“And then—you went to—him, and warned him—told him of the story you had invented?”
“I did, Miss Anthea; at first, I thought as he were going to up an’ give me one for myself, but, arterwards he took it very quiet, an’ told me as I’d done quite right, an’ agreed to play the game. An’ that’s all about it, an’ glad I am as it be off my mind at last. Ah’ now, Miss Anthea mam, seeing you’re that rich—wi’ Master Georgy’s fortun’,—why you can pay back for the furnitur’—if so be you’re minded to. An’ I hope as you agree wi’ me as I done it all for the best, Miss Anthea?”
Here, Adam unscrewed his hat, and knocked out the wrinkles against his knee, which done, he glanced at Anthea:
“Why—what is it, Miss Anthea?”
“Nothing, Adam,—I haven’t slept well, lately—that’s all”
“Ah, well!—you’ll be all right again now,—we all shall,—now the mortgage be paid off,—shan’t we, Miss Anthea?”
“We ‘ad a great day—over to Cranbrook, Master Georgy an’ me, he be in the kitchen now, wi’ Prudence—a-eating of bread an’ jam. Good-night, Miss Anthea mam, if you should be wanting me again I shall be in the stables,—Good-night, Miss Anthea!” So, honest, well-meaning Adam touched his forehead with a square-ended finger, and trudged away. But Anthea sat there, very still, with drooping head, and vacant eyes.
And so it was done, the irrevocable step had been taken; she had given her promise! So now, having chosen her course, she must follow it—to the end.
For, in Arcadia, it would seem that a promise is still a sacred thing.
Now, in a while, lifting her eyes, they encountered those of the smiling Cavalier above the mantel. Then, as she looked, she stretched out her arms with a sudden yearning gesture:
“Oh!” she whispered, “if I were only—just a picture, like you.”
Which, being the last, is, very properly, the longest in the book
In those benighted days when men went abroad cased in steel, and, upon very slight provocation, were wont to smite each other with axes, and clubs, to buffet and skewer each other with spears, lances, swords, and divers other barbarous engines, yet, in that dark, and doughty age, ignorant though they were of all those smug maxims, and excellent moralities with which we are so happily blessed,—even in that unhallowed day, when the solemn tread of the policeman’s foot was all unknown,—they had evolved for themselves a code of rules whereby to govern their life, and conduct. Amongst these, it was tacitly agreed upon, and understood, that a spoken promise was a pledge, and held to be a very sacred thing, and he who broke faith, committed all the cardinal sins. Indeed their laws were very few, and simple, easily understood, and well calculated to govern man’s conduct to his fellow. In this day of ours, ablaze with learning, and culture,—veneered with a fine civilization, our laws are complex beyond all knowing and expression; man regulates his conduct—to them,—and is as virtuous, and honest as the law compels him to be.