"But, Dolly! father will never give his consent, you know that;" said a
male voice behind the hawthorn hedge, that skirted the deep, sandy lane
that led to Heath Farm. The tone, reproachful and irritating, in which
this was spoken, was answered in a sweet, calm voice.
"Until he gives his consent, his frank, free consent, Gilbert, I cannot,
and _will not_ be your wife."
"You are just as obstinate as the old man."
"Ay, and as proud. But don't think for a moment, Gilbert, that I blame
your father. Were I in his place, I might think just as he thinks. If he
has higher views for his son than a marriage with a nameless girl like
me, his son should be the last to find fault. Don't let love blind you
to facts. Look them boldly in the face, as I do. I cannot forget what I
am, and what I owe to your father. The happy life I have led here from a
child, made me forgetful of the great debt until"--and here the calm
voice faltered--"the reproaches of last night brought it all fresh to my
mind, and I saw how ungrateful I had been to my benefactor, in giving
the least encouragement to you."
"Yes, I shall not soon forget the cruel insult he put upon you. It was
mean and cowardly, to say the least of it. He might be proud to call you
his daughter, and his daughter you shall be, in spite of him."
"There are two words to that bargain," and that voice now spoke sternly
and decidedly, "two voices that speak in my heart--the voice of love
pleading for you; the voice of conscience, demanding of me to act
rightly. Which shall I obey?"
No answer was given to this appeal.
The speakers came forward to the stile; the young farmer with the fork
over his shoulder, with which he had been making hay; his companion, a
girl of seventeen, with the rake in her hand, her broad, coarse straw
hat dangling from her arm, her raven ringlets thrown back from her fine
sun-burnt face, which glowed with healthy exercise.
The lovers had been working together through the long June day. This was
the first time that either had spoken upon a subject that was uppermost
in their thoughts, which had lain like a heavy weight upon their hearts,
and rendered them unusually reserved to each other. They had worked in
silence and apart, expecting the explanation which they knew must come,
which both wished, yet each secretly dreaded, and put off until the
last moment, as if by mutual consent.
The hay was all cocked, they could no longer linger in the field; and as
they strolled homeward, Gilbert had broken the ice, and spoken in such
an abrupt and decided manner, that it had aroused in his companion a
spirit of resistance; and confirmed her in the course which, after long
and painful consideration, she had determined to adopt, not to accept
the hand of her lover against the wishes of his father.