Without hesitation, the outcast bent her face, purified and celestial with love and sacrifice; bent it over the dreadful Thing, loathsome and decaying, beyond the semblance of human form or feature, on the bed,—bent and kissed, as a mother would have kissed.
The gray dawn crept yet further into the room, the streets were growing noisier, the Elevated trains rushed by the corner, the milkmen’s carts rumbled along the Avenue, the sparrows twittered loudly on the neighboring roofs. And yet it seemed so solemnly silent in the room. “Well, now!” said Druse, with pleased surprise, “I didn’t expect you would. What a long time it is gettin’ light this mornin’. To think of you, a-takin’ care of me, like this! An’ I ain’t never done a thing for you excep’ the headaches and sweepin’, an’ even that was nicer for me than for you. I knew you was awful good, but I never knew you was religious before, Miss De Courcy. Nobody but folks that has religion does such things, they say. I wish I could remember my prayers. Ain’t it strange, I’ve forgot them all? Couldn’t you say one? Just a little one?”
And Miss De Courcy, her face buried in her hands, said, “Lord, have mercy upon us,” and said no more.
“Thank you,” said Druse, more feebly, and quite satisfied. “We won’t forget each other, an’ you’ll promise to come by’m’by. Won’t you? I’ll be so pleased when you come!”
“Yes, Druse,” whispered Miss De Courcy, “I promise.”
And then the terrible form that had been Druse sat up in bed with a mighty effort, and turned its sightless eyes joyfully toward Miss De Courcy’s tear-stained face.
“It’s morning! I can see you!” it said, and fell back into the faithful arms and upon the faithful breast.
And so Druse, not having lived and died in vain, passed away forever from the Vere De Vere.
I stood one July noon on the platform of the desolate station at Wauchittic, the sole passenger waiting for the stage. The heat was quivering in the air. I watched the departing train, whirling like a little black ball down the narrow yellow road, cut between the green fields, and was vaguely glad that I was not going to the end of the Island on it. This was somewhere near the middle, and it was quite far enough from civilization.
The village, like so many Long Island villages, was distant from the railroad. Only one or two farm-houses were in sight. There was hardly a sound in the hot noonday air, now that the train had gone, except the whistling of a cheerful station agent, who sat in the window of the little oven-like Queen Anne structure, in his shirt sleeves, looking out at me with lively interest. I had sought for a quiet country place in which to finish my novel, the book which would decide beyond doubt whether I had a future as a writer, or whether I was doomed to sink to the level of the ordinary literary hack, for into it I had put, I knew, all that was my best.