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At the Foot of the Rainbow by Gene Stratton-Porter

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Chapter X

DANNIE'S RENUNCIATION

So they stretched Jimmy's length on Five Mile Hill beside the
three babies that had lacked the "vital spark." Mary went to the
Dolans for the winter and Dannie was left, sole occupant of
Rainbow Bottom. Because so much fruit and food that would freeze
were stored there, he was even asked to live in Jimmy's cabin.

Dannie began the winter stolidly. All day long and as far as he
could find anything to do in the night, he worked. He mended
everything about both farms, rebuilt all the fences and as a
never-failing resource, he cut wood. He cut so much that he began
to realize that it would get too dry and the burning of it would
become extravagant, so he stopped that and began making some
changes he had long contemplated. During fur time he set his line
of traps on his side of the river and on the other he religiously
set Jimmy's.

But he divided the proceeds from the skins exactly in half, no
matter whose traps caught them, and with Jimmy's share of the
money he started a bank account for Mary. As he could not use all
of them he sold Jimmy's horses, cattle and pigs. With half the
stock gone he needed only half the hay and grain stored for
feeding. He disposed of the chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese
that Mary wanted sold, and placed the money to her credit. He
sent her a beautiful little red bank book and an explanation of
all these transactions by Dolan. Mary threw the book across the
room because she wanted Dannie to keep her money himself, and
then cried herself to sleep that night, because Dannie had sent
the book instead of bringing it. But when she fully understood
the transactions and realized that if she chose she could spend
several hundred dollars, she grew very proud of that book.

About the empty cabins and the barns, working on the farms,
wading the mud and water of the river bank, or tingling with cold
on the ice went two Dannies. The one a dull, listless man,
mechanically forcing a tired, overworked body to action, and the
other a self- accused murderer.

"I am responsible for the whole thing," he told himself many
times a day. "I always humored Jimmy. I always took the muddy
side of the road, and the big end of the log, and the hard part
of the work, and filled his traps wi' rats from my own; why in
God's name did I let the Deil o' stubbornness in me drive him to
his death. noo? Why didna I let him have the Black Bass? Why
didna I make him come home and put on dry clothes? I killed him,
juist as sure as if I'd taken an ax and broken his heid."

Through every minute of the exposure of winter outdoors and the
torment of it inside, Dannie tortured himself. Of Mary he seldom
thought at all. She was safe with her sister, and although
Dannie did not know when or how it happened, he awoke one day to
the realization that he had renounced her. He had killed Jimmy;
he could not take his wife and his farm. And Dannie was so numb
with long-suffering, that he did not much care. There come times
when troubles pile so deep that the edge of human feeling is
dulled.

He would take care of Mary, yes, she was as much Jimmy's as his
farm, but he did not want her for himself now. If he had to kill
his only friend, he would not complete his downfall by trying to
win his wife. So through that winter Mary got very little
consideration in the remorseful soul of Dannie, and Jimmy grew,
as the dead grow, by leaps and bounds, until by spring Dannie had
him well-nigh canonized.

When winter broke, Dannie had his future well mapped out. And
that future was devotion to Jimmy's memory, with no more of Mary
in it than was possible to keep out. He told himself that he was
glad she was away and he did not care to have her return. Deep in
his soul he harbored the feeling that he had killed Jimmy to make
himself look victor in her eyes in such a small matter as taking
a fish. And deeper yet a feeling that, everything considered,
still she might mourn Jimmy more than she did.

So Dannie definitely settled that he always would live alone on
the farms. Mary should remain with her sister, and at his death,
everything should be hers. The night he finally reached that
decision, the Kingfisher came home. Dannie heard his rattle of
exultation as he struck the embankment and the suffering man
turned his face to the wall and sobbed aloud, so that for a
little time he stifled Jimmy's dying gasps that in wakeful night
hours sounded in his ears. Early the next morning he drove
through the village on his way to the county seat, with a load of
grain. Dolan saw him and running home he told Mary. "He will be
gone all day. Now is your chance!" he said.

Mary sprang to her feet, "Hurry!" she panted, "hurry!"

An hour later a loaded wagon, a man and three women drew up
before the cabins in Rainbow Bottom. Mary, her sister, Dolan, and
a scrub woman entered. Mary pointed out the objects which she
wished removed, and Dolan carried them out. They took up the
carpets, swept down the walls, and washed the windows. They hung
pictures, prints, and lithographs, and curtained the windows in
dainty white. They covered the floors with bright carpets, and
placed new ornaments on the mantle, and comfortable furniture in
the rooms. There was a white iron bed, and several rocking
chairs, and a shelf across the window filled with potted
hyacinths in bloom. Among them stood a glass bowl, containing
three wonderful little gold fish, and from the top casing hung a
brass cage, from which a green linnet sang an exultant song.

You should have seen Mary Malone! When everything was finished,
she was changed the most of all. She was so sure of Dannie, that
while the winter had brought annoyance that he did not come, it
really had been one long, glorious rest. She laughed and sang,
and grew younger with every passing day. As youth surged back,
with it returned roundness of form, freshness of face, and that
bred the desire to be daintily dressed. So of pretty light
fabrics she made many summer dresses, for wear mourning she would
not.

When calmness returned to Mary, she had told the Dolans the whole
story. "Now do you ixpict me to grieve for the man?" she asked.
"Fiftane years with him, through his lying tongue, whin by ivery
right of our souls and our bodies, Dannie Micnoun and I belanged
to each other. Mourn for him! I'm glad he's dead! Glad! Glad! If
he had not died, I should have killed him, if Dannie did not! It
was a happy thing that he died. His death saved me mortal sin.
I'm glad, I tell you, and I do not forgive him, and I niver will,
and I hope he will burn----"

Katy Dolan clapped her hand over Mary's mouth. "For the love of
marcy, don't say that!" she cried. "You will have to confiss it,
and you'd be ashamed to face the praste."

"I would not," cried Mary. "Father Michael knows I'm just an
ordinary woman, he don't ixpict me to be an angel." But she left
the sentence unfinished.

After Mary's cabin was arranged to her satisfaction, they
attacked Dannie's; emptying it, cleaning it completely, and
refurnishing it from the best of the things that had been in
both. Then Mary added some new touches. A comfortable big chair
was placed by his fire, new books on his mantle, a flower in his
window, and new covers on his bed. While the women worked, Dolan
raked the yards, and freshened matters outside as best he could.
When everything they had planned to do was accomplished, the
wagon, loaded with the ugly old things Mary despised, drove back
to the village, and she, with little Tilly Dolan for company,
remained.

Mary was tense with excitement. All the woman in her had yearned
for these few pretty things she wanted for her home throughout
the years that she had been compelled to live in crude, ugly
surroundings; because every cent above plainest clothing and
food, went for drink for Jimmy, and treats for his friends. Now
she danced and sang, and flew about trying a chair here, and
another there, to get the best effect. Every little while she
slipped into her bedroom, stood before a real dresser, and pulled
out its trays to make sure that her fresh, light dresses were
really there. She shook out the dainty curtains repeatedly,
watered the flowers, and fed the fish when they did not need it.
She babbled incessantly to the green linnet, which with swollen
throat rejoiced with her, and occasionally she looked in the
mirror.

She lighted the fire, and put food to cook. She covered a new
table, with a new cloth, and set it with new dishes, and placed a
jar of her flowers in the center. What a supper she did cook!
When she had waited until she was near crazed with nervousness,
she heard the wagon coming up the lane. Peeping from the window,
she saw Dannie stop the horses short, and sit staring at the
cabins, and she realized that smoke would be curling from the
chimney, and the flowers and curtains would change the shining
windows outside. She trembled with excitement, and than a great
yearning seized her, as he slowly drove closer, for his brown
hair was almost white, and the lines on his face seemed
indelibly stamped. And then hot anger shook her. Fifteen years of
her life wrecked, and look at Dannie! That was Jimmy Malone's
work.

Over and over, throughout the winter, she had planned this home-
coming as a surprise to Dannie. Book-fine were the things she
intended to say to him. When he opened the door, and stared at
her and about the altered room, she swiftly went to him, and took
the bundles he carried from his arms.

"Hurry up, and unhitch, Dannie," she said. "Your supper is
waiting."

And Dannie turned and stolidly walked back to his team, without
uttering a word.

"Uncle Dannie!" cried a child's voice. "Please let me ride to the
barn with you!"

A winsome little maid came rushing to Dannie, threw her arms
about his neck, and hugged him tight, as he stooped to lift her.
Her yellow curls were against his cheek, and her breath was
flower- sweet in his face.

"Why didn't you kiss Aunt Mary?" she demanded. "Daddy Dolan
always kisses mammy when he comes from all day gone. Aunt Mary's
worked so hard to please you. And Daddie worked, and mammy
worked, and another woman. You are pleased, ain't you, Uncle
Dannie?"

"Who told ye to call me Uncle?" asked Dannie, with unsteady lips.

"She did!" announced the little woman, flourishing the whip in
the direction of the cabin. Dannie climbed down to unhitch. "You
are goin' to be my Uncle, ain't you, as soon as it's a little
over a year, so folks won't talk?"

"Who told ye that?" panted Dannie, hiding behind a horse.

"Nobody told me! Mammy just SAID it to Daddy, and I heard,"
answered the little maid. "And I'm glad of it, and so are all of
us glad. Mammy said she'd just love to come here now, whin things
would be like white folks. Mammy said Aunt Mary had suffered a
lot more'n her share. Say, you won't make her suffer any more,
will you?"

"No," moaned Dannie, and staggered into the barn with the horses.
He leaned against a stall, and shut his eyes. He could see the
bright room, plainer than ever, and that little singing bird
sounded loud as any thunder in his ears. And whether closed or
open, he could see Mary, never in all her life so beautiful,
never so sweet; flesh and blood Mary, in a dainty dress, with the
shining, unafraid eyes of girlhood. It was that thing which
struck Dannie first, and hit him hardest. Mary was a careless
girl again. When before had he seen her with neither trouble,
anxiety or, worse yet, FEAR, in her beautiful eyes?

And she had come to stay. She would not have refurnished her
cabin otherwise. Dannie took hold of the manger with both hands,
because his sinking knees needed bracing.

"Dannie," called Mary's voice in the doorway, "has my spickled
hin showed any signs of setting yet?"

"She's been over twa weeks," answered Dannie. "She's in that
barrel there in the corner."

Mary entered the barn, removed the prop, lowered the board, and
kneeling, stroked the hen, and talked softly to her. She slipped
a hand under the hen, and lifted her to see the eggs. Dannie
staring at Mary noted closer the fresh, cleared skin, the glossy
hair, the delicately colored cheeks, and the plumpness of the
bare arms. One little wisp of curl lay against the curve of her
neck, just where it showed rose-pink, and looked honey sweet. And
in one great surge, the repressed stream of passion in the strong
man broke, and Dannie swayed against his horse. His tongue stuck
to the roof of his mouth, and he caught at the harness to steady
himself, while he strove to grow accustomed to the fact that Hell
had opened in a new form for him. The old heart hunger for Mary
Malone was back in stronger force than ever before; and because
of him Jimmy lay stretched on Five Mile Hill.

"Dannie, you are just fine!" said Mary. "I've been almost wild to
get home, because I thought iverything would be ruined, and
instid of that it's all ixactly the way I do it. Do hurry, and
get riddy for supper. Oh, it's so good to be home again! I want
to make garden, and fix my flowers, and get some little chickens
and turkeys into my fingers."

"I have to go home, and wash, and spruce up a bit, for ladies,"
said Dannie, leaving the barn.

Mary made no reply, and it came to him that she expected it.
"Damned if I will!" he said, as he started home. "If she wants to
come here, and force herself on me, she can, but she canna mak'
me"

Just then Dannie stepped in his door, and slowly gazed about him.
In a way his home was as completely transformed as hers. He
washed his face and hands, and started for a better coat. His
sleeping room shone with clean windows, curtained in snowy white.
A freshly ironed suit of underclothing and a shirt lay on his
bed. Dannie stared at them.

"She think's I'll tog up in them, and come courtin'" he growled.
"I'll show her if I do! I winna touch them!"

To prove that he would not, Dannie caught them up in a wad, and
threw them into a corner. That showed a clean sheet, fresh
pillow, and new covers, invitingly spread back. Dannie turned as
white as the pillow at which he stared.

"That's a damn plain insinuation that I'm to get into ye," he
said to the bed, "and go on living here. I dinna know as that
child's jabber counts. For all I know, Mary may already have
picked out some town dude to bring here and farm out on me, and
they'll live with the bird cage. and I can go on climbin' into ye
alone."

Here was a new thought. Mary might mean only kindness to him
again, as she had sent word by Jimmy she meant years ago. He
might lose her for the second time. And again a wave of desire
struck Dannie, and left him staggering.

"Ain't you comin', Uncle Dannie?" called the child's voice at the
back door.

"What's your name, little lass?" inquired Dannie.

"Tilly," answered the little girl promptly.

"Well, Tilly, ye go tell your Aunt Mary I have been in an
eelevator handlin' grain, and I'm covered wi' fine dust and chaff
that sticks me. I canna come until I've had a bath, and put on
clean clothing. Tell her to go ahead."

The child vanished. In a second she was back. "She said she won't
do it, and take all the time you want. But I wish you'd hurry,
for she won't let me either."

Dannie hurried. But the hasty bath and the fresh clothing felt so
good he was in a softened mood when he approached Mary's door
again. Tilly was waiting on the step, and ran to meet him. Tilly
was a dream. Almost, Dannie understood why Mary had brought her.
Tilly led him to the table, and pulled back a chair for him, and
he lifted her into hers, and as Mary set dish after dish of food
on the table, Tilly filled in every pause that threatened to grow
awkward with her chatter. Dannie had been a very lonely man, and
he did love Mary's cooking. Until then he had not realized how
sore a trial six months of his own had been.

"If I was a praying mon, I'd ask a blessing, and thank God fra
this food," said Dannie.

"What's the matter with me?" asked Mary.

"I have never yet found anything," answered Dannie. "And I do
thank ye fra everything. I believe I'm most thankful of all fra
the clean clothes and the clean bed. I'm afraid I was neglectin'
myself, Mary."

"Will, you'll not be neglected any more," said Mary. "Things have
turned over a new leaf here. For all you give, you get some
return, after this. We are going to do business in a businesslike
way, and divide even. I liked that bank account, pretty will,
Dannie. Thank you, for that. And don't think I spint all of it. I
didn't spind a hundred dollars all togither. Not the price of one
horse! But it made me so happy I could fly. Home again, and the
things I've always wanted, and nothing to fear. Oh, Dannie, you
don't know what it manes to a woman to be always afraid! My heart
is almost jumping out of my body, just with pure joy that the old
fear is gone."

"I know what it means to a mon to be afraid," said Dannie. And
vividly before him loomed the awful, distorted, dying face of
Jimmy.

Mary guessed, and her bright face clouded.

"Some day, Dannie, we must have a little talk," she said, "and
clear up a few things neither of us understand. 'Til thin we will
just farm, and be partners, and be as happy as iver we can. I
don't know as you mean to, but if you do, I warn you right now
that you need niver mintion the name of Jimmy Malone to me again,
for any reason."

Dannie left the cabin abruptly.

"Now you gone and made him mad!" reproached Tilly.

During the past winter Mary had lived with other married people
for the first time, and she had imbibed some of Mrs. Dolan's
philosophy.

"Whin he smells the biscuit I mane to make for breakfast, he'll
get glad again," she said, and he did.

But first he went home, and tried to learn where he stood. WAS HE
TRULY RESPONSIBLE FOR JIMMY'S DEATH? Yes. If he had acted like a
man, he could have saved Jimmy. He was responsible. Did he want
to marry Mary? Did he? Dannie reached empty arms to empty space,
and groaned aloud. Would she marry him? Well, now, would she?
After years of neglect and sorrow, Dannie knew that Mary had
learned to prefer him to Jimmy. But almost any man would have
been preferable to a woman, to Jimmy. Jimmy was distinctly a
man's man. A jolly good fellow, but he would not deny himself
anything, no matter what it cost his wife, and he had been very
hard to live with. Dannie admitted that. So Mary had come to
prefer him to Jimmy, that was sure; but it was not a question
between him and Jimmy, now. It was between him, and any
marriageable man that Mary might fancy.

He had grown old, and gray, and wrinkled, though he was under
forty. Mary had grown round, and young, and he had never seen her
looking so beautiful. Surely she would want a man now as young,
and as fresh as herself; and she might want to live in town after
a while, if she grew tired of the country. Could he remember
Jimmy's dreadful death, realize that he was responsible for it,
and make love to his wife? No, she was sacred to Jimmy. Could he
live beside her, and lose her to another man for the second time?
No, she belonged to him. It was almost daybreak when Dannie
remembered the fresh bed, and lay down for a few hours' rest.

But there was no rest for Dannie, and after tossing about until
dawn he began his work. When he carried the milk into the cabin,
and smelled the biscuit, he fulfilled Mary's prophecy, got glad
again, and came to breakfast. Then he went about his work. But as
the day wore on, he repeatedly heard the voice of the woman and
the child, combining in a chorus of laughter. From the little
front porch, the green bird warbled and trilled. Neighbors who
had heard of her return came up the lane to welcome a happy Mary
Malone. The dead dreariness of winter melted before the spring
sun, and in Dannie's veins the warm blood swept up, as the sap
flooded the trees, and in spite of himself he grew gladder and
yet gladder.

He now knew how he had missed Mary. How he had loathed that
empty, silent cabin. How remorse and heart hunger had gnawed at
his vitals, and he decided that he would go on just as Mary had
said, and let things drift; and when she was ready to have the
talk with him she had mentioned, he would hear what she had to
say. And as he thought over these things, he caught himself
watching for furrows that Jimmy was not making on the other side
of the field. He tried to talk to the robins and blackbirds
instead of Jimmy, but they were not such good company. And when
the day was over, he tried not to be glad that he was going to
the shining eyes of Mary Malone, a good supper, and a clean bed,
and it was not in the heart of man to do it.

The summer wore on, autumn came, and the year Tilly had spoken of
was over. Dannie went his way, doing the work of two men,
thinking of everything, planning for everything, and he was all
the heart of Mary Malone could desire, save her lover. By little
Mary pieced it out. Dannie never mentioned fishing; he had lost
his love for the river. She knew that he frequently took walks to
Five Mile Hill. His devotion to Jimmy's memory was unswerving.
And at last it came to her, that in death as in life, Jimmy
Malone was separating them. She began to realize that there might
be things she did not know. What had Jimmy told the priest? Why
had Father Michael refused to confess Jimmy until he sent Dannie
to him? What had passed between them? If it was what she had
thought all year, why did it not free Dannie to her? If there was
something more, what was it?

Surely Dannie loved her. Much as he had cared for Jimmy, he had
vowed that everything was for her first. She was eager to be his
wife, and something bound him. One day, she decided to ask him.
The next, she shrank in burning confusion, for when Jimmy Malone
had asked for her love, she had admitted to him that she loved
Dannie, and Jimmy had told her that it was no use, Dannie did not
care for girls, and that he had said he wished she would not
thrust herself upon him. On the strength of that statement Mary
married Jimmy inside five weeks, and spent years in bitter
repentance.

That was the thing which held her now. If Dannie knew what she
did, and did not care to marry her, how could she mention it?
Mary began to grow pale, and lose sleep, and Dannie said the heat
of the summer had tired her, and suggested that she go to Mrs.
Dolan's for a weeks rest. The fact that he was willing, and
possibly anxious to send her away for a whole week, angered Mary.
She went.

Chapter XI

THE POT OF GOLD

Mary had not been in the Dolan home an hour until Katy knew all
she could tell of her trouble. Mrs. Dolan was practical. "Go to
see Father Michael," she said. "What's he for but to hilp us. Go
ask him what Jimmy told him. Till him how you feel and what you
know. He can till you what Dannie knows and thin you will
understand where you are at."

Mary was on the way before Mrs. Dolan fully finished. She went to
the priest's residence and asked his housekeeper to inquire if he
would see her. He would, and Mary entered his presence strangely
calm and self-possessed. This was the last fight she knew of that
she could make for happiness, and if she lost, happiness was over
for her. She had need of all her wit and she knew it. Father
Michael began laughing as he shook hands.

"Now look here, Mary," he said, "I've been expecting you. I warn
you before you begin that I cannot sanction your marriage to a
Protestant."

"Oh, but I'm going to convart him!" cried Mary so quickly that
the priest laughed harder than ever.

"So that's the lay of the land!" he chuckled. "Well, if you'll
guarantee that, I'll give in. When shall I read the banns?"

"Not until we get Dannie's consint," answered Mary, and for the
first her voice wavered.

Father Michael looked his surprise. "Tut! Tut!" he said. "And is
Dannie dilatory?"

"Dannie is the finest man that will ever live in this world,"
said Mary, "but he don't want to marry me."

"To my certain knowledge Dannie has loved you all your life,"
said Father Michael. "He wants nothing here or hereafter as he
wants to marry you."

"Thin why don't he till me so?" sobbed Mary, burying her burning
face in her hands.

"Has he said nothing to you?" gravely inquired the priest.

"No, he hasn't and I don't belave he intinds to," answered Mary,
wiping her eyes and trying to be composed. "There is something
about Jimmy that is holding him back. Mrs. Dolan thought you'd
help me."

"What do you want me to do, Mary?" asked Father Michael.

"Two things," answered Mary promptly. "I want you to tell me what
Jimmy confissed to you before he died, and then I want you to
talk to Dannie and show him that he is free from any promise that
Jimmy might have got out of him. Will you?"

"A dying confession--" began the priest.

"Yes, but I know--" broke in Mary. "I saw them fight, and I heard
Jimmy till Dannie that he'd lied to him to separate us, but he
turned right around and took it back and I knew Dannie belaved
him thin; but he can't after Jimmy confissed it again to both of
you."

"What do you mean by `saw them fight?'" Father Michael was
leaning toward Mary anxiously.

Mary told him.

"Then that is the explanation to the whole thing," said the
priest. "Dannie did believe Jimmy when he took it back, and he
died before he could repeat to Dannie what he had told me. And I
have had the feeling that Dannie thought himself in a way to
blame for Jimmy's death."

"He was not! Oh, he was not!" cried Mary Malone. "Didn't I live
there with them all those years? Dannie always was good as gold
to Jimmy. It was shameful the way Jimmy imposed on him, and spint
his money, and took me from him. It was shameful! Shameful!"

"Be calm! Be calm!" cautioned Father Michael. "I agree with you.
I am only trying to arrive at Dannie's point of view. He well
might feel that he was responsible, if after humoring Jimmy like
a child all his life, he at last lost his temper and dealt with
him as if he were a man. If that is the case, he is of honor so
fine, that he would hesitate to speak to you, no matter what he
suffered. And then it is clear to me that he does not understand
how Jimmy separated you in the first place."

"And lied me into marrying him, whin I told him over and over how
I loved Dannie. Jimmy Malone took iverything I had to give, and
he left me alone for fiftane years, with my three little dead
babies, that died because I'd no heart to desire life for thim,
and he took my youth, and he took my womanhood, and he took my
man--" Mary arose in primitive rage. "You naden't bother!" she
said. "I'm going straight to Dannie meself."

"Don't!" said Father Michael softly. "Don't do that, Mary! It
isn't the accepted way. There is a better! Let him come to you."

"But he won't come! He don't know! He's in Jimmy's grip tighter
in death than he was in life." Mary began to sob again.

"He will come," said Father Michael. "Be calm! Wait a little, my
child. After all these years, don't spoil a love that has been
almost unequaled in holiness and beauty, by anger at the dead.
Let me go to Dannie. We are good friends. I can tell him Jimmy
made a confession to me, that he was trying to repeat to him,
when punishment, far more awful than anything you have suffered,
overtook him. Always remember, Mary, he died unshriven!" Mary
began to shiver. "Your suffering is over," continued the priest.
"You have many good years yet that you may spend with Dannie; God
will give you living children, I am sure. Think of the years
Jimmy's secret has hounded and driven him! Think of the penalty
he must pay before he gets a glimpse of paradise, if he be not
eternally lost!"

"I have!" exclaimed Mary. "And it is nothing to the fact that he
took Dannie from me, and yet kept him in my home while he
possessed me himsilf for years. May he burn----"

"Mary! Let that suffice!" cried the priest. "He will! The
question now is, shall I go to Dannie?"

"Will you till him just what Jimmy told you? Will you till him
that I have loved him always?"

"Yes," said Father Michael.

"Will you go now?"

"I cannot! I have work. I will come early in the morning."

"You will till him ivirything?" she repeated.

"I will," promised Father Michael.

Mary went back to Mrs. Dolan's comforted. She was anxious to
return home at once, but at last consented to spend the day. Now
that she was sure Dannie did not know the truth, her heart warmed
toward him. She was anxious to comfort and help him in the long
struggle which she saw that he must have endured. By late
afternoon she could bear it no longer and started back to Rainbow
Bottom in time to prepare supper.

For the first hour after Mary had gone Dannie whistled to keep up
his courage. By the second he had no courage to keep. By the
third he was indulging in the worst fit of despondency he ever
had known. He had told her to stay a week. A week! It would be an
eternity! There alone again! Could he bear it? He got through to
mid- afternoon some way, and then in jealous fear and foreboding
he became almost frantic. One way or the other, this thing must
be settled. Fiercer raged the storm within him and at last toward
evening it became unendurable.

At its height the curling smoke from the chimney told him that
Mary had come home. An unreasoning joy seized him. He went to the
barn and listened. He could hear her moving about preparing
supper. As he watched she came to the well for water and before
she returned to the cabin she stood looking over the fields as if
trying to locate him. Dannie's blood ran hotly and his pulses
were leaping. "Go to her! Go to her now!" demanded passion,
struggling to break leash. "You killed Jimmy! You murdered your
friend!" cried conscience, with unyielding insistence. Poor
Dannie gave one last glance at Mary, and then turned, and for the
second time he ran from her as if pursued by demons. But this
time he went straight to Five Mile Hill, and the grave of Jimmy
Malone.

He sat down on it, and within a few feet of Jimmy's bones, Dannie
took his tired head in his hands, and tried to think, and for the
life of him, he could think but two things. That he had killed
Jimmy, and that to live longer without Mary would kill him. Hour
after hour he fought with his lifelong love for Jimmy and his
lifelong love for Mary. Night came on, the frost bit, the wind
chilled, and the little brown owls screeched among the
gravestones, and Dannie battled on. Morning came, the sun arose,
and shone on Dannie, sitting numb with drawn face and bleeding
heart.

Mary prepared a fine supper the night before, and patiently
waited, and when Dannie did not come, she concluded that he had
gone to town, without knowing that she had returned. Tilly grew
sleepy, so she put the child to bed, and presently she went
herself. Father Michael would make everything right in the
morning. But in the morning Dannie was not there, and had not
been. Mary became alarmed. She was very nervous by the time
Father Michael arrived. He decided to go to the nearest neighbor,
and ask when Dannie had been seen last. As he turned from the
lane into the road a man of that neighborhood was passing on his
wagon, and the priest hailed him, and asked if he knew where
Dannie Macnoun was.

"Back in Five Mile Hill, a man with his head on his knees, is a-
settin' on the grave of Jimmy Malone, and I allow that would be
Dannie Macnoun, the damn fool!" he said.

Father Michael went back to the cabin, and told Mary he had
learned where Dannie was, and to have no uneasiness, and he would
go to see him immediately.

"And first of all you'll tell him how Jimmy lied to him?"

"I will!" said the priest.

He entered the cemetery, and walked slowly to the grave of Jimmy
Malone. Dannie lifted his head, and stared at him.

"I saw you," said Father Michael, "and I came in to speak with you."
He took Dannie's hand. "You are here at this hour to my surprise."

"I dinna know that ye should be surprised at my comin' to sit by
Jimmy at ony time," coldly replied Dannie. "He was my only friend
in life, and another mon so fine I'll never know. I often come here."

The priest shifted his weight from one foot to the other, and
then he sat down on a grave near Dannie. "For a year I have been
waiting to talk with you," he said.

Dannie wiped his face, and lifting his hat, ran his fingers
through his hair, as if to arouse himself. His eyes were dull and
listless. "I am afraid I am no fit to talk sensibly," he said. "I
am much troubled. Some other time----"

"Could you tell me your trouble?" asked Father Michael.

Dannie shook his head.

"I have known Mary Malone all her life," said the priest softly,
"and been her confessor. I have known Jimmy Malone all his life,
and heard his dying confession. I know what it was he was trying
to tell you when he died. Think again!"

Dannie Macnoun stood up. He looked at the priest intently. "Did
ye come here purposely to find me?"

"Yes."

"What do ye want?"

"To clear your mind of all trouble, and fill your heart with
love, and great peace, and rest. Our Heavenly Father knows that
you need peace of heart, and rest, Dannie."

"To fill my heart wi' peace, ye will have to prove to me that I'm
no responsible fra the death of Jimmy Malone; and to give it
rest, ye will have to prove to me that I'm free to marry his
wife. Ye can do neither of those things."

"I can do both," said the priest calmly. "My son, that is what I
came to do."

Dannie's face grew whiter and whiter, as the blood receded, and
his big hands gripped at his sides.

"Aye, but ye canna!" he cried desperately. "Ye canna!"

"I can," said the priest. "Listen to me! Did Jimmy get anything
at all said to you?"

"He said, `Mary,' then he choked on the next word, then he gasped
out `yours,' and it was over."

"Have you any idea what he was trying to tell you?"

"Na!" answered Dannie. "He was mortal sick, and half delirious,
and I paid little heed. If he lived, he would tell me when he was
better. If he died, nothing mattered, fra I was responsible, and
better friend mon never had. There was nothing on earth Jimmy
would na have done for me. He was so big hearted, so generous! My
God, how I have missed him! How I have missed him!"

"Your faith in Jimmy is strong," ventured the bewildered priest,
for he did not see his way.

Dannie lifted his head. The sunshine was warming him, and his
thoughts were beginning to clear.

"My faith in Jimmy Malone is so strong," he said, "that if I lost
it, I never should trust another living mon. He had his faults to
others, I admit that, but he never had ony to me. He was my
friend, and above my life I loved him. I wad gladly have died to
save him."

"And yet you say you are responsible for his death!"

"Let me tell ye!" cried Dannie eagerly, and began on the story
the priest wanted to hear from him. As he finished Father
Michael's face lighted.

"What folly!" he said, "that a man of your intelligence should
torture yourself with the thought of responsibility in a case
like that. Any one would have claimed the fish in those
circumstances. Priest that I am, I would have had it, even if I
fought for it. Any man would! And as for what followed, it was
bound to come! He was a tortured man, and a broken one. If he had
not lain out that night, he would a few nights later. It was not
in your power to save him. No man can be saved from himself,
Dannie. Did what he said make no impression on you?"

"Enough that I would have killed him with my naked hands if he
had na taken it back. Of course he had to retract! If I believed
that of Jimmy, after the life we lived together, I would curse
God and mon, and break fra the woods, and live and dee there alone."

"Then what was he trying to tell you when he died?" asked the
bewildered priest.

"To take care of Mary, I judge."

"Not to marry her; and take her for your own?"

Dannie began to tremble.

"Remember, I talked with him first," said Father Michael, "and
what he confessed to me, he knew was final. He died before he
could talk to you, but I think it is time to tell you what he
wanted to say. He--he--was trying--trying to tell you, that there
was nothing but love in his heart for you. That he did not in any
way blame you. That--that Mary was yours. That you were free to
take her. That----"

"What!" cried Dannie wildly. "Are ye sure? Oh, my God!"

"Perfectly sure!" answered Father Michael. "Jimmy knew how long
and faithfully you had loved Mary, and she had loved you----"

"Mary had loved me? Carefu', mon! Are ye sure?"

"I know," said Father Michael convincingly. "I give you my
priestly word, I know, and Jimmy knew, and was altogether
willing. He loved you deeply, as he could love any one, Dannie,
and he blamed you for nothing at all. The only thing that would
have brought Jimmy any comfort in dying, was to know that you
would end your life with Mary, and not hate his memory."

"Hate!" cried Dannie. "Hate! Father Michael, if ye have come to
tell me that Jimmy na held me responsible fra his death, and was
willing fra me to have Mary, your face looks like the face of God
to me!" Dannie gripped the priest's hand. "Are ye sure? Are ye
sure, mon?" He almost lifted Father Michael from the ground.

"I tell you, I know! Go and be happy!"

"Some ither day I will try to thank ye," said Dannie, turning
away. "Noo, I'm in a little of a hurry." He was half way to the
gate when he turned back. "Does Mary know this?" he asked.

"She does," said the priest. "You are one good man, Dannie, go
and be happy, and may the blessing of God go with you."

Dannie lifted his hat.

"And Jimmy, too," he said, "put Jimmy in, Father Michael."

"May the peace of God rest the troubled soul of Jimmy Malone,"
said Father Michael, and not being a Catholic, Dannie did not
know that from the blessing for which he asked.

He hurried away with the brightness of dawn on his lined face,
which looked almost boyish under his whitening hair.

Mary Malone was at the window, and turmoil and bitterness were
beginning to burn in her heart again. Maybe the priest had not
found Dannie. Maybe he was not coming. Maybe a thousand things.
Then he WAS coming. Coming straight and sure. Coming across the
fields, and leaping fences at a bound. Coming with such speed and
force as comes the strong man, fifteen years denied. Mary's heart
began to jar, and thump, and waves of happiness surged over her.
And then she saw that look of dawn, of serene delight on the face
of the man, and she stood aghast. Dannie threw wide the door, and
crossed her threshold with outstretched arms.

"Is it true?" he panted. "That thing Father Michael told me, is
it true? Will ye be mine, Mary Malone? At last will you be mine?
Oh, my girl, is the beautiful thing that the priest told me true?"

"THE BEAUTIFUL THING THAT THE PRIEST TOLD HIM!"

Mary Malone swung a chair before her, and stepped back. "Wait!"
she cried sharply. "There must be some mistake. Till me ixactly
what Father Michael told you?"

"He told me that Jimmy na held me responsible fra his death. That
he loved me when he died. That he was willing I should have ye!
Oh, Mary, wasna that splendid of him. Wasna he a grand mon? Mary,
come to me. Say that it's true! Tell me, if ye love me."

Mary Malone stared wide-eyed at Dannie, and gasped for breath.

Dannie came closer. At last he had found his tongue. "Fra the
love of mercy, if ye are comin' to me, come noo, Mary" he begged.
"My arms will split if they dinna get round ye soon, dear. Jimmy
told ye fra me, sixteen years ago, how I loved ye, and he told me
when he came back how sorry ye were fra me, and he--he almost
cried when he told me. I never saw a mon feel so. Grand old
Jimmy! No other mon like him!"

Mary drew back in desperation.

"You see here, Dannie Micnoun!" she screamed. "You see here----"

"I do," broke in Dannie. "I'm lookin'! All I ever saw, or see
now, or shall see till I dee is `here,' when `here' is ye, Mary
Malone. Oh! If a woman ever could understand what passion means
to a mon! If ye knew what I have suffered through all these
years, you'd end it, Mary Malone."

Mary gave the chair a shove. "Come here, Dannie," she said.
Dannie cleared the space between them. Mary set her hands against
his breast. "One minute," she panted. "Just one! I have loved you
all me life, me man. I niver loved any one but you. I niver
wanted any one but you. I niver hoped for any Hivin better than I
knew I'd find in your arms. There was a mistake. There was an
awful mistake, when I married Jimmy. I'm not tillin' you now, and
I niver will, but you must realize that! Do you understand me?"

"Hardly," breathed Dannie. "Hardly!"

"Will, you can take your time if you want to think it out,
because that's all I'll iver till you. There was a horrible
mistake. It was YOU I loved, and wanted to marry. Now bend down
to me, Dannie Micnoun, because I'm going to take your head on me
breast and kiss your dear face until I'm tired," said Mary Malone.

An hour later Father Michael came leisurely down the lane, and
the peace of God was with him.

A radiant Mary went out to meet him.

"You didn't till him!" she cried accusingly. "You didn't till him!"

The priest laid a hand on her head.

"Mary, the greatest thing in the whole world is self-sacrifice,"
he said. "The pot at the foot of the rainbow is just now running
over with the pure gold of perfect contentment. But had you and I
done such a dreadful thing as to destroy the confidence of a good
man in his friend, your heart never could know such joy as it now
knows in this sacrifice of yours; and no such blessed, shining
light could illumine your face. That is what I wanted to see. I
said to myself as I came along, `She will try, but she will
learn, as I did, that she cannot look in his eyes and undeceive
him. And when she becomes reconciled, her face will be so good to
see.' And it is. You did not tell him either, Mary Malone!"

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