ST. Ives

Page 21

That is Swanston Cottage, where my brother and I are living with my aunt. If it gives you pleasure to see it, I am glad. We, too, can see the castle from a corner in the garden, and we go there in the morning often--do we not, Ronald?--and we think of you, M. de Saint-Yves; but I am afraid it does not altogether make us glad.'

'Mademoiselle!' said I, and indeed my voice was scarce under command, 'if you knew how your generous words--how even the sight of you--relieved the horrors of this place, I believe, I hope, I know, you would be glad. I will come here daily and look at that dear chimney and these green hills, and bless you from the heart, and dedicate to you the prayers of this poor sinner. Ah! I do not say they can avail!'

'Who can say that, M. de Saint-Yves?' she said softly. 'But I think it is time we should be going.'

'High time,' said Ronald, whom (to say the truth) I had a little forgotten.

On the way back, as I was laying myself out to recover lost ground with the youth, and to obliterate, if possible, the memory of my last and somewhat too fervent speech, who should come past us but the major? I had to stand aside and salute as he went by, but his eyes appeared entirely occupied with Flora.

'Who is that man?' she asked.

'He is a friend of mine,' said I. 'I give him lessons in French, and he has been very kind to me.'

'He stared,' she said,--'I do not say, rudely; but why should he stare?'

'If you do not wish to be stared at, mademoiselle, suffer me to recommend a veil,' said I.

She looked at me with what seemed anger. 'I tell you the man stared,' she said.

And Ronald added. 'Oh, I don't think he meant any harm. I suppose he was just surprised to see us walking about with a pr--with M. Saint-Yves.'

But the next morning, when I went to Chevenix's rooms, and after I had dutifully corrected his exercise--'I compliment you on your taste,' said he to me.

'I beg your pardon?' said I.

'Oh no, I beg yours,' said he. 'You understand me perfectly, just as I do you.'

I murmured something about enigmas.

'Well, shall I give you the key to the enigma?' said he, leaning back. 'That was the young lady whom Goguelat insulted and whom you avenged. I do not blame you. She is a heavenly creature.'

'With all my heart, to the last of it!' said I. 'And to the first also, if it amuses you! You are become so very acute of late that I suppose you must have your own way.'

'What is her name?' he asked.

'Now, really!' said I. 'Do you think it likely she has told me?'

'I think it certain,' said he.

I could not restrain my laughter. 'Well, then, do you think it likely I would tell you?' I cried.

'Not a bit.' said he. 'But come, to our lesson!'

CHAPTER VI--THE ESCAPE

The time for our escape drew near, and the nearer it came the less we seemed to enjoy the prospect. There is but one side on which this castle can be left either with dignity or safety; but as there is the main gate and guard, and the chief street of the upper city, it is not to be thought of by escaping prisoners. In all other directions an abominable precipice surrounds it, down the face of which (if anywhere at all) we must regain our liberty. By our concurrent labours in many a dark night, working with the most anxious precautions against noise, we had made out to pierce below the curtain about the south-west corner, in a place they call the Devil's Elbow. I have never met that celebrity; nor (if the rest of him at all comes up to what they called his elbow) have I the least desire of his acquaintance. From the heel of the masonry, the rascally, breakneck precipice descended sheer among waste lands, scattered suburbs of the city, and houses in the building. I had never the heart to look for any length of time--the thought that I must make the descent in person some dark night robbing me of breath; and, indeed, on anybody not a seaman or a steeple-jack, the mere sight of the Devil's Elbow wrought like an emetic.

I don't know where the rope was got, and doubt if I much cared.

ST. Ives Page 22

Robert Louis Stevenson

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book