From October to April Emily Starr lay in bed or on the sitting-room loung_atching the interminable windy drift of clouds over the long white hills o_he passionless beauty of winter trees around quiet fields of snow, an_ondering if she would ever walk again—or walk only as a pitiable cripple.
There was some obscure injury to her back upon which the doctors could no_gree. One said it was negligible and would right itself in time. Two other_hook their heads and were afraid. But all were agreed about the foot. Th_cissors had made two cruel wounds—one by the ankle, one on the sole of th_oot. Blood-poisoning set in. For days Emily hovered between life and death,
then between the scarcely less terrible alternative of death and amputation.
Aunt Elizabeth prevented that. When all the doctors agreed that it was th_nly way to save Emily's life she said grimly that it was not the Lord's will,
as understood by the Murrays, that people's limbs should be cut off. Nor coul_he be removed from this position. Laura's tears and Cousin Jimmy's pleading_nd Dr. Burnley's execrations and Dean Priest's agreements budged her not _ot. Emily's foot should not be cut off. Nor was it. When she recovere_nmaimed Aunt Elizabeth was triumphant and Dr. Burnley confounded.
The danger of amputation was over, but the danger of lasting and bad lamenes_emained. Emily faced that all winter.
"If I only _knew_ one way or the other," she said to Dean. "If I _knew,_ _ould make up my mind to bear it—perhaps. But to lie here—wondering—wonderin_f I'll ever be well."
"You will be well," said Dean savagely.
Emily did not know what she would have done without Dean that winter. He ha_iven up his invariable winter trip and stayed in Blair Water that he might b_ear her. He spent the days with her, reading, talking, encouraging, sittin_n the silence of perfect companionship. When he was with her Emily felt tha_he might even be able to face a lifetime of lameness. But in the long night_hen everything was blotted out by pain she could not face it. Even when ther_as no pain her nights were often sleepless and very terrible when the win_ailed drearily about the old New Moon eaves or chased flying phantoms of sno_ver the hills. When she slept she dreamed, and in her dreams she was for eve_limbing stairs and could never get to the top of them, lured upward by an od_ittle whistle—two higher notes and a low one—that ever retreated as sh_limbed. It was better to lie awake than have that terrible, recurrent dream.
Oh, those bitter nights! Once Emily had not thought that the Bible vers_eclaring that there would be no night in heaven contained an attractiv_romise. No night? No soft twilight enkindled with stars? No white sacramen_f moonlight? No mystery of velvet shadow and darkness? No ever-amazin_iracle of dawn? Night was as beautiful as day and heaven would not be perfec_ithout it.
But now in these dreary weeks of pain and dread she shared the hope of th_atmian seer. Night was a dreadful thing.
People said Emily Starr was very brave and patient and uncomplaining. But sh_id not seem so to herself. They did not know of the agonies of rebellion an_espair and cowardice behind her outward calmness of Murray pride and reserve.
Even Dean did not know—though perhaps he suspected.
She smiled gallantly when smiling was indicated, but she never laughed. No_ven Dean could make her laugh, though he tried with all the powers of wit an_umour at his command.
"My days of laughter are done," Emily said to herself. And her days o_reation as well. She could never write again. The "flash" never came. N_ainbow spanned the gloom of that terrible winter. People came to see he_ontinuously. She wished they would stay away. Especially Uncle Wallace an_unt Ruth, who were sure she would never walk again and said so every tim_hey came. Yet they were not so bad as the callers who were cheerfully certai_he would be all right in time and did not believe a word of it themselves.
She had never had any intimate friends except Dean and Ilse and Teddy. Ils_rote weekly letters in which she rather too obviously tried to cheer Emil_p. Teddy wrote once when he heard of her accident. The letter was very kin_nd tactful and sincerely sympathetic. Emily thought it was the letter an_ndifferent friendly acquaintance might have written and she did not answer i_hough he had asked her to let him know how she was getting on. No mor_etters came. There was nobody but Dean. He had never failed her—never woul_ail her. More and more as the interminable days of storm and gloom passed sh_urned to him. In that winter of pain she seemed to herself to grow so old an_ise that they met on equal ground at last. Without him life was a bleak, gre_esert devoid of colour or music. When he came the desert would—for a time a_east—blossom like the rose of joy and a thousand flowerets of fancy and hop_nd illusion would fling their garlands over it.