The tears sprang into Barbara’s eyes. “Is there anything about me that you don’t know?” she asked bitterly.
“Oh, yes,” he said.
“Do you know that if you asked me to marry you, I should say yes?”
“And I know that I am not going to ask you. There are two reasons. You don’t love me. And I do love you.”
Her arms dropped limply to her sides.
“And it shall never be said of me,” he said proudly, “that I dragged any one down.... Will you promise me something?”
“If you care to trust me to keep promises or to do anything that’s right and honest.”
“Only promise to keep your eyes in the boat. Don’t help a poor dog of a man into love with you. And don’t help yourself into love with him. When the right man comes along, he will make you love him, and then you will be sure.”
“I will promise,” said Barbara simply, “and I never knew how rotten I was. And I’m glad you’ve told me. If it’s any comfort to you—you’ve helped. And nobody ever helped before. I shall always be proud to remember that you loved me. And I’ll keep my eyes in the boat.”
“And that,” said Mr. West, “is where I’ll keep mine, only, if it’s nothing to you, I’ll remember sometimes how the moon looked that time I looked up.”
She stood uncertain.
“It’s kind of awkward,” he said, “sometimes to make a clean break. Good luck to you. And don’t feel sorry about me. And be true to yourself. And if you ever really need me for anything tell Bubbles. He knows where to find me, when anybody does.”
A few minutes later Barbara was asking Bubbles if he happened to know Mr. Harry West’s address.
“He won’t be coming back here,” she said, “and I want to send him a book.”
“I’ll deliver it,” said Bubbles. “He don’t keep no regular address. You have to catch him on the run.”
“Very well,” she said, “take him this, with my very best thanks and my very best wishes.”
And she gave Bubbles a charmingly bound copy of Rostand’s “Far-Away Princess,” and when Bubbles had trotted off, she dropped into her chair and cried because she thought she had broken poor West’s heart. But there was stern stuff in his heart, and exultation, for he knew that in the supreme test of his life, he had thought only of—her.
“There, everything is understood,” said Blizzard; “we are agreed upon the 15th of next January. And you can bring enough men on from the West to do the work?”
O’Hagan, thick-set, black, bristling, nodded across the table. “You have guaranteed the money and the hats,” he said; “I will guarantee the men. What’s behind that door?”
“Nothing but a junk-closet,” said Blizzard. “Drink something.”
O’Hagan poured three fingers of dark whiskey into a short glass and drank it at one gulp. “After that one,” he said, “the wagon until the 15th.”