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Chapter 22: The Search Party (continued)
Then Clayton turned back slowly toward the cabin. His heart was filled with happiness. The woman he loved was safe.
He wondered by what manner of miracle she had been spared. To see her alive seemed almost unbelievable.
As he approached the cabin he saw Jane coming out. When she saw him she hurried forward to meet him.
"Jane!" he cried, "God has been good to us, indeed. Tell me how you escaped--what form Providence took to save you for--us."
He had never before called her by her given name. Forty-eight hours before it would have suffused Jane with a soft glow of pleasure to have heard that name from Clayton's lips--now it frightened her.
"Mr. Clayton," she said quietly, extending her hand, "first let me thank you for your chivalrous loyalty to my dear father. He has told me how noble and self-sacrificing you have been. How can we repay you!"
Clayton noticed that she did not return his familiar salutation, but he felt no misgivings on that score. She had been through so much. This was no time to force his love upon her, he quickly realized.
"I am already repaid," he said. "Just to see you and Professor Porter both safe, well, and together again. I do not think that I could much longer have endured the pathos of his quiet and uncomplaining grief.
"It was the saddest experience of my life, Miss Porter; and then, added to it, there was my own grief--the greatest I have ever known. But his was so hopeless--his was pitiful. It taught me that no love, not even that of a man for his wife may be so deep and terrible and self-sacrificing as the love of a father for his daughter."
The girl bowed her head. There was a question she wanted to ask, but it seemed almost sacrilegious in the face of the love of these two men and the terrible suffering they had endured while she sat laughing and happy beside a godlike creature of the forest, eating delicious fruits and looking with eyes of love into answering eyes.
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