In the Cool of the Day
ENID looked guiltily up from the bed of violets she was resetting, as her sister’s tall young figure came down the path. Philippa came quickly, like all approaching dooms, and Enid noted that she was hatted, gloved, and carrying a trim little bag indicative of business; the very energy of her step made Enid sigh. Cool and fresh in her immaculate linen suit, Philippa bore down upon her. Then she spoke.
“It is half-past three, Enid; the meeting is at four.”
“ The — meeting ? ” repeated Enid vaguely, pushing back her garden hat with one earth-stained hand, the better to survey her sister.
“ The meeting,” reiterated Philippa with some emphasis, “ to discuss the tenement question and the new factory bill; surely you have n’t forgotten.”
A deep flush covered Enid’s face; her glance at her sister was mutely apologetic.
“ I — I’m afraid I had.”
Philippa consulted a businesslike watch at her girdle.
“I can wait just ten minutes while you dress; if we take the tram we can just make it.”
Enid cast a helpless glance from the violets on the ground to her sister.
“Would it matter very much if I did n’t ? These will all die if I leave them now, — and I’m tired.”
Philippa’s silent glance was eloquent.
“No, — I daresay not,” she said, turning abruptly away.
“I ’m so sorry, Phil! ” — Enid called after her; but Philippa did not reply; her straight figure, whose very back expressed condemnation, with its air of being driven by compressed energy, disappeared behind the oleanders, and presently the gate clicked.
Enid’s head, on its slender neck, drooped like one of her own flowers as she resolutely bent again over the violets, separating roots, planting, and delicately disentangling leaves, with a touch which caressed. When the plants were all in the ground, she made several trips with a watering-pot, and last of all tidily cleaned up the litter of earth, put the gardening tools into the basket, drew off her gloves, and then stood up and looked about her, flushed but momentarily content. The garden, vast in its cool suggestion of fragrance and soft silence, was all about her, shutting out the glare of dusty road beyond. One comer was all white and green, a stretch of shade restful to the eye; its shadowy spaces, retreating delicately, hinted (what was not the case) a background of acres losing themselves in final forests; but toward the road, visible through the fostering and shielding shrubs, were masses of color and bloom. That was for the sake of the passers-by.
Enid went toward the seat in the green corner and sat down. Her eyes flew like birds from one tall tree to another, and hovered like butterflies on every blossoming shrub, embracing even the tiniest flower beneath; there was not a leaf or bud which was stranger to her. The summer charm was on the garden, and six months ago she would have been happy in it. But now —
“Oh, how tired I am! ” thought Enid, closing her eyes a moment to hold back the tears.
She was thankful Philippa was not there to tell her it was the gardening; but the gardening — it was a guilty thought to have — had never tired her before Philippa came home.
Dear Philippa! — so brave, so strong and unselfish, putting all her beautiful youth into social service; she had been so glad to have her come home. Enid opened her eyes and looked again at the tall trees and green depths about her.
“And at this hour,” she thought, “little children are working in stifling factories! Philippa is right; oh, I must be a beast! ”
Her lips quivered a little; the sting of Philippa’s contempt was never easy to bear, even when she vaguely reacted against it with an undefined sense of injustice; but to-day her conscience was with Philippa. And yet she had imagined Philippa was going to enjoy the garden; she had made it partly for her and partly from an inward necessity. All those years while their father was fighting consumption in the arid little western town of exile, rich only in climate and futures, and Philippa was away at college and working in settlements, she herself would have withered like the desert about her, but for the garden. She had planted the eucalyptus first, — for swift shade, — and all the rest had followed year by year. Philippa had exclaimed at its beauty when she first came home; it was not until she discovered that it did not grow of itself, a fact which appeared not to have occurred to Philippa, that she began to disapprove. Now she had turned it all into a reproach. From the first days when she encountered Enid coming in from the garden early, or watering it in the cool of the day, she had seemed surprised.
“Have you any idea how much time you spend over that garden, Enid?” she had asked, in the very first week of her return.
And Enid had been even then guiltily aware, in sudden self-examination, that she was spending more time than ever since Philippa came back; that she was forming a habit of using it as a refuge, slipping away to it after breakfasts and lunches, or when Philippa’s fellow workers came up to discuss with her various social problems. For the town with a climate had grown as such towns do: already it had a “tenement question” and factory troubles; already the climate itself had been “cornered” away from a large section of the very people it had brought there. Philippa, her generous blood still boiling with city wrongs, had come home steeped in theories and filled with facts; to let these out was in great measure a matter of self-preservation, and she did let them out — on Enid.
From the sick faintness bred of vivisection at breakfast, through the long-drawn horror of tenement industries with their attendant diseases, served like entrées at lunch, to the final turn of the screw — criminal statistics — during a dinner which faded on her palate like dried leaves, Enid was aware of herself as serving constantly, like a frail and ineffective vessel, for Philippa’s overflow of race-tenderness. Philippa’s own purpose however was deeper; she always hoped to rouse her sister to an eventual sense of human suffering and race-duty which would not leave her content with merely signing cheques; for which method of meeting moral demands upon her Enid was developing a deplorable facility.
Philippa could not follow a mental process by virtue of which some peculiarly harrowing carving of the living hound should eventuate in more white oleanders; or a tenement disease of superior energy (precious to Philippa as a fine new blade to knight’s hand) result in an extra two-hours watering of the parched earth; or the anguished shapes of little children shut out from sun and flower lead to a multiplication of bright verbena and petunia beds near the front hedge. That her sister’s tenderness to the vegetable was an expression of her suffering for the animal, or that when she stood lifting in patient, tired arms the heavy hose, hours together, she was really pouring out for all the world; and that the passionate heaping of color on color in royal masses was really her atonement to that defrauded world — these were conceptions for which Philippa had neither understanding nor patience, for they were not racial, but individual. She sometimes wondered if Enid really had sensibilities ; and of late Enid had often questioned it herself. She was conscious of a growing torpidity of emotion, and wondered dully in her turn why she had been so much more in sympathy with Philippa’s work before she had heard so much about it.
“I suppose — I must be a person of very shallow sympathies,” she thought, and did not particularly mind thinking so.
It filled Philippa with a weary and impatient scorn to find Enid filling the hands of children over the fence with bright flowers, or dealing out little bags of seeds or cuttings. So the world had always stood, doling out to the worker.
“Why not ask them in?” She spoke with bitter significance.
“ Certainly,” acquiesced Enid, “ if they’ll care to come.”
Philippa had followed this up by a suggestion that they might try to do some good with the garden, and proposed inviting the Working Girls’ Club to walk therein on Sundays.
Four came the first Sunday, two the second. It struck Enid as faintly strange that she should know the names and families and histories of the girls who came, as she knew those of most of the people, old and young, who passed before her garden fence, — she had handed flowers to them over it so often, — but that Philippa knew none of them. To her they were the Girls’ Club. On the third Sunday no one came. Philippa made no comment at first, but Enid knew that now her garden stood condemned in her sister’s eyes as not being even “a public want.”
“It is because it is yours, not theirs,” said Philippa abruptly at last. “If it could be a public park —”
“Their first act would be to cut down every tree in it,” protested Enid. “You know what their idea of a park is. You’ve seen it; a graveled rectangle with seats, four palms, and an aloe.”
“Then,” said Philippa uncompromisingly, “since nobody cares for trees but you, all this — ” she swept her hand about — “is just for your own benefit. How you can think it right—” She broke off, checking a rising indignation; she must be patient — even with Enid.
“I think they do like it a little, Phil; otherwise they would n’t stop to look over so much, — every day.”
“Lazarus and Dives,” said Philippa dryly. “Oh, I know your idea of social service, Enid, — flowers to the hospital, — and no matter how the people came there; flowers in the tenement-windows — and no matter about the wretched rooms behind them.”
Enid continued to look at her sister, with a lip that quivered slightly.
“Does n’t anything that’s just beautiful mean anything to you, Phil ?”
“Of course it does,” returned Philippa impatiently. “It means so much that I want every one to have it; it is n’t beautiful to me if they can’t. This is beautiful, I suppose,” — again she swept a hasty hand about, — “but I can’t see its beauty, Enid, while I know that women and children — little children—are stifling in tenements and shut up in mines and factories.”
A curious look came into Enid’s eyes.
“ I see,” she said briefly, “ to you it’s just a vice, like drink.”
In spite of herself Philippa smiled; then she frowned.
“ Don’t be absurd, Enid; but yes, something like that, — a self-indulgence.”
And then Enid had made a last subtle appeal.
“I thought, dear, you would enjoy it so much, and like to have it pretty — when your friend comes; I’ve been coaxing it all I knew.”
“I should like to have the town pretty,” replied Philippa, without the faintest change in the rich color of her cheek, “and the hospital, — and the tenements. Those are the things he will care for, — not how you and I live. He feels as I do about these things. Enid, don’t you feel about them at all, — not at all?”
“Yes, I feel about them,” said Enid. She said no more, and presently, pushing back her chair, wandered off into the garden absently, followed by Philippa’s despairing glance.
Since then it had been worse and worse; she could not so much as sprinkle a rose-bush without the guilty consciousness of Phil’s condemning eye, and it was in stealth and in secrecy, as she might have stolen forth to a dram-shop, that she stole forth when Philippa’s back was turned, to note whether the “Gloire de Lyon ” had blossomed, and whether the “La France” still held up its head. As for weeding and pruning, they had become criminal acts to be accomplished furtively, and all traces of the crime well hidden, in Philippa’s absences. But she had honestly not meant to forget the meeting to-day; she had been conscientiously trying to live up to Philippa of late.
This afternoon, almost for the first time, she suddenly reflected upon the advantages that community of feeling between Philippa and Philippa’s doctor (so she coolly assigned him) might have for her; it would let her, naturally, out of a good many meetings and gatherings to which she had dragged leaden feet heretofore. The two of course would want to be together, the most racially-minded of lovers must still cling to so much individual thread, — and without scruple Enid assigned them to that class. Why else should the doctor be coming to so obscure and remote a place ? True, there was the pretext of the new tuberculosis sanatorium and hospital, but that could so easily be read “Philippa” by any one who knew how she had studied in his classes and worked by his side in the city plague-spots. Besides, Philippa was made for any doctor to fall in love with, — handsome, young, generous Philippa, with such excellent traits to transmit; with none but excellent traits, even if she should perform the unscientific feat of transmitting acquired ones. Enid smiled to think how far rather would Philippa part with every acquirement than be guilty of such lèse-science. Poor dear Phil! How much she had had to bear from her Enid! Enid stopped smiling to sigh again at memory of all those meetings she had dragged reluctant feet to, and then dragged home after, — to steal lightly out for a surreptitious refreshment of both the flowers and herself, only to be met on her shamefaced return to the house by Philippa’s invariable —
“Enid! — dragging that hose about when you said you were so tired! Do sit down and rest; and just listen to this, will you ? ” — When would follow a whole batch of new, opportunely mail-brought statistics or pamphleted horrors, successfully destroying the last vestige of one’s appetite for dinner. For Philippa’s zeal never abated. Enid wondered it should never occur even to Philippa that a change of conversational diet would occasionally be a refreshment. She herself would not have expected to talk garden all the time, even if Philippa had been in sympathy with the subject. The garden was a thing to dream about and love, not to be cheapened by over-much talk. Yes, decidedly, Philippa’s doctor, due now any time, could not come too soon.
So thinking, she looked up and saw him coming. At least, a stranger, a male stranger, a distinguished-looking stranger, albeit male; it could be only Philippa’s doctor. Enid rose hastily. This came of loafing in gardens in Philippa’s absence !
The visitor glanced at her, and though cursory, Enid had the sensation of a rapid and complete process, surgically thorough ; then he took off his hat and smiled.
“You are — you must be Philippa’s sister. I am Doctor Scott. I arrived last night and have just come from the hospital.”
Enid smiled faintly. Of course: first the hospital and afterwards Philippa; Philippa would like that thoroughly.
Meanwhile the doctor, his hat off, was exclaiming as he looked appreciatively about him, “ What a miracle of a place! ” He threw back his head to let his eye climb to the top of the tallest of the tall eucalypti; and Enid, seizing the chance, looked at him and found him pleasant to look at. He had the distinction of his profession — that profession which, above all others,produces distinguished men; he was young enough, but not, thought Enid fastidiously, tiresomely, and too young; he had an air of compact strength like Philippa, of the same race of strenuous souls. All at once it occurred to Enid that Philippa’s reward was going to be great. Unawares, she was still looking at him intently when the doctor, exclaiming again, “What a miracle of a place!” turned and encountered the look. He too looked suddenly and keenly for the second time.
“Do you know — we have n’t shaken hands yet,” he said coolly, holding out his own with so definite a command that Enid laid hers reluctantly for an instant upon it.
“H-m,” was the doctor’s mental comment, “thought as much.”
“Philippa,” said Enid, hastily withdrawing her fingers, “will be here very soon. Shall we go into the house? ”
“Go into a house — when we can stay in a garden! ” The doctor motioned her, still with that peremptoriness, to the seat, and threw himself down on the ground facing her. “Grass! Turf !” he exclaimed, fingering it delightedly. “Think of feeling grass under one, after all those miles of prairie! How ever have you done it? I’d heard of it already, you know, — this garden, — but I did n’t believe it.” He smiled.
Oh, no doubt he had heard, thought Enid bitterly.
“The man who drove me up was the first; he admitted the road was a trifle dusty, but said that to see what could be done with water I’d orter see Miss Enid’s garden.”
“Joe Clancy — he’s an old friend.” Enid smiled faintly.
“And at the hospital they told me with pride that the grounds — now a promising sand-heap — would shortly be a smiling oasis; and they mentioned yours for proof. Then on the way here I was told I could n’t miss the house — ‘the one with the garden,’ — not a garden, but the garden. That makes three times.” He laughed like a boy. “How ever did you do it ? ”
“Oh, it was easy,” replied Enid. “I began with the eucalyptus. A little shade, and the rest was easy.”
“ You planted those great trees? ” the doctor’s tone was skeptical, and he looked critically at the slender hands, of which Enid held up a too transparent finger.
“They were so big when I did it,” she said almost gayly; then dropping her hand, added with a shudder, “The place was hideous; I had to do something.”
“I see;” and he looked as if he really did. “How does Philippa stand it, — she who throve in slums ? ”
“Oh, there are slums here too; and Philippa does n’t mind how ugly anything is, so long as there are miserable people to help.” (She spoke almost as though these were a boon to Philippa, especially provided for that purpose.) “Philippa is so strong and brave and unselfish,” concluded Philippa’s sister in a curiously dreary voice.
“I see,” — and again he looked as if he did. “What a wonderful effect those massed azaleas make against all that green. I might as well warn you right now, Miss Enid, — unless turned out, I shall become a nuisance; I shall haunt this place. But I’ll offer bribes — I ’ll hew and dig — I ’ll help irrigate the oasis.”
“ You!” exclaimed Enid, with disproportionate amaze. “Oh, no. Ah, here is Philippa! ”
Philippa, dusty, warm, tired, a reproach to all idlers in gardens, was in fact advancing upon them, and the doctor, springing up, went forward with both hands out. Enid did her best delicately not to see the meeting hands or study the faces, as she turned unobviously to gather up the basket and gloves, though for the first time she was a prey to a deep curiosity concerning Philippa’s real feeling. When they came toward her, her smiling flight was already prepared.
“Caught red-handed, Phil, as you see! Now you ’ve come, I ’ll go and shed this dust.”
Philippa, even now, looked her usual reproach.
“ Enid! She was too tired to go to a meeting,” she appealed to the doctor. “This is how she rests, digging and dragging hoses in this heat! ”
Enid laughed as she strolled away, but in her heart she was more irritated than she had ever been. Now Philippa was going to begin! As she languidly brushed her hair and donned a fresh gown, she could not help now and then glancing out of her window at the two heads so near together in the far end of the garden. For once, thought Enid wistfully, Philippa might forgive her the garden. Happy Philippa!
Meanwhile the doctor, studying with pleasure the fresh human document before him (handsomer than ever, healthy, happy, healthily tired, perhaps a trifle too intense, but — Philippa was all right!) was asking, —
“Is your sister always so frail? ”
“Oh, Enid is n’t exactly frail,” replied Philippa. “She’s never ill; it’s just that she wears herself out over this garden; it’s a mania. I wish you could influence her.”
“I don’t remember whether she is interested in your line of work ? ” — The doctor’s tone was casual.
Philippa smiled and sighed.
“Enid is a dear, — full of sympathy, as sweet and good as it is possible to be; if she could make a paradise and fill it full of angels, she would; but her idea of social service is giving flowers to people. She would like to make gardens for everybody, quite irrespective of whether they had bread.”
“Well — it’s written somewhere — ‘Not by bread alone ’ — is n’t it ? ” the doctor said teasingly. It had always been fun to stir up Philippa; she rose now to the bait.
“Bread first,” she said firmly, “geraniums after.”
“There’s something in that,” conceded the doctor. “And your sister — ”
“Oh, Enid would take the geraniums every time, bread or no bread. You don’t think there’s really anything the matter with her, do you ? ” — For the first time Philippa’s voice had a tone of anxiety. “She does seem tired all the time.”
The doctor gave her a straight professional answer.
“Yes; I ’m afraid there is. I don’t like her appearance, and she has a fever — of degrees — now. Whatever it is, it must have been coming on some time.”
“It’s this wretched garden,” exclaimed Philippa angrily. “She has been slaving in it all summer.”
“She must have slaved in it a good many previous ones, however,” remarked the doctor somewhat dryly, “which she survived. I would n’t worry her about it. And for the present,” he added, smiling, “I ’ll help her with it.”
“You! ” exclaimed Philippa, as Enid had done. “With all your important work! — you must n’t, — you can’t.”
“ It will be my chance to study your sister,” returned the doctor, with a quiet significance which struck Philippa dumb.
Enid ill! really ill! — with perhaps — who knew ? — the seeds of their father’s disease ? It now occurred to Philippa how horribly white and thin Enid had been looking. Evidently she had been slowly breaking down; her mind, suddenly focussed upon the past months, recalled a hundred indications. But break down for nothing ! Philippa had seen plenty of good workers break down; she could have borne it stoically, if it had been the necessary price of great work done. But what had Enid ever done, — except to drag a hose incessantly over a wretched patch of ground, and potter with a few miserable trees, bushes, and flower-beds ?
In the weeks that followed, Philippa, though with this question unanswered, filled with dismay and faithful to the doctor’s injunction, forbore to put it even to herself. It had been astonishingly easy to persuade Enid to give up other exertions; she had seized upon the first hint with an almost shameful alacrity, and she had never even remarked upon the sudden cessation of Philippa’s statistics and pamphlets, nor apparently even noticed how adroitly Philippa kept all her fellow workers in the background. It was probable that Philippa also reserved all discussion of world-topics for the doctor; Enid at least heard nothing of them. Possibly she considered all these changes the natural corollary of the doctor’s presence. With him, her absence would naturally not be felt; the two would, as naturally, enjoy their walks and communion together, and it was even more natural that the doctor should fall into the habit of dropping in, in the cool of the day, and staying on to dinner afterwards, — most natural, under the circumstances. The circumstances of course were Philippa. He had fallen also into the way of taking from her — Enid’s — hand the watering-pot or hose or trowel, and what was unnatural about this was that it too seemed so perfectly natural. It even came to seem in the nature of things that he should order her movements, telling her when to lie down or to sit up, have a couch constructed for her under her favorite eucalyptus clump, and spend more and more time beside it, reading aloud, or talking to Philippa while she sat working near, — dear Philippa, who never worried one any more and who was going to be so happy.
Enid spent hours in the contemplation of her sister’s future happiness, while she lay listening more to the tones than the words of the physician’s voice, a voice developed to sensitiveness in the ministry of sick-rooms, and which produced the happy illusion of having a special tone for whomever he spoke to; or in watching through half-closed lids the little movements of hands and head and body which she had come to recognize as welcomely characteristic. Oh yes : Philippa would certainly be happy; he and she would talk by the hour, while she — the third — listened idly; there would be no dearth of common interests in the household of these two. But if Philippa were called away on any of her countless missions, then how quickly the conversation fell into silence, broken perhaps only by a glance or smile, or brief little phrases, mainly about the garden, in a new tone of voice, a tone kept for sick and feeble folk like herself presumably.
For with all everybody’s goodness, Enid was not gaining, and not even the doctor could account for it, now that he had removed tactfully a strain he had divined. The weights were gone, — but the creature seemed unable to rise; she had conceivably been crushed a little too flat. There were days indeed when all Enid wished was to be crushed still flatter; when she only wanted to be left in peace; when the cry of dust to dust seemed the only comforting one on earth; when she passionately wished the doctor and Philippa would make an end, marry each other, and be off to that strenuous world they both delighted in, leaving her — Enid — with a few final flowers in hands which would gather no more, to go down alone to that plain and simple Hell prepared for shirkers with no interest on earth beyond making it beautiful, a Hell which yet seemed, in comparison, what the doctor called the garden — “an oasis.”
She wished it particularly one evening when they left her to take a nap on the vine-covered porch, and strolled into the garden, not to disturb her with their voices. Enid, consumed with a curious heat, watched them go. What a handsome pair! She was glad continually that she had made the garden for them, even though Philippa did not care. He cared. Then she gave a start of horror. Philippa’s voice, clear and carrying, with its training of public assemblies, came distinctly to her.
“But if no acquired traits ever are transmitted —” she was saying earnestly; and the doctor’s low and earnest tones replied. Enid listened aghast, then she laughed weakly. What very funny lovers, — to go into a moonlit garden and talk like that, when the peppers were making fern-traceries all over the paths and the eucalyptus was shining like wet silver! Suppose — just suppose for a single moment one were Philippa, and suppose — just for a single moment — one loved the doctor, and were walking in the moonlight with him, — would one talk like that? Would one? But nobody cared for gardens any more, except her, Enid, and even she did not care so very much. Philippa was right (Philippa was always right), it was quite too hard work making gardens for other people to walk in by moonlight; to-morrow she would hire a boy to water it; site could n’t let the poor things go unwatered; they were as hot as she perhaps, and never in her life had she been so hot, — such a queer, dizzy, aching heat too.
“God walks in gardens! ” was the astonishing statement with which she confronted the two an hour later, when Philippa — first gently , and then wildly — had shaken her from the strange stupor in the hammock.
“The Bible says so,” she asserted, fixing her burning eyes on the doctor, “‘in the cool of the evening.’ When will it be the cool of the evening ? ”
Philippa, touching her sister’s hand, drew back her own, exclaiming. The doctor’s slipped quietly into its place.
“It will be the cool of the evening as soon as we get you upstairs,” he said quietly. “Open that door, Philippa.” Without further words he lifted Enid in his arms. But she made not the slightest remonstrance; she lay there contentedly, resting her head upon his shoulder, with her bright, wide eyes on his.
“The first lovers too,” she said as they reached the stair-top, “ walked in gardens.”
“Yes,” said the doctor, “and the last lovers will.” He laid her gently on the bed. “Now,” he turned to Philippa, “get off her things with the least possible fuss. You have a telephone? Good; I’ll go and telephone the hospital. No trained nurse of course within two hundred miles ? ”
“You forget me,” said Philippa.
“True,” replied he, “I did.” He scrutinized her. “You can do it, I think; but — I warn you we are in for it.”
“What are we in for? ”
The doctor looked at her a little grimly.
“For whatever comes of trying to grow thistles from roses.”
“That wretched garden!” Philippa spoke fiercely, under her breath.
“God walks in gardens! ” came with startling clearness from the bed. “So does Philippa, and” — with an exquisite softening — “he!” Then after a pause, “But he walks with Philippa; why ? I made the garden.”
“Delirious,” said the doctor in a matter-of-fact tone. “We shall want ice. Go down, Philippa, and see that my orders are attended to; I ’ll stay here. She will be quieter soon.”
But to Philippa, doing a hundred necessary things with judgment and composure, but with cheeks as hot as Enid’s, it seemed an eternity that Enid’s voice went on upstairs, talking steadily, broken now and then by a soothing murmur of the doctor’s. As she passed and repassed the open front door, outside the moonlight lay in great patches over Enid’s garden, where the eucalyptus shone like silver and the peppers made fern-traceries on the paths. And from upstairs came again and insistently, —
“But he walks in it wdth Philippa, — why ? ”
In the days following, the doctor, looking often across the bed to the silent figure sitting on the other side, came to pity it almost more than the patient.
For day after day, and hour after hour, Enid, in her delirious wanderings, with a terrible fidelity meted again to her sister the measure wdiich had been meted to her. The dreadful accuracy of her facts was only heightened by the fantastic figures in which she piled them; plying them with infernal statistics of an inhumanly human inferno, through which she dragged them, vivisecting and racking them with an abnormal elaboration of torture. The doctor, listening with forehead bowed on his hand, dared not at times look at Philippa at all. Philippa, however, at exactly the due moment, rose each time to renew the iced cloth, to bring the draught, or to get the fan with which she fanned impassively hour after hour, like a creature with wrist of steel. Once or twice only the doctor caught a glance of piteous appeal, when across the drift of horrors Enid began suddenly to babble of the garden. At such times he invented pretexts to send Philippa from the room. It was in one of these moments, on the third day of Enid’s illness, that Philippa, taking refuge in the dusty garden from the sound of that voice, heard another calling her in subdued accents, and looking up, saw Joe Clancy leaning on the fence.
“I was noticing,” he said, speaking low, as near a house of death, “ that them holy-anders are droppin’ some already. It don’t take a garden a week to run down in this forsaken climate” (steadily maintained by Joe as the only possible one, at other times). “Me and some of the boys have been talkin’ it over, and we ’ll come round evenin’s, in the cool of the day, and do some waterin’. We all think a heap of your sister — and your sister’s garden.”
“Oh, thank you,” said Philippa, surprised and touched, “I — it shall be watered. We have been so anxious about her, I did n’t think, — but it shall be attended to.”
“I know,” said Joe sympathetically, “but it’d be a disappointment for her to find it all run dowm, when she gits about; she ’s put a right smart o’ her life into that garden. Some of the work-hands spoke to me, — said they ’d be glad to come round after hours and help —”
“Oh, I could n’t let them! ” exclaimed Philippa. “But — thank you, Joe, — thank them all.”
“Why not let them ? ” asked the doctor quickly, when Philippa told him, on her return to the house. “It is the very thing she would like.”
“Those tired-out men! ” repeated Philippa, “after their long day’s work — how could I ? ”
But in the end she sent for Joe Clancy. Thereafter for days she watched the strange spectacle of men and boys tending Enid’s garden, stepping softly ami speaking low, working with an anxious pride. It came to her suddenly one evening as she stood and watched, that now they were inside, as she had so often wished to see them; and as she watched, other things came to her, and she wrestled with a growing perplexity. It was a relief from other wrestlings, and yet in some way it was a part of those too.
Their father’s friend — he happened to be the minister, but it was not as the minister that Philippa thought of him — came upon her so wrestling, on one of his never-missed daily visits of inquiry, and she poured her heart out suddenly, unexpectedly.
“I cannot understand,” she said, “I cannot understand. They have never seemed to care, they have never shown that they cared, they have never seemed to wish to come in ; and now everybody cares, — cares so much.”
The minister was an old man, and he smiled rather sadly.
“Well, is n’t that the way with us all ? the human way ? Do we ever seem to care — until it is too late? ”
“It is as if I had never known my own sister,” Philippa went on with low-toned intensity.
“Well, that would be human too.” He tried to speak cheerfully, for it suddenly struck him that the girl beside him was suffering. “But we know Enid,” he went on still cheerfully, “we have always known her. As you say, we have n’t seemed to care, we have n’t seemed to wish to come in, — we’ve only looked over the fence; but we’ve always known it was all here, and when we’ve wanted to make our little boast of what the place might be, we’ve brought our visitors by — casually. Little by little we’ve begun to imitate it. You’ve seen all the little gardens springing up roundabouts, — virtually every one of them has come out of Enid’s. Oh, we could n’t have done without Enid at all; she is the born garden-maker; wherever she goes she will make a garden, — she can’t help it.”
“Because she loves to,” said Philippa hardly, “just because she loves to.”
“Well, is n’t that enough ?” The minister smiled at her half-whimsically, wholly tenderly, but with a sudden wonder at his heart. “You don’t despise gardens, I hope? You would n’t if you had always lived on prairies. Why, child, have you forgotten,” he turned his face wholly on her, “who walked in a garden, ‘in the cool of the day’? Why, Philippa! My dear child! What is it? ”
For Philippa had suddenly put both hands over her ears.
“Oh — don’t!” she gasped between sobs, — Philippa who never gave way to emotion, — “ oh, — don’t ! ” — And she fled up the path to the house.
But it was a perfectly collected and strong Philippa who went up the stairs a little later. The doctor met her at the head. If she was pale, he was paler. “About the ninth day,” he had said, and this was the ninth. He shook his head in answer to Philippa’s glance.
“No change — as yet; but it may be — any hour.”
They stood a moment looking together out upon the fading twilight, silently nerving for the coming strain.
“How beautiful Enid’s garden is tonight,” said Philippa suddenly and deliberately.
The doctor assented mutely.
It lay, in fact, before them, a mass of golden shadows and soft light, in the long afterglow.
“Dr. Halworthy said just now,” Philippa continued, still deliberately, “that wherever Enid went she would make a garden; he called her ‘the born gardenmaker.’ ” She did not look at her companion, but watched instead impassively the quick tightening of his hands upon the window-ledge. Then she heard him speaking just as usual.
“It very well describes your sister. Now I think we would better go back to her.”
Philippa, following him into the sickroom, took the fan from the watching maid’s hand without even interrupting its rhythmic movement; over against her the doctor seated himself, intently observant of the motionless figure between them, and the hush of the night watch fell upon the room. Hours, half-hours, even moments counted heavily now. “About the ninth day,” he had said, — and it was just before midnight that Enid, rousing from the stupor, suddenly opened her eyes, bright and burning as on that first night, and fixed them on the doctor.
“God walks in gardens! ” she said.
A groan that was almost a moan escaped the doctor, but he leaned forward and put a cool, quiet hand on Enid’s wrist.
“God walks in gardens!” repeated Enid, “and he! But he walks with Philippa. Why ? ”
The eyes of the two watchers met at last; in the one a kind of despairing question, in the other a steady glow.
“Answer her,” said Philippa gently.
Enid moved more restlessly.
“Why with Philippa? Why not with me ? ”
“Answer her,” Philippa urged. “Oh, answer her! Why keep her waiting? ”
“Why with Philippa? Why not with me ? ” came the voice again, more insistently.
“Oh, you shall answer!” exclaimed Philippa. With apassionate movement she bent above her sister. “He does — he will walk with you, Enid; with you, dear, — always with you.”
The doctor bowed his head silently on the hand which was beginning to burn within his own and kissed it; then he bent his forehead upon it.
She stared at them both for a few moments with fixed, bright eyes, then gave a long sigh, and fell into a contented silence. Neither daring to move scarcely to breathe, they remained thus, hearing the fitful breaths drawn more and more evenly, until with another long sigh they fell into a steady respiration, the eyes closed, and the hand in the doctor’s grew faintly moist. Then once more Philippa and he looked at each other, and Philippa smiled. She stole softly from the room and house.
Enid’s garden was all alive with little wings of things. In the intense western night, the moon, which had been young when they carried Enid upstairs and was now old and gibbous, cast weird shadows on the paths, where the pepper-fingers still made their sharp traceries. High up on a eucalyptus bough a mocker was pouring out song like wine. In the soft tangle of gloom beneath, all was still. Philippa looked back at the house. In the one lighted window she could see, silhouetted against the curtain, a profile, clear, distinguished, raised as if attentive to something. She could not know that, sitting with watchful fingers on the wrist of the girl he loved, the doctor was at that moment out in the garden with Philippa, and that he too heard the mockingbird. Not knowing, and so walking solitary in the moonlight and silence, Philippa for the first time in her life was meeting face to face all Those that walk in gardens.