The Harvester sat at the table in deep thoughts until the lights in the
Girl's room were darkened and everything was quiet. Then he locked the screens
inside and went into the night. The moon flooded all the hillside, until coarse
print could have been read with keen eyes in its light. A restlessness, born of
exultation he could not allay or control, was on him. She had not forgotten!
After this, the dream would be effaced by reality. It was the beginning. He
scarcely had dared hope for so much. Surely it presaged the love with which she
some day would come to him and crown his life. He walked softly up and down the
drive, passing her windows, unable to think of sleep. Over and over he dwelt on
the incidents of the day, so inevitably he came to his promise.
"Merciful Heaven!" he muttered. "How can such things happen? The poor,
overworked, tired, suffering girl. It will give her some comfort. She will feel
better. It has to be done. I believe I will do the worst part of it while she
He went to the cabin, crept very close to one of her windows and listened
intently. Surely no mortal awake could lie motionless so long. She must be
sleeping. He patted Belshazzar, whispered, "Watch, boy, watch for your life!"
and then crossed to the dry-house. Beside it he found a big roll of coffee sacks
that he used in collecting roots, and going to the barn, he took a spade and
mattock. Then he climbed the hill to the oak; in the white moonlight laid off
his measurements and began work. His heart was very tender as he lifted the
earth, and threw it into the tops of the big bags he had propped open.
"I'll line it with a couple of sheets and finish the edge with pond lilies
and ferns," he planned, "and I'll drag this earth from sight, and cover it with
brush until I need it."
Sometimes he paused in his work to rest a few minutes and then he stood and
glanced around him. Several times he went down the hill and slipped close to a
window, but he could not hear a sound. When his work was finished, he stood
before the oak, scraping clinging earth from the mattock with which he had cut
roots he had been compelled to remove. He was tired now and he thought he would
go to his room and sleep until daybreak. As he turned the implement he
remembered how through it he had found her, and now he was using it in her
service. He smiled as he worked, and half listened to the steady roll of sound
encompassing him. A cool breath swept from the lake and he wondered if it found
her wet, hot cheek. A wild duck in the rushes below gave an alarm signal, and it
ran in subdued voice, note by note, along the shore. The Harvester gripped the
mattock and stood motionless. Wild things had taught him so many lessons he
heeded their warnings instinctively. Perhaps it was a mink or muskrat
approaching the rushes. Listening intently, he heard a stealthy step coming up
the path behind him.
The Harvester waited. He soundlessly moved around the trunk of the big tree.
An instant more the night prowler stopped squarely at the head of the open
grave, and jumped back with an oath. He stood tense a second, then advanced,
scratched a match and dropped it into the depths of the opening. That instant
the Harvester recognized Henry Jameson, and with a spring landed between the
man's shoulders and sent him, face down, headlong into the grave. He snatched
one of the sacks of earth, and tipping it, gripped the bottom and emptied the
contents on the head and shoulders of the prostrate man. Then he dropped on him
and feeling across his back took an ugly, big revolver from a pocket. He swung
to the surface and waited until Henry Jameson crawled from under the weight of
earth and began to rise; then, at each attempt, he knocked him down. At last he
caught the exhausted man by the collar and dragged him to the path, where he
dropped him and stood gloating.
"So!" he said; "It's you! Coming to execute your threat, are you? What's the
matter with my finishing you, loading your carcass with a few stones into this
sack, and dropping you in the deepest part of the lake."
There was no reply.
"Ain't you a little hasty?" asked the Harvester. "Isn't it rather cold
blooded to come sneaking when you thought I'd be asleep? Don't you think it
would be low down to kill a man on his wedding day?"
Henry Jameson arose cautiously and faced the Harvester.
"Who have you killed?" he panted.
"No one," answered the Harvester. "This is for the victim of a member of your
family, but I never dreamed I'd have the joy of planting any of you in it first,
even temporarily. Did you rest well? What I should have done was to fill in,
tread down, and leave you at the bottom."
Jameson retreated a few steps. The Harvester laughed and advanced the same
"Now then," he said, "explain what you are doing on my premises, a few hours
after your threat, and armed with another revolver before I could return the one
I took from you this afternoon. You must grow them on bushes at your place, they
seem so numerous. Speak up! What are you doing here?"
There was no answer.
"There are three things it might be," mused the Harvester. "You might think
to harm me, but you're watched on that score and I don't believe you'd enjoy the
result sure to follow. You might contemplate trying to steal Ruth's money again,
but we'll pass that up. You might want to go through my woods to inform yourself
as to what I have of value there. But, in all prob-ability, you are after me.
Well, here I am. Go ahead! Do what you came to!"
The Harvester stepped toward the lake bank and Jameson, turning to watch him,
exposed a face ghastly through its grime.
"Look here!" cried the Harvester, sickening. "We will end this right now. I
was rather busy this afternoon, but I wasn't too hurried to take that little
weapon of yours to the chief of police and tell him where and how I got it and
what occurred. He was to return it to you to-morrow with his ultimatum. When I
have added the history of to-night, reinforced by another gun, he will
understand your intentions and know where you belong. You should be confined,
but because your name is the same as the Girl's, and there is of your blood in
her veins, I'll give you one more chance. I'll let you go this time, but I'll
report you, and deliver this implement to be added to your collection at
headquarters. And I tell you, and I'll tell them, that if ever I find you on my
premises again, I'll finish you on sight. Is that clear?"
"What I should do is to plump you squarely into confinement, as I could
easily enough, but that's not my way. I am going to let you off, but you go
knowing the law. One thing more: Don't leave with any distorted ideas in your
head. I saw Ruth the day she stepped from the cars in Onabasha and I loved her.
I wanted to court and marry her, as any man would the girl he loves, but you
spoiled that with your woman killing brutality. So I married her in Onabasha
this afternoon. You can see the records at the county clerk's office and
interview the minister who performed the ceremony, if you doubt me. Ruth is in
her room, comfortable as I can make her, asleep and unafraid, thank God! This
grave is for her mother. The Girl wants her lifted from the horrible place you
put her, and laid where it is sheltered and pleasant. Now, I'll see you off my
land. Hurry yourself!"
With the Harvester following, Henry Jameson went back over the path he had
come, until he reached and mounted the horse he had ridden. As the Harvester
watched him, Jameson turned in the saddle and spoke for the second time.
"What will you give me in cold cash to tell you who she is, and where her
mother's people are?"
The Harvester leaped for the bridle and missed. Jameson bent over the horse
and lashed it to a run. Half way to the oak the Harvester remembered the
revolver, but being unaccustomed to weapons, he had forgotten it when he needed
it most. He replaced the earth in the sack and dragged it away, then plunged
into the lake, and afterward went to bed, where he slept soundly until dawn.
First, he slipped into the living-room and wrote a note to the Girl. Then he fed
Belshazzar and ate a hearty breakfast. He stationed the dog at her door, gave
him the note, and went to the oak. There he arranged everything neatly and as he
desired, and then hitching Betsy he quietly guided her down the drive and over
the road to Onabasha. He went to an undertaking establishment, made all his
arrangements, and then called up and talked with the minister who had performed
the marriage ceremony the previous day.
The sun shining in her face awoke Ruth and she lay revelling in the light.
"Maybe it will colour me faster than the powder," she thought. "How peculiar for
him to say what he did! I always thought men detested it. But he is not like any
one else." She lay looking around the beautiful room and wondering where the
Harvester was. She could not hear him. Then, slowly and painfully, she dragged
her aching limbs from the bed and went to the door. The dog was gone from the
porch and she could not see the man at the stable. She selected a frock and
putting it on opened the door. Belshazzar arose and offered this letter:
I have gone to keep my promise. You are locked in with Bel. Please obey me
and do not step outside the door until four o'clock. Then put on a pretty white
dress, and with the dog, come to the bridge to meet me. I hope you will not
suffer and fret. Put away your clothing, arrange the rooms to keep busy, or
better yet, lie in the swing and rest. There is food in the ice chest, pantry,
and cellar. Forgive me for leaving you to-day, but I thought you would feel
easier to have this over. I am so glad to bring your mother here. I hope it will
make you happy enough to meet us with a smile. Do not forget the pink box until
the reality comes.
The Girl went to the kitchen and found food. She offered to share with
Belshazzar, but she could see from his indifference he was not hungry. Then she
returned to the room flooded with light, and filled with treasures, and tried to
decide how she would arrange her clothing. She spent hours opening boxes and
putting dainty, pretty garments in the drawers, hanging the dresses, and placing
the toilet articles. Often she wearily dropped to the chairs and couches, or
gazed from door and windows at the pictures they framed. "I wonder why he
doesn't want me to go outside," she thought. "I wouldn't be afraid in the least,
with Bel. I'd just love to go across to that wonderful little river of Singing
Water and sit in the shade; but I won't open the door until four o'clock, just
as he wrote."
When she thought of where he had gone, and why, the swift tears filled her
eyes, but she forced them back and resolutely went to investigate the
dining-room. Then for two hours she was a home builder, with a touch of that
homing instinct found in the heart of every good woman. First, she looked where
the Harvester had said the dishes were, and suddenly sat on the floor exulting.
There was a quantity of old chipped and cracked white ware and some gorgeous
baking powder prizes; but there were also big blue, green, and pink bowls,
several large lustre plates, and a complete tea set without chip or blemish, two
beautiful pitchers, and a number of willow pieces. She set the green bowl on the
dining table, the blue on the living-room, and took the pink herself, while a
beautiful yellow one she placed in the dining-room window seat.
"Oh, if I only dared fill them with those lovely flowers!" She stood in the
window and gazed longingly toward the lake. "I know what colour I'd like to put
in each of them," she said, "but I promised not to touch anything, and the ones
I want most I never saw before, and I'm not to go out anyway. I can't see the
sense in that, when I'm not at all afraid, but if he does this wonderful thing
for me I must do what he asks. Oh mother, mother! Are you really coming to this
beautiful place and to rest at last?"
She sank to the window seat and lay trembling, but she bravely restrained the
tears. After a time she remembered the upstairs and went to see the coverlets.
She found a half dozen beautiful ones, and smiled as she examined the stiffly
conventionalized birds facing each other in the border designs, and in one
corner of each blanket she read, woven in the cloth——
Peter and John
She took a blue and a green one, several fine skins from the fur box the
Harvester had told her about, and went downstairs. It required all her strength
to push the heavy tables before the fireplaces. She spread papers on them to
stand on, and tacked a skin above each mantel. She set all of the candlesticks,
except those she wanted to use, in the lower part of an empty bookcase. A pair
of black walnut she placed on the living-room mantel, together with a big blue
plate, a yellow one, and an old brass candlestick. She admired the effect very
much. She spread the blue coverlet on the couch, and arranged the blue bowl and
some books on the table. Here and there she hung a skin across a chair back, or
spread it in a wide window seat. Having exhausted all her resources, she
returned to the dining-room, spread a skin before the hearth and in each window
seat, set a pink and green lustre plate on the mantel, and a pair of oak
candlesticks, and arranged the lustre tea set on the side table. The pink
coverlet she took for herself, and after resting a time she was surprised on
going back to the rooms to see how homelike they appeared.
At three o'clock she dressed and at almost four unlocked the screen, called
Belshazzar to her side, and slowly went down the drive to the bridge. She had
used the pink powder, put on a beautiful white dress, carefully arranged her
hair, and she wore the pearl ornament. Once her fingers strayed to the pendant
and she said softly, "I think both he and mother would like me to wear it."
At the foot of the hill she stopped at a bench and sat in the shade waiting.
Belshazzar stretched beside her, and gazed at her with questioning, friendly dog
eyes. The Girl looked from Singing Water to the lake, and up the hill to make
sure it was real. She tried to quiet her quivering muscles and nerves. He had
asked her to meet him with a smile. How could she? He could not have understood
what it meant when he made the request. There never would be any way to make him
realize; indeed, why should he? The smile must be ready. He had loved his mother
deeply, and yet he had said he did not grieve to lay her to rest. Earth had not
been kind. Then why should she sorrow for her mother? Again life had been not
only unkind, but bitterly cruel.
Belshazzar arose and watched down the drive. The Girl looked also. Through
the gate and up the levee came a strange procession. First walked the Harvester
alone, with bared head, and he carried an arm load of white lilies. A carriage
containing a man and several women followed. Then came a white hearse with snowy
plumes, and behind that another carriage filled with people, and Betsy followed
drawing men in the spring wagon. The Girl arose and as she stepped to the drive
she swayed uncertainly an instant.
"Gracious Heaven!" she gasped. "He is bringing her in white, and with flowers
Then she lifted her head, and with a smile on her lips she went to meet him.
As she reached his side, he tenderly put an arm around her, and came on
"Courage Girl!" he whispered. "Be as brave as she was!"
Around the driveway and up the hill he half carried her, to a seat he had
placed under the oak. Before her lay the white-lined grave, and the Harvester
arranged his lilies around it. The teams stopped at the barn and men came up the
hill bearing a white burden. Behind them followed the minister who yesterday had
performed their marriage ceremony, and after him a choir of trained singers
"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,
For they shall cease from their labours."
"But David," panted the Girl, "It was mean and poor. That is not she!"
"Sush!" said the Harvester. "It is your mother. The location was high and
dry, and it has been only a short time. We wrapped her in white silk, laid her
on a soft cushion and pillow, and housed her securely. She can sleep well now,
Covered with white lilies, slowly the casket sank into earth. At its head
stood the minister and as it began to disappear, the white doves, frightened by
the strange conveyances at the stable, came circling above. The minister looked
up. He lifted a clear tenor, and softly and purely he sang, while at a wave of
his hand the choir joined him:
"Oh, come angel band! Oh, come, and around me stand!
Oh, bear me away on your snowy wings to my immortal home!"
He uttered a low benediction, and singing, the people turned and went
downhill. The Harvester gathered the Girl in his arms and carried her to the
lake. He laid her in his boat and taking the oars sent it along the bank in the
shade, and through cool, green places.
"Now cry all you choose!" he said.
The overstrained Girl covered her face and sobbed wildly. After a time he
began to talk to her gently, and before she realized it, she was listening.
"Death has been kinder to her than life, Ruth," he said. "She is lying as you
saw her last, I think. We lifted her very tenderly, wrapped her carefully, and
brought her gently as we could. Now they shall rest together, those little
mothers of ours, to whom men were not kind; and in the long sleep we must
forget, as they have forgotten, and forgive, as no doubt they have forgiven.
Don't you want to take some lilies to them before we go to the cabin? Right
there on your left are unusually large ones."
The Girl sat up, dried her eyes and gathered the white flowers. When the last
vehicle crossed the bridge, the Harvester tied the boat and helped her up the
hill. The old oak stretched its wide arms above two little mounds, both moss
covered and scattered with flowers. The Girl added her store and then went to
the Harvester, and sank at his feet.
"Ruth, you shall not!" cried the man. "I simply will not have that. Come now,
I will bring you back this evening."
He helped her to the veranda and laid her in the swing. He sat beside her
while she rested, and then they went into the cabin for supper. Soon he had her
telling what she had found, and he was making notes of what was yet required to
transform the cabin into a home. The Harvester left it to her to decide whether
he should roof the bridge the next day or make a trip for furnishings. She said
he had better buy what they needed and then she could make the cabin homelike
while he worked on the bridge.