Flea bent lower.
“Did the pretty lady tell ye anythin’ last night?”
“Nope; did she tell you anythin’?”
“Yep, all about the Jesus. Get her to tell you, Fluke. It’s better than fairy stories. I can’t remember all of it; but she says He jest loved everybody so well that He let ’em nail Him on a cross, and died there. But He got up again, and that’s how He came to be up there.”
Flea pointed upward.
“Did Miss—Miss Shellington tell ye that?”
“Yep, Fluke.” She hesitated and whispered again, “Do ye believe it, Fluke?”
“Course I do, if she says it! Don’t ye think what she says is so?”
“I don’t believe all that,” replied Flea. “I tried last night, and couldn’t. You used to laugh at me when I said as how there was ghosts.”
“Mebbe she don’t believe in ghosts,” sighed Flukey.
“It’s almost the same. She believes in Jesus.”
“He’s all I believe in, too.” Flukey closed his eyes wearily.
“Fluke,” whispered Flea presently, “ye ought to see that room I slep’ in! It were finer’n this one.”
“This be the promised land, all right, what Scraggy speaked about,” said Flukey. “There ain’t no more places like it in this here world.”
“I believe that, too,” answered Flea, “and if we hadn’t been hungry we’d never have stealed, and we wouldn’t have found Mr. and Miss Shellington. Yet she says it’s wicked to steal.”
“So it be, Flea, and ye know it. All ye’re tryin’ to do now is not to believe about that Jesus. I bet somethin’ll come that’ll make ye believe it.”
“Mebbe,” mumbled Flea darkly; “but ’s long ’s ’tain’t Pappy Lon or Lem, I don’t care.”
During the next two weeks, while Flukey was fighting with death, and the great Shellington mansion was as silent as a tomb, Scraggy Peterson was tramping back to the squatter country. When she reached Ithaca, she was almost too ill to start up the Lehigh Valley tracks toward her hut. The black cat clung to her tattered jacket, his wizard-eyes shining green, as Screech Owl passed under the gas-lamps. It was almost ten o’clock at night when she unlatched her shanty door and kindled a fire. The larder was bare, save for some crusts of hard bread. These the woman soaked in hot water and shared with the cat. Then, in a state of great exhaustion, she picked up Black Pussy, blew out the candle, and, for the first time in many days, slept in her own hut.
On the shore below Lem Crabbe’s scow was drawn up near the Cronk hut. The squatter and scowman were conversing in the dim light of a lantern that swung from Lem’s hook.
“Did ye make any hauls while ye was gone, Lem?” asked Lon.
“Nope, only sold the lumber. I ain’t trying nothin’ alone.”
“It was cussed mean I couldn’t go along with ye,” Lon said; “but I had to stay to hum. Did ye know that Mammy were dead?”