Janice, whose eyes had been dropped groundward during most of this colloquy, gave the pleader a come-and-go glance, then said breathlessly, “I—’T is—Wha—wha—What would you wish me to say?”
“What you can,” cried the officer, impetuously.
“I—I would—’T is my desire to—to say what you would have me.”
Both her hands were eagerly caught in those of the suppliant. “If you could—If—’T would be everything on earth— more than life itself to me—could you but give me the faintest hope that I might win you. Have you such an abhorrence of me that you cannot give me the smallest guerdon of happiness?”
“You err in supposing that I dislike you,” protested Janice.
“Then why do you refuse all that is dearest to me? Why turn from a devotion that would make your happiness its own?”
“But I have n’t,” denied the girl, her heart beating wildly and her breath coming quickly.
As the words passed her lips, she was impulsively yet tenderly caught in her lover’s arms and drawn to him. “What have you done, then?” he demanded almost fiercely.
“I—I—oh! I don’t know,” she gasped.
“Then, as you have pity in you, grant my prayer?”
For a moment Janice, with down-bent head, was silent. Then she raised her eyes to Jack’s and said, “I will marry you, Colonel Brereton, if dadda will let me.”
There was little weeding of the garden that fore-noon, unless the brushing off with Jack’s gauntlets of some green moss from the garden seat, about which clustered the honeysuckle, can be considered such. Possibly this was done that more sprays of the vine might be plucked, for when Sukey, after repeated calls from the entry, finally came to summon them to dinner, Jack had a bunch of it, and a single rose, thrust in his sword knot.
There was a pretence of affected unconsciousness at the meal on the part of the three, and even of Peg, though the servant made it difficult to maintain the fiction by several times going off into fits of reasonless giggles not easy for those at table to ignore. The repast eaten, Brereton drew Mrs. Meredith aside for a word, and Janice took advantage of the freedom to escape to her room, where she buried her face in the pillow, as if she had some secret to confide to it.
From this she was presently roused by her mother’s entrance, and as the girl, with flushed cheeks and questioning look, met her eyes, Mrs. Meredith said: “I think, my child, thou hast acted for the best, and we will hope thy father will think so.”
“Oh, mommy, dost think he’ll consent?”
“I fear not, but that must be as God wills it. Go down now, for Colonel Brereton says he must ride away, and only tarries for a word with thee.”
Janice gave one glance at the mirror, and put her hands to her hair, with a look of concern. “’T is dreadfully disordered.”