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It's lettle I can do. The wumman can do more, if the mon'll be
eatin' what they cuke for 'im," said the candid old Scotchman. "Mak' 'im
eat. Mak' 'im eat."

Once more Tom pounded along the shining road to Kesota to meet the
six-o'clock train from Chicago.

Herman, magnificently clothed in fur-lined ulster and cap, alighted with
unusually grave face and hurried toward Mattie.

"Well, what is it, sis? Mother sick?"

"No; it's the teacher. He is unconscious. I've been for the doctor. Oh,
we were scared!"

He looked relieved, but a little chagrined. "Oh, well, I don't see why I
should be yanked out of my boots by a telegram because the teacher is
sick! He isn't kin--yet."

For the first time a feeling of shame and confusion swept over Mattie,
and her face flushed.

Herman's keen eyes half closed as he looked into her face.

"Mat--what--what! Now look here--how's this? Where's Ben Holly's claim?"

"He never had any." She shifted ground quickly. "O Herman, we had a
wonderful time last night! Father and Uncle Marsden shook hands----"

"What?" shouted Herman, as he fell in a limp mass against the cutter.
"Bring a physician--I'm stricken."

"Don't act so! Everybody's looking."

"They'd better look. I'm drowning while they wait."

She untied the horse and came back.

"Climb in there and stop your fooling, and I'll tell you all about it."

He crawled in with tearing groans of mock agony, and then leaned his
head against her shoulder. "Well, go on, sis; I can bear it now."

She nudged him to make him sit up.

"Well, you know we've had a revival."

"So you wrote. Must have been a screamer to fetch dad and old Marsden. A
regular Pentecost of Shinar."

"It was--I mean it was beautiful. I saw father was getting stirred up.
He prayed almost all day yesterday, and at night--Well, I can't tell
you, but Wallace talked, oh, so beautiful and tender."

"She calls him Wallace?" mused Herman, like a comedian.

"Hush! And then came the hand-shaking, and then the minister came home
with us, because father asked him to."

"Well, well! I supposed _you_ must have asked him."

The girl was hurt, and she showed it. "If you make fun, I won't tell you
another word," she said.

"Away Chicago! enter Cyene! Well, come, I won't fool any more."

"Then after Wallace--I mean----"

"Let it stand. Come to the murder."

"Then father came and asked me to send for you, and mother cried, and so
did he. And, oh, Hermie, he's so sweet and kind! Don't make fun of him,
will you? It's splendid to have him give in, and everybody feels glad
that the district will be all friendly again."

Herman did not gibe again. His voice was gentle. The pathos in the scene
appealed to him. "So the old man sent for me himself, did he?"

"Yes; he could hardly wait till morning. But this morning, when we came
to call the teacher, he didn't answer, and father went in and found him
unconscious. Then I went for the doctor."

Bay Tom whirled along in the splendid dusk, his nostrils flaring ghostly
banners of steam on the cold crisp air. The stars overhead were points
of green and blue and crimson light, low-hung, changing each moment.

Their influence entered the soul of the mocking young fellow. He felt
very solemn, almost melancholy, for a moment.

"Well, sis, I've got something to tell you all. I'm going to tell it to
you by degrees. I'm going to be married."

"Oh!" she gasped, with quick, indrawn breath. "Who?"

"Don't be ungrammatical, whatever you do. She's a cashier in a
restaurant, and she's a fine girl," he added steadily, as if combating a
prejudice. He forgot for the moment that such prejudices did not exist
in Cyene.

Sis was instantly tender, and very, very serious.

"Of course she is, or you wouldn't care for her. Oh, I'd like to see
her!"

"I'll take you up some day and show her to you."

"Oh, will you? Oh, when can I go?" She was smit into gravity again. "Not
till the teacher is well."

Herman pretended to be angry. "Dog take the teacher, the old
spindle-legs! If I'd known he was going to raise such a ruction in our
quiet and peaceful neighborhood, I never would have brought him here."

Mattie did not laugh; she pondered. She never quite understood her
brother when he went off on those queer tirades, which might be a joke
or an insult. He had grown away from her in his city life.

They rode on in silence the rest of the way, except now and then an
additional question from Mattie concerning his sweetheart.

As they neared the farmhouse she lost interest in all else but the
condition of the young minister. They could see the light burning dimly
in his room, and in the parlor and kitchen as well, and this unusual
lighting stirred the careless young man deeply. It was associated in
his mind with death and birth, and also with great joy.

The house was lighted so the night his elder brother died, and it looked
so to him when he whirled into the yard with the doctor when Mattie was
born.

"Oh, I hope he isn't worse!" said the girl, with deep feeling.

Herman put his arm about her, and she knew he knew.

"So do I, sis."

Allen came to the door as they drove in, and the careless boy realized
suddenly the emotional tension his father was in. As the old man came to
the sleigh-side he could not speak. His fingers trembled as he took the
outstretched hand of his boy.

Herman's voice shook a little:

"Well, dad, Mattie says the war is over."

The old man tried to speak, but only coughed and then he blew his nose.
At last he said, brokenly:

"Go right in; your mother's waitin'."

It was singularly dramatic to the youth. To come from the careless,
superficial life of his city companions into contact with such primeval
passions as these, made him feel like a spectator at some new and
powerful and tragic play.

His mother fell upon his neck and cried, while Mattie stood by pale and
anxious. Inside the parlor could be heard the mumble of men's voices.

In such wise do death and the fear of death fall upon country homes. All
day the house had swarmed with people. All day this mother had looked
forward to the reconciliation of her husband with her son. All day had
the pale and silent minister of God kept his corpselike calm, while all
about the white snow gleamed, and radiant shadows filled every hollow,
and the cattle bawled and frisked in the barnyard, and the fowls
cackled joyously, while the mild soft wind breathed warmly over the
land.

Mattie cried out to her mother in quick, low voice, "O mother, how is
he?"

"He ain't no worse. The doctor says there ain't no immediate danger."

The girl brought her hands together girlishly, and said: "Oh, I'm so
glad. Is he awake?"

"No; he's asleep."

"Is the doctor still here?"

"Yes."

"I guess I'll step in," said Herman.

The doctor and George Chapman sat beside the hard-coal heater, talking
in low voices. The old doctor was permitting himself the luxury of a
story of pioneer life. He rose with automatic courtesy, and shook hands
with Herman.

"How's the sick man getting on?"

"Vera well--vera well--consederin' the mon is a complete
worn-out--that's all--naethin' more. Thes floom-a-didale bezniss of
rantin' away on the fear o' the Laird for sax weeks wull have worn out
the frame of a bool-dawg."

Herman and Chapman smiled. "I hope you'll tell him that."

"Na fear, yoong mon," said the grim old warrior. "Weel, now ai'll juist
be takin' anither look at him."

Herman went in with the doctor, and stood looking on while the old man
peered and felt about. He came out soon, and leaving a few directions
with Herman and Chapman, took his departure. Everything seemed
favorable, he said.

There was no longer poignancy of anxiety in Mattie's mind, she was too
much of a child to imagine the horror of loss, but she was grave and gay
by turns. Her healthy and wholesome nature continually reasserted itself
over the power of her newly attained woman's interest in the young
preacher. She went to bed and slept dreamlessly, while Herman yawned and
inwardly raged at the fix in which circumstances had placed him.

Like many another lover, days away from his sweetheart were lost days.
He wondered how she would take all the life down here. It would be good
fun to bring her down, anyway, and hear her talk. He planned such a
trip, and grew so interested in the thought he forgot his patient.

In the early dawn Wallace rallied and woke. Herman heard the rustle of
the pillow, and turned to find the sick man's eyes looking at him
fixedly, calm but puzzled. Herman's lips slowly changed into a beautiful
boyish smile, and Wallace replied by a faint parting of the lips, when
Herman said:

"Hello, old man! How do you find yourself?" His hearty humorous greeting
seemed to do the sick man good. Herman approached the bed. "Know where
you are?" Wallace slowly put out a hand, and Herman took it. "You're
coming on all right. Want some breakfast? Make it bucks?" he said, in
Chicago restaurant slang. "White wings--sunny--one up coff."

All this was good tonic for Wallace, and an hour later he sipped broth,
while Mrs. Allen and the Deacon and Herman stood watching the process
with apparently consuming interest. Mattie was still soundly sleeping.

There began delicious days of convalescence, during which he looked
peacefully out at the coming and going of the two women, each possessing
powerful appeal to him--one the motherly presence which had been denied
him for many years, the other something he had never permitted
himself--a sweetheart's daily companionship.

He lay there planning his church, and also his home. Into the thought of
a new church came shyly but persistently the thought of a fireside of
his own, with this young girl sitting in the glow of it waiting for him.
His life had held little romance in its whole length. He had earned his
own way through school and to college. His slender physical energies had
been taxed to their utmost at every stage of his climb, but now it
seemed as though some blessed rest and peace were at hand.

Meanwhile, the bitter partisans met each other coming and going out of
the gate of the Allen estate, and the goodness of God shone in their
softened faces.



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