- CHAPTER XXXVII. SIR JAMES'S LETTER.
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SIR JAMES'S LETTER.
IT was twenty-four hours after Toby that the messenger came from Sir James. From time to time Bobbie's glance had turned half-unconsciously in the direction from which one must come, if sent; and yet she told herself he was not likely to send on purpose, and she would not hear before the mail could bring a letter, sent for, as usual, forty miles to Geegi.
All night she had lain awake staring at the stars, bracing herself with every power she could muster for the final parting with Toby. The morning found her weary-eyed and exhausted, but still unshaken, and she went about her occupations with a quiet air of determination, and successfully blinded Betty to the struggle in her heart. Toby himself went away to his store early, saying he would come back later on; and though Ken offered to go with him, and evidently wished it, he contrived to put him off.
In the afternoon Bobbie went again to the fallen tree where he had found her the previous day, guessing he would come that way in search of her. And it was there the messenger found her. Sir James had sent a native courier all the long distance on purpose.| | 316
--he wrote--"Ever since Fitzgerald left me, I have been thinking and and now I begin to understand several things have puzzled me before. I begin to understand for instance, why, with all my efforts, I could not bring back into your laughter the ring that it had when I first met you, nor a light that was truly joy into your eyes, but only a counterfeit of both. At first I told myself you had not yet recovered from the exhausting effects of the tragic night, but very soon they would pass off, and you would your old radiant self again. When they did not pass off, I began to be anxious, but I persuaded myself it was only the serious mood in which you had taken your engagement, and presently would pass off, too, as you grew accustomed to the new order. Always I was a coward at heart-- afraid to face the possibility that something lay behind that I did not know of. Yesterday morning Fitzgerald enlightened me, all unconscious of what last hope he was taking from my mind. I think you would understand why I, on my part, did not enlighten him. I was afraid that, in the swift dismay at the unexpected situation, he would be foolish enough to turn back without seeing you.
"Well, I have had a long struggle with myself since he left, but it is over now, and I can give you back to him without any feeling except bitter regret that I did not win you before he did. When I asked you to marry me, I was not thinking only of my own happiness. I hoped and believed it Would be for your happiness also. It was your happiness that, I trust, was nearest to my heart. And now that I see I cannot make you happy in the way | | 317 Fitzgerald can, I see also that, if I love you truly, I can only give you up to him and make the path as easy for you as possible. I do not know quite what will be the best explanation to make public yet, but I will do everything I possibly can to spare you and cast no shadow upon your new-found joy. I think I shall take a trip to the Old Country myself.It is some time since I went, and I feel I shall be all the better for a change.
"But in the meantime there is one thing I do ask of you most particularly. It is that you will at least let me have the joy of going away knowing that you are happy, and, in any way I possibly can, contributing to your happiness. As you know, I have bought Blake's farm on purpose to give it to you. It is, indeed, yours already, for I gave it to you when you were staying with me in Lobenwayo. Do not give me back my gift. Be generous enough to take it, because of the pleasure it will give to me. I owe you my life, and that is a debt I can never hope to pay. Any gift I can offer you is a mere nothing compared to what you have given to me. My heart is set on this very much. Do not deny me, if you can help it. The thought of it will be a gladness to me all my life. And presently, if you will have me, I shall come and see you and Fitzgerald when I visit the mine, and find a further happiness, I trust, in hearing you laugh once more with the old ring, as when I first arrived, unannounced at the huts. I gathered from Fitzgerald he would find no difficulty in getting capital to work a farm; but should he find he had made any mistake, it will be yet another pleasure to me to lend him whatever sum he needs.| | 318
"For the rest, I hope all other arrangements may remain unchanged. I have such a high opinion Of your brothers, it would be a blow to me to lose their services. I shall be glad to hear from you of whatever plans you make. The formalities for the sale of Blake's farm will quickly be finished, and you can take possession at once. Would it not be wisest to do this quickly? Life is short, and I see no reason why you and Fitzgerald should lose any of the hours you may so easily have together.
"I have written you a long letter, and perhaps I have not expressed myself very well. All that it really means is the simple fact that I love you with all my heart, and care more for your happiness than for anything else in the world, and therefore I set you free quickly, and ask only that you will still let me serve you from afar, in whatever way may be.
"God bless you! I thank Him that Fitzgerald is such a good fellow. May all possible happiness bless your lives together."I am, and always shall be, your debtor,
"James Hall Fortescue."
When Toby at last came to the spot where Bobbie awaited him, he found her crying quietly. Thinking it was because they must part, he swallowed a lump in his throat, and sought to rally her with a hope that things might yet right themselves. For answer, she placed the letter in his hand and walked away a little distance while he read it. When, later, his step sounded behind her, she did not turn round, and he slipped his arm through hers, unable for the moment to speak.| | 319
"It's splendid of him," he said at last, in a low, husky voice.
Bobbie dabbed her eyes and did not answer.
"You--you are quite sure you would choose to give him up?" he asked hesitatingly.
"I only love you!" she whispered. "No one could ever come before you!"
He took her in his arms and kissed her with a new reverence.
After a little, he said sadly: "I feel I've been such a wretched fool over it all. But for my absurd haste, the tangle would never have happened, and Sir James need not have been hurt at all. I don't see how I can accept anything from him now."
"I think we had better talk it over with Ken and Bay and Betty," she suggested. "I hardly know what we ought to do myself, but I think we mustn't hurt him any more than we can help."
So, slowly and thoughtfully, they went back to the huts.
Blake was once more established--this time in East Africa--when he heard in a letter from a police trooper that Toby and Bobbie were married and were living at his old farm, and that Toby had turned out a great worker and was making a success of it.
"I wonder if Fortescue had that arrangement in his mind all along?" was his immediate thought.
A little further he read: "The Loka mine is progressing splendidly, and the mine that was disputed with the Glynns, and which they won, is shortly to be worked. Sir James Fortescue is down | | 320 this way pretty often, and, when he comes, he stays with the Fitzgeralds."
"They all seem to have arranged things pretty satisfactorily," was his somewhat grim comment; "but Van Tyl and I lost everything, which"--with an equally grim humour--"was unusually just."
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