54-40 or Fight eBook

Emerson Hough
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 338 pages of information about 54-40 or Fight.

“But why then?  Why then?  What do you mean?” I demanded.

“Because no other way sufficed.  All this winter, here, alone, I have planned and thought about other means.  Nothing would do.  There was but the one way.  Now you see why I did not go to Mr. Calhoun, why I kept my presence here secret.”

“But you saw Elisabeth?”

“Yes, long ago.  My friend, you have won!  You both have won, and I have lost.  She loves you, and is worthy of you.  You are worthy of each other, yes.  I saw I had lost; and I told you I would pay my wager.  I told you I would give you her—­and Oregon!  Well, then, that last was—­hard.”  She choked.  “That was—­hard to do.”  She almost sobbed.  “But I have—­paid!  Heart and soul ... and body ...  I have ... paid!  Now, he comes ... for ... the price!”

“But then—­but then!” I expostulated.  “What does this mean, that I see here?  There was no need for this.  Had you no friends among us?  Why, though it meant war, I myself to-night would choke that beast Pakenham with my own hands!”

“No, you will not.”

“But did I not hear him say there was a key—­his key—­to-night?”

“Yes, England once owned that key.  Now, he does.  Yes, it is true.  Since yesterday.  Now, he comes ...”

“But, Madam—­ah, how could you so disappoint my belief in you?”

“Because”—­she smiled bitterly—­“in all great causes there are sacrifices.”

“But no cause could warrant this.”

“I was judge of that,” was her response.  “I saw her—­Elisabeth—­that girl.  Then I saw what the future years meant for me.  I tell you, I vowed with her, that night when I thought you two were wedded.  I did more.  I vowed myself to a new and wider world that night.  Now, I have lost it.  After all, seeing I could not now be a woman and be happy, I—­Monsieur—­I pass on to others, after this, not that torture of life, but that torturing principle of which we so often spoke.  Yes, I, even as I am; because by this—­this act—­this sacrifice—­I can win you for her.  And I can win that wider America which you have coveted; which I covet for you—­which I covet with you!”

I could do no more than remain silent, and allow her to explain what was not in the least apparent to me.  After a time she went on.

“Now—­now, I say—­Pakenham the minister is sunk in Pakenham the man.  He does as I demand—­because he is a man.  He signs what I demand because I am a woman.  I say, to-night—­but, see!”

She hastened now to a little desk, and caught up a folded document which lay there.  This she handed to me, unfolded, and I ran it over with a hasty glance.  It was a matter of tremendous importance which lay in those few closely written lines.

England’s minister offered, over the signature of England, a compromise of the whole Oregon debate, provided this country would accept the line of the forty-ninth degree!  That, then, was Pakenham’s price for this key that lay here.

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