There are times when a woman's love is all motherliness. All at once this man seemed
to Betty like a helpless child. She felt her heart go out to the poor sufferer with a feeling
before unknown. She forgot her pride and her fears and her disappointments. She
remembered only that this strong man lay there at death's door because he had
resented an insult to her. The past with all its bitterness rolled away and was lost, and in
its place welled up a tide of forgiveness strong and sweet and hopeful. Her love, like a
fire that had been choked and smothered, smouldering but never extinct, and which
blazes up with the first breeze, warmed and quickened to life with the touch of her hand
on his forehead.
An hour passed. Betty was now at her ease and happier than she had been for months.
Her patient continued to sleep peacefully and dreamlessly. With a feeling of womanly
curiosity Betty looked around the room. Over the rude mantelpiece were hung a sword,
a brace of pistols, and two pictures. These last interested Betty very much. They were
portraits; one of them was a likeness of a sweet-faced woman who Betty instinctively
knew was his mother. Her eyes lingered tenderly on that face, so like the one lying on
the pillow. The other portrait was of a beautiful girl whose dark, magnetic eyes
challenged Betty. Was this his sister or-- someone else? She could not restrain a
jealous twinge, and she felt annoyed to find herself comparing that face with her own.
She looked no longer at that portrait, but recommenced her survey of the room. Upon
the door hung a broad-brimmed hat with eagle plumes stuck in the band. A pair of
hightopped riding-boots, a saddle, and a bridle lay on the floor in the corner. The table
was covered with Indian pipes, tobacco pouches, spurs, silk stocks, and other articles.
Suddenly Betty felt that some one was watching her. She turned timidly toward the bed
and became much frightened when she encountered the intense gaze from a pair of
steel-blue eyes. She almost fell from the chair; but presently she recollected that Alfred
had been unconscious for days, and that he would not know who was watching by his
"Mother, is that you?" asked Alfred, in a weak, low voice.
"Yes, I am here," answered Betty, remembering the old woman's words about soothing
"But I thought you were ill."
"I was, but I am better now, and it is you who are ill."
"My head hurts so."
"Let me bathe it for you."
"How long have I been home?"