“Please let go my hand,” she begged finally.
“Not till you give me a yea or nay.
“But I can’t—I don’t—” began Janice, and then as footsteps were heard, she cried, “Oh, let me go! Here comes Charles.”
“May I come back?” demanded Evatt.
“Yes,” assented the girl, desperately.
“And ye promise to be secret?”
“I promise,” cried Janice, and to her relief recovered her hand, just as Charles entered the garden.
Like many another of her sex, however, she found that to gain physical and temporary freedom she had only enslaved herself the more, for after breakfast Evatt availed himself of a moment’s interest of Mrs. Meredith’s in the ordering down of his saddle-bags, and of the squire’s in the horse, to say to Janice, aside:—
“I gave ye back your hand, Janice, but remember ’t is mine,” and before the girl could frame a denial, he was beside Mr. Meredith at the stirrup, and, ere many minutes, had ridden away, leaving behind him a very much flattered, puzzled, and miserable demoiselle.
The twenty-four hours of Evatt’s visit troubled Janice in recollection for many a day, and marked the beginning of the most distinct change that had come to her. The experience was in fact that which befalls every one somewhere between the ages of twelve and thirty, by which youth first learns to recognise that life is not mere living, but is rather the working out of a strange problem compounded of volition and necessity, accident and fatality. The pledge of secrecy preyed upon her, the stranger’s assumption that she had bound herself distressed her, and the thought that she had been the subject of tavern talk made her furious. Yet she had promised concealment, she was powerless to write to Evatt denying his pretension, and she could not counteract a slander the purport of which was unknown to her. Had she and Tibbie but been on terms, she might have gained some relief by confiding her woes to her, but that young lady’s visit came to an end so promptly after the departure of Evatt that restoration of good feeling was only obtained in the parting kiss. For the first time in her life, Janice’s head would keep on thinking after it was resting on its pillow, and many a time that enviable repository was called upon to dry her tears and cool her burning cheeks. Never, it seemed to her, had man or woman borne so great a burden of trouble.
The change in the girl was too great not to be noticed by the household of Greenwood. Mrs. Meredith joyfully confided to the Rev. Mr. McClave that she thought an “effectual calling” had come to her daughter, and that Janice was in a most promising condition of unhappiness. Thus encouraged, the divine, who was a widower of forty-two, with five children sadly needing a woman’s care, only too gladly made morning calls on the daughter of his wealthiest