She smiled up at him, despite her mental pain.
“I’m not so certain, dear,” she answered, “that I’m not wicked enough to rejoice. It will make our renunciation all the easier—for me. I have known great sorrow, but to-night, for a little while, I have surrendered myself to great happiness, and nothing—nothing—can ever rob me of the last shred of that. You are my man, Donald. The knowledge that you love me is going to draw much of the sting out of existence. I know I cannot possess you, but I can resign myself to that and not be embittered.”
“Well,” he answered dully, “I can give you up—because I have to; but I shall never be resigned about it, and I fear I may be embittered. Is there no hope, Nan?”
“A faint one—some day, perhaps, if I outlive another.”
“I’ll wait for that day, Nan. Meanwhile, I shall ask no questions. I love you enough to accept your love on faith, for, by God, you’re a good woman!”
Her eyes shown with a wonderful radiance as she drew his face down to hers and kissed him on the lips.
“It’s sweet of you to say that; I could love you for that alone, were there nothing else, Donald. But tell me, dear, did you receive my letter?”
“Yes—and ignored it. That’s why I’m here.”
“That was a risk you should not have taken.”
He looked thoughtfully at the multicolored flame of the driftwood fire.
“Well, you see, Nan, it didn’t occur to me that I was taking a risk; a confession of love was the last thing I would have thought would happen.”
“Then why did you disregard that letter that cost me such an effort to write?”
“Well,” he replied slowly, “I guess it’s because I’m the captain of my soul—or try to be, at any rate. I didn’t think it quite fair that you should be shunned; it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be playing a manly part to permit the idle mewing of the Port Agnew tabbies to frighten me away. I didn’t intend to fall in love with you—Oh, drat my reasons! I’m here because I’m here. And in the matter of that old hen—” He paused and favored her with a quizzical smile.
“I brought a substitute hen with me—all ready for the pot, and if I can’t come to dinner to-morrow, I’m going to face a very lonely Sunday.”
“You ridiculous boy! Of course you may come, although it must be the final visit. You realize that we owe it to ourselves not to make our burden heavier than it’s going to be.”
“‘Eat, drink and be merry, for to-morrow we may be dead,’” he quoted. “Let’s sit down and talk it over. I haven’t sat in front of a driftwood fire since I was a boy. Queer how the salt in the wood colors the flames, isn’t it?”