He told his love in regular sentences. Unconsciously he had fallen into the soft patronizing tone in which aforetime he had shepherded a Sunday school.
The girl looked at the large sentimental face and laughed. She felt ashamed of her rudeness even in the act.
He caught her hands, and before she knew his face was close to hers. “Promise me, dear,” he said. “We have everything in common. Your father will be delighted, and we will work together for the good of the people. You are not meant to be a casual idler like the people at Etterick. You and I are working man and woman.”
It was her turn to flush in downright earnest. The man’s hot face sickened her. What were these wild words he was speaking? She dimly caught their purport, heard the mention of Etterick, saw once again Lewis with his quick, kindly eyes, and turned coldly to the lover.
“It is quite out of the question, Mr. Stocks,” she said calmly. “Of course I am obliged to you for the honour you have done me, but the thing is impossible.”
“Who is it?” he cried, with angry eyes. “Is it Lewis Haystoun?”
The girl looked quickly at him, and he was silent, abashed. Strangely enough, at that moment she liked him better than ever before. She forgave him his rudeness and folly, his tactless speech and his comical face. He was in love with her, he offered her what he most valued, his political chances and his code of fine sentiments; it was not his blame if she found both little better than husks.
Her attention flew for a moment to the place she had left, only to return to a dismal reflection. Was she not, after all, in the same galley as her rejected suitor? What place had she in the frank good-fellowship of Etterick, or what part had they in the inheritance of herself and her kind? Had not Mr. Stocks—now sitting glumly by her side—spoken the truth? We are only what we are made, and generations of thrift and seriousness had given her a love for the strenuous and the unadorned which could never be cast out. Here was a quandary—for at the same instant there came the voice of the heart defiantly calling her to the breaking of idols.
It is told by a great writer in his generous English that when the followers of Diabolus were arraigned before the Recorder and Mayor of regenerate Mansoul, a certain Mr. Haughty carried himself well to the last. “He declared,” says Bunyan, “that he had carried himself bravely, not considering who was his foe or what was the cause in which he was engaged. It was enough for him if he fought like a man and came off victorious.” Nevertheless, we are told, he suffered the common doom, being crucified next day at the place of execution. It is the old fate of the freelance, the Hal o’ the Wynd who fights for his own hand; for in life’s contest the taking of sides is assumed to be a necessity.