Sinking into a chair, she sobbed in helpless, angry despair.
“Oh, how shameful, how shameful!”
He let her alone for a little; then, when the violence of her sobbing had died away, came over and laid his hand gently on her shoulder.
“Hadn’t you better cave in, my girl? You’ve tried your strength against mine and it hasn’t amounted to much. You even tried to shoot me and I only made you look like a darned fool. I guess you’re beat, my girl. There’s only one law here. That’s the law of the strongest. You’ve got to do what I want because I can make you.”
“Haven’t you any generosity?”
“Not the kind you want, I guess.”
She gave a little moan of anguish.
“Hark!” He held up his hand as if to call her attention to something. For a moment, hope flamed from its embers. But stealing a glance at his face from beneath her drooping lashes, she saw that she was mistaken. The last spark died, to be rekindled no more.
“Listen! Listen to the silence. Can’t you hear it, the silence of the prairie? Why, we might be the only two people in the world, you and me, here in this little shack, right out in the prairie. Are you listening? There ain’t a sound. It might be the garden of Eden. What’s that about male and female, created He them? I guess you’re my wife, my girl. And I want you.”
Nora gave him a sidelong look of terror and remained dumb. What would have been the use of words even if she could have found voice to utter them?
Taking up the lamp, he went to the door of the bedroom and threw it wide. She saw without looking that he remained standing, like a statue of Fate, on the threshold.
To gain time, she picked up the dishcloth and began to scrub at an imaginary spot on the table.
“I guess it’s getting late. You’ll be able to have a good clean-out to-morrow.”
“To-morrow!” A violent shudder, similar to the convulsion of the day before, shook her from head to foot. But she kept on with her scrubbing.
The word smote her ear with all the impact of a cannon shot. The walls caught it, and gave it back. There was no other sound in heaven or earth than the echo of that word!
Shame, anguish and fear, in turn, passed over her face. Then, with her hands before her eyes, she passed beyond him, through the door which he still held open.
The storm which the night had foreshadowed broke with violence before dawn. At times during the night, the wind had howled about the little building in a way which recalled to Nora one of the best-remembered holidays of her childhood. She and her mother had gone to Eastborne for a fortnight with some money Eddie had sent them shortly after his arrival in Canada. The autumnal equinox had caught them during the last days of their stay, and the strong impression which the wind had made upon her childish mind had remained with her ever since.