“Something is wrong with mother,” Barney said, with a strange appeal. Then he went on, and Charlotte was at his side, running as fast as he. Caleb hurried after them, panting, the tears running down his old cheeks.
“Father says she’s fell!” Barney said, as they sped along.
“Maybe she’s only fainted,” responded Charlotte’s steady, faithful voice.
But Deborah Thayer had more than fainted. It might have been that Ephraim had inherited from her the heart-taint that had afflicted and shortened his life, and it might have been that her terrible experiences of the last few months would have strained her heart to its undoing, had its valves been made of steel.
Barney carried his mother into the bedroom, and laid her on the bed. He and Charlotte worked over her, but she never spoke nor moved again. At last Charlotte laid her hand on Barney’s arm. “Come out now,” said she, and Barney followed her out.
When they were out in the kitchen Barney looked in her face. “It’s no use, she’s gone!” he said, hoarsely. Charlotte nodded. Suddenly she put her arms up around his neck, and drew his head down to her bosom, and held it there, stroking his cheek.
“Oh, Charlotte,” Barney sobbed. Charlotte bent over him, whispering softly, smoothing his hair and cheek with her tender hand.
Caleb had gone for the doctor and Rebecca while they tried to restore Deborah, and had given the alarm on the way. Some women came hurrying in with white faces, staring curiously even then at Barney and Charlotte; but she never heeded them, except to answer in the affirmative when they asked, in shocked voices, if Deborah was dead. She went on soothing Barney, as if he had been her child, with no more shame in it, until he raised his white face from her breast of his own accord.
“Oh, Charlotte, you will stay to-night, won’t you?” he pleaded.
“Yes, I’ll stay,” said Charlotte. Young as Charlotte was, she had watched with the sick and sat up with the dead many a time. So she and the doctor’s wife watched with Deborah Thayer that night. Rebecca came, but she was not strong enough to stay. The next day Charlotte assisted in the funeral preparations. It made a great deal of talk in the village. People wondered if Barney would marry her now, and if she would sit with the mourners at the funeral. But she sat with her father and mother in the south room, and time went on after Deborah died, and Barney did not marry her.
A few days after Deborah’s funeral Charlotte had an errand at the store after supper. When she went down the hill the sun had quite set, but there was a clear green light. The sky gave it out, and there seemed to be also a green glow from the earth. Charlotte went down the hill with the evening air fresh and damp in her face. Lilacs were in blossom all about, and their fragrance was so vital and intense that it seemed almost like a wide presence in the green twilight.