For a moment Betty looked at him with a laugh of disbelief. Then, biting the smile upon her lips, she held out her hand with a friendly gesture.
"I am quite content that it should be so," she said in a cordial voice. "We shall be very good neighbours, I fancy, and if you have any trouble with your crops, don't hesitate to ask for my advice. I've become an excellent farmer, the Major says, you know." She caught up her long black skirt and walked on, but when he would have followed, she motioned him back with a decisive little wave. "You really mustn't--I can't think of allowing it,"
she insisted. "It is putting my neighbours to unheard-of trouble to make them see me home. Why, if I once begin the custom, I shall soon have old Rainy-day Jones walking back with me when I go to buy his cows." Still smiling she pa.s.sed under the battle-scarred elms and stepped over the ruined gate into the road.
Leaning against a twisted tree in the old drive, Dan watched her until her black dress fluttered beyond the crumbled wall. Then he gave a cry that checked her hastening feet.
"Betty!" he called, and at his voice she turned.
"What is it, dear friend?" she asked, and, standing amid the scattered stones, looked back at him with pleading eyes.
"Betty!" he cried again, stretching out his arms; and as she ran toward him, he went down beside the ashes of Cheric.o.ke, and lay with his face half hidden against a broken urn.
"I am coming," called Betty, softly, running over the fallen gate and along the drive. Then, as she reached him, she knelt down and drew him to her bosom, soothing him as a mother soothes a tired child.
"It shall be as you wish--I shall be as you wish," she promised as she held him close.
But his strength had come back to him at her touch, and springing to his feet, he caught her from the ground as he had done that day beside the cabin in the woods, kissing her eyelids and her faithful hands.
"I can't do it, Betty, it's no use. There's still some fight left in me--I am not utterly beaten so long as I have you on my side."
With a smile she lifted her face and he caught the strong courage of her look.
"We will begin again," she said, "and this time, my dear, we will begin together."
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