When slowly from the torpor of ether, one wakens to the misty sense of eternal loss, and there comes the exquisite prick of pain, then one feels in part the horror of the ache when Zora wakened to the world again. The awakening was the work of days and weeks. At first in sheer exhaustion, physical and mental, she lay and moaned. The sense of loss—of utter loss—lay heavy upon her. Something of herself, something dearer than self, was gone from her forever, and an infinite loneliness and silence, as of endless years, settled on her soul. She wished neither food nor words, only to be alone. Then gradually the pain of injury stung her when the blood flowed fuller. As Miss Smith knelt beside her one night to make her simple prayer Zora sat suddenly upright, white-swathed, dishevelled, with fury in her midnight eyes.
“I want no prayers!” she cried, “I will not pray! He is no God of mine. He isn’t fair. He knows and won’t tell. He takes advantage of us—He works and fools us.” All night Miss Smith heard mutterings of this bitterness, and the next day the girl walked her room like a tigress,—to and fro, to and fro, all the long day. Toward night a dumb despair settled upon her. Miss Smith found her sitting by the window gazing blankly toward the swamp. She came to Miss Smith, slowly, and put her hands upon her shoulders with almost a caress.
“You must forgive me,” she pleaded plaintively. “I reckon I’ve been mighty bad with you, and you always so good to me; but—but, you see—it hurts so.”
“I know it hurts, dear; I know it does. But men and women must learn to bear hurts in this world.”
“Not hurts like this; they couldn’t.”
“Yes, even hurts like this. Bear and stand straight; be brave. After all, Zora, no man is quite worth a woman’s soul; no love is worth a whole life.”
Zora turned away with a gesture of impatience.
“You were born in ice,” she retorted, adding a bit more tenderly, “in clear strong ice; but I was born in fire. I live—I love; that’s all.” And she sat down again, despairingly, and stared at the dull swamp. Miss Smith stood for a moment and closed her eyes upon a vision.
“Ice!” she whispered. “My God!”
Then, at length, she said to Zora:
“Zora, there’s only one way: do something; if you sit thus brooding you’ll go crazy.”
“Do crazy folks forget?”
“Nonsense, Zora!” Miss Smith ridiculed the girl’s fantastic vagaries; her sound common sense rallied to her aid. “They are the people who remember; sane folk forget. Work is the only cure for such pain.”
“But there’s nothing to do—nothing I want to do—nothing worth doing—now.”
“The Silver Fleece?”
The girl sat upright.
“The Silver Fleece,” she murmured. Without further word, slowly she arose and walked down the stairs, and out into the swamp. Miss Smith watched her go; she knew that every step must be the keen prickle of awakening flesh. Yet the girl walked steadily on.