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III.11. Love And Law
On the morning of Monday, the 28th of July, Miss Gwilt--once more on the watch
for Allan and Neelie--reached her customary post of observation in the park, by
the usual roundabout way.
She was a little surprised to find Neelie alone at the place of meeting. She was
more seriously astonished, when the tardy Allan made his appearance ten minutes
later, to see him mounting the side of the dell, with a large volume under his arm,
and to hear him say, as an apology for being late, that "he had muddled away his
time in hunting for the Books; and that he had only found one, after all, which
seemed in the least likely to repay either Neelie or himself for the trouble of
looking into it."
If Miss Gwilt had waited long enough in the park, on the previous Saturday, to
hear the lovers' parting words on that occasion, she would have been at no loss to
explain the mystery of the volume under Allan's arm, and she would have
understood the apology which he now offered for being late as readily as Neelie
There is a certain exceptional occasion in life--the occasion of marriage--on
which even girls in their teens sometimes become capable (more or less
hysterically) of looking at consequences. At the farewell moment of the interview
on Saturday, Neelie's mind had suddenly precipitated itself into the future; and
she had utterly confounded Allan by inquiring whether the contemplated
elopement was an offense punishable by the Law? Her memory satisfied her that
she had certainly read somewhere, at some former period, in some book or other
(possibly a novel), of an elopement with a dreadful end--of a bride dragged home
in hysterics--and of a bridegroom sentenced to languish in prison, with all his
beautiful hair cut off, by Act of Parliament, close to his head. Supposing she
could bring herself to consent to the elopement at all--which she positively
declined to promise--she must first insist on discovering whether there was any
fear of the police being concerned in her marriage as well as the parson and the
clerk. Allan, being a man, ought to know; and to Allan she looked for
information--with this preliminary assurance to assist him in laying down the law,
that she would die of a broken heart a thousand times over, rather than be the
innocent means of sending him to languish in prison, and of cutting his hair off,
by Act of Parliament, close to his head. "It's no laughing matter," said Neelie,
resolutely, in conclusion; "I decline even to think of our marriage till my mind is
made easy first on the subject of the Law."
"But I don't know anything about the law, not even as much as you do," said
Allan. "Hang the law! I don't mind my head being cropped. Let's risk it."
"Risk it?" repeated Neelie, indignantly. "Have you no consideration for me? I
won't risk it! Where there's a will, there's a way. We must find out the law for