Straight to him she came, moving swiftly. Her face was still pale and very wan, but the strained look had utterly passed away. Her eyes sought his with fearless confidence, and Nick’s heart gave a jerk of sheer relief. He had expected tragedy, and he beheld—peace.
She reached him. She laid her hands upon his shoulders. A tremulous smile hovered about her lips. “Nick—Nick darling,” she said, “why—why—why didn’t you tell me all this long ago?”
He stood before her dumb with astonishment. For once he was utterly and completely at a loss.
She slipped her hand through his arm, and drew him out. “Let us go into the sun!” she said. And then, as the glow fell around them, “Oh, Nick, I’m so thankful that I know the truth at last!”
“Are you, dear?” he said. “Well, I certainly think it is time you knew it now.”
“I ought to have known it sooner,” she said. “Why did you—you and Max—let me believe—a lie?”
He hesitated momentarily. “We thought it would be easier for you than the truth,” he said then.
“You mean Max thought so,” she said quickly. “You didn’t, Nick!”
“Perhaps not,” he admitted.
“I’m sure you didn’t,” she said. “You know me better than that.” Again she stood still in the sunshine, lifting her face to the glory. “Love conquers so many things,” she said.
“All things,” put in Nick quickly.
She looked at him again. “I don’t know about all things, Nick,” she said.
“I have proved it,” he said.
She shook her head slowly. “But I haven’t.” She passed from the subject as if it were one she could not bear to discuss openly. “What made you think the truth would hurt me so, I wonder? It was only the first great shock I couldn’t bear. That nearly killed me. But now that it is over—and I can see clearly again—Nick, tell me,—as her friend—her only friend—could I have done anything else?”
Nick was silent. He had asked himself the same question many times, and had not found an answer.
“Nick,” she said pleadingly, “none but a friend could have done it. It was—an act of love.”
“I know it was,” he said.
“And yet you blame me?” Her voice was low, full of the most earnest entreaty.
“You blamed Max,” he pointed out.
“Oh, but Max didn’t love her!” He heard a note of quick pain in her voice. “Oh, don’t you see,” she said, “how love makes all the difference? Surely that was what St. Paul meant when he said that love was the fulfilling of the law. Nick, you must agree with me in this. It was utterly hopeless. Think of it! Think of it! If she had been living now!” A sudden hard shiver went through her. “Nick, if I had been in her place—wouldn’t you have done the same for me?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
But she clung to him more closely. “You do know, dear! You do know!”
And then Nick did a strange, impulsive thing. He suddenly flung down his reserve and bared to her his inmost soul.