By-and-by I went out to the strawberry-bed. The season was too backward. None were turning. With bitter disappointment I searched the cold, wet leaves, bending them apart for the sight of as much as one scarlet lobe, that I might take it in to her if only for remembrance of the day. At last I gathered a few perfect leaves and blossoms, and presented them to her in silence on a plate with a waiter and napkin.
She rewarded me with a laugh, and lifted from the plate a spray of blossoms.
“They will be ripe by the time I am well,” she said, the sunlight of memory coming out upon her face. Then having touched the wet blossoms with her finger-tips, she dropped them quickly back into the plate.
“How cold they are!” she said, as a shiver ran through her. At the same time she looked quickly at me, her eyes grown dark with dread.
I set the plate hastily down, and she put her hands in mine to warm them.
A month has gone by since Georgiana passed away.
To-day, for the first time, I went back to the woods. It was pleasant to be surrounded again by the ever-living earth that feels no loss and has no memory; that was sere yesterday, is green to-day, will be sere again to-morrow, then green once more; that pauses not for wounds and wrecks, nor lingers over death and change; but onward, ever onward, along the groove of law, passes from its red origin in universal flame to its white end in universal snow.
And yet, as I approached the edge of the forest, it was as though an invisible company of influences came gently forth to meet me and sought to draw me back into their old friendship. I found myself stroking the trunks of the trees as I would throw my arm around the shoulders of a tried comrade; I drew down the branches and plunged my face into the new leaves as into a tonic stream.
Yesterday a wind storm swept this neighborhood. Later, deep in the woods, I came upon an elm that had been struck by a bolt at the top. Nearly half the trunk had been torn away; and one huge limb lay across my path.
As I stood looking at it, the single note of a bird fell on my ear—always the same note, low, quiet, regular, devoid of feeling, as though the bird had been stunned and were trying to say: What can I do? What can I do? What can I do?
I knew what that note meant. It was the note with which a bird now and then lingers around the scene of the central tragedy of its life.
After a long search I found the nest, crushed against the ground under the huge limb, and a few feet from it, in the act of trying to escape, the female. The male, sitting meantime on the end of a bough near by, watched me incuriously, and with no change in that quiet, regular, careless note—he knew only too well that she was past my harming. The plan for his life had reached an end in early summer.