She uttered a whimsical little laugh. “But I wasn’t crying for myself,” she said, as she dried her eyes. “I was crying for you.”
“Well, you mustn’t,” said Jeff. “You have given me all I want—much more than I dared to hope for.” He paused a moment, then abruptly, “You won’t think better of it when I’m gone, will you?” he said. “You won’t write and say you have changed your mind?”
She gave him her hand again with an air of comradeship. “It’s a bargain, Mr. Ironside,” she said, with gentle dignity. “A very one-sided one, I fear, but still—a bargain.”
“I beg your pardon,” murmured Jeff.
THE WEDDING PRESENT
The marriage of Jeff Ironside to Colonel Elliot’s daughter created a sensation in the neighbourhood even greater than that which followed the Colonel’s death. But the ceremony itself was strictly private. It took place so quietly and so suddenly very early on a misty October morning that it was over before most people knew anything about it. Jim Dawlish knew, and was present with old Granny Grimshaw; but, save for the family lawyer who gave away the bride and the aged rector who married them, no one else was in the secret.
Mrs. Elliot knew, but she and her stepdaughter had never been in sympathy, and she had already left the place and gone to town.
Very small and pathetic looked the bride in her deep mourning on that dim autumn morning, but she played her part with queenly dignity, unfaltering, undismayed. If she had acted upon impulse she was fully prepared to face the consequences.
As for Jeff, he was gruff almost to rudeness, so desperate was the turmoil of his soul. Not one word did he address to his bride from the moment of entering the church to that of leaving it save such as were contained in the marriage service. And even when they passed out together into the grey churchyard he remained grimly silent till she turned with a little smile and addressed him.
“Good-morning, Jeff!” she said, and her slender, ungloved hand, very cold but superbly confident, found its way into his.
He looked down at her then and found his voice, the while his fingers closed protectingly upon hers. “You’re cold,” he said. “They ought to have warmed the church.”
She turned her face up to the sky. “The sun will be through soon. Will you take me home across the fields?”
“Too wet,” said Jeff.
“Not if we keep to the path,” she said. “I must just say good-bye to Mr. Webster first.”
Mr. Webster was the family lawyer. He came up with stilted phrases of felicitation which sent Jeff instantly back into his impenetrable shell of silence. Doris made reply on his behalf and her own with a dainty graciousness that covered all difficulties, and finally extricated herself and Jeff from the situation with a dexterity that left him spellbound.