Betty clasped her hands, and sank on her knees, the sound made her shudder from head to foot. She stopped her ears with trembling fingers, but yet every word fell on them distinctly and would not be shut out.
“Aye, call him, call him over
Aye, well and well-a-day;
Lover will never come back to thee
Who loves and gallops away.”
“How pale you are this morning, my child,” said Mr. Ives to his daughter.
“It is nothing. I have had a feverish night; the story of the fate of my poor friend haunted me,” she answered. She could not eat, the cold had chilled her blood, and now and then she shivered painfully.
Betty sought her opportunity in spite of her bodily discomforts, and fondly caressing her father’s hands she knelt down by his chair.
“Father,” she said. “Dear father, you know that very soon I am going to leave you, to be married to my own true love. Our wedding-day is fixed, but I dare say he will not be back much before then. Do you think he will? Oh no, probably not.”
“Why, child, to be sure he will! He will be back in a few days at the outside. Why, silly child, you will make a poor wife if you fret always when your husband is from home.”
“But I do not fret. I am perfectly satisfied. Listen, dear father: when I am married and gone away with my dear love, you will look round you and see only my empty place, no hand to hold yours, no voice to welcome you, no music to cheer you, no child to love you.”
“Betty,” cried Mr. Ives with a sob, “why do you show me so dismal a picture? It is bad enough already.”
“I have a good reason, dear father,” she said. “You see I am going so soon. I should leave you with so much lighter a heart were Mary here to take my place. She is kind and good, and true, and would love you dearly.”
Mr. Ives laughed a little.
“Mistress Mary is somewhat old to replace my daughter,” he said.
“Then the more suited to be your wife.”
Mr. Ives rose to his feet, and paced up and down the room. Suddenly he stopped, and catching his daughter’s hands, looked her full in the face.
“Would she have me, my Bet?” he said. “I may not be too old to wed, but I am vastly too old to woo.”
“She will have you, father,” answered Betty. “And you will be quite happy when I am gone.”
So all was settled, and the elderly pair pledged to each other. The banns were asked in church that their marriage might take place at once when John Johnstone should take his bride away.
Days passed on, days lengthened into weeks, the wedding-day drew near, and the bridegroom came not.
All Betty’s high courage came back, the frost melted away, and the country was open again, and once more she rode to hounds. Her colour was high, her lips feverishly scarlet, her eyes large and brilliant. She rode with the best, and came home with the brush at her pommel.