Part 6 out of 8
her again. I am going to take the nature position in the
Onabasha schools, and I shall be most happy doing the work.
Only, these are a temptation."
"I wish you might go to college this fall with the other
girls," said Philip. "I feel that if you don't you never will.
Isn't there some way?"
"I can't see it if there is, and I really don't want to
"Well, mother is mighty glad to hear it," said Mrs.
Comstock, entering the arbour.
Philip noticed that her face was pale, her lips quivering,
her voice cold.
"I was telling your daughter that she should go to
college this winter," he explained, "but she says she
doesn't want to leave you."
"If she wants to go, I wish she could," said Mrs. Comstock,
a look of relief spreading over her face.
"Oh, all girls want to go to college," said Philip. "It's the
only proper place to learn bridge and embroidery; not to
mention midnight lunches of mixed pickles and fruit cake,
and all the delights of the sororities."
"I have thought for years of going to college," said
Elnora, "but I never thought of any of those things."
"That is because your education in fudge and bridge has
been sadly neglected," said Philip. "You should hear my
sister Polly! This was her final year! Lunches and
sororities were all I heard her mention, until Tom Levering
came on deck; now he is the leading subject. I can't
see from her daily conversation that she knows half as
much really worth knowing as you do, but she's ahead of
you miles on fun."
"Oh, we had some good times in the high school," said Elnora.
"Life hasn't been all work and study. Is Edith Carr a
"No. She is the very selectest kind of a private boarding-
"Who is she?" asked Mrs. Comstock.
Philip opened his lips.
"She is a girl in Chicago, that Mr. Ammon knows very
well," said Elnora. "She is beautiful and rich, and a
friend of his sister's. Or, didn't you say that?"
"I don't remember, but she is," said Philip. "This moth
needs an alcohol bath to remove the dope."
"Won't the down come, too?" asked Elnora anxiously.
"No. You watch and you will see it come out, as
Polly would say, `a perfectly good' moth."
"Is your sister younger than you?" inquired Elnora.
"Yes," said Philip, "but she is three years older than you.
She is the dearest sister in all the world. I'd love
to see her now."
"Why don't you send for her," suggested Elnora.
"Perhaps she'd like to help us catch moths."
"Yes, I think Polly in a Virot hat, Picot embroidered
frock and three-inch heels would take more moths than
any one who ever tried the Limberlost," laughed Philip.
"Well, you find many of them, and you are her brother."
"Yes, but that is different. Father was reared in
Onabasha, and he loved the country. He trained me his
way and mother took charge of Polly. I don't quite
understand it. Mother is a great home body herself,
but she did succeed in making Polly strictly ornamental."
"Does Tom Levering need a `strictly ornamental' girl?"
"You are too matter of fact! Too `strictly' material.
He needs a darling girl who will love him plenty, and Polly
"Well, then, does the Limberlost need a `strictly ornamental' girl?"
"No!" cried Philip. "You are ornament enough for
the Limberlost. I have changed my mind. I don't want
Polly here. She would not enjoy catching moths, or anything
"She might," persisted Elnora. "You are her brother,
and surely you care for these things."
"The argument does not hold," said Philip. "Polly and
I do not like the same things when we are at home, but we
are very fond of each other. The member of my family
who would go crazy about this is my father. I wish he
could come, if only for a week. I'd send for him, but he is
tied up in preparing some papers for a great corporation
case this summer. He likes the country. It was his vote
that brought me here."
Philip leaned back against the arbour, watching the
grosbeak as it hunted food between a tomato vine and a
day lily. Elnora set him to making labels, and when he
finished them he asked permission to write a letter.
He took no pains to conceal his page, and from where she
sat opposite him, Elnora could not look his way without
reading: "My dearest Edith." He wrote busily for a time
and then sat staring across the garden.
"Have you run out of material so quickly?" asked Elnora.
"That's about it," said Philip. "I have said that I am
getting well as rapidly as possible, that the air is fine, the
folks at Uncle Doc's all well, and entirely too good to me;
that I am spending most of my time in the country helping
catch moths for a collection, which is splendid exercise;
now I can't think of another thing that will be interesting."
There was a burst of exquisite notes in the maple.
"Put in the grosbeak," suggested Elnora. "Tell her
you are so friendly with him you feed him potato bugs."
Philip lowered the pen to the sheet, bent forward,
"Blest if I do!" he cried. "She'd think a grosbeak was
a depraved person with a large nose. She'd never dream
that it was a black-robed lover, with a breast of snow and
a crimson heart. She doesn't care for hungry babies and
potato bugs. I shall write that to father. He will find
Elnora deftly picked up a moth, pinned it and placed its wings.
She straightened the antennae, drew each leg into position
and set it in perfectly lifelike manner. As she lifted her
work to see if she had it right, she glanced at Philip.
He was still frowning and hesitating over the paper.
"I dare you to let me dictate a couple of paragraphs."
"Done!" cried Philip. "Go slowly enough that I can write it."
Elnora laughed gleefully.
"I am writing this," she began, "in an old grape arbour
in the country, near a log cabin where I had my dinner.
From where I sit I can see directly into the home of the
next-door neighbour on the west. His name is R. B. Grosbeak.
From all I have seen of him, he is a gentleman of the old
school; the oldest school there is, no doubt. He always
wears a black suit and cap and a white vest, decorated with
one large red heart, which I think must be the emblem of
some ancient order. I have been here a number of times,
and I never have seen him wear anything else, or his wife
appear in other than a brown dress with touches of white.
"It has appealed to me at times that she was a shade
neglectful of her home duties, but he does not seem to
feel that way. He cheerfully stays in the sitting-room,
while she is away having a good time, and sings while
he cares for the four small children. I must tell you about
his music. I am sure he never saw inside a conservatory.
I think he merely picked up what he knows by ear and without
vocal training, but there is a tenderness in his tones,
a depth of pure melody, that I never have heard surpassed.
It may be that I think more of his music than that of some
other good vocalists hereabout, because I see more of him
and appreciate his devotion to his home life.
"I just had an encounter with him at the west fence,
and induced him to carry a small gift to his children.
When I see the perfect harmony in which he lives, and
the depth of content he and the brown lady find in life,
I am almost persuaded to-- Now this is going to be
poetry," said Elnora. "Move your pen over here and
begin with a quote and a cap."
Philip's face had been an interesting study while he
wrote her sentences. Now he gravely set the pen where
she indicated, and Elnora dictated--
"Buy a nice little home in the country,
And settle down there for life."
"That's the truth!" cried Philip. "It's as big a temptation as
I ever had. Go on!"
"That's all," said Elnora. "You can finish. The moths
are done. I am going hunting for whatever I can find for
"Wait a minute," begged Philip. "I am going, too."
"No. You stay with mother and finish your letter."
"It is done. I couldn't add anything to that."
"Very well! Sign your name and come on. But I
forgot to tell you all the bargain. Maybe you won't send
the letter when you hear that. The remainder is that
you show me the reply to my part of it."
"Oh, that's easy! I wouldn't have the slightest objection
to showing you the whole letter."
He signed his name, folded the sheets and slipped them
into his pocket.
"Where are we going and what do we take?"
"Will you go, mother?" asked Elnora.
"I have a little work that should be done," said
Mrs. Comstock. "Could you spare me? Where do you want
"We will go down to Aunt Margaret's and see her a
few minutes and get Billy. We will be back in time
Mrs. Comstock smiled as she watched them down the road.
What a splendid-looking pair of young creatures they were!
How finely proportioned, how full of vitality! Then her
face grew troubled as she saw them in earnest conversation.
Just as she was wishing she had not trusted her precious
girl with so much of a stranger, she saw Elnora stoop to
lift a branch and peer under. The mother grew content.
Elnora was thinking only of her work. She was to be
WHEREIN THE LIMBERLOST SINGS FOR PHILIP,
AND THE TALKING TREES TELL GREAT SECRETS
A few days later Philip handed Elnora a sheet
of paper and she read: "In your condition I
should think the moth hunting and life at that
cabin would be very good for you, but for any sake keep
away from that Grosbeak person, and don't come home
with your head full of granger ideas. No doubt he has a
remarkable voice, but I can't bear untrained singers, and
don't you get the idea that a June song is perennial.
You are not hearing the music he will make when the
four babies have the scarlet fever and the measles, and
the gadding wife leaves him at home to care for them then.
Poor soul, I pity her! How she exists where rampant
cows bellow at you, frogs croak, mosquitoes consume
you, the butter goes to oil in summer and bricks in winter,
while the pump freezes every day, and there is no
earthly amusement, and no society! Poor things!
Can't you influence him to move? No wonder she gads when
she has a chance! I should die. If you are thinking
of settling in the country, think also of a woman who
is satisfied with white and brown to accompany you!
Brown! Of all deadly colours! I should go mad in brown."
Elnora laughed while she read. Her face was dimpling,
as she returned the sheet. "Who's ahead?" she asked.
"Who do you think?" he parried.
"She is," said Elnora. "Are you going to tell her
in your next that R. B. Grosbeak is a bird, and that he
probably will spend the winter in a wild plum thicket
"No," said Philip. "I shall tell her that I understand her
ideas of life perfectly, and, of course, I never
shall ask her to deal with oily butter and frozen pumps--"
"--and measley babies," interpolated Elnora.
"Exactly!" said Philip. "At the same time I find so
much to counterbalance those things, that I should not
object to bearing them myself, in view of the recompense.
Where do we go and what do we do to-day?"
"We will have to hunt beside the roads and around the
edge of the Limberlost to-day," said Elnora. "Mother is
making strawberry preserves, and she can't come until
she finishes. Suppose we go down to the swamp and
I'll show you what is left of the flower-room that
Terence O'More, the big lumber man of Great Rapids,
made when he was a homeless boy here. Of course,
you have heard the story?"
"Yes, and I've met the O'Mores who are frequently
in Chicago society. They have friends there. I think
them one ideal couple."
"That sounds as if they might be the only one," said
Elnora, "and, indeed, they are not. I know dozens.
Aunt Margaret and Uncle Wesley are another, the Brownlees
another, and my mathematics professor and his wife.
The world is full of happy people, but no one ever hears
of them. You must fight and make a scandal to get into
the papers. No one knows about all the happy people.
I am happy myself, and look how perfectly inconspicuous
"You only need go where you will be seen," began
Philip, when he remembered and finished. "What do
we take to-day?"
"Ourselves," said Elnora. "I have a vagabond streak in
my blood and it's in evidence. I am going to show you
where real flowers grow, real birds sing, and if I feel quite
right about it, perhaps I shall raise a note or two myself."
"Oh, do you sing?" asked Philip politely.
"At times," answered Elnora. "`As do the birds;
because I must,' but don't be scared. The mood does
not possess me often. Perhaps I shan't raise a note."
They went down the road to the swamp, climbed the
snake fence, followed the path to the old trail and then
turned south upon it. Elnora indicated to Philip the
trail with remnants of sagging barbed wire.
"It was ten years ago," she said. "I was a little school
girl, but I wandered widely even then, and no one cared.
I saw him often. He had been in a city institution all his
life, when he took the job of keeping timber thieves out of
this swamp, before many trees had been cut. It was a
strong man's work, and he was a frail boy, but he grew
hardier as he lived out of doors. This trail we are on is
the path his feet first wore, in those days when he was
insane with fear and eaten up with loneliness, but he stuck
to his work and won out. I used to come down to the road
and creep among the bushes as far as I dared, to watch
him pass. He walked mostly, at times he rode a wheel.
"Some days his face was dreadfully sad, others it was
so determined a little child could see the force in it, and
once he was radiant. That day the Swamp Angel was
with him. I can't tell you what she was like. I never
saw any one who resembled her. He stopped close here
to show her a bird's nest. Then they went on to a sort of
flower-room he had made, and he sang for her. By the
time he left, I had gotten bold enough to come out on
the trail, and I met the big Scotchman Freckles lived with.
He saw me catching moths and butterflies, so he took me
to the flower-room and gave me everything there.
I don't dare come alone often, so I can't keep it up as
he did, but you can see something of how it was."
Elnora led the way and Philip followed. The outlines
of the room were not distinct, because many of the
trees were gone, but Elnora showed how it had been as
nearly as she could.
"The swamp is almost ruined now," she said. "The maples,
walnuts, and cherries are all gone. The talking trees
are the only things left worth while."
"The `talking trees!' I don't understand," commented Philip.
"No wonder!" laughed Elnora. "They are my discovery.
You know all trees whisper and talk during the summer,
but there are two that have so much to say they keep on
the whole winter, when the others are silent. The beeches
and oaks so love to talk, they cling to their dead,
dry leaves. In the winter the winds are stiffest
and blow most, so these trees whisper, chatter, sob,
laugh, and at times roar until the sound is deafening.
They never cease until new leaves come out in the spring
to push off the old ones. I love to stand beneath them
with my ear to the trunks, interpreting what they say
to fit my moods. The beeches branch low, and their
leaves are small so they only know common earthly things;
but the oaks run straight above almost all other trees
before they branch, their arms are mighty, their leaves large.
They meet the winds that travel around the globe, and from
them learn the big things."
Philip studied the girls face. "What do the beeches
tell you, Elnora?" he asked gently.
"To be patient, to be unselfish, to do unto others as
I would have them do to me."
"And the oaks?"
"They say `be true,' `live a clean life,' `send your soul
up here and the winds of the world will teach it what
"Wonderful secrets, those!" marvelled Philip. "Are they
telling them now? Could I hear?"
"No. They are only gossiping now. This is play-time.
They tell the big secrets to a white world, when the
music inspires them."
"All other trees are harps in the winter. Their trunks are
the frames, their branches the strings, the winds the musicians.
When the air is cold and clear, the world very white, and
the harp music swelling, then the talking trees tell the
strengthening, uplifting things."
"You wonderful girl!" cried Philip. "What a woman
you will be!"
"If I am a woman at all worth while, it will be because
I have had such wonderful opportunities," said Elnora.
"Not every girl is driven to the forest to learn what God
has to say there. Here are the remains of Freckles's room.
The time the Angel came here he sang to her, and I listened.
I never heard music like that. No wonder she loved him.
Every one who knew him did, and they do yet. Try that
log, it makes a fairly good seat. This old store box
was his treasure house, just as it's now mine. I will
show you my dearest possession. I do not dare take
it home because mother can't overcome her dislike for it.
It was my father's, and in some ways I am like him.
This is the strongest."
Elnora lifted the violin and began to play. She wore
a school dress of green gingham, with the sleeves rolled to
the elbows. She seemed a part of the setting all around her.
Her head shone like a small dark sun, and her face never
had seemed so rose-flushed and fair. From the instant
she drew the bow, her lips parted and her eyes turned
toward something far away in the swamp, and never did
she give more of that impression of feeling for her notes
and repeating something audible only to her. Philip was
too close to get the best effect. He arose and stepped back
several yards, leaning against a large tree, looking and
As he changed positions he saw that Mrs. Comstock had
followed them, and was standing on the trail, where she
could not have helped hearing everything Elnora had said.
So to Philip before her and the mother watching on the
trail, Elnora played the Song of the Limberlost. It seemed
as if the swamp hushed all its other voices and spoke
only through her dancing bow. The mother out on the
trail had heard it all, once before from the girl, many
times from her father. To the man it was a revelation.
He stood so stunned he forgot Mrs. Comstock. He tried
to realize what a city audience would say to that music,
from such a player, with a similar background, and he
could not imagine.
He was wondering what he dared say, how much he might
express, when the last note fell and the girl laid the
violin in the case, closed the door, locked it and hid the
key in the rotting wood at the end of a log. Then she came
to him. Philip stood looking at her curiously.
"I wonder," he said, "what people would say to that?"
"I played that in public once," said Elnora. "I think
they liked it, fairly well. I had a note yesterday offering
me the leadership of the high school orchestra in Onabasha.
I can take it as well as not. None of my talks to the
grades come the first thing in the morning. I can play
a few minutes in the orchestra and reach the rooms in
plenty of time. It will be more work that I love, and like
finding the money. I would gladly play for nothing,
merely to be able to express myself."
"With some people it makes a regular battlefield of the
human heart--this struggle for self-expression," said Philip.
"You are going to do beautiful work in the world, and do
it well. When I realize that your violin belonged to your
father, that he played it before you were born, and
it no doubt affected your mother strongly, and then couple
with that the years you have roamed these fields and
swamps finding in nature all you had to lavish your heart
upon, I can see how you evolved. I understand what you
mean by self-expression. I know something of what you
have to express. The world never so wanted your message
as it does now. It is hungry for the things you know.
I can see easily how your position came to you. What you
have to give is taught in no college, and I am not sure but
you would spoil yourself if you tried to run your mind
through a set groove with hundreds of others. I never
thought I should say such a thing to any one, but I do say
to you, and I honestly believe it; give up the college idea.
Your mind does not need that sort of development. Stick close
to your work in the woods. You are becoming so infinitely
greater on it, than the best college girl I ever knew,
that there is no comparison. When you have money to
spend, take that violin and go to one of the world's great
masters and let the Limberlost sing to him; if he thinks he
can improve it, very well. I have my doubts."
"Do you really mean that you would give up all idea of
going to college, in my place?"
"I really mean it," said Philip. "If I now held the
money in my hands to send you, and could give it to you
in some way you would accept I would not. I do not
know why it is the fate of the world always to want
something different from what life gives them. If you
only could realize it, my girl, you are in college, and
have been always. You are in the school of experience,
and it has taught you to think, and given you a heart.
God knows I envy the man who wins it! You have been in
the college of the Limberlost all your life, and I never
met a graduate from any other institution who could begin
to compare with you in sanity, clarity, and interesting knowledge.
I wouldn't even advise you to read too many books on your lines.
You acquire your material first hand, and you know that
you are right. What you should do is to begin early
to practise self-expression. Don't wait too long to tell us
about the woods as you know them."
"Follow the course of the Bird Woman, you mean?"
"In your own way; with your own light. She won't
live forever. You are younger, and you will be ready
to begin where she ends. The swamp has given you all
you need so far; now you give it to the world in payment.
College be confounded! Go to work and show people
what there is in you!"
Not until then did he remember Mrs. Comstock.
"Should we go out to the trail and see if your mother is
coming?" he asked.
"Here she is now," said Elnora. "Gracious, it's a mercy
I got that violin put away in time! I didn't expect her
so soon," whispered the girl as she turned and went
toward her mother. Mrs. Comstock's expression was peculiar
as she looked at Elnora.
"I forgot that you were making sun-preserves and they
didn't require much cooking," she said. "We should have
waited for you."
"Not at all!" answered Mrs. Comstock. "Have you
found anything yet?"
"Nothing that I can show you," said Elnora. "I am
almost sure I have found an idea that will revolutionize
the whole course of my work, thought, and ambitions."
"`Ambitions!' My, what a hefty word!" laughed Mrs. Comstock.
"Now who would suspect a little red-haired country girl
of harbouring such a deadly germ in her body? Can you tell
mother about it?"
"Not if you talk to me that way, I can't," said Elnora.
"Well, I guess we better let ambition lie. I've always
heard it was safest asleep. If you ever get a bona fide
attack, it will be time to attend it. Let's hunt specimens.
It is June. Philip and I are in the grades. You have an
hour to put an idea into our heads that will stick for a lifetime,
and grow for good. That's the way I look at your job. Now, what
are you going to give us? We don't want any old silly stuff
that has been hashed over and over, we want a big new idea
to plant in our hearts. Come on, Miss Teacher, what is the
boiled-down, double-distilled essence of June? Give it to
us strong. We are large enough to furnish it developing ground.
Hurry up! Time is short and we are waiting. What is the
miracle of June? What one thing epitomizes the whole month,
and makes it just a little different from any other?"
"The birth of these big night moths," said Elnora promptly.
Philip clapped his hands. The tears started to Mrs.
Comstock's eyes. She took Elnora in her arms, and kissed
"You'll do!" she said. "June is June, not because it
has bloom, bird, fruit, or flower, exclusive to it alone.
It's half May and half July in all of them. But to me,
it's just June, when it comes to these great, velvet-winged
night moths which sweep its moonlit skies, consummating
their scheme of creation, and dropping like a bloomed-
out flower. Give them moths for June. Then make that
the basis of your year's work. Find the distinctive feature
of each month, the one thing which marks it a time apart,
and hit them squarely between the eyes with it. Even the
babies of the lowest grades can comprehend moths when
they see a few emerge, and learn their history, as it can be
lived before them. You should show your specimens in
pairs, then their eggs, the growing caterpillars, and then
the cocoons. You want to dig out the red heart of every
month in the year, and hold it pulsing before them.
"I can't name all of them off-hand, but I think of one
more right now. February belongs to our winter birds.
It is then the great horned owl of the swamp courts his
mate, the big hawks pair, and even the crows begin to
take notice. These are truly our birds. Like the poor
we have them always with us. You should hear the musicians
of this swamp in February, Philip, on a mellow night.
Oh, but they are in earnest! For twenty-one years I've
listened by night to the great owls, all the smaller sizes,
the foxes, coons, and every resident left in these woods,
and by day to the hawks, yellow-hammers, sap-suckers,
titmice, crows, and other winter birds. Only just now it's
come to me that the distinctive feature of February is not
linen bleaching, nor sugar making; it's the love month of our
very own birds. Give them hawks and owls for February, Elnora."
With flashing eyes the girl looked at Philip. "How's that?"
she said. "Don't you think I will succeed, with such help?
You should hear the concert she is talking about! It is
simply indescribable when the ground is covered with snow,
and the moonlight white."
"It's about the best music we have," said Mrs. Comstock.
"I wonder if you couldn't copy that and make a strong,
original piece out of it for your violin, Elnora?"
There was one tense breath, then---- "I could try," said
Philip rushed to the rescue. "We must go to work," he
said, and began examining a walnut branch for Luna moth eggs.
Elnora joined him while Mrs. Comstock drew her embroidery
from her pocket and sat on a log. She said she was tired,
they could come for her when they were ready to go.
She could hear their voices around her until she called
them at supper time. When they came to her she stood
waiting on the trail, the sewing in one hand, the
violin in the other. Elnora became very white, but
followed the trail without a word. Philip, unable to see
a woman carry a heavier load than he, reached for
the instrument. Mrs. Comstock shook her head. She carried
the violin home, took it into her room and closed the door.
Elnora turned to Philip.
"If she destroys that, I shall die!" cried the girl.
"She won't!" said Philip. "You misunderstand her.
She wouldn't have said what she did about the owls, if
she had meant to. She is your mother. No one loves
you as she does. Trust her! Myself--I think she's
Mrs. Comstock returned with serene face, and all of
them helped with the supper. When it was over Philip
and Elnora sorted and classified the afternoon's specimens,
and made a trip to the woods to paint and light several
trees for moths. When they came back Mrs. Comstock
sat in the arbour, and they joined her. The moonlight
was so intense, print could have been read by it.
The damp night air held odours near to earth, making
flower and tree perfume strong. A thousand insects were
serenading, and in the maple the grosbeak occasionally
said a reassuring word to his wife, while she answered
that all was well. A whip-poor-will wailed in the swamp and
beside the blue-bordered pool a chat complained disconsolately.
Mrs. Comstock went into the cabin, but she returned immediately,
laying the violin and bow across Elnora's lap. "I wish you
would give us a little music," she said.
WHEREIN MRS. COMSTOCK DANCES IN THE MOONLIGHT,
AND ELNORA MAKES A CONFESSION
Billy was swinging in the hammock, at peace with himself
and all the world, when he thought he heard something.
He sat bolt upright, his eyes staring. Once he opened
his lips, then thought again and closed them.
The sound persisted. Billy vaulted the fence,
and ran down the road with his queer sidewise hop.
When he neared the Comstock cabin, he left the
warm dust of the highway and stepped softly at slower
pace over the rank grasses of the roadside. He had
heard aright. The violin was in the grape arbour,
singing a perfect jumble of everything, poured out in
an exultant tumult. The strings were voicing the joy of
a happy girl heart.
Billy climbed the fence enclosing the west woods and
crept toward the arbour. He was not a spy and not a sneak.
He merely wanted to satisfy his child-heart as to
whether Mrs. Comstock was at home, and Elnora at last
playing her loved violin with her mother's consent.
One peep sufficed. Mrs. Comstock sat in the moonlight,
her head leaning against the arbour; on her face was a
look of perfect peace and contentment. As he stared at
her the bow hesitated a second and Mrs. Comstock spoke:
"That's all very melodious and sweet," she said, "but I
do wish you could play Money Musk and some of the
tunes I danced as a girl."
Elnora had been carefully avoiding every note that
might be reminiscent of her father. At the words she
laughed softly and began "Turkey in the Straw."
An instant later Mrs. Comstock was dancing in the
moon light. Ammon sprang to her side, caught her in
his arms, while to Elnora's laughter and the violin's
impetus they danced until they dropped panting on the
Billy scarcely knew when he reached the road. His light
feet barely touched the soft way, so swiftly he flew.
He vaulted the fence and burst into the house.
"Aunt Margaret! Uncle Wesley!" he screamed. "Listen!
Listen! She's playing it! Elnora's playing her violin
at home! And Aunt Kate is dancing like anything
before the arbour! I saw her in the moonlight! I ran down!
Oh, Aunt Margaret!"
Billy fled sobbing to Margaret's breast.
"Why Billy!" she chided. "Don't cry, you little dunce!
That's what we've all prayed for these many years; but
you must be mistaken about Kate. I can't believe it."
Billy lifted his head. "Well, you just have to!" he said.
"When I say I saw anything, Uncle Wesley knows I did.
The city man was dancing with her. They danced together
and Elnora laughed. But it didn't look funny to me;
I was scared."
"Who was it said `wonders never cease,'" asked Wesley.
"You mark my word, once you get Kate Comstock started,
you can't stop her. There's a wagon load of penned-up
force in her. Dancing in the moonlight! Well, I'll
Billy was at his side instantly. "Whoever does it will
have to hang me, too," he cried.
Sinton threw his arm around Billy and drew him closely.
"Tell us all about it, son," he said. Billy told. "And when
Elnora just stopped a breath, `Can't you play some
of the old things I knew when I was a girl?' said her ma.
Then Elnora began to do a thing that made you want to
whirl round and round, and quicker 'an scat there was her
ma a-whirling. The city man, he ups and grabs her and
whirls, too, and back in the woods I was going just like
they did. Elnora begins to laugh, and I ran to tell you,
cos I knew you'd like to know. Now, all the world is
right, ain't it?" ended Billy in supreme satisfaction.
"You just bet it is!" said Wesley.
Billy looked steadily at Margaret. "Is it, Aunt Margaret?"
Margaret Sinton smiled at him bravely.
An hour later when Billy was ready to climb the stairs
to his room, he went to Margaret to say good night.
He leaned against her an instant, then brought his lips
to her ear. "Wish I could get your little girls back
for you!" he whispered and dashed toward the stairs.
Down at the Comstock cabin the violin played on until
Elnora was so tired she scarcely could lift the bow.
Then Philip went home. The women walked to the gate
with him, and stood watching him from sight.
"That's what I call one decent young man!" said
Mrs. Comstock. "To see him fit in with us, you'd think
he'd been brought up in a cabin; but it's likely he's
always had the very cream o' the pot."
"Yes, I think so," laughed Elnora, "but it hasn't
hurt him. I've never seen anything I could criticise.
He's teaching me so much, unconsciously. You know
he graduated from Harvard, and has several degrees in law.
He's coming in the morning, and we are going to put in a
big day on Catocalae."
"Those gray moths with wings that fold back like big
flies, and they appear as if they had been carved from
old wood. Then, when they fly, the lower wings flash
out and they are red and black, or gold and black, or
pink and black, or dozens of bright, beautiful colours
combined with black. No one ever has classified all
of them and written their complete history, unless the
Bird Woman is doing it now. She wants everything
she can get about them."
"I remember," said Mrs. Comstock. "They are mighty
pretty things. I've started up slews of them from the
vines covering the logs, all my life. I must be cautious
and catch them after this, but they seem powerful spry.
I might get hold of something rare." She thought
intently and added, "And wouldn't know it if I did.
It would just be my luck. I've had the rarest thing on
earth in reach this many a day and only had the wit to
cinch it just as it was going. I'll bet I don't let
anything else escape me."
Next morning Philip came early, and he and Elnora
went at once to the fields and woods. Mrs. Comstock
had come to believe so implicitly in him that she now
stayed at home to complete the work before she joined
them, and when she did she often sat sewing, leaving
them wandering hours at a time. It was noon before
she finished, and then she packed a basket of lunch.
She found Elnora and Philip near the violet patch, which
was still in its prime. They all lunched together in the
shade of a wild crab thicket, with flowers spread at their
feet, and the gold orioles streaking the air with flashes
of light and trailing ecstasy behind them, while the red-
wings, as always, asked the most impertinent questions.
Then Mrs. Comstock carried the basket back to the cabin,
and Philip and Elnora sat on a log, resting a few minutes.
They had unexpected luck, and both were eager to continue
"Do you remember your promise about these violets?"
asked he. "To-morrow is Edith's birthday, and if I'd
put them special delivery on the morning train, she'd
get them in the late afternoon. They ought to keep
that long. She leaves for the North next day."
"Of course, you may have them," said Elnora. "We will
quit long enough before supper to gather a large bunch.
They can be packed so they will carry all right.
They should be perfectly fresh, especially if we gather
them this evening and let them drink all night."
Then they went back to hunt Catocalae. It was a
long and a happy search. It led them into new,
unexplored nooks of the woods, past a red-poll nest,
and where goldfinches prospected for thistledown for
the cradles they would line a little later. It led
them into real forest, where deep, dark pools lay,
where the hermit thrush and the wood robin extracted
the essence from all other bird melody, and poured it
out in their pure bell-tone notes. It seemed as if
every old gray tree-trunk, slab of loose bark, and
prostrate log yielded the flashing gray treasures;
while of all others they seemed to take alarm most
easily, and be most difficult to capture.
Philip came to Elnora at dusk, daintily holding one
by the body, its dark wings showing and its long slender
legs trying to clasp his fingers and creep from his hold.
"Oh for mercy's sake!" cried Elnora, staring at him.
"I half believe it!" exulted Ammon.
"Did you ever see one?"
"Only in collections, and very seldom there."
Elnora studied the black wings intently. "I surely
believe that's Sappho," she marvelled. "The Bird Woman
will be overjoyed."
"We must get the cyanide jar quickly," said Philip.
"I wouldn't lose her for anything. Such a chase as she
Elnora brought the jar and began gathering up paraphernalia.
"When you make a find like that," she said, "it's the
right time to quit and feel glorious all the rest of
that day. I tell you I'm proud! We will go now. We have
barely time to carry out our plans before supper.
Won't mother be pleased to see that we have a rare one?"
"I'd like to see any one more pleased than I am!" said
Philip Ammon. "I feel as if I'd earned my supper to-night.
He took the greater part of the load and stepped aside
for Elnora to precede him. She followed the path, broken
by the grazing cattle, toward the cabin and nearest the
violet patch she stopped, laid down her net, and the things
she carried. Philip passed her and hurried straight
toward the back gate.
"Aren't you going to----?" began Elnora.
"I'm going to get this moth home in a hurry," he said.
"This cyanide has lost its strength, and it's not
working well. We need some fresh in the jar."
He had forgotten the violets! Elnora stood looking
after him, a curious expression on her face. One second
so--then she picked up the net and followed. At the
blue-bordered pool she paused and half turned back, then
she closed her lips firmly and went on. It was nine o'clock
when Philip said good-bye, and started to town. His gay
whistle floated to them from the farthest corner of
the Limberlost. Elnora complained of being tired, so she
went to her room and to bed. But sleep would not come.
Thought was racing in her brain and the longer she lay
the wider awake she grew. At last she softly slipped from
bed, lighted her lamp and began opening boxes. Then she
went to work. Two hours later a beautiful birch bark
basket, strongly and artistically made, stood on her table.
She set a tiny alarm clock at three, returned to bed and
fell asleep instantly with a smile on her lips.
She was on the floor with the first tinkle of the alarm,
and hastily dressing, she picked up the basket and a box
to fit it, crept down the stairs, and out to the violet patch.
She was unafraid as it was growing light, and lining the
basket with damp mosses she swiftly began picking, with
practised hands, the best of the flowers. She scarcely
could tell which were freshest at times, but day soon came
creeping over the Limberlost and peeped at her. The robins
awoke all their neighbours, and a babel of bird notes
filled the air. The dew was dripping, while the first strong
rays of light fell on a world in which Elnora worshipped.
When the basket was filled to overflowing, she set it in the
stout pasteboard box, packed it solid with mosses, tied it
firmly and slipped under the cord a note she had written
the previous night.
Then she took a short cut across the woods and walked
swiftly to Onabasha. It was after six o'clock, but all of
the city she wished to avoid were asleep. She had no
trouble in finding a small boy out, and she stood at a
distance waiting while he rang Dr. Ammon's bell and
delivered the package for Philip to a maid, with the note
which was to be given him at once.
On the way home through the woods passing some baited
trees she collected the captive moths. She entered
the kitchen with them so naturally that Mrs. Comstock
made no comment. After breakfast Elnora went to her
room, cleared away all trace of the night's work and was
out in the arbour mounting moths when Philip came down
the road. "I am tired sitting," she said to her mother.
"I think I will walk a few rods and meet him."
"Who's a trump?" he called from afar.
"Not you!" retorted Elnora. "Confess that you forgot!"
"Completely!" said Philip. "But luckily it would not
have been fatal. I wrote Polly last week to send Edith
something appropriate to-day, with my card. But that
touch from the woods will be very effective. Thank you
more than I can say. Aunt Anna and I unpacked it to
see the basket, and it was a beauty. She says you are
always doing such things."
"Well, I hope not!" laughed Elnora. "If you'd seen
me sneaking out before dawn, not to awaken mother and
coming in with moths to make her think I'd been to the
trees, you'd know it was a most especial occasion."
"Then Philip understood two things: Elnora's mother
did not know of the early morning trip to the city, and
the girl had come to meet him to tell him so.
"You were a brick to do it!" he whispered as he closed
the gate behind them. "I'll never forget you for it.
Thank you ever so much."
"I did not do that for you," said Elnora tersely. "I did
it mostly to preserve my own self-respect. I saw you
were forgetting. If I did it for anything besides that,
I did it for her."
"Just look what I've brought!" said Philip, entering
the arbour and greeting Mrs. Comstock. "Borrowed it
of the Bird Woman. And it isn't hers. A rare edition
of Catocalae with coloured plates. I told her the best I
could, and she said to try for Sappho here. I suspect the
Bird Woman will be out presently. She was all excitement."
Then they bent over the book together and with the
mounted moth before them determined her family. The Bird
Woman did come later, and carried the moth away, to put
into a book and Elnora and Philip were freshly filled
So these days were the beginning of the weeks that followed.
Six of them flying on Time's wings, each filled
to the brim with interest. After June, the moth hunts
grew less frequent; the fields and woods were searched
for material for Elnora's grade work. The most absorbing
occupation they found was in carrying out Mrs. Comstock's
suggestion to learn the vital thing for which each
month was distinctive, and make that the key to the
nature work. They wrote out a list of the months,
opposite each the things all of them could suggest which seemed
to pertain to that month alone, and then tried to sift until
they found something typical. Mrs. Comstock was a
great help. Her mother had been Dutch and had brought
from Holland numerous quaint sayings and superstitions
easily traceable to Pliny's Natural History; and in Mrs.
Comstock's early years in Ohio she had heard much Indian
talk among her elders, so she knew the signs of each season,
and sometimes they helped. Always her practical
thought and sterling common sense were useful. When they
were afield until exhausted they came back to the
cabin for food, to prepare specimens and classify them,
and to talk over the day. Sometimes Philip brought
books and read while Elnora and her mother worked,
and every night Mrs. Comstock asked for the violin.
Her perfect hunger for music was sufficient evidence of how
she had suffered without it. So the days crept by, golden,
filled with useful work and pure pleasure.
The grosbeak had led the family in the maple abroad
and a second brood, in a wild grape vine clambering over
the well, was almost ready for flight. The dust lay thick
on the country roads, the days grew warmer; summer
was just poising to slip into fall, and Philip remained,
coming each day as if he had belonged there always.
One warm August afternoon Mrs. Comstock looked
up from the ruffle on which she was engaged to see
a blue-coated messenger enter the gate.
"Is Philip Ammon here?" asked the boy.
"He is," said Mrs. Comstock.
"I have a message for him."
"He is in the woods back of the cabin. I will ring the bell.
Do you know if it is important?"
"Urgent," said the boy; "I rode hard."
Mrs. Comstock stepped to the back door and clanged
the dinner bell sharply, paused a second, and rang again.
In a short time Philip and Elnora ran down the path.
"Are you ill, mother?" cried Elnora.
Mrs. Comstock indicated the boy. "There is an important
message for Philip," she said.
He muttered an excuse and tore open the telegram.
His colour faded slightly. "I have to take the first train,"
he said. "My father is ill and I am needed."
He handed the sheet to Elnora. "I have about two
hours, as I remember the trains north, but my things are
all over Uncle Doc's house, so I must go at once."
"Certainly," said Elnora, giving back the message.
"Is there anything I can do to help? Mother, bring
Philip a glass of buttermilk to start on. I will gather
what you have here."
"Never mind. There is nothing of importance. I don't
want to be hampered. I'll send for it if I miss anything
Philip drank the milk, said good-bye to Mrs. Comstock;
thanked her for all her kindness, and turned to Elnora.
"Will you walk to the edge of the Limberlost with me?"
he asked. Elnora assented. Mrs. Comstock followed
to the gate, urged him to come again soon, and repeated
her good-bye. Then she went back to the arbour to
await Elnora's return. As she watched down the road
she smiled softly.
"I had an idea he would speak to me first," she thought,
"but this may change things some. He hasn't time.
Elnora will come back a happy girl, and she has
good reason. He is a model young man. Her lot will
be very different from mine."
She picked up her embroidery and began setting dainty
precise little stitches, possible only to certain women.
On the road Elnora spoke first. "I do hope it is
nothing serious," she said. "Is he usually strong?"
"Quite strong," said Philip. "I am not at all alarmed
but I am very much ashamed. I have been well enough
for the past month to have gone home and helped him
with some critical cases that were keeping him at work
in this heat. I was enjoying myself so I wouldn't offer
to go, and he would not ask me to come, so long as he could
help it. I have allowed him to overtax himself until he
is down, and mother and Polly are north at our cottage.
He's never been sick before, and it's probable I am to
blame that he is now."
"He intended you to stay this long when you came,"
"Yes, but it's hot in Chicago. I should have
remembered him. He is always thinking of me. Possibly he
has needed me for days. I am ashamed to go to him in
splendid condition and admit that I was having such a
fine time I forgot to come home."
"You have had a fine time, then?" asked Elnora.
They had reached the fence. Philip vaulted over to
take a short cut across the fields. He turned and looked
"The best, the sweetest, and most wholesome time
any man ever had in this world," he said. "Elnora, if
I talked hours I couldn't make you understand what a
girl I think you are. I never in all my life hated anything
as I hate leaving you. It seems to me that I have not
strength to do it."
"If you have learned anything worth while from me,"
said Elnora, "that should be it. Just to have strength to
go to your duty, and to go quickly."
He caught the hand she held out to him in both his.
"Elnora, these days we have had together, have they
been sweet to you?"
"Beautiful days!" said Elnora. "Each like a perfect
dream to be thought over and over all my life. Oh, they
have been the only really happy days I've ever known;
these days rich with mother's love, and doing useful work
with your help. Good-bye! You must hurry!"
Philip gazed at her. He tried to drop her hand, only
clutched it closer. Suddenly he drew her toward him.
"Elnora," he whispered, "will you kiss me good-bye?"
Elnora drew back and stared at him with wide eyes.
"I'd strike you sooner!" she said. "Have I ever said or
done anything in your presence that made you feel free to
ask that, Philip Ammon?"
"No!" panted Philip. "No! I think so much of you
I wanted to touch your lips once before I left you.
You know, Elnora----"
"Don't distress yourself," said Elnora calmly. "I am
broad enough to judge you sanely. I know what you mean.
It would be no harm to you. It would not matter to me,
but here we will think of some one else. Edith Carr
would not want your lips to-morrow if she knew they
had touched mine to-day. I was wise to say: `Go quickly!'"
Philip still clung to her. "Will you write me?" he begged.
"No," said Elnora. "There is nothing to say, save good-bye.
We can do that now."
He held on. "Promise that you will write me only one
letter," he urged. "I want just one message from you to
lock in my desk, and keep always. Promise you will
write once, Elnora."
She looked into his eyes, and smiled serenely. "If the
talking trees tell me this winter, the secret of how a man
may grow perfect, I will write you what it is, Philip.
In all the time I have known you, I never have liked you
so little. Good-bye."
She drew away her hand and swiftly turned back to the road.
Philip Ammon, wordless, started toward Onabasha on a run.
Elnora crossed the road, climbed the fence and sought
the shelter of their own woods. She chose a diagonal
course and followed it until she came to the path leading
past the violet patch. She went down this hurriedly.
Her hands were clenched at her side, her eyes dry and
bright, her cheeks red-flushed, and her breath coming fast.
When she reached the patch she turned into it and stood
looking around her.
The mosses were dry, the flowers gone, weeds a foot
high covered it. She turned away and went on down the
path until she was almost in sight of the cabin.
Mrs. Comstock smiled and waited in the arbour until
it occurred to her that Elnora was a long time coming, so
she went to the gate. The road stretched away toward
the Limberlost empty and lonely. Then she knew that
Elnora had gone into their own woods and would come in
the back way. She could not understand why the girl did
not hurry to her with what she would have to tell.
She went out and wandered around the garden. Then she
stepped into the path and started along the way leading to
the woods, past the pool now framed in a thick setting of
yellow lilies. Then she saw, and stopped, gasping for breath.
Her hands flew up and her lined face grew ghastly.
She stared at the sky and then at the prostrate girl figure.
Over and over she tried to speak, but only a dry breath came.
She turned and fled back to the garden.
In the familiar enclosure she gazed around her like a
caged animal seeking escape. The sun beat down on her
bare head mercilessly, and mechanically she moved to the
shade of a half-grown hickory tree that voluntarily had
sprouted beside the milk house. At her feet lay an axe
with which she made kindlings for fires. She stooped and
picked it up. The memory of that prone figure sobbing in
the grass caught her with a renewed spasm. She shut her
eyes as if to close it out. That made hearing so acute she
felt certain she heard Elnora moaning beside the path.
The eyes flew open. They looked straight at a few
spindling tomato plants set too near the tree and stunted
by its shade. Mrs. Comstock whirled on the hickory and
swung the axe. Her hair shook down, her clothing became
disarranged, in the heat the perspiration streamed, but
stroke fell on stroke until the tree crashed over, grazing
a corner of the milk house and smashing the garden fence
on the east.
At the sound Elnora sprang to her feet and came running
down the garden walk. "Mother!" she cried. "Mother!
What in the world are you doing?"
Mrs. Comstock wiped her ghastly face on her apron.
"I've laid out to cut that tree for years," she said.
"It shades the beets in the morning, and the tomatoes
in the afternoon!"
Elnora uttered one wild little cry and fled into her
mother's arms. "Oh mother!" she sobbed. "Will you
ever forgive me?"
Mrs. Comstock's arms swept together in a tight grip
"There isn't a thing on God's footstool from a to izzard
I won't forgive you, my precious girl!" she said. "Tell mother
what it is!"
Elnora lifted her wet face. "He told me," she panted,
"just as soon as he decently could--that second day he
told me. Almost all his life he's been engaged to a girl
at home. He never cared anything about me. He was only
interested in the moths and growing strong."
Mrs. Comstock's arms tightened. With a shaking hand
she stroked the bright hair.
"Tell me, honey," she said. "Is he to blame for a
single one of these tears?"
"Not one!" sobbed Elnora. "Oh mother, I won't forgive you
if you don't believe that. Not one! He never said,
or looked, or did anything all the world might not
have known. He likes me very much as a friend.
He hated to go dreadfully!"
"Elnora!" the mother's head bent until the white hair
mingled with the brown. "Elnora, why didn't you tell me
Elnora caught her breath in a sharp snatch. "I know
I should!" she sobbed. "I will bear any punishment for
not, but I didn't feel as if I possibly could. I was afraid."
"Afraid of what?" the shaking hand was on the hair again.
"Afraid you wouldn't let him come!" panted Elnora.
"And oh, mother, I wanted him so!"
WHEREIN MRS. COMSTOCK EXPERIMENTS WITH REJUVENATION,
AND ELNORA TEACHES NATURAL HISTORY
For the following week Mrs. Comstock and Elnora
worked so hard there was no time to talk, and they
were compelled to sleep from physical exhaustion.
Neither of them made any pretence of eating, for they
could not swallow without an effort, so they drank milk
and worked. Elnora kept on setting bait for Catacolae
and Sphinginae, which, unlike the big moths of June, live
several months. She took all the dragonflies and
butterflies she could, and when she went over the list
for the man of India, she found, to her amazement,
that with Philip's help she once more had it complete
save a pair of Yellow Emperors.
This circumstance was so surprising she had a fleeting
thought of writing Philip and asking him to see if he could
not secure her a pair. She did tell the Bird Woman, who
from every source at her command tried to complete the
series with these moths, but could not find any for sale.
"I think the mills of the Gods are grinding this grist,"
said Elnora, "and we might as well wait patiently until
they choose to send a Yellow Emperor."
Mrs. Comstock invented work. When she had nothing more
to do, she hoed in the garden although the earth was hard
and dry and there were no plants that really needed attention.
Then came a notification that Elnora would be compelled
to attend a week's session of the Teachers' Institute
held at the county seat twenty miles north of Onabasha
the following week. That gave them something of which
to think and real work to do. Elnora was requested to bring
her violin. As she was on the programme of one of the most
important sessions for a talk on nature work in grade schools,
she was driven to prepare her speech, also to select and
practise some music. Her mother turned her attention to clothing.
They went to Onabasha together and purchased a simple
and appropriate fall suit and hat, goods for a dainty little
coloured frock, and a dress skirt and several fancy waists.
Margaret Sinton came down and the sewing began. When everything
was finished and packed, Elnora kissed her mother good-bye
at the depot, and entered the train. Mrs. Comstock went into
the waiting-room and dropped into a seat to rest. Her heart
was so sore her whole left side felt tender. She was half
starved for the food she had no appetite to take. She had
worked in dogged determination until she was exhausted.
For a time she simply sat and rested. Then she began to think.
She was glad Elnora had gone where she would be compelled to
fix her mind on other matters for a few days. She remembered
the girl had said she wanted to go.
School would begin the following week. She thought
over what Elnora would have to do to accomplish her
work successfully. She would be compelled to arise at
six o'clock, walk three miles through varying weather, lead
the high school orchestra, and then put in the remainder of
the day travelling from building to building over the city,
teaching a specified length of time every week in each room.
She must have her object lessons ready, and she must do a
certain amount of practising with the orchestra. Then a
cold lunch at noon, and a three-mile walk at night.
"Humph!" said Mrs. Comstock, "to get through that
the girl would have to be made of cast-iron. I wonder
how I can help her best?"
She thought deeply.
"The less she sees of what she's been having all summer,
the sooner she'll feel better about it," she muttered.
She arose, went to the bank and inquired for the cashier.
"I want to know just how I am fixed here," she said.
The cashier laughed. "You haven't been in a hurry,"
he replied. "We have been ready for you any time these
twenty years, but you didn't seem to pay much attention.
Your account is rather flourishing. Interest, when it gets
to compounding, is quite a money breeder. Come back
here to a table and I will show you your balances."
Mrs. Comstock sank into a chair and waited while
the cashier read a jumble of figures to her. It meant
that her deposits had exceeded her expenses from one
to three hundred dollars a year, according to the cattle,
sheep, hogs, poultry, butter, and eggs she had sold.
The aggregate of these sums had been compounding interest
throughout the years. Mrs. Comstock stared at the
total with dazed and unbelieving eyes. Through her
sick heart rushed the realization, that if she merely had
stood before that wicket and asked one question, she
would have known that all those bitter years of skimping
for Elnora and herself had been unnecessary. She arose
and went back to the depot.
"I want to send a message," she said. She picked
up the pencil, and with rash extravagance, wrote, "Found
money at bank didn't know about. If you want to go
to college, come on first train and get ready."
She hesitated a second and then she said to herself grimly,
"Yes, I'll pay for that, too," and recklessly added, "With
love, Mother." Then she sat waiting for the answer. It came
in less than an hour. "Will teach this winter. With dearest
Mrs. Comstock held the message a long time. When she
arose she was ravenously hungry, but the pain in her
heart was a little easier. She went to a restaurant
and ate some food, then to a dressmaker where she ordered
four dresses: two very plain every-day ones, a serviceable
dark gray cloth suit, and a soft light gray silk with
touches of lavender and lace. She made a heavy list
of purchases at Brownlee's, and the remainder of the day
she did business in her direct and spirited way. At night
she was so tired she scarcely could walk home, but she
built a fire and cooked and ate a hearty meal.
Later she went out beside the west fence and gathered
an armful of tansy which she boiled to a thick green tea.
Then she stirred in oatmeal until it was a stiff paste.
She spread a sheet over her bed and began tearing strips
of old muslin. She bandaged each hand and arm with the
mixture and plastered the soggy, evil-smelling stuff in a
thick poultice over her face and neck. She was so tired
she went to sleep, and when she awoke she was half skinned.
She bathed her face and hands, did the work and went back
to town, coming home at night to go through the same process.
By the third morning she was a raw even red, the fourth
she had faded to a brilliant pink under the soothing
influence of a cream recommended. That day came a
letter from Elnora saying that she would remain where
she was until Saturday morning, and then come to Ellen
Brownlee's at Onabasha and stay for the Saturday's
session of teachers to arrange their year's work.
Sunday was Ellen's last day at home, and she wanted Elnora
very much. She had to call together the orchestra and
practise them Sunday; and could not come home until
after school Monday night. Mrs. Comstock at once
answered the letter saying those arrangements suited her.
The following day she was a pale pink, later a delicate
porcelain white. Then she went to a hairdresser and
had the rope of snowy hair which covered her scalp washed,
dressed, and fastened with such pins and combs as were
decided to be most becoming. She took samples of her
dresses, went to a milliner, and bought a street hat to
match her suit, and a gray satin with lavender orchids to
wear with the silk dress. Her last investment was a loose
coat of soft gray broadcloth with white lining, and touches
of lavender on the embroidered collar, and gray gloves to match.
Then she went home, rested and worked by turns
until Monday. When school closed on that evening,
Elnora, so tired she almost trembled, came down the
long walk after a late session of teachers' meeting,
to be stopped by a messenger boy.
"There's a lady wants to see you most important.
I am to take you to the place," he said.
Elnora groaned. She could not imagine who wanted
her, but there was nothing to do but find out; tired and
anxious to see her mother as she was.
"This is the place," said the boy, and went his way whistling.
Elnora was three blocks from the high school building on the
same street. She was before a quaint old house, fresh with
paint and covered with vines. There was a long wide lot,
grass-covered, closely set with trees, and a barn and chicken
park at the back that seemed to be occupied. Elnora stepped
on the veranda which was furnished with straw rugs, bent-
hickory chairs, hanging baskets, and a table with a work-
box and magazines, and knocked at the screen door.
Inside she could see polished floors, walls freshly papered
in low-toned harmonious colours, straw rugs and madras curtains.
It seemed to be a restful, homelike place to which she had come.
A second later down an open stairway came a tall, dark-eyed
woman with cheeks faintly pink and a crown of fluffy snow-
white hair. She wore a lavender gingham dress with white
collar and cuffs, and she called as she advanced: "That screen
isn't latched! Open it and come see your brand-new mother,
Elnora stepped inside the door. "Mother!" she cried.
"You my mother! I don't believe it!"
"Well, you better!" said Mrs. Comstock, "because
it's true! You said you wished I were like the other
girls' mothers, and I've shot as close the mark as I could
without any practice. I thought that walk would be
too much for you this winter, so I just rented this house
and moved in, to be near you, and help more in case I'm needed.
I've only lived here a day, but I like it so well I've a
mortal big notion to buy the place."
"But mother!" protested Elnora, clinging to her wonderingly.
"You are perfectly beautiful, and this house is a little
paradise, but how will we ever pay for it? We can't afford it!"
"Humph! Have you forgotten I telegraphed you I'd
found some money I didn't know about? All I've done
is paid for, and plenty more to settle for all I
propose to do."
Mrs. Comstock glanced around with satisfaction.
"I may get homesick as a pup before spring," she said,
"but if I do I can go back. If I don't, I'll sell some
timber and put a few oil wells where they don't show much.
I can have land enough cleared for a few fields and put
a tenant on our farm, and we will buy this and settle here.
It's for sale."
"You don't look it, but you've surely gone mad!"
"Just the reverse, my girl," said Mrs. Comstock,
"I've gone sane. If you are going to undertake this
work, you must be convenient to it. And your mother
should be where she can see that you are properly dressed,
fed, and cared for. This is our--let me think--reception-room.
How do you like it? This door leads to your workroom and study.
I didn't do much there because I wasn't sure of my way.
But I knew you would want a rug, curtains, table, shelves
for books, and a case for your specimens, so I had a
carpenter shelve and enclose that end of it. Looks pretty
neat to me. The dining-room and kitchen are back, one
of the cows in the barn, and some chickens in the coop.
I understand that none of the other girls' mothers milk a
cow, so a neighbour boy will tend to ours for a third of
the milk. There are three bedrooms, and a bath upstairs.
Go take one, put on some fresh clothes, and come to supper.
You can find your room because your things are in it."
Elnora kissed her mother over and over, and hurried upstairs.
She identified her room by the dressing-case. There were
a pretty rug, and curtains, white iron bed, plain and
rocking chairs to match her case, a shirtwaist chest,
and the big closet was filled with her old clothing and
several new dresses. She found the bathroom, bathed,
dressed in fresh linen and went down to a supper that
was an evidence of Mrs. Comstock's highest art in cooking.
Elnora was so hungry she ate her first real meal in two weeks.
But the bites went down slowly because she forgot about them
in watching her mother.
"How on earth did you do it?" she asked at last. "I always
thought you were naturally brown as a nut."
"Oh, that was tan and sunburn!" explained Mrs. Comstock.
"I always knew I was white underneath it. I hated to
shade my face because I hadn't anything but a sunbonnet,
and I couldn't stand for it to touch my ears, so I went
bareheaded and took all the colour I accumulated.
But when I began to think of moving you in to your work,
I saw I must put up an appearance that wouldn't disgrace
you, so I thought I'd best remove the crust. It took
some time, and I hope I may die before I ever endure
the feel and the smell of the stuff I used again, but it
skinned me nicely. What you now see is my own with a
little dust of rice powder, for protection. I'm sort of
"And your lovely, lovely hair?" breathed Elnora.
"Hairdresser did that!" said Mrs. Comstock. "It cost
like smoke. But I watched her, and with a little
help from you I can wash it alone next time, though it
will be hard work. I let her monkey with it until she
said she had found `my style.' Then I tore it down and
had her show me how to build it up again three times.
I thought my arms would drop. When I paid the bill for
her work, the time I'd taken, the pins, and combs she'd
used, I nearly had heart failure, but I didn't turn a hair
before her. I just smiled at her sweetly and said, `How
reasonable you are!' Come to think of it, she was! She might
have charged me ten dollars for what she did quite as well
as nine seventy-five. I couldn't have helped myself.
I had made no bargain to begin on."
Then Elnora leaned back in her chair and shouted, in a
gust of hearty laughter, so a little of the ache ceased
in her breast. There was no time to think, the remainder
of that evening, she was so tired she had to sleep, while
her mother did not awaken her until she barely had time
to dress, breakfast and reach school. There was nothing
in the new life to remind her of the old. It seemed as
if there never came a minute for retrospection, but her
mother appeared on the scene with more work, or some
entertaining thing to do.
Mrs. Comstock invited Elnora's friends to visit her,
and proved herself a bright and interesting hostess.
She digested a subject before she spoke; and when she
advanced a view, her point was sure to be original and
tersely expressed. Before three months people waited
to hear what she had to say. She kept her appearance so
in mind that she made a handsome and a distinguished figure.
Elnora never mentioned Philip Ammon, neither did
Mrs. Comstock. Early in December came a note and a
big box from him. It contained several books on nature
subjects which would be of much help in school work,
a number of conveniences Elnora could not afford, and a
pair of glass-covered plaster casts, for each large moth
she had. In these the upper and underwings of male and
female showed. He explained that she would break her
specimens easily, carrying them around in boxes. He had
seen these and thought they would be of use. Elnora was
delighted with them, and at once began the tedious process
of softening the mounted moths and fitting them to the
casts moulded to receive them. Her time was so taken in
school, she progressed slowly, so her mother undertook
this work. After trying one or two very common ones she
learned to handle the most delicate with ease. She took
keen pride in relaxing the tense moths, fitting them to the
cases, polishing the glass covers to the last degree and
sealing them. The results were beautiful to behold.
Soon after Elnora wrote to Philip:
I am writing to thank you for the books, and the box of conveniences
sent me for my work. I can use everything with fine results.
Hope I am giving good satisfaction in my position. You will be
interested to learn that when the summer's work was classified and
pinned, I again had my complete collection for the man of India,
save a Yellow Emperor. I have tried everywhere I know, so has the
Bird Woman. We cannot find a pair for sale. Fate is against me,
at least this season. I shall have to wait until next year and try again.
Thank you very much for helping me with my collection and for the
books and cases.
Philip was disappointed over that note and instead of
keeping it he tore it into bits and dropped them into the
That was precisely what Elnora had intended he should do.
Christmas brought beautiful cards of greeting to
Mrs. Comstock and Elnora, Easter others, and the year
ran rapidly toward spring. Elnora's position had been
intensely absorbing, while she had worked with all her power.
She had made a wonderful success and won new friends.
Mrs. Comstock had helped in every way she could, so she was
very popular also.
Throughout the winter they had enjoyed the city thoroughly,
and the change of life it afforded, but signs of spring
did wonderful things to the hearts of the country-bred women.
A restlessness began on bright February days, calmed during
March storms and attacked full force in April. When neither
could bear it any longer they were forced to discuss the matter
and admit they were growing ill with pure homesickness.
They decided to keep the city house during the summer,
but to return to the farm to live as soon as school closed.
So Mrs. Comstock would prepare breakfast and lunch
and then slip away to the farm to make up beds in her
ploughed garden, plant seeds, trim and tend her flowers,
and prepare the cabin for occupancy. Then she would go
home and make the evening as cheerful as possible for
Elnora; in these days she lived only for the girl.
Both of them were glad when the last of May came and the
schools closed. They packed the books and clothing they
wished to take into a wagon and walked across the fields
to the old cabin. As they approached it, Mrs. Comstock
said to Elnora: "You are sure you won't be lonely here?"
Elnora knew what she really meant.
"Quite sure," she said. "For a time last fall I was
glad to be away, but that all wore out with the winter.
Spring made me homesick as I could be. I can scarcely wait
until we get back again."
So they began that summer as they had begun all others
--with work. But both of them took a new joy in everything,
and the violin sang by the hour in the twilight.
WHEREIN PHILIP AMMON GIVES A BALL IN HONOUR OF EDITH CARR,
AND HART HENDERSON APPEARS ON THE SCENE
Edith Carr stood in a vine-enclosed side veranda
of the Lake Shore Club House waiting while Philip
Ammon gave some important orders. In a few days
she would sail for Paris to select a wonderful trousseau
she had planned for her marriage in October. To-night
Philip was giving a club dance in her honour. He had
spent days in devising new and exquisite effects in
decorations, entertainment, and supper. Weeks before the
favoured guests had been notified. Days before they had
received the invitations asking them to participate in this
entertainment by Philip Ammon in honour of Miss Carr.
They spoke of it as "Phil's dance for Edith!"
She could hear the rumble of carriages and the panting
of automobiles as in a steady stream they rolled to the
front entrance. She could catch glimpses of floating
draperies of gauze and lace, the flash of jewels, and the
passing of exquisite colour. Every one was newly arrayed
in her honour in the loveliest clothing, and the most
expensive jewels they could command. As she thought of it
she lifted her head a trifle higher and her eyes flashed proudly.
She was robed in a French creation suggested and designed
by Philip. He had said to her: "I know a competent
judge who says the distinctive feature of June is her
exquisite big night moths. I want you to be the very
essence of June that night, as you will be the embodiment
of love. Be a moth. The most beautiful of them is either
the pale-green Luna or the Yellow Imperialis. Be my
moon lady, or my gold Empress."
He took her to the museum and showed her the moths.
She instantly decided on the yellow. Because she knew
the shades would make her more startlingly beautiful than
any other colour. To him she said: "A moon lady seems
so far away and cold. I would be of earth and very near
on that night. I choose the Empress."
So she matched the colours exactly, wrote out the idea
and forwarded the order to Paquin. To-night when
Philip Ammon came for her, he stood speechless a minute
and then silently kissed her hands.
For she stood tall, lithe, of grace inborn, her dark waving
hair high piled and crossed by gold bands studded with
amethyst and at one side an enamelled lavender orchid
rimmed with diamonds, which flashed and sparkled. The soft
yellow robe of lightest weight velvet fitted her form
perfectly, while from each shoulder fell a great velvet wing
lined with lavender, and flecked with embroidery of that
colour in imitation of the moth. Around her throat was a
wonderful necklace and on her arms were bracelets of gold
set with amethyst and rimmed with diamonds. Philip had said
that her gloves, fan, and slippers must be lavender, because
the feet of the moth were that colour. These accessories
had been made to order and embroidered with gold. It had
been arranged that her mother, Philip's, and a few best
friends should receive his guests. She was to appear when
she led the grand march with Philip Ammon. Miss Carr was
positive that she would be the most beautiful, and most
exquisitely gowned woman present. In her heart she thought
of herself as "Imperialis Regalis," as the Yellow Empress.
In a few moments she would stun her world into feeling it as
Philip Ammon had done, for she had taken pains that the
history of her costume should be whispered to a few who
would give it circulation. She lifted her head proudly and
waited, for was not Philip planning something unusual and
unsurpassed in her honour? Then she smiled.
But of all the fragmentary thoughts crossing her brain the
one that never came was that of Philip Ammon as the Emperor.
Philip the king of her heart; at least her equal in all things.
She was the Empress--yes, Philip was but a mere man, to
devise entertainments, to provide luxuries, to humour whims,
to kiss hands!
"Ah, my luck!" cried a voice behind her.
Edith Carr turned and smiled.
"I thought you were on the ocean," she said.
"I only reached the dock," replied the man, "when I had
a letter that recalled me by the first limited."
"Oh! Important business?"
"The only business of any importance in all the world
to me. I'm triumphant that I came. Edith, you are the
most superb woman in every respect that I have ever seen.
One glimpse is worth the whole journey."
"You like my dress?" She moved toward him and turned,
lifting her arms. "Do you know what it is intended
"Yes, Polly Ammon told me. I knew when I heard
about it how you would look, so I started a sleuth hunt,
to get the first peep. Edith, I can become intoxicated
merely with looking at you to-night."
He half-closed his eyes and smilingly stared straight at her.
He was taller than she, a lean man, with close-cropped light
hair, steel-gray eyes, a square chin and "man of the world"
written all over him.
Edith Carr flushed. "I thought you realized when you
went away that you were to stop that, Hart Henderson,"
"I did, but this letter of which I tell you called me back
to start it all over again."
She came a step closer. "Who wrote that letter, and
what did it contain concerning me?" she demanded.
"One of your most intimate chums wrote it. It contained
the hazard that possibly I had given up too soon. It said
that in a fit of petulance you had broken your engagement
with Ammon twice this winter, and he had come back because
he knew you did not really mean it. I thought deeply there
on the dock when I read that, and my boat sailed without me.
I argued that anything so weak as an engagement twice broken
and patched up again was a mighty frail affair indeed, and
likely to smash completely at any time, so I came on the run.
I said once I would not see you marry any other man.
Because I could not bear it, I planned to go into exile of
any sort to escape that. I have changed my mind. I have
come back to haunt you until the ceremony is over. Then I go,
not before. I was insane!"
The girl laughed merrily. "Not half so insane as you
are now, Hart!" she cried gaily. "You know that Philip
Ammon has been devoted to me all my life. Now I'll tell
you something else, because this looks serious for you.
I love him with all my heart. Not while he lives shall he
know it, and I will laugh at him if you tell him, but the
fact remains: I intend to marry him, but no doubt I shall
tease him constantly. It's good for a man to be uncertain.
If you could see Philip's face at the quarterly return of his
ring, you would understand the fun of it. You had better
have taken your boat."
"Possibly," said Henderson calmly. "But you are the
only woman in the world for me, and while you are free, as
I now see my light, I remain near you. You know the old adage."
"But I'm not `free!'" cried Edith Carr. "I'm telling
you I am not. This night is my public acknowledgment
that Phil and I are promised, as our world has surmised
since we were children. That promise is an actual fact,
because of what I just have told you. My little fits of
temper don't count with Phil. He's been reared on them.
In fact, I often invent one in a perfect calm to see him
perform. He is the most amusing spectacle. But, please,
please, do understand that I love him, and always shall,
and that we shall be married."
"Just the same, I'll wait and see it an accomplished
fact," said Henderson. "And Edith, because I love you,
with the sort of love it is worth a woman's while to
inspire, I want your happiness before my own. So I
am going to say this to you, for I never dreamed you
were capable of the feeling you have displayed for Phil.
If you do love him, and have loved him always, a
disappointment would cut you deeper than you know.
Go careful from now on! Don't strain that patched
engagement of yours any further. I've known Philip all
my life. I've known him through boyhood, in college,
and since. All men respect him. Where the rest of us
confess our sins, he stands clean. You can go to his arms
with nothing to forgive. Mark this thing! I have heard
him say, `Edith is my slogan,' and I have seen him march
home strong in the strength of his love for you, in the face
of temptations before which every other man of us fell.
Before the gods! that ought to be worth something to a
girl, if she really is the delicate, sensitive, refined
thing she would have man believe. It would take a woman
with the organism of an ostrich to endure some of the
men here to-night, if she knew them as I do; but Phil
is sound to the core. So this is what I would say
to you: first, your instincts are right in loving him,
why not let him feel it in the ways a woman knows?
Second, don't break your engagement again. As men
know the man, any of us would be afraid to the soul.
He loves you, yes! He is long-suffering for you, yes!
But men know he has a limit. When the limit is
reached, he will stand fast, and all the powers can't
move him. You don't seem to think it, but you can go
"Is that all?" laughed Edith Carr sarcastically.
"No, there is one thing more," said Henderson. "Here or
here-after, now and so long as I breathe, I am your slave.
You can do anything you choose and know that I will
kneel before you again. So carry this in the depths of
your heart; now or at any time, in any place or condition,
merely lift your hand, and I will come. Anything you
want of me, that thing will I do. I am going to wait; if
you need me, it is not necessary to speak; only give me
the faintest sign. All your life I will be somewhere near
you waiting for it."
"Idjit! You rave!" laughed Edith Carr. "How you
would frighten me! What a bugbear you would raise!
Be sensible and go find what keeps Phil. I was waiting
patiently, but my patience is going. I won't look nearly
so well as I do now when it is gone."
At that instant Philip Ammon entered. He was in
full evening dress and exceptionally handsome.
"Everything is ready," he said; "they are waiting for
us to lead the march. It is formed."
Edith Carr smiled entrancingly. "Do you think I am ready?"
Philip looked what he thought, and offered his arm.
Edith Carr nodded carelessly to Hart Henderson, and
moved away. Attendants parted the curtains and the
Yellow Empress bowing right and left, swept the length
of the ballroom and took her place at the head of the
formed procession. The large open dancing pavilion was
draped with yellow silk caught up with lilac flowers.
Every corner was filled with bloom of those colours.
The music was played by harpers dressed in yellow and
violet, so the ball opened.
The midnight supper was served with the same colours
and the last half of the programme was being danced.
Never had girl been more complimented and petted in
the same length of time than Edith Carr. Every minute
she seemed to grow more worthy of praise. A partners'
dance was called and the floor was filled with couples
waiting for the music. Philip stood whispering delightful
things to Edith facing him. From out of the night,
in at the wide front entrance to the pavilion, there
swept in slow wavering flight a large yellow moth and
fluttered toward the centre cluster of glaring electric lights.
Philip Ammon and Edith Carr saw it at the same instant.
"Why, isn't that----?" she began excitedly.
"It's a Yellow Emperor! This is fate!" cried Philip.
"The last one Elnora needs for her collection. I must
have it! Excuse me!"
He ran toward the light. "Hats! Handkerchiefs! Fans!
Anything!" he panted. "Every one hold up something and
stop that! It's a moth; I've got to catch it!"
"It's yellow! He wants it for Edith!" ran in a murmur
around the hall. The girl's face flushed, while she bit her
lips in vexation.
Instantly every one began holding up something to
keep the moth from flying back into the night. One fan
held straight before it served, and the moth gently settled
"Hold steady!" cried Philip. "Don't move for your life!"
He rushed toward the moth, made a quick sweep and held it
up between his fingers. "All right!" he called. "Thanks,
every one! Excuse me a minute."
He ran to the office.
"An ounce of gasolene, quick!" he ordered. "A cigar
box, a cork, and the glue bottle."
He poured some glue into the bottom of the box, set the
cork in it firmly, dashed the gasolene over the moth
repeatedly, pinned it to the cork, poured the remainder
of the liquid over it, closed the box, and fastened it.
Then he laid a bill on the counter.
"Pack that box with cork around it, in one twice its
size, tie securely and express to this address at once."
He scribbled on a sheet of paper and shoved it over.
"On your honour, will you do that faithfully as I say?"
he asked the clerk.
"Certainly," was the reply.
"Then keep the change," called Philip as he ran back
to the pavilion.
Edith Carr stood where he left her, thinking rapidly.
She heard the murmur that arose when Philip started
to capture the exquisite golden creature she
was impersonating. She saw the flash of surprise that
went over unrestrained faces when he ran from the room,
without even showing it to her. "The last one Elnora
needs," rang in her ears. He had told her that he
helped collect moths the previous summer, but she had
understood that the Bird Woman, with whose work Miss
Carr was familiar, wanted them to put in a book.
He had spoken of a country girl he had met who played
the violin wonderfully, and at times, he had shown a
disposition to exalt her as a standard of womanhood.