as I began.
My husband and I took up this land, and enough
trees to build the cabin, stable, and outbuildings are
nearly all we ever cut. Of course, if he had lived,
I suppose we should have kept up with our neighbours. I hear
considerable about the value of the land, the trees which
are on it, and the oil which is supposed to be under it,
but as yet I haven't brought myself to change anything.
So we stand for one of the few remaining homes of first
settlers in this region. Come in. You are very welcome
to what we have."
Mrs. Comstock stepped forward and took the lead.
She had a bowl of soft water and a pair of boots to offer
for the heavy waders, for outer comfort, a glass of cold
buttermilk and a bench on which to rest, in the circular
arbour until dinner was ready. Philip Ammon splashed
in the water. He followed to the stable and exchanged
boots there. He was ravenous for the buttermilk, and
when he stretched on the bench in the arbour the
flickering patches of sunlight so tantalized his tired eyes,
while the bees made such splendid music, he was soon
sound asleep. When Elnora and her mother came out with a
table they stood a short time looking at him. It is probable
Mrs. Comstock voiced a united thought when she said: "What a
refined, decent looking young man! How proud his mother must
be of him! We must be careful what we let him eat."
Then they returned to the kitchen where Mrs. Comstock
proceeded to be careful. She broiled ham of her own
sugar-curing, creamed potatoes, served asparagus on
toast, and made a delicious strawberry shortcake. As she
cooked dandelions with bacon, she feared to serve them to
him, so she made an excuse that it took too long to prepare
them, blanched some and made a salad. When everything
was ready she touched Philip's sleeve.
"Best have something to eat, lad, before you get too
hungry," she said.
"Please hurry!" he begged laughingly as he held a plate
toward her to be filled. "I thought I had enough self-
restraint to start out alone, but I see I was mistaken.
If you would allow me, just now, I am afraid I should start
a fever again. I never did smell food so good as this.
It's mighty kind of you to take me in. I hope I will be man
enough in a few days to do something worth while in return."
Spots of sunshine fell on the white cloth and blue china,
the bees and an occasional stray butterfly came searching
for food. A rose-breasted grosbeak, released from a three
hours' siege of brooding, while his independent mate took
her bath and recreation, mounted the top branch of a
maple in the west woods from which he serenaded the
dinner party with a joyful chorus in celebration of his freedom.
Philip's eyes strayed to the beautiful cabin, to the
mixture of flowers and vegetables stretching down to the
road, and to the singing bird with his red-splotched breast
of white and he said: "I can't realize now that I ever lay in
ice packs in a hospital. How I wish all the sick folks could
come here to grow strong!"
The grosbeak sang on, a big Turnus butterfly sailed
through the arbour and poised over the table. Elnora held
up a lump of sugar and the butterfly, clinging to her
fingers, tasted daintily. With eager eyes and parted
lips, the girl held steadily. When at last it wavered
away, "That made a picture!" said Philip. "Ask me some
other time how I lost my illusions concerning butterflies.
I always thought of them in connection with sunshine,
flower pollen, and fruit nectar, until one sad day."
"I know!" laughed Elnora. "I've seen that, too, but
it didn't destroy any illusion for me. I think quite as
much of the butterflies as ever."
Then they talked of flowers, moths, dragonflies, Indian
relics, and all the natural wonders the swamp afforded,
straying from those subjects to books and school work.
When they cleared the table Philip assisted, carrying
several tray loads to the kitchen. He and Elnora mounted
specimens while Mrs Comstock washed the dishes. Then she
came out with a ruffle she was embroidering.
"I wonder if I did not see a picture of you in Onabasha
last night," Philip said to Elnora. "Aunt Anna took me
to call on Miss Brownlee. She was showing me her
crowd--of course, it was you! But it didn't half do you
justice, although it was the nearest human of any of them.
Miss Brownlee is very fond of you. She said the finest things."
Then they talked of Commencement, and at last Philip said
he must go or his friends would become anxious about him.
Mrs. Comstock brought him a blue bowl of creamy milk
and a plate of bread. She stopped a passing team and
secured a ride to the city for him, as his exercise of the
morning had been too violent, and he was forced to admit
he was tired.
"May I come to-morrow afternoon and hunt moths awhile?"
he asked Mrs. Comstock as he arose. "We will `sugar' a
tree and put a light beside it, if I can get stuff to
make the preparation. Possibly we can take some that way.
I always enjoy moth hunting, I'd like to help Miss Elnora,
and it would be a charity to me. I've got to remain
outdoors some place, and I'm quite sure I'd get well
faster here than anywhere else. Please say I may come."
"I have no objections, if Elnora really would like help,"
said Mrs. Comstock.
In her heart she wished he would not come. She wanted
her newly found treasure all to herself, for a time,
at least. But Elnora's were eager, shining eyes.
She thought it would be splendid to have help, and
great fun to try book methods for taking moths, so it
was arranged. As Philip rode away, Mrs. Comstock's eyes
followed him. "What a nice young man!" she said.
"He seems fine," agreed Elnora.
"He comes of a good family, too. I've often heard of
his father. He is a great lawyer."
"I am glad he likes it here. I need help. Possibly----"
"We can find many moths."
"What did he mean about the butterflies?"
"That he always had connected them with sunshine,
flowers, and fruits, and thought of them as the most
exquisite of creations; then one day he found some
clustering thickly over carrion."
"Come to think of it, I have seen butterflies----"
"So had he," laughed Elnora. "And that is what he meant."
WHEREIN A NEW POSITION IS TENDERED ELNORA,
AND PHILIP AMMON IS SHOWN LIMBERLOST VIOLETS
The next morning Mrs. Comstock called to Elnora,
"The mail carrier stopped at our box."
Elnora ran down the walk and came back carrying an
official letter. She tore it open and read:
MY DEAR MISS COMSTOCK:
At the weekly meeting of the Onabasha School Board last night, it
was decided to add the position of Lecturer on Natural History to
our corps of city teachers. It will be the duty of this person to
spend two hours a week in each of the grade schools exhibiting and
explaining specimens of the most prominent objects in nature:
animals, birds, insects, flowers, vines, shrubs, bushes, and trees.
These specimens and lectures should be appropriate to the seasons
and the comprehension of the grades. This position was unanimously
voted to you. I think you will find the work delightful and much
easier than the routine grind of the other teachers. It is my advice
that you accept and begin to prepare yourself at once. Your salary
will be $750 a year, and you will be allowed $200 for expenses in
procuring specimens and books. Let us know at once if you want the
position, as it is going to be difficult to fill satisfactorily if
you do not.
Very truly yours,
DAVID THOMPSON, President, Onabasha Schools.
"I hardly understand," marvelled Mrs. Comstock.
"It is a new position. They never have had anything
like it before. I suspect it arose from the help I've been
giving the grade teachers in their nature work. They are
trying to teach the children something, and half the
instructors don't know a blue jay from a king-fisher, a
beech leaf from an elm, or a wasp from a hornet."
"Well, do you?" anxiously inquired Mrs. Comstock.
"Indeed, I do!" laughed Elnora, "and several other
things beside. When Freckles bequeathed me the
swamp, he gave me a bigger inheritance than he knew.
While you have thought I was wandering aimlessly, I
have been following a definite plan, studying hard, and
storing up the stuff that will earn these seven hundred
and fifty dollars. Mother dear, I am going to accept
this, of course. The work will be a delight. I'd love
it most of anything in teaching. You must help me.
We must find nests, eggs, leaves, queer formations in
plants and rare flowers. I must have flower boxes made
for each of the rooms and filled with wild things.
I should begin to gather specimens this very day."
Elnora's face was flushed and her eyes bright.
"Oh, what great work that will be!" she cried. "You must
go with me so you can see the little faces when I tell
them how the goldfinch builds its nest, and how the
bees make honey."
So Elnora and her mother went into the woods behind
the cabin to study nature.
"I think," said Elnora, "the idea is to begin with fall
things in the fall, keeping to the seasons throughout the year."
"What are fall things?" inquired Mrs. Comstock.
"Oh, fringed gentians, asters, ironwort, every fall
flower, leaves from every tree and vine, what makes them
change colour, abandoned bird nests, winter quarters
of caterpillars and insects, what becomes of the
butterflies and grasshoppers--myriads of stuff. I shall
have to be very wise to select the things it will be most
beneficial for the children to learn."
"Can I really help you?" Mrs. Comstock's strong face
"Indeed, yes!" cried Elnora. "I never can get through
it alone. There will be an immense amount of work
connected with securing and preparing specimens."
Mrs. Comstock lifted her head proudly and began
doing business at once. Her sharp eyes ranged from
earth to heaven. She investigated everything, asking
innumerable questions. At noon Mrs. Comstock took
the specimens they had collected, and went to prepare
dinner, while Elnora followed the woods down to the
Sintons' to show her letter.
She had to explain what became of her moths, and why
college would have to be abandoned for that year, but
Margaret and Wesley vowed not to tell. Wesley waved
the letter excitedly, explaining it to Margaret as if it
were a personal possession. Margaret was deeply impressed,
while Billy volunteered first aid in gathering material.
"Now anything you want in the ground, Snap can dig
it out," he said. "Uncle Wesley and I found a hole
three times as big as Snap, that he dug at the roots of
"We will train him to hunt pupae cases," said Elnora.
"Are you going to the woods this afternoon?" asked Billy.
"Yes," answered Elnora. "Dr. Ammon's nephew
from Chicago is visiting in Onabasha. He is going to
show me how men put some sort of compound on a tree,
hang a light beside it, and take moths that way. It will
be interesting to watch and learn."
"May I come?" asked Billy.
"Of course you may come!" answered Elnora.
"Is this nephew of Dr. Ammon a young man?" inquired Margaret.
"About twenty-six, I should think," said Elnora.
"He said he had been out of college and at work in his
father's law office three years."
"Does he seem nice?" asked Margaret, and Wesley smiled.
"Finest kind of a person," said Elnora. "He can
teach me so much. It is very interesting to hear
him talk. He knows considerable about moths that will
be a help to me. He had a fever and he has to stay
outdoors until he grows strong again."
"Billy, I guess you better help me this afternoon,"
said Margaret. "Maybe Elnora had rather not bother
"There's no reason on earth why Billy should not
come!" cried Elnora, and Wesley smiled again.
"I must hurry home or I won't be ready," she added.
Hastening down the road she entered the cabin, her
"I thought you never would come," said Mrs. Comstock.
"If you don't hurry Mr. Ammon will be here before you
"I forgot about him until just now," said Elnora.
"I am not going to dress. He's not coming to visit.
We are only going to the woods for more specimens.
I can't wear anything that requires care. The limbs
take the most dreadful liberties with hair and clothing."
Mrs. Comstock opened her lips, looked at Elnora and
closed them. In her heart she was pleased that the
girl was so interested in her work that she had forgotten
Philip Ammon's coming. But it did seem to her that
such a pleasant young man should have been greeted
by a girl in a fresh dress. "If she isn't disposed to primp
at the coming of a man, heaven forbid that I should be
the one to start her," thought Mrs. Comstock.
Philip came whistling down the walk between the
cinnamon pinks, pansies, and strawberries. He carried
several packages, while his face flushed with more colour
than on the previous day.
"Only see what has happened to me!" cried Elnora,
offering her letter.
"I'll wager I know!" answered Philip. "Isn't it great!
Every one in Onabasha is talking about it. At last there
is something new under the sun. All of them are pleased.
They think you'll make a big success. This will give an
incentive to work. In a few days more I'll be myself
again, and we'll overturn the fields and woods around here."
He went on to congratulate Mrs. Comstock.
"Aren't you proud of her, though?" he asked. "You should
hear what folks are saying! They say she created the
necessity for the position, and every one seems to feel
that it is a necessity. Now, if she succeeds, and she will,
all of the other city schools will have such departments,
and first thing you know she will have made the whole
world a little better. Let me rest a few seconds; my feet
are acting up again. Then we will cook the moth compound
and put it to cool."
He laughed as he sat breathing shortly.
"It doesn't seem possible that a fellow could lose his
strength like this. My knees are actually trembling,
but I'll be all right in a minute. Uncle Doc said I
could come. I told him how you took care of me, and he
said I would be safe here."
Then he began unwrapping packages and explaining
to Mrs. Comstock how to cook the compound to attract
the moths. He followed her into the kitchen, kindled
the fire, and stirred the preparation as he talked.
While the mixture cooled, he and Elnora walked through
the vegetable garden behind the cabin and strayed from
there into the woods.
"What about college?" he asked. "Miss Brownlee said
you were going."
"I had hoped to," replied Elnora, "but I had a streak
of dreadful luck, so I'll have to wait until next year.
If you won't speak of it, I'll tell you."
Philip promised, so Elnora recited the history of the
Yellow Emperor. She was so interested in doing the
Emperor justice she did not notice how many personalities
went into the story. A few pertinent questions
told him the remainder. He looked at the girl in wonder.
In face and form she was as lovely as any one of her age
and type he ever had seen. Her school work far surpassed
that of most girls of her age he knew. She differed in
other ways. This vast store of learning she had gathered
from field and forest was a wealth of attraction no other
girl possessed. Her frank, matter-of-fact manner was an
inheritance from her mother, but there was something more.
Once, as they talked he thought "sympathy" was the word
to describe it and again "comprehension." She seemed to
possess a large sense of brotherhood for all human and
animate creatures. She spoke to him as if she had known
him all her life. She talked to the grosbeak in exactly
the same manner, as she laid strawberries and potato bugs
on the fence for his family. She did not swerve an inch
from her way when a snake slid past her, while the squirrels
came down from the trees and took corn from her fingers.
She might as well have been a boy, so lacking was she in
any touch of feminine coquetry toward him. He studied
her wonderingly. As they went along the path they reached
a large slime-covered pool surrounded by decaying stumps
and logs thickly covered with water hyacinths and blue flags.
"Is that the place?" he asked.
Elnora assented. "The doctor told you?"
"Yes. It was tragic. Is that pool really bottomless?"
"So far as we ever have been able to discover."
Philip stood looking at the water, while the long, sweet
grasses, thickly sprinkled with blue flag bloom, over which
wild bees clambered, swayed around his feet. Then he
turned to the girl. She had worked hard. The same
lavender dress she had worn the previous day clung to her
in limp condition. But she was as evenly coloured and of
as fine grain as a wild rose petal, her hair was really brown,
but never was such hair touched with a redder glory, while
her heavy arching brows added a look of strength to her
big gray-blue eyes.
"And you were born here?"
He had not intended to voice that thought.
"Yes," she said, looking into his eyes. "Just in time
to prevent my mother from saving the life of my father.
She came near never forgiving me."
"Ah, cruel!" cried Philip.
"I find much in life that is cruel, from our standpoints,"
said Elnora. "It takes the large wisdom of the Unfathomable,
the philosophy of the Almighty, to endure some of it.
But there is always right somewhere, and at last it seems
"Will it come to you?" asked Philip, who found himself
"It has come," said the girl serenely. "It came a week ago.
It came in fullest measure when my mother ceased to regret
that I had been born. Now, work that I love has come--that
should constitute happiness. A little farther along is my
violet bed. I want you to see it."
As Philip Ammon followed he definitely settled upon the
name of the unusual feature of Elnora's face. It should be
called "experience." She had known bitter experiences
early in life. Suffering had been her familiar more than joy.
He watched her earnestly, his heart deeply moved. She led
him into a swampy half-open space in the woods, stopped
and stepped aside. He uttered a cry of surprised delight.
A few decaying logs were scattered around, the grass
grew in tufts long and fine. Blue flags waved, clusters of
cowslips nodded gold heads, but the whole earth was purple
with a thick blanket of violets nodding from stems a foot
in length. Elnora knelt and slipping her fingers between
the leaves and grasses to the roots, gathered a few violets
and gave them to Philip.
"Can your city greenhouses surpass them?" she asked.
He sat on a log to examine the blooms.
"They are superb!" he said. "I never saw such
length of stem or such rank leaves, while the flowers are
the deepest blue, the truest violet I ever saw growing wild.
They are coloured exactly like the eyes of the girl I am
going to marry."
Elnora handed him several others to add to those he held.
"She must have wonderful eyes," she commented.
"No other blue eyes are quite so beautiful," he said.
"In fact, she is altogether lovely."
"Is it customary for a man to think the girl he is going
to marry lovely? I wonder if I should find her so."
"You would," said Philip. "No one ever fails to. She is
tall as you, very slender, but perfectly rounded; you
know about her eyes; her hair is black and wavy--while
her complexion is clear and flushed with red."
"Why, she must be the most beautiful girl in the whole
world!" she cried.
"No, indeed!" he said. "She is not a particle better
looking in her way than you are in yours. She is a type
of dark beauty, but you are equally as perfect. She is
unusual in her combination of black hair and violet eyes,
although every one thinks them black at a little distance.
You are quite as unusual with your fair face, black brows,
and brown hair; indeed, I know many people who would
prefer your bright head to her dark one. It's all a question
of taste--and being engaged to the girl," he added.
"That would be likely to prejudice one," laughed Elnora.
"Edith has a birthday soon; if these last will you let me
have a box of them to send her?"
"I will help gather and pack them for you, so they will
carry nicely. Does she hunt moths with you?"
Back went Philip Ammon's head in a gale of laughter.
"No!" he cried. "She says they are `creepy.' She would
go into a spasm if she were compelled to touch those
caterpillars I saw you handling yesterday."
"Why would she?" marvelled Elnora. "Haven't you
told her that they are perfectly clean, helpless,
and harmless as so much animate velvet?"
"No, I have not told her. She wouldn't care enough
about caterpillars to listen."
"In what is she interested?"
"What interests Edith Carr? Let me think! First, I
believe she takes pride in being a little handsomer and
better dressed than any girl of her set. She is interested
in having a beautiful home, fine appointments, in being
petted, praised, and the acknowledged leader of society.
"She likes to find new things which amuse her, and to always
and in all circumstances have her own way about everything."
"Good gracious!" cried Elnora, staring at him. "But what
does she do? How does she spend her time?"
"Spend her time!" repeated Philip. "Well, she would call
that a joke. Her days are never long enough. There is
endless shopping, to find the pretty things; regular visits
to the dressmakers, calls, parties, theatres, entertainments.
She is always rushed. I never am able to be with her half as
much as I would like."
"But I mean work," persisted Elnora. "In what is she
interested that is useful to the world?"
"Me!" cried Philip promptly.
"I can understand that," laughed Elnora. "What I
can't understand is how you can be in----" She stopped in
confusion, but she saw that he had finished the sentence as
she had intended. "I beg your pardon!" she cried. "I didn't
intend to say that. But I cannot understand these people
I hear about who live only for their own amusement.
Perhaps it is very great; I'll never have a chance to know.
To me, it seems the only pleasure in this world worth
having is the joy we derive from living for those we love,
and those we can help. I hope you are not angry with me."
Philip sat silently looking far away, with deep thought
in his eyes.
"You are angry," faltered Elnora.
His look came back to her as she knelt before him among
the flowers and he gazed at her steadily.
"No doubt I should be," he said, "but the fact is I
am not. I cannot understand a life purely for personal
pleasure myself. But she is only a girl, and this is
her playtime. When she is a woman in her own home, then
she will be different, will she not?"
Elnora never resembled her mother so closely as when
she answered that question.
"I would have to be well acquainted with her to know,
but I should hope so. To make a real home for a tired
business man is a very different kind of work from that
required to be a leader of society. It demands different
talent and education. Of course, she means to change, or
she would not have promised to make a home for you. I suspect
our dope is cool now, let's go try for some butterflies."
As they went along the path together Elnora talked of
many things but Philip answered absently. Evidently he
was thinking of something else. But the moth bait
recalled him and he was ready for work as they made their
way back to the woods. He wanted to try the Limberlost,
but Elnora was firm about remaining on home ground.
She did not tell him that lights hung in the swamp would
be a signal to call up a band of men whose presence
she dreaded. So they started, Ammon carrying the dope,
Elnora the net, Billy and Mrs. Comstock following with
cyanide boxes and lanterns.
First they tried for butterflies and captured several fine
ones without trouble. They also called swarms of ants,
bees, beetles, and flies. When it grew dusk, Mrs. Comstock
and Philip went to prepare supper. Elnora and Billy
remained until the butterflies disappeared. Then they
lighted the lanterns, repainted the trees and followed
the home trail.
"Do you 'spec you'll get just a lot of moths?" asked
Billy, as he walked beside Elnora.
"I am sure I hardly know," said the girl. "This is a
new way for me. Perhaps they will come to the lights, but
few moths eat; and I have some doubt about those which
the lights attract settling on the right trees. Maybe the
smell of that dope will draw them. Between us, Billy, I
think I like my old way best. If I can find a hidden moth,
slip up and catch it unawares, or take it in full flight,
it's my captive, and I can keep it until it dies naturally.
But this way you seem to get it under false pretences, it has no
chance, and it will probably ruin its wings struggling for
freedom before morning."
"Well, any moth ought to be proud to be taken anyway,
by you," said Billy. "Just look what you do! You can
make everybody love them. People even quit hating
caterpillars when they see you handle them and hear you
tell all about them. You must have some to show people
how they are. It's not like killing things to see if you
can, or because you want to eat them, the way most men
kill birds. I think it is right for you to take enough for
collections, to show city people, and to illustrate the
Bird Woman's books. You go on and take them! The moths
don't care. They're glad to have you. They like it!"
"Billy, I see your future," said Elnora. "We will
educate you and send you up to Mr. Ammon to make a
great lawyer. You'd beat the world as a special pleader.
You actually make me feel that I am doing the moths a
kindness to take them."
"And so you are!" cried Billy. "Why, just from what
you have taught them Uncle Wesley and Aunt Margaret
never think of killing a caterpillar until they look whether
it's the beautiful June moth kind, or the horrid tent ones.
That's what you can do. You go straight ahead!"
"Billy, you are a jewel!" cried Elnora, throwing her arm
across his shoulders as they came down the path.
"My, I was scared!" said Billy with a deep breath.
"Scared?" questioned Elnora.
"Yes sir-ee! Aunt Margaret scared me. May I ask
you a question?"
"Of course, you may!"
"Is that man going to be your beau?"
"Billy! No! What made you think such a thing?"
"Aunt Margaret said likely he would fall in love with
you, and you wouldn't want me around any more. Oh, but
I was scared! It isn't so, is it?"
"I am your beau, ain't I?"
"Surely you are!" said Elnora, tightening her arm.
"I do hope Aunt Kate has ginger cookies," said Billy
with a little skip of delight.
WHEREIN MRS. COMSTOCK FACES THE ALMIGHTY,
AND PHILIP AMMON WRITES A LETTER
Mrs. Comstock and Elnora were finishing breakfast
the following morning when they heard a cheery whistle
down the road. Elnora with surprised eyes looked at
"Could that be Mr. Ammon?" she questioned.
"I did not expect him so soon," commented Mrs. Comstock.
It was sunrise, but the musician was Philip Ammon.
He appeared stronger than on yesterday.
"I hope I am not too early," he said. "I am consumed
with anxiety to learn if we have made a catch. If we
have, we should beat the birds to it. I promised Uncle
Doc to put on my waders and keep dry for a few days yet,
when I go to the woods. Let's hurry! I am afraid of crows.
There might be a rare moth."
The sun was topping the Limberlost when they started.
As they neared the place Philip stopped.
"Now we must use great caution," he said. "The lights
and the odours always attract numbers that don't settle
on the baited trees. Every bush, shrub, and limb may
hide a specimen we want."
So they approached with much care.
"There is something, anyway!" cried Philip.
"There are moths! I can see them!" exulted Elnora.
"Those you see are fast enough. It's the ones for
which you must search that will escape. The grasses
are dripping, and I have boots, so you look beside the
path while I take the outside," suggested Ammon.
Mrs. Comstock wanted to hunt moths, but she was
timid about making a wrong movement, so she wisely
sat on a log and watched Philip and Elnora to learn how
they proceeded. Back in the deep woods a hermit thrush
was singing his chant to the rising sun. Orioles were
sowing the pure, sweet air with notes of gold, poured out
while on wing. The robins were only chirping now, for
their morning songs had awakened all the other birds an
hour ago. Scolding red-wings tilted on half the bushes.
Excepting late species of haws, tree bloom was almost
gone, but wild flowers made the path border and all the
wood floor a riot of colour. Elnora, born among such
scenes, worked eagerly, but to the city man, recently from
a hospital, they seemed too good to miss. He frequently
stooped to examine a flower face, paused to listen
intently to the thrush or lifted his head to see the
gold flash which accompanied the oriole's trailing notes.
So Elnora uttered the first cry, as she softly lifted
branches and peered among the grasses.
"My find!" she called. "Bring the box, mother!"
Philip came hurrying also. When they reached her
she stood on the path holding a pair of moths. Her eyes
were wide with excitement, her cheeks pink, her red
lips parted, and on the hand she held out to them
clung a pair of delicate blue-green moths, with white
bodies, and touches of lavender and straw colour.
All around her lay flower-brocaded grasses, behind the
deep green background of the forest, while the sun slowly
sifted gold from heaven to burnish her hair. Mrs. Comstock
heard a sharp breath behind her.
"Oh, what a picture!" exulted Philip at her shoulder.
"She is absolutely and altogether lovely! I'd give a
small fortune for that faithfully set on canvas!"
He picked the box from Mrs. Comstock's fingers and
slowly advanced with it. Elnora held down her hand
and transferred the moths. Philip closed the box
carefully, but the watching mother saw that his eyes were
following the girl's face. He was not making the slightest
attempt to conceal his admiration.
"I wonder if a woman ever did anything lovelier than
to find a pair of Luna moths on a forest path, early on
a perfect June morning," he said to Mrs. Comstock,
when he returned the box.
She glanced at Elnora who was intently searching the bushes.
"Look here, young man," said Mrs. Comstock. "You seem
to find that girl of mine about right."
"I could suggest no improvement," said Philip. "I never
saw a more attractive girl anywhere. She seems absolutely
perfect to me."
"Then suppose you don't start any scheme calculated
to spoil her!" proposed Mrs. Comstock dryly. "I don't
think you can, or that any man could, but I'm not taking
any risks. You asked to come here to help in this work.
We are both glad to have you, if you confine yourself to work;
but it's the least you can do to leave us as you find us."
"I beg your pardon!" said Philip. "I intended no offence.
I admire her as I admire any perfect creation."
"And nothing in all this world spoils the average girl
so quickly and so surely," said Mrs. Comstock. She raised
her voice. "Elnora, fasten up that tag of hair over your
left ear. These bushes muss you so you remind me of a
sheep poking its nose through a hedge fence."
Mrs. Comstock started down the path toward the log
again, when she reached it she called sharply: "Elnora,
come here! I believe I have found something myself."
The "something" was a Citheronia Regalis which had
emerged from its case on the soft earth under the log.
It climbed up the wood, its stout legs dragging a big
pursy body, while it wildly flapped tiny wings the size
of a man's thumb-nail. Elnora gave one look and a cry
which brought Philip.
"That's the rarest moth in America!" he announced.
"Mrs. Comstock, you've gone up head. You can put
that in a box with a screen cover to-night, and attract
half a dozen, possibly."
"Is it rare, Elnora?" inquired Mrs. Comstock, as if no
one else knew.
"It surely is," answered Elnora. "If we can find
it a mate to-night, it will lay from two hundred and fifty
to three hundred eggs to-morrow. With any luck at
all I can raise two hundred caterpillars from them.
I did once before. And they are worth a dollar apiece."
"Was the one I killed like that?"
"No. That was a different moth, but its life processes
were the same as this. The Bird Woman calls this the
King of the Poets."
"Why does she?"
"Because it is named for Citheron who was a poet, and
regalis refers to a king. You mustn't touch it or you
may stunt wing development. You watch and don't let
that moth out of sight, or anything touch it. When the
wings are expanded and hardened we will put it in a box."
"I am afraid it will race itself to death," objected
"That's a part of the game," said Philip. "It is starting
circulation now. When the right moment comes, it will
stop and expand its wings. If you watch closely you can
see them expand."
Presently the moth found a rough projection of bark
and clung with its feet, back down, its wings hanging.
The body was an unusual orange red, the tiny wings were
gray, striped with the red and splotched here and there
with markings of canary yellow. Mrs. Comstock watched
breathlessly. Presently she slipped from the log and
knelt to secure a better view.
"Are its wings developing?" called Elnora.
"They are growing larger and the markings coming
stronger every minute."
"Let's watch, too," said Elnora to Philip.
They came and looked over Mrs. Comstock's shoulder.
Lower drooped the gay wings, wider they spread, brighter
grew the markings as if laid off in geometrical patterns.
They could hear Mrs. Comstock's tense breath and see
her absorbed expression.
"Young people," she said solemnly, "if your studying
science and the elements has ever led you to feel that
things just happen, kind of evolve by chance, as it were,
this sight will be good for you. Maybe earth and air
accumulate, but it takes the wisdom of the Almighty God
to devise the wing of a moth. If there ever was a miracle,
this whole process is one. Now, as I understand it, this
creature is going to keep on spreading those wings, until
they grow to size and harden to strength sufficient to
bear its body. Then it flies away, mates with its kind,
lays its eggs on the leaves of a certain tree, and the eggs
hatch tiny caterpillars which eat just that kind of leaves,
and the worms grow and grow, and take on different
forms and colours until at last they are big caterpillars
six inches long, with large horns. Then they burrow into
the earth, build a water-proof house around themselves
from material which is inside them, and lie through rain
and freezing cold for months. A year from egg laying they
come out like this, and begin the process all over again.
They don't eat, they don't see distinctly, they live but
a few days, and fly only at night; then they drop off easy,
but the process goes on."
A shivering movement went over the moth. The wings
drooped and spread wider. Mrs. Comstock sank into
soft awed tones.
"There never was a moment in my life," she said,
"when I felt so in the Presence, as I do now. I feel as
if the Almighty were so real, and so near, that I could
reach out and touch Him, as I could this wonderful work
of His, if I dared. I feel like saying to Him: `To the
extent of my brain power I realize Your presence, and all
it is in me to comprehend of Your power. Help me to learn,
even this late, the lessons of Your wonderful creations.
Help me to unshackle and expand my soul to the fullest
realization of Your wonders. Almighty God, make me bigger,
make me broader!'"
The moth climbed to the end of the projection, up it
a little way, then suddenly reversed its wings, turned
the hidden sides out and dropped them beside its abdomen,
like a large fly. The upper side of the wings, thus
exposed, was far richer colour, more exquisite texture than
the under, and they slowly half lifted and drooped again.
Mrs. Comstock turned her face to Philip.
"Am I an old fool, or do you feel it, too?" she half whispered.
"You are wiser than you ever have been before,"
answered he. "I feel it, also."
"And I," breathed Elnora.
The moth spread its wings, shivered them tremulously,
opening and closing them rapidly. Philip handed the box
She shook her head.
"I can't take that one," she said. "Give her freedom."
"But, Elnora," protested Mrs. Comstock, "I don't want to
let her go. She's mine. She's the first one I ever found
this way. Can't you put her in a big box, and let her live,
without hurting her? I can't bear to let her go. I want
to learn all about her."
"Then watch while we gather these on the trees," said Elnora.
"We will take her home until night and then decide what to do.
She won't fly for a long time yet."
Mrs. Comstock settled on the ground, gazing at the moth.
Elnora and Philip went to the baited trees, placing
several large moths and a number of smaller ones in the
cyanide jar, and searching the bushes beyond where they
found several paired specimens of differing families.
When they returned Elnora showed her mother how to
hold her hand before the moth so that it would climb upon
her fingers. Then they started back to the cabin, Elnora
and Philip leading the way; Mrs. Comstock followed
slowly, stepping with great care lest she stumble and
injure the moth. Her face wore a look of comprehension,
in her eyes was an exalted light. On she came to the blue-
bordered pool lying beside her path.
A turtle scrambled from a log and splashed into the
water, while a red-wing shouted, "O-ka-lee!" to her.
Mrs. Comstock paused and looked intently at the slime-
covered quagmire, framed in a flower riot and homed over
by sweet-voiced birds. Then she gazed at the thing of
incomparable beauty clinging to her fingers and said softly:
"If you had known about wonders like these in the days of
your youth, Robert Comstock, could you ever have done what
Elnora missed her mother, and turning to look for her,
saw her standing beside the pool. Would the old
fascination return? A panic of fear seized the girl.
She went back swiftly.
"Are you afraid she is going?" Elnora asked. "If you are,
cup your other hand over her for shelter. Carrying her
through this air and in the hot sunshine will dry her wings
and make them ready for flight very quickly. You can't trust
her in such air and light as you can in the cool dark woods."
While she talked she took hold of her mother's sleeve,
anxiously smiling a pitiful little smile that Mrs.
Comstock understood. Philip set his load at the back door,
returning to hold open the garden gate for Elnora and
Mrs. Comstock. He reached it in time to see them standing
together beside the pool. The mother bent swiftly and
kissed the girl on the lips. Philip turned and was busily
hunting moths on the raspberry bushes when they reached
the gate. And so excellent are the rewards of attending
your own business, that he found a Promethea on a lilac
in a corner; a moth of such rare wine-coloured, velvety
shades that it almost sent Mrs. Comstock to her knees again.
But this one was fully developed, able to fly, and had to
be taken into the cabin hurriedly. Mrs. Comstock stood in
the middle of the room holding up her Regalis.
"Now what must I do?" she asked.
Elnora glanced at Philip Ammon. Their eyes met and
both of them smiled; he with amusement at the tall, spare
figure, with dark eyes and white crown, asking the childish
question so confidingly; and Elnora with pride. She was
beginning to appreciate the character of her mother.
"How would you like to sit and see her finish development?
I'll get dinner," proposed the girl.
After they had dined, Philip and Elnora carried the dishes
to the kitchen, brought out boxes, sheets of cork, pins,
ink, paper slips and everything necessary for mounting and
classifying the moths they had taken. When the housework
was finished Mrs. Comstock with her ruffle sat near,
watching and listening. She remembered all they said
that she understood, and when uncertain she asked questions.
Occasionally she laid down her work to straighten some
flower which needed attention or to search the garden for
a bug for the grosbeak. In one of these absences Elnora
said to Philip: "These replace quite a number of the moths I
lost for the man of India. With a week of such luck,
I could almost begin to talk college again."
"There is no reason why you should not have the week
and the luck," said he. "I have taken moths until the
middle of August, though I suspect one is more likely to
find late ones in the north where it is colder than here.
The next week is hay-time, but we can count on a few
double-brooders and strays, and by working the exchange method
for all it is worth, I think we can complete the collection again."
"You almost make me hope," said Elnora, "but I must
not allow myself. I don't truly think I can replace all I
lost, not even with your help. If I could, I scarcely see my
way clear to leave mother this winter. I have found her
so recently, and she is so precious, I can't risk losing