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She did not
light a lamp, for its flame would heat the room. Besides, the moonlight
was sufficient. It fell on the face of the sick woman, till she looked
like a thing of marble--all but her dark eyes.

"Does the moon hurt you, Tilly? Shall I put down the curtain?"

The woman heard with difficulty, and when the question was repeated said
slowly:

"No, I like it." After a little--"Don't you remember, Mattie 'how
beautiful the moonlight seemed? It seemed to promise happiness--and
love--but it never come for us. It makes me dream of the past now--just
as it did o' future then; an' the whip-poor-wills too----"

The night was perfectly beautiful, such a night as makes dying an
infinite sorrow. The summer was at its liberalest. Innumerable insects
of the nocturnal sort were singing in unison with the frogs in the
pools. A whip-poor-will called, and its neighbor answered it like an
echo. The leaves of the trees, glossy from the late rain, moved
musically to the light west wind, and the exquisite perfume of many
flowers came in on the breeze.

When the failing woman sank into silence, Martha leaned her elbow on the
window sill, and, gazing far into the great deeps of space, gave herself
up to unwonted musings upon the problems of human life. She sighed
deeply at times. She found herself at moments in the almost terrifying
position of a human soul in space. Not a wife, not a mother, but just a
soul facing the questions which harass philosophers. As she realized her
condition of mind she apprehended something of the thinking of the woman
on the bed. Matilda had gone beyond or far back of the wife and mother.

The hours wore on; the dying woman stirred uneasily now and then,
whispering a word or phrase which related to her girlhood--never to her
later life. Once she said:

"Mother, hold me. I'm so tired."

Martha took the thin form in her arms, and, laying her head close beside
the sunken cheek, sang, in half breath, a lullaby till the sufferer grew
quiet again.

The eastern moon passed over the house, leaving the room dark, and
still the patient watcher sat beside the bed, listening to the slow
breathing of the dying one. The cool air grew almost chill; the east
began to lighten, and with the coming light the tide of life sank in the
dying body. The head, hitherto restlessly turning, ceased to move. The
eyes grew quiet and began to soften like a sleeper's.

"How are you now, dear?" asked the watcher several times, bending over
the bed, and bathing back the straying hair.

"I'm tired--tired, mother--turn me," she murmured drowsily, with heavy
lids drooping.

Martha adjusted the pillows again, and turned the face to the wall. The
poor, tortured, restless brain slowly stopped its grinding whirl, and
the thin limbs, heavy with years of hopeless toil, straightened out in
an endless sleep.

Matilda Fletcher had found rest.




UPON IMPULSE


The seminary buildings stood not far from the low, lodgelike railway
station, and a path led through a gap in the fence across the meadow.
People were soberly converging toward its central building, as if
proceeding to church.

Among the people who alighted from the two o'clock train were Professor
Blakesly and his wife and a tall, dark man whom they called Ware.

Mrs. Blakesly was plump and pretty, plainly the mother of two or three
children and the sovereign of a modest suburban cottage. Blakesly was as
evidently a teacher; even the casual glances of the other visitors might
discover the character of these people.

Ware was not so easy to be read. His face was lean and brown, and his
squarely clipped mustache gave him a stern look. His body was well
rounded with muscle, and he walked alertly; his manner was direct and
vigorous, manifestly of the open air.

As they entered the meadow he paused and said with humorous
irresolution, "I don't know what I am out here for."

"To see the pretty girls, of course," said Mrs. Blakesly.

"They may be plain, after all," he said.

"They're always pretty at graduation time and at marriage," Blakesly
interpreted.

"Then there's the ice cream and cake," Mrs. Blakesly added.

"Where do all these people come from?" Ware asked, looking about. "It's
all farm land here."

"They are the fathers, mothers, and brothers of the seminary girls. They
come from everywhere. See the dear creatures about the door! Let's hurry
along."

"They do not interest me. I take off my hat to the beauty of the day,
however."

Ware had evidently come under protest, for he lingered in the daisied
grass which was dappled with shadows and tinkling with bobolinks and
catbirds.

A broad path led up to the central building, whose double doors were
swung wide with most hospitable intent. Ware ascended the steps behind
his friends, a bored look on his dark face.

Two rows of flushed, excited girls with two teachers at their head stood
flanking the doorway to receive the visitors, who streamed steadily into
the wide, cool hall.

Mrs. Blakesly took Ware in hand. "Mr. Ware, this is Miss Powell. Miss
Powell, this is Mr. Jenkin Ware, lawyer and friend to the Blakeslys."

"I'm very glad to see you," said a cool voice, in which gladness was
entirely absent.

Ware turned to shake hands mechanically, but something in the steady
eyes and clasp of the hand held out turned his listless manner into
surprise and confusion. He stared at her without speaking, only for a
second, and yet so long she colored and withdrew her hand sharply.

"I beg your pardon, I didn't get the name."

"Miss Powell," answered Mrs. Blakesly, who had certainly missed this
little comedy, which would have been so delicious to her.

Ware moved on, shaking hands with the other teachers and bowing to the
girls. He seized an early moment to turn and look back at Miss Powell.
His listless indifference was gone. She was a fine figure of a woman--a
strong, lithe figure, dressed in a well-ordered, light-colored gown. Her
head was girlish, with a fluff of brown hair knotted low at the back.
Her profile was magnificent. The head had the intellectual poise, but
the proud bosom and strong body added another quality. "She is a modern
type," Ware said, remembering a painting of such a head he had seen in a
recent exhibition.

As he studied her she turned and caught him looking, and he felt again a
curious fluttering rush at his heart. He fancied she flushed a little
deeper as she turned away.

As for him, it had been a very long while since he had felt that
singular weakness in the presence of a young woman. He walked on, trying
to account for it. It made him feel very boyish. He had a furtive desire
to remain in the hall where he could watch her, and when he passed up
the stairs, it was with a distinct feeling of melancholy, as if he were
leaving something very dear and leaving it forever.

He wondered where this feeling came from, and he looked into the
upturned faces of the girls as if they were pansies. He wandered about
the rooms with the Blakeslys, being bored by introductions, until at
last Miss Powell came up the stairway with the last of the guests.

While the girls sang and went through some pretty drills Ware again
studied Miss Powell. Her appeal to his imagination was startling. He
searched for the cause of it. It could not be in her beauty. Certainly
she was fine and womanly and of splendid physique, but all about her
were lovely girls of daintier flesh and warmer color. He reasoned that
her power was in her eyes, steady, frank as sunlight, clear as water in
a mountain brook. She seemed unconscious of his scrutiny.

At last they began moving down the stairs and on to the other buildings.
Ware and Blakesly waited for the ladies to come down. And when they came
they were in the midst of a flood of girls, and Ware had no chance to
speak to them. As they moved across the grass he fell in behind Mrs.
Blakesly, who seemed to be telling secrets to Miss Powell, who flushed
and shook her head.

Mrs. Blakesly turned and saw Ware close behind her, and said, "O Mr.
Ware, where is my dear, dear husband?"

"Back in the swirl," Ware replied.

Mrs. Blakesly artfully dropped Miss Powell's arm and fell back. "I must
not desert the poor dear." As she passed Ware she said, "Take my place."

"With pleasure," he replied, and walked on after Miss Powell, who seemed
not to care to wait.

How simply she was dressed! She moved like an athlete, without effort
and without constraint. As he walked quickly to overtake her a finer
light fell over the hills and a fresher green came into the grass. The
daisies nodding in the wind blurred together in a dance of light and
loveliness which moved him like a song.

"How beautiful everything is to-day!" he said, as he stepped to her
side. He felt as if he had said, "How beautiful you are!"

She flashed a quick, inquiring glance at him.

"Yes; June can be beautiful with us. Still, there is a beauty more
mature, when the sickle is about to be thrust into the grain."

He did not hear what she said. He was thinking of the power that lay in
the oval of her face, in the fluffy tangle of her hair. _Ah! now he
knew._ With that upward glance she brought back his boy love, his
teacher whom he had worshiped as boys sometimes will, with a love as
pure as winter starlight. Yes, now it was clear. There was the same flex
of the splendid waist, the same slow lift of the head, and steady,
beautiful eyes.

As she talked, he was a youth of seventeen, he was lying at his
teacher's feet by the river while she read wonderful love stories. There
were others there, but they did not count. Then the tears blurred his
eyes; he remembered walking behind her dead body as it was borne to the
hillside burying ground, and all the world was desolate for him.

He became aware that Miss Powell was looking at him with startled eyes.
He hastened to apologize and explain. "Pardon me; you look so much like
a schoolboy idol--I--I seem to see her again. I didn't hear what you
said, you brought the past back so poignantly."

There was something in his voice which touched her, but before he could
go on they were joined by Mr.



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