There was intense longing in her lovely violet eyes as she asked these questions, but she quickly dropped her lids, and only her hands, trembling in her lap, betrayed that she felt more than casual interest.
I told her everything I could remember, facts, incidents, and anecdotes, that I thought would interest her. It did not occur to me that her eagerness for information was anything more than an unusually keen curiosity about a mode of life so different from her own. Chancing to recall my adventure with the little maid I told her about it.
I dwelt on the child’s beauty and precocity, and repeated her account of why she had two mammas. The red blood was dyeing my listener’s face a deep crimson, but still I did not understand, and went on lightly—
“She was as charming a little thing as I ever saw, but she was not at all complimentary to the ‘gone-away mamma,’ for she declared, emphatically, that she loved her new mamma best, and meant to keep her always, and did n’t want her gone-away mamma ever to come back, because the new mamma loved her so much, and they had such good times together.”
The surging color flowed in a quick tide from her face and left there a gray pallor, like that of granite cliffs when the sun goes down, and her hands were so tightly locked that her fingers looked white and ghastly. I thought it was indignation against that distant and unknown woman who had yielded to temptation that was moving her so strongly, and expected to hear from her parted lips some sweeping sentence of fiery feminine scorn and contempt.
But it was a low moan that came through their paling curves as she swayed once in her chair and then fell to the floor.
The physician, who was hurriedly summoned, said that it was a case of heart failure, and that she must have died instantly from some sudden shock.
And then, looking again at the beautiful, cold face, I understood at last. For death had completed the likeness which life had only suggested, and the faultless features, lying now in their eternal, expressionless calm, were exactly those of the beautiful child.
Her friends wondered much at her strange and sudden death. But I knew that remorse had had its perfect work, and that the sudden vision of a sweet child-face out of whose rosy lips came the accusing words, “I love my new mamma best, and I don’t want my gone-away mamma ever to come back,” had pierced her heart through and through.
A houseless head, beneath the sun and stars,
The soul of the wood has stricken through my blood.”
Everybody who has ever seen him knows him only as “Posey”—a name for which he is indebted solely to the accident of birth. For in that Indiana county where he first saw the light, and when he went to California, some forty years ago, that was the name at once bestowed upon him, and by it he has been known ever since. It is possible that Posey has not forgotten what his name really is; but, if so, he is the only person who has allowed his memory to be burdened with that useless knowledge.