“No, I’m not.”
“But ye are.”
“There!” leaning swiftly to him and kissing him. “How could I remember the Dyea days and be angry?”
“Ah, Frona darlin’, well may ye say it. I’m the dust iv the dirt under yer feet, an’ ye may walk on me—anything save get mad. I cud die for ye, swing for ye, to make ye happy. I cud kill the man that gave ye sorrow, were it but a thimbleful, an’ go plump into hell with a smile on me face an’ joy in me heart.”
They had halted before her door, and she pressed his arm gratefully. “I am not angry, Matt. But with the exception of my father you are the only person I would have permitted to talk to me about this—this affair in the way you have. And though I like you, Matt, love you better than ever, I shall nevertheless be very angry if you mention it again. You have no right. It is something that concerns me alone. And it is wrong of you—”
“To prevint ye walkin’ blind into danger?”
“If you wish to put it that way, yes.”
He growled deep down in his throat.
“What is it you are saying?” she asked.
“That ye may shut me mouth, but that ye can’t bind me arm.”
“But you mustn’t, Matt, dear, you mustn’t.”
Again he answered with a subterranean murmur.
“And I want you to promise me, now, that you will not interfere in my life that way, by word or deed.”
“I’ll not promise.”
“But you must.”
“I’ll not. Further, it’s gettin’ cold on the stoop, an’ ye’ll be frostin’ yer toes, the pink little toes I fished splinters out iv at Dyea. So it’s in with ye, Frona girl, an’ good-night.”
He thrust her inside and departed. When he reached the corner he stopped suddenly and regarded his shadow on the snow. “Matt McCarthy, yer a damned fool! Who iver heard iv a Welse not knowin’ their own mind? As though ye’d niver had dalin’s with the stiff-necked breed, ye calamitous son iv misfortune!”
Then he went his way, still growling deeply, and at every growl the curious wolf-dog at his heels bristled and bared its fangs.
Jacob Welse put both hands on Frona’s shoulders, and his eyes spoke the love his stiff tongue could not compass. The tree and the excitement and the pleasure were over with, a score or so of children had gone home frostily happy across the snow, the last guest had departed, and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were blending into one.
She returned his fondness with glad-eyed interest, and they dropped into huge comfortable chairs on either side the fireplace, in which the back-log was falling to ruddy ruin.
“And this time next year?” He put the question seemingly to the glowing log, and, as if in ominous foreshadow, it flared brightly and crumbled away in a burst of sparks.