“Madge, you are talking nonsense. You are my queen—you are the dearest, sweetest little woman that ever man won. And I love you the better because you are as fresh and pure as a flower, untainted by the wicked world, where innocence rubs off her bloom on vice’s shoulders. I am not old, dear, but I have lived long enough to appreciate the value of—”
“Hush, or I shall think you do not mean all you say. Oh, Jack, promise me that you will never repent of your bargain. I wonder that some woman did not enslave you long ago.”
A shadow crossed Jack’s face, and he was silent for a moment.
“Madge,” he said, hesitatingly, “I have not been a bad man in my time, nor have I been a particularly good one. I was an art student in Paris for years, and Paris is a city of dissipation, full of pitfalls and temptations to young fellows like myself. There is something connected with my past, which I feel it is my duty to—”
“Don’t tell me, Jack—please don’t. I might not like to hear it. I will try to forget that you had a past, and I will never ask you about it. You are mine now, and we will think only of the present and the future. I trust you, dear, and I know that you are good and true. You will always love me, won’t you?”
“Always, my darling,” Jack replied in a tone of relief. He told himself, as he kissed the troubled look from the girl’s eyes, that it was better to keep silence. What could he gain by dragging up the black skeleton of the past? He was a free man now, and the withholding of that bitter chapter of his life would be the wisest course. If the future ever brought it to light, Madge would remember that she herself had checked the story on his lips.
“Jack, you are looking awfully serious.”
“Am I? Well, I won’t any more. But, I say, Madge, when will you be my wife? And how about speaking to your father? You know—”
“I can’t tell him yet, Jack, really—you must wait a while. You won’t mind, will you?”
“I hate this deception.”
“So do I. But father has not been quite himself lately—I think something troubles him.”
“Does he want to marry you to any one else?” Jack asked, jealously. “Is there anything of the sort between him and that young chap who comes to the house?”
“I can’t be certain, Jack, but sometimes I imagine so, though father has never spoken to me about it. I dislike Mr. Royle, and discourage his attentions.”
“Oh, Jack, don’t look at me in that way—you make me feel wretched. Won’t you trust me and believe me? I love you with all my heart, and I am as really yours as if I were married to you.”
“My darling, I do trust you,” he said contritely. “Forgive me—I was very foolish. I know that nothing can separate us, and I will await your own time in patience. And when you are willing to have me speak to your father—”