PROPOSALS

THE conversation just related took place in a passage where the two men
kept watch outside the room in which Everell was temporarily confined.
It was a small chamber with an iron-barred window, and the Jacobite sat
gazing into the flame of a candle on the mantelpiece, while his fate was
being discussed in the drawing-room. He was still under the restraint of
the cords, which, like that of lock and key, was warranted by his
persistent refusal to give his word that he would not escape. The master
of the house had personally seen, however, that the prisoner’s
surroundings were made as endurable as the necessities of the case
allowed.

“So this,” said Foxwell, as he then rejoined his guests in the
drawing-room, “is what lay behind our Georgiana’s prudery. How the deuce
could she have met the Jacobite?”

“The question is,” said Rashleigh, “what the deuce are you going to do
with the Jacobite?”

“I wish I knew,” replied Foxwell, looking at the document presented to
him by Jeremiah Filson. “’Tis clear enough what our duty is, as loyal
subjects, and so forth.”

“’Twere a pity such a lovable fellow should be thrown to the hangman,”
said Mrs. Winter.

“A thousand pities,” said Lady Strange. “And so loving a fellow, too! If
ever a man had a true lover’s look!—well, to be sure, the little
Georgiana is a pretty thing, but—”

“But the young blade might look higher if he had better taste—is that
what you were thinking, Diana?” asked Mrs. Winter, with ironical
artlessness.

“No such thing, neither!” said Lady Strange, indignantly. “I admire him
for his constancy—for I warrant he is constant to her, and will be
constant to her; and I wouldn’t have him else, not for the world. Thank
Heaven, I am above envy.”

A slight emphasis upon the I—so slight as scarce to seem intended—was
perhaps what drew from the other lady the answer:

“Don’t be too sure of the young fellow’s constancy. You know, Diana
dear, you always have been somewhat credulous of men’s constancy—’tis
your own fidelity makes you trustful, of course.”

“Doubt as much as you like, Isabella: we are all aware you have
particular reasons to complain of men’s fickleness.”

Feeling that the preservation of the peace required an immediate
diversion, Rashleigh broke in with the first remark that occurred to him
as appropriate:

“Certainly this young man is a lover who has risked his life for the
sake of love.”

“Ay, and that proves you and I were right at dinner, Cousin Rashleigh!”
cried Lady Strange.

“Hardly so, my lady,” said Foxwell. “This young gentleman merely
_risked_ his life in coming to meet his beloved. He by no means counted
surely upon losing it: his active endeavours to escape prove that. Mrs.
Winter’s contention, which I supported, was that no man would
deliberately give his life for the sake of love—by which I mean the
passion of love, itself, apart from pity or duty or other consideration.
Now, had this gentleman come to meet his beloved, knowing certainly that
death awaited him in consequence, then indeed he would have proved your
assertion.”

“Well, and how do you know he wouldn’t have done so, if the
circumstances had required?” asked Lady Strange. “For my part, I believe
he would.”

“Provided, of course,” added Rashleigh, “that by failing to meet her he
might lose her for all time.”

“That is implied, certainly,” said Foxwell. “The alternative we are
imagining is: Death for love gratified—life for love renounced.”

“Catch a fellow of his years and looks choosing death on any such terms,
if the choice were offered him,” said Mrs. Winter, derisively.

“’Tis precisely his youth that would make him give all for love,” said
Rashleigh; “the more so if this be his first serious love.—But what _is_
to be his fate, Bob? If you hand him over to the authorities, he will
certainly be hanged, unless that paper lies.”

“Egad, I was just thinking,” replied Foxwell, with the faint smile that
comes with a piquant idea; “an Italian duke, a century or two ago, would
have amused his visitors, and settled the point of our dispute, by
putting this young gentleman to the test. I must say, experiments upon
the human passions have an interest, though the loggish minds of our
countrymen don’t often rise to such refinements of curiosity.”

“I see nothing in it to balk at,” said Rashleigh. “At the worst, the
young man can but die, as he must if you do your plain duty as a loyal
subject. ’Twould really be giving him a chance for his life. It seems an
excellent way out of your own indecision as to what you should do with
him: you transfer his fate from your will to his.”

“I believe he does love the girl,” said Foxwell, revolving the notion in
his mind. “And certainly his life is in my power—we may let him go if we
choose, and the government be none the wiser, or we may dutifully hand
him over to the law. We can offer him, on the one hand, his life and
freedom if he will give up his love upon the instant and for ever, not
to set eyes upon the girl again: on the other hand, a brief period of
grace, which he may pass with her on the footing of a favoured suitor,
on condition of handing him over to the authorities at the end.”

“And if he decline to choose?” asked Rashleigh.

“Then I can send word straightway to Jeremiah Filson to fetch the
officers. In that event, young Troilus will lose both life and love.
Either choice will be a gain upon that.—But you may save your pity, Lady
Strange: he will choose to live and go free, depend on it.”

“I will not depend on it. He will obey the dictates of his love, and
choose death rather than never see her again.”

“Indeed, I shall not be surprised if he does so,” said Rashleigh. “You
take too little account of his youth, Bob. When men are of his age, and
of an ardent nature, their love shuts out everything else from their
view. ’Tis their universe. Beyond it, or apart from it, there’s
nothing.”

“Fudge and nonsense!” exclaimed Mrs. Winter. “He will prefer to run away
and live to love another day.”

“We shall see,” cried Lady Strange, “if Bob will really put it to the
test. I’m so sure of the man, I’ll lay five guineas he will choose love
and death.”

“Well, my lady, I’ll take your wager,” said Foxwell. “Your five guineas
will be a cheap price for the lesson, that we men are not such devoted
creatures as you do us the honour to suppose.”

“Never fear my doing _you_ that honour, Foxwell. But thank you for
taking the wager. I’m dying of curiosity to see how the young fellow
will receive the proposal.”

“There is no need you should linger in suspense,” replied Foxwell,
pulling the bell. “Let us have the matter out now, while we’re in the
humour.”

Taking up his sword, for use only in case of some desperate attempt on
the prisoner’s part, Foxwell stationed himself at the door of the room,
whence he could see across the hall and up the passage to the place of
confinement. He then sent Caleb to request, in terms of great
politeness, Mr. Everell’s company in the drawing-room, whither he was to
be attended, of course, by the two men now guarding him.

While Caleb was upon this errand, it was possible for Foxwell both to
keep eyes on the passage and to talk with his friends.

“Will you bet five guineas against me, too, Bob?” asked Rashleigh.

“Nay, I’ll do that,” put in Mrs. Winter, quickly, “and five more, if you
like.”

“Done—ten guineas,” said Rashleigh.

“Good!” cried Mrs. Winter. “I believe I know how far a man is capable of
going for love’s sake—even when young and of an ardent nature.”

“For all your talk,” answered Rashleigh, with barefaced affability,
“you’ll not make me believe you’ve never found a man who would face
death for love of you.”

“I may have found some who said they would,” replied Mrs. Winter,
complacently swallowing the flattery despite all her sophistication,
“but that’s a different thing. Let us see how this Romeo comes out of
the test.”

“How are you going to put the matter to him, Foxwell?” asked Lady
Strange.

“Leave it to me,” was the reply. “Either he shall go free and never see
her again, or he shall be our guest here for a stipulated time, and then
be given up. The only question is, how long shall that time be?”

“A day,” suggested Mrs. Winter.

“Cruel!—a month,” said Lady Strange.

“I cannot have him on my hands so long,” said Foxwell. “Say a week.
Shall the wagers stand, on that condition?”

Rashleigh made no objection, and the two ladies were brought to a hasty
acceptance of the compromise by Foxwell placing his finger on his lip in
warning of the prisoner’s approach.

Everell came as rapidly as the restraint upon his motions would allow;
and stopped as soon as he had entered the room, to avoid proceeding
farther with his shuffling steps before the company. Foxwell had a chair
placed for him. Caleb and the two other men were ordered to stand ready
outside the door, which was then closed. Foxwell sat down near the
ladies and Rashleigh, so that the Jacobite now found himself confronted
by four pairs of eyes, which paid him the compliment of a well-bred
regard vastly different in its effect from the rude stare of the vulgar.
His own glance had swiftly informed him that Georgiana was not present.

He sat with undissembled curiosity as to what this interview might
unfold. He had obeyed the summons with alacrity, eager to be informed of
what was to come. He was neither defiant nor crushed; exhibited neither
sullenness nor bravado. In the solitude of his place of detention, he
had been tormented with the reproach of having brought trouble upon
Georgiana; and he had been sobered and humbled by the knowledge that at
last his rashness had laid him by the heels. What could he say to
Roughwood now, if that wise friend were there to see the fulfilment of
his warnings? But these feelings did not banish hope. Everell’s nature
was still buoyant. He was, at least, under the same roof with Georgiana.
Death seemed far away: he scarcely thought of it as the natural sequel
to his situation. He now looked with frank inquiry at the face of his
principal captor for enlightenment as to what was intended concerning
him.

“Sir, I have solicited this meeting,” began Foxwell, “in order to
discuss our positions—yours and my own. My friends were witnesses to the
occurrence by which you fell into my—that is to say, by which you became
my guest. They know why I felt bound to detain you, and they will share
my confidence to the end of the affair. It would, of course, be their
right—perhaps their duty as loyal subjects—to act independently in the
interests of Government, if I chose not to act so. But they have agreed
to abide by my course, whatever that shall be. So it is well, I think,
that they should be present at this interview.”

“I am far from making the least objection, sir,” said Everell, bowing to
the ladies and regarding the whole company with an amiable though
expectant composure.

“You are aware, of course,” Foxwell continued, “of what will follow if I
give you up to the nearest justice. Perhaps you may not know that one
Jeremiah Filson is actively concerning himself about you in this
neighbourhood on behalf of the Government. He has caused a warrant to be
issued against you, he is circulating descriptions which show him to be
an accurate and thorough observer.” Foxwell put his hand upon the paper
which Rashleigh had laid on the table. “He waits only for news of your
whereabouts, to bring the constables upon you. He will be one of the
witnesses against you, and the other, I believe, is now at York or
Carlisle—I know not which, but the judges have been trying and
sentencing your unlucky comrades by the score, gentlemen as well as the
lower orders.”

As Foxwell paused, Everell, for want of knowing what better reply to
make, answered in a half-smiling manner, though his heart was beating
rather faster than usual:

“Sir, I have nothing to say to this—except that ’tis a pity so many poor
fellows should die for being on the losing side. Nor do I own that I am
the man you think.”

“Too many circumstances leave me no doubt on that point, sir,” said
Foxwell, with a serenity which showed the hopelessness of any contest on
the ground of identity. “’Tis in your power and right certainly to deny
and temporize; but, if you choose to tire me by those methods, I have
only to deliver you up at once.”

There was something in the speaker’s quiet voice and cold eyes that gave
the whole possibility—trial, sentence, the end—a reality and nearness it
had never had in Everell’s mind before. He was startled into a gravity
he had not previously felt.

“But,” Foxwell went on, “if you choose that we shall understand each
other, there is a chance for your life—a condition upon which you may
have immediate liberty.”

Everell looked frankly grateful. The form of death assigned to traitors
and rebels, with its dismal preliminaries and circumstances, had not
allured him the brief while he had contemplated it. It wore a vastly
different aspect from that of a glorious end in the self-forgetfulness
of battle. “Immediate liberty?” he repeated, with some eagerness.

“With my warranty,” continued Foxwell, “that neither my friends, nor
myself, nor my servants shall pursue you, or give information against
you, or in any manner hinder your departure from this country—”

“Sir,” Everell broke in, “I should be an ingrate not to be moved by such
generosity—you are worthy to be her kinsman!—”

“Upon the single condition—” went on Foxwell, without any change of
manner.

“Ah, yes; conditions are but reasonable,” said Everell.

“The single condition,” said Foxwell, “that you will never again, during
the whole length of your life, see or communicate with my niece:—and for
this you will give me your word of honour.”

“Never—see her—again?” said Everell, faintly, gazing at Foxwell as if
unsure of having heard aright.

“Upon your word of honour,” replied Foxwell, who did not alter either
his attitude of easy grace nor his tone of courteous nonchalance during
the interview; “but, indeed, as a part of the condition, you will leave
this neighbourhood at once. That will be for the comfort of all of us
concerned, as well as for your own safety. If, after twenty-four hours,
you are seen hereabouts, or in this county, I shall be freed of my
obligation: in that event, beware of Jeremiah Filson and the justice’s
men. And, in the meantime, my niece will be inaccessible. I will make it
my care to see that she is soon married, so there will be no hope for
you in that quarter. But as the old ballad says that love will find out
the way,—though I greatly doubt the possibility in this case,—I must,
nevertheless, make doubly sure by requiring, as I have said, your word
of honour that you will never of your own intention see or address her,
directly or indirectly, in this world. That is all, I think.”

“It is too much that you ask!” cried Everell. “Your condition is too
hard—I can’t accept it—no, sir, I cannot.”

“Yet if I hand you over to the law straightway,” said Foxwell, quietly,
“you will not see her again.”

“There will still be the possibility of escape,” replied Everell; “there
will be no binding word of honour. But go free without _one_ hope of
ever meeting her again?—no, make the condition something else, I beg
you, sir; or hand me over to the law, and let me retain my right of
escape.”

Lady Strange’s eyes shone with applause, but Rashleigh and Mrs. Winter
waited for the scene to continue. After a moment’s silence, Foxwell
began anew:

“Well, sir, I must congratulate my niece upon your devotion. Rather than
give her up for ever, you will risk death. You hazard all upon your
chance of escape. ’Tis a slight chance enough: that you will own.”

“No doubt,” replied Everell, in a faltering voice; “but ’tis something.”

“Suppose it fails you. Then, in losing your life, you lose the lady,
too. Your chance of seeing her again is even smaller than the small
chance of your escape: you may be sure that special precautions will be
taken with you—such that your chance will be hardly worth calling by
that name.”

Everell sighed deeply, and it is no use denying that he looked plaintive
and miserable.

“But what if I propose an alternative?” said Foxwell. “What if I offer
to make you our guest here—for a week—as free as any other guest, except
that you may not leave the grounds or put yourself in danger of
discovery,—a guest with all the opportunities of meeting my niece that a
recognized suitor might have?”

It was a moment before Everell could speak. “Sir, what does all this
mean?” he cried. “Is it a jest? In God’s name, don’t hold out such a
prospect merely to play with me.”

“’Tis a prospect in your power of realizing, upon my honour.”

“Then your generosity—but generosity is too mean a word—I know not how
to describe your action, nor to express my gratitude.”

“Pray wait till you have heard the condition: to everything there is a
price.”

“Whatever it be, ’twere cheap payment for such happiness. I won’t
disguise my love for your niece, sir: why should I, when I began by
confessing it? To be with her all the day, without anxiety or risk—”

“For a week, I said.”

“Such a week will be worth a lifetime!” Everell declared.

“’Tis well you count it so, for that is the price at which it is
offered. At the end of the week, I mean, you shall be given up to the
authorities. If you accept this proposal, you will engage upon your
honour to surrender yourself at the appointed hour, and to forego all
chance of escape—though at the same time every precaution will be taken
to make sure of you.”

“At the end of the week—given up?” repeated Everell, again startled and
open-eyed.

“Given up to the officers of justice, with advice to use special care
against your escape—though, indeed, your word of honour will be the
better security. As to what will follow—your conveyance to York, your
trial, and the rest—” Foxwell gave a shrug in lieu of finishing the
sentence.

“A week,” said Everell, rather to himself than to the company, “a week
with _her_—to be absolutely _sure_ of that!—”

“A week with her,” said Foxwell, “and then to face the judges. A few
tedious days of imprisonment and trial—hardly to be reckoned as days of
life—and ‘the rest is silence,’ as the play says. How many possible
years of life is it you would forfeit to pay for this week? Two score,
perhaps,—and some of them years of fine young manhood, too. Well, the
choice is yours. You may give life for love, if you wish. Or love for
life, if you will:—my first offer still holds—’tis still in your power
to go from this neighbourhood at once, perfectly free, and to find your
way abroad. Egad, when I think how many joyous days and merry nights lie
between your age and mine!—Life is pleasant in France.”

“I well know that,” said Everell, whose thoughts had responded to the
other’s words.

“There are friends, I dare say, who would not be sorry to see you
again.”

“Friends, yes,—dear friends!” mused Everell.

“’Tis not fair, Foxwell,” Lady Strange put in; “you are influencing
him.”

“I say no more. Those are the alternatives, sir. Once your choice is
made, there shall be no going back upon it: Love, or life:—if you
decline to choose, you are pretty certain to lose both.—Well, sir, take
a few minutes to think upon it. I see these ladies are eager to hear
your decision, but for once you may leave them to their impatience.”

Everell was not heedful of the ladies. Certain words were echoing in his
mind, each accompanied by a rush of the ideas attached to it:
life—love—friends—joyous days and merry nights—but never to see her
again!—to fly from this neighbourhood, from the garden.—Ah, the dear
garden! To be with the adored one for seven days—blissful days, with her
by his side, her hand in his, her eyes softening to his, her voice—

“Sir, could you doubt a moment?” said the young lover. “I choose her!—a
week with her! I hold you to your word—I’ll not shirk mine when the time
comes.”

“Bravo! I knew it!” cried Lady Strange, clapping her hands.

“Lady Strange, I owe you five guineas,” said Foxwell, gallantly. “Mr.
Everell, at this hour a week hence—ten o’clock, shall we call it?—you
are my prisoner.” He rang the bell, and Caleb entered. “Cut this
gentleman’s cords—there has been a mistake. And nothing is to be said of
his presence here, or of what has occurred to-night—nay, I’ll give
orders separately to all the servants.” He waited till Everell stood
entirely freed; he then sent a message to Miss Foxwell, asking her to
come to the drawing-room if she had not yet retired.

“I take it,” he explained to Everell, when Caleb had left the room, “you
would have her know at once how matters have fallen out—as far as you
would have her know at all for the present—that you are to be our guest
for awhile, at least.”

“Certainly,—but”—and here Everell turned pale—“she must not know the
condition.”

“I agree with you there,” said Foxwell, smiling. “For the comfort of
both of us, she had best not know—till afterward, at least.”

“Afterward!” echoed Everell; “and what will be her feelings then? I
hadn’t thought of that.”

“We have all overlooked that, I own. We have thought only of you and
your feelings. But you need not be dismayed—the most devoted of women
are not inconsolable.”

“’Tis not that I think she loves me much; but she is of so tender a
nature, when she learns the price I shall have paid—yet how could I have
chosen otherwise, even considering her feelings?—what would she have
thought, had I preferred to renounce her? Or suppose I had declined to
choose?”

“Why, then, her feelings would be the same, on your being handed over to
justice at once, as they will be a week hence. Nay, indeed, in a week’s
time she may not be as sorry to be rid of you. We shall see when the
time comes: if need be, we can hide the truth from her then as now—when
the week is over, you can take your leave upon some pretext, and trust
time to efface your image from her heart. Take my advice, trouble
yourself not about her feelings: be happy for a week, and don’t think of
‘afterward.’”

Everell sighed, but in truth he could not at that time see how her
feelings could have been spared in any measure by either of the other
courses open to him. Indeed, it seemed to him that fidelity to her
required him to elect as he had done; that any other choice would have
been a renunciation of her, a treason to love. So let him be happy for a
week: at the end, it would be time to think how to save her feelings.

“Very well, sir,” he said to Foxwell; “let her know nothing but that I
am to be your guest for the present.”

“So be it; and you will help us all to keep your presence here a secret
from the outside world. Best never appear on the side of the house
toward the road.—But we can talk of that to-morrow, at breakfast. I will
lay the servants under the heaviest charges, that they will hardly dare
mention you to one another. If you are discovered by Jeremiah Filson or
any such, not only may I fall under suspicion, but your week may be cut
short.”

“I will be cautious, sir, if I have never been so in my life before.”

“And you had best go by some other name in the household. Shall we call
you—ah—Mr. Charlson?”

Everell signified his willingness, and the next moment Georgiana
entered, still dressed as she had been in the garden. Her face was pale
and anxious, but her eyes brightened as they fell upon Everell released
from his bonds. She was close followed by Prudence, whose nose shone red
with the weeping in which she had copiously indulged to the delight and
self-approval of her romantic soul.

“Georgiana,” said Foxwell, before his niece could speak, “this
gentleman, Mr. Charlson, will be our guest for a time. His visit must,
for certain reasons, be kept secret; and you, I am sure, will not fail
in the duties of a hostess. I am going now to give orders for his
accommodation.—Await me here, if you please, Mr. Charlson. Ladies, I
will join you presently—in the library—and you, Rashleigh.”

The three London visitors took the hint and sauntered into the adjoining
room as Foxwell passed out to the hall.

“What does it mean, Everell?” asked Georgiana, in astonishment. “He has
become your friend?”

“I am to be your guest, as he has said,” replied Everell, smiling as he
took her hand. “I shall be near you all the long day—as many hours as
you find it in your heart to give me. Sweet, ’tis too great happiness!”
He put his arm gently around her.

“Happiness!” said she, looking up into his eyes. “’Tis more than I dare
believe. My uncle shelters you and befriends you!—Then there is nothing
to separate us—we may be happy together, day after day—for ever!”

He smiled, and summoned his wonted gaiety. “Well, not—quite—for ever, my
darling!”

The smile and the gaiety had so nearly died out ere he finished those
few words, that he was fain to draw her closer to him, that she might
not see his face.

LET us do Mr. Foxwell justice. He had honestly believed that Everell
would choose to renounce love and be set free. This indeed would have
been the most humane event that any reasonable person could have
expected Foxwell to bring about. He might, of course, have played the
part of a beneficent deity, and at once aided the Jacobite’s escape,
approved of his love, and sanctioned the future union of the lovers. But
he was no Mr. Allworthy. Indeed it is more than doubtful whether Mr.
Allworthy himself would have carried benevolence to that length. A
flying rebel, with a price on his head, whose possessions in the
kingdom, if he had any, were liable to confiscation, was not the suitor
a young lady’s relation could be supposed to favour offhand. One even
fears that the virtuous Allworthy would rather have interpreted the
duties of loyalty in all strictness, and placed the captive in the hands
of justice immediately. But Foxwell, with all his selfishness and
callousness, was not the man to make patriotism a vice to that extent,
unless there was something to gain or save by it. He might be a
heartless rake, but he was too much a gentleman to practise that degree
of Roman virtue without any personal motive of profit or fear.

So the best course had seemed to be to send the fugitive packing, and
nip this love-affair in the bud. And that was what Foxwell had supposed
would result from the alternative offers. In any reasonable issue of the
matter, there must have been separation for the lovers and sorrow for
Georgiana. Would that sorrow be ultimately greater for the postponement,
and for the probable deepening of the attachment between the lovers?
Perhaps; but Foxwell had not looked for this outcome. The cruelty of his
little experiment upon the human passions, then, consisted in his
exposing the young lover’s heart, and playing upon it, for the amusement
of onlookers. The cruelty of the intention was not lessened by the fact
that Everell himself, wholly concerned as to his fate and his love, did
not at the time see himself as a man exhibited and played upon.

Perhaps Foxwell and his friends underwent some self-reproach. However
that be, it is certain they had the delicacy to refrain from spying or
intruding upon the lovers during the week for which Everell had so
devotedly bargained. The party of four went their way, and the party of
two, attended by the faithful Prudence, went theirs, both parties
meeting twice or thrice each day at meals. On these occasions, a
pleasant courtesy prevailed, and there was no rallying of the lovers, no
inquisitive observation of them. Indeed it is doubtful if the feelings
of young lovers were ever more nicely considered. The two found
themselves always favoured by that conspiracy which good-natured people
customarily form for the benefit of a young lady and her favoured
suitor. Everell found that he was not even expected to remain at the
table with the other gentlemen after the ladies had gone, nor was it
required that he and Georgiana should join the latter at the tea-table
or at cards. The lovers’ chief place of resort within the house was the
library, a room quite neglected by the others, who preferred only the
newest plays, poems, and magazines for their reading. In good weather
the lovers sat in the old garden, or strolled in the park, Foxwell and
his visitors going farther afield for their outdoor amusements, and
receiving no company from the neighbourhood. Thus the young couple, from
their meeting at breakfast to their parting at night, passed all the
hours together, in a singular freedom from observant eyes.

We shall imitate Foxwell and his friends in this abstention from prying;
not because the love-making of the two young people is sacred from us,
but because such love-making, interesting as it is to the participants,
is sadly tedious to the spectator. The love-stories of actual people are
interesting for the events that give rise to their love, and to which
their love gives rise; not (excepting the critical moments of the
awakening, the unintentional disclosure, the first confession, and such)
for the regular course of its own manifestation. The reader who has
dreaded the slow account of a week’s love-making—the sighs, the gazes,
the silences, the hand-holdings, the poutings, the forgivings, and all
the rest—may breathe freely. The peculiar pathos of the situation of
these young lovers—a pathos as yet perceptible only to Everell—did not
much alter their conduct from that of other young lovers. For Everell
made fair shift to put the future out of sight, to regard only the day:
he was resolved not to look forward till the last hour of his term
should arrive. As long as he was with Georgiana, he could keep to this:
’twas only when he had retired to his own chamber that visions of the
approaching end would harass him in the darkness; only then would he
count the hours that yet remained.

On the eventful night of his capture, and after Georgiana had retired,
Everell had obtained Foxwell’s permission to communicate with John Tarby
by means of the keeper, who, as he had learned from Tarby himself, was
privately on excellent terms with the poacher. By this medium, then,
Everell had taken leave of his former host with due expressions of
thanks, both in words and in gold, and had obtained the cloak-bag
containing his travelling equipment. Tarby had been left under the
impression that the young gentleman, after being sheltered secretly for
a time at Foxwell Court, was to proceed upon his journey.

That indeed was the impression of the servants at Foxwell Court, and of
Georgiana herself. Everell did not tell her how long or short was to be
his visit, and she, glad enough to postpone all thought of his
departure, never broached the subject. Only once did he hint at the
probability of his leaving her before many days. It was when, on
Saturday evening, she spoke of going to church next day. “Nay,” he
pleaded, with a sudden alarm in his eyes, “you will have Sundays enough
for church-going, when I am not here.” It was not necessary to say more;
but he had to feign excessive lightness of heart to quiet the vague
apprehension his own earnestness had raised in her mind.

Foxwell and his friends appeared at church that Sunday without
Georgiana. Her absence was noted by one important person, at least, for,
after the service, Squire Thornby accosted Foxwell outside the church
porch, with a lack of preliminary salutation, blurting out:

“How now, neighbour Foxwell, ’tis no illness, I hope, keeps Miss Foxwell
home such a fine day?”

“No illness, thank you,” replied Foxwell, mildly; “nothing of
consequence, that is: my niece slept rather badly last night, because of
the wind.”

“I’m glad ’tis nothing serious. Tell her I said so, with my best
compliments. Tell her she was missed. We could better ’a’ spared you,
Foxwell,—and that’s a true word spoken in jest, if ever there was one.”

This pleasantry was accompanied by a smile of such confident insolence
that the onlookers set their ears for the piercing retort they thought
sure to come. It was on the tip of Foxwell’s tongue; but he checked it,
dropped his eyes, and sought refuge in a feebly counterfeited laugh. His
enemy looked around triumphantly, and walked off. Foxwell, who saw
nothing in the Squire’s concern for Georgiana but a pretext for rudeness
to himself, digested his chagrin in silence, though aware of the
surprised glances of Rashleigh and the ladies, to whom he had mentioned
his former method of dealing with this booby.

The next morning, as Foxwell was about to set forth on horseback with
his friends, the gamekeeper sought an interview. Being ordered to speak
out, the man said that Squire Thornby’s people had again broken down the
fence on t’other side of the four beeches, and were busy putting it up
again on the hither side. “Us were going to drive them back, and were
a’most come to blows, when the Squire’s agent told us we’d best come
first to your Honour, and see as if you hadn’t changed your mind about
the rights o’ that bound’ry. He said it in such a manner, sir, as how I
thought maybe there was some new agreement, or the courts had decided,
or something—begging pardon if I’m wrong, sir. So, after a few words, I
thought I’d better see your Honour afore us starts a-breaking heads.”

Foxwell had been able to keep a clear brow, and to stifle a bitter sigh,
but he could not prevent his face from turning a shade darker. His
visitors, who had heard the keeper’s tale, looked with curiosity for the
answer. After a moment’s silence, Foxwell said: “Oh, damn the
fence!—’tis no matter:—yes, we’ve made a new agreement; let Thornby’s
men alone,” and turned his horse to ride off with his guests.

He was by turns morose and excessively mirthful on that day’s excursion.
In the afternoon, as the four were riding up the slope toward the house,
they saw a mounted gentleman emerge through the gateway. Nearing them,
he proved to be Thornby. Foxwell dissembled his inward rage, and had
sufficient self-command to greet his enemy with polite carelessness.

“I suppose you came to see me in regard to the fence,” he added, reining
in his horse. His companions also stopped, on pretence of viewing the
distant sun-bathed hills to the west; but they listened to what passed
between their host and his foe.

“Fence?” said Thornby. “Oh no, sir,—no need to see you in regard to
that. I don’t consult anybody as to what I do on my own land—not even
such a wise fellow as you, Foxwell.”

“Oh, I merely thought it required some particular occasion to persuade
you to visit us at Foxwell Court. I heard you were—rebuilding the fence
by the four beeches.”

“So I am, that’s true enough. I intend to do a considerable amount of
rebuilding of that sort; but I sha’n’t need to come to Foxwell Court on
that account. No; ’twas just the whim brought me to Foxwell Court
to-day—just a neighbourly visit, that’s all.”

“Then pray turn back with us,” said Foxwell.

“No, thankye, sir. I’ve got business awaiting me at home. Glad to find
Miss Foxwell is quite herself again.—No, I won’t trouble you in respect
of my fences, Foxwell,—not me. Good evening to you.”

The Squire’s assured, derisive manner made his speeches doubly
exasperating. As Foxwell rode on with his guests, he could only suppose
that his enemy had come to Foxwell Court for the purpose of exulting
over him upon this new settlement of the old boundary dispute. As the
reader knows, however, Foxwell Court had another attraction for Mr.
Thornby. He had, in fact, rejoiced at Foxwell’s absence, and, upon
arrival, had asked to see Miss Foxwell. The servant found her walking in
the garden with Everell; but she sent her excuses to the visitor, whom
she then casually described to Everell as a neighbour having some
business with her uncle. But the servant presently returned, saying that
Mr. Thornby declared his business important, and would come to her in
the garden if it was a trouble for her to go to him in the house.

Fearing a second refusal might make the Squire too inquisitive,
Georgiana obtained leave from Everell to go and get rid of this
gentleman. As she entered the drawing-room, where Thornby waited, she
began abruptly by saying that she was very much occupied, and that she
hoped his business would not take many minutes.

“Why, now, I’ll tell you truth, Miss Foxwell,” was the reply, “’twas
just for another glimpse of yourself that I came.”

“But you said important business,” answered Miss Foxwell, looking her
displeasure.

“Well, and it was important to me. When I thought of you, I couldn’t let
my horse pass the gate without turning in. To tell the truth again,
’twas the thought of you that made me ride in this here direction. You
wasn’t at church yesterday—I’d been looking forward to see you there.
For my life, I ha’n’t been able to get your face out of my head this
whole week past, odd rabbit me if I have!—not that I ever wanted to,
neither.” The rustic gentleman had lapsed into a state of red-faced
confusion which at another time Georgiana would have pitied; but just
now she was merciless in showing her annoyance.

“I’m vastly flattered, Mr. Thornby; but you have come at a time when I’m
very much taken up with my own affairs—very much taken up. So I beg
you’ll excuse me.”

“Oh, now, wait a minute, Miss Foxwell, as you’ve got a kind Christian
heart. Why, rat me! if you knew as how I’ve pined to see you again since
t’other day, I’ll warrant you’d never go to treat me so unneighbourly.
If you knew as how—”

“Really I must go, Mr. Thornby,—really.”

“Why can’t we be neighbourly, Miss Foxwell,—us two? Your uncle and me
ha’n’t always been sworn brothers, so to speak, but I think as how we
shall be mending that; and if you’d only just—er—ah—be neighbourly
like—”

“I’m perfectly willing we should be good neighbours, Mr.
Thornby,—perfectly. But just now if you’ll do me the favour to excuse—”

“Ah, that’s what I hoped for from such a sweet, gentle face, Miss
Foxwell. Perfectly willing to be good neighbours. You make me a happy
man, by the lord Harry, you do that! Ecod, if you knew as how I’ve laid
awake nights this week past—”

Georgiana, convinced that fair means would not serve, feigned a sudden
dizziness, which threw the Squire into such embarrassment, as he knew
nothing of what to do for a lady in a faint, that he was very glad to
leave the field, though he manfully remained until she declared she was
better and would entirely recover if left alone. As soon as she saw him
ride out of the courtyard, she went back to Everell in the garden.

“How long you stayed!” said he.

“Nay, if you knew this gentleman!—so stupid, and repeating himself a
hundred times:—and after all, ’twas nothing I could be of use in.”

Alluded to in this careless manner, the personality of Thornby awakened
no curiosity in Everell’s mind. He vaguely remembered the name as that
of a landowner in the neighbourhood, whom the innkeeper and John Tarby
had mentioned. How glad Mr. Foxwell would have been could he have felt a
like indifference with regard to the Squire! The reader is aware of
their encounter as Thornby was riding down the slope that afternoon. As
soon after that as Foxwell found himself alone with Rashleigh, his
vexation broke out in words.

“Damn that Thornby! Damn, damn, damn him!”

“The gentleman you were accustomed to take down in company, didn’t you
tell us?” said Rashleigh with marked innocence.

“Ay, George, laugh at me: I deserve it, I own. But something has
happened since I told you that. No doubt you remember, the fellow came
to see me the other day. Do you know what he showed me then?”

“Not I—unless it was a list of men he had killed.”

“Alas, nothing of that sort. To make a long story short, years ago in
London, when I was in bad straits, I wrote a foolish letter—imbecile
that I was!—wrote it in the madness of anger, poverty, imprisonment,—in
the recklessness of drink.”

“We make such blunders now and then, certainly,” was Rashleigh’s sage
comment.

“I soon enough realized my blunder. The recipient of the letter—he is
dead now—told me he had burnt it. It contained things I should be sorry
to have everybody see.”

“But if it was burnt?”

“It wasn’t: there was trickery somewhere. And the letter is now in the
possession of this Thornby. ’Tis the real letter—I recognized it. He
will show it to the world if I provoke him. Till I can get it from
him—and heaven knows how that is to be done: he is a cunning fellow, and
on the _qui vive_—well, now you understand my meekness. He really has me
at his mercy—hardly less than I have the Jacobite yonder at mine.”

From the window the gentlemen could see Everell and Georgiana strolling
within the verge of the park. As Foxwell evinced no mind to say more
about Thornby or the letter, but rather seemed to dismiss them with a
sigh of disgust, Rashleigh took the cue for a change of subject.

“Will you really hand over the Jacobite, after all, Bob?”

“I haven’t thought much of that matter,” replied Foxwell. “I frankly
didn’t expect him to choose as he did.”

“His time is coming to an end,” said Rashleigh. “You will soon have to
decide.”

“Why, deuce take it, has he not decided for himself? What can I do but
hand him over? Were I to let him go free, he would probably be caught,
nevertheless: in the end I should be in trouble for having harboured
him.”

“You’ll pardon me, of course, for introducing the subject. We’ve all
avoided it, as you set the example of doing. But to-day Lady Strange was
hoping that you could find it in your heart to let the young fellow go.”

“Oh, I could find it in my heart; but should I find it to my interest?
Several possibilities have occurred to me, but they all seem attended by
risk or inconvenience. The safest and easiest course is clearly to
observe both the law and our agreement. The man Filson is still in the
village. He seems to have an instinct that his prey is in the
neighbourhood—nay, as he looked at me yesterday at church, I could
almost imagine he suspected something. He has a clue, perhaps. He told
Caleb he might be hereabouts for another fortnight. So you see—well, I
can make up my mind at the last moment if need be—one can always toss a
coin. ’Tis time we were changing our clothes.”

On the afternoon of the last day of Everell’s week, something occurred
to bring Foxwell to a decision without recourse to the toss of a coin.
Georgiana having mentioned to Everell a miniature portrait of herself,
he had eagerly expressed a desire to see it. He had thought she would
send Prudence for it, but Georgiana, saying that she alone could find
it, and that she would return in a minute, left Everell in the garden.
As she entered the hall, on the way to her apartments, she saw her uncle
there in the act of greeting Squire Thornby, who had evidently just
dismounted from his horse. She curtsied, and essayed to pass swiftly to
the stairs, but Thornby intervened.

“Nay, one moment, Miss Foxwell,” said he, with precipitation, and
looking very red in the face. “I’m going to say something to your uncle
that concerns you.” As he stood directly in her way, she had no choice
but to stop. She did not conceal her impatience. “It needn’t keep you
long,” Thornby went on, “for I won’t beat about the bush. Mr. Foxwell, I
may say without vanity I’m a man of some substance as fortunes go in
this here part of the world. And, in course, you know I’m a bachelor.
Not because I’m a woman-hater, but because, to be all open and
aboveboard, I never yet saw the woman in these parts that I thought fit
to be mistress of Thornby Hall—damn me if I ever did!”

“I can understand your feeling, Mr. Thornby,” said Foxwell, while the
Squire paused and glared at both uncle and niece.

“That is to say,” resumed Thornby, “never till a few days ago. Ecod, it
seems more than a few days, one way I look at it! I mean, I saw your
niece—yes, you, Miss Foxwell, I say it to your face. Now the secret’s
out. I hadn’t thought to come to the point so soon—I thought to go
softly, and court the young lady awhile, and so forth—but hang me if I
desire to wait and give somebody else a chance to carry off such a
prize.—Well, what d’ye say, Miss Foxwell?”

Georgiana was quite too confounded to say anything.

“She says you do us a great honour, Mr. Thornby,” put in Foxwell,
discreetly; “a very great honour. My niece, I am sure, is fully sensible
of the honour. But are you aware how small her fortune is?”

“Hang fortunes! I’ve enough for two!” cried Thornby.

“And then, sir,” went on Foxwell, with quiet frankness, “upon her
marriage, you must know, the division of our estate will leave me rather
ill provided for. That would not influence me, were she not so young;
but, as it is, she can very well afford to wait two or three years,
during which I may improve my affairs.”

“You sha’n’t suffer, Foxwell,” said the Squire, bluntly: “you shall come
out of the affair as well provided for as both of you now are together.
But what does the lady say?”

“The lady says, no!” And emphatically she said it, too, now that she had
found her voice. “I thank you very much, Mr. Thornby; but ’tis not to be
heard of!”

“Oh, come now, Miss Foxwell! Don’t be so determined all in a moment.
Consider it—be kind—be—be neighbourly!”

“’Tis not to be heard of, I assure you, Mr. Thornby. No, no, no, I say!
I will never consider it—I will never—” As Thornby still barred her path
to the stairs, she turned suddenly and hastened from the hall by the way
she had entered. After making sure she was not followed, she rejoined
Everell, with an excuse for postponing her quest of the miniature. She
trusted to her uncle to soften the refusal of Thornby’s offer; for she
could not but think, although she had nobody’s word for it, that Foxwell
had decided to favour Everell as her suitor—a turn she attributed to
some assurance of Everell’s prospects in France, which, she supposed,
the fugitive had given Foxwell on the night of the capture. Indeed in no
other way could she account for the strange situation that existed; she
was glad enough to accept without question a state of affairs in which
she found joy for the present and hope for the future.

But her exit from the hall did not finish the scene there. Thornby,
after staring open-mouthed a moment, addressed himself to Foxwell:

“Ecod, why should she fly out like that—well, well, I haven’t the gift
of fine speech. You have that, Foxwell, and I look to you to persuade
her, d’ye hear? I’ll make it worth your while. The day I marry her, you
shall have back that there letter we both know of; but if she won’t have
me, damme if I know what use I sha’n’t make of it!”

“I hold you to that promise,” said Foxwell, quickly, “and to what you
mentioned in regard to terms of settlement.”

“As to providing for you, and so forth? You’ll find me as good as my
word: I’ll have my lawyer ready for yours the minute she gives her
consent.”

“’Tis but a girl’s coyness that stands in the way: we shall break that
in a little time.”

“Nay, no force, neither!” said Thornby. “It must be of her own free
will—she must tell me herself she takes me willingly—you’re to persuade,
not compel.”

“Certainly.”

“I dare say I’d best not see her again to-day,” the Squire faltered.

“Not for a few days, at the least, I should advise.”

“Well, I suppose you know. I’ll do my best to bide patient for two
days.”

“But I scarcely hope to change her mind within a week,” said Foxwell,
thoughtfully.

“I’ll come to see how you fare, nevertheless.—If you _do_ succeed sooner
than you hope, send me word immediately.”

Left alone, Foxwell paced the hall, in cogitation. He was joined
presently by Rashleigh.

“Egad, Bob, your meditations must have grown pleasanter, to make you
smile to yourself.”

“Was I smiling? Well, you must know my excellent niece has received an
offer of marriage—a mighty advantageous one. The little fool spurns it:
the Jacobite stands in the way, of course, and will as long as he is
alive to communicate with her. I shall have to do my duty as a loyal
subject of King George, I see.”

“But will she be the more favourable to another suitor, while the one
she loves is about being hanged?”

“Perhaps I can keep the Jacobite’s fate from her knowledge. ’Tis plain
he hasn’t told her of our bargain: he probably will not tell
her—probably will but announce his departure on some pretext—may indeed
say nothing of it, leaving us to break it. I will deliver him up
to-night, but not in her presence. At ten o’clock his claims cease. If
he has meanwhile prepared her for his going, well and good: if not, she
shall think he has taken sudden leave for his own reasons. Hearing no
more of him, she will put his silence down to inconstancy; in that case,
pride may incline her to the other man. If she learns the truth, she
will be too broken to resist my persuasions long.—I’m sorry for the
rebel: but there’s much at stake for me in the affair—and ’tis only what
he agreed to and expects—what he risked before ever I saw him—his just
deserts under the law. The girl will suffer, too,—but not for many days.
I hope he will not tell her the full truth.”

Everell himself was in doubt as to what he should tell her. He was
trying still to postpone consideration of the end so close at hand. He
was sorely perplexed for her sake, for he knew now how far beyond mere
compassion her love was.

EVERELL’S last meal at Foxwell Court was not marked by lively
conversation. He had his own thoughts, or, rather, his own confused and
whirling state of mind, so that he scarce knew whether the others spoke
or were silent. Outwardly he still maintained a brave face, so that
Georgiana might not yet be alarmed. The young lady herself had never
taken much part in the table talk. Lady Strange and Rashleigh felt the
occasion too sensibly to be capable of easy discourse, and Foxwell knew
a gentleman’s part too well to intrude a gaiety either real or feigned.
He quietly kept the ball rolling, however, with Mrs. Winter, who
alone—save Georgiana—seemed untouched by the shadow of coming events.

As soon as the ladies had finished, Georgiana left the room for the
library. Everell, with a bow to the company, turned to follow her.

Lady Strange, already risen, laid a gentle hand upon his sleeve and
said, softly: “Upon my soul, sir, I pity you!”

He looked at her a moment; then, summoning a smile, answered: “I thank
you from my heart; but ’tis not near ten o’clock. I have some hours yet
remaining. Ladies, your servant.”

When he had gone out, Mrs. Winter said: “So you may keep your pity till
ten o’clock, Diana. Sure the young fellow carries it off well. ’Twill be
worth seeing if he does so to the end. Ten o’clock—’tis several hours
off, and card-playing begins to be tedious. What a long evening ’twill
be!”

“Short enough for those two young lovers,” said Lady Strange, with a
sigh, as she passed to the drawing-room.

“I suppose you have made your arrangements, Bob,” said Rashleigh, when
the two gentlemen were alone; “for delivering him up, I mean.”

“They are very simple. I will send Joseph with a message to Jeremiah
Filson an hour or so before ten o’clock. Filson will require a little
time to muster the justice’s men; he may have to go to Thornby Hall—no
doubt Thornby’s clerk will command the party, to make sure that all is
regular. So ’twill scarce be possible for them to arrive before ten: in
any case, I’ll warn Filson they mustn’t do so. Till ten I may not call
the rebel from Georgiana’s presence. I hope he will leave her in
ignorance. Well, we shall see.”

In the library Georgiana sat reading to her lover. What the words meant,
what the book was, he hardly knew; she would have preferred to be the
listener, but in that case he would have had to keep his eyes upon the
page, and he would rather keep them upon her face. He could interrupt
when he chose, and then her eyes rose to meet his; so that he often
interrupted. Suddenly he remembered the miniature she had started to get
for him in the afternoon; and now the desire to possess it—to have that
image of her beauty to carry with him to the end—grew strong in a
moment. He reminded her.

She rose at once to go to her room for it, saying, as before, that only
she could find it. He followed her through the dining-room; which was
now deserted, as Foxwell and Rashleigh had soon joined the ladies in the
drawing-room. In the wide entrance-hall, as Everell could accompany her
no farther, he caught her hand lightly, and said:

“Don’t be long in finding it, I pray. Remember, every moment—” He
checked himself, and turned the supplication to gaiety by a smile. “Be
considerate of my impatience, dear.”

Struck by his manner, she looked searchingly at his face. But he kissed
her hand in a playful way, and gave it a little toss toward the
stairway; up which she hastened a moment later, reassured.

There was a footman stationed in the entrance-hall, and Everell, not
wishing his mood to be observed, went back into the dining-room to await
Georgiana’s return. He still held in one hand the book from which she
had been reading. He turned the pages, gazing at the words, but
receiving no impression from them. The table remained as the gentlemen
had left it, except that the candelabrum had been removed, only two
candles in wall-sconces remaining to light the room. The fire in the
chimney-place was low, and the air rather chill, for the evening had set
in with a cold wind. “Little do I care, though it freeze and blow,”
thought Everell, standing by the fireplace. “Why does she delay?
Cruel!—but she knows not. The minutes!—the minutes I am losing!”

But in truth she was expeditious, and so quiet in her return that she
entered the room before he had heard her step. He went to her with a
subdued cry, seized the miniature from her hand, and pressed it—and then
the hand itself—with passionate tenderness to his lips.

“It shall never leave me,” he said. “It shall be the last thing I look
upon—it shall feel the last beat of my heart.”

“But that will be many, many years in the future,” said Georgiana, with
a half-comic air of complaint, “and meanwhile you don’t even look at the
picture now!”

“Time enough for that!—Let me look only at you now.”

“What do you mean? There is time enough for looking at me, too. Tell me
if the likeness flatters me.”

“Nothing could do that. ’Tis a lovely portrait—never was a lovelier; but
the eyes are not as sweet as the original’s—nor the face as angelic—nor
the hair as soft—nor the colour as fair—nor the look as tender. ’Tis
nothing to the life—and yet ’tis adorable. ’Twas kindly thought, to give
it me,—more kindly than you know, dear.”

He kissed it once more; then, having placed it carefully in the breast
pocket of his waistcoat, took both her hands, and regarded her with an
intentness that reawoke the vague alarm she had felt in the hall.

“Why do you look in that manner, Everell? Why do you speak so strangely
this evening? You make me almost afraid—for you, that is—nay, for both
of us. What is it?”

“Nothing—nothing, sweet!” But whatever he might say, it was no longer
possible for him to counterfeit either gaiety or unconcern with any
success. “God knows, I would be the same now—I would have us both be the
same now—as we have been all this week. I grudge every thought that we
give to anything but our love. Let us have the full worth of each
moment, to the very end.—Nay, what am I saying? I rave, I think. Yes,
yes, dear, I speak strangely—strangely was well said.”

“Everell, you frighten me! What is behind all this?—what is it you have
in mind?”

“Only you, dear: you, as you are at this instant. There is nothing but
this instant—no past, no future!—there is only _now_, with you in my
arms, and your eyes looking into mine. Oh, if the course of time could
be stopped, and this moment last for ever!”

“I should be content,” said Georgiana, taking refuge in the possibility
that his manner might be the effect of a transient excess of emotion,
such as ardent lovers sometimes experience. “But haven’t we all our
lives in which to love each other? We must only guard against your being
taken. But you’ll be safe once you are out of England—as you will be by
and by—not yet, of course. And then after awhile we shall meet again in
France. My only dread is of the separation meanwhile—’tis fearful to
think of separation, even for a short time, but doubtless it must be—”
She broke off, with a sigh.

“Ay, must be!” Everell replied, in a low voice.

“But it must not be long. I believe my uncle will be glad of an occasion
to visit France. And then, when danger and separation are past, what
happiness!”

She had, it will be seen, formed her own plans for the future; and had
talked of them, too, more than once in the last few days, taking her
lover’s acquiescence for granted, as indeed his manifestations of love
gave her full right to do. Such initiative on the woman’s side is, by a
convention of romancers, assumed to be indelicate; if it be so, then the
world must grant that real women are not the delicate creatures they
have been taken for. Be that as it may, Georgiana’s dreams of the future
had been bitter-sweet hearing to Everell, though he saw nothing
indelicate in her mentioning them. Yet he could not bring himself to
disillusion her. But now at last, when the hour was drawing near—

“Nay, talk not of the future, dear,” he said, holding her close in his
arms, and endeavouring to speak without wildness. “There is only the
present, I say. Life is full of uncertainty. Who can tell? This
separation—it may be final—we may not see each other again.”

“Now you start my fears again!” cried Georgiana. “You puzzle me
to-night, Everell. There’s something in your thoughts—something in your
heart. Look at me: you are pale—one would suppose a calamity was before
us. What is it? Oh, in the name of heaven, tell me!”

“Nay, ’tis nothing, I protest.—And yet you must know too soon. Why not
from me? Who has such love for you as I have? who can feel for you as I
can? who would try so fondly to console?”

“You are right, Everell; let me hear it from you! Oh, speak, dear!”

“’Tis—only this, sweetheart,” he said, when he could command his voice:
“we are to part soon. I am going away.”

“Soon? How soon? Certainly, you must go to France—but not yet.”

“Ay, that is it, dear: I must go, I know not how soon. Perhaps—this very
night.”

“This night? Impossible! You have said nothing to me of going—’tis too
unexpected!”

“Forgive me, dear,” he pleaded, simply. “I wished not to cloud our
happiness with any thought of separation; so I never spoke of—my day of
departure.”

“Nay, but I must have time—to strengthen my heart! And we have arranged
nothing yet—in regard to meeting again—no particulars. There is
everything to be discussed before you go. This separation—how long is it
to last?” Her voice and eyes were on the verge of tears.

“Longer, dear, than I have the heart to tell!—Oh, sweet, forgive,
forgive me! When I bargained for one blissful week, ’twas only of myself
I thought—I weighed my happiness against only the price _I_ was to pay.
I considered not what you might feel—that a week might turn your fancy
into love, and make our parting as cruel for you as for me. Forgive me,
dearest, and charge the sin to my love of you—my unthinking,
inconsiderate love!”

“Nay, dear, there is nothing to forgive,” she said, with sorrowful
compassion. “Parting will be hard—heaven knows it will!—but I must set
my thoughts on our next meeting. The separation will be—somewhat long,
do you say?—ah, that’s sad to hear. How long, Everell?”

He turned his face from her.

“Speak, Everell,” she pleaded; “how long?—a year?”

“Longer than that,” he whispered.

“Longer!—oh, pity me, heaven!”

Besides the doors at either end of this dining-parlour, to the library
and the hall, there was at one side a third, which led to the
drawing-room. This door now opened, and Lady Strange appeared: seeing
the lovers, she closed it gently behind her. They stood clinging to each
other, with looks sorrowful and distraught.

“You have told her, then?” she said, in a tone softened by compassion.

“Almost,” replied Everell; and Georgiana began to sob.

“My poor child,” said Lady Strange, “from my heart I grieve for you.
Sir, we are all much to blame. Had we foreseen this a week ago!—Would
that this week could be recalled, for the sake of this child’s
happiness! I have pleaded with Foxwell; but he is determined to deliver
you up.”

“What!—deliver—” Georgiana became for a moment speechless; then uttered
a scream, and was like to have fallen to the floor, had not Everell
grasped her more tightly in his arms.

“Heaven pity her!—my dear love!”

“Why, then—did she not know?” cried Lady Strange.

“Not the whole truth—only that I was going away.”

He was about to carry Georgiana to a chair, but she suddenly regained
her strength.

“Deliver you up!” she said, excitedly. “My uncle shall not! You shall
put it out of his power! Escape now, while you may! Go—we’ll meet
again.” She essayed to push him toward the hall, keeping her glance the
while on the drawing-room door by which her uncle might enter.

“I cannot,” said Everell. “I’ve given him my word—’twas to purchase this
week of love, sweet.”

“Your word! He shall not claim it of you! Your word!—oh, heaven help me,
you would keep your word though it broke my heart!—honour, you call
it!—’tis men’s madness, women are no such fools!—Nay, forgive me, I
would not love you else. But he shall not hold you to your word. He
shall not deliver you up. He shall release you.” She broke from
Everell’s clasp, and flung open the drawing-room door, calling, “Uncle!
Uncle!”

Foxwell appeared, with some playing cards in his hand. He was slightly
pallid, and wore the frown of one to whom has fallen a vexation he has
dreaded.

“Uncle, you will not deliver him up? You will release him from his word?
You will let him go free, will you not? ’Tis no gain to you that he
should die. Speak!—uncle, tell me you’ll not deliver him up.”

“My child, you do not understand these matters,” replied Foxwell,
patiently resorting to a judicial softness of speech. “Mr. Everell
himself, as a soldier, who assumed the chance of war and lost, knows
what my duty is—knows I once even offered to forget that duty, had he
but accepted the condition.”

“Certainly I have but myself to blame,” said Everell. “For myself I make
no complaint. For her, alas! my heart bleeds. I can but pray she will
soon forget.”

“Forget!” cried Georgiana. “Indeed, no! I say you shall not die,
Everell. Uncle, I beg you, on my knees—his life! Sure you can’t be my
kinsman and refuse—you can’t be a sharer of the same blood as flows in
me, and be so cruel. Answer me, uncle!—you will spare him, will not you?
You say you once offered to forget your duty: if you could forget it
once, you can again, cannot you?”

[Illustration: “‘UNCLE, I BEG YOU, ON MY KNEES—HIS LIFE!’”]

“Nay, ’tis not possible now, niece; circumstances have altered. ’Twould
be useless for me to explain. I can only beg you to end this
supplication, Georgiana,—it will not serve you. I am not to be moved.
Mr. Everell will say whether I have dealt fairly with him—would have
dealt more than fairly, had he but willed. ’Tis all vastly to be
regretted. Had he chosen so a week since, your sorrow had been much
less. Had you bestowed your confidence upon me when he first came here,
you might have been spared all sorrow. As it is, events must take their
course.”

“Oh, my God, can one’s own kin be so heartless? To send him to death,
who is more than life to me! What has he done?—what injury to you? He
only fought for the prince in whose right he believed. Had his side won,
_he_ would have been merciful. What harm will it do you to let him
go?—what harm to the kingdom, now the rebellion is put down? ’Tis
profitless, ’tis needless, ’twill serve nothing, that he should die.—Oh,
heaven, soften my uncle’s heart!—let him see as I see, feel as I feel!”

Foxwell, little relishing these vehement appeals, or the sight of the
kneeling girl with supplicating hands, turned to Everell:

“Sir, this can accomplish nothing. I will leave you with her till the
appointed time—though perhaps it were more kind to—”

“No, no!” cried Georgiana, grasping her uncle’s coat-skirt as he made to
step back into the drawing-room. “Do not go!—uncle, hear me! Anything
for his life!—only his life! I will do anything, give anything—only that
he may not die!”

Foxwell looked down at her. The birth of a thought showed on his face,
clearing away his frown of annoyance. Again he turned to Everell, and
said, quietly:

“Sir, will you grant me a few minutes alone with my niece? The time
shall be made up after, if you choose.”

Everell stood hesitating.

“Go, Everell,” said Georgiana, eagerly; “’tis for our advantage.”

“I pray it may be for yours, sweet,” replied Everell, gently, and went
into the library, closing the door after him.

Lady Strange, conceiving herself not wanted, would have passed Foxwell
to retire to the drawing-room; but he softly closed that door, and said:

“Nay, Lady Strange, don’t go. I had as lief you heard this. Georgiana,
you ask for this gentleman’s life: now if that were all—” He paused for
effect.

“All!” echoed Georgiana, now risen to her feet; “’tis everything! I ask
no more. You will grant it, then?—you will make me happy?”

“If you would indeed be content with that—and his freedom—” Foxwell
still seemed to halt in doubt.

“I will be,” Georgiana declared, emphatically; “only say he shall live.”

“If you would abandon any dreams you may have entertained of marriage—of
future meetings with him—of correspondence, in the event of my saving
him from the gallows—”

“I will abandon whatever you require,—only to know that he goes free,
only to feel that somewhere in the world he lives!”

“Well,” said Foxwell, slowly, “I will let him go free—”

Georgiana uttered a cry of joy.

“—if,” continued Foxwell, “you will accept the proposal—the very
advantageous proposal—which Mr. Thornby has done you the honour of
making.”

“Accept the proposal—of Mr. Thornby?” repeated Georgiana, in utter
surprise.

“Yes—give your consent to the marriage, of your own free will, letting
it be clear that there has been no force or compulsion to influence
you.”

“But,” Georgiana faltered, looking distressedly toward the door by which
Everell had left the room, “I cannot love Mr. Thornby.”

“’Tis not absolutely necessary you should love him,” replied Foxwell,
dryly.

“Oh, no, no!” cried Georgiana, as her imagination fully mastered the
case. “I cannot! ’Twould be like—’twould be horrible!”

“’Twould be saving your Everell’s life,” said Foxwell, dispassionately.

“’Tis an excellent match, dear,” put in Lady Strange, softly, “if Mr.
Thornby’s estate is what I take it to be.”

“Oh, but, Lady Strange,—you are a woman—_you_ should understand.”

“I do, child,” replied the elder lady, with an inward sigh, “but—these
matters reconcile themselves in time. ’Twill not be so intolerable,
believe me. And who knows—” Whatever it was that who knew, Lady Strange
abruptly broke off to another line of thought. “The point is, to save
your lover’s life, my dear.”

“Ay,” said Foxwell, beginning to show impatience, “ere the opportunity
is gone. Now lookye, Georgiana, I must hear your answer without more
ado. I am going to have a horse saddled at once. It shall carry either
your acceptance to Mr. Thornby, or word of this rebel to those who will
not be slow in securing him. ’Tis for you to say which, and before many
minutes.”

Instead of calling a servant, Foxwell went out to the hall to give the
order, consigning Georgiana by a look to the persuasions of Lady
Strange.

“Come, my dear,” said that lady, bending kindly over Georgiana, who had
sunk weeping into a chair by the table; “’tis but marrying him you love
not, for the sake of him you love.”

“’Tis being false to him I love,” sobbed the girl.

“False to him, but to save his life—a loyal kind of falseness, poor
child!”

She continued in this strain, though with no apparent effect upon
Georgiana, who presently flung her arms upon the table and, bowing her
head upon them, shook with weeping. In this attitude her uncle found her
when he returned from ordering the horse.

“Nay, persuade her no more, Lady Strange,” said he, testily. “God’s
name, miss!—be true to your lover, if you think it so, and send him to
die for your truth. I am going now to write a line for my messenger to
carry. It might have been a line to Thornby, accompanied by a few words
of your own inditing. But, as it cannot be so, it must be to those who
want news of the rebel.” With that, Foxwell was about to go to the
drawing-room.

“No, no!” exclaimed Georgiana, rising to stop him. “I will consent—I
will save the rebel. False to him, for love of him!—he will understand.”

“Nay, but he is not to understand,” objected Foxwell. “He is to know
nothing of this. Do you not see, he might rather give himself up than
have you marry another?—might refuse to be saved by such means. For his
own sake, he mustn’t know the condition. You had best not see him again:
leave me to dismiss him. I make no doubt he will accept his liberty now
for your sake, and agree to the voiding of our compact, whereof he has
had near the full benefit. Best not see him: you might betray all.”

“Not see him!” wept Georgiana.

“’Tis best not. If he stand to our agreement and demand to see you, why,
then, so it must be, and I know not what will ensue. Do not fear I shall
misrepresent you to him. He shall know you have won his life by your
pleading, upon condition he goes away forthwith—that is all. ’Tis agreed
to, then?”

“Yes,” said Georgiana, faintly; and added as if speaking to herself, “I
shall know that somewhere he lives!”

At this instant the door from the library opened, whereupon Foxwell
looked around sharply, thinking Everell had taken it upon himself to
reappear unbidden. But the intruder proved to be the waiting-woman
Prudence, who had fallen asleep over her sewing while Georgiana was
reading to Everell, and whom the lovers had left unnoticed in her
corner. Having just now wakened, and seen Everell alone before the
fireplace, looking strangely pale and excited, she had come forth in
quest of her mistress. In obedience to Foxwell’s imperious motion, she
shut the door, and hastened to the half-swooning niece.

“Then,” said Foxwell to Georgiana, “I beg you will go to your room and
write a brief letter to Mr. Thornby, informing him you accept his
proposal of marriage, conditionally upon such terms as your
representative—and so forth. Lady Strange will perhaps be so kind as to
advise you in the wording—the form matters little, only let it be plain
you act of your free will.”

“Of my free will—yes,” murmured Georgiana, wearily, accepting the
guidance of Lady Strange’s hand.

“When the letter is finished, send it down to me straightway; and best
keep to your room for the rest of the evening,” added Foxwell, as Lady
Strange and the girl passed out to the hall.

Prudence followed them up the stairs, but stopped for a moment outside
Georgiana’s anteroom, to give oral expression to her feelings: “Marry
Mr. Thornby! Oh, lor! What will the Jacumbite say to this, I wonder?”

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