“She could not wear it at her work. And it’s a token betwixt her and me. Heart and Hand. Don’t you see the letters? That’s what they mean to us.”
Luke spoke out so boldly, that Clarice ceased to tremble; and when he took her hand and held it, she was satisfied to stand there and answer, that the joined hands were a symbol of the united hearts.
“What’s that, old woman?” asked Briton, looking at his wife, as if for an explanation.
“Luke, what do you mean? Are you asking for Clarice?” inquired the dame.
“Yes, Mrs. Briton.”
“That’s right enough, old woman,” said Briton; and strong approval, together with some emotion, was in his voice.
“Babes in arms, both of ’em! But a promise a’n’t no hurt,”—was the dame’s comment. Neither was she quite unmoved, as she looked at the young pair standing on the hearth; such another, her heart told her, was not to be found in Diver’s Bay.
“Clarice is a good girl, Luke Merlyn,” said Old Briton, solemnly.
“She is so,” confirmed the mother. “So take the ring there for your token.”
Luke came forward and received the ring from Old Briton, and he laid the string that held it round Clarice’s neck.
“Take this chain,” said Briton, with a softened voice. “It’s fitter than the string, and none too good for Clarice. Take it, Luke, and put the ring on’t.”
“I’m going to trade that chain for a silver watch,” said Luke, answering according to the light he saw in the eyes of Clarice. “That chain is Clary’s wedding present to her father.”
“Thank you, Luke,” said Briton,—and he drew his hand across his eyes, not for a pretence. Then he took up his old pewter watch, the companion of many years; he looked at it without and within, silently; perhaps was indulging in a little sentimental reflection; but he put it into his pocket without speaking, and went on with his supper, as if nothing had happened.
* * * * *
This took place before Clarice was fourteen years of age. At seventeen she was still living under her father’s roof, and between her and Luke Merlyn the pearl ring still remained a token.
Luke used to praise her beauty when there was little of it to praise. He was not blinder when the young face began to be conspicuous for the growing loveliness of the spirit within. The little slender figure sprang up into larger, fuller life, with vigor, strength, and grace; the activity of her thoughts and the brightness of their intelligence became evident, as well as the tenderness and courage of her heart. Her own home, and many another, was the better for Clarice.
Some Sunday in this summer of her seventeenth year, when the missionary came down to the Bay, they were to be married. It was settled where they were to live. A few years before, a young artist came to the Bay and built a cabin near the settlement; there, during the summer months, he lodged, for several seasons,—spending his time in studying the rocks of the coast and sailing about in his pleasure-boat. The last autumn he spent here he gave the cabin to Luke, in consideration of some generous service, and it was well known that to this home Luke would bring his wife ere long.