They were together on the gun-platform once more, Emily and Revere. She sat on the gun-carriage and he leaned against the parapet by her side. He held a fold of her dress in his hand.
"Now, Dick," she said, "tell me all about it. Was she vexed when she received your letter?"
"My darling, she has not seen it. She and mother started before my man got there. He is probably bringing it back here now. As good luck would have it, she has fallen in love with a certain Charles Van Dorn. He's rather a poor stick, too, I think."
"She must be a strange girl, Dick, to fall in love with anybody else when you were around."
"Well, I don't know. At any rate, she did fall in love, and she came here of her own motion to break the engagement."
"I wonder how she will feel when she gets the letter?"
"Well, dearest, I thought, under the circumstances, I wouldn't give it to her."
"Not give it to her?" cried the girl, with sudden promptness and decision; "indeed you will give her that letter, sir! She shall know you loved me before she released you, and that you were going to break the engagement yourself. I won't have her think for a moment that I just got you because she threw you over. Not give her the letter, indeed!"
"Well, Emily," said Revere, deprecatingly, greatly surprised at this outburst; "you see I thought I would save her the – er – humiliation, you know, of being rejected by a man."
"And you will inflict on me, Richard Revere, the humiliation of letting her think that I only have you because she didn't want you! That I – " furiously.
"Now, my dear; you know perfectly well that's different. If she has half an eye, as soon as she sees us together, she will know that I love you desperately as I never loved her. She is a bright girl."
"Bright! I don't think so!" contemptuously. "She is very stupid to give you up; but I'm glad she is – "
"I should think she would be awfully sorry to know that a man had broken his engagement with her, and that's why I – "
"Mr. Revere, I believe you are sorry yourself, after all! I believe you are half in love with her still!" reproachfully.
"Now, Emily, you know that's nonsense. Why, I felt so joyful when she said she was in love with that Van Dorn, that I had to turn away my face for fear she would see how enraptured I was."
"Why didn't you tell her frankly, honestly, right then, that you were pleased with it; that you were engaged to me; that you had broken the engagement before? It was your duty, – your duty to me. You failed me; you failed me before. I can't trust you." Most unkindly and unjustly spoken words were these, indeed.
"Why, Emily, my dear child – "
"I'm not a child, and don't you call me one! I am a woman, though you treat me like a child, and I'm not dear to you, either! You are sacrificing me to that other girl," bitterly, tearfully, but with great determination.
Revere was nonplussed by the revelation of these essentially feminine characteristics in Emily's otherwise charming personality. He did not know what to do or how to answer her in his bewilderment.
"Are you going to give her that letter or not?" she asked, insistently, after a pause which he appeared unable to break unaided.
"Well," he said at last, but very reluctantly, "I suppose if you insist upon it I must; but frankly, I think it would be better not to do so. I do not believe it is right."
"Is there something in it you don't want me to know?" suspiciously.
"Nothing; absolutely nothing. I told you all I said as near as I can remember. It's a matter of principle, Emily. I think you are wrong, dearest. I – "
"Oh, sir; then you will sacrifice me, will you, to your principle? Very well, Mr. Revere, understand one thing: if you do not give that letter to her as soon as you get it back, you do not get me. I will not have any one think I am a second choice."
"But, Emily – "
"Don't say anything more to me!" she flashed out. "I never was so angry in my life! Perhaps you are tired of me," impatiently and proudly.
"Perhaps you are tired of me," answered Richard, shortly, his own quick temper having at last reached the outbreaking point. "I think you are very cruel indeed, to want to hurt this poor girl's feelings, and I do not see why you are crying now, either," he added, as Emily, under the stimulus of this reproach, the force of which she recognized, put her handkerchief to her face and burst into tears. "It seems to me you have entirely the best of the game. My engagement is broken; I am free to love you, and I do, and to marry you, and I hope to. You have me," he went on with unconscious egotism; "that ought to content you. Josephine will know, as soon as she sees us together, that I love you," he continued, sharply, "and that's enough."
"I wonder what she would think of your love if she saw us together now," wailed Emily. "I don't care what you say; it's humiliating to me; it's brutal treatment. You say I have everything. You say I ought to be satisfied with you. I'm not! So, there!"
"Very well," said Revere, coldly; "I will leave you to think it over, and then, if you insist, I shall give her the letter, and you will be sorry for it as long as you live."
"I won't!" determinedly.
"I hope you will, anyway," with equal determination.
"I never dreamed you could be so rude and so unkind to me," she sobbed. "I am sorry that – "
"Perhaps you would like to break our engagement, Miss Sanford?" coldly.
"Oh, as you please, Mr. Revere," with well-simulated indifference.
"There is a carriage coming up the drive," he remarked, glad of a diversion when they had reached this uncomfortable point in the conversation. "My mother and Josephine are in it."
"Mercy!" exclaimed the girl, secretly glad of the interruption, too; "and they will see that I have been crying!"
"As to the engagement?" continued Richard, doggedly; but Emily started suddenly to her feet and ran up to the house, leaving his question unanswered. He followed her moodily and gloomily, feeling very low in spirits as well as very much annoyed.
Barry had been busy all day about the ship, but he had not been too much occupied to see Revere and Emily whenever they were within range, and he had kept close watch upon them. Too far away to determine what was going on by the gun, he could at least see that the girl was weeping, that she was unhappy, and he realized that she had left Revere in anger and disappointment. The young officer was beginning early to torment her, to break her heart, – so the old sailor surmised. If Barry needed any more inspiration, that was enough. But he was already sufficiently determined upon his plan, and he went back to his work with the fury of desperation renewed.
Revere reached the house just as the carriage drew up before the door. He assisted his mother and Josephine to descend therefrom, and the two ladies walked up the steps to the porch and were formally presented to the old admiral.
In honor of the occasion, for, as he said, he did not often have the privilege of entertaining guests of such distinction, the veteran had dressed himself in the old uniform in which he had fought his battles. The lace was faded and tarnished, and the coat hung loosely enough about his thin and shrunken figure; but the ancient uniform seemed to mark the age of the old man, typifying that past, forever gone, of which he had been so splendid a figure. The huge chapeau, the high stock, the ruffled shirt, the tight breeches, and the half-boots might have incited laughter in the irreverent; but to Richard and his mother, and to Josephine as well, they seemed entirely appropriate.
And the admiral's manner – gracious, courteous – was quite in accord with his garments. It was distinctly old-fashioned in its gallantry and exquisite in its deference. Mrs. Revere, a grand dame herself, was evidently charmed with him; while on her own part she made a not less favorable impression upon the old gentleman, who, in his day, had always mingled with the best. It was long since the admiral had been in the society of such a woman, and he keenly delighted in the little conversation that ensued. Josephine, too, came in for a due share of attention, and, as any young girl would have done, she fell promptly in love with this charming old sailor.
The talk naturally enough turned upon Richard's adventure, and his mother could not say enough in her endeavor to express her gratitude and thankfulness for his rescue. The servant had announced that Miss Emily would be out presently, and the two women waited with unconcealed interest for her appearance.
Some natural anxiety filled the heart of Revere. He had no doubt as to the qualities of the woman he loved, but he wondered how she would strike his mother. She certainly was not like the young Boston women of his mother's social circle. Just as high bred as, and, in his mind, infinitely more beautiful than, Josephine Remington, yet she was of so entirely different a type that he could not restrain some misgivings. Of course he meant to marry Emily under any circumstances, and he had no fear, in spite of the quarrel which had temporarily overcast their happiness, but that she would marry him as well; but he was the only son of his mother, and it would be pleasanter all around if she should be attracted to Emily and be willing to welcome her within the precincts of her exclusive family.
He could see that she was delighted with the admiral, as, indeed, who could fail to be? When the old man informed her that he had known her husband's father intimately, and that the old commodore had cruised with him when he was a lieutenant; and when he said pleasant things about the commodore, who was deservedly held in high esteem in the family, and told her some charming little anecdotes illustrating his courage and ability, her heart was quite won.
The moments passed in pleasant conversation, therefore, until the quick ear of Richard recognized a light footfall in the hall. The door opened and Emily stepped out on the porch. With the bright sunlight of the afternoon falling upon her as she stood, clad in a simple white dress, against the dark background of the closed room, seen through the door-way, she made so charming a picture of virginal loveliness that he could scarcely repress a cry of admiration and delight.
At the sound of the opening of the door, Mrs. Revere turned and critically surveyed the girl through her lorgnette, and criticism at once gave place to approbation. The admiral instantly rose, and as Emily diffidently stepped toward him, – poor girl, it was quite an ordeal to her, this meeting, – he took her by the hand and presented her in due and ancient form to his two guests, bowing low, with the grace of a finished gentleman in spite of his age, as he did so.
The dress the girl wore, while of the finest material, was decidedly old-fashioned in its cut, – a fact both women had been quick to notice; but when she accompanied the admiral's bow by involuntarily dropping a sweeping courtesy, after a fashion much older than her dress, which went back almost to the days of her grandfather's uniform, in fact, – for he had taught her how to do it, – the effect was altogether charming. A little exclamation broke from the lips of the older woman. The lorgnette dropped from her hand, and, instead of shaking hands formally, as she had anticipated, Mrs. Revere rose and took the girl in her arms.
"My dear," she said, "how can I thank you for saving my boy's life? Why, I cannot believe that you did it! You do not look – you are so – forgive an old woman – so daintily beautiful, I don't understand where you got the strength to – "
"She did it, though, mother," interrupted Richard, joyfully, delighted at the turn of affairs.
"And she did it well," added the admiral, proudly; "no one could have done it better."
"It was nothing, madam," said Emily, blushing at these tributes; "I mean – Captain Barry did the most of it – did it all, in fact. I only steered the boat and held on to – Mr. Revere. Anybody could have done it."
"Nobody but you did, though," said Richard, promptly; "and if you had not been here, Miss Emily, I should have ended all my cruising then."
"I think it was a most splendid action, Miss Sanford," said Josephine, warmly, "and as an old friend of Richard I want to thank you, too."
"And this Captain Barry of whom you spoke," asked Mrs. Revere. "Where is he? I should like to thank him also. Who is he?"
"Just a common sailor, madam, a bo's'n's mate, long attached to my fortunes, and his father before him. Worthy men, both," answered the admiral. "He has been busy with the ship all day, but you will see him presently, doubtless. He has been trying to patch the old hulk up so that it may last a little longer. He watches over it as he watches over me – and my granddaughter. I sometimes think the ship and he and I will go together, and I have been greatly anxious as to what would become of this child then."
Mrs. Revere was not given to impulsive action. She was generally very self-contained, and usually carefully considered what she said before she spoke, but on this occasion she answered instantly, —
"Your granddaughter will never want a friend so long as I live, admiral, and I shall be happy, indeed, if I can repay some of the debt I owe her for Richard in that way."
"Mother," said Richard, "I have something to say to you. Admiral, you will pardon me if I ask Miss Emily to take Miss Josephine into the house for a few moments? No, sir; don't you go, please," he continued, as the admiral made a motion to rise; "I want you to hear, too."
"Certainly, certainly, my lad. Emily, show Miss Remington the treasures of your room, the model of the Susquehanna– "
"And the sword of the Constitution," interrupted Richard; "that is the rarest treasure of them all."
"Come, then, Miss Remington," said Emily, extending her hand to Josephine, "since we are dismissed."
Josephine instantly divined the meaning of Richard's request. She shot a glance at him of mingled amusement and annoyance, and found time to whisper as she passed him standing by the door, which he had opened for them, —
"You do love her, then? Traitor! Well, I do not wonder."
This was certainly magnanimous in her, yet she was not particularly happy over the situation. Not that she loved Revere, but a woman never forgives the defection of an old admirer. Although she may have been married for twenty years, when her sometime lover follows her example, she always feels that it is an evidence of masculine depravity and disloyalty.
However, Josephine could not justly reproach him in view of her declared affection for Charles Van Dorn. Yet he might have had the decency to wait a little longer, she thought, somewhat bitterly, as she left the porch. She was a generous girl, though, and had a good heart. When they were alone, she slipped her arm around Emily's waist, which was an unusual and remarkable familiarity under any circumstances on her part, and whispered in her ear, —
"Tell me, do you love him very much?"
"I – we quarrelled a few minutes ago about – "
"About me, I'll warrant," shrewdly.
"You knew he was engaged to me, then?"
"Yes; he told me so."
"And you knew the engagement was broken this morning?"
"Yes, but – "
"Well, there is nothing to quarrel about. Tell me, now, honestly, do you love him very much?"
"More than anything under the sun," said Emily, burying her face on Josephine's shoulder; "don't you love him yourself?"
"I? Not a bit," laughed the older girl. "Oh, I mean, yes, of course, a great deal. I like and admire him immensely; but, you see, I happen to love – somebody else."
"I don't understand how you could love anybody else after having been engaged to Richard. Are you sure you don't?" ingenuously.
"Perfectly sure," complacently.
"And you are not giving him up for my sake?"
"Child, I had never a thought of you when I gave him up. I did it because I loved somebody else, and that's all. I would never have done for Dick, anyway; but you, I think, will suit him exactly. I hope you will be very happy, I'm sure."
"Do you think his mother – ?" anxiously.
"I'm sure of that, too," answered Josephine, reassuringly. "We are going to be great friends, I know."
"I never had a friend, – a girl friend, that is," – returned Emily; "I have missed one so much. You can't confide everything to your grandfather and a sailor-man like Captain Barry, you know."
"I should think not," laughed Josephine. "And I shall be so glad to be friends with you."
"And are you sure you do not love Dick?" doubtfully.
"I am quite sure of it," decidedly.
"It is so very hard for me to believe that, you know; I do not see how you could help it," innocently.
"Wait until you see Charlie – Mr. Van Dorn, I mean."
"I am sure that would make no difference," returned Emily, confidently.
"Mother," said Richard, as the three were left alone, "I will be entirely brief and frank with you. I love Emily Sanford. It is a sudden feeling, I grant you, but I am sure none the less deep and abiding for that. I have reason to think that she loves me as well. This morning, after I came back from the inn, freed from the engagement by Josephine's own act, I asked the admiral if he would give her to me."
"I said, madam," interrupted the admiral, with natural pride, "that I would not withhold my consent provided the match were agreeable to yourself. I have reared and educated my granddaughter principally myself, and, naturally, she lacks many things which, I trust, she may easily acquire upon the good foundation I have endeavored to give her; but she has lived in an atmosphere of love and devotion in this house, and I would not have her an unwelcome intruder in any family. As to her family, madam, it is my own, and I think," he added with simple dignity, "that there is none better in the Republic. She will not come to your son portionless – there is a tidy little fortune for her after I am gone, and that will be soon, certainly. Of her personal qualities I may not speak. She is most dear to me. For the last twenty years of my life she has been everything to me. No one could have a more dutiful child, nor one sweeter and more tender. She has been the sunshine and joy of my old age. I can scarcely bear to think for a moment that she should leave me, but it is a matter of a short time only. The old ship and I are ready to go, and yet I would fain see her provided for before."
"Admiral Stewart," said Mrs. Revere, gravely, "you touch me profoundly. I divined that things might be as you say when I saw your granddaughter. The marriage of a son is always a grief to a mother," she continued, somewhat sadly. "She feels that, in a certain sense, she will be supplanted in her boy's heart, and I have long accustomed myself to think of another wife for Richard; but of her own will she has given him his freedom. I thought it would be a grief to my son, but I find that it is a joy. Is it not so, Richard?"
"Yes, mother, the greatest joy, almost, that ever came to me, except loving Emily."
"Very well. Admiral Stewart, I never had a little girl. God has given me but this, my son. I will receive Emily gladly. She shall be to me a daughter, indeed, and I will endeavor to be to her a mother."
"Emily! Josephine!" called Richard, instantly, stepping into the hall. "Come here!"
The deep satisfaction in his heart spoke in the tones of his voice. Emily and Josephine comprehended it well. As the two girls came on the porch, Mrs. Revere again took the younger in her arms.
"My dear child," she said, with kindly affection, "I learn that you are going to be my daughter. I am very glad. In fact," she added, drawing back her head and looking at the girl approvingly, "the more I see of you, I believe the more pleased I shall be."
"I congratulate you, Richard," said Josephine, "and I do it honestly, too. Emily and I are destined to be great friends, I am sure."
"Oh, Mrs. Revere," said Emily, her eyes filled with tears, she could not tell exactly why, "you have made me so happy! I know I have many things to learn, but with you to teach me and Mr. Revere to help me – "
"And me, too," interrupted Josephine; "don't forget me!"
"Yes, and you, I am sure I shall learn, and I shall try very hard to be what you want me to be and what I ought to be."
"Be your own sweet self, dear," said the older lady, patting her approvingly, "and you will do."
"Emily, bring me the sword of the Constitution," said the admiral. "Richard, lad, I give it to you," he added, as it was handed to him by the girl. "May you wear it always in defence of our beloved country, holding it ever at her service, defending the honor of her flag. After Emily it is my chiefest treasure, young sir. It has gone with me on many a cruise. I have worn it, not without some honor, too, in battles and on dangerous service. I give it gladly into your hands, as I give you Emily. I know you will wear the one honorably and treat the other lovingly. When you look upon it, when your children gather about your knee and marvel at its quaintness, mark the rudeness of the hilt in contrast to its jewelled scabbard and brilliant blade, tell them of me, who shall never see them. Tell them the story of 'Old Ironsides' and the last of the fighting captains of the Constitution."
"Sir," said Revere, as the old man solemnly pressed his lips to the iron guard and extended the sword to him, "I take it as a knight of old received the accolade; and, as the men of the past did, I swear upon the hilt of the sword that I will be everything a man ought to be to a woman, to your granddaughter, – and more."
At this moment Revere's man rode up to the porch, dismounted, touched his hat, and held out a letter, reporting, —
"I did not find them, sir."
"They are here, Baker. I'll take the letter. Say nothing about it to any one, and then go back to the inn and arrange to bring the trunks of the two ladies over here."
Revere had descended to the foot of the steps to meet the man, and he had spoken softly when referring to the letter, so that all the party on the porch heard of the colloquy was the direction about the baggage. Nor had any of them, except Emily, seen the man hand him the letter. With it in his hand, Revere walked up the steps and handed it to his betrothed without a word. A glance told her that it was addressed to Josephine Remington, and Emily understood instantly that it was the famous letter about which they had quarrelled.
What should she do was in her mind; what would she do in his. Her temptation was strong. It would have been a triumph to have handed the letter over to Josephine at once. She hesitated for a few seconds, and, choosing the greater triumph, thrust it quietly into the bosom of her dress. She had decided not to give it to Josephine, after all, so Revere read her smiling gesture, and in the same mute, eloquent way he thanked her for her forbearance.
"Who is this coming up the path?" said Josephine, tactfully, breaking the pause which threatened to become an awkward one, and pointing to the brow of the hill.
"It is Captain Barry," answered Emily, glad of the interruption.
"The old sailor of whom I spoke to you, madam," said the admiral, turning to Mrs. Revere.
"The man who rowed the boat the night Emily pulled me out of the water, mother," Revere explained.
"My man," said Mrs. Revere, graciously, as Barry stopped at the foot of the steps and saluted, "I have to thank you for a great deal, I understand. It was your strength and determination, coupled with this young lady's skill, that saved the life of my son. I owe you much, sir."
"You owe me nothing, ma'am," said Barry, ungraciously. "I only obeyed Miss Emily's orders. What she says, I do. I always do."
"Nevertheless, you did it," continued Mrs. Revere, struck by his harsh words and repellent manner, but trying to suppress her astonishment and be kind to this strange old man, "and I feel deeply grateful. Is there any way in which I can show it?"
"No way, ma'am," burst out the sailor, almost rudely.
He hated the whole brood, – mother, son, friend, all of them, it seemed.
"What's the matter with you, Captain Barry?" gently asked Emily, who had been scrutinizing the man's pale, haggard face, his bloodshot eyes, his utterly despairing, broken, yet firmly resolute look. She, too, had been surprised and deeply pained by his words and actions.
"Nothin', Miss Emily," he answered, turning toward her, his face working with emotion he vainly strove to control; "nothin'. I – Miss Emily – the ship – "
"What of the ship?" cried the admiral, suddenly.
"It's almost gone, your honor. I came to ask the leftenant to go down with me an' take another look at it."
"Certainly, Barry," cried Richard, springing to his feet, eager to do anything for the old man, and anxious to terminate a scene painful to all of them, although he could not tell why. "I shall be back in a few moments, Emily, mother. Good-by. Come along, man," he said, striding lightly down the path.
But Barry lingered in apparent reluctance at the foot of the steps. He seemed wistful to say something, but words failed him. He turned to go, stopped, faced about again.
"The ship," he said, hoarsely; "I'm afraid it's gone. Good-by, your honor. Good-by, Miss Emily," he added, hoarsely, and then he turned again with a gesture and a movement which gave to all who were so intently watching him the impression that he was somehow breaking away from his moorings, and walked rapidly down the hill.
"The ship! the ship!" murmured the admiral, oblivious of all the rest, leaning forward in his chair over the rail of the porch and gazing at the vessel.
His hand grasped the hilt of the sword of the Constitution, which Richard had handed back to him as he left. Emily stepped over to his side and stood there with her arm around his neck. They waited in silence a little, a foreboding of disaster stealing over them.
"I wonder," she said, presently, in tones of great anxiety, "what the matter can be? I am afraid it is something serious. I never knew Captain Barry so agitated."
"It's the end, daughter, the end. I feel it here," murmured the old man, staring before him.
"Grandfather, if you don't mind, I think I will go down to the ship," said Emily; "I'm so anxious."
"Don't go too near it, child," said the old man; "one life is enough for the ship."
"Shall I go with you?" asked Josephine, noticing how pale and worried Emily looked, and feeling somewhat alarmed herself.
"Go, both of you, and I will stay with the admiral. Look to Richard," said Mrs. Revere, apprehensively, sure now that something was seriously wrong.
Poor Emily was in two minds about the matter. She wished to remain with the old man, and yet, when she thought of Revere on that ship with Captain Barry, and how strangely, how madly, almost insanely, the sailor had looked, her heart smote her with undefined terror of she knew not what.
She must go! It might be too late already!
The two girls ran swiftly toward the ship in vague but rapidly increasing fear.