A part of Mab knew with the first musket-shot that he should leave Julia there in the summer-house and ride at once for help. But only a part. That profound thing which some name love and some lust had hold of him. He was possessed by Julia, although—or perhaps because—he had not yet dared do more than kiss her hands, bury his hot face in their curving coolness, gasp out the uncouth words of adolescence which to these two young things seemed the very miracle of meaning. The manners of the time required that this mistress should begin as the goddess, and worship came naturally to Mab's eager blood. But presently he was listening. He was on his feet.
"Darling, I can't stay. I must go to Trienna for help." Julia, thoroughly frightened, clung to him. She prepared to faint with the current adaptability of the time, so that Mab was for a little too distracted to think of anything but reviving her with prayers, with frantic hand-pattings and one quick stolen kiss on her forehead.page 75
"You do love me?" she opened an eye to say. "Don't leave me. Don't."
In Clent the lights went out. It was turned into a beleaguered fortress vibrating to the whine and crack of musketry. In the dim starlight dark figures were running, weaving about it a spell…. Mab drew Julia up in his arms.
"Come with me then, dearest … beloved. I daren't try for the stables now, but we could get across the fields."
"I've only got slippers on. I couldn't. Oh, hear the guns! Darling, let us die together."
"Be hanged to dying," said Mab. "I shall carry you." He bundled her, all foamy green and gold head, up in his arms and ran down the garden beneath the pale lilac trees. Duck on the river heard them coming and rose with a harsh beat of wings. In the paddock feeding sheep sheered off like ghosts, stamped their little sharp hoofs, stared, and began to crop again. The shots were distant now, far apart, like something heard in a dream. At the slip-rail Mab stopped. Julia was a well-grown wench and his unset limbs could do no more. He leaned on the post, too spent for speech, and Julia, relieved from present terrors, began to think of the future. Reputations were delicate things in the 'forties, easily "blown upon."
"I mustn't go into Trienna, darling," she said quaveringly. "You must go and come back for me and never tell any one I'm here. But do, do come soon, for I'm so dreadfully frightened!"
In his male blindness he would have argued, but now she was frantic for him to go and be back. So he set off again, running. And the fear that the bush-rangers, routed and scattered, might come on her there at the slip-rails, ran beside him to hound him on.