- PART III
- CHAPTER VI IN FLORIDA
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The Boston train was steaming into the Central Station in New York, and Eloise was gathering up her satchels and wraps, and looking anxiously out into the deepening twilight, wondering if the cars would be gone from the Jersey side, and what she should do if they were. She had intended taking a train which reached New York earlier, but there was some mistake in her reading of the time-table, and now it was growing dark, and for a moment her courage began to fail her, and she half wished herself back in Crompton, where every one had been so kind to her, and where every one had looked upon the journey as useless, except the rector and Ruby. These had encouraged her to go, and Ruby had furnished the money and had been very hopeful, and told her there was nothing to fear even in New York, which Eloise dreaded the most. Howard had seen her to the train and got her seats in the parlor car, and said to her, as he had once before:
"I'd like to offer you money, but you say you have enough."
"Oh, yes," Eloise answered; "more than enough. Ruby has been so kind."
Then he said good-by, and went back to the house, which seemed empty and desolate.| | 337
"I ought at least to have gone to New York with them, but that little girl is so proud and independent, I dare say she would not have let me," he said to himself, and all day his thoughts followed them, until by some clairvoyant process he seemed to see them at the station alone and afraid, just as for a short time Eloise was afraid and wished she had not come.
Then, rallying, she said to herself, "This won't do. I must keep up," and she helped her mother from the car, and began to walk through the long station toward the street. Only half the distance had been gone over when a hand was laid upon her shoulder, and a voice which made her heart bound with delight, said to her, "Here you are! I was afraid I had missed you in the crowd."
"Oh, Mr. Harcourt, I am so glad! How did you know we were coming?" Eloise exclaimed, her gladness showing in her eyes and sounding in her voice.
"Oh, I knew," Jack answered, taking her satchel and wraps and umbrella from her, and giving his disengaged arm to her mother. "I have a friend at court who lets me know what is going to happen. It is Ruby. She telegraphed."
Calling a carriage, which was evidently waiting for him, Jack put the ladies into it, attended to the baggage, and then sprang in himself. With him opposite her, Eloise felt no further responsibility. Everything would be right, she was sure, and it was. They were in time for the south-bound train, and after a word with the porter, were ushered into a drawing-room compartment, which Jack said was to be theirs during the long journey.| | 338
"Yes, I know," Eloise said. "It is large and comfortable, and away from the people, but I'm afraid it costs too much."
"It's all right," Jack answered, beginning to remove Amy's jacket, with an air of being at home.
Just then Eloise glanced from the window and saw they were moving.
"Oh, Mr. Harcourt!" she screamed. "We have started! You will be carried off! Do hurry!"
She put both hands on his arm to force him from the room, while he laughed and said, "Did you think I would let you go to Florida alone? I am going with you. I have a section all to myself outside, where you can sit when you are tired in here. Are you sorry?"
"Sorry!" she repeated. "I was never so glad in my life. But are you sure you ought to go? Is it right?"
"You mean proper? Perfectly!" he answered. "Your mother is with us. Your friend Ruby knows I am going, and Mr. Mason, and Mrs. Biggs, and everybody else by this time. It's all right. Mrs. Grundy will approve."
Eloise was too happy to care for Mrs. Grundy, and her happiness increased with every hour which brought her nearer to Florida, and she saw more and more how thoroughly kind and thoughtful Jack was. Sometimes he sat with her and her mother in the compartment he had engaged for them, but oftener when Amy was resting she sat with him in his section, planning what she was to do first when Florida was reached, and how she was to find Jakey. Jack knew exactly what to do, but he liked to listen to her and watch the expression of her face, which | | 339 seemed to him to grow more beautiful every hour. On the last evening they were to be upon the road, she was sitting with him just before the car lamps were lighted, and he said to her, "Suppose you don't succeed? What will you do?"
For a moment Eloise was silent; then she replied, "I shall take mother home to my grandmother's. I call her that still, although you know she is not really mine, but I love her just the same, and shall take care of her and mother. I can do it. Ruby will let me have the school, I am sure, if I ask her, but I couldn't take it from her now. I can get another somewhere, or if not a school, I can find something to do. I am not afraid of work."
She was trying to be very brave, but there was a pathetic look in her face which moved Jack strangely. Her hands were lying in her lap, and taking the one nearest to him, he said, "Eloise, I'll tell you what you are going to do, whether you succeed or not. You are going to be my wife! Yes, my wife!"
"Mr. Harcourt!" Eloise exclaimed, trying to withdraw her hand from him.
But he only held it closer, while he said, "Don't Mr. Harcourt me! Call me Jack, and I shall know you assent. I think I have loved you ever since I saw you on the rostrum in Mayville,--at any rate, ever since that stormy night when you came near being killed. I did not mean to speak here in the car, but I am glad I have settled it."
He was taking her consent for granted, and was squeezing her hand until she said involuntarily, "Oh, Jack, you hurt me!"
Then he dropped it and, stooping, kissed her, saying, "I am answered. You have called me Jack. | | 340 You are mine,--my little wife,--the dearest a man ever had."
He kissed her again, while she whispered, "Oh, Jack, how can you, with all the people looking on? and it isn't very dark yet."
"There are not many to look on, and they are in front of us, and I don't care if the whole world sees me," Jack replied, passing his arm around her and drawing her close to him.
"You must not, right here in the car; besides that, I haven't told you I would," she said, making an effort to free herself from him, as the porter began to light the lamps.
He was satisfied with her answer, and kept his arm around her in the face of the porter, who was too much accustomed to such scenes to pay any attention to this particular one. He had spotted them as lovers from the first and was not surprised, but when eleven o'clock came and every berth was made up except that of Jack, who still sat with Eloise beside him, loath to let her go, the negro grew uneasy and anxious to finish his night's work.
"Sir," he said at last to Jack, "'scuse me, but you might move into the gentlemen's wash-room whiles I make up the berth; it's gwine on toward mornin'."
In a flash Eloise sprang up, and without a word went to her mother, who was sleeping quietly, just as she had left her three hours before. A lurch of the train awoke her, and, kneeling beside her, Eloise said to her, "Mr. Harcourt has asked me to be his wife. Are you glad?"
"Yes, daughter, very glad. Are we in Florida?" Amy replied.
"Yes, mother, and before long we shall reach | | 341 your old home and Jakey," was Eloise's answer, as she kissed her mother good-night and sought her own pillow to think of the great happiness which had come to her in Jack Harcourt's love, and which would compensate for any disappointment there might be in store for her.
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