She was thinking of Donald McRae again, and slipping her hand into Peter’s, she led him toward the pond. And Peter, in the sweetness and joy of her presence, guessed nothing because her fingers tightened in his hand or because her breath came more quickly than usual.
They drew nearer to the ash tree and the willows. She knew that Donald McRae was now looking upon the face of his boy; she could see the clump of twisted bushes behind which he was hidden, and caught a movement in their tops, as if an animal or a breath of wind had disturbed them.
They were under the ash tree when she flung back her hair, no longer making an effort to hide from Peter the distress in her face. He was shocked, even a little 佛山桑拿按摩全套terrified at her appearance. Involuntarily her glance went beyond him to the thicket which concealed Donald McRae. It was only a few steps away, and she knew Peter’s father could distinctly hear what they said. Then she looked at Peter again, and smiled gently at his suspense as she raised one of his hands to her lips in the soft caress that always wiped away his troubles. And in that same moment she drew him a step nearer to the willows.
“Something happened before you came,” she said, speaking so that Donald McRae would not lose a word of what she was saying. “I think I must have had a—a—dream—and it was terrible!” She shuddered, and listened to the breaking of a twig in the willows. “I am foolish to let it frighten me.”
His arms were about her, his fingers smoothing back her shining hair as relief leaped into his face.
“You were asleep, Ange—with me bursting my throat to make you hear from the forest?”
She did not answer his question. Instead, she said: “Peter, you have not lied to me? You believe in prayer?”
He bent his lips to her white forehead. “Yes, Ange, and yours most of all. God has answered you, and always will.”
“And we have prayed a long time for your father to come back?”
He nodded wonderingly. “Yes, a long time.”
She spoke slowly then, and her words were for Donald McRae and not for Peter.
“And if your father does not come, if you never see him again, your faith in the God we have prayed to for so long will be a little broken, will it not, Peter?”
She waited, holding her breath for fear even that sound might come between Peter’s answer and the man in the bushes.
“He will come—some day—Mona.”
“That was what he promised 佛山桑拿哪里好玩you—the day he sent you on alone to Five Fingers, and ran away from you? And you have always told me that next to your faith in God you believed in your father. You have never thought that he lied to you that day in the edge of the forest?”
He stared at her, speechless, and in that moment she faced the willows with a glow of triumph in her eyes.
“Down in the little church at Five Fingers Father Albanel has always taught us not to lie and to be true to our promise,” she said, speaking directly at the willows. “Peter, if your father should break his faith, or I should break mine, it would be terrible. And that is what happened—in my vision—and it has frightened me.” She rested her cheek against his arm so he could not see her face. “I was here—under the tree—when in this vision your father came. He was ragged and tired and 广州佛山桑拿按摩全套 sick—and so hungry he ate carrots I brought for the beavers. He had come just to look at you, Peter, but not to let you know. He said it would make you unhappy; that it was best for you that he should never come into your life again—and he made me promise not to tell you that he was here.
“And I promised. I did—I promised him I would be a traitor to you, after all the years we have waited for him, and prayed for him, and believed in him.”
Her arms crept up to his shoulders. “If I should do a thing like that God would never forgive me, and you—if some day you found out what I had done—would never have faith in me again. Would you?”
She hid her face against his shoulder, her heart beating wildly, her body trembling. For she had seen another movement in the willows and she was afraid that Donald McRae was going away.
“It was only a dream,” Peter
was saying, holding his arms closely about her. “You are not afraid of dreams, Mona?”
And then from behind them came a voice.
“God forgive me my weakness!” it cried. “Peter—Peter——”
Donald McRae stood out in the open at the edge of the willow thicket. He had forgotten the rags and mud that covered him, and was no longer a fugitive with the lines of a hunted man in his face. The present was for a space obliterated—the present with its menace of the law, its exhaustion and its poverty; and he was standing once more in the warm glow of that day of six years ago when he had said good-by to Peter. In those seconds, when Peter stood shocked into deathlike stillness by the sound of the voice behind him, Mona could see Donald McRae with his outreaching arms; but as Peter turned slowly, facing his father, the strain broke in a hot
flood of tears that blinded her vision.
It was the strangest cry she had ever heard from Peter’s lips, and with an answer to that cry in her own choking breast she turned away as the two men came into each other’s arms. She passed out of sight along the edge of the pond, scarcely seeing the path ahead of her, and unconsciously she kept repeating Peter’s name in a whisper, as if—even though she had prayed so long for this hour to come—she had never quite expected its fulfilment.
Under the ash tree, for a few moments Peter was the boy again; the boy of yesterday, of years ago, when the world had held nothing for him but his father; and there was no change in the touch of the hands that had always given him comfort and courage and a love that was almost like a woman’s in its gentleness. Not until Donald McRae held his boy off, with a hand on each shoulder, did something besides the madness of joy at his father’s homecoming begin to thrust itself upon Peter. Then he saw the change—the naked breast, the half-bared arms, the mud and the rags, and the face and hair in which years had stamped their heels unpityingly. He tried to choke back his horror, to keep it out of his face, and to do this he laughed—laughed through the tears and sobbing breath—and pointed to a white birch tree in which a blue jay was screaming.
“The blue jay, dad!” he cried. “Remember that day—behind the log—with the blue jay in the tree-top, and the sapsucker pecking at our elbows, and the violets between my knees——”
The hands on his shoulders were relaxing.
“I’ve never seen a blue jay but what I’ve thought—of you,” said Donald McRae. “And the river—behind us—and how we got away from the police—and the rabbits we roasted—and—and——” The world was twisting and turning round again. He tried to smile, and reached out gropingly for Peter. “The swamp was hot, Peter. And I am tired—tired——”
Peter’s arms caught him as he swayed. His thin face was whiter, and his eyes closed as he still tried to smile at his boy.
Mona, braiding her hair as she waited beyond the willows, heard Peter’s frightened call. When she came running to him he was kneeling beside his father, cooling his face with water from the pond. Donald McRae lay upon the grass. He was scarcely breathing, and under the scrub of beard his emaciated face was like wax. An agony of fear and grief had driven the happiness out of Peter’s face, and he tried to speak as he looked up at Mona.
She saw what had happened as she knelt beside him and took Donald McRae’s head tenderly in her arms. Excitement and his last great effort to fight down his weakness had given a semblance of strength to this shell of a man. But it was gone now, and the full measure of its tragedy struck like a charge of lead to Peter’s heart.
Mona, feeling Peter’s grief, and guessing swiftly the thought that had made his wordless lips white and trembling, said to comfort him: “He hasn’t been this way long, Peter. It was the swamp. He told me the police were after him, and he hid himself there. The heat—bad water——”
She tried futilely to explain away the horror of the thing—to make Peter believe this wreck of a man was not the product of months and years of hardship and suffering, but had reached his condition because of a passing torment that had covered only a few days in the swamp. But she knew she was failing, and she stopped before she had finished, with her head bowed before Peter’s eyes. She heard his tense lips whisper “the police” as if the words choked him as they came out, and then he went down again to the edge of the pool for water. She wet her handkerchief when he returned and held it over Donald’s eyes, and Peter unlaced the worn-out, muddy boots—and suddenly a sound came from him, a little cry of unutterable understanding as his hand found in the trampled grass the half-eaten carrot which his father had dropped.
She had never seen Peter’s face so white, and never before had she seen a look in his blue eyes so unlike the Peter she had grown up with, and played with, and loved.
“He is breathing easier,” she said. “It was the excitement, the shock——”
He nodded, and replied in a dead, even voice: “I know what it was, Ange. I know.” He took one of his father’s hands and held it between his own, looking at the face in Mona’s arms into which life was beginning to return and breath to come more evenly. “It has been a long time, dad. Six years—six years like those three days when the police were hunting us in the forest, and you caught rabbits for me to eat. But it is ended now.”
Mona’s heart throbbed. “We will keep him with us, Peter—always! We will hide him—佛山夜生活桑拿论坛 somewhere—never let him go away again! Oh, it will be easy for us to do that, and Father Albanel—and Simon—will help us——”