“I mean that no man has the right to refuse happiness to his own or to others simply to curry his own personal spite. That’s all, sir.”
He whirled his horse and galloped away. He halted at the church, threw the reins over the animal’s head and went and sat on the steps. He wanted to think. He wanted to calm himself. He hoped that the place would console him with its memories, afford him some hope, some suggestion.
He wondered now why he had allowed anything to delay that search. Yet he understood vaguely that she had hidden herself from him by her own choice. She had fled with wounded heart. He had not dared to seek her too eagerly.
The red eyes of Kavanagh’s house mocked him.
Suddenly he started up. A figure, flitting and wraith-like, was coming toward him from those eyes. It was running. He could hear the swift patter of feet. She came straight to him where he stood; he had not dared to run toward her.
“I heard—I followed!” she gasped, and the next moment was sobbing in his arms.
All his talk to her for a long time was incoherent babbling of love and remorse. Then he held her close.
“Little girl,” he said, “I’ve learned in the world outside. I’ve learned many things. But this—this I’ve learned bitterly and forever! There’s love of fame and of power and of mere beauty—but there’s only one love after all—that’s the love that gives all, is all—that’s my love for you and the love I think you have for me. It is ours—that love. Oh, my sweetheart, how we will cherish it all the years through!”
After a time he drew her down on the steps and they sat in silence through long minutes, listening to the muted calling of the crickets in the grasses, the rustle of the river current, all the soft noises of the summer night.
Then he bethought himself and drew Madeleine Presson’s letter from his pocket. He gave it to her with a word of explanation.
Looking into his eyes, her own eyes brilliant as stars, she slowly tore the letter to bits and scattered the snowy fragments upon the grass.
“A woman does know,” she said; “knows without reading what some other woman writes. I do not need her words, Big Boy. I know of my own heart. I knew long ago. I listened too readily to others. I have listened to my own love since. I have been waiting for you to come.”
After another silence which needed no words to interpret it, he rose and lifted her to her feet. With his arm about her he walked to his horse. He mounted and drew her up, and she clung to him, as maid to knight.
“So, to your father now,” he told her.
“But not to speak to him harshly,” she said, a ripple of merriment in her voice, “for I’ll tell you a secret. He did not try to stop me when I ran away—he even called after me, ’He’s turned in at the church, you wild banshee!’ They have told him things that have given him new respect for Harlan Thornton. But your grandfather?”