The yellow flame of the lantern was burning white in the dawn, as, holding back against the weight of the wagon—the palms of her bleeding hands clenched on the shafts, her feet slipping, her ankles twisted and wrenched—by and by, with the tears of physical suffering streaming down her face, she reached the foot of the mountain. The, thin, cool air of morning flowed about her in crystalline stillness; suddenly the sun tipped the green bowl of the world, and all at once shadows fell across the road like bars. They seemed to her, in her daze of terror and exhaustion, insurmountable: the road was level now, but she pulled and pulled, agonizingly, over those bars of nothingness; then one wheel sank into a rut, and the wagon came to a dead standstill; but at the same moment she saw ahead of her, among the trees, Doctor Bennett’s dark, sleeping house. So, dropping the shafts, she went stumbling and running, to pound on the door, and gasp out:
* * * * *
“I think,” she said afterward, lying like a broken thing upon her bed, “I was able to do it, because I kept saying, ‘I must save Maurice.’ Of course, to save Maurice, I wouldn’t mind dying.”
“My dear, you are magnificent!” Mary Houghton said, huskily. Then she told her husband: “Henry, I like her! I never thought I would, but I do.”
“I’ll never say ‘Mr. F.’s aunt’ again!” he promised, with real contrition.
It was Eleanor’s conquering moment, for everybody liked her, and everybody said she was ’magnificent’—except Maurice, who, as he got well, said almost nothing.
“I can’t talk about it,” was all he had to say, choking. “She’s given her life for mine,” he told the doctor.
“I hope not,” Doctor Bennett said, “I hope not. But it will take months, Maurice, for her to get over this. As for saving your life, my boy, she didn’t. She made things a lot more dangerous for you. She did the wrong thing—with greatness! You’d have come to, after a while. But don’t tell her so.”
“Well, I should say not!” Maurice said, hotly. “She’ll never know that! And anyway, sir, I don’t believe it. I believe she saved my life.”
“Well, suit yourself,” the doctor said, good-naturedly; “but I tell you one thing: whether she saved your life or not, she did a really wonderful thing—considering her temperament.”
Maurice frowned: “I don’t think her temperament makes any difference. It would have been wonderful for anybody.”
“Well, suit yourself,” Doctor Bennett said again; “only, if Edith had done it, say, for Johnny, who weighs nearly as much as you, I wouldn’t have called it particularly wonderful.”
“Oh, Edith,” Maurice said, grinning; “no; I suppose not. I see what you mean.” And to himself he added: “Edith is like an ox, compared to Star. Just flesh and blood. No nerves. No soul. Doctor Bennett was right. Eleanor’s temperament does make it more wonderful.”