Chapter 62 - Adventures in the Far West by Mayne Reid

The Hackney-Carriage.

For a while I lingered in the hall, irresolute and almost without purpose. She whom I loved, and who loved me in return, was wrested from me by an infamous law, ruthlessly torn from me. She would be borne away before my eyes, and I might, perhaps, never behold her again. Probable enough was this thought—I might never behold her again! Lost to me, more hopelessly lost, than if she had become the bride of another. Far more hopelessly lost. Then, at least, she would have been free to think, to act, to go abroad, to —. Then I might have hoped to meet her again, to see her, to gaze upon her, even if only at a distance, to worship her in the secret silence of my heart, to console myself with the belief that she still loved me. Yes; the bride, the wife of another! Even that I could have borne with calmness. But now, not the bride of another, but the slave, the forced, unwilling leman, and that other—. Oh! how my heart writhed under its horrible imaginings!

What next? How was I to act? Resign myself to the situation? Make no further effort to recover, to save her?

No! It had not come to that. Discouraging as the prospect was, a ray of hope was visible; one ray yet illumed the dark future, sustaining and bracing my mind for further action.

The plan was still undefined; but the purpose had been formed, and that purpose was to free Aurore, to make her mine at every hazard! I thought no longer of buying her. I knew that Gayarre had become her owner. I felt satisfied that to purchase her was no longer possible. He who had paid such an enormous sum would not be likely to part with her at any price. My whole fortune would not suffice. I gave not a thought to it. I felt certain it would be impossible.

Far different was the resolve that was already forming itself in my mind, and cheering me with new hopes. Forming itself, do I say? It had already taken a definite shape, even before the echoes of the salesman’s voice had died upon my ears! With the clink of his hammer my mind was made up. The purpose was formed; it was only the plan that remained indefinite.

I had resolved to outrage the laws—to become thief or robber, whichever it might please circumstances to make me. I had resolved to steal my betrothed!

Disgrace there might be—danger I knew there was, not only to my liberty, but my life. I cared but little about the disgrace; I recked not of the danger. My purpose was fixed—my determination taken.

Brief had been the mental process that conducted me to this determination—the more brief that the thought had passed through my mind before—the more brief that I believed there was positively no other means I could adopt. It was the only course of action left me—either that, or yield up all that I loved without a struggle—and, passion-led as I was, I was not going to yield. Certain disgrace,—even death itself, appeared more welcome than this alternative.

I had formed not yet the shadow of a plan. That, must be thought of afterwards; but even at that moment was action required. My poor heart was on the rack; I could not bear the thought that a single night should pass and she under the same roof with that hideous man!

Wherever she should pass the night, I was determined that I should not be far-distant from her. Walls might separate us, but she should know I was near. Just that much of a plan had I thought of.

Stepping to a retired spot, I took out my note-book, and wrote upon one of its leaves:

“Ce soir viendrai!—Edouard.”

I had no time to be more particular, for I feared every moment she would be hurried out of my sight. I tore out the leaf; and, hastily folding it, returned to the entrance of the Rotundo.

Just as I got back to the door a hackney-carriage drove up, and halted in front. I conjectured its use, and lost no time in providing another from a stand close by. This done, I returned within the hall. I was yet in time. As I entered, I saw Aurore being led away from the rostrum.

I pressed into the crowd, and stood in such a position that she would have to pass near me. And she did so, our hands met, and the note parted from my fingers. There was no time for a further recognition—not even a love-pressure—for the moment after she was hurried on through the crowd, and the carriage-door closed after her.

The mulatto girl accompanied her, and another of the female slaves. All were put into the carriage. The negro-dealer climbed to the box alongside the coachman, and the vehicle rattled off over the stony pavement.

A word to my driver was enough, who, giving the whip to his horses, followed at like speed.