As we swung down the road I leaned forward, studying with interest the dust cloud of an approaching carriage. As it came near, I called to my driver. The two vehicles paused almost wheel to wheel. It was my friend Jack Dandridge who sprawled on the rear seat of the carriage! That is to say, the fleshly portion of Jack Dandridge. His mind, his memory, and all else, were gone.
I sprang into his carriage and caught him roughly by the arm. I felt in all his pockets, looked on the carriage floor, on the seat, and pulled up the dust rug. At last I found the license.
“Did you see the baroness?” I asked, then.
At this he beamed upon me with a wide smile.
“Did I?” said he, with gravity pulling down his long buff waistcoat. “Did I? Mos’ admi’ble woman in all the worl’! Of course, Miss ’Lis’beth Churchill also mos’ admi’ble woman in the worl’,” he added politely, “but I didn’t see her. Many, many congrash’lations. Mos’ admi’ble girl in worl’—whichever girl she is! I want do what’s right!”
The sudden sweat broke out upon my forehead. “Tell me, what have you done with the slipper!”
He shook his head sadly. “Mishtaken, my friend! I gave mos’ admi’ble slipper in the worl’, just ash you said, just as baroness said, to Mish Elisabeth Churchill—mos’ admi’ble woman in the worl’! Proud congrash’late you both, m’ friend!”
“Did you see her?” I gasped. “Did you see her father—any of her family?”
“God blesh me, no!” rejoined this young statesman. “Feelings delicacy prevented. Realized having had three—four—five—Barn Burners; washn’t in fit condition to approach family mansion. Alwaysh mos’ delicate. Felt m’self no condition shtan’ up bes’ man to mosh admi’ble man and mosh admi’ble girl in worl’. Sent packazh in by servant, from gate—turned round—drove off—found you. Lo, th’ bridegroom cometh! Li’l late!”
My only answer was to spring from his carriage into my own and to order my driver to go on at a run. At last I reached the driveway of Elmhurst, my carriage wheels cutting the gravel as we galloped up to the front door. My approach was noted. Even as I hurried up the steps the tall form of none other than Mr. Daniel Churchill appeared to greet me. I extended my hand. He did not notice it. I began to speak. He bade me pause.
“To what may I attribute this visit, Mr. Trist?” he asked me, with dignity.
“Since you ask me, and seem not to know,” I replied, “I may say that I am here to marry your daughter, Miss Elisabeth! I presume that the minister of the gospel is already here?”
“The minister is here,” he answered. “There lacks one thing—the bride.”
“What do you mean?”
He put out his arm across the door.
“I regret that I must bar my door to you. But you must take my word, as coming from my daughter, that you are not to come here to-night.”