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John Herbert Quick
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 378 pages of information about Vandemark's Folly.

“No,” I said, “I am not sick.  I am all right—­now.”

“But something has happened,” she insisted.  “You are weak as well as pale.  Let me do something for you.  What was it?”

“A snake,” I said, for an excuse.  “A rattlesnake.  It struck at me and missed.  It almost struck me.  I’ll be all right now.”

The longer I live the surer I am that I told her very nearly the truth.

That night we sat up late and talked.  She was only a dear little child, now, with a bit of the mother in her.  She was really affectionate to me, more so than ever before, and sometimes I turned cold as I thought of how her affection might have been twisted into deviltry had it not been so strangely brought home to me that she was a child, with a good deal of the mother in her.  I turned cold as I thought of her playing with her doll while I had been out on the prairie laying poison plots against her innocence, her defenselessness, her trust in me.

Why, she was like my mother!  I had not thought of my mother for days.  When she had been young like Virginia, she must have been as beautiful; and she had played with dolls; but never except while she was an innocent child, as Virginia now was.

For the first time I talked of mother to Virginia.  I told her of my mother’s goodness to me while Rucker was putting me out to work in the factory—­and Virginia grew hot with anger at Rucker, and very pitiful of the poor little boy going to work before daylight and coming home after dark.  I told her of my running away, and of my life on the canal, with all the beautiful things I had seen and the interesting things I had done, leaving out the fighting and the bad things.  I told her of how I had lost my mother, and my years of search for her, ending at that unmarked grave by the lake.  Virginia’s eyes shone with tears and she softly pressed my hand.

I took from my little iron-bound trunk that letter which I had found in the old hollow apple-tree, and we read it over together by the flickering light of a small fire which I kindled for the purpose; and from the very bottom of the trunk, wrapped in a white handkerchief which I had bought for this use, I took that old worn-out shoe which I had found that dark day at Tempe—­and I began telling Virginia how it was that it was so run over, and worn in such a peculiar way.

My mother had worked so hard for me that she had had a good deal of trouble with her feet—­and such a flood of sorrow came over me that I broke down and cried.  I cried for my mother, and for joy at being able to think of her again, and for guilt, and with such a mingling of feeling that finally I started to rush off into the darkness—­but Virginia clung to me and wiped away my tears and would not let me go.  She said she was afraid to be left alone, and wanted me with her—­and that I was a good boy.  She didn’t wonder that my mother wanted to work for me—­it must have been almost the only comfort she had.

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