I said ‘Good-bye’ to him, and he kissed me, and gave me the address where to write, and told me what to do.
‘For I shan’t have no truck with your uncle,’ says he. ’I marries my wife, and I takes her right away.’
It wasn’t till I was going up the stairs, untying my bonnet-strings as I went, and smoothing out the ribbons with my finger and thumb, for it was my best, that it come to me all in a minute that I had left Mattie locked up in that church. It was very tiresome, and how to get her out I didn’t know. But I thought maybe she would be trying some of the other doors, and I might turn the key gently and away again before she could find out it was unlocked.
So up to the church I went, very hot, and a setting sun, and having had no tea or anything, and as I began to climb the hill my heart stood still in my veins, for I heard a sound from the church as I never expected to hear at that time of the day and week.
‘O Lord!’ I thought, ’she’s tried every other way, and now she’s ringing the bell, and she’ll fetch up the whole village, and what will become of me?’
I made the best haste I could, but I could see more than one black dot moving up the hill before me that showed me folks on their way home had heard the bell and was going to see what it meant. And when I got up there they were trying the big door of the church, not knowing it was the little side one where the key was, and Jack, he come up almost the same moment I did, and I knew well enough he had come to get that note out of her prayer-book for fear some one else should see it.
‘Here, I’ve got the key in my pocket,’ says he, and with that he opened the door, the bell clang, clang, clanging from the tower all the time like as if the bellringer was drunk and had got a wager on to get more beats out of the bell in half an hour than the next man.
Whoever it was that was ringing the bell—and I could give a pretty good guess who it was—didn’t seem to hear us coming, and they went up the aisle and pulled back the red baize curtain that hides the bottom of the tower where the ringers stand on Sundays, and there was Mattie with her old green gown on, and her hair all loose and down her back with the hard work of bellringing, I suppose, and her face as white as the bald-faced stag as is painted on the sign down at the inn in the village. And directly she saw Jack, I knew it was all over, for she let go the rope and it swung up like a live thing over our heads, and she made two steps to Jack and had him round the neck before them all.
‘O Jack!’ she cried, ’don’t look like that.
I came to fetch your letter, and somebody locked me in.’
Jack, he turned to me, and his face was so that I should have been afraid to have been along of him in a lonely place.
‘This is your doings,’ says he, ’and all that pack of lies you told me was out of your own wicked head.’
He had got his arm round her, and was holding on as if she was something worth having, instead of a silly girl in a frock three year old.