The last rough cap and black sunbonnet had been taken down from their pegs. They were slat sunbonnets and today the teacher felt the ugliness of them as a personal grievance. If they were pink or white bonnets, daintily ruWed; if the boys wore civilized caps with Fauntleroqcurls beneath; if all their hands and faces were clean; if only they could speak English.
She sat at the desk watching a retreating bonnet through the open door-way, until it was a mere speck on the wide prairie. The child's dinner pail still twinkled like a star, reflecting the light of the western sun.
Miss Reffold brushed back a yellow curl savagely and began gathering up the papers and books on the rough pine table that served as her desk. One of the children's primers lay open and the picture that faced her was that of a young girl teacher surrounded by a flock of daintily beruffled and be-curled children.
She closed the book with a snap and threw it at the one small square of blackboard on the rough discolored wall. Then she laid her head on the table and cried. After a while she dried her eyes, finished gathering up the papers, closed the windows (there was one small, glass window the others were furnished with rough wooden shutters), locked the door behind her and walked slowly toward a small cluster of buildings a halfmile away.
"I do think I'm the most unhappy creature in this miserable world," she said aloud. "If it wasn't for mother, I'd go back to civilization if I had to sweep crossings."
She walked on in profound self-pity. Not unnaturally, perhaps, for she had neither the training nor the instincts of a teacher, and she had never before been face to face with the wolf.
At the first building she stopped. It was a small country store with a diminutive postoffice in one corner. The mail had come today but the letters she wanted most were not forthcoming and when she asked for soap the young man who tended both postoffice and store informed her, regretfully, that there was only yellow laundry soap in stock.
He was a well groomed young man. His dark curls had been brushed, until they were soft and silky as her own. His hands, resting on the counter, were clean and smooth with well kept nails. But this was only cause for further irritation.
"The idea of such people putting on airs," she said to herself as she turned away. "But I wish he would give my pupils a lesson or better still a bath, if he could catch them."
The picture of this immaculate young man chasing her timid flock over the prairie with bath towels and soap, amused her and she smiled on him genially, as he opened the door and bowed her out of the store. The answering illumination in his face amazed her. Was this another victim of her "sunny hair and smile?"
"Well, it isn't my fault," she reflected irritably. "If men will make idiots of themselves I can't help it. I've never said a word to him, except to ask for letters and things and I never will. 'What fools these mortals be.' "
The store was close to the residence of its owner, the lots separated by a primitive fence of pieux. Gustave Ledeau was the great man of Prairie Bonami. He had the largest herds of sheep and cattle, the largest patches of cane and cotton and the only cotton gin. To his gin the creoles for miles around brought their cotton and this brought much trade to his little store. He was accounted a wealthy man but he wished the American schoolma'am to board with his family, so that his children might learn her strange English accent. He already knew enough English to carry on his business and his wife refused to learn it but he was pathetically ambitious for his children. If he had known that the young clerk in his store spoke English with a slightly foreign accent, he would not have kept him an hour.
His house was built in the creole style, broad gabled, wide galleried but larger than any of his neighbors' houses. Miss Reffold loathed it as a prisoner loathes his cell. She paused at the gate and looked it over with scorn. The walls were gray and weather-beaten, the roof was black, with patches of green and gray moss and lichens showing here and there. A great live oak sheltered it. About the gallery, vines had been trained. On the gallery rosy faced children were playing. An artist would have reveled in the picture but Miss Reffold was not an artist.
She heard the children's older sister, Evangeline, chiding them sotto voce, through an open window, because they did not run to meet the schoolteacher. It seemed that her predecessors had encouraged such demonstrations of regard. The children paid no heed to their sister's advice and Miss Reffold was glad of it. She was fond of children of her own class but she saw no beauty in these rely poly youngsters with their bare brown feet and their solemn black eyes. She was so young, the mother heart that loves all had not wakened within her.
She said "bon jour" to the fat old woman who sat spinning near the open doorway and passed on through the wide hall to her own room. As she took off her hat and brushed out her hair before the small square mirror, she noticed an upright line between her eyebrows.
"I am beginning to look old," she said and the frown deepened. "Old! And there isn't a man within a hundred miles of here who would make a really good match."
She had the grace to blush a little but the gray eyes looked defiantly from the mirror.
"I must marry well," she said self-defensively. "It isn't as if I had brains like some women, or talent for a profession. I have just sense enough to know that I can't be anything worth while, not even an actress."
She arranged her hair in a most bewitching style, fastening a white rose among the yellow coils, and dressed very carefully before going to supper. Of course there would be no one but the Ledeau family and perhaps some of the neighbors or a customer, from across the bayou. Still one never can tell. Once a prince had passed her schoolroom door. A philanthropic Italian prince trying to find a suitable place to found a colony of his proteges. To be sure he was middle-aged and stout and his wife sat in the carriage smiling benignly on him, but there might be a philanthropic prince who was young and handsome and eligible.
This was in the early days, before the oil boom had brought a flock of capitalists to Louisiana. Miss Reffold had come south with he; mother, for the latter's health, and a business swindle had left them stranded, friendless and almost penniless. She knew her chance of meeting either prince or capitalist was exceedingly slight but that seemed to her all the more reason for being prepared for any opportunity that might occur.
At the supper table, the elder Ledeau looked across at Miss Reffold with respectful admiration.
"Gee," he said, "you're a doggone good looker, Mam'selle."
His tone was perfectly courteous. She had sufficient penetration to see, through the uncouth English, the intended compliment, and bowed her acknowledgements, not trusting herself to speak.
"You don't know Mam'selle Bean, no? She teach here two winter. She ees not much for look, Mam'selle Bean."
"I like her more better," cried little Achille, loyally. "She more bonne, bien bonnze," he asserted, lapsing into the forbidden French, in his excitement.
His sister gave him a look that would have silenced a graphophone and his father hastened to apologize.
"Ze cheeldren zey like her, cheeldren zey haf no sense. She ees not like you. She ees leetle an' brown like ze–what you call? Ze brown bird? Sparrow, yes. She ees not teach like you, no. She read out of one book she call ze Bible when she start ze school een ze morning. She say she must do her dooty. She tell ze cheeldren zey must do zaire dooty. Ze cheeldren zey feel scare'. She say eet so ver' solomon an' ze cheeldren never haf see anybody do dooty. Zey don' know 'bout dooty. Zey ask me, but I don' know, me. You haf know 'bout zat dooty, Mam'selle?"
"Why, yes," she answered vaguely, "it means doing the things you don't want to do. The things that are right, you know."
"Ah, I comprehend. But me, I would prefaire to do zat which I prefaire to do, Mam'selle."
"I agree with you," answered Miss Reffold, "as the little boy said, 'I'd druther do the things I'd druther.' "
"Ah, zat word 'druther,' eet ees new to me. Ees eet Anglais?"
"It is incorrect English," she explained, "a corruption of I would rather; I would prefer."
"Oui, Mam'selle." The word "corruption" was also new to him, but he asked no further guestions and devoted himself for a while to his supper. Then noticing that conversation languished he went back to the subject of Mam'selle Bean.
"She ees what you call? queeaire, Mam'selle Bean. She tell stories to ze cheeldren, beeg what you call? 'whopper,' yes, an' she say ze stories ees ver' true. One story she tell 'bout forty bears zat eat up ze cheeldren who to ze old man say: 'Go up bal'head.' I like for all cheeldren to hear zat, me, for I have myself begeen to be bal'."
He laughed heartily at his little joke while replenishing his plate with pot roast.
"She one time een ee school one story tell 'bout a garden an' a man an' a woman, Adam an' Eve, she say they was name', an' Adam eat one apple – you haf ze apple seen, Mam'selle, zat ze Yankee' ship from north, on train? Zey grow not here – ze apple. An' when Adam half ze apple eat somebody come – his papa, I b'lieve, an' ask aho did eat ze apple. An' Adam was-much fear his papa an' he say,'Eve half tol' me eat ze apple. Whip Eve.'
"Zees tale een school she tell you understan', Mam'selle, an' leetle .4dam Lornaud, ze son of Louis Lornaud, he speak out een ze school an' to her say,'You lie.' Leetle Adam he all time tink she was talk 'bout heernself and hees leetle sister Eve an' so he to her say,'You lie.' " "What did she do to him?" asked Miss Reftold.
"Oh, she keep him in after school an' she talk to him an' she say eet ees true for sure for zat in ze Bible she haf read it. But Adam say she lie an' ze Bible too lie, so she pray for heem an' he feel scare' when she pray an' he no more talk to her. She ask heem ees he sorry but he no speak. "I tink she feel bad 'bout zat, Mam'selle; she tell me eet ees one case of ze what you call? totalde – totaldeep –" "Total depravity?" suggested Miss Reffold. "Oui, Mam'selle, total deprav'tee." Miss Reffold laughed.
"Perhaps," she mused, "all theological dissensions'and religious wars have begun just so, in a perfectly natural and innocent misunderstanding."
"Oui, Mam'selle," he agreed, but his tone was somewhat puzzled and he again relapsed into silence, giving his whole attention to his supper.
It was an excellent supper. There was none better to be found on all Prairie Bonami that night and'ledeau knew it and was proud of the fact. There was a delicious preparation of fish, fresh from the bayou, a French creation which was like and unlike chowder and which no mere nng·lo-Saxon cook could hope to achieve. There was a pot roast of beef with turnips, well browned and seasoned with garlic and red peD~per. There was a platter of game, squirrels and rabbits that his boys had bagged before school that morning. There were yams roasted in a fireplace oven (Sir John Lubbock should have mentioned the fireplace oven as the source of the chief pleasures of life). There were hot biscuits, corn bread, rice, milk, butter, syrup from his own cane-mill and canned peaches from the store, the latter a concession to the schoolma'am's Yankee prejudice in favor of fruit eating. But the chief glory of the supper was the first course of crawfish gumbo. You have heard'the saying "See Naples and die." Substitute "taste" for "see" and "gumbo" for "Naples" and you will understand something of its prestige, in Louisiana. The fact that the table was covered with red oilcloth and decked with blue glassware and thick purple· tlowered china only made it the more attractive in the eyes of Gustave Ledeau and his family. "Mon Dieu! c'est Pierre."
Miss Reffold looked up quickly and saw that Ledeau was looking past her at something behind her, with a look of apprehension – almost alarm – in his face.
She turned and saw through the window, a man's haggard face and beckoning hand. Ledeau was at the door in an instant.
"Entrez, Pierre," he said. But the man refused and answered Ledeau's hurried questions in whispered French. Then Ledeau spoke to his wife and they went out together, closing the door behind them.
"Eet ees my TJnc' Pierre," Evangeline explained to Mdss Reffold. "He come of'en here but he not before do like zat. He ees, oh, what you call? seeck, I tink, me. He of'en ees be seeck. He haf ze what you call? ze cheel an' ze fevaire." But Miss Reffold was not deceived.
As soon as they rose from the table, she took Evangeline aside. 'I understand what your uncle said. He has smallpox. Why do you wish to conceal it?"
"I don't know, me," Evangeline said. "My papa, he shake bees head at me and look at you, when he at ze doo' go out. He desire zat yo~ be not tol', but ze why I don't know, me." "Please tell your father, I wish to go to town tonight. I want one of the boys to take me. Your father has already been exposed." ((OUit Mam'selle." She went to her room and began packing hurriedly. Presently there came a rap at the door. She opened it and started back when she saw Ledeau on the threshold.
"Do not haf' fear, Mam'selle. I haf' wash an' change clo'es, zaire ees nutting for to be fear. I haf feex ze bed for Pierre een ze, what you call! ze outhouse. ~Zy wife, she weel stay een ze house wit' Pierre. She come not back to tees house unteel Pie"e too can come. Zaire ees no what you call~ danger, no."
"I am going home tonight," announced Miss Reffold brie~y. "If you will drive me, very well; if not I shall walk."
"All right, Mam'selle." He called to one of tile boys and ordered the horses brought around at once.
"But, Mam'selle, when you haf reach ze town you will to no one tell zat Ze smallpox is on Prairie Bonami."
"O Mr. Ledeau, the Board of Health must be informed.') "Eet mus' not be eenform'." "Why not?"
"Look you, Mam'selle Reffold, I haf here my beezness. My store, my geen, my cane-meel. Many people all time come. Ze what you call? ze quarantine weel stop ze people come. An' worse, Mam'selle, ze Yankees haf built bridge on Bayou Lasal!e. Zey veesh a~ people of Prairi Bbnami to cross Bayou Lasalle an' go to Yankee store in town for buy ef'ry ting. I don' like zat, me. Ze quarantine, eet mus' not come, no."
"But people will know anyway that something is wrong when the school-"
"Ah, Mam'selle, your mother ees what you call? eenvalid, yes. I will tell zat your mother ees not so well an' so we stop ze school zat you may go to her." "But that is not the truth." (LNO, Mam'selle," he gave an expressive shrug. "Eet ees what I'd druther."
She saw that argument was useless but resolved nevertheless to inform the Board of Health. He read her decision in her face.
"an' look you, Mam'selle Ref~f~old; you poor. You haf ze school on Prairie Bonami for earn you bread. Eef I, Gustave Ledeau, say zat ze school ees to be taken from you eet will be." "Mr. Ledeau !"
But she saw instantly that he spoke the truth. He was a member of the parish school board and could not only take this school from her but could make it exceedingly difficult, perhaps impossible, for her to secure another.
"I regret," he said smoothly, "zat I must to a lady so speak. But, Mam'selle, eef you my beezness eenjure I too weel eenjure yours." She shut the door in his face and finished her packing. Whentheboy cametotell her thatthe ponies were ready she told them all goodbye and took her place in the rickety buggy. She was a trifle pale and held her head even higher than usual, but Ledeau, observing her keenly, was satisfied.
"Een her place," he said to his daughter, "eet would be one ver' brave girl who would go against my weesh. Mam'selle Reffold ees not brave– not unteel she love some man like my wife love me. She weel be brave for heem." Monsieur Ledeau was a student of human nature.
The next few weeks passed slowly to Miss Reffold. Every week she scanned the local paper anxiously, especially the correspondence items headed "Bonami Briefs." There was no daily paper published nearer than New Orleans but every day she invented some errand through the business part of the little town and walked slowly past the chattering groups on the street, outwardly serene, but really straining her ears for some mention of the dreaded word smallpox. Her dreams were haunted by the faces of children the children whom she had despised. Always their faces were distressed and distorted. Usually they were loathsome with the loathsome disease from which she had fled. Worst of all she received no word from Ledeau and she knew he would send for her to begin the school as soon as his brother-in-law recovered if there were no new cases.
It was the third week after her flight that she missed the Bonami Bsiefs from the local paper. In another columnunder double headlines she found the dreaded news: "SiMALLPOX SCARiE. Several Cases on Prairie Bonami Discovered by Dr. St. Vincent." She read all the details, exaggerated by an ambitious reporter. Then she put on her hat and gloves and~went down town to Dr. St. Vincent's office. He had just untied his horse at the side entrance and was about to step into his buggy. He paused as he saw her approaching and took off his hat with the, bow that was never yet acquired by an Anglo-Saxon spine.
"Are you going to Prairie Bonami~" she asked breathlessly.
"Yes, Miss Reffold, can I be of service to you ?"
"Do they need me? Are there enough nurses – for the smallpox patients ?"
Only his perfect breeding enabled him to conceal his astonishment. This young butterfly whose face was her fortune–he thought his ears must have deceived him.
"It is not as a nurse you would go?" Dr. St. Vincent spoke with only the slightest French accent but the idiom still clung to his speech. "The danger would be too great, Miss Reffold." "Do they need me?"
"Yes, Miss Reffold, there is a young man, Otto Alruem, a clerk in the store of Gustave Ledeau. He has only his mother and she is not able to care well for him, but I can find someone – you must not go."
The buildings on either side of the narro\y street were dancing dizzily before her eyes. She could not have analyzed her feelings. She only knew that her worst fears were realized.
"I must go," she said.
He helped her into the buggy protesting volubly but ineffectually, and took his place beside her. "Will any of them die?" she whispered.
"Oh no, I suppose not. There are as yet but three cases. A brother-in-law of Gustave Ledeau, one of the hands on his plantation, and the young clerk in his store. I was called this morning to attend the man who works on his plantation; it is a very light case, it cannot be fatal. Then I called on Ledeau to tell him that his plantation must be quarantined. He told me then of his brother-in-law. His case is a complication of La Grippe and smallpox. Serious, but not I believe fatal. It was only this evening I received word of the clerk's illness. It may not be serious. His mother is a cripple and goes about in a wheel chair. I once was there all night on account of a storm."
She remembered seeing young Alruem wheeling his mother about their rose-embowered garden; a little old lady with a calm, beautiful face, and prematurely white hair. The thought of his tenderness toward her brought a lump to Miss Reffold's throat.
"It is very noble, that you go to help them," the doctor went on. "It awakens much admiration in me."
"hToble," she said bitterly. "If you knew–" "I know," he said, "that I love you. I have known it so long and would long ago have told you, only, Miss Reffold you have so many admirers, and I knew you would think that I, like the rest, care only for your beauty. Now that vou are about to destroy your beauty, you will believe it is you, yourself I love."
She did believe it and it added to her unhappiness.
"I wish I was dead," she said inconsequentially. "I make trouble always, for everybody." While he protested against this sweeping assertion, she tried to remember the polite and soothing remarks she administered on such occasions. l'hey had always seemed to her mind entirely adequate, but looking in this man's earnest eyes she suddenly felt that the soothing nothings she was wont to speak would be inappropriate, if not insulting.
"I am sorry," she said, "but you wouldn't want me if you knew what an awful creature I aIn. No, no," she answered to the protest in his face, "I'm sure you wouldn't–you couldn't." "You could do nothing," he said, "which would make me not love you. And I will hope for you always, until you assure me that you care for another."
"I don't," she said, and blushed suddenly, vividly. "OhtDr. St. Vincent, I'm afraid I do." She was vexed and unspeakably amazed, at her own childishness. She remembered with deep self-scorn that she had once prided herself on her perfect poise and serenity. But the last month's strain had been more severe than she had real; ized. This new discovery broke down her last shred of self-control. "If he dies," she sobbed, "I am a murderer, Please hurry, Dr. St. Vincent.
He touched his horse and they sped more swiftly over the level prairie. They had crossed the bridge o, Bayou Lasalle and passed through the fringe of timber along the bayou. Ledeau's plantation was in sight and the Alruem cottage was only a mile beyond. They were both relieved when the drive was ended and he drew rein at Alruem's gate.
As he helped her from the buggy something in his face touched her more deeply than anything outside her own interests had ever touched her before.
"It is very selfish of me," she said humb:y, "to be thinking only of him."
"No," he said, "it is only natural, Miss Reffold."
They walked upthe rose-bordered path to the little cottage that was almost hidden untler a mass of honeysuckle and yellow jasmine vines. The air was drenched with flower fragrance.
He knocked at the door and opened it after d moment, remembering that there was no one in the house who could do so. They found their way through the tiny hall to a small white bedroom where Mrs. Alruem sat by the bed on which her son lay. He was evidently delirious. His face was flushed and curiously mottled. His hands roved restlessly over the white coverlet. Dr. St. Vincent introduced the two women and turned to the sick man.
"O my dear child, you should not have come," Mrs. Alruem cried, her soft voice strangely shaken. "You are risking your lifeyour beauty –"
The girl murmured an inarticulate protest. Young Alruem turned on his pillow.
"Is it you?" He stretched out his hands gropingly. "I heard you. Come."
She came to him before they could interfere. She was on her knees by the bedside, clasping his hot hands in hers and kissing his feverish lips and discolored face.
"You must not allow that surely?" Mrs. Alruem appealed to the doctor. He had stepped back a little and turned to the window.
"It is not smallpox," he answered low. "It is fever-dengue or an unusual form of typhus. How long has he been ill~" "Three days." "You have not been alone here?"
"No, Dr. St. Vincent, a French woman was with me until today, the fear of smallpox drove her away.`She promised, however, to send her son for you." "You had sent for no physician before?" "I sent for Dr. Breaux who speaks no English but he had gone on a visit to New Orleans. I wished to have no one here who understands English, for my son was calling continually for her and I felt sure that his love was not returned and that he would wish no one to know. Men have such pride."
"Oui, Mon Dieu," the doctor murmured. "Men have much pride."
He was standing a little behind her chair. She did not see his face.
Long after the doctor had left Miss Reffold still knelt at the bedside, quieting the sick man with an unerring instinct that seemed to have just born in her, answering his wildest fancies, with soothing murmurs of assent, and at last when he fell asleep she rose and turned to his mother. Neither dared speak, lest they should waken him, but the little old lady held out her hands with a motherly smile, and so they sat hand in hand through the brief, semi-tropical twilight, in a silent rapture to which words could have added nothing.
Afterwards came the time of confession. "I must tell you," the girl said, "because, he must not be worried with it and I must tell some one."
She poured out the whole story as if the calmbrowed little woman were her mother confessor. The sweet face lost none of its calm, the bright eyes softened with a very tender sympathy.
"You ought to be shocked," Miss Ref~old ended, "I think you ought to hate me for leavin~ him to be exposed to such a disease." "Dear child," the soft voice murmured, "I hate no one. I am a Socialist. I understand." Miss Reffold did not understand. "I thought Socialists hated everybody and wanted to blow things up," she said. Mrs. Alruem laughed.
"When one has truly grasped the Socialist philosophy one cannot hate one's fellow mortals," she said. 'You were forced to do this deed which you abhorred by the pressure of economic necessity."
"If I had been strong enough," the girl objected, "I could have resisted the temptation." "If the slave were strong enough," Mrs. Alruem. answered, "he could break the chains from his limbs and make his escape. Yet we do not blame the slave for not possessing superhuman strength."
"Don't you think," asked Miss Reffold slowly, "that there are people who do wrong when they are not compelled–who prefer to do wrong and enjoy it!"
"Undoubtedly," Mrs. Alruem said, "but these are what their conditions have made them. Herbert Spencer tells us that any living organism can become accustomed to any change in its environm~nt. The human organism is no exception to this rule. Men become accustomed to the economic stress and strain which crushes their higher nature and leaves to them only brute stringth or cunning – making man a 'brother to the ox,' or worse still a brother to the hyena. Socialists wish to change the environment that is making all the race more or less degenerate and defective. We wish to establish conditions which will produce a race of men worthy to bear the name."
"I noticed," Miss Reffold said, "that Otto spoke of Socialism a great deal, and 'unearned increment,' but I thought it was a part of his fever fancies. And I remember now he gave me a Socialist paper once in the store – but when I opened it and saw what it was – I mean when I saw the name of it – I threw it in the fire. I thought he must have given it to me by mistake, because he doesn't look bloodthirsty, you know. Is he interested in it, like you?" "He is a Socialist," his mother answered.
"Then I want to learn about it." Miss Reffold laughed and flushed a little. "You remember Mary Shelley wanted to learn Greek because she thought it would make her 'more attractive to IPysshe.' " "She could not have had a better motive for wishing to learn anything," asserted Mrs. Alruem, who held decidedly old-fasliioned views on some subjects notwithstanding her advanced economic knowledge. "We have many books from which you may learn of Socialism but the central thought is this: All mankind is one great brotherhood and that which causes strife, hatred, falsehood, war, should be done away." "I'm afraid I never can grapple with such a problem," sighed Miss Re~old.
"It is a great work," Mrs. Alruem said, "but our fathers have done great deeds for us. We would be unworthy of them if we do not do our best for ourselves and for those who shall come after us."
Mrs. Alruem clasped her white hands in her lap, with the look in her eyes that comes to those who have really lived and worked when they think of the past.
"My father died in Siberia," she said. "He was not a Socialist but he believed in the political freedom which'had been established in America. For that he wore out his life in Siberian mines.
"It was in Poland we lived," she explained. "In Poland where every semblance of freedom is denied the people. We came to this country that our son might breathe the air of freedom. My husband was not then a Socialist, nor was I. But we saw how in this country history is repeating itself. How the great and free America of which the oppressed of all lands had hoped so much is treading the old Roman path–
'First Freedom – and then Glory – when that fails, Wealth, vice, corruption - barbarism at last.'
"And we saw that political freedom is a means toan end; it is not in itself an end. Political freedom cannot long endure without industrial freedom. But the ballot for which our fathers died is the weapon with which men can abolish industrial tyranny and establish freedom, equality, brotherhood, for all."
"But why is he troubled about unearned increment?" asked Miss Reffold.
"Ah, that is merely a personal matter. My son is like his father and my father. To believe with him is to act on his belief. He allied himself with the Socialist party in Massachusetts, where most of his life was spent. But after the accident which left me a burden for him to carry through life he decided that he ought to provide something for my old age. We had spent nearly all our means for the Cause, so he decided to come to this state where there is cheap land that will by and by be valuable. It is the unearned increment that will make it valuable, you understand. My son thought it his first duty to provide for me. Then he can give his whole life to the Cause."
The gentle face beamed on Miss Ref~old hopefully.
"My husband died in the prime of life," she said, "but my son–" her voice was tremulous with love and pride, "my son will take up ·his work, or perhaps a greater work and carry it on. Perhaps I am growing childish and reverting to the hero-worshipping stage of mental development, but I often think now of the song Merlin sang of Arthur–
'If he might find A woman in her womanhood as great As he is in his manhood, then,' " (she smiled) "'The twain together well might change the world.' "
The girl moved closer and laid her head in the older woman's lap.
"Oh, mother," she said, "he has found the one woman and she isn't great– she is small. Oh, so exceedingly small."
There were tears in her eyes but the mother smiled as she kissed a sunny little curl on the girl's` forehead.