Beth folded her hands and closed her eyes.
“Dear God, I can’t eat gruel any more. I’ll die if I have to eat gruel, and I don’t want to die. I want rabbit.”
It would seem that the days of miracles had not passed; for even while she prayed, she felt two paws rest on her cot. She opened her eyes and there was Duke waiting impatiently for her to notice him. She could hardly believe her eyes, for in his mouth he held a little live rabbit as if for her to take it. To make sure she was not dreaming, she stretched forth her hand for the rabbit. Duke let her take it without offering the least resistance. In fact, he looked at her as much as to say:
“I heard them say that my little mistress wanted a rabbit. I was bound she should have a rabbit, and here it is.”
Mrs. Davenport entered the room. “Here is your broth, dear.”
“Take it away,” cried Beth exultingly. “I’m going to have a rabbit. God sent Duke to bring me one. Wasn’t he good not to eat it himself—he always used to eat them when he caught them, and God was so good to me, too.”
The speech appeared a little ambiguous to Mrs. Davenport, but it was all very plain to the child.
Never did a stew seem more delicious to any one than did that rabbit stew to Beth. In fact, it proved a turning point with her, the fever subsiding thereafter very rapidly.
With the elasticity of childhood, Beth grew well rapidly, and was once more her mischievous self.
One evening about the middle of May, Mr. and Mrs. Davenport and Marian went up the river a short distance to a party, and invited the Gordons to drive with them.
Julia came over to spend the night with Beth, and Mrs. Davenport arranged for Maggie to stay in the house, that the girls might not be alone. Duke, also, was kept within doors for protection.
The girls passed a pleasant evening, and retired rather late. Duke followed them up to their room, and went to sleep just outside the door, which they left open on his account. Maggie slept in a room at the end of the hall.
Gustus that night had sneaked out to see some of his friends. He had stayed so late that he feared to return through the dark. Still he dreaded even more the scolding that he would get if he were missed in the morning. So he started home, whistling as he went, to keep up his spirits. Suddenly his attention was attracted by a reddened sky in the direction of the Davenport home.
“Foh de Lawd’s sake,” he muttered, “dat do look like our home wuz burnin’ for sure. Jes’ s’pose it wuz. Little missy am thar an’ might burn. I’d jes’ bettah take to my heels, an’ run as fas’ as ever I kin, an’ see.” He ran a few steps, and then stopped. Besides the red in the sky, he thought he saw sparks flying. His heart rose in his mouth.