“Lucina,” he said, “I promise you before God, that I will never, so long as I live, love or marry any other woman but you. I promise you that I will work as I never did before—my fingers to the bone, my heart to its last drop of blood—to earn enough to marry you. And then, if you are free, I will come to you again. I will fight to win you, with all the strength that is in me, against the whole world, and I will love you forever, forever, but I promise you that I will never say this in your hearing to bind you and make you wait, when I may die and never come.”
Lucina did not go into her aunt Camilla’s house again that afternoon. She crossed the fields—her aunt’s garden—skirted the house to the road—thence home.
When she entered the south door her mother met her. “Why didn’t you wait until it was cooler?” she asked; then, before the girl could answer, “What is the matter? Why, Lucina, you have been crying!”
“Nothing,” replied Lucina, piteously, pushing past her mother.
“Where are you going?”
“Up-stairs to my chamber.” With that Lucina was on the stairs, and her mother followed.
The two were a long time in Lucina’s chamber; then Abigail came down alone to her husband in the sitting-room.
The Squire, who was as alert as any fox where his beloved daughter was concerned, had scented something wrong, and looked up anxiously when his wife entered.
“She isn’t sick, is she?” he asked.
“She will be, if we don’t take care,” Abigail replied, shortly.
“You don’t mean it!” cried the Squire, jumping up. “I’ll go for the doctor this minute. It was the heat. Why didn’t you keep her at home, Abigail?”
“Sit down, for mercy’s sake, Eben!” said Abigail. She sat down herself as she spoke, and crossed her little slender feet and hands with a quick, involuntary motion, which was usual to her. “It is as I told you,” said she. Abigail Merritt, good comrade of a wife though she was, yet turned aggressively feminine at times.
The Squire sat down. “What do you mean, Abigail?”
“I mean—that I wish that Edwards boy had never entered this house.”
“Abigail, you don’t mean that Lucina— What do you mean, Abigail?” finished the Squire, feebly.
“I mean that I was right in thinking some harm would come from that boy being here so much,” replied his wife. Then she went on and repeated in substance the innocent little confession which Lucina had made to her in her chamber.
The Squire listened, his bearded chin sunken on his chest, his forehead, under the crest of yellow locks, bent gloomily.
“It seems as if you and I had done everything that we could for the child ever since she was born,” he said, huskily, when his wife had finished. His first emotion was one of cruel jealousy of his daughter’s love for another man.