The days passed. And with the days, morning, noon and night, they came by almost every train, the sick and suffering, the lame, the paralytics and the maimed—a steady influx by twos and threes and fours—from north over the Canadian boundary line, from the far west, and from the southernmost tip of the Florida coast. No longer on the company's schedule was Needley a flag station—it was a regular stop, and its passenger traffic returns were benign and pleasing things in the auditor's office. And it was an accustomed sight now, many times a day—what had once been a strange, rare spectacle—that slow procession wending its way from the station to the town, some carried, some limping upon crutches, all snatching at hope of life and health and happiness again. Needley, perforce, had become a vast boarding house, as it were—there were few homes indeed that did not harbor their quota of those who sought the "cure."

But there were others too who came—who were not sick—who had not faith—who came to laugh and peer and peek. Pleasure yachts dropped their anchors in the cove around the headland from the Patriarch's cottage—and their dingeys brought women decked out de rigeur in middy blouses and sailor collars, and nattily attired gentlemen whose only claim to seamanship was the clothes, or rather, the costumes that they wore.

They came laughing, supercilious, tolerant, contemptuous, pitying the inanity of those they held less strongly-minded than themselves who should be taken in by so apparent, glaring and monstrous a fake. They came because it was the rage, the thing to do, quite the thing to do, quite a necessary part of the summer's itinerary. But that they, should they have been sick, would ever have dreamed of coming there was too perfectly ridiculous an idea for words. How strange a thing is the human animal!

They came in their rather cruel, merciless gaiety—and they left sobered and impressed; the ladies holding their embroidered parasols at a less jaunty angle; the men with lightened pockets, their names enrolled in the contribution book in that quiet, simple room, whose door was open, whose cash-box was unguarded, where none asked them to either enter or withdraw. They came and found no air of charlatanism such as they had looked for—only a peaceful, unostentatious, patient air of sincerity that left them remorseful and abashed. They came and went, a source of revenue not counted on or thought of before by Madison; but a source that swelled the coffers, brimming fuller day by day, to overflowing.

In three weeks from the night of Mrs. Thornton's death, which had had at least no visible effect on Needley, Needley was metamorphosed—with a spontaneity, so to speak, that astounded even Madison himself—into something that approximated very closely in reality the word-picture he had drawn of it that night in the Roost. Madison looked upon his work and saw that it was pleasing beyond his dreams. Money was pouring in—no single breath of suspicion came to disquiet him. Even the cures were working satisfactorily—even Pale Face Harry, who had become great friends with the farmer at whose house he boarded, and who now spent most of his time in the fields, was showing an improvement—Pale Face Harry coughed less. The Flopper was as happy as a lark—and Mamie Rodgers blushed now at mention of the name of Coogan. Helena, demure, adored by all who saw her, went daily about her housework in the cottage, and waited upon the Patriarch with gentle tenderness; while the Patriarch, docile, full of supreme trust and confidence in every one, radiant in Helena's companionship, was as putty in their hands. And so Madison looked upon his work and saw no flaw—but with the days he grew ill at ease.

"It's too easy," he told himself. "I guess that's it—it's too easy. The whole show runs itself. Why, there's nothing to do but count the cash!"

And yet in his heart he knew that wasn't it—it was Helena. Helena was beginning to trouble him a little. She was playing the game all right—playing it to the limit—and making a hit at every performance. Her name was on every tongue, and men and women alike spoke of her sweetness, her goodness, her loveliness. Well, that was all right, Helena was a star no matter where you put her—but something was the matter. Helena wasn't the Helena of a month ago back in little old New York. He hadn't managed to get a dozen words with her since that night on the station platform, without taking chances and gaining admission to the cottage through the Flopper's window after dark—and then she had held him at arm's length.

"The matter with me?" she had said. "There isn't anything the matter with me—is there? I'm—I'm playing the game."

It certainly couldn't be grief over Mrs. Thornton's death—she had begun to act that way before Mrs. Thornton died—that night when she came home with Thornton, and he and the Flopper were behind the trellis. Thornton! Had Thornton anything to do with it, after all? No—Madison had laughed at it then, and he had much more reason to laugh at it now. Thornton was still in Chicago, and hadn't been back to Needley.

For three weeks this sort of thing occupied a considerably larger share of Madison's thoughts than he was wont to allow even the most vexing problems to disturb his usually imperturbable and complacent self—and then one afternoon, he smiled a little grimly, and, leaving the hotel, started along the road toward the Patriarch's cottage.

"What Helena needs is—a jolt!" said Madison to himself. "I guess her trouble is one of those everlasting feminine kinks that all women since Adam's wife have patted themselves on the back over, because they think it's a dark veil of mystery that is beyond the acumen of brute man to understand. That's what the novelists write pages about—wade right in up to the armpits in it—feminine psychology—great! And the women smile commiseratingly at the novelist—the idea of a man even pretending to understand them—kind of a blooming merry-go-round and everybody happy! Feminine psychology! I guess a little masculine kick-up is about the right dope! What the deuce have I been standing for it for? I don't have to—I don't have to go around making sheep's-eyes at her—what? She wants grabbing up and being rushed right off her feet à la Roost, and—hello, Mr. Marvin, how are you to-day!"—he had halted beside a middle-aged man who was sitting on the grass at the roadside.

"Better, Mr. Madison, better," returned the man, heartily. "Really very much better."

"Fine!" said Madison.

"We all saw the Patriarch to-day—God bless him!" said Marvin. "We've been waiting out there two days, you know—that woman with the bad back got up off her stretcher."

"Splendid!" exclaimed Madison enthusiastically. "And the glorious thing about it is that there's no reason why everybody can't be cured if they'll only come here in the right spirit."

"That's so!" agreed Marvin. "None are so blind as those who won't see—they're in utter blackness compared with the physical blindness of that grand and marvelous man. I'm going home myself in another week—better than ever I was in my life. It was stomach with me, you know—doctors said there wasn't any chance except to operate, and that an operation was too slim a chance to be worth risking it." He got up and laughed, carefree, joyous. "God-given place down here, isn't it? Clean—that's it. Clean air, clean-souled people, clean everything you see or do or hear. Say, it kind of opens your eyes to real living, doesn't it—it's the luxuries and the worries and the pace and the damn-fooleries that kill. Well, I'm going along back now to get some of Mrs. Perkins' cream—clean, rich cream—and homemade bread and butter—imagine me with an appetite and able to eat!"

He laughed again—and Madison joined him in the laugh, slapping him a cordial good-by on the shoulder.

Madison started on once more—but now his progress was slow, frequently interrupted, for he stopped a score of times to chat and exchange a few words with those whom he passed on the road. There were cheery faces everywhere—even those of the sufferers who straggled out along the road coming back from the Patriarch's cottage. It was a cheery afternoon, warm and balmy and bright—everything was cheery. The farmers, their vocations for the moment changed, waved their whips at him and shouted friendly pleasantries as they drove by with those who were unable to make the trip from the Patriarch's unaided.

Madison began to experience a strange, exhilarating sense of uplift upon him, a sort of rather commendatory and gratified feeling with himself. Marvin had hit it pretty nearly right with his "clean-wholesomeness" idea—it kind of made one feel good to be a part of it. Madison, for the time being, relegated Helena and his immediate mission to a secondary place in his thoughts.

Young girls, young men, middle-aged men, elderly women, all ages of both sexes he passed as he went along; some alone, some in couples, some in little groups, some on crutches, some in wheel-chairs, some walking without extraneous aid—he had turned into the woods now, and he could see them strewn out all along the wagon track under the cool, interlacing branches overhead.

Now he stepped aside to let a wagon pass him, and answered the farmer's call and the smile of the occupants in kind; now some one stopped to tell him again the story of the afternoon—there had been cures that day and the Patriarch had come amongst them. Some laughed, some sang a little, softly, to themselves—all smiled—all spoke in glad, hopeful words, clean words—there seemed no base thought in any mind, only that cleanness, that wholesomeness that had so appealed to Marvin—that somehow Madison found he was taking a delight in responding to, and, because it afforded him whimsical pleasure, chose to pretend that he was quite a genuine exponent of it himself.

He reached the end of the wagon track, and paused involuntarily on the edge of the Patriarch's lawn as he came out from the trees. Like low, lulling music came the distant, mellowed noise of waters, the breaking surf. And the cottage was a bower of green now, clothed in ivy and vine—upon the trellises the early roses were budding—fragrance of growing things blended with the salt, invigorating breeze from the ocean. And upon the lawn, flanked with its sturdy maples, all in leaf, that toned the sunshine in soft-falling shadows, stood, or sat, or reclined on cots, the supplicants who still tarried though the Patriarch had gone. And now one came reverently out of the cottage door from that room that was never closed; now another went in—and still another.

Madison smiled suddenly, broadly, with immense satisfaction and contentment—and then his eyes fixed quite as suddenly on the single-seated buggy that was coming toward him on the driveway across the lawn. That was Mamie Rodgers driving—and that was Helena beside her.

Madison recalled instantly the object of his visit—and instantly he whistled a rather surprised little whistle under his breath. How alluringly Helena's brown hair coiled in wavy wealth upon her head; there wasn't any need of rouge for color in the oval face; the dark eyes were soft and deep and glorious; and she sat there in a little white muslin frock as dainty as a medallion from a master's brush.

"Say," said Madison to himself, "say, I never quite got it before. Say, she's—she's lovely—and that's my Helena. It's no wonder Thornton stared at her that day we touched him for the fifty, and"—suddenly—"damn Thornton!"

But the buggy was beside him now, and he lifted his hat as Mamie Rodgers pulled up the horse.

"Good afternoon, Miss Rodgers," he said. "Good afternoon, Miss Vail—how is the Patriarch to-day?"

"He is very well, thank you," Helena answered—and being custodian of the whip brushed a fly off the horse's flank.

"I was just coming out to pay you a little visit," remarked Madison, trying to catch her eye.

"Oh, I'm so sorry!" said Helena sweetly, still busy with the fly. "Mamie is going to take me for a drive—and afterwards we are going to her house for tea."

"Oh!" said Madison, a little blankly.

Helena smiled at him, nodded, and touched the horse with the whip—and then she leaned suddenly out toward him, as the buggy started forward.

"Oh, Mr. Madison," she called, "I forgot to tell you! I had a letter from Mr. Thornton to-day—and he's coming back to-morrow."

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