Then Mr. Meredith looked into his fire, and saw another young girl, a little more serious than Janice, perhaps, but still gay-hearted and loved by many. He saw her making a stolen match with himself; passed in review the long years of alienation from her family, the struggle with poverty, and, saddest of all, the row of little gravestones which told of the burial of the best of her youth. He saw the day finally when, a worn, saddened woman, she at last was in the possession of wealth, to find in it no pleasure, yet to turn eagerly, and apparently with comfort, to the teachings of that strange combination of fire and logic, Jonathan Edwards. He recalled the two sermons during Edwards’s brief term as president of Nassau Hall, which moved him so little, yet which had convinced Mrs. Meredith that her dead babies had been doomed to eternal punishment and had made her the stern, unyielding woman she was. The squire was too hearty an animal, and lived too much in the open air, to be given to introspective thought, but he shook his head. “A strange warp and woof we weave of the skein,” he sighed, “that sorrow for the dead should harden us to the living.” Mr. Meredith rose, went upstairs, and rapped at a door. Getting no reply, after a repetition of the knock, he went in.
A glance revealed what at first sight looked like a crumpled heap of clothes upon the bed, but after more careful scrutiny the mass was found to have a head, very much buried between two pillows, and the due quantity of arms and legs. Walking to the bed, the squire put his hand on the bundle.
“There, lass,” he said, “’t is nought to make such a pother about.”
“Oh, dadda,” moaned Janice, “I am the most unhappy girl that ever lived.”
It is needless to say after this remark that Miss Meredith’s knowledge of the world was not of the largest, and the squire, with no very great range of experience, smiled a little as he said—
“Then ’t will not make you more miserable to wed the parson?”
“Dadda!” exclaimed the girl, rolling over quickly, to get a sight of his countenance. When she found him smiling, the anxious look on the still red and tear-stained face melted away, and she laughed merrily. “Think of the life I’d give the good man! How I would wherrit him! He ’d have to give up his church to have time enough to preach to me.” Apparently the deep woe alluded to the moment before was forgotten.
“I’ve no manner of doubt he’d enjoy the task,” declared the father, with evident pride. “Ah, Jan, many a man would enter the ministry, if he might be ordained parson of ye.”
“The only parson I want is a father confessor,” said Janice, sitting up and giving him a kiss.
“Then what ’s this maggot your mother has got in her head about ye and Charles and paradise?” laughed her father.
“Indeed, dadda,” protested the girl, eagerly, “mommy was most unjust. I was to stir some syrup, and Charles came into the kitchen and would talk to me, and as I could n’t leave the pot, I had to listen, and then—well