THE PROMISE FULFILLED.
That remark that Grey Dermot had made about Short Mary, "That she used to come for the latter part of almost every night," was a remark that set Shiana thinking.
"Well!" said he to himself, "I am in a queer position. I told her I was bound before God never to marry. Certainly I was bound not to drag her, or any other girl like her, into the danger that was before me, as I thought. That villain said he would come for me as soon as the thirteen years were spent. I was quite sure he would come. The time is spent. It is spent even without counting those three weeks. I have the purse here yet. It is as well filled as it was any day during the time. It is a great wonder that he has not come either for me or for the purse. It is hard to make out the meaning of it all. I suppose if he were coming that he would come the day he promised. I don't know what put him off it. One thing is certain enough. It was not for my good that he stayed away. He would have come but that something prevented him. What prevented him from coming? What kept him away from me? That is the question. Who prevented him from coming? It would be great fun if the purse were to remain with me in spite of him. I have not used a bit of the money, except to buy leather, since the day the purse was taken from me at the fair. Fear prevented me from going beyond the word of the bargain. Perhaps there was no need for the fear. If he was so determined upon the bargain why did he not come when the thirteen years were up? If it is the case that he was not able to come and enforce his bargain when the time was up, there is every likelihood that he will not be able to touch me, no matter what use I make of the money. At all events it will not be long until I put the matter to the test, please God! ... It is the greatest pity that I did not know he was not going to come! ... It was a great kindness for her to come here every night! ... But it is firmly fixed in her mind that I am bound, and that it is a bond that cannot be loosened. ... It is a comical state of things for us! "
Mary and her father were the first two people that came to see him as soon as they heard that he had recovered consciousness and speech. Short Mary herself came often afterwards, and she told him exactly, from beginning to end, what sort of illness he had had, and what were the symptoms that accompanied it. It is not of the sickness nor of the symptoms Shiana used to be thinking as he listened to her, but of his own reflections. How should he tell her what sort of bond was on him not to marry? How would she receive the matter when it would be told to her? When she first heard of the bond she said it was a noble bond and a holy bond. What would she say now if she were told what sort it was, and what was the cause of it? If he were to tell her about the purse and about the Black Man and about the bargain, perhaps she would conceive a hatred for himself, and that she would not come to see him any more. And how could he explain and make clear to her what sort the bond was, without telling her the whole matter? On the other hand, how could he remain any longer without telling her that there was a misunderstanding in her mind concerning the bond that was upon him? When he told her the first day that the bond was upon him, she took the matter in a sense that was at variance with the truth. He left it to her in that way at the time, because he thought that the end of the thirteen years would put an end to his own life, and that then it would be no matter what sort of bond it had been nor what had been the cause or the source of it. But here was the whole thing now on a different footing. He could not possibly leave the wrong impression on her mind any longer. There was no escape for him from giving her the truth of the matter as soon as possible. It was about all this work that he had to do that he used to be thinking and reflecting, while she used to be telling him the extraordinary symptoms that accompanied the illness he had had, and the strength that was in him, when four men used to have enough to do to keep him from jumping out of bed.
The day he was west at the house with her, to tell her that he was bound, before God, never to marry, all he wanted to do was to remove completely from her mind the idea that there was any possibility of his ever marrying her. When he said that to her, she said a certain thing to him. He was not at all prepared for the remark she made, but he did not pay much attention to it at the time. This is what she said: "If it is a noble bond for you, it ought to be a noble bond for me." He began to ask himself now what was the meaning she had for those words, or whether it was possible that she had taken a bond upon herself, before God, never to marry.
Thoughts of that sort, and things of that sort, and meditations of that sort were running through his mind constantly during his recovery. But though they caused him a good deal of anxiety and vexation, and mental puzzling, they did not put any check upon his convalescence. He continued to put on flesh and to become strong and vigorous, until people were saying that he would turn out better and firmer and more substantially healthy than he had ever been before the illness came upon him.
Just a month after he had left his bed, there came to him, up from the town, on horseback, the King's Captain, and twenty horsemen along with him. Each man had on his silk cloak and his regimental cap, and his long sword down by the flank of his horse, and his short sword in his belt, and his fine long ashen spear standing up high, with its long slender head of bright, sharp steel, shining and flashing in the sun, and the silk ribbons dancing in the wind, tied, between the iron and the wood, upon the spear. Anyone looking at those men, and seeing their bright, sharp, clear eyes, and their firm, unflinching faces, and their curly heads, and their stout, strong, well-shaped shoulders, and their broad chests, and their thick heavy thighs, and their high-instepped feet, and their sinewy limbs, and their hard fists, would say without doubt that they were dangerous people for any enemy who would attempt to meddle with them.
"Well, Shiana," said the Captain, "that space of time is spent. I dare say you have put everything in order by this time. The King is impatient to see you below near him. It is for you that we have come."
"Very good, sir," said Shiana. "Whatever is in order or not in order, the thing that I promised I will fulfil."
And he went away with them.