“To me,” concluded the Solitary, “a dungeon or a palace ought to be alike indifferent; but I will not thwart the minds of those who love me, however vain their desires. The Lord hath brought this light affliction upon me for His own good purpose, and I await the revelation of His will.”
“I do not doubt we shall be able soon to release you from your confinement,” said Pownal; “meanwhile, tell us what we can do to make your condition tolerable.”
“I lack nothing,” said Holden. “These hands have ever supplied my necessities, and I am a stranger to luxury. Nor liveth man by bread alone, but on sweet tones, and kind looks, and gracious deeds, and I am encompassed by them. I am rich above gold, and silver, and precious stones.”
“If there is anything you desire, you will let me know? Command me in all things; there is nothing I am not ready to do for you,” said Pownal.
“The blessing of one who is ready to depart be upon thee, for thy kind words and loving intentions; and should real trouble arise, I will call upon thee for aid. I know not now,” he continued, “why I should hide like a wounded beast. I fear ’tis but for a visionary point of honor. Why should not a gentleman,”—this he said sarcastically—“occupy the workhouse as well as a boor. In the eyes of One, we are all equal. Ah, it might do this hard heart good.”
“You have promised to respect the prejudices of your friends,” said Pownal, “whatever you may think of their weakness.”
“You shall never endure the disgrace,” said Anne, with kindling cheeks. “See how Providence itself interposes to protect you!”
“Your suggestions, my children, find an echo, alas! too truly in my own heart to be rejected,” said Holden, dejectedly. “I repeat, I will obey you.”
The young people remained for an hour or more at the hut, conversing with the Solitary, to whom their presence appeared to give great pleasure; and, before parting, Pownal exchanged some words apart with Esther, having for their object the promotion of her guest’s and her own comfort. The kind heart of the squaw needed no incentives to conceal and protect Holden, but Pownal felt he had no right to encroach upon her slender means, and such arrangements were made as would more than compensate her.
As the sleigh started from the door, Anne said to Pownal, with some tenderness in the tone of her voice:
“You need not tell me, Mr. Pownal, the name of one of the strange Paladins last night. How will Faith thank and admire you. But, O, let me beg you to be prudent, lest you fall into the power of these bad men.”
It would have better suited the feelings of Pownal, had Anne uttered her own thanks more directly. His inexperience and distrust of himself did not comprehend that it was in reality the way in which the modest girl expressed the admiration that swelled her heart.