“It is possible,” said Barbara gently. “That’s all I know. And even if—even if it can’t be done yet awhile, I thought it would comfort you to think that some day—almost surely—”
“You are always thinking of my comfort,” he cried. “In this pit that we call life, you are an angel serene, blessed and blessing. Oh,” he cried, “what would you say if I stood before you on my own feet, and told you—told you—” He broke off short and hung his head.
Barbara bit her lips and lifted her hands with a weary gesture to resume work. But the bust of Blizzard was a live thing, and seeing anew the strength and hellish beauty of it, suddenly and as if with the eyes of a stranger, her heart seemed to leap into her throat, her whole body relaxed once more, and she said in a small, surprised voice:
“Why, it’s finished!”
Upon Blizzard, who had been looking forward to many mornings during which he should unobtrusively advance his cause, this quiet statement fell with disturbing force. It meant that his opportunities for intimate talks had come to a sudden and most unprepared-for end. He knew that Barbara was tired out with the steady grind of creation, and that she had been going through an equally steady grind of discouragement and uncertainty. He believed that she would make no delay in carrying her triumph and her trouble out of the heat-ridden city, to cool places, to her own people. He believed, not that she would forget him, but that, free from his influence, she would see with equal vision how wide the gulf between them really was.
He had made a slip in his calculation. He had been spreading his arts thinly, you may say, to cover what he supposed was to have been a much longer period of time. And he should have come sooner and with all his strength to the point. There had been moments of supreme discouragement, when, if there was to be a miracle in his life, he should have spoken. There were to be no more of those golden moments. She would close the studio, go away, and return by way of exercise and fresh air to a sane and normal state of mind—a state of mind in which such a physical and moral cripple as himself could have no place except among the curiosities.
She stood looking steadily at the head which had come to life under her hands. Her eyelids drooped heavily. She looked almost as if she was falling asleep.
Blizzard watched her as a cat watches a mouse, not knowing what was best for him to dare. Now he was for pleading his cause with all the passion that inspired it; now for boldly claiming her as the expiation for her father’s fault; and now he was for passing over all preliminaries and felling her with a blow of his fist.
And then she suddenly turned to him, and smiled like a very happy and very tired child. “You’ve been very good to me,” she said, “and so patient! I don’t know quite how to thank you. I owe you such a lot.”