It was a new sensation to the learned man, a stinging, rebellious, pitying sensation, a feeling that he wanted to shake the girl from her father's arms, and then care tenderly for her. One great boot had fallen from Tessibel's many times frozen foot. The little toe marked and cut by frost, limply hanging independent of its fellows, made Young wince.
"He hes got the pitifullest cry that breaks my heart all the time. But he ain't so sick as his pappy." "Ben Letts ain't a-goin' to die, air he?" Tessibel's woful expression caused Myra to shake her head emphatically, her thin lips twitching, then tightening under the nervous strain. "Nope, he ain't, but he air goin' to be sick a long time. He air the brat's pa, and I want to do somethin' for him."
For several seconds Andy studied the words under Tessibel's pointing finger, and Daddy Skinner evinced his interest by bending nearer in a questioning attitude. "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed," Andy spelled haltingly, and then glanced up, mystified. "Why, it air talkin' about movin' mountains.... Ain't it, Tess?"
The superstitious, imaginative girl rose unsteadily to her feet. Pressing her face to the smeared pane, she saw the jagged lightning tearing again toward the tree; then it played about the figure that Tess had grown to love. The old man amid the branches bent toward the squatter, and held out his waving arms. A cry burst from Tessibel's lips.
"Tessibel, I do love him, even if I disowned him. But I haven't the courage you have. You looked so beautiful when you said he was yours.... And Frederick is ill to-day." Tessibel's heart thumped loudly. "I heard him crying all night, Tess," went on Teola, "and, oh! so many times I wanted to go and tell him that you were a good girl; but I didn't have the courage.
"You'll stay near sister and me the entire evening. There!" They had crossed the room and neared a row of chairs arranged against the wall. "Sit down by this open window. My sister will be here soon.... Why! Why! childie, you mustn't tremble so!" A mist gathered under Tessibel's lowered lids.
She looked up, and recognizing her visitor, got quickly to her feet. "Hello, Tess," said Sandy, coming forward a little. "Nice day, ain't it?" Tessibel's fear of him since his roughness to Boy was very active. She had suffered in anticipation, for he'd threatened to come again, and she knew he would. Now he was here she didn't know what to do. Deforrest wasn't home and Andy was out with Boy.
The spectacle at Longman's had filled her eyes with the shadow of longing. She had seen Myra clasped in the arms of the man she loved. Tessibel's thoughts flew to the student. She could imagine her own happiness if she had been in the storm, and Frederick had taken her in his arms, and they should have
Frederick Graves took in the scene with one sharp glance. He saw the fisherman, in ugly doggedness, towering over the small figure of the squatter-girl. Then he flung himself upon Ben Letts. He tore Ben's fingers from Tessibel's neck, leaving the skin reddened and scratched by the nails. Tess sank to the floor.
"And I I haven't any love left for you." The words were low but distinctly spoken. "I don't believe it!... I won't!... You shall love me!... I won't have you with Young. ... He can see my boy every day ... be with you hour after hour.... I hate him!" "You hate him!" Tessibel's eyes burned and flashed with indignation.