"But your people? Oh, Dick, you come of a proud family. I can tell. I--I once knew a young man like you. A few months can't change pride--blood. Years can't change them. You've become a ranger. You love the adventure--the wild life. That won't last. Perhaps you'll settle down to ranching. I know you love the West. But, Dick, there's your family--"
"If you want to know anything about my family, I'll tell you," interrupted Dick, with strong feeling. "I've not secrets about them or myself. My future and happiness are Nell's to make. No one else shall count with me."
"Then, Dick--you may have her. God--bless--you--both."
Mrs. Belding's strained face underwent a swift and mobile relaxation, and suddenly she was weeping in strangely mingled happiness and bitterness.
"Why, mother!" Gale could say no more. He did not comprehend a mood seemingly so utterly at variance with Mrs. Belding's habitual temperament. But he put his arm around her. In another moment she had gained command over herself, and, kissing him, she pushed him out of the door.
"There! Go tell her, Dick...And have some spunk about it!"
Gale went thoughtfully back to his room. He vowed that he would answer for Nell's happiness, if he had the wonderful good fortune to win her. Then remembering the hope Mrs. Belding had given him, Dick lost his gravity in a flash, and something began to dance and ring within him. He simply could not keep his steps turned from the patio. Every path led there. His blood was throbbing, his hopes mounting, his spirit soaring. He knew he had never before entered the patio with that inspirited presence.
"Now for some spunk!" he said, under his breath.