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HOME > Classical Novels > The Little Minister > Chapter Nineteen. CIRCUMSTANCES LEADING TO THE FIRST SERMON IN APPROVAL OF WOMEN.
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 A young man thinks that he alone of mortals is impervious1 to love, and so the discovery that he is in it suddenly alters his views of his own mechanism2. It is thus not unlike a rap on the funny-bone. Did Gavin make this discovery when the Egyptian left him? Apparently3 he only came to the brink4 of it and stood blind. He had driven her from him for ever, and his sense of loss was so acute that his soul cried out for the cure rather than for the name of the malady5.  
In time he would have realised what had happened, but time was denied him, for just as he was starting for the mud house Babbie saved his dignity by returning to him. It was not her custom to fix her eyes on the ground as she walked, but she was doing so now, and at the same time swinging the empty pans. Doubtless she had come back for more water, in the belief that Gavin had gone. He pronounced her name with a sense of guilt6, and she looked up surprised, or seemingly surprised, to find him still there.
“I thought you had gone away long ago,” she said stiffly.
“Otherwise,” asked Gavin the dejected, “you would not have come back to the well?”
“Certainly not.”
“I am very sorry. Had you waited another moment I should have been gone.”
This was said in apology, but the wilful7 Egyptian chose to change its meaning.
“You have no right to blame me for disturbing you,” she declared with warmth.
“I did not. I only——”
“You could have been a mile away by this time. Nanny wanted more water.”
Babbie scrutinised the minister sharply as she made this statement. Surely her conscience troubled her, for on his not answering immediately she said, “Do you presume to disbelieve me? What could have made me return except to fill the pans again?”
“Nothing,” Gavin admitted eagerly, “and I assure you——”
Babbie should have been grateful to his denseness8, but it merely set her mind at rest.
“Say anything against me you choose,” she told him. “Say it as brutally10 as you like, for I won’t listen.”
She stopped to hear his response to that, and she looked so cold that it almost froze on Gavin’s lips.
“I had no right,” he said, dolefully, “to speak to you as I did.”
“You had not,” answered the proud Egyptian. She was looking away from him to show that his repentance11 was not even interesting to her. However, she had forgotten already not to listen.
“What business is it of mine?” asked Gavin, amazed at his late presumption12, “whether you are a gypsy or no?”
“None whatever.”
“And as for the ring——”
Here he gave her an opportunity of allowing that his curiosity about the ring was warranted. She declined to help him, however, and so he had to go on.
“The ring is yours,” he said, “and why should you not wear it?”
“Why, indeed?”
“I am afraid I have a very bad temper.”
He paused for a contradiction, but she nodded her head in agreement.
“And it is no wonder,” he continued, “that you think me a—a brute13.”
“I’m sure it is not.”
“But, Babbie, I want you to know that I despise myself for my base suspicions. No sooner did I see them than I loathed14 them and myself for harbouring them. Despite this mystery, I look upon you as a noble-hearted girl. I shall always think of you so.”
This time Babbie did not reply.
“That was all I had to say,” concluded Gavin, “except that I hope you will not punish Nanny for my sins. Good-bye.”
“Good-bye,” said the Egyptian, who was looking at the well.
The minister’s legs could not have heard him give the order to march, for they stood waiting.
“I thought,” said the Egyptian, after a moment, “that you said you were going.”
“I was only—brushing my hat,” Gavin answered with dignity. “You want me to go?”
She bowed, and this time he did set off.
“You can go if you like,” she remarked now.
He turned at this.
“But you said——” he began, diffidently.
“No, I did not,” she answered, with indignation.
He could see her face at last.
“You—you are crying!” he exclaimed, in bewilderment.
“Because you are so unfeeling,” sobbed15 Babbie.
“What have I said, what have I done?” cried Gavin, in an agony of self-contempt. “Oh, that I had gone away at once!”
“That is cruel.”
“What is?”
“To say that.”
“What did I say?”
“That you wished you had gone away.”
“But surely,” the minister faltered16, “you asked me to go.”
“How can you say so?” asked the gypsy, reproachfully.
Gavin was distracted. “On my word,” he said, earnestly, “I thought you did. And now I have made you unhappy. Babbie, I wish I were anybody but myself; I am a hopeless lout17.”
“Now you are unjust,” said Babbie, hiding her face.
“Again? To you?”
“No, you stupid,” she said, beaming on him in her most delightful18 manner, “to yourself!”
She gave him both her hands impetuously, and he did not let them go until she added:
“I am so glad that you are reasonable at last. Men are so much more unreasonable19 than women, don’t you think?”
“Perhaps we are,” Gavin said, diplomatically.
“Of course you are. Why, every one knows that. Well, I forgive you; only remember, you have admitted that it was all your fault?”
She was pointing her finger at him like a schoolmistress, and Gavin hastened to answer—
“You were not to blame at all.”
“I like to hear you say that,” explained the representative of the more reasonable sex, “because it was really all my fault.”
“No, no.”
“Yes, it was; but of course I could not say so until you had asked my pardon. You must understand that?”
The representative of the less reasonable sex could not understand it, but he agreed recklessly, and it seemed so plain to the woman that she continued ............
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