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- A Day Of Fate - 30/66 -


"But you didn't know it."

"I don't believe I know anything rightly. I--I feel so strange--just as if I had waked up and hadn't got anything clear. But I know this much, in spite of what Reuben said," she added impulsively; "Emily Warren doesn't owe thee any more than I do." And she turned like a flash and was gone.

"Poor child," I muttered, "she hasn't recovered so fully as the others."

I had been holding one of Zillah's hands during the interview, and she now pulled me down and whispered:

"What's the matter with thee, Richard Morton?"

"Heaven grant you may never know, little one. Good-by." I had scarcely left the piazza, however, before Mrs. Yocomb called:

"Richard Morton, thee must be famished. Come to supper."

CHAPTER II

"IT WAS INEVITABLE"

I ought to have had a ravenous appetite but I had none at all. I ought to have been glad and thankful from the depths of my heart, but I was so depressed that everything I said was forced and unnatural. My head felt as if it were bursting, and I was enraged with myself and the wretched result of my bright dream. Indeed I found myself inclined to a spirit of recklessness and irritation that was wellnigh irresistible.

Miss Warren seemed as wholly free from any morbid, unnatural tendencies as Mr. Yocomb himself, and she did her utmost to make the hour as genial as it should have been. At first I imagined that she was trying to satisfy herself that I had recovered my senses, and that my unexpected words, spoken in the morning, were the result of a mood that was as transient as it was abnormal. I think I puzzled her; I certainly did not understand myself any better than did poor Adah, whose mind appeared to be in solution from the effects of the lightning, and I felt that I must be appearing worse than idiotic.

Miss Warren, resolutely bent on banishing every unnatural constraint, asked Mr. Yocomb:

"How is my genuine friend, Old Plod? Did the lightning wake him up?"

"No, he plods as heavily as ever this morning. Thee only can wake him up."

"You've no idea what a compliment that is," she said, with a low laugh. "Old Plod inspires me with a sense of confidence and stability that is very reassuring in a world full of lightning flashes."

"Yes," I said, "he is safe as a horse-block, and quite as exhilarating. Give me Dapple."

She looked at me quickly and keenly, and colored slightly. She evidently had some association in her mind with the old plow-horse that I did not understand.

"Exhilaration scarcely answers as a steady diet, Mr. Morton."

"Little chance of its lasting long," I replied, "even in a world overcharged with electricity."

"I prefer calm, steady sunshine to these wild alternations."

"I doubt it; 'calm, steady sunshine' would make the world as dry and monotonous as a desert."

"That's true, Richard Morton," said Mr. Yocomb. "I like peace and quiet more than most men, but even if we had all burned up last night, this part of the world would have been wonderfully the better for the storm. I reckon it was worth a million or more dollars to the county."

"That's the right way to look at it, Mr. Yocomb," I said carelessly. "The greatest good to the greatest number. Individuals are of no account."

"Your philosophy may be true, but I don't like it," Miss Warren protested. "A woman doesn't generalize."

"Thy philosophy is only half true, Richard Morton. God cares for each one of His children, and every one in my house counts for much to me."

"There's no getting ahead of thee, mother. If we want to talk heresy, Richard Morton, we must go off by ourselves."

"I think God showed His love for us in a queer way last night," said Adah, abruptly.

Both her father and mother looked pained at this speech, and Mrs. Yocomb said gravely:

"Thee'll see things in the true light some day, I hope. The lightning bolt may have been a message from Heaven to thee."

"It seems to me that Zillah got more of the message than I did, and she didn't need any," said the matter-of-fact Adah, "At any rate I hope Richard Morton may be here if I ever get another message."

"I shall surely be struck next time," I laughed, a trifle bitterly; "for according to Mrs. Yocomb's view I need a message more than any of you."

It was evident that neither Adah nor I was in a frame of mind that Mrs. Yocomb could commend.

"As you suggested, Mr. Morton, if some other tramp from New York had been present, what a thrilling narrative you could write for your paper," Miss Warren began. Seemingly she had had enough of clouds the previous evening, and was bent on clear skies to-night.

She found me incorrigible, however, for I said briefly:

"Oh, no, it would only make an item among the crimes and casualties."

Undaunted, she replied: "And such might have been its appropriate place had not the doctor arrived so promptly. The casualty had already occurred, and I'm quite sure you would have finished us all with original remedies if left to yourself."

"I agree with you, Miss Warren; blunders are worse than crimes, and I've a genius for them."

"Well, I'm not a genius in any sense of the word. Miss Adah and I look at things as they are. One would think, Mr. Morton, accepting your view of yourself, that you could supply your paper with all the crimes and casualties required, as the result of the genius you claim."

"Stupid blunders would make stupid reading."

"Oh, that column in your paper is very interesting, then?"

"Why shouldn't it be? I've never had the bad taste to publish in it anything about myself."

"I fail to find any logic in that remark. Have you a conscience, Mr. Morton?"

"The idea of an editor having a conscience! I doubt whether you have ever seen New York, Miss Warren, you are so unsophisticated."

"Emily, thee shouldn't be afraid of lightning when thee and Richard Morton are so ready to flash back and forth at one another."

"My words are only heat lightning, very harmless, and Mr. Morton's partake of the aurora in character--they are cool and distant."

"I hope they are not so mysterious," I replied.

"Their cause is, quite."

"I think I understand the cause," said Mrs. Yocomb as we rose from the table; and she came and took my hand. "Richard Morton, thee has fever; thy hands are hot and thy temples are throbbing."

I saw that Miss Warren was looking at me with an expression that was full of kind, regretful interest; but with the perversity of a child that should have been shaken, I replied, recklessly:

"I've taken cold, I fear. I sat on the piazza like an owl last night, and I learned that an owl would have been equally useful there. I fear I'm going to be ill, Mrs. Yocomb, and I think I had better make a precipitate retreat to my den in New York."

"Who'll take care of thee in thy den?" she asked, with a smile that would have disarmed cynicism itself.

"Oh, they can spare a devil from the office occasionally," I said carelessly; but I felt that my remark was brutal. In answer to her look of pained surprise I added, "Pardon me that I used the vile slang of the shop; I meant one of the boys employed in the printing-rooms. Mrs. Yocomb, I have now satisfied you that I'm too much of a bear to deserve any gentler nurse. I truly think I had better return to town at once. I've never been very ill, and have no idea how to behave. It's already clear that I wouldn't prove a meek and interesting patient, and I don't want to lose your good opinion."

"Richard Morton, if thee should leave us now I should feel hurt beyond measure. Thee's not thyself or thee wouldn't think of it."

"Richard Morton, thee cannot go," said Mr. Yocomb in his hearty way. "If thee knew mother as I do, thee'd give right in. I don't often put my foot down, but when I do, it's like old South Mountain there. Ah, here comes the doctor. Doctor Bates, if thee doesn't prescribe several weeks of quiet life in this old farmhouse for Friend Morton, I'll start right off to find a doctor who will."

"Please stay, and I'll gather wild strawberries for thee," said Adah, in a low tone. She had stolen close to my side, and still had the wistful, intent look of a child.


A Day Of Fate - 30/66

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