“I know it’s kind of unexpected,” Old Heck interrupted nervously, “—perhaps I had ought to have said something about it first, but, well, I figured I’d go on and get the license and show that my intentions was good and—and—sort of risk the whole thing on one throw! It always seemed like there was something missing at the Quarter Circle KT,” he went on, his voice grown softer and trembling a bit, “and—and when you came I—I—found out what it was—”
Ophelia sat silently with downcast eyes, her pulse racing, the license unfolded on her lap, while she bit uncertainly at the tip of the finger of her glove.
“I—I—know I ain’t very good-looking or—or—anything,” Old Heck continued, “but I thought maybe you—you—liked me a little—enough anyhow to get married—that is if you—. Oh-h—thunder, Ophelia!” he exclaimed in despair, feeling that he was hopelessly floundering, “I—I—love you! Please let’s use that license! Let’s use it right away —to-day—and get it over with!” he urged as the widow still hesitated.
“But—I—I’m not suitably dressed—” she stammered.
“I think that dress you’ve got on is the prettiest goods I ever saw in my life,” he interrupted, looking adoringly at the clinging summer fabric caressing Ophelia’s shapely form, “I always did think it would be awful appropriate for us to—to—get married in!” he finished pleadingly.
“But—Carolyn June and—and—Parker—” Ophelia murmured.
At the mention of Parker, Old Heck started while a look of anguish came into his eyes. So she loved Parker! That was why she was so backward, he thought. Well, the Quarter Circle KT foreman was a little better-looking, maybe, and some younger! He couldn’t blame her.
His head dropped. For a moment Old Heck was silent, a dull, sickening hurt gripping his heart. A deep sigh escaped from his lips. He reached over and picked up the license.
“I—I—guess I made a mistake,” he said numbly. “We’ll just—just—tear this thing up and forget about it!”
Ophelia looked demurely up at him, her mouth twitching. One small gloved hand slipped over and rested on the strong brown fingers that held the license. Roses flamed over the full round throat and spread their blush to her cheeks. Her eyes were like pools of liquid blue:
“Don’t tear it—it—up!” she whispered with a little laugh—a laugh that sent the blood leaping, like fire, through Old Heck’s veins, “it—it would be a shame to waste it!”
For an instant Old Heck was dazed. He looked at her as if he could not believe he had heard aright. Suddenly a wave of undiluted happiness swept over him.
“Ophelia!” he cried huskily. “Oh, Ophelia!” and the minister’s three small sons, pausing in their play in the grassless yard at the side of the house, while they watched the beautiful car standing in front of the parsonage gate, saw the owner of the Quarter Circle KT, in broad daylight, on the principal residence street of Eagle Butte, before the eyes of the whole world—if the whole world cared to look—throw his arms around the plump lady sitting beside him and press one long, rapturous kiss on her moist, unresisting lips!