“I guess if I asked you to stay now, you’d stay,” he said hoarsely.
“You said you wanted love.”—The lovely color flooded her face.—“Didn’t you see? Love has been growing in me slowly, month by month, and I wouldn’t confess it. I told myself I hated you. It’s only to-day, when I had the chance of leaving you forever, that I knew I couldn’t live without you. I’m not ashamed any more. Frank, my husband, I love you.”
He made a stride forward as if to take her in his arms, and then stopped short, smitten by a recollection.
“I—I guess I’ve loved you from the beginning, Nora,” he stammered.
She had risen to her feet and stood waiting him with shining eyes.
“But why do you say it as if—— What is it, Frank?”
“I can’t ask you to stay on now; I guess you’ll have to take that job in England, for a while, anyway.”
“The inspector’s condemned my whole crop; I’m busted.”
“Oh, why didn’t you tell me!”
“I just guess I couldn’t. I made up my mind when I married you that I’d make good. I couldn’t expect you to see that it was just bad luck. Anyone may get the weed in his crop. But, I guess a man oughtn’t to have bad luck. The odds are that it’s his own fault if he has.”
“Ah, now I understand about your sending for Eddie.”
“I wrote to him when I knew I’d been reported.”
“But what are you going to do?”
“It’s all right about me; I can hire out again. It’s you I’m thinking of. I felt pretty sure you wouldn’t go back to Ed’s. I don’t fancy you taking a position as lady help. I didn’t know what was going to become of you, my girl. And when you told me of the job you’d been offered in England, I thought I’d have to let you go.”
“Without letting me know you were in trouble!”
“Why, if I wasn’t smashed up, d’you think I’d let you go? By God, I wouldn’t! I’d have kept you. By God, I’d have kept you!”
“Then you’re going to give up the land,” she made a sweeping gesture which took in the prospect without.
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “I guess I can’t do that. I’ve put too much work in it. And I’ve got my back up, now. I shall hire out for the summer, and next winter I can get work lumbering. The land’s my own, now. I’ll come back in time for the plowing next year.”
He had been gazing sadly out of the door as he spoke. He turned to her now ready to bring her what comfort he could. But in place of the tearful face he had expected to see, he saw a face radiant with joy and the light of love. In her hand was a little slip of colored paper which she held out to him.
“The nephew of the lady I was with so long—Miss Wickham, you know—has made me a present of it. Five hundred pounds. That’s twenty-five hundred dollars, isn’t it? You can take the quarter-section you’ve wanted so long, next to this one. You can get all the machinery you need. And”—she gave a little, happy, mirthful laugh—“you can get some cows! I’ve learned to do so many things, I guess I can learn to milk, if you’ll teach me and be very, very patient about it. Anyway, it’s yours to do what you like with. Now, will you keep me?”