We are going back to Osages this afternoon, and now I must stop, dearest Mamma.
Your affectionate daughter,
On the private car again.
DEAREST MAMMA,—I am writing again today because I thought that perhaps my yesterday’s letter might have worried you, and there is nothing in the least to mind about. My shoulder will soon heal, and I shall always feel proud of the scar. It is plastered up and does not hurt much, so don’t be the smallest degree anxious. The hotel proprietor and some handy miners who could do carpentering came up while we were away at breakfast, and mended the doors, and everyone laughed and pretended nothing had happened; only Nelson had rather a set face, and after breakfast we climbed up on the steep mountain behind the hotel and watched the world. He never spoke, only helped me over the rough places, until we got high up above the last tent, and there we sat on a crag and looked down at the camp. And I think he is the finest character of a man I have ever known. It is only to you, Mamma, I would tell all this, because you will understand.
It was so hot he had no coat on, only his flannel shirt, and his trousers tucked into his long boots, and the grim gun stuck in his belt. He looked extremely attractive with that felt hat slouched over his eyes. He seemed to be gazing into distance as if alone, and then, after a while, he turned and looked at me, and his eyes were full of pain like a tortured animal, and I felt a wrench at my heart. Then he clasped his hands tight together as though he were afraid he should take mine, and he said the dearest things a man could say to a woman—how the stress of the situation last night had forced from him an avowal of his love for me. “I never meant to tell you, my sweet lady,” he said. “I am no weakling, I hope, to go snivelling over what is not for me; and when I comprehended you were married, on the Lusitania, I just faced up the situation and vowed I’d be a strong man.”
Then he paused a moment as if his throat were dry: “No one can control his emotion of love for a woman,” he went on; “the sentiment he feels, I mean, but the strong man controls the demonstration.” He looked away again, and his face was set like bronze. “I love you better than anything on God’s earth,” he said, “and I want to tell you all the truth, so that you won’t feel you can’t trust me, or when, if ever I should chance to meet your husband, I can’t look him straight in the face. I love you, but I never mean to bother you or do anything in the world but be your best friend.” “Indeed, indeed, yes,” I said, and I told him how dreadfully sorry I was if I had hurt him, and how noble and brave he seemed to me.