The Bewitchment of Lieut. Hanworthy

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The Bewitchment of Lieut. Hanworthy
Charles G. D. Roberts
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THE BEWITCHMENT OF LIEUT. HANWORTHY. BY CHARLES G. D. ROBERTS. From the Saturday Evening Post. (Conclusion.) “Thanks, mademoiselle,” said I slowly, “for dropping your eyes. I am thus enabled to observe, not utterly blinded, the rest of your beauty.” “As I suppose you will never see my face again, monsieur,” said she, “I am flattered that you should be at such pains to note and remember my poor features.” “I will surely see your face again, mademoiselle!” I said very quietly, but she did not look up. “You do not even know my name!” said she. “I have never heard it!” I assented. “I am Mademoiselle de Belhish.” “Your name is -- Renee!” said I. She opened her eyes widely upon me, and my veins tingled under the look. “How do you know?” she asked. “It came into my heart that it was Renee,” said I, “when I was riding past, just before you called me!” * * * Was it joy sent that warm wave over her face and neck? It left her all the paler in a moment. I sat and looked at her, and for some minutes no word was said. The silence was big with wonder and destiny. Suddenly she flushed again, and sat up from her cushions. “Stop, monsieur!” she cried, a kind of desperation in her voice. “Do not look at me so! I know what you are thinking of. You are thinking of me! You must not!” “I could never deceive you,” I said very slowly. “I was thinking of you!” “But I can deceive you!” she cried, with something like a sob. “I have deceived you!” she added. And, springing to her feet, she ran across the room and back, lightly as a blown leaf. I was dumbfounded. “But was --?” I began. “What does it mean?” she interrupted. “It means that I wanted you here -- to keep you here -- I could think of no other way. Oh, do not think me all unmaidenly, monsieur! But a great danger, a terrible danger, threatened you on the road to Port Royal! I had to save you. And there was no other way!” “What danger?” I asked, suddenly suspecting. “If danger for me, then danger for my comrades? I must go at once. Have you betrayed me, mademoiselle?” * * * “Oh, do not go. It can do no good. It could do no good. Wait. It was already too late. I will explain.” And she clung so firmly to my arm that I could not without violence, undo the tense grip of those fine and nervous fingers. “Captain Duchesne came,” she went on, “with four hundred Indians. My uncle has two hundred French soldiers. They moved upon the port this afternoon. Port Royal is surrounded. You could not get through. Had you gone on, you would have been a prisoner ere now -- or scalped!” and she closed her eyes with a shudder. “Port Royal will fall tonight. Then I will hide you and get you away to your own people!” I bowed my head. I could not upon the instant decide what I ought to do. She looked at me, a sort of fear growing in her eyes as I kept silence. At this moment came a tramping of feet outside, and a din of angry voices. Her face went ashen with terror. “They are back!” she gasped. “They have failed. They will be in a fury. Oh, they will take you for a spy. Come! There is only one way. Come! Come!” And dragging me by the arm, she ran out of the dining-room, up the wide stairs, along a narrow corridor, and into a spacious room beneath the gable. Then she grasped both my arms, and looked me full in the face. “You cannot escape alone!” she whispered. “The Indians will be all about the place. But I can take you through safely. I will set you free tonight. Give me your word that you will wait here till I come.” I laughed softly, seized her hands and kissed them in turn. “I give you my word,” said I. “I am altogether in your power, dear -- where I would ever be!” The next instant she was gone. I heard the key turn quietly in the lock. Then I heard her laughter in gay greeting. * * * For a few seconds I stood motionless in the dusk. There was a faint sweetness in the air of the room -- the breath of her hair and garments. The place was athrill with her. I knew it was her own room -- the one sure sanctuary in that house. My head bowed in a passion of reverence. I groped my way noiselessly to a chair. The wonder that filled my brain prevented thought; the joy that filled my heart made thought seem idle. She loved me, or was on the way to loving me. That filled life’s horizon. Aims, interests, ambitions, of a few hours back, seemed to me like matters read of in a story book. * * * Down stairs the bustle and din of voices increased, but I heeded not. Perhaps two hours went by in my reverie. Then the key turned again, the door opened, and in the dark I felt Renee come in. I rose up, stretching out my hands. Instead of her own hands, she gave me a hat and cloak. “What are these?” I asked. “They belong to one of our officers,” she answered. “Put them on, and we will go. Do not speak.” I followed her obediently down a narrow stairway and to a small door. This she opened. Then she took my arm, and we stepped boldly out into the garden. Here we walked up and down for several minutes. Twice we passed soldiers; but in the glimmering light Renee’s face was plainly recognizable, and the men stepped aside. From the garden we walked boldly forth into a lane which led down to the river. No one presumed to challenge us. The lane ended in a little wharf, with a clump of willows beside it. Here Renee pointed to a canoe. She had not spoken all this while -- nor had I, my heart being too full. The tide was brimming high. I launched the canoe, pulled the prow up onto the grass a little and turned to Renee. She was weeping, shaken with deep sobs. I took both her hands in mine, pulling them down from her face. “I love you! said I. “What is the matter, beloved?” * * * “Good-bye. I shall never see you again!” “What do you mean?” I asked, trembling. Then I went on passionately: “There can be no good-by between us in all my life. You are all my life. You are mine. I shall come back for you at once. These fellows will be gone tomorrow. They are beaten!” “No! no!” she answered. “When they go, I shall go with them. My uncle has betrothed me to Captain Duchesne. Before Lent -- I shall be his wife!” The words came hard. I could scarce catch them. “Do you love him?” I asked stiffly. “No! no! no!” she said, lifting her face like a child who would be comforted. “You know whom I love.” I caught her into my arms, sharply, and held her very close for a moment. “Before Lent, indeed!” said I with a low laugh. “Before tomorrow’s sunset you are my wife, Renee. Come, beloved! We shall be a little late at Port Royal.” Lifting her into the canoe, I thrust off, and paddled down the full, still tide. From Renee, in the prow of the canoe, came a little sigh, but not of sorrow. “It is so nice, Mark,” she said presently, “to have difficult questions decided for you.” * * * I need only add that, owing to circumstances which had delayed the Major’s dinner, we were in time for dessert, after all.