The next evening he dressed to go to the vicarage, feeling it was to be done, not imagining what it would be like. He would not take this seriously. He was sure of Louisa, and this marriage was like fate to him. It filled him also with a blessed feeling of fatality. He was not responsible, neither had her people anything really to do with it.
They ushered him into the little study, which was fireless. By and by the vicar came in. His voice was cold and hostile as he said:
"What can I do for you, young man?"
He knew already, without asking.
Durant looked up at him, again like a sailor before a superior. He had the subordinate manner. Yet his spirit was clear.
"I wanted, Mr Lindley - " he began respectfully, then all the colour suddenly left his face. It seemed now a violation to say what he had to say. What was he doing there? But he stood on, because it had to be done. He held firmly to his own independence and self- respect. He must not be indecisive. He must put himself aside: the matter was bigger than just his personal self. He must not feel. This was his highest duty.
"You wanted - " said the vicar.
Durant's mouth was dry, but he answered with steadiness:
"Miss Louisa - Louisa - promised to marry me - "
"You asked Miss Louisa if she would marry you - yes - " corrected the vicar. Durant reflected he had not asked her this:
"If she would marry me, sir. I hope you - don't mind."
He smiled. He was a good-looking man, and the vicar could not help seeing it.
"And my daughter was willing to marry you?" said Mr Lindley.
"Yes," said Durant seriously. It was pain to him, nevertheless. He felt the natural hostility between himself and the elder man.
"Will you come this way?" said the vicar. He led into the dining- room, where were Mary, Louisa, and Mrs Lindley. Mr Massy sat in a corner with a lamp.
"This young man has come on your account, Louisa?" said Mr Lindley.
"Yes," said Louisa, her eyes on Durant, who stood erect, in discipline. He dared not look at her, but he was aware of her.
"You don't want to marry a collier, you little fool," cried Mrs Lindley harshly. She lay obese and helpless upon the couch, swathed in a loose, dove-grey gown.
"Oh, hush, mother," cried Mary, with quiet intensity and pride.
"What means have you to support a wife?" demanded the vicar's wife roughly.
"I!" Durant replied, starting. "I think I can earn enough."
"Well, and how much?" came the rough voice.
"Seven and six a day," replied the young man.
"And will it get to be any more?"
"I hope so."
"And are you going to live in that poky little house?"
"I think so," said Durant, "if it's all right."
He took small offence, only was upset, because they would not think him good enough. He knew that, in their sense, he was not.
"Then she's a fool, I tell you, if she marries you," cried the mother roughly, casting her decision.
"After all, mama, it is Louisa's affair," said Mary distinctly, "and we must remember - "
"As she makes her bed, she must lie - but she'll repent it," interrupted Mrs Lindley.
"And after all," said Mr Lindley, "Louisa cannot quite hold herself free to act entirely without consideration for her family."
"What do you want, papa?" asked Louisa sharply.
"I mean that if you marry this man, it will make my position very difficult for me, particularly if you stay in this parish. If you were moving quite away, it would be simpler. But living here in a collier's cottage, under my nose, as it were - it would be almost unseemly. I have my position to maintain, and a position which may not be taken lightly."
"Come over here, young man," cried the mother, in her rough voice, "and let us look at you."
Durant, flushing, went over and stood - not quite at attention, so that he did not know what to do with his hands. Miss Louisa was angry to see him standing there, obedient and acquiescent. He ought to show himself a man.
"Can't you take her away and live out of sight?" said the mother. "You'd both of you be better off."
"Yes, we can go away," he said.
"Do you want to?" asked Miss Mary clearly.
He faced round. Mary looked very stately and impressive. He flushed.
"I do if it's going to be a trouble to anybody," he said.
"For yourself, you would rather stay?" said Mary.
"It's my home," he said, "and that's the house I was born in."
"Then" - Mary turned clearly to her parents, "I really don't see how you can make the conditions, papa. He has his own rights, and if Louisa wants to marry him - "
"Louisa, Louisa!" cried the father impatiently. "I cannot understand why Louisa should not behave in the normal way. I cannot see why she should only think of herself, and leave her family out of count. The thing is enough in itself, and she ought to try to ameliorate it as much as possible. And if - "
"But I love the man, papa," said Louisa.
"And I hope you love your parents, and I hope you want to spare them as much of the - the loss of prestige, as possible."
"We CAN go away to live," said Louisa, her face breaking to tears. At last she was really hurt.
"Oh, yes, easily," Durant replied hastily, pale, distressed.
There was dead silence in the room.
"I think it would really be better," murmured the vicar, mollified.
"Very likely it would," said the rough-voiced invalid.
"Though I think we ought to apologize for asking such a thing," said Mary haughtily.
"No," said Durant. "It will be best all round." He was glad there was no more bother.
"And shall we put up the banns here or go to the registrar?" he asked clearly, like a challenge.
"We will go to the registrar," replied Louisa decidedly.
Again there was a dead silence in the room.
"Well, if you will have your own way, you must go your own way," said the mother emphatically.
All the time Mr Massy had sat obscure and unnoticed in a corner of the room. At this juncture he got up, saying:
"There is baby, Mary."
Mary rose and went out of the room, stately; her little husband padded after her. Durant watched the fragile, small man go, wondering.
"And where," asked the vicar, almost genial, "do you think you will go when you are married?"
"I was thinking of emigrating," he said.
"To Canada? or where?"
"I think to Canada."
"Yes, that would be very good."
Again there was a pause.
"We shan't see much of you then, as a son-in-law," said the mother, roughly but amicably.
"Not much," he said.
Then he took his leave. Louisa went with him to the gate. She stood before him in distress.
"You won't mind them, will you?" she said humbly.
"I don't mind them, if they don't mind me!" he said. Then he stooped and kissed her.
"Let us be married soon," she murmured, in tears.
"All right," he said. "I'll go to-morrow to Barford."