The Chalice Of Courage: A Romance of Colorado
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"I shall never attempt," he said at last, "to constrain my daughter. I think I have learned something by my touch with this life here, perhaps we of Philadelphia need a little broadening in airs more free. I am sure that she would never give her hand without her heart, and therefore, she must decide this matter herself. From her own lips you shall have your answer."
"But you, sir; I confess that I should feel easier and happier if I had your sanction and approval."
"Steve," said Mr. Robert Maitland, as the other hesitated, not because he intended to refuse but because he was loath to say the word that so far as he was concerned would give his daughter into another man's keeping, "I think you can trust Newbold. There are men here who knew him years ago; there is abundant evidence and testimony as to his qualities; I vouch for him."
"Robert," answered his brother, "I need no such testimony; the way in which he saved Enid, the way he comported himself during that period of isolation with her, his present bearing – in short, sir, if a father is ever glad to give away his daughter, I might say that I should be glad to entrust her to you. I believe you to be a man of honor and a gentleman, your family is almost as old as my own, as for the disparity in our fortunes, I can easily remedy that."
Newbold smiled at Enid's father, but it was a pleasant smile, albeit with a trace of mockery and a trace of triumph in it.
"Mr. Maitland I am more grateful to you than I can say for your consent and approval which I shall do my best to merit. I think I may claim to have won your daughter's heart, to have added to that your sanction completes my happiness. As for the disparity in our fortunes, while your generosity touches me profoundly, I hardly think that you need be under any uneasiness as to our material welfare."
"What do you mean?"
"I am a mining engineer, sir; I didn't live five years alone in the mountains of Colorado for nothing."
"Pray explain yourself, sir."
"Did you find gold in the hills?" asked Robert Maitland, quicker to understand.
"The richest veins on the continent," answered Newbold.
"And nobody knows anything about it?"
"Not a soul."
"Have you located the claims?"
"We'll go back as soon as the snow melts," said the younger Maitland, "and take them up. You are sure?"
"But I don't quite understand?" queried Mr. Stephen Maitland.
"He means," said his brother, "that he has discovered gold."
"And silver too," interposed Newbold.
"In unlimited quantities," continued the other Maitland.
"Your daughter will have more money than she knows what to do with, sir," smiled Newbold.
"God bless me!" exclaimed the Philadelphian.
"And that, whether she marries me or not, for the richest claim of all is to be taken out in her name," added her lover.
Mr. Stephen Maitland shook the other by the hand vigorously.
"I congratulate you," he said, "you have beaten me on all points.I must therefore regard you as the most eligible of suitors. Gold in these mountains, well, well!"
"And may I see your daughter and plead my cause in person, sir?" asked Newbold.
"Certainly, certainly. Robert, will you oblige me – "
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 ca?on 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.
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