In compliance with his brother's gesture, Robert Maitland touched the bell and bade the answering servant ask Miss Maitland to come down to the library.
"Now," said Mr. Stephen Maitland as the servant closed the door, "you and I would best leave the young people alone, eh, Robert?"
"By all means," answered the younger and opening the door again the two older men went out leaving Newbold alone.
He heard a soft step on the stair in the hall without, the gentle swish of a dress as somebody descended from the floor above. A vision appeared in the doorway. Without a movement in opposition, without a word of remonstrance, without a throb of hesitation on her part, he took her in his arms. From the drawing room opposite, Mr. Robert Maitland softly tiptoed across the hall and closed the library door, neither of the lovers being aware of his action.
Often and often they had longed for each other on the opposite side of a door and now at last the woman was in the man's arms and no door rose between them, no barrier kept them apart any longer. There was no obligation of loyalty or honor, real or imagined, to separate them now. They had drunk deep of the chalice of courage, they had drained the cup to the very bottom, they had shown each other that though love was the greatest of passions, honor and loyalty were the most powerful of forces and now they reaped the reward of their abnegation and devotion.
At last the woman gave herself up to him in complete and entire abandonment without fear and without reproach; and at last the man took what was his own without the shadow of a reservation. She shrank from no pressure of his arms, she turned her face away from no touch of his lips. They two had proved their right to surrender by their ability to conquer.
Speech was hardly necessary between them and it was not for a long time that coherent words came. Little murmurs of endearment, little passionate whispers of a beloved name – these were enough then.
When he could find strength to deny himself a little and to hold her at arm's length and look at her, he found her paler, thinner and more delicate than when he had seen her in the mountains. She had on some witching creation of pale blue and silver, he didn't know what it was, he didn't care, it made her only more like an angel to him than ever. She found him, too, greatly changed and highly approved the alterations in his appearance.
"Why, Will," she said at last, "I never realized what a handsome man you were."
He laughed at her.
"I always knew you were the most beautiful woman on earth."
"Oh, yes, doubtless when I was the only one."
"And if there were millions you would still be the only one. But it isn't for your beauty alone that I love you. You knew all the time that my fight against loving you was based upon a misinterpretation, a mistake; you didn't tell me because you were thoughtful of a poor dead woman."
"Should I have told you?"
"No. I have thought it all out: I was loyal through a mistake but you wouldn't betray a dead sister, you would save her reputation in the mind of the one being that remembered her, at the expense of your own happiness. And if there were nothing else I could love you for that."
"And is there anything else?" asked she who would fain be loved for other qualities.
"Everything," he answered rapturously, drawing her once more to his heart.
"I knew that there would be some way," answered the satisfied woman softly after a little space. "Love like ours is not born to fall short of the completest happiness. Oh, how fortunate for me was that idle impulse that turned me up the cañon instead of down, for if it had not been for that there would have been no meeting – "
She stopped suddenly, her face aflame at the thought of the conditions of that meeting, she must needs hide her face on his shoulder.
He laughed gayly.
"My little spirit of the fountain, my love, my wife that is to be! Did you know that your father has done me the honor to give me your hand, subject to the condition that your heart goes with it?"
"You took that first," answered the woman looking up at him again.
There was a knock on the door. Without waiting for permission it was opened; this time three men entered, for old Kirkby had joined the group. The blushing Enid made an impulsive movement to tear herself away from Newbold's arms, but he shamelessly held her close. The three men looked at the two lovers solemnly for a moment and then broke into laughter. It was Kirkby who spoke first.
"I hear as how you found gold in them mountains, Mr. Newbold."
"I found something far more valuable than all the gold in Colorado in these mountains," answered the other.
"And what was that?" asked the old frontiersman curiously and innocently.
"This!" answered Newbold as he kissed the girl again.