“My church,” he went on, “is my work and I like it. I believe I’ve done some good here and I hope to do more. But no church shall say whom I shall marry. If you care for me, Grace, as I think and hope you do, we’ll face the church and the town together, and they will respect us for it.”
She shook her head.
“Some of them might respect you,” she said. “They would say you had been led into this by me and were not so much to blame. But I—”
“They shall respect my wife,” he interrupted, snapping his teeth together, “or I’ll know the reason why.”
She smiled mournfully.
“I think they’ll tell you the reason,” she answered. “No, John, no! we mustn’t think of it. You can see we mustn’t. This has all been a mistake, a dreadful mistake, and I am to blame for it.”
“The only mistake has been our meeting in this way. We should have met openly; I realize it, and have felt it for sometime. It was my fault, not yours. I was afraid, I guess. But I’ll not be a coward any longer. Come, dear, let’s not be afraid another day. Only say you’ll marry me and I’ll proclaim it openly, to-night—Yes, from the pulpit, if you say so.”
She hesitated and he took courage from her hesitation.
“Say it,” he pleaded. “You will say it?”
“I can’t! I can’t! My uncle—”
“Your uncle shall hear it from me. We’ll go to him together. I’ll tell him myself. He worships you.”
“Yes, I know. He does worship me. That’s why I am sure he had rather see me dead than married to you, a Regular, and a Regular minister.”
“I don’t believe it. He can’t be so unreasonable. If he is, then you shouldn’t humor such bigotry.”
“He has been my father for years, and a dear, kind father.”
“I know. That’s why I’m so certain we can make him understand. Come, dear! come! Why should you consider everyone else? Consider your own happiness. Consider mine.”
She looked at him.
“I am considering yours,” she said. “That is what I consider most of all. And, as for uncle, I know—I know he would never consent. His heart is set on something else. Nat—”
“Nat? Are you considering him, too? Is he to stand between us? What right has he to say—”
“Hush! hush! He hasn’t said anything. But—but he and uncle have quarreled, just a little. I didn’t tell you, but they have. And I think I know the reason. Nat is Uncle Eben’s idol. If the quarrel should grow more serious, I believe it would break his heart. I couldn’t bear to be the cause of that; I should never forgive myself.”
“You the cause? How could you be the cause of a quarrel between those two? Grace, think of me.”
Here was the selfishness of man and the unselfishness of woman answered.
“John,” she said, “it is of you I am thinking. Everything else could—might be overcome, perhaps. But I must think of your future and your life. I must. That is why—”