“And why all this? It was because I loved Evelina,—a poor man’s only child!”
Egbert’s health seemed to improve now that he was in more comfortable quarters, and had sympathizing friends to whom he could narrate the story of his life. In the course of a few days he rode out a short distance. After a rest of a week, during which his strength had increased, he continued his narrative, in which we had become deeply interested.
“I found a home at the cottage of Evelina. We made arrangements to be married according to law, and in due time I applied to the minister of the town to perform the ceremonies. I was surprised when he refused; yet I well knew what inducements led him to act thus. My father was the leading man in his church. The minister looked to him as one of the chief pillars of support to his society, and consequently to his means of livelihood. There was no one in the town upon whom the public eye, religious or political, rested with more hope than upon my father. He exhorted in the meetings with an earnestness worthy of the most devoted follower of Cromwell; and was as strict and rigid in the performance of his public religious duties as the most precise Puritan of the old school could wish. Did the chapel need repairs, my father was consulted. Was it proposed to make a donation to the pastor, my father was expected to head the list with a large subscription, and he did. Was it strange, then, that he gave such a decided refusal to my simple request, knowing, as he did, and everybody did, my circumstances? It seems not. Perhaps it was foolish for me to ask a favor of such a man; but I did, and he had an opportunity of exhibiting his allegiance to public opinion, and his disregard of the voice within, that must have commanded him to do right, and to adhere to truth and justice in the face of all opposition.
“It was soon noised abroad that I had endeavored to get married and had failed. There was great rejoicing, and one old lady took the trouble to send her man-servant to me with the message that she was glad to know that her good pastor had indignantly refused to place his seal on my bond of iniquity.
“The dark cloud that all this time overshadowed my path rested also on the path of Evelina’s father. This was all that troubled me. He, good man, had more true religion in his soul than the pastor and all the people in theirs; yet he was scorned and ill-treated. All this was not new to him. He had lived in that town four-and-forty years, and had always been frowned upon by the boasting descendants of proud families, and had received but little good from their hands. The church looked upon him as a poor, incorrigible sinner. No one spoke to him, unless it was to ask him to perform some hard job. It was not strange that, judging from the works of the people who called themselves Christians, he had a dislike to their forms. He chose a living