“He has bitterly disappointed me,” answered Arnold. “I can say no more.”
“You have had very little experience of the world,” proceeded Sir Patrick. “And you have just acknowledged that you have had reason to distrust your experience of your friend. Are you quite sure that you are acting wisely in keeping his secret from me? Are you quite sure that you will not repent the course you are taking to-night?” He laid a marked emphasis on those last words. “Think, Arnold,” he added, kindly. “Think before you answer.”
“I feel bound in honor to keep his secret,” said Arnold. “No thinking can alter that.”
Sir Patrick rose, and brought the interview to an end.
“There is nothing more to be said.” With those words he gave Arnold his hand, and, pressing it cordially, wished him good-night.
Going out into the hall, Arnold found Blanche alone, looking at the barometer.
“The glass is at Set Fair, my darling,” he whispered. “Good-night for the last time!”
He took her in his arms, and kissed her. At the moment when he released her Blanche slipped a little note into his hand.
“Read it,” she whispered, “when you are alone at the inn.”
So they parted on the eve of their wedding day.
THE promise of the weather-glass was fulfilled.
The sun shone on
At nine in the morning the first of the proceedings of the day began. It was essentially of a clandestine nature. The bride and bridegroom evaded the restraints of lawful authority, and presumed to meet together privately, before they were married, in the conservatory at Ham Farm.
“You have read my letter, Arnold?”
“I have come here to answer it, Blanche. But why not have told me? Why write?”
“Because I put off telling you so long; and because I didn’t know how you might take it; and for fifty other reasons. Never mind! I’ve made my confession. I haven’t a single secret now which is not your secret too. There’s time to say No, Arnold, if you think I ought to have no room in my heart for any body but you. My uncle tells me I am obstinate and wrong in refusing to give Anne up. If you agree with him, say the word, dear, before you make me your wife.”
“Shall I tell you what I said to Sir Patrick last night?”
“Yes. The confession (as you call it) which you make in your pretty note, is the very thing that Sir Patrick spoke to me about in the dining-room before I went away. He told me your heart was set on finding Miss Silvester. And he asked me what I meant to do about it when we were married.”
“And you said—?”
Arnold repeated his answer to Sir Patrick, with fervid embellishments of the original language, suitable to the emergency. Blanche’s delight expressed itself in the form of two unblushing outrages on propriety, committed in close succession. She threw her arms round Arnold’s neck; and she actually kissed him three hours before the consent of State and Church sanctioned her in taking that proceeding. Let us shudder—but let us not blame her. These are the consequences of free institutions.