The window of the east room looked out on the old orchard. There was a screened door which opened upon a porch and a stretch of lawn beyond which was the dairy.
Within the room there was a wide white bed, and a mahogany dresser with a scarf with crocheted trimming, above the dresser was an old steel engraving of Samson destroying the temple. The floor was spotless, a soft breeze shook the curtains. Madge, relieved from pain and propped on her pillows, watched a mother cat who with her kittens sat just outside the door.
She was a gray cat with white paws and breast, not fat at the moment but with a comfortable well-fed look. She alternately washed herself and washed her offspring. There were four of them, a rollicking lot not easy to keep in order.
“Aren’t they—ripping?” Madge said to Mary.
“They always come up on the step about this time in the afternoon; they are waiting for the men to bring the milk to the dairy.”
A little later Madge saw the men coming—two of them, with the foaming pails. The mother cat rose and went to meet them. Her tail was straight up, and the kittens danced after her.
“They will get a big dish of it, and then they will go around to the kitchen door to wait for supper and the table scraps. And after that Bessie will coax the kittens out to the barn and go hunting for the night.”
“Is that her name—Bessie?”
“Yes, there has always been a Bessie-cat here. And we cling to old customs.”
“I like old customs,” said Madge, “and old houses.”
After a little she asked, “Who makes the butter?”
“I do. It’s great fun.”
“Oh, when I am well, may I help?”
“You——?” Mary came over and stood looking down at her; “of course you may help. But perhaps you wouldn’t like it.”
“I am sure I should. And I don’t think I am going to get well very soon——”
Mary was solicitous. “Why not?”
“I don’t want to get well. I want to stay here. I think this place is—heavenly.”
Mary laughed. “It is just a plain farmhouse. If you want the show places you should go to Huntersfield and King’s Crest——”
“I want just this. Do you know I am almost afraid to go to sleep for fear I shall wake up and find it a—dream——”
A little later, she asked, “Are those apples in the orchard ripe?”
“May I have one?”
“The doctor may not want you to have it,” said her anxious nurse.
“Just to hold in my hand,” begged Madge.
So Mary picked a golden apple, and when the doctor came after dark, he found the room in all the dimness of shaded lamplight, and the golden girl asleep with that golden globe in her hand.
Up-stairs the mulatto girl, Daisy, was putting Fiddle-dee-dee to sleep.
“You be good, and Daisy gwine tell you a story.”