I had scarcely left him when I met a servant of the Blairs, who handed me a letter. ’Twas from Elspeth—the first she had ever written me. I tore it open, and found a very disquieting epistle. Clearly she had written it in a white heat of feeling. “You spoke finely of reverence,” she wrote, “and how you had never named my name to a mortal soul. But to-night you have put me to open shame. You have offered yourself for a service which I did not seek. What care I for his Excellency’s gifts? Shall it be said that I was the means of sending a man into deadly danger to secure me a foolish estate? You have offended me grossly, and I pray you spare me further offence, I command you to give up this journey. I will not have my name bandied about in this land as a wanton who sets silly youth by the ears to gratify her pride. If you desire to retain a shred of my friendship, go to his Excellency and tell him that by my orders you withdraw from the wager."
This letter did not cloud my spirits as it should. For one thing, she signed it “Elspeth,” and for another, I had the conceited notion that what moved her most was the thought that I was running into danger. I longed to have speech with her, but I found from the servant that Doctor Blair had left that morning on a journey of pastoral visitation, and had taken her with him. The man did not know their destination, but believed it to be somewhere in the north. The thought vaguely disquieted me. In these perilous times I wished to think of her as safe in the coastlands, where a ship would give a sure refuge.
I met Grey that afternoon at the Half-way Tavern. In the last week he seemed to have aged and grown graver. There was now no hint of the light arrogance of old. He regarded me curiously, but without hostility.
“We have been enemies,” I said, “and now, though there may be no friendship, at any rate there is a truce to strife. Last night I begged of you to come with me on this matter of the Governor’s wager, but ’twas not the wager I thought of.”
Then I told him the whole tale. “The stake is the safety of this land, of which you are a notable citizen. I ask you, because I know you are a brave man. Will you leave your comfort and your games for a season, and play for higher stakes at a more desperate hazard?”
I told him everything, even down to my talk with the Governor. I did not lessen the risks and hardships, and I gave him to know that his companions would be rough folk, whom he may well have despised. He heard me out with his eyes fixed on the ground. Then suddenly he raised a shining face.
“You are a generous enemy, Mr. Garvald. I behaved to you like a peevish child, and you retaliate by offering me the bravest venture that man ever conceived. I am with you with all my heart. By God, sir, I am sick of my cushioned life. This is what I have been longing for in my soul since I was born....”