Helena sat in the Patriarch's room, and her piquant little face was pursed up into a scowl so daintily grim as to be almost ludicrous. The Patriarch, in his armchair, had been scrawling words upon the slate all evening—and she had been wiping them off! He scrawled another now—and mechanically, without looking at it, by way of answer she pressed his arm to appease him.

She had been restless all day, and she was restless now. What had induced her to treat Madison the way she had the night before? Pique, probably. No; it wasn't pique. It was just getting back at him—and he deserved it. He hadn't seemed to mind it much, though—he had only laughed and teased her about it that morning when he had joined the Patriarch and herself in their walk along the beach.

With her chin in her hands, she began to study the Patriarch through half closed eyes—deaf and dumb and blind—and somehow it all seemed excruciatingly funny and she wanted to laugh hysterically. He seemed to sense the fact that she was looking at him, and, with quick, instant intuition, he smiled and reached out his hand toward her.

Unconsciously, involuntarily, she drew back—then, recovering herself the next instant, she took his hand. Now, why had she done that? What was the matter with her? Again she felt that sudden impulse to scream, or laugh, or shout, or make some noise—it seemed as though she were penned in, smothered somehow, imprisoned. What was the matter? Nerves? She had never known what nerves were in all her life! Couldn't she play the game and act her part without making a fool of herself? She had played a part all her life, hadn't she? Maybe it was quite a shock to her system to take a place amongst really good and simple folk!

She laughed a little shortly—then rose abruptly from her chair, and began to walk up and down the room. The trouble was that the soft pedal was getting unbearable. That air of awed hush and solemnity, morning, noon and night, without anything to relieve it, was just a trifle too drastic and sudden a change in life for her to accept calmly and swallow in one dose without feeling any effects from it! If she could be transported now for an hour, say, to the Roost, or Heligman's and the turkey trot, or the Rivoli, or any old place—except Needley, Maine!

"Gee!" said Helena to herself. "If I don't break loose and kick the traces over for a minute or two, I'll be clawing the bars of a dippy asylum before I'm through—and just listen to the sweet, girlish language I'm using—I'd like to bite something!"

She turned impulsively to the door, stepped out into the hall, and called the Flopper from his room.

"Flopper, you go in there and stay with the Patriarch for awhile," she ordered curtly. "I'm going down on the beach to yell."

"Yell?" inquired the Flopper, blinking helplessly.

"I'm going outside to yell—yell. You know what 'yell' means, don't you?" she snapped.

"Swipe me!" observed the Flopper, gazing at her anxiously. "Skirts is all de same—youse never know wot dey'll do next. Wot you wanter yell fer?"

"You mind your own business and do as you're told!" said Helena tartly. "Go in there and stay with the Patriarch."

"Sure," said the Flopper, grinning a little now. "Sure t'ing—but youse needn't get on yer ear about it. Cheer up, mabbe de Doc'll be out to-night, an' if he don't hear youse yellin' himself will I tell him youse are out on de beach t'rowin' a fit?"

"No," Helena answered sharply; "tell him nothing—I'm out." Then, quite as quickly, changing her mind: "Yes; tell him I'm down there—or come and get me yourself"—and she walked abruptly into her own room.

"Now wot do youse t'ink of dat?" demanded the Flopper of the universe. He blinked at the door she had closed in his face. "Say," he asserted, with sublime inconsistency, "if Mamie Rodgers was like all de rest of dem, I'd t'row up me dukes before de gong rang." The Flopper went into the Patriarch's room, and took the chair beside the other that Helena had vacated. "Swipe me, if I wouldn't!" he added fervently, by way of confirmation.

Helena, in her own room, opened one of her trunks, lifted out the tray, worked somewhat impatiently down through several layers of yellow, paper-covered literature, that would have made the classics on the Patriarch's bookshelves shrivel up and draw their skirts hurriedly around them in righteous horror could they but have known or been capable of such intensely human characteristics, and finally produced a daintily jewelled little cigarette case and match box. She slammed the tray back, slammed the cover of the trunk down, snatched up a wrap, flung it over her head and shoulders—and left the cottage.

She ran down to the beach at top speed, as if she couldn't get there fast enough.

"And now I'm just going to yell and go crazy as much as ever I like!" panted Helena to the rollers.

Instead, she sat down with her back to a rock, and opened her cigarette case. She took out a cigarette, extracted a match from the match box, lighted the match—and flung both cigarette and match from her.

"I don't want to be crazy—I don't know what I want," said Helena petulantly. Her chin went into her hands, and she stared wide-eyed at the breaking surf. "I wonder what it all means?" she murmured, with a mirthless little laugh.

Her thoughts began to run riot. What did it all mean? What was this faith? There was, there must be something in it. There was the Holmes boy—suppose it was only some nervous disorder—well, something had risen superior to whatever it was and had cured him. There was Naida Thornton—true, she was ill again—her heart, Mr. Thornton had said—but she could still walk, a thing she had not been able to do for a long time until she came to Needley.

Helena laughed again—oh, it was a good game! The Doc had made no mistake about that—but then, when it came to planting anything the Doc rarely did make a mistake. Fancy fifty thousand dollars in one haul! Fifty thousand in one haul! The bank had sent her a passbook with that amount to her credit. And that was only the beginning—hardly anybody had come yet, and already there was several hundred dollars more in real money that she had handed over to Madison from the offering box.

Money! They'd have more money than they'd know what to do with before they got through—there was nothing the matter with the game—all there was to do was to play it to a finish. And there wasn't the slightest risk about it—everything was given voluntarily. Oh, the game was all right—but somehow she wasn't happy—not nearly so happy as she had been in New York, even in lean periods when she and the Doc had been pressed for money. But, anyway, then they had been together, and fought, and laughed, and loved, and quarrelled through flush times and bad.

Maybe that was it! The Doc! Of course, she loved him—she had loved him ever since she had known him. There was no secret about that—she loved him fiercely, passionately, more than she loved anything else in the world, with all the love she was capable of—more than he loved her—he seemed to accept her, too often, so casually, so indifferently, so much as a matter of course. He was so confidently and complacently sure of her—and she was not at all sure of him. She was only sure that he was quite right in being sure—she couldn't help loving him if she tried.

She had hardly seen anything of him since that night in the Roost before he had left for Needley—and he hadn't seemed to care much whether she did or not. That talk about playing the game and taking no chances was all bosh—there had been plenty of chances where it wouldn't have hurt the game any. Perhaps the little jolt she had given him last night, turning the tables a little, would wake him up a bit. Perhaps, as the Flopper had said, he would come out to-night, and—

"Helena! Helena!"

Helena sat suddenly upright—the noise of the surf muffled the sound of the voice, but that was probably Doc now—she could hear footsteps running from the direction of the cottage. Deliberately, Helena leaned back again against the rock, took out a cigarette and with no attempt to shade the flame of the match, rather to use it as a challenging beacon, held it to the cigarette—but for the second time she flung both match and cigarette hurriedly away. It wasn't Madison at all—it was only the Flopper.

"Say!" gasped the Flopper, blowing hard. "Why can't youse answer when yer called? Wot you tryin' ter do—light a bonfire ter save yer voice? Say, youse wanter get a wiggle on—beat it—quick! Dey're after you."

"What?" cried Helena sharply, jumping to her feet. "After me? Who? What do you mean?"

"I dunno," said the Flopper with sudden imperturbability—and evidently quite pleased with the agitation he had caused. "He talks like his mouth was full, an' he's got a scare t'rown inter him so's his teeth have got de jiggles."

Helena caught the Flopper's arm and shook him angrily.

"What are you talking about—what is it?" she demanded fiercely.

"It's de porter from de private car," said the Flopper, wriggling away from her. "He drove out here. De lady's on de toboggan—sick. She's askin' fer youse an'—"

Helena waited for no more. She raced to the cottage and around to the front. A wagon was standing before the porch; the negro porter on the seat.

"What is it, Sam?" she called anxiously, as she came up. "Is Mrs. Thornton seriously ill?"

"Yas—yas'um, miss," Sam answered excitedly. "I done feel in mah bones she's gwine to die. Miss Harvey she done tole me to get a team an' drive foh you-all like de debbil."

Without waste of words, Helena clambered in beside him.

"Then drive," she said shortly. "Drive as fast as you can."

At first, as they drove along, Helena plied Sam with questions—and then lapsed into silence. The man did not know very much—only that Mrs. Thornton had been taken suddenly ill, and that the nurse had sent him on the errand that had brought him to the cottage. A turmoil of conflicting emotions filled Helena's mind, obtruding upon her anxiety, for she had grown to care a great deal for Naida Thornton—this was a complication that Doc Madison must know about—Thornton had left that morning and was already far away—the newspaper men, or some of them at least, were still in the town—and there were so many things else—they all came crowding upon her, as she clung to her seat in the jolting wagon. But Doc must know—that rose a paramount consideration. It seemed an age, an eternity before they stopped finally at the station.

She sprang out and turned to Sam.

"Sam," she directed hurriedly, "you go back to the Congress Hotel and get Mr. Madison. Mr. Madison is a friend of Mr. Thornton's, you know. Go about it quietly—you needn't let any one know what you came for. You can tell Mr. Madison what the trouble is—and tell him that I sent you, and that I am here. Do you understand?"

"Yas'um, mum," said Sam impressively. "Just you done leab all that to me, missy."

Across the track on the siding, the private car was dimly lighted, the window curtains down. Helena crossed the track and mounted the steps. As she reached the platform, Miss Harvey, who had evidently heard her coming, opened the door and drew her quietly inside.

A glance at the nurse's face brought a sudden chill to Helena's heart. Miss Harvey, capable, controlled, grave, smiled at her a little sadly.

"I sent for you, Miss Vail," she said in a low tone, "because Mrs. Thornton has been asking for you incessantly ever since the attack came on three-quarters of an hour ago."

"You mean," said Helena, "that—that there is—"

"No hope," the nurse completed. "I am afraid there is none—it is her heart. The condition has been aggravated by her activity during the last few days since she has been able to walk—though I have done everything within my power to keep her quiet." Miss Harvey laid her hand on Helena's arm. "There is one thing, Miss Vail, I feel that I must say to you, in justice both to you and to myself, before you see her. Whatever my personal ideas may be of what has taken place here, my professional duty as a nurse demanded that I send for a doctor at once, and I want you to know that is what I did, though I have not been successful in getting one. There is no doctor here, so I telegraphed; but the doctor at Barton's Mills is away."

"Yes," said Helena mechanically.

"I just wanted you to understand," said Miss Harvey. "Will you come and see Mrs. Thornton now?"

"Does she know," whispered Helena, as she followed the nurse down the corridor of the car, "does she know that—how ill she is?"

"Yes," Miss Harvey answered simply. She stopped before a compartment door, opened it softly, and, stepping aside, motioned Helena to enter.

A little cry rose to Helena's lips that she choked back somehow, and a mist for a moment blinded her eyes—then she was kneeling beside the brass bed, and was holding in both her own the hand that was stretched out to her.

"Helena—dear—I am so glad you came," said Mrs. Thornton faintly. "I—I am not going to get better, and there are some things I want to say to you."

"Oh, but you are," returned Helena quickly, smiling bravely now. "You mustn't say that."

Mrs. Thornton shook her head.

"Dear," she said, "I know. And I know that what I have to say I must say quickly." Her voice seemed to grow suddenly stronger with a great earnestness. "Listen, dear. This must not make any difference to this wonderful work that has just begun here. I was cured of my hip disease—perfectly cured—no one can deny that—this is my own fault, I have overdone it—I would not listen to reason—to do what I have done in the last few days, when for a year and a half I had never moved a step, was more than my heart could stand. I should have been more quiet—but I was so glad, so happy—and I wanted to tell everybody—I wanted all the world to know, so that others could find the joy that I had found."

She paused—and Helena sought for words that, somehow, would not come.

The nurse was bending over the bed on the other side, and Mrs. Thornton turned her head toward Miss Harvey now. She smiled gently, as though to rob her words of any possible hurt.

"Nurse, I want—to be alone with Miss Vail for just a moment."

Miss Harvey, doubtful, hesitated.

"Only for a moment," pleaded Mrs. Thornton. "You can stay just outside the door."

Reluctantly, Miss Harvey complied, and left the room.

Mrs. Thornton pressed Helena's hand tightly.

"Listen, dear—this must not make any difference. It—it is the one thing that will make me happy now—to know that. I—I have written a little note to Robert about it, to be given to him. Oh, if I could only have lived to help—I should have tried so hard to be worthy to have a part in it. Not like you, dear, with your sweetness and nobleness, for God seems to have singled you out for this—but just to have had a little part. How wonderful it would have been, bringing peace and health and gladness where only sorrow and misery was before, and—and—"

Mrs. Thornton's eyes closed, and she lay for a moment quiet.

A blackness seemed to settle upon Helena—and how cold it was! She shivered. Her dark eyes, wide, tearless now, stared, startled, dazed, at the white face on the pillow crowned with its mass of golden hair. Her sweetness! Her nobleness! Helena's lips half parted and her breath came in quick, fierce, little gasps—it seemed as though she had been struck a blow that she could not quite understand because somehow it had numbed her senses—only there was a hurt that curiously, strangely seemed to mock as it stabbed with pain.

"There is Robert"—Mrs. Thornton spoke again—"I am sure he will do as I have asked him to do about this, but—you can have a great deal of influence with him. It—it perhaps may seem a strange thing to say, but I pray that you two may be brought very close to each other. Robert needs a good, true woman so much in his life—and I—we—we—my illness—we have never had a home in its truest sense. Yes, it is strange for me perhaps to talk like this—but it is in my heart. I would like to think of you both engaged in this wonderful work together."

Again, through exhaustion, Mrs. Thornton stopped—and Helena, from gazing at the other's pallid countenance in a sort of involuntary, frightened fascination, dropped her head suddenly upon the bed-spread and hid her face.

Mrs. Thornton's hand found Helena's head and rested upon it.

"I would like to see Robert happy," she murmured, after a little silence. "Riches do not make happiness—they are so sad and empty a thing when the heart is empty. I know he would be happy with you—he has spoken so much of you lately—perhaps—perhaps—"

Mrs. Thornton's voice was very faint—the words reached Helena plainly enough as words, but they seemed to reach her consciousness in an unreal, unnatural, blunted way, coma-like—pregnant of significance, yet with the significance itself elusive, evading her.

"A good woman," whispered Mrs. Thornton, "I have tried to be a good woman—but—but my life, our wealth, our position has made it so artificial. You have never known these things, dear—and so you are just as God made you—good woman, so pure, so wonderful in your freshness and your innocence. Robert's life has been so barren—so barren. I would like to know that—that it will not always be so. Oh, if it could only be that you and he should carry on this great, glad work together—and love should come into his life—and yours—and sunshine—promise me, dear, that—"

The voice died away. Helena, with head still buried, waited for Mrs. Thornton to speak again. It seemed she waited for a great length of time—and yet there was no such thing as time. It seemed as though she were transported to a place of great and intense blackness where it was miserably cold and chill, and she stood alone and lost, and strove to find her way—and there was no way—only blackness everywhere, immeasurable. She lifted her head suddenly, desperately, to shake the unreality from her—and her eyes fell upon the gentle face, peaceful, smiling, calm, and so still—and a startled, frightened cry rang from her lips.

There was the quick, hurried rush of some one coming into the room, and the nurse brushed by her and bent instantly over the bed—after that, quite soon after that it seemed, and yet it might have been quite a little while, she found herself outside in the corridor and the nurse was speaking to her.

"Sam is still out there," said Miss Harvey gently. "I told him to keep the team. You cannot help me, and I want you to go home, dear. And will you ask Sam to go for Mr. Madison at the hotel on the way back—I do not know who else I can call upon for advice."

"I've sent for him already," said Helena numbly.

"Have you, dear?" Miss Harvey said. "That was very thoughtful of you—I'm sure he'll be here presently then. And now, dear, it is much better that you should go."

There were no tears in Helena's eyes as she stepped down from the car vestibule to the tracks—only a drawn misery in her face. That was Doc over there, pacing up and down on the platform in the darkness—wasn't it weird the way his cigar glowed bright and then went out and then glowed bright again—like a gigantic firefly!

She was across the tracks before he saw her, then, hurrying forward, he helped her to the platform.

"Well?" he asked quickly.

Helena did not answer.

Madison took the cigar from his lips, leaned forward, and peered into Helena's face—then drew back with a low whistle.

"Dead?" he said.

Helena nodded.

"Miss Harvey wants to see you," she said.

"Say," said Madison slowly, "first crack out of the box this looks bad, don't it? If this gets around here without a muffler on it, it might make the railroad companies hang fire with those circulars for excursion rates to Needley—what?"

"I—I think I hate you!" Helena cried out suddenly, passionately. "She's—she's dead—and that's all you think about!"

Madison stared at Helena for a moment calmly.

"Now, look here, Helena," said he quietly, "don't get excited. Of course I'm sorry—I'm not a brute and I've got feelings—but I can't afford to lose my head. Something's got to be done, and done quick. We don't want this headlined in every paper in the United States to-morrow morning—Thornton wouldn't want it either. You say Miss Harvey wants to see me? Well, that'll help some—she'll probably do as she's told, and—"

Madison paused abruptly, gazed abstractedly at the private car across the tracks on the siding, and pulled at his cigar.

Helena watched him in silence—a little bitterly. That quick, clever, cunning brain of his was at work again—scheming—scheming—always scheming—and Naida Thornton was dead.

"I'll tell you," said Madison, speaking again as abruptly as he had stopped. "It's simple enough. There's a westbound train due in an hour or so—we'll couple the private car onto that and send it right along to Chicago. What the authorities don't know won't hurt them. There's no reason for anybody except Thornton to know what's happened till she gets there—I'll wire him. The main thing is that the car won't be here in the morning, and that'll take a little of the intimate touch of Needley off. It might well have happened on her way home—journey too much for her—left too soon—see? Thornton'll see it in the right light because he's got fifty thousand dollars worth of faith in what's going on here—get that? He won't want to harm the 'cause.' There'll be some publicity of course, we can't help that—but it won't hurt much—and Thornton can gag a whole lot of it—he'd want to anyway for his own sake. Now then, kid, there's Sam over there—you pile into the wagon and go home, while I get busy—and don't you say a word about this, even to the Flopper."

And so Helena drove back to the Patriarch's cottage that night, a little silent figure in the back seat of the wagon—and her hands were locked tightly together in her lap—and to her, as she drove over the peaceful, moonlit road, and under the still, arched branches of the trees in the wood that hid the starlight, came again and again the words of one who had gone, who perhaps knew better now—"you are as God made you."

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