“Then you must go, darling, until White returns. After I have explained to him I will come for you, but first let me hold you—so! and kiss you—so! This is why—you must go, my love!”
She was in his arms, her lifted face pressed to his. She shivered, but clung to him for a moment and two tears rolled down her cheeks—the first he had ever seen escape her control. He kissed them away.
“Of what are you thinking, Nella-Rose?”
“Thinking? I’m not thinking; I’m—happy!”
“My—sweetheart!” Again Truedale pressed his lips to hers.
“Us-all calls sweetheart—’doney-gal’!”
“My—my doney-gal, then!”
“And”—the words came muffled, for Truedale was holding her still—“and always I shall see your face, now. It came to-day like it came long ago. It will always come and make me glad.”
Truedale lifted her from his breast and held her at arms’ length. He looked deep into her eyes, trying to pierce through her ignorance and childishness to find the elusive woman that could meet and bear its part in what lay before. Long they gazed at each other—then the light in Nella-Rose’s face quivered—her mouth drooped.
“I’m going now,” she said, “going till Jim White comes back.”
But the girl had slipped from his grasp; she was gone into the misty, threatening grayness that had closed in about them while love had carried them beyond their depths. Then the rain began to fall—heavy, warning drops. The wind, too, was rising sullenly like a monster roused from its sleep and slowly gathering power to vent its rage.
Into this darkening storm Nella-Rose fled unheedingly. She was not herself—not the girl of the woods, wise in mountain lore; she was bewitched and half mad with the bewildering emotions that, at one moment frightened her—the next, carried her closer to the spiritual than she had ever been.
Alone in his cabin, Truedale was conscious of a sort of groundless terror that angered him. The storm could not account for it—he had the advantage of ignorance there! Certainly his last half-hour could not be responsible for his sensations. He justified every minute of it by terms as old as man’s desires and his resentment of restrictions. “Our lives are our own!” he muttered, setting to work to build a fire and to light the lamp. “They will all come around to my way of seeing things when I have made good and taken her back to them!”
Still this arguing brought no peace, and more and more Truedale found himself relying upon Jim White’s opinions. In that troubled hour the sheriff stood like a rugged sign post in the path. One unflinching finger pointed to the past; the other—to the future.
“Well! I’ve chosen,” thought Truedale; “it’s the new way and—thank God!” But he felt that the future could be made possible or miserable by Jim’s favour or disapproval.