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 It was the evening of the next day. Frank Stanhope lay on a couch in a darkened room, a black bandage across his eyes. Erie Landon sat beside him, holding his hand. The pungent odor of ether hung in the air. Out in the dining room old Doctor Allworth, from Bridgetown, was discussing with the specialist things known only to those men of science.  
Erie was very happy—happier than she had ever expected to be again. Doctor Cavinalt had pronounced the operation a success; in a week or ten days the bandage might be taken off. God's world of light and beauty was to be his again—and hers!
Stanhope felt the unconscious tightening of her fingers and spoke her name ever so softly. She gave a little, contented sigh, and nestled her cool cheek against his own.
"I was dreaming of the foot of the Causeway," he whispered, "and the light."
"And it reached straight across through the blackness to you?" she asked.
"Straight to me, dear; and at the farther end of its misty radiance I saw you standing. You stretched your dear arms out to me and along the shimmering track, drawn by your great and tender woman's love, I sped to you."
"And found me, Frank?"
"Found you," he echoed joyfully. "Found you as I have prayed through lightless days I might, some day, find you, blue-eyed girl with heart of gold; found you with your hope, your loyalty, your tenderness and your forgiveness."
"And now," she whispered, "there lie the days of sunshine and happiness ahead of us, Frank; and oh, how we will enjoy them, you and I and Billy."
"Yes, we mustn't forget Billy, God bless him."
In the outer room the learned discussion was terminated suddenly by a loud exclamation from the old doctor.
"God love us, it's a crow!" he cried, "and the rascal has appropriated my glasses! Laid 'em on my chair-arm for an instant and the cheeky beggar swooped in through the open window and picked 'em up."
"That's Croaker," laughed Erie. "Billy won't be far behind him. I had better go out and explain things, Frank."
She touched her warm lips to his and went into the adjoining room to find Croaker perched on a curtain-pole, animatedly congratulating himself on the new and wonderful shiny thing he had been so fortunate as to discover.
"Croaker," Erie called. At the sound of her voice the crow stopped trying to tear the nosepiece from the lens and cocked his head side-wise.
"Kowakk," he gurgled, which meant "I thought I knew you, Miss, but I guess I don't."
"Croaker, good old Croaker, come down and I'll get you a cookie," Erie begged.
Croaker considered this last statement a moment. Then he carefully raised one foot and twisted half way around on the bar.
"A cookie, a nice fat cookie, with a raisin in its centre," coaxed the girl.
The crow lifted the other foot and with much fluttering and complaining managed to get all the way around.
Mrs. Burke had brought in a plate of cookies. Erie took one and held it up, as an enticement to Croaker.
"Want it?" she asked. "Then come down and be a good crow."
Then it was that Croaker, gripping the glasses in one black claw, burst into a cry of joyful recognition.
Just at this juncture the shed door was nosed softly open and a striped, furry animal rolled into the room like a ball and, raising himself on his hind legs, took the cookie from Erie's hand.
"Ringdo, you old sweetheart!" cried the girl and, reaching for the big swamp-coon, gathered him into her arms.
Doctor Allworth, after one startled look at the ferocious-looking newcomer, had climbed upon the table and now gazed wildly at the strange sight of a golden haired girl holding to her bosom a wild animal which might be anything from a wolf to a grizzly, for aught he knew.
At the sound of the girl's voice the swamp coon had dropped the cookie, and as she swept him into her arms his slender red tongue darted forth to give the curling tress above her ear an affectionate caress. Ringdo recognized in Erie the playmate who used to romp with him and stray with him along spongy moss and clayey ditches.
At this particular moment Croaker, from whom attention had for the time being been diverted, came into evidence again. At first sight of his old enemy the crow had grown rigid with anger; his black neck-ruff had stood up like the feathers on an Indian warrior's head dress and into his beady eyes had sprung the fighting-fire. When Ringdo got possession of the cookie he raised his short wings and prepared to swoop, strike, and if luck held, swoop again. But when the coon dropped the cookie that he might show the girl who had come back to the old playground that he was glad Croaker promptly changed his mind. He swooped, but on the precious cookie instead of on Ringdo, and with the prize in his black beak and the glasses dangling from one black claw, he went out of the open window like a dark streak.
The old doctor sighed dolefully. "Well, my glasses are gone," he murmured. "And how I will ever do without 'em, I don't know." Then, becoming suddenly aware of his ridiculous position, he stepped ponderously down from the table to his chair.
Hiding her laughing face in Ringdo's long fur, Erie reassured him. "Please, Doctor Allworth, don't be frightened of this old coon," she said. "Indeed, he is quite harmless."
"Perhaps so," returned the old gentleman dryly, "but, you see, I happen to have heard an opinion of friend Ringdo's gentle nature from a certain learned pedagogue, whose wounds I dressed recently. So, my dear young lady, if you will be good enough to keep tight hold of him for a moment, I'll follow my renowned friend into the parlor and learn how Frank is coming along." And suiting the action to the words he edged slowly around the table and, backing into the parlor, closed the door.
"Ringdo," cried Erie, slapping the coon's fat sides, "you can't possibly see your friend, Frank, now so come along. We'll have a race down the path and a scramble among the leaves."
She caught her hat from a peg, opened the door, and Ringdo gamboled out before her. Down the path to the gate they sped and out into the tree-hedged road. Already the frost-pinched leaves, crimson-veined and golden, were being swung to earth by a soft wind that promised snow. With Ringdo galloping clumsily beside her Erie went down the road, trilling a snatch of a song.
She did not realize what a perfect picture she presented, with her golden hair wind-strewn, her red lips parted, and the old joy singing in her heart and kindling a light in her eyes. But the boy who met her at the curve in the road realized it, and his face grew wistful as he asked: "Is he all right, Erie?"
"He is all right, Billy," she answered softly.
Billy's grey eyes grew big with realization and a long sigh escaped his lips. He bent above the coon, who had sprawled in the dust, all four feet in the air, inviting a tussle. The girl saw something glitter and splash on the dark fur and her throat tightened. "Oh Billy, Billy," she choked, and with all the abandon of her nature stooped and gathered boy and animal close to her.
A little later they went back up the road, side by side. Ringdo having heard the call of the forest-creek had strayed into the tangle, perhaps hoping to find a fat frog which had not yet sought its winter sleeping-bog. They paused to watch a red squirrel flash along the zig-zag fence and halt, with twitching tail, as the chatter of the black he was pursuing came down to him from swaying hickory tree-top. High overhead a flock of crows passed silently, black hurtling bodies seeming to brush the grey, low hanging skies as they melted into distance. High above, the shrill whistle of wings told of wild ducks seeking the marshes and the celery beds of the bay.
"Erie," spoke the boy as they turned to resume their way, "Ma told me to tell you that she'd be over ag'in tonight to stay with you. She's had an awful time keepin' teacher's friends from swarmin' over to see how he was gettin' along an' she says she simply had to promise that they could come over after supper. I guess the whole Settlement is over to our place. I better lope along an' tell 'em the good news." He turned away as they reached the gate—then hesitated.
"Anything I can tell him, Billy?" asked Erie, noticing his reluctance.
"No, but there's somethin' I ought'a tell you, I guess," he answered. "I've jest come from old Swanson's boardin' house, at the foot. Mr. Maddoc an' the specialist doctor are goin' to leave there an' stay at teacher's, as you likely know?"
Erie nodded. "They told me all about it. How they are going to shoot from your Mud Point, and how good it was of you to let them," she smiled.
Billy grinned. "Say!" he murmured, "as if there was anythin' any of us wouldn't do fer them now. Well, Mr. Maddoc, who's havin' Joe Scraff drive down fer their stuff tonight, was comin' along up with me when we met Hinter, 'bout a mile back on the road."
He paused and searched the girl's face. "You see, Erie," he said slowly, "I'd been tellin' Mr. Maddoc all about how Hinter an' Scroggie had been tryin' to find water fer us, an' how they had had a barrel of oil explode, an' every thin'. Somehow he didn't seem a bit like a stranger. I didn't mind tellin' him at all. Why, I even told him about the Twin Oaks store robbery, an' about Hinter wantin' to get hold of Lost Man's Swamp, an' everythin'.
"He was awful interested, an' asked me to show him ............
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