“Well——?” Harriet shrugged. “I thought you had to go,” she added. “I’m—I’ll confess I’m disappointed. But to have Nina want to do anything is such a relief to me that I’m only going to think of that!”
“Yes, I have to go,” Richard said, slowly. “I must be there for a month at least. But I’m disappointed, too. I got thinking of it, in the night—I couldn’t sleep! I’m disappointed, too.” He fell silent. “I wish,” he said, hesitatingly, “that you had not told me that you—you don’t feel that you—are going to love me!” he said. “I love you with all my heart and soul. It—well, it’s all I think of, now. I want——” He turned, and picking an ivy leaf from the wall, looked at it intently for a moment, and tore it apart before he let it fall. “However,” he said, philosophically, smiling at her, “we’ll let that wait!”
Harriet, close to him, laid one hand upon his shoulder.
“You misunderstood me,” she said, steadily. “What I said was that I could not love you more than I do! Aren’t you—ever—going to understand?”
For a long minute they looked straight into each other’s eyes.
“Harriet, do you mean it?” Richard said then, simply.
“Yes,” she answered, “I mean it! I’ve always meant it. I’ve always loved you, I think. No man could want any woman to love him more!”
The blue eyes so near his own were misty with sudden tears. In the deserted little lane, in the blue summer morning and the green shade of the sycamores, they were alone. Richard put his arms about her.
And for a moment he held all the beauty and fragrance and laughter and tears that was Harriet close to his heart; the soft hair tumbled, the brown, firm young hand resting on his shoulder, the warm cheek against his own.
A breeze rustled through the branches high above them; the blue river, beyond the brick wall, flowed on in an even sheet of satin; two birds looped the enclosure in a sudden twittering flight; and from the stable region came the plaintive bleating of a mother sheep. But to Harriet and Richard the world was all their own.
“My wife!” said Richard Carter.