he could not understand a thing he straightway condemned it. Simplicity itself! "But your first duty is to your mother. She needs you. She implores you to come home—she will forgive everything if you will only come home."
"That's a pretty little thought," remarked Abel meditatively, as he ground some tobacco up in his hand.
Dr. Stalling ignored him.
"She entreats, but I, Miss Stirling,"—Dr. Stalling remembered that he was an ambassador of Jehovah—"I command. As your pastor and spiritual guide, I command you to come home with me—this very day. Get your hat and coat and come now."
Dr. Stalling shook his finger at Valancy. Before that pitiless finger she drooped and wilted visibly.
"She's giving in," thought Roaring Abel. "She'll go with him. Beats all, the power these preacher fellows have over women."
Valancy was on the point of obeying Dr. Stalling. She must go home with him—and give up. She would lapse back to Doss Stirling again and for her few remaining days or weeks be the cowed, futile creature she had always been. It was her fate—typified by that relentless, uplifted forefinger. She could no more escape from it than Roaring Abel from his predestination. She eyed it as the fascinated bird eyes the snake. Another moment—
"Fear is the original sin," suddenly said a still, small voice away back—back—back of Valancy's consciousness. "Almost all the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that some one is afraid of something."
Valancy stood up. She was still in the clutches of fear, but her soul was her own again. She would not be false to that inner voice.
"Dr. Stalling," she said slowly, "I do not at present owe any duty to my mother. She is quite well; she has all the assistance and companionship she requires; she does not need me at all. I am needed here. I am going to stay here."
"There's spunk for you," said Roaring Abel admiringly.
Dr. Stalling dropped his forefinger. One could not keep on shaking a finger forever.
"Miss Stirling, is there nothing that can influence you? Do you remember your childhood days—"
"Perfectly. And hate them."