“Here’s Life to Love an’ Death to Fear,” the tinker added, draining his cup. “Ay, madam, fill again—’tis memorable tea.”
The woman refilled his cup.
“Many a time I’ve sat at meat an’ thought, O that mine enemy could taste thy tea! But this, dear lady, this beverage is for a friend.”
So the dinner went on, others talking only to encourage the tongue of Darrel. Trove, well as he knew the old man, had been surprised by his fortitude. Far from being broken, the spirit in him was happy, masterful, triumphant. He had work to do and was earning that high reward of happiness—to him the best thing under heaven. The dinner over, all rose, and Darrel bowed politely to the warden’s wife. Then he quoted:—
“’Like as the waves make toward
the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end.’
“Dear madam, they do hasten but to come as well as to go. Thanks an’ au revoir.”
Darrel and Trove went away with the warden, who bade them sit a while in his office. Tinker and young man were there talking until the day was gone. The warden sat apart, reading. Now and again they whispered earnestly, as if they were not agreed, Darrel shaking his forefinger and his head, Trove came away as the dark fell, a sad and thoughtful look upon him.
Trove went to the inn at Dannemora that evening he left Darrel and there found a letter. It said that Leblanc was living near St. Albans. Posted in Plattsburg and signed “Henry Hope,” the letter gave no hint of bad faith, and with all haste he went to the place it named. He was there a fortnight, seeking the Frenchman, but getting no word of him, and then came a new letter from the man Hope. It said now that Leblanc had moved on to Middlebury. Trove went there, spent the last of his money, and sat one day in the tavern office, considering what to do; for now, after weeks of wandering, he was, it seemed, no nearer the man he sought. He had soon reached a thought of some value: this information of the unknown correspondent was, at least, unreliable, and he would give it no further heed. What should he do? On that point he was not long undecided, for while he was thinking of it a boy came and said:
“There’s a lady waiting to see you in the parlour, sir.”
He went immediately to the parlour above stairs, and there sat Polly in her best gown—“the sweetest-looking creature,” he was wont to say, “this side of Paradise.” Polly rose, and his amazement checked his feet a moment. Then he advanced quickly and would have kissed her, but she turned her face away and Stood looking down. They were in a silence full of history. Twice she tried to speak, but an odd stillness followed the first word, giving possibly the more adequate expression to her thoughts.
“How came you here?” he whispered presently.