Esther had never been told all her father’s objections to her cousin. Simple prohibition had seemed to her parents sufficient for the gentle, dutiful child. Bobus had always been very kind to her, and her heart went out enough to him in his trouble to make coldness impossible to her. Tears welled into her eyes with perplexity at the new theory, and she could only falter out-
“That doesn’t seem right for me.”
“Say one word and trust to me, and it shall be right. Yes, Esther, say the word, and in it I shall be strong to overcome everything, and win the consent you desire. Say only that, with it, you would love me.”
“If?” said Esther.
It was an interrogative if, and she did not mean it for “the one word,” but Bobus caught at it as all he wanted. He meant it for the fulcrum on which to rest the strong lever of his will, and before Esther could add any qualification, he was overwhelming her with thanks and assurances so fervent that she could interpose no more doubts, and yielded to the sweetness of being able to make any one so happy, above all the cousin whom most people thought so formidably clever.
Edmund interrupted them by rushing up, thus losing the prize, which was won by the last comer, and proved to be a splendid bonbon; but there was consolation for the others, since Bobus had laid in a supply as a means of securing peace.
He would fain have waited to rivet his chains before manifesting them, but he knew Essie too well to expect her to keep the interview a secret; and he had no time to lose if, as he intended, though he had not told her so, he was to take her to Japan with him.
So he stormed the castle without delay, walked to Kencroft with the strawberry gatherers, found the Colonel superintending the watering of his garden, and, with effrontery of which Essie was unconscious, led her up, and announced their mutual love, as though secure of an ardent welcome.
He did, mayhap, expect to surprise something of the kind out of his slowly-moving uncle, but the only answer was a strongly accentuated “Indeed! I thought I had told you both that I would have none of this foolery. Esther, I am ashamed of you. Go in directly.”
The girl repaired to her own room to weep floods of tears over her father’s anger, and the disobedience that made itself apparent as soon as she was beyond the spell of that specious tongue. There were a few fears too for his disappointment; but when her mother came up in great displeasure, the first words were-
“O, mamma, I could not help it!”
“You could not prevent his accosting you, but you might have prevented his giving all this trouble to papa. You know we should never allow it.”
“Indeed I only said if!”
“You had no right to say anything. When a young lady knows a man is not to be encouraged, she should say nothing to give him an advantage. You could never expect us to let you go to a barbarous place at the other end of the world with a man of as good as no religion at all.”