“And you allowed me to become your devoted slave,” she said, “even to the extent of calling upon a man in a red nightcap; and then, even upon a morning like this, when the birds sing so sweetly and the little flowers show pink and white—now you cast down my most sacred feelings!”
The mockery in her tone was perfect. I scarce had paused to note it. I was absorbed in one thought—of Elisabeth. Where one fire burns high and clear upon the altar of the heart, there is small room for any other.
“I might have told you,” said I at Last, “but I did not myself know it until this morning.”
“My faith, this country!” she exclaimed with genuine surprise. “What extraordinary things it does! I have just seen history made between the lightings of a cigarette, as it were. Now comes this man and announces that since midnight he has met and won the lady who is to rule his heart, and that he is to marry her at six!”
“Then congratulate me!” I demanded.
“Ah,” she said, suddenly absorbed; “it was that tall girl! Yes, yes, I see, I see! I understand! So then! Yes!”
“But still you have not congratulated me.”
“Ah, Monsieur,” she answered lightly, “one woman never congratulates a man when he has won another! What of my own heart? Fie! Fie!” Yet she had curious color in her face.
“I do not credit myself with such fatal charms,” said I. “Rather say what of my little clasp there. I promised that to the tall girl, as you know.”
“And might I not wear it for an hour?”
“I shall give you a dozen better some time,” said I; “but to-night—”
“And my slipper? I said I must have that back, because I can not hop along with but one shoe all my life.”
“That you shall have as soon as I can get to my rooms at Brown’s Hotel yonder. A messenger shall bring it to you at once. Time will indeed be short for me. First, the slipper for Madam. Then the license for myself. Then the minister. Then a friend. Then a carriage. Five miles to Elmhurst, and the train for the North starts at eight. Indeed, as you say, the methods of this country are sometimes hurried. Madam, can not you use your wits in a cause so worthy as mine?”
I could not at the time understand the swift change of her features. “One woman’s wits against another’s!” she flashed at me. “As for that”—She made a swift motion to her throat. “Here is the trinket. Tell the tall lady it is my present to you. Tell her I may send her a wedding present—when the wedding really is to happen. Of course, you do not mean what you have said about being married in such haste?”
“Every word of it,” I answered. “And at her own home. ’Tis no runaway match; I have the consent of her father.”
“But you said you had her consent only an hour ago. Ah, this is better than a play!”
“It is true,” said I, “there has not been time to inform Miss Churchill’s family of my need for haste. I shall attend to that when I arrive. The lady has seen the note from Mr. Calhoun ordering me to Montreal.”