“But I want you—just as you are! What do I care for the world, without you, or for what it says, so long as you are mine?”
A flood of bitterness rushed to her heart. Ah, why, why, had fate made it so necessary that, to save him, she must do what, yesterday, she had been forced to do!
“You’re thinkin’ of my ignorance, an’ such,” she said, with sad eyes bent upon the gifts which, now, although she looked at them, she did not see and had forgotten. “But there’s more nor that as stands between us, Mr. Frank.”
“You mean you don’t love me?”
“No, no; oh, what air th’ use o’ denyin’ it? I love you! It’s that—it’s that that drives me from you, an’ that breaks—my—heart!”
He went close to her and tried to take her hands in his. “Madge, dear,” he said softly, “I want you to listen to me. I tell you I shall not let any foolish pride or any fears for the future stand in the way of our happiness. When I thought, a moment ago, that I might lose you forever, I saw what my life would be without you; and, now that I know you love me, nothing shall come between us. Madge, dear heart, I want you to put your hand in mine.”
She drew away, but it was plain that she was sorely tempted. “Ah, if I only dared!” said she.
“Come, Madge, darling!” he said fervently, opening his arms to fold her to his heart.
“No, no,” she said, “it wouldn’t be right.” The Colonel’s words: “We’d think it an eternal shame and a disgrace for one of our women to ride a race in a costume such as you have on,” rang in her mind and filled her with despair. “The Colonel said—” she began, weakly.
“Oh, damn the Colonel!” Frank cried angrily, wondering why any one should meddle with his heart-affairs.
And as he spoke the Colonel entered hurriedly, evidently bearing news of import.
Startled by the young man’s earnest words, he stopped short in astonishment. “Why—what’s that, sir?” he exclaimed amazed, and then, seeing clearly that he had broken in upon a fervent sentimental situation and unwilling to believe that Frank could really have meant him when he had been so emphatic, turned his thoughts, again, to the news which had brought him in such haste.
“I say,” he said, excitedly, “I’ve been cross-examining that rascal, Ike, and I’ve found out who smuggled the whiskey to him.”
“Who was it?” Madge and Frank cried almost in unison.
“That double-distilled, three-ply scoundrel, Horace Holton,” said the Colonel, angrily.