Consciousness was returning to the lad, and looking up at his cousin as he bent over him, “Tell mother,” he murmured, “that I’m not much hurt.”
“I have to find that out, first,” said Arthur. “Do you feel any burns, bruises? whereabouts are you injured, do you think?”
“Something—a falling beam, I suppose, grazed my head and struck me on the shoulder; I think, too, that my hands and face are scorched.”
“Yes, your face is; and your hands—scorched? why they are badly burned! And your collar bone’s broken. That’s all, I believe; enough to satisfy you, I hope?”
“Quite,” Eddie returned with a faint smile. “Don’t cry, mother dear, you see it’s nothing but what can be made right in a few days or weeks.”
“Yes,” she said, kissing him and smiling through her tears; “and oh, let us thank God that it is no worse!”
Eddie’s adventure created quite a stir in the family and among outside relatives and friends, he was dubbed the hero of the hour, and attentions were lavished upon him without stint.
He bore his honors meekly. “Mother,” he said privately to her, “I don’t deserve all these encomiums and they make me ashamed; for I am not really brave. In fact I’m afraid I’m an arrant coward; for do you know I was afraid to rush in among those flames; but I could not bear the thought of leaving that poor baby to burn up, and you had taught me that it was right and noble to risk my own life to save another’s.”
“That was not cowardice, my dear boy,” she said, her eyes shining, “but the truest courage. I think you deserve far more credit for bravery, than you would if you had rushed in impulsively without a thought of the real danger you were encountering.”
“Praise is very sweet from the lips of those I love; especially my mother’s,” he responded, with a glad smile. “And what a nurse you are, mother mine! it pays to be ill when one can be so tended.”
“That is when one is not very seriously ill, I suppose?” she said playfully, stroking his hair. “By the way, it will take longer to restore these damaged locks, than to repair any of the other injuries caused by your escapade.”
“Never mind,” he said, “they’ll grow again in time. What has become of the Smiths?”
“Your father has found temporary shelter for them at the quarter, and is rebuilding their hut.”
“I knew he would; it is just like him—always so kind, so generous.”
“Oh, gentle Romeo,
If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully.
Or if thou think’st I’m too quickly won,
I’ll frown and be perverse, and say thee nay,
So thou wilt woo; but else not for the world.”
One lovely morning in the ensuing spring, the younger Elsie wandered out alone into the grounds, and sauntering aimlessly along with a book in her hand, at length found herself standing on the shore of the lakelet.