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Title: Beatrice Boville and Other Stories
Author: Ouida, 1839-1908
Language: English
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                            BEATRICE BOVILLE
                                   AND
                             OTHER STORIES.

                                   BY

                                "OUIDA."

                               AUTHOR OF
             "STRATHMORE," "GRANVILLE DE VIGNE," "CHANDOS,"
                 "IDALIA," "RANDOLPH GORDON," ETC., ETC.


                             Third Series.


                             PHILADELPHIA:
                       J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.
                                  1905



CONTENTS.


BEATRICE BOVILLE.

    I.--OF EARLSCOURT'S FIANCEE.                                     9
   II.--THE FIRST SHADOW.                                           13
  III.--HOW PRIDE SOWED AND REAPED.                                 23
   IV.--WHERE I SAW BEATRICE BOVILLE AGAIN.                         33
    V.--HOW IN PERFECT INNOCENCE I PLAYED THE PART OF A RIVAL.      44
   VI.--HOW PRIDE BOWED AND FELL.                                   51


A LINE IN THE "DAILY."

  WHO DID IT, AND WHO WAS DONE BY IT.                               65


HOLLY WREATHS AND ROSE CHAINS.

    I.--THE COLONEL OF THE "WHITE FAVORS" AND CECIL ST. AUBYN.     109
   II.--THE CANADIAN'S COLD BATH WARMS UP THE COLONEL.             119
  III.--SHOWING THAT LOVE-MAKING ON HOLY GROUND DOESN'T PROSPER.   132
   IV.--THE COLONEL KILLS HIS FOX, BUT LOSES HIS HEAD AFTER
        OTHER GAME.                                                146


SILVER CHIMES AND GOLDEN FETTERS.

    I.--WALDEMAR FALKENSTEIN AND VALÉRIE L'ESTRANGE.               161
   II.--FALKENSTEIN BREAKS LANCES WITH "LONGS YEUX BLEUS."         174
  III.--"SCARLET AND WHITE" MAKES A HIT, AND FALKENSTEIN FEELS
        THE WEIGHT OF THE GOLDEN FETTERS.                          188
   IV.--THE GOLDEN FETTERS ARE SHAKEN OFF AND OTHERS ARE PUT ON.   202
    V.--THE SILVER CHIMES RING IN A HAPPY NEW YEAR.                215


SLANDER AND SILLERY.

    I.--THE LION OF THE CHAUSSÉE D'ANTIN.                          225
   II.--NINA GORDON.                                               233
  III.--LE LION AMOUREUX.                                          242
   IV.--MISCHIEF.                                                  252
    V.--MORE MISCHIEF, AND AN END.                                 263


SIR GALAHAD'S RAID.

  AN ADVENTURE ON THE SWEET WATERS.                                285


"REDEEMED."

  AN EPISODE WITH THE CONFEDERATE HORSE.                           307


OUR WAGER; OR, HOW THE MAJOR LOST AND WON.

    I.--INTRODUCES MAJOR TELFER OF THE 50TH DASHAWAY HUSSARS.      333
   II.--VIOLET TRESSILLIAN.                                        339
  III.--FROM WHICH IT WOULD APPEAR, THAT IT IS SOMETIMES WELL
        TO BEGIN WITH A LITTLE AVERSION.                           346
   IV.--IN WHICH THE MAJOR PROVOKES A QUARREL IN BEHALF OF
        THE FAIR TRESSILLIAN.                                      353
    V.--THE DUEL, AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.                            367


OUR COUNTRY QUARTERS.                                              379



BEATRICE BOVILLE.



I

OF EARLSCOURT'S FIANCEE.

      "To compass her with sweet observances,
      To dress her beautifully and keep her true."


That, according to Mr. Tennyson's lately-published opinion, is the
devoir of that deeply-to-be-pitied individual, l'homme marié. Possibly
in the times of which the Idyls treat, Launcelot and Gunevere _might_
have been the sole, exceptional mauvais sujets in the land, and woad,
being the chief ingredient in the toilet-dress, mightn't come quite so
expensive. But nowadays "sweet observances," rendered, I presume, by
gifts from Hunt and Roskell's and boxes in the grand tier, tell on a
cheque-book so severely; "keeping her true" is such an exceedingly
problematical performance, to judge by Sir C. C.'s breathless work, and
"dressing her beautifully" comes so awfully expensive, with crinoline
and cashmeres, pink pearls, and Mechlin, and the beau sexe's scornful
repudiation, not alone of a faded silk, like poor Enid's, but of the
handsomest dress going, if it's damned by being "seen twice," that I
have ever vowed that, plaise à Dieu, I will never marry, and with
heaven's help will keep the vow better than I might most probably keep
the matrimonial ones if I took them. Yet if ever I saw a woman for whom
I could have fancied a man's committing that semisuicidal act, that
woman was Beatrice Boville. Not for her beauty, for, except one of the
loveliest figures and a pair of the most glorious eyes, she did not
claim much; not for her money, for she had none; not for her birth, for
on one side that was somewhat obscure; but for _herself_; and had I ever
tried the herculean task of dressing anybody beautifully and keeping
anybody true, it should have been she, but for the fact that when I knew
her first she was engaged to my cousin Earlscourt. We had none of us
ever dreamt he would marry, for he had been sworn to political life so
long, given over so utterly to the battle-ground of St. Stephen's and
the intrigues of Downing Street, that the ladies of our house were
sorely wrathful when they heard that he had at last fallen in love and
proposed to Beatrice Boville, who, though she was Lady Mechlin's niece,
was the daughter of a West Indian who had married her mother, broken her
heart, spent her money, deserted her, and never been heard of since; the
more wrathful as they had no help for themselves, and were obliged to be
contented with distinguishing her with refreshing appellations of a
"very clever schemer," evidently a "perfect intrigante," and similar
epithets with which their sex is driven for consolation under such
trying circumstances. It's a certain amount of relief to us to call a
man who has cut us down in a race "a stupid owl; very little in him!"
but it is mild gratification to that enjoyed by ladies when they
retaliate for injury done them by that delightful bonbon of a sentence,
"No doubt a most artful person!" You see it conveys so much and proves
three things in one--their own artlessness, their enemy's worthlessness,
and their victim's folly. Being with Earlscourt at the time of his
"singularly unwise, step," as they phrased it, I knew that he wasn't
trapped in any way, and that he was loved irrespectively of his social
rank; but where was the good of telling that to deeply-injured and
perforce silenced ladies? "They knew better;" and when a woman says
that, always bow to her superior judgment, my good fellow, even when
she knows better than you what you did with yourself last evening, and
informs you positively you were at that odious Mrs. Vanille's opera
supper, though, to the best of your belief, you never stirred from the
U. S. card-room; or you will be voted a Goth, and make an enemy for the
rest of your natural life.

In opposition to the rest of the family, _I_ thought (and you must know
by this time, amis lecteurs, that I hardly think marriage so enjoyable
an institution as some writers do, but perhaps a little like a pipe of
opium, of which the dreams are better than the awakening)--I thought
that he could hardly have done better, as far as his own happiness went,
as I saw her standing by him one evening in the window of Lady Mechlin's
rooms at Lemongenseidlitz, where we all were that August, a brilliant,
fascinating woman already, though then but nineteen, noble-hearted,
frank, impetuous, with something in the turn of her head and the proud
glance of her eyes, that told you, you might trust her; that she was of
the stuff to keep her word even to her own hinderance; that neither
would she tell a lie, nor brook one imputed to her; that she might err
on the side of pride, on the side of meanness never; that she might have
plenty of failings, but not anything petty, low, or ungenerous among
them. The evening sun fell on them as they stood, on her high, white
forehead, with its chestnut hair turned off it as you see it in old
pictures, which Earlscourt was touching caressingly with his hand as he
talked to her. They seemed well suited, and yet--his fault was pride,
an unassailable, unyielding pride; hers was pride, too, pride in her own
truth and honor, which would send you to the deuce if you ever presumed
to doubt either; and I wondered idly as I looked at them, whether those
two prides would ever come in conflict, and if so, whether either of
them would give in in such a case--whether there would be submission on
one side or on both, or on neither? Such metaphysical and romantic
calculations are not often my line; but as they stood together, the sun
faded off, and a cold, stormy wind blew up in its stead, which, perhaps,
metaphorically suggested the problem to me. As one goes through life one
gets up to so many sunny, balmy, cloudless days, and so often before the
night is down gets wetted to the skin by a drenching shower, that one
contracts an uncomfortable habit when the sun _does_ shine, of looking
out for squalls, a fear that, sans doute, considerably damps the
pleasures of the noon. But the fear is natural, isn't it, more's the
pity, when one has been often caught?

I chanced to ask her that night what made her so fond of Earlscourt. She
turned her fearless, flashing eyes half laughingly, half haughtily on
me, the color brighter in her face:

"I should have thought you would rather have asked how could I, or any
other woman whom he stooped to notice, fail to love him? There are few
hearts and intellects so noble: he is as superior to you ball-room
loungers, you butterfly flutterers, as the stars to that chandelier."

"Bien obligé!" laughed I. "But that is just what I meant. Most young
ladies are afraid of him; you never were?"

She laughed contemptuously.

"Afraid! You do not know much of me. It is precisely his giant
intellect that first drew me to him, when I heard his speech on the
Austrian question. Do you remember how the Lords listened to him so
quietly that you could have heard a feather fall? I like that silence of
theirs when they hear what they admire, better than I do the cheers of
the other house. Afraid of him! What a ludicrous idea! Do you suppose I
should be afraid of any one? It is only those who are conceited or
cowardly, who are timid. If you have nothing to assume, or to conceal,
what cause have you to fear? I love, honor, reverence Lord Earlscourt,
God knows; but fear him--never!"

"Not even his anger, if you ever incurred it?" I asked her, amused with
her haughty indignation.

"Certainly not. Did I merit it, I would come to him frankly, and ask his
pardon, and he would give it; if I did not deserve it, _he_ would be the
one to repent."

She looked far more attractive than many a handsomer woman, and
infinitely more noble than a more tractable one. She was admirably
fitted for Earlscourt, if he trusted her; but it was just possible he
might some day _mis_trust and _mis_understand her, and then there might
be the devil to pay!



II.

THE FIRST SHADOW.


Lemongenseidlitz was a charming little Bad. Beatrice Boville
and her aunt Lady Mechlin, Earlscourt and I, had been there
six weeks. His brother peers--of whom there were scores at
Lemongenseidlitz--complimented Earlscourt on his fiancée.

"So you're caught at last?" said an octogenarian minister, who was as
sprightly as a schoolboy. "Well, my dear fellow, you might have gone
higher, sans doute, but on my honor I don't think you could have done
better."

It was the universal opinion. Beatrice was not the belle of the Bad,
because there were dozens of beautiful women, and beautiful she was not;
but she was more admired than any of them, and had Earlscourt wanted
voices to justify his choice he would have had them, but he didn't; he
was entirely independent of the opinions of others, and had he chosen to
set his coronet on the brows of a peasant girl, would have cared little
what any one thought or said. We all of us enjoyed that six weeks. Lady
Mechlin lost to her heart's content at roulette, and was as complacent
over her losses as any old dowager could be. Beatrice Boville shone
best, as nice natures ever do, in a sunny atmosphere; and if she had any
faults of impatient temper or pride, there was nothing to call them
forth. Earlscourt, cold politician though he'd been, gave himself up
entirely to the warmer, brighter existence, which he found in his new
passion; and I, not being in love with anybody, made the pleasantest
love possible wherever I liked. We all of us found a couleur de rose
tint in the air of little Lemongenseidlitz, and I'd quite forgotten my
presentiment, when, one night at the Kursaal, a cloud no bigger than a
man's hand came up on the sunny horizon, and put me in mind of it.

Earlscourt came into the ball room rather late; he had been talking with
some French ministers on some international project which he was anxious
to effect, and asked Lady Mechlin where Beatrice was.

"She was with me a moment ago; she is waltzing, I dare say," said the
old lady, whose soul was hankering after the ivory ball.

"Very likely," he answered, as he looked among the dancers for her; he
was restless without her, though he would have liked none to see the
weakness, for he was a man who felt more than he told. He could not see
her, and went through the rooms till he found her, which was in a small
anteroom alone. She started as he spoke to her, and a start being a
timorous and nervous thing of which Beatrice Boville was never guilty,
he drew her to him anxiously.

"My darling, has anything annoyed you?"

She answered him with her habitual candor:

"Yes; but I cannot tell you what, just now."

"Cannot tell me! and why?"

"Because I cannot. I can give no other reason. It is nothing of import
to you, or you are sure I should not keep it from you."

"Yes; but I am equally sure that anything that concerns you _is_ of
import to me. To whom should you tell anything, if not to me? I do not
like concealment, Beatrice."

His tone was grave; indeed, too much like reproof to a fractious child
to suit Beatrice's pride. She drew away from him.

"Nor I. You must think but meanly of me if you can impute anything like
concealment to me."

"How can I do otherwise? You tell me you have been annoyed, and refuse
to say how, and by whom. Is that anything but concealment? If any one
has offended or insulted you, I ought to be the first you came to. A
woman, Beatrice, should have nothing hidden from the man who is, or will
be, her husband."

She threw her arms around him. Her moods were variable as a child's.
Perhaps this very variability Earlscourt hardly understood, for it was
utterly opposed to his own character: you always found him the same;
_she_ would be all storm one moment, all sunshine the next.

"Do you suppose I would hide anything from you? Do you think for a
moment I would hold back anything you had a right to know? You might
look into my heart; there would be no thought or feeling there I should
wish to keep from you. But if you exact confidence, so do I. Would you
think of taking as your wife one you could not trust?"

He answered her a little sternly:

"No; if I once ceased to believe in your truth or honor, as I believe in
my own, I should part from you forever, though God knows what it would
cost me!"

"God knows what it would cost _me!_ But I give you free leave. The
instant you find a flaw in either, I am no longer worthy of your love;
withdraw it, and I will never complain. But trust me you must and will;
I merit your confidence, and I exact it. Look at me, Ernest. Do you
believe I could ever deceive you?"

He looked into her eyes long and earnestly.

"No. When you do, your eyes will droop before mine. I trust you,
Beatrice, fully, and I know you will never wrong it."

She clung to him with caressant softness, softer in her than in a
meeker-spirited woman, as she whispered, 'Never!' and a man would need
have been obtuse and skeptical, indeed, who could then have doubted her.
And so that cloud blew over, for a time, at the least--trusted, Beatrice
Boville was soft and gentle as a lamb; mistrusted or misjudged, she was
fiery as a young lioness, and Earlscourt, I thought, though originally
won by her intellect, held her too much as a child to fully understand
her character, and to see that, though she was his darling and
plaything, she was also a passionate, ardent, proud-spirited woman,
stung by injustice and impatient of doubt. No two people could be more
fitted to make each other's happiness, yet it struck me that it was just
possible they might make each other's misery very completely, through
want of comprehension on the one side, through want of explanation on
the other.

"Your marriage is fixed, isn't it, Earlscourt?" asked his sister, Lady
Clive Edghill, who had come to Lemongenseidlitz, and, though compelled
by him, as he compelled all the rest of the family, to show Beatrice
strict courtesy, disliked her, because she was not an advantageous
match, was much too young in their opinion, and had no money--the
gravest crimes a woman can have in the eyes of any man's relatives.
"The 14th! Indeed! yours is a very short engagement!"

"Is there any reason why it should be longer?"

"O, dear, no! none that I am aware of. I wish, earnestly, my dear
Earlscourt, I could congratulate you more warmly; but I can never say
what I do not feel, and I had so much hoped--"

"My dear Helena, as long as I have so much reason to congratulate
myself, it matters very little whether you do or do not," smiled
Earlscourt. He was too much of a lion to be stung by gnats.

"I dare say. I sincerely trust you may ever have reason. But I heard
some very disagreeable things about that Mr. Boville, Beatrice's father.
Do you know that he was in a West India regiment, but was deprived of
his commission even there?--a perfect blackleg and sharper, I
understand. I suppose she has never mentioned him to you?"

"You are very much mistaken; all that Beatrice knows of him, I know;
that is but little, for Lady Mechlin took her long ago, when her mother
died, from such unfit guardianship. Beatrice is as open as the day--"

"Indeed! A little too frank, perhaps?"

"Too frank? That is a paradox. No one can have too much candor. It is
not a virtue of your sex, but it is one, thank God! which she possesses
in a rare degree, though possibly it gains her enemies where it should
gain her friends."

"Still frankness _may_ merge into indiscretion," said Helena, musingly.

"I doubt it. An indiscreet woman is never frank, for she has always the
memory of silly things said and done which require concealment."

"I was merely thinking," Helena went on, regardless of a speech which
she did not perhaps relish, pour cause, "merely from my deep interest in
you, and my knowledge of all you will wish your wife to be, that perhaps
Beatrice might be, in pure insouciance, a little too careless, a little
too candid for so prominent a position as she will occupy. Last night,
in passing a little anteroom in the Redoute, I saw her in such extremely
earnest conversation with a man, a handsome man, about your height and
age, and--"

The anteroom! Earlscourt thought, with a pang, of the start she had
given when he entered it the previous night. But he was not of a jealous
temperament, nor a curious one; his mind was too constantly occupied
with great projects and ambitions to be capable of joining petty things
together into an elaborate mosaic; he had no petitesses himself, and
trifles passed unheeded. He interrupted her decidedly:

"What is there in that to build a pyramid of censure from? Doubtless it
was one of her acquaintances--probably one of mine also. I should have
thought you knew me better, Helena, than to attempt this gossiping
nonsense with me."

"O, I say no more. I only thought you, of all men, would wish Cæsar's
wife to be above--"

The gnat-strings had been too insignificant to rouse him before, but at
this one his eyebrows contracted, and he rose.

"Silence! Never venture to make such a speech as that to me again. In
insulting Beatrice you insult me. Unless you can mention her in terms of
proper respect and reverence, never presume to speak her name to me
again. Her enemies are my enemies, and, whoever they may be, I will
treat them as such."

Helena was sorely frightened; if she held anybody in veneration it was
Earlscourt, and she would never have ventured so far with him but for
the causeless hate she had taken to Beatrice, simply because Lady Clive
had decided long ago that her brother was too voué to public life ever
to marry, and that her son would succeed to his title. She was sorely
frightened, but she comforted herself--the little thorn she had thrust
in might rankle after a while; as pleasant a consolation under failure
as any lady could desire.

Beatrice was coming along the corridor as Earlscourt left Helena's
rooms, which were in the same hotel as Lady Mechlin's. She was stopping
to look out of one of the windows at the sunset; she did not see him at
first, and he watched her unobserved, and smiled at the idea of
associating anything deceitful with her--smiled still more at the idea
when she came up to him, with her frank, bright, regard, lifting her
face for a caress, and patting both her hands through his arm.
Accustomed to chill and reserved women in his own family, her abandon
had a great charm for him; but perhaps it led him into his error in
holding her still as half a child.

"You have been seeing my enemy?" she said, laughingly. "Your sister does
not like me, does she?"

"Not like you! Why should you think so? She may not like my marrying,
perhaps, because she had decided for me that I should never do so; and
no woman can bear any prophecies she makes to prove wrong."

"Very possibly that may be one reason; but she does not think me good
enough for you."

Her tips curved disdainfully, and Earlscourt caught a glimpse of her in
her fiery mood. He laughed at her where, with her, he had better have
admitted the truth. Beatrice had too much pride to be wounded by it, and
far too much good sense to measure herself by money and station.

"Nonsense, Beatrice; I should have thought you too proud to suppose such
a thing," he said, carelessly.

"It is the truth, nevertheless."

"More foolish she, then; but if you and I do not, what can it signify?"

"Nothing. As long as I am worthy of you in your eyes, what others think
or say is nothing to me. I honor you too much to make the gauge between
us a third person's opinion; or measure you or myself by a few stops
higher or lower in the social ladder. Your sister thinks me below you in
rank, soit! She is right; I am quite ready to admit it; but that I am
your equal in all that makes men and women equal in the sight of Heaven,
I know. When she finds me unworthy of you in thought or deed, then she
may call me beneath you--not till then."

Her cheeks were flushed; he could hear her quick breathings, and in her
vehemence and haughty indignation she picked the petals of her bouquet
de corsage to pieces and flung them away. Another time he would have
thought how well her pride became her, and given her some fond reply.
Just now the thorn rankled as Lady Clive had hoped, and he answered her
gravely, in the tone which it was as unwise to use to her as to prick a
thorough-bred colt with both spurs.

"You are quite right. Were I a king, you would be my equal as long as
your heart was mine, your mind as noble, and your character as unsullied
as I hope them to be now."

She turned on him rapidly with the first indignant look she had ever
given to him.

"_Hope!_ You might say _know_, I think!"

"I would have said 'know,' and meant it too, yesterday."

"Yesterday? What do you mean? Why am I less worthy your confidence
to-day than yesterday?"

She looked wonderingly at him, her eyes full of inquiry and
bewilderment. It was marvellous acting, if it was acting; yet he thought
she could scarcely have so soon forgotten their scene in the anteroom
the previous night. They had now come into the salon; he left her side
and walked to the mantel-piece, leaning his arm on it, and speaking
coldly, as he had never done to her since they first met.

"Beatrice, do not attempt to act with me. You cannot have forgotten what
we said in the anteroom last night. Nothing assumed ever deceives me,
and you only lower yourself in my estimation."

She clinched her hands till the rings he had given her crushed together.

"Act! assume! Great Heaven, how dare you speak such words to me?"

"Dare? You speak like an angry child, Beatrice. When you are reasonable
I will answer you."

The tears welled into her eyes, but she would not let them fall.

"Reasonable? Is there anything unreasonable in resenting words utterly
undeserved? Would you be calm under them yourself, Lord Earlscourt? I
remember now what you mean by yesterday; I did not remember when I asked
you. Had I done so I should never have simulated ignorance and surprise.
Only last night you promised to trust me. Is this your trust, to accuse
me of artifice, of acting, of falsehood? I would bear no such imputation
from any one, still less from you, who ought to know me so well. What
happiness can we have if you--"

She stopped, the tears choking her voice, but he did not see them; he
only saw her indignant attitude, her flushed cheeks, her flashing eyes,
and put them down to her girlish passion.

"Calm yourself, Beatrice, I beg. This sort of scene is very distasteful
to me; to figure in a lover's quarrel hardly suits me. I am not young
enough to find amusement in disputation and reconciliation, sparring one
moment and caresses the next. My life is one of grave pursuits and
feverish ambitions; I am often harassed, annoyed, worn out in body and
mind. What I hoped for from you was, to borrow the gayety and brightness
of your own youth, to find rest, and happiness, and distraction. A life
of disputes, reproaches, and misconstruction, would be what I never
would endure."

Beatrice was silent; she leaned her forehead on her arms and did not
answer him. His tone stung her pride, but his words touched her heart.
Her passion was always short-lived, and no evil spirit possessed her
long. She rebelled against the first part of his speech with all her
might, but she softened to the last. She came up to him with her hands
out.

"I had no right to speak so impatiently to you. God knows, to make your
life happy will be my only thought, and care, and wish. If I spoke
angrily, forgive me!"

Earlscourt knew that the nature so quick to acknowledge error was worth
fifty unerring and unruffled ones; still he sighed as he answered her,--

"My dear child, I forgive you. But, Beatrice, there is no foe to love so
sure and deadly as dissension!" And as he drew her to him and felt her
soft warm lips on his, he thought, half uneasily yet, "She has never
told me who annoyed her--never mentioned her companion in the anteroom
last night."

Lady Clive had her wish; the thorn festered as promisingly as she could
have desired. Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coûte in quarrels as in
all else. Dispute once, you are very sure to dispute again, whether with
the man you hate or the woman you love.



III.

HOW PRIDE SOWED AND REAPED.


It only wanted three weeks to Beatrice Boville's marriage. We were all
to leave Lemongenseidlitz together in a fortnight's time for old Lady
Mechlin's house in Berks, where the ceremony was to take place.

"Earlscourt is quite infatuated," said Lady Clive to me one evening.
"Beatrice is very charming, of course, but she is not at all suited to
him, she is so fiery, so impetuous, so self-reliant."

"I think you are mistaken," said I. I admired Beatrice Boville--comme je
vous ai dit--and I didn't like our family's snaps and snarls at her.
"She may be impetuous, but, as her impulses are always generous, that
doesn't matter much. She is only fiery at injustice, and, for myself, I
prefer a woman who can stand up for her own rights and her friends' to
one who'll sit by in--you'll call it meekness, I suppose? I call it
cowardice and hypocrisy--to hear herself or them abused."

"Thank you, mon ami," said Beatrice's voice at my elbow, as Lady Clive
rose and crossed the room. "I am much obliged for your defence; I
couldn't help hearing it as I stood in the balcony, and I wish very much
I deserved it. I am afraid, though, I cannot dispute Helena's verdict of
'fiery,' 'impetuous,'--"

"And self-reliant?" I asked her. She laughed softly, and her eyes
unconsciously sought Earlscourt, who was talking to Lady Mechlin.

"Well? Not quite, now! But, by the way, why should people charge
self-reliance on to one as something reprehensible and undesirable? A
proper self-reliance is an indispensable ground-work to any success. If
you cannot rely upon yourself, upon your power to judge and to act, you
must rely upon some other person, possibly upon many people, and you
become, perforce, vacillating and unstable.

                'To thine own self be true,
  And it shall follow, as the day the night,
  Thou canst not then be false to any man.'"

As she spoke a servant brought a note to her, and I noticed her cheeks
grow pale as she saw the handwriting upon it. She broke it open, and
read it hastily, an oddly troubled, worried look coming over her face, a
look that Earlscourt could not help but notice as he stood beside her.

"Is there anything in that letter to annoy you, Beatrice?" he asked,
very naturally.

She started--rather guiltily, I thought--and crushed the note in her
hand.

"Whom is it from? It troubles you, I think. Tell me, my darling, is it
anything that vexes or offends you?" he whispered, bending down to her.

She laughed, a little nervously for her, and tore the note into tiny
pieces.

"Why do you not tell me, Beatrice?" he said again, with a shade of
annoyance on his face.

"Because I would rather not," she said, frankly enough, letting the
pieces float out of the window into the street below. The shadow grew
darker in his face; he bent his head in acquiescence, and said no more,
but I don't think he forgot either the note or her destroyal of it.

"I thought there was implicit confidence _before_ marriage whatever
there is after," sneered his sister, as she passed him. He answered her
calmly:--

"I should say, Helena, that neither before nor after marriage would any
man who respected his wife suffer curiosity or suspicion to enter into
him. If he do, he has no right to expect happiness, and he will
certainly not go the way to get it."

That was the only reply he gave Lady Clive, but her thorn No. 2 festered
in him, and when he bade Beatrice good night, standing alone with her in
the little drawing room, he took both her hands in his, and looked
straight into her eyes.

"Beatrice, why would you not let me see that note this evening?"

She looked up at him as fearlessly and clearly.

"If I tell you why, I must tell you whom the note was from, and what it
was about, and I would much rather do neither as yet."

"That is very strange. I dislike concealment of all kinds, especially
from you, who so soon will be my wife. It is inconceivable to me why you
should need or desire any. I thought your life was a fair open book,
every line of which I might read if I desired."

Beatrice looked at him in amazement.

"So you may. Do you suppose, if I had any secret from you that I feared
you should know, I could have a moment's peace in your society, or look
at you for an instant as I do now? I give you my word of honor that
there was nothing either in the note that concerns you, or that you
would wish me to tell you. In a few days you shall know all that was in
it, but I ask you as a kindness not to press me now. Surely you do not
think me such a child but that you can trust me in so small a trifle. If
you say I am not worthy of your confidence, you imply that I am not
worthy of your love. You spoke nobly to your sister just now, Ernest; do
not act less nobly to me."

He could not but admire her as she looked at him, with her fearless,
unshadowed regard, her head thrown a little back, and her attitude
half-commanding, half-entreating. He smiled in spite of himself.

"You are a wayward, spoiled child, Beatrice. You must have your own
way?"

She gave a little stamp of her foot. She hated being called a spoiled
child, specially by him, and in a serious moment.

"If I have my own way, have I your full confidence too?"

"Yes; but, my dear Beatrice, the only way to gain confidence is never to
excite suspicion." And Lady Clive's thorn rankled à ravir; for even as
he pressed his goodnight kisses on her lips, he thought, restlessly,
"Shall we make each other happy?--am I too grave for her?--and is she
too wilful for me? I want rest, not contention."

The night after that there was a bal-masqué at the Redoute. I was just
coming out of my room as Beatrice came down the corridor; She had her
mask in her hand, her dress was something white starred with gold, and
round her hair she had a little band of pearls of Earlscourt's gift. I
never saw her look better, specially when her cheeks flushed and her
eyes brightened as Earlscourt opened his door next mine, and met her. He
did not see me, the corridor was empty, and he bent down to her with
fond words and caresses.

"Do I look well?" she said, with child-like delight.

"I am so glad, Ernest, I want to do you honor."

In that mood he understood her well enough, and he pressed her against
his heart with the passion that was in him, whose strength he so rarely
let her see. Then he drew her hand through his arm, and led her down the
stairs; and, as I laughed to find to what lengths our cold statesman
could come at last, I thought Lady Clive's thorns would be innocuous,
however well planted.

Earlscourt never danced; nothing but what was calm and stately could
possibly have suited him; but Beatrice did, and waltzed like a Willis,
(though she liked even better than that standing on his arm and talking
with his friends--diplomatic, military, and ministerial--on all sorts of
questions, most of which she could handle nearly as well as they;) and
about the middle of the evening, while she was waltzing with some man or
other who had begged to be introduced to her, Earlscourt left the
ball-room for ten minutes in earnest conversation with one of the French
ministers, who was leaving the next morning. As he came back again, I
asked him where Beatrice was, because Powell, of the Bays, was bothering
my life out to introduce him to her.

"In the ball room, isn't she? She is with Lady Mechlin, of course, if,
the waltz is over."

A familiar voice stopped him.

"She is not in the ball room. Go where you found her the other night,
and see if Cæsar's promised wife be above suspicion!"

I could have sworn the voice was Lady Clive's; a pink domino passed us
too fast for detention, but Earlscourt's lips turned white at the subtle
whisper, and he muttered a fierce oath--fiercer from him, because he's
never stirred into fiery expletives. "There is some vile plot against
her. I must sift it to the bottom;" and, pushing past me, he entered the
ball room. Beatrice was not there; and wending his way through the
crowd, he went in through several other apartments leading off to the
right, and involuntarily I followed him, to see what the malicious
whisper of the pink domino had meant. Earlscourt lifted the curtain that
parted the anteroom from the other chamber--lifted it to see Beatrice
Boville, as the pink domino had prophesied, and not alone! With her was
a man, masked, but about Earlscourt's height, and seemingly about his
age, who, as he saw us, let go her hand with a laugh, turned on to a
balcony, which was but a yard or so from the street, and dropped on to
the pave below. Beatrice started and colored, but I thought she must be
the most desperate actress going, for she came up to Earlscourt with a
smile, and was about to put her hand through his arm, but he signed her
away from him.

"Your acting is quite useless with me. I am not to be blinded by it
again. I have believed in your truth as in my own--"

"So you may still. Listen to me, Ernest!"

"Hush! Do not add falsehood to falsehood."

He spoke sternly and coldly; his pride, which was as strong as his love
for her, would not gratify her by a sign of the torture within him, and
even in his bitterest anger Earlscourt would never have been ungentle to
a woman. That word acted like an incantation on her, the blood crimsoned
her temples, her eyes literally flashed fire, and she threw back her
head with the haughty, impatient gesture habitual to her.

"Falsehood? Three times of late you have used that word to me."

"And why? Because you merited it."

She stood before him, the indignant flush hotter still upon her cheeks,
her lips curved into scornful anger. If she was an actress, she knew her
rôle to perfection.

"Do you speak that seriously, Lord Earlscourt? Do you believe that I
have lied to you?"

"God help me! What else can I believe?" he muttered, too low for her to
hear it.

She asked him the question again, fiercely, and he answered her briefly
and sternly,--

"I believe that all your life with me has been a lie. I trusted you
implicitly, and how do you return it? By carrying on clandestine
intercourse with another man, giving him interviews that you conceal
from me, having letters that you destroy, doubtless receiving caresses
that you take care are unwitnessed; while you dare to smile in my face,
and to dupe me with child-like tenderness, and to bid me 'trust' you and
believe in you! Love shared to me is worthless, and on my wife,
Beatrice, no stain must rest!"

As he spoke, a dark shadow spread over her countenance, her evil spirit
rose up in her, and her bright, frank, fearless face grew almost as
hard and cold as his, while her teeth were set together, till her lips,
usually soft and laughing, were pressed into one straight haughty line.

"Since you give me up so easily, far be it from me to dispute your will.
We part from this hour, if you desire it. My honor is as dear to me as
yours to you, and to those who dare to suspect it I never stoop to
defend it!"

"But, my God! Beatrice, what _am_ I to believe?"

"Whatever you please!"

"What I please! Child, you must be mad. What _can_ I believe, but that
you are the most perfect of all actresses, that your art is the greatest
of all sins, the art that clothes itself in innocence, and carries
would-be truth upon its lips. Prove to me that I wrong you!"

She shook her head; the devil in her had still the victory; her eyes
glittered, and her little teeth were clinched together.

"What I exact is trust without proof. I am not your prisoner, Lord
Earlscourt, to be tried coldly, and acquitted if you find legal evidence
of innocence; convicted, if there be a link wanting. If you choose to
trust me, I have told you often your trust will never be wronged; if you
choose to condemn me, do. I shall not stoop to show you your injustice."

Earlscourt's face grew dark and hard as hers, but it was wonderful how
well his pride chained down all evidence of suffering; the only sign was
in the hoarseness of, and quiver in, his voice.

"Say nothing more--prevarication is guilt! God forgive you, Beatrice
Boville! If you loved me, and knelt at my feet, I would not make you my
wife after the art and the lies with which you have repaid my trust.
Thank God, you do not already bear my name and my honor in your hands!"

With those words he left her. Beatrice stood still in the same place,
her lips set in one scornful line, her eyes glittering, her brow
crimson, her whole attitude defiant, wronged, and unyielding. Earlscourt
passed me, his face white as death, and was out of sight in a second. I
waited a moment, then I followed my impulse, and went up to her.

"Beatrice, for Heaven's sake, what is all this?"

She turned her large eyes on me haughtily.

"Do _you_ believe what your cousin does?"

I answered her as briefly:--

"No, I do not. There is some mistake here."

She seized my arm, impetuously:--

"Promise me, on your honor, never to tell what I tell to you while I
live. Promise me, on your faith as a gentleman."

"On my honor, I promise. Well?"

"The man whom you saw with me to-night is my father. Lord Earlscourt
chose to condemn me without inquiry; so let him! But I tell you, that
you may tell him if I die before him, that he wronged me. You know Mr.
Boville's--my father's--character. I had not seen him since I was a
child, but when he heard of my engagement to Lord Earlscourt he found me
out, and wanted to force himself on him, and borrow money of him, and--"
She stopped, her face was crimson, but she went on, passionately. "All
my efforts, of course, were to keep them apart, to spare my father such
degradation, and your cousin such an application. I could not tell Lord
Earlscourt, for he is generous as the winds, and I knew what he would
have done. My note was from my father; he wanted to frighten me into
introducing him to Lord Earlscourt, but he did not succeed. I would not
have your cousin disgraced or pained by--Arthur, that is all my crime!
No very great one, is it?" And she laughed a loud, bitter laugh, as
unlike her own as the stormy shadow on her face was like the usual
sunshine.

"But, great Heaven! why not have told this to Earlscourt?"

She signed me to silence with a passionate gesture.

"No! He dishonored me with suspicion; let him go. I forbid you ever to
breathe a word of what I have told you to him. If he has pride, so have
I. He would hold no dishonor greater than for another man to charge him
with a lie. My truth is as untainted as his, and my honor as dear to me.
He accused me wrongly; let him repent. I would have loved and reverenced
him as never any woman yet could do; but once suspected, I could find no
happiness with him. His bitter words are stamped into my heart. I shall
never forget--I doubt if I shall ever forgive--them. I can bear anything
but injustice or misconception. If any doubt me, they are free to do so;
theirs is the sin, not mine. As he has sown so must he reap, and so must
I!" A low, gasping sob choked her voice, but she stood like a little
Pythoness, the pearl gleaming above her brow, her eyes unnaturally
bright, the color burning in her face, her attitude what it was when he
left her, defiant, wronged, unyielding. She swept away from me to a man
who was coming through the other room, and he stared at her set lips and
her gleaming eyes as she asked him, carelessly, "Count Avonyl, will you
have the kindness to take me to Lady Mechlin?"

That was the last I saw of her. She left the Bad with her aunt as soon
as the day dawned, and when I went to our hotel, I found that Earlscourt
had ordered post-horses immediately he quitted the ball room, and
gone--where he did not leave word. So my presentiment was verified; the
pride of both had come in conflict, and the pride of neither had
succumbed. How long it would sustain and satisfy them, I could not
guess; but Lady Clive smiled again, as sweetly as ladies ever do when
their thorns have thriven and brought forth abundant fruit. Some other
time I will tell you how I saw Beatrice Boville again; but I often
thought of

  "Pauline, by pride
  Angels have fallen ere thy time!"

when I recalled her with the pearls above her brow, and her passionate,
gleaming eyes, and her fearless, scornful, haughty anguish, as she had
stood before me that night when Pride _v_. Pride caused the wreck of
both their lives.



IV.

WHERE I SAW BEATRICE BOVILLE AGAIN


I don't belong to St. Stephen's myself, thank Heaven. Very likely they
would have returned me for the county when the governor departed this
life had I tried them; but as I generally cut the county, from not being
one of the grass countries, and as I couldn't put forward any patriotic
claims like Mr. Harper Twelvetrees, (who, as he's such a slayer of
vermin, thought, I suppose, that he'd try his hand at the dry-rot and
the red tapeworms, which, according to cotton grumblers, are sapping the
nation,) I haven't solicited its suffrages. The odds at Tattersall's
interest me more than the figures of the ways and means; and
Diophantus's and Kettledrum's legerdemain at Newmarket and Epsom is more
to my taste than our brilliant rhetorician's with the surplus. I don't
care a button about Lord Raynham and Sir C. Burrell's maids-of-all-work;
they are not an attractive class, I should say, and, if they like to
amuse their time tumbling out of windows, I can't see for the life of me
why peers and gentlemen should rush to the rescue like Don Quixote to
Dulcinea's. And as for that great question, Tea _v_. Paper, bohea
delights the souls of old ladies and washerwomen--who destroy crumpets
and character over its inebriating cups, and who will rush to crown Lord
Derby's and Mr. Disraeli's brows with laurels if they ever go to the
country with a teapot blazoned on their patriotic banners--more than it
does mine, which prefers Bass and Burgundy, seltzer and Sillery; and,
though I dare say Brown, Jones, and Robinson find the Divorce News
exciting, and paper collars very showy and economical, as I myself am
content with the _Times_ and its compeers, and think, with poor Brummel,
that life without daily clean linen were worthless, _that_ subject
doesn't absorb me as it does those gentlemen who find "the last tax of
knowledge" so grandiloquent and useful a finishing period. So I have
never stood for the county, nor essayed to stand for it, seeing that to
one Bernal Osborne there are fifty prosers in St. Stephen's, and to be
bored is, to a butterfly flutterer, as the young lady whose name heads
this paper once obligingly called me, torture unparalleled by anything
short of acid wine or the Chinese atrocities, though truly he who heads
our Lower House with his vernal heart and his matchless brain were
enough to make any man, coxcomb or hero, oppositionist or
ministerialist, proud to sit in the same chamber with him. But there are
nights now and then, of course, when I like to go to both Houses, to
hear Lord Derby's rich, intricate oratory, or Gladstone's rhetoric,
(which has so potent a spell even for his foes, and is yet charged so
strangely against him as half a crime; possibly by the same spirit with
which plain women reproach a pretty one for her beauty: what business
has he to be more attractive than his compeers? of course it's a péché
mortel in their eyes!) and when Mrs. Breloques, who is a charming little
woman, to whom no man short of a Goth could possibly say "No" to any
petition, gave me a little blow with her fan, and told me, as I valued
her friendship, to get an order and take her and Gwen to hear the Lords'
debate on Tuesday, when my cousin Viscount Earlscourt, one of the best
orators in the Upper House, was certain to speak, of course I obliged
her. Her sister Gwen, who was a girl of seventeen, barely out, and whom
I wished at Jerico, (three is so odious a number, one of the triad must
ever be _de trop_,) was wrathful with the Upper House; it in no wise
realized her expectations; the peers should have worn their robes, she
thought, (as if the horrors of a chamber filled with Thames odors in
June wasn't enough without being bored with velvet and ermine) she would
have been further impressed by coronets also; they had no business to
lounge on their benches as if they were in a smoking-room; they should
have declaimed like Kean, not spoken colloquially; and--in fact, they
shouldn't have been ordinary men at all. I think a fine collection from
Madame Tussaud's, with a touch of the Roman antique, would have been
much more to Gwen's ideal, and she wasn't at all content till Earlscourt
rose; _he_ reconciled her a little, for he had a grand-seigneur air, she
said, that made up for the incongruities of his dress. It was a measure
that he had much at heart; he had exerted for it all his influence in
the cabinet, and he was determined that the bill should pass the Lords,
though the majority inclined to throw it out. As he stood now against
the table, with his calm dignity of gesture, his unstrained flow of
words, and his rich and ringing voice, which could give majesty to
commonplace subjects, and sway even an apathetic audience as completely
as Sheridan's Begum speech, every one in the House listened attentively,
and each of his words fell with its due weight. I heard him with pride,
often as I had done so before, though I noticed with pain that the lines
in his forehead and his mouth were visibly deepened; that he seemed to
speak with effort, for him, and looked altogether, as somebody had said
to me at White's in the morning, as if he were wearing out, and would go
down in his prime, like Canning and Pitt.

"Lord Earlscourt looks very ill--don't you think so?" said Lelia
Breloques.

As I answered her, I heard a sharp-wrung sigh, and I looked for the
first time at the lady next me. I saw a delicate profile, lips
compressed and colorless, chestnut hair that I had last seen with his
pearls gleaming above it: I saw, en deux mots, Beatrice Boville for the
first time since that night eight months before, when she had stood
before me in her passion and her pride. She never took her eyes off
Earlscourt while he spoke, and I wondered if she regretted having lost
him for a point of honor. Had she grown indifferent to him, that she had
come to his own legislative chamber, or was her love so much stronger
than her pride that she had sought to see him thus rather than not see
him at all? When his speech was closed, and he had resumed his place on
the benches, she leaned back, covering her eyes with her hand for a
moment: and, as I said aloud (more for her benefit than Mrs.
Breloques's) my regret that Earlscourt would wear himself out, I was
afraid, in his devotion to public life, Beatrice started at the sound
of my voice, turned her head hastily, and her face was colorless enough
to tell me she had not gratified her pride without some cost. Of course
I spoke to her; she had been a favorite of mine always, and I had often
wished to come across her again; but beyond learning that she was with
Lady Mechlin in Lowndes Square, and had been spending the winter at Pau
for her aunt's health, I had no time to hear more, for Lelia, having
only come for Earlscourt's speech, bade me take her to her carriage,
while Beatrice and her party remained for the rest of the debate; but
the rencontre struck me as so odd, that I believe it occupied my
thoughts more than Mrs. Breloques liked, who got into her carriage in
not the best of humors, and asked me if _I_ was going in for public life
that I'd grown so particularly unamusing. We're always unamusing to one
woman if we're thinking at all about another.

"Do you know who was at the House to-night, Earlscourt, to hear your
speech?" I asked him, as I met him, a couple of hours afterwards, in one
of the passages, as he was leaving the House. He had altered much in
eight months; he stooped a little from his waist; he looked worn, and
his lips were pale. Men said his stamina was not equal to his brain;
physicians, that he gave himself too much work and too little sleep. I
knew he was more wrapped in public life than ever; that in his place in
the government he worked unwearyingly, and that he found time in spare
moments for intellectual recreation that would have sufficed for their
life's study for most men. Still, I thought possibly there might be a
weakness still clinging round his heart, though he never alluded to it;
a passion which, though he appeared to have crushed it out, might be
sapping his health more than all his work for the nation.

"Do you mean any one in particular? Persigny said he should attend, but
I did not see him."

"No, I meant among the ladies. Beatrice Boville was in the seat next
me." I had no earthly business to speak of her so abruptly, for when I
had seen him for the first time after he left the Bad when Parliament
met that February, he had forbidden me ever to mention her name to him,
and no allusion to her had ever passed his lips. The worn, stern
gravity, that had become his habitual expression, changed for a moment;
bullet-proof he might be, but my arrow had shot in through the chain
links of his armor; a look of unutterable pain, eagerness, anxiety,
passion, passed over his face; but, whatever he felt, he subdued it,
though his voice was broken as he answered me:--

"Once for all, I bade you never speak that name to me. Without being
forbidden, I should have thought your own feeling, your own delicacy,
might--"

"Have checked me? O, hang it, Earlscourt, listen one second without
shutting a fellow up. I never broached the subject before, by your
desire; but, now I have once broken the ice, I must ask you one
question: Are you sure you judged the girl justly? are you sure you were
not too quick to slan--"

He pressed his hand on his chest and breathed heavily as I spoke, but he
wouldn't let me finish.

"That is enough. Would any man sacrifice what he held dearest wantonly
and without proof? She is dear to me _now_. You are the only living
being so thoughtless or so merciless as to force her name upon me, and
rake up the one folly, the one madness, the one crowning sorrow of my
life. See that you never dare bring forward her name again."

He went out before me into the soft night air. His carriage was
waiting; he entered it, threw himself back on its cushions, and was
driven off before I had time to break my word of honor to Beatrice
Boville, which I felt sorely tempted to do just then. Who among the
thousands that heard his briliant speech that night, or read it the next
morning, who saw him pass in his carriage, and had him pointed out to
them as the finest orator of his day, or dined with him at his
ministerial dinners at his house in Park Lane, would have believed that,
with all his ambition, fame, honors, and attainments, the one cross, the
one shadow, the one dark thread, in the successful stateman's life, was
due to a woman's hand, and that underneath all his strength lay that
single weakness, sapping and undermining it?

"_Did you_ see that girl Boville at the House last night?" Lady Clive
(who had smiled most sweetly ever since her thorns had brought forth
their fruit--her son _would_ be his heir--Earlscourt would never marry
now!) said to me, the next day, at one of the Musical Society concerts.
"Incredible effrontery, wasn't it, in her, to come and hear Earlscourt's
speech? One would have imagined that conscience and delicacy might have
made her reluctant to see him, instead of letting her voluntarily seek
his own legislative chamber, and listen coolly for an hour and a half to
the man whom she misled and deceived so disgracefully."

I laughed to think how long a time a woman's malice _will_ flourish,
n'importe how victorious it may have been in crushing its object, or how
harmless that object may have become.

"You are very bitter about her still, Lady Clive. Is that quite fair?
You know you were so much obliged to her for throwing Earlscourt away.
You want Horace to come in for the title, don't you?" Which truism
being unpalatable, Lady Clive averred that she had no wish on earth but
for Earlscourt's happiness; that of course she naturally grieved for his
betrayal by that little intrigante, but that had his marriage been a
well-advised one, nobody would have rejoiced more, etc., etc., and bade
me be silent and listen to Vieuxtemps, both of which commands I obeyed,
pondering in my own mind whether I should go and call in Lowndes Square
or not: if anybody heard of it, they would think it odd for me alone, of
all the family, to continue acquainted with a girl whom report
(circulated through Lady Clive) said had used Earlscourt so ill, and
wrong constructions might get put upon it; but, thank God! I never have
considered the qu'en dira-t-on. If constructions are wrong, to the deuce
with them! they matter nothing to sensible people; and the man who lives
in dread of "reports" will have to shift his conduct as the old man of
immortal fable shifted his donkey, and won't ever journey in any peace
at all. If anybody remarked my visiting Lowndes Square, I couldn't help
it: I wanted to see Beatrice Boville again, and to Lowndes Square, after
the concert, I drove my tilbury accordingly, which, as that turn-out is
known pretty tolerably in those parts, I should be wisest to leave
behind me when I don't want my calls noticed. By good fortune, I saw
Beatrice alone. They were going to drive in the Park, and she was in the
drawing room, dressed and waiting for her aunt. She was not altered: at
her age sorrow doesn't tell physically as it does at Earlscourt's. In
youth we have Hope; later on we know that of all the gifts of Pandora's
box none are so treacherous and delusive as the one that Pandora left at
the bottom. True, Beatrice had none of that insouciant, shadowless
brightness that had been her chief charm at Lemongenseidlitz, but she
was one of those women whose attractions, dependent on fascination, not
on beauty, grow more instead of less as time goes on. She met me with a
trace of embarrassment; but she was always self-possessed under any
amount of difficulties, and stood chatting, a trifle hurriedly, of all
the subjects of the year, of anything, I dare say, rather than of that
speech the night before, or of the secret of which I was her sole
confidant. But I was not going to let her off so easily. I had come
there for a definite purpose, and was not going away without
accomplishing it. I was afraid every second that Lady Mechlin might come
down, or some visitor enter, and as she sat in a low chair among the
flowers in the window, leant towards her, and plunged into it _in medias
res_.

"Miss Boville, I want you to release me from my promise."

She looked up, her face flushing slightly, but her lips and eyes
shadowed already with that determined pride and hauteur that they had
worn the last time I had seen her. She did not speak, but played with
the boughs of a coronella near her.

"You remember" (I went on speaking as briefly as possible, lest the old
lady's toilet should be finished, and our tête-à-tête cut short) "I gave
you my word of honor never to speak again of what you told me in the
Kursaal last autumn until you gave me leave; that leave I ask you for
now. Silence lies in the way of your own happiness, I feel sure, and not
alone of yours. If you give me carte blanche, you may be certain I shall
use it discreetly and cautiously. You made the prohibition in a moment
of heat and passion; withdraw it now--believe me, you will never
repent."

The flush died out of her cheeks as I spoke; but her little, white
teeth were set together as they had been that night, and she answered me
bitterly,--

"You ask what is impossible; I cannot, in justice to myself, withdraw
it. I would never have told you, but that I deemed you a man of honor,
whom I could trust."

"I do not think I have proved myself otherwise, Beatrice. I have kept my
word to you, when I have been greatly tempted to break it, when I have
doubted whether it were either right or wise to stand on such punctilio,
when greater stakes were involved by my silence. Surely, if you once had
elevated mind enough to comprehend and admire such a man as Earlscourt,
and be won by the greatness of his intellect to prefer him to younger
rivals, it is impossible you can have lowered your taste and found any
one to replace him. No woman who once loved Earlscourt could stoop to an
inferior man, and almost all men _are_ his inferiors; it is impossible
you can have grown cold towards him."

She turned her eyes upon me luminous with her old passion--the color hot
in her cheeks, and her attitude full of that fiery pride which became
her so infinitely well.

"_I_ changed!--_I_ grown cold to him! I love him more than all the
world, and shall do to my grave. Do you think that any who heard him
last night could glory in him as I did? Did you think any physical
torture would not have been easier to bear than what I felt when I saw
his face once more, and thought of what we _should have been_ to one
another, and of what we _are_? We women have to act, and smile, and wear
a calm semblance, while our hearts are bursting; and so you fancy that
we never feel."

"But, great Heavens! Beatrice, if you love Earlscourt like this, why not
give me leave to tell him? Why not write to him yourself? A word would
clear you, a word restore you to him. Your anger, your pride, he would
forgive in a moment."

I'm a military man, not a diplomatist, or I shouldn't have added that
last sentence.

She rose, and looked at me haughtily and amazedly.

"It is I who have to forgive, not he. I wronged him in no way; he
wronged me bitterly. He dared to misjudge, to suspect, to insult me. I
shall never stoop to undeceive him. He gave me up without a trial. I
never will force myself upon him. He thanked God I was not his
wife--could I seek to be his wife after that? Love him passionately I
do, but forgive him I do _not_! I forbid you, on your faith as a
gentleman, ever to tell him what I told you that night. I trusted to
your honor; I shall hold you _dis_honored if you betray me."

Just as she paused an open carriage rolled past. I looked down
mechanically; in it was Earlscourt lying back on his cushions,
returning, I believe, from a Cabinet Council. There, in the street,
stood my tilbury, with the piebald Cognac that everybody in Belgravia
knew. There, in the open window, stood Beatrice and I; and Earlscourt,
as he happened to glance upwards, saw us both! His carriage rolled on;
Beatrice grew as white as death, and her lips quivered as she looked
after him; but Lady Mechlin entered, and I took them down to their
barouche.

"You are determined not to release me from my promise?" I asked
Beatrice, as I pulled up the tiger-skin over her flounces.

She shook her head.

"Certainly not; and I should think you are too much of a gentleman not
to hold a promise sacred."

Pride and determination were written in every line of her face, in the
very arch of her eyebrows, the very form of her brow, the very curve of
her lips--a soft, delicate face enough otherwise, but as expressive of
indomitable pride as any face could be. And yet, though I swore at her
as I drove Cognac out of the square, I couldn't help liking her all the
better for it, the little Pythoness! for, after all, it was natural and
very intelligible to me--she had been misjudged and wrongly suspected,
and the noblest spirits are always the quickest to rebel against
injustice and resent false accusation.



V.

HOW IN PERFECT INNOCENCE I PLAYED THE PART OF A RIVAL.


The season whirled and spun along as usual. They were having stormy
debates in the Lower House, and throwing out bills in the Upper; stifled
by Thames odors one evening, and running down to Epsom the next morning;
blackguarding each other in parliamentary language--which, on my honor,
will soon want duels revived to keep it within decent breeding, if Lord
Robert Cecil and others don't learn better manners, and remember the
golden rule that "He alone resorts to vituperation whose argument is
illogical and weak." We, luckier dogs, who weren't slaves to St.
Stephen's, nor to anything at all except as parsons and moralists, with
whom the grapes sont verts et bons pour des goujats, said to our own
worldly vitiated tastes and evil leanings, spent our hours in the Ring
and the coulisses, White's and the United, crush balls and opera
suppers, and swore we were immeasurably bored, though we wouldn't have
led any other life for half a million. The season whirled along.
Earlscourt devoted himself more entirely than ever to public life; he
filled one of the most onerous and important posts in the ministry, and
appeared to occupy himself solely with home politics and foreign
politics. Lady Mechlin, only a baronet's widow, though she had very
tolerable society of her own, was not in _his_ monde; and Beatrice
Boville and he, with only Hyde Park Corner between them, might as well,
for any chance of rapprochement, have been severally at Spitzbergen and
Cape Horn. Two or three times they passed each other in Pall-Mall and
the Ride; but Earlscourt only lifted his hat to Lady Mechlin, and
Beatrice set her little teeth together, and wouldn't have solicited a
glance from him to save her life. Earlscourt was excessively distant to
me after seeing my tilbury at her door; no doubt he thought it strange
for me to have continued my intimacy with a woman who had wronged him so
bitterly. He said nothing, but I could see he was exceedingly
displeased; and the more I tried to smooth it with him, the more
completely I seemed to set my foot in it. It was exceedingly difficult
to touch on any obnoxious subject with him; he was never harsh or
discourteous, but he could freeze the atmosphere about him gently, but
so completely, that no mortal could pierce through it; and, fettered by
my promise to her and his prohibition to me, I hardly knew how to bring
up her name. As the Fates would have it, I often met Beatrice myself, at
the Regent Park fêtes, at concerts, at a Handel Festival at Sydenham, at
one or two dinner parties; and, as she generally made way for me beside
her, and was one of those women who are invariably, though without
effort, admired and surrounded in any society, possibly people remarked
it--possibly our continued intimacy might have come round to Earlscourt,
specially as Lady Clive and Mrs Breloques abused me roundly, each à sa
mode, for countenancing that "abominable intrigante." I couldn't help
it, even if Earlscourt took exception at me for it. I knew the girl was
not to blame, and I took her part, and tried my best to tame the little
Pythoness into releasing me from my promise. But Beatrice was firm; had
she erred, no one would have acknowledged and atoned for it quicker, but
innocent and wrongly accused, she kept silent, coûte que coûte, and in
my heart I sympathized with her. Nothing stings so sharply, nothing is
harder to forgive, than injustice; and, knowing herself to be frank,
honorable, and open as the day, his charge of falsehood and deception
rankled in her only more keenly as time went on. Men ran after her like
mad; she had more of them about her than many beauties or belles. There
was a style, a charm, a something in her that sent beauties into the
shade, and by which, had she chosen, she could soon have replaced
Earlscourt. Still, it needed to be no Lavater to see, by the passionate
gleam of her eyes and the haughty pride on her brow, that Beatrice
Boville was not happy.

"Why _will_ you let pride and punctilio wreck your own life, Beatrice?"
I asked her, in a low tone, as we stood before one of Ed. Warren's
delicious bits of woodland in the Water-Color Exhibition, where we had
chanced to meet one day. "That he should have judged you as he did was
not unnatural. Think! how was it possible for him to guess your father
was your companion? Remember how very much circumstances were against
you."

"Had they been ten times more against me, a man who cared for me would
have believed in me, and stood by me, not condemned me on the first
suspicion. It was unchivalrous, ungenerous, unjust. I tell you, his
words are stamped into my memory forever. I shall never forgive them."

"Not even if you knew that he suffered as much and more than you do?"

She clinched her hands on the rolled-up catalogue with a passionate
gesture.

"No; because he _misjudged_ me. Anything else I would have pardoned,
though I am no patient Griselda, to put up tamely with any wrong; but
_that_ I never could--I never would!"

"I regret it, then. I thought you too warm and noble-hearted a woman to
retain resentment so long. I never blamed you in the first instance, but
I must say I blame you now."

She laughed, a little contemptuously, and glanced at me with her
haughtiest air; and on my life, much as it provoked one, nothing became
her better.

"Blame me or not, as you please--your verdict will be quite bearable,
either way. I am the one sinned against. I can have nothing explained to
Lord Earlscourt. Had he cared for me, as he once vowed, he would have
been less quick then to suspect me, and quicker now to give me a chance
of clearing myself. But you remember he thanked God I had not his name
and his honor in my hands. I dare say he rejoices at his escape."

She laughed again, turning over the catalogue feverishly and
unconsciously. _Those_ were the words that rankled in her; and it was
not much wonder if, to a proud spirit like Beatrice Boville's, they
seemed unpardonable. As I handed her and Lady Mechlin into their
carriage when they left the exhibition, Earlscourt, as ill luck would
have it, passed us, walking on to White's, the fringe of Beatrice's
parasol brushed his arm, and a hot color flushed into her cheeks at the
sudden rencontre. By the instinct of courtesy he bowed to her and Lady
Mechlin, but passed up Pall-Mall without looking at Beatrice. How well
society drills us, that we meet with such calm impassiveness in its
routine those with whom we have sorrowed and joyed, loved and hated, in
such far different scenes!

Their carriage drove on, and I overtook him as he went up Pall-Mall. He
was walking slowly, with his hand pressed on his chest, and his lips set
together, as if in bodily pain. He looked at me, as I joined him, with
an annoyed glance of unusual irritation for him, for he was always calm
and untroubled, punctiliously just, and though of a proud temper, never
quick to anger.

"You passed that girl wonderfully coldly, Earlscourt," I began, plunging
recklessly into the thick of the subject.

"Coldly!" he repeated, bitterly. "It is very strange that you will
pursue me with her name. I forbade you to intrude it upon me; was not
that sufficient?"

"No; because I think you judged her too harshly."

"Think so, if you please, but never renew the topic to me. If she gives
you her confidence, enjoy it. If you choose, knowing what you do, to be
misled by her, be so; but I beg of you to spare me your opinions and
intentions."

"But why? I say you _do_ misjudge her. She might err in impatience and
pride; but I would bet you any money you like that you would prove her
guilty of no indelicacy, no treachery, no underhand conduct, though
appearances might be against her."

"_Might_ be! You select your words strangely; you must have some deeper
motive for your unusual blindness. I desire, for the last time, that you
cease either the subject to me, or your acquaintance with me, whichever
you prefer."

With which, he went up the steps of White's, and I strolled on, amazed
at the fierce acrimony of his tone, utterly unlike anything I had ever
heard from him, wished their pride to the devil, called myself a fool
for meddling in the matter at all, and went to have a quiet weed in the
smoking-room of the U. S. to cool myself. I was heartily sick of the
whole affair. If they wanted it cleared, they must clear it
themselves--I should trouble myself no more about it. Yet I couldn't
altogether dismiss Beatrice's cause from my mind. I thought her, to say
the truth, rather harshly used. I liked her for her fearless, truthful,
impassioned character. I liked her for the very courage and pride with
which she preferred to relinquish any chance of regaining her forfeited
happiness, rather than stoop to solicit exculpation from charges of
which she knew she was innocent. Perhaps, at first, she did not consider
sufficiently Earlscourt's provocation, and perhaps, now, she was too
persisting in her resentment of it; still I liked her, and I was sorry
to see her, at an age when life should have been couleur de rose, to one
of her gay and insouciant nature, with a weary, passionate look on her
face that she should not have had for ten years to come--a look that was
rapidly hardening into stern and contemptuous sadness.

"You tell me I am too bitter," she said to me one day, "how should I be
otherwise? I, who have wronged no one, and have never in my life done
anything of which I am ashamed, am called an intrigante by Lady Clive
Edghill, and get ill-will from strangers, and misconstructions from my
friends, merely because, thinking no harm myself, it never occurs to me
that circumstances may look against me; and, hating falsehood, I cannot
lie, and smile, and give soft words where I feel contempt and
indignation. Mrs. Breloques yonder, with whom les présens ont toujours
raison, and les absens ont toujours tort, who has honeyed speeches for
her bitterest foes, and poisoned arrows (behind their back) for her most
trusting friends, who goes to early matins every morning, and pries out
for a second all over the top of her prayer-book, who kisses 'darling
Helena,' and says she 'never looked so sweetly,' whispering en petit
comité what a pity it is, when Helena is so passée, she _will_ dress
like a girl just out--she is called the sweetest woman possible--so
amiable! and is praised for her high knowledge of religion. You tell me
I am too bitter. I think not. Honesty does _not_ prosper, and truth is
at a miserable discount; straightforward frankness makes a myriad of
foes, and adroit diplomacy as many friends. If you make a
prettily-turned compliment, who cares if it is sincere? if you hold your
tongue where you cannot praise, because you will not tell a conventional
falsehood, the world thinks you very ill-natured, or odiously satirical.
Society is entirely built upon insincerity and conventionality, from the
wording of an acceptance of a dinner invitation, where we write 'with
much pleasure,' thinking to ourselves 'what a bore!' to the giant
hypocrisies daily spoken without a blush from pulpit and lecturn, and
legitimatized both as permissible and praiseworthy. To truth and
unconventionality society of course is adverse; and whoever dares to
uphold them must expect to be hissed, as Paul by the Ephesians, because
he shivered their silver shrines and destroyed the craft by which they
got their wealth."

Beatrice was right; her truth and fearlessness were her enemies with
most people, even with the man who had loved her best. Had she been
ready with an adroit falsehood and a quick excuse, Earlscourt's
suspicions would never have been raised as they were by her frank
admission that there was something she would rather not tell him, and
her innocent request to be trusted. That must have been some very
innocent and unworldly village schoolmaster, I should say, who first set
going that venerable proverb, "Honesty is the best policy." He must have
known comically little of life. A diplomatist who took it as his motto
would soon come to grief, and ladies would soon stone out of their
circles any woman bête enough to try its truth among them. There is no
policy at greater discount in the world, and straightforward and candid
people stand at very unequal odds with the rest of humanity; they are
the one morsel of bread to a hogshead of sack, the handful of Spartans
against a swarm of Persians, and they get the brunt of the battle and
the worst of the fight.



VI.

HOW PRIDE BOWED AND FELL.


Beyond meeting Earlscourt at White's, or, for an hour, at the réunion of
some fair leader of ton, I scarcely saw him that season, for he was more
and more devoted to public life. He looked wretchedly ill, and his
physicians said if he wished to live he must go to the south of France
in July, and winter at Corfu; but he paid them no heed; he occupied
himself constantly with political and literary work, and grudged the
three or four hours he gave to sleep that did him little good.

"Will you get me admittance to the Lords to-morrow night?" Beatrice
asked me, one morning, when I met her in the Ride. I looked at her
surprised.

"To the Lords? Of course, if you wish."

"I do wish it." Her hands clinched on her bridle, and the color flushed
into her face, for Earlscourt just then passed us, riding with one of
his brother ministers. He looked at us both, and his face changed
strangely, though he rode on, continuing his conversation with the other
man, while I went round the turn with Beatrice and the other fellows who
were about her; le fruit défendu is always most attractive, and
Beatrice's profound negligence of them all made them more mad about her
than all the traps and witcheries, beguilements and attractions, that
coquettes and beauties set out for them. She rode beautifully; and a
woman who _does_ sit well down on her saddle, and knows how to handle
her horse, never looks better than en Amazone. Earlscourt met her three
times at the turn of the Ride; and though you would not have told that
he was passing any other than an utter stranger, I think it must have
struck him that he had lost much in losing Beatrice Boville. I was
riding on her off-side each time when we passed him. As I say, I never,
thank God! have cared a straw for the qu'en dira-t-on? and if people
remarked on my intimacy with my cousin's cast off fiancée, so they
might, but to Earlscourt I wished to explain it more for Beatrice's sake
than my own; and as I rode out by Apsley House afterwards, I overtook
him, and went up to Piccadilly with him, though his manner was decidedly
distant and chill, so pointedly so that it would have been rude, had he
not been too entirely a disciple of Chesterfield to be ever otherwise
than courteous to his deadliest foe; but, disregarding his coldness, I
said what I intended to say, and began an explanation that I considered
only due to him.

"I beg your pardon, Earlscourt, for intruding on you a topic you have
forbidden, but I shall be obliged to you to listen to me a moment. I
wish to tell you my reasons for what, I dare say, seems strange to you,
my continued intimacy with--"

But I was not permitted to end my sentence; he divined what I was about
to say, and stopped me, with a cold, wearied air.

"I understand; but I prefer not to hear them. I have no desire to
interfere with your actions, and less to be troubled with your motives.
Of course, you choose your friendships as you please. All I beg is, that
you obey the wish I expressed the other day, and intrude the subject no
more upon me."

And he bade me good morning, urged his mare into a sharp canter, and
turned down St. James's Street. How little those in the crowd, who
looked at him as he rode by, pointing him out to the women with them as
Viscount Earlscourt, the most eloquent debater in the Lords, the
celebrated foreign minister, author, and diplomatist, guessed that a
woman's name could touch and sting him as nothing else could do, and
that under the calm and glittering upper-current of his life ran a dark,
slender, unnoticed thread that had power to poison all the rest! Those
women, mon ami!--if we _do_ satirize them a little bit now and then, are
we doing any more than taking a very mild revenge? Don't they make fools
of the very best and wisest of us, play the deuce with Cæsar as with
Catullus, and make Achilles soft as Amphimachus?

The next morning I met Beatrice at a concert at the Marchioness of
Pursang's. Lady Pursang would not have been, vous concevez, on the
visiting list of Lady Mechlin, as she was one of the crème de la crème,
but she had met Beatrice the winter before at Pau, had been very
delighted with her, and now continued the acquaintance in town. I
happened to sit next our little Pythoness, who looked better, I think,
that morning, than ever I saw her, though her face was set into that
disdainful sadness which had become its habitual expression. She liked
my society, and sought it, no doubt, because I was the only link between
her and her lost past; and she was talking with me more animatedly than
usual, thanking me for having got her admittance to the Lords that
night, during a pause in the concert, when Earlscourt entered the room,
and took the seat reserved for him, which was not far from ours. Music
was one of his passions, the only délassement, indeed, he ever gave
himself now; but to-day, though ostensibly he listened to Alboni and
Arabella Goddard, Hallé and Vieuxtemps, and talked to the marchioness
and other women of her set, in reality he was watching Beatrice, who,
her pride roused by his presence, laughed and chatted with me and other
men with her old gay abandon, and, impervious to déréglement though he
was, I fancy even _he_ felt it a severe trial of his composure when Lady
Pursang, who had been the last five years in India with her husband, and
who was ignorant of or had forgotten the name of the girl Earlscourt was
to have married the year before, asked him, when the concert was over,
to let her introduce him to her, yet Beatrice Boville, bringing him in
innocent cruelty up to that little Pythoness, with whom he had parted so
passionately and bitterly ten months before! Happy for them that they
had that armor which the Spartans called heroism, the stoics philosophy,
and we--simply style good breeding, or they would hardly have gone
through that ordeal as well as they did when she introduced them to each
other as strangers!--those two who had whispered such passionate love
words, given and received such fond caresses, vowed barely twelve
months before to pass their lifetime together! Happy for them they were
used to society, or they would hardly have bowed to each other as calmly
and admirably as they did, with the recollection of that night in which
they had parted so bitterly, so full as it was in the minds of both.
Beatrice was standing in one of the open windows of the little cabinet
de peinture almost empty, and when the marchioness moved away, satisfied
that she had introduced two people admirably fitted to entertain one
another, Earlscourt, with people flirting and talking within a few yards
of him, was virtually alone with Beatrice--for there is, after all, no
solitude like the solitude of a crowd--and _then_, for the first time in
his life, his self-possession forsook him. Beatrice was silent and very
pale, looking out of the window on to the Green Park, which the house
overlooked, and Earlscourt's pride had a hard struggle, but his passion
got the better of him, malgré lui, and he leaned towards her.

"Do you remember the last night we were together?"

She answered him bitterly. She had not forgiven him. She had sometimes,
I am half afraid, sworn to revenge herself.

"I am hardly likely to forget it, Lord Earlscourt."

He looked at her longingly and wistfully; his pride was softened, that
granite pride, hitherto so unassailable! and he bent nearer to her.

"Beatrice! I would give much to be able to wash out the memories of that
night--to be proved mistaken--to be convicted of haste, of sternness--"

The tears rushed into her eyes.

"You need only have given one little thing--all I asked of you--trust!"

"Would to God I dare believe you now! Tell me, answer me, did I judge
you too harshly? Love at my age never changes, however wronged; it is
the latest, and it only expires with life itself. I confess to you, you
are dearer to me still than anything ever was, than anything ever will
be. Prove to me, for God's sake, that I misjudged you! Only prove it to
me; explain away what appeared against you, and we may yet--"

He stopped; his voice trembled, his hand touched hers, he breathed short
and fast. The Pythoness was very nearly tamed; her eyes grew soft and
melting, her lips trembled; but pride was still strong in her. At the
touch of his hand it very nearly gave way, but not wholly; it was there
still, tenacious of its reign. She set her little teeth obstinately
together, and looked up at him with her old hauteur.

"No, as I told you then, you must believe in me _without_ proof. I have
not forgotten your bitter words, nor yet forgiven them. I doubt if I
ever shall. You roused an evil spirit in me that night, Lord Earlscourt,
which you cannot exorcise at a moment's notice. Remember what was your
own motto, 'An indiscreet woman is never frank,'--yet from my very
frankness you accused me of indiscretion, and of far worse than
indiscretion--"

"My God! if I accused you falsely, Beatrice, forgive me!"

He must have loved her very much to bow his pride so far as that. _He_
was at _her_ feet--at _her_ mercy now; he, whom she had vainly sued,
sued her; but a perverse, fiery devil in her urged her to take her own
revenge, compelled her to throw away her own peace.

"You should have asked me that ten months ago; it is too late now."

His face dyed white, his eyes filled with passionate anguish. He crushed
her hand in his.

"Too late! Great Heavens! Answer me, child, I entreat you--I beseech
you--is it 'too late' because report is true that you have replaced me
with your cousin--that you are engaged to Hervey? Tell me truth now, for
pity's sake. I will be trifled with no longer."

Beatrice threw back her haughty little head contemptuously, though
ladies _don't_ sneer at the idea of being liées with me generally, I can
assure you. Her heart throbbed triumphantly and joyously. She had
conquered him at last. The man of giant intellect and haughty will had
bowed to her. She held him by a thread, he who ruled the fate of
nations!--and she loved him so dearly! But the Pythoness was not wholly
tamed, and she could not even yet forget her wrongs.

"You told me before I spoke falsehoods to you, Lord Earlscourt; my word
would find no more credence now."

He looked at her, dropped her hand, and turned away, before Beatrice
could detain him. Five minutes after he left the house. Little as I
guessed it, he was jealous of me--I! who never in my own life rivalled
any man who wished to _marry_! Beatrice had fully revenged herself. I
wonder if she enjoyed it quite as much as she had anticipated, as she
stood where he had left her looking out on the Green Park?

I went with Beatrice and her party to the Lords that night; it was the
tug of war for the bill which Earlscourt was so determined should pass,
and a great speech was expected from him. We were not disappointed. When
he rose he spoke with effort, and his oratory suffered from the slight
hoarseness of his voice, for half the beauty of his rhetoric lay in the
flexibility and music of his tones; still, it was emphatically a great
speech, and Beatrice Boville listened to it breathlessly, with her eyes
fixed on the face--weary, worn, but grandly intellectual--of the man
whom Europe reverenced, and she--a girl of twenty!--ruled. Perhaps her
heart smote her for the lines she had added there; perhaps she felt her
pride misplaced to him, great as he was, with his stainless honor and
unequalled genius; perhaps she thought of how, with all his strength,
his hand had trembled as it touched hers; and how, with all her love,
she had been wilful and naughty to him a second time. His voice grew
weaker as he ended, and he spoke with visible effort; still it was one
of his greatest political triumphs: his bill passed by a large majority,
and the papers, the morning after, filled their leading articles with
admiration of Viscount Earlscourt's speech. But before those journals
were out, Earlscourt was too ill almost to notice the success of his
measures: as he left the House, the presiding devil of beloved Albion,
that plays the deuce with English statesmen as with Italian
cantatrices,--the confounded east wind,--had caught him, finished what
over-exertion had begun, and knocked him over, prostrated with severe
bronchitis. What pity it is that the body _will_ levy such cruel black
mail upon the mind; that a gust of wind, a horse's plunge, the effluvia
of a sewer, the carelessness of a pointsman, can destroy the grandest
intellect, sweep off the men whose genius lights the world, as
ruthlessly as a storm of rain a cloud of gnats, and strike Peel and
Canning, Macaulay and Donaldson, in the prime of their power, as
heedlessly as peasants little higher than the brutes, dull as the clods
of their own valley, who stake their ambitions on a surfeit of fat
bacon, and can barely scrawl their names upon a slate!

Unconscious that Earlscourt's jealousy had fastened so wrongly upon me,
I was calling upon Beatrice late the next morning, ignorant myself of
his illness, when his physician, who was Lady Mechlin's too, while
paying her a complimentary visit, regretted to me my cousin's sudden
attack.

"Lord Earlscourt would speak last night," he began. "I entreated him
not; but those public men are so obstinate; to-day he is very ill--very
ill indeed, though prompt measures stopped the worst. He has risen to
dictate something of importance to his secretary; he would work his
brain if he were dying; but it has taken a severe hold on him, I fear. I
shall send him somewhere south as soon as he can leave the house, which
will not be for some weeks. He would be a great loss to the country. We
have not such another foreign minister. But I admit to you, Major
Hervey--though of course I do not wish it to go further--that I _do_
think very seriously of Lord Earlscourt's state of health."

Beatrice heard him as she sat at her Davenport; her face grew white, and
her eyes filled with great anguish. She thought of his words to her only
the day before, and of how her pride had repelled him a second time. I
saw her hand clinch on the pen she was playing with, and her teeth set
tight together, her habitual action under any strong emotion, thinking
to herself, no doubt, "And my last words to him were bitter ones!"

When the physician had left, I went up to her.--

"Beatrice, you must let me tell him _now_!"

She did not answer, but her hand clinched tighter on the pen-handle.

"His life is in your hands; for God's sake relinquish your pride."

But her pride was strong in her, and dear to her still, strong and dear
as her love; and the two struggled together. Earlscourt had bowed _his_
pride to her; but she had not yielded up her own, and it cost her much
to yield it even now. All the Pythoness in her was not tamed yet. She
was silent--she wavered--then her great love for him vanquished all
else. She rose, white as death, her passionate eyes full of unshed
tears, the bitterest, yet the softest, Beatrice Boville had ever known.

"Take me to him. No one shall tell him but myself."

Earlscourt was lying on a couch in his library; he had been unable to
dictate or to write himself, for severe remedies had prostrated him
utterly, and he could not speak above his breath, though he was loath to
give up, and acknowledge himself as ill as he was. His eyes were closed,
his forehead knitted together in pain, and his labored breathing told
plainly enough how fiercely his foe had attacked him, and that it was by
no means conquered yet. He had not slept all night, and had fallen into
a short slumber now, desiring his attendants to leave him. I bade the
groom of the chambers let us enter unannounced, and, opening the door
myself, signed to Beatrice to go in, while her aunt and I waited in the
anteroom. She stopped a moment at the entrance; her pride had its last
struggle; but he turned restlessly, with a weary sigh, and by that sigh
the Pythoness was conquered. Beatrice went forward and fell on her knees
beside his sofa, bending down till her lips touched his brow, and her
hot tears fell on his hands.

"I was too proud last night to tell you you misjudged me. I have no
pride now. I am your own--wholly your own. I never loved, I never should
love, any but you. I forgive you now. O, how could you ever doubt me?
Lord Earlscourt--Ernest--may we not yet be all we once were to one
another?"

Awakened by her kisses on his brow, bewildered by her sudden appearance,
he tried to rise, but sank back exhausted. He did not disbelieve her
now. He had no voice to speak to her, no strength to answer her; but he
drew her down closer and closer to him, as she knelt by him, and, as her
heart beat once more against his, the little Pythoness, tamed at last,
threw her arms round him and sobbed like a child on his breast. And
so--Beatrice Boville took her best REVENGE!--while I shut the library
door, invited Lady Mechlin to inspect Earlscourt's collection of French
pictures, and asked what she thought of _Punch_ this week.

I don't know what his physicians would have said of the treatment, as
they'd recommended him "perfect quiet;" all I do know is, that though
Earlscourt went to the south of Europe as soon as he could leave the
house, Beatrice Boville went with him; and he took his place on the
benches and in the cabinet this season, without any trace of bronchia,
or any sign of wearing out.

Lady Clive, I regret to say, "does not know" Lady Earlscourt: anything
for her beloved brother she _would_ do, were it possible; but she hopes
we understand that, for her daughters' sakes, she feels it quite
impossible to countenance that "shocking little intrigante."



A LINE IN THE "DAILY."



A LINE IN THE "DAILY."

WHO DID IT, AND WHO WAS DONE BY IT.


"Lieutenant-Colonel Fairlie's troop of Horse Artillery is ordered to
Norwich to replace the 12th Lancers, en route to Bombay."--Those three
lines in the papers spread dismay into the souls of Norfolk young
ladies, and no less horror into ours, for we were very jolly at
Woolwich, could run up to the Clubs and down to Epsom, and were far too
material not to prefer ball-room belles to bluebells, strawberry-ice to
fresh hautboys, the sparkle of champagne-cups to all the murmurs of the
brooks, and the flutter of ballet-girls' wings to all the rustle of
forest-leaves. But, unhappily, the Ordnance Office is no more given to
considering the feelings of their Royal Gunners than the Horse Guards
the individual desires of the two other Arms; and off we went to
Norwich, repining bitterly, or, in modern English, swearing hard at our
destinies, creating an immense sensation with our 6-pounders, as we
flatter ourselves the Royals always contrive to do, whether on fair
friends or fierce foes, and were looked upon spitefully by the one or
two young ladies whose hearts were gone eastwards with the Twelfth,
smilingly by the one or two hundred who, having fruitlessly laid out a
great deal of tackle on the Twelfth, proceeded to manufacture fresh
flies to catch us.

We soon made up, I think, to the Norwich girls for the loss of the
Twelfth. They set dead upon Fairlie, our captain, a Brevet
Lieutenant-Colonel, and a C. B. for "services in India," where he had
rivalled Norman Ramsay at Fuentes d'Onor, had had a ball put in his hip,
and had come home again to be worshipped by the women for his romantic
reputation. They made an immense deal, too, of Levison Courtenay, the
beauty of the troop, and called Belle in consequence; who did not want
any flummery or flirtation to increase his opinion of himself, being as
vain of his almond eyes as any girl just entered as the favorite for the
season. There were Tom Gower, too, a capital fellow, with no nonsense
about him, who made no end of chaff of Belle Courtenay; and Little Nell,
otherwise Harcourt Poulteney Nelson, who had by some miracle escaped
expulsion both from Carshalton and the College; and _votre humble
serviteur_ Phil Hardinge, first lieutenant; and one or two other
fellows, who having cut dashing figures at our Woolwich reviews,
cantering across Blackheath Common, or waltzing with dainty beauties
down our mess-room, made the Artillery welcome in that city of shawls
and oratorios, where according to the Gazetteer, no virtuous person
ought to dwell, that volume, with characteristic lucidity, pronouncing
its streets "ill-disposed."

The Clergy asked us to their rectories--a temptation we were often proof
against, there being three noticeable facts in rectories, that the talk
is always slow, "the Church" being present, and having much the same
chilling effect as the presence of a chaperone at a tête-à-tête; the
daughters generally ugly, and, from leading the choir at morning
services, perfectly convinced that they sing like Clara Novello, and
that the harmonium is a most delightful instrument; and, last and worst,
the wines are almost always poor, except the port which the reverend
host drinks himself, but which, Dieu merci! we rarely or never touch.

The County asked us, too; and there we went for good hock,
tolerable-looking women, and first-rate billiard-tables. For the first
month we were in Norfolk we voted it unanimously the most infernally
slow and hideous county going; and I dare say we made ourselves
uncommonly disagreeable, as people, if they are not pleased, be they
ever so well bred, have a knack of doing.

Things were thus quiescent and stagnant, when Fairlie one night at mess
told us a bit of news.

"Old fellows, whom do you think I met to-day?"

"How should we know? Cut along."

"The Swan and her Cygnets."

"The Vanes? Oh, bravo!" was shouted at a chorus, for the dame and
demoiselles in question we had known in town that winter, and a nicer,
pleasanter, faster set of women I never came across. "What's bringing
them down here, and how's Geraldine?"

"Vane's come into his baronetcy, and his place is close by Norwich,"
said Fairlie; "his wife's health has been bad, and so they left town
early; and Geraldine is quite well, and counting on haymaking, she
informed me."

"Come, that is good news," said Belle, yawning. "There'll be one pretty
woman in the county, thank Heaven! Poor little Geraldine! I must go and
call on her to-morrow."

"She has existed without your calls, Belle," said Fairlie, dryly, "and
don't look as if she'd pined after you."

"My dear fellow, how should you know?" said Belle, in no wise
disconcerted. "A little rogue soon makes 'em look well, and as for
smiles, they'll smile while they're dying for you. Little Vane and I
were always good friends, and shall be again--if I care."

"Conceited owl!" said Fairlie, under his moustaches. "I'm sorry to hurt
your feelings, then, but your pretty 'friend' never asked after you."

"I dare say not," said Belle, complacently. "Where a woman's most
interested she's always quietest, and Geraldine----"

"Lady Vane begged me to tell you you will always be welcome over there,
old fellows," said Fairlie, remorselessly cutting him short. "Perhaps we
shall find something to amuse us better than these stiltified Chapter
dinners."

The Vanes of whom we talked were an uncommonly pleasant set of people
whom we had known at Lee, where Vane, a Q. C., then resided, his
prospective baronetcy being at that time held by a third or fourth
cousin. Fairlie had known the family since his boyhood; there were four
daughters, tall graceful women, who had gained themselves the nickname
of The Swan and her Cygnets; and then there were twins, a boy of
eighteen, who'd just left Eton; and the girl Geraldine, a charming young
lady, whom Belle admired more warmly than that dandy often admired
anybody besides himself, and whom Fairlie liked cordially, having had
many a familiar bit of fun with her, as he had known her ever since he
was a dashing cadet, and she made her _début_ in life in the first
column of the _Times_. Her sisters were handsome women; but Geraldine
was bewitching. A very pleasant family they were, and a vast acquisition
to us. Miss Geraldine flirted to a certain extent with us all, but
chiefly with the Colonel, whenever he was to be had, those two having a
very free-and-easy, familiar, pleasant style of intercourse, owing to
old acquaintance; and Belle spent two hours every evening on his
toilette when we were going to dine there, and vowed she was a "deuced
pretty little puss. Perhaps she might--he wasn't sure, but perhaps (it
would be a horrid sacrifice), if he were with her much longer, he wasn't
sure she mightn't persuade him to take compassion upon her, he _was_ so
weak where women were concerned!"

"What a conceit!" said Fairlie thereat, with a contemptuous twist of his
moustaches and a shrug of his shoulders to me. "I must say, if I were a
woman, I shouldn't feel over-flattered by a lover who admired his own
beauty first, and mine afterwards. Not that I pretend to understand
women."

By which speech I argued that his old playmate Geraldine hadn't thrown
hay over the Colonel, and been taught billiards by him, and ridden his
bay mare over the park in her evening dress, without interesting him
slightly; and that--though I don't think he knew it--he was deigning to
be a trifle jealous of his Second Captain, the all-mighty conqueror
Belle.

"What fools they must be that put in these things!" yawned Belle one
morning, reading over his breakfast coffee in the _Daily Pryer_ one of
those "advertisements for a wife" that one comes across sometimes in the
papers, and that make us, like a good many other things, agree with
Goldsmith:

  Reason, they say, belongs to man,
  But let them prove it if they can;
  Wise Aristotle and Smiglicious,
  By ratiocinations specious,
  Have strove to prove with great precision,
  With definition and division,
  Homo est ratione præditum,
  But for my soul I cannot credit 'em.

"What fools they must be!" yawned Belle, wrapping his dressing-gown
round him, and coaxing his perfumy whiskers under his velvet
smoking-cap. Belle was always inundated by smoking-caps in cloth and
velvet, silk and beads, with blue tassels, and red tassels, and gold
tassels, embroidered and filigreed, rounded and pointed; he had them
sent to him by the dozen, and pretty good chaff he made of the donors.
"Awful fools! The idea of advertising for a wife, when the only
difficulty a man has is to keep from being tricked into taking one. I
bet you, if I did like this owl here, I should have a hundred answers;
and if it was known it was I----"

"Little Geraldine's self for a candidate, eh?" asked Tom Gower.

"Very possibly," said Belle, with a self-complacent smile. "She's a fast
little thing, don't check at much, and she's deucedly in love with me,
poor little dear--almost as much trouble to me as Julia Sedley was last
season. That girl all but proposed to me; she did, indeed. Never was
nearer coming to grief in my life. What will you bet me that, if I
advertise for a wife, I don't hoax lots of women?"

"I'll bet you ten pounds," said I, "that you don't hoax one!"

"Done!" said Belle, stretching out his hand for a dainty
memorandum-book, gift of the identical Julia Sedley aforesaid, and
entering the bet in it--"done! If I'm not asked to walk in the Close at
noon and look out for a pink bonnet and a black lace cloak, and to
loiter up the market-place till I come across a black hat and blue
muslin dress; if I'm not requested to call at No. 20, and to grant an
interview at No. 84; if I'm not written to by Agatha A. with hazel, and
Belinda B. with black, eyes--all coming after me like flies after a
sugar-cask, why you shall have your ten guineas, my boy, and my colt
into the bargain. Come, write out the advertisement, Tom--I can't, it's
too much trouble; draw it mild, that's all, or the letters we shall get
will necessitate an additional Norwich postman. By George, what fun it
will be to do the girls! Cut along, Tom, can't you?"

"All right," said Gower, pushing away his coffee-cup, and drawing the
ink to him. "Head it 'MARRIAGE,' of course?"

"Of course. That word's as attractive to a woman as the belt to a
prize-fighter, or a pipe of port to a college fellow."

"'MARRIAGE.--A Bachelor----'"

"Tell 'em a military man; all girls have the scarlet fever."

"Very well--'an Officer in the Queen's, of considerable personal
attractions----'"

"My dear fellow, pray don't!" expostulated Belle, in extreme alarm; "we
shall have such swarms of 'em!"

"No, no! we must say that," persisted Gower--"'personal attractions,
aged eight-and-twenty----'"

"Can't you put it, 'in the flower of his age,' or his 'sixth lustre'?
It's so much more poetic."

"'--the flower of his age,' then (that'll leave 'em a wide range from
twenty to fifty, according to their taste), 'is desirous of meeting a
young lady of beauty, talent, and good family,'--eh?"

"Yes. All women think themselves beauties, if they're as ugly as sin.
Milliners and confectioner girls talk Anglo-French, and rattle a
tin-kettle piano after a fashion, and anybody buys a 'family' for
half-a-crown at the Heralds' Office--so fire away."

"'--who, feeling as he does the want of a kindred heart and sympathetic
soul, will accord him the favor of a letter or an interview, as a
preliminary to the greatest step in life.'"

"A step--like one on thin ice--very sure to bring a man to grief,"
interpolated Belle. "Say something about property; those soul-and-spirit
young ladies generally keep a look-out for tin, and only feel an
elective affinity for a lot of debentures and consols."

"'The advertiser being a man of some present and still more prospective
wealth, requires no fortune, the sole objects of his search being love
and domestic felicity.' Domestic felicity--how horrible! Don't it sound
exactly like the end of a lady's novel, where the unlucky hero is always
brought to an untimely end in a 'sweet cottage on the banks of the
lovely Severn.'"

"'Domestic felicity'--bah! What are you writing about?" yawned
Belle. "I'd as soon take to teetotalism: however, it'll tell in the
advertisement. Bravo, Tom, that will do. Address it to 'L. C., care of
Mrs. Greene, confectioner, St. Giles Street, Norwich.' Miss Patty'll
take the letters in for me, though not if she knew their errand. Tip
seven-and-sixpence with it, and send it to the _Daily Pryer_."

We did send it to the _Daily_, and in that broadsheet we all of us read
it two mornings after.

     MARRIAGE.--A Bachelor, an Officer of the Queen's, of
     considerable personal attractions, and in the flower of
     his age, is desirous of meeting a young lady of beauty,
     accomplishments, and good family, who, feeling as he does the
     want of a kindred heart and sympathetic soul, will accord him
     the favor either of a letter or an interview, as a preliminary
     to the greatest step in life. The advertiser being a man of
     some present and still more prospective wealth, requires no
     fortune, the sole objects of his search being love and domestic
     felicity. Address, L. C., care of Mrs. Greene, confectioner,
     St. Giles Street, Norwich.

"Whose advertisement do you imagine that is?" said Fairlie, showing the
_Daily_ to Geraldine, as he sat with her and her sisters under some
lilac and larch trees in one of the meadows of Fern Chase, which had had
the civility, Geraldine said, to yield a second crop of hay expressly
for her to have the pleasure of making it. She leaned down towards him
as he lay on the grass, and read the advertisement, looking uncommonly
pretty in her dainty muslin dress, with its fluttering mauve ribbons,
and a wreath she had just twisted up, of bluebells and pinks and white
heaths which Fairlie had gathered as he lay, put on her bright hair. We
called her a little flirt, but I think she was an unintentional one; at
least, her agaceries were, all as unconscious as they were--her worst
enemies (_i. e._ plain young ladies) had to allow--unaffected.

"How exquisitely sentimental! Is it yours?" she asked, with demure
mischief.

"Mine!" echoed Fairlie, with supreme scorn.

"It's some one's here, because the address is at Mrs. Greene's. Come,
tell me at once, monsieur."

"The only fool in the Artillery," said Fairlie, curtly: "Belle
Courtenay."

"Captain Courtenay!" echoed Geraldine, with a little flush on her
cheeks, caused, perhaps, by the quick glance the Colonel shot at her as
he spoke.

"Captain Courtenay!" said Katherine Vane. "Why, what can he want with a
wife? I thought he had _l'embarras de choix_ offered him in that line;
at least, so he makes out himself."

"I dare say," said Fairlie, dryly, "it's for a bet he's made, to see how
many women he can hoax, I believe."

"How can you tell it is a hoax?" said Geraldine, throwing cowslips at
her greyhound. "It may be some medium of intercourse with some one he
really cares for, and who may understand his meaning."

"Perhaps you are in his confidence, Geraldine, or perhaps you are
thinking of answering it yourself?"

"Perhaps," said the young lady, waywardly, making the cowslips into a
ball, "there might be worse investments. Your _bête noire_ is strikingly
handsome; he is the perfection of style; he is going to be Equerry to
the Prince; his mother is just married again to Lord Chevenix; he did
not name half his attractions in that line in the _Daily_."

With which Geraldine rushed across the meadow after the greyhound and
the cowslip ball, and Fairlie lay quiet plucking up the heaths by the
roots. He lay there still, when the cowslip ball struck him a soft
fragrant blow against his lips, and knocked the Cuba from between his
teeth.

"Why don't you speak?" asked Geraldine, plaintively. "You are not half
so pleasant to play with as you were before you went to India and I was
seven or eight, and you had La Grace, and battledoor and shuttlecock,
and cricket, and all sorts of games with me in the old garden at
Charlton."

He might have told her she was much less dangerous then than now; he was
not disposed to flatter her, however. So he answered her quietly,

"I preferred you as you were then."

"Indeed!" said Geraldine, with a hot color in her cheeks "I do not think
there are many who would indorse your complimentary opinion."

"Possibly," said Fairlie, coldly.

She took up her cowslips, and hit him hard with them several times.

"Don't speak in that tone. If you dislike me, you can say so in warmer
words, surely."

Fairlie smiled _malgré lui_.

"What a child you are, Geraldine! but a child that is a very mischievous
coquette, and has learned a hundred tricks and _agaceries_ of which my
little friend of seven or eight knew nothing. I grant you were not a
quarter so charming, but you were, I am afraid--more true."

Geraldine was ready to cry, but she was in a passion, nevertheless; such
a hot and short-lived passion as all women of any spirit can go into on
occasion, when they are unjustly suspected.

"If you choose to think so of me you may," she said, with immeasurable
hauteur, sweeping away from him, her mauve ribbons fluttering
disdainfully. "I, for one, shall not try to undeceive you."

The next night we all went up to a ball at the Vanes', to drink Rhenish,
eat ices, quiz the women, flirt with the pretty ones in corners, lounge
against doorways, criticise the feet in the waltzing as they passed us,
and do, in fact, anything but what we went to do--dance,--according to
our custom in such scenes.

The Swan and her Cygnets looked very stunning; they "made up well," as
ladies say when they cannot deny that another is good-looking, but
qualify your admiration by an assurance that she is shockingly plain in
the morning, and owes all to her milliner and maids. Geraldine, who, by
the greatest stretch of scepticism, could not be supposed "made up," was
bewitching, with her sunshiny enjoyment of everything, and her untiring
waltzing, going for all the world like a spinning-top, only a top tires,
and she did not. Belle, who made a principle of never dancing except
under extreme coercion by a very pretty hostess, could not resist her,
and Tom Gower, and Little Nell, and all the rest, not to mention half
Norfolk, crowded round her; all except Fairlie, who leaned against the
doorway, seeming to talk to her father or the members, or anybody near,
but watching the young lady for all that, who flirted not a little,
having in her mind the scene in the paddock of yesterday, and wishing,
perhaps, to show him that if he did not admire her more than when she
was eight, other men had better taste.

She managed to come near him towards the end of the evening, sending
Belle to get her an ice.

"Well," she said, with a comical _pitié d'elle-même_, "do you dislike me
so much that you don't mean to dance with me at all? Not a single waltz
all night?"

"What time have you had to give me?" said Fairlie, coldly. "You have
been surrounded all the evening."

"Of course I have. I am not so disagreeable to other gentlemen as I am
to you. But I could have made time for you if you had only asked for it.
At your own ball last week you engaged me beforehand for six waltzes."

Fairlie relented towards her. Despite her flirting, he thought she did
not care for Belle after all.

"Well," he said, smiling, "will you give me one after supper?"

"You told me you shouldn't dance, Colonel Fairlie," said Katherine Vane,
smiling.

"One can't tell what one mayn't do under temptation," said Fairlie,
smiling too. "A man may change his mind, you know."

"Oh yes," cried Geraldine; "a man may change his mind, and we are
expected to be eminently grateful to him for his condescension; but if
_we_ change our minds, how severely we are condemned for vacillation:
'So weak!' 'Just like women!' 'Never like the same thing two minutes,
poor things!'"

"You don't like the same thing two minutes, Geraldine," laughed Fairlie;
"so I dare say you speak feelingly."

"I changeable! I am constancy itself!"

"Are you? You know what the Italians say of 'ocche azzure'?"

"But I don't believe it, monsieur!" cried Geraldine:

  "Blue eyes beat black fifty to seven,
  For black's of hell, but blue's of heaven!"

"I beg your pardon, mademoiselle," laughed Fairlie:

  "Done, by the odds, it is not true!
  One devil's black, but scores are blue!"

He whirled her off into the circle in the midst of our laughter at their
ready wit. Soon after he bid her good night, but he found time to
whisper as he did so.

"You are more like _my_ little Geraldine to-night!"

The look he got made him determine to make her his little Geraldine
before much more time had passed. At least he drove us back to Norwich
in what seemed very contented silence, for he smoked tranquilly, and let
the horses go their own pace--two certain indications that a man has
pleasant thoughts to accompany him.

I do not think he listened to Belle's, and Gower's, and my conversation,
not even when Belle took his weed out of his mouth and announced the
important fact: "Hardinge! my ten guineas, if you please. I've had a
letter!"

"What! an answer? By Jove!"

"Of course, an answer. I tell you all the pretty women in the city will
know my initials, and send after me. I only hope they _will_ be pretty,
and then one may have a good deal of fun. I was in at Greene's this
morning having mock-turtle, and talking to Patty (she's not bad-looking,
that little girl, only she drops her 'h's' so. I'm like that
fellow--what's his name?--in the 'Peau de Chagrin:' I don't admire my
loves in cotton prints), when she gave me the letter. I left it on my
dressing-table, but you can see it to-morrow. It's a horrid red
daubed-looking seal, and no crest; but that she mightn't use for fear of
being found out, and the writing is disguised, but that it would be. She
_says_ she has the three requisites; but where's the woman that don't
think herself Sappho and Galatea combined? And she was nineteen last
March. Poor little devil! she little thinks how she'll be done. I'm to
meet her on the Yarmouth road at two, and to look out for a lady
standing by the first milestone. Shall we go, Tom? It may lead to
something amusing, you know, though certainly it won't lead to
marriage."

"Oh! we'll go, old fellow," said I. "Deuce take you, Belle! what a lucky
fellow you are with the women."

"Luckier than I want to be," yawned Belle. "It's a horrid bore to be so
set upon. One may have too much of a good thing, you know."

At two the day after, having refreshed ourselves with a light luncheon
at Mrs. Greene's of lobster-salad and pale ale, Belle, Gower, and I
buttoned our gloves and rode leisurely up the road.

"How my heart palpitates!" said Belle, stroking his moustaches with a
bored air. "How can I tell, you know, but what I may be going to see the
arbiter of my destiny? Men have been tricked into all sorts of
tomfoolery by their compassionate feelings. And then--if she should
squint or have a turn-up nose! Good Heavens, what a fearful idea! I've
often wondered when I've seen men with ugly wives how they could have
been cheated into taking 'em; they couldn't have done it in their
senses, you know, nor yet with their eyes open. You may depend they took
'em to church in a state of coma from chloroform. 'Pon my word, I feel
quite nervous. You don't think the girl will have a parson and a
register hid behind the milestone, do you?"

"If she should, it won't be legal without a license, thanks to the fools
who turn Hymen into a tax-gatherer, and won't let a fellow make love
without he asks leave of the Archbishop of Canterbury," said Gower.
"Hallo, Belle, here's the milestone, but where's the lady?"

"Virgin modesty makes her unpunctual," said Belle, putting up his
eye-glass.

"Hang modesty!" swore Tom. "It's past two, and we left a good quarter of
that salad uneaten. Confound her!"

"There are no signs of her," said I. "Did she tell you her dress,
Belle?"

"Not a syllable about it; only mentioned a milestone, and one might have
found a market-woman sitting on that."

"Hallo! here's something feminine. Oh, good gracious! this can't be it,
it's got a brown stuff dress on, and a poke straw bonnet and a green
veil. No, no, Belle. If you married her, that _would_ be a case of
chloroform."

But the horrible brown stuff came sidling along the road with that
peculiar step belonging to ladies of a certain age, characterized by
Patty Greene as "tipputting," sweeping up the dust with its horrible
folds, making straight _en route_ for Belle, who was standing a little
in advance of us. Nineteen! Good Heavens! she must have been fifty if
she was a day, and under her green veil was a chestnut front--yes,
decidedly a front--and a face yellow as a Canadian's, and wrinkled as
Madame Pipelet's, made infinitely worse by that sweet maiden simper and
assumed juvenility common to _vieilles filles_. Up she came towards poor
Belle, who involuntarily retreated step by step till he had backed
against the milestone, and could get no farther, while she smiled up in
his handsome face, and he stared down in her withered one, with the most
comical expression of surprise, dismay, and horror that had ever
appeared on our "beauty's" impassive features.

"Are you--the--the--L. C.?" demanded the maiden of ten lustres, casting
her eyes to the ground with virgin modesty.

"L. C. ar----My dear madam, I don't quite understand you," faltered
Belle, taken aback for once in his life.

"Was it not you," faltered the fair one, shaking out a
pocket-handkerchief that sent a horrible odor of musk to the olfactory
nerves of poor Belle, most fastidious connoisseur in perfume, "who
advertised for a kindred heart and sympathetic soul?"

"Really, my good lady," began Belle, still too aghast by the chestnut
front to recover his self-possession.

"Because," simpered his inamorata, too agitated by her own feelings to
hear his horrible appellative, keeping him at bay there with the fatal
milestone behind him and the awful brown stuff in front of him--"because
I, too, have desired to meet with some elective affinity, some
spirit-tie that might give me all those more subtle sympathies which can
never be found in the din and bustle of the heartless world; I, too,
have pined for the objects of your search--love and domestic happiness.
Oh, blessed words, surely we might--might we not?----"

She paused, overcome with maidenly confusion, and buried her face in the
musk-scented handkerchief. Tom and I, where we stood _perdus_, burst
into uncontrollable shouts of laughter. Poor Belle gave one blank look
of utter terror at the _tout ensemble_ of brown stuff, straw poke, and
chestnut front. He forgot courtesy, manners, and everything else; his
lips were parted, with his small white teeth glancing under his silky
moustaches, his sleepy eyes were open wide, and as the maiden lady
dropped her handkerchief, and gave him what she meant to be the softest
and most tender glance, he turned straight round, sprang on his bay, and
rushed down the Yarmouth road as if the whole of the dignitaries of the
church and law were tearing after him to force him _nolens volens_ into
carrying out the horrible promise in his cursed line in the _Daily_.
What was Tom's and my amazement to see the maiden lady seat herself
astride on the milestone, and join her cachinnatory shouts to ours,
fling her green veil into a hawthorn tree, jerk her bonnet into our
faces, kick off her brown stuff into the middle of the road, tear off
her chestnut front and yellow mask, and perform a frantic war-dance on
the roadside turf. No less a person than that mischievous monkey and
inimitable mimic Little Nell!

"You young demon!" shouted Gower, shrieking with laughter till he cried.
"A pretty fellow you are to go tricking your senior officer like this.
You little imp, how can you tell but what I shall court-martial you
to-morrow?"

"No, no, you won't!" cried Little Nell, pursuing his frantic dance.
"Wasn't it prime? wasn't it glorious? wasn't it worth the Kohinoor to
see? You won't go and peach, when I've just given you a better farce
than all old Buckstone's? By Jove! Belle's face at my chestnut front!
This'll be one of his prime conquests, eh? I say, old fellows, when
Charles Mathews goes to glory, don't you think I might take his place,
and beat him hollow, too?"

When we got back to barracks, we found Belle prostrate on his sofa,
heated, injured, crestfallen, solacing himself with Seltzer-and-water,
and swearing away anything but mildly at that "wretched old woman." He
bound us over to secrecy, which, with Little Nell's confidence in our
minds, we naturally promised. Poor Belle! to have been made a fool of
before two was humiliation more than sufficient for our all-conquering
_blondin_. For one who had so often refused to stir across a ball-room
to look at a Court beauty, to have ridden out three miles to see an old
maid of fifty with a chestnut front! The insult sank deep into his soul,
and threw him into an abject melancholy, which hung over him all through
mess, and was not dissipated till a letter came to him from Mrs.
Greene's, when we were playing loo in Fairlie's room. That night Fairlie
was in gay spirits. He had called at Fern Chase that morning, and though
he had not been able to see Geraldine alone, he had passed a pleasant
couple of hours there, playing pool with her and her sisters, and had
been as good friends as ever with his old playmate.

"Well, Belle," said he, feeling good-natured even with him that night,
"did you get any good out of your advertisement? Did your lady turn out
a very pretty one?"

"No: deuced ugly, like the generality," yawned poor Belle, giving me a
kick to remind me of my promise. Little Nell was happily about the city
somewhere with Pretty Face, or the boy would scarcely have kept his
countenance.

"What amusement you can find in hoaxing silly women," said Fairlie, "is
incomprehensible to me. However, men's tastes differ, happily. Here
comes another epistle for you, Belle; perhaps there's better luck for
you there."

"Oh! I shall have no end of letters. I sha'n't answer any more. I think
it's such a deuced trouble. Diamonds trumps, eh?" said Belle, laying the
note down till he should have leisure to attend to it. Poor old fellow!
I dare say he was afraid of another onslaught from maiden ladies.

"Come, Belle," said Glenville; "come, Belle, open your letter; we're all
impatience. If you won't go, I will in your place."

"Do, my dear fellow. Take care you're not pounced down upon by a
respectable papa for intentions, or called to account by a fierce
brother with a stubby beard," said Belle, lazily taking up the letter.
As he did so, the melancholy indolence on his face changed to eagerness.

"The deuce! the Vane crest!"

"A note of invitation, probably?" suggested Gower.

"Would they send an invitation to Patty Greene's? I tell you it's
addressed to L. C.," said Belle, disdainfully, opening the letter,
leaving its giant deer couchant intact. "I thought it very likely; I
expected it, indeed--poor little dear! I oughtn't to have let it out.
Ain't you jealous, old fellows? Little darling! Perhaps I may be tricked
into matrimony after all. I'd rather a presentiment that advertisement
would come to something. There, you may all look at it, if you like."

It was a dainty sheet of scented cream-laid, stamped with the deer
couchant, such as had brought us many an invitation down from Fern
Chase, and on it was written, in delicate caligraphy:

"G. V. understands the meaning of the advertisement, and will meet L. C.
at the entrance of Fern Wood, at eleven o'clock to-morrow morning."

There was a dead silence as we read it; then a tremendous buzz. Cheaply
as we held women, I don't think there was one of us who wasn't surprised
at Geraldine's doing any clandestine thing like this. He sat with a look
of indolent triumph, curling his perfumed moustaches, and looking at the
little autograph, which gave us evidence of what he often
boasted--Geraldine Vane's regard.

"Let me look at your note," said Fairlie, stretching out his hand.

He soon returned it, with a brief, "Very complimentary indeed!"

When the men left, I chanced to be last, having mislaid my cigar-case.
As I looked about for it, Fairlie addressed me in the same brief, stern
tone between his teeth with which he spoke to Belle.

"Hardinge, you made this absurd bet with Courtenay, did you not? Is this
note a hoax upon him?"

"Not that I know of--it doesn't look like it. You see there is the Vane
crest, and the girl's own initials."

"Very true." He turned round to the window again, and leaned against it,
looking out into the dawn, with a look upon his face that I was very
sorry to see.

"But it is not like Geraldine," I began. "It may be a trick. Somebody
may have stolen their paper and crest--it's possible. I tell you what
I'll do to find out; I'll follow Belle to-morrow, and see who does meet
him in Fern Wood."

"Do," said Fairlie, eagerly. Then he checked himself, and went on
tapping an impatient tattoo on the shutter. "You see, I have known the
family for years--known her when she was a little child. I should be
sorry to think that one of them could be capable of such----"

Despite his self-command he could not finish his sentence. Geraldine was
a great deal too dear to him to be treated in seeming carelessness, or
spoken lightly of, however unwisely she might act. I found my
cigar-case. His laconic "Good night!" told me he would rather be alone,
so I closed the door and left him.

The morning was as sultry and as clear as a July day could be when Belle
lounged down the street, looking the perfection of a gentleman, a trifle
less bored and _blasé_ than ordinary, _en route_ to his appointment at
Fern Wood (a sequestered part of the Vane estate), where trees and
lilies of the valley grew wild, and where the girls were accustomed to
go for picnics or sketching. As soon as he had turned a corner, Gower
and I turned it too, and with perseverance worthy a better cause, Tom
and I followed Belle in and out and down the road which led to Fern
Wood--a flat, dusty, stony two miles--on which, in the blazing noon of a
hot midsummer day, nothing short of Satanic coercion, or love of
Geraldine Vane, would have induced our beauty to immolate himself, and
expose his delicate complexion.

"I bet you anything, Tom," said I, confidently, "that this is a hoax,
like yesterday's. Geraldine will no more meet Belle there than all the
Ordnance Office."

"Well, we shall see," responded Gower. "Somebody might get the
note-paper from the bookseller, and the crest seal through the servants,
but they'll hardly get Geraldine there bodily against her will."

We waited at the entrance of the wood, shrouded ourselves in the wild
hawthorn hedges, while we could still see Belle--of course we did not
mean to be near enough to overhear him--who paced up and down the green
alleys under the firs and larches, rendered doubly dark by the
evergreens, brambles, and honeysuckles,

      which, ripened by the sun,
  Forbade the sun to enter.

He paced up and down there a good ten minutes, prying about with his
eye-glass, but unable to see very far in the tangled boughs, and heavy
dusky light of the untrimmed wood. Then there was the flutter of
something azure among the branches, and Gower gave vent to a low whistle
of surprise.

"By George, Hardinge! there's Geraldine! Well! I didn't think she'd have
done it. You see they're all alike if they get the opportunity."

It _was_ Geraldine herself--it was her fluttering muslin, her abundant
folds, her waving ribbons, her tiny sailor hat, and her little veil, and
under the veil her face, with its delicate tinting, its pencilled
eyebrows, and its undulating bright-colored hair. There was no doubt
about it: it was Geraldine. I vow I was as sorry to have to tell it to
Fairlie as if I'd had to tell him she was dead, for I knew how it would
cut him to the heart to know not only that she had given herself to his
rival, but that his little playmate, whom he had thought truth, and
honesty, and daylight itself, should have stooped to a clandestine
interview arranged through an advertisement! Their retreating figures
were soon lost in the dim woodland, and Tom and I turned to retrace our
steps.

"No doubt about it now, old fellow?" quoth Gower.

"No, confound her!" swore I.

"Confound her? _Et pourquoi!_ Hasn't she a right to do what she likes?"

"Of course she has, the cursed little flirt; but she'd no earthly
business to go making such love to Fairlie. It's a rascally shame, and I
don't care if I tell her so myself."

"She'll only say you're in love with her too," was Gower's sensible
response. "I'm not surprised myself. I always said she was an
out-and-out coquette."

I met Fairlie coming out of his room as I went up to mine. He looked as
men will look when they have not been in bed all night, and have watched
the sun up with painful thoughts for their companions.

"You have been----" he began; then stopped short, unwilling or unable to
put the question into words.

"After Belle? Yes. It is no hoax, Geraldine met him herself."

I did not relish telling him, and therefore told it, in all probability,
bluntly and blunderingly--tact, like talk, having, they say, been given
to women. A spasm passed over his face. "_Herself!_" he echoed. Until
then I do not think he had realized it as even possible.

"Yes, there was no doubt about it. What a wretched little coquette she
must have been; she always seemed to make such game of Belle----"

But Fairlie, saying something about his gloves that he had left behind,
had gone back into his room again before I had half done my sentence.
When Belle came back, about half an hour afterwards, with an affected
air of triumph, and for once in his life of languid sensations really
well contented, Gower and I poured questions upon him, as, done up with
the toil of his dusty walk, and horrified to find himself so low-bred as
to be hot, he kicked off his varnished boots, imbibed Seltzer, and
fanned himself with a periodical before he could find breath to answer
us.

"Was it Geraldine?"

"Of course it was Geraldine," he said, yawning.

"And will she marry you, Belle?"

"To be sure she will. I should like to see the woman that wouldn't,"
responded Belle, shutting his eyes and nestling down among the cushions.
"And what's more, I've been fool enough to let her make me ask her. Give
me some more sherry, Phil; a man wants support under such circumstances.
The deuce if I'm not as hot as a ploughboy! It was very cruel of her to
call a fellow out with the sun at the meridian; she might as well have
chosen twilight. But, I say, you fellows, keep the secret, will you? she
don't want her family to get wind of it, because they're bothering her
to marry that old cove, Mount Trefoil, with his sixty years and his
broad acres, and wouldn't let her take anybody else if they knew it;
she's under age, you see."

"But how did she know you were L. C.?"

"Fairlie told her, and the dear little vain thing immediately thought it
was an indirect proposal to herself, and answered it; of course I didn't
undeceive her. She _raffoles_ of me--it'll be almost too much of a good
thing, I'm afraid. She's deuced prudish, too, much more than I should
have thought _she_'d have been; but I vow she'd only let me kiss her
hand, and that was gloved."

"I hate prudes," said Gower; "they've always much more devilry than the
open-hearted ones. Videlicet--here's your young lady stiff enough only
to give you her hand to kiss, and yet she'll lower herself to a
clandestine correspondence and stolen interviews--a condescension I
don't think I should admire in _my_ wife."

"Love, my dear fellow, oversteps all--what d'ye call 'em?--boundaries,"
said Belle, languidly. "What a bore! I shall never be able to wear this
coat again, it's so ingrained with dust; little puss, why didn't she
wait till it was cooler?"

"Did you fix your marriage-day?" asked Tom, rather contemptuously.

"Yes, I was very weak!" sighed Belle; "but you see she's uncommonly
pretty, and there's Mount Trefoil and lots of men, and, I fancy, that
dangerous fellow Fairlie, after her; so we hurried matters. We've been
making love to one another all these three months, you know, and fixed
it so soon as Thursday week. Of course she blushed, and sighed, and put
her handkerchief to her eyes, and all the rest of it, _en règle_; but
she consented, and I'm to be sacrificed. But not a word about it, my
dear fellows! The Vanes are to be kept in profoundest darkness, and, to
lull suspicion, I'm not to go there scarcely at all until then, and when
I do, she'll let me know when she will be out, and I'm to call on her
mother then. She'll write to me, and put the letters in a hollow tree in
the wood, where I'm to leave my answers, or, rather, send 'em; catch me
going over that road again! Don't give me joy, old boys. I know I'm
making a holocaust of myself, but deuce take me if I can help it--she is
so deuced pretty!"

Fairlie was not at mess that night. Nobody knew where he was. I learnt,
long months afterwards, that as soon as I had told him of Geraldine's
identity, he, still thirsting to disbelieve, reluctant to condemn,
catching at straws to save his idol from being shattered as men in love
will do, had thrown himself across his horse and torn off to Fern Dell
to see whether or no Geraldine was at home.

His heart beat faster and thicker as he entered the drawing-room than it
had done before the lines at Ferozeshah, or in the giant semicircle at
Sobraon; it stood still as in the far end of the room, lying back on a
low chair, sat Geraldine, her gloves and sailor hat lying on her lap.
She sprang up to welcome him with her old gay smile.

"Good God! that a child like that can be such an accomplished actress!"
thought Fairlie, as he just touched her hand.

"Have you been out to-day?" he asked suddenly.

"You see I have."

"Prevarication is conviction," thought Fairlie, with a deadly chill over
him.

"Where did you go, love?" asked mamma.

"To see Adela Ferrers; she is not well, you know, and I came home
through part of the wood to gather some of the anemones; I don't mean
anemones, they are over--lilies of the valley."

She spoke hurriedly, glancing at Fairlie all the time, who never took
his iron gaze off her, though all the beauty and glory was draining away
from his life with every succeeding proof that stared him in the face
with its cruel evidence.

At that minute Lady Vane was called from the room to give some
directions to her head gardener about some flowers, over which she was
particularly choice, and Fairlie and Geraldine were left in dead
silence, with only the ticking of the timepiece and the chirrup of the
birds outside the open windows to break its heavy monotony.

Fairlie bent over a spaniel, rolling the dog backwards and forwards on
the rug.

Geraldine stood on the rug, her head on one side in her old pretty
attitude of plaintiveness and defiance, the bright sunshine falling
round her and playing on her gay dress and fair hair--a tableau lost
upon the Colonel, who though he had risen too, was playing sedulously
with the dog.

"Colonel Fairlie, what is the matter with you? How unkind you are
to-day!"

Fairlie was roused at last, disgusted that so young a girl could be so
accomplished a liar and actress, sick at heart that he had been so
deceived, mad with jealousy, and that devil in him sent courtesy flying
to the winds.

"Pardon me, Miss Vane, you waste your coquetteries on me. Unhappily, I
know their value, and am not likely to be duped by them."

Geraldine's face flushed as deep a rose hue as the geraniums nodding
their heads in at the windows.

"Coquetteries?--duped? What do you mean?"

"You know well enough what. All I warn you is, never try them again on
me--never come near me any more with your innocent smiles and your lying
lips, or, by Heaven, Geraldine Vane, I may say what I think of you in
plainer words than suit the delicacy of a lady's ears!"

Geraldine's eyes flashed fire; from rose-hued as the geraniums she
changed to the dead white of the Guelder roses beside them.

"Colonel Fairlie, you are mad, I think! If you only came here to insult
me----"

"I had better leave? I agree with you. Good morning."

Wherewith Fairlie took his hat and whip, bowed himself out, and,
throwing himself across his horse, tore away many miles beyond Norwich,
I should say, and rode into the stable-yard at twelve o'clock that
night, his horse with every hair wringing and limb trembling at the
headlong pace he had been ridden; such a midnight gallop as only
Mazeppa, or a Border rider, or Turpin racing for his life, or a man
vainly seeking to leave behind him some pursuing ghost of memory or
passion, ever took before.

We saw little of him for the next few days. Luckily for him, he was
employed to purchase several strings of Suffolk horses for the corps,
and he rode about the country a good deal, and went over to Newmarket,
and to the Bury horse fair, inspecting the cattle, glad, I dare say, of
an excuse to get away.

"I feel nervous, terribly nervous; do give me the Seltzer and hock, Tom.
They wonder at the fellows asking for beer before their execution. I
don't; and if a fellow wants it to keep his spirits up before he's
hanged, he may surely want it before he's married, for one's a swing and
a crash, and it's all over and done most likely before you've time to
know anything about it; but the other you walk into so deliberately,
superintend the sacrifice of yourself, as it were, like that old cove
Seneca; feel yourself rolling down-hill like Regulus, with all the
horrid nails of the 'domesticities' pricking you in every corner; see
life ebbing away from you; all the sunshine of life, as poets have it,
fading, sweetly but surely, from your grasp, and Death, _alias_ the
Matrimonial Black Cap, coming down ruthlessly on your devoted heads. I
feel low--shockingly low. Pass me the Seltzer, Tom, do!"

So spake Geraldine's _sposo_ that was to be, on the evening before his
marriage-day, lying on his sofa in his Cashmere dressing-gown, his gold
embroidered slippers, and his velvet smoking-cap, puffing largely at his
meerschaum, and unbosoming his private sentiments and emotions to the
(on this score) sufficiently sympathetic listeners, Gower and I.

"I don't pity you!" said Tom, contemptuously, who had as much disdain
for a man who married as for one who bought gooseberry for champagne, or
Cape for comet hock, and did not know the difference--"I don't pity you
one bit. You've put the curb on yourself; you can't complain if you get
driven where you don't like."

"But, my dear fellow, _can_ one help it?" expostulated Belle,
pathetically. "When a little winning, bewitching, attractive little
animal like that takes you in hand, and traps you as you catch a pony,
holding out a sieve of oats, and coaxing you, and so-ho-ing you till
she's fairly got the bridle over your head, and the bit between your
teeth, what is a man to do?"

"Remember that as soon as the bit is in your mouth, she'll never trouble
herself to give you any oats, or so-ho you softly any more, but will
take the whip hand of you, and not let you have the faintest phantom of
a will of your own ever again," growled the misogamistic Tom.

"Catch a man's remembering while it's any use," was Belle's very true
rejoinder. "After he's put his hand to a little bill, he'll remember
it's a very green thing to do, but he don't often remember it before, I
fancy. No, in things like this, one can't help one's self; one's time is
come, and one goes down before fate. If anybody had told me that I
should go as spooney about any woman as I have about that little girl
Geraldine, I'd have given 'em the lie direct; I would, indeed! But then
she made such desperate love to me, took such a deuced fancy to me, you
see: else, after all, the women _I_ might have chosen----By George! I
wonder what Lady Con, and the little Bosanquet, and poor Honoria, and
all the rest of 'em will say?"

"What?" said Gower; "say 'Poor dear fellow!' to you, and 'Poor girl, I
pity her!' to your wife. So you're going to elope with Miss Geraldine? A
man's generally too ready to marry his daughters, to force a fellow to
carry them off by stealth. Besides, as Bulwer says somewhere,
'_Gentlemen_ don't run away with the daughters of gentlemen.'"

"Pooh, nonsense! all's fair in love or war," returned Belle, going into
the hock and Seltzer to keep up his spirits. "You see, she's afraid, her
governor's mind being so set on old Mount Trefoil and his baron's
coronet; they might offer some opposition, put it off till she was
one-and-twenty, you know--and she's so distractedly fond of me, poor
little thing, that she'd die under the probation, probably--and I'm sure
I couldn't keep faithful to her for two mortal years. Besides, there's
something amusing in eloping; the excitement of it keeps up one's
spirits; whereas, if I were marched to church with so many mourners--I
mean groomsmen--I should feel I was rehearsing my own obsequies like
Charles V., and should funk it, ten to one I should. No! I like eloping:
it gives the certain flavor of forbidden fruit, which many things,
besides pure water, want to 'give them a relish.'"

"Let's see how's the thing to be managed?" asked Gower. "Beyond telling
me I was to go with you, consigned ignominiously to the rumble, to
witness the ceremony, I'm not very clear as to the programme."

"Why, as soon as it's dawn," responded Belle, with leisurely whiffs of
his meerschaum, "I'm to take the carriage up to the gate at Fern
Wood--this is what she tells me in her last note; she was coming to meet
me, but just as she was dressed her mother took her to call on some
people, and she had to resort to the old hollow tree. The deuce is in
it, I think, to prevent our meeting; if it weren't for the letters and
her maid, we should have been horribly put to it for communication;--I'm
to take the carriage, as I say, and drive up there, where she and her
maid will be waiting. We drive away, of course, catch the 8.15 train,
and cut off to town, and get married at the Regeneration, Piccadilly,
where a fellow I know very well will act the priestly Calcraft. The
thing that bothers me most of all is getting up so early. I used to hate
it so awfully when I was a young one at the college. I like to have my
bath, and my coffee, and my paper leisurely, and saunter through my
dressing, and get up when the day's _warmed_ for me. Early parade's one
of the crying cruelties of the service; I always turn in again after it,
and regard it as a hideous nightmare. I vow I couldn't give a greater
test of my devotion than by getting up at six o'clock to go after
her--deuced horrible exertion! I'm quite certain that my linen won't be
aired, nor my coffee fit to drink, nor Perkins with his eyes half open,
nor a quarter of his wits about him. Six o'clock! By George! nothing
should get me up at that unearthly hour except my dear, divine,
delicious little demon Geraldine! But she's so deuced fond of me, one
must make sacrifices for such a little darling."

With which sublimely unselfish and heroic sentiment the bridegroom-elect
drank the last of his hock and Seltzer, took his pipe out of his lips,
flung his smoking-cap lazily on to his Skye's head, who did not relish
the attention, and rose languidly to get into his undress in time for
mess.

As Belle had to get up so frightfully early in the morning, he did not
think it worth while to go to bed at all, but asked us all to
vingt-et-un in his room, where, with the rattle of half-sovereigns and
the flow of rum-punch, kept up his courage before the impending doom of
matrimony. Belle was really in love with Geraldine, but in love in his
own particular way, and consoled himself for his destiny and her absence
by what I dare say seems to mademoiselle, fresh from her perusal of
"Aurora Leigh" or "Lucille," very material comforters indeed. But, if
truth were told, I am afraid mademoiselle would find, save that from one
or two fellows here and there, who go in for love as they go in for
pig-sticking or tiger-hunting, with all their might and main, wagering
even their lives in the sport, the Auroras and Lucilles are very apt to
have their charms supplanted by the points of a favorite, their absence
made endurable by the aroma of Turkish tobacco, and their last fond
admonishing words, spoken with such persuasive caresses under the
moonlight and the limes, against those "horrid cards, love," forgotten
that very night under the glare of gas, while the hands that lately held
their own so tenderly, clasp wellnigh with as much affection the
unprecedented luck "two honors and five trumps!"

  Man's love is of man's life a thing apart.

Byron was right; and if we go no deeper, how can it well be otherwise,
when we have our stud, our pipe, our Pytchley, our Newmarket, our club,
our coulisses, our Mabille, and our Epsom, and they--oh, Heaven help
them!--have no distraction but a needle or a novel! The Fates forbid
that our _agrémens_ should be _less_, but I dare say, if they had a vote
in it, they'd try to get a trifle _more_. So Belle put his "love apart,"
to keep (or to rust, whichever you please) till six A. M. that morning,
when, having by dint of extreme physical exertion got himself dressed,
saw his valet pack his things with the keenest anxiety relative to the
immaculate folding of his coats and the safe repose of his shirts, and
at last was ready to go and fetch the bride his line in the _Daily_ had
procured him.

As Belle went down the stairs with Gower, who should come too, with his
gun in his hand, his cap over his eyes, and a pointer following close at
his heels, but Fairlie, going out to shoot over a friend's manor.

Of course he knew that Belle had asked for and obtained leave for a
couple of months, but he had never heard for what purpose; and possibly,
as he saw him at such an unusual hour, going out, not in his usual
travelling guise of a wide-awake and a Maude, but with a delicate
lavender tie and a toilet of the most unexceptionable art, the purport
of his journey flashed fully on his mind, for his face grew as fixed and
unreadable as if he had had on the iron mask. Belle, guessing as he did
that Fairlie would not have disliked to have been in his place that
morning, was too kind-hearted and infinitely too much of a gentleman to
hint at his own triumph. He laughed, and nodded a good morning.

"Off early, you see, Fairlie; going to make the most of my leave.
'Tisn't very often we can get one; our corps is deuced stiff and strict
compared to the Guards and the Cavalry."

"At least our strictness keeps us from such disgraceful scenes as some
of the other regiments have shown up of late," answered Fairlie between
his teeth.

"Ah! well, perhaps so; still, strictness ain't pleasant, you know, when
one's the victim."

"Certainly not."

"And, therefore, we should never be hard upon others."

"I perfectly agree with you."

"There's a good fellow. Well, I must be off; I've no time for
philosophizing. Good-bye, Colonel."

"Good-bye--a safe journey."

But I noticed that he held the dog's collar in one hand and the gun in
the other, so as to have an excuse for not offering that _poignée de
main_ which ought to be as sure a type of friendship, and as safe a
guarantee for good faith, as the Bedouin Arab's salt.

Belle nodded him a farewell, and lounged down the steps and into the
carriage, just as Fairlie's man brought his mare round.

Fairlie turned on to me with unusual fierceness, for generally he was
very calm, and gentle, and impassive in manner.

"Where is he gone?"

I could not help but tell him, reluctant though I was, for I guessed
pretty well what it would cost him to hear it. He did not say one word
while I told him, but bent over Marquis, drawing the dog's leash
tighter, so that I might not see his face, and without a sign or a reply
he was out of the barracks, across his mare's back, and rushing away at
a mad gallop, as if he would leave thought, and memory, and the curse of
love for a worthless woman behind him for ever.

His man stood looking at the gun Fairlie had thrown to him with a
puzzled expression.

"Is the Colonel gone mad?" I heard him say to himself. "The devil's in
it, I think. He used to treat his things a little carefuller than this.
As I live, he's been and gone and broke the trigger?"

The devil wasn't in it, but a woman _was_, an individual that causes as
much mischief as any Asmodeus, Belphégor, or Mephistopheles. Some fair
unknown correspondents assured me the other day, in a letter, that my
satire on women was "a monstrous libel." All I can say is, that if it
_be_ a libel, it is like many a one for which one pays the highest, and
which sounds the blackest--a libel that is _true_!

While his rival rode away as recklessly as though he was riding for his
life, the gallant bridegroom--as the _Court Circular_ would have
it--rolled on his way to Fern Wood, while Gower, very amiably occupying
the rumble, smoked, and bore his position philosophically, comforted by
the recollection that Geraldine's French maid was an uncommonly
good-looking, coquettish little person.

They rolled on, and speedily the postilion pulled up, according to
order, before the white five-bar gate, its paint blistering in the hot
summer dawn, and the great fern-leaves and long grass clinging up round
its posts, still damp with the six o'clock dew. Five minutes passed--ten
minutes--a quarter of an hour. Poor Belle got impatient. Twenty
minutes--five-and-twenty--thirty. Belle couldn't stand it. He began to
pace up and down the turf, soiling his boots frightfully with the long
wet grass, and rejecting all Tom's offers of consolation and a
cigar-case.

"Confound it!" cried poor Belle, piteously, "I thought women were always
ready to marry. I know, when I went to turn off Lacquers of the Rifles
at St. George's, his bride had been waiting for him half an hour, and
was in an awful state of mind, and all the other brides as well, for you
know they always marry first the girl that gets there first, and all the
other poor wretches were kept on tenter-hooks too. Lacquers had lost the
ring, and found it in his waistcoat after all! I say, Tom, devil take
it, where can she be? It's forty minutes, as I live. We shall lose the
train, you know. She's never prevented coming, surely. I think she'd let
me hear, don't you? She could send Justine to me if she couldn't come by
any wretched chance. Good Heavens, Tom, what shall I do?"

"Wait, and don't worry," was Tom's laconic and common-sense advice;
about the most irritating probably to a lover's feelings that could
pretty well be imagined. Belle swore at him in stronger terms than he
generally exerted himself to use, but was pulled up in the middle of
them by the sight of Geraldine and Justine, followed by a boy bearing
his bride's dainty trunks.

On came Geraldine in a travelling-dress; Justine following after her,
with a brilliant smile, that showed all her white teeth, at "Monsieur
Torm," for whom she had a very tender friendship, consolidated by
certain half-sovereigns and French phrases whispered by Gower after his
dinners at Fern Chase.

Belle met Geraldine with all that tender _empressement_ which he knew
well how to put into his slightest actions; but the young lady seemed
already almost to have begun repenting her hasty step. She hung her head
down, she held a handkerchief to her bright eyes, and to Belle's
tenderest and most ecstatic whispers she only answered by a convulsive
pressure of the arm, into which he had drawn her left hand, and a
half-smothered sob from her heart's depths.

Belle thought it all natural enough under the circumstances. He knew
women always made a point of impressing upon you that they are making a
frightful sacrifice for your good when they condescend to accept you,
and he whispered what tender consolation occurred to him as best fitted
for the occasion, thanked her, of course, for all the rapture, &c. &c.,
assured her of his life-long devotion--you know the style--and lifted
her into the carriage, Geraldine only responding with broken sighs and
stifled sobs.

The boxes were soon beside Belle's valises, Justine soon beside Gower,
the postilion cracked his whip over his outsider, Perkins refolded his
arms, and the carriage rolled down the lane.

Gower was very well contented with his seat in the rumble. Justine was a
very dainty little Frenchwoman, with the smoothest hair and the whitest
teeth in the world, and she and "Monsieur Torm" were eminently good
friends, as I have told you, though to-day she was very coquettish and
wilful, and laughed _à propos de bottes_ at Gower, say what Chaumière
compliments he might.

"Ma chère et charmante petite," expostulated Tom, "tes moues mutines
sont ravissantes, mais je t'avoue que je préfère tes----"

"Tais-toi, bécasse!" cried Justine, giving him a blow with her parasol,
and going off into what she would have called _éclats de rire_.

"Mais écoute-moi, Justine," whispered Tom, piqued by her perversity; "je
raffole de toi! je t'adore, sur ma parole! je----Hallo! what the devil's
the matter? Good gracious! Deuce take it!"

Well might Tom call on his Satanic Majesty to explain what met his eyes
as he gave vent to all three ejaculations and maledictions. No less a
sight than the carriage-door flying violently open, Belle descending
with a violent impetus, his face crimson, and his hat in his hand,
clearing the hedge at a bound, plunging up to his ankles in mud on the
other side of it, and starting across country at the top of his speed,
rushing frantically straight over the heavy grass-land as if he had just
escaped from Hanwell, and the whole hue and cry of keepers and policemen
was let loose at his heels.

"Good Heavens! By Jove! Belle, Belle, I say, stop! Are you mad? What's
happened? What's the row? I say--the devil!"

But to his coherent but very natural exclamations poor Tom received no
answer. Justine was screaming with laughter, the postilion was staring,
Perkins swearing, Belle, flying across the country at express speed,
rapidly diminishing into a small black dot in the green landscape, while
from inside the carriage, from Geraldine, from the deserted bride, peals
of laughter, loud, long, and uproarious, rang out in the summer
stillness of the early morning.

"By Jupiter! but this is most extraordinary. The deuce is in it. Are
they both gone stark staring mad?" asked Tom of his Cuba, or the
blackbirds, or the hedge-cutter afar off, or anything or anybody that
might turn out so amiable as to solve his problem for him.

No reply being given him, however, Tom could stand it no longer. Down he
sprang, jerked the door open again, and put his head into the carriage.

"Hallo, old boy, done green, eh? Pity 'tisn't the 1st of April!" cried
Geraldine, with renewed screams of mirth from the interior.

"Eh? What? What did you say, Miss Vane?" ejaculated Gower, fairly
staggered by this extraordinary answer of a young girl, a lady, and a
forsaken bride.

"What did I say, my dear fellow? Why, that you're done most preciously,
and that I fancy it'll be a deuced long time before your delectable
friend tries his hand at matrimony again, that's all. Done! oh, by
George, he is done, and no mistake. Look at me, sir, ain't I a charming
bride?"

With which elegant language Geraldine took off her hat, pulled down some
false braids, pushed her hair off her forehead, shook her head like a
water-dog after a bath, and grinned in Gower's astonished eyes--_not_
Geraldine, but her twin-brother, Pretty Face!

"Do you know me now, old boy?" asked the Etonian, with demoniacal
delight,--"do you know me now? Haven't I chiselled him--haven't I
tricked him--haven't I done him as green as young gooseberries, and as
brown as that bag? Do you fancy he'll boast of his conquests again, or
advertise for another wife? So you didn't know how I got Gary Clements,
of the Ten Bells, to write the letters for me? and Justine to dress me
in Geraldine's things? You know they always did say they couldn't tell
her from me; I've proved it now, eh?--rather! Oh, by George, I never had
a better luck! and not a creature guesses it, not a soul, save Justine,
Nell, and I! By Jupiter, Gower, if you'd heard that unlucky Belle go on
swearing devotion interminable, and enough love to stock all Mudie's
novels! But I never dare let him kiss me, though my beard is down,
confound it! Oh! what jolly fun it's been, Gower, no words can tell. I
always said he shouldn't marry her; he'll hardly try to do it now, I
fancy! What a lark it's been! I couldn't have done it, you know, without
that spicy little French girl;--she did my hair, and got up my
crinoline, and stole Geraldine's dress, and tricked me up altogether,
and carried my notes to the hollow oak, and took all my messages to
Belle. Oh, Jupiter! what fun it's been! If Belle isn't gone clean out of
his senses, it's very odd to me. When he was going to kiss me, and
whispered, 'My dearest, my darling, my wife!' I just took off my hat and
grinned in his face, and said, 'Ain't this a glorious go? Oh! by
George, Gower, I think the fun will kill me!'"

And the wicked little dog of an Etonian sank back among the carriage
cushions stifled with his laughter. Gower staggered backwards against a
roadside tree, and stood there with his lips parted and his eyes wide
open, bewildered, more than that cool hand had ever been in all his
days, by the extraordinary finish of poor Belle's luckless wooing; the
postilion rolled off his saddle in cachinnatory fits at the little
monkey's narrative! Perkins, like a soldier as he was, utterly impassive
to all surrounding circumstances, shouldered a valise and dashed at
quick march after his luckless master; Justine clapped her plump
French-gloved fingers with a million ma Fois! and mon Dieus! and O
Ciels! and far away in the gray distance sped the retreating figure of
poor Belle, with the license in one pocket and the wedding-ring in the
other, flying, as if his life depended on it, from the shame, and the
misery, and the horror of that awful sell, drawn on his luckless head by
that ill-fated line in the _Daily_.

While Belle drove to his hapless wooing, Fairlie galloped on and on.
Where he went he neither knew nor cared. He had ridden heedlessly along,
and the Grey, left to her own devices, had taken the road to which her
head for the last four months had been so often turned--the road leading
to Fern Chase,--and about a mile from the Vane estate lost her left
hind-shoe, and came to a dead stop of her own accord, after having been
ridden for a couple of hours as hard as if she had been at the Grand
Military. Fairlie threw himself off the saddle, and, leaving the bridle
loose on the mare's neck, who he knew would not stray a foot away from
him, he flung himself on the grass, under the cool morning shadows of
the roadside trees, no sound in the quiet country round him breaking in
on his weary thoughts, till the musical ring of a pony's hoofs came
pattering down the lane. He never heard it, however, nor looked up,
till the quick trot slackened and then stopped beside him.

"Colonel Fairlie!"

"Good Heavens! Geraldine!"

"Well," she said, with tears in her eyes and petulant anger in her
voice, "so you have never had the grace to come and apologize for
insulting me as you did last week?"

"For mercy's sake do not trifle with me."

"Trifle! No, indeed!" interrupted the young lady. "Your behavior was no
trifle, and it will be a very long time before I forgive it, if ever I
do."

"Stay--wait a moment."

"How can you ask me, when, five days ago, you bid me never come near you
with my cursed coquetries again?" asked Geraldine, trying, and vainly,
to get the bridle out of his grasp.

"God forgive me! I did not know what I said. What I had heard was enough
to madden a colder man than I. Is it untrue?"

"Is what untrue?"

"You know well enough. Answer me, is it true or not?"

"How can I tell what you mean? You talk in enigmas. Let me go."

"I will never let you go till you have answered me."

"How can I answer you if I don't know what you mean?" retorted
Geraldine, half laughing.

"Do not jest. Tell me, yes or no, are you going to marry that cursed
fool?"

"What 'cursed fool'? Your language is not elegant, Colonel Fairlie!"
said Geraldine, with demure mischief.

"Belle! Would you have met him? Did you intend to elope with him?"

Geraldine's eyes, always large enough, grew larger and a darker blue
still, in extremest astonishment.

"Belle!--elope with him? What are you dreaming? Are you mad?"

"Almost," said Fairlie, recklessly. "Have you misled him, then--tricked
him? Do you care nothing for him? Answer me, for Heaven's sake,
Geraldine!"

"I know nothing of what you are talking!" said Geraldine, with her
surprised eyes wide open still. "Oblige me by leaving my pony's head. I
shall be too late home."

"You never answered his advertisement, then?"

"The very question insults me! Let my pony go."

"You never met him in Fern Wood--never engaged yourself to him--never
corresponded with him?"

"Colonel Fairlie, you have no earthly right to put such questions to
me," interrupted Geraldine, with her hot geranium color in her cheeks
and her eyes flashing fire. "I honor the report, whoever circulated it,
far more than it deserves, by condescending to contradict it. Have the
kindness to unhand my pony, and allow me to continue my ride."

"You shall _not_ go," said Fairlie, as passionately as she, "till you
have answered me one more question: Can you, will you ever forgive me?"

"No," said Geraldine, with an impatient shake of her head, but a smile
nevertheless under the shadow of her hat.

"Not if you know it was jealousy of him which maddened me, love for you
which made me speak such unpardonable words to you?--not if I tell you
how perfect was the tale I was told, so that there was no link wanting,
no room for doubt or hope?--not if I tell you what tortures I had
endured in losing you--what bitter punishment I have already borne in
crediting the report that you were secretly engaged to my rival--would
you not forgive me then?"

"No," whispered the young lady perversely, but smiling still, the
geraniums brighter in her cheeks, and her eyes fixed on the bridle.

Fairlie dropped the reins, let go her hand, and left her free to ride,
if she would, away from him.

"Will you leave me, Geraldine? Not for this morning only, remember, nor
for to-day, nor for this year, but--for ever?"

"No!" It was a very different "No" this time.

"Will you forgive me, then, my darling?"

Her fingers clasped his hand closely, and Geraldine looked at him from
under her hat; her eyes, so like an April day, with their tears, and
their tender and mischievous smile, were so irresistibly provocative
that Fairlie took his pardon for granted, and thanked her in the way
that seemed to him at once most eloquent and most satisfactory.

If you wish to know what became of Belle, he fled across the country to
the railway station, and spent his leave Heaven knows where--in
sackcloth and ashes, I suppose--meditating on his frightful sell. _We_
saw nothing more of him; he could hardly show in Norwich again with all
his laurels tumbled in the dust, and his trophies of conquest
laughing-stocks for all the troop. He exchanged into the Z Battery going
out to India, and I never saw or heard of him till a year or two ago,
when he landed at Portsmouth, a much wiser and pleasanter man. The
lesson, joined to the late campaign under Sir Colin, had done him a vast
amount of good; he had lost his conceit, his vanity, his affectation,
and was what Nature meant him to be--a sensible, good-hearted fellow. As
luck would have it, Pretty Face, who had joined the Eleventh, was there
too, and Fairlie and his wife as well, and Belle had the good sense to
laugh it over with them, assuring Geraldine, however, that no one had
eclipsed the G. V. whom he had once hoped had answered his memorable
advertisement. He has grown wiser, and makes a jest of it now; it may be
a sore point still, I cannot say--nobody sees it; but, whether or no, in
the old city of Norwich, and in our corps, from Cadets to Colonels,
nobody forgets THE LINE IN THE "DAILY:" WHO DID IT, AND WHO WAS DONE BY
IT.



HOLLY WREATHS AND ROSE CHAINS.



HOLLY WREATHS AND ROSE CHAINS.


I.

THE COLONEL OF THE "WHITE FAVORS" AND CECIL ST. AUBYN.

"What are you going to do with yourself this Christmas, old fellow?"
said Vivian, of the 60th Hussars: the White Favors we call them,
because, after Edgehill, Henriette Maria gave their Colonel a white
rosette off her own dress to hang to his sword-knot, and all the 60th
have like ribbons to this day. "If you've nothing better to do,"
continued their present Lieutenant-Colonel, "Come down with me to
Deerhurst. The governor'll be charmed to see you; my mother has always
some nice-looking girls there; and, as we keep the hounds, I can promise
you some good hunting with the Harkaway."

"I shall be delighted," said I, who, being in the ---- Lancers, had been
chained by the leg at Kensington the whole year, and, of all the woes
the most pitiable, had not been able to get leave for either the 12th or
the 1st; but while my chums were shooting among the turnips, or stalking
royals in Blackmount Forest, I had been tied to town, a solitary unit in
Pall-Mall, standing on the forsaken steps of the U. S., or pacing my
hack through the dreary desert of Hyde Park--like Macaulay's New
Zealander gazing on the ruins of London Bridge.

"Very well," continued Vivian, "come down with me next week, and you can
send your horses with Steevens and my stud. The governor could mount you
well enough, but I never hunt with so much pleasure as when I'm on Qui
Vive; so I dare say you, like me, prefer your own horses. I only hope we
shan't have a confounded 'black frost;' but we must take our chance of
the weather. I think you'll like my sisters; they're just about half my
age. Lots of children came in between, but were providentially nipped in
the bud."

"Are they pretty?"

"Can't say, really; I'm too used to them to judge. I can't make love to
them, so I never took the trouble to criticise them; but we've always
been a good-looking race, I believe. I tell you who's staying
there--that girl we met in Toronto. Do you remember her--Cecil St.
Aubyn?"

"I should say I did. How did she get here?"

"She's come to live with her aunt, Mrs. Coverdale. You know that
over-dressed widow who lives in Hyde Park gardens, and, when she can't
afford Brighton, shuts the front shutters, lives in the back
drawing-room, and says, 'Not at home to callers?' St. Aubyn is as poor
as a rat, so I suppose he was glad to send Cecil here; and the Coverdale
likes to have somebody who'll draw men to her parties, which I'm sure
her champagne will never do. It's the most unblushing gooseberry ever
ticketed 'Veuve Clicquot.'"

"'Pon my life, I'm delighted to hear it," said I. "The St. Aubyn's
superb eyes will make the gooseberry go down. Men in Canada would have
swallowed cask-washings to get a single waltz with her. All Toronto
went mad on that score. You admired her, too, old fellow, only you
weren't with her long enough for such a stoic as you are to boil up into
anything warmer."

"Oh yes, I thought her extremely pretty, but I thought her a little
flirt, nevertheless."

"Stuff! An attractive girl can't make herself ugly or disagreeable, or
erect a brick wall round herself, with iron spikes on the top, for fear,
through looking at her, any fellow might come to grief. The men followed
her, and she couldn't help that."

"And she encouraged them, and she _could_ help that. However, I don't
wish to speak against her; it's nothing to me how she kills and slays,
provided I'm not among the bag. Take care you don't get shot yourself,
Ned."

"Keep your counsel for your own use, Syd. You put me in mind of the
philanthropist, who ran to warn his neighbor of the dangers of soot
while his own chimney was on fire."

"As how? I don't quite see the point of your parable," said Vivian, with
an expression of such innocent impassiveness that one would have thought
he had never seen her fair face out of her furs in her sledge, or
admired her small ankles when she was skating on the Ontario.

The winter before, a brother of mine, who was out there in the Rifles,
wrote and asked me to go and have some buffalo-hunting, and Vivian went
out with me for a couple of months. We had some very good sport in the
western woods and plains, and his elk and bison horns are still stuck up
in Vivian's rooms at Uxbridge, with many another trophy of both
hemispheres. We had sport of another kind, too, to the merry music of
the silvery sledge-bells, over the crisp snow and the gleaming ice,
while bright eyes shone on us under delicate lace veils, and little feet
peeped from under heaps of sable and bearskin, and gay voices rang out
in would-be fear when the horses shied at the shadow of themselves, or
at the moon shining on the ice. Who thinks of Canada without in fancy
hearing the ringing chimes of the gay sledge bells swinging joyous
measure into the clear sunshine or the white moonlight, in tune with
light laughter, and soft whispers, and careless hearts?

There we saw Cecil St. Aubyn, one of the prettiest girls in Toronto,
then about nineteen. My brother Harry was mad about her, so were almost
all the men in the Canada Rifles, and Engineers, and, 61st that were
quartered there; and Vivian admired her too, though in a calmer sort of
way. Perhaps if he had been with her more than a fortnight he might have
gone further. As it was, he left Toronto liking her long Canadian eyes
no more than was pleasant. It was as well so, perhaps, for it would not
have been a good match for him, St. Aubyn being a broken-down gambler,
who, having lost a princely fortune at Crocky's, and the Bads, married
at fifty a widow with a little money, and migrated to Toronto, where he
was a torment to himself and to everybody else. Vivian, meanwhile, was a
great matrimonial _coup_. Coming of a high county family, and being the
only son, of course there was priceless value set on his life, which,
equally, of course, he imperilled, after the manner of us all, in every
way he could--in charges and skirmishes, yachting, hunting, and
steeple-chasing--ever since some two-and-twenty years ago he joined as a
cornet of fifteen--a man already in muscle and ideas, pleasures and
pursuits.

At the present time he had been tranquilly engaged in the House, as he
represented the borough of Cacklebury.

He spoke seldom, but always well, and was thought a very promising
member, his speeches being in Bernal Osborne's style; but he himself
cared little about his senatorial laurels, and was fervently hoping
that there would be a row with Russia, and that we should be allowed to
go and stick Croats and make love to Bayadères, to freshen us up and
make us boys again.

Next week, the first in December, he and I drove to Paddington, put
ourselves in the express, and whisked through the snow-covered
embankments, whitened fields, and holly hedges on the line down to
Deerhurst. If the frost broke up we should have magnificent runs, and we
looked at the country with a longing eye. Ever since he was six years
old, he told me, he had gone out with the Harkaway Hack on
Christmas-eve. When the drag met us, with the four bays steaming in the
night air, and the groom warming into a smile at the sight of the
Colonel, the sleet was coming down heavily, and the wind blew as keen as
a sabre's edge. The bays dashed along at a furious gallop under Vivian's
hand, the frosty road cracked under the wheel, the leaders' breath was
white in the misty night; we soon flew through the park gate--though he
didn't forget to throw down a sovereign on the snow for the old
porteress--and up the leafless avenue, and bright and cheery the old
manor-house, with its score of windows, like so many bright eyes, looked
out upon the winter's night.

"By George! we did that four miles quick enough," said Vivian, jumping
down, and shaking the snow off his hair and mustaches. "The old place
looks cheery, doesn't it? Ah! there are the girls; they're sure to
pounce on me."

The two girls in question having warm hearts, not spoilt by the
fashionable world they live in, darted across the hall, and, regardless
of the snow, welcomed him ardently. They were proud of him, for he is a
handsome dog, with haughty, aristocratic features, and a grand air as
stately as a noble about Versailles in the polished "Age doré."

He shook himself free, and went forward to meet his mother, whom he is
very fond of; while the governor, a fine-looking, genial old fellow,
bade me welcome to Deerhurst. In the library door I caught sight of a
figure in white that I recognised as our belle of the sledge drives; she
was looking at Vivian as he bent down to his mother. As soon as she saw
me though, she disappeared, and he and I went up to our rooms to thaw,
and dress for dinner.

By the fire, talking to Blanche Vivian, stood Cecil, when we went down
to the drawing-room. She always makes me think of a Sèvres or Dresden
figure, her coloring is so delicate, and yet brilliant; and if you were
to see her Canadian eyes, her waving chestnut hair, and her
instantaneous, radiant, coquettish smiles, you would not wonder at the
Toronto men losing their heads about her.

"Why, Cecil, you never told me you knew Sydney!" cried Blanche, as
Vivian shook hands with the St. Aubyn. "Where did you meet him? how long
have you been acquainted? why did you never tell me?"

"How could I tell Colonel Vivian was your brother?" said Cecil, playing
with a little silver Cupid driving a barrowful of matches on the
mantelpiece till she tumbled all his matches into the fender.

"You might have asked. Never mind the wax-lights," said Blanche, who,
not having been long out, had a habit of saying anything that came into
her head. "When did you see him? Tell me, Sydney, if she won't."

"Oh, in Canada, dear!" interrupted Cecil, quickly. "But it was for so
short a time I should have thought Colonel Vivian would have forgotten
my face, and name, and existence."

"Nay, Miss St. Aubyn," said Vivian, smiling. "Pardon me, but I think
you must know your own power too well to think that any man who has seen
you once could hope for his own peace to forget you."

The words of course were flattering, but his quizzical smile made them
doubtful. Cecil evidently took them as satire. "At least, you've
forgotten anything we talked about at Toronto," she said, rather
impatiently, "for I remember telling you I detested compliments."

"I shouldn't have guessed it," murmured Vivian, stroking his mustaches.

"And you," Cecil went on, regardless of the interruption, "told me you
never complimented any woman you respected; so that speech just now
doesn't say much for your opinion of me."

"How dare I begin to like you?" laughed Vivian.

"Don't you know Levinge and Castlereagh were great friends of mine? Poor
fellows! the sole object of their desires now is six feet of Crimean
sod, if we're lucky enough to get out there." Cecil colored. Levinge's
and Castlereagh's hard drinking and gloomy aspect at mess were popularly
attributed to the witchery of the St. Aubyn. Canada, while she was in
it, was as fatal to the Service as the Cape or the cholera.

"If I talked so romantically, Colonel Vivian, with what superb mockery
you would curl your mustaches. Surely the Iron Hand (wasn't that your
sobriquet in Caffreland?) does not believe in broken hearts?"

"Perhaps not; but I _do_ believe in some people's liking to try and
break them."

"So do I. It is a favorite pastime with your sex," said Cecil, beating
the hearth-rug impatiently with her little satin shoe.

"I don't think we often attack," laughed Vivian. "We sometimes yield out
of amiability, and we sometimes take out the foils in self-defence,
though we are no match for those delicate hands that use their Damascus
blades so skilfully. We soon learn to cry quarter!"

"To a dozen different conquerors in as many months, then!" cried Cecil,
with a defiant toss of her head.

Vivian looked down on her as a Newfoundland might look down on a small
and impetuous-minded King Charles, who is hoping to irritate him. Just
then three other people staying there came in. A fat old dowager and a
thin daughter, who had turquoise eyes, and from whom, being a great
pianist, we all fled in mortal terror of a hailstorm of Thalberg and
Hertz, and a cousin of Syd's, Cossetting, a young chap, a blondin, with
fair curls parted down the centre, whose brains were small, hands like a
girl's, and thoughts centred on dew _bouquets_ and his own beauty, but
who, having a baronetcy, with much tin, was strongly set upon by the
turquoise eyes, but appeared himself to lean more towards the Canadian,
as a greater contrast to himself, I suppose.

"How do you do, Cos?" said Vivian, carelessly. The Iron Hand very
naturally scorned this effeminate _patte de velours_.

"You here!" lisped the baronet. "Delighted to see you! thought you'd
killed yourself over a fence, or something, before this----"

"Why, Horace," burst in energetic little Blanche, "I have told you for
the last month that he was coming down for Christmas."

"Did you, my dear child?" said Cos. "'Pon my life I forgot it. Miss St.
Aubyn, my man Cléante (he's the handiest dog--he once belonged to the
Duc d'Aumale) has just discovered something quite new--there's no
perfume like it; he calls it 'Fleurs des Tilleuls,' and the best of it
is, nobody can have it. If you'll allow me----"

"Everybody seems to make it their duty to forget Sydney," muttered
Blanche, as the Baronet murmured the rest of his speech inaudibly.

"Never mind, petite; I can bear it," laughed Vivian, leaning against the
mantelpiece with that look of quiet strength characteristic of both his
mind and body.

Cecil overheard the whisper, and flushed a quick look at him; then
turning to Cossetting, talked over the "Fleurs des Tilleuls" as if her
whole mind was absorbed in _bouquet_.

When dinner was announced, Vivian troubled himself, however, to give his
arm to Cecil, and, tossing his head back in the direction of the
turquoise eyes, said to the discomfited Horace, "You sing, don't you,
Cosset? Miss Screechington will bore you less than she would me."

"Is it, then, because I 'bore you less' that you do me the honor?" asked
Cecil, quickly.

"Yes," said Syd, calmly; "or, rather, to put it more courteously, you
amuse me more."

"Monseigneur! je vous remercie," said Cecil, her long almond eyes
sparkling dangerously. "You promote me to the same rank with an opera, a
hookah, a rat-hunt, and a French novel?"

"And," Vivian went on tranquilly, "I dare say I shall amuse _you_ better
than that poor little fool with his lisp and his talk of the toilet, and
his hands that never pulled in a thorough-bred or aided a rowing match."

"Oh, we're not in the Iliad and Odyssey days to deify physical
strength," said Cecil, who secretly adored it, as all women do; "nor yet
among the Pawnees to reverence a man according to his scalps. Though Sir
Horace may not have followed your example and jeopardised his life on
every possible occasion, he is very handsome, and can be very
agreeable."

"Is it possible you can endure that fop?" said Vivian, quickly.

"Certainly. Why not?"

The Colonel stroked his moustache contemptuously. "I should have fancied
you more difficile, that is all; but Cos is, as you say, good-looking,
and very well off. I wish----"

"What? That you were 'less bored?'"

"That I always wish; but I was thinking of Cos, there--milk-posset, as
little Eardley in the troop says they called him at Eton--I was wishing
he could see Levinge and Castlereagh, just as _épouvantails_, to make
him turn and flee as the French noblesse did when they saw their cousins
and brothers strung up à la lanterne."

"Wasn't it very strange," Blanche was saying to me at the same time,
"that Cecil never mentioned Sydney? I've so often spoken of him, told
her his troop, and all about him. (He has always been so kind to me,
though he is eighteen years older--just twice my age.) Besides, I found
her one day looking at his picture in the gallery, so she must have
known it was the same Colonel Vivian, mustn't she Captain Thornton?"

"I should say so. Have you known her long?"

"No. We met her at Brighton this August with that silly woman, Mrs.
Coverdale. All her artifices and falsehoods annoy Cecil so; Cecil
doesn't mind saying she's not rich, she knows it's no crime."

"C'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute," said I.

"Don't talk in that way," laughed Blanche. "That's bitter and sarcastic,
like Sydney in his grand moods, when I'm half afraid of him. I am sure
Cecil couldn't be nicer, if she were ever such an heiress. Mamma asked
her for Christmas because she once knew Mr. St. Aubyn well, and Cecil is
not happy with Mrs. Coverdale. False and true don't suit each other. I
hope Sydney will like her--do you think he does?"

That was a question I could not answer. He admired her, of course,
because he could not well have helped it, and had done so in Canada; and
he was talking to her now, I dare say, to force her to acknowledge that
he _was_ more amusing than Horace Cos. But he seemed to me to weigh her
in a criticising balance, as if he expected to find her wanting--as if
it pleased him to provoke and correct her, as one pricks and curbs a
beautiful two-year old, just to see its graceful impatience at the check
and the glance of its wild eye.



II.

THE CANADIAN'S COLD BATH WARMS UP THE COLONEL.


Deerhurst was a capital house to spend a Christmas in. It was the house
of an English gentleman, with even the dens called bachelors' rooms
comfortable and luxurious to the last extent: a first-rate stud, a
capital billiard table, a good sporting country, pretty girls to amuse
one with when tired of the pink, the best Chablis and Château Margaux to
be had anywhere, and a host who would have liked a hundred people at his
dinner-table the whole year round. The snow, confound it! prevented our
taking the hounds out for the first few days; but we were not bored as
one might have expected, and our misery was the girls' delight, who were
fervently hoping that the ice might come thick enough for them to skate.
Cecil was invaluable in a country-house; her resources were as unlimited
as Houdin's inexhaustible bottle. She played in French vaudevilles and
Sheridan Knowles's comedies, acted charades, planned tableaux vivants,
sang gay wild chansons peculiar to herself, that made the Screechington
bravuras and themes more insupportable than ever; and, what was more,
managed to infuse into everybody else some of her own energy and spirit.
She made every one do as she liked; but she tyrannised over us so
charmingly that we never chafed at the bit; and to the other girls she
was so good-natured in giving them the rôles they liked, in praising,
and in aiding them, that it was difficult for feminine malice, though
its limits are boundless, to find fault with her. Vivian, though he did
not relax his criticism of her, was agreeable to her, as he had been in
Canada, and as he is always to women when he is not too lazy. He
consented to stand for Rienzi in a tableau, though he hates doing all
those things, and played in the Proverbs with such a flashing fire of
wit in answer to Cecil that we told him he beat Mathews.

"I'm inspired," he said, with a laughing bend of his head to Cecil, when
somebody complimented him.

She gave an impatient movement--she was accustomed to have such things
whispered in earnest, not in jest. She laughed, however. "Are you
inspired, then, to take _Huon's_ part? All the characters are cast but
that."

"I'm afraid I can't play well enough."

"Nonsense. You cannot think that. Say you would rather not at once."

Vivian stroked his mustaches thoughtfully. "Well, you see, it bores me
rather; and I'm not Christian enough to suffer ennui cheerfully to
please other people."

"Very well, then, I will give the part to Sir Horace," said Cecil,
looking through the window at the church spire, covered with the
confounded snow.

Vivian stroked away at his mustaches rather fiercely this time. "Cos!
he'll ruin the play. Dress him up as a lord in waiting, he'll be a
dainty lay figure, but for anything more he's not as fit as this setter!
Fancy that essenced, fair-haired young idiot taking _Huon_--his lisp
would be so effective!"

She looked up in his face with one of her mischievous, dangerous smiles,
and put up her hands in an attitude of petition. "He must have the part
if you won't. Be good, and don't spoil the play. I have set my mind on
its being perfect, and--I will have _such_ a dress as the _Countess_ if
you will only do as I tell you."

Cecil, in her soft, childlike moods, could finish any man. Of course
Vivian rehearsed "Love" with her that afternoon, a play that was to come
off on the 23rd. Cos sulked slightly at being commanded by her to dress
himself beautifully and play the _Prince of Milan_.

"To be refused by you," lisped Horace. "Oh, I dare say! No! 'pon my
life----"

"My dear Cos, you'll have plenty of fellow-sufferers," whispered Syd,
mischievously.

"Do you dare to disobey me, Sir Horace?" cried Cecil. "For shame! I
should have thought you more of a preux chevalier. If you don't order
over from Boxwood that suit of Milan armor you say one of your ancestors
wore at Flodden, and wear it on Tuesday, you shall never waltz with me
again. Now what do you say?"

"Nobody can rethitht you," murmured Cos. "You do anything with a fellow
that you chooth."

Vivian glanced down at him with superb scorn, and turned to me. "What a
confounded frost this is. The weathercock sticks at the north, and old
Ben says there's not a chance of a change till the new moon. Qui Vive
might as well have kept at Hounslow. To waste all the season like this
would make a parson swear! If I'd foreseen it I would have gone to
Paris with Lovell, as he wanted me to do."

I suppose the Colonel was piqued to find he was not the only one
persuaded into his rôle. He bent over Laura Caldecott's chair, a pretty
girl, but with nothing to say for herself, admired her embroidery, and
talked with great empressement about it, till Laura, much flattered at
such unusual attention, after lisping a good deal of nonsense, finally
promised to embroider a note-case for him, "if you'll be good and use
it, and not throw it away, as you naughty men always do the pretty
things we give you," simpered Miss Laura.

"Hearts included," said Syd, smiling. "I assure you if you give me
yours, I will prize it with Turkish jealousy."

The fair brodeuse gave a silly laugh; and Vivian, whose especial
detestation is this sort of love-making nonsense, went on flirting with
her, talking the persiflage that one whispers leaning over the back of a
phaeton after a dinner at the Castle or a day at Ascot, but never
expects to be called to remember the next morning, when one bows to the
object thereof in the Ring, and the flavor of the claret-cup and the
scent of the cigar are both fled with the moonbeams and forgotten.

Cecil gave the Colonel and his flirtation a glance, and let Cossetting
lean over the back of her chair and deliver himself of some
lackadaisical sentiment (taken second-hand out of "Isidora" or the
"Amant de la Lune," and diluted to be suitable for presentation to her),
looking up at him with her large velvet eyes, or flashing on him her
radiant smile, till Horace pulled up his little stiff collar, coaxed his
flaxen whiskers, looked at her with his half-closed light eyes--and
thought himself irresistible--and Miss Screechington broke the string of
the purse she was making, and scattered all the steel beads about the
floor in the futile hope of gaining his attention. Blanche went down on
her knees and spent twenty minutes hunting them all up; but as I helped
her I saw the turquoise eyes looked anything but grateful for our
efforts, though if Blanche had done anything for me with that ready
kindness and those soft little white hands, I should have repaid her
very warmly. But oh, these women! these women! Do they ever love one
another in their hearts? Does not Chloris always swear that Lelia's
gazelle eyes have a squint in them and Delia hint that Daphne, who is
innocent as a dove, is bad style, and horridly bold?

At last Cecil got tired of Cos's drawling platitudes, and walked up to
one of the windows. "How is the ice, will anybody tell me? I am wild to
try it, ain't you, Blanche? If we are kept waiting much longer, we will
have the carpets up and skate on the oak floors."

I told her I thought they might try it safely. "Then let us go after
luncheon, shall we?" said Cecil. "It is quite sunny now. You skate, of
course, Sir Horace?"

"Oh! to be sure--certainly," murmured Cos. "We'd a quadrille on the
Serpentine last February, Talbot, and I, and some other men--lots of
people said they never saw it better done. But it's rather cold--don't
you think so?"

"Do you expect to find ice in warm weather?" said Vivian, curtly, from
the fire, where he was standing watching the commencement of the
note-case.

"No. But I hate cold," said Horace, looking at his snowy fingers. "One
looks such a figure--blue, and wet, and shivering; the house is much the
best place in a frost."

"Poor fellow!" said Vivian, with a contemptuous twist of his mustaches.
"I fear, however fêté you may be in every other quarter, the seasons
won't change to accommodate you."

"Oh! you are a dreadful man," drawled Cos. "You don't a bit mind tanning
yourself, nor getting drenched through, nor soiling your hands----"

"Thank Heaven, no!" responded Syd. "I'm neither a school-girl, nor--a
fop."

"Would you believe it, Miss St. Aubyn?" said the baronet, appealingly.
"That man'll get up before daylight and let himself be drenched to the
skin for the chance of playing a pike; and will turn out of a
comfortable arm-chair on a winter's night just to go after poachers and
knock a couple of men over, and think it the primest fun in life. I
don't understand it myself, do you?"

"Yes," said Cecil, fervently. "I delight in a man's love for sport, for
I idolise horses, and there is nothing that can beat a canter on a fine
fresh morning over a grass country; and I believe that a man who has the
strength, and nerve, and energy to go thoroughly into fishing, or
shooting, or whatever it be, will carry the same will and warmth into
the rest of his life; and the hand that is strong in the field and firm
in righteous wrath, will be the truer in friendship and the gentler in
pity."

Cecil spoke with energetic enthusiasm. Horace stared, the Screechington
sneered, Laura gave an affected little laugh. The Colonel swung round
from his study of the fire, his face lighting up. I've seen Syd on
occasion look as soft as a woman. However, he said nothing; he only took
her in to luncheon, and was exceedingly kind to her and oblivious of
Laura Caldecott's existence throughout that meal, which, at Deerhurst,
was of unusual splendor and duration. And afterwards, when she had
arrayed herself in a hat with soft curling feathers, and looped up her
dress in some inexplicable manner that showed her dainty high heels
artistically, he took her little skates in his hand and walked down by
her side to the pond. It was some way to the pond--a good sized piece of
water, that snobs would have called the Lake, by way of dignifying their
possessions, with willows on its banks (where in summer the sentimental
Screechington would have reclined, Tennyson _à la main_), and boats and
punts beside it, among which was a tub, in which Blanche confessed to me
she had paddled herself across to the saturation of a darling blue
muslin, and the agonised feelings of her governess, only twelve months
before.

"A dreadful stiff old thing that governess was," said Blanche, looking
affectionately at the tub. "Do you know, Captain Thornton, when she went
away, and I saw her boxes actually on the carriage-top, I waltzed round
the schoolroom seven times, and burnt 'Noel et Chapsal' in the fire--I
did, indeed!"

The way, as I say, was long to the pond; and as Cecil's dainty high
heels and Syd's swinging cavalry strides kept pace over the snow
together, they had plenty of time for conversation.

"Miss Caldecott is looking for you," said Cecil, with a contemptuous
glance at the fair Laura, who, between two young dandies, was picking
her route over the snow holding her things very high indeed, and casting
back looks at the Colonel.

"Is she? It is very kind of her."

"If you feel the kindness so deeply, you had better repay it by joining
her."

Vivian laughed. "Not just now, thank you. We are close to the
kennels--hark at their bay! Would you like to come and see them?
By-the-by, how is your wolf-dog--Leatherstockings, didn't you call him?"

"Do you remember him?" said Cecil, her eyes beaming and her lips
quivering. "Dear old dog, I loved him so much, and he loved me. He was
bitten by an asp just before I left, and papa would have him shot. Good
gracious! what is the matter?--she is actually frightened at that
setter!"

The "she" of whom Cecil so disdainfully spoke was Miss Caldecott, who,
on seeing a large setter leap upon her with muddy paws and much sudden
affection, began to scream, and rushed to Vivian with a beseeching cry
of "Save me, save me!" Cecil stood and laughed, and called the setter to
her.

"Here, Don--Dash--what is your name? Come here, good dog. That poor
young lady has nerves, and you must not try them, or you will cause her
endless expenses in sal volatile and ether; But I have no such
interesting weaknesses, and you may lavish any demonstrations you please
on me!"

We all laughed as she thus talked confidentially to the setter, holding
his feathered paws against her waist; while Vivian stood by her with
admiration in his glance. Poor Laura looked foolish, and began to caress
a great bull-dog, who snapped at her. She hadn't Cecil's ways either
with dogs or men.

"What a delightful scene," whispered Cecil to the Colonel, as we left
the kennels. "You were not half so touched by it as you were expected to
be!"

Vivian laughed. "Didn't you effectually destroy all romantic effect? You
can be very mischievous to your enemies."

Cecil colored. "She is no enemy of mine; I know nothing of her, but I do
detest that mock sentimentality, that would-be fine ladyism that thinks
it looks interesting when it pleads guilty to sal volatile, and screams
at an honest dog's bark. Did you see how shocked she and Miss
Screechington looked because I let the hounds leap about me?"

"Of course; but though you have not lived very long, you must have
learned that you are too dangerous to the peace of our sex to expect
much mercy from your own."

A flush came into Cecil's cheeks _not_ brought by the wind. Her feathers
gave a little dance as she shook her head with her customary action of
annoyance.

"Ah, never compliment me, I am so tired of it."

"I wish I could believe that," said Syd, in a low tone. "Your feelings
are warm, your impulses frank and true; it were a pity to mar them by an
undue love for the flattering voices of empty-headed fools."

Tears of pleasure started into her eyes, but she would not let him see
it. She had not forgotten the Caldecott flirtation of the morning enough
to resist revenging it. She looked up with a merry laugh.

"Je m'amuse--voilà tout. There is no great harm in it."

A shadow of disappointment passed over Syd's haughty face.

"No, if you do not do it once too often. I _have_ known men--and women
too--who all their lives through have been haunted by the memory of a
slight word, a careless look, with which, unwittingly or in obstinacy,
they shut the door of their own happiness. Have you ever heard of the
Deerhurst ghost?"

"No," said Cecil, softly. "Tell it me."

"It is a short story. Do you know that picture of Muriel Vivian, the
girl with the hawk on her wrist and long hair of your color? She lived
in Charles's time, and was a great beauty at the court. There were many
who would have lived and died for her, but the one who loved her best
was her cousin Guy. The story says that she had plighted herself to him
in these very woods; at any rate, he followed her when she went to join
the court, and she kept him on, luring him with vague promises, and
flirting with Goring, and Francis Egerton, and all the other gay
gentlemen. One night his endurance broke down: he asked her whether or
no she cared for him? He begged, as a sign, for the rosebud she had in
her dress. She laughed at him, and--gave the flower to Harry Carrew, a
young fellow in Lunsford's 'Babe-eaters.' Guy said no more, and left
her. Before dawn he shot Carrew through the heart, took the rosebud from
the boy's doublet, put it in his own breast, and fell upon his sword.
They say Muriel lost her senses. I don't believe it: no coquette ever
had so much feeling; but if you ask the old servants they will tell you,
and firmly credit the story too, that hers and Guy Vivian's ghosts still
are to be seen every midnight at Christmas-eve, the day that he fought
and killed little Harry Carrew."

He laughed, but Cecil shuddered.

"What a horrible story! But do you believe that any woman ever possessed
such power over a man?"

"I believe it since I have seen it. One of my best friends is now
hopelessly insane because a woman as worthless as this dead branch
forsook him. Poor fellow! they set it down to a coup de soleil, but it
was the falsehood of Emily Rushbrooke that did it. But, for myself, I
never should lose my head for any woman. I did once when I was a boy,
but I know better now."

A wild, desperate idea came into Cecil's mind. She contrasted the
passionless calm of his face with the tender gentleness of his tone a
few moments ago, and she would have given her life to see him "lose his
head for her" as he had done for that other. How she hated her, whoever
she had been! Cecil had seen too many men not to know that Syd's cool
exterior covered a stormy heart, and in the longing to rouse up the
storm at her incantation she resolved to play a dangerous game. The
ghost story did not warn her. As Mephistopheles to Faust came Horace Cos
to aid the impulse, and Cecil turned to him with one of her radiant
smiles. She never looked prettier than in her black hat; the wind had
only blown a bright flush into her cheeks--though it had turned Laura
blue and the Screechington red--and the Colonel looked up at her as he
put her skates on with something of the look Guy might have given Muriel
Vivian flirting gaily with the roistering cavaliers.

"Now, Sir Horace, show us some of those wonderful Serpentine figures,"
cried Cecil, balancing herself with the grace of a curlew, and whirling
here, there, and everywhere at her will as easily as if she were on a
chalked ball-room floor. She hadn't skated and sledged on the Ontario
for nothing. More than one man had lost his own balance looking after
her. Cos wasn't started yet; one pair of skates were too large, another
pair too small; if he'd thought of it he'd have had his own sent over.
He stood on the brink much as Winkle, of Pickwickian memory, trembled in
Weller's grasp. Cecil looked at him with laughing eyes, a shrewd
suspicion that he had planted her adorer, and that the quadrille on the
Serpentine was an offspring of the Cossetting poetic fancy. Thrice did
the luckless baronet essay the ice, and thrice did he come to grief with
heels in the air, and his dainty apparel disordered. At last, his
Canadian sorceress took compassion upon him, and declaring she was
tired, asked him to drive her across the pond. Cos, with an air of
languid martyrdom and a heavy sigh as he glanced at his Houbigants, torn
and soiled, grasped the back of the chair, and actually contrived to
start it. Once started, away went the chair and its Phaeton after it,
whether he would or no, its occupant looking up and laughing in the
dandy's heated, disconcerted, and anxious face. All at once there was a
crash, a plunge, and a shout from Vivian, who was on the opposite bank.
The chair had broken the ice, flung Cecil out into the water with the
shock, while her charioteer, by a lucky jump backwards, had saved
himself, and stood on the brink of the chasm unharmed. Cecil's crinoline
kept her from sinking; she stretched out her little hand with a cry--it
sounded like Vivian's name as it came to my ears on the keen north
wind--but before Vivian, who came across the ice like a whirlwind, could
get to her, Cos, valorously determining to wet his wristbands, stooped
down, and, holding by the chair, which was firmly wedged in, put his arm
round her and dragged her out. Vivian came up two seconds too late.

"Are you hurt?" he said, bending towards her.

"No," said Cecil, faintly, as her head drooped unconsciously on Cos's
shoulder. She had struck her forehead on the ice, which had stunned her
slightly. The Colonel saw the chestnut hair resting against Cos's arm;
he dropped the hand he had taken, and turned to the shore.

"Bring her to the bank," he said, briefly. "I will go home and send a
carriage. Good Heavens! that that fool should have saved her!" I heard
him mutter, as he brushed past me.

He drove the carriage down himself, and under pretext of holding on the
horses, did not descend from the box while Horace wrapped rugs and
cloaks round Cecil, who, having more pluck than strength, declared she
was quite well now, but nearly fainted when Horace lifted her out, and
she was consigned by Mrs. Vivian to her bedroom for the rest of the day.

"It is astonishing how we miss Cecil," remarked Blanche, at dinner.
"Isn't it dull without her, Sydney?"

"I didn't perceive it," said the Colonel, calmly; "but I am very sorry
for the cause of her absence."

"Well, by Jove! it sounds unfeeling; but I can't say I am," murmured
Horace. "It's something to have saved such a deuced pretty girl as
that."

"Curse that puppy," muttered Syd to his champagne glass. "A fool that
isn't fit for her to look at----"

Syd's and my room, in the bachelors' wing, adjoin each other; and as our
windows both possess the convenience of balconies, we generally smoke in
them, and hold a little chat before turning in. When I stepped out into
my balcony that night, Syd was already puffing away at his pipe. Perhaps
his Cavendish was unusually good, for he did not seem greatly inclined
to talk, but leant over the balcony, looking out into the clear frosty
night, with the winter stars shining on the wide white uplands and the
leafless glittering trees.

"What's that?" said he sharply, as the notes of a cornet playing, and
playing badly, Halévy's air, "Quand de la Nuit," struck on the night
air.

"A serenade, I suppose."

"A serenade in the snow. Who is romantic idiot enough for that?" said
Vivian contemptuously, nearly pitching himself over to see where the
cornet came from. It came from under Cecil's windows, where a light was
still burning. The player looked uncommonly like Cossetting wrapped up
in a cloak with a wide-awake on, under which the moonlight showed us
some fair hair peeping.

Vivian drew back with an oath he did not mean me to hear. He laughed
scornfully. "Milk-posset, of course! There is no other fool in the
house. His passion must be miraculously deep to drag him out of his bed
into the snow to play some false notes to his lady-love. It's rather
windy, don't you think, Ned. Good night, old fellow--and, I say, don't
turn little Blanche's head with your pretty speeches. You and I are
bound not to flirt, since we're sworn never to marry; and I don't want
the child played with, though possibly (being a woman) she'd very soon
recover it."

With which sarcasm on his sister and her sex, the Colonel shut down the
window with a clang; and I remained, smoking four pipes and a half,
meditating on his last words, for I _had_ been playing with the child,
and felt (inhuman brute! the ladies will say) that I should be sorry if
she _did_ recover it.



III.

SHOWING THAT LOVE-MAKING ON HOLY GROUND DOESN'T PROSPER.


Cecil came down the next morning looking very pretty after her ducking.
Vivian asked her how she was with his general air of calm courtesy,
helped her to some cold pheasant, and applied himself to his breakfast
and some talk with a sporting man about the chances of the frost
breaking up.

Horace, who looked upon himself as a preux chevalier, had had his left
arm put in a sling on the strength of a bruise as big as a
fourpenny-piece, and appeared to consider himself entitled to Cecil's
eternal gratitude and admiration for having gone the length of wetting
his coat sleeves for her.

"Do you like music by starlight?" he whispered, with a self-conscious
smile, after a course of delicate attentions throughout breakfast.

Syd fixed his eyes on Cecil's, steadily but impassively. The color rose
into her face, and she turned to Cos with a mischievous laugh.

"Very much, if--I am not too sleepy to hear it; and it isn't a cornet
out of tune."

"How cruel!" murmured Horace, as he passed her coffee. "You shouldn't
criticise so severely when a fellow tries to please you."

"That poor dear girl really thinks I turned out into the snow last night
to give her that serenade," observed Cos, with a languid laugh, when we
were alone in the billiard-room. "Good, isn't it, the idea of _my_
troubling myself?"

"Whose cracked cornet was it, then, that made that confounded row last
night?" I asked.

Horace laughed again; it was rarely he was so highly amused at anything:
"It was Cléante's, to be sure. He don't play badly when his hands are
not numbed, poor devil! Of course he made no end of a row about going
out into the snow, but I made him do it. I knew Cecil would think it was
I. Women are so vain, poor things!"

It was lucky I alone was the repository of his confidence, for if Vivian
had chanced to have been in the billiard-room, it is highly probable he
would then and there have brained his cousin with one of the cues.

Happily he was out of the reach of temptation, in the stables, looking
after Qui Vive, who had to "bide in stall," as much to that gallant
bay's disquiet as to her owner's; for I don't know which of the two
best loves a burst over a stiff country, or a fast twenty minutes up
wind alone with the hounds when they throw up their heads.

To the stables, by an odd coincidence, Cecil, putting the irresistible
black hat on the top of her chestnut braids, prevailed on Blanche to
escort her, vowing (which was nearly, but not quite, the truth) that she
loved the sweet pets of horses better than anything on earth. Where
Cecil went, Laura made a point of going too, to keep her enemy in sight,
I suppose; though Cecil, liking a fast walk on the frosty roads, a game
of battledore and shuttlecock with Blanche (when we were out of the
house), or anything, in short, better than working with her feet on the
fender, and the Caldecott inanities or Screechington scandals in her
ear, often led Laura many an unwelcome dance, and brought that luckless
young lady to try at things which did not sit well upon her as they did
upon the St. Aubyn, who had a knack of doing, and doing charmingly, a
thousand things no other woman could have attempted. So, as Vivian and
I, and some of the other men, stood in the stable-doors, smoking, and
talking over the studs accommodated in the spacious stalls, a strong
party of four young ladies came across the yard.

"I'm come to look at Qui Vive; will you show him to me?" said Cecil,
softly. Her gentle, childlike way was the most telling of all her
changing moods, but I must do her the justice to say that it was
perfectly natural, she was no actress.

"With great pleasure," said Syd, very courteously, if not
over-cordially; and to Qui Vive's stall Cecil went, alone in her glory,
for Laura was infinitely too terrified at the sight of the bay's strong
black hind legs to risk a kick from them, even to follow Syd. Helena
Vivian stayed with her, and Blanche came with me to visit my hunters.

Cecil is a tolerable judge of a horse; she praised Qui Vive's lean head,
full eye, and silky coat with discrimination, and Qui Vive, though not
the best-tempered of thorough-breds, let her pat his smooth sides and
kiss his strong neck without any hostile demonstration.

Vivian watched her as if she were a spoilt child who bewitched him, but
whom he knew to be naughty; he could not resist the fascination of her
ways, but he never altered his calm, courteous tone to her--the tone
Cecil longed to hear change, were it even into invectives against her,
to testify some deeper interest.

"Now show me the mount you will give me when the frost breaks up and we
take out the hounds," said Cecil, with a farewell caress of Qui Vive.

"You shall have the grey four-year-old; Billiard-ball, and he will suit
you exactly, for he is as light as a bird, checks at nothing, and will
take you safe over the stiffest bullfinch. I know you may trust him, for
he has carried Blanche."

Cecil threw back her head. "Oh, I would ride anything, Qui Vive himself,
if he would bear a habit. I am not like Miss Caldecott, who, catching
sight of his dear brown legs, vanished as rapidly as if she had seen
Muriel's ghost on Christmas-eve."

The Colonel smiled. "You are very unmerciful to poor Miss Caldecott.
What has she done to offend you?"

"Offend me! Nothing in the world. Though I heard her lament with Miss
Screechington in the music-room, that I was 'so fast,' and 'such slang
style;' I consider that rather a compliment, for I never knew any lady
pull to pieces my bonnet, or my bouquet, or my hat, unless it was a
prettier one than their own. That sounds a vain speech, but I don't mean
it so."


The Colonel looked down into her velvet eyes; she was most dangerous to
him in this mood. "No," he said, briefly, "no one would accuse you of
vanity, though they might, pardon me, of love of admiration."

Cecil laughed merrily. "Yes, perhaps so; it is pleasant, you know. Yet
sometimes I am tired of it all, and I want----"

"A more difficult conquest? To find a diamond, merely, like Cleopatra,
to show your estimate of its value by throwing it away."

A flush of vexation came into her cheeks. "Do you think me utterly
heartless?" she said impetuously. "No. I mean that I often tire of the
fulsome compliments, the flattery, the attention, the whirl of society!
I do like admiration. I tell you candidly what every other woman
acknowledges to herself but denies to the world; but often it is nothing
to me--mere Dead Sea fruit. I care nothing for the voices that whisper
it; the eyes that express it wake no response in mine, and I would give
it all for one word of true interest, one glance of real----"

Vivian looked down on her steadily with his searching eagle eyes, out of
which, when he chose, nothing could be read. "If I dare believe you----"
he said, half aloud.

Gentle as his tone was, the mere doubt stung Cecil to the quick.
Something of the wild, desperate feeling of the day previous rose in her
heart. The same feeling that makes men brave heaven and hell to win
their desires worked up in her. If she had been one of us, just at that
moment, she would have flinched at nothing; being a young lady, her
hands were tied. She could only go to Cos's stalls with him (Cos knows
as much about horseflesh as I do about the profound female mystery they
call "shopping"), and flirt with him to desperation, while Horace got
the steam up faster than he, with his very languid motor powers, often
did, being accustomed to be spared the trouble and have all the love
made to him--an indolence in which the St. Aubyn, who knows how to keep
a man well up to hand, never indulged him.

"Do have some pity on me," I heard Cos murmuring, as she stroked a great
brute of his, with a head like a fiddle-case, and no action at all. "I
assure you, Miss St. Aubyn, you make me wretched. I'd die for you
to-morrow if I only saw how, and yet you take no more notice of me
sometimes than if I were that colt."

Cecil glanced at him with a smile that would have driven Cos distracted
if he'd been in for it as deep as he pretended.

"I don't see that you are much out of condition, Sir Horace, but if you
have any particular fancy to suicide, the horse-pond will accommodate
you at a moment's notice; only don't do it till after our play, because
I have set my heart on that suit of Milan armor. Pray don't look so
plaintive. If it will make you any happier, I am going for a walk, and
you may come too. Blanche, dear, which way is it to the plantations?"

Now poor Horace hated a walk on a frosty morning as cordially as
anything, being altogether averse to any natural exercise: but he was
sworn to the St. Aubyn, and Blanche and I, dropping behind them, he had
a good hour of her fascinations to himself. I do not know whether he
improved the occasion, but Cecil at luncheon looked tired and teased. I
should think, after Syd's graphic epigrammatic talk, the baronet's
lisped nonsense must have been rather trying, especially as Cecil has a
strong leaning to intellect.

Vivian didn't appear at luncheon; he was gone rabbit-shooting with the
other fellows, and I should have been with them if I had not thought
lounging in the drawing-room, reading "Clytemnestra" to Blanche, with
many pauses, the greater fun of the two. I am keen about sport, too; but
ever since, at the age of ten, I conceived a romantic passion for my
mother's lady's-maid--a tall and stately young lady, who eventually
married a retail tea-dealer--I have thought the beaux yeux the best of
all games.

"Mrs. Vivian, Blanche and Helena and I want to be very useful, if you
will let us," said Cecil, one morning. She was always soft and playful
with that gentlest of all women, Syd's mother. "What do you smile in
that incredulous way for? We _can_ be extraordinarily industrious: the
steam sewing-machine is nothing to us when we choose! What do you think
we are going to do? We are going to decorate the church for Christmas.
To leave it to that poor little old clerk, who would only stick two
holly twigs in the pulpit candlesticks, and fancy he had done a work of
high art, would be madness. And, besides, it will be such fun."

"If you think it so, pray do it, dear," laughed Mrs. Vivian. "I can't
say I should, but your tastes and mine are probably rather different.
The servants will do as you direct them."

"Oh no," said Cecil; "we mean to do it all ourselves. The gentlemen may
help us if they like--those, at least, who prefer our society to that of
smaller animals, with lop-ears and little bushy tails, who have a
fascination superior sometimes to any of our attractions." She flashed a
glance at the Colonel, who was watching her over the top of _Punch_, as,
when I was a boy, I have watched the sun, though it pained my eyes to do
it. "You're the grand seigneur of Deerhurst," said Cecil, turning to
him; "will you be good, and order cart-loads of holly and evergreens
(and plenty of the Portugal laurel, please, because it's so pretty) down
to the church; and will you come and do all the hard work for me? The
rabbits would _so_ enjoy a little peace to-day, poor things!"

He smiled in spite of himself, and did her bidding, with a flush of
pleasure on his face. I believe at that moment, to please her, he would
have cut down the best timber on the estates--even the old oaks, in
whose shadow in the midsummer of centuries before Guy Vivian and Muriel
had plighted their troth.

The way to the church was through a winding walk, between high walls of
yew, and the sanctuary itself was a find old Norman place, whose _tout
ensemble_ I admired, though I could not pick it to pieces
architecturally.

To the church we all went, of course, with more readiness than we
probably ever did in our lives, regardless of the rose chains with which
we were very likely to become entangled, while white hands weaved the
holly wreaths.

Vivian had ordered evergreens enough to decorate fifty churches, and had
sent over to the neighboring town for no end of ribbon emblazonments and
illuminated scrolls, on which Cecil looked with delight. She seemed to
know by instinct it was done for _her_, and not for his sisters.

"How kind that is of you," she said, softly. "That is like what you were
in Toronto. Why are you not always the same?"

For a moment she saw passion enough in his eye to satisfy her, but he
soon mastered it, and answered her courteously:

"I am very glad they please you. Shall we go to work at once, for fear
it grow dusk before we get through with it?"

"Can I do anything to help you?" murmured Cos in her ear.

She did not want him, and laughed mischievously. "You can cut some holly
if you like. Begin on those large boughs."

"Better not, Cos," said the Colonel. "You will certainly soil your
hands, and you might chance to scratch them."

"And if you did you would never forgive me, so I will let you off duty.
You may go back to the dormeuse and the 'Lys de la Vallée' if you wish,"
laughed Cecil.

Horace looked sulky, and curled his blond whiskers in dudgeon, while
Cecil, with half a dozen satellites about her, proceeded to work with
vigorous energy, keeping Syd, however, as her head workman; and the
Colonel twisted pillars, nailed up crosses, hung wreaths, and put up
illuminated texts, as if he had been a carpenter all his life, and his
future subsistence entirely depended on his adorning Deerhurst church in
good taste. It was amusing to me to see him, whom the highest London
society, the gayest Paris life bored--who pronounced the most dashing
opera supper and the most vigorous debates alike slow--taking the
deepest interest in decorating a little village church! I question if
Eros did not lurk under the shiny leaves and the scarlet berries of
those holly boughs quite as dangerously as ever he did under the rose
petals consecrated to him.

I had my own affairs to attend to, sitting on the pulpit stairs at
Blanche's feet, twisting the refractory evergreens at her direction; but
I kept an occasional look-out at the Colonel and his dangerous Canadian
for all that. They found time (as we did) for plenty of conversation
over the Christmas decorations, and Cecil talked softly and earnestly
for once without any "mischief." She talked of her father's
embarrassments, her mother's trials, of Mrs. Coverdale, with honest
detestation of that widow's arts and artifices, and of her own tastes,
and ideas, and feelings, showing the Colonel (what she did not show
generally to her numerous worshippers) her heart as well as her mind. As
she knelt on the altar steps, twisting green leaves round the communion
rails, Syd standing beside her, his pale bronze cheek flushed, and his
eyes never left their study of her face as she bent over her work,
looking up every minute to ask him for another branch, or another strip
of blue ribbon.

When it had grown dusk, and the church was finished, looking certainly
very pretty, with the dark leaves against its white pillars, and the
scarlet berries kissing the stained windows, Cecil went noiselessly up
into the organ-loft, and played the Christmas anthem. Vivian followed
her, and, leaning against the organ, watched her, shading his eyes with
his hand. She went on playing--first a Miserere, then Mozart's Symphony
in E, and then improvisations of her own--the sort of music that, when
one stands calmly to listen to it, makes one feel it whether one likes
or not. As she played, tears rose to her lashes, and she looked up at
Vivian's face, bending over her in the gloaming. Love was in her eyes,
and Syd knew it, but feared to trust to it. His pulses beat fast, he
leaned towards her, till his mustaches touched her soft perfumy hair.
Words hung on his lips. But the door of the organ-loft opened.

"'Pon my life, Miss St. Aubyn, that's divine, delicious!" cried Cos. "We
always thought that you were divine, but we never knew till now that you
brought the angels' harmony with you to earth. For Heaven's sake, play
that last thing again!"

"I never play what I compose twice," said Cecil, hurriedly, stooping
down for her hat.

Vivian cursed him inwardly for his untimely interruption, but cooler
thought made him doubt if he were not well saved some words, dictates of
hasty passion, that he might have lived to repent. For Guy Vivian's fate
warned him, and he mistrusted the love of a flirt, if flirt, as he
feared--from her sudden caprices to him, her alternate impatience with,
and encouragement of, his cousin--Cecil St. Aubyn would prove. He gave
her his arm down the yew-tree walk. Neither of them spoke all the way,
but he sent a servant on for another shawl, and wrapped it round her
very tenderly when it came; and when he stood in the lighted hall, I saw
by the stern, worn look of his face--the look I have seen him wear after
a hard fight--that the fiery passions in him had been having a fierce
battle.

That evening the St. Aubyn was off her fun, said she was tired, and,
disregarding the misery she caused to Cos and four other men, who,
figuratively speaking, _not_ literally, for they went into the "dry" and
comestibles fast enough, had lived on her smiles for the last month,
excused herself to Mrs. Vivian, and departed to her dormitory. Syd gave
her her candle, and held her little hand two seconds in his as he bid
her softly good night at the foot of the staircase.

I did not get much out of him in the balcony that night, and long after
I had turned in, I scented his Cavendish as he smoked, Heaven knows how
many pipes, in the chill December air. The next day, the 23rd, was the
night of our theatricals, which went off as dashingly as if Mr. Kean,
with his eternal "R-r-r-richard," had been there to superintend them.

All the country came; dowagers and beauties, with the odor of Belgravia
still strong about them: people not quite so high, who were not the
rose, but living near it, toadied that flower with much amusing and
undue worship; a detachment of Dragoons from the next town, whom the
girls wanted to draw, and the mammas to warn off--Dragoons being
ordinarily better waltzers than speculations; all the magnates, custos
rotulorum, sheriff, members, and magistrates--the two latter portions of
the constitution being chiefly remarkable for keenness about hunting and
turnips, and an unchristian and deadly enmity against all poachers and
vagrants; rectors, who tossed down the still Ai with Falstaff's keen
relish; other rectors, who came against their principles, but preferred
fashion to salvation, having daughters to marry and sons to start;
hunting men; girls who could waltz in a nutshell; dandies of St.
James's, and veterans of Pall-Mall, down for the Christmas; belles
renewing their London acquaintance, and recalling that "pleasant day at
Richmond." But, by Jove! if I describe all the different species
presented to view in that ball-room, I might use as many words as an old
whip giving you the genealogy of a killing pack in a flying county.

Suffice it, there they all were to criticise us, and pretty sharply I
dare say they did it, when they were out of our hearing, in their
respective clarences, broughams, dog-carts, drags, tilburies, and
hansoms. Before our faces, of course, they only clapped their snowy kid
gloves, and murmured "Bravissimo!" with an occasional "Go it, Jack!" and
"Get up the steam, old fellow!" from the young bloods in the background;
and a shower of bouquets at Cecil and Blanche from their especial
worshippers.

Blanche made the dearest little _Catherine_ that ever dressed herself up
in blue and silver, and when she drew her toy-rapier in the green-room,
asked me if I could not get her a cornetcy in ours. As for Cecil, she
played _à ravir_ as Cos, in his Milan armor, whispered with some
difficulty, as the steel gorget pressed his throat uncomfortably.
Vestris herself never made a more brilliant or impassioned _Countess_.
She and Syd really acquitted themselves in a style to qualify them for
London boards, and as she threw herself at his feet--

  Huon--my husband--lord--canst thou forgive
  The scornful maid? for the devoted wife
  Had cleaved to thee, though ne'er she owned thee lord,

I thought the St. Aubyn must be as great an actress as Rachel, if some
of that fervor was not real.

Cecil played in the afterpiece, "The wonderful Woman;" the Colonel
didn't; and Cos being _De Frontignac_, Syd leaned against one of the
scenes, and looked on the whole thing with calm indifference externally,
but much disquietude and annoyance within him. He was not jealous of the
puppy; he would as soon have thought of putting himself on a par with
Blanche's little white terrier, but he'd come to set a price on Cecil's
winning smiles, and to see them given pretty equally to him, and to a
young fool, her inferior in everything save position, whom he knew in
her inmost soul she must ridicule and despise, galled his pride, and
steeled his heart against her. His experience in women made him know
that it was highly probable that Cecil was playing both at once, and
that though, as he guessed, she loved him, she would, if Cos offered
first, accept the title, and wealth, and position his cousin, equally
with himself, could give her; and such love as that was far from the
Colonel's ideal.

"By George! Vivian, that Canadian of yours is a perfect angel," said a
man in the Dragoons, who had played _Ulric_. "She's such a deuced lot
ove pluck, such eyes, such hair, such a voice! 'Pon my life, I quite
envy you. I suppose you mean to act out the play in reality, don't you?"

Vivian lying back in an arm-chair in the green-room crushed up one of
the satin playbills in his hand, and answered simply, "You do me too
much honor, Calvert. Miss St. Aubyn and I have no thought of each
other."

If any man had given Vivian the lie, he would have had him out and shot
him instanter; nevertheless, he told this one with the most unhesitating
defiance of truth. He did not see Cecil, who had just come off the
stage, standing behind him. But she heard his words, went as white as
Muriel's phantom, and brushed past us into her dressing room, whence she
emerged, when her name was called, her cheeks bright with their first
rouge, and her eyes unnaturally brilliant. _How_ she flirted with Horace
that night, when the theatricals were over! Young ladies who wanted to
hook the pet baronet, whispered over their bouquets, "How bold!" and
dowagers, seeing one of their best matrimonial speculations endangered
by the brilliant Canadian, murmured behind their fans to each other
their wonder that Mrs. Vivian should allow any one so fast and so
unblushing a coquette to associate with her young daughters.

Vivian watched her with intense earnestness. He had given her a bouquet
that day, and she had thanked him for it with her soft, fond eyes, and
told him she should use it. Now, as she came into the ball-room, he
looked at the one in her hand; it was not his, but his cousin's.

He set his teeth hard; and swore a bitter oath to himself. As _Huon_, he
was obliged to dance the first dance with the _Countess_, but he spoke
little to her, and indeed, Cecil did not give him much opportunity, for
she talked fast, and at random, on all sorts of indifferent subjects,
with more than even her usual vivacity, and quite unlike the ordinary
soft and winning way she had used of late when with him. He danced no
more with her, but, daring the waltzes with which he was obliged to
favor certain county beauties, and all the time he was doing the honors
of Deerhurst, with his calm, stately, Bayard-like courtesy, his eyes
would fasten on the St. Aubyn, driving the Dragoons to desperation,
waltzing while Horace whispered tender speeches in her ear, or sitting
jesting and laughing, half the men in the room gathered round her--with
a look of passion and hopelessness, tenderness and determination,
strangely combined.



IV.

THE COLONEL KILLS HIS FOX, BUT LOSES HIS HEAD AFTER OTHER GAME.


The next day was Christmas-eve; and on the 24th of December the hounds,
from time immemorial, had been taken out by a Vivian. For the last few
days the frost had been gradually breaking up, thank Heaven, and we
looked forward to a good day's sport The meet was at Deerhurst, and it
proved a strong muster for the Harkaway; though not exactly up to the
Northamptonshire Leicestershire mark, are a clever, steady pack. Cecil
and Blanche were the only two women with us, for the country is cramped
and covered with blind fences, and the fair sex seldom hunt with the
Harkaway. But the St. Aubyn is a first-rate seat, and Blanche has, she
tells me, ridden anything from the day she first stuck on to her
Shetland, when she was three years old. They were both down in time.
Indeed, I question if they went to bed at all, or did any more than
change their ball dresses for their habits. As I lifted Blanche on to
her pet chestnut, I heard Syd telling Cecil that Billiard-ball was
saddled.

"Thank you," said the St. Aubyn, hurriedly. "I need not trouble you.
Sir Horace has promised to mount me."

Vivian bent his head with a strange smile, and sprang on Qui Vive, while
Cecil mounted a showy roan, thorough-bred, the only good horse Cos had
in his stud, despite the thousands he had paid into trainers' and
breeders' pockets.

"Stole away--forward, forward!" screamed Vivian's fellow-member for
Cacklebury; and, holding Qui Vive hard by the head, away went Syd after
the couple or two of hounds that were leading the way over some pasture
land, with an ox-rail at the bottom of it, all the field after him.
Cecil's roan flew over the grass land, and rose at the ox-rail as
steadily as Qui Vive. Blanche's chestnut let himself be kicked along at
no end of a pace, his mistress sitting down in her stirrups as well as
the gallant M. F. H., her father. I never _do_ think of anything but the
hounds flying along in front of me, but I could not help turning my head
over my shoulder to see if she was all right; and I never admired her so
much as when she passed me with a merry laugh: "Five to one I beat you,
monsieur!" Away we went over the dark ploughed lands, and the naked
thorn hedges, the wide straggling briar fences, and the fields covered
with stones and belted with black-looking plantations. Down went Cos
with his horse wallowing helplessly in a ditch, after considerately
throwing him unhurt on the bank. Syd set his teeth as he lifted Qui Vive
over the prostrate baronet, to the imminent danger of that dandy
field-sportsman's life. "Take hold of his head, Miss St. Aubyn," shouted
the M. F. H.; but before the words had passed his lips, Cecil had landed
gallantly a little farther down. Another ten minutes with the hounds
streaming over the country--a ten minutes of wild delight, worth all the
monotonous hours of every-day life--and Qui Vive was alone with the
hounds. We could see him speeding along a quarter of a mile ahead of us,
and Cecil's roan was but half a field behind him. She was "riding
jealous" of one of the best riders in the Queen's; the M. F. H. just in
front of her turned his head once, in admiration of her pluck, to see
her lift her horse at a staken-bound fence; but the Colonel never looked
round. Away they went--they disappeared over the brow of a hill. Blanche
shook her reins and struck her chestnut, and I sawed my hunter's mouth
mercilessly with the snaffle. No use--we were too late by three minutes.
Confound it! they had just killed their fox after twenty minutes' burst
over a stiff country, one of the fastest things I ever saw.

Cecil was pale with over-excitement, and upon my word she looked more
ready to cry than anything when the M. F. H. complimented her with his
genial smile, and his cordial "Well done, my dear. I never saw anybody
ride better. I used to think my little Blanche the best seat in the
country, but she must give place to you--eh, Syd?"

"Miss St. Aubyn does everything well that she attempts," answered the
Colonel, in his calm, courteous tone, looking, nevertheless, as stern as
if he had just slain his deadliest enemy, instead of having seen a fox
killed.

Cecil flushed scarlet, and Cos coming up at that moment, a sadly
bespattered object for such an Adonis to present, his coat possessing
more the appearance of a bricklayer's than any one else's, after its
bath of white mud, she turned to him, and began to laugh and talk with
rather wild gaiety. It so chanced that the fox was killed on Horace's
land, and we, being not more than a mile and a half off his house, the
gallant Cos immediately seized upon the idea of having the object of his
idolatry up there to luncheon; and his uncle, and Cecil, and Blanche
acquiescing in the arrangement, to his house we went, with such of the
field as had ridden up after the finish. Cos trotted forward with the
St. Aubyn to show us the way by a short cut through the park, and the
echoes of Cecil's laughter rang to Vivian in the rear discussing the run
with his father.

A very slap-up place was Cos's baronial hall, for the Cossettings had
combined blood and money far many generations; its style and
appointments were calculated to back him powerfully in the matrimonial
market, and that Cecil might have it all was fully apparent, as he
devoted himself to her at the luncheon, which made its appearance at a
minute's notice, as if Aladdin had called it up. Cecil seemed disposed
to have it too. A deep flush had come up in her cheeks; she smiled her
brightest smiles on Cos; she drank his Moët's, bending her graceful head
with a laughing pledge to her host; she talked so fast, so gaily, such
repartee, such sarcasms, such jeux de mots, that it was well no women
were at table to sit in judgment on her afterwards. A deadly paleness
came over Vivian's face as he listened to her--but he sat at the bottom
of the board where Cecil could not see him. His father, the gayest and
best-tempered of mortals, laughed and applauded her; the other men were
charmed with a style and a wit so new to them; and Cos, of course, was
in the seventh heaven.

The horses were dead beat, and Cos's drag, with its four bays very
fresh, for they were so little worked, was ordered to take us back to
Deerhurst.

"Who'll drive," said Horace. "Will you, Syd?"

"No," said his cousin, more laconically than politely.

"Let _me_," cried Cecil. "I can drive four in hand. Nothing I like
better."

"Give me the ribbons," interposed the Colonel, changing his mind, "if
you can't drive them yourself, Cos, as you ought to do."

"No, no," murmured Cos. "Mith St. Aubyn shall do everything she wishes
in _my_ house."

"Let her drive them," laughed Vivian, senior. "Blanche has tooled my
drag often enough before now."

Before he had finished, Cecil had sprung up on to the box as lightly as
a bird; her cheeks were flushed deeper still, and her gazelle eyes
flashed darker than ever. Cos mounted beside her. Blanche and I in the
back seat. The M. F. H., Syd, and the two other men behind. The bays
shook their harness and started off at a rattling pace, Cecil tooling
them down the avenue with her little gauntleted hands as well as if she
had been Four-in-hand Forester of the Queen's Bays, or any other crack
whip. How she flirted, and jested, and laughed, and shook the ribbons
till the bays tore along the stony road in the dusky winter's
afternoon--even Blanche, though a game little lady herself, looked
anxious.

Cecil asked Horace for a cigar, and struck a fusee, and puffed away into
the frosty air like the wildest young Cantab at Trinity. It didn't make
her sick, for she and Blanche had had two Queens out of Vivian's case,
and smoked them to the last ash for fun only the day before; and she
drove us at a mad gallop into Deerhurst Park, past the dark trees and
the gleaming water and the trooping deer, and pulled up before the hall
door just as the moon came out on Christmas-eve.

We were all rather fast at Deerhurst, so Blanche got no scolding from
her mamma (who, like a sensible woman, never put into their heads that
things done in the glad innocency of the heart were "wrong"); and Cecil,
as soon as she had sprung down, snatched her hand from Cos, and went up
to her own room.

The Colonel's lips were pressed close together, and his forehead had the
dark frown that Guy wears in his portrait.

It had been done with another, so it was all wrong; but oh! Syd, my
friend, if the "dry" that was drunk, and the drag that was tooled, and
the weed that was smoked, had been _yours_, wouldn't it have been the
most charming caprice of the most charming woman!

That night, at dinner, a letter by the afternoon's post came to the
Colonel. It was "On her Majesty's Service," and his mother asked him
anxiously what it was.

"Only to tell me to join soon," said he, carelessly, giving me a sign to
keep the contents of a similar letter I had just received to myself;
which I should have done anyhow, as I had reason to hope that the
disclosure of them would have quenched the light in some bright eyes
beside me.

"Ordered off at last, thank God!" said Syd, handing his father the
letter as soon as the ladies were gone. "There's a train starts at
12.40, isn't there, for town? You and I, Ned, had better go to-night.
You don't look so charmed, old fellow, as you did when you went out to
Scinde. I say, don't tell my sisters; there is no need to make a row in
the house. Governor, you'll prepare my mother; I must bid _her_
good-by."

I _did not_ view the Crimea with the unmingled, devil-me-care delight
with which I had gone out under "fighting Napier" nine years before,
for Blanche's sunshiny face had made life fairer to me; and to obey Syd,
and go without a farewell of her, was really too great a sacrifice to
friendship. But he and I went to the drawing-rooms, chatted, and took
coffee as if nothing had chanced, till he could no longer stand seeing
Cecil, still excited, singing chansons to Cos, who was leaning
enraptured over the instrument, and he went off to his own room. The
other girls and men were busy playing the Race game; Blanche and I were
sitting in the back drawing-room beside the fire, and the words that
decided my destiny were so few, that I cite them as a useful lesson to
those novelists who are in the habit of making their heroes, while
waiting breathless to hear their fate, recite off at a cool canter four
pages of the neatest-turned sentences without a single break-down or a
single pull-up, to see how the lady takes it.

"Blanche, I must bid you good-by to-night." Blanche turned to me in
bewildered anxiety. "I must join my troop: perhaps I may be sent to the
Crimea. I could go happily if I thought you would regret me?"

Brutally selfish that was to be sure, but she did not take it so. She
looked as if she was going to faint, and for fear she should, trusting
to the engrossing nature of the Race game in the further apartment, I
drew nearer to her. "Will you promise to give yourself to nobody else
while I am away, my darling?" Blanche's eyes did promise me through
their tears, and this brief scene, occupying the space of two minutes,
twisted our fates into one on that eventful Christmas-eve.

While I was parting with my poor little Blanche in the library, Vivian
was bidding his mother farewell in her dressing-room. His mother had the
one soft place in his heart, steeled and made skeptical to all others by
that fatal first love of which he had spoken to Cecil. Possibly some of
her son's bitter grief was shown to her on that sad Christmas-eve; at
all events, when he left her dressing-room, he had the tired, haggard
look left by any conflict of passion. As he came down the stairs to come
to the dog-cart that was to take us to the station, the door of
Blanche's boudoir stood open, and in it he saw Cecil. The fierce tide of
his love surged up, subduing all his pride, and he paused to take his
last sight of the face that would haunt him in the long night watches
and the rapid rush of many a charge. She looked up and saw him; that
look overpowered all his calmness and resolve. He turned, and bent
towards her, every feature quivering with the passion she had once
longed to rouse. His hot breath scorched her cheek, and he caught her
fiercely against his heart in an iron embrace, pressing his burning lips
on hers. "God forgive you! I have loved you too well. Women have ever
been fatal to my race!"

He almost threw her from him in the violence of feelings roused after a
long sleep. In another moment he was driving the dog-cart at a mad
gallop past the old church in which we had spent such pleasant hours.
Its clock tolled out twelve strokes as we passed it, and on the quiet
village, and the weird-like trees, and the tall turrets of Deerhurst,
the Christmas morning dawned.

Vivian continued so utterly enfeebled and prostrate that there was but
one chance for him--return homewards. I was going to England with
despatches, and Syd, at his mother's entreaty, let himself be carried
down to a transport, and shipped for England. He was utterly listless
and strengthless, although the voyage did him a little good. He did not
care where he went, so he stayed in town with me while I presented
myself at the Horse Guards and war Office, and then we travelled down
together to Deerhurst.

Oddly enough it was Christmas-eve again when we drove up the old avenue.
The snow was falling heavily, and lay deep on the road and thick on the
hedges and trees. The meadows and woods were white against the dark,
hushed sky, and the old church, and its churchyard cedars, were loaded
too with the clouds' Christmas gift. To me, at least, the English scene
was very pleasant, after the heat, and dirt, and minor worries of
Gallipoli and Constantinople. The wide stretching country, with its
pollards, and holly hedges, and homesteads, the cattle safe housed, the
yule fire burning cheerily on the hearths, the cottages and farms
nestling down among their orchards and pasture-lands, all was so
heartily and thoroughly English. They seemed to bring back days when I
was a boy skating and sliding on the mere at home, or riding out with
the harriers light-hearted and devil-me-care as a boy might be, coming
back to hear the poor governor's cheery voice tell me I was one of the
old stock, and to toss down a bumper of Rhenish with a time-honored
Christmas toast. The crackle of the crisp snow, the snort of the horses
as they plunged on into the darkening night, and the red fire-light
flickering on the lattice windows of the cottages we passed, were so
many welcomes home, and I double-thonged the off-wheeler with a
vengeance as I thought of soft lips that would soon touch mine, and a
soft voice that would soon whisper my best "Io triumphe!"

The lodge-gates flew open. We passed the old oaks and beeches, the deer
trooping away over the snow as we startled them out of their rest. We
were not expected that night, and my man rang such a peal at the bell as
might have been heard all over the quiet park. Another minute, and
Blanche and I were together again, and alone in the library where we had
parted just twelve months before. Of course, for the time being, we
neither knew nor cared what was going on in the other rooms of the
house. The Colonel had gone to rest himself on the sofa in the
dining-room. Half an hour had elapsed, perhaps, when a wild cry rang
through the house, startling even us, absorbed though we were in our
tête-à-tête. Blanche's first thought was of her brother. She ran out
through the hall, and up the staircase, and I followed her. At the top
of the stairs, leaning against the wall, breathing fast, and his face
ashy white, stood Syd, and at his feet, in a dead faint, lay Cecil St.
Aubyn. I caught hold of Blanche's arm and held her back as she was about
to spring forward. I thought their meeting had much best be
uninterrupted; for, if Cecil's had been mere flirtation I fancied the
Colonel's return could scarcely have moved her like this.

Vivian stood looking down on her, all the passion in him breaking
bounds. He could not stand calmly by the woman he loved. He did not wait
to know whether she was his or another's--whether she was worthy or
unworthy of him--but he lifted her up and pressed her unconscious form
against his heart, covering her lips with wild caresses. Waking from her
trance, she opened her eyes with a terrified stare, and gazed up in his
face; then tears came to her relief, and she sank down at his feet again
with a pitiful cry, "Forgive me--forgive me!" Weak as Syd was, he found
strength to raise her in his arms, and whisper, as he bent over her, "If
you love me, I have nothing to forgive."

       *       *       *       *       *

The snow fell softly without over the woods and fields and the winds
roared through the old oaks and whistled among the frozen ferns, but
Christmas-eve passed brightly enough to us at home within the strong
walls of Deerhurst.

I am sure that all Moore's pictures of Paradise seemed to me tame
compared to that drawing-room, with its warmth, and coziness, and
luxuries; with the waxlights shining on the silver of the English tea
equipage (pleasant to eye and taste, let one love campaigning ever so
well, after the roast beans of the Commissariat), and the fire-gleams
dancing on the soft brow and shining hair of the face beside me. I doubt
if Vivian either ever spent a happier Christmas-eve as he lay on the
sofa in the back drawing-room, with Cecil sitting on a low seat by him,
her hand in his, and the Canadian eyes telling him eloquently of love
and reconciliation. They had such volumes to say! As soon as she knew
that wild farewell of his preceded his departure to the Crimea, Cecil,
always impulsive, had written to him on the instant, telling him how she
loved him, detailing what she had heard in the green-room, confessing
that, in desperation, she had done everything she could to rouse his
jealousy, assuring him that that same evening she had refused Cos's
proposals, and beseeching him to forgive her and come back to her. That
letter Vivian had never had (six months from that time, by the way, it
turned up, after a journey to India and Melbourne, following a cousin of
his, colonel of a line regiment, she in her haste having omitted to put
his troop on the address), and Cecil, whose feeling was too deep to let
her mention the subject to Blanche or Helena, made up her mind that he
would never forgive her, and being an impressionable young lady, had, on
the anniversary of Christmas-eve, been comparing her fate with that of
Muriel in the ghost legend, and, on seeing the Colonel's unexpected
apparition, had fainted straight away in the over-excitement and sudden
joy of the moment.

Such was Cecil's story, and Vivian was content with it and gladly took
occasion to practise the Christmas duties of peace, and love, and
pardon. He had the best anodyne for his wounds now, and there was no
danger for him, since Cecil had taken the place of the Scutari nurses.
No "Crimean heroes," as they call us in the papers, were ever more fêted
and petted than were the Colonel and I.

Christmas morning dawned, the sun shining bright on the snow-covered
trees, and the Christmas bells chiming merrily; and as we stood on the
terrace to see the whole village trooping up through the avenue to
receive the gifts left to them by some old Vivian long gone to his rest
with his forefathers under the churchyard cedars, Syd looked down with a
smile into Cecil's eyes as she hung on his arm, and whispered,

"I will double those alms, love, in memory of the priceless gift this
Christmas has given me. Ah! Thornton and I little knew, when we came
down for the hunting, how fast you and Blanche would capture us with
your--HOLLY WREATHS AND ROSE CHAINS."



SILVER CHIMES AND GOLDEN FETTERS.



SILVER CHIMES AND GOLDEN FETTERS.



I.

WALDEMAR FALKENSTEIN AND VALÉRIE L'ESTRANGE.


"A quarter to twelve! By Heaven if my luck don't change before the year
is out, I vow I'll never touch a card in the next!" exclaimed one of
several men playing lansquenet in Harry Godolphin's rooms at
Knightsbridge.

There were seven or eight of them, some with long rent-rolls, others
within an ace of the Queen's Bench; the poor devils losing in the long
run much oftener and more recklessly than the rich fellows; all of them
playing high, as that _beau joueur_ of the Guards, Godolphin, always
did.

Luck had been dead against the man who spoke ever since they had
deserted the mess-room for the _cartes_ in the privacy of Harry's rooms.
If Fortune is a woman, he ought to have found favor in her eyes. His age
was between thirty and thirty-five, his figure with grace and strength
combined, his features nobly and delicately cut, his head, like
Canning's, one of great intellectual beauty, and by the flash of his
large dark eyes, and the additional paleness of his cheek, it was easy
to see he was playing high once too often.

Five minutes passed--he lost still; ten minutes' luck was yet against
him. A little French clock began the Silver Chimes that rang out the Old
Year; the twelfth stroke sounded, the New Year was come, and Waldemar
Falkenstein rose and drank down some cognac--a ruined man.

"A happy New Year to you, and better luck, Falkenstein," cried
Godolphin, drinking his toast with a ringing laugh and a foaming bumper
of Chambertin. "What shall I wish you? The richest wife in the kingdom,
a cabal that will break all the banks, for Mistletoe to win the Oaks, or
for your eyes to be opened to your sinful state, as the parson phrases
it--which, eh?"

"Thank you, Harry," laughed Falkenstein. (Like the old Spartans, we can
laugh while the wolf gnaws our vitals.) "You remind me of what my
holy-minded brother wrote to me when I broke my shoulder-bone down at
Melton last season: 'My dear Waldemar, I am sorry to hear of your sad
accident; but all things are ordered for the best, and I trust that in
your present hours of solitude your thoughts may be mercifully turned to
higher and better things.' Queer style of sympathy, wasn't it? I
preferred yours, when you sent me 'Adélaïde Méran,' and that splendid
hock I wasn't allowed to touch."

"I should say so; but catch the Pharisees giving anybody anything warmer
than texts and counsels, that cost them nothing," said Tom Bevan of the
Blues. "Apropos of Pharisees, have you heard that old Cash is going to
build a chapel-of-ease in Belgravia, to endow that young owl Gus with as
soon as he can pull himself through his 'greats?' It is thought that the
dear Bella will be painted as St. Catherine for the altar-piece."

"She'll strychnine herself if we're all so hard-hearted as to leave her
to St. Catharine's nightcap," laughed Falkenstein.

"Why don't _you_ take up with her, old fellow?" said a man in
Godolphin's troop. "Not the sangue puro, you'd say; rather sallied with
XXX. But what does that signify? you've quarterings enough for two."

"Much good the quarterings do me. No, thank you," said Falkenstein
bitterly. "I'm not going to sell myself, though my dear friends would
insinuate that I was sold already to a gentleman who never quits hold of
his bargains. I've fetters enough now too heavy by half to add
matrimonial handcuffs to them."

"Right, old boy," said Harry. "The Cashranger hops and vats, even done
in the brightest parvenu _or_, would scarcely look well blazoned on the
royal _gules_. Come, sit down. Where are you going?"

"He's going to Eulalie Brown's, I bet," said Bevan. "Nonsense, Waldemar;
throw her over, and stay and take your revenge--it's so early."

"No, thank you," said Falkenstein briefly. "By the way, I suppose you
all go to Cashranger's to-morrow?"

"Make a point of it, answered Godolphin. I feel I'm sinning against my
Order to visit him, but really his Lafitte's so good----I'm sorry you
_will_ leave us, Waldemar, but I know I might as well try to move the
Marble Arch as try to turn you."

"Indeed I never set up for a Roman, Harry. The deuce take this pipe, it
won't light. Good night to you all." And leaving them drinking hard,
laughing loud, and telling _grivois_ tales before they sat down to play
in all its delirious delight, he sprang into a hanson, and drove, not to
Eulalie Brown's _petit souper_, but to his own rooms in Duke Street, St.
James's.

Falkenstein's governor, some two-score years before, had got in
mauvaise odeur in Vienna for some youthful escapade at court; powerful
as his princely family was, had been obliged to fly the country; and,
coming over here, entered himself at the Bar, and, setting himself to
work with characteristic energy, had, wonderful to relate, made a
fortune at it. A fine, gallant, courtly _ancien noble_ was the Count,
haughty and passionate at times, after the manner of the house; fond of
his younger son Waldemar, who at school had tanned boys twice his size;
rode his pony in at the finish; smoked, swam, and otherwise conducted
himself, till all the rest of the boys worshipped him, though I believe
the masters generally attributed to him more _diablerie_ than divinity.
But of late, unluckily, his father had been much dominated over by
Waldemar's three sisters, ladies of a chill and High Church turn of
mind, and by his brother, who in early life had been a prize boy and a
sap, and received severe buffetings from his junior at football; and
now, being much the more conventional and unimpeachable of the two, took
his revenge by carrying many tales to the old Count of his wilder
son--tales to which Falkenstein gave strong foundation. For he was
restless and reckless, strikingly original, and, above the common herd,
too impatient to take any meddling with his affairs, and too proud to
explain where he was misjudged; and, though he held a crack government
place, good pay, and all but a sinecure, he often spent more than he
had, for economy was a dead-letter to him, and if any man asked him a
loan, he was too generous to say "No." Life in all its phases he had
seen from the time he left school, and you know, mon ami, we cannot see
life on a groat--at least, through the bouquet of the wines at Véfours,
and the brilliance of the gas-light in Casinos and Redoutes. The
fascinations of play were over him--the iron hand of debt pressed upon
him; altogether, as he sat through the first hours of the New Year,
smoking, and gazing on the flickering fire gleams, there was not much
light either in his past or future!

Keenly imaginative and susceptible, blasé and skeptical though he was,
the weight of the Old Year and of many gone before it, weighed heavily
on his thoughts. Scenes and deeds of his life, that he would willingly
have blotted out, rose before him; vague regrets, unformed desires,
floated to him on the midnight chimes.

The Old Year was drifting away on the dark clouds floating on to the
sea, the New Year was dawning on the vast human life swarming in the
costly palaces and crowded dens around him. The past was past,
ineffaceable, and relentless; the future lay hid in the unborn days, and
Falkenstein, his pipe out, his fire cold and black, took a sedative, and
threw himself on his bed, to sleep heavily and restlessly through the
struggling morning light of the New Year.

James Cashranger, Esq., of 133, Lowndes Square, was a millionnaire, and
the million owed its being to the sale of his entire, which was of high
celebrity, being patronised by all the messes and clubs, shipped to all
the colonies, blessed by all the H. E. I. C.s, shouted by all the potmen
as "Beer-r-r-how," and consumed by all England generally. But
Cashranger's soul soared above the snobisms of malt and jack, and à la
Jourdain, of bourgeois celebrity, he would have let any Dorante of the
beau monde fleece him through thick and thin, and, _en effet_, gave
dinners and drums unnumbered to men and women, who, like Godolphin, went
there for the sake of his Lafitte, and quizzed him mercilessly behind
his back. The first day Harry dined there with nine other spirits worse
than himself--Cashranger having begged him to bring some of his
particular chums--he looked at the eleventh seat, and asked, with
consummate impudence, who it was for?

"Why, really, my dear Colonel, it is for--for myself," faltered the
luckless brewer.

"Oh?--ah?--I see," drawled Harry; "you mistook me; I said I'd dine
_here_--I didn't say I'd dine with _you_."

That, however, was four or five years before; now, Godolphin having
proclaimed his cook and cellar worth countenancing, and his wife, the
relict of a lieutenant in the navy, being an admirable adept in the
snob's art of "pushing," plenty of exclusive dandies and extensive fine
ladies crushed up the stairs on New Year's-night to one of Cashranger's
numerous "At homes." Among them, late enough, came Falkenstein. These
sort of crushes bored him beyond measure, but he wanted to see Godolphin
about some intelligence he had had of an intended illegitimate use of
the twitch to Mistletoe, that sweet little chestnut who stood favorite
for the Oaks. He soon paid his devoir to madame, who wasn't quite
accustomed even yet to all this grandeur after her early struggles on
half-pay, and to her eldest daughter, the Bella aforesaid, a showy,
flaunting girl with a peony color, and went on through the rooms seeking
Harry, stopping, however, for a word to every pretty woman he knew; for
though he began to find his game grow stale, he and the beau sexe have a
mutual attraction. Little those women guessed, as they smiled in his
handsome eyes, and laughed at his witty talk, and blushed at his soft
voice, how heartily sick he was of their frivolities, and how often
disappointment and sarcasm lurked in his mocking words. To be blasé was
no affectation with Falkenstein; it was a very earnest reality, as with
most of us who have knocked about in the world, not only from the
variety of his manifold experiences, but from the trickery, and censure,
and cold water with which the world had treated him.

"You here, old fellow?" said Bevan of the Blues, meeting him in the
music-room, where some artistes were singing Traviata airs. "You don't
care for this row, do you? Come along with me, and I'll show you
something that will amuse you better."

"Show me Godolphin, and I'll thank you. I didn't come to stay--did you?"

"No. Horrid bore, ain't it? But since you are here, you may as well take
a look at the dearest little actress I ever saw since I was a boy, and
bewitched by Léontine Fay. Sit down." Bevan went on, as they entered a
room fitted up like a theatre, "There, it's that one with blue eyes, got
up like a Watteau's huntress; isn't she a brilliant little thing?"

"Very. She plays as well as Déjazet. Who is she?"

"Don't know. Can you tell us, Forester?"

"She's old Cash's niece," said Forester, not taking his eyes off the
stage. "Come as a sort of companion to the beloved Bella; dangerous
companion, I should say, for there's no comparing the two."

"What's her name?"

"Viola--Violet--no, Valérie L'Estrange. L'Estrange, of the 10th, ran
away with Cash's sister. God knows why. Horrid low connexion, and no
money. She went speedily to glory, and he drank himself to death two
years ago in Lahore. I remember him, a big fellow, fourteen stone,
pounded Bully Batson once at Moseley, and there wasn't such another hard
hitter among the fancy as Bully. When he departed this life, of course
his daughter was left to her own devices, with scarcely a rap to buy her
bonnets. Clever little animal she is, too; she wrote those proverbs
they're now playing; full of dash, and spice, ain't they? especially
when you think a girl wrote 'em."

"Introduce me as soon as they're over," said Falkenstein, leaning back
to study the young actress and author, who was an engaging study enough,
being full of grace and vivacity, with animated features, mobile
eyebrows, dark-blue eyes, and chestnut hair. "Anything original would be
as great a wonder as to buy Cavendish in Regent-Street that wasn't
bird's-eye."

"Valérie's original enough for anybody's money. Hark how she's firing
away at Egerton. Pretty little soft voice she has. I do like a pretty
voice for a woman," said Forester, clapping softly, with many a murmured
bravisima.

"You're quite enthusiastic," smiled Falkenstein. "Pity you haven't a
bouquet to throw at her."

"Don't you poke fun at me, you cynic," growled Forester. "I've seen you
throw bouquets at much plainer women."

"And the bouquets and the women were much alike in morning light--faded
and colorless on their artificial stalks as soon as the gas glare was
off them."

"Hold your tongue, Juvenal," laughed Forester, "or I vow I won't
introduce you. You'll begin satirising poor little Val as soon as you've
spoken to her."

"Oh, I can be merciful to the weak; don't I let _you_ alone, Forester?"
laughed Waldemar, as the curtain fell.

The proverbs were over, and having put herself in ball-room style, the
author came among the audience. He amused himself with watching how she
took her numerous compliments, and was astonished to detect neither
vanity nor shyness, and to hear her turn most of them aside with a
laugh. She was quite as attractive off as on the stage, especially with
the aroma of her sparkling proverbs hanging about her; and Falkenstein
got his introduction, and consigning Godolphin and Mistletoe to
futurity, waltzed with her, and found her dancing as full of grace and
lightness as an Andalusian's or Arlésienne's. Falkenstein cared little
enough for the saltatory art, but this waltz did not bore him, and when
it was over, regardless of some dozen names written on her tablets, he
gave her his arm, and they strolled out of the ball-room into a cooler
atmosphere. He found plenty of fun in her, as he had expected from her
proverbs, and sat down beside her in the conservatory to let himself be
amused for half an hour.

"Do you know many of the people here?" she asked him. "Is there anybody
worth pointing out? There ought to be, in four or five hundred dwellers
in the aristocratic west."

"I know most of them personally or by report, but they are all of the
same stamp, like the petals of that camellia, some larger and some
smaller, but all cut in the same pattern. Most of them apostles of
fashion, martyrs to debt, worshippers of the rising sun. All of them
created by art, from the young ladies who owe their roses and lilies to
Breidenbach, to the ci-devant jeunes hommes, who buy their figures in
Bond Street and their faces from Isidore. All of them actors--and pretty
good actors, too--from that pretty woman yonder, who knows her milliner
may imprison her any day for the lace she is now drawing round her with
a laugh, to that sleek old philanthropist playing whist through the
doors there, whose guinea points are paid by the swindle of half
England."

She laughed.

"Lend me your lorgnon. I should like to see around me as you do."

"Wait twenty years, you will have it; there are two glasses to
it--experience and observation."

"But your glasses are smoked, are they not?" said Valérie, with a quick
glance at him; "for you seem to me to see everything en noir."

He smiled.

"When I was a boy I had a Claude glass, but they break very soon; or
rather, as you say, grow dark and dim with the smoke of society. But you
ask me about these people. You know them, do you not, as they are your
uncle's guests?"

She shook her head.

"I have been here but a week or two. For the last two years I have been
vegetating among the fens, with a maiden aunt of poor papa's."

"And did you like the country?"

"Like it!" cried Valérie, "I was buried alive. Everything was so
dreadfully punctual and severe in that house, that I believe the very
cat had forgotten how to purr. Breakfast at eight, drive at two, dinner
at five, prayers at ten. Can't you fancy the dreary diurnal round, with
a pursy old rector or two, and three or four high-dried county
princesses as callers once a quarter? Luckily, I can amuse myself, but
oh, you cannot think how I sickened of the monotony, how I longed to
_live!_ At last, I grew so naughty, I was expelled."

"May I inquire your sins?" asked Falkenstein, really amused for once.

She laughed at the remembrance.

"I read 'Notre-Dame' against orders, and I rode the fat old mare round
the paddock without a saddle. I saw no harm in it; as a child, I read
and rode everything I came near, but the rough-riding was condemned as
unfeminine, and any French book, were it even the 'Génie du
Christianisme,' or the 'Petit Carême,' would be regarded by Aunt Agatha,
who doesn't know a word of the language, as a powder magazine of
immorality and infidelity."

"C'est la profonde ignorance qui inspire le ton dogmatique," laughed
Falkenstein. "But surely you have been accustomed to society."

"No, never; but I am made for it, I fancy," said Valérie, with an
unconscious compliment to herself. "When I was with the dear old Tenth,
I used to enjoy myself, but I was a child then. The officers were very
kind to me--gentlemen always are much more so than ladies"--("Pour
cause," thought Waldemar, as she went on)--"but ever since then I have
vegetated as I tell you, in much the same still life as the anemones in
my vase."

"Yet you could write those proverbs," said he, involuntarily.

She laughed, and colored.

"Oh, I have written ever since I could make A B C, and I have not
forgotten all I saw with the old Tenth. But come, tell me more of these
people; I like to hear your satire."

"I am glad you do," said Falkenstein, with a smile; "for only those who
have no foibles to hit have a relish for sarcasm. Do you think Messaline
and Lélie had much admiration for La Bruyère's periods, however well
turned or justly pointed? but those whom the caps did not fit probably
enjoyed them as you and I do. All satirists, from Martial downwards,
most likely gain an enemy for each truth they utter, for in this bal
masqué of life it is not permitted to tear the masks off our
companions."

"Do you wear one?" asked Valérie, quickly. "I fancy, like Monte Cristo,
your pleasure is to 'usurper les vices que vous n'avez pas, et de cacher
les vertus que vous avez.'"

"Virtues? If you knew me better, you would know that I never pretend to
any. If you compare me to Monte Cristo, say rather that I 'prêche
loyalement l'égoisme,'" laughed Falkenstein. "Upon my word, we are
talking very seriously for a ball-room. I ought to be admiring your
bouquet, Miss L'Estrange, or petitioning for another waltz."

"Don't trouble yourself. I like this best," said Valérie, playing with
the flowers round her. "And I ought to have my own way, for this is my
birthday."

"New Year's-day? Indeed! Then I am sure I wish you most sincerely the
realisation of all your ideals and desires, which, to the imaginative
author of the proverbs, will be as good as wishing her Aladdin's lamp,"
smiled Falkenstein.

She smiled too, and sighed.

"And about as improbable as Aladdin's lamp. Did you see the Old Year out
last night?"

"Yes," he answered, briefly; for the remembrance of what he had lost
watching it out was not agreeable to him.

"There was a musical party here," continued Valérie, "but I got away
from it, for I like to be alone when the past and the future meet--do
not you?"

"No; your past is pure, your future is bright. Mine are not so; I don't
want to be stopped to contemplate them."

"Nor are mine, indeed; but the death of an Old Year is sad and solemn to
me as the death of a friend, and I like to be alone in its last hour. I
wonder," she continued, suddenly, "what this year will bring. I wonder
where you and I shall be next New Year's-night?"

Falkenstein laughed, not merrily.

"_I_ shall be in Kensal Green or the Queen's Bench, very likely. Why do
you look astonished Miss L'Estrange; one is the destination of everybody
in these rooms, and the other probably of one-half of them."

"Don't speak so bitterly--don't give me sad thoughts on my birthday. Oh,
how tiresome!" cried Valérie, interrupting herself, "there comes Major
D'Orwood."

"To claim you?"

"Yes; I'd forgotten him entirely. I promised to waltz with him an hour
ago."

"What the devil brought you here to interrupt us?" thought Falkenstein,
as the Guardsman lisped a reproof at Valérie's cruelty, and gave her his
arm back to the ball-room. Waldemar stopped her, however, engaged her
for the next, and sauntered through the room on her other side. He
waltzed a good deal with her, paying her that sort of attention which
Falkenstein knew how to make the softest and subtlest homage a woman
could have. Amused himself, he amused her with his brilliant and pointed
wit, so well, that Valérie L'Estrange told him, when he bid her good
night, that she had never enjoyed any birthday so much.

"Well," said Bevan, as they drove away from 133, Lowndes Square, "did
you find that wonderful little L'Estrange as charming a companion as
actress? You ought to know, for you've been after her all night, like a
ferret after a rabbit."

"Yes," said Falkenstein, taking out a little pet briarwood pipe, "I was
very pleased with her: she's worth no more than the others, probably, au
fond, but she's very entertaining and frank: she'll tell you anything.
Poor child! she can't be over-comfortable in Cash's house. She's a lady
by instinct; that odious ostentation and snobbish toadying must disgust
her. Besides, Bella is not very likely to lead a girl a very nice life
who is partially dependent on her father, and infinitely better style
than herself."

"The devil, no! That flaunting, flirting, over-dressed Cashranger girl
is my detestation. She'll soon find means to worry littil Valérie. Women
have a great spice of the mosquito in 'em, and enjoy nothing more than
stinging each other to death."

"Well, she must get Forester or D'Orwood--some man who can afford it--to
take compassion upon her. All of them finish so when they can; the rich
ones marry for a title, and the poor ones for a home," said the Count,
stirring up his pipe. "Here's my number; thank you for dropping me; and
good night, old fellow."

"Good night. Pleasant dreams of your author and actress, _aux longs yeux
bleus_."

Waldemar laughed as he took out his latch-key. "I'm afraid I couldn't
get up so much romance. You and I have done with all that, Tom. Confound
it, I never saw Godolphin, after all. Well, I must go and breakfast with
him to-morrow."



II.

FALKENSTEIN BREAKS LANCES WITH THE "LONGS YEUX BLEUS."


He did breakfast with Godolphin, not, however, before he had held a
small but disagreeable levee to one or two rather impatient callers whom
he couldn't satisfy, and a certain Amadeus Levi, who, having helped him
to the payment of those debts of honor incurred in Harry's rooms, held
him by Golden Fetters as hard to unclasp as the chains that bound
Prometheus. He shook himself free of them at last, drove to
Knightsbridge, and had a chat with Godolphin, over coffee and
chibouques, went to his two or three hours' diplomatic work in the Deeds
and Chronicles Office, and when he came out, instead of going to his
club as usual, thought he might as well call on the Cashrangers, and
turned his steps to Lowndes Square. Valérie L'Estrange was sitting at a
Davenport, done out of her Watteau costume into very becoming English
morning dress; he had only time to shake hands with her before Bella and
her mamma set upon him. Miss Cashranger had a great admiration for him,
and, though his want of money was a drawback, the royal gules of his
blazonments, joined to his manifold attractions, fairly dazzled her, and
she held him tight, talking over the palace concerts, till a dowager and
her daughter, and a couple of men from Hounslow, being ushered in, he
was at liberty, and sitting down by Valérie, gave her a book she had
said the night before she wished to read.

"'Goethe's Autobiography!' Oh, thank you--how kind you are!"

"Not at all," laughed Falkenstein. "To merit such things I ought to have
saved your life at least. What are you doing here; writing some more
proverbs, I hope, to give me a part in one?"

She shook her head. "Nothing half so agreeable. I am writing dinner
invitations, and answering Belle's letters."

"Why, can't she answer them herself?"

"My motto here is 'Ich Dien,'" she answered, with a flush on her cheeks.

Bella turned languidly round, and verified her words: "Val, Puppet's
scratching at the door; let him in, will you?"

Waldemar rose and opened the door for a little slate-colored greyhound,
and while Bella lisped out her regrets for his trouble, smiled a smile
that made Miss Cashranger color, and looked searchingly at Valérie to
see how she took it. She turned a grateful, radiant look on him, and
whispered, "Je m'affranchirai un jour."

"Et comment?"

She raised her mobile eyebrows: "Dieu sait! Comme actrice, comme
feuilletonniste--j'ai mes rêves, monsieur--mais pas comme institutrice:
cela me tuerait bientôt."

"Je le crois," said Falkenstein, briefly, as he took up the
autobiography, and began to talk on it.

"I don't like Goethe for one thing," said Valérie; "he loved a dozen
women one after the other. That I would pardon him; most men do so; but
I don't believe he really loved any one of them."

"Oh yes he did; quite enough, at least, to please himself. He wasn't so
silly as to go in for a never-ending, heart-burning, heart-breaking,
absorbing passion. We don't do those things."

"Go in for it!" repeated Valérie, contemptuously, "I suppose if he had
been of the nature to feel such, he couldn't have helped it."

"I can help going near the fire, can't I, if I don't wish to be burnt?"

"Yes; but a coal may fly out of the fire, and set you in flames, when
you are sitting far away from it."

"Then I ought to wear asbestos," said Waldemar, with a merry quizzical
smile. "You authors, and poets, and artists think 'the world well lost,
and all for love!' but we rational people, who know the world, find it
quite the contrary. Those are very pretty ideas for your proverbs, but
they don't suit real life. _We_, when we're boys, worship some parterre
divinity, till we see her some luckless day inebriate with
eau-de-Cologne, or more unpoetic porter, are cured and disenchanted,
wait ten years with Christines and Minna Herzliebs in the interim, and
wind up with a rich widow, who keeps us straight and heads our table.
_You_, fresh from the school-room, fasten on some lachrymose curate, or
flirting dragoon, as the object of your early romances, walk with him
under the limes, work him a smoking-cap, and write him tender little
notes, till mamma whispers her hope that Mr. A. or B. is serious, and
you, balancing, like a sensible girl, A. or B.'s tangible settlements
with the others' intangible love-speeches, forsake the limes, forswear
the notes, and announce yourself as 'sold.' That's the love of our day,
Miss L'Estrange, and very wise and----"

"Love!" cried Valérie, with supreme scorn. "You don't know the common A
B C of love. You might as well call gilt leather-work pure gold."

Falkenstein laughed heartily. "Well, there's a good deal more
leather-work than gold about in the world, isn't there?"

"A good deal more, granted; but there is some gold to be found, I should
hope."

"Not without alloy; it can't be worked, you know."

"It can't be worked for the base purposes of earth; but it may be found
still undefiled before men's touch has soiled it. So I believe in some
hearts, undefiled by the breath of conventionality and cant, may lie the
true love of the poets, 'lasting, and knowing not change.'"

"Ah! you're too ideal for me," cried Waldemar, smiling at her impetuous
earnestness. "You are all enthusiasm, imagination, effervescence----"

"I am not," she answered, impatiently. "I can be very practical when I
like; I made myself the loveliest wreath yesterday; quite as pretty as
Bella buys at Mitchell's for five times the sum mine cost me. That was
very realistic, wasn't it?"

"No. That exercised your fancy. You wouldn't do--what do you call
it?--plain work, with half the gusto; now, would you?"

Valérie made a _moue mutine_, expressive of entire repudiation of such
employment.

"I thought so," laughed Falkenstein. "You idealists are like the fire in
the grate yonder; you flame up very hot and bright for a moment, but
'the sparks fly upward and expire,' and if they're not fed with some
fresh fuel they soon die out into lifeless cinders."

"On the contrary," said Valérie, quickly, "we are like wood fires, and
burn red down to the last ash."

"Mr. Falkenstein, come and look at this little 'Ghirlandaio,'" said
Bella, turning round, with an angry light in her eyes; "it is such a
gem. Papa bought it the other day."

Waldemar rose reluctantly enough to inspect the "Ghirlandaio,"
manufactured in a back slum, and smoked into proper antiquity to pigeon,
under the attractive title of an "Old Master," the brewer and his
species, and found Miss Cashranger's ignorant dilettantism very tame
after Valérie's animated arguments and gesticulation. But he was too old
a hand at such game not to know how to take advantage of even an enemy's
back-handed stroke, and he turned the discussion on art to an inspection
of Valérie's portfolio, over whose croquis and pastels, and
water-colors, he lingered as long as he could, till the clock reminded
him that it was time to walk on into Eaton Square, where he was going to
dine at his father's. The governor excepted, Falkenstein had little
rapport with his family. His brother was as chilly disagreeable in
private life as he was popularly considered irreproachable in public,
and as pragmatical and uncharitable as your immaculate individuals
ordinarily are. His sisters were cold, conventional women, as utterly
incapable of appreciating him as of allowing the odor of his Latakia in
their drawing-room, and so it chanced that Waldemar, a favorite in every
other house he entered, received but a chill welcome at home. A prophet
has no honor in his own country, and the hearth where a man's own kin
are seated is too often the one to nurture the cockatrice's eggs of
ill-nature and injustice against him. Thank Heaven there are others
where the fire burns brighter, and the smiles are fonder for him. It
were hard for some of us if we were dependent on the mercies of our "own
family."

The old Count gave him this night but a distant welcome, for Maximilian
was there to "damn" his brother with "faint praise," and had been
pouring into his father's ear tales of "poor Waldemar's losses at play."
All that Falkenstein said, his sisters took up, contradicted, and jarred
upon, till he, fairly out of patience, lapsed into silence, only broken
by a sarcasm deftly flung at Maximillian to floor him completely in his
orthodoxy or ethics. He was glad to bid the governor good night; and
leaving them to hold a congress over his skepticism, radicalism, and
other dangerous opinions, he walked through the streets, and swore
slightly, with his pipe between his teeth, as he opened his own door.

"Since my father prefers Max to me, let him have him," thought Waldemar,
smoking, and undressing himself. "If people choose to dictate to me or
misjudge me, let them go; and if they have not penetration enough to
judge what I am, I shall not take the trouble to show them."

But, nevertheless, as he thus resolved, Falkenstein smoked hard and
fast, for he was fond of the old Count, and felt keenly his desertion;
for, steel himself as he might, egotist as he might call himself,
Waldemar was quick in his susceptibilities and tenacious in his
attachments.

Since Falkenstein had got intimate with Valérie L'Estrange in one ball
you are pretty sure that week after week did not lessen their
friendship. He was amused, and past memories of women he had wooed, and
won, and left, certain passages in his life where such had reproached
him, not always deservedly, never presented themselves to check him in
his new pursuit. It is pleasant to a naturalist to study a butterfly
pinned to the wall; the rememberance that the butterfly may die of the
sport does not occur to him, or, at least, never troubles him.

So Falkenstein called to Lowndes Square, and lent her books, and gave
her a little Skye of his, and met her occasionally by accident on
purpose in Kensington Gardens, where Valérie, according to Mrs.
Cashranger's request, sometimes took one of her cousins, a headstrong
young demon of six or seven, for an early walk, to which early walks
Valérie made no objection, preferring them to the drawing-rooms of No.
133, and liking them, you may guess, none the less after seeing somebody
she knew standing by the pond throwing in sticks for his retriever, and
Falkenstein had sat down with her under the bushes by the water, and
talked of all the things in heaven and earth; while Julius Adolphus ran
about and gobbled at the China geese, and wetted his silk stockings
unreproved. He made no love to her, not a bit; he talked of it
theoretically, but never practically. But he liked to talk to her, to
argue with her, to see her demonstrative pleasure in his society, to
watch her coming through the trees, and find the _longs yeux bleus_
gleam and darken at his approach. All this amused him, pleased him as
something original and out of the beaten track. She told him all she
thought and felt; she pleased him, and beguiled him from his darker
thoughts, and she began to reconcile him to human nature, which, with
Faria, he had learnt to class into "les tigres et les crocodiles à deux
pieds."

It was well he had this amusement, for it was his only one. He was going
to the bad, as we say; debts and entanglements imperceptibly gathered
round him, held him tight, and only in Valérie's lively society (lively,
for when with him she was as happy as a bird) could exercise his dark
spirit.

You remember the vow he made when the Silver Chimes rang in the New
Year? So did not he. We cannot be always Medes and Persians, madam, to
resist every temptation and keep unbroken every law, though you, sitting
in your cushioned chair, in unattacked tranquillity, can tell us easily
enough we should be. One night, when he was dining with Bevan, Tom
produced those two little ivory fiends, whose rattle is in the ear of
watchful deans and proctors as the singing of the rattlesnake, and whose
witchery is more wily and irresistible than the witchery of woman. No
beaux yeux, whether of the cassette or of one's first love, ever
subjugate a man so completely as the fascinations of play. Once yielded
to the charm, the Circe that clasps us will not let us go. Falkenstein,
though in much he had the strong will of his race, had no power to
resist the beguilements of his Omphale; he played again and again, and
five times out of seven lost.

"Well, Falkenstein," cried Godolphin, after five games of écarté at a
pony a side, three of which Falkenstein had lost, "I heard Max lamenting
to old Straitlace in the lobby, the other night, that you were going to
the devil, only the irreproachable member phrased it in more delicate
periods."

"Quite true," said Falkenstein, with a short laugh, "if for devil you
substitute Queen's Bench."

"Well, we're en route together, old fellow," interrupted Tom Bevan;
"and, with all your sins, you're a fat lot better than that brother of
yours, who, I believe, don't know Latakia from Maryland. Jesse Egerton
told me the other day that his wife has an awful life of it; but who'd
credit it of a man who patronises Exeter Hall, and gave the shoeblacks
only yesterday such unlimited supply of weak tea, buns, and strong
texts?"

"Who indeed! Max is such a moral man," sneered Falkenstein; "though he
has done one or two things in his life that I wouldn't have stooped to
do. But you may sin as much as you like as long as you sin under the
rose. John Bull takes his vices as a ten pound voter takes a bribe; he
stretches his hand out eagerly enough, but he turns his eyes away and
looks innocent, and is the first to point at his neighbor and cry out
against moral corruption. Melville's quite right that there is an
eleventh commandment--'Thou shalt not be found out'--whose transgression
is the only one society visits with impunity."

"True enough," laughed Jimmy Fitzroy. "Thank Heaven, nobody can accuse
us of studying the law and the prophets overmuch. By the way, old
fellow, who's that stunning little girl you were walking with by the
Serpentine yesterday morning, when I was waiting for the Metcalfe, who
promised to meet me at twelve, and never came till half-past one--the
most unpunctual woman going. Any new game? She's a governess, ain't she?
She'd some sort of brat with her; but she's deuced good style, anyhow."

"That's little L'Estrange," laughed Godolphin: "the beloved Bella's
cousin. He's met her there every day for the last three months. I don't
know how much further the affair may have gone, or if----"

"My dear Harry, your imagination is running away with you," said
Falkenstein, impatiently. "I never made an appointment with her in my
life; she's not the same style as Mrs. Metcalfe."

Oh the jesuitism of the most candid men on occasion! He never made an
appointment with her, because it was utterly unnecessary, he knowing
perfectly that he should find her feeding the ducks with Julius Adolphus
any morning he chose to look for her.

"All friendship is it, then?" laughed Godolphin. "Stick to it, my boy,
if you can. Take care what you do, though, for to carry her off to Duke
Street would give Max such a handle as he would not let go in a hurry;
And to marry (though that of course, will never enter your wildest
dreams) with anybody of the Cashranger's race, were it the heiress
instead of the companion, would be such a come-down to the princely
house, as would infallibly strike you out of Count Ferdinand's will."

Waldemar threw back his head like a thorough-bred impatient of the
punishing. "The 'princely house,' as you call it, is not so
extraordinarily stainless; but leave Valérie alone, she and I have
nothing to do with other, and never shall have. I have enough on my
hands, in all conscience, without plunging into another love affair."

"I did hear," continued Godolphin, "that Forester proposed to her, but I
don't suppose it's true; he'd scarcely be such a fool."

Falkenstein looked up quickly, but did not speak.

"I think it is true," said Bevan; "and, moreover, I fancy she refused
him, for he used to cry her up to the skies, and now he's always
snapping and sneering at her, which is beastly ungenerous, but after the
manner of many fellows."

"One would think you were an old woman, Tom, believing all the tales you
hear," said Godolphin. "She'd better know you disclaim her, Falkenstein,
that she mayn't waste her chances waiting for you."

Waldemar cast a quick, annoyed, contemptuous glance upon him. "You are
wonderfully careful over her interests," he said, sharply, "but I never
heard that having her on your lips, Harry, ever did a woman much good.
Pass me that whisky, Conrad, will you?"

The next morning, however, though he "disclaimed" her, Waldemar, about
ten, took his stick, whistled his dog, and walked down to Kensington
Gardens. Under the beeches just budding their first leaves, he saw what
he expected to see--Valérie L'Estrange. She turned--even at that
distance he thought he saw the _longs yeux bleus_ flash and
sparkle--dropped the biscuits she was giving the ducks to the tender
mercies of Julius Adolphus, and came to meet him. Spit, the little Skye
he had given her, welcoming him noisily.

"Spit is as pleased to see you as I am," said Valérie, laughing. "We
have both been wondering whether you would come this morning. I am so
glad you have, for I have been reading your 'Pollnitz Memoirs,' and want
to talk to you about them. You know I can talk to no one as I can to
you."

"You do me much honor," said Falkenstein, rather formally. He was
wondering in his mind whether she _had_ refused Forester or not.

"What a cold, distant speech! It is very unkind of you to answer me so.
What is the matter with you, Count Waldemar?"

She always called him by the title he had dropped in English society;
she had a fervent reverence for his historic _antécédens_; and besides,
as she told him one day, "she liked to call him something no one else
did."

"Matter with me? Nothing at all, I assure you," he answered, still
distantly.

"You are not like yourself, at all events," persisted Valérie. "You
should be kind to me. I have so few who are."

The tone touched him; he smiled, but did not speak, as he sat down by
her poking up the turf with his stick.

"Count Waldemar," said Valérie, suddenly, brushing Spit's hair off his
bright little eyes, "do tell me; hasn't something vexed you?"

"Nothing new," answered Falkenstein, with a short laugh. "The same
entanglements and annoyances that have been netting their toils round me
for many years--that is all. I am young enough, as time counts, yet I
give you my word I have as little hope in my future, and I know as well
what my life will be as if I were fourscore."

"Hush, don't say so," said Valérie, with a gesture of pain. "You are so
worthy of happiness; your nature was made to be happy; and if you are
not, fate has misused you cruelly."

"Fate? there is no such thing. I have been a fool, and my folly is now
working itself out. I have made my own life, and I have nobody but
myself to thank for it."

"I don't know that. Circumstances, temptation, education, opportunity,
association, often take the place of the Parcæ, and gild or cut the
threads of our destiny."

"No. I don't accept that doctrine," said Falkenstein, always much
sterner judge to himself than anybody would have been to him. "What I
have done has been with my eyes open. I have known the price I should
pay for my pleasures, but I never paused to count it. I never stopped
for any obstacle, and for what I desired, I would, like the men in the
old legends, have sold myself to the devil. Now, of course, I am
hampered with ten thousand embarrassments. You are young; you are a
woman; you cannot understand the reckless madness which will drink the
wine to-day, though one's life paid for it to-morrow. Screened from
opportunity, fenced in by education, position, and society, you cannot
know how impossible it is to a man, whose very energies and strength
become his tempters, to put a check upon himself in the vortex of
pleasure round him----"

"Yes," interrupted Valérie, "I can. Feeling for you, I can sympathise in
all things with you. Had I been a man, I should have done as you have
done, drunk the ambrosia without heeding its cost. Go on--I love to hear
you speak of yourself; and I know your real nature, Count Waldemar, into
whatever errors or hasty acts repented of in cooler moments the hot
spirit of your race may have led you."

Falkenstein was pleased, despite himself, half amused, half saddened. He
turned it off with a laugh. "By Heaven, I wish they had made a brewer of
me--I might now be as rich and free from care as your uncle."

"You a brewer!" cried Valérie. Her father, a poor gentleman, had left
her his aristocratic leanings. "What an absurd idea! All the old
Falkensteins would come out of their crypts, and chanceries, and
cloisters, to see the coronet surmounting the beer vats!"

He smiled at her vehemence. "The coronet! I had better have full pockets
than empty titles."

"For shame!" cried Valérie. "Yes, bark at him, Spit dear; he is telling
stories. You do not mean it; you know you are proud of your glorious
name. Who would not rather be a Falkenstein on a hundred a year, than a
Cashranger on a thousand?"

"I wouldn't," said Waldemar, wilfully. "If I had money, I could find
oblivion for my past, and hope for my future. If I had money, what loads
of friends would open their purses for me to borrow the money they'd
know I did not need. As it is, if I except poor Tom Bevan, who's as hard
up as I am, and who's a good-hearted, single-minded fellow, and likes
me, I believe I haven't a friend. Godolphin welcomes me as a companion,
a bon vivant, a good card player; but if he heard I was in the Queen's
Bench, or had shot myself, he'd say, 'Poor devil! I am not surprised,'
as he lighted his pipe and forgot me a second after. So they would all.
I don't blame them."

"But I do," cried Valérie, her cheeks burning; "they are wicked and
heartless, and I hate them all. Oh! Count Waldemar, I would not do so. I
would not desert you if all the world did!"

He smiled: he was accustomed to her passionate ebullitions. "Poor child,
I believe you would be truer than the rest," he muttered, half aloud, as
he rose hastily and took out his watch. "I must be in Downing Street by
eleven, and it only wants ten minutes. If you will walk with me to the
gates, I have something to tell you about your MS."



III.

"SCARLET AND WHITE" MAKES A HIT, AND FALKENSTEIN FEELS THE WEIGHT OF THE
GOLDEN FETTERS.


"Tom, will you come to the theatre with me to-night?" said Falkenstein
as they lounged by the rails one afternoon in May.

"The theatre! What for? Who's that girl with a scarlet tie, on that roan
there? I don't know her face. The ballet is the only thing worth
stirring a step for in town. Which theatre is it?"

"I am going to see the new piece Pomps and Vanities is bringing out, and
I want you as a sort of claqueur."

"Very well. I'll come," said Tom, who regarded Falkenstein, who had been
his school and formfellow, still rather as a Highlandman his chief;
"but, certainly, the first night of a play is the very last I should
select. But if you wish it---- There's that roan coming round again!
Good action, hasn't it?"

Obedient to his chiefs orders, Bevan brushed his whiskers, settled his
tie, or rather let his valet do it for him, and accompanied Waldemar to
one of the crack-up theatres, where Pomps and Vanities, as the manager
was irreverently styled by the habitués of his green-room, reigned in a
state of scenic magnificence, very different to the days when Garrick
played Macbeth in wig and gaiters.

Bevan asked no questions; he was rather a silent man, and probably knew
by experience that he would most likely get no answers, unless the
information was volunteered. So settling in his own mind that it was the
début of some protégée of Falkenstein's, he followed him to the door of
a private box. Waldemar opened it, and entered. In it sat two women:
one, a middle-aged lady-like-looking person; the other a young one, in
whom, as she turned round with a radiant smile, and gave Falkenstein her
hand, Bevan recognised Valérie L'Estrange. "Keep up your courage,"
whispered Waldemar, as he took the seat behind her, and leaned forward
with a smile. Tom stared at them both. It was high Dutch to him; but
being endowed with very little curiosity, and a lion's share of British
immovability, he waited without any impatience for the elucidation of
the mystery, and seeing the Count and Valérie absorbed in earnest and
low-toned conversation, he first studied the house, and finding not a
single decent-looking woman, he dropped his glass and studied the
play-bill. The bill announced the new piece as "Scarlet and White."
"Queer title," thought Bevan, a little consoled for his self-immolation
by seeing that Rosalie Rivers, a very pretty little brunette, was to
fill the soubrette rôle. The curtain drew up. Tom, looking at Valérie
instead of the stage, fancied she looked very pale, and her eyes were
fixed, not on the actors, but on Falkenstein. The first act passed off
in ominous silence. An audience is often afraid to compromise itself by
applauding a new piece too quickly. Then the story began to develop
itself--wit and passion, badinage and pathos, were well intermingled. It
turned on the love of a Catholic girl, a fille d'honneur to Catherine de
Médicis, for a Huguenot, Vicomte de Valère, a friend of Condé and
Coligny. The despairing love of the woman, the fierce struggle of her
lover between his passion and his faith, the intrigues of the court, the
cruelty and weakness of Charles Neuf, were all strikingly and forcibly
written. The actors, being warmly applauded as the plot thickened and
the audience became interested, played with energy and spirit; and when
the curtain fell the success of "Scarlet and White" was proclaimed
through the house.

"Very good play--very good indeed," said Tom, approvingly. "I hope
you've been pleased, Miss L'Estrange." Valérie did not hear him; she was
trembling and breathless, her blue eyes almost black with excitement,
while Falkenstein bent over her, his face more full of animation and
pleasure than Bevan had seen it for many a day. "Well," thought Tom,
"Forester _did_ say little Val was original. I should think that was a
polite term for insane. I suppose Falkenstein's keeper."

At that minute the applause redoubled. Pomps and Vanities had announced
"Scarlet and White" for repetition, and from the pit to the gods there
was a cry for the author. Falkenstein bent his head till his lips
touched her hair, and whispered a few words. She looked up in his face.
"Do you wish me?"

"Certainly."

His word was law. She rose and went to the front of the box, a burning
color in her cheeks, smiles on her lips, and tears lying under her
lashes.

"The devil, Waldemar! Do you mean that--that little thing?" began Bevan.

Falkenstein nodded, and Tom, for once in his life astonished, forgot to
finish his sentence in staring at the author! Probably the audience also
shared his surprise, in seeing her young face and girlish form, in lieu
of the anticipated member of the Garrick or new Bourcicault, with
inspiration drawn from Cavendish and Cognac; for there was a moment's
silence, and then they received her with such a welcome as had not
sounded through the house for years.

She bowed two or three times to thank them; then Falkenstein, knowing
that though she had no shyness, she was extremely excitable, drew her
gently back to her seat behind the curtain. "Your success is too much
for you," he said, softly.

"No, no," said Valérie, passionately, utterly forgetful that any one
else was near her; "but I am so glad that I owe it all to you. It would
be nothing to me, as you know, unless it pleased you; and it came to me
through your hands."

Falkenstein gave a short, quick sigh, and moved restlessly.

"You would like to go home now, wouldn't you?" he said after a pause.

She assented, and he led her out of the box, poor victimised Tom
following with her duenna, who was the daily governess at No. 133.

As their cab drove away, Valérie leaned out of the window, and watched
Falkenstein as long as she could see him. He waved his hand to her, and
walked on into Regent Street in silence.

"Hallo, Waldemar!" began Bevan, at length, "so your protégée's turning
out a star. Do you mean that she really wrote that play?"

Falkenstein nodded.

"Well, it's more than I could do. But what the deuce have you got to do
with it? For a man who says he won't entangle himself with another love
affair, you seem pretty tolerably _au mieux_ with her. How did it all
come about?"

"Simply enough," answered Falkenstein. "Of course I haven't known her
all these months without finding out her talents. She has a passion for
writing, and writes well, as I saw at once by those New Year's Night's
Proverbs. She has no money, as you know; she wants to turn her talents
to account, and didn't know how to set about it. She'd several
conversations with me on the subject, so I took her play, looked it
over, and gave it to Pomps and Vanities. He read it to oblige me, and
put it on the stage to oblige himself, as he wanted something new for
the season, and was pretty sure it would make a hit."

"Do the Cashrangers know of it?"

"No; that is why she asked the governess to come with her to-night. That
stingy old Pomps wouldn't pay her much, but she thinks it an El Dorado,
and I shall take care she commands her own price next time. I count on a
treat on enlightening Miss Bella."

"Yes, she'll cut up rough. By George! I quite envy you your young
genius."

"She isn't _mine_," said Falkenstein, bitterly.

"She might be if you chose."

"Poor little thing!--yes. But love is too expensive a luxury for a
ruined man, even if---- The devil take this key, why won't it unlock?
You're off to half a dozen parties I suppose, Tom?"

"And where are you going?"

"Nowhere."

"What! going to bed at half-past ten?"

"There is no particular sin in going to bed at half-past ten, is there?"
said Waldemar, impatiently. "I haven't the stuff in me for balls and
such things. I'm sick of them. Good-night, old fellow."

He went up-stairs to his room, threw himself on his bed, and, lighting
his pipe, lay smoking and thinking while the Abbey clock tolled the
hours one after another. The _longs yeux bleus_ haunted him, for
Waldemar had already too many chains upon him not to shrink from adding
to them the Golden Fetters of a fresh passion, and marriage, unless a
rich one, was certain to bring about him all his entanglements. He
resolved to seek her no more, to check the demonstrative affection
which, like Esmeralda, "à la fois naïve et passionnée," she had no
thought of concealing from him, and which, as Falkenstein's conscience
told him, he had done everything to foster. "What is a man worth if he
hasn't strength of will?" he muttered, as he tossed on his bed. "And
yet, poor little Valérie---- Pshaw! all women learn quickly enough to
forget!"

Some ten days after he was calling in Lowndes Square. True as yet to his
resolution, he had avoided the tête-à-tête walks in the Gardens; and
Valérie keenly felt the change in his manner, though in what he did for
her he was as kind as ever. The successful run of "Scarlet and White,"
the praises of its talents, its promises of future triumphs--all the
admiration which, despite Bella's efforts to keep her back, the _yeux
bleus_ excited--all were valueless, if, as she vaguely feared, she had
lost "Count Waldemar." The play had made a great sensation, and the
Cashrangers had taken a box the night before, as they made a point of
following the lead and seeing everything, though they generally forswore
theatres as not quite _ton_. Pah! these people, "qui se couchent
roturiers et se lèvent nobles," they paint their lilies with such
superabundant coloring, that we see, at a glance, the flowers come not
out of a conservatory but out of an atelier.

They were out, as it chanced, and Valérie was alone. She received him
joyously, for unhappy as she was in his absence, the mere sight of his
face recalled her old spirits, and Falkenstein, in all probability,
never guessed a tithe she suffered, because she had always a smile for
him.

"Oh! Count Waldemar," she cried, "why have you never been to the
Gardens this week? If you only knew how I miss you----"

"I have had no time," he answered, coldly.

"You could make time if you wished," said Valérie, passionately. "You
are so cold, so unkind to me lately. Have I vexed you at all?"

"Vexed me, Miss L'Estrange? Certainly not."

She was silent, chilled, despite herself.

"Why do you call me Miss L'Estrange?" she said, suddenly. "You know I
cannot bear it from _you_."

"What should I call you?"

"Valérie," she answered, softly.

He got up and walked to the hearth-rug, playing with Spit and Puppet
with his foot, and for once hailed, as a relief, the entrance of Bella,
in an extensive morning toilet, fresh from "shopping." She looked
rapidly and angrily from him to Valérie, and attacked him at once.
Seeing her cousin's vivacity told, she went in for the same stakes, with
but slight success, being a young lady of the heavy artillery stamp,
with no light action about her.

"Oh! Mr. Falkenstein," she began, "that exquisite play--you've seen it,
of course? Captain Boville told me I should be delighted with it, and so
I was. Don't you think it enchanting?"

"It is very clever," answered Falkenstein, gravely.

"Val missed a great treat," continued Bella; "nothing would make her go
last night; however, she never likes anything I like. I should love to
know who wrote it; some people say a woman, but I would never believe
it."

"The witty raillery and unselfish devotion of the heroine might be
dictated by a woman's head and heart, but the passion, and vigor, and
knowledge of human nature indicate a masculine genius," replied
Waldemar.

Valérie gave him such a grateful, rapturous glance, that, had Bella been
looking, might have disclosed the secret; but she was studying her
dainty gloves, and went on:

"Could it be Westland Marston--Sterling Coyne?"

Falkenstein shook his head. "If it were, they would put their name on
the play-bills."

"You naughty man! I do believe you could tell me if you chose. _Are_ you
not, now, in the author's confidence?"

The corner of Falkenstein's mouth went up in an irresistible smile as he
telegraphed a glance at "the author." "Well, perhaps I am."

Bella clapped her hands with enchanting gaiety. "Then, tell me this
moment; I am in agonies to know!"

"It is no great mystery," smiled Falkenstein. "I fancy you are
acquainted with the unknown."

"You don't mean it!" cried Bella, in a state of ecstasy. "Have you
written it, then?"

"I'm afraid I can't lay claim to the honor."

"Who can it be? Oh, do tell me! How enchanting!" cried Miss Cashranger;
"I am wild to hear. Somebody I know, you say? Is it--is it Captain
Tweed?"

"No, it isn't," laughed Falkenstein. Elliot Tweed--Idiot Tweed, as they
all call him--who was hanging after Bella, abhorred all caligraphy, and
wrote his own name with one _e_.

"Mr. Dashaway, then?"

"Dash never scrawled anything but I. O. U.s."

"Lord Flippertygibbett, perhaps?"

"Wrong again. Flip took up a pen once too often, when he signed his
marriage register, to have any leanings to goose quills."

"Charlie Montmorency, then?"

"Reads nothing but his betting-book and _Bell's Life_."

"Dear me! how tiresome. Who can it be? Wait a moment. Let me see. Is it
Major Powell?"

"Guess again. He wouldn't write, save in Indian fashion, with his
tomahawk on his enemies' scalps."

"How provoking!" cried Bella, exasperated. "Stop: is it Mr. Beauchamp?"

"No; he scribbles for six-and-eightpences too perseveringly to have time
for anything, except ruining his clients."

"Dr. Montressor, then?"

"Try once more. His prescriptions bring him too many guineas for him to
waste ink on any other purpose."

"How stupid I am! Perhaps--perhaps---- Yet no, it can't be, because he's
at the Cape, and most likely killed, poor fellow. Could it be Cecil
Green?"

Falkenstein laughed. "You needn't go so far as Kaffirland; try a little
nearer home. Think over the _ladies_ you know."

"The ladies! Then it _is_ a woman!" cried Bella. "Well, I should never
have believed it. Who can she be? How I shall admire her, and envy her!
A lady! Can it be darling Flora?"

"No. If your pet friend can get through an invitation-note of four
lines, the exertion costs her at least a dram of sal volatile."

"How wicked you are," murmured Miss Cashranger, delighted, after the
custom of women, to hear her friend pulled to pieces. "Is it Mrs.
Lushington, then?"

"Wrong again. The Lushington has so much business on hand, inditing
rose-hued notes to twenty men at once, and wording them differently, for
fear they may ever be compared, that she's no time for other
composition."

"Lady Mechlin, perhaps--she is a charming creature?"

Falkenstein shook his head. "Never could learn the simplest rule of
grammar. When she was engaged to Mechlin, she wrote her love-letters out
of 'Henrietta Temple,' and flattered him immensely by their pathos."

"Was there ever such a sarcastic creature!" cried Bella, reprovingly;
her interest rather flagged, since no man was the incognito author.
"Well, let me see: there is Rosa Temple--she is immensely intellectual."

"But immensely orthodox. Every minute of her life is spent in working
slippers and Bible markers for interesting curates. It is to be hoped
one of them may reward her some day, though, I believe, till they _do_
propose, she is in the habit of advocating priestly celibacy, by way of
assertion of her disinterestedness. No! Miss Cashranger, the talented
writer of 'Scarlet and White,' is not only of your acquaintance, but
your family."

"My family!" almost screamed Bella. "Good gracious, Mr. Falkenstein, is
it dear papa, or--or Augustus?"

The idea of the brewer, fat, and round, and innocent of literature as
one of his own teams, or of his son just plucked for his "smalls" at
Cambridge, for spelling Cæsar, Sesar, sitting down to indite the pathos
and poetry of "Scarlet and White," was so exquisitely absurd that
Waldemar, forgetting courtesy, lay back in his arm-chair and laughed
aloud. The contagion of his ringing laugh was irresistible; Valérie
followed his example, and their united merriment rang in the astonished
ears of Miss Cashranger, who looked from one to the other in wrathful
surprise. As soon as he could control himself, Falkenstein turned
towards her with his most courteous smile.

"You will forgive our laughter, I am sure, when I tell you what I am
certain _must_ give you great pleasure, that the play you so warmly and
justly admire was written by your cousin."

Bella stared at him, her face scarlet, all the envy and reasonless spite
within her flaming up at the idea of her cousin's success.

"Valérie--Valérie," she stammered, "is it true? I had no idea she ever
thought of----"

"No," said Falkenstein, roused in his protégée's defence; "I dare say
you are astonished, as every one else would be, that any one so young,
and, comparatively speaking, so inexperienced as your cousin, should
have developed such extraordinary talent and power."

"Oh, of course--to be sure--yes," said Bella, her lips twitching
nervously, "mamma will be astonished to hear of these new laurels for
the family. I congratulate you, Valérie; I never knew you dreamt of
writing, much less of making so public a début."

"Nor should I ever have been able to do so unless my way had been
pioneered for me," said Valérie, resting her eyes fondly on Waldemar.

He stayed ten minutes longer, chatting on indifferent subjects, then
left, making poor little Val happy with a touch of his hand, and a smile
as "kind" as of old.

"You horrid, deceitful little thing!" began Bella, bursting with fury,
as the door closed on him, "never to mention what you were doing. I
can't bear such sly people I hate----"

"My dear Bella, don't disturb yourself," said Valérie, quietly; "if you
had testified any interest in my doings, you might have known them; as
it was, I was glad to find warmer and kinder friends."

"In Waldemar Falkenstein, I suppose," sneered Bella, white with rage. "A
nice friend you have, certainly; a man whom everybody knows may go to
prison for debt any day."

"Leave him alone," said Valérie haughtily; "unless you speak well of
him, in my presence, you shall not speak at all."

"Oh, indeed," laughed Bella, nervously; "how very much interested you
are in him! more than he is in you, I'm afraid, dear. He's famed for
loving and leaving. Pray how long has this romantic affair been on the
tapis?"

"He's met her every day in the Gardens," cried Julius Adolphus, just
come in with that fatal apropos of "enfans terribles," much oftener the
result of méchanceté than of innocence; "he's met her every day, Bella,
while I fed the ducks."

Bella rose, inflated with fury, and summoning all her dignity:

"I suppose, Valérie, you know the sort of reputation you will get
through these morning assignations."

Valérie bent over Spit with a smile.

"Of course, it is nothing to _me_," continued Bella, spitefully; "but I
shall consider it my duty to inform mamma."

Valérie fairly laughed out.

"Do your duty, by all means."

"And," continued Bella, a third time, "I dare say she will find some
means to put a stop to this absurd friendship with an unmarried and
unprincipled man."

Valérie was roused; she lifted her head like a little Pythoness, and her
blue eyes flashed angry scorn.

"Tell your mamma what you please, but--listen to me, Bella--if you
venture to harm him in any way with your pitiful venom, I, girl as I am,
will never let you go till I have revenged myself and him."

Bella, like most bullies, was a terrible coward. There was an
earnestness in Valérie's words, and a dangerous light in her eyes, that
frightened her, and she left the room in silence, while Valérie leaned
her forehead on Spit's silky back, and cried bitterly, tears that for
her life she wouldn't have shed while her cousin was there.

The next time Falkenstein called at Lowndes Square, the footman told
him, "Not at home," and Waldemar swore, mentally, as he turned from the
door, for though he could keep himself from seeking her, it was
something new not to find her when he wished.

"She's like all the rest," he thought bitterly; "She's used me, and now
she's gone to newer friends. I was a fool to suppose any woman would do
otherwise. They'll tell her I can't marry; of course she'll go over to
D'Orwood, or some of those confounded fools that are dangling after
her."

So in his skeptical haste judged Falkenstein, on the strength of a
single "Not at home," due to Cashranger malice, and the fierce throbs
the mere suspicion gave him showed him that he loved Valérie too much to
be able to deceive himself any longer with the assurance that his
feelings towards his protégée was simple "friendship." He knew it, but
he was loth to give way to it. He had long held as a doctrine that a man
could forget if he chose. He had been wearied of so many, been
disappointed in so much, he had had idols of the hour, in which, their
first gloss off, he had found no beauty, he could not tell; it might not
be the same with Valérie. Warm and passionate as a Southern, haughty and
reserved as a Northern, he held many a bitter conflict in his solitary
vigils at night over his pipe, after evenings spent in society which no
longer amused him, or excitement with which he vainly sought to drown
his cares. When he did meet Valérie out, which was rarely, as he
refused most invitations now, his struggle against his ill-timed passion
made his manner so cold and capricious, that Valérie, who could not
divine the workings of his heart, began, despite her vehement faith in
him, and conviction that he was not wholly indifferent to her, to dread
that Bella might be right, and that as he had left others so would he
leave her. He gave her no opportunity of questioning him as to his
sudden change, for when he did call in Lowndes Square, Bella and her
aunt always stationed themselves as a sort of detective police, and
Falkenstein now never sought a tête-à-tête.

One evening she met him at a dinner-party. With undisguised delight she
watched his entrance, and Waldemar, seeing her radiant face, thought in
his haste, "She is happy enough, what does she care for me?" If he had
looked at her after he had shaken hands carelessly with her, and turned
away to talk to another woman, he would have discovered his mistake. But
when do we ever discover half our errors before it is too late? She
signed to him to come to her under pretext of looking at some croquis,
and whispered hurriedly,

"Count Waldemar, what have I done--why do you never come to see me? You
are so changed, so altered----"

"I was not aware of it."

"But I never see you in the Gardens now. You never talk to me, you never
call on me."

"I have other engagements."

Valérie breathed hard between her set teeth.

"That are more agreeable to you, I suppose. You should not have
accustomed me to what you intended to withdraw when it ceased to amuse
you. _I_ am not so capricious. Your kindness about my play----"

"It was no kindness; I would have done the same for any one."

She looked at him fixedly.

"General kindness is no kindness," said Valérie, passionately. "If you
would do for a mere acquaintance what you would do for your friend, what
value attaches to your friendship?"

"I attach none to it," said the Count, coldly.

Valérie's little hands clenched hard. She did not speak, lest her
self-possession should give way, and just then D'Orwood came to give her
his arm in to dinner; and at dinner Valérie, demonstrative and candid as
she was, was gay and animated, for she could wear a mask in the bal
d'Opéra of life as well as he; and though she could not believe the
coldness he testified was really meant, she felt bitterly the neglect of
his manner before others, at sight of which Bella's small eyes sparkled
with malicious satisfaction.



IV.

SOME GOLDEN FETTERS ARE SHAKEN OFF AND OTHERS ARE PUT ON.


"Mrs. Boville told me last night that Waldemar Falkenstein is so
dreadfully in debt, that she thinks he'll have to go into court--don't
they call it?" lisped Bella, the next morning; "be arrested, or
bankrupt, or something dreadful. Should you think it is true?"

"I know it's true," said Idiot Tweed, who was there, having a little
music before luncheon. "He's confoundedly hard up, poor devil."

"But I thought he was in such a good position--so well off?" said Bella,
observing with secret delight that her cousin's head was raised, and
that the pen with which she was writing had stopped in its rapid gallop.

"Ah! so one thinks of a good many fellows," answered the Guardsman;
"or, at least, you ladies do, who don't look at a man's ins and outs,
and the fifty hundred things there are to bother him. Lots of
people--householders, and all that sort of thing--that one would fancy
worth no end, go smash when nobody's expecting it."

"And Mr. Falkenstein really is embarrassed?"

The Guardsman laughed outright. "That is a mild term, Miss Cashranger. I
heard down at Windsor yesterday, from a man that knows his family very
well, that if he don't pay his debts this week, Amadeus Levi will arrest
him. I dare say he will. Jews do when they can't bleed you any longer,
and think your family will come down handsomely. But they say the old
Count won't give Falkenstein a rap, so most likely he'll cut the
country."

That afternoon, on his return from the Deeds and Chronicles Office,
whose slow red-tapeism ill suited his impatient and vigorous intellect,
Waldemar sat down deliberately to investigate his affairs. It was true
that Amadeus Levi's patience was waning fast; his debts of honor had put
him deep in that worthy's books, and Falkenstein, as he sat in his
lodgings, with the August sun streaming full on the relentless figures
that showed him, with cruel mathematical ruthlessness, that he was fast
chained in the Golden Fetters of debt, leaned his head upon his arms
with the bitter despair of a man whose own hand has blotted his past and
ruined his future.

The turning of the handle of his door roused him from his reverie. He
looked up quickly.

"A lady wants to speak to you, sir," said the servant who waited on him.

"What name?"

"She'd rather not give it, sir."

"Very well," said Falkenstein, consigning all women to the devil; "show
her up."

Resigning himself to his fate, he rose, leaning his hand on the arm of
the chair. He started involuntarily as the door opened again.

"Valérie!"

She looked up at him half hesitatingly. "Count Waldemar, don't be angry
with me----"

"Angry! no, Heaven knows; but----"

Her face and her voice were fast thawing his chill reserve, and he
stopped abruptly.

"You wonder why I have come here," Valérie went on singularly shyly for
her, "but--but I heard that you--you have much to trouble you just now.
Is it true?"

"True enough, Heaven knows."

"Then--then," said Valérie, with all her old impetuosity, "let me do
something for you--let me help you in some way--you who have done
everything for me, who have been the only person kind to me on earth. Do
let me--do not refuse me. I would die to serve you."

He breathed fast as he gazed on her expressive eyes. It was a hard
struggle to him to preserve his self-control.

"No one can help me," he answered, hurriedly. "I have made my own
fate--leave me to it."

"I will not!" cried Valérie, passionately. "Do not send me away--do not
refuse me. What happiness would there be for me so great as serving
you--you to whom I owe all the pleasure I have known! Take them. Count
Waldemar--pray take them; they have often told me they are worth a good
deal, and I will thank Heaven every hour for having enabled me to aid
you ever so little." She pressed into his hands a jewel-case.

Falkenstein could not answer her. He stood looking down at her, his lips
white as death. She mistook his silence for displeasure, and laid her
hands on his arm.

"Do not be offended--do not be annoyed with me. They are my own--an old
heirloom of the L'Estranges that only came to me the other day. Take
them, Count Waldemar. Do, for Heaven's sake. I spoke passionately to you
last night; I have been unhappy ever since. If you will not take them, I
shall think you have not yet forgiven me?"

He seized her hands and drew her close to him: "Good Heavens! do you
love me like this?"

She did not answer, but she looked up at him. That look shivered to
atoms Falkenstein's resolves, and cast his pride and prudence to the
winds. He pressed her fiercely against his heart, he kissed her again
and again, bitter tears rushing to his burning eyes.

"Valérie! Valérie!" he whispered, wildly, "my fate is at its darkest.
Will you share it?"

She leaned her brow on his shoulder, trembling with hysterical joy.

"You do care for me, then?" she murmured, at last.

"Oh! thank Heaven."

In the delirium of his happiness, in the vehemence of feelings touched
to the core by sight of the intense love he had awakened, Falkenstein
poured out on her all the passion of his impetuous and reserved nature,
and in the paradise of the moment forgot every cloud that hung on his
horizon.

"Valérie!" he whispered, at length, "I have now nothing to offer you. I
can give you none of the riches, and power, and position that other men
can----"

She stopped him, putting her hands on his lips. "Hush! I shall have
everything that life can give me in having your love."

"My darling, Heaven bless you!" cried Falkenstein, passionately; "but
think twice, Valérie--pause before you decide. I am a ruined
man--embarrassments fetter me on every side. To-morrow, for aught I
know, I may be arrested for debt. I would not lead you into what, in
older years, you may regret."

"Regret!" cried Valérie, clinging to him. "How can I ever regret that I
have won the one heaven I crave. If you love me, life will always be
beautiful in my eyes; and, Count Waldemar, I can work for you--I can
help you, be it ever so little. I cannot make much money now, but you
have said that I shall gain more year after year. Only let me be with
you; let me know your sorrows and lighten them if I can, and I could ask
no greater happiness----"

Falkenstein bent over her, and covered with caresses the lips that to
him seemed so eloquent; he had no words to thank her for a love that, to
his warm and solitary heart, came like water in the wilderness. The
sound of voices gay and laughing, on the stairs, startled him.

"That is Bevan and Godolphin; I forgot they were coming for me to go
down to the Castle. Good Heavens! they mustn't see you here, love, to
jest about you over their mess-tables. Stay," said Falkenstein, hastily,
as the men entered the front room, "wait here a moment; they cannot see
you in this window, and I will come to you again. Hallo! old fellows!"
said he, passing through the folding-doors. "You're wonderfully
punctual, Tom. I always give you half an hour's grace; but I suppose
Harry's such an awful martinet, that he kept you up to time for once."

"All the credit's due to my mare," laughed Godolphin. "She did the
distance from Knightsbridge in four minutes, and I don't think Musjid
himself could beat that. Are you ready, I say? because we're to be at
the Castle by six, and Fitz don't like waiting for his turbot."

"Give me a brace of seconds, and I shall be with you," said Waldemar.

"Make haste, there's a good fellow. By George!" said Harry, catching
sight of the jewel-case, "for a fellow who's so deucedly hard up, you've
been pretty extravagant in getting those diamonds, Waldemar. Who are
they for--Rosalie Rivers, or the Deloraine; or that last love of yours,
that wonderful little L'Estrange?"

Falkenstein's brow grew dark; he snatched the case from the table, with
a suppressed oath, and went back to the inner room, slamming the
folding-doors after him. Godolphin lounged to the window looking on the
street, where he stood for five minutes, whistling A te, o cara. "The
devil! what's that fellow about?" he said, yawning. "How impatient
Bonbon's growing! Why don't that fool Roberts drive her up and down? By
Jove! come here, Tom. Who's that girl Falkenstein's now putting into a
cab? That's what he wanted his brace of seconds for! Confound that
portico! I can't see her face, and women dress so much alike now,
there's no telling one from another. What an infernal while he is
bidding her good-by. I shall know another time what his two seconds
mean. There, the cab's off at last, thank Heaven!--Very pretty,
Falkenstein," he began, as the Count entered. "That's your game, is it?
I think you might have confided in your bosom friend. Who is the fair
one? Come, make a clean breast of it."

Falkenstein shook his head. "My dear Harry, spare your words. Don't you
know of old that you never get anything out of me unless I choose?"

"Oh yes, confound you, I know that pretty well. One question,
though--was she pretty?"

"Do you suppose I entertain plain women?"

"No; never was such a man for the beaux yeux. It looked uncommonly like
little L'Estrange; but I don't suppose she could get out of the durance
vile of Lowndes Square, to come and pay you a tête-à-tête call. Well,
are you ready now? because Bonbon's tired of waiting, and so are we. A
man in love makes an abominable friend."

"A man in love with himself makes a worse one," said Waldemar; which hit
Harry in a vulnerable spot, Godolphin being generally chaffed about the
affection he bore his own person.

"That _was_ the little L'Estrange, wasn't it?" asked Godolphin, as they
leaned out of the window after dinner, apart from the others.

"Yes," said Waldemar, curtly; "but I beg you to keep silence on it to
every one."

"To be sure; I've kept plenty of your confidences. I had no idea you'd
push it so far. Of course you won't be fool enough to marry her?"

Falkenstein's dark eyes flashed fire. "I shall not be fool enough to
consult or confide in any man upon my private affairs."

Godolphin shrugged his shoulders with commiseration, and left Waldemar
alone in his window.

Falkenstein called in Lowndes Square the morning after and had an
interview with old Cash in the library of gaudy books that were never
opened, and told him concisely that he loved his niece, and--that ever I
should live to record it!--that little snob, with not two ideas in his
head, who couldn't, if put to it, tell you who his own grandfather was,
and who owed his tolerance in society to his banking account, refused an
alliance with the refined intellect and the blue blood of one of the
proud, courtly, historic Falkensteins! He'd been tutored by his wife,
and said his lesson properly, refusing to sanction "any such connexion;"
of course his niece must act for herself.

Waldemar bowed himself out with all his haughtiest high-breeding; he
knew Valérie _would_ act for herself, but the insult cut him to the
quick. He threw himself into the train, and went down to Fairlie, his
governor's place in Devonshire, determining to sacrifice his pride, and
ask his father to aid him in his effort for freedom. In the drawing-room
he found his sister Virginia, a cold, proud woman of the world. She
scarcely let him sit down and inquire for the governor, before she
pounced on him.

"Waldemar, I have heard the most absurd report about you."

"Most reports are absurd."

"Yes, of course; but this is too ridiculous. What do you think it is?"

"I am sure I can't say."

"That you are going to marry."

"Well?"

"Well! You take it very quietly. If you were going to make a good match
I should be the first to rejoice; but they say that you are engaged to
some niece of that odious, vulgar parvenu, Cashranger, the brewer; that
little bold thing who wrote that play that made a noise a little while
ago. Pray set me at rest at once, and say it is not true."

"I should be very sorry if it were not."

His sister looked at him in haughty horror. "Waldemar! you must be mad.
If you were rich, it would be intolerable to stoop to such a connexion;
but, laden with debts as you are, to disgrace the family with such----"

"Disgrace?" repeated Falkenstein, scornfully. "She would honor any
family she entered."

"You talk like a boy of twenty," said Virginia, impatiently. "To load
yourself with a penniless wife when you are on the brink of ruin--to
introduce to _us_ the niece of a low-bred, pushing plebeian--to give
your name to a bold manoeuvring girl, who has the impudence to take her
stand before a crowded theatre----"

"Hold!" broke out Waldemar, fiercely: "you might thank Heaven, Virginia,
if you were as frank-hearted and as free from guile as she is. She
thinks no ill, and therefore she is not, like you fine ladies, on the
constant qui vive lest it should be attributed to her. I have found at
last a woman too generous to be mistrustful, too fond to wait for the
world's advantages, and, moreover, untainted by the breath of your
conventionalities, and pride, and cant."

Virginia threw back her head with a curl on her lip. "You are mad, as I
said before. I suppose you do not expect me to countenance your
infatuation?"

He shrugged his shoulder. "Really, whether you do or not is perfectly
immaterial to me."

Virginia was silent, pale with anger, for they were all (pardonably
enough) proud. She turned with a sneer to Josephine, a younger and less
decided woman, just entering. "Josephine, you are come in time to be
congratulated on your sister-in-law."

"Is it true?" murmured Josephine, aghast. "Oh! my dear Waldemar, pause;
consider how dreadful for us--a person who is so horribly connected;
the man's beer wagon is now standing at the door. Oh, do reflect--a
girl, whose name is before the public----"

"By talent that would grace a queen!" interrupted Waldemar, rising
impatiently. "You waste your words; you might know that I am not so weak
as to give up my sole chance of happiness to please your pitiful
prejudices."

"Very well. _I_ shall never speak to her," said Virginia, between her
teeth.

"That you will do as you please; you will be the loser."

"But, Waldemar, do consider," began Josephine.

"Your women's tongues would drive a man mad," muttered Falkenstein.
"Tell me where my father is."

"In his study," answered Virginia briefly. And in his study Falkenstein
found him. He saw at once that something was wrong by his reception; but
he plunged at once into his affairs, showing him plainly his position,
and asking him frankly for help to discharge his debts.

Count Ferdinand heard him in silence. "Waldemar," he answered, after a
long pause, "you shall have all you wish. I will sign you a check for
the amount this instant if you give me your word to break off this
miserable affair."

Falkenstein's cheek flushed with annoyance; he had expected sympathy
from his father, or at least toleration. "That is impossible. You ask me
to give up the one thing that binds me to life--the one love I have
given me--the one chance of redeeming the future, that lies in my grasp.
I am not a boy led away by a passing caprice. I have known and tried
everything, and I can judge what will make my happiness. What
unfortunate prejudice have you all formed against my poor little
Valérie----"

"Enough" said his father, sternly. "I address you as a man of the world,
and a man of sense; you answer me with infatuated folly. I give you your
choice: my aid and esteem, in everything you can desire, or the madman's
gratification of the ill-placed caprice of the hour."

Falkenstein rose as haughtily as the Count.

"Virtually, then, you give me no choice. I am sorry I troubled you with
my concerns. I know whose interference I have to thank for it, and am
only astonished you are so easily influenced," said Falkenstein, setting
his teeth hard as he closed the door; for his father's easy desertion of
him hit him hard, and he attributed it, rightly enough, to Maximilian,
who, industriously gathering every grain of evil report against his
brother, had taken such a character of Valérie--whom, unluckily, he had
seen coming out of Duke street--down to Fairlee, that his father vowed
to disinherit him, and his sisters never to speak to him. The doors both
of his own home and Lowndes Square were closed to him; and in his
adversity the only one that clung to him was Valérie.

If he had been willing to ask them, none of his friends could have
helped him. Godolphin, with 20,000_l_. a year, spent every shilling on
himself; Tom Bevan, but that he stood for a pocket borough of his
governor's, would have been in quod long ago; and for the others, men
very willing to take your money at écarté are not very willing to lend
you theirs when you can play écarté no longer. Amadeus Levi grew more
and more importunate; down on him at once, as Falkenstein knew, would
come the Jew's _griffes_ if he took any such unprofitable step as a
marriage for love; and with all the passion in the world,
mesdemoiselles, a man thinks twice before he throws himself into the
Insolvent Court.

One night, _nolens volens_, decision was forced on him. He had seen
Valérie that morning in the Pantheon, and they had parted to meet again
at a ball, one of the lingering stragglers of the past season. About
twelve he dressed and walked down Duke Street, looking for a cab to take
him to Park Lane. Under a lamp at the corner, standing reading, he saw a
man whom he knew by sight, and whose errand he guessed without
hesitation. He paused unnoticed close beside him; he stood a moment and
glanced over his shoulder; he saw a warrant for his own apprehension at
Levi's suit. The man looking, to make sure of the dress, never raised
his eyes. Falkenstein walked on, hailed a hansom in Regent street, and
in a quarter of an hour was chatting with his hostess.

"Where is Miss L'Estrange?" he asked, carelessly.

"She was waltzing with Tom a moment ago," answered Mrs. Eden. "If you
run after her so, I shall believe report. But is anything the matter,
Falkenstein? How ill you look!"

"Too much champagne," laughed Waldemar. "I've been dining with Gourmet,
and all the Falkensteins inherit the desire of obtaining that
gentlemanlike curse, the gout."

"It's not the gout, mon ami," smiled Mrs. Eden.

"Break your engagement and waltz with me," he whispered, ten minutes
after, to Valérie.

"I have none. I kept them all free for you!"

He put his arm round her and whirled her into the circle.

"Count Waldemar, you are not well. Has anything fresh occurred?" she
asked anxiously, as she felt the quick throbs of his heart, and saw the
dark circles of his eyes and the deepened lines round his haughty mouth.

"Not much, dearest. I will tell you in a moment."

She was silent, and he led her through the different rooms into Mrs.
Eden's boudoir, which he knew was generally deserted; and there, holding
her close to him, but not looking into her eyes lest his strength should
fail him, he told her that he must leave England, and asked her if he
should go alone.

She caught both his hands and kissed them passionately. "No, no; do not
leave me--take me with you, wherever it be. Oh, that I were rich for
your sake! I, who would die for you, can do nothing to help you--"

He pressed her fiercely to him. "Oh, Valérie! Heaven bless you for your
love, that renders the darkest hour of my life the brightest. But weigh
well what you do, my darling. I am utterly ruined. I cannot insure you
from privation in the future, perhaps not from absolute want; if I make
money, much must go in honor year by year to the payment of my debts, by
instalments. I shall take you from all the luxuries and the society that
you are formed for; do not sacrifice yourself blindly----"

"Sacrifice myself!" interrupted Valérie. "Oh! Waldemar, if it is no
sacrifice to _you_, let me be with you wherever it be; and if you have
cares, and toil, and sorrow, let me share them. I will write for you,
work for you, do anything for you, only let me be with you----"

He pressed his lips to hers, silent with the tumult of passion,
happiness, delirious joy, regret, remorse, that arose in him at her
words.

"My guardian angel, be it as you will!" he said, at length. "I must be
out of England to-morrow, Valérie. Will you come with me as my wife?"

Early on Sunday morning Falkenstein was married, and out of his host of
friends, and relatives, and acquaintance, honest Tom Bevan was the only
man who turned him off, as Tom phrased it, and bid him good bye, with
few words but much regret, concealed, after the manner of Britons, for
the loss of his old chum. Tom's congratulations were the only ones that
fell on Valérie's ear in the empty church that morning; but I question
if Valérie ever noticed the absence of the marriage paraphernalia, so
entirely were her heart, and eyes, and mind, fixed on the one whom she
followed into exile. They were out of London before their part of it had
begun to lounge down to their late breakfasts; and as they crossed the
Channel, and the noon sun streamed on the white line of cliffs,
Falkenstein, holding her hands in his and looking down into her eyes,
forgot the follies of his past, the insecurity of his future, the tale
of his ruin and his flight, that would be on the tongues of his friends
on the morrow, and only remembered the love that came to him when all
others forsook him.



V.

THE SILVER CHIMES RING IN A HAPPY NEW YEAR.


One December evening Falkenstein sat in his lodgings in Vienna; the wood
fire burnt brightly, and if its flames lighted up a room whose
_appanages_ were rather different to the palace his grandfather had
owned in the imperial city, they at least shone on waving hair and
violet eyes that were very dear to him, and helped to teach him to
forget much that he had forfeited. From England he had come to Vienna,
where, as he had projected, his uncle, one of the cabinet, had been able
to help him to a diplomatic situation, for which his keen judgment and
varied information fitted him; and in Austria his name gave him at once
a brevet of the highest nobility. Of course the knowledge that he was
virtually outlawed, and that he was deep in the debt of such sharps as
Amadeus Levi, often galled his proud and sensitive nature; but Valérie
knew how to soften and to soothe him, and, under her caressing affection
or her ready vivacity, the dark hours passed away.

He was smoking his favorite briar-wood pipe, with Valérie sitting at his
feet, reading him some copy just going to her publishers in England, and
little Spit, not forgotten in their flight, lying on the hearth, when a
deep English voice startled them, singing out, "Here you are at last! I
give you my word, I've been driving over this blessed city two hours to
find you!"

"Tom!" cried Falkenstein.

"Captain Bevan!" echoed Valérie, springing to her feet, while Spit began
barking furiously.

Bevan shook hands with them; heartily glad to see his friend again,
though, of course he grumbled more about the snow and the stupidity of
the Viennese than anything else. "Very jolly rooms you've got," said he
at last; "and, 'pon my life, you look better than I've seen you do a
long time, Waldemar. Madame has done wonders for you."

"Madame" laughed, and glanced up at Falkenstein, who smiled half sadly.

"She has taught me how to find happiness, Tom. I wish you may get such a
teacher."

"Thank you, so do I, if my time ever comes; but geniuses _aux longs yeux
bleus_ are rare in the world. But you're wondering why I'm here, ain't
you?"

"I was flattering myself you were here to see us."

"Well, of course and very glad to see you, too; but I'm come in part as
your governor's messenger."

Valérie saw him look up quickly, a flush on his face. "My father?"

"Yes, that rascal--(you know I always said he was good for nothing, a
fool that couldn't smoke a Queen without being sick)--I mean, your
brother Maximillian--was at the bottom of the Count's row with you. Last
week I was dining at old Fitz's, and your father and sisters were there,
and when the women were gone I asked him when he'd last heard of you; of
course he looked tempestuous, and said, 'Never.' Happily, I'm not easily
shut up, so I told him it was a pity, then, for if he did he'd hear you
were jollier than ever, and I said your wife was---- Well, I won't say
what, for fear we spoil this young lady, and make her vain of herself.
The old boy turned pale, and said nothing; but two days after I got a
line from him, saying he wasn't quite well; would I go down and speak to
him. I found him chained with the gout, and he began to talk about you.
I like that old man, Waldemar, I do, uncommonly. He said he'd been too
hasty, but that it was a family failing, and that Max had brought him
such--well, such confounded lies--about Valérie, that he would have shot
you rather than see you give her your name; now he wants to have you
back. I'd nothing to do, so I said I'd come and ask you to forgive the
poor old boy, and come and see him, for he isn't well. I know you will,
Falkenstein, because you never _did_ bear malice."

"Oh yes, he will," murmured Valérie, tears in her eyes. "I separated
you, Waldemar; you will let me see you reconciled?"

"My darling, yes! Poor old governor!" And Falkenstein stopped and
smoked vigorously, for kindness always touched him to the heart.

Bevan looked at him and was silent. "I say," he whispered, when he was a
moment alone with Valérie. "I didn't tell Waldemar, because I thought
you'd break it to him less blunderingly than I should, but the old
Count's breaking fast. I doubt if he'll live another week."

Bevan was right. In another week Falkenstein stood by the death-bed of
his father. He had a long interview with him alone, in which the old
Count detailed to him the fabricated slanders with which his brother had
blackened Valérie's name. With all his old passion he disowned the son
capable of such baseness, and constituted Waldemar his sole heir, save
the legacies left his daughters. He died in Waldemar's arms the night
they arrived in England, with his last word to him and Valérie, whom,
despite Virginia's opposition, he insisted on seeing. Falkenstein's
sorrow for his father was deep and unfeigned, like his character; but
his guardian angel, as he used to call her, was there to console him,
and, under the light of her smile, sorrow could not long pursue him.

On his brother, always his own enemy, and now the traducer of the woman
he loved, Waldemar's wrath fell heavily, and would, to a certainty, have
found some means of wreaking itself, but for the last wishes of his
father. As it was, he took a nobler, yet a more complete revenge. The
day of the funeral, when they were assembled for the reading of the
will, Maximilian, unconscious of his doom, came with his gentle face,
and tender melancholy air, to inherit, as he believed, Fairlie, and all
the personal property.

Stunned as by a spent ball, horror-struck, disbelieving his senses, he
heard his younger brother proclaimed the heir. It was a serious thing
to him, moreover, for--for a man of large expenses and great
ostentation--his own means were small. To secure every shilling he had
schemed, and planned, and lied; and now every shilling was taken from
him. Like the dog of Æsopian memory, trying to catch two pieces of meat,
he had lost his own!

After the last words were read, Waldemar stood a moment irresolute; then
he lifted his head, his dark eyes bright and clear, his mouth fixed and
firm, a proud calm displacing his old look of passion and of care.

He went up to his brother with a generous impulse, and held out his
hand.

"Maximilian, from our boyhood you never liked me, and of late you have
done me a great wrong; but I am willing to believe that you did it from
a mistaken motive, and by me, at least, it shall never be recalled. My
father, in his wish to make amends for the one harsh act of his life to
me, has made a will which I know you consider unjust. I cannot dispute
his last desire that I should inherit Fairlie, but I can do what I know
he would sanction--divide with you the wealth his energy collected. Take
the half of the property, as if he had left it to you, and over his
grave let us forget the past!"

       *       *       *       *       *

On the last day of the year, so eventful to them both, Falkenstein and
Valérie drove through the park at Fairlie. The rôle of a country
gentleman would have been the last into which Waldemar, with his
independent opinions and fastidious intellect, would have sunk; but he
was fond of the place from early associations, and he came down to take
possession. The tenantry and servants welcomed him heartily, for they
had often used to wish that the wild high-spirited child, who rode his
Shetland over the country at a headlong pace, and if he sometimes
teased their lives out, always gave them a kind word and merry laugh,
had been the heir instead of the one to whom they applied the old
proverb "still and ill."

The tenantry had been dismissed, the dinner finished, even the briarwood
pipe smoked out, and in the wide Elizabethan window of the library
Falkenstein stood, looking on the clear bright night, and watching the
Old Year out.

"You sent the deed of gift to-day to Maximilian?" said Valérie, clasping
both her hands on his arm.

"Yes. He does not take it very graciously; but perhaps we can hardly
expect that from a man who has been disinherited. I question if I should
accept it at all."

"But you could never have wronged another as he wronged you," cried
Valérie. "Oh, Waldemar! I think I never realised fully, till the day you
took your generous revenge, how noble, how good, how above all others
you are."

He smiled, and put his hand on her lips.

"Good, noble, silly child! those words may do for some spotless Gahlahad
or Folko, not for me, who, a month ago, was in debt to some of the
greatest blackguards in town, who have yielded to every temptation,
given way to every weakness; not with the excuse of a boy new to life,
but willfully and recklessly, knowing both the pleasures and their
price--I, who but for your love and my father's, should now be a
solitary exile, paying for my past follies with----"

"Be quiet," interrupted Valérie, with her passionate vivacity. "As
different as was 'Mirabeau jugé par sa famille et Mirabeau jugé par le
peuple,' are you judged by your enemies, and judged by those who love
you. Granted you have had temptations, follies, errors; so has every
man of high spirit and generous temper, and I value you far more coming
out of a fiery furnace with so much of pure gold that the flames could
not destroy, than if you were some ascetic Pharisee, who has never
succumbed because he has never been tempted, and, born with no
weaknesses, is born with no warmer virtues either!"

Falkenstein laughed, as he looked down at her.

"You little goose! Well, at least you have eloquence, Valérie, if not
truth, on your side; and your sophistry is dear to me, as it springs out
of your love."

"But it is not sophistry," she cried, with an energetic stamp of her
foot. "If you will not listen to philosophy, concede, at least, to fact.
Which is most worthy of my epithets--'noble and good'--Waldemar
Falkenstein, or Maximillian? And yet Maximillian has been quiet and
virtuous from his youth upwards, and always wins white balls from the
ballot of society."

"Well, you shall have the privilege of your sex--the last word," smiled
Waldemar, "more especially as the last word is on my side."

"Hark!" interrupted Valérie, quiet and subdued in a second, "the clock
is striking twelve."

Silently, with her arms round his neck, they listened to the parting
knell of the Old Year, stealing quietly away from its place among men.
From the church towers through England tolled the twelve strokes, with a
melancholy echo, telling a world that its dead past was laid in a sealed
grave, and the stone of Never More was rolled to the door of the
sepulchre. The Old Year was gone, with all its sins and errors, its
golden gleams and midnight storms, its midsummer days of sunshine for
some, its winter nights of starless gloom for others. Its last knell
echoed; and then, from the old grey belfries in villages and towns, over
the stirring cities and the sleeping hamlets, over the quiet meadows and
stretching woodlands and grand old forest trees, rang the Silver Chimes
of the New Year.

"It shall be a happy New Year to you, my darling, if my love can make it
so," whispered Waldemar, as the musical bells clashed out in wild
harmony under the winter stars.

She looked up into his eyes. "I _must_ be happy, since it will be passed
with you. Do you remember, Waldemar, the night I saw you first, my
telling you New Year's-day was my birthday, and wondering where you and
I should spend the next? I liked you strangely from the first, but how
little I foresaw that my whole life was to hang on yours!"

"As little as I foresaw when, after heavy losses at Godolphin's, I
watched the Old Year out in my chambers, a tired, ruined, hopeless,
aimless man, with not one on whom I could rely for help or sympathy in
my need, that I should stand here now, free, clear from debt, with all
my old entanglements shaken off, my old scores wiped out, my darker
errors forgotten, my worst enemy humbled, and my own future bright. Oh!
Valérie! Heaven bless you for the love that followed me into exile!"

He drew her closer to him as he spoke, and as he felt the beating of the
heart that was always true to him, and the soft caress of the lips that
had always a smile for him, Falkenstein looked out over the wide
woodland that called him master, glistening in the clear starlight, and
as he listened to the SILVER CHIMES--joyous herald of the New-born
Year--he blessed in his inmost heart the GOLDEN FETTERS OF LOVE.



SLANDER AND SILLERY.



SLANDER AND SILLERY.



I.

THE LION OF THE CHAUSSÉE D'ANTIN.

      Ma mère est à Paris,
      Mon père est à Versailles.
      Et moi je suis ici.
      Pour chanter sur la paille,
      L'amour! L'amour!
      La nuit comme le jour.


Humming this popular if not over-recherché ditty, a man sat sketching in
pastels, one morning, in his rooms at Numéro 10, Rue des Mauvais Sujets,
Chaussée d' Antin, Paris.

The band of the national guard, the marchands crying "Coco!" the
charlatans puffing everything from elixirs to lead-pencils, the Empress
and Mme. d'Alve passing in their carriage, the tramp of some Zouaves
just returned from Algeria--nothing in the street below disturbed him;
he went sketching on as if his life depended on the completion of the
picture. He was a man about thirty-three, middle height, and eminently
graceful. He was half Bohemian, half English, and the animation of the
one nation and the hauteur of the other were by turns expressed on his
chiselled features as his thoughts moved with his pencil. The stamp of
his good blood was on him; his face would have attracted and interested
in ever so large a crowd. He was very pale, and there was a tired look
on his wide, powerful forehead and in his long dark eyes, and a weary
line or two about his handsome mouth, as if he had exhausted his youth
very quickly; and, indeed, to see life as he had seen it _is_ somewhat a
fatiguing process, and apt to make one blasé before one's time.

The rooms in which he sat were intensely comfortable, and very
provocative to a quiet pipe and idleness. To be sure, if one judged his
tastes by them, they were not probably, to use the popular jargon,
"healthy," for they had nothing very domestic or John Halifaxish about
them, and were certainly not calculated to gratify the eyes of maiden
aunts and spinster sisters.

There were fencing-foils, pistols, tobacco-boxes of every style and
order, from ballet-girls to terriers' heads. There were three or four
cockatoos and parrots on stands chattering bits of Quartier Latin songs,
or imitating the cries in the street below. There were cards,
dice-boxes, albums à rire, meerschaums, lorgnons, pink notes, no end of
De Kock's and Lebrun's books, and all the etcæteras of chambres de
garçon strewed about: and there were things, too--pictures, statuettes,
fauteuils, and a breakfast-service of Sèvres and silver--that Du Barry
need not have scrupled to put in her "petite bon-bonnière" at Luciennes.

So busy was he sketching and singing

  "Messieurs les étudiens
  Montez á la Chaumière!"

that he never heard a knock at his door, and he looked up with an
impatient frown on his white, broad forehead as a man entered _sans
cérémonie_.

"Mon Dieu! Ernest," cried his friend, "what the devil are you doing here
with your pipe and your pastels, when I've been waiting at Tortoni's a
good half-hour, and at last, out of patience, drove here to see what on
earth had become of you?"

"My dear fellow, I beg you a thousand pardons," said Vaughan, lazily. "I
was sketching this, and you and your horses went clean out of my head, I
honestly confess."

"And your breakfast too, it seems," said De Concressault, glancing at
the table. "Is it Madame de Mélusine or the little Bluette whose
portrait absorbs you so much? No, by Jove! it's a prettier woman than
either of 'em. If she's like that, take me to see her this instant. What
glorious gold hair! I adore your countrywomen when they've hair that
color. Where did you get that face? Is she a duchess, or a danseuse, a
little actress you're going to patronise, or a millionnaire you're going
to marry?"

"I can't tell you," laughed Vaughan. "I've not an idea who she may be. I
saw her last evening coming out of the Français, and picked up her
bouquet for her as she was getting into her carriage. The face was
young, the smile very pretty and bright, and, as they daguerreotyped
themselves in my mind, I thought I might as well transfer them to paper
before newer beauties chased them out of it."

"Diable! and you don't know who she is? However, we'll soon find out.
That gold hair mustn't be lost. But get your breakfast, pray, Ernest,
and let us be off to poor Armand's sale."

"That's the way we mourn our dead friends," said Vaughan, with a sneer,
pouring out his coffee. "Armand is jesting, laughing, and smoking with
us one day, the next he's pitched out of his carriage going down to
Asnières, and all we think of is--that his horses are for sale. If I
were found in the Morgue to-morrow, your first emotion, Emile, would be,
'Vaughan's De l'Orme will be sold. I must go and bid for it directly.'"

De Concressault laughed as he looked up at a miniature of Marion de
l'Orme, once taken for the Marquis of Gordon. "I fancy, mon garçon,
there'll be too many sharks after all your possessions for me to stand
any chance."

"True enough," said Vaughan; "and I question if they'll wait till my
death before they come down on 'em. But I don't look forward. I take
life as it comes. Vogue la galère! At least, I've _lived_, not
vegetated." And humming his refrain,

  "L'amour! l'amour!
  La nuit comme le jour!"

he lounged down the stairs and drove to a sale in the Faubourg St.
Germain, where one of his Paris chums, a virtuoso and connoisseur, had
left endless _meubles_ to be sold by his duns and knocked down to his
friends.

Vaughan was quite right; he _had_ lived, and at a pretty good pace, too.
When he came of age a tolerably good fortune awaited him, but it had not
been long in his hands before he contrived to let it slip through them.
He'd been brought up at Sainte Barbe, after being expelled from Rugby,
knew all the best of the "jeunesse dorée," and could not endure any
place after Paris, where his life was as sparkling and brilliant as the
foam off a glass of champagne. Wild and careless, high spirited, and
lavish in his Opera suppers, his _cabaret_ dinners, his Trois Frères
banquets, his lansquenet parties, his bouquets for baronnes, and his
bracelets for ballerinas, Ernest gained his reputation as a _Lion_,
and--ruined himself, too, poor old fellow!

His place down in Surrey had mortgages thick on every inch of its lands,
and the money that kept him going was borrowed from those modern Satans,
money lenders, at the usually ruinous interest. "But still," Ernest was
wont to say, with great philosophy, "I've had ten years' swing of
pleasure. Does every man get as much as that? And should I have been any
happier if I'd been a good boy, and a country squire, sat on the bench,
amused my mind with turnips, and married some bishop's daughter, who'd
have marched me to church, forbidden cigars, and buried me in family
boots?"

Certainly that would _not_ have been his line, and so, in natural horror
at it, he dashed into a diametrically opposite one, and after the favor
he had shown him from every handsome woman that drove through Longchamp,
wore diamonds at the Tuileries, and supped with dominos noirs at bals
d'Opéra, and the favor he showed to cards, the _courses_, and the
_coulisses_, few bishops would have imperilled their daughters' souls by
setting them to hunt down this wicked _Lion_, especially as the poor
_Lion_ now wasn't worth the trapping. If he had been, there would have
been hue and cry enough after him I don't doubt; but the Gordon Cummings
of the beau sexe rarely hunt unless it's worth their while, and they can
bring home splendid spoils to make their bosom friends mad with envy;
and Ernest, despite his handsome face, his fashionable reputation, and
the aroma of conquest that hung about him (they used to say he never
wooed ever so negligently but he won), was assuredly neither an
"eligible speculation" nor a "marrying man," and was an object rather
of terror to English mammas steering budding young ladies through the
dangerous vortex of French society with a fierce chevaux de frise of
British prejudices and a keen British eye to business. If Ernest was of
no other use, however, he was invaluable to his uncles, aunts, and male
cousins, as a sort of scapegoat and _épouvantail_, to be held up on high
to show the unwary what they would come to if they followed his steps.
It was so pleasant to them to exult over his backslidings, and, cutting
him mercilessly up into little bits, hold condemnatory sermons over
every one of the pieces. "Dans l'adversité de nos meilleurs amis, nous
trouvons toujours quelque chose qui ne nous déplait pas;" and Vaughan's
friends, like the rest of us pharisees, dearly loved to glance at the
publican (especially if he was handsomer, cleverer, or any way better
than themselves), and thank God loudly that they were not such men as
he. Ernest was a hardened sinner, however; he laughed, put the Channel
between him and them, and went on his ways without thinking or caring
for their animadversions.

"By Jove! Emile," said he as they sat dining together at Leiter's, "I
should like to find out my golden-haired sylphide. She was English, by
her fair skin, and though I'm not very fond of my compatriotes,
especially when they're abroad (I think touring John Bull detestable
wrapped up in his treble plaid of reserve), still I should like to find
her out just for simple curiosity. I assure you she'd the prettiest foot
and ankle I ever saw, not excepting even Bluette's."

"Ma foi! that's a good deal from _you_. She must be found, then. Voyons!
shall we advertise in the _Moniteur_, employ the secret police, or call
at all the hotels in person to say that you're quite ready to act out
Soulié's 'Lion Amoureux,' if you can only discover the petite
bourgeoise to play it with you?"

Vaughan laughed as he drank his demi-tasse.

"Lion amoureux! that's an anomaly; we're only in love just enough pour
nous amuser; and of us Albin says, very rightly,

  Si vous connaissiez quelques meilleurs,
  Vous porteriez bientôt cette âme ailleurs."

"Very well, then: if you don't know of anything better, let's hunt up
this incognita. If she went to the Français, she's most likely at the
Odéon to-night," said De Concressault. "Shall we try?"

"Allons!" said Vaughan, rising indolently, as he did most things. "But
it's rather silly, I think; there are bright smiles and pretty feet
enough in Paris without one's setting off on a wild-goose chase after
them."

They were playing the last act of "La Calomnie," as Vaughan and De
Concressault took their places, put up their lorgnons, and looked round
the house. He swore a few mental "Diables!" and "Sacrés!" as his gaze
fell on faces old or ugly, or too brunes or too blondes, or anything but
what he wanted. At last, without moving his glass, he touched De
Concressault's arm.

"There she is, Emile, in the fourth from the centre, in a white opera
cloak, with pink flowers in her hair."

"I see her, mon ami," said Emile. "I found her out two seconds ago (see
how well you sketch!) but I wouldn't spoil your pleasure in discovering
her. Mon Dieu! Ernest, she's looking at you, and smiles as if she
recognised you. Was there ever so lucky a Lauzun?"

Vaughan could have laughed outright to see by the brightness of the
girl's expression that she knew the saviour of her bouquet again, for
though he was accustomed to easy conquests, such naive interest in him
at such short notice was something new to him.

He didn't take his lorgnon off her again, and she was certainly worth
the honor, with her soft, lustrous gold hair, the eyes that defy
definition--black in some lights, violet in others--a wide-arched
forehead, promising plenty of brains, and a rayonnante, animated, joyous
expression, quite refreshing to anybody as bored and blasé as Vaughan
and De Concressault. As soon as the last piece was over Vaughan slipped
out of his loge, and took up his station at the entrance.

He didn't wait in vain: the golden hair soon came, on the arm of a
gentleman--middle aged, as Vaughan noticed with a sensation of
satisfaction. She glanced up at him as she passed: he looked very
handsome in the gas glare. Vaughan perhaps was too sensible a fellow to
think of his pose, but even _we_ have our weaknesses under certain
circumstances, as well as the crinolines. Luckily for him, he chanced to
have in his pocket a gold serpent bracelet he had bought that morning
for some fair dame or demoiselle. He stopped her, and held it out to
her.

"I beg your pardon, mademoiselle," he said in French, "but I think you
dropped this?"

She looked up at him with the sunniest of smiles as she answered, in a
pure accent, "No monsieur, thank you, it does not belong to me."

The middle-aged man glanced sideways at him with true British
suspicion--I dare say a pickpocket, a Rouge, and Fieschi, were all mixed
up in his mind as embodied in the graceful figure and bold glance of the
_Lion_. He drew the girl on, looking much like a heavy cloud with a
bright sun ray after it; but she half turned her head over her shoulder
to give him a farewell smile, which Ernest returned with ten per cent.
interest.

"Anglais," said Emile, concisely.

"Malheureusement," said Ernest as briefly, as he pushed his way into the
air, and saw the gold hair vanish into her carriage. He went quickly up
to the cocher.

"Où demeurent-ils, mon ami?" he whispered, slipping a five-franc piece
into his hand.

The man smiled. "A l'Hôtel de Londres, monsieur; No. 6, au premier."

"The devil! pourquoir ne allez pas?" said an unmistakably English voice
from the interior of the voiture. The man set off at a trot; Ernest
sprang into his own trap.

"Au Chateau Rouge! May as well go there, eh, Emile? What a deuced pity
la chevelure dorée is English!"

"I wish she were a danseuse, an actress, a fleuriste--anything one could
make his own introduction to. Confound it there's the 'heavy father,'
I'm afraid, in the case, and some rigorous mamma, or vigilant _béguine_
of a governess: but, to judge by the young lady's smiles, she'll be easy
game unless she's tremendously fenced in."

With which consolatory reflection Vaughan leaned back and lighted a
cheroot, _en route_ to spend the night as he had spent most of them for
the last ten years, till the fan had begun to be more bore than
pleasure.



II.

NINA GORDON.


"Have you been to the Hôtel de Londres, Ernest?" said De Concressault,
as Vaughan lounged into Tortoni's next day, where Emile and three or
four other men were drinking Seltzer and talking of how Cerisette had
beaten Vivandière by a neck at Chantilly, or (the sport to which a
Frenchman takes much more naturally) of how well Rivière played in the
"Prix d'un Bouquet;" what a _belle taille_ la De Servans had; and what a
fool Senecterre had made of himself in the duel about Madame Viardot.

"Of course I have," said Vaughan. "The name is Gordon--general name
enough in England. They were gone to the Expiatoire, the portière told
me. There _is_ the heavy father, as I feared, and a quasi-governess
acting duenna; they're travelling with another family, whose name I
could not hear: the woman said 'C'était beaucoup trop dur pour les
lèvres.' I dare say they're some Brummagem people--some Fudge family or
other--on their travels. Confound it!"

"Poor Ernest," laughed De Concressault. "Some gold hair has bewitched
him, and instead of finding it belongs to a danseuse, or a married
woman, or a fleuriste of the Palais Royal, or something attainable, he
finds it turn into an unapproachable English girl, with no end of
outlying sentries round her, who'll fire at the first familiar
approach."

"It is a hard case," said De Kerroualle, a dashing fellow in one of the
"Régiments de famille." "Never mind, mon ami; 'contre fortune bon
coeur,' you know: it'll be more fun to devastate one of our countrymen's
inviolate strongholds than to conquer where the white flag's already
held out. Halloa! here's a compatriot of yours, I'd bet; look at his
sanctified visage and stiff choker--a Church of England man, eh?"

"The devil!" muttered Vaughan, turning round; "deuce take him, it's my
cousin Ruskinstone! What in the world does _he_ do in Paris?"

The man he spoke of was the Rev. Eusebius Ruskinstone, the Dean's
Warden of the cathedral of Faithandgrace, a tall, thin young clerical of
eight or nine-and-twenty, with goodness enough (it was generally
supposed) in his little finger to make up for all Ernest's sins, scarlet
though they were. He had just sat down and taken up the carte to blunder
through "Potage au Duc de Malakoff," "Fricassée de volaille à la
Princesse Mathilde," and all the rest of it, when his eye lit on his
graceless cousin, and a vinegar asperity spread over his bland visage.
Vaughan rose with a lazy grace, immensely bored within him: "My dear
Ruskinstone, what an unanticipated pleasure. I never hoped Vanity Fair
would have had power to lure _you_ into its naughty peep-shows and
roundabouts."

The Rev. Eusebius reddened slightly; he had once stated strongly his
opinion that poor Paris was Pandemonium. "How do you do?" he said,
giving his cousin two fingers; "it is a long time since we saw you in
England."

"England doesn't want me," said Ernest, dryly. "I don't fancy I should
be very welcome at Faithandgrace, should I? The dear Chapter would
probably consign me to starvation for my skeptical notions, as Calvin
did Castellio. But what _has_ brought you to Paris? Are you come to
fight the Jesuits in a conference, or to abjure the Wardenship and turn
over to them?"

Eusebius was shocked at the irreverent tone, but there was a satirical
smile on his cousin's lips that he didn't care to provoke. "I am come,"
he said, stiffly, "partly for health, partly to collect materials for a
work on the 'Gurgoyles and Rose Mouldings of Mediæval Architecture,' and
partly to oblige some friends of mine. Pardon me, here they come."

Vaughan lifted his eyes, expecting nothing very delectable in
Ruskinstone's friends; to his astonishment they fell on his beauty of
the Français! with the outlying sentries of father, governess, and two
other women, the Warden's maiden sisters, stiff, maniérées, and prudish,
like too many Englishwomen. The young lady of the Français was a curious
contrast to them: she started a little as she saw Vaughan, and smiled
brilliantly. On the spur of that smile Ernest greeted his cousins with a
degree of _empressement_ that they certainly wouldn't have been honored
by without it. They were rather frightened at coming in actual contact
with such a monster of iniquity as a Paris _Lion_, who, they'd heard,
had out-Juan'd Don Juan, and gave him but a frigid welcome. Mr. Gordon
had doubtless heard, too, of Vaughan's misdemeanors, for he looked
stoical and acidulated as he bowed. But the young girl's eyes reconciled
Ernest to all the rest, as she frankly returned a look with which he was
wont to win his way through women's hearts, 'midst the hum of ball
rooms, in the soft tête-à-tête in boudoirs, and over the sparkling
Sillery of _petits soupers_. So, for the sake of his new quarry, he
disregarded the cold looks of the others, and made himself so charming,
that nobody could withstand the fascination of his manner till their
dinner was served, and then, telling his cousins he would do himself the
pleasure of calling on them the next day, he left the café to drive over
to Gentilly, to inspect a grey colt of De Kerroualle's.

"La chevelure dorée is quite as pretty by daylight, Ernest," said De
Concressault. "Bon dieu! it is such a relief to see eyes that are not
tinted, and a skin whose pink and white is not born from the mysterious
rites of the toilet."

Vaughan nodded, with his Manilla between his teeth.

"That cousin of yours is queer style, mon garçon," said Kerroualle.
"How some of those islanders contrive to iron themselves into the
stiffness and flatness they do, is to me the profoundest enigma. But
what Church of England meaning lies hid in his coat-tails? They are, for
all the world, like our révérends pères! What is it for?"

"High Church. Next door shop to yours, you know. Our ecclesiastics are
given to balancing themselves on a tight rope between their 'mother' and
their 'sister,' till they tumble over into their sister's open arms--the
Catholics say into salvation, the Protestants into damnation; into
neither, I myself opine, poor simpletons. Ruskinstone is fearfully
architectural. The sole things he'll see here will be façades,
gurgoyles, and clerestories, and his soul knows no warmer loves than
'stone dolls,' as Newton calls them. I say, Gaston, what do you think of
_my_ love of the Français; isn't she _chic_, isn't she mignonne, isn't
she spirituelle?"

"Yes," assented De Kerroualle, "prettier than either Bluette or Madame
de Mélusine would allow, or--relish."

Ernest frowned. "I've done with Bluette; she's a pretty face, but--ah,
bah! one can't amuse oneself always with a little paysanne, for she's
nothing better, after all; and I'm half afraid the Mélusine begins to
bore me."

"Better not tell her so, mon ami," said De Kerroualle; "she'd be a nasty
enemy."

"Pooh! a woman like that loves and forgets."

"Sans doute; but they also sometimes revenge. Poor little Bluette you
may safely turn over; but Madame la Baronne won't so easily be jilted."

Vaughan laughed. "Oh, I'm not going to break her heart. Don't you know,
Gaston, 'on a bien de la peine à rompre, même quand on ne s'aime plus."

"I shouldn't have said you found it so," smiled De Concressault, "for
you change your loves as you change your gloves. La chevelure dorée will
be the next, eh?"

"Poor little thing!" said Ernest, bitterly. "I wish her a better fate."

He went to call on la chevelure dorée, nevertheless, the morning after,
and found her in the salon alone, greatly to his surprise and pleasure.
Nina Gordon _was_ pretty _even_ in the morning--as Byron says--and she
was much more, she was fascinating, and as perfectly demonstrative and
natural as any peasant girl out of the meadows of Arles, ignorant of the
magic words toilette, cosmétique, and crinoline.

She received him with evident pleasure and perfect unreserve, which even
this daring and skeptical _Lion_ could not twist or contort into
boldness, and began to talk fast and gaily.

"Do I like Paris?" she said, in answer to his question. "Oh yes; or at
least I should, if I could see it differently. I detest sight-seeing,
crowding one's brains with pictures, statues, palaces, Holy Families
jostling Polinchinelle, races, mixing up with grand masses, Versailles,
clouding St. Cloud--the Trianon rattled through in five minutes--all in
inextricable muddle. _I_ should like to see Paris at leisure, with some
one with whom I had a 'rapport,' my thoughts undisturbed, and my
historical associations fresh and fervent."

"I wish I were honored with the office of your guide," said Ernest,
smiling. "Do you think you would have a 'rapport' with me?"

She smiled in return. "Yes, I think I should. I cannot tell why. But as
it is, my warmest souvenir of Condé is chilled by the offer of an ice,
and my tenderest thought of Louise de la Vallière is shivered with the
suggestion of dinner."

Vaughan laughed. "Bravo!" thought he. "Thank God this is no tame English
icicle. I would give much," he said, "to be able to take my cousin's
place, and show you Paris. We would have no such vulgar gastronomical
interruptions; we would go through it all perfectly. I would make you
hear the very whispers with which La Vallière, under the old oaks of St.
Germain, unknowingly, told her love to Louis. In the forest glades of
St. Cloud you should see Cinq-Mars and the Royal Hunt riding out in the
_chasse de nuit_; in the gloomy walls of the prisons you should hear
André Chénier reciting his last verses, and see Egalité completing his
last toilet. The glittering 'Cotillons' on the terraces of Versailles,
the fierce canaille surging through the salons of the Tuileries, the
Templars dying in the green meadows at the back of St. Antoine--they
should all rise up for you under my incantations."

Positively Ernest, bored and blasé, accustomed to look at Paris through
the gas-lights of his _Lion's_ life, warmed into romance to please the
eyes that now beamed upon him.

"Ah! that would be delightful," said the girl, her eyes sparkling. "Mr.
Ruskinstone, you know, is terrible to me, for he goes about with
'Ruskin' in one hand, 'Murray' in the other, and a Phrase-book or two in
his pocket (of course he wants it, as he's a 'classical scholar'), and
no matter whatever associations cling around a place, only looks at it
in regard to its architectural points. I beg your pardon," she said,
interrupting herself with a blush, "I forgot he was your cousin; but
really that constant cold stone does tease me so."

At that moment the heavy father, as Ernest irreverently styled the tall,
pompous head of one of the first banks in London, who was worth a
million if he was worth a sou, entered, and the Rev. Eusebius after
him, who had been spending a lively morning taking notes among the
catacombs. He was prepared to be as cold as a refrigerator, and the
banker to follow his example, at finding this _bête noire_ of the
Chaussée d'Antin tête-à-tête with Nina. But Ernest had a sort of haughty
high breeding and careless dignity which warned people off from any
liberties with him; and Gordon remembered that he knew Paris and its
_haute volée_ so well that he might be a useful acquaintance if kept at
arm's length from Nina, and afterwards dropped. Unlucky man! he actually
thought his weak muscles were strong enough to cope with a _Lion's_!

Vaughan took his leave, after offering his box at the Opéra-Comique to
Mr. Gordon, and drove to the Jockey Club, pondering much on this new
species of the _beau sexe_. He was too used to women not to know at a
glance that she had nothing bold about her, and yet he was too skeptical
to credit that a girl could possibly exist who was neither a coquette
nor a prude. As soon as the door closed on him his friends began to open
their batteries of scandal.

"How sad it is to see life wasted as my cousin wastes his," said the
Warden, balancing a paper-knife thoughtfully, with a depressed air;
"frittered away on mere trifles, as valuless and empty as soap-bubbles,
but not, alas! so innocent."

"What do you mean?" Nina asked, quickly.

"What do I mean, Miss Gordon?" repeated Eusebius, reproachfully; "what
can I mean but the idle whirl of gaiety, the vitiating pleasures, the
debts and the vices which are to be laid at poor Ernest's door. Ever
since we were boys together, and he was expelled from Rugby for going
to Coventry fair and staying there all night, he has been going rapidly
down the road to ruin."

"He looks very comfortable in his descent," smiled the young lady. "Pray
why, after all, shouldn't horses, operas, and Manillas, be as legitimate
objects to set one's affections upon as Norman arches and Gregorian
chants? He has his dissipations, you have yours. Chacun à son goût!"

The Warden had his reasons for conciliating the young heiress, so he
made a feeble effort to smile. "You know as well as I that you do not
think what you say, Miss Gordon. Were it merely Vaughan's tastes that
were in fault it would not be of such fearful consequence, but
unfortunately it is his principles."

"He is utterly without any," said Miss Selina Ruskinstone, who, ten
years before, had been deeply and hopelessly in love with Ernest, and
never forgave him for not reciprocating the passion.

"He is a skeptic, a gambler, a spendthrift; and a more heartlessless
flirt never lived," averred Miss Augusta, who hated the whole of
Ernest's sex--even the Chapter--_pour cause_.

"Gentlemen can't help seeming flirts sometimes, some women pay such
attention to them," said Nina, with a mischievous laugh. "Poor Mr.
Vaughn! I hope he's not as black as he is painted. His physiognomy tells
a different tale; he is just my ideal of 'Ernest Maltravers.' How kind
his eyes are; have you ever looked into them, Selina?"

Miss Ruskinstone gave an angry sneer, vouchsafing no other response.

"My dear Nina, how foolishly you talk, about looking into a young man's
eyes," frowned her father. "I am surprised to hear you."

Her own eyes opened in astonishment. "Why mayn't I look at them? It is
by the eyes that, like a dog, I know whom to like and whom to avoid."

"And pray does your prescience guide you to see a saint in a ruined
_Lion_ of the Chaussée d'Antin?" sneered Selina, with another
contemptuous sniff.

"Not a saint. I'm not good enough to appreciate the race," laughed Nina.
"But I do not believe your cousin to be all you paint him; or, at least,
if circumstances have led him into extravagance, I have a conviction
that he has a warm heart and a noble character au fond."

"We will hope so," said the Warden, meekly, with an expression which
plainly said how vain a hope it was.

"I think we have wasted a great deal too much conversation on a
thankless subject," said Selina, with asperity. "Don't you think it
time, Mr. Gordon, for us to go to the Louvre?"

That day, as they were driving along the Boulevards, they passed Ernest
with Bluette in his carriage going to the Pré Catalan: they all knew
her, from having seen her play at the Odéon. Selina and Augusta turned
down their mouths, and turned up their eyes. Gordon pulled up his
collar, and looked a Brutus in spectacles. Nina colored, and looked
vexed. Triumph glittered in Eusebius's meek eyes, but he sighed a
pastor's sigh over a lost soul.



III.

"LE LION AMOUREUX."


The morning after, as they were going into the Exposition des Beaux
Arts, they met Vaughan; and no ghost would have been more unwelcome to
the Warden than the distingué figure of his fashionable cousin. Nina was
the only one who looked pleased to recognise him, and she, as she
returned his smile, forgot that the evening before it had been given to
Bluette.

"Are you coming in too?" she asked.

"I was not, but I will with pleasure," said Ernest. And into the
Exhibition with them he went, to Ruskinstone's wrath and Gordon's
annoyance.

Vaughan was a connoisseur in art. The Warden knew no more than what he
took verbatim from the god of his idolatry, Mr. John Ruskin. It was very
natural that Nina should listen to the friend of Ingres and Vernet
instead of to the second-hand worshipper of Turner. Vaughan, by
instinct, dropped his customary tone of compliment--compliment he never
used to women he delighted to honor--and talked so charmingly, that Nina
utterly forgot the luckless Eusebius, and started when a low, sweet
voice said, close beside her, "What, Ernest, you here?"

She turned, and saw a woman about eight-and-twenty, dressed in
perfection of taste, with an exquisite figure, and a face of brunette
beauty; the rouge most undiscoverable, and the eyes artistically tinted
to make them look larger, which, Heaven knows, was needless. She darted
a quick look at Vaughan's companion, which Nina gave back with a dash of
hauteur. A shade came over his face as he answered her greeting.

"Will you not introduce me to your friend?" said the new comer. "She is
of your nation, I fancy, and you know I am entêtée of everything
English."

Ernest looked rather gloomy at the compliment, but turning to Nina,
begged to introduce her to Madame de Mélusine. The gay, handsome
baronne, taking in all the English girl's points as rapidly as a groom
at Tattersall's does a two-year-old's, was chatting volubly to Nina,
when the others came up. Gordon, though wont to boast that he belonged
to the aristocracy of money, was always ready to fall in the dust before
the noblesse of blood, and was gratified at the introduction,
remembering to have read in the _Moniteur_ the name of De Mélusine at
the ball at the Tuileries. And the widow was very charming even to the
professedly stoical eyes of a Brutus of sixty-two. She soon floated off,
however, with her party, giving Vaughan a gay "A ce soir!" and
requesting to be allowed the honor of calling on the Gordons.

"Is she a great friend of yours?" asked Nina, when she and he were a
little in advance of the others.

"I have known her some time."

"And you are very intimate, I suppose, as she called you by your
Christian name?"

He smiled a smile that puzzled Nina. "Oh! we soon get familiar here!"

"Where are you going to see her again this evening?" she persevered,
playing with her parasol fringe.

"At her own house--a house that will charm you. By the way, it once
belonged to Bussy Rabutin, and it has all Louis Quatorze furniture."

"Is it a dinner?--a ball?"

"No, an Opera supper--she is famed for her Sillery and her mots. Ten to
one I shall not go; what amuses one once palls with repetition."

"I don't understand that," said Nina, quickly; "what I like, I like pour
toujours."

"Pauvre enfant! you little know life," muttered Ernest. "Ah! Miss
Gordon, you are at the happy age when one can believe in the feelings
and friendships, and all the charming little romances of existence. But
I have passed it, and so that I am amused for a moment, so that
something takes time off my hands, I look no further, and expect no
more. I know well enough the champagne will cease to sparkle, but I
drink it while it foams, and don't trouble myself to lament over it.
Qu'importe? when one bottle's empty, there is another!"

"Ah! it is such women as Madame de Mélusine who have taught you that
doctrine," cried Nina, with an energy that rather startled Ernest,
though his nerves were as strong as any man's in Paris. "My romances, as
you term them, still I believe sleep in your heart, but the world you
live in has stifled them. Do you think amusement will always be enough
for you?--do you think you will never want something better than your
empty champagne foam?"

"I hope I shall not, mademoiselle," said Vaughan, bitterly, "for I am
certain I do not believe in it, and am quite sure I should never get it.
Leave me to the roses of my Tritericæ; they are all I shall ever enjoy,
and they, at the best, are withered."

"Nina, love," interrupted Selina, coming up with much amiability, "I was
_obliged_ to come and tell you not to be _quite_ so energetic. All the
people in the room are looking at you."

"I dare say they are," said Vaughan, calmly. "It is not often the
Parisians have the pleasure of seeing beauty unaffected, and
fascinations careless of their own charms. Nature, Selina, is unhappily
as rare one side the Channel as the other, and we men appreciate it when
we do see it."

When Vaughan parted from them soon after, he swore at himself for three
things. First, for having driven Bluette, en plein jour, through the
Boulevards, though he had driven Bluette, and such as Bluette, a
thousand times before; secondly, for having been so weak as to
introduce Madame de Mélusine to the Gordons; and, thirdly, for
having--he the thorough-paced _Lion_, whose manual was Rochefoucauld,
and tutor in love, De Kock--actually talked romance as if he were Werter
or Paul Flemming, or some other sentimental simpleton.

Vaughan, to his great disgust, felt a fit of blue devils stealing on
him, hurled one or two rose notes waiting for him into the fire with an
oath, smoked half a dozen Manillas fiercely, and then, to get
excitement, went to a dinner at the Rocher de Cancale, played écarté
with a beau joueur, went to an Opera supper--_not_ to the De
Mélusine's--then to Mabille and came home at seven in the morning after
a night such as would have raised every hair off Brutus's head, given a
triumphant glitter to the Warden's small blue eyes, and possibly even
staggered the hot faith of his young champion. Pauline de Mélusine was
as good as her word--she did call on the Gordons--and Brutus, stoic
though he was, was well pleased; for the baronne, though her nobility
only dated from the Restoration, and was not received by the exclusive
Legitimists of the old Faubourg St. Germain, had a very pleasant set of
her own, and figured among the nouvelle noblesse and bourgeois décorés
who fill the vacant places of the De Rochefoucauld, the De Rohan, and
the Montmorency, in the "imperial" salons of the Tuileries, where once
the noblest blood in Europe was gathered.

"It is painful to me to frequent Ernest's society," the Warden was wont
to say, "for every word he utters impresses me but more sadly with the
conviction of his lost state. But we are commanded to be in the world
though not of it, and, if I shun him, how can I hope to benefit him?"

"True; and, as your cousin, it would scarcely be charitable to avoid
him entirely, terrible as we know his habits to be. But there is no
necessity to be too intimate, and I do not wish Nina to be too much with
him," the banker was accustomed to answer.

"_Anglice_, Vaughan gets us good introductions, and makes Paris pleasant
to us; we'll use him while we want him: when we don't, we will give him
his congé."

That's the reading of most of our dear friends' compliments and
caresses, isn't it?

Vaughan knew perfectly well that they would like to make a cat's-paw of
him, and was the last man likely to play that simple and certainly not
agreeable rôle unless it suited him. But he had reasons of his own for
forcing Gordon to be civil and obliged to him, despite the prejudices of
that English, and therefore, of course, opinionated gentleman. It amused
him to mortify Eusebius, whom he saw at a glance was bewitched with the
prospect of Nina's _dot_, and it amused him very much to see Nina's
joyous laughter as he leaned over her chair at the Opéra Comique, to
hear her animated satire on Madame de Mélusine, for whom, knowing
nothing of her, the young lady had conceived hot aversion, and to listen
to her enthusiasm when she poured out to him her vivid imaginings.

Gradually the cafés, and the Boulevards, and the boudoirs missed Ernest
while he accompanied Nina through the glades of St. Cloud, or down the
Seine to Asnières, or up the slopes of Père la Chaise, in his new
pursuit; and often at night he would leave the coulisses, or a
lansquenet, or the gas-lights of the Maison Dorée, and the Closerie des
Lilas, to watch her thorough enjoyment of a vaudeville, her fervent
feeling in an opera, or to waltz with her at a ball, and note her glad
recognition of him.

To this girl, Ernest opened his heart and mind as he--being a reserved,
proud, and skeptical man--had never done to any one; there was a
sympathy and confidence between them, and she learned much of his inner
nature as she talked to him soft and low under the forest trees of
Fontainebleau, such talk as could not be heard in Bluette's boudoir,
under the wax-lights of the Quartier Bréda, or in the flow of the
Sillery at la Mélusine's soupers. All this was new to the tired _Lion_,
and amused him immensely. La chevelure dorée was twisting the golden
meshes of its net round him, as De Concressault told him one day.

"Nonsense," said Ernest; "have I not two loves already on my hands more
than I want?"

"Dethrone them, and promote la petite."

Vaughan turned on his friend with his eyes flashing.

"Bon Dieu! do you take her for a ballet-girl or a grisette?"

"Well, if you don't like that, marry her then, mon cher. You will
satisfy your fancy, and get cinquante mille francs de rente--at a
sacrifice, of course; but, que veux-tu? There is no medal without its
reverse, though a 'lion marié' is certainly an anomaly, an absurdity,
and an intense pity."

"Tais-toi," said Ernest, impatiently; "tu es fou! Caught in the toils of
a wretched intrigante, in the power of any tailor in the Rue Vivienne,
any jeweller in the Palais Royal, my money spent on follies, my life
wasted in play, the turf, and worthless women, I have much indeed to
offer to a young girl who has wealth, beauty, genius, and heart!"

"All the more reason why you should make a good coup," said Emile,
calmly, after listening with pitying surprise to his friend in his new
mood. "You have a handsome face, a fashionable reputation, and a good
name. Bah! you can do anything. As for your life, all women like a
mauvais sujet, and unless the De Mélusine turn out a Brinvilliers, I
don't see what you have to fear."

"When I want your counsel, Emile, I will ask it," said Vaughan, shortly;
"but, as I have no intention of going in for the prize, there is no need
for you to bet on the chance of the throw."

"Comme tu veux!" said the Parisian, shrugging his shoulders. "That homme
de paille, your priestly cousin, will take her back to the English fogs,
and make her a much better husband than you'd ever be, mon garçon."

Vaughan moved restlessly.

"The idiot! if I thought so---- The devil take you, Emile! why do you
talk of such things?"

At that minute Nina was sitting by one of the windows of their hotel,
watching for Ernest, with a bouquet he had sent her on a table by her
side; and the Rev. Eusebius was talking in a very low tone to her
father. She caught a few words. "Last night--Vaughan at the Frères
Provençaux--a souper au cabinet--Mademoiselle Céline, première
danseuse--quite terrible," &c., &c.

Nina flushed scarlet, and turned round. "If you blame your cousin, Mr.
Ruskinstone, why were you there yourself?"

The Warden colored too. With him, as with a good many, foreign air
relaxed the severity of the Decalogue, and what was sin at home, where
everybody knew it, was none at all abroad--under the rose. Some dear
pharisees will not endanger their souls by a carpet-dance in England,
but if a little bird followed them in their holiday across the Channel,
it might chance to see them disporting under a domino noir.

"I had been," he stammered, "to see, as you know, a beautiful specimen
of the arcboutant in a ruined chapel of the Carmélites, some miles down
the Seine. It was very late, and I was very tired, so turned into the
Frères Provençaux to take some little refreshment, and I there saw my
unhappy cousin in society which _ought_, Miss Gordon, to disqualify him
for yours. It is very painful to me to mention such things to you. I
never thought you overheard----"

"Then, if it is very painful to you," Nina burst in, impetuously, her
_bouche de rose_, as De Kerroualle called it, curving haughtily, "why
are you ceaselessly raking up every possible bit of scandal that you can
against your cousin? His life does not clash with yours, his acts do not
matter to you, his extravagance does not rob you. I used to fancy
charity should cover a multitude of sins, but it seems to me that,
now-a-days, clergymen, like Dr. Watt's naughty dogs, only delight to
bark and bite."

"You are cruelly unjust," answered the Warden, in those smooth tones
that irritate one much more than "hard swearing." "I have no other wish
than Christian kindness to poor Ernest. If, in my place as pastor, I
justly condemn his errors and vices, it is only through a loving desire
to wean him from his downward course."

"Your love is singularly vindictive," said his vehement young opponent,
her cheeks hot and her eyes bright. "No good was ever yet done to a man
by proclaiming his faults right and left. _I_ should like you much
better, Mr. Ruskinstone, if you said, candidly, I don't like my cousin,
and I have never forgiven him for thrashing me at Rugby, and playing
football better than I did."

Eusebius winced at this little touch up of his bygone years, but he
smiled a benign, superior, pitying smile. "Such petitesses, I thank
Heaven, are utterly beneath me, and I should have fancied Miss Gordon
was too generous to suppose them. God forbid that I should envy poor
Vaughan his dazzling qualities. I sorrow over him as a relative and a
precious human soul, but as a minister of our holy Church I neither can,
nor will, countenance his gross violations of all her divinest laws."
With which peroration the Warden, with a sigh, took up a work on "The
Early English Piscini and Aspersoria," and became immersed therein.

"Poor Mr. Vaughan!" cried Nina, impatiently. "Probably he is too wise to
concern himself about what people buzz in his absence, or else he need
be cased in mail to avoid being stung to death with the musquito bites
of scandal."

Gordon came down on her with his heavy artillery. "Silence, Nina! you do
not know what you are defending. I fear that no slander can darken Mr.
Vaughan's character more than he merits."

"A gambler--a roué--a lover of married woman, of dancing-girls,"
murmured Eusebius, in an aside, meant, like those on the stage, to tell
killingly with the audience.

Nina flushed as scarlet as the camellias in her bouquet, and put up her
head with a haughty gesture. "Here comes the subject of your
vituperation, Mr. Ruskinstone, so you can repeat your denunciations, and
favor him with a sermon in person--unless, indeed, the secular
recollections of Rugby intimidate the religious arm."

I fear something as irreverent as "Little devil!" rose to the Warden's
pious lips as he flashed a fierce glance at her from his pale-blue eyes,
for he loved not her, but the splendid _dot_ which the banker was sure
to pay down if his son-in-law were to his taste. He caught his cousin's
glance as he came into the salons, and in the superb scorn gleaming in
Ernest's dark eyes, Eusebius saw that they were not merely enemies,
but--rivals: a Warden with Church principles, all the cardinal virtues,
strict morality, and money; and a _Lion_ with Paris principles (if any),
great fascinations, debts, entanglements, and an empty purse. Which will
win, with Nina for the cup and Gordon for the umpire?



IV.

MISCHIEF.


"Qui cherchez-vous, petite?"

The speaker was la Mélusine, and the hearer was Nina who considerably
resented the half-patronising, half mocking, yet intensely amiable
manner the widow chose to assume towards her. Gordon was stricken with
warm admiration of madame, and never inquired into _her_ morality, only
too pleased when she condescended to talk to or invite him. They had met
at a soirée at some intimate friends of Vaughan's in the Champs Elysées.
(Ernest was a favorite wherever he went, and the good-natured French
people at once took up his relatives to please him.) He was not there
himself, but the baronne's quick eyes soon caught and construed her
restless glances through the crowded rooms.

"Je ne cherche personne, madame," said Nina, haughtily. Dressed simply
in white tulle, with the most exquisite flowers to be had out of the
Palais Royal in the famous golden hair, which gleamed in the gaslight
like sunshine, she aroused the serpent which lay hid in the roses of
madame's smiles.

Pauline laughed softly, and flirted her fan. "Nay, nay, mignonne, those
soft eyes are seeking some one. Who is it? Ah! it is that méchant
Monsieur Vaughan n'est-ce pas? He is very handsome, certainly, but

  On dit an village
  Qu'Argire est volage."

"Madame's own thoughts possibly suggest the supposition of mine," said
Nina, coldly.

"Comme ces Anglaises sont impolies," thought the baronne. "No, indeed,"
she said, laughing carelessly, "I know Ernest too well to let my
thoughts dwell on him. He is charming to talk to, to waltz with, to
flirt with, but from anything further Dieu nous garde! Lauzun himself
were not more dangerous or more unstable."

"You speak as bitterly, madame, as if you had suffered from the
fickleness," said Nina, with a contemptuous curl of her soft lips. Sweet
temper as she was, she could thrust a spear in her enemy's side when she
liked.

Madame's eyes glittered like a rattlesnake's. Nina's chance ball shot
home. But madame was a woman of the world, and could mask her batteries
with a skill of which Nina, with her impetuous _abandon_, was incapable.
She smiled very sweetly, as she answered, "No, petite I have unhappily
seen too much of the world not to know that we must never put our trust
in those charming mauvais sujets. At your age, I dare say I should not
have been proof against your countryman's fascinations, but now, I know
just how much his fondest vows are worth, and I have been deaf to them
all, for I would not let my heart mislead me against my reason and my
conscience. Ah, petite! you little guess what the traitor word 'love'
means here, in Paris. We women grow accustomed to our fate, but the
lesson is hard sometimes."

"You have been reading 'Mes Confidences,' lately?" asked Nina, with a
sarcastic flash of her brilliant eyes.

"How cruel! Do you suppose I can have no _émotions_ except I learn them
second-hand through Lamartine or Delphine Gay? You are very satirical,
Miss Gordon----How strange!" said the baronne, interrupting herself;
"your bouquet is the fac-simile of mine! Look! De Kerroualle sent you
that I fancy? You know he raffoles of you. I was very silly to use mine,
but Mr. Vaughan sent me such a pretty note with it, that I had not the
resolution to disappoint him. Poor Ernest!" And Madame sighed softly, as
if bewailing in her tender heart the woes her obduracy caused. The blood
flamed up in Nina's cheeks, and her hand clenched hard on Ernest's
flowers: they _were_ the fac-similes of the widow's; delicate pink
blossoms, mixed with white azalias. "Is he here to-night, do you know?"
madame continued. "I dare say not; he is behind the coulisses, most
likely. Céline, the new danseuse from the Fenice, makes her début
to-night. Here comes poor Gaston to petition for a valse. Be kind to
him, pray."

She herself went off to the ball-room, and the effect of her exordium
was to make Nina very disagreeable to poor De Kerroualle, whom she
really liked, and who was _entêté_ about her. Not long afterwards, Nina
saw in the distance Vaughan's haughty head and powerful brow, and her
silly little heart beat as quick as a pigeon's just caught in the trap:
he was talking to the widow.

"Look at our young English friend," Pauline was saying, "how she is
flirting with Gaston, and De Lafitolle, and De Concressault. Certainly,
when your Englishwomen do coquet, they go further than any of us."

"Est-ce possible?" said Ernest, raising his eyebrows.

"Méchant!" cried madame, with a chastising blow of her fan. "But, do you
know, I admire the petite very much. I believe all really beautiful
women had that rare golden hair of hers--Lucrezia Borgia (I could never
bear Grisi as _Lucrezia_, for that very reason). La Cenci, the Duchess
of Portsmouth, Ænone--and Helen, I am sure, netted Paris with those gold
threads. Don't you think it is very lovely?"

"I do, indeed," said Vaughan, with unconscious warmth.

Madame laughed gaily, but there was a disagreeable glitter in her eye.
"What, fickle already? Ah well, I give you full leave."

"And example, madame," said Ernest, as he bowed and left her side, glad
to have struck the first blow of his freedom from this handsome tyrant,
who was as capricious and exacting as she was clever and captivating.
But fetters made of fairer roses were over Ernest now, and he never
bethought himself of the probable vengeance of that bitterest foe, a
woman who is piqued.

"Tout beau!" thought Pauline, as she saw him waltzing with Nina. "Mais
je vous donnerai encore l'échec et mat, mon brave joueur."

"Did you give Madame de Mélusine the bouquet she carries this evening?"
asked Nina, as he whirled her round.

"No," said Ernest, astonished. "Why do you ask?"

"Because she said you did," answered Nina, never accustomed to conceal
anything; "and, besides, it is exactly like mine."

"Infernal woman!" muttered Ernest. "How could you for a moment believe
that I would have so insulted you?"

"I didn't believe it," said Nina, lifting her frank eyes to his. "But
how very late you are; have you been at the ballet?"

His face grew stern. "Did she tell you that?"

"Yes. But why did you go there, instead of coming to dance with me? Do
you like those danseuses better than you do me? What was Céline's or
anybody's début, to you?"

Ernest smiled at the native indignation of the question. "Never think
that I do not wish to be with you; but--I wanted oblivion, and one
cannot shake off old habits. Did you miss me among all those other men
that you have always round you?"

"How unkind that is!" whispered Nina, indignantly. "You know I always
do."

He held her closer to him in the waltz, and she felt his heart beat
quicker, but she got no other answer.

That night Nina stood before her toilette-table, putting her flowers in
water, and some hot tears fell on the azalias.

"I will have faith in him," she cried, passionately; "though all the
world be witness against him, I will believe in him. Whatever his life
may have been, his heart is warm and true; they shall never make me
doubt it."

Her last thoughts were of him, and when she slept his face was in her
dreams, while Ernest, with some of the wildest men of his set, smoked
hard and drank deep in his chambers to drive away, if he could, the
fiends of Regret and Passion and the memory of a young, radiant,
impassioned face, which lured him to an unattainable future.

"Nina dearest," said Selina Ruskinstone, affectionately, the morning
after, "I hope you will not think me unkind--you know I have no wish
but for your good--but _don't_ you think it would be better to be a
little more--more reserved, a little less free, with Mr. Vaughan?"

"Explain yourself more clearly," said Nina, tranquilly. "Do you wish me
to send to Turkey for a veil and a guard of Bashi-Bazouks, or do you
mean that Mr. Vaughan is so attractive that he is better avoided, like a
mantrap or a Maëlstrom?"

"Don't be ridiculous," retorted Augusta; "you know well enough what we
mean, and certainly you do run after him a great deal too much."

"You are so _very_ demonstrative," sighed Selina, "and it is so easily
misconstrued. It is not feminine to court any man so unblushingly."

Nina's eyes flashed, and the blood colored her brow. "I am not afraid of
being misconstrued by Mr. Vaughan," she said, haughtily; "gentlemen are
kinder and wiser judges in those things than our sex."

"I wouldn't advise you to trust to Ernest's tender mercies," sneered
Augusta.

"My dear child, remember his principles," sighed Selina; "his life--his
reputation----"

"Leave both him and me alone," retorted Nina, passionately. "I will not
stand calmly by to hear him slandered with your vague calumnies. You
preach religion often enough; practice it now, and show more common
kindness to your cousin: I do not say charity, for I am sick of the cant
word, and he is above your pity. You think me utterly lost because I
dance, and laugh, and enjoy my life, but, bad as _my_ principles are, I
should be shocked--yes, Selina, and I should think I merited little
mercy myself, were I as harsh and bitter upon any one as you are upon
him. How can _you_ judge him?--how can you say what nobility, and truth,
and affection--that will shame your own cold pharisaism--may lie in his
heart unrevealed?--how can you dare to censure _him_?"

In the door of the salon, listening to the lecture his young champion
was giving these two blue, opinionated, and strongly pious ladies, stood
Ernest, his face even paler than usual, and his eyes with a strange
mixture of joy and pain in them. Nina colored scarlet, but went forward
to meet him with undisguised pleasure, utterly regardless of the
sneering lips and averted eyes of the Miss Ruskinstones. He had come to
go with them to St. Germain, and, with a dexterous manoeuvre, took the
very seat in the carriage opposite Nina that Eusebius had planned for
himself. But the Warden was no match for the _Lion_ in such affairs,
and, being exiled to the barouche with Gordon and Augusta, took from
under the seat a folio of the "Stones of Venice," and read sulkily all
the way.

"My dear fellow," said Vaughan, when they reached St. Germain, "don't
you think you would prefer to sit in the carriage, and finish that
delightful work, to coming to see some simple woods and terraces? If you
would, pray don't hesitate to say so; I am sure Miss Gordon will excuse
your absence."

The solicitous courtesy of Ernest's manner was boiling oil to the fire
raging in the Warden's gentle breast, and Eusebius, besides, was not
quick at retorts. "I am not guilty of any such bad taste," he said,
stiffly, "though I do discover a charm in severe studies, which I
believe you never did."

"No, never," said Ernest, laughing; "my genius does not lie that way;
and I've no vacant bishopric in my mind's eye to make such studies
profitable. Even you, you know, light of the Church as you are, want
recreation sometimes. Confess now, the chansons à boire last night
sounded pleasant after long months of Faithandgrace services!"

Eusebius looked much as I have seen a sleek tom-cat, who bears a
respectable character generally, surprised in surreptitiously licking
out of the cream-jug. He had the night before (when he was popularly
supposed to be sitting under Adolphe Monod) tasted rather too many
petits verres up at the Pré Catalan, utterly unconscious of his cousin's
proximity. The pure-minded soul thus cruelly caught looked prayers of
piteous entreaty to Vaughan not to damage his milk-white reputation by
further revelation of this unlucky detour into the Broad Road; and
Ernest, who, always kind-hearted, never hit a man when he was down,
contented himself with saying:

"Ah! well, we are none of us pure alabaster, though some of the
sepulchres _do_ contrive to whiten themselves up astonishingly. My
father, poor man, once wished to put me in the Church. Do you think I
should have graced it, Selina?"

"I can't say I do," sneered Selina.

"You think I should _disgrace_ it? Very probably. I am not good at
'canting.'" And giving Nina his arm, the Warden being much too confused
to forestall him, he whispered: "when is that atrocious saint going to
take himself over the water? Couldn't we bribe his diocesan to call him
before the Arches Court? Surely those long coats, so like the little
wooden men in Noah's Ark, and that straightened hair, so mathematically
parted down the centre, look 'perverted' enough to warrant it."

Nina shook her head. "Unhappily, he is here for six months for ill
health!--the sick-leave of clergymen who wish for a holiday, and are too
holy to leave their flock without an excuse to society."

Vaughan laughed, then sighed. "Six months--and you have been here four
already! Eusebius hates me cordially--all my English relatives do, I
believe; we do not get on together. They are too cold and conventional
for me. I have some of the warm Bohemian blood, though God knows I've
seen enough to chill it to ice by this time; but it is _not_ chilled--so
much the worse for me," muttered Ernest "Tell me," he said,
abruptly--"tell me why you took the trouble to defend me so generously
this morning?"

She looked up at him with her frank, beaming regard. "Because they dare
to misjudge you, and they know nothing, and are not worthy to know
anything of your real self."

He pressed his lips together as if in bodily pain. "And what do you
know?"

"Have you not yourself said that you talk to me as you talk to no one
else?" answered Nina, impetuously; "besides--I cannot tell why, but the
first day I met you I seemed to find some friend that I had lost before.
I was certain that you would never misconstrue anything I said, and I
felt that I saw further into your heart and mind than any one else could
do. Was it not very strange?" She stopped, and looked up at him. Ernest
bent his eyes on the ground, and breathed fast.

"No, no," he said at last; "yours is only an ideal of me. If you knew me
as I really am, you would cease to feel the--the interest that you
say----"

He stopped abruptly; facile as he was at pretty compliments, and versed
in tender scenes as he had been from his school-days, the longing to
make this girl love him, and his struggle not to breathe love to her,
deprived him of his customary strength and nonchalance.

"I do not fear to know you as you are," said Nina, gently. "I do not
think you yourself allow all the better things that there are in you.
People have not judged you rightly, and you have been too proud to prove
their error to them. You have found pleasure in running counter to the
prudish and illiberal bigots who presumed to judge you; and to a world
you have found heartless and false you have not cared to lift the domino
and mask you wore."

Vaughan sighed from the bottom of his heart, and walked on in silence
for a good five minutes. "Promise me, Nina," he said at length with an
effort, "that no matter what you hear against me, you will not condemn
me unheard."

"I promise," she answered, raising her eyes to his, brighter still for
the color in her checks. It was the first time he had called her Nina.

"Miss Gordon," said Eusebius, hurriedly overtaking them, "pray come with
me a moment: there is the most exquisite specimen of the Flamboyant
style in an archway----"

"Thank you for your good intentions," said Nina, pettishly, "but really,
as you might know by this time, I never can see any attractions in your
prosaic and matter-of-fact-fact study."

"It might be more profitable than----"

"Than thinking of La Vallière and poor Bragelonne, and all the gay
glories of the exiled Bourbons?" laughed Nina. "Very likely; but romance
is more to my taste than granite. You would never have killed yourself,
like Bragelonne, for the beaux yeux of Louise de la Beaume-sur-Blanc,
would you?"

"I trust," said Eusebius, stiffly, "that I should have had a deeper
sense of the important responsibilities of the gift of life than to
throw it away because a silly girl preferred another."

"You are very impolitic," said Ernest, with a satirical smile. "No lady
could feel remorse at forsaking you, if you could get over it so
easily."

"He _would_ get over it easily," laughed Nina. "You would call her
Delilah, and all the Scripture bad names, order Mr. Ruskin's new work,
turn your desires to a deanship, marry some bishop's daughter with high
ecclesiastical interest, and console yourself in the bosom of your
Mother Church--eh, Mr. Ruskinstone?"

"You are cruelly unjust," sighed Eusebius. "You little know----"

"The charms of architecture? No; and I never shall," answered his
tormentor, humming the "Queen of the Roses," and waltzing down the
forest glade, where they were walking. "How severe you look!" she said
as she waltzed back. "Is _that_ wrong, too? Miriam danced before the ark
and Jephtha's daughter."

The Warden appeared not to hear. Certainly his mode of courtship was
singular.

"Ernest," he said, turning to his cousin as the rest of the party came
up, "I had no idea your sister was in Paris. I have not seen her since
she was fourteen. I should not have known her in the least."

"Margaret is in India with her husband," answered Vaughan. "What are you
dreaming of? Where have you seen her?"

"I saw her in your chambers," answered the Warden, slowly. "I passed
three times yesterday, and she was sitting in the centre window each
time."

"Pshaw! You dreamt it in your sleep last night. Margaret's in Vellore, I
assure you."

"I saw her," said the Warden, softly; "or, at least, I saw some lady,
whom I naturally presumed to be your sister."

Ernest, who had not colored for fifteen years, and would have defied man
or woman to confuse him, flushed to his very temples.

"You are mistaken," he said, decidedly. "There is no woman in my rooms."

Eusebius raised his eyebrows, bent his head, smiled and sighed. More
polite disbelief was never expressed. The Miss Ruskinstones would have
blushed if they could; as they could not, they drew themselves bolt
upright, and put their parasols between them and the reprobate. Nina,
whose hand was still in Vaughan's arm, turned white, and flashed a
quick, upward look at him; then, with a glance at Eusebius, as fiery as
the eternal wrath that that dear divine was accustomed to deal out so
largely to other people, she led Ernest up to her father, who being
providentially somewhat deaf, had not heard this by-play, and said, to
her cousin's horror, "Papa, dear, Mr. Vaughan wants you to dine with him
at Tortoni's to-night, to meet M. de Vendanges. You will be very happy,
won't you?"

Ernest pressed her little hand against his side, and thanked her with
his eyes.

Gordon was propitiated for that day; he was not likely to quarrel with a
man who could introduce him to "Son Altesse Monseigneur le Duc de
Vendanges."



V.

MORE MISCHIEF--AND AN END.


In a little cabinet de peinture, in a house in the Place Vendôme, apart
from all the other people, who having come to a déjeûner were now
dispersed in the music rooms, boudoirs, and conservatories, sat Madame
de Mélusine, talking to Gordon, flatteringly, beguilingly,
bewitchingly, as that accomplished widow could. The banker found her
charming, and really, under her blandishments, began to believe, poor
old fellow, that she was in love with him!

"Ah! by-the-by, cher monsieur," began madame, when she had soft-soaped
him into a proper frame of mind, "I want to speak to you about that
mignonne Nina. You cannot tell, you cannot imagine, what interest I take
in her."

"You do her much honor, madame," replied her bourgeois gentilhomme,
always stiff, however enraptured he might feel internally.

"The honor is mine," smiled Pauline. "Yes, I do feel much interest in
her; there is a sympathy in our natures, I am certain, and--and,
Monsieur Gordon, I cannot see that darling girl on the brink of a
precipice without stretching out a hand to snatch her from the abyss."

"Precipice--abyss--Nina! Good Heavens! my dear madame, what do you
mean?" cried Gordon--a fire, an elopement, and the small-pox, all
presenting themselves to his mind.

"No, no," repeated madame, with increasing vehemence, "I will not permit
any private feelings, I will not allow my own weakness to prevent me
from saving her. It would be a crime, a cruelty, to let your innocent
child be deceived, and rendered miserable for all time, because I lack
the moral courage to preserve her. Monsieur, I speak to you, as I am
sure I may, as one friend to another, and I am perfectly certain that
you will not misjudge me. Answer me one thing; no impertinent curiosity
dictates the question. Do you wish your daughter married to Mr.
Vaughan?"

"Married to Vaughan!" exclaimed the startled banker; "I'd sooner see her
married to a crossing sweeper. She never thought of such a thing.
Impossible! absurd! she'll marry my friend Ruskinstone as soon as she
comes of age. Marry Vaughan! a fellow without a penny----"

Pauline laid her soft, jewelled hand on his arm:

"My dear friend, _he_ thinks of it if you do not, and I am much mistaken
if dear Nina is not already dazzled by his brilliant qualities. Your
countryman is a charming companion, no one can gainsay that; but, alas!
he is a roué, a gambler, an adventurer, who, while winning her young
girl's affections, has only in view the wealth which he hopes he will
gain with her. It is painful to me to say this" (and tears stood in
madame's long, velvet eyes). "We were good friends before he wanted more
than friendship, while poor De Mélusine was still living, and his true
character was revealed to me. It would be false delicacy to allow your
darling Nina to become his victim for want of a few words from me,
though I know, if he were aware of my interference, the inference he
would basely insinuate from it. But you," whispered madame, brushing the
tears from her eyes, and giving him an angelic smile, "I need not fear
that you would ever misjudge me?"

"Never, I swear, most generous of women!" said the banker, kissing the
snow-white hand, very clumsily, too. "I'll tell the fellow my mind
directly--an unprincipled, gambling----"

"Non, non, je vous en prie, monsieur!" cried the widow, really
frightened, for this would not have suited her plans at all. "You would
put me in the power of that unscrupulous man. He would destroy my
reputation at once in his revenge."

"But what am I to do?" said the poor gulled banker. "Nina's a will of
her own, and if she take a fancy to this confounded----"

"Leave that to me," said la baronne, softly. "I have proofs which will
stagger her most obstinate faith in her lover. Meanwhile give him no
suspicion, go to his supper on Tuesday, and--you are asked to Vauvenay,
accept the invitation--and conclude the fiançailles with Monsieur le
Ministre as soon as you can."

"But--but, madame," stammered this new Jourdain to his enchanting
Dorimène, "Vauvenay is an exile. I shall not see you there?"

"Ah, silly man," laughed the widow, "I shall be only two miles off. I am
going to stay with the Salvador; they leave Paris in three weeks.
Listen--your daughter is singing 'The Swallows.' Her voice is quite as
good as Ristori's."

Three hours after, madame held another tête-à-tête in that boudoir. This
time the favored mortal was Vaughan. They had had a pathetic interview,
of which the pathos hardly moved Ernest as much as the widow desired.

"You love me no longer, Ernest," she murmured, the tears falling down
her cheeks--her rouge was the product of high art, and never washed
off--"I see it, I feel it; your heart is given to that English girl. I
have tried to jest about it; I have tried to affect indifference, but I
cannot. The love you once won will be yours to the grave."

Ernest listened, a satirical smile on his lips.

"I should feel more grateful," he said, calmly, "if the gift had not
been given to so many; it will be a great deal of trouble to you to
love us all to our graves. And your new friend Gordon, do you intend
cherishing his grey hairs, too, till the gout puts them under the sod?"

She fell back sobbing with exquisite _abandon_. No deserted Calypso's
_pose_ was ever more effective.

"Ernest, Ernest! that I should live to be so insulted, and by you!"

"Nay, madame, end this vaudeville," said he bitterly. "I know well
enough that you hate me, or why have you troubled yourself to coin the
untruths about me that you whispered to Miss Gordon?"

"Ah! have you no pity for the first mad vengeance dictated by jealousy
and despair?" murmured Pauline. "Once there was attraction in this face
for you, Ernest; have some compassion, some sympathy----"

Well as he knew the worth of madame's tears, Ernest, chivalric and
generous at heart, was touched.

"Forgive me," he said, gently, "and let us part. You know now, Pauline,
that she has my deepest, my latest love. It were disloyalty to both did
we meet again save in society."

"Farewell, then," murmured Pauline. "Think gently of me, Ernest, for I
_have_ loved you more than you will ever know now."

She rose, and, as he bent towards her, kissed his forehead. Then,
floating from the room, passed the Reverend Eusebius, standing in the
doorway, looking in on this parting scene. The widow looked at herself
in her mirror that night with a smile of satisfaction.

"C'est bien en train," she said, half aloud. "Le fou! de penser qu'il
puisse me braver. Je ne l'aime plus, c'est vrai, mais je ne veux pas
qu'elle réussisse."

Nina went to bed very happy. Ernest had sat next her at the déjeûner;
and afterwards at a ball had waltzed often with her and with nobody
else; and his eyes had talked love in the waltzes though his tongue
never had.

Ernest went to his chambers, smoked hard, half mad with the battle
within him, and took three grains of opium, which gave him forgetfulness
and sleep. He woke, tired and depressed, to hear the gay hum of life in
the street below, and to remember he had promised Nina to meet them at
Versailles.

It was Sunday morning. In England, of course, Gordon would have gone up
to the sanctuary, listened to Mr. Bellew, frowned severely on the cheap
trains, and, after his claret, read edifying sermons to his household;
but in Paris there would be nobody to admire the piety, and the "grandes
eaux" only play once a week, you know--on Sundays. So his Sabbath
severity was relaxed, and down to Versailles he journied. There must be
something peculiar in continental air, for it certainly stretches our
countrymen's morality and religion uncommonly: it is only up at
Jerusalem that our pharisees worship. Eusebius dare not go--he'd be sure
to meet a brother-clerical, who might have reported the dereliction at
home--so that Vaughan, despite Gordon's cold looks, kept by Nina's side
though he wasn't alone with her, and when they came back in the _wagon_
the banker slept and the duenna dozed, and he talked softly and low to
her--not quite love, but something very like it--and as they neared
Paris he took the little hand with its delicate Jouvin glove in his, and
whispered,

"Remember your promise: I can brave, and have braved most things, but I
could not bear your scorn. _That_ would make me a worse man than I have
been, if, as some folks would tell you, such a thing be possible."

It was dark, but I dare say the moonbeams shining on the chevelure dorée
showed him a pair of truthful, trusting eyes that promised never to
desert him.

The day after he had, by dint of tact and strategy, planned to spend
entirely with Nina. He was going with them to the races at Chantilly,
then to the Gaité to see the first representation of a vaudeville of a
friend of his, and afterwards he had persuaded Gordon to enter the
Lion's den, and let Nina grace a petit souper at No. 10, Rue des Mauvais
Sujets, Chaussée d'Antin.

The weather was delicious, the race-ground full, if not quite so
crowded as the Downs on Derby Day. Ernest cast away his depression, he
gave himself up to the joy of being loved, his wit had never rung finer
nor his laugh clearer than as he drove back to Paris opposite Nina. He
had never felt in higher spirits than, after having given carte blanche
to a cordon bleu for the entertainment, he looked round his salons,
luxurious as Eugène Sue's, and perfumed with exotics from the Palais
Royal, and thought of one rather different in style to the women that
had been wont to drink his Sillery and grace his symposia.

He knew well enough she loved him, and his heart beat high as he put a
bouquet of white flowers into a gold bouquetière to take to her.

On his lover-like thoughts the voice of one of his parrots--Ernest had
almost as many pets as there are in the Jardin des Plantes--broke in,
screaming "Bluette! Bluette! Sacre bleu, elle est jolie! Bluette!
Bluette!"

The recollection was unwelcome. Vaughan swore a "sacre bleu!" too.
"Diable! she mustn't hear that François, put that bird out of the way.
He makes a such a confounded row."

The parrot, fond of him, as all things were that knew him, sidled up,
arching its neck, and repeating what De Concressault had taught it: "Fi
donc, Ernest! Tu es volage! Tu ne m'aimes plus! Tu aimes Pauline!"

"Devil take the bird!" thought its master; "even he'll be witness
against me." And as he went down stairs to his cab, a chorus of birds
shouting "Tu aimes Pauline!" followed him, and while he laughed, he
sighed to think that even these unconscious things could tell her how
little his love was worth. He forgot all but his love, however, when he
leaned over her chair in the Gaités and saw that, strenuously as De
Concressault and De Kerroualle sought to distract her attention, and
many as were the lorgnons levelled at the chevelure dorée, all her
thoughts and smiles were given to him.

Ernest had never, even in his careless boyhood, felt so happy as he did
that night as he handed her into Gordon's carriage, and drove to the
Chaussée d'Antin; and though Gordon sat there heavy and solemn, looming
like an iceberg on Ernest's golden future, Vaughan forgot him utterly,
and only looked at the sunshine beaming on him from radiant eyes that,
skeptic in her sex as he was from experience, he felt would always be
true to him. The carriage stopped at No. 10, Rue des Mauvais Sujets. He
had given her one or two dinners with the Senecterre, the De Salvador,
and other fine ladies--grand affairs at the Frères Provençaux that would
have satisfied Brillat-Savarin--but she had never been to his rooms
before, and she smiled joyously in his face as he lifted her out--the
smile that had first charmed him at the Français. He gave her his arm,
and led her across the salle, bending his head down to whisper a
welcome. Gordon and Selina and several men followed. Selina felt that it
was perdition to enter the _Lion's_ den, but a fat old vicomte, on whom
she'd fixed her eye, was going, and the "femmes de trente ans" that
Balzac champions risk their souls rather than risk their chances when
the day is far spent, and good offers grow rare.

Ernest's Abyssinian, mute, subordinate to that grand gentleman, M.
François, ushered them up the stairs, making furtive signs to his
master, which Vaughan was too much absorbed to notice. François, in all
his glory, flung open the door of the salon. In the salon a sight met
Ernest's eyes which froze his blood more than if all the dead had arisen
out of their graves on the slopes of Père la Chaise.

The myriad of wax-lights shone on the rooms, fragrant with the perfume
of exotics, gleamed on the supper-table, gorgeous with its gold plate
and its flowers, lighted up the aviary with its brilliant hues of
plumage, and showed to full perfection the snowy shoulders, raven hair,
and rose-hued dress of a woman lying back in a fauteuil, laughing, as De
Cheffontaine, a man but slightly known to Ernest, leaned over her,
fanning her. On a sofa in an alcove reclined another girl, young, fair,
and pretty, the amber mouthpiece of a hookah between her lips, and a
couple of young fellows at her feet.

The brunette was Bluette, who played the soubrette rôles at the Odéon;
the blonde was Céline Gamelle, the new première danseuse. Bluette rose
from the depths of her amber satin fauteuil, with her little _pétillant_
eyes laughing, and her small plump hands stretched out in gesticulation.
"Méchant! Comme tu es tard, Ernest. Nous avons été ici si longtemps--dix
minutes au moins! And dis is you leetler new Ingleesh friend. How do you
do, my dear?"

Nina, white as death, shrank from her, clinging with both hands to
Ernest's arms. As pale as she, Vaughan stood staring at the actress, his
lips pressed convulsively together, the veins standing out on his broad,
high forehead. The bold _Lion_ hunted into his lair, for once lost all
power, all strength.

Gordon looked over Nina's shoulder into the room. He recognized the
women at a glance, and, with his heavy brow dark as night, he glared on
Ernest in a silence more ominous than words or oaths, and snatching
Nina's arm from his, he drew her hand within his own, and dragged her
from the room.

Ernest sprang after him. "Good God! you do not suppose me capable of
this. Stay one instant. Hear me----"

"Let us pass, sir," thundered Gordon, "or by Heaven this insult shall
not go unavenged."

"Nina, Nina!" cried Ernest, passionately, "do you at least listen!--you
at least will not condemn----"

Nina wrenched her hands from her father, and turned to him, a passion of
tears falling down her face. "No, no! have I not promised you?"

With a violent oath Gordon carried her to her carriage. It drove away,
and Ernest, his lips set, his face white, and a fierce glare in his dark
eyes that made Bluette and Céline tremble, entered his salons a second
time, so bitter an anguish, so deadly a wrath marked in his expressive
countenance, that even the Frenchmen hushed their jests, and the women
shrunk away, awed at a depth of feeling they could not fathom or brave.

The fierce anathemas of Gordon, the "Christian" lamentations of
Eusebius, the sneers of Selina, the triumphs of Augusta, all these vials
of wrath were poured forth on Ernest, in poor little Nina's ears, the
whole of the next day. She had but one voice among many to raise in his
defence, and she had no armor but her faith in him. Gordon vowed with
the same breath that she should never see Vaughan again, and that she
should engage herself to Ruskinstone forthwith. Eusebius poured in at
one ear his mild milk-and-water attachment, and, in the other, details
of Ernest's scene in the boudoir with Madame de Mélusine, or, at least,
what he had seen of it, _i. e._ her parting caress. Selina rang the
changes on her immodesty in loving a man who had never proposed to her;
and Augusta drew lively pictures of the eternal fires which were already
being kept up below, ready for the _Lion's_ reception. Against all these
furious batteries Nina stood firm. All their sneers and arguments could
not shake her belief, all her father's commands--and, when he was
roused, the old banker was very fierce--could not move her to promise
not to see Ernest again, or alter her firm repudiation of the warden's
proposals. The thunder rolled, the lightning flamed, the winds screamed
all to no purpose, the little reed that one might have fancied would
break, stood steady.

The day passed, and the next passed, and there were no tidings of
Ernest. Nina's little loyal heart, despite its unhesitating faith, began
to tremble lest it should have wrecked itself: but then, she thought of
his eyes, and she felt that all the world would never make her mistrust
him.

On the _surlendemain_ the De Mélusine called. Gordon and Eusebius were
out, and Nina wished her to be shown up. Ill as the girl felt, she rose
haughtily and self-possessed to greet madame, as, announced by her tall
chasseur, with his green plume, the widow glided into the room.

Pauline kissed her lightly (there are no end of Judases among the dear
sex), and, though something in Nina's eye startled her, she sat down
beside her, and began to talk most kindly, most sympathisingly. She was
_chagrinée, désolée_ that her _chère_ Nina should have been so insulted;
every one knew M. Vaughan was quite _entêté_ with that little, horrid,
coarse thing, Bluette; but it was certainly very shocking; men were such
_démons_. The affair was already _répandue_ in Paris; everybody was
talking of it. Ernest was unfortunately so well known; he could not be
in his senses; she almost wished he _was_ mad, it would be the only
excuse for him; wild as he was, she should scarcely have thought, &c.,
&c., &c. "Ah! chère enfant," madame went on at the finish, "you do not
know these men--I do. I fear you have been dazzled by this naughty
fellow; he _is_ very attractive, certainly: if so, though it will be a
sharp pang, it will be better to know his real character at once. Voyez
donc! he has been persuading you that you were all the world to him,
while at the same time, he has been trying to make me believe the same.
See, only two days ago he sent me this."

She held out a miniature. Nina, who hitherto had listened in haughty
silence, gave a sharp cry of pain as she saw Vaughan's graceful figure,
stately head, and statue-like features. But, before the widow could
pursue her advantage, Nina rallied, threw back her head, and said, her
soft lips set sternly:

"If you repulsed his love, why was he obliged to repulse yours? Why did
you tell him on Saturday night that 'you had loved him more than he
would ever know now?'"

The shot Eusebius had unconsciously provided, struck home. Madame was
baffled. Her eyes sank under Nina's, and she colored through her rouge.

"You have played two rôles, madame," said Nina, rising, "and not played
them with you usual skill. Excuse my English ill-breeding, if I ask you
to do me the favor of ending this comedy."

"Certainly, mademoiselle, if it is your wish," answered the widow, now
smiling blandly. "If it please you to be blind, I have no desire to
remove the bandage from your eyes. Seulement, je vous prie de me
pardonner mon indiscrétion, et j'ai l'honneur, mademoiselle, de vous
dire adieu!"

With the lowest of _révérences_ madame glided from the room, and, as the
door closed, Nina bowed her head on the miniature left behind in the
_déroute_, and burst into tears.

Scarcely had la Mélusine's barouche rolled away, when another visitor
was shown in, and Nina, brushing the tears from her cheeks, looked up
hurriedly, and saw a small woman, finely dressed, with a Shetland veil
on, through which her small black eyes roved listlessly.

"Mademoiselle," she said, in very quick but very bad English, "I is
come to warn you against dat ver wrong man, Mr. Vaughan. I have like
him, helas! I have like him too vell, but I do not vish you to suffer
too."

Nina knew the voice in a moment, and rose like a little empress, though
she was flushed and trembling. "I wish to hear nothing of Mr. Vaughan.
If this is the sole purport of your visit, I shall be obliged by your
leaving me."

"But mademoiselle----"

"I have told you I wish to hear nothing," interposed Nina, quietly.

"Ver vell, ma'amselle; den read dat. It is a copy, and I got de
original."

She laid a letter on the sofa beside Nina. Two minutes after, Bluette
joined her friend Céline Gamelle in a fiacre, and laughed heartily,
clapping her little plump hands. "Ah, mon Dieu! Céline, comme elle est
fière, la petite! Je ne lui ai pas dit un seul mot--elle m'a arrêtée si
vite, si vite! Mais la lettre fera notre affaire n'est pas? Oui, oui!"

The letter unfolded in Nina's hand. It was a promise of marriage from
Ernest Vaughan to Bluette Lemaire. Voiceless and tearless, Nina sat
gazing on the paper: first she rose, gasping for breath; then she threw
herself down, sobbing convulsively, till she heard a step, caught up the
miniature and letter, dreading to see her father, and, instead, saw
Ernest, pale, worn, deep lines round his mouth and eyes, standing in the
doorway. Involuntarily she sprang towards him. Ernest pressed her to
heart, and his hot tears fell on the chevelure dorée, as he bent over
her, murmuring, "_You_ have not deserted me. God bless you for your
noble faith." At last he put her gently from him, and, leaning against
the mantelpiece, said, with an effort, between his teeth, "Nina, I came
to bid you farewell, and to ask your forgiveness for the wrong I have
done you."

Nina caught hold of him, much as Malibran seized hold of _Elvino_:
"Leave me! leave me! No, no; you cannot mean it!"

"I have no strength for it now I see you," said Ernest, looking down
into her eyes; and the bold, reckless _Lion_ shivered under the clinging
clasp of her little hands. "I need not say I was not the cause of the
insult you received the other night. Pauline de Mélusine was the agent,
women willing to injure me the actors in it. But there is still much for
you to forgive. Tell me, at once, what have you heard of me?"

She silently put the miniature and letter in his hand. The blood rushed
to his very temples, and, sinking his head on his arms, his chest rose
and fell with uncontrollable sobs. All the pent-up feelings of his
vehement and affectionate nature poured out at last.

"And you have not condemned me even on these?" he said at length, in a
hoarse whisper.

"Did I not promise?" she murmured.

"But if I told you they were true?"

She looked at him through her tears, and put her hand in his. "Tell me
nothing of your past; it can make no difference to my love. Let the
world judge you as it may, it cannot alter me."

Ernest strained her to him, kissing her wildly. "God bless you for your
trust! would to God I were more worthy of it! I have nothing to give you
but a love such as I have never before known; but most would tell you
all _my_ love is worthless, and my life has been one of reckless
dissipation and of darker errors still, until you awoke me to a deeper
love--to thoughts and aspirations that I thought had died out for ever.
Painful as it is to confess----"

"Hush!" interrupted Nina, gently. "Confess nothing; with your past life
I can have nothing to do, and I wish never to hear anything that it
gives you pain to tell. You say that you love me now, and will never
love another--that is enough for me."

Ernest kissed the flushed cheeks and eloquent lips, and thanked her with
all the fiery passion that was in him; and his heart throbbed fiercely
as he put her promise to the test.

"No, my darling! Priceless as your love is to me I will not buy it by
concealment. I will not sully your ears with the details of my life. God
forbid I should! but it is only due to you to know that I did give both
these women the love-tokens they brought you. Love! It is desecration of
the name, but I knew none better then! Three years ago, Bluette Lemaire
first appeared at the Odéon. She is illiterate, coarse, heartless, but
she was handsome, and she drew me to the coulisses. I was infatuated
with her, though her ignorance and vulgarity constantly grated against
all my tastes. One night at her petit souper I drank more Sillery than
was wise. I have a stronger head than most men: perhaps there was some
other stimulant in it; at any rate, she who was then poor, and is always
avaricious, got from me a promise to marry her, or to pay twenty
thousand francs. Three months after I gave it I cared no more for her
than for my old glove. France is too wise to have Breach of Promise
cases, and give money to coarse and vengeful women for their pretended
broken hearts; but I had no incentive to create a scene by breaking with
her, and so she kept the promise in her hands. What Pauline de Mélusine
is, you can judge. Twelve months ago I met her at Vichy; the love she
gave me, and the love I vowed her, were of equal value--the love of
Paris boudoirs. That I sent her that picture only two days ago, is, of
course, false. On my word, as a man of honor, since the moment I felt
your influence upon me I have shunned her. Now, my own love, you know
the truth. Will you send me from you, or will you still love and still
forgive?"

In an agony of suspense he bent his head to listen for her answer. Tears
rained down her cheeks as she put her arms round his neck, and
whispered:

"Why ask? Are you not all the world to me? I should love you little if I
condemned you for any errors of your past. I know your warm and noble
heart, and I trust to it without a fear. There is no doubt between us
now!"

Oh, my prudent and conventional young ladies, standing ready to accuse
my poor little Nina, are you any wiser in your generation? You who have
had all nature taken out of you by "finishing," whose heads are crammed
with "society's" laws, and whose affections are measured out by rule,
who would have been cold, and dignified, and read Ernest a severe
lesson, and sent him back hopeless and hardened to go ten times worse
than he had gone before--believe me, that impulse points truer than "the
world," and that the dictates of the heart are better than the
regulations of society. Take my word for it, that love will do more for
a man than lectures; and faith in him be more likely to keep him
straight than all your moralising; and before you judge him severely for
having drunk a little too deep of the Sillery of life, remember that his
temptations are not your temptations, nor his ways your ways, and be
gentle to dangers which society and custom keep out of your own path.
The stern thorn crows you offer to us when we are inclined to ask your
absolution, are not the right means to win us from the rose wreaths of
our bacchanalia.

Nina, as you see, loved her _Lion_ too well to remember dignity, or
take her stand on principle; and gallantly did the young lady stand the
bombardment from all sides that sought to break her resolutions and
crush her "misplaced affections." Gordon chanced to come in that day and
light upon Ernest, and the fury into which he worked himself ill
beseemed so respectable a pharisee. Vaughan kept tranquilly haughty, and
told the banker, calmly, that he "thanked God he had his daughter's
love, and his money he would never have stooped to accept." Gordon
forbade him the house, and carried Nina back to England; but before she
went they had a parting interview, in which Ernest offered to leave her
free. But such freedom would have been worse than death to Nina, and,
before they separated, she told him that in three months more she should
be of age, and then, come what might, she would be his if he would take
her without wealth. Take her he would have done from the arms of Satanus
himself, but to disentangle himself from all his difficulties was a task
that beat the Augean stables hollow. The three months of his probation
he worked hard; he sold off all his pictures, his stud, and his
_meubles_; he sold, what cost him a more bitter pang, his encumbered
estates in Surrey; he paid off all his debts, Bluette's twenty thousand
francs included; and shaking himself free of the accumulated
embarrassments of fifteen years, he crossed the water to claim his last
love. No poor little Huguenot was ever persecuted for her faith more
than poor little Nina for her engagement. Every relative she had thought
it his duty to write admonitory letters, plentifully interspersed with
texts. Eusebius and his 4000_l._ a year, and his perspective bishopric,
were held up before her from morning to night; the banker, whose
deception in the Mélusine had turned him into sharper vinegar than
before, told her with chill stoicism that she must of course choose her
own path in life, but that if that path led her into the Chaussée
d'Antin, she need never expect a sou from him, for all his property
would be divided between her two brothers. But Nina was neither to be
frightened nor bribed. She kept true to her lover, and disinherited
herself.

They were married a week or two after Nina's majority; and Gordon knew
it, though he could not prevent it. They did not miss the absence of
bridesmaids, bishop, déjeûner, and the usual fashionable crowd. It was a
marriage of the heart, you see, and did not want the trappings with
which they gild that bitter pill so often swallowed now-a-days--a
"mariage de convenance." Nina, as she saw further still into the wealth
of deep feeling and strong affection which, at her touch, she had awoke
in his heart, felt that money, and friends, and the world's smile were
well lost since she had won him. And Ernest--Ernest's sacrifice was
greater; for it is not a little thing, young ladies, for a man to give
up his accustomed freedom, and luxuries, and careless vie de garçon, and
to have to think and work for another, even though dearer than himself.
But he had long since seen so much of life, had exhausted all its
pleasures so rapidly, that they palled upon him, and for some time he
had vaguely wanted something of deeper interest, of warmer sympathy.
Unknown to himself, he had felt the "besoin d'être aimé"--a want the
trash offered him by the women of his acquaintance could never
satisfy--and his warm, passionate nature found rest in a love which,
though the strongest of his life, was still returned to him fourfold.

After some months of delicious _far niente_ in the south of France, they
came back to Paris. Though anything but rich, he was not absolutely
poor, after he had paid his debts, and the necessity to exertion rousing
his dormant talents, the _Lion_ turned _littérateur_. He was too
popular with men to be dropped because he had sold his stud or given up
his petits soupers. The romance of their story charmed the Parisians,
and, though (behind his back) they sometimes jested about the "Lion
amoureux," there were not a few who envied him his young love, and the
sunshine that shone round them in his inexpensive appartement garni.

Ernest _was_ singularly happy--and suddenly he became the star of the
literary, as he had been of the fashionable world. His mots were
repeated, his vaudevilles applauded, his feuilletons adored. The world
smiled on Nina and her _Lion_; it made little difference to them--they
had been as contented when it frowned.

But it made a good deal of difference across the Channel. Gordon began
to repent. Ernest's family was high, his Austrian connexions very
aristocratic: there would be something after all in belonging to a man
so well known. (Be successful, ami lecteur, and all your relatives will
love you.) Besides, he had found out that it is no use to put your faith
in princes, or clergymen. Eusebius had treated him very badly when he
found he could not get Nina and her money, and spoke against the poor
banker everywhere, calling him, with tender pastoral regret, a "worldly
Egyptian," a "Dives," a "whitened sepulchre," and all the rest of it.

Probably, too, stoic though he was, he missed the chevelure dorée; at
any rate, he wrote to her stiffly, but kindly, and settled two thousand
a year upon her. Vaughan was very willing she should be friends with her
father, but nothing would make him draw a sou of the money. So Nina--the
only sly thing she ever did in her life--after a while contrived to buy
back the Surrey estate, and gave it to him, with no end of prayers and
caresses, on the Jour de l'An.

"And you do not regret, my darling," smiled Ernest, after wishing her
the new year's wishes, "having forgiven me for once drinking too much
Sillery, and all the other naughty things of my vie de garçon?"

"Regret!" interrupted Nina, vehemently--"regret that I have won your
love, live your life, share your cares and joys, regret that my
existence is one long day of sunshine? Oh, why ask! you know I can never
repay you for the happiness of my life."

"Rather can I never repay you," said Vaughan, looking down into her
eyes, "for the faith that made you brave calumny and opposition, and
cling to my side despite all. I was heart-sick of the world, and you
called me back to life. I was weary of the fools who misjudged me, and I
let them think me what they might."

"Ah, how happy you make me!" cried Nina. "I should have been little
worthy of your love if I had suffered slander to warp me against you, or
if any revelations you cared enough for me to make of your past life,
had parted us:

  Love is not love
  That alters where it alteration finds,
  Or bends with the remover to remove.

There, monsieur!" she said, throwing her arms round him with a laugh,
while happy tears stood in her eyes--"there is a grand quotation for
you. Mind and take care, Ernest, that you never realise the Ruskinstone
predictions, and make me repent having caught and caged such a terrible
thing as a hunted PARIS LION!"



SIR GALAHAD'S RAID.



SIR GALAHAD'S RAID.

AN ADVENTURE ON THE SWEET WATERS.


For the punishment of my sins may the gods never again send me to Pera!
That I might have plenty on my shoulders I am frankly willing to
concede; all I protest is, that when one submissively acknowledges the
justice of ones future terminating in Tophet, it comes a little hard to
get purgatory in this world into the bargain. Purgatory lies _perdu_ for
one all over the earth. I have had fifty times more than my share
already, and the gout still remains an untried experience, a Gehenna
grimly waiting to avenge every morsel of white truffle and every glass
of comet claret with which I innocently solace my frail mortality.
Purgatory!--I have been chained in it fifty times; _et vous_?

When you rush to a Chancellérie, with the English Arms gorgeous above
its doorway, on the spur of a frightfully mysterious and autocratic
telegram, that makes it life or death to catch the train for England in
ten minutes, and have time enough to smoke about two dozen very big
cheroots, cooling your heels in the bureau, and then hear (when properly
tortured into the due amount of frantic agony for the intelligence to be
fully appreciated) that his Excellency is gone snipe-shooting to ----,
and that the First Secretary is in his bath, and has given orders not to
be disturbed; your informant languidly pricking his cigar with his
toothpick, and politely intimating, by his eyebrows, that you and your
necessities may go to the deuce--what's _that_? When you are doing the
sanitary at Weedon, by some hideous conjunction of evil destinies, in
the very Ducal week itself, and thinking of the rush with which Tom
Alcroft will land the filly, or the close finish with which Fordham will
get the cup, while you are not there to see, are sorely tempted to
realize the Parisian vision of Anglo suicide, and load the apple-trees
with suspended human fruit;--what's _that_? When, having got leave, and
established yourself in cosy hunting-quarters, with some cattle not to
be beat in stay, blood, and pace, close to a killing pack that never
score a blank day, there falls a bitter, black frost, locking the
country up in iron bonds, and making every bit of ridge and furrow like
a sheet of glass--what's _that_?

Bah! I could go on ad infinitum, and cite "circles of purgatory" in
which mortal man is doomed to pass his time, beside which Dante's Caïna,
Antenora, and Ptolomea sink into insignificance. But of all Purgatories,
chiefest in my memory, is----Pera. Pera in the old Crimean time--Pera
the "beautiful suburb" of fond "fiction"--Pera, with the dirt, the
fleas, the murders, the mosquitoes, the crooked streets, the lying
Greeks, the stench, the hubbub, the dulness, and the everlasting "Bono
Johnny."

"Call a dog Hervey, and I shall love him," said Johnson, so dear was his
friend to him:--"call a dog Johnny, and I shall kick him," so abominable
grew that word in the eternal Turkish jabber! Tell me, O prettiest,
softest-voiced, most beguiling, feminine Æothen, in as romantic periods
as you will, of bird-like feluccas darting over the Bosphorus, of curled
caïques gliding through fragrant water-weeds; of Arabian Nights
reproduced, when up through the darkness peals the roll of the drums
calling the Faithful to prayers; of the nights of Ramadan, with the
starry clusters of light gleaming all down Stamboul, and flashing,
firefly-like, through the dark citron groves;--tell me of it as you
will, I don't care; you may think me a Goth, _ce m'est bien égal_, and
_you_ were not in cavalry quarters at Pera. I wasn't exacting; I did not
mind having ants in my jam, nor centipedes in my boots, nor a shirt in
six months, nor bacon for a luxury that strongly resembled an old file
rusted by sea-water, nor any little trifle of that sort up in the front;
all that is in the fortune of war: but I confess that Pera put me fairly
out of patience, specially when a certain trusty friend of mine, who has
no earthly fault, that I wot of, except that of perpetually looking at
life through a Claude glass (which is the most aggravating opticism to a
dispassionate and unblinded mind that the world holds), _would_ poetize
upon it, or at least on the East in general, which came pretty much to
the same thing.

The sun poured down on me till (conscience, probably) I remembered the
scriptural threat to the wicked, "their brains shall boil in their
skulls like pots;"--Sir Galahad, as I will call him, would murmur to
himself, with his cheroot in his teeth, Manfred's _salut_ to the sun,
looking as lovingly at it as any eagle. Mosquitoes reduced me to the
very borders of madness,--Sir Galahad would placidly remark, how
Buckland would revel here in all those gorgeous beetles. A Greek told
crackers till I had to double-thong him like a puppy,--Sir Galahad would
shout to me to let the fellow alone, he looked so deuced picturesque, he
must have him for a study. I made myself wretched in a ticklish caïque,
the size of a cockle-shell, where, when one was going full harness to
the Great Effendi's, it was a moral impossibility to be doubled without
one's sash swinging into the water, one's sword sticking over the side,
and the liveliest sensation of cramp pervading one's body,--Sir Galahad,
blandly indifferent, would discourse, with superb Ruskin obscurity, of
"tone," and "coloring," and "harmonized light," while he looked down the
Golden Horn, for he was a little Art-mad, and painted so well that if
he had been a professional, the hanging committee would have shut him
out to a certainty.

Now he was a good fellow, a _beau sabreur_, who had fetched some superb
back strokes in the battery at Balaclava, who could send a line
spinning, and land his horse in a gentleman riders' race, and pot the
big game, and lead the first flight over Northamptonshire doubles at
home, as well as a man wants to do; but I put it to any dispassionate
person, whether this persistent poetism of his, flying in the face of
facts and of fleas, was not enough to make anybody swear in that
mosquito-purgatorio of Pera?

Sir Galahad was a capital fellow, and the men would have gone after him
to the death; the fair, frank, handsome face, a little womanish perhaps,
was very pleasant to look at, and he got the Victoria not long ago for a
deed that would suit Arthur's Table; but in Pera, I avow, he made me
swear hard, and if he would just have set his heel on his Claude glass,
cursed the Turks, and growled refreshingly, I should have loved him
better. He was philosophic and he was poetic; and the combination of
temperaments lifted him in a mortifying altitude above ordinary
humanity, that was baked, broiled, grumbling, savage, bitten, fleeced,
and holding its own against miserable rats, Greeks, and Bono Johnnies,
with an Aristides thieving its last shirt, and a Pisistratus getting
drunk at its case-bottle! That sublime serenity of his in Pera ended in
making me unholy and ungenerous; if he would but have sworn once at the
confounded country, I should have borne it, but he never did, and I
longed to see him out of temper, I pined and thirsted to get him
disenchanted. "_Tout vient a point, à qui sait attendre_," they say; a
motto, by the way, that might be written over the Horse Guards for the
comfort of gloomy souls, when, in the words of the Psalmist, "Promotion
cometh neither from the south, nor from the east, nor from the
west"--by which lament one might conclude David of Israel to have been a
sufferer by the Purchase-system!

"Delicious!" said Sir Galahad, sending a whiff of Turkish tobacco into
the air one morning after exercise, when he and I, having ridden out a
good many miles along the Sweet Waters, turned the horses loose, bought
some grapes and figs of an old Turk, dispossessed him of his bit of
cocoa-matting, and flung ourselves under a plane-tree. And the fellow
looked round him through his race-glass at the cypress woods, the
mosques and minarets, the almond thickets, the "soft creamy distance,"
as he called it in his _argot d'atelier_, and the Greek fishermen near,
drawing up a net full of silvery prismatic fishes, with a relish
absolutely exasperating. Exasperating--when the sun was broiling one's
brain through the linen, and there wasn't a drop of Bass or soda and B
to be got for love or money, and one thought thirstily of days at home
in England, with the birds whirring up from the stubble in the cool
morning, and the cold punch uncorked for luncheon, under the home woods
fringing the open.

"One wants Hunt to catch that bit of color," murmured Sir Galahad,
luxuriously eying a mutilated Janissary's tomb covered with scarlet
creepers.

"Hunt be hanged!" said I (meaning no disrespect to that eminent
Pre-Raphaelite, whose "Light of the World" I took at first sight to be a
policeman going his night rounds, and come out in his shirt by mistake;
by the way, it is a droll idea to symbolize the "light of the world" by
a watchman with a dark lantern, _lux in tenebras_ with a vengeance!).
"Give me the sweet shady side of Pall Mall, and the devil may take the
Sweet Waters. What's the Feast of Bairam beside the Derby-day, or your
confounded coloring beside a well-done cutlet? What's lemonade by
Brighton Tipper, and a veiled bundle by a pretty blonde, and an eternity
of Stamboul by an hour of Piccadilly?"

Sir Galahad smiled superior, and shied a date at me.

"Goth! can't you be content to feed like the Patriarchs and live an
idyl?"

"No! I'd rather feed like a Parisian and live an idler! Eat grapes if
you choose; I agree with Brillat-Savarin, and don't like my wine in
pills."

"My good fellow, you're all prose."

"And you're all poetry. You're as bad as that pretty little commissariat
girl who lisped me to death last night at the Embassy with platitudes of
bosh about the 'poetry of marriage.'"

"The deuce!" said Sir Galahad, with a whistle, "that must be like most
other poetry nowadays--uncommon dull prose, sliced up in uneven lengths!
Didn't you tell her so?"

"Couldn't; I should have pulled the string for a shower-bath of
sentiment! When a woman's bolted on romance you only make the pace worse
if you gall her with the curb of common sense. When romance is in,
reason's out,--excuse the personality!"

He didn't hear me; he was up like a retriever who scents a wild duck or
a water-rat among the sedges, for sweeping near us with soft gliding
motion, as pretty as a toy and as graceful as a swan, came a caïque,
with the wife of a Pacha of at least a hundred tails in it, to judge by
the costliness of her exquisite attire. Now, women were not rare, but
then they were always veiled, which is like giving a man a nugget he
mustn't take out of the quartz, a case of champagne he mustn't undo, a
cover-side he is never to beat, a trout stream in which he must never
fling a fly; and Sir Galahad, whose loves were not, I admit, quite so
saintly as Arthur's code exacted, lost his head in a second as the
caïque drifted past us, and, raising herself on her cushions, the Leilah
Duda, or Salya within it, glanced toward the myrtle screen that half hid
us, with the divinest antelope eyes in the world, and letting the
silver gauze folds of her veil float half aside, showed us the beautiful
warm bloom, the proud lips, and the chestnut tresses braided with pearls
and threaded with gold, of your genuine Circassian beauty. Shade of Don
Juan! what a face it was!

A yataghan might have been at his throat, a bowstring at his neck,
eunuchs might have slaughtered, and pachas have impaled him, Galahad
would have seen more of that loveliness: headlong he plunged down the
slope, crushing through the almond thickets and scattering the green
tree-frogs right and left; the caïque was just rounding past as he
reached the water's edge, and the beauty's veil was drawn in terror of
her guard. But as the little cockle-shell, pretty and ticklish as a
nautilus, was moored to a broad flight of marble stairs, the Circassian
turned her head towards the place where the Unbeliever stood in the
sunlight--her eyes were left her, and with them women speak in a
universal tongue. Then the green lattice gate shut, the white
impenetrable walls hid her from sight, and Sir Galahad stood looking
down the Sweet Waters in a sort of beatific vision, in love for the
1360th time in his life. And certainly he had never been in love with
better reason; for is there anything on earth so divine as your
antelope-eyed and gold-haired Circassian?

"I shall be inside those walls or know the reason why," said he, whom
two gazelle eyes had fired and captured, there by the side of the sunny
Sweet Waters, where the lazy air was full of syringa and rose odors, and
there was no sound but the indolent beating of the tired oars on the
ripples.

"Which reason you will rapidly find," I suggested, "in a knock on the
head from the Faithful!"

"Well! a very picturesque way of coming to grief; to go off the scene in
the sick-wards, from raki and fruit, would be commonplace and
humiliating, but to die in a serail, stabbed through and through by
green-eyed jealousy, would be piquant and refreshing to the last degree;
do you really think there's a chance of it?" said Galahad, rather
anxiously--the eager wistful anxiety of a man who, athirst for the
forest, hears of the rumored slot of an outlying deer--while he shouted
the Greek fishermen to him, and learned after sore travail through a
slough of mixed Italian, Turkish, and Albanian, that the white palace,
with its green lattice and its hanging gardens, belonged to a rich
merchant of Constantinople, and that this veiled angel was the favorite
of his harem, Leilah Derran, a recent purchase in Circassia, and the
queen of the Anderùn.

"The old rascal!" swore Galahad, in his wrath, which was not, however, I
think, caused by any particular Christian disgust at polygamy. "A fat
old sinner, I'll be bound, who sits on his divan puffing his chibouque
and stuffing his sweetmeats, as yellow as Beppo, and as round as a ball.
Bah! what pearls before swine! It's enough to make a saint swear. Those
heavenly eyes!..." And Galahad went into a somewhat earthly reverie,
colored with a thirsty jealousy of the purchaser and the possessor of
this Circassian gazelle, as he rode reluctantly back towards Pera.

The Circassian was in his head, and did not get out again. He let
himself be bewitched by that lovely face which had flashed on him for a
second, and began to feel himself as aggrieved by that innocent and
unoffending Turkish lord of hers, as if the unlucky gentleman had stolen
his own property! The antelope eyes had looked softly and hauntingly
sad, moreover: I demonstrated to him that it was nothing more than the
way that the eyelashes drooped, but nobody in love (very few people out
of it) have any taste for logic; he was simply disgusted with my
realism, and saw an instant vision for himself of this loveliest of
slaves, captive in a bazaar and sold into the splendid bondage of the
harem as into an inevitable fate, mournful in her royalty as a
nightingale in a cage stifled with roses, and as little able to escape
as the bird. A vision which intoxicated and enraptured Sir Galahad, who,
in the teeth of every abomination of Pera, had been content to see only
what he wished to see, and had maintained that the execrable East, to
make it the East of Hafiz and all the poets, only wanted--available
Haidees!

"Hang it! I think it's nothing _but_ Hades," said an Aide, overhearing
that statement one night, as we stumbled out of a half-café,
half-gambling-booth pandemonium into the crooked, narrow, pitch-dark
street, where dogs were snarling over offal, jackals screaming, Turkish
bands shrieking, cannon booming out the hour of prayer, women yelling
alarms of fire, a Zouave was spitting a Greek by way of practice, and an
Irishman had just potted a Dalmatian, in as brawling, rowing,
pestiferous, unodorous an earthly Gehenna as men ever succeeded in
making.

Sir Galahad was the least vain of mortals; nevertheless, being as
well-beloved by the "maidens and young widows," for his fair handsome
face, as Harold the Gold-haired, he would have been more than mortal if
he had not been tolerably confident of "killing," and luxuriously
practised in that pleasant pastime. That if he could once get the
antelope eyes to look at him, they would look lovingly before long, he
was in comfortable security; but how to get into a presence, which it
was death for an unbeliever and a male creature to approach, was a
knottier question, and the difficulty absorbed him. There were several
rather telling Englishwomen out there, with whom he had flirted _faute
de mieux_, at the cavalry balls we managed to get up in Pera, at the
Embassy costume-ball, on board yacht-decks in the harbor, and in picnics
to Therapia or the Monastery. But they became as flavorless as
twice-told tales, and twice-warmed entremets, beside the new piquance,
the delicious loveliness, the divine difficulty of this captive
Circassian. That he had no more earthly business to covet her than he
had to covet the unlucky Turkish trader's lumps of lapis-lazuli and
agate, never occurred to him; the stones didn't tempt him, you see, but
the beauty did. That those rich, soft, unrivalled Eastern charms,
"merely born to bloom and drop," should be caged from the world and only
rejoice the eyes of a fat old opium-soddened Stamboul merchant, seemed a
downright reversal of all the laws of nature, a tampering with the
balance of just apportionment that clamored for redress; but, like most
other crying injustice, the remedy was hard to compass.

Day after day he rode down to the same place on the Sweet Waters on the
chance of the caïque's passing; and, sure enough, the caïque did pass
nine times out of ten, and, when opportunity served for such a hideous
Oriental crime not to be too perilous, the silver gauze floated aside
unveiling a face as fair as the morning, or, when that was impossible,
the eyes turned on him shyly and sadly in their lustrous appeal, as
though mutely bewailing such cruel captivity. Those eyes said as plainly
as language could speak that the lovely Favorite plaintively resisted
her bondage, and thought the Frank with his long fair beard, and his six
feet of height, little short of an angel of light, though he might be an
infidel.

Given--hot languid days, nothing to do, sultry air heavy with orange and
rose odors, and those "silent passages," repeating themselves every time
that Leilah Derran's caïque glided past the myrtle screen, where her
Giaour lay _perdu_, the result is conjectural: though they had never
spoken a word, they had both fallen in love. Voiceless _amourettes_ have
their advantages:--when a woman speaks, how often she snaps her spell!
For instance, when the lips are divine but the utterance is slangy, when
the mouth is adorably rosebud but what it says is most horrible horsy!

A tender pity, too, gave its spur to his passion; he saw that, all Queen
of the Serail though she might be, this fettered gazelle was not happy
in her rose-chains, and to Galahad, who had a wonderful twist of the
knight-errant and lived decidedly some eight centuries too late, no
wiliest temptation would have been so fatal as this.

He swore to get inside those white inexorable walls, and he kept his
oath: one morning the latticed door stood ajar, with the pomegranates
and the citrons nodding through the opening; he flung prudence to the
winds and peril to the devil, and entered the forbidden ground where it
was death for any man, save the fat Omar himself, to be found. The
fountains were falling into marble basins, the sun was tempered by the
screen of leaves, the lories and humming-birds were flying among the
trumpet-flowers, altogether a most poetic and pleasant place for an
erratic adventure; more so still when, as he went farther, he saw
reclining alone by the mosaic edge of a fountain his lovely Circassian
unveiled. With a cry of terror she sprang to her feet, graceful as a
startled antelope, and casting the silver shroud about her head, would
have fled; but the scream was not loud enough to give the alarm--perhaps
she attuned it so--and flight he prevented. Such Turkish as he had he
poured out in passionate eloquence, his love declaration only made the
more piquant by the knowledge that in a trice the gardens might swarm
with the Mussulman's guards and a scimitar smite his head into the
fountain. But the danger he disdained, _la belle_ Leilah remembered;
rebuke him she did not, nor yet call her eunuchs to rid her of this
terrible Giaour, but the antelope eyes filled with piteous tears and she
prayed him begone--if he were seen here, in the gardens of the women, it
were his death, it were hers! Her terror at the infidel was outweighed
by her fear for his peril; how handsome he was with his blue eyes and
fair locks, after the bald, black-browed, yellow, obese little Omar!

"Let me see again the face that is the light of my soul and I will obey
thee; thou shalt do with thy slave as thou wilt!" whispered Galahad in
the most impassioned and poetical Turkish he could muster, thinking the
style of Hafiz understood better here than the style of Belgravia, while
the almond-eyed Leilah trembled like a netted bird under his look and
his touch, conscious, pretty creature, that were it once known that a
Giaour had looked on her, poison in her coffee, or a sullen plunge by
night into the Bosphorus, would expiate the insult to the honor of Omar,
a master whom she piteously hated. She let her veil float aside,
nevertheless, blushing like a sea-shell under the shame of an
unbeliever's gaze--a genuine blush that is banished from Europe--his
eyes rested on the lovely youth of her face, his cheek brushed the

  Loose train of her amber dropping hair,

his lips met her own; then, with a startled stifled cry, his coy gazelle
sprang away, lost in the aisles of the roses, and Galahad quitted the
dangerous precincts, in safety so far, not quite clear whether he had
been drinking or dreaming, and of conviction that Pera had changed into
Paradise. For he was in love with two things at once, a romance and a
woman; and an anchorite would fairly have lost his head after the divine
dawn of beauty in Leilah Derran.

The morrow, of course, found him at the same place, at the same hour,
hoping for a similar fortune, but the lattice door was shut, and defied
all force; he was just about to try scaling the high slippery walls by
the fibres of a clinging fig-tree, when a negress, the sole living thing
in sight, beckoned him, a hideous Abyssinian enough for a messenger of
Eros; a grinning good-natured black, who had been bought in the same
bazaar and of the same owner as the lovely Circassian, to whose service
she was sworn. She told him by scraps of Turkish, and signs, that Leilah
had bidden her watch for and warn him, that it were as much as both
their lives were worth for him to be seen again in the women's gardens,
or anywhere near her presence; that the merchant Omar was a monster of
jealousy, and that the rest of the harem, jealous of her supremacy and
of the unusual liberty her ascendancy procured her, would love nothing
so well as to compass her destruction. Further meeting with her infidel
lover she pronounced impossible, unless he would see her consigned to
the Bosphorus; an ice avalanche of intelligence, which, falling on the
tropical Eden of his passion, had the effect, as it was probably meant
that it should have, of drowning the lingering remnant of prudence and
sanity that had remained to him after his lips had once touched the
exquisite Eastern's.

Under the circumstances the negress was his sole hope and chance; he
pressed her into his service and made her Mercury and mediatrix in one.
She took his messages, sent in the only alphabet the pretty gazelle
could read, i. e. flowers, plotted against her owner with true Eastern
finesse, wrought on the Circassian's tenderness for the Giaour, and her
terrified hatred of her grim lord Omar, and threw herself into the
intrigue with the avidity of all womanhood, be it black or be it white,
for anything on the face of the earth that has the charm of being
forbidden. The affair was admirably _en train_, and Galahad was
profoundly happy; he was deliciously in love,--a pleasant spice as
difficult to find in its full flavor as it is to bag a sand grouse;--and
had an adventure to amuse him that might very likely cost him his head,
and might fairly claim to rise into the poetic. The only reward he
received (or ever got, for that matter) for the Balaclava brush, where
he cut down three gunners, and had a ball put in his hip, had been a
cavil raised by a critic, not there, of doubt whether he had ever
ridden inside the lines at all; but his Circassian would have
recompensed him at once for a score of years of Chersonnesus
campaigning, and unprofessional chroniclers: he was perfectly happy, and
his soft, careless, _couleur de rose_ enjoyment of the paradise was
aggravating to behold,--when one was in Pera, and the heat broiled alive
every mortal thing that wasn't a negro, and Bass was limited, and there
were no Dailies, and one thought even lovingly and regretfully of the
old "beastly shells," that had at least this merit, that they scattered
bores when they burst!

"Old fellow!--want something to do?" he asked me one day. I nodded,
being silent and savage from having had to dance attendance on the
Sultan at an Embassy reception. Peace to his _manes_ now! but I know I
wished him heartily in Eblis at that time.

"Come with me to-night then, if you don't mind a probability of being
potted by a True Believer," went on Leilah Derran's lover, going into
some golden water Soyer had sent me.

"For the big game? Like it of all things; but you know I'm tied by the
leg here."

Galahad laughed. "Oh, I only want you an hour or two. I've got six days'
leave for the pigs and the deer: but the hills won't see much of me, I'm
going to make a raid in the rose-gardens. It may be hot work, so I
thought you would like it."

Of course I did, and asked the programme which Sir Galahad, as lucidly
as a man utterly in love can tell anything, unfolded to me. Fortune
favored him; it was the night of the Feast of Bairam, when all the world
of Turkey lights its lamps and turns out; he had got leave under pretext
of a shooting trip into Roumelia, but the game he was intent on was the
captive Circassian, who in the confusion and _tintamarre_ attendant on
Bairam, was to escape to him by the rose-gardens, and being carried off
as swiftly as Syrian stallions could take them, would be borne away by
her infidel lover on board a yacht, belonging to a man whom he knew who
was cruising in the Bosphorus, which would steam them away down the
Dardanelles before the Turk had a chance of getting in chase. Nothing
could be better planned for everybody but the luckless Mussulman who was
to be robbed,--and the whole thing had a fine flavor about it of dash
and difficulty, of piquance and poetry, of Mediæval errantry and
Oriental coloring, that put Leilah's Giaour most deliciously in his
element, setting apart the treasure that he would carry off in that
rich, soft, antelope-eyed, bright-haired Circassian loveliness which
made all the dreams in Lalla Rookh and Don Juan look pale.

So his raid was planned, and I agreed to go with him to cover the rear
in case of pursuit, which was likely enough to be hot and sharp, for the
Moslems, for all their apathy, lack the philosophic gratitude which your
British husband usually exhibits towards his despoiler--but then, to be
sure, an Englishman can't make a fresh purchase unless he's first robbed
of the old! Night came; and the nights, I am forced to admit, have a
witching charm of their own in the East, that the West never knows. The
Commander of the Faithful went to prayer, with the roar of cannon and
the roll of drums pealing down the Golden Horn, and along the
cypress-clad valleys. The mosques and minarets, starred and circled with
a myriad of lamps, gleamed through the dark foliage, and were mirrored
in the silvery sheet of the waves. The caïques, as they swept along,
left tracks of light in the phosphor-lit waves, and while the chant of
the Muezzin rang through the air, the children of Allah, from one end of
the Bosphorus to the other, held festival on the most holy eve of
Bairam. A splendid night for a lyric of Swinburne's!--a superb scene for
an amorous adventure! And as we mingled amongst the crowds of the
Faithful, swarming with their painted lanterns, their wild music, their
gorgeous colors, their booming guns, in street and caïque, on land and
sea, Sir Galahad, though an infidel, had certainly entered the Seventh
Heaven. He had never been more intensely in love in his life; and, if
the fates should decree that the dogs of Islam should slay him at her
feet, in the sanctuary of her rose-paradise, he was ready to say in his
pet poet's words, with the last breath of his lips,

  It was ordained to be so, sweet and best
  Comes now beneath thine eyes and on thy breast.
  Still kiss me! Care not for the cowards! Care
  Only to put aside thy beauteous hair
  My blood will hurt!

In the night of the feast all the world was astir, Franks and Moslems,
believers and unbelievers, and we made our way through the press
unwatched to where Omar's house was illumined, the cressets, and
wreaths, and stars of light sparkling through the black foliage. Under
the walls, hidden by a group of planes, we fastened the stallions in
readiness, and Galahad, at the latticed door, gave the signal word,
"Kef," low whispered. The door unclosed, and, true to her tryst, in the
silvery Bosphorus moonlight, crouching in terror and shame, was the
veiled and trembling Circassian.

But not in peace was her capture decreed to be made; scarce had the door
flown open, when the shrill yell of "Allah hu! Allah hu!" rung through
the air; and from the dark aisles of the gardens poured Mussulmans,
slaves, and eunuchs, the Turk with a shoal at his back, giving the alarm
with hideous bellowings, while their drawn scimitars flashed in the
white starlight, and their cries filled the air with their din. "Make
off, while I hold the gate!" I shouted to Galahad, who, catching Leilah
Derran in his arms before the Moslems could be nigh us, held her close
with one hand, while with his right he levelled his revolver, as I did,
and backed--facing the Turks. At sight of the lean shining barrels, the
Moslems paused in their rush for a second--only a second; the next,
shouting to Allah till the minarets gave back the echo, they sprang at
us, their curled naked yataghans whirling above their heads, their jetty
eyeballs flaming like tigers' on the spring. Our days looked
numbered;--I gave them the contents of one barrel, and in the moment's
check we gained the outside of the gardens; the swarm rushed after us,
their shots flying wide, and whistling with a shrill hiss harmlessly
past; we reserved further fire, not wishing to kill, if we could manage
to cut our way through without bloodshed, and backed to the plane-trees,
where the horses were waiting. There was a moment's blind but breathless
struggle, swift and indistinct to remembrance, as a flash of lightning;
the Turks swarmed around us, while we beat them off, and hurled them
asunder somehow. Omar sprang like a rattlesnake on to his spoiler, his
yataghan circling viciously in the air, to crash down upon Galahad's
skull, who was encumbered by the clinging embrace of his stolen
Circassian. I straightened my left arm with a remnant of "science" that
savored more of old Cambridge than of Crimean custom; the Moslem went
down like an ox, and keeping the yelling pack at bay with the levelled
death-dealer, I threw myself into saddle just as Galahad flung himself
on his stallion, and the Syrians, fleet as Arab breeding could make
them, tore down the beach in the rich Eastern night, while the balls
shrieked through the air past our ears, and the shouts of our laughter,
with the salute of a ringing English cheer in victorious farewell,
answered the howls of our distant and baffled pursuers.

Sir Galahad's Raid was a triumph!

On we went through the hot fragrant air, through the silvery moonlight,
through the deep shade of cypress and pine woods; on we went through
gorge, and ravine, and defile, through stretches of sweet wild
lavender, of shining sands, of trampled rose-fields, with the
phosphor-lit sea gleaming beside us, and the Islam Feast of Bairam left
far distant behind. On and on--while the glorious night itself was
elixir, and one shouted to the starry silence Robert Browning's grand
challenge--

  How good is man's life, the mere living! how fit to employ
  All the heart, and the soul, and the senses, for ever in joy!

That ride was superb!

We never drew rein till some ten miles farther on, where we saw against
the clear skies the dark outline of the yacht with a blue light burning
at her mast-head, the signal selected; then Galahad checked the good
Syrian, who had proved pace as fleet as the "wild pigeon blue" is ever
vouched in the desert, and bent over his prize who, through that long
ride, had been held close to his breast, with her arms wound about him,
and the beautiful veiled face bowed on his heart. The moon was bright as
day, and he stooped his head to uplift the envious veil, and see the
radiant beauty that never again would be shrouded, and to meet once more
the lips which his own had touched before but in one single caress; he
bowed his head, and I thought that my disinterested ungrudging
friendship made the friendships of antiquity look small; when----an oath
that chilled my blood rang through the night and over the seas,
startling the echoes from rock and hill; the veiled captive reeled from
the saddle with a wailing scream, hurled to earth by the impetus with
which his arms loosed her from him; and away into the night, without
word or sign, plunging headlong down the dark defile, riding as men may
ride from a field that reeks with death, far out of sight into the heart
of the black dank woods, his Syrian bore Sir Galahad. And lo! in the
white moonlight, against the luminous sea, slowly there rose before me,
unveiled and confessed--THE NEGRESS!

       *       *       *       *       *

The history of that night we never learnt. Whether Leilah Derran herself
played the cruel trick on her Giaour lover (but this _he_ always
scouted), whether Omar himself was a man of grim humor, whether the
Abyssinian, having betrayed her mistress, was used as a decoy-bird,
dressed like the Circassian, to lure the infidels into the rose-gardens
where the Faithful intended to dispatch them hastily to Eblis--no one
knows. We could never find out. The negress escaped me before my
surprise let me stay her, and the fray made the place too hot for close
investigation. Nor do I know where Galahad tore in that wild night-ride,
whose spur was the first maddened pain and rage of shame that his life
had tasted. I never heard where he spent the six days of his absence;
but when he joined us again, six weeks in the sick-wards would not have
altered him more; all he said to me was one piteous phrase--"For God's
sake don't tell the fellows!"--and I never did; I liked him well enough
not to make chaff of him. Unholily had I thirsted to see him
disenchanted, ungenerously had I pined to see him goaded out of temper:
I had my wish, and I don't think I enjoyed it. I saw him at last in
passion that I had much to do to tame down from a deadly vengeance that
would have rung through the Allied Armies; and I saw him loathe the
East, curse romance, burn all the poets with Hafiz at their head, and
shun a woman's beauty like the pestilence. To this day I believe that
the image of Leilah Derran haunts his memory, and that a certain remorse
consumes him for his lost gazelle, whom _he_ always thought paid penalty
for their love under the silent waves of the Bosphorus, with those lost
ones whose souls, according to the faith of Stamboul, flit ceaselessly
above its waters, in the guise of its white-winged unrestful sea-gulls.
He is far enough away just now--in which of the death-pots where we are
simmering and fritting away in little wretched driblets men and money
that would have sufficed Cæsar or Scipio to conquer an Empire, matters
not to his story. When he reads this, he will remember the bitterest
night of his life, and the fiasco that ended SIR GALAHAD'S RAID!



'REDEEMED.'



"REDEEMED."

AN EPISODE WITH THE CONFEDERATE HORSE.



Bertie Winton had got the Gold Vase.

The Sovereign, one of the best horses that ever had a dash of the
Godolphin blood in him, had led the first flight over the
ridge-and-furrow, cleared the fences, trying as the shire-thorn could
make them, been lifted over the stiffest doubles and croppers, passed
the turning-flags, and been landed at the straight run-in with the stay
and pace for which his breed was famous, enrapturing the fancy, who had
piled capfuls of money on him, and getting the Soldiers' Blue Riband
from the Guards, who had stood crackers on little Benyon's mount--Ben,
who is as pretty as a girl, with his _petites mains blanches_, riding
like any professional.

Now, I take it--and I suppose there are none who will disagree with
me--that there are few things pleasanter in this life than to stand, in
the crisp winter's morning, winner of the Grand Military, having got the
Gold Vase for the old corps against the best mounts in the Service.

Life must look worth having to you, when you have come over those black,
barren pastures and rugged ploughed lands, where the field floundered
helplessly in grief, with Brixworth brook yawning gaunt and wide beneath
you, and the fresh cold north wind blowing full in your teeth, and have
ridden in at the distance alone, while the air is rent by the echoing
shouts of the surging crowd, and the best riding-men are left "nowhere"
behind. Life must look pleasant to you, if it had been black as thunder
the night before. Nevertheless, where Bertie Winton sat, having brought
the Sovereign in, winner of the G. M., with that superb bay's head a
little drooped, and his flanks steaming, but scarce a hair turned, while
the men who had won pots of money on him crowded round in hot
congratulation, and he drank down some Curaçoa punch out of a
pocket-pistol, with his habitual soft, low, languid laugh, he had that
in his thoughts which took the flavor out of the Curaçoa, and made the
sunny, cheery winter's day look very dull and gray to him. For Bertie,
sitting there while the cheers reeled round him like mad, with a
singularly handsome, reckless face, long tawny moustaches, tired blue
eyes, and a splendid length and strength of limb, knew that this was the
last day of the old times for him, and that he had sailed terribly near
the wind of--dishonor.

He had been brought to _envisager_ his position a little of late, and
had seen that it was very bad indeed--as bad as it could be. He had run
through all his own fortune from his mother, a good one enough, and owed
almost as much again in bills and one way and another. He had lost
heavily on the turf, gamed deeply, travelled with the most expensive
adventuresses of their day, startled town with all its worst crim.
cons.; had every vice under heaven, save that he drank not at all; and
now, having shot a Russian prince at Baden the August before, about
Lillah Lis, had received on the night just passed, from the Horse
Guards, a hint, which was a command, that his absence was requested from
her Majesty's Service--a mandate which, politely though inexorably
couched, would have taken a more forcible and public form but for the
respect in which his father, old Lion Winton, as he was called, was held
by the Army and the authorities. And Bertie, who for five-and-thirty
years had never thought at all, except on things that pleasured him,
and such bagatelles as _barrière_ duels abroad, delicately-spiced
intrigues, bills easily renewed, the _cru_ of wines, and the siege of
women, found himself pulled up with a rush, and face to face with
nothing less than ruin.

"I'm up a tree, Melcombe," he said to a man of his own corps that day as
he finished a great cheroot before mounting.

"Badly?"

"Well, yes. It'll be smash this time, I suppose."

"Bother! That's hard lines."

"It's rather a bore," he answered, with a little yawn, as he got into
the saddle; and that was all he ever said then or afterwards on the
matter; but he rode the Sovereign superbly over the barren wintry
grass-land, and landed him winner of the Blue Riband for all that,
though Black Care, for the first time in his life, rode behind him and
weighted the race.

Poor Bertie! nobody would have believed him if he had said so, but he
had been honestly and truly thinking, for some brief time past, whether
it would not be possible and worth while for him to shake himself free
of this life, of which he was growing heartily tired, and make a name
for himself in the world in some other fashion than by winging Russians,
importing new dancers, taking French women to the Bads, scandalizing
society, and beggaring himself. He had begun to wonder whether it was
not yet, after all, too late, and whether if----when down had come the
request from the Horse Guards for him to sell out, and the rush of all
his creditors upon him, and away forever went all his stray shapeless
fancies of a possible better future. And--consolation or aggravation,
whichever it be--he knew that he had no one, save himself, to thank for
it; for no man ever had a more brilliant start in the race of life than
he, and none need have made better running over the course, had he only
kept straight or put on the curb as he went down-hill. Poor Bertie! you
must have known many such lives, or I can't tell where your own has been
spent; lives which began so brilliantly that none could rival them, and
which ended--God help them!--so miserably and so pitifully that you do
not think of them without a shudder still?

Poor Bertie!--a man of a sweeter temper, a more generous nature, a more
lavish kindliness, never lived. He had the most versatile talents and
the gentlest manners in the world; and yet here he was, having fairly
come to ruin, and very nearly to disgrace.

It was little wonder that his father, looking at him and thinking of all
he might have been, and all he might have done, was lashed into a
terrible bitterness of passionate grief, and hurled words at him of a
deadly wrath, in the morning that followed on the Grand Military. Fiery
as his comrades the Napiers, of a stern code as a soldier, and a lofty
honor as a man, haughty in pride and swift to passion, old Sir Lionel
was stung to the quick by his son's fall, and would have sooner, by a
thousand-fold, have followed him to his grave, than have seen him live
to endure that tacit dismissal from the service of the country--the
deepest shame, in his sight, that could have touched his race.

"I knew you were lost to morality, but I did not know till now that you
were lost to honor!" said the old Lion, with such a storm of passion in
him that his words swept out, acrid and unchosen, in a very whirlwind.
"I knew you had vices, I knew you had follies, I knew you wasted your
substance with debtors and gamblers like yourself, on courtesans and
gaming-tables, in Parisian enormities, and vaunted libertinage, but I
did not think that you were so utterly a traitor to your blood as to
bring disgrace to a name that never was approached by shame until _you_
bore it!"

Bertie's face flushed darkly, then he grew very pale. The indolence
with which he lay back in an écarte-chair did not alter, however, and he
stroked his long moustaches a little with his habitual gentle
indifferentism.

"It is all over. Pray do not give it that tremendous earnestness," he
said, quietly. "Nothing is ever worth that; and I should prefer it if we
kept to the language of gentlemen!"

"The language of gentlemen is _for_ gentlemen," retorted the old man,
with fiery vehemence. His heart was cut to the core, and all his soul
was in revolt against the degradation to his name that came in the train
of his heir's ruin. "When a man has forgot that he has been a gentleman,
one may be pardoned for forgetting it also! You may have no honor left
for your career to shame; _I_ have--and, by God, sir, from this hour you
are no son of mine. I disown you--I know you no longer! Go and drag out
all the rest of a disgraced life in any idleness that you choose. If you
were to lie dying at my feet, I would not give you a crust!"

Bertie raised his eyebrows slightly.

"_Soit!_ But would it not be possible to intimate this quietly? A scene
is such very bad style--always exhausting, too!"

The languid calmness, the soft nonchalance of the tone, were like oil
upon flame to the old Lion's heart, lashed to fury and embittered with
pain as it was. A heavier oath than print will bear broke from him, with
a deadly imprecation, as he paced the library with swift, uneven steps.

"It had been better if your 'style' had been less and your decency and
your honor greater! One word more is all you will ever hear from my
lips. The title must come to you; that, unhappily, is not in my hands to
prevent. It must be yours when I die, if you have not been shot in some
gambling brawl or some bagnio abroad before then; but you will remember,
not a shilling of money, not a rood of the land are entailed; and, by
the heaven above us, every farthing, every acre shall be willed to the
young children. _You_ are disinherited, sir--disowned for ever--if you
died at my feet! Now go, and never let me see your face again."

As he spoke, Bertie rose.

The two men stood opposite to each other--singularly alike in form and
feature, in magnificence of stature, and distinction of personal beauty,
save that the tawny gold of the old Lion's hair was flaked with white,
and that his blue eyes were bright as steel and flashing fire, while the
younger man's were very worn. His face, too, was deeply flushed and his
lips quivered, while his son's were perfectly serene and impassive as he
listened, without a muscle twitching, or even a gleam of anxiety coming
into his eyes.

They were of different schools.

Bertie heard to the end; then bowed with a languid grace. "It will be
fortunate for Lady Winton's children! Make her my compliments and
congratulations. Good-day to you."

Their eyes met steadily once--that was all; then the door of the library
closed on him; Bertie knew the worst; he was face to face with beggary.
As he crossed the hall, the entrance to the conservatories stood open;
he looked through, paused a moment, and then went in. On a low chair,
buried among the pyramids of blossom, sat a woman reading, aristocrat to
the core, and in the earliest bloom of her youth, for she was scarcely
eighteen, beautiful as the morning, with a delicate thorough-bred
beauty, dark lustrous eyes, arched pencilled brows, a smile like
sunshine, and lips sweet as they were proud. She was Ida Deloraine, a
ward of Sir Lionel, and a cousin of his young second wife's.

Bertie went up to her and held out his hand.

"Lady Ida, I am come to wish you good-bye."

She started a little and looked up.

"Good-bye! Are you going to town?"

"Yes--a little farther. Will you give me that camellia by way of _bon
voyage_?"

A soft warmth flushed her face for a moment; she hesitated slightly,
toying with the snowy blossom; then she gave it him. He had not asked it
like a love gage.

He took it, and bowed silently over her hand.

"You will find it very cold," said Lady Ida, with a trifle of
embarrassment, nestling herself in her dormeuse in her warm bright nest
among the exotics.

He smiled--a very gentle smile.

"Yes, I am frozen out. Adieu!"

He paused a moment, looking at her--that brilliant picture framed in
flowers; then, without another word, he bowed again and left her, the
woman he had learned too late to love, and had lost by his own folly for
ever.

"Frozen out? What could he mean?--there is no frost," thought Lady Ida,
left alone in her hot-house warmth among the white and scarlet blossoms,
a little startled, a little disappointed, a little excited with some
vague apprehension, she could not have told why; while Bertie Winton
went on out into the cold gray winter's morning from the old
Northamptonshire Hall that would know him no more, with no end so likely
for him as that which had just been prophesied--a shot in a gambling
hell.

_Facilis descensus Averni_--and he was at the bottom of the pit. Well,
the descent had been very pleasant. Bertie set his teeth tight, and let
the waters close over his head and shut him out of sight. He knew that a
man who is down has nothing more to do with the world, save to quietly
accept--oblivion.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a hot summer night in Secessia.

The air was very heavy, no wind stirring the dense woods crowning the
sides of the hills or the great fields of trodden maize trampled by the
hoofs of cavalry and the tramp of divisions. The yellow corn waved above
the earth where the dead had fallen like wheat in harvest-time, and the
rice grew but the richer and the faster because it was sown in soil
where slaughtered thousands rotted, unsepulchred and unrecorded. The
shadows were black from the reared mountain range that rose frowning in
the moonlight, and the stars were out in southern brilliancy, shining as
calmly and as luminously as though their rays did not fall on graves
crammed full with dead, on flaming homesteads, crowded sick-wards,
poisonous waters that killed their thousands in deadly rivalry with shot
and shell, and vast battalions sleeping on their arms in wheat-fields
and by river-swamps, in opposing camps, and before beleaguered cities,
where brethren warred with brethren, and Virginia was drenched with
blood. There was no sound, save now and then the challenge of some
distant picket or the faint note of a trumpet-call, the roar of a
torrent among the hills, or the monotonous rise and fall from miles away
in the interior, of the negroes' funeral song, "Old Joe,"--more
pathetic, somehow, when you catch it at night from the far distance
echoing on the silence as you sit over a watch-fire, or ride alone
through a ravine, than many a grander requiem.

It was close upon midnight, and all was very still; for they were in the
heart of the South, and on the eve of a perilous enterprise, coined by a
bold brain and to be carried out by a bold hand.

It was in the narrow neck of a valley, pent up between rocky shelving
ridges, anywhere you will between Maryland and Georgia--for he who did
this thing would not care to have it too particularly drawn out from the
million other deeds of "derring-do" that the mighty story of the Great
War has known and buried. Eight hundred Confederate Horse, some of
Stuart's Cavalry, had got driven and trapped and caged up in this
miserable defile, misled and intercepted; with the dense mass of a
Federal army marching on their rear, within them by bare fifteen miles,
and the forward route through the crammed defile between the hills, by
which alone they could regain Lee's forces, dammed up by a deep, rapid,
though not broad river; by a bridge strongly fortified and barricaded;
and, on the opposite bank, by some Federal corps a couple of thousand
strong, well under cover in rifle-pits and earthworks, thrown up by keen
woodsmen and untiring trench-diggers. It was close peril, deadly as any
that Secessia had seen, here in the hot still midnight, with the columns
of the Federal divisions within them by eight hours' march, stretching
out and taking in all the land to the rear in the sweep of their
semicircular wings; while in front rose, black and shapeless in the deep
gloom of the rocks above, the barricades upon the bridge, behind which
two thousand rifles were ready to open fire at the first alarm from the
Federal guard. And alone, without the possibility of aid, caged in among
the trampled corn and maize that filled the valley, imprisoned between
the two Federal forces as in the iron jaws of a trap, the handful of
Southern troopers stood, resolute to sell their lives singly one by one,
and at a costly price, and perish to a man, rather than fall alive into
the hands of their foes.

When the morning broke they would be cut to pieces, as the chaff is cut
by the whirl of the steam-wheels. They knew that. Well, they looked at
it steadily; it had no terrors for them, the Cavaliers of Old Virginia,
so that they died with their face to the front. There was but one chance
left for escape; aid there could be none; and that chance was so
desperate, that even to them--reckless in daring, living habitually
between life and death, and ever careless of the issue--it looked like
madness to attempt it. But one among them had urged it on their
consideration--urged it with passionate entreaty, pledging his own life
for its success; and they had given their adhesion to it, for his name
was famous through the Confederacy.

He had won his spurs at Manasses, at Antietam, at Chancellorsville; he
had been in every headlong charge with Stuart; he had been renowned for
the most dashing Border raids and conspicuous staff service of any
soldier in Secessia; he had galloped through a tempest of the enemy's
balls, and swept along their lines to reconnoitre, riding back through
the storm of shot to Lee, as coolly as though he rode through a summer
shower at a review; and his words had weight with men who would have
gone after him to the death. He stood now, the only man dismounted, in
true Virginia uniform; a rough riding-coat, crossed by an undressed
chamois belt, into which his sabre and a brace of revolvers were thrust,
a broad Spanish sombrero shading his face, great Hessians reaching above
his knee, and a long silken golden-colored beard sweeping to his
waist,--a keen reconnoitrer, a daring raider, a superb horseman, and a
soldier heart and soul.

When he had laid before them the solitary chance of the perilous
enterprise that he had planned, each man of the eight hundred had sought
the post of danger for himself; but there he was, inexorable--what he
had proposed he alone would execute. The Federals were ignorant of their
close vicinity, for their near approach had been unheard, the trodden
maize and rice, and the angry foaming of the torrent above, deadening
the sound of their horses' hoofs; and the Union-men, satisfied that the
"rebels" were entrapped beyond escape, were sleeping securely behind
their earth-works, the passage of the river blockaded by their
barricade, while the Southerners were drawn up close to the head of the
bridge in sections of threes, screened by the intense shadow of the
overhanging rocks; shadow darker from the brilliance of the full summer
moon that, shining on the enemy's encampment, and on the black boiling
waters thundering through the ravine, was shut out from the defile by
the leaning pine-covered walls of granite. It was terribly still, that
awful silence, only filled with the splashing of the water and the
audible beat of the Federal sentinel's measured tramp, as they were
drawn up there by the bridge-head; and though they had cast themselves
into the desperate effort with the recklessness of men for whom death
waited surely on the morrow, it looked a madman's thought, a madman's
exploit, to them, as their leader laid aside his sword and pistols, and
took up a small barrel of powder, part of some ammunition carried off
from some sappers and miners' stores in the raid of the past day, the
sight of which had brought to remembrance a stray, half-forgotten story
told him in boyhood of one of Soult's Army--the story on which he was
about to act now.

"For God's sake, take care!" whispered the man nearest him; and though
he was a veteran who had gone through the hottest of the campaign since
Bull's Run, his voice shook, and was husky as he spoke.

The other laughed a little--a slight, soft, languid laugh.

"All right, my dear fellow," he whispered back. "There's nothing in it
to be alarmed at; a Frenchman did it in the Peninsula, you know. Only if
I get shot, or blown up, and the alarm be given, do you take care to
bolt over and cut your way through in the first of the rush, that's
all."

Then, without more words, he laid himself down at full length with a
cord tied round his ankle, that they might know his progress, and the
cask of gunpowder, swathed in green cloth, that it should roll without
noise along the ground; and, creeping slowly on his way, propelling the
barrel with his head, and guiding it by his hands, was lost to their
sight in the darkness. By the string, as it uncoiled through their
hands, they could tell he was advancing; that was all.

The chances were as a million to one that his life would pay the forfeit
for that perilous and daring venture; a single shot and he would be
blown into the air a charred and shapeless corpse; one spark on that
rolling mass that he pushed before him, and the explosion would hurl him
upward in the silent night, mangled, dismembered, blackened, lifeless.
But his nerve was not the less cool, nor did his heart beat one throb
the quicker, as he crept noiselessly along in the black shade cast by
the parapet of the bridge, with the tramp of the guard close above on
his ear, and rifles ready to be levelled on him from the covered
earthworks if the faintest sound of his approach or the dimmest streak
of moonlight on his moving body told the Federals of his presence. He
had looked death in the teeth most days through the last five years; it
had no power to quicken or slacken a single beat of his pulse as he
propelled himself slowly forward along the black, rugged, uneven ground,
and on to the passage of the bridge, as coolly, as fearlessly, as he
would have crept through the heather and bracken after the slot of a
deer on the moor-side at home.

He heard the challenge and the tramp of the sentinel on the opposite
bank; he saw the white starlight shine on the barrels of their
breech-loaders as they paced to and fro in the stillness, filled with
the surge and rush of the rapid waters beneath him. Shrouded in the
gloom, he dragged himself onward with slow and painful movement,
stretched out on the ground, urging himself forward by the action of his
limbs so cautiously that, even had the light been on him, he could
scarcely have been seen to move, or been distinguished from the earth on
which he lay. Eight hundred lives hung on the coolness of his own; if he
were discovered, they were lost. And, without haste, without excitation,
he drew himself along under the parapet until he came to the centre of
the bridge, placed the barrel close against the barricades, uncovered
the head of the cask, and took his way back by the same laborious,
tedious way, until he reached the Virginian Troopers gathered together
under the shelving rocks.

A deep hoarse murmur rolling down the ranks, the repressed cheer they
dared not give aloud, welcomed him and the dauntless daring of his act;
man after man pressed forward entreating to take his place, to share his
peril; he gave it up to none, and three times more went back again on
that deadly journey, until sufficient powder for his purpose was lodged
under the Federal fortifications on the bridge. Two hours went by in
that slow and terrible passage; then, for the last time, he wound a
saucisson round his body serpent-wise, and, with that coil of powder
curled around him, took his way once more in the same manner through the
hot, dark, heavy night.

And those left behind in the impenetrable gloom, ignorant of his fate,
knowing that with every instant the crack of the rifles might roll out
on the stillness, and the ball pierce that death-snake twisted round his
limbs, and the rocks echo with the roar of the exploding powder,
blasting him in the rush of its sheet of fire and stones, sat mute and
motionless in their saddles, with a colder chill in their bold blood,
and a tighter fear at their proud hearts, than the Cavaliers of the
South would have known for their own peril, or than he knew for his.

Another half-hour went by--an eternity in its long drawn-out
suspense--then in the darkness under the rocks his form rose up amongst
them.

"Ready?"--"Ready."

The low whisper passed all but inaudible from man to man. He took back
his sabre and pistols and thrust them into his belt, then stooped,
struck a slow match, and laid it to the end of the saucisson, whose
mouth he had fastened to the barrels on the bridge, and rapidly as the
lightning, flung himself across the horse held for him, and fell into
line at the head of the troop.

There was a moment of intense silence while the fire crept up the long
stick of the match; then the shrill, hissing, snake-like sound, that
none who have once heard ever forget, rushed through the quiet of the
night, and with a roar that startled all the sleeping echoes of the
hills, the explosion followed; the columns of flame shooting upward to
the starlit sky, and casting their crimson lurid light on the black
brawling waters, on the rugged towering rocks, on the gnarled trunks of
the lofty pines, and on the wild, picturesque forms and the bold,
swarthy, Spanish-like faces of the Confederate raiders. With a shock
that shook the earth till it rocked and trembled under them, the pillar
of smoke and fire towered aloft in the hush of the midnight, blasting
and hurling upward, in thunder that pealed back from rock to rock,
lifeless bodies, mangled limbs, smouldering timbers, loosened stones,
dead men flung heavenward like leaves whirled by the wind, and iron torn
up and bent like saplings in a storm, as the mass of the barricades
quivered, oscillated, and fell with a mighty crash, while the night was
red with the hot glare of the flame, and filled with the deafening din.

The Federals, sleeping under cover of their intrenchments, woke by that
concussion as though heaven and earth were meeting, poured out from pit
and trench, from salient and parallel, to see their fortifications and
their guard blown up, while the skies were lurid with the glow of the
burning barricades, and the ravine was filled with the yellow mist of
the dense and rolling smoke. Confused, startled, demoralized, they ran
together like sheep, vainly rallied by their officers, some few hundred
opening an aimless desultory fire from behind their works, the rest
rushing hither and thither, in that inextricable intricacy, and nameless
panic, which doom the best regiments that were ever under arms, when
once they seize them.

"Charge!" shouted the Confederate leader, his voice ringing out clear
and sonorous above the infernal tempest of hissing, roaring, shrieking,
booming sound.

With that resistless impetus with which they had, over and over again,
broken through the granite mass of packed squares and bristling
bayonets, the Southerners, raising their wild war-whoop, thundered on to
the bridge, which, strongly framed of stone and iron, had withstood the
shock, as they had foreseen; and while the fiery glare shone, and the
seething flame hissed, on the boiling waters below, swept, full gallop,
over the torn limbs, the blackened bodies, the charred wood, the falling
timbers, the exploding powder, with which the passage of the bridge was
strewn, and charged through the hellish din, the lurid fire, the heavy
smoke, at a headlong pace, down into the Federal camp.

A thousand shots fell like hail amongst them, but not a saddle was
emptied, not even a trooper was touched; and with their line unbroken,
and the challenge of their war-shout pealing out upon the uproar, they
rode through the confusion worse confounded, and cutting their way
through shot and sabre, through levelled rifles, and through piled
earthworks, with their horses breathing fire, and the roar of the
opening musketry pealing out upon their rear, dashed on, never drawing
rein, down into the darkness of the front defile, and into the freshness
of the starry summer night, saved by the leader that they loved,
and--FREE!

       *       *       *       *       *

"Tarnation cheeky thing to do. Guess they ain't wise to rile us that
way," said a Federal general from Vermont, as they discussed this
exploit of the Eight Hundred at the Federal head-quarters.

"A splendid thing!" said an English visitor to the Northern camp, who
had come for a six months' tour to see the war for himself, having been
in his own time the friend of Paget and Vivian and Londonderry, the
comrade of Picton, of Mackinnon, and of Arthur Wellesley. "A magnificent
thing! I remember Bouchard did something the same sort of thing at
Amarante, but not half so pluckily, nor against any such odds. Who's the
fellow that led the charge? I'd give anything to see him and tell him
what I think of it. How Will Napier would have loved him, by George!"

"Who's the d----d rebel, Jed?" said the General, taking his gin-sling.

"Think he's an Englishman. We'd give ten thousand dollars for him, alive
or dead: he's fifty devils in one, that _I_ know," responded the Colonel
of Artillery, thus appealed to, a gentlemanlike, quiet man, educated at
West Point.

"God bless the fellow! I'm glad he's English!" said the English visitor,
heartily, forgetting his Federal situation and companions. "Who is he?
Perhaps I know the name."

"Should say you would. It's the same as your own--Winton. Bertie Winton,
they call him. Maybe he's a relative of yours!"

The blood flushed the Englishman's face hotly for a second; then a stern
dark shadow came on it, and his lips set tight.

"I have no knowledge of him," he said, curtly.

"Haven't you now? That's curious. Some said he was a son of yours,"
pursued the Colonel.

The old Lion flung back his silvery mane with his haughtiest
imperiousness.

"No, sir; he's no son of mine."

Lion Winton sat silent, the dark shadow still upon his face. For five
years no rumor even had reached him of the man he had disowned and
disinherited; he had believed him dead--shot, as he had predicted, after
some fray in a gaming-room abroad; and now he heard of him thus in the
war-news of the American camp! His denial of him was not less stern,
nor his refusal to acknowledge even his name less peremptory, because,
with all his wrath, his bitterness, his inexorable passion, and his
fierce repudiation of him as his son, a thrill of pleasure stirred in
him that the man still lived--a proud triumph swept over him, through
all his darker thoughts, at the magnificent dash and daring of a deed
wholly akin to him.

Bertie, a listless man about town, a dilettante in pictures, wines, and
women, spending every moment that he could in Paris, gentle as any young
beauty, always bored, and never roused out of that habitual languid
indolent indifferentism which the old man, fiery and impassioned himself
as the Napiers, held the most damnable effeminacy with which the present
generation emasculates itself, had been incomprehensible, antagonistic,
abhorrent to him. Bertie, the Leader of the Eight Hundred, the reckless
trooper of the Virginian Horse, the head of a hundred wild night raids,
the hero of a score of brilliant charges, the chief in the most daring
secret expeditions and the most intrepid cavalry skirmishes of the
South, was far nearer to the old Lion, who had in him all the hot fire
of Crawford's school, with the severe simplicity of Wellington's stern
creeds. "He is true to his blood at last," he muttered, as he tossed
back his silky white hair, while his blue flashing eyes ranged over the
far distance where the Southern lines lay, with something of eager
restlessness; "he is true to his blood at last!"

There was fighting some days later in the Shenandoah Valley.

Longstreet's corps, with two regiments of cavalry, had attacked
Sheridan's divisions, and the struggle was hot and fierce. The day was
warm, and a brilliant sun poured down into the green cornland and
woodland wealth of the valley as the Southern divisions came up to the
attack in beautiful precision, and hurled themselves with tremendous
_élan_ on the right front of the Federals, who, covered by their
hastily thrown-up breastworks, opened a deadly fire that raked the whole
Confederate line as they advanced. Men fell by the score under the
murderous mitraille, but the ranks closed up shoulder to shoulder,
without pause or wavering, only maddened by the furious storm of shot,
as the engagement became general and the white rolling clouds of smoke
poured down the valley, and hid conflict and combatants from sight, the
thunder of the musketry pealing from height to height; while in many
places men were fighting literally face to face and hand to hand in a
death-struggle--rare in these days, when the duello of artillery and the
rivalry of breech-loaders begins, decides, and ends most battles.

On Longstreet's left, two squadrons of Virginian Cavalry were drawn up,
waiting the order to advance, and passionately impatient of delay as
regiment after regiment were sent up to the attack and were lost in the
whirling cloud of dust and smoke, and they were kept motionless, in
reserve. At their head was Bertie Winton, unconscious that, on a hill to
the right, with a group of Federal commanders, his father was looking
down on that struggle in the Shenandoah. Bertie was little altered, save
that on his face there was a sterner look, and in his eyes a keener and
less listless glance; but the old languid grace, the old lazy
gentleness, were there still. They were part of his nature, and nothing
could kill them in him. In the five years that had gone by, none whom he
had known in Europe had ever heard a word of him or from him; he had cut
away all the moorings that bound him to his old life, and had sought to
build up his ruined fortunes, like the penniless soldier that he was, by
his sword alone. So far he had succeeded: he had made his name famous
throughout the States as a bold and unerring cavalry leader, and had won
the personal friendship and esteem of the Chiefs of the Southern
Confederacy. The five years had been filled with incessant adventures,
with ever present peril, with the din of falling citadels, with the
rush of headlong charges, with daring raids in starless autumn nights,
with bivouacs in trackless Western forests, with desert-thirst in
parching summer heats, with winters of such frozen roofless misery as he
had never even dreamed--five years of ceaseless danger, of frequent
suffering, of habitual renunciation; but five years of _life_--real,
vivid, unselfish--and Bertie was a better man for them. What he had done
at the head of Eight Hundred was but a sample of whatever he did
whenever duty called, or opportunity offered, in the service of the
South; and no man was better known or better trusted in all Lee's
divisions than Bertie Winton, who sat now at the head of his regiment,
waiting Longstreet's orders. An aide galloped up before long.

"The General desires you to charge and break the enemy's square to the
left, Colonel."

Bertie bowed with the old Pall Mall grace, turned, and gave the word to
advance. Like greyhounds loosed from leash, the squadrons thundered down
the slope, and swept across the plain in magnificent order, charging
full gallop, riding straight down on the bristling steel and levelled
rifles of the enemy's kneeling square. They advanced in superb
condition, in matchless order, coming on with the force of a whirlwind
across the plain; midway they were met by a tremendous volley poured
direct upon them; half their saddles were emptied; the riderless
chargers tore, snorting, bleeding, terrified, out of the ranks; the line
was broken; the Virginians wavered, halted, all but recoiled; it was one
of those critical moments when hesitation is destruction. Bertie saw the
danger, and, with a shout to the men to come on, he spurred his horse
through the raking volley of shot, while a shot struck his sombrero,
leaving his head bare, and urging the animal straight at the Federal
front, lifted him in the air as he would have done before a fence, and
landed him in the midst of the square, down on the points of the
levelled bayonets. With their fierce war-cheer ringing out above the
sullen uproar of the firing, his troopers followed him to a man, charged
the enemy's line, broke through the packed mass opposed to them, cut
their way through into the centre, and hewed their enemies down as
mowers hew the grass. Longstreet's work was done for him; the Federal
square was broken, never again to rally.

But the victory was bought with a price; as his horse fell, pierced and
transfixed by the crossed steel of the bayonets, a dozen rifles covered
the Confederate leader; their shots rang out, and Bertie Winton reeled
from his saddle and sank down beneath the press as his own Southerners
charged above him in the rush of the onward attack. On an eminence to
the right, through his race-glass, his father watched the engagement,
his eyes seldom withdrawn from the Virginian cavalry, where, for aught
he knew, one of his own blood and name might be--memories of Salamanca
and Quatre Bras, of Moodkee and Ferozeshah, stirring in him, while the
fire of his dead youth thrilled through his veins with the tramp of the
opposing divisions, and he roused like a war-horse at the scent of the
battle as the white shroud of the smoke rolled up to his feet, and the
thunder of the musketry echoed through the valley. Through his glass, he
saw the order given to the troopers held in reserve; he saw the
magnificent advance of that charge in the morning light; he saw the
volley poured in upon them; and he saw them under that shock reel,
stagger, waver, and recoil. The old soldier knew well the critical
danger of that ominous moment of panic and of confusion; then, as the
Confederate Colonel rode out alone and put his horse at that leap on to
the line of steel, into the bristling square, a cry loud as the
Virginian battle-shout broke from him. For when the charger rose in the
air, and the sun shone full on the uncovered head of the Southern
leader, he knew the fair English features that no skies could bronze,
and the fair English hair that blew in the hot wind. He looked once more
upon the man he had denied and had disowned; and, as Bertie Winton
reeled and fell, his father, all unarmed and non-combatant as he was,
drove the spurs into his horse's flanks, and dashing down the steep
hill-side, rode over the heaps of slain, and through the pools of gore,
into the thick of the strife.

With his charger dead under him, beaten down upon one knee, his
sword-arm shivered by a bullet, while the blood poured from his side
where another shot had lodged, Bertie knew that his last hour had come,
as the impetus of the charge broke above him--as a great wave may sweep
over the head of a drowning man--and left him in the centre of the foe.
Kneeling there, while the air was red before his sight that was fast
growing blind from the loss of blood, and the earth seemed to reel and
rock under him, he still fought to desperation, his sabre in his left
hand; he knew he could not hold out more than a second longer, but while
he had strength he kept at bay.

His life was not worth a moment's purchase,--when, with a shout that
rang over the field, the old Lion rode down through the carnage to his
rescue, his white hair floating in the wind, his azure eyes flashing
with war-fire, his holster-pistol levelled; spurred his horse through
the struggle, trampled aside all that opposed him, dashed untouched
through the cross-fire of the bullets, shot through the brain the man
whose rifle covered his son who had reeled down insensible, and
stooping, raised the senseless body, lifted him up by sheer manual
strength to the level of his saddle-bow, laid him across his holsters,
holding him up with his right hand, and, while the Federals fell asunder
in sheer amazement at the sudden onslaught, and admiration of the old
man's daring, plunged the rowels into his horse, and, breaking through
the reeking slaughter of the battle-field, rode back, thus laden with
his prisoner, through the incessant fire of the cannonade up the heights
to the Federal lines.

"If you were to lie dying at my feet!"--his father remembered those
words, that had been spoken five years before in the fury of a deadly
passion, as Bertie lay stretched before him in his tent, the blood
flowing from the deep shot-wound in his side, his eyes closed, his face
livid, and about his lips a faint and ghastly foam.

Had he saved him too late? had he too late repented?

His heart had yearned to him when, in the morning light, he had looked
once more upon the face of his son, as the Virginian Horse had swept on
to the shock of the charge; and all of wrath, of bitterness, of hatred,
of dark, implacable, unforgiving vengeance, were quenched and gone for
ever from his soul as he stooped over him where he lay at his feet,
stricken and senseless in all the glory of his manhood. He only knew
that he loved the man--he only knew that he would have died for him, or
died with him.

Bertie stirred faintly, with a heavy sigh, and his left hand moved
towards his breast. Old Sir Lion bent over him, while his voice shook
terribly, like a woman's.

"Bertie! My God! don't you know _me_?"

He opened his eyes and looked wearily and dreamily around; he did not
know what had passed, nor where he was; but a faint light of wonder, of
pleasure, of recognition, came into his eyes, and he smiled--a smile
that was very gentle and very wistful.

"I am glad of that--before I die! Let us part friends--_now_. They will
tell you I have--redeemed--the name."

The words died slowly and with difficulty on his lips, and as his
father's hand closed upon his in a strong grasp of tenderness and
reconciliation, his lids closed, his head fell back, and a deep-drawn,
labored sigh quivered through all his frame; and Lion Winton, bowing
down his grand white crest, wept with the passion of a woman. For he
knew not whether the son he loved was living or dead--he knew not
whether he was not at the last too late.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three months further on, Lady Ida Deloraine sat in her warm bright nest
among the exotics, gazing out upon the sunny lawns and the green
woodlands of Northamptonshire. Highest names and proudest titles had
been pressed on her through the five years that had gone, but her
loveliness had been unwon, and was but something more thoughtful, more
brilliant, more exquisite still than of old. The beautiful warmth that
had never come there through all these years was in her cheeks now, and
the nameless lustre was in her eyes, which all those who had wooed her
had never wakened in their antelope brilliancy, as she sat looking
outward at the sunlight; for in her hands lay a camellia, withered,
colorless, and yellow, and eyes gazed down upon the marvellous beauty of
her face which had remembered it in the hush of Virginian forests, in
the rush of headlong charges, in the glare of bivouac fires, in the
silence of night-pickets, and in the din of falling cities.

And Bertie's voice, as he bent over her, was on her ear.

"That flower has been on my heart night and day; and since we parted I
have never done that which would have been insult to your memory. I have
tried to lead a better and a purer life; I have striven to redeem my
name and my honor; I have done all I could to wash out the vice and the
vileness of my past. Through all the years we have been severed I have
had no thought, no hope, except to die more worthy of you; but now--oh,
my God!--if you knew how I love you, if you knew how my love alone saved
me----"

His words broke down in the great passion that had been his redemption;
and as she lifted her eyes upward to his own, soft with tears that had
gathered but did not fall, and lustrous with the light that had never
come there save for him, he bowed his head over her, and, as his lips
met hers, he knew that the redeemed life he laid at her feet was dearer
to her than lives, more stainless, but less nobly won.



OUR WAGER.



OUR WAGER;

OR,

HOW THE MAJOR LOST AND WON.



I

INTRODUCES MAJOR TELFER OF THE 50TH DASHAWAY HUSSARS.


The softest of lounging-chairs, an unexceptionable hubble-bubble bought
at Benares, the last _Bell's Life_, the morning papers, chocolate milled
to a T, and a breakfast worthy of Francatelli,--what sensible man can
ask more to make him comfortable? All these was my chum, Hamilton
Telfer, Major (50th Dashaway Hussars), enjoying, and yet he was in a
frame of mind anything but mild and genial.

"The deuce take the whole sex!" said he, stroking his moustache
savagely. "They're at the bottom of all the mischief going. The idea of
my father at seventy-five, with hair as white as that poodle's, making
such a fool of himself, when here am I, at six-and-thirty, unmarried;
it's abominable, it's disgusting. A girl of twenty, taking in an old man
of his age, for the sake of his money----"

"But are you sure, Telfer," said I, "that the affair's really on the
tapis?"

"Sure! Yes," said the Major, with immeasurable disgust. "I never saw her
till last night, but the governor wrote no end of rhapsodies about her,
and as I came upon them he was taking leave of her, holding her hand in
his, and saying, 'I may write to you, may I not?' and the young
hypocrite lifted her eyes so bewitchingly, 'Oh yes, I shall long so much
to hear from you!' She colored when she saw me--well she might! If she
thinks she'll make a fool of my father, and reign paramount at Torwood,
give me a mother-in-law sixteen years younger than myself, and fill the
house and cumber the estates with a lot of wretched little brats, she'll
find herself mistaken, for I'll prevent it, if I live."

"Don't be too sure of that," said I. "From what I know of Violet
Tressillian, she's not the sort of girl to lure her quarry in vain."

"Of course she'll try hard," answered Telfer. "She comes of a race that
always were poor and proud; she's an orphan, and hasn't a sou, and to
catch a man like my father worth 15,000_l._ a year, with the surety of a
good dower and jointure house whenever he die, is one of the best things
that could chance to her; but I'll be shot if she ever shall manage it."

"_Nous verrons._ I bet you my roan filly Calceolaria against your colt
Jockeyclub that before Christmas is out Violet Tressillian will be
Violet Telfer."

"Done!" cried the Major, stirring his chocolate fiercely. "You'll lose,
Vane; Calceolaria will come to my stables as sure as this mouthpiece is
made of amber. Whenever this scheming little actress changes her name,
it sha'n't be to the same cognomen as mine. I say, it's getting deuced
warm--one must begin to go somewhere. What do you say to going abroad
till the 12th? I've got three months' leave--that will give me one away,
and two on the moor. Will you go?"

"Yes, if you like; town's emptying gradually, and it is confoundedly
hot. Where shall it be?--Naples--Paris----"

"Paris in July! Heaven forbid! Why, it would be worse than London in
November. By Jove! I'll tell you where: let's go to Essellau."

"And where may that be? Somewhere in the Arctic regions, I hope, for
I've spent half my worldly possessions already in sherry and seltzer and
iced punch, and if I go where it's warmer still, I shall be utterly
beggared."

"Essellau is in Swabia, as you ought to know by this, you Goth. It's
Marc von Edenburgh's place, and a very jolly place, too, I can tell you;
the sport's first-rate there, and the pig-sticking really splendid. He's
just written to ask me to go, and take any fellows I like, as he's got
some English people--some friends of his mother's. (A drawback that--I
wonder who they are.) Will you come, Vane? I can promise you some fun,
if only at the trente-et-quarante tables in Pipesandbeersbad."

"Oh yes, I'll come," said I. "I hope the English won't be some horrid
snobs he's picked up at some of the balls, who'll be scraping
acquaintance with us when we come back."

"No fear," said Telfer; "Marc's as English as you or I, and knows the
good breed when he sees them. He'd keep as clear of the Smith, Brown,
and Robinson style as we should. It's settled, then, you'll come. All
right! I wish I could settle that confounded Violet, too, first. I hope
nothing will happen while I'm in Essellau. I don't think it can. The
Tressillian leaves town to-day with the Carterets, and the governor must
stick here till parliament closes, and it's sure to be late this year."

With which consolatory reflection the Major rose, stretched himself,
yawned, sighed, stroked his moustache, fitted on his lavender gloves,
and rang to order his tilbury round.

Telfer was an only son, and when he heard it reported that his father
intended to give him a _belle-mère_ in a young lady as attractive as she
was poor, who, if she caught him, would probably make a fool of the old
gentleman in the widest sense of the word, he naturally swore very
heartily, and anything but relished the idea. Hamilton Telfer, senior,
had certainly been a good deal with Violet that season, and Violet, a
girl poor as a rat and beautiful as Semele, talked to him, and sang to
him, and rode with him more than she did with any of us; so people
talked and talked, and said the old member would get caught, and the
Major, when he heard it, waxed fiercely wroth at the folly his parent
had fallen into while he'd been off the scene down at Dover with his
troop, but, like a wise man, said nothing, knowing, both by experience
and observation, that opposition in such affairs is like a patent Vesta
among hayricks. Telfer was a particular chum of mine: we'd lounged about
town, and shot on the moors, and campaigned in India together, and I
don't believe there was a better soldier, a cooler head, a quicker eye,
or a steadier hand in the service than he was. He was six-and-thirty
now, and had seen life pretty well, I can tell you, for there was not a
get-at-able corner of the globe that he hadn't looked at through his
eye-glass. Tall and muscular, with a stern, handsome face, with the
prospect of Torwood (where there's some of the best shooting in England,
I give you my word), and 15,000_l._ a year, Telfer was a great card in
the matrimonial line, but hadn't let himself be played as yet, for the
petty trickery the women used in trying to get him dealt to them
disgusted him, and small wonder. Men liked him cordially, women thought
him cold and sarcastic; and he was much more genial, I admit, at mess,
or at lansquenet, or in the smoking-room of the U. S., than he was in
boudoirs and ball-rooms, as the mere knowledge that mammas and their
darlings were trying to hook him made him get on his stilts at once.

"I don't feel easy in my mind about the governor," said he, as we drove
along to the South-Eastern Station a few days after on our way to
Essellau. "As I was bidding him good-bye this morning, Soames brought
him a letter in a woman's hand. Heaven knows he may have a score of fair
correspondents for anything I care, but if I thought it was the
Tressillian, devil take her----"

"And the devil won't have had a prettier prize since Proserpine was
stolen," said I.

"No, confound it, I saw she was handsome enough," swore the Major,
disgusted; "and a pretty face always did make a fool of my father,
according to his own telling. Well, thank God, I don't take that
weakness after him. I never went mad about any woman. You've just as
much control over love, if you like, as over a quiet shooting pony; and
if it don't suit you to gallop, you can rein up and give over the sport.
Any man who's anything of a philosopher needn't fall in love unless he
likes."

"Were you never in love, then, old boy?" I asked.

"Of course I have been. I've made love to no end of women in my time;
but when one love was died out I took another, as I take a cigar, and
never wept over the quenched ashes. You need never fall in love unless
it's convenient, and as to caring for a girl who don't care for you,
that's a contemptible weakness, and one I don't sympathize with at all.
Come along, or the train will be off."

He went up to the carriages, opened a door, shut it hastily, and turned
away, with the frigid bow with which Telfer, in common with every other
Briton, can say, "Go to the devil," as plainly as if he spoke.

"By Jove!" said I, "what's that eccentric move? Did you see the Medusa
in that carriage, or a baby?"

"Something quite as bad," said he, curtly. "I saw the Tressillian and
her aunt. For Heaven's sake, let's get away from them. I'd rather have a
special train, if it cost me a fortune, than travel with that girl,
boxed up for four hours in the same compartment with such a little
intrigante."

"Calm your mind, old fellow; if she's aiming at your governor she won't
hit you. She can't be your wife and your mother-in-law both," laughed
Fred Walsham, a good-natured little chap in the Carabiniers, a friend of
Von Edenburgh, who was coming with us.

"I'll see her shot before she's either," said Telfer, fiercely stroking
his moustache.

"Hush! the deuce! hold your tongue," said Walsham, giving him a push.
For past us, so close that the curling plumes in her hat touched the
Major's shoulder, floated the "little intrigante" in question, who'd
come out of her carriage to see where a pug of hers was put. She'd heard
all we said, confound it, for her head was up, her color bright, and she
looked at Telfer proudly and disdainfully, with her dark eyes flashing.
Telfer returned it to the full as haughtily, for he never shirked the
consequences of his own actions ('pon my life, they looked like a great
stag and a little greyhound challenging each other), and Violet swept
away across the platform.

"You've made an enemy for life, Telfer," said Walsham, as we whisked
along.

"So much the better, if I'm a rock ahead to warn her off a marriage with
the governor," rejoined the Major, smoking, as he always did, under the
officials' very noses. "I hope I sha'n't come across her again. If the
Tressillian and I meet, we shall be about as amicable as a rat and a
beagle. Take a weed, Fred. I do it on principle to resist unjust
regulations. Why shouldn't we take a pipe if we like? A man whose
olfactory nerves are so badly organized as to dislike Cavendish is too
great a muff to be considered."

As ill luck would have it, when we crossed to Dover, who should cross,
too, but the Tressillian and her party--aunt, cousins, maid, courier,
and pug. Telfer wouldn't see them, but got on the poop, as far away as
ever he could from the spot where Violet sat nursing her dog and
reading a novel, provokingly calm and comfortable to the envious eyes of
all the _malades_ around her.

"Good Heavens!" said he, "was anything ever so provoking? Just because
that girl's my particular aversion, she must haunt me like this. If
she'd been anybody I wanted to meet, I should never have caught a
glimpse of her. For mercy's sake, Vane, if you see a black hat and white
feather anywhere again, tell me, and we'll change the route
immediately."

Change the route we did, for, going on board the steamer at Düsseldorf,
there, on the deck, stood the Tressillian. Telfer turned sharp on his
heel, and went back as he came. "I'll be shot if I go down the Rhine
with her. Let's cut across into France." Cut across we did, but we
stopped at Brussels on our way; and when at last we caught sight of the
tops of the fir-trees around Essellau, Telfer took a long whiff at his
pipe with an air of contentment. "I should say we're safe now. She'll
hardly come pig-sticking into the middle of Swabia."



II.

VIOLET TRESSILLIAN.


Essellau was a very jolly place, with thick woods round it, and the
river Beersbad running in sight; and his pretty sister, the Comtesse
Virginie, his good wines, and good sport, made Von Edenburgh's a
pleasant house to visit at. Marc himself, who is in the Austrian service
(he was winged at Montebello the other day by a rascally Zouave, but he
paid him off for it, as I hope his countrymen will eventually pay off
all the Bonapartists for their _galimatias_)--Marc himself was a jolly
fellow, a good host, a keen shot, and a capital écarté player, and made
us enjoy ourselves at Essellau as he had done before, hunting and
shooting with Telfer down at Torwood.

"I've some countrywomen of yours here, Telfer," said Marc, after we'd
talked over his English loves, given him tiding of duchesses and
danseuses, and messages from no end of pretty women that he'd flirted
with the Christmas before. "They're some friends of my mother's, and
when they were at Baden-Baden last year, Virginie struck up a desperate
young lady attachment with one of them----"

"Are they good-looking?--because, if they are, they may be drysalters'
daughters, and I shan't care," interrupted Fred.

Telfer stroked his moustache with a contemptuous smile--_he_ wouldn't
have looked at a drysalter's daughter if she'd had all the beauty of
Amphitrite.

"Come and see," said Marc. "Virginie will think you're neglecting her
atrociously."

Horribly bored to be going to meet some Englishwomen who might turn out
to be Smiths or Joneses, and would, to a dead certainty, spoil all his
pleasure in pig-sticking, shooting, and écarté, by flirting with him
whether he would or no, the Major strode along corridors and galleries
after Von Edenburgh. When at length we reached the salon where Virginie
and her mother and friends were, Telfer lifted his eyes from the ground
as the door opened, started as if he'd been shot, and stepped back a
pace or two, with an audible, "If that isn't the very devil!"

There, in a low chair, sat the Tressillian, graceful as a Sphakiote
girl, with a toilet as perfect as her profile, dark hair like waves of
silk, and dark eyes full of liquid light, that, when they looked
irresistible, could do anything with any man that they liked. Violet
certainly looked as unlike that unlucky ogre and scapegoat, the devil,
as a young lady ever could. But worse than a score of demons was she in
poor Telfer's eyes: to have come out to Essellau only to be shut up in a
country-house for a whole month with his pet aversion!--certainly it
_was_ a hard case, and the fierce lightning glance he flashed on her was
pardonable under the circumstances. But nobody's more impassive than the
Major: I've seen him charge down into the Sikhs with just the same calm,
quiet expression as he'd wear smoking and reading a novel at home; so he
soon rallied, bowed to the Tressillian, who gave him an inclination as
cold as the North Pole, shook hands with her aunt and cousins (three
women I hate: the mamma's the most dexterous of manoeuvrers, and the
girls the arrantest of flirts), and then sat down to a little quiet chat
with Virginie von Edenburgh, who's pretty, intelligent, and unaffected,
though she's a belle at the Viennese court. Telfer was pleasant with the
little comtesse; he'd known her from childhood, and she was engaged to
the colonel of Marc's troop, so that Telfer felt quite sure she'd no
designs upon him, and talked to her _sans géne_, though to have wholly
abstained from bitterness and satire would have been an impossibility to
him, with the obnoxious Tressillian seated within sight. Once he fixed
her with his calm gray eyes, she met them with a proud flashing glance;
Telfer gave back the defiance, and _guerre à outrance_ was declared
between them. It was plain to see that they hated one another by
instinct, and I began to think Calceolaria wasn't so safe in my stables
after all, for if the Major set his face against anything, his father,
who pretty well worshipped him, would never venture to do it in
opposition; he'd as soon think of leaving Torwood to the country, to be
turned into an infirmary or a museum.

That whole day Telfer was agreeable to the Von Edenburgh, distantly
courteous to the Carterets, and utterly oblivious of the very existence
of the Tressillian. When we were smoking together, after dinner, he
began to unburden himself of his mighty wrath.

"Where the deuce did you pick up that girl, Marc?" asked he, as we stood
looking at the sun setting over the woods of Essellau, and crimsoning
the western clouds.

"What girl?" asked Marc.

"That confounded Tressillian," answered the Major, gloomily.

"I told you the Carterets were friends of my mother's, and last year,
when the Tressillian came with them to Baden, Virginie met her, and they
were struck with a great and sudden love for one another, after the
insane custom of women. But why on earth, Telfer, do you call her such
names? I think her divine; her eyes are something----"

"I wish her eyes had been at the devil before she'd bewitched my poor
father with them," said Telfer, pulling a rose to pieces fiercely. "I
give you my word, Marc, that if I didn't like you so well, I'd go
straight off home to-morrow. Here have I been turning out of my route
twenty times, on purpose to avoid her, and then she must turn up at the
very place I thought I was sure to be safe from her. It's enough to make
a man swear, I should say, and not over-mildly either."

"But what's she done?" cried Von Edenburgh, thinking, I dare say, that
Telfer had gone clean mad. "Refused you--jilted you--what is it?"

"Refused me! I should like to see myself giving her the chance," said
the Major, with intense scorn. "No but she's done what I'd never
forgive--tried to cozen the poor old governor into marrying her. She's
no money, you know, and no home of her own; but, for all that, for a
girl of twenty to try and hook an old man of seventy-five, to cheat him
into the idea that he's made a conquest, and chisel him into the belief
that she's in love with him--faugh! the very idea disgusts one. What
sort of a wife would a woman make who could act such a lie?"

As he spoke, a form swept past him, and a beautiful face full of scorn
and passion gleamed on him through the _demi-lumière_.

"By Jove! you've done it now, Telfer," said Walsham. "She was behind us,
I bet you, gathering those roses; her hands are full of them, and she
took that means of showing us she was within earshot. You _have_ set
your foot in it nicely, certainly."

"_Ce m'est bien égal_," said Telfer, haughtily. "If she hear what I say
of her, so much the better. It's the truth, that a young girl who'd sell
herself for money, as soon as she's got what she wanted will desert the
man who's given it to her; and I like my father too well to stand by and
see him made a fool of. The Tressillian and I are open foes now--we'll
see which wins."

"And a very fair foe you have, too," thought I, as I looked at Violet
that night as she stood in the window, a wreath of lilies on her
splendid hair, and her impassioned eyes lighting into joyous laughter as
she talked nonsense with Von Edenburgh.

"Isn't she first-rate style, in spite of your prejudice?" I said to
Telfer, who'd just finished a game at écarté with De Tintiniac, one of
the best players in Europe. If the Major has any weakness, écarté is one
of them. He just glanced across with a sarcastic smile.

"Well got up, of course; so are all actresses--on the stage."

Then he dropped his glass and went back to his cards, and seemed to
notice the splendid Tressillian not one whit more than he did her pup.

Whether his discourteous speeches had piqued Violet into showing off her
best paces, or whether it's a natural weakness of her sex to shine in
all times and places that they can, certain it was that I never saw the
Tressillian more brilliant and bewitching than she was that night.
Waltzing with Von Edenburgh, singing with me, talking fun with Fred, or
merely lying back in her chair, playing lazily with her bouquet, she was
eminently dangerous in whatever she did, and there wasn't a man in the
castle who didn't gather round her, except her sworn foe the Major. Even
De Tintiniac, that old campaigner at the green tables, who has long ago
given over any mistress save hazard, glanced once or twice at the superb
eyes beaming with the _droit de conquête_, but Telfer never looked up
from his cards.

Telfer and she parted with the chilliest of "good nights," and met again
in the morning with the most frigid of "good mornings," and to that
simple exchange of words was their colloquy limited for an entire
fortnight. Unless I'd been witness of it, I wouldn't have credited that
any two people could live for that space of time in the same
country-house and keep so distant. Nobody noticed it, for there were no
end of guests at Essellau, and the Tressillian had so many liege
subjects ready to her slightest bidding, that the Major's _lèse-majesté_
wasn't of such consequence. But when day after day came, and he spent
them all boar-hunting, shooting, fishing, or playing rouge-et-noir and
roulette at the gaming-tables in Pipesandbeersbad, and when he was in
the drawing-rooms at Essellau she saw him amusing and agreeable, and
unbending to every one but herself, I don't know anything of woman's
nature if I didn't see Violet's delicate cheek flush, and her eyes
flash, whenever she caught the Major's cool, contemptuous, depreciating
glance, much harder to her sex to bear than spoken ridicule or open war.
Occasionally he cast a sarcasm, quick, sharp, and relentless as a Minié
ball, at her, which she fired back with such rifle-powder as she had in
her flask; but the return shot fell as harmlessly as it might have done
on Achilles's breast.

"A man is very silly to marry," he was saying one evening to Marc,
"since, as Emerson says, from the beginning of the world such as are in
the institution want to get out, and such as are out want to get in."

Violet, sitting near at the piano, turned half round. "If all others are
of my opinion, Major Telfer, you will never be tempted, for no one will
be willing to enter it with you."

The shot fell short. Telfer neither smiled nor looked annoyed, but
answered, tranquilly,--

"Possibly; but my time is to come. When I own Torwood, ladies will be as
kind to me as they are now to my father; for it is wonderful what a
charm to renew youth, reform rakes, buy love, and make the Beast the
Beauty, is '_un peu de poudre d'or_,' in the eyes of the _beau sexe_."

The Tressillian flushed scarlet, but soon recovered herself.

"I have heard," she said, pulling her bouquet to pieces with impatience,
"that when people look through smoked glass the very sun looks dusky,
and so I suppose, through your own moral perceptions, you view those of
others. You know what De la Fayette wrote to Madame de Sablé: '_Quelle
corruption il faut avoir dans l'esprit pour être capable d'imaginer tout
cela!_'"

"It does not follow," answered Telfer, impassively. "De la Fayette was
quite wrong. Suard was nearer the truth when he said that Rochefoucauld,
'_a peint les hommes comme il les à vus. Il n'appartenait qu'à un homme
d'une réputation bien pure et bien distinguée d'oser flétrir ainsi le
principe de toutes les actions humaines._'"

"And Major Telfer is so unassailable himself that he can mount his
pedestal and censure all weaker mortals," said Violet, sarcastically.
"Your judgments are, perhaps, not always as infallible as the gods'."

"You are gone very wide of the original subject, Miss Tressillian,"
answered Telfer, coldly. "I was merely speaking of that common social
fraud and falsehood, a _mariage de convenance_, which, as I shall never
sin in that manner myself, I am at liberty to censure with the scorn I
feel for it."

He looked hard at her as he spoke. The Tressillian's eyes answered the
stare as haughtily.

"Some may not be all _mariages de convenance_ that you choose to call
such. It does not necessarily follow, because a girl marries a rich man,
that she marries him for his money. There _may_ be love in the case, but
the world never gives her the grace of the doubt."

"What hardy hypocrisy," thought Telfer. "She'd actually try to persuade
me to my face that she was in love with the poor old governor and his
gout!"

"Pardon me," he said, with his most cynical smile. "In attributing
disinterested affection to ladies, I think '_quelque disposition qu'ait
le monde à mal juger, il fait plus souvent grace au faux mérite qu'il ne
fait injustice au véritable_.'"

The Tressillian's soft lips curved angrily; she turned away, and began
to sing again, at Walsham's entreaty. Telfer got up and lounged over to
Virginie, with whom he laughed, talked, waltzed, and played chess for
the rest of the evening.



III.

FROM WHICH IT WOULD APPEAR, THAT IT IS SOMETIMES WELL TO BEGIN WITH A
LITTLE AVERSION.


After this split, Telfer and the Tressillian were rather further off
each other than before; and whenever riding, and driving, at dinner, or
in lionizing, they came by chance together, he avoided her silently as
much as ever he could, without making a parade of it. Violet could see
very well how cordially he hated her, and, woman-like, I dare say mine,
and Edenburgh's, and Walsham's, and all her devoted friends' admiration
was valueless, as long as her vowed enemy treated her with such careless
contempt.

One morning the two foes met by chance. Telfer and I, after a late night
over at Pipesandbeersbad, with lansquenet, cheroots, and cognac, had
betaken ourselves out to whip the Beersbad, whose fish, for all their
boiling by the hot springs, are first-rate, I can assure you. Telfer
tells you he likes fishing, but I never see that he does much more than
lie full length under the shadiest tree he can find, with his cap over
his eyes and his cigar in his mouth, doing the _dolce_ lazily enough. A
three-pound trout had no power to rouse him; and he's lost a salmon
before now in the Tweed because it bored him to play it! Shade of old
Izaak! is _that_ liking fishing? But few things ever did excite him,
except it was a charge, or a Kaffir scrimmage; and then he looked more
like a concentrated tempest than anything else, and woe to the turban
that his sabre came down upon.

That part of the stream we'd tried first had been whipped before us, or
the fish wouldn't bite; and I, who haven't as much patience as I might
have, went up higher to try my luck. Telfer declined to come; he was
comfortable, he said, and out of the sun; he preferred "Indiana" and his
cheroot to catching all the fish in the Beersbad, so I bid him good-bye,
and left him smoking and reading at his leisure under the linden-trees.
I went further on than I had meant, up round a bend of the river, and
was too absorbed in filling my basket to notice a storm coming up from
the west, till I began to find myself getting wet to the skin, and the
lightning flying up and down the hills round Essellau. I looked for the
Major as I passed the lime-trees, but he wasn't there, and I made the
best of my way back to the castle, supposing he'd got there before me;
but I was mistaken.

"I've seen nothing of him," said Marc. "He's stalking about the woods, I
dare say, admiring the lightning. That's more than the poor Tressillian
does, I bet. She went out by herself, I believe, just before the storm,
to get a water-lily she wanted to paint, and hasn't appeared since. By
Jove! if Telfer should have to play knight-errant to his 'pet aversion,'
what fun it would be."

Marc had his fun, for an hour afterwards, when the storm had blown over,
up the terrace steps came Violet and the Major. They weren't talking to
each other, but they were actually walking together; and the courtesy
with which he put a dripping rose-branch out of her path with his stick,
was something quite new.

It seems that Telfer, disliking disagreeable sensations, and classing
getting wet among such, had arisen when the thunder began to growl, and
slowly wended his way homewards. But before he was halfway to Essellau
the rain began to drip off his moustache, and seeing a little marble
temple (the Parthenon turned into a summer-house!) close by, he thought
he might as well go in and have another weed till it grew finer. Go in
he did; and he'd just smoked half a cigar, and read the last chapter of
"Indiana," when he looked up, and saw the Tressillian's pug, looking a
bedraggled and miserable object, at his feet, and the Tressillian
herself standing within a few yards of him. If Telfer had abstained from
a few fierce mental oaths, he would have been of a much more pacific
nature than he ever pretended to be; and I don't doubt that he looked
hauteur concentrated as he rose at his enemy's entrance. Violet made a
movement of retreat, but then thought better of it. It would have seemed
too much like flying from the foe. So with a careless bow she sank on
one of the seats, took off her hat, shook the rain-drops off her hair,
and busied herself in sedulous attentions to the pug. The Major thought
it incumbent on him to speak a few sentences about the thunder that was
cracking over their heads; Violet answered him as briefly; and Telfer
putting down his cigar with a sigh, sat watching the storm in silence,
not troubling himself to talk any more.

As she bent down to pat the pug she caught his eyes on her with a cold,
critical glance. He was thinking how pure her profile was and how
exquisite her eyes, and--of how cordially he should hate her if his
father married her. Her color rose, but she met his look steadily, which
is a difficult thing to do if you've anything to conceal, for the
Major's eyes are very keen and clear. Her lips curved with a smile half
amused, half disdainful. "What a pity, Major Telfer," she said, with a
silvery laugh, "that you should be condemned to imprisonment with one
who is unfortunately such a _bête noire_ to you as I am! I assure you, I
feel for you; if I were not coward enough to be a little afraid of that
lightning, I would really go away to relieve you from your sufferings. I
should feel quite honored by the distinction of your hatred if I didn't
know, you, on principle, dislike every woman living. Is your judgment
always infallible?"

Beyond a little surprise in his eyes, Telfer's features were as
impassive as ever. "Far from it," he answered, quietly "I merely judge
people by their actions."

The Tressillian's luminous eyes flashed proudly. "An unsafe guide, Major
Telfer; you cannot judge of actions until you know their motives. I know
perfectly well why you dislike and avoid me: you listened to a foolish
report, and you heard me giving your father permission to write to me.
Those are your grounds, are they not?"

Telfer, for once in his life, _was_ astonished, but he looked at her
fixedly. "And were they not just ones?"

"No," said Violet, vehemently,--"no, they were most rankly unjust; and
it is hard, indeed, if a girl, who has no friends or advisers that she
can trust, may not accept the kindness and ask the counsels of a man
fifty-five years older than herself without his being given to her as a
lover, and the world's whispering that she is trying to entrap him. You
pique yourself on your clear-sightedness, Major Telfer, but for once
your judgment failed you when you attributed such mean and mercenary
motives to me, and supposed, because, as you so generously stated, I had
'no money and no home,' I must necessarily have no heart or conscience,
but be ready to give myself at any moment to the highest bidder, and
take advantage of the kindness of your noble-minded, generous-hearted
father to trick him into marriage." She stopped, fairly out of breath
with excitement. Telfer was going to speak, but she silenced him with a
haughty gesture. "No; now we are started on the subject, hear me to the
end. You have done me gross injustice--an offence the Tressillians never
forgive--but, for my own sake, I wish to show you how mistaken you were
in your hasty condemnation. At the beginning of the season I was
introduced to your father. He knew my mother well in her girlhood, and
he said I reminded him of her. He was very kind to me, and I, who have
no real friend on earth, of course was grateful to him, for I was
thankful to have any one on whom I could rely. You know, probably as
well as I do, that there is little love lost between the Carterets and
myself, though, by my father's will, I must stay with them till I am of
age. I have one brother, a boy of eighteen; he is with his regiment
serving out in India, and the climate is killing him by inches, though
he is too brave to try and get sick leave. Your father has been doing
all he can to have him exchanged; the letters I have had from him have
been to tell me of his success, and to say that Arthur is gazetted to
the Buffs, and coming home overland. There is the head and front of my
offending, Major Telfer; a very simple explanation, is it not? Perhaps
another time you will be more cautious in your censure."

A faint flush came over the Major's bronzed cheek; he looked out of the
portico, and was silent for a minute. The knowledge that he has wronged
another is a keen pang to a proud man of an honor almost fastidious in
his punctilio of right. He swung quickly round, and held out his hand to
her.

"I beg your pardon; I have misjudged you, and I am thoroughly ashamed of
myself for it," he said, in a low voice.

When the Major does come down from his hauteur, and let some of his
winning cordial nature come out, no woman living, unless she were some
animated Medusa, could find it in her heart to say him nay. His frank
self-condemnation touched Violet, despite herself, and, without
thinking, she laid her small fingers in his proffered hand. Then the
Tressillian pride flashed up again; she drew it hastily away, and walked
out into the air.

"Pray do not distress yourself," she said, with an effort (not
successful) to seem perfectly calm and nonchalant. "It is not of the
slightest consequence; we understand each other's sentiments now, and
shall in future be courteous in our hate like two of the French
_noblesse_, complimenting one another before they draw their swords to
slay or to be slain. It has cleared now, so I will leave you to the
solitude I disturbed. Come, Floss." And calling the pug after her,
Violet very gracefully swept down the steps, but with a stride the Major
was at her side.

"Nay, Miss Tressillian," he said, gently, "it is true I've given you
cause to think me as rude as Orson or Caliban, but I am not quite such a
bear as to let you walk home through these woods alone."

Violet made an impatient movement. "Pray don't trouble yourself. We are
close to the castle, and--pardon me, but truth-telling seems the order
for the day--I much prefer you in your open enmity to your simulated
courtesy. We have been rude to each other for three weeks; in another
one you will be gone, so it is scarcely worth while to begin politeness
now."

"As you please," said Telfer, coldly.

He'd made great advances and concessions for him, and was far too
English when repulsed to go on making any more. But he was
astonished--extremely so--for he'd been courted and sought since he was
in jackets, and couldn't make out a young girl like the Tressillian
treating him so lightly. He walked along beside her in profound silence,
but though neither of them spoke a word, he didn't leave her side till
she was safe on the terrace at Essellau. The Major was very grave that
night at dinner, and occasionally he looked at Violet with a strange,
inquiring glance, as the young lady, in the most brilliant of spirits,
fired away French repartees with Von Edenburgh and De Tintiniac, her
face absolutely _rayonnant_ in the gleam of the wax lights. I thought
the spirits were a little too high to be real. Late at night, as he and
I and Marc were smoking on the terrace, before turning in, Telfer
constrained himself to tell us of the scene in the summer-house. He'd
abused her to us. Common honor, he said, obliged him to tell us the
truth about her.

"I am sorry," said he, slowly, between the whiffs of his meerschaum. "If
there is one thing I hate, it is injustice. I was never guilty of
misjudging anybody before in my life, that I know of; and, I give you my
word, I experienced a new sensation--I absolutely felt humbled before
that girl's great, flashing, truthful eyes, to think that I'd been
listening to report and judging from prejudice like any silly, gossiping
woman."

"It seems to have made a great impression on you, Telfer," laughed Marc.
"Has your detestation of Violet changed to something as warm, but more
gentle? Shall we have to say the love wherewith he loves her is greater
than the hate wherewith he hated her?"

"Not exactly," answered the Major, calmly, with a supercilious twist of
his moustaches. "But I like pluck wherever I see it, and she's a true
Tressillian."



IV.

IN WHICH THE MAJOR PROVOKES A QUARREL IN BEHALF OF THE FAIR TRESSILLIAN.


"Well, Telfer," said I, two mornings after, "if you want to be at the
moor by the 12th, we must start soon; this is the 6th. It will be sharp
work to get there as it is."

"What, do you think of not going at all?" said Telfer, laying down the
_Revue des deux Mondes_ with a yawn. "We are very well here. Marc
bothers me tremendously to stay on another month, and the shooting's as
good as we shall get at Glenattock. What do you say, Vane?"

"Just as you like," I answered. "The pigs are as good as the grouse, for
anything I know. They put me in mind of getting my first spear at
Burampootra. I only thought you wanted to be off out of sight of the
Tressillian."

He laughed slightly. "Oh! the young lady's no particular eyesore to me
now I don't regard her in the light of a _belle-mère_. Well, shall we
stop here, then?"

"_Comme vous voulez._ I don't care."

"No philosopher ever moves when he's comfortable," said the Major,
laughing. "I'll write and tell Montague he can shoot over Glenattock if
he likes. I dare say he can find some men who'll keep him company and
fill the box. I say, old fellow, I've won Calceolaria, but I sha'n't
have her, because I consider the bet drawn. Our wager was laid on the
supposition that the Tressillian wished to marry the governor, but as
she never has had the desire, I've neither lost nor won."

"Well, we'll wait and see," said I. "Christmas isn't come yet. Here
comes Violet. She looks well, don't she? Confess now, prejudice apart,
that you admire her, _nolens volens_."

Telfer looked at her steadily as she came into the billiard-room in her
hat and habit, as she'd been riding with Lucy Carteret, Marc, and De
Tintiniac. "Yes," he said, slowly, under his breath, "she is very good
style, I admit."

Lucy Carteret challenged Telfer to a game; she has a tall, _svelte_
figure, and knows she looks well at billiards. He played lazily, and let
her win easily enough, paying as little attention to the _agaceries_ and
glances she lavished upon him as if he'd been an automaton. When they'd
played it out, he went up to the Tressillian, who was talking to Marc in
the window, and, to my supreme astonishment, asked her to have a game.

"Thank you, no," answered Violet, coldly; "it is too warm for
billiards."

This was certainly the first time the Major had ever been refused in any
of his overtures to her sex, and I believe it surprised him exceedingly.
He bent his head, and soon after he went for a walk in the rosery with
Lucy Carteret, whom he hates. We always hate those manoeuvring,
_maniéré_ girls, who are everlastingly flinging bait after us, whether
or no we want to nibble; and just in proportion as they fixatrice, and
crinoline, and cosmetique to hook us, will leave us to die in the sun
when they've once trapped us into the basket.

That night, when Telfer sat down to écarté, Violet was singing in
another room, out of which her voice came distinctly to us. I noticed he
didn't play quite as well as usual. I don't suppose he could be
listening, though, for he doesn't care for music, and still less for
the Tressillian.

"Mademoiselle," said De Tintiniac, going up to her afterwards, "you can
boast of greater conquests than Orpheus. He only charmed rocks, but you
have distracted the two most inveterate _joueurs_ in Europe."

Telfer looked annoyed. Violet laughed. "Pardon me if I doubt your
compliment. If you were so kind as to listen to me, I have not enough
vanity to think that your opponent would yield to what _he_ would think
such immeasurable weakness."

"You are not magnanimous, Miss Tressillian," said Telfer, in a low tone,
leaning down over the piano. "You are ceaselessly reminding me of a
hasty prejudice, unjustly formed, of which I have told you I am heartily
ashamed."

"A hasty prejudice!" repeated Violet. "I beg your pardon, Major Telfer;
I think ours is a very strong and lasting enmity, as mutual as it is
well founded. Don't contradict me; you know you could have shot me with
as little remorse as a partridge."

"But can you never forget," continued Telfer, impatiently, "that my
enmity, as you please to term it, was grafted on erroneous opinions and
false reports, and will you never credit that when I see myself in the
wrong, I am too just to others to continue in it?"

The Tressillian laughed--a mischievous, _provoquant_ laugh. "No, I
believe neither in sudden conversions nor sudden friendships. Pray do
not trouble yourself to be 'just' to me; you see I did not droop and die
under the shadow of your wrath."

"Oh no," said Telfer, with a sardonic twist of his moustaches, "one
would not accuse you of too much softness, Miss Tressillian."

She colored, and the pride of her family flashed out of her eyes. The
Tressillians are all deucedly proud, and would die sooner than yield an
inch. "If by softness you mean weakness, you are right," she said,
haughtily. "As I have told you, we never forgive injustice."

Telfer frowned. If there was one thing he hated more than another, it
was a woman who had anything hard about her. He smiled his chilliest
smile. "Those are harsh words from a lady's lips--not so becoming to
them as something gentler. You remind me, Miss Tressillian, of a young
panther I once had, beautiful to look at, but eminently dangerous to
approach, much less to caress. Everybody admired my panther, but no one
dared to choose it for a pet."

With this uncourteous allegory the Major turned away, leaving Violet to
make it out as best she might. It was good fun to watch the
Tressillian's face: I only, standing near, had caught what he said, for
he had spoken very low. First she looked haughty and annoyed, then a
little troubled and perplexed: she sat quiet a minute, playing
thoughtfully with her bracelets; then shook her head with a movement of
defiance, and began to sing a Venetian barcarole with more _élan_ and
spirit than ever.

"By Jove! Telfer," said I, as we sat in the smoking-room that night,
"your would-have-been mother-in-law has plenty of pluck. She'd have kept
you in good training, and made a better boy of you; it's quite a loss to
your morals that your father didn't marry her."

Telfer didn't look best pleased. He stretched himself full length on one
of the divans, and answered not.

"I shouldn't be surprised if, with all her beauty, she hangs on hand,"
said Walsham, "for she hasn't a rap, you know; her governor gamed it all
away, and she's certainly a bit of a flirt."

"I don't think so," said Telfer, shortly.

"Oh, by George! don't you? but I do," cried Fred. "Why, she takes a turn
at us all, from old De Tintiniac, with his padded figure and coulisses
compliments, to Marc, young and beautiful, as the novels say,--but we'll
spare his blushes--from Vane, there, with his long rent-roll, to poor
me, who she knows goes on tick for my weeds and gloves. She flirts with
us all, one after the other, except you, whom she don't dare to touch.
Tell me where you get your _noli me tangere_ armor, Telfer, and I'll
adopt it to-morrow, for the girls make such desperate love to me I know
some of them will propose before long."

Telfer smoked vigorously during Fred's peroration, and his brow
darkened. "I do not consider Miss Tressillian a flirt," he said, slowly.
"She's too careless in showing you her weak points to be trying to trap
you. What _I_ call a coquette is a woman who is all things to all men,
whose every languishing glance is a bait, and whose every thought is a
conquest."

"And pray how can you tell but what the Tressillian's naturalness and
carelessness may be only a superior bit of acting? The highest art, you
know, is to imitate nature so close that you can't tell which is which,"
laughed Walsham.

Telfer didn't seem to relish the suggestion, but went on smoking
fiercely.

"Not that I want to speak against the girl," Fred went on; "she's very
amusing, and well enough, I dare say, if she weren't so devilish proud."

"You seem rather inconsistent," said Telfer, impatiently. "First, you
accuse her of being too free, and then blame her for being too
reserved."

Walsham laughed.

"If I'm inconsistent, you're a perfect weathercock. A month ago you were
calling Violet every name you could think of, and now you snap us all
off short if we say a word against her."

Telfer looked haughty enough to extinguish Fred upon the spot; Fred
being a small, lively little chap, with not the slightest dignity about
him.

"I know little or nothing of Miss Tressillian, but as I was the first
to prejudice you all against her, it is only common honor to take her
part when I think her unjustly attacked."

Fred gave me a wink of intense significance, but remonstrated no
further, for Telfer had something of the dark look upon him that our men
knew so well when he led them down to the slaughter at Alma and
Balaklava.

"I tell you," continued the Major, after a little silence, "that I am
disgusted with myself for having listened to whispers and reports, and
believed in them just because they suited the bias of my prejudice. It
didn't matter to me whom my father married, as far as money went, for
beyond 10,000_l._ or so, it must all come in the entail; but I couldn't
endure the idea of his being chiselled by some Becky Sharp or Blanche
Armory, and I made up my mind that the Tressillian was of that genre.
I've changed my opinion now. I don't think she either is an actress or
an intrigante; and I should be a coward indeed if I hesitated to say so,
out of common justice to a young girl who has no one to defend her."

"Bravo, my boy!" said Walsham; "I thought the Tressillian's bright eyes
wouldn't let you hate her long. You're quite right, though 'pon my life
it is really horrid how women contrive to damage each other. If there's
an unlucky girl who has made the best match of the season--she might be
an angel from heaven--her bosom-friends would manage gently to spread
abroad the interesting facts that she's a 'dreadful flirt,' 'has a snub
nose,' is an awful temper, had a ballet-girl for her mamma, or something
detrimental. An attractive woman is the target for all her sex to shoot
their sneers at, and if the poor thing isn't so riddled with arrows that
she's no beauty left, it isn't her sisters' fault."

"I believe you," said Telfer. "My gauge of a woman's fascinations is the
amount of hatred all the others bear her. It often amuses me to hear the
tone that ladies take in talking of some girl whom we admire. She's a
charming creature--a darling--their particular friend but ... there's
always a 'but' to neutralize the praise, and with their honeyed hatred
they contrive to damn the luckless object irretrievably. If another
man's a good shot, or whip, or billiard-player, we're not spiteful to
him for it. We think him a good fellow, and like him the better; but the
dear _beau sexe_ cannot bear a rival, and never rest while one of their
acquaintance has diamonds a carat larger, dresses a trifle more costly,
has finer horses, or more conquests. The only style of friend I ever
heard women speak well of is some plain and timorous individual,
good-natured to foolery, and weak as water, who never comes in their
orbit, and whom we never look at; and then what a darling she is, and
how eloquently they will laud her to the skies, despising her miserably
all the while for not having been born pretty!"

"True enough," Marc began. "Why do the Carterets treat the Tressillian
so disagreeably?--only because, though without their fortune, she makes
ten times their coups; and get themselves up how they may, they know
none of us care to waltz with them if she's in the room. Let's drink her
health in Marcobrunnen--she's magnificent eyes."

"And first-rate style," said I.

"And a deuced pretty foot," cried Fred.

"_Et une taille superbe_," added de Tintiniac, just come in. "_En
vérité, elle est chouette cette Violette Anglaise._"

So we chanted the Tressillian's praises. Telfer drank the toast in
silence--_I_ thought with a frown on his brow at the freedom with which
we discussed his fair foe.

Little Countess Virginie's wedding was to come off in another month, and
Marc begged us so hard to stay on till then, that, Telfer seeming very
willing, I consented, though it would be the first September I had ever
spent out of the English open since I was old enough to know partridges
from pheasants. The Tressillian being Virginie's pet friend, after young
ladies' custom of contracting eternal alliances (which ordinarily
terminate in a quarrel about the shade of a ponceau ribbon, or a mauve
flower, or a cornet's eyes, some three months after the signing and
sealing thereof), was of course to be one of the _filles d'honneur_. So,
as I said to Telfer, he'd have time for a few more battles before the
two enemies parted to meet again--nobody could tell when.

I began to think that the Major had really been wounded, and that his
opponent's bright eyes wouldn't let him come out of the fight wholly
scathless, as I saw him leaning against the wall at a ball in the
Redoute at Pipesandbeersbad, watching Violet with great earnestness as
she whirled round in a _deux temps_, bewitching as was her wont all the
frequenters of the Bad. Rich English dyspeptics, poverty-stricken
princes, Austrian diplomats, come to cure their hypochondria; French
_décorés_, to try their new cabals and martingales; British snobs, to
indulge the luxury of grumbling,--all of them found some strange
attraction in the "Violette Anglaise."

Violet sank on a seat after her valse. Telfer quietly displaced a young
dragoon from Lucca, and sat down by her.

"I am going to stay on another month, Miss Tressillian; are you not
sorry to hear it?" he said, with a smile, but I thought a little anxiety
in his eyes.

The color flushed over her face, and she answered, with a laugh, not
quite a real one: "Of course I am very sorry. I would go away myself to
let you enjoy your last week in peace if I were not engaged to Virginie.
Cannot you get me leave of absence from her? I know you would throw your
whole heart into the petition."

Telfer curled his moustaches impatiently.

"Truth has come out of her well at last," he said, with a dash of
bitterness, "and has disguised herself in Miss Tressillian's tulle
illusion."

Violet colored brighter still.

"Well," she said, quickly, "was it not your decision that we should
never waste courtesy on one another? Was not your own desire _guerre à
outrance_?"

"No," answered Telfer, his brow darkening; "that I certainly must deny.
I did you injustice, and I offered you an apology. No man could do more
than acknowledge he was in the wrong. I offered you the palm-branch
once; you were pleased to refuse it. I am not a man, Miss Tressillian,
to run the chance of another repulse. My friendship is not so cheap that
I shall intrude it where it is undesired." He spoke with a laugh, but
his eyes had a grave anger in them that Violet didn't quite relish.

She looked a little bit frightened up at him. The proud, brilliant
Tressillian was as pale and quiet as a little child after a good
scolding. But she soon rallied, and flashed up haughtier than ever.

"Major Telfer, you make one great error--one very common to your sex.
You drop us one day, and take us up the next, and then think that we
must be grateful to you for the supreme honor you do us. You are cold to
us, absolutely rude, as long as it pleases your lordly will, and then,
at the first word of courtesy and kindness, you expect us to rise and
make you a _révérence_ in the utmost humiliation and thanksgiving. You
men"--and Violet began destroying her bouquet with immense
energy--"treat us exactly as a cat will treat a mouse. You yourself, for
instance, in a moment's hasty judgment, construed all my actions by the
light of your own unjust suspicions, and believing everything, no matter
how unfounded, spoke against me to all your acquaintance, and treated me
with, as you must admit, but scanty courtesy, for one whom I have heard
piques himself on his high breeding. And now, when you discover that
your suspicions had no foundation, and your hatred no grounds, you
wonder that I find it difficult to be as grateful as you seem to think I
should be for your having so kindly misjudged me."

As the young lady gave all this forth with much vehemence and spirit,
Telfer's lips set, and the blood forced itself through the bronze of his
cheeks. He bent towards her till his moustache touched her hair.

"You have no mercy, Violet Tressillian," he said, between his teeth.
"Take care that no one is as pitiless to you in return."

She started, and her bouquet fell to the ground. Telfer gave it her back
without looking at her, and turned round to an Austrian with his usual
impassive air.

"Do you know where De Tintiniac is, Staumgaurn? In the roulette room?
All right. I am going there now."

He did go there, and I've a notion that the croupier of Pipesandbeersbad
made something that night out of the Major's preoccupation.

Violet, meanwhile, was waltzing with Staumgaurn and a dozen others, but
looked rather white--not using any rouge but what nature had given
her--and by the end of the evening her bouquet had utterly come to
grief. Days went on till a fortnight of our last month had gone, and
Telfer, to my sorrow (not surprise, for I always thought the Tressillian
was a dangerous foe, and that, like Ringwood, he'd find himself unhorsed
by a woman), grew grave and stern, haunted with ten times more
recklessness than usual, and threw away his guineas at the Redoute in a
wild way, quite new with him, for though he liked play _pour s'amuser_,
he had too much control over his passions ever to let play get
ascendancy over him. I used to think he had the strongest passions and
the strongest will over them of any man I knew; but now a passion least
undesired and most hopeless of any that ever entered his soul, seemed to
have mastered him. Not that he showed it; with the Tressillian he was
simply distantly courteous; but I, who was on the _qui vive_ for his
first sign of being conquered, saw his eyebrows contract when somebody
was paying her desperate court, and his glance lighten and flash when
she passed near him. They had never been alone since the night of the
ball, and Violet was too proud to try for a reconciliation, even if
she'd cared for one.

One night we were at a ball at the Prince Humbugandschwerinn's. The
Tressillian had been waltzing with all her might, and had all the men in
the room, Humbugandschwerinn himself included, round her. Telfer leaned
against a console ten minutes, watching her, and then abruptly left the
ball-room, and did not return again. He came instead into the card-room,
and sat down to _écarté_ with De Tintiniac, and lost two games at ten
Napoleons a side. Generally, he played very steadily, never giving his
attention to anything but the game; but now he was listening to what a
knot of men were saying, who were laughing, chatting, and sipping
coffee, while they talked about--the Tressillian.

"I mark the king and play," said Telfer, his eyes fixed fiercely on a
young fellow who was discussing Violet much as he'd have discussed his
new Danish dog or English hunter. He was Jack Snobley, Lord
Featherweight's son, who was doing the grand, a confounded young
parvenu, vulgar as his cotton-spinning ancestry could make him, who
could appreciate the Tressillian about as much as he could Dannecker's
Ariadne, which work of art he pronounced, in my hearing, "a pretty girl,
but the dawg very badly done--too much like a cat." "I take your three
to two," continued Telfer, his brow lowering as he heard the young fool
praising and criticising Violet with small ceremony. The Major had the
haughtiest patrician principles, and to hear a snob like this
sandy-haired honorable, speaking of the woman _he_ chose to champion as
he might have done of some ballerina or Chaumière belle, was rather too
much for Telfer's self-control.

When the game was done, he rose, and walked quietly over to where
Snobley stood. He looked him down with that cold, haughty glance that
has cowed men bolder than Lord Featherweight's hopeful offspring, and
said a word or two to him in a low tone, which caused that gentleman to
flush up red and look fierce with all his might.

"What's the girl to you, that I mayn't speak as I choose of her?" he
retorted; the Sillery, of which he'd taken a good deal too much, working
up in his weak brain. "I've heard that she jilted you, and that was why
you've been setting them all against her, and saying she wanted to hook
your old governor."

The Sillery must have indeed obscured Jack's reason with a vengeance to
make him venture this very elegant and refined speech with the Major,
most fastidious in his ideas of good breeding, and most direful in his
wrath, of any man I ever knew. Telfer's cheek turned as white with
passion as the bronze would let it; his gray eyes grew almost black as
they stared at the young snob. He was so supremely astonished that this
ill-bred boy had actually dared thus to address him!

"Mr. Snobley," he said, with his chilled and most ironical smile, and
his quietest, most courteous voice, "you must learn good manners before
you venture to parley with gentlemen. Allow me to give you your first
lesson." And stooping, as if to a very little boy--young Snobley was a
good foot shorter than he--the Major struck him on the lips with his
left-hand French kid glove. It was a very gentle blow--it would scarcely
have reddened the Tressillian's delicate skin--but on the Hon. Jack it
had electric effect. He was beginning to swear, to look big, to talk of
satisfaction, insult, and all the rest of it; but Telfer laughed, bent
his head, told him he was quite ready to satisfy him to any extent he
required; and, turning away, sat down to _écarté_ calm and impassive as
ever, and pleased greatly with himself for having silenced this silly
youth. The affair was much less exciting to him than it was to any other
man in the room. "It's too great an honor for him, the young brute, for
me to be called out by him, as if he were one of us. I hate snobs; Lord
Featherweight's grandfather was butler to mine, and he himself was a
cotton-spinner in Lancashire, and then this little contemptible puppy
dares to----"

Telfer finished his sentence with a puff of smoke from his meerschaum,
as he sat in his bedroom after the ball, into which sanctuary I had
followed him to talk a little before turning in.

"To discuss the Tressillian," said I. "But that surprises me less, old
fellow, than that you should champion her. What's it for? Has hate
turned to the other thing? Have you come to think that, though she'd
make a very bad mother-in-law, she'd make a charming wife? 'Pon my life,
if you have----"

"Hush! Don't jest!"

I knew by the tone of those three little monosyllables that the Major
was done for--caught, conquered, and fettered by his dangerous foe.

Telfer sat silent for some minutes, looking out of the window where the
dawn was rising over the hills, with a settled gloom upon his face. Then
he rose, and began swinging about the room with his firm cavalry tread,
his arms crossed on his chest, and his head bent down.

"By Heaven! Vane," he said at length, in a tone low, but passionate and
bitter, "I have gone on like a baby or a fool, playing with tools till
they have cut me. Against my will, against my judgment, against reason,
hope, everything, I have lingered in that girl's fascinations till I am
bound by them hand and foot. I cannot deceive myself, I cannot shut the
truth out; it was not honor, nor chivalry, nor friendship that made me
to-night insult the man who spoke jestingly of her; it was love--love as
mad, as reckless, as misplaced, as ever cursed a man and drove him to
his ruin." He paused, breathing hard, with his teeth set, then broke out
again: "I, who held love in such disdain, who have so long kept my
passions in such strong control, who thought no woman had the power to
move me against my will--I love at last, despite myself, though I know
that she is pitiless, that nothing I have said has been able to touch
her into softer feeling, and that, mad as my passion is for her, if her
nature be as hard and haughty as I fear, I dare not, if I could, make
her my wife. No, Vane, no," he went on, hastily, as I interrupted. "She
does not love me, she has no gentler feeling in her; I thought she had,
but I was mistaken. I tried her several times, but she will never
forgive my first injustice to her; and to one with so little softness in
her nature I dare not trust my peace. It were a worse hell even than
that I now endure, to have her with me, loving her as I do, and feel
that her cold heart gave no response to mine; to possess her glorious
beauty, and yet know that her love and her soul were dead in their chill
pride to me----"

He paused again, and leaned against the window, his chest heaving, and
hot tears standing in his haughty eyes, wrung from the very anguish of
his soul. The pride that had never before bent to any human thing, was
now cast in the dust before a woman who never did, and probably never
would, love him in return.



V.

THE DUEL, AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.


The contemptible young puppy, for whom Telfer considered the honor of a
ball from his pistol a great deal too good in the morning, sent
Heavysides, of the 40th, a chum of his found up at the Bad, to claim
"satisfaction," the valor produced in him by Sillery over night having
been kept up since by copious draughts of cognac and Seltzer. Having
signified to Heavysides that the Major would do Mr. Snobley the favor of
shooting him in the retired valley of Königshöhle at sunrise the next
day, I went to tell Telfer, who had a hearty laugh at the young fellow's
challenge.

"I'd give him something to shoot me through the heart," said he,
bitterly, "but I don't suppose he will. He's practised at pigeons, not
at men, probably. I won't hurt him much, but a little lesson will do him
good. Mind nobody in the house gets wind of the affair. Though I make a
fool of myself in her defence, there is no need that she or others
should know it. But if the boy should do for me, tell her, Vane--tell
her," said the Major, shading his eyes with his hand, "that I have
learnt to love her as I never dreamt I should love any woman, and that I
do not blame her for the just lesson she has read me for the rudeness
and the unjust prejudice I indulged in so long towards her. She
retaliated fairly upon me, and God forbid that she should have one hour
of her life embittered through remorse for me."

His voice sank into a whisper as he spoke; then, with an effort, he
forced himself into calmness, and went to play billiards with Marc. This
was the man who, three months before, had told me with such contemptuous
decision that "we need never fall in love unless it's convenient; and
as to caring for a girl who doesn't care for us, that was a weakness
with which he couldn't sympathize at all!"

Late that night, Telfer and I, coming down the stairs, met the
Tressillian going up them to her room. The Major stopped her, and held
out his hand, with a softened light in his eyes. "Will you not bid me
good-bye? I may not see you again."

There was a sadness in his smile bitterly significant to me, but very
likely she didn't see it, not having any key to it, as I had.

Violet turned pale, and I fancied her lips twitched, but it might be the
flickering of the light of the staircase lamps on her face. At any rate,
being a young lady born and bred in good society, she put her hand in
his, with a simple "What! are you going away?"

"Perhaps. At any rate, let us part in peace."

The proud man laughed as he said it, though he was enduring tortures.
Violet heard the laugh, and didn't see the straining anxiety in his
gaze.

She drew her hand rapidly away. "Certainly. _Bon voyage_, Major Telfer,
and good night," she answered, carelessly; and, with a graceful bend,
the Tressillian floated on up the stairs with the dignity of a young
empress.

Telfer looked after the white gossamer dress and the beautiful head,
with its wreath of scarlet flowers, and an iron sternness settled on his
face. All hope was gone now. She could not have parted with him like
this if she had cared for him one straw more than for the flowers in her
hair. Yet, in the morning, he was going to risk his life for her. Ah,
well! I've always seen that in love there's one of the two who gives all
and gets nothing.

In the morning, by five o'clock, in the valley of Königshöhle, a snug
bit of pasture land between two rocks, where no gendarme could pounce
upon us, young Snobley made his appearance to enjoy the honor of being
a target for one of the best shots in Europe. Snobley had a good deal of
swagger and would-be dash, and made a great show of pluck, which your
man of true pluck never does. Telfer stood talking to me up to the last
minute, took his pistol carelessly in his hand, and, without taking any
apparent aim, fired.

If Telfer made up his mind to shoot off your fifth waistcoat-button,
your fifth waistcoat-button would be irrevocably doomed; and therefore,
having determined to himself to lodge a bullet in this young puppy's
left wrist, in the left wrist did the ball lodge. Snobley was
"satisfied," very amply satisfied, I fancy, by his looks. He'd fired,
and sent his shot right into the trunk of a chestnut growing some seven
yards off his opponent, to Heavyside's supreme scorn.

"That'll teach him not to talk of young ladies in his Mabille slang,"
said Telfer, lighting his cigar. "I hope the little snob may be the
better for my lesson. Now I am _en route_, I'll go over to
Pipesandbeersbad, breakfast at the Hôtel de France, and go and see
Humbugandschwerinn: he wants me to look at some English racers Brookes
has just sent him over. Make my excuses at Essellau; and I say, Vane,
see if you can't get us away in a day or two; have some call home, or
something, for I shall never stand this long."

With which not over-clear speech the Major mounted his horse and
cantered off towards the Bad.

I rode back; went to my own room, had some chocolate, read Pigault le
Brun, and about noon, seeing Virginie, the Tressillian, and several
others out on the terrace, went to join them. Marc slipped his arm
through mine and drew me aside.

"I say, Vane, what's all this about Telfer striking some fellow for
talking about the Tressillian? Staurmgaurn was over here just now, and
told me there was a row in the card-room at Humbugandschwerinn's
between Telfer and another Englishman. I knew nothing about it. Is it
true?"

"So far true," I answered, "that Telfer put a ball in the youth's wrist
at seven o'clock this morning; and serve him right too--he's an impudent
young snob."

"By Jove!" cried Marc, "what in the world made him take the
Tressillian's part? Have the _beaux yeux_ really made an impression on
the most unimpressionable of men?"

"The devil they have," said I, crossly; "but I wish she'd been at the
deuce first, for he's too good a fellow to waste his best years pining
after a pair of dark eyes."

Marc shrugged his shoulders. "_C'est vrai_; but we're all fools some
time or other. The idea of Telfer's chivalry! I declare it's quite like
the old days of Froissart and Commines--fighting for my lady's favor."
And away he went, singing those two famous lines from Alcyonée:

  Pour mériter son coeur, pour plaire à ses beaux yeux,
  J'ai fait la guerre aux rois: je l'aurais faite aux dieux;

and I thought to myself that if the Tressillian proved a De Longueville,
I could find it in my soul to shoot her without remorse.

But as I turned away from Marc, I came upon her, looking pale and ill
enough to satisfy anybody. The color flushed into her cheeks as she saw
me; we spoke of the weather, the chances of storm, Floss's new collar,
and other trifles; then she asked me, bending over her little dog,--

"Is Captain Staurmgaurn's news true, that your friend has--has been
quarrelling with a young Englishman?"

"Yes," I answered. "I wonder Staurmgaurn told you; it is scarcely a
topic to interest ladies. Telfer has given the young gentleman a
well-merited lesson."

"Have they fought?" she asked, breathlessly, laying her hand on my arm,
and looking as white as a ghost.

"Yes, they have," said I; "and he fought, Miss Tressillian, for one who
gave him a very cold adieu last night."

Her head drooped, she trembled perceptibly, and the color rushed back to
her cheeks.

"Is he safe?" she asked, in the lowest of whispers.

"Quite," I answered, quickly, as De Tintiniac lounged up to us; and I
left my words, like a prudent diplomatist, to bear fruit as best they
might.

I wondered if she cared for him, or if it was merely a girl's natural
feeling for a man who had let himself be shot at, rather than hear a
light word spoken of her. But they were both so deuced proud, Heaven's
special intervention alone seemed likely to bring them together.

The Major didn't come home from Pipesandbeersbad till between two and
three that night, and he's told me since that being _un peu fou_ with
his self-willed and vehement passion, never went to bed at all, but sat
and walked about his room smoking, unable to sleep, in a frame of mind
that, when sane, a few months before, he would have pronounced spoony
and contemptible in the lowest degree. At eight he strode forth into the
park, brushing off the dew with his impatient steps, glad of the fresh
morning air upon his brow, which was as burning as our first headache
from "that cursed punch of Jones's," the day after our "first wine,"
which acute suffering any gentleman who ever tasted that delicious
_mélange_ of rum and milk and lemons, will keenly recall among other
passed-away passages of his green youth.

Telfer strode on and on, over the molehills and through the ferns, down
this slope and up that, under the oaks, and lindens, and fir-trees
gleaming red beneath the October sun, with very little notion of where
he was going or what he was doing, a great stag-hound of Marc's
following at his heels. The path he took, without thinking, led him to
the top of a rock overhanging the Beersbad, where that historic stream
was but a few yards in width; and here Telfer, lying down with his head
against a plane-tree, struck a fusee and lighted a cigar--for a weed's a
pleasant companion in any stage of existence: if we're happy we smoke in
the fulness of our hearts, and build airy castles on each fragrant
cloud; and if we're unhappy, we smoke to console ourselves, and draw in
with each whiff philosophy and peace. So the Major smoked and thought,
till a bark from the staghound made him look up. On the top of the
cliffs on the other side of the stream, looking down into the valleys
below, with her head turned away from him, stood Violet Tressillian; and
at the sight of that graceful figure, with its indescribable high-bred
air, I don't doubt the Major's once unimpressive heart beat faster than
it had ever done in a charge or a skirmish. She was full twenty feet
above him, and the rocks on which she stood sloped precipitately down to
a ledge exactly opposite that on which he lay smoking--a ledge in
reality but a few inches wide, but to which the treacherous boughs and
ferns waving over it gave a semblance of a firm broad footing--a
semblance which (like a good many other things one meets with) it
utterly failed to carry out when you came to try it.

Violet, not seeing Telfer lying _perdu_ among the grass at the foot of
his plane-tree, walked along to the edge of the cliff, her eyes on the
ground, so deep in thought that she never noticed the river beneath, but
began to descend the slope, little Floss coming with exceeding
trepidation after her. Telfer sprang up to warn her. "Violet! Violet! go
back! go back! Oh! my God, do you not hear?"

His passionate tones startled her. Never dreaming he was there, she
looked hurriedly up; her foot slipped; unable to stay her descent, she
came down the steep cliff with an impetus which, to a certainty, would
send her over the narrow ledge into the river below--a fall of full
thirty feet. To see her perish thus before his eyes--die thus while he
stood calmly by! A whole age of torture was crowded into the misery of
that one brief moment. There was but one way to save her. He sprang
across the gulf that parted them, while the river in its straitened bed
hissed and foamed beneath him, and, standing on the narrow ledge, where
there seemed scarce footing for a dog, he caught her as she fell in his
iron grasp, as little swayed by the shock as the rock on which he stood.
Holding her tight to him with one arm, he swung himself down by the
other to a less dangerous position, on a flat plateau of cliff, and
leaning against one of the linden-trees on its summit, he bent over her;
his eyes dim, and his pulses beating with the emotions he had controlled
while he wanted cool thought and firm nerve to save her, but over which
he had no more power now. He pressed her to his heart, forgetting pride,
and doubt, and fear; and Violet, by way of answer, only burst into a
passion of tears. Who would have recognized the proud, brilliant
Tressillian, in the pale, trembling woman who sobbed on his breast with
the _abandon_ of a child, and who, at his passionate kisses, only
blushed like a wild rose?

Telfer evidently thought the transformation complete, for he forgot all
his reserve resolutions and hauteur, and poured out the tenderest love
for a girl who, three months before, he had wished at the devil! And the
Tressillian was conquered at last; she was pitiless no longer, and,
having vanquished him, was, woman-like, ready to be a slave to her
captive; and her eyes were never more dangerous than now, when, shy and
softened, they looked up through their tears into Telfer's.

What old De Tintiniac said of her was true, that all her beauty wanted
to make it perfect was for her to be in love!

So at least I thought, when, several hours afterwards, I met them coming
across the park, and I knew by the gleam of the Major's eyes that he
had lost Calceolaria and won Violet.

"How strange it is," laughed Telfer that evening, when they were alone
in the conservatory, "that you and I, who so hated each other, should
now be so dear to one another. Oh, Violet! how ashamed I have been since
of my unjustifiable prejudices, my abominable discourtesy----"

"You _were_ dreadfully rude," said the Tressillian, smiling; "and judged
me very cruelly by all the false reports that women chose to gossip of
me. But you are wrong. I never hated you. Your father had spoken of you
as so generous, so noble, so chivalrous a soldier, so kind a son, that I
was prepared to admire you immensely, and when you looked so sternly on
me at our first introduction, and I overheard your bitter words about me
at the station, I really was never more vexed and disappointed in my
life. And then a demon entered into me, and I thought--forgive me,
Hamilton--that I would try to make you repent your hasty judgment and
recant your prejudices. But I could not always fight you with the
coolness I wished; your indifference began to pique me more and more.
Wounds from you ranked as they did from no one else, and something
besides pride made me feel your neglect so keenly. I had meant--yes, I
must tell you all," and the Tressillian, in her soft repentance, looked,
Telfer thought, more bewitching than in her most brilliant moments--"I
had wished," she went on in a whisper, with her color bright, "to make
you regret your injustice, to conquer your stubborn pride, and to
revenge myself on you for all the wrong you had done me in thoughts and
words. But, you see, I wasn't so strong as I fancied; I thought I could
fence with the buttons on, but I was mistaken, and--and--when I heard
that you had fought for me, I knew then that----" And Violet stopped
with a smile and a sigh; the sigh for the past, I suppose, and the smile
for the present.

"Well, _nous sommes quittes_, dearest," smiled Telfer. "Thank Heaven! we
no longer need reproach each other. Too many elevate the one they love
into an ideal of such superhuman excellence, that at the first shadow of
mortality they see their poor idol is shivered from its pedestal. But we
have seen the worst side of each other's character, Violet, and
henceforth love shall cover all faults, and subdue all pride between
us."

Telfer kept his word. They had had their last quarrel, and buried their
last suspicion before their marriage, and were not, like the generality,
doves first and tigers after. The governor, of course, was charmed that
a match on which he had secretly set his heart had brought itself about
so neatly without his interference. He had begun to despair of his son's
ever giving Torwood a mistress, and the diamonds he gave Violet, in the
excess of his pleasure, brought her no end of female enemies, for they
were some of the finest water in the kingdom. Seldom, indeed, has
slander been productive of such good fruits, for rarely, _very_ rarely,
does that Upas-tree put forth any but Dead Sea apples.

Violet Tressillian _was_ Violet Telfer before the Christmas recess, but
I considered the bet drawn. So Telfer and I exchanged the roan filly and
the colt, and Calceolaria in the Torwood stables, and Jockey Club in my
stalls, stand witnesses to this day of OUR WAGER, AND HOW THE MAJOR LOST
AND WON.



OUR COUNTRY QUARTERS.



OUR COUNTRY QUARTERS.


I remember well the day that we (that is the 110th Lancers) were ordered
down to Layton Rise. Savage enough we all were to quit P---- for that
detestable country place. Many and miserable were the tales we raked up
of the _ennui_ we had experienced at other provincial quarters; sadly we
dressed for Lady Dashwood's ball, the last _soirée_ before our
departure. And then the bills and the _billets-doux_ that rained down
upon our devoted heads!

However, by some miracle we escaped them all; and on a bright April
morning, 184-, we were _en route_ for this Layton Rise, this _terra
incognita_, as grumpy and as seedy as ever any poor demons were. But
there was no help for it; so leaving, we flattered ourselves, a great
many hearts the heavier for this order from the Horse Guards, we, as I
said, set out for Layton Rise.

The only bit of good news that provoking morning had brought was that my
particular chum, Drummond Fane, a captain of ours, who had been cutting
about on leave from Constantinople to Kamtchatka for the last six
months, would join us at Layton. Fane was really a good fellow, a
perfect gentleman (_ça va sans dire_, as he was one of _ours_),
intensely plucky, knew, I believe, every language under the sun, and, as
he had been tumbling about in the world ever since he went to Eton at
eight years old, had done everything, seen everything, and could talk on
every possible subject. He was a great favorite with ladies: I always
wonder they did not quite spoil him. I have seen a young lady actually
neglect a most eligible heir to a dukedom, that her mamma had been at
great pains to procure for her, if this "fascinating younger son" were
by. For Fane _was_ the younger son of the Earl of Avanley, and would, of
course, every one said, one day retrieve his fortunes by marriage with
some heiress in want of rank.

He has been my great friend ever since I, a small youth, spoiled by
having come into my property while in the nursery, became his fag at
Eton: and when I bought my commission in the 110th, of which he was a
captain, our intimacy increased.

But _revenons à nos moutons_. On the road we naturally talked of Layton,
wondering if there was any one fit to visit, anybody that gave good
dinners, if there was a pack of hounds, a billiard-room, or any pretty
girls. Suddenly the Honorable Ennuyé L'Estrange threw a little light on
the matter, by recollecting, "now he thought of it, he believed that was
where an uncle of his lived; his name was Aspi--Aspinall--no! Aspeden."
"Had he any cousins?" was the inquiry. He "y'ally could not remember!"
So we were left to conjure up imaginary Miss Aspedens, more handsome
than their honorable cousin, who might relieve for us the monotony of
country quarters. The sun was very bright as we entered Layton Rise; the
clattering and clashing that we made soon brought out the inhabitants,
and, lying in the light of a spring day, it did not seem such a very
miserable little town after all. Our mess was established at the one
good inn of the one good street of the place, and I and two other young
subs fixed our residence at a grocer's, where a card of "Lodgings to let
furnished" was embordered in vine-leaves and roses.

As I was leaning out of the window smoking my last cigar before mess,
with Sydney and Mounteagle stretched in equally elegant attitudes on
equally hard sofas, I heard our grocer, a sleek little Methodist,
addressing some party in the street with--"I fear me I have done evil in
admitting these young servants of Satan into mine habitation!" "Well,
Nathan," replied a Quaker, "thou didst it for the best, and verily these
officers seem quiet and gentlemanly youths." "Gentlemanlike," I should
say we were, _rather_--but "quiet!"--how we shouted over the innocent
"Friend's" mistake. Here the voices again resumed. "Doubtless, when the
Aspedens return, there will be dances and devices of the Evil One, and
Quelps will make a good time of it; however, the custom of ungodly men I
would not take were it offered!" So these Aspedens were out--confound
it! But the clock struck six; so, flinging the remains of my cigar on
the Quaker's broad-brimmed hat, adorned with which ornament he walked
unconsciously away, we strolled down to the mess-room.

A few hours later some of them met in my room, and having sent out for
some cards, which the grocer kindly wrapped in a tract against gambling,
we had just sat down to loo, when the door was thrown open, and Captain
Fane announced. A welcome addition!

"Fane, by all that's glorious!"--"Well, young one, how are you?" were
the only salutations that passed between two men who were as true
friends as any in England. Fane was soon seated among us, and telling us
many a joke and tale. "And so," said he, "we're sent down to ruralize?
(Mounteagle, you are 'loo'd.') Any one you know here?"

"Not a creature! I am awfully afraid we shall be found dead of _ennui_
one fine morning. I'll thank you for a little more punch, Fitzspur,"
said Sydney. "I suppose, as usual, Fane," he continued, "you left at the
very least twelve dozen German princesses, Italian marchesas, and French
countesses dying for you?"

"My dear fellow," replied Fane, "you are considerably under the mark
(I'll take 'miss,' Paget!); but really, if women _will_ fall in love
with you, how _can_ you help it? And if you _will_ flirt with them, how
can they help it?"

"I see, Fane, _your_ heart is as strong as ever," I added, laughing.

"Of course," answered the gallant captain; "disinterested love is
reserved for men who are too rich or too poor to mind its attendant
evils. (The first, I must say, very rarely profit by the privilege!) No!
I steel myself against all bright eyes and dancing curls not backed by a
good dowry. Heiresses, though, somehow, are always plain; I never could
do my duty and propose to one, though, of course, whenever I _do_
surrender my liberty, which I have not the smallest intention of at
present, it will be to somebody with at least fifty thousand a year.
Hearts trumps, Mount?"

"Yes--hurrah! Paget's loo'd at last.--Here, my dear, let us have lots
more punch!" said Mounteagle, addressing the female domestic, who was
standing open-mouthed at the glittering pool of half-sovereigns.

I will spare the gentle reader--if I _may_ flatter myself that I
entertain a _few_ such--a recital of the conversation which followed,
and which was kept up until the very, very "small hours;" also I will
leave it to her imagination to picture how we spent the next few days,
how we found out a few families worth visiting, how we inspired the
Layton youths with a vehement passion for smoking, billiards, and the
cavalry branch of the service, and how we and our gay uniforms and our
prancing horses were the admiration of all the young damsels in the
place.

One morning after parade, Fane and I, having nothing better to do,
lighted our cigars and strolled down one of those shady lanes which
almost reconcile one to the country--_out_ of the London season. Seeing
the gate of a park standing invitingly open, we walked in and threw
ourselves down under the trees. "Now we are in for it," said Fane, "if
we are trespassing, and any adventurous-minded gamekeeper appears. Whose
park is this?"

"Mr. Aspeden's, Ennuyé told me. It's rather a nice place," I replied.

"And that castle, of which mine eyes behold the turrets afar off?" he
asked.

"Lord Linton's, I believe; the father of Jack Vernon, of the Rifles, you
know," I answered.

"Indeed! I never saw the old gentleman, but I remember his daughter
Beatrice,--we had rather a desperate flirtation at Baden-Baden. She's a
showy-looking girl," said the captain, stretching himself on the grass.

"Why did you not allow her the sublime felicity of becoming Lady
Beatrice Fane?" I asked, laughing.

"My dear fellow, she had not a _sou_! That old marquis is as poor as a
church-mouse. You forget that I am only a younger son, with not much
besides my pay, and cannot afford to marry anywhere I like. I am not in
your happy position, able to espouse any pretty face I may chance to
take a fancy to. It would be utter madness in me. Do you think _I_ was
made for a little house, one maid-servant, dinner at noon, and six small
children? _Very_ much obliged to you, but love in a cottage is not _my_
style, Fred; besides _j'aime à vivre garçon_!" added Fane.

"_Et moi aussi!_" said I. "Really the girls one meets seem all tarlatan
and coquetry. I have never seen one worth committing matrimony for."

"Hear him!" cried Fane. "Here is the happy owner of Wilmot Park, at the
advanced age of twenty, despairing of ever finding anything more worthy
of his affection than his moustaches! Oh, what will the boys come to
next? But, eureka! here comes a pretty girl if you like. Who on earth is
she?" he exclaimed, raising his eye-glass to a party advancing up the
avenue who really seemed worthy the attention.

Pulling at the bridle of a donkey, "what wouldn't go," with all her
might, was indeed a pretty girl. Her hat had fallen off and showed a
quantity of bright hair and a lovely face, with the largest and darkest
of eyes, and a mouth now wreathing with smiles. Unconscious of our
vicinity, on she came, laughing, and beseeching a little boy, seated on
the aforesaid donkey, and thumping thereupon with, a large stick, "not
to be so cruel and hurt poor Dapple." At this juncture the restive steed
gave a vigorous stride, and toppling its rider on the grass, trotted off
with a self-satisfied air; but Fane, intending to make the rebellious
charger a means of introduction, caught his bridle and led him back to
his discomfited master. The young lady, who was endeavoring to pacify
the child, looked prettier than ever as she smiled and thanked him. But
the gallant captain was not going to let the matter drop _here_, so,
turning to the youthful rider, he asked him to let him put him on "the
naughty donkey again." Master Tommy acquiesced, and, armed with his
terrible stick, allowed himself to be mounted. Certainly Fane was a most
unnecessary length of time settling that child, but then he was talking
to the young lady, whom he begged to allow him to lead the donkey home.

"Oh! no, she was quite used to Dapple; she could manage him very well,
and they were going farther." So poor Fane had nothing for it but to
raise his hat and gaze at her through his eye-glass until some trees hid
her from sight.

"'Pon my word, that's a pretty girl!" said he, at length. "I wonder who
she can be! However, I shall soon find out. Have another weed, Fred?"

There was to be a ball that night at the Assembly Rooms, which we were
assured only the "_best_ families" would attend for Layton was a very
exclusive little town in its way. Some of us who were going were
standing about the mess-room, recalling the many good balls and pretty
girls of our late quarters, when Fane, who had declined to go, as he
said he had a horror of "bad dancing, bad perfumes, bad ventilation, and
bad champagne, and really could not stand the concentration of all of
them, which he foresaw that night," to our surprise declared his
intention of accompanying us.

"I suppose, Fane, you hope to see your heroine of the donkey again?"
asked Sydney.

"Precisely," was Fane's reply; "or if not, to find out who she is. But
here comes Ennuyé, got up no end to fascinate the belles of Layton!"

"The Aspedens are home; I saw 'em to-day," were the words of the
honorable cornet, as he lounged into the room. "My uncle seems rather a
brick, and hopes to make the acquaintance of all of you. He will mess
with us to-morrow."

"Have you any _belles cousines_?"--"Are they going to-night?" we
inquired.

"Yaas, I saw one; she's rather pretty," said L'Estrange.

"Dark eyes--golden hair--about eighteen?" demanded Fane, eagerly.

"Not a bit of it," replied the cornet, curling his moustache, and
contemplating himself in the glass with very great satisfaction; "hair's
as dark as mine, and eyes--y'ally I forget. But, let's have loo or
whist, or something; we need not go for ages!" So down we sat, and soon
nothing was heard but "Two by honors and the trick!" "Game and game!"
&c., until about twelve, when we rose and adjourned to the ball-room.

No sooner had we entered the room than Fane exclaimed, "There's my
houri, by all that's glorious! and looking lovelier than ever. By Jove!
that girl's too good for a country ball-room!" And there, in truth,
waltzing like a sylph, was, as Sydney called her, the "heroine of the
donkey." The dance over, we saw her join a party at the top of the room,
consisting of a handsome but _passée_ woman, a lovely Hebe-like girl
with dancing eyes, and a number of gentlemen, with whom they seemed to
be keeping up an animated conversation.

"Ennuyé is with them--he will introduce me," said Fane, as he swept up
the room.

I watched him bow, and, after talking a few minutes, lead off his
"houri" for a _valse_; and disengaging myself from a Cambridge friend
whom I had met with, I professed my intention of following his example.

"What? Who did you say? That girl at the top there? Why, man, that's my
cousin Mary, and the other lady is my most revered aunt, Mrs. Aspeden.
Did you not know I and Ennuyé were related? Y'ally I forget how,
exactly," he continued, mimicking the cornet. "But do you want to be
introduced to her? Come along then."

So, following my friend, who was a Trinity-man, of the name of
Cleaveland, I soon made acquaintance with Mrs. Aspeden and her daughter
Mary.

"_Who_ is he?" I heard Mrs. Aspeden ask, in a low tone, of Tom
Cleaveland, as I led off Mary to the _valse_.

"A very good fellow," was the good-natured Cantab's reply, "with lots of
tin and a glorious place. The shooting at Wilmot is really----"

"_Bien!_" said his aunt, as she took Lord Linton's arm to the
refreshment-room, satisfied, I suppose, on the strength of my "lots of
tin," that I was a safe companion for her child.

I found Mary Aspeden a most agreeable partner for a _dance_; she was
lively, agreeable, and a coquette, I felt sure (women with those dancing
eyes always are), and I thought I could not do better than amuse myself
by getting up a flirtation with her. What an intensely good opinion I
had of myself then! So I condescended to dance, though it was not
Almack's, and actually permitted myself to be amused. Strolling through
the rooms with Mary Aspeden on my arm, we entered one in which was an
alcove fitted up with a _vis-à-vis_ sofa (whoever planned that Layton
ball-room had a sympathy in the bottom of his heart for _tête-à-tête_),
and here Fane was seated, talking to his "houri" with the soft voice and
winning smiles which had gained the heart, or at least what portion of
that member they possessed, of so many London belles, and which would do
their work _here_ most assuredly.

"There is my cousin Florence--ah! she does not observe us. Who is the
gentleman with her?" said Miss Aspeden.

"My friend, Captain Fane," I replied. "You have heard of their rencontre
this morning?"

"Indeed! is he Tommy's champion, of whom he has done nothing but talk
all day, and of whom I could not make Florence say one word?" asked
Mary. "You must know our donkey is the most determined and resolute of
animals: if she 'will, she will,' you may depend upon it!" she
continued.

"Do you honor those most untrue lines upon ladies by a quotation?" I
asked.

"I do not think they _are_ so very untrue," laughed Mary, "except in
confining obstinacy to us poor women and exempting the 'lords of the
creation.' The Scotch adage knows better. 'A wilful _man_----' You know
the rest."

"Quite well," I replied; "but another poet's lines on _you_ are far more
true. 'Ye are stars of the----'" I commenced.

"Mary, my love, let me introduce you to Lord Craigarven," said Mrs.
Aspeden, coming up with Lord Linton's heir-apparent.

At the same time I was introduced to Mr. Aspeden, a hearty Englishman,
loving his horses, his dogs, and his daughter; and as much the inferior
of his aristocratic-looking wife in _intellect_ as he was her superior
in _heart_. When we parted that night he gave Fane and me a most
hospitable general invitation, and, what was more, an especial one for
the next night. As we walked home "i' the grey o' the morning," I asked
Fane who his "houri" was.

"A niece of Mr. Aspeden's, and cousin to your friend Cleaveland," was
the reply. "Those Aspedens really seem to be uncle and aunt to every
one. She is staying there now."

"So is Tom Cleaveland," said I. "But, pray, are your expectations quite
realized? Is she as charming as she looks, this Miss Florence----"

"Aspeden?" added Fane. "Yes, quite. But here are my quarters; so good
night, old fellow."

We had soon established ourselves as _amis de la maison_ at Woodlands,
the Aspedens' place, and found him, as his nephew had stated, "rather a
brick," and her daughter and niece something more. All of us, especially
Fane and I, spent the best part of our time there, lounging away the
days between the shady lanes, the little lake, and the music or
billiard-rooms. Fane seemed entirely to appropriate Florence, and to
fascinate her as he had fascinated so many others. I really felt angry
with him; for, as Tom Cleaveland had candidly told me that poor Florie
had not a rap--her father had run through all his property and left her
an orphan, and a very poor one too--of course Fane could not marry her,
but would, I feared, "ride away" some day, like the "gay dragoon,"
heartwhole _himself_--but would _she_ come out as scatheless? Poor
Mounteagle, too, was getting quite spooney about Florence, and, owing to
Fane, she paid him no more heed than if he had been an old dried-up
Indianized major. _He_, poor fellow! followed her about everywhere,
asked her to dance in quite an insane manner, and made the most
horrible revokes in whist and mistakes in pool that can be imagined.

"By George! she is pretty, and no mistake!" said Sydney, as Florence
rode past us one day as we were sauntering down Layton, looking
charmingly _en amazone_.

"Pretty! I should rather think so. She is more beautiful than any other
woman upon earth!" cried Mounteagle.

"Y'ally! well, I can't see _that_," replied Ennuyé. "She has tolerably
good eyes, but she is too _petite_ to please me."

"Ah! the adjutant's girls have rendered L'Estrange _difficile_. He
cannot expect to meet _their_ equals in a hurry!" said Fane, in a very
audible aside.

Poor Ennuyé was silenced--nay, he even blushed. The adjutant's girls
recalled an episode in which the gallant cornet had shone in a rather
verdant light. Fane had effectually quieted him.

"I wonder if Florence Aspeden will marry Mount?" I remarked to Fane,
when the others had left us. "She does not seem to pay him much heed
_yet_; but still----"

"The devil, no!" cried Fane, in an unusually energetic manner. "I would
stake my life she would not have such a muff as that, if he owned half
the titles in the peerage!"

"You seem rather excited about the matter," I observed. "It would not be
such a bad match for her, for you know she has no tin; but I am sure,
with your opinion on love-matches, you would not counsel Mount to such a
step."

"Of course not!" replied Fane, in his ordinary cool tones. "A man has no
right to marry for love, except he is one of those fortunate individuals
who own half a county, or some country doctor or parson of whom the
world takes no notice. There may be a few exceptions. But yet," he
continued, with the air of a person trying to convince himself against
his will, "did you ever see a love match turn out happily? It is all
very well for the first week, but the roses won't bloom in winter, and
then the cottage walls look ugly. Then a fellow cannot live as he did
_en garçon_, and all his friends drop him, and altogether it is an act
no wise man would perpetrate. But I shall forget to give you a message I
was intrusted with. They are going to get up some theatricals at
Woodlands. I have promised to take _Sir Thomas Clifford_ (the piece is
the 'Hunchback'). and they want you to play _Modus_ to Mary Aspeden's
_Helen_. Do, old fellow. Acting is very good fun with a pretty girl----"

"Like the _Julia_ you will have, I suppose," I said. "Very well, I will
be amiable and take it. Mary will make a first-rate _Helen_. Come and
have a game of billiards, will you?"

"Can't," replied the gallant captain. "I promised to go in half an hour
with--with the Aspedens to see some waterfall or ruin, or something, and
the time is up. So, _au revoir, monsieur_."

Many of ours were pressed into the service for the coming theatricals,
and right willingly did we rehearse a most unnecessary number of times.
Many merry hours did we spend at Woodlands, and I sentimentalized away
desperately to Mary Aspeden; but, somehow or other, always had an
uncomfortable suspicion that she was laughing at me. She never seemed
the least impressed by all my gallantries and pretty speeches, which was
peculiarly mortifying to a moustached cornet of twenty, who thought
himself irresistible. I began, too, to get terribly jealous of Tom
Cleaveland, who, by right of his cousinship, arrived at a degree of
intimacy _I_ could not attain.

One morning Fane and I (who were going to dine there that evening), the
Miss Aspedens, and, of course, that Tom Cleaveland, were sitting in the
drawing-room at Woodlands. Fane and Florence were going it at some
opera airs (what passionate emphasis that wicked fellow gave the loving
Italian words as his rich voice rolled them out to her accompaniment!),
the detestable Trinity-man had been discoursing away to Mary on
boat-racing, outriggers, bumping, and Heaven knows what, and I was just
taking the shine out of him with the description of a shipwreck I had
had in the Mediterranean, when Mary, who sat working at her _broderie_,
and provokingly giving just as sweet smiles to the one as to the other,
interrupted me with--

"Goodness, Florie, there is Mr. Mills coming up the avenue. He is my
cousin's admirer and admiration!" she added, mischievously, as the door
opened, and a little man about forty entered.

There was all over him the essence of the country. You saw at once he
had never passed a season in London. His very boots proclaimed he had
never been presented; and we felt almost convulsed with laughter as he
shook hands with us all round, and attempted a most _empressé_ manner
with Florence.

"Beautiful weather we have now," remarked Mrs. Aspeden.

"She is indeed!" answered the little squire, with a gaze of admiration
at Florence.

Fane, who was leaning against the mantelpiece, looking most superbly
haughty and unapproachable, shot an annihilating glance at the small
man, which would have quite extinguished him had he seen it.

"The country is very pretty in June," said Mrs. Aspeden, hazarding
another original remark.

"Lovely--too lovely!" echoed Mr. Mills, with a profound sigh, at which
the country must have felt exceedingly flattered.

"Glorious creature your new mare is, Mr. Mills," cried the Cantab;
"splendid style she took the fences in yesterday."

"Wilkins may well say she is the _belle_ of the county!" continued Mr.
Mills, dreamily. "I beg your pardon, what did you say? my mother took
the fences well? No, she never hunts."

"Pray tell Mrs. Mills I am very much obliged for the beautiful azalias
she sent me," interposed Florence, with her sweet smile.

"I--I am sure anything we have _you_ are welcome to. I--I--allow me----"
And the poor squire, stooping for Florence's thimble, upset a tiny
table, on which stood a vase with the azalias in question, on the back
of a little bull of a spaniel, who yelled, and barked, and flew at the
squire's legs, who, for his part, became speechless from fright,
reddened all over, and at last, stammering out that he wanted to see Mr.
Aspeden, and would go to him in the grounds, rushed from the room.

We all burst out laughing at this climax of the poor little man's
misery.

"I will not have you laugh at him so," said Florence, at length. "I know
him to be truly good and charitable, for all his peculiarities of
manner."

"It is but right Miss Aspeden should defend a _soupirant_ so charming in
every way," said the captain, his moustache curling contemptuously.

"Oh! Florie's made an out-and-out conquest, and no mistake!" cried Tom
Cleaveland.

Florence did not heed her cousin, but looked up in Fane's face, utterly
astonished at his sarcastic tones. No man could have withstood that look
of those large, beautiful eyes, and Fane bent down and asked her to sing
"_Roberto, oh tu che adoro!_"

"Yes, that will just do. Robert is his name; pity he is not here to hear
it. 'Robert Mills, _oh tu che adoro!_'" sang the inexorable Cantab, as
he walked across the room and asked Mary to have a game of billiards.
For once I had the pleasure of forestalling him, but he, nevertheless,
came and marked for us in a very amiable manner. "How well you play,
Mary," said he. "Really, stunningly for a woman. Do you know Beauchamp
of Kings won three whole pools the other day without losing a life!"

"Indeed!" said Mary. "What good fun it is to see Mr. Mills play; he
holds his queue as if he were afraid of it."

"I say, Mary," said Cleaveland, "you don't think that Florence will
marry that contemptible little wretch, do you? Hang it, I should be
savage if she had not better taste. There's a cannon."

"She has better taste," replied Mary, in a low tone, as Mrs. Aspeden and
Fane entered the room.

I never could like Mrs. Aspeden--peace be with her now, poor woman--but
there was such a want of delicacy and tact, and such open manoeuvring
in all she did, which surprised me, clever woman as she was.

No sooner had she approached the billiard-table that day, than she
began:

"Florence was called away from her singing to a conference with her
uncle, and--with somebody else, I fancy." (Fane darted a keen look of
inquiry at her.) "Poor dear girl! being left so young an orphan, I have
always felt such a great interest and affection for her, and I shall
rejoice to see her happily settled as--as I trust there is a prospect of
now," she continued.

Could she mean Florence Aspeden had engaged herself to Mr. Mills? A
roguish smile on Mary's face reassured me, but Fane walked hastily to
the window, and stood with folded arms looking out upon the sunny
landscape.

Inveterate flirt that he was, his pride was hurt at the idea of a rival,
and _such_ a rival, winning in a game in which _he_ deigned to have
_ever_ so small a stake, _ever_ such a passing interest!

The dinner passed off heavily--_very_ heavily--for gay Woodlands, for
the gallant captain and Florence were both of them _distraits_ and
_gênés_, and he hardly spoke to the poor girl. Oh, wicked Fane!

We sat but little time after the ladies had retired, and Tom and Mr.
Aspeden going after some horse or other, Fane and I ascended to the
drawing-room alone. It was unoccupied, and we sat down to await them, I
amusing myself with teaching Master Tommy, the young heir of Woodlands,
some comic songs, wherewith to astonish his nurse pretty considerably,
and Fane leaning back in an arm-chair, with Florence's dog upon his knee
in _that_, for _him_, most extraordinary thing, a "brown study."

Suddenly some voices were heard in the next room.

"Florence, it is your duty, recollect."

"Aunt, I can recollect nothing, save that it would be far, far worse
than death to me to marry Mr. Mills. I hold it dread sin to marry a man
for whom one can have nothing but contempt. Once for all, I cannot,--I
will not."

Here the voice was broken with sobs. Fane had raised his head eagerly at
the commencement of the dialogue, but now, recollecting that we were
listeners, rose, and closed the door. I did not say a word on the
conversation we had just heard, for I felt out of patience with him for
his heartless flirtation; so, taking up a book on Italy, I looked over
the engravings for a little time, and then, Tommy having been conveyed
to the nursery in a state of rebellion, I reminded Fane of a promise he
had once made to accompany me to Rome the next winter, and asked him if
he intended to fulfil it.

"Really, my dear fellow, I cannot tell what I may possibly do next
winter; I hate making plans for the future. We may none of us be alive
then," said he, in an unusually dull strain for him: "I half fancy I may
exchange into some regiment going on foreign service. But _l'homme
propose_, you know. By the by, poor Castleton" (his elder brother) "is
very ill at Brussels."

"Yes. I was extremely sorry to hear it, in a letter I had from Vivian
this morning," I replied. "He is at Brussels also, and mentions a
_belle_ there, Lady Adeliza Fitzhowden, with whom, he says, the world is
associating _your_ name. Is it true, Fane?"

"_Les on dit font la gazette des fous!_" cried the captain, impatiently,
stroking Florence's little King Charles. "I saw Lady Adeliza at Paris
last January, but I would not marry her--no! not if there were no other
woman upon earth! I thought, Fred, really you were too sensible to
believe all the scandal raked up by that gossiping Vivian. I do hope you
have not been propagating his most unfounded report?" asked my gallant
friend, in quite an excited tone.

At this moment the ladies entered. Florence with her dark eyes looking
very sad under their long lashes, but they soon brightened when Fane
seated himself by her side, and began talking in a lower tone, and with
even more _tendresse_ than ever.

I had the pleasure of quite eclipsing Tom Cleaveland, I thought, as I
turned over the leaves of Mary's music, and looked unutterable things,
which, however, I fear were all lost, as Mary _would_ look only at the
notes of the piano, and I firmly believe never heard a word I said.

How Florence blushed as Fane whispered his soft good night; she looked
so happy, poor girl, and he, heartless demon, talked of going into
foreign service! By the by, what put that into his head, I wonder?

The night of our grand theatricals at length arrived, and we were all
assembled in the library, converted for the time into a green-room.
Mounteagle was repeating to himself, for the hundredth time, his part of
_Lord Tinsel_; I, in my _Modus_ dress, which I had a disagreeable idea
was not becoming, was endeavoring to make an impression on the
not-to-be impressed Mary, and Florence was looking lovelier than ever in
her rich old-fashioned dress, when Fane entered, and bending, offered
her a bouquet of rare flowers. She blushed deeply as she took it. Oh!
Fane, Fane, what will you have to answer for?

We were waiting the summons for the first scene, when, to Mary's horror,
I suddenly exclaimed that I could not play!

"Good Heavens! why not?" was the general inquiry.

"Why!" I said. "I never thought of it until now, but certainly _Modus_
ought to appear without moustaches, and, hang it, I cannot cut mine
off."

"Take my life, but spare my moustaches!" cried Mary, in tragic tones.
"Certainly though, Mr. Wilmot, you are right; _Modus_ ought not to be
seen with the characteristic 'musk-toshes,' as nurse calls them; of an
English officer. What is to be done?"

"Please, sir, will you come? Major Vaughan says the group is agoing to
be set for the first scene, and you are wanted, sir," was a flunkey's
admonition to Fane, who went off accordingly, after advising me to add a
dishevelled beard to my tenderly cared-for moustaches, which would seem
as if _Modus_ had entirely neglected his toilette.

There was a general rush for part books, a general cry for things that
were not forthcoming, and a general despair on the parts of the youngest
amateurs at forgetting their cues just when they were most wanted.

Fane, when he came off the stage after the first scene, leant against a
pillar to watch the pretty one between _Julia_ and _Helen_, so near that
he must have been seen by the audience, and presented a most handsome
and interesting spectacle, I dare say, for young ladies to gaze at.
Fixing his eyes on Florence, whose rendering of the part was really
perfect as she uttered these words, "Helen, I'm constancy!" he
unconsciously muttered aloud, "I believe it!"

"So do I!" I could not help saying, "and therefore more shame to whoever
wins such a heart to throw it away. 'Beneath her feet, a duke--a duke
might lay his coronet!'" I quoted.

"Are you in love yourself, Fred?" laughed the captain; then, stroking
his moustaches thoughtfully for some minutes, he said at last, as if
with an effort, "You are right, young one, and yet----"

If I was right, what need was there for him to throw such passion into
his part--what need was there for him to say with such _empressement_
those words:

              A willing pupil kneels to thee,
  And lays his title and his fortune at thy feet?

If he intended to go into foreign service, why did he not go at once?
Though I confess it seemed strange to me why Fane--the courted, the
flattered, the admired Fane--should wish to leave England.

Reader, mind, the gallant captain is a desperate flirt, and I do not
believe he will go into foreign service any more than I shall, but I
_am_ afraid he will win that poor girl's heart with far less thought
than you buy your last "little darling French bonnet," and when he is
tired of it will throw it away with quite as little heed. But I was not
so much interested in his flirtation as to forget my own, still I was
obliged to confess that Mary Aspeden did not pay me as much attention as
I should have wished.

I danced the first dance with her, after the play was over--(I forgot to
tell you we were very much applauded)--and Tom Cleaveland engaging her
for the next, I proposed a walk through the conservatories to a
sentimental young lady who was my peculiar aversion, but to whom I
became extremely _dévoué_, for I thought I would try and pique Mary if I
could.

The light strains of dance music floated in from the distance, and the
air was laden with the scent of flowers, and many a _tête-à-tête_ and
_partie carrée_ was arranged in that commodious conservatory.

Half hidden by an orange-tree, Florence Aspeden was leaning back in a
garden-chair, close to where we stood looking out upon the beautiful
night. Her fair face was flushed, and she was nervously picking some of
the blossoms to pieces; before her stood Mounteagle, speaking eagerly. I
was moving away to avoid being a hearer of his love-speech, as I doubted
not it was, but my companion, with many young-ladyish expressions of
adoration of the "sublime moonlight," begged me to stay "one moment,
that she might see the dear moon emerge like a swan from that dark,
beautiful cloud!" and in the pauses of her ecstatics I heard poor
Mount's voice in a tone of intense entreaty.

At that moment Fane passed. He glanced at the group behind the
orange-trees, and his face grew stern and cold, and his lips closed with
that iron compression they always have when he is irritated. His eyes
met Florences, and he bowed haughtily and stiffly as he moved on, and
his upright figure, with its stately head, was seen in the room beyond,
high above any of those around him. A heavy sigh came through the orange
boughs, and her voice whispered, "I--I am very sorry, but----"

"Oh! _do_ look at the moonbeams falling on that darling little piece of
water, Mr. Wilmot!" exclaimed my decidedly _moonstruck_ companion.

"Is there no hope?" cried poor Mount.

"None!" And the low-whispered knell of hope came sighing over the
flowers. I thought how little she guessed there was none for her. Poor
Florence!

"Oh, this night! I could gaze on it forever, though it is saddening in
its sweetness, do not you think?" asked my romantic demoiselle. "Ah!
what a pretty _valse_ they are playing!"

"May I have the pleasure of dancing it with you?" I felt myself obliged
to ask, although intensely victimized thereby, as I hate dancing, and
wonder whatever idiot invented it.

Miss Chesney, considering her devotion to the moon, consented very
joyfully to leave it for the pleasures (?) of a _valse à deux temps_.

As we moved away, I saw that Florence was alone, and apparently occupied
with sad thoughts. She, I dare say, was grieving over Fane's cold bow,
and poor Mount had rushed away somewhere with his great sorrow. Fane
came into my room next morning while I was at breakfast, having been
obliged to get up at the unconscionable hour of ten, to be in time for a
review we were to have that day on Layton Common for the glorification
of the country around.

The gallant captain flung himself on my sofa, and, after puffing away at
his cigar for some minutes, came out with, "Any commands for London? I
am going to apply for leave, and I think I shall start by the express
to-morrow."

"What's in the wind now?" I asked. "Is Lord Avanley unwell?"

"No; the governor's all right, thank you. I am tired of rural felicity,
that is all," replied Fane. "I must stay for this review to-day, or the
colonel would make no end of a row. He is a testy old boy. I rather
think I shall set out, or exchange into the Heavies."

"What in the world have you got into your head, Fane?" I asked, utterly
astonished to see him diligently smoking an extinguished cigar. "I am
sorry you are going to leave us. The 110th will miss you, old fellow;
and what _will_ the Aspedens say to losing their _preux chevalier_? By
the way, speaking of them, poor Mount received his _congé_ last night, I
expect."

"What! are you sure? What did you say?" demanded Fane, stooping to
relight his cigar.

I told him what I had overheard in the conservatory.

"Oh! well--ah! indeed--poor fellow!" ejaculated the captain. "But
there's the bugle-call! I must go and get into harness."

And I followed his example, turning over in my mind, as I donned my
uniform, what might possibly have induced Fane to leave Layton Rise so
suddenly. Was it, at last, pity for Florence? And if it were, would not
the pity come too late?

Layton Rise looked very pretty and bright under the combined influence
of beauty and valor (that is the correct style, is it not?). The
Aspedens came early, and drew up their carriages close to the
flag-staff. Fane's eye-glass soon spied them from our distant corner of
the field, and, as we passed before the flagstaff, he bent low to his
saddle with one of those fascinating smiles which have gone deep to so
many unfortunate young ladies' hearts. Again I felt angry with him, as I
rode along thinking of that girl, her whole future most likely clouded
for ever, and he going away to-morrow to enjoy himself about in the
world, quite reckless of the heart he had broken, and---- But in the
midst of my sentimentalism I was startled by hearing the sharp voice of
old Townsend, our colonel, who was a bit of a martinet, asking poor
Ennuyé "what he lifted his hand for?"

"There was a bee upon my nose, colonel."

"Well, sir, and if there were a whole hive of bees upon your nose, what
right have you to raise your hand on parade?" stormed the colonel.

There was a universal titter, and poor Ennuyé was glad to hide his
confusion in the "charge" which was sounded.

On we dashed our horses at a stretching gallop, our spurs jingling, our
plumes waving in the wind, and our lances gleaming in the sunlight.
Hurrah! there is no charge in the world like the resistless English
dragoons'! On we went, till suddenly there was a piercing cry, and one
of the carriages, in which the ponies had been most negligently left,
broke from the circle and tore headlong down the common, at the bottom
of which was a lake. One young lady alone was in it. It was impossible
for her to pull in the excited little grays, and, unless they _were_
stopped, down they would all go into it. But as soon as it was
perceived, Fane had rushed from the ranks, and, digging his spurs into
his horse, galloped after the carriage. Breathless we watched him. We
would not follow, for we knew that he would do it, if any man could, and
the sound of many in pursuit would only further exasperate the ponies.
Ha! he is nearing them now. Another moment and they will be down the
sloping bank into the lake. The girl gives a wild cry; Fane is straining
every nerve. Bravo! well done---he has saved her! I rushed up, and
arrived to find Fane supporting a half-fainting young lady, in whose
soft face, as it rested on his shoulder, I recognized Florence Aspeden.
Her eyes unclosed as I drew near, and, blushing, she disengaged herself
from his arms. Fane bent his head over her, and murmured, "Thank God, I
have saved you!" But perhaps I did not hear distinctly.

By this time all her friends had gathered round them, and Fane had
consigned her to her cousin's care, and she was endeavoring to thank
him, which her looks, and blushes, and smiles did most eloquently; Mr.
Aspeden was shaking Fane by the hand, and what further might have
happened I know not, if the colonel (very wrathful at such an unseemly
interruption to his cherished manoeuvres) had not shouted out, "Fall
in, gentlemen--fall in! Captain Fane, fall in with your troop, sir!" We
did accordingly fall in, and the review proceeded; but my friend
actually made some mistakes in his evolutions, and kept his eye-glass
immovably fixed on the point in the circle, and behaved altogether in a
_distrait_ manner--Fane, whom I used to accuse of having too much _sang
froid_--whom nothing could possibly disturb--whom I never saw agitated
before in the whole course of my acquaintance!

What an inexplicable fellow he is!

The review over, we joined the Aspedens, and many were the
congratulations Florence had heaped upon her; but she looked
_distraite_, too, until Fane came up, and leaning his hand on the
carriage, bent down and talked to her. Their conversation went on in a
low tone, and as I was busy laughing with Mary, I cannot report it, save
that from the bright blushes on the one hand, and the soft whispered
tones on the other, Fane was clearly at his old and favorite work of
winning hearts.

"You seem quite _occupé_ this morning, Mr. Wilmot," said Mary, in her
winning tones. "I trust you have had no bad news--no order from the
Horse Guards for the Lancers to leave off moustaches."

"No, Miss Aspeden," said Sydney; "if such a calamity as that had
occurred, you would not see Wilmot here, he would never survive the loss
of his moustaches--they are his first and only love."

"And a first affection is never forgotten," added that provoking Mary,
in a most melancholy voice.

"It would be a pity if it were, as it seems such a fertile source of
amusement to you and Miss Aspeden," I said, angrily, to Sydney, too much
of a boy then to take a joke.

"Captain Fane has an invitation for you and Mr. Sydney," said Mary, I
suppose by way of _amende_. "We are going on the river, to a picnic at
the old castle;--you will come?"

The tones were irresistible, so I smoothed down my indignation and my
poor moustache, and replied that I would have that pleasure, as did
Sydney.

"_Bien!_ good-bye, then, for we must hasten home," said Mary, whipping
her ponies. And off bowled the carriage with its fair occupants.

"You won't be here for this picnic, old fellow," I remarked to Fane, as
we rode off the ground.

"Well! I don't know. I hardly think I shall go just yet. You see I had
six months' leave when I was in Germany, before I came down here, and I
hardly like to ask for another so soon, and----"

"It is so easy to find a reason for what one _wishes_," I added,
smiling.

"Come and look at my new chestnut, will you?" said Fane, not deigning to
reply to my insinuation. "I am going to run her against Stuckup of the
Guards' bay colt!"

That beautiful morning in June! How well I remember it, as we dropped
down the sunlit river, under the shade of the branching trees, the
gentle plash of the oars mingling with the high tones and ringing
laughter of our merry party, on our way to the castle picnic.

"How beautiful this is," I said to Mary Aspeden; "would that life could
glide on calmly and peacefully as we do this morning!"

"How romantic you are becoming!" laughed Mary. "What a pity that I feel
much more in mood to fish than to sentimentalize!"

"Ah!" I replied, "with the present companionship I could be content to
float on forever."

"Hush! I beg your pardon, but _do_ listen to that dear thrush,"
interrupted Mary, not the least disturbed, or even interested, by my
pretty speeches.

I was old enough to know I was not the least in love with Mary Aspeden,
but I was quite too much of a boy not to feel provoked I did not make
more impression. I was a desperate puppy at that time, and she served
me perfectly right. However, feeling very injured, I turned my attention
to Fane, who sat talking of course to Florence, and left Mary to the
attentions of her Cantab cousin.

"Miss Aspeden does not agree with you, Fred," said Fane. "She says life
was not intended to glide on like a peaceful river; she likes the waves
and storms," he added, looking down at her with very visible admiration.

"No, not for myself," replied Florence, with a sweet, sad smile. "I did
not mean _that_. One storm will wreck a _woman's_ happiness; but were I
a man I should glory in battling with the tempest-tossed waves of life.
If there be no combat there can be no fame, and the fiercer, the more
terrible it is, the more renown to be the victor in the struggle!"

"You are right," answered Fane, with unusual earnestness. "That used to
be _my_ dream once, and I think even now I have the stuff in me for it;
but then," he continued, sinking his voice, "I must have an end, an aim,
and, above all, some one who will sorrow in my sorrow, and glory in my
glory; who will be----"

"Quite ready for luncheon, I should think; hope you've enjoyed your
boating!" cried Mr. Aspeden's hearty voice from the shore, where, having
come by land, he now stood to welcome us, surrounded by a crowd of
anxious mammas, wondering if the boating had achieved the desirable end
of a proposal from Captain A----; hoping Mr. B----, who had nothing but
his pay, had not been paying too much attention to Adelina; and that
Honoria had given sufficient encouragement to Mr. C----, who, on the
strength of 1000_l._ a year, and a coronet in prospect, was considered
an eligible _parti_ (his being a consummate scamp and inveterate gambler
is nothing); and that D---- has too much "consideration for his family"
to have any "serious intentions" to Miss E----, whom he is assisting to
land. However, whatever proposals have been accepted or rejected, here
we all were ready for luncheon, which was laid out on the grass, and
Fane will be obliged to finish his speech another time, for little now
is heard but _bons mots_, laughter, and champagne corks. The captain is
more brilliant than ever, and I make Mary laugh if I cannot make her
sigh. Luncheon over, what was to be done? See the castle, of course, as
we were in duty bound, since it was what we came to do; and the
_tête-à-tête_ of the boats are resumed, as ladies and gentlemen ascended
the grassy slopes on which the fine old ruins stood. I looked for Mary
Aspeden, feeling sure that I should conquer her in time (though I did
not _want_ to in the least!), but she had gone off somewhere, I dare say
with Tom Cleaveland; so I offered my arm to that same sentimental Miss
Chesney who had bored me into a _valse à deux temps_ the night of the
theatricals, and I have no doubt her mamma contemplated her as Mrs.
Wilmot, of Wilmot Park, with very great gratification and security.
Becoming rather tired of the young lady's hackneyed style of
conversation, which consisted, as usual, of large notes of exclamation
about "the _sweet_ nightingales!" "the _dear_ ruins!" "the _darling_
flowers!" &c. &c., I managed to exchange with another sub, and strolled
off by myself.

As I was leaning against an old wall in no very amiable frame of mind,
consigning all young ladies to no very delightful place, and returning
to my old conclusion that they were all tarlatan and coquetry, soft
musical voices on the other side of the wall fell almost unconsciously
on my ear.

"Oh! Florence, I am so unhappy!"

"Are you, darling? I wish I could help you. Is it about Cyril Graham?"

"Yes!" with a tremendous sigh. "I am afraid papa, and I am sure mamma,
will never consent. I know poor dear Cyril is not rich, but then he is
so clever, he will soon make himself known. But if that tiresome Fred
Wilmot should propose, I know they will want me to accept him." (There
is one thing, I never, _never will_!) "I do snub him as much as ever I
can, but he is such a puppy, I believe he thinks I am in love with
him--as if Cyril, were not worth twenty such as he, for all he is the
owner of Wilmot Park!"

Very pleasant this was! What a fool I must have made of myself to Mary
Aspeden, and how nice it was to hear one's self called "a puppy!"

"Of course, dear," resumed Florence, "as you love Cyril, it is
impossible for you to love any one ever again; but I do not think Mr.
Wilmot a puppy. He is conceited, to be sure, but I do not believe he
would be so much liked by--by those who are his friends, if he were not
rather nice. Come, dear, cheer up. I am sure uncle Aspeden is too kind
not to let you marry Cyril when he knows how much you love one another.
_I_ will talk to him, Mary dear, and bring him round, see if I do not!
But--but--will you think me _very_ selfish if I tell you"--(a long
pause)--"he has asked me--I mean--he wishes--he told me--he says he does
love me!"

"Who, darling? Let me think--Lord Athum?--Mr. Grant?"

"No, Mary--Drummond--that is, Captain Fane--he said----Oh, Mary, I am so
happy!"

At this juncture it occurred suddenly to me that I was playing the part
of a listener. (But may not much be forgiven a man who has heard himself
called "a puppy"?) So I moved away, leaving the fair Florence to her
blushes and her happiness, unshared by any but her friend. Between my
astonishment at Fane and my indignation at Mary, I was fairly
bewildered. Fane actually had proposed! _He_, the Honorable Drummond
Fane, who had always declaimed against matrimony--who had been
proof-hardened against half the best matches in the country--that
desperate flirt who we thought would never fall in love, to have tumbled
in headlong like this!

Well, there was some satisfaction, I would chaff him delightfully about
it; and I was really glad, for if Florence had given her heart to Fane,
she was not the sort of girl to forget, nor he the sort of man to be
forgotten, in a hurry. But in what an awfully foolish light I must have
appeared to Mary Aspeden! There was one thing, she would never know I
had overheard her. I would get leave, and go off somewhere--I would
marry the first pretty girl I met with--she should _not_ think I cared
for _her_. No, I would go on flirting as if nothing had happened, and
then announce, in a natural manner, that I was going into the Highlands,
and then _she_ would be the one to feel small, as she had made so _very_
sure of my proposal. And yet, if I went away, that was the thing to
please her. _Hang_ it! I did not know _what_ to do! My vanity was most
considerably touched, though my heart was not; but after cooling down a
little, I saw how foolishly I should look if I behaved otherwise than
quietly and naturally, and that after all _that_ would be the best way
to make Mary reverse her judgment.

So, when I met her again, which was not until we were going to return, I
offered her my arm to the boat where Fane and his _belle fiancée_ were
sitting, looking most absurdly happy; and the idea of my adamantine
friend being actually caught seemed so ridiculous, that it almost
restored me to my good humor, which, sooth to say, the appellation of
"puppy" had somewhat disturbed.

And so the moon rose and shed her silver light over the young lady who
had sentimentalized upon her, and a romantic cornet produced a
concertina, and sent forth dulcet strains into the evening air, and
Florence and her captain talked away in whispers, and Mary Aspeden sat
with tears in her eyes, thinking, I suppose, of "Cyril" and I mused on
my "puppyism;" and thus, wrapped each in our own little sphere, we
floated down the river to Woodlands, and, it being late, with many a
soft good night, and many a gentle "_Au revoir_," we parted, and Mr.
Aspeden's castle picnic was over!

I did not see Fane the next day, except at parade, until I was dressing
for mess, when he stalked into my room, and stretching himself on a
sofa, said, after a pause,

"Well, old boy, I've been and gone and done it."

"Been and gone and done what?" I asked, for, by the laws of retaliation,
I was bound to tease him a little.

"Confound you, what an idiot you are!" was the complimentary rejoinder.
"Why, my dear fellow, the truth is, that, like most of my unfortunate
sex, I have at last turned into that most tortuous path called love, and
surrendered myself to the machinations of beautiful woman. The long and
the short of it is--I am engaged to be married!"

"Good Heavens! Fane!" I exclaimed, "what next? _You_ married! Who on
earth is she? I know of no heiress down here!"

"She is no heiress," said the captain; "but she is what is much
better--the sweetest, dearest, most lovable----"

"Of _course_!" I said, "but no heiress! My dear Fane, you cannot mean
what you say?"

"I should be sorry if I did not," was the cool reply; "and you must be
more of a fool, Fred, than I took you for, if you cannot see that
Florence Aspeden is worth all the heiresses upon earth, and is the
embodiment of all that is lovely and winning in woman----"

"No doubt of it, _tout cela saute aux yeux_," I answered. "But reflect,
Fane; it would be utter madness in _you_ to marry anything but an
heiress. Love in a cottage is not _your_ style. _You_ were not made for
a small house, one maid-servant, and dinner----"

"Ah!" laughed Fane, "you are bringing my former nonsense against me.
Some would say I was committing worse folly now, but believe me, Fred,
the folly even of the heart is better than the calculating wisdom of the
world. I do not hesitate to say that if Florence had fortune I should
prefer it, for such a _vaurien_ as I was made to spend money; but as she
has not, I love her too dearly to think about it, and my father, I have
no doubt, will soon get me my majority, and we shall get on stunningly.
So marry for _love_, Fred, if you take my advice."

"A _rather_ different opinion to that which you inculcated so
strenuously a month ago," I observed, smiling; "but let me congratulate
you, old fellow, with all my heart. 'Pon my word, I am very glad, for I
always felt afraid you would, like Morvillier's _garçon_, resist all the
attractions of a woman until the '_cent mille écus_,' and then, without
hesitation, declare, '_J'épouse_.' But you were too good to be spoiled."

"As for my goodness, there's not much of _that_," replied Fane; "I am
afraid I am much better off than I deserve. I wrote to the governor last
night: dear old boy! he will do anything _I_ ask him. By the by, Mary
will be married soon too. I hope you are not _épris_ in that quarter,
Fred?--pray do not faint if you are. _My_ Florence, who can do anything
she likes with anybody (do you think any one _could_ be angry with
_her_?) coaxed old Aspeden into consenting to Mary's marriage with a
fellow she really is in love with--Graham, a barrister. I think she
would have had more difficulty with the lady-mother, if a letter had not
most opportunely come from Graham this morning, announcing the agreeable
fact that he had lots of tin left him unexpectedly. I wish somebody
would do the same by me. And so this Graham will fly down on the wings
of love--represented in these days by the express train--to-morrow
evening."

"And how about the foreign service, Fane?" I could not help asking.
"And do you intend going to London to-morrow?"

"I made those two resolutions under very different circumstances to the
_present_, my dear fellow," laughed Fane: "the first, when I determined
to cut away from Florence altogether, as the only chance of forgetting
her; sad the second, when I thought poor Mount was an accepted lover,
and I confess that I did not feel to have stoicism enough to witness his
happiness. But how absurd it seems that _I_ should have fallen in love,"
continued he; "_I_, that defied the charms of all the Venuses upon
earth--the last person any one would have taken for a marrying man. I am
considerably astonished myself! But I suppose love is like the
whooping-cough, one must have it some time or other." And with these
words the gallant captain raised himself from the sofa, lighted a cigar,
and, strolling out of the room, mounted his horse for Woodlands, where
he was engaged of course to dinner that evening.

And now, gentle reader, what more is there to tell? I fear as it is I
have written too "much about nothing," and as thou hast, I doubt not, a
fine imagination, what need to tell how Lord Avanley and Mr. Aspeden
arranged matters, not like the cross papas in books and dramas, but
amicably, as gentlemen should; how merrily the bells pealed for the
double wedding; how I, as _garçon d'honneur_, flirted with the
bridesmaids to my heart's content; how Fane is my friend, _par
excellence_, still, and how his love is all the stronger for having
"come late," he says. How all the young ladies hated Florence, and all
the mammas and chaperones blessed her for having carried off the
"fascinating younger son," until his brother Lord Castleton dying at the
baths, Fane succeeded of course to the title; how she is, if possible,
even more charming as Lady Castleton than as Florence Aspeden, and how
they were _really_ heart-happy until the Crimean campaign separated
them; and how she turns her beautiful eyes ever to the East and heeds
not, save to repulse, the crowd of admirers who seek to render her
forgetful of her soldier-husband.

True wife as she is, may he live to come back with laurels hardly won,
still to hold her his dearest treasure.

_May 1, 1856._--Fane _has_ come back all safe. I hope, dear reader, you
are as glad as I am. He has distinguished himself stunningly, and is now
lieutenant-colonel of the dear old 110th. You have gloried in the charge
of ours at Balaklava, but as I have not whispered to you my name, you
cannot possibly divine that a rascally Russian gave me a cut on the
sword-arm that very day in question, which laid me _hors de combat_, but
got me my majority.

Well may I, as well as Fane, bless the remembrance of Layton Rise, for
if I had never made the acquaintance of Mary Aspeden--I mean Graham--I
might never have known her _belle-soeur_ (who is now shaking her head
at me for writing about her), and whom, either through my interesting
appearance when I returned home on the sick-list, and my manifold
Crimean adventures, or through the usual perversity of women, who will
fall always in love with scamps who do not deserve half their
goodness--(Edith, you shall _not_ look over my shoulder)--I prevailed on
to accept my noble self and Lancer uniform, with the "_puppyism_" shaken
pretty well out of it! And so here we are _very happy of course_.--"As
yet," suggests Edith.

Ah! Fane and I little knew--poor unhappy wretches that we were--what our
fate was preparing for us when it led us discontented _blasés_ and
_ennuyés_ down to our Country Quarters!



THE CHALLONERS

    BY E. F. BENSON

    _12mo. Cloth, $1.50._

    The theme is a father's concern lest his children become
    contaminated by what he considers an unwholesome social
    atmosphere. The book is filled with Mr. Benson's clever
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MORGANATIC

    BY MAX NORDAU

    _12mo. Decorated cloth, $1.50._

    This new book by the author of "Degeneration," has many of the
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    is a study of morganatic marriage, and full of strong
    situations.


OLIVE LATHAM

    By E. L. VOYNICH
    Author of "Jack Raymond" and "The Gadfly." Cloth, $1.50

"The author's knowledge of this matter has been painfully personal. Her
husband, a Polish political refugee, at the age of twenty-two, was
arrested and thrown into a vile Russian prison without trial, and spent
five years of his life thereafter in Siberian exile, escaping in 1890
and fleeing to England. Throughout 'Olive Latham' you get the impression
that it is a veritable record of what one woman went through for
love.... This painful, poignant, powerfully-written story permits one
full insight into the cruel workings of Russian justice and its effects
upon the nature of a well-poised Englishwoman. Olive comes out of the
Russian hell alive, and lives to know what happiness is again, but the
horror of those days in St. Petersburg, the remembrance of the
inhumanity which killed her lover never leaves her.... It rings true. It
is a grewsome study of Russian treatment of political offenders. Its
theme is not objectionable--a criticism which has been brought against
other books of Mrs. Voynich's."--_Chicago Record-Herald._

"So vividly are the coming events made to cast their shadows before,
that long before the half-way point is reached the reader knows that
Volodya's doom is near at hand, and that the chief interest of the story
lies not with him, but with the girl, and more specifically with the
curious mental disorders which her long ordeal brings upon her. It is
seldom that an author has succeeded in depicting with such grim horror
the sufferings of a mind that feels itself slipping over the brink of
sanity, and clutches desperately at shadows in the effort to drag itself
back."--_New York Globe._


BACCARAT

    BY FRANK DANBY
    AUTHOR OF "PIGS IN CLOVER"

    _12 mo. Six illustrations in color. Cloth, $1.50._

    The story of a young wife left by her husband at a Continental
    watering place for a brief summer stay, who, before she is
    aware, has drifted into the feverish current of a French Monte
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    A dramatic and intense book that stirs the pity. One cannot read
    "Baccarat" unmoved.

"The finished style and unforgettable story, the living characters, and
compact tale of the new book show it to be a work on which care and time
have been expended.

"Much more dramatic than her first novel, it possesses in common with it
a story of deep and terrible human interest."--_Chicago Tribune._


THE ISSUE

    By GEORGE MORGAN

    Illustrated. Cloth, $1.50

"Will stand prominently forth as the strongest book that the season has
given us. The novel is a brilliant one, and will command wide
attention."--_Philadelphia Public Ledger._

"The love story running through the book is very tender and
sweet."--_St. Paul Despatch._

"Po, a sweet, lovable heroine."--_The Milwaukee Sentinel._

"Such novels as 'The Issue' are rare upon any theme. It is a work that
must have cost tremendous toil, a masterpiece. It is superior to 'The
Crisis.'"--_Pittsburg Gazette._

"The best novel of the Civil War that we have had."--_Baltimore Sun._


                J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA.





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