I clasp my down-hanging hands loosely together. I lift my eyes to the low, dark sky.
“Am I glad?” I say, hazily. “I do not know!—I do not think I am!—I do not think I care one way or another!”
“Nancy!” he says, presently, in a tone no longer of counterfeit mirth, but of deep and serious earnestness, “I do not know why I told you just now that I had come to bid them all good-by—it was not true—you know it was not. What are they to me, or I to them, now? I came—”
“For what did you come, then?” cry I, interrupting him, pantingly, while my eyes wide and aghast, grow to his face. What is it that he is going to say? He—from whose clasp Barbara’s dead hand was freed!
“Do not look at me like that!” he cries, wildly, putting up his hands before his eyes. “It reminds me—great God! it reminds me—”
He breaks off; then goes on a little more calmly:
“You need not be afraid! Brute and blackguard as I am, I am not quite brute and blackguard enough for that!—that would be past even me! I have come to ask you once again to forgive me for that—that old offense” (with a shamed red flush on the pallor of his cheeks); “I asked you once before, you may remember, and you answered”—(my words with a resentful accuracy)—“that you ’would not, and by God’s help, you never would!’”
“Did I?” say I, with that same hazy feeling. Those old emotions seem grown so distant and dim, “I dare say!—I did not recollect!”
“And so I have come to ask you once again,” he goes on, with a heavy emphasis—“it will do me no great harm if you say ‘No’ again!—it will do me small good if you say ‘Yes.’ And yet, before I go away forever— yes”—(a bitter smile)—“cheer up!—_-forever!_—I must have one more try!”
I am silent.
“You may as well forgive me!” he says, taking my cold and passive hand, and speaking with an intense though composed mournfulness. “After all, I have not done you much harm, have I?—that is no credit to me, I know. I would have done, if I could, but I could not! You may as well forgive me, may not you? God forgives!—at least”—(with a sigh of heavy and apathetic despair)—“so they say!—would you be less clement than He?”
I am looking back at him, with a quiet fixedness. I no longer feel the slightest embarrassment in his presence; it no longer disquiets me, that he should hold my hand.
“Yes,” say I, speaking slowly, and still with my sunk and tear-dimmed eyes calmly resting on the dull despair of his, “yes—if you wish—it is all so long ago—and she liked you!—yes!—I forgive you!”
“Love is enough.”
And so, as the days go by, the short and silent days, it comes to pass that a sort of peace falls upon my soul; born of a slow yet deep assurance that with Barbara it is well.