The scene within the house presented a striking contrast to that without. In a great open fireplace the flames of the beech logs were wavering up the chimney. Seated in the radiance of their light, on a low stool, was a young boy with his elbows upon his knees and his cheeks in the palms of his hands. His mother sat by his side stroking his hair and gazing at him in fond, brooding love. The father was bending over a Bible lying open on the table; it was the hour of prayer. He was reading a lesson from the twenty-fifth chapter of St. Matthew, and had just articulated in slow and reverent tones the words of Jesus, “I was a stranger and ye took me in,” when they heard a sound at the door.
Father, mother and son sprang to their feet and, hurrying towards the door, flung it open and beheld a woman’s limp form lying on the threshold.
It was but a child’s weight to the stalwart Quaker who picked it up in his great arms and carried it into the radiance of the great fireplace, and in an instant he and Dorothea his wife were pushing forward the work of restoration. They forced a cordial between the parted lips, chafed the white hands, warmed the half-frozen feet, and in a few moments were rewarded by discovering feeble signs of life. The color came back in a faint glow to the marble face, the pulses fluttered feebly, the bosom heaved gently, as if the refluent tide of life had surged reluctantly back, and the tired heart began once more to beat. She had regained her life but not her consciousness, and lay there as white and almost as still as death. The little boy stood gazing wonderingly at her from a distance. The calm features of the Quaker were agitated with emotion. His wife knelt by the side of the pale sleeper, and her tears dropped silently on the hand which she pressed to her lips.
“The human heart finds shelter nowhere but in human kind.”
For many days Pepeeta’s life hung in the balance, her spirit hovering uncertainly along the border land of being, and it was only love that wooed it back to life.
When at length, through careful nursing, she really regained her consciousness and came up from those unfathomable abysses where she had been wandering, she opened her eyes upon the walls of a little chamber that looked out through an alcove into the living room of the Quaker house.
Dorothea had finished her afternoon’s work and was seated before the great fireplace, while by her side stood Steven, speaking to her in whispers, and looking often toward the cot on which Pepeeta lay. An almost sacred stillness was in the room, for since the advent of the sufferer, even the quiet of that well-ordered household had deepened and softened.
The silence was suddenly broken by a voice feeble and tremulous, but very musical and sweet. It was Pepeeta, who gazed around her in bewilderment and asked in vague alarm, “Where am I?”