It was her pride’s last fight, a fine fight it made. For days she struggled against the yearning of her heart, against the wealth of love, pent-up and stored within; valiantly and bravely pride fought.
To-day she had been to the hospital. She had stopped, as she often did, at Buddesby. There was talk of a marriage there. Many catalogues and price-lists had come through the post, and Con and Ellice were busy with them. For they were not very rich, and money must be made to go a long way; and into their conclave they drew Joan, who for a time forgot everything in this new interest.
They had all been very busy when the door had opened and Johnny Everard had come in, and, looking up, Joan caught a look that passed between Johnny and Ellice—just a look, yet it spoke volumes. It laid bare the secret of both hearts.
Later, when she said good-bye, he walked to the gate where her car was waiting. They had said but little, for Johnny seemed shy and constrained in her presence.
“Joan, I have much to be very, very grateful to you for,” he said, as he held her hand. “You were right. Life without love would be impossible, and you have made life very possible for me.”
She was thinking of this during the lonely drive back to Starden; always his words came back to her. Life without love would be impossible, and then it was that the battle ended, that pride retired vanquished from the field.
“I want you to come
back to me because I am so lonely. Please come
back and forgive.
The message that, in the end, she must write was written and sent.
And now that pride had broken down, was gone for ever, so far as this man was concerned, it was a very loving anxious-eyed, trembling woman who watched for the coming of the man that she loved and needed, the man who meant all the happiness this world could give her.
* * * * *
She had called to him, and this must be his answer. No slow-going trains, no tedious broken journeys, no wasted hours of delay—the fastest car, driven at reckless speed, yet with all due care that none should suffer because of his eagerness and his happiness.
It seemed to him such a very pitiful, humble little appeal, an appeal that went straight to his heart—so short an appeal that he could remember every word of it, and found himself repeating it as his car swallowed the miles that lay between them.
He asked no questions of himself. She would not have sent for him had she not been free to do so. He knew that.
And now the landscape was growing familiar, a little while, and they were running through Starden village. Villagers who had come to know him touched their hats. They passed Mrs. Bonner’s little cottage, and now through the gateway, the gates standing wide as in welcome and expectation of his coming.