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Title: Sword and Gown - A Novel
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 "Sword and Gown - A Novel" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



by The Kentuckiana Digital Library)



                    SWORD AND GOWN.

                        A Novel.



                   BY THE AUTHOR OF
                  "GUY LIVINGSTONE."


                       NEW YORK:
                    FRANKLIN SQUARE.
                         1859.


[Transcriber's note: the author was George Alfred Lawrence]



CHAPTER I.


"There _is_ something in this climate, after all. I suppose there are
not many places where one could lie on the shore in December, and enjoy
the air as much as I have done for the last two hours."

Harry Molyneux turned his face seaward again as he spoke, and drank in
the soft breeze eagerly; he could scarcely help thanking it aloud, as it
stole freshly over his frame, and played gently with his hair, and left
a delicate caress on his cheek--the cheek that was now always so pale,
save in the one round scarlet spot where, months ago, Consumption had
hung out her flag of "No surrender."

There is enough in the scene to justify an average amount of enthusiasm.
Those steep broken hills in the background form the frontier fortress of
the maritime Alps, the last outwork of which is the rocky spur on which
Molyneux and his companion are lying. Fir woods feather the sky-line;
and from among these, here and there, the tall stone pines stand up
alone, like sentinels--steady, upright, and unwearied, though their
guard has not been relieved for centuries. All around, wild myrtle, and
heath, and eglantine curl and creep up the stems of the olives, trying,
from the contact of their fresh youth, to infuse new life and sap into
the gray, gnarled old trees, even as a fair Jewish maiden once strove to
cherish her war-worn, decrepit king. There are other flowers too left,
though December has begun, enough to give a faint fragrance to the air
and gay colors to the ground. Just below their feet is a narrow strip of
dark ribbed sand, and then the tangle of weed, scarcely stirred by the
water, that all along this coast fringes like a beard the languid lip of
the Mediterranean Sea.

Molyneux appreciated and admired all this, after his simple fashion, and
said so; his companion did not answer immediately; he only shrugged his
shoulders and lifted his eyebrows, as if he could have disputed the
point if it had not been too much trouble. An optimist in nothing, least
of all was Royston Keene grateful or indulgent to the beauties and
bounties of inanimate creation.

"Ah well!" Harry went on, resignedly, "I know it's useless trying to get
a compliment to Nature out of you. I ought to have given you up that
night when we showed you the Alps from the terrace at Berne. You had
never seen the Jungfrau before, and she had got her prettiest pink
evening dress on, poor thing! and all you would say was, 'There's not
much the matter with the view.'"

"It was a concession to your wife's enthusiasm," Keene replied; "a
sudden check might have been dangerous just then, or I should have
spoken more bitterly, after being brought out to look at mountains, when
I was dusty and travel-stained, wanting baths, and dinners, and other
necessaries of life."

The voice was deep-toned and melodious enough that spoke these words,
but too slow and deliberate to be quite a pleasant one, though there was
nothing like a drawl in it. One could easily fancy such a voice ironical
or sarcastic, but hardly raised much in anger; in the imperative mood it
might be very successful, but it seemed as if it could never have
pleaded or prayed. It matched the speaker's exterior singularly well.
Had you seen him for the first time--couchant, as he was then--you would
have had only an impression of great length and laziness; but as you
gazed on, the vast deep chest expanded under your eye; the knotted
muscles, without an ounce of superfluous flesh to dull their outline,
developed themselves one by one; so that gradually you began to realize
the extent of his surpassing bodily powers, and wondered that you could
have been deceived even for a moment. The face guarded its secret far
more successfully. The features were bold and sharply cut, bronzed up to
the roots of the crisp light-brown beard and hair, except where the
upper brow retained its original fairness--presenting a startling
contrast, like a wreath of snow lying late in spring-time high up on the
side of a black fell. You would hardly say that they were devoid of
expression, any more than that a perfectly drilled soldier is incapable
of activity; but you got puzzled in making out what their natural
expression was: it was not sternness, far less ferocity--the face was
much too impassible for either; and yet its listlessness could never be
mistaken for languor. The thin short lips might be very pitiless when
compressed, very contemptuous and provocative when curling; but the
enormous mustache, sweeping over them like a wave, and ending in a clean
stiff upward curve, made even this a matter of mere conjecture. The
cold, steady, dark eyes seldom flashed or glittered; but, when their
pupils contracted, there came into them a sort of sullen, suppressed,
inward light, like that of jet or cannel coal. One curious thing about
them was, that they never seemed to care about following you, and yet
you felt you could not escape from them. The first hand-gripe, however,
settled the question with most people: few, after experiencing the
involuntary pressure, when he did not in the least mean to be cordial,
doubted that there were passions in Royston Keene--difficult perhaps to
rouse, but yet more difficult to appease or subdue.

His profession was evident. Indeed, it must be confessed that the
dragoon is not easily dissembled. I know a very meritorious
parish-priest, of fair repute too as a preacher, who has striven for
years, hard but unavailingly, to divest himself of the martial air he
brought with him out of the K.D.G. He strides down the village street
with a certain swagger and roll, as if the steel scabbard were still
trailing at his heel, acknowledging rustic bows with a slight quick
motion of the finger, like troopers' salutes; on the smooth shaven face
is shadowed forth the outline of a beard, nurtured and trimmed in old
days with more than horticultural science; in the pulpit and
reading-desk gown and surplice hang uneasily, like a disguise, on the
erect soldierly figure, and the effect of his ministrations is thereby
sadly marred; for apposite text, earnest exhortation, and grave rebuke
flow with a curious inconsistency from the lips of that well-meaning but
unmitigated Plunger.

Royston Keene was no exception to this rule, though he did not like to
be told so, and rather ignored the profession than otherwise. Perhaps he
had begun it early enough to have got tired of it; for he had now been
for some time on half-pay, and a brevet-major, after doing good service
in the Indian wars, and was not yet thirty-four. Molyneux had served in
the same light cavalry regiment as his subaltern, and there the
foundation was laid of their close alliance. It was not a very fair or
well-balanced one, being made up of implicit obedience, reliance, and
reverence on the one side, and a sort of protecting condescension on the
other--much like the old Roman relation between Client and Patron;
nevertheless it had outlasted many more sympathetic and better-looking
friendships.

They used to say of "The Cool Captain" (so he was always called off
parade), that "he could bring a boy to his bearings sooner than any man
in the army." Yet he was a favorite with them all. There was a regular
ovation among those "Godless horsemen" whenever he came into the Club,
or into their mess-rooms; they hung upon his simplest words with a
touchingly devout attention, and thought it was their own stupidity when
they could see nothing in them to laugh at or admire; they wrote off all
that they could remember of his sarcasms and repartees--generally
strangely travestied and spoiled by carriage--to unlucky comrades,
martyrized on far-off detachments, or vegetating with friends in the
country; the more ambitious, after much private practice, strove to
imitate his way of twisting his mustache as he stood before the fire,
though with some, to whom nature had been niggard of hirsute honors, it
was grasping a shadow and fighting with the air.

Certainly Molyneux never was so happy as in that society. Fond as he was
of his pretty wife, her influence was as nothing in the scale. She
complained of this, half in earnest, soon after they were married. The
fever of post-nuptial felicity was strong upon Harry just then, but he
did not attempt to deny the imputation. He only said, "My pet, I have
known him so much the longest!" I wonder, now, how many brides would
have admitted that somewhat unsatisfactory and illogical excuse? Fanny
Molyneux did; she was the best-natured little woman alive, and wise,
too, in her generation, for she never brought matters to a crisis, or
measured her strength against the "heavy-weight."

Indeed, they got on together extremely well. Whenever Keene happened to
be with them--which was not often--she gave up the management of Harry's
Foreign Affairs to him, reserving to herself the control of the Home
Department, and, between the two, they ruled their vassal right royally.
After some months' acquaintance they became the greatest friends; on
Royston's side it was one of the few quite pure and unselfish feelings
he had ever cherished toward one of her sex not nearly akin to him in
blood. He always seemed to look on her as a very nice, but rather
spoiled child, to be humored and petted to any amount, but very seldom
to be reasoned with or gravely consulted. Considering her numerous
fascinations, and the little practice he had had in the paternal or
fraternal line, he really did it remarkably well: be it understood, it
was only _en petite comité_ that all this went on; in general society
his manner was strictly formal and deferential. It provoked her though,
sometimes, and one day she ventured to say, "I wish you would learn to
treat me like a grown-up woman!" Royston's eyes darkened strangely; and
one glance flashed out of the gloom that made her shrink away from him
then, and blush painfully when she thought of it afterward alone. He was
frowning, too, as he answered, in a voice unusually harsh and
constrained, "It seems to me we go on very well as it is. But women
never _will_ leave well alone." She did not like to analyze his answer
or her own feelings too closely, so she tried to persuade herself it was
a very rude speech, and that she ought to be offended at it. There was a
coolness between those two for some days, amounting to distant courtesy.
But the dignified style did not suit _ma mignonne_ (as Harry delighted
to call her) at all, and was, indeed, a lamentable failure; it made her
look as if she had been trying on one of her great-grandmother's
short-waisted dresses; so they soon fell back into their old ways, and,
like the model prince and princess, "lived very happily ever afterward."



CHAPTER II.


Keene had spent some time with the Molyneuxs during the autumn and
winter, and had conducted himself so far with perfect propriety,
certainly keeping Harry straighter than he would have gone alone; for he
was, unluckily, of a convivial turn of mind wholly incompatible with
delicate health and a frail constitution. Being a favorite with the
world in general, he felt bound, I suppose, to reciprocate, so, albeit
strictly enjoined to keep the earliest hours, he would sit up till dawn
if any one encouraged him, and then come home, perfectly sober perhaps,
but staggering from mere weakness. He did not care for deep drinking in
the least, but the number of magnums he had assisted in flooring, when
on a regimen of "three glasses of sherry," would have made a double row
of nails round the coffin of a larger man. Nature, however, being a
Dame, won't stand being slighted, or having her admonitions disregarded,
and the way she asserted herself on the morrow was retributive in the
extreme. Harry was always so _very_ ill after one of those nights "upon
the war-path." On such occasions, his feelings, without being quite
remorseful, were beautifully and curiously penitent; they manifested
themselves chiefly by an extraordinary ebullition of the domestic
affections. "Bring me my children" (he had two tiny ones), he would cry
on waking, just as another man would call for brandy and soda; and,
strange to say, the presence of those innocents seemed to have a
similarly invigorating and refreshing effect: during all that day he
would make pilgrimages to their cribs, and gaze upon them sleeping with
the reverence of an old _dévote_ kneeling before the shrine of her most
efficacious saint. Then he would go forth, and return with a present for
his wife, bearing an exact proportion in value to the extent and
duration of the past misdemeanor; so that her jewel-case and
writing-table soon became as prettily suggestive as the votive chapel of
Nôtre Dame des Dunes. Very unnecessary were these peace-offerings; for
that dear little woman never dreamt of "hitting him when he was down,"
or taking any other low advantage of his weakness. She would make his
breakfast beamingly, at all untimely hours, and otherwise pet and caress
him, so that he might have been a knight returning wounded from some
Holy War, instead of a discomfited scalp-hunter, bearing still evident
traces of the "war-paint." A stern old lady told her once that such
condonation of offenses was unprincipled and immoral. It may be so, but
I can not think the example is likely to be dangerously contagious.
Whatever happens, there will always remain a sufficiency of matronly
Dicæarchs, over whose judgment-seats the legend is very plainly
inscribed, _Nescia flecti_.

These Ember days formed the only exceptions to the remarkably easy way
in which Molyneux took every thing; there seemed to be no rough places
about his disposition for trouble or care to take hold of. Hunting four
days a week through the winter; six weeks in town during the season,
with incidentals of Epsom, Goodwood, _saumon à la Trafalgar_, bouquets,
and opera-stalls; living all the rest of the year at a mess curious as
to the quality of its dry Champagne--these simple pleasures involve a
certain expenditure hardly "fairly warranted by our regimental rate of
pay." To accomplish all this on about £500 a year, and yet to steer
clear of ruin, is an ingenious process doubtless, but a sum not to be
wrought out (most soldiers will tell you) without some anxiety and
travail of mind. Now, in the very tightest state of the money-market,
Harry was never known to disquiet himself in vain. He would not borrow
from any of his comrades, refusing all such proffers of assistance
gratefully but consistently. No Mussulman ever equaled his contented
reliance on the resources of futurity, and his implicit belief in the
same. He would anchor his hopes on some such improbability as "a long
shot coming off," or "his Aunt Agnes coming down" (a proverbially awful
widow, who had forgiven him seven times already; and, after each fresh
offense, had sworn unrelenting enmity to him and his heirs forever).
Strong in this faith, he met condoling friends with a pleasant,
reassuring smile: with the same demeanor he confronted threatening
creditors. He used no arts, and condescended to no subterfuge in dealing
with these last; but, as one of them observed, retreating from the
barracks moneyless but gratified, "Mr. Molyneux seems to _feel_ for one,
at all events." So he did. He sympathized with his tailor, not in the
least because he owed him money, but because he was a fellow-creature in
difficulties, regretting heartily it was not in his own power to relieve
them; just as a very charitable but improvident person might feel on
reading a case of real distress in the _Times_. Strange to say, hitherto
he had always pulled through. Either the outsider _did_ win, or the
aunt, touched in the soft place of her heart through her ruffled
feathers, was brought down by a "wild shot," when considered quite out
of distance, and "parted" freely.

The last and hardest trial of all--long debility and frequent
illness--had failed to shake this intense serenity. He was never cross
or unreasonable, and tried to give as little trouble as possible; but
was grateful to a degree for every thing that was done for him: he could
even manage to thank people for their advice, whether he took it not. So
far as one could make out, he was nearly as much interested in the state
of his own health, as one would be about that of any pleasant casual
acquaintance.

It must be confessed, that poor Harry and his like are by no means
strong-minded, or large-brained, or persevering men; they seldom or
never rise to eminence, and rarely have greatness thrust upon them. They
do not often volunteer to lead the vanguard of any great movement,
shouting out on the slightest provocation the war-cry of "life is
earnest;" for they are the natural subalterns of the world's mighty
battalia, and could hardly manoeuvre one of its companies, without
hopelessly entangling it, and exposing themselves: indeed, if they are
useful at all in their generation, it is in a singularly modest and
unobtrusive way. Yet there is an attraction about them, a power of
attachment, that the great and wise ones of the earth have appreciated
and envied, ere now. It is curious, too, to see what an apparent
contradiction to themselves the extremes of the class--those who
exaggerate _nonchalance_ into insensibility, and softness into
effeminacy--have shown, when brought face to face with imminent peril or
certain destruction. France held few more terrible _ferrailleurs_ than
the curled painted minions of her third Henry: the sun never looked down
on a more desperate duel than that in which Quélus, Schomberg, and
Maugiron did their _devoir_ manfully to the last. Nay, though he came
delicately to his doom, the King of Amalek met it, I fancy, gallantly
and gracefully enough, when once he read his sentence in the eyes of the
pitiless Seer, who ordained that he "should be hewn in pieces before the
Lord in Gilgal."

                              R. I. P.

There was silence for some minutes after the few words that opened this
story; and then Royston Keene spoke again.

"Hal, do you remember that miserable impostor in Paris being
enthusiastic about Dorade and its advantages, describing it as a sort of
happy hunting-ground, and so deciding us on choosing it in preference to
Nice?"

"Ah! he _did_ drivel a good deal. I think he had been drinking," the
other answered.

"No; I understand him now. He had been bored here into a sullen,
vicious misanthropy; and he wanted to take it out on the human race by
getting others in the same mess. It's just like that jealous old
Heathfield, who, when he is up to his girths in a squire-trap, never
halloos ''ware bog,' till five or six more are in it. I can fancy the
hoary-headed villain gloating hideously over us now. I wish I had him
here. I could be _so_ unkind to him! He talked about the shooting and
the society. Bah! there's about one cock to every thousand acres of
forest; and as for women fair to look upon, I've not flushed one since
we came. I don't think I can stand it much longer."

"I am very sorry," Harry said; "I knew you were being bored to death,
and it's all on my account; but I didn't like to ask you about it. I'm
so horribly selfish!" The shadow of an imminent penitence began to steal
over him, when Royston broke in--

"Don't be childish. I liked to stay--never mind why--or I should not
have done so. Only now--you are getting better, and I realize the
situation more. I hardly know where to go. Not back to England,
certainly, yet. Besides the nuisance and chance work of picking up a
stud in the middle of the season, it isn't pleasant to be consoled for a
blank day by, 'you should have been here last month. Never was such
scent; and heaps of straight-running foxes!' And then they indulge
themselves in an imaginative 'cracker,' knowing you can't contradict
them. Shall I go to Albania? I should like to kill _something_ before I
turn homeward."

Harry seemed musing. Suddenly he half started up, clapping his hands. "I
knew I had forgotten!"

"Not such a singular circumstance as to warrant all that indecent
exultation," was the reply. "Well, out with it."

"I never told you that Fan had a letter this morning from Cecil
Tresilyan (they're immense friends, you know) to ask her to engage rooms
for them. They are in Paris now, and will be here in three days."

Keene raised himself on his arm, regarding his comrade with a sort of
admiration. "You're a natural curiosity, _mon cher_. None of us ever
quite appreciated you. I don't believe there's another man in existence,
situated as we are, who would have kept that intelligence at the back of
his head so long. _The_ Tresilyan, of course? I remember hearing about
her in India. Annesley came back from sick leave perfectly insane on the
subject. She _must_ be something extraordinary, for the recollection of
her made even him poetical--when he was sober. I asked about her when I
got to England, but her mother was taken very ill, or did something
equally unjustifiable, so she left town before I saw her."

"The mother really _was_ ill," Molyneux said, apologetically; "at least
she died soon after that. Miss Tresilyan has never shown much since. But
you've no idea of the sensation she made during her season and a half.
They called her The Refuser, she had such a fabulous number of offers,
and wouldn't look at any of them. By-the-by, there's rather a good story
about that. You know Margate? He's going to the bad very fast now, but
he was the crack puppy of that year's entry; good-looking, long
minority, careful guardians, leases falling in, mother one of the best
Christians in England, and all that sort of thing. Well, Tom Cary took
him in hand, and brought him out in great form before long. They were
talking over their preparations for the moors, for they were going to
start the next day. 'I believe that's all,' Margate asked, 'or have we
forgotten any thing?' 'Wait a minute,' said Tom, and reflected
(provident man, Tom; fond of his comforts, and proud of it)--'Ah! I
thought there was something. You haven't proposed to The Tresilyan.'
They say Margate's face was a study. He never disputed the orders of his
private trainer, so he only said, piteously, 'But I don't want to marry
any one,' and looked as if he was going to cry. 'You _are_ "ower
young,"' Cary said, encouragingly, 'and it's about the last thing I
should press upon you. It wouldn't suit my book at all. But I don't see
how that affects the question. I can lay ten ponies to one she won't
have you. It's the thing to do, depend upon it. All the other good men
have had a turn, and you have no right to be singular; it's bad taste.
Rank has its duties, my lord. _Noblesse oblige_, and so forth. You
understand?' Margate _didn't_ in the least, but he went and proposed
quite properly, and was rejected rather more decidedly than his fellows.
Then he went down into Perthshire, and missed his grouse, and lost his
salmon, with a comfortable consciousness of having discharged his
obligations to society."

Royston Keene actually groaned, "Why didn't she come sooner?" he said.
"What a luxury, in this God-forgotten place, to talk to a clever
handsome woman, who tramples on strawberry-leaves!"

"Perhaps she would have come if she had known how much we wanted her,"
replied Harry. "They say she is a model of charity, and several other
virtues too. She is coming here for the health of some companion, or
governess, who lives with her. Yet she flirts outrageously at times, in
her own imperial way. Better late than never. I'm certain you'll like
her, and perhaps she'll like you."

"_Qui vivra verra_," Keene said, rising slowly. "Let us go home now.
Draw your plaid closer round you, it's getting chilly."



CHAPTER III.


There is a terrace in Dorade, fenced in from every wind that blows,
except the south, and even that has to creep cautiously and cunningly
round a sharp corner to make its entrance good. Four small stunted palms
grow there; they look painfully out of place, and conscious of it; for
they are always bowing their heads in a meek humiliation, and shiver in
a strange unhealthy way at the slightest breeze, just as you may see
Asiatics doing in our "land of mist and snow." But the natives regard
those unhappy exotics with a fanatical pride, pointing them out to all
comers as living witnesses to the perfection of the climate; they would
gladly stone any irreverent stranger who should suggest a comparison
between their sacred shrubs and the giants of Indian seas. The only
inhabitant of the place who ever attained any eminence any where (he
really _was_ a good tailor), bequeathed a certain sum for the
beautifying of the renowned _allée_, instead of endowing charitable
institutions, and his townsmen endorsed the act by erecting a little
mural tablet to commemorate his public spirit.

The view is rather pretty, stretching over vineyards, and gardens, and
olive-grounds down to the shore, with the islands in the far foreground
rearing themselves against the sky, clear and blue, or if the weather is
misty to seaward, sleeping in an aureole of golden haze, so that the
whole effect would be cheerful if it were not for the melancholy
invalids who haunt the spot perpetually. Faces and figures are to be
seen sometimes that would send an uncomfortable shiver of revulsion
through you if you met them on the Boulevard des Italiens, strengthened
by your ante-prandian _absinthe_. Here, the place belonged to them so
completely, that a man in rude health felt like an unwarrantable
intruder, in which light I am sure the hypochondriacs always regarded
him. As such a one passed, you might see a glare, half-envious,
half-resentful, light up some hollow eyes, and thin parched lips worked
nervously, as though they were uttering a very equivocal blessing.

Does the character gain much by the extermination of more impulsive
passions, when their place is possessed by the two devils that neither
age nor sickness can exorcise--Avarice and Envy? It is with this last,
perhaps, that we have most to do; and the shadow of it, however
indistinct and distant, makes the landscape near the horizon look
somewhat dreary. The nature of many of us is so faulty and ill
regulated, that it may be doubted if even advancing years will make us
much better or wiser; but, when winter shall have closed in, and our hot
blood is more than cool, is there no chance of an "open season?" Must it
come to this--that the mere sight of the youth, and strength, and beauty
that have left us far behind shall stir our bile, as though it were an
insolent parade--that the choicest delicacies at our neighbor's
wedding-breakfast shall not pique our palate like the baked meats at his
funeral? Not so; if we must give ground let us retreat in good order,
leaving no shield behind us that our enemy may build into his trophy. If
we are rash enough to assail Lady Violet Vavasour with petitions for a
waltz, and see her look doubtfully down her scribbled tablets, till the
"sweetest lips that ever were kissed" can find no gentler answer than
the terrible "Engaged," let us not gnash suicidally our few remaining
teeth, even though Brabazon Leslie--all the handsomer for the scar on
his smooth forehead--should come up upon our traces, and ride roughshod
over those hieroglyphics, as he did at Balaclava through Russian
squadrons. Rather let us try to sympathize with his triumph, while he
carries off his beautiful prize from under the enemy's guns, as
Dundonald may have cut out a frigate beneath the batteries of Vera Cruz.
_Non omnia corripit ævum._ Hath the savor departed wholly from the
Gascon wine, because the name of no living love crowns the draught?
Shall we stay sullenly at home when all the world is flocking to the
tournament, because our limbs have stiffened so that we may no longer
sit saddlefast, and hold our own in the _mêlée_? A corner in the
cushioned gallery is left to us still. Come, comrade of mine--_nate
mecum Consule Manlio_--we will go up and lounge there among the
Chatelaines: some may be found good-natured enough to listen (in the
pauses of the tilting), while we tell how, not so many years back, plume
and pennon went down before our lance.

I place no great reliance on the Pleasures of Memory. But, if pearls and
bright shells be rarely found there, surely waifs, better than _echini_
and sting-rays, are to be gathered on the "shores of long ago." Ah,
cynic! you are strong enough to be merciful--just this once. Spare us
the string of examples that would overwhelm us utterly. Does it not
suffice that we confess the truth of that saddest adage, tolled in our
ears by every passing bell,

  Those whom the gods love well die young?

Royston and his companion were crossing the terrace on their way home
when the former stopped suddenly.

"Go on, Hal," he said; "it is too late for you to be standing about, but
I must speak to that poor Châteaumesnil. I shall see you at dinner." He
went up to a wheeled chair that was being drawn by at the time.

Its occupant was a man of large frame, as far as could be made out
through the thick wrappings of furs; his head was bent forward and low,
resting on his hands, that were crossed on a crutch-handle. He appeared
profoundly unconscious of all that was passing, and never moved till
Keene addressed him. Then, very slowly, he lifted up his face. Few of
us, fortunately for those who have strong imaginations and weak nerves,
see its like twice in a lifetime, or there would be wild work in
dreamland.

It was not distorted in any way, nor deformed, except by a ghastly,
livid pallor; gaunt and drawn as the features were, they still bore
evident traces of a rare manly beauty, that even the neglected beard of
iron-gray could not conceal. But it was the savage face of one who has
wrestled with physical pain till it has assumed almost the visible and
tangible shape of a personal enemy--a mocking devil, that always is
ready, with fresh ingenuity of torture, to answer and punish the
rebellious question, "Art thou come to torment me before my time?" The
lines on the forehead were so strongly marked and dreadfully distinct,
that, like the markings of the locust, they seemed to form characters
that might be read, if it were given to mortal cabalists to decipher the
handwriting of God.

Look once more: it is worth while, if you are curious in contrasts and
comparisons. Five years ago that bowed, blasted cripple was the most
reckless dare-devil, the most splendid Paladin, in all the army of
Algiers; the man for whom, after an unusually brilliant exploit, St.
Arnaud, loving him as his own right hand, could find no higher praise
than to write in his dispatches, "_Les 3me Chasseurs se sont conduits
en héros; leur chef-d'escadron en--Châteaumesnil._" And it was true that
the annals of his house could boast of no nobler soldier, though they
had been fighting hard since Clovis's day. His name is known very well
in Africa. The _spahis_ talk of it still over their watch-fires, and the
wild Bedouins load it with guttural curses--their lips white with hatred
and remembered fear: they do not forget how far and fast they fled into
their desert strong-holds, and never could shake off the light cloud of
whirling dust that told how Armand and his stanch gaze-hounds were hard
upon their trail.

Rheumatic fever, coming close on a severe bullet wound, had brought him
very near to death; and the first thing he heard when he began to
recover, was that he would never stand upright again.

He is answering Keene's salutation.

"My friend, you failed us last night at the Cercle, and yet we waited
for you long." A hoarse, hollow voice--very measured and slow, as if
carefully disciplined to repress groans--yet every now and then there
will come a modulation, that shows how rich and cheery it might have
been when trolling a _chanson à boire_--how clear and sonorous when,
over the stamping of hoofs and the rattle of scabbards, it rang out the
one word "Charge!"--how winning and musical when whispering into a
small, pink ear laid against his lips lovingly.

The Vicomte de Châteaumesnil cares for but one thing on earth now--play,
as deep as he can make or find it. It is not a pastime, or a
distraction, or an occasional fever-fit, but the sole interest of his
existence. A fearfully unworthy and unsatisfactory one, you will say.
Granted; but try and realize his condition.

He is not forty yet. All the passions of mature manhood were alive
within him; not one desire or impulse had been tamed by natural or even
premature decay at the time he was struck down, and cut off from every
object and aim of his former life, when it was too late to form or turn
to others. Imagine how eagerly his strong fiery nature must have grasped
at some of these--how it must have appreciated the alternations of
glory, pleasure, and peril--all worse than blanks now. You dare not
speak to him of woman's love. Worse than all other torments of the
Titan's bed of pain, would be wild dreams of impossible Oceanides!

Remember that his only change of scene is from one of the waters of
Marah to another, according to his own or his physician's fancy about
mineral springs. Remember, too, that the cleverest or the most sanguine
of them all have only ventured to promise an abatement of his agonies:
of their cessation they say no word; nor can they even prophesy that the
end will come quickly. He is not allowed to read much, even if his taste
lay that way, which it does not; for a literary _Chasseur d'Afrique_ is
such a whim as Nature never yet indulged herself in. So perhaps he
caught at the only resource that could have saved him from worse things;
under which, I presume, is to be included the temptation to take
laudanum in proportions by no means prescribed or sanctioned by the
Faculty.

Every day about noon his servant helped him into the card-room at the
club, and settled him at his own table, where, with the two hours
respite of dinner, he sat till midnight, ready to give battle to all
comers at all weapons, just as the Knights of Lyonnesse used to keep a
bridge or a pass while achieving their vows. It is needless to say that
the changes of good or bad luck affected him not at all. Few men of his
stamp indulge in the weakness of railing at Fortune, which is the
privilege and consolation of the _roturier_. Neither was he ever heard
to reproach a partner, or become bitter against an adversary. He seemed
to take a pleasure in disappointing those who were always expecting from
him some savage outbreak of temper: they judged from his appearance, and
had some grounds for their anticipations; for, winning or losing, that
strange look, half-weary, half-defiant, never was off his face. But,
with Armand de Châteaumesnil, the _grand seigneur_ had not been merged
in the soldier: the _brusquerie_ of the camp had not overlaid the manner
of the courtly school in which he and all his race had been trained; the
school of those who would stab their enemy to the heart with sarcasm or
innuendo, but scorned to stun him with blatant abuse--of those who would
never have dreamt of listening to a woman with covered head, though they
might be deaf as the nether millstone to her entreaties or her tears. It
was with the Revolution that the rapier went out, and the _savate_ came
in.

Very few men came up to his standard of play; for he was hard to please
in style as well as in stakes. Keene did fully; and this, with a certain
similarity of tastes, accounted for his liking the latter so well. He
had little regard to throw away, and was chary of it in proportion. On
the other hand, Royston treated the invalid with an amount of deference
very unusual with him, in whom the bump of Veneration was probably
represented by a cavity.

The two were still talking on the terrace, when a man passed them, who
lifted his hat slightly, and then sighed audibly, looking upward with an
ostentatious contrition, as though he apologized to heaven for such a
bowing-down to Rimmon. This was the Rev. James Fullarton, British
chaplain at Dorade. A difficult and anomalous position--in which the
unlucky divine, in addition to his anxiety about the conscientious
discharge of his duties, has to cultivate the friendship of a vast
number of unrighteous Mammons, if he would be allowed to perform his
functions at all. Our countrymen are popularly supposed to take out a
special license for liberty of thought and action as soon as they cross
the Channel; and the pastor's pulpit-cushion can hardly be stuffed with
roses when every other member of his congregation--embracing devotees of
about a dozen different shades of High, Low, and Broad Church--thinks it
his or her daily duty to decide, if the formula--_Quamdiu se bene
gesserit_--has been duly complied with. Perhaps foreign air and warmer
climates develop, like a hot-bed, our innate instinct of
destructiveness. Look at portly respectable fathers of
families--householders who, at home, have accepted their spiritual
position without a murmur for a quarter of a century, roused to revolt
by no vexed question of copes, candles, or church-rates--even these can
not escape contagion. When once the game is afoot, they will open on the
scent with the perseverance of the steadiest "line-hunter," and join in
the "worry" as savagely as the youngest hound. I remember seeing a
similar case in Scotland, where a minister was preaching before "the
Men" who were appointed to judge of his qualifications. Right in front
of him, on a low bench, sat the awful Three, silent, stolid, and stern.
His best rounded periods, his neatest imagery, his aptest quotations,
brought no light into their vacant gray eyes: perhaps they were looking
beyond all these, straight at the doctrine. The breeze blew freshly
from the German Ocean, over the purple hills; but it brought no coolness
to that miserable Boanerges. How he _did_ perspire! I could not wonder
at it; and though he preached for ninety-five minutes, and wearied me
even to death, I bore him no enmity, but pitied him from my soul.

Mr. Fullarton, however, had steered through the reefs and quicksands
with better skill or luck than his fellows, and, judging from the
ruddiness of his broad, beardless face, and the amplitude of his black
waistcoat, the cares of office had not hitherto affected his health
materially. He was a well-meaning, conscientious man, ready to work hard
for his flock and his family; indeed, barring a certain frail leaning
toward _gourmandise_, of which a full pendulous lip told tales, and an
occasional infirmity of temper, he had as few outward failings as could
be desired. For one of no extreme views, he could count an extraordinary
number of adherents. Without being particularly agreeable or
instructive, he possessed a rather imposing readiness and rotundity of
speech, and had a knack of turning his arm-chair into a pulpit somewhat
oftener than was quite in good taste. However, I suppose the best of us
will talk "shop" when we see a fair opening. He had a large wife and
several small children. No one admired him more devotedly than this
truly excellent woman. As far as sharing in her husband's successes
went, or partaking in any other advantages of society, she might as well
have been the squaw of an Iowa brave; for her time was more than taken
up in tending her offspring, and in providing for her lord the savory
meats in which he delighted; but she looked the picture of contentment,
and so nobody thought it necessary to pity her.

From the first moment of their meeting, the chaplain had entertained a
nervous dislike, approaching to a presentiment, toward Royston Keene. He
regarded him as a brand likely to inflame others, but itself by no means
to be plucked from the burning. The latter saw his gesture as he passed,
and smiled--not pleasantly. "Remark the shepherd, M. le Vicomte," he
said; "he sees the wolves prowling, and trembles for his lambs."

"One wolf, at least, is toothless," answered Châteaumesnil. "What have
we to do with lambs, except _en suprême_? But the sun is down; I must go
home, or these cursed pains will avenge themselves. Till this evening."

"I will not fail; but you will permit me to accompany you so far," said
Keene, bending over the invalid with the grand courteous air that became
him well; and he walked by the other's side till they reached his door,
talking over the varying fortunes of last night's play.



CHAPTER IV.


You have found out already that you are only looking at a chaplet of
cameos, with just enough of story to string them together. Under these
circumstances, the right thing of course to do is to work out each
character by the rules of metaphysical mathematics, and then to reverse
the process and "prove" the result. But I never tried to extract the
square root out of _any thing_ without failing miserably, and one can
only speak, and act, and write according to one's light. After all, it
seems a more uncertain science than astronomy. Comets _will_ appear, now
and then, at abnormal times, and in places where they have no heavenly
business; and people are still to be found, so very ill-regulated as to
go right or wrong in opposition to all rules and precedents. Where the
variations are so infinite, it is difficult to argue safely from one
singular example to another, and, if you miss one step, your whole
deduction is apt to come to grief. Some one said, that "there were
corners in the nature of the simplest peasant-girl to which the
cleverest man alive could never find a key." Perhaps, too, those who
fancy, rightly or wrongly, that they have mesmerized the heart even of
one fellow-creature so completely that the poor thing could not, if it
would, keep back a single secret, think it hardly fair to give the world
in general the full benefit of their discoveries. Practically, does all
this help one much? It is possible that some who have passed for the
deepest observers of human nature, owed their renown more to an acute
observation of the phenomena of feeling, an intuitive knowledge of what
people like and dislike, a retentive memory, and a happy knack of making
all these available at the right moment, than to any profound reasoning
on abstract principles. Like some untaught arithmeticians, their
calculations came out correct, but they could not have gone through the
steps of the process.

There lives, even now, a sublime theorist, who professes to have made
feminine physiology his peculiar study. Sitting at his desk, or in his
arm-chair, he will trace the motives, impulses, and sensations which a
woman must _necessarily_ have experienced under any given circumstances,
as lucidly as a skillful pathologist, scalpel in hand, may lecture on
the material mysteries of the blood or brain: he will analyze for you
the waters of the _Fons Lacrymarum_, just as Letheby or Taylor might do
those of a new chalybeate spring. A fearful power, is it not, and fatal,
if used tyrannously? Well, I remember hearing a very beautiful and
charming person speak of an evening she had spent in the society of The
Adept, during which she was conscious of being subjected to the action
of his microscope, stethoscope, and other engines of science. She said
"It did not hurt her much," and, on the whole, seemed by no means so
impressed with awe and admiration as could be wished. Indeed, before
they parted, if any one was disquieted, discomfited, or otherwise
damaged, I fancy it was--_not_ the loveliest Margaret. From my slight
acquaintance with that tremendous philosopher, supposing that he were
turned loose among a bevy of perfectly well-educated women, and meant
mischief, I should be disposed to lay longer odds against his chances
than I would against those of many men who have never read one word of
Balzac, Michelet, or Kant.

Still, as was aforesaid, in the days of high art and high farming, high
physiology is clearly the thing to go for. So, for my shortcomings, to
all critics--ethic, dialectic, æsthetic, and ascetic--I cry _mea culpa_,
thus audibly.

Nevertheless, while they are waiting for her at Dorade, we will try to
sketch Cecil Tresilyan.

Her father died when she was too young to remember him, and the first
fourteen years of her life were spent almost entirely in the old Cornish
manor-house from which her family took its name. That great, rambling
pile stood at the head of a glen, terraced at first into gardens, and
then thickly wooded, and stretching down to the shore. There was a small
bay just here, the mouth of which curved inward very abruptly. It seemed
as if the black cliffs had caught the sea in a trap, and stood forward
to keep the outlet fast forever: the waves were free to come and go for
a certain distance, but never to rave or rebel any more: when their
brethren of the open main went out to war, the captives inside might
hear the din, but not break out to join them; they could only leap up
weakly against their prison bars. There was nothing at all remarkable in
the house itself, except its furniture and panelings of black oak, and
two pictures, to which was attached a story bearing on the hereditary
failing which had made the family proverbial. The first was the likeness
of a lovely girl, in the court dress of James the Second's time, with
beautiful hazel eyes, half timid, half trusting, like a pet doe's. The
second represented a woman, perhaps of middle age: in this the hood of a
dark gray dress was drawn far forward, and under it the eyes shone out
of the colorless face with a fixed expression of helpless, agonized
terror, as of one fascinated by some ghostly apparition. You were sorry
when you realized that they were portraits of the same person.

Sir Ewes Tresilyan was a man of strong passions and rather weak
brain--of few words and fewer sympathies; he never made a companion of
Mabel, his daughter, though his love for her was the feeling next his
heart, after his almost insane pride; but he trusted her
implicitly--less because he had faith in her truth and goodness, than
because he held it as impossible for a Tresilyan to disgrace herself or
otherwise derogate, as for the moon to fall from heaven. He was no
classic, you see, and had never read of Endymion.

In her solitary rides Mabel met the son of a neighboring squire, and
they soon began to love each other after the good old fashion. Neither
had one thought that was not honest and pure; but they were so afraid of
her father that they dared not ask his consent to their marriage as yet.
They were prudent, but not prudent or patient enough. So there came
about meetings--first at noon in the woods, then at twilight in the
park, then at midnight in the garden; and at last Sir Ewes Tresilyan
heard of it all; and heard, too, that his daughter's name was abroad in
the country-side, and more than lightly spoken of. That day, as the sun
was setting, two men stood foot to foot, with their doublets off, on the
very spot of smooth turf where the lovers parted last; and Arthur
Bampfylde had to hold his own as best he might with the deadliest rapier
in the western shires. Poor boy! he would scarcely have had the heart to
do his uttermost against Mabel's father; but better will and skill would
have availed little against the thirsty point that came creeping along
his blade and leaping over his guard like a viper's tongue. At the sixth
pass his enemy shook him heavily off his sword, wounded to the death. He
had tried explanation before, utterly in vain; but the true heart would
make one effort more to get justice done, before it ceased to beat. He
gasped out these words through the rush of blood that was choking him,
"Mabel--I swear, she is as pure as the Mother of God; and I--what had I
done?"

Sir Ewes knelt down and lifted Arthur's head upon his knee--not in pity,
but that he might hear the more distinctly--"I will tell you," he said;
"you have wooed a Tresilyan like a yeoman's daughter." The homicide
wrote in his confession of all this that, as he laid the head gently
down, a smile came upon the lips before they set. Was it that the
parting spirit--standing on the threshold of Eternity, and almost within
the light of the grand secret--fathomed the earth-worm's miserable
vanity, and could not refrain its scorn?

Mabel was sitting alone when her father returned. She had no idea that
any thing had been discovered; but the instant she saw his face, she
cast herself on her knees, crying--"I am innocent; indeed I have done no
wrong!"

He griped her arm and raised her up, gazing straight and steadfastly at
her for some moments: then he gave his verdict--"Guilty of having
brought shame on your house; not guilty of sin, I know, or _this_ should
only half atone," and he drew out the blade that had never been wiped
since it drank her lover's blood.

She slid slowly down out of his grasp, never speaking, but bearing in
her eyes the awful look of horror that became frozen there forever. The
second picture might have been taken then, though it was not painted
till long afterward. She never thenceforth, while her father lived, left
the wing of the manor-house in which her rooms lay; neither did he, nor
any one else, except the two servants who attended her, look upon her
face. People pitied her very much at first, and then forgot her
entirely. Once the superior of a Belgian convent, a relation of the
family, offered to admit Mabel, if she chose to take the vows. Perhaps
Sir Ewes Tresilyan was more gratified than he liked to show, for the
best blood in Europe was to be found in that sisterhood; but his reply
was not a gracious one:

"I thank the abbess," he wrote; "but _we_ are used to choose for our
gifts the most precious thing we have--not the most worthless. I will
not lighten my house from a heavy burden, by offering it to God."

He relented, however, when he was dying, and sent for his daughter. Very
reluctantly she came. He had prepared, I believe, a pompous and proper
oration, wherein he was to pardon her and even bestow a sort of
qualified blessing; but the wan face and wild, hollow eyes, not seen for
twelve years, frightened all his grandeur out of his head; and the
obstinate, narrow-minded tyrant collapsed all at once into a foolish,
fond old man. Something too late (that's one comfort) to avail him much.
In Mabel's nature, soft and yielding as it appeared, there was the black
spot that nothing but harshness and cruelty could have brought out--the
utter incapacity of relenting, which had given rise to the rude rhyme
known through three counties--

  In Tresilyan's face
  Fault finds no grace.

So, when the sick man cried out to her, through his sobs, to kiss him
and forgive him, the dreary, monotonous voice only answered, "I can kiss
you, father;" and when she had laid her icicles of lips on his forehead,
she glided out of the room like a ghost that has accomplished its
mission and hastens away to its own place. Sir Ewes never tried to call
her back; he scarcely spoke at all intelligibly after that; but lay, for
the few remaining hours of life, moaning to himself, his face turned to
the wall.

For a very short time after her father's death, Mabel seemed to take a
pleasure in roaming about the gardens and woods from which she had been
debarred so long; but the walks grew gradually shorter, and she soon
shut herself up in the house entirely, seeing only a few of her near
relatives. It was one of these who, at her own request, painted the
second portrait--a rude performance, but it must have been a likeness.
She seemed to feel an odd sort of satisfaction in looking at the two and
comparing them. Her brain was somewhat clouded and unsteady; but I fancy
she was counting up all the harm and wrong the hard world had done to
her, and calculating what amends would be made in the next. I doubt not
they were kind and pitiful and indulgent enough there; but on earth she
found no source of comfort strong enough to banish from her eyes that
terrible look which haunted them within five minutes of her end.

When spirits assemble from the four corners of heaven, how many thousand
companions, think you, will greet the Gileadite's daughter?

Before you saw Cecil Tresilyan's face, the curve of her neck, and the
way her head was set on it, told you that she was by no means exempt
from the family failing which had laid its hand so heavily on her
ancestors. Yet it was not a hard or habitually haughty, or even a very
decided face. There was nothing alarmingly severe about the slight
aquiline of the nose; the chin did not look as if it were "carved in
marble," or "clasped in steel," or as if it were made of any thing but
soft flesh prettily dimpled; the delicate scarlet lip, when it curled,
rarely went beyond sauciness; though the splendid violet eyes could well
express disdain, this was not their favorite expression--and they had
many. The head would certainly have been too small had it not been for
the glossy masses of dark chestnut hair sweeping down low all round it,
smooth and unbroken as a deep river in its first curl over a cataract.
Candid friends said her complexion was not bright enough; perhaps they
were right; but the color had not forgotten how to come and go there at
fitting seasons; at any rate, the grand clear white could never be
mistaken for an unhealthy pallor. An extraordinarily good constitution
was ever part of a Tresilyan's inheritance; and if you doubted whether
her blood circulated freely you had only to compare her cheek on a
bitter March day with some red-and-white ones, when a sharp east wind
had forced those last to mount _all_ the stripes of the tricolor. By the
way, are not the "roses dipped in milk" going out of fashion just now? A
humble but stanch adherent of the house of York, I like to think--how
many battle-fields, since Towton, our Flower has won!

But if Cecil's face was not faultless, her figure _was_. Had one single
proportion been exaggerated or deficient, she could never have carried
off her height so lithely and gracefully. She might take twenty _poses_
in a morning, and people always thought they would choose the last one
to have her painted in. Here, she was quite inimitable. For instance,
women, I believe, used to practice in their own room for hours to catch
her peculiar way of half-reclining in an arm-chair; but the most
painstaking of them all never achieved any thing beyond a caricature.
Yet no one could accuse her of studying stage-effects. If a trifle of
the _Incedo Regina_ marked her walk and carriage, it was à l'Eugénie,
not à la Statira.

Indeed, she was thoroughly natural all over; cleverer and more
fascinating, certainly, than ninety-nine women out of every hundred; but
not one bit more strong-minded, or heroic, or self-denying. She had been
very well brought up, and had undeniably good principles; but she would
yield to occasional small temptations with perfect grace and facility.
Great ones she had never yet encountered; for Cecil, if not quite
fancy-free, had only read and perhaps dreamed of passions. She had known
one remorse, of which you may hear hereafter (not a heavy allowance,
considering her opportunities), and one grief--the death of her mother.
She entertained a remarkable reverence for all ministers of the
Established Church; yet she was about the last woman alive to have
married a clergyman, and would have considered the charge of the old
women and schools of a country parish as a lingering and unsatisfactory
martyrdom. There never was a more constant attendant at all sorts of
divine service; though perhaps the most casual of worshipers had never
been more bored than she was by some of the discourses to which she
listened so patiently. She would confess this to you at luncheon, and
then start for the same church in the afternoon, with an edifying but
rather comic expression of resignation. I am sure she would not
deliberately have vexed the smallest child; and yet the number of
athletic men who ascribed the loss of their peace of mind to her, was,
as the Yankees have it, "a caution." Some of the "regulars," wary
adventuresses of three seasons' standing, had brought off several pretty
good things by following her, and picking up the victims fluttering
about helpless in their first despair, just as the keepers after a
battue go round the covers with the retrievers.

If there were any more antitheses in her character, they had better
speak for themselves hereafter; nor is there much that need be told
about her companions.

Mrs. Danvers, or "Bessie," as she liked to be called, had been Cecil's
last governess, and was retired on full-pay, which, she flattered
herself, she earned in the capacity of traveling chaperone and censor;
but, inasmuch as when she really held some tutelar authority, her pupil
had never taken the slightest notice of her prohibitions, she could
hardly be expected now to exercise any very salutary influence or
control.

Dick Tresilyan was absurdly proud and fond of his sister, and performed
all her behests with a blind obedience; but when he heard that he was to
attend her during a whole winter's residence abroad, he did think that
it was stretching her prerogative to the verge of tyranny. No wonder. A
dragoon who has lost his horse, a goose on a turnpike-road, or any other
popular type of helplessness, does not present so lamentable a picture
as a Briton in a foreign land, without resources in himself, and with a
rooted aversion to the use of any language except his own. In this
case, the victim actually attempted some feeble remonstrance and
argument on the subject. Cecil was almost as much astonished as the
Prophet was under similar circumstances; but she considered that habits
of discussion in beasts of burden and the lower order of animals
generally were inconvenient, and rather to be discouraged; so she cut it
short, now, somewhat imperiously. Thereupon, Dick Tresilyan slid into a
slough of despond, in which he had been wallowing ever since. A faint
gleam of sunshine broke in when one of his intimates, hearing he was
going to France, suggested "that's where the brandy comes from;" but it
was instantly overclouded by the remark which followed. "I suppose,
though, you won't be able to drink much more of it than you do here:" on
realizing which crushing fact, his melancholy became, if possible, more
profound than ever. Indeed, since he crossed the Channel, he had spent
most of his leisure moments in a sort of chronic blasphemy, which, it is
to be hoped, afforded him some slight relief and consolation, as it was
wholly unintelligible to his audience; for, to do Dick justice, in his
sister's presence the door of his lips was always strictly guarded.

However, to Dorade they came--hours after their time, of course, but
perfectly safe: no accident ever does happen in France to any thing
properly booked, except to luggage sent by _roulage_, to which there
attaches the romantic uncertainty of Vanderdecken's correspondence.
Cecil rather liked traveling; it never tired her; so, by midnight she
had seen Mrs. Danvers, weary and querulous, to bed--gone through a
variety of gymnastics in the way of _accolades_, with Fanny
Molyneux--taken some trouble in inquiring about shooting and other
amusements likely to divert her brother from his sorrows--and yet did
not feel very sleepy.

They ignore shutters in these climes; and her reflection was still
flitting backward and forward across the white window-blinds as Royston
Keene came home from the Cercle. He knew the room, or guessed who the
shadow belonged to; and as he moved away, after pausing a minute or two,
he waved his hand toward it, with a gesture so unwarrantably like a
salute that, were _silhouettes_ sensitive or prudish, it might have
proved an offense not easily forgiven.



CHAPTER V.


The next morning was so soft and sunny that it tempted Miss Tresilyan
out on the terrace of their hotel very soon after breakfast. She was
waiting for her brother on the top of the steps leading down into the
road, when Major Keene passed by again. If he had never heard of her
before, the smooth sweeping outline of her magnificent form, and the
careless grace of her attitude, as she stood leaning against the stone
balustrade, were not likely to escape an eye that was wont to light on
every point of feminine perfection, as a poacher's does on a sitting
hare. But he never got so far as her face then; and hardly had time to
criticise her figure; for at that moment a brisk gust of the _mistral_
swept round the corner, and revealed a foot and ankle so marvelously
exquisite, that they attracted his eyes, as long as he dared to fix them
without risking a stare; and kept his thoughts busy till he saw her
again. "_Caramba!_" he muttered, half aloud. "I don't wonder at any one
who has seen _that_ not looking at a nautch-girl afterward." And he
quickened his pace toward Mr. Molyneux's house. He met them before he
reached their door.

"I am going to Miss Tresilyan," Fanny said. "Isn't it lucky, her first
morning here being such a delicious one?"

"Ah! I thought that was your point," answered Keene. "There must be a
tremendous amount of 'gushing' to be got through still: the accumulation
of--how many months? I suppose you only took the rough edge off last
night. Don't hurt her, please, that's all. And, Hal, you were actually
going to preside over the meeting of two young hearts, and gloat over
their emotions, and spoil their innocent amusements? I wonder at you.
Means well, Mrs. Molyneux; but he's _so_ thoughtless."

Fanny laughed. "I think I could do without him. But we mean to walk this
afternoon, and he may come then; and you too, Major Keene, if you are
good."

"I'll enter into all sorts of recognizances to keep the peace," was the
reply; "but I should have thought you might trust me by this time. It's
that excitable husband of yours that wants disciplining. I'll give him
some soda-water by way of a precaution. Then, when you have sacrificed
to friendship sufficiently, you will lionize Miss Tresilyan? The Castle
first, of course. Shall we meet you there at two?"

Harry did not quite see the thing in this light, and looked slightly
disappointed; but he yielded the point, as he always did, and went away
dutifully with his superior officer.

"Describe the brother," the latter said, abruptly, when they had gone a
few steps.

"Well, I believe he's the most ignorant man in Great Britain," answered
Molyneux: "that's his _spécialité_. He never had much education; and he
has been trying to forget that little, 'hard all,' ever since he was
eighteen. You remember how our fellows used to laugh at me about my
epistles? I could give him 21lb., and a beating any day. They say, two
men have to stand over him whenever he tries to write a letter, for no
_one_ is strong enough to keep him straight in his spelling and grammar.
If he tries it on alone, he gets bewildered in the second sentence, and
wanders up and down, knocking his head against particles and parts of
speech, like the man in the Maze; and throws up the sponge at last,
utterly beat. Helplessly devoted to his sister, but rather obstinate
with other people, and apt to be sulky sometimes; but good-natured on
the whole; and drinks _very_ fair."

"Oh, he drinks fair, does he?" Royston said, meditatively. "Has that any
thing to do with his brotherly affection? Every body who is fond of Miss
Tresilyan seems to take to liquor. Annesley was pretty sober till he
knew her. It's rather odd. I don't suppose she encourages them?"

"Certainly not; at least, I know she has tried to stint Dick in his
brandy very often. It's the only point she has never been able to
carry."

"A man must be firm about some one thing," the other remarked, "or
there's an end of free-agency altogether. He has no intellects to be
affected by it apparently; and I dare say his health does not suffer
much yet. It's a question of constitution, after all."

He dropped the subject then, and was very silent all the rest of the
morning, till they came to the place of meeting. Somehow or another, it
did not occur to him to mention to Harry what he had seen on the
terrace.

They had not waited long before the three women came slowly up the
zigzags of the path that wound round the Castle-hill. Dick Tresilyan had
"got his pass signed" for the day, and had started off, with his
courier, to make the lives of several natives a burden to them, on the
subject of _bécasses_ and _bécassines_.

Cecil might have been known by her walk among ten thousand. She seemed
to float along without any visible exertion, as if her dress were
buoyant, and bore her up in some mysterious fashion; but, looking
closer, and marking how straight and firmly and lightly every footfall
was planted, you gave the narrow arched instep, and the slender rounded
ankle, the credit they well deserved; marveling only that so delicate a
symmetry could conceal so much sinewy power. Upon this occasion, she was
evidently accommodating her pace to that of Mrs. Danvers; and no racing
man could have seen the two, without thinking of one of the Flyers of
the turf walking down by the side of the trainer's pony.

Miss Tresilyan's hat, of a soft black felt, shaded by a black cock's
feather, was decidedly in advance of her age: for that very provocative
head-gear, with the many-colored _panaches_, had not then become so
common; and even the Passionate Pilgrim might hope (with luck) to walk
along a pier or a parade, without meeting a succession of Red
Rovers--each capable of boarding him at a minute's notice, and making
all his affections walk the plank. Her tunic of iron-gray velvet,
without fitting tightly to her figure, still did it fair justice; and,
from the tie of her neck-ribbon, down to the wonderful boots that slid
in and out from under the striped scarlet kirtle over which her dress
was looped up, there was not the minutest detail that might not have
challenged and baffled criticism.

Royston Keene appreciated all this thoroughly. No man alive held the
stale old adage of "Beauty when unadorned," etc., in profounder scorn. A
pair of badly-fitting gloves, a soiled _collerette_, or a tumbled dress,
had cured more than one of the fever fits of his younger days; and he
was ten times as fastidious now.

He drew a long, slow breath of intense enjoyment, as a thirsty cricketer
may do after the first deep draught of claret-cup that rewards a two
hours' innings. "It's very refreshing, after weeks of total abstinence,
to see a woman who goes in for dress, and does it thoroughly well." He
had no time for more, for the others were almost within hearing.

When the introductions were over, Mrs. Danvers said she was tired, and
must rest a little. Very few words will do justice to her personal
appearance. Brevity, and breadth, and bluntness were her chief
characteristics, which applied equally to her figure, her face, and her
extremities, and, not unfrequently, to her speech too. Her health was
really infirm, but she never could attain the object of many an
invalid's harmless ambition--looking interesting. Illness made her
cheeks look pasty, but not pale; it could not fine down the coarsely
moulded features, or purify their ignoble outline. Her voice was against
her, certainly; perhaps this was the reason why, when she bemoaned
herself, so many irreverent and hard-hearted reprobates called it
"whining." It was very unfortunate; for few could be found, even in the
somewhat exacting class to which she belonged, more anxious and active
in enlisting sympathy. She was looking especially ill-tempered just
then, but Major Keene was not easily daunted, and he went in at her
straight and gallantly--about the weather, it is needless to say, both
being English. While Mrs. Danvers was disagreeing with him, Cecil took
her turn at inspection. Royston's name was familiar to her, of course,
for no one ever talked to Mrs. Molyneux for ten minutes without hearing
it. Though she had scarcely glanced at him in the morning, she had
decided that the tall, erect figure and the enormous mustache, with its
_crocs à la mousquetaire_, could only belong to Fanny's Household Word.
It was very odd--she had not a shade of a reason for it--but neither had
_she_ mentioned that rencontre to her friend. Perhaps they had so many
other things to talk about. She could scan him now more narrowly, for
his face was turned away from her. The result was satisfactory: when
Major Keene stood up on his feet, not even his habitual laziness could
disguise the fair proportions and trained vigor of a stalwart
man-at-arms; and be it known that Cecil's eye, though not so
professional as that of Good Queen Bess, loved to light upon such
dearly.

"Harry," Mrs. Molyneux observed, "Mr. Fullarton called while I was at
the _Lion d'Or_ this morning, and staid half an hour. He is so very
anxious to get Cecil to lead the singing in church."

"Yes; he has been, so to speak, throwing his hat up ever since he heard
you were coming, Miss Tresilyan," was the reply. "I suppose he
calculated on your vocal talents; there's the nuisance of having an
European reputation, you are always expected to do something for
somebody's benefit. I hope you'll indulge him, in charity to us. You
have no idea what it has been. Two Sundays ago, for instance, a Mr.
Rolleston and his wife volunteered to give us a lead. He didn't look
like a racing man; and yet he must have been. I never saw any thing more
artistically done. He went off at score, and made the pace so strong
that he cut them all down in the first two verses; and then the wife,
who had waited very patiently, came and won as she liked--nothing else
near her."

Cecil thought the illustration rather irreverent, and did not smile.
Keene saw this as he turned round.

"The turf slang has got into your constitution, I think, since you won
that Garrison Cup. It's very wrong of you not to cure yourself, when you
know how it annoys Mrs. Molyneux. He is right, though, Miss Tresilyan;
it is a case of real distress: our vocal destitution is pitiable; so, if
you have any benevolence to spare, do bestow it upon us, and your
petitioners will ever pray, etc."

Now it so happened that Fanny valued that same cup above all her
earthly possessions, as a mark of her husband's prowess. No testimonial
ever gave so much satisfaction to a popular rector's wife as that little
ugly mug afforded her, albeit it was the very wooden-spoon of racing
plate. So she first smiled consolingly at the culprit, who was already
contrite, and then looked up at the last speaker with amusement and
wonder glittering in her pretty brown eyes. She did not see what
interest the subject could have for Keene, who had only darkened the
chapel doors once since they came. Mr. Fullarton, indeed, was supposed
to have alluded to him several times--his discourses were apt to take a
personal and individualizing turn--but he had never had the satisfaction
of a "shot in the open" at that stout-hearted sinner.

Royston caught _la mignonne's_ glance, and understood it perfectly, but
not a line of his face moved. He was waiting for Cecil's reply very
anxiously: he had not heard her speak yet.

"Mr. Fullarton is rather rash," she said, "for our acquaintance is
slight, and I don't think he ever heard me sing. But I shall do my best
next Sunday. Every one ought to help in such a case as much as they
can."

"Yes, and you will do it so beautifully, dearest!" Cecil bit her lip,
and colored angrily. Nothing annoyed her like Mrs. Danvers' obtrusive
partisanship and uncouth flattery.

The gleam of pleasure that shone out on Keene's dark face for a moment,
only Harry interpreted rightly. He had scarcely listened to the words,
but he thought, "I knew I was right; I knew the voice would match the
rest!" When they moved on again, he walked by Miss Tresilyan's side, and
"still their speech was song."

His first remark was, "I hope you condescend to ballads sometimes? I
confess to not deriving much pleasure from those elaborate performances
where the voice tries dangerous feats of strength and agility: even at
the Opera they make one rather uncomfortable. Some of the very
scientific pieces suggest ideas of homicide or suicide, as the case may
be, according to my temper at the moment. Of course, I know less than
nothing about music; but I don't think this quite accounts for it. I
really believe that unsophisticated human nature revolts at the
_bravura_."

It was rare good fortune, so early in their acquaintance, to tempt forth
the brilliant smile that always betrayed when Cecil was well pleased.

"Mrs. Molyneux has told you what my tastes are?" she said. "I have never
tried _bravuras_ since I left off masters, and even then I only
attempted them under protest. But there are some quiet songs I like so
much that I sing them to myself when I am out of spirits, and it does me
good. Don't you like the old-fashioned ones best? I fancy, in those
days, people felt more what they wrote, and did not consider only how
the words would suit the composer."

"Probably," Keene replied. "If Charles Edward was of no other use, some
good strong lines were written about him. I do not think he lived in
vain. There are no partisans now. The only songs of the sort that I ever
saw with any _verve_ in them were some seditious Irish ones: rather
spirited--only they had not grammar enough to ballast them. The writer
either was, or wanted to be, transported. We are _all_ very fond of the
Guelphs--at least every body in decent society is--and that is just the
reason why we are not enthusiastic. We are all ready to 'die for the
throne,' etc., but we don't see any immediate probability of our
devotion being tested. So the laureate only rhymes loyally, and he at
stated seasons, and in a temperate, professional style."

"Please don't laugh at Tennyson," she interrupted; "I suppose it is very
easy to do so, for so many people try it; but I never listen to them if
I can help it."

"A premature warning," was the grave reply; "I had no such idea. I
admire Tennyson fully as much as you can do, and read him, I dare say,
much oftener. I was only speaking of his performances in the _manège_;
indeed, there is not enough of these to make a fair illustration, so I
was wrong to bring them in. When he settles to his stride, few of the
'cracks' of last century seem able to live with him. They have not set
all his best things to music. A clever composer might do great things, I
fancy, with 'The Sisters,' and the _refrain_ of 'the wind in turret and
tree.'"

"It would never be a very general favorite," Miss Tresilyan observed.
"It seems hardly right to set to music even an imaginary story of great
sin and sorrow. I saw a sketch of it some time ago. The murderess was
sitting on a cushion close to the earl's body, with her head bent so low
that one of her black tresses almost touched his smooth golden curls;
you could just see the hilt of the dagger under her left hand. That, and
the corpse's quiet, pale face were the only two objects that stood out
in relief; for the storm outside was stirring the window-curtains, and
making the one lamp flare irregularly. Her features were in the shadow,
and you had to fancy how hard, and rigid, and dreary they must be. It
was the merest sketch, but if it had been worked out, it would have made
a very terrible picture."

"A good conception," Royston said; "well, perhaps it would not be a
pleasant song to sing, but better, I should think, than some of those
dreadful sentimental ones. They are not much worse than the Strephon and
the Chloe class, in which our ancestors delighted; still, they are
indefensible. If our Lauras find Petrarchs now, they are usually very
beardless ones, and the green morocco cover, with its golden lock,
covers their indiscretions. Those who write love ditties for the piano
_must_ celebrate a shadow who can't be critical. Imagine any man
insulting a real woman of average intellect with 'Will you love me then
as now!'"

"Yes," she assented, "they are too absurd as a rule. They make our
cheeks burn, as if we were performing some very ridiculous part in low
comedy; but they do not warm one's heart, like 'Annie Laurie.'"

"Ah! it's curious how that always suggests itself as the standard to
compare others with: not fair, though, for it makes most of them sound
so feeble and effeminate. Douglas of Finland wrote it, you know, in the
campaign which finished him. Long before that the charming Annie had
given her promise true to Craigdarroch; and she had to keep it, _tant
bien que mal_, for it was pronounced in the Tron Church, instead of on
the braes of Maxwellton. I wonder if she inscribed those verses in her
scrap-book? I dare say she did, and sang them to her grandchildren, in a
cracked treble."

"I am so sorry you told me that," Cecil exclaimed; "my romance was quite
a different one, and not nearly so sad. I always fancied the man who
wrote those lines must have ended so happily! One would despise her
thoroughly if she could ever have forgiven herself, or forgotten him."

Her eyes brightened, and her cheeks flushed as she spoke. The momentary
excitement made her look so handsome that Keene's glance could not
withhold admiration; but there was no sympathy in it, any more than in
his cold, quiet tones.

"No, don't despise her," he said. "She could scarcely be expected to
wait for a corporal in the Scottish regiment. When the cavaliers sailed
from home they knew they were leaving every thing but honor behind them;
of course, their mistresses went with the other luxuries. They had not
many of these in the brigade, if we can believe history. Fortunately for
us (or we should have missed the song) Finland never knew of the 'fresh
fere' who dried the bright blue eyes so soon. He would not have carried
his pike so cheerily either, if his eyes had been good enough to see
across the German Ocean. Well, perhaps the story isn't true; very few
melodramatic legends are."

"I shall try not to believe it; but I am afraid you have destroyed an
illusion."

"You don't say so?" was the reply. "I regret it extremely. If I had but
known you carried such things about with you! Indeed, I will be more
careful for the future. We are out-walking the main-guard, I see. Shall
we wait for them here? It is a good point of view. One forgets that
there are two invalids to be considered."

Did Royston Keene speak thus purposely, on the principle of those
practiced periodical writers, who always leave their hero in extreme
peril, or their heroine on the verge of a moral precipice, in order to
keep our curiosity tense till the next number? If not, chance favored
him by producing the very effect he would have desired.

His companion's fair cheek flashed again, and this time a little
vexation had something to say to it. It was incontestably correct to
wait for the rest of the party, but she would have preferred originating
the suggestion. Besides, the conversation had begun to interest her; and
she liked being amused too well not to be sorry for its being cut short
abruptly. She thought Major Keene talked epigrammatically; and the
undercurrent of irony that ran through all he said was not so obtrusive
as to seriously offend her.

It was no light ordeal he had just passed through. First impressions are
not made on women of Cecil Tresilyan's class so easily as they are upon
guileless _débutantes_; but they are far more important and lasting. It
is useless attempting to pass off counterfeit coin on those expert
money-changers; but they value the pure gold all the more when it rings
sharp and true. It is always so with those who have once been Queens of
Beauty. A certain imperial dignity attaches to them long after they have
ceased to reign: over the brows that have worn worthily the diadem
there still hangs the phantasm of a shadowy crown. There need be nothing
of repellent haughtiness, or, what is worse, of evident condescension;
but, though they are perfectly gentle and good-natured, we risk our
little sallies and sarcasms with timidity, or at least diffidence;
feeling especially that a commonplace compliment would be an inexcusable
profanation. Our sword may be ready and keen enough against others, but
before _them_ we lower its point, as the robber did to Queen Margaret in
the lonely wood. We are conscious of treading on ground where stronger,
and wiser, and better men have knelt before us; and own that the altar
on which things so rare and precious have been laid has a right to be
fastidious as to the quality of incense.

Not the less did such glory of past royalty surround the Tresilyan
because she had abdicated, and never been dethroned.



CHAPTER VI.


There is something singularly refreshing in the enthusiasm that one
pretty and fascinating woman will display when speaking of another
highly gifted as herself--perhaps even more so. It seems to me there is
more honesty here, and less stage-trick and conventionality, than is to
be found in most manifestations of sentiment that take place in polite
society. A perfectly plain and unattractive female may, of course, be
sincerely attached to her beautiful friend, but her partisanship must be
somewhat theoretical; it has not the _esprit de corps_ which
characterizes the other class. These last can count victories enough of
their own to be able to sympathize heartily with the triumphs of their
fellows without envying or grudging them one. What does it matter if
Rose has slain her thousands and Lilian her tens of thousands? It is
always "so much scored up to our side."

Would you like to assist, invisibly, at one of those two-handed
"free-and-easies," where notes are compared and confidences exchanged,
where the fair warriors "shoulder their _fans_, and show how fields were
won?" Perhaps our vanity would suffer though our curiosity were
gratified. The proverb about listeners has come in since the time of
Gyges, it is true; but his luck was exceptional, and would not often
follow his Ring. Campaspe _en déshabille_ is not invariably kind. It is
a popular superstition that men are apt, at certain seasons, to speak
rather lightly, if not superciliously, of the beings whom they ought to
delight to honor. If so, be sure the medal has its reverse. When you
secured that gardenia from Amy's bouquet, or that ribbon from Helen's
glove trimming, you went home with a placid sense of self-gratulation,
flattering yourself you had done it rather diplomatically, without
compromising your boasted freedom by word or sign. Perhaps, two hours
later, you figured conspicuously in a train of shadowy captives adorning
the conqueror's ideal ovation. A change of color of which you were
unconscious, a tremulous pressure of fingers that you risked
involuntarily--a sentence that was meant to be careless and indifferent,
but ended by being earnest and imploring--all these were commented upon
in the select committee, and estimated at their proper value.

Very keen-sighted are those soft almond eyes ambushed behind their
trailing lashes, and from them the sternest stoic may not long conceal
his wound. The Knight of Persia never groaned, or shrank, or drooped his
crest when the quarrel struck him; but Amala needed only to look down to
see his blood red upon the waters of the ford. Some penalty must attach
itself to unauthorized intruders, even in thought, upon the _Cerealia_.
I don't wish to be disagreeable, or to suggest unpleasant misgivings to
the masculine mind, but--do you think we are always compassionated as
much as we deserve? I own to a horrible suspicion that our betrayals of
weakness form matter of exultation, and that our tenderest emotions are
not unfrequently derided.

Clearly this delightful sympathy can only exist where fancies, and
ambitions, and interests do not clash. They seldom need do so: there is
room enough for all. So much disposable devotion is abroad in this
world, that no one woman can monopolize it. It is a tolerably fair
handicap, on the whole; and even the second horse may land a very
satisfactory stake. Never was night when the moon shone so dazzlingly as
to blind us to the brilliancy of "a star or two beside." Bothwell, and
Châtelet, and Rizzio were not the only love-stricken ones in Holyrood.
Had the Queen of Scots been thrice as charming, glances, and sighs, and
words enough would still have been found to satisfy the most exacting of
her Maries.

Fanny Molyneux was a capital specimen of the thorough-paced partisan.
She was terribly indignant at dinner on that first day of their meeting,
when Major Keene would not endorse _all_ her raptures about her
favorite. He assented to every thing, certainly; but though his
approbation was decided it was perfectly calm. He intrenched himself
behind his natural and acquired _sang-froid_, and the fair assailant
could not force those lines.

"Don't be unreasonable," Royston said at last. "As Macdonough always
says when he has lost the first two rubbers, 'the night is young and
drink is plenty.' Admiration will develop itself if you only give it
time. I have serious thoughts already of adding another to the many
little poems that must have been written about Miss Tresilyan. Shall I
send it to the 'United Service Gazette?' It would be a great credit to
our branch of the profession. No dragoon has published a rhyme since
Lovelace, I believe. I've got as far as the first line:

  Ah, Cecil! hide those eyes of blue."

"I think I've heard something very like that before," Fanny answered,
laughing. "She deserves a prettier compliment than a _réchauffé_."

"Have you heard it before? Well, I shouldn't wonder. You don't expect
one to be original and enthusiastic at the same moment, when both are
out of one's line? I own it, though. Your princess merits all the
vassalage she has found--better than she will meet with here--if only
for the perfection of her costume. That _is_ a triumph. Honor to the
artist who built her hat. I drink to him now, and I wish the Burgundy
were worthier of the toast. (Hal, this Corton does not improve.) I
should advise you to secure the address of her _bottier_. You know her
well enough to ask for it, perhaps? It must be a secret."

"Then you have not found out how very clever she is?"

"Pardon me," was the reply; "I can imagine Miss Tresilyan perfectly well
educated; so well, that she might dispense with carrying about a living
voucher in the shape of that dreadful _ex-institutrice_. I never knew
what makes very nice women cling so to very disagreeable governesses.
Perhaps there is a satisfaction in patronizing where you have been
ruled, and in conferring favors where you have only received
'impositions'--a pleasant consciousness of returning good for evil.
There is no other rational way of accounting for it."

_La mignonne_ was not indignant now, as might have been expected; but
she gazed at the speaker long and more searchingly than was her wont,
with something very like pity in her kind, earnest eyes.

"I suppose you would not sneer so at every thing if you could help it,"
she said. "I am not wise enough to do so; but I don't envy you."

Royston's hard cold face changed for an instant, and the faintest flush
lingered there, about as long as your breath would upon polished steel.
It was not the first time that one of her random shafts had struck him
home. All the sarcasm had died out of his voice as he answered slowly--

"Don't you envy me? You are right there. And you think you are not wise
enough to be cynical? If there was any school to teach us how to turn
our talents to the best account, I know which of us two would have most
to learn." When he spoke again it was in his usual manner, but upon
another and perfectly indifferent subject.

Harry had taken no part in the discussion. Always languid, toward night
he generally felt especially disinclined to any bodily or mental
exertion. At such times there was nothing he liked so well as to lie on
his sofa and assist at a passage-of-arms between his wife and Keene,
encouraging either party occasionally with an approving smile, but
preserving a cautious and complete neutrality. On the present occasion
he had his own reasons for not being disappointed about the latter's
appreciation of Miss Tresilyan. Had he felt any such misgivings, they
would have vanished later in the evening.

The doctor was a stern man; but he must have been more than human to
have stood fast against the entreaties and cajolement with which his
patient backed up the petition, "to be allowed just one cigar before
going to roost." The prospect of this compensating weed had supported
poor Harry through the dullness and privations of many monotonous days.
As the appointed time drew nigh, he would freshen up visibly, just like
the camels when, staggering fetlock deep through the sand-wastes, they
scent the water or sight the clump of palms. Was there more in all this
than could be traced to the mere soothing influence of the nicotine and
flavor of the tobacco? Might not this one old habit still indulged have
been the only link that sensibly connected the invalid with those
pleasant days, when he enjoyed life so heartily, with so many cheery
comrades to keep him in countenance--when he would have laughed at the
idea of any thing short of a sabre-cut, a shot-wound, or a rattling fall
over an "oxer," bringing him down to that state of helpless dependence,
when our conception of womankind resolves itself into the ministering
angel? Harry certainly could not have told you if this were so; for an
inquiry into the precise nature of his sensations would have posed him
at any time quite as completely as a question in hydrostatics or plane
trigonometry. At any rate, the consumption of The Cigar was a very
important ceremony with him; not conducted in the thoughtless and
improvident spirit of men who smoke a dozen or so a day, but partaking
rather of the character of a sacrifice, at once festal and solemn. There
were times, as we have said before, when he would break out of bounds
recklessly; but upon such occasions he gave himself no time to reflect;
so there was nothing then of calm and deliberate enjoyment; and these
escapades grew more and more rare as the warnings of his constitution
spoke more imperiously.

Among the very few traits of amiability that Major Keene had ever
displayed, were the sacrifices of personal convenience he would make for
Harry Molyneux. He had given up a good many engagements to see his
comrade through that especial hour; and, if the day had left any
available geniality in him, it was sure to come out then. Upon this
occasion, however, he was remarkably silent, and answered several times
at random as if his thoughts were roving elsewhere: they were not
unpleasant ones, apparently, for he smiled twice or thrice to himself,
much less icily than usual. At last he spoke abruptly, after a long
pause--Miss Tresilyan's name had not once been mentioned--"Hal, you know
that old hackneyed phrase, about 'a woman to die for?' I think we have
seen one to-day who is worth living for; which is saying a good deal
more."

"You like her, then?" Molyneux asked.

"Yes--I--like--her." The words came out as if each one had been weighed
to a grain; and his lip put on that curious smile once more.

Harry did not feel quite satisfied. He would have preferred hearing
more, and inferring less; but acting upon his invariable rose-colored
principle, he would not admit any disagreeable surmises, and went to bed
under the impression that "it was all right," and that Royston was in a
fair way toward being repaid for the sacrifices he had made to
friendship.



CHAPTER VII.


The Saturday night is waning, but Molyneux shows no signs of moving yet
from Keene's apartments. He has been a model of prudence though so far,
as to his drinks, and, in good truth, their companion is not amusing, or
instructive, or convivial enough, to tempt or to excuse transgression.

Dick Tresilyan looks about twenty-five, strongly and somewhat heavily
built; rather over the middle height, even with the decided stoop of his
broad, round shoulders. He carries far too much flesh to please a
professional eye, and by the time he is fifty will be very unwieldy; but
there is more activity in him than might be supposed, and he walks
strongly and well, as you would find if you tried to keep pace with him
through the turnips on a sultry September day. His face, without a
pretension to beauty in itself, suggests it--just the face that makes
you say, "that man must have a handsome sister;" indeed, it bears an
absurdly strong family likeness to Cecil's, amounting to a parody. But
the outline of feature which in her is so fine and clear, is dull and
filled out even to coarseness. It reminded one of looking at the same
landscape, first through the medium of a bright blue sky, and then
through driving mist, when crag, and cliff, and wood still show
themselves, but blurred and dimly. His hair and eyes are, by several
shades, the lighter of the two. The great difference is in the mouth.
Cecil's is so delicately chiseled, so apt at all expressions, from
tender to provocative, that many consider it one of her best points; her
brother's is so weak and undecided in its character (or rather want of
character), that it would make a more intellectual face vacuous and
inane.

The "Tresilyan constitution" holds its own gallantly against the inroads
of hardish living, and Dick looks the picture of rude health. Men
endowed with an invincible obtuseness of intellect and feeling, have no
mental wear and tear, and if the machine starts in good order, it seems
as if it might last out indefinitely; so it would, I dare say, if it
were not for a propensity to drink, and otherwise to abuse their bodily
advantages, peculiar to this class. But for this neutralizing element in
their composition perhaps they would live as long as crows or elephants,
and we should be visited by a succession of stupid Old Parrs; which
would be a very dreadful dispensation indeed. The present subject takes
a good deal of exercise, to be sure, and naturally, few cares have ever
troubled him; he has always had more money than he knew what to do with,
and--as for serious annoyances, a certain train of thought is necessary
to form them, while our poor Dick's brain is utterly incapable of
holding more than one idea at a time. Whatever may happen to be the
dominant thought, reigns with an undivided empire, and will not endure a
rival even near its throne, till it is violently thrust out and
annihilated by its successor, on the principle of

  The priest that slays the slayer,
    And shall himself be slain.

He never originates a conception, of course, but is always open to a
fair offer in the way of a suggestion from any body, and adopts it with
the blind zeal of a proselyte. It follows that chance occurrences may
bother him for the moment, but he is saved an infinity of trouble by
being independent of foresight and memory. To this last defect there is
one exception. If he is crossed, or vexed, or injured, he cherishes
against the offender a dull, misty, purposeless sort of resentment,
scarcely amounting to animosity, but can not explain, either to you or
to himself, _why_ he does so. Fortunately he is tolerably harmless and
unsuspicious, for to reconcile him would be simply impossible.

Not one _mésalliance_ could be detected in the main line of the
Tresilyans; but there must have been a blot somewhere, a link of base
metal in the golden chain, of which an adulteress and her confessor
could have told. Perhaps the son of the transgressor bore no stigma on
his forehead, and ruffled it among his peers as bravely as the best of
them, never witting of his mother's dishonor; but the stain had come out
in this generation. Even the faults and vices of that strong, stubborn
race were curiously distorted and caricatured in their representative.
His pride, for instance, chiefly displayed itself in a taste for low
company, where he could safely lord it over his inferiors. He did this
whenever he had a chance, but, to do him justice, by no means in an
ill-natured or bullying way. He had resided almost entirely on his own
estates; and, during his rare visits to London, had not extended his
knowledge of the world beyond the experience that may be picked up by
frequenting divers equivocal places of public resort, and from
occasional forays on the extreme frontier of the _demi-monde_. The
result was, that in general society he felt himself in a false position,
and was evidently anxious to escape into a more congenial atmosphere.

Can you guess why I have lingered so long over a portrait that might
well have been dispatched in three lines? It is because, in the eyes of
those who knew Cecil Tresilyan, some interest must attach itself to the
basest thing that bears her name; it is because there are men alive who
think that the broidery of her skirt, or the trimming of her mantle,
deserve describing better than the shield of Pelides; who hold that one
of her dark chestnut tresses is worthier of a place among the stars than
imperial Berenicè's hair. A lame excuse, I admit, to the many that never
saw her--even in their dreams.

On this particular evening Dick was supremely happy. Keene had got him
upon shooting--the only subject on which that unlucky man could talk
without committing himself; and, by the time he was well into his fourth
tumbler of iced Cogniac and water, he was achieving a rare
conversational triumph; for he had left off answering monosyllabically,
had volunteered an observation or two, and even ventured to banter his
companions about their not availing themselves sufficiently of the
sporting resources in the neighborhood.

"There are several boars near here," he was saying; "they shoot them
sometimes, and you can go if you manage properly. I wonder you men never
found that out."

"Ah! they _did_ talk a good deal about pigs," Royston remarked
indifferently. "But, you see, we used to stick them in the Deccan. The
first time I heard of their way of doing it here, I felt very like
Deering when they asked him to shoot a fox in Scotland. Tom Deering, you
know, the old boy that has hunted with the Warwickshire and Atherstone
for thirty seasons, and could tell you the names, ages, and colors of
the hounds better than he could those of his own small
family--pedigrees, too, I shouldn't wonder."

Dick tried to look as if he had known the man from his childhood, and
succeeded but very moderately.

"Well," the other went on, "they were beating a cover for roe, and the
gillie suggested a particular pass, as the most likely to get a shot at
what he called a 'tod.' It was some time before Tom realized the full
horror of the proposition: when he did, he shut his eyes like a bull
that is going to charge, and literally _fell_ upon the duinhe-wassel,
bellowing savagely. He had no more idea of using his hands than a
fractious baby; but it is rather a serious thing when sixteen stone of
solid flesh becomes possessed by a devil. Robin Oig was overborne by the
onset, and did not forget the effects of it that season."

Tresilyan laughed applaudingly, as he always did when he could
understand more than half a story.

"I suppose it's pretty good fun hunting them out there?" he said, going
off at score, as usual, on the fresh theme.

"Not bad," Keene replied; "sharp going while it lasts, and a little
knack wanted to stick them scientifically. Some say it's more exciting
than fox-hunting, but that's childish; I never heard a man assert it
whose liver was not on the wane. It's more dangerous, certainly. A
header into the Smite or the Whissendine is nothing to a fall backward
into a nullah, with a beaten horse on the top of you."

Molyneux woke up from a reverie. The familiar word stirred his blood
like a trumpet, and it flashed up brightly in his pale cheek as he
spoke. "Ah! we have had a brushing gallop or two in the gay old times,
before we got married, and invalided, and all that sort of thing. Dick,
I should like to tell you how I got my first spear."

"Of course you would," the major said, resignedly; "it's my fault for
starting the subject. Get over it quickly then, please." He did not stop
him, though, as he would have done on another occasion--_pour cause_.

"I had been entered some time at boar," Harry began, "before I had any
luck at all. Ride as hard as I would at the start, the old hands _would_
creep up at the finish, just in time to get 'first blood.' I gave long
prices for my Arabs, too, and didn't spare them. I own I got
discouraged, and thought the whole thing a robbery, a delusion, and a
snare. One day, however, we had a good deal of deep, marshy ground at
first, and a quick gallop afterward, which served my light weight well.
I had it all to myself when he came to bay; so I went in, full of
confidence, and gave point, as I thought, well behind the
shoulder-blade. I did not calculate on the pace we were going, and I was
just three inches too forward. My horse was as young and hot as I was,
and though he had no idea of flinching, didn't know how to take care of
himself. The instant the brute felt the steel he wheeled short round,
and cut The Emperor's forelegs clean from under him. We all came down in
a heap; my spear flew yards away; and there I was on my face, clear of
my horse, with my right wrist badly sprained. Would you have fancied the
position? _I_ didn't. The devil was too blown to begin offensive
operations at once, for we had burst him along pretty sharply, but he
stood right over me, champing and rasping his tusks, and getting his
wind for a good vicious rip. I felt his boiling foam dropping upon me as
I lay quite still. I thought that was the best thing to do. All at once
hoofs came up at a hard gallop; something swept above me with a rush;
there was a short, smothered sound like a tap on a padded door, and then
the beast stretched himself slowly out across my legs, and shivered, and
died. That man opposite to you had leapt his horse over us both, and,
while he was in the air, speared the boar through the spinal marrow. If
he had been struck any where else he might still have torn me badly
before the life was out of him. Neatly done, wasn't it?"

Harry drank off the remains of his sherry and seltzer rather excitedly,
and then sighed. He was thinking how often, in other days, when health
and nerves were to the fore, he had drained a stronger and deeper
draught to "Snaffle, spur, and spear!"

"A mere stage trick," Keene remarked; "effective, but not in the least
dangerous, with a horse under you as steady as poor old Mahmoud. May his
rest be glorious! Gilbert killed a tiger that had got loose in the same
way, which _was_ something to talk about, for even clean-bred Arabs
don't like facing tigers. You made rather better time than usual over
that story to-night, Hal; it's practice, I suppose."

Tresilyan's eyes fastened on the speaker, full of a heavy, pertinacious
admiration. You might have told him of the noblest action of generosity
or self-denial that ever constituted the stock in trade of a moral hero,
and he would have listened patiently, but without one responsive
emotion. Bodily prowess and daring he could appreciate. Keene's physical
_prestige_ was just the thing to captivate his limited imagination;
besides which the ground was prepared for the seed-time. He had some
soldier friends, and dining with these at the "Swashing Buckler," he had
heard some of those club chronicles in which the Cool Captain's name
figured prominently.

The latter interpreted perfectly well the gaze that was riveted upon
him, without being in the least flattered by it. He felt, perhaps, the
same sort of satisfaction that one experiences when, fighting for the
odd trick, the first card in our hand is a heavy trump. Dick's thorough
and undivided allegiance once secured, was a good card in the game he
was playing at the moment. Whatever his thoughts might have been, his
face told no tales. He had been flooring glass for glass with his guest
till the liquor began to work its way into the cracks even of such a
seasoned vessel; but, for any outward or visible sign in feature,
speech, or manner, he might have been assisting at a teetotaller's
_soirée_.

Very often--late on guest-nights, or other tournaments of deep drinking,
where Trojan and Tyrian met to do battle for the credit of their
respective corps--the calm, rigid face, never flushing beyond a clear
swarthy brown, and the cold, bright, inevitable eyes, had stricken
terror into the hearts of bacchanalian Heavies, and given consolation,
if not confidence, to the Hussars, who were failing fast: these knew
that though their own brains might be reeling and their legs
rebelliously independent, their single champion was invincible. As the
last of the Enomotæ went down, he saw Othryades standing steadfastly,
with never a trace of wound or weakness, still able and willing to write
[Greek: NIKH] on his shield.

When our poor Dick was once thoroughly impressed, for the first time,
with awe or admiration, either for man or woman, he generally fell into
a species of trance, from which it was exceedingly difficult to bring
him round. He would have sat there, staring stupidly, till morning, with
perfect satisfaction to himself, if Molyneux had not attacked him with a
direct question, "How long do you think of staying at Dorade? And have
you made any plans afterward?"

_Le mouton qui rêvait_ roused himself with an effort, and searched the
bottom of his empty glass narrowly for a reply. Eventually he succeeded
in finding one:

"Cecil talks about two months; then we are to go on by Nice, Genoa,
Florence, Rome, and Naples, and so come back by--Italy." He had got up
the first names by rote, and run them off glibly enough, but was
evidently at fault about the last one. I fancy he had some vague idea of
Austrian troops being quartered in these regions, and looked upon
Hesperia in the light of an obscure state or moderate-sized town
somewhere in the north of Europe.

Harry was balked in his inclination to laugh; the rising smile was
checked upon his lip, just in time, by a glance from his chief, severely
authoritative.

"Italy?" the latter said, without a muscle moving; "well, I shouldn't
advise you to stay long there. It's rather a small place, and very
stupid; no society whatever. The others will amuse you, as you have
never seen them."

He rose as he spoke the last words. Perhaps he thought he had done that
night "enough for profit and more than enough for glory." The Cool
Captain seldom suffered himself to be bored without an adequate object
very clearly in view.

"Hal, I am going to turn you out. It is far too late for you to be
sitting up, and we have a good deal to do to-morrow."

Molyneux did not quite comprehend what extraordinary labors were before
any of them, but he rose without making an objection, and Tresilyan
prepared to accompany him. Dick considered that individually he had been
remarkably brilliant, and had left a favorable impression behind him.
But all this newly-acquired confidence, and much strong drink were not
sufficient to embolden him to risk, as yet, a _tête-à-tête_ with Royston
Keene.

Long after they had departed the major sat gazing steadfastly at the
logs burning on the hearth. If he had gone straight to bed, the enormous
dullness of one of the party would have weighed him down like a
nightmare.

Is there one of us who can not remember having seen prettier pictures in
a flame-colored setting than the Royal Academy has ever shown him? What
earthly painter could emulate or imitate the coquettish caprice of light
and shadow, that enhances the charms, and dissembles all possible
defects in those fair, fleeting Fiamminas? Something like this effect
was to be found in the miniatures that were in fashion a dozen years
ago; where part only of a sweet face and a dangerously eloquent eye
looked at you out of a wreath of dusky cloud, that shrouded all the rest
and gave your imagination play. Truly it was not so utterly wrong, the
ancient legend that wedded Hephæstus to Aphroditè. The Minnesingers and
their coevals spoke fairly enough about Love, and probably had studied
their subject; but, rely upon it, passionate Romance died in Germany
when once the close stoves prevailed. Don't you envy the imagination of
the dreamer who could trace a shape of loveliness in those dreadful
glazed tiles?

Being rather a _Guebre_ myself, I once got enthusiastic on the subject
in the company of an eccentric character, who very soon made me repent
my expansiveness. If he had committed any atrocious crime (he was a
small sandy-haired creature, and wore colored spectacles), no one knew
of it, and he never hinted at its nature; but his whole ideas seemed
tinged with a vague gloomy remorse that made him a sadder, but scarcely
a wiser or better man. Perhaps it was a monomania; let us hope so. On
that occasion he heard me out quite patiently; then the blue glasses
raised themselves to the level of my eyes, and I felt convinced their
owner was staring spectrally behind them. Considering that he measured
about thirty-four inches round the chest, his voice was extraordinarily
deep and solemn: it sounded preternaturally so as he said very slowly,
"There is one face that does not often leave me alone here, and will
follow me, I think, when I go to my appointed place: I see it now, as I
shall see it throughout all ages--always _by firelight_."

I felt very wroth, for surely to suggest a new and unpleasant train of
ideas is an infamous abuse of a _tête-à-tête_. I told my friend so; and,
as he declined to retract or apologize, or in any wise explain himself,
departed with the conviction that, though a clever man and an original
thinker, he was by no means an exhilarating or instructive companion. I
should have borne him a grudge to this day, but as I was walking home,
decidedly disconsolate (there's no such bore as having a pet fancy
spoiled, it is like having your favorite hunter sent home with two
broken knees), it suddenly occurred to me that if the penitent was in
the habit of looking at the fire through those blue barnacles, it was
not likely there would be much rose-color in his visions. In great
triumph I retraced my steps, and knocked the culprit up to put in this
"demurrer." I flatter myself it floored him. He did attempt some lame
excuse about "taking his spectacles off at such times," but I refused to
listen to a word, and marched out of the place with drums beating and
colors flying, first exasperating him by the assurance of my complete
forgiveness. Since then, if sitting alone, _ligna super foco largè
reponens_, I involuntarily recur to that ill-favored conception, it
suffices to contrast with it the grotesque appearance of its originator,
and the pale phantom evanisheth.

I have no excuse to offer for this long and egotistical anecdote, except
the pendant which Maloney used to attach to his ultra-_marine_
stories--"The point of it is, that--it's strictly true."



CHAPTER VIII.


Another and a much more reputable Council of Three sat that night in
Miss Tresilyan's apartments. Mr. Fullarton represented the male element
there, and was in great force. The late accession to his flock had
decidedly raised his spirits: he knew how materially it would strengthen
his hands; but, independently of all politic consideration, Cecil's
grace and beauty exercised a powerful influence over him. Do not
misconstrue this. I believe a thought had never crossed his mind
relating to any living woman that his own wife might not have known and
approved; nevertheless was it true, that Mr. Fullarton liked his
penitents to be fair: not a very eccentric or unaccountable taste
either. It is a necessity of our nature to take more delight in the
welfare and training of a beautiful and refined being, than in that of
one who is coarse and awkward and ugly. Even with the merely animal
creation we should experience this; and not above one divine in fifty is
_more_ than human, after all.

So, gazing on the fair face and queenly figure that were then before
him, and feeling a sort of vested interest in their possessor, the heart
of the pastor was merry within him; and he, so to speak, caroused over
the profusely-sugared tea and well-buttered _galette_ with a decorous
and regulated joviality; ever as he drank casting down the wreaths of
his florid eloquence at the feet of his entertainers. In any atmosphere
whatsoever, no matter how uncongenial, those garlands were sure to
bloom. His zeal was such a hardy perennial that the most chilling
reception could not damage its vitality. Principle and intention were
both all right, of course, but they were clumsily carried out, and the
whole effect was to remind one unpleasantly of the clockmaker puffing
his wares. At the most unseasonable times and in the most incongruous
places, Mr. Fullarton always had an eye to business, introducing and
inculcating his tenets with an assurance and complacency peculiar to
himself. Sometimes he would adopt the familiarly conversational,
sometimes the theatrically effective style; but it never seemed to cross
his mind that either could appear ridiculous or grotesque. Some absurd
stories were told of his performances in this line. On one occasion,
they say, he addressed his neighbor at dinner, to whom he had just been
introduced, abruptly thus: "You see, what we want is--more faith," in
precisely the manner and tone of a _gourmet_ suggesting that "the soup
would be all the better for a little more seasoning;" or of Mr. Chouler
asserting, "the farmers must be protected, sir." On another, meeting for
the first time a very pious and wealthy old man (I believe a joint-stock
bank director), he proceeded to sound him as to his "experiences." The
unsuspecting elder, rather flattered by the interest taken in his
welfare, and never dreaming that such communications could be any thing
but privileged and confidential, parted with his information pretty
freely. Mr. Fullarton was so delighted at what he had heard that he
turned suddenly round to the mixed assembly and cried out. "Why, here's
a blessed old Barzillai!" His face was beaming like that of an
enthusiastic numismatist who stumbles upon a rare Commodus or an
authentic Domitian. There were several people present of his own way of
thinking; but some, even among those, felt very ill afterward from their
efforts to repress their laughter. The miserable individual thus endued
with the "robe of honor" would have infinitely preferred the most
scandalously abusive epithet to that fervid compliment. He would have
parted with half his bank shares at a discount (they were paying about
14 per cent. then--you can get them tolerably cheap now) to have been
able to sink into his shoes on the spot; indeed these were almost large
enough to form convenient places of refuge. It had a very bad effect on
him: he never again unbosomed himself on any subject to man, woman, or
child. Even in his last illness--though he must have had one or two
troublesome things on his mind, unless he had peculiar ideas, as to the
propriety of ruining widows and orphans--he declined to commit himself,

  But locked the secret in his breast,
  And died in silence, unconfessed.

On that Saturday night, to one of the party at all events, Mr.
Fullarton's presence was very welcome. Mrs. Danvers was somewhat of a
hard drinker in theology, and, like other intemperate people, was not
over particular as to the quality of the liquors set before her,
provided only that they were hot and strong, and unstinted. The
succulent and highly-flavored eloquence to which she was listening
suited her palate exactly, besides which, the chaplain's peculiar
opinions happened to coincide perfectly with her own. As the evening
progressed she got more and more exhilarated; and at length could not
forbear intimating "how sincerely she valued the privilege of sitting
under so eminent a divine."

The latter made a scientific little bow, elaborated evidently by long
practice, expressive at once of gratification and humility.

"A privilege, if such it be, dear Mrs. Danvers, that some of my
congregation estimate but very lightly. You would hardly believe how
many members of my flock I scarcely know, except by name. It is a sore
temptation to discouragement. I fear that Major Keene's pernicious
example is indeed contagious, and that his evil communications have
corrupted many--alas! too many." He rounded off the period with a
ponderous professional sigh.

Miss Tresilyan was leaning back in her arm-chair: as the wood-fire
sprang up brightly and sank again suddenly, her great deep eyes seemed
to flash back the fitful gleams. It was long since she had spoken. In
truth, she had been drawing largely upon her piety at first, to make
herself feel interested, and, when this failed, upon her courtesy, to
appear so; but she was conscious of relapses more and more frequent into
the dreary regions of Boredom. Every body _would_ agree with every body
else so completely! A bold contradiction, a stinging sarcasm, or a
caustic retort, would have been worth any thing just then to take off
the cloying taste of the everlasting honey. She roused herself at these
last words enough to ask languidly, "What has he done?"

There could not be a simpler question, nor one put more carelessly; but
it was rather a "facer" to Mr. Fullarton, who dealt in generalities as a
rule, and objected to being brought to book about
particulars--considering, indeed, such a line of argument as indicative
of a caviling and narrow-minded disposition in his interlocutor.

"Well," he said, not without hesitation, "Major Keene has only once been
to church; and, I believe, has spoken scoffingly since of the discourse
he heard delivered there. Yet I may say I was more than usually
'supported' on that occasion." The man's thorough air of conviction
softened somewhat the absurd effect of his childish vanity.

Cecil would have been sorry to confess how much excuse she felt inclined
to admit just then for the sins both of commission and omission--sins
that, at another time, when her faculties were fresh and her judgment
unbiassed, she might have looked upon as any thing but venial. Ah! Mr.
Fullarton, the seed you have scattered so profusely to-night is
beginning to bear fruit already you never dreamed of. Beet-root and
turnips will not succeed on _every_ soil. It must be long before a
remunerative crop of these can be gathered from the breezy upland which
for centuries, till the heather was burned, has worn a robe of
uncommercial but imperial purple.

Nevertheless, Miss Tresilyan frowned perceptibly. It looked very much as
if Keene had been amusing himself at her expense when he affected an
interest in her leading the choir. Unwittingly to "make sport for the
men of war in Gath" by no means suited the fancy of that haughty ladye.

"It is very wrong of him not to come to church," she observed after a
pause (for the sin of sarcasm disapproval was not so ready, and she made
the most of scanty means of condemnation). "Yet I scarcely think he can
be actively hostile. You know he almost lives with the Molyneuxs, and
has great influence with them. Do they not attend regularly?"

Mr. Fullarton admitted that they did. "But," said he, "constant
intercourse with such a man must ere long have its injurious effect.
Indeed, I felt it my bounden duty to warn Mrs. Molyneux on the subject.
I grieve to say she treated my admonition with a very unwarrantable
levity."

Mrs. Danvers's sympathetic groan was promptly at the service of the
speaker; fortunately, turning to thank her for it by a look, he missed
detecting her pupil's smile. She could fancy so well Fanny's little
_moue_, combining amusement, vexation, and impertinence, while
undergoing the ecclesiastical censure.

"You must be merciful to Mrs. Molyneux," she remarked, with a demure
gravity that did her credit under the circumstances. "She is my greatest
friend, you know. When a wife is so very fond of her husband, surely
there is some excuse for her adopting his prejudices for and against
people?"

The pastor brightened up suddenly: he had just recollected another fact
to fire off against the _bête noir_.

"I forgot to tell you that Major Keene is much addicted to play, and,
besides, is intimate with the Vicomte de Châteaumesnil. _Noscitur a
sociis._" The reverend man was an indifferent classic, but he had a way
of flashing scraps out of grammars and _Analecta Minora_ before women
and others unlikely to be down upon him, as if they were quotations from
some recondite author.

"You can not mean that cripple who is drawn about in a wheel-chair?"
Cecil asked. "We saw him to-day, only for a moment, for he drew his
cloak over his face as we passed. I never saw such a melancholy wreck,
and I pitied him so much that I fear he will haunt me."

Far deeper would have been the compassion had she guessed at the pang
that shot straight to Armand's heart as he veiled his blasted features
and haggard eyes, feeling bitterly that such as he were not worthy to
look upon her in the glory of her brilliant beauty.

"A notorious atheist and profligate," was the reply. "We can not regard
his sore affliction in any other light than a judgment--a manifest
judgment, dear Miss Tresilyan."

There was grave disapproval and just a shade of contempt in the face of
one of his hearers as she said, "The hand of God is laid so heavily
there that man may surely forbear him." But Mrs. Danvers struck in to
her favorite's rescue, rejoicing in an opportunity of displaying her
partisanship.

"A judgment, of course. It would be sinful to doubt it. Besides, do not
_others_ suffer?" (She cast up her eyes here pointedly, as though she
said, "There may be more perfect saints, but if you want a fair specimen
of the fine old English martyr--_me voici_.") "Cecil, my love, I wonder
you did not perceive Major Keene's true character at once. You were
talking to him a good deal the other day."

"He did not favor me with any remarkably heretical opinions," Miss
Tresilyan replied, carelessly. "Perhaps they have been exaggerated. At
all events, he is not likely to do us much harm. Don't you think _we_
are safe, Bessie? Dick does not care much for play; and his ideas on
religious subjects are so very simple that it would be hard to unsettle
them."

Clearly she thought the topic was exhausted, but it had a strange
fascination for Mr. Fullarton. One of the many good-natured people, who
especially abound in those semi-English Continental towns, had been kind
enough to quote or misquote to him a remark of Royston's about that
sermon; and on this topic the chaplain was very vulnerable. He would
have forgiven a real substantial injury far sooner than a depreciation
of his discourses.

Was he one whit weaker or more susceptible than his fellows? I think
not. All the philosophy on earth will not teach us to endure without
wincing a mosquito's bite. The hardiest hero bears about him one spot
where an ivy-leaf clinging intercepted the petrifying water--a tiny
out-of-the-way spot, not very near the head or heart, but palpable
enough to be stricken by Paris's arrow or Hagen's spear. Cæsar is very
sensitive about that bald crown of his, and fears lest even the laurel
wreath should cover it but meagrely. Many wars, since that which brought
Ilium to the dust, might have been traced to slighted vanity, and many
excellent Christians have waxed quite as wroth as the queen of
heathenish heaven about the _spretæ injuria formæ_. (Do you think this
is a peculiarly feminine failing? I have seen a first-class man and
Ireland scholar look massacres at the child of his bosom friend, when
the unconscious innocent made disagreeable remarks on his personal
appearance, alluding particularly to the shape of his nose, which was
_not_ Phidian. He has since been heard to speak of that terrible deed in
Bethlehem as a painful but justifiable measure of political expediency;
and is inclined, on many grounds, to excuse and sympathize with the stem
Idumean.) The insult offered to the embassador in Tarentum was only the
outbreak of a single drunkard's brutality, but all the wealth of the
fair city of Phalanthus did not suffice to pay the account for washing
the soiled robe white again; and blood enough ran down her streets to
have quenched some blazing temples before the Romans would give her a
receipt in full.

Arguing from these _data_, we may conclude that Mr. Fullarton was
laboring under a slight delusion in believing (which he did sincerely)
that only a pure and disinterested zeal for the welfare of his flock
impelled him to say, "I shall make it my business to inquire more fully
into Major Keene's antecedents. I am convinced there is something
discreditable in the background, and it may be well to be armed with
proofs in case of need."

Though _he_ may have deceived himself completely as to the nature of the
spirit that possessed him, Cecil Tresilyan was more clear-sighted. She
had not failed to remark a certain vicious twinkle in the speaker's eye
and a deeper flush on his ruddy countenance, betokening rather a mundane
resentment. Her lip began to curl.

"How very disagreeable some of your duties must be. No doubt you
interpret them correctly, but in this case perhaps it would be well to
be _quite_ sure before acting on the offensive. If I were a man--even a
clergyman--I don't think I should like to have Major Keene for my
declared enemy."

The text with which the chaplain enforced his reply--expressive of a
determination to keep his own line at all hazards, strong in the
rectitude of his cause--had better not be quoted here, especially as it
was not apposite enough to "lay" the contradictory spirit that was alive
in his fair opponent. (How very angry Cecil would have been if she had
been told ten minutes ago that such an expression would apply to her!)
The temptation to answer sharply was so powerful that she took refuge in
distant coldness.

"You quite misunderstand me, Mr. Fullarton. I never dreamed of offering
advice; it would have been excessively presumptuous in me, especially as
I have not the faintest interest in the subject we have been talking
about. Need we discuss it any longer? I think Major Keene has been too
highly honored already."

That weary look was so manifest now on the beautiful face that even the
chaplain, albeit tenacious of his position as a sea-anemone, felt that,
for once, he had overstaid his time and was periling his popularity. So,
after an expansive benediction, and an entreaty that they would be early
at church on the morrow, he went "to his own place."

With a sigh of admiration--"What an excellent man, and how well he
talks!" said Bessie Danvers.

With a sigh of relief--"He talks a great deal, and it is very late,"
said Cecil Tresilyan.



CHAPTER IX.


From his "coign of vantage" in the reading-desk the next morning, Mr.
Fullarton surveyed a crowded congregation, serenely complacent and
hopeful, as a farmer in August looking down from the hill-side on golden
billows of waving grain. Visitors had been pouring in rather fast during
the week; and there was a vague, general impression, which no individual
would have owned, that they were to hear something unusually good. For
once expectation was not to be disappointed--a remarkable fact, when one
considers how much dissatisfaction is created, as a rule, in the popular
mind, by the shortcomings of eclipses, processions, Vesuvian eruptions,
new operas, and other advertised attractions, natural and artificial.
The singing was really a success. Miss Tresilyan's magnificent voice did
its duty nobly, and did no more. Without overpowering or singling itself
out from the others, it lured them on to follow where they could never
have gone alone: the choir was kept in perfect order without even
knowing that it was disciplined.

There was an elderly Englishman who had resided at Dorade ever since he
had a slight difference of opinion with the Bankruptcy Court a quarter
of a century back. Drifting helplessly and aimlessly about Europe in
search of employment, he had taken root where he came ashore, and
vegetated, as floating weeds will do. He picked up rather a precarious
livelihood by acting as a species of factotum to his countrymen in the
season, ministering, not injudiciously, to their myriad whims and
necessities. Among his multifarious functions, perhaps the most
respectable and permanent was that of clerk to the English chapel. He
was by no means a very religious man, nor were his morals quite
unexceptionable, but he had completely identified himself with the
fortunes and interests of that modest building. A sneer at its
capabilities or a doubt as to its prospects would exasperate him at any
time far more than a direct insult to himself (to be sure there was
little self-respect left to be offended). When disguised in drink, which
was the case tolerably often, he generally proposed to settle the
question by the ordeal of battle, and was only to be appeased by an
apology or a great deal more liquor.

On this occasion the success and the singing combined--for excess and
hardship had not quite deadened a good ear for music--moved the old
castaway strangely. His thoughts wandered back to the misused days when
he had friends, and a position, and character; when he was a householder
and vestryman, and even dreamt ambitiously of a churchwardenship. He
could see distinctly his own pew, with the gray, worm-eaten panels,
where he had sat many and many a warm afternoon, resisting sternly, as
became a man of mark in the parish, treacherous inclinations to slumber.
He saw the ponderous brown gallery--eyesore to archæologists--which held
the village choir: there they were, with the sun streaming in on their
heads through the western window, till even the faded red cushion in
front deepened into rich crimson, chanting their quaint old anthems with
right good courage, though every one got lost in the second line, and,
after much independent exertion of the lungs, just came up in time to
join in the grand final rally. He saw the mild-faced, gray-haired parson
mounting slowly the pulpit stairs, adjusting and manoeuvring the
refractory gown that _would_ come off his shoulders with the nervous
gesture which, beginning in timidity, had grown into a habit that was
part of the man. More plainly than all--he saw a low, green mound, just
beyond the chancel walls, where one was sleeping who had lavished on him
all the treasures of a rare, unselfish, trusting love; the dear, meek,
little wife, who was so proud of her husband's few poor talents, so
indulgent to his many failings, who ever had an excuse ready to answer
his self-reproaches, whose weak, thin hand was always strong enough to
pluck him back from ruin and dishonor, till it grew stiff and cold. She
knew it, too, for he remembered the wail that burst from her lips when
she thought she was alone, the night before she died--"Ah! who will save
him now that I am gone?" How miserable and lonely he was long after they
buried her! How incessantly he used to repeat those last words, meant to
be comforting, that she spoke, with her arm wound round his neck,
"Darling, you have been so very, very kind to me!" So it went on, till
the devil of drink, choosing his time cunningly, entered into him, and
battled with and drove out the angel. A strange resurrection! Memories
that had died years ago, withering from very shame, began to curl and
twine themselves round the hard, battered heart as tenderly as ever.
These pictures of the past were still vivid and clear, when he became
aware of a dimness in his eyes that blinded them to all real surrounding
objects; he felt so surprised that it broke the spell; tears had almost
forgotten the way to his eyes.

Not very probable, is it, that a prosaic elderly clerk should dream of
all this during the three last verses of a hymn? Well, the steadiest
imagination is apt to disregard sometimes the proprieties of place; and
as for space--of course the visions of the night are quicker on the wing
than their rivals of the day; yet there must be some analogy, and, they
say, we pass through the vicissitudes of half a lifetime in the few
seconds before we wake.

Cecil was really pleased with the result of the singing. She would have
been even more so had it not been for the marked expression of approval
on the face of Royston Keene. It was evident she had been on her trial.
The cool, tranquil, appreciative smile was very provoking. It made her
feel for the moment like a _prima donna_ on her first appearance at a
new theatre.

Unusually eloquent and verbose was the sermon that day, for not only was
the preacher aware that bright eyes looked upon his deeds, but he saw
his enemies in the front of the battle. Surely all extemporaneous
speakers, in court, pulpit, or senate, must be accessible to such
external influences. It ought not to be so, of course, but I fancy it
_is_. Would John Knox have been so fiery in denunciation if those wicked
maids of honor had not derided him? I doubt if a discourse delivered in
a Union would ever soar to sublimity, even if the excellent paupers
could be supposed to understand it. So, with every sentence more
plaintive grew Mr. Fullarton's lamentations over worldlings and their
vanities, more bitter his invectives against those who, having
themselves broken out of the fold, seek to lead others astray. An
occasional gesture--something too expressive--was not needed to point
his animadversions. The object of them sat with his head slightly bent,
neither by frown nor smile betraying that a single allusion had gone
home. The simple truth was, that he scarcely caught one word. The last
cadence of sweeter tones was still lingering in his ears, and had locked
them fast against all other sounds. The energetic divine might have
poured out upon his guilty head yet stormier vials, and he would never
have heard one roll of the thunder. However, the dearest friends must
part, and all orations must come to an end, except those of the
much-desiderated Chisholm Anstey, of whom an old-world parliament was
not worthy; so, after "a burst of forty-five minutes without a check,"
the chaplain dismissed his beloved hearers to their digestion.

The stream, as it flowed out, divided, and broke up into small pools of
conversation. Miss Tresilyan and her chaperone joined the Molyneux
party, just as Fanny was saying to Keene that "she hoped he would profit
by much in the sermon that was evidently meant for him."

"_Was_ he personal?" the latter asked, so indifferently; "I didn't
notice it. Well, I suppose it amuses him, and it certainly does not hurt
me." (Mrs. Danvers sniffed indignantly--a form of protest to which her
nose, from its construction, was eminently adapted; but he went on
before she could speak) "Miss Tresilyan, will you allow perhaps the
unworthiest member of the congregation to express an opinion that the
singing went off superbly?"

Her beautiful eyes glittered somewhat disdainfully. "Thank you, you are
very good. But I think you have hardly a right to be critical. I should
like to have some one's opinion who is _really_ interested in the
chapel. It was scarcely worth taking so much trouble to appear so the
other day. You know what Liston said about the penny? 'It is not the
value of the thing, but one hates to be imposed upon.' Delusions are not
so agreeable as illusions, Major Keene."

Royston was very much pleased. He liked above all things to see a woman
stand up to him defiantly; indeed, if they were worth "setting to with,"
he always tried to get them to spar as soon as possible, to find out if
they had any idea of hitting straight. He did not betray his
satisfaction, though, as he answered quite calmly, "Pardon me, I could
not be so impertinent as to attempt a 'delusion' on so short an
acquaintance. I deny the charge distinctly. I believe that residence in
Dorade, and a certain amount of subscription, constitute a member of Mr.
Fullarton's congregation, and give one a franchise. He has not thought
fit to excommunicate me publicly as yet. I really was interested in the
subject, for I fully meant to go to church this morning, and I mean to
go again."

Insensibly they had walked on in advance of the others. She shook her
head with a saucy incredulity--"I am no believer in sudden conversions."

"Nor I; I was not speaking of such; but I am very fond of good singing,
and I would go any where to hear it. Did our chaplain include hypocrisy
among my other disqualifications for decent society last night? I
understand he is good enough to furnish a catalogue of them to all new
comers."

Cecil certainly had not abused him then; so there was not the slightest
necessity for her looking guilty and conscious, both of which she felt
she was doing as she replied--"I am sure Mr. Fullarton would not asperse
any one's character knowingly. He could only speak from a sense of duty,
perhaps not a pleasant one."

"Quite so," said Royston; "I don't quarrel with him for any fair
professional move. If he thinks it necessary or expedient to prejudice
indifferent people against me, he is clearly right to do so. Ah! I see,
you think I dislike him. I don't, indeed. Morally and physically, he
seems a little too unctuous, that's all. Capital clergyman for a cold
climate! Fancy how useful he would be in an Arctic expedition. They
might save his salary in Arnott's stoves: I'm certain he _radiates_."

Miss Tresilyan knew that it was wrong to smile. But she had an
unfortunately quick perception of the ridiculous, and the struggles of
principle against a sense of humor were not always successful. She would
not give up her point, though. "I can not think that you judge him
fairly," she persisted.

"Perhaps not; but there is a large class who would scarcely be much
moved by stronger and abler words than, I suppose, we heard
to-day--spoken as they were spoken. These preachers won't study the
fitness of things; that's the worst of it. I have known a garrison
chaplain deliver a discourse that, I am convinced, was composed for a
visitation. It seems absurd to hear a man warning us against a
particular sin, and threatening us with all sorts of penalties if we
indulge in it, when it is impossible that he himself should ever have
felt the temptation. We want some one who can find out the harmless side
of our character, as well as the diseased part, and work upon it. Such a
person may be as strict and harsh as he pleases, but he is listened to."
He paused for a moment, and went on in a graver tone--"I think it might
have done even _me_ some good, when I was younger, to have talked for
half an hour with the man who wrote 'How Amyas threw his sword away.'"

Cecil could not disagree with him now, nor did she wish to do so. She
liked those last words of his better than any he had spoken. Remember,
she was born and bred in the honest west country, where one, at least,
of their own prophets hath honor. If you want to indulge your enthusiasm
for the Rector of Eversley, let your next walking-tour turn thitherward;
for on all the sea-board from Portsmouth to Penzance, there is never a
woman--maid, wife, or widow--that will say you nay.

Keene saw his advantage, but was far too wise to follow it up then. The
weaker sex, as a rule, are acute but not very close reasoners; they mix
up their majors and minors with a charming recklessness; and, if
innocent of nothing else, are generally guiltless of a syllogism. It
follows that, in the course of an argument, it is easy enough to
entangle them in their talk. When such a chance occurs, don't come down
on your pretty antagonist with "I thought you said so and so," but be
politic as well as generous, and pass it by. They will do more justice
to your self-denial than they would have done to your dialectic talents.
Corinna loves to be contradicted, but hates to be convinced, and dreads
no monster so much as a short-horned--dilemma. She may forgive the first
offense as inadvertent, but "one more such victory and you are lost."
Think how often clemency has succeeded where severity would have failed.
What did that discreet Eastern emir, when he found his fair young wife
sleeping in a garden, where she had no earthly business to be? He laid
his drawn sabre softly across her neck, and retired without breaking her
slumbers. The cold blade was the first thing Zuleika felt when she woke;
I can not guess what her sensations were; but when she gave the weapon
back to her solemn lord, she pressed her rosy lips thrice on the blue
steel, and made a vow that she most probably kept; and Hussein Bey
never was happier, than when he drew her back to his broad breast,
looking into her face silently with his calm, grave smile.

I fancy our sisters enter into an argument with more simple good faith
and eagerness than we are wont to indulge in; so that it is probably
easier to tease and exasperate them, which is amusing enough while it
lasts. But no doubt it hurts them sometimes more than we are aware of;
and, after all, breaking a butterfly on the wheel is poor pastime, and
not a very athletic sport. The glory, too, to be won is so small that it
scarcely compensates for the pain we inflict, and may, perchance,
eventually _feel_. Is Achilles inclined to be proud of the strength of
his arm, or the keenness of his falchion, as he grovels in the dust at
the slain Amazon's side? Nay, he would give half his laurels to be able
to close that awful gaping wound--to see the proud lips soften for a
moment from their immutable scorn--to detect the faintest tremor in the
long white limbs that never will stir again.

The solemnity of these illustrations, in which battles, murders, and
sudden deaths are mingled, will prove that I regard the subject as by no
means trivial, but am sincerely anxious to warn my comrades against
yielding to a temptation which assails us daily.

On these principles the Cool Captain acted, then. His gay laugh opened a
bridge to the retreating enemy as he said, "How my poor character must
have been worried last night! I wish Mrs. Molyneux had been there. She
is good enough to stand up for her old friend sometimes. I could hardly
expect _you_ to take so much trouble for a very recent acquaintance."

"Of course not," replied Cecil. "I was not in a position to contradict
any thing, even if I had wished to do so. But, I remember, I thought I
would speak to you about my brother. You know enough of him already to
guess why I am nervous about him. I almost forced him to take me abroad;
and he is exposed to so many more dangers here than at home. Please,
don't encourage him to play, or tempt him into any thing wrong. Indeed,
I don't mean to speak harshly or uncourteously, so you need not be
angry."

She raised her eyes to her companion's with a pretty pleading. He met
them fairly. Whatever his intentions might be, no one could say that the
major ever shrank from looking friend or foe in the face.

"I am sorry that you should think the warning necessary. Supposing that
it were so--on my honor, he is safe from me. I should like to alter your
opinion of me, if it were possible. Will you give me a chance?" The
others joined them before she could reply; but more than once that day
Cecil wondered whether, even during their short acquaintance, she had
not sometimes dealt scanty justice to Royston Keene.



CHAPTER X.


There is a pleasant theory--that every woman may be loved, once at least
in her life, if she so wills it. It must be true: how, otherwise, can
you account for the number of hard-featured visages--lighted up by no
redeeming ray of intellect--that preside at "good men's feasts," and
confront them at their firesides? How do the husbands manage? Do they,
from constantly contemplating an inferior type of creation, lose their
comparing and discriminating powers, so that, like the Australian and
Pacific aborigines, they come to regard as points of beauty
peculiarities that a more advanced civilization shrinks from? Or do
their visual organs actually become impaired, like those of captives who
can see clearly only in their own dungeon's twilight, and flinch before
the full glare of day? If neither of these is the case, they must
sometimes sympathize with that dreary dilemma of Bias which the adust
Aldrich quotes in grim irony--[Greek: _Ei men kalên, exeis koinên, ei d'
aischran, poinên_] (Whether of the two horns impaled the sage of
Priene?) Some, of course, are fully alive to the outward defects of
their partners; but few are so candid as the old Berkshire squire, who,
looking after his spouse as she left the room, said, pensively,
"Excellent creature, that! I've liked her better every day for twenty
years, but I've always thought she's the plainest-headed woman in
England!" Fewer still would wish to emulate the sturdy plain-speaking of
the "gudeman" in the Scottish ballad, who, when his witch-wife boasted
how she bloomed into beauty after drinking the "wild-flower wine,"
replied, undauntedly,

 "Ye lee, ye lee, ye ill womyn,
    Sae loud I hear ye lee;
  The ill-faured'st wife i' the kingdom of Fife
    Is comely compared wi' thee."

He could stand all the other marvels of the Sabbat, but _that_ was too
much for his credulity.

No doubt many of these Ugly Princesses are endowed with excellent
sterling qualities. The old Border legend says there never was a happier
match than that of "Muckle-mou'ed Meg," though her husband married her
reluctantly with a halter tightening round his neck. But such advantages
lie below the surface, and take some time in being appreciated. The
first process of captivation is what I don't understand--unless, indeed,
there are sparkles in the quartz, invisible to common eyes, that tell
the experienced gold-seeker of a rich vein near.

Well, we will allow the proposition with which we started; but do you
suppose its converse would hold equally good--that every woman could
_love_ once if she wished it? Nine out of ten of them would, I dare say,
answer boldly in the affirmative; but in a few rather sad and weary
faces you might read something more than a doubt about this; and lips,
not so red and full as they once were, on which the wintry smile comes
but rarely, could tell perhaps a different story. The precise mould that
will fit _some_ fancies is as hard to find as the slipper of Cendrillon;
and so, in default of the fairy _chaussure_, the small white foot goes
on its road unshod, and the stones and briers gall it cruelly.

With men it does not so much matter. They have always the counteracting
resources of bodily and mental exertion, against which the affections
can make but little head. Indeed, some of the most distinguished in
arts, in arms, if not in song, seem to have gone down to their graves
without ever giving themselves time to indulge in any one of these.
Perhaps they never missed a sentiment which would have been very much in
their way if they had felt it. If all tales are true, mathematics are a
very effectual Nénuphar. But with women it is different. _They_ can't be
always clambering up unexplored peaks, or inventing improvements in
gunnery, or commanding irregular corps, or bringing in faultless reform
bills, or finding out constellations, or shooting big game, or resorting
to any of _our_ thousand-and-one safety-valves to superfluous
excitement. Are crochet, or crossed letters, or charity-schools, or even
Cochins and _Crève-coeurs_, so entirely engrossing as to drown forever
the reproaches of nature, that will make herself heard? If not, surely
the most phlegmatically proper of her sex does sometimes feel sad and
dissatisfied when she thinks that she has never been able to care for
any one more than for her own brother. It must seem hard that, when the
frost of old age comes on, she shall not have even a memory to look upon
to warm her. But in the world here, such temptations to discontent
abound; but the most guileless votary of the _Sacré Coeur_ might
confess regrets and misgivings like these without meriting any extra
allowance of fast and scourge.

If we were to reckon up the cases we have heard of women who have "gone
wrong," and made, if not _mésalliances_, at least marriages inexplicable
on any rational grounds, it would fill up a long summer's day, even
without drawing on darker recollections of post-nuptial transgression.
In these last cases, perhaps, the altar and absolute indifference was a
more dangerous element than Mrs. Malaprop's "little aversion," which is,
at all events, a _positive_, thing to work upon. Lethargies are harder
to cure, they say, than fevers. Certainly they have the warning examples
of others who have so erred, and paid for it by a life-long repentance;
but that never has stopped them yet, and never will. Remember the reply
of the _débutante_ to her austere parent when the latter refused to take
her to a ball, saying that "_she_ had seen the folly of such things." "I
want to see the folly of them too." Few of us men can realize the
feeling that, with our sisters, may account for, though not excuse, much
folly and sin. They see others happy all around them: it is hard to fast
when so many are feasting. So there comes a shameful sense of
ignorance--a vague, eager desire for knowledge--a terror of an isolation
deepening and darkening upon them, and a determination, at any risks, to
balk at least _that_ enemy--and so, like the poor lady of Shalott, they
grow restless, and reckless, and rebellious at last. They are safe where
they are, but the days have so much of dull sameness that there is a
sore temptation in the unknown peril. "Better," they say, "than the
close atmosphere of the guarded castle and the phantasms of fairy-land,
one draught of the fresh outer air--one glimpse of real life and
nature--one taste of substantial joys and sorrows that shall wake all
the pulses of womanhood, even though the experience be brief and dearly
bought, though the web woven while we sat dreaming must surely be rent
in twain--ay, even though the curse, too, may follow very swiftly, and
the swans be waiting at the gate that shall bear us down to our
burying."

If staid and cold-blooded virgins and matrons are not exempt from these
disagreeable self-reproaches, how did it fare with Cecil Tresilyan, in
whom the energy of a strong temperament was stirring like the spring-sap
in a young oak-tree? Should she die conscious of the possession of such
a wealth of love, with none to share or inherit it? She had seen such
numbers of her friends and acquaintance "pair off," that she began to
envy at last the facility of attachment that she had been wont to hold
in scorn. Very many reflections of "lovers lately wed" had been cast
upon her mirror, and yet the One knightly shadow was long in coming. Can
it be that yonder gleam through the trees is the flash of his distant
armor?

I hope this illustrated edition of rather an old theory has not bored
you much; because it would have been just as simple to have said at once
that, as the days went on in Dorade, and they were thrown constantly
into each other's society, Major Keene began to monopolize much more of
Cecil Tresilyan's thoughts than she would have allowed if she could have
helped it; for, though she considered Mr. Fullarton's testimony unfairly
biased by prejudice, she could not doubt that Royston was by no means
the most eligible object to centre her young affections upon. He
carefully avoided discussion or display of any of his peculiar opinions
in her presence, and on such occasions seemed inclined to soften his
habitually sardonic and depreciatory tone. Once or twice, when they did
disagree, she observed that he contrived to make some one else take her
side, and then argued the point, as long as he thought it worth while,
with the last opponent. Beyond the courtesy which invariably marked his
demeanor toward her sex, this was the only sign of especial deference
that he had shown. She never could detect the faintest approach to the
adulation that hundreds had paid her, and which she had wearied of long
ago. Nevertheless, she knew perfectly that on many subjects, generally
considered all-important, they differed as widely as the poles.

Perpetual struggles between the spirit and the flesh made Cecil's heart
an odd sort of debatable land; if she could not always insure success
and supremacy to the right side, she certainly did endeavor to preserve
the balance of power. Personally she rather disliked Mr. Fullarton, but
she seemed to look upon him as the embodiment of a principle, and the
symbol of an abstraction. He represented there the Establishment which
she had always been taught to venerate; and so she felt bound, as far as
possible, to favor and support him; just as Goring and Wilmot, and many
more wild cavaliers, fearing neither God nor devil, mingled in their
war-cry church as well as king. (Rather a rough comparison to apply to a
well-intentioned demoiselle of the nineteenth century, but, I fancy, a
correct one.) Thus, if she indulged herself in a long _tête-à-tête_ with
Keene, she was sure to be extraordinarily civil to the chaplain soon
after; and if she devoted herself for a whole evening to the society of
the priest and his family, the soldier was likely to benefit by it on
the morrow. Unluckily, the sacrifice of inclination was all on _one_
side.

The antagonists had never, as yet, come into open collision. It was not
respect or fear that made them shy of the conflict, but rather a
feeling, which neither could have explained to himself, resembling that
of leaders of parties in the House, who decline measuring their strength
against each other on questions of minor importance, reserving
themselves for the final crisis, when the want-of-confidence vote shall
come on. Once only there was a chance of a skirmish--the merest affair
of outposts.

Keene had been calling on the Tresilyans one evening, in the official
capacity of bearer of a verbal message from Mrs. Molyneux. It was the
simplest one imaginable; but as graver embassadors have done before him,
liking his quarters he dallied over his mission. (If Geneva, instead of
Paris, were chosen for the meeting of a Congress, would not several
knotty points be decided much more speedily?) When, at last, all was
settled, it seemed very natural that he should petition Cecil for "just
one song;" and you know what that always comes to. Royston never would
"turn over" if he could possibly avoid it; he considered it a willful
waste of advantages, for the strain on his attention, slight as it might
be, quite spoiled his appreciation of the melody. Perhaps he was right.
As a rule, if one wanted to discover the one person about whose approval
the fair _cantatrice_ is most solicitous, it would be well to look _not_
immediately behind her ivory shoulder. At all events, he had made his
peace with Miss Tresilyan on this point long ago. So he drew his
arm-chair up near the piano, but out of her sight as she sang, and sat
watching her intently through his half-closed eyelids.

I marvel not that in so many legends of witchery and seduction since the
_Odyssey_ the [Greek: _thespesiê aoidê_] has borne its part. "But," the
Wanderer might say, replying against Circè's warning, "have we not
learned prudence and self-command from Athenè, the chaste Tritonid? Have
not ten years under shield before Troy, and a thousand leagues of
seafaring, made our hearts as hard as our hands, and our ears deaf to
the charms of song? Thus much of wisdom, at least, hath come with
grizzled hair, that we may mock at temptations that might have won us
when our cheeks were in their down. O most divinely fair of goddesses!
have we not resisted your own enchantments? Shall we go forth scathless
from Ææa to perish on the Isle of the Sirens?" But the low, green hills
are already on the weather beam, and we are aware of a sweet weird chant
that steals over the water like a living thing, and smooths the ripple
where it passes. How fares it with our philosophic Laertiades? Those
signs look strangely unlike incitements to greater speed; and what mean
those struggles to get loose? Well, perhaps, for the hero that the good
hemp holds firm, and that Peribates and Eurylochus spring up to
strengthen his bonds; well, that the wax seals fast the ears of those
sturdy old sea-dogs who stretch to their oars till Ocean grows hoary
behind the blades; or nobler bones might soon be added to the myriads
that lie bleaching in the meadow, half hidden by its flowers. It was
not, then, so very trivial, the counsel that she gave in parting
kindness--

  [Greek: _Kirkê euplokamos, deinê theos audêessa_.]

Are we in our generation wiser than the "man of many wiles?" Dinner is
over, and every one is going out into the pleasance, to listen to the
nightingales.

"It will be delicious; there is nothing I should like so much; but I--I
sprained my ankle in jumping that gate; and Amy" (that's "my cousin who
happens to sing"), "I heard you cough three times this morning. _You_
won't be so imprudent as to risk the night air? Ah! they are gone at
last; and now, Amy dear--good, kindest Amy!--open the especial crimson
book quickly, and give me first your own pet song, and then mine, and
then 'The Three Fishers,' and then 'Maud,' and then, I suppose, they
will be coming back again; but by that time, they may be as enthusiastic
as they please, we shall be able to meet them fairly."

Things have changed since David's day; spirits are raised sometimes now,
as well as laid, by harp and song. In good truth, they are not always
evil ones.

On that night, Royston Keene listened to the sweet voice that seemed to
knock at the gates of his heart--gates shut so long that the bars had
rusted in their staples--not loudly or imperiously, but powerful in its
plaintive appeal, like that of those one dearly loved, standing without
in the bitter cold, and pleading--"Ah! let me in!" He listened till a
pleasant, dreamy feeling of _domesticity_ began to creep over him that
he had never known before. He could realize, then, that there were
circumstances under which a man might easily dispense with high play,
and hard riding, and hard flirting (to give it a mild name), and hard
drinking, and other excitements which habit had almost turned into
necessities, without missing any one of them. There were two words which
ought to have put all these fancies to flight, as the writing on the
wall scattered the guests of Belshazzar--"Too Late." But he turned his
head away, and would not read them. He had actually succeeded in
ignoring another disenchanting reality--the presence of Mrs. Danvers.
That estimable person seemed more than usually fidgetty, and disposed to
make herself, as well as others, uncomfortable. There was evidently
something on her mind from her glancing so often and so nervously at the
door. It opened at last softly, just as Cecil had finished "The
Swallow," and revealed Mr. Fullarton standing on the threshold. The
latter was not well pleased with the scene before him. There was an air
of comfort about it which, under the circumstances, he thought decidedly
wrong; besides which he could not get rid of a vague misgiving (the
rarest thing with him!) that his visit was scarcely welcome or well
timed.

Miss Tresilyan rose instantly to greet the intruder (yes, that's the
right word) with her usual calm courtesy. Very few words had been
exchanged for the last hour, but she was perfectly aware--what woman is
not?--of the influence she had exercised over her listener. That
consciousness had made her strangely happy. So, _she_ certainly could
have survived the chaplain's absence. Royston Keene rose too, quite
slowly. There are compounds, you know, that always remain soft and
ductile in a certain temperature, but harden into stone at the first
contact with the outer air. It was just so with him. Even as he moved,
all gentle feelings were struck dead in his heart, and he stood up a
harder man than ever, with no kinder emotion left than bitter anger at
the interruption. He could not always command his eyes, he knew; and, if
he had not passed his hand quickly over his face just then, their
expression might have thrilled through the new-comer disagreeably.

"Cecil, dearest," Mrs. Danvers said, with rather an awkward assumption
of being perfectly at her ease, "Mr. Fullarton was good enough to say he
would come and read to us this evening, and explain some passages. I
don't know why I forgot to tell you. I meant to do so, but--" Her look
finished the sentence. Royston, like the others, guessed what she meant,
and _you_ may guess how he thanked her.

Cecil colored with vexation. She was so anxious to prevent Mrs. Danvers
from feeling dependent that she allowed her to take all sorts of
liberties, and the amiable woman was not disposed to let the privilege
fall into disuse. On the present occasion there was such an absurd
incongruity of time and place that she might possibly have tried to
evade the "exposition," but she happened just then to meet Keene's eye.
The sarcasm there was not so carefully veiled as it usually was in her
presence. Never yet was born Tresilyan who blenched from a challenge; so
she answered at once to express "her sense of Mr. Fullarton's kindness,
and her regret that he had not come earlier in the evening." If Royston
had known how bitterly she despised herself for disingenuousness he
would have been amply avenged.

Even while she was speaking he closed the piano very slowly and softly.
It did not take him long to put on his impenetrable face, for when he
turned round there was not a trace of anger left; the scarce suppressed
taunt in Cecil's last words moved him apparently no more than Mrs.
Danvers's glance of triumph.

"I owe you a thousand apologies," he said, "for staying such an
unwarrantable time, and quite as many thanks for the pleasantest two
hours I have spent in Dorade. Don't think I would detain you one moment
from Mr. Fullarton and your devotional exercises. You know--no, you
_don't_ know--the verse in the ballad:

 'Amundeville may be lord by day,
    But the monk is lord by night;
  Nor wine nor wassail would stir a vassal
    To question that friar's right.'"

He went away then without another word beyond the ordinary adieu.
Royston had a way of repeating poetry peculiar to himself--rather
monotonous, perhaps, but effective from the depth and volume of his
voice. You gained in rhythm what you lost in rhyme. The sound seemed to
linger in their ears after he had closed the door.

As the echo of the firm, strong footstep died away, a virtuous
indignation possessed the broad visage of the divine.

"It is like Major Keene," said he, "to select as his text-book the most
godless work of the satanic school; but I should have thought that even
he would have paused before venturing, in this presence, on a quotation
from _Don Juan_."

At that awful word Mrs. Danvers gave a little shriek as if "a bee had
stung her newly." Had she been a Catholic she would have crossed herself
an indefinite number of times: will you be good enough to imagine her
protracted look of holy horror? Cecil's eyes were glittering with
scornful humor as she answered, very demurely, "What an advantage it is
to be a large, general reader! It enables one to impart so much
information. Now Bessie and I should never have guessed where those
lines came from if you had not enlightened us. They seemed harmless
enough in themselves, and Major Keene was considerate enough to leave us
in our ignorance. So Byron comes within the scope of your studies, Mr.
Fullarton. I thought you seldom indulged in such secular authors?" The
chaplain was quite right in making his reply inaudible: it would have
been difficult to find a perfectly satisfactory one. However, the hour
was late enough to excuse his beginning the reading without farther
delay. It was not a success. There was a stoppage somewhere in the
current of his mellifluous eloquence; and the exposition was concluded
so soon, and indeed abruptly, that Mrs. Danvers retired to rest with a
feeling of disappointment and inanition, such as one may have
experienced when, expecting a "sit-down" supper, we are obliged to
content ourselves with a meagrely-furnished _buffet_. For some minutes
after Mr. Fullarton had departed Miss Tresilyan sat silent, leaning her
head upon her hand. At last she said, "Bessie, dear, you know I would
not interfere with your comforts or your arrangements for the world;
but, the next time you wish to have a repetition of this, would you be
so very good as to tell me beforehand? I think I shall spend that
evening with Fanny Molyneux. I do not quite like it, and I am sure it
does me no real good."

She spoke so gently that Mrs. Danvers was going to attempt one of her
querulous remonstrances, but she happened to look at the face of her
patroness. It wore an expression not often seen there; but she was wise
enough to interpret it aright, and to guess that she had gone far
enough. It was ever a dangerous experiment to trifle with the Tresilyans
when their brows were bent. So she launched into some of her
affectionate platitudes and profuse excuses, and under cover of these
retreated to her rest. It is a comfort to reflect that she slept very
soundly, though she monopolized all the slumber that night that ought to
have fallen to Cecil's share.

What did Royston Keene think of the events of the evening? As he went
down the stairs I am afraid he cursed the chaplain once heartily, but on
the whole he was not dissatisfied. At all events, the short walk down to
the club completely restored his _sang-froid_, and the last trace of
vexation vanished as he entered the card-room and saw the "light of
battle" gleam on the haggard face of Armand de Châteaumesnil.



CHAPTER XI.


There was in Dorade a stout and meritorious elderly widow, who formed a
sort of connecting link between the natives and the settlers. English by
birth, she had married a Frenchman of fair family and fortune, so that
her habits and sympathies attached themselves about equally to the two
countries. You do not often find so good a specimen of the hybrid. She
gave frequent little _soirées_, which were as pleasant and exciting as
such assemblages of heterogeneous elements usually are--that is to say,
very moderately so. The two streams flowed on in the same channel,
without mingling or losing their characteristics. I fancy the fault was
most on our side.

We no longer, perhaps, parade Europe with "pride in our port, defiance
in our eye;" but still, in our travels, we lose no opportunity of
maintaining and asserting our well-beloved dignity, which, if rather a
myth and vestige of the past, at home, abroad, is a very stern reality.
Have you not seen, at a crowded _table d'hôte_, the British mother
encompass her daughters with the double bulwark of herself and their
staid governess on either flank, so as to avert the contamination which
must otherwise have certainly ensued from the close proximity of a
courteous white-bearded Graf, or a _fringante_ vicomtesse whose eyes
outshone her diamonds? May it ever remain so! Each nation has its vanity
and its own peculiar glory, as it has its especial produce. O cotton
mills of Manchester! envy not nor emulate the velvet looms of Genoa or
Lyons; you are ten times as useful, and a hundredfold more remunerating.
What matters it if Damascus guard jealously the secret of her fragrant
clouded steel, when Sheffield can turn out efficient sword-blades at the
rate of a thousand per hour? _Suum cuique tribuito._ Let others aspire
to be popular: be it ours to remain irreproachably and unapproachably
respectable.

So poor Mdme. de Verzenay's efforts to promote an _entente cordiale_
were lamentably foiled. When the English mustered strong, they would
immediately form themselves into a hollow square, the weakest in the
centre, and so defy the assaults of the enemy. Now and then a daring
Gaul would attempt the adventure of the Enchanted Castle, determined, if
not to deliver the imprisoned maidens, at least to enliven their
solitude. See how gayly and gallantly he starts, glancing a saucy adieu
to Adolphe and Eugène, who admire his audacity, but augur ill for its
success. _Allons, je me risque. Montjoie St. Denis! France à la
rescousse!_ He winds, as it were, the bugle at the gate, with a
well-turned compliment or a brilliant bit of _badinage_. Slowly the
jealous valves unclose; he stands within the magic precinct--an eerie
silence all around. Suppose that one of the Seven condescends to parley
with him; she does so nervously and under protest, glancing ever over
her shoulder, as if she expected the austere Fairy momentarily to
appear; while her companions sit without winking or moving, cowering
together like a covey of birds when the hawk is circling over the
turnip-field. How can you expect a man to make himself agreeable under
such appalling circumstances? The heart of the adventurer sinks within
him. Lo! there is a rustling of robes near; what if Calyba or Urganda
were at hand? _Fuyons!_ And the knight-errant retreats, with drooping
crest and smirched armor--a melancholy contrast to the _preux chevalier_
who went forth but now chanting his war-song, conquering and to conquer.
The remarks of the discomfited one, after such a failure, were, I fear,
the reverse of complimentary; and the unpleasant word _bégueule_ figured
in them a great deal too often.

Cecil and Fanny Molyneux were certainly exceptions to the rule of
unsociability, but the general dullness of those _réunions_ infected
them, and made the atmosphere oppressive; it required a vast amount of
leaven to make such a large, heavy lump light or palatable. Besides, it
is not pleasant to carry on a conversation with twenty or thirty people
looking on and listening, as if it were some theatrical performance that
they had paid money to see, and consequently had a right to criticise.
The fair friends had held counsel together as to the expediency of
gratifying others at a great expense to themselves on the present
occasion, and had made their election--not to go.

Early the next morning Miss Tresilyan encountered Keene; their
conversation was very brief; but, just as he was quitting her, the
latter remarked, in a matter-of-course way, "We shall meet this evening
at Madame de Verzenay's?"

She looked at him in some surprise, for she knew he must have heard from
Mrs. Molyneux of their intention to absent themselves. She told him as
much.

"Ah! last night she did not mean to go," replied Royston; "but she
changed her mind this morning while I was with them. When I left them,
ten minutes ago, there was a consultation going on with Harry as to what
she should wear. I don't think it will last more than half an hour; and
then she was coming to try to persuade you to keep her fickleness in
countenance."

Now the one point upon which Cecil had been most severe on _la mignonne_
was the way in which the latter suffered herself to be guided by her
husband's friend. It is strange how prone is the unconverted and unmated
feminine nature to instigate revolt against the Old Dominion--never more
so than when the beautiful _Carbonara_ feels that its shadow is creeping
fast over the frontier of her own freedom. Nay, suppose the conquest
achieved, and that they themselves are reduced to the veriest serfdom,
none the less will they strive to goad other hereditary bondswomen into
striking the blow. Is it not known that steady old "machiners," broken
for years to double harness, will encourage and countenance their
"flippant" progeny in kicking over the traces? How otherwise could the
name of mother-in-law, on the stage and in divers domestic circles, have
become a synonym for firebrand? Look at your wife's maid, for instance.
She will spend two thirds of her wages and the product of many silk
dresses ("scarcely soiled") in furnishing that objectionable and
disreputable suitor of hers with funds for his extravagance. He has
beggared two or three of her acquaintance already, under the same flimsy
pretense of intended marriage, that scarcely deludes poor Abigail; she
has sore misgivings as to her own fate. Alternately he bullies and
cajoles, but all the while she knows that he is lying, deliberately and
incessantly, yet she never remonstrates or complains. It is true that,
if you pass the door of her little room late into the night, you will
probably go to bed haunted by the sound of low, dreary weeping; but it
would be worse than useless to argue with her about her folly; she
cherishes her noisome and ill-favored weed as if it were the fairest of
fragrant flowers, and will not be persuaded to throw it aside. Well, if
you could listen to that same long-suffering and soft-hearted young
female, in her place in the subterranean Upper House, when the conduct
of "Master" (especially as regards Foreign Affairs) is being canvassed;
the fluency and virulence of her anathemas would almost take your breath
away. Even that dear old housekeeper--who nursed you, and loves you
better than any of her own children--when she would suggest an excuse or
denial of the alleged peccadilloes, is borne away and overwhelmed by the
abusive torrent, and can at last only grumble her dissent. Very few
women, of good birth and education, make _confidantes_ nowadays of their
personal attendants; and the race of "Miggs" is chiefly confined to the
class in which Dickens has placed it, if it is not extinct utterly. But
there is a season--while the brush passes lightly and lingeringly over
the long trailing "back hair"--when a hint, an allusion, or an
insinuation, cleverly placed, may go far toward fanning into flame the
embers of matrimonial rebellion. I know no case where such serious
consequences may be produced, with so little danger of implication to
the prime mover of the discontent, except it be the system of the
patriotic and intrepid Mazzini. Many outbreaks, perhaps--quelled after
much loss on both sides, in which the monarchy was only saved by the
judicious expenditure of much _mitraille_--might have been traced to the
covert influence of that mild-eyed, melancholy _camériste_.

Cecil, who was not exempt from these revolutionary tendencies, any more
than from other weaknesses of her sex, was especially provoked by this
fresh instance of Fanny's subordination.

"Mrs. Molyneux is perfectly at liberty to form her own plans," she said,
very haughtily. "Beyond a certain point, I should no more dream of
interfering with them than she would with mine. She is quite right to
change her mind as often as she thinks proper, only in this instance I
should have thought it was hardly worth while."

"Well," Keene answered, in his cool, slow way, "Mrs. Molyneux has got
that unfortunate habit of consulting other people's wishes and
convenience in preference to her own; it's very foolish and weak; but it
is so confirmed, that I doubt even _your_ being able to break her of it.
This time I am sure you won't. It is a pity you are so determined on
disappointing the public. I know of more than one person who has put off
other engagements in anticipation of hearing you sing."

He was perfectly careless about provoking her now, or he would have been
more cautious. That particular card was the very last in his hand to
have played. Miss Tresilyan was good-nature itself in placing her
talents at the service of any man, woman, or child who could appreciate
them. She would go through half her _repertoire_ to amuse a sick friend
any day; neither was she averse to displaying them before the world in
general at proper seasons, but she liked the "boards" to be worthy of
the prima donna, and had no idea of "starring it in the provinces." All
the pride of her race gathered on her brow just then, like a
thunder-cloud, and her eyes flashed no summer lightning.

"Madame de Verzenay was wrong to advertise a performer who does not
belong to her _troupe_. I hope the audience will be patient under their
disappointment, and not break up the benches. If not, she must excuse
herself as best she may. I have signed no engagement, so my conscience
is clear. I certainly shall not go."

The bolt struck the granite fairly, but it did not shiver off one
splinter, nor even leave a stain. Royston only remarked, "Then for
to-day it is useless to say _au revoir_;" and so, raising his cap,
passed on.

The poor _mignonne_ had a very rough time of it soon afterward. Cecil
was morally and physically incapable of scolding any one; but she was
very severe on the sin of vacillation and yielding to unauthorized
interference. The culprit did not attempt to justify herself; she only
said, "They both wanted me to go so much, and I did not like to vex
Harry." Then she began to coax and pet her monitress in the pretty,
childish way which interfered so much with matronly dignity, till the
latter was brought to think that she had been cruelly harsh and stern;
at last she got so penitent that she offered to accompany her friend,
and lend the light of her countenance to Madame de Verzenay. For this
infirmity of purpose many female Dracos would have ordered her off to
instant execution--very justly. That silly little Fanny only kissed her,
and said, "She was a dear, kind darling." What can you expect of such
irreclaimably weak-minded offenders? They ought to be sentenced to six
months' hard labor, supervised by Miss Martineau; perhaps even this
would not work a permanent cure. Still, on The Tresilyan's part, it was
an immense effort of self-denial. She was well aware how she laid
herself open to Royston Keene's satire, and how unlikely he was this
time to spare her. Only perfect trust or perfect indifference can make
one careless about giving such a chance to a known bitter tongue.

However, having made up her mind to the self-immolation, she proceeded
to consider how best she should adorn herself for the sacrifice. Others
have done so in sadder seriousness. Doubtless, Curtius rode at his last
leap without a speck on his burnished mail: purple, and gold, and gems
flamed all round Sardanapalus when he fired the holocaust in Nineveh:
even that miserable, dastardly Nero was solicitous about the marble
fragments that were to line his felon's grave. So it befell that, on
this particular evening, Cecil went through a very careful toilet,
though it was as simple as usual; for the ultra-gorgeous style she
utterly eschewed. The lilac trimmings of her dress broke the dead white
sufficiently, but not glaringly, with the subdued effect of color that
you may see in a campanula. The _coiffure_ was not decided on till
several had been rejected. She chose at last a chaplet of those soft,
silvery Venetian shells--such as her bridesmaids may have woven into the
night of Amphitritè's hair when they crowned her Queen of the
Mediterranean.

It was a very artistic picture. So Madame de Verzenay said, in the midst
of a rather too rapturous greeting; so the Frenchmen thought, as a low
murmur of admiration ran through their circle when she entered. Fanny,
too, had her modest success. There were not wanting eyes that turned for
a moment from the brilliant beauty of her companion to repose themselves
on the sweet girlish face shaded by silky brown tresses, and on the
perfect little figure floating so lightly and gracefully along amid its
draperies of pale cloudy blue.

Miss Tresilyan felt that there might be _one_ glance that it would be a
trial to meet unconcernedly, and she had been schooling herself
sedulously for the encounter. She might have spared herself some
trouble; for Royston Keene was not there when they arrived. She knew
that Mrs. Molyneux had told him of the change in their plans; but the
latter did not choose to confess how she had been puzzled by the very
peculiar smile with which the major greeted the intelligence: it was the
only notice he took of it. So the evening went on, with nothing to raise
it above the dead level of average _soirées_. Cecil delayed going to the
piano till she was ashamed of making more excuses, and was obliged to
"execute herself" with the best grace she could manage. Even while she
was singing, her glance turned more than once toward the door; but the
stalwart figure, beside which all others seemed dwarfed and
insignificant, never showed itself. It was clear _he_ was not among
those who had given up other engagements to hear her songs. If we have
been at some trouble and mental expense in getting ourselves into any
one frame of mind--whether it be enthusiasm, or self-control, or
fortitude, or heroism--it is an undeniable nuisance to find out suddenly
that there is to be no scope for its exercise. Take a very practical
instance. Here is Lieutenant Colonel Asahel ready on the ground,
looking, as his conscience and his backers tell him, "as fine as a star,
and fit to run for his life;" at the last moment his opponent pays
forfeit. Just ascertain the sentiments of that gallant fusileer. Does
the result at all recompense him for the futile privations and wasted
asceticism of those long weary months of training--when pastry was, as
it were, an abomination unto him--when his lips kept themselves
undefiled from dryest Champagne or soundest claret--when he fled, fast
as Cinderella, from the pleasantest company at the stroke of the
midnight chimes? Of course he feels deeply injured, and would have
forgiven the absentee far more easily if the latter had beaten him
fairly, on his merits, breasting the handkerchief first by half a dozen
yards.

On this principle, Miss Tresilyan labored all that evening under an
impression that Keene had treated her very ill, and was prepared to
resent it accordingly. Another there besides herself felt puzzled and
uncomfortable. Harry Molyneux could not understand it at all. Royston
had seemed so very anxious in the morning to induce Fanny to go--a
proceeding which would probably involve the presence of her
"inseparable;" and disinterested persuasion was by no means in the Cool
Captain's line. So Harry went wandering about in a purposeless,
disconsolate fashion for some time, till he found himself near Cecil. I
fancy he had an indistinct idea that some apology was owing to _her_ for
his chief's unaccountable absence; at all events, he began to confide
his misgivings on the subject as soon as the men who surrounded her
moved away. They soon did so; for The Tresilyan had a way, quite
peculiar to herself, of conveying to those whom she wished to get rid of
that their audience was ended, without speaking one word. There was a
very unusual element of impatient pettishness in her reply.

"What a curious fascination Major Keene appears to exercise over his
friends! I suppose you would think it quite wrong to be amused any where
unless he were present to sanction it. Do you become a free agent again
when you are given up entirely to your own devices? And do _all_
subalterns keep up that veneration for their senior officers after they
have left the service? It seems to be carrying the _esprit du corps_
rather far."

Harry laughed out his own musical laugh; even the imputation of
dependency and helplessness which is apt to ruffle most people fell back
harmlessly from his impenetrable good-humor. "I dare say it does look
very absurd. But you ought to have lived with him as long as I have done
to understand how naturally Royston gains his influence, and makes us do
what he chooses."

"Certainly I can not understand it. The _poco-curante_ style is so very
common just now that one gets rather tired of it. I do not like the
affectation at all, but I dislike the reality still more. I believe it
_is_ a reality with Major Keene. I can not fancy him betraying any
unrestrained excitement, however strong the passion that moved him might
be. You have never known him do so, now? Confess it."

"Yes I have, once," he answered, gravely, "and I never wish to see it
again."

Cecil always liked talking to Harry Molyneux. On the present occasion
the mere sound of his voice seemed to go far toward soothing her
irritation: many others had experienced the same effect from those
kindly gentle tones. Perhaps, too, the subject had an interest for her
that she would not own. "Would it tire you to tell me about it? I am not
particularly curious, but I have been so much bored to-night that a very
little would amuse me."

He hesitated for an instant. "It is not _that_; but I don't know if _I_
am right in telling you. Perhaps you would not like him the better for
it, though he could not help it. Shall I? Well, it was in the second of
our Indian battles, and the first time we had really been under fire;
before it was only nominal. We had been sitting idle for two hours or
more, watching the infantry and the gunners do their work; and right
well they did it. The Sikhs were giving ground in all directions; but
they began to gather again on our right, and at last we were told to
send out three squadrons and break them at three different points. Keene
was in command of mine. I never saw him look so enchanted as he did when
the orders came down. I heard the chief warning him to be cautious, not
to go too far (for there was a good deal of broken ground ahead), but to
wheel about as soon as we had got through their lines, and to fall back
immediately on our position. Royston listened and saluted, but I know he
didn't catch one word; he kept looking over his shoulder all the time
the colonel was speaking, as if he grudged every second. We were very
soon off; and almost before I realized the situation we were closing in
on the enemy, wrapped up in our own dust and in their smoke, for the
firing became heavy directly we got within range. Now I don't think I
ought to be telling you all this: it is not quite a woman's story."

"Please go on. I like it." How grandly it flashed up in her cheek as she
spoke--the fiery Tresilyan blood that had boiled in the veins of so many
brilliant soldiers, but through twenty generations had never cooled down
enough to breed one statesman!

He had taken breath by this time. "I won't make it longer than I can
help, but it is difficult to tell some things very briefly. It was my
first real charge, you know; I suppose every man's sensations are rather
peculiar under such circumstances. I did not feel much alarmed--there
wasn't time for that--but the smoke, and the noise, and the excitement
made me so dizzy that I could hardly sit straight in my saddle. When we
got within a hundred and fifty yards of the Sikhs their fire began to
tell. I heard a bubbling, smothered sort of cry close behind me, and I
looked back just in time to see a trooper fall forward over his horse's
shoulder shot through the throat. Several more were hit, and our fellows
began to waver a little--not much. Just then Royston's voice broke in:
it was so clear and strong that it set my nerves right directly, and the
dizzy, stifling feeling went away, as it might have done before a
draught of fresh pure air. 'Close up there, the rear rank. Keep cool,
men! Steady with your bridle-hands, and strike fairly with the edge.
_Now!_'

"He was three lengths ahead of his squadron, and well in among the
enemy, when that last word came out. It was sharp work while it lasted,
for the Sikhs fought like wounded wildcats: one fixed his teeth in my
boot, and was dragged there till my covering-sergeant cut him loose; but
we were soon through them. When we had wheeled, and were dressing into
line, I caught sight of Keene's face. It was so changed that I should
hardly have known it: every fibre was quivering with passion; and his
eyes--I've not forgotten them yet. We ought to have fallen back
immediately on our old ground, but it was so evident he did not mean
this, that I ventured to suggest to him what our orders had been. I was
not second in command; but of my two seniors one was helpless (the
stupidest man you ever saw), and the other hard hit. Royston faced round
on me with a savage oath, 'How dare you interfere, sir! Are you in
command of this squadron?' Then he turned to the troopers, 'Have you had
half enough yet, men? _I haven't._' I am very sure he had lost his head,
or he would never have spoken to me so, still less have made that last
appeal, for he was the strictest disciplinarian, and looked upon his men
as the merest machines. It seemed as if the devil that possessed him had
gone out into the others too, for they all shouted in reply--not a
cheery honest hurra! but a hoarse, hungry roar, such as you hear in wild
beasts' dens before feeding-time. An old troop-sergeant, a rigid pious
Presbyterian, spoke for the rest, grinding and gnashing his teeth:
'We'll follow the captain any where--follow him to hell!'" (Harry's
voice had all along been subdued, but it was almost a whisper now:) "I
do hope those words were not reckoned against poor Donald Macpherson,
for when we got back his was one of the thirteen empty saddles. So we
broke up, and went in again at the Sikhs, who were collecting in
black-looking knots and irregular squares all round. It was an
indescribable sort of a _mêlée_, every man for himself, and--I dare not
say--God for us all. I suppose I was as bad as the rest when once fairly
launched, and we all thought we were doing our duty; but I should not
like to have so many lives on my head and hand as Royston could count
that night. Remember _we_ suffered rather severely.

"As we took up our position again I saw the colonel was not well
pleased. He had little of the romance of war about him, and did not
understand his officers acting much on their own discretion. Without
hearing the words, I could guess, from the expression of his hard old
face, that he came down on the squadron-leader heavily. When I ranged up
by Keene's side soon afterward, he looked up at me absently. 'I was
thinking,' he said (now one naturally expected a sentiment about the
scene we had just gone through, or a reflection on the injustice of
chiefs in general)--'I was thinking what rubbish those army-cutlers
sell, and call it a sword-blade.' He held up a sort of apology for a
sabre, all notched, and bent, and blunted; then he began to inquire if I
had been hit at all. I had escaped with hardly a scratch; but I saw an
ugly cut above his knee, and blood stealing down his bridle-arm. 'Bah!
it's nothing,' Royston observed, answering the direction of my eyes;
'but--if the tulwar and the reprimand had both been sharper--confess,
Hal, that this time, _Le jeu valait bien la chandelle?_'

"We never had a real rattling charge after that day, at least none
exciting enough to warm him thoroughly. Now I am very sorry I have told
you all this: it is not a nice story; but it is your own fault if I have
bored you. Besides, Madame de Verzenay will never forgive me for
monopolizing you so long. I do think she does me the honor to believe in
a flirtation."

Cecil's heightened color and sparkling eyes might have justified such a
suspicion in a distant and unprejudiced observer. Does not this show us
how very cautious we ought to be in forming hasty conclusions from
appearances which are proverbially deceptive? I protest I am filled with
remorse and contrition while I reflect how often, in thought, I may have
wronged and misjudged the innocent. I dare say, in many outwardly
flagrant cases, the offenders were only expatiating on the merits or
demerits of absent friends. Such a subject is quite engrossing enough to
excuse a certain amount of "sitting out," and some people _always_ blush
when they are at all interested. The selection of the staircase, the
balcony, or the conservatory for the discussion is the merest
atmospheric question. I subscribe to Mr. Weller's idea--only "turnips"
are incredulous. _Vive la charité!_

After a minute or two Miss Tresilyan spoke: "No, I don't think worse of
Major Keene. As you say, I suppose he could not help it; but it must be
terrible, when passions that are habitually restrained do break loose.
No wonder that you do not wish to see such a sight again. It is very
different, reading of battles and hearing of them from one who was an
actor. Do you know, I think you have an undeveloped talent for
narration. There, that ought to console you, even if Madame de Verzenay
should asperse your character."

At this moment Harry was contemplating the proceedings of his pretty
little wife at the opposite side of the room with an intense
satisfaction and pride.

"If I _had_ yielded to temptation," he said, "I am sure Fan could not
reproach me. She would keep a much greater sinner in countenance. Miss
Myrtle is a thousand times worse since she married. Just remark that
by-play with the handkerchief. You don't suppose M. de Riberac cares one
straw about Valenciennes lace? It makes one feel _Moorish_ all over.
You need not be surprised if she is found smothered or strangled in the
morning. I am 'not easily moved to jealousy, but being moved--'"

"Don't be too murderous," laughed Cecil; "you are certain to regret it
afterward. We will reproach her as she deserves on our way home. Is it
not very late?"

She wanted to be alone to think over what she had heard; and in good
truth, waking or sleeping, the watches of that night were crowded with
dreams.

All this time where was Royston Keene? He had been really anxious to
induce Miss Tresilyan to present herself at Madame de Verzenay's, for he
liked her well enough already to feel a personal interest in her
triumphs; but, after their interview in the morning (though he thought
it probable that Fanny's persuasive powers might prevail), he had
determined himself not to go, and he did not change his resolutions
lightly. Still he could not resist the temptation of getting one glimpse
at her in "review order." If Cecil had been very observant when she went
down to her carriage, she must have noticed a tall figure standing back,
half masked by a pillar, whose eyes literally flashed in the darkness as
they fastened on her in her passage through the lighted hall, and drank
in every item of her loveliness. He stood still for some moments after
she was gone, and then walked slowly down to the Cercle. While they were
talking about him at Madame de Verzenay's, Royston was holding his own
gallantly at _écarté_ with Armand de Châteaumesnil, for the honor of
England and--ten Napoleons a side. As was his wont, he played superbly;
but he spoke seldom, and hardly seemed to hear the comments of the
crowded _galèrie_. In truth, at some most critical points--when the game
was in abeyance at _quatre à_--a delicate proud face, and a shell wreath
glistening in velvet hair, _would_ rise before him, and dethrone in his
thoughts the painted kings and queens. His adversary did not fail to
observe this; but he said nothing till the play was ended and most of
the others had left the room. Then he laid his hand on Keene's arm, and
drew his head down to the level of his own lips, and spoke low:

"Mon camarade, je me rappelle, d'avoir vu, il y a quelques ans, au Café
de la Régence, un homme qui tenait tête, aux échecs, à quatre
concurrens. Les habitués en disaient des merveilles. Mais ce n'était
qu'un bon bourgeois après tout; et, nous autres, nous sommes plus forts
que les bourgeois. Vouz avez joué ce soir les deux parties que, dit le
proverbe, c'est presque impossible de remporter simultanément; et je ne
me tiens pas pour le seul perdant."

Royston did not seem in the least inclined to smile; had he done so
Armand would have been bitterly disappointed. As it was, he answered
very coldly, without a shade of consciousness on his face.

"Un compliment mérite toujours des remercimens, M. le Vicomte, même
quand on ne le comprend pas. Pardon, si je vous engage, de ne pas
expliquer plus clairement votre allégorie."

The other looked up at him with an expression that might almost have
been mistaken for sympathy.

"Parbleu!" he muttered, "si beau joueur merite bien de gagner!"



CHAPTER XII.


Sometimes, lying on the cliffs of Kerry or Clare, on a cloudless autumn
day, when not a breath of wind is stirring, you may see rank after rank
of heavy purple billows rolling sullenly in from the offing: these are
messengers coming to tell us of battles fought a thousand leagues to the
westward, in which they, too, have borne their part. Before the mail
comes in we are prepared to hear of a storm that has worked its wicked
will for nights and days, thundering among the granite boulders of
Labrador, or tearing through the fog-banks of Newfoundland. This is
perhaps the most commonplace of all ancient comparisons; but where will
you find so apt a parallel for the vagaries of the human heart as the
phases of the deep, false, beautiful sea?

On the morning after Madame de Verzenay's party, Cecil rose in a very
troubled frame of mind. She had no feeling of irritation left against
Royston Keene; but she was uneasy, and uncomfortable, and loth to meet
him. What she had felt and what she had heard had moved her too deeply
for her to resume at once her wonted composure. So it was that she
accepted very readily an invitation from Mrs. Fullarton to accompany
herself and children on a mild botanizing excursion among the hills.
These small _fêtes_ went a long way with that hard-working and
meritorious woman; what with anticipation and retrospect, each lasted
her about two months. Miss Tresilyan was prevented from starting with
the rest of the party; but the chaplain himself was to escort her to the
place of rendezvous, his little daughter Katie being retained to be
invested with the temporary and "local" rank of chaperone--a formality
which, in these days of scanty faith, even married divines are not
allowed to dispense with. The quartette was completed by the
mule-driver--one of those remarkable boys who converse invariably in a
tongue which the beasts of burden seem to understand and sympathize
with, but which, to any other creature whatsoever, is absolutely
destitute of meaning. They had some way to go; so Cecil had taken up
Katie before her on her mule; the pastor walked by her side, glozing
(for the road was not very steep) on all sorts of subjects, gravely and
smoothly, as was his wont. They had crossed the first line of hills, and
were descending into the valley beyond, when, turning a sharp corner
where a projecting rock almost barred the path, they came suddenly on
Royston Keene. He was lying at full length, his head resting against the
knotted root of an olive, with eyes half closed, and the cigar between
his lips, that seldom left them when he was alone. It _was_ odd that he
should have selected that especial spot for the scene of his _siesta_.
Cecil did her very utmost to look unconcerned: it was too provoking that
she could not help blushing! Mr. Fullarton evidently looked upon it in
the light of an ambush. Had he ventured to give his thoughts utterance,
certainly the ready text would have sprung to his lips, "Hast thou found
me, O mine enemy?" If there was "malice prepense" there, the "enemy"
deserved some credit for the perfectly natural air of surprise with
which he rose and greeted them.

"Are you recruiting after last night's triumphs, or escaping from
popular enthusiasm, Miss Tresilyan? I have met several Frenchmen already
who are quite childish about your singing. I should not advise you to
venture on the Terrace to-day. There might be temptations to vanity,
which Mr. Fullarton will tell you are dangerous."

She had so completely made up her mind to some allusion to her change of
purpose, or to his own absence, that it was rather aggravating to find
him ignore both utterly. But she rallied well.

"Nothing half so imaginative, Major Keene. It was a very stupid party,
and I only sang once, as, I dare say, you have heard. We are only going
to help Mrs. Fullarton to find some wild-flowers. I hope you have not
anticipated us?"

He _fixed_ her with the cool, appreciative look that was harder to meet
than even his sneer.

"No; the flowers are safe from me. I don't care enough about them to
keep them; and it is a pity to pick them and throw them away to wither.
But I would have asked to be allowed to help you in your search, only--I
don't like to spoil a picture. You brought a very good one to my mind as
you turned the corner, a 'Descent into Egypt,' that I saw long ago. The
blot _there_, I remember, was a very stout, rubicund Joseph, not at all
worthy of the imperial Madonna."

While he was speaking he drew back, and leaned lazily against the stem
of the olive, with the evident intention of resuming his original
posture as soon as courtesy would allow. Miss Tresilyan could not
restrain a quick gesture of impatience.

"As we did not come out to _poser_, Mr. Fullarton, don't you think we
had better not delay any longer? We are so late already, that I am sure
the rest of the party will be tired of waiting."

Guess if her companion was loth to obey her.

They moved on for some time almost in silence. Cecil's thoughts were
busy with a picture too--not the less vivid because only her own
imagination had painted it. Her deep, dreamy eyes passed over the
landscape actually before them without catching one of its details: they
were looking on a desolate stony plain, cracked and calcined by a fierce
Indian sun--a few plumy palms in the background, and the rocky bed of a
river half dried up--in the foreground a crowd of wild barbaric
soldiery, with savage, swarthy features, bareheaded or white-turbaned;
mingled with these were horsemen in the uniform of our light dragoons,
sabring right and left mercilessly. In the very centre of the _mêlée_
was one figure, round which all the others seemed to group themselves as
mere accessories. She saw, very distinctly, the dark, determined face,
set, every line of it, in an unspeakable ferocity, with a world of
murderous meaning in the gleaming eyes--so distinctly that it drove out
the remembrance of the same man's face, expressive of nothing but
passionless indifference, though she looked upon it but a few minutes
since under the gray branches of the olive. She almost heard his clear,
imperious tones cheering on and rallying his troopers, when a ruder
voice broke her reverie.

"_Halte là!_"

If there was one thing that miserable muleteer-boy ought to have known
better than another, it was the insuperable objection entertained by the
Provençal peasant to any thing like trespass on his territory (the
touchiness of the _propriétaire_ bears generally an inverse ratio to the
extent of his possessions); yet, to make a short cut of about two
hundred yards, he had led his party through a gap in the low stone wall
over a strip of ground belonging to the very man who was least likely to
overlook the intrusion. Jean Duchesne had a bad name in the
neighborhood, and deserved it thoroughly; he was surly enough when sober
(which was the exception), but when drunk there were no bounds to his
blind, brutish ferocity, and his great personal strength made him a
formidable antagonist. He was not an agreeable object to contemplate,
that gaunt giant, as he stood there in his squalid, tattered dress, with
rough, matted hair, and face flushed by recent intemperance, and flecked
with livid stains of past debauches. You may see many such crowding
round the guillotine or the tumbrel in pictures of the French
Revolution.

It is very odd that one can not write or read those two words without a
boiling of the blood, a tingling at the fingers' ends, and a tightening
of the muscles of the forearm--ineffably absurd when excited by a
recollection seventy years old! Yet so it is. You may talk of oppression
till you are tired; you may catalogue all the wrongs that _Jacques
Bonhomme_ endured before his day of retaliation came; you may bring in
your pet illustration of "the storm that was necessary to clear the
atmosphere;" but you will never make some of us feel that the guilt of
an Order--had it been blacker by a hundred shades--palliated the
Massacre of its Innocents. If the _Marquis_ and _Mousquetaire_ only had
suffered, they might have laid down their lives cheerfully, as they
would have done the stake of any other lost game; and as for the
priests, it was their privilege to be martyrs. But think of those fair
matrons, and gentle girls, and delicate _mignonnes_, that had been
petted from their childhood, cooped up in the foul courts of the Abbaye
and La Force, with even the necessaries of life begrudged them, till the
light died in their eyes and the gloss faded from their tresses; and
then brought out to die in the chill, misty _Brumaire_ morning, howled
at and derided by the swarm of bloodsuckers, till they cowered down, not
in fear, but sickening horror, welcoming Samson and his satellites as
friends and saviors. Remember, too, that there was scarcely an exception
to the rule of patient courage, calm self-sacrifice, and pride of birth
that never belied itself. Dubarry might shriek on the scaffold, but the
Rohans died mute.

Of all the digressions we have indulged in, this is perhaps the most
unwarrantable; and, though it has relieved me unspeakably, I hereby
tender a certain amount of contrition for the same. _Revenons à nos
moutons_--though there was very little of the sheep in the appearance of
Jean Duchesne, whose demeanor (when we left him) you will recollect was
decidedly aggressive. It was evident that the mule-boy thought mischief
was brewing, for he twisted his features--irregular and _tumbled_ enough
already--into divers remarkable contortions expressive of remorse and
terror.

"Who, then, dares to trespass on my lands? Do you think we sow our crops
for your cursed mules to trample on?"

He spoke in a hoarse, thick voice (suggestive of spirituous liquors),
and in the disagreeable Provençal dialect, which must have altered
strangely since the time of the _troubadours_: brief as his speech was,
it found room for more than one of those expletives which are nowhere so
horribly blasphemous as in the south of France.

Cecil had started slightly at the first interjection, which broke her
day-dream, but she was not otherwise alarmed or discomposed: she seemed
to regard the _propriétaire_ simply as an unpleasant obstacle to their
progress, and glanced at Mr. Fullarton as if she expected him to clear
it away. The latter was not good at French, but he did manage to express
their sorrow if they had done any harm unconsciously, and their wish to
retire instantly. "Not before paying," was the reply. "_Quinze francs de
dedommagemens; et puis, filez aux tous les diables!_"

Women are not expected to carry purses or any other objects of simple
utility; but why Mr. Fullarton should have left his at home on this
particular day is between himself and his own conscience. The party very
soon realized the fact that they could muster about a hundred and fifty
centimes among them.

Even kings and kaisers, when _incogniti_, have ere this been reduced to
the extremest straits of ignominy from the want of a few available
pieces of silver; and, in ordinary life, five shillings ready at the
moment are frequently of more importance than as many hundreds in
expectancy. There lives even now a man who missed the most charming
rendezvous with which fortune ever favored him, because he rode a mile
round to avoid a turnpike, not having wherewithal to pay it. Since that
disastrous day he is ever furnished with such a weight of small change
that, had Cola Pesce carried it, the strong swimmer must have sunk like
a stone--in penance, probably, even as James of Scotland wore the iron
belt. At a pause in the conversation you may hear him rattling the
coppers in his pocket moodily, as the spectres in old romances rattle
their chains; but his remorse is unavailing. A fair chance once lost,
Whist and Erycina never forgive. The beautiful bird that might _then_
have been limed and tamed shook her wings and flew away exultingly: far
up in air the unlucky fowler may still sometimes hear her clear mocking
carol, but she is too near heaven for his arts to reach, and has escaped
the toils forever.

On the present occasion Katie Fullarton "flashed" her one half-franc
with great courage and confidence, but the display of all that small
capitalist's worldly wealth did not mollify Jean Duchesne. He had been
lashing himself up all along into such a state of brutal ferocity, that
he would have been disappointed if his extortion had been immediately
satisfied; so he broke in savagely on the chaplain's confused excuses
and promises to settle everything at a fitting season: "Tais toi,
blagueur! On ne me floue pas ainsi avec des promesses; je m'en fiche pas
mal. Au moins, on me laissera un gage." His blood-shot eyes roved from
one object to another till they lighted on the parasol that Miss
Tresilyan carried: it was of plain dark-gray silk, with a slight black
lace trimming, but the carvings of the ivory handle made it of some real
value. Before any one could divine his intention he had plucked it
rudely from her hand.

Almost with the same motion Cecil set Katie down, and sprang herself
from the saddle. In her eyes there was such intensity of anger that the
drunken savage recoiled a pace or two, and for the first time in his
life felt something like self-contempt: to have saved her soul she could
not have spoken one word, but her silence was expressive enough as she
turned to Mr. Fullarton. It is difficult to say what line she expected
him to take--not the _voie de fait_ certainly; at least, if the
hypothesis had been put to her when she was cool enough to consider it,
she would utterly have repudiated such an idea. Perhaps she had a right
to look for moral support, if not for active championship.

We will not enter into the vexed question of physical courage and
cowardice: it is a truism to say that the latter may co-exist with great
moral firmness, which is, of course, far the superior quality. They will
tell you that, when confronted with mere personal peril, a butcher or
grenadier may match the best of us. Possibly; I am not going to dispute
it. Only remember that there are occasions (very few in these civilized
days) when the most refined of _bas-bleus_ would rather see a strong,
brave, honest man at her side, than an abstruse philosopher, a clever
conversationalist--ay, even than a perfect Christian--whose nerves are
not to be depended on; when Parson Adams would be worth a bench of
bishops. We can not all be athletes; and, with the best intentions, some
of us at such times are liable to defeat and discomfiture. The most
utterly fearless man I ever knew had a _biceps_ that his own small
fingers could have spanned. No woman, however--keeping the attributes of
her sex--would think the worse of her champion for being trampled under
foot when he had done his best to defend her. You know their province is
to console, and even pet the vanquished; they make up lint for the
wounded as readily as they weave laurels for the conquerors. But when
they have once seen a man play the coward, the silver tongue, with all
its eloquent explanation and honeyed pleadings, will hardly banish from
their eyes the peculiar expression wavering betwixt compassion and
contempt. They may forgive cruelty, or insolence, or even treachery--in
time; but they can find no palliation, and little sympathy, for that one
unpardonable sin. Truly, transgression in this line, beyond a certain
point, may scarcely be excused; for weakness may be controlled, if not
cured: if we can not be dashingly courageous, we may at least be
decently collected: not all may aspire to the cross of valor, but it is
not difficult to steer clear of courts-martial.

A man is not pleasant to contemplate when terror has driven out all
self-command; so we will not draw Mr. Fullarton's picture: he could
scarcely stammer out words enough to suggest an immediate retreat. It
was painful--_not_ ludicrous--to see how justly his own child
appreciated the position: the little thing left her father's side
instinctively, and clung for protection to Cecil Tresilyan. The latter
saw instantly how matters stood; and if the glance she cast on the
aggressor was not pleasant to meet, far more unendurable was that which
fell upon her unlucky companion: it was piercing enough to penetrate the
strong armor of his wonderful self-complacency, and to rankle for many a
day. She struck her small foot on the ground with a gesture of imperial
disdain. Even so the Scythian Amazon might have spurned the livid head
of Cyrus the Great King.

"I will not stir till I see if no one will come who can take my part.
Ah! I would give--"

"Don't be rash, Miss Tresilyan. You might be taken at your word."

Cecil turned quickly, with a delicious sense of confidence and triumph
thrilling through every fibre of her frame: on the top of the rock that
rose ten feet high, like a wall, on their right, stood Royston Keene. A
more pacific character would have dared a greater danger for the reward
and the promise of her eyes.

He took in the whole scene at a glance (perhaps he had heard more than
he chose to own), and, swinging himself lightly down, strode right
across the _potager_ with a disregard of the proprietor's interests and
feelings refreshing to see.

"It seems to me that the ancient positions have been reversed. You have
been spoiled by the Egyptians, Miss Tresilyan. Shall we try the secular
arm? You have scarcely been safe under the protection of the
church--_militant_."

There was a pause before the last word, and it was unpleasantly
emphasized. Then he advanced a step or two toward the Frenchman, without
waiting for a reply, and spoke in a totally different tone--brief and
imperative--"_Tu vas me rendre ça?_"

Duchesne had been rather startled by the apparition of the new-comer,
and, if he had been cool enough to reflect, would not have fancied him
as an antagonist; but his passion blinded him, and strong drink had
heated his brutal blood above boiling point; he ground his teeth, as he
answered, till the foam ran down--

"Le rendre--à toi--chien d'Anglais? je m'en garderai bien. Si la belle
demoiselle veut le ravoir, elle viendra demain, me prier bien gentiment;
et elle viendra--seule."

Now Royston Keene was thoroughly impregnated with the bitterest of
aristocratic prejudices: no man alive more utterly ignored the doctrines
of liberty, equality, and fraternity; besides this, he had acquired, to
an unusual extent, the overbearing tone and demeanor which the habit of
having soldiers under them is supposed to bring, too commonly, to modern
centurions. He actually experienced a "fresh sensation" as he heard the
insult leveled by those coarse plebeian lips at the woman "he delighted
to honor." His swarthy face grew white down to the lips, whose quivering
the heavy mustache could not quite conceal, and he shivered from head to
foot where he stood. Jean Duchesne thought he detected the familiar
signs of a terror he had often inspired. "Tu as peur donc? Tu
tressailles déjà, blanc-bec! Tonnerre de Dì! tu as raison." Not a trace
of passion lingered in the major's clear, cold voice, that fell upon the
ear with the ring of steel. "On ne tressaille pas, quand on est sûr de
gagner. Regarde donc en arrière."

Involuntarily the Frenchman looked behind him, expecting a fresh
adversary from that quarter. As he turned his head Keene sprang forward,
and plucked the parasol from his grasp: in one second he had laid it
lightly in its owner's hand; in the next he had returned to his
position, and stood, ready for the onset, motionless as the marble
Creugas.

He had not long to wait. Even a "well-conditioned" Gaul does not like
being outwitted, and the successful _ruse_ exasperated Duchesne into
insanity. Roaring like a wild beast that has missed its spring, he
rushed in to grapple. Royston never moved a finger till the enemy was
well within distance; then, slinging his left hand straight out from the
hip, he "let him have it" fairly between the eyes.

One blow--only one--but a blow that, had it been stricken in the days of
Olympian and Nemean contests--where Pindar and his peers were
"reporters"--might well have earned a dithyramb; a blow that would have
gladdened the sullen spirit of the old gladiator who trained the Cool
Captain, if the prophet had lived to see his auguries fulfilled, or if
sights and sounds from upper earth could penetrate to the limbo of
defunct athletæ. Nothing born of woman could have stood before it, and
it was small blame to Jean Duchesne that he dropped like a log in his
tracks. In another instant his conqueror had one knee on the chest of
the fallen man, and both hands were griping his throat.

His own face was fearfully changed. It wore an expression that has been
very often seen in the sixty centuries that have passed since Cain
struck his brother down, but has very seldom been described; for the
dead tell no tales beyond what their features, stiffened in hopeless
terror, may betray. It has been seen on lost battle-fields--in the
streets of cities given up to pillage, when the storming is just over
and the carnage begun--on desolate hill-sides--in dark forest-glades--in
chambers of lonely houses, strongly but vainly barred--in every place
where men in the death agony have "cried and there was none to help
them." It was full time for _some one_ to interfere when the devil had
entered into Royston Keene.

From the moment that affairs had assumed such a different aspect Mr.
Fullarton had gradually been recovering his composure, and by this time
was quite himself again. He advanced confidently, and, laying his hand
on the major's shoulder with an imposing air, and with his best pulpit
manner, enunciated, "Thou shalt do no murder!" The latter, as we have
already said, was utterly beside himself; but even this can not excuse
the abrupt, impatient movement that sent such an eminent divine reeling
three paces back. The rigid lips only twisted themselves into an evil
sneer, and the cruel fingers tightened their gripe till the features of
the prostrate wretch grew convulsed and black.

The whole scene had passed so quickly, though it takes so long to
describe (some of us never _can_ succeed in stenography), that Cecil
felt perfectly lost in a whirl of conflicting emotions, till she saw the
face in life before her that she had been fancying ever since last
night. A great fear came over her, but she overcame it, and her woman's
instinct told her what to do. She laid her little hand upon Keene's arm
before he was aware that she was near, and whispered so that only he
could hear, "For _my_ sake." Only these three simple words; but the
exorcism was complete.

Again a shiver ran all through the hardy frame, and for once Love was
more powerful than Hate. He loosed his hold--slowly though, and
reluctantly--and rose to his feet, passing his hand over his eyes in a
strange, bewildered way; but in five seconds his wonderful self-command
asserted itself, and he spoke as coolly as ever. "A thousand pardons.
One does forget one's self sometimes when the _canaille_ are provoking,
but I ought to have remembered what was due to _you_."

Though she could not speak, she tried to smile; but strong reaction had
come on. In the pale woman that trembled so painfully it was hard to
recognize proud Cecil Tresilyan. Royston was watching her narrowly, and
his tone softened till it made his simple words a caress. "Don't make me
more angry with myself than I deserve. Indeed, there is nothing more to
alarm or distress you. If you would only forgive me!" He helped her into
the saddle as he spoke, and she submitted passively. But the happy
feeling of perfect trust in him was coming back fast.

Jean Duchesne had somewhat recovered from his stupor, and was leaning on
one arm, panting heavily, still in great pain; but he was inured to all
sorts of broils, and evidently he would soon recover from the effects of
this one, though he had never been so roughly handled. It was sheer
terror that made him lie so still: he dared move no more than a whipped
hound while in the presence of his late opponent.

The others turned slowly homeward, for it is needless to say the
wild-flowers and the rendezvous were forgotten. As they turned the
corner which cut off the view of Duchesne's ground, Royston looked back
once, longingly. It was well for Cecil's nerves, in their disturbed
state, that she did not catch that Parthian glance. Ah, those
ungovernable eyes! They were gleaming with the expression that
Kirkpatrick's may have worn when he turned into the chapel where the Red
Comyn lay, growling, "_I_ mak sicker."

None of the party were much disposed for conversation; for even Mr.
Fullarton did not feel equal to "improving the occasion" just then.
Cecil broke the silence at last: it was where the road was so narrow
that only two could walk abreast: Royston never left her bridle-rein.
"You must fancy that I have thanked you; I can not do so properly now.
It is strange, though, that you should have come up so very opportunely.
Was it a presentiment that made you follow us?"

The answer was so low that she had almost to guess at it from the motion
of his lips, "Have you forgotten Napoleon's last rallying-cry, '_Qui
m'aime me suit?_'" No wonder that his pulse would throb exultantly as he
saw the bright, beautiful blush that swept over his companion's cheek
and brow! They had almost reached home when he spoke again, "You would
have been liberal in your promises twenty minutes ago if I had not
stopped you, Miss Tresilyan. I _should_ like to have some memorial of
to-day. Very childish, is it not? Will you give me _this_? I deserve
something for saving that pretty parasol." He touched the glove she had
just drawn off--a light riding-gauntlet, fancifully cut, and embroidered
with silk. Cecil hesitated, though she would have been loth to refuse
him any thing just then. She felt, as most proud, sensitive women feel
the first time they are asked for what may be interpreted into a _gage
d'amour_. The tribute may be nominal, and the suzerain may be lenient
indeed, but none the less does it establish vassalage.

Royston interpreted her reluctance aright, and went on with an
earnestness very unusual with him: for once it was honest and true.
"Pray trust me. The moment I cease to value that _souvenir_ as it
deserves, on my honor I will return it."

He was fated to triumph all through that day. When Cecil was alone she
put something away with a very unnecessary carefulness, for surely
nothing can be more valueless than a glove that has lost its mate.



CHAPTER XIII.


I am almost ashamed to confess how deeply the scene she had witnessed
affected Cecil Tresilyan. The exhibition of Keene's fierce temper ought
certainly to have warned, if it did not disgust her. She could only
think--"It was for my sake that he was so angry, and he yielded to my
first word."

There is rather a heavy run just now against the "physical force"
doctrine. It seems to me that some of its opponents are somewhat
hypercritical. For many, many years romancists persisted in attributing
to their principal heroes every point of bodily perfection and
accomplishment; no one thought then of caviling at such a
well-understood and established type. That most fertile and meritorious
of writers, for instance, Mr. G. P. R. James, invariably makes his _jeun
premier_ at least moderately athletic; so much so, that when he has the
villain of the tale at his sword's point we feel a comfortable
confidence that virtue will triumph as it deserves. As such a
contingency is certain to occur twice or thrice in the course of the
narrative, a nervous reader is spared much anxiety and trouble of mind
by this satisfactory arrangement. _Nous avons changé tout cela._ Modern
refinement requires that the chief character shall be made interesting
in spite of his being dwarfish, plain-featured, and a victim to
pulmonary or some more prosaic disease. Clearly we are right. What is
the use of advancing civilization if it does not correct our taste? What
have we to do with the "manners and customs of the English" in the
eighteenth century, or with the fictions that beguiled our boyhood? Let
our motto still be "Forward;" we have pleasures of which our grandsires
never dreamed, and inventions that they were inexcusable in ignoring. We
are so great that we can afford to be generous. Let them sleep well,
those honest but benighted ancients, who went down to their graves
unconscious of "Aunt Sally," and perhaps never properly appreciated
_caviare_!

It is true that there are some writers--not the weakest--who still
cling to the old-fashioned mould. Putting Lancelot and Amyas out of the
question, I think I would sooner have "stood up" to most heroes of
romance than to sturdy Adam Bede. It can't be a question of religion or
morality, for "muscular _Christianity_" is the stock-sarcasm of the
opposite party: it must be a question of good taste. Well, ancient
Greece is supposed to have had some floating ideas on _that_ subject,
and she deified Strength. It is perfectly true, that to thrash a
prize-fighter unnecessarily is not a virtuous or glorious action, but I
contend that the _capability_ of doing so is an admirable and enviable
attribute. There are grades of physical as well as of moral perfection;
and, after all, the same Hand created both.

Have I been replying against the critics? _Absit omen!_ They are more
often right, I fear, than authors are willing to allow; for it _is_
aggravating to have one's pet bits of pathos put between inverted commas
for the world in general to make a mock at (we could hardly write them
down without tears in our eyes), and to have our story condensed into a
few clever, pithy sentences (all in the present tense), till its
weakness becomes painfully apparent. More than this, our candid friends
are impalpable. Real life can furnish us with enough substantial
opponents for us not to trouble ourselves about Junius. Neither in war
nor love is it expedient to grasp at shadows. Ah! Mr. Reade, why were
you not warned by Ixion?

One thing is certain: however sound your arguments in depreciation of
personal prowess may be, you will never gain a unanimous feminine
verdict. It must be an extraordinary exhibition of mental excellence
that will really interest the generality of our sisters for the moment
as deeply as a very ordinary feat of strength or skill. It is not that
they can not thoroughly appreciate rectitude of feeling, brilliancy of
conversation, and distinguished talent; but remember the hackneyed
quotation:

  Segnius irritant animum demissa per aures,
  Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus.

If you want a proof of the correctness of Horace's opinion, go up to
"Lord's" this month, and watch the flutter among the fair spectators,
just after a "forward drive" over the Pavilion; or, better still, the
next time the "Grand Military" comes off at Warwick, mark the reception
that the man who rides a winner will meet with in the stand.
Conventionality has done a good deal, but it has not refined away all
the frank, impulsive woman-nature yet. The knights are dust, and their
good swords rust; but dame and demoiselle are very much the same as they
were in the old days, when the Queen of Scots could sing

  How they reveled through the summer night,
    And by day made lanceshafts flee,
  For Mary Beatoun, and Mary Seatoun,
    And Mary Fleming, and me.

Will this long and rather rash _tirade_ in the least excuse Cecil
Tresilyan? Of course not. My poor heroine! It was very unnecessary--that
advertisement that she was not superior to the weaknesses of her sex;
for it seems to me, with every chapter, she has been growing more
fallible and frail. She was utterly incapable of being at all
demonstrative or "gushing;" but her preference for Royston Keene was now
quite undisguised.

Mrs. Danvers was bitterly exasperated. It would be unjust to deny that
she was greatly actuated by a sincere interest in her _ci-devant_
pupil's welfare; but other feelings were at work.

It is very remarkable how a perfectly well-principled woman will connive
at what she can not approve so long as she is taken unreservedly into
confidence; but when once one secret is kept back the danger of her
antagonism begins; the magic draught that has lulled the vigilant
Gryphon to sleep loses its potency; the guardian of the treasure
awakes--more savage because conscious of a dereliction in duty--and woe
to the Arimaspian! The cold, pale, chaste moon comes forth from behind
the cloud, determined to reveal every iota of transgression: no farther
chance of concealment here--_Reparat sua cornua Phoebe_.

So, to the utmost of her small powers, Bessie did endeavor to thwart and
counteract the adversary. Her line was consistently plaintive. In season
and out of season she whined and wept profusely. This was the last
resource of her simple strategy: when the enemy was getting too strong
to be met in open field, she adopted the Dutch plan of opening the
sluices and trying to drown him. It is painful to be obliged to state
that the inundation did not greatly avail. As she had done from the
first, Cecil declined to make any confidences, or indeed to discuss the
question at all.

Mr. Fullarton, too, felt keenly the defection of a promising proselyte.
Since that unfortunate afternoon Miss Tresilyan had been perfectly
civil, but always very cold; and he could not but be aware that he had
lost ground then that he never could hope to regain. The divine must
have been very desperate when he ventured to attack that impracticable
brother. It was not a judicious move; nor would any one have tried it
who knew Dick Tresilyan. It was not only that he liked and admired
Royston Keene, but he had a blind confidence in his sister that nothing
on earth could disturb: the evidence of his own senses would not have
affected it in the least. "Whatever _she_ does is right," he thought;
and he clung to that idea, as many other true believers will do to a
creed that they can not understand. So when the question was broached he
was not very angry (for he did _more_ than justice to the chaplain's
sense of duty), but he stubbornly declined to enter upon it at all. Mr.
Fullarton was so provoked that he was goaded into a taunt that he ought
to have been ashamed of.

"Perhaps you are right," he said; "Major Keene is so formidable an
adversary, that it is hardly safe to interfere with him." (These "men of
peace"--_quand ils s'y prennent_! I believe the most exasperating man in
England, at this moment, to be an influential Quaker.)

Dick Tresilyan took a long time (as was his wont) in finding out what
was meant; when he did, even his limited intellect appreciated its bad
taste and absurdity. A hundred sarcasms would not have disconcerted the
pastor so completely as his honest, hearty laugh.

"Ah! you think I'm afraid of him? No--they don't breed cowards where I
come from. I never heard that idea but once before; that was at the
Truro fair. I wasn't in very good company, and they 'planted' a big
miner on me at last. He wanted me to wrestle, and when I wouldn't, he
said--just what you did. But I remember all the others laughed at him.
They know _us_ in those parts, you see. He'd better have kept quiet; for
though he puzzled me at first with a 'back trick' he had, I knew more
than he did, and he got an awkward fall; I don't think he'll ever do a
good day's work again." He paused, and his brow darkened strangely, and
all his face changed, till it resembled more closely than it had often
done the portraits of come of the "bitter, bad Tresilyans." "I suppose
you mean well, Mr. Fullarton, but I'm not going to thank you. We can
manage our affairs without your meddling; and if you're wise you'll
leave us alone." It will be seen that the chaplain did not take much by
his motion.

Neither was Fanny Molyneux well satisfied with the turn affairs had
taken lately. That poor little "white witch" was really alarmed by the
unruly character of the spirit that she had been anxious to raise; she
did not know the proper formula for sending it back to its own place;
and, if she had, the stubborn demon would only have mocked at her simple
incantations. Though she loved Cecil dearly, she was too much in awe of
her to venture upon remonstrance or warning; indeed, the few mild hints
that she _did_ throw out had not met with such success as to tempt her
to follow them up. So she was, perforce, reduced to an unarmed
neutrality.

Her husband was perhaps the most thoroughly uncomfortable of the party.
He knew the circumstances and bearings of the question better than any
one else, and would have sacrificed a good deal ("his right hand," I
believe, is the proper phrase) to have averted the probable result. But
he had not sufficient strength of mind to take the decided measures that
might have been of some avail; in fact, he had a vague idea that to act
on the offensive against his old comrade would be unpardonable
treachery. Arguing with the latter was simply absurd; for this reason,
if for no other, that from the moment his feelings became really
interested, no amount of diplomacy would have induced him to enter upon
the subject. Harry went about with a miserable, helpless sense of
complicity weighing him down, which was much aggravated by a few words
which dropped one morning from Dick Tresilyan.

Dick had been dining _tête-à-tête_ with Keene on the previous evening
after a hard day's snipe shooting, and bore evident traces about him of
a heavy night--a fact which he lost no time in alluding to, not without
a certain pride, like the man in Congreve's play, who exults in having
"been drunk in excellent company." "We had a very big drink," he said,
confidentially, "and the major got more than his allowance. He didn't
know what he was talking about at last, and he told me more of his
affairs than most people know, I think; of course, I'm as safe as a
church;" and Dick made a gallant but abortive attempt to wink with one
of his swollen eyelids.

Molyneux shrank away from the speaker with something very like a
suppressed groan--he had heard _that_ said before, and remembered what
came of it. Credulity was as dangerous when men thought Royston Keene
had lost his head as when women flattered themselves he had lost his
heart.



CHAPTER XIV.


If you will be good enough to look back on the one romance in which,
like the rest of the world, you probably indulged yourself, you will
remember, perhaps more distinctly than any other feature, the
_presentiment_ which haunted you from the very beginning. We were
absurdly sanguine and hopeful in those days--full of chivalrous resolves
and unlimited aspirations; but still the feeling would come back--if,
indeed, it ever left us--that in the dim background there was difficulty
and danger. We were not surprised when the small white speck rose out of
the sea, and it needed no prophet to tell us then that the heavens would
soon be black with clouds, and that there would be a great rain (which,
indeed, was the case, for there ensued a long continuance of wet
weather; it was a very tearful season). Oddly enough, that same
presentiment did not make us particularly melancholy or uncomfortable,
but seemed rather to give a zest to our simple pleasures, relieving them
from any tinge of sameness or insipidity. When the _dénouement_ came we
did not exactly see things in the same light certainly, and it took some
time to settle thoroughly down into our present theory, that "it was all
for the best."

It is the old story of Thomas the Rhymer over and over again (we were
all rhymers once). The lover knows that there is peril in the path, but
not the less joyously he strides on by the side of the beautiful queen.
How sweetly they ring, the silver bells on the neck of the milk-white
palfrey; not so sweetly, though, as her low, musical tones. So on they
fare, till the world of realities is left far behind, and they find
themselves at their journey's end. It is very happy, that year spent in
her kingdom; but so like a dream that he does not appreciate its
pleasures so well at the moment as he will in the weary after-years. Yet
the waking came too soon. The sojourner had not half grown tired of his
resting-place; the bloom has not faded on the wondrous fruits and
flowers: the strangely sweet wine has not lost its savor, when it is
time for him to be gone, for a dreadful whisper runs through the company
that to-morrow the teind to hell must be paid. Well, the black
tax-gatherer is balked by a day, and the wanderer is back at Ercildoune
again. Very dreary looks the gray, bare moorland. Do they call that
foliage on the stunted fir-trees? It is only the ghost of a forest. The
trim parterres have no beauty or fragrance for one that has lingered in
more glorious gardens and plucked redder roses. Tabret and viol jangle
harshly in the ears that have rioted in melodies made by fairy harpers.
The village maidens may be comely, but they are somewhat clumsy withal;
the earthen floor trembles under their feet when they lead their simple
dances; very different from the steps that kept time to a wild, weird
music, stirring but scarcely bending the grass-blades. There is no color
in their flaxen locks, and little light in their pale-blue eyes; these
will not bear comparison with the smooth, braided tresses that
glistened like blue-black serpents, or the glances that rained down
liquid fire through the twilight of the forests of Elf-land. Slowly the
discontented dreamer realizes the fact that the spell is still upon
him--riveted when he stole that first fatal kiss in despite of his
mistress's warning. Nothing is left for him now but to expiate his folly
in the loneliness of the gray old tower, and to look forth, hoping to
see the grass-green robe gleam again against the setting sun, and to
hear the silver bells chime once more in the still evening air.
Vain--worse than vain. With stiffened limbs and grizzled hair, we are
not worth beguiling.

This is essentially a masculine illustration, and only applies to Cecil
Tresilyan thus far. She was sensible of the influence that strengthened
its hold upon her every day, and did not now wish or try to resist it,
but she grew proportionately doubtful and uneasy about the event. A
feeling, very strange and new to one of a temperament like hers, began
to creep over her now and then. At such times she owned that her eyes
were the more eagerly and steadfastly fixed on the Present, because they
did not dare to look into the Future. Yet, as far as she knew, there was
no ground for much apprehension.

It is always so. Only when we are carrying something rare and precious
do we appreciate the possible perils of the road. How much steeper the
hills are now, how much deeper and darker the ravines, how much more
frequent the crags that might so easily conceal a marauder, than when we
passed them some months ago chanting the reckless roundel of the _vacuus
viator_.

We said, you remember, before, that Miss Tresilyan had one subject of
self-reproach, for which she had never gained her own absolution. The
whispers that had never been quite silenced began to make themselves
heard unpleasantly often, and now they just hinted at Retribution. As
our poor Cecil must come to confession some time or another, it seems to
me this is a convenient season.

At the country-house where she was spending Christmas, three years
before the date of our story, she met Mark Waring. She knew his
antecedents: how, when sudden troubles came upon his family, he gave up
diplomacy, which he had entered upon, and took up the law--hating it
cordially--simply because a fair opening was given him there of securing
to his mother and sisters something better than bread. He never
pretended to feel the slightest interest in his profession, but went on
slaving at it resolutely and successfully. He made no merit of it
either, but always spoke, and I believe thought of it, as the merest
matter of course--the right thing to do under the circumstance. There
was a hardihood of principle about all this which Cecil rather admired;
and his frank, bold bearing, and simple, straightforward way of putting
thoughts that were worth listening to into terse, strong language, aided
the first favorable impression. She determined to make Mark like her;
and when she had a fancy of this kind, she was apt to carry it out
without much consideration for the comfort or convenience of the person
destined to the experiment. She had no deliberate intention of doing any
body any harm; but those innocent little whims and projects of
amusement do more mischief sometimes than the most systematic
machinations of devil-craft. Why, when you begin even to _write_ a
chapter, it is very difficult to say where it will end; when you begin
to talk it or act it, it is harder still to prophesy aright. A
character, or a sentence, or an idea, which looked quite insignificant
at first, assumes perfectly portentous dimensions and importance before
we have done with it; so that the alternate effect is nearly as
startling when realized as that produced by Alice's conjuration:

  She crossed him thrice, that lady bold;
    He rose beneath her hand,
  The fairest knight on Scottish mould,
    Her brother, Ethert Brand.

So while Cecil was drawing on Mark Waring to talk about his daily
life--sympathizing with him about his hard, distasteful work, and
pitying his loneliness, she never guessed how her words were being
branded, one by one, on the earnest, steadfast heart, that her own lofty
nature was not worthy to understand. In a week after their first meeting
she had drawn from him all the love he had to give; and men of Mark
Waring's mould can only find room for one love in a lifetime. Such
characters are exceptional, fortunately; for they are very impracticable
and difficult to get on with, and their antiquated notions are
perpetually contrasting and conflicting with the established prejudices
of polite and well-organized society--sometimes even checking the same
for an instant in its easy, conventional flow. They _won't_ see that of
all ways of spending time and thought, the most absurdly unprofitable is
to waste them on a memory. Yet--O mine excellent friend and cynical
preceptor! to whom, for sage instruction, I owe a debt of gratitude that
I never mean to repay--I beseech you, consort not too much with these
misguided men. They are not likely to infect you with their pestilent
doctrines and principles; but they may, in an unguarded moment, make you
do violence to your favorite maxim--_Nil admirari_.

With all his strong common sense, Mark was lamentably deficient in
worldly wisdom. He never saw the obstacles that would have daunted
others. Could any thing be more improbable than that the most triumphant
beauty of the season should seriously incline to share the long up-hill
struggle of a rising barrister? Those dull Temple-chambers are lucky
enough if the sun condescends to visit them at rare intervals in his
journey westward. But Waring's own singleness of purpose beguiled him
more effectually than the most inordinate vanity could have done.
Putting character out of the question, he thought a woman could only
derogate by allying herself to one of inferior birth; and he knew his
own blood to be nearly equal to Miss Tresilyan's. He was right so
far--if she had only loved him she would have subscribed readily to
every article of his simple, knightly creed. The last idea that entered
his mind was, that she could have stooped so low as to trifle with him.
It was the old mistake. We measure other people's feelings by the
intensity of our own, and think it hard when we meet with
disappointment. Yet a certain misgiving, that he did not like to
analyze, kept him from bringing the question to an issue till the day
before his departure. Then he told her frankly what his prospects were,
and asked her to share them.

Now "the Refuser" was so used to seeing men commit themselves in this
way on the very shortest notice, and without the faintest encouragement,
that the situation had ceased to afford her much excitement: a proposal
no more made her nervous than file-firing does a thoroughly-broken
charger. For once, however, she felt uncomfortable and vexed with
herself, though she did not guess the extent of the harm she had done.
Nothing could be kinder or gentler than her answer, but nothing could be
more decisive. On the cold, smooth rock there was not a cleft or a
trailing weed for despair to cling to in its drowning agony. So the hope
of Mark Waring's life went down there without a cry or a struggle--as it
is fitting the hope of a strong heart should die--into the depths of the
great sea that never will give up its dead.

The lover of the present day is rather a curious study immediately after
he has encountered a defeat or disappointment. Sometimes the phase is a
mild melancholy. I remember a case of this sort not very long ago. The
reflections on things in general that flowed constantly from that man's
lips for the space of about a fortnight were incredible to those who
knew him well. They were so calmly philosophic--so pleasantly ironical,
without a tinge of bitterness--so frequently relieved by the flashes of
keen humor--that to listen to them (the weather being intensely hot) was
soothing and refreshing in the extreme. Every body was sorry when he was
consoled; for, since that time he has never made an observation worth
recording. She was a very clever woman who reduced our friend to this
abnormal state, though she grossly maltreated him; and, from close
association, some of her conversational talent, perhaps insensibly, had
got into his constitution; but it could not thrive in such an
uncongenial soil, where there was nothing to nourish it. Some men,
again, take the reckless and boisterous line, plunging for a while into
all sorts of demoralization, with an evident contentment in having a
fair excuse for the same in their disappointment. Certainly it is rather
a luxurious state of things--to satisfy one's vengeance while gratifying
one's appetites--and to know that people are saying all the time, "Poor
Charlie! He's very much to be pitied. It's entirely Fanny Grey's fault.
He is dreadfully altered since she behaved to him so shamefully."
Others--probably the majority--go for complete indifference, and succeed
creditably on the whole. A few, _very_ few, know that their happiness
has got its death-wound, and are able to take it bravely and silently.
It is of one of these last we are speaking.

Mark Waring was too honest to affect insensibility; he was not of the
stuff out of which accomplished actors are made. He walked quickly to
the window, that his face might not betray him, and did not turn round
till he thought he had disciplined it thoroughly. It was but a half
victory after all; for when Cecil met his eyes her cheek became the
paler of the two. She read there enough to make her wish that she could
give up all her former triumphs, and undo this last success. She tried
to tell him that she was deeply grieved and repentant; but the words
would not come. Mark forgot his own sorrow when he saw large drops
hanging ready to fall on the dark, long eyelashes.

"Pray do not distress yourself," he said, quite steadily; "such
presumption as mine deserves harsher treatment than it has met with from
you. You are not answerable for my extravagant self-delusions. I would
ask you to forgive me for having been so precipitate--only I know, now,
that if I had waited seven years your answer would have been the same.
Let us part in kindness; it will be very long before we meet again; but
I do not think I shall forget you; and I hope you will remember me if
you ever want a hand or head to carry out any one of your wishes or
whims. It would make me very happy if I could so serve you. Now,
good-by. It is only going this afternoon instead of to-morrow. I must
try and make up for lost time, too, by working a little harder."

The smile that accompanied those last words haunted Cecil for many, many
days. She knew already enough of Waring to be certain that he would
never sink into maudlin sentimentality; it saddened her inexpressibly to
fancy him alone in his gloomy chambers, when the night was waning,
chained to those crabbed law-papers from a dreary sense of duty, but
without a hope or an interest to cheer him on; he had given up ambition
long ago. (There are many clocks that keep time to a second, when their
striking part is ruined utterly.) She felt angry, then and afterward,
that she could find no words to say the least appropriate or expressive;
she held out her hand timidly, pleading for forgiveness with her eyes.
He just touched it with his lips before he let it go. That kiss of peace
was a more precious tribute than any of her hundred vassals had offered
to the proud Tresilyan. So they parted.

Cecil's conscience was disagreeably uncompromising, and for a long time,
declined to admit any valid excuse for the mischief she had done; but
time and change are efficient anodynes; and her penance was nearly
completed when she came to Dorade. Of late, however, the reproachful
vision had presented itself oftener than ever. She realized more
completely the pain that Mark Waring must have endured, as she guessed
what would be the bitterness of her own feelings, if it should prove
that she had mistaken Royston Keene. That sorrowful memory seemed to
rise before her like a warning spectre, waving her back from the path
she had begun to tread. Truly, Cecil Tresilyan _was_ different from the
generality of her sex; or, when her own heart was sorely imperiled, she
would never have found time to think so often, and so regretfully, of
one that she had broken. But, when a woman has once determined to set
her whole fortunes on the turn of a die, where is the monitor that will
teach her prudence or self-restraint? She will hardly be persuaded
"though one rose from the dead."



CHAPTER XV.


Royston Keene had indeed good reason to augur ill of the ending of his
love-dream; but it was in his nature always to walk straight on to the
accomplishment of his purpose, overlooking the obstacles that lay
between and the dangers that lay beyond. This partly accounted for his
utter insensibility to ordinary inconveniences and annoyances. His own
words to Molyneux one day, when the latter remarked on this peculiarity,
though somewhat allegorical, expressed his theory and practice fairly:
"Hal, when we are traveling, we always remember where we change our
large notes; but life is not long enough to recollect how the thalers
and piastres go." His companion thought this rather a brilliant
illustration, especially as it squared with his own ideas of existence.
But in reality, between the two men there was a marked distinction. A
genial kindliness in the one, and a hard unscrupulous determination in
the other, worked out nearly the same results.

Royston liked Cecil Tresilyan better than any woman he had ever seen,
and he made up his mind to win her. It is more than doubtful if he took
the probable consequences to either into consideration at all. Foot by
foot he was gaining ground till he felt almost sure of success; but this
confidence never made him for an instant less vigilant in watching the
chances, less careful in scoring every point of the game. He had played
it long enough to know these right well.

Yet to him, too, the Past brought its warning. He was rarely troubled or
favored with dreams; but one night was an exception to the rule. To
understand it you must look back once more, and bear with me while we
moralize yet again. _Excusez du peu._

There is a regret that has power to move and torment the coldest Stoic
that vegetates on earth; it comes when our own hand or act has slain the
one living thing that loved us best of all. We may have done the deed
unwittingly or unwillingly; we may have been unconscious of the love
that was borne us till it was too late for acknowledgment; we may never
in thought or word or act have injured our victim before that last wrong
of the death-blow; well for those who can plead so fair an excuse; yet
even this, with all the rest, the inexorable Nemesis laughs to scorn. I
wonder that poets and dramatists have not oftener selected this saddest
theme. It may be true that the last murmur from the lips of the
Llewellyn, when his life was ebbing away in the Pass of the Ambush,
syllabled the name, not of wife or child or friend, but of a stanch
wolfhound; and perhaps tears less bitter have been shed over the graves
of many exemplary Christians than those that sprinkled the turf under
the birch-trees where Gelert was sleeping. It could not free the Ancient
Mariner from the remorse that clung to him like a poisoned garment till
it made him a "world's wonder," because, when he shot the albatross, he
thought he was benefiting his fellows. Not less accusingly did the
voices of the sea wail in the ears of the desolate Viking, because, when
the bitter arrow went aside, he was fighting hard to save Oriana.
Nothing could be more correct than the conduct of Virginius, or more
creditable to a Roman father; but when he harangued in the Forum in
after days, I doubt if the commons thronged so densely as to shut out
from the demagogue a vision of fair hair dabbled in blood, gleaming
awfully in the sunlight, and of dark-blue eyes turned upon him in a
wondering horror till that look froze in them forevermore. I doubt if
the cheers of his partisans were so noisy as to drown the memory of a
certain choked shivering moan; in the long, lonely winter nights at
least, be sure those sights and sounds visited the tribune's hearth,
often enough to satisfy the savage spirit of the doomed decemvir.

It was this remorse which had stricken Royston Keene sorely, even
through his armor of proof, as he knelt, not very long ago, by the side
of a death-bed. A woman lay there, scarcely past girlhood, and fair
enough to have been the pride of any English household, as daughter or
sister or wife. You shall not read unnecessarily an episode of sin and
bitter sorrow, and of shame that was not less heavy to bear because the
eyes of the world were blinded and saw it not. It is enough to say that
the blood of Emily Carlyle was as certainly on her tempter's head as
that of any one of those whom he had slain in open fight with shot or
steel. This is what she answered when he asked her to forgive him: "My
own, I have forgiven you long ago! I could not help it if I would. I can
not reproach you either, for though I have tried hard to repent, I fear,
if all were to come over again, I should not act more coldly or wisely.
But listen! I know you will be able, if you choose it, to make others
love you nearly as well as I have done--and you _will_ choose it.
Darling, promise me that, for my sake, you will spare _one_. I could die
easier if I thought my intercession had saved another's soul, though I
was so weak in guarding my own. It might help me too, perhaps--if any
thing can help me--where I am going." Even Royston Keene shivered at the
low terror-stricken whisper in which these last words were spoken. He
gave the promise though, and remembered it occasionally till--the time
for keeping it came.

The major had been spending the evening with Cecil Tresilyan, making
arrangements for a pic-nic that was to take place two days later. He had
had a passage-of-arms or two with Mrs. Danvers, wherein that
strong-principled but weak-minded enthusiast had been utterly
discomfited and routed with great slaughter. Altogether it was very
pleasant entertainment; and he went to his rest in a state of great
contentment and satisfaction. He woke (or seemed to wake) with a sudden
start and shudder, for he was aware of the presence of something in the
room that was not there when he lay down.

Out of the black darkness a face slowly defined itself, bending over the
pillow and creeping close to his own--only a face--he could not
distinguish even the outline of a figure. He knew it very well, and the
eyes, too--but there was an upbraiding there that, while she lived, he
had never seen in those of gentle Emily Carlyle; and a reproach came
from the white lips, though they did not move to give it passage. "All
forgotten! I--the promise, too. And yet--I suffer--I suffer always." The
sad, pleading expression of the face and eyes vanished then; and a
strange, pale glare, not like the moonlight, that seemed to come from
within, lighted them up--fixed and rigid, yet eloquent, of unutterable
agony: there was written plainly the self-abhorrence of a heart
conscious of the coils of the undying worm--the despair of a soul
looking far into Futurity, yet seeing no end to the wrath to come. Then
the darkness swallowed up all; and, before Keene thoroughly roused
himself--with a smothered cry--he knew that he was alone again.

A cold dew lingered on the dreamer's forehead, as if a breath from
beyond the grave had lately passed over it; but terror was not the
predominating feeling. He had ruled that timid, trusting girl too long
and too imperiously to quail before her disembodied spirit. But a
strange sadness overcame him as he pondered upon all that she had
endured--and might still be enduring--for his sake: a glimmer of
something like generosity and compassion flickered for a brief space
over the surface of the cast-steel heart. He rose, and leaned out into
the steady, outer moonlight, musing for several minutes, and then began
muttering aloud. "It would be as well to clear off one debt at least. I
did pass my word. She deserves this sacrifice, if it were only for never
complaining: let her have her way. By G--d, I'll go off to-morrow
evening, and I'll tell Cecil so as soon as I can see her. Bah! what is a
man worth if he can not forget? Besides, I don't know--" The rest of his
doubts and scruples he confessed--not even to the stars.

Climate has a great deal to answer for. A sudden tempest or an opportune
mist has turned the scale of more battles than some of the most
successful generals would have liked to own. If the next morning had
broken sullenly, things might have gone far otherwise. But it was one of
those brilliant days that make even the invalids not regret, for the
moment, that they have given up all English comforts and home-pleasures
for the off-chance of wringing another month or two of life out of the
wreck of their constitution. Every thing looked bright and in holiday
guise, from the wreaths of ivy glistening on the brows of the shattered
old castle, down to the [Greek: _anêrithmong elasma_] of the
turquoise-sea. Under the circumstances, it was very unlikely that
Royston would keep to his virtuous resolutions. The first half of them
he carried out perfectly: he did go straight to Cecil Tresilyan, and
tell her of his intentions to depart. She did not betray much of her
disappointment or surprise, but she argued with so fascinating a
casuistry against the necessity of such a sudden step, that it was no
wonder if she soon convinced her hearer of the propriety of at least
delaying it. In a case like this an excuse of "urgent private affairs"
that would suffice for the most rigid martinet that ever tyrannized over
a district or a division sounds absurdly trivial and insincere. When a
proud beauty does condescend to plead, a man who really cares for her
must be very peculiarly constituted if he remains constant in denial.

The vision of the night had faded away already. Those poor ghosts! They
have no chance--the mystics say--against embodied spirits, if the latter
only keep up their courage, and choose to assert their supremacy.
Besides, they must, perforce, fly before the dawn. And what dawn was
ever so bright as the Tresilyan's smile when she guessed from Royston's
face, without his speaking, that she had won the day?

So the pic-nic came off according to the arrangement. The weather and
every thing else looked so promising that even the vinegar in Bessie
Danvers's composition was acidulated; and, when Keene greeted her at
the place of _rendezvous_, she favored him with just such a smile as one
of the grim Puritan dames, in a rare interval of courtesy, may have
granted to Claverhouse or Montrose--the right of reprobation being
reserved. It is greatly to be feared that the Malignant did not
appreciate the condescension, his attention was so entirely taken up in
another quarter.

Cecil Tresilyan was perfectly dazzling in the splendor and insolence of
her beauty: the calm self-possession that usually distinguished her
seemed changed into almost reckless high spirits: even her dress
betrayed a certain intention of coquetry; and her splendid violet eyes
flashed ever and anon with a mischievously mutinous expression that made
their glance a challenge. Such a frame of mind the Scotch describe when
they speak of a person being "fey," holding it to be a sure presage of
impending disaster.

Oh, guileless maidens! be warned, and trust not to attractive
appearances. Lo! there is not a cloud in the sky that smiles over the
Nysian vale; all round the roses and lilies are blooming, till the air
is faint with their perfume; merry and musical rings the laugh of
Persephone, as she goes forth with her comrades a-Maying; but worse
things than serpents lurk beneath the waving grass. We, who have read
the ancient legend, listen already for the roll of the nether thunder:
we know that, in another minute, the earth will disgorge Aïdoneus, the
smart ravisher, with his iron chariot: then will come a struggle of the
dove in the clutch of the falcon--a cry for help drowned in a hoarse
growl of triumph--shrieks and wild disorder among the flying nymphs; but
the loveliest of the land will rejoin them never any more. Demeter
(like other careful chaperones), when she is most wanted, is far away,
tending her corn-lands or reveling in the odors of sacrifice. Finding
her after long-baffled search, she will hardly recognize her innocent
child in the pale Queen of Shades, that seems worthy of her awful throne
far-gleaming through the leaden twilight: the little hand that used to
weave garlands so deftly sways the golden sceptre right royally; but the
deep, solemn eyes have forgotten how to smile. She who once wept
bitterly over her pet bird when it died listens, unmoved, to the clank
of Megæra's scourge, and to the wail of a million spirits in torment.
Her beauty is more magnificent than ever, but it is tinged with the
austere and dreary majesty that befits the consort of the King of Hell.
Ah, woeful mother! desist from intercession, and dry those unavailing
tears: it is too late now to tempt her to follow you, even if Hades will
let its empress depart for a season: the pure, natural fruits of your
upper earth have lost all savor for the lips that once have tasted the
fatal pomegranate.

Mr. Fullarton and his family completed the party, which was confined to
the Molyneux's set. The chaplain was strangely nervous, fussy, and
important: it seemed as if the possession of some weighty secret that he
was eager, yet afraid to divulge, had disturbed his phlegmatic
complacency. He took the first opportunity of beseeching Miss Tresilyan
to be allowed to act as her escort: it was customary on all these
expeditions that each dame and demoiselle, besides the professional
muleteer, should be attended by at least one "dismounted skirmisher."
Cecil was rather puzzled by the petition, and by the earnest way in
which it was preferred; but she was too happy to deny any body any thing
just then; besides which she felt conscious of having visited her pastor
of late with a certain amount of neglect, not to say contumely. So she
consented, graciously; but the sidelong glance at Keene, asking for his
sympathy, did not escape her reverend cavalier.

It was evident that Mr. Fullarton had something on his mind that he
intended to impart to his companion; but it was equally clear that he
did not see his way to the confidence. The path turned abruptly across
the line of hills; and while he was hesitating and looking about for a
fair opening, it got so steep and rugged that it soon left him no breath
for the disclosure. Before they had gone half a league the divine was
decidedly in difficulties; he rolled hither and thither, panting
painfully, like one who has already endured all the burden and heat of
the day. Still he clung obstinately to Cecil's bridle-rein, rather
assisted than assisting, till they reached a point where the road
resembled greatly a flight of garret stairs, without any regularity in
the steps thereof. The mule and its leader stumbled together; the former
recovered itself cleverly after the fashion of its kind; but such a
_tour de force_ far exceeded the exhausted energies of the pursy pastor.
He was fairly "down upon his head."

Since the cavalcade started, Major Keene had not attempted to disturb
the order of march; at first he walked by the side of Fanny Molyneux,
and did his best to amuse her; when the path became too narrow for three
abreast, he resigned the charge to Harry (who never, willingly, when _en
voyage_, abdicated the charge of his _mignonne_), and went on by
himself, just in the rear of Miss Tresilyan and her clerical escort. He
presented, in truth, a striking contrast to that over-tasked
pedestrian--going easily, within himself, without a quickened breath, or
a bead of moisture on his forehead. _Shikari_ of the Upper Himalayas,
gillies of Perthshire and the Western Highlands, chamois-hunters of the
Tyrol, and guides of Chamounix or Courmayeur, could all have told tales
of that long, slashing stride, to which hill or dale, rough or smooth,
never came amiss; before which even the weary German miles were
swallowed up like furlongs. He sprang quickly forward when he saw the
mishap of his front rank; Miss Tresilyan was quite safe, so he only gave
her a smile in passing, and then raised the fallen ecclesiastic, with a
studied and ostentatious tenderness that would have aggravated a saint.

"I hope you are not severely hurt, Mr. Fullarton? You really should be
less rash in over-exciting yourself. The spirit is willing, but the
flesh is--somewhat 'short of work.' May I relieve you of your
responsibility till you have recovered your wind?"

In spite of his own sacred character, and the proprieties of time and
place, had Keene been weak and of small stature, it is within the bounds
of possibility that the pastor might have assaulted him, there and then.

If it had not been for that unfortunate sense of the ridiculous which
was perpetually offering temptations to Miss Tresilyan, she would have
undoubtedly on this occasion espoused the losing side; but she exhausted
all her powers of self-control in expressing (with decent gravity) her
sorrow, that her guide should have come to grief in her service. She had
none left wherewith to concoct a rebuke for the Cool Captain.
Considering the circumstances, Mr. Fullarton's laugh, and attempt at a
jest on his own discomfiture, did him infinite credit. With the
smothered expression that half escaped his lips as he fell to the rear,
the chronicler has no earthly concern.

As the other two moved onward, Royston spoke, his dark eyes glittering
scornfully--

"I wonder if women will ever get tired of deriding us, or we of
ministering to their amusement? It must have been a great satisfaction
to Anne of Austria to see Richelieu dance that saraband. (But Mazarin
paid her off for it. I am very glad that the cardinal was avenged by the
_charlatan_.) Now, how could you allow the shepherd to be so rash?
Consider that he has a large and increasing family totally dependent on
him for support. If I were Mrs. Fullarton, I would bring an action
against you. It is a necessity that his successor should quote
_something_; and he really did bring to my mind the description of the
White Bull of Duncraggan, who started up-hill so vigorously--

  But steep and flinty was the road,
  And sharp the hurrying pikemen's goad,
  And when we came to Dennan's Row,
  A child might scatheless stroke his brow.

I shouldn't like to be the child, though," he added, meditatively, with
a backward glance at the object of his remarks, who indeed did present a
very "dissolving view."

The tone and manner of his speaking showed how much, within the last few
weeks, the relations of the two had altered: the scale was already
wavering, and ere long might be foretold a change in the balance of
power.

His beautiful companion shook her head till the soft curling plumes that
nestled round her hat danced again; but the effect of the reproving
gesture was quite spoilt by the laugh that followed it, suppressed
though clear as a silver bell.

"I will not be made an accomplice in your irreverent comparisons; I
don't admit the resemblance; if there were one, it was too bad of 'the
pikemen' not to be more considerate. You always try to impute malicious
motives to the most innocent. How could I guess that Mr. Fullarton would
suffer so for his devotion to my interests? I will give you back your
quotation in kind. See! if I were as mischievous as you insinuate--

  My loss may pay my folly's tax;
  I've broke my trusty battle-axe."

The ivory handle of her parasol (the same that had been rescued from
Duchesne) chanced to be entangled in the bridle when the mule stumbled,
and the jerk snapped the frail shaft in two. Keene took the fragment
from her, and looked at it for an instant.

"Poor thing!" he said compassionately; "so it was fated to be
short-lived? It was hardly worth while saving it from the wrath of the
sinner, if it was to be sacrificed so soon to the awkwardness of the
saint."

"Not at all," Cecil replied. "It was my fault, for being so heedless.
But I can not afford another misadventure to-day. Will you take great
care of me?"

Her soft, caressing tones thrilled through Royston's veins till the
blood mounted to his forehead; but he made no answer in words, only
looking up earnestly into her face with his rare smile.

I have tried throughout to avoid inflicting on you a dialogue that does
not bear in some way on the incidents of our tale; on this principle we
will not record the conversation that occupied those two till they
reached the crown of the pass. It was probably interesting to _them_,
for it was long before either forgot a word that was spoken. But the
imagination or the memory of the reader will doubtless fill up a better
fancy-sketch than the one omitted here.

There was a general halt on the brow of the hill. Indeed the view was
worth a pause. From below their feet the tract of low woodland rolled
right down to the edge of the sea, like a broad tossing river, swelling
into great billows of gray or dark green, where the taller olives or
fir-trees grew, and broken here and there with islets of many-colored
stone. With the rest came up the chaplain, who had recovered by this
time his breath, and, to a certain extent, his equanimity. While the
others stood silent, he saw one of those openings for improving the
occasion professionally of which he was ever so ready to avail himself.
So, casting his hand abroad theatrically, he declaimed,

  How glorious are thy works, Parent of Good!

The words came oozing out in the oiliest of his unctuous tones; and the
elocutionist's expansive glance fell first on the landscape
patronizingly, then on the by-standers encouragingly. It was as though
he said, "You may fall to, and admire now. I have asked a blessing."
Nothing more occurred worthy of note till they reached their destination
in safety.

Of course, "there never was such a place for a picnic;" but, as that has
been said of about three hundred different spots in every civilized
country of Europe, it is certainly not worth while describing this
particular one. The luncheon went on very much as such things always do
when the arrangements are perfect, the commissariat unexceptionable, and
the guests hungry and happy.

Mr. Fullarton, however, applied himself so assiduously to Champagne-cup
that his sober-minded helpmate (the only person who took much notice of
his proceedings) was filled with an uncomfortable wonder. At last,
during a pause in the general conversation, he addressed Royston
abruptly--there was a strange huskiness in his voice, and his lower lip
kept trembling--

"I heard from Naples this morning. My friend mentions having met Mrs.
Keene there."

The major looked up at the speaker with the cool, indifferent glance
that had often irritated him. "Indeed! I was not aware that my mother
had got so far south yet. She wrote last from Rome." The other tossed
off his glass with an unsteady hand, and set it down sharply. "I never
heard of your mother, sir," he said; "I was speaking of--_your wife_."



CHAPTER XVI.


To quarrel with a man over his cups, or in any wise to molest him in his
drink, is an offense against the proprieties that even the good-natured
Epicurean can not find it in his easy heart to palliate or pardon. On
this point he speaks mildly, but very firmly:

  Natis in usum lætitiæ scyphis
  Pugnare, Thracum est. Tollite barbarum
  Morem: verecundumque Bacchum
  Sanguineis prohibete rixis.

The ghost of Banquo was an uncivilized spectre, or--strong as was the
provocation--it would have confronted Macbeth in any other place sooner
than the banqueting-hall. The worst deed in the life of a cruel, false
king was the setting on of the black bull's head before the doomed
Douglases; and perhaps Pope Alexander, though singularly exempt from all
vulgar prejudice, found it hard to obtain his own pontifical absolution
for the poisoned wine in which he pledged the Orsini and Colonna. In
these, and a hundred like instances, there was certainly the shadowy
excuse of political expediency or necessity; but what shall we say of
that individual who interrupts the harmony of a meeting solely to
gratify his own private pique or pleasure? Truly, with such enormities
Heaven "heads the count of crimes." I consider the most abominable act
of which Eris was ever guilty was the selection of that particular
moment for the production of the golden apple. If she was bound to make
herself obnoxious, she might have waited till the Olympians were sitting
in conclave, or at least at home again. It was infamous to disturb them
while doing justice to the talents of Peleus's _cordon-bleu_. I wish
very much that injured and querulous OEnone had met her somewhere on
the slopes of Ida, and "given her a piece of her mind."

On these grounds I venture to hope that all well-regulated readers will
concur with me in pronouncing Mr. Fullarton's conduct totally
indefensible. It would have been so easy to have communicated his
intelligence to any that it might concern, discreetly, at a fitting
place and time, instead of casting it into the midst of a convivial
assembly like a fulminating ball. Under other circumstances, he would
probably have taken the quieter course; but he had been smarting for
some time under a succession of provocations, real and fancied, from
Royston Keene, and his own misadventure that morning had filled the cup
of irritation brimful. It was the old exasperating feeling--

  Earl Percy sees my fall.

Whatever might be the cost, he could not make up his mind to let slip so
fair a chance of embarrassing his imperturbable enemy. There is no
saying what he would have given to see that marvelous self-command for
once thoroughly break down. It is unfortunate that the best-laid plans
can not always insure a triumph. The chaplain certainly did succeed in
producing a "situation," and in reducing most of the party to that
uncomfortable frame of mind which is popularly described as "wishing
one's self any where;" but the person who seemed most completely
unconcerned was the man at whom the blow was leveled.

The major shook his head with a quick gesture of impatience, just as if
some insect had lighted on his forehead; beyond this, for any evidence
of his being annoyed by it, Mr. Fullarton's last remark might have
related to missionary prospects or Chinese politics. The steady color on
his swarthy face neither lost nor gained a shade. There was not a sign
of anger, or shame, or confusion in his clear, bold eyes; and, when he
answered, there was not one fresh furrow on the brow that, at lighter
provocation, was so apt to frown.

"I give you credit for being utterly ignorant of what you are talking
about, Mr. Fullarton. You could not possibly guess how disagreeable the
subject would be to me. As it can't be in the least interesting to any
one else, suppose we change it?"

Just the same cold, measured voice as ever, with only a slight sarcastic
inflection to vary the deep, grave tones; but a very close observer
might have seen his fingers clench the handle of a knife while he was
speaking, as if their gripe would have dinted the ivory.

It was hardly to be expected that the rest of the party would emulate
the _sang-froid_ of the Cool Captain. Sailing under false colors is a
convenient practice enough, and productive sometimes of many prizes; but
divers penalties attach to its detection, on land as well as on sea.
Indeed, it involves the necessity of _somebody's_ appearing as a
convicted impostor. On the present occasion--as the actor for whom the
character was cast utterly declined to play it--the part fell to poor
Harry Molyneux, who certainly looked it to perfection. In all his little
difficulties and troubles, when hard pressed, he was wont to fall back
upon the reserve of _la mignonne_, sure of meeting there with sympathy,
if not with succor. He dared not do so now. He dared not encounter the
reproach of the beautiful, gentle eyes that had never looked into his
own otherwise than trustfully since they first told the secret that she
loved him dearly. The half-smothered cry that broke from Fanny's lips
when the chaplain made his disclosure went straight to the heart of her
treacherous husband. He felt as if he deserved that those pretty lips
should never smile upon him again.

Oh, all my readers!--masculine especially--whose patience has carried
you thus far, remark, I beseech you, the dangers that attend any
dereliction from the duty of matrimonial confidence. What right have we
to lock up the secrets of our most intimate friends, far less our own,
instead of pouring them into the bosom of the [Greek: _bathukolpos
akoitis_], which is capacious enough to hold them all, were they tenfold
more numerous and weighty? Such reticence is rife with awful peril. In
our folly and blindness, we fancy ourselves secure, while the ground is
mined under our guilty feet, and the explosion is even now preparing,
from which only our _disjecta membra_ will emerge. Of course, some
cold-hearted caviler will begin to quote instances of carefully-planned
and promising conspiracies, which miscarried solely because the details
reached a feminine ear. It may have been so; but I don't see what
business conspiracies have to succeed at all. Long live the
Constitution! Truly, such delightful confidences must be something
one-sided, for the mildest Griselda of them all would be led as a
"Martha to the Stakes" sooner than concede to her husband the
unrestricted supervision of her correspondence. I have indeed a dim
recollection of having heard of _one_ bride of seventeen, who, during
the honeymoon, was weak and (_selon les dames_) wicked enough to submit
to profane male eyes epistles received from the friends of her youth, in
their simple entirety, instead of reading out an expurgated edition of
the same. She had been brought up in a very dungeon of decorum by a
terrible grandmother, a rigid moralist, whom no man ever yet beheld
without a shiver; and during those first few weeks after her escape she
was probably intoxicated by the novel sense of freedom, besides which,
she was perfectly infatuated about "Reginald;" but all this could not
exculpate her when arraigned before her peers. She lived long enough to
repent and to reassert, to some extent, her lost matronly dignity, but
she died very young--let us hope in fair course of nature. She had
violated the first law of a guild more numerous and influential than
that of the Freemasons. Examples are necessary from time to time, and,
though the _Vehme-gericht_ may pity the offender, it may not therefore
linger in its vengeance. Nevertheless, my brethren, our course is clear.
Let us resign to the chatelaine the key of the letter-bag and the
censorship thereof. If, after due warning, our light-minded friends
_will_ write to us in terms that mislike that excellent and punctilious
inspectress, they must aby it in the cold looks and bitter innuendoes
which will be their portion when they come to us in the next hunting
season. Our conscience, at least, will be pure and undefiled, and we
shall pass to the end of our pilgrimage _sans peur_, though perchance,
even then, not _sans reproche_. "Servitudes," as Miggs, the veteran
vestal remarked, "is no inheritance," but there are natures who thrive
rarely in this tranquil and inglorious condition. Such men live, as a
rule, pretty contentedly to a great old age, and die in the odor of
intense respectability. Salubrious, it seems, as well as creditable to
the patient, is a _régime_ of moderate hen-pecking, only it is necessary
that he should be of the intermediate species between Socrates and
Georges Dandin.

Mrs. Danvers would certainly have indulged openly in that immoderate
exultation to which all minor prophets are prone when their predictions
chance to be verified, but this was checked by her constitutional
timidity. She was horribly afraid of the effect that the revelation
might have on her patroness; therefore what precise meaning was implied
by the complicated contortions of her countenance no mortal can guess or
know. Her sensations probably resolved themselves into an excess of
admiration for the pastor in his new character of a denouncer of
detected guilt and champion of imperiled innocence, added to which was a
vague desire to lanch her own anathema maranatha at Royston Keene.

Dick Tresilyan took the whole thing with remarkable coolness, not to say
complacency. He nodded his head, and smiled, and winked cunningly aside
at Molyneux, as if to intimate that he had known all about it long ago,
and, indeed, so far he had been admitted into the major's confidence on
the night when the latter was supposed to have "lost his head." By what
sophistries Royston had succeeded in masking his purpose and making his
case good, even to such an unsuspicious mind and easy morality, the
devil could best tell, who in such schemes had rarely failed him.

We have left Cecil to the last. My proud, beautiful Cecil--was she not
born for better things than to be made the prize of all those plottings
and counter-plottings--to surrender the key of her heart's treasures to
one who was unworthy to kiss the hem of her robe--and now to have her
self-command tried so cruelly to gratify the wounded vanity of a weak,
shallow enthusiast?

She did not flinch or start when Mr. Fullarton's words caught her ear,
but a heavy, chill faintness stole over her, till she felt all her limbs
benumbed, and every thing before her eyes grew misty and dim. The
numbness passed away almost immediately, but still the figures around
her appeared distorted and fantastically exaggerated; they seemed to be
tossing and whirling round one steadfast centre, as the dead leaves in
winter eddy round the marble head of a statue; that single centre-object
remained, throughout, distinct and unaltered in its aspect, while all
else was confused and uncertain--the face of Royston Keene. The sight of
that face--not defiant or even stern, but immutable in its cold
tranquillity--acted on Cecil as a magical restorative; it seemed as
though he were able, by some mesmeric influence, to impart to her a
portion of his own miraculous self-control. Before his reply to the
chaplain was ended, she threw back her proud head with the old imperial
gesture, as if scorning her own momentary weakness; no mist or shadow
clouded the brilliant violet eyes; she might speak safely now, without
risking a false note in the music. It was no light peril that she
escaped; the betrayal of emotion under such circumstances would have
weighed down a meeker spirit than The Tresilyan's with a sense of
ineffaceable shame; for remember--however marked her partiality for
Keene might have been--there had been no suspicion of an engagement
between them. Had she broken down then, she would not have forgiven
Royston to her dying day: she never _did_ forgive the chaplain. As it
was--by a strange anomaly--at the very moment when she became aware of
having been deluded and misled, in intention if not by actually spoken
words--when she had most reason to hate or despise the "enemy who had
done her this dishonor"--she felt his hold upon her heart strengthened,
as though he had justified his right to command it. Not to women alone,
but to all beautiful, wild creatures, the ancient aphorism applies: the
harder they are to discipline, the better they love their tamer. Cecil
thought, "there is not another man alive whose eyes could meet mine so
daringly:" and the haughty spirit bowed itself, and did obeisance to its
suzerain. Different in many respects as good can be from evil--in one,
those two were as fairly matched as Thiodolf and Isolde. Who can tell
what wealth of happiness might have been stored up for both, if they had
only not met--too late?

These two words seem to me the most of any that are written or spoken.
They strike the key-note of so many human agonies, that they might form
a motto, apter than Dante's, for the gates of hell. Very few may hear
them without a melancholy thrill; well--if they do not bring a bitter
pang. Like those awful conjurations that blanched in utterance the lips
of the boldest magi, they have a fearful power to wake the dead. Lo!
they are scarcely syllabled when there is a stir in the grave-yard
where sad or guilty memories lie buried; the air is alive with phantoms;
the watcher may close his eyes if he will: not the less is he sensible
of the presence of those pale ghosts that come trooping to their
vengeance. Many, many hours must pass before the spell is learned that
will send them back to their tombs again.

Not long ago I heard a story that bears upon this. The man of whom it
was told lost his love after he had fairly wooed and won her. It matters
not what suspicion, or misconception, or treachery parted them; but
parted they were for eight miserable years. Then the lady repented or
relented, and came to her lover to make her confession. When she had
done speaking, she looked up into his face: she saw no light of gladness
or welcome there--only a deepening and darkening of the weary look of
pain: the arms whose last tender clasp she had not forgotten yet, never
opened to draw her to his breast. He bent his head down upon his shaking
hands, and the heavy drops that are sometimes wrung from strong men in
their agony began to trickle through his fingers. In old days he could
never bear to see her sad for a moment; now, he sat as though he heard
her not, while she lay at his feet, wailing to be forgiven. When he
could perfectly control his voice he said,

"More than once, in my dreams, I have seen you so, and I have heard you
say what you have said to-day. I answered then as I answer now--I never
can forgive you. I do not know that you would not regain your old
ascendency; I believe you are as dangerous, and I as weak, as ever. But
I do know that, the more fascinating I found you, the harder it would be
to bear. Thinking of what I had missed through that accursed time of
famine would drive me mad soon. I have got used to my present burden: I
won't give you the chance of making it heavier. Those tears of mine were
selfish as well as childish; they were given to the happiness and hope
that you killed eight years ago. Stay--we parted with a show of kindness
then; we will not part in anger now."

He laid his lips on her forehead as he raised her up--a grave, cold,
passionless kiss, such as is pressed on the brow of a dear friend lying
in his shroud. They never met alone again.

It is exasperating to think how long I have taken to describe events and
emotions that passed in the space of a few minutes; but to place all the
_dramatis personæ_ in their proper positions does take time, unless the
stage-manager is very experienced. Will you be good enough to imagine
the picnic broken up (_not_ in confusion), and the "strayed revelers" on
their way to Dorade? Nothing worthy of note occurred on the spot; a
commonplace conversation having been started and maintained in a way
equally creditable to all parties concerned.



CHAPTER XVII.


All the inquiries that the chaplain had "felt it his duty" to make
respecting the antecedents of Royston Keene had failed to elicit any
thing more discreditable than may be said of the generality of men who
have spent a dozen years in rather a fast regiment, keeping up to the
standard of the corps. Doubtless graver charges might have been imputed
to him, if the whole truth had been known; but the living witnesses who
could have proved them had good reasons for their silence. Whether
successful or defeated, the Cool Captain was not wont to take the world
into his confidence. As for betraying his own or another's secrets--his
lips were about as likely to do _that_ as those of an effigy on a
tomb-stone.

Naples was a cover that the reverend investigator had not drawn; so he
was considerably startled by the following words in a letter from
thence, received that morning: "I meet a lady constantly in society
here, of whose history I am curious to know more. She is the wife of
Major Keene, the famous Indian _sabreur_; but has been separated from
him for several years. She never makes an allusion to his existence; it
was by the merest chance that I heard this, and also that her husband is
spending the winter at Dorade. Perhaps you can throw some light on the
cause of the 'separate maintenance?' People are not particular here, and
have no right to be; still, one would like to know. I fancy it can not
be her fault; she is perfectly gentle in her manner, but rather
cold--very beautiful too, in a placid, statuesque style." It is not
worth transcribing the writer's farther speculations. If a silent, but
ultra-fervent benediction can at all profit the person for whom it is
intended, very few people have been so well paid for epistolary labor,
as was, then, Mr. Fullarton's correspondent. The reason why has already
been explained.

Well, he had made his great _coup_ without carefully counting the
cost--that financial pleasure was still to come. He could not help
feeling that it had been rather _fiasco_. The man whom he had purposed
utterly to discomfit had throughout been provokingly at his ease; the
best that could be made of it was, a drawn battle. A disagreeable
consciousness crept over the chaplain of having made himself generally
obnoxious, without reaping any equivalent advantage or even
satisfaction. No one seemed to look kindly or admiringly at him since
the disclosure, except Mrs. Danvers; and, glutton as he was of such
dainties, the adulation of that exemplary but unattractive female began
rather to pall on his palate. He was clear-sighted enough to be aware
that Miss Tresilyan was probably offended with him beyond hope of
reconciliation, but this did not greatly trouble him. He had been
sensible for some time of the decay of his influence in that quarter.
Last of all rose on his mind, with unpleasant distinctness, Cecil's
warning, "If I were a man, I should not like to have Major Keene as my
enemy." He had thrown the lance over that enemy's frontier, and it was
now too late to talk of truce. A dread of the consequences overcame him
as he thought of the reprisals that might be exacted by the merciless
and unscrupulous guerilla. True, it was not very evident what harm the
latter could do him; nevertheless, he could not shake off a vague,
depressing apprehension. More and more, as he strolled on, moodily
musing, far in the rear of the rest, he felt inclined to appreciate the
wisdom of the ancient proverb, "Let sleeping dogs lie." Years afterward
he remembered with what a startled thrill, raising his eyes at a sharp
angle of the path, he found himself face to face with Royston Keene.

For some seconds they contemplated each other silently--the priest and
the soldier. A striking contrast they made. The one, heated, and
excited, and nervous, both in appearance and manner, looking more like a
culprit brought up for judgment than a pillar of the Established Church;
the other, outwardly as undemonstrative as the rock against which he
leaned--just a shade of paleness telling of the sharp mental struggle
from which he had come out victorious--his whole bearing and demeanor
precisely what might have been expected if he had been sitting on a
court-martial.

The absurdity of the position struck the chaplain as soon as he
collected himself from his first surprise. It never would do for _him_
to look as if he had any thing to be ashamed of; so, summoning to his
aid all the dignity of his office and his own self-importance, with a
great effort, he spoke steadily:

"I presume you wish to talk to me, Major Keene? I shall be glad to hear
any thing that you may have to communicate or explain. It is my duty as
well as my desire to be useful to any member of my congregation, however
little disposed they may be to avail themselves of their privileges.
Interested, as I must be in the welfare of all committed to my charge, I
need hardly say that the course you have chosen to pursue here has
caused me great pain and anxiety--I own, not so much for your sake as
that of others, to whom your influence was likely to be pernicious. What
I heard this morning makes matters look still worse. I wish I could
anticipate any satisfactory explanation."

The old _ex cathedrâ_ feeling came back upon him while he was speaking;
his tone, gradually becoming rounder and more sonorous, showed this. Was
he so besotted by sacerdotal confidence as to fancy that he could win
that grim penitent to come to him to be confessed or absolved?

Since the chaplain first saw him Royston had never changed his attitude.
He was leaning with his shoulder against the corner of rock round which
the path turned, standing half across it, so that no one could pass him
easily. The dense blue cloudlets of smoke kept rolling out from his lips
rapidly, but regularly, and his right hand twined itself perpetually in
the coils of his heavy brown mustache. That gesture, to those who knew
his temper well, was ever ominous of foul and stormy weather. He did not
reply immediately, but, taking the cigar from his mouth, began twisting
up the loose leaf in a slow, deliberative way. At last he said,

"You did that rather well this morning. How much did you expect to get
for it? My wife is liberal enough in her promises sometimes, when she
wants to make herself disagreeable, but she don't pay well. You might
have driven a better bargain by coming to me. I would have given you
more to have held your tongue." His tone was such as the other had never
heard him use--such as most people would be loth to employ toward the
meanest dependent. No description can do justice to the intensity of its
insolence; it made even Mr. Fullarton's torpid blood boil resentfully.

"How dare you address such words to me?" he cried out, trembling with
rage. "If it were not for my profession--"

"Stop!" the other broke in, rudely; "you need not trouble yourself to
repeat that stale clap-trap. You mean to say that, if I were not safe
from your profession, I should not have said so much. It isn't worth
while lying to yourself, and I have no time to trifle. The converse is
the truer way of putting it. You know better than I can tell you that,
if you had been unfrocked, you would never have ventured half what you
have done to day. You don't stir from hence till this is settled. Do you
suppose I'll allow my private affairs to be made, again, an occasion for
indulging your taste for theatricals?"

The chaplain flushed apoplectically. He just managed to stammer out,

"I will not remain another instant to listen to your blasphemous
insults. If you mean to prevent me from passing, I will return another
way."

                                     Scornfully
  He turned; but thrilled with priestly wrath, to feel
  His sacred arm locked in a grasp of steel.

A bolder man might have got nervous, finding himself on a lonely
hill-side, face to face with such an adversary, reading, too, the savage
meaning of those murderous eyes. Remember that Mr. Fullarton held
Royston capable of any earthly crime. His own short-lived anger was
instantly annihilated; the sweat of mortal terror broke out over all his
livid face; his lips could hardly gasp out an unintelligible prayer for
mercy.

The soldier's stern face settled into an expression of contempt: in his
gentlest moods he could find little sympathy for purely physical fear.

"Don't faint," he said; "there is no occasion for it. Do you think I
shall 'slay you as I slew the Egyptian yesterday?' Well, I have scanty
respect for your office, especially when its privileges are abused. If
it were not for good reasons, I would serve you worse than I did that
drunken scoundrel who frightened you almost to death down there among
the vines; but that don't suit my purpose. Listen: if you dare to
interfere again, by word, or deed, or sign, in the affairs of me and
mine, I know a better way of making you repent it."

As soon as he saw that there was no real danger to life or limb, the
chaplain's composure began to return. He launched forth immediately into
a gallant though incoherent defiance. Royston's features never for an
instant changed or softened in their scorn.

"Fair words," he retorted; "but I'll make your bubbles burst. You don't
monopolize _all_ the resources of the Private Inquiry Office;" and,
stooping down, he whispered a dozen words in the other's ear. They
related to a charge brought against Mr. Fullarton years ago, so
circumstantial and difficult to disprove that, with all the advantages
of counter-evidence at hand, it had well-nigh borne him down. He knew
right well that, if it were once revived here abroad, where the lightest
suspicion is caught up and used so readily, the consequences would be
nothing short of utter ruin. He was a poor man, with a large family. No
wonder if he quailed.

"You know--you know," he gasped, "that it is a vile, cruel falsehood."

To do him justice, he spoke the simple truth there.

With a cold, tranquil satisfaction, the major contemplated his victim's
agony.

"I choose to know nothing about it, except that it carries more
probability than most stories one hears. The world in general is,
fortunately, not incredulous, and I have seen a man 'broke' on lighter
evidence. Well, you will take your own course, and I shall take mine. I
fancy we understand each other--at last."

By a superhuman effort the unlucky ecclesiastic did contrive to mutter
something about his "determination to do his duty." Royston listened to
him with his worst smile.

"I'll take my chance about that," he said. "I feel tolerably safe. Now
I'll leave you to settle the affair between your interest and your
conscience."

He turned on his heel, and strode away without another word. Long after
he was out of sight the chaplain stood fixed in the same attitude of
panic-stricken, helpless despondency. By my faith! even in these
degenerate days, we have petrifying influences left that may match the
head of the Gorgon.

Meanwhile, the others were wending slowly homeward, truly in a very
different mood from that in which they had gone forth that morning. Even
as no man can be pronounced happy till the hour of his death, so can no
excursion or entertainment be called successful till night has fairly
closed in. Caprice of climate is only one of the many sources of
disappointment, and the event justifies so seldom our sanguine
predictions that we have little right to complain of false and fallible
barometers. It is worthy of remark how often these trifles illustrate
that trite and time-honored simile of Life. The vessel starts gayly
enough, heeling over gracefully to the land-wind in the old, approved
fashion--"Youth at the prow, and pleasure at the helm"--there is not a
misgiving in the heart of any of the passengers; they can not help
pitying those left behind on the shore. What a cheery adieu they wave to
the friends who come down to wish them "good-speed!" After a voyage more
or less prolonged the same ship drifts in slowly shoreward, over the
harbor-bar, under the calm of the solemn sunset. Even the deepening
twilight can not disguise the evidences of a terrible "sea-change." Not
a trace of paint or gilding remains on the wave-worn, shattered timbers.
Sails rent and cordage strained tell tales of many storm-gusts, or,
perchance, of one tornado; and see! her flag is flying half-mast high:
the corpse of the Pilot is on board. Let us stand aside, lest we meet
the passengers as they land. It were worse than mockery to ask how the
yachting trip has sped.

Miss Tresilyan rode somewhat in advance of the rest, under her brother's
escort. Dick was a model in his own line, and other brothers-of-beauties
might well imitate his moderation and discretion. He never thrust
himself into the conversation, or into her presence, when there was a
chance of his intrusion being ill-timed, but was always at hand when he
was wanted: the slightest sign, or even a glance, from Cecil, brought
him to her side, and there he would march for hours in silent but
perfect satisfaction. On the present occasion he seemed disposed to be
unwontedly talkative, and to indulge in certain speculations relative to
the intelligence they had just heard. It was true, he knew it before,
but nothing had been disclosed to him beyond the simple fact that
Royston was married, and married unhappily. Cecil checked him gently,
but very decidedly.

"I had rather not hear or say one word on the subject. It ought not to
interest either of us. In good time, I suppose, we shall be told all
that it is fitting we should know. Meanwhile, it would be very wrong to
make conjectures. No one has any right to pry into Major Keene's affairs
if he chooses to keep them secret. I do not believe any one ever did so,
even in thought, without repenting it. I dare say Mr. Fullarton will
find this out soon, and I shall not pity him in the least. A person
_ought_ to be punished who tries to startle people in that disagreeable
way. Did you hear Fanny's little shriek? I have not had time to laugh at
her about it yet. The path is too narrow for two to ride abreast."

The light tone and manner of her last words might have deceived a closer
observer than honest Dick Tresilyan. He lapsed into silence; but, after
some time, his meditations assumed a cheerfully-roseate hue, as they
resolved themselves into the fixed idea that Royston was lingering
behind "to have it out with the parson."

Some distance in the rear walked Harry Molyneux, holding dutifully his
wife's bridle-rein. It was very touching to see the diffidence and
humility with which he proffered his little attentions, which were
accepted, as it were, under protest. The truth was that _la mignonne_
had forgiven him already, and it was with great difficulty she refrained
from telling him so, by word or smile. Her soft heart melted within her
at the sight of the criminal's contrition, and decided that he had done
penance enough during the last half hour to atone for a graver
misdemeanor; but she deferred asking for explanations till a more
convenient season, when there should be no chance of interruption; and
meanwhile, on grounds of stern political necessity, _elle le boudait_.
(If any elegant scholar will translate that Gallicism for me literally,
I shall feel obliged to him.)

Fancy the sensations of a man fighting his frigate desperately against
overwhelming odds, when he sees the outline of a huge "liner," with
English colors at the main, looming dimly through the smoke, close on
the enemy's quarter; or those of the commander of an untenable post when
the first bayonets of the relieving force glitter over the crest of the
hill, and you will have a fair idea of Harry's relief as he looked back
and saw Keene rapidly gaining on them with his swift, slashing stride.
As he fell back and yielded his post to Royston, this was written so
plainly on his face that the latter could not repress a smile; but there
was little mirth in his voice when he addressed Fanny--she had never
heard him speak so gently and gravely: "I know that you are angry with
your husband, as well as with me, for keeping you in the dark so long. I
must make his peace with you, even if I fail in making my own. He could
not tell you one word without breaking a promise given years ago. If he
had done so, in spite of the excuse of the strong temptation, I would
never have trusted him again. Ah! I see you have done him justice
already: that is good of you. Now for my own part. Why I did not choose
to let you into the secret as soon as I began to know you well I can
hardly say. Hal will tell you all about it, and you will see that, for
once, I was more sinned against than sinning; so I was not afraid of
your thinking worse of me for it. Perhaps the last thing that a man
likes to confess is his one arch piece of folly, especially if he has
paid for it as heavy a price as attaches to most crimes. I think I am
not sorry that you were kept in the dark till now. The past has given me
some pleasant hours with you that might have been darkened if you had
known all. I wish you would forgive me. We have always been such good
friends, and, in your sex at least, I can reckon so few."

If he had spoken with his ordinary accent, Fanny would scarcely have
yielded so readily, but the strange sadness of his tone moved her
deeply. A mist gathered in her gentle eyes as she looked at him for some
moments in silence, and then held out a timid little tremulous hand.

"I should not have liked you worse for knowing that you had been unhappy
once," she whispered; "but I ought never to have been vexed at not being
taken into confidence. I don't think I am wise or steady enough to keep
secrets; only I wish--I do wish--that you had told Cecil Tresilyan."

He answered her in his old cool, provoking way, "I know what you mean to
imply, but you do Miss Tresilyan less than justice, and me too much
honor. What right have you to infer that I look upon her in any other
light than a very charming acquaintance, or that she feels any deeper
interest in to-day's revelation than if she had heard unexpectedly that
any one of her friends was married? Surprises are seldom agreeable,
especially when they are so clumsily brought about. I am sure she has
not told you any thing to justify your suspicions."

Fanny was the worst casuist out. She was seldom certain about her facts,
and when she happened to be so, had not sufficient pertinacity or
confidence to push her advantage. Her favorite argument was ever _ad
misericordiam_. "I wish I could quite believe you," she said,
plaintively; "but I can't, and it makes me very unhappy. You must see
that you ought to go."

Her evident fear of him touched Royston more sharply than the most
venomous reproach or the most elaborate sarcasm could have done; but he
would not betray how it galled him. "Three days ago," he replied, "I had
almost decided on departure; now it does not altogether depend on me.
But you need not be afraid. I shall not worry you long; and while I stay
I have no wish, and, I believe, no power, to do any one any harm." She
looked at him long and earnestly, but failed to extract any farther
confession from the impenetrable face. Keene would not give her the
chance of pursuing the subject, but called up Harry to help him in
turning the conversation into a different channel and keeping it there.
Between the two they held the anxieties and curiosities of the oppressed
_mignonne_ at bay till they entered Dorade.

They were obliged to pass the Terrasse on their way home: there, alone,
under the shadow of the palms, sat Armand de Châteaumesnil. The
invalid's great haggard eyes fixed themselves observantly on Cecil
Tresilyan as she went by. He laid his hand on the major's sleeve when he
came to his side, and said, in a hoarse whisper, "Qu'as tu fait donc,
pour l'atterrer ainsi?" The other met the searching gaze without
flinching, "Je n'en sais rien; seulement--on dit que je suis marié." If
the Algerian had been told on indisputable authority that Paris and its
inhabitants had just been swallowed up by an earthquake, he would only
have raised his shaggy brows in a faint expression of surprise, exactly
as he did now. "Tu es marié?" he growled out. "A laquelle donc des deux
doit on compâtir--Madame ou Mademoiselle?" Yet he did not like Keene the
worse for the impatient gesture with which the latter shook himself
loose, muttering, "Je vous croyais trop sage, M. le Vicomte, pour vous
amuser avec ces balivernes de romancier."

Fanny Molyneux and Cecil passed the evening together _tête-à-tête_. That
kind little creature had a way of taking other people's turn of duty in
the line of penitence and apology. On the present occasion she was
remarkably gushing in her contrition, though her own guilt was
infinitesimal; but she met with scanty encouragement. She had found time
to extract from Harry all the details of the matrimonial misadventure,
and wished to give her friend the benefit of them. Miss Tresilyan would
not listen to a word. She did not attempt to disguise the interest she
felt in the subject, but said that she preferred hearing the
circumstances from Royston's own lips. With all this her manner had
never been more gentle and caressing: she succeeded at last in deluding
Fanny into the belief that every body was perfectly heart-whole, and
that no harm had been done, so that that night _la mignonne_ slept the
sleep of the innocent, no misgivings or forebodings troubling her
dreams. Those brave women!--when I think of the pangs that they suffer
uncomplainingly, the agonies that they dissemble, I am inclined to
esteem lightly our own claims to the Cross of Valor. How many of them
there are who, covering with their white hand the dagger's hilt, utter
with a sweet, calm smile, and lips that never tremble, the falsehood
holier than most outspoken truths--_Poetus non angit_!

When Cecil returned home Mrs. Danvers was waiting for her, ready with
any amount of condolence and indignation. She checked all this, as she
well knew how to do; and at last was alone in her own chamber. Then the
reaction came on; with natures such as hers, it is a torture not to be
forgotten while life shall endure.

There were not wanting in Dorade admirers and sentimentalists, who were
wont to watch the windows of The Tresilyan as long as light lingered
there. How those patient, unrequited astronomers would have been
startled if their eyes had been sharp enough to penetrate the dark
recess where she lay writhing and prone, her stricken face veiled by the
masses of her loosened hair, her slender hands clenched till the blood
stood still in their veins, in an agony of stormy self-reproach, and
fiery longing, and injured pride; or if their ears had caught the sound
of the low, bitter wail that went up to heaven like the cry from Gehenna
of some fair, lost spirit, "My shame--my shame!"

Under favor of the audience, we will drop the curtain here. One of our
puppets shall appear to-night no more. When a heroine is once on the
stage, the public has a right to be indulged with the spectacle of her
faults and follies, as well as of her virtues and excellences; yet I
love the phantasm of my queenly Cecil too well to parade her discrowned
and in abasement.



CHAPTER XVIII.


Other eyes besides Cecil's kept watch through the night that followed
that eventful day. Royston's never closed till the dawning. Sometimes
sitting motionless, sunk in his gloomy meditations, sometimes walking
restlessly to and fro, and cooling his hot forehead in the current of
the fresh night air, he kept his mind on a perpetual strain, calculating
all probable and improbable chances; and the dull red light was never
quenched, that told of perpetually-renewed cigars.

I fancy I hear an objection, springing from lips that are wont to be
irresistible, leveled against such an atrocious want of sentiment.
Fairest critic! we will not now discuss the merits or demerits of
nicotine, considered as an aid to contemplation, or an anodyne; but do
you allow enough for the force of habit? Putting aside the case of those
Indian captives, who are allowed a pipe in the intervals of torment (for
these poor creatures have had no advantages of education, and are beyond
the pale of civilized examples), do you not know that men have finished
their last weed while submitting to the toilette of the guillotine? We
are told that a Spaniard has begged of his confessor a light for his
_papelito_ within sight of a freshly dug grave, when the firing-party
was awaiting him one hundred paces off with grounded arms.

Only when the sky was gray did Royston lie down to rest; but he slept
heavily late into the morning. His first act, when he rose, was to send
a note to Cecil Tresilyan, begging her to meet him at a named place and
time: she did not answer it, nevertheless he felt certain she would
come. Assignations were no novelties to him, but he had gone forth to
bear his part in more than one stricken field, where the chances of life
and death were evenly poised, without any such despondency or
uncertainty as clung to him then on his way to the appointed spot. He
arrived there first, but he had not waited long when Cecil came slowly
along the path that led into the heart of the woodland. As she drew
near, Keene could not help thinking of the first time his eyes had
lighted on her, mounting the zigzags of the Castle-hill. There was still
the same elasticity of step, the same imperial carriage of the graceful
head; but a less observant eye would have detected the change in her
demeanor. The pretty petulance and provocative manner which, contrasting
with the royalty of her form and feature, contributed so much to her
marvelous fascinations, had departed, he feared, never to return.

Many instances occur daily where the same painfully unnatural gravity
exasperates us, when its cause can not be traced up to either guilt or
sorrow. Ah! Lilla, there are many who think that your wild-flower wreath
was a more becoming ornament than that diamond circlet--bridal gift of
the powerful baron. Sweet Eugenia! faces that were never absent from
your _levées_ in old times you have missed at your court since you
wedded Cæsar.

Both were outwardly quite calm, but who can guess which of those two
strong hearts was most conscious of tremor or weakness when Royston and
Cecil met? His hand at least was the steadier, for her slight fingers
quivered nervously in his grasp. He did not let them go till he began to
speak.

"Whatever your decision may be after hearing me, I shall always thank
you for coming here. It was like you--to give me the chance of speaking
for myself. At least no falsehood or misconception shall stand between
us. Will you listen to my story?"

"I came for no other purpose," Cecil said, and she sat down on the trunk
of a fallen olive: she knew there would be need to husband all her
strength. Thinking of these things, in after days, she never forgot how
carefully he arranged his plaid on the branches behind her, so as to
keep off the gusts of wind that ever and anon blew sharply. At that very
instant, as if there were some strange sympathy in the elements, the sun
plunged into the bosom of a dull leaden cloud, and there came a growl of
distant thunder.

"I shall not tax your patience long," Royston went on. "It shall only be
the briefest outline. But do not interrupt me till I have ended; it is
hard enough to have to begin and go through with it. I can not tell you
why I married. Many people asked me the question at the time, and I have
asked it of myself often since, but I never could find any satisfactory
answer. The woman I chose was then very beautiful, and it was not a
disadvantageous match, but I had seen fairer faces and fortunes go by
without coveting them. I think a certain obstinacy of purpose, and an
absurd pleasure in carrying off a prize (such a prize!) from many rivals
was at the bottom of it all. In six months I began to appreciate the
inconveniences of living with a statue; but I can say it truly, I never
dreamed of betraying her. Yet I had temptations. Remember I was not yet
twenty-two, and one does not bear disappointments well at that age. We
had not been married quite a year when an officer in a native regiment
died, up in the Hills, of _delirium tremens_. Do you know that, under
such circumstances, there is always a commission appointed to examine
the dead man's papers. I could not help seeing that, for some days past,
my wife's manner had been strangely sullen and cold, but I had no
suspicion of the truth. I don't think I have ever been so surprised as
when the president of the commission brought me a bundle of her letters.
I never saw her paramour: he must have been more fool than scoundrel to
have kept what he ought to have burned. I did not thank the man who gave
me those papers, and I never spoke to him again. I only read one of
them: it was written soon after our marriage. I went to my wife with
_this_ in my hand. She listened to me in her own icy way, not denying or
confessing any thing; but she defied me to prove actual infidelity
either before or after my authority began. I could not do it, whatever I
might think. I could only prove a course of lies and _chicanerie_,
worked out by her and all her family, that would have sickened the most
unscrupulous schemer alive. I told her I would never sleep under the
same roof with her again. She laughed--if you could hear her laugh, you
would excuse me for more than I have done--and said, 'You can't get a
divorce.' She was right there. So it was settled that we were to live
apart without any public scandal. But her people would not accept this
position. They sent a brother to bully me. It was an unwise move. My
temper was wilder in those days, and I had strong provocation; yet I
repent that I did not keep my hands off the throat of that wretched,
blustering civilian. It was all arranged peacefully at last, and I have
not seen her since, though I hear of her from time to time, as I did
yesterday. This happened eleven long years ago, and she has never given
me a chance of ridding myself of her since. She is always carefully
circumspect, and so works out a patient revenge, though I believe I did
her no wrong. You have heard all I dare to tell you, and all the truth.
Judge me now."

For the last few minutes a great battle had been waging in Cecil
Tresilyan's heart. Can the wisest of us, before the armies meet,
prophesy aright as to the issue of such an Armageddon?

Twice she tried to speak, and found her voice rebellious; at last she
answered, in a faint, broken tone, "I can not say how I pity you."

He threw back his lofty head in anger or disdain.

"I will not accept groundless compassion, even from you. Do not deceive
yourself. I have learned how to bear my burden; it scarcely cumbers me
now. It has fretted me more in the last three weeks than it has done for
years. I only wish you to decide whether I did very wrong in keeping
back the knowledge of all this from you; and, if I have offended
unpardonably, what my punishment shall be."

There was something more than reproach in the glance that flashed upon
him out of the violet eyes; for an instant they glittered almost
scornfully; her lip, too, had ceased to tremble, and the silver in her
voice rang clear and true--

"You are not afraid to ask that question--remembering many words
addressed to me, each one of which was an insult--from you? You dare not
yet dishonor me in your thoughts so far as to doubt how I should have
acted _at first_, if I had known your true position. Or are you amusing
yourself still at my expense? I had thought you more generous."

The gloom on Royston's face deepened sullenly: though he had schooled
himself up to a certain point of humility, even from her he could ill
brook reproof.

"Those insults were not premeditated, at least," he retorted. "Have you
not got accustomed yet to men's losing their heads in your presence, and
then talking as the spirit moved them? And you think I am amusing myself
now. _Merci!_ there runs something in my veins warmer than ice-water."

His accent was abrupt, even to rudeness, yet Cecil felt a thrill of
guilty triumph as she heard it, and marked the shiver of passion that
shot through the colossal frame from brow to heel. A more perfect
specimen of immaculate womanhood might not have been insensible to that
acknowledgment of her power. But she shook her head in sorrowful
incredulity.

"You do less than justice to your self-control. But it is too late for
reproaches. I forgive you for any wrong that you may have done me, even
in thought or intention. I wish the past could be buried. For the
future, I can say only this--we must part, and that instantly; it is
more than time."

Keene had expected some such answer, and it did not greatly disconcert
him. After pausing a second or two he said,

"I did not ask you for your decision without meaning to abide by it. But
it would be well to pause before you make it final. Remember--we shall
not part for days, or months, if you send me away now. At least, you
need not fear persecution. Yet it is difficult to reconcile one's self
to banishment. Will you not give me a chance of making amends for the
folly you complain of? I can not promise that my words shall always be
guarded, and my manner artificial; but I think I would rather keep your
friendship than win the love of any living woman, and I would try hard
never to offend you. Let us finish this at once. You have only to say
'leave me,' and I swear that you shall be obeyed to the letter."

On that last card hung all the issue of the game that he would have sold
his soul to win; yet he spoke not eagerly, though very earnestly, and
waited quietly for her reply, with a face as calm as death.

Cecil ought not to have hesitated for an instant: we all know that. But
steady resolve and stoical self-denial, easy enough in theory, are often
bitterly hard in practice. It is very well to preach to the wayfarer
that his duty is to go forward and not tarry. But fresh and green grow
the grasses round the Diamond of the Desert; pleasantly over its bright
waters droop the feathery palms. How drearily the gray arid sand
stretches away to the sky-line! Who knows how far it may be to the next
oasis? Let us rest yet another hour by the fountain.

From any deliberate intention to do wrong Cecil was as pure as any
canonized saint in the roll of virgins and martyrs; but if she had been
a voluptuary as elaborate as La Pompadour, she could not have felt more
keenly that her love had increased tenfold in intensity since it became
a crime to indulge it. The passionate energy that had slumbered so long
in her temperament was thoroughly roused at last, and would make itself
heard clamorously enough to drown the still small voice, that said
"beware and forbear." Her principles were good, but they were not strong
enough to hold their own. O pride of the Tresilyans! that had tempted to
sin so many of that haughty house, when you might have saved its fairest
descendant, was it the time to falter and fail? She looked up piteously
in her great extremity; there was a prayer for help in her eyes, but
between them and heaven was interposed a stern bronze face, not a line
of it softening.

At length the faint, broken whisper came--"God help me! I _can not_ say
it."

There was a pause, but not a stillness, for the beating of her
companion's heart was distinctly audible. Then Cecil spoke again in her
own natural caressing tones:

"You will be good and generous, I know. See how I trust you!"

The thought of how their continued intimacy might touch her fair fame
never seemed to suggest itself for an instant. Yet, remember, The
Tresilyan was no longer a guileless, romantic girl, believing and hoping
all things; she knew right well what scandals and jealousies lurk under
the smooth surface of the society in which she had borne so prominent a
part; she knew that there were women alive who would have given half
their diamonds to have her at their mercy, and torment her at their
will. Was it likely that such would let even a slander sleep? Let the
_Rosière_ of last season lay this reflection to her heart to temper the
immoderation of triumph--"For every one of my victories I have made one
mortal enemy." Not only while in supremacy is the potentate obnoxious to
conspiracies; the dagger is most to be dreaded when the dignity is laid
down. All dethroned and abdicating dictators have not the luck of Sylla.

Silently and unreservedly to accept such a sacrifice, while the offerer
was resolved not to count the cost, transcended even the cynicism of
Royston Keene. He grasped her arm as though to arrest her attention, and
almost involuntarily broke from his lips words of solemn warning.

"Let me go on my way alone, while there is time. It is hard to touch
pitch and keep undefiled. Child, you are too pure to estimate your
danger. If you remained as innocent as one of God's angels, the world
would still condemn you."

Her slender fingers twined themselves round his wrist, so tenderly!--and
she bent down her soft cheek till its blush was hidden on his hand. Then
she looked up in his face with a bright, trustful smile.

"Great happiness can not be bought without a price. I fear no reproach
so much as that of my own conscience. Do not think I delude myself as to
the risk I am incurring. But if I am innocent, I shall never hear or
heed what the world may say; if I am guilty, I have no right to complain
of its scorn."

Hardened unbeliever as he was, Royston could have bowed himself there,
and worshiped at her feet. But he would not confess his admiration,
still less betray his triumph. He raised the little white hand that was
free gently to his lips. Not with more reverent courtesy could he have
done homage to an anointed queen.

"I wish I were worthier of you," he murmured, and no more was said then.

As they walked slowly homeward, the sullen clouds broke away from the
face of the sun; but a weatherwise observer could have told that the
truce was only treacherous. The tempest bided its time.



CHAPTER XIX.


It is not pleasant to stand by and assist at each step of an incantation
that draws down a star from heaven, or darkens the face of the moon. Let
us be content to accept the result, when it is forced upon us, without
inquiring too minutely into the process. Not with impunity can even the
Adepts gain and keep the secrets of their evil Abracadabra. The beard of
Merlin is gray before its time; premature wrinkles furrow the brow of
Canidia; though the terror of his stony eyes may keep the fiends at bay,
the death-sleep of Michael Scott is not untroubled; the pillars of
Melrose shake ever and anon as though an earthquake passed by, and the
monks cross themselves in fear and pity, for they know that the awful
wizard is turning restlessly in his grave.

As we are not writing a three-volume novel, we have a right, perhaps,
not to linger over this part of our story. For any one who likes to
indulge a somewhat morbid taste, or who happens to be keen about
physiology, there is daily food sufficient in those ingenious romances
_d'Outre-mer_.

It is hardly worth while speculating how far Cecil deluded herself when
she thought that she was safe in trusting to her own strength of
principle and to the generosity of Royston Keene. All this seems to me
not to affect the main question materially. Does it help us--after we
have yielded to temptation--that our resolves, when it first assailed
us, should have been prudent and sincere, if such a plea can not avert
the consequences or extenuate the guilt? The grim old proverb tells us
how a certain curiously tesselated pavement is laid down. Millions of
feet have trodden those stones for sixty ages, yet they may well last
till the Day of Judgment, they are so constantly and unsparingly
renewed.

It is more than rashness for any mortal to say to the strong,
treacherous ocean, "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther;" it is
trenching on the privilege of Omnipotence. The dikes may be wisely
planned and skillfully built; but one night a wilder wind arises than
any that they have withstood; the legions of the besieging army are
mustering to storm. At one spot in the seawall, where patient miners
have long been working unseen, a narrow breach is made, widening every
instant; it is too late now to fly; the wolfish waves are within the
intrenchments, mad for sack and pillage. On the morrow, where trim
gardens bloomed, and stately palaces shone, there is nothing but a waste
of waters strewn with wrecks and blue, swollen corpses. The Zuyder Zee
rolls, ten fathoms deep, over the ruins of drowned Stavoren.

So we will not enter minutely into the details of poor Cecil's
demoralization--gradual, but fearfully rapid. It was not by words that
she was corrupted; for Royston was still as careful as ever to abstain
from uttering one cynicism in her presence; but none the less was it
true that daily and hourly some fresh scruple was washed away, some holy
principle withered and died. The recklessness which ever carried him on
straight to the attainment of a purpose or the indulgence of a fancy,
trampling down the barriers that divide good from evil, seemed to
communicate itself to Cecil contagiously. She seldom ventured on
reflection now--still less on self-examination; but she could not help
being herself sensible of the change: thoughts that she would have
shrunk back from in horror not so long ago (if she could have
comprehended them fully) had ceased now to startle or repel her as she
looked them in the face. Do not suppose for an instant that there was a
corresponding alteration in her outward demeanor, or that it displayed
any wildness or eccentricity. Melodrama, etc., may be very successful at
a trans-pontine theatre, but it is unpardonably out of place in our
_salons_. The Tresilyan understood the duties of her social, if not of
her moral position (so long as the first was not forfeited) as well as
the strictest duenna alive. Though she might choose to defy the world's
censure, she never dreamed of giving an opening to its ridicule; she was
less capable of _gaucherie_ than of a crime. In her bearing toward
others she was just the same as ever; if any thing, rather more
brilliant and fascinating, and, if crossed or interfered with, perhaps a
shade more haughtily independent.

Only when alone with Royston did she betray herself. It was sad to see
how completely the stronger and worse nature had absorbed the weaker and
better one till all power of volition and free agency vanished, and even
individuality was lost. She was not sentimental or demonstrative in his
presence (on the contrary, at such times, that loveliest face was very
apt to put on the delicious _mine mutine_, which made it perfectly
irresistible), but the idea seemed never to enter her mind that it would
be possible to resist or controvert any seriously-expressed wish of
her--_lover_. There! the word is written; and woe is me! that I dare not
erase it. It must have come sooner or later, and it is as well to have
got it over.

According to all rules for such cases laid down and provided, Cecil's
life ought to have been spent in alternations between feverish
excitement and poignant remorse. But the truth must be told--she was
unaccountably happy. The simple fact was that she had no time to be
otherwise. Even when entirely alone her conscience could find no
opportunity of asserting itself. Her thoughts were amply occupied with
recalling every word that Royston had said, and with anticipating what
he would say at their next meeting. It is idle to suppose that remorse
can not be kept at arm's length for a certain time; but the debt
recklessly incurred must generally be paid to the uttermost farthing.
Life, if sufficiently prolonged, will always afford leisure for
reflection and retrospect, and at such seasons we appreciate in full
force the tortures of "solitary confinement." The criminal may go on
pilgrimage to a hundred shrines, and never light on the purification
that will scare the Erinnyes.

In this instance the victor certainly did not abuse his advantage, and
was any thing but exacting in his requirements. It was strange how his
whole manner and nature altered when alone with his beautiful captive.
The more evident became her subjugation, the more he seemed anxious to
treat her with a delicate deference. They talked, as a rule, on any
subject rather than their own feelings; and he spoke on all such
indifferent topics honestly, if not wisely. For the rest of the world
his sarcasm and irony were ready as ever; he kept all his sincerity and
confidence for Cecil Tresilyan. This is the secret of the influence
exercised by many men, at whose successes we all have marveled. Sweet,
as well as disenchanting experiences are sometimes gained behind the
scenes. None but those who have tried it can appreciate the delight of
finding, in a manner that the uninitiate call cold and repellent, an
ever-ready loving caress. But in Royston's case there was no acting: it
was only that he allowed Cecil to see one phase of hid character that
was seldom displayed.

The subordinates in the drama betrayed much more outward concern and
disquietude than the principals. When Fanny Molyneux found that Royston
did not intend to evacuate his position, she tried the effect of a
vigorous remonstrance on her friend. The latter heard her patiently, but
quite impassively, declining to admit any probability of danger or
necessity to caution. _La mignonne_ was not convinced, but she yielded.
She wound her arm round Cecil's waist, as they sat and whispered,
nestling close to her side--"Dearest, remember this: if any thing should
happen, I shall always think that some blame belongs to me, and I will
never give you up--never."

The Tresilyan bent her beautiful swan-neck, as though she were caressing
a dove nestling in her bosom, and pressed her lips on her companion's
cheek long and tenderly.

"I could not do _that_," she said, "if I were guilty."

Neither had Harry refrained from lifting up his testimony against what
he saw and suspected. The major would take more from him than from any
man alive; he was not at all incensed at the interference.

"My dear Hal," he said, "don't make an old woman of yourself by giving
credit to scandal, or inventing it for yourself. If you choose to be
worried before your time, I can't help it; but it is more than
unnecessary. Una can take care of herself perfectly well, without your
playing the lion. Besides--what is the brother there for? You know there
are some subjects I never talk about to you, and you don't deserve that
I should be communicative now. But listen--you shall not think of Cecil
worse than she is: up to this time, I swear, even her lips are pure from
me. Now I hope you are satisfied; you have made me break my rule, for
once; drop the subject, in the devil's name."

Though fully aware of his friend's unscrupulous character, Harry was
satisfied that nothing _very_ wrong had occurred so far. Royston never
lied.

"I'm glad that you can say so much," he replied; "the worst of it is,
people will talk. I wonder that obnoxious parson has not made himself
more disagreeable already. I didn't go to church last Sunday afternoon,
because I felt a conviction that he was going to be personal in his
sermon."

The major laughed his hard, unpleasant laugh. "Don't let that idea
disturb your devotions another time. He is not likely to bite or even to
bark very loud: he don't get my muzzle off in a hurry."

Indeed, it was profoundly true that since the disclosure the chaplain's
reticence had become remarkable. When his own wife questioned him on the
subject (very naturally), he checked her with some asperity, and read
her a lecture on feminine curiosity that moved the poor woman, even to
weeping. Mrs. Danvers was greatly surprised and disconcerted by the
decision with which Mr. Fullarton rejected her suggestion, that he
should aid and abet in thwarting Keene's supposed designs. "He had
thought it right," he said, "to make Miss Tresilyan and others aware of
the real state of the case; but he did not conceive that farther
interference lay within the sphere of his duty." It was odd how that
same once arbitrarily elastic sphere had contracted since the prophet
met the lion in the pathway! Dick Tresilyan--the only other person much
interested in the progress of affairs--did not seem to trouble himself
much about them. He was perpetually absent on shooting expeditions; but,
when at home, it was observed that he drank harder than ever, getting
sulky sometimes without apparent reason, and disagreeably quarrelsome.

Royston had only stated the simple fact when he said that Cecil was free
from any stain of actual guilt or dishonor. Whether the credit of having
borne her harmless was most due to her own prudence and remains of
principle, or to her tempter's self-restraint, we will not, if you
please, inquire. It is as well to be charitable now and then. Her escape
was little less than miraculous, considering how often she had trusted
herself unreservedly to the mercy of one who was wont to be as unsparing
in his love as in his anger. Let not this immunity be made an excuse for
credulous confidence, or induce others to emulate her rashness. The
Millenium will not come in our time, I fancy; and, till it arrives,
neither child nor maiden may safely lay their hand on the cockatrice's
den. The ballad tells us that Lady Janet was happy at last; but she paid
dearly through months of sorrow and shame for those three red roses
plucked in the Elfin Bower. The precise cause of Keene's forbearance it
would be very difficult to explain: more than one feeling probably had
to do with it.

If memory has any pleasures worth speaking of (which many grave and
learned doctors take leave to doubt), certainly among the purest is the
recollection of having once been endowed with the whole love of a rare
and beautiful being which we did not abuse or betray. This is the only
sort of lost riches on which we can look back with comfort out of the
depths of present and pressing poverty; the pearl is so very precious
that it confers on its possessor a certain dignity which does not
entirely pass away, even when the jewel has slipped from his grasp,
following the ring of Polycrates. Alas! alas! less generous than the
blue Ægæan are the sullen waters of the deep. _Mare mortuum._ Only on
these grounds can that wonderful self-possession be accounted for, which
enables men, seemingly ill-fitted for the situation, to confront the
world in all its phases with so grand a calmness. It is refreshing to
see how even coquetry recoils from that armor of proof, and to fancy how
the dead beauty might triumph over the defeat of her living rivals,
laughing the seductions of their loveliness to scorn. Even in crises of
graver difficulty, where sterner assailants are to be encountered than
Helen's magical smile or Florence's magnetic eyes, the invisible
presence seems to inspire her lover with supernatural valiance. Remember
the story of Aslauga's Knight; when once through the cloud of
battle-dust gleamed the golden tresses, horse and man went down before
him.

Royston was not half good enough to appreciate all this; yet some
shadowy and undefined feeling, allied to it, may have helped to hold him
back from pushing his advantage to the uttermost. Another and more
selfish presentiment worked probably more powerfully. There was one
phantom from which the Cool Captain never could escape; for years it had
followed close on the consummation of all his crimes, and was, in truth,
their best avenger: his Nemesis was satiety. He knew too well how the
sweetest flowers lost their color and fragrance, so soon as they were
plucked and fairly in his grasp, not to shrink before the prospect of a
certain disenchantment. This curse attaches to many of his kind: the
instant the prize is won there arise misgivings as to its value; and
defects develop themselves hourly in what seemed faultless perfection
before. It is boys' play to simulate being _blasé_; but the reality
makes mature manhood disbelieve any thing sooner than inevitable
retribution. Very often the thought forced itself upon Keene's mind, "If
I were to weary of _her_ too?" and made him pause before he urged Cecil
to the step that must have linked him to her fate forever.

Under other circumstances his patience might have held out still longer;
but there were numberless difficulties and obstacles in the way of their
meeting, and the perpetual constraint fretted Royston sorely. His
principle always had been not openly to violate conventionalities
without gaining an adequate equivalent; so he was more careful of
Cecil's reputation than she was inclined to be, and, among worse
lessons, taught her prudence. They met very seldom alone. When Mrs.
Danvers was present she made it her business to be as much as possible
in the way; and her awkward attempts at interference were sometimes
inexpressibly provoking. On one particular evening she had been
unusually pertinacious and obtrusive. The major stood it tolerably well
up to a certain point, but his savage temper gradually got the better of
him; his face grew darker and darker, till it was black as midnight when
he rose to go, and his lips were rigid as steel. It was evident he had
come to some resolution that he meant to keep. When he was wishing
Bessie "good-night," he held her hand imprisoned for a moment without
pressing it. "You are so good a theologian," he said, "that perhaps you
can tell me where a text comes from that has haunted me for the last
hour. It speaks of some one who 'loosed the bands of Orion.'" His manner
and the sudden address disconcerted Mrs. Danvers so completely as to
incapacitate her from reply: she suffered "judgment to go by default;"
and left Royston under the impression that she had never read the Book
of Job.

The next day he asked Cecil to elope with him.

She listened without betraying either terror, or anger, or disdain; but
she raised her beautiful eyes to his with a sad, searching inquiry,
before which many men would have quailed. "Have you counted the cost to
yourself and to me?"

"I have done both," replied Keene, gravely. "I can not say that you will
never repent it; but I know that I shall never regret it."

There were no promises or vows exchanged; but a silence for two long
minutes; and, when these were passed, the sweet, pure lips had lost
their virginity.

So with few more words it was finally arranged; and the next day Royston
left Dorade to make preparations all along the road of their intended
flight. Their plan was to take boat at Marseilles for the East, making
their first permanent resting-place one of the islands of the Grecian
Archipelago. Both were most anxious to evade any possibility of
interception, more especially of collision with Dick Tresilyan.

On that evening Cecil was alone in her own room (Mrs. Danvers had gone
out to a sort of love-feast at the Fullartons', where the company were
to be entertained with weak tea and strong doctrine _à discretion_). She
had rejected the offer of Fanny's companionship on the plea, not
altogether false, of a tormenting headache. _La mignonne_ was too
innocent to suspect the reason that made her friend shudder in their
parting embrace, half averting her cheek, though Cecil's arms clung
round her as though they would never let her go. The saddest feeling of
the many that were busy then in the guilty, troubled heart, was a
consciousness that in a few hours the gulf between them would be deep
and impassable as the chasm dividing Abraham from Dives.

Miss Tresilyan had taken unconsciously an attitude in which you saw her
once before, half-reclined, and gazing into the fire; outwardly still
remained the same pensive, languid grace; but very different was the
careless reverie that had stolen over her then, from the wild chaos of
conflicting thoughts that involved her now.

Her whole being was so bound up in Royston Keene's, that she felt
without him there would be nothing worth living for; neither had she the
faintest misgiving as to the chances of his inconstancy. There had
descended to her some of the stability and determination of purpose
which had made many of her race so powerful for good or evil; in the
pursuit of either they would never admit a doubt, or listen to a
compromise. When Cecil believed, she believed implicitly, and, not even
with her own conscience, made conditions of surrender. So long as _his_
strong arm was round her, she felt that she could defy shame, and even
remorse; but how would it be if that support should fail? He had not
been away yet twenty hours, and already there came creeping over her a
chilling sense of helplessness and desolation. She knew her lover's
violent passions and haughty temper, impatient of the most distant
approach to insolence or even contradiction from others, too well not to
be aware that such a man walked ever on the frontier-ground between life
and death. Suppose that he were taken from her?--her spirit, dauntless
as it was, quailed before the ghastly terrors of imagined loneliness. An
evil voice that had whispered perhaps in the ear of more than one of the
"bitter, bad Tresilyans," seemed to murmur, "You, too, can die:" but
Cecil was not yet so lost as to listen to the suggestion of the subtle
fiend. She wasted no regrets on the past, and the wreck of all its
brilliant promises: she was resolute to meet the perils of the future;
nevertheless, her heart was heavy with apprehension. Remember the answer
that the stout Catholic made to Des Adrets, when the savage baron
taunted him with cowardice for shrinking twice from the death-leap on
the tower, "_Je vous le donne, en dix_." So it is not in
womanhood--however ruined in principle or reckless of the consequences,
to venture deliberately, without a shudder, on the fatal plunge from
which no fair fame has ever risen unshattered again. Even prejudices may
not be torn up by the roots without stirring the earth around them.

She might have sat musing thus for about an hour; so deep in thought
that she never heard the _portière_ slowly drawn aside that divided the
room from an ante-chamber. The Tresilyan had her emotions under
tolerable control, and at least was not given to screaming; but she
could hardly repress the startled cry that sprang to her lips when she
raised her eyes.

The reproachful spectre that had haunted her for years--till very
lately, when a stronger influence chased it away--assumed substance of
form and feature, as the dark doorway framed the haggard, pain-stricken
face of Mark Waring.



CHAPTER XX.


It is not very easy to confront, with decorous composure, the sudden
apparition of the person on earth that one would have least liked to
see. All things considered Cecil carried it off creditably, and greeted
her unexpected visitor with sufficient cordiality. Mark took her offered
hand gravely, without eagerness, not holding it an instant longer than
was necessary. Then he spoke--

"They told me I should find you alone. I was so anxious to do so as soon
as possible, that I ventured to break in upon you even at this
unseasonable hour. You will guess that I had powerful reasons."

The Tresilyan threw back her haughty head, as a war-horse might do at
the first blast of the trumpet: she scented battle in the wind.

"Will you be good enough to explain yourself?" she said, as she took her
own seat again, and motioned him into another; "I am sure you would not
trifle with me, or vex me unnecessarily."

Waring did not avail himself of the chair indicated, but crossed his
arms over the back of it, and stood so, regarding her intently.

"You only do me justice there," he replied; "I will speak briefly, and
plainly too. I came here from Nice to ask you how much truth there is in
the reports that couple your name with Major Keene's?"

No one likes to give the death-blow to the loyalty of a faithful
adherent, be he ever so humble; and Cecil was bitterly pained that she
could not speak truly, and satisfy him. Her face sank lower and lower,
till it was buried in her hands. Nothing more was needed to convince
Waring that his worst fears were realized; for a moment or two he felt
sick and faint. No wonder; he had given up hope long ago, but not trust
and faith; now, these were blasted utterly. In any religion, whether
true or false, the fanatic is happier, if not wiser, than the infidel;
if you can not replace it with a better, it is cruel to shake the
foundation of the simplest creed. Mark's voice--hollow, and hoarse, and
changed--could not but betray his agony.

"God help us both! Has it come to this--that you have no words to answer
me, when I dare to hint at your dishonor?"

She looked up quickly, flushing to her white brow, rose-red with anger.

"I will not endure this, even from you. Understand at once--I deny your
right to question me." The clear blue eyes met the violet ones with a
steady, judicial calmness, undazzled by their ominous lightning.

"Listen to me quietly--two minutes longer," he said, "and then resent
my presumption as much as you will. Three years ago it pleased you to
make me the subject of an experiment. How far you acted heedlessly, and
in ignorance of the consequences, I have never stopped to inquire--it
would be wasting time; the sophistries of coquetry are too subtle for
me. I only know what the result has been. Before I met you I could have
offered to any woman, who thought it worth her acceptance, a healthy,
honest love; now--even if I could conquer my present infatuation--I
could only offer a feeling something warmer than friendship; to promise
more would be base treachery. Do you think I would stand by God's altar
with a worse lie than Ananias's on my lips? Is it nothing that, to
gratify your vanity or your whims, you should have condemned a man,
whose blood is not frozen yet, to something worse than widowhood for
life? My religion may be a false and vain idolatry; but it is all I have
to trust to. I will not stand patiently by and see the image that I have
bowed down to worship pilloried for the world to scorn. Now--do you deny
my right to interfere?"

His words had a rude energy, though little eloquence; but they came so
evidently from the depths of a strong, troubled heart, that they caused
a revulsion in Cecil's feelings; returning remorse bore down her
stubborn pride. Very low and plaintive was the whisper--"Ah! have
mercy--have mercy; you make me so unhappy;" but there came a more
piteous appeal from her eyes. In Mark's stout manhood was an element of
more than womanish compassion and tenderness; he never could bear to see
even a child in tears; no wonder if his anger vanished before the
contrition of the one being whom he loved far better than life. He lost
sight of his own wrongs instantly, but _not_ of the object he had in
view.

"Forgive me for speaking so roughly; I ought to have declined your
challenge. I behaved better once, you remember. But be patient while I
plead for the right, though, if you would but listen to them, prudence
and your own conscience could do that better than I. When infatuation
exists, it is worse than useless to prove the object of it unworthy, so
I will not attempt to blacken Major Keene's character; besides, it is
not to my taste to attack men in their absence. I fear there are few
capitals in Europe where his name is not too well known. From what I
have heard, I believe his wife was most in fault when they separated,
but the life he has led since deprives him of all right to complain of
her, or condemn her. Recollect you have only heard one side. But it is
not a question of his eligibility as an acquaintance. There is the
simple fact--he is married, and your name being connected with his
involves disgrace. You can not have fallen yet so far as to be reckless
about such an imputation. In my turn I say, 'Have mercy!' Do not force
me henceforth to disbelieve in the purity of any created thing."

Cecil could only murmur, "It is too late--too late!" The ghastly look of
horror that swept over Waring's face showed that his thoughts had gone
beyond the truth. "I mean," she went on, blushing painfully, "that I
have promised."

"Promised!" Mark repeated in high disdain; "I have lived too long when I
hear such devil's logic from your lips. You know full well there is more
sin in keeping than in breaking such engagements. I will try to save
you in spite of yourself. Listen. I do not threaten; I know you well
enough to be certain that such an argument would be the strongest
temptation to you to persevere in taking your own course. I simply tell
you what I will do. I shall speak to your brother first; if he can not
understand his duty, or shrinks from it, I will carry out what I believe
to be mine. I utterly disapprove of and despise the practice of dueling,
but, at any risk, I _will_ stand between you and Major Keene. He shall
not gain possession of you while I am alive. When I am dead, if you
touch his hand, you shall know that my blood is upon it, and the guilt
shall be on your own head. I believe that in keeping you apart I should
act kindly toward both. I do him this justice--it would make him
miserable to see you pining away. There are limits to human endurance,
and you are too proud to bear dishonor."

Cecil felt that every word he had spoken was good and true, and that he
would not waver in his purpose for an instant. She remembered how, when
they were returning together four days ago, the sidelong glance of a
matronly Pharisee had lighted on her in a spiteful triumph, and how,
though neither of them alluded to it afterward, the dark-red flash of
anger had mounted to Royston's forehead. She had ceased to care for
herself, but could she not save _him_ while yet there was time? And
more--had she not wrought wrong enough to Mark Waring without having his
murder on her soul? for she never doubted as to the result if those two
should meet as foes.

They talk of hair that has grown gray in the briefest space of mental
anguish. It is all a delusion and an old wife's fable. When Cecil rose
the next morning there was not a silver line in her tresses. Outward
signs of the mortal struggle, while it lasted, there were none, for her
clasped hands veiled her face jealously; when she raised it, her cheek
was paler than death and wet with an awful dew, and when she spoke her
voice retained not one cadence of its wonted melody.

"You have prevailed, as the truth always ought to prevail. Now tell me
what to do."

Mark Waring would have drained his heart's blood drop by drop to have
lightened one throb of her agony, but he never thought of flinching from
his purpose.

"There are perils where the only safety lies in flight. You must leave
this before Major Keene returns, and he returns to-morrow."

Perhaps I have failed in making you understand one hereditary
peculiarity of the Tresilyans. When their hand was fairly laid to the
plow they were incapable of looking back. Had Mark come ten hours later,
when Cecil's purpose was absolutely fixed, all his arguments would have
been futile. As it was, once having decided finally on the line she was
to take, it never occurred to her to make farther objections. "Yes, I
will go," she said; "but I must write to him."

"I think you ought to do so," answered Waring, "and if you will give me
the letter I will deliver it myself."

Every vestige of the returning color faded from Cecil's cheek. "You do
not know him: I dare not trust you." He misinterpreted the cause of her
terror. "I promise you that, however angry Major Keene may be, I will
bear it patiently, and never dream of resenting it. He is safe from me
now."

She smiled very sadly, yet not without a dreary pride; she could have
seen Royston pitted against any mortal antagonist, and never would have
feared for _him_. "You scarcely understand me; I was not anxious for his
safety, but for yours."

Mark was too brave and single-hearted to suspect a taunt, even had such
been intended. "Then there is nothing more to be settled," he said,
quietly, "but the time and manner of your departure. I will leave you
now; I shall see you before you go."

Cecil Tresilyan rose and laid her hand on his arm, her beautiful face
fixed in its firm resolve like that of one of those fair Norse Valas,
from whose rigid lips flowed the bode of defeat or victory, when the
Vikings went forth to the Feast of the Ravens.

"I am not angry with one word you have said to-night; you have only
expressed what my own cowardly conscience ought to have uttered;
nevertheless, to-morrow sees our last meeting. All your account against
me is fairly balanced now. I do not know what I may have to suffer, but
I do know that I _will_ be alone till I die. Perhaps some day I may
thank you in my thoughts for what you have done; I can not--now."

With a heavy heart Waring owned to himself that her words were bitterly
true. In curing such diseases, the physician must work without hope of
reward or fee; it will be long before the patient can touch without a
shudder the hand that inflicted the saving cautery.

Her tone changed, and she went on murmuring, low and plaintively, as if
in soliloquy and unconscious of another's presence.

"I could not help loving him, though I knew it was sin; if there is
shame in confessing it, I can not feel it yet. I wish I had told
him--_once_--how dearly I loved him; I shall never be able to whisper it
to him now, and I dare not write it. No, he will not forget me as he has
forgotten others; but he will hate me, and call me false, and fickle,
and cold. Cold--if he could only read my heart! I never read it myself
till now, when we must be parted forever."

Is it pleasant, think you, to listen to such words as these, uttered by
the woman that you have worshiped, even if it be hopelessly, for years?
Men have gone mad under lighter tortures than those that Mark Waring was
then forced to endure. But he knew that it was the extremity of her
anguish that had hardened for a season Cecil's gentle, generous, nature,
and made her heedless of the pain she inflicted. So he answered in a
slow, steady voice, such as we employ when trying to calm the ravings of
a fever-fit:

"Hush! you speak wildly. My presence here does you no good. You may
think of me as hardly as you will; perhaps time will soften your
judgment; if not--I shall still not repent to-night's work. I will come
for your letter at the moment of your departure. Good-night; I pray that
God may help you now, and guard you always." He raised her hand and just
touched it with his lips, with the same grave courtesy that had marked
his manner when they parted last, three years ago, and in another second
Cecil was alone again.

She was not long in recovering from her bewilderment; and when Mrs.
Danvers returned she was perfectly collected and calm. It is not worth
while recording Bessie's noisy expressions of astonishment and delight,
nor describing Dick Tresilyan's way of receiving notice of the sudden
change in their plans. His stolid composure was not greatly disturbed
thereby; he muttered, under his breath, some sulky anathemas on "women
who never knew their own minds;" but this was only because he considered
a growl to be the form of protest suitable to the circumstances and due
to his masculine dignity. On the whole, he was rather glad to go. It had
become evident, even to his dull comprehension, that great mischief was
brewing somewhere, and for days he had been in a state of hazy
apprehension--as he expressed it, "not seeing his way out of it at all."
So he set about his part of the preparations for their exodus with a
right good will. Neither will we give the details of Cecil's parting
with _la mignonne_. The latter was so rejoiced at the idea of her
friend's being out of harm's way that she did not question her much as
to the reasons for such an abrupt departure: it was not till afterward
that she learned that it had been brought about by the influence of
Waring. It is unnecessary to mention that the adieus were not
accomplished without a certain amount of tears; but they were all shed
by Fanny Molyneux. Cecil dared not yet trust herself to weep. She took a
far more formal farewell of Mr. Fullarton, and the chaplain did not even
venture a parting benediction.

The heavy traveling-chariot, with its hundred cunning contrivances, is
packed at last, and Karl, the accomplished courier, wiping from his
blonde mustache the drops of the stirrup-cup, touches his cap with his
accustomed formula, "Zi ces dames zont brêtes?" Mark Waring leans over
the carriage door to say "Good-by:" the hand he presses lies in his
grasp, unresponsive and unsympathetic as a splinter from an iceberg. His
sad, earnest look pleads in vain, for there is no softening or kindness
in Cecil's desolate, dreamy eyes. The road on which they are to travel
is the same for some leagues as that along which Royston Keene must
return, and she is thinking, divided between hope and fear, if there may
not be a possibility of their meeting. The wheels move, and hasty
farewells are waved, and Mark stands there half stupefied, unconscious
of any thing but a sense of lonely wretchedness. The one solitary link
that still binds him to Cecil Tresilyan will be severed when the letter
is delivered that he holds in his hand.

As the carriage swept round the corner of the terrace, it passed close
to the spot where Armand de Châteaumesnil sat basking in the sunshine.
The invalid lifted his cap in courteous adieu, but his face grew dark,
and his shaggy brows were knit savagely.

"On l'a triché donc, après tout," he muttered; "Sang Dieu! les absens
ont diablement tort." Sunk as she was at that moment in gloomy
meditations, Cecil never forgot that the last object on which her eyes
lighted in Dorade was the blasted wreck of the crippled Algerian.

Molyneux and his wife stood silent till their friends were quite out of
sight, then Harry turned slowly round and gazed at his _mignonne_. He
knew that the same thought was in both their minds, for her sweet face
was paler than his own. (Neither of them guessed at the truth, and they
saw in Mark Waring nothing more than an old acquaintance of the
Tresilyans.)

"Royston will be here in four hours," he said, "and who will tell him
this? _I_ dare not."

Fanny feigned a carelessness that she was far from feeling.

"I don't know how that is to be managed, but I believe it is all for the
best. He can't kill either of us; that is some comfort."

Harry did not smile; his countenance wore an expression of grave
anxiety, such as had seldom appeared there.

"No, he will not hurt us, but I fear he will have _some one's_ blood
before all is done."



CHAPTER XXI.


It was past nightfall when Major Keene returned to Dorade. As he drove
past the hotel where the Tresilyans lodged he looked up at the windows
of their apartments, and was somewhat surprised to _see_ no light there;
but no suspicion of the truth crossed his mind. He had made all
preparations for the intended flight with his habitual skill and
foresight. The Levantine steamer left Marseilles early on the third
morning from this, and relays were so ordered along the road as to
prevent the possibility of being overtaken, and just to hit the hour of
the vessel's sailing. So far every thing seemed to promise favorably for
the accomplishment of his purposes, and Royston could not have explained
even to himself the reason of his feeling so moody and discontented. He
went straight to his own rooms, without looking in at the Molyneuxs';
for he was heated and travel-stained; and, under such circumstances, was
wont to postpone the greeting of friends to the exigencies of the
toilet. This was scarcely concluded when his servant brought him Mark
Waring's card, with a request penciled on it for an immediate interview.

Even the Cool Captain started perceptibly when he read the name. He was
well acquainted with the episode connected with it; for Cecil had kept
back none of her secrets from him, and this was among the earliest
confidences. _Then_ he had felt no inclination to sneer; but now his lip
began to curl cynically.

"_Coramba!_" he muttered; "the plot begins to thicken. What brings the
old lover _en scène_? I hope he does not mean to make himself
disagreeable. I haven't time to quarrel just now; and, besides, it would
worry Cecil. Well, we'll find out what he wants. Tell Mr. Waring that I
am disengaged, and shall be happy to see him."

The major advanced to meet his visitor with a manner that was perfectly
courteous, though it retained a tinge of haughty surprise.

"I can not guess to what I am indebted for this pleasure," he said.
"Pardon me, if I ask you to explain your object as briefly as possible.
I have much to do this evening, and my time is hardly my own."

Waring gazed fixedly at the speaker for a few seconds before he replied.
Like most of his profession, he was an acute physiognomist, and in that
brief space he fathomed much of the character of the man who had rivaled
him successfully. He confessed honestly to himself that there were
grounds, if not excuse, for Cecil's infatuation; but he shrank from
thinking of the danger which she had escaped so narrowly.

"Yes, I will be as brief as possible," Mark answered at length. "Neither
of us will be tempted to prolong this interview unnecessarily. I have
promised to deliver a letter to you, and when you have read it I shall
have but very few words to say."

A stronger proof than Keene had ever yet given of superhuman control
over his emotions was the fact that, neither by quivering of eyelid,
change of color, or motion of muscle, did he betray the faintest
astonishment or concern as he took the letter from Waring, and
recognized Cecil's hand on the cover. It was not a long epistle, for it
scarcely extended beyond two sides of a note-sheet. The writing was
hurried, and in places almost illegible: it had entirely lost the firm,
even character which usually distinguished it, from which a very
moderate graphiologist might have drawn successful auguries. Perhaps
this was the reason that Royston read it through twice slowly. As he did
so his countenance altered fearfully; the deadly white look of dangerous
passion overspread it all, and his eyes began to gleam. Yet still he
spoke calmly--"You knew of this being written?"

"I am happy to say I was more than passively conscious of it," Mark
replied. "I did all in my power to bring about the result that you are
now made aware of, and I thank God that I did not fail."

While the other was speaking Royston was tearing up the paper he held
into the smallest shreds, and dropping them one by one. The act might
have been involuntary, but seemed to have a savage viciousness about it,
as if a living thing were being tortured by those cruel fingers. (The
poor letter! whatever its faults might have been, it surely deserved a
better fate: it was doubtless not a model of composition, but some of
the epistles which have moved us most in our time, either for joy or
sorrow, might not in this respect emulate Montague or Chapone.) Still he
controlled himself, with a mighty effort, enough to ask, steadily, "Were
you weary of your life, to have done all this, and then come here to
tell me so?"

Waring laughed drearily.

"Weary? So weary that, if it had not been for scruples you can not
understand, I would have got rid of it long ago. But I need not inflict
my confidences on you, and I don't choose to see the drift of your
question."

The devil had so thoroughly by this time possessed Royston Keene, that
even his voice was changed into a hoarse, guttural whisper. "I asked,
because I mean to kill you."

Mark's gaze met the savage eyes that gleamed like a famished panther's,
with an expression too calm for defiance, though there might have been
perhaps a shade of contempt.

"Of course I shall guard my own life as best I may, either here or
elsewhere, but I do not apprehend it is in great danger. There is an old
proverb about 'threatened men;' they are not killed so easily as women
are betrayed. Beyond the simplest self-defense, I warn you that I shall
not resent any insult or attack. I will not meet you in the field; and
as for any personal struggle, I don't think that even you would like to
make Cecil Tresilyan the occasion for a broil that might suit two
drunken peasants."

Though shorter by half a head, and altogether cast in a less colossal
mould, as he stood there, with his square, well-knit frame, and bold
Saxon face, he looked no contemptible antagonist to confront the swarthy
giant. In utter insensibility to fear and carelessness of consequences
(so far as they could affect a steady resolve), the Cool Captain had met
his match at last. Even then, in the crisis of his stormy passion, he
was able to appreciate a hardihood so congenial to his own character;
pondering upon these things afterward, he always confessed that at this
juncture, and indeed all throughout, his opponent had very much the best
of it. Ferocity and violence seemed puerile and out of place when
contrasted with that tranquil audacity. He covered his eyes with his
hand for a moment or so, and when he raised his face it had recovered
its natural impassibility, though the ghastly pallor still remained.
Besides, the truth of Waring's last words struck him forcibly. He
muttered under his breath, "By G--d, he's right _there_, at all events;"
then he said aloud, "Well, it appears you won't fight, so there is
little more to be said between us. You think you can thwart my purposes
or mould them as you like. We'll try it. I told you I had many things to
do to-night: I have one more than I dreamed of on hand. I wish to be
alone."

Mark gazed wistfully at the speaker without stirring from his seat. "I
know what your intention is perfectly well. You mean to follow her. I
believe it would be quite in vain; you have misjudged Cecil Tresilyan,
if you fancy that she would alter her determination twice. But you might
give her great pain, and compromise her more cruelly than you have done
already. There are obstacles now in your way that you could not
encounter without causing open scandal. Her brother's suspicions are
fairly roused by this time, and he can not help doing his duty: he may
be weak and credulous, but he is no coward. There is no fear of farther
interference from me: my part is played. But I do beseech you to pause.
Supposing the very worst--that you could still succeed in persuading
Cecil to her ruin--are you prepared deliberately to accept the
consequences of the crime? You are far more experienced in such matters
than I: do you know a single instance of such guilt being accomplished
where _both_, before the year was ended, did not wish it undone? I do
not pretend to be interested about your future; but I believe I am
speaking now as your dearest friend might speak. You both delude
yourselves miserably if you think that Cecil could live under disgrace.
I do you so much justice. You would find it unendurable to see her
withering away day by day, with no prospect before her but a hopeless
death. In God's name, draw back while there is time. It is only a sharp
struggle, and self-command and self-denial will come. Loneliness is
bitter to bear: _I_ know that; but what is manhood worth if it can not
bear its burdens? I have put every thing on the lowest grounds, and I
will ask you one question more--you might guard her from some suffering
by hiding her from the world's scorn--could you guard yourself against
satiety?"

He spoke without a trace of anger or animosity, and the grave, kind
tones made some way in the winding avenues leading to Royston's heart.
Besides this, the last word struck the chord of the misgiving that had
haunted him ever since he proposed the flight, and had already made him
half repent it. But the fortress did not yet surrender.

"All this while you have had some idea of improving your own position
with Cecil. It is natural enough: yet I fancy you will find yourself
mistaken there."

Instead of flushing at the taunt, Waring's face grew paler, and there
shot across it a sharp spasm of pain.

"So you can not understand disinterestedness," he said. "Before I
ventured on interference, I was aware of the certain consequences, and
weighed them all. Miss Tresilyan thought she had done me some wrong; and
I trusted to her generosity to help me when I spoke for the right. But I
knew that the spell could only be used once, and that the canceled debt
could not be revived. I shall never speak to her--perhaps never see
her--on earth again. Do you imagine I love her less for that? Hear this:
I suppose I have as much pride as most men; but I would kneel down here
and set your foot on my neck if I thought the humiliation would save her
one iota of shame or sorrow."

Keene was fairly vanquished. He was filled with a great contempt for his
own guilty passion, compared with the pure self-sacrifice of Mark's
simple chivalry. He raised his eyes from the ground, on which they had
been bent gloomily while the other was speaking, and answered without
hesitation, "I owe you some amends for much that has been said to-night;
and I will not keep you in suspense a moment unnecessarily. I shall
leave Dorade to-morrow; but it will not be to follow Cecil Tresilyan.
More than this: if there is any chance of our meeting hereafter, on my
honor, I will avoid it. I wish many things could be unsaid and undone;
but nothing has occurred that is past remedy. As far as any future
intentions of mine are concerned, I swear she is as safe as if she were
my sister."

Waring drew a long breath, as if a ponderous weight had been lifted from
his chest. "I believe you," he said simply: then he rose to go. He had
almost reached the door, when he turned suddenly and stretched out his
hand. It was a perfectly unaccountable and perhaps involuntary impulse;
for he still could not absolve the other from dark and heavy guilt. The
major held it for a few seconds in a gripe that would have paralyzed
weaker fingers: even Mark's tough joints and muscles were long in
forgetting it. He muttered these words between his teeth as he let it
go--"_You_ were worthy of her." So the interview ended--in peace.
Nevertheless, there was little peace that night for Royston Keene; he
passed it alone--how, no mortal can know; but the next morning his
appearance fully bore out the truth of the ancient aphorism, "There is
no rest for the wicked." His face was set in the stoniest calmness, but
the features were haggard and drawn, and fresh lines and furrows were
there deeper than should have been engraved by half a score of years. A
violent, passionate nature does not lightly resign the one object of
its aims and desires. Larches and firs will bear moving cautiously, for
they are well-regulated plants, and natives of a frigid zone; but
transplanting rarely succeeds in the tropics.

Harry Molyneux came to his friend's apartments early on the following
day, in a very uncomfortable and perplexed frame of mind. In the first
place, he was sensible of that depression of spirits which is always the
portion of those who are left behind when any social circle is broken up
by the removal of its principal elements. There is no such nuisance as
having to stay and put the lights out. Besides this, he was quite
uncertain in what temper Royston would be found; and apprehended some
desperate outbreak from the latter, which would bring things, already
sufficiently complicated, into a more perilous coil.

Keene's first abrupt words in part reassured him.

"Well, it is all over; and I am going straight back to England."

Harry felt so relieved that he forgot to be considerate: he could not
repress his exultation.

"Is it really all over? I am so very glad!"

"And I am not sorry," was the reply. The speaker probably persuaded
himself that he was uttering the truth; but the dreary, hopeless
expression of his stricken face gave his words the lie. It cut deep into
Molyneux's kind heart; he felt more painfully than he had ever done the
difficulty of reconciling his evident duty with the demand of an ancient
friendship; on the whole, a guilty consciousness of treachery
predominated. He was discreet enough to forbear all questions, and it
was not till long afterward that he heard an outline of part of what had
happened in the past night; it was told in a letter from Miss Tresilyan
to his wife. Had he been more inquisitive, his curiosity would scarcely
have been gratified. To do Keene justice, he guarded the secrets of
others more jealously than he kept his own: and he would have despised
himself for revealing one of Cecil's, even to his old comrade, without
her knowledge and leave. If the feeling which prompted such reticence
was not a high and delicate sense of honor, it was at least a very
efficient substitute for a profitable virtue.

"You go to England?" Molyneux went on, after a brief pause. "When do you
start? and what do you mean to do?"

Royston looked up, and saw his own discontent reflected in the
countenance of his faithful subaltern; he knew he had found there the
sympathy that he was too proud to ask of any living man.

"I start to-night," he replied; "so you see I have no time to lose. I
can hardly tell you what I mean to do, Hal. Do you remember what we said
about the best way of spending our resources? Well--I have broken into
my last large note; and I suppose I must get rid somehow of the change."

Harry's answer was not very ready, nor very distinct when it came. "I
wish--I wish, I could help you!"

For one moment, there returned to Keene's disciplined face a good,
natural expression, which had been a stranger there since the days of
his hot youth; when he first went forth to buckle with the world--frank,
and honest, and fearless; his voice, too, had softened almost to
tenderness. "Old friend, the time has come to say good-by. Our roads
have been the same--for longer than I like to think of: but henceforth
they must lie so far apart, that I doubt if they will ever cross again.
You will see me off, I know; but I may not be able to say then a dozen
words that I should be sorry to leave unsaid. I'll do you this
justice--in no one instance have I ever seen you flinch when I wanted
your help; though often you had no object of your own to serve. I
believe no man ever had a cheerier comrade, or a better backer. I don't
like you the worse for standing aloof during the last five weeks. I
never had one unpleasant word from you; but if any of mine have vexed or
offended you--see now--I ask your forgiveness from the bottom of my
heart."

It is no shame to Harry's manhood that he could not answer intelligibly;
but ten sentences of elaborate sentiment would hardly have been so
eloquent as the pressure of his honest hand.

Later in the day, Keene went to take leave of _la mignonne_. He did so
with pain and reluctance. Men, utterly hard and merciless toward their
own species, have been very fond of their pets; even when these last
belonged to an inferior order of creation. Couthon would fondle his
spaniel while he was signing a sheaf of death-warrants; and the Prophet,
who could contemplate placidly a dozen cities in flames, and watch human
hecatombs falling under the sword of Omar or Ali, cut off the sleeve of
his robe rather than disturb a favorite cat in her slumbers.

Nevertheless, when two people agree to ignore carefully the one subject
that is uppermost in the thoughts of both, the result must be an
uncomfortable constraint and reserve. So the adieus, up to a certain
point, were rather formal. But just as he was going, the same impulse
overcame Royston which had affected him in his interview with Harry
Molyneux. Considering that the age of miracles is past, it was
remarkable that twice in one day the Cool Captain should have approached
so near to the verge of sentimentalism.

"I hope that I shall see you again before long," he said, "but nothing
seems certain--not even the meeting of friends. I should like to thank
you now for some pleasant days and evenings. You have brought a good
deal of sunshine into my life, since I knew you first. I like to think
that, neither in deed nor intention, I have ever deliberately done you
or Harry any harm. I hope you will go on taking as much care of him, and
making him as perfectly happy as you have done. Perhaps I have vexed you
both, lately; but all that is over, and I fancy the punishment will be
proportionate to the offense before it is ended. Farewell. Don't forget
me sooner than you can help; and while you do remember me, think of me
as kindly as you can."

He leaned over her as he finished speaking, and his lips just brushed
her smooth forehead. When Charles the martyr embraced his children an
hour before his death, they received no purer or more sinless kiss. A
sob choked Fanny's voice when she would have replied; and the beautiful
brown eyes were so dim with rushing tears, that they never saw him go.

Keene's last visit in Dorade was to the Vicomte de Châteaumesnil. The
latter manifested no surprise at the sudden departure, and expressed his
regrets with a perfectly calm courtesy. But, at the moment of
leave-taking, he detained the other's hand for a second or so and said,
looking wistfully in his face, "Ainsi, vous partez seul? je ne l'aurais
pas cru; et, je l'avoue franchement, ça me contrarie. N'importe; je
connois votre jeu; et je ne vous tiens pas pour battu, quand c'est
manche à. Ce serait une bêtise, de dire--'au revoir.' Adieu; amusez vous
bien."

Royston shook his head impatiently; he was too proud to save his credit
by dissembling a defeat; and his reply was quick and decisive.

"Vous me flattez, M. le Vicomte. Quand on perd, on doit, au moins
l'avouer loyalement, et payer l'en jeu. Cette fois j'ai tant perdu, que
je ne prendrai pas la revanche."

Not another word was exchanged between them; but Armand had accepted
repulses in his time with more equanimity than he could muster when
ruminating afterward on the discomfiture of Royston Keene.

Some days later the subject was discussed at the Cercle, and one of the
_habitués_ hazarded several cunning conjectures, and more than cynical
surmises. (Did you ever hear a thoroughly profligate Frenchman sneer a
woman's character away? It is almost worth while overcoming your disgust
to listen to the diabolical ingenuity of his innuendoes. The scandal of
our bitterest dowagers sounds charitable by comparison.) The savage
outbreak of the Algerian's temper, that every one had long been
expecting, came at last with a vengeance.

"Tu mens, canaille! C'est le meilleur éloge de M. Keene, que les marans
comme toi, ne puissent le comprendre. Quand à Mademoiselle--elle vaut
mille fois tes soeurs, et ta mère. Si tu as le coeur de pousser
l'affaire, je te donnerai raison sur mes béquilles. Pour le pistolet, ma
main n'est pas encore percluse." He held it out, as steady and strong as
it was in the old days when it could sway the sabre from dawn to
twilight and never know weariness.

If the other persuaded himself that consideration for the invalid's
infirmities made him patient under the insult, his friends were less
romantically credulous: the stigma of that night cleaves to him still.
Brazen it out as he may, the hang-dog look remains, telling us that the
barriers have been at least once broken down which separate the man from
the serf. There would be, perhaps, less mischief abroad if slander were
always so promptly and amply avenged.



CHAPTER XXII.


Not long after the events here recorded came a time that we all remember
right well, when, without note of preparation, the war-trumpets sounded
from the east and the north; when Europe woke up, like a giant
refreshed, from the slumber of a forty years' peace, and took down
disused weapons from the wall, and donned a rusted armor. It was a time
rife with romantic episodes, and, as such seasons must ever be, fraught
with peril to the prudence of womankind. There was perpetual recurrence
of the striking antithesis which happened at Brussels before Waterloo,
when the roll of the distant cannon at Quatre Bras mingled with the
music of the duchess's ball. The coldest reserve is apt to melt rapidly,
and the most skillful coquetry is brought to bay, when opposed to
pleading urged possibly for the last time. Those were days of rebuke and
blasphemy to "the gentlemen of England who sat at home at ease;" and
even the Foreign Office "irresistibles" could hardly hold their own.
What chance have the honeyed words of the accomplished civilian against
the simple eloquence of the soldier, who speaks with his life in his
hand? Truly there were many conquests then achieved of which the world
knew nothing, for the victor never came back to claim his prize.

When the funeral of the Great Duke went by, it was easy to find fault
with some of the details of that pretentious pageant; but which of us
was cool enough to criticise, on the gray February morning, when the
Guards marched out? There were practiced veterans enough to be found in
their ranks; and each of these perhaps could number some who loved him
dearly; but none in the column won such hearty sympathy as those "trim
subalterns, holding their swords daintily," who went forth to their doom
gayly and gallantly, as if pestilence were not lying in ambush at
fever-stricken Varna, and lines of hungry graves waiting for their prey
in the bleak Chersonese. Surely there were sadder faces at home than any
that lined the road; and the anxious crowd at the station represented
very inadequately the "girls they left behind them."

When the first certain rumors of war prevailed, Royston Keene was
shooting woodcocks in the Hebrides; he hastened back to town without a
moment's delay. We know how quick and unerring, on such occasions, is
the instinct of the Rapacidæ. His object was to get on the
active-service list as soon as possible. With his powerful interest and
high reputation, this was not difficult; and he was soon gazetted to a
Light Cavalry regiment. But he did not go out with the first
detachments, and the summer was far advanced when he reached the Crimea.

There was great jubilation at his coming. Many out there knew him
personally, well; and others rejoiced at having the opportunity of
judging for themselves if he really deserved his fame. It soon became
apparent that the Cool Captain was strangely altered. To be sure, the
opportunities for general conviviality were few, for mess-rooms and
ante-rooms were phantoms of the imagination, or only pleasant memories;
still, there was a certain amount of agreeable though select _réunions_,
where the vintages of Bordeaux and Burgundy were sufficiently replaced
by regulation rum. At these Royston appeared rarely; and when he did
show there, was remarkably silent, and apt to let a favorable
opportunity, even for a sarcasm, go by. He seemed to prefer the solitude
of his own tent to the most tempting inducements of society. Men
remembered afterward how, if they went in and found him alone, he was
always busy with his revolver, or playing with his sabre. He had refused
two advantageous offers of staff appointments, for no apparent reason
except the desire not to be out of the way if any work were to be done:
and scarcely a day passed when he was not up at head-quarters, trying to
find out if there was any chance of a break in the long inaction of the
cavalry. Whether it was that the old blood-thirstiness had waked again
in a congenial atmosphere, or whether a great weariness weighing on his
spirits made him so impatient and restless, none can know for certain.
Again I say, let us not sift motives too inquisitively.

It is the morning of the 25th of October, and a lull comes between the
storm-gusts. The "Heavies" have just taken up their position, after that
magnificent charge, in which the Russian lancers were scattered like
dead leaves in autumn when the wind is blowing freshly. There are
murmurs of discontent running the ranks of the Light Brigade; it seems
as if _their_ chance was never coming. One of his intimates grumbles as
much to Royston Keene. The Cool Captain straightens a stray lock of his
charger's mane, and answers, with his old provoking smile,

"Don't fret yourself, George. I have a presentiment that we shall get
rid of the 'fidgets' before we sleep. See--_that_ looks like business."

It seemed as if a spirit of prophecy possessed him; for even while he
was speaking, the aide-de-camp came down at speed. There was a pause
while that message was delivered, the exact words of which will never be
known--for you can not summon the dead as witnesses; then a brief
hesitation, and a dozen sentences exchanged between the first and second
in command; and then--every trooper in the Brigade understood what he
had to do. Many drew true and evil augury from the cloud lowering on the
stern features of the "Haughty Earl."

Keene had been under fire oftener than most there, and his practiced eye
took in and appreciated every item of the peril; nevertheless, his brow
cleared, and all his face lighted up strangely.

"What did I tell you, young one?" he said to the man who had addressed
him just before; "it will be warmer work than the old Phoenix
field-days; but one comfort is, it won't last so long."

Before the words were fairly uttered the trumpets rang out; and with a
gayer laugh on his lip than it had worn for many a day, the Cool Captain
led his squadron gallantly into Aceldama.

We will not describe the charge. Enthusiasts are not wanting who would
rather have ridden in it than have won the highest distinction to which
civilians can aspire. Who dares to object that it was not ultimately
successful? Such a taunt has never been weighed in the balance against
the glories of Thermopylæ. I frequently meet in society one of the
Paladins of that fatal Roncesvalles. In private life he has few
peculiarities, except a tendency to engage in each and every game of
chance, and a perfect monomania for waltzing. Yet I regard him with an
immense respect and reverence, that the object of the feeling would be
the last to understand. I think of the awful peril out of which the
delicate, feminine face has come without a scar; and I protest I would
no more dream of speaking to him angrily or slightingly, than I would
venture to discourse about the Derby to the Bishop of O----, or to offer
to that dignified prelate the current odds against the favorite. Rely
upon it, in many homes of England (if the Manchestrians leave them
standing) there will be one family portrait that our children will most
delight to honor. Pointing out to strangers the crowning glory of their
house, they will pass by grave effigies of lawyers, ecclesiastics, and
statesmen, and pause opposite to a martial figure, dressed in the
uniform of a light dragoon. All his ancestors shall give precedence to
the simple soldier, who rode that day in the van of the Six Hundred.

Yes, we will leave that charge alone. The most hackneyed of professional
_littérateurs_ might shrink from sitting down to his writing-desk, to
make merchandise of such a "deed of _derring-do_." Nevertheless, Royston
Keene bore his part in it manfully; and the troopers talk yet of the
feats of skill and strength wrought by his sabre.

The immunity from dangers of shot and steel for which he had been always
remarkable, did not seem to have deserted him; for he had come out of
the batteries without a scratch, and had fought his way through more
than one knot and peloton of the enemy, with no scathe beyond a slight
flesh-wound. In one of these encounters he had got separated from such
remnants of his squadron as still held together (you know even regiments
lost their unity in that terrible _mêlée_), the only man who still kept
near him was his covering-sergeant. All this while the fire from the
Russian guns on the hill-side grew heavier and heavier, while the cruel
grape-shot ripped through the mingled masses of friends and foes: making
sudden, unsightly gaps here and there, just as may be seen in a field of
ripe corn "laid" by the lashing hail. The good horse on which Keene was
mounted had not been out from England long enough to suffer materially
in wind or limb; he was in very fair condition, and had carried his
master splendidly so far, with equal luck in escaping any serious
injury. Five hundred yards more would have placed them in safety, within
the position where the Heavy Brigade was already moving up to cover the
retreat of their comrades, when the Templar, going at top-speed, pitched
suddenly forward, as a ship does when she founders; and, after rolling
once half over his rider, lay still, with limbs just faintly quivering.
Two grape-shot, making one wound, had crashed right into his chest and
through the heart.

His covering-sergeant was within three lengths of Royston when the
latter went down: he pulled up and sprang down instantly, and was by his
officer's side in a second, trying to extricate him.

"Hold up, Major," he said cheerily; "that's nothing. Take my horse.
He'll carry you in; and I can manage well enough."

The strong soldier reeled, from sheer weakness, as he was speaking; for
the blood was spouting in dark-red jets from a ghastly cut in his bridle
arm: yet he seemed to see nothing in his offer but a simple act of duty;
though men have won a place in history for meaner self-sacrifice. One of
the most remarkable peculiarities about the Cool Captain was the hold he
maintained over the affections and impulses of those with whom he was
brought in contact, without any visible reason for such influence. He
was the strictest possible disciplinarian; and his demeanor toward his
subordinates was consistently dictatorial; yet the present case was only
one instance of the enthusiasm with which they regarded him.

Keene looked up at the speaker wistfully, from where he lay; and his
face softened in its set sternness.

"You're a good fellow, Davis," he said; "but I would not avail myself of
your generosity if I could. I can't take much credit for refusing it. My
thigh is broken; and I am hurt besides. I couldn't keep the saddle for
ten seconds. Draw my right gauntlet off, and take my ring; you deserve
it better than the Cossacks. Keep it as long as you like; it will always
bring you a fifty, if you get hard up. And take _this_ too." He put his
hand into the breast of his uniform; but drew it back quickly. "No: it
shall stay with me while I live."

His tone and manner were just the same as if he had met with a heavy
fall, out hunting, and were answering some good-natured friend who had
stopped to pick him up.

The trooper took the ring; but he lingered still. Royston saw a knot of
the enemy sweeping down on them, like ravens on a stag wounded to the
death; his voice resumed its wonted accent of irresistible command.

"Did you hear what I said? I told you to go. Those devils will be down
on us in less than a minute. I have not fired one barrel of my revolver,
and I'm good for one or two of them yet."

The habit of obedience, more than the instinct of self-preservation,
made Davis mount and ride away without another word. He looked back,
though, as he did so. He heard three distinct reports from Keene's
revolver: two of the enemy's skirmishers dropped to the shots, and the
third wavered in his saddle; the rest closed round the fallen man with
leveled lances. The stout sergeant looked back no more; but he set his
teeth hard, and turned out of his way to encounter a stray Russian, and
laid the foeman's face open from eyebrow to lip, with an awful
blasphemy. The spot where Royston fell was so near to the British lines
that those who slaughtered him dared not stay for plunder. Half an hour
later, Davis and two more volunteers went out and brought in the mangled
body of the best swordsman in the Light Brigade.



CHAPTER XXIII.


Not dead yet!

Though the bloody Muscovite spearmen thought they had left a corpse
behind them, and though the surgeons who examined him decided that he
could not survive the night, the obstinate vitality in Royston Keene
still lingered on, refusing to yield to wounds that might have drained
the life out of three strong men. It seemed as if some strange doom were
upon him, such as was laid on the Black Slave in the _Arabian Nights_,
loved by the enchantress-queen; or a Durindarte in the old romance,
where the tortured spirit, enthralled by potent spells, was withheld for
a season from departure, though its tenement was all shattered and
ruined. His case from the first was utterly hopeless; and his bodily
helplessness at times almost resembled catalepsy; yet his faculties were
quite clear. He could recognize his friends, and talk with them quite
composedly; cry or complaint never once issued from those rigid lips.
They sent him down to Scutari at last, not with any hope of his
recovery, but wishing to insure him all available comforts in his dying
moments. It was a rough passage (even on invalids the cruel Euxine had
little mercy) this, and the pain of transport through the few hundred
yards that were between the vessel and the hospital almost exhausted the
dregs of Royston's strength. When they laid him down on the bed allotted
to him, in a small room of the main ward, of which he was to be the sole
tenant, none of the surgeons could have told if they were dealing with
life or death. Work was so heavy on their hands at that dreadful season,
that they could not devote more than a certain space of precious time to
any one patient; so after trying all means and appliances of recovery in
vain, they left Keene for a while in his swoon. It seemed as if he would
never open his eyes again. They unclosed slowly at last, still dim with
the deathly faintness; his head was dizzy and confused; and in his ears
there was a dull, droning sound, like the murmur of a distant sea. As
objects and sounds assumed more distinctness, he became aware of the
figure of a woman sitting on the ground by the side of his couch--her
head buried in her hands--rocking herself ever to and fro, and never
pausing in her low, heart-broken wail. If old tales speak truth, such a
figure might be seen in dark corners of haunted houses; and such a wail
might echo at dead of night through chambers conscious of some fearful
crime. Instinct more than reason revealed to Royston the truth.

The lips that under the thrusts of Russian lances, and through all
subsequent tortures, had guarded so jealously the secret of his agony,
could not repress a groan as they syllabled the name of--Cecil
Tresilyan.

It was so. The brilliant beauty who for two seasons had ruled the world
in which she moved so imperiously--insatiate of conquest, and defying
rivalry--the delicate _aristocrate_ who from her childhood had been used
to every imaginable luxury, and had appreciated them all--was found
again, here, in the gray robe of a Sister of Charity, content to endure
real, bitter hardships, and to witness daily sights from which
womanhood, with all its bravery, must needs recoil. The motives that had
urged her to such a step would be hard indeed to define. The same
weariness and impatience of inaction that have been alluded to in the
case of Royston Keene may have had much to do with it; to this, perhaps,
was added a feeling of wild remorse, seeking to vent itself in
self-torturing penance, such as impelled kings and conquerors in old
days to don the palmer's gown, and macerate their bodies by fast and
scourge; there may have been, too, some vague, unacknowledged longing to
seize the last chance of seeing her lost love once again. Might she not
tend _him_ as she nursed the other wounded, without adding to the weight
of her sin? If she ever entertained such an idea, her punishment may
well have atoned for her offense, when she came suddenly and unprepared
into that sick-chamber, and looked upon the mangled wreck lying
senseless there.

Royston spoke first. "What brought you here?" If it was possible that he
could feel any thing like terror, surely the hollow, tremulous voice
betrayed it then.

Cecil Tresilyan sprang to her feet as if an electric shock had moved
her, and stood gazing at him with her great, desolate, tearless eyes;
all her misery could not make them hard or haggard, nor dispel their
marvelous enchantment. Royston marked the impulse that would have drawn
her to his side; and threw out one weak hand to warn her off; with the
other he tried to cover his own scarred, ghastly face. "Don't come near
me," he muttered; "I can't bear it." Her woman's instinct fathomed his
meaning instantly: he thought that even _she_ must shrink from him. She
laughed out loud (for her brain was almost turning) as she knelt down
and raised his head on her arm, and smoothed his matted hair, and kissed
the death-damp from his forehead, murmuring between the caresses, "You
dare not keep me from you. Do you think that _I_ fear you, my own--my
own!"

The glory of a great triumph--grand, even if sinful--lighted up the face
of the dying man; and intense passion made even his voice strong and
steady. "I believe this is better than the paradise we dreamed of in the
island of the Greek Sea."

Without a moment's pause the sweet, sad voice replied, "Yes, it is
better. _Then_ I should have died first, and hopelessly. _Now_ there is
no guilt between us that may not be forgiven."

Silence lasted till Royston gathered energy to speak again.

"You remember the glove? See--I have not parted with it yet." He drew
from his breast a case of steel links hung round his neck by a chain: it
held Cecil's gauntlet--stained and stiffened with his blood. That was
the treasure he would not resign when he lay on the ground, waiting for
the Russian lances. "You did not think that I should forget you, because
I never answered your letter?"

As had happened once before, a portion of his fortitude and self-command
seemed transfused into Cecil Tresilyan. She spoke quite steadily now.

"How could I misjudge your silence, when I begged you not to write? I
have been very miserable, thinking how angry you would be; and yet I
could not help what I did. But I never fancied you had forgotten me.
Forgetting is not so easy. Now tell me about yourself. I have heard of
that glorious charge. But those terrible wounds--how you must have
suffered!"

Out of the dim, glazing eyes flashed for one moment a gleam of soldierly
pride. "Yes, we rode straight, on the twenty-fifth--I among the rest. I
suppose I have suffered some pain, but that is all past and gone. I am
sensible of nothing but the great happiness of holding your little hand
once more. See--I can hold it without shame, for my fingers have not
pressed those of any woman alive since we parted."

She saw how the utterance of those few words told upon him, and
refrained from the delight of listening longer to the voice that was
still to her inexpressibly dear. So she checked him fondly when he would
have gone on speaking. Yet the silence that ensued was first broken by
Cecil.

"My own! I fear--I fear that you are in great danger. How long we may
_both_ have to suffer, God alone can tell. But will you not see a
clergyman? He might help you though I am weak and powerless."

A shadow of the old sardonic scorn swept across Keene's emaciated face,
and passed away as suddenly.

"It is somewhat late for any help that priests can bring. Besides, I can
not dwell now on any of my past sins, save one. All my thoughts are
taken up with the wrong that I have done to you."

This was true. If there were reproachful phantoms that had a right to
haunt Royston's death-bed, the living presence kept them all at bay.

Cecil's eyes had never been more eloquent than they were then, but they
spoke of nothing but despair.

"Ah, heaven! can not you see that all _I_ have to forgive has been
forgiven long ago? What is to become of me if you die hardened in your
sin? Must I live on, _hoping_ that we are parted forever? If you are
pitiless to your own soul, have mercy, at least, upon me!"

All Royston's former crimes seemed to him venial by comparison, as he
witnessed the misery and abasement of the glorious creature on whom he
had brought such sorrow, if not shame. The remorse that a strong will
and hard heart had stifled so long found voice at last in three muttered
words--"God forgive me!" A very niggardly and inadequate expression of
contrition--was it not?--conceded to a life whose sins outnumbered its
years. Yet the slight thread of hope drawn therefrom has been able since
to hold back Cecil Tresilyan from the abyss of utter desperation. She
forbore to press him farther then, seeing his increasing weakness, and
trusting, perhaps, that a more favorable opportunity would come.

Indeed, there were a thousand things to be said about the past, in which
both had borne a part, and the future, in which only one could share;
but Royston had estimated rightly the extent of his remaining physical
resources; and when he found how each syllable exhausted him, he became
as chary of words as a miser of his gold. His right hand still grasped
hers firmly; and her delicate cheek was pillowed on his shoulder; the
fingers of his other hand played gently with a long, glossy chestnut
tress that had escaped from the prison of the close cap she wore. So
they remained, for a long time--no sound passing between them, beyond
half-formed whispers of endearment: no one came in to molest them: there
was work enough and to spare, that night, for all in Scutari. The
thought of interruption never crossed Cecil's mind for an instant.
Always careless and defiant of conventionality, or the world's opinion,
she was tenfold more reckless now. Her head was bent down, and her eyes
closed; so that she could not see how the hollows deepened on her
lover's face; nor how the pallor of his cheek darkened rapidly to an
ashen-gray. But inward warnings of approaching dissolution spoke plainly
enough to Royston Keene. He knew what he had to do.

He raised her head from where it rested, and said, so gently, "If my
time is short, there is the more reason that I should be loth to lose
you, even for an hour. But you must have rest; and I feel as if I could
sleep. Do not try to persuade me; but leave me now. When you think
hereafter of this evening, remember what my last words were. _I loved
you best of all._ Darling--wish me good-night; and come to see me early
to-morrow."

He guessed, full well, how long that night would last, and what sight
would meet Cecil on the morrow; but he was resolute to spare her one
additional pang, and so endured alone the whole burden of the parting
agony. His whole life had been full of deeds of reckless daring; but, in
good truth, this achievement was its very crown of courage.

Now, as heretofore, Cecil was incapable of resisting any one of his
expressed wishes or commands; besides this, physical exhaustion was
beginning to overcome her; and she, too, felt that it was time to go.
She leaned down, without speaking, and their lips met in a long,
passionate kiss. So little of vitality lingered in Royston's, that they
remained still icy-cold under the pressure of these ripe, red roses.

"I will come again, early," she whimpered.

The last relics of a strength that _had_ been superhuman passed into the
lingering pressure of the hand that bade her tenderly farewell. Half an
hour later the surgeon came to Royston Keene. All that night, shrieks
and groans, and other sounds through which human agony finds a vent, had
been ringing in his ears, till they were weary of the din; but the
silence of that chamber struck the visitor yet more painfully. He looked
for a second gravely at the motionless figure; and laid his ear against
the lips; no breath issued thence that would have stirred a feather;
then he drew very gently the sheet over the dead man's face,--a quiet,
steadfast face,--that even in the death-throe had retained its proud,
placid calm.

When Cecil Tresilyan saw that same sight the next morning, she did not
scream or faint. Neither then nor afterward did she prove herself
unworthy of her haughty lover, by demonstrating or parading her sorrows.
Many others besides her have taken for their motto, "The heart knoweth
its own bitterness;" and have carried it out to the end unflinchingly.
Verily, they have their reward. If there is little comfort on this side
the grave, and only vague hope beyond it, it is something to escape
condolence. We follow her fortunes no farther. It is needless to give
all the details of the hospital service which occupied her till the
conclusion of the war set her free; and we will not seek to penetrate
into the retreat in the Far West where she is dwelling still. The gray
manor-house guards its secrets well, though it has witnessed in its time
sorrows and sins that might have wrung a voice from granite. Conscious
of many broken hearts and blasted hopes, is the home of the Tresilyans
of Tresilyan.

I confess to a certain regret, as that graceful figure vanishes from the
stage that never was worthy of her queen-like presence. Was it in
dream-land that I saw the original of the character and face that I have
endeavored, thus roughly, to portray? Perhaps so. But there are visions
so near akin to realities, that one's brain grows dizzy in trying to
disentangle the two.

It is unfortunate that the void created by any man's death is by no
means proportionate to his intrinsic merits. So it happened that the
loss of Royston Keene was felt more than he deserved. Far and wide over
the surface of the world's sea the circles spread from the spot where
his life went down. He was missed not only by his old comrades in arms:
men who scarcely knew him by sight spared some regret to the favorite
hero of the Light Dragoons. Mark Waring, in the loneliness of his dreary
chambers, gnashed his teeth in bitterness of envy; for he guessed _who_
would be the chief mourner. Arnaud de Châteaumesnil's remark was
characteristic. Hearing that his old opponent had fallen in the front of
the battle, he struck his hand impatiently on his own crippled limbs,
muttering--"Sang-dieu! Il avait toujours la main heureuse." Harry
Molyneux can not trust his voice to speak of him yet; and other
beautiful eyes besides _La Mignonne's_ were dim with tears when they
read a certain death-gazette. Truly, "great men have fallen in Israel,"
and saints have departed in the plentitude of sanctity, without winning
such wealth of regrets as was lavished on the grave of that strong
sinner. Only two women alive--and these he had never wronged--rejoiced
over the news unfeignedly--Bessie Danvers and his own wife.

Shall we pass judgment on Royston Keene? He had erred so often and
heavily that even the intercession of a penitent who never kneels before
Heaven without mingling his name in her prayers must probably be
unavailing. Yet will we not cast the stone. All temptations, of course,
can be resisted, and ought to be overcome. But there are men born with
so peculiar a temperament, and who seem to have been so completely under
the dominion of circumstances, that they might well be supposed to have
been raised up for a warning. How far are such to be held accountable?
Let us refrain from this subject, remembering how grave and learned
theologians, earnest opponents of Predestinarianism, have been reduced
to the extreme of perplexity when confronted with the ensample of
Pharaoh.

It would neither be pleasant nor profitable to pry into the secrets of
the black darkness that lies beyond Royston's death-bed; in it few would
be able to distinguish the faintest glimmer of light. But we have no
more authority to fix limits to the long-suffering of Omnipotence, than
we have to dispute the justice of its revenge. Let us stand aside, and
hope

  That Heaven may yet have more mercy than man
      On such a bold rider's soul.

A strange doctrine, that; savoring perhaps of heterodoxy, and perilous
to be adopted by such as can not fathom it thoroughly. But if there be
no germ of truth therein, it were better for some of us that we had
never been born.


                              THE END.



Transcriber's notes: Obvious spelling/typographical and punctuation
errors have been corrected after careful comparison with other
occurrences within the text and consultation of external sources.

  p6:  "take it out of the human race" corrected to "take it out on the
      human race"

  p6:  "would'nt" corrected to "wouldn't"

  p7:  "dreamland" occurs here only; "dream-land" occurs on p66 only,
       not at a linebreak; both retained

  p12: "Caramba" is clear and occurs only once in the book; "Coramba"
       occurs once and with equal clarity on p59; both retained

  p14: "to his strid ," corrected to "to his stride,"

  p15: "esprit de corps" occurs here only; "esprit du corps" also occurs
       once (p31); both retained

  p21: archaic spelling "ladye" fits the context, so retained

  p26: added closing quote mark to "burying."

  p33: "vôtre" corrected to "votre"

  p34: "propriètaire" corrected to "propriétaire"

  p36: "dejà" corrected to "déjà"

  p36: "on est sur de" corrected to "on est sûr de"

  p42: "pic-nic" occurs here and on p43, not at a linebreak; "picnic"
       occurs on p45 and p47; both retained

  p44: in the first verse quoted by Royston, "pikemen's" is an apparent
       misquotation for "pikeman's", and "scatheless" may be a typo for
       "scathless"

  p46: "missionery" corrected to "missionary"

  p46: "innuendoes" retained as archaic spelling

  p47: "tranquillity" retained as archaic spelling

  p62: "partez-seul" corrected to "partez seul"

  p62: "betise" corrected to "bêtise"

  p62: "vegeance" corrected to "vengeance"

The following obscure English words used by the author need no correction

  p32: "tulwar" is a variant spelling of "talwar", a kind of Indian sabre

  p33: "glozing" means explaining away/glossing over

  p39: "teind" is a tithe

  p44: "pursy" means short-winded

  p46: to "aby" means to pay the penalty

  p46: to "lanch" means to throw or let fly





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