“Joan, do you love me? My Joan, do you love me?” And then the answer came at last—“Yes.”
“Not till then will I give up hope”
“There is nothing wrong, nothing the matter with Johnny or Connie?”
“Then why—why did not Johnny come?”
“He is busy.”
“I came to see Joan Meredyth,” said Ellice quietly. She and Helen did not like one another; they were both frank in their dislike. Helen looked down on Ellice as a person of no importance, who was entirely unwanted, a mere nuisance, someone for ever in the way.
Ellice looked on Helen as the promoter of this engagement and marriage, as the woman who was responsible for everything. She did not like her. She resented her; but for Helen, there would never have been any break in the old happy life at Buddesby.
“So you wish to see Joan, why?”
“My dear child, surely—”
“I am not a child, and I wish to see Joan Meredyth privately, and surely I have the right, Mrs. Everard?”
Helen frowned. “Well, at any rate you cannot see her now. She is engaged, a friend is with her.”
“I can wait.”
“Very well,” Helen said. “If you insist. Does Johnny know that you are here?” she asked with sudden suspicion.
“No; Connie knows. I told her, and I am willing to wait.”
Helen looked at her. Helen was honest. “I thought the child pretty,” she reflected, “and I was wrong; she is beautiful. I don’t understand it. In some extraordinary way she seems to have changed.” But her manner towards Ellice was as unfriendly as before.
“I do not in the least know how long Joan will be. You may have to wait a considerable time.”
“I shall not mind.”
In the room these two stood, Joan had made her confession frankly, truthfully. She had admitted her love for him, but of hope for the future she had none. That she loved him now, in spite of all the past, in spite of the troubles and shame he had brought on her, was something that had happened in spite of herself, against her will, against her desire; but because it was so, she admitted it frankly.
“But my love for you, Hugh, matters nothing,” she said. “Because I love you I shall suffer more—but I shall never break my word to the man I have given it to.”
“When you stand before the altar with that man’s ring on your finger, when you have promised before God to be his wife, then and not till then will I give up hope. And that will be never. It is your pride, dear, your pride that ever fights against your happiness and mine; but I shall beat it down and humble it, Joan, and win you in the end. Your own true, sweet self.”
“I don’t think I have any pride left,” she said. “I was prouder when I was poor than I am now. My pride was then all I had; it kept me above the sordid life about me. I cultivated it, I was glad of it, but since then—Oh, Hugh, I am not proud any more, only very humble, and very unhappy.”