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Title: Guy Livingstone; - or, 'Thorough'
Author: Lawrence, George A. (George Alfred), 1827-1876
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Guy Livingstone; - or, 'Thorough'" ***

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by The Kentuckiana Digital Library)



GUY LIVINGSTONE;

OR,

"THOROUGH."

BY

GEORGE A. LAWRENCE.


ICH HABE GELEBT UND GELIEBT.


NEW YORK:
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
FRANKLIN SQUARE.
1868.



GUY LIVINGSTONE.



CHAPTER I.

     "Neque imbellem feroces
     Progenerant aquilæ columbam."


It is not a pleasant epoch in one's life, the first forty-eight hours at
a large public school. I have known strong-minded men of mature age
confess that they never thought of it without a shiver. I don't count
the home-sickness, which perhaps only affects seriously the most
innocent of _débutants_, but there are other thousand and one little
annoyances which make up a great trouble. If there were nothing else,
for instance, the unceasing query, "What's your name?" makes you feel
the possession of a cognomen at all a serious burden and bar to
advancement in life.

A dull afternoon toward the end of October; the sky a neutral tint of
ashy gray; a bitter northeast wind tearing down the yellow leaves from
the old elms that girdle the school-close of ----; a foul, clinging
paste of mud and trampled grass-blades under foot, that chilled you to
the marrow; a mob of two hundred lower boys, vicious with cold and the
enforcement of keeping goal through the first football match of the
season--in the midst, I, who speak to you, feeling myself in an
eminently false position--there's the _mise en scène_.

My small persecutors had surrounded me, but had hardly time to settle
well to their work, when one of the players came by, and stopped for an
instant to see what was going on. The match had not yet begun.

There was nothing which interested him much apparently, for he was
passing on, when my despondent answer to the everlasting question caught
his ear. He turned round then--

"Any relation to Hammond of Holt?"

I replied, meekly but rather more cheerfully, that he was my uncle.

"I know him very well," the new-comer said. "Don't bully him more than
you can help, you fellows; I'll wait for you after calling over,
Hammond. I should like to ask you about the squire."

He had no time to say more, for just then the ball was kicked off, and
the battle began. I saw him afterward often during that afternoon,
always in the front of the rush or the thick of the scrimmage, and I
saw, too, more than one player limp out of his path disconsolately,
trying vainly to dissemble the pain of a vicious "hack."

I'll try to sketch Guy Livingstone as he appeared to me then, at our
first meeting.

He was about fifteen, but looked fully a year older, not only from his
height, but from a disproportionate length of limb and development of
muscle, which ripened later into the rarest union of activity and
strength that I have ever known. His features were very dark and pale,
too strongly marked to be called handsome; about the lips and lower jaw
especially there was a set sternness that one seldom sees before the
beard is grown. The eyes were very dark gray, nearly black, and so
deeply set under the thick eyebrows that they looked smaller than they
really were; and I remember, even at that early age, their expression,
when angered, was any thing but pleasant to meet. His dress was well
adapted for displaying his deep square chest and sinewy arms--a
close-fitting jersey, and white trowsers girt by a broad black belt; the
cap, orange velvet, fronted with a silver Maltese cross.

The few words he had spoken worked an immediate change in my favor. I
heard one of my tormentors say, not without awe, "The Count knows his
people at home;" and they not only left me in peace, but, a little
later, some of them began to tell me of a recent exploit of Guy's, which
had raised him high in their simple hero-worship, and which, I dare say,
is still enumerated among the feats of the brave days of old by the fags
over their evening small-beer.

To appreciate it, you must understand that the highest form in the
school--the sixth--were regarded by the fags and other subordinate
classes with an inexpressible reverence and terror. They were considered
as exempt from the common frailties of schoolboy nature: no one ventured
to fix a limit to their power. Like the gods of the Lotus-eater, they
lay beside their nectar, rarely communing with ordinary mortals except
to give an order or set a punishment. On the form immediately below them
part of their glory was reflected; these were a sort of hêmitheoi,
awaiting their translation into the higher Olympus of perfected
omnipotence.

In this intermediate state flourished, at the time I speak of, one
Joseph Baines, a fat, small-eyed youth, with immense pendent pallid
cheeks, rejoicing in the _sobriquet_ of "Buttons," his father being
eminent in that line in the Midland Metropolis. The son was Brummagem to
the back-bone. He was intensely stupid; but, having been a fixture at
---- beyond the memory of the oldest inhabitant, he had slowly
gravitated on into his present position, on the old Ring principle,
"weight must tell." I believe he had been bullied continuously for many
years, and now, with a dull, pertinacious malignity, was biding his
time, intending, on his accession to power, to inflict full reprisals on
those below him; or, in his own expressive language, "to take it out of
'em, like smoke." He was keeping his hand in by the perpetration of
small tyrannies on all whom he was not afraid to meddle with; but
hitherto, from a lingering suspicion, perhaps, that it was not quite
safe, he had never annoyed Livingstone.

It was on a Saturday night, the hebdomadal Saturnalia, when the week's
work was over, and no one had any thing to do; the heart of Joseph was
jocund with pork chops and mulled beer, and, his evil genius tempting
him, he proposed to three of his intimates "to go and give the Count a
turn." Nearly every one had a nickname, and this had been given to Guy,
partly, I think, from his haughty demeanor, partly from a prevalent idea
that this German dignity was dormant somewhere in his family. When the
_quartette_ entered, Guy knew perfectly what they came for, but he sat
quite still and silent, while two of them held him down by the arms in
his chair.

"I think you'd look very well with a cross on, Count," Baines said, "so
keep steady while we decorate you."

As he spoke he was mixing up a paste with tallow and candle-snuff, and,
when it was ready, came near to daub the cross on Livingstone's
forehead.

The two who held him had been quite deceived by his unexpected
tranquillity, and had somewhat relaxed their gripe as they leaned
forward to witness the operation; but the fourth, standing idle, saw all
at once the pupils of his eyes contract, and his lips set so ominously,
that the words were in his mouth, "Hold him fast!" when Guy, exerting
the full force of his arms, shook himself clear, and grasping a
brass-candlestick within his reach, struck the executioner straight
between the eyes. The effort of freeing himself to some extent broke the
force of the blow, or the great Baines dynasty might have ended there
and then; as it was, Buttons fell like a log, and, rolling once over on
his face, lay there bleeding and motionless.

While the assistants were too much astounded to detain him, Guy walked
out without a glance at his prostrate enemy; and going straight to the
head of the house, told him what had happened. The character of the
aggressor was so well known, that, when they found he was not seriously
hurt, they let Guy off easy with "two books of the _Iliad_ to write out
in Greek." Buttons kept the sick-room for ten days, and came out looking
more pasty than ever, with his pleasant propensities decidedly checked
for the time.

In his parish church at Birmingham, two tons of marble weighing him
down, the old button-maker sleeps with his father (to pluralize his
ancestors would be a grave historical error), and Joseph II. reigns in
his stead, exercising, I doubt not, over his factory-people the same
ingenuity of torture which in old times nearly drove the fags to
rebellion. He is a Demosthenes, they say, at vestries, and a Draco at
the Board of Guardians; but in the centre of his broad face, marring the
platitude of its smooth-shaven respectability, still burns angrily a
dark red scar--Guy's sign-manual--which he will carry to his grave.

The exultation of the lower school over this exploit was boundless.
Fifty energetic admirers contended for the honor of writing out the
punishment inflicted on the avenger; and one sentimentalist, just in
Herodotus, preserved the fatal candlestick as an inestimable relic,
wreathing its stem with laurel and myrtle, in imitation of the honors
paid by Athens to the sword that slew the Pisistratid.



CHAPTER II.

     "My only books
     Were woman's looks,
       And folly all they taught me."


The Count bore his honors very calmly, though every week some fresh feat
of bodily strength or daring kept adding to his popularity. It was no
slight temptation to his vanity; for, as some one has said truly, no
successful adventurer in after-life ever wins such undivided admiration
and hearty partisans as a school hero. The _prestige_ of the liberator
among the Irish peasantry comes nearest to it, I think; or the feeling
of a clan, a hundred years ago, toward their chief. It must be very
pleasant to be quoted so incessantly and believed in so implicitly, and
to know that your decisions are so absolutely without appeal. From that
first day when he interfered in my favor, Guy never ceased to accord me
the ægis of his protection, and it served me well; for, then as now, I
was strong neither in body nor nerve. Yet our tastes, save in one
respect, were as dissimilar as can be imagined. The solitary conformity
was, that we were both, in a desultory way, fond of reading, and our
favorite books were the same. Neither would do more school-work than was
absolutely necessary, but at light literature of a certain class we read
hard.

I don't think Guy's was what is usually called a poetical temperament,
for his taste in this line was quite one-sided. He was no admirer of
the picturesque, certainly. I have heard him say that his idea of a
country to live in was where there was no hill steep enough to wind a
horse in good condition, and no wood that hounds could not run through
in fifteen minutes; therein following the fancy of that eminent French
philosopher, who, being invited to climb Ben Lomond to enjoy the most
magnificent of views, responded meekly, "_Aimez-vous les beautés de la
Nature? Pour moi, je les abhorre_." Can you not fancy the strident
emphasis on the last syllable, revealing how often the poor materialist
had been victimized before he made a stand at last?

All through Livingstone's life the real was to predominate over the
ideal; and so it was at this period of it. He had a great dislike to
purely sentimental or descriptive poetry, preferring to all others those
battle-ballads, like the _Lays of Rome_, which stir the blood like a
trumpet, or those love-songs which heat it like rough strong wine.

He was very fond of Homer, too. He liked the diapason of those sonorous
hexameters, that roll on, sinking and swelling with the ebb and flow of
a stormy sea. I hear his voice--deep-toned and powerful even at that
early age--finishing the story of Poseidon and his beautiful
prize--their bridal-bed laid in the hollow of a curling wave--

     _"Porphureon d' ara kuma peristathê, oureï ison,
     Kurtôthen, krupsen de Theon thnêtên te gunaika."_

And yet they say that the glorious old Sciote was a myth, and the
Odyssey a magazine worked out by clever contributors. They might as well
assert that all his marshals would have made up one Napoleon.

I remember how we used to pass in review the beauties of old time, for
whom "many drew swords and died," whose charms convulsed kingdoms and
ruined cities, who called the stars after their own names.

Ah! Gyneth and Ida, peerless queens of beauty, it was exciting,
doubtless, to gaze down from your velveted gallery on the mad tilting
below, to see ever and anon through the yellow dust a kind, handsome
face looking up at you, pale but scarcely reproachful, just before the
horse-hoofs trod it down; ah! fairest Ninons and Dianas--prizes that,
like the Whip at Newmarket, were always to be challenged for--you were
proud when your reckless lover came to woo, with the blood of last
night's favorite not dry on his blade; but what were your fatal honors
compared to those of a reigning toast in the rough, ancient days? The
demigods and heroes that were suitors did not stand upon trifles, and
the contest often ended in the extermination of all the lady's male
relatives to the third and fourth generation. People then took it quite
as a matter of course--rather a credit to the family than otherwise.

Guy and I discussed, often and gravely, the relative merits of Evadne
the violet-haired, Helen, Cleopatra, and a hundred others, just as, on
the steps of White's, or in the smoking-room at the "Rag," men compare
the points of the _débutantes_ of the season.

His knowledge of feminine psychology--it _must_ have been theoretical,
for he was not seventeen--implied a study and depth of research that was
quite surprising; but I am bound to state that his estimate of the
strength of character and principle inherent in the weaker sex was any
thing but high; nearly, indeed, identical with that formed by the
learned lady who, to the question, "Did she think the virtue of any
single one of her sisterhood impregnable?" replied "_C'est selon_." He
often used to astonish my weak mind by his observations on this head. I
did not know till afterward that Sir Henry Fallowfield, the Bassompierre
of his day, came for the Christmas pheasant-shooting every year into
Guy's neighborhood, and that he had already imbibed lessons of
questionable morality, sitting at the gouty feet of that evil Gamaliel.

He spoke of and to women of every class readily whenever he got the
chance, always with perfect _aplomb_ and self-possession; and I have
heard older men remark since, that in him it did not appear the
precocity of "the rising generation," but rather the confidence of one
who knew his subject well. Perhaps the fact of his father having died
when he was an infant, and his having always been suzerain among his
women at home, may have had something to do with this. An absurd
instance of what I have been saying happened just before Guy left.

By time-honored custom, four or five of the Sixth were invited every
week to dine with the head master. They were not, strictly speaking,
convivial, those solemn banquets; where the host was condescendingly
affable, and his guests cheerful, as it were, under protest; resembling
somewhat the entertainments in the captain's cabin, where the chief is
unpopular.

Our Archididascalus was a kind-hearted, honest man, albeit, by virtue
of his office, somewhat strict and stern. You could read the
_Categories_ in the wrinkles of his colorless face, and contested
passages of Thucydides in the crows'-feet round his eyes. The
everlasting grind at the educational tread-mill had worn away all he
might once have had of imagination; he translated with precisely the
same intonations the Tusculan _Disputations_ and--_Erôs anikate machan._

He had lately taken to himself a wife, his junior by a score of years.
The academic atmosphere had not had time then to freeze her into the
dignity befitting her position; when I met her ten years later, she was
steady and staid enough, poor thing, to have been the wife of Grotius.

Guy sat next to her that evening, and before the first course was over a
decided flirtation was established. The pretty hostess, albeit wife of a
doctor and daughter of a dean, had evidently a strong coquettish element
in her composition, and a very slight spark was sufficient to relight
the _veteris vestigia flammæ._

For some time her husband did not seem to realize the position; but
gradually his sentences grew rare and curt; he opened his mouth, no
longer to let fall the pearls of his wisdom, but to stop it with savory
meat; finally this last resource failed, and he sat, looking wrathfully
but helplessly on the proceedings at the other end of the table--a
lamentable instance of prostrated ecclesiastical dignity. His disgust,
however, was far exceeded by the horror of one of the party, a meek,
cadaverous-looking boy, whose parents lived in the town, and who was
wont to regard the head master as the vicegerent of all powers, civil
and sacerdotal--I am not sure he did not include military as well. I
caught him looking several times at the door and the ceiling with a
pale, guilty face, as if he expected some immediate visitation to punish
the sacrilege. However, heaven, which did not interrupt the feast of
Atreus or of Tereus (till the dessert), allowed us to finish our dinner
in peace. During the interval when we sat alone over his claret, our
host revived a little; but utterly relapsed in the drawing-room, where
things went on worse than ever. Guy leaned over the fair Penelope (such
was her classical and not inappropriate name) while she was singing, and
over her sofa afterward, evidently considering himself her legitimate
proprietor for the time, and regarding the husband, as he hovered round
them, in the light of an unauthorized intruder. The latter would have
given any thing, once or twice, to have interfered, I am sure; but,
apart from, the extreme ridicule of the thing, he was in his own house,
and as hospitable as Saladin.

It was a great scene, when, at parting, she gave Guy the camellia that
she wore at her breast; the doctor gasped thrice convulsively and said
no word; but I wonder how she accounted afterward for the smile and
blush which answered some whispered thanks? There are certain limits
that even the historian dares not transgress; a veil falls between the
profane and the thalamus of an LL.D.; but I rather imagine she had a
hard time of it that night, the poor little woman! Let us hope, in
charity, that she held her own.

When the Count was questioned as to the conversation that had passed,
he declined to give any particulars, merely remarking that "he had to
thank Dr. ---- for for a very pleasant evening, and he hoped everyone
had enjoyed themselves very much"--which was philanthropic, to say the
least of it.

I don't know if it was our imagination, but we fancied that when the
head master called up Livingstone in form after this, he did so with an
air of grave defiance, such as a duelist of the Old Régime may have worn
when, doffing his plumed hat, he said to his adversary, "_En garde!_"

There was little time to make observations, for shortly afterward Guy
went up to Oxford, whither, six months later, I followed him.



CHAPTER III.

     "Through many an hour of summer suns,
       By many pleasant ways,
     Like Hezekiah's, backward runs
       The shadow of my days."


When I came up, I found Guy quite established and at home. He was a
general favorite with all the men he knew at college, though intimate
with but very few. There was but one individual who hated him
thoroughly, and I think the feeling was mutual--the senior tutor, a
flaccid being, with a hand that felt like a fish two days out of water,
a large nose, and a perpetual cold in his head. He consistently and
impartially disbelieved every one on their word, requiring material
proof of each assertion; an original mode of acquiring the confidence of
his pupils, and precluding any thing like an attempt at deception on
their part. I remember well a discussion on his merits that took place
in the porter's lodge one night just after twelve. When several had
given their opinions more or less strongly, some one asked the gate-ward
what he thought of the individual in question, to which that eminent
functionary thus replied: "Why, you see, sir, I'm only a servant, and,
as such, can't speak freely, but I wish he was dead, I do."

As I have said, Livingstone disliked Selkirk heartily, and did not take
the trouble to conceal it. He used to look at him sometimes with a
curious expression in his eyes, which made the tutor twirl and writhe
uncomfortably in his chair. The latter annoyed him as much as he
possibly could, but Guy held on the even tenor of his way, seldom
contravening the statutes except in hunting three days a week, which he
persisted in doing, all lectures and regulations notwithstanding. He
rode little under fourteen stone even then; but the three horses he kept
were well up to his weight, and he stood A 1 in Jem Hill's estimation as
"the best heavy-weight that had come out of Oxford for many a day;" for
he not only went straight as a die, but rode _to_ hounds instead of
_over_ them. I suppose this latter practice is inherent in University
sportsmen. I know, in my time, the way in which they pressed on hounds,
for the first two fields out of cover or after a check, used to make the
gray hairs, which were the brave old huntsman's crown of glory, stand on
end with indignation and terror, so that he prayed devoutly for a big
fence which, like the broken bridge at Leipsic, might prove a stopper to
the pursuing army. There was the making of a good rider in many of them,
too; they only wanted ballast, for they knew no more of fear than Nelson
did, and would grind over the Vale of the Evenlode and the Marsh Gibbon
double timber as gayly and undauntedly as over the accommodating
Bullingdon hurdles. And what screws they rode! ancient animals bearing
as many scars as a _vieux de la vieille_, that were considered short of
work if they did not come out five days a fortnight. This was Guy's
favorite pursuit; but he threw off the superfluity of his animal
energies in all sorts of athletics: in sparring especially he attained a
rare excellence; so well-known was it, indeed, that he passed his first
year without striking a blow in anger, through default of an antagonist,
except a chance one or two exchanged in the _melée_ which is imperative
on the 5th of November.

I did not hunt much myself, for my health was far from strong, and, I
confess, my University recollections are not lively.

After the first flush of novelty had worn off, they bored one
intensely--those large wines and suppers where, night by night, a score
of Nephelégeretæ sat shrouded in smoke, chanting the same equivocal
ditties, drinking the same fiery liquors miscalled the juice of the
grape, villainous enough to make the patriarch that planted the vine
stir remorsefully in his grave under Ararat--each man all the while
talking "shop," _à l'outrance_. The skeleton of ennui sat at these
dreary feasts; and it was not even crowned with roses. I often used to
wonder what the majority of my contemporaries conversed about, when in
the bosom of their families, during the "long." They couldn't _always_
have been inflicting Oxford on their miserable relatives; the weakest of
human natures would have revolted against such tyranny; and yet the
horizon of their ideas seemed as utterly bounded by Bagley and
Headington Hill as if the great ocean-stream had flowed outside those
limits. Some adventurous spirits, it is true, stretched away as far as
Woodstock and Abingdon, but I doubt if they returned much improved by
the grand tour.

One of their most remarkable characteristics was the invincible terror
and repugnance that they appeared to entertain to the society of women
of their own class. When the visitation was inevitable, it is
impossible to describe the great horror that fell on these unfortunate
boys. The feeling of Zanoni's pupil, as the Watcher on the Threshold
came floating and creeping toward him, was nothing to it.

For example, at Commemoration--to which festival "lions" from all
quarters of the earth resorted in vast droves--when one of this class
was hard hit by the charms of some fair stranger, he never thought of
expressing his admiration otherwise than by piteous looks, directed at
her from an immense distance, out of shot for an opera-glass; when in
her immediate vicinity his motto was that of the Breton baron--_mourir
muet_. Claret-cup flowed and Champagne sparkled, powerless to raise him
to the audacity of an avowal. Under the woods of Nuneham, in the gardens
of Blenheim, amid the crowd of the Commemoration ball, the same deep
river of diffidence flowed between him and his happiness. My own idea is
that, after all was over, the silent ones, like Jacques' stricken deer,
used to "go weep" over chances lost and opportunities neglected. With
waitresses at wayside inns, _et id genus omne_, they were tolerably
self-possessed and reliant; though even there "a thousand might well be
stopped by three," and I would have backed an intelligent barmaid
against the field at odds; indeed, I think I have seen a security nearly
allied to contempt on the fine features of a certain "lone _star_" as
she parried--so easily!--the compliments and repartees of a dozen
assailants at once, accounted, in their own quadrangles, Millamours of
the darkest dye.

Guy accounted for this unfortunate peculiarity by saying that a cigar
in the mouth was the normal state of many of these men; so that, when
circumstances debarred them from the Havana courage, they lost all
presence of mind, and, being unable to retreat under cover of the smoke,
lapsed instantly into a sullen despair, suffering themselves to be shot
down unresistingly. Perhaps some future philosopher will favor us with a
better solution to this important problem in physics; I know of none.

After all, the reading men did best, though we did not think so then,
when we saw them creeping into morning chapel jaded and heavy-eyed,
after a debauch over Herodotus or the Stagyrite. They had a purpose in
view, at all events, and, I believe, were placidly content during the
progress of its attainment--in the seventh heaven when their hopes were
crowned by a First, or even a Second. True; the pace was too good for
some of the half-bred ones, and such as could not stand the training,
who departed, to fade away rapidly in the old house at home, or to pine,
slowly, but very surely, in remote curacies.

Some of these, I fancy, must have sympathized with Madame de Staël's
consumptive niece, who answered to the question, "Why she was weeping
all alone?" "_Je me regrette._" When, resting in their daily walk,
shortened till it became a toil to reach the shady seat under the elms
at the garden's end, they watched the stalwart plowmen and drovers go
striding by, without a trouble behind their tanned foreheads except the
thought that wages might fall a shilling a week, was there no envy, I
wonder, as they looked down on the wan hands lying so listless across
their knees? Would they not have given their First, and their fellowship
in embryo to boot, to have had the morning appetite of Tom Chauntrell,
the horse-breaker, after twelve pipes overnight, with gin and water to
match, or to have been able, like Joe Springett, the under keeper, to
breast the steepest brae in Cumberland with never a sob or a painful
breath? Did they never murmur while thinking how brightly the blade
might have flashed, how deftly have been wielded, if the worthless
scabbard had only lasted out till, on some grand field-day, the word was
given, "Draw swords?" Some felt this, doubtless; but the most part, I
imagine, were possessed with a comfortable assurance that their short
life had been useful, if not ornamental; and so, to a certain extent,
they had their reward. At any rate, their ending was to the full as
glorious as that of some other friends of ours, who crawl away from the
battle-ground of the _Viveurs_ to die, or to linger on helpless
hypochondriacs.

If I have spoken depreciatingly or unfairly of the mass of my college
coevals (and it may well be so), I do full justice, in thought at least,
to some brilliant exceptions. I founded friendships there which, I
trust, will outlive me.

I do not forget Warrenne, too good for the men he lived with, a David in
our camp of Kedar--always going on straight in the path he thought
right--though ever and anon his hot Irish blood would chafe fiercely
under the curb self-imposed--and laboring incessantly, with all
gentleness, to induce others to follow; a Launcelot in his devotion to
womankind; a Galahad in purity of thought and purpose. I have never
known a man of the world so single-hearted, or a saint with so much
_savoir vivre_.

I see before me now Lovell, with his frank look and cheery laugh, the
model of a stalwart English squirehood; and Petre, equal to either
fortune; in reverse or success calm and impassible as Athos the
mousquetaire; regarding money simply as a circulating medium, with the
profoundest contempt for its actual value--_se ruinant en prince_. He
edified us greatly, on one occasion, by meeting his justly offended
father with a stern politeness, declining to hold any communication with
him by word or letter till he (the sire) "could express himself in a
more Christian spirit."

Then there was Barlowe, the pearl of gentlemen riders, the very apple of
Charles Symond's eye; unspoiled by a hundred triumphs, and never
degenerating into the professional, though I believe his idea of earthly
felicity was,

A match for £50, 10 st. 7 lb. each. Owners up. Over 4 miles of a fair
hunting country.

I see him, too, with his pleasant face, round, rosy, and beardless as a
child-cherub of Rubens, tempting pale men with splitting heads to throw
boots at him in the bitterness of their envy as he entered their rooms
on the morning after a heavy drink, his eyes so clear and guileless that
you would never guess how sharp they could be at times when a dangerous
horse was coming up on his quarter. A strange compound his character was
of cool calculation and sentimental simplicity. The most astute of
trainers never got the better of him in making a match; and I am sure,
to this day, he believes in ----'s poetry, and in the immutability of
feminine affection.

How agreeable he was about the small hours, chirping over his grog;
alternating between reminiscences of "My tutor's daughter" and recitals
of choice morsels in verse and prose; misquoting, to the utter
annihilation of rhythm and sense, but all with perfect gravity, good
faith, and satisfaction!

_Nec te, memorande, relinquam_--true Tom Lynton! not clever, not even
high-bred, but loved by every one for the honestest and kindest heart
that ever was the kernel of a rough rind.

Do we not remember that supper where the Fathers of England were being
discussed? Every one, drawn on by the current, had a stone to throw at
his relieving officer, the complaint, of course, being a general
tightness in the supplies. At last, Tom, who, though his own sire was an
austere man, could not bear to hear the absent run down, broke in,
gravely remonstrating,

"Well, gentlemen," he said, "remember they're our _fellow-creatures_, at
all events."

They drank "Lynton and the Governors" with a compound multiplication of
cheers.

I might mention more; but a face rises just now before me which makes me
close the muster-roll--the face of one who united in himself many, very
many of the best qualities of the others; of one whom I shrink from
naming here, lest it should seem that I do so lightly--a face that I saw
six hours before its features became set forever.



CHAPTER IV.

     _"Dê tot' anaschomenô, ho men êlase dexion ômon
     Iros, ho d' auchen' elassen hup' ouatos, ostea d' eisô
     Ethlasen; autika d' êlthen ana stoma phoinion haima."_


Toward the end of my second year an event came off in which we were all
much interested--a steeplechase in which both Universities were to take
part. The stakes were worth winning--twenty sovs. entrance, h.f., and a
hundred sovs. added; besides, the _esprit de corps_ was strong, and men
backed their opinions pretty freely. The venue was fixed at B----; the
time, the beginning of the Easter vacation.

The old town was crowded like Vanity Fair. There was a railway in
progress near, and the navvies and other "roughs" came flocking in by
hundreds, so that the municipal authorities, justly apprehensive of a
row, concentrated the cohorts of their police, and swore in no end of
specials as a reserve.

The great event came off duly, a fair instance of the "glorious
uncertainty" which backers of horses execrate and ring-men adore. All
the favorites were out of the race early. Our best man, Barlowe, the
centre of many hopes, and carrying a heavy investment of Oxford money,
was floored at the second double post-and-rail. The Cambridge cracks,
too, by divers casualties, were soon disposed of. At the last fence, an
Oxford man was leading by sixty yards; but it was his maiden race, and
he lost his head when he found himself looking like a winner so near
home. Instead of taking the stake-and-bound at the weakest place, he
rode at the strongest; his horse swerved to the gap, took the fence
sideways, and came down heavily into the ditch of the winning field. The
representative of Cambridge, who came next, riding a good steady hunter,
not fast, but safe at his fences, cantered in by himself. I remember he
was so bewildered by his unexpected victory that one of his backers had
to hold him fast in the saddle, or he would have dismounted before
riding to scale, and so lost the stakes.

Well, the race was over and the laurels lost, so we had nothing to do
but pay and look pleasant, and then adjourn to the inevitable banquet at
"The George." There was little to distinguish the proceedings from the
routine of such festivals. The winners stood Champagne, and the losers
drank it--to any amount. The accidents of flood and field were discussed
over and over again; and, I believe, every man of the twenty-three who
had ridden that day could and did prove, to his own entire satisfaction,
that he must have won but for some freak of fortune totally unavoidable,
and defying human calculation.

About nine o'clock I went out with another man to get some fresh air,
and something I wanted in the town. At the corner of every street there
was a group of heavy, sullen faces, looking viciously ready for a row,
while out of the windows of the frequent public houses gushed bursts of
revelry hideously discordant, from the low-browed rooms where the wild
Irish sat howling and wrangling over their liquor. However, we got what
we wanted, and were returning, when, in a street on our left, we heard
cries and a trampling of many feet. Two figures, looking like University
men, passed us at speed, and, throwing something down before us, dived
into an alley opposite, and were lost to sight. My companion picked up
the object; and we had just time to make out that it was a bell-handle
and name-plate, when the pursuers came up--six or seven "peelers" and
specials, with a ruck of men and boys. We were collared on the instant.
The fact of the property being found in our possession constituted a
_flagrans delictum_--we were caught "red-handed." It was vain to argue
that, had we been the delinquents, we should scarcely have been standing
there still, awaiting discovery. The idea of arguing with a rural
policeman, when, by a rare coincidence, popular feeling is with him! The
mob regarded our capture, exulting like the Romans over Jugurtha in
chains. It was decided "we were to go before the Inspector." We were
placed in the centre of a phalanx of specials, each guarded by two
regulars; and so the triumph, followed by a train that swelled at every
turning, moved slowly along the Sacred Way toward the temple of the
station-house, where the municipal Jupiter Capitolinus sat in his glory.

Before we had proceeded three hundred yards there was a shout from the
crowd, "Look out! here come the 'Varsity!" and down a cross street
leading from the inn, two hundred gownsmen, wild with wrath and wassail,
came leaping to the rescue.

In the van of all I caught sight of two figures--one that I knew very
well, towering, bareheaded, a hand's-breadth above the throng; the
other, something below the middle height, but shaggy, vast-chested, and
double-jointed as a red Highland steer--M'Diarmid of Trinity, glory of
the Cambridge gymnasium, and "5" in the University eight. They were not
shouting like the rest, but hitting out straight and remorselessly; and
before those two strong Promachi, townsman and navvy, peeler and
special, went down like blades of corn. Close at their shoulder I
distinguished Lovell, his clear blue eyes lightening savagely; and stout
Tom Lynton, a deeper flush on his honest face, hewing away with all the
unscientific strength of his nervous arm.

But my two guards, very Abdiels in their duty, never let me go; on the
contrary, one tightened his gripe on my throat suffocatingly, while the
other, though I remained perfectly quiescent, kept giving me gentle
hints to keep the peace with the end of his staff. I was getting sick
and dizzy, when something passed my cheek like the wind of a ball; there
was a dull, crashing sound close at my ear; the grasp on my neck relaxed
all at once; I felt something across my feet, and saw a dark blue mass,
topped by the ruin of a shiny hat, lying there quite still; an arm was
round my waist like the coil of a cable, and I heard Guy's voice
laughing loud,

"My dear Frank," he said, as he dragged me away toward the inn, "the
centre of a row, as usual. _Que, diable, allait il faire dans cette
bagarre?_"

I hardly heard him, for my senses were still confused; but in thirty
seconds I was under the archway of "The George." As the heroines of the
Radcliffe romances say, "I turned to thank my preserver, but he was
gone."

When I recovered my breath, I went up to a balcony on the first floor
and looked out. The tide of the affray was surging gradually back into
the wide open space before the inn, and very shortly this was filled
with a chaos of furious faces and struggling arms. The University were
evidently recoiling, pressed back by the sheer weight of their
opponents; but soon came a re-enforcement of grooms and stable-men,
lightweights, active and wiry; and these, with their hunting-crops and
heavy cutting-whips used remorselessly--like Cæsar's legionaries, they
struck only at the face--once more re-established the balance of the
battle.

Suddenly the _melée_ seemed to converge to one point--the mid-eddy, as
it were, of the whirlpool; then came a lull, almost a hush; and then
fifty strong arms, indiscriminately of town and gownsmen, were locked to
keep the ground, while a storm of voices shouted for "A ring!"

In that impromptu arena two men stood face to face under the full glare
of the gas-lamps--one was Guy Livingstone; the other a denizen of the
Potteries, yclept "Burn's Big 'un," who had selected B---- as his
training quarters, in preparation for his fight to come off in the
ensuing week with the third best man in England for £100 a side.

They made a magnificent contrast. Guy, apparently quite composed, but
the lower part of his face set stern and pitiless; an evil light in his
eyes, showing how all the gladiator in his nature was roused; his left
hand swaying level with his hip; all the weight of his body resting on
the right foot; his lofty head thrown back haughtily; his guard low. The
professional, three inches shorter than his adversary, but a rare model
of brute strength; his arms and neck, where the short jersey left them
exposed, clear-skinned and white as a woman's, through the perfection of
his training; his hair cropped close round a low, retreating forehead;
his thick lips parted in a savage grin, meant to represent a smile of
confidence. So they stood there--fitting champions of the races that
have been antagonistic for four thousand years--Patrician and
Proletarian.

Suddenly there was a commotion at one corner of the ring, and I saw a
small, bullet-headed man, with a voice like a fractious child, striving
frantically to force his way through. "Don't let 'em fight!" he
screamed: "it's robbery, I tell you. There's hundreds of pounds on him
for Thursday next, I'm his trainer; and I daren't show him with a
scratch on him."

A great roar of laughter answered his entreaties, and twenty arms thrust
the little man back; but his interesting charge seemed to ponder and
hesitate, when a drawling nasal voice spoke from the opposite corner:
"Ah! you're right; take him away; don't show his white feather till
you're druv to it." That turned the wavering scale. The Big 'un ground
his teeth with blasphemy, and set-to.

I need not go through the minutiæ of the fight; it was all one way. The
professional did his best, and took his punishment like a glutton; but
he could do nothing against the long reach of his adversary, who stopped
and countered as coolly as if he had only the gloves on.

It was the beginning of the sixth round; our champion bore only one
mark, showing where a tremendous right-hander had almost come home--a
cut on his lower lip, whence the bright Norman blood was flowing freely.
I will not attempt to describe the hideous changes that ten minutes had
wrought in his opponent's countenance; but I think I was not the only
spectator who felt a thrill of fear mingling with disgust as the Big 'un
made his despairing effort, and fought his way in to the terrible
"half-arm rally." In truth, there was something unearthly and awful in
the sight of the maimed and mangled Colossus; his huge breast heaving
with wrath and pain; his one unblinded eye glaring unutterably; his
crushed lips churning the crimson foam. It was the last rash of the
Cordovan bull goaded to madness by picador and chulo; but Guy's fatal
left met him, straight, unyielding as the blade of the matador; twice he
reeled back wellnigh stunned; the third time he dropped his head
cleverly, so as to avoid the blow, and grappled. For some seconds the
two were locked together, undistinguishably; then we saw Guy's right
hand, never used till then save as a guard, rise and fall twice with a
dull, smashing sound, which was bad to hear; then the huge form of the
prize-fighter was whirled up unresistingly over his antagonist's hip,
and fell crashing down at his feet, a heap of blind, senseless, bleeding
humanity.

"Time!" You must call louder yet before he will hear, and lance a vein
in the throat before he will answer.

Then, in the old market-place of B----, there went up such a shout as I
think it has never heard since Vikings and Berserkyr caroused there
after storming the town. The gownsmen, as they will do on slighter
provocation, screamed themselves hoarse and voiceless with delight; and
their late opponents--the honest Saxon's love of a fair fight overcoming
the spirit of the partisan--echoed and prolonged the cheer.

There was no more thought of battle or broil; and there were as many
navvies as University men among the enthusiasts who bore the champion on
their shoulders into "The George."

How we reveled on that night of victory, especially when Guy, after
necessary ablutions and change of raiment, joined us, calm and
self-possessed as ever, only slightly swelled about the lower lip, and a
dark red flush on his forehead! He had satisfactory accounts of his
adversary, the said amiable individual having so far recovered, under
the surgeon's hands, as to swear thrice--"quite like hisself," the
messenger said--and to call for cold brandy and water.

Livingstone's health was proposed twice--the first time by a fellow of
King's, with a neat talent for classical allusions, who remarked that,
"if the olive-crown of the Hippodrome had fallen to the lot of
Cambridge, none would deny her sister's claim to the parsley of the
cæstus." The second time was very late in the evening, by M'Diarmid. It
must be confessed that gallant chieftain was somewhat incoherent, and
amid protestations of admiration and eternal friendship, much to our
astonishment, wept profusely. Still later, he got very maudlin indeed,
and was heard to murmur, looking at his scarred knuckles, that "he was
afraid he must have hurt some one that night," with an accent of
heartfelt sorrow and contrition which was inimitable.

We heard afterward that the taunt which made the fight a certainty came
from the commissioner of the party who stood heavily against the Big
'un, sent down to watch him in his training, and spy out the joints in
his harness.



CHAPTER V.

     "As he rode down the sanctified bends of the Bow,
     Each carline was flyting and shaking her pow;
     But the young Plants of Grace they looked couthie and slee,
     Saying, 'Luck to thy bonnet, thou bonnie Dundee.'"


In the autumn of that year my chest became so troublesome that I was
obliged to try Italy. Thither I went; and, about the same time, Guy was
gazetted to the ---- Life Guards. The struggle between climate and
constitution was protracted, and for a long time doubtful; but winters
without fog, and springs without cold winds, worked wonders, and at last
carried the day. In the fourth year they told me I might risk England
again. Moving homeward slowly, I reached London about the beginning of
December--a most unfavorable season, it is true; but I was weary of
foreign wandering, and wanted to spend Christmas somewhere in the
fatherland, though where I had not yet determined.

I had heard tolerably often from Livingstone during my absence. His
letters were very amusing, containing all sorts of news, and remarks on
men and manners. They would have pleased me more if they had not
indicated a vein of sarcasm deepening into cynicism.

I stand very much alone in this world, and had few family visits to
detain me; so, on the morning after my arrival, I went down to the
Knightsbridge barracks, where Guy's regiment happened to be quartered.

It was a field-day, his servant said, and his master was out with his
troop; but he expected him in very shortly. Captain Forrester was
waiting breakfast for him up stairs.

As I entered the room, its occupant turned his head languidly on the
sofa-cushion which supported it; but when he saw it was a stranger, sat
up, and, on hearing my name, actually rose and came toward me.

"Livingstone will be charmed to find you here, Mr. Hammond," he said, in
a voice that, though slightly affected and _traînante_, was very
musical. "I don't know if he ever mentioned Charley Forrester to you,
who must do the honors of the barrack-room in his absence?"

I had heard of him very often; and, though my expectations as to his
personal appearance had been raised, I own the first glance did not
disappoint them. He was about three-and-twenty then, rather tall, but
very slightly built; his eyes long, sleepy, of a violet blue; features
small and delicately cut, with a complexion so soft and bright that his
silky, chestnut mustache hardly saved the face from effeminacy; his
hands and feet would have satisfied the Pacha of Tebelen at once as to
his purity of race; indeed, though Charley was not disposed to
undervalue any of his own bodily advantages, I imagine he considered his
extremities as his strong point. His manner was very fascinating, and,
with women, had a sort of caress in it which is hard to describe, though
even with _them_ he seldom excited himself much, preferring,
consistently, the passive to the active part in the conversation.
Indeed, his golden rule was the Arabic maxim, _Agitel lil
Shaitan_--Hurry is the Devil's--so, in the flirtations which were the
serious business of his life, he always let his fish hook themselves,
just exerting himself enough to play them afterward.

In ten minutes we were very good friends, talking pleasantly of all
sorts of things, though Forrester had resumed his recumbent posture, and
I could not help fearing it was only a strong effort of politeness or
sense of duty which enabled him always to answer at the right time.

Before long we heard the clatter of horses' hoofs and the rattle of
steel scabbards, and I looked out at the squadrons defiling into the
barrack-yard. My eye fell upon Livingstone at once: it was not difficult
to distinguish him, for few, if any, among those troopers, picked from
the flower of all the counties north of the Humber, could compare with
him for length of limb and breadth of shoulder. I felt proud of him, as
the hero of my boyhood, looking at him there, on his great black
charger, square and steadfast as the keep of a castle.

His servant spoke to him as he dismounted. I saw his features soften and
brighten in an instant; in five seconds he was in the room, and the
light was on his face still--I like to think of it--the light of a
frank, cordial welcome, as he griped my hand.

He was changed, certainly, but for the better. The features, which in
early youth had been too rugged and strongly marked, harmonized
perfectly with the vast proportions of a frame now fully developed,
though still lean in the flanks as a wolf-hound. The stern expression
about his mouth was more decided and unvarying than ever--an effect
which was increased by the heavy mustache that, dense as a Cuirassier's
of the Old Guard, fell over his lip in a black cascade. It was the face
of one of those stone Crusaders who look up at us from their couches in
the Round Church of the Temple.

Before our first sentences were concluded, Forrester had nerved himself
to the effort of rising, and turned to go.

"You must have fifty things to say to each other," he said. "You'll find
me in the mess-room. But, Guy, don't be long; I've no appetite myself
this morning, and it will refresh me to see you eat your breakfast;" and
so faded away gradually through the door.

"How do you like him?" Livingstone called out from the inner room, where
he was donning the "mufti." "He's not so conceited as he might be,
considering how the women spoil him; and, lazy as he looks, he is a very
fair officer, and goes across country like a bird. Did I ever tell you
what first made him famous?"

"No; I should like to hear."

"Well, it was at a picnic at Cliefden. Charley was hardly nineteen then,
and had just joined the ----th Lancers at Hounslow; he wandered away,
and got lost with Kate Harcourt, a self-possessed beauty in high
condition for flirting, for she had had three seasons of hard training.
When they had been away from their party about two hours, she felt, or
pretended to feel, the awkwardness of the situation, and asked her
cavalier, in a charmingly helpless and confiding way, what they were to
do. 'Well, I hardly know,' Forrester answered, languidly; 'but I don't
mind proposing to you, if that will do you any good.' A fair performance
for an untried colt, was it not? Miss Harcourt thought so, and said so,
and Charley woke next morning with an established renown. Shall we go
and find him?"

After breakfast we went with Guy to his room, to do the regulation
cigar.

"I know you've made no plans, Frank," Livingstone said, "so I have
settled every thing for you already. You are coming down to Kerton with
us. We have just got our long leave, and our horses went down three days
ago."

"It's very nice of him to say 'our horses,'" interrupted Forrester.
"Mine consist of one young one, that has been over about eight fences in
his life, and a mare, that I call the Wandering Jewess, for I don't
think she will ever die, and I am sure she will never rest till she
does: what with being park-hack in the summer and cover-hack in the
winter, with a by-day now and then when the country's light, she's the
best instance of perpetual motion I know. Well, it's not my fault the
chief won't let us hunt our second chargers--that's the charm of being
in a crack regiment--I always have one lame at least, and no one will
sell me hunters on tick."

"Don't be so plaintive, Charley; you've nearly all mine to ride: it's a
treat to them, poor things, to feel your light weight and hand, after
carrying my enormous carcass. That's settled, then, Frank; you come with
us?" Guy said.

"I shall be very glad. I only want a day to get my traps together." So
two days afterward we three came down to Kerton Manor. It was not my
first visit to Livingstone's home, but I have not described it before.

Fancy a very large, low house, built in two quadrangles--the offices and
stables forming the smaller one farthermost from the main entrance--of
the light gray stone common in Northamptonshire, darkened at the angles
and buttresses into purple, and green, and bistre by the storms of three
hundred years; on the south side, smooth turf, with islands in it of
bright flower-beds, sloped down to a broad, slow stream, where grave,
stately swans were always sailing to and fro, and moor-hens diving among
the rushes; on the other sides, a park, extensive, but somewhat
rough-looking, stretched away, and, all round, lines of tall avenue
radiated--the bones of a dead giant's skeleton--for Kerton once stood in
the centre of a royal forest.

You entered into a wide, low hall, the oak ceiling resting on broad
square pillars of the same dark wood; all round hung countless memorials
of chase and war, for the Livingstones had been hunters and soldiers
beyond the memory of man.

Often, passing through of a winter's evening, I have stopped to watch
the fitful effects of the great logs burning on the andirons, as their
light died away, deadened among brown bear-skins and shadowy antlers, or
played, redly reflected, on the mail-shirt and corslet of Crusader or
Cavalier.

There were many portraits too; one, the most remarkable, fronted you as
you came through the great doorway, the likeness of a very handsome man
in the uniform of a Light Dragoon; under this hung a cavalry sword, and
a brass helmet shaded with black horse-hair. The portrait and sword were
those of Guy's father; the helmet belonged to the Cuirassier who slew
him.

It was in a skirmish with part of Kellermann's brigade, near the end of
the Peninsular war; Colonel Livingstone was engaged with an adversary in
his front, when a trooper, delivering point from behind, ran him through
the body. He had got his death-wound, and knew it; but he came of a race
that ever died hard and dangerously; he only ground his teeth, and,
turning short in his saddle, cut the last assailant down. Look at the
helmet, with the clean, even gap in it, cloven down to the
cheek-strap--the stout old Laird of Colonsay struck no fairer blow.

It was curious to mark how the same expression of sternness and decision
about the lips and lower part of the face, which was so remarkable in
their descendants, ran through the long row of ancestral portraits. You
saw it--now, beneath the half-raised visor of Sir Malise, surnamed
_Poing-de-fer_, who went up the breach at Ascalon shoulder to shoulder
with strong King Richard--now, yet more grimly shadowed forth, under the
cowl of Prior Bernard, the ambitious ascetic, whom, they say, the great
Earl of Warwick trusted as his own right hand--now, softened a little,
but still distinctly visible, under the long love-locks of Prince
Rupert's aid-de-camp, who died at Naseby manfully in his harness--now,
contrasting strangely with the elaborately powdered peruke and delicate
lace ruffles of Beau Livingstone, the gallant, with the whitest hand,
the softest voice, the neatest knack at a sonnet, and the deadliest
rapier at the court of good Queen Anne. Nay, you could trace it in the
features of many a fair Edith and Alice, half counteracting the magnetic
attraction of their melting eyes.

On the sunny south side, looking across the flower-garden, were Lady
Catharine Livingstone's rooms, where, diligent as Matilda and her
maidens, in summer by the window, in winter by the fire; the pale
châtelaine sat over her embroidery. What rivers of tapestry must have
flowed from under those slender white fingers during their ceaseless
toil of twenty years!

The good that she did in her neighborhood can not be told. She was kind
and hospitable, too, to her female guests, in her own haughty,
undemonstrative way; nevertheless, the wives and daughters of the
squirearchy regarded her with great awe and fear. Perhaps she felt this,
though she could not alter it, and the sense of isolation may have
deepened the shades on her sad face. She had only one thing on earth to
centre her affections on, and that one she worshiped with a love
stronger than her sense of duty; for, since his father died, she had
never been able to check Guy in a single whim.

When he had a hunting-party in the house, she sometimes would not appear
for days; but, however early he might start for the meet, I do not think
he ever left his dressing-room without his mother's kiss on his cheek.
She knew, as well as any one, how recklessly her son rode; nothing but
his science, coolness, and great strength in the saddle could often have
saved him from some terrible accident. Many times, in the middle of the
day's sport, the thought has come across me piteously of that poor lady,
in her lonely rooms, trembling, and I am very sure praying, for her
darling.

On the opposite side of the court were Guy's own apartments: first, what
was called by courtesy his study--an armory of guns and other weapons, a
chaos _e rebus omnibus et quibusdam aliis_, for he never had the
faintest conception of the beauty of order; then came the smoking-room,
with its great divans and scattered card-tables; then Livingstone's
bed-room and dressing-room.

Did the distance and the doors always deaden the sounds of late revels,
so as not to break Lady Catharine's slumbers? I fear not.



CHAPTER VI.


     "Thou art not steeped in golden languors;
     No tranced summer calm is thine,
     Ever-varying Madeline."



It was a woodland meet, a long way off, the morning after we arrived, so
we staid at home; and, after breakfast, Guy having to give audience to
keepers and other retainers, I strolled out with Forrester to smoke in
the stables. I have seldom seen a lot which united so perfectly bone and
blood. Livingstone gave any price for his horses; the only thing he was
not particular about was their temper; more than one looked eminently
unsuited to a nervous rider, and a swinging bar behind them warned the
stranger against incautious approach.

After duly discussing and admiring the stud, we established ourselves on
the sunniest stone bench in the garden, and I asked my companion to tell
me something of what Guy had been doing during my absence.

"Well, it's rather hard to say," answered Charley. "He never takes the
trouble to conceal any thing; but then, you see, he never tells one any
thing either; so it's only guess work, after all. He lives very much
like other men in the Household Brigade; plays heavily, though not
regularly; but he always has two _affaires de coeur_, at least, on
hand at once; that's his stint."

"So he still persecutes the weaker sex unremittingly?" I asked,
laughing.

"In a way peculiar to himself," said Forrester; "he is always strictly
courteous, but decidedly sarcastic. Poor things, they are easily imposed
upon; he very soon has them well in hand, and they can never get their
heads up afterward. I suppose they like it, for it seems to answer
admirably. Last season he divided himself pretty equally between
Constance Brandon and Flora Bellasys--quite the two best things out,
though as opposite to each other in every way as the poles. To do Miss
Brandon justice, I don't think she knew much of the other flirtation;
she always went away early, and he used to take up her rival for the
rest of the evening."

"But the said rival--how did she like the divided homage?"

"Not at all at first; at least, she used to look revolvers at Guy from
time to time--(ah! you should see the Bellasys' eyes when they begin to
lighten)--but he always brought her back to the lure, and at last she
seemed to take it quite as a matter of course, keeping all her
after-supper waltzes for him religiously, though half the men in town
were trying to cut in. I can't make out how he does it. Do you think his
size and sinews can have any thing to do with it?" He said this gravely
and reflectively.

"Not unlikely," I replied; "the _fortiter in re_ goes a long way with
women apparently, even where there is not a tongue like his to back it.
Don't you remember Juvenal's strong-minded heroine, who left husband and
home to follow the scarred, maimed gladiator? I doubt if the Mirmillo
was a pleasant or intellectual companion. Now I want you to tell me
something about Guy's cousin and her father; they are coming here
to-day, and I have never met them."

"Mr. Raymond is very like most calm, comfortable old men with a life
interest in £2000 a year," Charley said; "rather more cold and
impassible than the generality, perhaps. He _must_ be clever, for he
plays whist better than any one I know; but not brilliant, certainly.
His daughter is"--the color deepened on his cheek perceptibly--"very
charming, most people think; but I hate describing people. I always
caricature the likeness. You'll form your own judgment at dinner. Shall
we go in? We shoot an outlying cover after luncheon, and the blackthorns
involve gaiters."

We had very fair sport, and were returning across the park, picking up a
stray rabbit every now and then in the tufts of long grass and patches
of brake. One had just started before Forrester, and he was in the act
of pulling the trigger, when Livingstone said suddenly,

"There's my uncle's carriage coming down the north avenue."

It was an easy shot in the open, but Charley missed it clean.

"What eyes you have, Guy," he said, pettishly; "but I wish you wouldn't
speak to a man on his shot."

Guy's great Lancaster rang out with the roar of a small field-piece, and
the rabbit was rolling over, riddled through the head, before he
answered,

"Yea, my eyes _are_ good, and I see a good many things, but I _don't_
see why you should have muffled that shot, particularly as my
intelligence was meant for the world in general, and it was not such an
astounding remark, after all."

Charley did not seem ready with a reply, so he retained his look of
injured innocence, and walked on, sucking silently at his cigar. The
Raymonds reached the house before us; but, not being in a presentable
state, I did not see them before dinner.

Forrester was right; there was nothing startling about Mr. Raymond. He
had one of those thin, high-bred looking faces that one always fancies
would have suited admirably the powder and ruffles of the last century.
It expressed little except perfect repose, and when he spoke, which was
but seldom, no additional light came into his hard blue eyes. His
daughter was his absolute contrast--a lovely, delicate little creature,
with silky dark-brown hair, and eyes _en suite_, and color that deepened
and faded twenty times in an hour, without ever losing the softness of
its tints. She had the ways of a child petted all its life through, that
a harsh word would frighten to annihilation. She seemed very fond of
Guy, though evidently rather afraid of him at times.

Nothing passed at dinner worth mentioning; but soon after the ladies
left us, Mr. Raymond turned lazily to his nephew to inquire,

"If he would mind asking Bruce to come and stay at Kerton, as he was to
be in the neighborhood soon after Christmas."

He did not seem to feel the faintest interest in the reply.

"I shall be too glad, Uncle Henry," answered Guy (he did not look
particularly charmed though), "if it will give you or Bella any
pleasure. Need he be written to immediately?"

"Thank you very much," said Raymond, languidly. "I know he bores you,
and I am sure I don't wonder at it; but one must be civil to one's
son-in-law that is to be. No, you need not trouble yourself to invite
him yet. Bella can do it when she writes. I suppose she _does_ write to
him sometimes."

I looked across the table at Forrester. This was the first time I had
heard of Miss Raymond's engagement. He met my eye quite unconcernedly,
pursuing with great interest his occupation of peeling walnuts and
dropping them into Sherry. It did not often happen to him to blush
_twice_ in the twenty-four hours. Directly afterward we began to talk
about pheasants and other things.

After coffee in the drawing-room Guy sat down to piquet with his uncle.
Raymond liked to utilize his evenings, and never played for nominal
stakes. He was the _beau ideal_ of a card-player, certainly; no
revolution or persistence of luck could ruffle the dead calm of his
courteous face. He would win the money of his nearest and dearest
friend, or lose his own to an utter stranger with the same placidity. To
be sure, to a certain extent, he had enslaved Fortune; though he always
played most loyally, and sometimes would forego an advantage he might
fairly have claimed, his rare science made ultimate success scarcely
doubtful. He never touched a game of mere chance.

I heard a good story of him in Paris. They were playing a game like
Brag; the principle being that the players increase the stakes without
seeing each other's cards, till one refuses to go on and throws up, or
shows his point. Raymond was left in at last with one adversary; the
stakes had mounted up to a sum that was fearful, and it was his choice
to double or _abattre_. Of course, it was of the last importance to
discover whether the antagonist was strong or not; but the Frenchman's
face gave not the slightest sign. He was _beau joueur s'il en fût_, and
had lost two fair fortunes at play. Raymond hesitated, looking steadily
into his opponent's eyes. All at once he smiled and doubled instantly.
The other dared not go on; he showed his point, and lost. They asked
Raymond afterward how he could have detected any want of confidence to
guide him in a face that looked like marble.

"I saw three drops of perspiration on his forehead," he said; "and I
knew my own hand was strong."

Lady Catharine was resting on a sofa: she looked tired and paler than
usual, not in the least available for conversation. Miss Raymond had
nestled herself into the recesses of a huge arm-chair close to the
fire--she was as fond of warmth, when she could not get sunshine, as a
tropical bird--and Forrester was lounging on an ottoman behind her, so
that his head almost touched her elbow. When I caught scraps of their
conversation it seemed to be turning on the most ordinary subjects; but
even in these I should have felt lost--I had been so long away from
England--so I contented myself with watching them, and wondering why
discussions as to the merits of operas and inquiries after mutual
acquaintances should make the fair cheeks hang out signals of distress
so often as they did that evening.

I lingered in the smoking-room about midnight for a moment after
Forrester left us.

"So your cousin is really engaged?" I asked Guy.

"_Tout ce qu'il y a du plus fiancé_," was the answer. "It was one of the
last affairs of state that my poor aunt concluded before she died. Bruce
is a very good match. I don't think Bella worships him, though I have
scarcely ever seen them together, and I am sure he is not a favorite
with Uncle Henry; but nothing on earth would make him break it off;
indeed, I know no one who would propose such a thing to him--not his
daughter, certainly. There's no such hopeless obstacle as the passive
resistance of a thoroughly lazy man. Good-night, Frank. I've sent the
Baron on for you to-morrow. We must start about nine, mind, for we've
fifteen miles to go to cover."

I went to bed, and dreamed that Raymond was playing _ecarté_ with
Forrester for his daughter, who stood by blushing beautifully--and never
held a trump!



CHAPTER VII.

     "She has two eyes so soft and brown;
                     Take care!
     She gives a side glance, and looks down;
                     Beware! beware!
     Trust her not; she is fooling thee."


So the days went on. The stream of visitors usual in a country house
during the hunting season flowed in and out of Kerton Manor without any
remarkable specimen showing itself above the surface. One individual,
perhaps, I ought to except, the curate of the parish, who was a very
constant visitor.

His appearance was not fascinating: he had a long, narrow head, thatched
with straight, scanty hair; little, protruding eyes, and a complexion of
a bright unvarying red--in fact, he was very like a prawn.

It was soon evident that the Rev. Samuel Foster was helplessly smitten
by Miss Raymond, or, as Forrester elegantly expressed it, "hard hit in
the wings, and crippled for flying!" Helplessly, I say, but not
hopelessly; for that wicked little creature, acting perhaps under
private orders, gave him all sorts of treacherous encouragement. I never
saw any human being evolve so much caloric under excitement as he did,
except one young woman whom I met ages ago--(a most estimable person;
her Sunday-school was a model)--whose only way of evincing any emotion,
either of anger, fear, pain, or pleasure, was--a profuse perspiration.
Mr. Foster not only got awfully hot, but electrical into the bargain.
His thin hairs used to stand out distinctly and in relief from his head
and face, just like a person on the glass tripod. Charley suggested
insulating him unawares, and getting a flash out of his knuckles, if not
out of his brain. In truth, it was piteous to see the struggle between
passion and nervousness that raged perpetually within him. He would
stand for some time casting _lamb's_-eyes at the object of his
affections--to the amorous audacity of the full-grown sheep he never
soared--then suddenly, without the slightest provocation, he would
discharge at her a compliment, elaborate, long-winded, Grandisonian, as
a raw recruit fires his musket, shutting his eyes, and incontinently
take to flight, without waiting to see the effect of his shot. If he had
spent half the time and pains on his sermons that he did on his
small-talk (I believe he used to write out three or four foul copies of
each sentence previously at home), what a boon it would have been to his
unlucky audience on Sundays!

Why is it that the great proportion of our pastors seem to conspire
together with one consent to make the periodical duty of listening to
them as hard as possible? Can they imagine there is profit or pleasure
in a discourse wandering wearily round in a circle, or dragging a slow
length along of truisms and trivialities? In the best of congregations
there can be but few alchemists; and, without that science, who is to
extract the essence of Truth from the _moles incongesta_ of crass
moralities?

To persuade or dissuade you must interest the head or the heart. I
admire those who can do either successfully, but I do protest against
those clerical tyrants who shelter themselves behind their license to
fire at us their ruthless platitudes. If such could only struggle
against that strong temptation of our fallen nature--the delight of
hearing one's own sweet voice--so as to concentrate now and then! The
best orators, spiritual and mundane, have been brief sometimes.

I am no theologian, but I take leave to doubt if, in the elaborate
divinity of fourteen epistles, the apostle of the Gentiles ever went so
straight to his hearer's heart as in that farewell charge, when the
elders of Ephesus gathered round him on the sea-sand, "Sorrowing most of
all for the words that he spake, that they should see his face no more."

Do you remember Canning and the clergyman? When the latter asked him,
"How did you like my sermon? I endeavored not to be tedious;" I always
fancy the statesman's weary, wistful look, which would have been
compassionate but for a sense of personal injury, as he answered, in his
mild voice, "And yet--_you were_."

Well, the flirtation went on its way rejoicing, to the intense amusement
of all of us, especially of Forrester, till one day his cousin came into
Guy's study, who had just returned from hunting, looking rather
frightened, like a child who has let fall a valuable piece of china--it
was only an honest man's heart that she had broken. Slowly the truth
came out; Mr. Foster had proposed to her that afternoon in the park.

We, far off in the drawing-room, heard the shrill whistle with which
Livingstone greeted the intelligence.

"You accepted him, of course?" he said.

"O Guy!" Miss Raymond answered, blushing more than ever. (I'll back a
woman against the world for expressing half a chapter by a simple
interjection; Lord Burleigh's nod is nothing to it.) "But, indeed," she
went on, "I'm very sorry about it; I never saw any one look so unhappy
before. Do you know I think I saw the tears standing in his eyes; and I
only guessed at the words when he said 'God bless you!'"

"Ah bah!" replied Guy, with his most cynical smile on his lip; "he'll
recover. Who breaks his heart in these days, especially for such little
dots of things as you? But, Bella mia, how do you think Mr. Bruce would
approve of all these innocent amusements?"

It was no blush now, but a dead waxen whiteness, that came over the
beautiful face, even down to the chin. The soft brown eyes grew fixed
and wild with an imploring terror. "You won't tell him?" she gasped out;
and then stood quivering and shuddering. Guy was very much surprised: he
had never believed greatly in his cousin's affection for her betrothed;
but here there were signs, not only of the absence of love, but of the
presence of physical fear.

"My dear child," he said, very kindly, "don't alarm yourself so
absurdly. I have not the honor of Mr. Bruce's confidence; and if I had,
how could I tell him of an affair where _I_ have been most to blame?
I'll speak to Foster; he must not show his disappointment even before
Uncle Henry. You will be quite safe, you see. But, mind, I won't allow
_any one_ to frighten or vex my pet cousin." His countenance lowered as
he spoke, and there was a threat in his eyes.

As the cloud darkened on his face, the light came back on Isabel
Raymond's. She took his hand--all fibre and sinew, like an
oak-bough--into her slender fingers and pressed it hard. In good truth,
a woman at her need could ask no better defender than he who stood by
her side then, tall, strong, black-browed, and terrible as Saul. "Thank
you so much, dear Guy," she whispered. "If you speak to Mr. Foster, you
will tell him how _very_ sorry I am!" and then she left him.

Guy did speak to the curate, I hope gently. At all events, we never
laughed at him again. How could we, when we saw him going about his
daily duties, honestly and bravely, and always, when in presence,
struggling with his great sorrow, so as not by word or look to
compromise the thoughtless child who had won his heart for her
amusement, and thrown it away for her convenience?

I have been disciplined since by what I have felt and seen, and I see
now how ungenerous we had been.

What right had we to make of that man a puppet for our amusement,
because he was shy, and stupid, and slow? He was as true in his
devotion, as honorable in all his wishes, as confident in his hopes till
they were blasted, as any one that has gone a wooing since the first
whisper of love was heard in Eden. If his despair was less crushing than
that of other men, it was because his principles were stronger to
endure, and perhaps because his temperament was more tranquil and cold.
As I have said, he did his day's work thoroughly, and that helped him
through a good deal. But, to the utmost of his nature, I believe he did
suffer. And could the long train of those whom disappointment has made
maniacs or suicides do more?

Let us not trust too much to the absence of feeling in these seemingly
impassive organizations.

I wonder how often the executors of old college fellows, or of
hard-faced bankers and bureaucrats, have been aggravated by finding in
that most secret drawer, which ought to have held a codicil or a jewel,
a tress, a glove, or a flower? The searcher looks at the object for a
moment, and then throws it into the rubbish-basket, with a laugh if he
is good-natured, with a curse if he is vicious and disappointed. Let it
lie there--though the dead miser valued it above all his bank-stock, and
kissed it oftener than he did his living and lawful wife and
children--what is it worth now? Say, as the grim Dean of St. Patrick
wrote on _his_ love-token, "Only a woman's hair."

Now these men, unknown to their best friend perhaps, had gone through
the affliction which is so common that it is hard to speak of it without
launching into truisms. This sorrow has made some men famous, by forcing
them out into the world and shutting the door behind them. It has made
the fortunes of some poets, who choose the world for their confidant,
setting their bereavement to music, and bewailing Eurydice in charming
volumes, that are cheap at "3_s._ 6_d._ in cloth, lettered." It has made
some--I think the best and bravest--somewhat silent for the rest of
their lives. I read some lines the other day wise enough to have sprung
from an older brain than Owen Meredith's.

     "They were pedants who could speak--
     Grander souls have passed unheard;
     Such as felt all language weak;
     Choosing rather to record
     Secrets before Heaven, than break
     Faith with angels, by a word--"

Yes, many men have their Rachel; but--there being a prejudice against
bigamy--few have even the Patriarch's luck, to marry her at last; for
the wife _de convenance_ generally outlives her younger sister; and so,
one afternoon, we turn again from a grave in Ephrata-Green Cemetery,
somewhat drearily, into our tent pitched in the plains of Belgravia,
where Leah--(there was ever jealousy between those two)--meets us with a
sharp glance of triumph in her "tender eyes."

We have known pleasanter _tête-à-têtes_--have we not?--than that which
we undergo that evening at dinner, though our companion seems disposed
to be especially lively. We have not much appetite; but our _carissima
sposa_ tells us "not to drink any more claret, or we shall never be fit
to take her to Lady Shechem's _conversazione_." Of all nights in the
year, would she let us off duty on this one? "There are to be some very
pleasant people there," she says, "though none, perhaps, that _you
particularly care about_." (Thank you, my love; I understand that
good-natured allusion perfectly, and am proportionately grateful.) Her
voice sounds shriller than usual as she says this, and leaves us to put
some last touches to her toilette. So we order a fresh bottle,
notwithstanding the warning, and fall to thinking. How low and soft
_that other_ voice was, and, even when a little reproachful, how rarely
sweet! _She_ would scarcely have invented that last taunt if matters
had turned out differently. Then we think of our respected
father-in-law, Sir Joseph Leyburn, of Harran Park--a mighty county
magistrate and cattle-breeder. He got Ishmael Deadeye, the poacher,
transported last year, and took the prize for Devons at the Great
Mesopotamian Agricultural with a brindled bull. We remember his weeping
at the wedding-breakfast over the loss of his eldest treasure, and
wonder if he was an arrant humbug, or only a foolish, fond old man,
inclining morosely toward the former opinion. We don't seem to care much
about Sir Roland de Vaux, the celebrated geologist, whom we shall have
the privilege of meeting this evening. What are strata to us, when our
thoughts will not go lower than about _eight feet_ underground? We shall
be rather bored than otherwise by Dr. Sternhold, that eminent Christian
divine, who passes his leisure hours in proving St. Paul to have been an
unsound theologian and a weak dialectician. Why should Mr. Planet, the
intrepid traveler, be always inflicting Jerusalem upon us, as if no one
had ever visited the Holy Land before him? Our ancestors did so five
hundred years ago, and did not make half the fuss about it; and _they_
had a skirmish or two there worth speaking of, while we don't believe a
word of Planet's encounter with those three Arabs on the Hebron road.
Pooh! there's no more peril in traversing the Wilderness of Cades than
in going up to the Grands Mulets. We are not worthy of those
distinguished men, and would prefer the society of hard-riding Dick
Foley of the Blues. He had a few feelings in common with us once on a
certain point (how we hated him then), and he won't wonder if we are
duller than usual this evening. Perhaps his own nerve will scarcely be
as iron as usual in the Grand Military, to come off in the course of the
week.

Well, the bottle is out, and Mademoiselle Zelpa comes to say that
"Madame is ze raidèe." So one glass of Cognac neat, as a _chasse_ (to
more things than good Claret), and then--let us put on our whitest tie
and our most attractive smile, and "go forth, for she is gone."



CHAPTER VIII.

     "A man had given all other bliss
     And all his worldly worth for this,
     To waste his whole heart in one kiss
       Upon her perfect lips."


We were asked to dine and sleep at Brainswick, where the hounds met on
the following morning. Mr. Raymond could not make up his mind to the
exertion, so Forrester and I accompanied Guy alone.

"By-the-by," the latter observed, as we were driving over in his
mail-phaeton, "I wonder if we shall see the Bellasys to-night? I know
they were to come down about this time. Steady, old wench! where are you
off to?" (This was to the near wheeler, who was breaking her trot.) "I
think you'll admire her, Frank; but, _gare à vous_, she's dangerous. Eh,
Charley?"

"Well, you ought to know," answered Forrester; "I never tried her much
myself. She's two or three stone over my weight. I wonder what she has
been doing lately? They sent her down to rusticate somewhere at the end
of the season. She ought to be in great condition now, with a summer's
run."

Livingstone smiled, complacently I thought, as if some one had praised
one of his favorite hunters, but did not pursue the subject.

When I came down before dinner he was talking to a lady in dark blue
silk, with black lace over it, a wreath curiously plaited of natural ivy
in her hair. I guessed her at once to be Flora Bellasys.

Let me try to paint--though abler artists have failed--the handsomest
brunette I have ever seen.

She was very tall; her figure magnificently developed, though
slender-waisted and lithe as a serpent. She walked as if she had been
bred in a _basquiña_, and her foot and ankle were hardly to be matched
on this side of the Pyrenees; the nose slightly aquiline, with thin,
transparent nostrils; and the forehead rather low--it looked more so,
perhaps, from the thick masses of dark hair which framed and shaded her
face. Under the clear, pale olive of the cheeks the rich blood mantled
now and then like wine in a Venice glass; and her lips--the outline of
the upper one just defined by a penciling of down, the lower one full
and pouting--glistened with the brilliant smoothness of a pomegranate
flower when the dew is clinging. Her eyes--the opium-eaters of Stamboul
never dreamed of their peers among the bevies of hachis-houris. They
were of the very darkest hazel; one moment sleeping lazily under their
long lashes, like a river under leaves of water-lilies; the next,
sparkling like the same stream when the sunlight is splintered on its
ripples into carcanets of diamonds. When they chose to speak, not all
the orators that have rounded periods since Isocrates could match their
eloquence; when it was their will to guard a secret, they met you with
the cold, impenetrable gaze that we attribute to the mighty mother,
Cybèle. Even a philosopher might have been interested--on purely
psychological grounds, of course--in watching the thoughts as they rose
one by one to the surface of those deep, clear wells (was truth at the
bottom of them?--I doubt), like the strange shapes of beauty that
reveal themselves to seamen, coyly and slowly, through the purple calm
of the Indian Sea.

Twice I have chosen a watery simile; but I know no other element
combining, as her glances did, liquid softness with lustre.

When near her, you were sensible of a strange, subtle, intoxicating
perfume, very fragrant, perfectly indefinable, which clung, not only to
her dress, but to every thing belonging to her. From what flowers it was
distilled no artist in essences alive could have told. I incline to
think that, like the "birk" in the ghost's garland,

     "They were not grown on earthly bank,
     Nor yet on earthly sheugh."

Guy took Miss Bellasys in to dinner, and I found myself placed on her
other side. I had been introduced to her ten minutes before, but had
little opportunity for "improving the occasion," as the Nonconformists
have it, for she never once deigned a look in my direction.

My right-hand neighbor was an elderly man of a full habit, whom it would
have been cruel to disturb till the rage of hunger was appeased, so I
was fain to seek amusement in the conversation going on on my left.
There was no indiscretion in this, for I knew Guy would never touch
secrets of state in mixed company.

For some time they talked nothing but commonplaces, evidently feeling
each other's foils. The real fencing began with a question from
Flora--if he was not surprised at seeing her there that evening.

"Not at all," was the reply; "I knew we must meet before long. It is
only parallels that don't; and there is very little of the right line
about either you or me."

"Speak for yourself," Miss Bellasys said; "I consider that a very rude
observation."

"Pardon me," retorted Guy; "I seldom say rude things--never
intentionally. I don't know which is in worst taste, that, or paying
point-blank compliments. Without being mathematical, you may have heard
that the line of beauty is a curve."

Flora laughed.

"It is difficult to catch you. What have you been doing since we
parted?"

"That is just the question that was on my lips, so nearly uttered that I
consider I spoke first. Now, will you confess, or must I cross-question
some one else? I _will_ know. It is easy to follow you, like an invading
army, by the trail of devastation."

"So you do care to know?" the soft voice said, that could make the
nerves of even an indifferent hearer thrill and quiver strangely.

After once listening to it, it was very easy to believe the weird
stories of Norse sorceresses, and German wood-spirits and pixies, luring
men to death with their fatally musical tones.

"Simple curiosity," Guy replied, coolly, "and a little compassion for
your victims. They might be friends of mine, you know."

Miss Bellasys bit her lip, half provoked, half amused, apparently, as
she answered, "The dead tell no tales."

"No, but the wounded do, and they cry out pretty loudly sometimes. I
suppose all the cases did not terminate fatally. Will you confess?"

"I have nothing to tell you," Flora said, very demurely and meekly,
only for once her eyes betrayed her. "Mamma took me down into
Devonshire, where we have an aunt or two, for sea-breezes and seclusion.
I rather liked at first having nothing on earth to do, and nothing--yes,
I understand--really nothing to think about. I used to sleep a great
deal, and then drive a little obstinate pony, to see views. But I don't
care much about views--do you? Then mamma was always wanting me to help
her look for shells and wild-flowers; and the rocks hurt my feet, and
the bushes never would leave me alone in the woods." She shuddered
slightly here.

"The Bushes! a Devonshire family of that name, I presume?" Guy
interrupted, with intense gravity. "How wrong of them! They are very
ill-regulated young men down in those parts, I believe."

"Don't be absurd; I never saw a creature for months between fifteen and
fifty. Are not those ages safe?" (A shake of the head from Livingstone.)
"I began to be very unhappy; I had no one to tease; my aunts are too
good-natured, and mamma is used to it. At last I had the greatest mind
to do something desperate--to write to you, for instance--merely to see
the household's horror when your answer came. You would have answered,
would you not? I should not have opened it, you know, but given it to
mamma, like a good child."

"Of course; I know you show all your letters to your mother. But that
ruralizing must have been fearful for you, _poverina_! People were
talking a good deal of agricultural distress, but this is the most
piteous case I've heard of. So there were really no men to govern in
that wood?"

"Not even a little boy," said Flora, decisively. "There were two or
three from Oxford in the neighborhood; I used to see them sitting
outside their lodgings in the sun, like rabbits, but they always ran in
before--"

"Before you could get a shot at them, you mean?" broke in Guy; "you
ought to have crept up, and stalked them cleverly."

Flora threw hack her handsome head. "I don't war with children. It went
on just as I tell you till we left for our round of winter visits, which
have been very stupid and correct--till now."

I hardly caught the two last words, she spoke them so low. There was
silence for several minutes, and then Guy leaned back to address me.

"Do you remember Arthur Darrell, of Christchurch, Frank, the man that
used to speak at the Union, and was always raving about ebon locks and
dark eyes?"

"I remember him well. I have not seen him for years; but I heard he was
getting on well in the law."

"He'll have time to get tired of brunettes--if any one ever _does_ get
tired of them--before he comes back," said Guy. "He's just gone out to
try the Indian bar."

"What could have put such an idea into his head?" I asked, very
innocently.

"I can't say," was the reply; "men do take such curious fancies. It was
a sudden determination, I believe. The beauties of the Eastern
hemisphere began to develop themselves to his weak mind last summer
while he was down with his people in--Devonshire."

Involuntarily I looked at Miss Bellasys. She saw she was detected; but,
instead of betraying any embarrassment, she turned upon Guy a queer
little imploring look, not indicative in the least of shame or
repentance, but such as might be put on by one of those truly excellent
people who do good by stealth and blush to find it known, when some of
their benevolent acts have come to light, and they wish to deprecate
praise.

Livingstone gazed piercingly at her for several instants without moving
a muscle of his face; suddenly its fixed and stern expression--you could
not say softened, but--broke up all at once like a sheet of ice
shivering.

"Let there be peace," he said, sententiously. "We forgive all the errors
of your long vacation in consideration of the good it has evidently done
you. You are looking brilliantly!"

There was an unusual softness, almost a tremor, in his deep voice as he
spoke the last words, and a look in his bold eyes that many trained
coquettes would have shrunk from--a look that I should be sorry and
angry to see turned on any woman in whom I felt an interest--a look such
as Selim Pasha might wear as the Arnauts defile into his harem-court,
bringing the fair Georgians home.

Flora Bellasys only smiled in saucy triumph.

"You say you never pay compliments," she answered, "and I always _try_
to believe you. We will suppose this one is only the truth extorted. My
glove--thank you." The same smile was on her lip as she turned her head
once in her haughty progress to the door.

As Guy sat down again, and filled a huge glass with claret, I heard him
mutter between his teeth, "_Royale, quand même_!"

"Close up, gentlemen, close up!" broke in the cheery voice of our rare
old host. "Livingstone, if you begin back-handing already, you'll never
be able to hold that great raking chestnut I saw your groom leading this
evening. The man looked as if he thought he would be eaten before he got
in."

"Whatever you do, drink fair," Guy answered, laughing; "so saith the
immortal Gamp. The squire's beginning to tremble for his '22 wine."

"I don't wonder," said Godfrey Parndon, the M.F.H. "I've always observed
that, after flirting disgracefully at dinner, you drink harder
afterward. It's to drown remorse, I suppose. So you ride that new horse
of yours to-morrow? My poor hounds!"

"Don't be alarmed," cried Guy; "he never kicks hounds, and I won't let
him go over them; it's only human strangers the amiable animal can't
endure: that's why I call him the Axeine. He is worth more than the £300
I gave for him."

"Well, he nearly spoiled two grooms for Hounscott," Parndon said. "The
stablemen at Revesby had a great beer the day they got rid of him."

"He wouldn't suit every one," remarked Livingstone--"not you, for
instance, Godfrey, who always ride with a loose rein. I was obliged to
give him his gallops myself at first; he's a devil to pull, and if he
once gets away with you, you may 'write to your friends.' But I've
nothing like him in my stable."

Then the conversation became general, revolving in a circle of
hound-and-horse talk, as it will do now and then in the shires.

"Guy," whispered Forrester, as we went up stairs, "there's a little
woman here who says she used to know you very well: won't you go and
talk to her?"

"Many little women say that," answered Guy; "it's a way they have. Which
is it, now?"

Charley pointed out a small, plump, rather pretty blonde, with long
ringlets, and light, laughing blue eyes. It seemed the lady's
reminiscences were well founded, for in five minutes Livingstone and she
were talking like old friends.

In the course of the evening I found myself near Miss Bellasys. This
time she did me the honor to address me, and soon began asking me more
questions than I could answer, even had she waited a reply. Did I like
Kerton Manor? Had there been many agreeable people there yet? Not any
remarkably so! She was surprised at that. Miss Raymond was there _en
permanence_, of course? She was such a favorite with her (Flora), and
with her cousin too, she thought. Was Mr. Livingstone always playing
with his uncle, and always losing? She supposed he liked losing--at
play. Did I know the lady in pink, with twenty-five flowers in her hair?
She had counted them. Yes, that was her husband, the stout man looking
uncomfortable, in the corner--an old friend of Mr. Livingstone's? He had
so many old friends; but he did not always talk to them for a whole
evening without intermission. Ah! she was going to sing; that is, if
Mr. Livingstone had quite finished with her, and would let her go.
Little women with pink cheeks and dresses always _did_ sing, and never
had any voice.

I don't know how many more questions she put to me in the same quiet,
clear tones; but just then I happened to look down on the handkerchief
she held in her hand, and I saw a long rent in its broad Valenciennes
border that I am very sure was not there an hour ago; for Flora's
toilette, morning and evening, was faultless to a degree.

I had hardly time to remark this when Guy lounged up to us. My
companion's dark eyes were more eloquent than her lips, which quivered
slightly as she said,

"I wonder you have not more consideration. A new arrival in the county,
and compromised irretrievably! Look at Mr. Stafford now."

"The husband?" Guy said, with intense disdain; "the husband's helpless.
He may sharpen his--tusks, but he'll never come to battle. How good and
great you are! It is quite refreshing to hear your strictures on
innocent amusements. But I beg you will speak of that lady with due
respect; she is the first--yes, positively the first--woman I ever
loved."

"_Monseigneur, que d'honneur!_" Flora said, curling her haughty lip.

"It is true," Guy went on. "At a children's ball, about fifteen years
ago, I met my fate. She was in white muslin, with a velvet bodice (Flora
shuddered visibly); for a year after I pictured to myself the angels in
no other attire, and now--years vitiate one's tastes so--I can fancy
nothing but a jockey in 'black body and white sleeves.' I suppose she
was very pretty; let us hope so; it is my only excuse for being
enchanted in ten minutes, and stupidly enslaved in half an hour. The
thing would not have been complete without a rival; he came--a plump,
circular-faced boy, with severely flaxen hair. No, you need not look
across the room--not the least like what she is now! Great jealousy may
make me unjust, but I don't think he had any advantage over me save one,
and he used that mercilessly. He wore collars boldly erect under his fat
checks, while those of the rest of us lay prostrate, after the simple
fashion of my childhood. The _prestige_ was too much for Ellen's weak
mind. (Did I tell you her name was Ellen?) Bottom monopolized Titania
for the rest of the evening. I could have beaten him with ease and
satisfaction to myself, but I refrained; and, rushing into the
supper-room, drained three glasses of weak negus with the energy of
despair.

"I have never suffered any thing since like the torment of the next two
hours. I saw her several times afterward, and might have made play,
perhaps, but the phantom of a round red face, with collars starched _à
l'outrance_, always came between us. It is only a slight satisfaction to
hear that she has utterly lost sight of my rival, and promises to cut
him dead the first time they meet. There's the history of a young heart
blighted--of a crushed affection! I am not aware if there is any moral
in it; if there is, you are very welcome to it, I am sure. You might
look a little more sympathizing, though, even if I _have_ bored you."

Flora tried to look grave, but the dancing light in her rebellious eyes
betrayed her, even before her merry musical laugh broke in.

"It is far the most touching thing I ever heard. Poor child, how you
must have suffered! I wonder you ever smiled again. How well she sings,
does she not? when she does not try to go too high."

"Don't be severe," Guy retorted; "you may have to sing yourself some
day. You prefer talking, though? Well, with a well-managed _contralto_,
it comes nearly to the same thing, and I suppose you consider the world
in general is not worthy of it?"

Almost imperceptibly, but very meaningly, her glance turned to where I
sat close beside her.

"How absurd! you know why I don't sing often. To-night it would be--too
cruel. (Flora's idea of modest merit was peculiar.) Now tell me, what
are you going to ride to-morrow? We shall all go and see them throw
off."

Without answering her question, he leaned over her, and said something
too low for me to hear, which made her color brighten.

From a distant corner two ancient virgins, long past "mark of mouth,"
surveyed the proceedings with faces like moulds of lemon-ice. Flora
glanced toward them this time, and said demurely, making a gesture of
crossing her arms a _à la Napoléon I._, "Take care; from the summit of
yonder sofa forty ages behold you."

The caution was a challenge; and so her hearer interpreted it as he sank
down beside her.

I seemed to be lapsing rapidly into the terrible _third_ that spoils
sport, so I left them; but not all the adjurations of Godfrey Parndon
invoking his favorite antagonist to the whist-table could draw Guy from
his post again that evening.

I know men who would have given five years of life for the whisper that
glided into his ear as he gave Miss Bellasys her candle on retiring, ten
for the Parthian glance that shot its arrow home.



CHAPTER IX.

     "I know the purple vestment;
       I know the crest of flame;
     So ever _rides_ Mamilius,
       Prince of the Latian name."


The next was a perfect hunting morning; a light breeze, steady from the
southwest, and not too much sun; the very day when a scent, in and out
of cover, would be a certainty, if there were any calculation on this
contingency. Let us do our sisters justice--there is _one_ thing in
nature more uncertain and capricious than the whims of womankind.

The hounds had come up with their usual train of officials, and of those
steady-going sportsmen who love the pack better than their own children,
and can call each individual in it by his name. Godfrey Parndon was
doing the civil to the "great men in Israel," his heaviest subscribers;
pinks were gleaming in every direction through the clumps and belts of
plantation, as the men came up at a hard gallop on their cover-hacks, or
opened the pipes of their hunters by a stretch over the turf of the
park.

On the hall steps stood Flora Bellasys--Penthesilea in a wide-awake and
plume; a dozen men were round her, striving emulously for a word or a
smile, and she held her own gallantly with them all. She was waiting
patiently till Guy had lighted an obstinate cigar, and was ready to
mount her. He understood putting her up better than any one else, she
said. Perhaps he did; but, though he swung her into the saddle with one
wave of his mighty arm as lightly as Lochinvar could have done, the
arrangement of the skirt and stirrup seemed a problem hardly to be
solved.

If there was any truth in the old Courland superstition that the display
of a lady's ankle to the hunters before they started brought them luck,
we ought to have had the run of the season that day.

He rode by her side, too, as near as the plunges of the chestnut would
allow, till we reached the gorse that we were to draw; once there, the
stronger passion prevailed. Aphroditè hid her face, and the great
goddess Artemis claimed her own. As the first hound whimpered, he drew
off toward a corner, where a big fence would give a chance of shaking
off the crowd, and I do not think he turned his head till the fox went
away.

The last thing I remember there was the anxious look in two beautiful
hazel eyes as they gazed after the Axeine, charging his second fence
with the rush of an express train.

The _fétiche_ did not fail us; we had a wonderful run, of which only
five men saw the end. I confess, the second brook stopped me and many
others. Forrester got over with a fall; but they were preparing to break
up the fox, when he came up first of the second flight.

Guy came home in great spirits; he had been admirably carried. He and
the first whip, a ten-stone man, were head and head at the last fence,
while the hounds were rolling over their fox, a hundred yards farther,
in the open.

After dinner he amused himself with teasing his cousin. At last he
asked her if she would lend him Bella Donna to hack to cover, as his own
favorite was rather lame.

Miss Raymond's indignation was superb; for, be it known, she was prouder
of the said animal than of any thing else in the world.

She (the mare, not the lady) was a bright bay, with black points, quite
thorough-bred, and as handsome as a picture. Livingstone had bought her
out of a training-stable, and had given her to his cousin, after having
broken her into a perfect light-weight hunter.

One of the few extravagances in which Mr. Raymond indulged his daughter
was allowing her to take Bella Donna wherever she went.

"Don't excite yourself, you small Amazon!" replied Guy to her indignant
refusal. "How you do believe in that mare! I wonder you don't put her
into some of the great Spring Handicaps! You would get her in light, and
might win enough to keep you in gloves for half a century."

"Well, I don't know," Forester's slow, languid voice suggested; "I think
she's faster, for three miles, than any thing in your stable. I should
like to run the best you have for £50, weight for inches."

"I am not surprised at your supporting Bella's opinion," said Guy, with
a shade of sarcasm in his voice, "but I did not expect you would back
it. Come, I'll make this match, if you like; you shall ride
catch-weight, which will be about 11 st. 7 lb., and I'll ride the Axeine
at 14 st. 7 lb.: I must take a 7 lb. saddle to do that. They are both in
hard condition, so it can come off in ten days; and I'll give the
farmers a cup to run for at the same time. Is it a match?"

"Certainly, if Miss Raymond will trust me with Bella Donna."

Isabel's eyes sparkled--so brilliantly! as she answered, "I should like
it, of all things."

"Now, Puss," Guy went on, "you ought to have something on it. There is a
certain set of turquoises and pearls that I meant to give you whenever
you had been good for three weeks consecutively; it is no use waiting
for such a miracle, so I'll bet you these against that sapphire and
diamond ring you have taken to wearing lately."

His cousin looked distressed and confused. "Any thing else, Guy," she
said. "I can not risk that; it was a present from--from Mrs. Molyneux."

"I don't think," Charley suggested, very quietly, "Mrs.--Molyneux, was
it not?--could object to your investing her present on such a certainty.
I really believe we shall bring it off; and if not--" He checked himself
with a smile.

"Oh, if you think so," answered Isabel, blushing more than ever, "I will
venture my ring. But you _must_ win; I don't know what I should do if I
lost it." So it was settled.

"You seem confident," I remarked to Livingstone, later in the evening. I
remember the peculiar expression of his face, though I did not then
understand it, as he answered gravely,

"Bella ought to be; for--she has laid long odds."

There was great excitement in the neighborhood when the match, and the
farmers' race to follow, became known. Half the county was assembled on
the appointed morning, an off-day with the Pytchley. Godfrey Parndon was
judge, and had picked the ground--a figure of 8, with 17 fences, large
but fair for the most part; the horses were to traverse it twice,
missing the brook (16 feet of clear water) the second time.

I wish they were not getting so rare, those purely country meetings,
where three wagons with an awning make the grant stand; where there are
no ring-men to force the betting and deafen you with their blatant
proffers--"to lay agin any thing in the race;" where the bold yeomen, in
full confidence that their favorite will not be "roped," back their
opinions manfully for crowns.

Livingstone's great local renown, and the reputation of the Axeine for
strength and speed (though no one knew how fast he _could_ go), made the
betting 5 to 4 on him; but takers were not wanting, calculating on the
horse's truly Satanic temper. Miss Bellasys, who, with her mother, had
arrived at Kerton the night before, laid half a point more--_not_ in
gloves--on the heavy-weight.

The bell for saddling rang, and the horses came out. The mare stripped
beautifully, as fine as a star--no wonder her mistress was proud of her;
and I think she had, to the full, as many admirers as the Axeine.

The latter was a dark chestnut with a white fetlock, standing full 16
hands (while the mare scarcely topped 15), well ribbed up, with a good
sloping shoulder, immense flat hocks, and sinewy thighs; his crest and
forehand were like a stallion's; and, when you looked at his quarters,
it was easy to believe what the Revesby stablemen said, "They could
shoot a man into the next county."

He was "orkarder than usual that morning," the groom remarked; perhaps
he did not fancy the crowd without the hounds, for he kept lashing out
perpetually, with vicious backward glances from his red eyes.

Then the riders showed: Livingstone in his own colors, purple and
scarlet cap, workmanlike and weather-stained; Forrester in the fresh
glories of light blue with white sleeves, his cap quartered with the
same.

Charley lingered a minute by Miss Raymond's side, taking her last
instructions, I suppose. She looked very nervous and pale, her jockey
pleasantly languid as ever.

The instant the chestnut was mounted he reared, and indulged in two or
three "buck-jumps" that would have made a weaker man tremble for his
back-bone, and then kicked furiously; but Guy seemed to take it all as a
matter of course, sitting square and erect; all he did was to drive the
sharp rowels in repeatedly, bringing a dark blood-spot out with each
stroke. It was not by love certainly that he ruled the Axeine. Then came
the preliminary gallops, the mare going easily on her bit, gliding over
the ground smoothly and springily; the horse shaking his head, and every
now and then tearing madly at the reins, without being able to gain a
hair's breadth on the iron hands that never moved from his withers.

"They're off!" Guy taking the lead; well over the first two fences, fair
hunting ones; the third is a teaser--an ugly black bulfinch, with a
ditch on the landing side, and a drop into a plowed field. The
chestnut's devil is thoroughly roused by this time. When within sixty
yards of the fence, he puts on a rush that even his rider's mighty
muscles can not check: his impetus would send him through a castle wall;
but he hardly rises at the leap, taking it, too, where there is a
network of growers--a crash that might be heard in the grand stand--and
horse and man are rolling in the field beyond.

Flora Bellasys strikes her foot angrily with her riding-whip, and turns
very pale.

Ten lengths behind, the mare comes up, well in hand, and slips through
the bulfinch without a mistake--hardly with an effort--just at the only
place where you can see daylight through the blackthorn.

What is Guy doing? Even in that thundering fall he has never let the
reins go. Horse and rider struggle up together. A dozen arms are ready
to lift him into the saddle, and a cheery voice says in his ear, "Hold
up, squire; keep him a going, and you'll catch the captain yet!" He
hardly hears the words though, for his head is whirling, and he feels
strangely sick and faint; but before he has gone a hundred yards his
face has settled into its habitual resolute calmness, only there is a
thin thread of blood creeping from under his cap, and his brow is bent
and lowering.

A fall, which would have taken the fight out of most horses, has only
steadied the Axeine; and, as we watch him striding through the deep
ground, casting the dirt behind him like a catapult we think and say,
"The race is not over yet."

They are over the brook without a scramble. Forrester still leads,
riding patiently and well. He knows better than to force the running,
even with the difference in weight, for the going is too heavy quite to
suit his mare.

As Livingstone passed the spot where Miss Raymond was stationed, he
turned half round in his saddle, and looked curiously in her face. She
did not even know he was near. All her soul was in her eyes, that were
gazing after Forrester with an anxiety so disproportioned to the
occasion that her cousin fairly started.

"Poor child," he said to himself, all his angry feelings changing, "she
seems to have set her heart so upon winning, it would be sad if she were
disappointed. No one has much on it; shall I try 'Captain Armstrong' for
once? It would make her very happy. Bar accidents, I must win. They do
not know that the chestnut has not extended himself yet."

We lose sight of the horses for a little. When we see them a gain, the
mare has decidedly gained ground; and, to our astonishment, the Axeine
swerves, and refuses at rather an easy fence.

Miss Bellasys' cheek flushes this time. She goes off at a sharp canter
through a gate that takes her into a field where the horses must pass
her close; several of her attendants follow. Charley comes up, looking
rather more excited and happy than usual. He has made the pace better
for the last half mile, and still seems going at his ease. More than a
distance behind is the chestnut, evidently on bad terms with his jockey;
he is in a white lather of foam, and changes his leg twice as he
approaches. Guy has his face turned slightly aside as he nears the spot
where Miss Bellasys waits for him, in the midst of her body-guard. For
the first time since the race began, her voice was heard, cutting the
air with its clear mocking tones, like the edge of a Damascus sabre,
"The chestnut wins--hard held!"

Guy's kindly impulses vanished instantly before the sarcasm latent in
those last two words. He could sacrifice his own victory and the hopes
of his backers, but he would not give a chance to Flora's merciless
tongue. We saw him change his hold on the reins, and, with a shake and a
fierce thrust of the spurs, he set the Axeine fairly going.

Every man on the ground, including his late owner [who hated himself
bitterly at that moment for parting with him], was taken by surprise by
the extraordinary speed the horse displayed. He raced up to Bella Donna
just before the last fence, at which she hangs ever so little, while he
takes it in his swing, covering good nine yards from hoof to hoof.
Nothing but hurdles now between them and home. The down-hill run-in
favors his vast stride. A thousand voices echo Flora's words, "The
chestnut wins!" Charley made his effort exactly at the right time, and
the brave little mare answered gallantly; but it was not to be. He shook
his head, and never touched her with whip or spur again.

The race was over. No one disputed the judge's fiat: "The Axeine by six
lengths."

Up to the skies went the hats and the shouts of the sturdy yeomen, who
"know'd he couldn't be beat," exulting in the success of their
favorite. Round winner and loser crowded their friends, congratulating
the one, condoling with the other, praising both for their riding. At
that moment I do not think any one except myself remarked Isabel
Raymond, who sat somewhat apart, her tears falling fast under her veil
as she looked upon her lost ring.

Just then Forrester rode up. "Woe to the vanquished!" he said. "All is
lost but honor. Will you say something kind to me after my defeat, Miss
Raymond? You will find your pet not punished in the least, and without a
scratch on her."

Without answering, she held out her hand. As he bent over it, and
whispered, what I could not hear, I saw her eyes sparkle, and a happy
consciousness flush her cheeks, till they glowed like a sky at sunset
when a storm is passing away in the west. Then I knew that he had won a
richer prize than ever was set on a race since the first Great
Metropolitan was run for at Olympia.

Livingstone had washed away the traces of his fall (his wound was only a
cut under the hair, above the temple), and was going to get the horses
in line to start them for the farmers' cup. As he passed Miss Bellasys
he checked his horse for an instant, and said, very coldly,

"You are satisfied, I trust?"

"All's well that ends well," answered Flora; "but I began to tremble for
my bets. I thought you were waiting too long."

Guy did not wish to pursue the subject apparently, for he rode on
without reply. Flora made no attempt to detain him. She had studied the
signs of the times in his countenance long enough to be weather-wise,
and to know that the better part of valor was advisable when the
quicksilver had sunk to Stormy.

The cup was a great success. Eleven started, and three made a most
artistic finish--scarcely a length between first and third. The farmers
of the present day ride very differently from their ancestors of fifty
years ago, whose highest ambition was to pound along after the slow,
sure "currant-jelly dogs."

Go down into the Vale of Belvoir; watch one of the duke's tenants
handing a five-year old over the Smite, and say if the modern
agriculturists might not boast with Tydides,

     _"hêmeis dê paterôn meg' ameinones euchometh' einai."_

They are getting so erudite, too, that I dare say they would quote it in
the original.

When all was over, and they were returning to Kerton, Guy ranged up to
his cousin's side. He looked rather embarrassed and penitent--an
expression which sat upon his stern, resolute face very strangely. But
Isabel was radiant with happiness, and did not even sigh as she held out
the forfeited ring. He put it back with a decided gesture of his hand,
and, leaning over her, whispered something in her ear. I don't know how
they arranged it; but Miss Raymond wore the turquoises at the next
county ball--the ring, to her dying day.



CHAPTER X.

     "Souvent femme varie;
     Bien fol est, qui s'y fie."


We sat by the firelight in the old library of Kerton Manor. The dreary
January evening was closing in, with a sharp sleet lashing the windows
and rattling on their diamond panes, but the gleams from the great
burning logs lighted up the dark crimson cushions of Utrecht and the
polished walnut panels so changefully and enticingly that no one had the
heart to think of candles.

All the younger members of the party were assembled there, with Mrs.
Bellasys to play propriety. It was her mission to be chaperon in
ordinary to her daughter and her daughter's friends, and she went
through with it, admirable in her patient self-denial. May they be
reckoned to her credit hereafter--those long hours, when she sat sleepy,
weary, uncomplaining, with an aching head but a stereotyped smile.

Let us speak gently of these maternal martyrs, manoeuvring though they
be. If they have erred, they have suffered. I knew once a lady with a
lot of six, nubile, but not attractive, all with a decided bias toward
Terpsichore and Hymen. Fancy what she must have endured, with those
plain young women round her, always clamoring for partners, temporary or
permanent, like fledglings in a nest for food. Clever and unscrupulous
as she was--they called her the "judicious Hooker"--she must have been
conscious of her utter inability to satisfy them. She knew, too, that
if, by any dispensation, one were removed, five daughters of the
horse-leech would still remain, with ravenous appetites unappeased. Yet
the poor old bird was cheerful, and sometimes, after supper, would chirp
quite merrily. _Honneur au courage malheureux._ Let us stand aside in
the cloak-room, and salute her as she passes out with all the honors of
war.

Mrs. Bellasys was a little woman, who always reminded me of a certain
tropical monkey--name unknown. She wore her hair bushily on each side of
her small face, just like the said intelligent animal, and had the same
eager, rather frightened way of glancing out of her beady black eyes,
accompanied by a quick turning of the head when addressed. She had her
full share of troubles in her time, but she took them all
contentedly--not to say complacently--as part of the day's work. Her
husband was not a model of fidelity, nor, indeed, of any of the conjugal
or cardinal virtues. He was a sort of Maëlstrom, into which fair
fortunes and names were sucked down, only emerging in unrecognizable
fragments. His own would have gone too, doubtless; but he had been lucky
at play for a long time--too constantly so, some said--and a pistol
bullet cut him short before he had half spent his wife's money, so that
she was left comfortably off, and her daughter was a fair average
heiress. She had long ago abdicated the government in favor of Flora,
who treated her well on the whole, _en bonne princesse_.

It is an invariable rule that, if there is a delicate subject which we
determine beforehand to avoid, this particular one is sure
imperceptibly to creep into the conversation.

Mr. Bruce was to arrive before dinner, an event which we guessed would
not add materially to the comfort of two of our party (how silent those
two were in their remote corner where the firelight never came), so of
course we found ourselves talking of ill-assorted marriages.

"You count _mésalliances_ among such?" Guy asked, at length. "Yes, you
are right; but I know a case where 'a man's being balked in his
intention to degrade himself' ruined him for life. Ralph Mohun told me
of it. It was a nine-days' wonder in Vienna soon after he joined the
Imperial Cuirassiers. A Bohemian count flourished there then--a great
favorite with every one, for he was frank and generous, like most boys
well-born and of great possessions, who have only seen things in general
on the sunny side. While down at his castle for the shooting, he fell in
love with the daughter of one of his foresters. The man was a dull,
brutal cur, and, when drunk, especially savage. His daughter was rarely
beautiful; at all events, the count, a good judge, thought her peerless.

"He meant fairly by the girl from the first, and promised her marriage,
actually intending to keep his word. Still there were arrangements to be
made before he could introduce such a novel element into blood that for
centuries had been pure as the _sangue azzura_. He went up to Vienna for
that purpose, leaving his design a profound secret to all his
dependents. If these thought about it at all, they probably believed
their master's intentions to be--like Dick Harcourt's toward the Irish
lady--'strictly dishonorable.'

"One night during his absence shrieks came from the cottage where the
forester lived alone with his daughter. Those who heard them made haste;
but it was a desolate spot, far from any other dwelling, and they came
too late.

"They found the girl lying in her blood, not a feature of her pretty
face recognizable. Near her were the butt of a gun shivered, and her
father senselessly drunk. He had evidently finished the bottle after
beating her to death.

"Whether it was merely an outbreak of his stupid ferocity, or if she had
exasperated him by her threats and taunts, for she was of a haughty
spirit, poor child! and perhaps rather elevated by the thought of the
coming coronet, will never be known. The murderer was in no state to
make a confession, and he remained obstinately silent in prison till his
lord's return."

"How very horrible!" Mrs. Bellasys cried out, shuddering; "was not the
count very angry?"

"Well, he _was_ rather vexed," replied Guy, coolly. "They are high
justiciaries on their own lands, those great Bohemian barons, and so he
gave the forester a fair trial. It was soon over; the man denied
nothing, only whining out, in excuse, that he thought his daughter was
dishonored. The shadow of death was closing round him, and he was nearly
mad with fear.

"The old steward saw a strange sort of smile twist his master's white,
quivering lips when he heard this, but he never said a word. I imagine
he thought to reveal his purpose now that it was crushed too great a
sacrifice even to clear the dead girl's fair fame; perhaps, though, he
could not trust his voice, for he did not announce the sentence in
words, but wrote it down: his hand shook very much, and it never carried
a full glass unspilled to his mouth again.

"The court broke up at midday, and the man went straight, unconfessed,
to the place of his punishment. They tied him to the tree nearest his
own door, and the count sat by while he howled his life out under the
lash. He was hardly dead by sundown."

"It was revenge, not justice," Mrs. Bellasys said, more firmly than was
her wont. I saw the quick, impatient movement of her daughter's little
foot; she did not appreciate her mother's moralities.

The answer came in the deepest of Livingstone's deep, stern tones.

"He was no saint, but a man, and a very miserable one; he acted
according to his light, and in his despair caught at the weapon that was
nearest to his hand. After all, the blood of a base, brutal hound, take
it in what fashion you will, is a poor compensation for one life cut
short in agony, and another blasted utterly.

"Mohun knew the count's family. Some of them, maiden aunts I suppose,
were devotees of the first order: these came in person, or sent their
pet priests, to argue with him on his unchristian habits of sullen
solitude. The men of his old set came too, to laugh him out of the
horrors. Saint and sinner got the same answer--a shake of the head, a
curse, a threat if he were not left alone, growled out between deep
draughts of strong Moldavian wine. They went, and were wise; for his
pistols lay always beside him--in case his servants offended him, or if
he should take a sudden fancy to suicide--and the shaking finger could
have pulled a trigger still.

"After a little he left Vienna, shut himself up in his castle, and would
see no one.

"In England they would have tried at the '_de lunatico_' statute; but
his next of kin left him in peace, biding their time as patiently as
they could. They had not to wait long; in four years a good constitution
broke up, suddenly at last, and the count exchanged stupor for a sleep
with his fathers, without benefit of clergy. Perhaps they would not have
given him absolution, for he died certainly not in charity with all
men."

"I don't know," Mrs. Bellasys objected, with a timid obstinacy; "I can
not argue with you; but I am sure it was very wrong."

I struck in to the meek little woman's rescue.

"That's right, Mrs. Bellasys, don't let him put you down with the high
hand; it's always his way when truth is against him; but I never knew
him break down a stubborn fact yet."

Guy turned upon me directly.

"Frank, I have often remarked in you, with pain, quite a feminine
propensity to theorize. Women _will_ do it. My dear Mrs. Bellasys, don't
look so dreadfully like an accusing angel about to bring me to book; you
know I am a hopeless heretic. They get up a sort of _Memoria Technica_
in early youth, and it clings to them all their life through. If they go
astray, they never cease proclaiming aloud that 'they know it's very
wrong;' though eminently unpractical, they think it due to themselves to
pet certain abstract truths (circumstances don't affect them in the
least), like that priestess of Cotytto, who said to the magistrate,
through her tears, 'I may have been unfortunate, but I've always been
respectable!' Sometimes principle gets the pull over passion, but, in
such a case, regrets come as often afterward as remorse does in the
reverse. I was reading a French story the other day--" He checked
himself with a laugh. "Bah! I am in the prosaic vein, it seems,
anecdoting like the old knave of clubs."

"Will you go on?" Flora said, leaning over toward him, her eyes
glittering in the firelight.

The thrill in her voice--strangely contagious it was--told how much she
was interested. I do not wonder at it. There was only one man on earth
for whom she had ever really cared--he sat beside her then--and, I
believe, what attracted her most in him was the daring disregard of
opinions, conventionalities, and more sacred things yet, which carried
him on straight to the accomplishment of his thought or purpose. In
those days, if either were an obstacle, he flinched no more before a
great moral law than at a big fence.

"Well," Guy went on, "it is the simple history of Fernande, an _ange
déchue_ of the Quartier Brèda. She had formed a connection with a man
who suited her perfectly in every way, and they went on in happy
immorality, till she found out that Maurice had a wife somewhere, a very
charming person, who loved him dearly; perhaps she thought that the
possession of two such affections by one man was _de luxe_; at all
events, she cut him at once, refusing consistently to see him again.
Maurice, after trying all other means to move her in vain, resorted to
the expedient of a brain fever. When his wife and mother saw him very
near his end, they sent for Fernande as a last resource. They ought to
have preferred death to dishonor, of course; but, my dear Mrs. Bellasys,
they were not strong-minded. What would you have? There are women and
women.

"She came and nursed him faithfully; when he got better, though still
very weak, she took advantage of his unprotected position to inflict on
him the longest lectures, replete with good sense and good feeling, as
to his conjugal duties, proprieties, and so forth. He gave in at last,
on the principle of 'any thing for a quiet life,' and promised to behave
himself like a decent head of a family. When the balance of power was
thoroughly re-established, she left him, first entreating him, when he
found himself really in love with his wife, and happy, to write and tell
her so. This was to be her reward, you know. The others went to Italy,
Fernande to a place she had in Brittany, where she put herself on a
strict _régime_ of penitence, attending matins regularly, and doing as
much good in her neighborhood as Lady Bountiful, or--my mother. In about
a twelvemonth the letter came; Maurice was devoted to his wife, and
great on the point of domestic felicity. Then Fernande went into her
oratory and prayed. What do you think was the substance of her prayer?"

"That she might go mad or die," was the quick answer: it came from Flora
Bellasys.

"How good of you," Guy said, "to let me finish that long story, when you
knew it by heart."

I think no ear but his and mine caught the whisper--"I never read or
heard of it till now."

He bent his head in assent, as if the intelligence did not surprise him
much, and then spoke suddenly,

"Charley, will you make an observation? You have been displaying that
incontestable talent of yours for silence long enough."

Very seldom was Forrester taken by surprise, but this time his reply was
not ready. There was an embarrassing pause, broken by a _Deus ex
machinâ_,--the butler announcing that Mr. Bruce had arrived, and was in
the drawing-room.



CHAPTER XI.

     "And now thou knowest thy father's will,
       All that thy sex hath need to know:
     'Twas mine to teach obedience still--
       The way to love thy lord may show."


From that dark distant corner I heard a sigh, ending in a nervous
catching of the breath, and then a muttered word unpleasantly like an
oath, as Forrester sprang to his feet.

Livingstone rose slowly.

"I'll go and receive him. Let Mr. Raymond know, Wise. I suppose he will
not care to see any one else before dressing-time; it must be near that
now."

As he passed his cousin, he whispered something inaudible to us; and I
saw his heavy hand fall on Charley's shoulder, crushing him down again
like a child.

Then Flora went to Miss Raymond, and asked her, with more kindness in
her manner than usual, to come to her rooms for some tea; they always
seriously inclined to the consumption of that cheerful herb about this
hour. Isabel clung to her companion as they went out with a meek
helplessness which was sad to see.

Charley had vanished before them. After that first involuntary movement
he had become _nonchalant_ as ever, so I remained alone to ruminate. I
confess, after some thought, I was still in the dark as to where things
would end.

The meeting had been got over somehow, for, when I came down before
dinner, Bruce was sitting on a sofa by Miss Raymond's side.

Why does a man in such a position invariably look as if he were on the
stool of repentance, expiating some misdeed of unutterable shame? He has
sat by the same woman before, when it was only a strong flirtation; more
eyes, curious and spiteful, were upon him then, and he met them with
perfect self-possession. Now that he is in his right, why does he look
blushingly uneasy, as if he would call on the curtains to hide him, and
the cushions to cover him? Have any mortals existed so good, or great,
or wise, as to be exempt from that dreadful poll-tax levied on all males
unprivileged to woo by proxy--the necessity of looking ridiculous from
the moment their engagement is announced to that when they leave the
church as Benedicts? I should like to have watched Burke, or Herschel,
or the Iron Duke, or _any_ Archbishop of Canterbury, through the ordeal
of a recognized courtship. Would the dignity of the statesman, the sage,
the soldier, or the saint have been sustained? I trow not.

In truth, it is a sight full of sad warning, that ever-recurring
spectacle of an engaged man (the lady is always provokingly at her ease)
in general society. His friends turn away in compassion and charity; the
girls, whom he ought to have married and--didn't, look on, exchanging
smiles with their mothers; it is their hour of savage triumph. The
French manage things more comfortably, I think. The promessi sposi meet
so seldom before the contract is signed--between sentence and execution
the time is so brief that there is little space for intermediate
terrors.

Nature had not been bountiful to Mr. Bruce in externals. He was very
tall, with round shoulders, long, lean limbs, large feet and hands, and
immense joints. There was a good deal of strength about him, but it
wanted concentration and arrangement. His features were rather
exaggerated and coarse in outline, with the high cheek-bones common on
the north side of the Tweed; his hair of an unhappy vacillating color
that could not make its mind up to be red; and his eyes, that rarely met
you fairly, of a light cold gray. About the mouth, in particular, there
was a very unpleasant expression, alternately vicious and cunning.

I do not believe that his intimates, if he had any, in their wildest
moments of conviviality, ever called him "Jack;" nor his mother, in his
earliest childhood, "Johnnie." Plain "John Bruce" was written
uncompromisingly in every line of his face; just the converse of
Forrester, whom old maids of rigid virtue, after seeing him twice, were
irresistibly impelled to speak of as "Charley."

I wish some profound psychologist would give us his theory on the
question of "The influence of nomenclature on disposition and destiny."
It is all very well to ask, "What's in a name?" I think there is a great
deal; and that our sponsors have much to answer for in indulging their
baptismal fancies. Not to go into the subject (which some have already
done without exhausting it), have you not remarked that Georgiana is
always pretty and slightly sarcastic; that Isabella has large, soft,
lustrous eyes--generally they are dark; that Fanny invariably flirts;
and that Kate is decided in character, if not haughty?

Tragedy and comedy both are forced to observe these nominal
proprieties. Who was it that illuminated his house, and had the church
bells rung, on finding a name for his hero? We should never have
believed in Iago's treacheries if he had appeared before us as simple
"James."

The new arrival seemed to have chilled us all into stupidity. Dinner
languished; and afterward, Guy, after trying at first to be laboriously
civil--the sense of duty was painfully evident--lapsed into silence,
passing the claret rather faster than usual, so that Mr. Raymond, to his
intense disgust, had to make an effort and force the conversation.

When we entered, Isabel was nestling under Miss Bellasys' wing, from
which shelter she had to emerge at Bruce's request for some music. She
went directly, and played several pieces that he asked for straight
through, while he stood gravely behind her with a complacent air of
proprietorship which was inexpressibly aggravating.

When her task was done she went back to her sofa again; there she was
safe, for all Bruce's devotion to his ladye-love and stubbornness of
character could not give him courage enough to affront, at close
quarters, the mingled dislike and scornful humor that played round
Flora's lips, and gleamed in her eyes like summer lightning. He had to
retreat upon Lady Catharine, who, thinking him hardly used, in her
inextinguishable charity exerted herself to entertain him.

We were all glad when that first evening was over, and we got into the
smoking-room, whither Mr. Bruce was not entreated to follow. It was
always an augury of foul weather in Livingstone's temper when, instead
of the decent evening cigar, he smoked the short black _brule-gueule_,
loaded to the muzzle with cavendish. He sat thus for some minutes,
rolling out stormy puffs from under his mustache, and then broke out,

"I haven't an idea what to do with him" (there was no need to name the
object of his thoughts); "I made up my mind to risk a horse or two, for,
of course, he would have broken their knees; but when I offered him a
mount, he thanked me and said, 'He didn't hunt.' It would have got him
away from home, at all events. Poor Bella! how heavy on hand she _will_
find him."

"Ah! and he might have come to a timely end over timber; Providence does
interfere so benevolently sometimes." This was Forrester's pious
reflection.

"Well, that's over," Guy went on. "He must shoot, though; every one
shoots, or thinks he does. We have all the pheasants to kill yet
(by-the-by, Fallowfield comes over on Thursday for the Home Wood); that
will keep him employed for some time; but it's only putting off the evil
day. My match-making aunt, of blessed memory, how much she has to answer
for! I hate to think of Bella's _mignonne_ face alongside of that
flinty-cheeked Scotchman's."

"Don't be angry, Guy," suggested Charley, with some diffidence; "but, if
it's not an impertinent question, do you think he ever tries to kiss
your cousin?"

"I never thought of that," replied Livingstone, not without an oath;
"there's another pleasant reflection. No, I should think not. He _is_
ceremonious, to give the devil his due. I'll find out to-morrow, though,
without making Bella blush. Miss Bellasys is sure to know. I saw them
exchanging confidences all this evening, and I am certain there were
instigations to rebellion. Flora would delight in an _émeute_; she's a
perfect Red Republican, that girl."

"The opposition seems organizing," I remarked; "ministers will find
themselves soon, I fear, without a working majority."

"Not unlikely," said Guy, filling another pipe; "but they won't resign.
Some men never know when they are beaten. Well, he who lives will see.
If this wind lasts, we shall have a cracker from Lilbourne to-morrow.
You ride the young one, don't you, Charley?"



CHAPTER XII.

                            "A life whose waste
     Ravaged each bloom by which its path was traced,
     Sporting at will, and moulding sport to art,
     With what sad holiness--the human heart."


It is a bright, crisp morning, and there is a gathering round the hall
door of Kerton Manor.

To the right is Sir Henry Fallowfield, already established on the broad
tack of his shooting pony, an invaluable animal, that can leap or creep
wherever a man can go, and steady under fire as old Copenhagen. The
baronet is very gouty. The whip made out of his favorite vices cuts him
up sharply at times, and he does not like it alluded to. I never saw him
look so savage at Guy as when the latter quoted, _"Raro antecedentem
scelestum Deseruit pede poena claudo."_ Of course, he can not walk
much; but, placed in a ride, or at the corner of a cover, he rolls over
the hares and pulls down the pheasants unerringly as ever; when you come
up, you will find him surrounded by a semicircle of slain, and not a
runner among them.

The battle of life has left its tokens on the face of the strong,
skillful Protagonist. The features, once so finely cut, are somewhat
full and bloated now; but it is a magnificent ruin, and there are traces
yet of "the handsomest man of his day." Very expressive are his glances
still; a little too much so, some people think, when he is criticising a
figure or a face; but, to do him justice, _gourmandise_ is his pet
weakness now, a comparatively harmless one; and a delicate _entremet_
will bring the light into his eyes that only war or love could do in the
old days.

By Sir Henry's side, encouraging him with great prophecies of sport,
stands Mallett, the head-keeper. What a contrast his fresh, honest face
makes with the veteran _roué's_! He is the elder of the two by a good
ten years, and there is scarcely a wrinkle on his ruddy cheeks and
smooth forehead. Wind and weather have used him with a rough kindness,
and his foot is almost as light, his hand quite as heavy, as when he
entered the service of Guy's grandfather half a century ago. For
generations his family have been devoted to the preservation of game;
his six stalwart sons are all eminent in that line; and the "Kerton
breed" of keepers is renowned throughout the Midland shires. He is a
prime favorite with the village children and their mothers, for, in all
respects save one, his heart is as soft as a woman's; to poachers it is
as the nether millstone. There is the stain of a "justifiable homicide"
on the old man's hands--the blood of an antagonist slain in fair fight,
in those rough times when the forest was, and marauders came out by
scores to strike its deer. I do not think the deed has weighed heavily
on his conscience (though he never has spoken of it since), or troubled
his healthy, honest slumbers.

To the left is Guy, repressing the attentions of four couple of strong
red and white spaniels, but _not_ those of Miss Bellasys, who, standing
at the oriel window of the library, is good-natured enough to fasten the
band of his wide-awake for him, which has come undone. As he stands
with his towering head a little bent, murmuring the "more last words,"
Sir Henry, contemplating the picture with much satisfaction, smacks his
lips, and suggests "Omphale."

Last of all, Mr. Raymond comes slowly down the staircase, followed by
his son-in-law that is to be. Forrester and I have been ready long ago,
so we start.

Bruce did shoot, certainly, if discharging his gun on the slightest
provocation constituted the fact; but he shot curiously ill. Indeed, he
might have formed a pendant to that humane sportsman who, having taken
to rural sports _sero sed serio_, said, in extreme old age, "that it was
a satisfaction to him to reflect that he could not charge himself with
having been, wittingly, the death of more than a dozen of his
fellow-creatures."

It was a problem whereon Mallett ruminated gravely long
afterward--"Wherever Mr. Bruce's shot do go to?" He could not conceive
so much lead being dispersed in the atmosphere without a more adequate
result. This want of dexterity, too, was thrown into strong relief that
day; for all the other men, putting myself out of the question, were
rare masters of the art.

Livingstone headed the list, though Fallowfield ran him hard. He got the
most shots, indeed; for his knowledge of the woods and great strength
enabled him always to keep close to the spaniels. He was a sight to
marvel at, as he went crashing through bramble and blackthorn with a
long even stride, just as if he had been walking through light springs.

At the end of the day we were all assembled outside the cover, where the
game was being counted, except Bruce, who was still in the wood. A stray
shot every now and then gave notice of his approach.


     "We heard but the distant and random gun
     That the foe was sullenly firing,"


Guy quoted, laughing.

"Random! you may say that," remarked Fallowfield. "That man ought to be
in a glass case, and ticketed; he's a natural curiosity. His bag to-day
consists of one hare, one hen, and one--sex unknown, for no one saw it
rise or tried to pick it up; it was blown into a cloud of feathers
within six feet of his muzzle. Here he comes; don't ask him what he's
done--it's cruelty."

Bruce came up to us, looking rather more discontented than usual, but
not nearly so savage as the keeper who had attended him all day, who
immediately retreated among his fellows to relieve himself, by many
oaths, of his suppressed disgust and scorn. They offered him beer, but
it was no use. I heard him growl out, "That there muff's enough to spile
one's taste for a fortnit."

It was the hour of the wood-pigeons coming in to roost, and several were
wheeling over our heads at a considerable height.

"There's something for you to empty your gun at, Bruce," Sir. Raymond
said, pointing to one that came rather nearer than the rest.

He was leveling, when Forrester cried out, "Five-and-twenty to five on
the bird!"

"Done!" answered Bruce, as he pulled the trigger. It was a long and not
very easy shot, but the pigeon came whirling down through the tranches
with a broken pinion.

"You are unlucky in your selection, Captain Forrester," the successful
shot remarked, coolly. "You might have won a heavy stake by laying the
same odds all day."

"It serves you right," interposed Guy, "for speaking to a man on his
shot. Don't you remember quarreling with me the other day for doing so,
Charley?"

Charley's face of perplexity and disgust was irresistible. We all
laughed. "What a _guignon_ I have," he said. "Mr. Raymond, I believe you
were in the robbery."

"Not I," was the answer. "I was as much surprised as any one. I think,"
he went on, lowering his tone, "Guy is right; he changed his aim, as you
spoke, involuntarily, or he _must_ have missed."

Then we turned homeward through the twilight.

I do not know if the reminiscence of his lost "pony" was rankling in
Forrester's mind, or if he was only affected by the presence of Sir
Henry Fallowfield--an immoral Upas, under whose shadow the most
flourishing of good resolutions were apt to wither and die; but
certainly, after dinner, he broke through the cautious reserve which he
had always in public maintained toward Miss Raymond since Bruce's
arrival. He not only talked to her incessantly, but tempted her to sing
with him, during which performance they seemed rapidly lapsing into the
old confidential style.

Bruce sat apart, the shades on his rugged face gradually deepening from
sullenness into ferocity. He looked quite wolfish at last, for it was a
habit he had to show his white teeth more when he was savage than when
he smiled. But the music went on its way rejoicing,


     "Unconscious of their doom,
     The little victims played."


Isabel was too happy, and Charley too careless to be prudent. Once I
caught his glance as it crossed with Bruce's scowl. There was an
expression on his pleasant face that few men had ever seen there,
approaching nearly to an insolent defiance. Looking at those two, a
child might have known that between them there was bitter hate.

But what of that? Are not the laws of society and the amenities of
civilized life supreme over such trifles as personal animosities? How
many women are there who never meet without mingling in a close embrace,
when each is to the other a Brinvilliers in heart? My gentle cousin
Kate, only last night I saw you greet your intimate enemy. It was the
moat gushing thing I ever imagined. The kisses were profuse and
tantalizing in the extreme; yet I wish, if thoughts could kill, dearest
Emma's neck would have been safer in the hug of a Norway bear than in
the clasp of your white willowy arms.

Are there not men, sitting constantly at each other's tables, who, in
the Golden Age, when people spoke and acted as they felt, would only
have encountered at the sword's point?

If we hear that our mortal foe is ruined irretrievably, we betray no
indecorous exultation, but smile complacently and say, "We are not
surprised;" or, if we have the chance, give him a last push to send him
over the precipice on whose brink he is staggering. But as for any
violent demonstration--bah! the _Vendetta_ is going out of fashion, even
in Corsica, nowadays; only on the boards of the "Princess's" does it
have a run.

It is better so. Is it not far more creditable and less ridiculous for
two of our reverend seniors, between whom there exists a deadly feud, to
comport themselves with decent reserve toward each other, than to go
vaporing about on crutches, stamping the foot that is not gouty, and
blaspheming in a weak, cracked treble, like Capulet and Montague? Hot
rooms and cold draughts are dangerous, but not so fatal as the Aqua
Tofana, and other pleasant beverages more revolting and rapid in their
effects. Could any thing be more harrowing to a well regulated mind than
to see, in the midst of a neatly-turned compliment, one's partner
literally _look black_ at one, and expire incontinently in great
torments?

It is less romantic, but I prefer to be given an unmedicated rose. When
I win a pair of gloves, it is a satisfaction to me to reflect that in
Houbigant or Pivert there is no venom or guile.

All these consoling thoughts, and more, passed through my mind that
evening; yet I could not get rid of a strange, indistinct impression
that it was only the presence of Livingstone which averted some great
danger imminent over his cousin and Forrester.



CHAPTER XIII.

                                "This is all
     The gain we reap, from all the wisdom sown
     Through ages. Nothing doubted those first sons
     Of time; while we, the schooled of centuries,
     Nothing believe--"


We were scattered round the smoking-room, about midnight, in different
attitudes of repose. Bruce was of the party, decidedly out of his
element. He did not like tobacco much, and only took a cigar as a
sacrifice to the exigencies of the occasion, consuming the same with
great toil and exertion of the lungs, and when he removed it from his
lips, holding it at arm's length, like a viper or other venomous beast.

"Charley," asked Fallowfield, at length, from the depths of his divan,
"how is the regiment going on? Insolvent as ever?"

"More so," was the reply. "When I came away they were thinking of
framing a £5 note, and hanging it up in the ante-room, to show that we
had _some_ money--just like the man who pitched loaves over the
city-walls when they were dying of famine--but there was a difficulty
about procuring one. However, we have been promised the son of an
opulent brewer or distiller (I forget which, but I know he makes
something to drink), who is to join before Easter. Perhaps he may set us
afloat again."

"Yes," Guy remarked; "fortunately, a martial spirit is abroad in the
Third Estate. _Walbrook s'en va t'en guerre_. If there is one moneyed
man in the lot, it seems sufficient to keep the others going. I often
wonder how you manage; for, to do you justice, you don't plunder your
Croesus. You deserve statues--as Sydney Smith would have said--_æris
alieni_."

"I am not the rose, but I have lived with her," responded Forrester,
sententiously. "That's the principle of the thing. When a subaltern
arrives laden with gold, the barrack-yard is a perfect garden of
Bendemeer to the tradesmen."

"I believe it is precisely such regiments," remarked Bruce, "that the
political economists have in view when they attack the army estimates."

The observation was aggressive; but Charley's countenance was unruffled
as the Dead Sea as he answered, "Personal, but correct. You are intimate
with Joseph Hume, probably? You look as if you were." (These last words
were a stage aside, not quite so inaudible as could be wished.) "I think
we should fight, if we had a chance, though."

His lip wore a curious smile, and he raised himself on his arm to look
the last speaker full in the face.

"Of course you would," broke in Sir Henry; "that's not a peculiarity of
crack regiments or second sons. It's only in their baptism of fire that
the young ones shrink and start; after that, the meekest of men develop
themselves wonderfully. I heard an old Indian, the other day, speak of a
case in point.

"There was an officer in his service, mild and stupid to a degree. He
had been a butt all his life; bullied at school, at Addiscombe, and in
his corps worst of all.

"They were attacking a hill-fort, and the fire from wall-pieces and
matchlocks was so heavy that the storming-party would not face it. Among
those who retreated were two of his superior officers and chief
tormentors. The junior lieutenant saw them cowering away to seek
shelter, and laughed out loud; then he flung his shako before him into
the fort, and led the sepoys back to the charge, and right over the
breastwork--bareheaded and cheering. He was shot down inside, and lived
only a few hours, all the time in horrible agony; but Western told us
that Bayard or Sidney could have made no braver or calmer ending."

"You are right," Livingstone said. "The Roundheads fought fully as well
as the Cavaliers. I only know of two instances where the thoroughbreds
had the advantage of a contrast. One was when the Scottish regiment took
the island in the Rhine; the other was the exploit of the _Gants
Glacés_. Don't you know it? It's worth hearing.

"They were attacking some town in the wars of the Fronde. The breach was
scarcely practicable, and the best of the besieging army had recoiled
from it with great loss. The Black Mousquetaires stood by in all the
coquetry of scarf, and plume, and fringed scented gloves, laughing
louder at each repulse of the Linesmen. The soldiers heard them and
gnashed their teeth. At last there was a murmur, and then a shout--_'En
avant les Gants Glacés!'_ They wanted to see 'the swells' beaten too.
Then the Household Brigade went up and carried the breach, leaving a
third of their number on it. The general in command made the whole army
defile past their _guidon_, and salute it with sloped standards.

"No; very few men are physical cowards in battle, whatever they may be
across country. I don't believe Paris was, when he ran from Menelaüs;
and Helen did not think so, though she teased him about it, or she would
never have spoken to him again. I rather imagine his feeling was that of
a certain Guardsman of our acquaintance, who said, declining the ordeal
of combat, that 'his first duty was to his partners, and this did not
allow him to risk a black eye.'"

"Might not remorse at the sight of the man he had injured have had
something to do with his flight?" Bruce asked.

He was full of moral sentiments--that man; only you could not look at
him without fancying that they sprung more from an inclination to be
contradictious and disagreeable than from any depth of principle.

"Absurd," Guy retorted. "Wasn't he a heathen, and rather an immoral one?
It was of profligates with far greater advantages of education that some
one said, '_'Le remords nait de l'abandon, et non de la faute_.' The
walls of Troy were strong then, and the Destroyer-of-ships safe behind
them, 'getting herself up alarmingly' for his return. No wonder Menelaüs
was eager for the duel: he was staking his loneliness against Paris's
nine points of the law."

Sir Henry Fallowfield smiled approvingly.

"Yes," he observed, not answering what had been said, but evidently
following out a train of his own thought. "Modern exquisites have
courage, and self-possession, and conceit--great elements of success
with women, I own--but they have not much more. I am certain Charley,
who is a favorable specimen of the class, often affects silence because
he has nothing on earth to say. There is a decadence since my younger
days (I hope I speak dispassionately), and how very far we fell short of
the _roués_ of the Régence! We could no more match them than a
fighting-man in good training could stand up to one of the old Pict
giants. Look at Richelieu: good at all points--in the battle, in the
boudoir, in the Bastille--a dangerous rival at the two ages of ordinary
men's first and second childhood."

"He was a great man in his way," I assented. "Do you remember his answer
to the Duchesse de Maine, when she asked him, for a political purpose,
if he could remain faithful for one week to an intrigue then twenty-four
hours old? '_Madame, quand une fois j'embrasse un parti, je suis capable
des plus grandes sacrifices pour le soutenir._' The object of that
heroic constancy was the Maréchale de Villars, one of the loveliest
women in France. It was the sublime of fatuity--was it not?"

"Well, I don't know," said Charley, settling himself comfortably in his
cushions, and glancing almost imperceptibly at Bruce; "they seem to
fancy us, notwithstanding. We have only one great obstacle--the mothers
that _bore_ us."

Be it known that "they," used simply, stood in his vocabulary for the
fair sex in general.

"Nonsense," replied Fallowfield; "don't be so ungrateful. You don't know
what you owe to those anxious parents. It helps you enormously, being
the objects of perpetual warnings from husbands and chaperons, the
first considering you _mauvais sujets_, the last _mauvais partis_; for
you _are_ 'detrimentals,' for the most part, you will own."

"_Vetitum ergo cupitum_," interrupted Livingstone. "A good many
moralists before and since old Rabelais have discoursed on that text.
The Chief of Errington was probably much more agreeable, besides being a
better match than Jock of Hazeldean, who clearly was what an old
Frenchman lately described to me--'_un vaurien, mon cher, qui court les
filles et qui n'a pas le son_.' But then poor Frank was the government
candidate; so, of course, in a popular election, he went to the wall."

Sir Henry's face grew more pensive and grave as he said, "It is very
hard on the women, certainly, that our race should have degenerated so,
for I believe in my conscience they are as clever and wicked, and
appreciate temptation as much as ever." (The gusto with which he said
this is indescribable.) "There is the Bellasys, for instance, with a
calculating sensuality, an astuteness of stratagem, an utter contempt of
truth, and a general aptitude for making fools of men, that poor Philip
the Regent would have worshiped. When she had no one better to corrupt,
I have seen her take in hand an older, sadder, wiser, uglier man than
myself, and in three days bring him to the verge of insanity, so that he
would scowl at his wife, his companion for forty years, the blameless
mother of six grown-up children, with a hideous expression indicative of
carving-knives and strychnine. Guy suits her best. His thews and sinews
awe her a little sometimes; and he has a certain hardness of character
and pitilessness of purpose, improved by my instructions, which will
carry him far, but not far enough, I think. You're right not to look
flattered" (Guy's face had moved no more than the marble Memnon's); "you
are only a shade better than the rest. Our effete world is not worthy of
that rare creature: she was born a century too late."

"I quite differ with you," Bruce said, in his harshest voice; "I am
certain the great plurality of the women of our day would resist any
temptation, from fear of the consequences, if not from principle."

Fancy the feelings of the Greek professor interrupted in his lecture by
a controverting freshman, and you will have some idea of Fallowfield's.
His eye lighted on the last speaker, glittering like a hooded snake's,
as it were caressing him with a lambent scorn.

I never guessed how much sneering provocation could reside in tones
usually so very soft and musical till I heard him answer, "I suppose you
_do_ differ with me. We probably both speak from experience. On one
point you are scarcely practical, though. You think you can frighten a
woman into propriety. Try it."

"Are you not too general in your strictures or encomiums?" I suggested,
wishing to relieve the awkwardness which ensued; "surely there are many
instances to the contrary. Take Lady Clanronald, for instance, married
to a man her elder by twenty years, and not very clever or agreeable, I
should think. No one ever breathed a whisper against her, and it has not
been through default of aspirants."

An evil smile curled round the old _roué's_ sensual mouth, radiating
even to the verge of the forest of his iron-gray whiskers.

"Clanronald not clever?" he replied. "The cleverest man I know. He knew
how his wife would be tempted, and he has taken the greatest pains to
encourage a counteracting influence--family pride. Don't you know she is
a Hautagne? It is a tradition with that race that their women never go
wrong--under a prince of the blood. None of these are available just
now, so she is still '_Une Madeleine, dans la puissance de son mari, et
dans l'impuissance de se repentir_.'"

It was worse than useless to argue with Fallowfield. All your own best
hits were turned aside by the target of his cynicism and unbelief, while
his sophistries and sarcasms often came home. Like old wounds, they
would begin to shoot and rankle in after years, just when it was most
important and profitable to forget them.

We separated soon after this. Sir Henry's face wore an expression of
placid self-congratulation. He thought the conversation had been rather
improving, I believe, and that some of the ideas and illustrations had
been rather neatly put; so he laid his head down that night with the
calm, satisfied feeling of a good man who has done his duty and not lost
a day.

He was not more ingenious in overcoming the scruples of others than in
silencing his own conscience, though of late years this last had
probably ceased to give him much trouble. Finer feelings with him were
only "sensations morbidly exaggerated," and he made no sort of
allowance for such; among others, utterly ignoring remorse, I doubt if
he ever looked forward; I am sure he never looked back. A parody on the
"tag" which was given to Cambronne would sum up his terribly simple and
consistent creed--_La femme se rend, mais ne meurt pas_.



CHAPTER XIV.

     "I hold him but a fool, that would endanger
     His body for a girl that loves him not."


Fallowfield left us the next morning, the Bellasys later in the same
day. They were to pay divers visits, and then return to Kerton. Lady
Catharine pressed them to do so; though she liked the daughter less than
the mother, she was so anxious Guy should marry some one that I think
she would have accepted even Flora with thankfulness.

It is a favorite delusion with the British parent that marriage will
work a miracle, and steady their children for life, by casting forth the
_lutins_ who beset them. A thousand failures have not convinced the good
speculative matrons of the hazard of the experiment, nor will as many
more do so; they will go on match-making and blundering to the end of
time. For a very brief space the evil spirits are exorcised; but before
the gloss is off the new-married couple's new furniture, one of the band
creeps back and opens the door to his fellows. These hardly know their
old quarters at first, but they soon begin to like them better than
ever--are they not swept and garnished? "So they enter in and dwell
there, and"--I need not finish the sentence; a thousand sweet though
somewhat shrill voices will save me that trouble--a doleful music--an
ancient tale of wrong--the Song of the Brides! They used to say that a
man never went so hard to hounds after entering the holy estate. If
this be so, I fear it is the only comforting result which follows of
course.

What Flora and Guy said to each other at parting I can not guess.
Neither was of the sentimental order, and both might have taken for
their motto, "Lightly won and lightly lost." Her hand lingered somewhat
long in his as they said farewell, but she was smiling, if any thing,
more saucily than ever. So she went, leaving behind her no tangible
token, except a tiny pearl-colored glove, which Guy twisted rather
pensively between his fingers as he stood on the hall steps, and watched
the carriage disappear down the avenue. Mr. Bruce exulted after his
saturnine fashion, and Isabel Raymond trembled; the one had lost a
strong, unscrupulous ally, the other a formidable enemy.

"Why don't you open those letters, Charley?" Livingstone asked at
breakfast, next morning, pointing to a pile that lay unopened by the
letters plate.

"My dear boy, I haven't the heart to do it," was the reply. "They are
all expressive, I know, of different phases of mercantile despair. I
believe these men keep a supplicant, as Moses maintains a poet. The last
appeal from my saddler was perfectly heartrending: he could not have
written it himself, for he looks as tough as his own pig-skin. If he
had, he would be _impayable_ in more ways than one. What can I do? I
can't come down on the poor old man who has the misfortune to be my
father for more supplies when rents are being reduced fifteen per cent.
The tradesmen must learn to endure. They have a splendid chance of
attaining the victory of suffering."

Bruce smiled complacently to himself, and then superciliously at
Charley. He had just received a letter from his banker, consulting him
as to the disposal of a superfluous thousand or so, and he was
hesitating between some dock shares and a promising railway.

"Yes," Forrester went on, "it's very well for you to talk in that
hardened way, as you did the other night, about detrimentals and second
sons. I wonder how you would like to have an elder brother, a pillar of
learned societies, and as tenacious of life as one of his pet zoophytes?
He used to consume quantities of medicine, which was encouraging; but
lately he has taken to homoeopathy, which was quite out of the match.
He told me, lately, that 'four hundred a year and my pay was affluence.'
Affluence!"

It is impossible to describe the cadence of plaintive indignation which
he gave to the last word. The recollection of his wrongs had made him
almost energetic: we listened to his eloquence in respectful surprise.

"It was adding insult to injury," answered Guy. "If Parliament does not
do something for you all soon, there will be another exodus of the
Parthenidæ."

Charley looked at his friend admiringly, as he always did when Guy was
classical in his allusions; but the unwonted effort had evidently
exhausted him, and he lapsed into silence.

We rode out that afternoon to make some calls in the neighborhood, and,
in returning, Livingstone proposed a short cut through a line of gates,
with a short interval of cross-country work.

His cousin looked delighted, Bruce decidedly uncomfortable, though, of
course, he could not refuse. He was riding Kathleen, an Irish mare, one
of the quietest in the Kerton stable, where none were very steady. The
fences were nothing at first; at last we came to a brook. It was not
broad, but evidently deep, with high, rotten banks. However, as we were
going at a fair hunting pace, all, including Bella Donna and her
mistress, took it in their stride, but pulled up at once, seeing that
Bruce was left behind, with the groom who was following us.

The first time he came at it, it was a clear case of "craning." He was
hauling nervously at the reins, and would not let the mare have it.

Guy regarded him with intense contempt. "By G--d," he muttered, "I
believe the man's afraid!"

Forrester laughed so unrestrainedly that Isabel looked at him
beseechingly, in evident dread of the consequences.

"My dear Miss Raymond," he said, answering her frightened glance, "don't
alarm yourself. Do you think I am a Quixote, to war with windmills?"

No one could look at Bruce's long arms and legs, all working at once,
without owning the aptness of the simile.

For the third time he came down at the brook, and, I really believe,
meant going; but Kathleen, unused to such vacillating measures, had got
sulky, and swerved on the very brink, almost sliding over it. Her rider
lost his seat, rolled over her shoulder, and for an instant disappeared
in the water.

Achelous or Tiber, emerging from his native waves, crowned with aquatic
plants, presented, I doubt not, an appearance at once dignified and
becoming, but I defy any ordinary non-amphibious mortal to look, under
similar circumstances, any thing but supremely ridiculous. The wrathful
face framed in dripping hair and plastered whiskers--the movements of
the limbs, awkward and constrained--the rivulets distilling from every
salient angle, turning the victim into a walking Lauterbrunnen--when we
saw all these absurdities exaggerated before us, no wonder that from the
whole party, including the groom, there broke "unnumbered laughters."

"Curse the mare!" Bruce hissed out. The words came crushed and broken,
as it were, through the white ranges of his grinding teeth.

Livingstone's face hardened directly. "Swear as much as you think the
circumstances require, or as my cousin will allow," he said, "but be
just before you're generous: don't anathematize Kathleen. It was no
fault of hers. I never saw her refuse before; but she is used to be put
straight at her fences. Hold her still, Harry" (to the groom on the
farther side, who had caught the mare's rein); "I'll ride her at it
myself."

He threw his bridle to Forrester, and, dismounting, cleared the brook at
a bound. Then he went up to Kathleen, and began to coax her with voice
and hand.

"I'll bet an even fifty he takes her over the first time," said Charley.

Bruce nodded his head, without speaking, to show that he took the bet. I
thought he had the best of it, for the mare was so savage and sulky
still that a refusal seemed a certainty.

Guy had mounted by this time, and, after taking a wide sweep in the
field, came down at the brook. Kathleen was curling her back up, and
going short, with the most evident intention of balking; but swerving
was next to impossible, for she was fairly held in a vice by her rider's
hands and knees. The whip fell heavily twice on either shoulder, and,
just at the water's edge, Livingstone drove his heels in and lifted her.
It was almost a standing leap, and, as Kathleen landed, a fragment of
the bank went crashing into the water from under her hind hoofs, and she
went down on her head; but Guy recovered her cleverly, and, turning
again, sent her over it twice, backward and forward. The first time the
mare did not try to refuse again, but rushed at it, snorting wrathfully,
with her head in the air; the second she was quite tamed, and took it
evenly in her stride.

"Give Mr. Bruce your horse, Harry, and take the Czar," Guy said. "I'll
ride Kathleen home. Steady, old lady--don't fret. We are friends again
now."

"So you have got your pony back," I remarked to Forrester.

"Yes, and with interest," was the quiet reply. "I don't think he will
owe me much when I have done with him."

Though I had nothing on earth to do with it, I felt something like
compunction as I guessed what he meant.

Bruce's was a hard, money-loving nature, unromantic to a degree; but I
believe he would gladly have waked to find himself a houseless, landless
beggar, if he could thus have regained what Charley, with his soft
voice, and eyes, and manner, had stolen from him long ago.

Am I right in saying "stolen?" Perhaps he never had it; at all events,
he thought he had, which comes to nearly the same thing.

It is true that, unraveling the cord of a man's existence, you will
generally find the blackest hank in it twined by a woman's hand, but it
is not less common to trace the golden thread to the same spindle.

Great warrior, profound statesman, stanch champion of liberty as he was,
without Edith of the Swan's-neck, Harold would scarcely have risen into
a hero of romance. We do not quite despise Charles VII. when we think
how faithfully, in loneliness and ruin, the Lady of Beauty loved her
apathetic, senseless, discrowned king. Others never found it out, but
there must have been something precious hid in a dark corner of his
wayward heart near which Agnes nestled so long. We look leniently on
Otho--parasite and profligate--when we see him lingering on his last
march, on the very verge of the death-struggle, in the teeth of Galba's
legions, to decorate Popæa's grave. More in pity than in scorn, be sure,
did Tacitus, the historic epigrammatist, write "_Ne tum quidem veterum
immemor amorum_."

Was it in remorseful consciousness of having inflicted a deep,
irreparable wrong, that Isabel rode so constantly by Bruce's side,
striving, by all means of timid propitiation, to chase the cloud
lowering on his sullen face as we returned slowly home?



CHAPTER XV.

     _"To de prokluein,
       Epei genoit' an êlusis, prochairetô;
           Ison de tô prostenein,
         Toron gar êxei sunorthron augais."_


My stay at Kerton Manor was drawing to a close. I had lingered there too
long already, and letters from neglected relatives and friends came,
reproachful, with every post. The day before I went, Guy called me into
his study.

"Frank," he said, "I am in a great strait of perplexity; my uncle has
been attacking me this morning about Isabel and Charley. Bruce puts him
up to it, of course."

"I thought it would come; but why on earth did not Bruce speak to you,
if not to Forrester, himself? Perhaps it was from delicacy, though. Let
us hope so."

"How philanthropic we are!" Guy retorted. "I don't believe any other man
would have spoken of delicacy and that rough-hewn log of Scotch-fir in
the same breath. My dear boy, the thing is as simple as possible--the
man is a coward. He is as careful of that precious person of his as if
it were worth preserving, so he shoots his arrows from behind Uncle
Henry's Telamonian shield. Nothing is so acute and right-judging as the
instinct of fear. He knows that if he had a fancy for a quarrel, either
Charley or I would be too happy to indulge him."

"He can't be such a dastard," I said.

"I am sure of it; but he is not the less dangerous for that. Such men
are always the most unscrupulous in revenge. I have seen murder in his
eyes a score of times in the last fortnight. If our lines had fallen in
the pleasant Italian places, he would have invested twenty scudi long
ago in hiring a dagger. As it is, civilization and the rural police
stand our friends; but I have strongly advised Charley not to trust
himself near him in cover. By G--d, I think, for once in his life, he
would hold straight!"

"You don't like him, that's evident."

The pupils of Livingstone's eyes contracted ominously; a lurid flash
shot out from under his black, bent brows, and there came on his lip
that peculiar smile that we fancy on the face of Homeric heroes--more
fell, and cruel, and terrible than even their own frown--just before
they leveled the spear. He laid his broad hand, corded across with a
net-work of tangled sinews, on the table before him, and the stout oak
creaked and trembled.

"If I were to strangle him," he said, "as I constantly feel tempted to
do, I believe I should deserve well of the state. But, with all that, I
don't like plotting against him under my own roof; it strikes me that is
a phase of hospitality not strictly Arabian. My mother laments over him
already as hardly dealt with. Then Uncle Henry is a great difficulty. He
is not in the least one of the light comedy fathers who, during two
acts, stamps about with many strange oaths and stormy denials, but in
the last yields to fate and _soubrettes_, says 'Bless you, my children!'
and hands out untold gold. There is no more appeal from his decisions
than from Major A----'s. He dislikes Bruce, of course; but he would just
as soon think of objecting to a partner at whist as to a son-in-law
because he happened to be unprepossessing. When the poor little
Iphigenia is sacrificed on the shrine of expediency, you will see him,
not veiling his face but taking snuff with the calm grace that is
peculiar to him. Arguing with such a man is a simple absurdity."

"I can not advise you," I answered, sadly; "but it seems hard on Miss
Raymond, too."

"Of course it is," Livingstone broke in; "and the worst of it is, the
poor child looks to me to help her. I can't bear to think of what her
life would be if she married Bruce. He would be constantly retaliating
on her for what he is suffering now--for he does suffer. A pleasant idea
that she, who is only meant to be petted, should be set up as a target
for his jealousy and ill-humor! She would never be able to stand it, and
Charley wouldn't if she could; and then there would be a _dénouement_
like that which ruined Ralph Mohun. If there _is_ to be a row, it had
better come before than after marriage. It's more moral, and saves an
infinity of trouble. I think Charley is better away, too, just now.
Parndon wants us both to stay with him. We'll go; and so my conscience
will stand at ease for the present. When we are on neutral ground I can
help them, or, at all events, 'let the justice of the king pass by.'"

"Have you spoken to Forrester yet?"

"No; but he will do as I advise, and temporize, I am sure, though he
would hardly give up Bella, even if I asked him. He means business for
once, evidently. They will have plenty of time to concert their plans
before the summer. Charley wants no help in that. As to carrying them
out--we shall see. Well, you will go to-morrow. I am very sorry, for all
reasons. I hope you have not been much bored here. Kerton counts on you
for next winter."

I need not give my answer. I felt really loth to go; but, fortunately
for my peace of mind, I could not guess at the changes that would be
wrought in the hopes, the intentions, the destinies of all of us before
I should stand in the fine old manor-house again.

If adieus are painful in reality, they ate intensely stupid on paper--a
landscape without a foreground--so I spare you next morning's
leave-takings.

Guy had said nothing to his cousin then of the plan he had determined
on. I was glad of it. I was glad not to see, at parting, her sweet face
so sad as I am sure it became when she heard that she was to struggle
against Brace's persecutions and her own antipathies unaided and alone.

I wandered through many counties, and then went to Ireland. During the
next few months I saw the faces I had left behind me many times, but
only in my dreams.



CHAPTER XVI.

     "The only living thing he could not hate
     Was reft at once--and he deserved his fate,
     But did not feel it less; the good explore
     For peace, these realms where guilt can never soar;
     The proud--the wayward--who have fixed below
     Their joy, and find this earth enough for woe,
     Lose in that one their all--perchance a mite--
     But who in patience parts with all delight?"


Pleasant days they were when, through the soft spring weather, I
wandered round the coasts of Kerry, Clare, and Galway, hooking salmon in
broad pools, where the vexed water rests a while from its labors under
wooded cliffs, and at the tail of roaring rapids, specked with white
foam-clots, or sea-trout in the estuaries where the great rivers hurry
down to their stormy meeting with the Atlantic rollers.

Every where I met the frank, cheery welcome that you must cross the
Channel to find in its perfection.

It is sad to see how widely over that fair land the abomination of
desolation has cast its shadow. Many halls are tenantless besides those
of Tara. The ancient owners of the soil--where are they? Not a country
in Europe but is conscious of these restless, careless, homeless
Zingari. In distant provincial towns of France you hear their enormous
blunders in grammar and musical Milesian brogue breaking the uniformity
of dull legitimist _soirées_. Hombourg and Baden are irradiated with the
glory of their whiskers. You find their blue eyes and open, handsome
features diversifying the sameness of wooden-faced Austrian squadrons.
Nay, has it not been whispered that the proudest name in Ireland
attained a bad eminence in the Grecian Archipelago as the captain of the
wickedest of those long low craft that, in the purple dawn or ivory
moonlight, steal silently out from behind the headlands of the Cyclades?

But let us do justice to those who remain behind.

The sceptre of Connemara has passed away from the ancient dynasty. If
the penultimate monarch could rise from his peaceful grave, his place
would know him no more. If he traveled through all his thirty miles of
seaboard, the Scotch laborers would doff their hats more respectfully to
the steward of the "Law Life" than to the humane old homicide. The royal
writ, which he defied from his place at St. Stephen's, might be served
now, I imagine, without danger of the bailiff's breaking his fast on the
same. Claret flows soberly from long-necked bottles whose corks bear the
brand of the wine-merchant, high priced and legal, instead of from the
cask of which the snug sandy cove and the roguish-looking hooker could
have told tales. But, in spite of visionary rents, and poor-rates
sternly real, the Irish squire still clings to the exercise of that
hospitality which has been an heirloom with the tribes since the days of
Strongbow.

One of my longest halting-places was at Ralph Mohun's, by whom, though
personally unknown to him, I was made very welcome as a friend of Guy's.
My host deserves a more especial mention, for his history was a sad,
though not an uncommon one.

He began life in a Cavalry regiment, wherein he conducted himself with
fair average propriety till he met Lady Caroline Desborough. He fell in
love with her--most people did--but, unluckily, when she married Mr.
Mannering, to whom she had been predestined since her _début_, he could
not bring himself to wear the willow decently and in order, like her
other disappointed admirers.

It was the old unhappy story: her husband neglected Lady Caroline
consistently--ill-treated her sometimes. Mohun pursued his purpose with
the relentless obstinacy of his character. Eighteen months after her
marriage they fled together.

He was not rich, so that the trial which ensued, with its heavy damages,
completely crippled him. The partner of his crime was absolutely
penniless. They went to Vienna, and Ralph entered the Austrian
Cuirassiers, where he had some interest to push him. He had lingered
some time within reach of England, to give Mannering an opportunity of
demanding satisfaction. But the injured husband knew his man too well to
trust himself within fifteen paces of Mohun's pistol. He chose a surer,
safer revenge in taking no steps to procure a divorce, and so debarring
Ralph from his only means of atonement--marriage with his victim.

He varied the dull routine of seducers, it is true, for he never wearied
of, or behaved unkindly to, the woman he had ruined. Time brought many
troubles on them, but never satiety or coldness. To the very last he
worshiped her, and, to the utmost of his power, guarded her tenderly.
Rough, and hard, and morose as he was to others, she never heard his
lips utter one harsh word.

But she was of a proud, sensitive spirit, and had miscalculated her
strength when she thought she could bear dishonor. After that duel with
which Austria rang, in which the best _schlager_ in his brigade fell,
horribly mangled, the day after he had whispered a jest about Caroline
Mannering, men were very cautious how they even looked askance at her;
but the women--who could bridle their tongues or blunt their scornful
glances? Briareus, armed to the teeth, would not affright our modern
dowagers, or deter them from their prey. Wherever the carcass of a fair
fame lies, thither they flock, screaming shrilly in triumph,
vulture-eyed, sharp-taloned--the choosers of the slain.

I pity from my heart the frailest, the most utterly fallen of her sex,
when once the social Nemesis hands her over to the chorus of the
Eumenides.

We deride the _subsignanæ_ who line the wall; we make a mock at their
old-fashioned whist; we risk jokes whereat our partners smile
approvingly on their false fronts and wonderful head-gears; but may the
wittiest of us never know by experience how much worse is the bite than
the bark of the Veteran Battalion!

Caroline Mannering had all this to contend with, for Vienna was a
favorite resort in those days for the English, and she was constantly
encountering some of her old set. She bore up bravely for a while, but
it killed her. She never wearied her lover with her self-reproach, but
crushed back her sorrows into her heart, and met him always with a
gentle smile. That same smile contrasted so sadly, at last, with the
wan, worn features, that it often made him bend his bushy brows to
conceal the rising tears.

If her destiny had been different--if she had died ripe in years, after
a life spent in calm matronly happiness, with all that she loved best
round her, would she have been nursed so tenderly or mourned so bitterly
by the nearest and dearest of them all as she was by her tempter to sin?
I think not. I believe that in all the world there never was a greater
sorrow than that which Mohun endured as he saw his treasure slowly
escaping him; never a desolation more complete and crushing than that
which fell upon him as he stood by her corpse, with dry eyes, folded
arms, and a heavy, frowning brow. It was not only that he felt her place
could never be filled again--many feel that, and find it turn out
so--but a part of his being was gone: all that was soft, and kind, and
tender in his nature died with Caroline Mannering. He never could get
rid of a certain chivalry which was inherent in him, so sometimes he
would do a generous thing; but he did it so harshly as to deprive the
act of the semblance of good-nature. I think he very seldom again felt
sympathy or compassion for any living creature. Perhaps he thought the
world had behaved hardly to his dead love, and so never forgave it. She
passed away very stilly and painlessly. She was leaning on his breast
when he saw death come into her eyes: he shivered then all over, as if a
cold wind had struck him suddenly, but spoke no word. She understood
him, though. Her last motion was to draw his cheek down to hers with her
thin, shadowy arm, and her last breath went up to the God who would
judge them both in an unselfish prayer.

"She was rightly served," says Cornelia; "such women ought to be
miserable."

O rigid mother of the Gracchi! how we all respect you, _trônante_ in the
comfortable cathedra of virtue inexpugnable, perhaps unassailed. Your
dictum must stand for the present. The court is with you. But I believe
other balances will weigh the strength of temptation, the weakness of
human endurance, the sincerity of repentance, and the extent of suffered
retribution, when the Father of all that have lived and erred since the
world began shall make up His jewels. In that day, I think, the light of
many orthodox virgins and dignified matrons will pale before the softer
lustre of Magdalene the Saint.

Mohun remained in the Austrian service some time after Caroline
Mannering's death, and, by dint of good service and interest, rose
rapidly; but, about eight years before I saw him, a distant relation
left him the estate in the west of Ireland, where he had resided ever
since, making occasional visits to the Continent, and beating up his old
quarters, but rarely coming to England.

He did not mix much with the county society, such as it was; and his
visitors were chiefly friends from England who had not forgotten him
yet, or the military quartered in his neighborhood.

It was a dreary, desolate old house where he lived--massive, square, and
gray. There were wooded banks and hollows just round it; but farther
afield the chill, bare moorland stretched away toward the sea, broken
here and there by sullen sedgy tarns.

Here he spent his monotonous existence, riding hard and drinking
obstinately, but never, even in the latter case, rising into
conviviality. A long, bushy beard, and portentous mustache, grizzled,
though he was scarcely past middle age, which could not conceal a deep
sabre-scar, gave him a grim, sinister expression; and his voice had that
brief imperious accent which is peculiar to men for many years used to
give the word of command.

That worn, haggard face told a real tale. The furrows there had been
plowed by an enduring remorse, very different from that comfortable,
half-complacent regret which some feel at the retrospect of their
youthful _frèdaines_.

They shake their solemn old heads as they hold themselves up to us as a
warning; they sermonize with edifying gravity on the impropriety of such
misdemeanors; but we can trace through all this an under-current of
satisfaction tenderly fatuitous, as they go back to the days of their
gipsyhood, when Plancus was consul.

I have been amused with watching these eminent but somewhat sensual
Christians on such occasions, and seeing the dull eyes begin to glisten,
and the lips wrinkle themselves into a fat, unpleasant smile. _They_
have prospered since, and certainly it would be most absurd to torment
themselves now about the souls and bodies which they once sacrificed to
a whim. Over those ruins and relics the River of Oblivion has rolled
long ago--let them sleep on there and take their rest.

Have we not the bright example of the prototype of this class--the
pious Æneas? How creditable was his behavior when he looked back over
the black water on the trail of flame stretching from the funeral pyre
where Dido lay burning!

"He knew," says his admiring biographer, "what the madness of women
could do;" but the breeze was getting up astern, and favoring gods
beckoned him on to Italy and fortune; so he sighed twice or
thrice--perhaps he wept, for the amiable hero's tears were always ready
on the shortest notice--and then, like the captain of the _Hesperus_,
"steered for the open sea."

Did he feel a pang of remorse or shame at that meeting in the twilight
of Hades, when he called vainly on Elissa, and the dead queen, from
where she stood by the side of Sychæus, who had forgiven her all, turned
on him the disgust and horror of her imperial eyes? Who can tell? The
greatest and best of men have their moments of weakness. If so, be sure
he was soon comforted as he reviewed the shadowy procession of his
posterity of kings. The episode of Byrsa would scarcely trouble his
conjugal happiness, or make him more indulgent to the mildest flirtation
of Lavinia.

I fancy that poor princess--after listening to a long, intensely proper
discourse from her immaculate husband, or when the young Iulus had been
unusually disagreeable--gazing wistfully in the direction where, against
the sky-line, rose the clump of plane-trees, under which hot-headed,
warm-hearted Turnus was resting after his brief life of storms. Then she
would think of that unhappy mother who, with every impulse of a willful
nature, loved her child so dearly, till she would begin to doubt--it was
very wrong of her--if Amata or the match-making gods were most right
after all.

The neighboring peasantry regarded Mohun with mingled dislike and
terror--a feeling which was increased tenfold by an event which occurred
about three years before my visit, in the height of the agrarian
troubles. I can not do better than give it, as near as I can, in the
words of one who was an actor in the scene.



CHAPTER XVII.

     "Now what wouldst thou do, good my squire,
       That rides beside my rein,
     Wert thou Glenallan's earl to-day,
       And I were Roland Cheyne?

            *       *       *       *       *

     My horse should ride through their ranks sae rude,
       As he would through the moorland fern,
     And ne'er let the gentle Norman bluid
       Grow cauld for the Highland kerne."


It was in the beginning of December, 184-(said Fred. Carew); we were
sitting down to dinner after a capital day's cock-shooting--besides
myself there were Lord Clontarf, Mohun, and Kate, my wife--when we were
disturbed by a perfect hail of knocks at the hall door. Old Dan Tucker,
or the Spectre Horseman, never clamored more loudly for admittance.
Fritz, Mohun's old Austrian servant, went down to see what was up, and,
on opening the door, was instantly borne down by the tumultuous rush of
Michael Kelly, gentleman, agent to half a dozen estates, and attorney at
law. In the two last capacities be had given, it seems, great umbrage to
the neighboring peasantry, and they had caught him that night as he
returned home, intending to put him to death with that ingenuity of
torture for which the fine, warm-hearted fellows are justly celebrated.

They did not wish to hurry over the entertainment, so confined him in an
upper chamber, while they called their friends and neighbors to rejoice
with them, carousing meantime jovially below. The victim contrived to
let himself down from the window, and ran for his life to the nearest
house, which, unluckily, happened to be the Lodge. Two boys, however,
saw and recognized him as he entered the demesne, and raised a whoop, to
show that they knew where the fox had gone to ground.

This we made out from a string of incoherent interjections; and then he
lay panting and contorting himself in an agony of fear.

Mohun sat on the hall table, swinging his foot and regarding the
spectacle with the indolent curiosity that one might exhibit toward the
gambols of some ugly new importation of the Zoological Society. When the
story was told he pointed coolly to the door.

The shriek that the miserable creature set up on seeing that gesture I
shall never forget.

"Do you think I shall turn my house into a refuge for destitute
attorneys?" Ralph said, answering my look of inquiry. "If there were no
other reason, I would not risk it, with your wife under my roof. A
night-attack in the West is no child's play."

Kate had come out, and was leaning over the gallery. She heard the last
words, and spoke, flushing scarlet with anger.

"If I thought that my presence prevented an act of common humanity, I
would leave your house this instant, Colonel Mohun."

Ralph smiled slightly as he bent his head in courteous acknowledgment of
her interruption.

"Don't be indignant, Mrs. Carew. If you have a fancy for such an
excitement, I shall be too happy to indulge you. It is settled, then? We
back the attorney. Don't lie there, sir, looking so like a whipped
hound. You hear? You are safe for the present." He had hardly finished,
when there came a rustling of feet outside, then hurried whispers, then
a knock, and a summons.

"We'd like to spake wid the curnel, av ye plase."

"I am here; what do ye want?" Mohun growled.

"We want the 'torney. We know he's widin."

"Then I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. It's not my fancy to give him
up. I wouldn't turn out a badger to you, let alone a man."

You see, he took the high moral ground now.

"Then we'll have him out in spite of yez," two or three voices cried out
together.

"Try it," Ralph said. "Meantime I am going to dine; good-night."

A voice that had not spoken yet was heard, with a shrill, gibing accent.
"Ah! thin the best of appetites to ye, curnel, and make haste over yer
dinner. It's Pierce Delaney that'll give ye yer supper." Then they went
off.

"The said Delaney is a huge quarryman," Ralph observed. "He represents
the physical element of terror hereabouts, as I believe I do the moral.
We shall have warm work before morning. He does not like me. Fritz, send
Connell up; he is below somewhere."

The keeper came, looking very much surprised. He had been in the
stables, and had only just heard of the disturbance.

"Get the rifles and guns ready, with bullets and buckshot," his master
said. "We are to be attacked, it seems."

The man's bold face fell blankly.

"By the powers, yer honor, I haven't the value of an ounce of poudther
in the house. I meant to get some the morrow morning, afore ye were up."

Mohun shrugged his shoulders, whistling softly.

"Man proposes," he said. "It's almost a pity we found so many cocks in
the lower copse this afternoon. I have fifteen charges or so in my
pistol-case. We must make that do, loading the rifles light." Then he
went to a window, whence he could see down the road; the moon was
shining brightly.

"I thought so; they have got scouts posted already. The barbarians know
something of skirmishing, after all. Maddox, come here." (The groom was
a strong English boy, very much afraid of his master, but of nothing
else on earth.) "Saddle Sunbeam, and go out by the back gates, keeping
well under the shadow of the trees. When you clear them, ride straight
at the rails at the end of the paddock. You'll get over with a scramble,
I think. Keep fast hold of his head--you _mustn't_ fall. Then make the
best of your way to A----, and tell Colonel Harding, with my
compliments, that I shall be glad if he will send over a troop as
quickly as possible. They ought to be here in two hours. And, mind,
don't spare the horse going, but bring him back easy. You will be of no
use here, and I won't have him lamed if I can help it. You'll have to
risk a bullet or two as you get into the road; but they can't shoot.
It's odds against their hitting you. Now go."

The groom pulled his forelock as if the most ordinary commission had
been given him, and vanished.

"Connell," Ralph went on, "go and saw the ladders that are in the yard
half through. They will hardly try the barred windows; but it looks more
workmanlike to take all precautions. Then come back, and help Fritz to
pile chairs and furniture all up the staircase, and about the hall near
it. Line the gallery with mattresses, two deep, leaving spaces to fire
through. Light all the lamps, and get more candles to fix about; we
shall not see very clearly after the smoke of the first dozen shots.
When you have finished, come to me. Now, shall we go back to dinner?"

I am not ashamed to own I had little appetite; nevertheless, I sat down.
Kate had gone to her room. If her courage was failing, she did not wish
to show it.

Suddenly our host got up and went to the window. His practiced ear had
caught the tread of the horse which Maddox was taking out as quietly as
possible. We watched him stealing along under the trees till their
shelter failed him. Then he put Sunbeam to speed, and rode boldly at the
rails. A yell went up from the road, and we saw dark figures running;
then came a shot, just as the horse was rising at the fence, he hit it
hard, and the splinters flew up white in the moonlight, but he was over.
We held our breath, while several flashes told of dropping shots after
the fugitive. They did not stop him, though; and, to our great relief,
we heard the wild rush of the frightened horse subside into a long
stretching gallop, and the wind brought back a cheery hollo--"Forr'ard,
forr'ard away!"

"So far so good," said Ralph Mohun, as he sat down again, and went in
steadily at a woodcock. "Don't hurry yourselves, gentlemen. We have
three quarters of an hour yet; they will take that time to muster.
Clontarf, some Hock?"

The boy to whom he spoke held out his glass with a pleasant smile. The
coming peril had not altered a tint on his fresh, beardless cheeks--rosy
and clear as a page's in one of Boucher's pictures.

A good contrast he made with the miserable attorney, who had followed us
uninvited (it seemed he only felt safe in our presence), and who was
crouching in a corner, his lank hair plastered round his livid convulsed
face with the sweat of mortal fear.

It struck Mohun, I think. He laid his hand on Clontarf's shoulder, and
spoke with a kindliness of voice and manner most unusual with him--

     "We'll quell the savage mountaineer,
       As their Tinchell cows the game:
     They come as fleet as forest deer;
       We'll drive them back as tame."

Even at that anxious moment I could not help laughing at the idea of
Ralph quoting poetry--of that grim Saul among the prophets.

I went in to keep up Kate's spirits. She bore up gallantly, poor child,
and I left her tolerably calm. She believed in me as a "plunger" to an
enormous extent, and in Mohun still more. When I returned my companions
were in the gallery. This ran round two sides of the hall, which went up
to the roof. The only access to the upper part of the house was by a
stone staircase of a single flight. The kitchen and offices were on the
ground floor, otherwise it was uninhabited.

Ralph had his pistols by him, and his cavalry sword, long and heavy, but
admirably poised, lay within his reach.

"I have settled it," he said. "You and Connell are to take the guns.
Smooth-bores are quickest loaded, and will do for this short distance.
Clontarf, who is not quite so sure with the trigger, is to have the post
of honor, and guard the staircase with his sabre. Throw another bucket
of water over it, Connell--is it thoroughly drenched? And draw the
windows up" (these did not reach to within ten feet of the floor); "we
shall be stifled else. But there will be a thorough draft when the
door's down, that's our comfort. One word with you, Carew."

He drew me aside, and spoke almost in a whisper, while his face was very
grave and stern.

"You will do me this justice, whatever happens. Unless it had been
forced upon me, I would not have risked a hair of your wife's head to
save all the attorneys that are patronized by the father of lies. But,
mark, me! if it comes to the worst, keep a bullet for _her_. Don't leave
her to the mercy of those savage devils. I know them. She had better die
ten times over than full into their brutal hands. You must use your own
discretion, though. I shall not be able to advise you then. Not a man of
them will be in this gallery till I am past praying for. Nevertheless, I
hope and believe all will be right. Don't trouble yourself to reload;
Fritz will do that for you. I have given him his orders. Aim very
coolly, too; we must not waste a bullet. You can choose your own sword;
there are several behind you. Ah! I hear them coming up. Now, men, to
your posts."

There was the tramp of many feet, and the surging of a crowd about and
against the hall door. Then a harsh, loud voice spoke:

"Onst for all, will ye give him up, or shall we take him, and serve the
rest of yez as bad? Ye've got women there, too--"

I will not add the rest of the threat for very shame. I know it made me
more wolfish than ever I thought it possible to feel, for I am a
good-natured man in the main. Mohun, who is _not_, bit his mustache
furiously, and his voice shook a little as he answered,

"Do you ever say a prayer, Pierce Delaney? You need one now. If you live
to see to-morrow's sunset, I wish my right hand may wither at the
wrist."

A shrill howl pealed out from the assailants, and then the stout oak
door cracked and quivered under the strokes of a heavy battering-beam;
in a hundred seconds the hinges yielded, and it came clattering in; over
it leaped three wild figures, bearing torches and pikes, but their
chief, Delaney, was not one of them.

"The left-hand man is yours, Carew; Connell, take the middle one," said
Ralph, as coolly as if we had sprung a pack of grouse. While he spoke
his pistol cracked, and the right-hand intruder dropped across the
threshold without a cry or a stagger, shot right through the brain. The
keeper and I were nearly as fortunate. Then there was a pause; then a
rush from without, an irregular discharge of musketry, and the clear
part of the hall was crowded with enemies.

I can't tell exactly what ensued. I know they retreated several times,
for the barricade was impassable; and while their shots fell harmlessly
on the mattresses, every one of ours told--nothing makes a man shoot
straight like being short of powder--but they came on again, each time
with added ferocity.

I heard Mohun mutter more than once, in a dissatisfied tone, "Why does
not that scoundrel show himself? I can't make out Delaney." All at once
I heard a stifled cry on my right, and, to my horror, I saw Clontarf
dragged over the balustrade in the gripe of a giant, whom I guessed at
once to be the man we had looked for so long. Under cover of the smoke,
he had swung himself up by the balustrade of the staircase, and,
grasping the poor boy's collar as he looked out incautiously from his
shelter, dropped back into the hall, carrying his victim with him.

With a roar of exultation the wild beasts closed round their prey.
Before I had time to think what could be done, I heard, close to my ear,
a blasphemy so awful that it made me start even at that critical moment:
it was Ralph's voice, but I hardly knew it--hoarse and guttural, and
indistinct with passion. Without hesitating an instant, he swung himself
over the balustrade, and lighted on his feet in the midst of the crowd.
They were half drunk with whisky, and maddened by the smell of blood;
but--so great was the terror of Mohun's name--all recoiled when they saw
him thus face to face, his sword bare and his eyes blazing. That
momentary panic saved Clontarf. In a second Ralph had thrown him under
the arch of a deep doorway, and placed himself between the senseless
body and its assailants. Two or three shots were fired at him without
effect; it was difficult to take aim in such a tossing chaos; then one
man, Delaney, sprung out at him with a clubbed musket. "At last!" we
heard Mohun say, laughing low and savagely in his beard as he stepped
one pace forward to meet his enemy. A blow that looked as if it might
have felled Behemoth was warded dexterously by the sabre, and, by a
quick turn of the wrist, its edge laid the Rapparee's face open in a
bright scarlet gash, extending from eyebrow to chin.

His comrades rushed over his body, furious, though somewhat disheartened
at seeing their champion come to grief; but they had to deal with a
blade that had kept half a dozen Hungarian swordsmen at bay, and, with
point or edge, it met them every where, magically. They were drawing
back, when Delaney, recovering from the first effects of his fearful
wound, crawled forward, gasping out curses that seemed floating on the
torrent of his rushing blood, and tried to grasp Mohun by the knees and
drag him down.

Pah! it was a sight to haunt one's dreams. (You might have filled my
glass, some of you, when you saw it was empty.)

Ralph looked down on him, and laughed again; his sabre whirled round
once, and cleared a wide circle; then, trampling down the wounded man by
main force, he drove the point through his throat, and pinned him to the
floor. I tell you I heard the steel plainly as it grated on the stone.
There was an awful convulsion of all the limbs, and then the huge mass
lay quite still.

Then came a lull for several moments. The Irish cowered back to the door
like penned sheep; their ammunition was exhausted, and none dared to
cross the hideous barrier that now was between them and the terrible
Cuirassier.

All this took about half the time to act that it does to tell. I was
hesitating whether to descend or to stay where my duty called me--near
my wife. Fritz knelt behind me, silent and motionless; he had got his
orders to stay by me to the last; but the sturdy keeper rose to his
feet.

"Faix," he said, "I'm but a poor hand at the swoording, but I must help
my master, anyhow;" and he began to climb over the breastwork. The
colonel's quick glance caught the movement, and his brief imperious
tones rang over the hubbub of voices loud and clear,

"Don't stir, Connell; stay where you are. I can finish with these hounds
alone."

As he spoke, he dashed in upon them with lowered head and uplifted
sword.

I don't wonder that they all recoiled; his whole face and form were
fearfully transfigured; every hair in his bushy beard was bristling with
rage, and the incarnate devil of murder was gleaming redly in his eyes.

Just then there was a wild cry from without, answered by a shriek from
my wife, who had been quiet till now. At first I thought that some
fellows had scaled the window; but I soon distinguished the accents of a
great joy. My poor Kate! She had roughed it in barracks too long not to
know the rattle of the steel scabbards.

When the dragoons came up at a hard gallop, there was nothing left in
the court-yard but the dead and dying. Mohun had followed the flyers to
get a last stroke at the hindmost. We clambered down into the hall, and,
just as we reached the door, we saw a miserable crippled being clinging
round his knees, crying for quarter. Poor wretch! he might as well have
asked it from a famished jungle-tiger. The arm that had fallen so often
that night, and never in vain, came down once more; the piteous appeal
ended in a death-yell, and, as we reached him, Mohun was wiping coolly
his dripping sabre: it had no more work to do.

I could not help shuddering as I took his offered hand, and I saw
Connell tremble for the first time as he made the sign of the cross.

The Dragoons were returning from the pursuit; they had only made two
prisoners; the darkness and broken ground prevented their doing more.
Ralph went up to the officer in command.

"How very good of you to come yourself, Harding, when I only asked you
for a troop. Come in; you shall have some supper in half an hour, and
Fritz will take care of your men. Throw all that carrion out," he went
on, as we entered the hall, strewn with corpses. "We'll give them a
truce to take up their dead."

Clontarf came to meet us; he had only been stunned and bruised by the
fall. His pale face flushed up as he said, "I shall never forget that I
have to thank you for my life."

"It's not worth mentioning," Mohun replied, carelessly. "I hope you are
not much the worse for the tumble. Gad! it was a near thing, though. The
quarryman's arms were a rough necklace."

At that moment they were carrying by the disfigured remains of the dead
Colossus. His slayer stopped them, and bent over the hideous face with a
grim satisfaction.

"My good friend Delaney," he muttered, "you will own that I have kept my
word. If ever we meet again, I think I shall know you. _Au revoir_," and
he passed on.

I need not go through the congratulatory scene, nor describe how Kate
blushed as they complimented her on her nerve. Fortunately for her, she
had seen nothing, though she had heard all. Just as we were sitting down
to supper, which Fritz prepared with his usual stolid coolness, and when
Kate was about to leave us, for she needed rest, we remarked the
attorney hovering about us with an exultation on his face yet more
servile and repulsive than its late abject terror.

"Mrs. Carew," said Mohun, "if you have quite done with your _protégé_, I
think we'll send him down stairs. Give him something to eat, Fritz; not
with the soldiers, though; and let some one take him home as soon as
it's light. If you say one word, sir, I'll have you turned out _now_."

Mr. Kelly crept out of the room, almost as frightened as he had been two
hours before.

The supper was more cheerful than the dinner, though there was a certain
constraint on the party, who were not all so seasoned as their host.
_He_ was in unusual spirits; so much so that Clontarf confided to a
cornet, his particular friend, that "it was a pity the colonel could
not have such a bear-fight once a fortnight, it put him into such a
charming humor."

We had nearly finished when, from the road outside, there came a
prolonged ear-piercing wail, that made the window-panes tremble. I have
never heard any earthly sound at once so expressive of utter despair,
and appealing to heaven or hell for vengeance.

We all started, and set down our glasses; but Mohun finished his slowly,
savoring like a connoisseur the rich Burgundy.

"It is the wild Irish women keening over their dead," he remarked, with
perfect unconcern. "They'll have more to howl for before I have done
with them. I shall go round with the police to-morrow and pick up the
stragglers. Your men are too good for such work, Harding. There are
several too hard hit to go far, and my hand-writing is pretty legible."

The stout soldier to whom he spoke bent his head in assent, but with
rather a queer expression on his honest face.

"Gad!" he said, "you do your work cleanly, Mohun."

"It is the best way, and the shortest in the end," was the reply; and so
the matter dropped.

The Dragoons left us before daybreak; their protection was not needed;
we were as safe as in the Tower of London. The next morning, while I was
sleeping heavily, Ralph was in the saddle scouring the country, with
what success the next Assizes could tell.

I go there again this winter for the cock-shooting, but I don't much
think Kate will accompany me.

Now who says "a rubber?" Don't all speak at once.



CHAPTER XVIII.

     "He has mounted her on a milk-white steed,
       Himself on a dappled gray;
     And a bugelet-horn hung down by his side
       As lightly they rode away."


It is hard to describe the terrible _prestige_ which, after the event I
have been speaking of, attached itself to Ralph Mohun. As for attempting
a second attack on the fatal house, the peasantry would as soon have
thought of storming the bottomless pit. They did not even try a shot at
him from behind a wall; considering him perfectly invulnerable, they
deemed it a pity to waste good powder and lead that might be usefully
employed on an agent or process server. As his gaunt, erect figure went
by, the men shrunk out of his path, and the women called their children
in hastily, and shut their cabin doors; the very beggars, who are
tolerably unscrupulous, gave his gate a wide berth, crossing themselves,
with a muttered prayer, "God stand betwixt us and harm." If Ralph
perceived this, I think he rather liked it; at all events, he made no
attempt, either by softening his manner or by any act of benevolence, to
win the popular favor.

Before going to the Lodge I had heard from Livingstone. He said that his
cousin's affair with Charley was progressing satisfactorily (I knew what
that meant), and that he was going himself to sell out. I was not
surprised at this; for some time past even the light restraint of
service in the Household Brigade had begun to bore him. But the
intelligence conveyed in a brief note from him during my stay with Mohun
startled me very much. It announced, without any preface or explanation,
that he was engaged to Constance Brandon.

I had observed that lately he never mentioned or alluded to Miss
Bellasys, but he had been equally silent about his present betrothed. I
told my host of the news directly.

"I am very glad to hear it," he said. "I never heard any thing but good
of his _fiancée_. She is wonderfully beautiful, too, I believe, and her
blood is unexceptionable. And yet," he went on musingly, "I should
hardly have fancied that she would quite suit Guy. I don't know any one
who would exactly. By-the-by, was there not a strong flirtation with a
Miss Bellasys?"

"Yes; so strong that I should have been less surprised to have seen her
name in this letter."

"Then he has not got out of that scrape yet," Mohun observed. "That girl
comes of the wrong stock to give up any thing she has fancied without a
struggle. I knew her father, Dick Bellasys, well. He contrived to
compress as much mischief into his five-and-thirty years, before De
Launy shot him, as most strong men can manage in double the time. He was
like the Visconti--never sparing man in his anger, or woman in his
love."

I felt that he was right. I did not fancy the idea of Flora's state of
mind when she heard that all her fascinations had failed, and that her
rival had won the day.

"I think I must leave you sooner than I had intended," I said; "I
should like to be in England to see how things are going on."

"You are right," answered Ralph, "though I shall be sorry to lose you.
You have some influence with Livingstone, I know, though he is so hard
to guide and self-reliant that advice is almost useless. If I had to
give you a _consigne_, it would be--Distrust. If Miss Bellasys seems to
take things pleasantly, be still more wary. I never saw a peculiarly
frank, winning smile on her father's face without there being ruin to
some one in the background. After all, you can do but little, I suppose.
_Che sara, sara_." He said this drearily, and with something like a
sigh.

I had some business which detained me in Dublin, and it was nearly a
fortnight after I received Guy's letter before I reached London.

Early on the morning after my arrival I went down to his lodgings in
Piccadilly. I found him at breakfast; after the first greetings, before
I could say one word about his own affairs, he began to speak eagerly.

"What a pity you should have come too late for the catastrophe, when you
had seen all the preface! Five days ago Bella and Charley made their
great _coup_, and were married in Paris."

"And Bruce?" I said, recovering from the intelligence, which was not so
unexpected, after all.

"Ah! Bruce"--Guy replied; "I should be very glad if I knew what he _was_
doing at this moment. I have been expecting him every day; but nothing
has been heard of him since he left my mother's presence in a rabid
state of fury. Did I tell you it was from Kerton they fled? I thought
he must have come to me for an explanation, knowing that I was an
accessory before the fact. Indeed, I lent Charley the sinews of war in
the shape of a blank check, which I see this morning he has filled up
for a thousand--just like his modesty. Well, I hope they'll amuse
themselves! Bruce has never been near me. Suicide is the most charitable
suggestion I've heard yet; but coroners are silent, and the Thames, if
it is conscious of that unlucky though disagreeable man, keeps his
secret so far!"

Then he went on to give me more particulars of the _escapade_. It seems
that Miss Raymond had gone out to walk alone, after luncheon, and that
nothing more was heard of her till dinner-time, when a note was found on
her dressing-table, addressed to her aunt, containing the intelligence
of her flight with Forrester, and a little piece of ready-made
penitence--the first for all whom it might concern, the second for her
father.

That placid Lord Ullin received the news by telegraph when he was well
into his second rubber at the "Travelers;" he put the message into his
pocket without remark, and won the rubber before he rose. It has been
reported that he was somewhat absent during its progress, so much so as
to rough his partner's strongest suit; but this I conceive to have been
an after-thought of some one's, or a _canard_ of the club. Impavid as
the Horatian model-man--(just in all his _dealings_, and tenacious of
the odd trick)--I can not imagine the convulsion of nature which would
have made him jeopardize by any sin of omission or commission the
winning of the long odds.

He found Bruce that night, and told him all. He never would give an
account of that interview: it must have been a curious one.

     _"xunômosan gar, ontes echtistoi to prin,
     pur kai thalassa--"_

Fancy the well-iced conventionalities of the one brought in contact with
the other's savage temperament, maddened by baffled desires and the
sense of shameful defeat.

Before noon the next day it was announced to Lady Catharine, at Kerton
Manor, that Bruce was waiting for her in the drawing-room. It was with a
diffidence and sense of guilt very strange to her pure, straightforward
nature that she obeyed the summons.

His back was to the door as she entered.

"I can not tell you how sorry I am," she began.

Bruce turned toward her his ghastly face, ravaged and deformed by
passion and sleeplessness, like a cane-brake in the Western Indies over
which a tornado has passed. He did not appear to notice her words or her
offered hand, but spoke in a strange, broken voice, after clearing his
parched throat once or twice, huskily:

"When did they go? At what hour?"

She told him as well as she could.

"Where have they gone to?"

"I have not the least idea. Bella gave no hint of this. Would you like
to see her note?" and she held it out to him.

The name appeared to sting him like the cut of a whip, for he started
convulsively as he took the scrap of paper. He read it through more than
once, as if unable to comprehend it; the power of discrimination seemed
blasted in his dry, red eyeballs; they could only glare.

He made it out at last, and crumpled it up in his hand, clenching it
till the knuckles became dead-white under the strain.

"We were to have been married this day month," he said to himself, in a
hoarse whisper; then raising his voice, "You can guess, at least, which
route they have taken?"

"Indeed I can not," she answered; "I would have done any thing to
prevent this; but you must see that pursuit now would be worse than
useless; it could only lead to fresh evils."

Then the smouldering passion burst into a flame.

"It is false," he cried out; "you would have done nothing. It is a plot.
You are all in it; you, your son, and more that I will know soon. I saw
it from the first moment I set foot in this cursed house. And you think
I will not be revenged? Wait--wait and see!" He spoke rapidly, but it
seemed as if the words could hardly force their way through his gnashing
teeth.

Good and kind-hearted as she was, there breathed no prouder woman than
Lady Catharine Livingstone. Before he had ended her hand was on the
bell.

"Not even your disappointment can excuse your language," she said, in
her clear, vibrating tones; "our interview is ended. I have pitied you
hitherto, and blamed my niece; I do neither now: she knew you better
than I. Not one word more. Mr. Bruce's carriage."

Bruce glared at her savagely. He would have sold his soul, I believe,
to have strangled her where she stood; but Guy's own peculiar look was
in the cold, disdainful eyes, which met his without flinching or
faltering. He knew that look very well, and quailed under it now, as he
had done many times before.

"A last piece of advice," Lady Catharine said, as he turned to go; "you
had better curb your temper if you think of seeing my son. He may
scarcely be so patient with you as I have been."

If he heard it he did not notice the remark, but left the room slowly.
He lifted his hand, but not his head, in a stealthy gesture of menace as
he reached the door.

Lady Catharine stood for some moments after his departure as if in
thought, unconsciously retaining her somewhat haughty attitude and
expression. Then she went to her room, and prayed, with many tears, that
Isabel Raymond might never have to repent the step she had taken so
rashly. I think a presentiment of danger made her pray for Guy too. But
did she ever forget him when she was on her knees?

Nevertheless, Bruce had not shown upon the scene since, so that they
could not convey to him the intelligence when Isabel Forrester wrote
from Paris to communicate her marriage.

Guy went to Mr. Raymond as a plenipotentiary from the recently allied
powers, to obtain, if possible, fair conditions of peace. His uncle was
breakfasting alone, and received him with perfect good-temper.

"My dear boy," he said, "it was a match of your poor aunt's making, not
mine. If she had lived to see it broken off, I think she would have been
very much provoked. (He gave a slight shudder of reminiscence here, and
finished his chocolate.) But they say there is no marrying or giving in
marriage where she is gone, so let us hope it will not seriously affect
her now. As to me, I have never been angry since I was twenty-two.
Personally, I very much prefer Forrester to Bruce as a connection. I
should have allowed Bella £300 a year, and I suppose the necessary
outfit and presents would have cost me about £500. I will do just the
same now--neither more nor less. You can tell Charley he may draw for
the last sum and for the first quarter when he pleases. They had better
travel for a year or so, I think, till the people have stopped talking
about them. Charley will sell out, of course?"

"His papers are sent in," Guy replied.

"Just so," Raymond went on. "If they are in a pleasant place, I may very
likely go and see them this summer. Suggest Hombourg. I should like to
try the waters. And tell Charley not to go about too much alone after
nightfall. The deserted one is capable of laying a trap for him. I
didn't like his look when I saw him last. That is all, I think. Do you
go to Lady Featherstone's to-night?"

Raymond appeared at his clubs and elsewhere with a face so impenetrably
cheerful and complacent that his bitterest friend dared not venture on a
condolence.



CHAPTER XIX.

     "Tu mihi, tu certè (memini), Græcine, negabas,
     Uno posse aliquem tempore amare duas."


When I had heard all this, I questioned Guy about his own affairs. He
was not very communicative, though he seemed perfectly happy and hopeful
as to the future. He said that his marriage was not to take place till
the autumn, when Miss Brandon's brother (they were orphans) was expected
to return from India. I could not help asking what Flora Bellasys
thought of it.

Livingstone bit his lip and frowned slightly as he answered, "Well,
there _was_ a scene--rather a tempestuous one, to speak the truth, but
we are perfectly good friends now. I wonder if she ever really expected
me to marry her? She is the most amusing person alive to flirt with, but
as for serious measures--" He shrugged his shoulders expressively.
"Perhaps she _has_ something to complain of; but if she has any
conscience at all, she ought to recognize the _lex talionis_."

I was not convinced or satisfied, but it was useless to pursue the
subject then.

"Will you ride to-day?" Guy asked. "There are always horses for you
here. I should like to introduce you to Constance. We shall be in the
Park about five."

I accepted willingly, and left him soon afterward.

A little after the hour he had named I saw Livingstone's tall figure
turn the corner of Kensington Gardens, riding on Miss Brandon's right;
on her left was her uncle, Mr. Vavasour, her usual escort.

She was rarely lovely, certainly, as I was sure she would be, for Guy's
taste in feminine beauty was undisputed. Her features were delicate, but
very clearly cut; the nose and chin purely Grecian in their outline; the
dark gray eyes met you with an earnest, true expression, as if they had
nothing to conceal. Her broad Spanish hat suited her well, shading as it
did cheeks slightly flushed by exercise, and shining tresses of that
color which with us is nameless, and which across the Channel they
call--_blond cendré_. Her hand was strikingly perfect, even in its
gauntlet. It might have been modeled from that famous marble fragment of
which the banker-poet was so proud, and which Canova kissed so often.

There is a face which always reminds me of hers, though the figure in
the portrait is far more matured and developed than Constance's willowy
form--the picture of Queen Joanna of Naples in the Palazzo Doria.

I have stood before it long, trying in vain to read the riddle of the
haughty lineaments, and serene, untroubled eyes. Gazing at these, who
could guess the story of that most guilty woman and astute
conspirator--unbridled in sensuality--remorseless in statecraft--who
counted her lovers by legions, and saw, unmoved, her chief favorite torn
limb from limb on the rack?

But this is no singular instance. Marble and canvas are more discreet
than the mask of the best trained living features. Messalina and Julia
look cold and correct enough since they have been turned into stone.
Only by the magic of her smile and by the glory of her golden hair do we
recognize her who, if all tales are true, might have given a tongue to
the walls of the Vatican. We forget the Borgia, with her laboratory of
philtres and poisons--we only think that never a duke of all his royal
race brought home a lovelier bride than Alfonso of Ferrara.

Perhaps it is best so. Why should a mark be set upon those whom, it may
be, history has condemned unrighteously? Let us not be more uncharitable
than the painter or the sculptor, but pass on without pausing to
reflect--_Desinit in piscem_.

If one had wanted to find a fault in Constance Brandon's beauty, I
suppose it would have been that her forehead was too high, and her lips
too thin and decided in their expression, especially when compressed
under any strong feeling. But this defect it would have been hard to
discover on this first occasion of our meeting. She looked so bright and
joyous, and the light from her face seemed reflected on Guy's dark
features, softening their stern outline, and making them radiant with a
proud happiness. She received me very cordially, and I well remember the
pleasant impression left on my ear by the first sound of her voice, soft
and low as Cordelia's. In these two attributes it resembled that of
Flora Bellasys, yet their tones were essentially different--as different
as is to the taste a draft of pure sparkling water from one of strong
sweet wine. We had taken two or three turns, when a large party
approached us, in the centre of whom I recognized instantly Miss
Bellasys. If possible, she looked handsomer than ever as she swept by at
a sharp canter, sitting square and firmly, but yielding just enough to
the stride of the horse--perfectly erect, but inimitably lithe and
graceful.

Nothing in her demeanor betrayed the faintest shade of emotion; but I
remembered the old maxim of the fencing-school--"Watch your enemy's
eyes, not his blade;" and I caught Flora's, as she raised her head after
returning our salutation, before she had time to discipline them
thoroughly. I saw them glitter with defiant hatred as they lighted on
her rival. I saw them melt with passionate eagerness as for one brief
moment they followed Guy's retreating figure and averted face. Half of
Mohun's warning became superfluous after that. I was in no danger of
being deceived by "Miss Bellasys taking things pleasantly."

Yet, as time wore on, the idea forced itself on me more and more that
Livingstone's choice was in some respects a mistake. They were _not_
suited to each other. Constance was as unsuspicious and as free from
commonplace jealousies as the merest child; but some of her lover's
proceedings did not please her, and she told him so, perhaps without
attending sufficiently to the "_suaviter in modo_"; for, when it was a
question of duty, real or fancied, to herself and to others, she was
rigid as steel. Besides this, she was a strict observer of all Church
canons and rituals; and more than once, when Guy had proposed some plan,
a vigil, or matins, or vespers came in the way. She did all for the
best, I am certain, and judged herself far more severely than she did
others, but she could not guess how any thing like an admonition or a
lecture grated on the proud, self-willed nature that from childhood had
been unused to the slightest control. To speak the truth, too, she was
not exempt from that failing which brought ruin on the brightest of the
angels, and punishment eternal on the Son of the Morning; so that pride
may often have checked the evidence of the deep love she really felt,
and made her manner seem constrained and cold.

I only guess all this; for neither then, nor at any future time, did I
ever hear from Guy the faintest whisper of accusation or complaint.

I do not think he contradicted her often; I am quite sure it never came
to a quarrel or even a dispute. They were not a couple likely to indulge
in the _amantium iræ_; but sometimes, after quitting her, his brow was
so ominously overcast that it would have gladdened the very heart of
Flora Bellasys to have seen it. Once, I remember, after sitting some
time in silence, his eyes turned toward a table, where, among other
letters, lay a little triangular note unopened. He broke the seal and
read it through, frowning still heavily; after a few moments of what
looked like hesitation, he seemed to come to a decision, and burned it
slowly at the flame of his spirit-lamp. Then he rose and shook all his
mighty limbs--as the Danite Titan might have done before his locks were
shorn--and sat down again with a long-drawn sigh, as of relief. I longed
to interpose with a warning word, for in the handwriting I recognized
the _griffe_ of the fatal Delilah. But I knew how dangerous it was to
attempt interference with Guy; and besides, this time, I felt sure he
had escaped the toils. Yet my heart sank as I thought of the seductions
and temptations that the future might have in store. I could hardly
keep my temper that evening when I saw at the Opera Flora
Bellasys--triumphant, as if she could guess what the morning's work had
been--and then thought of the single, guileless heart whose happiness
she was plotting to overthrow.

She and Guy met constantly, for he still went every where, often
accompanied by his _fiancée_. They seemed to be on the most ordinary
footing of old acquaintances, though it was remarked that no one could
be said to have succeeded to the post of grand vizier at the Bellasys
court, vacated by Livingstone. I can not trace the threads of the web of
Circe. She concealed them well at the time; and since--between the
knowledge of them and me is drawn the veil of a terrible remorse, which
I have never tried to penetrate.

I can only tell the end, which came very speedily.



CHAPTER XX.

     "'Tis good to be merry and wise;
       'Tis good to be honest and true;
     'Tis good to be off with the old love
       Before you are on with the new."


There was a sound of revelry by night in Mrs. Wallace's villa at
Richmond, and fair women and brave men mustered there strong. Every one
liked those parties. The hostess was young and very charming, while her
husband, a bald, inoffensive, elderly man, was equally eminent in his
own department of the commissariat. His wines were things to dream of in
after years, when, like Curran, "confined to the Port" of a remote
country inn, one sacrifices one's self heroically on the altar of the
landlord for the good of the house.

The crowd was not so dense as at most London parties, and the
temperature consequently something below that of a vapor-bath or of the
_Piombi_, but the generality of the guests were either amusing, or
pretty, or otherwise eligible. To be sure, it was rather an expedition
and a question of passports to get down there, but the drive home
through the cool dewy morning made you amends.

Constance Brandon was present. I never saw her look so lovely as on
this, her last appearance on the world's stage. No one could have
guessed that, five hours later, the light was to die in her eyes and the
color in her cheeks, never to return to either again till she shall
wake on the Resurrection morning.

Flora Bellasys was there too, in all the insolence of beauty, defying
criticism, and challenging the admiration that was lavished on her. I
should like to describe her dress; but I know how dangerous it is for
the uninitiate to venture within the verge of those awful mysteries over
which, as hierophants, Devy and Maradon-Carson preside. Conscious of my
sex, I retire. Have we not read of Actæon?

Still I may say that I have an impression of her being surrounded by a
sort of cloud of pale blue _tulle_, over which bouquets of geranium were
scattered here and there; and I remember perfectly a certain serpent of
scarlet velvet and diamonds flashing amid the rolls and braids of her
dark shining tresses.

The evening began with private theatricals, which were most successful.
There was a _soubrette_--provoking enough to have set all the
parti-colored world by the ears--who traced her descent from a vavasor
of Duke William the Norman, and an attorney's clerk, who had evidently
mistaken his profession when he took a commission in the Coldstreams.

Soon after the ball which followed had begun, Livingstone arrived. He
had been dining at the mess of his old regiment. I never remember seeing
him what is called the worse for liquor. His head was marble under the
influence of wine and of yet stronger compounds; but the instant I met
his eyes, I guessed from their unusual brilliancy, and from the slight
additional flush on his brown cheeks, that the wassail had been deep.

He paused for a moment to say a word or two to me, and I noticed that
the first person whom his glance lighted on was, not his betrothed, but
Flora Bellasys. The latter was resting after her first polka, with her
usual staff of admirers round her. Guy watched the circle paying their
homage, and I heard him mutter to himself the formula of the Roman
arena--_Morituri te salutant_. Then he passed on; and, after retaining
Constance for her first disengaged turn, he began talking to a lady,
whom I have not noticed yet, but who merits to be sketched hastily.

Rose Thornton was not clever. She was no longer in her first youth, and
had never been pretty or very attractive. Her figure was neat, and her
face had a sort of nervous deprecating expression, that made you look at
it a second time. Nevertheless, she was always deeply engaged, and
generally to the best goers in the room. She was a good performer
herself, but this would not account for it; ninety-nine girls out of
every hundred are that, after two seasons' practice. Those who were in
the secret did not wonder at her luck. She was the _âme damnee_ of Flora
Bellasys.

Whenever the latter ventured on any unusually daring escapade, she was
always really accompanied by Miss Thornton, or supposed to be so. How
the influence was originally acquired I know not; at the time I speak of
she had no more volition left than a Russian Grenadier. She had some
principles of action once, I suppose, and considered herself as an
accountable being; but all such vanities her "dashing white sergeant"
had drilled out of her long ago. Poor thing! It was no wonder that the
frightened look had become habitual to her face, and that she always
spoke with reserve and constraint, as if to guard against the
chance-betrayal of some terrible secret. It was no sinecure, her
office--alternately scapegoat and _confidante_. My own idea is, that
having still a little feeble remnant of a conscience remaining, she
suffered agonies of remorse at times in the latter capacity. Dancing was
her great--almost her only pleasure, and Flora certainly provided her
regularly with partners. Indeed, some one had irreverently designated
Miss Thornton as The Turnpike, inasmuch as, before securing a waltz with
the beauty, it was necessary to pay toll in the shape of a duty-dance
with her _protégée_. Rose's gratitude was boundless. She never wearied
in rendering small services to her patroness. She would write her notes
for her, as La Raffé did for Richelieu, and fetch and carry like the
best of retrievers; venturing every now and then on a timid caress,
which was permitted rather than accepted with an imperial nonchalance.
The only subject on which she ever expanded into eloquence was the
fascinations of her friend. She spent all her weak breath in blowing
that laudatory trumpet, as if she expected the defenses of the best
guarded heart to fall prostrate before it, like the walls of Jericho.
And yet, if all the truth were known, I think she had as much reason to
complain as the dwarf in the story who swore fellowship in arms with the
giant.

I was sorry to see Livingstone linger at her side, yet more sorry when,
by an easy transition, he passed on to Flora's, and the circle around
her, from old habit, made room for him to pass. He did not stay there
long, though--only long enough to make future arrangements, I
suppose--and then, for some time, I lost sight of him.

I had been driving heavily through a quadrille in the society of a very
foolish virgin, whose ideas of past, present, and future seemed bounded
by the last Opera, which she had and I had not seen. A horror of great
dullness had fallen upon me, and I went out to restore the tone of my
depressed spirits by a libation, wherein I devoted, solemnly, my late
partner to the infernal gods. When I returned they were playing "The
Olga," and Flora was whirling round on Guy Livingstone's arm.

Among her many perilous fascinations, have I ever mentioned her
wonderful waltzing? She was as untiring as an Almè; and when once fairly
launched with a steerer who could do her justice, had a sway with
her--to use an Americanism--like that of a clipper three points off the
wind.

As I watched her, almost reclining in her partner's powerful grasp, her
lips moving incessantly, though audibly only to him, as her head leaned
against his shoulder, I thought of the old Rhineland tradition of the
Wilis; then the daughter of Herodias came into my mind; and then that
scarcely less murderous _danseuse_, at whose many-twinkling feet they
say the second Napoleon cast his frail life down.

If, in his assault on St. Anthony, the Evil One mingled no Terpsichorean
temptation, be sure it was because the ancient man had no ear for music,
I do not think that weapon was forgotten when Don Roderick, who had once
been a courtly king, did battle through a long winter's night with the
phantasm of fair, sinful La Cava.

The waltz was over, and I saw Guy and Flora disappear through the
curtained door of the conservatory. If there was one thing Mrs. Wallace
was prouder of than another, it was the arrangement of this sanctum.
Very justly so; for it had witnessed the commencement and happy
termination of more flirtations than half the ball-rooms in London put
together. When you got into one of those nooks, contrived in artful
recesses, shaded by magnolias, camellias, and the broad, thick-leaved
tropical plants, lighted dimly by lamps of many-colored glass, you felt
the recitation of some chapter in "the old tale so often told" a
necessity of the position, not a matter of choice. Against eyes you were
tolerably safe, though not against ears; but this is of very secondary
importance. The man who would not assist a woman in distress (as the
stage sailor has it) by adhering to the whisper appropriate to the
imparting of interesting information, deserves to be--overheard.

Flora sank down on a convenient _causeuse_, still panting slightly--not
from breathlessness, but past excitement--the ground-swell after the
storm.

"Ah! what a waltz!" she said, with a sigh. "And what a pity it is so
nearly the last! I shall never find any one else who will understand my
step and pace so well."

"Why should it be nearly the last?" Guy asked, contemplating the varying
expression of her face and the somewhat careless _pose_ of her
magnificent figure with more than admiration in his eyes.

"_On se range,_" Flora answered, demurely. "And the first step in the
right direction will be to give up one's favorite partners."

He sat down by her with a short laugh that was rather forced.

"Bah! do you think, because we are virtuous, there shall be no more
cakes and ale?"

"Of course I do. I could sketch your future so easily. It will be so
intensely respectable. You will become a model country squire. You will
hunt a good deal, but never _ride_ any more. (You must sell the Axeine,
you know.) You will go to magistrates' meetings regularly, and breed
immense cattle; and you will grow very fat yourself. That's the worst of
all. I don't like to fancy you stout and unwieldy, like Athelstan."

She ended, pensively. The languor of reaction seemed stealing over her,
but it only made her more charming as she leaned still farther back on
the soft cushions, watching the point of her tiny foot tracing the
pattern of the carpet.

"What a brilliant horoscope!" said Guy; "and so benevolently sketched,
too! Now your own, Improvisatrice."

"I shall marry too," she answered, gravely. "I ought to have done so
long ago. Perhaps I shall make up my mind soon. Evil examples are so
contagious."

"And who will draw the great prize?"

"I have not the faintest idea. I suppose some fine old English
gentleman, who has a great estate."

"I only hope the said estate will be near Kerton," Livingstone
suggested; and he drew closer to his companion.

"Ah! dear old Kerton," she said, sighing again, "I shall never go there
any more."

"The reason?"

"Perhaps because my husband, whoever he may be, will not choose to bring
me."

"Absurd!" Guy retorted, biting his lip hard. "As if that individual
would have any will of his own. You want to provoke me, I see."

The answer came in so low a whisper that, though he bent his ear down,
he had almost to guess at the words.

"No, I have never tried to do that, even during the last three months. I
am not brave enough. Perhaps I should not come, because--I could not
bear it."

They were silent. She was so near him now that her quick breath stirred
his hair, and he could feel the pulse of her heart beating against his
own side. The fiery Livingstone blood, heated seven-fold by wine and
passion, was surging through his veins like molten iron. Memory and
foresight were both swept away like withered leaves by the strength of
the terrible temptation.

His arm stole round her waist, and he drew her toward him--close--closer
yet; then she looked up in his face. The cloud of thoughtful gravity has
passed away from hers, and the provocations of a myriad of coquettes and
courtesans concentrated in her marvelous eyes.

He bent down his lofty head, and instantly their lips met, and were set
together fast.

A kiss! Tibullus, Secundus, Moore, and a thousand other poets and
poetasters, have rhymed on the word for centuries, decking it with the
choicest and quaintest conceits. But, remember, it was with a kiss that
the greatest of all criminals sealed the unpardonable sin--it was a kiss
which brought on Francesca punishment so unutterably piteous that he
swooned at the sight who endured to look on all other terrors of
nine-circled hell.



CHAPTER XXI.

         "God help thee, then!
       I'll see thy face no more.
     Like water spilled upon the plain,
     Not to be gathered up again,
       Is the old love I bore."


Before that long caress was ended, close behind them there broke forth a
low, plaintive cry, such as might be wrung from the bravest of delicate
women, in her extremity of pain, when stricken by a heavy brutal hand.

The hot blood ebbed back in Guy Livingstone's veins, and froze at its
fountain-head. His punishment had begun already. Before her face, white
as the dress she wore, was revealed through a break in the dark green
foliage of the camellias, he knew that he had trifled away his life's
happiness, and lost Constance Brandon.

She came forward slowly. With a valiant effort she had shaken off the
first feeling of faintness that had crept over her, and there was
scarcely a trace of emotion left on her features--calm and pale as the
Angel of Death.

Guy had risen, and stood still, with his head bent down on his breast.
For the first time in his life he was unable to raise his eyes, weighed
down by the heavy sense of bitter disgrace and forfeited honor.

But the bright flush on Flora's cheek spoke more of exultation than of
shame; the bouquet which she raised to her lips only half concealed a
smile of triumph. She wreathed her slender neck haughtily while she met
her rival's glance without flinching. She thought that, if she had
played for a heavy stake--no less than the jeopardy of her fair
fame--this time, at least, the game was her own.

Constance spoke first, in a voice perfectly measured and composed. There
was not a false note in the soft, musical tones. After once conquering
her emotion, she would have dropped dead at Flora's feet sooner than
betray how she was wounded.

"When you have taken Miss Bellasys back, will you come to me for a
moment, Mr. Livingstone? I will wait for you here."

Flora rose before Guy could answer. "Don't trouble yourself," she said,
gayly. "Here is my partner for the polka looking anxiously for me. I am
ready, Captain Ravenswood."

She turned, before reaching the door, to fire a last shot.

"It is the next galop I am to keep for you, is it not?"

This was to Guy; but there was no answer. He stood in precisely the same
attitude, without a muscle of his face stirring or an eyelash quivering.

In all the Rifle Brigade there was not a more reckless dare-devil than
Harry Ravenswood, nor one who adhered more devoutly to the convenient
creed, "All is fair in war or love." But he saw that something had
happened quite out of his line; and he did not venture on a single
allusion to it as he led his partner back to the dancing-room, with a
perplexed expression on his cheery face, which amused Flora intensely
when she remarked it. When the subject came on for discussion afterward
in the smoking-room at his club, he thus expressed himself, in language
terse and elegantly allegorical.

"You see, Livingstone is a very heavy weight; a good deal better than
most in the ring. When I saw him so floored as not to be able to come to
time, I knew there had been some hard hitting going on thereabouts, so I
kept clear."

The two who were left alone in the conservatory remained silent for a
few seconds. Then Guy roused himself, and offered his arm to his
companion with an impulse of courtesy that was simply mechanical. She
took it without remark, and they passed out through the door which led
into the garden.

There Constance left his side; and, for the first time, their eyes met
as they stood face to face under the bright moon. Guy read his sentence
instantly--a sentence from which there was no appeal. The very
hopelessness of his situation restored its elasticity to the somewhat
sullen pride which was the mainspring of his character. He stood,
waiting for her to speak; and his eyes were not cast down now, but
riveted on her face--gloomily defiant.

"I hope you will believe," Miss Brandon said, "that it was quite
involuntarily I became a spy on your actions. I did not overhear one
word; and my partner had that moment left me, when I saw--" Not all her
self-command could check the shudder that ran through every limb, and
the choking in her throat that would interrupt her.

"I have very little to add," she went on, more steadily. "After what I
witnessed, I need hardly say that we only meet again as the merest
strangers. You might think meanly of me, indeed, if I ever allowed your
lips to touch my cheek or my hand again. Remember, I told you from the
first we were not suited to each other; perhaps I deserve all I have met
with for allowing myself to be overruled. You can not contradict a word
of this, or say that it is unjust or severe."

Did she pause in the expectation or the hope of an excuse, or an appeal
from her hearer? Only the hoarse answer came,

"I have forfeited the right to defend myself or to gainsay you."

"You would find it difficult to do either," Constance rejoined, rather
more haughtily; perhaps she was disappointed in the tone of his reply.
"One word more: if my name is ever called in question, I am sure no one
will defend it more readily than yourself. My voice will never be heard
against you; and if, hereafter, you shall desire my forgiveness more
than you now do; remember, I have given it unasked and freely."

Guy's tone was pregnant with cold, cruel irony as he answered,

"I congratulate you on your position, Miss Brandon; it is quite
unassailable. You are in the right now, as you always have been. You
were right, of course, in always doling out the tokens of your love in
such scanty measure as your pride and your priests would allow. They
ought to canonize you--those holy men! I doubt if they have another
disciple so superior to all human weaknesses. It must be very
gratifying to so eminent a Christian to be able to forgive plenarily,
without danger of the favor being returned. I have nothing to urge
against your decision--that we part forever. You will have no difficulty
in forgetting me, whom you ought never to have stooped to. Yet I will
give you one caution. I am not romantic, as you know, and I generally
mean what I say. If you should think hereafter of bestowing yourself on
some worthier object, hesitate a little for _his_ sake, or wait till I
am dead; otherwise, the day that makes his happiness certain may bring
him very near his grave."

His voice had changed during the last words into a growl of savage
menace, and his forehead was black and furrowed with passion.

It might have been his own excited fancy, or the passing just then of a
light cloud over the moon; but, for an instant, he thought he saw her
steady lip quiver and tremble. If so, be very sure it was not fear which
caused the emotion, though even that the circumstances might have
excused; rather, I think, it was a pang of self-reproach--a
consciousness of having acted unwisely, though for the best; perhaps,
too, the stubbornness of the heart she had ruled once--so strong and
proud even in its abasement--was congenial to her own besetting sin: she
liked the fierce threat better than the cool sarcasm. At any rate, she
answered more gently than she had yet spoken.

"I believe you. But you know me better than to think a threat would
influence me. Yet you need not fear my ever again trusting this world
with my happiness. You will be very sorry hereafter for some things you
have said to-night. Ask yourself--if I had loved you, as you seem to
have expected, better than my own soul, would the result have been
different? It is too late now to say any thing but--farewell. Will you
not say it, as I do, kindly, or at least not in anger--Guy?"

She paused between the two last words, and their imploring accent was
almost piteous. There must have been a strange fascination about
Livingstone, for, saint as she was, no other living creature would have
won such a concession from the Christian charity of Constance Brandon.

Had Guy spoken then, as he ought to have done, I believe all might have
been amended; but an angry devil was busy within him, and would not let
go his prey; he stood with his black brows downcast, and with folded
arms, never seeming to notice the slender fingers that sought to touch
his hand. True it is that nothing makes a man so unforgiving as the
consciousness of having inflicted a bitter wrong. He heard a sigh, heavy
and despairing as Francesca's when her dying prayer was spurned, a light
shadow flitted across the streak of moonlit grass, and, when he raised
his head, he was left alone, like Alp on the sea-shore, to judge the
battle between a remorseful conscience and a hardened heart.

Livingstone was seen no more that night; Constance glided in alone, and
her absence had been scarcely noticed. During the short time that she
remained, no one could have guessed from her face that her heart was
broken, any more than did Napoleon that the aid-de-camp who brought the
news of Lannes' victory had been almost cut in two by a grape-shot.

I speak it diffidently, with the fear of the divine voice of the people
before my eyes, as is but fitting in these equalizing days, when
territories, the title to which is possession immemorial, are being
plucked away acre by acre, and hereditary privileges mined one by one;
but it seems to me, in this, perhaps, solitary attribute, "the brave old
houses" still keep their pre-eminence.

They are not better, nor wiser in their generation (forbid it,
Manchester!), nor even more daring in confronting danger than the
thousands whose grandsires are creations of a powerful fancy or of a
complaisant king-at-arms. In that terrible charge which swept away the
Russian cavalry at Eylau, three lengths in front of the best blood in
France rode the innkeeper's son. The "First Grenadier" himself was not
more splendidly reckless, though he was a La Tour d'Auvergne. But in
passive uncomplaining endurance, in the power of obliterating outward
tokens of suffering, physical or mental, may we not still say, _Noblesse
oblige_?

Hundreds of similar isolated instances may be quoted from the annals of
the Third Estate; but, in the class I speak of, this quality seems a
sixth sense wholly independent of, and often contradicting the rest of
the individual's disposition.

I remember meeting in France an old Italian refugee. He had not much
principle and very little pride; he was ready _quidvis facere aut pati_
to get a five-franc piece, which he would incontinently stake and lose
at baccarat or ecarté, as he had done aforetime with a large ancestral
inheritance; but his quiet fortitude under privations that were neither
few nor light was worthy of Belisarius.

Very often, I am sure, his evening meal must have been eaten with the
Barmecide; but his pale, handsome face, finished off so gracefully by
the white, pointed beard, still met you, courteous and unruffled, the
idea of an exiled doge, or a Rohan in disgrace. Once only I saw him
moved--when the landlord of our inn, a vast bloated _bourgeois_, smote
the Count familiarly on the shoulder, and bantered him pleasantly on the
brilliant prospects of his eldest son. It was not unkindly meant,
perhaps, but the old man shrunk away from the large fat hand as if it
hurt him, and turned toward us a look piteously appealing, which was not
lost on myself or Livingstone. When mine host, later in the evening,
shook in his gouty slippers before an ebullition of Guy's wrath, excited
by the most shadowy pretext, I wonder if he guessed at the remote cause
of that outpouring of the vials? Count Massa did, for he smiled
intensely, as only an Italian can smile when amply revenged.

One instance more to close a long digression. I have read of a baron in
the fifteenth century who once in his life said a good thing. He was a
coarse, brutal marauder, illiterate enough to have satisfied Earl Angus,
and as unromantic as the Integral Calculus. He was mortally wounded in a
skirmish; and when his men came back from the pursuit, he was bleeding
to death, resting against a tree. When they lifted him up, they noticed
his eyes fixed with a curious, complacent expression on the red stream
that surged and gurgled out of his wound, just as a _gourmand_ looks at
a bumper of a rare vintage held up to the light. They heard him growl to
himself, "_Qu'il coule rouge et fort, le bon vieux sang de Bourgogne_."
And then he fell back--dead.

O Publicola Thompson! Phösphor to the Tower Hamlets and Boanerges of
the platform--will you not allow that, amid a wilderness of weeds, this
one fair plant flourishes under "the cold shade?"



CHAPTER XXII.

     "Shy she was, and I thought her cold;
       Thought her proud, and fled over the sea;
     Filled I was with folly and spite,
       When Ellen Adair was dying for me."


When I came to Livingstone's chambers on the following morning, I found
him alone. His head was resting listlessly against the back of the vast
easy-chair in which he was reclining, and his face, thrown out in relief
against the crimson velvet, looked haggard and drawn. The calumet--not
of peace--was between his lips, and the dense blue clouds were wreathing
round him like a Scotch mist. On a table near lay a heap of gold and
notes. He had finished the night at his club, where lansquenet had been
raging till long after sunrise. Fortune had been more kind than usual,
and the fruits of "passing" eight times lay before me. An open
liqueur-case close at his elbow showed that play was not the only
counter-excitement to which he had resorted.

I hoped to have found him in a repentant mood, but his first words
undeceived me: "I start for Paris by this evening's train;" and then I
remarked all about me the signs of immediate departure.

I only had a confused idea of what had happened, and was anxious to know
the truth, but he was very brief in his answers: the particulars of what
had passed I learned long afterward.

"Can nothing be done?" I asked, when he had finished all he chose to
tell me.

"Nothing!" replied Livingstone, decisively. "If excuse or explanation
had been of any use, I think I should have tried them last night. You
would not advise me to humiliate myself to no purpose, I suppose?"

There is a certain scene in Æschylus which came into my mind just then.

A group of elderly men, with grave, rather vacuous faces, and grizzled
beards, stand in the court-yard of an ancient palace. On one side is the
peristyle, with its square stunted pillars, looking as if the weight
above crushed them, though it wearies them no more than the heavens do
Atlas; on the other, a gateway, vast, low-browed, shadowy with Cyclopean
stones. Somewhat apart is a strange weird figure, ever and anon starting
up and tossing her arms wildly as she utters some new denunciation, and
then cowering down again in a despairing weariness. There are traces yet
in the thin, wan face of the beauty which enslaved Loxian Apollo, and of
the pride which turned his great love into a greater hate: round it hang
the black elf-locks, disheveled, that have never been braided since the
gripe of Telamonian Ajax ruffled them so rudely. In her great, troubled
eyes you read terrible memories, and a prescience of coming
death--death, most grateful to the dishonored princess, but before which
the frail womanhood can not but shudder and quail. No wonder that the
reverend men glance at her uneasily, scarcely mustering courage enough
sometimes to answer her with a pious platitude. Alas! alas! Cassandra.

While we gaze, forth from the recesses of the gynæceum there breaks a
cry, expressing rather wrath and surprise than mere pain. Then there
comes another, more plaintive--the moan of a strong man in the
death-throe.

We know that voice very well; we have heard it many times, calm and
regal, above the wrangle of councils and the roar of battle; often it
prayed for victory or for the people's weal, but it never yet called on
earth or heaven to help Agamemnon. The Chorus hear it too; but they
linger and palter, while each gives his grave sentence deliberately in
his proper turn. One or two advise action and interference, and stand
perfectly still. At last we hear a heavy, choking groan, and a great
stillness follows. We know that all is over--we know that there is a
stir already down there in Hades--we seem to catch a far-off murmur
raised by a thousand weak, tremulous voices--the very ghost of a
wail--as the shadows of those who died gallantly in their harness before
Troy gather to meet their old leader, the mightiest Atride.

In the background of all we fancy a hideous Eidolon, from whose side
even the damned recoil in loathing. There is a grin on the lips yet red
and wet with the traces of the unholy banquet. Thyestes exalts over the
fulfillment of another chapter in the inevitable curse.

Who has not grown savage over that scene? We hate the old drivelers less
when, a few minutes later, they truckle and temporize with the awful
shape, who comes forth with a splash of blood on her slender wrist, and
a speck or two on her white, lofty forehead.

Just so helpless and useless I felt at that moment. I was standing by
while a foul wrong was being wrought. I saw nothing but ruin for Guy,
and desolate misery for Constance, in the black future. Yet I could
think of no argument or counsel that would in the least avail. I felt
sick at heart. It was some minutes before I answered his last question.
At last the words broke from me almost unconsciously: "Ah! how will you
answer to God and man for last night's work?"

I forgot that I was quoting the cry of the Covenanter's widow when she
knelt by her husband's corpse, and looked up into Claverhouse's face
with those sad eyes that were ever dim and cloudy after the carbines
flashed across them. But Guy remembered it, and answered instantly in
the words of his favorite hero,

"I can answer it to man well enough, and I will take God in my own
hand."

Years afterward we both recalled that fatal defiance, when the speaker
lay helpless, at the mercy of the Omnipotence whose might he challenged.
Just then his servant, who was busily preparing for departure, entered
the room.

Willis was a slight, under-sized man, of about fifty; his complexion was
muddy and indefinite; his small whiskers, of a grayish red, were trimmed
and pruned as accurately as a box border-edging, and the partial absence
of eyebrows and eyelashes gave his face a sort of unfinished look. The
expression natural to it was, I think, a low, vicious cunning; but his
features and little green eyes were so rigidly disciplined that, as a
rule, neither had any characteristic save utter vacuity. In his own line
he was perfect. No commission that could be intrusted to him would draw
from him a remark or a look of surprise. He executed precisely what he
was told, and fulfilled the minutest duties of his station
irreproachably, with a noiseless, feline activity. He was like the
war-horse of the Douglas:

             "Though somewhat old,
     Swift in his paces, cool, and bold."

He held a miniature-case in his hand as he entered. "Am I to put this
in, sir?" he asked, in the slow, measured voice that was habitual to
him.

His master gazed sharply at him, as if trying to detect a covert
sneer--it would have been safer to have stroked a rattlesnake's crest
than to have trifled with Livingstone just then--but Willis's face was
as innocent of any expression as a dead wall.

"Put it down, and go on with your packing; you have no time to spare."
The man laid the case on a marble table near, and went out.

Guy took the miniature and regarded it steadfastly for some moments,
then he looked up and caught my eye. Perhaps there was an eager appeal
there (for I knew well whose likeness lay before him) which displeased
and provoked his sullen temper; for he frowned darkly, and then his
clenched hand fell with the crashing weight of a steam-hammer. Nothing
but a heap of shivered wood, glass, and ivory remained of what had been
the life-like image of Constance Brandon.

A thrill of horror shot through me icily, and a low cry burst from my
lips. I felt at that moment as if the blow had fallen, not on the
portrait, but on the original.

But I kept silence. The dark hour was on Saul, and I knew no spell to
chase the evil spirit away.

Guy spoke at last. His manner was unusually chill and constrained.

"I expect to meet Mohun in Paris, and we shall probably go on to Vienna.
I hardly like troubling you with commissions, but I must. Listen. I
leave my own name--and another person's--in your keeping. I wish it to
be clearly understood that the engagement was broken off by Miss
Brandon, not by me. If you hear any man speak disparagingly of her in
connection with what has passed, you can insult him on my behalf as
grossly as you please. I will be here, as fast as steam can bring me, to
back what you may have said or done. This is the only point in which I
hope you will guard my honor. As for blaming _me_, they may say what
they please. Do you quite understand? And will you promise?"

I did promise; and so, after a few more last words, we parted, more
coldly than we had ever done in all the years through which we had been
intimate.

Guy left England the same evening, and descended like a thunder-clap on
the joyous little _ménage_ in the Rue de la Madeleine, where Forrester
and his bride were still fluttering their wings in the honeymoon-shine
of post-nuptial spring.

They were miraculously happy, those two. Indeed, they seemed to have
only one taste between them, and that was Charley's. If he felt
inclined, which was not seldom, to utter inaction, his wife encouraged
him in his laziness, sitting contentedly for hours on her footstool,
with her silky hair just within reach of his indolent hand. If, after
dinner, he suggested the "Italiens," or the "Bouffes," it was always
precisely that theatre that she had been thinking of all the morning.
She was in the seventh heaven when he won a hurdle-race in the Champ de
Mars.

They made excursions into the _banlieue_, and farther afield yet, like a
couple of the _Pays Latin_ in their first loves. The cabinets of Bercy
and St. Cloud knew them; so did the arbors of Asnières, where, in
oilskin and _vareuse_, muster for their Sabbat the ancient mariners of
the Seine. Nay, it has been whispered that more than once--close veiled
and clinging tightly to her husband's arm--Isabel witnessed at _Mabille_
and the _Chaumière_ the choregraphic triumphs of _Frisette_, _Pomare_,
and _Mogador_.

My hand trembles while I record such enormities and backslidings. O
Brougham-girls of Belgravia, who "never gave your mothers a moment's
uneasiness"--stars of the Western hemisphere, who can be trusted any
where without fear of your wandering from your orbits--think on this
lost Pleiad, once your companion, and be warned. Men are deceivers ever,
even when they mean matrimony; and the tender mercies of the Light
Dragoon are cruel.

Isabel was dreadfully startled at the sudden appearance of her cousin.
Her notions of his power were quite unlimited and irrational, and I
believe her first thought was that he had changed his mind about the
propriety of her marriage, and was come to carry her back into the house
of her bondage with the strong hand.

When his curt sentences told her the facts, sorry as she was, it
certainly was rather a relief to her. Charley was full of compassion
too, but he only confided this to his wife. He knew better than to try
condolence with Guy, and felt instantly that the case was far beyond his
simple powers of healing.

They did not see much of him. The contrast of their happiness with his
own state must have grated on his feelings. His grim presence chilled
and clouded their little banquets at the Trois Frères or the Café de
Paris. He sat there among the bright lamps and flowers like a statue of
dark marble that it is impossible to light up, drinking all the while,
moodily, of the strongest wines to that portentous extent that it made
Isabel nervous and her husband grave.

Perhaps Guy was conscious of the effect he produced; at all events, he
rather avoided the Forresters, finding in Mohun more congenial society.
The latter probably regretted what had happened; perhaps he felt an
approach to sympathy, after his rough fashion, but with this mingled a
dreary sort of satisfaction at the sight of a strong mind and hardy
nature rapidly descending to his own misanthropical level. Such an
exultation was breathed in that ghastly chorus of the dead kings and
chief ones of the earth when they rose, each on his awful throne, and
Hell beneath was moved at the advent of the Son of the Morning.

These two did not stay long in Paris before they took their departure
for Vienna.

We who were left behind in England talked a little at first, of course,
about the broken engagement, but I had no occasion to throw down the
gauntlet that had been left in my hands. I never heard any thing more
spiteful about Miss Brandon than that "she was never suited to her
_fiancé_--far too good for him." Others "had always thought how it
would be; it would take a good deal more yet to tame Livingstone." Sir
Henry Fallowfield observed, "Nothing could be more natural and correct.
The lady was a saint, and there is always a sort of incompleteness about
saints if they are not made martyrs. Suffering is their normal state."

It was remarked that he was unusually cheerful for some days afterward;
and when Guy's conduct was canvassed, seemed inclined to quote the old
school-master's words on witnessing his pupil's success, "Bless the boy!
I taught him."

Some other subject soon came up and replaced the week's wonder.

Constance left town with her uncle almost immediately, and I heard
nothing of her for many months. Miss Bellasys remained. Very few persons
even guessed at the share she had had in breaking off the match; so her
credit was not much impaired, and her campaign was as brilliantly
successful as usual. If she felt any disappointment at Guy's abrupt
departure, she concealed it remarkably well. In some things, though
naturally impetuous and impatient, she was as cool as a Red Indian, and
would wait and watch forever if she saw a prospect of ultimate success.
So the days rolled on, bringing swiftly and surely the bitter
harvest-time, when he who had sown the wind was to reap the whirlwind.



CHAPTER XXIII.

     "And from his lips those words of insult fell--
     His sword is good who can maintain them well."


It was the middle of October; the reflux of the winter season was
beginning to fill Paris, and thither Mohun and Livingstone had returned
from their German tour, the latter decidedly the worse for his
wanderings. He had not suffered much physically, for the hard living
that would have utterly broken up some constitutions had only been able
to make his face thinner, to deepen the bistre tints under the eyes, and
to give a more angular gauntness to his massive frame.

But morally he was not the same man. Play, which had formerly been only
an occasional excitement, had now become a necessary part of his daily
existence. Mohun would never say--perhaps he did not know--how much Guy
had lost during those few months. In spite of several gigantic _coups_
(he broke the bank both at Baden and Hombourg), the balance was
fearfully on the wrong side, so much so that it entailed a heavy
mortgage--the maiden one in his time--on the fair lands of Kerton Manor.

I wonder people have not got tired of quoting "_Heureux en jeu;
malheureux en amour_." It seems one of the least true of all stale,
stupid proverbs. Luck will run itself out in more ways than one; and
sometimes you will never hold a trump, however often the suit changes.
The ancients knew better than we when they called the double-sixes
"Venus's cast." The monotony of Guy's reckless dissipations was soon
broken up by an event which ought to have sobered him.

He had been dining with Mohun at the Trois Frères, and they were
returning late toward the Boulevards, when their attention was attracted
by a group in one of the narrow streets leading out of the Rue Vivienne.
Five or six raffish-looking men had surrounded a fair, delicate girl,
and were preparing to besiege her in form, deriving apparently intense
amusement from the piteous entreaties of their victim to be released.
Not the _roués_ of the Regency after the suppers that have become a
by-word--not the _mousquetaires_ after the wildest of their orgies--were
ever so unrelenting in brutality toward women quite lonely and
undefended as those unshorn ornaments of Young France, when replete with
a dinner at forty _sous_, and with the anomalous liquor that Macon
blushes to own.

In all Europe there is no more genial companion and gallant gentleman
than the aristocrat of France _pur sang_--in all the world no more
terrible adversary than her wiry, well-trained soldier; but, from the
prolific decay of old institutions and prejudices, a mushroom growth has
sprouted of child-atheists and precocious profligates, calculating
debauchees while their cheeks are still innocent of down, who, after the
effervescence of a foul, vicious youth has spent itself, simmer down
into avaricious, dishonest _bourgeois_ and bloated café politicians. The
teeth of the Republican dragon have been drawn, but they are sown
broadcast from Dan even to Beersheba. Ancient realm of Capet, Valois,
and Bourbon--motherland of Du Guesclin and Bayard--you may well be proud
of your Cadmean offspring!

Guy was passing the scene with a careless side-glance when the accent of
the suppliant caught his ear--not French, though she spoke the language
perfectly.

"By G--d," he said, dropping Mohun's arm, "I believe it's an
Englishwoman they are bullying;" and three of his long strides took him
into the midst of the group.

Two of the aggressors reeled back, right and left, from the shock of his
mighty shoulders; and griping another, the tallest, by the collar, he
whirled him some paces off on his back in the streaming kennel, as one
might do with a very weak, light little child. "_Au large, canaille_!"
he said, as he advanced on the two who still kept their feet. These drew
back from his path without a second warning. One indeed, eminent in the
_savate_, made a demonstration for an instant; but his comrade, who had
just gathered himself up, caught his arm, muttering "_Ne t'y frotte pas,
Alphonse. C'est trop dur_." None of them fancied an encounter with the
grim giant who confronted them, his muscles braced and salient, his eyes
gleaming with the _gaudia certaminis_, and his nostrils dilated as if
they snuffed the battle.

So they made way for Guy and his charge to pass, only grinding out
between their teeth the strange guttural blasphemies that characterize
impotent Gallic wrath.

Mohun, a reserve scarcely leas formidable, stood by all the while,
looking on lazily; he saw that his companion was more than equal to the
emergency.

"I hope you have not been much annoyed," Livingstone said, kindly.
"Where were you going to? I shall be too happy to escort you, if you
will allow me."

She named the street, only a few hundred yards off, and tried to thank
him gratefully, but her voice was broken and scarcely audible, and the
blinding tears would rush into her eyes. Poor child! it was very long
since she had heard gentle, courteous words in her mother-tongue. She
recovered herself, however, during their short walk, and they had nearly
reached her destination when Livingstone said, "Forgive me for being
impertinent; I have no right to advise you; but I think you would find
it better not to walk alone, often, at this hour. There is always a
chance of something disagreeable."

He could see her blush painfully as she answered, "I have no one to
accompany me. I work hard at drawing and painting as long as there is
light, and I had gone out to see if I could sell what I have done. But I
fear I am a very poor artist; no one would offer me as much as they had
cost me. And I tried at so many places!"

It was piteous to hear the heavy, heart-broken sigh.

"Perhaps I have better taste," replied Livingstone. "Those print-sellers
are absurdly ignorant of what is good and anonymous. At all events, they
will interest me, as a memorial of to-night. Will you give them to me? I
will promise not to be too critical."

He drew the roll out of her hand as he spoke, replacing it by his
note-case; and before she could open it or make any objection, he
followed Mohun (for they had reached the artist's door by this time),
first raising his hat to her in adieu as courteously as he would have
done to a reigning archduchess.

How much did the case contain? Guy himself could hardly have told you.
But be sure the Recorder of his many misdeeds knew, and reckoned it to
the uttermost farthing when he wrote down that one kind action on the
credit side.

"Philanthropic, for a change!" Mohun remarked, when his companion joined
him. "Well, it's not worse than many of your vagaries. We shall have you
founding an asylum next, I suppose."

In his heart the savage old cynic approved, but, for the life of him, he
could not check the sneer.

Livingstone made no reply. It was a habit of his very often not to
answer Ralph, and the latter did not mind it in the least. In a few
moments they reached Guy's apartments, where they found about a dozen
men--French and English--awaiting their arrival to begin an unbridled
lansquenet. It was a favorite rendezvous for this purpose. The
thoroughbred gamblers preferred it to the brilliant entertainments of
the Quartier Brèda. They liked to court or fight Fortune by themselves,
without being congratulated in success or compassionated in defeat by
the fair Phrynes and Aspasias, whose sympathy was somewhat expansive,
inasmuch as they always would borrow from the heap whenever any one won,
repaying the loan in kind by smiles and caresses, which cost the happy
recipient about fifteen Napoleons apiece. Here was an Eden from which
Eves were excluded; and on the nights of the _Mercurialia_, the
brightest Peri that ever wore camellias might have knocked at the gate
disconsolately, but in vain.

While the tables were being prepared, Guy began to tell his late
adventure. He spoke of it very lightly, but he thought, if he passed it
over altogether, Mohun would probably betray him.

Immediately there was a great cry for a sight of the performances of the
unknown genius.

Livingstone looked over the drawings himself carefully, and then passed
them to the man who sat nearest him. "I have seen worse," he said.
"There is no signature, and I shall not give you the address. You are
none of you just the patrons she would fancy. You don't care much for
high art."

Among the guests was Horace Levinge, a pale, dark man, with a face that
was decidedly handsome, in spite of its Jewish _contour_, and the
excessive fullness of the scarlet, sensual lips. His grandfather, report
said, had been a prize-fighting Israelite, and afterward a celebrated
betting-man--equally eminent in either ring for an unscrupulous
scoundrelism which made his fortune. His father had added to the family
treasure and importance by cautious usury and adventurous stock-jobbing.
Horace himself was a gentleman at large, with no other profession than
the consistent pursuit of all kinds of debauchery. He was calculating
even in his pleasures, and, they say, kept a regular ledger and daybook
of the moneys disbursed in his vices.

When the drawings came to him, he glanced at them for a moment, and
then threw them down with a little contemptuous laugh.

"I am sorry to spoil your romance, Livingstone, but I have a pretty good
right to recognize the artist's touch. You know her, some of you; it is
Fanny Challoner."

"What! the girl you sent away about three weeks ago?" some one asked.
"Poor thing! she was not sorry, I should think. She had a hard time of
it before she left you."

"Precisely," Levinge replied. "Her modesty and high moral principles,
which I never could quite subdue, gave a zest to the thing at first. You
understand?--a sort of caviare flavor. But at last it bored me horribly.
I really believe she had a conscience. Can you conceive any thing so out
of place? I did offer her a little money when she went away, but she
would not take any, and said she would try to maintain herself honestly.
Bah! I defy her. She was a governess, you know, when I took her first,
so she is trying some of the old accomplishments. I wish you joy of your
_protégée_, Livingstone; and as for her address, if any of you want it,
I will give it you to-morrow."

Before Guy could reply Mohun broke in. While Levinge had been speaking,
the colonel's face had grown very dark and threatening.

"Did her father live near Walmer? And was he a half-pay officer?"

"Quite correct," was the answer. "He died about eighteen months before I
met Fanny. You knew him, perhaps? How interesting! Excuse my emotion."

"I did know him," Ralph said. "He was a gentleman, and well born.
Perhaps that was the reason you could not get on long with his
daughter?"

It is a popular error that a bully is always a coward. Certainly Horace
was an exception to the rule, if such exists. Nothing could be more
calmly insolent than his tone as he answered deliberately,

"How admirable to find Colonel Mohun in the character of the Censor! A
Clodius come to judgment. I should hardly have expected it, from his
past life, either."

The reply came from the depths of Ralph's chest, very distinct, but with
a strange effect of distance and echo, as if the words had been spoken
under the vault of some vast dome.

"You will leave my past life alone, if you are wise. I don't preach
against immorality; it is only brutality that I find simply disgusting."

"Bah!" the other retorted; "it comes to the same thing. I should have
thought Lady Caroline Mannering might have taught you to be less
critical."

The Cuirassier rose from his seat and strode a pace forward, the gray
hair bristling round his savage face like a wild-boar's at bay.

"If you dare to breathe that name again, except with respect and honor,
I'll cram the words down your throat, by the eternal God!"

Levinge crimsoned with passion. The brutal blood of the dead
prize-fighter, who, when he "crossed" a fight, lost it ever by a foul
blow, was boiling in his descendant. He had been drinking too, and, as
the French say--_avait le vin mauvais_--so he answered coolly and
slowly, letting the syllables fall one by one, like drops of hail,

"I shall mention it just as often as it pleases me, and with just so
much respect as is due to Mannering's cast-off wife and your--"

The foul word that was on his lips never left them, for Mohun's threat
was literally fulfilled. His right hand shot out from the shoulder with
a sudden impulse that seemed rather mechanical than an action of the
will, and, catching the speaker full in the mouth, laid him on the
carpet senseless and streaming with blood.



CHAPTER XXIV.

     "Look doun, look doun now, ladye fair,
       On him ye lo'ed sae weel;
     A brawer man than yon blue corse
       Never drew sword of steel."


The dead silence that ensued was broken first by Guy Livingstone. "It
was well done! I say it and maintain it; Mohun, I envy you that blow!"
He looked round as if to challenge contradiction; but evidently the
general opinion was that Levinge had only got his deserts. By this time
the fallen man had recovered his consciousness, and struggled up, first
into a sitting posture, then to his feet; he stood leaning against a
table, swaying to and fro, and staring about him with wild eyes half
glazed. At last he spoke in a thick, faint voice, stanching all the
while the gushing blood with his handkerchief.

"Will any one here be my second, or must I look for a friend elsewhere?"

There was a pause, and then from the circle stepped forth Camille de
Rosny. He did not like Levinge, and thought in the present instance he
had behaved infamously, but it was the fashion hereditary in his gallant
house to back the losing side; so, when he saw every one else shrink
from the appeal, he bowed gravely and said,

"I shall have that honor, if you will permit me. In an hour I shall be
at the orders of M. le Colonel's second. Where shall I find him?"

"Here," replied Livingstone. "I think no one will contest my right to
see my old friend through this quarrel."

Mohun grasped his hand. "I would have chosen you among a thousand. You
understand me, and know what I wish."

"Then I shall expect you, De Rosny," Guy went on. The Frenchman assented
courteously, and then, turning to his principal,

"Let us go," he said. "My _coupé_ is at your disposition, M. Levinge.
_Messieurs, au plaisir._"

Horace followed him with a step that was still faltering and uncertain;
but at the door he turned, and, straightening himself up, faced his
adversary with such a look as few human countenances have ever worn.
There was more in it than mortal hatred: it expressed a sort of devilish
satisfaction and anticipation, as if he knew that his revenge was
secured.

Mohun read all this as plainly as if it had been written down in so many
words; but he only smiled as he seated himself and lighted a cigar.

There was an end of lansquenet for that night. An ordinary quarrel would
have made little impression on those reckless spirits, who had, most of
them, at one time or another, "been out" themselves; but they felt that
what they had witnessed now was the prologue to a certain tragedy; there
was a savor of death in the air; so they dropped off one by one, leaving
Guy and Ralph alone; not before the latter had expressed, with much
politeness, "his desolation at having been compelled to interrupt a
_partie_, which he trusted was only deferred till the morrow."

Before long De Rosny returned. The preliminaries were soon arranged.
Pistols were necessarily to be the weapons, for Levinge had seldom
touched a foil; and, as the Frenchman said with a bow that made his
objection a compliment, "Colonel Mohun's reputation as a swordsman was
European." An early hour next morning was fixed for the _venue_, in the
Pré aux Clercs of the nineteenth century--the Bois de Boulogne.

When they were alone again Guy turned gravely to his companion. "It is a
bad business, I fear, though you could not have acted otherwise; but I
would rather your adversary were any other than Levinge. It is a
murderous, unscrupulous scoundrel as ever lived. He can shoot--that's
nothing; so can you, better than most men--but, mark me, Ralph, he has
been out twice, and hit his man each time, the last mortally; but on
neither occasion was _his fire returned_. Men say he has an awkward
knack of pulling the trigger half a second too soon. I don't know if
this is true, but I do know that Seymour, who seconded him at Florence
when he killed O'Neill, has been more than cool to him ever since."

"Faith, I can well believe it," Mohun answered, quietly, "and it is very
probable I may get hard hit to-morrow; but of killing him I feel morally
certain. Do you believe in presentiments? I do. Before that drunken
brute had half done speaking, I saw imminent death written in his face
as plainly as if I had possessed the Highland second-sight. I think I
could almost tell you how it will look _after my shot_. Well, we must
talk of business. My arrangements won't take me long. I have very little
to dispose of; it is almost all entailed property. I shall leave you the
choice of any thing among my goods and chattels. You will find some arms
that you may fancy. But if my pistols fail me to-morrow, so that Levinge
lives over it, do me the favor to throw them into the Seine; they
deserve nothing better. As for the ready-money I have with me, and some
more at my banker's--" he hesitated, and then went on in a gentler
voice, "I should like it to go to that poor child whom we met to-night.
If I live I will take care she is settled in England, where some one
will be kind to her. Her father was a good soldier and a true-hearted
gentleman. And, Guy, I am sorry that I sneered at you to-night; I hardly
meant it when I said it."

This was a great concession from Mohun, and his hearer thought so as he
wrung his hand hard and replied,

"Don't think of that again. I did you justice an hour ago."

There was this peculiarity about Ralph; he was not only insensible to
danger, like other men, but he absolutely seemed to revel in it. The
genial side of his character came out at the approach of deadly peril,
just as some morose natures will soften and brighten temporarily under
the influence of strong wine.

His mood seemed to change, however, suddenly; and when, after a long
pause, he spoke again, it was in a low, broken voice, as if to himself.

"'Be sure your sin will find you out.' It is thirty years since I heard
that text; I forgot it the same day, and never thought of it again till
now. There may be truth in that. It hunted _her_ to her grave, and it
will not leave her in peace even there. And yet she suffered enough to
make atonement. She tried not to let me see how much, but I did see it;
I watched her dying for a year and more. I am sure she is an angel now.
I like to think so, though I shall never see her again. I would not
believe otherwise if a thousand priests said it and swore it; for I
never moved from her side, after she was dead, till I saw the smile come
on her face. She must have been happy then; do you not think so? They
would hardly have gone on punishing her forever. It was all my fault,
you know."

He gazed at Livingstone anxiously, almost timidly. Guy bowed his head in
assent, but he could not find words to answer just then. There was
something very terrible in that opening of the flood-gates when a life's
pent-up remorse broke forth.

"I think you will end better than I have done," Mohun went on, "though
you are going down-hill fast now. But I have no right even to warn you.
Only take care--" He broke off suddenly, and roused himself with an
effort. "I shall go home and dress now, and get through what little I
have to write, and then lie down for an hour or two. Nothing makes the
hand shake like a sleepless night. I'll call for you in good time." So
he went away.

Livingstone sat thinking, without ever closing his eyes, till Mohun
returned. The latter looked fresh and alert; he had slept for the time
he had allotted to himself quite calmly and comfortably; the old habits
of picket-duty had taught him to watch or sleep at pleasure.

After Guy had made a careful toilette, at the special request of his
principal they started, and in forty minutes were on the ground. Levinge
and his second, with the surgeon, arrived almost immediately; the former
stood somewhat apart, keeping the lower part of his face carefully
muffled.

It was a dull, chill morning; the sky of a steely-gray, without a
promise of a gleam from the sun, which had risen _somewhere_, but was
reserving himself for better times. There was a sort of desultory wind
blowing, just strong enough at intervals to bring the moist brown leaves
sullenly down.

After the pistols had been scientifically loaded, the seconds placed
their men fifteen yards apart--with such known shots it was not worth
while shortening the distance.

The sensations of ordinary mortals under such circumstances are somewhat
curious. Very few are afraid, I think; but one has an impression that
one's own proportions are becoming sensibly developed--"swelling
wisibly," in fact, like the lady at the Pickwickian tea-fight--while
those of our adversary diminish in a like ratio, so that he does not
appear near so fair a mark as he did a few minutes ago. But, with all
this, there is a quickening of the pulse not unpleasurable--something
like the excitement of the "four to the seven" chance at hazard, when
you are backing the In for a large stake.

I do not believe Mohun felt any thing of this sort. It was not his own
life, but his adversary's death he was playing for; the other was busy,
too, with still darker thoughts and purposes.

"Listen," Guy said in French; "M. de Rosny gives the signal, _un_,
_deux_, _trois_; if either fires before the last is fully pronounced, it
is murder." He looked sharply at Levinge, but the latter seemed
studiously to avoid meeting his eye. Guy felt very uncomfortable and
very savage.

The men stood opposite to one another like black marble statues, neither
showing a speck of color which might serve as a _point de mire_, each
turning only a side-front to his opponent.

De Rosny pronounced the two first words of the signal in a clear,
deliberate voice; the last left his lips almost in a shriek, for, before
it was half syllabled, his principal fired.

Quick as the movement was, it was anticipated; as Levinge's hand
stirred, Mohun made a half-face to the right, and looked his enemy
straight between the eyes. That sudden change of position, or the
consciousness of detection, probably unsettled the practiced aim, for
the ball, that would have drilled Ralph through the heart, only scored a
deep furrow in his side.

No one could have guessed that he was touched; he brought his pistol to
the level just as coolly as he would have done in the shooting-gallery,
and, after the discharge, dropped his hand with measured deliberation.
Before the smoke had curled a yard upward, Horace Levinge sprang into
the air, and, with out-stretched arms, fell crashing down upon the
grass--a bullet through his brain.

They turned him over on his back. It was a ghastly sight; the ball had
penetrated just below the arch of the right eyebrow, and all the lower
features were swollen and distorted with the blow of last night, adding
to the hideous disfigurement.

Is that the face on which the dead man used to spend hours, tending it,
like an ancient coquette, with washes and cosmetics, dreading the
faintest freckle or sunburn which might mar the smoothness of the
delicate skin? No need of the surgeon there. Cover it up quickly. The
mother that bore him, if she should recognize him, would recoil in
disgust and loathing.

"_C'en est fini_," Livingstone said to De Rosny, who stood by shuddering
in horror, not at the death, but at the treachery which had preceded it.

None but a Frenchman could have given such an accent to the low, hissing
reply, "_Je l'espére_."

Then they looked to Mohun's wound; it was nothing serious: there were a
dozen deeper on the warworn body and limbs. Indeed, I imagine his
general health was materially benefited by the blood-letting. The first
remark he made was when he was depositing his pistol in its
case--tenderly as you would lay a child in its cradle--"Do you believe
in presentiments _now_, Guy?"

The sullen sun broke out just as they turned to go, and peered curiously
through the boughs, till it found out and lighted on the angular ominous
heap, shrouded with a cloak, that, ten minutes ago, was a strong,
hot-blooded man.

There the _garde_ soon after discovered Horace Levinge; and, when he had
been owned, they buried him in _Père la Chaise_. Such events were common
then, and the police gave themselves no trouble to trace who had slain
the stranger. Among his tribes-men and kinsfolk in Houndsditch and the
Minories there was great joy at first, and afterward bitter, endless
litigation. They screamed and battled over the heritage like vultures
over a mighty carrion, tearing it at length piecemeal. He did not keep a
pet dog, and so no living creature regretted him, unless it were the
thin, delicate girl, with white cheeks and hollow eyes, who came once,
and knelt to pray by his grave for hours, her tears falling fast.

Hard as they may find it to observe other precepts of the Great Master,
this one, at least, most women have practiced easily and naturally for
eighteen hundred years: "Forgive, until seventy times seven." The acts
of some of these--how they warred with their husbands and were worsted;
how they provoked the presiding Draco, and stultified the attesting
policeman by obstinately ignoring their injuries, written legibly in
red, and black, and blue; how they interceded with many sobs for the
aggressor--are they not written in the book of the chronicles of
Bow-street and Clerkenwell?

This propensity leads them into scrapes, it is true, for our world, in
its wisdom, will take advantage of such weakness. Perhaps the next will
make them some amends.

But the mourner strewed no flowers on the grave. It would have been too
bitter a mockery; for, if there were sympathy in sweet roses and pure
white lilies, on no other spot of God's earth would they have withered
so soon: she hung up no wreath of _immortelles_; for, if such things
could be, the dearest wish one could have formed for the dead man's soul
would have been swift, utter annihilation.

Yet Fanny Challoner would scarcely have accepted Mohun's good offices if
she had guessed that the blood of her seducer and tyrant was on his
hand. She never suspected it, and so went gratefully to the home he
found for her; and there she lives yet, tranquil and contented, though
always sad and humble, among people who know nothing of her history and
love her dearly, trying her best to be useful in her generation--alone
in her cottage, that nestles under a sunny cliff, just above the white
spray-line of the Irish Sea.



CHAPTER XXV.

     "Let me see her once again.
     Let her bring her proud dark eyes,
     And her petulant quick replies;
     Let her wave her slender hand
     With its gesture of command,
     And throw back her raven hair
     With the old imperial air;
       Let her be as she was then--
     The loveliest lady in all the land
         Iseult of Ireland."


Mohun and Livingstone soon fell back into the groove of their old
habits; if any thing, the former was more forbidding and morose, the
latter more reckless than ever.

Just at this time Mrs. Bellasys and her daughter arrived in Paris. It
was Flora's _débût_ there, and she had an immense success. The _jeunesse
dorée_ of the Chaussée d'Antin and the cavaliers of the Faubourg
thronged about her, emulously enthusiastic. Her repartees and sarcasms
were quoted like Talleyrand's. They never wearied in raving over her
perfections, taking them in a regular catalogue--from her magnificent
eyes and hair, that flashed back the light from its smooth bands like
clouded steel, down to the small _brodequins_ of white satin, which it
was her fancy to wear instead of the ball-room _chaussure_ of ordinary
mortals. The intrigues to secure her for a waltz or a mazurka displayed
diplomatic talent enough to have set half a dozen German principalities
and powers by the ears. The succession of admirers was never broken; as
fast as one dropped off, killed by her coldness or caprice, another
stepped into his place. It reminded one of the old "Die-hards" at
Waterloo, filling up their squares torn and ravaged by the pelting
grape-shot.

Here, as elsewhere, she pursued her favorite amusement remorselessly.
Fallowfield called it "her cutting-out expeditions." She used to watch
till a mother and daughter had, between them, secured a good matrimonial
prize, and then employ her fascinations on the captured one--seldom
without effect--so as to steal him out of their hands.

Do you remember Waterton's story of the osprey? The hard-working bird,
by dint of perseverance, has brought up a good fish. Just as it emerges
from the water, there is heard a flap and a whistle of mighty pinions,
and from his watch-tower on the cliff far above swoops down the great
sea-eagle. The poor osprey _a beau crier_, it must drop its booty, and
the strong marauder sails off with a slow and dignified flight, to
discuss it in the wood at his leisure. The only fault in the parallel
was that Flora always dropped the prey with the coolest disdain when it
was once fairly within her clutches. How the match-makers did hate her!
What vows for her discomfiture must have been breathed into bouquets
held up to conceal the angry flush of disappointment or the paleness of
despair!

I own this practice of hers did not raise her in my opinion. I can not
think so hardly as it is the fashion to do of the junior and working
members, at least, of the manoeuvring guild. It is not an elevating or
very creditable profession, certainly, but it seems such a disagreeable
one that none would take it up from choice. The chief fault, at all
events, lies with the trainers; the jockeys (poor little things!) only
ride to orders; and, by the way, I think they generally err in not
knowing how to _wait_, and in making the running too strong at first.

As I meet, year after year, one of these--to whom the seed sown in
London ball-rooms and German watering-places had produced nothing yet
but those tiresome garlands of the vestal--I look curiously to see how
she wears, thinking of the courtier's answer to Louis XIV. when the
latter asked if he was looking older: "Sire, I see some more victories
written on your forehead." It is more defeats that one can read so
plainly on poor Fanny Singleton's.

How many shipwrecks close to port; how many races lost by a head, how
many games by a point, she must have known before her silver laugh
became so hollow, and her pleasant smile so evidently theatrical and
lip-deep; before what once was chanceful became desperate, and she fell
back into the ranks of the forlorn hope--of the "Lost Children!"

On one of these occasions I met her. She was just beginning her
_condottiére_ life then, and was very attractive even to those on whom
she had no designs--believed in balls, and had an ingenious talent for
original composition. I don't think those entertainments are dangerously
exciting to her now; and Heaven forefend that she should write poetry!
One shudders to think of what it would he. Well, she was returning to
the house after a moonlight flirtation (if you can call it so when it
was all on one side). She had been trying to fascinate a stupid, sullen,
commercial Orson--a boy not clever, but cunning, who calculated on his
share in the bank as a means of procuring him these amusements, as other
men might reckon on their good looks or soft tongue. He had just left
her, and I was wishing her good-night under the porch. She forgot her
cue for a moment, and became natural. "I feel so very, very tired," she
said. I remember how drearily she said it, and how the tears glittered
in her weary eyes. I remember, too, how, ten minutes later, I heard that
amiable youth boasting of what had happened, and giving a hideous
travestie of her attempts to captivate him, till at last my wrath was
kindled, and, to his great confusion (for he was of a timid
disposition), I spoke, and sharply, with my tongue.

Ah me! I mind the time when men used to waylay Fanny Singleton in the
cloak-room, and shoot her flying as she went up the staircase, in their
anxiety to secure her for a partner; and now she is a refuge for the
destitute, except when some one, for old acquaintance' sake, takes a
turn with one of the best waltzers in Europe.

I like her for one thing--she has never tried the girlish dodge on yet.
She has never been heard to say, "Mamma always calls me a wild thing."
It is better that she should be bitter and sardonic, as she is
sometimes, than that. Mars herself could hardly play the _ingénues_ when
in mature age. Grisi's best part now is not Amina.

The last thing I heard of Fanny was that she was about to unite herself
(the _active_ voice is the proper one) to a very Low-Church clergyman, a
distinguished member of the Evangelical Alliance, pregnant with the odor
of sanctity--_bouquet de Baptiste_ treble distilled. I dare say they
will get on well enough. If the holy man wants to collect "experiences,"
his wife will be able to furnish them, that's certain. It will be very
"sweet."

I pity, but I condemn. In the name of Matuta and of common sense, is
there an imperative necessity that all our maids should become matrons?

If such exists, think, I beseech you, O virgins--pretty, but
penniless--apt for the yoke, how many chances of subjection may turn up
without rushing to put your necks under it. Is the aspiring race of
H.E.I.C.S. cadets extinct? Are Erin's sons so good or so cold as not to
be tempted by woman, even without the gold? Are there not soldiers still
to the fore too inflammable to be trusted near an ammunition wagon? Are
there not--the _bonne bouche_ comes at last--priests and deacons? The
instant a man takes orders, celibacy becomes intolerable to him. I
firmly believe that half the offers made in the year throughout broad
England emanate from those energetic ecclesiastics.

After all, what specimens you do pick up sometimes in your haste! If you
_are_ to lead apes, is it not better to defer the evil day as long as
possible, instead of parading the animals about by your sides here on
this upper earth?

My sermon is too long for the occasion--too short for the text. I close
a discourse not much wiser, perhaps, than poor Wamba's, with his "_Pax
vobiscum!_"

Flora and Guy met with perfect composure on both sides. She did not
appear to think that she had any claim upon him arising from what had
passed, but it was evident that he was still the favorite, and that all
others were complete "outsiders." No betting man would have backed the
field for a shilling. She waltzed with him whenever he asked her, to the
utter oblivion and annihilation of previous engagements, whereat the
Frenchmen chafed inexpressibly, cursing and gnashing their teeth when,
after the ball was over, they went forth into the outer darkness.
Nothing but Livingstone's extraordinary reputation in the
shooting-galleries, added to a certain ferocity of demeanor which had
become habitual to him of late, saved him from more than one serious
quarrel.

He took it all as a matter of course. Flora amused him certainly; she
sympathized with his tastes, and perhaps flattered his vanity. For
instance, she always took an interest in his fortunes at play, watching
and sometimes backing him at _ecarté_, and often inquiring the next
morning how the battle had gone in her absence at the Board of Green
Cloth.

Once when an unfortunate adorer--in bitterness of spirit at being thrown
over twice in one evening--hinted at some of the intrigues which had
made Guy's name unenviably notorious (play was not the guiltiest of his
distractions to thoughts that would come back), Miss Bellasys only
smiled haughtily, and did not even deign to betray any curiosity on the
subject. Those ephemeral passions were not the rivals she feared.

Her mother all this time was very uncomfortable. Though herself
perfectly innocent of any connivance in Flora's schemes, she was
afflicted with a perpetual indistinct sort of remorse. Once or twice, I
believe, she did venture on a remonstrance, but she was put down
decisively, and did not try it again.

One evening Guy had been lingering for some time in the Bellasys' box at
the Opera. As he went out into the _foyer_ he saw an old acquaintance
coming toward him.

Lord Killowen was past sixty: the world had used him roughly, and he had
been ruined very early in life, but he bore both years and troubles
lightly. Looking at his smooth forehead, and square, erect figure, and
listening to his ready, cheery laugh, you would never have guessed how
long he had led that guerrilla existence--for forty years keeping the
bailiffs at bay. His nerve and his seat in the saddle were as firm as
they were on the first night of his joining the ---- Hussars, when he
rode Kicking Kate over the iron pales round Hounslow Barrack-yard, and
hit the layers of the long odds for a cool thousand.

He had been intimate with Colonel Livingstone, and had known his son
from childhood; but he was a still closer friend of the Brandon family,
with whom, indeed, he was distantly connected. He had never seen Guy
since the breaking off of the latter's engagement till this night, when
he caught a glimpse of his lofty head bending over Flora Bellasys'
chair.

Lord Killowen's blood was as hot and his impulses as quick as if he had
not yet seen his twentieth winter, and the chivalry within him was
stirred at what he considered an insolent parade of treachery; for he
had guessed much of what had happened, though he did not know all the
truth; so he passed Guy's extended hand, turning his head studiously
aside.

The latter was startled for a moment, but he could not believe in an
intentional "cut," and he knew his friend to be rather short-sighted; so
with one stride he overtook him, and, touching him on the shoulder,
said, "I must be very much changed if you do not know me, Lord
Killowen."

The brave old Irishman turned short upon his heel and confronted the
speaker, bending on him all the light of his clear blue eyes: he drew
himself up to the full height of a stature that nearly equaled
Livingstone's, and said, coolly and slowly, "Pardon me, you are not
changed in the least; I know you very well."

The insult was palpable. Guy fairly staggered as if he had received a
sword-thrust; then the angry blood rushed up to his temples, making the
veins start out like muscles, and he spoke in a voice hoarse and
indistinct with passion, "You will answer this."

True, his antagonist was more than old enough to have been his father,
but in feast, field, and fray, Lord Killowen remembered his own age so
seldom that other men might be excused for forgetting it sometimes.

The old man was going to answer eagerly, but he checked himself with an
effort, as if repressing a strong temptation; when, after some seconds,
he spoke, there was more of sadness and warning than of anger in his
tone.

"No, I will not fight, even in this quarrel, with your father's son;
besides, I might be anticipating one who has a better right. Four days
ago Cyril Brandon landed from India."

It would have been difficult, I think, to have found another, among
living men, both by constitution and temperament, so inaccessible to
material terrors as Livingstone, yet when that name came upon him thus
suddenly he felt a thrill and a start through his nerves, so
unpleasantly like commonplace physical fear that ever, when he thought
of it, it made his cheek burn with shame. He could not, after that,
controvert gallant Lannes' maxim: "It is only a coward who says that he
never was afraid."

He stood silently, and allowed Lord Killowen to pass him, bowing
courteously, though coldly, to him. The latter never knew what mischief
he had done. After that momentary sensation had passed off, all the
worst elements of Guy's stubborn, haughty nature rose in rebellion at
what he deemed a despicable weakness. As if in defiance of the
consequences, all that evening and on the succeeding days he devoted
himself to Flora Bellasys with such unusual ardor that it made her
nervous: she thought it was too good to last.

When Mohun heard what had happened, he would not admit that there was
the slightest chance of a meeting with Cyril Brandon, though he knew the
character of the latter--fierce and intractable to a degree.

"Don't flatter yourself you will wipe off the score in that way," he
said to Guy, with his sardonic laugh. "Men will quarrel over cards and
about _lorettes_ easily enough, but who fights for a 'broken covenant'
now? We live two hundred years too late."

Ralph remembered how long he had lingered on the French seaboard
waiting for a challenge from beyond the Channel which never came, though
there was deeper provocation to justify it.

A few mornings after this had occurred Livingstone found himself without
a servant. His demeanor toward this estimable class had always been
imperious and stern to a fault, but latterly they, as well as others,
had felt the effects of his exasperated temper, and he was sometimes
brutally overbearing in his reprimands. On this particular occasion he
must have been unusually oppressive, for it exhausted the patience of
the much-enduring Willis, so that the worm turned again--insolently.

Before he had said ten words his master interrupted him, his eye turning
toward a heavy horsewhip that lay near with an expression that made
Willis retreat toward the door.

"So you have robbed me of enough to make you independent? Very well;
make your book up; the _maître d'hôtel_ will settle with you. You will
carry away some of my property, of course? I shall not trouble myself to
have your trunks searched, but if you take any thing that I happen to
want afterward, I'll have you arrested, wherever you are. Now go."

The man left the room sulkily: an hour later he returned. "I am going
this instant, Mr. Livingstone; but I could tell you something first that
you ought to know, if you would promise not to be violent. I am very
sorry now I did it." There was a curious expression--half spiteful, half
frightened--on his cunning face as he spoke.

Guy looked at him carelessly. "Thank you; I am in no humor to listen to
your confessions. You may be quite easy; I give you credit for all
imaginable rascality. Remember what I said: if I miss any thing, the
police will be after you the same day. Now, once more, go. If I see your
face about here again, it will be the worse for you."

There was a good deal of meaning in Willis's smile, though, his lips
were white with fear. "You will never miss what I was going to tell you
about, sir," he said; and then faded away out of the room with his usual
noiseless step, closing the door softly behind him.

If his master could have guessed what was the secret he had refused to
hear, haughty as he was, I do believe there is no earthly degradation to
which he would not have abased himself to gain its knowledge.

But the hour for the humbling of the strong, self-reliant nature had not
come yet, though it was very near. The wild bull never saw the net till
its meshes had trapped him fast.

The same morning Guy, who was lounging an hour away at the Bellasys',
mentioned to them what had occurred. If he had glanced at Flora's face
just then, he would have been puzzled to guess what there was in the
intelligence to turn her so deadly pale. It was only for an instant that
the accomplished actress forgot her part, and when he looked at her next
there was not a trace of emotion in her face.

"Have you filled up his place?" she asked, carelessly.

"I have ordered my landlord to provide me," replied Guy. "I shall find
some well-trained scoundrel on my return, I hope. I shall never get
another like Willis, though. It's just my luck. The great principle of
the gazelle runs through life: When they come to know you well, &c. What
made you ask? Surely you have no _protégé_ to recommend?"

Flora laughed gayly as she answered in the negative, and so the subject
dropped; but all the afternoon she was pensive and absent, and flashes
of vexation gleamed every now and then fitfully in her stormy eyes.



CHAPTER XXVI.

               "Let none think to fly the danger,
     For, soon or late, Love is his own avenger."


Christmas-tide had come round again, and hall, manor-house, and castle
were filling fast. But the pheasants had a jubilee at Kerton, to the
great discouragement of Mallett, who "could not mind such another
breeding season." Foxes were strong and plentiful with the Belvoir and
the Pytchley; and, during two months of open weather, many a
straight-goer had died gallantly in the midst of the wide
pasture-grounds, testifying with his last breath to the generalship of
Goodall and Payne. But the best shot and the hardest rider in
Northamptonshire lingered on still in Paris, wasting his patrimony in
most riotous living, and trying his iron constitution presumptuously.

Lady Catharine sat alone in the gray old house, paler and more care-worn
than ever. I think she would have preferred the noisiest revel that ever
broke her slumbers in the old times to the dead silence that brooded
like a mist in the deserted rooms.

Guy had always been a bad correspondent, and now he hardly ever wrote to
her; but rumors of his wild life reached his mother often, though dimly
and vaguely. It was best so; what would that poor lady have felt if she
could have guessed at the scene in which her son was the principal
figure as the Christmas morning was breaking?

It is the close of a furious orgie; the Babel of cries, of fragments of
songs, of insane, meaningless laughter, is dying away, through the pure
exhaustion of the revelers; on the gay carpet and the rich damask are
pools of spilled liquors, heaps of shivered glass, and bouquets and
garlands that have ceased to be fragrant hours ago. All around, in
different attitudes--ignoble and helpless--are strewn the bodies of
those who have gone down early in the battle of the Bacchanals: they lie
in their ranks as they fell. One figure towers above the
rest--pre-eminent as Satan in the conclave of the ruined angels--the
guiltiest, because the most conscious of his own utter degradation. The
frequent draughts that have prostrated his companions have only brought
out two round scarlet spots in the pale bronze of his cheeks; his voice
retains still its deep, calm, almost solemn tone. Listen to it as he
raises to his lips an immense glass brimming-full of Burgundy: "One
toast more, and with funeral honors--'To the memory of those who have
fallen gloriously on the 24th of December.'"

Is it true that, six months ago, the soft, pure cheek of Constance
Brandon rested often on the broad breast that pillows now the disheveled
head of that wild-eyed, shrill-voiced Mænad? Draw the curtains closer
yet; shut out the dawn of the Nativity for very shame.

Mohun was breakfasting with Livingstone on a cold, gusty January
morning, that succeeded a night of heavy drinking and heavier play. The
colonel would see him through one of these readily enough, but if there
was even a single female face present he would retreat in disgust and
contempt unutterable. Guy had been hit so hard that it made him graver
than usual as he thought of it, though he was tolerably inured and
indifferent to evil fortune; so the conversation languished during the
meal. After it was over, Mohun rose to light a cigar, while his
companion took up a pile of letters and began to glance at them
listlessly. Suddenly the former dropped the match from his hand,
starting in irrepressible astonishment.

He had seen strong men die hard, mangled and shattered by sabre or
bullet, but he had never heard a sound so terribly significant of agony
as the dull, heavy groan that just then burst from Livingstone's lips.

In those few seconds his face had grown perfectly livid; his eyes were
riveted upon a small note that he held in his shaking fingers; they
glittered strangely, but there was no meaning or expression in their
fixed stare.

"In the name of God, what has happened?" Ralph asked.

Guy's lips worked and moved, but no sound came from them, except an
irregular catching of the breath and a gasping rattle in the throat.

Mohun took the note from his hand without his seeming to be aware of it,
and read it through. These were the words:

"I have tried very hard to persuade myself that you never received the
letter I wrote to you two months ago. I think you would have answered
it, for you would know how much I must have suffered before my pride
broke down so utterly. Yet I could not have risked being scorned a
second time if I had not learned yesterday that my life must now be
reckoned by weeks, if not by days. I do not know if I shall be allowed
to see you if you come. But you will come; will you not? Dear, dear Guy,
I can not die as I ought to do, contentedly, unless I speak to you once
again. In spite of all, I will sign my last letter

     "Your own                CONSTANCE BRANDON."


It was dated Ventnor.

Hard and cynical as he was, Mohun was thoroughly shocked and grieved;
but the urgency of the crisis brought back the prompt decision of
thought and purpose that were habitual to the trained soldier. He sprang
to his feet, alert and ready for action, as he would have done in the
old times, from his bivouac, to meet a night-surprise of the wild
Hungarians.

"Get every thing ready," he said to the servant, who entered at that
moment; "your master is going to England immediately. The train starts
for Havre at two o'clock. You will catch the night-boat for
Southampton."

When the man had left the room he turned to Guy: "Rouse yourself, man!
There is all a lifetime for remorse, but only a few hours for the little
amends you can make. You will be at Ventnor to-morrow; and mind--you
_must_ see her, whatever difficulties may be thrown in your way. You
won't lose your temper if you meet her brother? Ah! I see you are not
listening."

Then Livingstone spoke for the first time, in a hoarse, grating
whisper, articulating the words one by one with difficulty.

"I never dreamed of this. I did not mean to kill her."

Mohun knew his friend too well to attempt consolation or sympathy, even
if these had not been foreign to his own nature; so he answered
deliberately and coldly,

"Of having brought bitter sorrow on Constance Brandon I do hold you
guilty; of having caused her death, not, and so you will find when you
know all. But her note of two months ago--of course you never saw it?
You must have overlooked it; you are so careless with your papers."

"It never reached me," Livingstone replied. "I have always looked at the
outside of my letters, and I should have known that handwriting among
ten thousand. Some one must have intercepted it. I wish I knew who." He
was recovering from the first stunning effects of the shock, and the old
angry light came back into his eyes.

"I will find out when you are gone," said Mohun. "You have not a moment
to spare. I won't ask you to write; I will join you in England in three
days. Only remember one thing--keep cool. Yes, I know what you mean; but
your patience may be tried more than you have any idea of." He was
thinking of Cyril Brandon.

The hurry of departure prevented any further conversation. At the
station, just before the train started, Ralph said, grasping his
comrade's hand as he spoke, "I did not think you loved her so dearly."

It was very long before he forgot the dreary look which accompanied the
answer, "I did not know it myself till now."

"I must trace the note," the colonel muttered, as he strode away from
the station. "That handsome tiger-cat has laid her claw on it, I am
certain. But she won't confess; red-hot pincers would not drag a secret
from her, if she meant to keep it. I doubt if she will even betray
herself by a blush. Poor Constance! What chance had she against such a
Machiavel in petticoats? I am bad at diplomacy, too. If I only had the
slightest proof, or if she had any weak point--unless she loses her head
when she hears where Guy is gone, I have no chance of finding out much
in that quarter. There's Willis, to be sure--she bribed him, no doubt.
D--n them both!" In this complimentary and charitable mood, he went
straight to Flora Bellasys.

He found her alone. She was sitting in her riding-dress, and the broad
Spanish hat, with its curling plumes, lay close beside her, with the
gauntlets and whip across it.

She did not much like Mohun, for she had an idea that his sarcasms, with
her for their object, had made Guy smile more than once approvingly. She
knew, too, that all her fascinations recoiled harmlessly from that
rugged block of ironstone. Whatever he might have been in early years,
he was harder of heart than stout Sir Artegall now. Radigund, unhelming
her lovely face, would never have tempted him to forego his advantage
and throw his weapons down.

However, she greeted him with perfect composure and satisfaction.

"Do you join our party this afternoon, Colonel Mohun? I expect them to
call for me every moment. We are going to the Croix de Berny, to see the
ground for the race next week. Mr. Livingstone was to have lunched here;
but I never reckon on his keeping an engagement."

There was something in Ralph's manner which made her uncomfortable. She
took up her whip, and began twisting its slender stock rather nervously;
you would not have thought there was so much strength in the delicate
fingers.

"You are right," he replied, coolly, "not to count too much on Guy's
punctuality. He _is_ very uncertain in his movements. I fear he can not
accompany you this afternoon. He would have charged me with his excuses,
I am sure, if he had not been so hurried."

Flora looked up quickly.

"It must have been something very sudden, then. Have you any idea where
he is now?"

Ralph consulted his watch. "About Mantes, I should imagine. He started
for Havre by the last train. He will be at Southampton, to-morrow, and
the same day he can reach--"

He stopped, gazing at his companion with a cold, cruel satisfaction. The
blood was sinking in her cheeks, not with a sudden impulse, but
gradually--as the sunset rose-tints fade from the brow of the Jungfrau,
leaving a ghastly opaque whiteness behind them. During the silence that
ensued, a sharp tinkle might be heard as the jeweled head of the
riding-whip, snapped by a convulsive movement, fell at Flora's feet.

It _was_ weak in her to betray such loss of self-command, but,
remember, the blow came unexpectedly. She saw the edifice she had
plotted, and toiled, and risked so much to build, ruined and shattered
to its foundation-stone. How many whispers, and smiles, and eloquent
glances had been lavished, only to end in this Pavia, where not even
honor was saved from the utter wreck!

Was not the perfect waxen mask of the first Napoleon shivered in that
terrible abdication-night at Fontainebleau? Where was Cleopatra's
queenly dignity when she heard that Antony had rejoined Octavia?

"Why has he gone? What called him back?"

Her voice had lost the clear ring of silver, and sounded dull and flat,
like base metal.

"Constance Brandon wrote to tell him she was dying. Do you wonder that
he went to her?"

A passing cloud of horror swept across Flora's pale face; but after it
broke forth a gleam of strange, ferocious exultation, which stifled the
rising pity in her hearer's breast, and changed it into contempt.

"I don't believe it," she cried, passionately. "It is a trick. She was
quite well two months ago. At least, she said nothing--"

She checked herself, but too late. The practiced duelist laughed grimly
in his mustache, as he might have done on discovering the weak point in
his enemy's ward which laid him open to his rapier.

"You make my task easier," he said; "I came to inquire about a note
which miscarried about the time you speak of. I _will_ know what became
of it, Miss Bellasys, though I wish to spare you unnecessary exposure
and shame."

He had gained a momentary advantage, but it did not profit him much.
There are swordsmen who will not own that they are touched, though their
life-blood is ebbing fast. Flora rose without a sign of yielding or
weakness in her dry eyes, drawing up her magnificent figure proudly.
Ralph could not help thinking how like her father she was just then.

"I will answer, though I deny your right to question me. I have not the
faintest idea of what you refer to. I have seen no note, except such as
were addressed to myself; and you will hardly think that Miss Brandon
would choose me as a _confidante_ or correspondent."

Mohun saw that she would persist to the last, undaunted as Sapphira. So
he rose to leave her, without another word.

"You do not doubt me?" Flora asked, as he turned away after saluting
her. It was a rash question, all things considered, and scarcely worthy
of the accomplished speaker. There is no more useful maxim in diplomacy
than this: _Quieta non movere_.

Ralph faced her directly. "Miss Bellasys, when a lady tells me what I
can not believe, I question--not her word, but--her agent." He was half
way down stairs before she could answer or detain him.

He found out Willis's direction at Guy's hotel, but he had to wait some
time before obtaining it; and other things delayed him _en route_, so
that it was nearly two hours before he reached the modest lodgings, _au
quatrième_, where the discharged valet was hiding his greatness.

Willis had an extensive connection; this, and his well-known talents,
made him tolerably sure of a situation whenever he chose to seek one. He
had luxurious tastes, and thoroughly appreciated self-indulgence; so he
determined to devote some time and a portion of his perquisites to
relaxation before going into harness again.

On this particular evening he had in prospect a little dinner at
Philippe's--not uncheered by the smiles of venal beauty--and had just
completed a careful toilette. He was above the small peculations of his
order; indeed, had he been inclined to plunder his late masters
wardrobe, the absurd disproportion in their size would have saved him
from that vulgar temptation. He was somewhat choice in his tailors, and
his clothes fitted him and suited him well. He was reviewing the general
effect in the glass with a complacent and rather _égrillarde_ expression
in his little eyes, when between him and his _partie fine_ rose the
apparition of the colonel, like that of the commander before a bolder
profligate. He knew that the interview must come, and did not wish to
avoid it, but just at this moment it was singularly ill timed. What a
contrast between the stern, fixed gaze that seemed to nail him to the
spot where he stood and the well-tutored glances of fair, frail Héloise!
He felt as if he had been put into the ice-pail by mistake for the
Champagne. However, he met his ill luck placidly, and, handing his
visitor a chair, begged to know "what he could do to serve him."

"You can tell me what became of a letter from Miss Brandon, which ought
to have reached yow master two months ago, and miscarried."

Willis was forewarned and armed for the question; but, even with this
advantage given in, his blank, unconscious look and start of
astonishment did him infinite credit.

"A letter, sir?" he said, vaguely, as if consulting his recollections.
"From Miss Brandon? I have never seen or heard of such a thing. If I
had, of course I should have given it to Mr. Livingstone. What else
could I have done with it?"

"I will give a thousand francs for it," Mohun went on, without noticing
the denial, "or for a written acknowledgment of how you disposed of it,
and at whose orders." He laid the bank-note on the table.

The flats changed; the look of bewilderment gave place to one of injured
innocence--an appeal against manifest injustice. It was really
artistically done.

"I am sorry, sir, that you should think I want a bribe to serve you or
Mr. Livingstone. It is quite out of my power now. I don't know what you
refer to."

"I have no time to bargain," Ralph growled, and his eyes began to
glisten ominously. "Name your price, and have done with it."

Finale and Grand Tableau--virtuous indignation--the faithful servant
asserting his dignity as a man. There was a hitch here somewhere; the
scene-shifter was hardly up to his work, so that it was rather a
failure.

"I have told you twice, sir, that I do not know any thing about it. I
beg you will not insult me with more questions. You have no right to do
so; I am neither in your service nor Mr. Livingstone's now."

Mohun bent his bushy brows in some perplexity. After all, he had not a
shadow of proof, though he felt a moral certainty. His sheet-anchor was
the avarice of the scoundrel he was dealing with, and this seemed to
fail. Evidently a strong counter-influence had been at work.

"Curse her!" he muttered between his clenched teeth, "she has been here
before me."

Then he looked up suddenly, and what he saw caused the shallow cup of
his patience at once to overflow.

In Willis's eyes was an ill-repressed twinkle of exultation and
amusement, and on his thin lips the dawning of an actual sneer. It was
but seldom the trained satellite allowed himself the luxury of betraying
any natural feeling. In truth, he chose his time badly for its
exhibition now. Before he could collect himself so as to utter a cry, he
lay upon his back on the carpet, a heavy foot on his chest; and the
colonel was gazing down on him with a fell murderous expression, that
made the victim's blood run cold.

"By G--d!" Mohun said, in the smothered tones of concentrated passion,
"if you trifle with me ten seconds longer--if you open your lips except
to answer my question, I'll crush your breast-bone in."

Willis knew the desperate character of the man who held him in his
power; it was no vain threat he had just heard; the pressure on his
chest was agonizing already.

"For God's sake don't murder me!" he gasped out; "I--I gave it to Miss
Bellasys."

"Of course you did," Mohun said, coolly; "I knew it all along. Now get
up, and write that down."

He spurned away the fallen man as he spoke till he rolled over and over
on the floor.

There is nothing which disconcerts a nature long used to obey like a
sudden brutal _coup de main_. Remember the Scythians and their slaves.
The rebels met their masters boldly enough on a fair field with sword
and spear, but they cowered before the crack of the horsewhips.

All the spider-webs of the unfortunate Willis's diplomacy were utterly
swept away; his powers of thought and volition were concentrated now on
one point--to get rid of his visitor as soon as possible.

He rose slowly and painfully (for the mere physical shock had been
heavy), and, placing himself at a table, tried to write the few words of
acknowledgment that Mohun dictated; but his hand trembled so excessively
that he could hardly form the letters. As he looked up in piteous
deprecation, evidently fearing lest his inability to comply should be
construed into unwillingness or rebellion, he presented a spectacle of
degraded humanity so revolting in its abasement that even the cynic
turned away in painful disgust.

It was done at last. As Willis saw his confession consigned to Mohun's
pocket-book, his avarice gave him courage to try one last effort to gain
something by the transaction--a salve to his bruises--a set-off against
the _relicta non bene parmula_.

"I hope you will consider I have done all I can, sir," he said, looking
wistfully at the bank-note, which still lay on the table. "I shall be
ruined if this becomes known."

The cast-steel smile which was peculiar to him hardened the colonel's
face.

"You must come down on Miss Bellasys for compensation. She pays well, I
have no doubt. You never get another _sou_ from our side, if it were to
keep you from starving. My second thought was the best, after all; it
saved time and--money. (He put the note back into his purse.) I'll give
you one caution, though. Keep out of Mr. Livingstone's way. If he meets
you, after hearing all this, he'll break your neck, I believe in my
conscience." So he left him.

For the second time that evening Willis looked in the glass--the
reflection was not so satisfactory. Was that unseemly crumpled ruin the
white tie, sublime in its scientific wrinkles, on which its author had
gazed with a pardonable paternal pride? No wonder that he stamped in
wrath, not the less bitter because impotent, while he shook off the dust
from his garments as a testimony against Ralph Mohun.

He repaired the damages, though, to the best of his power, and then went
off to keep his appointment; but the _pâtés à la bechamelle_ were as
ashes, and the _gelée au marisquin_ as gall to his parched, disordered
palate. He made himself so intensely disagreeable that poor Héloise
thenceforth swore an enmity against his compatriots, which endured to
the end of her brief misspent existence. "_Gredin d'Anglais, va!_" she
was wont to say, grinding her little white teeth melodramatically,
whenever she recalled that dreary entertainment, and the failure of her
simple stratagems to enliven her saturnine host.



CHAPTER XXVII.

     "Then let the funeral bells be tolled, a requiem be sung,
     An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young;
     A dirge for her--the doubly dead, in that she died so young."


For the first few minutes after the train had moved off Guy was unable
to collect his thoughts. As the tall figure of Mohun passed from his
view, it seemed as if a sustaining prop had been suddenly cut away from
under him, and he felt more than ever helpless. The stubborn strength of
his character asserted itself before long, and he faced his great sorrow
as he would have done an enemy in bodily shape; but neither then, nor
for many days after, could he pursue any one train of reflection long
unbroken.

First he began to think how Constance would look when he saw her. Would
she be much changed? How beautiful she was the night they parted, with
the blue myosotis gleaming through her bright hair! Would her eyes be as
cold as he remembered them then (he had not seen their _last_ look), or
would they forgive him at once, and tell him so? Not if she knew all.
And then, in hideous contrast to her pure stately beauty, there rose
before him faces and figures which had shared his orgies during the past
months, gay with paint and jewels, and meretricious ornament. There was
a deeper horror in those mocking shapes than in the most loathsome
phantasms of corporeal corruption that feverish dreams ever called up
from the grave-yard. If his lips were unworthy, months ago, to touch
Constance's cheek or hand, what were they now? He ground his teeth in
the bitterness of self-condemnation. It would be easier to bear, if she
met him coldly and proudly, than if she yielded at once, as her letter
seemed to promise. Her letter! What became of the first one? If that had
reached him, how much had been saved! Perhaps Constance's
life--certainly much of his own dishonor. The idea did cross him that
Flora might have been concerned in intercepting it, but it seemed
improbable, and he drove it away. With all his revived devotion to
Constance, he did not like to think hardly of her rival; in a lesser
degree he had wronged her too.

You will rarely find the sternest or wisest of men disposed to be harsh
toward errors that spring from a devotion to themselves. It is only
just, as well as natural, that it should be so. If the second cause of
the crime did not find an excuse for the defendant, I don't know where
he or she would look for an advocate. St. Kevin need not have troubled
himself: there were plenty of people ready to push poor Kathleen down. I
think it is a pity they canonized him.

Through all Guy's reflections there ran this under-current--"how easily
all might have been avoided if the slightest things had turned out
differently." Just so, after a heavy loss at play, a man _will_ keep
thinking how he might have won a large stake if he had played one card
otherwise, or backed the In instead of the Out. I have heard good judges
say that this pertinacious after-thought is the hardest part to bear of
all the annoyance. Of course he worries himself about it, just as if
"great results from small beginnings" were not the tritest of all
truisms. I don't wish to be historical, or I would reflect how often the
Continent has been convulsed by a dish that disagreed with some one, or
by a ship that did not start to its time. The Jacobites were very wise
in toasting "the little gentleman in black velvet" that raised the fatal
mole-hill. Does not the old romance say that an adder starting from a
bush brought on the terrible battle in which all the chivalry of England
were strewn like leaves around Arthur on Barren Down?

Guy could still hardly realize to himself the certainty of Constance's
approaching death. He tried to fix his thoughts on this till a heavy,
listless torpor, like drowsiness, began to steal over him. He roused
himself impatiently, and began to think how slow they were going.
Nevertheless, the green _coteaux_ that swell between Rouen and the sea
were flying past rapidly, and they arrived at Havre, as Mohun had said,
just in time to catch the Southampton packet.

There was threatening of foul weather to windward. The clouds, in masses
of indigo just edged with copper, were banking up fast, and the "white
horses," more and more frequent, were beginning to toss their manes
against the dark sky-line.

To the few travelers whom the stern necessities of business drove forth,
lingering and shivering, from their comfortable inns on to the deck,
already wet and unsteady, Livingstone was an object of great interest
and many theories. His impatience to be gone was so marked that the
conscientious official looked more than once suspiciously at his
passport.

Mr. Phineas Hackett, of Boston, U.S., Marchand (so self-described in
the Livre des Voyageurs at Chamounix), made up his mind that he saw
before him the hero of some gigantic forgery, or a fraudulent bankrupt
on a large scale; but, just as he had fixed on the astute question which
was to drive the first wedge into the mystery, Guy turned in his quick
walk and met him full. I doubt if he even saw the smooth-shaven, eager
face at his elbow; but he was thinking again of the lost letter, and the
savage glare in his eyes made the heart of the "earnest inquirer" quiver
under his black satin waistcoat. "D----d hard knot, that," he muttered,
disconsolately, and retreated with great loss, to writhe during the rest
of the passage in an orgasm of unsatisfied curiosity.

The weather looked worse every moment as the wild north wind came
roaring from seaward with a challenge to the vessels that lay tossing
within the jetty to come forth and meet him. The waste-pipe of the
_Sea-gull_ screamed out shrilly in answer; and the brave old ship,
shaking the foam from her bows after every plunge, as her namesake might
do from its breast-feathers, steamed out right in the teeth of the gale.

A regular "Channel night"--a night which Mr. Augustus Winder, Paris
traveler to H---- and Co., the mighty mercers of Regent Street, spoke of
in after days with a shudder of reminiscence mingling with the pride of
one who has endured and survived great peril; who has gone down to the
sea in ships, and seen the wonders of the deep. His associates--the
_élite_ of the silk-and-ribbon department--youths of polished manners
and fascinating address, than whom _non alii leviore saltu_ took the
counter in their stride--would gather round the narrator in respectful
admiration, just as the young sea-dogs of Nantucket might listen to a
veteran hunter of the sperm whale as he tells of a hurricane that caught
him in the strait between the Land of Fire and terrible Cape Horn.

Mr. Winder represented himself as having assisted all on board, from the
captain down to the cabin-boy, with his counsel and encouragement, and
as having been materially useful to the man at the wheel. The fact was,
that he cried a good deal during the night, and was incessant in his
appeals to the steward and Heaven for help. In his appeals to the latter
power he employed often a strangely modified form of the Apostles'
Creed; for his religious education had been neglected, and this was his
solitary and simple idea of an orison. However, no one was present to
detract from his triumph or to controvert his concluding words:

"An awful night, gents; but duty's duty, and the firm behaved handsome.
Mr. Sassnett, I'll trouble you for a light, sir." And so he ignited a
fuller-flavored Cuba, and drank, in a sweeter grog, "Our noble
selves"--_olim hæc meminisse juvabit_.

There was one striking contrast on board to the gallant Winder.
Livingstone did not go below, but walked the deck all night long,
straining his eyes eagerly forward through the thick darkness and the
driving rain.

Captain Weatherby regarded him approvingly, as, halting in his walk, Guy
stood near him, upright and steady as a mainmast of Memel pine. "That's
the sort I like to carry," the old sailor remarked confidentially to
his second in command as they shared an amicable grog under the shelter
of the companion.

The wind abated toward morning; and, as the dawn broke, they were under
the lee of the Wight, and moving steadily into the quiet Solent.

Guy made his way straight to Ventnor. Twenty-four hours after her
summons reached him, Constance knew that her lover had never received
her first letter, and that now he was within five hundred yards of her,
waiting to be called into her presence.

It was long before her answer came. It only contained a few hurried
words, saying that it was impossible for her to see him that day, and
begging him not to be angry, but to wait. The hand-writing was far more
faltering and uncertain than that which had struck him so painfully with
its weakness the day before. It spoke plainly of the effort which it had
cost the invalid to trace even those brief lines. He did not try to
delude himself any more, but all that day remained alone, face to face
with his despair.

He went out after nightfall, and stole up cautiously to the house where
Constance was staying.

It is not only ghosts that _walk_. Men, as powerless to retrieve the
past as if they were already disembodied spirits, _will_ haunt the
scenes and sepulchres of their lost happiness even before they die.
Though the world was all before them where to choose, I doubt not that
the exiles from Paradise lingered long just without the sweep of the
flaming sword.

Two rooms in the house were lighted, one with the faint glimmer peculiar
to the shaded lamp of a sick-room. Guy's pulse bounded wildly at first,
and then grew dull and still. In that room he knew Constance lay dying.
The other window was brightly lighted, but half shaded by a curtain.
While he gazed, this was torn suddenly aside, as if by an angry,
impatient hand, and a man leaned out, throwing back the hair from his
forehead, to catch the cold wind which was blowing sharply. Guy had
never seen the dark, passionate face before, but he know whose it was
very well, though there was little family likeness to guide him. Cyril
Brandon's features were small and finely cut, like his sister's; but
there the resemblance ended. His complexion, naturally sallow, had been
burnt three shades deeper by the Indian sun. His fierce black eyes, and
thin lips, that seemed always ready to curl or quiver, made the contrast
with Constance very striking.

Livingstone drew back into the farthest shadow of the garden trees. He
knew how much reason Cyril had for hating him above all living men, and
he did not wish to risk a meeting. Mohun's warning shot across his mind,
and he felt it was rightly founded.

Brandon looked out for some minutes without moving, then he dropped his
head suddenly on his arms with a heavy groan. The bright light was
behind him, and Guy could see his clasped fingers twisting and tearing
at each other, as if he wished to distract mental agony by the sense of
bodily pain. The gazer saw that another besides himself had given up all
hope; and, with a heavier heart than over, he stole away home--not to
sleep, but to think, and wait for the morning.

About noon next day the expected message came:

     "DEAR GUY,--I have got leave to see you at last, but it
     was very difficult to gain. It is only on these conditions: you are
     not to stay with me a moment beyond three hours, and you must leave
     Ventnor immediately afterward, and not return. I have promised all
     for you. It seems very hard; but we must not think of that now.
     Come directly.                            C.B."

Ten minutes later there was only a closed door between Livingstone, and
the interview he longed for and dreaded so much. His steel nerves stood
him in good stead then; it was not at the crisis that these were likely
to fail. When Constance heard his step, it was measured and firmly
planted as she always remembered it. So it would have been if he had
been walking to meet the fire of a platoon. Her aunt, Mrs. Vavasour, was
with her, but left the room, as Guy opened the door, and so they met
again as they had parted--alone.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

     "I charge thee, by the living's prayer,
       By the dead's silentness,
     To wring from out thy soul a cry
       That God may hear and bless;
     Lest heaven's own palm fade in my hand,
     And, pale among the saints I stand
       A saint companionless."


Constance was lying on a couch near the fire propped up by many pillows.
She felt weaker than usual: what she had gone through in the morning had
exhausted her. Guy never knew, till long after, that the effort she had
made to secure the meeting with him had, in all human probability,
shortened her life by weeks. She thought it cheaply purchased at that
price--and she was right. Even the excitement of the moment had hardly
brought a tinge of color into the pure waxen cheeks, but the beautiful
clear eyes were more brilliant than ever. A ribbon of the blue which was
Guy's favorite was twisted in her bright glossy hair.

He saw nothing of this at first; he did not see her raise herself with a
faint joyful cry as he advanced with his eyes cast down; he never knew
how it was that he found himself kneeling by Constance, with her arms
clinging fondly round his neck, and her voice murmuring in his ear, "I
said you would come--I knew you would come."

Though her soft cheek lay so very near his lips, they never touched it.
He drew back, shuddering all over, and said, hoarsely,

"I can not; I dare not; I am not worthy."

I do not know if she guessed what he meant, but she tried to lift his
head, which was bent down on the cushion beside her, so that he might
look into her true eyes as she answered,

"You must not think that--you must not say so. I know you have been
angry and almost mad for many months, but you are not so now, and you
never will be any more. It was my fault--yes, mine. If I had not been so
cold and proud, you would never have left me. You thought I did not love
you; but I did; my own, my darling, I did--so dearly!"

All Guy's stout manhood was shivered within him, utterly and suddenly,
as 4000 years ago the rock was cloven in Horeb, the Mount of God. Now,
too, from the rift in the granite the waters flowed; the first tears
that he had shed since he was a very little child--the last that any
mortal saw there--streamed hot and blinding from his eyes down on the
thin, transparent hand that he held fast.

Would those with whom he was a by-word for hard sternness of character
have known him then? They would have been almost as much surprised to
see Constance Brandon--thought so haughty and cold--overcoming her
terror at his passionate burst of grief, to soothe him with every
tenderest gesture and with words that were each a caress, till the
convulsion passed away, and calm self-government returned.

Guy did not speak till he could quite control himself; then he said
firmly, but with a sob in his voice still,

"Yet I have killed you!"

"No, no," Constance answered, quickly; "indeed it is not so. A cold
which attacked my chest caused this illness; but they say my lungs were
affected long ago, and that I could hardly have lived many months. You
must think of that, dear; and perhaps it is much better that it should
be so. Life is very hard and difficult, I think, and I should never have
been strong enough to bear my part in it well."

Guy shook his head sadly, as if only half convinced, though he knew she
would not have said an untrue word even to save him from suffering.

"If you could only stay with me--if I could only keep you!" he cried
out, and threw his arms round her, as if their strong clasp would hold
her back one step on the road along which the messengers of God had been
beckoning her for many days past.

"Hush!" Constance whispered; "you must be patient. Yet I like to think
that you will not forget me soon. Now listen--" and she held up her
finger with something of the "old imperial air." "I have something to
ask of you. Will you not like to do it for my sake, even if it is hard?"

He did not answer; but she understood the pressure of his hand, and went
on.

"I have been fearing so much that something terrible will happen between
you and Cyril. He is so passionate and willful, he will not listen to
me, though he loves me dearly, and though I have tried every entreaty I
could think of. (She grew paler than ever, and shuddered visibly.) And
you are not patient, Guy, dear; but you would be this time, would you
not? Only think how it would grieve me if--"

The deep hollow cough that she had tried hard to keep back _would_
break in here.

"You can not doubt me," Guy replied, caressing her fondly: "I promise
that nothing he can say or do shall tempt me to defend myself by word or
deed. How could I, even if you had not asked this? Has he not bitter
cause? Ask me something harder, my own!"

Constance hesitated; then she spoke rapidly, as if afraid to pause when
she had once made up her mind. The lovely color came and flickered for a
moment on her cheek, and then went out again as suddenly.

"I know it is easier for me to submit than for you, yet it is very hard
to be obliged to leave you, Guy; it is harder still to leave you to
Flora Bellasys. I hope my jealousy--I _am_ jealous--does not make me
unjust; but I don't think she will make you better, or even happier in
the end. Now do forgive me; perhaps I ought not--"

Guy interrupted her here: he had not stopped her till she began to
excuse herself.

"I must see her once again (the knitting of his black brows omened ill
for the peace of that interview); afterward, on my honor and faith, I
will never speak to her one word, or willingly look upon her face."

O true heart! that had suffered so long, and hitherto unavailingly, till
your life-blood was drained in the struggle, be content, for the victory
is won at last. Never did loyalty and right triumph more absolutely
since those who stood fast by their King in the _dies iræ_ of the great
battle saw the rebel angels cast headlong down.

If, in the intense joy that thrilled through every fibre of Constance's
frame, there mingled an element of gratified pride, who shall blame her?
Not I, for fear of being less indulgent than I believe was her Eternal
Judge when, not many days later, she stood before him.

She needed no further protest or explanation; she never thought that,
because her lover had once been entangled, there was danger of his
falling into the net again; she never doubted for an instant--and she
was right. The gaze of the spirit is far-seeing and rarely fallible when
so near its translation as was hers.

As she leaned her head against his shoulder, murmuring, "You have made
me so very, very happy!" there were pleasant tears in the beautiful eyes
that had known so many bitter ones, and had not lost their brightness
yet.

There was silence for some minutes; then Constance spoke again, looking
wistfully, and more sadly than she had yet done, on her companion:

"Do you know, Guy, I have been thinking that yours will not be a very
long life? You are so strong that it seems foolish in me, but I can not
help it."

The faintest glimmer of satisfaction, like the ghost of a smile, came
upon Livingstone's miserable, haggard face: there had been nothing like
it there for many hours; there was nothing like it again for many days.

"You may be right," he said, very calmly. "I trust in God you are."

"Yes," Constance went on; "but I was thinking more than that. I was
hoping that perhaps, for my sake, if not for your own, you would try to
grow better every day. Only think what it would be if, throughout all
ages, we were never to meet after to-day." She drew him closer to her,
and her voice almost failed her. "I don't believe you ever could be what
is called a very religious character. I am so weak--strong-minded as you
thought me--that I fear I have found an attraction in this fault of
yours; but you could keep from great sins, I am sure. Try and be gentler
to others first, and with every act of unselfish kindness you will have
gained something. Any good clergyman will tell you the rest better than
I. Remember how happy you will make me. I believe I shall see and know
it all. It may be hard for you, dear, but it may not be for long."

The same strange, wistful look came into her eyes again, as if shadows
of the dim future were passing before them.

Poor child! Pure as she was in principle and firm in truth, she would
have made but a weak controversial theologian; but her simple words went
straight to her hearer's heart, with a stronger power of conversion than
could have been found in the discourses of all the surpliced Chrysostoms
that ever anathematized a sinner or anatomized a creed.

Yet Guy did not answer so soon this time. When he did, he spoke firmly
and resolutely: "Indeed, indeed, I will try."

Constance nestled down on his broad chest, wearily, but with a
long-drawn breath of intense relief.

"I have said all my say," she whispered; "I have not tired you? Now I
will rest, and you shall pet me and talk to me as you used to do."

What broken sentences--what pauses of silence yet more eloquent--what
lavish, tender caresses passed between those two, over whom the shadow
of desolation was closing fast, I have never guessed, nor, if I could,
would I write them in these pages. I hold that there are partings
bitterer to bear than a father's from his child, and sorrows worthier of
the veil than those of Agamemnon.

Though Guy repressed now all outward signs of painful emotion, he
suffered, I believe, far the most of the two. It is always so with those
whom death is about to divide. The agony is unequally distributed,
falling heaviest on the one that remains behind. If the separation were
for years, and both were healthy and hopeful, very often the positions
would be reversed; but--whether it be that bodily weakness blunts the
sharp sense of anticipated sorrow, or that, to eyes bent forward on the
glories and terrors of the unknown world, earthly relations lessen by
comparison--you will find that with most, however impetuous it may have
been in mid-channel, the river of life flows calmly and evenly just
before its junction with the great ocean stream. Besides, the dying girl
had suffered so much of late that the present change left no room for
other feelings than those of unalloyed happiness, and the words of love
murmured into her ear brought with them a deeper delight than when she
heard them for the first time from the same lips.

Both were so engaged with their own thoughts and with each other that
they never noted how the narrow space of time allotted to them was
vanishing, rapidly as the last dry islet of sand when the spring-tide is
flowing. They never heard the footsteps, more impatient at every turn,
sounding from the room beneath, where Cyril Brandon paced to and fro.
Constance had cut off one of her long sunny braids, and was twining it,
in and out, in fetter-locks round Guy's fingers as she lay nestling in
the clasp of his other arm: it was only their eyes that were speaking
then. They started as the door opened suddenly, and Mrs. Vavasour came
in, her face white, and her eyes wild with terror. She was too
frightened to be gentle or considerate.

"You must go this instant!" she cried out, catching Livingstone's arm.
"Constance, make him go; he has staid too long already. You know you
promised."

"I did promise," Constance answered, calmly, almost proudly "and he will
keep it."

Then she turned to Guy, who was kneeling by her, and hid her face in his
neck, locking her arms round him. Her aunt caught the words--"Not
forget!" Beyond these her farewell was a secret known only to her lover
and the angels.

But the parting, which had come so suddenly, drained the last weak
remnant of strength already taxed too hardly. Guy felt the lips that
were murmuring in his car grow still at first, and then cold; the tender
arms unknit themselves, and his imploring eyes could draw no answer from
hers that were closed.

"She has only fainted," Mrs. Vavasour said, answering his look: "I will
recover her. But pray, pray go!"

He laid the light burden that scarcely weighed upon his arm down on the
pillows, very softly and gently, smoothing them mechanically with his
hand. Then he stooped and pressed one kiss more on the pale lips; they
never felt it, though the passion of that lengthened caress might almost
have waked the dead. And so those two parted, to meet again--upon earth
never any more.

The next time woman's lips touched Guy Livingstone's they were his
mother's, and he had been a corpse an hour.

He went, without looking back; his step was slow and unsteady, very
different from the firm, even tread of three hours ago. The power of
volition and self-direction was very nearly gone. Through a half open
door on the lower story he caught a glimpse of a haggard face lighted up
by wolfish eyes, and heard a savage, growling voice. He felt that both
eyes and voice cursed him as he passed; and afterward, recalling these
things vaguely, as one does the incidents of a hideous dream, he knew
that, for the second time, he had seen Cyril Brandon. Guy could hardly
tell how he reached London that night, for the brain fever was coming on
that the next morning held him in its clutches fast.



CHAPTER XXIX.

     "Quanto minus est cum reliquis versari, quam tui meminisse."


The tidings of her son's illness reached Lady Catharine quickly at
Kerton Manor. I did not hear of it till a day later, and when I arrived
I found her nearly exhausted by sleeplessness and anxiety, though she
had not been Guy's nurse for more than thirty-six hours.

The sick-bed of delirium taxes the energies of the watcher very
differently from any other. There is a sort of fascination in the roll
of the restless head, tossing from side to side, as if trying to escape
from the pressure of a heavy hot hand; in the glare of the eager eyes,
that follow you every where, with a question in them that they never
wait to have answered; in the incoherent words, just trembling on the
verge of a revelation, but always leaving the tale half told, that
creates a perpetual strain on the attention, enough to wear out a strong
man.

There have been men, they say, who, sensible of the approach of
delirium, chose the one person who should attend them, and ordered their
doors to be closed against all others, preferring to die almost alone to
the risk of what their ravings might betray; but I have heard, also,
that there are secrets--secrets shared, too, by many confederates--to
which neither fever or intoxication ever gave a clew. The hot blood grew
chill for an instant, and the babbling tongue was tied when the dreamer
came near the frontier ground, where the oath reared itself distinct and
threatening as ever, while all else was fantastic and vague.

There was something of this in Guy's case. We could hear distinctly many
of his broken sentences, relating sometimes to the hunting-field,
sometimes to the orgies of wine or play. There were names, too,
occurring now and then, which to his mother were meaningless, but to me
had an evil significance. Once or twice--not oftener--he was talking to
Flora Bellasys. But when the name of Constance Brandon came, the harsh
loud voice sank into a whisper so low that if you had laid your ear to
his lips you would not have caught one syllable. Very, very often I had
occasion to remark this, and to wonder how the heart could guard its
treasure so rigidly when the brain was driving on, aimless as a ship
before the hurricane with her rudder gone.

On the fifth day after Guy's illness began, an angel might have
interceded for him in the stead of a pure true-hearted woman, for
Constance was dead.

I saw Lady Catharine tremble, and bend her head down low when she heard
the news, as if herself crushed by the blow which would fall so heavily
on her son. She had known but very little of Constance; that little had
made her love her dearly--who could help doing that? Yet it was not
Constance she was regretting then. I could see the same thought was in
her mind as in mine--who will tell Guy this if he recovers? I did all I
could to spare her; but the anxiety she felt when out of the sick-room
tried her almost more than the bodily fatigue. It was best to let her
have her way. I never guessed, till then, the extent of a weak woman's
endurance.

It was a close struggle, indeed, between life and death. The fire of the
fever died out when there was little left for it to feed on. The arm
which, a month ago, was fatal as old Front-de-Boeuf's, had not
strength enough in its loosened sinews to lift itself three inches from
the coverlet.

Guy had fallen at last into a heavy sleep. The doctors said it was the
turning-point. If he woke quite calm and sane, the immense power of his
constitution would probably enable him to rally; if not, the worst that
could be feared was certain.

He woke after many hours. There was such a stillness in the room as he
unclosed his eyes that you might have heard his mother's heart beat as
she sat motionless by his bedside. They recognized her at once--heavy
and dim as they were--for he tried to turn his head to kiss her hand
that lay on the pillow beside him. Then we knew that he was saved; and I
saw, for the first time, tears stream down Lady Catharine's worn cheeks.
She could check the evidence of her grief better than that of her joy.

He saw me, too, as I came forward out of the shadow. "Is that you,
Frank?" he said, faintly. "How very good of you to come." We would not
let him speak any more.

On the third day after the change for the better, I was alone with the
invalid. He turned to me suddenly, and spoke in a low voice, but so
steady that it surprised me. "Frank, what have you heard of Constance?"

Had I been arming myself to meet that question--disciplining my voice
and countenance for days, only to fail so miserably at last? I felt
unspeakably angry and self-reproachful when I saw that my face had told
him all.

"When did she die?" He went on in the same measured tone, without taking
his eyes off me. I think he had nerved himself just enough for the
effort, and was afraid of breaking down if he paused.

I could speak now, and told him. I was going on to tell him, too, how
calmly and happily her life had ended (her aunt had written all this to
Lady Catharine), when Guy stopped me--not coldly, but with a hopeless
sadness in his accent very painful to hear. "Thank you; it is meant
kindly, but I would rather not speak of this, even to you--at least for
some time."

His self-command carried him through bravely, but it only just lasted
out. Then he turned his head aside and threw his arm across it. As I
drew back to the window, I saw the quivering of the long, emaciated
fingers that veiled his face. I did not look again till Guy's voice
called to me, quite composedly, for I did not dare to pry into or meddle
with the secrets of the strong heart that knew its own bitterness so
well.

I told Lady Catharine what had passed. She was very much relieved to
hear that it was all over. She never opened her lips on the subject to
her son; indeed, though those two understood each other thoroughly,
there were wonderfully few confidences between them.

Guy's convalescence was slow--far slower than we had hoped for. It
seemed as if some spring was broken in his being not easily to be
replaced. He was moody and listless always, speaking very seldom; but
his words and manner, when he did talk, were gentler and more kindly
than I ever remembered them.

One of his first visitors was Colonel Mohun. He had been incessant in
his inquiries, and had offered to share our watching, but Lady Catharine
would not hear of it. She had a sort of dread at the idea of that grim
face lowering over the sick man's bed.

No one was present at their first interview. Ralph was more moved than
he cared to show at his old friend's altered looks and ways; but he gave
him the account of his search after the lost letter conscientiously,
without sparing a single detail. "It must have gone hard with Guy," he
remarked to me, thoughtfully, as he came away. "He's very far from right
yet. When I told him what Willis had done, I made sure he would be very
angry. He only said, 'Poor wretch! He acted under orders, and did not
know what mischief he was doing.' He wants rousing; but I am sure I
don't know what is to do it."

Forgiveness and forgetfulness of injuries seemed to that hard old
heathen the most dangerous sign of bodily and mental debility.

He came almost daily after that, and I think his rough ways, and sharp,
sarcastic remarks acted on Livingstone as a sort of tonic--bitter, but
strengthening.

A few days later Mrs. Vavasour called. She, too, saw Guy alone. She
surely had a message to deliver, or she would not have ventured on an
interview which must have been so painful to both. It did not last long;
but when she came down, her thick black veil was drawn closely over her
face, and that evening Guy was denied to Ralph Mohun.

One afternoon Livingstone was quite by himself. The colonel had gone
into Warwickshire for a few days' hunting; Lady Catharine had paid her
usual visit and had gone back to her hotel, and I was out for an hour or
two. We did not mind leaving him a good deal alone; indeed, he preferred
it very often, and said so.

His servant came in, looking rather puzzled, to say that a lady wished
to see him. She would not give her name, but said that she would not
detain him many minutes.

Guy had not time to refuse admittance to the visitor, she followed so
close upon her message. Though she was closely-wrapped in her mantle,
and her veil fell in triple folds, there was no mistaking the turn of
the haughty head, the smooth, elastic step, and the lithe undulations of
a figure matchless between the four seas. No wonder that he drew his
breath hard as he recognized Flora Bellasys.



CHAPTER XXX.

     Treu und fest.


As the door closed, Flora advanced quickly. "Confess you are surprised
to see me," she said, holding out her little gloved hand. The courtesy
toward the sex, which was hereditary with the Livingstones, contrasting
strangely with their fierce, ungovernable tempers, made him not reject
it; but his lay passive and nerveless in her slender fingers, never
answering their eager pressure; it had no longer the elastic quiver of
repressed strength that she remembered and liked so well.

"I am surprised to see you here, and so soon," he answered, coldly; "but
I knew we should meet before long."

"The surprise does not seem too charming," Miss Bellasys said, pouting
her scarlet lip as she threw herself into a deep _bergère_ opposite to
the couch on which Livingstone had already sunk down again--he was very
weak and unsteady in his movements still.

Was it by chance or calculation that a fold of her dress disarranged
displayed the slender foot, with its arched instep--set off by the
delicate _brodequin_, a labor of love to the Parisian Crispin--and the
straight, beautifully-turned ankle, cased in dead-white silk? The
latter, I think; for Flora knew how to fall as well as Cæsar or
Polyxena, and had studied her part to its minutest shade. It was by the
senses that she had always been most successful in attacking Guy, and
she knew that, in old days, no point of feminine perfection had a
greater attraction for him.

The temptation, if so it was intended, had about as much effect upon him
now as it might have had on weather-beaten St. Simeon Stylites when his
penances had lasted twenty years.

After a minute's silence, during which Flora was gazing intently on her
companion, leaning her chin upon her hand, she spoke again.

"I fear you must have been very ill. How--how changed you are!"

Livingstone was, indeed, fearfully altered. The healthy brown of his
complexion had given place to a dull, opaque pallor; there were great
hollows under the prominent cheek-bones, and his loose dressing-robe of
black velvet hung straight down from the gaunt angles of the immense
joints and bones. His voice sounded deeper than ever as he replied,

"Yes, I have been very ill, and I am utterly changed. But you must have
had something more important to say to me, or you would hardly have
ventured on this step."

She was getting very nervous--inexplicably so for her, who generally
kept her head, while she made others lose theirs,

"No. I only wished--" she hesitated, trying to force a smile, and then
broke off suddenly--"Guy, do speak kindly to me. Don't look at me so
strangely."

His answer came, brief and stern.

"I will speak, then. Miss Bellasys, on what authority from me did you
venture to interfere in my concerns so far as to intercept my
correspondence?"

She tried denial still; it was her way; she always _would_ do it, even
when it could avail nothing--perhaps to gain time.

"I don't know what you mean. I never--"

Livingstone interrupted her, with a curl of contempt on his lip.

"Stop, I beg of you. It is useless to stoop lower than you have done
already. I have Willis's written confession here. Ah! I know your
talents too well to accuse you without material proof."

She raised her head, haughtily enough now. There was something Spartan
about that girl. She had such an utter recklessness of exposure--it was
in failure that she felt the shame.

"At least _you_ ought not to reproach me. You might guess my motive--my
only one--without forcing me to confess it. Have I not gratified your
pride enough already?"

"You know that is not the question," Guy answered, gravely. "Yet you are
half right. I could not reproach you for any fair, honest move. In much,
I own myself more guilty than you. But this is very different. Miss
Bellasys, you must have distrusted greatly your own powers of
fascination before you stooped to such cruel treachery."

"I did not know what I was doing," she whispered; "I did not know she
was dying. Ah! Guy, have pity!"

"But you knew it might kill her to find her letter--such a
letter--unanswered. You knew what she must have suffered before she
wrote it. You did all this in cold blood, and now you say to me, 'Have
pity!' If an accountable being--not a woman and her miserable
instrument--had wronged me so, I would have risked my soul to have
revenge; and, because that is impossible, you think that I feel less
bitterly? You might have known me better by this time."

Instead of being softened by her appeal, his heart, features, and tone
were hardening more and more.

The sting of defeat, imminent and unavoidable, that, ere this, has
driven strong and wise men headlong into the thickest of the battle to
hunt for death there, proved too much for a temper never well regulated.

"You have decided, then?" she cried, passionately, her eyes flashing and
her lip quivering. "After all I have risked and borne for you, I am to
be sacrificed to a shadow--a memory--the memory of that cold, pale
statue of propriety?" She checked herself suddenly, only just in time.

Guy had sprung to his feet, excitement bringing back for the moment all
his lost strength. If Ralph Mohun had seen him, he would not have feared
that the wrathful devil was cast out. It was raging within him then,
untamed and dangerous as ever.

"Do you dare to insult her now that she is dead--and to me, not a month
after I have lost her? It is not safe: take care, take care!"

The tempest of his passion made him forget, for the first time in his
life, the weakness of her who had roused it.

Flora was only a woman after all, though haughty and bold of spirit as
any that had breathed. Her own outbreak of anger vanished before that
terrible burst of wrath, just as the camp-fire, when the prairie is
blazing, is swallowed up in the great roaring torrent of flame. She
bowed her head on her hands, trembling all over in pure physical fear.
Guy felt ashamed when he saw the effect of his violence, and spoke more
gently than he had done yet.

"Forgive me. I was very wrong; but I have not learned to control
myself--I never shall, I fear; but you ought not to say such words, even
if I could bear them better. Now it is time that we should part; you
have staid here too long already. You must not risk your reputation for
me, who can not even be grateful for the venture. We shall never meet
again, if we can avoid it; it would be strange to do so as mere
acquaintance, and in any other way--no, don't stop me--it is impossible.
It will be long before I go much into society again, so I shall not
cross your path."

Flora knew it was hopeless then. She was quite broken down, and did not
raise her head from her hand, through the fingers of which, half shading
her face, the tears trickled fast. Guy heard her murmur, very low and
plaintively, "I have loved you so long--so dearly!"

Mistress as she was of every art that can deceive, I believe she only
spoke the simple truth then. With all the energy of her strong and
sensual nature, I believe she did worship Livingstone. To most men she
would have been far more dangerous thus, in the abandonment of her
sorrow, than ever she had been in the insolence of her splendid beauty.

There are some women, very few (Johnson's fair friend, Sophy
Streatfield, was one), whom weeping does not disfigure. Their eyelids do
not get red or swollen; only the iris softens for a moment; and the
drops do not streak or blot the polished cheeks, but glitter there,
singly, like dew on marble; their sobs are well regulated, and follow in
a certain rhythm; and the heaving bosom sinks and swells, not too
stormily. It is a rare accomplishment. Miss Bellasys had not practiced
it often, being essentially Democritian--not to say Rabelaisian--in her
philosophy; but she did it very well. Like every other emotion, it
became her.

Guy hardly glanced at her, and never answered a word.

She rose to go; then turned all at once to try one effort more. "Yes, we
must part," she said. "I know it now. But give me a kind word to take
with me. I shall be so lonely, now that you are my enemy. Will you not
say you wish me well? Ah! Guy, remember all the hours that I have tried
to make pleasant for you. Say 'Good-by, Flora,' only those two little
words, gently." Her voice was broken and uncertain, but full of music
still, like the wind wandering through an organ.

Just at that moment I opened the door. (I had not an idea Livingstone
was not alone.) I closed it before either had remarked my entrance, but
not before I had caught sight of a very striking picture.

Guy was leaning one arm against the mantel-piece; the other was crossed
over his chest: on that arm Flora was clinging, with both her hands
clenched in the passion of her appeal. Her slight bonnet had fallen
rather back, showing the masses of her glorious hair, and all her
flushed cheeks, and her eyes that shone with a strange lustre, though
there were tears still on their long, trailing lashes. I saw the
impersonation of material life, exuberant and vigorous, yet delicately
lovely--the Lust of the Eye incarnate.

He stood perfectly still, making no effort to cast her off. Had he done
so with violence, it would scarcely have evinced more repulsion than did
the expression of his face. There was no more of yielding or softening
in the set features and severe eyes than you would find in those of a
corpse three hours old, whose spirit has passed in some great anger or
pain. Can you guess what made him more than ever hard and unrelenting?
He was thinking _who_ tried to win a kind farewell from him six months
ago, and utterly failed. Should her rival have this triumph, too, over
the dead?

As he answered deliberately, each slow word shut out another hope, like
bolts shot, one by one, in the lock of a prison door.

"I remember nothing of the past except your last act, for which I will
never, never forgive you. I form no wish for your welfare or for the
reverse. There shall not stand the faintest shadow of a connecting link
that I can break asunder. Between you and me there is the gulf of a
fresh-made grave, and no thought of mine shall ever cross it--so help me
God in Heaven!"

Flora's last arrow was shivered: if she had had another in her quiver,
she would have had no courage to try it after hearing those terrible
words. She caught his hand, however, before he could guess her
intention, and pressed her lips upon it till they left their print
behind, and then she was gone. Her light foot hardly sounded as it
sprang down the stairs, but its faint echo was the last living sound
connected with Flora Bellasys that ever reached the ear of Guy
Livingstone.

When I heard more of the interview, I thought, and think still, that he
erred on the side of harshness. He was so fixed and steady in his
purpose that he could have afforded to have compromised a little in
expressing it. But he did things in his own way, and fought with his own
weapons--effective, but hardly to be wielded by most men, like the axe
of the King-maker or the bow of Odysseus. In carrying out his will, he
was apt to consider the softer feelings of others as little as he did
his own. It was just so with him when riding to hounds: he went as
straight as a line, and if he did not spare his horses, he certainly did
not himself.

To each man alive, one particular precept of the Christian code is
harder to realize and practice than all the rest put together. It was
this, perhaps, which drove the anchorites on from one degree of penance
to another, and made them so savage in self-tormenting. When the
macerated flesh had almost lost sensation, the thorn that had galled it
sometimes in their hot youth rankled incessantly, more venomous than
ever. That one injunction--"Forgive, as you would hope to be
forgiven"--was ever a stumbling-block to Guy.

Besides all this, he knew, better than any one, what sort of an
adversary he was contending against; one with whom each step in
negotiation or temporizing was a step toward discomfiture. It was like
the Spaniard with his _navaja_ against the sabre: your only chance is
keeping him steadily at the sword's-point, without breaking ground; if
he once gets under your guard, not all the saints in the calendar can
save you.

Perhaps, then, he was right, after all. Certainly Ralph Mohun thought
so, as he listened to a sketch of the proceedings with a grim
satisfaction edifying to witness.

As for me, before I went to bed that night, I read through those
chapters in the "Mort d'Arthur" that tell how the long, guilty loves of
Launcelot and Guenever ended. In the present case, there was certainly
wonderfully little penitence on the lady's side, but yet there were
points of resemblance which struck me. [I always think the queen must
have been the image of Flora.] It is worth while wading through many
chapters of exaggeration and obscurity to come out into the noble light
of the epilogue at last.

Good King Arthur is gone. It bit deep, that blow which Mordred, the
strong traitor, struck when the spear stood out a fathom behind his
back; and Morgan la Fay came too late to heal the grievous wound that
had taken cold. The frank, kind, generous heart, that would not mistrust
till certainty left no space for suspicion, can never be wrung or
betrayed again. The bitter parting between the lovers is over too; and
Launcelot is gone to his own place, without the farewell caress he
prayed for when he besought the queen "to kiss him once and never more."
After a very few short months, the beautiful wild bird has beaten
herself to death against her cage, and the vision comes by night,
bidding Launcelot arise and fetch the corpse of Guenever home. She
wandered often and far in life, but where should her home be _now_ but
by the side of her husband? Hardly and painfully in two days, he and
the faithful seven accomplish the thirty miles that lay between; so
utterly is that unearthly strength, before which lance-shafts were as
reeds, and iron bars as silken threads (remember the May night in
Meliagraunce's castle), enfeebled and broken down. He stands in the
nunnery-church at Almesbury; he hears from the queen's maidens of the
prayer that was ever on her lips through those two days when she lay a
dying, how "she besought God that she might never have power to see Sir
Launcelot with her worldly eyes." Then, says the chronicler, "he saw her
visage; yet he wept not greatly, but sighed. And so he did all the
observance of the service himself, both the dirge at night and the mass
on the morrow." Not till every rite was performed, not till the earth
had closed over the marble coffin, did Launcelot swoon.

I know nothing in fiction so piteous as the words that tell of his
dreary, mortal sorrow. "Then, Sir Launcelot never after ate but little
meat, nor drank, but continually mourned until he was dead; and then he
sickened more and more, and dried and dwined away; for the bishop nor
none of his fellows might make him to eat, and little he drank; so that
he waxed shorter by a cubit than he was, and the people could not know
him; for evermore day and night he prayed; but needfully as nature
required, sometimes he slumbered a broken sleep; and always he was lying
groveling on King Arthur's and Queen Guenever's tomb. And there was no
comfort that his fellows could make him; it availed nothing."

We know it can not last long; we know that the morning is fast
approaching, when they will find him "stark dead, and lying as he had
smiled;" when they will bear him forth, according to his vow, to his
resting-place in Joyous Guard; when there will be pronounced over him
that famous funeral oration--the truest, the simplest, the noblest, I
think, that ever was spoken over the body of a sinful man.



CHAPTER XXXI.

     "I pray God pardon me,
     That I no more, without a pang,
       His choicest works can see."


It was long before Livingstone's health recovered the check to its
improvement given by that interview. However, as the spring advanced he
began to regain strength rapidly, and toward the end of May he and I
started in the _Petrel_, which he had just bought, for a cruise in the
Mediterranean.

It would seem hard that any one, coasting for the first time along the
shores of Italy, and penetrating ever and anon far into the interior,
should not feel and display some interest in the succession of pictures,
of living Nature and dead Art, that meet you at every step. I can not
say that I ever detected the faintest symptom of such in my companion.
He strayed with me through the old Forum, and through Adrian's Villa,
and lingered by the Alban Lake; but it was more to keep me in
countenance than any thing else. I liked them better this second time of
seeing them than I did the first; I doubt if they left an impression on
his mind equal to the dimmest photograph that ever was the pride of an
amateur and the puzzle of his friends. The brilliant landscapes made up
of bold headlands, hanging woods, and sunny bays fared no better. Guy
did not come on deck for two hours after we cast anchor off Mola di
Gaeta.

Our _ciceroni_ were much pained and scandalized at an indifference
which exceeded all they had yet encountered in the matter-of-fact
_Signori Inglesi_. I saw one of them look quite relieved when, after
quitting us, he had to listen to an excitable young Jewess endeavoring
to express her raptures in the most execrable Italian. The physical
effort it cost her was awful to witness, especially as she was wintering
in Italy for her lungs. O, long-suffering stones of the Coliseum! which
returned the most barbarous echo--the growls from the cells when their
tenants scented the Christian; the jargon of the Goth and the Hun; or
the _lingua Anglo-Romana in bocca Bloomsburiana_? The two first-named
classes, at all events, confined themselves to their own dialect, and
spoke it, doubtless, with perfect propriety. However, in the present
instance, the _custode_ took the sentimental ebullition of the Maid of
Judah for an _amende honorable_, and rubbed his key complacently.

I do not believe that our travels brought to Guy a single distraction to
the great sorrow that all the while held him fast.

A German philosopher under similar circumstances would have written
reams and spoken volumes (eating and drinking all the while
Pantagruelically), theorizing and abstracting his emotions till they
vanished into cloud and vapor. A true disciple of Rousseau or Lamartine
would have analyzed his grief, dividing it into as many channels as
Alexander did the Oxus, till the main stream was lost, and each
individual rivulet might be crossed dry-shod. Both would have shed tears
perpetual and profuse. I read the other day of a Frenchman who, in the
midst of a mixed assembly, remembering that on that day ten years he had
lost a dear friend, instantly went out and wept bitterly. He was so
charmed with the happiness of the thought that, as he says, "I took the
resolution henceforth to weep for all whom I have loved, each on the
anniversary of their death."

Can you conceive any thing more touching than the picture of the
Bereaved One consulting his almanac and then "going at it with a will?"
It _was_ an athletic performance certainly; but remember what condition
he must have been in from the constant training.

From the episode of Niobe down to the best song in the "Princess," how
many beautiful lines have been devoted to those outward and visible
signs of sorrow?

Sadder elegiacs, more pathetic threnodies might have been written on the
tears that were stifled at their source, either from pride or from
physical inability to let them flow. Great regrets, like great schemes,
are generally matured in the shade. If I had to choose the tombs where
most hopes and affections are buried, I should turn, I think, not to
those with the long inscriptions of questionable poetry or blameless
Latinity, but to where just the initials and a cross are cut on the
single stone.

The philosophical and poetical mourners hardly suffered much more than
Guy did during those months, and for long after too, though he was
always quite silent on the subject, and would speak cheerfully on others
now and then, and though, from the day that he parted with Constance to
that of his own death, his eyes were as dry as the skies over the Delta.
He used to lie for hours in that state of utter listlessness which
gives a reality to the sad old Eastern proverb, "Man is better sitting
than standing, lying down than sitting, dead than lying down."

With all this, however, his health improved every day. After the wild
life he had led lately, the perfect rest and the clear pure air
refreshed him marvelously. It had the effect of coming out of a room
heated and laden with smoke into the cool summer morning. His strength,
too, had returned almost completely. I found this out at Baiæ.

The guardian of the _Cento Camerelle_, a big _lazzarone_, became
inordinately abusive. My impression is that he had received about
fifteen times his due; but, seeing our yacht in the offing, he conceived
the idea that we were princes in our own country, and ought to be robbed
in his proportionally. Guy's eyes began to gleam at last, and he made a
step toward the offender. I thought he was going to be heavily visited;
but Livingstone only lifted him by the throat and held him suspended
against the wall, as you may see the children in those parts pin the
lizards in a forked stick. Then he let him drop, unhurt, but green with
terror. A year ago, a straightforward blow from the shoulder would have
settled the business in a shorter time, and worked a strange alteration
in good Giuseppe's handsome sunburnt face. But the old hardness of heart
was wearing away. I had another proof of this some days later.

We were dropping down out of the Bay of Naples. Though we weighed anchor
in early morning, it was past noon before we cleared the Bocca di Capri,
for there was hardly wind enough to give the _Petrel_ steerage-way. The
smoke from our long Turkish pipes mounted almost straight upward, and
lingered over our heads in thin blue curls; yet the sullen, discontented
heave and roll in the water were growing heavier every hour. The black
tufa cliffs crested with shattered masonry--the foundations of the sty
where the Boar of Capreæ wallowed--were just on our starboard quarter,
when Riddell, the master, came up to Livingstone. "I think we'd better
make all snug, sir," he said. "There's dirty weather to windward, and we
haven't too much sea-room." He was an old man-of-war's boatswain, and
had had a tussle, in his time, on every sea and ocean in the known
world, with every wind that blows. He had rather a contempt for the
Mediterranean, esteeming it just one degree above the Cowes Roads, and
attaching about as much importance to its vagaries as one might do to
the fractiousness of a spoiled child. If he had been caught in the most
terrible tempest that ever desolated the shores of the Great Lake, I
don't believe he would have called it any thing but "dirty weather." He
was too good a sailor, though, not to take all precautions, even if he
had been sailing on a piece of ornamental water; and he went quickly
forward to give the necessary orders, after getting a nod of assent from
Guy.

The latter raised himself lazily on his arm, so as to see all round over
the low bulwarks. There was a blue-black bank of cloud rolling up from
the southwest. Puffs of wind, with no coolness in them, but dry and
uncertain as if stirred by some capricious artificial means, struck the
sails without filling them, and drove the _Petrel_ through the water by
fits and starts.

"I really believe we are going to have a white squall," Guy remarked,
indifferently. "Well, we shall see how the boat behaves. Riddell only
spoke just in time."

Suddenly his tone changed, and he said, quickly and decidedly, "Hold on
every thing!"

The master turned his weatherwise eye toward the quarter where the
danger lay, and frowned. "We're none too soon with it, Mr. Livingstone.
If there's a yard too much canvas spread when _that_ reaches us, I won't
answer for the spars."

Deeper and deeper the blackness came rushing down upon us, an angry
ridge of foam before it--the white squall showing its teeth.

Guy took the old man by the arm, and pointed to an object to leeward
that none on board had remarked yet. It was a small _barca_ with four
men in it. They were Capriotes, as we found afterward, the boldest
boatmen in the Bay. Had they been pure-bred Neapolitans, they would have
been down on their faces long ago, screaming out prayers to a long
muster-roll of saints. As it was, they stood manfully to their oars,
straining every muscle to reach us; there was no other safety for them
then. "They will never get alongside in time, unless we bear down to
meet them," Livingstone said, "and what chance will they have in ten
minutes hence?"

Riddell was only half satisfied. His creed evidently was that a sailor's
first duty is to his own ship; but neither he nor any one else ever
argued with Guy. "As you like, sir," he grumbled, somewhat
discontentedly. "Keep her full, Saunders; we shall fetch them so."

If a stitch of sail had been taken off our vessel she could never have
reached the _barca_, though her crew strove hard to meet us. She forged
down slowly enough as it was, but we were just in time to take them on
board.

"Reef every thing now!" Riddell shouted, leaping himself first into the
rigging like a wild-cat. "Cheerily, men--with a will!" All his ill-humor
was gone when the peril became imminent.

We were strong-handed, and the four Capriotes did us seaman's service;
but it was "touch and go." The last man had scarcely reached the deck
when the line of foam was within half-cable's length. Then there came a
sound unlike any I had ever heard before in the elements, beginning with
a whistling sort of scream and deepening into a roar as of many angry
voices, bestial and human, striving for the mastery; and then the
_Petrel_ staggered and reeled over almost on her beam-ends, in the midst
of a white boiling caldron of mad water. She recovered herself, however,
quickly, quivering and trembling as a live creature might do after
severe punishment; and we drove on, the strong arms at the wheel keeping
her well before the blast. In a very few minutes, I suppose (though it
seemed very long), I heard old Riddell say, "Sharp while it lasted, Mr.
Livingstone; but they're right to call it a squall. They've nothing down
here-away like a good right down hard gale."

I looked up, clearing my eyes, blinded with the hissing spray, just as
Guy answered, coolly as ever. He had run his arm through a becket, and
did not seem to have moved otherwise, whereas I disgraced myself by
falling at full length as the squall struck us.

"Ah! you've got difficult to please; it's always so when one sees so
much of life. Never mind, Riddell, the Mediterranean does its best, and
perhaps we'll go and try your tornadoes some day. Where's the _barca_
now?"

Where? The eyes that could have told you that must have looked a hundred
fathoms deep. There was not the faintest vestige of such a thing to be
seen--not even a shivered plank. The poor Capriotes' "bread-winner" had
gone the way of Antonio's argosies--another whet to the all-devouring
appetite, for which nothing that swims is too large or too small.

It was almost calm again when we landed the rescued men at Salerno; we
were glad to get rid of them, for their gratitude was overpowering,
especially as all the salt water that had soaked them could not disguise
the savor of their favorite herb.

You may break, you may ruin the clay if you will, but the scent of the
garlic will cling to it still.

Guy gave them enough to buy two such boats as they had lost--about as
much as one wins or loses in an evening's whist, with fair luck and
half-crown points.

This incident showed the change that was coming over my companion. His
principle had always been that a man who could not help himself was not
worth helping. He never asked for aid himself, and never gave it to his
own sex, as a rule. I believe his rescuing me at B---- was a solitary
case, and I took it as a great compliment. You will say this one was
only an act of common humanity. If you had known the man, you would have
thought, as I did, that the words of her, who was an angel then, were
bearing fruit already.

Nothing happened of the slightest interest as we ran down through the
Straits of Messina, and up the eastern coast of Calabria. We did not
stay to see Sicily then, for we had settled to be in Venice by a certain
day, to meet the Forresters.

If I were to be seduced into "word-painting," the Queen of the Adriatic
would tempt me. I know no other scene so provocative of enthusiasm as
the square acre round St. Mark's. All things considered, the author of
the "Stones of Venice" seems very sufficiently rational and
cold-blooded.

We can not all be romantic about landscapes. Nature has worshipers
enough not to grudge a few to Art. For myself, admiring both when in
perfection, I prefer hewn stones to rough rocks--the Canalazzo to _any_
cascade. The glory of old days that clings round the Palace of the Doges
stands comparison, in my mind's eye, with the Iris of Terni.

But why trench on a field already amply cultivated? I will never
describe any place till I find a virgin spot untouched by Murray, and
then I will send it to him, with my initials. Does such exist in Europe?
"Faith, very hardly, sir." _Nil intentatum reliquit._ What obligations
do we not owe to the accomplished compilers? Rarely rising into poetry
(I except "Spain"--the field, and bar one), never jocose, they move on,
severe in simplicity, straight to their solemn end of enlightening the
British tourist. Upright as Rhadamanthus, they hold the scales that
weigh the merits of cathedrals, hotels, ruins, guides, pictures, and
mountain passes, telling us what to eat, drink, and avoid. Let us repose
on them in blind but contented reliance.

I heard of one man, clever but eccentric, who became so exasperated at
seeing the volumes in every body's hand, and hearing them in every
body's mouth, that he conceived a sort of personal enmity to them,
impiously dissenting from their conclusions and questioning their
premises. The well-known red cover at last had the same effect on him as
the scarlet cloak on the bull in the _corrida_, making him stamp and
roar hideously. The angry gods had demented him. _Væ misero!_ How could
such sacrilege end but badly? Braving and deriding the solemn warning of
the prophet, he attempted a certain pass in the Tyrol alone, and, losing
his way, caught a pleurisy which proved fatal. He died game, but, I am
sorry to say, impenitent, speaking blasphemy against the book with his
last breath. _Discite justitiam, moniti, et non temnere--_

Such heresy, be it far from me! If I had my will, I protest I would
found a "Murray's Traveling Fellowship" in one or both of the
Universities. If I had the poetic vein, I would indite a pendant to
Byron's iambics to that enlightened bibliopole. He published "Childe
Harold," and the Hand-book to Every Where. Could one man in one century
do more for the Ideal and the Real?



CHAPTER XXXII.

     "Sweetest lips that ever were kissed,
       Brightest eyes that ever have shone,
     May sigh and whisper, and _he_ not list,
     Or look away, and never be missed
       Long or ever a month be gone."


It was a very curious _ménage_ that of the Forresters'. They were
wonderfully happy, yet you could not call theirs _domestic_ felicity.
They went out perpetually every where, and were scarcely ever alone
together at home. Tho cold-water cure of matrimony had not been able to
cool either down into the dignity and steadiness befitting that
honorable state. As far as I could see, Charley flirted as much as ever;
the only difference was, that he stole upon his victims now with a sort
of protecting and paternal air, merging gradually, as the interest
deepened, into the old confidential style. The whole effect was, if any
thing, more seductive than before.

The fair Venetians admired him intensely. His bright, clear complexion
and rich chestnut hair had the charm of novelty for them. Though without
the faintest respect for grammar or idiom, he spoke their language with
perfect composure, confidence, and self-satisfaction, and his tones were
so well adapted to the slow, soft, languid tongue, that his blunders
sounded better than other men's correctness of speech. _Mallem
mehercule cum Platone errare_. When he said "_Si, Siora_," it seemed as
if he were calling the lady by a pet name.

Isabel did a good deal of mischief too in her unassuming way, but I
think she confined her depredations chiefly to her compatriots.

The best of it was, that neither objected in the least to the other's
proceedings, appearing, indeed, to consider them rather creditable than
otherwise. Perhaps it would be as well if this principle of reciprocal
free agency were somewhat extended, though not quite to the latitude to
which they carried it.

We can not send our wives about surrounded by a detachment of semiviri
to keep the peace; our climate is too uncertain, and influenza too
prevalent, for us to watch their windows ourselves, as they do at Cadiz.
Fancy mounting guard in Eaton Square at 4 P.M., shrouded in a yellow
fog, on the chance of surprising a forbidden morning visitor!

Supposing that we could adopt either of those methods, why should they
prove more efficacious than they are said to be on their native soil? If
the British husband will allow nothing for the principles, charitably
supposed by others to be inherent in the wife of his bosom--nothing for
the Damoclean damages hanging over the imaginary plotter against his
peace--why should he depreciate his own merits and powers so completely
as to consider himself out of the lists altogether? If he would only
desist from making himself consistently disagreeable, I believe, in most
cases, his substantial interest would be little endangered.

That poor Hephæstus! The net was an ingenious device, and a pretty
piece of workmanship, but--it didn't answer.

In despite of Mrs. Ellis, there are women whose mission it is _not_ to
be good housewives; they can't be useful if they would, any more than
May-flies can spin silk. Like them, they can attract fish (and sometimes
get snapped up if they go too close), that's all. If you marry them, you
must accept them as they are, and take your chance. Be generous, then,
and don't stop their waltzing. I believe there may be flirting without
the most distant idea of criminality--fencing with wooden foils, where
no blood is drawn.

A lady was asked the other day "what she did when an admirer became too
lover-like." Her answer was, "I never had such a case." I think she
spoke the truth; yet she was a coquette renowned through a good part of
two hemispheres.

As for the doubts and fears of the other sex, the subject is too vast
for me. To the end of time there will be Deianiras (with imaginary
Ioles), Zaras, and Mrs. Caudles. Tragedy and comedy have tried in vain
to frighten or to laugh them out of the indulgence of the fatal passion,
that wreaks itself indiscriminately on the beat and the worst, the
youngest and the oldest, the simplest and the most guileful of adult
males. Let us not attempt to argue, then, but, wrapping ourselves in our
virtue, endure as best we may the groundless reproaches and accusations
of our ox-eyed Junos.

We _did_ Venice very severely, with the exception of Forrester, who,
after strolling once through the Palace of the Doges (a pilgrimage
interrupted by many halts and profuse lamentations), declined seeing any
thing more than what he could view from his gondola. I never saw any
one so completely at home in that most delicious of conveyances. His
Venetian friends encouraged and sympathized with him in his laziness,
and pitied him with eyes and words, forever being teased about it.
Indeed, he was generally left alone; but one day we were landing to see
a church of great repute, and Miss Devereux made a strong appeal to him
to follow her. She was a handsome, clever girl, a great favorite of
Charley's. I believe they used to quarrel and make it up again about six
times in every twenty-four hours. We saw that it was hopeless, but she
was obstinate enough to try and persuade him.

"Now, Captain Forrester, you must come. I have set my heart upon it."

He lifted his long eyelashes in a languid satisfaction. "Thank you very
much; I like people to be interested about me; but you see it's simply
impossible. Look at Rinaldo; there's a sensible example for you. He
doesn't mean to stir till he is obliged to do so." The handsome
gondolier had already couched, to enjoy a bask in the sun, which was
blazing fiercely down on his brown face and magnificent black hair.

"There is the most perfect Titian," she persisted.

"No use. I should not appreciate it," he replied. "I have been through a
gallery _with you_ before. It's a delusion and a snare. I never looked
at a single picture. The canvas won't stand the comparison."

"I did not think you would have refused me," Miss Devereux went on,
"particularly after last night, when you were so very--amusing." She
hesitated out the last word with a blush. It evidently was not the
adjective that ought to have closed the sentence.

"Amusing!" replied Charley, plaintively. "You need not say any more. I
am crushed for the day. I meant to be especially touching and pathetic.
Well, there's some good in every thing, though. I entertained an angel
unawares."

"I shall know how far to believe you another time, at all events," she
retorted, getting rather provoked.

"Don't be unjust," said Forrester, profoundly regardless of the fact
that his wife was within three paces of them. "I said I was ready to die
for you. So I am. You may fix the time, but I may choose the place. If
you insist upon it, I'll make an end of it now--here." And he settled
himself deeper into the pile of cushions.

We had no patience to listen to any more, but went off to perform our
duty. Long before he had exhausted his arguments against moving, we had
returned. Margaret Devereux missed seeing the church and its Titian, but
she got a "great moral lesson." She never wasted her pretty pleadings in
such a hopeless cause again.

I remember, when we mounted the Campanile, the solemn way in which he
wished us _buon viaggio_. When we reached the top, we made out his
figure reclining on many chairs in front of "Florian's."

He saw us, too, and lifted the glass before him to his lips with a wave
of approval and encouragement, just as they do at Chamounix when the
telescopes make out a few black specks on the white crests of the
mountain. When we came down, he stopped us before we could say one
word. "Yes, I know--it was magnificent. Bella, I see you are going to
rave about the view. If you do, I'll shut you up for a week _en
penitence_, and feed you on nothing but 'Bradshaw' and water."

We spent a very pleasant month in Venice. It did Guy good being with the
Forresters. He had always been very fond of his cousin, and she seemed
to suit him better than any one else now. She would sit by him for
hours, talking in her low, caressing tones, that soothed him like a cool
soft hand laid on a forehead fever-heated. Isabel was not afraid of him
now, but a great awe mingled with her pity.

It is curious, and tells well perhaps for our human nature; neither
pride of birth, nor complete success, nor profound wisdom, surrounds a
man with such reverence as the being possessed with a great sorrow. At
least no one can envy him; and so those who were his enemies once--like
the gallant Frenchman when he saw his adversary's empty sleeve--bring
their swords to the salute, and pass on.

At last we started for Rome, our party nearly filling two carriages.
There are only two ways of traveling: in your own carriage, with courier
and fourgon, like Russian or transatlantic noble, or with vetturino.
This last mode, which was ours, is scarcely less pleasant, if you are
not in a hurry. The charm of having, for a certain period, every care as
to ways and means off your mind, compensates for the six-miles-an-hour
pace. So we moved slowly southward through Verona, where one thinks more
of the Avon than the Adige--where, in tombs poised like Mohammed's
coffin, the mighty Scagliari sleep between earth and heaven, as if not
quite fit for either--where are the cypresses in the trim old garden,
soaring skyward till the eyes that follow grow dizzy, the trees that
were green and luxuriant years before the world was redeemed. So through
Mantua and Bologna down to Florence, where, I think, the spirits of
Catharine and Cosmo linger yet, the women and the men all so soft-toned,
and silky, and sinful, and cruel. We did not stay long there, for we had
all visited it before once or twice, but kept on our way, by the upper
road, to Rome, till we reached our last halting-place--Civita
Castellana.

We were gathered round the wood fire after dinner (for the October
evenings grew chilly as they closed in); I don't know how it was that
Forrester began telling us about their flight.

"You ought to have seen Bella's baggage," he said, at last; "it was so
compact. You can't fancy any thing so tiny as the _sac de nuit_. A
courier's moneybag would make two of it. Then a vast cloak, and that's
all. Quite in light marching order."

"I wonder you are not ashamed to talk about baggage," his wife retorted.
"When we got to Dover, there was his servant with four immense
portmanteaus and a dressing-case nearly as large, waiting for us. Was it
not romantic?"

"Bah!" Charley said. "A man must have his comforts, even if he is
eloping. I am sure I arranged every thing superbly. I don't know how I
did it--an undeveloped talent for intrigue, I suppose."

"Was it not kind of him to take so much trouble?" Isabel asked, quite
innocently, and in perfect good faith, I am sure; but her husband
pinched the little pink ear that was within his reach.

"She means to be sarcastic," he said. "You've spoiled her, Guy. If I had
had time to deliberate, though, I don't think I should ever have come to
the post. I wonder how any one stands the training."

"I'll tell you what would have suited you exactly," Livingstone
remarked--"to have been one of those men in the Arabian Nights, who wake
and find themselves at a strange city's gate, 10,000 leagues from home,
to whom there comes up a venerable vizier, saying, 'My son, heaven has
blessed me with one daughter, a very pearl of beauty; many have sought
her in marriage, but in vain. Your appearance pleases me, and I would
have you for my son-in-law.'"

"Exactly," said Forrester. "I should not have minded turning out
somebody else's child eventually--(they all did that, didn't they?)--for
such a piece of luck as to be taken in and done for off-hand, without
the trouble of thinking about it."

Instead of looking vexed, Isabel laughed merrily, and her eyes glittered
as they rested on him, full of a proud, loving happiness.

"The best of it was," Charley went on, "she was in the most dreadful
state of alarm and excitement all the way to Dover, looking out at every
station, under the impression that she should see the bridegroom there,
'dangling his bonnet and plume' (though how he was to have got ahead of
us, unless he came by electric telegraph, does not appear). What sport
it would have been! I should have liked so to have seen the 'laggard in
love' once more."

"He was not quite _that_," Isabel interrupted, rather mischievously.

"Ah! I dare say you kept him up to the traces," her husband remarked,
languidly. "You have a talent that way. What 'passages,' as Varney
called them, there must have been, eh! Guy? We won't hear your
confession now, Puss. In pity to Mademoiselle Agläe's eyes (which are
very fine), if not to your own (which are very useful), I think you had
better go to bed. That ferocious vetturino will have us up at unholy
hours, and is not to be mitigated."

We sat talking for a little while after Isabel left us; then Forrester
rose and strolled to the window. The flood of light that poured in when
he drew the curtain was quite startling, making the three beaked oil
lamps look smoky and dim.

"I shall smoke my last cigar _al fresco_," Charley said; "I suppose it's
the correct thing to do, with such a moon as that. Won't you come, Guy?
I must not tempt you out into the night air, Hammond."

"Not to-night," Livingstone answered. "I am not in the humor for
admiring any thing. I should be rather in your way."

One of his gloomy fits was coming over him, at which times he always
chose to be alone.

"Well, I shall go and consume the 'humble, but not wholly heart-broken
weed of every-day life,' as Tyrrell used to say. (Don't you remember his
double-barreled adjectives?) If you hear any one singing _very_ sweetly,
don't be alarmed; you'll know it is the harmless lunatic who now
addresses you; the fit won't last more than an hour. We shall be in Rome
to-morrow. The only thing on my mind now is whether I shall find any
thing there to carry me across the Campagna. K---- has a very fair pack,
I understand, and no end of foxes."

Have you ever watched the completion of a photograph, when the nitrate
of silver (or whatever the last lotion may be) is applied? First one
feature comes out, that you may indulgently mistake for a tree, or a
gable-end, or a mountain top; then another, till the whole picture
stands out in clear, brilliant relief.

Just so when I recall that scene--little heed as I took at the time of
them--every gesture, and look, and tone of Forrester's becomes as
distinct as if he stood in the body before me now. I can see him
standing in the shadow of the doorway, the red glare from the blazing
wood with which he was lighting his cigar falling over his delicate
features and bright chestnut hair--I can hear his kind soft voice as he
speaks these last two words, "_Al rivederci_."

Whether that wish will be accomplished hereafter, God alone can tell; if
so, it must be beyond the grave. In life we never saw him any more.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

     "But time at length makes all things even,
     And if we do but bide the hour,
     There never yet was human power
       That could evade, if unforgiven,
     The patient search and vigil long
     Of him who treasures up a wrong."


Three quarters of an hour later, Guy was sitting in his room, gazing at
the embers on the hearth, in the attitude of moody thought that of late
he was apt to fall into. Suddenly there came a timid knock at his door.
When he opened it, his cousin stood on the threshold--ghost-like,
against the background of darkness, with her white dressing-gown, pale
cheeks, and long hair unbound.

"Guy, don't be angry," she said; "it's very foolish of me, I know; but
Charley has not come in yet, and just now I am certain there was a shot
quite near. Agläe heard nothing, but I did. You know he always carries a
pistol. I made him do so. It is nothing, I am sure; but I am so
frightened. If you would--"

She tried to smile, but that ghastly look of terror that he had seen
once before, long ago, in the library at Kerton Manor, again swept over,
and possessed all her face like a white chill mist.

"Don't be absurd, you silly child," Guy said, kindly. "Of course I'll go
out directly, and bring him in in five minutes, to laugh at you. Now go
back to your room; there's nothing on earth to be alarmed about."

But the instant she had gone, I heard his voice quick and stern: "Frank,
come here." There was a door of communication between our rooms, and,
though it was closed, I had caught some words of this conversation, so I
was ready nearly as soon as he. Guy only staid to take a short
lance-wood club, headed with a spiked steel head, which was his constant
traveling companion--a very simple weapon, but deadly in his hands as
the axe of Richard the King--and then we sallied out, taking our
servants and some other men that were below, with torches, in case the
moon should fail us unexpectedly.

Twice, three times, when we had gone a short distance, Livingstone
shouted Forrester's name. His powerful voice rang far through the
ravines, and struck against the rocks, rolling and reverberating in
their hollows like a blast fired in a deep mine; but no answer came.

I looked at my companion very nervously. He never spoke, but I saw him
gnaw his under lip till the blood ran down.

We had gone a hundred paces or so farther along a narrow path outside
the town. On our right the cliff fell almost abruptly toward the river.
Guy was a few paces in front, when suddenly there broke from his lips
such a sound as I have never heard from those of any mortal before or
since.

It is impossible to describe it. It was utterly involuntary, as if some
spirit had spoken within the man--a cry of horror and of unspeakable
wrath, such as might have burst from the chest of one of the Old-World
giants, when the rock fell from heaven that crushed him like a worm. The
Italians, used to every tone that can express passion, shrunk and
cowered back in terror.

Our eyes all followed the direction of his, that were staring down upon
a flat open space, clear from brush-wood, down in the hollow on our
right. Our search was ended, and we knew it. The moon, that flickered
and quivered elsewhere through bough and brake, settled there steadily
on a single white spot.

In all the world there is but one object on which she can cast so
ghastly a reflection--a dead man's face.

Guy recovered himself first, and plunged recklessly down the cliff side.
When we reached him, he was supporting on his knee the head of poor
Charley Forrester, stone dead, and foully murdered.

The first glance told how unavailing all human aid must be. One small
deep wound just above the left temple must have been fatal instantly.
Close by his side lay the instrument of the slaughter--a thin,
triangular piece of granite--and, ten paces off, his pistol, one barrel
discharged. His watch and (as we afterward found) his purse were gone,
but an emerald ring of great value was still untouched on his finger.

I staggered back, heart-sick and faint. When I recovered I saw dimly the
group of men, awe-stricken and whispering, and Guy still gazing down at
the face that rested on his knee, as if it fascinated his eyes. I could
not bear to look upon the piteous sight. All through the bright hair the
dark blood had soaked, and a slow stream was stealing through it still;
the fair features were all defaced and deformed with the wrath and
agony of the last mortal struggle. Yet I do remember that, if any one
definite expression still lingered there, it was bitter contempt and
scorn.

"In God's name, sir, what is to be done?" It was Hardy who spoke, poor
Forrester's own servant, the only Englishman among our attendants. He
was choking, and could hardly gasp out the words.

Livingstone rose slowly, first pillowing the mangled head on a soft tuft
of moss, tenderly as if it were conscious still. His nature was such
that no shock, or pain, or sorrow to which humanity is liable, could
bend or quell it, so as to deprive him, beyond a brief instant, of
self-possession and calmness. It was not insensibility now, and hardly
stoicism, but an elasticity of resistance and strength of endurance
that, in my own knowledge, have never been matched. In history or in
Indian life you might find many parallels.

He answered quite steadily, though in a low tone, as if reverencing the
presence of the dead.

"There is no hope. It is useless to send for a surgeon. Hardy, you will
take all the men whom you can collect and scour the country. Send to the
_sbirri_ immediately; they will go with you. There must be traces of the
murderer. Frank, will you see that--he--is brought carefully to the
house? I will"--he stopped, and drew a long, hard breath--"I will go and
break it to Isabel." His hand, that happened to touch mine as he spoke,
was damp and icy cold.

In his life Guy Livingstone had done and dared more than most men, but
he never ventured on any thing so thoroughly brave, and valiant, and
strong-hearted as when he left me, without another word, on that
errand. For myself, though weak both in body and nerve, I swear I would
rather have gone up the breach at Badajoz with the forlorn hope, than up
that bank with the certainty before me of what awaited him.

Trees overhanging, and high walls on either side, and the change from
the bright moonlight, made it so dark just as you approached the inn
that Guy scarcely saw a white figure crouching down a few paces from the
door till he was close upon it.

He threw his arm round Isabel Forrester's waist before she could pass
him. Half his task was done; there was nothing to break to her now. She
understood all when she saw him come back alone.

For a few moments, there they stood in the dark, no word passing between
them; the only sound was her quick panting, as she struggled in his
grasp, battling to get free.

"Isabel," he said, at last, gravely, "come in; I must speak to you."

No answer still, but the same desperate struggle to get loose. There was
a savage, supernatural power in her writhings that taxed even his
gigantic strength to hold her; as it was, he yielded unconsciously to
her impulse so as to recede some paces till they issued out into the
moonlight. He could scarcely recognize her features; they were all
working and contorted, the lips especially horribly drawn back and
tense. She bent her head down at last, and made her teeth meet in the
arm that detained her.

Guy never flinched nor stirred, but spoke again in the same slow,
deliberate tone.

"Isabel, come in. I swear that you shall see him when it is safe. They
are bringing him back now."

She ceased struggling and stood straight up, shaking all over, straining
her eyes forward to the turning in the path where the torches began to
gleam.

"Is he not dead, then?" she said, in a strange, harsh voice, utterly
unlike her own. Her cousin did not try to delude her; all the stern
outline of his face softening in an intense pity told her enough.

Such a scream--weird, long drawn out, and unearthly, such as we fancy the
Banchee's--as that which pierced through my very marrow (though I stood
three hundred yards away, as if it had been uttered close at my ear), I
trust I shall never hear again.

Then followed the contrast of a great stillness; for, as the last
accents died away on her lips, Isabel sank down, without a struggle,
into a dead swoon.

A sad satisfaction came into Guy's face. "It is best so," he muttered;
"I hope she won't wake for an hour," and he carried her into the house.
They were trying to revive her, unsuccessfully, when I reached it with
those who bore the corpse on a litter of pine branches. By Guy's
directions, it was laid on his own bed; and there the Italian women
rendered the last offices to the dead man, weeping and wailing over him
as though he had been a brother or dear friend--only for his rare
beauty--even as the Moorish girls mourned over that fair-faced Christian
knight whom they found lying, rolled in blood, by the rock of Alpujarro.

Soon they came to tell Guy that Isabel was recovering from her swoon.
She was hardly conscious when he entered the room, and he heard her
moaning, "I am so cold, so cold," shivering all over, though she was
warmly wrapped in cloaks and shawls.

The village doctor, a mild, helpless-looking man, was sitting by her
bedside. He tried to feel her pulse just then, I suppose to show that he
could be of some use; but she shrunk away from him, and beckoned to her
cousin to come near. He motioned to the others to leave them alone, and,
kneeling down by her, took her hand in his.

"Guy, dear," she said, "I know I have been so very wicked and ungrateful
to you; but you must not be angry. I have no one left to take care of me
but you, now. I will try to be patient; indeed, indeed I will." Her
voice was faint and exhausted, but as gentle as ever.

He held her hand faster, and bent his forehead down upon it.

"You are not wicked--only too weak to bear your sorrow. If I only knew
what to do to comfort you! But I am so rough and harsh, even when I mean
to be kind. I can say nothing, either. I suppose you ought to submit,
but I can not tell you how; it is a lesson I have never been able to
learn."

"You can do this," she said. "Let me go to him. Ah! don't refuse. I will
be calm and good. Indeed I will. But I must go"--she sank her voice into
a lower whisper yet--"I have not kissed him to-night."

There was something so unspeakably piteous in her tone and in her
imploring eyes, that had grown quite soft again, though no tears had
moistened them, that Guy could hardly answer her.

"I did not mean to refuse you, dear," he said, at last. "I won't even
ask you to wait. If you are not strong enough to walk, I will carry
you."

She rose slowly and painfully, as if her limbs were stiff with cold; but
she could stand, and walk with his arm round her; and so these two moved
slowly along the deserted passages toward the room where the corpse lay.

There was nothing shocking in its appearance now. All the traces of
murder had been washed away, and they had arranged the silky chestnut
hair till it concealed the wound, and fell in smooth waves over the
white forehead. That sweet calm which will sometimes descend on the face
of the dead, even when their end has been violent--the sad _Alpen-gluth_
that comes only when the sun has set--was there in all its beauty. Save
that the features were somewhat sharper than in life, there was nothing
to mar their pure classical outline. It was well, indeed, that Guy held
her back two hours ago. If Isabel had looked on them then, I believe she
would have gone mad with terror, if not with sorrow. It matters much,
the expression of a face, when it is sure to mingle in our dreams for
many after years.

Guy led her up to the bedside, and left the room as she sank down on her
knees. He remained outside the closed door, for he thought she might
need help if her strength failed suddenly; and I joined him there.

For some time we heard only the quick, stormy sobs, and the kisses
showering down; then came the piteous, heart-broken wail that called
upon her husband's name; and then the great gush of tears that saved
her. After that there was a murmur, often broken off but always
renewed: we both bowed our heads reverently, for we knew the widow was
praying.

She came forth at length, her head buried in her hands; but she could
walk to her room unassisted, and allowed them to undress her there,
without a word but thanks. Before long nature would have her way, and
she was sleeping quietly.

While we were waiting the return of the men who had gone out in pursuit,
Livingstone went alone into the death-chamber. He staid there some
minutes. When he came out his face was paler than ever, and there was a
sort of horror in his eyes.

He took my arm and led me into the room without speaking. "Do you see
that?" he asked, lifting the hair gently that fell over the left check
of the corpse.

Distinctly and lividly marked on the waxen flesh were the five fingers
of a man's _open hand_.

"Do you think that was a brigand's work?" he went on, his gripe
tightening till I could scarcely bear the pain. "They always strike with
a weapon or with the clenched fist. Shall I tell you whose mark that is?
Bruce's. If he did not murder him himself, he struck him after he was
dead."

"Impossible," I said; "how could he? He has never--"

Livingstone cast my arm loose somewhat impatiently. "We shall know all
some day," he growled, his whole face black with passion. "I am
convinced of it. If he's on earth I'll find him; and when I do, if I
show him mercy or let him go--" The imprecation that followed was not
less solemn and terrible because it was muttered to his own heart.

"We must never let Isabel guess the truth," he said, when he became
calmer. "It would be worse than all. She would always think she had
caused this, and she has enough to bear up against already. God help
her!"

Soon Agläe came to tell us that her mistress was asleep. The
Frenchwoman's first impulse had been to be hysterical and helpless; it
was only her terror of Guy prevailing over all others that made her, as
she was, very useful.

He went to the door for an instant, and looked at Isabel. Dreamland was
kinder and pleasanter to her than real life, poor child, for there was a
smile on her lips that, when she was waking, would be long in visiting
them. How would ships or men ever last out if there were not some
harbors of refuge to rest in before going out into the wild weather
again? Truly she had won hers for the moment; it looked as if an angel
had come down to smooth, this time, instead of troubling the waters.

The pursuers came back empty-handed; they had not come upon the faintest
trace, nor could they hear of any suspicious character having been seen
in the neighborhood.

Guy betrayed no impatience when he heard this; but he went out himself
with some of the best men, and spent the rest of the night and all the
following morning on the quest. All to no purpose. He returned about
noon, with his companions quite fagged out; but fatigue and
sleeplessness seemed to have no grasp upon his frame.

Isabel was up, and had been asking for him several times. When he saw
her, she offered no opposition to his wish to go on straight to Rome the
next day. Neither then nor at any future time did she ever ask for any
particulars of her husband's death.

Her old child-like dependence and trust in her cousin had come back, and
all through the journey she was quite tranquil. It is true, we hardly
ever saw her face, for her veil was closely drawn. Her grief was not the
less painful to witness because it was so little demonstrative. Very old
and very young women, in the plenitude of their benevolence, are good
enough to sympathize with any tale of woe, however absurdly exaggerated;
but men, I think, are most moved by the simple and quiet sorrows. We
smile at the critical point of a spasmodic tragedy, complacently as the
Lucretian philosopher looking down from the cliff on the wild sea; we
yawn over the wailings of Werter and Raphael, but we ponder gravely over
the last chapters of the _Heir of Redclyffe_, and feel a curious
sensation in the throat--perhaps the slightest dimness of vision--when
we read in _The Newcomes_ how that noble old soldier crowned the
chivalry of a stainless life, dying in the Gray Brother's gown.

There were many at Rome who had known Forrester and loved him well, and
all these followed him to his grave. I do not think he had an enemy on
earth except the man who slew him.

What are the qualifications of a general favorite? Good looks, good
birth, good-humor, and good assurance will do much; but the want of one
or more of these will not invalidate the election, nor the union of all
four insure it. It must be very pleasant to serve in the _compagnie
d'élite_. They have privileges to which the Line may not aspire. It does
not much matter what they do. Their victories make them no enemies, and
their defeats raise them up hosts of sympathizers and apologists. When
they err gravely, if you hint at the misdemeanor, a "true believer"
looks at you indignantly, not to say contemptuously, and says, "What
could you expect? It's only poor--" Yes, it is a great gift--Amiability;
and when the possessor dies, it is profoundly true that better men might
be better spared.

Very soon Raymond came to take his daughter back to England. That calm
old calculating machine was more deranged and shocked by the catastrophe
than I should have thought it possible he would have been by any earthly
disaster. He was getting older now, and more broken, it is true, and so,
perhaps, was more accessible to the weakness of sympathy. At all events,
nothing could be kinder and more considerate than his conduct to Isabel.

Guy and I still lingered on in Rome. He was untiring in his researches,
but quite unsuccessful. Yet it was not that the police were remiss, or
the country people inclined to shield the murderer. The best of them
would have sold his own father to the guillotine for half the reward
offered by Livingstone, for he lavished as much gold in trying to clear
up that crime as in old days the Cenci or Colonna did to smother theirs.
At length we were forced to give it up, and returned home in the
_Petrel_. I own I despaired of ever being more successful; but my
companion evidently had not done so, for I heard him, more than once,
mutter to himself, in the same low, determined tone, "If he is on
earth, I'll find him."

Immediately on our arrival, Guy went up to Bruce's home in Scotland. He
only learned that the latter had not been there for a long time; but
that some months back, Allan Macbane, a sort of steward and old
dependent of the family, had left suddenly, summoned, it was supposed,
by his master. More the people could not or would not tell.

At his banker's it was discovered that, immediately after the
Forresters' marriage, he had drawn out a very large sum--not in letters
of credit, but in bank-notes--and had not been heard of since. After
much trouble, we did find out that one of the large notes had been
changed at Florence about the time of the murder, but the description of
the person did not answer in the least to that of Bruce or the man who
was supposed to be his attendant. All trace stopped there. So the months
rolled away. I constantly saw Guy, and sometimes was with him both in
town and at Kerton, where Isabel was staying with Lady Catharine. He
still appeared to have no doubt of the ultimate result of the search,
which, personally or by deputy, he never intermitted for a day.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

                                 "He threw
     His wrathful hand aloft, and cried 'Away!
     Earth could not hold us both, nor can one heaven
     Contain my deadliest enemy and me.'"


We were sitting in Livingstone's chambers one night in the following
March, and dinner was just over, when the detective was announced who
for months had been in Guy's pay and on Bruce's track.

He was a stout, hale man, rather past middle age, with a rosy face, a
cheerful, moist eye, and full, sensual lips--just the proper person to
return thanks for "The Successful Candidates" at an agricultural
meeting. Originally of a kindly convivial nature, he had grown familiar
with crime till he despised it. The reward set upon the criminal's
capture was his only standard of guilt. He took a real pleasure in the
chase, I imagine, but had no preference for any game in particular, and
was quite indifferent whether the cover he had to draw was a saloon or a
cellar. He would hunt a fraudulent bankrupt or a parricide with equal
zeal, and, when he had caught him, be just as jocularly affable with the
one as with the other. In a drama of life and death, the fierce passions
of the actors were only so many gleams of light showing him where the
right path lay, for which assistance he thanked them heartily. The
foulest mysteries of the sinful human heart touched and shocked him no
more than the evidences of disease do the dissecting surgeon: with both
it was a simple question of defective organization. The possession of
secrets, far less weighty than some that he never told, have made men
look worn, and miserable, and gray; but he would pat his corpulent
leather pocket-book with a self-sufficient satisfaction, scarcely
hinting that the publication of its contents would have caused more
devastation in some well-regulated families than the bursting of a
ten-inch shell in their front drawing-room.

His lips and eyes wore a smile pleasantly significant as he entered,
and, before he could speak, Guy leaped up, waving his hand high in
irrepressible triumph. "I told you so, Frank. I knew we should find him.
Come--come quickly." He was more excited than I had seen him in the last
dozen years.

I exulted too, but I confess a certain repugnance and nervousness
mingled with that feeling: it was a new thing to me to stand face to
face with a murderer.

Neither of us gave as much attention as it deserved to the narrative
with which the officer favored us _en route_, of how he had been
gradually getting the clew to the fugitive's many doublings and
disguises till he came upon his retreat at last. "They mostly make for
home when they're dead beat," he remarked, alluding to Bruce's having
selected London as his final hiding-place.

We soon reached the spot--one of those dreary by-ways that trend
westward out of the Waterloo Road. As we drew up, the outline of a
figure revealed itself out of the darkest nook of the dim street, and a
man came forward and opened the door of the cab, interchanging a word
or two with our companion.

As we got out, the detective laid his hand on Guy's arm. "Gently, sir,"
he said. "You must be careful. We've not quite so much proof as I could
wish. It would be straining a point to arrest him as it stands. I'd do
it though--_for you_. Get him to talk, and don't hurry him; he's safe to
commit himself; and we'll nail him at the first word. My comrade says he
has not left his bed since yesterday. Perhaps he's ill. All the better.
We can frighten him if we get his man out of the way."

Guy's hand was on the bell before the last words were said, and he rang
it sharply. The two officers drew back into the shadow.

In a few moments an old man opened the door, whom we guessed to be
Bruce's attendant. He had one of those stubborn, rough-hewn faces that
even white hair can not soften any more than hoar-frost can the outline
of a granite crag.

"What's ye're wull?" he drawled out, in the rugged Aberdeen Doric.

"I wish to see Mr. Bruce."

"No sic a pairson here," was the reply, accompanied by a vigorous effort
to close the door.

A heavy groan, proceeding from a room on the ground floor, gave him the
lie as he spoke. Guy threw up his head like a hound breaking from scent
to view, and thrust Macbane back violently. The old man staggered and
fell; but he clung round Livingstone's knees, as he groveled, till he
was actually trampled down. There was a difficulty in the lock
somewhere; but bolt and staple were torn away in an instant by the
furious hand that grasped the handle, and so at last we stood in the
presence of the man we had sought so long.

Do you remember that hideous picture in Hogarth's "Two Apprentices,"
where the sleeping robber is alarmed by the crash in the chimney? That
was exactly Bruce's attitude. He had started into a sitting posture, and
was braced up on his hands, his face thrust forward, half covered by the
straight unkempt hair. What a face it was! White and flecked with
sweat-drops, marbled here and there with livid stains, the lips
quivering and working till they twisted themselves sometimes into a
ghastly mockery of a smile, the long teeth gleaming more wolfish than
ever. The iris of the prominent eyes had grown yellowish, and the whites
were bloodshot, so that the light seemed to flash from them _tawnily_.

Bruce had always been very much afraid of Livingstone. His terror had
gone on increasing during months of relentless pursuit; it had reached
its climax now. Guy stood at the foot of the bed, contemplating the
unhappy wretch with a cruel calmness that seemed to drive him wild. He
writhed and cowered under the fixed gaze, as if it gave him physical
pain.

"What are you here for?" he screamed out at last.

In strong contrast to the shrill, strained voice, the answer came slow
and stern. "To arrest Charles Forrester's murderer."

Then Bruce seemed to lose his head all at once, and began to rave. It is
impossible to transcribe the string of protestations, prayers for mercy,
and horrible blasphemies; but there was enough of self-betrayal to
complete the proof we wanted ten times told. The detective chuckled
more complacently than ever as he insinuated the handcuffs round
Macbane's wrists. Over all Bruce's cries, I remember, the old man's
harsh voice made itself heard, "Whisht, whisht, I tell ye, and keep a
quiet tongue; they canna harm ye." The other did not seem to hear him,
or to notice his removal by the officers, muttering, as he went, that
"we had driven his master mad, and were killing him."

Livingstone waited patiently till the outbreak had spent itself; then he
said, "Get up, and come with us instantly. You shall finish your night
in Newgate."

Tho sick man lay back for some moments with his eyes closed, panting and
evidently quite exhausted. When he opened his eyes there was a
steadiness in them which surprised us. He spoke, too, quite calmly. "I
do not mean to deny any thing, nor to resist, even if I could. I am
tired of running away; it is as well over; but I was taken by surprise
at first. Guy Livingstone, do you choose to listen to me for five
minutes? My head is clear now. I do not know how long it will last; but
I do know that, after to-night, I will never speak about Forrester's
death one word."

"Will you tell me how you killed him?" Livingstone asked, controlling
his voice wonderfully.

"That is what I wish to do," Bruce said. I believe he was glad of the
opportunity of showing us how much we had misjudged him in thinking him
harmless, for a curious sort of grin was hovering about his mouth. Guy,
whose eyes were bent down at the moment, did not see it, or the tale
would never have been told.

"You know how you were all against me at Kerton," he began. "She did
not care for me then, perhaps; but I would have been so patient and
persevering that she must have loved me at last--only you never gave me
fair play. Ah! do you think, because I was ugly and awkward, I had no
chance?"

"No; but because she knew you were a coward," Guy said.

There was something grand in the utter indifference with which Bruce met
the insult.

"You are wrong," he replied, coolly; "she did not know it. You all did,
and reckoned on my being long-suffering and inoffensive. I saw, at last,
what Forrester had done; yet I never guessed but that she would marry
me. I trusted to her father and her own fears for keeping her straight.
After marriage I would have tried still what great love and tenderness
could do. I meant--never mind what I meant--it's all over now. I was
nearly mad for a week after their flight. Then I became quite cool, and
I said, 'I will kill him myself.' And so I did. Mind, I swear, Allan
knew nothing of it till all was done. I thought I should be brave enough
for that. Fifty times during the months that I tracked them, always
changing my disguise, I nearly caught him alone; but each time I was
balked. Wherever they went, I watched under their windows for the chance
of his coming out; but I only saw--"

He gnashed his teeth, and rolled over and over in a paroxysm of jealous
recollection. We guessed what he meant. Then he went on: "That night he
sauntered backward and forward for some time. I thought he would not go
far enough away, and I called to the devil to help me. He did; for, very
soon, Forrester walked straight down the path. I crept after him till
he had gone some hundred yards--my heart was beating so quickly that I
could hardly breathe--then I ran forward and stood before him. I had
taken off the black wig and beard that I always wore, and he knew me
directly.

"'Mr. Bruce, I believe?' he said, raising his hat, just as if he had met
me by appointment.

"'Yes,' I said. 'I have got you at last, as I wished.' I tried to speak
as steadily as he had done; but, as the moment for action came near, my
d----d cowardice made me stammer.

"'I am not invisible, as a rule,' he replied. 'You, or any friend of
yours, might have found me long ago. You have been some time making up
your mind. It's that unfortunate constitutional--caution, I suppose.
Well, I'll meet you in Rome: it's more than you deserve.'

"'You'll fight me here--now,' I said.

"'I shall do nothing half so melodramatic,' he answered. 'I'll give you
a fair chance on the ground; but, if you do not move out of my path now,
I'll shoot you as I would any other disagreeable ruffian,' and he put
his hand into his breast, where, I knew, he carried a pistol.

"I _was_ brave then. I sprang in upon him all at once. 'You may shoot
now, if you like,' I said. 'I swear I am quite unarmed. But show _that_
to your wife when you go back,' and I struck him with my open hand."

(I remembered the mark on the corpse's cheek, and looked at Guy eagerly.
I could not see his face, which was hidden by the curtain, but all his
lower limbs were shaking and quivering.)

"I thought how it would be," Bruce went on; "he drew his hand out with
the pistol in it, but he only flung it over the bank--one barrel went
off in the fall--then we grappled. After wrestling for a minute or two
on the narrow path, we lost our footing and rolled down the rocks;
neither quitted his hold, but I fell uppermost and kept him down. He
struggled desperately at first; but when he found that I was much the
stronger, he lay quite still, looking up into my face. I said, 'It's my
turn at last. Do you think I'll let you off?'

"He did not answer at first. I believe he would not till he had quite
recovered his breath; then he said, coolly, 'No, I don't. Finish it
quickly, if you can, that's all.' I would have delayed a little, to
enjoy my triumph, but I thought the pistol-shot might bring some one; so
I tightened my gripe on his throat, and looked round for a weapon. I
found none at first, and my purpose actually began to soften when I saw
him so helpless; but, as I relaxed my fingers, I heard him whisper to
himself, 'Poor Bella! we have been very happy: I wish we had more
time--' I got mad again directly. 'D--n you!' I cried out, 'I'll kill
you now, and marry her some day.' His old insolent smile came on his
lip. 'No you won't,' he said; 'you don't know how she hates you, and how
we have laughed--' He had no time to say more, for I found my weapon
then--a stone triangular and sharp-pointed like a dagger--and I struck
him over the temple with all my force. He gave one convulsive spring
that threw me clear of him, and never stirred again.

"I did not repent when it was done; I have never repented since; I do
not now. I only thought how best to escape the consequences. I took his
watch and purse, that brigands might be suspected, and threw them into
the river a mile off. I robbed him of one thing more--this!" All his
haggard face was transfigured with a ghastly triumph as he opened a
small leathern case that hung round his neck, and held up before us two
locks of hair.

There they were--the love-gift and the death-spoil--the memorials of
defeat and of victory, of foiled affection and of gratified hate--the
one, beguiled from Isabel by Bruce himself, with many earnest pleadings,
in the early days of their engagement; the other, torn from her
husband's temples before they were cold. The long light brown tress was
scarcely more soft and satin-smooth than the chestnut curl; but one end
of the last was matted, and discolored by a dark rusty stain--the stain
that, the Greek poet said, all the rivers of earth flowing in one
channel could never wash away--the testimony, to our ears mute enough
now, but which, perhaps, will make itself heard above the Babel of all
other cries at the Day of Judgment.

The two tokens were twined together lovingly, as if they were sensitive
and conscious still. Bruce plucked them asunder: "I never can keep them
apart," he said, querulously. Then he put them back into the case
separately, and began to mutter to himself many words that I could not
distinguish.

"Have you any thing more to say?" Livingstone asked. His lips were rigid
and compressed like a steel-trap, opening and closing mechanically. As
he spoke, he snatched the leathern bag from Bruce's hand and threw it
into the blazing fire.

A sharp howl, like a flogged hound's, broke from the sick man as he saw
his treasure shrivel up in the flame. Then he began to whimper out all
sorts of incoherent supplications, crying "that we did not know how much
he had suffered before he killed Forrester, and since too; that he had
been cruelly used from the beginning; that he was very, very ill now;
would not we let him die in peace?" The tears were streaming down his
face. It was a sight of abasement that sent a shiver through one's
veins.

Guy laid his hand on the miserable creature's shoulder. Though he
scarcely touched it, I saw the great muscles starting out on his arm
like ropes from the intensity of his suppressed emotion; his lower lip
trembled, but his tones did not in the least. I can give no idea of
their pitiless, deliberate ferocity.

"Listen!" he said. "I told you before to get up and come with us--that
is my answer now. If you have life enough left to be carried to the
gallows-foot, you shall never cheat the hangman."

Bruce looked up into the speaker's face for some moments. Gradually the
agonized appeal in his wild eyes died away into vacancy; an expression,
half cunning, half amused, stole over his face; and, leaning gently
back, he began pulling threads out of the coverlet, laughing low.

The blood gushed from Guy's clenched hand as he struck it furiously
against the stone mantel.

"By ----," he said, with a fearful oath, "he has escaped me, after all."

It was so. The mind, worn and strained by the terrors of the long
pursuit, perhaps by remorse not acknowledged even to himself; and by the
last great effort at self-control, had given way at last--forever. God
had recorded his verdict, and no earthly court could try the criminal
again. Bruce is living now (and I dare say will outlive most of us, for
his bodily health is perfect), vicious sometimes, but never conscious;
hard to please, but easy to manage, so long as his attendant is a man,
and a strong one; accessible only to the one emotion which drove him
mad--physical fear.

Livingstone called the officers; they came in with Macbane. The old man
pretended to be very wroth when he saw his master's state, but I believe
he rejoiced secretly. The credit of the family, with him, outweighed all
considerations of personal attachment, and he would think public
disgrace cheaply averted at any price.

On our poor detective, perhaps, the blow fell heaviest; for, after some
time, Guy did come round to my idea, that no punishment we could have
brought about would have been so ample and terrible; but Mr. Fitchett
could not see it in that light at all. Not only was the termination of
the affair dreadfully unprofessional, but the little triumph he had
anticipated at the trial was spoiled. If human weakness ever could touch
this great man, it was when he heard the judge pay a compliment to "the
sagacity and zeal of that most efficient officer." On such occasions,
his bow of conscious merit abnegating praise was, I am told, wonderful
to see. After a few words of explanation, he glanced wistfully at Bruce,
and shook his head, like a broken-hearted Lord Burleigh. Then he
unloosed the handcuffs from Macbane's wrists, whistling all the while
softly a popular air, lively in itself, with a cadence so plaintive that
it might have been a penitential psalm. No romantic school-girl opening
the cage to her pet starling ever displayed more hesitation and
reluctance than Mr. Fitchett setting that grim old bird free.

In truth, there was no evidence to attach to the servant, so we left him
and his master together. I could not have stood that room much longer.
The ceaseless complacent chuckle of the idiot, and his fearful grimaces
when he could not make the threads match, had the effect on my chest of
a nightmare. Very slowly and silently we walked home through the
darkness.



CHAPTER XXXV.

     "Be the day weary or never so long,
     At length it ringeth to even song."


There is little to chronicle in the events of the next few years.
Livingstone resided almost entirely at Kerton. He rode as hard, and
distinguished himself in all other field-sports as much as ever. But
even in these, his favorite pursuits, he had lost the intense faculty of
enjoyment which once seemed a part of his powerful organization.

Do you remember that scene in the Nekuia, where the Eidolon of Achilles
comes slowly through the twilight to meet his old brother in arms? Not
only are his form and features altered after so ghastly a fashion that
even the wanderer, wave-worn and travel-stained, looks brilliant by
comparison, but all his feelings are utterly and strangely changed.
Listen! He asks after the father from whom he parted when quite a child;
after the son, whom he never saw; but not one word of his fair
first-love--not one of her who was the passion of his manhood, whom he
bucklered once against ten thousand. He had rather hear of Peleus and
Neoptolemus than of Deidamia or Briseis. Of Polyxena, be sure that he
remembers nothing but that he was holding her hand when her brother slew
him. Will he ever forgive her that? Not if she could have made amends by
the sacrifice of ten lives instead of that one which she gave,
willingly, on Sigæum. Has ambition any hold on him either? Only to
breathe the fresh clear air above instead of that murky, heavy
atmosphere, he would resign the empire of the dead, and be a drudge to
the veriest boor. Yet once, if we remember right, he chafed fiercely
enough at a word of authority uttered by the King of Men. One of his old
tastes clings to him still--a very simple one. He has forgotten the
savor of Sciote and Chian wine; but--were it only for the sake of the
carouses they have had together--Odysseus will not grudge him another
draught out of the black trench. It is so long since be tasted blood!

Guy was no more like his former self than the shadow was like the
substance of Pelides. He was not languid, but simply apathetic and
indifferent, so that one could not help being constantly struck by the
contrast between his moral and physical state: the latter was still the
perfection of muscular power.

He was every thing that was kind to his mother, and to Isabel Forrester
too, who spent much of her time at Kerton, and whose health was very
delicate. If Lady Catharine could only have seen him more cheerful, she
would have been _too_ happy. It was her great delight to try and spoil
him, as she used to do when he was a child--trying to suit his tastes to
the minutest shade. For instance, Guy was always finding in his own
rooms some new ornament or addition to their comfort. Indifferent as he
was to every thing, it was good in him that he never failed to remark
these instantly. You would not have thought a cold, haughty face could
light up so brilliantly as his mother's always did when he thanked her.
Poor lady! Those last few years were her summer of St. Martin--not the
less pleasant because winter was gathering already on the crests of the
whitening hills.

There were a good many guests in the house at times, almost invariably
men, but none of the wild revels of the old days, very little hard
drinking, and no play to speak of.

One thing was remarkable--the great eagerness Guy displayed to keep the
party together at night. He would engage us in arguments, and employ all
sorts of ingenious devices to prevent us from going to bed, so that it
became very trying to a weak constitution. I observed this to him one
night when the rest had gone.

The slight flush left by the excitement of conversation was vanishing
rapidly from his cheeks, and a gray tinge was creeping over them like
that which we see on a sick man very near his end.

"It is too bad to keep you up, and too selfish," he said; "but I find
the nights so long!"

I left him without another word; but I lay long awake, haunted by that
haggard face and dreary eyes. I wish I did not see them so often still
in my dreams.

There were changes in other houses besides Kerton Manor, and a vacancy
in the most luxurious set of chambers in the Albany.

Duns, and rheumatic gout, and satiety had proved too much at last for
the patience of Sir Henry Fallowfield; so one night he preached his
farewell sermon in the smoking-room of the ----, in which he was
especially severe and witty on the absurdity and bad taste of a man
condescending to suicide under any circumstances. The next morning they
found him with--"that across his throat that you had scarcely cared to
see." The hand whose tremor used to make him so savage when he was
lifting a glass to his lips, had been strong and steady enough when it
shattered the Golden Bowl and cut the Silver Cord asunder.

Whether he was looking death in the face while he uttered those last
cynicisms, and calculated on heightening the stage effect of the morrow,
or whether a paroxysm of pain drove him mad, as it had done better men,
who can tell? I think and hope the latter was the case, but--I doubt.
Though Sir Henry Fallowfield had never read Aristotle, he had studied,
all his life, the principles of the peripeteia.

Godfrey Parndon no longer ruled over the Pytchley. He had backed his own
opinions and other men's bills once or twice too often, and had retired
temporarily into private life till he could get "his second wind." The
new M.F.H. was his complete contrast--pale-faced, low-voiced, mild-eyed,
and melancholy as a lotus-eater--one of the class of "weak-minded but
gentlemanly young men" that Tom Cradock used to ask his friends to
recommend to him as pupils. The farmers missed sadly Godfrey's bluff
face and stalwart figure at the cover-side, while the "bruisers" from
Leamington, and the "railers" from town, hearing no longer his great
voice, good-naturedly imperative, adjuring them to "hold hard, and not
to spoil their own sport," rode over the hounds rejoicing.

Flora Bellasys was married.

It was just the match I thought she would make. Sir Marmaduke
Dorrillon's possessions were vast enough to satisfy any ambition, and
his years put love out of the question.

His friends had been as prophetic in their warnings as January's were,
but even, they never guessed what he would have to endure at the hands
of that cruel May. He tried very hard not to be jealous, but he could
not help being sensitive; and so, day by day, she inflicted on him the
_peine forte et dure_, "laying on him as much as he could bear, and
more." It was sad to see how the kind old man withered and pined away;
yet he never complained, and quarreled mortally with his best friend for
daring to compassionate him.

He was so courteous, and gentle, and chivalrous; so conscious of his own
disadvantage in age; so generous in trusting her, and in hoping against
hope; so considerate in anticipating all her wishes and whims, that it
might have moved even Flora to pity. But her great disappointment had
strangely altered and imbittered her character. She was _quite_
merciless now, and never seemed really amused unless she was doing harm
to some one.

It was not that her manner had become harsh or repellent, or even more
sarcastic; she wag to the full as fascinating as ever; but she was cool
and calculating in her caprices. She took pains to make the momentary
pleasure as exquisite as possible, that the after suffering might be
more terrible; just like that ingenious Borderer who fed his enemy with
all pungent and highly-seasoned dishes, and then left him to die of
thirst.

Yet all the while her own feelings must have been scarcely enviable.
They say that great enchantresses, from Medea and Circe downward, have
generally been unhappy in their loves. Either they could not raise the
spirit, or it proved unmanageable; either their affection was not
returned, or its object was unfaithful at last. In the single case where
they put their science and their philtres aside, and were womanly, and
natural, and sincere; where, to gain or to keep their treasure, they
would gladly have broken their wand, they failed utterly, and found they
were only half omnipotent. The justice was retributive, but it was very
complete. Be sure, with those passionate natures, the honey of a
thousand triumphs never deadened the sting of the one discomfiture.
Suitors flocking from every shore and island of the Ægean never made
Sappho forget, for one hour, that stubborn impassible Phaon. No wonder
such are cruel and unjust to their subjects in after days. Poor innocent
Ægeus very often has to do penance for the infidelity of Jason.

I have little more to tell, and that is of the sort that is best told
briefly.

The hounds met one morning not far from Kerton. A three-days' frost had
broken up; but it was not out of the ground yet, making the "take-off"
slippery, and the north side of the fences dangerously hard. Livingstone
rode the Axeine that day. The chestnut was still his favorite, and the
crack hunter of three counties, though he had never lost his habit of
pulling.

It was a large, straggling cover that we drew, but the fox went away
very soon. From the lower end of the wood a great pasture sloped down,
at the bottom of which was a flight of post-and-rails--very high, new,
and strong, with a deep cutting on the farther side. At one end of this
was an open gate, through which the whole field passed.

The hounds were just settling to the scent, when I happened to turn my
head, and saw Livingstone coming down at the rails. He had got a bad
start, and saw that, by taking them straight in his line, he would gain
greatly on the pack, which was turning toward him.

As the Axeine tore down the hill at furious speed, pulling double, it
was evident that neither he nor his rider had the remotest idea of
refusing.

It was the last fence that either of them ever charged. As the chestnut
rose to the leap, his hind legs slipped; he chested the rail, which
would not break, and turned quite over, crushing Guy beneath him.

I had seen the latter fall a hundred times without feeling the
presentiment that seemed to _tighten_ round my heart as I galloped up to
the spot. Many others must have felt the same, for they let the hounds
go away without another glance, and some were before me there.

The Axeine lay stone dead, with his neck broken, the huge carcass
pressing on the legs of his rider. Guy was quite senseless; his face of
a dull, ghastly white; there was a deep cut on his forehead; but we all
felt we did not see the worst. With great trouble we drew him from under
the dead horse. Still we could discover no broken bones or further
external injury. We dashed water over him. In a few minutes he opened
his eyes, and seemed to recognize every one directly, for he looked up
into the frightened face of the first whip, who was supporting him, and
said,

"You always told me I went too fast at timber, Jack."

I was sure, then, he was desperately injured, his voice was so weak and
changed.

"Where are you hurt, Guy?" some one asked. I could not speak myself.

"I don't know," he said, looking down in a strange, bewildered way. "My
head and arm pain me; but I feel nothing _below the waist_."

His lower limbs were not much twisted or distorted, but they bore a
horribly inert, dead appearance. There was not even a muscular quiver in
them.

I saw the Squire of Brainswick turn his head away with a shudder and a
groan (he loved Guy as his own son), and I heard him mutter, "The
_spine_!"

It was so, and Livingstone soon knew it himself. He sighed once,
drearily; but not a man there could have commanded his voice as he did
when he said,

"You must carry me home, heavy as I am. My walking days are ended."

We made the best litter we could of poles and branches; and I remember,
as we bore him past the carcass of the Axeine, he made us stop for an
instant, and dropping his hand on the stiff, distorted neck, stroked it
softly,

"Good-by, old horse," he said. "It was no fault of yours. How well you
always carried me!" He never spoke again till we reached Kerton Manor.

Isabel Forrester was fortunately out, but Lady Catharine met us on the
hall steps. She did not shriek or faint when she saw the horror, which
had haunted her for years, fulfilled there to the uttermost. She knelt
by her son when we laid him down, and wiped off a spot or two of blood
from his forehead, and then kept his hand in hers, kissing it often. We
had sent on before to warn the village doctor, and he visited Guy alone
in his room.

Powell had been a surgeon's mate in his youth, and was serving under
Collingwood at Trafalgar when his ship stood first into action, and,
like a sovereign of the old days, led the van of the battle. There was
no shape of shattered and maimed humanity with which he had not been
familiar, and my last hope died away when I saw him come forth,
trembling all over, his rugged features convulsed with grief.

"I saw him born," the old man sobbed out. "I never thought to see him
die--and die _so_!"

Guy had received a mortal injury in the spine, though how long he might
linger none could tell.

There broke from Lady Catharine's white lips one terrible heart-broken
cry--"If God would only take me first!" Then her self-control returned,
and she went into her son's room, outwardly quite calm.

I have never tried to fancy what passed at the meeting of those two
strong hearts, after the one had been brought suddenly, face to face,
with an awful death, the other with a yet more awful sorrow.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

     "Ah! Sir Launcelot, there thou liest, that never wert matched of
     earthly hands. Thou wert the fairest person, and the goodliest of
     any that rode in the press of knights; thou wert the truest to thy
     sworn brother of any that buckled on the spur; and thou wert the
     faithfullest of any that have loved _paramours_: most courteous
     wert thou, and gentle of all that sat in hall among dames; and thou
     wert the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever laid spear in
     the rest."


When Powell's self-command gave way so completely after he saw the
nature of Guy's case, it was not because he knew it must end fatally,
but because his skill told him what fearful agonies must precede the
release. All the surgeons who were called in could do nothing but
confirm these forebodings. The colossal strength and vital energy of
Livingstone's frame and constitution yielded but slowly to a blow which
would have crushed a weaker man instantly. All the outworks were ruined
and carried, but Death had still to fight hard before he won the
citadel. I can not go through the details; I will only say that,
sometimes, none of us could endure to look upon sufferings which never
drew a complaint or a moan from him.

Almost every pleasure has been discussed and dissected, but we know
comparatively nothing of the physiology of pain. There is no standard by
which to measure it, even if the courage and endurance of any mortal man
could enable him to analyze his own tortures philosophically. Was it not
always supposed that the guillotine is merciful, because quick in
annihilation? Look at Wiertz's pictures at Brussels. If his idea (shared
too, now, by many clever surgeons) be true, you will see the amount of a
long life's suffering exceeded by what seems to us a minute's agony. But
it is like the Eastern king's gaining the experience of fifty years by
dipping his head for a second in the magic water. For a soul in torment
there is no horologe.

Of one thing be sure; the strong temperaments who enjoy greatly, suffer
greatly too--those who endure in silence, most of all. I think the
wolf's death-pang is sharper than the hare's.

But Guy was not only patient, he was actually more cheerful than I had
seen him since Constance died. He liked to see his old friends, and to
hear accounts of their sport with hound and gun. To do these justice,
there was not one who would not give up, gladly, the best meet of the
Pytchley, or the shooting of the best cover in the county, to sit for
half a day in that sick-room. He talked, too, always pleasantly and
kindly to his mother and his cousin.

Poor Isabel Forrester was quite broken down by this second blow. Next to
her dead husband, I believe, she loved Guy better than any one; not
unnaturally, for he had petted and protected her all her life long. She
could not help giving way, though she tried hard, for the sake of
others. It was piteous to see her, sitting alone for hours, gazing out
on the bleak winter landscape, while the tears welled slowly from under
her heavy eyelids.

Foster, who was still at Kerton, came often to visit Livingstone. No
one could do him so much good. The curate was just as confident and
uncompromising in the discharge of his office as he was yielding and
diffident when only himself was in question. He was so honest, and
straightforward, and true--so free from rant or cant--so strong in his
simple theology, that Guy soon trusted him implicitly when he spoke of
the past and of the future that was so near. The repentance that was
begun by Constance's dying bed was completed, I am sure, on his own.

"Frank," Guy said, one morning, suddenly, "I have written to ask Cyril
Brandon to come to me. He will be here to-day. It would make me very
happy if I could hear him say he forgave me."

"Do you think you will succeed?" I asked, sadly; for I felt a nervous
certainty that the pain the interview must cost him would be unavailing.

"I can not tell," he answered, firmly; "but Foster says, and I know,
that it is my duty to try. You may be present, if you like, on one
condition--you must promise, whatever he may say or do, not to interfere
by a look or a word."

I did promise; but I looked forward with dread to Brandon's coming. In
an hour's time he was announced.

It was the first time I had seen him; and I was much struck by the
mingled expression of suffering and ferocity that sat, like a mask, on
his worn dark face. I have seen its like but once--in a dangerous
maniac's. He walked straight up to Guy's couch without noticing me, and
stood there silent, glaring down on the sick man with his fiery black
eyes.

"It is very good of you to come," Guy said; "I scarcely hoped you
would. I have wronged you, more deeply than any living man--so deeply
that I could never have dared to ask your forgiveness if I had not been
very near my death. Can you give me your hand? Indeed, indeed, I have
repented sorely."

Brandon's hoarse tones broke in:

"I came, because, years ago, to see this sight, to see you lying there
like a crushed worm, I would have sold my soul. Wronged me? Shall I tell
you what you have done? There was only one creature on earth I cared
for; that was my sister. All those years in India I had been fancying
our meeting. I came back, and found her dying; more than that, I found
her love turned away from me. You did _all_ this. I tell you, I never
could get one of her old fond looks or words from her all the time she
was dying. She was only afraid of me. By hell! you stood between us to
the last. Do you know that she dragged herself across the room at my
knees--mine, who never refused to indulge her in a whim before--first to
be allowed to see you, and then to make me swear not to attempt your
life?"

He stopped, gnashing his teeth.

All Guy's features, wan and worn by pain, were lighted up with a
tenderness and joy inexpressible as he heard what his dead love had
borne and done for him. He would have hidden his face had he guessed how
its expression would exasperate Cyril's furious temper.

"D--n you!" he howled out, like a madman, "do you dare to triumph?" and,
tearing off his glove, he struck Livingstone on the cheek with it a
sharp blow.

A great shudder swept through every fibre of the maimed giant's frame,
in which sensation lingered still; the blood surged up to his forehead
and ebbed again instantly, leaving even the lips deathly white; he
raised his hand quickly, but it was only to warn me back; for, mild and
peaceable as I am, I leaped up then, as savage as Cain. With that hand
he caught Brandon's wrist. The latter stood with his eyes cast down,
sullenly--already, I am sure, horror at the act of foul cowardice into
which his passion had driven him was creeping over him--he did not try
to disengage himself. Had he done so, thrice his strength would not have
set him free.

"I thank God, from my heart," Guy said, very slowly and steadily, "that,
if I meet your sister hereafter, I shall not shrink before her, for I
believe all I promised her has been kept. Listen! you would feel shame
to your life's end thinking that you had struck a helpless, dying
cripple. It is not so. You don't know what you risked. You were within
arm's-length, and at close quarters I could be dangerous still. Look."

He took up a small silver cup that lay near, and crushed it flat between
his fingers.

There was silence then; only Brandon's breath was heard, drawn hard and
irregularly, as if he was trying to throw off a weight from his chest.

Guy looked up at him, and said very gently, holding out his hand, "Once
more, forgive me."

Cyril answered in a thick, smothered voice,

"I will not take your hand. I will never forgive you. But I forgive
Constance; for--I understand her now."

He turned on his heel, and left the room without another word, still
with his head bent down, as if in thought. I gazed after him till the
door shut softly. Then I looked round at Guy. His head had fallen back,
and the features looked so drawn and changed that I cried out, thinking
he was dead. It was only a long, long swoon.

Just another scene, and my tale is told.

I was reading in Guy's room one evening. He had not spoken for some
time, and I fancied he was asleep. Suddenly he called to me,

"Frank, come here--nearer. I have several things to say to you, and I
feel I must make haste. No, don't call any one. I said farewell to my
mother yesterday, and we must spare her all we can."

In the presence of that sublime self-command, I _dared_ not betray my
grief by any outward sign. I knelt down by his side silently.

He went on in a voice that, though hollow and often interrupted by
failing breath, was perfectly measured and steady.

"You can only be glad that the end has come at last, though it is well I
have had time to prepare myself. Am I ready now? I can not tell. Foster
says I ought to hope. I trust it is not wicked to say I do not _fear_. I
have sinned often and deeply; but He who will judge me created me, and
He knows, too, how much I have suffered. I do not mean from _this_ (he
threw his hand toward his crippled limbs with the old gesture of
disdain), but from bitterness and loneliness of heart. More than all, I
am sure my darling has been pleading for me ever since she died. I will
not believe her prayers have been wasted.

"I want to tell you what I have done. You know the direct line of my
family ends with me. I am glad it does. The next in succession would be
a cousin, who has taken to some trade in Edinburgh; a good man, I
believe--but he would not do here. So I have left Kerton to my mother
for her life, and then--to you. Hush! the time is too short for
objections or thanks, and death-bed gifts show little generosity.
Besides, I would have left it to Isabel, only it would be more a trouble
to her than any thing else. You will take care of every thing and every
body. Say farewell for me to my old friends, especially to Mohun. Poor
Ralph! he will be sorry--though he will not own it--when he comes back
from Bohemia and finds me gone."

He raised himself a little, so as to rest his hand on my shoulder as I
knelt, while his voice deepened in its solemn calm:

"Dear Frank, one other word for yourself, who have borne so patiently
with my perverse temper since we were boys together. I have been silent,
but, indeed, not ungrateful. For all your kind, unselfish thoughts, and
words, and deeds--for all the good you would have counseled--for all
your efforts to stand between me and wrong-doing--tried friend, true
comrade! I thank you now, heartily, and I pray God to bless you always."

It was only self-control, almost superhuman, that enabled him to speak
those words steadily, for the fierce death-throe was possessing him
before he ended. Through the awful minutes that followed, not another
sound than the hissing breath escaped through his set lips; his face was
not once distorted, though the hair and beard clung round it, matted and
dank with the sweat of agony. The brave heart and iron nerve ruled the
body to the last imperially--supreme over the intensity of torture.

When he opened his eyes, which had been closed all through the
protracted death-pang, there was a look of the ancient kindness in them,
though they were glazing fast. He found my hand, and grasped it, till I
felt the life ebbing back in his fingers. I saw his lips syllable
"Good-by;" then, he leaned his head back gently, and, without a sigh or
a shiver, the strong man's spirit went forth into The Night.

A sense of utter desolation, as it were a horror of great darkness,
gathered all around me as I leaned my forehead against the corpse's
cheek, sobbing like a helpless child.

You will not care to hear how we all mourned him.

Will you care to hear that, often as his mother visits his grave, there
is _one_ woman who comes oftener still?

None of us have ever met her, for she comes always at late night or
early morning. But finding, in the depth of winter or in the bleak
spring, the ground about strewed with the choicest of exotic
flowers--not carefully arranged, but showered down by a reckless,
desperate hand--we know that Flora Dorrillon has been there.

Do not laugh at her too much for clinging to the one romance of her
artificial existence. Remember, while he lived, there was nothing so
rare and precious--ay, even to the sacrifice of her own body and
soul--that she would not have laid ungrudgingly at Guy Livingstone's
feet.


THE END.





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