There was nothing on the Tablets of Moses that forebade Spurlock marrying Ruth; there were no previous contracts. And yet, Spurlock was afraid of the doctor; so was Ruth. They agreed that they must marry at once, this morning, before the doctor could suspect what was toward. The doctor would naturally offer a hundred objections; he might seriously interfere; so he must be forestalled.
What marriage really meant (aside from the idea of escape), Ruth had not the least conception, no more than a child. If she had any idea at all, it was something she dimly recalled from her books: something celestially beautiful, with a happy ending. But the clearly definite thing was the ultimate escape. Wherein she differed but little from her young sisters.
That is what marriage is to most young women: the ultimate escape from the family, from the unwritten laws that govern children. Whether they are loved or unloved has no bearing upon this desire to test their wings, to try this new adventure, to take this leap into the dark.
Spurlock possessed a vigorous intellect, critical, disquisitional, creative; and yet he saw nothing remarkable in the girl’s readiness to marry him! An obsession is a blind spot.
“We must marry at once! The doctor may put me on the boat and force you to remain behind, otherwise.”
“And you want me to find a minister?” she asked, with ready comprehension.
“That’s it!”—eagerly. “Bring him back with you. Some of the hotel guests can act as witnesses. Make haste!”
Ruth hurried off to her own room. Before she put on her sun-helmet, she paused before the mirror. Her wedding gown! She wondered if the spirit of the unknown mother looked down upon her.
“All I want is to be happy!” she said aloud, as if she were asking for something of such ordinary value that God would readily accord it to her because there was so little demand for the commodity.
Thrilling, she began to dance, swirled, glided, and dipped. Whenever ecstasy—any kind of ecstasy—filled her heart to bursting, these physical expressions eased the pressure.
Fate has two methods of procedure—the sudden and the long-drawn-out. In some instances she tantalizes the victim for years and mocks him in the end. In others, she acts with the speed and surety of the loosed arrow. In the present instance she did not want any interference; she did not want the doctor’s wisdom to edge in between these two young fools and spoil the drama. So she brought upon the stage the Reverend Henry Dolby, a preacher of means, worldly-wise and kindly, cheery and rotund, who, with his wife and daughter, had arrived at the Victoria that morning. Ruth met him in the hall as he was following his family into the dining room. She recognized the cloth at once, waylaid him, and with that directness of speech particularly hers she explained what she wanted.
“To be sure I will, my child. I will be up with my wife and daughter after lunch.”