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      There is no one there, she said, with the recklessness of despair.

      [135]Do you think, he said, that I have acted wisely, or unwisely, and perhaps cruelly, in coming to you and telling you this? If so, I will ask you to forgive me, and not to think unkindly of me, now that we are really parting forever.

      "Should I ask any of my partners to be my wife, do you think?""Yes, Tabby, it is Iand I want to know what you've got to say to me. Do you know how a deserter feels when he suddenly finds himself face to face with his commanding officer? I never had such a knock-down blow as when I came home the day before yesterday and found you had deserted your postyou whom I trusted so implicitly."

      And thenand thenhe came back to the prayer he had breathed in her ear more than twelve hours ago in the wintry lane. He loved her, he loved her, he loved her! Could she refuse to go away with himhaving woven herself into his life, having made him madly, helplessly in love with her? Could she refuse? Had any woman the right to refuse? He appealed to her sense of honour. She had gone too farshe had granted too much already, granting him her love. She was in his arms in the dim light, in the faint, dream-like atmosphere. He was taking possession of her weak heart by all that science of love in which he was past master. Honour, conscience, fidelity to the absent, piety, innocence were being swept away in that lava flood of passion. Helpless, irresolute, she faltered again and again. "Take me home, Lostwithiel! Have mercy! Take me home."

      And then he asked a string of questionsfutile, trivial, vexing as summer flies buzzing round the head of an afternoon sleeper; and then came the welcome cry of Bodmin Road, and he reluctantly left them.Our firm, as executors and trustees under the will, at once proceeded to search for the missing heiress. Availing ourselves of the best professional assistance, we succeeded in tracing Mrs. Chetwynde to Australia.


      It was some time before Trafford spoke again; it seemed a long time even to him. His own action and his own words had surprised him almost as much as they had surprised Esmeralda; he was full of remorse, for it seemed to him that he had taken advantage of her youth and innocence and had acted and spoken as he would not have done if she had been a girl of his own class and set. At last he said in a grave voice:


      What a great deal we must have to tell each other, she continued, sweetly. I really dont know where to begin! By the way, Mr. Pinchook was obliged to hurry away, and asked me to say good-bye to you for him. He is a very nice old gentleman, dont you think?For a moment Esmeraldas eyes grew moist, then they grew dry and hot again. Trafford led her to the carriage. The guests thronged behind, slippers and rice were thrown, the horses pranced, one, struck by one of Ffoulkes slippers, reared; there was a plunge, a cry of Stand back; out of the way there! addressed by the coachman to the crowd, and the Marquis and Marchioness of Trafford had started upon their honey-moon.