“Yes—and master of you,” he went on, pacing before her. “I’ll sell this house if need be!” he cried with a gesture of disgust. “I don’t want it—I never did; it was your making, not mine. Tell me what life I have had in it? There has not been a day since it was built that I would not have given twice its cost to be out of it. From this day forth my time is my own,” and with a blow he brought his fist down on the back of the chair. Then squaring his shoulders he looked fearlessly into her eyes. Something of the roar of the torrent of Big Shanty Brook was in his voice as he spoke—something, too, of the indomitable grit and courage of the old dog.
For some seconds she did not answer. The outburst had given her time to think, but what move should she make next? Up to now she had lived as she pleased and had managed to be selfishly happy. She knew he could force her into a life she loathed, and she realized, too, that, shrewd and resourceful as her friend the doctor was, there were obstacles that neither he nor she could overcome. Instantly her course was determined upon.
“Sam,” she began, a forced sob rising in her throat, “I want you to listen to me.” Her voice had changed to one of infinite tenderness; now it was the voice of a penitent child, asking a favour.
Thayor looked at her in astonishment.
“Well,” he said after a moment, strangely moved by the appeal in her eyes and the sudden pathos in her tones.
“Since you intend to force me into exile, I’m going to make the best of it. I won’t promise you I’ll be happy there; I’ll simply tell you I’ll make the best of it.” He started to speak, but she stopped him. “I know what my life there will mean; I know how unhappy I shall be, but I’ll go because you want me to—but Sam, dear, I want you to promise me that for one month in the year I shall be free to go where I please—alone if I choose. Won’t you, Sam?”
Thayor started, but he did not interrupt.
“What I ask is only fair. Everyone needs to be alone—to be free, I mean, at times—away from everything. You, yourself needed it, and you went—and how much good it has done you!”
“Yes,” he said after a moment’s hesitation—“I understand. Yes—that is fair.”
“Is it a bargain?” she asked.
“Yes, it is a bargain,” he answered simply. “I accept your condition.”
“And you will give me your word of honour not to interfere during all that month?”
He put out his hand.
“Yes, you shall have your month. And now, Alice, can’t we be friends once more? I’ve been brutal to you, I know,” he said, bending over her. “I am sorry I lost my temper; try to understand me better. I am so tired of these old quarrels of ours. Won’t you kiss me, Alice? It’s so long since you kissed me, dear.”
“Don’t!” she murmured; “not now—I can’t stand it. Let me thank you for your promise—won’t that do?”