His body lay back upon the grey lifeless branch, wrapped in the ragged, soiled garment that Markham had put upon him; the silence of night came again over the water and the grey dead trees, and nature went on steadily and quietly with her work of healing.
When Toyner had left Fentown to go and rescue Markham, Ann had stood a good way off upon the dark shore just to satisfy herself that he had got into the boat and rowed down the river. This was not an indication that she doubted him. She followed him unseen because she felt that night that there were elements in his conduct which she did not in the least understand. When he was gone, she went back to fulfil her part of the contract, and she had a strength of purpose in fulfilling it which did not belong mainly to the obligation of her promise. Something in his look when he had come in this evening, in his glance as he bade her farewell, made her eager to fulfil it.
All night, asleep or awake, she was more or less haunted with this new feeling for Toyner—a feeling which did not in her mind resemble love or liking, which would have been perhaps best translated by the word “reverence,” but that was not a word in Ann’s vocabulary, not even an idea in her mental horizon.
Our greatest gains begin to be a fact in the soul before we have any mental conception of them!
The next day Ann was up early. She took her beer (it was home-brewed and not of great value) and deliberately poured it out, bottle after bottle, into a large puddle in the front road. The men who were passing early saw her action, and she told them that she had “turned temp’rance.” She washed the bottles, and set them upside down before the house to dry where all the world might see them. The sign by which she had advertised her beer and its price had been nothing but a sheet of brown paper with letters painted in irregular brush strokes. Ann had plenty of paper. This morning she laid a sheet upon her table, and rapidly painted thereon with her brush such advertisements as these:
Tea and Coffee, 3 Cents a Cup.
Ginger Bread, Baked Beans,
Cooking done to order at any hour
and in any style._
By the time this placard was up, Christa had sauntered out to smell the morning air, and she looked at it with what was for Christa quite an exertion of surprise.
She went in to where Ann was scrubbing the tables. Christa never scrubbed except when it was necessary from Ann’s point of view that she should, but she never interfered either. Now she only said:
“I’m here; I suppose you can see me.”
“Yes; but, Ann——”
It was so unusual for Christa to feel even a strong emotion of surprise that she did not know in the least how to express it.
Ann stopped scrubbing. She had never supposed that Christa would yield easily to all the terms of the condition; she had not sufficient confidence in her to explain the truth concerning the secret compact.