“Did you think that I was marrying you for your money?”
“No. But two months’ pay wouldn’t buy a gown like this,”—he lifted a fold with his forefinger—“to say nothing of your little shoes.” He dropped his light tone. “Oh, my dear, can’t you see?”
“No. I can’t see. Daddy would let us have this house, and I have a little money of my own from my mother, and—and the Connollys would take care of everything, and we should see the spring come, and the summer.”
He rose and went and stood with his back to the fire. “But I shan’t be here in the spring and summer.”
She clasped her hands nervously. “Derry, I don’t want you to go.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“I do. I do. At least not yet. We can be married—and have just a little, little month or two—and then I’ll let you go—truly.”
He shook his head. “I’ve stayed out of it long enough. You wouldn’t want me to stay out of it any longer, Jean-Joan.”
“Yes, I should. Other men can go, but I want to keep you—it’s bad enough to give—Daddy—. I haven’t anybody. Mary Connolly has her husband, but I haven’t anybody—” her voice broke—and broke again—.
He came over and knelt beside her. “Let me tell you something,” he said. “Do you remember the night of the Witherspoon dinner? Well, that night you cut me dead because you thought I was a coward—and I thanked God for the women who hated cowards.”
“But you weren’t a coward.”
“I know, and so I could stand it—could stand your scorn and the scorn of the world. But what if I stayed out of it now, Jean?
“What if I stayed out of it now? You and I could have our little moment of happiness, while other men fought that we might have it. We should be living in Paradise, while other men were in Hell. I can’t see it, dearest. All these months I have been bound. But now, my dear, my dear, do you love me enough not to keep me, but to let me go?”
There was a beating pause. She lifted wet eyes. “Oh, Derry, darling, I love you enough—I love you—”
Thus, in a moment, little Jean McKenzie unlatched the gate which had shut her into the safe and sunshiny garden of pampered girlhood and came out upon the broad highway of life, where men and women suffer for the sake of those who travel with them, sharing burdens and gaining strength as they go.
Dimly, perhaps, she perceived what she had done, but it was not given to her to know the things she would encounter or the people she would meet. All the world was to adventure with her, throughout the years, the poor distracted world, dealing death and destruction, yet dreaming ever of still waters and green pastures.
HILDA SHAKES A TREE
When Dr. McKenzie and Jim Connolly arrived, Derry said apologetically as he shook hands with the Doctor, “You see, you can’t get rid of me—but I have such a lot of things to talk over with you.”