“To Montreal? How curious!” she mused. “But what did Mr. Calhoun say to this marriage?”
“He forbade the banns.”
“But Monsieur will take her before him in a sack—and he will forbid you, I am sure, to condemn that lady to a life in a cabin, to a couch of husks, to a lord who would crush her arms and command her—”
I flushed as she reminded me of my own speech, and there came no answer but the one which I imagine is the verdict of all lovers. “She is the dearest girl in the world,” I declared.
“Has she fortune?”
“I do not know.”
“Have you fortune?”
“God knows, no!”
“You have but love-and this country?”
“That is all.”
“It is enough,” said she, sighing. “Dear God, it is enough! But then"-she turned to me suddenly—“I don’t think you will be married so soon, after all. Wait.”
“That is what Mr. Pakenham wanted Mr. Calhoun to do,” I smiled.
“But Mr. Pakenham is not a woman.”
“Ah, then you also forbid our banns?”
“If you challenge me,” she retorted, “I shall do my worst.”
“Then do your worst!” I said. “All of you do your joint worst. You can not shake the faith of Elisabeth Churchill in me, nor mine in her. Oh, yes, by all means do your worst!”
“Very well,” she said, with a catch of her breath. “At least we both said—’on guard!’
“I wish I could ask you to attend at our wedding,” I concluded, as her carriage approached the curb; “but it is safe to say that not even friends of the family will be present, and of those not all the family will be friends.”
She did not seem to see her carriage as it paused, although she prepared to enter when I opened the door. Her look, absorbed, general, seemed rather to take in the sweep of the wide grounds, the green of the young springtime, the bursting of the new white blossoms, the blue of the sky, the loom of the distant capitol dome—all the crude promise of our young and tawdry capital, still in the making of a world city. Her eyes passed to me and searched my face without looking into my eyes, as though I made part of her study. What sat on her face was perplexity, wonder, amazement, and something else, I know not what. Something of her perfect poise and confidence, her quality as woman of the world, seemed to drop away. A strange and childlike quality came into her face, a pathos unlike anything I had seen there before. She took my hand mechanically.
“Of course,” said she, as though she spoke to herself, “it can not be. But, dear God! would it not be enough?”
I did not understand her speech. I stood and watched her carriage as it whirled away. Thinking of my great need for haste, mechanically I looked at my watch. It was one o’clock. Then I reflected that it was at eleven of the night previous that I had first met the Baroness von Ritz. Our acquaintance had therefore lasted some fourteen hours.