Story type: Literature
He came out of the mysterious South one summer day, driving before him a few sheep, a cow, and a long-eared mule which carried his tent and other necessaries, and camped outside the town on a knoll, at the base of which was a thicket of close shrub. During the first day no one in Jansen thought anything of it, for it was a land of pilgrimage, and hundreds came and went on their journeys in search of free homesteads and good water and pasturage. But when, after three days, he was still there, Nicolle Terasse, who had little to do and an insatiable curiosity, went out to see him. He found a new sensation for Jansen. This is what he said when he came back:
“You want know ’bout him, bagosh! Dat is somet’ing to see, dat man–Ingles is his name. Sooch hair–mooch long an’ brown, and a leetla beard not so brown, an’ a leather sole onto his feet, and a gray coat to his ankles–oui, so like dat. An’ his voice–voila, it is like water in a cave. He is a great man–I dunno not; but he spik at me like dis, ‘Is dere sick, and cripple, and stay-in-bed people here dat can’t get up?’ he say. An’ I say, ‘Not plenty, but some–bagosh! Dere is dat Miss Greet, an’ ole Ma’am Drouchy, an’ dat young Pete Hayes–an’ so on.’ ‘Well, if they have faith I will heal them,’ he spik at me. ‘From de Healing Springs dey shall rise to walk,’ he say. Bagosh, you not t’ink dat true? Den you go see.”
So Jansen turned out to see, and besides the man they found a curious thing. At the foot of the knoll, in a space which he had cleared, was a hot spring that bubbled and rose and sank, and drained away into the thirsty ground. Luck had been with Ingles the Faith Healer. Whether he knew of the existence of this spring, or whether he chanced upon it, he did not say; but while he held Jansen in the palm of his hand, in the feverish days that followed, there were many who attached mysterious significance to it, who claimed for it supernatural origin. In any case, the one man who had known of the existence of this spring was far away from Jansen, and he did not return till a day of reckoning came for the Faith Healer.
Meanwhile, Jansen made pilgrimage to the Springs of Healing, and at unexpected times Ingles suddenly appeared in the town, and stood at street corners; and in his “Patmian voice,” as Flood Rawley the lawyer called it, warned the people to flee their sins, and, purifying their hearts, learn to cure all ills of mind and body, the weaknesses of the sinful flesh and the “ancient evil” in their souls, by faith that saves.
“‘Is not the life more than meat?‘” he asked them. “And if, peradventure, there be those among you who have true belief in hearts all purged of evil, and yet are maimed, or sick of body, come to me, and I will lay my hands upon you, and I will heal you.” Thus he cried.
There were those so wrought upon by his strange eloquence and spiritual passion, so hypnotized by his physical and mental exaltation, that they rose up from the hand-laying and the prayer eased of their ailments. Others he called upon to lie in the hot spring at the foot of the hill for varying periods, before the laying-on of hands, and these also, crippled or rigid with troubles of the bone, announced that they were healed.
People flocked from other towns, and though, to some who had been cured, their pains and sickness returned, there were a few who bore perfect evidence to his teaching and healing, and followed him, “converted and consecrated,” as though he were a new Messiah. In this corner of the West was such a revival as none could remember–not even those who had been to camp-meetings in the East in their youth, and had seen the Spirit descend upon hundreds and draw them to the anxious seat.
Then came the great sensation–the Faith Healer converted Laura Sloly. Upon which Jansen drew its breath painfully; for, while it was willing to bend to the inspiration of the moment, and to be swept on a tide of excitement into that enchanted field called Imagination, it wanted to preserve its institutions–and Laura Sloly had come to be an institution. Jansen had always plumed itself, and smiled, when she passed; and even now the most sentimentally religious of them inwardly anticipated the time when the town would return to its normal condition; and that condition would not be normal if there were any change in Laura Sloly. It mattered little whether most people were changed or not, because one state of their minds could not be less or more interesting than another; but a change in Laura Sloly could not be for the better.
Her father had come to the West in the early days, and had prospered by degrees until a town grew up beside his ranch; and though he did not acquire as much permanent wealth from this golden chance as might have been expected, and lost much he did make by speculation, still he had his rich ranch left, and it and he and Laura were part of the history of Jansen. Laura had been born at Jansen before even it had a name. Next to her father she was the oldest inhabitant, and she had a prestige which was given to no one else.
Everything had conspired to make her a figure of moment and interest. She was handsome in almost a mannish sort of way, being of such height and straightness, and her brown eyes had a depth and fire in which more than a few men had drowned themselves. Also, once she had saved a settlement by riding ahead of a marauding Indian band to warn their intended victims, and had averted another tragedy of pioneer life. Pioneers proudly told strangers to Jansen of the girl of thirteen who rode a hundred and twenty miles without food, and sank inside the palisade of the Hudson Bay Company’s fort, as the gates closed upon the settlers taking refuge, the victim of brain fever at last. Cerebro-spinal meningitis, the doctor from Winnipeg called it, and the memory of that time when men and women would not sleep till her crisis was past was still fresh on the tongues of all.
Then she had married at seventeen, and, within a year, had lost both her husband and her baby, a child bereaved of her Playmates–for her husband had been but twenty years old and was younger far than she in everything. And since then, twelve years before, she had seen generations of lovers pass into the land they thought delectable; and their children flocked to her, hung about her, were carried off by her to the ranch, and kept for days, against the laughing protests of their parents. Flood Rawley called her the Pied Piper of Jansen, and, indeed, she had a voice that fluted and piped, and yet had so whimsical a note that the hardest faces softened at the sound of it; and she did not keep its best notes for the few. She was impartial, almost impersonal; no woman was her enemy, and every man was her friend–and nothing more. She had never had an accepted lover since the day her Playmates left her. Every man except one had given up hope that he might win her; and though he had been gone from Jansen for two years, and had loved her since the days before the Playmates came and went, he never gave up hope, and was now to return and say again what he had mutely said for years–what she understood, and he knew she understood.
Tim Denton had been a wild sort in his brief day. He was a rough diamond, but he was a diamond, and was typical of the West–its heart, its courage, its freedom, and its force; capable of exquisite gentleness strenuous to exaggeration, with a very primitive religion, and the only religion Tim knew was that of human nature. Jansen did not think Tim good enough–not within a comet shot–for Laura Sloly; but they thought him better than any one else.
But now Laura was a convert to the prophet of the Healing Springs, and those people who still retained their heads in the eddy of religious emotion were in despair. They dreaded to meet Laura; they kept away from the “protracted meetings,” but were eager to hear about her and what she said and did. What they heard allayed their worst fears. She still smiled, and seemed as cheerful as before, they heard, and she neither spoke nor prayed in public, but she led the singing always. Now the anxious and the sceptical and the reactionary ventured out to see and hear; and seeing and hearing gave them a satisfaction they hardly dared express. She was more handsome than ever, and if her eyes glistened with a light they had never seen before, and awed them, her lips still smiled, and the old laugh came when she spoke to them. Their awe increased. This was “getting religion” with a difference.
But presently they received a shock. A whisper grew that Laura was in love with the Faith Healer. Some woman’s instinct drove straight to the centre of a disconcerting possibility, and in consternation she told her husband; and Jansen husbands had a freemasonry of gossip. An hour, and all Jansen knew, or thought they knew; and the “saved” rejoiced; and the rest of the population, represented by Nicolle Terasse at one end and Flood Rawley at the other, flew to arms. No vigilance committee was ever more determined and secret and organized than the unconverted civic patriots who were determined to restore Jansen to its old-time condition. They pointed out cold-bloodedly that the Faith Healer had failed three times where he had succeeded once; and that, admitting the successes, there was no proof that his religion was their cause. There were such things as hypnotism and magnetism and will-power, and abnormal mental stimulus on the part of the healed–to say nothing of the Healing Springs.
Carefully laying their plans, they quietly spread the rumor that Ingles had promised to restore to health old Mary Jewell, who had been bedridden ten years, and had sent word and prayed to have him lay his hands upon her–Catholic though she was. The Faith Healer, face to face with this supreme and definite test, would have retreated from it but for Laura Sloly. She expected him to do it, believed that he could, said that he would, herself arranged the day and the hour, and sang so much exaltation into him that at last a spurious power seemed to possess him. He felt that there had entered into him something that could be depended on, not the mere flow of natural magnetism fed by an out-door life and a temperament of great emotional force and chance and suggestion–and other things. If, at first, he had influenced Laura, some ill-controlled, latent idealism in him, working on a latent poetry and spirituality in her, somehow bringing her into nearer touch with her lost Playmates than she had been in the long years that had passed; she, in turn, had made his unrationalized brain reel; had caught him up into a higher air, on no wings of his own; had added another lover to her company of lovers–and the first impostor she had ever had. She who had known only honest men as friends, in one blind moment lost her perspicuous sense; her instinct seemed asleep. She believed in the man and in his healing. Was there anything more than that?
The day of the great test came, hot, brilliant, vivid. The air was of a delicate sharpness, and, as it came toward evening, the glamour of an August when the reapers reap was upon Jansen; and its people gathered round the house of Mary Jewell to await the miracle of faith. Apart from the emotional many who sang hymns and spiritual songs were a few determined men, bent on doing justice to Jansen though the heavens might fall. Whether or no Laura Sloly was in love with the Faith Healer, Jansen must look to its own honor–and hers. In any case, this peripatetic saint at Sloly’s Ranch–the idea was intolerable; women must be saved in spite of themselves.
Laura was now in the house by the side of the bedridden Mary Jewell, waiting, confident, smiling, as she held the wasted hand on the coverlet. With her was a minister of the Baptist persuasion, who was swimming with the tide, and who approved of the Faith Healer’s immersions in the hot Healing Springs; also a medical student who had pretended belief in Ingles, and two women weeping with unnecessary remorse for human failings of no dire kind. The windows were open, and those outside could see. Presently, in a lull of the singing, there was a stir in the crowd, and then sudden loud greetings–
“My, if it ain’t Tim Denton! Jerusalem! You back, Tim!”
These and other phrases caught the ear of Laura Sloly in the sick-room. A strange look flashed across her face, and the depth of her eyes was troubled for a moment, as to the face of the old comes a tremor at the note of some long-forgotten song. Then she steadied herself and waited, catching bits of the loud talk which still floated toward her from without.
“What’s up? Some one getting married–or a legacy, or a saw-off? Why, what a lot of Sunday-go-to-meeting folks to be sure!” Tim laughed loudly.
After which the quick tongue of Nicolle Terasse: “You want know? Tiens, be quiet; here he come. He cure you body and soul, ver’ queeck–yes.”
The crowd swayed and parted, and slowly, bare head uplifted, face looking to neither right nor left, the Faith Healer made his way to the door of the little house. The crowd hushed. Some were awed, some were overpoweringly interested, some were cruelly patient. Nicolle Terasse and others were whispering loudly to Tim Denton. That was the only sound, until the Healer got to the door. Then, on the steps, he turned to the multitude.
“Peace be to you all, and upon this house,” he said, and stepped through the doorway.
Tim Denton, who had been staring at the face of the Healer, stood for an instant like one with all his senses arrested. Then he gasped and exclaimed, “Well, I’m eternally–!” and broke off with a low laugh, which was at first mirthful, and then became ominous and hard.
“Oh, magnificent!–magnificent!–jerickety!” he said into the sky above him.
His friends who were not “saved” closed in on him to find the meaning of his words, but he pulled himself together, looked blankly at them, and asked them questions. They told him so much more than he cared to hear that his face flushed a deep red–the bronze of it most like the color of Laura Sloly’s hair; then he turned pale. Men saw that he was roused beyond any feeling in themselves.
“‘Sh!” he said. “Let’s see what he can do.” With the many who were silently praying, as they had been bidden to do, the invincible ones leaned forward, watching the little room where healing–or tragedy–was afoot. As in a picture, framed by the window, they saw the kneeling figures, the Healer standing with outstretched arms. They heard his voice, sonorous and appealing, then commanding–and yet Mary Jewell did not rise from her bed and walk. Again, and yet again, the voice rang out, and still the woman lay motionless. Then he laid his hands upon her, and again he commanded her to rise.
There was a faint movement, a desperate struggle to obey, but Nature and Time and Disease had their way.
Yet again there was the call. An agony stirred the bed. Then another great Healer came between and mercifully dealt the sufferer a blow–Death has a gentle hand sometimes. Mary Jewell was bedridden still–and forever.
Like a wind from the mountains the chill knowledge of death wailed through the window and over the heads of the crowd. All the figures were upright now in the little room. Then those outside saw Laura Sloly lean over and close the sightless eyes. This done, she came to the door and opened it, and motioned for the Healer to leave. He hesitated, hearing the harsh murmur from the outskirts of the crowd. Once again she motioned, and he came. With a face deadly pale she surveyed the people before her silently for a moment, her eyes all huge and staring. Presently she turned to Ingles and spoke to him quickly in a low voice; then, descending the steps, passed out through the lane made for her by the crowd, he following with shaking limbs and bowed head.
Warning words had passed among the few invincible ones who waited where the Healer must pass into the open, and there was absolute stillness as Laura advanced. Their work was to come–quiet and swift and sure; but not yet.
Only one face Laura saw as she led the way to the moment’s safety–Tim Denton’s; and it was as stricken as her own. She passed, then turned and looked at him again. He understood; she wanted him.
He waited till she sprang into her wagon, after the Healer had mounted his mule and ridden away with ever-quickening pace into the prairie. Then he turned to the set, fierce men beside him.
“Leave him alone,” he said–“leave him to me. I know him. You hear? Ain’t I no rights? I tell you I knew him–South. You leave him to me.”
They nodded, and he sprang into his saddle and rode away. They watched the figure of the Healer growing smaller in the dusty distance.
“Tim’ll go to her,” one said, “and perhaps they’ll let the snake get off. Hadn’t we best make sure?”
“Perhaps you’d better let him vamoose,” said Flood Rawley, anxiously. “Jansen is a law-abiding place.”
The reply was decisive. Jansen had its honor to keep. It was the home of the Pioneers–Laura Sloly was a Pioneer.
* * * * *
Tim Denton was a Pioneer, with all the comradeship which lay in the word, and he was that sort of lover who has seen one woman and can never see another–not the product of the most modern civilization. Before Laura had had Playmates he had given all he had to give; he had waited and hoped ever since; and when the ruthless gossips had said to him before Mary Jewell’s house that she was in love with the Faith Healer, nothing changed in him. For the man–for Ingles–Tim belonged to a primitive breed, and love was not in his heart. As he rode out to Sloly’s Ranch, he ground his teeth in rage. But Laura had called him to her, and–
“Well, what you say goes, Laura,” he muttered at the end of a long hour of human passion and its repression. “If he’s to go scot-free, then he’s got to go; but the boys yonder’ll drop on me if he gets away. Can’t you see what a swab he is, Laura?”
The brown eyes of the girl looked at him gently. The struggle between them was over; she had had her way–to save the preacher, impostor though he was; and now she felt, as she had never felt before in the same fashion, that this man was a man of men.
“Tim, you do not understand,” she urged. “You say he was a landsharp in the South, and that he had to leave–“
“He had to vamoose, or take tar and feathers.”
“But he had to leave. And he came here preaching and healing; and he is a hypocrite and a fraud–I know that now, my eyes are opened. He didn’t do what he said he could do, and it killed Mary Jewell–the shock; and there were other things he said he could do, and didn’t do them. Perhaps he is all bad, as you say–I don’t think so. But he did some good things, and through him I’ve felt as I’ve never felt before about God and life, and about Walt and the baby–as though I’ll see them again, sure. I’ve never felt that before. It was all as if they were lost in the hills, and no trail home, or out to where they are. Like as not God was working in him all the time, Tim; and he failed because he counted too much on the little he had, and made up for what he hadn’t by what he pretended.”
“He can pretend to himself, or God Almighty, or that lot down there”–he jerked a finger toward the town–“but to you, a girl, and a Pioneer–“
A flash of humor shot into her eyes at his last words, then they filled with tears, through which the smile shone. To pretend to “a Pioneer”–the splendid vanity and egotism of the West!
“He didn’t pretend to me, Tim. People don’t usually have to pretend to like me.”
“You know what I’m driving at.”
“Oh yes, I know. And whatever he is, you’ve said that you will save him. I’m straight, you know that. Somehow, what I felt from his preaching–well, everything got sort of mixed up with him, and he was–was different. It was like the long dream of Walt and the baby, and he a part of it. I don’t know what I felt, or what I might have felt for him. I’m a woman–I can’t understand. But I know what I feel now. I never want to see him again on earth–or in heaven. It needn’t be necessary even in heaven; but what happened between God and me through him stays, Tim; and so you must help him get away safe. It’s in your hands–you say they left it to you.”
“I don’t trust that too much.”
Suddenly he pointed out of the window toward the town. “See, I’m right; there they are, a dozen of ’em mounted. They’re off, to run him down.”
Her face paled; she glanced toward the Hill of Healing. “He’s got an hour’s start,” she said; “he’ll get into the mountains and be safe.”
“If they don’t catch him ‘fore that.”
“Or if you don’t get to him first,” she said, with nervous insistence.
He turned to her with a hard look; then, as he met her soft, fearless, beautiful eyes, his own grew gentle.
“It takes a lot of doing. Yet I’ll do it for you, Laura,” he said. “But it’s hard on the Pioneers.”
Once more her humor flashed, and it seemed to him that “getting religion” was not so depressing after all–wouldn’t be, anyhow, when this nasty job was over.
“The Pioneers will get over it, Tim,” she rejoined. “They’ve swallowed a lot in their time. Heaven’s gate will have to be pretty wide to let in a real Pioneer,” she added. “He takes up so much room–ah, Timothy Denton!” she added, with an outburst of whimsical merriment.
“It hasn’t spoiled you–being converted–has it?” he said, and gave a quick little laugh, which somehow did more for his ancient cause with her than all he had ever said or done. Then he stepped outside and swung into his saddle.
* * * * *
It had been a hard and anxious ride, but Tim had won, and was keeping his promise. The night had fallen before he got to the mountains, which he and the Pioneers had seen the Faith Healer enter. They had had four miles’ start of Tim, and had ridden fiercely, and they entered the gulch into which the refugee had disappeared still two miles ahead.
The invincibles had seen Tim coming, but they had determined to make a sure thing of it, and would themselves do what was necessary with the impostor, and take no chances. So they pressed their horses, and he saw them swallowed by the trees as darkness gathered. Changing his course, he entered the familiar hills, which he knew better than any Pioneer of Jansen, and rode a diagonal course over the trail they would take. But night fell suddenly, and there was nothing to do but to wait till morning. There was comfort in this–the others must also wait, and the refugee could not go far. In any case, he must make for settlement or perish, since he had left behind his sheep and his cow.
It fell out better than Tim hoped. The Pioneers were as good hunters as was he, their instinct was as sure, their scouts and trackers were many, and he was but one. They found the Faith Healer by a little stream, eating bread and honey, and, like an ancient woodlander, drinking from a horn–relic of his rank imposture. He made no resistance. They tried him, formally if perfunctorily; he admitted his imposture, and begged for his life. Then they stripped him naked, tied a bit of canvas round his waist, fastened him to a tree, and were about to complete his punishment when Tim Denton burst upon them.
Whether the rage Tim showed was all real or not; whether his accusations of bad faith came from so deeply wounded a spirit as he would have them believe, he was not likely to tell; but he claimed the prisoner as his own, and declined to say what he meant to do. When, however, they saw the abject terror of the Faith Healer as he begged not to be left alone with Tim–for they had not meant death, and Ingles thought he read death in Tim’s ferocious eyes–they laughed cynically, and left it to Tim to uphold the honor of Jansen and the Pioneers.
As they disappeared, the last thing they saw was Tim with his back to them, his hands on his hips, and a knife clasped in his fingers.
“He’ll lift his scalp and make a monk of him,” chuckled the oldest and hardest of them.
“Dat Tim will cut his heart out, I t’ink–bagosh!” said Nicolle Terasse, and took a drink of white whiskey.
For a long time Tim stood looking at the other, until no sound came from the woods whither the Pioneers had gone. Then at last, slowly and with no roughness, as the terror-stricken impostor shrank and withered, he cut the cords.
“Dress yourself,” he said, shortly, and sat down beside the stream, and washed his face and hands as though to cleanse them from contamination. He appeared to take no notice of the other, though his ears keenly noted every movement.
The impostor dressed nervously, yet slowly; he scarce comprehended anything, except that he was not in immediate danger. When he had finished, he stood looking at Tim, who was still seated on a log plunged in meditation.
It seemed hours before Tim turned round, and now his face was quiet, if set and determined. He walked slowly over, and stood looking at his victim for some time without speaking. The other’s eyes dropped, and a grayness stole over his features. This steely calm was even more frightening than the ferocity which had previously been in his captor’s face. At length the tense silence was broken:
“Wasn’t the old game good enough? Was it played out? Why did you take to this? Why did you do it, Scranton?”
The voice quavered a little in reply: “I don’t know. Something sort of pushed me into it.”
“How did you come to start it?”
There was a long silence, then the husky reply came:
“I got a sickener last time–“
“Yes, I remember, at Waywing.”
“I got into the desert, and had hard times–awful for a while. I hadn’t enough to eat, and I didn’t know whether I’d die by hunger or fever or Indians–or snakes.”
“Oh, you were seeing snakes!” said Tim, grimly.
“Not the kind you mean; I hadn’t anything to drink–“
“No, you never did drink, I remember–just was crooked, and slopped over women. Well, about the snakes?”
“I caught them to eat, and they were poison-snakes often. And I wasn’t quick at first to get them safe by the neck–they’re quick, too.”
Tim laughed inwardly. “Getting your food by the sweat of your brow–and a snake in it, same as Adam! Well, was it in the desert you got your taste for honey, too, same as John the Baptist–that was his name, if I recomember?” He looked at the tin of honey on the ground.
“Not in the desert, but when I got to the grass-country.”
“How long were you in the desert?”
“Close to a year.”
Tim’s eyes opened wider. He saw that the man was speaking the truth.
“Got to thinking in the desert, and sort of willing things to come to pass, and mooning along, you and the sky and the vultures and the hot hills and the snakes and the flowers–eh?”
“There weren’t any flowers till I got to the grass-country.”
“Oh, cuss me, if you ain’t simple for your kind! I know all about that. And when you got to the grass-country you just picked up the honey and the flowers, and a calf and a lamb and a mule here and there, ‘without money and without price,’ and walked on–that it?”
The other shrank before the steel in the voice, and nodded his head.
“But you kept thinking in the grass-country of what you’d felt and said and done–and willed, in the desert, I suppose?”
Again the other nodded.
“It seemed to you in the desert as if you’d saved your own life a hundred times, as if you’d just willed food and drink and safety to come; as if Providence had been at your elbow?”
“It was like a dream, and it stayed with me. I had to think in the desert things I’d never thought before,” was the half-abstracted answer.
“You felt good in the desert?”
The other hung his head in shame.
“Makes you seem pretty small, doesn’t it? You didn’t stay long enough, I guess, to get what you were feeling for; you started in on the new racket too soon. You never got really possessed that you was a sinner. I expect that’s it.”
The other made no reply.
“Well, I don’t know much about such things. I was loose brought up; but I’ve a friend”–Laura was before his eyes–“that says religion’s all right, and long ago as I can remember my mother used to pray three times a day–with grace at meals, too. I know there’s a lot in it for them that need it; and there seems to be a lot of folks needing it, if I’m to judge by folks down there at Jansen, ‘specially when there’s the laying-on of hands and the Healing Springs. Oh, that was a pigsty game, Scranton, that about God giving you the Healing Springs, like Moses and the rock! Why, I discovered them springs myself two years ago, before I went South, and I guess God wasn’t helping me any–not after I’ve kept out of His way as I have. But, anyhow, religion’s real; that’s my sense of it; and you can get it, I bet, if you try. I’ve seen it got. A friend of mine got it–got it under your preaching; not from you; but you was the accident that brought it about, I expect. It’s funny–it’s merakilous, but it’s so. Kneel down!” he added, with peremptory suddenness. “Kneel, Scranton!”
In fear the other knelt.
“You’re going to get religion now–here. You’re going to pray for what you didn’t get–and almost got–in the desert. You’re going to ask forgiveness for all your damn tricks, and pray like a fanning-mill for the Spirit to come down. You ain’t a scoundrel at heart–a friend of mine says so. You’re a weak vessel–cracked, perhaps. You’ve got to be saved, and start right over again–and ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow!’ Pray–pray, Scranton, and tell the whole truth, and get it–get religion. Pray like blazes. You go on, and pray out loud. Remember the desert, and Mary Jewell, and your mother–did you have a mother, Scranton?–say, did you have a mother, lad?”
Tim’s voice suddenly lowered before the last word, for the Faith Healer had broken down in a torrent of tears.
“Oh, my mother–O God!” he groaned.
“Say, that’s right–that’s right–go on,” said the other and drew back a little, and sat down on a log.
The man on his knees was convulsed with misery. Denton, the world, disappeared. He prayed in agony.
Presently Tim moved uneasily, then got up and walked about; and at last, with a strange, awed look, when an hour was past, he stole back into the shadow of the trees while still the wounded soul poured out its misery and repentance.
Time moved on. A curious shyness possessed Tim now, a thing which he had never felt in his life. He moved about self-consciously, awkwardly, until at last there was a sudden silence over by the brook.
Tim looked, and saw the face of the kneeling man cleared and quiet and shining. He hesitated, then stepped out, and came over.
“Have you got it?” he asked, quietly. “It’s noon now.”
“May God help me to redeem my past,” answered the other, in a new voice.
“You’ve got it–sure?” Tim’s voice was meditative.
“God has spoken to me,” was the simple answer.
“I’ve got a friend’ll be glad to hear that,” he said; and once more, in imagination, he saw Laura Sloly standing at the door of her home, with a light in her eyes he had never seen before.
“You’ll want some money for your journey?” Tim asked.
“I want nothing but to go away–far away,” was the low reply.
“Well, you’ve lived in the desert–I guess you can live in the grass-country,” came the dry response, “Good-bye–and good-luck, Scranton.”
Tim turned to go, moved on a few steps, then looked back.
“Don’t be afraid–they’ll not follow,” he said. “I’ll fix it for you all right.”
But the man appeared not to hear; he was still on his knees.
Tim faced the woods once more.
He was about to mount his horse when he heard a step behind him. He turned sharply–and faced Laura.
“I couldn’t rest. I came out this morning. I’ve seen everything,” she said.
“You didn’t trust me,” he said, heavily.
“I never did anything else,” she answered.
He gazed half-fearfully into her eyes. “Well?” he asked. “I’ve done my best, as I said I would.”
“Tim,” she said, and slipped a hand in his, “would you mind the religion–if you had me?”