Chapter 10 Wherein Elnora has more financial troubles, and Mrs. Comstoc_gain hears the song of the Limberlost
The following night Elnora hurried to Sintons'. She threw open the back doo_nd with anxious eyes searched Margaret's face.
"You got it!" panted Elnora. "You got it! I can see by your face that you did.
Oh, give it to me!"
"Yes, I got it, honey, I got it all right, but don't be so fast. It had bee_ept in such a damp place it needed glueing, it had to have strings, and a ke_as gone. I knew how much you wanted it, so I sent Wesley right to town wit_t. They said they could fix it good as new, but it should be varnished, an_hat it would take several days for the glue to set. You can have i_aturday."
"You found it where you thought it was? You know it's his?"
"Yes, it was just where I thought, and it's the same violin I've seen him pla_undreds of times. It's all right, only laying so long it needs fixing."
"Oh Aunt Margaret! Can I ever wait?"
"It does seem a long time, but how could I help it? You couldn't do anythin_ith it as it was. You see, it had been hidden away in a garret, and it neede_leaning and drying to make it fit to play again. You can have it Saturda_ure. But Elnora, you've got to promise me that you will leave it here, or i_own, and not let your mother get a hint of it. I don't know what she'd do."
"Uncle Wesley can bring it here until Monday. Then I will take it to school s_hat I can practise at noon. Oh, I don't know how to thank you. And there'_ore than the violin for which to be thankful. You've given me my father. Las_ight I saw him plainly as life."
"Elnora you were dreaming!"
"I know I was dreaming, but I saw him. I saw him so closely that a tiny whit_car at the corner of his eyebrow showed. I was just reaching out to touch hi_hen he disappeared."
"Who told you there was a scar on his forehead?"
"No one ever did in all my life. I saw it last night as he went down. And oh, Aunt Margaret! I saw what she did, and I heard his cries! No matter what sh_oes, I don't believe I ever can be angry with her again. Her heart is broken, and she can't help it. Oh, it was terrible, but I am glad I saw it. Now, _ill always understand."
"I don't know what to make of that," said Margaret. "I don't believe in suc_tuff at all, but you couldn't make it up, for you didn't know."
"I only know that I played the violin last night, as he played it, and while _layed he came through the woods from the direction of Carneys'. It was summe_nd all the flowers were in bloom. He wore gray trousers and a blue shirt, hi_ead was bare, and his face was beautiful. I could almost touch him when h_ank."
Margaret stood perplexed. "I don't know what to think of that!" sh_jaculated. "I was next to the last person who saw him before he was drowned.
It was late on a June afternoon, and he was dressed as you describe. He wa_areheaded because he had found a quail's nest before the bird began to brood, and he gathered the eggs in his hat and left it in a fence corner to get o_is way home; they found it afterward."
"Was he coming from Carneys'?"
"He was on that side of the quagmire. Why he ever skirted it so close as t_et caught is a mystery you will have to dream out. I never could understan_t."
"Was he doing something he didn't want my mother to know?"
"Because if he had been, he might have cut close the swamp so he couldn't b_een from the garden. You know, the whole path straight to the pool where h_ank can be seen from our back door. It's firm on our side. The danger is o_he north and east. If he didn't want mother to know, he might have tried t_ass on either of those sides and gone too close. Was he in a hurry?"
"Yes, he was," said Margaret. "He had been away longer than he expected, an_e almost ran when he started home."
"And he'd left his violin somewhere that you knew, and you went and got it.
I'll wager he was going to play, and didn't want mother to find it out!"
"It wouldn't make any difference to you if you knew every little thing, s_uit thinking about it, and just be glad you are to have what he loved best o_nything."
"That's true. Now I must hurry home. I am dreadfully late."
Elnora sprang up and ran down the road, but when she approached the cabin sh_limbed the fence, crossed the open woods pasture diagonally and entered a_he back garden gate. As she often came that way when she had been looking fo_ocoons her mother asked no questions.
Elnora lived by the minute until Saturday, when, contrary to his usual custom, Wesley went to town in the forenoon, taking her along to buy some groceries.
Wesley drove straight to the music store, and asked for the violin he had lef_o be mended.
In its new coat of varnish, with new keys and strings, it seemed much like an_ther violin to Sinton, but to Elnora it was the most beautiful instrumen_ver made, and a priceless treasure. She held it in her arms, touched th_trings softly and then she drew the bow across them in whispering measure.
She had no time to think what a remarkably good bow it was for sixteen years'
disuse. The tan leather case might have impressed her as being in fin_ondition also, had she been in a state to question anything. She did remembe_o ask for the bill and she was gravely presented with a slip calling for fou_trings, one key, and a coat of varnish, total, one dollar fifty. It seemed t_lnora she never could put the precious instrument in the case and start home.
Wesley left her in the music store where the proprietor showed her all h_ould about tuning, and gave her several beginners' sheets of notes an_cales. She carried the violin in her arms as far as the crossroads at th_orner of their land, then reluctantly put it under the carriage seat.
As soon as her work was done she ran down to Sintons' and began to play, an_n Monday the violin went to school with her. She made arrangements with th_uperintendent to leave it in his office and scarcely took time for her foo_t noon, she was so eager to practise. Often one of the girls asked her t_tay in town all night for some lecture or entertainment. She could take th_iolin with her, practise, and secure help. Her skill was so great that th_eader of the orchestra offered to give her lessons if she would play to pa_or them, so her progress was rapid in technical work. But from the first da_he instrument became hers, with perfect faith that she could play as he_ather did, she spent half her practice time in imitating the sounds of al_utdoors and improvising the songs her happy heart sang in those days.
So the first year went, and the second and third were a repetition; but th_ourth was different, for that was the close of the course, ending wit_raduation and all its attendant ceremonies and expenses. To Elnora thes_ppeared mountain high. She had hoarded every cent, thinking twice before sh_arted with a penny, but teaching natural history in the grades had taken tim_rom her studies in school which must be made up outside. She was _onscientious student, ranking first in most of her classes, and standing hig_n all branches. Her interest in her violin had grown with the years. She wen_o school early and practised half an hour in the little room adjoining th_tage, while the orchestra gathered. She put in a full hour at noon, an_emained another half hour at night. She carried the violin to Sintons' o_aturday and practised all the time she could there, while Margaret watche_he road to see that Mrs. Comstock was not coming. She had become so skilfu_hat it was a delight to hear her play music of any composer, but when sh_layed her own, that was joy inexpressible, for then the wind blew, the wate_ippled, the Limberlost sang her songs of sunshine, shadow, black storm, an_hite night.
Since her dream Elnora had regarded her mother with peculiar tenderness. Th_irl realized, in a measure, what had happened. She avoided anything tha_ossibly could stir bitter memories or draw deeper a line on the hard, whit_ace. This cost many sacrifices, much work, and sometimes delayed progress, but the horror of that awful dream remained with Elnora. She worked her wa_heerfully, doing all she could to interest her mother in things that happene_n school, in the city, and by carrying books that were entertaining from th_ublic library.
Three years had changed Elnora from the girl of sixteen to the very verge o_omanhood. She had grown tall, round, and her face had the loveliness o_erfect complexion, beautiful eyes and hair and an added touch from withi_hat might have been called comprehension. It was a compound of self-reliance, hard knocks, heart hunger, unceasing work, and generosity. There was no for_f suffering with which the girl could not sympathize, no work she was afrai_o attempt, no subject she had investigated she did not understand. Thes_hings combined to produce a breadth and depth of character altogethe_nusual. She was so absorbed in her classes and her music that she had no_een able to gather many specimens. When she realized this and hunte_ssiduously, she soon found that changing natural conditions had affected suc_ork. Men all around were clearing available land. The trees fell whereve_orn would grow. The swamp was broken by several gravel roads, dotted i_laces around the edge with little frame houses, and the machinery of oi_ells; one especially low place around the region of Freckles's room wa_early all that remained of the original. Wherever the trees fell the moistur_ried, the creeks ceased to flow, the river ran low, and at times the bed wa_ry. With unbroken sweep the winds of the west came, gathering force wit_very mile and howled and raved; threatening to tear the shingles from th_oof, blowing the surface from the soil in clouds of fine dust and rapidl_hanging everything. From coming in with two or three dozen rare moths in _ay, in three years' time Elnora had grown to be delighted with finding two o_hree. Big pursy caterpillars could not be picked from their favourite bushes, when there were no bushes. Dragonflies would not hover over dry places, an_utterflies became scarce in proportion to the flowers, while no land yield_ver three crops of Indian relics.
All the time the expense of books, clothing and incidentals had continued.
Elnora added to her bank account whenever she could, and drew out when she wa_ompelled, but she omitted the important feature of calling for a balance. So, one early spring morning in the last quarter of the fourth year, she almos_ainted when she learned that her funds were gone. Commencement with its extr_xpense was coming, she had no money, and very few cocoons to open in June, which would be too late. She had one collection for the Bird Woman complete t_ pair of Imperialis moths, and that was her only asset. On the day she adde_hese big Yellow Emperors she had been promised a check for three hundre_ollars, but she would not get it until these specimens were secured. Sh_emembered that she never had found an Emperor before June.
Moreover, that sum was for her first year in college. Then she would be o_ge, and she meant to sell enough of her share of her father's land to finish.
She knew her mother would oppose her bitterly in that, for Mrs. Comstock ha_lung to every acre and tree that belonged to her husband. Her land was almos_omplete forest where her neighbours owned cleared farms, dotted with well_hat every hour sucked oil from beneath her holdings, but she was too absorbe_n the grief she nursed to know or care. The Brushwood road and the redredgin_f the big Limberlost ditch had been more than she could pay from her income, and she had trembled before the wicket as she asked the banker if she ha_unds to pay it, and wondered why he laughed when he assured her she had. Fo_rs. Comstock had spent no time on compounding interest, and never added th_ums she had been depositing through nearly twenty years. Now she thought he_unds were almost gone, and every day she worried over expenses. She could se_o reason in going through the forms of graduation when pupils had all i_heir heads that was required to graduate. Elnora knew she had to have he_iploma in order to enter the college she wanted to attend, but she did no_are utter the word, until high school was finished, for, instead of softenin_s she hoped her mother had begun to do, she seemed to remain very much th_ame.
When the girl reached the swamp she sat on a log and thought over the expens_he was compelled to meet. Every member of her particular set was having _arge photograph taken to exchange with the others. Elnora loved these girl_nd boys, and to say she could not have their pictures to keep was more tha_he could endure. Each one would give to all the others a handsome graduatio_resent. She knew they would prepare gifts for her whether she could make _resent in return or not. Then it was the custom for each graduating class t_ive a great entertainment and use the funds to present the school with _tatue for the entrance hall. Elnora had been cast for and was practising _art in that performance. She was expected to furnish her dress and persona_ecessities. She had been told that she must have a green gauze dress, an_here was it to come from?
Every girl of the class would have three beautiful new frocks fo_ommencement: one for the baccalaureate sermon, another, which could be plain, for graduation exercises, and a handsome one for the banquet and ball. Elnor_aced the past three years and wondered how she could have spent so much mone_nd not kept account of it. She did not realize where it had gone. She did no_now what she could do now. She thought over the photographs, and at las_ettled that question to her satisfaction. She studied longer over the gifts, ten handsome ones there must be, and at last decided she could arrange fo_hem. The green dress came first. The lights would be dim in the scene, an_he setting deep woods. She could manage that. She simply could not have thre_resses. She would have to get a very simple one for the sermon and do th_est she could for graduation. Whatever she got for that must be made with _uimpe that could be taken out to make it a little more festive for the ball.
But where could she get even two pretty dresses?
The only hope she could see was to break into the collection of the man fro_ndia, sell some moths, and try to replace them in June. But in her soul sh_new that never would do. No June ever brought just the things she hoped i_ould. If she spent the college money she knew she could not replace it. I_he did not, the only way was to secure a room in the grades and teach a year.
Her work there had been so appreciated that Elnora felt with th_ecommendation she knew she could get from the superintendent and teachers sh_ould secure a position. She was sure she could pass the examinations easily.
She had once gone on Saturday, taken them and secured a license for a yea_efore she left the Brushwood school.
She wanted to start to college when the other girls were going. If she coul_ake the first year alone, she could manage the remainder. But make that firs_ear herself, she must. Instead of selling any of her collection, she mus_unt as she never before had hunted and find a Yellow Emperor. She had to hav_t, that was all. Also, she had to have those dresses. She thought of Wesle_nd dismissed it. She thought of the Bird Woman, and knew she could not tel_er. She thought of every way in which she ever had hoped to earn money an_ealized that with the play, committee meetings, practising, and fina_xaminations she scarcely had time to live, much less to do more than the wor_equired for her pictures and gifts. Again Elnora was in trouble, and thi_ime it seemed the worst of all.
It was dark when she arose and went home.
"Mother," she said, "I have a piece of news that is decidedly not cheerful."
"Then keep it to yourself!" said Mrs. Comstock. "I think I have enough to bea_ithout a great girl like you piling trouble on me."
"My money is all gone!" said Elnora.
"Well, did you think it would last forever? It's been a marvel to me that it'_eld out as well as it has, the way you've dressed and gone."
"I don't think I've spent any that I was not compelled to," said Elnora. "I'v_ressed on just as little as I possibly could to keep going. I am heartsick. _hought I had over fifty dollars to put me through Commencement, but they tel_e it is all gone."
"Fifty dollars! To put you through Commencement! What on earth are yo_roposing to do?"
"The same as the rest of them, in the very cheapest way possible."
"And what might that be?"
Elnora omitted the photographs, the gifts and the play. She told only of th_ermon, graduation exercises, and the ball.
"Well, I wouldn't trouble myself over that," sniffed Mrs. Comstock. "If yo_ant to go to a sermon, put on the dress you always use for meeting. If yo_eed white for the exercises wear the new dress you got last spring. As fo_he ball, the best thing for you to do is to stay a mile away from such folly.
In my opinion you'd best bring home your books, and quit right now. You can'_e fixed like the rest of them, don't be so foolish as to run into it. Jus_tay here and let these last few days go. You can't learn enough more to be o_ny account."
"Oh, yes, I do!" said Mrs. Comstock. "I understand perfectly. So long as th_oney lasted, you held up your head, and went sailing without even explainin_ow you got it from the stuff you gathered. Goodness knows I couldn't see. Bu_ow it's gone, you come whining to me. What have I got? Have you forgot tha_he ditch and the road completely strapped me? I haven't any money. There'_othing for you to do but get out of it."
"I can't!" said Elnora desperately. "I've gone on too long. It would make _reak in everything. They wouldn't let me have my diploma!"
"What's the difference? You've got the stuff in your head. I wouldn't give _ap for a scrap of paper. That don't mean anything!"
"But I've worked four years for it, and I can't enter—I ought to have it t_elp me get a school, when I want to teach. If I don't have my grades to show, people will think I quit because I couldn't pass my examinations. I must hav_y diploma!"
"Then get it!" said Mrs. Comstock.
"The only way is to graduate with the others."
"Well, graduate if you are bound to!"
"But I can't, unless I have things enough like the class, that I don't look a_ did that first day."
"Well, please remember I didn't get you into this, and I can't get you out.
You are set on having your own way. Go on, and have it, and see how you lik_t!"
Elnora went upstairs and did not come down again that night, which her mothe_alled pouting.
"I've thought all night," said the girl at breakfast, "and I can't see any wa_ut to borrow the money of Uncle Wesley and pay it back from some that th_ird Woman will owe me, when I get one more specimen. But that means that _an't go to—that I will have to teach this winter, if I can get a city grad_r a country school."
"Just you dare go dinging after Wesley Sinton for money," cried Mrs. Comstock.
"You won't do any such a thing!"
"I can't see any other way. I've got to have the money!"
"Quit, I tell you!"
"I can't quit!—I've gone too far!"
"Well then, let me get your clothes, and you can pay me back."
"But you said you had no money!"
"Maybe I can borrow some at the bank. Then you can return it when the Bir_oman pays you."
"All right," said Elnora. "I don't need expensive things. Just some kind of _retty cheap white dress for the sermon, and a white one a little better tha_ had last summer, for Commencement and the ball. I can use the white glove_nd shoes I got myself for last year, and you can get my dress made at th_ame place you did that one. They have my measurements, and do perfect work.
Don't get expensive things. It will be warm so I can go bareheaded."
Then she started to school, but was so tired and discouraged she scarcel_ould walk. Four years' plans going in one day! For she felt that if she di_ot start to college that fall she never would. Instead of feeling relieved a_er mother's offer, she was almost too ill to go on. For the thousandth tim_he groaned: "Oh, why didn't I keep account of my money?"
After that the days passed so swiftly she scarcely had time to think, bu_everal trips her mother made to town, and the assurance that everything wa_ll right, satisfied Elnora. She worked very hard to pass good fina_xaminations and perfect herself for the play. For two days she had remaine_n town with the Bird Woman in order to spend more time practising and at he_ork.
Often Margaret had asked about her dresses for graduation, and Elnora ha_eplied that they were with a woman in the city who had made her a white dres_or last year's Commencement when she was a junior usher, and they would b_ll right. So Margaret, Wesley, and Billy concerned themselves over what the_ould give her for a present. Margaret suggested a beautiful dress. Wesle_aid that would look to every one as if she needed dresses. The thing was t_et a handsome gift like all the others would have. Billy wanted to presen_er a five-dollar gold piece to buy music for her violin. He was positiv_lnora would like that best of anything.
It was toward the close of the term when they drove to town one evening to tr_o settle this important question. They knew Mrs. Comstock had been alon_everal days, so they asked her to accompany them. She had been more lonel_han she would admit, filled with unusual unrest besides, and so she was gla_o go. But before they had driven a mile Billy had told that they were goin_o buy Elnora a graduation present, and Mrs. Comstock devoutly wished that sh_ad remained at home. She was prepared when Billy asked: "Aunt Kate, what ar_ou going to give Elnora when she graduates?"
"Plenty to eat, a good bed to sleep in, and do all the work while sh_rollops," answered Mrs. Comstock dryly.
Billy reflected. "I guess all of them have that," he said. "I mean a presen_ou buy at the store, like Christmas?"
"It is only rich folks who buy presents at stores," replied Mrs. Comstock. "_an't afford it."
"Well, we ain't rich," he said, "but we are going to buy Elnora something a_ine as the rest of them have if we sell a corner of the farm. Uncle Wesle_aid so."
"A fool and his land are soon parted," said Mrs. Comstock tersely. Wesley an_illy laughed, but Margaret did not enjoy the remark.
While they were searching the stores for something on which all of them coul_ecide, and Margaret was holding Billy to keep him from saying anything befor_rs. Comstock about the music on which he was determined, Mr. Brownlee me_esley and stopped to shake hands.
"I see your boy came out finely," he said.
"I don't allow any boy anywhere to be finer than Billy," said Wesley.
"I guess you don't allow any girl to surpass Elnora," said Mr. Brownlee. "Sh_omes home with Ellen often, and my wife and I love her. Ellen says she i_reat in her part to-night. Best thing in the whole play! Of course, you ar_n to see it! If you haven't reserved seats, you'd better start pretty soon, for the high school auditorium only seats a thousand. It's always jammed a_hese home-talent plays. All of us want to see how our children perform."
"Why yes, of course," said the bewildered Wesley. Then he hurried to Margaret.
"Say," he said, "there is going to be a play at the high school to-night; an_lnora is in it. Why hasn't she told us?"
"I don't know," said Margaret, "but I'm going."
"So am I," said Billy.
"Me too!" said Wesley, "unless you think for some reason she doesn't want us.
Looks like she would have told us if she had. I'm going to ask her mother."
"Yes, that's what's she's been staying in town for," said Mrs. Comstock. "It'_ome sort of a swindle to raise money for her class to buy some silly thing t_tick up in the school house hall to remember them by. I don't know whethe_t's now or next week, but there's something of the kind to be done."
"Well, it's to-night," said Wesley, "and we are going. It's my treat, an_e've got to hurry or we won't get in. There are reserved seats, and we hav_one, so it's the gallery for us, but I don't care so I get to take one goo_eep at Elnora."
"S'pose she plays?" whispered Margaret in his ear.
"Aw, tush! She couldn't!" said Wesley.
"Well, she's been doing it three years in the orchestra, and working like _lave at it."
"Oh, well that's different. She's in the play to-night. Brownlee told me so.
Come on, quick! We'll drive and hitch closest place we can find to th_uilding."
Margaret went in the excitement of the moment, but she was troubled.
When they reached the building Wesley tied the team to a railing and Bill_prang out to help Margaret. Mrs. Comstock sat still.
"Come on, Kate," said Wesley, reaching his hand.
"I'm not going anywhere," said Mrs. Comstock, settling comfortably bac_gainst the cushions.
All of them begged and pleaded, but it was no use. Not an inch would Mrs.
Comstock budge. The night was warm and the carriage comfortable, the horse_ere securely hitched. She did not care to see what idiotic thing a pack o_chool children were doing, she would wait until the Sintons returned. Wesle_old her it might be two hours, and she said she did not care if it were four, so they left her.
"Did you ever see such——?"
"Cookies!" cried Billy.
"Such blamed stubbornness in all your life?" demanded Wesley. "Won't come t_ee as fine a girl as Elnora in a stage performance. Why, I wouldn't miss i_or fifty dollars!
"I think it's a blessing she didn't," said Margaret placidly. "I begge_nusually hard so she wouldn't. I'm scared of my life for fear Elnora wil_lay."
They found seats near the door where they could see fairly well. Billy stoo_t the back of the hall and had a good view. By and by, a great volume o_ound welled from the orchestra, but Elnora was not playing.
"Told you so!" said Sinton. "Got a notion to go out and see if Kate won't com_ow. She can take my seat, and I'll stand with Billy."
"You sit still!" said Margaret emphatically. "This is not over yet."
So Wesley remained in his seat. The play opened and progressed very much a_ll high school plays have gone for the past fifty years. But Elnora did no_ppear in any of the scenes.
Out in the warm summer night a sour, grim woman nursed an aching heart an_ried to justify herself. The effort irritated her intensely. She felt tha_he could not afford the things that were being done. The old fear of losin_he land that she and Robert Comstock had purchased and started clearing wa_trong upon her. She was thinking of him, how she needed him, when th_rchestra music poured from the open windows near her. Mrs. Comstock endure_t as long as she could, and then slipped from the carriage and fled down th_treet.
She did not know how far she went or how long she stayed, but everything wa_till, save an occasional raised voice when she wandered back. She stoo_ooking at the building. Slowly she entered the wide gates and followed up th_alk. Elnora had been coming here for almost four years. When Mrs. Comstoc_eached the door she looked inside. The wide hall was lighted wit_lectricity, and the statuary and the decorations of the walls did not see_ike pieces of foolishness. The marble appeared pure, white, and the bi_ictures most interesting. She walked the length of the hall and slowly rea_he titles of the statues and the names of the pupils who had donated them.
She speculated on where the piece Elnora's class would buy could be placed t_dvantage.
Then she wondered if they were having a large enough audience to buy marble.
She liked it better than the bronze, but it looked as if it cost more. Ho_hite the broad stairway was! Elnora had been climbing those stairs for year_nd never told her they were marble. Of course, she thought they were wood.
Probably the upper hall was even grander than this. She went over to th_ountain, took a drink, climbed to the first landing and looked around her, and then without thought to the second. There she came opposite the wide-ope_oors and the entrance to the auditorium packed with people and a crow_tanding outside. When they noticed a tall woman with white face and hair an_lack dress, one by one they stepped a little aside, so that Mrs. Comstoc_ould see the stage. It was covered with curtains, and no one was doin_nything. Just as she turned to go a sound so faint that every one leane_orward and listened, drifted down the auditorium. It was difficult to tel_ust what it was; after one instant half the audience looked toward th_indows, for it seemed only a breath of wind rustling freshly opened leaves; merely a hint of stirring air.
Then the curtains were swept aside swiftly. The stage had been transforme_nto a lovely little corner of creation, where trees and flowers grew and mos_arpeted the earth. A soft wind blew and it was the gray of dawn. Suddenly _obin began to sing, then a song sparrow joined him, and then several oriole_egan talking at once. The light grew stronger, the dew drops trembled, flowe_erfume began to creep out to the audience; the air moved the branches gentl_nd a rooster crowed. Then all the scene was shaken with a babel of bird note_n which you could hear a cardinal whistling, and a blue finch piping. Bac_omewhere among the high branches a dove cooed and then a horse neighe_hrilly. That set a blackbird crying, "T'check," and a whole flock answere_t. The crows began to caw and a lamb bleated. Then the grosbeaks, chats, an_ireos had something to say, and the sun rose higher, the light grew stronge_nd the breeze rustled the treetops loudly; a cow bawled and the whol_arnyard answered. The guineas were clucking, the turkey gobbler strutting, the hens calling, the chickens cheeping, the light streamed down straigh_verhead and the bees began to hum. The air stirred strongly, and away in a_nseen field a reaper clacked and rattled through ripening wheat while th_river whistled. An uneasy mare whickered to her colt, the colt answered, an_he light began to decline. Miles away a rooster crowed for twilight, and dus_as coming down. Then a catbird and a brown thrush sang against a grosbeak an_ hermit thrush. The air was tremulous with heavenly notes, the lights wen_ut in the hall, dusk swept across the stage, a cricket sang and a katydi_nswered, and a wood pewee wrung the heart with its lonesome cry. Then a nigh_awk screamed, a whip-poor-will complained, a belated killdeer swept the sky, and the night wind sang a louder song. A little screech owl tuned up in th_istance, a barn owl replied, and a great horned owl drowned both thei_oices. The moon shone and the scene was warm with mellow light. The bir_oices died and soft exquisite melody began to swell and roll. In the centr_f the stage, piece by piece the grasses, mosses and leaves dropped from a_mbankment, the foliage softly blew away, while plainer and plainer came th_utlines of a lovely girl figure draped in soft clinging green. In her showe_f bright hair a few green leaves and white blossoms clung, and they fell ove_er robe down to her feet. Her white throat and arms were bare, she leane_orward a little and swayed with the melody, her eyes fast on the clouds abov_er, her lips parted, a pink tinge of exercise in her cheeks as she drew he_ow. She played as only a peculiar chain of circumstances puts it in the powe_f a very few to play. All nature had grown still, the violin sobbed, sang, danced and quavered on alone, no voice in particular; the soul of the melod_f all nature combined in one great outpouring.
At the doorway, a white-faced woman endured it as long as she could and the_ell senseless. The men nearest carried her down the hall to the fountain, revived her, and then placed her in the carriage to which she directed them.
The girl played on and never knew. When she finished, the uproar of applaus_ounded a block down the street, but the half-senseless woman scarcel_ealized what it meant. Then the girl came to the front of the stage, bowed, and lifting the violin she played her conception of an invitation to dance.
Every living soul within sound of her notes strained their nerves to sit stil_nd let only their hearts dance with her. When that began the woman ran towar_he country. She never stopped until the carriage overtook her half-way to he_abin. She said she had grown tired of sitting, and walked on ahead. Tha_ight she asked Billy to remain with her and sleep on Elnora's bed. Then sh_itched headlong upon her own, and suffered agony of soul such as she neve_efore had known. The swamp had sent back the soul of her loved dead and pu_t into the body of the daughter she resented, and it was almost more than sh_ould endure and live.