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   Chapter 13 No.13

A Girl of the People By L. T. Meade Characters: 6922

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:06


"Bet," said Will, when they got outside; "Bet, I'm here. What is it? You're in trouble. I can tell by the way you turn your head away as you're in sore trouble. Why, there-you're sobbing. Don't, don't. It hurts me sore to see you thus."

"It were the music," said Bet. "Hester allays moves me, and there were words as brought mother back. I didn't hold to mother so much when she were living-I weren't never too good to her; but now it seem to me as if I fair hungered for her, and I'd like well to send her a message-many messages. Then, there were them last words. Why, Will, any one 'ud suppose that Hester were of mother's thinking. I never could have guessed it."

"Maybe she is, and maybe she isn't," said Will. "Seems to me the words is true, whoever holds on to 'em."

They were walking rapidly, and now Bet felt a sweet and yet rough breeze on her cheeks. They were down by the Mersey, and the salt taste from the sea was blown into her hot eyes and burning cheeks.

"That's good," she said, flinging back her shawl, and sighing, as if a great burden had been lifted from her. The moon was up, and its white light lay on the rippling water, and just touched the outline of Bet's face.

"That's good," she repeated, as she took another draught of the sweet, pure, invigorating air. She had again that pre-occupied look which seemed only half-conscious of her companion.

"Let's walk along by the quays," said Will. "Higher up it will blow real fresh; this is nought-only the shadow of the sort of thing that comes to you when you are fairly out on the waves."

"Will," said Bet, suddenly, as she turned and looked full at him, "I were fair wrapt up in myself, and it never come to me till this minute to ask how you are here. Why, it's nigh upon a week since you were to have been away in that ship that carried Hope at its bows, you mind."

"That's true," said Will, rather shortly. "But I had a wish to stay on shore a bit longer, so I sold my berth to Isaac Dent. He says he knows you, Bet-but he oughtn't to-he ain't fit for you to speak to."

"He's one of father's mates," said Bet. "And he's not at sea, Will; he's on shore. Father wanted me to come home on Saturday night last to see him, and to-to-oh, don't ask me-what father says has burnt into my heart, I'm wild to-night, Will. I'm wild, and tossed with misery, and that's the truth. Let me go home, Will Scarlett-that is, to what home I have. Don't, don't be clutching hold of my hand. I ain't fit to talk to a good lad like you to-night."

"Yes, you are, Bet," said Will. "You're more fit to talk to me than to any other lad-or lass, for that matter-in the whole o' Liverpool; for I'm your true love, Bet, and you are mine. There-you can't go for to deny it."

Will's figure no longer looked so slight and boyish; he held himself up very erect, and the breeze tossed back his thick dark curly hair, and the moonlight shone into his honest blue eyes, as they looked straight at the trembling, troubled, excited girl.

"You know as I'm your true love; and I'll wed you, come what may," said Will Scarlett. "There-I stayed away from the bonny waves on purpose. Look at me, Bet, I'm the lad as has given his whole heart to you."

"I'm in sore trouble," sobbed Bet. "Will, Will, don't tempt me. I'm in the sorest trouble, and I'm being treated bitter cruel, and you-I know as you're honest-and I know as you-you could love a girl, and she might-might lean on you, Will

. But don't tempt me, for I oughtn't to listen to such words as you ha' spoke. For I ha' made a promise as I'll never be wife to no man."

"You made a bad promise, then," said Will. "Who did you make it to? Ef it were to yourself, I don't see as you need hold to it, ef your mind's changed. And ef you made it to God, somehow I don't think He liked it, nor thought it a good word to pass your lips-for He have made you and me for each other, Bet; and I fancy as it don't please Him to have the plans as He has made crossed by the weak promise of a girl. You had better unmake that vow of yours, Bet; for it don't hold water nohow."

Will had now put his arm round Bet's waist, and his eager masterful face was close to hers. She felt a new timidity, and a new trembling, wonderful joy stealing over her, and chasing away the dark cloud of her grief.

"I never thought as we was made for one another," she said, in a timid undertone.

"Then you knowed very little, Bet, ef you didn't find that out. Away on the sea, haven't I dreamt of you, and seen your face near mine, when the waves was rough, and we thought we'd be in Davy Jones' locker by the morning? And sometimes, Bet, when I'd be tempted to do as other fellows, and take to bad ways, your face 'ud come before me, and somehow I couldn't. I always knew when I was out on the waves that you was to be my lawful wedded wife one day. You can't go agin a thing like that, my dear. Why, when you come to think of it, it seems downright wrong even to name a promise you made only to yourself when you knowed no better."

"But Will-Will-mother was wed, and she suffered-oh, she did suffer bitter-and it were then I vowed as no man should call me mate."

Will's face grew dark.

"And you was right," he said. "You was mor'n right-when you thought of sich as your father, and sich as Dent. Why, Bet, sich fellers as them ain't men at all-they ain't worthy of the name. I don't want to say much, Bet; but I ain't of their sort-I could be tender to you, my dear, and true, true as steel; and your father couldn't touch you when you was my lawful wife, darling. And you should have the little lads, and keep the promises you made to your mother. See, Bet, the moon's shining on us, and there's a beautiful salt taste of the sea on our lips, and there's all the love that I can give you shining out of my eyes this yer minute. You make me a promise, Bet, dear-one that will undo that base one you once vowed to yourself. Forget that promise-what were cruel and wicked, and a shame, when it came atween you and me. Here, make another now, Bet-one of your own as never got broke."

"What shall I say, Will? I'm troubled sore, and yet I'm comforted beyond words to say; and you ha' done it! Will, dear Will. What promise shall I make as'll be true and binding on me forever?"

"Say this, Bet: 'I give myself to you, Will Scarlett, and I'll be your wedded wife as soon as ever parson can be found to tie us together. So help me, God Almighty.'"

Bet said the words without faltering, and as she did so a curious and wonderful thing happened to her-when she found her love, and believed in him, and gave herself up to him utterly, she also ceased to doubt that there was a God. He was there-He was good; He was blessing her. She had only twopence in her pocket, and her worldly career seemed a short hour ago utterly destroyed and done for; but now no girl in Liverpool could feel richer than she did.

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