Chapter 27 IN WHICH THE OLD DOCTOR AND LITTLE HOYLE COME BACK TO TH_OUNTAINS
Cassandra, seated on the great hanging rock before her cabin, watched th_unrise where David had so often stood and waited for the dawn during hi_inter there alone. This morning the mists obscured the valleys and the bas_f the mountains, while the sky and the whole earth glowed with warm ros_olor.
Presently she rose and walked with lifted head into the cabin, and prepared t_ight a fire on the hearth. In the canvas room the bed was made smoothly, a_he had made it the morning David left. No one had slept in it since, althoug_assandra spent most of her days there. Everything he had used was carefull_ept as he had left it. His microscope, covered from dust, stood with the las_pecimen still under the lens. A book they were reading together lay on th_orner shelf, with the mark still in the place where they had read last.
After lighting the fire, she sat near it, watching the flames steal up fro_he small pile of fat pine chips underneath, sending up red tongues of fire, until the great logs were wrapped in the hot embrace of the flames, trembling, quivering, and leaping high in their mad joy, transmuting all they touched.
"It's like love," she murmured, and smiled. "Only it's quicker. It does in on_our what love takes a lifetime to do. Those logs might have lain on th_round and rotted if they'd been left alone, but now the fire just holds the_nd caresses them like, and they grow warm and glow like the sun, and give al_hey can while they last, until they're almost too bright to look at. I recko_od has been right good to me not to let me lie and rot my life away. He sen_avid to set my heart on fire, and I guess I can wait for him to come back t_e in God's own time."
She rose and brought from the canvas room a basket of willow, woven in open- work pattern. It was a gift from Azalea, who had learned from her mother th_rt of basket weaving. Some said Azalea's grandmother was half Indian, an_hat it was from her they had learned their quaint patterns and shapes, an_hat she, and her Indian mother before her, had been famous basket weavers.
This pretty basket was filled with very delicate work of fine muslin, muc_iner than anything Cassandra had ever worked upon before. Her hands no longe_howed signs of having been employed in rough, coarse tasks; they were sof_nd white. She placed the basket of dainty sewing on the same table which ha_erved as an altar when she knelt beside David and was made his wife. It wa_erving as an altar still, bearing that basket of delicate work.
She had become absorbed in a book—not one of those David had suggested. It i_oubtful, had he been there, whether he would have really liked to see he_eading this one, although it was written by Thackeray, dear to all Englis_earts. It is more than probable that he would have thought his young wif_ardly need be enlightened upon just the sort of things with which _Vanit_air_ enriches the understanding.
Be it how it may, Cassandra was reading _Vanity Fair_ , which she found in th_ox of books David had opened so long before. While she read she worked wit_er fingers, incessantly, at a piece of narrow lace, with a shuttle and ver_ine thread. This she did so mechanically that she could easily read at th_ame time by propping the book open on the table before her. For a long tim_he sat thus, growing more and more interested, until the fire burned low, an_he rose to replenish it.
The logs were piled beside the door of the small kitchen David had built fo_er, and where he had placed the cook stove. She had come up early thi_orning, because she was sad over his last letter, in which he had told her o_is disappointment in having to cancel his passage to America. Hopeful an_heery though the letter was, it had struck dismay to her heart; it was he_ay when sad, and longing for her husband, to go up to her little cabin—he_wn home—and think it all over alone and thus regain her equanimity.
Here she read and thought things out by herself. What strange people they wer_ver there! Or perhaps that was so long ago—they might have changed by thi_ime. Surely they must have changed, or David would have said something abou_t. He never would become a lord, to be one of such people—never—never! It wa_ot at all like David.
A figure appeared in the doorway. "Cassandra! What are you doing here all b_ourself?"
It was Betty Towers. Cassandra ran joyfully forward and clasped the littl_oman in her arms. Almost carrying her in, she sat her by the pleasant ope_ire. Then, seeing Betty's eyes regarding her questioningly, she suddenl_ropped into her own chair by the table, leaned her head upon her arms, an_egan to weep, silently.
In an instant Betty was kneeling by her side, holding the lovely head to he_reast. "Dearest! You shan't cry. You shan't cry like that. Tell me all abou_t. Why on earth doesn't Doctor Thryng come home?"
Cassandra lifted her head and dried her tears. "He was coming. The last lette_ut one said he was to sail next day. Then last night came another saying th_nly man who could look after very important business for him had been throw_rom his horse and hurt so bad he may die, and David had to give up hi_assage and go back to London. He may have to go to Africa. He felt righ_ad—but—"
"Goodness me, child! Why, he has no business now more important than you! Wha_ chump!"
Cassandra stiffened proudly and drew away, taking up her shuttle and beginnin_er work calmly as if nothing had happened to destroy her composure.
"I've not written David—anything to disturb him—or make him hurry home."
"Oh, Cassandra, Cassandra! You're not treating either him or yourself fairly."
"For him—I can't help it; and for me, I don't care. Other women have got alon_s best they could in these mountains, and I can bear what they have borne."
"But why on earth haven't you told him?"
Cassandra bent her head lower over her bit of lace and was silent. Betty dre_er chair nearer and put her arms about the drooping girl.
"Can't you tell me all about it, dear?"
"Not if you are going to blame David."
"I won't, you lovely thing! I can't, since he doesn't know—but why—"
"At first I couldn't speak. I tried, but I couldn't. Then he had to take Hoyl_orth, and I thought he would see for himself when he came back—or I coul_ell him by that time. Then came that dreadful news—you know—four, all dead.
His brother and his two cousins all killed, and his uncle dying of grief; an_e had to go to his mother or she might die, too, and then he found so much t_o. Now, you know he has to be a—"
She was going to say "a lord," but, happening to glance down at her open book, the name of "Lord Steyne" caught her eye, and it seemed to her a title o_isgrace. She must talk with David before she allowed him to be known as "_ord," so she ended hurriedly: "He has to be a different kind of a man, now—not a doctor. He has a great many things to do and look after. If I tol_im, he would leave everything and come to me, even if he ought not, and if h_ouldn't come, he would be troubled and unhappy. Why should I make hi_nhappy? When he does come home, he'll be glad—oh, so glad! Why need he kno_hen the knowing will do no good, and when he will come to me as soon as h_an, anyway?"
"You strange girl, Cassandra! You brave old dear! But he must come, that'_ll. It is his right to know and to come. I can tell him. Let me."
"No, no. Please, Mrs. Towers, you must not. He will come back as soon as h_an; and now—now—he will be too late, since he—he did not sail when he mean_o."
Betty rose with a set look about the mouth. "Unless we cable him, Cassandra.
Would there be time in that case? Come, you must tell me."
"No, no," wailed the girl. "And now he must not know until he comes. It woul_e cruel. I will not let you write him or cable him either."
"Then what will you do?"
"Oh, I don't know. I'll think out a way. You'll help me think, but you mus_romise me not to write to David. I send him a letter every day, but I neve_ell him anything that would make him uneasy, because he has very importan_usiness there for his mother and sister, even more than for himself. You se_ow bad I would be to write troubling things to him when he couldn't help m_r come to me." A light broke over Betty Towers's face.
"I can think out a way, dear, of course I can. Just leave matters to me."
Thus it was that Doctor Hoyle received a letter in Betty's own impassioned an_mpulsive style, begging him, for love's sake, to leave all and come back t_he mountains and his own little cabin, where Cassandra needed him.
"Never mind Doctor Thryng or anything surprising about his being absent; jus_ome if you possibly can and hear what Cassandra has to say about it befor_ou judge him. She is quaint and queer and wholly lovely. If you can brin_ittle Hoyle with you, do so, for I fear his mother is grieving to see him.
She wrote me a most peculiar and pathetic letter, saying her daughter was s_ilent about her affairs that she herself 'war nigh about dead fer worryin', and would I please come and see could I make Cass talk a leetle,' so you ma_e sure there is need of you. The winter is glorious in the mountains thi_ear. Your appearance will set everything right at the Fall Place, an_assandra will be safe."
Old Time, the unfailing, who always marches apace, bringing with him change_or good or evil, brought the dear old doctor back to the Fall Place—brough_he small Adam Hoyle, with his queer little twisted neck and hunched back, drawn by harness and plaster into a much improved condition, although no_traight yet—brought many letters from David filled with postponements an_egrets therefor—and brought also a little son for Cassandra to hold to he_osom and dream and pray over.
And the dreams and the prayers travelled far—far, to the sunny-haire_nglishman wrapped in the intricate affairs of a great estate. How much mone_ould accrue? How should it be spent? What improvements should be made i_heir country home? When Laura's coming out should be? How many of her ol_ompanions might she retain? How many might she call friends? How many were t_e hereafter thrust out as quite impossible? Should she be allowed a kennel, or should her sporting tendencies be discouraged?
All these things were forced upon David's consideration; how then could h_eturn to his young wife, especially when he could not yet bring himself t_ay to his world that he had a young wife. Impatient he might be, nervous, an_ven irritable, but still what could he do? While there in the faraway hill_at Cassandra, loving him, brooding over him with serene and peaceful longing, holding his baby to her white breast, holding his baby's hand to her lips, full of courage, strong in her faith, patient in spirit, until as days an_eeks passed she grew well and strong in body.
Being sadly in need of rest, the old doctor lingered on in the mountains unti_pring was well advanced. Slight of body, but vigorous and wiry, and as ful_f scientific enthusiasm as when he was thirty years younger, he tramped th_ills, taking long walks and climbs alone, or shorter ones with Hoyle at hi_eels like a devoted dog, shrilling questions as he ran to keep up. These th_ood doctor answered according to his own code, or passed over as beyon_ossibility of reply with quizzical counter-questioning.
They sat together one day, eating their luncheon in the shelter of a grea_all of rock, and below them lay a pool of clear water which trickled from _pring higher up. Now and then a bullfrog would sound his deep bass note, an_ll the time the high piping of the peepers made shrill accompaniment to thei_oices as they conversed.
The doctor had made an aquarium for Hoyle, using a great glass jar which h_btained from a druggist in Farington. They had come to-day on a quest fo_nails to eat the green growth, which had so covered the sides of the jar a_o hide the interesting water world within from the boy's eyes. Many thing_ad already occurred in that small world to set the boy thinking.
"Doctah Hoyle, you remembeh that thar quare bunch of leetle sticks an' stone_ou put in my 'quar'um first day you fixed hit up fer me?"
"Well, the' is a right quare thing with a big hade come outen hit, an' he don_at up some o' the leetle black bugs. I seed him jump quicker'n lightnin' a_hat leetlist fish only so long, an' try to bite a piece outen his fin—hi_owest fin. What did he do that fer?"
"Why—why—he was hungry. He made his dinner off the little black bugs, and h_anted the fin for his dessert."
"I don't like that kind of a beast. Oncet he was a worm in a kind of a hole- box, an' then he turned into a leetle beast-crittah; an' what'll he be next?"
"Next—why, next he'll be a fly—a—a beautiful fly with four wings all blue an_old and green—"
"I seen them things flyin' round in the summeh. Hit's quare how things git_herselves changed that-a-way into somethin' else—from a worm into that beast- crittah an' then into one o' these here devil flies. You reckon hit'll eve_it changed into something diff'ent—some kind er a bird?"
"A bird? No, no. When he becomes a f—fly, he's finished and done for."
"P'r'aps ther is some folks that-a-way, too. You reckon that's what ails me?"
"You? Why,—why what ails you?"
"You reckon p'r'aps I mount git changed some way outen this here quare back _ot, so't I can hol' my hade like otheh folks? Jes' go to sleep like, an' wak_p straight like Frale?"
The old doctor turned and looked down a moment on the child sitting hunched a_is side. His mouth worked as he meditated a reply.
"What would you do if you could c—arry your head straight like Frale? If yo_ad been like him, you would be running a 'still' pretty soon. You never woul_ave come to me to set you straight, and so you would n—never have seen al_he pictures and the great cities. You are going to be a man before you kno_t, and—"
"And I'll do a heap o' things when I'm a man, too—but I wisht—I wisht— Thes_ere snails we b'en hunt'n', you reckon they're done growed to ther shells s_hey can't get out? What did God make 'em that-a-way fer?"
"It's all in the order of things. Everything has its place in the world an_ts work to do. They don't want to get out. They like to carry their bones o_he outside of their bodies. They're made so. Yes, yes, all in the order o_hings. They like it."
"You reckon you can tell me hu' come God 'lowed me to have this-er lump on m_ack? Hit hain't in no ordeh o' things fer humans to be like I be."
The sceptical old man looked down on the child quizzically, yet sadly. Hi_lexible mouth twitched to reply, but he was silent. Hoyle looked back int_he old doctor's eyes with grave, direct gaze, and turned away. "You recko_hy he done hit?"
"See here. Suppose—just suppose you were given your choice this minute t_hange places with Frale—Lord knows where he is now, or what he's doing—or b_s you are and live your own life; which would you be? Think it over; think i_ut."
"Ef I had 'a' been straight, brother David never would 'a' took me up to you?"
"No—no—no. You would have been a—"
"You mean if a magic man should come by here an' just touch me so, an' chang_e into Frale, would I 'low him to do hit?"
"That's what I mean."
"I don't guess Frale, he'd like to be done that-a-way." The loving little cha_estled closer to the doctor's side. "I like you a heap, Doctah Hoyle. Frale, he fit brothah David—an' nigh about killed him. I reckon I rutheh be like _e, an' bide nigh Cass an' th' baby—an' have the 'quar'um—an' see maw—an' g_ith you. You reckon I can go back with you?"
"Go back? Of course—go back."
"Be I heap o' trouble to you? You reckon God 'lowed me to have this er hump, so't I could get to go an' bide whar you were at, like I done?"
A suspicious moisture gathered in the doctor's eyes, and he sprang up and wen_o examine earnestly a thorny shrub some paces away, while the child continue_o pipe his questions, for the most part unanswerable. "You reckon God jus_in my neck er twist so't brothah David would take me to Canada to you, an'
so't maw'd 'low me to go? You reckon if I'm right good, He'll 'low me to mak_ picture o' th' ocean some day, like the one we seed in that big house? Yo_eckon if I tried right hard I could paint a picture o' th' mountain, yandah—an' th' sea—an'—all the—all the—ships?"
The doctor laughed heartily and merrily. "Come, come. We must go home now t_assandra and the baby. Paint? Of—of course you could paint! You could pain_—pictures enough to fill a house."
"We don't want no magic man, do we, Doctah Hoyle? I cried a heap after I see_yself in the big lookin'-glass down in Farington whar brothah David took me.
I cried when hit war dark an' maw war sleepin'. Next time I reckon I betta_ell God much obleeged fer twistin' my hade 'roun' 'stead er cryin' an' takin'
on like I been doin'. You reckon so, Doctah Hoyle?"
"Yes—yes—yes. I reckon so," said the doctor, meditatively, as they descende_he trail. From that day the child's strength increased. Sunny and buoyant, h_hook off the thought of his deformity, and his beauty-loving soul cease_ntrospective brooding and found delight in searching out beauty, and in hi_reative faculty.