The girl sprang upright upon the bank and wrung her hands together. It came to her with sudden clearness what had been done. Had Toyner told his tale, she could hardly have known it more clearly. Her father, had tried to murder Bart; her father had tied him in his own place; it was her father who had escaped alone with the boat. It was he himself, and no apparition, who had peered in upon her through the window. She was wrought up into a strong glow of indignation against the baseness that would turn upon a deliverer, against the cruelty of the revenge taken. No wonder that miserable father had not dared to enter her house again or to seek further succour from her! All her pity, all the strength of her generosity, went out to the man who had ventured so much on his behalf and been betrayed. That unspoken reverence for Toyner, a sense of the contrast between him and her father and the other men whom she knew, which had been growing upon her, now culminated in an impulse of devotion. A new faculty opened within her nature, a new mine of wealth.
The thin white-faced man that lay half dead in the bottom of the canoe perhaps experienced some reviving influence from this new energy of love that had transformed the woman who stood near him, for he opened his eyes again and saw her, this time quite distinctly, standing looking down upon him. There was tenderness in her eyes, and her sunbrowned face was all aglow with a flush that was brighter than the flush of physical exercise. About her bending figure grew what seemed to Bart’s half-dazzled sense the flowers of paradise, for wild sunflowers and sheafs of purple eupatorium brushed her arms, standing in high phalanx by the edge of the creek. Bart smiled as he looked, but he had no thoughts, and all that he felt was summed up in a word that he uttered gently:
She knelt down at once. “What is it, Bart?” and again: “What were you trying to say?”
It is probable that her words did not reach him at all. He was only half-way back from the region of his vision; but he opened his eyes and looked at her again.
The sun rose, and a level golden beam struck through between the trunks of the trees, touching the flowers and branches here and there with moving lights, and giving all the air a brighter, mellower tint. There was something that Bart did feel a desire to say—a great thought that at another time he might have tried in a multitude of words to have expressed and failed. He saw Ann, whom he loved, and the paradise about her; he wanted to bring the new knowledge that had come to him in the light of his vision to bear upon her who belonged now to the region of outward not of inward sight and yet was part of what must always be to him everlasting reality.
“What were you going to say, Bart?” she asked again tenderly.
And again he summed up all that he thought and felt in one word: