There was another silence—a different one: silence which opened to receive them at the throb in his voice as he spoke that last word.
He had to go back that night. “Well?” he asked gently, as they neared her hotel.
“I’ll be down in a couple of days,” replied Katie, not steadily.
“And you’ll be there a little while, won’t you,” he asked wistfully, “before you go—you don’t know where?”
“Yes,” she said, turning her eyes upon him for just an instant, “a little while—before I go—I don’t know where.”
But though she was going—she didn’t know where—though she was giving up—seemed conquered—through all the uncertainty and the sadness there surged a strange new joy in their hearts as, very slowly, they walked that final block.
At the door, after a moment’s full silence, she held out her hand. “And you’ll be down there—mending boats?”
He nodded, his eyes going where words had not ventured.
“And you’ll—come and see me?” she asked shyly. “You don’t mean, do you,”—looking away, as if with scarcely the courage to say it—“that I’m to ’stop’—everything?”
“No, Katie,” he said, and his voice was shaking, “I think you must know I do not mean you are to—stop everything.”
As they lingered for a final moment, they were alone—far out in the sweet wild new places of the spirit; and all that man had ever yearned for, all joy that had been given and all joy denied seemed as a rich sea—fathomless sea—swelling just beneath that sweet wild new thing that had fluttered to consciousness in their hearts.
The new life in her heart gave her new courage that night to look out at life. She faced what before that she had evaded consciously facing.
Perhaps they would not find Ann at all. Perhaps Ann had given up—as they were giving up. Perhaps Ann was not there to be found.
It was her fight against that fear had kept her so much in the crowds. Ann was there. She had only to find her. Leaving the crowds seemed to be admitting that Ann was not in them; for if she really felt she was in them, surely she would not consent to leaving them.
That idea of Ann’s not being there was as a shadow which had from time to time crept beside her. In the crowds she lost it. There were so many in the crowds. Ann, too, was in the crowds. She had only to stay in them and she must find her.
Now she was leaving them; and it was he who understood the crowds was telling her to leave them. Did he think she was not there? Why had she not had the courage to press it? There was so much they should have been talking of in those last blocks—and they had talked of nothing.
But the new warmth flooded Katie’s heart at thought of having talked of nothing. What was there to talk about so important as talking of nothing? In a new way it drew her back to the crowds; the crowds that talked so loudly of many unlovely things in order to still in their hearts that call for the loveliness of talking of nothing.