“In Thy sight,” he said slowly, deeply, “I take this woman for my wife. Bless us; keep us; and”—after a pause—“deal Thou with me as I deal with her.”
Then the earnest eyes dropped to the frightened ones searching his face.
“You are mine!” Truedale spoke commandingly, with a force that never before had marked him.
“Yes.” The word was a faint, frightened whisper.
“My darling, kiss me!”
She kissed him with trembling lips.
“You love me?”
“I—I love you.”
“You—you trust me?”
“I—oh! yes; yes.”
“Then come, my doney-gal! For life or death, it is you and I, little woman, from now on!”
Like a flash his gloom departed. He was gay, desperate, and free of all hampering doubts. In such a mood Nella-Rose lost all fear of him and walked by his side as complacently as if the one minister in her sordid little world had with all his strange authority said his sacred “Amen” over her.
There were five days of terrific storm. Truedale and Nella-Rose had fought to save White’s live stock—even his cabin itself; for the deluge had attacked that while leaving safe the smaller cabin near by. All one morning they had worked gathering debris and placing it so that it turned the course of a rapid stream that threatened the larger house. It had been almost a lost hope, but as the day wore on the torrent lessened, the rough barrier held—they were successful! The gate and snake-fence were carried away, but the rest was saved!
In the strenuous labour, in the dangerous isolation, the ordinary things of life lost their importance. With death facing them their love and companionship were all that were left to them and neither counted the cost. But on the sixth day the sun shone, the flood was past, and with safety and the sure coming of Jim White at hand, they sat confronting each other in a silence new and potent.
“Sweetheart, you must go—for a few hours!”
Truedale bent across the table that separated them and took her clasped hands in his. He had burned all his social bridges, but poor Nella-Rose’s progress through life had not been made over anything so substantial as bridges. She had proceeded by scrambling down and up primitive obstacles; she felt that at last she had come to her Land of Promise.
“You are going to send me—away? Where?”
“Only until White returns, little girl. See here, dear, you and I are quite gloriously mad, but others are stupidly sane and we’ve got to think of them.”
Truedale was talking over her head, but already Nella-Rose accepted this as a phase of their new relations. A mountain man might still love his woman even if he beat her and, while Nella-Rose would have scorned the suggestion that she was a mountain woman, she did seriously believe that men were different from women and that was the end of the matter!