Annie looked at her husband blankly. But he was already talking of something else, and she asked no more about the woman, though all the way along the road the face seemed to follow her. It might have been this that caused the tightening about her heart. For some way her vivacity had gone; and the rest of the ride she asked no questions, but sat looking straight before her at the northward stretching road, with eyes that felt rather than saw the brown, bare undulations, rising every now and then clean to the sky; at the side, little famished- looking houses, unacquainted with paint, disorderly yards, and endless reaches of furrowed ground, where in summer the corn had waved.
The horses needed no indication of the line to make them turn up a smooth bit of road that curved away neatly 'mid the ragged grasses. At the end of it, in a clump of puny scrub oaks, stood a square little house, in uncorniced simplicity, with blank, uncur- tained windows staring out at Annie, and for a moment her eyes, blurred with the cold, seemed to see in one of them the despairing face of the woman with the wisps of faded hair blowing about her face.
"Well, what do you think of it?" Jim cried, heartily, swinging her down from her high seat, and kissing her as he did so. "This is your home, my girl, and you are as welcome to it as you would be to a palace, if I could give it to you."
Annie put up her hands to hide the trem- bling of her lips; and she let Jim see there were tears in her eyes as an apology for not replying. The young man with the red hair took away the horses, and Jim, with his arm around his wife's waist, ran toward the house and threw open the door for her to enter. The intense heat of two great stoves struck in their faces; and Annie saw the big burner, erected in all its black hideousness in the middle of the front room, like a sort of household hoodoo, to be constantly propi- tiated, like the gods of Greece; and in the kitchen, the new range, with a distracted tea-kettle leaping on it, as if it would like to loose its fetters and race away over the prairie after its cousin, the locomotive.
It was a house of four rooms, and a glance revealed the fact that it had been provided with the necessaries.
"I think we can be very comfortable here," said Jim, rather doubtfully.
Annie saw she must make some response. "I am sure we can be more than comfort- able, Jim," she replied. "We can be happy. Show me, if you please, where my room is. I must hang my cloak up in the right place so that I shall feel as if I were getting settled."
It was enough. Jim had no longer any doubts. He felt sure they were going to be happy ever afterward.