“’T is scarce possible, even if his orders permit it.”
“Then what are we to do?”
“Thou hadst best apply at once to the deputy quartermaster-general for transports.”
Mrs. Meredith acted on this advice the following day, but without success.
“Think you the king’s ships and transports have naught to do but act as packet-boats for you Americans?” the deputy asked. “Hundreds of applications have been filed already, and not another one will we receive. If you ’d for New York, hire a passage in a private ship.”
This was easier to recommend than to do, for such was the frantic demand for accommodation that the prices had been raised to exorbitant figures, quite beyond their means. So appeal was made once more to Clowes.
“’T is something of a quandary,” he remarked; “but there is a simple way out.”
“I’d have saved ye all worry over the matter but that I wished ye to learn the difficulties. I have never made pretence to doing favours out of mere kindness of heart, and ye know quite as well as I why I have given ye lodging and other aids. But for that very reason I am getting wearied of doing all and receiving nothing, and have come to the end. Give me Miss Janice, and my wife and mother shall have passage in the ship I sail in.”
“You take a poor way, Lord Clowes, to gain your wish,” said Janice. “Generosity—”
“Has had a six months’ trial, and brought me no nearer to a consummation,” interrupted the baron. “Small wonder I sicken of it and lose patience.”
“’T is not to be expected that I would let Janice wed thee when her father has given thee nay.”
“Because he has passed his word to another, and so holds himself bound. He said he’d consent but for that, and by acting in his absence ye can save him a broken oath, yet do the sensible thing. He’ll be glad enough once done; that I’ll tie to.”
“It scarce betters it in a moral sense,” replied Mrs. Meredith. “However, we will not answer till we have had a chance to discuss it by ourselves.”
“Janice,” said her mother, once they were alone, “thy dread of that man is a just one, and I—”
“I know—I know,” broke in the daughter, miserably; “but I—if I can make us all easy as to money and future—”
“Those are but worldly benefits, child.”
“But, mommy,” said the girl, chokingly, as she knelt at her mother’s feet and threw her arms about Mrs. Meredith’s waist, “since live we must, what can we do but—but—Oh, would that I had never been born!” and then the girl buried her head in her mother’s lap.
“’T is most unseemly, child, to speak so. God has put us here to punish and chasten us for Adam’s sin; and ’t is not for us, who sinned in him, to question His infinite wisdom.”
“Then I wish He ’d tell me what it is my duty to do!” lamented Janice.
“Thinkest thou he has nothing to do but take thought of thy affairs?”