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A Prairie Idyl
by [?]

A beautiful moonlight night early in September, the kind of night one remembers for years, when the air is not too cold to be pleasant, and yet has a suggestion of the frost that is to come. A kind of air that makes one think thoughts which cannot be put into words, that calls up sensations one cannot describe; an air which breeds restless energy; an air through which Mother Nature seems to speak, saying–“Hasten, children; life is short and you have much to do.”

It was nearing ten o’clock, and a full moon lit up the rolling prairie country of South Dakota for miles, when the first team of a little train of six moved slowly out of the dark shadow blots thrown by the trees at the edge of the Big Sioux, advancing along a dim trail towards the main road. From the first wagon sounded the suggestive rattle of tin cooking-utensils, and the clatter of covers on an old cook stove. Next behind was a load piled high with a compound heap of tents, tennis nets, old carpets, hammocks, and the manifold unclassified paraphernalia which twenty young people will collect for a three weeks’ outing.

These wagons told their own story. “Camp Eden,” the fanciful name given to the quiet, shady spot where the low chain of hills met the river; the spot where the very waters seemed to lose themselves in their own cool depths, and depart sighing through the shallows beyond,–Camp Eden was deserted, and a score of very tired campers were reluctantly returning to home and work.

Last in the line and steadily losing ground, came a single trap carrying two people. One of them, a young man with the face of a dreamer, was speaking. The spell of the night was upon him.

“So this is the last of our good time–and now for work.” He stopped the horse and stood up in the wagon. “Good-bye, little Camp Eden. Though I won’t be here, yet whenever I see the moon a-shining so–and the air feeling frosty and warm and restless–and the corn stalks whitening, and the young prairie chickens calling–you’ll come back to me, and I’ll think of you–and of the Big Sioux–and of–” His eyes dropped to a smooth brown head, every coil of the walnut hair glistening.

It made him think of the many boat rides they two had taken together in the past two weeks, when he had watched the moonlight shimmering on rippling, running water, and compared the play of light upon it and upon that same brown head–and had forgotten all else in the comparison. He forgot all else now. He sat down, and the horse started. The noisy wagons ahead had passed out of hearing. The pair were alone.

He was silent a moment, looking sideways at the girl. The moonlight fell full upon her face, drawing clear the line of cheek and chin; bringing out the curve of the drooping mouth and the shadow from the long lashes. She seemed to the sensitive lad more than human. He had loved her for years, with the pure silent love known only to such a nature as his–and never had he loved her so wildly as now.

He was the sport of a multitude of passions; love and ambition were the strongest, and they were fighting a death struggle with each other. How could he leave her for years–perhaps never see her again–and yet how could he ask her to be the wife of such as he was now–a mere laborer? And again, his college course, his cherished ambition for years–how could he give it up; and yet he felt–he knew she loved him, and trusted him.

He had been looking squarely at her. She turned, and their eyes met. Each knew the thought of the other, and each turned away. He hesitated no longer; he would tell her all, and she should judge. His voice trembled a little as he said: “I want to tell you a story, and ask you a question–may I?”