Chapter XVII - Helen's Toast
Judge Briscoe was sitting out under the afternoon sky with his chair tilted back and his feet propped against the steps. His coat was off, and Minnie sat near at hand sewing a button on the garment for him, and she wore that dreamy glaze that comes over women's eyes when they sew for other people.
From the interior of the house rose and fell the murmur of a number of voices engaged in a conversation, which, for a time, seemed to consist of dejected monosyllables; but presently the judge and Minnie heard Helen's voice, clear, soft, and trembling a little with excitement. She talked only two or three minutes, but what she said stirred up a great commotion. All the voices burst forth at once in ejaculations--almost shouts; but presently they were again subdued and still, except for the single soft one, which held forth more quietly, but with a deeper agitation, than any of the others.
"You needn't try to bamboozle me," said the judge in a covert tone to his daughter, and with a glance at the parlor window, whence now issued the rumble of Warren Smith's basso. "I tell you that girl would follow John Harkless to Jericho."
Minnie shook her head mysteriously, and bit a thread with a vague frown.
"Well, why not?" asked the judge crossly.
"Why wouldn't she have him, then?"
"Well, who knows he's asked her yet?"
Minnie screamed derisively at the density of man, "What made him run off that way, the night he was hurt? Why didn't he come back in the house with her?"
"Don't you suppose a woman understands?"
"Meaning that you know more about it than I do, I presume," grunted the old gentleman.
"Yes, father," she replied, smiling benignantly upon him.
"Did she tell you?" he asked abruptly.
"No, no. I guess the truth is that women don't know more than men so much as they see more; they understand more without having to read about it."
"That's the way of it, is it?" he laughed. "Well, it don't make any difference, she'll have him some time."
"No, father; it's only gratitude."
"Gratitude!" The judge snorted scornfully. "Girls don't do as much as she's done for him out of gratitude. Look what she's doing; not only running the 'Herald' for him, but making it a daily, and a good daily at that. First time I saw her I knew right away she was the smartest girl I ever laid eyes on;--I expect she must have got it from her mother. Gratitude! Pooh! Look how she's studied his interests, and watched like a cat for chances for him in everything. Didn't she get him into Eph Watts's company? She talked to Watts and the other fellows, day after day, and drove around their leased land with 'em, and studied it up, and got on the inside, and made him buy. Now, if they strike it--and she's sure they will, and I'm sure she knows when to have faith in a thing--why, they'll sell out to the Standard, and they can all quit work for the rest of their lives if they want to; and Harkless gets as much as any without lifting a finger, all because he had a little money--mighty little, too--laid up in bank and a girl that saw where to put it. She did that for him, didn't she?"
"Don't you see what fun it's been for her?" returned Minnie. "She's been having the best time she ever had; I never knew any one half so happy."
"Yes; she went up and saw him at that party, and she knows he's still thinking about her. I shouldn't be surprised if he asked her then, and that's what makes her so gay."
"Well, she couldn't have said 'yes,' because he went back to his bed the next day, and he's been there most of the time since."
"Pshaw! He wasn't over his injuries, and he was weak and got malaria."
"Well, she couldn't be so happy while he's sick, if she cared very much about him."
"He's not very sick. She's happy because she's working for him, and she knows his illness isn't serious. He'll be a well man when she says the word. He's love-sick, that's what he is; I never saw a man so taken down with it in my life."
"Then it isn't malaria?" Minnie said, with a smile of some superiority.
"You're just like your poor mother," the old gentleman answered, growing rather red. "She never could learn to argue. What I say is that Helen cares about him, whether she says she does or not, whether she acts like it or not--or whether she thinks she does or not," he added irascibly. "Do you know what she's doing for him to-day?"
"Well, when they were talking together at that party, he said something that made her think he was anxious to get away from Plattville--you're not to repeat this, child; she told me, relying on my discretion."
"Do you know why she's got these men to come here to-day to meet her-- Warren Smith and Landis and Homer, and Boswell and young Keating of Amo, and Tom Martin and those two fellows from Gaines County?"
"Something about politics, isn't it?"
"'Something about politics!'" he echoed. "I should say it is! Wait till it's done, and this evening I'll tell you--if you can keep a secret."
Minnie set her work-basket on the steps. "Oh, I guess I can keep a secret," she said. "But it won't make any difference."
"You mean you've said it, and you'll stick to it that it's gratitude till their wedding day."
"She knows he gave her father something to do, and helped him in other ways, when no one else did."
"I know all about that. She reproaches herself for having neglected Fisbee while a stranger took care of him, and saved him from starving--and worse. She's unreasonable about it; she didn't know he was in want till long after. That's just like Fisbee, to tell her, afterwards. He didn't tell her how low he got; but he hinted at it to her, and I guess she understood; I gathered that much from him. Of course she's grateful, but gratefulness don't account for everything."
"Yes it does."
"Well, I never expected to have the last word with a woman."
"Well, you needn't," said Minnie.
"I don't. I never do," he retorted. She did not answer, but hummed a little tune and looked up at the tree-tops.
Warren Smith appeared in the doorway. "Judge," he said, "will you step inside? We need you."
Briscoe nodded and rose at once. As he reached the door, Minnie said in a piercing whisper:
"It's hard to be sure about her, but I'm right; it's gratitude."
"There," he replied, chuckling, "I thought I shouldn't have the last word." Minnie began to sing, and the judge, after standing in the doorway till he was again summoned from within, slowly retired.
Briscoe had persisted in his own explanation of Helen's gaiety; nevertheless he did not question his daughter's assumption that the young lady was enjoying her career in Carlow. She was free as a bird to go and come, and her duties and pleasures ran together in a happy excitement. Her hands were full of work, but she sought and increased new tasks, and performed them also. She came to Carlow as unused to the soil as was Harkless on his arrival, and her educational equipment for the work was far less than his; her experience, nothing. But both were native to the State; and the genius of the American is adaptability, and both were sprung from pioneers whose means of life depended on that quality.
There are, here and there, excrescent individuals who, through stock decadence, or their inability to comprehend republican conditions, are not assimilated by the body of the country; but many of these are imports, while some are exports. Our foreign-born agitators now and then find themselves removed by the police to institutions of routine, while the romantic innocents who set up crests in the face of an unimpressionable democracy are apt to be lured by their own curious ambitions, or those of their women-folk, to spend a great part of their time in or about the villas of Albion, thus paid for its perfidy; and, although the anarchists and the bubble-hunters make a noise, it is enormously out of proportion to their number, which is relatively very small, and neither the imported nor the exported article can be taken as characteristic of our country. For the American is one who soon fits any place, or into any shaped hole in America, where you can set him down. It may be that without going so far as to suggest the halls of the great and good and rich, one might mention a number of houses of entertainment for man and beast in this country, in which Mr. Martin of the Plattville Dry Goods Emporium would find himself little at ease. But even in the extreme case, if Mr. Martin were given his choice of being burned to death, or drowned, or of spending a month at the most stupendously embellished tavern located in our possessions, and supposing him to have chosen the third alternate, it is probable that he would have grown almost accustomed to his surroundings before he died; and if he survived the month, we may even fancy him really enjoying moments of conversation with the night-clerks.
As Mr. Parker observed, Miss Sherwood did not do the Grand Duchess, giving the Carlow tenants a treat. She felt no duchess symptoms within herself, and though, of course, she had various manners tucked away to wear as one suits garments to occasions--and it was a Rouen "party-gown" wherewith she chose to abash poor John Harkless at their meeting--here in Carlow, she was a woman of affairs, lively, shrewd, engaging, capable; she was herself (at least she was that side of herself). And it should be explained that Harkless had based his calumny regarding the tariff on a paragraph or two that crept inadvertently into an otherwise statesmanlike article, and that "H. Fisbee" understood the tariff as well as any woman who ever lived. But the tariff inspired no more articles from that pen.
Rodney McCune had lifted his head, and those who had followed his stricken enemy felt that the cause was lost, without the leader. The old ring that the "Herald" had crushed was a ring once more, and the heelers had rallied--"the boys were in line again." The work had been done quietly, and Halloway was already beaten, and beaten badly. John Harkless lay sick, and Rodney McCune would sit in Congress, for the nomination meant election. But one day the Harkless forces, demoralized, broken, almost hopeless, woke up to find that they had a leader. Many of them were content with the belief that this was a young lawyer named Keating, who had risen up in Amo; but Mr. Keating himself had a different impression.
Helen was a little nervous, and very much excited, over the political conference at Judge Briscoe's. She planned it with careful diplomacy, and arranged the details with a fine sense of the dramatic. There was a suggestion she desired to have made in this meeting, which she wished should emanate from the Amo and Gaines County people, instead of proceeding from Carlow--for she thought it better to make the outsiders believe her idea an inspiration of their own--so she made a little comedy and provided for Briscoe's entrance at an effective moment. The judge was a substantial influence, strong in the councils of his party when he chose to be; and though of late years he had contented himself with voting at the polls, every one knew what weight he carried when he saw fit to bestir himself.
When he entered the parlor, he found the politicians in a state of subdued excitement. Helen sat by the window, blushing, and talking eagerly to old Fisbee. One of the gentlemen from Gaines County was walking about the room exclaiming, "A glorious conception! A glorious conception!" addressing the bric-a-brac, apparently. (He thought the conception his own.) Mr. Martin was tugging at his beard and whispering to Landis and Homer, and the two Amo men were consulting in a corner, but as the judge came in, one of them turned and said loudly, "That's the man."
"What man am I, Keating?" asked Briscoe, cheerily.
"We better explain, I guess," answered the other; and turning to his compatriot: "You tell him, Boswell."
"Well--it's this way--" said Boswell, and came at once to an awkward pause, turning aside sheepishly and unable to proceed.
"So that's the way of it, is it?" said the old gentleman.
Helen laughed cheerfully, and looked about her with a courageous and encouraging eye. "It is embarrassing," she said. "Judge Briscoe, we are contemplating 'a piece of the blackest treachery and chicanery.' We are going to give Mr. Halloway the--the go-by!" The embarrassment fell away, and everybody began to talk at once.
"Hold on a minute," said the judge; "let's get at it straight. What do you want with me?"
"I'll tell you," volunteered Keating. "You see, the boys are getting in line again for this convention. They are the old file that used to rule the roost before the 'Herald' got too strong for them, and they rely on Mr. Harkless's being sick to beat Kedge Halloway with that Gaines County man, McCune. Now, none of us here want Rod McCune I guess. We had trouble enough once with him and his heelers, and now that Mr. Harkless is down, they've taken advantage of it to raise a revolution: Rod McCune for Congress! He's a dirty-hearted swindler--I hope Miss Sherwood will pardon the strong expression--and everybody thought the 'Herald' had driven him out of politics, though it never told how it did it; but he's up on top again. Now, the question is to beat him. We hold the committees, but the boys have been fighting the committees--call 'em the 'Harkless Ring,' and never understood that the 'Herald' would have turned us down in a second if it thought we weren't straight. Well, we saw a week ago that Kedge Halloway was going to lose to McCune; we figured it out pretty exactly, and there ain't a ray of hope for Kedge. We wrote to Mr. Harkless about it, and asked him to come down--if he'd been on the ground last Monday and had begun to work, I don't say but what his personal influence might have saved Halloway--but a friend of his, where he's staying, answered the letter: said Mr. Harkless was down with a relapse and was very fretful; and he'd taken the liberty of reading the letter and temporarily suppressing it under doctor's orders; they were afraid he'd come, sick as he was, from a sense of duty, and asked us to withdraw the letter, and referred us to Mr. Harkless's representative on the 'Herald.' So we applied here to Miss Sherwood, and that's why we had this meeting. Now, Halloway is honest--everybody knows that--and I don't say but what he's been the best available material Mr. Harkless had to send to Washington; but he ain't any too bright----"
Mr. Martin interrupted the speaker. "I reckon, maybe, you never heard that lecture of his on the Past, Present, and Future'?"
"Besides that," Keating continued, "Halloway has had it long enough, and he's got enough glory out of it, and, except for getting beat by Rod McCune, I believe he'd almost as soon give it up. Well, we discussed all this and that, and couldn't come to any conclusion. We didn't want to keep on with a losing fight if there was any way to put up a winner, though of course we all recognized that Mr. Harkless would want us to support Kedge to the death, and that's what he'd do if he was on the ground. But Miss Sherwood mentioned that she'd had one note since his last illness began, and he'd entrusted her and her associates on the paper with the entire policy, and she would take the responsibility for anything we determined on. Mr. Smith said the only thing to do was to give up Halloway and get a man that could beat McCune; Kedge would recognize it himself, that that was the only thing to do, and he could retire gracefully. Miss Sherwood said she was still more or less a stranger, and asked what man we could find who was strong enough to do it by popularity alone and who was also a man we wanted; somebody that had worked a good deal, but had never had any office. It was to such a man she could promise the 'Herald's' support, as for a time the paper was being operated almost independently, it might be said, of Mr. Harkless. Well, I expect it came to all of us at the same time, but it was Mr. Bence here that said it first."
Mr. Bence was the gentleman who had walked about saying "A glorious conception," and he now thrust one hand into his breast and extended the other in a wide gesture, and looked as impressive as a very young man with white eyebrows can look.
"The name of Harkless," he said abruptly, "the name of Harkless will sweep the convention like the fire of a Western prairie; the name of Harkless will thunder over their astonished heads and strike a peal of joy bells in every home in the district; it will re-echo in the corridors of posterity and teem with prosperity like a mighty river. The name of Harkless will reverberate in that convention hall, and they shall sit ashamed."
"Harkless!" exclaimed the judge. "Why didn't some one think of that long ago?"
"Then you approve?" asked Keating.
"Yes, I think I do!"
The Amo man shook hands with him. "We'll swim out," he exclaimed. "It will be the same everywhere. A lot of the old crowd themselves will be swept along with us when we make our nomination. People feel that that CrossRoads business ought never to have been allowed to happen, and they'd like to make it up to him some way. There are just two difficulties, Halloway and Mr. Harkless himself. It's a sure thing that he wouldn't come out against Kedge and that he'd refuse to let his name be used against him. Therefore, we've got to keep it quiet from him; the whole thing has to be worked quietly. The McCune folks were quiet until they thought they were sure; we've got to be quieter still. Well, we've made out a plan."
"And a plan that will operate," added Mr. Bence. "For the name of Harkless shall--" Mr. Keating interrupted him energetically:
"We explain it to all the Halloway delegates, you see, and to all the shaky McCune people, and interview all the undecided ones. The McCune crowd may see them afterwards, but they can't fix men in this district against John Harkless. All we've got to do is to pass the word. It's all kept quiet, you understand. We go into the convention, and the names of Halloway and McCune are placed before it. Then will come a speech naming Harkless--and you want to stuff your ears with cotton! On the first ballot Harkless gets the scattering vote that was going to nominate McCune if we'd let things run, and Halloway is given every vote he'd have got if he'd run against McCune alone; it's as a compliment; it will help him see how things were, afterwards; and on the second ballot his vote goes to Harkless. There won't be any hitch if we get down to work right off; it's a mighty short campaign, but we've got big chances. Of course, it can't be helped that Halloway has to be kept in the dark; he won't spend any money, anyway."
"It looks a little underhanded at first glance," said Warren Smith; "but, as Miss Sherwood said, you've got to be a little underhanded sometimes, especially when you're dealing with as scrupulous a man as John Harkless. But it's a perfectly honest deal, and it will be all right with him when he finds it's all over and he's nominated."
"It's a plain case," added Boswell. "We want him, and we've got to have him."
"There's one danger," Mr. Keating continued. "Kedge Halloway is honest, but I believe he's selfish enough to disturb his best friend's deathbed for his own ends, and it's not unlikely that he will get nervous towards the last and be telegraphing Harkless to have himself carried on a cot to the convention to save him. That wouldn't do at all, of course, and Miss Sherwood thinks maybe there'd be less danger if we set the convention a little ahead of the day appointed. It's dangerous, because it shortens our time; but we can fix it for three days before the day we'd settled on, and that will bring it to September 7th. What we want of you, judge, is to go to the convention as a delegate, and make the nominating speech for Mr. Harkless. Will you do it?"
"Do it?" cried the old man, and he struck the table a resounding blow with his big fist. "Do it? I'd walk from here to Rouen and back again to do it!"
They were all on their feet at this, and they pressed forward to shake Briscoe's hand, congratulating him and each other as though they were already victorious. Mr. Martin bent over Helen and asked her if she minded shaking hands with a man who had voted for Shem at the first election in the Ark.
"I thought I'd rightly ort to thank you for finishin' off Kedge Halloway," he added. "I made up my mind I'd never vote for him again, the night he killed that intellectual insect of his."
"Intellectual insect, Mr. Martin?" she asked, puzzled.
He sighed. "The recollection never quits ha'ntin' me. I reckon I haven't had a restful night since June. Maybe you don't remember his lecture."
"Oh, but I do," she laughed; "and I remember the story of the fly, vividly."
"I never was jest what you might exactly call gushin' over Kedge," Mr. Martin drawled. "He doesn't strike me as havin' many ideas, precisely--he had kind of a symptom of one once, that he caught from Harkless, but it didn't take; it sloshed around in his mind and never really come out on him. I always thought his brain was sort of syrupy. Harkless thought there was fruit in it, and I reckon there is; but some way it never seems to jell."
"Go on," said Helen gayly. "I want to hear him abused. It helps me to feel less mean about the way we are treating him."
"Yes; I'm slickin' over my conscience, too. I feel awnrier about it because he done me a good turn once, in the Hayes and Wheeler campaign. I went to a meetin' to hear him speak, and he got sick and couldn't."
Warren Smith addressed the company. "Well, is this all for the present?" he asked. "Is everything settled?"
"Wait a minute," said Keating. "I'd like to hear from the 'Herald' about its policy, if Miss Sherwood will tell us."
"Yes, indeed," she answered. "It will be very simple. Don't you think there is only one course to pursue? We will advocate no one very energetically, but we will print as much of the truth about Mr. McCune as we can, with delicacy and honor, in this case, but, as I understand it, the work is almost all to be done amongst the delegates. We shall not mention our plan at all--but--but, when the convention is over, and he is nominated, we will get out an extra; and I am so confident of your success that I'll tell you now that the extra will be ready the night before the convention. We will contrive that Mr. Harkless shall not receive his copy of the paper containing the notice of the change of date, and I think the chance of his seeing it in any Rouen paper may be avoided. That is all, I think."
"Thank you," said Keating. "That is certainly the course to follow." Every one nodded, or acquiesced in words; and Keating and Bence came over to Helen and engaged her in conversation. The others began to look about for their hats, vaguely preparing to leave.
"Wait a minute," said the judge. "There's no train due just now." And Minnie appeared in the doorway with a big pitcher of crab-apple cider, rich and amber-hued, sparkling, cold, and redolent of the sweet-smelling orchard where it was born. Behind Miss Briscoe came Mildy Upton with glasses and a fat, shaking, four-storied jelly-cake on a second tray. The judge passed his cigars around, and the gentlemen took them blithely, then hesitatingly held them in their fingers and glanced at the ladies, uncertain of permission.
"Let me get you some matches," Helen said, quickly, and found a box on the table and handed it to Keating. Every one sat beaming, and fragrant veils of smoke soon draped the room.
"Why do you call her 'Miss Sherwood'?" Boswell whispered in Keating's ear.
"That's her name."
"Ain't she the daughter of that old fellow over there by the window? Ain't her name Fisbee?"
"No; she's his daughter, but her legal name's Sherwood; she's an adop----"
"Great Scott! I know all about that. I'd like to know if there's a man, woman, or child in this part of the country that doesn't. I guess it won't be Fisbee or Sherwood either very long. She can easy get a new name, that lady! And if she took a fancy to Boswell, why, I'm a bach----"
"I expect she won't take a fancy to Boswell very early," said Keating. "They say it will be Harkless."
"Go 'way," returned Mr. Boswell. "What do you want to say that for? Can't you bear for anybody to be happy a minute or two, now and then?"
Warren Smith approached Helen and inquired if it would be asking too much if they petitioned her for some music; so she went to the piano, and sang some darky songs for them, with a quaint suggestion of the dialect--two or three old-fashioned negro melodies of Foster's, followed by some rollicking modern imitations with the movement and spirit of a tinshop falling down a flight of stairs. Her audience listened in delight from the first; but the latter songs quite overcame them with pleasure and admiration, and before she finished, every head in the room was jogging from side to side, and forward and back, in time to the music, while every foot shuffled the measures on the carpet.
When the gentlemen from out of town discovered that it was time to leave if they meant to catch their train, Helen called to them to wait, and they gathered about her.
"Just one second," she said, and she poured all the glasses full to the brim; then, standing in the centre of the circle they made around her, she said:
"Before you go, shan't we pledge each other to our success in this good, home-grown Indiana cider, that leaves our heads clear and our arms strong? If you will--then--" She began to blush furiously and her voice trembled, but she lifted the glass high over her head and cried bravely, "Here's to 'Our Candidate'!"
The big men, towering over her, threw back their heads and quaffed the gentle liquor to the last drop. Then they sent up the first shout of the campaign, and cheered John Harkless till the rafters rang.
"My friends," said Mr. Keating, as he and Boswell and the men from Gaines drove away in Judd Bennett's omnibus, "my friends, here is where I begin the warmest hustling I ever did. I want Harkless, everybody wants him----"
"It is a glorious idea," said Mr. Bence. "The name of Harkless----"
Keating drowned the oratory. "But that isn't all. That little girl wants him to go to Congress, and that settles it. He goes."
That evening Minnie and her father were strolling up and down the front walk together, between the flowered borders.
"Do you give up?" asked the judge.
"Give up what? No!" returned his daughter.
"She hasn't told you?"
"Not yet; she and Mr. Fisbee left for the office right after those men went."
"Haven't you discovered what the 'something about politics' she's doing for him is? Did you understand what she meant by 'Our Candidate'?"
"Did you see her blush when she proposed that toast?"
"Yes. So would anybody--with all those men, and their eyes hanging out on their cheeks!"
"Pooh! She got up the whole show. Do you know why?"
"I only know it's politics."
"Politics!" He glanced over his shoulder, and then, leaning toward her, he said, in a low tone: "I'll tell you in confidence, Minnie; she's sending him to Congress!"
"Ah!" she cried triumphantly. "If she loved him she wouldn't do that, would she?"
"Minnie!" Briscoe turned upon her sternly. "I don't want to hear any more talk like that. It's the way with some papers to jibe at our great institutions, and you've been reading them; that's the trouble with you. The only criticism any one has any business making against Congress is that it's too good for some of the men we send there. Congress is our great virtue, understand; the congressmen are our fault."
"I didn't mean anything like that," protested the girl. "I haven't been reading any papers except the 'Herald.' I meant why should she send him away if she cared about him?"
"She'll go with him."
"They couldn't both go. What would become of the 'Herald'?"
"They'd fix that easy enough; there are plenty of smart young fellows in Rouen they could get to run it while they are in Washington."
"Mr. Harkless is sure to be elected, is he?"
"He is, if he's nominated."
"Can't he get the nomination?"
"Get it! Nobody ever happened to think of him for it till it came into her head; and the only thing I look to see standing in the way of it is Harkless himself; but I expect we can leave it to her to manage, and I guess she will. She's got more diplomacy than Blaine. Kedge Halloway is up the spout all right, but they want to keep it quiet; that's why she had them come here instead of the office."
"She wouldn't marry him a minute sooner because he went to Congress," said Minnie thoughtfully.
"You're giving up," he exclaimed. "You know I'm right."
"Wait and see. It might--No, you're wrong as wrong can be! I wish you weren't. Don't you see? You're blind. She couldn't do all these things for him if she loved him. That's the very proof itself. I suppose you-- well, you can't understand."
"I'll tell you one thing," he returned. "If she doesn't, the rest of it won't amount to a rip with John Harkless."
"Yes, it will. Nobody could help liking to find himself as big a man as he'll be when he comes back here. Besides, don't you see, it's her way of making it up to him for not liking him as much as he wants. You give up, don't you?"
"No," he cried, with feeble violence, "I don't. She'll find out some things about herself when she sees him again."
Minnie shook her head.
There was a sound of wheels; the buckboard drew up at the gate, and Helen, returning from her evening's labor, jumped out lightly, and ran around to pat the horses' heads. "Thank you so much, Mr. Willetts," she said to the driver. "I know you will handle the two delegates you are to look after as well as you do the judge's team; and you ought to, you know, because the delegates are men. You dears!" She stroked the sleek necks of the colts and handed them bunches of grass.
Briscoe came out, and let the friendly animals nose his shoulder as he looked gravely down on the piquant face beside him in the dusk. "Young lady," he said, "go East. Wait till we get on to Washington, and sit in the gallery, and see John Harkless rise up in his place, and hear the Speaker say: 'The Gentleman from Indiana!' I know the chills would go up and down my spine, and I guess you'd feel pretty well paid for your day's work. I guess we all would."
"Aren't you tired, Helen?" asked Minnie, coming to her in the darkness and clasping her waist.
"Tired? No; I'm happy. Did you ever see the stars so bright?"