“And why do you always want to talk so solemnly to me, Maurice?”
“Now be a brave little girl, Elsie, and don’t be frightened.”
“And is it, then, so very dreadful?” she queried, trembling a little at the gravity of his manner rather than his words.
“No, it isn’t dreadful at all. But it is of great importance, and therefore we must both be serious. Now, Elsie dear, tell me honestly if you love me enough to become my wife now, at once.”
The girl cast timid glances around her, as if to make sure that they were unobserved. Then she laid her arms round his neck, gazed for a moment with that trustful look of hers into his eyes, and put up her lips to be kissed.
“That is no answer, my dear,” he said, smiling, but responding readily to the invitation. “I wish to know if you care enough for me to go away with me to a foreign land, and live with me always as my wife.”
“I cannot live anywhere without you,” she murmured, sadly.
“And then you will do as I wish?”
“But it will take three weeks to have the banns published, and you know father would never allow that.”
“That is the very reason why I wish you to do without his consent. If you will board the steamer with me to-morrow night, we will go to England and there we can be married without the publishing of banns, and before any one can overtake us.”
“But that would be very wrong, wouldn’t it? I think the Bible says so, somewhere.”
“In Bible times marriages were on a different basis from what they are now. Moreover, love was not such an inexorable thing then, nor engagements so pressing.”
She looked up with eyes full of pathetic remonstrance, and was sadly puzzled.
“Then you will come, darling?” he urged, with lover-like persuasiveness. “Say that you will.”
“I will—try,” she whispered, tearfully, and hid her troubled face on his bosom.
“One thing more,” he went on. “Your house is built on the brink of eternity. The glacier is moving down upon you silently but surely. I have warned your father, but he will not believe me. I have chosen this way of rescuing you, because it is the only way.”
The next evening Maurice and his servant stood on the pier, waiting impatiently for Elsie, until the whistle sounded, and the black-hulled boat moved onward, ploughing its foamy path through the billows. But Elsie did not come.
Another week passed, and Maurice, fired with a new and desperate resolution, started for the capital, and during the coming winter the glacier was left free to continue its baneful plottings undisturbed by the importunate eyes of science. Immediately on his arrival in the city he set on foot a suit in his father’s name against Tharald Gudmundson Ormgrass, to recover his rightful inheritance.