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a mighty hot day." In the afternoon he observed that it had been a mighty hot day. He told Mrs. Will Evans, who came to the front door fanning herself with a folded newspaper, that he guessed "Miss Ellie Rose was feelin' the heat some; she looked kind o' peeked."
The high temperature continued throughout the night; it was a very warm night indeed for June. There was a tinge of saffron to the moon's disk, and the air was sultry and oppressive. Miss Ellie Rose did not sleep very well. Twice she got up, and, going to the window, looked down into the garden. The leaves of shrub and bush hung limp and heavy; the flowers drooped on their stalks. The second time she went back to bed, Miss Ellie Rose buried her face in the pillow and wept bitter, scalding tears. To love unasked, unwanted, to surrender her lips, which had known no man's lips save her father's, to the light kiss of a light lover! And he had thought her light.
That which to her had been a sacrament, the seal of a silent confession of mutual love and esteem, the preface that would be followed by an honorable declaration as inevitably as day follows night, had to him been meaningless. He had thought her a light woman, and had treated her as such, doubtless dismissing her from his thoughts as one unworthy of respect. And she had brought it on herself.
"But I did n't know," sobbed poor Miss Ellie Rose in the darkness of her little chintz-hung bedroom. "I did n't mean to be bold and brazen. Oh, I am ashamed-ashamed!" She knew that she ought to have had too much pride to weep, but the hurt had gone deeper than pride. Toward
morning she slept, a fitful, broken slumber that brought no rest with it.
She shrank from meeting her own eyes in the mirror; they had witnessed her shame and her humiliation. She bathed her face and forehead in eau de Cologne, and guiltily pleaded a severe headache to the housekeeper's solicitous inquiries at breakfast.
It was nearly ten o'clock when the postman's whistle sounded from the corner above.
"There's Mitchell a-comin'," announced the housekeeper from the kitchen. "I'll go see if he's got anything for us."
"No! That is, I-I will go, thank you, Hannah," said Miss Ellie Rose. She walked a little giddily out of the front door and down the path to the gate. He was just leaving Mrs. Dixon's, up the block, on the other side of the street. When he saw Miss Ellie Rose, he waved his chubby hand and held up an envelop.
He came along slowly, very slowly. Miss Ellie Rose opened the gate. She went out on the sidewalk. The postman stopped, sorting over the pile of mail in his hand. He turned to the curb. Then he held up the envelop again and wagged it at her. It was a square envelop! Miss Ellie Rose uttered a smothered little cry, and ran toward him, across the street.
Even the postman himself, and he had adored Miss Ellie Rose from her childhood, said that it was unavoidable; the chauffeur could n't possibly have prevented it, and was not in the least to blame.
"The Lord knows how she could have helped seein' the machine," he said. "I stopped to let it pass. One minute there she was, standin' by the curbstone and lookin' straight at it.
And the next there she was, all of a heap in the middle of the street, with her pretty hair all tangled and-God love her!" said Mitchell, the postman, with the tears streaming down his furrowed cheeks. "She 's a-goin' to get well, ain't she, Doc?"
"While there is life there is hope," said the young surgeon, sententiously. He had answered the same question, in the same words half a hundred times in the last twenty-four hours.
"Does she suffer much?"
"Not very much. The injury is internal. We are doing everything possible. She keeps asking about a letter. Do you'
"I brought it," said Mitchell. "I thought maybe I 'd better. She 'd been askin' me about one she expected. Maybe she 'll rest easier after she reads it."
Miss Ellie Rose could not read the letter because of the wide bandage over her eyes, but she could feel the envelop the thick, square envelop with the bold monogram embossed on the flap. She would not let it go out of her hands; she held it tightly hour after hour. She slept with it under her cheek. When she woke in the night it helped her to bear the pain.
"That must be a very precious letter," the nurse told her with kindly raillery. "And all these wonderful roses-O Miss Ellie Rose, you 've been putting something over on us.
Miss Ellie Rose smiled. It was a twisted little smile, and there was just a trifle of wistfulness in it, because he had not come to the hospital; but there was happiness, too.
"If I could only read it!" she thought. "Perhaps he does n't like
to come unless I send for him." She spoke to Sam Banks about it, shyly, diffidently. "Until he knows what my answer is, you know," she said. "If you were just to say to him, Samuel, that Miss Ellie Rose would be pleased to know that he that he had inquired for her. Of course I could not receive him."
The palm-leaf fan that Sam Banks was waving stopped briefly, then went on again.
"Van Deyn is n't home, Ellie Rose," he said. "Left town day before yesterday; business trip somewheres. Most likely that is, there 's no way he could know you 're here. That's why he has n't been to inquire."
"Oh," said Miss Ellie Rose, "I see. But the roses, Samuel, they come every morning. How would he know where to send them if he had n't heard of my accident?"
"The florist knows where you are, does n't he? He'd send any order for your house here, would n't he?"
"Why, yes, of course. How foolish of me!" said Miss Ellie Rose. "You are very kind to be so patient with my stupidity, Samuel."
"Stuff and nonsense!" said Sam Banks.
He spent a great deal of time at the hospital. Other visitors were admitted but seldom. The doctors said that the patient would need all her strength. But Sam Banks did not seem to tire her, and he was a very old and valued friend. Hour after hour he sat in the straight-backed chair beside the bed, one hand spread on his big knee, the other waving the palm-leaf fan back and forth over the small, white face framed in its smoothly plaited dark hair.
"You will tire yourself, Samuel,"
"I'm not fretting, Samuel, really. I-it's only that Chester will be
Miss Ellie Rose would remonstrate gently.
"Stuff and nonsense, Ellie Rose!" expecting an answer to his letter, and he would reply.
He did not talk much; he listened, as he had always listened, and agreed, as he had always agreed.
I do not know where to reach him. It rather distresses me, Samuel."
"Oh, you'll be all right in a few days, Ellie Rose," he repeated. "Now,
"They are pink roses, Samuel?" just you lie back and be comfortable. Miss Ellie Rose asked him.
He looked across the room at the table whereon stood the vases holding the great, fragrant clusters, then down at the broad, white strip of gauze that banded her forehead.
"Yes, Ellie Rose."
I'll try to find out where we can reach Van Deyn with a message. Somebody in town must know where he is.” "You are so kind, Samuel," she said gratefully. "But-but be careful, won't you?
Because, you see,
it's a secret; it must be until I have
"Pale pink, like like those in my given him his formal answer. I should garden?"
"Yes, Ellie Rose."
The letter rustled in her hands. "He knows I ain fond of them. He asked me for one that-that night in my garden. Do you think do you think he will be long away, Samuel? Because," said Miss Ellie Rose, "the doctor tells me that it may be some time before my eyes are sufficiently recovered for me to read, and he he is doubtless waiting to hear from me. He has perhaps given me his address here," again the letter rustled under the caress of her fingers,-"expecting me to communicate with him."
"Van Deyn did n't say how long he 'd be gone, Ellie Rose. It was n't in the paper, either."
She sighed a little wistfully.
"If I could only see!" she said. "He must think it very strange that I do not write to him; very strange indeed."
"Oh, you'll be all right in a few days," Sam Banks said gruffly. "Don't
fret, Ellie Rose." It was only morning that the doctor had told h that Miss Ellie Rose would never see again.
not like to have him think that I had done anything in questionable taste."
She was a little delirious that afternoon, but through it all she kept her hold of the letter, and through it all Sam Banks sat stolidly in the straightbacked chair beside the bed, his hands spread on his knees, his eyes never leaving her face. leaving her face. She was living over again that night in the garden with Chester Van Deyn, and in fancy reading the words that he had written in his letter. It was nearly six o'clock when consciousness returned to her.
"Has Mr. Banks gone?" she asked the nurse.
"No, Miss Ellie Rose; he 's still here."
"Then would you mind if I asked you to leave me alone with him for a few minutes, please?"
When the door had shut behind the nurse, Miss Ellie Rose turned her head on the pillow.
"Samuel," she said, "I am going to ask a very great service of you. I ask it because you are my oldest and most valued friend. There is no
one else to whom I can turn; it would seem like sacrilege. Samuel, will you read my letter aloud to me?"
you. Don't you think we might get married, you and I?' "
"Is it not beautiful?" said Miss Ellie
“I—Ellie Rose, I—” he began, and Rose. "Could any one else possibly stopped.
"There is no one else whose eyes would not profane such a sacred thing, Samuel," said Miss Ellie Rose. "And I-I do not think I can wait any longer to know what it is that-that Chester has to say to me. Will you read it for me, Samuel?" Her lips quivered ever so little; the hand that held the letter groped across the counterpane, and the fingers were trembling.
There was the briefest of brief pauses before Sam Banks spoke.
"Of course I'll read it for you," he said. "And I—I thank you, Ellie Rose."
"Why, for what, Samuel?" she asked wonderingly; but he made no answer. He fumbled the letter a little as he took it from her hand. Although it was quite cool in the room, his forehead was beaded with perspiration. He wiped it off with his handkerchief, straightened his spectacles on his nose, and unfolded the single heavy sheet of notepaper the envelop contained. He read very slowly, with stumbling pauses; his voice was level, monotonous. "Dear Little Lady o' Dreams:
"The other night when we were together in your garden, you gave me a rose to wear. I have kept it ever since. I-'" Sam Banks coughed, and cleared his throat.
have written it?" She stretched out her hand for the letter. "I thank you, Samuel," she said. “You are very, very kind to me."
She tried to raise the paper to her lips; her hand fell back weakly. Sam Banks put his short, stubby fingers under it, and lifted it so that it lay on her breast.
"Thank you, Samuel," said Miss Ellie Rose. "You have always been such a wonderful friend. Does he give any address?"
"It 's there, at the head of the letter, Ellie Rose. I did n't notice just what it was. I'll look in the morning. It's getting dark now, and the light 's bad here. I don't see as well as I used to."
"Poor Samuel!" said Miss Ellie Rose, gently. "To-morrow will do quite well. If it would not be taxing your kindness too much, would you write a little reply for me if I dictated it? Because," said Miss Ellie Rose, "I am afraid the doctor will not let me have these bandages off for several days. And now, Samuel, if you don't mind, I think I should like to sleep for a short while. I am just a little tired. But you have made me very happy, my kind friend," said Miss Ellie Rose, softly; "very happy, Samuel."
Clasped in her two hands, the letter "Yes?" prompted Miss Ellie Rose, rested on her breast. She sighed eagerly. "Yes?" once and smiled.
"I have kept it ever since. It is just like you, so little and sweet. I'm not worthy of you, but' "—he coughed again—" but I love you very much. I love you more than I can possibly tell
Sam Banks bent over the bed. Very gently, very reverently, he touched his lips to her hair.
"O Ellie Rose!" he said, "O Ellie Rose!"
He went softly out of the room, as though he feared to awaken her from sleep; he walked slowly and rather uncertainly, as does a man whose sight is not quite clear. Just outside the hospital he stopped, braced his shoulders. He lifted his hat from his head, bowed, and passed out into the street. A convalescent patient, looking from an upper window, wondered at the salute, for there was no one in sight on either side of the street.
Two blocks from the hospital was the florist's shop. Sam Banks entered. "I'd like to have my bill, please," he said to the man in charge.
"Certainly, Mr. Banks. Let me see eight dozen red and yellow roses, at-oh, good evening, Mr. Van Deyn. Fine weather we 're having."
"Very." Mr. Van Deyn nodded pleasantly to the florist and came to the side of Sam Banks. "I saw you come in, Sam, and followed you," he said. "I wanted to ask after Miss Ellie Rose. Katherine Hendricks told me this afternoon that she had been reported worse."
"Ellie Rose is dead," said Sam Banks. He said it quite calmly, quite evenly. "She died less than half an hour ago."
Why, Sam, it was hardly a week ago that I took her home from Katherine Hendrick's party. We had such a nice chat. I'd never known her very well, but she was a dear little thing. She was telling me how much she liked some verses I had printed once for Easter cards, and a few days ago I sent her a new one just four linesabout a butterfly. I thought maybe she 'd like it. But I don't suppose she ever got it, poor little thing!"
Sam Banks started for the door.
"Yes," he said; "she got it. She Isaid it was beautiful. She told me she was sure no one but you could have ever written it," said Sam Banks. "Good night, Van Deyn." He went out, closing the door behind him.
Van Deyn turned to the florist. "Pretty rough on him." He jerked his thumb after the thick-set figure. "They 'd been friends for years and years. Poor Miss Ellie Rose! Such a quaint, old-fashioned little thing." He moved over to the glass-paneled case and critically inspected its contents. "Send a hundred lavender sweet peas to Mrs. Hendricks, please," he directed, "and two hundred pale pink ones to Miss Elsie Morton. And those white roses-about four dozen, I guess, in a spray; yes. Miss Ellie Rose liked white ones, I think,"
"No! Why, that seems impossible! said young Mr. Van Deyn.