Brereton paused in the opening of the box, as his eyes rested on his love. “Would to Heaven,” he exclaimed, “that I had my colours and the time to paint you as you stand!”
Both relieved and yet more frightened, Janice, in an attempt to conceal the latter feeling, remarked, “I thought you had departed, sir.”
“Think you I’d rest content without farewell, or choose to have one with the whole staff as witnesses?” answered Jack, as he came forward. “Furthermore, I had some matters of which to speak that were not to be published to the world.”
“Where I’d have her,” interjected the officer; “for what I have to say is to you. First: I put the screws on old Hennion and Bagby, and have their word that they will not push their forfeiture bill, or in any other way molest you.”
“We thank you deeply, Colonel Brereton.”
“I rode to Brunswick and saw Parson McClave yesterday afternoon, to bespeak his aid, and he says he is certain you may live at peace here, if you will not seek to be rigorous with your tenants, and that he will do his best to keep the community from persecuting you.”
“’T is glad news, indeed.”
“Knowing how you were circumstanced, I then rode about your farms and held interview with a number of your tenants and pleaded with them that they pay a part of their arrears in supplies; and several of the better sort gave me their word that you should not want for food.”
“’T was most thoughtful of you.”
“Finally, I wrote a letter to your father, and have sent it under a flag that was going to New York, telling him that you were safe arrived at Greenwood.”
“Ah, Colonel Brereton, how can we ever repay your kindness?” murmured the girl, her eyes brightened and softened by a mist of unshed tears.
“’T was done for my own ease. Think you I could have ridden away, not knowing what risk or privation you might have to suffer in my absence?”
“’T is only the greater cause for gratitude that you make your ease depend on ours.”
“That empties my packet of advices,” said the aide; “and —and—unless you have something to tell me, I’ll—we’ll say a farewell and I’ll rejoin the army.”
“Would that I could thank you, sir, as you deserve; but words mean so little that you have rendered me dumb,” replied Janice, feelingly.
“Can you not—Have you nothing else to say to me?” he begged pleadingly.
“I—Indeed, I can think of nothing, Colonel Brereton,” replied the maiden, very much flustered.
“Then good-by, and may God prosper you,” ended Jack, sadly, taking her hand and kissing it gently. He turned with obvious reluctance, and went toward the house, but before he had reached the hedge he quickly retraced his steps. “I—I could not force my suit upon you when I found you in such helplessness—not even when you gave me the purse—though none but I can know what the restraint meant in torture,” he burst out; “and it seems quite as ungenerous to try to advantage myself now of your moment’s gratefulness. But my passion has its limits of control, and go I cannot without—without— Give me but a word, though it be a sentence of death to my heart’s desire.”