’Well, children, I blame you not. The Lord will surely teach you and lead you, it may be in ways you will not like; for it is on my mind that you both have much to learn and much to suffer before your marriage day shall dawn.’
And now Aunt Golding, who loved Harry, and never could endure to have him crossed, began to laugh outright.
‘I will own,’ she said, ’I thought you very unmerciful to your good son, Mr. Truelocke, while you continued to run him down so shamefully; but now I see you took the right way to advance his cause. It’s wonderful what a spice of contradiction will do with a woman! Lucy, you would never have made this bold, open confession without some such provocation’—words which abashed me much, for they were true.
And now, no one present having a word more to say against it, Harry and I exchanged rings; and Mr. Truelocke in a few pathetic words besought Heaven’s blessing on our contract. I do believe Harry would not have been sorry could he have called me wife before he went away; but, every one frowning on this fancy of his when he distantly hinted it, he did not urge it; and truly the time was too short.
I was a little afraid of Althea, lest she should think I had every way demeaned myself; but she never has owned that she thought so.
‘These things go by destiny, little Lucy,’ she said once. ’I am not strong enough to control fate, and certainly you are not; so why should I blame you? Were not all our follies written in the stars when we were born?’ I could not tell then what to make of her mocking words, knowing how she despised what people call astrology.
As for Andrew, he could talk cheerfully of nothing at this time; and the hopefullest word he could find for Harry and me was that though in these evil days there could be no love-thoughts or marriage-thoughts for such as him, he would not say they were forbidden to others; and he wished us all the happiness we could get; poor cold words; but Harry said ’twas wonderful Andrew could say as much on any worldly matter.
This was the manner of our betrothing; and, were it not for Harry’s ring still shining on my finger, and also for the odd unusual fashion of the whole thing, which is what I never could have dreamt, I should be sadly apt to think of it as a dream too pleasant to be true.
For within a day or two Harry had left us and gone to Hull, from which port he sailed. I have never seen him since; also it is now a full twelve-month since any letter from him reached us. Yet I cannot believe he is dead; and if he is living, I know he is true; and living or dead, I have a strong persuasion that my little ruby ring, which was my mother’s once, is on his finger still.
But many a time have I thought on Mr. Truelocke’s words, how we both should have much to learn and much to suffer before our marriage day. I think the words be true.