"Oh, Barry! What a hypocrite you must have thought me!" She buried her rosy face in her hand for a moment. Presently she rushed on, half indignantly, "--With all my talk about the sinfulness of American women, who persistently attempt a scheme of living that is far beyond their incomes! And talking of the needs of the poor all over the world, with all that money lying idle!"
"I thought of it chiefly as an absolute and immovable barrier between us," Barry said honestly, "and that was as far as my thinking went."
Her eyes met his with that curious courage she had when a difficult moment had to be faced.
"There is a more serious barrier than that between us," she reminded him gravely.
"Hetty!" he said stupidly. "But I TOLD you--"
But he stopped short, realizing that he had not yet told her, and rather at a loss.
"You didn't tell me anything," she said, eyeing him steadily.
"Why," Barry's tone was much lower, "I meant to tell you first of all, but--you know what a day I have had! It seems impossible that I only left San Francisco this morning."
He brought his chair from his own desk, and sat opposite her, and, while the summer twilight outside deepened into dusk, unmindful of time, he went over the pitiful little story. Sidney listened, her serious eyes never leaving his face, her fine hands locked idly before her. The telephone boy and the movers had gone now, and there was silence all about.
"You have suffered enough, Barry; thank G.o.d it is all over!" she said, at the end, "and we know," she went on, with one of her rare revelations of the spiritual deeps that lay so close to the surface of her life, "we know that she is safe and satisfied at last, in His care." For a moment her absent eyes seemed to fathom far s.p.a.ces. Barry abruptly broke the silence.
"For one year, Sidney," he said, in a purposeful, steady voice that was new to her, and that brought her eyes, almost startled, to his face, "for one year I'm going to show you what I can do. In that time the Mail will be where it was before the fire, if all goes well. And then--"
"Then--" she said, a little unsteadily, rising and gathering hat and gloves together, "then you shall come to me and tell me anything you like! But--but not now! All this is so new and so strange--"
"Ah, but Sidney!" he pleaded, taking her hands again, "mayn't I speak of it just this one day, and then never again? Let me think for this whole year that PERHAPS you will marry a country editor, and that we shall spend the rest of our lives together, writing and planning, and tramping through the woods, and picnicking with the kiddies on the river, and giving Christmas parties for every little rag-tag and bob-tail in Old Paloma!"
"But you don't want to settle down in this stupid village," she laughed tremulously, tears on her lashes, "at the ugly old Hall, and among these superficial empty-headed women?"
"Just here," he said, smiling at his own words, "in the sweetest place in the world, among the best neighbors! I never want to go anywhere else. Our friends are here, our work is here--"
"And we are here!" she finished it for him, laughing. Barry, with a great rising breath, put his arms about the white figure, and crushed her to him, and Sidney laid her hand on his shoulder, and raised her face honestly for his first kiss.
"And now let me go home to my neglected girls," she said, after an interval. "You have a busy night ahead of you, and your press boys will be here any minute."
But first she took a sheet of yellow copy paper, and wrote on it, "One year of silence. August thirtieth to August thirtieth." "Is this inclusive?" she asked, looking up.
"Exclusive," said Barry, firmly.
"Exclusive," she echoed obediently. And when she had added the word, she folded the sheet and gave it to Barry. "There is a little reminder for you," said she.
Barry went down to the street door with her, to watch her start homeward in the sweet summer darkness.
"Oh, one more thing I meant to say," she said, as they stood on the platform of what had been the old station, "I don't know why I haven't said it already, or why you haven't."
"And that is, Madam--?" he asked attentively.
"It's just this," she swayed a little nearer to him--her laughing voice was no more than a whisper. "I love you, Barry!"
"Haven't I said that?" he asked a little hoa.r.s.ely.
"Then I say it," he answered steadily, "I love you, my darling!"
"Oh, not here, Barry--in the street!" was Mrs. Burgoyne's next remark.
But there was no moon, and no witnesses but the blank walls and shuttered windows of neighboring storehouses. And the silent year had not, after all, fairly begun.
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