Justin put his arm around her and drew her close, with such a throb of gratitude for her belief and trust that it moved him almost to tears.
There was a long pause: then he said:—
“Now I shall call for you to-morrow morning after the last bell has stopped ringing, and we will walk up the aisle together and sit in the old Peabody pew. We shall be a nine-days’ wonder anyway, but this will be equal to an announcement, especially if you take my arm. We don’t either of us like to be stared at, but this will show without a word what we think of each other and what we’ve promised to be to each other, and it’s the only thing that will make me feel sure of you and settled in my mind after all these mistaken years. Have you got the courage, Nancy?”
“I shouldn’t wonder! I guess if I’ve had courage enough to wait for you, I’ve got courage enough to walk up the aisle with you and marry you besides!” said Nancy.—“Now it is too late for us to stay here any longer, and you must see me only as far as my gate, for perhaps you haven’t forgotten yet how interested the Brewsters are in their neighbours.”
They stood at the little Wentworth gate for a moment, hand close clasped in hand. The night was clear, the air was cold and sparkling, but with nothing of bitterness in it; the sky was steely blue and the evening star glowed and burned like a tiny sun. Nancy remembered the shepherd’s song she had taught the Sunday-school children, and repeated softly:—
For I my sheep was watching
Beneath the silent skies,
When sudden, far to eastward,
I saw a star arise;
Then all the peaceful heavens
With sweetest music rang,
And glory, glory, glory!
The happy angels sang.
So I this night am joyful,
Though I can scarce tell why,
It seemeth me that glory
Hath met us very nigh;
And we, though poor and humble,
Have part in heavenly plan,
For, born to-night, the Prince of Peace
Shall rule the heart of man.
Justin’s heart melted within him like wax to the woman’s vision and the woman’s touch.
“Oh, Nancy, Nancy!” he whispered. “If I had brought my bad luck to you long, long ago, would you have taken me then, and have I lost years of such happiness as this?”
“There are some things it is not best for a man to be certain about,” said Nancy, with a wise smile and a last good-night.
“Ring out, sweet bells,
O’er woods and dells
Your lovely strains repeat,
While happy throngs
With joyous songs
Each accent gladly greet.”
Christmas morning in the old Tory Hill Meeting-House was felt by all of the persons who were present in that particular year to be a most exciting and memorable occasion.