George Marshall looked pale and troubled, as he bade adieu to Mrs. Heartwell and stepped forth from her neat white cottage on this cool September morning, accompanied by the young school-mistress. His thoughtful face bore the impress of a sleepless night, and he was taciturn and abstracted. By his side Lizzie chatted away, as though bribed to dispel the gloom and silence that threatened to surround them-chatted as though no other feeling than gayety filled her own fearful heart-chatted till a curve in the white sandy road brought them in view of the river, and under a cluster of wide-spreading water-oaks that overshadowed a broken mass of stone.
“Miss Heartwell,” said George abruptly, “sit here beside me, on these moss-covered rocks, before we go any farther, and let me tell you something I’ve kept unspoken long enough. Will you?”
Lizzie made no reply, but timidly followed where he led, and sat beside him on the lichen-covered stones. As George Marshall looked up, a tear stole from her true blue eyes, and moved by this evidence of emotion, he said with deep-toned pathos:
“Miss Heartwell, I love you, and you know it. If it were not a sin against the great God, I would say I adore you. May I not hope that those crystal tears betray the existence of a kindred love for me? Nothing but love, unalloyed and pure, love for yourself, ever brought me to Melrose. May I go away with the assurance that my love is returned, and bearing in my heart the hope to come again some day, and claim you as my wife? May I?”
The tears still flowed from the pure fountain of Lizzie’s innocent, tender heart, and her head bowed as gently as a lily in the gale, but she answered firmly, sweetly, truly, “Yes, I love you too, and I promise, with God’s blessing, one day to become your wife.”
“Wipe away those tears then, and let me see, in the depth of your innocent eyes, that your promise is solemn and unchanging.”
“As my soul is undying, I am in earnest; and as Heaven is true, I shall be faithful to your love. Never doubt me. Here, take these innocent flowers, modest children of the wild-wood-these violets, as a pledge of my unfeigned love;” and unclasping the golden brooch, she let the delicate flowers fall into the open hand of her lover.
Gathering up the offerings of affection, George Marshall clasped the slender hand that gave them, and imprinting a fervent kiss upon it, said, “God bless you, my darling, and take this as the seal of my benediction.”
When the tri-weekly coach rolled out of Melrose on that charming autumn day, and passed the schoolhouse of the maiden, the sigh she cast after it was not without hope, and the one the lover wafted back breathed a promise to come again some day, not far off, and take her away from that school-room forever.