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"God of Heaven! Blanche Harlowe in the hands of such men as those!"
Snatching up the gun he had brought with him, he darted forward, and threw himself between her and them; and, levelling the weapon at the foremost of the Spaniards, he exclaimed, in Spanish, "Halt! or I fire! I have the lives of two, at least! Stand off, or
The man was within sixteen yards of him; and the sudden appearance of a stranger, where he had seen no one before, made him pause at once; his comrades, however, were coming up; only two guns had been discharged out of the nine; and, after gazing upon Arthur Gray for a moment, an expression of scorn curled his lip; and, turning to his comrades, he exclaimed, "Down with him! His chance against ours for a thousand dollars! Level your guns, and fire!"
The guns were levelled. Arthur Gray made but one movement to shield Blanche Harlowe with his own body, and his finger too was
upon the trigger; but, at that instant, a loud ringing shriek from the left, where he had seen the hut, made every one pause in the bloody business they were about; and a woman, holding a child in her arms, rushed forward; and, casting herself before the young Englishman, held up her boy before the levelled guns of the Spaniards, exclaiming aloud, "Fire, if you will, Pedro Xeñadez! Fire, if you will, and kill your wife and child. at the same time with the man who saved them at their utmost need!" The man dropped his musket, and waved his hand to the rest: all was still for a moment; and he at length demanded, "Which is he?"
"It matters not, Xeñadez,” replied Arthur Gray; "I will share the fate of all who are here if it be gold you want, stay where you are, and we will throw our purses across the stream; but, take not a step in advance, or you and I both die."
"Gold I must have!" replied the man; "my need obliges me; but I sought revenge, too, of yon Frenchmen, and I have had it: so
throw me your purses and get you gone; but make haste back to France, and set not your foot again near Venasque, or you may rue the day."
"We will remember the warning," replied Arthur Gray;" but you promise we shall be safe till we reach France?"
"From me and mine, upon my honour!" answered Xeñarez; and the young Englishman, remembering an old proverb regarding the honour of thieves, trusted to that of his present opponent. The woman whose sudden appearance had saved the lives of so many, looked down with an expression of pain while the purses of the English party were thrown across the stream to her husband; but, the moment it was done, and she evidently felt degraded by witnessing such an act,—she caught Arthur Gray's hand, and kissed it twice, while a burning tear of shame and grief fell upon it: then, turning hastily away, without a word, she ran back to the hut, and he never saw her
"Let me support you, Miss Harlowe!" said Arthur Gray, as they moved on. She lifted the dark lashes of her deep blue eyes to his face, with a look of grateful, imploring earnestness, and, putting her arm through his, returned by his side.
Three days afterwards, following the course of the little Gâve of Oo, Arthur Gray was returning from a long walk with Sir Francis Harlowe, and was speaking in a calm and deliberate tone upon a matter which may be guessed, when the Baronet suddenly stopped him: "Before you say a word more, my dear Lord Wycombe," he said, "I feel myself bound to tell you something which I am afraid will oppose itself to your hopes. Not quite two years ago, Mr. the eldest son of
with immense property, excellent connexions, &c., proposed for my daughter; and, as Lady Harlowe had long wished the match, she accepted him at once."
Lady Harlowe, or your daughter?" demanded Arthur Gray.
"Lady Harlowe, I mean," replied the father; "Blanche made no objection, that I heard of, at the time; but I remarked that, from that day forward, she became melancholy, ill, moping, lonely; and I one day found that she had shut herself up in her room, and refused to see even her own mother. It became time to inquire into the matter; for my daughter's happiness is more to me than any other consideration; and I went up myself. She let me in; but I found that she had been weeping long and bitterly; and, on inquiry, was told that she could not love the man to whom her hand had been promised. In short, my Lord, I must conceal nothing: she said she loved another, with whom her marriage was hopeless: she intreated me to ask no farther questions; but, as I loved her, to break off the match proposed. I did so at once; and we are now here, wandering about, endeavouring to amuse her mind, and restore her health."
For a few minutes Arthur Gray did not reply; perhaps he could not: but at length he said, "If you will permit me, I will plead my cause with Miss Harlowe herself!"