A quickened conscience is not the best of soporifics, and Revere was a long time in getting to sleep. The miserable situation into which he had plunged himself, however, was alleviated by the consciousness, of which nothing could deprive him, that Emily loved him. And he persuaded himself that when a girl, such as he fancied her, loved, she loved forever. Which was true. There was much comfort for him in the idea. He could not, however, take the joy that should have been his in the realization of this glorious fact until his affairs with Josephine had been adjusted. As for Emily, she, too, mingled her grief at the pre-engagement with joy in Richard's love, but with less confidence in its permanence; and, like his, her hours were sorely troubled.
The next morning she carefully avoided seeing him except in the presence of others, and the topics they were both dying to discuss remained unbroached until a messenger from the village, a servant of the inn, delivered a note to Revere. The admiral and Emily were on the porch with him when the missive was handed to him. Barry was busy at something down on the ship. He had reported to the admiral early in the morning that there were some repairs that he wished to make which would probably take him the whole of the day. However, nobody, unless it was the admiral, missed him, in which lay the pity of it all.
Revere started with surprise as he glanced at the address on the envelope.
"Why!" he exclaimed, involuntarily, "it is from my mother! Can it be possible that she is here?"
"A lady guv it to me to bring to you," said the messenger. "She come to the tavern late last night, an' said as how she didn't want to disturb you until mornin'."
"Your mother!" exclaimed Emily. "Why – what can she – how does it – "
As she spoke Richard tore open the letter and glanced at its contents.
"She has heard some garbled account of my adventure," he said to Emily, "and she was worried, and has come over here to see me. That's all."
"Did she come alone?"
"Er – no; not exactly."
"Who is with her?" with dawning suspicion.
"Oh!" with great surprise.
"Well, I must go to her at once, I suppose," said Revere, doubtfully.
"Of course," coldly and disdainfully.
"My lad," said the admiral, "the inn is but a poor place for ladies of quality and gentlefolk to stay. Present my compliments to your mother and her young friend, and beg them to honor me by accepting our hospitality while they abide in this latitude. Tell them, I beg of you, that my age and infirmities prevent me from extending the invitation in person, but that my granddaughter will call upon them later and invite them in my behalf."
"Oh, grandfather! I – I – "
"My mother will be delighted to receive Miss Emily," broke in Richard, quickly. "I have no doubt that her plans contemplate remaining here longer than a day, and I think she will be glad to accept your hospitality. She will be honored, I am sure. Meanwhile, I must go. May I have your boat, Miss Emily? I suppose that is the quickest way to the village?"
"Certainly, Mr. Revere."
"And will you not walk down to the landing with me?"
She hesitated, longing yet reluctant.
"Of course she will. Go with him, Emily," said the admiral, decisively.
"Richard," said the girl, as soon as they were out of earshot of the porch, "they have come about that letter."
"Yes," answered Revere, dejectedly, forgetting in his confusion that they had arrived the night before; "I suppose so. I didn't think it possible that it could have reached them by this time. My man must have made good time. Oh, dear; what shall I do? Was ever innocent man placed in so miserable a position?"
"Oh, Richard, you are involved innocently – you say you could not help loving me – "
"But you had no right to involve me, sir. But there, I won't reproach you. She won't give you up; you will have to keep your word, that's all."
She spoke with infinite sadness.
"You have loved me, anyway, and that's a great deal. I ought to be thankful for that, I suppose," she continued.
They were sheltered now from the observation of every one, – but Barry from the ship, – and she put her handkerchief up to her eyes and sobbed out the following in broken sentences:
"I've thought it out all night long, Richard. You saved that girl's life; she has a claim on you. I know she loves you deeply; and of course she won't give you up. I – I wouldn't myself," she wailed. "I hope you will be very hap – hap – happy with her and – you will forget all about this. Oh, Dick, Dick!"
"My heavens! Emily, you nearly drive me distracted! I tell you I couldn't be happy with an arch-angel if she were not you! She must give me up! She shall! I don't really suppose she will hesitate a moment. Why, if she could see you she would know in a glance that I could not help falling in love with you."
"Probably she thinks she's as nice as I am," she continued, through her tears. "She would look upon me as an ignorant little country girl. She would wonder how you could possibly fall in love with me. I wonder about it myself. You do love me, don't you?" anxiously.
"Of course I do. I have told you a thousand times, and I mean it! I mean it more every time I tell you, and I want to tell you more every time I see you. I won't marry Josephine Remington, and that's all there is about it!"
"You must!" decisively.
"If you say that again, Emily, we will quarrel right here," sternly.
"Perhaps that would be best. If we quarrelled it would be easier to break it off."
"Well, we won't quarrel, then. But what I am going to do I cannot say. I'll just tell the truth and stick to it. I wish – oh, I wish – they hadn't come! I do not want to see her at all."
"But you must go, and go right away!"
"Oh, very well. The sooner it is over the better, perhaps. Good-by, Emily."
"Good-by, Richard," heartbrokenly.
"Won't you kiss me good-by? You have not kissed me since last night. You have not let me see you alone this long morning," reproachfully.
"No," answered Emily, with sad decision; "I do not believe I shall kiss you. We are not yet engaged, and you may not belong to me, after all. I think I would better not."
"Oh, all right, then," with a savage simulation of unconcern.
"You are not angry, are you?" timidly.
"No, I am not angry; but I am awfully – "
"You see I am afraid it's the end and another kiss would make it – harder."
She spoke slowly, with a note of interrogation in her voice. For answer he clasped her in his arms and kissed her fervently again and again. She remained weakly struggling for a moment, but finally returned his caresses. Presently, however, – after she had been well kissed, by the way, – her determination came back to her. She burst from his arms with a violent effort, exclaiming, —
"There, go! And I suppose you will be with them all day?"
"I will come back to you as soon as I can get away."
"Oh, Dick, I suppose I will have to go over there in the afternoon and invite them here. What will your mother think of me? I don't believe I ever met a high-born, high-bred lady in my life. I wouldn't know what to do."
"Do just as you always do; be yourself; and if my experience is any criterion, she will adore you as I do. Good-by."
In the same little parlor of the inn in which he had lunched with Emily the day before, Revere awaited the entrance of his mother and Josephine. His mother entered first and immediately clasped him in fond embrace.
"Oh, Richard!" she exclaimed, tearfully; "I have been so miserable about you! You never said a word about the gravity of your accident, and I only learned about it accidentally. You are not suffering, are you? You have sustained no serious consequences?"
"No, mother dear; I'm all right. In fact, I feel better than I have felt for six months. It really did me good. It was awfully good of you to come to see about me, though. I should have written and told you all about it and assured you that nothing serious was the matter, but I thought it would alarm you if I did; if I dwelt upon it too fully, that is. I'm very glad to see you; but there was no real necessity for your coming."
"Richard," she answered, hesitatingly, with a long sigh of regret, "I did not come only on that account. To be perfectly frank with you, Josephine – you have not yet greeted her."
She stopped abruptly. He turned and faced Josephine, who had stood constrainedly in the door-way, apparently an unwilling witness of the meeting.
"Oh," he said to her; "how do you do, Josephine? I'm awfully glad to see you."
He had hitherto always signalized meetings of this kind by kissing her, generally upon the forehead or cheek. With a vivid recollection of his present situation, however, he hesitated awkwardly, and then concluded that it would be better to act as if nothing had happened. But to his great surprise the objection came from the young lady herself. As if she had divined something of his mental attitude, she drew back her head and thrust out her hand. He took it, feeling very much embarrassed, yet greatly relieved.
"What a greeting," said his mother, "between – but I forget. Josephine has something to say to you, Richard. She has made a decision which is a source of lasting grief to me, and will be to all who know you. I am sure it will be a great shock to you. Prepare yourself, my poor boy."
"Didn't you get my letter, Josephine?" said Richard, impetuously.
"No; I didn't receive any letter."
"Oh, then, you didn't – "
"Well, er – nothing. What was it you wanted to say to me?"
"Richard," said the girl, "I may as well be frank with you. I – " She hesitated and turned her face away. "I want to break our engagement."
"Want to break our engagement!" he exclaimed, dazed at this development. "Why – I – "
"Yes," she said, honestly; "frankly, I do not believe that I care enough for you to marry you."
"But, Josephine – "
"Yes, yes; I know what you would say. I thought I loved you; but since I have come to know – Mr. Van Dorn, I am sure – "
"Josephine Remington, you don't mean to tell me that you have thrown me over for Charlie Van Dorn? Why, he – "
"Richard, don't say another word! I love Mr. Van Dorn, and he loves me, and I have promised to be his wife," with great dignity.
"Great heavens!" answered Richard, trying desperately to keep his happiness at this announcement out of his voice and out of his face; and yet he had to confess that he felt extremely annoyed at being rejected in this summary manner for a man who he conceived to be in every way inferior to himself.
He rejoiced, certainly; but the situation had elements of unpleasantness. For a moment or two these had predominated, but as he realized that he was free, he could hardly keep from shouting for joy. Indeed, he felt that his face would betray his secret, and he instinctively turned away from the two women, who were intently watching him, and covered it with his hand as he did so.
"Oh, Richard!" cried Josephine, contritely, "I'm so sorry; I didn't think you cared so much. I thought you felt as I do about the engagement, – only that it was an agreed thing, and everybody more or less expected it, – not that we loved each other very much – I'm so sorry."
"My poor boy!" said his mother, coming up and laying her hand tenderly on his bowed head; "this is nearly as great a disappointment to me as it must be to you, although, of course, my grief cannot be like yours. Josephine, why didn't you wait a little longer? And in his weak state, too!"
"Never mind," said Revere, smiling – they thought him smiling bravely, by the way! – "I dare say I shall get over it; and if Josephine really loves Charlie Van Dorn, who is a splendid fellow, of course it is very much better that she should tell me frankly than feel that she must remain bound by an engagement in which her heart does not enter. Let us say no more about it. I will take my medicine like a man," he continued, mendaciously; "and I congratulate you, Josephine, on your pluck. I presume that I may kiss you now, just as I have done before," he said, touching his lips to her forehead as he spoke.
"Yes, Richard. But I am sure they were never very lover-like kisses at best."
"Not like Van Dorn's, eh!" said Richard, smiling.
"Richard, how can you jest about so serious a subject?" exclaimed his mother. "Poor boy!" she said aside to Josephine; "I fear his nerves are shattered."
"They are, mother, they are," exclaimed Richard, rapturously, giving her a bear-like hug; "but it's all right."
"Then, you don't care so very much, after all?" said Josephine, in her turn disappointed at the equanimity, not to say levity, with which her quondam lover received the news of her engagement to another man.
"Care? Of course I care! There, don't say anything more about it. Mother, did they tell you that my life was saved by a – er – a young woman?"
Ah, Richard, where was Barry then?
"A young woman!" exclaimed his mother, peering at him through her lorgnette in her very best Boston manner. "What sort of a person is she?"
"She is not a person at all, mother," he answered, hotly and inconsequentially; "she is a charming young girl, the granddaughter of one of the most distinguished officers in the United States navy. And she is as beautiful as she is brave and good."
"And who may this distinguished man be?" asked his mother, doubtfully.
"Admiral Charles Stewart, of the Constitution."
"Mercy!" she exclaimed. "Is he yet alive? I remember hearing of him when I was a little girl."
"He is very much alive and his granddaughter lives with him over yonder," he answered, pointing out of the window across the bay toward the old white house embowered in the trees on Ship House Point. "That is his home, and he bade me say to you that he would be honored to have you and Josephine accept his hospitality while you are here. He begs to be excused for his apparent discourtesy in not coming to invite you in person, but he is unable to leave the house, he is so old and feeble. His granddaughter, however, will call this afternoon and extend the invitation, if it will be agreeable to you."
"I do not think we should stand on ceremony, Josephine, under the circumstances, and we will go ourselves and call upon the admiral immediately," said Mrs. Revere. "I should like to see this young lady and thank her for Richard. How shall we get there, Dick?"
"I will row you over if you will allow me. There is a road by land, but this is a quicker and pleasanter way."
"Excuse me, Richard; I think we would better go by land. I presume you can get some sort of a carriage. I confess I am not fond of boats at best, and since you were wrecked in the Josephine I have a horror of venturing on them."
"Very well, mother; I will make all the arrangements, and meanwhile go back to the admiral and tell him to expect you."
"Do so," said his mother; "we will go and make ready. Come, Josephine."
"Presently," answered Miss Remington; "I wish to speak to Dick a minute."
"Richard," said his whilom fiancée, when they were alone, "are you in love with that girl?"
"Well, er – "
"Answer me honestly!"
"I think it is very likely that I shall be, Josephine," he responded at last. "You see, since you have thrown me over I – "
"Dick Revere, I believe you are in love with her now; I don't believe you care a single bit whether I throw you over or not."
"Care!" exclaimed Revere. "I care immensely, I want to assure you, Josephine. But I really do not see, since you have thrown me over, that you have any right to object to my falling in love with anybody else, have you?"
"Oh, very well," said Josephine, petulantly; "no doubt what you say is true; but one thing is certain: I am just as anxious to see that girl as your mother is."
"Just about as anxious, I suppose," laughed Revere, "as I should be to see Charlie Van Dorn if I hadn't seen him until I am sick of the sight of him!" he said, meanly. "Well, prepare yourself, Miss Josephine Remington; you will see something charming when you do see 'that girl'! Good-by!"
Revere had pulled in many an Academy boat race. He had stroked his cutter many a time when a cadet, but he never put so much vim and force into the oars as he did that morning. In an incredibly short time he was at the landing-place. Forgetful of his condition, he bounded up the hill as if he had been a boy. Emily and the admiral were still on the porch. Emily was looking very subdued and sad, and there was a world of entreaty in the agonized glance she cast upon him. His radiant face gave her delightful assurance, which his words turned into ecstasy. He chose a novel way of announcing his news to her.
"Admiral Stewart," he said, precipitately, as he stopped panting, "I have the honor to ask you for the hand of your granddaughter, Miss Emily. I love her and I – I have reason to believe that she – "
He hesitated and looked at the blushing girl, who had sprung to her feet at his first word, and now stood poised as if for flight.
It was all right, then; he was released, he was free! She knew that he would never have spoken to her grandfather unless he could honorably do so. Her heart that had been so heavy was leaping in her bosom at the gladsome thought. Free to love her, free to take her for his own! The other girl had given him up, then. How could she do it? But she had! And he was hers now! She must go away, though, while the two men talked it over.
She turned swiftly toward the entrance to the house. The admiral, wide awake instantly, turned and caught her by the hand. Escape cut off, she dropped on her knees by the old man's side. What answer would her grandfather make? What would he say or do?
"Child," he said at last, fondly looking down at her, "is this true?"
"True that he loves me, grandfather? He – he says so, sir."
"Do you believe him, my dear?"
"I – yes, sir; I think I do."
"And I do, too, Emily. If ever I heard truth ring in a man's voice, I hear it now. But this is not all. Do you love him, daughter?"
"Yes, grandfather," she whispered, "I'm afraid – I do."
She hid her face in her hands on his knee, and the old man laid his hand softly on her head, murmuring words of prayer and blessing. As Revere watched them he thought they made a perfect pair.
"Are you able to support a wife, lad?" asked the veteran, at last, as he stroked the sunny hair of his granddaughter.
"Yes, sir; amply able."
"You have something more than a lieutenant's pay, then?"
"Yes, sir; I have a private fortune of my own."
"And your mother?"
"I have not told her yet, sir; but she is coming to call upon you immediately, and then I shall do so. I have no doubt what her answer will be; although, whatever it be, I am a man in years and my own master, and – "
"Nay, lad, a man's never wholly his own master in the presence of a good mother, and I'd have no child of mine coldly welcomed into any family. We shall see what your mother says. If she be content, I shall be very glad. You have no other tie?"
Emily lifted her head and looked at Revere as this question was put. There were tears in her eyes and her heart almost ceased beating. She was sure of the answer, yet she longed to hear his specific reply.
"No, sir," answered the young man, boldly.
"Oh, Richard!" exclaimed Emily; "and Josephine!"
"Josephine!" said the old man; "who is she?"
"A connection of my family, sir, who has just announced to me her engagement to an estimable young man of our acquaintance."
"Richard," said Emily, springing to her feet, "you don't mean it?"
"I do. Will you kiss me now, Emily?"
Forgetful of the old man, she sprang into his arms.
"Children, children!" said the admiral, smiling indulgently; "you are in a great hurry, it seems to me. Ah, well, I remember when I was a lad, so many years ago, I was in a hurry, too. Now I wait. Indifferently I wait. It cannot be much longer, and yet, for your sake, dear child, I was loath to go. Now, please God, – and your mother, young sir, – the child will be cared for. We can go now, I and the ship. I trust I will be able to leave you in love's hands; in the hands of a gentleman and a sailor, an officer of the navy of the United States, – your mother consenting, my lad, – that is as I would have it. Revere, may God bless you as you deal tenderly and lovingly with this daughter of my old, old age."
"And may God judge me, sir, if I do not so," answered Richard, solemnly.
"This kiss is for you, grandfather," answered the happy Emily, turning to him.