Young Bartlett spoke to Nancy about it the first time they were alone.
“Who sent you to us, Mrs. Watson?” he asked.
Nancy turned and looked out of the window.
“Nobody sent me–I just came.”
Then she faced about.
“I don’t want to deceive nobody. I come down from Pinacate to see you about some–some business. They told me at the bank that you was up at the house, so I come up. When I found how it was, I thought I’d better stay–that’s all.”
“From Pinacate–about some business?” queried the puzzled listener.
“Yes; I didn’t mean to say anything to you; I don’t want to bother you about it when you’re in trouble an’ all wore out. I told them down at the bank; they’ll tell you when you go down.” And with this the young man was obliged to be content.
It was nearly two weeks before the child was out of danger. Then Nancy said she must go home. The young mother kissed her tenderly when they parted.
“I’m so sorry you can’t stay and see the baby,” she said, with sweet young selfishness; “they’re going to bring him home very soon now. He’s so cute! Archie dear, go to the door with Mrs. Watson, and remember”–She raised her eyebrows significantly, and waited to see that her husband understood before she turned away.
The young man followed Nancy to the hall.
“How much do I owe”–He stopped, with a queer choking sensation in his throat.
Nancy’s face flushed.
“I always want to be neighborly when there’s sickness,” she said; “‘most anybody does. I hope you’ll get on all right now. Good-by.”
She held out her work-hardened hand, and the young man caught it in his warm, prosperous grasp. They looked into each other’s eyes an instant, not the mortgagor and the mortgagee, but the woman and the man.
“Good-by, Mrs. Watson. I can never”–The words died huskily in his throat.
“Papa,” called a weak, fretful little voice.
Nancy hitched her old cape about her high shoulders.
“Good-by,” she repeated, and turned away.
* * * * *
Robert leaned across the kitchen table, and held a legal document near the lamp.
“It’s marked ‘Satisfaction of mortgage’ on the outside,” he said in a puzzled voice; “and it must be our mortgage, for it tells all about it inside; but it says”–he unfolded the paper, and read from it in his slow, husky whisper,–”‘The debt–secured thereby–having been fully paid–satisfied–and discharged.’ I don’t see what it means.”
Nancy rested her elbows on the table, and looked across at him anxiously.
“It must be a mistake, Robert. I never said anything to them except that we’d like to have more time.”
He went over the paper again carefully.
“It reads very plain,” he said. Then he fixed his sunken eyes on her thoughtfully. “Do you suppose, Nancy, it could be on account of what you done?”
“Me!” The woman stared at him in astonishment.
Suddenly Robert turned his eyes toward the ceiling, with a new light in his thin face.
“Listen!” he exclaimed breathlessly, “it’s raining!”
There was a swift patter of heralding drops, and then a steady, rhythmical drumming on the shake roof. The man smiled, with that ineffable delight in the music which no one really knows but the tiller of the soil.
Nancy opened the kitchen door and looked out into the night.
“Yes,” she said, keeping something out of her voice; “the wind’s strong from the southeast, and it’s raining steady.”
Nancy Watson always felt a little lonesome when it rained. She had never mentioned it, but she could not help wishing there was a shelter over the little grave on the edge of the barley-field.