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A dull color rose to Cherry Malotte's cheeks; she swallowed as if her throat were very dry, and said, slowly:
"Then she refused you in spite of everything, and you have come to me because of what I told you this afternoon. You are doing this out of pity --or is it because you are angry with her? No, no, Boyd! I won't have it.
I don't want your pity--I don't want what she cast off."
"It has taken me a long time to find myself, Cherry, for I have been blinded by a vision," he answered. "I have been dreaming, and I never saw clearly till to-day. I came away of my own free will; and I came straight to you because it is you I love and shall always love."
The girl suddenly began to beat her hands together.
"You--forget what I--have been!" she cried, in a voice that tore her lover's heartstrings. "You can't want to--marry me?"
"To-night," he said, simply, and held out his arms to her. "I love you and I want you. That is all I know or care about."
He found her upon his breast, sobbing and shaking as if she had sought shelter there from some great peril. He buried his face in the soft ma.s.ses of her hair, whispering fondly to her till her emotion spent itself. She turned her face shyly up at length and pressed her lips to his. Then, holding herself away from him, she said, with a half-doubtful yet radiant look:
"It is not too late yet. I will give you one final chance to save yourself."
He shook his head.
"Then I have done my duty!" She snuggled closer to him. "And you have no regrets?"
"Only one. I am sorry that I can't give you more than my name. I may have to go out into the world and begin all over if Mr. Wayland carries out his threat. I may be the poorest of the poor."
"That will be my opportunity to show how well I love you. You can be no poorer than I in this world's goods."
"You at least have your copper-mine."
"I have no mine," said the girl. "Not even the smallest interest in one."
"But--I don't understand."
She dropped her eyes. "Mr. Hilliard is a hard man to deal with. I had to give him all my share in the claims."
"I suppose you mean you sold out to him."
"No! When I found you could not raise the money, I gave him my share in the mine. With that as a consideration, he made you the loan. You are not angry, are you?"
"Angry!" Emerson's tone conveyed a supreme gladness. "You don't know--how happy you have made me."
"Hark!" She laid a finger upon his lips. Through the breathless night there came the faint rumble of a ship's chains.
"_The Grande Dame!_" he cried. "She sails at the flood tide."
They stood together in the open doorway of the little house and watched the yacht's lights as they described a great curve through the darkness, then slowly faded into nothingness down the bay. Cherry drew herself closer to Boyd.
"What a wonderful Providence guides us, after all," she said. "That girl had everything in the world, and I was poor--so poor--until this hour. G.o.d grant she may some day be as rich as I!"
Out on _The Grande Dame_ the girl who had everything in the world maintained a lonely vigil at the rail, straining with tragic eyes until the sombre shadows that marked the sh.o.r.es of the land she feared had shrunk to a faint, low-lying streak on the horizon. Then she turned and went below, numbed by the knowledge that she was very poor and very wretched, and had never understood.