“Did you ever hear the voice of a child just out of dreamland, when it expresses, not complaint, but love an’ contentment? Well, sir, it is the sweetest, the most compelling note in all nature, I believe. It is like a muted violin—voice of God or voice of man—which is it? I dare not say, but I do know that the song of the hermit-thrush is but sounding brass compared with that.
“I felt its power, an’ I said to myself: ’I will waste my life no longer. I will marry.’
“She, too, had felt it. The little captain had almost overcome her. She laid him down, an’ we turned away.
“We walked through the garden paths, an’ neither spoke, but in the stillness I could hear trumpets of victory. We entered the great hall an’ sat with the others by its fireside, but took little part in the talk. When I made my adieus she shook my hand warmly and said I was very good to them.
“Save for its good example, the log-cabin experiment was not a success. They slept with all the doors and windows open, an’ one night a skunk came in an’ got under the bed. Mrs. Bill discovered that they had company, an’ Bill got up an’ lit the lantern, an’ followed the clew to its source. He threatened an’ argued an’ appealed to the skunk’s better nature with a doughnut, but the little beast sat unmoved in his corner. The place seemed to suit him.
“Bill got mad an’ flung the axe at him. It was a fatal move—fatal to the skunk an’ the cabin an’ the experiment, an’ a blow to the sweetness an’ sociological condition of Connecticut.
“They returned to the big house, an’ by-an’-by told me of their adventure.
“‘Don’t be discouraged,’ I said. ’You will find skunks in every walk of life, but when you do, always throw down your cards an’ quit the game. They can deal from the bottom of the pack. You haven’t a ghost of a show with ’em.’
“Being driven out of the cabin, Mrs. Bill gave most of her leisure to the farm-house, where I had spent an hour or more every day.
“Suddenly I saw that a wonderful thing had happened to me. I was in love with those kids, an’ they with me. The whole enterprise had been a bluff conceived in the interest of the Warburtons. I hadn’t really intended to build a house, but suddenly I got busy with all the mechanics I could hire in Pointview, and the house began to grow like a mushroom.
“Another wonderful thing happened. Mrs. Warburton fell in love with the kids, and they with her. She romped with them on the lawn; she took them out to ride every day; she put them to bed every night; she insisted upon buying their clothes; she bought them a pony an’ a little omnibus; she built them a playhouse for their comfort. The whole villa began to revolve around the children. They called her mama an’ they called me papa, a sufficiently singular situation.