“She was up with you all las’ night, sweet lamb! It’d be a shame to wake her—”
“So it would—don’t disturb her.”
“But I guess she’d never forgive me if I didn’t wake her. So if you’ll promise t’ be good—”
“An’ not go gettin’ all worked up an’ excited?”
“I will not!”
“Why then, perhaps ten minutes wouldn’t hurt.”
“God bless you, Mrs. Trapes!”
Left alone, he tried to sit up, and finding this strangely difficult, examined his hands and arms, scowling to find himself so weak. Then he clapped hand to bony jaw and was shocked to feel thereon a growth of ragged beard, and then—she was before him. Fresh from her slumbers she came, wrapped in a scanty kimono whose thin, clinging folds revealed more of her shapely beauty than he had ever seen as she hurried across the wide chamber.
“Hermione,” he said, and reached out his hands to her. And his voice was no longer the feeble echo it had been; the hand that clasped hers, though still thin and weak, thrilled her anew with its masterful touch. Because of all this, her words of tender greeting remained unspoken, the arms which had been eager to cradle his helplessness crossed themselves on her bosom; she became aware of naked ankles and of bare feet thrust into bedroom slippers and needs must hide them, and the better to do so, sank upon the bed, her feet tucked under her. So she sat, just beyond his reach, and, conscious of scanty draperies, shook her shining hair about her, veiling herself in its glory.
“Hermione,” he said unsteadily, “I—I never knew quite how beautiful you were—and we—we are married, it seems!”
“Yes,” she said softly.
“And now I’m—I’m afraid I’m going to—live!”
“It—it almost seems as though I had married you under false pretences, doesn’t it? But the doctors and everybody were so certain I was to die that I thought so too. And now—I’m going to live, it seems.”
She was silent, and slowly his hand went out to her again, and slowly hers went to meet it, but though her fingers clasped and twined, thrilling in mute passion to his touch, she came no nearer, but watched him from the shadow of her hair with great troubled eyes.
“Dear,” he said, very humbly, “you do—love me still, don’t you?”
“More than ever.”
“Then you’re not—sorry to be my wife?”
“No—ah, no, no!” she whispered, “never that!”
“Then, dear, won’t you—will you kiss me?” Seeing she hesitated, he sank back on his pillow and laughed a little ruefully. “I forgot these confounded whiskers—I must look an unholy object. Patterson shall shave me, and then perhaps—”
But sudden and warm and soft her arms were about him, and her eyes, troubled no longer, gazed into his, brimful of yearning tenderness.
“Oh, my dear, my dear,” she murmured, quick and passionate, “as if I should ever care how you looked as long as you were—just you. My dear, my dear, you have come back to me from the very gates of death because I—I—”