XXVIII.
NO DREAM TO WAKE FROM

For a long while after she had left him, he lay still, stretched in his chair. His eyes were fixed steadily upon the open window and the sunshine outside. There he watched the movement of the leaves upon the green cottonwoods. What had she said to him when she went? She had said, "Now I know how unhappy I have been." These sweet words he repeated to himself over and over, fearing in some way that he might lose them. They almost slipped from him at times; but with a jump of his mind he caught them again and held them,--and then- "I'm not all strong yet," he murmured. "I must have been very sick." And, weak from his bullet wound and fever, he closed his eyes without knowing it. There were the cottonwoods again, waving, waving; and he felt the cool, pleasant air from the window. He saw the light draught stir the ashes in the great stone fireplace. "I have been asleep," he said. "But she was cert'nly here herself. Oh, yes. Surely. She always has to go away every day because the doctor says--why, she was readin'!" he broke off, aloud. "DAVID COPPERFIELD." There it was on the floor. "Aha! nailed you anyway!" he said. "But how scared I am of myself!--You're a fool. Of course it's so. No fever business could make yu' feel like this."

His eye dwelt awhile on the fireplace, next on the deer horns, and next it travelled toward the shelf where her books were; but it stopped before reaching them.

"Better say off the names before I look," said he. "I've had a heap o' misreading visions. And--and supposin'--if this was just my sickness fooling me some more--I'd want to die. I would die! Now we'll see. If COPPERFIELD is on the floor" (he looked stealthily to be sure that it was)," then she was readin' to me when everything happened, and then there should be a hole in the book row, top, left. Top, left," he repeated, and warily brought his glance to the place. "Proved!" he cried. "It's all so!"

He now noticed the miniature of Grandmother Stark. "You are awful like her," he whispered. "You're cert'nly awful like her. May I kiss you too, ma'am?"

Then, tottering, he rose from his sick-chair. The Navajo blanket fell from his shoulders, and gradually, experimentally, he stood upright.

Helping himself with his hand slowly along the wall of the room, and round to the opposite wall with many a pause, he reached the picture, and very gently touched the forehead of the ancestral dame with his lips. "I promise to make your little girl happy, he whispered.

He almost fell in stooping to the portrait, but caught himself and stood carefully quiet, trembling, and speaking to himself. "Where is your strength?" he demanded. "I reckon it is joy that has unsteadied your laigs."

The door opened. It was she, come back with his dinner.

"My Heavens!" she said; and setting the tray down, she rushed to him. She helped him back to his chair, and covered him again. He had suffered no hurt, but she clung to him; and presently he moved and let himself kiss her with fuller passion.

"I will be good," he whispered.

"You must," she said. "You looked so pale!"

"You are speakin' low like me," he answered. "But we have no dream we can wake from."

Had she surrendered on this day to her cowpuncher, her wild man? Was she forever wholly his? Had the Virginian's fire so melted her heart that no rift in it remained? So she would have thought if any thought had come to her. But in his arms to-day, thought was lost in something more divine.

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