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- Dawn - 52/52 -


and hurt pride can understand--anything, rightly."

"But you wouldn't let me explain afterwards."

"No, I didn't want you to explain. I was too sore, too deeply hurt, too--well, I couldn't. That's all. Besides, I didn't want you to know --how much I was caring about it all. So, a little later, when I did see you, I tried to toss it all off lightly, as of no consequence whatever."

"Well, you--succeeded," commented Dorothy dryly.

"I had to, you see. I had found out then how much I really did care. I knew then that somehow you and Miss Stewart were hopelessly mixed up in my heart, and that I loved you, and that the world without you was going to be one big desert of loneliness and longing. You see, it had not been so hard to give you up in imagination; but when it came to the real thing---"

"But, Keith, why--why did you insist that you must?"

"Do you think I'd ask you or anybody to tie yourself to a helpless creature who would probably finally end up on a street corner with a tin cup for pennies? Besides, in your case, I had not forgotten the shudders and the averted eyes. I still was so sure---

"Then John McGuire came home blind; and after a while I found I could help him. And, Dorothy, then is when I learned that--that perhaps YOU were as happy in doing things for me as I had been in doing them for John McGuire. I sort of forgot the shudders and the averted eyes then. Besides, along about that time we had got back to almost our old friendliness--the friendliness and companionship of Miss Stewart and me. Then the money came and I knew that at least I never should have to ask you to subsist on what the tin cup of pennies could bring! And I had almost begun to--to actually plan, when all of a sudden you stopped coming, right off short."

"But I--I went away," defended the girl, a little faintly.

"Not at once. You were here in town a long time after that. I knew because I used to hear about you. I was sure then that--that you had seen I was caring for you, and so you stayed away. Besides, it came back to me again--my old fear of your pity and aversion, of your eyes turned away. You see, always, dear, that's been a sort of obsession with me, I guess. I hate to feel that any one is looking at me-- watching me. To me it seems like spying on me because I--I can't look back. Yes, I know it's all very foolish and very silly; but we are all foolish and silly over something. It's because of that feeling that I --I so hate to enter a room and know that some one is there who won't speak--who tries to cheat me into thinking I am alone. I--I can't bear it, Dorothy. Just because I can't see them--"

"I know, I know," nodded the girl. "Well, in December you went away. Oh, I knew when you went. I knew a lot of things that YOU didn't know I knew. But I was trying all those days to put you quite out of my mind, and I busied myself with John McGuire and told myself that I was satisfied with my work; that I had put you entirely out of my life.

"Then you came back in February, and I knew I hadn't. I knew I loved you more than ever. Just at first, the very first, I thought you had come back to me. Then I saw--that it was dad. After that I tried--oh, you don't know how hard I tried--to kill that wicked love in my heart. Why, darling, nothing would have hired me to let you see it then. Let dad know that his loving you hurt me? Fail dad there, as I had failed him everywhere else? I guess not! This was something I COULD do. I could let him have you, and never, never let him know. So I buried myself in work and tried to--forget.

"Then to-day you came. At the first sound of your voice in there, when I realized what you were saying (to dad, I supposed), I started up and would have gone. Then I was afraid you would see me pass the window, and that it would be worse if I went than if I stayed. Besides, right away I heard words that made me so weak with joy and amazement that my knees bent under me and I had to sit down. And then--but you know the rest, dear."

"Yes, I know the rest; and I'll tell you, some time, why I--I stopped coming last fall."

"All right; but even that doesn't matter to me now; for now, in spite of my blind eyes, the way looks all rosy ahead. Why, dear, it's like the dawn---the dawn of a new day. And I used to so love the dawn! You don't know, but years ago, with dad, I'd go camping in the woods, and sometimes we'd stay all night on the mountain. I loved that, for in the morning we'd watch the sun come up and flood the world with light. And it seemed so wonderful, after the dark! And it's like that with me to-day, dear. It's my dawn--the dawn of a new day. And it's so wonderful--after the dark!"

"Oh, Keith, I'm so glad! And, listen, dear. It's not only dawn for you, but for all those blind boys down there that you are helping. You have opened their eyes to the dawn of THEIR new day. Don't you see?"

Keith drew in his breath with a little catch.

"Have I? Do you think I have? Oh, I should like to think--that. I don't know, of course, about them. But I do know about myself. And I know it's the most wonderful dawn ever was for me. And I know that with your little hand in mine I'll walk fearlessly straight on, with my chin up. And now that I know dad doesn't care, and that he isn't going to be unhappy about my loving you and your loving me, I haven't even that to fear."

"And, oh, Keith, think, think what it would have been if--if I hadn't defied the 'properties,'" she faltered mistily.

"Dear old Susan--bless her heart! And that isn't all I owe her. Something she said the other day made me hope that maybe I hadn't even quite failed--dad. And I so wanted to make good--for dad!"

"And you've done it, Keith."

"But maybe he--he doesn't think so."

"But he does. He told me."

"He TOLD you!"

"Yes--last night. He said that once he had great plans for you, great ambitions, but that he never dreamed he could be as proud of you as he is right now--what you had done for yourself, and what you were doing for those boys down there."

"Did dad say that?"

"Yes."

"And to think of my having that, and you, too!" breathed the man, his arm tightening about her.

THE END


Dawn - 52/52

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