54-40 or Fight eBook

Emerson Hough
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 265 pages of information about 54-40 or Fight.

That was an idle boast, though made but to myself.  I had not yet met the woman.

CHAPTER IV

THE BARONESS HELENA

     Woman is seldom merciful to the man who is timid.
                         —­Edward Bulwer Lytton.

There was one of our dim street lights at a central corner on old Pennsylvania Avenue, and under it, after a long walk, I paused for a glance at the inscription on my sealed document.  I had not looked at it before in the confusion of my somewhat hurried mental processes.  In addition to the name and street number, in Calhoun’s writing, I read this memorandum:  “Knock at the third door in the second block beyond M Street”

I recalled the nearest cross street; but I must confess the direction still seemed somewhat cryptic.  Puzzled, I stood under the lamp, shielding the face of the note under my cloak to keep off the rain, as I studied it.

The sound of wheels behind me on the muddy pavement called my attention, and I looked about.  A carriage came swinging up to the curb where I stood.  It was driven rapidly, and as it approached the door swung open.  I heard a quick word, and the driver pulled up his horses.  I saw the light shine through the door on a glimpse of white satin.  I looked again.  Yes, it was a beckoning hand!  The negro driver looked at me inquiringly.

Ah, well, I suppose diplomacy under the stars runs much the same in all ages.  I have said that I loved Elisabeth, but also said I was not yet thirty.  Moreover, I was a gentleman, and here might be a lady in need of help.  I need not say that in a moment I was at the side of the carriage.  Its occupant made no exclamation of surprise; in fact, she moved back upon the other side of the seat in the darkness, as though to make room for me!

I was absorbed in a personal puzzle.  Here was I, messenger upon some important errand, as I might guess.  But white satin and a midnight adventure—­at least, a gentleman might bow and ask if he could be of assistance!

A dark framed face, whose outlines I could only dimly see in the faint light of the street lamp, leaned toward me.  The same small hand nervously reached out, as though in request.

I now very naturally stepped closer.  A pair of wide and very dark eyes was looking into mine.  I could now see her face.  There was no smile upon her lips.  I had never seen her before, that was sure—­nor did I ever think to see her like again; I could say that even then, even in the half light.  Just a trifle foreign, the face; somewhat dark, but not too dark; the lips full, the eyes luminous, the forehead beautifully arched, chin and cheek beautifully rounded, nose clean-cut and straight, thin but not pinched.  There was nothing niggard about her.  She was magnificent—­a magnificent woman.  I saw that she had splendid jewels at her throat, in her ears—­a necklace of diamonds, long

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54-40 or Fight from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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