The night was mild and hushed. It was almost certain that with dawn would come a downpour of rain; the tree-toads already heralded the good news. The dry hemlocks whispered it. Bathed in a gauze of moonlight the forest rolled away—silent—mighty in its expanse—promising nothing. Big Shanty Brook gleamed defiantly past in a riot of rapids and whirlpools. Flashing in the crisp sunlight, these rapids and whirlpools shone in inviting splendour; at night they became terrible.
It was this torrent that swept below the woman leaning on the window sill; it mocked her, roaring with joy, chuckling to itself at the prisoner, every leaping crest in the chaos of foam rearing again for a last glimpse of the exile, and, having seen, dashed on to give place to those who followed. Little waves fawned by, partisans in the same mockery.
Suddenly she buried her face in her ringless hands:
“My God—I can’t stand this!” she moaned. “I can’t and I won’t!” she muttered helplessly. Then she broke into hysterical sobbing, pressing her nails into the sensitive flesh of her temples; her lips trembling in a nervous chill. Her body grew cold, chilling even her bare feet thrust deep in her slippers. The torrent of Big Shanty became to her a jeering crowd, unlimitless—that poured from nowhere and dashed on into the unknown. She shut her eyes tight. In the darkness now she saw only Sperry; she saw him plainly—close to her, as one sees a face in a dream. She felt the idle, comforting tone of his voice—the warm pressure of his hand—and with her mental vision, looked into his eyes.
“Be patient, dear friend,” he said to her quite clearly. Could she have looked on Sperry at that moment she would have found him playing billiards at his club, his whole mind occupied in making a difficult carom shot. When he made it he ordered a fresh brandy and soda.
The roar of Big Shanty continued. An owl screamed hoarsely from somewhere in the timber below. Alice shuddered, her cheeks burning against the palms of her cold hands, and crept back to bed.
Margaret, too, had been gazing out of her window. Big Shanty to her meant a new life—she, too, had been crying, but from sheer happiness.
Some mornings after Alice’s arrival—she had spent most of the hours in her room in the interim—she came gaily into the room where her husband and Margaret were at breakfast, her face all smiles, her figure clothed in a jaunty walking dress which fitted her to perfection. Thayor looked up from his coffee and bacon; he thought he had never seen her look so pretty.
“Why, Alice!” he exclaimed, all his love for her in his eyes.
“Yes—I don’t wonder you are astonished,” she said, regarding them both mischievously. “The day is too glorious to breakfast in bed; besides, I’ve slept like a top. Sam, the camp is exceedingly pretty,” she went on, as Blakeman ceremoniously pushed a chair beneath her and hurriedly laid the unexpected cover.