“Yes, I knew—and you never asked me,” he replied.
“That was it? All the time you knew,” she whispered, huskily. “You knew. . . . I’d never—marry you—never live out here?”
“Yes, Carley, I knew you’d never be woman enough—American enough—to help me reconstruct my broken life out here in the West,” he replied, with a sad and bitter smile.
That flayed her. An insupportable shame and wounded vanity and clamoring love contended for dominance of her emotions. Love beat down all else.
“Dearest—I beg of you—don’t break my heart,” she implored.
“I love you, Carley,” he answered, steadily, with piercing eyes on hers.
“Then come back—home—home with me.”
“No. If you love me you will be my wife.”
“Love you! Glenn, I worship you,” she broke out, passionately. “But I could not live here—I could not.”
“Carley, did you ever read of the woman who said, ’Whither thou goest, there will I go’ . . .”
“Oh, don’t be ruthless! Don’t judge me. . . . I never dreamed of this. I came West to take you back.”
“My dear, it was a mistake,” he said, gently, softening to her distress. “I’m sorry I did not write you more plainly. But, Carley, I could not ask you to share this—this wilderness home with me. I don’t ask it now. I always knew you couldn’t do it. Yet you’ve changed so—that I hoped against hope. Love makes us blind even to what we see.”
“Don’t try to spare me. I’m slight and miserable. I stand abased in my own eyes. I thought I loved you. But I must love best the crowd—people —luxury—fashion—the damned round of things I was born to.”
“Carley, you will realize their insufficiency too late,” he replied, earnestly. “The things you were born to are love, work, children, happiness.”
“Don’t! don’t! . . . they are hollow mockery for me,” she cried, passionately. “Glenn, it is the end. It must come—quickly. . . . You are free.”
“I do not ask to be free. Wait. Go home and look at it again with different eyes. Think things over. Remember what came to me out of the West. I will always love you—and I will be here—hoping—”
“I—I cannot listen,” she returned, brokenly, and she clenched her hands tightly to keep from wringing them. “I—I cannot face you. . . . Here is—your ring. . . . You—are—free. . . . Don’t stop me—don’t come. . . . Oh, Glenn, good-by!”
With breaking heart she whirled away from him and hurried down the slope toward the trail. The shade of the forest enveloped her. Peering back through the trees, she saw Glenn standing where she had left him, as if already stricken by the loneliness that must be his lot. A sob broke from Carley’s throat. She hated herself. She was in a terrible state of conflict. Decision had been wrenched from her, but she sensed unending strife. She dared not look back again. Stumbling and breathless, she hurried on. How changed the atmosphere and sunlight and shadow of the canyon! The looming walls had pitiless eyes for her flight. When she crossed the mouth of West Fork an almost irresistible force breathed to her from under the stately pines.