It never had seemed to strike him with such force before, even when matters were at their worst, what it had meant to her; and as he looked at her, sitting knitting at the opposite side of the fire, he was filled with compassion for her, and a new beauty seemed to be upon her lined face, and in the firm set of her mouth.
Thus he sat reviewing all the terrible struggle, when she had slaved to keep him and the children, during the time he was injured, and a pang shot through, as the conviction came to him, that perhaps he had not been as helpful as he might have been to her, when a little praise even might have made it easier for her.
Impulsively he rose to his feet and crossed to where she sat, taking her in his arms and kissing her.
“Losh, Geordie, what’s wrong with you!” she enquired, looking up with a pleased sparkle in her eyes, for he was usually very undemonstrative.
“Oh, just this, Nellie,” he said with embarrassment in every feature of his face, “I’ve been thinking over things, and I feel that I havena’ given you encouragement as I should have done, for all that you have done for me and the bairns.”
“You fair took my breath away,” said Nellie with a pleased little laugh; then, as she looked at his glowing face, something came into her throat, and the tears started.
“There now, lassie,” he said, again gathering her into his arms, and kissing her tenderly, “it’s all past now, my lass, and you’ll get it easier from this time forth. God knows, Nellie, you are worth all that I can ever do for you to help,” and the happy tears fell from her eyes, as she patted his rough, hairy cheek, and fondled him again, as she had done in their courting days.
“I’ll wash the floor for you, lass,” he said impulsively, almost beside himself with happiness, as he realized that this little act of his had made them both so happy. “You’ve been in the washing tub all day, and I ken you’ll be scrubbin’ on the floor first thing in the morning, as soon as we are away to the pit. But I’ll do it for you the nicht. The bairns are all in bed, and I’ll no’ be long. You sit an’ tak’ a rest,” and he was off for the pail and a scrubbing brush, and was back at the fireside pouring water from the kettle before his wife realized it.
“Oh, never mind, Geordie,” she said remonstratingly, “I’ll do it myself in the morning. You’ve had your own work to do in the pit, an’ you need all the rest you can get.”
“No,” he said decisively. “You sit doon, lass. I’ll no’ be lang. Just you sing a bit sang to me, just as you used to sing, Nellie, an’ I’ll wash out the floor,” and he was soon on his knees, scrubbing away as if it were a daily occurrence with him. And Nellie, pleased and happy beyond expression, sat in the big chair by the fireside and sang his favorite ballad, “Kirkconnel Lea.”
Oh, that I were where Helen lies,
For nicht and day on me she cries,
Oh, that I were where Helen lies
On fair Kirkconnel Lea.