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- The Guest of Quesnay - 37/37 -


power of sight in a hazy, zigzagging fashion coming back to me, I perceived the figure of Miss Anne Elliott recumbent beside me, her arms about Mr. Percy's prostrate body. The extraordinary girl had fastened upon him, too, though I had not known it, and she had gone to ground with us; but it is to be said for Mr. Earl Percy that no blow of his touched her, and she was not hurt. Even in the final extremities of temper, he had carefully discriminated in my favour.

Mrs. Harman was bending over her, and, as the girl sprang up lightly, threw her arms about her. For my part, I rose more slowly, section by section, wondering why I did not fall apart; lips, nose, and cheeks bleeding, and I had a fear that I should need to be led like a blind man, through my eyelids swelling shut. That was something I earnestly desired should not happen; but whether it did, or did not--or if the heavens fell!--I meant to walk back to Quesnay with Anne Elliott that night, and, mangled, broken, or half-dead, presenting whatever appearance of the prize-ring or the abattoir that I might, I intended to take the same train for Paris on the morrow that she did.

For our days together were not at an end; nor was it hers nor my desire that they should be.

CHAPTER XXII

It was Oliver Saffren--as I like to think of him--who helped me to my feet and wiped my face with his handkerchief, and when that one was ruined, brought others from his bag and stanched the wounds gladly received, in the service of his wife.

"I will remember--" he said, and his voice broke. "These are the memories which Keredec says make a man good. I pray they will help to redeem me." And for the last time I heard the child in him speaking: "I ought to be redeemed; I must be, don't you think, for her sake?"

"Lose no time!" shouted Keredec. "You must be gone if you will reach that certain town for the five-o'clock train of the morning." This was for the spy's benefit; it indicated Lisieux and the train to Paris. Mr. Percy struggled; the professor knelt over him, pinioning his wrists in one great hand, and holding him easily to earth.

"Ha! my friend--" he addressed his captive--"you shall not have cause to say we do you any harm; there shall be no law, for you are not hurt, and you are not going to be. But here you shall stay quiet for a little while--till I say you can go." As he spoke he bound the other's wrists with a short rope which he took from his pocket, performing the same office immediately afterward for Mr. Percy's ankles.

"I take the count!" was the sole remark of that philosopher. "I can't go up against no herd of elephants."

"And now," said the professor, rising, "good-bye! The sun shall rise gloriously for you tomorrow. Come, it is time."

The two women were crying in each other's arms. "Good-bye!" sobbed Anne Elliott.

Mrs. Harman turned to Keredec. "Good-bye! for a little while."

He kissed her hand. "Dear lady, I shall come within the year."

She came to me, and I took her hand, meaning to kiss it as Keredec had done, but suddenly she was closer and I felt her lips upon my battered cheek. I remember it now.

I wrung her husband's hand, and then he took her in his arms, lifted her to the foot-board of the cart, and sprang up beside her.

"God bless you, and good-bye!" we called.

And their voices came back to us. "God bless YOU and good-bye!" They were carried into the enveloping night. We stared after them down the road; watching the lantern on the tail-board of the cart diminish; watching it dim and dwindle to a point of gray;--listening until the hoof-beats of the heavy Norman grew fainter than the rustle of the branch that rose above the wall beside us. But it is bad luck to strain eyes and ears to the very last when friends are parting, because that so sharpens the loneliness; and before the cart went quite beyond our ken, two of us set out upon the longest way to Quesnay.

THE END


The Guest of Quesnay - 37/37

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