She arrived in the town before daybreak, and went straight up to her aunt’s, to whom she announced that Madam Beck wished her to take a place in Holland with Garvloit, who was on the point of sailing. She showed her the letter—there was no time to lose.
The old woman listened to her for a while, and then said abruptly—
“There has been some difficulty with the lieutenant, Elizabeth?”
“Yes, aunt, there has,” she replied; “he made love to me.”
“And first I said as good as yes. But I don’t mean to have him—and so I told Madam Beck.”
“So you wouldn’t have him?” was the rejoinder, after an astonished pause; “and the reason, I suppose, was that you would rather have Salve?”
“Yes, aunt,” in a low voice.
“And why in the world didn’t you take him, then?”
The tears came into Elizabeth’s eyes.
“Well—as people make their beds so they must lie,” said the old woman, severely—and betook herself then, without any further observation, to the preparation of the morning coffee.
As Elizabeth went down to the quay, to get a boat to take her out to the merchantman, she looked in at the post-office, where she found Marie Forstberg already up, and busy in the sitting-room in her morning dress. She was greatly astonished when Elizabeth told her of her new destination.
It was such an advantageous offer, Elizabeth explained—an almost independent place in the house; and Madam Beck had herself advised her to take it.
But though she used all her wit to keep the other off the scent, Marie Forstberg found a want of connection somewhere, and Elizabeth could see it in her eyes. She asked no further questions, however; and when they took leave of each other they embraced, in tears.
Out at Tromoe the surprise was great when it was found that Elizabeth had gone. Carl Beck had found her letter under the door, but had never imagined that she had left, and had gone out with it in violent agitation of mind and did not come home again till late in the afternoon. Madam Beck had in the meantime confided the matter to her daughters, and they would understand, she said, that not a word of it must be mentioned outside the house.
Although his eyes sought for her unceasingly, Carl made no express inquiry after her till the evening, and when he heard that she was gone, and was perhaps by that time already under sail for Holland, he sat for awhile as if petrified. Looking scornfully at them then, one after another, he said—
“If I thought that I had any of you to thank for this, I’d—” here he seized the chair he had been sitting on, dashed it down upon the floor so that it broke, and sprang up-stairs.
But her letter was unfortunately clear enough—she loved another, and he knew, too, who it was.