Justin Peabody silently closed the inner door, and stood in the entry with his head bent and his heart in a whirl until he should hear Nancy rise to her feet. He must take this Heaven-sent chance of telling her all, but how do it without alarming her?
A moment, and her step sounded in the stillness of the empty church.
Obeying the first impulse, he passed through the outer door, and standing on the step, knocked once, twice, three times; then, opening it a little and speaking through the chink, he called, “Is Miss Nancy Wentworth here?”
“I’m here!” in a moment came Nancy’s answer, and then, with a little wondering tremor in her voice, as if a hint of the truth had already dawned: “What’s wanted?”
“You’re wanted, Nancy, wanted badly, by Justin Peabody, come back from the West.”
The door opened wide, and Justin faced Nancy standing half-way down the aisle, her eyes brilliant, her lips parted. A week ago Justin’s apparition confronting her in the empty Meeting-House after nightfall, even had she been prepared for it as now, by his voice, would have terrified her beyond measure. Now it seemed almost natural and inevitable. She had spent these last days in the church where both of them had been young and happy together; the two letters had brought him vividly to mind, and her labour in the old Peabody pew had been one long excursion into the past in which he was the most prominent and the best-loved figure.
“I said I’d come back to you when my luck turned, Nancy.”
These were so precisely the words she expected him to say, should she ever see him again face to face, that for an additional moment they but heightened her sense of unreality.
“Well, the luck hasn’t turned, after all, but I couldn’t wait any longer. Have you given a thought to me all these years, Nancy?”
“More than one, Justin”; for the very look upon his face, the tenderness of his voice, the attitude of his body, outran his words and told her what he had come home to say, told her that her years of waiting were over at last.
“You ought to despise me for coming back again with only myself and my empty hands to offer you.”
How easy it was to speak his heart out in this dim and quiet place! How tongue-tied he would have been, sitting on the black haircloth sofa in the Wentworth parlour and gazing at the open soapstone stove!
“Oh, men are such fools!” cried Nancy, smiles and tears struggling together in her speech, as she sat down suddenly in her own pew and put her hands over her face.
“They are,” agreed Justin humbly, “but I’ve never stopped loving you, whenever I’ve had time for thinking or loving. And I wasn’t sure that you really cared anything about me; and how could I have asked you when I hadn’t a dollar in the world?”
“There are other things to give a woman besides dollars, Justin.”