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A Girl Of The Limberlost, by Gene Stratton Porter

Part 8 out of 8

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taking heart. "What's that on your finger, and what did
she say to you?"

Elnora explained about the ring as she drew it off.

"I have several letters to write, then I am going to
change my dress and walk down toward Aunt Margaret's
for a little exercise. I may meet some of them, and I don't
want them to see this ring. You keep it until Philip
comes," said Elnora. "As for what Miss Carr said to me,
many things, two of importance: one, that I lacked every
social requirement necessary for the happiness of Philip
Ammon, and that if I married him I would see inside a
month that he was ashamed of me----"

"Aw, shockins!" scorned Mrs. Comstock. "Go on!"

"The other was that she has been engaged to him for
years, that he belongs to her, and she refuses to give
him up. She said that if he were in her presence one hour,
she would have him under a mysterious thing she calls `her
spell' again; if he were where she could see him for one
week, everything would be made up. It is her opinion
that he is suffering from wounded pride, and that the
slightest concession on her part will bring him to his knees
before her."

Mrs. Comstock giggled. "I do hope the boy isn't weak-kneed,"
she said. "I just happened to be passing the west window
this afternoon----"

Elnora laughed. "Nothing save actual knowledge ever
would have made me believe there was a girl in all this
world so infatuated with herself. She speaks casually of
her power over men, and boasts of `bringing a man to his
knees' as complacently as I would pick up a net and say:
`I am going to take a butterfly.' She honestly believes
that if Philip were with her a short time she could rekindle
his love for her and awaken in him every particle of
the old devotion. Mother, the girl is honest! She is
absolutely sincere! She so believes in herself and the
strength of Phil's love for her, that all her life she will
believe in and brood over that thought, unless she is
taught differently. So long as she thinks that, she will
nurse wrong ideas and pine over her blighted life. She must
be taught that Phil is absolutely free, and yet he will not go
to her."

"But how on earth are you proposing to teach her that?"

"The way will open."

"Lookey here, Elnora!" cried Mrs. Comstock. "That Carr
girl is the handsomest dark woman I ever saw. She's got
to the place where she won't stop at anything. Her coming
here proves that. I don't believe there was a thing
the matter with that automobile. I think that was a
scheme she fixed up to get Phil where she could see him
alone, as she worked to see you. If you are going
deliberately to put Philip under her influence again, you've
got to brace yourself for the possibility that she may win.
A man is a weak mortal, where a lovely woman is concerned,
and he never denied that he loved her once. You may make
yourself downright miserable."

"But mother, if she won, it wouldn't make me half so
miserable as to marry Phil myself, and then read hunger
for her in his eyes! Some one has got to suffer over this.
If it proves to be me, I'll bear it, and you'll never hear a
whisper of complaint from me. I know the real Philip
Ammon better in our months of work in the fields than she
knows him in all her years of society engagements.
So she shall have the hour she asked, many, many of them,
enough to make her acknowledge that she is wrong.
Now I am going to write my letters and take my walk."

Elnora threw her arms around her mother and kissed
her repeatedly. "Don't you worry about me," she said.
"I will get along all right, and whatever happens, I always
will be your girl and you my darling mother."

She left two sealed notes on her desk. Then she
changed her dress, packed a small bundle which she
dropped with her hat from the window beside the willow,
and softly went down stairs. Mrs. Comstock was in
the garden. Elnora picked up the hat and bundle, hurried
down the road a few rods, then climbed the fence and
entered the woods. She took a diagonal course, and after
a long walk reached a road two miles west and one south.
There she straightened her clothing, put on her hat and a
thin dark veil and waited the passing of the next trolley.
She left it at the first town and took a train for Fort Wayne.
She made that point just in time to climb on the evening
train north, as it pulled from the station. It was after
midnight when she left the car at Grand Rapids, and went
into the depot to await the coming of day.

Tired out, she laid her head on her bundle and fell asleep
on a seat in the women's waiting-room. Long after light
she was awakened by the roar and rattle of trains. She washed,
re-arranged her hair and clothing, and went into the general
waiting-room to find her way to the street. She saw him as
he entered the door. There was no mistaking the tall,
lithe figure, the bright hair, the lean, brown-splotched face,
the steady gray eyes. He was dressed for travelling, and
carried a light overcoat and a bag. Straight to him Elnora
went speeding.

"Oh, I was just starting to find you!" she cried.

"Thank you!" he said.

"You are going away?" she panted.

"Not if I am needed. I have a few minutes. Can you
be telling me briefly?"

"I am the Limberlost girl to whom your wife gave the
dress for Commencement last spring, and both of you sent
lovely gifts. There is a reason, a very good reason, why I
must be hidden for a time, and I came straight to you--as
if I had a right."

"You have!" answered Freckles. "Any boy or girl who
ever suffered one pang in the Limberlost has a claim
to the best drop of blood in my heart. You needn't be
telling me anything more. The Angel is at our cottage
on Mackinac. You shall tell her and play with the babies
while you want shelter. This way!"

They breakfasted in a luxurious car, talked over the
swamp, the work of the Bird Woman; Elnora told of her
nature lectures in the schools, and soon they were
good friends. In the evening they left the train at
Mackinaw City and crossed the Straits by boat. Sheets of
white moonlight flooded the water and paved a molten path
across the breast of it straight to the face of the moon.

The island lay a dark spot on the silver surface, its tall
trees sharply outlined on the summit, and a million lights
blinked around the shore. The night guns boomed from
the white fort and a dark sentinel paced the ramparts
above the little city tucked down close to the water.
A great tenor summering in the north came out on the upper
deck of the big boat, and baring his head, faced the moon
and sang: "Oh, the moon shines bright on my old
Kentucky home!" Elnora thought of the Limberlost, of
Philip, and her mother, and almost choked with the sobs
that would arise in her throat. On the dock a woman of
exquisite beauty swept into the arms of Terence O'More.

"Oh, Freckles!" she cried. "You've been gone a month!"

"Four days, Angel, only four days by the clock,"
remonstrated Freckles. "Where are the children?"

"Asleep! Thank goodness! I'm worn to a thread. I never
saw such inventive, active children. I can't keep track of them!"

"I have brought you help," said Freckles. "Here is the
Limberlost girl in whom the Bird Woman is interested.
Miss Comstock needs a rest before beginning her school
work for next year, so she came to us."

"You dear thing! How good of you!" cried the Angel.
"We shall be so happy to have you!"

In her room that night, in a beautiful cottage furnished
with every luxury, Elnora lifted a tired face to the Angel.

"Of course, you understand there is something back of
this?" she said. "I must tell you."

"Yes," agreed the Angel. "Tell me! If you get it out
of your system, you will stand a better chance of sleeping."

Elnora stood brushing the copper-bright masses of her
hair as she talked. When she finished the Angel was
almost hysterical.

"You insane creature!" she cried. "How crazy of you
to leave him to her! I know both of them. I have met
them often. She may be able to make good her boast.
But it is perfectly splendid of you! And, after all, really
it is the only way. I can see that. I think it is what I
should have done myself, or tried to do. I don't know
that I could have done it! When I think of walking away
and leaving Freckles with a woman he once loved, to let
her see if she can make him love her again, oh, it gives me
a graveyard heart. No, I never could have done it! You are
bigger than I ever was. I should have turned coward, sure."

"I am a coward," admitted Elnora. "I am soul-sick!
I am afraid I shall lose my senses before this is over.
I didn't want to come! I wanted to stay, to go straight
into his arms, to bind myself with his ring, to love him
with all my heart. It wasn't my fault that I came.
There was something inside that just pushed me. She is
beautiful----"

"I quite agree with you!"

"You can imagine how fascinating she can be. She used
no arts on me. Her purpose was to cower me. She found
she could not do that, but she did a thing which helped
her more: she proved that she was honest, perfectly
sincere in what she thought. She believes that if she
merely beckons to Philip, he will go to her. So I am giving
her the opportunity to learn from him what he will do.
She never will believe it from any one else. When she is
satisfied, I shall be also."

"But, child! Suppose she wins him back!"

"That is the supposition with which I shall eat and sleep
for the coming few weeks. Would one dare ask for a peep
at the babies before going to bed?"

"Now, you are perfect!" announced the Angel. "I never
should have liked you all I can, if you had been content
to go to sleep in this house without asking to see
the babies. Come this way. We named the first boy
for his father, of course, and the girl for Aunt Alice.
The next boy is named for my father, and the baby for
the Bird Woman. After this we are going to branch out."

Elnora began to laugh.

"Oh, I suspect there will be quite a number of them,"
said the Angel serenely. "I am told the more there are
the less trouble they make. The big ones take care of the
little ones. We want a large family. This is our start."

She entered a dark room and held aloft a candle. She went
to the side of a small white iron bed in which lay a
boy of eight and another of three. They were perfectly
formed, rosy children, the elder a replica of his mother,
the other very like. Then they came to a cradle where a
baby girl of almost two slept soundly, and made a picture.

"But just see here!" said the Angel. She threw the light
on a sleeping girl of six. A mass of red curls swept
the pillow. Line and feature the face was that of Freckles.
Without asking, Elnora knew the colour and expression
of the closed eyes. The Angel handed Elnora the candle,
and stooping, straightened the child's body. She ran
her fingers through the bright curls, and lightly touched
the aristocratic little nose.

"The supply of freckles holds out in my family, you see!"
she said. "Both of the girls will have them, and the
second boy a few."

She stood an instant longer, then bending, ran her hand
caressingly down a rosy bare leg, while she kissed the
babyish red mouth. There had been some reason for
touching all of them, the kiss fell on the lips which were
like Freckles's.

To Elnora she said a tender good-night, whispering
brave words of encouragement and making plans to fill
the days to come. Then she went away. An hour later
there was a light tap on the girl's door.

"Come!" she called as she lay staring into the dark.

The Angel felt her way to the bedside, sat down and
took Elnora's hands.

"I just had to come back to you," she said. "I have
been telling Freckles, and he is almost hurting himself
with laughing. I didn't think it was funny, but he does.
He thinks it's the funniest thing that ever happened.
He says that to run away from Mr. Ammon, when you
had made him no promise at all, when he wasn't sure of
you, won't send him home to her; it will set him hunting you!
He says if you had combined the wisdom of Solomon,
Socrates, and all the remainder of the wise men, you
couldn't have chosen any course that would have sealed
him to you so surely. He feels that now Mr. Ammon will
perfectly hate her for coming down there and driving
you away. And you went to give her the chance she wanted.
Oh, Elnora! It is becoming funny! I see it, too!"

The Angel rocked on the bedside. Elnora faced the
dark in silence.

"Forgive me," gulped the Angel. "I didn't mean to laugh.
I didn't think it was funny, until all at once it
came to me. Oh, dear! Elnora, it funny! I've got
to laugh!"

"Maybe it is," admitted Elnora "to others; but it
isn't very funny to me. And it won't be to Philip, or
to mother."

That was very true. Mrs. Comstock had been slightly
prepared for stringent action of some kind, by what Elnora
had said. The mother instantly had guessed where the
girl would go, but nothing was said to Philip. That would
have been to invalidate Elnora's test in the beginning, and
Mrs. Comstock knew her child well enough to know that
she never would marry Philip unless she felt it right that
she should. The only way was to find out, and Elnora
had gone to seek the information. There was nothing to
do but wait until she came back, and her mother was not
in the least uneasy but that the girl would return brave and
self-reliant, as always.

Philip Ammon hurried back to the Limberlost, strong
in the hope that now he might take Elnora into his arms
and receive her promise to become his wife. His first
shock of disappointment came when he found her gone.
In talking with Mrs. Comstock he learned that Edith Carr
had made an opportunity to speak with Elnora alone.
He hastened down the road to meet her, coming back alone,
an agitated man. Then search revealed the notes. His read:

DEAR PHILIP:

I find that I am never going to be able to answer your question of
this afternoon fairly to all of us, when you are with me. So I am going
away a few weeks to think over matters alone. I shall not tell you,
or even mother, where I am going, but I shall be safe, well cared for,
and happy. Please go back home and live among your friends, just
as you always have done, and on or before the first of September, I
will write you where I am, and what I have decided. Please do not
blame Edith Carr for this, and do not avoid her. I hope you will call
on her and be friends. I think she is very sorry, and covets your
friendship at least. Until September, then, as ever,

ELNORA.

Mrs. Comstock's note was much the same. Philip was
ill with disappointment. In the arbour he laid his head on
the table, among the implements of Elnora's loved work, and
gulped down dry sobs he could not restrain. Mrs. Comstock
never had liked him so well. Her hand involuntarily crept
toward his dark head, then she drew back. Elnora would not
want her to do anything whatever to influence him.

"What am I going to do to convince Edith Carr that I
do not love her, and Elnora that I am hers?" he demanded.

"I guess you have to figure that out yourself," said
Mrs. Comstock. "I'd be glad to help you if I could,
but it seems to be up to you."

Philip sat a long time in silence. "Well, I have decided!"
he said abruptly. "Are you perfectly sure Elnora had
plenty of money and a safe place to go?"

"Absolutely!" answered Mrs. Comstock. "She has
been taking care of herself ever since she was born, and she
always has come out all right, so far; I'll stake all I'm
worth on it, that she always will. I don't know where she
is, but I'm not going to worry about her safety."

"I can't help worrying!" cried Philip. "I can think of
fifty things that may happen to her when she thinks she
is safe. This is distracting! First, I am going to run
up to see my father. Then, I'll let you know what we
have decided. Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Nothing!" said Mrs. Comstock.

But the desire to do something for him was so strong
with her she scarcely could keep her lips closed or her
hands quiet. She longed to tell him what Edith Carr had
said, how it had affected Elnora, and to comfort him as she
felt she could. But loyalty to the girl held her. If Elnora
truly felt that she could not decide until Edith Carr was
convinced, then Edith Carr would have to yield or triumph.
It rested with Philip. So Mrs. Comstock kept silent, while
Philip took the night limited, a bitterly disappointed man.

By noon the next day he was in his father's offices. They had
a long conference, but did not arrive at much until the elder
Ammon suggested sending for Polly. Anything that might have
happened could be explained after Polly had told of the
private conference between Edith and Elnora.

"Talk about lovely woman!" cried Philip Ammon. "One would
think that after such a dose as Edith gave me, she would
be satisfied to let me go my way, but no! Not caring for
me enough herself to save me from public disgrace, she must
now pursue me to keep any other woman from loving me.
I call that too much! I am going to see her, and I want
you to go with me, father."

"Very well," said Mr. Ammon, "I will go."

When Edith Carr came into her reception-room that
afternoon, gowned for conquest, she expected only Philip,
and him penitent. She came hurrying toward him, smiling,
radiant, ready to use every allurement she possessed, and
paused in dismay when she saw his cold face and his father.
"Why, Phil!" she cried. "When did you come home?"

"I am not at home," answered Philip. "I merely ran up
to see my father on business, and to inquire of you what
it was you said to Miss Comstock yesterday that caused
her to disappear before I could return to the Limberlost."

"Miss Comstock disappear! Impossible!" cried Edith Carr.
"Where could she go?"

"I thought perhaps you could answer that, since it was
through you that she went."

"Phil, I haven't the faintest idea where she is," said the
girl gently.

"But you know perfectly why she went! Kindly tell me that."

"Let me see you alone, and I will."

"Here and now, or not at all."

"Phil!"

"What did you say to the girl I love?"

Then Edith Carr stretched out her arms.

"Phil, I am the girl you love!" she cried. "All your
life you have loved me. Surely it cannot be all gone in
a few weeks of misunderstanding. I was jealous of her!
I did not want you to leave me an instant that night for any
other girl living. That was the moth I was representing.
Every one knew it! I wanted you to bring it to me.
When you did not, I knew instantly it had been for her
that you worked last summer, she who suggested my
dress, she who had power to take you from me, when I
wanted you most. The thought drove me mad, and I said
and did those insane things. Phil, I beg your pardon!
I ask your forgiveness. Yesterday she said that you had
told her of me at once. She vowed both of you had been
true to me and Phil, I couldn't look into her eyes and not
see that it was the truth. Oh, Phil, if you understood how
I have suffered you would forgive me. Phil, I never knew
how much I cared for you! I will do anything--anything!"

"Then tell me what you said to Elnora yesterday that
drove her, alone and friendless, into the night, heaven
knows where!"

"You have no thought for any one save her?"

"Yes," said Philip. "I have. Because I once loved you,
and believed in you, my heart aches for you. I will gladly
forgive anything you ask. I will do anything you want,
except to resume our former relations. That is impossible.
It is hopeless and useless to ask it."

"You truly mean that!"

"Yes."

"Then find out from her what I said!"

"Come, father," said Philip, rising.

"You were going to show Miss Comstock's letter to
Edith!" suggested Mr. Ammon.

"I have not the slightest interest in Miss Comstock's
letter," said Edith Carr.

"You are not even interested in the fact that she says
you are not responsible for her going, and that I am to call
on you and be friends with you?"

"That is interesting, indeed!" sneered Miss Carr.

She took the letter, read and returned it.

"She has done what she could for my cause, it seems,"
she said coldly. "How very generous of her! Do you
propose calling out Pinkertons and instituting a
general search?"

"No," replied Philip. "I simply propose to go back to
the Limberlost and live with her mother, until Elnora
becomes convinced that I am not courting you, and never
shall be. Then, perhaps, she will come home to us.
Good-bye. Good luck to you always!"

CHAPTER XXIV

WHEREIN EDITH CARR WAGES A BATTLE,
AND HART HENDERSON STANDS GUARD

Many people looked, a few followed, when Edith Carr
slowly came down the main street of Mackinac, pausing
here and there to note the glow of colour in one small
booth after another, overflowing with gay curios.
That street of packed white sand, winding with the
curves of the shore, outlined with brilliant shops,
and thronged with laughing, bare-headed people in outing
costumes was a picturesque and fascinating sight.
Thousands annually made long journeys and paid exorbitant
prices to take part in that pageant.

As Edith Carr passed, she was the most distinguished
figure of the old street. Her clinging black gown was
sufficiently elaborate for a dinner dress. On her head was
a large, wide, drooping-brimmed black hat, with immense
floating black plumes, while on the brim, and among the
laces on her breast glowed velvety, deep red roses.
Some way these made up for the lack of colour in her cheeks
and lips, and while her eyes seemed unnaturally bright,
to a close observer they appeared weary. Despite the
effort she made to move lightly she was very tired,
and dragged her heavy feet with an effort.

She turned at the little street leading to the dock, and
went to meet the big lake steamer ploughing up the Straits
from Chicago. Past the landing place, on to the very end
of the pier she went, then sat down, leaned against a dock
support and closed her tired eyes. When the steamer
came very close she languidly watched the people lining
the railing. Instantly she marked one lean anxious face
turned toward hers, and with a throb of pity she lifted a
hand and waved to Hart Henderson. He was the first
man to leave the boat, coming to her instantly. She spread
her trailing skirts and motioned him to sit beside her.
Silently they looked across the softly lapping water.
At last she forced herself to speak to him.

"Did you have a successful trip?"

"I accomplished my purpose."

"You didn't lose any time getting back."

"I never do when I am coming to you."

"Do you want to go to the cottage for anything?"

"No."

"Then let us sit here and wait until the Petoskey
steamer comes in. I like to watch the boats.
Sometimes I study the faces, if I am not too tired."

"Have you seen any new types to-day?"

She shook her head. "This has not been an easy day, Hart."

"And it's going to be worse," said Henderson bitterly.
"There's no use putting it off. Edith, I saw some one to-day."

"You should have seen thousands," she said lightly.

"I did. But of them all, only one will be of interest to you."

"Man or woman?"

"Man."

"Where?"

"Lake Shore private hospital."

"An accident?"

"No. Nervous and physical breakdown."

"Phil said he was going back to the Limberlost."

"He went. He was there three weeks, but the strain
broke him. He has an old letter in his hands that he has
handled until it is ragged. He held it up to me and said:
"You can see for yourself that she says she will be well and
happy, but we can't know until we see her again, and that
may never be. She may have gone too near that place her
father went down, some of that Limberlost gang may have
found her in the forest, she may lie dead in some city
morgue this instant, waiting for me to find her body."

"Hart! For pity sake stop!"

"I can't," cried Henderson desperately. "I am forced
to tell you. They are fighting brain fever. He did go
back to the swamp and he prowled it night and day.
The days down there are hot now, and the nights wet with
dew and cold. He paid no attention and forgot his food.
A fever started and his uncle brought him home.
They've never had a word from her, or found a trace
of her. Mrs. Comstock thought she had gone to O'Mores' at
Great Rapids, so when Phil broke down she telegraphed there.
They had been gone all summer, so her mother is as anxious as Phil."

"The O'Mores are here," said Edith. "I haven't seen
any of them, because I haven't gone out much in the
few days since we came, but this is their summer home."

"Edith, they say at the hospital that it will take careful
nursing to save Phil. He is surrounded by stacks of
maps and railroad guides. He is trying to frame up a plan
to set the entire detective agency of the country to work.
He says he will stay there just two days longer. The doctors
say he will kill himself when he goes. He is a sick
man, Edith. His hands are burning and shaky and his
breath was hot against my face."

"Why are you telling me?" It was a cry of acute anguish.

"He thinks you know where she is."

"I do not! I haven't an idea! I never dreamed she
would go away when she had him in her hand! I should
not have done it!"

"He said it was something you said to her that made her go."

"That may be, but it doesn't prove that I know where
she went."

Henderson looked across the water and suffered keenly. At last
he turned to Edith and laid a firm, strong hand over hers.

"Edith," he said, "do you realize how serious this is?"

"I suppose I do."

"Do you want as fine a fellow as Philip driven any further?
If he leaves that hospital now, and goes out to the
exposure and anxiety of a search for her, there will be a
tragedy that no after regrets can avert. Edith, what did
you say to Miss Comstock that made her run away from Phil?"

The girl turned her face from him and sat still, but the
man gripping her hands and waiting in agony could see that
she was shaken by the jolting of the heart in her breast.

"Edith, what did you say?"

"What difference can it make?"

"It might furnish some clue to her action."

"It could not possibly."

"Phil thinks so. He has thought so until his brain is
worn enough to give way. Tell me, Edith!"

"I told her Phil was mine! That if he were away from
her an hour and back in my presence, he would be to me as
he always has been."

"Edith, did you believe that?"

"I would have staked my life, my soul on it!"

"Do you believe it now?"

There was no answer. Henderson took her other hand and
holding both of them firmly he said softly: "Don't mind
me, dear. I don't count! I'm just old Hart! You can
tell me anything. Do you still believe that?"

The beautiful head barely moved in negation.
Henderson gathered both her hands in one of his and stretched
an arm across her shoulders to the post to support her.
She dragged her hands from him and twisted them together.

"Oh, Hart!" she cried. "It isn't fair! There is
a limit! I have suffered my share. Can't you see?
Can't you understand?"

"Yes," he panted. "Yes, my girl! Tell me just this
one thing yet, and I'll cheerfully kill any one who annoys
you further. Tell me, Edith!"

Then she lifted her big, dull, pain-filled eyes to his and
cried: "No! I do not believe it now! I know it is not true!
I killed his love for me. It is dead and gone forever.
Nothing will revive it! Nothing in all this world.
And that is not all. I did not know how to touch the
depths of his nature. I never developed in him those
things he was made to enjoy. He admired me. He was
proud to be with me. He thought, and I thought, that he
worshipped me; but I know now that he never did care for
me as he cares for her. Never! I can see it! I planned to
lead society, to make his home a place sought for my
beauty and popularity. She plans to advance his political
ambitions, to make him comfortable physically, to stimulate
his intellect, to bear him a brood of red-faced children.
He likes her and her plans as he never did me and mine.
Oh, my soul! Now, are you satisfied?"

She dropped back against his arm exhausted.
Henderson held her and learned what suffering
truly means. He fanned her with his hat, rubbed
her cold hands and murmured broken, incoherent things.
By and by slow tears slipped from under her closed lids,
but when she opened them her eyes were dull and hard.

"What a rag one is when the last secret of the soul is
torn out and laid bare!" she cried.

Henderson thrust his handkerchief into her fingers and
whispered, "Edith, the boat has been creeping up.
It's very close. Maybe some of our crowd are on it.
Hadn't we better slip away from here before it lands?"

"If I can walk," she said. "Oh, I am so dead tired, Hart!

"Yes, dear," said Henderson soothingly. "Just try to
pass the landing before the boat anchors. If I only dared
carry you!"

They struggled through the waiting masses, but directly
opposite the landing there was a backward movement in
the happy, laughing crowd, the gang-plank came down
with a slam, and people began hurrying from the boat.
Crowded against the fish house on the dock, Henderson
could only advance a few steps at a time. He was straining
every nerve to protect and assist Edith. He saw no
one he recognized near them, so he slipped his arm across
her back to help support her. He felt her stiffen against
him and catch her breath. At the same instant, the
clearest, sweetest male voice he ever had heard called:
"Be careful there, little men!"

Henderson sent a swift glance toward the boat. Terence O'More
had stepped from the gang-plank, leading a little daughter,
so like him, it was comical. There followed a picture not
easy to describe. The Angel in the full flower of her
beauty, richly dressed, a laugh on her cameo face, the
setting sun glinting on her gold hair, escorted by her
eldest son, who held her hand tightly and carefully watched
her steps. Next came Elnora, dressed with equal richness,
a trifle taller and slenderer, almost the same type of
colouring, but with different eyes and hair, facial lines
and expression. She was led by the second O'More boy
who convulsed the crowd by saying: "Tareful, Elnora!
Don't 'oo be 'teppin' in de water!"

People surged around them, purposely closing them in.

"What lovely women! Who are they? It's the O'Mores.
The lightest one is his wife. Is that her sister?
No, it is his! They say he has a title in England."

Whispers ran fast and audible. As the crowd pressed
around the party an opening was left beside the fish sheds.
Edith ran down the dock. Henderson sprang after her,
catching her arm and assisting her to the street.

"Up the shore! This way!" she panted. "Every one
will go to dinner the first thing they do."

They left the street and started around the beach, but
Edith was breathless from running, while the yielding sand
made difficult walking.

"Help me!" she cried, clinging to Henderson. He put
his arm around her, almost carrying her from sight into a
little cove walled by high rocks at the back, while there
was a clean floor of white sand, and logs washed from the
lake for seats. He found one of these with a back rest,
and hurrying down to the water he soaked his handkerchief
and carried it to her. She passed it across her lips,
over her eyes, and then pressed the palms of her hands
upon it. Henderson removed the heavy hat, fanned her
with his, and wet the handkerchief again.

"Hart, what makes you?" she said wearily. "My mother
doesn't care. She says this is good for me. Do you
think this is good for me, Hart?"

"Edith, you know I would give my life if I could save
you this," he said, and could not speak further.

She leaned against him, closed her eyes and lay silent so
long the man fell into panic.

"Edith, you are not unconscious?" he whispered, touching her.

"No. just resting. Please don't leave me."

He held her carefully, gently fanning her. She was
suffering almost more than either of them could endure.

"I wish you had your boat," she said at last. "I want
to sail with the wind in my face."

"There is no wind. I can bring my motor around in a
few minutes."

"Then get it."

"Lie on the sand. I can 'phone from the first booth.
It won't take but a little while."

Edith lay on the white sand, and Henderson covered her
face with her hat. Then he ran to the nearest booth and
talked imperatively. Presently he was back bringing a
hot drink that was stimulating. Shortly the motor ran
close to the beach and stopped. Henderson's servant
brought a row-boat ashore and took them to the launch.
It was filled with cushions and wraps. Henderson made a
couch and soon, warmly covered, Edith sped out over the
water in search of peace.

Hour after hour the boat ran up and down the shore.
The moon arose and the night air grew very chilly.
Henderson put on an overcoat and piled more covers on Edith.

"You must take me home," she said at last. "The folks
will be uneasy."

He was compelled to take her to the cottage with the
battle still raging. He went back early the next morning,
but already she had wandered out over the island.
Instinctively Henderson felt that the shore would attract her.
There was something in the tumult of rough little Huron's
waves that called to him. It was there he found her,
crouching so close the water the foam was dampening her skirts.

"May I stay?" he asked.

"I have been hoping you would come," she answered.
"It's bad enough when you are here, but it is a little easier
than bearing it alone."

"Thank God for that!" said Henderson sitting beside
her. "Shall I talk to you?"

She shook her head. So they sat by the hour. At last
she spoke: "Of course, you know there is something I
have got to do, Hart!"

"You have not!" cried Henderson, violently.
"That's all nonsense! Give me just one word
of permission. That is all that is required of you."

"`Required?' You grant, then, that there is something `required?'"

"One word. Nothing more."

"Did you ever know one word could be so big, so black,
so desperately bitter? Oh, Hart!"

"No."

"But you know it now, Hart!"

"Yes."

"And still you say that it is `required?'"

Henderson suffered unspeakably. At last he said: "If you
had seen and heard him, Edith, you, too, would feel that
it is `required.' Remember----"

"No! No! No!" she cried. "Don't ask me to remember even
the least of my pride and folly. Let me forget!"

She sat silent for a long time.

"Will you go with me?" she whispered.

"Of course."

At last she arose.

"I might as well give up and have it over," she faltered.

That was the first time in her life that Edith Carr ever
had proposed to give up anything she wanted.

"Help me, Hart!"

Henderson started around the beach assisting her all he could.
Finally he stopped.

"Edith, there is no sense in this! You are too tired to go.
You know you can trust me. You wait in any of these lovely
places and send me. You will be safe, and I'll run.
One word is all that is necessary."

"But I've got to say that word myself, Hart!"

"Then write it, and let me carry it. The message is not
going to prove who went to the office and sent it."

"That is quite true," she said, dropping wearily, but she
made no movement to take the pen and paper he offered.

"Hart, you write it," she said at last.

Henderson turned away his face. He gripped the pen,
while his breath sucked between his dry teeth.

"Certainly!" he said when he could speak. "Mackinac,
August 27, 1908. Philip Ammon, Lake Shore Hospital, Chicago."
He paused with suspended pen and glanced at Edith. Her white
lips were working, but no sound came. "Miss Comstock is with
the Terence O'Mores, on Mackinac Island," prompted Henderson.

Edith nodded.

"Signed, Henderson," continued the big man.

Edith shook her head.

"Say, `She is well and happy,' and sign, Edith Carr!"
she panted.

"Not on your life!" flashed Henderson.

"For the love of mercy, Hart, don't make this any harder!
It is the least I can do, and it takes every ounce of
strength in me to do it."

"Will you wait for me here?" he asked.

She nodded, and, pulling his hat lower over his eyes,
Henderson ran around the shore. In less than an hour he
was back. He helped her a little farther to where the
Devil's Kitchen lay cut into the rocks; it furnished places
to rest, and cool water. Before long his man came with
the boat. From it they spread blankets on the sand for
her, and made chafing-dish tea. She tried to refuse it,
but the fragrance overcame her for she drank ravenously.
Then Henderson cooked several dishes and spread an
appetizing lunch. She was young, strong, and almost
famished for food. She was forced to eat. That made
her feel much better. Then Henderson helped her into the
boat and ran it through shady coves of the shore, where
there were refreshing breezes. When she fell asleep the
girl did not know, but the man did. Sadly in need of rest
himself, he ran that boat for five hours through quiet bays,
away from noisy parties, and where the shade was cool
and deep. When she awoke he took her home, and as they
went she knew that she had been mistaken. She would
not die. Her heart was not even broken. She had suffered
horribly; she would suffer more; but eventually the pain
must wear out. Into her head crept a few lines of an
old opera:

"Hearts do not break, they sting and ache,
For old love's sake, but do not die,
As witnesseth the living I."

That evening they were sailing down the Straits before
a stiff breeze and Henderson was busy with the tiller when
she said to him: "Hart, I want you to do something more
for me."

"You have only to tell me," he said.

"Have I only to tell you, Hart?" she asked softly.

"Haven't you learned that yet, Edith?"

"I want you to go away."

"Very well," he said quietly, but his face whitened visibly.

"You say that as if you had been expecting it."

"I have. I knew from the beginning that when this
was over you would dislike me for having seen you suffer.
I have grown my Gethsemane in a full realization of what
was coming, but I could not leave you, Edith, so long as it
seemed to me that I was serving you. Does it make any
difference to you where I go?"

"I want you where you will be loved, and good care
taken of you."

"Thank you!" said Henderson, smiling grimly. "Have you
any idea where such a spot might be found?"

"It should be with your sister at Los Angeles. She always
has seemed very fond of you."

"That is quite true," said Henderson, his eyes brightening
a little. "I will go to her. When shall I start?"

"At once."

Henderson began to tack for the landing, but his hands
shook until he scarcely could manage the boat. Edith Carr
sat watching him indifferently, but her heart was
throbbing painfully. "Why is there so much suffering in
the world?" she kept whispering to herself. Inside her
door Henderson took her by the shoulders almost roughly.

"For how long is this, Edith, and how are you going to
say good-bye to me?"

She raised tired, pain-filled eyes to his.

"I don't know for how long it is," she said. "It seems
now as if it had been a slow eternity. I wish to my soul
that God would be merciful to me and make something
`snap' in my heart, as there did in Phil's, that would give
me rest. I don't know for how long, but I'm perfectly
shameless with you, Hart. If peace ever comes and I want
you, I won't wait for you to find it out yourself, I'll cable,
Marconigraph, anything. As for how I say good-bye; any
way you please, I don't care in the least what happens to me."

Henderson studied her intently.

"In that case, we will shake hands," he said. "Good-bye, Edith.
Don't forget that every hour I am thinking of you and hoping
all good things will come to you soon."

CHAPTER XXV

WHEREIN PHILIP FINDS ELNORA,
AND EDITH CARR OFFERS A YELLOW EMPEROR

Oh, I need my own violin," cried Elnora. "This one
may be a thousand times more expensive, and much older
than mine; but it wasn't inspired and taught to sing
by a man who knew how. It doesn't know `beans,' as
mother would say, about the Limberlost."

The guests in the O'More music-room laughed appreciatively.

"Why don't you write your mother to come for a visit
and bring yours?" suggested Freckles.

"I did that three days ago," acknowledged Elnora.
"I am half expecting her on the noon boat. That is
one reason why this violin grows worse every minute.
There is nothing at all the matter with me."

"Splendid!" cried the Angel. "I've begged and begged
her to do it. I know how anxious these mothers become.
When did you send? What made you? Why didn't you
tell me?"

"`When?' Three days ago. `What made me?' You. `Why didn't
I tell you?' Because I can't be sure in the least that she
will come. Mother is the most individual person. She never
does what every one expects she will.

She may not come, and I didn't want you to be disappointed."

"How did I make you?" asked the Angel.

"Loving Alice. It made me realize that if you cared for
your girl like that, with Mr. O'More and three other
children, possibly my mother, with no one, might like to
see me. I know I want to see her, and you had told me to
so often, I just sent for her. Oh, I do hope she comes!
I want her to see this lovely place."

"I have been wondering what you thought of Mackinac,"
said Freckles.

"Oh, it is a perfect picture, all of it! I should like to
hang it on the wall, so I could see it whenever I wanted to;
but it isn't real, of course; it's nothing but a picture."

"These people won't agree with you," smiled Freckles.

"That isn't necessary," retorted Elnora. "They know
this, and they love it; but you and I are acquainted with
something different. The Limberlost is life. Here it is
a carefully kept park. You motor, sail, and golf, all so
secure and fine. But what I like is the excitement of
choosing a path carefully, in the fear that the quagmire
may reach out and suck me down; to go into the swamp
naked-handed and wrest from it treasures that bring me
books and clothing, and I like enough of a fight for things
that I always remember how I got them. I even enjoy
seeing a canny old vulture eyeing me as if it were saying:
`Ware the sting of the rattler, lest I pick your bones as I
did old Limber's.' I like sufficient danger to put an edge
on life. This is so tame. I should have loved it when all
the homes were cabins, and watchers for the stealthy
Indian canoes patrolled the shores. You wait until
mother comes, and if my violin isn't angry with me for
leaving it, to-night we shall sing you the Song of
the Limberlost. You shall hear the big gold bees over the
red, yellow, and purple flowers, bird song, wind talk, and
the whispers of Sleepy Snake Creek, as it goes past you.
You will know!" Elnora turned to Freckles.

He nodded. "Who better?" he asked. "This is secure
while the children are so small, but when they grow larger,
we are going farther north, into real forest, where they can
learn self-reliance and develop backbone."

Elnora laid away the violin. "Come along, children,"
she said. "We must get at that backbone business at once.
Let's race to the playhouse."

With the brood at her heels Elnora ran, and for an hour
lively sounds stole from the remaining spot of forest on the
Island, which lay beside the O'More cottage. Then Terry
went to the playroom to bring Alice her doll. He came
racing back, dragging it by one leg, and crying:
"There's company! Someone has come that mamma and papa
are just tearing down the house over. I saw through
the window."

"It could not be my mother, yet," mused Elnora. "Her boat
is not due until twelve. Terry, give Alice that doll----"

"It's a man-person, and I don't know him, but my
father is shaking his hand right straight along, and my
mother is running for a hot drink and a cushion. It's a
kind of a sick person, but they are going to make him well
right away, any one can see that. This is the best place.

I'll go tell him to come lie on the pine needles in the sun
and watch the sails go by. That will fix him!"

"Watch sails go by," chanted Little Brother. "'A fix him!
Elnora fix him, won't you?"

"I don't know about that," answered Elnora. "What sort
of person is he, Terry?"

"A beautiful white person; but my father is going to
`colour him up,' I heard him say so. He's just out of the
hospital, and he is a bad person, 'cause he ran away from
the doctors and made them awful angry. But father
and mother are going to doctor him better. I didn't know
they could make sick people well."

"'Ey do anyfing!" boasted Little Brother.

Before Elnora missed her, Alice, who had gone to
investigate, came flying across the shadows and through the
sunshine waving a paper. She thurst it into Elnora's hand.

"There is a man-person--a stranger-person!" she shouted.
"But he knows you! He sent you that! You are to be
the doctor! He said so! Oh, do hurry! I like him heaps!"

Elnora read Edith Carr's telegram to Philip Ammon
and understood that he had been ill, that she had been
located by Edith who had notified him. In so doing
she had acknowledged defeat. At last Philip was free.
Elnora looked up with a radiant face.

"I like him `heaps' myself!" she cried. "Come on
children, we will go tell him so."

Terry and Alice ran, but Elnora had to suit her steps
to Little Brother, who was her loyal esquire, and would
have been heartbroken over desertion and insulted at
being carried. He was rather dragged, but he was
arriving, and the emergency was great, he could see that.

"She's coming!" shouted Alice.

"She's going to be the doctor!" cried Terry.

"She looked just like she'd seen angels when she read
the letter," explained Alice.

"She likes you `heaps!' She said so!" danced Terry.
"Be waiting! Here she is!"

Elnora helped Little Brother up the steps, then deserted
him and came at a rush. The stranger-person stood
holding out trembling arms.

"Are you sure, at last, runaway?" asked Philip Ammon.

"Perfectly sure!" cried Elnora.

"Will you marry me now?"

"This instant! That is, any time after the noon boat
comes in."

"Why such unnecessary delay?" demanded Ammon.

"It is almost September," explained Elnora. "I sent
for mother three days ago. We must wait until she comes,
and we either have to send for Uncle Wesley and Aunt
Margaret, or go to them. I couldn't possibly be married
properly without those dear people."

"We will send," decided Ammon. "The trip will be
a treat for them. O'More, would you get off a message
at once?"

Every one met the noon boat. They went in the motor
because Philip was too weak to walk so far. As soon as
people could be distinguished at all Elnora and Philip
sighted an erect figure, with a head like a snowdrift.
When the gang-plank fell the first person across it was
a lean, red-haired boy of eleven, carrying a violin in
one hand and an enormous bouquet of yellow marigolds and
purple asters in the other. He was beaming with broad
smiles until he saw Philip. Then his expression changed.

"Aw, say!" he exclaimed reproachfully. "I bet you
Aunt Margaret is right. He is going to be your beau!"

Elnora stooped to kiss Billy as she caught her mother.

"There, there!" cried Mrs. Comstock. "Don't knock
my headgear into my eye. I'm not sure I've got either
hat or hair. The wind blew like bizzem coming up the river."

She shook out her skirts, straightened her hat, and
came forward to meet Philip, who took her into his arms
and kissed her repeatedly. Then he passed her along to
Freckles and the Angel to whom her greetings were mingled
with scolding and laughter over her wind-blown hair.

"No doubt I'm a precious spectacle!" she said to the Angel.
"I saw your pa a little before I started, and he sent you
a note. It's in my satchel. He said he was coming up
next week. What a lot of people there are in this world!
And what on earth are all of them laughing about?
Did none of them ever hear of sickness, or sorrow,
or death? Billy, don't you go to playing Indian or
chasing woodchucks until you get out of those clothes.
I promised Margaret I'd bring back that suit good as new."

Then the O'More children came crowding to meet Elnora's mother.

"Merry Christmas!" cried Mrs. Comstock, gathering
them in. "Got everything right here but the tree, and
there seems to be plenty of them a little higher up.
If this wind would stiffen just enough more to blow away
the people, so one could see this place, I believe it would
be right decent looking."

"See here," whispered Elnora to Philip. "You must
fix this with Billy. I can't have his trip spoiled."

"Now, here is where I dust the rest of 'em!" complacently
remarked Mrs. Comstock, as she climbed into the motor car
for her first ride, in company with Philip and Little Brother.
"I have been the one to trudge the roads and hop out of the
way of these things for quite a spell."

She sat very erect as the car rolled into the broad main
avenue, where only stray couples were walking. Her eyes
began to twinkle and gleam. Suddenly she leaned forward
and touched the driver on the shoulder.

"Young man," she said, "just you toot that horn suddenly
and shave close enough a few of those people, so that I
can see how I look when I leap for ragweed and snake fences."

The amazed chauffeur glanced questioningly at Philip
who slightly nodded. A second later there was a quick
"honk!" and a swerve at a corner. A man engrossed
in conversation grabbed the woman to whom he was talking
and dashed for the safety of a lawn. The woman
tripped in her skirts, and as she fell the man caught and
dragged her. Both of them turned red faces to the car
and berated the driver. Mrs. Comstock laughed in
unrestrained enjoyment. Then she touched the chauffeur again.

"That's enough," she said. "It seems a mite risky."
A minute later she added to Philip, "If only they had
been carrying six pounds of butter and ten dozen eggs
apiece, wouldn't that have been just perfect?"

Billy had wavered between Elnora and the motor, but
his loyal little soul had been true to her, so the walk to
the cottage began with him at her side. Long before
they arrived the little O'Mores had crowded around and
captured Billy, and he was giving them an expurgated
version of Mrs. Comstock's tales of Big Foot and Adam
Poe, boasting that Uncle Wesley had been in the camps
of Me-shin-go-me-sia and knew Wa-ca-co-nah before
he got religion and dressed like white men; while the
mighty prowess of Snap as a woodchuck hunter was done
full justice. When they reached the cottage Philip took
Billy aside, showed him the emerald ring and gravely
asked his permission to marry Elnora. Billy struggled
to be just, but it was going hard with him, when Alice,
who kept close enough to hear, intervened.

"Why don't you let them get married?" she asked.
"You are much too small for her. You wait for me!"

Billy studied her intently. At last he turned to Ammon.
"Aw, well! Go on, then!" he said gruffly. "I'll marry Alice!"

Alice reached her hand. "If you got that settled
let's put on our Indian clothes, call the boys, and go to
the playhouse."

"I haven't got any Indian clothes," said Billy ruefully.

"Yes, you have," explained Alice. "Father bought
you some coming from the dock. You can put them on in
the playhouse. The boys do."

Billy examined the playhouse with gleaming eyes.

Never had he encountered such possibilities. He could
see a hundred amusing things to try, and he could not
decide which to do first. The most immediate attraction
seemed to be a dead pine, held perpendicularly by its
fellows, while its bark had decayed and fallen, leaving
a bare, smooth trunk.

"If we just had some grease that would make the dandiest
pole to play Fourth of July with!" he shouted.

The children remembered the Fourth. It had been
great fun.

"Butter is grease. There is plenty in the 'frigerator,"
suggested Alice, speeding away.

Billy caught the cold roll and began to rub it against
the tree excitedly.

"How are you going to get it greased to the top?" inquired Terry.

Billy's face lengthened. "That's so!" he said. "The thing
is to begin at the top and grease down. I'll show you!"

Billy put the butter in his handkerchief and took the
corners between his teeth. He climbed the pole, greasing
it as he slid down.

"Now, I got to try first," he said, "because I'm the
biggest and so I have the best chance; only the one that
goes first hasn't hardly any chance at all, because he has
to wipe off the grease on himself, so the others can get up
at last. See?"

"All right!" said Terry. "You go first and then I will
and then Alice. Phew! It's slick. He'll never get up."

Billy wrestled manfully, and when he was exhausted
he boosted Terry, and then both of them helped Alice,
to whom they awarded a prize of her own doll. As they
rested Billy remembered.

"Do your folks keep cows?" he asked.

"No, we buy milk," said Terry.

"Gee! Then what about the butter? Maybe your
ma needs it for dinner!"

"No, she doesn't!" cried Alice. "There's stacks of it!
I can have all the butter I want."

"Well, I'm mighty glad of it!" said Billy. "I didn't
just think. I'm afraid we've greased our clothes, too."

"That's no difference," said Terry. "We can play
what we please in these things."

"Well, we ought to be all dirty, and bloody, and have
feathers on us to be real Indians," said Billy.

Alice tried a handful of dirt on her sleeve and it
streaked beautifully. Instantly all of them began
smearing themselves.

"If we only had feathers," lamented Billy.

Terry disappeared and shortly returned from the garage
with a feather duster. Billy fell on it with a shriek.
Around each one's head he firmly tied a twisted handkerchief,
and stuck inside it a row of stiffly upstanding feathers.

"Now, if we just only had some pokeberries to paint us
red, we'd be real, for sure enough Indians, and we could go
on the warpath and fight all the other tribes and burn a
lot of them at the stake."

Alice sidled up to him. "Would huckleberries do?"
she asked softly.

"Yes!" shouted Terry, wild with excitement. "Anything that's
a colour."

Alice made another trip to the refrigerator. Billy crushed
the berries in his hands and smeared and streaked all their
faces liberally.

"Now are we ready?" asked Alice.

Billy collapsed. "I forgot the ponies! You got to ride
ponies to go on the warpath!"

"You ain't neither!" contradicted Terry. "It's the
very latest style to go on the warpath in a motor.
Everybody does! They go everywhere in them. They are
much faster and better than any old ponies."

Billy gave one genuine whoop. "Can we take your motor?"

Terry hesitated.

"I suppose you are too little to run it?" said Billy.

"I am not!" flashed Terry. "I know how to start and
stop it, and I drive lots for Stephens. It is hard to turn
over the engine when you start."

"I'll turn it," volunteered Billy. "I'm strong as anything."

"Maybe it will start without. If Stephens has just
been running it, sometimes it will. Come on, let's try."

Billy straightened up, lifted his chin and cried: "Houpe!
Houpe! Houpe!"

The little O'Mores stared in amazement.

"Why don't you come on and whoop?" demanded Billy.
"Don't you know how? You are great Indians!
You got to whoop before you go on the warpath.
You ought to kill a bat, too, and see if the wind
is right. But maybe the engine won't run if we wait
to do that. You can whoop, anyway. All together now!"

They did whoop, and after several efforts the cry satisfied
Billy, so he led the way to the big motor, and took
the front seat with Terry. Alice and Little Brother
climbed into the back.

"Will it go?" asked Billy, "or do we have to turn it?"

"It will go," said Terry as the machine gently slid out
into the avenue and started under his guidance.

"This is no warpath!" scoffed Billy. "We got to go a
lot faster than this, and we got to whoop. Alice, why
don't you whoop?

Alice arose, took hold of the seat in front and whooped.

"If I open the throttle, I can't squeeze the bulb to scare
people out of our way," said Terry. "I can't steer and
squeeze, too."

"We'll whoop enough to get them out of the way. Go faster!"
urged Billy.

Billy also stood, lifted his chin and whooped like the
wildest little savage that ever came out of the West.
Alice and Little Brother added their voices, and when he
was not absorbed with the steering gear, Terry joined in.

"Faster!" shouted Billy.

Intoxicated with the speed and excitement, Terry
threw the throttle wider and the big car leaped forward
and sped down the avenue. In it four black, feather-
bedecked children whooped in wild glee until suddenly
Terry's war cry changed to a scream of panic.

"The lake is coming!"

"Stop!" cried Billy. "Stop! Why don't you stop?"

Paralyzed with fear Terry clung to the steering gear and
the car sped onward.

"You little fool! Why don't you stop?" screamed
Billy, catching Terry's arm. "Tell me how to stop!"

A bicycle shot beside them and Freckles standing on
the pedals shouted: "Pull out the pin in that little
circle at your feet!"

Billy fell on his knees and tugged and the pin yielded
at last. Just as the wheels struck the white sand the bicycle
sheered close, Freckles caught the lever and with one strong
shove set the brake. The water flew as the car struck Huron,
but luckily it was shallow and the beach smooth. Hub deep
the big motor stood quivering as Freckles climbed in and
backed it to dry sand.

Then he drew a deep breath and stared at his brood.

"Terence, would you kindly be explaining?" he said at last.

Billy looked at the panting little figure of Terry.

"I guess I better," he said. "We were playing Indians
on the warpath, and we hadn't any ponies, and Terry
said it was all the style to go in automobiles now,
so we----"

Freckles's head went back, and be did some whooping himself.

"I wonder if you realize how nearly you came to being
four drowned children?" he said gravely, after a time.

"Oh, I think I could swim enough to get most of us out,"
said Billy. "Anyway, we need washing."

"You do indeed," said Freckles. "I will head this
procession to the garage, and there we will remove the
first coat." For the remainder of Billy's visit the nurse,
chauffeur, and every servant of the O'More household had
something of importance on their minds, and Billy's every
step was shadowed.

"I have Billy's consent," said Philip to Elnora, "and all
the other consent you have stipulated. Before you think
of something more, give me your left hand, please."

Elnora gave it gladly, and the emerald slipped on her finger.
Then they went together into the forest to tell each other
all about it, and talk it over.

"Have you seen Edith?" asked Philip.

"No," answered Elnora. "But she must be here, or she
may have seen me when we went to Petoskey a few days ago.
Her people have a cottage over on the bluff, but the
Angel never told me until to-day. I didn't want to make
that trip, but the folks were so anxious to entertain me,
and it was only a few days until I intended to let you know
myself where I was."

"And I was going to wait just that long, and if I didn't
hear then I was getting ready to turn over the country.
I can scarcely realize yet that Edith sent me that telegram."

"No wonder! It's a difficult thing to believe. I can't
express how I feel for her."

"Let us never speak of it again," said Philip. "I came
nearer feeling sorry for her last night than I have yet.
I couldn't sleep on that boat coming over, and I couldn't
put away the thought of what sending that message cost her.
I never would have believed it possible that she would do it.
But it is done. We will forget it."

"I scarcely think I shall," said Elnora. "It is something
I like to remember. How suffering must have changed her!
I would give anything to bring her peace."

"Henderson came to see me at the hospital a few days ago.
He's gone a rather wild pace, but if he had been held
from youth by the love of a good woman he might have
lived differently. There are things about him one cannot
help admiring."

"I think he loves her," said Elnora softly.

"He does! He always has! He never made any secret
of it. He will cut in now and do his level best,
but he told me that he thought she would send him away.
He understands her thoroughly."

Edith Carr did not understand herself. She went to
her room after her good-bye to Henderson, lay on her
bed and tried to think why she was suffering as she was.

"It is all my selfishness, my unrestrained temper, my
pride in my looks, my ambition to be first," she said.
"That is what has caused this trouble."

Then she went deeper.

"How does it happen that I am so selfish, that I never
controlled my temper, that I thought beauty and social
position the vital things of life?" she muttered. "I think
that goes a little past me. I think a mother who allows a
child to grow up as I did, who educates it only for the
frivolities of life, has a share in that child's ending.
I think my mother has some responsibility in this," Edith
Carr whispered to the night. "But she will recognize none.
She would laugh at me if I tried to tell her what I have
suffered and the bitter, bitter lesson I have learned.
No one really cares, but Hart. I've sent him away, so
there is no one! No one!"

Edith pressed her fingers across her burning eyes and
lay still.

"He is gone!" she whispered at last. "He would go at once.
He would not see me again. I should think he never would
want to see me any more. But I will want to see him!
My soul! I want him now! I want him every minute!
He is all I have. And I've sent him away. Oh, these
dreadful days to come, alone! I can't bear it. Hart!
Hart!" she cried aloud. "I want you! No one cares but you.
No one understands but you. Oh, I want you!"

She sprang from her bed and felt her way to her desk.

"Get me some one at the Henderson cottage," she said
to Central, and waited shivering.

"They don't answer."

"They are there! You must get them. Turn on the buzzer."

After a time the sleepy voice of Mrs. Henderson answered.

"Has Hart gone?" panted Edith Carr.

"No! He came in late and began to talk about starting
to California. He hasn't slept in weeks to amount
to anything. I put him to bed. There is time enough to
start to California when he awakens. Edith, what are you
planning to do next with that boy of mine?"

"Will you tell him I want to see him before he goes?"

"Yes, but I won't wake him."

"I don't want you to. Just tell him in the morning."

"Very well."

"You will be sure?"

"Sure!"

Hart was not gone. Edith fell asleep. She arose at
noon the next day, took a cold bath, ate her breakfast,
dressed carefully, and leaving word that she had gone to
the forest, she walked slowly across the leaves. It was
cool and quiet there, so she sat where she could see him
coming, and waited. She was thinking deep and fast.

Henderson came swiftly down the path. A long sleep,
food, and Edith's message had done him good. He had
dressed in new light flannels that were becoming.
Edith arose and went to meet him.

"Let us walk in the forest," she said.

They passed the old Catholic graveyard, and entered
the deepest wood of the Island, where all shadows were
green, all voices of humanity ceased, and there was no
sound save the whispering of the trees, a few bird notes and
squirrel rustle. There Edith seated herself on a mossy old
log, and Henderson studied her. He could detect a change.
She was still pale and her eyes tired, but the dull, strained
look was gone. He wanted to hope, but he did not dare.
Any other man would have forced her to speak. The mighty
tenderness in Henderson's heart shielded her in every way.

"What have you thought of that you wanted yet, Edith?"
he asked lightly as he stretched himself at her feet.

"You!"

Henderson lay tense and very still.

"Well, I am here!"

"Thank Heaven for that!"

Henderson sat up suddenly, leaning toward her with
questioning eyes. Not knowing what he dared say,
afraid of the hope which found birth in his heart, he tried
to shield her and at the same time to feel his way.

"I am more thankful than I can express that you feel
so," he said. "I would be of use, of comfort, to you if I
knew how, Edith."

"You are my only comfort," she said. "I tried to send
you away. I thought I didn't want you. I thought I
couldn't bear the sight of you, because of what you have
seen me suffer. But I went to the root of this thing last
night, Hart, and with self in mind, as usual, I found that
I could not live without you."

Henderson began breathing lightly. He was afraid to
speak or move.

"I faced the fact that all this is my own fault,"
continued Edith, "and came through my own selfishness.
Then I went farther back and realized that I am as I
was reared. I don't want to blame my parents, but I
was carefully trained into what I am. If Elnora Comstock had
been like me, Phil would have come back to me. I can see
how selfish I seem to him, and how I appear to you, if you
would admit it."

"Edith," said Henderson desperately, "there is no use
to try to deceive you. You have known from the first
that I found you wrong in this. But it's the first time in
your life I ever thought you wrong about anything--and
it's the only time I ever shall. Understand, I think you
the bravest, most beautiful woman on earth, the one most
worth loving."

"I'm not to be considered in the same class with her."

"I don't grant that, but if I did, you, must remember
how I compare with Phil. He's my superior at every point.
There's no use in discussing that. You wanted to see me, Edith.
What did you want?"

"I wanted you to not go away."

"Not at all?"

"Not at all! Not ever! Not unless you take me with
you, Hart."

She slightly extended one hand to him. Henderson took
that hand, kissing it again and again.

"Anything you want, Edith," he said brokenly. "Just as
you wish it. Do you want me to stay here, and go on as
we have been?"

"Yes, only with a difference."

"Can you tell me, Edith?"

"First, I want you to know that you are the dearest
thing on earth to me, right now. I would give up
everything else, before I would you. I can't honestly say
that I love you with the love you deserve. My heart is
too sore. It's too soon to know. But I love you some way.
You are necessary to me. You are my comfort, my shield.
If you want me, as you know me to be, Hart, you may consider
me yours. I give you my word of honour I will try to be
as you would have me, just as soon as I can."

Henderson kissed her hand passionately. "Don't, Edith,"
he begged. "Don't say those things. I can't bear it.
I understand. Everything will come right in time.
Love like mine must bring a reward. You will love me
some day. I can wait. I am the most patient fellow."

"But I must say it," cried Edith. "I--I think, Hart,
that I have been on the wrong road to find happiness.
I planned to finish life as I started it with Phil; and you
see how glad he was to change. He wanted the other sort of
girl far more than he ever wanted me. And you, Hart,
honest, now--I'll know if you don't tell me the truth!
Would you rather have a wife as I planned to live life with
Phil, or would you rather have her as Elnora Comstock intends
to live with him?"

"Edith!" cried the man, "Edith!"

"Of course, you can't say it in plain English," said the girl.
"You are far too chivalrous for that. You needn't
say anything. I am answered. If you could have your
choice you wouldn't have a society wife, either. In your
heart you'd like the smaller home of comfort, the furtherance
of your ambitions, the palatable meals regularly served,
and little children around you. I am sick of all we
have grown up to, Hart. When your hour of trouble
comes, there is no comfort for you. I am tired to death.
You find out what you want to do, and be, that is a man's
work in the world, and I will plan our home, with no
thought save your comfort. I'll be the other kind of a girl,
as fast as I can learn. I can't correct all my faults in one
day, but I'll change as rapidly as I can."

"God knows, I will be different, too, Edith. You shall
not be the only generous one. I will make all the rest of
life worthy of you. I will change, too!"

"Don't you dare!" said Edith Carr, taking his head between
her hands and holding it against her knees, while the
tears slid down her cheeks. "Don't you dare change, you
big-hearted, splendid lover! I am little and selfish.
You are the very finest, just as you are!"

Henderson was not talking then, so they sat through a
long silence. At last he heard Edith draw a quick
breath, and lifting his head he looked where she pointed.
Up a fern stalk climbed a curious looking object.
They watched breathlessly. By lavender feet clung a big,
pursy, lavender-splotched, yellow body. Yellow and lavender
wings began to expand and take on colour. Every instant
great beauty became more apparent. It was one of those
double-brooded freaks, which do occur on rare occasions,
or merely an Eacles Imperialis moth that in the cool damp
northern forest had failed to emerge in June. Edith Carr
drew back with a long, shivering breath. Henderson caught
her hands and gripped them firmly. Steadily she
looked the thought of her heart into his eyes.

"By all the powers, you shall not!" swore the man.
"You have done enough. I will smash that thing!"

"Oh no you won't!" cried the girl, clinging to his hands.
"I am not big enough yet, Hart, but before I leave this
forest I shall have grown to breadth and strength to carry
that to her. She needs two of each kind. Phil only sent
her one!"

"Edith I can't bear it! That's not demanded! Let me
take it!"

"You may go with me. I know where the O'More cottage is.
I have been there often."

"I'll say you sent it!"

"You may watch me deliver it!"

"Phil may be there by now."

"I hope he is! I should like him to see me do one decent
thing by which to remember me."

"I tell you that is not necessary!"

"`Not necessary!'" cried the girl, her big eyes shining.
"Not necessary? Then what on earth is the thing doing
here? I just have boasted that I would change, that I
would be like her, that I would grow bigger and broader.
As the words are spoken God gives me the opportunity to
prove whether I am sincere. This is my test, Hart! Don't
you see it? If I am big enough to carry that to her, you
will believe that there is some good in me. You will not
be loving me in vain. This is an especial Providence, man!
Be my strength! Help me, as you always have done!"

Henderson arose and shook the leaves from his clothing.
He drew Edith Carr to her feet and carefully picked the
mosses from her skirts. He went to the water and
moistened his handkerchief to bathe her face.

"Now a dust of powder," he said when the tears were
washed away.

From a tiny book Edith tore leaves that she passed over
her face.

"All gone!" cried Henderson, critically studying her.
"You look almost half as lovely as you really are!"

Edith Carr drew a wavering breath. She stretched one
hand to him.

"Hold tight, Hart!" she said. "I know they handle
these things, but I would quite as soon touch a snake."

Henderson clenched his teeth and held steadily. The moth
had emerged too recently to be troublesome. It climbed
on her fingers quietly and obligingly clung there
without moving. So hand in hand they went down the
dark forest path. When they came to the avenue, the first
person they met paused with an ejaculation of wonder.
The next stopped also, and every one following. They could
make little progress on account of marvelling,
interested people. A strange excitement took possession
of Edith. She began to feel proud of the moth.

"Do you know," she said to Henderson," this is growing
easier every step. Its clinging is not disagreeable as I
thought it would be. I feel as if I were saving it,
protecting it. I am proud that we are taking it to be put
into a collection or a book. It seems like doing a thing
worth while. Oh, Hart, I wish we could work together at
something for which people would care as they seem to
for this. Hear what they say! See them lift their
little children to look at it!"

"Edith, if you don't stop," said Henderson, "I will take
you in my arms here on the avenue. You are adorable!"

"Don't you dare!" laughed Edith Carr. The colour
rushed to her cheeks and a new light leaped in her eyes

"Oh, Hart!" she cried. "Let's work! Let's do something!
That's the way she makes people love her so. There's the
place, and thank goodness, there is a crowd."

"You darling!" whispered Henderson as they passed up
the walk. Her face was rose-flushed with excitement and
her eyes shone.

"Hello, every, one!" she cried as she came on the wide veranda.
"Only see what we found up in the forest! We thought you
might like to have it for some of your collections."

She held out the moth as she walked straight to Elnora,
who arose to meet her, crying: "How perfectly splendid!
I don't even know how to begin to thank you."

Elnora took the moth. Edith shook hands with all of
them and asked Philip if he were improving. She said a few
polite words to Freckles and the Angel, declined to remain
on account of an engagement, and went away, gracefully.

"Well bully for her!" said Mrs. Comstock. "She's a
little thoroughbred after all!"

"That was a mighty big thing for her to be doing,"
said Freckles in a hushed voice.

"If you knew her as well as I do," said Philip Ammon,
"you would have a better conception of what that cost."

"It was a terror!" cried the Angel. "I never could have done it."

"`Never could have done it!'" echoed Freckles. "Why, Angel,
dear, that is the one thing of all the world you would have done!"

"I have to take care of this," faltered Elnora, hurrying
toward the door to hide the tears which were rolling down
her cheeks.

"I must help," said Philip, disappearing also. "Elnora,"
he called, catching up with her, "take me where I may cry, too.
Wasn't she great?"

"Superb!" exclaimed Elnora. "I have no words. I feel so humbled!"

"So do I," said Philip. "I think a brave deed like that
always makes one feel so. Now are you happy?"

"Unspeakably happy!" answered Elnora.

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