“Well—–” conceded Susan, as she gathered her draperies about her, and went to stand at the fence, and gaze childlishly up at the stars. Billy, also resting elbows on the old rail, stood beside her, and never moved his eyes from her face.
The half-hour that followed both of them would remember as long as they lived. Slowly, gloriously, the moon climbed up the dark blue dome of the sky, and spread her silver magic on the landscape; the valley below them swam in pale mist, clean-cut shadows fell from the nearby forest.
The murmur of young voices rose and fell—rose and fell. There were little silences, now and then Susan’s subdued laughter. Susan thought her lover magnificent in the moonlight; what Billy thought of the lovely downcast face, the loose braid of hair that caught a dull gleam from the moon, the slender elbows bare on the rail, the breast that rose and fell, under her light wraps, with Susan’s quickened breathing, perhaps he tried to tell her.
“But I must go in!” she protested presently. “This has been wonderful, but I must go in!”
“But why? We’ve just begun talking—and after all, Sue, you’re going to be my wife!”
The word spurred her. In a panic Susan gave him a swift half-kiss, and fled, breathless and dishevelled, back to the porch. And a moment later she had fallen into a sleep as deep as a child’s, her prayer of gratitude half-finished.
The days that followed were brightened or darkened with moods so intense, that it was a real, if secret, relief to Susan when the forest visit was over, and sun-burned and shabby and loaded with forest spoils, they all came home again. Jim’s first position awaited him, and Anna was assistant matron in the surgical hospital now,—fated to see the man she loved almost every day, and tortured afresh daily by the realization of his greatness, his wealth, his quiet, courteous disregard of the personality of the dark-eyed, deft little nurse. Dr. Conrad Hoffman was seventeen years older than Anna. Susan secretly thought of Anna’s attachment as quite hopeless.
Philip and Betts and Susan were expected back at their respective places too, and Billy was deeply interested in the outcome of the casual, friendly letters he had written during the month in camp to Joseph Rassette. These letters had been passed about among the men until they were quite worn out; Clem Cudahy had finally had one or two printed, for informal distribution, and there had been a little sensation over them. Now, eastern societies had written asking for back numbers of the “Oliver Letter,” and a labor journal had printed one almost in full. Clement Cudahy was anxious to discuss with Billy the feasibility of printing such a letter weekly for regular circulation, and Billy thought well of the idea, and was eager to begin the enterprise.
Susan was glad to get back to the little “Democrat,” and worked very hard during the fall and winter. She was not wholly happy, or, rather, she was not happy all the time. There were times, especially when Billy was not about, when it seemed very pleasant to be introduced as an engaged girl, and to get the respectful, curious looks of other girls. She liked to hear Mrs. Carroll and Anna praise Billy, and she liked Betts’ enthusiasm about him.