“That’s it,” said Weyman, rolling and lighting a cigarette. Then he laughed, as the sick man finished another coughing spell, and said:
“I never thought you’d have a love affair, Bucky!”
“Neither did I,” chuckled Severn. “Ain’t it a wonder, doc? Here I’m thirty-eight, with a hide on me like leather, an’ no thought of a woman for twenty years, until I saw her. I don’t mean it’s a wonder I fell in love, doc—you’d ‘a’ done that if you’d met her first. The wonder of it is that she fell in love with me.” He laughed softly. “I’ll bet Father Brochet’ll go in a heap himself when he marries us! It’s goin’ to happen next month. Did you ever see her, father—Marie La Corne, over at the post on Split Lake?”
Severn dropped his head to cough, but Weyman say the sudden look of horror that leaped into the little priest’s face.
“Marie La Corne!”
“Yes, at Split Lake.”
Severn looked up again. He had missed what Weyman had seen.
“Yes, I’ve seen her.”
Bucky Severn’s eyes lit up with pleasure.
“She’s—she’s beautiful, ain’t she?” he cried in hoarse whisper. “Ain’t it a wonder, father? I come up there with a canoe full of supplies, last spring about this time, an’—an’ at first I hardly dast to look at her; but it came out all right. When I told her I was coming over here to build us a home, she wanted me to bring her along to help; but I wouldn’t. I knew it was goin’ to be hard this winter, and she’s never goin’ to work—never so long as I live. I ain’t had much to do with women, but I’ve seen ’em and I’ve watched ’em an’ she’s never goin’ to drudge like the rest. If she’ll let me, I’m even goin’ to do the cookin’ an’ the dish-washing and scrub the floors! I’ve done it for twenty-five years, an’ I’m tough. She ain’t goin’ to do nothin’ but sew for the kids when they come, an’ sing, an’ be happy. When it comes to the work that there ain’t no fun in, I’ll do it. I’ve planned it all out. We’re goin’ to have half an arpent square of flowers, an’ she’ll love to work among ’em. I’ve got the ground cleared—out there—you kin see it by twisting your head through the door. An’ she’s goin’ to have an organ. I’ve got the money saved, an’ it’s coming to Churchill on the next ship. That’s goin’ to be a surprise—’bout Christmas, when the snow is hard an’ sledging good. You see—”
He stopped again to cough. A hectic flush filled his hollow cheeks, and there was a feverish glow in his eyes. As he bent his head, the priest looked at Weyman. The doctor’s lips were tense. His cigarette was unlighted.
“I know what it means for a woman to die a workin’,” Severn went on. “My mother did that. I can remember it, though I was only a kid. She was bent an’ stoop-shouldered, an’ her hands were rough and twisted. I know now why she used to hug me up close and croon funny things over me when father was away. When I first told my Marie what I was goin’ to do, she laughed at me; but when I told her ‘bout my mother, an’ how work an’ freezin’ an’ starvin’ killed her when I needed her most, Marie jest put her hand up to my face an’ looked queer—an’ then she burst out crying like a baby. She understands, Marie does! She knows what I’m goin’ to do—”