“Money means so little, and it’s so easy to be happy without it,” Alaire told him. “But I’m not altogether poor. Of course, everything here is Ed’s, but I have enough. All my life I’ve had everything except the very thing you offer—and how I’ve longed for that! How I’ve envied other people! Do you think I’ll be allowed, somehow, to have it?”
“Yes! I’ve something to say about that. You gave me the right when you gave me that kiss.”
Alaire shook her head. “I’m not sure. It seems easy now, while you are here, but how will it seem later? I’m in no condition at this minute to reason. Perhaps, as you say, it is all a dream; perhaps this feeling I have is just a passing frenzy.”
Dave laughed softly, confidently. “It’s too new yet for you to understand, but wait. It is frenzy, witchery—yes, and more. To-morrow, and every day after, it will grow and grow and grow! Trust me, I’ve watched it in myself.”
“So you cared for me from the very first?” Alaire questioned. It was the woman’s curiosity, the woman’s hunger to hear over and over again that truth which never fails to thrill and yet never fully satisfies.
“Oh, even before that, I think! When you came to my fire that evening in the chaparral I knew every line of your face, every movement of your body, every tone of your voice, as a man knows and recognizes his ideal. But it took time for me to realize all you meant to me.”
Alaire nodded. “Yes, and it must have been the same with me.” She met his eyes frankly, but when he reached toward her she held him away. “No, dear. Not yet, not again, not until we have the right. It would be better for us both if you went away now.”
“No, no! Oh, I have so much to say! I’ve been dumb all my life, and you’ve just opened my lips.”
“Please! After I’ve decided what to do—once I feel that I can control myself better—I’ll send for you. But you must promise not to come until then, for you would only make it harder.”
It required all Dave’s determination to force himself to obey her wish, and the struggle nearly kept him from recalling the original object of his visit. Remembering, he tried to tell Alaire what he had learned from Phil Strange; but so broken and so unconvincing was his recital that he doubted if she understood in the least what he was talking about.
At last he took her hand and kissed her wrist, just over her pulse, as if to speed a message to her heart, then into her rosy palm he whispered a tender something that thrilled her.
She stood white, motionless, against the dim illumination of the porch until he had gone, and not until the last sound of his motor had died away did she stir. Then she pressed her own lips to the palm he had caressed and walked slowly to her room.
WHAT ELLSWORTH HAD TO SAY