I divided Oregon at the forty-ninth parallel, and not at fifty-four forty, when I broke Pakenham’s key. But you shall see why I have never regretted that.
“Ask Sir Richard Pakenham if he wants his key now!” I said.
She will not stay the siege of loving terms,
Nor bide the encounter of assailing eyes,
Nor ope her lap to soul-seducing gold ...
For she is wise, if I can judge of her;
And fair she is, if that mine eyes be true;
And true she is, as she hath proved herself.
“What have you done?” she exclaimed. “Are you mad? He may be here at any moment now. Go, at once!”
“I shall not go!”
“My house is my own! I am my own!”
“You know it is not true, Madam!”
I saw the slow shudder that crossed her form, the the fringe of wet which sprang to her eyelashes. Again the pleading gesture of her half-open fingers.
“Ah, what matter?” she said. “It is only one woman more, against so much. What is past, is past, Monsieur. Once down, a woman does not rise.”
“You forget history,—you forget the thief upon the cross!”
“The thief on the cross was not a woman. No, I am guilty beyond hope!”
“Rather, you are only mad beyond reason, Madam. I shall not go so long as you feel thus,—although God knows I am no confessor.”
“I confessed to you,—told you my story, so there could be no bridge across the gulf between us. My happiness ended then.”
“It is of no consequence that we be happy, Madam. I give you back your own words about yon torch of principles.”
For a time she sat and looked at me steadily. There was, I say, some sort of radiance on her face, though I, dull of wit, could neither understand nor describe it. I only knew that she seemed to ponder for a long time, seemed to resolve at last. Slowly she rose and left me, parting the satin draperies which screened her boudoir from the outer room. There was silence for some time. Perhaps she prayed,—I do not know.
Now other events took this situation in hand. I heard a footfall on the walk, a cautious knocking on the great front door. So, my lord Pakenham was prompt. Now I could not escape even if I liked.
Pale and calm, she reappeared at the parted draperies. I lifted the butts of my two derringers into view at my side pockets, and at a glance from her, hurriedly stepped into the opposite room. After a time I heard her open the door in response to a second knock.
I could not see her from my station, but the very silence gave me a picture of her standing, pale, forbidding, rebuking the first rude exclamation of his ardor.
“Come now, is he gone? Is the place safe at last?” he demanded.