“Oh, do let me help you,” she said. “I’d like to.” And she leaned down, knelt beside him, and held her white forefinger on the cord.
How it happened, neither of them ever knew. But a sudden electric thrill ran through their veins. Something hammered in their brains. For a brief instant, their hearts beat as though the whole world must hear. He had touched her finger, and, before he was aware of it, he had dared to lean over and kiss it. Not a word was said—there was no time for words. They did not need speech to understand. It was the old, but ever new experience of the ages: two who loved each other had found out in the twinkling of an eye—and she belonged to another. There was a moment of terrible silence. Then,
“I’m sorry,” was all Gilbert could get out.
“But you touched my hand many a time, in the old days,” Lucia said.
“That was different. You’re married now. Oh, there is a vast change since then. I could not—Forgive me, my dear.” He turned away his face. He did not want her to read what was in his eyes. “Shall I send them, or would you rather take them with you?” he asked, hiding behind that commonplace question the emotion he felt. His voice held a note of pain.
Lucia rose. “You mean you want to give these wonderful rugs and blankets to me?—these priceless things.”
“More than that. I want you to have them—to remind you—sometimes of—” He broke off, like a frightened lad.
“As though I should ever need reminding! How dull you men can be! But I don’t want to take them from you, Gil.”
“I’m giving up this ranch,” he told her, “I shan’t want them any more. Please take them, for my sake.” He made a gesture, as though they were the last of his poor possessions.
“I thought you loved it here?” she said.
“I do—in a way.”
“Then why are you giving it up?” was the natural question.
He hesitated, not knowing what to answer. “I thought I’d try something else for awhile. I hate to have to tell you this, Lucia; but the fact is, I—I’ve got to leave to-day. I was going to tell you before, only I was hoping that something might turn up at the last minute, and—well, it hasn’t. That’s all.”
There was nothing she could say; and they stood looking at each other in silence—a silence that was far more eloquent than speech. Gilbert went over and sat on the case, and Lucia finally said:
“Then we won’t see each other again?”
He nodded, sorrowfully. Lucia Pell went over to the door and looked out once more. He watched her, covertly—her every gesture held a new meaning for him now. The silence continued. At length she turned back and faced him. He could not stand it, and bent quickly over the rugs and blankets.
“I don’t know what to say, Gil.” She moved closer to him. “I’ve had a wonderful time—you know that. I want to thank you for it. You’ve been awfully kind to us.”