“Mel and Daren,” he said. “No human can read the secret ways of God. But it seems there is divinity in you both. You have been sacrificed to the war. You are builders, not destroyers. You are Christians, not pagans. You have a vision limned against the mystery of the future. Mammon seems now to rule. Civilization rocks on its foundations. But the world will go on growing better. Peace on earth, good will to men! That is the ultimate. It was Christ’s teaching.... You two give me greater faith.... Go now and face the world with heads erect—whatever you do, Mel—and however long you live, Daren. Who can tell what will happen? But time proves all things, and the blindness of people does not last forever.... You both belong to the Kingdom of God.”
But few words were spoken by Lane or Mel on the ride home. Mel seemed lost in a trance. She had one hand slipped under Lane’s arm, the other clasped over it. As for Lane, he had overestimated his strength. A deadly numbness attacked his nerves, and he had almost lost the sense of touch. When they arrived at Mel’s home the snow-storm had abated somewhat, and the lighted windows of the cottage shone brightly.
Lane helped Mel wade through the deep snow, or he pretended to help her, for in reality he needed her support more than she needed his. They entered the warm little parlor. Some one had replenished the fire. The clock pointed to the hour of one. Lane laid the marriage certificate on the open book Mel had been reading. Mel threw off hat, coat, overshoes and gloves. Her hair was wet with melted snow.
“Now, Daren Lane,” she said softly. “Now that you have made me your wife—!”
Up until then Lane had been master of the situation. He had thought no farther than this moment. And now he weakened. Was this beautiful woman, with head uplifted and eyes full of fire, the Mel Iden of his school days? Now that he had made her his wife—.
“Mel, there’s no now for me,” he replied, with a sad finality. “From this moment, I’ll live in the past. I have no future.... Thank God, you let me do what I could. I’ll try to come again soon. But I must go now. I’m afraid—I overtaxed my strength.”
“Oh, you look so—so,” she faltered. “Stay, Daren—and let me nurse you.... We have a little spare room, warm, cozy. I’ll wait on you, Daren. Oh, it would mean so much to me—now I am your wife.”
The look of her, the tones of her voice, made him weak. Then he thought of his cold, sordid lodgings, and he realized that one more moment here alone with Mel Iden would make him a coward in his own eyes. He thanked her, and told her how impossible it was for him to stay, and bidding her good night he reeled out into the white gloom. At the gate he was already tired; at the bridge he needed rest. Once more, then, he heard the imagined voices of the waters calling to him.