Part 9 out of 10
spoil her life. I simply have got to brace up, Bel, and
keep on trying. She thinks it is nonsense about thrills,
and some wonderful feeling that takes possession of
you. Lord, Bel! There isn't much nonsense about the
thing that rages in my brain, heart, soul, and body. It
strikes me as the gravest reality that ever overtook a
``She is growing wonderfully attached to me. `Couldn't
live without me,' Bel, that is what she said. Maybe
it would be a scheme to bring Granny here to stay with
her, and take a few months in some city this winter on
those chemical points that trouble me. There is an old
saying about `absence making the heart grow fonder.'
Maybe separation is the thing to work the trick. I've
tried about everything else I know.
``But I'm in too much of a hurry! What a fool a
man is! A few weeks ago, Bel, I said to myself that if
Harmon were away and had no part in her life I'd be
the happiest man alive. Happiest man alive! Bel,
take a look at me now! Happy! Well, why shouldn't
I be happy? She is here. She is growing in strength and
beauty every hour. She cares more for me day by day.
From an outside viewpoint it seems as if I had almost
all a man could ask in reason. But when was a strong
man in the grip of love ever reasonable? I think the
Almighty took a pretty grave responsibility when He
made men as He did. If I had been He, and understood
the forces I was handling, I would have been too
big a coward to do it. There is nothing for me, Bel, but
to move on doing my level best; and if she doesn't
awaken soon, I will try the absent treatment. As sure
as you are the most faithful dog a man ever owned, Bel,
I'll try the absent treatment.''
The Harvester arose and entered the cabin, stepping
softly, for it was dark in the Girl's room, and he could
not hear a sound there. He turned up the lights in the
living-room. As he did so the first thing he saw was the
little trunk. He looked at it intently, then picked up a
book. Every page he turned he glanced again at the
trunk. At last he laid down the book and sat staring,
his brain working rapidly. He ended by carrying the
trunk to his room. He darkened the living-room,
lighted his own, drew the rain screens, and piece by piece
carefully examined the contents. There were the
pictures, but the name of the photographer had been
removed. There was not a word that would help in
identification. He emptied it to the bottom, and as
he picked up the last piece his fingers struck in a
peculiar way that did not give the impression of touching
a solid surface. He felt over it carefully, and when he
examined with a candle he plainly could see where the
cloth lining had been cut and lifted.
For a long time he knelt staring at it, then he
deliberately inserted his knife blade and raised it. The
cloth had been glued to a heavy sheet of pasteboard the
exact size of the trunk bottom. Beneath it lay half a
dozen yellow letters, and face down two tissue-wrapped
photographs. The Harvester examined them first. They
were of a man close forty, having a strong, aggressive
face, on which pride and dominant will power were
prominently indicated. The other was a reproduction
of a dainty and delicate woman, with exquisitely tender
and gentle features. Long the Harvester studied them.
The names of the photographer and the city were missing.
There was nothing except the faces. He could detect
traces of the man in the poise of the Girl and the carriage
of her head, and suggestions of the woman in the refined
sweetness of her expression. Each picture represented
wealth in dress and taste in pose. Finally he laid them
together on the table, picked up one of the letters, and
read it. Then he read all of them.
Before he finished, tears were running down his cheeks,
and his resolution was formed. These were the appeals
of an adoring mother, crazed with fear for the safety of
an only child, who unfortunately had fallen under the
influence of a man the mother dreaded and feared, because
of her knowledge of life and men of his character. They
were one long, impassioned plea for the daughter not
to trust a stranger, not to believe that vows of passion
could be true when all else in life was false, not to trust
her untried judgment of men and the world against the
experience of her parents. But whether the tears that
stained those sheets had fallen from the eyes of the
suffering mother or the starved and deserted daughter,
there was no way for the Harvester to know. One
thing was clear: It was not possible for him to rest
until he knew if that woman yet lived and bore such
suffering. But every trace of address had been
torn away, and there was nothing to indicate where
or in what circumstances these letters had been written.
A long time the Harvester sat in deep thought. Then
he returned all the letters save one. This with the
pictures he made into a packet that he locked in his
desk. The trunk he replaced and then went to bed.
Early the next morning he drove to Onabasha and posted
the parcel. The address it bore was that of the largest
detective agency in the country. Then he bought an
interesting book, a box of fruit, and hurried back to the
Girl. He found her on the veranda, Belshazzar stretched
close with one eye shut and the other on his charge,
whose cheeks were flushed with lovely colour as she bent
over her drawing material. The Harvester went to
her with a rush, and slipping his fingers under her chin,
tilted back her head against him.
``Got a kiss for me, honey?'' he inquired.
``No sir,'' answered the Girl emphatically. ``I gave
you a perfectly lovely one yesterday, and you said it
was not right. I am going to try just once more, and
if you say again that it won't do, I'm going back to
Chicago or to my dear Uncle Henry, I haven't decided
Her lips were smiling, but her eyes were full of tears.
``Why thank you, Ruth! I think that is wonderful,''
said the Harvester. ``I'll risk the next one. In the
meantime, excuse me if I give you a demonstration
of the real thing, just to furnish you an idea of how it
The Harvester delivered the sample, and went striding
to the marsh. The dazed Girl sat staring at her work,
trying to realize what had happened; for that was the
first time the Harvester had kissed her on the lips, and
it was the material expression a strong man gives the
woman he loves when his heart is surging at high tide.
The Girl sat motionless, gazing at her study.
In the marsh she knew the Harvester was reaping
queen-of-the-meadow, and around the high borders,
elecampane and burdock. She could hear his voice
in snatches of song or cheery whistle; notes that she
divined were intended to keep her from worrying. Intermingled
with them came the dog's bark of defiance as
he digged for an escaping chipmunk, his note of pleading
when he wanted a root cut with the mattock, his cry of
discovery when he thought he had found something the
Harvester would like, or his yelp of warning when he
scented danger. The Girl looked down the drive to
the lake and across at the hedge. Everywhere she saw
glowing colour, with intermittent blue sky and green
leaves, all of it a complete picture, from which nothing
could be spared. She turned slowly and looked toward
the marsh, trying to hear the words of the song above
the ripple of Singing Water, and to see the form of the
man. Slowly she lifted her handkerchief and pressed
it against her lips, as she whispered in an awed voice,
``My gracious Heaven, is THAT the kind of a kiss he is
expecting me to give HIM? Why, I couldn't----not to
save my life.''
She placed her brushes in water, set the colour box
on the paper, and went to the kitchen to prepare the
noon lunch. As she worked the soft colour deepened
in her cheeks, a new light glowed in her eyes, and she
hummed over the tune that floated across the marsh.
She was very busy when the Harvester came, but he
spoke casually of his morning's work, ate heartily, and
ordered her to take a nap while he washed roots and
filled the trays, and then they went to the woods
together for the afternoon.
In the evening they came home to the cabin and finished
the day's work. As the night was chilly, the Harvester
heaped some bark in the living-room fireplace, and lay
on the rug before it, while the Girl sat in an easy chair
and watched him as he talked. He was telling her
about some wonderful combinations he was going to
compound for different ailments and he laughingly
asked her if she wanted to be a millionaire's wife and
live in a palace.
``Of course I could if I wanted to!'' she suggested.
``You could!'' cried the Harvester. ``All that is
necessary is to combine a few proper drugs in one great
remedy and float it. That is easy! The people will do the
``You talk as if you believe that,'' marvelled the Girl.
``Want it proven?'' challenged the Harvester.
``No!'' she cried in swift alarm. ``What do we want
with more than we have? What is there necessary
to happiness that is not ours now? Maybe it is true
that the `love of money is the root of all evil.' Don't
you ever get a lot just to find out. You said the night
I came here that you didn't want more than you had
and now I don't. I won't have it! It might bring
restlessness and discontent. I've seen it make other
people unhappy and separate them. I don't want money,
I want work. You make your remedies and offer them
to suffering humanity for just a living profit, and I'll
keep house and draw designs. I am perfectly happy,
free, and unspeakably content. I never dreamed that
it was possible for me to be so glad, and so filled with
the joy of life. There is only one thing on earth I want.
If I only could----''
``Could what, Ruth?''
``Could get that kiss right----''
The Harvester laughed.
``Forget it, I tell you!'' he commanded. ``Just so
long as you worry and fret, so long I've got to wait. If
you quit thinking about it, all `unbeknownst' to yourself
you'll awake some morning with it on your lips. I
can see traces of it growing stronger every day. Very
soon now it's going to materialize, and then get out of
my way, for I'll be a whirling, irresponsible lunatic,
with the wild joy of it. Oh I've got faith in that kiss
of yours, Ruth! It's on the way. The fates have
booked it. There isn't a reason on earth why I should
be served so scurvy a trick as to miss it, and I never will
believe that I shall----''
``David,'' interrupted the Girl, ``go on talking and
don't move a muscle, just reach over presently and fix
the fire or something, and then turn naturally and look
at the window beside your door.''
``Shall miss it,'' said the Harvester steadily.
``That would be too unmerciful. What do you see,
``A face. If I am not greatly mistaken, it is my
Uncle Henry and he appears like a perfect fiend. Oh
David, I am afraid!''
``Be quiet and don't look,'' said the Harvester.
He turned and tossed a piece of bark on the fire.
Then he reached for the poker, pushed it down and
stirred the coals. He arose as he worked.
``Rise slowly and quietly and go to your room. Stay
there until I call you.''
With the Girl out of the way, the Harvester pottered
over the fire, and when the flame leaped he lifted a stick
of wood, hesitated as if it were too small, and laying it
down, started to bring a larger one. In the dining-
room he caught a small stick from the wood box, softly
stepped from the door, and ran around the house. But
he awakened Belshazzar on the kitchen floor, and the
dog barked and ran after him. By the time the Harvester
reached the corner of his room the man leaped upon
a horse and went racing down the drive. The Harvester
flung the stick of wood, but missed the man and hit
the horse. The dog sprang past the Harvester and
vanished. There was the sound and flash of a revolver,
and the rattle of the bridge as the horse crossed it. The
dog came back unharmed. The Harvester ran to the
telephone, called the Onabasha police, and asked them
to send a mounted man to meet the intruder before he
could reach a cross road; but they were too slow and
missed him. However, the Girl was certain she had
recognized her uncle, and was extremely nervous; but
the Harvester only laughed and told her it was a trip
made out of curiosity. Her uncle wanted to see if
he could learn if she were well and happy, and he finally
convinced her that this was the case, although he was
not very sanguine himself.
For the next three days the Harvester worked in the
woods and he kept the Girl with him every minute.
By the end of that time he really had persuaded himself
that it was merely curiosity. So through the cooling
fall days they worked together. They were very happy.
Before her wondering eyes the Harvester hung queer
branches, burs, nuts, berries, and trailing vines with
curious seed pods. There were masses of brilliant
flowers, most of them strange to the Girl, many to the
great average of humanity. While she sat bending over
them, beside her the Harvester delved in the black earth
of the woods, or the clay and sand of the open hillside,
or the muck of the lake shore, and lifted large bagfuls
of roots that he later drenched on the floating raft on
the lake, and when they had drained he dried them.
Some of them he did not wet, but scraped and wiped
clean and dry. Often after she was sleeping, and long
before she awoke in the morning, he was at work carry-
ing heaped trays from the evaporator to the store-
room, and tying the roots, leaves, bark, and seeds into
While he gathered trillium roots the Girl made
drawings of the plant and learned its commercial value.
She drew lady's slipper and Solomon's seal, and learned
their uses and prices; and carefully traced wild ginger
leaves while nibbling the aromatic root. It was difficult
to keep from protesting when the work carried them
around the lake shore and to the pokeberry beds, for the
colour of these she loved. It required careful explanation
as to the value of the roots and seeds as blood purifier,
and the argument that in a few more days the frost
would level the bed, to induce her to consent to its
harvesting. But when the case was properly presented,
she put aside her drawing and stained her slender fingers
gathering the seeds, and loved the work.
The sun was golden on the lake, the birds of the upland
were clustering over reeds and rushes, for the sake of
plentiful seed and convenient water. Many of them
sang fitfully, the notes of almost all of them were
melodious, and the day was a long, happy dream. There
was but little left to gather until ginseng time. For
that the Harvester had engaged several boys to help
him, for the task of digging the roots, washing and drying
them, burying part of the seeds and preparing the
remainder for market seemed endless for one man to
attempt. After a full day the Harvester lay before the
fire, and his head was so close the Girl's knee that her
fingers were in reach of his hair. Every time he mended
the fire he moved a little, until he could feel the touch
of her garments against him. Then he began to plan
for the winter; how they would store food for the long,
cold days, how much fuel would be required, when
they would go to the city for their winter clothing,
what they would read, and how they would work together
at the drawings.
``I am almost too anxious to wait longer to get back
to my carving,'' he said. ``Whoever would have thought
this spring that fall would come and find the birds talking
of going, the caterpillars spinning winter quarters, the
animals holing up, me getting ready for the cold, and
your candlesticks not finished. Winter is when you
really need them. Then there is solid cheer in numbers
of candles and a roaring wood fire. The furnace is going
to be a good thing to keep the floors and the bathroom
warm, but an open fire of dry, crackling wood is the
only rational source of heat in a home. You must
watch for the fairy dances on the backwall, Ruth, and
learn to trace goblin faces in the coals. Sometimes there
is a panorama of temples and trees, and you will find
exquisite colour in the smoke. Dry maple makes a
lovely lavender, soft and fine as a floating veil, and damp
elm makes a blue, and hickory red and yellow. I almost
can tell which wood is burning after the bark is gone, by
the smoke and flame colour. When the little red fire
fairies come out and dance on the backwall it is fun
to figure what they are celebrating. By the way, Ruth,
I have been a lamb for days. I hope you have observed!
But I would sleep a little sounder to-night if you only
could give me a hint whether that kiss is coming on
He tipped back his head to see her face, and it was
glorious in the red firelight; the big eyes never appeared
so deep and dark. The tilted head struck her hand,
and her fingers ran through his hair.
``You said to forget it,'' she reminded him, ``and then
it would come sooner.''
``Which same translated means that it is not here yet.
Well, I didn't expect it, so I am not disappointed; but
begorry, I do wish it would materialize by Christmas.
I think I will work for that. Wouldn't it make a day
worth while, though? By the way, what do you want
for Christmas, Ruth?''
``A doll,'' she answered.
The Harvester laughed. He tipped his head again
to see her face and suddenly grew quiet, for it was very
``I am quite in earnest,'' she said. ``I think the big
dolls in the stores are beautiful, and I never owned only
a teeny little one. All my life I've wanted a big doll as
badly as I ever longed for anything that was not absolutely
necessary to keep me alive. In fact, a doll is
essential to a happy childhood. The mother instinct
is so ingrained in a girl that if she doesn't have dolls
to love, even as a baby, she is deprived of a part of her
natural rights. It's a pitiful thing to have been the
little girl in the picture who stands outside the window
and gazes with longing soul at the doll she is anxious
to own and can't ever have. Harvester, I was always
that little girl. I am quite in earnest. I want a big,
beautiful doll more than anything else.''
As she talked the Girl's fingers were idly threading
the Harvester's hair. His head lightly touched her
knee, and she shifted her position to afford him a
comfortable resting place. With a thrill of delight that
shook him, the man laid his head in her lap and looked
into the fire, his face glowing as a happy boy's.
``You shall have the loveliest doll that money can buy,
Ruth,'' he promised. ``What else do you want?''
``A roasted goose, plum pudding, and all those horrid
indigestible things that Christmas stories always tell
about; and popcorn balls, and candy, and everything
I've always wanted and never had, and a long beautiful
day with you. That's all!''
``Ruth, I'm so happy I almost wish I could go to
Heaven right now before anything occurs to spoil this,''
said the Harvester.
The wheels of a car rattled across the bridge. He
whirled to his knees, and put his arms around the
``Ruth,'' he said huskily. ``I'll wager a thousand
dollars I know what is coming. Hug me tight, quick!
and give me the best kiss you can----any old kind of a
one, so you touch my lips with yours before I've got
to open that door and let in trouble.''
The Girl threw her arms around his neck and with the
imprint of her lips warm on his the Harvester crossed
the room, and his heart dropped from the heights with a
thud. He stepped out, closing the door behind him, and
crossing the veranda, passed down the walk. He recognized
the car as belonging to a garage in Onabasha, and
in it sat two men, one of whom spoke.
``Are you David Langston?''
``Yes,'' said the Harvester.
``Did you send a couple of photographs to a New
York detective agency a few days ago with inquiries
concerning some parties you wanted located?''
``I did,'' said the Harvester. ``But I was not expecting
any such immediate returns.''
``Your questions touched on a case that long has been
in the hands of the agency, and they telegraphed the
parties. The following day the people had a letter,
giving them the information they required, from another
``That is where Uncle Henry showed his fine Spencerian
hand,'' commented the Harvester. ``It always
will be a great satisfaction that I got my fist in first.''
``Is Miss Jameson here?''
``No,'' said the Harvester. ``My wife is at home. Her
surname was Ruth Jameson, but we have been married
since June. Did you wish to speak with Mrs. Langston?''
``I came for that purpose. My name is Kennedy.
I am the law partner and the closest friend of the young
lady's grandfather. News of her location has prostrated
her grandmother so that he could not leave her, and I
was sent to bring the young woman.''
``Oh!'' said the Harvester. ``Well you will have to
interview her about that. One word first. She does
not know that I sent those pictures and made that
inquiry. One other word. She is just recovering from
a case of fever, induced by wrong conditions of life
before I met her. She is not so strong as she appears.
Understand you are not to be abrupt. Go very gently!
Her feelings and health must be guarded with extreme
The Harvester opened the door, and as she saw the
stranger, the Girl's eyes widened, and she arose and
``Ruth,'' said the Harvester, ``this is a man who has
been making quite a search for you, and at last he has
The Harvester went to the Girl's side, and put a
reinforcing arm around her.
``Perhaps he brings you some news that will make
life most interesting and very lovely for you. Will
you shake hands with Mr. Kennedy?''
The Girl suddenly straightened to unusual height.
``I will hear why he has been making `quite a search
for me,' and on whose authority he has me `located,'
first,'' she said.
A diabolical grin crossed the face of the Harvester,
and he took heart.
``Then please be seated, Mr. Kennedy,'' he said,
``and we will talk over the matter. As I understand,
you are a representative of my wife's people.''
The Girl stared at the Harvester.
``Take your chair, Ruth, and meet this as a matter
of course,'' he advised casually. ``You always have
known that some day it must come. You couldn't
look in the face of those photographs of your mother
in her youth and not realize that somewhere hearts
were aching and breaking, and brains were busy in a
search for her.''
The Girl stood rigid.
``I want it distinctly understood,'' she said, ``that I
have no use on earth for my mother's people. They
come too late. I absolutely refuse to see or to hold any
communication with them.''
``But young lady, that is very arbitrary!'' cried Mr.
Kennedy. ``You don't understand! They are a couple
of old people, and they are slowly dying of broken hearts!''
``Not so badly broken or they wouldn't die slowly,''
commented the Girl grimly. ``The heart that was really
broken was my mother's. The torture of a starved,
overworked body and hopeless brain was hers. There
was nothing slow about her death, for she went out with
only half a life spent, and much of that in acute agony,
because of their negligence. David, you often have
said that this is my home. I choose to take you at
your word. Will you kindly tell this man that he is
not welcome in this house, and I wish him to leave it
The Harvester stepped back, and his face grew very
``I can't, Ruth,'' he said gently.
``Because I brought him here.''
``You brought him here! You! David, are you
``It is through me that he came.''
The Girl caught the mantel for support.
``Then I stand alone again,'' she said. ``Harvester,
I had thought you were on my side.''
``I am at your feet,'' said the man in a broken voice.
``Ruth dear, will you let me explain?''
``There is only one explanation, and with what you
have done for me fresh in my mind, I can't put it into
``Ruth, hear me!''
``I must! You force me! But before you speak
understand this: Not now, or through all eternity, do
I forgive the inexcusable neglect that drove my mother
to what I witnessed and was helpless to avert.''
``My dear! My dear!'' said the Harvester, ``I had
hoped the woods had done a more perfect work in your
heart. Your mother is lying in state now, Girl, safe
from further suffering of any kind; and if I read aright,
her tired face and shrivelled frame were eloquent of
forgiveness. Ruth dear, if she so loved them that her
heart was broken and she died for them, think what
they are suffering! Have some mercy on them.''
``Get this very clear, David,'' said the Girl. ``She
died of hunger for food. Her heart was not so broken
that she couldn't have lived a lifetime, and got much
comfort out of it, if her body had not lacked sustenance.
Oh I was so happy a minute ago. David, why did you
do this thing?''
The Harvester picked up the Girl, placed her in a
chair, and knelt beside her with his arms around her.
``Because of the PAIN IN THE WORLD, Ruth,'' he said
simply. ``Your mother is sleeping sweetly in the long
sleep that knows neither anger nor resentment; and so
I was forced to think of a gentle-faced, little old mother
whose heart is daily one long ache, whose eyes are dim
with tears, and a proud, broken old man who spends his
time trying to comfort her, when his life is as desolate
``How do you know so wonderfully much about their
aches and broken hearts?''
``Because I have seen their faces when they were happy,
Ruth, and so I know what suffering would do to them.
There were pictures of them and letters in the bottom
of that old trunk. I searched it the other night and
found them; and by what life has done to your mother
and to you, I can judge what it is now bringing them.
Never can you be truly happy, Ruth, until you have
forgiven them, and done what you can to comfort the
remainder of their lives. I did it because of the pain
in the world, my girl.''
``What about my pain?''
``The only way on earth to cure it is through
forgiveness. That, and that only, will ease it all away, and
leave you happy and free for life and love. So long as
you let this rancour eat in your heart, Ruth, you are not,
and never can be, normal. You must forgive them,
dear, hear what they have to say, and give them the
comfort of seeing what they can discover of her in you.
Then your heart will be at rest at last, your soul free,
you can take your rightful place in life, and the love
you crave will awaken in your heart. Ruth, dear you
are the acme of gentleness and justice. Be just and
gentle now! Give them their chance! My heart aches,
and always will ache for the pain you have known, but
nursing and brooding over it will not cure it. It is
going to take a heroic operation to cut it out, and I
chose to be the surgeon. You have said that I once
saved your body from pain Ruth, trust me now to
free your soul.''
``What do you want?''
``I want you to speak kindly to this man, who through
my act has come here, and allow him to tell you why
he came. Then I want you to do the kind and womanly
thing your duty suggests that you should.''
``David, I don t understand you!''
``That is no difference,'' said the Harvester. ``The
point is, do you TRUST me?''
The Girl hesitated. ``Of course I do,'' she said at
``Then hear what your grandfather's friend has come
to say for him, and forget yourself in doing to others
as you would have them----really, Ruth, that is
all of religion or of life worth while. Go on, Mr. Kennedy.''
The Harvester drew up a chair, seated himself beside
the Girl, and taking one of her hands, he held it closely
``I was sent here by my law partner and my closest
friend, Mr. Alexander Herron, of Philadelphia,'' said
the stranger. ``Both he and Mrs. Herron were bitterly
opposed to your mother's marriage, because they knew
life and human nature, and there never is but one end
to men such as she married.''
``You may omit that,'' said the Girl coldly. ``Simply
state why you are here.''
``In response to an inquiry from your husband
concerning the originals of some photographs he sent to a
detective agency in New York. They have had the
case for years, and recognizing the pictures as a clue,
they telegraphed Mr. Herron. The prospect of news
after years of fruitless searching so prostrated Mrs.
Herron that he dared not leave her, and he sent me.''
``Kindly tell me this,'' said the Girl. ``Where were
my mother's father and mother for the four years
immediately following her marriage?''
``They went to Europe to avoid the humiliation of
meeting their friends. There, in Italy, Mrs. Herron
developed a fever, and it was several years before she
could be brought home. She retired from society, and
has been confined to her room ever since. When they
could return, a search was instituted at once for their
daughter, but they never have been able to find a trace.
They have hunted through every eastern city they
thought might contain her.''
``And overlooked a little insignificant place like
Chicago, of course.''
``I myself conducted a personal search there, and
visited the home of every Jameson in the directory or
who had mail at the office or of whom I could get a clue
of any sort.''
``I don't suppose two women in a little garret room
would be in the directory, and there never was any mail.''
``Did your mother ever appeal to her parents?''
``She did,'' said the Girl. ``She admitted that she
had been wrong, asked their forgiveness, and begged to
go home. That was in the second year of her marriage,
and she was in Cleveland. Afterward she went to
Chicago, from there she wrote again.''
``Her father and mother were in Italy fighting for the
mother's life, two years after that. It is very easy to
become lost in a large city. Criminals do it every day
and are never found, even with the best detectives on
their trail. I am very sorry about this. My friends
will be broken-hearted. At any time they would have
been more than delighted to have had their daughter
return. A letter on the day following the message from
the agency brought news that she was dead, and now
their only hope for any small happiness at the close of
years of suffering lies with you. I was sent to plead
with you to return with me at once and make them a
visit. Of course, their home is yours. You are their
only heir, and they would be very happy if you were
free, and would remain permanently with them.''
``How do they know I will not be like the father they
``They had sufficient cause to dislike him. They have
every reason to love and welcome you. They are consumed
with anxiety. Will you come?''
``No. This is for me to decide. I do not care for
them or their property. Always they have failed me
when my distress was unspeakable. Now there is only
one thing I ask of life, more than my husband has given
me, and if that lay in his power I would have it. You
may go back and tell them that I am perfectly happy.
I have everything I need. They can give me nothing
I want, not even their love. Perhaps, sometime, I will
go to see them for a few days, if David will go with
``Young woman, do you realize that you are issuing
a death sentence?'' asked the lawyer gently.
``It is a just one.''
``I do not believe your husband agrees with you.
I know I do not. Mrs. Herron is a tiny old lady, with
a feeble spark of vitality left; and with all her strength
she is clinging to life, and pleading with it to give her
word of her only child before she goes out unsatisfied.
She knows that her daughter is gone, and now her hopes
are fastened on you. If for only a few days, you certainly
must go with me.''
``I will not!''
The lawyer turned to the Harvester.
``She will be ready to start with you to-morrow morning,
on the first train north,'' said the Harvester. ``We
will meet you at the station at eight.''
``I----I am afraid I forgot to tell my driver to wait.''
``You mean your instructions were not to let the Girl
out of your sight,'' said the Harvester. ``Very well!
We have comfortable rooms. I will show you to one.
Please come this way.''
The Harvester led the guest to the lake room and
arranged for the night. Then he went to the telephone
and sent a message to an address he had been furnished,
asking for an immediate reply. It went to Philadelphia
and contained a description of the lawyer, and asked if
he had been sent by Mr. Herron to escort his grand-
daughter to his home. When the Harvester returned
to the living-room the Girl, white and defiant, waited
before the fire. He knelt beside her and put his arms
around her, but she repulsed him; so he sat on the rug
and looked at her.
``No wonder you felt sure you knew what that was!''
she cried bitterly.
``Ruth, if you will allow me to lift the bottom of that
old trunk, and if you will read any one of the half dozen
letters I read, you will forgive me, and begin making
preparations to go.''
``It's a wonder you don't hold them before me and
force me to read them,'' she said.
``Don't say anything you will be sorry for after you
are gone, dear.''
``I'm not going!''
``Oh yes you are!''
``Because it is right that you should, and right is
inexorable. Also, because I very much wish you to;
you will do it for me.''
``Why do you want me to go?''
``I have three strong reasons: First, as I told you,
it is the only thing that will cleanse your heart of
bitterness and leave it free for the tenanting of a great and
holy love. Next, I think they honestly made every
effort to find your mother, and are now growing old in
despair you can lighten, and you owe it to them and
yourself to do it. Lastly, for my sake. I've tried
everything I know, Ruth, and I can't make you love me, or
bring you to a realizing sense of it if you do. So before
I saw that chest I had planned to harvest my big crop,
and try with all my heart while I did it, and if love
hadn't come then, I meant to get some one to stay with
you, and I was going away to give you a free perspective
for a time. I meant to plead that I needed a few weeks
with a famous chemist I know to prepare me better for
my work. My real motive was to leave you, and let
you see if absence could do anything for me in your
heart. You've been very nearly the creature of my
hands for months, my girl; whatever any one else may
do, you're bound to miss me mightily, and I figured
that with me away, perhaps you could solve the problem
alone I seem to fail in helping you with. This is only
a slight change of plans. You are going in my stead.
I will harvest the ginseng and cure it, and then, if you
are not at home, and the loneliness grows unbearable,
I will take the chemistry course, until you decide when
you will come, if ever.''
`` `If ever?' ''
``Yes,'' said the Harvester. ``I am growing
accustomed to facing big propositions----I will not dodge
this. The faces of the three of your people I have seen
prove refinement. Their clothing indicates wealth. These
long, lonely years mean that they will shower you with
every outpouring of loving, hungry hearts. They will
keep you if they can, my dear. I do not blame them.
The life I propose for you is one of work, mostly for
others, and the reward, in great part, consists of the joy
in the soul of the creator of things that help in the world.
I realize that you will find wealth, luxury, and lavish
love. I know that I may lose you forever, and if it is
right and best for you, I hope I will. I know exactly
what I am risking, but I yet say, go.''
``I don't see how you can, and love me as you prove
``That is a little streak of the inevitableness of nature
that the forest has ground into my soul. I'd rather
cut off my right hand than take yours with it, in the
parting that will come in the morning; but you are
going, and I am sending you. So long as I am shaped
like a human being, it is in me to dignify the possession
of a vertical spine by acting as nearly like a man as I
know how. I insist that you are my wife, because it
crucifies me to think otherwise. I tell you to-night,
Ruth, you are not and never have been. You are free
as air. You married me without any love for me in
your heart, and you pretended none. It was all my
doing. If I find that I was wrong, I will free you without
a thought of results to me. I am a secondary proposition.
I thought then that you were alone and helpless, and
before the Almighty, I did the best I could. But I
know now that you are entitled to the love of relatives,
wealth, and high social position, no doubt. If I allowed
the passion in my heart to triumph over the reason of
my brain, and worked on your feelings and tied you to
the woods, without knowing but that you might greatly
prefer that other life you do not know, but to which
you are entitled, I would go out and sink myself in
``David, I love you. I do not want to go. Please,
please let me remain with you.''
``Not if you could say that realizing what it means,
and give me the kiss right now I would stake my soul
to win! Not by any bribe you can think of or any
allurement you can offer. It is right that you go to
those suffering old people. It is right you know what
you are refusing for me, before you renounce it. It is
right you take the position to which you are entitled,
until you understand thoroughly whether this suits you
better. When you know that life as well as this, the
people you will meet as intimately as me, then you can
decide for all time, and I can look you in the face with
honest, unwavering eye; and if by any chance your
heart is in the woods, and you prefer me and the cabin
to what they have to offer----to all eternity your place
here is vacant, Ruth. My love is waiting for you;
and if you come under those conditions, I never can have
any regret. A clear conscience is worth restraining
passion a few months to gain, and besides, I always have got
the fact to face that when you say `I love,' and when
I say `I love,' it means two entirely different things.
When you realize that the love of man for woman, and
woman for man, is a thing that floods the heart, brain,
soul, and body with a wonderful and all-pervading
ecstasy, and if I happen to be the man who makes you
realize it, then come tell me, and we will show God and
His holy angels what earth means by the Heaven inspired
word, `radiance.' ''
``David, there never will be any other man like you.''
``The exigencies of life must develop many a finer and
``You still refuse me? You yet believe I do not love
``Not with the love I ask, my girl. But if I did not
believe it was germinating in your heart, and that it would
come pouring over me in a torrent some glad day, I
doubt if I could allow you to go, Ruth! I am like any
other man in selfishness and in the passions of the body.''
``Selfishness! You haven't an idea what it means,''
said the Girl. ``And what you call love----there I
haven't. But I know how to appreciate you, and you
may be positively sure that it will be only a few days
until I will come back to you.''
``But I don't want you until you can bring the love
I crave. I am sending you to remain until that time,
``But it may be months, Man!''
``Then stay months.''
``But it may be----''
``It may be never! Then remain forever. That will
be proof positive that your happiness does not lie in
``Why should I not consider you as you do me?''
``Because I love you, and you do not love me.''
``You are cruel to yourself and to me. You talk about
the pain in the world. What about the pain in my heart
right now? And if I know you in the least, one degree
more would make you cry aloud for mercy. Oh David,
are we of no consideration at all?''
The muscles of the Harvester's face twisted an instant.
``This is where we lop off the small branches to grow
perfect fruit later. This is where we do evil that good
may result. This is where we suffer to-night in order
we may appreciate fully the joy of love's dawning. If I
am causing you pain, forgive me, dear heart. I would
give my life to prevent it, but I am powerless. It is
right! We cannot avoid doing it, if we ever would
He picked up the Girl, and held her crushed in his
arms a long time. Then he set her inside her door and
said, ``Lay out what you want to take and I will help
you pack, so that you can get some sleep. We must
be ready early in the morning.''
When the clothing to be worn was selected, the new
trunk packed, and all arrangements made, the Girl sat in
his arms before the fire as he had held her when she was
ill, and then he sent her to bed and went to the lake shore
to fight it out alone. Only God and the stars and the
faithful Belshazzar saw the agony of a strong man in
Near dawn he heard the tinkle of the bell and went
to receive his message and order a car for morning.
Then he returned to the merciful darkness of night, and
paced the driveway until light came peeping over the
tree tops. He prepared breakfast and an hour later
put the Girl on the train, and stood watching it until
the last rift of smoke curled above the spires of the city.
THE MAN IN THE BACKGROUND
Then the Harvester returned to Medicine Woods
to fight his battle alone. At first the pain
seemed unendurable, but work always had
been his panacea, it was his salvation now. He went
through the cabin, folding bedding and storing it in
closets, rolling rugs sprinkled with powdered alum,
packing cushions, and taking window seats from the
``Our sleeping room and the kitchen will serve for us,
Bel,'' he said. ``We will put all these other things away
carefully, so they will be as good as new when the Girl
The evening of the second day he was called to the
``There is a telegram for you,'' said a voice. ``A
message from Philadelphia. It reads: `Arrived safely.
Thank you for making me come. Dear old people. Will
write soon. With love, Ruth.'
``Have you got it?''
``No,'' lied the Harvester, grinning rapturously. ``Repeat
it again slowly, and give me time after each sentence
to write it. Now! Go on!''
He carried the message to the back steps and sat
reading it again and again.
``I supposed I'd have to wait at least four days,'' he
said to Ajax as the bird circled before him. ``This is
from the Girl, old man, and she is not forgetting us to
begin with, anyway. She is there all safe, she sees that
they need her, they are lovable old people, she is going to
write us all about it soon, and she loves us all she knows
how to love any one. That should be enough to keep us
sane and sensible until her letter comes. There is no use
to borrow trouble, so we will say everything in the world
is right with us, and be as happy as we can on that until
we find something we cannot avoid worrying over. In
the meantime, we will have faith to believe that we
have suffered our share, and the end will be happy for
all of us. I am mighty glad the Girl has a home, and
the right kind of people to care for her. Now, when she
comes back to me, I needn't feel that she was forced,
whether she wanted to or not, because she had nowhere
to go. This will let me out with a clean conscience,
and that is the only thing on earth that allows a man to
live in peace with himself. Now I'll go finish everything
else, and then I'll begin the ginseng harvest.''
So the Harvester hitched Betsy and with Belshazzar
at his feet he drove through the woods to the sarsaparilla
beds. He noticed the beautiful lobed leaves,
at which the rabbits had been nibbling, and the heads
of lustrous purple-black berries as he began digging the
roots that he sold for stimulants.
``I might have needed a dose of you now myself,''
the Harvester addressed a heap of uprooted plants,
``if the electric wires hadn't brought me a better. Great
invention that! Never before realized it fully! I
thought to-day would be black as night, but that message
changes the complexion of affairs mightily. So
I'll dig you for people who really are in need of something
to brace them up.''
After the sarsaparilla was on the trays, he attacked
the beds of Indian hemp, with its long graceful pods,
and took his usual supply. Then he worked diligently
on the warm hillside over the dandelion. When these
were finished he brought half a dozen young men from
the city and drilled them on handling ginseng. He was
warm, dirty, and tired when he came from the beds the
evening of the fourth day. He finished his work at the
barn, prepared and ate his supper, slipped into clean
clothing, and walked to the country road where it crossed
the lane. There he opened his mail box. The letter he
expected with the Philadelphia postmark was inside. He
carried it to the bridge, and sitting in her favourite place,
with the lake breeze threading his hair, opened his
first letter from the Girl.
``My dear Friend, Lover, Husband,'' it began.
The Harvester turned the sheets face down across his
knee, laid his hand on them, and stared meditatively at
the lake. `` `Friend,' '' he commented. ``Well, that's
all right! I am her friend, as well as I know how to be.
`Lover.' I come in there, full force. I did my level
best on that score, though I can't boast myself a howling
success; a man can't do more than he knows, and if I
had been familiar with all the wiles of expert, professional
love-makers, they wouldn't have availed me in the Girl's
condition. I had a mighty peculiar case to handle in
her, and not a particle of training. But if she says
`Lover,' I must have made some kind of a showing on the
job. `Husband.' '' A slow flush crept up the brawny
neck and tinged the bronzed face. ``That's a good
word,'' said the Harvester, ``and it must mean a wonderful
thing----to some men. `Who bides his time.' Well,
I'm `biding,' and if my time ever comes to be my Dream
Girl's husband, I'll wager all I'm worth on one thing. I'll
study the job from every point of the compass, and
I'll see what showing I can make on being the kind
of a husband that a woman clings to and loves at
Taking a deep breath the Harvester lifted the letter,
and laying one hand on Belshazzar's head, he proceeded
----``I might as well admit in the beginning that I cried
most of the way here. Some of it was because I was
nervous and dreaded the people I would meet, and more
on account of what I felt toward them, but most of it
was because I did not want to leave you. I have been
spoiled dreadfully! You have taught me so to depend
on you----and for once I feel that I really can claim
to have been an apt pupil----that it was like having
the heart torn out of me to come. I want you to know
this, because it will teach you that I have a little bit
of appreciation of how good you are to me, and to all the
world as well. I am glad that I almost cried myself
sick over leaving you. I wish now I just had stood up
in the car, and roared like a burned baby.
``But all the tears I shed in fear of grandfather and
grandmother were wasted. They are a couple of dear
old people, and it would have been a crime to allow
them to suffer more than they must of necessity. It all
seems so different when they talk; and when I see the
home, luxuries, and friends my mother had, it appears
utterly incomprehensible that she dared leave them
for a stranger. Probably the reason she did was
because she was grandfather's daughter. He is gentle
and tender some of the time, but when anything irritates
him, and something does every few minutes, he breaks
loose, and such another explosion you never heard.
It does not mean a thing, and it seems to lower his
tension enough to keep him from bursting with palpitation
of the heart or something, but it is a strain for
others. At first it frightened me dreadfully. Grandmother
is so tiny and frail, so white in her big bed, and
when he is the very worst, and she only smiles at him,
why I know he does not mean it at all. But, David,
I hope you never will get an idea that this would be
a pleasant way for you to act, because it would not,
and I never would have the courage to offer you the
love I have come to find if you slammed a cane and
yelled, `demnation,' at me. Grandmother says she
does not mind at all, but I wonder if she did not acquire
the habit of lying in bed because it is easier to endure in
a prostrate position.
``The house is so big I get lost, and I do not know yet
which are servants and which friends; and there is a
steady stream of seamstresses and milliners making things
for me. Grandmother and father both think I will be
quite passable in appearance when I am what they call
`modishly dressed.' I think grandmother will forget
herself some day and leave her bed before she knows
it, in her eagerness to see how something appears. I
could not begin to tell you about all the lovely things to
wear, for every occasion under the sun, and they say
these are only temporary, until some can be made
especially for me.
``They divide the time in sections, and there is an hour
to drive, I am to have a horse and ride later, and a time
to shop, so long to visit grandmother, and set hours to
sleep, dress, to be fitted, taken to see things, music lessons,
and a dancing teacher. I think a longer day will have
to be provided.
``I do not care anything about dancing. I know
what would make me dance nicely enough for anything,
but I am going to try the music, and see if I can learn
just a few little songs and some old melodies for evening,
when the work is done, the fire burns low, and you
are resting on the rug. There is enough room for a
piano between your door and the south wall and that
corner seems vacant anyway. You would like it, David,
I know, if I could play and sing just enough to put you
to sleep nicely. It is in the back of my head that I will
try to do every single thing, just as they want me to,
and that will make them happy, but never forget that
the instant I feel in my soul that your kiss is right on
my lips, I am coming to you by lightning express; and I
told them so the first thing, and that I only came because
you made me.
``They did not raise an objection, but I am not so dull
that I cannot see they are trying to bind me to them from
the very first with chains too strong to break. We had
just one little clash. Grandfather was mightily pleased
over what you told Mr. Kennedy about my never having
been your wife, and that I was really free. There
seems to be a man, the son of his partner, whom grandfather
dearly loves, and he wants me to be friends with
his friend. One can see at once what he is planning,
because he said he was going to introduce me as Miss
Jameson. I told him that would be creating a false
impression, because I was a married woman; but he only laughed
at me and went straight to doing it.
``Of course, I know why, but he is so terribly set I
cannot stop him, so I shall have to tell people myself
that I am a staid, old married lady. After all, I suppose
I might as well let him go, if it pleases him. I shall
know how to protect myself and any one else, from any
mistakes concerning me; and in my heart I know what
I know, and what I cannot make you believe, but I
will some day.
``I suspect you're harvesting the ginseng now. The
roar and rush of the city seem strange, as if I never had
heard it before, and I feel so crowded. I scarcely can
sleep at night for the clamour of the cars, cabs, and
throbbing life. Grandfather will not hear a word,
and he just sputters and says `demnation' when I try to
tell him about you; but grandmother will listen, and I
talk to her of you and Medicine Woods by the hour.
She says she thinks you must be a wonderfully nice person.
I haven't dared tell her yet the thing that will win
her. She is so little and frail, and she has heart trouble
so badly; but some day I shall tell her all about Chicago
that I can, and then of Uncle Henry, and then about you
and the oak, and that will make her love you as I do.
There are so many things to do; they have sent for me
three times. I shall tell them they must put you on the
schedule, and give me so much time to write or I will
upset the whole programme.
``I think you will like to know that Mr. Kennedy told
grandfather all you said to him about my illness, for
almost as soon as I came he brought a very wonderful
man to my room, and he asked many questions and
I told him all about it, and what I had been doing. He
made out a list of things to eat and exercises. I am
being taken care of just as you did, so I will go on growing
well and strong. The trouble is they are too good to
me. I would just love to shuffle my feet in dead leaves,
and lie on the grass this morning. I never got my swim
in the lake. I will have to save that until next summer.
He also told grandfather what you said about Uncle
Henry, and I think he was pleased that you tried to
find him as soon as you knew. He let me see the letter
Uncle Henry wrote, and it was a vile thing----just
such as he would write. It asked how much he would be
willing to pay for information concerning his heir. I told
grandfather all about it, and I saw the answer he wrote.
I told him some things to say, and one of them was that
the honesty of a man without a price prevented the necessity
of anything being paid to find me. The other was
that you located my people yourself, and at once sent me
to them against my wishes. I was determined he should
know that. So Uncle Henry missed his revenge on you.
He evidently thought he not only would hurt you by
breaking up your home and separating us, but also he
would get a reward for his work. He wrote some untrue
things about you, and I wish he hadn't, for grandfather
can think of enough himself. But I will soon
change that. Please, please take good care of all my
things, my flowers and vines, and most of all tell
Belshazzar to protect you with his life. And you be very
good to my dear, dear lover. I will write again soon,
When the Harvester had studied the letter until he
could repeat it backward, he went to the cabin and answered
it. Then he sent subscriptions for two of Philadelphia's
big dailies, and harvested ginseng from dawn
until black darkness. Never was such a crop grown in
America. The beds had been made in the original home
of the plant, so that it throve under perfectly natural
conditions in the forest, but here and there branches had
been thinned above, and nature helped by science below.
This resulted in thick, pulpy roots of astonishing size
and weight. As the Harvester lifted them he bent the
tops and buried part of the seed for another crop. For
weeks he worked over the bed. Then the last load went
down the hill to the dry-house and the helpers were paid.
Next the fall work was finished. Fuel and food were
stored for winter, while the cold crept from the lake,
swept down the hill and surrounded the cabin.
The Harvester finished long days in the dry-house and
store-room, and after supper he sat by the fire reading
over the Girl's letters, carving on her candlesticks, or
in the work room, bending above the boards he was
shaving and polishing for a gift he had planned for her
Christmas. The Careys had him in their home for
Thanksgiving. He told them all about sending the Girl
away himself, read them some of her letters, and they
talked with perfect confidence of how soon she would
come home. The Harvester tried to think confidently,
but as the days went by the letters became fewer, always
with the excuse that there was no time to write, but
with loving assurance that she was thinking of him and
would do better soon.
However they came often enough that he had something
new to tell his friends so that they did not suspect
that waiting was a trial to him. A few days after Thanksgiving
the gift that he had planned was finished. It was
a big, burl-maple box, designed after the hope chests
that he saw advertised in magazines. The wood was
rare, cut in heavy slabs, polished inside and out, dove-
tailed corners with ornate brass bindings, hinges and lock,
and hand-carved feet. On the inside of the lid cut on a
brass plate was the inscription, ``Ruth Langston, Christmas
of Nineteen Hundred and Ten. David.''
Then he began packing the chest. He put in the
finished candlesticks and a box of candleberry dips he
had made of delightfully spiced wax, coloured pale
green. He ordered the doll weeks before from the largest
store in Onabasha, and the dealer brought on several
that he might make a selection. He chose a large baby
doll almost life size, and sent it to the dress-making
department to be completely and exquisitely clothed. Long
before the day he was picking kernels to glaze from nuts,
drying corn to pop, and planning candies to be made of
maple sugar. When he figured it was time to start the,
box, he worked carefully, filling spaces with chestnut
and hazel burs, and finishing the tops of boxes with
gaudy red and yellow leaves he had kept in their original
brightness by packing them in sand. He put in scarlet
berries of mountain ash and long twining sprays of yellow
and red bitter-sweet berries, for her room. Then he carefully
covered the chest with cloth, packed it in an outside
box, and sent it to the Girl by express. As he came
from the train shed, where he had helped with loading,
he met Henry Jameson. Instantly the long arm of the
Harvester shot out, and in a grip that could not be
broken he caught the man by the back of the neck and
proceeded to dangle him. As he did so he roared with
``Dear Uncle Henry!'' he cried. ``How did you feel
when you got your letter from Philadelphia? Wasn't it a
crime that an honest man, which same refers to me, beat
you? Didn't you gnash your teeth when you learned
that instead of separating me from my wife I had found
her people and sent her to them myself? Didn't it rend
your soul to miss your little revenge and fail to get
the good, fat reward you confidently expected? Ho!
Ho! Thus are lofty souls downcast. I pity you, Henry
Jameson, but not so much that I won't break your
back if you meddle in my affairs again, and I am taking
this opportunity to tell you so. Here you go out of my
life, for if you appear in it once more I will finish you like
a copperhead. Understand?''
With a last shake the Harvester dropped him, and went
into the express office, where several men had watched
``Been dipping in your affairs, has he?'' asked the
``Trying it,'' laughed the Harvester.
``Well he is just moving to Idaho, and you probably
won't be bothered with him any more.''
``Good news!'' said the Harvester. He felt much
relieved as he went back to Betsy and drove to Medicine
The Careys had invited him, but he chose to spend
Christmas alone. He had finished breakfast when the
telephone bell rang, and the expressman told him there
was a package for him from Philadelphia. The Harvester
mounted Betsy and rode to the city at once.
The package was so very small he slipped it into his
pocket, and went to the doctor's to say Merry Christmas!
To Mrs. Carey he gave a pretty lavender silk
dress, and to the doctor a new watch chain. Then
he went to the hospital, where he left with Molly a set
of china dishes from the Girl, and a fur-lined great coat,
his gift to Doctor Harmon. He rode home and stabled
Betsy, giving her an extra quart of oats, and going into
the house he sat by the kitchen fire and opened the
In a nest of cotton lay a tissue-wrapped velvet box, and
inside that, in a leather pocket case, an ivory miniature of
the Girl by an artist who knew how to reproduce life. It
was an exquisite picture, and a face of wonderful beauty.
He looked at it for a long time, and then called Belshazzar
and carried it out to show Ajax. Then he put it
into his breast pocket squarely over his heart, but he
wore the case shiny the first day taking it out. Before
noon he went to the mail box and found a long letter from
the Girl, full of life, health, happiness, and with steady
assurances of love for him, but there was no mention made
of coming home.
She seemed engrossed in the music lessons, riding,
dancing, pretty clothing, splendid balls, receptions, and
parties of all kinds. The Harvester answered it with
his heart full of love for her, and then waited. It was
a long week before the reply came, and then it was short
on account of so many things that must be done, but she
insisted that she was well, happy, and having a fine time.
After that the letters became less frequent and shorter.
At times there would be stretches of almost two weeks
with not a line, and then only short notes to explain that
she was too busy to write.
Through the dreary, cold days of January and
February the Harvester invented work in the store-room, in
the workshop, at the candlesticks, sat long over great
books, and spent hours in the little laboratory preparing
and compounding drugs. In the evenings he carved and
read. First of all he scanned the society columns of
the papers he was taking, and almost every day he found
the name of Miss Ruth Jameson, often a paragraph describing
her dress and her beauty of face and charm of
manner; and constantly the name of Mr. Herbert Kennedy
appeared as her escort. At first the Harvester
ignored this, and said to himself that he was glad she could
have enjoyable times and congenial friends, and he was.
But as the letters became fewer, paper paragraphs more
frequent, and approaching spring worked its old insanity
in the blood, gradually an ache crept into his heart again,
and there were days when he could not work it out.
Every letter she wrote he answered just as warmly as he
felt that he dared, but when they were so long coming
and his heart was overflowing, he picked up a pen one
night and wrote what he felt. He told her all about the
ice-bound lake, the lonely crows in the big woods, the
sap suckers' cry, and the gay cardinals' whistle. He told
her about the cocoons dangling on bushes or rocking on
twigs that he was cutting for her. He warned her that
spring was coming, and soon she would begin to miss
wonders for her pencil. Then he told her about the
silent cabin, the empty rooms, and a lonely man. He
begged her not to forget the kiss she had gone to find
for him. He poured out his heart unrestrainedly, and
then folded the letter, sealed and addressed it to her, in
care of the fire fairies, and pitched it into the ashes of
the living-room fire place. But expression made him
There was another longer wait for the next letter, but
he had written her so many in the meantime that a
little heap of them had accumulated as he passed through
the living-room on his way to bed. He had supposed she
would be gone until after Christmas when she left, but
he never had thought of harvesting sassafras and opening
the sugar camp alone. In those days his face appeared
weary, and white hairs came again on his temples. Carey
met him on the street and told him that he was going
to the National Convention of Surgeons at New York
in March, and wanted him to go along and present his
new medicine for consideration.
``All right,'' said the Harvester instantly, ``I will
He went and interviewed Mrs. Carey, and then visited
the doctor's tailor, and a shoe store, and bought everything
required to put him in condition for travelling in
good style, and for the banquet he would be asked to
attend. Then he got Mrs. Carey to coach him on spoons
and forks, and declared he was ready. When the doctor
saw that the Harvester really would go, he sat down and
wrote the president of the association, telling him in
brief outline of Medicine Woods and the man who had
achieved a wonderful work there, and of the compounding
of the new remedy.
As he expected, return mail brought an invitation for
the Harvester to address the association and describe his
work and methods and present his medicine. The
doctor went out in the car over sloppy roads with that
letter, and located the Harvester in the sugar camp.
He explained the situation and to his surprise found his
man intensely interested. He asked many questions
as to the length of time, and amount of detail required
in a proper paper, and the doctor told him.
``But if you want to make a clean sweep, David,'' he
said, ``write your paper simply, and practise until it
comes easy before you speak.''
That night the Harvester left work long enough to
get a notebook, and by the light of the camp fire, and in
company with the owls and coons, he wrote his outline.
One division described his geographical location, another
traced his ancestry and education in wood lore. One
was a tribute to the mother who moulded his character
and ground into him stability for his work. The remainder
described his methods in growing drugs, drying
and packing them, and the end was a presentation for
their examination of the remedy that had given life
where a great surgeon had conceded death. Then he
When the sugar making was over the Harvester
commenced his regular spring work, but his mind was so
busy over his paper that he did not have much time to
realize just how badly his heart was beginning to ache.
Neither did he consign so many letters to the fire fairies,
for now he was writing of the best way to dry hydrastis
and preserve ginseng seed. The day before time to start
he drove to Onabasha to try on his clothing and have Mrs.
Carey see if he had been right in his selections.
While he was gone, Granny Moreland, wearing a clean
calico dress and carrying a juicy apple pie, came to the
stretch of flooded marsh land, and finding the path under
water, followed the road and crossing a field reached
the levee and came to the bridge of Singing Water where
it entered the lake. She rested a few minutes there,
and then went to the cabin shining between bare branches.
She opened the front door, entered, and stood staring
``Why things is all tore up here,'' she said. ``Now
ain't that sensible of David to put everything away and
save it nice and careful until his woman gets back. Seems
as if she's good and plenty long coming; seems as if her
folks needs her mighty bad, or she's having a better time
than the boy is or something.''
She set the pie on the table, went through the cabin
and up the hill a little distance, calling the Harvester.
When she passed the barn she missed Betsy and the
wagon, and then she knew he was in town. She returned
to the living-room and sat looking at the pie as she
``I'd best put you on the kitchen table,'' she mused.
``Likely he will see you there first and eat you while you
are fresh. I'd hate mortal bad for him to overlook you,
and let you get stale, after all the care I've took with
your crust, and all the sugar, cinnamon, and butter that's
under your lid. You're a mighty nice pie, and you ort
to be et hot. Now why under the sun is all them clean
letters pitched in the fireplace?''
Granny knelt and selecting one, she blew off the ashes,
wiped it with her apron and read: ``To Ruth, in care of
the fire fairies.''
``What the Sam Hill is the idiot writin' his woman like
that for?'' cried Granny, bristling instantly. ``And
why is he puttin' pages and pages of good reading like
this must have in it in care of the fire fairies? Too
much alone, I guess! He's going wrong in his head.
Nobody at themselves would do sech a fool trick as this.
I believe I had better do something. Of course I had!
These is writ to Ruth; she ort to have them. Wish't
I knowed how she gets her mail, I'd send her some.
Mebby three! I'd send a fat and a lean, and a middlin'
so's that she'd have a sample of all the kinds they is.
It's no way to write letters and pitch them in the ashes.
It means the poor boy is honin' to say things he dassent
and so he's writin' them out and never sendin' them
at all. What's the little huzzy gone so long for,
anyway? I'll fix her!''
Granny selected three letters, blew away the ashes,
and tucked the envelopes inside her dress.
``If I only knowed how to get at her,'' she muttered.
She stared at the pie. ``I guess you got to go back,''
she said, ``and be et by me. Like as not I'll stall myself,
for I got one a-ready. But if David has got these fool
things counted and misses any, and then finds that pie
here, he'll s'picion me. Yes, I got to take you back, and
hurry my stumps at that.''
Granny arose with the pie, cast a lingering and
covetous glance at the fireplace, stooped and took another
letter, and then started down the drive. Just as she
reached the bridge she looked ahead and saw the Harvester
coming up the levee. Instantly she shot the pie
over the railing and with a groan watched it strike the
water and disappear.
``Lord of love!'' she gasped, sinking to the seat, ``that
was one of grandmother's willer plates that I promised
Ruth. 'Tain't likely I'll ever see hide ner hair of it again.
But they wa'ant no place to put it, and I dassent let
him know I'd been up to the cabin. Mebby I can fetch
a boy some day and hire him to dive for it. How
long can a plate be in water and not get spiled anyway?
Now what'll I do? My head's all in a whirl! I'll
bet my bosom is a sticking out with his letters 'til he'll
notice and take them from me.''
She gripped her hands across her chest and sat staring
at the Harvester as he stopped on the bridge, and seeing
her attitude and distressed face, he sprang from the wagon.
``Why Granny, are you sick?'' he cried anxiously.
``Yes!'' gasped Granny Moreland. ``Yes, David, I
am! I'm a miserable woman. I never was in sech a
shape in all my days.''
``Let me help you to the cabin, and I'll see what I
can do for you,'' offered the Harvester.
``No. This is jest out of your reach,'' said the old
lady. ``I want----I want to see Doctor Carey bad.''
``Are you strong enough to ride in or shall I bring him?''
``I can go! I can go as well as not, David, if you'll
``Let me run Betsy to the barn and get the Girl's
phaeton. The wagon is too rough for you. Are the
pains in your chest dreadful?''
``I don't know how to describe them,'' said Granny
with perfect truth.
The Harvester leaped into the wagon and caught up
the lines. As he disappeared around the curve of the
driveway Granny snatched the letters from her dress
front and thrust them deep into one of her stockings.
``Now, drat you!'' she cried. ``Stick out all you please.
Nobody will see you there.''
In a few minutes the Harvester helped her into the
carriage and drove rapidly toward the city.
``You needn't strain your critter,'' said Granny. ``It's
not so bad as that, David.''
``Is your chest any better?''
``A sight better,'' said Granny. ``Shakin' up a little
'pears to do me good.''
``You never should have tried to walk. Suppose I
hadn't been here. And you came the long way, too!
I'll have a telephone run to your house so you can call
me after this.''
Granny sat very straight suddenly.
``My! wouldn't that get away with some of my foxy
neighbours,'' she said. ``Me to have a 'phone like they
do, an' be conversin' at all hours of the day with my
son's folks and everybody. I'd be tickled to pieces,
``Then I'll never dare do it,'' said the Harvester,
``because I can't keep house without you.''
``Where's your own woman?'' promptly inquired
``She can't leave her people. Her grandmother is
``Grandmother your foot!'' cried the old woman.
``I've been hearing that song and dance from the neighbours,
but you got to fool younger people than me on
it, David. When did any grandmother ever part a
pair of youngsters jest married, for months at a clip?
I'd like to cast my eyes on that grandmother. She's
a new breed! I was as good a mother as 'twas in my skin
to be, and I'd like to see a child of mine do it for me; and
as for my grandchildren, it hustles some of them to
re-cog-nize me passing on the big road, 'specially if
it's Peter's girl with a town beau.''
The Harvester laughed. The old lady leaned toward
him with a mist in her eyes and a quaver in her voice,
and asked softly, ``Got ary friend that could help you,
The man looked straight ahead in silence.
``Bamfoozle all the rest of them as much as you please,
lad, but I stand to you in the place of your ma, and so
I ast you plainly----got ary friend that could help?''
``I can think of no way in which any one possibly
could help me, dear,'' said the Harvester gently. ``It
is a matter I can't explain, but I know of nothing that
any one could do.''
``You mean you're tight-mouthed! You COULD tell
me just like you would your ma, if she was up and comin';
but you can't quite put me in her place, and spit it out
plain. Now mebby I can help you! Is it her fault or
``Mine! Mine entirely!''
``Hum! What a fool question! I might a knowed it!
I never saw a lovinger, sweeter girl in these parts. I
jest worship the ground she treads on; and you, lad
you hain't had a heart in your body sence first you saw
her face. If I had the stren'th, I'd haul you out of this
keeridge and I'd hammer you meller, David Langston.
What in the name of sense have you gone and done to
the purty, lovin' child?''
The Harvester's face flushed, but a line around his
``Loosen up!'' commanded Granny. ``I got some rights
in this case that mebby you don't remember. You asked
me to help you get ready for her, and I done what you
wanted. You invited me to visit her, and I jest loved
her sweet, purty ways. You wanted me to shet up my
house and come over for weeks to help take keer of her,
and I done it gladly, for her pain and your sufferin' cut
me as if 'twas my livin' flesh and blood; so you can't
shet me out now. I'm in with you and her to the end.
What a blame fool thing have you gone and done to drive
away for months a girl that fair worshipped you?''
``That's exactly the trouble, Granny,'' said the
Harvester. ``She didn't! She merely respected and was
grateful to me, and she loved me as a friend; but I never
was any nearer her husband than I am yours.''
``I've always knowed they was a screw loose
somewhere,'' commented Granny. ``And so you've sent
her off to her worldly folks in a big, wicked city to get
weaned away from you complete?''
``I sent her to let her see if absence would teach her
anything. I had months with her here, and I lay awake
at nights thinking up new plans to win her. I worked
for her love as I never worked for bread, but I couldn't
make it. So I let her go to see if separation would teach
``Mercy me! Why you crazy critter! The child did
love you! She loved you 'nough an' plenty! She loved
you faithful and true! You was jest the light of her eyes.
I don't see how a girl could think more of a man. What
in the name of sense are you expecting months of separation
to teach her, but to forget you, and mebby turn
her to some one else?''
``I hoped it would teach her what I call love, means,''
explained the Harvester.
``Why you dratted popinjay! If ever in all my born
days I wanted to take a man and jest lit'rally mop up
the airth with him, it's right here and now. `Absence
teach her what you call love.' Idiot! That's your job!''
``But, Granny, I couldn't!''
``Wouldn't, you mean, no doubt! I hain't no manner
of a notion in my head but that child, depending on you,
and grateful as she was, and tender and loving, and all
sech as that I hain't a doubt but she come to you
plain and told you she loved you with all her heart.
What more could you ast?''
``That she understand what love means before I can
accept what she offers.''
``You puddin' head! You blunderbuss!'' cried Granny.
``Understand what you mean by love. If you're going
to bar a woman from being a wife 'til she knows what
you mean by love, you'll stop about nine tenths of the
weddings in the world, and t'other tenth will be women
that no decent-minded man would jine with.''
``Granny, are you sure?''
``Well livin' through it, and up'ard of seventy years
with other women, ort to teach me something. The
Girl offered you all any man needs to ast or git. Her
foundations was laid in faith and trust. Her affections
was caught by every loving, tender, thoughtful thing
you did for her; and everybody knows you did a-plenty,
David. I never see sech a master hand at courtin' as
you be. You had her lovin' you all any good woman
knows how to love a man. All you needed to a-done was
to take her in your arms, and make her your wife, and
she'd 'a' waked up to what you meant by love.''
``But suppose she never awakened?''
``Aw, bosh! S'pose water won't wet! S'pose fire
won't burn! S'pose the sun won't shine! That's the
law of nature, man! If you think I hain't got no sense
at all I jest dare you to ask Doctor Carey. 'Twouldn't
take him long to comb the kinks out of you.''
``I don't think you have left any, Granny,'' said the
Harvester. ``I see what you mean, and in all probability
you are right, but I can't send for the Girl.''
``Name o' goodness why?''
``Because I sent her away against her will, and now she
is remaining so long that there is every probability she
prefers the life she is living and the friends she has made
there, to Medicine Woods and to me. The only thing
I can do now is to await her decision.''
``Oh, good Lord!'' groaned Granny. ``You make me
sick enough to kill. Touch up your nag and hustle me to
Doc. You can't get me there quick enough to suit me.''
At the hospital she faced Doctor Carey. ``I think
likely some of my innards has got to be cut out and
mended,'' she said. ``I'll jest take a few minutes of your
time to examination me, and see what you can do.''
In the private office she held the letters toward the
doctor. ``They hain't no manner of sickness ailin' me,
Doc. The boy out there is in deep water, and I knowed
how much you thought of him, and I hoped you'd give
me a lift. I went over to his place this mornin' to take
him a pie, and I found his settin' room fireplace heapin'
with letters he'd writ to Ruth about things his heart was
jest so bustin' full of it eased him to write them down,
and then he hadn't the horse sense and trust in her
jedgment to send them on to her. I picked two fats,
a lean, and a middlin' for samples, and I thought I'd
send them some way, and I struck for home with them
an' he ketched me plumb on the bridge. I had to throw
my pie overboard, willer plate and all, and as God is my
witness, I was so flustered the boy had good reason to
think I was sick a-plenty; and soon as he noticed it,
I thought of you spang off, and I knowed you'd know her
whereabouts, and I made him fetch me to you. On the
way I jest dragged it from him that he'd sent her away
his fool self, because she didn't sense what he meant by
love, and she wa'ant beholden to him same degree and
manner he was to her. Great day, Doc! Did you ever
hear a piece of foolishness to come up with that? I
told him to ast you! I told him you'd tell him that no
clean, sweet-minded girl ever had known nor ever would
know what love means to a man 'til he marries her and
teaches her. Ain't it so, Doc?''
``It certainly is.''
``Then will you grind it into him, clean to the marrer,
and will you send these letters on to Ruthie?''
``Most certainly I will,'' said the doctor emphatically.
Granny opened the door and walked out
``I'm so relieved, David,'' she said. ``He thinks they
won't be no manner o' need to knife me. Likely he can
fix up a few pills and send them out by mail so's that I'll
be as good as new again. Now we must get right out
of here and not take valuable time. What do I owe
``Not a cent,'' said Doctor Carey. ``Thank you very
much for coming to me. You'll soon be all right
``I was some worried. Much obliged I am sure. Come
``One minute,'' said the doctor. ``David, I am making
up a list of friends to whom I am going to send
programmes of the medical meeting, and I thought your
wife might like to see you among the speakers, and
your subject. What is her address?''
A slow red flushed the Harvester's cheeks. He opened
his lips and hesitated. At last he said, ``I think perhaps
her people prefer that she receive mail under her
maiden name while with them. Miss Ruth Jameson, care
of Alexander Herron, 5770 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia,
will reach her.''
The doctor wrote the address, as if it were the most
usual thing in the world, and asked the Harvester if
he was ready to make the trip east.
``I think we had best start to-night,'' he said. ``We
want a day to grow accustomed to our clothes and new
surroundings before we run up squarely against serious
``I will be ready,'' promised the Harvester.
He took Granny home, set his house in order, installed
the man he was leaving in charge, touched a match to
the heap in the fireplace, and donning the new travelling
suit, he went to Doctor Carey's.
Mrs. Carey added a few touches, warned him to remember
about the forks and spoons, and not to forget
to shave often, and saw them off. At the station Carey
said to him, ``You know, David, we can change at Wayne
and go through Buffalo, or we can take the Pittsburg
and go and come through Philadelphia.''
``I am contemplating a trip to Philadelphia,'' said the
Harvester, ``but I believe I will not be ready for, say a
month yet. I have a theory and it dies hard. If it
does not work out the coming month, I will go, perhaps,
but not now. Let us see how many kinds of a fool I
make of myself in New York before I attempt the
Almost to the city, the doctor smiled at the Harvester.
``David, where did you get your infernal assurance?''
``In the woods,'' answered the Harvester placidly.
``In doing clean work. With my fingers in the muck,
and life literally teeming and boiling in sound and action,
around, above, and beneath me, a right estimate of my
place and province in life comes naturally in daily
handling stores on which humanity depends, I go even
deeper than you surgeons and physicians. You are
powerless unless I reinforce your work with drugs on
which you can rely. I do clean, honest work. I know
its proper place and value to the world. That is why I
called what I have to say, `The Man in the Background.'
There is no reason why I should shiver and shrink at
meeting and explaining my work to my fellows. Every
man has his vocation, and some of you in the limelight
would cut a sorry figure if the man in the background
should fail you at the critical moment. Don't worry
about me, Doc. I am all serene. You won't find I
possess either nerves or fear. `Be sure you are right, and
then go ahead,' is my law.''
``Well I'll be confounded!'' said the doctor.
In a large hall, peopled with thousands of medical men,
the name of the Harvester was called the following day
and his subject was announced. He arose in his place
and began to talk.
``Take the platform,'' came in a roar from a hundred
The Harvester hesitated.
``You must, David,'' whispered Carey.
The Harvester made his way forward and was guided
through a side door, and a second later calmly walked
down the big stage to the front, and stood at ease looking
over his audience, as if to gauge its size and the pitch
to which he should raise his voice. His lean frame loomed
every inch of his six feet, his broad shoulders were square,
his clean shaven face alert and afire. He wore a spring
suit of light gray of good quality and cut, and he was
perfect as to details.
``This scarcely seems compatible with my subject,'' he
remarked casually. ``I certainly appear very much in
the foreground just at present, but perhaps that is quite
as well. It may be time that I assert myself. I doubt if
there is a man among you who has not handled my products
more or less; you may enjoy learning where and how
they are prepared, and understanding the manner in
which my work merges with yours. I think perhaps
the first thing is to paint you as good a word picture as
I can of my geographical location.''
Then the Harvester named latitude and longitude
and degrees of temperature. He described the lake,
the marsh, the wooded hill, the swale, and open sunny
fields. He spoke of water, soil, shade, and geographical
conditions. ``Here I was born,'' he said, ``on land owned
by my father and grandfather before me, and previous
to them, by the Indians. My male ancestors, so far as I
can trace them, were men of the woods, hunters, trappers,
herb gatherers. My mother was from the country, educated
for a teacher. She had the most inexorable will
power of any woman I ever have known. From my father
I inherited my love for muck on my boots, resin in my
nostrils, the long trail, the camp fire, forest sounds and
silences in my soul. From my mother I learned to
read good books, to study subjects that puzzled me,
to tell the truth, to keep my soul and body clean, and
to pursue with courage the thing to which I set my
``There was not money enough to educate me as she
would; together we learned to find it in the forest. In
early days we sold ferns and wild flowers to city people,
harvested the sap of the maples in spring, and the nut
crop of the fall. Later, as we wanted more, we trapped
for skins, and collected herbs for the drug stores. This
opened to me a field I was peculiarly fitted to enter. I
knew woodcraft instinctively, I had the location of every
herb, root, bark, and seed that will endure my climate;